my employer wants us to all endorse their services on LinkedIn, emailing an interviewer late at night, and more

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

1. My employer wants us to all endorse their services on LinkedIn

I have a question regarding my options to resist my employer’s requests that all staff “endorse” some of their services on my personal LinkedIn profile.

My company, a government contractor, is marketing some services they are offering for purchase. As a major component of the marketing campaign, they are requesting that all staff “like” the blurb or share it on their LinkedIn accounts. Senior managers, including the executive director, are sending emails directing staff to share the announcements and they have made it clear that they expect us to comply. Are there any legal restrictions to employers requiring their staff to endorse them on their private LinkedIn or other social media accounts?

I have looked at the local laws (my employer is based in Virginia), and LinkedIn’s Terms of Service but don’t see any specific prohibition of employers requiring staff to use their personal social media such as LinkedIn for their employer’s purposes. I did see that the FTC has created guidelines that require individuals disclose their association for such endorsements. Are there any legal stipulations or guidance that I can use to back up my position? I see my personal LinkedIn profile and network (I use only the basic free version of LinkedIn) as my personal network and I do not appreciate any pressure let alone an expectation that my professional network is viewed as my employer’s to exploit for their purposes and profit.

The FTC rules apply to paid promotions; I doubt that simply “liking” something or sharing information from your employer would fall under that. It’s not uncommon for employers to request this sort of thing (although it’s certainly annoying, and also not especially effective if people are being forced into rather than giving a genuine, sincere endorsement).

If you can get away with just “liking” it, do that — that’s pretty low-touch. If you absolutely have to share a blurb, you can (a) roll your eyes and do it, (b) do it but only send it to a very limited audience, or (c) decline to do it, perhaps explaining that your contacts have made it clear that they’re hostile to that kind of thing and it would do more harm than good.

2. Does it look bad to email a hiring manager late at night?

Does it matter when and what time you email a follow-up letter or thank-you letter after an interview? I am a night owl and I had a phone interview on Friday and I did not get home until late. When I got home, I sent the thank-you letter to the hiring manager. Would they care it was sent at 3 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning or should I have waited until Monday morning/afternoon to send it?

Don’t worry about it. You can always find someone who does hiring who has some weird bias against pretty much anything you can think of, but the vast majority of hiring managers will not care about this at all.

3. My old boss told my friend about an issue in my personnel file

An old boss of mine (Boss A) randomly introduced himself to a close friend of mine at a coffee shop, not knowing that she was friends with me of course. Through their conversation, they realized that they had a common contact (me). A little while later, another former boss of mine (Boss B) showed up to have coffee with Boss A, and got involved in the conversation. My friend said that Boss A had nothing but positive things to say about me, but Boss B mentioned an HR issue that involved a serious conflict between me and another person at Boss B’s company. This conflict was physical on the other employee’s end, resulting in me filing a complaint with HR. My friend stated that Boss B said, “Oh yeah, Jane got into a cat fight with another person before she left.”

Is it legal for Boss B to volunteer issues in my personnel file to random people in coffee shops? My friend has never had any affiliation with Boss B’s company, nor was she conducting a reference check or an employment verification. I understand that information in my personnel file is fair game to certain people in specific circumstances such as the ones mentioned above, but I think that Boss B may have crossed a legal line somewhere. It certainly makes me wonder what else Boss B has volunteered to random people on the street that just happen to know me.

Yes, it’s legal. Indiscreet, but legal. The exception would be if the information was false and demonstrably injured your reputation (meaning that you lost work, were ostracized by friends or neighbors, or suffered other clear harm), which could potentially be defamation, but that’s likely not the case here.

4. My coworker is asking my manager about my maternity leave plan, not me

I recently found out that a coworker, who I do not report to, has met with our supervisor on three separate occasions to inquire how my supervisor plans to cover my upcoming maternity leave. This coworker has not come to discuss the issue with me or ask if my supervisor and I have developed a plan. I work in a very tight-knit office of about 12 people, although the company is owned by a large, well-known corporation. Our office has a mutually distrustful relationship with the parent company, and our supervisor is known for not dealing with issues – so my coworker’s concern that something would fall through the cracks is not unfounded.

However, first of all, I was hurt that she wouldn’t come to discuss this with me if she is concerned about how my projects will be covered while I am out for 6-8 weeks on short-term disability. But the bigger issue here is that I feel like my privacy was violated. I have been in discussion with HR and my supervisor about my maternity leave (which will begin around Thanksgiving), and have in fact been developing a plan for how my projects will be covered. I told my coworker that I would prefer she discuss any concerns about my leave with me personally. However, she really seemed surprised and unconvinced that she had overstepped.

Is is appropriate for my coworker to meet with my supervisor to discuss my leave? How should I handle this if it comes up again?

I don’t think it’s outrageously inappropriate for her to ask your manager about it; after all, your manager is the one who’s going to be ultimately responsible for ensuring that things run smoothly while you’re away, and it’s not like your leave plan is sensitive or confidential information. But it’s not unreasonable for you to ask her to start by speaking with you about it, particularly since hearing her questions and concerns might be useful input to think about while you’re still in the midst of putting together a coverage plan.

5. Telling employees to secure their valuables at the end of the day

I’m not sure how to ask employees to secure their valuables at the end of the day without calling attention to our new cleaning crew that may be stealing stuff off employees’ desks. (Things have been disappearing.) I also know that a lot of times, the cleaning crew gets blamed for this stuff erroneously.

I’d say something about it without naming any suspects: “Please be vigilant about securing any valuables when you leave your desk. Some items have disappeared recently, and while we’re not sure at this point what may have happened, while we look into it I want to ensure nothing else goes missing.”

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Juli G.*

    #4 – Some people get very worried about what they can say or ask about maternity leave. The answer is “pretty much anything but be tactful and respect their privacy about personal aspects.” But really, I have some employees that are terrified about discussing leave with pregnant women.

    Maybe your coworkers is one of those that’s been scared into thinking pregnancy talk = lawsuit.

    1. Graciosa*

      There may be other issues at play that have (almost) nothing to do with the maternity leave.

      I was once surprised by how many questions I received about how work would be covered during a maternity leave. I hadn’t given sufficient weight to the fact that 1) I had a very junior team, 2) I was new to the role, so they didn’t know me very well, and 3) we were seriously overworked at the time.

      In retrospect, they were all thinking, “Does she realize we don’t have much capacity left to give? Is she making a plan to get the work done without killing us off?” Of course they asked me about it! I’m glad they did. Answering the questions reassured them that yes, I understood the problem and yes, I was actually dealing with it. This is important for the team to know about the manager.

      Asking the pregnant worker would not have given them this information – not to mention the fact that questions to the expectant mother about work coverage can sound a little rude (like you only care about how this momentous event in her life affects your time in the office!).

      The OP noted that the relationships here make it reasonable for the questioner to worry about things falling through the cracks. As odd as it may seem, please consider the possibility that the primary concern driving these discussions may not be the pregnancy itself.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        This is what I was thinking; the co-worker is asking the manager because it’s the manager’s job to make sure the work gets done/delegated. The pregnant woman may have knowledge about the plan to handle her work, it ultimately won’t be up to her to decide how.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Well, except that it backfired and the Op found out about it anyway, which = awkward.

    2. Eve P*

      That’s an interesting consideration. Pregnancy in the workplace is a very touchy subject – I think often the pregnant woman feels that she must protect herself, and others are afraid of offending.

    3. T*

      Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see any reason for concern here. I read this as “co-worker wants to know about how their job will be affected while OP is out”, not “co-worker wants to discuss OP’s leave”. Without knowing OP’s office politics, I would probably not come directly to OP either. Isn’t it the manager’s job to keep OP’s projects going while she’s out?

      1. JS*

        Exactly! Haha I am wondering if I know OP cause something like that is happening in a remote office that fits the description in my company.

        Also in thinking about my own situation, and knowing things fall through the cracks. I wouldn’t be bothering the OP with it as coverage while she is away is not her responsibility to manage unless she is working from home and not taking a solid leave. The other employee is simply trying to make sure the manager is accountable. I would do the same.

