update: my workplace pulled a mean April Fools prank on employees

Remember the letter-writer at the company where, as an April Fools joke, the managers all told employees they were required to work four hours of overtime that night and the following day? And where the HR lady thought it was hilarious that some people “turned white as a sheet”? Here’s the update.

I had commented on the original post on April 2: “I just confided my opinion to my manager about this prank. She talked very condescendingly to me about how ‘release of tension’ and ‘a few laughs’ are necessary in a workplace, and that’s why they came up with a prank for the employees. I agreed with her but said I found that particular idea mean-spirited. Then she told me it was her idea, and basically said the regular employees know to expect this and catch on quickly and the new ones will figure out this tradition. She responded very differently and I had to just backpedal and brown-nose and act dumb to avoid conflict. I really wanted to use the words ‘abuse of power,’ but that would have resulted in another two-hour meeting.

Now, here we are in November already. Where am I now? NO LONGER WITH THIS COMPANY! I was a frequent commenter on all sorts of issues at this toxic, dysfunctional crazy place. The prank incident was just one of many that told me the management does not value its employees at all. Later this year, I learned the following:

1) Wages have been frozen, not even cost of living increases, since 2004 and they’re “finally maybe thinking about possibly doing something about that.”

2) I disclosed my disability to my manager, in confidence, asking her to keep the info to herself for now. I just wanted to explain I have Asperger’s syndrome in order to help her understand some of the communication problems that were developing between us. I also approached her in a mentor role and asked her advice on whether I should put it on record with HR. She strongly discouraged me from doing so. She also tried to make me feel guilty for not disclosing it on my application or during my interview, seeming angry that I had waited months before dropping this bomb on her, and then in the same breath she said she “always knew I was a little different” and went on about her grandchildren with autism and how she knows all about it… WTF?

3) I explained that I would only disclose my disability to HR if I felt I needed to request accommodations in the future (which I was considering), and to cover me under the ADA for any future issues that might come up. My boss got really defensive at the idea that I would be worried about protections under the ADA and went on a spiel about how “nobody treats anybody any differently around here, so why are you worried about being protected?” She then admitted to me that she had disclosed my disability to her boss, the VP of operations in the corporate office – someone I do not work with closely and who hardly even knows me. She told him without my knowledge or permission – she gave away my private medical information to him!

4) They called my emergency contact to locate me on the day I decided impulsively to quit with no notice. My emergency contact was my mother, and my mother filed a missing person report with the police – because I was never expecting my boss to chat with my mom about my whereabouts or my comings and goings from/to work – and my mother herself is disabled in another way, she has paranoid disorder and it caused a HUGE mess in my personal life because my job revealed non-emergency information to my mother. I thought they could only call your emergency contact if you get hurt or killed or go missing on the job.

Yeah, so I walked off that job one day.

I now work for one of my old company’s customers.

Update to the update: The letter-writer has clarified in the comments below that she didn’t no-call/no-show at her job. She writes:

“I was out for two days prior to quitting. I called my manager before and during my time out when I was handling a personal family matter. I was actually on the road with a family member taking them to and from a clinic hundreds of miles away, and during that ordeal my boss knew I was not missing. However the icing on the cake was the fact she kept texting and texting and calling me during the time I was out driving my family member to and from the city and she even came to my home the night I got back into town and knocked on my door. 

There is where all my residual anger about this toxic place kind of caved in and I didn’t answer the door or return any more of her messages that day. I guess that was my final straw. The next morning I went and handed a resignation note to the receptionist and did not speak to my boss or anyone else, and consigned myself to my fate.

It was AFTER I handed in my resignation that I heard through the grapevine that my mother had been phoned by my boss. I don’t know the details of their conversation.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Christy*

    OMG. (As an aside, I would probably find anyone other than your mother to use as an emergency contact if you can.)

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes – your emergency contact should ideally be someone who a) knows you enough to know basic important medical information (e.g. “she’s deathly allergic to peanuts”), b) knows how to get in touch with other people who are important in your life, and c) is clear-headed in a potential crisis. It sounds like your mom probably fits A and B but not C. I think it would be better if your contact were another family member or a friend who could deal with an immediate emergency and then could get in touch with your mom in a way that would be more comforting to your mom.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I love my mother but she is not my emergency contact because she has a huge meltdown if she thinks anything has happened to me. Like, total panic. Not a great quality in an emergency contact. (We’re working on it. She’s better — no longer has a panic attack if I don’t pick up my phone because I’m in the bathroom/at the gym/showering/driving/cooking and my hands are gross — but still not great.)

      Sooooo my emergency contact is my very level-headed boyfriend who knows my parents’ contact info and knows that 1. she doesn’t need to know about some problems until I can tell her myself, and 2. he needs to lead with “Wendy Darling is fine, she’s just _____”.

    3. CE*

      I thought calling emergency contact was common courtesy when someone didn’t come or call into work? When I worked in HR, we called the emergency contact when an employee was four or five hours late, to make sure a family member could go check on them and make sure they were alive and OK.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        I guess that’s understandable. I once had a friend, who was a contractor at my company, call my parents and scare them to death. I was at the car dealership for a service, but she didn’t bother asking anyone on my team where I was (and this was in the days before online calendars were widely used) and decided that this was the thing to do because she talked to her family members 4-5 times/day. Everyone told me I should be glad that she cared, but I was furious, because it could’ve been avoided by simply asking a question.

      2. Pipette*

        This is one of those things that varies with both company and industry, but it would be a good idea to set expectations when you collect the emergency contact information. So let the employee know when you would call their ECs. This will in turn help them make smarter decisions about who to assign as ECs.

      3. Nom d' Pixel*

        I have never worked at a place that did that. Emergency contacts are for alerting someone to meet a loved one at the hospital. Otherwise, it will primarily serve to cause panic and family arguments. At best, it seems like you are trying to get an employee’s loved ones to nag them into being a better employee.

      4. KMS1025*

        exactly how we do it…if someone is a “no show/no call” we try their emergency contact to be sure they are ok. why the heck wouldn’t people call off anyway…its just being polite to not be “in the wind”???

        1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

          Because you’re not an investigator, and you don’t have any actual responsibility to “find out what happened”. You’re putting your very tangible (to you) and immediate concern that they are not at work over the possible risks of prematurely alerting their emergency contact. If they don’t show up, they should be fired / appropriately handled in another way, but it is not the employer’s responsibility to track anyone down or alert the authorities (and I’m saying that if they don’t have any reason to think there’s something wrong; if they do, then of course they should tell someone).
          I just would err on the more reasonable side (especially if they only haven’t shown up for a few hours !!) and assume it was more likely someone lost a phone and couldn’t get to one. Is a non-tragedy more or less probably than a tragedy, given what I know? Certainly wouldn’t use it as a blanket policy.

          Side note, my mother is WAY more level headed than I am, and I know if she were contacted she would assume I’m ok but still reach out to me herself. I would assume she is on her death bed and use every source at my disposal to find her; but she is not a coworker.

      5. annonymouse*

        Except OP had handed in a resignation letter.

        I’m assuming it’s an “at will” state so OP in theory was free to go after that.

        Where I’m from its a legal requirement in most places to give 2 weeks notice – except for egregious behaviour.

    4. littlemermaid*

      I once called my mum from the company landline (we’re allowed to do that) and she didn’t pick up. She then panicked and called back 5 times while I was in a meeting. She could see that the number was from the area, where I live but wasn’t my private one. So she assumed that something must have happened and that the company was trying to reach her.

      Even though she KNOWS that she’s not my emergency contact. I live abroad and mum doesn’t speak English, so she’d be useless as a contact just because of that. But she also panics.

      My main contact is a local friend – and my secondary contact is my sister. And I also made it very clear to only contact my sister, when it’s VERY serious. Broken legs don’t count.

      So yeah. If you have someone else, maybe replacing mum as a contact would be a good idea. They generally mean well, but can be weird in a crisis.

  2. misplacedmidwesterner*

    Yay! I’m glad you’re out of there! Hope your new job is a much better fit, less crazy people and awful jokes.

    One thing though, I’m going to disagree a tiny bit on the emergency contact part. If I had an employee who didn’t show up to work one day with no notice who previously had been completely reliable, I might panic. (Especially if I knew that employee lived alone, I have lots of fears of people falling down and getting injured and no one finding them for days. Or worse) I would probably wait half a day, run through all the contact methods I had for them, but by the end of the day I’d be considering contacting their emergency contact.

