I want to accept the offer I just turned down, manager won’t let me quit, and more

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

1. I turned down a job offer but then tried to accept it a few hours later

I’m not sure if I just committed a horrible faux pas. On Wednesday afternoon, I was offered a job. I was truly excited about the offer, but throughout the interview process I questioned whether I was the right fit for the role because it sounded like the department needed someone with more experience. I brought this concern to the attention of the hiring manager early on in the process, and he assured me that he thought I was the strongest candidate for the role, but I just had this bad feeling that I would be fired if I took this job. After mulling things over for a day, I declined the offer via email.

As soon as I hit send, I immediately regretted passing up this great opportunity. A couple hours later, I emailed HR again to ask if it was too late to change my mind. I sent the second email after the close of business on Thursday, so on Friday morning I called to follow up with HR. She stated that she was following up with the department to see if they had already reached out to other candidates and that she would let me know ASAP. I haven’t heard from her and at this point I don’t expect to.

The strange thing is is that she lied to me. I know for a fact that I was the only person they were considering because the hiring manager told me when I brought my concerns to him. I also noticed that they reposted the job immediately after I declined the offer. Why do you think the department changed their mind about hiring me so quickly? Did I make them question my abilities when I turned down the offer? And why didn’t HR just tell me that they decided to move on? At this point, I’m not mad at anyone but myself, but I just never understand why people aren’t straightforward or honest. I have other interviews lined up at the end of the month, so that’s the only thing that’s making moving on from this easier. Plus, after this ordeal, I’d probably be a bit too embarrassed to work with these people now.

It’s possible that they did reach out to other candidates (reposting the job wouldn’t preclude that possibility; they might simply be uncertain how the other candidates will ultimately shake out). But yes, it’s also possible that the HR person isn’t being straight with you and they just don’t want to re-open your offer because now you appear wishy-washy/not committed. It’s not unreasonable that they’d be put off by your uncertainty; most employers want to hire people who are excited about the job, and turning down the offer basically made your own anxieties about it theirs. As for why she wouldn’t be straightforward about that with you, well, lots of people are bad at delivering difficult or awkward messages, especially when there’s an easier out available to to them.

2. My boss doesn’t want to let me quit

I am working in an educational company, and this is my first job. I am working in a position as an education consultant. However, the responsibility is actually as much as selling the program while my true interest is in English teaching.

At first, I thought I would be fine with it. I am still working in education, anyway. Unfortunately, the more days I spend on the job, the more I want to quit as soon as possible (I have been working for 3 months now and my status is still an intern). But the fact that what I do is pretty different than what I thought I’d be doing kills me every day I go to work.

My supervisor is very nice and supportive and she keeps saying that she loves me and has considered me as her little sister. However, I began to get upset with her since I thought that all she is trying to do is to keep me in the job. I realize that I have helped her a lot and it will be pretty much difficult for her to let me go. The thing is, my decision to resign is final. I have tried so many times to change my mind and to love the job, but I always end up forgetting how to smile and being so blue all day long.

I have told her several times about resigning and she has declined my oral resignation. She finally said that she would probably let me go by the end of this December. But to be honest, I cannot actually wait that long. I really want to quit the job as immediate as possible, but her top weapon to make me stay is the word “responsibility,” and she even said that my family is toxic because they support me resigning just after few months working.

Should I wait until the end of the year or should I stick to my own decision to quit immediately? Also, I am planning to apply for graduate degree in TESOL after qutting the job. Do you think I should apply first, then use that to buy my ticket out of the office gracefully without hurting anyone?

You don’t need permission to quit. Your manager doesn’t need to “accept” your resignation. You get to quit whenever you want, whether she accepts it or not! And you don’t need to use grad school as an excuse for quitting. You can simply say that the job turned out not to be the right fit for you, and you are resigning. Period.

These are the words to use: “I’ve decided that I need to move on, and my last day will be in two weeks, October 26. I know you’ve urged me not to quit in the past, but my decision is final.” If she pushes back, tells you your family is toxic, or whatever, say this: “My decision is final. Shall we talk about what you’d like me to complete during these two weeks?” And then you stick to it. She can’t make you change your mind. Keep saying, “It’s not up for discussion.” And if it gets uncomfortable enough, you’d have reason to say, “I’d like to work out my final two weeks, but I need you to accept my decision. If you can’t do that, it would be best for both of us if today is my last day.”

Also: It’s super weird that your manager is telling you she loves you — ever, but especially after three months. She sounds manipulative, immature, and sort of horrid. Get out of there.

3. Assistant manager says I need to wear different socks

I’m currently in the running for a promotion, and my assistant manager has been giving me tips on how to make the manager think I’m ready for the part (start wearing makeup everyday, stop asking questions when I’m receiving instructions, etc). Unfortunately, all of these tips have been things that don’t actually matter, and my manager had no problem with. If I don’t go through with them, the assistant manager gets upset and aggressive that I’m ignoring the advice, acting as if it was a demand.

Her latest request has finally made me snap. She flipped out at me and implied that I would never get the job and get taken seriously if I didn’t follow her demand. The demand? Stop wearing socks with novelty designs.

I have never had an issue with dress code once, and we even have a joke in the store that if you’re unsure of dress code just look at me. We work in a fashion store (think Forever 21) so we dress trendy and fashionable. In fact, our training video explicitly tells us *not* to wear business attire as customers won’t know we work there. All staff members (including the manager) will wear things like superhero T-shirts, band tank tops, and other not very “professional” looking things.

I often don’t find time to wash socks, and we have a great deal on five packs of socks with things like birds, animals, flowers, buildings, words, and other such patterns on them. After the employee discount, it works out to $1 a pair, so I buy many packs and wear those to work.

Usually I wear flat shoes where you can see the socks, so I can sort of understand why the assistant manager told me not to wear them. However, the manager herself wears animal socks, and she has never said a thing about mine (except when she loves them).

The assistant manager’s argument is that customers won’t respect a manager wearing frog socks. I’m sorry, but is there anyone who would walk up to the manager of a trendy fashion store, see that they’re wearing fox socks, and suddenly think they’re dirt? What do you think?

I think your assistant manager is giving you bad advice, either intentionally for some reason or unintentionally. I also think you could put a stop to it by saying to your manager, “Hey, could I get your advice on something? Jane told me that I shouldn’t wear socks with novelty designs because customers won’t take me seriously. My sense is that novelty socks are fine, and I think you’ve even told me you like some of mine, but I’m thrown off by the advice and wanted to run it by you and see if you agree.” If your manager agrees with you, problem solved — and the next time your assistant manager brings it up, you can say, “Oh, I ran it by (manager) and she said it was fine.”

And yeah, sounds like you should ignore her other advice too. Never asking questions, for example, is a recipe for getting things wrong. This assistant manager, for whatever reason, is not someone to take advice from.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. How to note that I’m not graduating and available for work until December

I am graduating in December with my bachelors. I have started looking at jobs, but I don’t know how to apply since I technically do not have my degree yet, or the availability to work them before December. How should I word this on my resume?

In the Education section of your resume, where you’re listing your schooling, write this: B.A. in English (or whatever), expected December 2015

Lots of jobs that you’re applying for now probably will be okay with someone who can’t start until December; it’s not that far off, especially if they don’t have a super-quick hiring process, which most places don’t. But to be sure, if they contact you for an interview, mention at that point that you’re not available until (date) and ask if that will work for them. (You don’t want to waste your or their time interviewing if it won’t, of course. But for lots of jobs, it won’t be an issue.)

5. Update: New employee asked me our policy on dating supervisors

Remember the manager whose new employee asked about the company’s policy on dating supervisors, then quit four hours later? Here’s the update.

This former employee called today to inquire about the “Now Hiring” sign on our front marquee. At first, I couldn’t place him because he said that he had worked for a couple days, but then the whole thing came back to me. I told him that I would not hire him because he had worked for four hours and then quit and our policy states that I cannot hire back people who quit without notice. I wished him a good day and hung up the phone.

Well, he called back a minute later to tell me that he had not quit – he just couldn’t physically handle the work. I said that he quit because he came to me after four hours, told me that he couldn’t handle the work, and left me with a hole in the schedule for the rest of the week. He then said that I was making a mistake. I told him that he had now ruined any chances he had of being hired back under me because of his arguing with me. I then told him not to call again and hung up the phone. I may have been a bit forceful, but the sheer audacity of calling back after what he had done the first time was entirely shocking to me. We’ve now placed all of this in a file under his name and my upper management knows the entire situation.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    #2 – this is one of those times when the work relationship/dating relationship metaphor works. If you were dating someone and decided to break up with them, they couldn’t just tell you, “No, I don’t want to break up. We’re going to keep being in a relationship.” It takes both parties for the relationship to continue.

