I got in trouble for a Facebook spat outside of work, boss complained he was “the last to know” I’m pregnant, and more

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

1. My boss complained that he was “the last to know” I’m pregnant

I’m five months pregnant with my third, and now that I’m starting show I finally told my boss that I’m pregnant and will need maternity leave soon. Instead of a congratulations, he acted quite petty and put out, saying he knew I was pregnant because he could hear me and my coworkers discussing it, and he was hurt that he was the “last to know.” He said he doesn’t want me to think of him as a boss, but a friend, and I should’ve told him sooner. The thing is I don’t consider him anything close to a friend; he is a boss to me and nothing more. I told my coworkers earlier because we actually are close friends, and the reason I didn’t tell my boss sooner is because he tends to view pregnancy as a hardship on our business, and launches right into his “we only technically have to give you eight weeks.” speech. I just wasn’t in the mood for it yet.

I think his response was immature, and it’s my body and I could’ve waited as long as I felt comfortable with before telling him (obviously with enough time to prepare maternity leave coverage.) What do you think?

His response is the response of an ass. He doesn’t want you to think of him as your boss? Cool, so does that mean he’s not going to evaluate your performance, delegate work to you, or issue obnoxious reminders of the bare minimum amount of leave he’ll give you? (He’s also wrong about that amount if you’re in the U.S. and work somewhere with 50 or more employees; FMLA gives you 12 weeks.)

Of course he is your boss and not your friend. You had no obligation to tell him you were pregnant earlier, and he has no ground to stand on in claiming he shouldn’t have been the last to know. That’s ground that your mom has, not your out-of-touch boss.

2. I got in trouble for a Facebook spat outside of work

I had an online spat with someone on Facebook in my free time. They wrote an anonymous note to the company I work for saying that I called them names (I called them “whiny”) and that I set a bad example for the company, etc. My boss asked for screen shots but got no reply. Then she friended me on Facebook to find out if I had done this and gave me a verbal warning at work. Should she have done this? I feel my freedom of speech was violated.

Your boss was out of line, but your freedom of speech wasn’t violated, not in the legal sense. Your constitutional right to free speech protects speech from being censored by the government; it doesn’t regulate what private entities can do. In other words, your employer can indeed impose consequences for what you say, even outside work, and even if they’re being unreasonable in doing so. (There are a few state laws with exceptions to this; California probably has the broadest.)

That said, I can’t see how this was any of your employer’s business. Assuming that the person you were arguing with isn’t a coworker and that the subject of the conversation wasn’t related to your employer, this was a huge overreach by your manager. Personally, I’d go back to her and ask why you’re being warned for private, non-work conversations that you’re having outside of work with non-employees … but whether or not that would be smart to do depends on your dynamic with her, how unreasonable she is, and how much risk you’re willing to take.

3. We can’t get a word in during conference calls

My company recently merged with another company in another state. Some departments, including mine, ended up split between the two locations. Most of the upper-level management—my bosses— are in City B. There is a concerted effort to use tech to keep everyone on the same page, with lots of scheduled conference calls, with or without web-sharing, and someone from City B visits our offices in-person every 6 – 8 weeks or so.

The problem: conference calls can be awkward, with all the normal problems of meetings minus the ability to read facial expressions and body language. The folks in City B often start late. And more than a few of them really, REALLY like to hear themselves talk. It’s not uncommon for them to go off on tangents and then run out of time to cover everything or hear from everyone (why they so often run late, I suspect!). Sometimes when a City B person is opining at length and one of us in City A wants to add a comment/question/correction, we open our mouth and take a breath, ready to jump in at the next opening, only to be left gaping like a fish over the conference phone as the speaker plows right through any millisecond of dead air. When this happens repeatedly in the same meeting, we’re left feeling shut down/shut out, sharing frustrated looks with each other as the person on the other end blathers on.

With web meetings, we have the ability to “raise our hands” but since we’re usually not sharing documents it’s less common for us to do that vs. a conference call. Likewise, there is sometimes an agenda, stated at the beginning of the call or emailed beforehand, but not always.

We don’t want to be rude and raise our voices or interrupt someone, but it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise sometimes. Any tips on how to make sure we can contribute in a timely way and be heard in conference calls with our colleagues? (“Please try to be less of a windbag” or “Seriously, do you have gills? How can you talk so long without breathing?” might not go over so well.)

Whoever is running these calls is failing at facilitating them. That person should be cutting people off if they’re going on and on, and should be specifically asking if anyone on your end of call has anything to say.

So say something that person ahead of the next one. You should be able to be pretty direct and say something like, “On our end of the calls, we’re finding it really hard to get time to speak — people tend not to leave any room for us to jump in. Is there a way to specifically carve out time for us to talk — like checking in to see if anyone here has anything to contribute before the call moves on to the next topic?”

4. I tried to tell someone about a job lead over Skype and they removed me from their contacts

A couple of years ago, I left a job to pursue an opportunity at a growing company. At my former job, I oversaw the work (in a dotted lined capacity) of an associate with whom I thought I had a great working relationship. In the 5+ months we worked together, we had a great dynamic and got along well. This person was sharp and I always encouraged this person’s professional growth. I helped by offering access to resources and even bought this person some books on areas of our profession that interested this person as a gift before I departed.

This person has remained in the same position and could really do more now that they have a few years’ experience under their belt. I have the opportunity to expand my department and a job that might be a good next step for this person, so I recently messaged them on Skype regarding the potential position and to gauge interest. Instead of responding, I was removed from this person’s contacts.

I don’t want to read too much into it, but this move has me stunned. We left on good terms. Did I misread our dynamic? Did I breech some kind of etiquette here? Was this person concerned that my message would be seen by higher ups? Was Skype the wrong channel to reach out (even though we’d communicated previously via this method)? It seems like such an extreme response. If I made a misstep, I’d like to know to avoid things in the future.

I don’t think there’s any way to know for sure unless you ask her. I think Skype was an odd method to choose (versus phone or email) but not something outrageous that would warrant blocking you. It’s possible that it was a mistake (she clicked something without realizing it), or a moment of panic if it showed up on her work screen when her boss was walking by, or who knows what. Or, sure, it’s possible that you misread the relationship, but that sounds less likely than the other possibilities.

Do you have her personal (not work) email address? If so, I’d send her an email there and say you tried to relay this over Skype, aren’t sure the message went through, and won’t keep following up with her but just wanted to make sure the info about the job didn’t fall through the cracks. And then from there, leave it in her court.

5. I withdrew from a hiring process and they’ve contacted me again

Three weeks ago, I scheduled an interview with a company that I am a great fit for and where I have all the experience they’re looking for. Because of the distance, I decided to cancel the interview. Surprisingly, three weeks later they called me back to see if I was still interested and wanted to schedule another interview. At this point, I haven’t had luck in obtaining interviews, so I said okay to give it a shot. Is this a good sign that maybe they ran out of candidates and want to see if I would be a good fit?

It’s a sign that they think you might be a strong candidate, and probably that they’re not fully satisfied with the other candidates in their pool right now. I wouldn’t assume that it means you’re a shoo-in or anything like that, but reaching back out to you after you’d already withdrawn is definitely a good sign of interest.

That said, don’t give short shrift to your earlier concerns about the distance. Go to the interview and get more information, but three weeks of not getting interviews isn’t a long time and shouldn’t totally override your concerns about a long commute.

{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. Purple Dragon*

    OP #2 – our company brought out some seriously draconian social media rules that everyone is supposed to follow. The way I got around it was to remove my company from all social media except Linked In. Maybe you can do that going forward then nothing you write could “reflect” on your company.

    1. Mike C.*

      I hate this “reflects on the company” thing. It’s abused by the kind of abusive jerks who move on to more serious doxxing and swatting to shut down otherwise perfectly normal speech.

      Unless you’re actively involving the company, it’s none of their business and the boss in this situation is falling for a petty trap.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. But the best way to keep the abuse down is to decouple your social media from your employer COMPLETELY.

        1. Artemesia*

          Because someone you are fussing at on facebook contacts your employer doesn’t mean you have ‘coupled social media’ with your employer. I make no mention of my employer (before retiring) on social media but it would be possible for an acquaintance to know where I worked and call my boss. The boss is a jerk for giving this any play at all.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, I agree that the boss is out of line here. And, it’s true that not mentioning your employer is not foll proof. But, it does help.

          2. nofelix*

            Also your employer may well turn up for anyone who searches for your full name on Google. Safer to use a pseudonym for facebook etc., if the service will let you.

        2. Daisy*

          I assumed this person was a real-life acquaintance of the OP, though I realise we don’t know either way. But anyway there’s no real grounds for assuming the OP’s Facebook was ‘coupled’ to the employer somehow.

