my office smells like a corpse, my fired coworker blames me, and more

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

1. My office smells like a corpse

My office is an older building and half of it is up on a small crawl space. Every winter around this time (late February to early March) is what we call the dead animal season. Something (rat, feral cat, mouse) ends up finding its way into the crawl space and perishing – for whatever reason. And then the smell begins to permeate the office. There are always one or two locations where the smell is worse – different every year – but the smell comes right up through the floor and is rank enough that people are nauseated and have a difficult time working. The smell will last for 2-3 weeks.

And nothing is done about this. The manager doesn’t usually notice unless it’s brought to his attention – he works in the part of the building that has a basement below it so he doesn’t often experience this. This has been going on for the eight years I’ve been working here, and the response every year is that we have no way to prevent animals getting under there and no way of getting them out. When we bring in air deodorizers or air purifiers (electric or natural) we are told that those emit a scent he can’t stand and we need to get rid of them – and we make a point to get ones that are fragrance free.

What are our options? And we can’t always take vacation then!

What?! Every year for two to three weeks, the smell of a decomposing corpse fills your office and makes people nauseated, and your manager doesn’t care and won’t even let you bring in an air purifier?

Something here stinks worse than the dead animal, and that something is your boss.

I doubt this violates an OSHA rule (although I’d welcome someone finding out differently), which means that your best bet is to demand as a group that this be solved, including going over your boss’s head (again, as a group) if he won’t budge. You have the legal right to organize with your coworkers about your working conditions; use that right to make it more of a pain for your company to ignore you than to keep letting this happen. (Note that the law protects you when you push back as a group, but not if you do it on your own. So speaking as a group matters here, if you care about the legal protection. But it’s also just probably going to get you better results in this case.)

2. I’m worried my fired coworker blames it on me

A coworker I was previously on good terms with was fired recently. She worked in my department, and I had to take a step back from our personal friendship due to her negativity and an array of other reasons. Nevertheless, I remained professional at work and didn’t broadcast our falling out.

She recently made some huge mistakes, and our boss more or less hinted to me she would be let go about a week before it happened, and then confirmed it with me and another person in my department the day before – and the day of – her firing. The issues of my boss letting us know early aside, the things I said in my conversations with my boss about my coworker’s performance didn’t exactly do her any favors, and in hindsight I should’ve kept my mouth shut. But it was clear the higher-ups had already made up their mind.

When she was fired, she made a point of not saying goodbye to me, and I was deleted and blocked from social media hours later. I’m wondering if it’s wise to send her a text after she’s cooled off to let her know I had nothing to do with it and apologize for not communicating our personal issues earlier? Knowing her fragile ego, how she operates, and how much it felt like she resented me toward the end, I’m pretty sure she’s using me as a scapegoat so she doesn’t have to acknowledge her own mistakes. I’m uncomfortable with someone out there thinking I played a role in their firing or thinking I stabbed them in the back, but I also don’t know if it would just make things worse if I reached out to her.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reaching out to her if you’d genuinely like to wish her well. I’d keep the messaging on “I’m sorry to hear what happened, and I wish you the best in whatever you do next” rather than “I didn’t have anything to do with this.” The latter sounds oddly defensive (since it would be a weird thing for to assume, at least without more details that aren’t included here), and it potentially could be twisted as “I disagree with the company’s decision,” which isn’t useful for you to have out there, especially in writing and especially if that’s not true.

3. How should a male manager handle inappropriate behavior from a female employee?

This sounds cliche, but I really am asking advice for a friend. I’m not a man, nor do I manage anyone, so this is beyond me. There are a lot of forums and regulations on how to treat your women counterparts in the office in order to not harass them, but it’s often dismissed or laughed at when it is the other way around. In this situation, it’s not sexual harassment at all, but it’s inappropriate.

Situation: New woman employee likes male manager, although he tells her he is not single and happily tells her about how wonderful his girlfriend is. She gets him gifts for his home and otherwise, writes notes, and prints out pictures from work and work outings and writes adoring notes on them. She does not do this for any of her coworkers or any other manager, and he isn’t the the senior officer. Of course there are loose non-fraternization policies within the company. How does he get her to stop without being “the problem”? Is there an an issue when saying “I’m not romantically interested in you,” that it could possibly bring the harassment accusation onto him? It stopped for a while because he managed a separate office, but now she’s been promoted/transferred to his office and it has started again. Bringing in the girlfriend would be unprofessional, but letting it continue will create a personal and professional issue for him.

The answer here is no different than it would be if the genders were reversed: He should tell her clearly that the behavior is unwelcome and to stop. For example: “Jane, please do not give me gifts, notes, or photos. I’d like to stay focused on work topics.” If she keeps it up after that, then he’d escalate to, “Jane, I asked you to stop doing this, but it’s continued. What’s going on?” He can also enlist HR if he needs to, but since he’s her manager, he has really clear standing to address this, to tell her it’s not acceptable, and to ensure that it stops. Unlike many victims of harassment, he’s got real power in this situation, and he should use it.

He also should stop discussing his personal life with her … and bringing in the girlfriend is so very much not the way to handle this! The message shouldn’t be “The fact that I’m not single is why I’m not interested,” but rather “I’m not interested and this behavior is unwelcome, period.” (Especially since he’s her manager, holy cheese balls!)

If he’s concerned that she could somehow turn it around and accuse him of harassment, he should talk with HR before he talks with her, to explain what’s going on and how he plans to handle it (and that’s probably a good idea for him to do anyway, because they should be in the loop on anything harassment-related). But beyond that, he should handle it in the same way a female manager would handle it coming from a male employee.

4. Are one-page resumes the new trend?

We were discussing resumes today during a meeting, and someone mentioned that the current trend is now a one-page resume. I am having a hard time fathoming such a thing – it was hard enough to bring my four pages to two for a staffing agency. A one-page would make it difficult to put anything more than my address, phone number, work history and competencies. Is this trend for real?

Nope. You will also hear people tell you that the new trend is video resumes, or graphic resumes, or five-page resumes. None of these are true. They are the brainchildren of people who need to fill article space and thus make up new trends, based on a small handful of people doing it (and you can find a small handful of people doing anything — that doesn’t correlate with effectiveness).

The rule continues to be one page if you’re recently out of school, and up to two pages if you’re more experienced. (Some industries, such as tech and academia, allow for more pages. Most do not, at least not if you want to come across as a strong candidate.)

5. Questions from coworkers after returning from short-term disability leave

I am meeting with a couple of different doctors and will probably end up taking short-term disability for a few weeks. I’ve been having a very tough time with depression, and the idea is to take some time off to try and get better. I’m also afraid that my irritability at work is increasing and my ability to focus is very poor, so I think it’s the right move. My current boss is aware of what’s going on and is very supportive, thankfully.

How do I handle questions when I return to work? I will not have any obvious physical issues, and I think a lot of people will ask how I am, what happened, etc. out of genuine concern. How do I answer in a way that’s polite without giving information about why I was gone? I don’t want to discuss my mental health issues with my coworkers. (Also, if you could toss this out to your readers, I would be grateful for any coping strategies for work in the meantime.)

Be vague: “I’m doing okay now, thanks.” “Just some medical stuff I had to deal with, but I’m doing okay.” “Thanks for asking! I’m feeling better.” If someone doesn’t get the hint and asks directly what was wrong: “Just some medical stuff I don’t want to get into.” That’s really okay, and it’s the sort of answer that you can use for a whole range of medical issues so it doesn’t give anything away.

Also, this Captain Awkward post has great advice on the broader question about coping strategies at work while you’re going through this. Good luck!

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Purple Dragon*

    OP #5 – I second that Captain Awkward post. I have it printed out and it’s been hugely helpful.

    I hope things go well for you – It’s sometimes hard juggling the line between people being genuinely nice and not wanting to give out this type of information. I think Alison’s answers are great.

    Best of luck

    1. Undercover for this*

      I second Alison’s advice. I took a 2 week FMLA in December because of unmanageable anxiety and depression. I made the mistake of telling my normally sympathetic boss when I got back, and I was demoted two weeks later. So yeah–not a good idea to tell. Keep it vague and general.

      1. Recovering ED*

        I did exactly this as well– took a week off due to mental health issues and then subsequently went down to three days a week for several months. My boss knew the details, but everyone else just heard that it was “health issues”. It’s such a vague term that it basically in of itself signals that you don’t want to talk about it, so only pushy people would go beyond that. “I only work three days a week” — so in your case “I’m taking two weeks off to deal with some personal stuff” is usually enough for most interactions; expanding it to “I only work three days a week because of health issues” or “I’m taking two weeks off to deal with some health issues” or Alison’s “just some health issues I needed to take care, but doing great now, thank you”, in my experience would work like 90% of the time, with “I’d rather not talk about it, but I’m doing fine now” working the rest of the time.

        1. OhNo*

          I’ll second this. Most people can pick up on when you’re being deliberately vague, and will avoid asking further questions. For those that don’t pick up the cue, just have a bunch of stock phrases practiced and ready to go so that you can pull the out whenever. In addition to Alison’s and Recovering ED’s suggestions, here are a few I’ve used to great effect if/when people ask why you were out:

          “I just needed a break.”
          “I just had some personal stuff that I needed to deal with.”
          “It’s a long, boring story, but I’m back now!”
          “I’d prefer not to talk about it at work, thanks.”

          And for the nosey ones who just won’t quit asking: “Is it really that important?” (The answer is almost always, “No, I was just curious”)

    2. Cactus*

      I’m so glad to see this question/answer/linked post. (I’m a regular reader of CA, but I didn’t remember that one.) While I’m not going through anything as difficult as OP5 is, I have recently started coming in later to work one day a week (with my boss’ approval) in order to have time for necessary appointments for an ongoing (non-visible, non-debilitating-right-now-but-could-get-worse-if-I-don’t-take-care-of-it, because-it-should-have-been-handled-when-I-was-a-kid-but-wasn’t) medical issue. And I’m freaking out that some of my more pushy co-workers are going to demand information, and there’s just a particular dynamic that I do not want to aggravate…sigh. This gives me a better place to start.

  2. So Very Anonymous*

    I just saw a resume where each job got almost a full page of its own. Big blocks of text followed by bullet points. It’s a job at a university, and academic c.v.’s can get long, but I’d never seen a c.v. structured like that.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        To be honest, I wasn’t convinced this person could, either. It felt seriously padded, and not in a helpful way, since it was also hard to read.

  3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    #3 says, “In this situation, it’s not sexual harassment at all, but it’s inappropriate” – but why isn’t this sexual harassment? The EEOC says:

    “Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature… Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

    “Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

    “The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

    Does the fact that he’s above her in the org chart somehow prevent this from being harassment? Or does this not meet the standards of “hostile work environment”? Or am I right in feeling that this is harassment, albeit in a situation where the recipient can probably do something about it other than resorting to legal counsel?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the OP meant that the employee isn’t being overly sexual or romantic in her behavior. Gifts and pictures from work aren’t in and of themselves “harassment” in the legal sense, unless there’s more to it than the details we have here. It’s possible that the content of those notes would meet the legal test, but it’s hard to say based on what’s here.

      But that doesn’t really change the appropriate course of action for the manager; he should still tell her it’s unwelcome and tell her to stop. (And if he weren’t her manager, I’d say he could bring in a manager or HR to ensure that it did. In this case, because he is the manager and thus has the power in the relationship, he will probably be able to put a stop to it without those measures, but they’re available if he needs them.)

      1. Camellia*

        The OP says, “…and writes adoring notes on them”. That sounds romantic to me.

        But I agree, it doesn’t change what his response should be.

    2. Just Min*

      Elizabeth, I think in a way it definitely is harassment, just not so much sexual. I just wanted to clear the air by stating that, hopefully making it not so serious as sexual harassment. She hasn’t made any sexual advances (that I’m aware of), but it is clear that she’s romantically interested. What’s not said here is the notes she writes are random and adoring like: “I’m so glad you’re helping me in this transition,” (which isn’t that bad, but only becomes bad in the context of the notes– yes plural) “I want to go on adventures with you,” “you mean so much to me,” in a way requesting the become closer and they are always signed with “love.” that’s just what he’s showed me but apparently they get more awkward, like back in the day when you would write notes to your crush and fold them in intricate shapes.
      I agree with Alison, he should definitely stop sharing his personal life with her, which he has after the first few incidents. It’s just the office is very familiar with his girlfriend, and in her interest in his availability (I’m only assuming) she inquired more about her and his stance in the relationship. I did suggest he bring this to HR since he has since told her he wasn’t interested, and she insists its because of his relationship status (instead of the shear possibility he’s just not) and seems to shade upper management when they do things together with their families and she isn’t exclusively invited (although the rest of the staff is welcome to go on these seldom family days).
      But buying gifts, unsolicited, for anyone’s home that you just met a month or two before, let alone your boss, is a bit awkward, even without the random “thinking of you notes.”

      1. annonymouse*

        This reminds me of something that happened at an old job of mine.

        We were an employment company and had lots of services to help people to find jobs including training. The main person contracted to do training I’ll call Albert. He is not an employee of the company but we are his biggest contractor.

        Now Albert spent a lot of his time at my branch but he did also run courses at other branches. The receptionist at one of these other branches that I’ll call Eileen became infatuated/obsessed with him.

        I can see why she might get a crush – Albert is friendly, smart and looked like a mix between Richard Gere and George Clooney. HOWEVER
        1) She is a young married woman with a young child she loves very much
        2) He is very happily engaged and due to be married in a few months
        3) while Albert is friendly he has never shown her more attention or friendliness than anyone else. And since she started with her attention he tried to avoid her.