  2. Mr Resetti*

    OP#2 – Delayed Delivery in Outlook is my FAVORITE thing. My coworkers always commend me on my early bird nature (How DO you put those reports together so early? You must have a great coffeepot!) when I don’t roll out of bed until noon. It helps eliminate that stigma we night owls have :)

    1. UKAnon*

      Ha, see, I’ve never had the time to check what time an email was sent, sometimes I barely have the time to deal with the contents… I would find it extremely strange to be judged on the times of my emailing (absent super specific factors, like exact deadlines or banned overtime)

      1. Christy*

        I’ve recently moved to a new division, and I pay attention to send receipts because I’m trying to get a sense of the work culture. I’ve gotten emails at midnight and on the weekends, so I know that I probably shouldn’t be leaving exactly at my stop time and I should probably volunteer to stay late if needed.

      2. Koko*

        For me it’s very obvious when someone is sending a bunch of early-morning emails because I probably checked my email before going to bed and not long after waking up, so it’s immediately obvious that they were emailing me either very late at night or very early in the morning (which is six or half-dozen to me).

    2. Sarahnova*

      See, seeing someone has sent an email at, say, 6:00am makes me worry about them a little bit (unless I know them to be just natural early-birds who clock off early or otherwise work a flexible schedule). That’s presumptuous of me, I know. Maybe it’s just because I work in people-oriented consultancy, where all of us could easily work extremely long hours if we didn’t manage ourselves carefully, and unless someone is indeed a natural earlybird or works odd hours by choice, it’s often a sign people are overcommitted and/or headed for burnout.

      On the other hand, when I worked in banking I worked with some eejits who were awfully proud of themselves for setting emails to go to their bosses at 2am and the like.

      1. Sarahnova*

        (That said, in the actual question, as a hiring manager I can’t imagine caring about what time a candidate emailed me at; after all, I assume they’re jobsearching out of hours when they can get a spare minute if they have a current job and/or family responsibilities. I just happen to work in a culture where we tend to monitor and support each other around workload and hours because most of us have needed that at one time or another.)

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I had a crazy boss once that would work super late and send out emails at all hours. At first I felt bad that she was working so much when I was pretty much doing 40 hour weeks. Then I figured out what she was doing. It took me about 6 months to put it all together.

        She would come in between 8 and 9, and spend most of the day socializing, even though she made it look like she was working. She had relocated for the job, and didn’t know anyone in the area, so work was where she was getting all of her human interaction too. Then around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, she’d finally go into her office and start actually working, and would stay until at least midnight or 1 AM.

        Then during the work day, people would always be telling her things like, “OMG you poor thing, I got an email from you at 1AM!! Don’t they ever let you go home?” And she would be basking in all the attention, playing the martyr to the hilt. It was so messed up.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          I think this is one of the “stock characters” you’ll find in nearly every workplace– there’s definitely been someone just like this at every job I’ve ever had! It may get started because the person has poor time-management skills… then they enjoy the attention they get by being seen as a martyr who works SO MUCH HARDER than anyone else and have no motivation to change their ways.

          1. Artemesia*

            Exactly. It is so bad many places with goof offs who then ‘have to work long hours’ setting norms that people who actually get work done during the day get looked down on by bosses for being clock watchers. I have mentioned this before, but my daughter was criticized by an editor because ‘Poor Jackie had to stay to 2 am to get the paper laid out after you left at 7’ — my daughter pointed out that before she left, she had laid out 6 pages of the paper, and Jackie only did two.

            Efficient people who have a life have to do some impression management not to be considered slackers when compared with people who procrastinate and then work late.

            1. Ad Astra*

              It sounds like Jackie’s design skills aren’t quite strong enough for her position. Or the copy chief/whoever’s in charge managed to assign her all the pages with the late content. Or maybe both. There’s no reason it should take that long to lay out two pages.

              1. Amy UK*

                I think it sounds more like Jackie isn’t actually working very hard when everyone else has left…

            2. Ann Furthermore*

              And sometimes efficient people goof off a little too much during the day and then have to make up for it later. I do it sometimes…I’ll be surfing the web while eating lunch, and then look up and realize it’s already after 1:00 and I’ve got a bunch of things to do before I leave. So then I suck it up and do it and stay a little late, or log on in the evening after I get home and finish things up. But I don’t try to make everyone think I really worked until 9:00 the night before.

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I took over managing someone like this. Other people would constantly lament that she was overworked and that they were worried she was there until 8 p.m. every night.

            I just had to nod my head and bite my tongue when all I wanted to say was, “well if she got in before ten and didn’t take a two-hour lunch, things would go much smoother!”

        2. Rat Racer*

          Sometimes it’s not intended as a ruse. I work on the West Coast and my colleagues are all on the East Coast. I try to keep Eastern-ish hours, but there are breaks in my day (have 2 small kids; am a distance runner) so I may start at 5:30 and end at 5:30, but that doesn’t mean I’m working 12 hours straight.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I have a coworker who thinks nobody realizes that he does delayed delivery to make it look like he works at all hours of the night. It’s funny because he has screwed up a few times and outed himself by talking about fun things he did while he was supposedly chained to his desk late at night working.

      1. AnonymousaurusRex*

        This is bizarre. I can’t stand it that somehow being chained to your desk all night is a badge of honor. I’d much rather get my work done efficiently, and my team do so as well. I wish there were more of a culture of pride in work/life balance in the US. I’d much rather pride myself on being a good worker who also has enough time to rest.

        1. INFJ*

          Agreed! My job includes reading (and being able to fully comprehend the material) all day. I need my beauty rest for that!

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      This is what I was thinking, except that it doesn’t always work (with outlook, there’s bugs I don’t know about other email programs), and you have to remember to stay logged on. Also, the caveat I’d add to Alison’s response: Nowadays, a lot of hiring managers are surely receiving their work emails on their phones, so the notification in the middle of the night might alarm them thinking it’s a work emergency!

    5. QA Lady*

      My boss’ boss has said that he’s delayed emails until a reasonable hour because he was worried the recipient would think it weird to get one time stamped at 3:45 AM. I’ve received middle of the night emails from him before. He clearly loves his job!

    6. TCO*

      Boomerang offers a similar feature for Gmail. My work uses a Gmail platform and I definitely use the “send later” feature to my advantage!

      1. hayling*

        I love Boomerang. I have never used it to fake working at a particular time, but it’s convenient to schedule emails that need to go out at a certain time.

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          Before this type of feature was common, I’d actually book “send membership newsletter” into my calendar, since folks seemed more likely to click on a new message than one that’s in the stack of stuff that arrived overnight. I imagine there are good metrics on this now, but I was in the dark ages of the ‘aughts’!

  3. Sandy*

    Keeping in mind that I’m from a country with a national mat leave entitlement, I’m going to open a can of worms on #4… I think your coworker did exactly the right thing.

    It is not your responsibility as the employee taking leave to make sure that there is coverage and everything is taken care of while you are on mat leave. It is your manager’s job. Your job is to set things up so that somebody can pick up the files for the period that you are gone. How they cover you while you’re gone, how they pay for it, etc. = their job to worry about, not yours.

    Your coworker is rightly not putting her concerns for her workload, planning, projects, etc. on your shoulders when you are planning to take leave that you are entitled to.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I agree. I think it showed some consideration for the OP that the coworker tried to get her questions answered without bugging the OP.

      1. One of the Annes*

        Me too. And it’s absolutely the coworker’s business to find out what work is headed his or her way.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        This was my take as well. I’m also genuinely confused as to OP’s concern that her privacy was violated. I mean, unless the coworker was asking for specific non-work-related details of the OP’s pregnancy or maternity leave plans…

      3. Clara*

        Ditto. As someone going on maternity leave soon, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have coworkers whining about taking on my workload and having to sort it out all on my own.

        If you’re having a baby, you have every right to take your maternity leave (yes, even in the US we at least have FMLA) and in an ideal world your manager would take on most of the responsibility for distributing your work to others and providing coverage.

    2. Artemesia*

      That is what I thought as well. If someone is leaving on an extended maternity break then it isn’t their problem how the work gets done and if I fear it is falling to me then I need to be discussing it with our boss. It is to some extent none of the OP’s business how it gets managed. Now of course it is great when the pregnant worker helps plan and also leave projects in good shape for other’s to deal with — but it really isn’t her responsibility to get them done, nor is it her responsibility to shield the co-worker from overwork.

