manager rarely speaks to staff, asking a coworker to stop talking about his gun hobby, and more

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

1. Asking a coworker to stop talking about his gun hobby

I have a coworker who loves guns. We all know this (when you walk by his desk, he is likely on a gun message board) but chalk it up to a quirk.

Today he and another co-worker spent the better part of an hour talking about guns. The other coworker is becoming interested in guns, so there have been some conversations like this lately. But this was the most extensive (involving white board drawings). The conversation included gems like “in this scope, the bad guy’s head would go here.”

I know that I was triggered by the phrase “bad guys” and the discussion in general, but I also know that that’s my personal issue. I don’t actually think either of these guys poses a danger. But it did make me uncomfortable. What’s the protocol here? Is it ok to say something? I understand that part of building camaraderie is talking about hobbies, but when does the line get crossed?

I’d treat it primarily as a distraction issue; you’re trying to focus on work and their non-work conversation is making it hard to do that. For example: “Guys, could you keep it down? It’s making it tough to focus over here.”

But I also think it would be fine to say, “Hey, I’m finding all the gun talk a bit much. Could you keep it down?” Your mileage may vary with this one; if you’re dealing with someone who will interpret that as an attack on the second amendment, you might be better off going with the first formulation.

2. Manager rarely speaks to staff

I have a manager who rarely speaks to the staff. Most communication is through email. We all sit together in a small office. Lately the manager doesn’t even say good morning. It’s not a very busy office. I find it very strange. What do you think?

I think that if you need to talk to your manager, you’ll have to initiate it — but that you shouldn’t be deterred from doing that by her silence. A manager should keep open lines of communication with people and not rely exclusively on email, but there are certainly people who are quiet or introverted who will default to mostly or all email unless asked not to, and some of them end up being managers. It should be fine to go over and talk to her, or to ask to have a standing meeting if you need it. As long as you’re able to get what you need from her and she’s responsive when you initiate conversations, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

3. Hiring manager got angry that I turned down an offer after I’d followed up with her a bunch

I recently interviewed with the partner of a medium-sized firm who seemed very interested in hiring me and said she’d get back to me “in a couple of days.” She didn’t, so I sent a polite follow-up on Monday (one week after our chat). She replied that she’d been ill and, again, would get back to me “in a couple of days.” She didn’t, so I sent yet another follow-up on Friday.

Cut to Monday (two weeks after our chat), I receive an official offer with a three-year bond. Weighing this against another job, I decided to accept the other job instead (not so much because of salary, but because it was more in line with my long-term goals). I word a polite rejection, thanking her for her time and support, and explaining that I’ll be taking up this other job instead.

All my communications with her up to this point were textbook polite. I’d look up how to best write a follow-up email or rejection before doing so. Therefore, I doubt it could have been the tone or language of my replies that could have prompted what came next.

She replied that my actions were laughable and that I shouldn’t have “chased” or hounded her in the first place. I was greatly taken aback by the harshness of tone. Apparently my follow-ups were unreasonable or offensive in nature.

My question is whether I should reply and attempt to salvage the situation (explain that I’m sorry and that I never meant to make her feel pressured) But I’d have to explain that the only reason I had to follow-up is because she didn’t get back to me when she said she would, and that would only fan the flames at this point because it seems accusatory. Or should I just walk away and let this bridge burn?

Walk away, or send back a short “I was genuinely interested in working with your firm, but simply ended up receiving an offer that made more sense for me” note.

For what it’s worth, you did kind of go overboard with the follow-up after your interview. In general, before checking back in with a hiring manager, I’d let at least a full week pass after the time they said they’d get back to you (and in many contexts, two weeks). You followed up with her really quickly two separate times when she’d already told you that she’d be getting back to you. That’s too quickly and too often! (If you were doing that because you had that other offer on the table that you needed to respond to, that’s different, but I can’t tell if that’s the case.)

That said, that doesn’t warrant being called “laughable” for then turning down an offer. Being a little too eager doesn’t obligate to you to accept any offer thrown at you, and she’s in the wrong for insinuating otherwise.

4. Can my employer see what my insurance claims are for?

I recently started a new job. I have serious health issues, though you’d never know it to look at me. When my new health insurance kicks in and I start submitting claims for my (super) expensive medication, CAT scans, and MRIs, will HR know about it? I’m not sure if one of the three HR people in my department is a designated “benefits” person, but would any of them be privy to what kinds of claims are being submitted/paid and, if so, would they be able to find out what illness the claims are specifically for? I’m hoping you’ll say all medical issues are kept confidential by the insurance company and not shared with HR. I’m concerned they could find out and tell my manager. Is my expectation of privacy naïve?

If you’re part of a group health plan, the group plan can provide your employer with summary information that has had identifying information removed (so that it can use that data to evaluate bids or changes in coverage).

If your employer’s health insurance is a self-insured plan (in which it pays individual claims itself) and it processes claims internally, rather than contacting that work out, then yes, staff in the department that handles those claims would see your insurance usage. However, employers with self-insured plans are covered by HIPAA, which means that they’d be subject to strict privacy rules that require them to have firewalls between the part of the company handling health information and the rest of the organization (for example, your private health information couldn’t be kept in your HR file).

And this is not my area of expertise, so hopefully readers will jump in here if needed.

5. Should I ask for a raise once I finish my master’s degree?

I have been working full time and earning a master’s degree part time for the last two and a half years, and I am finishing my degree in December (very excited and proud to be — almost — finished!). My degree is directly related to my field. I know that earning a master’s degree, especially one that is relevant to my job, is a prime opportunity to ask for a raise, but here’s what I’m struggling with:

I just started a new job in April, so I’d be asking for a raise after only eight months (if I make the ask in December, after finishing the degree program). Is it inappropriate to ask for a raise after eight months, even though the impetus for the raise is a new credential such as a master’s degree? Should I wait until April 2016, when I hit the one-year mark, to make the case that my new salary should reflect this new credential?

I don’t want to break any “rules” about asking for a raise too soon, but I also don’t want to miss out on what is usually a good opportunity to ask for a raise just because of concerns about timing.

Unless you’re in one of the small number of fields that considers a masters to warrant an automatic salary bump, no, you shouldn’t ask for a raise based on this. There ARE some fields like that (and hopefully you know if you’re in one), but most fields don’t do that and instead base raises on increased contributions to the organization, which is a case you’d make based on your work at the one-year mark. Your master’s could potentially be part of that case then, but it definitely wouldn’t be the central argument, unless you can point to concrete specifics about how it’s led to you making a greater contribution at work. (And actually, even then it probably shouldn’t be, since if there are concrete specifics about how you’re doing a better job, those would be case for the raise, not the fact that the master’s helped that happen.)

{ 373 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    Alison, I’m reading #3 as only two follow ups and not three–I thought the OP reached out twice after the interview and then received an official offer from the company she reached out to. The language isn’t entirely clear (and I agree that it was too quick too often with two anyway), but I think that’s why the HM got her nose so inappropriately out of joint–she finally pulled it together to extend an offer and the OP basically said, “Never mind.”

  2. Lisa*

    If asking nicely doesn’t help, maybe handle the gun talk by starting a tampon conversation with a female coworker loudly within their earshot, and when they’re grossed out by it, respond with “You talking about blowing people’s brains out grosses me out, so maybe we could both stop?”

    1. CMT*

      I may have missed something, but we don’t know if LW1 is a woman or a man. And it’s not right to talk about a normal bodily function that roughly half of the population goes through as if it’s the same as gun violence. We shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that tampons and periods are gross or scary, or have the expectation that people, specifically men, will think that way.

      1. LisaLee*

        I agree, I strongly dislike the “gross men out with period talk” idea. It is no more or less gross or appropriate than any other bodily function.

        1. Zillah*

          I personally find periods way less gross than certain other bodily functions, but I agree – bodily function talk isn’t really appropriate for the office. On the other hand, when your father and brother won’t stop making fart/shit jokes at family gathering, starting to talk loudly about your period is an excellent way to get them to stop.

          Different situation, though.

      2. BlackEyedPea*

        While agree that tampon discussion isn’t the grestest idea, talking about firearms ≠ gun violence. Shooting sports can be a fun hobby. The issue should be left at addressing the distraction from work aspect; it’s no different than coworkers rambling on about celebrity gossip.

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          It can certainly be a fun hobby, but the language being used is perhaps more graphic than necessary (“the bad guy’s head” vs. “Bullseye” or even “Bambi”).

          1. BlackEyedPea*

            Fair enough. But, they do have bad guys’ heads on paper targets at the range… ;)

            Honestly, though, it just sounds like a [bad] joke.

            1. Traveler*

              Yes, they have bad guys’ heads on paper targets and on courses to test your ability to tell the bad guy from the good guy. Its a pretty normal thing that doesn’t necessarily imply graphic imagery discussion. I understand OP was triggered by that word use, and many people might be, but we don’t know that anyone was discussing anything more than paper or cardboard cut outs.

                1. Case of the Mondays*

                  It’s usually a person with a gun and the good guy has his/her hands up. Alternatively, it is someone holding another hostage. This link even includes a “creepy clown target.” Link in the reply for moderation.

                2. Case of the Mondays*


                  For Kelly L, advanced courses (particularly for law enforcement) will have you distinguish even between good guys and bad guys with a gun. This one will require more of a back story. The point is to train not to shoot anything that could be a threat but only those things that are posing a current lethal threat. So person standing with a gun could be “good guy.” Person standing with a gun pointed at you is bad guy.

                  Also, LEO’s do simunition training where they use guns that are like real guns but have pellets or something in them so they can do live drills without seriously harming each other. They still leave pretty big bruises though.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Boogeyman target, LOL
                  Those are hilarious.

                  My ex took me to a shooting range and let me fire his service weapon (he’s a fed) and we picked one with an angry-looking dude on it whose left arm sort of hung down on his leg. We called him Lefty and did our best to shoot him in uncomfortable areas, heh heh.

                  FWIW, I’m not a bad shot with a rifle (based on shooting as a kid and later), but I suck using a handgun.

            2. Chinook*

              “But, they do have bad guys’ heads on paper targets at the range… ;) ”

              And anyone who knows how to shoot knows you always go for the main body mass (i.e. chest) vs. something smaller and prone to moving (like the head). As for how I know this…let’s just say having a cop for a husband takes all the fun out of watching some types of movies. (And let me add that DH has drawn his gun a limited number of times, he complains about the paperwork that it involves, and shot it zero times while on duty in the 6 years on the job).

              1. BlackEyedPea*

                Yes, but going to the range just to have fun and shoot at some targets is very different from carrying on duty as a law enforcement officer, being in an actual self-defense situation, or even being in an advanced firearms training course where things like that actually matter.

              2. doreen*

                Center body mass is always first- but my training includes body armor drills (described as “two to the chest and one to the____”) because a couple of rounds to center body mass may not incapacitate a bad guy wearing body armor.

          2. TL -*

            The LW can certainly ask for the violent imagery to be toned down, though – such as: hey, I know you’re really into guns but I am a very visual thinker and when you talk about shooting bad guys in the head, I go to some very graphic places. Do you mind keeping the talk a little more vague?

          3. Sadsack*

            I think any discussion that takes place at the office for an hour when people are trying to work is obnoxious, doesn’t matter what is the subject. That’s where OP should focus.

            1. catsAreCool*

              “I think any discussion that takes place at the office for an hour when people are trying to work is obnoxious, doesn’t matter what is the subject.” This!

        2. Jean*

          I don’t doubt that firearms and shooting can be interesting hobbies involving precision, caution, and dexterity. But I also don’t doubt my ability either to shoot off (sorry!) my own big mouth to or open it wide enough to insert my own foot plus the feet of half a dozen bystanders. This is my problem and I own it…which is why I’d be so grateful to take cover in addressing only “the distraction from work aspect.”

        3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          “…it’s no different than coworkers rambling on about celebrity gossip.”

          Weeell… maybe. “I really enjoyed the clay pigeon shoot this weekend, why not join us?” = fine for work. Pictures of decapitated men on a whiteboard = not fine for work. Whatever your stance, I think we can all agree that the coworkers here overstepped the boundaries *completely* of what anybody should have to put up with in the workplace.

          Personally, I don’t quite know how I’d avoid snark like “I have a project here if you’re looking for something to do, Bobby!” with a big smile, but then places I’ve worked that would be taken as a lighthearted “I’m trying to work and you’re distracting me”. I agree focus on the work impact, but I also think it would be ok to say “The graphic nature of your discussions is really off-putting for me, and I’d like to focus on work instead. Please could you move over there/wait until after hours/keep your voices right down/etc”. Otherwise, next time OP looks like they’re not busy, or they go for a cup of tea, or whatever, they risk coming back to more graphic whiteboard demonstrations.

          1. Colette*

            I assumed the white board pictures were of guns, not decapitated people.

            Personally, someone offering to give me a project so that I have something to do at work would not go over well if it were done the way you suggest. The OP shouldn’t put herself in the position of policing their work, unless it is her job to do so. She should just ask them to keep it down or move to another location.

      3. Joanna*

        Just came to say that tampons are indeed kind of gross. Please do not talk about blowing off people’s heads OR tampons at work. What these topics have in common is that they are inappropriate for public conversation in a place of business.

        Or am I crazy?