    This actually happened to me last month and my employee called me back as I was about to hit send on various emergency contact info things. (She had a really good reason for not getting in touch with me before.) My husband thinks I over react to these and read too many sensational news stories. But I stand by it.

    1. Anna*

      Agreed. OP clearly made the correct decision to leave, just maybe not in the best way possible. Without notice means you don’t give two weeks, not that you just don’t show up and don’t communicate. Just something to think about for the future. Although hopefully you’ll never find yourself in a position where you have to leave because clearly people are without any reason.

      Great that you’re out of there, OP. Your manager has an utter lack of consideration and sounds like she may be generally a terrible human being.

    2. Murphy*

      Yup. I would likely think about calling an emergency contact too in that scenario.

      I’ve also been contacted by my husband’s boss once. My husband was working from home and not responding to his boss (Goggle Chat, text, calls). I (heavily pregnant) rushed home to make sure my husband wasn’t laying dead of a heart attack in our basement to find that his phone was dead and our internet out neighbourhood-wide (he was happily working away on a report off-line and didn’t even realize anyone was trying to get in touch with him). I always felt that was a perfectly appropriate use of the emergency contact info. I also thought it was a perfectly appropriate use of the shin-kick for making me worry unnecessarily.

        1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

          Yes, if my fiance says “i’ll be home in 10 minutes” by 15 minutes I’m mourning his death and trying to figure out how to break the news to his mother. Every. Single. Time.

          1. misplacedmidwesterner*

            The first time my husband drove back to work after our baby was born, I made him text me when he got to the office because OMG he was clearly going to DIE and then I was raising a baby alone. My anxiety has subsided somewhat.

            Just a general PSA to the world at large: Postpartum Anxiety is a real thing but it is even less well known than postpartum depression and no one warned me it could happen. I didn’t know it was a possibility and didn’t have a label for how I felt for far too long, just thought I was worrying more than normal.

            1. Murphy*

              Is that not normal? My kid is now 13 months old and I still ask my husband to let me know when he gets to work if he’s driving (but I was in a very serious car accident a number of years ago and I know how quickly life can change).

              1. misplacedmidwesterner*

                For me it was that AND waking up in the middle of the night to check the baby’s breathing and that the stove wasn’t on and the garage door was closed. And being late to work every day after my maternity leave because I’d get halfway there and drive home to check stove/garage door/etc. And other things like that.

                We both have iphones and use the “find my friends” app (which is an apple app but you have to download it, they don’t install it for you). It shows you where a person is when you look, but not everywhere they have been. You can put notifications on for when the leave/arrive at a location. It keeps me from texting him to see if he has left work yet. My sitter also has me on it and she sometimes sets an alert for when I leave work so she can start packing up the kiddo. It’s got pretty good privacy controls and we are pretty happy with it.

            2. Jack*

              And it’s not limited to moms either – other primary caregivers can have it. In my case, my daughter is almost eighteen months and I still haven’t recovered fully from the way it blew up my anxiety disorder.

              1. John Smith*

                Indeed. My son is 7 now, so I’m mostly over it, but I still get worried for no reason sometimes, and up until he was about 2, it was worse

            3. Gecko*

              Thanks for the psa. I got it after my 3rd baby (now 9 months old). I didn’t even know it was a thing.

      1. Sandy*

        I wish my office had done this. I called in sick one morning and the person I left a message for never checked her voicemail. People were asking all day where I was and she was just telling people she didn’t know and hadn’t heard from me, I just hadn’t shown up. I’ve worked here nine years and have never been so much as five minutes late without advance notice to someone. A person in another department finally called me on her afternoon break to check on me. I was absolutely furious my employee had been saying I was a no call/no show all morning to anyone who asked. She was given a lecture and written up for not checking her voicemail (she was in a very customer service focused position and not responding to voicemail within 4 hours was a violation of policy). Still makes me mad when I think about it.

    3. INTP*

      Hmm, I initially read this as the OP decided to quit with no notice period and they tattled to her mother, not that she didn’t tell them she was quitting. I do think it’s appropriate to call an emergency contact if you no-call no-show. I’m getting morbid here (I listened to a lot of 48 Hours while doing busywork this week) but if people live alone or with roommates, coworkers could be the only people to notice they had gone missing within a day or two. (Obviously they should attempt to get in touch with you first, and only contact anyone else if you don’t answer.)

        1. Winter is Coming*

          Same thing happened here. We found her on a Monday morning, and they think she did sometime Saturday. I would definitely call an emergency contact if a few hours had gone by with no word.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Odd story. I worried about my father living alone in the boonies. He loved it there but it was no place for a senior with health issues. He managed things somehow. On his last bout of illness he called an ambulance. He went to the hospital and stayed there until his passing a month later. He did tell me, “This time wasn’t like the other times. I knew I needed help.”

              A few things I never counted on happened here. One was his intuition telling him to dial for help. Another seemed to be almost his sheer force of willpower not to die alone. And lastly, something my aunt and I used to talk about a lot: The very thing we fear the most almost never comes true. Usually what happens is a much tamer and more manageable version of the story line.

              I sincerely doubt you will be alone, when you most need help, EW. Someone will come.

              1. Ruffingit*

                This makes me want to start collecting phone/email info for the regulars around here. I definitely notice when one of the regs isn’t posting as much or at all and I always hope they are ok.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  They’re right, Elizabeth. Karma has that fate reserved for me in about ten years….so it’s already taken.

        2. xarcady*

          This happened at OldJob. Co-worker did not show up or call after taking a day off for some medical tests. When the doctor’s office called to work to ask him why he hadn’t shown up, my supervisor called his landlord. He hadn’t made it to the tests.

          His emergency contact was his elderly, frail mother, so they didn’t contact her until after they knew what was going on.

          One of the nicest guys I’ve known. It still makes me sad.

        3. Oryx*

          Yes, that happened to the man living next to me. He lived alone and had died and they only knew because he didn’t show up for work so they sent someone to the apartment (he worked for the leasing company).

        4. ashleyh*

          yup – a couple jobs ago our PT admin didn’t come in on Monday which wasn’t abnormal…but then when she didn’t come in on Tuesday we were worried. We called her emergency contact (who was out of state – not helpful), and then the police – she had passed away in her sleep sometime over the weekend.

        5. TheLazyB (uk)*

          My cousin was worried about his housemate. His other housemates all told him he was worried over nothing. When he cousin broke down the door the guy was still alive but it was too late to save him. So, that was horrible.

          I can’t remember why he’d collapsed, it was years ago now.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had one boss say, “I’m not your mother. Not up to me to figure out if something is wrong.”

        I have never worked for such a cold-hearted person in my life.

        I have a theory, that when some people die alone it is supposed to be one final lesson. Not everyone, and not all the time. But some people are being shown one final lesson.

        Another boss never put through an emergency call from a family member who was on a long road trip. I said, “After all the times, I have made sure you have gotten all your personal messages, I get ONE call, it’s an emergency and you cannot tell me?” I pointed out that this the stuff that news articles are made out of.

        1. Blurgle*

          Anyone who’s worked in palliative care can tell you that many, many people choose to die alone. It’s surprisingly common, especially among older women who don’t want to distress their children by dying in their presence.

          I would guess your “lesson” encompasses about 0.001% of those who die alone.

          1. Ruffingit*

            The lesson is to check on people, care about others, notice when you haven’t seen your neighbor for awhile.

            1. Boo*

              Really? I hope you’re right. The implication I took from “one final lesson” after the cold hearted boss anecdote was that somehow, some people dying alone is some sort of twisted karma for their not being nicer while alive. I suppose this struck a nerve for me because I live alone; I have plenty of great friends and family but the reality is that if I died, it would probably take my work to call my emergency contact before anyone realised something was wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m reaping what I’m sowing. It’s just how things are for me and the increasing number of people who do live alone.

        2. The Strand*

          I would hate to think that. A colleague of mine died alone earlier this year. He was a sweet man who had been there for his family, friends, and colleagues his whole life. He had assistants who had worked for him for years who considered him like a second father.

    4. Koko*

      As someone who lives alone and hopes my dead body will be discovered before my cats eat my face – or even better, hopes that I’ll be found injured before I die – I thank you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Or dogs. This is such an old story that there is even vague reference to it in the bible. I think the animals have to be there untended for days before this happens, thought.

      2. Misc*

        Cats, ha. It’s chickens you need to watch out for. My chickens will wander in, chase off the cats, and eat me within hours if I die.