    Same with work. If your boss fired you, you couldn’t say, “No, I want to keep working here, so I’m going to keep coming in and you’re going to keep paying me.” Both of you have to agree on this.

        1. Liz*

          Nope, definitely “married”. Think about the context – and “merry” is an unusual word for an American outwith the Christmas season. Brits might also say someone was “a bit merry” (meaning “a little drunk”) but otherwise it’s not in common usage.

    1. Artemesia*

      I once kept a relationship going for another 6 months by ‘refusing to accept the breakup’; ahh we were both so young and stupid.

      Too many young people entering the workforce get bullied; telling the OP she can’t resign is a classic of this and we have seen it in many letters before. Another is the ‘you can’t leave, we need you so’ in an attempt to guilt the employee in prioritizing the needs of the workplace over their own career development. When a business wants to slim down they fire good loyal employees without hesitation — people need to behave professionally e.g. notice and all, but act in their own best interests.

      1. Not an IT Guy*

        I agree with the bullying…however unfortunately 99 times out of 100 workplace bullying is 100% legal and 100% allowed. With that said while I do encourage the OP to get out of there (as is her legal right), be prepared for the worst in case this manager is ever contacted for a reference. The manager may love OP now, but for all we know won’t hesitate to destroy the OP professionally if things didn’t go her way.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I completely agree that it sounds like once OP quits the reference will be gone. Hopefully there is somebody else in the workplace who can speak to how the OP did as an intern, but I don’t think that this manager will give a good reference. At best they might blame OP’s “toxic family” but that’s a really pathetic best.

        2. RHo*

          Here’s the thing: With this manager, even if OP did stay through December, I wouldn’t for one second trust that there’s going to be a good reference anyway.

            1. Been there*


              Particularly since — there are likely *all kinds* of things OP #2 is putting up with that are way way over the line. When you get away from people like that, all of those things become obvious. And I think the boss would probably want the OP to keep doing all the inappropriately intimate things because she ~loves~ her and is just trying to ~help~ her get over her perspective and boundaries.

          1. AW*

            Yep. Toxic Manager is going to get made at LW #2 for leaving *at all* and I wouldn’t put it past them to suddenly ‘forget’ that they had said they’d be OK with them leaving in December and insist that they stay another 6 months (and then another, and another…).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I did the same thing and I wasn’t young, but it was still stupid!

        This manager is so manipulative–“You’re like my little sister.” What the what!? It’s business, not summer camp. You’re not trading cabins or leaving at the end of a session, when everybody sings “Kumbaya” and cries themselves to sleep (or maybe that was just my camp, LOL).

        The OP needs to prepare to leave THAT DAY before she formally resigns, just in case the manager gets pissy and accepts and says, “Yes, today will be your last day. In fact, leave now.” I wouldn’t be surprised if that actually happens.

        1. AnonaMoose*


          OP, start clearing out your desk of personal effects on the DL. Best advice I ever took when I decided to leave a toxic environment.

    2. Charityb*

      Do you guys remember the AAM from a while back about the museum volunteer who basically couldn’t be removed from his position? Apparently it really is possible to have a nonconsensual employment relationship with someone, either as the employer or the employee. All you need is a hostage situation (in that case, the guy had strong relationships with the museum’s donors and had several exhibits in his home, plus keys to everything for some reason; in this case, I’m assuming the reason the OP doesn’t just leave is fear of a bad reference).

    3. Chameleon*

      And to add to the dating metaphor: the fact that after only 3 months the boss is diagnosing family dynamics and using it to pressure OP into staying is a *huge*red flag to me. It reads like an abuser’s tactic of isolating someone from their support network to lessen their ability to leave.

      OP, abusers often act the worst when their partners leave. Don’t expect your resignation to go over well. But regardless…run for the hills!

  2. Chriama*

    OP#5 — outrageous people never seem to realize how outrageous they are! I’m glad upper management has your back on this. Was he calling to get the same job he had walked off, because if so I would have loved to hear why things are different this time!

    1. sam*

      It would be one thing if he had apologized profusely, explaining that he didn’t realize what the job entailed and that he basically had a freakout/lapse in judgment, understood if you never wanted to hire him again but was more mature now and asking for a second chance. That would at least point to someone who was cognizant of/willing to learn from their mistakes.

      But…not so much here.

    2. LadyErin*

      OP#5 here. I’m not sure that I understand your question. Do you mean to ask if he had told me what was different this time around to make him want to apply again? Because nothing on the company’s end as to the description of the job has changed. In any case, he never said what was different and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

      1. AW*

        I think they meant they would have loved to hear how that applicant would have explained how he would be able to do the exact same job now when he said he couldn’t do it then.

      2. Aijay*

        Thank you so much for not even considering hiring him back. I’ve had managers who have hired back bad or no call no show employees. As an employee that would never do that, it makes me feel unvalued.

        1. charisma*

          Exactly. It’s amazing to me (though understandable, sometimes) how many people are simply incapable of telling others the word “No.”

      3. Pixel*

        We had our very own “4-hour Jane”. She was supposed to start on a Monday, called in on Monday morning to tell us she had a family emergency, and showed up on Tuesday. The person who was training her spent the entire morning showing her the ropes. When lunch time rolled by, she told me she is stepping out to check on her car, tand told two other employees she is stepping out – giving each a different reason (she gets some marks for creativity, I guess). She was never seen again but kindly called us to let us know the job was “too entry level” and we don’t need to send her a check for the 4 hours! I can only imagine the manager’s reaction if she tried to call and get her job back. By the way, turned out she had another job offer which she started the Monday she was supposed to be off for a family emergency. The next day she told the other company she had a family emergency, checked up both companies and decided she liked the other office better. Sometimes I wonder how that worked out.

  3. Min*

    #5 – I can just imagine how well he’d have taken the rejection if he had actually asked the OP out instead of hedging with the creepy “company policy” question. Talk about dodging a bullet…

  4. Katie the Fed*

    “My supervisor is very nice and supportive and she keeps saying that she loves me and has considered me as her little sister.”

    lol, what?

    “I have told her several times about resigning and she has declined my oral resignation.”

    No seriously, dafuq??

    You haven’t seen Misery, have you? Because I am totally picturing crazy Kathy Bates here.

    1. KT*

      This so unbelievably inappropriate and really creepy. I can’t get the Misery associations out of my head either

    2. BRR*

      I feel like I’ve read a couple times now about calling coworkers or subordinates family or little siblings and it’s really creeping me out (exception if you work at a family business). My older brother manipulated me when we were younger and now we sort of get along but sometimes but heads. Do you still want to refer to me as a sibling because this is how I think of siblings?

      For declining the resignation it just makes me think of Seinfeld.

      1. Jerzy*

        Yeah, I didn’t so much think Misery as Seinfeld here, which isn’t much better. Those characters, however beloved, are really terrible manipulative and selfish people, and OP’s boss might as well call herself “Elaine.”

      2. Mimmy*

        Until I started reading this site, I thought referring to coworkers / subordinates as being like family was okay. At one previous job, our manager referring to a just-fired employee as being “like a son”.

        1. Sparky*

          My worst boss ever, who was a complete loon hired someone she said reminded her of her younger self. The new hire was also completely crazy. She started by giving the silent treatment to all of the men in the office. Then she stopped speaking to the younger women in the office, then one by one she stopped speaking to the older women in the office, who were the only people she was still speaking to. Complete, hair tossing and looking away when directly addressed silent treatment. At work. But yes, she was the mini me of lunatic boss.

      3. MK*

        While this may have unfortunate connotations for you and a lot of other people, saying someone is “like family” is not meant literally, it’s just a convienient shorthand for communicating that they value you above and beyond the professional relationship. I agree it’s generally inappropriate, but usually not malicious; and there are cases when it can be very true, i.e. if you have worked with someone for decades.

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, this sounds really manipulative and clingy.

      I’ll never understand managers who decline resignations. How do you think that works? What do you do if the person just stops coming in – fire them?

    4. SquirrelInMT*

      The whole thing is bizarre. OP 2 has been there three months and is still an intern? Shouldn’t most internships have wrapped up by now?

