boss wants me to give him dirt on my coworker, manager thinks I accepted a job but I didn’t, and more

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

1. My manager thinks I accepted a job — but I didn’t and I don’t want it

I’ve been contracted with a company for about five months now. A couple of weeks back, my supervisor brought up a possible position and I said that I would be interested in hearing more about it when more information became available. Today, though, I spoke with my supervisor and I didn’t fully comprehend until the meeting was over that she spoke about the job as though I had already accepted it. She said something along the lines of her being happy that I was going to give the position a try. She was already walking away before I really had time to comprehend what had just happened. The whole situation is a misunderstanding; I either was not clear about me wanting to know before I made a decision or she misunderstood me. It is not a position that I am interested in.

How should I go about telling my supervisor that I am not interested in the position? Or would telling her that make me look flaky?

Well, it’s going to look a little weird that you didn’t correct her on the spot, but you definitely need to speak up — you can’t take a position you don’t want just because you were caught off-guard.

I’d say this: “I realized that the other day when we touched base about the X position, you framed it as if I was definitely going to move into it. When we talked a few weeks ago, we’d left it that you’d give me more information about it once that info was available. I had assumed that’s what our conversation was the other day — but I think at the end of if, you may have thought I was accepting the role. I actually don’t think it’s the right position for me because of XYZ, and I wanted to make sure I hadn’t left you with the wrong impression.”

And say it ASAP, like today.

2. My boss wants me to give him dirt on my coworker

So my office has a lot of drama and gossip. I work the night shift, which essentially leaves me without any coworkers or upper management. We in the office are all lateral positioned supervisors. We have one coworker who has been here for just over a year. She has been constantly tattling on all of us for any little mistake we make. She has graduated to making false allegations now and is now picking on a new supervisor, and has even gone as far as changing her end-of-day numbers around. The new supervisor messaged me complaining about this, and I let gossip slip. I told her to watch what she says and does around said troublemaker, and I even told her why: This trouble-making coworker was forced to resign from her previous job for falsely filing a sexual harassment complaint with the HR department. Her husband had found out that she was having an affair with a man she worked with, and that was her way of rectifying the situation, and she was caught. I should not have let that gossip go.

This new coworker immediately told my boss what I had said about the troublemaker. The thing is, evidently my boss has been hearing this story since he transferred here and believes it. The thing is, my boss had vanished for a month and came back last night. Rumors around the office were that he was under investigation by HR. His boss told me that he would be back in two days, but he actually came back last night from his hometown, which is four hours away, and told me to keep quiet about him being here early. He wants the dirt on the troublesome coworker’s history at her previous employer. I happen to know troublemaker’s old boss. He wants me to talk to her. And, he wants to catch the troublemaker off guard tomorrow. His manager does know he’s in town now; it’s more that he doesn’t want this woman to know he’s here.

I am scared now. He assured me that I wasn’t in trouble for gossiping, and that he’s glad I did, but some part of me is uneasy about this whole situation. I am usually not involved in all of this drama. I just hear everything as the union workers come in at night after their routes. They are constantly telling me everything that goes on with her, and my cup spilled over.

What?! This is crazy. Your boss has lost hold of his senses. It’s not clear to me if he traveled to another town to dig up dirt on this coworker or if that was about something else, but it’s all sounding like an overly dramatic movie.

It’s highly unlikely that whatever happened at your coworker’s former job is going to affect her employment at this one. If there are legitimate problems with her work or her ability to get along with coworkers at this job, y’all should be talking about that with her boss. But no one needs to travel out of town or get the dirt from the last job or catch her off-guard for a dramatic confrontation.

If they try to involve you in this, just say that you don’t know any more than what you’ve already shared, and that you don’t feel right discussing it further — but that you’d be glad to be part of a conversation with her boss about the work issues at this job, not the last one.

3. I lied about my degree and now there’s a background check

I recently applied for the “perfect job,” and one of the requirements was a bachelor’s degree. I was confident that I could do the job based on my experience and abilities. Well, I unfortunately made a crucial error in judgement by putting that I had a BFA on my resume, then foolishly felt I had to again on the job application. I had a fantastic interview with them, and they decided to move forward with my application. Since lying on my application, I can’t sleep and am so ashamed as I’ve never done anything like this before.

Yesterday they called with an offer letter contingent on a favorable background check that includes education. My worst nightmare! Why didn’t I think this through before?

I don’t want my lie to be discovered in the background check. Should I be straight with them now and let them decide whether go forward still or should I decline their offer?

Ouch. Yeah, you can’t do this. Not just because it leads to situations like this, but because now you’re not just the person without the required degree — you’re the person who lies. And that’s usually far more of a deal-breaker than having or not having a degree. Employers who might be willing to be flexible on the degree requirement (as they often should be) are usually not flexible on issues of integrity, which is what this is.

So, should you decline the offer or tell them the truth? I could argue for either. Telling the truth has more integrity to it, I suppose — you’d be coming clean, which is good. But they’d be very unlikely to proceed when you explicitly lied on your resume, so simply declining might be the less uncomfortable route.

4. Meeting with people from my old industry right after I start a new job

I just started a new role this week that I am super excited about. I’m leaving behind a role where I was a pretty vital part of the day-to-day operations in a very small, insular community for three years. I formed very close relationships with a lot of these people. As such, when I sent my farewell email out to folks I wanted to stay in touch with, a lot of folks asked me to grab coffee to catch up and hear about my new role.

However, my new role is not so much client-facing; it’s more event programming and logistics. Would it be out of line to take meetings during the work day with people in my former network? It’s still the same space/industry, but not all of these meetings necessarily have synergy with what I’m working on. Not sure what professional conventions are surrounding this.

I’d mainly hold off for now. One coffee with an old colleague your first month on the job isn’t a big deal — but a bunch of them when they don’t relate to your current job would raise my eyebrows if I were your manager. Wait until you’ve been there a bit longer and have established yourself, so that you’re more of a known quantity. At that point, your manager will know you have a work ethic and are getting things done and will be less likely to wonder what’s up.

It’s very normal to tell past colleagues in this situation, “Once I’m more settled in here, I’d love to have coffee.” It doesn’t need to be immediate. (Or, if you want it to be more immediate, meet for a drink after work or something. Just don’t load up your first couple of months at a new job with daytime meetings with people who don’t relate to the new work.)

5. My severance package is smaller than coworkers laid off six months ago

I am working for a large company that did mass layoffs about six months ago. They offered severance packages to those employees who were laid off.

I am now being laid off for the same reason (position elimination), but have been told I will not be getting a severance package because I have a longer time to find a new position within the company. It seems unfair that I am not being offered severance, but six months ago they were giving severance to employees in the same situation as I am in now. Do I have any grounds to get a severance package because of this situation?

It’s not uncommon for people in earlier rounds of layoffs to get larger severance packages than people in later rounds, often because there’s simply less money to put toward severance later in the process. It’s also true that employers will sometimes give severance in lieu of notice (“today will be your last day but we’re giving you four weeks pay to cushion the blow since you’ve had no notice of this”) whereas if you get some notice, that calculation may change.

It’s not necessarily fair, but it’s not really grounds to push back. I mean, you can always try negotiating for more, but you might not have a lot of bargaining power. Bargaining power for severance typically comes in if your employer is concerned about you suing for something (like if you had cause to believe you’d been discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, or another protected characteristic — because to get severance, you a sign a general release of claims so you can’t sue in the future) or if they agree that they’ve somehow done you wrong (like if you moved to their state for the job and were laid off a month later).

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    #2 I don’t understand what’s going on here. Why does it matter what your coworker did at an old job, when she’s altering other people’s numbers at this one? That’s the serious issue your boss should be addressing, not whatever she was involved in at another company. Why is your boss even skulking around like this? He’s your and your coworkers manager–he can sit her down about his concerns without needing to dig up gossip about her.

    It sounds like maybe the real problem is that there isn’t adequate oversight for the night shift.

    1. Sherm*

      +1. It sounds like the rumor mill is spinning like a tornado at this place. I would just tell the boss what I saw with my own eyes, and what I heard Troublemaker say with my own ears. The rest is hearsay.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      The whole thing sounds so crazzy, and while the letter isn’t overly clear I’m wondering if the boss who was out of town had been suspended, as the OP says there were “Rumours around the office were that he was under investigation by HR.”

      Maybe he wants the details of the false sexual harrsement claim at the pervious company to counter an allegation against him, wether there’s a genuine complaint or its another false claim.

      1. Alanna*

        Yes, this all sounds completely insane. Disengage, disengage, disengage. I have worked in environments like this, and it is easy to get sucked in. Like everyone else is playing to win and you’ll lose if you don’t go all drama-llama yourself. But that’s the skewed perspective speaking. Just stay unruffled and unrelated and you’ll be fine.

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

          + 1 for making me build a mental picture of a ‘drama-llama’
          I will use this image to circumvent becoming one, myself.

        2. Anna*

          I am completely disengaging with this. After speaking with a few friends, it’s clear that it’s just not right and not my place to meddle in this business. Nobody knows why he was suspended/sent away. Nobody is allowed to speak of it. I let what I heard slip while I was warning my new co woken about the possibility of false allegations. And yes, some of this makes it seem as though maybe my boss was accused of something. That’s the only reason that he should be concerned. I’ve been with this company for years and have never had issues with drama until this past year, and that is something that has been brought up with management by all of us. I am the only employee left from the old team, besides my regional manager. Everyone else is new at my office, whether it be from transferring or new employees. Our old team got along just great! We would regularly plan after work dinners, drink nights, and park days. No one was left out, and now, everything is so divided and nasty that it seems out of reach to even try this. I shared this with my regional manager when he was in town the other day. He’s in full agreement.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        I’m wondering if the boss who was out of town had been suspended, as the OP says there were “Rumours around the office were that he was under investigation by HR.”