      3. starsaphire*

        Oh, the cats here are way too finicky for that. ;)

        And I know I won’t die alone; I’m sure that at 80 I’ll still need to have roommates to help cover the rent. They can find me. ;)

    5. Meredith*

      Yes, one of my boyfriend’s direct reports no-showed, no-called for a day or two, and she wasn’t picking up her phone. The HR department called her emergency contact – her mother. She had just decided she was quitting and didn’t tell anyone. I think it’s entirely reasonable that an employer would reach out to an emergency contact in this scenario, just to make sure the employee hasn’t been hit by a bus or something. They should have tried to contact you first, though – hopefully they did!

      I agree that maybe your mother might not be the best person to be an emergency contact for you. Can you find another person to do this?

      1. JTD*

        I’m not entirely clear if the OP actually told the company they quit. If they had, and they called their mother, that’s awful. But if they hadn’t and just disappeared, I think the company was quite reasonable to call their emergency contact.

        I had a similar thing – someone didn’t come in one day, no message, nothing.

        We had to ask HR to contact his emergency contact because we were worried to bits about him – newly moved to our city, so no other contacts that we knew of, and we knew he’d had serious health problems a few years earlier.

        Thankfully, he wasn’t dead or horribly injured. But it was a scary time – more than a day before we heard he was okay. And yes, HR’s initial call did worry his elderly mother, but that was the only contact info the company had. He quit too.

        I now feel very strongly about this – if you’re going to disappear off the radar, let someone know! Our lovely HR woman (this company had many flaws, but our HR department was excellent and supportive) was understandably freaking at having to ask an 80-something woman “have you heard from your son?”

        1. Pixie Stix*

          Oh man. On HR and Things That Should Not Be Done:

          I was fired from a job– they called my mother to tell her they had fired me. There was no reason to do that and it still pisses me off some ten years later.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            OH. MY. GOD. Pixie, WTAF???? @Alison: would Pixie have had a case for legal action? If a company fired me, even if I deserved it, and they called a parent, I’d be LIVID!!!!!!!!!!

    6. Angela*

      I originally read this as she was a no call no show, but when I re-read, I thought maybe she just quit with no notice as she acknowledged that contacting your emergency contact would be reasonable if you went missing.

      Personally, if I don’t show for work and no one can reach me within a couple of hours, I’d like to think they’d contact my emergency contact as something has most likely happened.

      1. Zillah*

        A couple hours? That’s a little extreme, IMO. While I absolutely agree that it’s appropriate to call someone’s emergency contact when they don’t show up, calling my emergency contact after a couple hours would actually raise some… not red flags, but orange ones, I guess? for me. People can be running that late for a lot of reasons that aren’t sinister. It’s obviously a performance problem and cause for some concern, but I wouldn’t put it at the level of calling an emergency contact absent further information. (If you know that someone has been sick or injured, for example, that’s a different story.)

        I also read the letter as the OP quitting with no notice, not just NCNS-ing.

        1. Zillah*

          Hmm. I’ve read some more responses, and I can sort of see where you’re all coming from, too. I guess on further reflection, it depends on the person’s circumstances – I’d likely be a lot more proactive with someone who I knew was older, had health problems, and/or lived alone. I certainly don’t think it would be out-of-line to call the same day, either – it just feels like overkill to call at 10:30 or 11 when you were expecting the person at 9.

          1. fposte*

            It really depends on the situation and the relationship and even who the emergency contact is, but there are definitely people whose home or spouse I’d call if they were two hours late and I hadn’t heard from them.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I agree. Sometimes the deciding factor for me is just knowing what the person has going on in life. If they have a lot of “life stuff” sick family member, other personal problems, I would tend to reach out a bit quicker just as a safety check.

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            I’d also be more likely to call if the person were usually prompt. The more out-of-character it is, the more likely something is actually wrong. I’d also of course try to call the employee’s cell and house phone first, and only go to an emergency contact if I still couldn’t reach them.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            One very sweet person bailed me. We had a boss that would change your schedule and never tell you. One day I was “15 minutes” late for work. My sweet coworker instantly understood, that something could be horribly wrong, so she called me. I was always a bit early for work, I lived a very short distance away, so the commute was a non-issue. Putting this in with other things, she knew something was off. She did not realize the boss had changed the schedule (you could not tell by looking at it) and I did not realize the schedule had been changed.

            1. Zillah*

              The bar for contacting the person is much lower, IMO, than contacting the emergency contact – that situation makes total sense to me.

            2. The Strand*

              In those scenarios, it’s at least a good thing that you coworkers looked out for one another.

              Shame on that boss. Hope you both are somewhere better.

          4. JessaB*

            Depends on the person, someone like me, my sister calls me pathologically early. If it’s 20 minutes late and you know me, someone is going to check because seriously, if I have car troubles or traffic, I will bloody call someone. If I am not to your thing or to work early? There’s a problem, that’s worth a phone call to someone who can check. Now I will probably park at your driveway til it’s closer to the party time, but if you look out the door 20 minutes early and I’m not waiting til it’s socially acceptable to ring your bell? Find out why.

            You really need to know the person.

    7. KS*

      But one wonders if they tried to contact HER first? My boss surely would try emailing or calling me before jumping to “emergency.”

      1. misplacedmidwesterner*

        It wasn’t clear if she just didn’t give notice or didn’t show up. But it was the line about: “Yeah, so I walked off that job one day.” that made me think she either walked away and didn’t tell anyone or just never showed up. And if they had tried to call her, I could see her not bothering to answer. Or not having on her cell phone or not having a cell phone (which might explain why her mother was not able to track her down either).

    8. Elizabeth*

      I think it’s good to have those concerns! An ex-coworker of mine passed away a month ago, on a Sunday, and she wasn’t found until Tuesday morning when someone finally got in touch with her emergency contact. She was always reliable about letting people know when she wasn’t in the office, but somehow no one got worried until the second day she was absent.

      1. Anon for This*

        Ugh, yeah, a very close family member lives alone, in a town where they don’t know anyone, across the country from the rest of us. This family member does not currently work outside of home either. To say I worry about situations like this is an understatement. I’ve asked them to make some casual friends in their town that could serve as an emergency contact, but they tell me I worry too much…

    9. Shannon*

      Agreed with all of this.

      OP, as far as your company is concerned, you did “go missing.” I don’t have any statistics on hand about this, but, I’d imagine a fair number of people who are truly found to be missing or dead were reported that way because their work noticed their absence. Unless you had cause to fear for your safety while giving notice, you should have at least told your boss that you were quitting.

      Good luck in your future jobs and I hope you find a place that is less dysfunctional.

    10. Erika*

      I would like to ditto on the calling-an-emergency-contact thing. I’ve had an employee who actually died over the weekend and because he lived alone, no one even knew until he didn’t come in to work that Monday. The first thing we did was call his emergency contact – who, it turned out, lived in another state. After that, we actually drove over there to find out if he was okay because (this was a very tight-knit organization) NO ONE had heard from him all weekend. It turned out he went home, began running a bath, and died before he got into it. It was extremely upsetting. This was five years ago and I still miss him.

      TL;DR? Your emergency contacts may very well be called if you don’t come in to work. At the very least, if your mom will continue to be your emergency contact and you decide to walk off the job, call her first!!

    11. Sans*

      I’ve unfortunately had experiences (yes, plural) of people not showing up at work who lived alone, and it was discovered the next day that they had died in their house, alone. So, yeah, I might use the emergency number, too.

    12. AnonAnon*

      I think the no-call, no-show thing is somewhat industry dependent, though. Which is to say, there’s no industry were it’s not rude and inconsiderate to quit without some sort of notification, but there are industries and orgs where it still happens. Frequently. (I worked in low-paying food service and hospitality for years, and especially where work is irregular, like seasonal sporting venues and catering, it happens a lot.) If OP was in one of them, and witnessed co-workers quit via no-show, and watched other bosses correctly interpret their silence as quitting, I could see how they would be shocked that their manager jumped to calling an emergency contact. I’d be surprised too, in some industries. (Not in my current industry.)

      Although I still can’t see how they could think it’s right to quit via ghosting. It’s your job, not a disappointing OKCupid first date. Pick up the phone and tell them you’re through.

      1. Trainer*

        I agree with the industry comment. I work at a call center and people no call, no show all the time here. It drives me crazy. I had someone who had serious medical issues and she disappeared one day. We were very concerned, had the police do a welfare check, and everything. A month later she finally reached out to one of her friends to say that she’d moved to a different city. While we were, of course, relieved that she was OK, we were pretty angry that she didn’t have the courtesy to tell anyone what had happened. Usually people’s friends will tell us that they have a new job or something so at least we aren’t worried.