      I’m a little concerned about this part, because if OP 2 is a grad student and hasn’t completed all the requirements of an academic internship, it could affect grades and ability to graduate. But in most cases, I would have expected that to conclude long before 12 weeks or so. If OP 2 is a recent grad, the academic impact is less of a worry, but then I do wonder if there’s a question of payment for all this work.

      OP 2, are you an unpaid intern? Is your manager compensating you for any time worked beyond whatever internship requirements you might have had to finish for school? Did you get all the school paperwork you needed done?

  5. Katie the Fed*

    #5: “Well, he called back a minute later to tell me that he had not quit ”

    This is why some people don’t deserve an explanation. You give them any explanation for rejection and they argue with you. This guy is nuts. And his comments are a little worrisome – I’d make sure he wasn’t allowed on the premises anymore.

    1. Boop*

      100% agree. I run into these kinds of people all the time. I know it’s been mentioned here before, but the book The Gift of Fear is a fabulous resource to help you feel less alone when you run into these types of people. It helps you realize you’re not the unreasonable one!

    2. Ella*

      I really want to know what he thinks he did, if not quit. Did he resign himself? Was he laid off by an external universal force? Take an extended leave of absence? What does he think quitting is?

    3. Mel in HR*

      The struggle is real. I interviewed someone, had them interview with the hiring manager, and we decided to hire them. They took the drug screen, background screen, etc. (costing us money) and when I called to schedule their hiring paperwork/first day they pushed it back a few days for a family emergency. So- I rescheduled, giving them the benefit of the doubt. They never showed up. I called and emailed just to do my due diligence, but they were nowhere to be found.
      1 1/2 months later I get an email apologizing that they had a family emergency and they were wondering if the position was still available (wha?!). I told them we had hired someone else (we had). That someone else quit after 1 day, deciding they were “too old to do this kind of work” and I had to repose the position (the position from hell apparently). I then get another email from disappearing person, saying they saw we had an opening and they were available to start immediately. WTF?! You disappeared for nearly 2 months without a word and you want me to hire you?!

      To make it worse, another person we hired for a different backup position was never responsive when we would try to call them in. So we posted to replace them and they started harassing me saying they wanted to work. People be craygee. If you want to work, don’t pull a Houdini disappearing act on me.

  6. Myrin*

    For all their understanding of how quitting a job does and doesn’t work, I feel like the weirdo employee of #5 and the weirdo manager of #2 should totally start working together.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Also their lack of understanding of how professional relationships are different from personal ones!

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        “I shan’t be turning up due to a disease known as ‘resigned’, but please feel free to keep paying me if you don’t want our relationship to end.”

  7. Bunny*

    LW #2, your manager is being really weird and inappropriate. I might be off-base, but I get the feeling from your letter that you’re perhaps not especially experienced at being employed, and I think this boss is taking advantage of that.

    1- Employers do not get a choice in accepting/declining resignations. Once you advise them that you are quitting, that’s it.
    2- It sounds like your boss is trying to use “oral resignation” as though it’s somehow less binding or less real than a formal one? It’s utter bollocks, but you can deal with it. Draft a resignation letter giving your standard notice period and hand it to them when you quit.
    3- Is there a HR? Could you hand your formal notice to them and *then* inform your boss of the fact? It shouldn’t be necessary, but if it’ll help your confidence in doing this then it may be the way to go.
    4- Your boss “loves you” and thinks of you as a little sister? WHAT?! You’ve been there a mere 3 months, and you’re an employee. That is seriously inappropriate and weird stuff to be saying to you – that’s not treating you like an adult or an employee at all. It’s treating you like a bloody mascot.
    5- The role was not as advertised/you were led to believe. You don’t need to make excuses or justify how unhappy you were or *prove* you deserve to leave. You accepted a job expecting to get to do A, B and C. You’re instead working a job that does X, Y and Z.

    1. Bunny*

      Ahahaha! And that is why we don’t post 10 minutes after waking up, people! OP wrote in the first sentence of their letter that this was their first job. I just failed to remember that part by the time I got to the end of the letter!

      My advice stands, though.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I agree on the written resignation – it doesn’t sound like OP can salvage a reference from this, but particularly if you can take it to HR/their boss, it means nobody can “forget” or “think you weren’t serious” or so on.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        And then when this manager starts telling future employers that you just up and walked out, HR will be able to put a stop to it (unless they’re just as dysfunctional as this manager).

    3. Andrea*

      +1 to all this, but I also have a feeling that OP#2 isn’t a native English speaker. Perhaps she is in a different country and there are also cultural issues here? But yes, your list is spot-on, and some of the issues here can be explained by the OP’s inexperience, but this boss just seems weird.

      1. fposte*

        I wondered about that too. I know AAM has gotten letters from a variety of places, too, so maybe this is from someplace where it’s slightly less horrifying.

    4. BRR*

      @3 I’d be tempted to submit it to HR and go, my boss rejected my oral resignation, here is a written copy of my resignation that my last day will be X.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m with you, since there’s a chance HR might go “What? Didn’t accept your resignation??”. Call BS on the boss’s shenanigan (unless, of course, boss and HR are friends).

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Hand the boss the written letter, with the ending date and just carry on. There’s absolutely no reason you have to keep showing up for work after your end date, no matter how much she tries to text/e-mail/phone you. If she’s so delusional to call you on the first day you don’t show up — “Well, I don’t work for you any more. Didn’t you read the resignation letter I handed to you 2 weeks ago? It clearly stated that my last day would be X.” and get off the phone pronto!

  8. Sherm*

    OP2, when you talk to your boss again, remember that the right to not be forced to work is one of our most deeply cherished rights, and that *many* people died for that right. Keeping that in mind may help you realize what a little twit she is being.

  9. bkanon*

    I would be far more likely TO respect a manager with fox socks. And ask where to buy them. I ADORE novelty socks. I’m wearing teapots and cats right now. (They’re purple!) I don’t own a single pair of plain socks. So rock those socks, #3!

    1. Artemesia*

      I can imagine many environments in which novelty socks would be inappropriate, but not one where the boss wears novelty socks.

      1. Evie*

        I think the thing that get me about this letter is the fact that the socks in question are from their own store! And while I haven’t worked in retail I get the jist that it’s a very common thing for retail worked to e encouraged to wear their products at work.

        1. Allison*

          This is true, to an extent. There was a story about a 17 year-old girl who rage quit her job at a department store because she showed up in shorts that the store had been selling in the “career” section, and was told to go home and change, and she thought it was ridiculous since they were merchandise the store had supposedly been endorsing as work appropriate. Without getting into who was right in this case, the fact is that even if store employees are encouraged to wear merchandise and project an image in line with the company brand, there are often limits to that.

          But in OP’s case, since employees wear superhero and band t-shirts, I have a hard time believing that novelty socks would be an issue, but it wouldn’t hurt for OP to run it by their manager just to be 100% sure.

          1. Laurel Gray*

            I saw shorts – both Bermuda and shorter – in the suit separates section in stores like Ann Taylor and Banana Republic in the past year. With matching blazers and some even vests. While it “worked” on the model in the picture banners hanging up, and even on the website, I don’t think it translates to work “in real life”. I don’t even picture work places that allow shorts to have women wearing them in full suiting.

            1. Traveler*

              I work in a professional environment (not fashion oriented) where Bermuda length shorts and 3/4s blazers are worn. To be fair our line of work breeds quirky people – they also wear novelty socks – but, there are places. Probably not nearly as many as fashion outlets would have you believe though.

            2. Allison*

              Yeah, I don’t really understand why shorts are sold in those departments ever. If someone is shopping in the “career” section of a store, their workplace probably doesn’t allow shorts on anyone. But that only goes to show, just because something is sold in the “career” section of a store doesn’t necessarily mean you can actually wear it to work.

              1. mander*

                They were weirdly popular in the UK for a while, often with knee high boots. It was not a look I could understand.

          2. OP #3*

            My store does encourage us to wear the products (there’s literally a line that says that in the manual). However, there are limits (we have to cover our shoulders, leggings only if the top covers your behind while bent over, no althetic wear, no hoodies, we aren’t even going to be allowed to wear costumes for Halloween). Socks are not restricted in any way, and I’ve even worn my fox socks in front of the District Manager and she’s never said a word… Then again she spent my first three months calling me Courtney, which is not my name (long story) so I’m not exactly sure how much notice she’ll take of my socks.
            I do know my manager is in fact fine with the socks because she wears them and loves them when I wear them. Heck, while unpacking them she called out my name, held up a pack of penguin socks (my favorite animal) and joked if she should bring them up to till for me.

