HR stole my parking space, asking colleagues to say I’m out when my abusive mother calls, and more

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

1. Asking employees to say I’m out when my abusive mother calls

Is it ever okay to ask an employee to “cover” for you? I am the director of a small, nonprofit county agency. I have two staff and three volunteers. The problem is my 74-year-old mentally ill mother. Long story short, she is very abusive, calls me and my husband vile names, and uses vile language in front of our teenage daughter. Sometimes it becomes so overwhelming that I have to disconnect (until she can get herself together) to protect my daughter.

During these times, my mother will call and call and call. I have told her several times not to call me at work, had my sister intervene, etc. to no avail. Sometimes I ask my employees to tell her that I am busy, which, of course, I am. Sometimes the only way to stop the barrage of calls is to have them tell her I am out of the office all day at a meeting. She is never vile to my staff or volunteers, but I feel guilty asking them to cover for me (and in some instances, lie for me). But then on the flip side, it is very disruptive to my office when she behaves like this and nothing else works. It seems like such a simple thing, but it is unethical?

I don’t think it’s unethical at all. If one of your employees were dealing with an abusive relative who behaved like this, you’d probably be sympathetic and willing to say she wasn’t there, right? I’m sure your employees are willing to do the same.

The key, especially since you’re the boss and so there’s a power dynamic, is to make sure they don’t think you take this help for granted. Express genuine appreciation for their help, and explain the basics of the situation if you haven’t already, including that having her think you’re unavailable for the day is unfortunately the best way to minimize the disruption.

Also, make sure they know that you’re doing your best to get the calls to stop. You don’t want them inadvertently misunderstanding the situation and thinking that you’re just dodging calls from your poor, lonely mother, or that you haven’t taken reasonable steps to control the situation.

Speaking of which, is there a way to block her number? That might sound callous, but if she has another way to reach you (like your cell phone), that might be the way to go with your work phone.

2. HR stole my parking space

My company recently moved to a new office that has a car parking lot. By luck of the draw, I was fortunate enough to get a parking space right outside the complex.
Unfortunately, another employee of the same company has decided to park in my spot every day since.

Because of this need to find somewhere else on a daily basis, I’ve experienced threats of tickets, annoyed coworkers whose spaces I’ve inadvertently taken, and had to move my car multiple times during the workday.

Recently, a member of our HR team asked me to move. After I did so (twice in 10 minutes), I discovered that it was actually their car in my space. They explained that it was double booked to them and that they would continue parking there. I mentioned this to the person who assigned the spaces and was informed this was not true at all. It appears that the person didn’t like their allocated space and has chosen to just occupy mine. This also happened to a colleague who parks next to me, again with another HR team member.

To keep the peace, we have now been assigned their old spaces a way down the road. While this isn’t a big deal (at least I have a space now), I can’t help feeling some negativity towards our HR team for this apparently dishonest behavior. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are that at least some members of your HR team are jerks who abuse their positions, and that their higher-ups either don’t know or don’t care.

I don’t know whether it’s a battle you want to fight or not, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to complain to someone over their heads about how this was handled. If you do, your framing should be that HR has misused their authority to reassign parking spaces to benefit themselves. (That assumes that the HR department is in charge of assigning spaces; if it’s done by someone else who simply gave into HR’s requests in order to “keep the peace,” then that person is spineless but it’s not quite as offensive.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My great employee lied about finishing high school

I am a middle manager and we recently hired an employee, for a non-professional position, who told me after she was hired that she lied on her job application. She said she had her high school diploma, when she doesn’t, and if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.

She is a hard worker, a great team member, and really needs the job, so I am not sure if I should ever bring this up.

Ugh. Requiring a high school diploma (or a college degree) is supposed to be a proxy for “this person is likely to have certain baseline skills necessary to do the job.” This person has demonstrated pretty clearly that it’s a misplaced requirement. Plus, not finishing high school can correlate with poverty, class, abuse, and other issues that aren’t great to screen people out over.

On the other hand, obviously it’s not okay to lie on your application. But I’m having a hard time working up outrage about it. She didn’t go out of her way to lie on, say, a resume — a document that someone presumably puts a lot of thought and care into. She answered “yes” to an online application question when she should have answered “no.” It’s hardly the lie of the century.

As for what to do now … I’m sure some people will disagree, but you have a hard worker and a great team member with no high school diploma. If she’s otherwise trustworthy, I might just take it as a sign that you should drop that requirement, and then move on.

4. Asking to extend employer-paid interview travel

I am invited by a company to fly abroad for a series of interviews in their headquarters. I am wondering whether I can ask the company, while preparing my flights, to have my return flight a week later, as I would take advantage of being abroad for a few days off. Of course, I would pay everything which is beyond the two days of being there for the interview by myself, e.g. hotel, rental car etc. Do you think it is appropriate? And if so, what would be your advice in terms of the way to ask?

Yes, people do that all the time! Just say something like this: “Since I’ll already be out there, I’d like to extend the trip by a few days to get to know the area a bit. I’ll of course pay for the additional days myself, but could we schedule the return flight for (date)?”

5. How to respond to a LinkedIn invitation from a higher-up at a place I’d love to work

I recently received a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone I don’t know but would love to — a very tip-top high up person at a company I am very interested in working for. I have no idea why he connected with me; the note was just the generic LinkedIn message. I accepted, of course. But I’m wondering if I should send him a note, ask him how he found me or why he reached out to me, do something! What do you suggest?

Sure. The dude initiated a connection with you, so it’s not at all pushy to write back to him. I’d say something like this: “Thanks so much for the connection request. I’ve followed your company’s work for a long time and really admire what you do. I’d love to talk if you have have an opening I might be a match for. I do ____ (fill in with a description of what you do and ideally what makes you great at it).”

A more aggressive networker than me might say to actually ask for a meeting or say something more proactive than “I’d love to talk if…” So adapt for your own style, but that’s how I’d handle it.

{ 476 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Wow. That HR department. Don’t know if you want to expend the capital but since they have done it to others it might be worth a joint expression of ‘concern’ to whoever is on top of HR. They ought to be fired for it.

    For the person without a high school diploma, what do people think of requiring completion of a GED as part of the goals for the year? Particularly if some support could be provided or resources identified to help make that happen it would put her in a position to be able to progress in her career. The fact that she told the boss would take it off the table to hold her immediately accountable for me, but I would want o have her make it ‘true’ by completing the GED.

    1. MsChandandlerBong*

      It would be rude of anyone to take someone else’s parking space; it’s even worse (in my opinion) that HR people are doing it. We’re supposed to set an example!

    2. Mike B.*

      I’m not sure completing a GED is necessarily a realistic request of a full-time employee. It’s reasonable to want her to have it, of course, and to urge her to get it and to make resources available for her to do so. But some people have other family and professional obligations that eat up virtually all of their free time, so I wouldn’t want to push too hard to get her to take up one more time-consuming pursuit.

      1. Mando Diao*

        No offense to anyone who may have struggled with the GED, but…it isn’t a hard test. Nor is it hard to find a free county-run adult educational program to issue your diploma through your former high school. I did the latter while working full-time. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but I have experience with this particular educational track that many AAM commenters may not have, so I’m pretty confident in stating that an intelligent, hard-working employee would not be put out by having to take a very, very easy test.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I’ve had two separate acquaintances really struggle with the GED exam because they were quite clever but ABYSMAL test-takers, which was in large part why they hadn’t finished high school to begin with. They were fine on the material, but the mechanics of the exam were a huge struggle. I tried to help both of them and they’d do things like get the right answer and then overthink themselves into picking a different one.

          They both did eventually get a GED but it was quite difficult in both cases, and for one it took him YEARS.

          It’s not a hard test, but tests are just hard for some people.

          1. Mando Diao*

            The point is that they both passed the test and presumably gained access to better jobs. Would you recommend that OP3’s employee never get her GED? Would your friends recommend that? Do your friends regret getting their GEDs?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But there are lots of things that are helpful to do in life; that doesn’t mean it’s an employer’s place to require them.

              In this case, I can see the logic of people arguing “well, it was a requirement, so insist that she get it now.” But I’d rather see the employer step back and ask whether it should have been a requirement in the first place and fix that piece of it, not force a good employee to obtain a qualification that her work apparently isn’t suffering from the lack of.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                In this case I think that the company should ask that she get her GED, only because it was a requirement at the time the offer was made and the company should make it clear that lying in an application is not acceptable. For future applicants then yes reconsider the requirement.

                1. Ms. Didymus*

                  For me it is because this is high school vs college. As Alison said, not finishing high school is often heavily correlated with poverty, class and abuse. Well treated, middle class financially secure children finish high school almost without exception. The children that don’t often fall into at least one of those three categories and many jobs are therefore forever excluded from them no matter how great they may be. And this employee has demonstrated they are great at the job. I feel it would be morally wrong to punish her (again) for the hand she was dealt in life.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  We know literally nothing about the hand this employee was dealt in life. It is not “punishing” someone to hold them responsible for the consequences of their actions (and firing need not be the only consequence). And wow, what an ugly implication – that integrity is a luxury good that the poor and struggling can’t be expected to have.

                3. Mike C.*

                  They’re a great employee who is doing well. Why should they be fired for not following an arbitrary requirement?

                4. Zillah*

                  @ neverjaunty – I can understand your point of view, but I’m personally feeling a little taken aback by the way you seem to be jumping to the worst possible interpretation of what people are saying. Reasonable people can have differing interpretations without this turning into accusations that people who disagree with you are saying that poor people lack integrity or that they’re making up arbitrary distinctions rather than genuinely seeing this differently.

                5. Zillah*

                  That said, I agree that while the requirement may be a poor one and an arbitrary one, it’s still a requirement. Job hunters don’t get to decide which requirements matter and which don’t, and this would make me concerned about her integrity.

                  However, the fact that she seems to have come clean pretty quickly and without being prompted actually diminishes that concern significantly. It doesn’t eliminate it, but it limits it. If the OP had just found out, I’d be 100% on board with firing her.

                6. neverjaunty*

                  Zillah – honestly, I’m a little taken aback that you don’t see any nastiness or worst-possible-interpretationing in people all but saying (and in some cases, actually saying) that judging this employee negatively is nothing more than a sign of clueless privilege. And yes, I do think it’s insulting to assume that everyone who lacks a high school degree is so desperate and needy that integrity is sort of an optional extra for them.

                7. Kelly L.*

                  The privilege comment that I saw was in response to a comment ascribing negative character traits to people who haven’t completed high school, not to people who simply recommend firing her or even people who are bothered by the lying itself.

                8. Mike B.*

                  I’m a lot more willing to forgive someone for lying about failing to finish high school or the equivalent–a basic requirement for the vast majority of jobs, but sometimes out of reach for people who had terrible childhoods or made serious mistakes before they were adults–than lying about failing to finish (or attend) college. People in the latter group have more honest options open to them, and I think their choice to be dishonest is less about desperation than it is about expediency.

                  I’d rather hire someone who lied about a HS degree to avoid unemployment than hire someone who lied about a BA to avoid having to take a lower-status job.

                9. neverjaunty*

                  @Kelly L – claiming that integrity is easy on a full stomach is not only making wild assumptions about the employee, it’s a pretty blatant implication that anyone who thinks this is an issue is just coming from a position of privilege and luxury.

                10. Kelly L.*

                  That’s not really what that saying means. It’s more like, you don’t know what you’d be tempted to do if you were desperate. It doesn’t mean everybody with money has integrity and that everyone without money lacks integrity.

                11. Zillah*

                  @neverjaunty – like Kelly said, though, the privilege comments have generally been directed at comments making broader character judgments about people who didn’t finish HS – not people who have an issue with the employee’s integrity. If I’ve overlooked comments about privilege directed otherwise, I agree that they’re wrong.

                  I also don’t think anyone is saying that integrity is ever optional – but by the same token, all lies don’t make a uniform statement about integrity. The details are relevant.

                12. Just Another Techie*

                  I think because the employee volunteered the information early in her employment. That says to me the employee understands that integrity is a serious issue. If she had written a misleading resume or lied in an interview that would be different, but given that the lie was tickbox on a web form, I don’t think it’s as serious as other examples we’ve seen here of employees lying or other signs of a lack of integrity.

                13. F.*

                  NeverJaunty @ 9:07 a.m.: That is sometimes referred to as “the bigotry of low expectations,” and is often used by well-meaning individuals to hold people of lower socio-economic status to a lower standard as though they are not capable of a higher standards simply because they are of that status.

                14. Marcela*

                  @neverjaunty, yes, you are punishing somebody in this particular situation. My father didn’t finish high school, for a combination of being very poor, with an abusive father and a family where education was not something important to get. He started working at 14, where it made no difference. After he was married to my mom, a college’s professor, he tried to get his diploma. But he was fighting against never have learned how to study and he could not do it.

                  So yeah, in some applications he said he had completed high school. The diploma or the lack of it didn’t affect his ethics or the crazy amount of work he was willing to to. It wasn’t a matter of integrity, at all. It was a matter of sheer desperation because as soon as it was known he didn’t have a diploma, he would have been removed from consideration.

                  I very much agree with you that people needs to be hold responsible for their actions. But this particular case it’s not a clear cut case of “yeah, there were responsible of what they did, so they have to eat the results”. This looks very much like the weird idea that poor are poor because are lazy, not because they got crappy deals in life.

                15. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Lots of folks seem to be impressed that the employee “confessed” eventually. I have been less so, because a confession after she’s received the benefit of her lie (getting the job offer) doesn’t seem especially impressive to me.

                  However – it occurs to me that so much depends on the manner in which the “confession” happened. Did it come out accidentally? Did she say it in passing, as though it didn’t matter? Did she treat it like something she had to come clean on, with the understanding that it might cost her her job? etc. The more she demonstrates that she understands that lying to me is a big deal, the more flexible I can imagine being with her in response.

                  And as I’ve said before, my reaction would also depend on how much time has passed. It seems like most people are responding as though significant time has passed – enough for the manager to highly value this employee. That might be true, but it is not necessarily.

                16. Creag an Tuire*

                  I actually don’t feel like there’s a difference between lying about a HS degree and lying about college, but there is a difference between lying to a human and lying to the robot. I’ll consider the latter less damning because the robot is incapable of considering mitigating circumstances.

                17. Treena*

                  Completely agree with Mike B. There is a Massive difference between lying about high school vs college. Having a GED/diploma but no university means you’re qualified for pretty much most blue-collar work (the ones that don’t require specific certs/skills). There are options. Not the options you might have dreamed of as a little kid, but you can get work. Can someone honestly give me an example of a job that doesn’t list a required GED/diploma? Pretty much any employer with electronic apps will screen you out instantly and even most smaller employers will still list it as a requirement. Pretending like someone can simply choose another job is at best, classist.

              2. newlyhr*

                I think about the equity issue. There are many other applicants who did not get the opportunity to even be considered for this or other jobs because they told the truth about the lack of a high school diploma. While I agree with Alison that this may be a requirement that needs to go away in the future, it poses a current problem with equity in the workplace, as well as exposes a problem with the personal integrity of the employee.

                Would it be OK if someone lied about an advanced degree, but was performing an excellent job?

              3. Zillah*

                @ F – I really don’t think that “the bigotry of low expectations” is the only explanation for people thinking that this employee shouldn’t be fired.

        2. Alice*

          When did you take it? There was an interesting article in the Atlantic about the recent changes (within a year or two) that made it harder and significantly reduced passing rates. I’ll post the link below.

          1. Miss Betty*

            I wondered that myself. My sister took the GED about 25 years ago – maybe longer – and it was actually more difficult than getting a high school diploma. I think the passing percentage was higher than in most high schools (i.e., a D that would let you graduate high school was actually a fail on the GED scale and would prevent you from getting it. You’d have to start over.).

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          I think it depends how long he or she has been out of school. If you’re well into adult-hood and have children to look after after work and it’s been a long time since you did a basic algebra equation, the thought of it could be a bit daunting.

        4. Anna*

          Actually, the GED test went through a major overhaul in 2014 and became much MUCH more difficult to pass. In fact, it became so much more difficult to pass they had to lower the passing points by five (they just did that in the last month). So unless you took the GED in the last two years, it is not the same test you took.

        5. Cafe au Lait*

          The requirements for the GED have changed. The test is a lot harder now. I tutor with an adult literacy center, and some of the long-term tutors have taken the new GED and come back with not-nice opinions.

      2. Artemesia*

        Having her GED would mean she was freed from the penalties that caused her to lie here. It is not a hard test — although I realize some people have neither the intelligence or education to make it within reach — but I am betting that if she is that good a worker, this person does have what it takes to get that done. Once she had it she might be able to make serious progress in her work life.

        1. Ms. Didymus*

          Ok I’m going to step in to give my thoughts.

          I have a great direct report. She is a hard worker, emotionally intelligent and great with customers. She is intelligent, however she struggles with some very basic things. She also cannot take tests. It is a learning disorder and no amount of intelligence gets her beyond this wall.

          In order to be hired at my company you must pass a test. When she took it, we didn’t know about her learning disorder and…it was abysmal. I was actually really quite shocked because we had already interviewed her and talked over many of the things she got wrong. I spoke with her, learned the facts and made the accommodation necessary and now I have a wonderful employee.

          Just because someone is an intelligent and great worker doesn’t mean the GED is possible.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            The difference is that she didn’t hire someone to take the test for her. She took it, and you freely made accommodations for her because you believed she would be a great employee. This employee didn’t give her employer the chance.

            1. Pwyll*

              Right, but the employer would also not have given this employee the chance: the OP wrote that the system would have auto-rejected her for not having the degree. IMO it’s one thing to say “we wouldn’t choose to hire someone without a high school education” and quite another to say “we’ve setup an automated system to automatically refuse applications from anyone without a high school degree.”

              1. Zillah*

                That stuck out for me, too – and in fact we’ve certainly suggested in the past that people tick the bubble that’s more in the spirit of their qualifications if there’s a complication. (E.g., say you have your B.A. if you’re just waiting on your diploma, or say you have a B.A. in psychology if your B.A. is technically in neuropsychology or you have an M.A. in psych instead.

                This isn’t that situation, unless she has a GED or is waiting on her diploma (though the OP didn’t indicate that) – but I am a lot more sympathetic when it comes to automated systems in general.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  But she didn’t go from automated system to job. I suspect most of us would feel differently about somebody who checked the bubble but raised the issue when she got to the human-being stage of the application process.

              2. TootsNYC*

                Yes, that’s I think why I was not outraged to hear it. Because the online form was “checkbox / auto-reject.”

                If she’d been able to get an interview, she would have been able to make her case for herself and might not have needed to lie. And maybe mentally she thought, “The equivalent, in terms of how it matters…”

                Also, she brought it up herself, so, points for that.

                1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  I get that. But why not bring it up sooner, then? If the issue is just the auto-reject, then you come clean after you get past the (stupid) automated system. You don’t keep lying (by omission, at least) through your interview(s), offer, and start date.

                2. Agile Phalanges*

                  If her resume didn’t state anything untrue (didn’t list any graduation from HS, or presumably college), then I wonder how unethical most people would find it to not pro-actively bring it up. It seems like more of a grey area than some things. We all kind of agree that you sometimes have to tell the automated system a white lie to get through to a real human, and that outright lying on one’s resume is bad. But what if you don’t have a HS diploma or GED, but feel that your life experience and abilities should allow you to get past the automated system. So you lie about the HS diploma in order to get through to a human, your resume says nothing of the sort, and you just proceed through the interview process answering the relevant questions they ask, but don’t volunteer the information that while you’ve got 10 years of experience, say, you never actually graduated high school… To me that’s technically unethical, but in reality, probably what you have to do to get any sort of job.