    13. irritable vowel*

      A long time ago, I had a very reliable employee who didn’t show up for work for a couple of days in a row and was unreachable by phone or e-mail. I knew she lived alone and also that she had two cats. I didn’t have emergency contact information for her (this was through the university where we were both grad students)–in retrospect I should have contacted the graduate school and let them handle it but I was young…I called around to a couple of hospitals in the area and found out through one of those “we can’t tell you if she’s here or not” conversations that she was receiving psychiatric care. I just left a message saying that I was glad to know she was safe and if she needed me to feed her cats to contact me. Several months later she thanked me for it, so I know they gave her the message (we didn’t speak about it other than that).

    14. Sigrid*

      Medical student here, spent three months this summer working in the emergency department. In that three month span, during my shifts alone, at least six people ended up in our emergency room — and not the morgue — because their work called someone when they didn’t show up.

    15. Chinook*

      “If I had an employee who didn’t show up to work one day with no notice who previously had been completely reliable, I might panic.”

      I have had worked with a colleague who didn’t show up for work one day, lived alone and had a deadly allergy. She also wasn’t answering her phone. So, we called her emergency contact (her parents in another town) and they knew someone who could go and knock on her door. turned out she took cold meds and slept through her alarm and phone but she was grateful we checked. Of all the things your employer did wrong, this was not one of them.

    16. Chinook*

      “This actually happened to me last month and my employee called me back as I was about to hit send on various emergency contact info things. (She had a really good reason for not getting in touch with me before.) My husband thinks I over react to these and read too many sensational news stories. But I stand by it.”

      We did this to an employee last month. He is 65+ and lives in the boonies with his wife. He always comes in to work or tells us when he doesn’t. Then one day he didn’t. No answer at home or on his cell or to emails. His wife is his emergency contact and no answer from her. We were just about to call the cops for a wellness check when he finally called back. Turns out he had mentioned in passing the week before that he was taking his wife into the city for an appointment and he had turned his phone off. We asked him to, in the future, send us his time off requests via email so we wouldn’t think him lying in a ditch somewhere. Luckily, he still laughs about how loved he feels here. :)

      1. Chinook*

        If I sound like I overreact like this a lot (2 stores so far), it is because my cousin’s best friend was missing for a week before anyone thought it was strange. they only ever found his backpack (complete with an uncashed birthday cheque) floating in an inlet in Vancouver. We all still wonder if he, or atleast his body, would have been found if someone had looked sooner.

    17. knitchic79*

      For reasons that are horrible/hilarious I did not show up to work one day. I never just don’t show up. My work never called my husband, so he had no idea I was MIA. When I finally was able to get in touch with him he was not amused. I kinda told off my boss the next day…the whole situation could have ended much worse.

    18. Artemesia*

      When a colleague of ours didn’t show up with no notice, we had two people go to his home to check on him. He was dead. This is a not rare occurrence. It is inconsiderate to quite with no notice (not necessarily without two weeks notice, but without at least letting the boss know you are not coming in by choice.)

      1. chocolatechipcookie*

        In the hopefully unlikely event this comes up for me, if the person being checked on doesn’t answer the door and you don’t have someone with a key, at that point what do you do?

  3. Merely*

    By “no notice”, do you mean you told your boss you were quitting effective immediately and not serving a two week notice period, or do you mean you no call / no showed?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, I’m confused about that, as well.

      If she told her boss she was quitting effective immediately, then it’s a little weird that they would call her mom. But if it was a no call/no show, I’d be calling the emergency contact, also, if I had exhausted other means to get in touch.

      1. Dude*

        It’s such an unprofessional move that I have to assume LW shares the blame in some or all of this. That and the comment about the company freezing 2004 wages – it’s your own responsibility to know your value on the market and whether you owe yourself & your family to leave. The company can decide to underpay if it wants, at the cost of lower quality employees.

  4. Terra*

    I’m glad you’re happier now.

    The last one wasn’t that unreasonable although they should have called you first if they didn’t. If they did and you didn’t respond then for all they knew you were in the hospital, in a car accident, etc. Part of the reason even companies that have unlimited vacation/leave usually have a call in policy is because if you were to say get into a major traffic accident on the way to work they not only have to find someone to do your job, they also may have some liability or be sued even if they don’t, and ideally they’ll be concerned about it due to some level of human empathy.

    Your boss disclosing your disability may also have been a legal issue of double checking that there wasn’t a legal requirement for her to tell HR or some other issue. It’s unfortunate but in most companies you can’t really disclose things like that to just one person because they often are required to tell other people either by law or company policy. The main point is that they should not generally disclose it to people at the same or lower level than you unless you need some sort of accommodation in which they are involved.

    1. majigail*

      I can see definitely looping my superiors in if an employee had a disability issue that they were considering requesting accommodations for, whether or not they planned on bringing HR into it. The key is tone and what that conversation was. I assume the intent was not to gossip (I may be wrong here, because this manager does sound like a bit of a tool in other ways). If it was merely to CYA and matter of fact, I think it’s actually necessary.

      1. Terra*

        I hope it was professional since the OP mostly just seemed upset that it was disclosed at all and didn’t mention anything about negative comments. It sucks but I’ve unfortunately both had a co-worker who sued because they claimed that they disclosed a disability verbally to their boss and weren’t offered reasonable accommodation and been the co-worker who gets told the information in confidence that I then have to disclose for legal/ethical reasons.

        Sadly once you disclose something in a work setting it’s no longer private information which is why there’s so much advice about what you have to disclose and how to keep it as vague as possible so you don’t have to just flat out say I have an ASD if it makes you uncomfortable.

        1. Chinook*

          “Sadly once you disclose something in a work setting it’s no longer private information which is why there’s so much advice about what you have to disclose and how to keep it as vague as possible so you don’t have to just flat out say I have an ASD if it makes you uncomfortable.”

          I have to echo this. As much as I am a colleague and even a friend, I work for the company and, if what you are telling me could affect the company, then I may feel responsible to tell someone above me. The fact that the OP’s boss told their boss and not a colleague makes me think they ran it up the chain of command to help rather than to gossip.

          1. Dude*

            COULD NOT AGREE MORE. If you ever choose not to inform your boss (or company leadership) of information you have learned, then that is a choice YOU have made. If you are seriously operating in the best interests of your company you have no business making that choice.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t see a problem with OP’s boss speaking to her immediate boss. Now, if the VP spread that info around, I could have an issue with that. But there have been times where I have had to tell my boss something a subordinate disclosed. My reasoning was I wanted to handle matters in the most fair way possible. I knew the answers were not inside my head, so I had to go talk to someone. I think intent does matter here. And intent can be “proven” by who the boss discloses to- such as a person with more knowledge or more authority.

      And I must add, I told the subordinate before they launched into the details, that I may or may not be able to promise confidentiality. So they knew before they started telling me. If they hesitated, I assured them that I would let them know what I was doing as I did it. I never had anyone change their mind, they continued on telling me what they wanted me to know.

  5. Guy*

    “They called my emergency contact to locate me on the day I decided impulsively to quit with no notice.”

    This whole thing makes me question more of this than I’d like.

    “if you get hurt or killed or go missing on the job”

    Didn’t that happen?

    1. fposte*

      As noted above, it’s not clear if the OP essentially called in a quit on the day or was a no-call, no show, but I agree that if she was NCNS then calling her emergency contact was an appropriate and predictable response.

    2. Liane*

      I originally read this as meaning, “Job called my mom for no good reason and got her extremely upset. That was the last dysfunctional straw, so I quit that same day.” I think now I probably misread, but that last paragraph is not the clearest.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        That’s how I’m reading it too – I think maybe the explanation is a bit muddled? But that last part makes me think OP hadn’t quit until after they called the emergency contact.

  6. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I thought they could only call your emergency contact if you get hurt or killed or go missing on the job.

    But if I’m reading this right, you did go “missing on the job.” This seems like an appropriate use of the emergency contact information, though I agree with Christy above that you may want to consider listing someone else as your contact.

    Either way, it sounds like a great thing that you got out of there. Congrats on your new job, and here’s hoping it’s a better fit!

  7. INTP*

    Ugh. I hate them. I’m glad you found another job.