        1. Retail Lifer*

          You’re not crazy, which is why this suggestion was so amusing. If you’re going to have to listen to someone discuss inappropriate things at work, discussing your own inappropriate things certainly might get their attention. It’s not necessarily the most mature thing to do, but I can definitely see myself doing something similar.

        2. Zillah*

          I don’t think that period talk is really appropriate, particularly not in large groups, but I don’t agree with the characterization of tampons as innately “gross.” Used tampons, sure, but unused tampons are literally just pieces of cotton. While I wouldn’t recommend long talks about one’s period, I also don’t think there’s a need to be super covert about passing someone a tampon or complaining about cramps.

          It’s kind of like a tissue. You don’t really want to touch used ones, it’s gross to leave them laying around, and no one wants to hear details about your snot… but just complaining about your runny nose or passing someone a package of tissues isn’t gross on its own.

      4. Shell*

        Tampons and periods may not be more gross than any other bodily function and/or fluids, but I think it’s inappropriate to discuss them in detail in a professional business setting. I wouldn’t wax poetic about my urinary tract infection or the colour of my feces, and I wouldn’t go into great detail about periods or tampons either. Acknowledge it? Sure. Discuss it in great detail? Yeah, that’s gross.

            1. fposte*

              Though more people overobsess than underexamine. (It’s a rally common symptom of health anxiety, and something about my having Crohn’s makes people weirdly confiding.)

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                Ok Fposte. I am now creeped out. We frequently post very similar things and appear to have similar life experiences. Not sure if you noticed that before. I also have Crohn’s disease. So weird.

              2. ali*

                Yep. Crohnie here too. Just because I have a disease where I have to look at my poop does not mean I want to hear about everyone else looking at theirs. Nor does it mean I can tell you what’s wrong with you when you describe your poop in detail to me.

            2. Chinook*

              “There are actually lots of good health reasons for why one should pay attention to their feces”

              Having has a roommate who was a nurse, I learned that it was quite normal to talk about feces and urine at the dinner table.

        1. Koko*

          I agree with you. I don’t think we should be ashamed of our periods, and it’s fine to say, “Susan, do you have an extra tampon? I don’t seem to have brought any with me today.” I would even say it’s OK to say, “What brand are yours? I recently switched and found OB is way better than Tampax – life-changing!” or something else benign like that.

          Anything that gets into a discussion of the bodily fluids is something you save for your mother, your doctor, or your friends outside of work. It doesn’t need to come into the workplace anymore than I want to hear details of a coworker’s C-section. Not because it’s something to be ashamed of but because it’s just not polite workplace talk.

      5. azvlr*

        There’s the appropriate response and unsaid in the background is the fantasy response. We all have these. It was intended as a joke. Lighten up, perhaps! Periods may be natural, but still not appropriate conversation for work. Which is what makes this analogy so perfect!

    2. Jean*

      I can see the humor in your idea but I don’t think it would play too well in the workplace. I’d rather follow Alison’s suggestion to focus on the work-related impact. (Paraphrase: could you please keep it down? long conversations are distracting me.) It’s hard to argue when a coworker asks for help in doing what everyone is really there to do–get the work done.

      Work is also (hopefully!) a non-toxic subject, whereas How to Handle Female Bodily Fluids or The Responsibilities of Gun Ownership versus The Challenges Blowing Out Peoples’ Brains are topics that easily get people rattled, riled up, or otherwise encouraged to foam at the mouth. Fun times. Not!

    3. Amber*

      Sorry but that comes off as inappropriate for work and kind of passive aggressive. It’s best to just ask them to quiet down.

    4. Blue Anne*

      I disagree, Lisa. This response would be rather passive-aggressive, with the added problem of being based on pretty cruddy gendered setereotypes. Who says the OP is female, anyway?…

    5. TheGrinch89*

      This seems like a really passive-aggressive and immature approach to take. Surely this wasn’t a serious suggestion?

    6. Lily in NYC*

      See, this is exactly why I have mixed feelings about this. If OP wouldn’t have an issue if the conversation were two people talking about wedding-planning, for example (seriously, I’d rather hear a conversation about gunshots to the head than about a wedding) then I think there is no cause for complaint. There are lots of people who enjoy target shooting and the targets are often a head/torsos silhouette. So I wouldn’t read too much into “this is the bad guy’s head” stuff. And this is coming from someone who is not a fan of guns at all.

      1. Michelle*

        I agree. People have all kinds of hobbies and just because you don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you get to tell others not to discuss it. If it really bothers OP, s/he could tell them so and ask them to not discuss it around her/him.

        I am a gun owner and we have a group of coworkers who go to a local range and practice, about once a month, and then we go out to eat. If one of our coworkers told us not to talk about guns or tried to gross people out about periods and tampons, they should be ready to take a dose of their own medicine. If they tell us it bothers them and ask us not to discuss it around them, we would certainly try.

          1. voyager1*

            Well this thread went from Guns, to headshots (with gun) to tampons to poop to Chrohns illness.

            I don’t have anything that is worthy of adding, well maybe that cat meme with a pancake on its head might close this up.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                This site and the comments are how I stay up to date on what is happening out in the real world. Others are sometimes surprised that I know things, when I don’t watch TV. But I have AAM. And those cats don’t look happy.

              1. Chinook*

                “It’s national maple syrup day so pancakes sound perfect right about now!”

                How is that possible? Don’t TPTB know that sugaring off season is the in spring when the snow melts? Why would you celebrate when the stuff is 8 months old?

        1. Green*

          I don’t like guns at all, but I had colleagues who liked to really discuss it. If it was distracting, I’d refocus us. If it was during a social thing — lunch, a break, a drive somewhere — I just tolerated it for a reasonable amount of time and changed the subject. If you have a specific personal reason (“Unfortunately, I was held at gunpoint a few months ago and the gun talk brings up troubling memories; do you mind nixing it around me?”) then you should share it, but otherwise this sounds overly sensitive so you’re really asking them to do you a favor.

      2. Poohbear McGriddles*

        At least they’re not talking about shooting good guys.

        I guess we can all agree that talking about using tampons to stop the GSW bleeding would be off-limits?

      3. Liana*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily reasonable to compare wedding talk to gun talk, though, because guns are a much more politically fraught topic in the US. And on a personal level, I totally understand – wedding talk can get obnoxious very quickly (I actually don’t mind it for the most part, but it does have its limits). But our country is way more emotionally invested on the topic of guns and gun control than we are on weddings, and people having graphic discussions of guns is much more likely to trigger someone than someone talking about what their floral arrangement is going to look like.

      4. Zillah*

        Hmm. On one hand, I agree with you, but on the other, I’m not sure I’d class gun talk and wedding planning as being equivalent. For me, hobbies aren’t all automatically granted “hobby status” and are therefore equally okay to talk about in mixed company. Wedding planning is irritating, for sure, but it typically doesn’t exceed that – I’d class that as being similar to sports. Guns, on the other hand, make a lot of people very uncomfortable, and given that, it’s a good idea to exercise caution where and when one talks about them.

        The OP’s coworkers aren’t doing something super out of line and ridiculous, but the OP wouldn’t be out of line in asking them to take the conversation elsewhere, either because of the distraction or just because it makes them uncomfortable.

    7. Fifi Ocrburg*

      Why? a hobby isn’t the same as a bodily function. It they were talking about gardening or photography, why would their colleague care?

          1. Biff*

            Yeah — I gotta be honest, there are a lot of mainstream hobbies that you could easily find unpleasant depending on your POV.

          2. Hotstreak*

            +1. Personally I’m very offended by car talk, particularly trucks, SUV’s, and performance vehicles. Like, how have you not heard about the environment yet??!

            1. A Bug!*

              Yes, you’re right. Given any topic, there is probably at least one person on the planet who will have an emotionally-unpleasant response to it. But that doesn’t make gardening equivalent to firearms as a hobby, and that’s a red herring besides.

              Whether it’s gardening or guns, if someone says, “that topic makes me uncomfortable,” the kind response is to try to remember that so maybe you can avoid needlessly causing another human being discomfort, because you’d want to be able to receive that same level of consideration if the tables were turned in a way that’s relevant to you.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Absolutely, and it would be reasonable to ask your coworkers not to drone on and on about those too, whether it’s abortion, religion, military policy, the U.S. presidential election, or whatever it might be.

          4. Zillah*

            Along with what Alison said, which I 100% agree with, it’s important to take into account how likely your discussion is to trigger strong negative reactions in other people. Sure, there are a lot of topics that people feel very strongly about – but guns are just about at the top of that list in this country in our current political climate. It doesn’t require a lot of foresight to realize that a lot of people will be bothered by the discussion, and when you’re in the workplace, that generally means you should either abstain entirely or refrain from having the conversation in mixed company.

    8. Whatsinaname*

      “I know that I was triggered by the phrase “bad guys””

      What does this even mean? I keep hearing about trigger words in the media and thought I understood the general idea, but I guess I don’t. Why would “bad guys” be a trigger word? I must be getting old because I don’t get it.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        I’m not the OP, but I’m guessing it was triggering because the coworkers went from talking about guns in general to alluding to shooting people. Yeah, they didn’t say they were actually going to shoot someone, but I can see how what they said could make some people nervous.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        The thing that occurred to me (and I am trying my best to explain this in a politically neutral way, not because I don’t have opinions but because this isn’t the place for that discussion!) is that in the past few years there’s been a lot of discussion in the USA of things like ‘stand your ground’ laws, the shooting of unarmed persons who may or may not have ‘looked dangerous,’ etc., and also that can tie into discussions of the disproportionate targeting of minorities in those cases. I can definitely see, in that political context, finding discussion of shooting “bad guys” (especially with the implied “good guys”shooting “bad guys”) extremely upsetting in a way that talking about shooting paper targets or clay pigeons or even deer wouldn’t be.

        1. Zillah*

          Yep. While the term ‘bad guys’ doesn’t trigger me, per se, it does irk me for exactly that reason. (Also because there’s an implication that absolves our broader society from the issue of gun violence, despite the fact that racism, misogyny, and extreme socioeconomic imbalance is a huge part of what’s causing the gun violence in the first place.)

      3. AJS*

        I find it interesting that in writing about gun imagery, the OP used a word–“triggered”– that is in itself pure gun imagery.

        Also, a bit further down in these comments, the phrase “bullet dodged” comes up.

  3. Doriana Gray*

    #3 – The hiring manager’s reaction was laughable even if the OP did in fact follow-up too many times. Is she new? Does this person not realize that people often interview with more than one company at a time? Candidates usually can’t accept every offer they receive so some employer(s) are going to be the losing party. Take heart, OP #3 – you dodged a bullet. If that manager gets this pissy over something fairly commonplace, imagine what she’d be like to work for.

    Meanwhile, that letter just made me very nervous to turn down the external job I interviewed for before Thanksgiving. If the hiring manager reacts poorly to my declination, I don’t know how I’ll respond.

    #5 – Yeah, I was always under the impression that if you had an advanced degree, that would automatically require higher compensation especially in my field where we have tons of MBAs and former attorneys. But my former manager set me straight while I still worked for her and said that if I had come into my company with an advanced degree, then yes, they would have to pay me the market rate for someone with that education level in our industry. However, since I was considering getting a Masters in Business Continuity, Security, and Risk Management while currently employed in our field, the company wouldn’t necessarily bump me up just because I got that degree. My job performance and responsibilities would weigh more heavily in a discussion about a pay raise. That was a sobering realization (and I’m so glad I didn’t spend the money on yet another degree that wasn’t going to get me anywhere). Instead, I take industry designations and those helped me land my second promotion in two years of being with my current company.

    OP #5, wait until the one year mark and then discuss your desire for advancement opportunities with your manager at that point, but also keep in mind that higher compensation just may not be a go for whatever reason. And if it’s not (because of the short length of your tenure, lack of experience, etc.), then maybe try to negotiate some other perk or greater responsibility so that you can show your boss that you want to add value to your team, thus leading them to actually seeing you as someone valuable who’s worth the extra financial investment.

    1. Sherm*

      #3 – I agree, bullet dodged, or maybe cannonball dodged. Don’t worry about burned bridges that go to CrazyTown. You never want to go there anyway.

        1. Jean*

          >burned bridges that go to CrazyTown
          Yes, this had me cackling at my keyboard. Ditto for “cannonball dodged.” Sherm, you have a way with words.

    2. fposte*

      It’s not usual for hiring managers to get weird if you turn down a job, but if they do, Alison has given you guidelines: reiterate your polite refusal or ignore.

      1. Suzanne*

        Always has stuck in my craw that it’s not unusual for hiring managers to get weird when you turn them down, but the applicant is always expected to be the model of propriety, even if you’re being put through a ridiculous process–like someone I know who had 6 interviews before being turned down.

        1. fposte*

          But it *is* unusual for hiring managers to get weird when you turn them down. And when they do, you can think badly of them, just as you can think badly of an applicant who gets weird at rejection.

          1. Taylor*

            I don’t think it truly is unusual for hiring managers to get weird when an offer is turned down. I’ve had people say I would be perfect for the job/company, then when I (politely!) turn down their offer, receive absolutely no response afterwards. I wasn’t expecting a counter-offer, but I’m pretty sure I was blacklisted from that company after that.

            1. fposte*

              I’m still going to differ–I think most hiring managers, like most applicants, deal perfectly well with rejection. But I can agree with Elizabeth West that if they’re going to be weird, I like it when they’re entertaining :-).