        But she pursued him. The following are what I know about – there may be more I didn’t hear about.
        1) once called in sick at her branch, came to our branch and hung around my reception area for 2+ hours to try to see him
        2) actually got transferred to our branch as a consultant – the only job we had open at the time.
        3) would force her way into having lunch with him. Either by joining the group he went with or if he went alone following him to where he ate and sitting at his table (most restaurants only do tables of 2 or more and his briefcase would have to stay in the training room – it was a bit smaller than a carry on suitcase.
        4) when Albert started working at other branches more because Eileen was at ours she tried to transfer branches to be closer to him again. (This was refused.) The first transfer she could justify because it was closer to home and a step up in role and wages. Neither would be true second time.

        I’m not sure if she got his number (though she probably did – the only people who’d have had access are the branch manager and receptionist)
        I never heard about gifts
        But I did notice that she’d dress nicer or course days.

    3. Specialk9*

      I’m a woman, and it makes me deeply irritated that people act like women can’t sexually harass or be abusive. It’s like people wrongly think feminism doesn’t mean actual equality. Men and women (and non-binary folks) should get the exact same treatment when they act badly. This woman is acting deeply inappropriately to her manager, he needs to talk with HR and address it with her directly as inappropriate.

  4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Re: #4, I was at a professional conference last week and a keynote speaker (who did not impress me for multiple reasons) claimed that one way technology was revolutionizing hiring was by allowing for video resumes. She showed an example of a really “powerful, memorable” resume, which was a 6-second clip where the hopeful applicant named herself things like “Deadline Jedi!” and “Idea machine!” while holding up props. I winced, hard.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      I wonder what the interview would be like. “Can you tell us about a time when you overcame an obstacle — ” “DEADLINE JEDI!” “Can you tell us IN A FULL SENTENCE about a time when you overcame an obstacle?”

    2. Doriana Gray*

      Video resumes? Lawd…can you imagine the discrimination lawsuits that would occur if this actually became a thing in all industries?

      If you’re not an actor or an aspiring reality TV star, you have no business sending a video to a potential employer.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I made the same point at my last job when they talked about introducing video interviews, the people leading the project couldn’t understand the negative reaction that the idea got and it was a very conservative field.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Eh, I don’t think discrimination is a reason to oppose video resumes (which isn’t to say that there aren’t other reasons). There are a million ways during all parts of the hiring process where the employer might learn that the applicant is a member of a protected class. I can’t see video resumes increasing either the number of discrimination lawsuits or their effectiveness.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s true, but it also introduces the potential for unconscious bias earlier in the process, before you know much about the candidate, which is when I believe the potential is at its highest (versus later in the process, when the hiring manager has already decided they’re interested, and when bias of course can still be in play but I suspect not at the same rates).

          1. Doriana Gray*

            That’s what I came back here to say, but you said it much better than I would have. Also neverjaunty pointed out what I was going to say as well about protected classes, so +1 to you both.

          2. Kelly F*

            Yeah, having gone through a bajillion BigLaw interviews if you count each individual who met me blind except my resume, I know the impression my resume leaves because people will often allude to that when they start asking you questions (for me, it’s that I’m book smart based on where I went to school and that I am willing to do gutsy/adventurous things) and I think I’d be at a disadvantage if I’d always started screeners with people who hadn’t read my resume yet.

          3. Honeybee*

            Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. It’s one thing to find out your candidate is black or has a disability or speaks with an accent when you bring them in for an interview and they are being/doing all of those things while also kicking ass at the questions and tasks you give them. It’s another to see that in a 2-minute video clip.

    3. hbc*

      For some reason, I don’t imagine Deadline Jedi as a positive. Instead of “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” it’s “This report isn’t late.”

      1. babblemouth*

        Man, I wish I was a Deadline Jedi. Though I’d use my suggestion powers to say “You don’t need this report”.

        1. Windchime*

          I wish I was a Deadline Jedi, too. I could just kick back and relax all day while I used the Force to get my work done. Plus, the light saber would be awesome.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I think the Droids on staff might appreciate a Deadline Jedi on staff to back them up :)

    4. Persehone Mulberry*

      I think I know the clip you’re talking about – it came out not long after Twitter introduced Vine, their video snippet feature, and everybody went nuts over it because gasp!!! no one had ever done it before!

    5. Annon for this*

      My former boss and her boss both thought video resumes were a fantastic idea. We had one applicant that did this instead of a regular resume. She was hired to much acclaim (Have you seen her video? It was great!), but was gone within two months. She wasn’t a bad person, just a really bad fit with no previous office experience and no concept of how to learn office norms.

      The next several hires she made have also been let go. She was not stellar at hiring.

      1. Honeybee*

        That’s the other thing – I think the quality of the video resume has a lot more to do with the editing tools a person has at their disposable, skill at making the video, and skill at acting – and in some cases, willingness of friends and family to help out. (one company’s successful video resume example had a candidate who used friends to be extras.) I don’t know anything editing videos…but that’s also completely irrelevant to any jobs I’d be applying for.

    6. Mike C.*

      They put up a vine as “the future of resumes”?! This is why I believe the vast majority of business/career/etc media out there is absolutely terrible and worthy only of mockery.

    7. Ad Astra*

      In addition to all the drawbacks other people have mentioned, don’t a lot of people dread watching videos online? Is that just me? Having to stop the music/Netflix/conversation/whatever else I’m listening to in order to watch a video drives me nuts, and having to do it at work in order to “read” someone’s resume would send me over the edge. Besides, I can read a bulleted list a whole lot faster than most people could list off their qualifications.

      Even videographers and TV reporters, who have carefully prepared video reels designed for job searching, use a paper (well, PDF) resume.

      1. Allison*

        Exactly, I’d much rather read a resume than watch it. And usually, if a news article comes with a video, I’d rather just read the article most of the time.

        I think people take the idea that people love watching videos and twist it into this weird idea that people would rather watch than read, and that a video is a great way to sell something. It’s why companies try to put out videos about how great it is to work there, expecting it to be a powerful marketing tool, but most of these videos feel like long commercials, and people DON’T like watching commercials for the most part. We fast forward through them, we install ad blockers, so we don’t have to watch them. I like watching TV, I like watching Netflix, and I like watching cat videos, but when I’m going through resumes at work, just send me something I can read quickly.

        1. MaryMary*

          Several of our vendors/partners are moving towards recorded webinars instead of a written article or guide, and it drives me bonkers. I can skim something that’s written, or do a search to find the one topic I need a refresher on. I do not want to wait through an entire webinar, or randomly skip around in a recording to find the one piece of information I need.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — they’re super inefficient and don’t speak to what most hiring managers want to get, or how they want to get it, or how quickly they want it.

        Also, cheesy.

      3. Artemesia*

        This. Videos are ‘real time’ — I can skim a resume in a minute and make that initial go/no go decision and then only spend time on a handful of top resumes. A video chews up time. Years ago a co-worker video taped an international consulting trip we went on together. so much of the video is about me — me in a new exotic foreign place, me giving presentations etc etc — and watching ME the most interesting person to me on earth was a huge bore to me such that I didn’t even watch it through once. Like you I hate sites that use videos and leave them rather than watch — Reading is so much faster.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          This is why. Video is a “push” medium, where I must sit and passively consume it, and it irritates me, although TV less so than online video for some reason. Text is a “pull” medium, where I consume it at my own pace and can see the entire progression, and skip to any point I like. DVRs help a little bit in making video a little less passive; I can’t sit and watch live TV any longer. But online video that doesn’t contain music irritates me, I’d rather read about it.

      4. mander*

        I’m a bit of a weirdo but I absolutely hate videos used when a written explanation will do. A video resume would go unwatched if I were the hiring manager.

        1. Rana*

          I’m that way, too. And when I do watch videos, I often prefer the ones that have captions over the ones that don’t; I’m not always in the mood for sound.

        2. Honeybee*

          I’m that way too. I think most of the time videos are not the right way to convey the information.

      5. katamia*

        Ugh, yes. I loathe the “Let’s make everything a video!” trend. I read faster than people talk. I don’t want to waste time listening to someone when I can just read it, get the information, and move on more quickly.

      6. Mirror*

        I haaate the trend to use a video instead of writing an article. Most of the time it’s for the content generator’s benefit (too lazy to write and post photos) than the reader’s benefit.

        Unless the whole point is “watch this silly thing happen,” then I want to read about it. I routinely leave websites that don’t follow this rule. Sadly, some of my beloved diy home improvement blogs are starting to think the video thing is the best thing ever, and I’m getting ready to drop them :(

    8. Koko*

      Earlier, when we were talking about how we don’t ridicule applications from unqualified employees but that doesn’t mean we don’t ridicule applications? This video application, this is an application that would be forwarded to the entire department for chuckles.

    9. Honeybee*

      This is one of the reasons I didn’t apply for Zappos when I was looking for jobs. They only accepted video interviews, and the example they linked to was super gimmicky. I was like “nope pass.” But it says a lot about their culture, too.

      1. Specialk9*

        Zappos has some culty things going on. They do massive indoctrination, then offer people money to quit right after, then work them really hard. It’s brilliant but messed up.

  5. Sami Colorado*

    Regarding OP5: there was a similar question to Slate’s Dear Prudie on Monday. I commented that employers (including HR) are not covered by HIPAA’s confidentiality parts. Someone replied that that was wrong. AAM- what do you say?

      1. babblemouth*

        Is there a secret email list for advice columnists where you feedback to each other on stuff like this? It would be so cool!

        1. kristinyc*

          I think there has to be… I know Dan Savage and both recent Prudies have talked about each other a bit. I hope they’re all friends. They all (including AAM!) produce my favorite content on the web.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I dream of that. I have so many questions for others. (Do you have unresolved guilt for the mail you can’t answer? Do you feel like you can never get your “I can’t answer all questions” email auto-reply to be nice enough? Does your work make you feel like a know-it-all in your personal life? Is that one guy who emails me daily emailing you too?)

          1. Koko*

            Maybe you should pitch some of them on a panel discussion at some sort of web content conference!

            1. fposte*

              Years ago, there was a daytime talk show with a bunch of advice columnists on it, ranging from Miss Manners to the guy who did the advice column for Playboy, and took questions from the audience. What was particularly delightful was that Miss Manners and Playboy guy agreed in their answers more than anybody else, and both of them found that completely reasonable and unremarkable.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Oh man. If you guys did a podcast or video series (even occasionally!), I’d be so excited. Or could you and Dan Savage switch places for a week and answer each other’s questions?

        3. Emma the Strange*

          I now envision them all being members of a super hero team. The International League of Super Advice Columnists! TO THE RESCUE!

      2. Kate M*

        I saw that and was like, that’s not what AAM says! I think you definitely should email her.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        I was twitching when I read that!!

        I am digging Mallory so very much more than I expected to, but she needs to develop an AAM relationship so she knows where to throw to when she needs help on an answer. So far she seems open to asking whenever she doesn’t know anything, she just didn’t realize she doesn’t know this.

        1. AVP*

          I love Mallory (and the former Prudie!) but I always wince when they get work questions. They just don’t hire or manage enough people to answer those well.

        2. Liana*

          I regularly read The Toast, where Mallory is a main contributor, and she and the other editors have linked back to AAM posts, and it makes me so happy. I love seeing the various blogs I read reference each other.

    1. INTP*

      According to my Hipaa training, they are covered when they know the medical information due to being party to your insurance matters – say, a pre-existing condition mentioned on a form that HR handles. Generally anyone who handles your medical and insurance records in a professional capacity (insurance company and liaisons, billers, transcriptionists, employees of the translation agency if they must be translated, etc) will be bound to the law. But that wouldn’t include information that you tell your boss or HR when explaining while you’re out, or a document like a doctors note.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, not even then, if I’m remembering correctly! If your employer has its own health clinic, provides a self-insured health plan, or acts as the intermediary between its employees and health care providers, HIPAA might apply, but otherwise HIPAA only governs information being released by health care workers, not the party it’s being released to.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          When I handled bodily injury claims for a major insurance company (not a health insurer either), we were bound by HIPAA. We could discuss an insured or claimants injuries with other claim staff within the claims unit, but we were not supposed to discuss specific people and specific injuries with, say, Corporate Legal or Premium Audit. (This may have just also been company policy as a CYA measure and not necessarily something mandated by law.) And when I worked at a disability office in college as the admin/receptionist, I had to sign a HIPAA agreement in order to work there since I would be privy to medical records. Again, we weren’t healthcare providers, but we did help facilitate accommodations so that may be why we fell under the law.

          1. MK*

            “company policy as a CYA measure” is most probable in my opinion, considering this law is relatively new and disputes might conceivably arise in practise as to who it does and doesn’t apply to. After all, little harm can be done by employees keeping medical-related information confidential, even if the law doesn’t strictly require this.

          2. Duncan*

            Yes, most likely CYA. I have worked in claims departments (not medical, but we did need doctor’s to send us records, which the claimant would sign a release for us to get) and we had mandatory HIPAA training every year, but it did not apply to us specifically. Other privacy regulations did apply and also it’s just good business to respect medical privacy if you want to keep customers. Certainly, if someone was not discreet with information than there would be consequences for violating our internal policies, but it was not a HIPAA violation.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            I had access to coworkers’ personal and medical information when I worked for an environmental remediation company. It was part of my job to schedule their drug tests and medical exams (for respirator use, etc.). I don’t remember signing an agreement, but it was impressed upon me rather forcefully that I was NOT to discuss the contents of those files with anyone but the person in question.

          4. INTP*

            Yeah, I work for a translation company and had to do HIPAA training because occasionally medical documents come through. If I happen to see medical information that is being translated, according to our HIPAA training, it’s a violation for me to disclose it, and information processed by your employer for insurance or medical service providing purposes is also covered. But it’s possible that the training is designed to be overly vigilant to avoid any issues.