    That attitude is a large part of why I never disclose my ADHD at work, even if the alternative is looking dumb sometimes (because people don’t know why I can’t just remember a process without writing it down, etc). You never know who will be horrible and not even realize they’re being horrible. I mean, I’m sure that as a grandmother to children on the ASD spectrum, she fancies herself aware and inclusive, but her behavior says otherwise.

    1. Anon 594*

      Cosign – I too have diagnosed ADHD and write out all processes! Helps with remembering all the details and keeping my mind focused – by giving me a process to always go back to when I get distracted by my mind or interrupted by others.

    2. Rana*

      Heck, I do too, and as far as I know, I don’t have ADHD. I just know that I’m not going to be able to remember a bunch of small details, especially if it’s for the sort of process that doesn’t happen daily.

    3. SystemsLady*

      I have it as well. Everybody knows by now if they tell me something it’s going on a list, a calendar, or a post it note! It’s how I survived before I even know I had it.

      I had to disclose it to one client after I was diagnosed – finally getting it treated fixed an issue I had working in rooms where more than two conversations were going on, one she tried to work around for me. But it was actually a conversation I had with this client about my reaction to coffee that caused me to get checked, so it was a special case.

      There’s just so much misinformation out there about ADHD and the autism spectrum alike, especially how they’re caused or treated. Almost even more so among people with relatives with those diagnoses, unfortunately.

    4. Cactus*

      I don’t even have ADHD, but I also have to write everything out when it comes to new processes. I have a big Word Doc cheat sheet on my work computer. You don’t look stupid–or if you do, so do a lot of people. I’d much rather write things down once than have to ask for repeat instructions.

      And the thing about the grandkids made my skin crawl–it made me think she was going to infantilize the OP.

  8. Harryv*

    I’m not sure I side completely with OP on this one.. The prank sure, but the incidents pursuing…not so sure.

    1. TL -*

      The contacting of the emergency contact could have been fine, depending on the circumstances (and they had no way of knowing that her emergency contact would have paranoia issues), but the handling of the Asperger’s diagnosis was way off track.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, I have AS too and am reading this story with some level of horror. This, right here: one of the reasons I haven’t disclosed at work yet.

    2. Observer*

      You really think that the boss handled the OP’s disclosures well? Or that zero raises in over 10 years is reasonable? All together this sounds like a really bad place to work.

      About the only thing they got right here was the emergency call.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        When I was in academia there hadn’t been cost of living increases or raises in like 8 years. I didn’t realize how abnormal that was until I got out.

      2. Green*

        The boss said some inappropriate things and should have done a better job setting expectations about the Asperger’s disclosure, but the disclosure up the chain wasn’t necessarily inappropriate. In using her disability to explain some of her communication issues, OP could have been viewed as requesting an accommodation and it is perfectly reasonable for them to wan to check that out with the appropriate VP. I think there are some problems with this manager, but I don’t know that I necessarily side with the OP on everything either. (The weird joke though, I definitely agree with OP on.)

        1. Observer*

          It’s not just that the manager disclosed up the chain, though it’s hard to see why she did so – the OP did say that she was not asking for accommodation yet. Considering that she discouraged the OP from disclosing to HR, and got all defensive about why OP would even need to think about being protected by the ADA, it’s hard to believe that she was looking for the proper way to handle ADA etc. The fact that she discouraged the OP from talking to HR is problematic, especially since she did discuss it with her VP – what’s going on there? And the rest of what the OP describes in regard to that interaction is just out of line.

          1. Zillah*

            I agree. I can sort of see talking to her boss if she was concerned about ADA obligations, but it seems pretty clear that that wasn’t her motivating factor.

          2. Green*

            It could have been a de facto request for accommodation, even if she’s saying (to us, now) that she’s not “officially” asking for an accommodation (because under the law, it doesn’t need to be some “official” process). You can’t ask someone to consider a disability as part of considering your performance and expect that it is confidential. And the boss seems to be disappointed that OP thought she needed to protect herself from them, not that she disclosed. Boss is totally out of line, but OP also has some communication issues (potentially as a result of their disability) and perhaps unreasonable expectations on at least some aspects of the workplace.

            1. Green*

              My TL;DR is that I would have thought it much more outrageous if boss had disclosed the OP’s disability DOWN the chain (with peers, etc.) rather than up.

    3. Rmric0*

      I think in the context I can read it as a boss that has a pretty out-of-touch style. Though I feel like there is a gap between a dummy boss and quitting without notice

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I was working in the federal government when I confided in a former boss (a public official) that sometimes I struggled with fully understanding the public policies and legislation that my office dealt with.  As in, I wasn’t a blithering idiot, but a lot of issues are very complex, nuanced, and are entrenched in history.  Couple that with a busy legislative day, and it can be overwhelming.  Sometimes I didn’t get all of it or I’d goof a date or get a detail wrong.  (I have an MA in this stuff!)

    A few months later, my boss started criticizing me a lot publicly and privately.  She’d question my “intellectual curiosity” and criticize the questions I would ask in meetings.  When I got self-conscious, because hey maybe my questions were demonstrating my ignorance on the issue, I got quiet and saved my questions for when she wasn’t around.  Boss then criticized me for not asking enough questions and circled back to me not being “intellectually curious” enough.

    I give the Boss credit though.  She never blabbed my secret; she did something way worse than that.

    I’d ask why, but I’m guessing there’s no answer.

    1. Arbynka*

      I am sorry you had to go thru that. What your boss did was low, mean, sneaky and overall shitty. She could have given you some tips on how to make navigating thru policy easier, tips to make dealing with details easier, she could have encourage you, she could have done many positive things, instead she decided to exploit and pick on your confession. My guess is she did it because she is low and shitty person. I really don’t see any other explanation for treating someone like that.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      She did it because she could. Knowledge is power and secrets are a show of trust. She has power but she is not trustworthy.
      My guess would be is that she privately felt like a powerless person. One way she could affirm that power was by beating you up verbally.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Crap…my post got away from me.
        I wanted to add- I am sorry this happened to you. I am glad you got out of there.

  10. LH*

    Yikes, so many boundary violations all around. I am furious on your behalf that your manager would disclose something so private to someone else without your permission. Maybe I’d be OK with her asking the VP how to best manage someone with Asperger’s, but not outright identifying you and your personal situation!

    As for #4, a similar thing happened to a friend of mine. HR decided to call her after hours to let her know she was fired (aka don’t come in tomorrow morning). When she didn’t pick up her phone, they called her mother (her emergency contact) in ANOTHER STATE to pass along the news and basically incite panic that her daughter *might* be missing. Completely agree with you that these calls should be limited to injury/death/crisis.

    Glad you are out of there now! As an aside, how’s the new job treating you?

    1. Jerzy*

      Oh, wow. Calling someone else and leaving a message about someone being fired! That’s ridiculous!

      “Hi, is this Jane’s mom? Yeah, so, she’s fired. And she might be missing. You might want to look into that. Later!”

    2. Anna*

      Actually, it’s not entirely the responsibility of the boss not to share that information if it impacts something like accommodations. The boss doesn’t actually have to come to the OP and ask if it’s okay to talk to a higher up to discuss how to accommodate her disability. That would lead to insanity. However, if the OP wasn’t asking for an accommodation and was trying to explain some of the apparent communication issues they may be having, it’s not okay to discuss it as gossip with anyone.

      1. Terra*

        The problem is that there can be potential legal implications as to who knew what and when they knew it when it comes to disabilities, especially if there happens to be a lawsuit. A lot of companies have a policy because of that requiring you to make a report to your manager/HR as soon as it’s disclosed for CYA purposes. It doesn’t matter if you’re requesting accommodations or not as much as it matters that there’s a record so that someone can’t later claim that an action was taken out of bias.

        1. Green*

          Yes. People think things are “private” that are not, particularly once you’ve voluntarily disclosed something.

        2. LH*

          Not ask permission per se, but the manager could have given OP a head’s up that they should all sit down with HR and explore available accommodations together (whether OP chooses to purse them or not) rather than blind side her after the fact.

          From what I read here, her manager seems to imply that she would not have been hired if she had disclosed this during the application/interview process. And then there’s the micro-aggressions as her manager dismissed her ADA concerns…scary stuff. She might change her tune if she realized that just 17% of people with disabilities are employed in the workforce compared to 64% of non-disabled (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

          I hate to say it but OP’s experience highlights why so many people with “invisible” disabilities choose to remain closeted if they can. It’s bad enough that some job ads are written with unnecessarily exclusionary language. They’re written in such a way that it makes it easy to exclude anyone with a disability under the guise of job responsibilities and still remain on the right side of the law. Like this state government desk job ad that states among many other things, “The employee is frequently required to sit, climb or balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, talk or hear. The employee must lift 25 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision…” Really, when was the last time anyone crawled through your office?