      I had the same employee actually boast to one and all that she planned her two pregnancies around our busy period for the division she headed. I was impressed, each kid arrived at precisely the peak moment of workload, two years apart. The first time she was out for two months I ended up shouldering her job and my own and having horrendous workload and hours. When she did it again two years later, I was smarter and worked with my boss to bring in someone as interim director of her function so it didn’t fall on me, her boss to pick it up. It was the kind of responsibility where her subordinates really couldn’t step into the director role.

      It is not the pregnant employees job to get their job done when on leave.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I don’t know that I agree, entirely anyway. If it’s a very rigid, formal environment, then yeah. But if she’s relatively friendly with her coworkers, it seems normal to me to expect them to simply ask “Hey Jane, do you know who’s going to be handling X, Y, and Z when you’re on leave? I’m trying to get a feel for how much Boss is going to assign to me”.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I disagree, where I’ve worked with woman who have taken maternity leave and their absence is going to affect me directly I have always spoken to them about the plans to cover their work. To me it just seems rude to cut them out of the conversation.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yeah, my experience is with people who are invested in how their work will be handled in their absence. I don’t think the OP’s coworker meant harm and was most likely just trying to be polite, but nobody I work with would be happy to be talked around, about their work, rather than directly to.

        It’s management’s job to make sure there IS coverage, but the employee herself is a stakeholder in the process.

        1. UKAnon*

          Meh, I think that either approach is fine. If the co-worker’s question is “I know OP has to feed the fish daily – do you want me to take this on in her absence?” then it’s ok to go straight to the manager, because OP is only invested in it being done, not necessarily who by, whereas if the question is “How do you want me to order fish food in OP’s absence?” it would be a bit odd not to loop OP in – but I can also see it making sense to ask the boss to make sure OP leaves a plan in place, depending on their working relationship, OP’s reliableness etc. Maybe I am nitpicking words, but OP sounds like she has taken this as a personal effrontery when a lot of the time it can make just as much sense to go straight to the boss.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            Maybe the coworker was worried about a “how dare Coworker ask me about my pregnancy!” reaction, too. Could be why they went to the manager instead.

            1. LawBee*

              Which, as the OP is seeing this as a privacy invasion (…why), that’s not an unreasonable concern.

          2. Ad Astra*

            I feel the same way. If the OP wants to be more involved in the planning, that’s great, and she should bring that up with her coworker. But I don’t think it’s out of line for the coworker to go directly to the manager, either.

        2. AnotherFed*

          We don’t know the content/tone of the meetings, so it’s possible the OP was justified in being irritated, but it’s also possible that it’s not something the OP needs to be looped in on. For example, if the coworker is interested in some of the OP’s job, especially something ‘cool’ like managing company social media, I can see them having a couple of discussions that end up related to OP’s maternity leave plans:

          meeting 1 – Coworker expresses interest in job function, manager says ‘I’ll think about it/talk to OP about overall plan. Come back later.”
          meeting 2 – Coworker comes back to talk to manager again, manager says maybe, but wants some sort of project plan so he knows he coworker is running wild with new job.
          meeting 3 – Coworker comes back with plan/ideas, manager says ‘Gack! Why is it all covered in glitter and sparkles! We market sports equipment!’ and coworker is shot down, or manager is non-committal and wants to run this piece plus the rest of the maternity leave plan by the OP, just hasn’t gotten to it yet.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I get the impression that the co-worker was concerned about the effect on her own workload, though, which is the manager’s problem, not the OP’s. The plan for coverage should be discussed by the OP and the supervisor, but the distribution of work is ultimately the supervisor’s responsibility (in most cases, anyway), so to me, it makes sense to go to the supervisor. After all, the OP will be out and therefore not available to supervise or ask questions, and the co-worker is trying to be prepared and avoid things falling through the cracks– before the mat leave, so she (the co-worker) can be prepared to discuss with the OP as needed.

        4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I agree that invested people are stakeholders, but it’s perfectly appropriate for the person who might be doing extra work to have meetings about it. I see it as primarily my responsibility to figure out how to cover work during all health-related leave. If existing employees are going to cover it, that might impact other projects. In many cases, we end up hiring someone to cover the leave and I need to manage that. At the end of the day, the person who will be out may be the least impacted work-wise.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            “I see it as primarily my responsibility to figure out how to cover work during all health-related leave.”

            I somewhat disagree, because I think ultimately it is the employer’s responsibility to figure out how the work is going to be covered. Of course it makes sense for the employee who will be out on leave to help get things ready for someone else to take over projects, leave good notes, provide input on who might be best to cover things. But if the employee feels responsible to figure out how things will go, that can add a lot of stress if the employer is not taking any responsibility (e.g., hiring temps, backing off on taking on work that only that employee can do, etc.).

            1. Doodle*

              I think (?) Ashley was referring to herself as the manager, not herself as the person who was taking the leave in that example. So I think you agree — the manager/supervisor is the one who should be making the plan for coverage, with the person who is out assisting that process before they leave, but not leading it.

          2. fposte*

            Agreed. If my staffer tells me, “Lavinia’s music is bugging me,” I’ll ask if she’s discussed this with Lavinia. If she says, “I’d like to discuss coverage on the Foo project while Lavinia is out,” I might choose to bring Lavinia in, but I’m the person the staffer should be coming to, not Lavinia.

          3. NutellaNutterson*

            Assuming the op is in the U.S. (Based on the 6-8 week comment), I think part of the challenges is that we don’t have a good cultural grasp of how to handle parental leave. When someone is pregnant, we are inclined to consider it a health related leave. If it’s new-parent bonding leave, we categorize that differently too.

            It seems like we still don’t have a feel for where to situate maternity leave on the continuum of on-vacation-but-available to in-exile-illegal-to-call.

    4. LeRainDrop*

      I totally agree with this — the co-worker handled the situation properly. It’s the manager’s job to ensure appropriate coverage while the OP is out on leave. Had the manager redirected the co-worker to the OP or advised of OP’s role in the planning process, that would be another thing, but without that, it’s really not OP’s burden to take on this sort of workload planning. If I were the OP, I would expect my co-worker to ask the boss for help first.

    5. KT*

      Agreed-I don’t think she did anything inappropriate. She wants to know how the mat leave will impact her–what additional responsibilities she’ll take on, who will be her contact on X project, etc. I see no problem with going to her manager rather than the coworker.

    6. Judy*

      I was in a project based role during both of my maternity leaves. With all the autonomy that a senior individual contributor engineer has, during that phase of my career, projects were shifted around way too much. At least monthly my (2 year long) projects would be shifted between coworkers. If someone came to me to ask about coverage, I would have said that my manager was handling it. I couldn’t guarantee that even if he and I talked and planned, that he wouldn’t have rearranged everything before talking to others. I did hand specific projects to specific people, but about half of those were handed to someone else by the time I returned.

      I’m sure it’s different in a task based job rather than a project based job.

    7. themmases*

      I agree and I think the lack of meaningful maternity leave in the US is probably a factor.

      If I knew my whole department would be taking up a little slack for the OP, I’d definitely be trying to make sure that my assignment is to keep Dream Project running, or to get out of (or at least minimize expectations for) stuff like resolving internal billing disputes. It is really not up to the OP who gets to cover that for her while she is gone, and there is no point in discussing those functions with her until the boss makes a decision.

      In the US, where there isn’t actual maternity leave for the vast majority of women, going to the OP could also look like you don’t expect her to come back when you are actually just trying to gain a cool new experience or make sure you don’t hate your job for the next 12 weeks. I personally wouldn’t be talking to OP about that stuff until the boss confirmed it was time for her to train me on Dream Project.

      1. themmases*

        And I think a shorter way to say this is that, in the US, it’s a standard politeness to speak as though people own their work. Lots of people get managed out or find their work not flexible enough or childcare too expensive– none of them good things– so it’s even more important to be polite about leave.

        We all know we don’t own our work and that’s why it’s the boss’s choice how to reassign it, not ours. But the cognitive dissonance can be really painful! We’ve had contentious discussions before about leave on AAM and whether you can ever acknowledge that someone might choose not to return, and I think this is partly why.