        2. BRR*

          My husband had to work retail and while there was a dress code the managers said employees should be the “store’s best customers.” And I agree with Allison above that usually employees are asked to project an imagine with their company’s brand. Certain stores it’s difficult to figure out who an employee is because they stress the same as their customers.

        3. Beezus*

          I agree the socks are probably not a problem, considering the boss is wearing them.

          However, “the store sells them, so I should be able to wear them to work at the store” isn’t a very good argument. Some stores sell bathrobes, after all. And I’m pretty sure that the advice to dress a level above the minimum acceptable dress code if you want to move up applies in retail as much as any other industry.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Then OP should absolutely wear them–as the manager, presumably 2 levels above her, wears them:

            However, the manager herself wears animal socks, and she has never said a thing about mine (except when she loves them).

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I do not think that this is about socks–that’s bullsh1t. OP says she keeps giving her tips about stuff that doesn’t matter. It sounds like she’s trying to sabotage the OP so she doesn’t get the promotion.

              1. OP #3*

                She’s not trying to sabotage me. In fact she wants me to be the one to get it. She’s the one whose leaving is opening up a spot, and told me that before she leaves she wants to make me her “Mini Me”. Unfortunately, her idea of how to do things doesn’t line up with anyone else’s, and she’s even leaving over that fact.

          2. MK*

            True, but I think it would be odd if the salespeople were dressed more formally than the clothes sold in the store. Someone in a suit seelings suits is one thing (though usually they are dressed a touch less formally), but in a jeans store they would look out of place.

            1. Kelly L.*

              This. Having salespeople in suits would probably be off-putting to the clientele more than anything else.

          3. Allison*

            I do agree that, in general, it’s not a good argument. People at Victoria’s Secret don’t walk around in lingerie, and people working at formal wear stores don’t come to work in ball gowns. It really, honestly, truly depends on where you work and what most people wear.

            Also, at the end of the day, what you wear is only part of what influences your mobility at a company. You would wear band t-shirts and novelty socks like everyone else and get promoted because you do well at your job and show an aptitude for leadership, and you could show up to work one level above everyone else and never get promoted because your performance is terrible and give management no reason to think you could handle management or supervisor responsibilities.

          4. Honeybee*

            She’s using the argument because of the specific type of store she works in – a trendy, flash-fashion retail establishment that’s pretty notorious for encouraging employees to wear what the store sells.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      Me too! My favorite pair have birds on them, but I also have dog socks, snowflake socks, and bacon socks. I mean socks printed with pictures of bacon, not socks made of bacon. I’m not Lady Gaga.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        My favourites are shark socks with the teeth on the sole of the foot. Great in Japanese restaurants!

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I saw a pair of shark socks that made it look like the shark was eating your leg, they were a really cool.

          1. Kyrielle*

            My oldest son has several sets of dinosaur socks with the same theme, except they only eat your toes – they’re sedately black above the shoe. I kind of covet them, but they don’t come in my size. He calls them his “chomp socks”.

            1. Anonymous for this Post*

              Cool name. My name is Kyree (male). I’ve never see the name Kyrielle, but I like it. Maybe when I have a daughter…

    3. Tau*

      I have so many butterfly socks. So many! Not helped by the fact that I can’t resist buying new ones whenever I see them regardless of how many socks I currently own. It’s a problem.

      Alas, for me it isn’t always appropriate to wear them for work, so I have some plain black socks which I begrudgingly wear when I have to. At first I thought that OP was in that sort of job, but the description makes it clear she’s well within the dress code.

      So – ignore that assistant manager, OP! Rock those novelty socks while I sit in plain-socked misery at my desk job being jealous.

    4. Coffee Ninja*

      I ADORE novelty socks. I’m wearing teapots and cats right now.

      I smell the newest addition to the Ask A Manager merchandise line!

    5. Anonymous Ninja*

      I HATE novelty socks and find them ridiculous on adults – but as a business person, if that’s what my company sold, then I would wear them and expect my employees to wear them, too.

    6. Mike C.*

      It reminds me of that old story about “how unprofessional it is to wear a Disney tie to work, and what kind of CEO would even think of doing that?”

      The correct answer of course, is the CEO of Disney. Context is everything.

      1. Andrea*

        I would subscribe to a sock of the month club. Right now I’m wearing Rudolph the red nosed reindeer socks. I am aware it is October.

    7. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Novelty socks are awesome! I have rainbow, octopus, panda, striped, polka-dot, and garish argyle. I love them and I wear them mixed in with regular socks. My teammates ask me which socks I have on if I’m wearing long jeans and are disappointed if my socks are plain. My rainbow socks have been dubbed the Friday socks.

      Do I feel like they lost for respect for me because of my socks? No. Do I feel like they respect me more because of my socks? No. They respect me for being comfortable enough to be me. Sometimes, I guess that includes novelty socks.

      IMO, anyone who gives a woman advice to “smile more” or “wear makeup” to look more professional has piss-poor advice to offer, at best. Back away from your AssMgr slowly, OP. Sounds like your manager likes you just fine.

      1. OP #3*

        The weird thing is that the AM is an extremely close friend (and to be totally honest, we’re probably *too* close considering I’m her subordinate). She’s the one who’s leaving, and as a result everyone’s moving up a spot. I know she means well, and she just really wants me to get the job. In fact, she says she wants to make me her “Mini Me” before she leaves. It’s all from a good place, but she’s getting ridiculous.

      1. bkanon*

        I’ve had them for ages, so sadly I don’t remember. I have close to 100 pairs and I rotate so much they last me for years. I used to go to Target a lot and that was a good winner, especially for holiday themes. Places like Hot Topic or Thinkgeek are great for pop culture themes. (She says, now wearing Slytherin Quidditch anklets.) The website Sock Dreams has MANY different designs I covet. Mostly, I look everywhere I go! They’re such a quick little boost of fun.

    8. Pennalynn Lott*

      My problem with novelty socks is that they look soooo cute sitting there, but then you pull them on and the cat’s face (or whatever) gets strrrrrrrretchhhhhed out to the point of becoming almost unrecognizable. I have a couple of pairs of socks with photographs of bats on them, but you can’t tell they’re bats when I’m wearing them.

      1. mander*

        My problem with novelty socks is that they are often made of horrible cheap stuff that feels uncomfortable on my feet, and/or makes me sweat. I’d love some fun cotton socks!

    9. Vicki*

      Not only this, but the OP is buying the socks _in the store_ where she’s working.

      Customer: “What cute socks!”
      OP: “Aren’t they? We sell them here. Let me show you…”


  10. Been there*

    OP #2

    I was in a situation with someone who inappropriately told me she loved me and that she was my older sister. And similar stuff to what you’re being told, including about my family and my mental state. She ended up stalking me for a considerable amount of time. I’m not sure it’s over. I’m not sure it will ever be over.

    I second the advice to get out, and I’d add: pay attention to safety issues. Pay attention to the possibility that she might send unhinged messages to people associated with you. If you’re connected on any social media, it may be a good idea to disconnect and make yourself harder to find.

    Also – I’d avoid sharing any personal information at all with her, no matter how apparently innocuous. People like that are really good at finding ways to use it against you. (If she doesn’t have your address, don’t give it to her, even if she comes up with a plausible reason for needing it. If she needs to send a w2 or something, find somewhere else to send it that is not your address where you live.)

    1. Hornswoggler*

      I once worked for a small arts charity – I was hired at the same time as another person at a similar level. After a while, his status was raised so he was almost on a level with our director. At this point the director (female) and my colleague got together and talked a lot about the way the company ran as a team etc., and for some bizarre reason came up with the idea that the team was a ‘family’ with the director as the mother and the (now) business manager as the father. (Fellow readers, this man was fully 13 days older than me.) The director actually let him stand up in a team meeting and spout this nonsense. To be fair, they noticed the collective risen hackles and backed off, but things were never the same again and I lost quite a lot of my trust in the director, whom I had always admired.

      tl;dr: Unless you’re working for your family business, your co-workers are not your siblings and your bosses are not your parents.