        This is exactly where my mind went. Coworker accused him of sexual harrassment (because, once again, she’s about to be caught by her husband having a clandestine affair at work, and she wants to stave off the impending divorce), boss had to leave while under investigation, and now boss wants to know every detail of what she did at her former job so he’ll have ammo to use against her with HR. Or, boss and coworker just don’t get along, coworker wants boss’s job so she told HR he sexually harassed her, boss found out about the accusation, but couldn’t act because he was secretly suspended while HR investigated the complaint, and now he wants revenge.

        This should be in the ABC Thursday night lineup.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          This, exactly.

          Normally I’d say indiscretions or mistakes at past jobs shouldn’t impact a current job, however making a false accusation that can ruin someone’s career and life– those aren’t just “mistakes” or indiscretions, they’re serious character deficencies.. Frankly if I knew there was a coworker who did this, I wouldn’t want to be around them at all. It’s a disgusting and horrible thing to do and really diminishes serious, legitimate complaints. That coworker sounds like a horrid person.

          1. Chinook*

            ” however making a false accusation that can ruin someone’s career and life– those aren’t just “mistakes” or indiscretions, they’re serious character deficencies.”

            This 100x! There is a reason that ” do not bear false witness” is in the same top 10 list as “do not murder”! This woman didn’t just tell a lie but used this lie to maliciously cause harm to someone else who is then put in the impossible position of trying to prove a negative (that they did not harass her). The fact that she continues this type of unethical behavior just proves that it wasn’t a case of a temporary lapse of judgment but a character flaw.

        2. Anna*

          Seriously, this troublesome coworker went around telling people at work that she was being promoted while he was gone. It’s all too dramatic for me. Needless to say, she did not and is not getting a promotion. I have a strong feeling that she might be getting a promotion out the door.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Not only that, I’m wondering if he was having an affair with this woman and that’s why he’s so curious as to her prior affair at the last job.

        1. Anna*

          I’m not sure. He seems pretty devoted to his beautiful wife. But, you never know. None of my business.

    3. Z*

      I’d hazard a guess that it has something to do with the fact that she’s apparently making false allegations against people and has in the past made a very serious false allegation against a coworker.

      I’d be very interested in hedging too if I had a coworker who I thought might make a career-ending false complaint about me to HR. That is unacceptable and scary behaviour that you’d really need to protect yourself from if it was happening near you.

      Do remember that “I accused my boss of sexual harassment and now I have his office” is a meme because sometimes people actually do that.

      1. Ms. Didymus*

        I must be incredibly naive because it literally never occurred to me that people would actually do that.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      well…why wouldn’t it matter? Normally I’d say mistakes and discretions at past jobs don’t matter as much, but in this case….she filed a sexual harassment claim that was false, who’s to say that she wouldn’t do the same at this job? These are issues against her character, not her work ethic, and I’d be extremely wary if I were working with this person.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        ok WOW, I did not mean to repeat. when I posted this I couldn’t find this comment. My bad don’t mean to flood!

    5. Michelle*

      The letter writer said the boss was in his hometown, so I’m guessing he was laying low waiting out the HR investigation, not digging for dirt on the bad coworker.

      This place sounds like a nightmare. I think I would be finding a way out and until then, I would stay away from the drama/gossip mill.

  2. Stephanie*

    #2: Yeah, this sounds exactly like where I work. Evening/night shift are also kind of the wild, wild west since most of the desk jockeys at the facility work day shift. And there is lots of gossip (anyone who claims men don’t gossip just needs to come here for an evening). Going forward, I would just stay out of it as much as possible and disengage if any salacious talk about this whole situation comes up.

    1. Dan*

      I stopped talking about how much the opposite sex gossiped after I got a job as an airline ramp agent. You ain’t seen gossip until you’ve walked into a break room full of ramp dudes.

      Which I guess is kinda your point.

      1. hbc*

        Gossip is when people talk about other people but the specific people or topics don’t interest you. When you (general you) talk about other people, it’s strategizing or comparing notes or venting or playing armchair psychologist or staying in the loop. Never gossip.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I believe a better measure is “it’s not gossip if you say it to the person’s face”.

            It might be bullying, or it might be a friendly warning on other peoples’ perceptions, but the one thing it wouldn’t be is gossip.

            1. fposte*

              Though I like scholar Patricia Spacks’ description: “Gossip is news in a red silk dress.”

    2. Random Lurker*

      There is so much drama in just this letter that I think this workplace would be pure hell. This just toxic!

      Stop participating in the rumors about the coworker’s former job.

      Stop participating in the rumors because your boss took time off and doesn’t want people to know he’s back early. There are SO MANY reasons that people extend vacations, come back early, don’t want people at work to know, etc. And they are all NOYB.

      1. Alanna*

        You can get sucked into the gossip/rumor way of life. It feels fun for a while and not hellish at all; like you’re an insider. But it’s soul-destroying.

        1. Anna*

          I would try to find a way out if I didn’t love my job so much. It’s a rewarding place to work and is usually peaceful, but this past year has made me sick to my stomach. All the crying, fighting, and tattling, it’s a train wreck. We have another coworker who cannot keep her cool around this false allegation girl, which really makes the morning time an explosive environment (so happy I’m at night). One day, I did have to come in and cover someone else’s shift in the morning. I had to sit in between these two while they fought. I, as a lateral employee should not have to be breaking up arguments and telling coworker’s to act professionally.

  3. Stephanie*

    #5: I can see how you might feel indignant. But you did have a six-month warning that things weren’t going so well at your company with the earlier wave. Granted, I know hindsight’s 20/20 and it’s more comforting to think that you’ll survive layoffs. But if something like this happens again, I would start looking at the first mention of layoffs or financial difficulties.

    I had a similar conversation with a friend a couple of months back. She was saying how there were layoffs happening at work. but she wasn’t concerned. “They’ll give me a giant severance!” I’m like “Er…maybe. Severance depends on a lot, so I wouldn’t bank on getting a generous severance, especially if you’re in a later wave of layoffs.” And yeah…she got laid off, got a decent severance, but it wasn’t as generous as the earlier wave’s severance packages.

    1. Dan*

      I found out that the first wave of layoffs got 3x what my round got. They didn’t do severance by length of service, either.

      If I wasnt desperate for what I got, I would have turned it down and told them that if they wanted a general release, they’d have to pay up.

    2. AnotherFed*

      And lay offs mean things are not going so well – you lay people off because you can’t afford the expense of keeping them. There is no magical pot of gold to keep pulling money out of!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        True. Some companies give no severance at all. Some companies lie about how much. At this one company I worked at, after a layoff, they told (sort of bragged) that they gave everyone who got laid off two weeks severance for each year they had worked there. Come to find out from talking to a couple laid off coworkers, that was a total lie. They gave more to people they liked, basically. One coworker had been their five years and only got two weeks, and told me of a couple other people that got the same.

      2. Dan*

        Not only do they mean that things aren’t going well, it means that there are no reasonable prospects for turning them around.

        At my last job (which went through three rounds of layoffs in 2013), we had a major contract issue a year or two prior. Senior management made a big deal about how they kept everybody on, blah blah. The thing was, there was a *huge* contract coming right around the corner. (And it came.) I figured that keeping people on overhead was a calculated business decision, because when that big contract came, they’d need that skillset back. What’s cheaper, keeping people on overhead for a couple of months, or having to restaff with a specialty skill? Call me cynical, but I didn’t buy the “nice guy” speech.

    3. Colette*

      Depending on where the OP is, she may want to run this by an employment lawyer. In some places (but possibly not the US), companies do need to offer the same severance.

      1. MK*

        Even in my country, where severance in lieu of notice is legally mandatory, the employer doesn’t have to give the same amount to anyone, as long as they give them the minimum amount the law requires (which is calculated based on salary and length of employment).

    4. the gold digger*

      When I was laid off, I got a severance of two weeks’ salary for every year I had been there plus six months of COBRA. I had a chance to interview for a position in another division, but I decided (stupidly) not to do so, because I was worried I would just be laid off a year later and that I might get even less severance. (Another division was already offering only one week’s salary for each year.)

      However, a year’s salary and benefits would have been better than the (two weeks)(eight years) that I got and I could have spent that time looking for a job.

      (My math works only if I would have gotten the new job and then been laid off less than four months later. Or something like that.)

      1. Dan*

        On the one hand, I very much get what you’re saying. OTOH, job hunting is *work*. If I *know* I should be looking for another job, and I was offered 16 weeks severance? I may very well take it and job hunt full time.

    5. all aboard the anon train*

      Timely advice! My company announced layoffs at the beginning of December and then started the first round in February. We know more are probably coming at some point so I’ve been looking (I’m fairly content with my job, but I’d be in a tough spot without the money, so I’ve been looking just in case – though I’m going back and forth on what to tell interviewers about the reason for seeking a new job since I don’t know if saying “there are layoffs coming but I don’t know if it’ll be me” is enough of a reason).

      Regardless, my company gives two weeks severance for every year worked, so someone who has been here 5+ years would get a decent amount, but someone who has only been here for a year wouldn’t get much at all. During the first round of layoffs, people were shocked at how little severance they got, but I mean, the company had financial issues for the past two years, there have been no raises recently, and they’re laying people off. Of course they’re not going to give a lot for severance.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I’d be in a tough spot without the money, so I’ve been looking just in case – though I’m going back and forth on what to tell interviewers about the reason for seeking a new job since I don’t know if saying “there are layoffs coming but I don’t know if it’ll be me” is enough of a reason).