          1. Observer*

            As it happens, that particular description seems to be on the wrong side of the law. I can’t find the article now, but I just saw a piece about an employer who got taken on by the eeoc for this type of thing.

          2. Tau*

            From what I read here, her manager seems to imply that she would not have been hired if she had disclosed this during the application/interview process.

            Yes, that jumped STRAIGHT out at me. Getting upset someone didn’t disclose right after starting, that’s iffy but understandable-if-you-squint if the boss is feeling blindsided. Getting upset someone didn’t disclose in the interview, on the application – not exactly many reasons for that.

            Also, yeah, wow at that exclusionary language. They might as well put up a big sign saying “Deaf people, blind people, wheelchair users, etc. need not apply.” I have to doubt all of those are actually vital parts of the core job responsibilities.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, I could see a positive-if-clumsy way that “I wish you’d told me right away!” could be meant (that is, I wish I’d known about this earlier, I would have made an effort to accommodate you). It’s awkward, but I can see someone supportive thinking, wow, if I’d known I could have made your life a lot easier, and I wish that had been possible.

              But “I wish you’d disclosed on the application” is pretty unjustifiable.

          3. Kelly L.*

            Heh, I actually did end up crawling under my boss’s desk a while back to find an annoyingly situated serial number–but it’s not like they couldn’t have worked around it if I couldn’t crawl.

        3. Observer*

          I understand the CYA aspect, and that’s what I would have normally thought was going on here. But if that’s what the manager was after, why on earth did she discourage the OP from going to HR? That piece makes it sound like either HR is totally nuts and unchecked (a possibility, given what we know about their behavior) or the manager was just looking to gossip.

        4. Anna*

          I totally get that and it makes absolute sense. I was thinking of it more in a “Hey, you know how I was saying Soandso was difficult to communicate with? Turns out she’s X.” That’s less of a CYA and more of jerky gossipy thing.

      2. Lindsay J*

        I still don’t see it as gossip though.

        It would be gossip if the boss went around and told her peers or the OP’s peers for no reason.
        She didn’t do that. She went to someone up the chain from her.

        And even thought the OP says she didn’t ask for an accommodation, there was a reason she disclosed her disability to her boss.

        There was already a preexisting communication problem between her and her boss. The VP may have already been in the loop because of this. (If I were having communication difficulties with one of my employees that were severe enough that they were affecting the workplace, my boss would be in the loop for a couple reasons. First so I could pick their brain for possible solutions to the problem. And second, because I would rather them hear about the issues from me first, so if the employee went over my head to the boss they would have context for the discussion.)

        And, even if they weren’t in the loop already, the manager might have felt that they needed to bring the VP into the loop at that point because of the element the disability adds. Like, say, maybe she had been considering writing the OP up or putting her on a performance improvement plan, in part because of the way the OP was communicating (or not communicating) with management or her coworkers. Maybe she wanted to double check to see if it was still okay to do that now that she knew that the OP had a disability affecting communication, or if she were possibly opening herself or the company up to lawsuits for doing that. Or maybe she was just asking the boss if, in general, she should treat communication with the OP any differently than she does with other employees.

        As long as the conversation was constructive in some way and not, “OMG, guess what OP just told me. *snicker* *snicker*. Can you believe it?” then I don’t see how it is inappropriate.

        1. Observer*

          As long as the conversation was constructive in some way and not, “OMG, guess what OP just told me. *snicker* *snicker*. Can you believe it?” then I don’t see how it is inappropriate.

          And, I suspect that this is likely what happened. The reason why I would think that (something I would normally not think) is that she DISCOURAGED the OP from going to HR. If you are concerned about appropriate policy and procedure, you don’t cut out HR.

          Together with the rest of what the OP described, it doesn’t sound like this particular conversation had good reason to happen.

          But, it is true that the OP needs to know that once she discloses something like that to her boss, it’s not confidential – certainly not up the chain of command and HR.

    3. Artemesia*

      I see nothing at all wrong with the boss disclosing this information up the command chain. It isn’t ‘personal information’ it is job related information.

  11. Tau*

    Wow! I’m glad you’re out of there and hope the new job is much better.

    I will admit I’ve generally assumed that if you disclose something like a disability to your manager, they are not obliged to keep it confidential, and indeed might *have* to check with someone else in the company to e.g. figure out what their legal obligations are if they’re not well-versed in that aspect of things. That said, I’d expect anyone in this position to have the courtesy of warning you that they’re not going to be able to keep it between the two of you up-front. And guilting you for not mentioning in the application/interview stage (!) and getting upset at the idea that you might want to request accommodations (!!) are just so far from okay that okay is no longer visible with a telescope.

  12. AnonForThis*

    Another letter supporting the theory that a tone deaf jerk manager is probably not going to be open to the reasonable feedback script provided by AAM. You should still give the script, on the off chance it make help matters, but more than likely, your manager is probably a jerk and isn’t going to change.

  13. _ism_*

    OP here. I will be happy to elaborate but am currently recovering from a car accident and other bad stuff. Will add more when i can type properly!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is you?? Gosh, you are having one heck of a time. I am so sorry.
      FWIW, I have a very low tolerance for practical jokes, so I agree with you regarding the OT joke. It’s not a joke. And I do agree this is not the kind of company a person usually stays with for any length of time.

      Let them keep doing what they are doing, since they are so correct. /sarcasm. And they can keep wondering why they can’t keep help.

  14. Allison*

    I agree with a bunch of other commenters here. If you don’t show up and they can’t get ahold of you, it’s 100% reasonable for them to think something might’ve happened to you, and call your emergency contact. A lot of the wellness checks police conduct occur because someone didn’t show up for work. If you quit a job, you need to tell someone, you can’t just stop showing up and ignore their calls/e-mails asking where you are, no matter what your manager might’ve done to make you quit or how angry you are at them.

    Quitting was okay, quitting without notice was okay, but not randomly cutting off communication with them was not smart.

  15. neverjaunty*

    OP – hope you recover quickly!

    It’s great you’re not at that horrible workplace, but a couple of takeaways from this: if you are telling your boss something work-related, it stops being “private medical information” that she is not allowed to tell anyone else in a work-related context. That is NOT to say your boss handled it well – quite the contrary – but if it’s work-related, then your boss gets to share it as necessary in the workplace (for example, to her boss), and if it’s private, then don’t share it!

    Also, your work is “allowed” to do a lot of things that are obnoxious, like calling your emergency contacts.

  16. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    OP you need to find a new emergency contact person. Your mum calling the police without trying to contact you first is not helpful.

  17. Observer*

    It’s good you are out of there – it sounds like a really bad place to work. On the other hand, I’m also going to agree that you really should have called the place to let them know you were not coming back. If you really couldn’t, you should have given you mother a heads up, as it was totally reasonable of them to call your emergency contact – from their point of view you DID “go missing”.

    Beyond that, I also agree that you need to find a different emergency contact, if at all possible. I can’t imagine her handling a genuine emergency a whole lot better.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    I’m an Aspie also. I also had an issue when I disclosed to my bosses at my contract job. I had emailed the director of HR to let him know that I’d been diagnosed and that my psychologist had recommended that I get out of a people-facing role and into more of a data-driven role where my strengths were. I asked about a job opening he’d mentioned in a meeting, that I was interested in moving to. He promptly forwarded my email about being diagnosed with Asperger’s to the manager of that other position to let her know that I was interested. Thanks, dude.

    I think that adults with Asperger’s/autism is so new in the modern workplace, that many managers have no idea how to react to someone disclosing it.

    In my case, I’d decided to be completely open about it, so while I was annoyed at the HR director, I didn’t pursue a complaint about it. But I can see someone else being very upset about it.

    1. Tau*

      What the eff, HR director?! I’m sorry that happened to you, I’d be furious if that happened to me.

      …also, I swear every story I see here about disclosing Asperger’s in the workplace makes me want to do so less than ever. I get that people don’t really understand it, but you wouldn’t think it would take a super in-depth nuanced understanding to avoid doing things like in your story, or like OP’s boss berating OP for not disclosing in the application/interview stage.

      1. VictoriaHR*

        To be fair, in my current job, I disclosed during the interview process and was open to any questions that anyone had. Everyone is fully aware. And it’s awesome. I can be myself at work (mostly – have to still watch the eye rolling in meetings!) without being afraid that someone will report me for inappropriate body language.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Sigh. That HR Director is such a tool!