    8. JGray*

      I agree. You have some responsibility to arrange things for your job but ultimately it comes down to your manager. Your manager doesn’t know your job like you do so if you can make sure you have organized things (or made a list) than it actually helps the manager cover while you are gone. I also think that at some point the coworker should talk to the person taking the leave. When I took maternity leave for 8 weeks (I was able to bring my son to work with me so came back part time after 8 weeks) I was in an office of 3 people- the manager, coworker, and me. The manager wasn’t the greatest so I actually made a plan, discussed it with my manager, and then talked to my coworker and gave her the run down on everything just so that she could make sure it got done. I was also able to delay some things so my job was really minimal while my boss was covering.

    9. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m in the U.S. and this was exactly what I was going to say. If you know someone will be out, there is genuine concern as to how workloads will be shifted. Asking the person leaving how it will be handled seems inappropriate. Asking the manager seems just right.

    10. Observer*

      As an American, I also agree that the manager was the correct address for this. Ultimately, this is the manager’s job to take care of.

  4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #3, it sounds like Boss B knew about this incident from first-hand experience, not just from reading it in your file. There’s nothing about putting something into a personnel file that makes it suddenly a more private fact – it’s not like when the government classifies information.

    Your former boss is a gossip, but there’s no law against that. Take heart that it sounds like it’s pretty obvious that they’re a gossip, though, and that reasonable people listening to them will take that gossip with a grain of salt.

      1. UKAnon*

        Yes, this was my big concern in the whole question. You were physically assaulted and your boss is calling that a cat fight? It might be time to reach out to the HR department of your old company just to clarify what they are saying to references.

        1. Ani*

          I think that would be overreacting. OP was involved in a physical fight; that’s not private or protected information.

          1. UKAnon*

            It’s not private or protected. But what would you rather hear in a reference, that OP once had an altercation with a coworker but this was resolved and that generally her work relationships were good, or that she got into a cat fight? If I’d been physically assaulted by a coworker and my boss was telling people I’d been cat-fighting, I would definitely want to set the record straight and make sure of what sort of reference they were giving me, because it otherwise gives a very misleading impression.

            1. Ani*

              I meant, I think it would be an overreaction to now go to HR. I assure you that if OP was involved in some ongoing argument with a coworker that’s already being characterized as a “catfight” that ultimately resulted in OP getting slapped or whatever (and someone fired? If not then there’s really more to the story) that it’s probably a big part of how OP is remembered and there’s nothing OP can do about coworkers gossiping about it then, now, or years later. Going back to HR might actually prompt all the more conversation about it. (And they’re probably not saying anything in references at all — but you know, if it’s in their file I’d probably want to know OP was involved in something physical at work if I were an employer.)

              1. UKAnon*

                That’s a fair enough concern, and I hadn’t thought about bringing it back to the surface. I would be horribly uncomfortable just leaving out there a boss calling it a cat fight though. Hopefully the OP has other references, but I do think that if OP can find a way to agree wording with the company on this for references should future employers get in touch that might be a good idea (although it depends on so many factors – how recently she worked there, how well she gets on with people there etc)

                I should say I’m not saying that the company shouldn’t mention this in references, just that there are ways to refer it and ways to not refer to it, and cat fight is definitely, definitely in the latter category.

                1. Jen RO*

                  Honestly, if a reference referred to something as a cat fight, I think that would reflect badly on the former boss, not on the OP.

                2. Doodle*

                  Agree with Jen — I’d actually be more understanding of the worker if a former manager/co-worker referred to an incident as a “cat fight” rather than a “physical altercation” (although “she was assaulted by a co-worker” is clearly the most sympathetic phrasing).

                  Anyone who would refer to a physical attack in the workplace as a “cat fight” loses a lot of credibility in my book, and I’d definitely take a poor reference with that language with a huge grain of (sexist) salt.

                3. UKAnon*

                  Oh, definitely! Unfortunately, cat fight is a sexist term because it’s so laden, which means that somewhere large swathes of society are making value judgments more about the woman than the boss… so there’s a good chance that it will affect OP’s career.

                  I am happy to judge the boss for using it, though :-D

                4. JMegan*

                  I agree – I’d be worried that the term would come up if Boss B were called for a reference as well. “Sure, OP3 was a good employee, except for the cat fight.” I think it is more likely to reflect badly on the boss than on the OP, but I wouldn’t want to take the chance that my potential new hiring manager feels the same way.

                  OP3, if you do need to use Boss B as a reference, I do think it’s worth getting in touch and coming to an agreement on the language that will be used.

              2. OP #3*

                They’re not mentioning it in the references because I’m using an old Supervisor from B’s office as my reference who loved my work and is a well-respected consultant state-wide a instead of people at Boss B’s physical office. My ex-Supervisor (and I hesitate to say “ex” because we still keep in touch and I will always view him as a mentor) always gives me flawless reviews and nobody questions it. Since I’m at a well-paying job that I love right now (and will likely retire from), I would only act on what was said if the disclosure was illegal, which according to Alison, it’s not. I’ll just blow this situation off to B’s lack of social skills and use his approach to “making friends” as an example of how not to make friends.

            2. Hlyssande*

              I would also be concerned about what Boss B is telling people if they’re contacted for a reference. That would wander into slander if Boss B is referring to the incident as a cat fight to potential employers, wouldn’t it?

              1. fposte*

                Highly unlikely. It sounds like there was a actual physical altercation, so it’s not a falsehood, it’s just an unpleasant way of phrasing it. There’s also, in most states, a qualified privilege in reference-giving that protects reference givers from mistakes and different viewpoints (like if the boss thought it was mutual and it wasn’t).

                Additionally, slander cases take years, cost thousands of dollars to litigate, and are largely about economic damages, so if the “cat fight” comment has no demonstrable negative impact, she isn’t likely to have anything to sue for.

                1. Guava*

                  It kind of is a falsehood, though. The OP was physically attacked by a co-worker, who initiated the fight. Calling it a “cat fight” implies that it was a mutual thing, or at the very least, leaves it unclear as to who started the fight. Physically attacking a co-worker is horribly unprofessional, inappropriate behavior. If I were the OP, I’d want it made crystal clear to anyone hearing about it that I did not initiate this behavior.

              2. Anna*

                I think I’d be more concerned that a call about a work reference would include information that had nothing to do with my work and that I was the victim of, not the instigator. It’s still not slander, but I would worry about how it came across.

        2. OP #3*

          I am able to use the person who was my direct Supervisor (who is very respected in the state that I live in and is also no longer with Boss B to avoid ruining his reputation) and his cell as the reference for Boss B’s company. I have not had any issues finding work since I left Boss B because my old supervisor gives flawless reviews of me.

        3. catsAreCool*

          “You were physically assaulted and your boss is calling that a cat fight?” This bugs me too. I don’t understand how that can be called a cat fight. It makes the LW look bad. Maybe this former boss likes stirring things up?

      2. OP #3*

        Very sexist. He would refer to us as “You girls” or “The girls” majority of the time instead of using our names. Women did not hold positions of power at B’s place. I ultimately thought that it was in my best interest to leave, and I am much happier where I have been for the past year.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Oh, and even if Boss B only knew about the altercation from the file, personnel files are not covered by some kind of HIPAA-like law. There may be internal policies about them being confidential, but that’s not legally binding.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        I suppose it’s possible that when OP exited the company, she could have negotiated an agreement not to disclose the contents of her file (i.e., to only confirm dates of service), but absent that, you are right.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Even with such an agreement, I think people would tend to take that as during a formal reference check, not when randomly meeting someone with mutual acquaintances. I’m not saying it’s a kind thing to do, but there’s something about social situations where people say things they shouldn’t to be able to tell a good story, where they would understand it’s not acceptable to do that behavior at work/when giving formal references.

          1. OP #3*

            But those stories usually start off with “A person I knew…” or “Someone that used to work for me…” rather than using a person’s name, especially when meeting someone for the first time. I understand where you’re getting at, but (even though it’s a tacky approach to “making friends”) doesn’t that seem like the type of thing that is saved for social situations involving close friends rather than first-time acquaintances?