      1. Myrin*

        Unless you’re working for your family business, your co-workers are not your siblings and your bosses are not your parents.
        I actually work in a family business (an inn run by a married couple, the daughter works in a hotel so helps out when she’s home, and the sun helps out with waiting regularly) but I’m not related. And three or four weeks ago an overly enthusiastic patron came in and, among other things, asked if I’m “the daughter”. I answered that I’m just an employee and she was so disappointed. For some reason, she was so invested in the idea of the inn belonging to one family that she was all “Oh NOOOO! I thought this was a FAMILY BUSINESS!” and looked completely devastated. It was kinda weird and kinda funny tbh.

        1. Myrin*

          Erm, yeah, that’s the son who helps out regularly, not the sun. Things would be a lot hotter around here if that were the case.

          1. Cathy*

            >snort< I had a quick vision of the Jimmie Dean sausage commercials with the guy dressed up as the sun wandering about your workplace!

        2. AnonForThisOne*

          This happened to me too. What was even more puzzling is that the family was foreign, spoke a different language and had a completely different skin color than I did. People were still SHOCKED! when I didn’t speak the language and wasn’t related. And would keep asking me if I was sure?

          1. AW*

            And would keep asking me if I was sure?

            Now, I can accept that folks would assume that if it’s a family business then all the employees are related. It’s not unreasonable for folks to think you may have been adopted or married into the family.

            But not *sure*? Outside of either not knowing your background at all or some fairly serious memory problems, I don’t think it’s possible to not be sure you aren’t related to someone.

            1. AnonForThisOne*

              Yes, I should also clarify and say that they came up to me speaking the language. When I couldn’t respond to them, they’d say “Aren’t you (relation of some sort)?” and when I’d say no, they’d say but “Aren’t you (ethnicity)?” and then start in with the Aren’t you sure? You’re not? along with other shocked phrases. I am puzzled to this day. I wondered for awhile if it was a joke, but they seemed serious in their questions and I don’t know why it would be funny.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Ugh. I had a female manager once at Microsoft who referred to each of her successive male co-managers as her “work husband” (we cycled through a lot of managers). The final male manager before I left finally put a stop to it.

    2. Onlyasmalllizard*

      I once had a classmate who gave me lifts home start saying she thought of me as a younger sibling shortly after meeting me. On the way home a week later, she told me a “hilarious” story about how she took an axe to the television because her actual little sister had the volume up too loud.

      Claiming someone as a sibling is always a red flag to me. At best, the person is over-enthusiastic/means the term less seriously than I do. At worst, scary.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, the sibling thing screams expectations, and doubly so if they tack on another descriptor. Someone looking for an older sibling is going to pester you for advice, protection, and favors, and someone who tags you as the younger sibling will expect adoration and obedience. They’re casting you in a stereotypical role, and “friend” just won’t cut it.

        1. Simonthegrey*

          There is something about my personality because I sprout ‘little sisters’. They find me. They are always needy, always want some kind of attention, always wanting me to fix things. My actual biological younger sister, and the two friends I have had for years that I can my sisters, are not like that… But I am very leery of anyone who claims fake family with me after only knowing me a short time.

      2. Allison*

        It’s only appropriate to say someone’s “like a brother” or “like a sister” if they’re really good friends, and I’d probably add a qualifier of friends who either don’t work together, or were sibling-like friends long before they started working together. Saying your subordinate at work is like a younger sibling, to me, is an excuse to violate professional boundaries.

      3. TheLazyB (UK)*

        See I used to work with a woman who is a year younger than my youngest sister, who looked physically quite similar to her (my husband commented on it too). And when I found out her age I said ‘OMG you’re younger than my baby sister!’. And we developed a sibling-esque friendship.

        BUT. It was sibling-esque, it wasn’t an actual sibling thing; and I would never have dreamed of saying to her that I thought of her as my sister. Except maybe as a joke.

        Because seriously, how bloody condescending is that??

    3. BRR*

      The whole thing is really inappropriate but it’s completely out of line to call an employee’s family toxic.

      1. Mimmy*

        Ahh I was beginning to think I was the only one who picked up on the “toxic family” part! That’s when the alarm bells went off for me.

        1. Been there*

          *Particularly* in combination with “you’re my little sister”. To me, it sounds like that boss is trying to emotionally replace OP2’s family relationships and that’s terrifyingly far over the line.

          1. OhNo*

            Oh, I didn’t even think of that until I read your comment, but you’re absolutely right. That is a really creepy combination and should definitely throw up some red flags. Yikes.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Oh my, I certainly hope the Op’s boss didn’t mean “I love you” in the stalker-y way, but rather in the way you’d say I love you to someone who just brought you ice cream on a hot day.

      1. HRish Dude*

        Combined with the “toxic family” remark, this boss sounds like a drive-by-your-house-to-see-if-the-lights-are-on type.

  11. Artemesia*

    #1 The process of getting a job is a delicate dance — having told these people you decline the job, you have impacted their image of you and their belief you are the right person for the job. When someone declines or resigns, immediately people move to plan B and think about moving forward without you. What may have been a disappointment at first quickly becomes the new state of affairs they have adapted to. I would write this position off and try not to spill your anxiety all over those interviewing you in the future. There are some things not to share and this is first on the list.

    I have seen the same process when a valued employee resigns or threatens to resign. At first it is ‘oh what would we do without Charlie’ and then it quickly it becomes ‘oh, look at would we could do without Charlie’ Suddenly Charlie is no longer highly valued.

    1. BRR*

      Well put. If I had a candidate reject an offer I really can’t imagine a situation in which I would want to hire them after they changed their mind. I would assume they would be out of their as soon as they find anything else.

    2. Delyssia*

      With full acknowledgement that personal relationships are different from work relationships (see: responses to #2), the situation in #1 is reminding me of a friend’s break-up over the weekend. Janet was dumped by email/text on Saturday, then on Sunday, Brad decides he’s changed his mind and he’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.

      As I told Janet, life does not have an undo button.

      1. neverjaunty*

        And as with Brad and Janet (well played, btw), the suspicion is that the person who said “no thank you” thought they had a better offer elsewhere, which didn’t work out as they had expected.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have had this happen twice–both times, said person called me and was all, “I’ve been thinking about you, etc.” I was happy to say, “So sorry; I’m seeing someone else now.”

          Same with jobs–two companies I applied to a couple of MONTHS before called me during my first week at CurrentJob! “So sorry; I’ve accepted another position.” Heh heh.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Agreed, and especially the part about not “spilling your anxiety” when interviewing. If you think you’re underqualified, and they want to hire you, then you’re qualified in their eyes. I’ve had experiences where a job posting sounded over my head, but then turns out, not so much. Or, they like other intrinsic qualities you have and know you can quickly pick up the parts where you’re lacking.

      1. Artemesia*

        My son gave my daughter some great advice when she was thinking about applying for the second top position in her firm; she felt unqualified. He said something like ‘do you want to stretch to do what you know needs to be done to make this place work, or do you want to work for whatever dweeb they hire who will turn out to know less than you do?’ She is now doing a terrific job and it is possible that her efforts will save the struggling company. Lots of learning — but she can learn.

    4. SquirrelInMT*

      It’s also a dangerous assumption for OP #1 to get all huffy about how this company supposedly “lied.” Whenever we’re hiring, I get multiple applications a day. The fact that OP was the strongest candidate/the lead candidate/the only candidate considered viable *at the time of the interview* does not mean that the situation has not changed. Dozens of new candidates could have come in in the interim. And since the OP declined the offer, it’s quite possible that somebody in HR started pulling new stacks of resumes and calling around as soon as the rejection letter came in. Companies aren’t going to sit around and wait for you to change your mind; I’m sorry! You might still have a shot, but it’s very likely that they’ve mentally switched to Plan B and are trying to figure out how they will manage, either with someone else or by keeping the ad up and looking for a bigger applicant pool.

  12. hbc*

    #1: I’m not sure why you think HR lied to you. She said she would “see if” others had been contacted. It’s very possible she hadn’t been informed that you were the only person being considered, or she wanted to make sure since losing your top candidate sometimes results in your second tier looking a lot better, or maybe they had an awesome resume come in later. And if she calls the manager and hears, “No way am I taking someone who waffles like this,” she’s not going to call you back and tell you they have no other candidates but they still don’t want you.

    Also, even if HR said something that directly contradicted the manager, you don’t know which one was lying. You have no reason to believe the manager over HR.

    I’m very sorry about how this turned out, but try your best not to transfer your frustration with yourself into anger at them. It doesn’t sound like they did anything wrong.