  4. KH*

    I know that in general word-policing is frowned upon here, but there are two things in this post that really irk me. Possibly irrationally, but I’m sure if that’s so, someone will say something.

    OP#1: “I know that I was triggered by the phrase “bad guys” and the discussion in general”
    Triggered? Were you really “triggered” or were you just annoyed, bothered, disturbed? I am very very tired of people using the word “triggered” to mean “I don’t like that” and then demanding that other stop talking/saying X, or Y, or Z because it “triggered” them. If you were truly triggered, in the sense of suffering serious emotional/mental issues, panic, fear, anxiety, or other extreme emotions/sensations, that’s valid. But “I don’t like that and it bothers me” is not being triggered.

    If you are bothered by gun talk, then by all means tell the people holding the discussion “Hey guys, I’m uncomfortable around gun talk. Can you keep it down?” But don’t play the “trigger” card unless it’s a real, honest, serious issue.

    OP#5: “if I make the ask in December”
    Please remove this terminology from your vocabulary. “Ask” is not a noun, and it’s not something you make. As a PM with a large company I deal with people all the time who use “ask” as a noun, and quite honestly my team and I all look down on those people. You don’t “make” an “ask”. You ask a question. You request something. You can even require something. But you don’t “make the ask”. It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of corpo-babble, but fight the urge. Please. :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And … I’ve deleted the comments that followed this one because they were continuing to derail on a subject I’ve already pointed out is off-topic. (It’s not that a discussion of the concept of triggering isn’t a valid discussion; the issue is that in this case it’s derailing from the letters.)

        1. Not trying to derail*

          But if LW legitimately meant ‘triggered’ as in panic attack, etc. would there be different advice? If someone is suffering an actual panic attack or diagnosed anxiety it PTSD, it seems that would raise the issue to a new level. if that were the case, would the LW have other options for handling this?

          1. Green*

            If there is a specific serious issue that is truly a trigger that causes substantial distress, then OP should share that when politely requesting that they discontinue the gunchat around her, if only because her request might otherwise just be viewed as OP’s oversensitivity (which, if there isn’t a specific issue that does indeed “trigger” a serious stress response, it probably is). And I say this as someone who doesn’t really like guns and violence. But I also don’t like football (which I think is violent and dangerous), but I also don’t shut down discussion of that hobby because of my preferences.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I feel like this is happening so much more lately! There are so many comments that start with “I know we aren’t supposed to nitpick word choices” that go on to do exactly that.

          1. VintageLydia*

            It’s always this time of year. It’s like the year end stress makes people forget the rules and get cranky at each other.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I just wanted to comment to say how very much I appreciate your ‘no nitpicking’ requests. I’m a professional writer and pay a lot of attention to my words, and even so I might very well type something like “make an ask” if I was writing fast–not because I was using a corporate buzzword or something but just because it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing fairly colloquially and fast. (For instance, it’s not uncommon when writing colloquially to edit the first half a sentence and forget to edit the second half to match, so you might start with “make a request,” decide that you want to say “ask” instead of “request,” and then forget to cut out the “make.”)

        And I write for a living; someone who wasn’t a Word Person would be even more likely to simply goof. It’s rough to feel judged by a bunch of people who are parsing out every word choice, and I really appreciate your discouraging that tendency.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      I die a little inside whenever I hear the word “ask” used as a noun. We already have a perfectly cromulent word for that concept – it’s called a request.

      1. BananaPants*

        Using “ask” as a noun just screams “corporate buzzword” to me, and I pretty much rail against those. But I’m not going to nitpick the OP’s word choice further. :)

  5. Ultraviolet*

    OP #1 (guns discussion at work) – If it’s mostly the talk about shooting actual people that bothers you, you could try saying, “I know you guys have been enjoying talking about guns a lot recently, but could you please not talk about killing people with them? I really hate hearing that.” (Or more casually, “Guys, please stop talking about killing people!”) But if you’d rather ask that they just stop the gun talk altogether, I think that’s a reasonable request and Alison’s wording is good.

    1. Shell*

      I totally agree with this. I think guns are dangerous and fascinating, and I’ve also had discussions with a previous boss about them. That said, given the recent shootings in the US, “bad guy’s head goes here” is rather poor taste.

      OP, you can decide if you don’t like gun talk period, or gun talk with regards to killing. If the latter, just a breezy “guys, can’t you just say target? Less talk about killing, okay?” will probably work.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Maybe part of why they’re talking about guns and bad guys is their way of dealing with the recent shootings – sort of a self defense thing. Which doesn’t mean others are going to want to hear it. For that matter, just about any subject can start getting annoying if you have to listen to too much of it when the talkers should be working.

    2. afiendishthingy*

      I like this wording- someone upthread suggested something along the lines of “I have a a really vivid imagination and this discussion takes me to a bad place”, which I thought was in the right direction but placed too much responsibility on the LW. Your wording still says “I am upset by this” rather than “You guys are terrible for liking guns”, but carries the implication that “hey obviously not everyone likes to talk about killing people at work”.

      1. Helka*

        Agreed! I’m not anti-gun by any means (in fact, I’m a pretty good shot) but that doesn’t mean I like hearing about people casually talking about them in terms of killing. I think keeping the focus to the issue of violence rather than the guns is a lot more likely to work out well.

        1. Matthew*

          I am as Pro-Gun as they get. I shoot competitively. I am a NRA Life member as well as a Certified Range Safety Officer. I talk about guns all the time at work (corporate culture is pro gun here so its easy) and I severely cringed when I read the “bad guy’s head goes here” comment. I try very hard to remove violence from any gun conversation because the only thing I do is put holes in paper with mine… and those people ‘on the fence’ about guns won’t be won over by the imagery displayed above.

        2. BananaPants*

          I am also not anti-gun. My brother’s in the military and his MOS revolves around firearms; most members of my extended family are responsible gun owners. I’m a pretty good shot myself and enjoy target shooting occasionally (although I don’t own a firearm myself, by choice). Discussion of guns REALLY doesn’t bother me but I would definitely give the side eye to a workplace discussion that included phrases like “bad guy’s head goes here”. It’s a violent reference that isn’t appropriate for the workplace – especially if they’re spending an hour talking about it.

    3. Ad Astra*

      This is good advice, and I’d make a similar request if the coworkers were going into graphic detail about killing animals, too. It’s unlikely that these colleagues are bloodthirsty killers, but it’s perfectly reasonable to be grossed out by talk of killing, even if it’s 100% hypothetical. If OP and these coworkers have even a decent working relationship, a polite request should be enough to solve this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I did this, only it was customers. I complained to my boss. The customer was so graphic, it was hard not to cry. When we requested that he stop, he got WORSE. Okay, time to drag in help on this one. Fortunately, I had on my side that it was a family/public environment and not everyone wants their kid exposed to that level of detail or to the questionable behaviors of the hunters in the stories.

    4. irritable vowel*

      Yes–talk about killing people (even hypothetically) is completely not acceptable for a work environment. If these guys want to discuss their gun hobby, they need to either keep it completely G-rated or take it outside work. I might ask my coworker how her date went the other night, but if it turned into a detailed conversation of how great the sex was, that’s not okay if it’s in earshot of other people. (Not that I would want to hear that from a coworker in any circumstance!)

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think that’s going too far–that means you can’t talk about killings in movies, TV, or games, either.

        1. irritable vowel*

          Well, I don’t think detailed discussion of violence in TV/movies is good for the workplace, either. To say, “Wasn’t it awful that Character got bumped off in last night’s GoT?” is fine; but “Man, the way they really drew out that murder scene last night, with all the blood, and you think she’s going to get away but then the killer chops her up into little pieces!” — that’s too much, IMO, for the environment in which people are working and can’t just excuse themselves and move away.

          1. fposte*

            I think this is a YMMV thing–we review books with stuff like that in it and therefore talk about it frequently. (It’s also hard to gauge hypothetically, I think, so there might be conversations that would feel more over the line if they were next to me than if I just imagined them.)

    5. LD*

      I really just like Alison’s recommendation to request that they please keep their voices down because they are being distracting. That works even if they were somehow spending a whole hour discussing…I don’t know, an actual WORK topic.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I think that’s a very reasonable approach if it’s primarily the length of the conversations that’s bothering OP (or if they decide that’s all they’re willing to risk asking for at this point). But based on the letter I think it’s possible that the OP is really uncomfortable with even short conversations about how to kill people with guns. If that’s the case, I think it’s better to ask the coworkers to stop talking about killing people rather than asking them to speak more quietly or move every time they have a five-minute conversation about it. For one thing, it’s not clear that these conversations all–or ever–take place near the OP’s workspace. What if OP doesn’t want to hear about it in the break room either? Or what if they don’t want to come across the drawings left over on the whiteboard?

        Moreover, I do think it is perfectly reasonable to ask your coworkers not to talk about how to kill people. And the topic of armed civilians identifying and killing “bad guys” is so politically fraught (at least in the US) that it’s inappropriate for work. So I don’t see much point in half-measures or compromises unless the OP anticipates a bad reaction from the coworkers and is unwilling to risk it.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. The timing of following up is always tough, especially if you need a position fast. (What is wrong with you people? Hurry up and give me the job! You get the idea)

    I had 2 interviews over the summer for roles which I thought would be a good fit and didn’t hear a cheep out of either of them for 2 months after the interviews. The cynic in me wonders if the delay in responding, apart from allowing for people to be on holiday, was a way of not having to send rejections.

    1. peanut butter kisses*

      Or it could be the norm as it is in academic libraries, the slowest wheel to roll of them all, jmo. The higher the position, the more committee meetings to debate the matter.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeeeeeeppppp. And the more bureaucracy, the more meetings and the more people who have to sign off on it, any of which could become a bottleneck by going on vacation at the wrong time.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Did you ask when you would expect to hear back from them? I’ve started to do that and it helps me better understand the organization’s timetable and whether or not it matches mine.

  7. Joanna*


    Regarding #5, isn’t having a master’s degree a marketable credential that makes you more competitive in the job market? In that case, I would think a manager may consider agreeing to a raise in order to keep that worker from going elsewhere, where he or she may be “more valued.”

    In other words, it’s supply and demand, of labor in this case. The demand for the worker has increased elsewhere so he or she can get away with requiring a higher wage. To use an analogy: since thick-rimmed glasses have become more popular in the last few years, makers of those glasses can charge a higher price for them (and get it) even though the pairs they’re selling are of no higher quality than the thick-rimmed glasses they used to sell back when they weren’t so popular.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on the degree and the field. Some masters degrees make you more competitive; some don’t. There’s no one formula. I wouldn’t want someone assuming that’s always or even mostly always the case, because you have to know your field. (And the job market is full of people who thought a masters would make them more competitive and then found out that it didn’t.)

      1. Kitty*

        If they have them I’d recommend OP look at their company’s policies for continued education assistance. I work in a pretty technical field where masters degrees are normally earned while working and my company’s policies address this. A raise after completion of an advanced degree is part of company policy (and they’ll pay for all of a masters degree) so it is worthwhile for us. How much is the raise? It doesn’t specify but it is intended to bring ones salary up to market value based on level of education and work experience to prevent employee turn over once they have their new skills. And of course we have to pay the company back for school if we leave the company a less than a year and a half after completing an advanced degree.

    2. Sarahnova*

      Honestly, unless the Master’s is in a highly technical field and provides experience or certification you can’t get through on-the-job experience, I doubt it qualifies you for a pay bump in the majority of fields.

      As a manager, I don’t care that you now have a Master’s. As Alison says, I care if you have learned new, useful skills through it that increase your performance, but that’s what interests me (and might justify a pay rise), not the Master’s. I am especially disinclined to give a raise if you’ve only had the job 8 months, so on top of the fact that we agreed your starting salary fairly recently, presumably the Master’s was already well underway when we hired you, so it seems unlikely it would have caused any leaps forward in knowledge and performance since then. Sorry to be blunt, but like Alison, I see far too many people (especially those straight out of undergrad) under the misapprehension that any Master’s will make you more competitive in the job market, or that employers particularly care about them. My Master’s is actually one of the kind that opens up a specific field that you can only go into through this qualification, and even so there is a glut of people who went into it straight out of undergrad, thus have no work experience, and are not really attractive to employers who can only command low pay until they’ve racked up some actual on-the-job experience.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Good point about the fact that the master’s was already underway when the person was hired. Chances are the employer knew that the LW was working towards the masters, and IF the degree is considered important in that industry, the fact that the LW was within a year of obtaining the degree may have already been factored in. You are right that someone doesn’t suddenly gain knowledge the instant the degree is awarded.

      2. Graciosa*

        Sometimes I think this is just a continuation of the idea that all education is good (and therefore more is better).

        I actually do think learning is good, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as concluding that any formal degree is always beneficial – or a good financial investment. Employers are not that interested in paying for qualifications not necessary for the job, but pay more attention to your contributions to the business.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Hear hear! Learning is good, but degrees aren’t automatic salary bumps like they used to be. The only exceptions I can think of are teachers (that’s usually written into the contract, so you’d know exactly what that master’s is worth and when). Maybe some accountants, too. And I know in fields like psychology you can’t really do much with a bachelor’s, but that master’s is usually more of an entry ticket than a salary bump.