    2. NickelandDime*

      This whole incident says more about Boss B – nasty gossip, indiscreet and unprofessional – than it does about the OP or anyone else involved in this. Ugh.

      1. Joy Mc*

        I agree, NickelandDime.

        I worked for a very small husband-and-wife business for 5 years. When the wife found me lacking in any way (like if I took vacation leave), she would complain about me to friends and co-workers during their Thursday night dinner get-together. The only time I could guarantee she wouldn’t gossip about me was when I attended the dinner get-together! Co-workers I was friendly with would relay to me what she said on Friday morning. It was a great way to end the week (sarcasm font).

        The wife was ultimately the reason I left that job – I enjoyed the work overall and always received good performance reports from the husband.

        1. OP #3*

          Thank you for sharing, and sorry about your experience. I hope you’re enjoying where you’re at now!

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Well, except that what if Potential Boss C was in the conversation and then decided against hiring her? (Which, by the way, how weird is it that TWO of her ex-bosses happened upon each other in the coffee shop? Small town or what?)

      1. OP #3*

        Not so weird– B is considering running for a public office and is trying to network with A for votes. My friend said it didn’t seem like it was happening for B… Lol.

          1. OP #3*

            I’m with you on that! I do not work in politics or business, so I’m not sure why B is trying to run for office or what his agenda is. B clearly has no idea how to network since he cannot do so without being negative. I’m sure that he’ll eventually say something that he cannot take back that will further damage his public reputation beyond repair. You never know who your acquaintances know and favor, so it’s always best to keep it positive!

  5. Kimbim*

    OP 4 Could it be that your coworker is looking to take on some of your responsibilities as a development opportunity whilst you’re away?

    1. hbc*

      #4: You had it right in your first paragraph but not in your last. She’s not “discussing your leave”, she’s meeting with your boss (who I presume is also her boss) to discuss how your *boss* plans to cover the leave. If your absence could affect her workload at all, this is a reasonable thing to bring up with the boss. If the boss didn’t send her back to you, it made sense to continue to have the conversation there.

      Plus, there *are* things that maybe shouldn’t be said to you but can and should be said to the supervisor. “I’ve had a hysterectomy scheduled for November and I probably won’t be back up to full speed before her leave, never mind if the baby is early or there are complications.” Or “OP tends to forget that she’s got an intimate knowledge of the clients that makes X task go five times faster for her than it does for others. If she’s planning to give X to the receptionist like on her last vacation, it’s going to be a real problem. We need a temp.” I can think of many others, and none of them violates your privacy, and are fair to raise with one’s boss.

    2. Me*

      No one has used this term on me, but if they did I would reply, “Why yes, I do closely resemble a lioness. And while I don’t start a fight, I will finish one if needed :pointed look:”

    3. JGray*

      Agree!! That part aside from the letter it sounds like the LW was assaulted by a coworker and so that wouldn’t necessarily be a fight. If someone pushes me or spits on me I am not necessarily going to retaliate physically because then that escalates things- assuming that none of these things requires medical attention. I would defiantly file a complaint with HR because those things are not appropriate. Physical altercations of any kind are not appropriate in the work place no matter what but not all are created equal- by that I mean someone spitting on me is different than someone punching me. If someone were to spit on me than I would go to HR asap. If someone punches me I am going to the cops and HR.

      1. Artemesia*

        Mansplaining still has a ways to go until it is no longer the norm to treat women like idiots as a general thing.

        1. Not me*

          I think it’s annoying and misused sometimes, but it comes from an article in which a man explained a woman’s own book on a 101 level to her. Because an author couldn’t possibly understand the subject of her own writing and career. I’ll stop using it when it stops happening.

          1. silence covered the sky*

            But “catfight” has a history that goes back over 150 years, and while some people may find it offensive, it has become a ‘thing’ not unlike, say, a ‘death scene’ or ‘slapstick comedy’ in show business. Using your logic, I’m okay saying that I’ll stop using ‘catfight’ when it stops happening.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to die. Catfighting takes a sexist, unmerited dig at the participants, in a way that men who fight don’t have to deal with (even though plenty of fights between men aren’t impressive). Mansplaining takes a dig at very common sexist behavior. In catfighting, the sexism is the person using the term. In mansplaining, the sexism is the person who is the target of the term. It’s different.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  “Catfight” is a term used by sexist people (or people who are in this sense sexist). Mansplaining is directed *at* sexist men. That’s one difference. The other is that mansplaining describes a particular habit of a particular type of man. There are boors of either gender, by mansplaining is a phenomenon particular to a certain type of man. Catfighting, on the other hand, is a label that is applied to women in a physical altercation, when the same kind of physical altercation between men would not be labeled as such. With the term cat fight, you take the same behavior, but in one group it’s just fighting, but with the other group, it gets a special derogatory label.

                  But if you think they are the same, and you don’t agree that both the act of mansplaining and the sexist label “cat fight” are things that happen -to- women and are the result of sexism, then we are never going to agree they aren’t the same, and there isn’t much point in talking about it.

                2. silence covered the sky*

                  So if I called something “womansplaining” and insisted that it is directed at sexist women who (for sake of example) make it a point to tell men about all of their sexist faults – then that’s okay? Because it’s “directed *at*” sexist women?

                  You are free to think whatever you want. I think there’s a double-standard at play.

    4. OP #3*

      I was truly offended by B calling it a “cat fight”. It was a physical on the other person’s end and I felt that I was in danger, which is why I ultimately left the company. If you’re a business owner and an employee with a clean record, excellent references, and no previous issues suddenly feels unsafe working with another co-worker, it should be handled as a serious matter, not something to be played off as a “cat fight.” Just my opinion though.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, if a woman assaulted me at work and it was labeled and dismissed by my boss as a cat fight, I’d get out, too. That doesn’t speak well of the boss.

  6. Shellbell*

    The fact that she views her maternity leave as private gives a hint that she might not be approachable about it. The medical details of your pregnancy are private. The fact that you are taking leave isn’t private. Plans must be made. Why not be transparent about it. That will encourage people to.come to you for discussions.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was (and still am, honestly) quite confused by the “I feel like my privacy was violated.” comment, especially as OP doesn’t go on to explain that in greater detail. Am I missing something obvious?

      1. ShellBell*

        People have odd ideas about maternity leave. I once worked with a woman who swore it was a law that women didn’t have to ever tell their employers they were pregnant or going on leave. I guess she thought they could just stop showing up for 6-8 weeks and no one was allowed to ask or notice. She felt that making plans or expecting women to discuss plans around maternity leave was discrimination. It was difficult to approach her about stuff. It was very odd. I get that people like to keep stuff private, but if you are going on leave for any reason, it needs to be discussed and planned for in a resonable way. It isn’t private. I think there is some weirdness going on here.

        1. Not me*

          That’s strange… Did she ever go on maternity leave herself? Did she just no call/no show one day?

        2. JGray*

          FMLA can be confusing and so I think sometimes people just fixate on one little thing. You do have to tell at a minimum your HR person about wanting to take FMLA because you do have to provide a medical certificate before the leave would be granted. HR can tell your manager if you don’t want to but it would be weird not to tell your manager. You don’t have to tell your coworkers or others the medical reason why you are taking the leave. But again it would be really weird to have a woman in your office taking FMLA in the near future who is clearly pregnant but refuses to acknowledge that to anyone. Not that you have to be friends with your coworkers but if you work with decent people they care about you and all the places I have work have actually gotten a gift for someone expecting- so there are some perks.

      2. Darcy*

        This comment seemed odd to me also. It’s been several years since I’ve taken maternity leave, but once I provided notes and training, people had to talk with my boss to determine who was going to cover which pieces of my job.
        For the OP, here’s something that may help: I had always heard that we can only control how we react to a situation. Then in a management training class I was told there are two things we can control in any situation. The first is how we choose to mentally frame the situation, the second is how we react to it. I wonder if mentally reframing this issue as “my co-worker needed to clarify with my boss how they would work together while I’m out” instead of “my co-worker is violating my privacy” might help you to feel better about this situation.