              3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                But they aren’t required to give her – or any candidate – a chance. That’s not what hiring is about.

                1. CreationEdge*

                  Except for disparate impact. Obviously there’s legal precedent for not having policies that unfairly restrict generally qualified applicants of certain demographics.

                  Of course, it doesn’t cover education, for understandable reasons. But the spirit is there. Employers do, in some cases, have to give candidates a chance.

      3. MK*

        If it is impossible in her situation, that’s one thing. But if it’s simply difficult and will take all of their free time (for a limited period), then that’s no excuse. This person chose to apply and accept a job that requires a certain qualification, in fact she lied that she had it; having her get it afterwards sounds to me like a good compromise between firing her (which I agree would be overkill) and having her totally get away with it (thus giving her the impression that lying to you is no big deal).

        1. Zillah*

          I think it’s incredibly difficult for people on the outside to make an accurate assessment of whether it’s “impossible” vs. “simply very difficult” – and I don’t think that the line between those scenarios is as clear as you’re suggesting. “Why don’t you just” is a go-to for people who aren’t struggling, and generally, if it were truly as simple as just, people wouldn’t be struggling.

            1. Dot Warner*

              If it’s financially unfeasible for the employee, would it be possible for the company to assist her? A lot of folks here are assuming that the employee has a learning disability or somehow lacks the intellectual wherewithal to pass the GED. Maybe that’s true, but it’s also plausible that she can pass the GED but simply has never had the time/money to take it. Maybe the OP can provide her with this opportunity.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I also posit that she may even have her GED, but that the online app doesn’t have a place to put that.

                1. Marketeer*

                  I was wondering the same thing. Maybe she does have her GED so she said she had the diploma to get pas the question but technically she doesn’t

    3. Min*

      Unless completing the GED would somehow help her to be more effective in her job, I don’t see that as an appropriate request.

      1. Artemesia*

        It was a requirement to be considered for THIS job and will be for other good jobs. Requiring her to complete it or strongly encouraging it would remedy a failure that could result in her being fired.

        1. Sarahnova*

          …I just don’t think it’s an employer’s place to “require” this. She’s an adult, and it’s not really relevant to her job performance. I think it’s one thing to encourage and support her to do it – requiring her to get it just ’cause smacks to me of an unpleasant paternalism. She lied, but the lie doesn’t hurt the company; forgive it or don’t, but introducing random “consequences” which really have nothing to do with her job performance has a weird parent/child taste from my perspective.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I take a different view, the employee lied getting sacking could be a very real consequence of that action, requiring them to get their GED is a compromise that shows the company wont want put up with being lied to while allowing the employee to keep their job.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  AND willing to reconsider requirements that you deem useless.

                  There are a lot of options between “fire her” and “shame on us for even asking”, you know?

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                My point is, requiring the employee gets their GED at least provides a consequence to the employees lie. Allowing the employee to stay without doing anything is not a good idea in my opinion.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  I see it the other way – she volunteered the information, firing her tells her “next time, keep quiet”, and tells other employees that they should keep quiet if they make mistakes.

                  This isn’t the same as eg lying about having a professional qualification or experience in the field – it was an arbitrary requirement that had no bearing on the job. Of course give her some kind of sanction, but I feel like her owning up to this (and she’d never have been found out, would she?) is a good sign in a good employee.

                2. Beezus*

                  Just because this employee is competent despite not having the diploma doesn’t inherently mean the diploma requirement is arbitrary or not providing value.

                  Screening is not meant to be an exact science, or a process that perfectly sorts out every unsuitable applicant and never removes someone who might have worked out. The purpose of screening is to objectively sort a pool of applicants down to a manageable number of people to move along to the next stage in the hiring process. You revisit your screening tools when you’re not getting the right number of next-stage applicants, or when you’re getting the wrong results too often – when too many bad applicants pass, or too many good applicants fail. Having one applicant who should have failed the process but turned out to be good is an indicator that the OP should LOOK at the criteria, but not a clear indicator that the criteria is a bad one. One data point is not enough information to make that call.

                3. Apollo Warbucks*

                  @ One of the Sarahs

                  I don’t think the employee should be fired I think that if she is doing a good job then firing her would be wrong, I do however think some consequence is needed and asking her to get the GED is a happy compromise.

                4. One of the Sarahs*


                  I’m not saying there should be no consequence (and I’m a bit weirded out by the idea there are only the options of fire her, nothing, and make her get the GED) but as I said elsewhere, I am super-uncomfortable with the idea of education-as-punishment, without knowing whether it’s an achievable goal. Single mum looking after small kids, eg, or all kinds of scenarios, just might not be feasible.

                  (Of course, supporting her to get it, and letting her have eg an hour a week to work on it would be a different story…)

          2. Zillah*

            I agree. I see where other commenters are coming from, but requiring her to get a diploma now would come across to me as a power play to get even more than anything else. If it’s a genuine requirement of the job, that’s a different story, but otherwise, either forgive her for the lie or don’t.

    4. neverjaunty*

      I doubt this is the only time these HR people have or will given themselves first pick of benefits that don’t belong to them.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Do we know that she doesn’t have a GED? I’m wondering if the application wants you to have specifically the diploma from your first time around, and if potentially she has her GED but it would have booted her anyway.

      1. Katniss*

        I have a GED and have had this issue with some online applications. They wanted the information on your graduation from high school, and would not accept any alternate creditials because nothing was programmed for that.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Right, and she might have checked “Yes” for her diploma because it was the closest option to the truth.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I’m wondering whether the question on the application was “do you have a high school diploma?” not “do you have a high school diploma or GED?” and if the employee was letting the boss know that the question should be updated to reflect the option of a GED.

        FWIW, if what held the employee back from getting a diploma was mandatory state testing, many states have since dropped the testing requirement and are issuing diplomas to people who didn’t get their diploma due to failing the test. Link to follow, but the article is on NPR and called “What It Means That The High School Diploma Is Now A Moving Target”

    6. The Strand*

      I had the same thought regarding the GED requirement.

      I have a relative who dropped out of school, works in similar positions to the described employee, and was able to finish it. I don’t think it’s onerous at all. There are many community programs that could help her complete it.

      And… I just think it’s the right thing to do to help an excellent, motivated employee. She might not be at this job forever.

    7. Anon Guy*

      I was going to say the same thing about the GED. If one my employees hadn’t finished high school I would strongly encourage them to get a GED and provide tutoring if needed. I’d probably even give them a couple hours a week on the clock to study. The return–loyalty, appreciation, better work output–is worth losing a few dollars and hours over early on.

      My general experience has been that people without a lot of education can do well when given a chance, and tend to stay longer than those with more education and more options (not that I’m a bad employer where people want to leave).

      1. Sarahnova*

        See, I’m 100% in favour of encouragement and support like this, especially with a good employee. I’m not in favour of making it a requirement though, especially with 0 support.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes, for sure. It rubs me up the wrong way, too, to see educational opportunities presented as punishments, to anyone, adults or kids.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This. We had this situation at Exjob. An employee recommended someone for a position. The candidate had a great deal of experience, she had excellent references, and the employee spoke very highly of her. However, she did not have a HS diploma. So she was out. We were all really ticked about it because we needed her–but no dice. The company who owned us said no diploma, no chance. I wish they had come to a compromise like this.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And it’s this reason right here why I would try to see if I could help the employee get her GED. I agree with Anon Guy. First I would find out if she was interested in the GED. It could be that she’d want to wait x period of time for y reasons. Or it could be she has no interest at all. I don’t believe in pushing people into things that they are not interested in, it usually goes poorly. If I was able to put some resources into her GED AND if she wanted it, we would hammer out a plan that was doable for her.

  2. ginger ale for all*

    Letter 3. Would speaking to the employee about getting a GED be an option if your company wants to keep that requirement? It might help her in the future for possible advancement.

      1. rando*

        Some probably should! My DH has about 45 employees. Many do not have high school diploma and are excellent. The two worst employees have college degrees.

        I also know a few other people without diplomas who are great employees and hard workers. (All the scools shut down before they completed high school when their home country was torn apart by a massive civil war).

        Smart employers hire based on what the job actually entails.

      2. Koko*

        Sure they could. Just like a lot of applications will ask for a degree and 3-5 years experience but might hire someone with no degree and 8 years experience, or a degree and 2 years’ exceptional performance, an employer could easily ask for high school but not require it.

        As Alison said, the diploma is supposed to be a proxy for a set of basic skills, but there are other ways to assess those skills. Can they put together a coherent cover letter? Do they carry themselves professionally in the interview? Do they have other office experience? Can they complete a sample assignment reasonably well? A diploma is just one of many factors that an employer uses to evaluate a person’s skills, and I don’t believe it conveys any information that isn’t also reflected in other factors you should also be looking at.

      3. HRish Dude*

        We did at my old job for housekeeping and the lower-ranking kitchen staff when we realized that a lot people end up having to go into that work simply due to the fact that they do not have high school diplomas.

        1. Jeanne*

          That’s good that your company is looking at the real requirements for the jobs and not automatically saying everyone needs a diploma. Do you need algebra to wash dishes? Does the diploma guarantee a good employee? No.

  3. Mike C.*

    I think the folks mentioning the possibility of making the employee take the GRE are missing the point – it’s obviously a bad requirement and the continued good work by this employee prove it.

    Quietly let the requirement go and find a better way to evaluate future employees.

    As for the parking spots, those HR folks are quite lucky no one has needed to squeeze between their cars and in the process accidentally etched graffiti appropriate for Pompeii on the doors… It’s an accident waiting to happen, I swear.

    1. Nobody*

      I don’t think the existence of one good employee who doesn’t have a high school diploma proves that it’s a bad requirement.

      1. katamia*

        But what is the requirement measuring? If there were licensing requirements or something that would put OP’s company at legal risk by hiring someone who didn’t have a high school diploma, then that would make sense, but I’m really struggling to come up with something meaningful that a high school diploma really signifies with regard to the work world.

        It’s not great that she lied, and I wouldn’t say the company would be wrong to fire her for lying if they found out, but a high school diploma isn’t in the same league as, say, a driver’s license or passing the bar or a medical license.

        1. Nobody*

          I don’t know specifically why it’s required for this job, but many employers require a high school diploma or GED as evidence of a high school level of skill in reading, writing, and math, and maybe the willingness to work hard enough to pass the classes. I suppose the employer could give some sort of test to asses applicants’ skills, but why should they when they have an easier way of determining this?

          1. katamia*

            I see your point, but it just doesn’t hold up to my experiences. Does the fact that I slacked my way through high school and got good grades because I was naturally good at school and economically privileged enough to not need to work during high school make me a better employee than someone with a great work ethic who had to drop out of high school to get a job to support their family? (Answer: no. My work ethic is better now, but in my first couple of jobs after college, my work ethic was TERRIBLE.)

            I also had classmates in college who couldn’t string together coherent sentences on paper, and I know they had high school diplomas.

            Instead, why not use a basic math test or have applicants include a writing sample or two for jobs that require these skills? When I was applying to retail jobs just after college, a lot of cashier positions had math tests, and I see a lot of job ads that do require writing samples. Both of those would be more informative than making the assumption that all applicants went to high schools that developed their reading, writing, and math skills to adequate levels.

            1. Artemesia*

              Requirements don’t have to be perfect to be reasonable. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer and not everyone who gets lung cancer has smoked, but you would be a fool to smoke. Not everyone who drops out of high school is poorly motivated, unable to follow through, or illiterate, but it is fairly good screen for those characteristics.

              1. phyllisB*

                Artmesia, I like your example; I am one of those people who never smoked and got lung cancer. (Thirty years ago, no reaccureance) BUT I still think it’s a reasonable requirement to have a high school diploma. I dropped out of high school and took the six-week GED readiness class and then took my GED. I learned more in that six week class than I did in high school. Maybe this person doesn’t have time to take a class, but there are all kinds of things on the internet to help someone get ready for a GED and I really think this company should encourage her to do this. Besides, even if the PTB now decide to let this go, who’s to say that in years to come someone else was the boss/manager and decided it was NOT okay? Not only could she be fired, she could be charged with fraud. Also, she might wish to move on at some point, and other companies will not be so forgiving. I can’t think of a single job that doesn’t require a diploma/GED. I know the requirements are a lot more strict for a GED now, but I really think this is the CYA she could make.

              2. Zillah*

                Not everyone who drops out of high school is poorly motivated, unable to follow through, or illiterate, but it is fairly good screen for those characteristics.

                I couldn’t disagree much more strongly with this. I was kicked out of my first high school because I had some major health issues and they didn’t want to risk their “% went on to college” statistic. I finished high school at a transfer only school, in part because my parents were in a position to advocate for me – otherwise I’m not sure what would have happened. Many of my classmates had similar problems, or had gotten pregnant and had had to drop out because of that.

                Some fit the characteristics you’re talking about, but far more didn’t – and, in fact, that profile fit far more people at my first prestigious high school and my undergrad.

                1. RVA Cat*

                  Not to mention many people didn’t so much fail school as their school failed them – there’s a reason so many high-poverty schools are called “dropout factories”.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  And for all we know, this worker dropped out of your prestigious former high school. Point is, people are building an emotional picture of this co-worker when literally all we know is 1) she lied about having a HS degree she did not get and 2) she’s a good worker.

                  I understand why people are saying “don’t automatically fire her”. I truly don’t get people screaming that it’s terrible if the OP or the company reacts in any way negative.

                3. Not me*

                  neverjaunty, who’s screaming? I see a lot of people trying to rationalize the other side of the story, which does happen a lot on this site in general. I can definitely understand why someone would lie about a high school diploma or GED.

                  No idea what I would do about it, but conveniently, I’m nobody’s manager. It’s been interesting to read about all of the different ways people would handle this.

                4. One of the Sarahs*

                  neverjaunty – we also know 3) that she volunteered this information, knowing it might get her the sack.

                5. Tau*

                  I’ve got my Abitur (high school diploma), a bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a PhD. Aaaaaand I might have failed out of high school, and would almost certainly have failed out of college, if I wasn’t from a middle-verging-upper class family that could afford to and did support me in a multitude ways. (Let’s just say I had some fun times with undiagnosed Asperger’s at uni.)

                  Also, wow, your former high school sucks.

                6. Zillah*

                  @ neverjaunty – Huh? I was responding to the assertion I quoted in my comment. I wasn’t positing anything about the OP’s employee one way or the other.

              3. Anna*

                You are too very wrong. I work with young people who left high school for a variety of reasons so to start with the basic assumption that it was because they were poorly motivated and to use that as screening lens is doing them all a vast disservice. Every student here who is working to complete their GED or HS diploma are all doing it for a variety of reasons and it’s really offensive that anyone would start with the stereotype of them being unmotivated and then require them to prove differently.

                The opposite can also be true. We had a student who had his HS diploma (not modified) and he came in with a 3rd-grade reading level.

                1. Artemesia*

                  So in your business have no requirements. This business has them. And most businesses do. The kindest thing to do for this employee is to help put them in a position to make progress in their work life where future opportunities are likely to require minimal educational attainment.

            2. Doriana Gray*

              I also had classmates in college who couldn’t string together coherent sentences on paper, and I know they had high school diplomas.

              I’ve had managers who allegedly had college degrees who can’t string together coherent sentences.

            3. Nobody*

              Of course I’m not saying that the fact you graduated from high school makes you a better employee than every single person who dropped out of high school, and I’m not suggesting that a high school diploma/GED should be the only criterion used to select a candidate. The point of this type of requirement is to narrow down the pool of applicants, and just because it might result in screening out a few good candidates (and leaving a few bad candidates in the pool) doesn’t mean it should be abandoned.

              I’m guessing there is no shortage of good applicants who do have a high school diploma or GED, but if the employer removed that requirement, they would have a much bigger pool of candidates to consider, and they would have to eliminate most of them somehow. Administering a math test or reviewing writing samples would take a lot of extra time and effort for the employer and the applicants — especially if they did this for every candidate who applied, without screening anybody out first.

              Any time there are more applicants than openings, an employer has to eliminate the excess candidates, and they use all kinds of reasons that may seem unfair or that don’t necessarily correlate to the candidate’s ability to do the job (like how well the candidate is dressed). That’s because an employer has a limited amount of time and information to use to evaluate a candidate, and so they have to draw conclusions from what little information they have. Sometimes that means they eliminate the person who would end up doing the best work, but that’s just the chance they have to take, no matter why they eliminate someone.

              1. Just Another Techie*

                There’s a lot of debate in my field over whether false positives or false negatives are more deadly hiring decisions. You always know when you have a false positive (candidates you hire who turn out to be bad employees) but you never know how many false negatives (candidates who would have been amazingly productive but who you screened out at some point in the process). If you have no way to quickly get rid of false positives, you’ll develop a culture of stringent screening and yes, it’s better to miss a few diamonds in the rough because the cost of hiring a stinker is so high. But there’s an equally good argument that by overly constraining your choices and not taking risks, you’re missing out on real gains in productivity and revenue, and it’s better to just have a culture of quickly firing new hires who don’t live up to expectations.

                1. Anxa*

                  This seems especially relevant to the ATS yes-or-no / MC questsions referenced here and to personality tests that select for pre-approved personalities to eliminate surprises (both good and bad).

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I actually disagree that the point of requirements is to narrow down the pool of applicants! The point is much more often to simply paint a picture of who the right candidate for the job is likely to be.

            4. Stranger than fiction*

              In my area, it’s really easy to cheat your way through high school, too. I have a coworker who can hardly write a sentence correctly, and I found out through a mutual acquaintance she was one of those who cheated their way through high school. I’ve also worked with several people that had bachelor’s degrees, and while I don’t know if they cheated, they just weren’t very smart people. In once instance, when it came down to layoffs, I found out later the reason they kept a coworker over me is because she had a bachelors. This upset me for years because she wasn’t very bright or hard working at all.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                One of the admins at my old job admitted to me that she cheated her way through college by having her sister write all her papers. “Admitted” is actually not quite the right word for the super-casual manner in which she told me; she more stated it proudly than “admitted” it. She was a terrible admin with no work ethic; if anything was hard, she just wouldn’t try to do it. She handled her job in the same way she had apparently handled college: by shirking anything that was hard and expecting other people to do it instead.

                1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Oops, I forgot to note that what prompted that was thinking “Why would someone ever agree to write all her sister’s papers?” and then realizing I have encountered such a situation.

          2. Marzipan*

            I’d argue that maybe they should if the requirement means they aren’t really determining what they think they are, and they’ve actually been missing out on great candidates. I mean, if you had to choose between hiring Frodo Baggins or Gollum to go deliver a bit of jewellery to Mount Doom, you’d probably prefer Frodo; but if in fact he didn’t have the relevant certificates from school and Gollum did, is it better to go with the system and hire Gollum, or to question whether you should have a rethink?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I love this example.

              I think we all need to remember that requirements aren’t laws–they’re policies. If the company wants to keep this employee, they’re going to have to make a decision whether to help her get a GED or waive the requirement for her. And it would be wise to reconsider this policy–or at least the application system–in future.

          3. Koko*

            “I suppose the employer could give some sort of test to asses applicants’ skills, but why should they when they have an easier way of determining this?”