          5. Honeybee*

            Health plans (including insurance companies) are covered by HIPAA:

            Health Plan – With certain exceptions, an individual or group plan that provides or pays the cost of medical care (as defined in section 2791(a)(2) of the PHS Act, 42 U.S.C. 300gg-91(a)(2)). The law specifically includes many types of organizations and government programs as health plans.

            And so do health care clearinghouses, which probably include the disability office you worked in:

            Health Care Clearinghouse – A public or private entity, including a billing service, repricing company, community health management information system or community health information system, and “valueadded” networks and switches that either process or facilitate the processing of health information received from another entity in a nonstandard format or containing nonstandard data content into standard data elements or a standard transaction, or receive a standard transaction from another entity and process or facilitate the processing of health information into a nonstandard format or nonstandard data content for the receiving entity.

            But employers don’t fit into either of those two categories or the health care provide category.

      2. Specialk9*

        If you’re not a health care worker, there’s still a good chance that PII data, Personally Identifiable Info. It’s a big deal for govt and companies in the US (Privacy Act), but even more so in the EU (it used to be called Safe Harbor but I forget the new term).

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve appended a link to this post, which summarizes the results.

      I think you’re right. HIPAA covers what health care providers can reveal to a third party. So your boss couldn’t phone up your doctor and get your medical records. But it doesn’t cover non-health care providers. If you tell your boss details of your illness (or anything else personal), they can legally tell other people about it. And they could require you to get a note from your doctor about your health situation for accommodation purposes, and then gossip about that information, because you gave that information to your boss.

      I think some people vastly over interpret the scope of the law, and assume that it means that no-one can discuss your health and medical issues without your express permission. There are even situations where your doctor can discuss your health with a third party without your express permission.

      1. Coffee Ninja*

        This is an excellent summary! I’m a “certified HIPAA professional” (it’s about as exciting about it sounds) and Alison’s paragraph above is also spot on. Very basically, if the person or company is not treating you medically, and is not your health insurance company, HIPAA doesn’t apply.

        Also, if your doctor/hospital/etc. *does* happen to breach HIPAA by releasing your medical information, you cannot sue. You can report it to the Office of Civil Rights & they will investigate, and institute penalties and remedial action if necessary, but private parties do not have a right to action under HIPAA. If I hear one more person threaten to sue I will smash all the chocolate teapots in the factory. /soapbox

        1. Juli G.*

          Interesting! So the Jason Paul-Pierre suit… a lot of commentary has been around “Why sue Schefter and ESPN? Go after the hospital because they gave out the info! Reporter was doing his job.” I guess JPP’s lawyer knows more than the media :)

          1. Elizabeth*

            And the answer is “he already did, and they settled under FL state law”. The Office for Civil Rights is most likely already investigating, too.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          What about your pharmacy? They can’t go around saying, “Elizabeth takes thyroid medicine!” I would guess, but it’s kind of hard to be private in a Walgreen’s. (Not that I care if people know that, since I just said it on the interwebz LOL.)

          1. Elizabeth*

            Since they bill insurance (including Medicare Part D) using one of the defined standard transaction sets that qualify a healthcare provider as a covered entity under HIPAA, yes, they are bound by it as well.

            Walgreens actually paid out some pretty serious money in fines over a patient privacy breach that led to a major investigation. A new employee saw that her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he was embroiled in an ugly custody fight, got her prescriptions filled at the pharmacy and had stopped taking birth control pills about 2 months before the child was conceived. She took a cell phone picture of the prescription records and texted it to her boyfriend, who tried to introduce it into evidence in the custody case. The ex-girlfriend got the picture tossed in the custody battle, then filed a complaint with OCR over it. Walgreens filed the employee but fought the fine they received for improper & inadequate training of their employees. This led OCR to go in and do a full investigation of all of the information handling & training practices in the corporation, which led to major fines for bad practices all around. There were major changes at the corporate level that have fed down to all of the retail locations in how they handle information, including disposing of it, and how they train employees.

            What we tell our employees is that had the employee taken a breath & really thought about what she was doing, she probably wouldn’t have done it.

            1. Elizabeth West*


              Had I known about that, I would have changed pharmacies really quickly. But at least they have fixed it, I hope. (I ended up at Walgreen’s because Kroger pulled out of my area; they closed all the Dillons groceries and fired my lovely pharmacists. :( )

              Thanks for answering!

          2. Honeybee*

            Health care as defined by HIPAA includes “care, services, and supplies.” So pharmacies would fall under the supplies and pharmacists are health care providers.

            Health Care – Care, services, or supplies related to the health of an individual, including (1) preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative, maintenance, or palliative care, and counseling, service, assessment, or procedure with respect to the physical or mental condition, or functional status, of an individual that affects the structure or function of the body; and (2) sale or dispensing of a drug, device, equipment, or other item in accordance with a prescription.

      2. Michaela T*

        People are still so confused by that law. My sister worked in the supplement section of a health food store a few years ago, and apparently the people in that section were told HIPAA applied to them and had some sort of training. Because people talked to them about health related stuff? I’m still not sure I understand their reasoning.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Couldn’t an employer say to its employees: “We require you to follow HIPAA regulations”?

          Even if the law doesn’t require it, couldn’t the employer require it?

          Of course, they probably ought to say, “You won’t have the government fining you, but we will fire you,” but maybe they just didn’t get that far. Or figured that letting people think that would be extra incentive to follow the rules.

          Because if I ran a health-food store, I would absolutely NOT want my employees to be chatting about who bought what. I would want discretion for my customers.

        2. Honeybee*

          They may have thought they had to follow it because “health care” covers the provision of supplies, including drugs. But they’re supposed to cover prescription drugs and devices, not health supplements. Nevertheless, it’s always better to be safe than sorry – so the employer may have just been trying to promote good privacy practices.

      3. Specialk9*

        In US govt PII training, there’s a list of set “Sensitive PII” data (cell phones, SSNs, ID numbers, religion, DOB, gender, race, mother’s maiden marital status, biometrics or genetic data, finances, disabilities, medical information) but it also includes the vague “anything that could embarrass someone”. Financial data has its own regs (eg SOX, PCI). Companies need to care about safeguarding private information… though lawsuits usually focus on cybersecurity data breaches. But HIPAA isn’t the last word on private data!

  6. INTP*

    #5: I like the wording given, but if your coworkers are nosy and you aren’t great at holding out while being grilled, you can take it further and say you were out due to “way TMI embarrassing gross medical stuff that you don’t want to hear about.” They’ll assume it’s poop or genitals related might ask once or twice more but eventually leave you alone without feeling like you are hiding something sketchy. (You should be perfectly free to hide whatever you want, but it comes with a social price in some office cultures.)

    1. Mando Diao*

      I’m a big fan of saying “~STOMACH problems.” If people keep pushing for info, say, “Do you really want details?”

      1. Sigrid*

        I’ve found saying, “oh, it’s GI problems” gets people to stop asking really quickly. Ever since I discovered this after some actual GI problems, it’s become my go-to excuse.

      2. Allison*

        I remember an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily said “if it’s stomach stuff, you just say ‘under the weather’ or people picture you doing unspeakable things!” I thought that was a good point, so I do normally say I’m sick or under the weather and don’t volunteer the fact that it’s a stomach thing, unless people push for details. When I tell people I had a stomach thing, people usually back off, I can’t imagine people wanting to know details, like where it was coming out and how much.

    2. Op #5*

      Ha! Thank you for the suggestion and the laugh. I might use slightly different wording but I think I can get the point across of, “you really don’t want to know!”

  7. Dan*


    “The issues of my boss letting us know early aside, the things I said in my conversations with my boss about my coworker’s performance didn’t exactly do her any favors, and in hindsight I should’ve kept my mouth shut.”

    TBH, I’m having a hard time resolving this statement with “I had nothing to do with her firing.” I’m not saying that you caused her to get fired, but if they asked for your opinion on her performance, and that was taken into account with other factors, well…

    That said, AAM’s right, you’re internalizing this too much. Some people aren’t cut out for the work that they’re doing, and they aren’t entitled to their job. It’s best for everybody when employers part ways with underperforming employees — the employer gets someone hopefully more productive, current employees aren’t saddled with the baggage of someone who isn’t pulling their weight, and the separated employee gets the opportunity to find a better fit.

    If you gave an accurate assessment of her performance, then so be it.

    1. Shell*

      Eh, I think it’s perfectly fair to give an accurate assessment of one’s work and have nothing to do with their theoretical firing. It’s not like the OP campaigned for her coworker to get fired. The coworker dropped the ball, and presumably OP had to pick up the slack or had to inform the powers that be why the project was delayed. The powers that be decide on the firing after they collect information–of which OP was only one source. If the OP didn’t actively campaign for the coworker to get fired, I think all she was guilty of doing is providing management with information–which management should seek regularly anyway. If the mistakes were bad enough, management probably would’ve fired the coworker even if OP didn’t mention anything at all.

      1. Artemesia*

        But she was part of the firing process; of course she was. I have been there, done that. When you let the boss know that Brittany is not doing well you are helping the firing decision. This is not something to be guilty or ashamed of; it is appropriate. It is also possible to feel bad about it. Heck I have been the chief person making the decision to fire someone and still felt bad about it and wished the person well; sometimes things don’t work as well as you hoped they would. I would not apologize or be defensive here; just wish her well and if you can give her a good reference about some of her work let her know that.

        1. newreader*

          I agree with Shell that providing information to higher-ups about a coworkers performance issues is very different than being part of the decision to fire, unless you are campaigning for such termination. In some situations, coworkers have more direct knowledge of lack of performance or skill deficiencies in those they work with. I have provided such information to managers that didn’t result in firing but instead allowed for a coworker to receive additional training or supervision/management that led to improved performance. Good managers will collect data from many sources before deciding on a course of action; that does not mean every person data was obtained from bears responsibility for the final decision.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with Shell, too. OP is just one of several sources that provided information, most likely. Any good manager isn’t going to just rely on the word of one coworker; they’re going to gather information from several sources and supplement that with their own observations.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Also remember–if you complain about someone making a mistake, that doesn’t mean the boss is automatically going to fire them just because you complained!

        The boss could easily choose to correct the person, teach/train them better, change the workplace procedures to make it easier for them to succeed, discipline them, etc. There are MANY options available to the boss that fall far short of firing someone.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      When accountability for a firing decision has been discussed here before it’s been said people don’t get peopled fired, but the individual is responsible for their own behaviour.

      If the OP has discussed legitimate performance issues in good faith they’re not responsible for the person getting fired.

      1. Random Lurker*

        This, this, this. I’ve had the unpleasant fortune of letting a few different people go for drastically different reasons. But they all had one common thread – failure to be accountable for their actions. OP’s coworker seems to be in the same boat, and is desperately looking for someone to blame. It sucks for OP that she is the target, but if the person being fired was able to accept their role in things, it’s very possible that the firing would not have needed to occur.

        And shame on your boss for telegraphing this so plainly. When I’ve been in this position as a manager, I do my best to be subtle when soliciting feedback and make sure that the timing doesn’t make the person I spoke with feel responsible.

        OP, hang in there. If it helps, this is what I tell myself – if they didn’t care enough to do what it took to save their job, I shouldn’t care enough to let this bother me.

        1. Sunshine*

          #2 – These things (i.e., guilty feelings) tend to make things bigger in our minds also. It’s possible that the former coworker isn’t blaming OP at all. Maybe she blocked everyone from the company on social media. Maybe she was too upset to say goodbye properly, and is spending some time licking her wounds. No need for the OP to take more responsibility than she actually owns (which is none).

          1. RVA Cat*

            #2 – It sounds like OP’s friend is having difficulty with the professional boundaries between OP’s role as her friend and as her co-worker.

            Think of it as friend getting cut from the baseball team because she couldn’t hit or field the ball well enough. This has nothing to due with her character as a person or a friend — but unfortunately her very human response to the firing does. You need to also respect her boundaries that you cannot control her emotions or reaction to things right now. Reach out if you want, but my read is that she needs some space right now.

            1. TootsNYC*


              “You need to also respect her boundaries that you cannot control her emotions or reaction to things right now. Reach out if you want, but my read is that she needs some space right now.”

              I would leave it alone.

        2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          Thank you for articulating what I was thinking. I read the letter wondering how the OP knew that her coworkers job was on the line and how her feedback contributed.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          “if they didn’t care enough to do what it took to save their job, I shouldn’t care enough to let this bother me.”

          Love that.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed. The coworker performed the behavior, and the company decided to let her go rather than use a PIP or some other attempt at rehabbing her. The problem here would be if they did not give her sufficient warning that her job was in jeopardy because of said behavior, but that isn’t the OP’s responsibility. That would fall to her manager.

        I think it’s fine for the OP to send her a message worded as Alison suggests, and then let it go. She is probably angry and upset and doesn’t want to talk to anyone from her old work right now. If she wants to, she may reach out later. But that ball is in her court.

  8. Student*

    #1 I don’t understand why one of you can’t go into the crawl space, pull out the dead animal, and maybe do some maintenance to try to keep animals out in the future.

    Do you think they will fire you for taking out the dead animal? Do you think it will give you the plague or turn you into a zombie? Or do you all just stubbornly think someone ELSE should do it, after EIGHT YEARS of nobody else doing it and management telling you they won’t do it either?

    Yeah, it’ll be gross, and it’s unfair, and the only definite payoff is having the office not smell like a rotting corpse. But, seriously? I’d do it in a heartbeat. Even if it got me in trouble. I might try to drum up support among the fellow-suffering office dwellers, bet-style, to try to get something else out of it. “I bet you $40 that I can make the office stop smelling like fermenting rat this winter!”