        3. Becky with the anonymous hair*

          If googling your real name leads to your company or LinkedIn, you would need to use a different name on fb to be truly ‘decoupled’. Which is agains the terms and conditions, but I’m sure a lot of people do it.

          1. Katniss*

            I use a fake name on Facebook. I have no interest in any employer finding me easily on social media!

          2. Liane*

            Depends on what name you are using. A totally fake one or your pet’s name, sure you aren’t supposed to.
            But I am Lia Hisname on Facebook, a diminutive of my first name plus the second half of my legal surname (Single-Hisname).
            Just using a nickname for Liane that I have never gone by is enough to keep people (and employers!) from finding me easily.

            1. Mike C.*

              This is because no one has cared enough to actually try. Doxxing isn’t very difficult and it’s amazing what you can find from a few crumbs and a bit of social engineering.

              1. MashaKasha*

                Ugh, you’re right. I’ve never listed my place of work on FB and thought I was safe because of that, but just realized that all someone needs to do is put my name into a LinkedIn search and bam! They can now email my employer over anything I’ve written on FB. Thankfully, no one has tried yet. But it’s definitely a warning to be careful out there.

              2. Bowserkitty*

                This kind of used to be my job, but with teenagers using social media. You’d be surprised how many of them brazenly post their full names and addresses on Twitter especially.

              3. Beezus*

                What Mike said. I once found the name and photo of an online friend based on very small details he gave me in conversations weeks apart – the fact that he was a middle aged male, the fact that he was in northern Cali, his industry, and the fact that he was the highest ranking person at his worksite. I figured out the company from the industry/location, and cross-referenced info from the company directory and Linkedin to confirm it was him. (And I’m totally benign, just easily entertained by researching things.)

          3. Mike C.*

            This isn’t a trivial exercise. People are inadvertently becoming more and more connected in this way and we need to find solutions other than, “well, just opt out!”.

            1. Observer*

              That’s true.

              I’m not pointing fingers here. I’m just making the point that as long as we don’t have decent solutions, it’s a good idea to either separate your social media from your work as much as you can, or just assume that someone is going to be stupid about this, and act accordingly.

              Neither is going to work 100% – does anyone remember the letter from the woman who got fired for a text she sent, while on her own time and not in any identifiable uniform?

            2. LabTech*

              I agree with this completely. There is no “just” to it, and opting out will seriously stunt your social and even professional life.

              Even if you decide to go through with it, disabling your account is difficult – I deleted my Facebook and LinkedIn over 5 years ago, yet still receive emails from them. I don’t know how to check if my account got spontaneously reactivated (which does happen) without accidentally reactivating it in the process.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                There is no “just” to it, and opting out will seriously stunt your social and even professional life.

                Not really. I have no social media accounts to speak of, not even LinkedIn, and my career is just fine. I’ve been with my current company 2 1/2 years and have been promoted twice. And everyone I know and has my phone number so they can reach me that way.

                1. Mike C.*

                  That’s great for you, but is completely unreasonable for the vast majority of people out there. No one should have to forgo the tools of a modern society simply because their managers are clueless and have unreasonable boundaries.

                2. Christopher Tracy*

                  @MikeC And where did I make the argument that they should? I simply stated that the premise given (lack of social media would stunt you personally and professionally) was not necessarily correct. I have stated on this very thread that OP’s boss was out of bounds. Read further down before putting words in people’s mouths.

                3. LabTech*

                  Not able to connect with former co-workers (especially those in more senior roles for references) has been one of the major drawbacks for me. I’m still relatively early in my career, and have two solid references, but I’m always grasping at straws for that third reference virtually every application requires. Social media would make it easier to reconnect with a relevant-sounding reference, if privacy and stalking concerns on LinkedIn/Facebook/etc. weren’t such an issue.

                4. Audiophile*

                  I think this is also industry related. If you’re in PR/social media/ marketing or similar field you can’t really opt out. Potential employers want to see that you have a social footprint, if you have a large Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram following, etc.

                  I have a rule of not applying to jobs that ask me to submit my social media profiles as part of the application process. However, this is becoming more and more the norm in these fields.

                  Since I don’t apply to these jobs, I’m sure it has had an impact on my career.

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  I would love to chuck Facebook (though not Twitter because I need it for writerly stuff), but I have too many friends and family members who are too far away. I may get rid of LinkedIn. I don’t use it, it sucks, and screw it.

                6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Christopher Tracey, I think Mike’s point is that while opting out of social media may have worked well for you, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good option for many people. Your anecdotal story about being unharmed by it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an integral part of (many people’s) social and professional lives.

                  To offer an anecdote on the other side, I can’t imagine not using social media — both personally and professionally.

                  I first started using Facebook when I ran a youth program, because that was the best way to get in touch with my participants (lol – that’s obviously dated me now!). I now manage the Facebook presence for a different program. I use Facebook to crowdsource ideas for event locations, speakers, topics, and so on. I use it to stay on top of what’s going on in my field, and my town. (I live in the Twin Cities, and my work is in developing and supporting community leaders, so right now the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests are a big part of both my personal and professional lives).

                7. Christopher Tracy*

                  Your anecdotal story about being unharmed by it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an integral part of (many people’s) social and professional lives.

                  @Victoria And I wasn’t saying it isn’t – that was my point to Mike. My thing was, don’t make generalizations that say not having these things will stunt you personally and professionally because that’s not true for a lot of people.

                8. Christopher Tracy*

                  @Elizabeth, I feel you on LinkedIn. I had it once upon a time and had a ton of connections, but couldn’t use any of these contacts to aide in my job search, so I got rid of it. Then people kept swearing up and down I needed it last year when I was job searching again, so stupidly, I set one up – and quickly got spammed by companies I had no desire to work for. I ended up getting two job offers, one from my current company in another division and one from a large nationwide bank in their risk management division, and neither job was secured using LinkedIn. Thus, I ended up deleting it again because I saw no value in it. Other people’s mileages vary of course.

              2. Collarbone High*

                Also, Facebook requires you to have a personal account in order to be a page admin, so if your job involves any amount of posting on your employer’s page, you have no choice.

                1. Audiophile*

                  And LinkedIn requires the same. You need a personal account and you need to be connected to another admin of that page.

        4. rhonda*

          I thought I was “decoupled from my employer- I only mention them on LinkedIn. I was a little curious as to why my boss friended me on Facebook, and a little intimidated. The company has no social media rules in place and doesn’t have an online reputation so it was a power play by my boss. She didn’t know how to research the situation without involving looking on my account. Yes, the worse thing I said was the person was being whiny.. and I was following Facebook policy.. it wasn’t a coworker or anyone from the company I work- random stranger who didn’t give their name to my boss.

          1. Karo*

            That’s one of the craziest parts to me. We’ve had people reach out to say that so-and-so is publicizing that they’re an employee of the company and going into racist rants, but we’ve never had someone reach out over something so minor.

            1. rhonda*

              I think the fact that someone actually involved the company in the complaint scared them, I have worked for Fortune 50 companies who would ignore such a complaint, especially if it were anonymous.

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              The anonymity of the Internet has allowed people to become hyper-reactive.

          2. Observer*

            Oh boy. Your boss sounds like a piece of work.

            The good news is that if you change your settings, he doesn’t seem to know enough to realize what you have done. But, you now know that your boss is the kind of person that thinks he has a right to mix into your personal life. He’s *legally* correct. But, not a good way to keep your best staff.

          3. animaniactoo*

            fwiw, this exactly is why I will not be FB friends with anyone I work with. After one of us has moved on, fine. Not before. People in my company have been burned before by those unwilling to stand up to unreasonable demands by their bosses.

            Can you try saying something back to your boss along the lines of “Nothing I wrote violated FB policy and I do not advertise that I am an employee of this company on FB. I think it’s a stretch to say that I represent the company or that how I have acted in my personal life is an egregious act that warrants concern. I understand that you got a complaint – but I would like to know if you think it’s reasonable on their part that somebody that I had a personal argument with took the trouble to find me and report me for this?”

            1. rhonda*

              My boss is a VP of the very small company. She got the HR/person on board with her decision. There are no rules in place here, not even a handbook. No one here is very social media savvy. She would stand behind it reflecting on the company and affecting their online reputation – even though it doesn’t in any way. She sees herself as social media savvy enough. She isn’t the type to see other people’s point of views once she does something.
              I am looking for another job.

              1. the gold digger*

                Social media savvy? Like my former boss, who, after hearing our detailed communications strategy including what we would do on facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, and the website, asked, “But what about that social media? Should we use social media?”

                The communications guy and I could not make eye contact with each other. It was too dangerous.