            Because lazy hiring practices don’t make for good hires. An employer shouldn’t be relying solely on the existence of a diploma to ensure skills – if the job needs specific skills they should be evaluated in more ways than just the diploma checkbox, like with a sample assignment, interview questions, details about prior work experience, etc.

            If the employer believes they can make a good hire without testing skills or probing into past experiences or hypothetical scenarios, then it’s probably something like a retail clerk position that doesn’t need a high school diploma either.

            1. Nobody*

              I didn’t say the employer should hire based solely on having a high school diploma. I just think it’s a reasonable and useful screening tool to narrow down the pool of applicants. Once the hiring manager has a pool of applicants with the required level of education, she should absolutely do interviews and/or job performance tests to select the best candidate from the pool. She shouldn’t, however, have to spend her time assessing every applicant’s basic reading, writing, and math skills in order to decide which candidates to interview. I don’t think it’s fair to call that lazy.

              1. Koko*

                What I’m saying is that skills assessment should be happening either way. It’s not an additional assessment the manager would have to do in lieu of requiring a diploma, and nor would I expect that dropping the diploma requirement means they’ll suddenly be flooded with a bunch of applications from grossly illiterate people.

                It starts with requiring a cover letter. You can already get a pretty good sense of someone’s language ability and ability to organize their thoughts just from whether they can write a good cover letter.

                I think if the diploma requirement was dropped, the process would look just the same as it does with the requirement. You will likely get more applications, but your initial assessment is still going to be based on whether the cover letter and resume is up to snuff. If they’re not, it doesn’t matter if the person finished high school. If they are, it still doesn’t matter.

              2. AGirlCalledFriday*

                I wouldn’t call it lazy, but such practices effectively screen out those from low-income areas as well as others who had difficulties in school that do not translate to the working world. It does nothing to narrow poverty margins – only increase them.

          4. Miss Betty*

            I don’t think a diploma necessarily shows that, though. Of course, I graduated a long time ago and don’t have kids, so my experience isn’t recent. But it used to be that you could graduate high school with a D average. That’s not really a high school level of skill in reading, writing, and math. All the diploma proves is that you passed the classes. It doesn’t let an employer know what kind of grades a person got or how hard she worked. The two don’t necessarily correlate, either. I didn’t work hard but graduated with a high B average. Other people worked their butts off and scraped through with Ds.

            1. Oryx*

              Even the passing the classes isn’t always an indicator of anything other than the school not wanting to deal with certain learning problems and just pushing a student through the upper grades instead of holding them back and taking the time to educate them.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Am chuckling, my father graduated with a lot of Cs and Ds. He was the president of his tiny class AND he went on to get numerous patents. For his era he was a trouble maker, on top of all that other stuff. School bored him, that was his biggest problem.
                People like predictability but some things are not predictable.

          5. Elizabeth West*

            I got one, and I failed four years of basic math. And I knew a lot of people who were really good at just doing what the teacher asked and got high marks. They didn’t work hard. They just knew how to work the system.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              My husband learned how to take tests, the material was secondary for him.
              At one job he kept getting licensed to do x part of the job but he never did it and really did not know an exceptional amount about that part of the job. His coworker, who actually DID know the x part of the job and actually did do x part of the job, could not pass the test to save his life. Everything had to go out with my husband’s signature on it. My husband said the coworker’s frustration was totally understandable.

              I am more like the coworker than I am like my husband was.

        2. Marzipan*

          The equivalent requirement in the UK would probably be ‘5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grade C or above, including Maths and English’; and I’ve generally understood that to be a screen for being able to read, write, and add up to a reasonable standard. There are other ways to find those things out about an applicant; but equally there generally won’t be a shortage of applicants who meet the requirement so in a lot of ways it’s an easy (lazy?) way of establishing them. It does, unfortunately, leave a lot of people on the wrong side of effectively an impenetrable wall, often for reasons that are nothing to do with their ability, though – in a previous job working with homeless young people, for example, very few of them had any real qualifications, because their lives hadn’t really been conducive to study.

          For that reason I have a fair bit of sympathy for the employee here. From your company’s perspective it’s worth considering whether the requirement might inadvertently be screening out great candidates; and for this individual I’d want to help her, if possible, to work towards equivalent qualifications so she won’t face the same barrier throughout her entire working life.

      2. Minion*

        I know we’re talking about one specific employee here, but there are many, many people who make great employees who don’t have high school diplomas. Both of my parents are ones that never graduated high school, but have been great employees everywhere they’ve ever worked. My dad won employee of the year where he worked and when he retired, they spared no expense – he had a party and gifts and many genuine expressions of how much he was going to be missed because of his work ethic and his commitment to excellence. This wasn’t just their tradition for retiring employees, it was something they did just for him.
        Maybe I see it more because the area I live in is very economically depressed – many of our community live in abject poverty. I, myself, didn’t have a high school diploma until I was in my early twenties. I got it, then went to school and earned a B.S. in Accounting, but honestly? Every job I’ve ever had, aside from this one maybe, I could have done without ever having gotten either.
        So the existence of one good employee without a HSD doesn’t prove anything. But there are a lot more than just one good employee.

    2. PhD from PA*

      I’ve told this story before in this forum (since I read much more than I post here, I forgot what nickname I used then). But in a past job, I reported to a woman who never finished High School (I suspect because she got pregnant, as she had a kid very young).

      At the time she was my manager, she had proven to have superior management and innovation skills (she was poached from a competitor to work for my company). She had people with TWO PhDs reporting to her, and we all respected her very much. The only reason we knew she hadn’t finished H.S. is because she talked openly about it.

      I also know a guy with a bachelor’s degree who works at a famous Research lab, being the only non-PhD there and promoted above his PhD colleagues because of his superior results.

      My point is, it may be harder for a hiring manager to narrow down a list of potential candidates for a job when diplomas are not listed as required, but unless you truly need candidates to have a certain degree or certification for legal or safety purposes, why not keep the door open for exceptional candidates who can demonstrate through superior cover letters and resume accomplishments that they are as capable?

    3. BananaPants*

      It’s not necessarily a bad requirement. The OP doesn’t tell us if this is one of them, but there are jobs in which there are hard-and-fast educational requirements for regulatory or other reasons. We can argue all day long about whether or not those are good requirements, but if a state or federal government says in effect, “Someone working in this role must have a high school education” then it’s certainly reasonable for an employer to have that requirement for applicants.

      I take issue with the assumptions that this employee is from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background or went to a dropout factory or whatever, and that the employer is awful for having this educational requirement to begin with. All we know is what the OP told us – that the employee admitted to not having a high school diploma after she was hired, but has been a diligent worker and a good member of the team.

      1. Anna*

        Since the OP doesn’t mention it, I think we can safely assume that isn’t the case since if it were a matter of state or federal regulatory requirements, the question would probably be different.

  4. Mike B.*

    #2 – Is your manager looped in on this? I’d be furious if someone did this to one of my people, and my manager would be apoplectic. It’s a decent bet that the highest-level person you can reasonably expect to intervene on your behalf is more powerful than the highest-level person your HR rep can call on–every department has a vested interest in making sure HR doesn’t abuse its authority.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      My concern is that someone willing to abuse their authority on this thing would also abuse their authority on others. I’d be concerned about retaliation against anyone that complained. HR could make false accusations, false investigations, prevent pay raises, promotions, transfers, etc. I think that having several people complain about this would be far more effective than only one person (safety in numbers).
      Of greater concern to me is that is isn’t one HR person, but several in this department! That tells me the entire department may be corrupt and that signals that the problem is high up the ladder.
      This issue is really a larger problem for the company than it looks like from the surface.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. HR has access to soooooo much privileged information that could be misused. It isn’t that huge a leap from someone stealing a parking space to stealing someone’s SSN.

          1. Dot Warner*

            Maybe, but I definitely wouldn’t want someone who’s immature enough to get all butt-hurt about a parking space handling my private information.

        1. Not me*

          I agree that you don’t want HR people who steal parking spots and act weird about it, but this is really a stretch.

        2. Jimbo*

          I think that’s a pretty big stretch. The thing that bugs me is HR is where I would probably start if another employee was trying to steal my assigned parking space. When HR are the ones stealing the spaces, that sends the message that you have no recourse.

      2. Mike B.*

        That’s why I’d recommend escalating the issue within OP’s own department before pursuing it further in HR. They could make life difficult for OP, but jump a few spots up the ladder and you’ll find someone who might be able to have the miscreants disciplined or fired without risk to herself. And this strikes me as a pretty easy fight for a manager to take on; resources legitimately allocated to one or more departments have been taken by another department, surreptitiously and without any real excuse. It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh, totally. I have a friend that used to work for a place where the HR manager didn’t like her. One time, she went to the doctor, and they said her insurance wasn’t valid. A few time consuming calls later, she found out HR had “oops, made a mistake” and made the correction and got her insurance instated. She thought in the back of her mind “that B probably did it on purpose” but of course had no proof. Then, about a year later, it happened again!! This time it was “oops, your birthdate was off by one month”. My friend was positive at this point the B was messing with her. She doesn’t work there anymore.

    2. Jimbo*

      Hindsight is always 20/20 but I would have tried to get something in writing. After I talked to the person that doled out the spaces and they confirmed the space had NOT been assigned twice, I would have emailed them to get that in writing. Then I would forward that to my manager (or even her manager) and asked why we came up with a system to fairly distribute spaces when it could simply be overridden. And if the HR staff are so powerful that they can steal spaces, why weren’t they given the premium spaces in the first place?

      The sad thing is someone up high probably came up with that system to assign spaces. That person would probably flip their lid to find out their plan is being ignored but they will most likely never even know about OP’s situation.

  5. Mando Diao*

    I see that other people are already suggesting that OP3 ask the employee to complete her GED or diploma. I disagree with Alison a bit here. In OP3’s position, I would have lost a bit of trust in the employee, and I don’t find it egregious to ask this employee to fulfill such a basic educational requirement. Just because it might be difficult or inconvenient doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t still have to do it. Most of us have done it. She can do it too.

    Honestly, I might have fired her over this.

    1. Mike B.*

      If it were a simple matter for an intelligent worker to take and pass this exam, why wouldn’t she have done so rather than lying about it (when she was so uncomfortable about lying that she came clean once she had the job)?

      There are some complications you aren’t accounting for.

      1. Mando Diao*

        Because, as per this thread, there are a lot of intelligent people who clearly don’t know how easy the test is. Or she’s 19 or 20 and this is the first time her lack of a diploma was an issue. It’s a non-professional job that only requires a high school diploma. Somehow I doubt that this employee has been in the workforce for very long. I don’t understand the argument for supporting someone’s right to not get her GED. Only good things will come from it.

          1. esra*

            It tests for a lot of basic skills, but as an adult you generally have them. So it probably wouldn’t be easy for like, a 14 y-o. But it shouldn’t be a huge challenge for an adult who has been working.

        1. PontoonPirate*

          Well, it was easy for you. It may not be easy for others. Complications of poverty, time constraints, test performance issues, access to resources … When you say, “but it was so easy!” you’re not really addressing the root cause of why someone wouldn’t/couldn’t obtain a GED. I agree with you that having her GED would be an enormous benefit in the future, but I don’t think it’s something this employer can insist upon considering she’s been performing well under their metrics without one. Also, as others have pointed out, the test is harder now than it used to be.

          And look, I agree that the lying isn’t great and I’d watch her more closely for a long time, but I also honor her sense of integrity that she came forward when she didn’t have to and want to work with her on that.

          We argue all the time here that this policy or that policy is too black-and-white. Now we have an opportunity to actually see how some flexibility can be beneficial to both the company and the employee.

          1. Zillah*

            This. There are many things that most people find ridiculously easy that I struggle with/straight up can’t do due to my very common disability. People routinely do not believe me, but there it is.

          2. Kyrielle*

            This. I think I would ask her if she’d gotten her GED (if it wasn’t clear from the lying about the diploma conversation that she hadn’t), and if not, ask her if it was something she thought she could do, because it would benefit her in the future and she wouldn’t have to lie to sanely-phrased versions of that question again. I’d express confidence that she’s clearly bright and a hard worker.

            She might say no. Or I can’t. Or yes but. And if the ‘but’ part was something I could help with easily, I’d like to think I’d offer. And if it was “I can’t” then I’d accept that. I suppose I could dig in to why, but I wouldn’t – if she’s a good worker, it’s not a reasonable requirement of *this* job, and therefore the reason why is not my business.

          3. Oryx*

            Thank you. I’ve administered the GED test and seen some of my other library patrons take it. It is no means a given that everyone is going to pass or find it easy.

        2. Maya Elena*

          I don’t think the issue is so much that people are against her getting a GED – just her getting fired because if it.

          I do think that the latter would be extremely ungenerous on the part of the employer, based on the circumstances described in the original post.

        3. Anna*

          Please PLEASE stop saying it’s easy. For one, it’s not true and for two, it kind of undermines what people have done to complete their GED. I realize you’ve taken it and passed, but your experience is your own experience and doesn’t speak to everyone’s experience with the test. In addition, the test has changed dramatically recently and is not the same test you took.

          1. Katniss*

            Thank you for this. I’m a smart person and good at taking tests, but for a variety of financial and ability-related (at the time) reasons it was a struggle for myself and my family to make sure I was able to get my GED. And even now if I was asked to pay for a needed test out of my own pocket, it would be a struggle for my budget. It isn’t “easy” for everyone.

    2. Graciosa*

      I think I would have fired her as well.

      The lying part is what gets me. I’m not terribly willing to compromise on integrity.

      I might have been more sympathetic about re-evaluating the requirement if the issue had been disclosed right away (for example, checking the box to get into the system, but noting the issue on a cover letter, raising it in the interview, etc.). Waiting until after getting the job is too late – you’ve already put the manager in a bad position – for me, the disclosure and discussion would need to be pre-hire.

      And yes, I understand that this means that she would not have been able to use her performance on the job to demonstrate that she could do the work. Life is like that sometimes, but I don’t think it’s really integrity if you only tell the truth when the truth has no negative consequences and suits your convenience.

      I do think she should get her GED if she wants to be able to say she has it when she applies for her next job, but that’s her call. I’m fine with her making her own choices on this matter as long as she doesn’t expect to be able to lie to me about them without consequences.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s really easy to talk about integrity on a full stomach. This employee isn’t causing any damages and it’s in fact generating money for the business.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Exactly. The OP says she’s “a hard worker, a great team member”, and people think the OP should roll the dice again on someone who has a diploma, just for the sake of a diploma? Even if the OP gets just as lucky next time, that’s still a lot of expense just to wind up with someone who will probably not be as loyal as the person for whom you made an exception.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            No, it’s for the sake of integrity.

            I couldn’t care less about a high school diploma, but I care very much about lying. This employee is new. The manager doesn’t know much about her. She now knows that the employee will lie when it benefits her.

            I would also fire her, with regret. And then I would advocate to change the requirement as we began the process of replacing her.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                Ruin her life? People get fired when they deliberately lie to their employers. They ruin their own lives by doing so.

                Listen, Mike, I love that you’re always on the side of the “little guy” and stand up for unpopular beliefs on this board (and I almost always agree with you), but I think you’re being awfully bombastic on this one. Reasonable people can disagree on this.

              2. Zillah*

                We’ve established many times here, though, that people can’t be held responsible for “ruining” someone else’s life. While I don’t think that the employee should be fired, hyperbole and assigning inappropriate blame are not solid arguments.

              3. Marcela*

                Mike, I’m with you. Because I’ve seen first hand all the people not wanting to hire my dad who never finished high school. It wasn’t about integrity when he said it first hand, and they did not want to hire him or interview anyway, no matter what his resume said. So it’s super easy to talk about integrity when you (as you “all the hiring companies and hiring managers”, not you in you as the commenter X) push people to a place where the choice it’s between food vs integrity or in my particular case, the ability to pay for his daughter’s education vs integrity. Shame on you who thinks this is overdramatic.

            1. PontoonPirate*

              So you’d fire her for coming clean but make sure the next person gets to benefit from that act?

              That’s your objective right, I suppose, but it seems like a waste of time, talent and opportunity when you could easily put her on warning, watch her very closely for a time and move on with life.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I’m so surprised that folks are dug in on supporting this employee. What if she had made up a past job and claimed 2 more years of experience than she had? It might still be irrelevant to her performance, but her lie would be a big deal.

                I could be talked into some response other than firing her, sure. But I’d treat in her like I’d read any employee whose integrity I’d lost trust in. Watch her carefully, not consider her for promotion unless she demonstrated a growth in her integrity, not trust her with key projects, manage her more directly, etc

                Perhaps a lot depends on how new she is. Is this her third day or her third month? In her third month of be inclined to treat it like I’d treat another lie by an employee (and I’d have to think about what that would mean). If it’s her third day then I’m not invested in her. The knowledge I have of her is very limited – hardly more than when I made the offer – and one of the pieces of data I have is that she lies when it benefits her. It doesn’t feel like a waste of anything to use that information and act on it.

                1. PontoonPirate*

                  Acting on the OP’s information, it seems like she’s been there long enough for the OP to assess her performance and come away with a very positive impression, which is why I lean heavily toward keeping her, warning her and watching her.

                2. PhD from PA*

                  Victoria, I think you’re ignoring the fact that the employee came clean on her own, she wasn’t caught on the lie, and to me that makes a huge difference. She knew (and has already proven) she can do the job well, and therefore the requirement was stupid to start with.

                  I’m typically entirely against any type of lying, but in this case, I think the OP did what she had to do to circumvent a system that was stupid and unfair to start with.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, she came clean on her own before she got caught out. That’s better than being caught; it’s still, at best, “better to ask forgiveness than permission”.

                  I agree that it likely makes sense for the OP to look into exactly what happened here, rather than immediately firing the worker, but wow, the rationalizations.

                4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  PhD, I’m not ignoring that – I just don’t care very much. Lying to get something you want, then coming clean after you get it, doesn’t earn you much credit in my book. Is it better than never coming clean? Sure. Does it erase your lie? Not at all.

                  Listen, we don’t get to just ignore requirements that we disagree with. I’m a pacifist and a Quaker. Many Quakers act on their pacifism by intentionally not paying the portion of their taxes that fund the Department of Defense. They are making an assessment about the validity of that requirement, and choosing to ignore it. If they are caught, they go to jail (or suffer other punishments). That is part of the deal with that form of civil disobedience. I admire them for doing it, and I especially admire that the accept the consequences as a part of their activism.

                5. Velociraptor Attack*

                  I’m in the same boat here. She lied, had the opportunity to come clean in an interview, opted not to confess then, and waited until she was in the position to admit to her lie.

                  My issue is that she lied and then had ample opportunity to mention that she clicked it to get through the automated process but go on to explain why she believes that she is still qualified for the position. Also, this doesn’t appear to be an instance of confusion over the requirement, she knew exactly what she was doing and that would be a problem for me.

                  I would heavily lean toward firing her.

                6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Whoops, I didn’t finish my thoughts about Quakerism and civil disobedience:

                  I am a pacifist, but I’m not willing to suffer the consequences of not paying war taxes. So I pay them. I don’t get to both ignore the requirement that I pay them AND avoid the consequences.

                7. Mike B.*

                  But she *didn’t* make up job experience that she didn’t have.

                  I’m sure you could think of countless other hypothetical situations in which an employee’s actions would merit firing–fabricating relevant work experience, or lying about the degree to get a job where it was patently necessary–and I’d be with you on most of those. In this case she lied to a machine about a credential that has proven unnecessary, and came clean about it when she didn’t need to. And it appears that she only did this because she was desperate for work. These are considerable mitigating factors, such that I wouldn’t do anything disciplinary beyond having a serious conversation with this employee.