          1. doreen*

            And in some fields where a master’s is helpful , it still doesn’t actually get you a pay bump. When I was a caseworker, getting an MSW would have qualified me to become a social worker in the same agency( which paid better) . But it wouldn’t have bumped my pay if I stayed in the same title, and it wouldn’t have given me an advantage over the other MSW holding candidates applying for a social worker position.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Yep. I was sad that I couldn’t afford to get my Master’s straight out of undergrad since I thought it would help me make more money.

        …I was so lucky. It would not have, not unless I’d realized (and I didn’t) that I had to specialize in one of a few sub-areas of what I do. If I had just gotten a generic Master’s with any other focus in my profession, I would have been _LESS_ competitive. (By the way folks, this is a real thing. I have worked places that would far rather hire someone with a BS in X than a Master’s in X…because the latter gives no significant benefit to the employer, but the holder usually expects to be paid more. It prices them out of the market.)

        I’ve taken a lot of continuing courses and done a lot of reading. The skills are valuable. The degree, in my case, isn’t. (I don’t desperately want to work in the specialized areas where a Master’s would help me. I wouldn’t mind working in them, but I don’t desperately want it. So why price myself out of all my other options?)

        Granted, there are positions at my current company where you must have a Master’s – but not that many.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, and I’ve even heard managers at several of my jobs discussing how they didn’t want to go with the candidates with a Master’s because they’d be too expensive for that position, unfortunately. But, like others are saying, it really depends on the field/job, etc.

      5. Koko*

        I would agree. During hiring a Master’s can help convince a prospective manager that you have the potential to bring more value than someone with comparable work experience without a Master’s – though you might very well still lose out to someone with more directly relevant work experience without a Master’s, because actually having done the work in question is always the best predictor of success at doing it. Having extensively studied the field/subject is a secondary predictor – they suggest you have potential to handle greater responsibility/duties that would be compensated at a higher level, so the higher pay is actually because they plan to have you doing higher-level work, not just a hat-tip to the letters tacked at the end of your name.

        Likewise once you’re on the job already, in many jobs the actual work you’re doing is going to matter much more than the knowledge/potential you have than it does during a hiring process. I would look at it more like – a Master’s can help you make your case for being given increased responsibilities/extra job duties, which in turn can help make your case for a raise once you’ve been doing them for a while.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Not in my field. If someone came to me and wanted more money because she’d completed a master’s, and she was not actually doing more worthwhile work for me than she was before she got the degree, I’d not only deny the request, I’d also start thinking in the back of my mind about replacing her. Not to say that I’d fire her, but I wouldn’t try super hard to retain her since I know she’s looking for more money than she’s worth to me and that I might be able to replace her with someone who doesn’t have that credential but who can do the work and who is happy with the salary.

      In my field a PhD might help, but a master’s would not.

    4. azvlr*

      I know someone in a similar situation. The fact is that completing the degree does not bring added value to the company. Asking for a raise as a “retainer” is not a viable strategy their case because management knows they are likely not job seeking at the moment.

  8. RKB*

    Now, I’m no expert either. However, I do know that all insurance payments through my parents’ insurance tells the company and my parents WHERE the charge came from. (I’m a grad student on $4000/month medication, so I qualify to be on their insurance still.)

    If I went to a hospital funded by Westeros, the charge would come up as “Westeros Health.” However, if I went to Winterfell Dentistry, or The Wall Optometry — the insurance states the name of where the charge came from. I get my medications at Khaleesi’s Pharmacy, and so, when my parents check their claims, it’ll state that.

    Whether or not the company can see it… I don’t know. If you’re going for an MRI and getting Rx’s refilled at your hospital I’d imagine it’s billed from the hospital (or the provincial care depending on where you are) so they can’t see the specifics. That, I know, is illegal.

    1. Rubyrose*

      I feel OP#4s plight. I just started a new job, where I actually work in the unit of the company that processes and pays the medical claims for the company. And I’m going to be filing claims that will have a diagnosis that is easily misunderstood and controversial, both in and out of the medical community.

      Approximately 100 people have full access to view my claims. My only saving grace, at least for now, is that I’m working primarily with prior authorizations, which are not required for my condition. But I could easily be assigned to work with the claims staff (I’m IT support). I’m not concerned about HR, but about my immediate coworkers and my management finding out.

      I’ve already decided to take a strong HIPAA stand. If I find out that there is even a hint of someone talking about me because of my diagnosis, complaints will be made, quickly and assertively. They will go through normal channels, which is our appeals and grievance department. And if needed, I will gladly pull in a lawyer sooner than later.

      Perhaps this sounds harsh, or a quick reaction? Well, I have been actively discriminated against in the past because of a different medical condition, one that was obvious and could not be covered up, before there were laws to protect the disabled. That time is gone, people should know better, and I don’t have the patience any longer to put up with stupidity in this area. My coworkers go through the same HIPAA training that I do, each and every year. If they (and the company) have not gotten the message from that and need some outside, potentially legal persuasion, so be it.

      Sorry for the rant. OP4, be proactive. Dig into those boring medical insurance documents now and find out what the exact process is for filing a HIPAA grievance, first through your medical plan and potentially through your HR (sticky, I know). The medical plan would be for HIPAA complaints, and HR for any negative action(s) coming from their knowledge of your medical condition. For your medical plan there are designated Security and Privacy Officer(s); they may be the same person. Their purpose is to receive and act on complaints from anyone who feels there has been a breach of information. I think you will want the Privacy Officer. And don’t be afraid to use that process. Good luck to you, and fight the good fight if you need to (hopefully not).

      1. MashaKasha*

        I, too, have had to take HIPAA training every year for the past ten years and I agree with everything you’ve said here. The limitations are very strict. I’m not 100% sure that anyone at OP’s company is allowed to see OP’s claims. Even if it’s so, they are absolutely not allowed to disclose that information to anyone. Part of our classes was also about teaching us who we can contact to report a HIPAA violation. It’s pretty serious stuff.

        My both sons are on my insurance, but technically, since they’re both over 18, neither their Dr’s offices nor the insurance companies are allowed to talk to me about the details of their visits/claims without my sons’ permission. Back in the days when we had a landline, they were not allowed to call and leave a VM on the family’s phone with details of a family member’s appointments or treatments.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Most of my doctors have you sign a release indicating whether they’re allowed to leave a VM.

      2. Ad Astra*

        FWIW, I don’t think this sounds harsh or like too quick of a reaction. Sharing people’s medical information isn’t not ok, even when HIPAA doesn’t apply.

    2. AngK*

      As a benefits professional at a company that is self-insured, we take employee privacy very seriously. Yes, technically we can see claims information, including costs, but this information is kept in strict confidence. When doing analysis, we look at aggregated information and not information specific to a certain employee or family member. We fully expect that there are going to be employees with expensive prescriptions and conditions, but that is a part of doing business. As long as your HR team the expected degree of professional responsibility, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

    3. Not an IT Guy*

      No expert either, but I’ve always been taught that there’s no expectation to privacy in the work place, and health issues are no exception to that rule.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        There is a difference between disclosing a health issue to your supervisor and having him/her spread it around. Not usually actionable. If your employer is actually processing your claims then they fall under HIPPA and there is an expectation of privacy.

        Even that aggregate stuff can be “outing” depending on your line of work / size of your company. I’m on my husband’s insurance now and don’t have to worry about it but my employer receives their info aggregated in a way that mine can be identified. Even at a medium employer the aggregated data once included info on maternity costs. There had only been one baby born that year within the company so we knew whose info that was.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This goes back to what I wrote in the post — the difference between an employer that’s part of a group health plan vs. an employer whose health insurance is a self-insured plan (where the company pays individual claims itself). The latter is covered by HIPAA.

    4. Judy*

      I’ve always worked at companies that self-insure but the claims process is managed by others.

      I know for a fact that the insurance handler gives at a minimum aggregate information about which procedures have been used to the company. I’ve seen in benefits meetings an aggregate list of types of surgeries, number of MRIs, etc for a time period.

      I suspect that they are given employee names and the amount of money spent on them by the medical plan. I’ve heard that an employee’s health “spend” was noted in manager meetings, but it is possible that the amount may be a guess based on information shared by the employees or my information was wrong. (cancer, MS, heart surgery, etc)

      1. Mpls*

        I’ve been in the meeting for figuring out premiums for the next year, using a broker and group insurances (Blue Cross/Health Partners/Cigna/etc.). We were given a list of the biggest claims to help illustrate how the payouts for our group compared to the amount of premiums we paid, but those were very generalized ($60,000 for cancer treatment, or something like that). We were a small enough company that we could generally figure out who those people were, but there was not identifying information (name, birthdate, etc.) presented to management.

      2. BXRosie*

        Insurance broker with 30 years of experience here. Carriers and third party administrators do not voluntarily give out identifying information unless it is needed for a specific reason (think stop loss/reinsurance reimbursement). Having said that, the companies often have an idea of what procedures/drugs/surgeries are used to treat various illnesses. And, if the benefits folks spend any time on it, they probably could figure out who generated the claim, but I have rarely seen that kind of interest in doing so. Someone’s health challenges are not that interesting when you see a lot of health challenges.

        More often than not, it is the claimant that shares more than they should. I have people show me scars, bloody bandages, and full health records that I don’t need or want to see. Once the claimant volunteers the info, it is not HIPAA protected. HIPAA only protects information that comes directly from the plan.

        Disability information is also not HIPAA protected.

  9. Nea*

    I sympathize with OP #1 — I once worked with someone who was pushing me at every opportunity to get a gun of my own. In this case, it seems to me that the entire Constitutional argument can be sidestepped by taking the advice to treat it as a distraction. If the guy is on outside chat rooms so often that everyone notices every time they pass his work computer, then it doesn’t matter if he’s reading & talking about guns or My Little Pony. The Second Amendment does not give any employee the right to ignore the work they are employed for or use work equipment for non-work purposes.

    1. Boo*

      Yes, this. Don’t allow this get derailed into pro/anti gun territory. The point is, it’s impacting your productivity and it sounds like theirs is basically nil. That’s what you focus on.

    2. Mike C.*

      There’s also a social convention that says it’s rude to obsessively talk about a narrow subject in the interest of only a few in the presence of many. The person who won’t shut up about their kids/grandkids, or blaming the convenient for everything or the latest exercise/diet plan or a tv show or whatever.

      Of course, it doesn’t help that this particular guy is obsessing about killing other people. That’s juvenile, tasteless and frankly repulsive. No one needs to hear about his fantasies at work.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        This is a good point. I’m glad Cross Fit is fading away because people who do it seem to discuss it ad naseum, regardless of who’s around. No please, we all really want to hear more about your WOD!

        1. NJ Anon*

          So I should tell my husband that he shouldn’t be talking about his fantasy football team 24/7? He’s driving me nuts! (And I love football, but jeez Louise!

          1. Allison*

            My coworkers looooove fantasy football, and they tend to bro out about it in the office at least once a day. It’s super distracting since they usually do it near my desk.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Oh, man. I have a co-worker who likes to bro out with me about baseball. (If I, a woman, bro out with him, am I sissing out? Or am I also broing out? I’ve never thought about this before, but I do love the phrase bro out.) And some days, this is cool, especially when the news is good. I remember one day there was a day game that we were both surreptitiously following, and it was a huge blowout, and every time we passed in the hall, we’d hold up fingers for how many runs we had now, and it was a lot of fingers!

              But sometimes, it’s just too much, especially when I’m really swamped, and especially when the news is bad; he likes to angst verbally about the bad stuff more than I do. No, guy, I can’t spend half an hour on I Hate the Front Office, How On Earth Could They Not Sign That Guy today, it’ll just make me crabbier and more behind.

              1. fposte*

                Oh, that’s hilarious. Now I’m putting my team together. Could you draw from the retired and the dead? Barbara Jordan for my first draft pick, if so.

                1. Mike C.*

                  So the way it worked was that the House was split into three groups based on years of service and you had to draft a number from most/middle/least senior groups, then a number of senior and junior senators. You received points for the week based on how many laws were submitted (or endorsed) by your picks and how far through the law making process they went (say some points for making it out of committee, way more for getting it signed into law), for notoriety/press coverage and other factors.

                  So basically to play well you had to learn about committee positions and the relative power each legislator had given the topics in the news at the time. Interestingly enough, even though the members of the House representing DC and the territories don’t have a floor vote, they do have votes in committee and they were actually a really good value to have on the team.

                  It’s a shame the site no longer exists, it was really fun.

                2. Hlyssande*

                  I also wish the site still existed, because that sounds like a great way for people to get more involved and learn more about how the government actually works.

                  Also, hilarious.

        2. Cat*

          Law schools always tell students to have an “interests” section, which maybe makes sense for big firms where the interviewers are grasping to have something to talk about, but we’re more specialized and want to talk substance, so it’s a little weird. But it’s particularly weird because sometimes students will list something like Crossfit and you’re simultaneously thinking “do not judge based on this” and “PLEASE don’t be one of those people who only talks about Crossfit.”

          1. Broke Law Student*

            Ah yes, my advisor at my law school recommended adding an interest section, but I can barely get my resume down to one page with just my academic & work stuff. Plus, I do a lot of extracurricular work representing clients and doing projects, so you can tell exactly what I’m interested in by looking at the substantive parts of my resume. No thank you. I have a (female) friend who listed “scotch” as an interest, and I think she got an offer at like, every firm she interviewed at.