      It is so interesting because so many adults have a child, or a friend or relative with a child that is aspie/autism. So to see them in management and HR roles treating adults who disclose this so badly really irks. What message are we sending people about the fate of the children of the world with these disabilities? I love the work Autism Speaks does about spreading awareness but much of that awareness is focused on kids. Those kids are going to turn into adults some day. And then what?

      Unrelated but the only reason why I patronize the Walmart in my area is because there are a few full time Aspie/Autism workers, as well as a deaf man, and a vet with 2 prosthetic arms working there in various roles that for the most part seem happy (also I am a Nosy Nancy and asked).

      1. Nashira*

        Autism Speaks couldn’t care less about autistic adults if they tried. Their “awareness” boils down to wanting autistic people to all act neurotypical, or simply stop existing, rather than accepting that we are people too.

          1. Ruthie*

            Google “Boycott Autism Speaks.” It’s a movement led by autistic adults, many of whom choose to support the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an autistic-led group, instead.

          2. Lindsay J*

            A lot of people have trouble with Autism Speaks.

            A lot of the controversy is based on the fact that a lot of their advertisements make having an autistic child seem like a terrible thing, and that children (and people with autism) are like this mysterious “other” rather than thinking, feeling, intelligent human beings who are actually able to talk about their own experiences and advocate for themselves.

            Also, (I might be wrong on this) but they’re another one of those charities that’s entire focus is to raise “awareness”, rather than provide any actual help to people with autism and their families. And their brand of awareness doesn’t seem to be, “Here are some things you can do to make your school or workplace more friendly for people with autism,” that, might, you know, actually help. It seems to be more just, “Autism is a thing. A lot of people have it. It sucks that they have it. Here, display this puzzle piece ribbon on your car so you can show other people that you know that Autism is a thing.”

            1. Tau*

              The statistic I keep seeing is that only 4% of the money they raise goes to funding support services for autistic people, with most of it going to research regarding cure and prevention. (Disclaimer: I don’t have a direct source for that.) Given that the idea of a cure is extremely contentious in the autistic community, and that I’m pretty sure most of us would prefer being able to access support services now over them trying to figure out what genes cause autism, that is not a good proportion.

              1. Blurgle*

                “Prevention” mainly meaning “aborting the autistic”. If you (the generic you, not you personally) were autistic, how would that make you feel?

          3. Blurgle*

            In short, it’s considered a hate group by wide swaths of the autistic community.

            They make autism into this horrible disaster, as if autism were worse than death by slow torture, and they portray autistic kids as basically worthless subhuman millstones around the necks of their poor, poor, totally victimized parents, the “real victims” of the calamity. It’s as if they think the autistic are so evil for merely existing that their mere presence constitutes abuse of their victimized parents.

            They also use this inane and insulting person-first language – ie. “people with autism” instead of “autistic people” – as if autism could be peeled off.

            There has also been intense hostility among board members to the idea of autistic people becoming involved in its operations. They seem desperate to portray the autistic as useless, worthless, dependent, and totally incompetent, and having an autistic board or staff member would invalidate that argument.

            There is also a suspicion that the little money they contribute to research goes toward discovering a way to prevent autistic kids from being born at all. If so, it’s yet another way they place the parents in the position of Sad Victim and dehumanize the autistic person as worthy of nothing more than the flush of a toilet.

      2. VictoriaHR*

        I think the autistic children have it easier than adults in the workplace who have autism/Asperger’s, because it’s seen by most people as a children’s disorder.

    3. Green*

      You should assume that things you disclose at work are known by the company and other people who may need to know.

  19. Kevin*

    Agreed with most commenters here. It’s great you got out of a toxic workplace. The prank was an abuse of power by management and this behavior (like indefinite wage freezes and managers who share Mexican info with people who likely have no business knowing) you describe seems indicative of many small and medium sized companies who may either not have the resources, or simply refuse, to train management and HR properly and/or don’t hire people with that prior knowledge.

    In any case, leaving without notice is…ehhh not the best course when you’ve been there a significant time but no call/no showing (which not sure if you did but it is written a way that makes me think you did since the manager called your emergency contact) is troubling enough where a manager could have just cause to call an emergency contact.

    However, at least you did learn about how your mother will respond if you do list her as an emergency contact to something like that.

    1. Sparky*

      I hate it when my employers share my Mexican info, I’m from New Mexico, dammit!

      (Seriously good autocorrect, thanks!)

      1. Kevin*

        Oh gosh…just noticed. I meant medical if it wasn’t apparent.

        As a side note I do love Mexican food…perhaps that’s why my phone auto corrected this, haha.

  20. voyager1*

    I think the prank was bad, but if that is the culture of the office, think you need to lighten up a bit BUT with the context of the no raises in a decade, very bad prank indeed.

    The reporting your condition by your manager, well sorry but not siding with you on that one. She had to tell her higher ups.

    The calling your emergency contact. Umm yeah that is pretty normal. So no not agreeing on that one with you.

    Still with wage issue I would have been out of there.

    1. Observer*

      I think the prank was bad, but if that is the culture of the office, think you need to lighten up a bit

      Seriously?! “Lighten up” as a response to an utterly thoughtless (at best) prank is a classic line used by people who are jerks. Sorry, pranks that makes people turn pale or “green” are not funny, the fact that people react that way is not a sign of good humor. People who are faced with sudden childcare or other emergencies, and the people who actually sympathize, shouldn’t “lighten up”. The people who are jerking them around are the ones who need to straighten out.

      She had to tell her higher ups.

      Why? It’s not the end of the world, but I can’t see any reason that this needed to be communicated.

      1. Green*

        “I can’t see any reason that this needed to be communicated.”

        There are lots of potential legal issues there: to determine whether the OP’s discussion about communication styles was actually sufficient to be an ADA accommodation, people often report ADA conditions and ask for accommodations after performance problems, whether there were other legal issues that needed to be resolved, or company policy to alert the VP of Operations of issues like this. It is also relevant to managing the OP or else OP wouldn’t have disclosed it. Unfortunately people seem to think that things they consider “private” are thereby private, even if voluntarily disclosed.

        1. Observer*

          If the manager believed that for one minute she would not have discouraged the OP from talking to HR.

          Perhaps I should have been more clear: I see no legitimate reason why that had to be shared with the VP if HR was to be kept out of the loop.

          1. Green*

            You’re reading something that isn’t there. Boss was offended that OP suggested she’d need to protect herself (i.e., the idea that she would discriminate) but wasn’t stating that HR should be kept out of the loop. Boss didn’t act well here, but you’re taking a few leaps here.

          2. Green*

            Ah, I see what you’re referring to now. Not sure what’s going on with OP’s boss on “strongly discouraging” “putting it on record” with HR (there’s no reason to “put it on record” if you’re not asking for an accommodation — I think OP needs to learn more about ADA accommodations here to potentially help with future roles and similar situations), but you also can’t “approach your boss in a mentor role” with them totally disregarding that they are your boss. This just sounds like a whole mess of mismatched expectations and unprofessional behaviors; OP’s manager probably doesn’t need to be managing anyone and OP also probably needs to consider what they can do better in the future.

            1. voyager1*

              Actually I am guessing the manager was having some kind of issues with the LW which the LW alluded to in 2 as communication problems then in 3 states she will only tell HR is she wants an accommodation, which to me is probably why she told the manager she was having trouble. The manager should have pushed to get this documented to protect herself. That is what I would have done. That might have been why the manager went to the VP.

              That all being said this is just me reading those two
              points and trying to find any logical reasons for the LW’s claim.

              In the end it really doesn’t matter though since it seems the LW is happy working somewhere else.

            2. Observer*

              Oh, I agree that going to the boss was a mistake. But, that doesn’t excuse the boss’ behavior. There seems to be very little good faith there, at best.

            3. Tau*

              there’s no reason to “put it on record” if you’re not asking for an accommodation — I think OP needs to learn more about ADA accommodations here to potentially help with future roles and similar situations

              Huh. Would you really say this is true? Because it doesn’t really fit in with my experience of how disability is handled, although admittedly I don’t have much work experience. But generally, it’s been my impression that:

              – a good boss and HR department would prefer to know about problems caused by a disability and possibly head them off before they reach the point where you’d need to ask for specific accommodations. (Basically, chances are you’re asking because a problem has already developed, I think a lot of people would prefer to be able to prevent that problem for developing in the first place.)
              – there are issues relating to a disability that aren’t quite accommodations that it may still be helpful for boss/HR to know about and deal with
              – people may feel blindsided and react worse than otherwise if your request for accommodation is the first time they hear you have a disability. Not how the world should be, but the world isn’t always how it should be.