                8. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  If you are arguing that the requirement is wrongheaded (as evidenced by her success in the job, even though she lied about meeting the requirement), then it follows that there is no meaningful difference between the nonsensical diploma requirement or the nonsensical 5 years of experience (or whatever) requirement. So why is one ok with you and the other not?

                  Lying is lying.

                9. Anna*

                  Oh give me a break. Lying is lying? You mean to say you’d have the same reaction if your partner told you a dress looked good on you when it clearly didn’t than if they told you they had a secret child and had been married before they ever met you? I find that highly unlikely.

            2. Amy G. Golly*

              I’d like to argue that the idea of “integrity” is not so black and white as it’s being represented by some. That is: I think it’s a mistake to insist that people with integrity never lie, and that all lies count equally against a person’s integrity.

              If the worry is that the initial lie would indicate a bad character (and thus a bad employee), doesn’t the employee’s thus-far stellar work ethic and excellent fit for the role indicate that’s not the case? Does it count for nothing? Or is this a hard line stance, .i.e. “You lied, therefore you must be fired, regardless of other factors”?

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                If you’re referring to me, you can see my many comments on this thread about how other factors would affect my judgment. But the fact remains that she lied, and part of the consequence for lying is that it colors my opinion of her. I’m truly baffled that people seem to object to that.

        2. neverjaunty*

          I’m puzzled by this. Integrity doesn’t matter if you need to getting or keep a job? The people who were screened out from this job because they didn’t lie are suckers? It’s okay to lie if you lie about something you don’t think matters?

          This is very strange to me given that the consensus on AAM on things like lying on a resume or paying a company to fake a job history is always “don’t do it”. Nobody flipped their hat over the woman who lied 20 years ago about a credential and was later fired from her college admissions job.

          1. Kat*

            I’m really torn. I think it’s very hard to judge someone for lying if it’s the difference between eating and having a roof over their head or not, but lying to get a job is pretty reprehensible. If a white-collar worker wrote in and said she lied about having a Master’s degree, we’d tear her apart. I know that’s different because presumably that person has a home and a full stomach, but it’s hard to draw a black or white line here.

            1. neverjaunty*

              No, it’s not hard at all. The only reason it seems hard is that people are making a ton of emotional assumptions about this worker and then trying to back themselves into a logical reason for “but that’s different”.

              I mean, your Master’s degree holder could be a single mom who was the first person in her rural-poor family to go to college, and have nothing to fall back on if she loses her job. The no-HS-degree employee could be an upper middle class kid who blew off high school for partying and is living in Mom’s McMansion while she gets back on track. We literally have zero idea, yet people are willing to tie themselves into knots.

          2. Zillah*

            I think this is quite different from the situation you’re talking about, though – the OP owned up to her lie and seems to have done so very quickly, which is a different dynamic than someone lying for many years.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Sure, but that’s a reason for the OP to dig deeper and find out if this is a mistake the employee can recover from. It’s not a reason to say “oh but those requirements were stupid anyway so who cares”.

              1. Zillah*

                I’m confused. I said I didn’t think the two were equivalent – I didn’t say anything along the lines of “oh, it’s a stupid requirement, who cares?”

              2. Rater Z*

                And I suspect the OP actually did this — or, at least, should have.

                That’s been my feeling as I read thru all the comments. Yes, the lie is bad, but then the manager should be digging into the rest of the work background again in a conversation/documented meeting to determine how accurate the rest of the information given at the time of hiring was. Normally, the work experience would have been checked out before the actual hiring took place.

                There’s just so much we really don’t know about the circumstances here.

                There are comments that the employment might be a 19-20 year old kid. That could be true. It might also be that the employee had worked somewhere in the same job for many, many years and this was the first time s/he had been out of work in perhaps 25-30-35 years.

                The person came clean on s/he own. I say, cut the person a break and help them with getting their GED.

          3. Just Another Techie*

            Also when the Marilee Jones thing broke, there was a great deal of handwringing on her campus, and not everyone was solidly in the “fire her” camp. I won’t say she single handedly changed the culture of admissions at that university, but she played a big role in making admissions better and more fair to women and poor students, and there was quite a lot of pushback on the chancellor’s decision to fire her. (I think it was the right decision to fire her, but I don’t say that without a whole lot of regret and sadness. And a big part of why it was imperative to fire her was because she was such a leader in getting women into MIT, and the last thing the Institute needed was for their commitment to equality to get tainted by association with Jones’ lies.)

          4. Anna*

            I think linking the HS diploma thing with integrity is…weird. You’re seriously focused on that as if it represents everything about this person when clearly it doesn’t. The employee has already proven herself but all that data is moot now because of the diploma question? If the OP fired her, it would be the perfect example of holding firm to an ideal while the world crumbles around you. Sometimes there is no “right” solution; there’s just a solution that isn’t the manager cutting off her nose to spite her face.

        3. Omne*

          That reasoning could excuse just about any lie that comes up. They’re not causing damages so who cares if they lied about a degree? Who cares if they lied about a few criminal convictions? Who cares if they lied about previous employment? After all they’re generating money and not doing damage. So anyone that manages to get hired and does a good job should get a pass on any lies they told to get the job. After all, where do you draw a line that isn’t arbitrary?

          1. Amy G. Golly*

            Jumping from “they checked ‘yes’ for high school diploma when they didn’t have one” to “they concealed multiple criminal convictions” is a bit extreme. Surely we can agree that not all lies are equally serious?

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        People lie every day though. “Do you like my new glasses?” “Yeah, they look great” (not). “Did you send that email to Big Customer?” “Yes, I did” (runs back to desk to finish email and send it). I don’t think this one data point is enough to measure someone’s overall integrity.

        1. Marcela*

          + Avogadro’s number. I truly don’t get that there is a world where people’s characters are binary, and they either never say a lie in their lives, therefore are good workers, or they lie once and you never know what they are going to do, but obviously if they lie once, they are going to lie forever and be terrible workers.

    3. CMT*

      Your experiences are not universal. Saying if you’ve done it, she can too is failing to account for sooooooooo many things.

      1. Mando Diao*

        That’s true (and I included disclaimers in my comment, so no need to act as though I didn’t), but I do think that the experience of someone who has personally been there generally carries a bit more weight than people who haven’t been there and are rushing to shout me down with rote rhetoric. Has anyone here dropped out and taken the exam? Because I did, and it’s horribly insulting to be silenced by people who haven’t.

        1. Anna*

          Except nobody is silencing you and you seem really stuck on talking about how easy it was. Most people are asking that you don’t speak for everyone because it is not so easy for everyone and I and several other people have pointed out that your experience isn’t even true now because the test has gone through a dramatic overhaul. Again, your experience is not everyone’s experience so when you say the person should take the test because it was “so easy” you’re actually also only speaking from your own limited view.

  6. WYLW*

    #3 If OP isn’t in the states, I might agree that the employee should get her GED. However, the OP is likely in America. How different is American high school from American middle school really? The employee clearly has all the skills and knowledge necessary to do that job so it looks like a high school diploma shouldn’t be a requirement.

    1. Mando Diao*

      American high school is very different from middle school. There are some decently logical reasons for why this particular employee might be allowed to keep this particular job, but the supposed lack of value of a high school education isn’t one of them.

      1. Anlyn*

        A long time ago I got into a discussion with someone from the UK about the differences between UK and US schooling, and one of the things I took away from it is that in the UK, there really isn’t much difference between middle school and high school; at the time (not sure if it’s the same now), UK kids graduated a lot earlier than US (16 was average, I think), and much of the curriculum was the same throughout their primary school (I think that’s right—their primary is middle school/high school combined, and secondary was their younger kids; vice versa in the US—it’s been awhile since I talked with this person). I may be way off, but that’s what I remember from the conversation.

        So not that strange a statement if WYLW is not from the US. If she is, then I envy her middle school experience.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I think you have it backward–primary would be elementary school–ages 4-11–and secondary is middle/high school–ages 11-17/18. I believe they can legally leave school at 16, as can most US students. And they might be able to graduate at 16, but about those requirements I’m not sure.

          1. Amelie*

            There’s no such thing as “graduation” from UK schools. We just sit our exams and leave school. Graduation is a very American concept to us.

    2. Not me*

      High school is four years out of the total of thirteen from the start of kindergarten through high school graduation.

    3. Kelly L.*

      I’m pretty sure middle school was just a place to warehouse the kids in the worst stage of puberty so they couldn’t annoy anyone else, or at least that was my experience with it. I don’t remember learning much at all, except how to have pranks played on oneself and about 50 new insults, slurs, and swearwords that one could be called.

      Or was that just me? Ha.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha, so true. I feel like it was just practice for high school- going to a different classroom each period, dressing for PE, going to your first dance, etc.

      2. Jinx*

        “I’m pretty sure middle school was just a place to warehouse the kids in the worst stage of puberty so they couldn’t annoy anyone else”.

        This is the best description of middle school I’ve ever heard. :P

      3. Anxa*

        I coudn’t disagree more!

        I didn’t actually go to a middle school, though. I went to a K-8 with a built in middle school (these were the years we stopped having a head teacher and started having subject teachers).

        Middle school was where I learned Algebra, my first foreign language classes, learned to write essays, proper papers, MLA formatting and more about proper bibiographies, basic etymology, branches of government, etc.

        If anything, middle school was much more rigorous than high school.

      4. A Non E. Mouse*

        I learned, as one of the “smart” kids, that an awful lot of misbehavior is tolerated from Those That Test Well. Oh, I had some fun!

        My sister, who I would argue is at least twice as intelligent as me, Doesn’t Test Well, and therefore had to mind her Ps and Qs far more than I did in middle school, and high school for that matter.

        Back to the original question: I don’t like Tests with a capital T because I don’t feel they actually measure anything besides how well someone Tests with a capital T.

        That said, I think it would delightful to find out 1) if the employee wants to earn their GED, 2) what barriers exists to that employee earning that test and 3) doing everything in my power to help with those barriers *if the help was wanted*. If the employee didn’t want my help, I’d back the hell off, and promptly pretend I didn’t know they were lacking a degree.

    4. Kyrielle*

      Um…quite a lot different, yes. Just as middle school is quite different from grade school, as all are a progression of learning and standard schooling.

      I admit there’s questions about what our schools are doing (but then, there were when I was growing up too; they were just entirely different questions then). But that doesn’t mean middle and high school cover the same ground. If you give me two people, one who only completed 8th grade (middle school) and one who graduated high school, the latter is far more likely to know math beyond algebra; to speak a second language*; to be able to write coherent papers; to be more deeply familiar with world and US history; to know basic chemistry, physics, and biology at a competent rather than childish level. In some cases, if they attended a more elite high school, they may have a deep grounding in a particular subject matter (technology, biology, medicine), depending on what their school focused on, but that is admittedly beyond the norm.

      * There are a good number of people who speak a second language before they exit grade school, either because their family speaks a language other than English, or because they enter a bilingual/immersion program in kindergarten. But for those who don’t, the requirement to learn at least the basics of another language is usually present in high school.

  7. Anonymous Educator*

    #3 reminds me of Marilee Jones (former Dean of Admission at MIT who lied about having an undergraduate degree). I agree with Alison and really think it’s at the discretion of the employer.

  8. Glasskey*

    #3-I don’t see this as an issue of whether a high school diploma is needed to do a good job here-sounds like it may not be. I have more of a problem with the fact that the employee withheld this info until after she was hired. If there’s something inaccurate about your application due to problems with an online form, you should disclose that earlier on.

    1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

      Sounds to me like she ticked a box on an online application so it wouldn’t be automatically discarded, then confessed very soon after being hired. Not great, obviously, but I agree she shouldn’t be fired or disciplined as long as she demonstrates she’s otherwise trustworthy.

      Making GED resources available, if appropriate, would be a good thing to do, I think.

      1. Sherm*

        Yeah, at least she had the integrity to admit that she had lied. Many people would have blithely checked the wrong box and never given it a second thought.

    2. Juli G.*

      I agree. The lying bothers me much more. I wouldn’t do it but I can understand lying on the application to get around the system. I do wish she had disclosed this in the interview process.

      I wouldn’t fire her but I do think
      I would have a hard time trusting her in the future.

      1. Graciosa*

        That’s probably why I would be inclined to fire her – I would never trust her again, and I couldn’t function with her on my team without that trust.

        1. Anna*

          Then you would be focused on one data point at the expense of every other data point you have. If you did that with any other situation people would point out the glaring flaw in that approach.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I kind of agree. It’s arbitrary and relies on a sweeping generalization that all lies are bad and evil, OMG. We should all just be completely honest all the time.

            Coworker: So what do you think of my presentation?
            Us: Frankly, Bob, it sucks donkey balls. Pick a font, will you?

      1. neverjaunty*

        You think employers have no business requiring credentials of any kind other than those which are direct proof of a job skill?

            1. Anna*

              The reason I didn’t move forward with JUST my HS diploma was because I knew I wouldn’t get far with just that. No matter how much you argue, the way society is structured now a HS diploma is pretty much just a piece of paper. Otherwise we wouldn’t have spent years telling everyone they had to go to college if they wanted to have a good job.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – It isn’t lying to have your employees state “she’s not available”. This conveys the information needed without disclosing any other information. That way you are preserving your employees integrity while preserving your sanity.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Yup. And if she asks when OP is available, the answer is “I’m so sorry, I don’t know”. Because the employee really doesn’t know when OP will make herself available to her Mom.
        With boundary crashers, minimal info is necessary

    1. Wildkitten*

      In my office we do this all the time – if you’re in a meeting, or if you’re in the middle of something, or if you’re not sure why someone called and you want to hear the voicemail before you call them back so you’ll be prepared. Also, coincidentally, every time my abusive father calls :-)

      Blocking the mom from calling the work line is a great idea, but sending the mom to the personal cell phone is not a good suggestions. It sounds like the LW doesn’t want to talk to her abusive mom, so she might not want to give her mom her cell phone number. It’s not necessary to give abusive people a way to contact you.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This would be a great use of Google Voice. The OP could send the mother straight to voicemail, and she could even get back to her right away if necessary. Heck, my dad is not abusive (mostly), but he has the infuriating habit of calling EVERY number he has for me when he has a question, no matter how trivial, because he feels HE needs an answer. So I gave him my Google Voice number and would call him back within a day, or sometimes minutes, but when he got sick I set it to ring through to all my phones at once when he called. (He’s still recovering at home, so I have left it that way, but I’m starting to consider changing it back.)

      2. TL -*

        Yeah I would suggest blocking her from all phones for as long as you feel necessary, OP. If you have a good idea of how long her episodes last, you can ballpark the length of time and then make a decision after it’s passed. But if your mom is being awful, she doesn’t need to have access to you.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s very kind of your office. Not too long ago, I had an ex who’s been stalking me on and off for years, track me down and call my work. Just the sound of his voice upset me for about half the day. I asked HR about it, and they said they couldn’t put “that burden” on the receptionists to remember his name and say I wasn’t available. The compromise was they could tell me the call was on the line, and I could decline and ask them to take a message.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I worked in an office where a coworker had this situation for a while. I was instructed to transfer all her calls to our boss, who would then screen them. The stalking jerk would hang up when he got our boss; anyone else would just ask for Coworker. Eventually he got tired of it and gave up calling–at least the office, anyway.

    2. Rater Z*

      But contrast that with the answers above about the employee without the high school diploma.

      In both cases, the answer is misleading — AKA a lie.

      In one case, it is being construed as a way of working around a problem set up by an automated application system and is there anyone here who has never had to do a workaround on a computer glitch?

      In the second case, the manager really is asking her people to lie to HER mother about where she is. Can you now really trust her with anything she tells you??

      Why the difference?

  10. Wendy Darling*

    I have to say I completely understand the impulse to lie on online applications. I’ve been auto-rejected for truthfully saying I have no experience with MS Access.

    The reason I don’t have MS Access experience is that it wasn’t relevant to my past jobs because we used SQL and Excel (LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE er excuse me did I say that out loud), and I’m highly proficient with both, so I’m confident I could have working proficiency in Access in an afternoon and be completely up to speed within a week or two. But I know answering truthfully will get me dumped. And it did — I got the auto-reject like 2 minutes after I hit “submit”.

    I’m still struggling with whether it’s acceptable to claim experience with things I don’t have experience with when I DO have experience with multiple related things. I haven’t actually fibbed yet but every time I get an auto-rejection after spending an hour or more tailoring my materials for a job listing, I get a little closer.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      My father had that problem on one job. He had extensive experience in programmable controllers (was an expert in the industry and helped develop the technology). HR rejected him because he didn’t have experience in one particular brand of controller.
      In your case I’d be tempted to say “yes” on the online form and then disclose it via resume and during the phone interview with the hiring manager. Many times these problems result because someone misidentified needs Vs wants. Need: know how to do database. Want: Access.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        HR as a discipline is in very bad shape — hardly anyone intentionally decides to become HR like people intentionally decide to become engineers. I suppose that sort of planning would be largely pointless anyway, as HR has no basic research branch anymore. This makes these sort of hiring bottlenecks far more common than one would expect.

    2. LSCO*

      Is it possible you could spend a little time using online tutorial tools for MS Access to get a basic grip of how it works, or see if a local library or college has a basic class you could take? I realise the actual learning part would probably be very easy for you, but at least then you can say you have *some* experience in Access and you aren’t lying on applications?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s what I did when a job wanted me to have experience with Quickbooks. I knew that I could use Quickbooks; I just hadn’t used Quickbooks. So I took a couple of basic classes on and was able to say that I had “some” experience with Quickbooks. I got the job and didn’t have any problem whatsoever with using Quickbooks to invoice clients, pay bills, and run payroll (our payroll was set up by an accountant, though, so all I had to do was select a date range and click “Run Payroll”).

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah, that’s something I’m working on. I actually HAVE Access as part of my Office 365 subscription, so I can just play with some of my own data in it and/or take a quick online course.

        Unfortunately that won’t help me with the even stupider apps that ask you to list years of professional experience with the software. Those are terrible, because I know people who have been using Excel for 10 years and still can’t write a basic formula and I know people who are Excel experts after six months because they pick up that kind of thing quickly. Ditto lots of other skills/technologies.

        Really all I want is to be able to have an adult conversation with a human about whether lacking X years of experience with a certain software is ACTUALLY a barrier to entry or not, because usually it’s not really.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I think it’s completely legitimate in a case like Wendy’s to watch a couple of Youtube videos and click the ‘yes’ box.

    4. WhatsInAName*

      I don’t think this example really captures the problem here. You are saying it would be okay to say you had experience with Access if you had significant experience with SQL, which I would agree with because Access is built on SQL and you can accomplish pretty much anything you can do in SQL in Access using SQL view. It’s more advanced than Access. It’s not as though this employee meets some other requirement that is more advanced than high school– she just didn’t want to be screened out period.

      I think it’s not right, and I rarely disagree with Alison. In fact I remember a case where Alison agreed with a LW that it was dishonest for an employee to leave 5 minutes early before a shift ended because the “sneaking around” was the problem, not the lost time. How can you say that a lie on an application is less dishonest than that??

      1. Wendy Darling*

        My take was that the person lied to avoid being automatically screened out of a job she knew she could do, which is something I very much sympathize with. And since the letter writer said she was a hard worker and a great team member, it sounds like it IS a job she can do, diploma or no. Which, as someone who has been auto-rejected from jobs I was confident I could do, I empathize with.