          4. bearing*

            Wait a minute, you can’t be unilaterally “friended” by someone. If you’re friends with your boss now, you must have accepted the friend request. Maybe it’s not a good idea to do that?

            1. Kelly L.*

              There are two things that could have happened here.

              –If the post where the debate happened was actually public, but the boss wasn’t FB savvy, and thought she had to friend OP to see it. Adding OP, even if OP didn’t add her back, could have made the post easier to find. That’s if it was public.

              –If it was a friends only post, OP would have had to friend the boss back–but what are the consequences of not friending your boss when asked? (We’ve seen some doozies on here.) OP didn’t think she had anything to hide from boss, because OP didn’t actually do anything wrong, so she would presumably have thought it was safe.

              (This is why I have a lot of requests that sit in Plausible Deniability Friend Purgatory.)

          5. AnonEMoose*

            Well, in fairness, you were clearly correct about this person being whiny. (I know, that doesn’t help, but I hope you get a giggle out of it, anyway).

            If it were me, I would suggest unfriending and blocking the boss, and definitely blocking the complainer. They don’t like what you post? They don’t need to see it.

        5. Macedon*

          You can’t really decouple. You’re pretty much out of luck unless you:
          1. have an exceedingly common name shared with people in your geographical area
          + 2. don’t utilise the same e-mail for multiple social media accounts ( FB / Twitter / private social media and the “official” Linkedin )
          + 3. use anon handles everywhere

          #2 is actually the worst offender.

        6. JustAnotherHRPro*

          I agree completely! I feel like I get the stink eye when I tell my friends I actively block people at work from all social media sans linkedin. My “where I work” line is always someplace funny, like Central Perk or the Peach Pit (I already have something lined up for my new job….) and I don’t talk about work on facebook. My facebook is pretty boring anyway, but I don’t relate to wanting to be friends in any sort of fashion with people I work with either in real life or online. But, working in HR for 15 years has done that to me…

          I guess I would ask why the OP friended her boss to begin with, but thats just me.

          1. rhonda*

            I friended my boss because she requested it- I was taken aback because I didn’t consider us friends, I didn’t feel anything on my page was offensive/of interest to her. (I use it mainly for family pics, and I don’t usually say anything.. the event where I called someone “whiny didn’t come to mind. I was a little intimidated by her but thought maybe this was her way of relating to me. I was “verbally warned the day she did this.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        Although I think it’s different when people are taking part in hate speech in a public forum and their employer is visible when you click on their page, which is the main target that I’ve seen of this kind of thing.

        1. MJH*

          Yep, this is what I imagine has happened. I’ve seen people make racist comments on our local newspaper site (it uses FB commenting) and their workplace is listed right next to the comment. Do you think I’m going to patronize a business that employs someone who is so out and proud about being racist? I’ve thought about screen-shotting and sending it to the company, but I never have, since I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. But I’m not going to go to the business.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Right?! I listed a few examples below, and these were those in the medical professional or firefighter–they’re expected to protect and serve the public. It’s not as easy to escape them…..it’s scary but I have no idea what to do about it.

      3. Purple Dragon*

        I think ours is a knee-jerk reaction (which my company is famous for) after someone complained about one of our biggest customers in their capacity of a customer. Australia has 2 big supermarkets and someone said “Just went to xx and it was really bad” type of thing – because xx monitors when people mention them they saw that the person works for our company and said to our management “your staff are bad-mouthing us publicly”.
        Personally I would have told them to grow up – but these two are notorious for having tantrums and using their size to brow-beat other companies.

      4. MK*

        Unfortunately, “involving” the company is something that is sometimes done for you. For example, when someone is involved in something that gets media attention, in whatever capacity, their job is often mentioned for no apparent reason. Why on earth do reporters mention that the random passerby who witnessed a car crash works for company X? Yet they do.

        1. doreen*

          Do they really identify random passersby by where they work and the company name in your area? That’s odd. Usually I see something like “Fergus, who works at the car wash across the street from where the meteor crashed” in exactly the same way they use “Priscilla , who was waiting for the bus across the street from where the meteor crashed”.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Not sure where you’re at, but I’ve lived a few places in the States and I know I’ve seen that. If it’s a woman with children she might just be labeled “mother” below her name, but people are often identified by their occupation or place of work. I think that’s just a weird thing news crews do so they have something to put there besides “man”, “woman”, or “concerned citizen”–hell, I swear I’ve seen a local news station just stick someone’s age down there as a label. Instead of something like “Robert, local electrician” it will say “Robert, 53”. It is never relevant.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              It’s a cultural thing in many ways — less common now, but for a good long while there was a sense that your job is a part of your identity. If I mention a friend to one of my older relatives, one of the first questions they’ll ask is “Oh, so what does she do [for a living]?” So it’s much larger than just news.

          2. MK*

            It gets mentioned in passing, so to speak. “Mr.X, on his way to work at company Y, saw a horrific sight…”.

          3. fposte*

            It does here if you’re with one of the big employers in town. I suspect that’s not uncommon in company/university towns.

          4. Bob*

            Casually mentioning the person’t workplace in news stories is very common in the various places I have lived. It is like how they always mention the persons age when the story has nothing to do with it.

      5. Temperance*

        Eh, yes and no. On Sunday, I saw a crew of painters working out of a truck with a giant pro-Trump banner on the back. That absolutely reflects on their company; as a woman, I’m going to assume that they have the same attitudes about me that their idol, Mr. Trump, does, so when I need to use a painter in the future, I’ll be sure *not* to use that company.

        1. MarinaZ*

          Seriously? If you think every waiter at a fund-raising dinner believes in the candidate’s platform, you might be stunned to learn the truth.

          1. Kelly L.*

            It’s not the politics of the rank-and-file workers, it’s the politics of the owners. I’ve definitely stopped patronizing businesses because I didn’t like what the owner was going to do with her profits (like donating to a candidate or charity I strongly disagree with).

            1. Jadelyn*

              Exactly – I’ve got nothing against the employees, and I’d never dream of being rude to them or anything, but I do in fact care what my money supports, so I’m not going to give it to someone who will use it to support someone whose campaign is actively harmful to me and mine.

          2. MK*

            The waiter is getting paid to work the event; the company put this banner on their truck presumably because they support Trump.

            1. Megs*

              Are you sure they weren’t a Trump Industries painting subsidiary? ;)

              And I totally agree, by the way – I’ve stopped patronizing small businesses because the owners were straight out racists. I don’t need to hear your “Obummer” rant every time I’m going to buy a used book, dude.

        2. Ralph S. Mouse*

          People love to complain about bumper stickers, banners, confederate flag novelty plates, etc. “Why is that a thing?” I’m glad it’s a thing. I know who to avoid. If I lived somewhere where that wasn’t allowed, I’d be flying blind in a storm.

      6. Nervous Accountant*

        I don’t know. I find #2 interesting. On one hand, I agree, too much overreach isn’t good, like in this example but sometimes, you see such hateful speech that it’s just like…WHAT?

        “Whiny” could be a little word, but maybe there was a lot more context to it. I recently saw a post from someone who said antidepressants are for for whiny/weak people, and that person was a nurse! (not that I’m saying OP is this type of person, but just explaining why a not so harmful word could be harmful in that context).

        Ex/ I saw a video of a (physically) healthy 30ish man, punching an elderly woman because she got too close to him. I recall one comment from a geriatric nurse saying she’d have done the same….Or an ER nurse saying “Kill all Muslims” or a firefighter saying he’d let a mosque burn down (all very real examples I’ve seen on FB). In these cases, I don’t know, there should be consequences ya know?

        If I were to go on a FB post and talk about, like, difficult clients who belong to a certain racial or economic class (NOT that I do that!!!!), all the while posting about my job, yes I’d fully expect consequences to it.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’ve thought about this as well, because it shouldn’t matter if someone advocates for a minority political position but hate speech is a different kettle of fish. The only thing I could think of is to draw the line at the sort of thing the SPLC would be concerned with.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Yeah, now that I’ve read more posts, esp from OP, I think the boss and HR were 100% in the wrong here. I’m all for privacy, I’m all for free speech. Firing a man for a joke he’s making with his coworkers? I think that was way too extreme and shouldn’t have happened.

            But generally, I think I want to come down on the other side of this. As mentioned downthread, threats of rape, violence, etc >>>> these people deserve whatever consequences they get. Just going back to my example above, if a medical professional says “Kill all Muslims/blacks/whites/cops/gays/etc”…..it just boggles my mind. Maybe because I’m an accountant and no one’s life is in my hands, I just can’t comprehend how you can be in a position like this and say this kind of stuff and not expect consequences?

            I think a few years back, internet comments weren’t so heated and serious, there was a time when you could just log off and ignore them, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.