    If you’re all completely unwilling to do this yourselves, then you could probably pool together a modest amount of money and hire someone else to do it for you.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Or, the damn boss could pay an exterminator to come in and seal up the crawlspace so this doesn’t keep happening.

      1. Tamsin*

        Right? And what happens if an employee does go up and becomes ill or is bitten by another animal that is dying up there? And who knows how many corpses and insects and lord knows what else is rotting up there.

      2. Mookie*

        Right. Someone — tenant or owner depending on the state and language of the commercial lease — is responsible for pest control. This could be so readily solved, and the fact that it hasn’t been is utterly bizarre.

        1. Myrin*

          Right? This is such a straightforward problem with an unbelievably straightforward solution – my brain literally stops working when I start to think about how on earth this hasn’t been resolved the first time “Umm, there seems to be something dead in here” came up. Normally when a kind of situation doesn’t make any sense like this whatsoever, I’d assume something else is going on behind the scenes, but I can’t for the life of me come up with any scenario like that.

          Also, apart from the manager being horrible in not taking this seriously, he doesn’t make any sense, either – if he’s too far away to not smell the dead animal, he’s too far away to smell the airpurifiers, too. And how on earth does one person’s dislike of a certain smell trump an entire office’s discomfort of another smell, especially that of a dead body? And I say that as someone who’s extremely sensitive to artificial smells.

          But really, I can’t wrap my head around how the smell of an air purifier and the smell of an actual carcass can even be considered as being on the same level, and I can even less wrap my head around how on earth this has been going on for eight years. Surely there must be someone above this manager who wouldn’t be so cavalier about rotting bodies in the basement.

          1. Trillian*

            I’d take stench over two-day sinus headache (scent sensitivities), myself, but that’s beside the point; this needs escalated to someone who’ll deal with it.

            1. Artemesia*

              Me too. Dead carcass is gross but air freshner is a headache. No excuse for whomever owns the building to not deal with this and everyone who works there should stand in the boss’s office whining softly until he gets it done.

              And some employee crawling under there? Come on. I have dealt with toilets that don’t flush (a surprising number of well educated people don’t know how a toilet works and don’t know how to flush it if the water is cut off) and equally gross things but no way I am risking getting bitten by a rabid possum or getting cut or nail punctured in some dank crawlspace.

          2. Overeducated and underemployed*

            More to the point, a scented air freshener won’t actually get rid of the rotting smell, just compete with it. They need an exterminator.

            1. Hlyssande*

              I found that out the hard way in college, and don’t ask why. There is no amount of air freshener that will cover/solve that scent. None.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                I found out in college that jeans dosed in the perfume Charlie won’t cover up the smell of skunk. But if left outside for a week, both smells will dissipate eventually.

            2. auntie_cipation*

              In the meantime before whoever cleans out/seals up the crawl space, I would be inclined to stick the air freshener up IN the crawl space. That way, if the boss doesn’t like the chemical smell, everyone can pretend they have no idea where it’s coming from, and it won’t be found until someone actually looks in the crawlspace (hopefully because they’ve been hired to fix it).

          3. Student*

            We are talking about an eight year long track record of doing exactly that.

            I am frankly shocked at the huge number of people who, after management has refused to deal with rotting corpse smell for eight years, still insist it’s better to stubbornly hold out through the corpse smell and wait for management to have a spontaneous, Grinch-on-Christmas change of heart than to just fix the problem personally by whatever means necessary.

            1. Pointy Haired Boss*

              I certainly agree with you.

              Many people never learn the difference between fault and responsibility. Is it someone’s fault that their boss is cheap, callous, or whatever and would rather hire someone who will live with the smell then do something about it? No, it’s not their fault — the boss is 100% at fault.

              However, as the employees are the ones impacted by the smell the most, it ultimately is their responsibility to do something about it. I mean, people can talk about the risk of lawsuits all they want, but if the boss doesn’t care, they don’t care. Some bosses just aren’t frightened by lawsuits. Ultimately if no employee decides to act, nothing will be done — they may get to feel self-righteous about it, but is that feeling worth dealing with the smell for another eight years? :-)

            2. Observer*

              You are assuming that anyone can easily do what it takes.

              A number of people have given some good reasons to not go into the crawl space. I don’t know if you have ever seen the kind of gear the pros wear. Normal work clothes are just NOT appropriate. And there are plenty of people who also don’t have the physical dexterity to do this, either. If I tried to do something like this, you’d probably have to call the rescue folks to get me out.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        What if the office administrator just called an exterminator and had them send an invoice for accounting to pay?

      4. Callie*

        This. My job description does not involve crawling into small spaces and picking up the corpses of dead animals.

    2. Shell*

      But someone else should do it–an exterminator. Who would also seal up the bloody crawlspace. (I know, I know, ideal vs reality.)

      Slight tangent: I have no idea how fast a rat corpse decomposes, but…the OP said they can’t get stop these animals come in, nor get them out after they die; so are there a whole bunch of…animal skeletons in that crawlspace? Do dead animals decompose into bone in only 2-3 weeks (that seems short)?

      1. AnotherFed*

        No, but most of the water would be gone and the corpse would be partially mummified and therefore less stinky.

        Alternatively, something bigger is eating them.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, there will be skeletons. And if it smells for 2-3 weeks it’s probably not mice, and if it were mice, they’d be tough to block out. Squirrels, maybe, in a crawlspace. Frankly, it may take more than an exterminator if they’ve damaged roofing or siding.

        (There are probably mice skeletons in most house walls, so it’s not the end of the world. But it also doesn’t mean I want to go up with a flashlight and hunt for them.)

        1. Myrin*

          I hadn’t even thought of damage, but you’re absolutely right, especially if there are feces! *shudders*

        2. fposte*

          I was meaning more chewing it to crawl in, though of course your kind of damage can happen too. (I also misread the OP as having a crawl space *above* her and not below–if it’s below her, squirrels are unlikely.)

          1. Myrin*

            Chewing was the first thing I thought of, too, and then my mind went on to not only feces but also other, smaller animals and bugs eating the remains and infesting the walls and whatnot. Yeah. This is really not something that should just be left alone.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Could be possums too. They will crawl in and are big enough to stink for several weeks if they die.

          Also, they need to consider this: what happens if an animal gets in there and manages to get into the office itself? That happened to my dad once when he was truck-driving. While he was on the road, a possum got into the attic and then into his house. The poor thing couldn’t find its way back out again and frantically destroyed a bunch of stuff. (I think it was dead when he got back.) What if this happens and someone gets bitten by an animal?

          1. Kyrielle*

            Also, if it’s big enough for anything much larger than a rat to get in…and the stink implies it is…then it’s also big enough for a skunk.

            Having grown up in a farmhouse with occasional issues (except the dead bodies got disposed of, thankyouverymuch), I can just say there’s a whole ‘nother level of misery when you have a nervous mama skunk *raising her kids under your floorboards*.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            What if this happens and someone gets bitten by an animal?

            Worker’s Comp claims abound.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It really depends on the temperature and the relative humidity, although the presence of scavengers, whether animal or insect, would also matter. Two to three weeks would be more than enough time in a hot, arid climate, but in a cool, moist climate it would probably take a while longer. (Can you tell that I really like forensic science?)

        1. fposte*

          I can attest that mice stop smelling after about a day in house walls in the midwest, but there’s nothing much to them; bigger critters are a whole nother matter.

    3. Jade*

      “I don’t understand why one of you can’t go into the crawl space, pull out the dead animal, and maybe do some maintenance to try to keep animals out in the future”

      You’re joking, right? I don’t recall ever seeing a comment so flagrantly ludicrous on here before, so I feel like this has to be trolling. The company needs to pay for an exterminator to remove the dead animals and a contractor to fix the area so that nothing else can get in it. It is not in any way, shape, or form the responsibility of the people employed at this office to remove dead animals from said office or make efforts to keep them out. I have never worked at, nor heard of, any place of employment that expected its employees (besides maintenance, at least) to either remove dead animal carcasses from the property or else suffer through the smell. What *really* gets me is that the boss won’t allow air deodorizers/purifiers because the scent bothers him, yet he’s content to let his employees smell death for weeks. What a jerk.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        Yes, a professional exterminator is needed. They will have the training, equipment, and stomach to do the job.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        Exactly this. If an office window gets broken, I doubt you would expect the employees to replace the glass. It would be up to the company or the building landlords to hire a glazier or whatever.

        I agree anyway that the OP’s workplace needs a long-term solution. Removing rat skeletons as you go along doesn’t fix anything – apart from the stench of course.

        1. Myrin*

          Very much agreed. I’ve dealt with dead animals before so I theoretically wouldn’t have a problem with doing this (also it seems like the crawlspace isn’t actually big enough for a human to fit in there, if we take the manager by his word that it’s not possible to get the corpses out of there) but I’d absolutely refuse to do so. Because it isn’t my job. And there are people whose job this very definitely is. So why not get them to deal with this?

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep. This is one case that would be pushing “other duties as assigned” waaaay beyond any good sense. There are people with the know-how and protective equipment and safety measures to do this. Hire them.

          2. fposte*

            If my desk was over it, I’d probably go down in the damn crawlspace to save myself weeks of stench, but I certainly wouldn’t feel obligated.

        2. Pointy Haired Boss*

          If the boss refuses to replace the glass though, I would consider it odd that the employees would rather be cold and wet than put some cardboard over the window themselves.

          I’m not saying it isn’t disrespectful of the boss to ignore their employees like that, but there are a lot of companies out there that operate secure in the fact that if an employee feels disrespected and quits, there are 20 others waiting outside to replace them immediately — hoping for it, even.

          Some people can’t work without respect, while others work despite no respect. It depends on the person’s personality, I suppose, and to some degree their class background and ability to say “no” without consequences, and whether you see yourself as an idealist or a pragmatist.

          1. Observer*

            It’s one thing to put a piece of cardboard over a window, it’s another to handle dead animals with no protection. (mask, proper gloves, etc.) And that’s not starting with the other potential problems.

            In other words, respect is not the issue here.

      3. Mookie*

        (Worked, as an undergraduate, in a convenience store on the campus of a large, well-known, Los Angeles-based public university, and experienced a full two summers in a row of “dead rat” smell. This was the result of student staff banding together one term in order to protest having to trap rats with those “humane” sticky papers, which don’t bring about a short and merciful death but an excruciating days-long torture wherein the animal rips out its own eyeballs and breaks every limb trying to free itself. And every morning we were expected to “dispose” of the still-conscious flypaper rat as if it were nothing. Management finally decided to bait rather than exclude, and the results were equally gruesome but also morbidly pungent. Our protests meant nothing, but a visiting muckety-muck who dropped by one day for a Violet Crumble made a big stink, as it were, and eventually they got the problem under control.

        Anyway, as a rat lover and nose-posessor: you never forget the smell. Vile stuff.)

        1. Tamsin*

          Yes, there’s definitely this aspect: OF COURSE this is going to change an outsider’s perception of the company. It doesn’t matter what the company’s business is (although there are definitely some fields where it would absolutely be a deal-breaker to ever do business again with a company that didn’t take care of dead carcasses on its premises.)

        2. Allison*

          In my freshman year of college, a mouse took up residence in my dorm room. My roommate called facilities and they put poison peanuts in the room, so the mouse (naturally) ate some and died. But it took us a while to find the dead rodent, so for a few days our room stunk to high heaven and there was nothing we could do to neutralize or cover up the smell.

          1. KR*

            I found a dead mouse in the office behind a plastic container. I was so horrified that I told my supervisor that I was not going to work on any projects until the entire office was cleaned. We then took all the furniture out of the office, washed all the floors and cleaned everything we could reach. Our office is entirely too cluttered and messy in a civil war era building and my supervisor is not the neatest person in the world. I’ve gotten used to it as long as I can have my desk where things are clean and organized and it’s only my space but that was the final straw for me. Thankfully my supervisor recognizes he’s not a very neat person and when I tell him I need to clean, he lets me take all the paid time in the world to do it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            When I lived in a nice residential hotel in a nineteenth-century building, I had one in my room that was entering and exiting by the steam pipe coming from the radiator (a small hole existed). Someone suggested I put steel wool in the hole. BING. No more mouse. They won’t chew through it, as long as you pack it in tight enough so they can’t push it out.

            1. PF*

              Squirrels, though, steel wool will not help with.

              A squirrel got into the chimney above our kitchen stove vent-hood one time. In the two hours between when we called maintenance and when maintenance arrived, the squirrel had chewed through(!) the metal filter at the bottom of the chimney, gotten into the apartment, eaten through a plastic bag to get at the cookies inside, left pellets on the carpet, run up and down our Christmas tree… (part of this running around was done while we were in another room with the door closed to block out trapped-squirrel noise, trying to get work done, so we didn’t immediately notice when the noises changed).

            2. Person of Interest*

              +1 on plugging mouse holes with steel wool, if the holes are obvious. I have also used those electronic plug-ins that emit a high pitched noise that only critters can hear – those definitely drove the mice away from the walls of my old 1890’s era Baltimore rowhouse. You can get them at the pet store.

              1. Allison*

                I have one of those plug-ins as well, it seems to have helped with the problem but there’s still one brave mouse who keeps coming in to visit.

              2. Cath in Canada*

                We got one of those too plug-ins too, but we started using it the same day my husband plugged a bunch of mouse holes, so we don’t know which strategy was the one that worked! BAD scientist…

          3. Mirror*

            I used to work in a mobile trailer on a farm. We dealt with the “ugh another mouse is dead” problem a lot. One particular incident, we could NOT find the bugger after several days of searching. We narrowed the smell down to one wall with a short bookcase. After unloading and pulling it away, I peer behind it. I’m really concentrating to find this mouse after so many fruitless days of searching. With my face about a foot away from the wall, my eyes focus on the electrical outlet and bam! The head of the dead mouse is staring back at me. I probably jumped about ten feet.