        I actually think the letter writer’s employee has more grounds than I do to lie. I’m a professional with a graduate degree who got laid off. I’m going to get another job one way or another, even if I don’t lie about knowing how to use Access or some data visualization software it’s impossible to get access to without working for a company with a site license. Someone without a high school diploma is going to have a much harder time, even if they have loads of relevant work experience, because not having graduated from high school is SO stigmatized in the US (at least in the parts I’ve lived in).

        I guess I have less of a problem with lying to do an end-run on being systemically shut out by a computer program with misplaced priorities.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        In the previous instance the employee was not doing the work, she left.
        In this current instance the employee does the work and very well.

    5. finman*

      Tons of normal people and companies use Access. It is a much better database tool than Excel even with the expanded number or cells available.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’m just being cranky and bitter because I like SQL and I hate auto rejections, and I have no one to blame so I’m gonna take it out on Access. :P

  11. Nursey Nurse*

    Normally I’m all for firing people who lie on applications, but I have a hard time supporting that in the case of LW #3’s employee. It sounds like she lied just to get past the online screen and fessed up almost immediately afterward. Honestly, this is one of the problems I have with online application systems. I understand that they make things easier for employers, but the “yes or no” nature of a lot of the questions they use don’t provide any room for explanation on the part of the potential employee or discretion on the part of the employer. In this case, the employee can clearly do the work, so why not keep her?

    Letter #2 is a little confusing. The LW says that HR took her parking space in such a way that it sounds like HR was in charge of allocating them, but then says she talked to the person in charge of assigning the spaces about the issue? If HR allocates the spaces and abused their authority to get better ones, and I were a higher-up in the company, I would definitely want to know about it. If they are willing to misuse their authority over parking spaces, what else might they be willing to do with it?

    1. Myrin*

      I think only Alison’s answer to #2 sounds like HR is in charge of actually allocating parking spaces – I don’t see any evidence in the letter itself that suggests that, it simply says there are at least two jerks who simply park in others’ assigned spaces and they’re both from HR.

        1. Meg*

          At the very least, you should be assigned a spot you can park in. If you can’t park in your assigned spot because the HR person took it, then you should be able to take the HR person’s spot (so you don’t have to keep doing the parking in the wrong spot/having to move your car thing).

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Right, and that’s what eventually happened once they determined who the space stealer was, but OP is still angry (rightfully so) because she was assigned a really good spot, and the HR person who was stealing her spot had a crappy spot at the far end of the lot (or wherever). And no one went to bat for the OP to keep the good spot she was originally assigned.

          2. DMented Kitty*

            When they did eventually find out who took the OP’s spot (which was HR person), HR person just decided to “officially” swap spots with OP. And they did the same for another person in the same situation as OP!

            From what I understand it seems like the spot was assigned to OP fair and square, and HR just decided to take things into their own hands and unofficially parked into OP’s spot because HR person liked it better. Then when things came into light, HR just decided to make it official (apparently HR has full control of the system that assigns the spots to employees as well?)

            If I were OP it’s really the principle of the thing – if the crappy parking spots were assigned to me in the first place, I wouldn’t feel too bad since I got it fair and square. What feels shitty is the whole shady deal of someone else suddenly taking up the spot I’m supposed to be in without any context – and I don’t even know who at first, then in the process of being a shitty person to someone else several times (because I don’t know the person who took up my space so I have no idea which space I should “swap” with). If these HR people had just said they’ve checked with other management (whoever is in charge of parking spaces) first (there may be negotiations along the way), then I would probably feel a bit annoyed but okay, shit happens… But the fact that HR person made some lie about “double-booking” and all that nonsense, I’d be quite mad.

            That said, I guess it’s up to OP to decide if it’s a hill to die on. Unfortunately, it’s a hard thing to fight this on the way up, but I understand it’s a hard thing to ignore and let these shady HR people just get what they want.

            1. DMented Kitty*

              Correction on the “make it official” piece, I just realized that making it official was just to keep the peace. Crappy all around, though.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          It’s too bad they already know that you know, because after the second day, I might have just had their car towed :)

    2. neverjaunty*

      But she didn’t fess up “almost immediately”; she fessed up after she got the job. I doubt many people would have the same issue if she had disclosed it during the hiring process. At that point it’s more like skipping the voice mail tree to get to a human. Once she’s got the job, it’s “now you’d have to start all over again if you reject me”.

      1. Nursey Nurse*

        Yeah, that’s a fair point. It would be interesting to hear what the interview process for this job was like. If she was asked about having a diploma in the interview and lied again, I think she should be let go.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      The way for the lying employee to have handled her application with integrity is to have “confessed” more immediately. A note in the application or in her cover letter, an aside during her intrview, or even a confession upon receiving the job offer.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        True, I’d feel better about it if they had mentioned it during the interview (even at the end; I can see wanting to make an impression before explaining how you’re qualified). But then, if they did, they might have never been given a chance to challenge the policy that a HS diploma is required to do this work. This was the safer path for them, as there is a lot of baseless prejudice against people without diplomas, and for people who have diplomas. They can serve as shortcuts for lazy hiring managers.

      2. Nursey Nurse*

        That’s fair. I had assumed this was a retail or food service job where cover letters were probably not required and the interview process might have been pretty cursory, but she should have said something when they called to offer her the job.

  12. Glod Glodsson*

    #1 I’ve been in a similar situation from the other side – my manager’s ex husband became really abusive and stalked her for several weeks. If he couldn’t reach her at her mobile he’d call at work. If we blocked the number he’d call with another phone. I’d still look into that though as it takes the onus off your team.
    We, too, were instructed to pick up the phone and say she was unavailable/out. I didn’t mind this at all because I knew the situation and I saw that my manager was struggling. I don’t want to hold people responsible for the behaviour of abusive spouse. The whole point about abusive people is that they show willingness to cross ethical (and professional) boundaries. So I’d definitely rec being honest with your employees so that they have your back. Nobody in my team minded lying. Sometimes the ex-husband was abusive about her towards us, telling us that our manager was a lying witch, for example, but nobody took that seriously.
    The only thing I would advise against is picking up the phone where others can hear. My manager engaged in a screaming match with her ex in the middle of a room where 8 team members were. Obviously her rage came from frustration but it was a little disconcerting to see her lose her composure like that. It would have been better if she’d done that in a private room.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I wanted to say, I’ve been on the other other side, where a co-worker from a different team was in my phone pick-up group, and I hated answering his phone because it was clear he was lying to his wife about where he was, and I’d inadvertently get into trouble about saying where he was, even from my office-standard brief replies (eg “he’s in a meeting all morning, but he should be back at 1pm”/”I’m afraid he’s on annual leave today, can I pass you over to one of his colleagues?” etc). It was a really shitty experience, because he was making random co-workers complicit in affairs (and it turned out he later left under a cloud because he was inappropriate in a ton of other ways).

      HOWEVER! This is NOT what OP #1 is asking for, and it’s a totally different scenario. If I were OP#1’s colleagues, and she explained it like she’s explained it here, it’s completely understandable and I’d want to help her out. It’s super-easy to do the bland “Can I ask who’s calling? I’m afraid she’s tied up in meetings all day” when you’re prepared for it. I really feel for the poor OP, and hope the office can block the mother’s number too. Please don’t feel guilty, OP, I’m sure your colleagues would never even consider that it’s your fault, and would be happy to help.

  13. Dan*


    I find your position on #3 interesting. I’ve always worked under the assumption that resumes are marketing documents, and you can be a bit selective about what you put on there. But an application? Those things generally make you say you sign something saying that your application is complete and correct.

    It’s generally accepted in the job world that lying about credentials is a Big Fing Deal. People get fired for lying about degrees they claimed to have received years ago, long after that education ceases to matter.

    That argument you make about class issues and adverse impact can easily be extended to college degrees, and you won’t be able to convince me that lying about those is acceptable.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Resumes are marketing documents, but that doesn’t mean they can contain lies. I think what Alison meant was that putting a lie on a resume is a more thought out and considered action and the problem with that is it is more premeditated, where as ticking a box when completing an on-line form is a decision made in the moment.

      In the UK I’ve seen news articles about people facing criminal charges of fraud and misrepresentation for lying about qualifications (some have even been sent to jail) so yes it is a big deal. However I would say that high school education is more general in nature than a college degree so the skill / knowledge gap between having or not having a high school diploma is less than in having or not having a college degree.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Resumes as marketing documents should not contain lies but can contain omissions – you don’t have to list every job you ever had or all your degrees. I think we all agree to lie and add a degree to your resume is pretty reprehensible. But to leave off your PhD in basket weaving now that you’re in the tea pot industry is fine. That would, however, be a lie of omission if the application said (as most do) list all your degrees.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Another comparison to dating, I guess! :D Your OKCupid profile shouldn’t have photos of Tom Hiddleston instead of yourself, and shouldn’t say you’re a rocket surgeon if you’re not, but you don’t have to bare your soul about your terrible ex or reveal that you have a weird growth on your back or what have you.

          1. The Strand*

            (No Tom Hiddleston? What if it’s a picture of me AND Tom Hiddleston?! Preferably with his arms around me. Though I guess it defeats the purpose if you put that on OKCupid.)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                If I ever did the online thing again, I should include my picture of me and Ernie Hudson. That would screen out dudes who don’t like Ghostbusters. Blasphemy! I don’t want to date them anyway!

    2. Kathlynn*

      The difference is, a high school diploma is completely meaningless. Like, the graduation requirements changed when I was in school 3 times (my brother had different requirements then me, and a few grades below me had another set), let alone how frequently they’ve changed from 50 years ago to now. I know that the difficulty of the course work has increase since then, and same with completion rates. (I mean, I was doing course work (math specifically) in gr.8 that my grandma hadn’t touched in gr.10).
      Heck, this has been used to reduce the number of older applicants out of contention, since fewer of them have high school degrees (or equivalent) then their younger counterparts.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It’s OK for an employee to lie about having a job credential as long as it turns out that the credential is not relevant to their job duties?

      2. Laurel Gray*

        Strongly disagree and I think there are enough statistics floating around that would suggest the importance of people finishing high school.

        I really don’t think it is best for our society (here I go sounding like an oldster) for adults, particularly educated ones with great careers, advocating for the high school diploma being useless. I think it sets the wrong example for youth, at risk teens, young adults and the paroled etc. to be told it is meaningless. The successful/rich/famous people without high school diplomas are the exception.

        1. hbc*

          That’s somewhat circular reasoning, though. Employers only hire people who’ve graduated high school because it’s an important indicator of success, and it’s an important indicator of success because it’s harder to get good jobs without them.

          I don’t think anyone could take the comments here and believe it’s encouraging people to drop out. And if they’re taking it that way, well, their reasoning and comprehension skills mean that they’re probably not going to go far either way.

          1. Laurel Gray*

            I am strongly disagreeing with the comment that HS is meaningless. Another commenter said it is just a piece of paper. I think teens and the like are impressionable and we aren’t doing anyone any service by calling diplomas meaningless. My comments were more focused toward attitudes beyond this forum, and not necessarily anyone without a diploma who may stumble across it.

    3. PontoonPirate*

      That argument isn’t so readily extended to college degrees, though. For instance, did you know that summer learning is essential to keeping academic pace with your peers in high school? If you don’t have access to learning tools over the summer, because of complications of poverty/access to resources/needing to work to help put food on your family’s table, you fall exponentially behind every school year? And what do you think the drop out rate for those children becomes? Or did you know that children of color are disproportionately punished more severely than their white counterparts, also leading to an increase in the drop-out rate?

      That’s just high school. If you overcome those “class issues” as you put it, and make it into college, you’re incredibly lucky to begin with. I’m not saying anyone here who argues that lying is lying is lying doesn’t have a right to think that … but let’s be honest with each other about the privilege that comes with never being put in a position where you have to lie to get a job.

      1. PontoonPirate*

        And to clarify, I don’t like lying to gain employment. I would not encourage someone to lie about their education on an application. We also don’t really know this employee’s situation at all–but I think the general implications about why people feel compelled to lie and what our collective response to the root causes of that lie is worth exploring.

      2. Dan*

        “That argument isn’t so readily extended to college degrees, though.” Are you telling me that poor kids don’t drop out of school because they can’t afford it? Or life, such as single parenting, dictates that they work low-wage jobs because putting food on the table and paying rent *today* is paramount? In those cases, college takes a back seat for all but the most driven students.

        BTW, if we’re talking about “privilege”, I’ve lied to get jobs. How many of us are honest about why we left our previous employer without having work lined up?

        1. PontoonPirate*

          No, sorry, that’s partly the point I was driving toward, although in a clumsy way. Just graduating high school can be incredibly difficult without even thinking about the challenges of college. But the impact of having to make those choices when you’re a minor means we as a society failed even more.

          1. Dan*

            I’m starting to get really lost on the takeaway points. As I understand it…

            1. AAM is sorta okay-ish with the employee lying about having an HS diploma.
            2. I pointed out that lying about credentials is generally considered to be a BFD — to the point where it has been cited more than once as the reason for firing someone YEARS after said credential was allegedly obtained. (To the point where experience is now certainly a substitute for education.)

            So the conversation has moved to *which* credentials its okay to lie about? If I’m following the conversation correctly, then my issue with the logic here is that the reasons AAM seems to be ok with lying about obtaining an HS degree really are applicable to lying about having a college degree as well. Is it okay to lie about having one of those too?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m not okay with it. I do think it’s nuanced. As I said in my response: “Obviously it’s not okay to lie on your application. But I’m having a hard time working up outrage about it. She didn’t go out of her way to lie on, say, a resume — a document that someone presumably puts a lot of thought and care into. She answered “yes” to an online application question when she should have answered “no.” It’s hardly the lie of the century.”

      3. Shelby*

        I have to say, I call shenanigans on that. I can’t imagine that many teenagers engage in any kind of formal or even informal learning programs over the summer and most end up graduating. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was in high school and I and everyone I knew worked during the summer (once I could drive I worked two jobs in the summer and one year round) and nobody I knew did any kind of summer learning aside from maybe reading on their own. This was a lower-middle class area and approximately 35% minority. We had two kids drop out that I know of, both white and both with two parent households of average income.

        1. PontoonPirate*

          Well, the research unfortunately points to an increase in dropouts, minimum academic performance and, in the case of disproportionate punishments, higher rates of legal trouble. I’m glad you had the opportunity to keep pace with your peers, but unless you can vouch for every student in your town, it sounds like anecdata.

          1. Shelby*

            I can’t vouch for every single one, but I can vouch for the fact that nobody (or virtually nobody) in the area had the financial resources to obtain formal tutoring or classes for their children in the summer. I never even heard of those kinds of opportunities until I went to college with a few people who did participate in summer programs and even then they were mostly just camps so the parents didn’t have to deal with them, not any kind of academic instruction. It just wasn’t A Thing where I’m from. Maybe in very affluent areas summer learning is necessary to keep up with peers, but I just don’t believe in Anytown, USA that it really happens much.

          2. Nursey Nurse*

            I’d be interested in looking at this research. I can imagine that in some super-competitive magnet schools where everyone does summer enrichment, summer enrichment might be necessary to keep up. But none of my local schools offer summer enrichment unless you’re already behind, and most students graduate.

            I have looked at the data on disproportionate punishment, though, and I agree with you there.

      4. Anxa*

        I’m confused by this.

        “For instance, did you know that summer learning is essential to keeping academic pace with your peers in high school? ”

        But in high school nobody is studying in the summer, at least not formally, until perhaps AP classes. If anything, students in summer school (usually students who are already behind) are the ones that getting summer learning opportunities.

        1. Rater Z*

          In the area I live in now (Indianapolis), the school districts are adjusting their schedules so that students are in class longer during the summer and getting one or two week breaks more often during the school year.

          I’m not sure when the school year ends this year, but the school year definitely started somewhere between July 20 and August 2 last summer. That wasn’t some form of summer school either, but the regular school year. The start time varied because Marion County has 11 different school districts.

  14. Jessica*

    #3– I agree with those who said this demonstrates that the high school diploma isn’t really a good hiring criterion for this particular job, and demonstrates the flaws with overly rigid online application questionnaires. I applied to one job that wanted me to state whether I had a bachelor’s degree in engineering. My bachelor’s degree is in math, and my master’s degree is in engineering. For the master’s degree, the school required some additional make-up engineering coursework for those who didn’t already have bachelors in engineering. So on the application, I said yes, and I don’t consider it lying, I consider it a poorly formed question. So perhaps the applicant thought she had some other qualifications that superseded a high school diploma in the same way that a master’s supersedes a bachelors?

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      Yes! The misdirected credentialing questions! My mother has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. How did she become a school principal? By earning a frigging master’s degree in education administration from George frigging Mason!

      Kudos, Jessica, for sticking to your “I didn’t spend several years of my life to be told I don’t have an engineering degree” principles! (Also, high-five, fellow mathlete!)

    2. BananaPants*

      While I agree with you on poorly-formed questions on applications, I think if the employee had an associate’s degree or another higher educational credential, the OP wouldn’t even be writing in asking the question because the employee would clearly exceed the educational requirement.

    3. HRChick*

      We get around that by saying a “minimum” of a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
      It’s broad enough that it can catch a bunch of different options.

      1. HRChick*

        Just wanted a P.S. to say that we don’t do “knock out” requirements, but minimum education is definitely required for 95% of positions because we are a higher ed institution. Didn’t want anyone to think I was being arbitrary 0:)

  15. Snazzy Hat*

    LW#3: Perhaps the employee has three or more years of high school but dropped out, or she has her GED but — thanks to stigma — is convinced that doesn’t count as a diploma, or she obtained a diploma from a non-traditional school, or more than one of those, or something similar.

    My s.o. severely messed up his junior year of high school & was not expected to graduate on time, until he was given an unconventional path for his senior year. In addition to normal coursework, he was taking college courses (by mail or online, I believe), and essentially crammed two years into one. The result was that he spent four years at “Alpha High School” but his diploma is from “Adult Education of Beta County”.

    I had a classmate at “Delta Tech” who, at the end of our junior year, transferred from Delta (full of advanced courses and ultra-advanced courses) to “Epsilon High” (had maybe a few advanced courses). Ta-daaaa, he had enough credits to graduate from Epsilon within a month! Attended Delta, got diploma from Epsilon.

    I suggest asking your employee what the end result is, if she hasn’t told you already, while making it clear that you find her to be a great employee. If it turns out she has nothing similar to a high school diploma, ask if she has aspirations of obtaining that equivalent. Her response could just as easily be “yes, but I can’t because I need this job” or “no, because I have this job to worry about now.”

    1. Anon367*

      I was homeschooled, and I don’t physically have a diploma. I finished all the state requirements (and then some), and I’ve graduated high school, but I always feel uncomfortable answering those questions. I have a master’s degree, plus I graduated my bachelor’s with honors.

      1. The Strand*

        I would love to hear about how your homeschooling status panned out while you were looking for work later on. Did anyone have a problem with your lack of a diploma?

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          I’m intrigued by this too, and would love to know more.

          (I know that tons of homeschooling is awesome and great, but I always wonder about kids who leave the extreme-religious homeschooling families (eg the Duggars), with no qualifications, and how they get around that when they have no money, and no experiences outside of the family. I think of that poor girl who was in the news last year because she had no identification papers or proof of who she was as her parents wouldn’t give them to her)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I remember that one. It made me wish I was either a lawyer or a pirate. A lawyer so I could help that girl get her identification papers, or a pirate so I could do bad things to the parents and then hop on my ship and sail away. Either way, it ticked me off royally!