        3. Natalie*

          I hate this time of year because the fat/diet talk starts. “Oh, no, I can’t eat all of these holiday cookies”. OK, then don’t eat them and shut up about it!

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ugh, and then the New Year’s Resolution talk. It gets really bad on FB sometimes. Friends smaller than me, suddenly writing these impassioned manifestos about how they’ve decided their current size is Totally Unacceptable For Any Human Being Ever. And while I know, intellectually, that they’re really just talking about themselves, there’s a small part of my brain that goes “…well, rats. I never knew you found me totally unacceptable.” And another small part of my brain that wants to tell them, “come on, you won’t even care about this by Valentine’s Day.”

            But then I feel like the Liturgical Calendar of Body Hate is ever-expanding. Now we’re supposed to diet as our New Year’s resolution, and to look good in our Valentine’s outfit, and for bikini season, and now to look good in our Halloween costumes too. o.O

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I unfriended someone who quit her job to become a full-time Beach Body “coach.” I was dealing with it for a while, and then she posted something about how she had lost 8 pounds and it was so great because she used to be so disgusting at 132 pounds or something, and that was when I was all nahhhh peace out.

    3. Joy*

      If you are not to use work equipment for non-work purposes, then we need to make sure people are not doing personal online shopping, checking personal email, calling family/friends on the company phone, using a company provided pen for personal use, etc. See how quickly that can spiral out of control?

      I think it would be fine for OP to tell her coworkers that gun related talk makes her uncomfortable and ask them to not talk about it around her. But if you start policing conversations and tell people they can’t talk about something because it make someone else uncomfortable, they need to expect push back. Asking people usually works unless they are complete arseholes.

      1. Allison*

        Not necessarily. I think we can leave each other alone with most non-work activity during the day as long as people aren’t A) distracting others or B) holding up projects or dragging down the team’s performance with poor productivity. If someone’s doing one or the other, it’s fair to tell them they need to stop.

    4. catsAreCool*

      “If the guy is on outside chat rooms so often that everyone notices every time they pass his work computer, then it doesn’t matter if he’s reading & talking about guns or My Little Pony.” This!

  10. Not Today Satan*

    #2, I feel your pain. I used to share a 12 x 12 office with my manager and a coworker. Towards the end of my tenure there, she was cold as ice and wouldn’t even say hello in the morning (even if we said good morning to her). Maybe it’s petty, but being in such close quarters with a manager who clearly has ill will towards you is very stressful. (Not necessarily the case with you, but I can’t imagine any good intentions behind not saying good morning to someone you share an office with.)

    1. starsaphire*

      250+ comments, and we’re the only ones replying to poor #2!

      OP #2, I too feel your pain. I worked with a manager who was basically a wounded deer. If I said hello to her in the hallway, she visibly started, head whipping around and sometimes even gasping. She hated addressing meetings — even just 4 or 5 people — and always said her piece in a fast mumble, while staring at the floor and looking as though she was about to cry. She was so uncomfortable that it made the rest of us horribly uncomfortable too.

      Unfortunately in my case, that also defined the rest of her management style. Any issue that was brought up was “not her problem,” or “you need to talk to the department / HR / your team lead” or whoever else she could fob it off on. She never handled anything if she could get around it, and it would take her *weeks* to reply to an email like “Hey, if X happens again, how do you want us to handle it going forward?” And that is the red-flag behavior you need to watch out for.

      If she’s just introverted or shy or socially awkward, but her managing is okay, then you’re probably fine. If she is as timid about addressing the day-to-day tasks of management as she is about making eye contact or saying hello, then you should probably start polishing up that resume.

      Just my two cents, but I have been there, and it was bloody awful.

      1. Myrin*

        How did this person even become a manager? Did any of her superiors think that kind of behaviour is suitable for someone in a managing role? Christ.

    2. Lamington*

      OP so sorry, I had 2 managers like that. Both were really moody so when it was good, it was good and when it was bad, it was bad. Sometimes they would ignore your greetings but I always greet them when I arrived and leave and gave heads up to coworkers if needed. Sometimes you feel like walking in eggshells.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A couple places I worked, people would do boss checks. One person would check on the current frame of mind and report back to the rest. Of course, the group would take turns so one person did not have face having their head bit off daily.

    3. Num Lock*

      It is crazy stressful to work with a boss who dislikes you–even if they only show it by completely ignoring you. Not what I would’ve expected until I had the experience, honestly. It almost makes me feel a bit crazy. How can someone who never talks to you generate so much dread and anxiety? I’d almost take outright hostility over this weird ceasefire. At least then I’d have something specific to point to to back up my feelings.

      OP#2, I feel your pain. I am currently dreading getting trapped in a conference room with my boss for my review. It’ll be our first real conversation since my last review… last year. Our terrible relationship is the #1 reason I’ve been job hunting and have a second interview coming up. Good luck to you! I hope you are able to get out.

    4. LENEL*

      OP2, I am a very gregarious and friendly person having paid my dues in retail for years before moving to a desk job I am very aware of saying “hello!” “see you tomorrow” and having small chats with my co-workers which I genuinely take interest in them as people (I spend more time with my colleagues than my husband, so I’m keen to bond as a group and get to know them as people!).

      If your boss is like this with everyone my first instinct would be that they’re somewhat introverted and email communicators. This is likely to be something that would be somewhat of a problem for me as a culture fit in the team and I would be looking for other opportunities/to transfer. I think I would mostly manage to not take this personally although I have Very Strong Personal Feelings that it is very easy to be polite by at minimum saying hi and bye even if you’re not naturally a chatter or outgoing.

      If your boss is doing what Not Today Satan’s boss was and has suddenly become chilly or withdrawing (and frankly being incredibly rude to employees I’m so sorry you had a manager treating you like that NTS), I would have such a hard time not taking it personally. I would continue to be my normal polite self but I would be looking for other opportunities.

      I sincerely hope it’s the former and wish you all the best in working with them, hopefully somewhere there is a happy medium which might expand to include basic courtesey!

  11. Question Mark*

    #5-you didn’t say if your company provided tuition assistance or reimbursement for your Masters. I once worked with a woman who was lucky enough to have the company pay for 100% of her MBA at an expensive school. The day after she graduated, she demanded a raise. She didn’t get it and her manager was quite irritated considering the large amount of money the company had just spent on her. Her peers were also annoyed because for 2+ years, they watched her leave work early to attend class while they worked late, and then had to listen to her complain about not getting the raise she deserved. To make matters worse, the company did away with tuition reimbursement soon after because she had cost the company so much money. In fairness, she didn’t do anything wrong by utilizing the program the company had offered, but demanding a raise and then complaining that she didn’t get it did not sit well. I’m not implying this is how you would handle it, but just pointing out that some people don’t consider the cost and/or flexibility companies often provide when employees go back to school.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think they’re paying–she’s only been there for eight months and has been working on the masters for two and a half years.

      1. anonanonanon*

        Why wouldn’t they pay? Some companies do tuition reimbursement by semester. I switched companies halfway through my master’s and my second company just paid tuition reimbursement for the courses I took during the time I was there with them, but not for any courses I had taken before I started there.

        1. fposte*

          Huh, I suppose that could be true, then. And I would agree that that’s another reason not to ask for a raise based on the master’s, unless that was part of the deal.

          1. anonanonanon*

            Yeah, I agree that if a company is providing tuition reimbursement, they’re probably not going to give you a raise on top of it since it’s added onto your salary for tax reasons. Or it was for me, at least.

        2. Ad Astra*

          It’s certainly possible, but all the tuition reimbursement benefits I’ve come across were only open to people who’d been with the company for a year.

          1. anonanonanon*

            Strange, most of the companies I interviewed at before/during school and the ones I worked at while I was in my program offered it immediately. I think the longest I had to wait was one month before I could receive tuition reimbursement benefits. I wonder if it’s a regional or industry thing, though.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              My company requires a year of service before they’ll reimburse industry specific courses, but you can get reimbursement immediately if you’re in an official company-sponsored training program.

        3. Snarky McSnark*

          Many companies have a 1 year tenure requirement for tuition reimbursement. I got around that with one company (I switched halfway through my program) by negotiating a sign-on bonus that would be used toward school the first year I was with the company. Also, with my current company, I negotiated a partial payoff of the money I owed to that company again as a sign-on bonus.

    2. Brett*

      Our policy (midwest local government) is the first course in the degree program must start after the employee has cleared probation (which can be as long as 24 months) and their first performance rating (which happens at 12 months). If you start the degree program before that, then none of the courses are reimbursable even after the 12 month mark.

      Where our policy gets painful is we have a steep sliding scale reimbursement. An A is 100%, an A- 90%, B+/B 75%, B-/C+ 50%, and C or lower is 0%. (B- and C+ are 0% too if it is a grad level course.)

  12. Katie the Fed*

    I was once subjected to an hour-long , DETAILED discussion about colonoscopies between two middle-aged coworkers. I finally popped my head up and said in a kind of exasperated way – “seriously, you’ve been talking about this for an HOUR! Can you either go somewhere else or find something less horrible to discuss?”

    OP 1 – can you just pipe in like that? This is a lot of time spent talking about one topic.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Oh god. That brings back memories.

      I once accompanied my grandma visiting her sister in hospital the day she had a colonoscopy.

      She spent an hour describing the prep (including textures and colours) and the procedure itself.


      And my dad TMId me last week by describing how the procedure to remove a fluid buildup somewhere uncomfortable will work exactly.


    2. Sunshine*

      Yeah, I think I’d get seriously annoyed about an hour long conversation, regardless of the topic. That would drive me battu, and I would have to question the workload of the participants.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, the whiteboard? Stop planning a tactical strike with company materials on company time.

    3. going anon for this one*

      I once had an all-day interview that started with a breakfast interview with someone who was having a colonoscopy later that day, and so couldn’t eat, so he just… watched me eat.

      It was weird. I did not get that job.

      1. Minion*

        Now I’m picturing that.
        Interviewer: I’m not eating since I’m having a colonoscopy later. But you go ahead, eat what you like, it’s fine!
        You: Okay, thanks.
        Interviewer makes note on notepad while you eat: Shows an appalling inability to understand that I mean the exact opposite of what I’ve just said. Do not hire. Unable to take nonexistent cues or read minds. Bad fit.

      2. Pineapple Incident*

        It is INCREDIBLY uncomfortable and exhausting to have to be at work (or literally anywhere) on the day of a colonoscopy. I take off the time for the 48 hrs beforehand and the day of to avoid that- if your interviewer wasn’t able to do that or even take off for the day of the procedure, the company might not have the best policies regarding sick time or leave in general.

        1. going anon for this one*

          Well, it may have been more of, “this is your only chance to meet this person who traveled for most of a day to be here, so interview them at breakfast or not at all.” Or, I guess, it could have been some other medical procedure that involved not eating and then being out all day, but frankly I prefer to assume it was a colonoscopy.

    4. afiendishthingy*

      Grateful for this thread today… the other day new Awful Coworker and another coworker whom she knows outside of work had a 20 minute discussion about Awful Coworker’s boyfriend’s ex. AC referred to this woman variously as “Whoreface”, “ugly b****h” and “Everyone at my old job calls her The C**t, haha”. I didn’t say anything but… next time. (We are a very sweary office in general – and I drop f bombs multiple times a day – and I’m not sure this woman is smart enough to grasp the distinction between casual swearing and misogynistic slurs, but we shall see.)

    5. Cat*

      I once suggested to a co-worker that colonoscopies weren’t appropriate work discussion and was told “it’s a normal part of life.” Sigh.

      1. Kyrielle*

        …so are a lot of other things that aren’t appropriate work discussion! O.o

        I mean, I’ve had a colonoscopy, and other than what I just said and “the results were normal” – the rest of the process is not fit for work discussion. It’s also not actually interesting to discuss!

    6. Lily in NYC*

      One of my coworkers showed me a photo of his colon that was given to him after his colonoscopy! His wife was expecting and he tricked me by asking if I wanted to see the sonogram. (he was purposely trying to gross me out but he knew I’d laugh after I got over the horror).

        1. Lily in NYC*

          There is nothing creepier than going to a baby shower and seeing one of those creepy sonogram cakes. I do not want to eat fetus cake! Well, maybe if it’s chocolate.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Creep sonogram cakes, creepy cut-into-baby-or-mom’s-belly cakes. Ugh. I do not want to feel like I’m committing cannibalism at your baby shower.

        2. TotesMaGoats*

          I have yet to see a sonogram that didn’t look like some sort of alien. Including that of my own child.

  13. NJ Anon*

    #5 I used to work for a social services agency. Often lower paid, front-line staff would get their masters and then ask for a raise. Umm, no. Your job doesn’t require it.

    1. Coffee Ninja*

      I work in social services and oh my God, our staff do this all the time too. We tell them we’ll gladly promote them to a master’s level position (we have associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s level staff) and all of a sudden they’re like “Oh, you want me to take on more responsibility to get the raise? NEVERMIND.”

      1. NJ Anon*

        Our problem was also that we didn’t necessarily have a position to promote them to. We were too small for that. Many ended up using the job as a stepping stone and that was OK.

  14. Richard*

    On #5 – Assuming your Masters was on your resume with an expected graduation date, or it came up in conversation at any point in your early months, it should have already been factored in to your compensation. I would look for ways that you can have demonstrably increased value to your organization, and make sure those are clear – and that they tie to your degree if possible – so that after your first year, your manager is the one working to make a case for your raise.