        This is most definitely enough of a reason. Any reasonable employer will understand an employee wanting to seek other opportunities in a company that’s not floundering. Hell, that’s partially what I said to get hired at my current company.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        though I’m going back and forth on what to tell interviewers about the reason for seeking a new job since I don’t know if saying “there are layoffs coming but I don’t know if it’ll be me” is enough of a reason).

        Yes, it’s definitely a reason. However, I’ve interviewed someone who gave it as ONE of the reasons, and honestly, it would have tipped that person a little too far into “doesn’t really want this job and will find something else quickly” territory if they hadn’t already given me the impression that they were really interested in this particular job. So be mindful of that.

        1. Dan*

          Well yeah… there are two parts to job hunting: 1) Why are you looking to leave, and 2) Why *this* job?

      3. John*

        I would give it as the reason you are searching but then quickly segue into the reasons why the position in question really appeals to you.

  4. Cari*

    #5 – is it possible the first round of people to go were voluntary redundancies? Companies sometimes offer good severance packages for those to encourage people to do the hard work for them. When my dad was made redundant, he got less than those that took voluntary months earlier, because he held on in the faint hope they’d keep him on, even though he knew the voluntary was a better deal.

    1. BananaPants*

      That’s what I was thinking. Companies will sometimes give early retirement packages or voluntary layoffs and those are usually a sweeter deal than what’s offered to people who are involuntarily laid off, to try to entice employees to go for the deal.

      I think the last time we did a voluntary early retirement package, it was only for employees 55+, who had worked here long enough to be fully vested in the pension, and who were within certain grade levels. When they eventually did layoffs, it was at all levels and some of those who could have taken the package and didn’t ended up having less of a package. It is what it is.

  5. Tommy*

    #5: Wait. So if my company lays off some people, I am supposed to take that as advance notice that I will be laid off in the near future and start looking for a new job immediately? I’m expected to assume (and held accountable for assuming) that, even though the company never gives any forthright warning that they will be doing more layoffs, they are going to do them anyway?

    1. Stephanie*

      I think it’s more a CYA thing so you don’t end up blindsided and out of work. Sometimes it’s just one round, sometimes it’s several, sometimes it’s the entire company. The first round is usually the canary in the coal mine that the company might be in trouble.

      1. Tommy*

        Well, yes, I agree that an alert employee should start looking, but it really seems strange that the company should punish them, in a way, for not looking, unless the company said something.

        It’s like if you marry a guy who you discover bailed on his ex with no warning (and who the court awarded alimony to) and then, when he does the same to you, the court says you deserve no alimony because you should have expected him to leave you in the same way. I can see telling a friend, “You should’ve considered the possibility that you could be next,” but I don’t see how he should benefit from that.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          But is that really a relevant distinction when your job is on the line? Either the company is tanking and may or may not recover, or the industry is tanking and may or may not recover to it’s current state. Either way, your current job is in jeopardy.

          1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

            Or it could be that business is slower (perhaps they lost 1 contract) and they’ve decided to release some redundancies. There are a number of reasons for layoffs. My advice, learn as much as you can about why the layoffs happened and then decide your next course of action.

          2. Dan*

            It can. Within an industry, there are only so many jobs to go around. I used to work for an airline, and when that airline hit hard times, a competitor started hiring many of the employees. However, the last people to get laid off had the hardest time finding jobs, as the other vacancies were already filled.

            Companies don’t necessarily move in lockstep with each other, and depending on staffing needs, a company may very well need “a few” experienced and seasoned employees. Those few may very well come from the early rounds of a competitor’s layoffs.

            *If* I’m getting laid off, I’d much rather be first than last.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Yup. One of my division’s competitors is running off this particular business line, so they’ll be letting around 280 people go. We’re actively recruiting some of these folks and the layoffs haven’t even officially begun. Once we’re fully staffed though (because we’ll be getting a lot of their business), whoever doesn’t end up with us or in another division at their own company will end up SOL. It’s sad.

          3. Mike C.*

            It’s relevant in understanding if your job is in fact in jeopardy or not. If your type of work is running out, then you’re getting canned. Otherwise, you’re not. But simply because they type of work running out may consist of a large number of people doesn’t mean that the company is circling the drain or that others in different areas should be expected to anticipate their own layoff.

    2. Jen*

      What I think is not explicitly said here is that the OP is getting more of a notice period for the layoff – i.e. Told now that his/her last day will be in a month vs earlier folks who were potentially given more severence but less notice (i.e. Today is your last day).

      Fwiw I negotiated more severence but like Allison said, I fell into both categories: protected class (pregnant female) replaced by a far less qualified but buddy of my new boss’s white male <40. I was also totally screwed by a few recent changes. When I told my lawyer her eyes lit up like Christmas morning and she got them to almost double my package.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, this is how I interpreted it. They were giving OP more notice than the first round of layoffs got, so each round got an equivalent combination of notice and severance, just a different mix.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Absent a contract to the contrary, severance is at the discretion of the employer, which is another way of saying, they don’t have to give you anything. (Erm, not a lawyer and warn notice/state law may play into some kinds of required severances sometimes, so usually they aren’t required to give you anything, but maybe sometimes?) Point is most times a company offers layoff packages to a sizeable first round, part of their motivation is to keep the rest of everybody else from turning the lights off and walking out.

      Small layoffs because of restructuring are probably not a big deal. If they outsource your IT and layoff five IT people, that’s probably not going to impact your teapot design job. The healthiest company could do that.

      Layoff rounds? That’s your notice to look now.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Layoff rounds? That’s your notice to look now.

        This. The law firm where I used to work did layoffs two to three times a year for years (and they’re still doing them two years after I left). In fact, I was in one of the layoff rounds four weeks after I started (as a temp – all of the temps from my particular agency, about 50% of their workforce, was let go), but then they brought me back after five or six weeks once they crunched the numbers and realized they could pay my agency salary (and my supervisor at the firm was up HR’s ass about getting me back). The rest of the time I was there (about two years and seven months) I was job searching. I knew that there was only a matter of time before I’d get cut again, especially after I was hired on permanently and the firm now had to give me benefits and cover things like Workers’s Comp insurance. Shoot, because of that experience, I investigate the financial health of every company I apply to – I will not end up in that situation again if I can help it. It sucks.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh wow, I never thought about that! (But I’ve been applying mostly for government jobs.)

          Maybe in tomorrow’s open work thread, you could elaborate on what you look for? I am pretty sure I am not the only one who would find that both interesting and handy!

          1. Doriana Gray*

            I probably won’t remember to do it tomorrow, so quickly, what I usually do since I apply to publicly traded companies (and mainly financial institutions these days) is look at their financial statements. I then compare those to the industry/regulatory guidelines which state what a strong financial rating is considered in our industry. I only apply to companies with at least an A rating – anything less than that is an automatic nope.

          2. the gold digger*

            When I was at my old job (whence I was laid off), a woman called me to ask about working there. She had gotten an offer and had gotten my name from our alumni website. I told her we had been going through layoffs for a few years and if she had any other offers, she should consider them instead.

            She declined my company’s offer, but only after telling the recruiter that I had told her not to accept. Sheesh.

            1. Dan*

              How “experienced” was this woman? The younger me (in her shoes) would not have realized what I just did. The older me, who has been laid off, would be very wary of putting you in a position where it could appear that you violated a non-disparagement clause in your severance agreement. (I had one in mine. The term wasn’t defined. I know that truth is an absolute defense to libel, but I have no idea if that applies to “disparagement.”)

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Unfortunately, it’s easy for smaller, non-publicly traded companies to lie about their financial health.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Yup, and apparently law firms too (I still don’t know how they manage to get new employees given their horrendous reputation in our area).

          2. Dan*

            And at large companies, from a practical standpoint, financial health is a function of the individual business units. Company X may be very well be doing just fine overall, but not happy with their Tablet division and decide to close it. You’d have to really know what you’re doing to detect that in financial statements.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              This is true too. But in the industry where I work, individual business unit’s fiscal performance is also published separately from the company as well, so that helps.

        3. Dan*

          My last job decided to hire a few kids straight out of school in midst of layoffs. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to bring on cheaper labor to lower some costs, but we were laying off people because we didn’t have work for them, not because they were too expensive. I told my close coworkers that there was no reason to make friends with the newhires, because either us or they would be gone in six months.

          I would not want my first job out of college to have been in that environment. I wouldn’t have had the political experience to understand and navigate that kind of environment, and I’d go to work every day wondering when it would be my last day.

          I felt really bad for those kids.

    4. AnotherFed*

      If your company announces mass layoffs, hell yes!

      If they just outsource one small business area (and it isn’t your business area), probably not.

    5. Colette*

      I’m not sure how you’d be held accountable – looking for a new job and prioritizing savings are not really things people regularly get punished for.

      I once worked for a company that did multiple rounds of layoffs – and yet after they’d cut 2/3 of the company, one of my coworkers believed it couldn’t happen to her. That’s well past optimistic and into delusional.

    6. Oryx*

      It’s sometimes hard to gauge — the unofficial first round of lay offs at my old job started about two years prior, of course we didn’t know it at the time because it was just one person. But by the time the official rounds started, and it was happening every week or every other week, it was a very, very scary place to be. I had co-workers let go the very day they announced the merge. Came to work at 9 am, told about a 10 am all staff meeting, they were gone by 11 am.

      For that job, as soon as the Titanic hit the proverbial ice berg I started looking for a new job, although I was one of the lucky ones who was offered a transfer to the new facility. So I stayed while all my co-workers lost their jobs and moved. But it became clear it was actually worse at the new place so I quietly continued to look and interview and finally jumped ship six months ago. Funny thing is, there was a small group of about ten of us offered transfers. I think nearly 2/3s have left already because we know what a sinking ship feels like.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not sure where you’re getting that from the answer to #5…? It depends on the kind of layoff — restructuring one part of the business is a different thing than mass layoffs that cut deeply, for example. You need to know your own particular context and assess accordingly.