    1. KT*

      #1–yeah, they did nothing wrong. No one wants to hire someone who turned them down. They want someone excited and confident in their work, not feel like someone’s backup date to the 8th grade dance.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha, true. Maybe HR did tell a fib, but only because saying “well, we changed our minds also, too late” is hard to do.

    2. Coffee Ninja*

      Yeah, I interpreted “reached out to other candidates” = contacted people who previously applied/interviewed. Either way, I can’t blame them. Once a candidate rejects the job, that’s it for me. If we hire them after they change their mind, who knows how long they’ll stay? Will they jump ship a few months in? It’s not worth the risk.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        The only reason I’m willing to give OP some latitude here, is due to her reason. Perhaps if she had told HR + Hiring Manager she simply had a moment of panic or some anxiety or what have you, they’d be a little more inclined to think “oh, that’s understandable”, especially if she’s early in her career.

        1. Charityb*

          That’s true. I actually think it’s easy to have empathy for the OP, but they still might not want to hire her. Depending on the job, the hiring process might be a little bit of a bother; if that’s the case, they probably don’t want to run the risk that that the OP didn’t consider the role a good fit after learning about during the interview. She may have changed her mind, but as other posters have noted HR may be think that her initial rejection was the right decision to make and her calling them later is a hasty backpedal / “grass is always greener” type thing.

          I know I wouldn’t want to hire someone who only wants to work for me because they’re afraid they won’t be able to find a job that suits them. For one, I wouldn’t want to put someone in a position similar to the second letter (the one where the OP took a job as a consultant when they really want to be an English teacher). Not only is it bad for the employer, it’s not pleasant for the employee either…

    3. RHo*

      I too got the sense the OP was (understandably, to an extent) fixating on HR’s response. The OP rejected the firm, waited until after the close of business the following day to say he/she had a change of mind — I know the OP is feeling desperate and that he/she made a mistake in hitting “send,” but from HR’s perspective it’s (1) probably extremely rare to unique to be contacted like this after being rejected and (2) any pressure at all from the OP from that moment on is going to seem aggressive to perhaps alarming. At this point HR is attempting to defuse the situation — pretty much nothing good can come from saying anything that might make the OP think he/she “still has a chance” as opposed to shutting the door. As it is, OP is mostly concerned in the letter about why the HR person is lying rather than what he/she can learn from this exchange and how to move on.

    4. BRR*

      Yeah I’m not sure what the OP is hoping to get out of that part of the situation. That HR lied so they should get the job on a technicality. Think of it like dating, if you go on a date with someone and they say they need to leave because they have an appointment when they really don’t, because they lied are you entitled to anything?

      1. neverjaunty*

        Some people do think/act that way. OP, you may not intend this at all, but when you look for an ‘out’ in small details like this, you come across in a problematic way, like the guy who gets angry when he gets “no thank you, I have a boyfriend” and suspects there is no actual boyfriend.

      2. fposte*

        I think the OP is still processing the situation, really. She starts with asking about her own behavior and ends with asking about theirs. She’s just thrown by the whole thing and thinking it out.

        And OP, I wouldn’t describe what you did as a faux pas, exactly; I would say that it’s rarely going to work in getting you the job back (I’d have emailed my number 2 choice within a minute of getting your turndown), and that it means you’d probably be treated with a little more wariness at first. But if you’d asked me at the time, I also would have said it was okay to call and ask if the offer was still open just in case–I just would have asked if you were sure that impulse was more valid than the impulse to say no. But I wouldn’t worry about what they said in response–the point was that it wasn’t going to happen, and even if the why is slightly different than you thought it doesn’t change the basic fact.

  13. Nursey Nurse*

    When I was in high school I was offered a summer job in an office but I turned it down because I’d already taken a position in a restaurant. Two days later I decided I hated the restaurant job so I called the hiring manager for the office job back and said “I really don’t like the job I have now. I can still have the one you offered me, right?”

    He actually gave it to me. At the time I congratulated myself for winning him over with my “assertiveness,” but I later learned that I had been the only applicant to pass the required skills test so he either had to hire me or repost the job and start the hiring process all over again.

  14. Colette*

    #3 I completely agree you shouldn’t listen to the assistant manager. My former manager used to say ” that’s good information” when someone told him something he didn’t want to commit to doing. It’s a great phrase – it’s polite, shows that you’re listening, and doesn’t commit to anything, you might want to come up with a few phrases like that, since a war with the assistant manager isn’t going to end well.

    1. OhNo*

      That’s a good phrase to use! I also suggest “I’ll keep that in mind” or “Thank you for your insight” – all of these acknowledge to advice, without commiting to following it. And if you’re questioned about it later, you can always say, “Actually, I thought about it some more after we talked and I decided XYZ”.

      Also, any chance this assistant manager is trying to sabotage your chances of moving up? Because it sure reads that way to me. Some of this advice (don’t ask questions about instructions? yeesh) seems to be willfully ignorant at best. I can’t help but wonder if they are tryng to make you look bad.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Agreed. My first instinct is to ask, is the assistant manager in the running for this promotion too? Whether her advice is good or bad (and some of it sounds bad), she definitely seems to be trying to mess with the OP’s confidence.

      2. teclatrans*

        Or maybe the assistant manager hates being questioned when giving instructions and is opportunistically telling OP to behave in a way that s/he prefers?

        I think maybe the assistant manager has no idea how advancement actually happens, or maybe this is what worked for *them* (or at least they may think these choices and personality traits are what made them assistant management material).

        1. OP #3*

          She doesn’t know how advancement works in our company. She was an outside hire, so she didn’t work her way through the company.

          Yeah, her views of management totally don’t line up with anyone else’s. She got sent home and given an infraction for insubordination because she argued with the manager over something. Her reasoning? “The assistant manager’s job is to challenge the manager”. Silly me, I thought it was to assist them.

      3. OP #3*

        There is absolutely no way the assistant manager wants the position for herself. Why? She’s the one who is leaving, and this why there’s a promotion to be had. To be clear, it’s not the assistant manager position I’m up for. The third key is becoming the assistant manager, a third key visual is moving up to third key, and I’m up for the third key visual.

        As for general sabotage, absolutely not. I’m very close friends with her, and by very close I mean we’ve had issues with drawing the line between friends and superior/subordinate (we literally almost moved in together).

        The problem is that she’s leaving the company on not so great terms. She’s had issues with some of the upper management that I don’t agree with. So she wants to make sure that I (the only competent team member apparently) am going to be the one who gets the position. Literally her words were “I’m going to make you my Mini Me”. As a result she is *too* invested in this despite not even knowing I was up for the promotion until I told her.

        As for the not asking questions, it’s sort of a dynamic issue. I have ADHD, so I have troubles with interrupting with questions at the wrong time. I have been working hard on taking pauses and waiting for my turn to speak, and have made a lot of progress. The problem is that she takes long pauses in the middle of sentences to phrase her thoughts, and then flips on me when I take it as a signal that she’s finished speaking, and it’s my turn. It’s hard because I am working to stop, but as a result of my disorder, even if I take my meds everyday and work my absolute hardest not to interrupt it is *still* going to happen at least once a day. It’s not willful but rather a byproduct of my disorder to which I have a rather extreme case. I take the highest amount of meds they will give people, and certain pharmacies even turn me away because it’s too high and they don’t want to risk that my prescription slip is fake.

        The sock comment actually came after an incident when I finally snapped and told her (in an admittedly unprofessional tone) that I get what she was saying. This is after about two weeks straight of her telling me 2-3 times a day, and getting increasingly angry. In this particular case she actually swore at me while telling me (something like “you don’t f-ing listen”). She later cornered me on the busy sales floor, demanded an apology, refused to accept it, made me cry, and walked away when I tried to defend myself.

        After the fallout, with the manager of course being informed, she gave me the cold shoulder for an entire week. I sadly did not catch on, and thought that her not saying anything meant we could put it behind us (she also has a mental disorder – not ADHD – that makes her blow up like this from time to time, and I admittedly was not exactly innocent). It was during that week she gave me the “advice”. I only found out on the following Monday what she was doing when she angrily snapped at me an hour into the shift (which meant i was fighting tears for the rest of the day and avoiding her like the plague) because we had another incident on Friday in which she accused me of being negligent about something, and I finally decided to stand up for myself and firmly argued the falsehood.
        … Wow. This is the first time I’ve really taken a moment to look at the situation. This has become a really toxic relationship. It’s a good thing her last day is Thursday because I don’t know if I could handle this much longer.
        I still don’t think that this is sabatoge, but now I’m thinking she was praying it less like ” you won’t get the promotion if you” but more like “you won’t get the promotion”.