  15. techfool*

    Anonymization doesn’t protect your identity or data. If you know that x person is male/female, a certain age, works at x, and took this time off, it very much narrows down who they are.

  16. Not Gloria*

    Re: #1 “Hobbies of any kind are boring except to people who have the same hobby.” Maybe bore them with one of yours? “Gosh don’t you just find it fascinating the new blending technique I’m using in this new coloring book I have? Aren’t Prismacolor pencils just DIVINE? I mean the cost the Earth but they are totes worth it. Oh and I CAN’T WAIT until the Doctor Who coloring book comes out!”

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Haha. That would so be me right now. I got an adult coloring book and Prismacolor pencils for Hanukkah. (PS – they are divine, and they do blend so smoothly!). And I would totally use a Doctor Who coloring book.

      1. Oryx*

        I can’t commit to the Prismacolor pencils quite yet, but I’m definitely down for the Doctor Who book when it comes out.

      1. Not me*

        Prismacolor markers are also great; they blend almost more like paint than markers. They are expensive, though.

        1. Not Gloria*

          They are very nice. I didn’t go whole hog and get the really pricey ones. I got the Prismacolor Scholars and they are still pretty nice. I haven’t gotten the super nice markers yet. I have some Staedtlers and some Bic Mark-Its.

    2. Hlyssande*

      This reminds me that I should dig out my good colored pencils for the amazing cat coloring book my friend just gave me!

    3. Book Person*

      SO DIVINE. And they last a long time, too. I splurged on the 140 set almost 5 years ago and have only had to replace 7 or 8 colours that were worn down from much use. I am having way too much fun with my /Sherlock/ colouring book.

  17. OriginalEmma*

    I’d love to get my master’s and >50% of people at my company have one but unless my employer will foot a good chunk of it, I probably won’t. It’s too risky to pay tens of thousands of dollars without a guaranteed ROI. I’ve seen enough of my cohort get their MPHs and end up working MLM schemes or at Sear’s.

    1. Sarahnova*

      I’m actually a believer, with any Master’s, in not doing one unless a) your employer will pay for it, or b) you want to get one for the pure joy of studying, can pay for it without borrowing money, and don’t care if it adds to your salary. I also strongly recommend taking at least one year off from undergrad before starting one, and studying part-time while working instead of going full-time, if possible.

      I love education. I have two Masterses. (Or three, depending on how you look at it). One I actually did go back to do full-time, but I didn’t need loans and it was one of the rare occasions when it actually was a gateway to a field. The other, I completed part-time and it was paid in full by my employers.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Oh, and I didn’t go back to school until I’d been working full-time for three years. I would have been in a very different place career-wise if I hadn’t had that experience before I did further study.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          That sounds wonderful. If I were a rich woman, I’d get an MPH and a mastetr’s in Irish Studies but alas! My company has agreements with universities near their headquarters but I’m at a field office, so no luck for me.

          I agree with you re: taking time off. I specifically did it because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and just wanted to get out into the workforce already. There might be a sweet spot between waiting and waiting too long, though. I’m at that point now where I *really* enjoy my job, making money, and not having any obligations after work besides those I impose on myself. It’d be hard to go back to school at this point.

      2. anonanonanon*

        Agreed. Before I started my master’s program, I had several people in both the corporate world and academic world tell me that I should be pursuing my specific degree out of love for my field of study, not for a higher salary.

    2. Not Gloria*

      You might even say that about a Bachelor’s. I wish I’d never gotten mine. Going back to school to finish was the worst financial mistake of my life and I will probably be paying for it for the rest of my life too.

      1. anonanonanon*

        My brother says this all the time and that his Bachelor’s was a waste of time and money. While I’m all for education, some people are cut out for academics and don’t actually need a Bachelor’s to succeed in their field.

        1. Not Gloria*

          I don’t really have a field – I have a job. I’d like to have a field, but getting a degree hasn’t helped with that one bit. I’m still doing the “I’ll just work here while I finish school” job after graduating two years ago. I’m fine with working in an office and would prefer it, but most jobs I see that ask for a degree also want a lot of experience, and not experience that I have. If I had gotten it back in the 90s when I was in my 20s I think it would have helped but right now it’s only been an albatross.

      2. OriginalEmma*

        This is very true. We push people towards academic degrees even if they don’t want it or worse than that, aren’t suited for it. I wish vo-tech were more highly accepted in the United States.

        My history teacher would remind us to study hard so that “you don’t end up at the Capri Institute studying hairdressing.” At the time I thought “omg, no, I don’t want that!” (even though I secretly thought hairdressing was great and would visit the hairdressers next to my part-time job because their job looked fun) but now that I’m older I think what gives, man? Spending a few hundred bucks for a useful skill that can get you a job pretty much anywhere right out of HS, or help pay your way through higher ed if you so choose to go? Sounds reasonable to me.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Cosmetology school can be kinda pricy, since the schools are almost all private and many are for-profit. But still, you finish way faster than you could finish a bachelor’s degree, and hairdressing looks like such a cool job! I would totally go to cosmetology school if I had the talent.

          1. Lindsay J*

            I’ve considered cosmetology school because I love playing with my hair and makeup. However, I know the same nagging self doubt I had when I did photography professionally would bother me doing hair professionally – I’d always worry that what I did wasn’t good enough or that my client hated it or something.

      3. Hlyssande*

        At lot of companies won’t even look at someone without some form of degree, unfortunately. My company moved from not requiring a degree to requiring one for a lot of positions over the last ten years.

        I apparently need to get a Masters if I want to move up further in the company. :(

    3. hermit crab*

      Yeah, I have an MPH and I was worried/surprised by how many of my cohort had no clear career plans/experience and were taking on big loans. The degree made sense for me; I went back to get it after working for a company for 5 years, they paid for a bunch of it while I continued to work there, and I’m still here now that I’ve graduated, so it was a win/win situation. But I was floored by the number of classmates who were right out of undergrad and just sort of floated into the program. I think the positive statistics about the job market for MPHs are misleading, because — like any professional degree, maybe — an MPH can certainly help professionals looking to advance in their field, but that really only applies to a subset of students.

      Okay, that was long. Clearly this is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. :)

      1. OriginalEmma*

        I wonder what sort of questions universities ask their graduates re: working in public health. Having a job in public health is not the same as having a job in public health that necessitated an MPH. Like the commenter upthread said about social services employees getting master’s for jobs that don’t need it. Do you need a master’s to be a DIS? An outreach worker? A community health educator using canned presentations? No, not likely. For a health officer, epidemiologist, program developer? Yes.

  18. Charles*

    I am a weapons/survival tools collector (bows and knives predominantly) amongst other things, and in a lesser degree a ‘gun nut’
    Personally i don’t feel comfortable bringing it up at my workplace, but there will always be people who are less shy than me.

    A word of advice to the other gun nuts reading this: If you absolutely HAVE to use such tactical terms in a formal situation, i’d suggest you try using the word “zombie”. It makes it a less human and more fantasy-scenario idea.

    Conversely, all of you who are not into weaponary/tactical stuff, consider that a zombie is essentially the same thing as a human, with a little fiction mixed in.

    1. J.B.*

      I do often think there’s a skill level difference between those who talk a lot and those who keep the talk to themselves. The talkers make me nervous because I’m not sure they will make “good choices” as I would say to my kids :) Thanks for your perspective.

      1. Chinook*

        “I do often think there’s a skill level difference between those who talk a lot and those who keep the talk to themselves. The talkers make me nervous because I’m not sure they will make “good choices” as I would say to my kids :)”

        I have to agree with this. Those I know with vast amounts of gun experience (cops, hunters, ex-military and a family member who own a gun shop) all rarely talk about their weapons unless specifically asked about it because they know that these are weapons meant to kill, not toys. I would worry about any of them if they started talking about a gun out of the blue. Heck, the only time DH talks about his taser is either after he has gone through his annual certification 9whcih requires him to be tased) or he is talking about his uniform.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My husband grew up in a hunting family. The way they handled things was you don’t talk about guns because then people would know about valuables in your possession. You did not talk about coin collections etc for the same reason. Additionally, not everyone talks about guns, just like not everyone talks about football. You should wait and see if the other person mentions an interest, rather than bring up the topic. These were rules the family used way back in the 50s and 60s and they kept those rules.

      A friend did- I won’t say this correctly, bear with me- a survivalist type of thing with shooting. For example: You walk into McDonald’s and someone suddenly starts shooting. What do you do? So the exercise went on, that through the chaos, you had to identify the shooter correctly and neutralize the shooter.
      Okay, I am getting squeamish and I am writing this. So I will stop. However, my point is that if this is the type of conversations the coworkers are having, then I would be upset also. If I had to listen to this type of talk daily, I’d just go to the boss. I see enough horror in the news, I do not need to listen to hours of this at work. I can’t see how this is appropriate at all.

  19. Erin*

    (Tried to comment before and my browser crashed – apologies if this is duplicated.)

    #1 – Unless the situation is really frequent, not going away anytime soon, and seriously distracting from you work I’d let it go, if only to avoid unnecessary conflict and confrontation.

    For instance, if they’re chatting about this on their lunch time in the break room every other day that’s annoying, but it’s in the break room. You could go somewhere else for lunch. They’ll probably be talking about Star Wars tomorrow.

    But if you have an open floor plan, or their cubes are near you, or it’s otherwise literally preventing you from doing you work, then yes, it would be appropriate to say something.

    Honestly, it’s probably fine/appropriate to say something regardless – you wouldn’t be out of line. But if it’s possible to mind your own business and not worry about what other people are talking about, I’d do that. Again, maybe that’s not possible. Judgement call only you can make. :)

    1. voyager1*

      Did someone say Star Wars :)

      Okay seriously Erin’s is probably the best answer on here.

      I own quite a few firearms and love to shoot on some property I have access to. I pretty much avoid the range because of folks like the ones in LW1.

      That all being said I got “gunsplained” by a older woman about how background checks lead to seizure because that was what Hitler did blah blah blah, all because she overheard me in a restaurant say I think universal background checks for all weapons is a good idea. This was in the context of a shotgun purchase I was going to make. True gun nuts are completely hostile to anyone who doesn’t share their view, and I would worry for the LW if she confronted the topic with the annoying guy. I am not saying don’t confront, just be prepared for a response that isn’t very sympathetic to your needs/feelings.

      I absolutely hate that some gun owners are like the guy described, we aren’t all that way.

      1. Heather*

        Thank you for being one of the sane ones! I personally wouldn’t go near a gun, but I understand that target practice could be fun and that there are places where a shotgun for self-defense would be reasonable. It’s just that the discussion has been hijacked by people like the “gunsplainer” (well-played, btw!) and like you said, they are not interested in rational discussion or compromise.

        This is only vaguely related to the OP’s question, so I’ll shut up now. Just wanted to give credit where it’s due!

  20. Roscoe*

    #1 I think Alison is completely right, this needs to be framed as a distraction, not because you personally don’t like their LEGAL interest. I get that its a hot political issue these days, but it sounds like they just enjoy this hobby that is currently legal. To be clear, I’m no gun nut or anything (I have a FOID card, but don’t own a gun). However, this is no different than people constantly talking about their kids or their cats. I have no kids and don’t like cats. But I’d never dream of telling people that their cat talk is too much just because its something I don’t personally enjoy hearing about. I’d just say that they are talking too much and its distracting me, and ask to go somewhere out of earshot.

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t really think the legality is relevant at all. Tons of things are legal but not really work place appropriate topics – our sex lives, pooping, internet trolling, protesting funerals.

      1. Roscoe*

        I agree. But this is a hobby. So yes, all hobbies aren’t necessarily workplace appropriate. However, being that I’m guessing based on her question, her issues are moral/political, it is still something legal. Plus, I don’t find this to be an inappropriate workplace topic.

        1. Lionness*

          I morally object to picketing funerals, and would object hearing about it in the workplace. Picketing funerals is legal.

          Many things that are legal are morally objectionable and also not fit for workplace conversation.

          1. fposte*

            Because you morally object to it doesn’t make it morally objectionable, though; otherwise you could say the same about same-sex weddings. This isn’t going to be a black and white okay/not okay thing.

            (I couldn’t tell if you were saying the target-shooting conversation was morally objectionable or not, but that would be a really inadvisable tack to take in trying to get it out of your space.)

            1. Lionness*

              But you can’t really say the same thing. Society, as a whole, tends to agree picketing funerals is Gross. Society, as a whole, does not say the same about same-sex weddings (or much else, really). Therefore it is morally objectionable.

              FWIW, I wouldn’t say the target practice conversation is morally objectionable, just really insensitive considering the high level of violence in our society right now and how this might impact their coworkers. I would say the same thing about any conversation that could cause discomfort to a reasonable person (so no, not like someone suggested, wedding plans or fast driving) considering the current environment we live in.

              Work conversations should be benign and mundane if they take place around people you are not absolutely positive agree with everything you could possibly say.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Well, it is different from talking about your kids or your cats because kids and cats aren’t designed to kill. It’s the killing part that people find objectionable, not the bang bang part.

      That said, you’re right that the distraction is the biggest issue. It’s just that talking about shooting bad guys in the head is a lot more distracting than talking about Princess Twinkletoes’ favorite brand of catnip.