            It had tried to shove its way through from behind the electrical plate cover.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          OH GOD I HATE THOSE. After seeing a terrified mouse on one, never ever. I will never. never. never. use. them. I am haunted by that poor mouse to this day.

          I use a capture trap and then let them go.

          1. Marcela*

            Exactly. You see it once, never again. Even my dad, who is not an animal lover, did not dare to kill the poor tiny mouse in the trap at home. Afterwards we got cats, many cats, and thay was the end of the mice.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              We have two cats, and we used to get tons of mice coming into our (old and holey) house during spells of wet weather. (My husband found and plugged some of the holes and it’s much less common now, thank goodness!) Our cats aren’t great hunters – at least not compared to the cat I had as a kid, who would bring home rats, moles, birds, and small rabbits – but they’re not completely useless either. Our former tenant had two cats of her own, and we STILL got mice coming into a house with four cats in it! I thought at first that the cats were catching the mice outside and bringing them in still alive, but then we kept all the cats inside for over a week and we were still seeing mice. That’s how bad the weather gets here sometimes, lol!

          2. bkanon*

            Ugggggh, yes. I don’t even like spring traps. I have a small live trap for the rare mouse who makes it past three hunting cats. I take them down to the field, give them a stern warning, and set them free.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              We used a full sized metal garbage can and some peanut butter and caught two mice. I took them across the entire property and across the road, and let them go. By the 5th or 6th day of catching two mice each night, I colored their tails green before letting them go. The next day I drove two green-tailed mice at least a mile away before letting them go. In other words, I don’t think stern warnings will deter them.

              1. Allison*

                I once wrote a note to the mice that had been visiting my kitchen, asking them to please go away and not come back. Weird thing is, after I put it on the fridge (near the bottom where the mice could see it) we didn’t see any mice for a while.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, I had to remove a vine from my backyard last year because it was getting infested by rats. I didn’t mind the rats were visiting the vine, but the problem was that they were eating poison from bait traps strewn throughout the neighborhood, then dying while visiting my vine. :( Anyhow, there was an official entity that deals with this type of thing and they said absolutely do not dispose of any rats myself, there’s too much disease that can spread. They told me to glove up, put them in a bag, and they came and picked them up.

      5. mander*

        There’s a whole host of potential safety issues to contend with in removing a dead animal from a crawl space, not to mention that there is skill involved in resolving the problem. This is a job for a qualified professional, not a random member of staff (unless they happen to moonlight in pest control).

        Your boss is a loon and the company is being cheap. I’d enquire with an appropriate authority to see if there is any way to force them to deal with the problem correctly.

        1. Pointy Haired Boss*

          I hate to be blunt about it, but if the boss genuinely doesn’t care, and has been in business long enough to have secured an appropriate nest egg, there is no authority that can force them to do anything.

          Even if the company is sued into bankruptcy, a 45-year-old CEO with $3 million stashed somewhere that can’t be touched by creditors or the courts is effectively guaranteed at least a middle class lifestyle until they die.

          Even if the company is sued into bankruptcy before the boss makes their third million, there’s nothing short of a prison term that can stop them from just using their connections to found a new company and move on with their lives.

          The courts aren’t magic, and the richer a person gets, the less magic they become.

      6. Student*

        I admit that I had trouble understanding how anyone would stay in an office for eight years through this problem. The number of commenters who would prefer to sit through rotting corpse stench than to get the problem fixed themselves has been enlightening. What, exactly, do you think will make management suddenly have a change of heart and fix this problem after all the evidence that they will not fix the problem?

        1. Jade*

          Honestly I’m surprised they put up with this for 8 years, too. Quite frankly if my boss refused to do anything about this for even one year, I’d be moving on from that job. However, now that they’re motivated to try and resolve this issue once and for all, there are better, safer solutions to the problem that I’m not sure anyone at the office has tried or persisted at. The suggestions given here seem like a good starting point: banding together as a group, getting quotes from pest control companies to bring to the boss, taking the complaint up higher in the chain, looking into whether this is the landlord’s problem, etc. The *last* thing anyone at this office should be trying is doing pest control themselves. As others have pointed out, if they aren’t qualified to do such a thing, then they are putting their safety at risk crawling into a crawl space to take care of god-knows-what is getting in there.

    4. Allison*

      I get where you’re coming from, you figure that the person who should be taking care of it isn’t doing a damn thing, but it needs to be dealt with, so someone else needs to step up and just do it already. This makes sense in some contexts, like when there are spilled legos on the playroom floor and an exasperated parent says “I don’t care who made the mess, I just want it cleaned up already!” or when there are dirty dishes in the sink and someone finally gets fed up enough to take care of it themselves (either at the office or in a shared living space). But this is no ordinary mess, this is a dead animal! Dealing with it is not only gross, but risky, and it’s ultimately best left to a professional.

      On a tangent, the idea of an employee going into a crawl space full of dead animals and lord knows what else sounds like a great idea for a horror movie.

      1. fposte*

        Well, let’s not go overboard on the “risky.” You pick them up in a bag and wash your hands after, and that’s being more than careful enough with most animals in most of the country.

        1. Kelly L.*

          The risk is more from rabies if there are any living ones up there (which there have to be, sometimes, else you wouldn’t have dying ones) plus the risk of climbing up there in the first place (ladders, rusty nails).

          1. Kelly L.*

            OK, rereading, looks like the crawlspace is down and not up. There’s still the potential to fall, though.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, that was my error and I think I planted the seed.

              Agreed that living animals, especially if we’re talking something like raccoons, are the thing that you really need to be careful about. Of course, then you’re usually talking a wildlife specialist and not an exterminator.

              But start with an exterminator. S/he’ll know what kinds of animals are likely to be in a crawl space in that region and to smell for a long time.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I think there was an attic with dead animals in a subsequent reply and it snowballed! :)

              2. Elizabeth West*

                You’re forgetting the crawlspace–depending on how narrow it is, whoever goes in there may need confined-space training to do so safely. That is a thing. If they get hurt, the company could face a huge liability.

                1. fposte*

                  I was responding to the notion that picking up a dead animal is inherently risky. (And confined-space training may be a thing, but I think it’s pretty common for workers to enter confined spaces without training outside of hazardous-substance situations.)

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  @fposte – I pretty much thought that too before doing some research on hantavirus as a company safety topic. It’s worthwhile finding out if there are any current occurrences in your area before blithely starting a brisk sweeping and cleaning of mice poop in your shed. Because if your mice* have it, breathing the dust from cleaning can kill you.

                  *deer mice, not house mice, so cleaning the house is still generally safe.

              3. Callie*

                When I was still apublic school techer, the classroom next to mine got an infestation of BATS in the space above the ceiling. The health department had to come out and do some pretty intensive decontamination of the classroom and the space above the ceiling of that classroom and neighboring classrooms and made the teacher throw away quite a few of her materials. They stressed to us that infestations of mice, rats, bats, etc. are no joke and these critters can carry allll kinds of pests and disesases. Leave that stuff to the professionals.

        2. Artemesia*

          You are talking about crawling through animal feces and urine (which often contain histoplasmosis or in the case of mice in the southwest lethal hanta virus), are at risk of getting a nail through your knee (has no one here ever been in a crawl space?), getting cut, handling a rabid animal, getting bit by the dead rat’s dying cousin etc etc. Exterminators will have the right protective gear including a good filter mask and knee and hand protection and also know what they are doing.

          1. Collarbone High*

            Yep. Ever watch Hoarders? Once the cleanup team discovers animal or human waste, it shifts from “family members pitching in” to “everybody out except trained professionals in Hazmat suits.”

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            Hanta virus is not just in the southwest anymore: it now occurs in many states in the US, including all but one state west of the Mississippi. It has a fatality rate that ranges from 20% to nearly 60%. No-one should be going into crawl spaces without understanding and taking the necessary precautions.

            1. Talvi*

              Hantavirus is actually found globally! (I did some reading after the last time it was mentioned in the comments on AAM. Fascinating stuff.) Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is the kind found in the Americas whereas Hantavirus Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Or you get a rake, duct-tape an 8′ 2×4 to it, and rake out the area, hoping you can reach it. (and you wear disposable gloves, and old clothes, and wash up afterward)

          I can totally seem me deciding to just do this myself.

          But….there *is* the risk of disease and nearly dead animals. And, it’s not my job.

        4. mander*

          Depending on the conditions where this is happening, you’d also want a proper dust mask to protect against airborne particles. For example, in dry climates, rodent droppings transmit hantavirus via dust. Hantavirus is life-threatening.

    5. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      After a Hantavirus scare on archaeological dig, I advocate that everyone use a professional.

      This is a huge issue and definitely not something the employees should handle!

      1. auntie_cipation*

        I live in Hantavirus territory too, and have also worked out in the woods where there are plenty of potential risks that can only be reduced but not removed. This seems to me like one of those situations where it’s more of a liability risk for the company if an employee (whose job isn’t specifically maintenance or extermination) were to have some injury or illness relating to cleaning up this situation. I would personally be inclined to “fix it myself” if I were the OP just as I would fix it myself if it were happening in my own home — beyond some threshold I would call a professional but I certainly use a ladder/crawl under the house etc myself even though there is indeed some degree of risk. I decide case-by-case if something is beyond my risk tolerance or my skill level. So from the employee’s perspective I would be tempted to just take care of it — but from the boss’ perspective they should certainly NOT want employees to do this themselves, due to the risk of liability if something did happen! It reminds me of getting bitten by a tick during the time I worked in the woods — I had to try to figure out if it happened while I was on the job or when I was off duty, because if I was at work I could fill out a form and then be covered if I later discovered I had lyme disease due to the bite. But the same bite could very well have happened on my own time and then the employer wouldn’t be involved, only my health care coverage etc.

        1. fposte*

          I think this is a really good point–that it’s not so much that the situation is for sure beyond amateur handling as it’s enough of a liability if something goes wrong that the manager should be all over himself making sure people didn’t take cleanup into their own hands.

    6. MashaKasha*

      Haven’t you read Stephen King’s Night Shift? This isn’t going to end well!

      Seriously though, what neverjaunty said above. Employees shouldn’t be “pooling together a modest amount of money” for what is basic building maintenance for the building where they work.

    7. Wrench Turner*

      Someone somewhere attached to that building is the Facilities Manager – maybe it’s someone’s title stuck on to other duties, maybe an actual dedicated person, maybe someone not with the company but the owners of the building – whose job it is to take care of these sorts of things. I had that hat for a long time and WOULD NOT AT ALL want ANY of my office people to try to do something like this on their own.

      They could get sick or hurt themselves, or make the pest entry problem even worse. Or even worse, introduce an additional hazard by using flammable, toxic or otherwise dangerous materials/means, and then everyone would be at even greater risk.

      This sounds like a building health/safety hazard. Whoever is in charge of that should do their job. If they can’t or won’t, then let OSHA know and let them decide if it’s not their problem.

      It may be as simple as pouring a bucket of water into a drain trap that dries out seasonally.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        . Or even worse, introduce an additional hazard by using flammable, toxic or otherwise dangerous materials/means, and then everyone would be at even greater risk

        I know if I see a rat in my office, I’m burning the building down.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I think the Op said that part of the office is a crawl space, but the rats are probably dying inside the walls where it’s near impossible to get anything out without a professional opening it up and going in there. There’s also got to be something they can do to plug up the openings where they’re getting in.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Sorry, I misunderstood what a crawl space was. I was thinking of attic-type space that could be used for storage or turned into usable space such as an office.

        1. mander*

          My parents’ house has a crawl space underneath the living room, where the furnace and hot water heater are installed. It’s basically an unfinished hole in the dirt between the foundations. They do store a few things down there but only things that won’t get too damaged by dust. It’s not full height so you literally have to crawl to get to the furnace.

          1. Rana*

            Yeah, that’s how I visualize “crawl space” too: low space under a building to access things like heaters, and usually filled with dust and spiders.

    9. Jennifer*

      This reminds me of the time my mom brought fleas home because of the feral cats living under the building. She and I are bug-bite-prone, but my dad didn’t believe us (despite evidence of bites) because HE didn’t get bites. Same kind of thing going on here, I suspect.

    10. Goofy*

      That’s assuming that something can actually be found…
      My office had a similar problem every year (odor) and also a bug infestation every spring (I sent an email on the same day every year for 8 years to get the exterminator in). Had folks with meters coming in trying to determine where the smell was, whether it violated OSHA rules or not. Discussions about was it in the walls, the floors, the ducts, coming through the air vents on the roof & bringing in smells from other buildings/restaurants/trash in alleys. Maybe it was a drain that had gone dry but was now wet & creating mold; it just could not be traced or predicted.
      No one could figure out anything – neither what the smell was or where it was coming from. Eventually there was some construction done, repairs to various drains & walls (some that were only partial walls), and the smell was minimized. Still, no one knows what it was.

      Don’t know about you, but I’m not crawling around a large building trying to figure out where a smell that is making me sick is coming from.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I would be sorely tempted to turn up to work in a radiation suit or gas mask.

  10. Andrea*

    I love seeing the Captain and Alison give each other shout outs. It’s like watching Batman pal around with Superman.

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      It makes me feel all cool-group like Captain America and The Wizard of Oz, “I understood that reference!”