      7. Green*

        (1) A lot of Facebook comments on news sites show up with your jobs next to them. If you don’t want your job associated with what you’re doing online, take it off your Facebook. Otherwise people can fairly say that it reflects negatively on the company. When I see someone who “works at X” posting anti-LGBT stuff on news articles, I often wonder whether my friends and family will be treated fairly when they visit that place.

        (2) A lot of these Facebook comments are done on work time. OP #2’s wasn’t, but if an employee is sitting around at their place of business posting racist/sexist/homophobic things on the internet, it’s fair game.

        (3) There are some statements–racial slurs or aggressive threats–that most companies would take very seriously and I think it’s fair game. I had someone unsolicited drop the N* word (about a Southeast Asian child in my profile picture who he thought was black); his job showed up next to the Facebook comment, and his job was marketing ethnic foods, included hundreds of SE Asian brands, to grocery stores. You better believe I wrote his company, and I had a response from the CEO within an hour.

    2. Mike B.*


      I agree with the commenters below that (in most cases) a boss would be overreaching by holding her employees accountable for things said on social media. But nothing prevents your boss (or their boss, or the VP, or the CEO) from doing so, and it’s therefore risky to declare your place of employment in a venue where you might say something controversial or hurt someone’s feelings.

      The risk extends beyond the simple retribution experienced by OP2–the internet delights in finding people who have done something “wrong” and holding them up as objects of shame and ridicule. The definition of “wrong” can include: saying something offensively racist, saying something sarcastic that sounds offensively racist out of context, being overheard telling a sexist joke aloud to a friend, being identified as the person who outed the sexist joke-teller, arguing that it would be a good thing for video game consoles to require permanent internet connections (yes, really)…you name it. People have become lightning rods of public outrage, and subsequently fired, for doing all of these things.

      I’d prefer to fix the sick culture of the internet, but for the time being I will just limit my exposure by not naming my employer outside of LinkedIn.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        People have become lightning rods of public outrage, and subsequently fired, for doing all of these things.

        As they should in the case of the people using hate speech.

        OP #2 being taken to task by her manager for calling someone whiny in the context of a somewhat private conversation that the boss had to purposely dig to find? That’s ridiculous. I would definitely say something about this to said boss if I was OP.

        1. RVA Cat*

          I think the OP should check their social media policy, and if there is no violation there is no reason for OP to be written up. Hopefully HR will agree this was overreach.

          The key here is that the other party tattled to the OP’s employer, and apparently lied about what was said. That’s in the general ballpark of the vengeful ex sending naughty pics to somebody’s boss as something that should not get the employee in trouble, yet sometimes does.

    3. Matt*

      It isn’t always possible to “decouple” social media and your company completely. I don’t list my employer on Facebook, still someone at a company where I posted bad reviews (in fact, it was my city’s public transport ;-) developed such anger over my comments that he researched my employer – there was some 10 years old article in a public magazine over a project I had done, and somehow he was able to find my employer by doing Google research, but it must have been quite some detective work. This guy wrote to my head of department and suggested that they should check whether I had wrote those postings while on the clock (which I hadn’t). The whole thing went to HR, who luckily acted very reasonable, but it was still an impressive demonstration of how careful you have to be on social media and how little it takes for some people for them really wanting to get you into trouble …

      1. Purple Dragon*

        I’d be tempted to email his boss and ask if he did this detective work and sent his email whilst on the clock *lol*

        Sorry – couldn’t help it ;)

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Exactly. And if he had instead used that time he was playing Sherlock Holmes to, I don’t know, come up with fixes for the lousy public transit system in that city maybe then they wouldn’t have patrons leaving such negative reviews.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Yeah, all this over a bad review of your city’s public transit system?! If this person was a bus or train driver, I might actually consider this; someone this absurdly vengeful about criticism of his driving is probably not safe as an operator. I can only imagine the road rage and the lack of regard for passengers.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I don’t say outrageous things on social media. I talk about food and television, mostly television. And I would never attach the company name to my personal social media profiles – I don’t know why people do. I see people posting utter sh*t in comment sections that require FB log in, their employer name right *there* and I’m like why, why, why, why.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh man, I recently saw someone leaving really awful comments on an article, and calling other commenters “[effing] retards”. Her employer, a junior high, and occupation – a special education teacher – were both listed right there. I was really tempted to take a screenshot and send it to them. I didn’t, of course, but I wouldn’t want my kid being taught by a special ed teacher who thought it was ok to throw that term around.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          For serious!

          I see things like this and why. Forgetting the “why would you be so awful” part and on the “why would you be so dumb” part.

          And, that SHOULD be fireable, even though I’m not the person who is going to report them.

        2. Liane*

          I saw a news item on the internet within the last couple weeks about several teachers getting fired/resigning because of similar social media comments about students.

    5. rhonda*

      I’m the person who wrote to Allison. We have no social media rules- the office is 20 people. My boss couldn’t figure out how to research the incident without friending me- she’s not social media savvy. It wasn’t a coworker that I had the spat with. I was honestly surprised because the person didn’t use their name, and didn’t reply back when prompted for screen shots. My boss is a control freak.
      The person looked me up on LinkedIn as I don’t list my employer on facebook. It was a shock that time would be wasted on something so trivial, as I was following facebook rule, not swearing, nothing racial.. just heated debate.

      1. Mike C.*

        So how did this initial conversation go? Did you manager explain why she needed to look at what you said?

        I’m just trying to imagine her justify this sort of request – it’s completely crazy.

        1. rhonda*

          She called me in her office with the finance/hr guy- she told me there was a situation, then read parts of the email. She had collected the shot of where I had called the person whiny. She said it was hard to find.
          I told her I wasn’t sure what the conversation had to do with my job(in marketing) and that it was on my time. She said “it affected the companies online reputation”” that we have to interact on social media politely”. The HR guy agreed saying that I couldn’t just go on social media and “vent” and that he wasn’t on social media but knew people who used it to vent about things”
          I was kinda shocked. The company has no social media policy, no one has ever mentioned any thing about one, there is no handbook. I have never been disciplined by any warning at any job I have had.

      2. Observer*

        Do you have an HR that is effective? Does your boss have a boss that you can talk to?

        If either is true, I’d talk to them about “unfriending” your boss. And, no matter what you don’t re-friend him, as he’s an idiot. Also, it sounds like the write up was utterly inappropriate, and I’d want to see if something could be done.

        Just don’t frame it as you rights being violated. Frame it as someone reacting poorly to a private spat that wasn’t egregious, and your boss getting overly involved in private behavior that doesn’t affect the company.

        1. rhonda*

          The HR person is actually their finance person who really doesn’t want to do HR tasks.
          He said he doesn’t use social media but know “people use it to vent” and he was backing my boss. I think they felt they needed to react because an email came to the job… other companies I have worked for would have required more information, and the person’s name and screen shots and they still would have said it wasn’t anything to do with the company. I have ran this in front of a bunch of people and showed them what I wrote.

      3. eplawyer*

        My boss is a control freak.

        This is not about what you actually said on Facebook. This is about the boss wanting to control every aspect of your life, not just your job. The boss is not going to change. It’s time to start job searching.

        1. rhonda*

          have started looking, this was crazy. I was feeling that she was overstepping by messaging me at night after 9 pm, and other things like calling to tell me something was due that day when it was 7:50 am and I was just getting to work. But this left me confused, I honestly thought they called me in concerned someone was bothering me at work, then it turned into “hey, this anonymous person complained and I decided to friend you and look into it”-
          I have a good work reputation, I have never been “verbally warned” anywhere, so I didn’t understand it at first.

    6. Grey*

      My suggestion: Just be civil to everyone, even if you disagree with them. That way, you’ll never need to deal with situations like this.

      1. CanadianKat*


        That won’t prevent people from hating you, trying to chase you down, or emailing your employer (some opinions, however respectfully expressed, are just unpopular and elicit rage in some people). But at least your employer will be able to dismiss those as nutters.

      2. Unegen*

        And never, never frown. Why frown when you can smile all the time?

        Seriously, the horse is gone, advice to never open the barn door isn’t helpful.

      3. Zillah*

        This is missing the point, though. It’s not reasonable to expect someone to engage with everyone in every situation in a neutral way just in case their employer massively oversteps their bounds. It’s blaming people for having strong feelings.

        There are situations to which your argument could be applied, but the OP calling someone whiny is far from one of them.

        1. Grey*

          Not a neutral way. A civil way. It’s quite possible to have strong feelings, disagree with someone and engage in a serious debate without ever being rude or disrespectful. This is even easier to do on the internet where you have time to think about what you say before you finally click that Send button.

          “Whiny” is not seriously offensive but it’s still confrontational.