      1. BRR*

        I believe it’s in reference to Stephanie’s comment. Mass layoffs are a sign you should at least look at what the company’s situation is. A restructuring is one thing but “hey we have no money to keep all of these people employed” is a sign to start looking.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, a comment from Bowserkitty way further down made me realize what Tommy thinks: He thinks the “less severance because you have time to job search” means that they expected her to job hunt just because the earlier layoffs had happened. But Tommy, that’s not it. They’re laying off the OP with notice, and saying that the notice period means she has time to job search.

    8. Artemesia*

      It is simple self preservation. In a faltering company you need to see the handwriting on the wall and act in your own best interests. I should have noticed a number of clues that it was going to happen to us and been proactive but I didn’t. So I was shocked when several departments including my own were dismissed in preparation for a merger. They riffed by department to avoid any lawsuits since many of the people had long term contracts that could only be broken if entire departments were eliminated. Severance was modest for those with long seniority; as a very junior person without a long term contract I got very little. It is a sort of ‘you snooze, you loose’ situation as are so many in life. They don’t have to give you severance when they fire you. If early people volunteer to leave or if with no notice they feel obligated to be generous there is no way to know if these benefits will go to later people in the process.

    9. NK*

      A couple things, in addition to what’s already been said: companies often don’t give forthright warning of layoffs, whether an additional round or subsequent rounds. So yes, it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on and determine whether it’s worth the risk to stick it out or start looking. I’m not one to be hugely mistrustful of companies, but this is one area where the company is only looking out for their best interests and you need to look out for yours.

      Also, it’s worth thinking about whether the post-layoff company is a place you’d want to be. A good friend of mine survived mass layoffs at her company (and got a promotion along with it), but is now drowning at work and the once-great company culture is now a horrible one. And she’s struggling to find the time to job search because she’s so swamped.

    10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


      What’s important is the REASON people were laid off. Sometimes layoffs are done because the company’s bottom line is bad – lack of business, expenses, they’re tuning up to be taken over or sold.

      Sometimes they’re done to eliminate redundancies, but most good companies – rather than execute a small layoff, find another spot for those impacted.

      Sometimes they’re done just to scare the hell out of people. A five-percent cutback, for example, in a year where profits are up by 10 percent and the business is growing – the layoff was executed as a scare tactic.

      But if the company is chokin’, and there were layoffs over it – remember the analogy I said elsewhere in this thread — rats that jump off of a sinking ship often have the opportunity to survive and go on living. Those that don’t, and choose to stay on the sinking ship, will most certainly drown.

  6. hbc*

    OP5: “I have a longer time to find a new position within the company.” Even if they needed to be fair (which they don’t), if this quote is true, I could argue that it’s completely fair to give you different severance. A longer time to look for a position is just as valuable than severance. Maybe more valuable since it’s nice to show you’re currently employed when sending resumes out.

  7. Myrin*

    Or would telling her that make me look flaky?

    Oh my god, OP, no! If you don’t want to take that position, you need to let her know, and fast! I mean, I don’t really see how you could go about not telling her about this, anyway – she will eventually find out that you aren’t actually doing the job she thought you’d signed up for, no? This is not something that you can just let slide or gracefully never mention again in the hopes she will forget, you need to be clear and I think Alison’s wording is just perfect for that. Good luck!

    1. AnotherFed*

      Exactly. Yes, you look flaky, but the longer you wait, the flakier and flakier you look!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      And it’s ok to say “I’m sorry I didn’t say something at the time – I was really caught off guard!”

      Well, not ok, but it will work. I sometimes get totally caught off guard be something unexpected and can’t effectively respond until I’ve had time to process.

      1. Florida*

        This, so much. I think everyone gets caught off guard sometimes. That’s fine. Just don’t make a habit of it.

        1. Dan*

          You can only make a habit of it if you can’t think quickly, or someone blindsides you with something you weren’t expecting. I mean, if my boss asks me about the status of a task that I was never assigned, or could not have been presumed to be assigned, then what am I supposed to do?

          It’s different if I walk into a meeting about Topic X, and I’m not prepared to intelligently discuss relevant issues.

      2. Dan*

        In this case, I don’t even think the employee got caught off guard. This was more of a case of a poorly delivered message. I mean, it’s one thing if the boss said, “Now that you’ve accepted X position, it’s time we…” and the OP didn’t respond in the moment. But it’s a different thing if the boss says, “BTW, can you get me the financial plan for X by next week?” When the financial plan for X is not part of your current duties, and part of the duties of the next job. It would take me awhile to process the later, certainly after the boss excused him from the situation.

    3. Koko*

      “It always amazes me the lengths that women will go to to avoid appearing rude.” – Aziz Ansari, but I think plenty of men have the same issue!

      1. LBK*

        TV nerd moment: that’s actually a line from Matt Lauer in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (although Aziz does have some great lines like that in Master of None).

  8. Brightwanderer*

    Re: #2 – I don’t think it says anywhere that the boss went out of town to dig up dirt on the coworker? The way I’m reading it is that the boss had suddenly vanished from work (and gone back to his hometown), possibly because of an HR investigation/suspension. Now he’s suddenly popped up ahead of schedule with some sort of plan to “catch” the coworker. Maybe to take the heat off his own case? It’s still totally batshit, regardless…

    1. Random Lurker*

      After sleeping on this for awhile, this is batshit for everyone involved. Tough love coming here: OP #2, stop being a drama llama. This whole thing can be summed up as: Boss asked you for info you don’t feel comfortable giving. Everything else – the tattling, the clandestine affair, the false accusations, the hr investigations, etc. – that is all noise. None are relevant to the story. The culture of gossip there is so entwined, you can’t help but to share all these details – with an unknowing coworker, and now a bunch of strangers on the internet. And that makes you part of the problem.

      If I were you, I’d keep my head down and do my job. If it is impossible to work without gossiping, or worse, because of the gossip, you should reconsider if this is an environment that you should be in for 40+ hours a week. Because it sounds unhealthy AF.

      1. V Dubs*

        This reminds me of a line from a Zig Ziglar tape: “I already told you more than I know!”

      2. LBK*

        Totally agree. I don’t think the OP even realizes how much she’s engaging in gossip here:

        The thing is, evidently my boss has been hearing this story since he transferred here and believes it.

        Rumors around the office were that he was under investigation by HR.

        This is the kind of phraseology the Real Housewives use to start drama while absolving themselves of guilt – “Well *I* didn’t say it, someone else said it” (and then I told everyone else with nothing to substantiate it and without saying I disagreed, implicitly endorsing it and allowing the gossip to spread further).

        Obviously I don’t know whether you’re saying these same kind of things in real life and not just in this letter, but be wary of what you’re saying – you may be participating in the drama without even thinking about it.

        1. Anna*

          Besides warning my coworker, no I do not engage in real life with this. I took to this forum to ask advice. I do actually know said woman’s ex manager, and she has confirmed that it is true. She also has since switched companies. I also am going to tell my supervisor that I would like to be left out of whatever he wants to investigate, and he can go to her former employer himself if he feels that he needs to.

    2. Anna*

      Yes, he was sent home. Batshit, yes! I cant stand this. I just want normalcy back and to not be involved. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

  9. Misty*

    Removed because off-topic. Please post in tomorrow’s open thread or email to me directly.

  10. Rebecca*

    #3 – I think the best thing to do here, besides never lie about your credentials again, is to gracefully decline. If they ask why, make something up. And don’t do this again! Alison is right about the degree requirement. I spoke to a local company at a meet and greet, and I asked about a position that required a degree that I don’t have. They told me that experience and knowing how to do the work would be taken into consideration. That wasn’t spelled out in the job description, though. This company may have been willing to work with you, OP. The next time you apply somewhere, ask the question. Don’t lie.

    1. AnotherFed*

      I agree. If you just politely decline, you lose this chance but all the people involved probably won’t remember you from Adam in a few years. If they know you lied about having a degree, then not only have you lost this job, you have lost every job at a company these people work with for many years because it is quite memorable.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Right. Declining the offer is best. Reapply in a few years rather than be known as the candidate who lied and tarnish your chances if you apply where these people work at in the future. Sorry OP

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Well, if you think about it, that in itself can be very punishing because it is nerve-wracking. I sincerely doubt our OP will ever do this again. I am inclined to think this way because she wrote into get advice, that is her conscience working away inside her thoughts even before she read the answer. We all have all done stuff we regret or have second thoughts about. It happens.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yes, don’t let degree requirements scare you into thinking you’re unemployable. In my current job I had the required degree in progress. I had a contact at the company, so I went ahead and asked before I applied if that was going to be a barrier, something I normally wouldn’t have done. They practically begged me to apply. I was told that my reputation preceded me, and my experience justified bringing me on before the degree was complete. The degree is usually considered a hard requirement in my position, but I was a special case. OP, you indicated you have experience, so there may be special cases for you as well. Seek out positions you can make a good case for granting an exception for you and go ahead and ask if it’s possible (and if the degree requirement is common in your field, get the ball rolling on that as well).

  11. Nancypie*

    #3 – I was on the receiving end if this once. The person I made the offer to (for a 6 month contract) pretended to have a degree, and during the background check the university didn’t know who she was. The candidate insisted it was due to a name change, then doctored up a pretend degree that she sent in, etc. the whole thing delayed us by weeks and ultimately, due to delays and red tape, I was not able to fill the role for which I desperately needed coverage (when I had had other good candidates I could have gone with). I will never forget this person. However, had she just declined, I could have moved on and I would not know she was a liar and had no hard feelings. You must decline, or you may be firebombing a bridge.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I love that the candidate doctored up a pretend degree and tried to lie her way around it. That’s some great lengths.