            Or a pirate lawyer. (A piyer? A lawyate?)

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              I’m just going to chime in and say I would watch the hell out of The Adventures of Elizabeth West, Pirate Lawyer. (“Kicking injustice right in the shins!”)

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            Typically, making it difficult for people to leave their “community” is the -point- of extreme-religious homeschooling. :/

      2. Anomanom*

        Hey – me too! I graduated, but no accredited diploma to put forth. I pushed through an Associated Degree as quickly as possible just to end having to worry about it. Masters degree here as well. Both my younger brother and sister have degrees and no official HS diploma as well.

        I enlisted in the military with this background as well, although I had enough college credits they didn’t care about the diploma (that’s why I go the Associates Degree).

  16. Kathlynn*

    For LW3, I’d suggest making resources available to the worker, but not requiring them to complete it.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Yeah because then you get into the issue of, how long does she have to complete it? Employer has no way of knowing whether the thing(s) that kept her from finishing high school is/are still a problem now. And then say a completion timeline is given and not met – what’s the consequence? A PIP? Firing? If the end result is going to be that you end up firing this really good employee, why not just do that now since the real issue here isn’t that she didn’t finish school, but that she lied on her application and said she did which is a fireable offense?

      1. Sarahnova*

        This! Plus, you are her employer and not her parent. If the question of whether or n0t she has a GED doesn’t affect her job performance, and it appears it does not, is it really your place to “require” its completion?

        And it is a weird “punishment” for the lie. The punishment for a lie is that you don’t fully trust her now. Tell her that. (Or fire her, your choice, but I agree with Alison that you shouldn’t.) Don’t introduce non-relevant artificial consequences – it doesn’t work any better on adults than it does on children.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Agree. I’m really not understanding this “make her get a degree” argument, which seems more like an emotional compromise – firing her seems mean but she still did something not okay.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I don’t see the GED suggestions as a “punishment” per se, FWIW–they’re a way to bring the employee into compliance with the policy, if the employer decides to keep the policy.

  17. Milton Waddams*

    #3, if you must fire someone, fire the person in HR — how many top candidates never made it to the hiring manager’s desk for consideration due to poorly formed auto-rejects?

  18. Rubyrose*

    #3 – I would be concerned about this person’s advancement ability, within your own company. What if the person eventually wants to transfer to a position with another manager? Is that other manager going to let that person slide on the degree? What if it came to light that you found out about the person’s lack of degree?

    I saw a similar situation. Employee had her high school degree and was hired in a non-professional position. But she clearly was heads above both her non-professional cohorts but also many of the so-called professionals she worked with. They kept giving her more and more responsibilities, some clearly professional, and kept changing her title (and to a lesser extent, her pay). Professional positions for which she would be perfect she had to pass on, because of the required college degree and her lack of it would immediately raise flags. She was not so concerned about it, but it did cause issues for management. Especially when she left and replacing the position was a challenge, given the differences between the pay, responsibilities, and education required.

    Do this employee a favor and keep yourself out of future problems – require her to get a GED.

    1. Sarahnova*

      ? How is the problem here that this employee didn’t have a degree, and not that the company had set an artificial bar requiring a degree when it wasn’t necessary to excel at the work?

      A degree is a proxy for a level of skill and/or knowledge (most of the time). If the person can clearly demonstrate the skill through other means, and it’s not one of the rare situations where, e.g., it’s not legal to do the job without a certain certification… you waive the degree requirement.

      1. Hlyssande*


        In the time I’ve worked at my company, they’ve changed basic requirements for the department from allowing no degree + experience to degree only. Officially, coming from the top down. It sucks. A former coworker applied internally for a mostly-lateral move that would’ve been a much better fit for her (doing work she was already doing, just with a slightly different set of responsibilities) and she got to the interview stage before HR stepped in and said nope, no degree. There are multiple people here who wouldn’t have even gotten in the door.

        1. Windchime*

          They recently started requiring college degrees at my workplace, for any position above “manager”. My close friend, who is a Director, has no college degree but has decades of relevant experience. She is grandfathered into her position, but she cannot advance to a higher level. Ever. Even though she has proven herself by doing the work.

          1. Hlyssande*

            These aren’t even managerial positions. It’s a pool of collectors. Corporate, business to business collectors, but collectors nonetheless (and they have hired almost fresh grads before). That’s part of why it frustrates me so much.

            And they’re requiring a masters for some positions also. My former supervisor strongly urged me to look into getting an MBA so I don’t, in her words, get stuck.

      2. Koko*

        Yes, the most relevant information is always what they’ve been doing recently. Once you have a college degree, I don’t care about your high school grades as much as I care about your college GPA or school’s reputation. Once you have a couple years of work experience, I don’t care about your college GPA or what school you went to as much as I care about what you’ve done in the working world. Once you have 8 years’ experience I don’t care as much about the achievements or reference your first job gives you as much as I care about the achievements or reference from your most recent job.

        It’s clear the employee without a college degree had successful work history which should be weighted much more heavily than a college degree even for candidates who possess one.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I don’t see how the new manager would know, seeing how HR obviously didn’t verify her high school diploma and nobody knew until the employee fessed up.

    3. Dan*

      Credentialing is becoming increasingly more important in the US, and I’m really wondering why. Is it a supply/demand issue? That is, enough people are coming out with the appropriate credentials that employers are now requiring them? At the same time, from a marketing/PR perspective, I think a lot of companies think it looks better when they can brag about how credentialed/degreed their work force is. Something like 65% of the technical staff at my non-profit has a graduate level degree. I wonder who it would look if we went to our government sponsor and said, “everybody here has lots of ‘experience’ but nobody went to college. We’re all just HS grads.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It’s because somebody is raking in bucks when people go get those degrees. Everything is about money now.

        Pretty soon we’ll all need Ph.Ds to sit at the front desk. Or a masters to clean out a toilet. “I’m sorry, but you need at least a graduate degree in facilities management to scrub these lavatories. Next!”

  19. The Cosmic Avenger*

    With #2, I want to know who is asking the OP to move, and who is issuing tickets, because I want to know why the HR jerk isn’t getting the same treatment for parking in the OP’s space. You’ll probably need to start with the person who assigned the spaces.

    I’d also be getting up at 5am in order to park in MY space.

    1. BRR*

      I was also wondering why the HR person (or people if you include the other one) wasn’t getting ticketed too.

      1. Charity*

        I thought that maybe the OP was getting ticketed because she was forced to find somewhere else to park that wasn’t legal to park in after her space got stolen. I didn’t get the impression that she was being ticketed by the company itself (can private entities issued parking citations?)

        1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

          Where I work there are both assigned and free spaces. If you park in someone’s assigned space Security will give you a ticket. Second time you do it, they’ll boot your car. Third time your towed.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t get why it’s more acceptable to upset the OP (whose reasonable down-to-earth tone I find very admiring – I’d be hugely irritated by this and probably, like you Cosmic Avenger, get there at dawn just out of spite) and the coworker parking next to her than the two HR jerks.

      1. LQ*

        I think it is usually easier to upset people who don’t overreact to situations. Given the choice between someone who is flipping out about it and someone who is being down-t0-earth most people take the down-to-earth. This is NOT an endorsement of that stance, or of flipping out to get what you want. But I do think it is a good time to continue to push in a down-to-earth kind of way that can bring people around.

    3. OP#2*

      Thank you to everyone and Alison for your opinions on this. I thought I may have just been a tad over-sensitive.
      I think I will speak with my affected colleagues and see if they will raise the concern with me as a group.

      To answer some questions:

      The complex itself is owned by an external company and shared with a few other businesses. Each business has an assigned number of spaces, but these are not necessarily in an order. The car park is monitored by a team who have a map of what company can park where, but sadly these zones are not identifiable without this list, and so I just picked an empty space.

      In essence, as long as the space belongs to company A, and a company A vehicle is parked there, it’s fine.

      I did consider getting up as early as this colleague does, but then thought about staying in bed instead.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        So your company assigns specific spots, but the parking management doesn’t…so why can’t you tell the parking management that someone is in your assigned spot, and you’d like them ticketed or towed? It’s not your job to know if the car in your assigned space belongs to someone from your company or another company. However, it IS your responsibility to not park in someone else’s spot, and the only way to do that is to complain every time someone else is parked in your assigned spot. If you can get others to do this, the parking management may stop assigning spots per company, or they may assign spots directly, because the current system is really half-arsed on their part, either one would be an improvement.

        And it IS possible to allocate spots per company without assigning blocks of spots. My company is in an almost identical situation: we have X number of permits that are good for parking anywhere in our garage, and I have one of them. It really doesn’t matter where you park, there are only Y spots in the whole garage, so they only give Y permits to all the tenants. (There actually are about 3-4 spaces reserved for our top leadership, and they’re labeled, so those are off-limits regardless of which company you work for.)

      2. Sunflower*

        So is the person who assigns the spaces in HR? Forgive me if I missed something but why can’t you just tell the person who assigns the spots(and has already told you your spot is not double booked) that someone is parking in your spot? Or do they just refer you to HR?

      3. Engineer Girl*

        You really should approach as a group. I’d raise these talking points:
        * This isn’t a one-off issue. Several people in HR are doing this, which indicates it is a department-wide problem.
        * This is an issue of self-dealing (explicitly use that term). That’s a concern anywhere, more so in a position of trust. The HR person put their own wants above the companies needs.
        * When you sought clarification about the issue, HR lied to you about it. That means they will lie about other things.
        * Mentioned elsewhere on this thread – HR department took another departments resources.
        * This is an ethics violation done by someone in a position of trust. It erodes confidence in the company’s ability to handle things in a proper manner.
        * You are coming as a group because you are worried about retaliation. Someone who self-deals has already crossed the ethical boundary.

      4. Heaven's Thunder Hammer*

        Whatever happens please let us know – I’d be curious to find out what the follow up is.

  20. TL17*

    #3 – I feel like I’d like a little more information. First, how did LW find out employee didn’t have a diploma? Second, is it possible she has a GED, which is not exactly the same, but is equivalent? So, she said yes, and it’s sort of true but also sort of not.

      1. Sue Wilson*

        Right, about the high school diploma. Which doesn’t answer the question about whether the employee had a GED, which is lie I would a) not find to be a unreasonable, and b) wouldn’t care about.

        I would care about her lying about not having qualification or equivalent at all.

  21. Salty*

    My friend recently applied for a director level position in an industry she’s been working in for nearly 10 years (director level for two). She went through three interviews, was offered the position, came in, saw her office, was fingerprinted and then filled out application paperwork with HR, who noticed she doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree. She never lied about it; it just never came up because she’s been doing this work for 10 years. They pulled the offer.

    The reason she didn’t get her degree was because her parent was diagnosed with cancer and died during the past semester of her senior year. She went back and forth between school and home, trying to finish and also take care of her parent, but she ultimately missed all her finals because it was her parent’s last week alive. She already had a part-time job in the industry, which turned full-time that summer and she just kept advancing.

    1. Boo*

      Ugh how awful and ridiculous to be penalised for such a thing. Surely the requirement should be degree or equivalent experience. I mean the point of the degree is to prove she can do the job, which she doesn’t need because she’s BEEN DOING IT. Ugh ugh ugh.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes. I’ve heard of this happening where the employee *did* say they had a bachelors, then nobody was the wiser until they went for a promotion, but in this case the employee was never asked or told. How ridiculous.

    2. Sammie*

      I am in this position. 4 years of college–no degree for REASONS. I have a really hard time in the job market because of this–apparently my over 20 years of verifiable job experience “doesn’t count.”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Try smaller companies. In my experience, my “some college completed” has been enough to get hired at several small companies (50-ish employees). But large corporations with those onerous online applications (even if it only says “preferred”) always seem to weed me out. Although it has kept me from progressing, because there hasn’t been much of a career path at these smaller places, but at least I’ve got a job and have progressively made more money and taken on more responsibility.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This was me too before I went back. Now I have two degrees and a f*ckton of debt. Hardly worth it, IMO. They didn’t really help me get any jobs nor do I use either of them on the job.

    3. The Strand*

      That is some serious bull there. If she didn’t lie about the situation, and it wasn’t posted, and she’s been working at that level — why should they pull the offer? That is a considerable waste of time and money for everyone involved. Sounds like someone in HR is way invested in the means and not the end.

      1. Salty*

        It may have been mentioned in the job posting, like “Bachelor’s Degree required” or something, BUT

        a.) Even if she’d completed the degree, what she was studying is not really related to what she does now.
        b.) Another friend worked for the same organization in a different department, but also in a senior role, and he had even less college than her, so we know the org overall isn’t THAT strict.
        c.) She’s had other jobs where the job posting said a degree was required, and they didn’t care because she had so much experience and demonstrated success.

      2. Sammie*

        It’s more common than you think. Perhaps there was an “internal” candidate for the position who had the degree–and that’s why HR pulled the plug.

        Interestingly–I’ve seen this happen at companies that are founded by college drop-out (Microsoft).

    4. Erin*

      Ugh, that’s awful. That’s on them for not catching it sooner, apparently since it’s supposedly so important to the position – it’s not on her and she got screwed.

      That being said, OP’s situation appears to be quite different. Although I do think she should probably keep the employee, not finishing high school is quite different from not finishing college. Also, the employee lied, while your friend didn’t.

    5. Xarcady*

      At OldJob, we had an applicant for a position that required a Bachelor’s degree, of any kind. One applicant had an Associate’s degree, but years of experience directly related to what the position did. When she became a finalist, I did point out the degree issue to the owner of the company, who was surprised, and who hadn’t caught the difference in degrees.

      But she did a fantastic job on the test we gave all applicants, and was clearly qualified for the job, so we hired her. And she did great.

      And I know a guy at a major research lab who didn’t get his bachelor’s degree–his father died in a house fire during his last semester, and other family members were seriously injured, and back then, it was much harder to go an extra semester of school. He recent told me that he thinks of himself as someone without a PhD, because everyone he works with has one PhD, if not 2 or more. Not having a BS doesn’t even register with him anymore.

    6. Jennifer*

      I hate to suggest this, but the friend should try contacting her college to see if she can do something to finish up her degree even if it’s ten years later. These days you can probably just take some classes at community college, have them transferred in, and then graduate. She could probably petition for a retroactive withdrawal from the term if she got all F’s due to missing the finals if she submits a death certificate and whatnot to the college.

      1. Salty*

        Yes, the college gave her the option of just sort of “forgetting” that semester happened, and she could just do it over again.

        She didn’t at the time because, well, her parent had just died and that took a lot of time to deal with. Also, she had to uproot her life because she and her parent had been renting a house, so she no longer had a place to live. I think she hasn’t pursued finishing the degree because up until now, it hasn’t been an issue.

    7. Anna*

      This makes me so angry. It is literally the idea of checking a box that was put there to check. In this specific case it shows no better understanding of the position or the industry. I have an MA because I wanted to be a subject expert. I wanted to work in the field my MA is in. I do not work in that field and I do believe my studies give me a better understanding of the population we work with, BUT my degree does not make me directly better at what I do and it does not come in to play in my day-to-day activities. If my position required it, it would be a very stupid requirement.

    8. Milton Waddams*

      Was your friend working class? A lot of times the real reason for requiring the degree in cases like this is that it dramatically shrinks the working class pool of applicants in a way that does not directly show discrimination against particular protected groups; this ensures “cultural fit”.

    9. Dynamic Beige*

      Someone I used to work with was going to be transferred to the agency office in NYC. They had been working as Teapot Director for a long time. But, when applying for the visa that would allow them to work down there, it came up that they had never graduated college. They had attended but then left to just go work, for whatever reason. Back in the 70’s, you could do that, no one cared as much about your certificates, just your portfolio. The visa was denied.

  22. Argh!*

    #3 – Often the reason for dropping out of school is to go to work to help support the family, so it isn’t surprising that someone who has dropped out could be a good employee.

    If you think the requirement should stand, you could give the person a certain amount of time to complete the GED, but since you’re middle-management it may not be up to you. If you could lose your job over this, it would be worth notifying HR and explaining what a great employee she is.

  23. Jen*

    Sounds like the ship has sailed on this one, but in #2’s case, as soon as I found out someone had simply started using my space, I’d be beating that person to the office and parking in my space. Then going to the assigner-of-spots if after a few weeks of parking in that spot, I started coming in at my regular time and someone was in it. “What’s the best way to deal with someone parking in my spot?”

    At this point, you have a new spot, so the above doesn’t make any sense.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      My dad once parked his car directly behind the person who was parking in his assigned spot, blocking them in, and made sure to work extra late that day. When he rolled out at 6:30 the person was there and livid at him and my dad suggested he stop parking in his spot.

      I come from a long line of passive-aggressive people.

      1. Robin B*

        My boss does this to people who park in his spot and do not move prior to the business opening time. They have to come into the building and talk to him.

      2. Velociraptor Attack*

        I briefly had an issue with someone parking in my spot in the downtown lot my organization shared with other businesses in the neighborhood. I left them two notes (on two separate occasions) explaining that this was an assigned parking spot and to please not park there. The third time, I had them towed. It hasn’t been a problem since.

      3. Editor*

        A couple of years after college, we were living in a huge old Victorian split into eight apartments, with three parking spots by the former front door, which was the entrance to the largest apartment. The tenants in that apartment were a married set of tenured college professors with big entitlement chips on their shoulders.

        After we bought a car, we got wait listed for one of the parking spots. After we got it, we discovered that guests of the professors parked in any of the open spots when they visited. They dawdled about moving their cars and sometimes just told us to park on the street. We told them after several of these confrontations that they needed to tell their guests to park on the street because we paid for the spot, and we told them that there would be consequences.

        So, another of their guests parked their VW bug in our spot, and we parked our VWrabbit behind it. The guests came to our door after we’d been in bed an hour or so and wanted us to come out after midnight and move our car. We refused. We found out later one of the other tenants — a student in the same college as the professors at our university — was roused out and was willing to back out of his spot next to us. Then a couple of tenants and the guests and professors lifted the bug sideways into his spot so the car could be backed out and leave.

        None of the professors’ guests ever parked in our spot again.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          It really is sad that sometimes the only thing that gets the point across is The Taste of Their Own Medicine. I used it once to spectacular effect. As they say, when the shoe is on the other foot, it doesn’t fit as well.

  24. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    I have a different take on #3. Instead of requiring her to get her GED or even asking, why not offer to help her get it? Obviously she doesn’t need it for this job but she might need it in the future. Helping her get it might boost her confidence and make her feel loyal to the company and less likely to want to leave.

  25. babblemouth*

    #4 If you’re going to a different country, especially if you’ve never visited before, they probably expect requests like this. It’s not a small decision to emigrate, and a company that holds it against you that you want to take the opportunity to look around would be a little bit strange.

    1. finman*

      This is a great point, if you put it as a request to better understand the city, culture, neighborhood search, etc it will come off way better than wanting to be a tourist. While you can easily accomplish those things I listed while doing touristy things it makes it seem like you’re taking the move way more seriously.

    1. neverjaunty*

      She came clean – after she had the job in hand.

      This may not be a firing offense, but “better to ask forgiveness than permission” is something to train out of employees ASAP.

      1. Sarahnova*

        I think it’s fair to say to her “if we catch you in a lie again, you’re out”.