          1. CanadianKat*

            Nothing wrong with confontational. You should be civil, but you can be firm, even harsh.
            If you don’t like the whiny tone of a person you’re debating with online, don’t engage with them.

    7. Greg*

      I recently noticed a long-time friend had changed her last name on her Facebook profile (she has a Spanish last name, and subbed in the French equivalent). At first, I was alarmed that it might be some kind of stalker situation, but when I asked her she said it was because she started working for the Federal Government and wanted to ensure that nothing she said on Facebook could be tied back to her. She admitted it wasn’t the best solution — anyone who found her profile would instantly be able to tell who she was — but she figured it might prevent her from showing up in searches.

  2. INTP*

    #4: If this was a work Skype account or one she uses during work, she probably doesn’t want to be caught by IT using it to correspond with former employees (or anyone else) about jobs. Deleting you entirely rather than saying “No thanks” was unnecessary but not that odd for a knee jerk response. It upsets a lot of people to be contacted about jobs over their work-related channels of communication because they are afraid of being caught by IT monitoring systems, hovering bosses, etc. Personal email, personal phone, or if you have neither, a LinkedIn message would be preferable.

    1. KR*

      Most IT departments don’t care about what you do on your PC as long as you’re safe! They’re too busy to monitor everything people do on their PCs. Sincerely, an IT Tech getting ready for work.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        But a lot of people don’t know that, especially if you work for a company that tells you everything you do will be monitored and reported even if it’s really not. Better to be safe than sorry.

      2. Temperance*

        I worked at a place that routinely monitored our internet use and emails. I always assume that Big Brother is out there.

        1. LBK*

          “Monitoring” is different than actively combing through every bit of correspondence. Just because the info is being captured doesn’t mean anyone is bothering to look through it. While you obviously know more about your internal situation than I do, I think in general KR is on the money – IT departments have way too much other stuff to do besides sitting around reading your IMs and emails. Most of the time that stuff isn’t being looked at until someone makes a specific request for something. Unless there were cases where information was brought up that someone would’ve had no way to know unless they were reading your emails, I wouldn’t assume that anyone ever looked at them.

      3. INTP*

        I agree, but a lot of people THINK that IT is “watching” everything, so they are wary of doing job searching activities on their work computers. So the OP’s former coworker could easily be one of these people.

        Plus, it isn’t unheard of for correspondence to be combed through to put together evidence for firing someone or check on reasons for reduced productivity, or for your boss to know your work skype login information and see your old conversations while checking for something in your account, etc. There are various reasons why it’s safest to just not use your work-related accounts for job searching.

      4. Greg*

        No idea is this is true, ever was true, or is still true, but years ago I heard stories of IT managers getting together on Friday afternoons, cracking open some beers, and having a good laugh at the contents of emails people were sending via their corporate accounts. It was told to me as “This is something that’s very widespread among lots of companies, and senior management wouldn’t be happy if they knew about it, but as part of their job responsibility the IT managers have the right to do it.”

    2. Just Me*

      I’d considered that. Clearly another more private mode of communication would have been better. A less direct approach “do you know anyone who may be interested” may have prevented a knee jerk as well. Lesson learned.

    3. LBK*

      To me, it’s not so much the privacy thing as it is just Skype being a weird method of contacting someone that isn’t a friend or current coworker. I would never think to do it that way, and I might assume a Skype message from a random person I haven’t talked to in years was spam. I vote try again via email and if she still doesn’t respond then you’ve done your due diligence and can move on.

      1. zora.dee*

        It depends really though, the OP might be talking about Skype messaging. We use Skype for Business as our main Instant Messaging platform at my current job. It would seem pretty normal to me to send someone a message there even not necessarily about work things.

  3. Observer*


    If you can, unfriend your boss. If you can’t (if your boss is likely to give you a hard time about it), change your settings, so that your boss only sees the most public things you post.

    1. Sadsack*

      That is good advice, but in this situation the boss was called on the phone by the person OP was FBing with.

      1. Sadsack*

        Sorry, it wasn’t a phone call but an email. Either way, blocking boss still would not have prevented the original issue.

  4. Mando Diao*

    For #2, it sounds like this complaint was written on the company’s public business page and that OP2 took it upon herself to reply and defend herself, after hours and from her own account. YMMV on whether an employee can publicly air business stuff to defend herself (if OP2 did, in fact, call this person whiny in the context of business), but I agree with the boss that it’s inappropriate for OP to use her personal facebook account to address customers on the company’s page. She was speaking for the company without their knowledge. When a disgruntled customer takes to social media to leave a negative review based on something that really happened, that’s not something that’s up for debate, especially not from the person that the complaint is about.

    I feel like some stuff is being left out. How did this customer leave an anonymous note for the company? How did OP2 access it from her personal account? Where did this conversation appear? Knowing how facebook works, I can’t think of a way where OP wasn’t publicly airing business stuff, speaking for the company, or at the very least interacting with a customer off the clock.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you might be misreading — the OP doesn’t say that the complaint was originally directed to the company, just that the person contacted the company after their Facebook spat.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I don’t see anything about it being the company’s public business page. In fact, I don’t think it can be because then the boss wouldn’t have to friend her to see what she had written.
      The anonymous note could just be a mail from an account not linked to the complainant’s full name.

    3. Vicki*

      Wait, what? No.

      She had a spat on Facebook – not on the company’s page.
      The person she had the “spat” with “wrote an anonymous note to the company”. That could be any medium. Could be FB, Twitter, email….
      “How did OP2 access it from her personal account? ” She didn’t. The manager received the anonymous note that sad “Jane complained about me in FB and this reflects on you!”. The manager told the OP.

      “Where did this conversation appear?”
      The argument is in the OP’s FB pae.The rest was verbal, at work.

      “Knowing how facebook works, I can’t think of a way where OP wasn’t publicly airing business stuff, speaking for the company, or at the very least interacting with a customer off the clock.”

      In her own Facebook pages? I can think of thousands of ways. I know how FB works. My friends and I are never “publicly airing business stuff, speaking for the company, or at the very least interacting with a customer off the clock.”

      One of us is reading a different letter.
      We’re not reading the same letter.

      1. rhonda*

        Hi, I am the writer of the question, it was an anonymous email to my boss complaining that I had called them “names” and “harrassed” them- I had said they were being “whiny and complaining”. The tpic wasn’t related to work in any way, no swearing, no coworker, just a debate.

        1. Gaia*

          Harassed them adds an interesting element. I wonder what it was that they felt harassing. I find people in heated debate often don’t realize when they cross a line. Do you have a very level headed friend who could read over the conversation (perhaps one with different views on the topic than you have) and give you feedback?

          1. rhonda*

            Hi Gaia, I had a friend look at what I said and they didn’t find the comments offensive,my husband looked at them, a few people looked at them. It was surprising.
            My boss is a bit of a control freak, and I think by looking at the issue thru my account only she didn’t get the full picture. Also the fact that the person didn’t give their name or reply back meant to me it could be anyone, why would you take it seriously if they don’t follow thru with answering?

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              Some people (like the anonymous person) will overreact. Besides simply sending an email, my workplace has a form on the website and the company has an anonymous complaint form. There’s still good ol’ fashioned mail. And like others have said, it doesn’t take too much Googling to figure out where I work even though I haven’t switched my town on Facebook and I’ve never listed my place of work.

              It’s a bit troubling to me that your boss went to this extreme. What if someone totally fabricated the situation and yet your boss still somehow thinks you were at fault?

          2. Mike C.*

            I find that there are lots of folks who simply don’t like being questioned or being asked to provide evidence or explain a logical contradiction. They see the challenge as a personal affront and become upset.

            1. Rana*

              This is true. There are a number of boards I occasionally look at where people fly off the handle and complain that they are “being attacked” when someone merely says that they disagree, no matter how mildly. I think that these defensive types forget that big boards tend to have a diversity of opinions, and that anyone can comment, not just the people who are going to nod their heads sympathetically and say “Yup, yup, you are totally correct.”

    4. Artemesia*

      I read that as a totally personal dispute on a totally personal facebook page and that the person the OP was interacting with then ‘told on them’ by contacting their boss. Any boss who gives this any credence is a jerk.

      1. Allisonthe5th*

        I suppose, though, that the OP could have written something pretty outrageous. If s/he is in a public facing role in the company, is it ok to hold her to a higher standard of public conduct? I am in a public facing role and am very conscious of what I post at all times bc while speech is free, the consequences can be costly.

          1. Allisonthe5th*

            Well, she said she called her company/co-workers whiny. It doubt that was the entire content of the message. Regardless, my curiosity is would it make a difference if she said something outrageous or hate-filled?