              I am by no means saying that someone with a disability ought to disclose always (says the person with Asperger’s who hasn’t told their job). However, in a situation like the OP’s I can very much see why they would, and there are advantages to being open.

            4. Green*

              @Tau —

              From a legal perspective, if HR is aware of a disability that may impact your work, they will typically need to be proactive and work with you to “head off” serious accommodation issues with minor accommodations (which are still, for their purposes, “accommodations”). Unfortunately from the HR/Legal perspective, you often get people who want to put their disability on record as an attempt to insulate themselves from performance problems that have arisen, whether as a result of their disability or not. If you want your disability to be taken into consideration, you need to explain it before performance problems arise and ask for accommodations (“I need some flexibility for therapy appointments” vs. “We need to have a serious conversation about your absences.” “Oh, that’s been for medical reasons.”). Accommodations don’t have to be anything major, and you actually don’t (necessarily) need to disclose the nature of your disability in your request for accommodations.

          3. snuck*

            Given all the other information that we have about this manager and the workplace:

            Plays ridiculous pranks
            No wage rises
            Texts and rings constantly even when the employee is out on leave
            Shows up at the employees HOUSE!

            What on earth makes anyone think they’d do anything by the book!

      2. voyager1*

        Well you took my comment out of context. But yes I think the prank wasn’t bad by itself. BUT… With frozen wages then the prank isn’t so funny.

        And yes the manager had to report the disability, she was CYAing and while some folks might feel it violated some kind of implied privacy, LW should have known that it being told up the chain or to HR. Frankly your boss isn’t your friend. Companies are going to do whatever they have to protect themselves. And people in positions will do whatever to protect themselves. It is the way of the world… sucks… but the way.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If my boss is not my friend then she definitely does not get a pass at playing a practical joke on me. My friends know I am just not a practical joke person.

          I read a great article a while ago about what a good manager should not do. On the list was joking about people’s pay and people’s hours. It’s not professional and it’s just not done by people interested in being true professionals. By telling people they have to work OT when they don’t she made herself look untrustworthy. Most conscious employees will wrestle with everything she says, “Is that another joke or is that real?” Many will not be sure.

        2. fposte*

          I’m more tolerant of pranks than many here, but this one was way out of line–this is David Brent-pretend firing stuff.

        3. Observer*

          Well you took my comment out of context. But yes I think the prank wasn’t bad by itself.

          No, I didn’t take it out of context. I think that such a prank is inexcusable, even with decent wages.

          And yes the manager had to report the disability, she was CYAing

          Nonsense. As I noted in other spots, CYA would have meant HR, but she “strongly discouraged” the OP from going to HR. Unless the CYA was about how to get rid of the OP without having a record of the diagnosis.

  21. Mel in HR*

    I’d like to echo what others have said. It sounds like it was good that you left, but a no call/no show is not the way to do it. When employees have done this in the past I have tried all their numbers/emails and emergency contacts. Of course, 99% of the time the people who have does this were notoriously flaky anyway so I didn’t lose any sleep over them quitting.. it’s just the HOW. I had an employee NCNS for several days straight. I was convinced they were dead as they had been having health issues prior to the discipline. Then I got word from their cousin who also works here.. they were fine, just had been in the hospital and didn’t think to call us. I was beyond livid at that point.

  22. _ism_*

    Guys, it was not a no call no show. I don’t have the energy to tell the whole story.
    I was out for two days prior to quitting. I called my manager before and during my time out when I was handling a personal family matter. I was actually on the road with a family member taking them to and from a clinic hundreds of miles away, and during that ordeal my boss knew I was not missing. However the icing on the cake was the fact she kept texting and texting and calling me during the time I was out driving my family member to & from the city and she even came to my home the night I got back into town and knocked on my door.

    There is where all my residual anger about this toxic place kind of caved in and I didn’t answer the door or return any more of her messages that day. I guess that was my final straw. The next morning I went and handed a resignation note to the receptionist and did not speak to my boss or anyone else, and consigned myself to my fate.

    It was AFTER I handed in my resignation that I heard through the grapevine that my mother had been phoned by my boss. I don’t know the details of their conversation.

    Lesson learned (at least one) I will Rent a Friend to use as an emegency contact rather than my mother ever again.

    1. Observer*

      Lesson learned (at least one) I will Rent a Friend to use as an emegency contact rather than my mother ever again.

      That sounds like a good idea.

      And, yes, it sounds like your boss acted like an idiot.

    2. Zillah*

      That was the impression I got, but it could have been read a different way, so thanks for clarifying! I’m glad that you’re in a better situation now – your old company sounds awful.

    3. Liane*

      I saw above that you have just been in an accident and do hope you recover quickly.
      And you still managed to come back and clarify that it was not an NC/NS. You are tough. Again good luck.

      Alison, perhaps you could add this to her update?

      1. virago*

        Yes, please add this to the update — it would address a lot of questions/assumptions in the thread.

    4. RP*

      “she even came to my home the night I got back into town and knocked on my door.”

      Is this what the young people refer to as “having no chill”?

      So glad to hear you escaped from that awful place. Hope you ha be a quick recovery.

  23. snuck*

    On telling your manager the fact that you are a person with Aspergers…


    I understand why you did, I also understand why your manager felt compelled to share the information. I think this is like all potentially sticky information – it has to be assumed it will be shared at least with HR and/or up the chain to some extent.

    With Aspergers I assume there’s some legal disability protections… and if you tell your manager and he doesn’t tell someone else then down the track there’s a problem it could be sticky about WHEN the company was advised you had a disability.

    I personally would err on the side of caution, and weigh up the benefit of telling the manager vs not. Sadly Aspergers comes with a price tag. BUT… I can also understand disclosing it, and hoping things will improve. A supportive and helpful manager will run with the information and make life easier, a crappy one will generally be an arse.

    And if you are telling your manager because you think it would help your work relationship or because you want them to understand your needs and/or change their expectations around interaction or the way you work etc then you are telling them assuming a level of accommodation will be made, maybe not formal in paper work hard core disability accommodation, but something simple is still an accommodation. And if in telling them this you want a change or understanding then they really should note the disability. Assume ANYTHING you say to any person in the company is not a secret, there’s very little that will be protected legally, and it doens’t really matter what the legal protections are if it winds up being gossiped about in the toilets anyway, when word is out, it’s OUT.

  24. Abby*

    I can understand that you didn’t want your disability shared with anyone but I don’t think that you can assume a manager wouldn’t share information like that. She might have said she wouldn’t but but proved not to be a very nice person before and a secret is only a secret if one person knows it. And she didn’t announce it to the world but shared it with her boss.

  25. Nom d' Pixel*

    Regarding OP’s boss telling her boss about the autism. Is that really a violation? I am a very private person and am quite good at keeping secrets, but if one of my employees tells me something, they have to assume that I am going to tell my boss. I try to alert them that I will tell him, but I need to keep my boss informed of what is happening with personnel. Typically, he will loop HR in as well.

    None of us will discuss the matter with anyone outside of that chain or try to act like a person’s physician or therapist, but the information does need to shared among a few key people.

    1. Zillah*

      Ummm. Sort of?

      It’s often a good idea to share that kind of information, both to keep your superiors in the loop and to make sure you’re acting appropriately. It’s also a good rule of thumb to assume that nothing you tell your boss is truly private. However, given the stigma that exists surrounding conditions like autism, it’s also something that people often get a little tense about, because they (often rightly) worry that it will negatively impact people’s opinion of them and potentially get in the way of future raises or promotions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking to one’s superiors about it if an employee discloses that, but I also think that it’s important to handle that sort of thing delicately, which the OP’s boss clearly did not do.

      1. Nom d' Pixel*

        The boss may have handled it better, but that doesn’t mean that she told anyone who didn’t need to know.

    2. Observer*

      Legally, the boss had no obligation to keep this a secret. And there are a lot of situations where sharing information like this with the right people is the correct thing to do.

      I think that where most of the disagreement is, is in whether THIS was such a case. Some folks assume that sharing this up the chain is always the way to go and assume that the manager was acting in good faith. Others, myself among them, don’t believe that there is necessarily a need, and, worse, that in this particular case the record indicates that the manager was not acting in good faith or because it was necessary for appropriate behavior.

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