      1. Jennifer*

        In my line of work this happens about four times a year. Just busted one last week. We get a laugh at doctored fake diplomas.

        It is generally really easy for a college to say no, you don’t have one if someone calls to check.

        1. Dan*

          Why are you even getting diplomas? Diplomas are technically proof of nothing, they are ceremonial pieces. My alma mater was big on that. If you need to prove you graduated, they had other ways of doing that for you.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t even know where my actual diploma is…what proves I graduated college is the records they have, not whether or not I’m able to produce the certificate they mailed to me after.

            1. Audiophile*

              My current job did a background check (not entirely sure what this involved) and then asked me to bring in my degree. I acknowledged I was having a hard time finding it and was told as I would then need to bring in my high school diploma and fill out paper work so they could get the information from my college. Thankfully, I found it just in time and didn’t have to go through extra steps.

      2. Nancypie*

        It was especially galling because 1) I probably would have found a way to bend the degree requirement if she was just upfront and 2) there is a compliance component to the job, making it especially important that I would have to speak up about this person and their dishonesty whenever her name comes up as a potential candidate (Which hasn’t happened in a while but did). I think she may even have gone back and gotten the degree, but I know her to be dishonest so that’s that as far as I’m concerned.

        1. Dan*

          Heh. I had a boss who didn’t like me that much. (Different boss hired me.) I hadn’t finished my MS when last job hired me, but it was “in progress.” Slow progress, but in progress. One day he looks at me and says, “Do you have your MS?” No, I responded. He literally pulls out my resume to see what I wrote on it. I politely directed him to the education section that had “anticipated” written on it. My offer, BTW, was not contingent upon successful completion (trust me, I looked.)

          I looked at him and shrugged because there was nothing he could do. I carefully word things. I do not misrepresent things. There is a difference.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      In a past background check, my college has denied that they’ve ever heard of me. (My records are so old they weren’t computerized, and the person looking up the information apparently doesn’t know to check the paper records.) Now that I know that, I warn potential employers, and give them the filled out paperwork for transcripts, which the college will accurately supply.

  12. Doriana Gray*

    OP #3: I’d decline the offer if I was you. The time to have come clean was in the initial interview. The fact that you let it go on this long is going to look purposely duplicitous whereas if you’d said something earlier (and I’d argue you shouldn’t have put the BFA on the application), it could have looked like a honest mistake to whoever was conducting the job screen (e.g. you had the BFA on the résumé because you were still taking classes at one point and thought you were going to finish, but forgot to update your résumé to remove it).

    That sucks that you may well end up losing out on an opportunity you think you’d love, but it sucks even more that our job market is such that people feel they have to stoop to these levels just to get ahead.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        That’s true, but it seems like it’s becoming more and more of a thing people do these days (or maybe I’m just hearing about it more).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I’m with Colette on this one. I don’t think there’s evidence that it’s happening any more than it always has. I think, too, that framing lets the OP off the hook more than it should (sorry, OP).

        2. Katie the Fed*

          People get caught more now, because background checks are easy and inexpensive. They weren’t always.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            This is another good point. And some companies still don’t do the due diligence they should when it comes to these things, which astounds me.

            1. the gold digger*

              I have a friend who discovered her now-ex husband had pretty much lied to her about everything, including that he had graduated from college. (And about being an orphan. And having had cancer. And being straight.)

              He has also lied to his employer about his degree. He is a VP at an F100 company and I am so, so tempted to send an anonymous email.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                Lawd! I’d be tempted too, not only because I work in a risk management capacity and integrity is a BIG DEAL to us, but also because he sounds like a tool.

              2. Nancypie*

                Does your friend rely on him for any child support or alimony ? If so, that could be very very bad for her.

                1. the gold digger*

                  No, she does not, but he is still very vindictive and she is scared of him – even moved across an ocean to get away from him. That is the reason I have not done anything – it could hurt her.

                1. the gold digger*

                  I know. I feel so bad for her. The guy is (seriously) a psychopath. There are people who have implied that she should have seen it coming, but the thing with psychopaths is that you don’t see them coming. They blend.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yup. It’s like how people used to be able to move to a different town and commit bigamy without anyone ever knowing. Unless someone who actually knew you before showed up and spilled the beans, you could get away with all sorts of things before tech exploded.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              The internet makes it more difficult, but there are still ways to get around these antiquated laws

          3. Koko*

            I remember reading Catch Me If You Can and marveling at the things he got away with that just wouldn’t be possible with the way everything is scrutinized and verified in modern times.

          4. Stranger than fiction*

            That’s a great point. Also, there’s more online app systems now that require you to check a box that you have the degree, and if you don’t, you’re instantly rejected, so that’s probably tempting to people who so desperately want a job.

            1. Dan*

              The thing is though, that if the employer gets enough people with degrees, they can afford to be picky. Supply and demand is a basic market force. Yes, that leads to things like credential inflation and depressed wages for those with degrees, but the reality is, companies could save money by hiring people with just an HS diploma. They choose to pay more for a college educated staff. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

                1. Dan*

                  This is one of those have/have not things. When people pay a lot of money for a credential, they want an ROI. If companies loosened up their hiring requirements (and paid people less because they have no degree) the headlines would then read, “white kids with expensive college education cannot find job that pays them enough to move out of parents basement and pay their loans.”

                  As a white kid with an expensive college education (and the debt to prove it), I would prefer that places require the degree and pay more. Well, I’d prefer that college costs less, but given the debt I have, I need to make more.

                  It’s interesting… business being business and existing to make a profit and all, why wouldn’t they loosen up the requirements and pay less? The reality is, some companies like to brag about their educated work force. It doesn’t look all that great to say “our staff isn’t educated.” It also doesn’t look all that great to say “we just hire white people.” So I think a choice has to be made, and its complicated.

                  Relevant side note: For years, the FAA hired air traffic controllers with no degrees. They then decided they wanted an educated work force, and put in mechanisms to do that. These weren’t necessarily expensive programs (you could go through certain community colleges and get done in two years). But lately, they’ve decided that the credentialing requirement isn’t producing the “diverse” workforce that they want, so they’re reassessing that requirement.

                2. LBK*

                  I’m not sure I really understand your argument here…it sounds like you’re basically just saying “sucks to be them, I’m privileged so that means I should get to enjoy the benefits of that privilege?”

                  Keeping people who don’t have access to higher education out of better-paying jobs just perpetuates the cycle. It makes it nearly impossible to create the base of wealth that allows more people in each successive generation to go to school.

                3. Dan*

                  More like that I played the game based on a set of rules, and I don’t want the rules changing after I’ve invested in it.

                  I think the implicit argument I was making is that there are a limited number of jobs to go around. Right now the system says that to get those jobs, you have to go to college. That creates debt for many. Yes, going to college is a privilege, but I’m $92k in the hole from that. I don’t consider $92k in debt to be “privilege.” Because I took on that liability with the expectation of a better (paying) job to be there, I actually want that better paying job. I don’t want to compete with people who don’t have that debt and are willing to make less money. That is, what I really don’t want to be is that unemployed person with $92k in debt.

                  I do maintain, however, that if companies could truly get qualified people with jut an HS diploma, that rational economic theory says that they should get paid less. If I’m looking at jobs that pays $30k a year and require a college degree, or just requires an HS diploma, but only pays $25k a year, I skip college and take that $25k in a heart beat. Maybe even $20k.

                  If I’m a company hiring someone, and I have to pay $30k for someone with a BS, but can get an HS grad for $20k who is just as qualified, why wouldn’t I do that? We do it at the BS/MS/PhD levels.

                4. Oryx*

                  ….But you’re playing a game with rules that are inherently stacked in your favor. That’s where the privilege comes in.

                  The fact that you took on $92K in debt for your degree doesn’t really have any bearing on whether you should get a job or not. The degree itself, sure, if the job actually requires a skill set that can only be obtained with said degree. But saying “I’m a broke white kid with college debt so I should get the job” is like arguing the male co-worker with a family to support should get the raise/promotion over his female spinster co-worker. One has nothing to do with the other.

                5. Dan*


                  How does one have nothing to do with the other? Debt (or not, if I had rich parents) I incurred the cost of going to college with the expectation that this credential would improve my economic viability in the US.

                  Your phrasing is a bit strong (“I have debt therefore I am owed job”) and that isn’t quite my take. My position is, “the system said I need X degree to get Y job. I spent the money and got X degree(s). I do not want the competition that would occur if the system changes and says that Y job no longer requires X degree.”

                  More competition = lower wages, and less chance of getting said job. I have semi-real evidence in my field. Companies who sponsor visas (creating increased supply of competition for jobs) pay less than companies who don’t. It’s in my economic self interest to maintain barriers to competition for my job.

                6. Dan*


                  BTW, “odds in my favor” is not equivalent to “never been fired, never been laid off, never been unemployed.” I’ve been all three, and it sucks. I do not get every job I apply for, although my job hunts are easier than most. But my job hunts are likely easier because I have an in demand skill, and am selective about my applications, and not because I have “privilege.” We cannot make any generalizations about my successes in the job market (ie whether they can be attributed to privilege) without doing a real scientific study comparing me to others in a similar situation. My background is quite niche, so doing such study would actually be difficult.