            1. N.J.*

              She did not call her company or coworkers whiny. She called the person she was arguing with on Facebook whiny, who wasn’t identified in any way as a coworker or tied to her company. That person then reached out to her company to complain.

            2. MarketingLadyPA*

              No, that’s not what the letter says to me. She called the anonymous person whiny, I think.

              1. rhonda*

                I called the anonymous person on Facebook “whiny”- they wrote an email to my boss and said I was “calling people whiny complainers” on Facebook. The also mentioned I had a distinguishing name so they google to find out where I work since I don’t list it on Facebook.

                1. Allisonthe5th*

                  Ah understood. I read it as calling the company whiny. I do think that is petty for both the second party and your boss to go so far out of their way to punish you for that.

                  But I do still wonder if in general, people would feel differently if you said something truly offensive.

                2. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I thought we had outgrown tattletales by now. I can’t imagine taking this seriously as a supervisor, especially from an anonymous source.

          2. Rafe*

            Well, it depends on the context of course. Calling families of Black men killed recently whiners? Or gay men massacred in Orlando? Or the people mourning police gunned down in Dallas? There are many ways it could be offensive.

            1. Alton*

              This is true. We don’t know the full context of what the conversation was about, and there are contexts where this could make more sense.

              But honestly, even then, I’m uncomfortable with the trend of contacting people’s employers over stuff like this, unless it directly relates to their job. I’m willing to report people to the appropriate authorities, like to the site’s abuse team if their post breaks rules or to the police if they’re actually making threats. But I wouldn’t report them to their employer just to get them in trouble. Their workplace isn’t involved.

              1. rhonda*

                I am the writer of the question. It was calling someone “whiny” because they said they didn’t get a product they wanted, it wasn’t relating to anything outrageous. My comments were not hate speech or anything really offensive, as I didn’t swear at this person and I was following Facebook policies. It was a difference of opinion and a debate.

                1. Gaia*

                  You seem to fall back on FB policies here but FB allows some pretty ugly conversations unchecked. I am really interested in why they didn’t get the product they wanted. There could be so much here.

                2. fposte*

                  @Gaia–enough to justify somebody complaining for not getting a product they wanted? Sure. Enough for that person to complain to somebody’s employer about being called whiny? No. I think you’re searching for ways to put rhonda in the wrong when there’s no reason to do that.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Gaia–it was a PERSONAL conversation on Facebook that had nothing to do with the company.
                  The anonymous person was out of line in contacting rhonda’s employer, and her boss is a dick for writing her up for this.

                4. Gaia*

                  Hi fposte and Elizabeth. Some personal conversations contain heinous comments. That doesn’t seem the be the case here but my point was just because FB rules allow it, doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences.

                5. Colette*

                  @Gaia You’re right, some personal conversations contain statements that have consequences, but most of the time they shouldn’t be reported to your boss. There are a few exceptions – someone representing a company should be held to a different standard, and in rare cases an employee who works with a vulnerable/visibly different group can demonstrate prejudice that is relevant to the job. Personal disagreements should not be reported to someone’s employer. Your employer is not your parent.

                  Personally, I wouldn’t hire someone I knew dealt with conflict like a school child (“I’m going to tell!)

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Let’s not jump to an unlikely context to vilify the OP; she said some particular person was whiny, and there are a million reasons other than this that someone could complain about someone being whiny.

              1. Allisonthe5th*

                I don’t think any one is vilifying the OP. Just interested in similar hypotheticals. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would reach out to a stranger’s employer over a social media spat.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Really? Have you ever heard of gamergate? There’s all sorts of crazy garbage people will do if they don’t like you online.

                  Look up “swatting” if you don’t believe me.

    5. rhonda*

      Hi, This Facebook spat was not related to the company in any way, nor anything the company sells, it was nothing to do with my company.
      We were discussing the availability of a product at a store and the fact the store set limits on how many a person can buy, I said they were being “whiny” because they got one product and if the store hadn’t set limits they probably wouldn’t have gotten any. The person was lambasted by other people and called offensive names but kinda singled me out to debate on Facebook. I told them I thought it was a responsible action of the retailer to set limits, they were whining because they didn’t get more than 1. The conversation was pretty tame, I thought, although the person was mad at my comments. I believe this person also reported other people to their employers that said things to them.
      My boss didn’t have the actual name of the complaining party, nor could she find the conversation herself on Facebook, since it had been a few days and things had moved on- people deleted some of their comments.
      She decided the fastest thing to do was friend me and see what I had said.
      HR is the finance person who sided with my boss and said “we didn’t want people complaining to the company”, that I shouldn’t give my opinion online because it affects the companies reputation” .
      I was surprised because this had NOTHING to do with the company, nor did it take place on company time.

      1. Duncan*

        That is very simply a ridiculous stance in my book, particularly since someone would have to research to even find what company you are affiliated with. So now nobody is allowed to have opinions where you work? Good grief! I would defriend boss immediately and if she complains, say you took the company’s advice and are ensuring you have no interaction with the company on social media. And next time they ask about a conversation (hopefully, never), then say you don’t recall. For some reason, this invasion over something so trivial – and to give you a verbal warning – makes me see red on your behalf.

        1. rhonda*

          Yes, it was surprising. My boss has complained about things on social media (by looking at her page )
          I am looking for another job because of the micro managing. I also asked for a social media policy – so I know in the future what is acceptable and not acceptable.

      2. Boo*

        Ugh honestly I think your company is being ridiculous. Responding to an anonymous complaint about a civilised Facebook disagreement by telling you that you’re not allowed to have opinions? This complaint should never have reached you, it should have been put in the bin where it belongs.

      3. Mike C.*

        Both your boss and your HR person are overbearing idiots.

        Do they honestly believe that they somehow lost a customer because you said something online to someone else in a completely different context? How far does this go? “I’m sorry, you cannot donate to the political campaign of XXX, because your name and occupation are listed and it would make us look bad”? “I’m sorry, you cannot appear in public because someone complained, and it will make us look bad?”

        This is absolutely nuts and it smacks of people who are both short-sighted and completely clueless about common technology and the social norms that go with. You have my sympathy.

        1. rhonda*

          Hi Mike, thanks, Thats funny I did mention that this stance was seriously warped and said it sets a precedent. Weirdly, I have never been verbally warned at a job or written up for behavior before , so this came as a shock and I didn’t take it in the day it happened.
          I have other people who looked at my comments and said it was crazy.. and nothing to do with my company. This person never identified themselves or responded back to her request. Even criminals know who their accuser is.
          I’m looking elsewhere for a job.

      4. fposte*

        I am not surprised that somebody who thought they were entitled to have whatever they want with no limits also thought it was appropriate to punish you through your work for disagreeing.

        1. rhonda*

          Yes, I guess I never thought of bringing a person’s work into play – I think by other comments in the debate that other people involved got emails sent to their employers as well.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, wow.

            And I just remembered that somebody sent an email like that to the sysadmin where I worked then after a Usenet argument. My cranky sysadmin told him to go pound sand :-).

        2. twenty points for the copier*

          Seriously. The fact that this person complained to the workplaces of everyone who disagreed with them is telling me that “whiny” is a pretty accurate description!

      5. LawLady*

        Was this the Too Faced Sweet Peach Palette? Tensions ran HIGH on some parts of the internet I frequent over that…

  5. Edith*

    #3: Ugh this kind of thing is such a pain. I attend grad school at my university’s secondary campus halfway across the state from the main campus. Most of the professors conduct most of the class sessions from the main campus with us patched in, and drive up to our campus a few times a semester with the main campus’s classroom patched in to us instead. The secondary campus students generally make up about 40% of the roster–a fair amount in my opinion– but the main campus students openly resent us. They groan audibly when any of us speaks up in class, and we’ve overheard them aggressively lobbying the professors to conduct all class sessions from the main campus since it’s the “real” campus. It’s hard enough being taught by what to us is a voice and a few pixels on a screen, but the open hostility displayed by the people who should be our peers is more than a little aggravating.

    OP, are the problem people in City B the bosses or your peers? If they’re your peers you should talk to your mutual bosses in City B about it. If they’re good managers who just haven’t noticed the power dynamic, reminding them will be enough to mobilize them to your cause. If they’re not so great managers you might have to convince them. Remind them that the team on your end is just as valuable as the team on their end and that you accordingly deserve a more equal chance to participate in meetings.

    It sounds like due to the nature of the merger City A’s norms have been upended far more than those in City B. They’re used to all the talking in meetings being done by people in the same room as them, and now they need to be reminded that adjustments must be made on both sides.

    1. misspiggy*

      Why is the behaviour of those main-campus students being tolerated? The lecturer should shut it down in advance, in the instant and in retrospect. I’d be making a serious complaint if I were in your shoes. It’s the university’s responsibility to deliver an equitable and respectful learning environment.