        I just don’t think it’s fair either to fire her for this (it’s not an option I would take, but I understand why it might be on the table) or to institute a requirement that she GET a GED that apparently isn’t needed.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I think it’s entirely fair to fire her for this – but I think it’s also fair, and probably much wiser, for the OP to sit down and have a serious discussion about the lie and why it’s a big deal. If the employee is young and inexperienced and gets why this was so serious, then it’s a mistake she can overcome through earning back trust. If, instead, her attitude is “so what”, then that’s a pretty good sign this was an indicator of her integrity overall.

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I don’t think you are doing anything wrong by asking your employees to screen your calls. Especially in this situation. Like Alison said, you’d do the same for a team member with an abusive spouse, right? I actually had to screen calls for my boss who was divorcing her crazy (yes, really diagnosably crazy) husband. He was usually fairly polite to me until things got very bad and then we would be rude. My boss was always very grateful to me for screening her calls due to his verbal abuse and when he did get nasty with me she threatened to call the police. So that stopped quickly.

    My mother struggled with similar issues with her mom. Unfortunately, my mom has a private line and they couldn’t really screen her calls. My grandmother called her multiple times a day and if my mom didn’t answer she’s go crazy and not answer her phone. My mom then assumed something bad had happened due to her age and health. It’s classic manipulation. My mom eventually instituted a regimen with her to keep the calls at a minimum but things only got better when my grandmother ended up in an assisted living facility and they took the phone from her room.

  27. Minister of Smartassery*

    Dear LW #1,

    It’s really common among adult children of abusive parents to hold oneself to a super-unrealistic standard, while holding that parent to a very low standard. Adult children of abusers are usually programmed to meet the abusive parent’s emotional needs first and always, and then maybe, eventually, if there’s time and it doesn’t put anyone else out, meet their own needs. AND they have to do it while being totally honest and self-sacrificing because anything less means they’re a “terrible person.” And if that less-than-total honesty happens in the course of the adult child protecting themselves from the parent’s abuse? INSTA-GUILT! In all caps!

    Just think about that for a second. Your mom is calling you and your husband vile names and behaving in a completely unacceptable manner in front of your daughter, but you feel guilty for asking someone to tell her that you’re not available to talk to her. Telling her that you aren’t available – that’s not unethical. That’s just common sense. You sound like a really nice person. Keep taking care of yourself and your family.

  28. LQ*

    I was on the other end of an incredibly unreasonable request like this. I once answered the phone and it was my boss’s wife (which I didn’t know) and I inadvertently gave her some information (when he’d be back, which was perfectly appropriate for me to give in general) that apparently something something…he was cheating on her. When he was back in the office he screamed at me about it and told me to never tell his wife where he was.

    This was (in my opinion) unethical. What you are doing is absolutely not unethical.

    (I just stopped answering calls from her. They weren’t business related, if I didn’t answer them they went to our voicemail.)

  29. Judy*

    #3: I wouldn’t necessarily require the employee to get their GED, but I might suggest that they think about doing it. I’ve worked places that didn’t require proof of degree (bachelors in engineering) at hire time, and at a point later, a new HR director is hired who updates the files by requiring that documentation. I’ve also worked at a company that was acquired and somehow the proof was lost, so they reworked all of the personnel files.

    TL;DR There may be consequences later if something changes at your company, so the employee might consider working on the GED.

  30. Erin*

    #3 – Tough judgement call, but it sounds like you have your answer.

    Certainly, no one would blame you if you let her go. But, she A) admitted the lie herself, and it sounds like pretty quickly after being hired, and B) you clearly like her as a person and value her as an employee. And maybe even C) She’s likely to really bust her butt for you if you let this discretion go.

    Assuming there are no other red flags I get the impression you want to keep her, so, you should.

  31. Trish*

    #3 – Is there any chance you yourself could get into trouble if it comes out that you knew the employee lied on their application and you didn’t report it?

    1. Kelly L.*

      This is a good question–where is the requirement coming from? If OP decided on the requirement herself and has the clout to change it, that’s one thing; if it comes from on high, it might be something else entirely. My job, for example, requires a HS degree and that requirement, I believe, comes from the state. My boss couldn’t change it even if he wanted to. But at other jobs, it’s different.

  32. Not Karen*

    #3: Did this not come up during the interview?

    #4: I did this last time. Not only was it not a problem at all, it worked in the company’s favor because it made the flight cheaper.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, I’ve never been asked about it either. Not for years and years (but maybe that’s understandable since I graduated way back in 1979).

      2. Not Karen*

        When all that was required for the job was a high school diploma, and you’re not hiring someone with a college degree?

        1. fposte*

          I still doubt that it gets talked about in the interview all the time. People usually hire college grads without talking about college.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yup. Especially, especially, especially if you’re older than like 22.

            My current job requires a high school degree and does not require a college degree–equivalent experience is accepted. I was 35 when I applied for it; I have a high school diploma, and attended several years of college but didn’t graduate from that. We did not discuss my high school one bit. I did have to submit transcripts to the HR office (awful scans from the 90s! LOL!), but in the actual interview with the people I work with daily, nope. I don’t even think we talked about my time in college. We talked about my former jobs, and that’s really about it.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, it mostly comes up with new grads, especially if the interviewer is a fellow alum, and I think that’s probably the same for high school. Once you’ve got job history, that’s what people want to talk about.

          2. Tau*

            Or if they have specific high school results as a requirement and you went to high school in a foreign country and they have no idea what to make of your grades. This being how I spent part of a job interview explaining the German school system.

            …although this may also have been because I got pretty annoyed at being asked for my A-Levels when job-hunting with a PhD and took some amount of glee in being unhelpfully helpful in response. (Oh, I have an Abitur with an average of X! I did these subjects as Leistungskurse and these as Prüfungskurse and got these points in the final exam for each! Here, have my transcript! I’ve only got it in German!)

  33. azvlr*

    High School Diploma – My nephew was the class valedictorian. He used the word “Viagra” in his graduation speech. The context was something like, “As I look out at my fellow classmates, I see a future engineer, a future artist, a future Viagra salesman, a future this, a future that etc.”

    When he went up to actually receive his diploma, the school board member who was handing out diplomas declined to hand him his. He graciously left the stage with only a handshake and we barely noticed what just happened. Back at home, he told us that the board had decided not to give him his diploma unless he wrote a letter of apology to the board.

    My sister, his mother, is the most mild-mannered person I know. I have never seen her so mad!! We spent the evening drafting fantasy letters of apology filled with innuendo such as, “I apologize that you are having a HARD time with my comments. . .” To my knowledge, he never wrote the letter and went on to enjoy his full-ride scholarship to obtain his degree in engineering and is now a hard-working employee at his company.

    The moral of the story: A high school diploma is just a piece of paper.

    1. fposte*

      That’s different, though, because your nephew still technically graduated–the diploma is a proof of the credential, but it isn’t the credential itse.f. Same as somebody who chose not to walk in a college/grad school graduation and never left a valid address to get the diploma sent to–they still got the degree.

      1. regina phalange*

        Yeah, actually, I chose not to walk in my college graduation because I had more family members there than tickets available. Still have the degree, though, which was mailed to me shortly after.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, it’s understandably confusing, because we use “diploma” to mean “graduated from high school” the way we use “degree” to mean “graduated from college,” and until somebody makes “high school degree” catch on we’re stuck with it. But that doesn’t mean the physical diploma; it just means the credential of having graduated. (High school graduates may recognize that use as metonymy :-).)

        2. CMT*

          Most universities don’t actually give you your diploma when you graduate, since they’re usually not done grading/making sure everyone has met requirements yet. But degree != diploma.

          1. Judy*

            Even at my high school, we were just given the folio on the stage, and were given the diploma backstage later, when we turned in the cap and gown.

          2. Talvi*

            I got my degree at convocation, and I get the impression that’s standard practice in Canada – but we also tend to hold convocation a couple of months after you actually finish. Finals get written in April, but convocation isn’t until June. Canadian university terms are short. I once had a summer internship in the US, and they were very surprised that I was finished with the school year and able to start at the beginning of May.

            It was like that for my high school diploma, though. Everyone graduating was given a folio when we crossed the stage, but the actual diploma was mailed to us by the province some months later. Of course, I don’t think a single person at my high school graduation had actually completed all of their graduation requirements at that point – my high school held graduation in early June, but we all still had to write our last diploma exams at the end of June in order to actually graduate!

    2. Laurel Gray*

      I wouldn’t call this story a moral about a HS diploma but more so an anecdote about stuffy board members of a high school. That full ride would have been void without said diploma and the hard work that went into receiving it. Being valedictorian is evidence of the hard work your nephew put in for 4 years. The diploma is the physical proof. It isn’t just a piece of paper.

      1. fposte*

        Well, they’re useful pieces of paper, but they are just pieces of paper. If you rip up your diploma, it doesn’t mean you didn’t graduate from college. Some employers use it as a shorthand for verifying a degree, but it’s not the only way you can verify it.

        And I think azlvr’s point was that the physical diploma meant nothing at all to the full ride. Which isn’t surprising, because colleges don’t require inspection of high school diplomas for verification (can you imagine the craziness if they did?).

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, but unfortunately sometimes you do have to prove you have the piece of paper in hand, or otherwise get proof of your high school graduation (ordering a transcript, probably). Hopefully he doesn’t need to do anything internationally for work, other countries usually require original diplomas/degrees in hand for everything.

          Which is to say, that was way shitty of the guy in the ceremony. FFS.

          1. fposte*

            Right, sometimes places ask for the piece of paper–but most of us go through life never having to show the thing. What the guy did was shitty, but it didn’t mean the kid couldn’t go to college or get his scholarship.

  34. Lia*

    I am unclear why lying about having a high school diploma is forgivable, but other resume lying wouldn’t be. I personally have seen people terminated or job offers revoked for falsifying credentials, and while yes, the job doesn’t REALLY require a high school education, the fact of the matter is that the employee lied about it.

    If you don’t want to terminate her, I would set a firm deadline (and make it within 4-6 months’ time, and provide some work time to assist) for completion of a GED and abide by it. Yeah, it sucks to terminate someone, but IME it has to be done. Then later you could work on relaxing the educational requirements.

    1. Koko*

      Speaking for myself, I know “a lie is a lie” but in truth, I see things like this on a spectrum and some lies bother me more than others.

      Lying on a form application about having a high school diploma just seems so…trivial, that it doesn’t bother me. I’d overlook it because in my mind it was already a pointless requirement, I can see how a reasonable person might judge it to be a pointless bureaucratic requirement, and so I don’t automatically jump to questioning someone’s moral judgment for trying to circumvent that. Honestly, there are some positions I could see hiring for where you might even look favorably on someone who knows which rules need to be followed and which ones can be bent or circumvented.

      If the person lied about where they worked, their criminal background, or a technical certification, those are factors I actually care about and would consider a serious ethical issue to lie about. Whether you got a diploma just doesn’t personally rise to that standard for me.

      1. Lia*

        True, I suppose, but what about candidates who lost out on the process — candidates who may have been just as excellent — because they DIDN’T lie about their education? They followed the rules and lost out.

        A criminal background is another issue — a mistake at age 18 (say getting caught with a small amount of weed) might well follow someone forever, and the person might not be able to get a decent job when they are truthful about a conviction on their record. OK to lie about that if you know there is about a zero chance it would ever be discovered? Or only a concern for violent crime (disregarding that many of those may be crimes of passion or one-off’s)? White collar crime? Felonies?

    2. fposte*

      Because you’re incorrect that other resume lying is unforgivable. The reaction depends on the lie, how it’s revealed, etc. Did you lie about being paid by an animal shelter at fourteen when you were a volunteer, and you’re now a thirty-year-old accountant? Quite possibly forgivable, because it doesn’t have anything to do with your current duties. Did you lie about getting a CPA certification when you’re a CPA? Not forgivable.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Thanks for making this distinction.

        Rightly or wrongly, I see this as less of a lie than putting a fictitious “Teapot State 115 High School” diploma on the resume – it was a yes/no on an application form. I also think the means of discovering the lie (i.e. the employee confessed) is also relevant, because it affects the future risk profile (likelihood that the employee will lie about important stuff again).

    3. hbc*

      The details of the lying matter tremendously. I don’t think anyone asks for a high school diploma without meaning “can show successful completion of high school level education.” So if you were home-schooled or got your GED or went to school in another country that doesn’t call it high school, you may be technically lying if you check “yes” for having a diploma, but you’re ignoring the intent of the question if you check “no.”

      When you’ve already let someone through, hearing why they checked that box makes a big difference. “I figured everyone lies on this kind of stuff, so I do it to be competitive” is worrisome, to say the least. “I aced every class so I have the skills, but my religious school wouldn’t give me a diploma because I wouldn’t make a profession of faith” is understandable.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, that is what I keep wondering about. Do we know yet if the employee has a GED or anything else that isn’t just technically a high school diploma? It might be like asking for someone’s driver’s license as ID but they don’t drive so they just have a state ID equivalent.

    4. Laurel Gray*

      I get your argument because I am sitting here trying to figure out why this is seen as acceptable (and the assumptions of this employee’s socio-economic background and life struggles). Yet I don’t think people would be as forgiving if the OP told us their bachelor degree having employee lied about having 5 years experience with Excel upon being hired and soon after disclosed that this job was their first foray into Excel and they’ve been teaching themselves.

      1. KR*

        I think there’s a big difference here because an employee who lied about Excel experience who used Excel in their daily work life would not be a good employee. The OP says that this person is a good employee otherwise, which indicates that the diploma perhaps is not important to the job.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          What if the person who lied about having 5 years of Excel experience is doing great at the job but reading up on Excel outside of work and taking classes on Lynda? How much different is it?

          1. fposte*

            It depends on the person, the situation, and the application. None of this is stuff you can nail down completely in advance with hypothetical situations.

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            If someone can become proficient in Excel from reading up and taking classes on Lynda, I’m fine with that. “X years experience” is a terrible way to determine software proficiency anyway.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I mean, obviously this is a hypothetical situation and I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but assuming equivalent performance — that the employee is now working daily with Excel and doing great, clearly having the skills needed for the job — I’d say “Well, lying is a problem, but this sounds like evidence that you should reconsider the way you screen for Excel skills, not evidence that you should fire this employee,” and I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the prevailing attitude in the comments here.

        1. Elsajeni*

          (I’d also, as fposte said below, say that you should check out the rest of her history thoroughly and be open with her that you’re doing so, and that it’s because she damaged your trust in her by lying; I don’t think the fact that a lie is about something that turns out to be unimportant entirely negates the fact that it was a lie. But I wouldn’t recommend firing someone who’s doing great work over a lie, when the lie was “I have the credentials that will make you think I can do great work” — it just feels nonsensical — and I’d definitely suggest that it’s an opportunity to reconsider whether those credentials are really the ones you should be screening for.)

      3. hbc*

        If the employee is struggling with how to format cells and you find they lied about their Excel experience, then you fire them because they can’t do the job and lied their way into it. If they had 3 years of experience and can do the job, you might “penalize” them in some way for lying, but are you really going to fire a good performer and go on another search for a 5 year Excel person who may or may not be able to do the job as well?

  35. TootsNYC*

    #4, extending travel:

    I got lots of visits w/ my mom when she worked for the government of my home state, because they actively encouraged her to travel ahead of time. She had meetings in D.C., and the “fly over a Saturday” price break meant that she could fly to see me in NYC, take a train to D.C. on Monday morning, and fly back from D.C. on Tuesday, and it would STILL cost her employer less than flying her out on Monday morning and back on Tuesday.
    In fact, they actually suggested it to her. And that’s the government, where they have all kinds of rules about “not benefitting from your job.”

    So I think it would be perfectly reasonable to ask–and especially if there’s any price break that might work in the company’s favor!

  36. A Cita*

    I am surprised at the level of vehemence in disagreement on #3. I think when there is a consensus around things here, it sometimes becomes a hard and fast rule among commenters that leaves no room for negotiation. Usually in the form of, “AAM always says x, so we must stick to x.” While x may be generally true, there needs to be room for textured nuance when dealing with an individual case.

    In this case, while I agree lying is not ok, the context around the lie matters, and the consequences can be modified to respond to the context. In this case, these issues stand out to me:
    1. All the socio-economic and personal reasons one may not finish high school (very different from college). Most people do finish high school. If they don’t, there’s real reason to consider why they haven’t.
    2. Employee came clean very quickly
    3. A realistic view of what the high school diploma is expected to measure. It shouldn’t be a thoughtless requirement (and I think this about any credential)
    4. This wasn’t a resume/cover letter application–it was an online application that would automatically be rejected (it’s not clear if a resume/cover letter was even asked for in the application)

    OP might still decide to fire the employee. But I would be to talk to the employee. Have a real conversation. Circumstances aren’t black and white. And while lying is not ok, it’s also not always a clear indication of a general lack of integrity.

    1. fposte*

      I agree. I would, however, check the rest of her history out pretty thoroughly at this point, and I think it’s reasonable to be transparent with her about that fact.

      1. A Cita*

        Yes, absolutely. There can be definite consequences, even firing if it turns out that is the right decision in this circumstance. But it starts with a conversation and an openness to understand.

    2. KR*

      This. We’re talking about a person here. We don’t know anything about her except that she’s a good employee and didn’t finish high school.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was surprised too by how vehement some people were about this particular situation: a lie is a lie, period end of story.

      However, it’s good. Because OP needs to be aware that there are employers out there that see things as black or white, there are no gray areas, no exceptions, no wiggle room. And if you do keep your employee, which I think you should, it’s a valuable message to give her. It will only help her in life.

      Why are people so vehement? I don’t know. Maybe they work in a strictly regulated arena and this type of thinking is necessary. Maybe this is all they have seen in life and they feel that it has served them well and it will serve others well. Maybe they have the luxury of many, many applicants. There hundreds of reasons, I am sure. It’s wise that your employee know this is how the world works sometimes.

      My preference has been to offer people a hand up when ever possible. I have been given many opportunities myself and I would like to pay that forward. There are plenty of stories of business people who took a chance on a person and that person wowed the employer, maybe wowed the community and in some instances that person wowed the world, all because someone took a chance. To me, there is more to a job than a paycheck and not all the rewards of my job come in my paycheck. I check in with my bosses to make sure I know where the boundaries are. And then I use what I can, where I can, to make a difference for someone else. I think that is what you are thinking about here.

      If your boss allows, you might have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life by retaining them as your employee for how ever long they stay. Additionally, you have another opportunity by talking with your employee about her GED, does she have one, does she want one, etc. Maybe there is some way you can help, if she is interested and you are willing. I suspect that she will let you help her, because she has told you about her lie, she has let her guard down. It could be because she is comfortable with you, so further conversation might be productive.

      If she is a rotten person and full of lies, then that will become apparent very soon. I don’t worry too much about people lying to me, because they usually trip up and I find out. My thinking on this particular situation is keep going forward, unless something makes it apparent that you clearly should not support this employee. You can tell her that you are sticking your neck out for her or that you understand that she lied because of x,however, going forward she must tell the truth or there will be consequences. Sincere people usually understand these messages and they do not do it again.

  37. Tommy*

    #2: I would have confronted (in a non-confrontational way :-) the HR person who claimed that he was assigned the same spot as you as soon as I found out he wasn’t actually assigned the same spot as he claimed/thought. Something like, “Hey, I mentioned to so-and-so about the double-booking thing (because that needs to be fixed) and she said you were actually assigned a different spot. You should probably talk to her.” And say it matter-of-factly, as if there was some kind of miscommunication or clerical error, not a flat-out lie by the HR person. In fact, maybe it’s possible the two HR people were given the wrong parking assignments?