  11. Mando Diao*

    Okay there are a million things I don’t know about renting an office space, but is there any reason you (or someone on a supervisory level) can’t call the landlord? I really don’t see this as a business issue. Am I off-base for thinking it’s the landlord’s job to handle removal of the animals and to seal off the crawl space? What do you do when the plumbing freaks out or the heat doesn’t work? What if there was an insect infestation or a broken window? Is the landlord even aware that there are several years’ worth of animal carcasses (and probably bugs and fluids and other pukey things) in the crawl space? Can’t it bite your boss in the butt that he let that situation go for so long without informing anyone? This is an issue that the building’s owner will want to resolve, and I don’t think your manager really gets a say in the matter.

    1. You Don't Know Me*

      Many (if not most) commercial leases make the tenant responsible for repairs/maintaince unlike residential leases.

      1. blackcat*

        True, so going to the landlord could get the company fined for not keeping up with maintenance (which could get the OP in trouble).

        1. Mike C.*

          Maybe it would also get the problem fixed. I’m not saying this is a good first step, but more of second or third.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Huh, I’ve never worked at an office where the tenant was responsible for repairs and maintenance, other than basic cleaning. I would have assumed that no leases would allow for tenants to be responsible for that stuff, because if a lack of maintenance and repairs cause structural damage, I’m guessing the owner is still on the hook. I had friends who lived in a building where the owner didn’t even want people putting Drano down their own drains… my friends did once, and it corroded some pipes and caused major flooding in apartments below theirs! Something they, of course, had no way of knowing might happen. I get the impression that my office buildings have been the same way… when you own a building, you don’t trust your tenants to protect your investment, you charge them enough to protect it yourself!

      3. Natalie*

        That’s only true when renting a whole building. If they are one tenant in a larger office building, the landlord provides maintenance.

        1. AVP*

          That is not always true. Might be a state law or dependent on the lease.

          My office rents two floors in a larger building and the lease spells out exactly what each party is responsible for – the owners deal with the roof and have a monthly exterminator come in, but we deal with all HVAC, boiler, and plumbing issues and if we have some kind of special infestation that’s beyond the realm of the monthly exterminator, we would pay to call someone in for that too.

          Either way the office manager needs to call in a good exterminator STAT, and look at the lease to see who’s responsible for paying.

          1. Natalie*

            Fascinating – we would never have a multi-tenant do their own HVAC. That’s just a recipe for them screwing up some other tenant’s HVAC. You must have a separate system from the other tenants.

            1. You Don't Know Me*

              We are also two office in the building out of many and are responsible for basically everything. We’ve replaced two hot water heaters, had the a/c worked on, replaced a sink, and had the radiators replaced at our expense all in the last couple of years. It’s in our lease we are responsible.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            That is not always true. Might be a state law or dependent on the lease.

            It depends on the lease and the jurisdiction. We deal with this issue all the time in premises liability claims.

    2. Ama*

      I have been office staff in a building where the building manager refused to handle any problems outside his wheelhouse (basically anything beyond basic maintenance and the HVAC system), and I recognize the signs of someone willfully ignoring a problem in hopes someone else will solve it for him.I strongly suspect that the manager doesn’t know where to start in handling it — whether the company or landlord is responsible, who he should call to get it taken care of, etc. — and since he knows it will eventually take care of itself he just waits it out.

      I would not be surprised at all if the OP and/or her colleagues were to find an exterminator on their own and go to the manager to say, “hey we made some inquiries and this place can take care of our rodent problem – can we call them?” he would be fine with that because he didn’t have to do any of the work. Which is not an excuse for the manager’s actions up to this point — but when you are dealing with someone who digs in their heels this much on a particular issue (and you have no authority to enforce consequences for not doing so) sometimes you have to prioritize a solution over trying to get him to take action.

    3. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, it’s really going to depend on the details of the lease. Either the manager needs to contact the landlord or the manager needs to contact an exterminator; right now, it falls on the same person regardless.

  12. Doriana Gray*

    Letter #3 is a good example of when exclamation points are needed. Sometimes I read these letters and I’m like, “Where do you people work?! And why am I not there for the LOLz?!” Seriously. Some of these characters would be great fodder for my books.

  13. Phyllis*

    OP#1: This may in fact rise to the level of an OSHA complaint–they deal with issues such as exposure to Hantavirus from vermin. If it’s dead mice or rats, there will be also be droppings, which is how the viruses are spread. Employees who believe they are in an unsafe workplace condition can make a complaint to OSHA & it will be acted on. Your workplace should have an OSHA poster up that will include information regarding how to make a complaint. If there isn’t one, Google your state and OSHA, as some states operate their own workplace health and safety agencies.

    1. KR*

      Maybe they believe they’re in unsafe working conditions because there are rotting bodies in the walls. Rodent or human, who knows?

      1. Brightwanderer*

        “Rodent or human, who knows?”

        Oh wow, my mind’s now gone full serial-killer route… the boss is stashing his victims in the crawlspace, his banning of the air fresheners is because part of the thrill of the kill for him is knowing everyone else in the office is suffering and they don’t even know the truth…

        BRB off to write the next great thriller movie, or something.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          American Horror Story : Office Space

          With Jessica Lange as the landlord who’s weirdly into it.

          Does anyone have Ryan Murphy’s number?

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Dude…I want to watch this.

            Especially if Lady Gaga plays the 50s inspired secretary.

        2. Lunch Meat*

          Dear Alison, my boss killed one of my coworkers because he didn’t like his eye. Now the heart is still beating under the floorboards and won’t stop, and it’s really annoying. Is this legal?

          1. Kelly L.*


            Dear Alison,

            My co-worker, Emily, got a new boyfriend and it’s driving me crazy. First he was hanging around all the time and they were doing PDA. That was bad enough, but now the relationship seems to have gone sour and her cubicle just smells terrible. I think maybe she’s let her hygiene go out of sadness? How do I approach her about the odor? She’s a genteel Southern lady, very proper, and I know she’d be terribly embarrassed.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Ah, I had the same idea, but wasn’t able to figure out why he wasn’t letting them cover up the smell.

      1. Noah*

        Yes, this. Employers have a responsibility to provide a workplace free of serious hazards. Also the OSHA sanitation standard requires that employers prevent rodents and insects from entering the workplace.

        Here’s the standard:
        Vermin control. Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          So the black widows in my office at that former job was against OSHA standards? (At least, before I made them office pets and put them in a jar – so I knew where they were!)

    2. Allison*

      So I didn’t know about the Hantavirus until you mentioned it, but since my apartment gets an occasional mousey visitor AND I’m getting over the flu with a residual cough, I am now in full-on hypochondriac panic mode!

      1. Artemesia*

        Well the good new is if it were hanta virus you’d probably be dead now, so you are probably okay. I say probably.

      2. fposte*

        House mice aren’t hantavirus carriers–it’s deer mice and white-footed mice, which probably aren’t the ones in your apartment.

    3. Specialk9*

      Generally hantavirus is only transmitted from people breathing in the miasma from rodent pee, like in an Appalachian Trail camping hut. So them crawling through the duct themselves would be a bad idea, but in their offices they’re likely safe from hanta.

  14. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2….I wouldn’t bother texting or anything else. You don’t need this person in your life. If her immediate reaction was to block you and delete you on social media, that says something about her maturity level and her willingness to take responsibility for her actions. And she probably will think it’s odd that you are reaching out to her now, anywhere from a few days to even longer after her departure. I would have expected a text the same day or next day from someone that I was close with at one point, assuming they still genuinely cared about me. The more time that passes the more awkward it becomes. It just has the possibility to open a whole other can of worms that isn’t worth it.

    And as a couple of others have said, you are partially responsible for her firing, albeit indirectly, by assisting them in building their case against her, but it sounds like that would have eventually happened anyway so maybe you only accelerated the process a bit? However, if you gave an honest, factual assessment of her work to the boss, then you did the right thing and shouldn’t feel guilty. She got herself fired, not you. Best of luck to the both of you!

    1. John*

      An inconvenient reality of the workplace: things happen that alter friendships with colleagues.

      I hired a former co-worker/friend and, when her performance deteriorated, was the one to let her go. It’s been over a decade, and we haven’t spoken since (she thanked me on the spot for how I handled it, which was the best I could hope for, acknowledging I was in a rough spot). That’s just how it goes.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        My former best friend wanted me to hire her many years ago. I declined in the interest of our friendship at the time. She also asked me to be a reference which I politely told her wouldn’t be a good idea as I didn’t really have anything positive that I could say about her work since we had never worked together and I knew of her many workplace issues over the years. She is truly a terrible employee for a plethora of reasons. Well, she didn’t listen and listed me anyway. Manager called and I told him the truth and listed various previous examples of her workplace issues and strongly recommended he not hire her. He listened and she never figured out why she didn’t get the job when the interview went so well.

        It’s rarely good to mix business and friendship.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Agree, I couldn’t understand why OP2 needs this person in their life, either.

      “I’m pretty sure she’s using me as a scapegoat so she doesn’t have to acknowledge her own mistakes.”

      So what? Let her. It’s not like you can change her mind. Sometimes people dislike us irrationally and there’s nothing we can do about it. Don’t give her as a reference and you’ll be okay.

    3. TootsNYC*

      This was my thought.

      You’ve already backed away because of her negativity. Do you really want to be friends with her?
      Wouldn’t your life be easier if you just drifted away?

      I’d let it lie.

  15. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1….just an anecdotal story really…..this happened at the Dollar store by my house that we go to at least 3 times a week. The smell was utterly putrid and stomach turning and persisted for well over 6 months. It was rats in the walls, ceiling, you name it, they were there. (Store backs up to a large field) They finally closed the store down for 2 months, yes 2 whole months, an eternity in retail, to address the problem fully. This is a corporate location so I don’t know if customers or employees complained to corporate to finally make it happen, but it did happen.

    I don’t know if you work for a branch of a larger corporate entity or satellite office of a large entity, etc., but if you do, I can’t imagine them being unwilling to address this issue. If your manager won’t escalate the issue, I would definitely take action as a group to contact whoever is above your boss and keep moving up the chain until something is done. FWIW, I am soooooo sorry about your situation and I have no idea how you tolerate it. I would have flipped smooth out 8 years ago. When it persisted at my Dollar store I would literally jog into the store, jog around to grab what I needed, rush to the register to pay, and only breathe through my mouth. Disgusting!

    1. RVA Cat*

      Also, I don’t know what you do at your office but if you send materials out to your customers – if it’s that bad, even your outgoing mail probably reaks to high heaven!

      1. A Bug!*

        Agreed! It’s a little bit amazing sometimes how well paper picks up and holds onto ambient odors. I regularly get things in my inbox that have that “grandma house” smell. It might not be overwhelmingly stinky, but it’s pretty likely going to carry at least a whiff of something supremely unpleasant.

        1. Myrin*

          Right? Our landlady is a very heavy smoker and when we got a letter from her two weeks ago we had to hang it in front of a window for several days because it was. So. Stinky! :/

          1. A Bug!*

            Oof, cigarette smoke is especially clingy! I’ll take “grandma house” over stale cigarettes any day of the week. (Original flavor grandma house only, mind you – no “grandma house on sauerkraut day”!)

            Now, I’m going to admit I haven’t observed decomposing pest odors clinging to paper. What I have observed is that the smell of a decomposing animal is one of the most invasive and persistent odors I’ve ever experienced, and I’d be happy never to experience it again. And it’s just on that basis that I’d worry about even a small tendency to cling to paper products.

        2. Talvi*

          I didn’t realize paper held smells so well! That said, my books have started smelling faintly of cloves and cinnamon since I started leaving sachets (of cloves and cinnamon, obviously) tucked in my shelves. It’s win-win – the smell helps deter silverfish and other bugs as well as making my books smell nice.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      There used to be a very run-down strip mall near my house that featured the world’s scariest-looking dentist office, a bakery that looked half decent but that rarely seemed to be open (we speculated that they were on a lunar cycle), a Sri Lankan restaurant whose mildest curry was too spicy even for my husband’s asbestos-coated mouth, and an exceptionally grubby grocery store that smelled very strongly of mice. Not dead ones, thankfully, but I’ve worked in lab buildings my whole life – even though I’ve never done any work with animals myself, I know exactly what a large colony of living rodents smells like. There were no other grocery stores within walking distance, so I went in there occasionally in a pinch, but I only ever bought canned or packaged goods, and I washed all packaging thoroughly before opening it. So gross. I was not at all upset when they tore it down and built a basic but clean grocery store, a drug store, and a Starbucks.

  16. Amo for This*

    OP1…I’m so sorry and I can relate. We have an employee with major body odor (to the point where you can smell this person a good 20 feet away, and the person who shares her office space has to take her clothes off in her garage before she goes in her house so that they can air out), and the employees manager will not do anything about it. It doesn’t matter that there have been numerous complaints and the manager in question won’t go into the office due to the smell. Sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do. And it stinks, literally.

      1. A Bug!*

        Possibly because the person does shower each day, but doesn’t realize that they’re putting stinky clothes on. Really heavy BO can survive regular washing techniques, and the clothes just start to smell worse over time, so even though a person showers every day, they have BO right away because it’s in their clothes. But if they had an “interview outfit” that lives in a closet 99% of the time, then that outfit might not have picked up a noticeable smell yet.

        1. Chameleon*

          Yeah, and they may not even know. I have some shirts that smell fine when they come out of the wash, but a little body heat and they start smelling like workouts. (I do not wear these shirts in public).

          1. Amo for This*

            Given that this person drowns herself in perfume as well, I think she knows.

            And she’s worked at our organization for years. She’s always had some mild BO, but it’s only been in the last year that it’s gotten to the point where you can’t be in the same room as her.

    1. NotASalesperson*

      I’m dying to know: has anyone (other than the manager) said anything to this employee? Because that’s legitimately gross.

      1. Amo for This*

        Her manager also doubles as our HR person, and so no one has been permitted to say anything because it might offend her. Apparently doesn’t matter that everyone has to hold their breath to be within 20 feet of her.