        1. Artemesia*

          Here is a blast from the past — and perhaps some people’s present given the lack of maternity leave today. I taught in a college when I was pregnant with my youngest child and tried to time her birth for the end of the school year but was off by a month (started a month early and was successful immediately) and so she was due a week before the end of classes and three weeks before the end of finals. I was told that I would have to hire and pay for my own substitute unless I could get colleagues to do it for free; the college was not ‘responsible’ for providing even a week of ‘sick leave’ to cover. The result was I delivered her on Sunday, had a colleague cover the Monday class and the Wednesday undergrad class and I taught a grad seminar on Wednesday.

          1. Anna*

            While the US really does have a ways to go with maternity leave policies, it’s important to remember just how far we’ve come, too. Wow.

    2. KT*

      Agreed–maternity leave is important, but work still needs to get done. Of course people are going to talk about arrangements.

    3. Newbie in Canada*

      This is exactly what I was thinking.
      When you leave a job, someone supposedly must help pick up where you left off. The manager is supposed to be the one to manage work load and work flow.
      It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to ask the person going on mat leave. This also means I wouldn’t be calling the person WHILE she is on mat leave.

  7. AnotherFed*

    #5 – if you’re fairly sure it’s someone with night access and not happening during the day, I would tailor the email to specify ‘when you leave at the end of the day.’ If you’re not sure, it’d help to offer suggestions or a secure place people can put their stuff, especially if it’s an open plan office or there’s nowhere to put bulky items like coats, gym bags, large purses, etc. Something about that kind of email suddenly makes some people think “someone will try to steal my used gym clothes and stinky sneakers unless I lock them up!” Also, coats can legitimately be valuable and have a very high suck factor if stolen/lost, so offering a place to lock those up is helpful in making people feel like the company cares, even if coats haven’t been a target and are usually too bulky and recognizable to be good office theft targets.

      1. the_scientist*

        I agree, winter coats are hella expensive and a pain in the ass to replace! There’s a bar in the town where my alma mater is that is legendary for coat-stealing in the winter. It’s a student bar and students are notoriously cheap, plus the coat check is often full/the line is 8 hours long so people end up leaving their Canada Goose jackets stashed somewhere, and the next day my entire facebook feed is “my Canada Goose jacket was stolen at CrappyBar last night, reward offered if returned”. Some enterprising person is making an absolute killing selling expensive jackets on Craigslist in that town!

        1. AVP*

          I remember in college we would go to crappy discount stores and buy “bar coats” for this exact reason.

          1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

            Yes!! or just not wear a coat at all and freeze your butt off en route to the bar.

        2. NutellaNutterson*

          In college, a friend’s laundry was stolen from the dryer, which meant she was left with no pants. Her only consolation was that she’s about 6′ tall and rail thin, so there’s not a good resale value on her stuff.

    1. Allison*

      But who’s leaving bulky items like coats and large purses? Wouldn’t those be things people take home with them? I think the advice should be “please do not leave valuables on your desk, either take them home with you or put them away.” These thieves are probably going for easy targets, not rifling through cabinets and desk drawers.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m thinking things like headphones, iPods (do people use those anymore?), and stuff like that. I take my expensive noise-cancelling headphones home every day because I don’t have a locking drawer. I know other people leave theirs overnight (sometimes sitting on the desk in plain sight!), but I don’t want to take the chance.

        1. Allison*

          I use an iPod! I don’t like using my phone as a music player, I worry about draining the battery. And I have an Android phone but like using iTunes for music and movies, but I just opt for the nanos which are only $150, and can last for 5+ years if they’re well taken care of.

          But still, why in tarnation would I leave my iPod at work?

      2. Artemesia*

        Having been in charge of a department where cleaning staff were thieves but security claimed it couldn’t be proved, I can assure you that rifling through drawers is standards thief behavior. We didn’t get it fixed until computers disappeared as well.

        I would be very clear that the office is experience a rash of night thefts and that all valuables need to go home or be locked up.

        1. Allison*

          Fair enough! I would say though, if you’re telling people to lock up their stuff, you need to make sure they can lock their stuff up, and make sure that if for some reason they lose their key or leave it at home one day that someone will be able to open the drawer for them. I think a lot of people opt not to lock their desk drawers because they worry about losing access if something were to happen to the key.

          1. myswtghst*

            Good point. I’m terrible about locking my drawers at work, especially since I’ve been in a situation where I was out sick and a coworker needed a file I had locked in my desk. While we do have spare keys for some of the cabinets, no one could find a spare for mine, and it was a big headache.

            Thankfully our team is now in a room we can lock at night, since we all tend to leave our desks (with computers, headphones, etc… in them) unlocked, or if we lock them, leave the keys “hidden” somewhere on the desk.

      3. Cath in Canada*

        I leave a jacket on my office chair basically all the time. In bad weather I cycle to work in a lovely fluorescent waterproof jacket that is a) too ugly and b) not warm enough to wear when I run out to lunch or an off-site meeting, so I keep a warm hooded jacket in the office for those occasions. It’s not my good jacket though.

  8. NJ anon*

    #1 Our new communications manager wants us all to “like” our Facebook page. Um, sorry, not on Facebook.

    1. NickelandDime*

      Yeah, I had to do that (as a communications manager). Don’t worry about it if you don’t have a FB account. It’s honestly not a big deal. Companies ask people to do it all the time. I never really followed up to see who did it and who didn’t. I would think it was weird if a communications manager or whatever was making it into a Big Deal if people didn’t.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I work in communications and I’m constantly asking our employees to like and share our stuff on social media. It’s not like I keep a list of who has and hasn’t liked each status. Our company’s culture is to be super helpful all the time, so a lot of our employees are happy to help us reach more people. It’s totally fine if some of them don’t want to share, and it would look pretty weird if every employee was liking and sharing every post.

      1. NickelandDime*

        I think that’s what the person in the OP’s letter doesn’t understand – you’re asking all of your EMPLOYEES to give these endorsements, likes, etc., how much credibility does that really have? Go work hard for those likes and endorsements!!! It’s the lazy way out.

        1. Mpls*

          “likes” and shares and LinkedIn are less of an endorsement (You should our product for xyz reasons) and more of just circulating the information to a wider network. I don’t think anyone is going to seriously say “Oh, Employee B liked this on LinkedIn, therefore I know it is a quality product”. It’s more likely to be a “Oh, Connection B works at Y company that does Z? I have a need for that, so I have someone I know to contact about what they can do for us.” Postings on LinkedIn are so ephemeral (limited number of views before it cycles out of people’s consciousness) that it’s not a huge dent on anyone’s social capital.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I know I simply ignore the vast majority of them, as they all fall into don’t-care-a-whit status for me. I wish there were a way I could turn off seeing them.

    3. Mike C.*

      I could be way off here, but doesn’t liking a page on Facebook give the owner of that page the chance to see additional information about the people who are liking said page?

      1. NickelandDime*

        Not really. And if they are that concerned about that kind of stuff (and people did express concern to me about that), they don’t have to do it.

      2. KT*

        No, I can see general demographic info (90% of your audience is female between the ages of 45-55) but I cant see more about individual accounts who like the page

        1. Bekx*

          Unless they have public profiles.

          Usually when I post something it’ll say “7 shares” but I might only see John Doe and Jane Smith shared it when I click on the metric. And that’s only because I’m friends with Jane Smith on my personal account, and John’s profile is public.

          But if my boss, who is not friends with Jane, looks at the shares, she might see “7 shares” but only John’s Smith’s name by the share.

        2. Mike C.*

          Thanks for the clarification, I must have confused that with some of the advertiser targeting tools.

        3. Koko*

          Yep, this. And I can even tell Facebook, “Show this ad only to married people who Like my page,” and it will do that happily, but Facebook will not allow me to download a copy of the list of married people who Like my page. You can target people by private information in their profile, but you can’t know who you’re targeting.

      3. Not me*

        Nope. I’ve run a few pages and groups. No additional information.

        By the way, if you take the time to fiddle with your privacy settings, you can control a lot of what is visible in general and to specific people.

  9. Milkcrate*

    I don’t think the Coworker asking about maternity leave coverage did anything unusual. It seems very logical to talk to the supervisor of the employee going on leave regarding business plans. The supervisor is the one ultimately in charge of making sure things run smoothly during an absence. How was your privacy violated OP?