      1. Joseph*

        If the secondary campus students make up 40% of the roster, it’s not a small amount. In fact, it’s enough of a number that any complaint would absolutely be addressed – by the administration if not the professor.

        I would first try to talk to your professors immediately and point out what you’ve seen. If that doesn’t address it (probably won’t, since it seems like the problem is not just one class), talking to the administration will – after all, they’ve already shown they value you and recognize the limitations of remote teaching (by sending teachers halfway across the state for in-person lectures a few times per semester).

      2. Edith*

        Sorry I was unclear. My second paragraph containing advice for the OP was written out of experience. The good professors hear the grumbling and shut it down immediately. The best professors drive up and hold class from the secondary campus every second or third week and respond to outcry from main campus students with bemused bafflement. The less great professors make feeble attempts to shut down grumblings and drive up to us a handful of times a semester. Those are the ones it helps to remind that we’re just as valid as the main campus students and just as deserving of attention from the prof and full participation in class discussions. Those are the cases in which communication and self-advocacy can really make a difference. The not great professors seem to agree somewhat with the main campus students, although they don’t say it explicitly. Those are the profs who clearly hate having to drive up to us, do it one or two token times a semester, and act as if it’s a special treat instead of something they should be doing far more often and without a thought (grr). There’s not a ton we can do about those profs. Luckily they’re few and far between.

    2. OP#3*

      Wow, that is totally unreasonable on the part of the main campus students. Sorry you’re having to deal with that.

      The “problem” folks are our bosses, not our peers, although for the purposes of this question it’s perhaps slightly less relevant than one might expect; like you and your fellow students at the secondary campus, the City A folks feel a bit disadvantaged regardless, just because we are not in the same room as everyone else. I should be clear that they really *do* value our input; it’s just that in the moment, they get carried away with the bloviating and forget that they need to shut up from time to time to *get* that input.

      As per a commenter’s suggestion below, we may have to go with a combo of pre- or post-meeting reminder + some judicious interrupting until they remember that they need to pause for questions/comments from time to time.

    3. The Strand*

      Honestly, I’m not sure I wouldn’t hit the nuke button and contact the provost about this. These are your fellow graduate students, and they’re audibly groaning and lobbying professors not to include you? Incredibly immature that they would try to deny your education to you.

  6. Kaela*


    I agree with no co-workers on Facebook! If you have a friendly relationship with someone add them after one of you isn’t working at that company anymore. I recently had a somewhat similar situation with my husband’s co-worker. No one got in trouble by the employer but this lady friended me a while back and recently gave me an earful about a review I left for a completely separate company on their Facebook page.

    Long story short she wanted me to delete my review and at first I told her no but I’d be happy to update it… after that she got rude and unprofessional so I backed down since my husband is the one who has to work with her everyday! Overall it’s just not worth the hassle that a FB relationship can cause.

    1. Daisy*

      I don’t see how any of this is relevant to this letter at all? The person who complained isn’t a coworker, and the OP wasn’t friends with the boss before the boss tried to look into the complaint. People seem to be reading an awful lot of pet peeves into this letter.

      1. Joseph*

        Yeah. I understand the sentiment of “don’t be friends with co-workers” but OP makes it clear that they actually weren’t facebook friends with the boss.

        >OP had an argument with a ‘friend’.
        >’Friend’ sends anonymous message to the boss (wtf? if you’re going to make your online personal drama affect someone’s career, you should at least have the guts to stand behind it).
        >Boss wildly overreacts, demands copies of the conversation, and friends OP to try to snoop into what was said.

        1. MashaKasha*

          She says above that she had an argument with a total stranger. She doesn’t list her place of work on Facebook. The total stranger googled her name to find out where she works, then emailed the boss.

          I’m seriously frozen with terror right now. This could happen to anyone.

    2. Mike C.*

      You aren’t understanding – you don’t have to be connected to co-workers for this to happen. Look up doxxing.

      1. Gaia*

        If you actually take your privacy seriously, this won’t happen. I use different emails for each account, you can’t see anything but a picture and a name on any account if we aren’t connected (and I use a different picture for each some of me…some of my dog or other things). I don’t use my full name on anything except LI and even LI is fairly private in my settings. I regularly do some Googling and issue take down requests when I find information I don’t want out there.

        It takes almost no time and I have no trail online. Because I care about my privacy. I suggest others start caring, too.

        1. Kelly L.*

          You’re implying that other people “don’t care” if they don’t know all the tricks you do. I think that’s uncalled for.

          1. Gaia*

            These are not tricks. These are common sense practices that are published repeatedly all over the internet as ways to keep yourself safe and private online.

            But yes, I think people don’t care about privacy in any way that they should. If they did, they would seek ways to have more privacy. Which is what I did and what people do when they care.

            1. fposte*

              Gaia, lots of people care about their privacy but also need to make social media connections. It’s blinkered to paint people who act differently from you as being ignorant.

              1. Gaia*

                I’m not saying they are being ignorant. You can make social media connections and still protect yourself. Many of my closest friends and family rely social media contacts in work and yet their personal accounts are uniquely separate and in no way connected or connectable to their work accounts.

            2. Sadsack*

              This instance really is different from the normal privacy issues if social media. OP’s boss received the complaint directly from the complainer. Blocking the boss wouldn’t necessarily have helped OP because her boss probably would have asked her about the complaint even if she couldn’t see it for herself on FB.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                Yup. And until the boss had a copy of the alleged insult in front of her provided by the complainant, boss should not have brought this up with OP. Boss had no way of knowing if this was a legit complaint or just someone with an axe to grind.

            3. rhonda*

              Up until this point I never felt anything I did on Facebook would cause offense, so I didn’t think I needed to use another name or email. The discussion I had I would never think a person would reach out to my boss about. If I had even called him a “f-ing idiot”I still wouldn’t think they would take such a silly thing to someone’s job.
              When my boss friended me- it was on a Friday, I was intimidated at first… but thought maybe she was trying to be “personable” . When she called me in her office- I thought she was concerned about the type of person who would email anonymous messages to someone’s job. (ex boyfriend, stalker type? )
              I don’t think most companies would pursue looking into an anonymous complaint before even talking to me. They also don’t have a social media policy as to what they expect you to act like when out of work. I have never been “verbally warned or written up” at any job. She felt because the person complained to the job she had to react.

              We recently had a coworker in the local paper who got a DUI- what if someone contacted the job and said they were afraid to drive the streets in the am and pm…because this person worked for us… and this person’s actions reflects poorly on the company? I feel this complaint is just as ridiculous..

              1. Gaia*

                The complaint does seem ridiculous but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to protect yourself. I don’t say things on FB that would cause offense either, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t take offense to a benign comment (as you’ve clearly seen).

                Protect yourself first – and don’t take it lightly.

            4. Tinker*

              These are things that people may do if they so choose, but at this point I think it’s unreasonable to treat people as if they are throwing caution to the wind because they do things like introduce themselves with their real name, allow people that they casually interact with to see their face, and answer the question “what do you do?” with something more specific than “if I told you, I’d have to kill you”.

              I mean, people would probably be more private and secure if they did these things. Or if they never left their houses. But choosing to live in a state of being less-than-totally locked down does not make a person responsible for bad acts done by others — whether on the new and strange Information Superhighway or not.

              1. Gaia*

                I introduce myself with my real name and tell people what I do but I certainly don’t scream it from rooftops or give out my work address or home address or give random strangers pictures of the children in my family, etc.

                It is everyone’s choice to be as open or as discrete online as they like. Don’t act like valuing my privacy makes me a shut in. I meet new people online all the time and have a wide network. My stance is not out of the norm at all, many people do what I do because it is common sense to try to keep bad people at bay. It is like locking your doors. Sure, you could leave them unlocked and then blame the robber who walks in…or you could lock your doors.

                1. Tinker*

                  Here’s a thing that I notice: You state that it’s everyone’s choice to be as open or as discreet online as they like, and you don’t seem to like it when you feel like your position on this axis is characterized negatively or as outside the norm, but you have been doing that very thing to the OP and other people (inclusive of myself) who hold similar or more open positions. Specifically, you frame your position as being the only one that is aligned with common sense and a desire for privacy, describe more open positions in ways that characterize them as being exhibitionistic (like shouting on street corners) and careless (like leaving doors unlocked), and repeatedly fault the OP for having been findable. Maybe some reciprocation is in order here?