  38. literateliz*

    OK, so I want to make clear at the outset that this is not at all an argument for OP#3, just something it brought to mind for me.

    But if you wanted more proof that California is a nightmarish dystopia… for some reason this made me think of the situation with the California High School Exit Exam, which was an exam administered when I was in high school (~12 years ago) and required to get your diploma. I remember feeling like it was a bit of a political football, and yet another arbitrary requirement. There were a lot of arguments against it – it didn’t match up with the actual curriculum, ESL students were at a disadvantage, etc. It was finally abolished last year – and diplomas were retroactively granted to everyone who failed the test a decade ago but met all the other requirements for a high school diploma.

    So now the State of California is trying to track down all these people in their late twenties and early thirties, a lot of whom don’t follow the news (it wasn’t a huge story anyway, somehow) and have no idea that they now have a high school diploma. Imagining how different some of their lives might have been if they had been able to say in the past decade that they had a high school diploma… it’s pretty upsetting.

    Like I said, this isn’t necessarily an argument for keeping the employee in that post. For that, I would argue that it’s to the employer’s advantage to hold on to a good worker who was put in a bad spot in this case, and to avoid shooting itself in the foot by excluding potential good employees for arbitrary reasons in the future. (It doesn’t say what kind of job this is, but surely there are other qualifications that can be used to narrow down the pool – experience in X software or Y field, the usual stuff). But man, this stuff is so arbitrary and brutal, and “high school” reminds me of a time when I was at the mercy of the world – parents, hostile teachers, ridiculous state politics alike. It’s totally an emotional reaction, but maybe explains some of the passionate debate here?

    1. Kelly L.*

      Your last paragraph may be a big part of it. Whatever happened to you (general you) in college, at least in most cases it happened to a legal adult with some sort of options. A high school kid might drop out for reasons beyond her control, and even if it’s her decision to drop out, she’s likely making that choice while she’s too young to vote or marry or join the army or what-have-you–we recognize in other situations that the teen brain isn’t fully formed yet. That exam story is really sad.

      1. KR*

        This, all of this. Whether she finished school isn’t what’s important. What’s important is her abilities right now.

  39. My Five Cents' Worth (with a bonus penny special)*

    First penny: No real additional advice or anything; just a story to share. I once worked at a place in which one of our new co-workers had just such an abusive relative. Like OP’s mother, this co-worker’s relative could be okay in dealing with others; but was abusive to the new co-worker. It helped when this co-worker fully explained the situation to the rest of us. And, I’m certain that sharing such a painful experience with strangers at a new job was not easy for her. But, it helped us to better understand the situation.

    So, actually, I do have some “advice” to add – I agree with AAM; explain to your staff as much of the background you can/are willing to. Also, for whatever it is worth; this co-worker explained that caller ID block would not work since the relative would simply learn to call from a different phone.

    Second penny: HR taking your parking spot is more than just an extra walk. I, personally, wouldn’t mind the walk. It is the struggling to find a spot that would cause me to go bonkers! Being asked to move my car even once, let alone a couple of times a day, would have caused me to “fight the battle on that hill” until I was fired or until we had a solution. Yep, go to your manager, and then if no response, go to someone higher up. This situation is causing unproductivity – and not just for you. Okay, maybe it isn’t THAT big a deal to most; but, it would be to me!

    Third penny: I’m actually torn about the dishonest answer on the online application. While, I haven’t done so myself, it is VERY tempting to give a less than direct/honest answer to an online screening system because it doesn’t “think” the way a person might. As some have mentioned above; some of the questions on an online application are YES or NO and don’t see nuance the way a human might.

    Wendy Darling’s example of MSAccess vs. SQL is a great example of such. On the online application Wendy would be rejected for answering NO to MSAcess; but, an in-person interviewer would (if the interviewer were smart and knew his/her sh!t) understand that MSAccess is a piece of cake if you know SQL. In fact, I believe that knowing SQL is a greater skill than knowing MSAccess alone. So, negative Kudos to those folks who developed that online screening question!

    As for the lying about the high school diploma. I hardly want to give any kudos to this employee for admitting it now – AFTER being hired! The time to own up to the lie was during the interview. Then the decision could be made as to whether that requirement was truly needed. Yes, it is possible that the candidate would be outright rejected; but, that’s the nature of listing basic requirements. I’d also wonder if allowing this person to stay on is “fair” in that there are, most likely, other candidates who did NOT lie and didn’t get the job. What if others find out that they were auto-rejected and that this person lied and got hired?

    So, I agree with others. This employee needs to be on probation with the understanding that a GED needs to be achieved within x months. This isn’t just to satisfy that basic requirement; I would also require a GED now to demonstrate to the employee that lying is NOT acceptable and that “reparations” of some sort need to be done. After all, if this lie “paid off” why wouldn’t another lie down the road pay off as well?

    And for whatever it is worth, that this person “needs” this job should NOT factor into the OP’s decision.

    Fourth penny: Yes, yes, yes! By all means, if they haven’t set up the travel arrangements yet, ask about extending the travel time. And, as you say, agree to pay any extras; not just for the hotel, but if there are any additional charges (there most likely are not) for travel being on different dates. I would also think that this reflects well on your candidacy as this shows that you aren’t just interviewing; but, also checking out the whole situation as well.

    If they have already made the travel arrangements, see about changing them yourself. You, of course, might have to pay extra to change the flight dates. But, this way you can keep the “re-arrangement headaches” away from them.

    Also, I once had an interview with my company’s office in another city. Not only did they allow me to add an extra 2 nights stay – they suggested it!

    Fifth penny; Gosh! No one higher up ever links to me!? Can you tell us what you did to have this happen? Joking aside, by all means, respond and good luck!

    Bonus penny special! AAM, I’m not sure what you’ve had done (if anything); but, I’ve actually managed to read your post and many of the comments AND to type this entire overly-word response and not once did the screen lock up! Usually, my browser window locks up just trying to read your post. So, Thanks!

    1. Erin*

      Sigh, yes, the employee really should have brought up the diploma at the interview stage. That’s the only thing that would make me swing in the direction of letting her go, but given the rest of the information we have, I do think OP should keep her.

    2. OP #5*

      I didn’t do ANYTHING to solicit this LinkedIn invite! I was stunned by it. I took Alison’s advice almost word for word so we’ll see what happens.

    3. Rater Z*

      On the question of holding it against the applicant because s/he did not come clean during the interview, I would question whether any of us (on either side of the desk) has gone thru an interview which went (and stayed) in the direction we thought it would when it started. I remember doing an interview for an OSD clerk with a major trucking company at their break bulk terminal here in town and most of the talking dealt with taxes which I was doing as a part-time job in the spring. I didn’t get the job even though I had 38 years in the industry as a rate and bill clerk plus dispatching. I would also guess that being 60 at the time wasn’t considered an advantage either.

  40. Erin*

    #2 – After rereading your post, it appears that not one but several HR members (the entire department?) are abusing their power.

    If I’m reading it correctly: HR Employee A was parking in your space and told you it was double booked because “of them” which I take to mean another HR professional. You went to HR Employee B/Assigner of Spots and found out that in fact it was not double booked, HR Employee A was just choosing to use your spot. HR Employee C is doing the same thing to the person parking next to you. HR Employee B/Assigner did not rectify this, but instead assigned you (and other people?) different, crappier spots, giving favoritism to his own team.

    Also, your second sentence says “luck of the draw” which makes me assume there was some sort of lottery in place for the spots, to ensure fair parking and discourage favoritism.

    Yes I did just rewrite out your whole post because I wanted to make sure that the entire HR department, or *at least* three people in the HR department, are abusing their power.

    Yeah, this is not one guy being petty and childish, it’s several people who are there to, to quote an Inc. article on functions of HR, “maximize the productivity of an organization by optimizing the effectiveness of its employees.” I don’t think pitting people against each other over parking spots, and basically lying about a luck of the draw system, is conducive to positive employee relations and productivity.

    You are totally justified in your negative feelings, and should give yourself mental permission to go ahead and escalate this to the appropriate person. Not only are you not getting the space rightfully designated to you, but other people are being screwed as well.

  41. LinkedIn freak*

    Regarding #5…so if I view the LI profile of a potential boss/employer who I don’t know, and I do NOT request a connection, and then they see I viewed their profile, and in turn they DO invite me to connect…it’s OK to accept and reply with “I’d love to talk if you have have an opening”?

    1. OP #5*

      I don’t see why not, although that is not exactly how it happened here. The request came out of nowhere.

  42. Isa*

    Re: #1
    If your office network is all-digital (presuming it is?) I recommend setting up an extension with a # you give only to your mother, have all calls there go to VM and you can just ignore.

  43. KR*

    I totally understand your frustration, OP#2. When I was in high school (not that long ago), driving to school and parking there was considered a privilege for students and of course there was a specific policy on all the things you could and could not do if you were driving to school. The spaces were selected starting two weeks before the start of school on a first come first serve basis. If you filled out all of your paperwork first, you got the closest spot. If they caught you in a spot that wasn’t yours, they could take away your privileges.
    A para that worked in the attached middle school consistently parked in my spot and every morning that he would I would go to the office and tell them that he was parked in my spot and that I was parked in X spot that wasn’t mine. This happened for a few months until all of the close spaces filled up and I had to park farther and father away until finally I went to the office and told them that since teachers didn’t get penalized for parking in a spot that wasn’t “theirs” it wasn’t fair for this teacher to take my spot every day when it was written in the policy that I could get in trouble for parking in a different spot and had to walk farther because of it, and that I had gone through the trouble to reserve my spot months before. That’s what finally did it – I had my parking space for the rest of the year. Totally not helpful for you, I know and I’m sorry.

  44. Eve*

    #1 – I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. My husband has an abusive mother, and we each receive phone calls and letters at work. Let others know the situation; I’m sure they’ll be supportive.

  45. Benefit World*

    #1 Two of our employees were faced with a similar situation. We were able to block the phone number of the people who were calling. It blocked them when they called the main number and other employee’s phone extensions.

    1. Petronella*

      OP #1, please investigate phone blocking technology and do whatever it takes to stop making your employees have to deal with your mother. It’s not fair to them.

      1. CMT*

        Obviously OP can’t control her mother’s actions. Yes, it sucks that employees get caught in the middle of this. But I’m sure the OP is already feeling guilty enough. No need to make it worse.

  46. Granite*

    I’m in the middle ground on #3 too. I’m taking the fact she came forward, after she’d “gotten away with it,” as a sign she regretted lying and it was eating at her. That is actually a good sign regarding integrity, especially in a young person.

    I feel like there should be some discipline for the lying, but I wouldn’t fire her just for this. Depending on the company, something like extending the probationary period, or writing a memo to her HR file that wouldn’t really harm her if there was no second strike for 12 months. Something concrete enough to make it clear that lying was NOT OK, but allowing her to learn from the mistake and redeem herself.

    I would also ask if she wanted to work on her GED, and if so, make that part of her goals for the next year, and provide company support as appropriate. I agree that requiring it is problematic for a variety of reasons, but if I’m right about the remorse, she might welcome the opportunity to redeem herself in this way.

  47. just laura*

    HSn diploma: I am surprised by this answer. If it were a college degree she lied about, you’d get rid of her. I don’t see the difference. Presumably in both cases, it’s a requirement for certain skills. You could also argue that non-college-educated people are more likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds, but that doesn’t make requiring a degree discriminatory.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not automatically true that she’d be gotten rid of if she lied about getting a college degree, though.

  48. voyager1*

    LW3: short answer, fire her now.

    Personal story: Dropped out lived in homeless shelter due abusive parent and other parent losing job. Best job as a 18yr drop out, landscaping off the books. Tried to drop back in to school via summer school, told to get loss by school. But I was lucky a counselor got me into a alternative school. I was the only white person without criminal issues in it (even then I saw the issue of class/race). Got my diploma 3 months later. Joined the Air Force served 4 years, got my BS thanks to the tax payers afterwards. Today solid middle class family man.

    I get the pitty party for your employee, but what about people who actually do what I did? It is a slap in the face to us.

    1. Zillah*

      I’m sorry that that happened to you, and I’m glad you were able to get through it.

      Your path ended up working out. That doesn’t happen for everyone, and it’s deeply problematic to fall into the “I did, so no one else has an excuse not to follow my good example” narrative – particularly since you acknowledge that you were lucky! It’s not a slap in the face to you when people are sympathetic to those who slip through the cracks or make mistakes. The former may or may not be true of the OP’s employee; the latter definitely is.

      That’s a broader societal issue, though, and it’s not actually relevant to the situation at hand. The OP needs to do what’s right for their business; I think most of the conflict here comes from the fact that the employee is doing a good job. Otherwise, it would be a moot point. The OP is under no obligation to make business decisions based on abstract principles of fairness to people who got their diplomas through alternative schools (of whom I am also one, incidentally, and I don’t feel that not firing this employee would be a “slap in the face”), nor would the OP firing this employee even be likely to help people who fall into that category anyway.

    2. Editor*

      Forgiving or advantaging other people is not a personal slap in the face to you. I see OP’s action in #3 as being compassionate. The only way it is a personal slap at you is if you lost out on that job to the person who got it.

      I get that you see unfairness at work here and I agree that fairness is important. There is always a conflict between rule-followers and people I’ve seen described as focusing on “grace” or compassion.

      I see someone here who acknowledges the rules by confessing what she did, and because of her reported competence I am willing to give her a pass this once because I don’t think it is fair to screen good workers out of jobs on the basis of credentialism. Many others here have argued both sides and the middle.

      Having been denied a couple of jobs I was qualified for on the basis of my degree only because I had the “wrong” major even though I had the coursework required, I felt I had also gotten a slap in the face. The trouble is, following the rules doesn’t always produce fairness and discarding all rules rarely produces fairness, so we are left to work toward fairness through situations with many nuances. I use compassion as a tool to strive for fairness, and although I know life isn’t fair, I think a combination of rules and compassion can make life better for individuals and by extension, all of us.

      You still have the life and self-respect you have achieved and a one-time pass for another person at another employer will not take those away from you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        For a long time, I have thought life is not about the fairness we GET, it’s about the fairness we GIVE. And there have been other times that I have scolded myself by saying, “There you go, again! Looking for fairness. What’s up with that?” And I have to remind myself about Get vs Give.

        I do know one thing to be true. We do not get to pick who should be fair to us. The people we think should show fairness often times don’t and the people who don’t owe us a dog-gone thing offer us a huge helping of fairness. What’s up with that? Back to looking for fairness, it does not work when you deliberately look for fairness. You probably will not find it.

        A while back I decided that just for one day, I was going to treat every interaction I had with every person I met as a GIFT. What an eye-opener that one was. I’d recommend this exercise to anyone. First, I was surprised by how hard this was. Second, I was surprised by things that I had never noticed before- good things.

        I believe the older we get the MORE life demands of us. The more tools/ideas we get for coping with those demands the better off we are.

        1. A Cita*

          I really like this idea of treating every interaction as a gift for a day.

          Farther up, you mention you like giving a hand up. I’m the same way. I try to give a hand up if I can, if it would be welcomed, and if the situation allows for it. I like to keep an eye on the bigger picture while not undermining important contextual factors of a given situation–it keeps me from erasing the human face of an issue.

          Definitely going to try your exercise! Thanks for sharing it.

          1. voyager1*

            I get what you all are saying, but all you are doing… is not just enabling lying but rewarding it. I went back to school because I figured out that I had to get out of my situation by any means necessary.

  49. Milton*

    #3 – sorry if this was mentioned elsewhere, but What happens to this employee after she leaves this job? Assuming she ever leaves. Will she lie on the next application? Will she get lucky again?

    If I really cared about this employee, I’d help this person out not just for this job but for her future. I hope your company has the resources to do so.

    Also, I love the AAM community. Always thinking about the endless possibilities of the struggles people could go through…and most of the time it’s true! We don’t know other people’s battles. However…#3 just reminded me of my ex boyfriend. One of the hardest workers I knew. Employers loved him. Very, very smart. Dropped out of HS because he was a lazy POS regarding school. I begged him to just do his homework. Only 2 months left till graduatation. No poverty, dyslexia, or other stuggles. He just didn’t want to “deal with it”. He eventually got his GED, but no sob story here.

  50. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1. My heart goes out to you and your family. This is stuff that changes us at our very core and shapes our entire lives. My stomach is almost in a knot because of thinking about what you are going through.

    Your mother is like an invasive weed. Not only has she invaded your family but she is now invading your work place. What is next. Not to be scary, but you have yourself, your family and your subordinates to think about.
    How much longer will you use your current plan? At what point do you expect this plan to either work out (she stops calling at work) or you move to plan B?

    It could be me. But I think what you are going through now is more scary than going to court and getting a restraining order or order of protection. She calls again, you call the police she goes to jail for violating a RO or OOP. I would find her current behavior suffocating and probably, I would start having panic attacks. She has to be wearing you down.

    Maybe you don’t like my idea here, that is understandable as everyone is different. But you can’t let this wear on your health and well-being. I encourage you to develop a secondary plan. Maybe you are in counseling and you counselor can help with that. Or maybe you hubby is your closest and he is willing to talk with you about a plan B. Please take care of you, don’t allow this to drag on indefinitely. It’s not good for you or for those around you.

  51. James M*

    One of the things that I though I hated about my workplace was parking. But after hearing some stories like OP #2’s, I’ve become grateful. We have to pay for parking, in a high-demand location, to the tune of $300 per month. Some of you are saying “what a bargain” and others are wondering if that’s a typo. The only consideration we get from the company is a scheme for paying it with tax exemption. It’s a pretty good arrangement because it happens to be in an extremely high traffic area in a city center with a lot of amenities, and having a reserved space is practically unheard of.

    Anyway, if you are in one of these spaces with the wrong vehicle, (RFID sticker or temporary window hanger for when you’re in a rental or whatever), you’re getting a yellow ticket under your wiper. If they do it repeatedly, they get the *boot*. The boot is an insidious device that immobilizes the vehicle, which means it stays put until you pay the ticket or the tow truck arrives. It’s serious business here, and nobody abuses parking privileges.

    Like I said, I once thought of this situation as a terrible state of affairs and a big compromise that I had to make in order to work where I do, but over time I have come to appreciate it tremendously, and every time there is a ball game, big concert, or holiday parade, I realize that I *love* my parking space :-)

    But the big difference between me and OP #2 is that I myself have paid (thousands of dollars!) for the privilege, the city and its parking contractors operate the lots, and the lot rules have the force of law even where they are reserved for private businesses, so I would be motivated to make the OP’s situation into a rather big deal.

    If I were not paying for the privilege, I would probably not fight the OP’s situation very hard, unless the space literally had my name on it. As it is, I would stop here: Insist that the swap be made official. Since spaces were assigned in the first place, then I would make it so the person who ganked the space had to affirmatively admit to someone that they want their name taken off OP’s spot and OP’s original spot assigned to them.

    To force them to own up to it would be sufficient justice for me, especially if it means some facilities pinhead had to take some action to accommodate things. And if there was friction, I’d try something along the lines of (but diplomatically in real life) “look, if there’s an emergency and law enforcement or homeland security needs to identify who is in what parking space….” and make it something that they *had* to address, as though it was their own idea and a matter of their own rules ;-)

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