  17. VintageLydia*

    OP 1 reminded me of my time working at a pet supply store. We always had issues with vermin. Our warehouse, like any warehouse, wasn’t exactly sealed with the huge bay doors opening for shipments every other day along with a few other doors in an out constantly open, but one summer things got… bad. The smell completely permeated the warehouse and started eeking out into the store. One of our warehouse guys out of curiosity started poking around in various places in the ceiling until a drop ceiling tile felled a dead rat right onto his head. This finally convinced the manager to call the exterminators for a special visit and dead rodents were EVERYWHERE. We had no clue how bad it had gotten because shrink due to *ahem* “opened product found in warehouse” wasn’t especially higher. Not enough to account for all the rats. I have no idea what they were feasting on but the obviously starved themselves out.

    1. F.*

      The local farm supply store always has a cat or two hanging around to keep the vermin under control.

      1. Natalie*

        My local humane society actually has a “working cat” program, where they will adopt out small groups of feral cats to feed stores, farms, construction sites, etc. It seems like a good solution for cats that will never be pets.

        1. Windchime*

          Mine has this, too! There are guidelines that the potential adoptive parents have to follow; you can’t try to force the cat to live inside, you have to provide a safe and dry place for the cat to sleep (like in the barn or something), etc. I think it’s a great idea; the cat gets to have a safe home base and a comfortable life while also providing much-needed services such as rodent control.

            1. TootsNYC*

              though, interestingly, a nursing mother cat is the most effective mouser–by a large margin!

            2. Natalie*

              Yep, my local HS speuters and vets them before placing them as mousers. I believe the working cat program grew out of their feral TNR program.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                It’s a fantastic idea. I wonder if they do this in my area or would be open to it. There are a lot of places around here that would or could use it. There are even farm supply places in this city. And plenty of feral cats, if my neighborhood is any example. :P

              2. Renee*

                I lived in a very urban area in a big city and we had a feral cat program. If we trapped a feral cat, someone would come pick it up, fix it, and return it. The idea was that keeping the cats in their established territories kept new feral cats from moving in, and the established population would not reproduce. It’s kind of controversial, but I always felt it was practical. There will always be feral cats, so at least the population can be better controlled. The feral cat I put through the program actually ended up getting taken off the street by a neighbor. That defeats the purpose of the program a little bit, but he was a sweetheart (obviously abandoned and not born in the street), so if getting him fixed got him a home, I was OK with that.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          This is awesome…except for one thing: I hope they don’t put them in areas where people also put out rat poison, then the cats eat the rats and… :(

          1. Natalie*

            Well, in my state we have very few rats, so that’s not a common thing. But I would imagine that you agree not to put out poison if you accept the working cats.

    2. Natalie*

      If you had mice eating the feed, the rats might have been eating the mice. Or each other, eventually – rats are pretty opportunistic.

  18. Erin*

    #1 – Since this has been going on for at least eight years, this might be a classic case of your work norms getting skewed after being at one semi-dysfunctional place for so long. Although you haven’t indicated other dysfunctions, to be fair. But yeah, to be clear: This is not normal or okay. You may realize this, but I felt the need to point it out just in case. Please give yourself mental permission to push back on this. I hope you have good luck banding your coworkers together as a group.

    In a prior job of mine we were on a property with food wholesalers; we had a basement that had rotting vegetables and sewage in it, and the smell would curing certain times escalate into the office. People who did have to go down there when we had flooding and other issues ended up vomiting. I and my three coworkers had medical conditions that could be affected by something like this, but nobody ever did anything about it, I think because our work norms were so skewed by being in such a small, dysfunctional office for so long.

  19. EvanMax*

    #2 Reminds me of a situation that my wife went through recently. She started a job last summer with a supervisor who was a little bit unhinged (assuming that people having conversations without her MUST be talking about her, etc.), but she also seemed like a nice enough person. The supervisor kind of worked her way in to my wife’s friend group, dispite being a little older and at a slightly different stage of life (our friends are just starting to have kids, and the supervisor had a son in middle school), but none of that was too out there. Over time, though, it became clearer and clearer that the supervisor really wasn’t all there, between odd passive aggressive posts on social media, odd behaviors in the office, etc. Eventually there came a kind of “turn”, and for no particular reason this supervisor was out to get my wife. The supervisor would edit documents that my wife had worked on and then blame my wife for changes being made, or find a mistake that some one else had made and try to pin it on my wife, etc. I’m not pretending that my wife was an absolute model employee and just had some one out to get her here, but this odd behavior from her supervisor did end up contributing to my wife being let go.

    The moment that my wife was let go, we both blocked the supervisor on social media. To tell the truth, I had wanted to block her for months, but we hadnt because of a fear of reprisal at my wife’s work in reaction to it.

    I’m sure that OP #2 is nothing like my wife’s former supervisor, and has only the best intentions here, but it is also important to recognize how your friend is feeling right now. She may simply just not want anything to do with anyone from her former job, regardless of what she may think contributed to her firing. If your motivation for reaching out to her is that you don’t want to be blamed for her firing then STOP. Assuaging your conscience at her expense won’t do either of you any good.

    If your motivation becomes the fact that you enjoyed being friends with her and would like to be friends again, then THAT is the time to reach out, but also be ready to respect the fact that she may have different feelings.

    I will say that one point where I disagree with Former Retail Manager above is that I don’t think the length of time matters. Maybe that’s just because I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people, and routinely go a year or two without reaching out, but I would say it is better to wait as long as needed, and then reach out to your friend out of the blue out of genuine friendship, rather than rush a conversation where you clearly have an ulterior motive of seeking absolution.

  20. Kate M*

    #4 – You say “A one-page would make it difficult to put anything more than my address, phone number, work history and competencies.” I mean, what else exactly are you putting on your resume? That seems to me like everything that should be on there (assuming that work history includes bullet points of your accomplishments, etc). You don’t have to have a one page resume, but I’d definitely rethink consistently sending out a four page resume (unless you’re in a field like academia, in which case you’d probably use a CV anyway).

    1. ThatGirl*

      That’s kind of what I’m wondering — I have had three “real” jobs (and a brief stint at Starbucks) in my 13 years of work history, and while I could ramble on about the different departments I’ve been in at Current Job, I don’t think it would serve anything – I highlight what’s most important to the job I’m applying for. As a result, my resume is one page. I could see two if I’d bounced around more or had many major accomplishments to highlight, but … outside of academia, what would you possibly put on 4 pages?

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly. If you are in academia the thing can run 25 pages; whole different type of document. A short resume rather than a CV for an academic job would not cut it — you need that list of publications and major presentations and those alone will run for many pages. Otherwise, if you can’t do it in two pages, you can’t edit.

        1. Libervermis*

          And oh do I ever wish academia would do away with the CV – had to look over just a handful recently, and that took long enough. Should I care that you published a book review in 1996, especially since you’ve continued to publish? Or advised a student group in 2000, ditto? Focus on the big stuff! 1-2 page resume all the way.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        I suppose you could list every kind of shrimp fish that your restaurant could serve like in the movie Forrest Gump.

      3. Pointy Haired Boss*

        I think that with the rise of temp work, contract work, and treating employees as a “just in time” resource, the three-jobs-in-13-years thing is kinda going extinct.

      4. Specialk9*

        I was a contractor, so my relevant work experience at
        1 company involves, what 15-20 clients. And I did different things at each. I can roll it up, but it’s hard. And that’s only 1 enployer.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I am guessing the work history part doesn’t include the bullet points, though. For anyone with a sufficent time period of work history and no unusually long stays, 1-2 lines per company can use up a lot of space and convey very little info.

      1. Kate M*

        Maybe? But if you think about it, you can probably get at least 4-6 jobs per page. So at the most, even if OP had changed jobs every year for 12 years, that still shouldn’t be more than 2 pages. And if you had stayed at each job for an average of 2 years, that’s 24 years of work experience on 2 pages.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Oh agreed, you can get a lot on two pages; it’s the one-page thing the LW was strongly questioning, and that can make it hard – especially in fields where the skills or “competencies” section mentioned is expected and can take 5-10 lines (sometimes more, but I try not to go that route) on its own.

          Two pages is doable. One is not ideal, unless you have a relatively short history.

          1. OP4*

            These good comments are making me rethink my four-pager. (But my four-pager did net me this job and a couple of interviews.)

            I find for many admin jobs, the jobs descriptions often look for a wide variety of competencies and tasks. So, I had my job history in one section and my skills in another with another section listing my most interesting accomplishments.

            I was including recent training (first aid, Joint health and safety certification) and recent volunteer work. If I strip out the volunteering (unless it’s an asset to have ) and reduce the training to the bare minimum, there’s a lot of space that’s been liberated.

            My work history could be shortened – I did have a long running concern that for a job seeking five plus years of experience, if I start only with the jobs I had after I returned from eight years at home, my work history wont’ look long enough. But I’ve been back since 2009 so I should keep the full list for the master copy only and shorten it for the one that gets sent out.

            I had a career summary at the top that I am now thinking of reducing or removing all together and that would free up a lot more space.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Please don’t put your accomplishments in a separate section! They should go in your work history, under the job they belong to. Also, you really, really need to get it down to two pages. It may have gotten you interviews, but it will get you more if it’s stronger (and two pages will almost certainly improve it). Four pages says “I can’t edit” and you don’t want that.

              1. OP4*

                Okay…but forgive me for fumbling a bit here, where would my skills and competencies go? I’ve been working on it on my lunch break and I’ve been just brutal to it and it’s down to two pages. but still following my old order.

                1. Kate M*

                  What skills and competencies are you listing that aren’t conveyed in your job descriptions/accomplishments? I mean, I’m not going to penalize someone for adding a skills section, but I never really think it’s necessary, especially if it consists of “Microsoft Office, Internet research, social media”, etc. Unless there’s just no other way to get it across that you have those skills in your job history, I don’t even think these sections are needed (and definitely not two different sections for skills AND competencies, if that’s what you’re doing).

                2. TootsNYC*

                  When I look at a resume, i want to see everything that’s related to one job under that job. I don’t want to see skills in one place and job in another.

                  I’m smart enough to see that you streamlined the process in Job A -and- in Job B. That’s a very strong thing, actually.
                  And I can remember that you reduced the budget in Job A but did something different in Job B.

                  I don’t want to see a “Skills” section on the top. I can figure out what your skills are by looking at what you accomplished and even perhaps what some of your duties were (I know Alison don’t like resumes that list duties; she likes accomplishments; but I do like having some of the duties on there).

                3. Judy*

                  I would say for software development in particular, it’s probably best to put a skills or competencies section. Employers want to know which OSes, microprocessors, debug tools, test tools, configuration management systems, issue tracker systems, requirements management systems, etc you have used.

  21. Kyrielle*

    OP1 – please heed the advice above, and I hope it helps, but in the meanwhile you may want to be aware of something I learned about on an open thread sometime this year – aromatherapy inhalers.

    If scent overlay helps you deal with the ick, and only if it does, getting one of these and setting it up with a scent you like would be very helpful. You hold it near your nose and sniff – it’s not diffusing through the space. So it won’t impact others unless they’re right up in your personal space *and* you have the inhaler open right then.

    If scent overlays don’t help you deal at least a little, this won’t help. But if they do help, even a bit, it might give you something to help ease the pain while you’re pushing for a long-term (and more effective) solution.

  22. Anon for This*

    A variation of #3 happened to my last ex when we were still together. A female employee propositioned him. He wasn’t just her manager, he was the owner! He says he got her to stop by saying something like this: “I am actually in a relationship with someone…” (at this point she went: ooooh, I didn’t know) “… but even if I wasn’t, I would not date any of my employees because I think it is a terrible idea” and proceeded to explain to her why it is terrible. It worked for him and should work for OP3’s friend as well. The message he wants to get across is that this isn’t ever happening; not because of the girlfriend, because then she’ll just sit around and wait for them to break up – it’s never happening because he’s her manager and they work together, period, end of story.

    1. Kate M*

      Not trying to blame the owner at all for saying that, because I know how awkward and uncomfortable it is to turn someone down. But saying “I don’t date any of my employees” could also make the employee think, “well, then I’ll just quit, and we could be together!” Usually, people can take the hint and understand that the boss doesn’t want to date them, but some people (especially people who would be brazen enough to proposition their boss), look for any way they can twist the answer to seem like they have a chance. Sometimes, the only way to get rid of these people is to say “I’m not interested in you in any way, and nothing will change that.”

      1. Anon for This*

        Well, maybe if she quit, they could, now that he’s no longer dating me… who am I to tell :)

        1. Just Min*

          Honestly, shortly after he told her he wasn’t interested in her, she insisted it was because he was in a relationship and began making things awkward (shading upper management when they didn’t had her personal invitations to outings that were announced to the office as a whole as family days- which meant they’d bring their wives, kids and of course girlfriends), she asked to be transferred.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’m wondering what you mean by “shading upper management…” Specifically, what does she do or say?

            1. Just Min*

              I don’t know specifics on what she’s said, I don’t work in that office. She just began acting as if they were treating her different, when no one knew about the situation but him and apparently his girlfriend, oh and me. Maybe she didn’t know that? Idk. The couple times his girlfriend was around (for a family event, and another time after work) she’s made it obvious she was uncomfortable with the office’ familiarity with his girlfriend (which is nothing special or different than the familiar-ness with others’ wives, girl/boyfriends and children.

              Needless to say she lasted less than a month at this location– for now. Which makes me think she might have went there just to be near him, hoping he was available. Hopefully he’s taken my advice and gone to HR. I plan on sharing Alison’s response and some of your comments with him next time I’m at that office.