    2. knitcrazybooknut*

      “You may be right” comes from a friend of mine who has worked for the IRS. It comes in handy a lot.

    3. Pennalynn Lott*

      I had a mentor teach me to respond to unsolicited advice with, “Thank you for caring enough to share, I promise to weigh it carefully.” It’s a very polite, very diplomatic, “Eff off.” :-)

  15. Observer*

    Something is seriously the matter with the Assistant Manager. So much so, that I think you really need to watch your back.

    Every piece of advice you’ve mentioned is the exact reverse of what one would expect. ESPECIALLY the advice on the socks – just about every retail establishment under the sun expects its staff to wear their stuff if at all possible and practical. The excuse is so ridiculous that it sounds like she doesn’t believe it either. After all, does anyone really think that someone who wears Band or Superhero tees and tank tops will inspire “respect” but someone with frog socks won’t? Oh, and somehow the manager manages to inspire “respect” while wearing such socks, but no one else will.

    So, either this person is trying to sabotage you. Or she’s really out of touch with reality, which is not too great either.

    1. Allison*

      It’s also possible the assistant manager does want to help, but doesn’t actually have any good advice, so they’re just pulling stuff out of their butt to either seem like they’re helping, or feel like they’re helping. Sort of like when family members give you really bad, outdated job search advice; they’re trying to give advice because they care, but they don’t have good advice to give.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, if sabotage is her game then she’s doing a pretty crappy job of it – can’t imagine the OP’s chances at the job are going to be ruined if she wears normal socks to the interview. I agree this is more likely trying to feel authoritative and mentor-y without actually having any useful knowledge, so she’s just kind of making up things that she thinks sound like good manager tips and tricks.

        1. Observer*

          Sure, wearing plain socks to the interview is not going to cost her the job. But, it’s a clearly bogus piece of the job. Unless she’s truly out of touch, she can’t believe that this is really an issue. And some of the other advice could create real problems.

          1. LBK*

            I dunno, there’s a million stupid pieces of advice out there about the subconscious clues you supposedly send with your outfit – wearing certain colors to set a mood, wearing something striking so you stand out, wearing the company’s colors to subtly fit in like an employee, etc. It’s not totally unreasonable that she could think nitpicking clothing is genuinely helpful.

            I’d argue too that sometimes you have to go a little beyond what would actually be required in a role in terms of professional appearance in order to be viewed as viable for it. For example, managers here don’t have to wear suits and most don’t, but if I wanted to make myself look more managerial I might start wearing one because people have a mental image of managers at our company dressing and looking a certain way, even if that image doesn’t align with reality.

            That all being said, I don’t think this actually applies here – I think the asst manager is just BSing. But it could be borne out of a fumbled attempt to provide real advice.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t think it’s at all possible that any sane person could really believe these arguments IN THIS CONTEXT. If this were someone whose been in a “regular” office all her life, sure, I could see it. Or even in a retail type situation where there is a distinction between “back office” and the rest of the operation (and “back office” is “above” everyone else.) But here? Just not believable.

        2. OP #3*

          Actually the advice was not to wear novelty socks while working in general. I had no plans whatsoever to wear them to the interview.

      2. Observer*

        I hear what you are saying. The thing is that even when it’s a parent doing the pushing, demanding and getting aggressive is pretty much out of line. When it’s someone in this position, that’s a really boundary issue. And the reality is that most bad advice from parents and the like actually makes some sense from the perspective they are coming from. Sure, it is genuinely bad advice, but it’s not hard to see why they believe it’s good advice without being delusional. But, in this case, that doesn’t apply. It simply is not believable that anyone with their feet touching the ground actually thinks that the socks are an issue in this particular context.

    2. Random citizen*

      I’d say sabotage is a good guess, except that following most of the Ast. Mgr.’s advice probably wouldn’t hurt the OP (with the exception of stop asking questions, which is horrid advice) – she won’t lose the promotion because she started wearing makeup and stopped wearing frog socks – so maybe the Ast. Mgr. is just bad at giving advice.

      1. Observer*

        Well, that’s what worries me. The combination of obviously baloney advice (eg the no socks) along with the really bad advice (don’t ask questions?!) makes me wonder what on earth is going on here.

    3. Seattle Writer Gal*

      I recently went through a similar situation where I got directly conflicting advice on how to succeed at work. My boss kept telling me my insights were great and openly encouraged me to share them during meetings yet his boss (boss’ boss) would tell me the opposite: my insights were coming off as negative and I should stop speaking in meetings.
      I was ultimately fired from this job and one of the reasons HR gave me was that I didn’t do enough to “fix” my performance issues by soliciting advice from others in the company. (When I explained about the conflicting advice, she pretty much just shrugged and changed the subject).

      Does anyone have suggestions on how to weed out bad advice from the good? And when you’re new in a company, how do you know who to trust?

  16. nofelix*

    #3 What do people think about alternatives that don’t involve checking with the boss?

    If the assistant manager keeps suggesting bad advice and getting mad when it’s not followed, the OP can’t necessarily go to their manager every single time.

    1. AVP*

      I think doing it once might put a stop to the whole situation, though. If the Assistant Manager knows that OP has no problem double-checking on the bad advice with Assistant Manager’s boss, it’s hard to imagine she would keep dispensing it…although she doesn’t sound very sensible so it’s hard to say.

        1. Observer*

          Even if she doesn’t know it’s bad advice it could work, though. If Assistant Manager knows that OP will “run to the boss” about “advice she’s too stupid to take”, and “the boss” will side with her, that might shut the situation down.

  17. Traveler*

    #3 I expect that people working at retail establishments will be wearing the clothes they sell. It comes with the territory, and I think even people that have never worked retail in their life understand that. This asst. manager is strange, and I wonder if this is an attempt to find something wrong with what you’re doing no matter what.

    1. Allison*

      It depends on the store. Yes, people are encouraged to wear merchandise, but while some casual stores have lax dress codes that let people wear just about anything the store sells as long as important body parts are covered and they’re not wearing anything overly offensive, like a pot leaf or cuss word, other stores expect employees to wear only the clothing on the more “professional” end of the store’s spectrum. It’s possible that the assistant manager knows employees should be wearing merchandise, but thinks that if someone wants to go into management they should balance out the novelty t-shirts with more conventional, “mature” attire.

      1. Traveler*

        Typically the stores merchandise dictates the dress code – i.e. people working at the The Limited are going to be more business casual, and people working at Hot Topic are going to be wearing band tshirts, yes. Generally along the lines of the clothes they sell are the clothes they wear, within reason – Victoria’s Secret isn’t asking people to show up in underwear, that I know of.

        But I didn’t see anything about novelty shirts – it was novelty socks, and it didn’t sound like there were pot leaves or cuss words on them – but birds and foxes. And the OP points out that the manager wears novelty socks herself, so its obviously nor barring anyone from management to do so.

        I was more addressing the question OP asked about will customers think we’re dirt for wearing socks with birds on them – and nope. I wouldn’t and I don’t think the public would either. If I walk into Hot Topic and ask for a manager, I am not suddenly shocked when he is sporting a band tshirt and black eyeliner. I expect it, and don’t respect him less so for doing it.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yes! And thank you to the OP on that one for coming back with an update, which was even more mind-boggling than the original post.

  18. Allison*

    #1, the fact is, HR people have a tendency to be very, very careful with what they say to people and how they say it. They worry if they say the wrong thing you’ll write a nasty review about them on Glassdoor and tarnish the company’s reputation, or worse, you’ll attempt to sue the company. It’s not great, I wish HR/recruiting could be more upfront with candidates about what’s going on, rather than being vague or ghosting candidates. In this case, either the HR person didn’t know how to tell you the offer was off the table, or they only figured it probably was and needed to check, and then either forgot, got caught up in something else, or was having a hard time getting a confirmation.

    1. Colette*

      I’d say a bigger reason for not completely explaining is that some people will argue. If HR had said they decided to go with another candidate because the OP didn’t seem committed enough, the OP could easily argue that they had made a mistake and really wanted the job.

      But it also sounds like the OP Wrote in very soon after the missed deadline. It’s possible someone was sick, or the hiring manager set up more interviews after the OP turned down the job, or they’re deciding whether to hire anyone for the job, or something else happens to delay the response.