                7. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  You come from a position of knowing what the rules of the game are in the first place and having the institutional structure surrounding you to enable you to get the loans and pursue the degree. The fact that you don’t understand that many, many people do not have that same platform to spring from IS the privilege. As a country, we fail our low income kids in educational opportunity at almost every turn. We look down on trades and votech education and promote a four year degree as the end all be all. In the industry that I work in, formal education is not important at all. Hands on knowledge and experience is all that matters. Our site manager roles “require” a college degree because our VP of HR is somewhat of an education snob, but in practice our operations executives make hiring decisions that values that experience over formal education all the time. HOWEVER, my industry is VERY atypical in this way and it’s really too bad because some of the smartest people I know are my co-workers who finished high school and then immediately picked up a wrench and started working. They’ve worked their way up and can talk P&L circles around a lot of formally educated individuals. Don’t think I am dissing college, I’m not, I went to college, but if I’m honest, my job shouldn’t require a degree, although it does.

                8. Oryx*

                  Your DEBT 100% does not have anything to do with whether you should get a job over someone else. I said your DEGREE does, yes. But you keep bringing up your debt and $92K like it’s a data point that should be considered when it comes to job hunting. My point is that it’s not.

                  Also, I have an advanced degree that is required of jobs in my field. I also had an assistantship so, no, it’s not always rich parents.

                  And, a +1 to everything Recruit-o-Rama said.

        3. Ella*

          I think what we see now is more and more companies asking for degrees that didn’t previously for certain roles that you were more likely to work your way up to. Roles you could get in the past, when you had several years of experience, you now see people asking for 4 year degrees. It’s ridiculous in some instances really.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Or they’re asking for them for roles that really don’t need them, but are using it as a way reduce the number of resumes received.

          2. Dan*

            I don’t think I’d use the word “ridiculous.” The thing is, companies could very easily hire people without college degrees and pay them less. Yet, companies are choosing to hire college grads and pay them more. Is that a wise business decision? I donno. But I don’t think it’s unfair or ridiculous.

            As a society, we’ve pushed our kids to go to college to the exclusion of anything else. Those kids reasonably say, “I want a job that requires a degree. That’s why I went to school.” Because there is such a heavy supply of college graduates, companies can require that if they want.

            1. Ghost Umbrella*

              Well, they’re not really hiring college grads and paying them more. They’re hiring college grads and paying them less, because they can, because we have a surplus of unemployed and underemployed graduates. A degree has a terrible ROI anymore, because they’ve become the new high school diploma as far as entry-level jobs go, but a high school diploma doesn’t require your average student to go into five figures of debt.

              So, yeah, it’s ridiculous, and inflated degree requirements are a real problem.

            2. Ife*

              I really don’t know that companies are paying college grads “more” for the same work. In most cases, I think they are paying the same as they would for someone without a degree, or maybe a few thousand more (hardly enough to justify the cost of a bachelor’s degree). In a lot of roles, the company is not going to see a big increase in efficiency or ability to do the job just because someone went to college, so why would they pay more for the degree? I see a lot of companies paying in the $30k range and requiring a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, and other companies paying in the same $30k range for the same position and requiring only a high school degree.

      2. Ms. Didymus*

        Our job market of 4.9% unemployment? Our job market where I cannot currently find a person to fill a position that pays above market wages with great benefits because no one has the right qualifications (which are insanely reasonable)? Our job market where I, without a degree, was able to secure a role in a new city within 6 weeks of job search?

        Maybe I am just sensitive to this because I ‘cam of age’ in the time of 9%+ unemployment where people regularly spent years out of work but…I think our job market is pretty dang decent right now. People lying about credentials has gone on ever since people have been applying for work. I feel bad for people who feel trapped into doing so, but I don’t think it has anything to do with our current job market.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Our job market of 4.9% unemployment? Our job market where I cannot currently find a person to fill a position that pays above market wages with great benefits because no one has the right qualifications (which are insanely reasonable)? Our job market where I, without a degree, was able to secure a role in a new city within 6 weeks of job search?

          This is not the case for everyone everywhere. I have friends with advanced degrees who can barely scrape by.

        2. LSCO*

          I don’t know.. I think there’s an argument to be made. When jobs which in years past would only have needed a high school education are now advertised with “degree required, masters preferred”, those without degrees can feel trapped. They know they can do the job (again, I’m talking things like receptionist, or basic admin assistant, nothing that requires professional licensing or in-depth subject knowledge), but are effectively locked out of even applying because they don’t have a degree.

          I’m not saying that lying about your qualifications is an acceptable solution because it’s not at all. But I can understand where the temptation to lie might come from when the qualifications “required” exceed the actual nature of the job.

          1. anonanonanon*

            Definitely. My current job was advertised as “degree in X or X, masters preferred”, and while you could easily do my job without a degree, no one is going to get an interview without one.

            That said, one of our developers doesn’t have a degree and people act SO SHOCKED when they find out, and there’s been a few gross “but you’re so smart!” comments.

            1. SAHM*

              +1, my brother worked his way up in a large company. He’s now an Engineer (designing electrical infrastructure stuff for new buildings/developments), he studied his butt off and passed all the tests, but he doesn’t have a degree like the majority of people in his position. He literally started as a ditch digger almost a dozen years ago straight out of highschool and worked his way up. As you can tell, I’m crazy proud of him.

            2. Chinook*

              “people act SO SHOCKED when they find out, and there’s been a few gross “but you’re so smart!” comments.”

              DH is one of the few cops in his detachment without a college diploma where most have a university degree (because they considered 7+ years military experience (3 in intelligence) as degree from the School of Hard Knocks) and we both sat through astonished questions of where we both learned “to spell so good” when we did our only game night with his coworkers. DH’s response was to point out that he read and mine was that I had a B.Ed. (I guess they thought a dumb soldier couldn’t land an educated woman?) and we both did our best to not correct their horrid grammar.

              1. anonanonanon*

                There’s some awful class implications in assuming that people without degrees are uneducated, stupid, and lazy and that people with degrees are worldly, intelligent, and sophisticated. I’ve known quite a few people in the working world and my personal life who are incredibly smart and never went to college because they have a hard time in the school environment or because of finances, and I’ve known just as many “educated” degree holders who are amazingly incompetent.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, the overall unemployment rate is at a pretty reasonable level, but that doesn’t tell you about underemployment or specific demographic effects. I found an interesting paper that I’ll link to in a followup, and it says:

            For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 14.9 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007).
            For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 19.5 percent (compared with 15.9 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 37.0 percent (compared with 26.8 percent in 2007).

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Not to mention all the people who have just stopped applying for unemployment altogether (or who didn’t qualify to begin with) – they’re not included in that number.

              1. Aceso Under Glass*

                Unemployment numbers are based on surveys, not the number of people collecting unemployment. It can still lose discouraged workers, but if you’re actively applying for jobs you count, regardless of unemployment benefits you’re receiving.

            2. MsChanandlerBong*

              Exactly. My husband has been out of work for six months, and he finally gave up on searching for something else. So he doesn’t count toward our unemployment figures, but he has no job.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Well, there are still areas that haven’t quite recovered yet. From reading here, I feel very fortunate that I’m in an area where there’s lots of jobs.

        4. shep*

          I think my credentials hurt me more than helped. I was often tempted to take at least my master’s degree off my resume. BA in English and an MFA in writing. Only part-time hourly tutoring/admin experience during and after graduate school, wildly underemployed, and even THAT was a lucky grab.

          I was underqualified experience-wise for many things, but over- and/or unrelatedly-qualified education-wise for many things. Often I was under/over-qualified in those respects for the SAME position.

          I do take ownership for picking the most useless fields of study to transition into the workforce, but I also became borderline depressed after a year and a half of fruitless job searching. I’m now (VERY THANKFULLY) in a position that pays well for my relative experience and the public sector in general, but thanks to my three-year underemployment, I’m swimming in graduate debt and still live with my folks. Still grateful I had ANY sort of job…but man. It was really rough. And that place was slowly turning toxic to boot.

          This was all back between 2012-early 2014. Maybe we hit the job market around the same time?

        5. Dan*

          Statistics tell you things about the population as a whole, but they tell you nothing about an individual sample.

        6. Creag an Tuire*

          Our “decent” job market is still pretty terrible for anyone without the slip of paper, because after the Great Recession a lot of the jobs that existed for the un-higher-educated either became credentialized, became outsourced to China, or became outsourced to robots, and are never. coming. back.

          Not saying that lying one’s way out of the trap is morally justifiable, but the impulse is understandable.

    1. Dangerously Cheezy*

      There is no good way to cover this up, there is the one ridiculous lie that he ‘forgot’ to take it off his resume because he was either just playing around or he was taking classes and then stopped – but that is pretty much useless because he consciously included it on the application and probably used a fake graduation date or GPA to seal the deal.

      It would be really dangerous for OP to say he was working towards the degree , how awkward would it be if the employer already confirmed he wasn’t a student at the university or that they’d like to see the classes he already took and would be open for him to complete his degree…

      I once lied (and got the job) by saying I was planning on pursuing a professional destination when I finished my degree… I thought it was harmless because they couldn’t prove future intentions and it wasn’t something the job would need. The interview focused on questions of “what classes do you still need to complete to help with your designation”, “once you graduate, what path will you be taking”, “what is the new process for getting this designation”, all I could do was blunder through it and lie to say that I was just taking it one step at a time and didn’t want to get ahead of myself. It is something that still haunts me because people naturally want to know what is going on with my progression towards a designation and I have little intention of pursuing that path.

      1. Jennifer*

        There are situations (again, happens a few times a year) where people thought they graduated because four years were up and they walked in commencement, but never actually filed to graduate. I’m talking people who realize this 20 or 30 or 40 years later suddenly find out they do not have a degree and thought they had. We have to arrange for them to officially graduate late, but it takes months to process (4-6 usually) and is not a quick fix.