    Not Good Question: “Hey boss, Walda Frey is going on a pregnancy leave. What can you tell me about the pregnancy that is utterly irrelevant to the business/does not affect my job.”

    Reasonable Type Question
    “Hey boss, Walda Frey is going on maternity leave soon. Am I responsible for ordering Dornish red for the upcoming Stark-Frey wedding? Has someone been assigned to hire musicians over the next few months?

  10. MattRest*

    #1..I wonder what your IT security group thinks about that initiative. My company encourages us to keep a low profile (not quite as bad as The Agency) for fears it’ll make us targets of spear phishing. We’re not even supposed to wear our badges in public.

  11. Joie de Vivre*

    #4 – The co-workers actions seem completely reasonable to me. This type of discussion would often include details of the co-workers current workload which is an appropriate conversation to be having with your manager. Something along the lines of, “I’m already working at full capacity and I’m concerned about how Jane’s upcoming leave is going to affect my workload” or “We discussed stretch goal Y in my last review and I think working on Jane’s project X would help me gain experience in that area. Is there a plan for who will be working on that during her leave?”

  12. NickelandDime*

    OP#1: I manage the social media at my organization. We have pages and I asked employees to like it, etc., when I sent out information announcing we had a presence. It’s not a big deal to me if people didn’t do it, and I never went to check to see if they did. Honestly, it’s my job to get followers, likes, etc., organically outside of the organization, and if I had to just depend on employees to boost numbers I would’t be doing my job. I would think it was weird and inappropriate if a company started to make liking a page or endorsing some thing a REQUIREMENT, they were bugging people about it, and making employees do regular posts on their personal accounts about work stuff. That is NOT COOL. I don’t know about your organization – I would just ask casually. If it were me, I would be like, “Don’t sweat it.”

    1. Ad Astra*

      I agree with all this, though I’m curious about why the OP is looking for a legal reason to refuse the request. On LinkedIn, especially, sharing some of your company’s posts is unlikely to offend your network. Does the OP disagree with the content of the post?

    2. Mike C.*

      I also think the key is to give employees a reason to like/report stuff. For instance, my employer likes to post videos of our test pilots practicing before major industry airshows. That’s the sort of thing I’d like/report simply because it’s awesome and our pilots have a great history of “selling airplanes”.

      The sort of thing mentioned in the letter? It reeks of some creepy old dude failing miserably at social media and dragging everyone else down with him.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Bingo. Our employees love to share examples of cool stuff we’re doing (which is sometimes hard to come by, because our industry is not sexy) and posts about open positions in the company. They’re not going to share something that’s basically just an ad, and I wouldn’t expect them to.

        1. JMegan*

          Exactly. If my employer posts something that I think my friends will be interested in, I’ll share it anyway without being asked. If they post something that I think nobody will care about, I don’t. Same as with everybody else I follow on social media, really!

      2. themmases*

        Yes. I used to work for a children’s hospital and many of us follow the hospital itself on our personal accounts and like/share the posts. That is because the page appeals to what we love about our work: we care about our patients. We love stories about adorable children being comforted and healed just as much as everybody else– maybe more.

    3. Bostonian*

      Yeah, I think asking employees to support the company’s social media in general is fine, but I sometimes feel uncomfortable actually doing it so I really don’t appreciate being pressured about it. There are a few reasons this can happen: if I am just not that excited about my current job and don’t really want to strengthen the association of me with the company in peoples’ minds, if the company is very place-based but my social media network is widespread, if my contacts on Facebook are mostly people who just don’t care about the type of work I do and I don’t want to spam them, if I just prefer to keep my personal life and my work life separate, etc.

      I’ve had multiple instances where I got a lot of pressure to like tons of things, invite all my contacts to events, tag myself in all sorts of work-related photos, etc, for very place-based, issue specific organizations, and it made me really uncomfortable. My old college friends and extended family scattered around the country really don’t need to be invited to a community meeting in a place they’ve never even visited on a topic that they don’t really care about, and I’d prefer to keep my (limited) Facebook activity to things of more general interest. LinkedIn is a little better because at least there people understand work-related stuff being the main focus, but managing my presence there is still up to me, not my employer.

      1. NickelandDime*

        And they should not be pressuring you. They should be doing their job to get those likes/endorsements/etc., on their own and not using employees to bolster numbers.

  13. AnonFor#5*

    I can tell you how it was handled at OldJob. A few months after I started there, a valuable item went missing from a teammate’s desk after he accidentally left it there overnight. At the team meeting the next day, our boss mentioned it and said: “Your valuables are your responsibility. Unless it’s company property like a company laptop, if that is stolen from your desk, we will hold you responsible.”

    I remember walking out of there and into a hallway and calling my recruiter friend to “please get me out of here, I made a big mistake and don’t want to work here anymore”. What boss told us was super demoralizing in my opinion. There was never any mention of “we’re looking into it”.

    Just out of curiosity, can an employee be really held responsible if a company-owned item is stolen from their desk after they’re gone for the day?

    1. NickelandDime*

      I don’t blame you – I don’t like that reaction either!!! Yes, he should have remembered to secure the item and yes, it is his responsibility, but there’s a thief in the office, and your boss didn’t care about that?

    2. Natalie*

      Held responsible as in disciplined or fired? Sure. Required to pay for it? Depends on the state, but in many the employer would have to show gross negligence or a deliberate act.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep, it’s considered “cost of doing business”. And anyway, something like a laptop would presumably be insured.

    3. LBK*

      I can see being held responsible in the sense that it’s part of your job to keep company property secure (and any company info that’s on that property). If you’re expected to lock up your laptop before you leave, you don’t and then someone steals it…that doesn’t seem unreasonable to blame you for, but only as long as we’re talking about being written up, not having to pay for it.

      1. fposte*

        Right. I’d want to know what this means. Is it that you owe them a new laptop if the building burns down, or is it that you’re expected to lock your laptop in a drawer overnight and you’re in trouble if it goes missing when you didn’t?

        1. Allison*

          I think if a company tells people not to leave their laptops on the desk when they leave for the day, then yes, it’s reasonable to blame the employee if it’s stolen. Not sure if I think they should have to pay for a new one necessarily, but it’s reasonable to consider them at fault. You’d think that would be the norm everywhere, but at FirstJob we all left our laptops on our desks overnight, so it would be ridiculous to blame someone if theirs was taken.

  14. Hlyssande*

    I think it would really depend on the situation there. We did have the epic tale of the boss who stole an employee’s company-issued ipad and denied it even when the employee had proof and gave the boss a graceful out.

    But if company policy is that you must secure all company-issued tech before you leave or when you’re away from your desk, maybe?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Ooh, that was such a good story! I’d forgotten about it. Didn’t the police get involved?

    2. misplacedmidwesterner*

      Here’s my related night time story. I work in a public library. One evening, after closing, a librarian noticed that there was new graffiti in a very visible spot. She snapped a photo of it so in the morning she could file an incident report/graffiti cleaning request. On the way in the next morning, she looked at it again, it looked different. Pulled out the photo on her phone, yep the graffiti had been added to. The only person with access to the building had been the overnight cleaning crew. Our security camera didn’t have great coverage in that area, but we did see the cleaner linger there. So yeah. That was reported. And it was really only coincidence that led us to prove it was the cleaning crew, we hadn’t even suspected them before. We had really bad graffiti before then, but chalked it up to the “teens”. After that cleaner was removed, the graffiti problems went WAY down. We were flabbergasted and honestly felt really betrayed.

  15. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    Here’s my take on long-term leave. You – the person taking the leave – you aren’t here. I appreciate your help thinking through how to make the transition work, and your ideas about what might be needed. I also appreciate people who have a sense of ownership of their work. But at the end of the day – regardless of the reason for the leave – it’s pretty likely that some decisions will be made that won’t be exactly what you would choose. When you are here, you can have a pretty high degree of autonomy about your work. When you aren’t here for an extended period, some of that autonomy will shift to other people who are doing the work that you would do if you were here. You can’t both be gone and retain all that control/autonomy.