      1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

        As someone who has had her leg clawed by Mr. Spot by walking down my.own.hall. minding my own business, I disagree. Cats are designed to kill!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Ha, how timely! One of my coworkers got mad at me this morning because I told her that I just read an article about how pet cats would gladly kill their owners if they were large enough to do it. I have no idea if it’s true or not, I just thought it was interesting. She acted like I tried to eat her cats or something! She’s still pouting.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, it’s true! Their behavior is closer to wild cats than that of domesticated dogs is to their wolf ancestors. That being said, I don’t know if Psycho Kitty could be arsed to kill me. She’d probably rather I just stuff her mouth full of Fancy Feast.

            I hope your coworker doesn’t faint in a houseful of cats. o_O

          2. Chinook*

            “I just read an article about how pet cats would gladly kill their owners if they were large enough to do it.”

            My new cat makes me think this may be true (the last one was raised by dog and thought he was one. This one is a rescue who conned me into thinking he was cute and cuddly at the shelter). Whenever I take care of two dogs (the bull terrier and the wolf dog), Wallace the cat spends 24 hours scoping out if they will eat her (they won’t). Then he lures the terrier close by rolling on to his back, purring only to jump and hiss when the dog comes close. The poor dog, who loves everyone, just stares at the cat, wagging her tail and looking confused but falls for it every time. At the 48 hour point, the cat starts to lure in the wolf. Luckily, I have never pet sat for longer than 50 hours because I think the cat would actually attack the wolf and win (element of surprise being a thing, after all).

          3. catsAreCool*

            Yeah, cats are designed to kill. It’s how they eat in the wild.

            I’ve thought for a long time that if kitty cats were as big as lynxes, they’d be too dangerous to have as pets. Whereas dogs that size can be pretty great. I think a supersize kitty might not *mean* to kill a human though, unless big kitty was really hungry, but kitties are natural hunters, and a supersize kitty might kill a human by accident.

  21. Case of the Mondays*

    On the gun issue – one thing I would consider before bringing it up: what rights do gunowners in your state have and to what extent can he make you far more miserable, in a legal way that can’t be stopped, if he is a jerk and wants to prove a point. There are some states that have laws that an employer may not ban guns from the workplace. There are other states that allow open carry. If these states overlap, and your gun enthusiast coworker wants to prove to you he has rights and he will exercise them, you might then have to deal with working next to a guy with a gun openly strapped on his hip. I’m not saying you shouldn’t speak up. I’m just saying to do some research first, see how bad it can get, and then decide whether to proceed.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      This is a good point. If you live in a concealed carry state and firearms are not banned at your workplace, you might have to come to work everyday wondering whether one of your coworkers is packing.

      1. fposte*

        But that’s likely already–if concealed carry is legal in your workplace, you’re probably not going to know if your co-workers are carrying or not.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      There are also states that prohibit asking an employee about his/her concealed carry status (not if they are currently carrying but whether they have a permit to carry) and that prohibit discriminating against an employee based on his/her “firearm status.” If you live in one of those states, if your employer tells your coworker to stop talking about his guns and later he is disciplined for anything, he might try to bring a claim that he was being harassed due to his firearm status. Your employer may not want to discuss the issue with him for that reason.

      Also, public employees have first amendment rights. Like all people, they can still be disciplined for making threats or hate speech or discriminatory statements. The public employer, however, can’t make content based restrictions on what employees talk about. A public employer that says “don’t talk about your guns” would likely get in trouble unless they were telling all employees to stop talking about personal things and to get back to work. I’m generalizing here but public employers have a different analysis because everything they do is considered “government action” and they can’t do a content based restriction on speech except in limited situations.

      1. anonfromwork*

        A public employer can absolutely make content based restrictions on speech on the job. For instance, I wear a government uniform, and I’m not allowed to express partisan political views or support candidates for office while in uniform. (It happens in water cooler chat with colleagues sometimes, but NEVER NEVER NEVER in interactions with the public. I think this is due to a specific federal law called the Hatch Act though.)

        Anyway, I don’t think public employees have more extensive free speech rights on the job than private sector employees, or at least I’d be quite surprised if they did. But “firearm status” is an interesting protected class I’ve never heard of….

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          You are correct that they are allowed / required to limit political speech on the job. That kind of makes sense though.

          As for the public vs. private distinction, just google public employee first amendment rights. There are some great explanations there. I would link but don’t want to end up in mod.

          1. doreen*

            Public employee First Amendment rights are not all that simple. For example, a government employee can generally be fired or disciplined for what s/he says as part of the job, or speech in the workplace regarding a issue that doesn’t concern the public or even speech outside the workplace under certain circumstances. For the most part, the links I clicked on referred mentioned something along the lines of “balancing the interests of the [employee], as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.” There might be any number of firearm related conversations that are matters of public concern (most of which will be political speech) , but plenty are not.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        I am not American, but I thought the First Amendment was only about the Government not being able to limit speech, and not what private companies can do?

        1. fposte*

          Right, that’s why A Case of the Mondays talked about public employees; it’s different for them than for private employees.

    3. Minion*

      I think most reasonable people, though, will accept that a coworker may not want to hear the conversation and will keep it down, if said coworker asks politely. I’m a gun enthusiast and I work with a few people who share my love of guns and shooting and we talk about guns and gun issues at work. Not for hour long conversations and I’ve never brought out the white-board to illustrate anything (??), but I’m thinking that if any of us were asked, politely, to talk about guns elsewhere because it was distracting, or really for any reason at all, I would certainly be willing to go elsewhere so as not to annoy or distract my coworker.
      Of course, if the enthusiast in question isn’t a reasonable person, then all bets are off. Unfortunately, OP could make the situation worse regardless of how polite s/he is if that’s true. However, I think s/he should just proceed as if the enthusiast is reasonable and follow Alison’s advice.

  22. Joy*

    Op#1- Unless it is really impacting your work, just let it go. When you start telling people what they can and can not talk about and questioning what they are doing on their computer, especially if you do it in a snarky/passive-aggressive way or try to retaliate by talking about something hoping it will gross them out, you become worse than they are. People talk about non-work related things all the time. ASK them if it really bothers you and explain why. They will probably try their best to accommodate that.

  23. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    #1 is similar to a situation that I ran into at OldJob, but it wasn’t just a couple of people. Everyone but me in my department of eight was a serious hunter/gun enthusiast/concealed carry licencee except for me (I have never held a gun and have no interest in ever doing so). Combined with the fact they also were extremely conservative and racist, it made for an uncomfortable work environment for me. I mentioned in my exit interview that my co-workers’ loud, almost daily conversations about the need to arm themselves to the teeth because “with all these trials, soon no one will want to be a cop anymore! And you know what that means” disturbed me and was one of the contributing factors to my departure.

    To be fair, I was a poor culture fit for the company in many ways, and am much happier now at NewCompany, which has a diverse staff with a wide range of interests and opinions.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      I wouldn’t have lasted long in that environment, and I would have probably been terrified to come to work every day.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I was there for nearly five years (the last two of which were spent job searching) and it was awful in just about every way that a job can be.

    2. Elizabeth West*


      I have had to listen to numerous conversations about Duck Dynasty, which made me want to puke, but the only time I said anything, I was on the phone with a client and could not hear them because coworkers were laughing about something on the show and had gotten kind of loud. I used my headphones the rest of the time. I sometimes feel like I’m sitting in the wrong section; the IT section is full of nerds, but none sit near me.

  24. Blue_eyes*

    Re: #1 – I’m going to take a much harder line than Alison and most other commenters. I don’t think that extended discussion of deadly weapons is appropriate in the workplace. Asking them to keep talk of guns out of the office (or at least out of the hearing of coworkers who are not part of the conversation) doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Talking about guns isn’t the same as talking about some other hobby. The idea of firearms cannot be entirely divorced from the idea of violence (even if they are just talking about target practice), which is why I find it inappropriate in a work context.

    Unless, of course, your work is related to weapons. For instance, my aunt and uncle own a knife (hunting, utility, decorative, etc.) manufacturing company, so of course they talk about weapons all day, everyday. But that’s obviously to be expected because that’s their business and people who wouldn’t like hearing about it would not take a job there.

    1. Joy*

      I understand what you are saying, but when you start telling people what they can and can’t talk about at work, it can go overboard. Example: Bran loses a loved one in a street racing crash. Ramsey is a muscle car/racing enthusiast and like to talk about fast cars and racing. Listening to Ramsey talk about fast cars and racing makes Bran uncomfortable. Should Ramsey not be allowed to discuss something that interest him? He is not doing it to torture or upset Bran.

      Example 2: Sansa is engaged to marry. The engagement falls through and she is devastated. Marjorie gets engaged soon thereafter and is so excited she wants to talk about it. This is painful for Sansa. Are we going to tell Marjorie she cannot talk about her engagement around Sansa?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Well, Ramsay can talk about cars around me, but he better not talk about his other interests! It’s bad enough reading them in the books! LOL

      2. Blue_eyes*

        The difference between your examples and talking about guns is that in your examples the hobbies are generally benign, but have certain significant and painful associations for individual people. Talking about guns and violence is likely to be uncomfortable for a broad range of people. (I certainly wouldn’t tell Ramsey and Marjorie that they can’t talk about those topics, but it would be considerate of them to keep it to a minimum around Bran and Sansa respectively.)

        I’m also not advocating for the employer to straight out ban talk about guns. I find it inappropriate and think it should be discouraged and that people with that hobby should be considerate of their coworkers who may not want to hear about it.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I think when we get into avoiding triggers, the people that are triggered should respectfully request that the conversations not occur around them and the coworkers should comply. But, we really can’t anticipate all of the triggers out there. There really are few 100% safe topics/words. I don’t see guns as being particularly off limits unless you knew a coworker had been a gun crime victim in the past. Those numbers are actually pretty low and the odds that one of your coworkers was is slim. Someone could have been hit by a car running and triggered by someone talking about training for a marathon. Someone could have been beaten with a golf club and triggered by golf talk. You just never know.

      3. anonfromwork*

        We shouldn’t tell people they’re “not allowed,” but I think it would be kind and thoughtful of Ramsey and Marjorie to be a little quieter about the hobbies and wedding planning around a coworker who’s recently had a related, painful experience. If I were Marjorie’s coworker and I heard her talking excitedly about her engagement for an hour, with Sansa listening nearby, I would absolutely ask her to be more sensitive, which doesn’t require forbidding her from ever mentioning it again. It’s also a nice thing to not subject your coworkers to hours of gun talk if it bothers them.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes, this–it often turns into a debate about “allowed,” but it’s really more a question of manners. There’s no manners cops, and people are legally allowed to be rude. But it doesn’t help co-worker relations any.

    2. Roscoe*

      I think thats too harsh. It is the same as talking about any other hobby. Can someone not talk about their boxing class or their MMA training? Those are “violent”.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think there are things about boxing/MMA that would be appropriate for work and things that wouldn’t. “I had a match this weekend, I won.”–fine. Lengthy descriptions of exactly what blood you caused to gush out of various parts of the opponent’s body, maybe not so fine. In the same way, I think you can talk about going to the shooting range, but not about shooting people in the head.

        1. Roscoe*

          Sure, if you limit it to “please don’t be so graphic” I’m fine with it. Asking them to not talk about guns though is too much.

        2. Joy*

          I agree. If the coworkers are talking about shooting people in the head every single day, then yes, they need to be told to knock that off. I think it’s a case of people talking and not realizing what they are saying can be overheard and that it might upset someone. Plus, all the reports about law enforcement agencies encouraging people to get licensed and carry.

          Honestly, I think if s/he would just ASK, the coworkers would try not to talk about it around her.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I disagree that gun can not be separated from violence I’m in the UK and there is a guy in the office who coaches shooting to semi professionally level I have spoken with him a few times about guns and shooting without any subtext of violence or aggression.

      1. Hotstreak*

        I agree. Most gun talk I hear or participate in ends up being a technical discussion about the relative advantages of single vs double/single vs double/double, or whatever. It would be tasteless to discuss shooting people, and very weird to discuss shooting a target. My impression from the OP’s letter was that they were discussing different reticles, in which case the “bad guy’s head” should have been more politely referred to as the “point of aim”.

  25. Sunflower*

    #5- I think the only way you can expect a raise from getting your masters is if your degree suddenly qualifies you for a job you didn’t qualify for before. I’m thinking if either 1. there is a job at your org that has a stipulation that requires a masters or 2. You got something like an MSW which now makes you qualified to be a social worker as opposed to a case worker or some other job that does not require the MSW. However, in both cases you’re getting the raise because you’d be taking on a new job. Depending on what your master’s is, you might be better off looking for a new position at a different org. I agree with Allison if you decide to stay, wait til the one year mark and don’t use the degree as a reason for deserving the raise.

  26. anonfromwork*

    And for a surprising counterexample on the pay raise question…a family friend who works in engineering recently completed a doctorate in a completely unrelated discipline (social science, research topic has nothing to do with science or engineering). Said family friend went to supervisors, said “I’m a Dr. now,” and got a 20% raise. This really surprised the engineer in my family!

    1. GlorifiedPlumber*

      Ugh… makes me sick thinking about that. If any of the engineers in our 20+ engineering staff pulled that off and it became public or even rumored, I swear the other 19+ would quit.