        OP could theoretically have done that, but then they would ask if she could still get her degree ASAP from the school late, and if OP did not go, then that can’t happen. I would just say no to the job at this point.

        1. fposte*

          The problem there is that even though it’s plausible for it to happen, that doesn’t mean the hiring manager will believe it, and it’s quite possible it would lose you the job.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        Just to clarify – I was not saying the OP should lie about why she put the BFA on her job application materials. I was saying that some hiring managers would probably have given her the benefit of the doubt if she had come clean earlier in the process, especially if she was a strong candidate, and rationalized what she did and then included the e.g. bit as an example of how said hiring manager could do that. No one here is advising the OP to keep lying from what I’ve seen. We’ve all pretty much said this is a bad thing that should never be done again because you will get caught and it will destroy your professional reputation.

      3. Nervous Accountant*

        I once lied and told an interviewer I had bookkeeping experience. All the jobs I were looking for required that and I was advised by pretty much most everyone I knew at htat time to just say it, and put it on my resume.
        Well this job never required bookkeeping, so it wasn’t used but it was a horrible job as well……I like to think that was karma and since then I’ve never lied on my resume again.

    2. fposte*

      I think even earlier she should have just withdrawn. I wouldn’t have believed for a minute the “Oops, I forgot this was on my resume!” story and I doubt many other hiring managers would either.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And even if I did believe it, that would mean it was a pretty big mistake that would also say some bad things about the candidate.

    3. Chinook*

      “but it sucks even more that our job market is such that people feel they have to stoop to these levels just to get ahead.”

      I respectfully disagree. Doing something unethical like lying about qualifications is something you are either comfortable doing or not. Your circumstances won’t affect whether or not you are willing to do something like. It is just like stealing (something other than a basic necessity like food when you are starving)- you either think it is a possibility or not. Just because I am broke or jobless or homeless (and I have been all of these at one time or another) doesn’t increase the possibility of me thinking of it as an option. If it does, then I am just looking for a justification of what I am willing to do.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Your circumstances won’t affect whether or not you are willing to do something like.

        Yes, yes they will because everyone is different and everyone has different ideas about what is and isn’t moral and/or ethical. Just because your moral compass wouldn’t allow you to do something like this doesn’t mean someone else’s compass wouldn’t tell them that this is perfectly fine to do and they wouldn’t feel an ounce of remorse or guilt about it.

        1. Chinook*

          “Just because your moral compass wouldn’t allow you to do something like this doesn’t mean someone else’s compass wouldn’t tell them that this is perfectly fine to do and they wouldn’t feel an ounce of remorse or guilt about it.”

          I didn’t say we would have differing moral compasses, just that it won’t change merely because you are out of work. If you think it is okay to lie to get a job, then odds are good that you will think it is okay to lie in other situations. But, if you think lying is wrong, then you won’t suddenly think it is okay because it will get you what you want.

  13. Lizzieb*

    OP #3, you have the opportunity to get yourself out of this situation with a minimum of embarrassment by declining the offer. That’s a gift, and one you may not again- I hope you’ve learned from this how foolish, duplicitous, and risky it is to tell baldface lies about your qualifications. You’re lucky- you’ll lose this position, but you could easily have been found out after accepting the job and then you’d have a pretty awful reference as well.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, she could be fired on the spot. Or, we’ve all heard stories of people getting away with it until one day they’re up for promotion, the company checks since it’s important for higher level roles, and they get caught and fired then.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – I would turn down the offer. If you accept, then you have the stigma of having falsified your resume. I’d get out before you damage your reputation.

    1. Erin*


      There is no way they’re going to hire you now. That’s not a realistic outcome from you confessing. You might feel a need to unburden your conscience or something, but don’t.

      You realized what you did was wrong and you’re never going to do it again, so don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Declining is the best way to rectify the situation. You didn’t have the job before this process, and now you’ll be right back wherever you were before – with no harm done to your reputation.

      1. Steve*

        It’s not even clear OP#3 realizes what they did was wrong. They only panicked when the employer mentioned a background check. So it’s not guilt, it’s fear of getting caught in the lie.

        That said, the correct response is the same. Decline the offer, don’t bother trying to explain. But with the additional step that if you haven’t already done so, vow never again to lie on your resume or a job application.

  15. Dangerously Cheezy*

    OP3 – I would run fast and never look back. Sure it shows more integrity for you to call them up and explain you don’t in fact have a degree, but you’ve been caught with your pants down. There is no way you’d end that conversation in a good light, they’ll just see you as a blatant liar who panicked when you knew you’d get caught. I also imagine that it would be a painfully embarrassing conversation to have… you must admit to being a liar, if you try to sugar coat it as a mistake or misunderstanding then you’ll dig yourself into a bigger hole.

    Also, if you own up to it then they know for a fact that you are a liar. There is nothing really stopping them from telling others in the field that you did this, particularly if someone is hiring, knows the person who interviewed you and asked if he knew any of the candidates.

    There is also the chance that they already know… perhaps they already contacted references (or even the school) and when they discovered you didn’t have a degree they asked for a background check to see how you’d react or give you the chance to withdraw your application gracefully.

    I would call any say that I need to reevaluate where you are going with your career and now isn’t the time for a new position.

  16. Not an IT Guy*

    #1 – Tell her. Now. As in stop reading this and tell her right now. Otherwise I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen if you don’t…you’ll be stuck in that position you didn’t want for 3, 4 years until finally you come to your breaking point and now you’re nervous about a meeting you called with your current manager to try and fix the misunderstanding caused by your former manager.

    1. pbnj*

      In my company, these things are phrased as offerings, but aren’t really optional. I hope this isn’t the case here. I would definitely speak up right away, but you may have to brace yourself that it could be take this position or leave.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ah, so there “I’d like to hear more about it” means “I can’t wait to hear more about my new role”.

  17. LuvzALaugh*

    #3 Not that I condone your falsehood, but I do sympathize with your situation. They wanted to hire you after interviewing you and if they knew you didn’t have a degree you probably wouldn’t have gotten an interview. I have mixed feelings on the degree required aspect depending on the field ( I want my doctor to have an MD :) ) Even if it is unfair, lying didn’t help you at all. Turn down the offer. Make it simple and don’t add in another lie. I respectfully decline due to a personal situation (truthful as you can get at this point). I can tell you learn from it and move on don’t beat yourself up about it. My late Aunt had a very successful career in architecture but lied about having a degree because she knew she wouldn’t get the job without one. This was before computer background checks. She became known in her industry for her talent and no one ever checked on the degree. I tell you this not to justify what you did but to let you know you are not alone in this. She wasn’t a deceitful person and had to live with the lie……not fun. You are getting spared that agony.

    Allison, any advice for people with the skills to do job but no sheepskin and how they can manage to land an interview when the algorithm in the applicant tracking system is going to reject their resume?

  18. OwnedByTheCat*

    OP #3 could have been someone I just interviewed/made an offer to (except it wasn’t a BFA on their resume/application.)

    The whole thing was just heartbreaking. It was the exact same scenario – ultimately the candidate let me know they hadn’t completed school. I withdrew the offer, which was a huge bummer for all of us. I could tell it was a significant lapse in judgement for a recent college grad. I could just imagine peers and even parents saying “they’ll never know!”

    I spent a while banging my head against my boss’s wall bemoaning that “this is am important lesson for this candidate to learn but I really don’t want to be the one that has to teach it.

    1. fposte*

      Was it that the recent college grad wasn’t a grad, or were they claiming something other than the bachelor’s? (Not that it really matters; I’m just curious.)

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        They hadn’t received their diploma but had completed all four years (were a credit short, I think) so if I had called, the school would have said they hadn’t graduated. Such a shame.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          If she was only a credit short, why in the world wouldn’t she have contacted her academic adviser or her school’s dean to ask for them to waive it?! (I don’t expect you to answer this question, I’m just stunned out loud.) I negotiated with my adviser about six months before I graduated and got him to waive six credits (two classes) because I just didn’t feel like doing them over the summer when I was already taking two classes plus my senior project. Maybe my school’s an anomaly, but I’d think schools would want their students to graduate and would work with them to make it happen.

          1. OwnedByTheCat*

            I agree – I have no idea the full extent of the story and I so hope that it can be resolved!

    2. Doriana Gray*

      That sucks for sure, but it’s better she learned the lesson while she’s still early in her career and can better recover from it.

    3. kt*

      I overheard a fascinating conversation once on a pub patio, a beautiful fall day. This woman had applied to an MBA program after finishing school 8-10 years ago. She’d been doing fine career-wise, figured she’d step up her credentials. In the application process, she discovered… that she’d never actually graduated. Yep: she completed all her classes, walked, went off immediately to some quick post-grad fellowship abroad for 6 months or a year, and in all the moving never noticed she had not gotten a diploma.

      Turns out she’d taken an independent study that was cross-listed in two departments, it was filed under one department name instead of the other, it fulfilled a graduation requirement when listed under the other department’s name, and the flaky prof failed to file a piece of paperwork. (I feel bad, being a flaky prof myself). The same secretary was still at the university registrar’s office as when the woman was going to school, so the secretary who knew everything was able to figure out the problem and rectify it — and so this woman finally graduated in 2015!

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Stories like this are the reason I ordered 5 copies of my official transcripts as soon as I graduated (in addition to making sure I got the diploma folder). I am positive I have a degree. 15+ years later I still have some of those transcripts; good thing, too, as employers still ask for them sometimes.

      2. Oryx*

        Sophomore year I had to sit down with my advisor and do an audit thing where he looks at what I’ve completed and what I still need and that determines my required classes for junior and senior year. He apparently missed the small print that courses couldn’t count for both major and minor (I was a Creative Writing/English) and then when he turned it in, the person at the College of Arts and Sciences missed it, too.