    As a manager, I’m often asking other people to increase their workload during someone’s long-term leave. Those people need to have some control and autonomy about what that looks like, and I need their input about how to make it work for them. Otherwise, I’m left with resentful, burnt-out staff who will be less satisfied with their jobs by the time you get back. If I’m hiring a temp, it’s likely that they won’t be able to do all parts of the job, so I need the people doing the leftover parts to tell me what’s likely to work best.

    I guess I’m ranting here. I just had someone come back from a 4 month leave and FREAK OUT over some really, really minor things that weren’t done exactly as she would have done them. While I know that she was involved in a big life transition and was having a hard time anyway, I was beyond annoyed that her response to 4 people happily and supportively increasing their own workload for 4 months was anger and resentment. She felt that she was being punished for having a baby. No. I am running a business, and I am making business decisions that have nothing to do with babies – the decisions have to do with the work that we need to get done and the people who are here to do it. She had every right to have a baby, and to take an extended leave. We were happy for her. We lowered her workload for 6 months before she left because we knew she was tired. What I can’t do is also allow her to control everything that happens at a place she isn’t currently working. I’m not imposing a consequence – this is a natural result of being gone – no matter the reason you are gone.

  16. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    Off topic, but I’m having trouble with ads that play sound today on this site. Especially for some movie (Agent 47 Hitman or some such). I’m using Chrome and normally don’t have this issue. I wasn’t even able to pause/mute it. I had to either let it run its course or leave the page. Thanks Alison!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh, I’m sorry about this. If you’re able to send me the URL it clicks through to, that’s the only way I can get it tracked down and stopped.

  17. Bostonian*

    OP #5, I really appreciate that you mentioned that cleaning crews often get blamed for this sort of thing erroneously. In general, people working on office cleaning crews really need their jobs – it’s not fun work, the hours suck, and it’s the type of service-sector job where you don’t get warnings and PIPs, you just get fired by the management company for things like clients accusing you of stealing, so it’s not a job someone takes just for fun. I’m sure sometimes office cleaners steal, but they’re pretty likely to get caught if they do and most people aren’t willing to take that risk, even if they are unethical enough to consider it.

    In most of the metropolitan areas where I’ve worked the majority of the cleaning staff have been people of color, and by the nature of the job they’re also low-income and in a “lower-status” occupation than the people whose offices they’re cleaning. There are some pretty troubling implications when people assume that the cleaning crew is more likely to steal than anyone from the (white-collar professional) daytime staff.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      In general, I agree and that’s an excellent point. However, then I have to wonder why there’s so many crappy office cleaning companies? It’s been that way at most places I’ve worked, and here we literally change cleaning companies every few months. The most recent one actually put dirty dishes back in the cupboard one day! They were soaking in the sink, they just dumped out the water and put them in the cupboard. Another time a couple years ago, a different company broke the handle off my coffee mug, and put it in the cupboard, so when I grabbed it, I got a small cut on my hand.

    2. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      Thanks for calling this point out, I was feeling a little uncomfortable about the automatic assumption that the cleaning staff was to blame, too.

    3. Observer*

      The main reason that a lot of people suspect the cleaning crew is timing and opportunity. The cleaning crew is generally the only set of people who have access with pretty much no one else around. Also, no one really knows them well, so it’s easier to suspect them. And, in the case where the cleaning crew is outsourced, they have not been vetted by the company.

      1. myswtghst*

        Also, no one really knows them well, so it’s easier to suspect them.

        I think this is an important point. It’s pretty normal to convince ourselves that “person I work with every day” would never steal, which means placing the blame on a cleaning crew we may never even interact with is a lot easier than coming to terms with someone we like / trust being a thief.

        It’s also interesting to me that you mention timing and opportunity – at my place of work, we have people on all different shifts, and it’s not uncommon for me to be here on my own at the end of the work day (or for my coworker to be here on their own early in the AM). I’ve also stopped in on the weekend before when I realized I forgot something I needed at my desk, or needed to do a lot of printing but didn’t want to tie up the printer when other people might need it. So there are plenty of reasons why (in many workplaces) the cleaning crew wouldn’t be the only ones with timing and opportunity.

  18. LaraW*

    #2 – When my DH was job searching, he was definitely turned off by hiring managers who consistently emailed him late at night (after 10 or 11 pm) or super early like 4 or 5 in the morning. Sure, they might be natural early birds, but if they are working those hours, he might be expected to as well and he did not want to do that. Maybe that was just him being paranoid, but he didn’t want a job where he’d be expected to work 70 hours/week.

    1. hayling*

      I dunno…Hiring takes a ton of time. It could just be that they’re really swamped and that’s the only time the hiring manager can get time to deal with hiring – and that by hiring one of those candidates, their workload will go back to being normal.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        Maybe, but I have no idea as a candidate if this is an anomaly or if it’s a sign of a boss with terrible time management who would also expect ME to be on-call 24/7. Even if I asked point-blank if that was normal (like “I was surprised to get an email from you at 2:00 this morning! Is that a typical workday?”), I can’t be sure that the boss was telling the truth if she said “no”. I’d only take that job if I didn’t have other options.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          ETA: If I were the hiring manager, a candidate sending an email outside daylight hours wouldn’t be a red flag on its own because I would understand that the candidate probably has a job and other obligations and this could be the only time she can send it. The difference is that the candidate is doing it on their own time, and the boss is doing it on company time.

    2. Anx*

      Hmm, that’s interesting.

      I am very much a night owl and am certainly not working 70 hours a week or anything like that, but I do send emails out at 2, 3 or 4 am when I know that I want to get it out for the next business day.

      I have been a little paranoid about the stigma of being a night owl on my time stamps, but I never thought it would make me look industrious.

  19. Mozey*

    Number Two: Email at Weird Times

    I guess I’m someone with weird bias! It doesn’t take much effort to just delay the email or draft it and send at a later time during business hours. While job searching, sometimes you need to alter small things just because you really don’t know who will have a bias. If you can easily and reasonably prevent it from impacting your search or potentially creating a bias, why not? I think we all have our limits on this, but drafting something at 3 am then hitting send when you get up the next morning or using technology to delay the send doesn’t seem that strange or difficult of an adjustment. I work with professional students, and when they email me at 3 am I seriously worry about burnout.

    My boss will occasionally draft emails over the weekend and then hit send on Monday morning. She doesn’t want us to feel like we should be responding over the weekend, so she waits to hit send. It is funny to get 6 emails from her in a row (you know she is in the parking lot about to walk in), but I appreciate it and her efforts to protect my time off. That way I know when something is important enough that I need to respond because she actually hit send.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      Exactly. My workplace is open and staffed 24/7, but the only time my boss would NEED to send an email outside of daylight hours is to say something like “The building is on fire, do not report to work until further notice”… and even that would be better to handle with a phone call. Everything else can wait until at least the next morning.

  20. Vorthys*

    It might just be my neck of the contracting woods, but I find it strange that a company would try to require social media endorsements. Enthusiastic encouragement and opportunities to share your experiences rarely fails to do the trick in the companies I’ve worked for.

    Actually, for all but the more reserved sorts, it’s harder to get them to stop.

  21. TootsNYC*

    How your maternity leave will be covered is not a private matter, so there is no invasion of your privacy.

    Your medical matters are private.

    But job stuff is not.

    I’m not the most autocratic manager in the world, but I would consider that *I* am devising a plan for how to cover my subordinates’ maternity or paternity or FMLA leaves. So asking the pregnant person wouldn’t be effective.

    Also, maybe the colleague wants to say, “I’d like to handle XYZ while she’s away” or “I’d like to expand my skills with an eye to promotion, and this seems like a good opportunity”; she may not want to say that to you.

  22. LawBee*

    #4 – I’m surprised that the OP is seeing this as a privacy invasion. It’s about her work at her job, and presumably since she’s going out on maternity leave, it’s common knowledge that there’s a baby and a pregnancy somewhere in the picture. The manager was asking about how work was going to be reallocated, right? What’s private about that?

  23. Justin*

    My previous job wanted us to promote the company on LinkedIn and while I didn’t really mind them asking (they never made us do anything and acknowledged that our personal accounts were ours to do with as we wished) it didn’t seem like a very effective way to market the company. Other than linking our company profile in our email signatures and following the company profile, they weren’t very specific about what we should do.

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