      Once, 5 years ago, our company paid a measly 2k towards MBA tuition for one engineer doing an evening MBA (the 2k was a perk reserved for “education that advances company goals”) publicly declaring that “Him having an MBA would be good for the department” and there was darn near a revolt.

      My friends who have subsequently quit the company for other jobs in other locations, still to this day bring it up… “Hey, remember when CompanyName paid for JohnnyEngineer’s MBA? What a crock! Total waste of money… I hope they didn’t pay him more afterwards. Ugh I should have quit on the spot when I heard it.”

      Dang engineers are a fickle bunch…

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    I would like to copy Alison’s answer to #5 and retroactively send it to my parents 5-10 years ago, when they were nagging me about getting a master’s degree.

    I don’t have one and I haven’t needed one. They don’t know how much I make but thankfully they have enough of an idea that they have shut up about the idea of me going back to school, finally.

  28. Just a citizen*

    #1- The protocol is that if there’s ever someone (a “bad guy”) who comes in and starts shooting the place up, you want to be with these guys… that is unless your workplace bans guns. Then you’re a sitting duck.

    1. Mike C.*

      Uh, what?? The first thing you want to do is try and get the hell out, shelter in place and then consider fighting back as a last resort. , not run towards people who talk about guns all day long.

      Even if they are packing, the FBI reports that less than 3% of mass shootings are stopped by non-law enforcement with weapons. Most likely they won’t have the training and experience that a professional has to deal with these issues and they’ll confuse the hell out of law enforcement when they arrive.

      I don’t care if people want to carry, but don’t be stupid. There’s a huge difference between shooting and hunting as a hobby and being a trained professional LEO who drills on active shooter situations on a regular basis. I like to talk about fast cars all day, but that doesn’t mean I can jump into a Mercedes W05 and do a few laps at Spa.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. And what if your gun-toting co-worker turns out to be the shooter? Not every guy who says he’s a good guy really is.

      2. Sadsack*

        There was a piece in the daily show recently on exactly this subject. Maybe the show us too liberal for some, but I think it would be hard to argue with this specific segment.

      3. OriginalEmma*

        There was a gun-related workplace violence situation in NYC a few years ago. NYPD shot innocent bystanders during the turmoil. If trained, experienced armed professionals can hurt bystanders, imagine the average joe whose only experience is shooting a target at a range.

      4. Ad Astra*

        Thank you. I get so frustrated with people constantly insinuating (or flat-out declaring) that mass shootings can be prevented by arming a bunch of civilians. Even someone with advanced training may be helpless when someone walks into a room already brandishing a semiautomatic weapon. In most situations, it wouldn’t have helped. In many situations, it would have escalated an already bad situation. Will banning firearms guarantee your employees never get shot at work? No. But it will significantly reduce the likelihood of one of your employees shooting someone at work.

    2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      If there’s a workplace shooting and you have a gun, be prepared for the police to think you’re the shooter and respond accordingly. This happened where I live recently; there was a hostage situation where one of the hostages had a concealed carry, and when he was able to escape the police saw his gun and opened fire. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

      1. Blue Anne*


        I have to say… I grew up with two criminologists. My father specialized in police use of force; he was maybe not THE national expert, but definitely up there. He wrote police training programs to try to avoid this problem, but it still happened. It’s almost inevitable. My father ended up discussing it as an expert witness in so many trials that it paid for my private school. If you are toting a gun as a civilian, there is a decent chance that at some point someone who is NOT a civilian will think you’re hostile and react accordingly.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes. There is specific protocol for them to handle these incidents. That’s one reason they tell you to hold your hands up, open and empty, and not run screeching toward law enforcement when they enter the scene. They are entering an area where they have no clue which person is the threat, so at first, everybody is.

        1. Chinook*

          “That’s one reason they tell you to hold your hands up, open and empty, and not run screeching toward law enforcement when they enter the scene. They are entering an area where they have no clue which person is the threat, so at first, everybody is.”

          This needs repeating. LEO’s want to go home at the end of the day and they know that their mere presence on the scene escalates the situation (it is a literal step on the use of force diagram). They assume everyone is a threat until proven otherwise.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        I had active shooter training years ago, and that was one thing that they said–if you manage to get the gun away from the shooter (which has happened a few times, when someone tackled them or a group rushed them), you absolutely need to get rid of it rather than hanging onto it, because if/when the police show up they are not going to be able to tell ‘active shooter’ from ‘person who just got the gun away from the active shooter.’ The cops doing the training said, throw it across the room, kick it away, if you’re afraid the guy will get it back then throw it out a window or drop it down a stairwell or push something heavy like a bookcase on it or even trap it under a trash can and sit on it, or whatever, but don’t hold onto it, because that will make you look like a shooter and not a bystander/victim to the police. And if the cops arrive while you’re hanging onto it, it will not end well for you.

        I admit that I had never thought of that. I don’t particularly care for guns and don’t use them at all, but without having had that instruction I might have hung onto a gun if I’d somehow miraculously gotten it away from a shooter, just to make sure that they didn’t get it back. Now I know that that is not a great idea.

        This training was by semi-rural cops who were not particularly anti-gun, so I don’t think this is partisan advice, just pragmatic.

    3. fposte*

      We don’t even know if these guys have concealed carry. They like to target shoot outside of work; that doesn’t mean they’ve got guns on them during the work day.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Also a good point!

        And even if they did, and even if they were trained and absolutely knew what they were doing, that still doesn’t mean they’d be ready in an instant if someone shot up the workplace. Because they’re at work, and they’re (theoretically) concentrating on work, not on being on military-style alert. (CONSTANT VIGILANCE! yells Prof. Moody in my head.) When the news reporters were shot, there were some comments about how they could have defended themselves if they’d been armed–well, probably not, because they were working, and concentrating on that.

        In fact, I think a lot of the “shootings in gun-free areas” have been less because it was a gun-free area (which it often really isn’t; there were armed people at the school in Oregon; they chose not to get involved) and more because they were areas where people aren’t on alert. They were working, or studying, or enjoying a performance or party. And I have to say, I don’t really want to live in a world where we’re supposed to be scanning for threats every moment instead of doing those other things. That’s permanent and total war.

        1. fposte*

          Totally agreeing with your last point. We pay a lot less attention to things we’re a lot more at risk of and are okay with that. If you focus your life on defending yourself from unlikely risks, you’re at risk of wasting your life.

        2. Chinook*

          “And even if they did, and even if they were trained and absolutely knew what they were doing, that still doesn’t mean they’d be ready in an instant if someone shot up the workplace.”

          This exact scenario happened in Canada’s parliament just over a year ago. Active shooter ran into the building (after shooting a soldier on ceremonial guard) and was able to push past an armed guard (who shot shooter in the foot) and then into the Centre Block to just outside where the Prime Minister and his cabinet were meeting. The Seargant At Arms, who is unarmed while on duty, was retired police and had his weapon under lock and key in his office. Luckily, he was able to run into his office (which he was next to, get is gun and shoot to kill partially because he was in the right place and right time. There is video of the gun battle in the hall. All of those who fired were trained law enforcement and even then they weren’t able to stop him immediately. I would hate to think what would have happened if there were armed civilians there too.

  29. Nancy Raygun*

    As for #5–This was me at one point. I was lucky enough to get a job in my field (in a law firm library) while I was studying for my Masters in Library Science and I ended up doing professional-level work without the degree after a couple years. The whole time I was being paid as a library assistant, which was pretty low for the type of work I was doing. I happened to get an offer from another firm right when I finished my degree and my performance review came up. I was assured my raise would take my new degree into account, but I didn’t expect much. They clearly didn’t intend to pay me market rate for a job I was already doing for less. I peaced out 2 weeks later and starting working across the street for almost twice as much.

    So if you’re already doing a job that would normally require a degree and you want to make more money, you should probably plan on finding another job. When I resigned the HR director literally shrugged.

    1. SunnyLibrarian*

      “So if you’re already doing a job that would normally require a degree and you want to make more money, you should probably plan on finding another job.”

      I was coming here to say this. A lot of people in Libraries think they get a degree and magically get a raise, even though they were hired as assistants. In the public sphere, normally, you would have to be hired at that position.

  30. Anonymity*

    #4 – I work for a TPA (third party administrator of benefits). Our clients generally get a monthly report that breaks down the claims submitted by each covered employee – it’s basically ‘John submitted these claims on these dates of service for these amounts, and this is how much paid out.’

    1. Judy*

      Claim numbers or the codes that describe the service? And does it specify employee vs family member? Just curious.

      1. Mpls*

        Not OP, but the reports we got would just list a claim in the amount of $x, or a check was issued in the amount of $x. No codes, since it was on the TPA to ensure they claims had qualified status.

  31. RBG*

    #4: If the plan is self-insured, the folks that handle the benefits will be able to see who filed a claim and for what. That includes medical and prescription claims. They should keep the information confidential and only share summary reporting with the executive team. If they are worth their salt, they wouldn’t share it with a manager because that would be a violation.

  32. Brett*

    #5 Should this be approached differently if the hiring process assigned different pay rates depending on your education level? (I’m thinking along the lines of the General Schedule, where having a Master’s at hiring is the difference between a GS-7 or GS-9).
    My workplace actually does bump you for earning a four-year degree because the discretionary hiring min-max is higher if you have a 4-year degree. The catch is that you have to request the increase within 30 days of graduating and we have to be outside of a pay freeze. If you graduate during a pay freeze, you lose the raise permanently.

    This use it or lose it type policy seems to be common around here, but not sure if it is a regionally unique thing. My wife, the former public teacher, permanently lost her pay increase from BA+15 to MA because she graduated during a pay freeze with her district. She would have eventually jumped straight from BA+15 to MA+15 if she had stayed.

  33. Taylor*

    Re: #2, I had a manager whom I had a friendly relationship with. It was the both of us in an office and we would openly chat about work and non-work things throughout the day. She would give me directions/assignments verbally sometimes (“Can you please sketch this teapot design? Thanks!”) then other times would email me (usually something like, “Can you email Wakeen to check on what the status of __ is?” Well, if you write that very email to Wakeen instead of to me asking me to email him, you’ve saved some time, but OK). While she’s sitting next to me. Talking to me. It was weird! I tried to figure out why (was it so she had a paper trail to prove she asked me something? Didn’t seem like it) but ultimately chalked it up to her being kind of a weirdo.

  34. Lanya*

    OP#1 – If you aren’t comfortable listening to a conversation between coworkers, whether the topic is guns, bodily functions, weddings, babies, politics, pets, in-laws, lollipops, gumdrops, etc., simply use headphones or ask them to move their conversation elsewhere like Alison suggested. Gun talk or no gun talk, it’s the fact that they talked about it for “the better part of an hour” that is really the heart of the matter, and totally distracting.

  35. Frieda*

    I almost thought #5 was me! I am also working on a Master’s part-time while working full-time, and I have a similar but slightly different dilemma. My Master’s is only tangentially related to my job, and more than that my partner and I have been planning on moving to the other coast for a few years, so the plan for a while has been to start looking for jobs in a new city related to my degree when I graduate in June.

    The problem is that I LOVE my current job. I just hate living in this city. However, a co-worker recently gossipped to me that our boss told him that their biggest fear is that I will leave when I graduate, and that they’d do “anything” to keep me. Our department has been doing really great things and my boss was recently given a huge promotion, and he’s been very clear that he couldn’t have succeeded without us. And while my partner and I want to move, saving up money for the move has been really difficult, and I worry what we’ll do in the likely scenario that only one of us has a job at first when we move.

    So now I’m wondering if I should present the idea that I would stay for an extra year, for a huge raise (at least around 50%). I figure it can’t hurt, since I was planning on leaving anyway. But how do I approach this discussion? Right now it’s all subtext, since I know that they know that I am planning on leaving but we haven’t talked about it directly. Should I bring it up now, during my annual review in January? I’m not worried about being pushed out early if they know that I’m planning on leaving, since all of my bosses are great and I’m the only one who does my very necessary job. Should I wait until I graduate in June? Should I wait until I have a job offer? I’d rather not have to go through the stress of a cross-country job search if I can help it.

    And how should the conversation go? Should I just be honest about my plans to leave? Should I name the figure I’d need to stay or just see what they come up with? It’s nerve-wracking for me to ask for a raise (as I’m sure it is for many people) and the thought of asking for SO MUCH turns my stomach in knots, but it really would take that much to get me to stay.

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      I would be weary of asking for such a large raise for only staying another year. Would you tell them about this up front or not? You say you’re the only one that does your job, but are you the only one that CAN do it? Also, depending on your field it seems unlikely to get a job offer and then be able to delay starting for a year.

      On top of all of this, you say your degree is only tangentially connected to your job. How tangential are we talking? A 50% raise is significant, especially if the degree is not directly related to your job. “Anything” tends not to actually mean anything. However, good luck!

  36. Not So NewReader*

    For OP 1, I am wondering how any one gets any work done. I would say the same thing if they were discussing meatloaf recipes for an hour. I’d be wondering why I had to sit and work the whole time they were visiting with each other.
    Does their work tie into yours? Can you ask them work related questions every so often and derail the conversation? That might be an interesting angle to consider. I might also consider hiding the dry erase markers. Eh, sometimes if you tweak one little thing, you can gain some inroads. I am not specifically recommending these ideas, but I am encouraging you to look at from different angles and see what you notice. Sometimes odd things can change the picture but you are there and I don’t see everything that is going on.

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