        So I go about the next two years, take the classes I was told to take, apply to graduate…..and a week before graduation get a letter in the mail telling me I’m ineligible because I am a credit short. Somehow in all my moves from campus to home to apartment to home to apartment I managed to keep the one piece of paper the college sent me with the list of required courses and the course mentioned was not on it. It took many phone calls at 4pm on a Friday (when I got the letter) but I finally convinced the English department head to waive the credit and let me walk.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh wow. I don’t know all the details, but a cousin of mine back east thought she had graduated, walked and everything, only to find out there was suddenly no record of two of the classes she had taken. Something about a change of software/databases around that time. I believe she had to get a lawyer involved, because she had a report card or something showing her grades for those classes and everything.

        1. justsomeone*

          I have no idea where my high school and college diplomas are – now I’m paranoid and want to order transcripts from my college to make sure I did actually graduate. I walked, but idk where that paper is….

        2. Oryx*

          There was some mix-up at my grad school where, I think, our transcripts or diplomas were withheld for months after graduating. Because of my degree, it’s almost always required to show proof of graduating — we were all able to request letters on official university letterhead explaining the situation and that yes we graduated if a prospective job asked.

      4. MsChanandlerBong*

        A flaky professor is the reason I have $25,000 in loans and no degree. I am pretty sure you don’t qualify as flaky!

  19. Lia*


    If you are close to completing the degree, it is probably worth investigating how much time/money it would take to just do it. You might be able to use work/life experience towards credits, which could make it even easier. I’d encourage you to contact your alma mater and see what can be done. I’d wager that you might be pleasantly surprised. Colleges WANT students to graduate, and will often work hard to make that happen.

    I work in higher ed and we have cases every year of people who thought they graduated but they were never awarded a degree. Usually, this is due to fines (not paying library fees, parking tickets, etc which put a hold on the student record preventing the formal degree conferral from happening), or not making up incompletes, or failing a final semester course. Adding to the confusion is that we, like many universities, let students walk in commencement if they are 1 or 2 classes short if they are already enrolled in them for the next term — but if they drop or fail those courses, they will not officially graduate. These things CAN BE FIXED, and it’s usually a lot easier than people fear.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      I didn’t get my diploma for another two years after I finished classes, undergrad thesis, etc because I missed one session of my last PE class. Showed up and spent six hours in a pool as an accelerated phys ed class and got the official diploma. *headdesk*

  20. Bowserkitty*

    I’m curious about #5 and how they are offering for positions still within the company. I also feel like I missed something (lack of caffeine, mayhaps?) – when will your layoff be happening if you still have this time to search without needing severance? Was it in this last six months since the first round of layoffs? I can’t speak to the severance package, but it seems unfair to expect all employees to job hunt just because other layoffs are happening around them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They’re not expecting her to job hunt just because other layoffs are happening around her; they’re laying her off with notice, and saying that the notice period means she has time to job search. (And now I understand Tommy’s comment above, because I think he misinterpreted in the same way.)

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Aha, that makes sense. I was unable to read between the lines there and didn’t realize it was a layoff with notice!

        OP, best of luck to you. I still don’t know what I think of the severance, but I was essentially given two days notice with my round of layoffs so I think it is gracious of them to give you notice.

  21. OfficePrincess*

    Looking back at #2, there’s a lot of drama going on, but underneath it there seems to be some sense of normalcy. OP, I wouldn’t trust any of the drama and gossip going around and echo the others who are saying to extract yourself from it. I don’t see anything too unusual with a boss coming back early unannounced if they have been hearing about troubling behavior from an employee that they want to check out, and the boss’s boss may have even been in on it. I’ve done it myself. As far as the well maybe he was suspended and maybe she filed a false complaint and well maybe troublemaker is really big boss’s long lost child and it could be that… stay far, far away.

    1. Anna*

      Yes my boss’s boss was aware that he was coming back early. And I have clearly learned my lesson on letting the rumor mill affect me. Staying far away!

  22. Ella*

    wow, I can’t even read the comments the page keeps pulling me up to the video ad at the top… OMG…

    1. AnotherFed*

      It’s always one of the celebrity “news” video ones for me. It’s bad enough that I rarely comment during my work lunch break now (where I have no ability to change any adblock settings).

  23. HRish Dude*

    #2 – I’ll admit, I’m totally lost about what’s happening here.

    #3 – Do you have any sort of Bachelor’s? If I were doing a background check, I wouldn’t care if someone put that they had a BA and they actually had a BS. I generally assume it’s an accident or someone misremembered, while I’m sure someone has been duplicitous putting that on a resume thinking it mattered. I hate saying this, but depending on the field – if you already have a bachelor’s – this could potentially be something you can get away with.

  24. a crucial error in judgement*

    Oh, Please! That is NOT what you did. You LIED! Admit it, do not do it again, and then move on.
    Also, it was NOT your “perfect” job because you really are not qualified.
    If I found out that one of my co-workers lied about her credentials to get the job, came “clean,” and they hired her anyway I wouldn’t trust my manager again.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      The OP has lied, but they also realised that they were wrong, barating them like that isn’t helpful.

      1. Socal Tech*

        I 100% disagree with you. This person did not realize they screwed up.

        They got caught. Do you honestly think they would have told the company if the company did not tell him that they were checking for proof on the degree?

        They feel bad because they were caught, not because they realized they did something wrong.

        1. Steve*

          “I don’t want my lie to be discovered in the background check.” That is the OP#2’s concern.

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          OP says they’re ashamed to the point they can’t sleep. Being offered the job has ramped the stakes up from “I shouldn’t have done that, I feel terrible” to “I did that, and now bad things could happen to me,” which is why it’s escalated to asking for advice. They don’t need advice on feeling better, they need advice on not making it worse. It’s not inherently a sign of poor character to be upset about consequences, whereas it is a character issue to *only* be upset when there are negative consequences.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The problem here is that OPs write in when they are in a bad spot. They are asking what to do. There is nothing to be learned in an admonishment, it does not tell the OP how to move forward. In some cases, cleaning up the mess is almost more grueling than any “scolding” could ever be. (It’s a fact that I counted on and actually used when I have supervised. Having the person fix the problem was sometimes harder than any thing I could have thought of in anger.)

      Sometimes people say things that are hard to read or listen to, but they are asking because they respect the person (in our case this would be Alison) they are asking. They feel that she will give them a fair (just) response that tells them their next steps. Oddly, the more well-known and more respected an advice giver is, the harder and harder the questions tend to get. By hard, I mean it is easy to have a strong knee jerk reaction to what the person is saying: “I kick puppies. I can’t stop.” Overcoming that knee-jerk reaction takes practice, determination and knowledge. Someone well versed in the psychology of an animal abuser might actually be able to get a WILLING person to stop habitually abusing animals. Likewise here, Alison has the knowledge of what it takes to work through many bad situations in the workplace. She has proven that and people see it. This means Alison has an elevated position of trust, which in turn means that more people are going to be asking her REALLY tough questions.
      People do not ask tough questions of someone they think is not capable of answering. It’s a position of trust. They are trusting her not to scold them, but rather advise them on how to remedy what is wrong. How else do we learn, if we do not know the answer?

    3. catsAreCool*

      “a crucial error in judgement” that bothered me too. That makes the LW sound less sorry that LW did it, more that LW might be caught.

  25. Recruit-o-Rama*

    I have found that the people who claim to hate being part of the drama tend to be the biggest gossips. My advice is to drop it and tell anyone who asks that you don’t know anything about it and don’t want to talk about it.

    The conversation can go like this;

    Them: “Did you hear that Joanna slept with Lumberg??

    You: “did you get the memo about the TPS reports?”

  26. newlyhr*

    I work in a degree snob environment. It’s not just degrees but what school you attended, were you phi beta kappa? and not just for new grads, this is for people who have many years of work experience. We had a job here in our payment processing center for someone to basically accept payments from people. They wanted someone with an associates degree. I presented them with one candidate who had managed a payment collections center with a staff of 10, with 14 year’s experience, bookkeeping background, QuickBooks trainer, set up policies and procedures, got audited annually. Guess what—she did not meet the “minimum qualifications” because she only had a high school diploma. they hired someone with an associates degree who didn’t know how to write out a receipt or log the payment into the spreadsheet.

    1. Dan*

      Heh. One of my coworkers behind a closed will ask, “How can you get a PhD and not write a coherrent email to save your life?”

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        The answer to that question is that “educated” and “smart” are not necessarily the same thing. I know plenty of people with a piece of paper who are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3, why not admit what you did and see where the chips fall? I get why just declining the offer would be easier and less embarassing, but maybe there’s a small small chance that if they’ve gone this far with you and are making an offer, if you come clean it won’t be a deal breaker. I wouldn’t count on this at all, but why not try ?

  28. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – yeah, I worked at a place like that once. We warned new employees “don’t talk to (so and so), he is a stoolie”. But they did weird things – well, they’re dinner table stories.

    #5 – if the walls are tumbling around you, you have two choices. One is to get the heck out. The other is to stay and hope everything is OK. The latter course has high risk. I don’t know if I saw this in here – but an analogy/fable about rats fleeing a sinking ship =

    Rats that flee a sinking ship tend to have a better chance of survival than those that stay on board. Those that are still aboard when the ship finally sinks, will almost certainly drown.

    The same is true with the workplace. I have always advised, that in general terms, if you wait and agree to work a term in exchange for a package, you’re might be a sucker. If you were offered a three-month “package” in exchange for working out a six-to-twelve month term on a sinking ship – or worse – an offshoring/outsourcing situation in a company that’s actually doing OK – you are better to jump if you can get to another situation.

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