      1. Recruit-O-Rama*

        The main reason HR people and Recruiters don’t want to get into a debate over the “why” is because they are rarely the decision maker anyway. If I reject a candidate after the hiring manager has done the interview, it’s because I was instructed to. A candidate’s protestations to ME will not change the decision, since I didn’t make the decision in the first place. There are only a very few, rare instances when I will expend any political capital on talking a hiring manager into changing their minds. The example given by the OP is not one in which I would stick my neck out for.

        1. Allison*

          And when they are making the decision to reject someone’s resume, it’s based on what the hiring manager wants, not because they don’t think the person could do the job. I’m tired of hearing “recruiters are so stupid because they expect someone with X experience for a Y job, but everyone knows that someone with experience in Z can easily learn X and transition into that role with very little training!” Yes, and maybe the hiring manager knows that too, but they want someone with X experience because they’d rather not hire someone who needs any training, and while recruiters can advise them based on what the talent pool looks like, the fact is you can only push back on a hiring manager so much, because they are in a better place to make decisions about what they need for the team.

          So if someone argued with me, I’d want to say “I’m sorry, I’m sure you’re a very fast learner and if it were up to me I’d love to get you in for an interview, but it’s not up to me; at this time the hiring manager is very clear about what they want, and they will not consider someone who hasn’t used X in a professional setting.” But I’d probably either ignore the pushback or just say “I’m sorry, this decision is not negotiable; I’ll let you know if we need someone with your skillset in the future.”

          1. Recruit-O-Rama*

            Yes to everything you said. It’s very frustrating sometimes. I do have a lot of empathy for my applicants and candidates, but I am also super jaded at this point in my Recruiting career. I try to maintain a balance…and I always remind myself that they are real human beings with career aspirations and bills to pay so I keep myself in check.

  19. Joie, formerly known as ThuyJoie*

    #2 – To reiterate what others have said: you can quit at anytime. Take it as a big red flag that they didn’t accept your verbal resignation. Don’t let it bother you about not being able to get a reference letter from them. They probably will sabotage you anyway.

    That’s what my toxic manager did. Because I was given a relocation lump sum, he kept insinuating that I was obligated to stay X amount of time. (In reality, it was prorated and I would just have to pay back part of it.) But that job had me throwing up every Sunday night dreading Monday morning. Every couple weeks I was waking up in the middle of (a random) night throwing up and being sick and feeling like a truck hit me! I gained 20 lbs and flinched every time I heard my phone ring because it could be him calling to “check up on me because he was concern and only thinking of me because we are all part of a family.”

    1. JMegan*

      Agreed. And the combination of “I love you/ you’re my sister” and “your family is toxic” is, frankly, terrifying. It’s the kind of language that abusers use to isolate their victims from their support systems.

      OP, I would actually take all the advice in this thread. Write a resignation letter, give to HR if there’s is one, and to your manager if not, and leave. Honestly, I don’t even think I would give two weeks notice. You’re not going to get a good reference in any case, and I can’t imagine your manager’s behavior improving after you give your notice. She’ll do everything she can to make you stay, either by being sweet and loving and telling you how much she needs you, or by getting angry and telling you you’ll never get a job anywhere else.

      If you really feel like you have to give two weeks notice, then do that, but be aware of the many ways she will try to manipulate you during those two weeks. And be prepared to leave immediately if need be.

  20. videogame Princess*

    OP#1, don’t worry about your faux pas. Your instincts may have been entirely correct, and your choice may have resulted in a better outcome for both parties. I would guess that you’re just having doubts about your initial decision, because job searching is scary.

  21. RG*

    OP #3, my gut reaction is that the assistant manager is trying to sabotage you. Not necessarily as part of a plan to get you fired, but just in terms of advice about things that won’t really help your case and will just distract you. Maybe the assistant manager would prefer to work with someone else; maybe she’s just a jerk that thought this would be funny. Whatever the reason, it seems deliberate. I know you’re wary, but be even more so. Constant vigilance.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Every time someone posts “Constant vigilance,” I always think of Alastair Moody and picture the commenter typing that with one magical eye rolling around in their head.

  22. Interviewer*

    #5 – Let me start off by saying I agree 100% with the OP that refusing to engage this guy a second time in a hiring process is a good idea, because asking about company policy on dating supervisors during the first hour of work is creepy.

    But the guy said he wasn’t physically able to handle the work, and then called back to tell you that he didn’t quit, that you’re making a mistake – that’s setting off alarm bells in my head. Maybe I’ve worked in HR too long, but I’m picturing him trying to find an attorney to file an ADA claim. Just feels like you’re being set up here.

    1. fposte*

      The EEOC isn’t going to grant a right to sue (which is necessary for an ADA claim) with somebody who quit the first day without ever disclosing a disability or seeking accommodation.

      1. Retail HR Dude*

        You’d be surprised. All the employee has to do is lie and say that he told someone about a disability, and now there’s a factual dispute that the EEOC would be perfectly willing to leave up to a jury to decide.

        1. neverjaunty*

          By “leave up to a jury to decide”, you mean that the EEOC would be telling the employee “hey, it’s not worth our time, but if you can find a lawyer who wants to take the case, best of luck to you.”

          1. fposte*

            Right. They’re certainly not going to take the case, and even if they do grant a right to sue (which I doubt), no sane lawyer is going to take it on contingency. I doubt this employee has enough money to shell out a retainer.

            In addition, the 180-day window is either going to close soon or is already up, depending on how old the original letter was.

  23. Jack*

    I think that retail is just full of people who were promoted to the lowest-levels of management because they were reliable employees. Then, for lack of management skills and training, they crack under the pressure and behave like maniacs.

  24. some1*

    “I know for a fact that I was the only person they were considering because the hiring manager told me when I brought my concerns to him.”

    You’re taking this way too literally. The hiring manager could have meant that you were the final choice and the only one they were considering at that time. But he had to know there was always a chance you would turn it down and he might have to go with someone else.

    1. fposte*

      Right. There’s often a point where there’s only one person I’m considering, but if they turn me down I don’t mourn and keep the position open forever, and sometimes I have somebody I could reach out to quite quickly.

  25. chillgamesh*

    #5 – Reminds me of a summer when I worked at a pizza place. One of my co-workers was fired at the beginning of the shift and left immediately. She’d really screwed up and did not leave under good terms. An hour later, she called to order a pizza and asked for the employee discount. C’mon! We remember who you are!!

    1. Charityb*

      Am I the only one who almost never looks at someone’s socks? Unless they’re actively on fire, I can’t imagine what would draw my attention to someone’s feet long enough to form some kind of value judgment about them as individuals based solely on their socks.

  26. AW*

    He then said that I was making a mistake.

    Well I’m glad upper management knows what’s up because that sounds like a threat to me.

    1. AW*

      Gah, meant to include that this was about letter #5. I hope I’m wrong & I’m not trying to freak out the OP but it comes across as a red flag.

    2. LadyErin*

      OP #5 here, and it did come across as a red flag right when he said it. That’s part of the reason why I notified upper management. I wanted to make sure that this was all written down and put in his file just in case he did anything else. Which, thankfully, has not happened.

  27. Katie Pi*

    Alison, given some of the comments in response to #5, I’m sensing another theme-post for comments: What was your shortest job and why?

  28. HRish Dude*

    To OP#2: You don’t want references from crappy managers. If you cannot work for someone, you cannot leave your future endeavors in their hands.

    Also, in a lot of industries, crappy managers have reputations between companies (when former employees go elsewhere) and references from those managers aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. In other words, don’t ever put a potential reference over the well-being of yourself and your own career.

  29. The Bimmer Guy*

    OP #4

    Uh-oh. I think I have the opposite problem. I’ll be graduating with my Bachelor’s in May, and I’ve been putting “26 hours to completion” in the education session of my resume. But I’m looking to switch jobs immediately, if possible. Alison, when HR managers read that on my resume, do they think that I’m not trying to begin work until I complete my degree, or even that I’ll be too busy to start until then? FWIW, I currently have a full-time salaried position, but now that I think of it, this could be a source of confusion…

  30. OP #3*

    So I do have an update. I’ll email Alison with the full story once I get news about whether or not I got the promotion. However, I will tell you now that I did tell my manager that the assistant manager said I couldn’t be a manager if I kept wearing animal socks. Her response? She went wide eyed, looked down at my socks (a lovely pair of flamingos) and blurted out, “What! Why not?”

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