          2. Anon for This*

            This is extremely irrational behavior! And I don’t even know what “shading upper management” means exactly.

            Like seriously, step 1) he told her he wasn’t interested in her; step 2) she insisted it was because he was in a relationship… Step 3 is when people normally stop pursuing, since he’s not interested AND he’s in a relationship. Looks like she did the opposite. It doesn’t make any sense! nothing she is doing here is making any sense. At least she asked to be transferred, which was good… but now you say she’s back and so are the displays of affection?

            1. Just Min*

              Lol no, she work with him when she first started with the company, let’s say in April, she wrote him notes in that time. He moved stores in like June, as a promotion, she wrote him and gave him unsolicited gifts for his home. She finished training and got good enough sales to be placed at his new store in Jan/Feb, that’s when the notes and gifts resumed. Somewhere around that time I was filled in on what began in May, and asked how to get her to back off, and I wrote AAM. However, since, like within the last couple weeks, she’s transferred- her desk is empty and when I visit the store a few times a week she isn’t there, and some new staff were brought in. But she did begin texting him a few days ago, in which he has no plans on responding to her. I hope that clears up the time line.

              And as you said for step 3 that’s what normal people do, I’m starting to believe she’s not. Lol

            1. Artemesia*

              This. The rejection always has to include ‘I’m not interested in you.’ Any other excuse is just an opening for negotiation for people who think love relationships are negotiable.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Yeah, the minute she sent him a text, he should be off to HR if he hasn’t been already, and acting on their advice.
              Which would include the: “Do not text me, don’t bring me gifts, don’t write me notes. I am not interested in a personal relationship with you of any kind.”

              And then, having HR call her in and say, “You need to stop badgering this fellow employee.”

    2. Allison*

      “not because of the girlfriend, because then she’ll just sit around and wait for them to break up”

      Yup. I realized a couple years ago that “I have a boyfriend” is usually not effective in warding off unwanted attention. Either they brush it off with “well he’s not here” or “but I would treat you better” or they decide to be your best buddy, expecting to get with you the second the relationship ends, and then get upset when that doesn’t actually happen.

      I’d also worry about someone backing off when told it’s not gonna happen because we work together, but pounce the second it’s not true anymore. Like if she decided to quit and then said “I don’t work for you anymore, we can be together now!” But it’s tough to tell someone who works for you that you’re not attracted to them.

      1. Anon for This*

        Like if she decided to quit and then said “I don’t work for you anymore, we can be together now!”

        But then he’ll be in a position to tell it to her like it is, without being afraid of harrassment accusations like OP3’s friend is.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh yes. And even if you’re married, sometimes the other party just says to themselves “challenge accepted!”

        1. Anon for This*

          A lot of my platonic male friends came out of the woodwork after my divorce, wanting to date, and I even got serious with one for a few months. A few came out after my first serious breakup three years ago. What they did was offer support, advice, a shoulder to cry on… then I met this last guy and got together with him, instead of with any one of my guy friends. After he and I broke up recently? *crickets* all of my platonic male friends are gone. No support, no advice, nothing. And I had naively thought that their support/advice was being freely given, no strings attached. Silly me.

          1. Allison*

            This is why I’m often very secretive with my breakups, and any time a guy friend asks me if I wanna “hang out” or “grab drinks sometime” right after a breakup (or after I’ve been rejected by someone else), I’m very hesitant to spend time with that guy. Then again, I’m cautious with most guy friends, I’ve been in enough awkward situations already.

      3. JoJo*

        That sounds like the typical Nice Guy behavior. Hang around for months and years waiting for the relationship to end, then whine about how he’s being used.

    3. boop boop*

      When I expressed interest in one of my coworkers once (like 10 years ago, when we were both very young and not all that professional!), he very memorably said “I’m really flattered, but I have a strict policy not to sh*t where I eat.” This language is not appropriate for most jobs, and definitely not appropriate for a boss to an employee, but saying something like that outright really gets the point across effectively!

      1. Artemesia*

        Another version is ‘I don’t get my meat where I get my bread’ but it still implies that if only they didn’t work together he’s be all for it. ‘I am not interested in you in that way’ is the only way to possibly turn it off.

  23. Cat Lady without a Cat :(*

    It might depend on how much breadth your jobs have. I’d also have a seriously hard time filling 4 pages, but after only 8 years of professional work, I don’t think I can reduce it down to less than a page and a half.

    Caveat: “breadth”here is just a nice way of describing the typical small-business, start-up situation of wearing many, only loosely related, hats. Some of the hats I’ve worn won’t be relevant to some jobs I might apply for, and in those cases they may be stored in the dark, private corner of the closet, so to speak, but when one of your strengths is the ability to wear many hats tolerably, if not expertly, well, I can see the resume taking up a bit more space than a resume for someone whose jobs have been more clearly and narrowly defined.

    1. Kate M*

      I definitely think you can have sort of a “Master Resume” that you keep for yourself, with every single responsibility/accomplishment you’ve ever had listed on it. That could easily take up more than 2 pages. But I think with applying to most jobs, you pull from that what is relevant, and get it under 2 pages. Of course there will always be exceptions, but the thing is, everyone thinks they are the exception.

      1. Cat Lady without a Cat :(*

        Yeah, that’s what I do, too (the “master resume” thing). Being a hiring manager a couple of times and skimming through dozens? hundreds? of resumes definitely helped me realize that not everything I do is important to future hiring managers. I might have done A, B, C and D, but if they are looking for someone with experience in C and D only, they’ll skip right past A and B, if they ever get past A and B to the parts of my resume that do talk about C and D!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I do the same thing. Then I adapt it to different job postings. It helps to keep all the contact information as well, and don’t worry about going too far back. When I applied for an internship at the police department while in school, they wanted everything going back for the previous fifteen or twenty years! I had to dig through a mountain of papers for old employer addresses, not to mention every address where I lived (yes, they wanted that too). Now I keep all that in the same digital place so I never have to do it again.

          In fact, I need to update my master document because my job duties are changing. I like to keep it fresh because you never know.

  24. Mehkitty84*

    Another question on Resumes… I was recently promoted at my job after about 8 months from hire. How do I reflect that on a resume without it looking like I have only been working at the company for a shorter time. I plan on staying at the company for long term. I have it listed as two different jobs with two different dates and of course the same company name. I wanted to show that the promotion also include more responsibilities….

    Thanks all!

  25. Sparkly Librarian*

    The story of #1 and the associated comments reminded me of someone I know who worked in a warehouse and had a rodent die in his desk. The stench was awful for a couple of days until he located the source, disposed of it, and reported it to his boss. The boss was relieved, because apparently another worker had noticed the smell and had asked the boss to talk about it with my friend… the dreaded body odor conversation. My friend was SO OFFENDED that someone could smell the (reportedly) unholy smell of rotting rodent and think that it came FROM HIM.

    1. MashaKasha*

      “Listen Bob, you smell like a dead rat. I hear Axe helps.”

      Good god! That’s quite an assumption! I’d be offended too!

  26. TootsNYC*

    We were discussing resumes today during a meeting, and someone mentioned that the current trend is now a one-page resume.

    Actually, the OLD trend is a one-page resumé. I’ve been in the work world since 1982, and it is only recently that I’ve heard anyone say, “2 pages is OK.” Even for people with years of experience!

    I remember really sweating to cut my resumé down to 1 page; I’ve had a lot of jobs (I work in an industry w/ lots of layoffs and folding of companies).
    One good thing about that is that I had to cut out “duties and responsibilities” and listed only accomplishments. Everybody knows what the basic responsibilities of people who do my job are, so I focused on things like “cut budget” and “implemented transition to a computer system.” I asked myself, “What is the thing I did here that they won’t know just from looking at my title?”
    And so, long before AskAManager, I had a very accomplishment-focused resumé!

    And it was 1 page.

    Then the next time, to keep it to 2 page, I ended up grouping a lot of the early experience, on the theory that it was 25 years ago, and they don’t really care; I have enough experience in the last 12 years to more than qualify for the job.

    It’s only recently that I’ve felt it was OK to do a 2-pager. And I’m still sort of nervous about it.

  27. louise*

    Re #4: 1 page may not be the new trend, but the SIXTEEN page resume I got yesterday for a general laborer certainly isn’t, either. SIXTEEN, y’all. And it was a solid wall of text, no bullet points. It took me longer than my usual 30 second scan because I wasted time being shocked, and then emailing it to some co-workers.

    1. Noah*

      Wow, the longest one I’ve seen (outside of a CV for physicians or academics) is an 8 pager. He was former military and listed every bit of training he attended and every award given. He actually did get the job and still works here. Once we got to know each other better I did tell him to cut it down to just a few pages.

  28. Artemesia*

    In my first glance at the headlines for this section it came out as ‘my office smells like a corpse and my co-worker blames me’

    1. Ultraviolet*

      Yes! I read the URL and thought, “This will be the best letter ever and I can’t wait for the movie version.”

  29. Tallyme Banana*

    #1: Find out who manages or owns your building and reach out to them directly. If they want to retain your company as a tenant they’ll find a solution.

  30. Sharkey*

    #2 – All I can surmise is that you want to reach out because you want to make amends so you can prevent this person from talking badly about you and making you out as someone who stabbed her in the back and got her fired. Let me save you the time and suffering: you aren’t going to accomplish that and it won’t end the way you want it to. You are giving her way too much power in thinking that her words will carry such weight that others will judge you, particularly when they know they’re hearing a one-sided version in which the person has a vested interest to protect their own reputation. Even if she gets a sympathetic ear with someone, your career won’t be derailed by one dissatisfied co-worker. If she goes around blaming and trash talking you, have faith that many others will be able to see that behavior for what it is and that it’s likely to not reflect well upon her.

    Cut your losses, move on, let your former friend and colleague cope however she wants to cope. It’s not your job to impart some life lesson or to make her see the error of her ways. It’s not your business how she thinks of you. Focus on your own life and your own career. Your reputation will ultimately speak for itself. You’ll also be glad you didn’t spend time and energy on someone you don’t think very highly of.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree that if what you want to do is manage your reputation, this is not the tactic to take.

      The tactic to take is to always speak so sympathetically to any mutual friends. Never, ever, ever be the one to bring it up with them. But if it comes up, you say, “Yes, I felt bad for her. Such a scary thing, I hope she’s doing well. Hopefully the next job will be a much better fit for her, somewhere that she can stay for a long time.”

      Most people will not actually give her much credence; they all know that it’s pretty difficult for one person to actually get another colleague fired. And especially if she blames you to anyone in the professional sphere, they’re REALLY going to give her the side-eye.
      And, the negativity that has made you distance yourself is surely evident to other people. That will cut down her credibility.

      So the more sane and reasonable and charitable you sound, the better you look. Just never, ever talk about her work performance. Focus only on the social aspects, just as if you had never worked with her: “Stinks for her, such sympathy for the emotional upheaval. I wish good things for her.”

  31. Poohbear McGriddles*

    #4 makes me think of the new GE commercial I saw last night. These two singing elves show up to the software developer’s office to present resumes (via song) of interested candidates.
    It left me wondering, is this what GE wants applicants to do? Probably not, but in my office the elves would have been escorted out by security before the second verse.

  32. Steve*

    When you say “tech” resumes can be longer than 2 pages, surely you don’t mean software type jobs? Anything older than 10 years is obsolete, and can probably be tossed or very briefly summarized. Right?

  33. Goofy*

    My (non-performing, non-arts) college has been accepting video resumes for several months and says it’s very successful. I keep thinking what a waste of time.

  34. Megan*

    “the law protects you when you push back as a group” – I’m curious, how does the law determine a group, versus two or three people that are not necessarily a significant representation of the whole? How big does a group have to be to get protection?

    1. Natalie*

      Any two or more employees, provided they’re covered by the NLRA. The key is that “protected” doesn’t mean the boss has to listen to a group’s demands – it just means they can’t fire, demote, or punish a group of employees for discussing or raising a workplace issue.

      1. Megan*

        Thanks for the response. I wonder that this isn’t abused by people who gossip or complain about their work and framing it as discussing a workplace issue.

    2. Observer*

      The group does not have to be representative. They just need to be a group. Period. What’s more, the OP can’t be punished for trying to arrange a group.

  35. Kelly F*

    I taught in a severely underfunded school in the deep south and there were a LOT of issues that were not normal, including issues with the building and one included birds trying to build a nest in the ceiling of my classroom which was built as a temporary trailer thing, but then they build a new wing around it in the 1980s. So lots of critters. Once, when the birds died, it was so foul that there was no way to keep control of a classroom. But because it was a dysfunctional district, nothing was gonna get fixed. So my kids and I just camped out in the hallway until the bird mummified. At the end of the year, we submitted our work orders for the summer, and I drew a diagram of the classroom with a dead bird marking the spot. My principal, who is the closet thing to the heroic educator from a corny teacher movie, and is usually kinda scary and serious was looking over my checking out paperwork, and started tripping out. He was laughing so hard he couldn’t talk and all the other people hanging out in his office wanted to know what it was.

    But OP, dead animals are not normal. My school was not normal. Like, during instructional time a cart selling pickles would bust in and all the kiddies would buy and then consume their pickles in a pouch in the room. At least vinegar doesn’t smell bad.

    1. Specialk9*

      “My school was not normal. Like, during instructional time a cart selling pickles would bust in and all the kiddies would buy and then consume their pickles in a pouch in the room.”

      Haha um what?

  36. DuckDuckMøøse*

    #5 is really timely. I messed something up today, and my JerkBrain is being really mean to me right now. :( Thanks for the link to Captain Awkward, Alison!

  37. Jetsam*

    Walking into work to the smell of death is the worst. Then a few weeks later the flies come. (Apparently other people have had the Old House issue!)

Comments are closed.