                2. Ultraviolet*

                  Is it like locking your doors? Or is it like going outside without wearing a bulletproof vest? Is it like always wearing your seatbelt, or is it like sometimes riding in a car despite the risk of getting into an accident? Is it like locking your car, or is it like choosing not to own a nice car so you won’t be out too much money if someone steals it? There’s more subjectivity here and a broader range of reasonable behavior than your comments indicate. There are a lot of competing values playing a role in questions of online privacy–it’s pretty much a given that there will be no single correct path even among people who have some things in common, like valuing privacy.

        2. LawLady*

          Honestly, I’m glad this works for you. But it wouldn’t work for a lot of people, including me. My first name is very unique (damn hippie parents). All my accounts are pretty locked down, but my name and a short bio is on my firm’s website. (It has to be, that’s how law firms get business.)

          I also suspect you could be doxxed quite easily, and you just think you couldn’t because it hasn’t happened to you yet.

          1. fposte*

            It’s also kind of like securing your house–yes, you could alarm everything and have an electrified fence and titanium doors, but it still wouldn’t prevent every bad thing and it has a cost in its own right.

          2. animaniactoo*

            I have zero shot of not being found if someone wants to find me (there are “one or fewer of me” in the whole of the U.S. And entirely likely, the planet). For that reason alone I work really hard at making sure my real name and my anonymous name make as little contact with each other as possible (including regular Googling).

            But it’s also a real reminder that even when anonymous, never to post anything anywhere that I’m not willing to defend.

            I can lock down every privacy setting in sight (and I do), but my name is my name and there are lots of reasons that make more sense for me to have my FB account under my real name than there are reasons to be afraid of having it set that way.

          3. Gaia*

            I cannot be doxxed quite easily. And I know I can’t because of the people I know who have ever so lovingly tried as a way to test my security online for me.

            Also, I am one of 3 people in the US that share the same name as me.

        3. Mike C.*

          This statement is patently false. You’re doing nothing more than blaming the victim here, please don’t.

          And seriously, issuing take down requests (assuming they’re respected int he first place) does not take “almost no time”. That’s an incredibly unreasonable standard to hold other people to before you’ll allow them sympathy.

          1. Gaia*

            Nothing I said was false or victim blaming. I am explaining how people can take additional protections. That is saying telling someone to lock their doors is victim blaming. It is common sense advise that people may legitimately be unaware of.

            And I’ve never had a request denied or ignored nor have I ever had it take more than 5-10 minutes of my time.

            1. myswtghst*

              “If you actually take your privacy seriously, this won’t happen”

              This is explicitly saying “if you don’t do things the way I think you should, you don’t take your privacy seriously,” which is implicitly saying “if you don’t do those things, you deserve what you get,” which is blaming the victim for not protecting themselves the way you think they should. Plus, if those things are something “people may legitimately be unaware of” then logic suggests they aren’t “common sense”.

              Also, telling someone to lock the doors after the fact can be victim-blaming. If I find out someone was robbed and say “well, if you take your safety seriously, you would lock your doors”, that would be victim-blaming (and unhelpful). If I say “hey, I’ve found having a deadbolt in addition to the lock on the doorknob makes me feel safer…”, that isn’t victim-blaming and could be helpful advice.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          I love these comments where people say, “If you don’t do everything the way I do it, then you must be doing something wrong.” It must be hard for them to breathe with their noses so far up in the air.

          Please stop trying to blame rhonda–this is in no way her fault. Anonymous FB user is a tool and her boss is an overreaching idiot.

        5. LawLady*

          Also the downside to privacy is anonymity. Part of the reason the internet (aside from this site!) can be a really nasty place is that people are anonymous and say awful things. I like using my real name in most places on the internet (but especially my Facebook, etc.), because I stand behind the things I say and want to be accountable for them.

  7. remarkable*

    #4 Maybe I’m reading too much into your letter and I dont have enough background on your personal and professional relationship with your former coworker but after working with someone for 5 months a couple of years ago. I’d have to say maybe you’re coming off as overpowering. I could be wrong but maybe the person is happy doing what they do now. I’ve read a lot of letters on here of people that just do not want to advance in their career. But like Alison said contact them and see what’s up.

    1. Just Me*

      I simply stated we had an upcoming opening, the job title and to let me if it was something of interest. Two sentences. Friendly, but brief. I know I appreciate it when former colleagues make me aware of opportunities. I tend to agree with Allison. LinkedIn might have been a better choice.

      1. Anon3*

        Hmm I once had someone tell me about an entry level position, I was insulted, I made 3x what the job offered, have a degree and considered my job a career. It was obvious that despite working in the same department, they thought they knew me and obviously thought I needed their help, and I did not.

      2. Collarbone High*

        I can easily see how this could have been accidental. My cat blocked the New York Times on Twitter last night by standing on my phone. I agree with Allison — reach out by email if you can.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          My cat has disconnected me from more than one conference call, and also unsubscribed me from some of my favourite podcasts by standing on my laptop.

  8. Confused*

    #1 boss complained he was “the last to know” I’m pregnant
    Is your boss Michael Scott? ;)

    1. Random Lurker*

      I had a boss like this once, and I feel the need to defend him. I had a peer (male), who waited until his wife was 8 months along to inform our boss he needed paternity time, which was quite generous and lengthy at this employer. As a peer, I was irritated because we could have been ramping down his projects to ensure we would be covered better while he was out. But my boss had a reaction like OP’s – hurt. I wouldn’t call him an ass, or a Michael Scott type. He was just a guy who put a lot of effort into creating an inclusive culture amongst a staff that sometimes put in long or odd hours.

      Sometimes people blur personal and professional lines more than they should. It doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them people.

      1. Mookie*

        Complaining when people expect to avail themselves of your legendary and generous inclusivity doesn’t make you an ass, exactly, but it does call into question whether it’s really inclusivity you’re after in the first place. Complaining loudly enough about the timing (early or late) that employees hear about it is a terrible practice that will likely spook a good number of people who would otherwise need or want access to parental leave. Things can change in a person’s life, and fast. Leave is leave is leave, and the majority of the time it comes out of nowhere and is beyond the employee’s control. It’s almost always inconvenient and disruptive and it works out best when employers are given advance notice to mitigate against most of the predictable consequences of it, but sometimes that’s not possible. Parental leave for non-pregnant people is, in most countries, a very new and mostly untested phenomenon. It is to be expected that the partners of pregnant people won’t know until much further into the pregnancy whether they’ll need that kind of leave. This is growing pains for any new practice. It will take time for people to catch up, remember that they have access to such support when needed, judge when they might need it, worry (as pregnant people always have) about the professional and financial consequences of using it, and be brave enough to ask for it in the face of a great deal of skepticism and resistance (even in supposedly progressive environments).

        1. Mookie*

          It’s lovely that your former boss championed and implemented this practice, but walking the walk is what ultimately matters.

      2. Sarahnova*

        Are there no standard guidelines in the US for when you must notify this type of leave, then? In the UK you must give your employer notice by a certain number of weeks before you expect to take the leave, which for parental leave is 15 weeks before the date baby is expected. However, if baby is early, employers simply have to move the leave up suddenly; babies are unpredictable.

        If the peer didn’t violate any official guidelines, I think the boss’ hurt is misplaced, and something he needs to rethink if he wants to create an inclusive culture.

        1. WT*

          The time requirement is very interesting to me – now do other types of leave have similar requirements? Like I realize if I say get into an auto accident there will not be any warning, but what about a non-urgent surgery? To me those should have the same rules as pregnancy leave (and I am not saying they don’t since I do not know). Otherwise it would just fall more into that general thinking that pregnancy is somehow a more communal activity then it really is.

          1. Ponytail*

            Other sorts of leave are unlikely to be paid for an entire year, and won’t require someone to be hired to cover the work, generally. Which is why maternity leave is treated differently – the employer needs that heads-up.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Depends on company here; at least 30 days before the leave is needed is what I’m used to, but then the forms usually ask a specific date. Which you don’t exactly have yet – you have an approximate date.

          In any case, 15 weeks is just over 3 months; OP was 5 months pregnant, so probably 16-17 weeks until due date.

          And if OP violated policy, her boss should have mildly pointed out the policy and then worked with her, not made it about his feelings.

        3. PeachTea*

          For planned leave, FMLA states you must give 30 days notice. Otherwise, I can’t think of any other requirements legally. Individual companies could of course set their own policies provided it didn’t contradict the legal requirements.

    2. Bowserkitty*

      I just LOLed!! Whenever I read stories about bosses who want to be friends I think of him.

  9. Myrin*

    #1, it’s so weird how some people seem to have an understanding of your relationship with them that is basically the complete opposite of your own, right?

    I used to work at a gym for many years; the owner was my then-best-friend’s father. One day, one of the regular patrons told me that he will only attend for another month and then he’ll get to work out at his neighbour’s who has a basement full of basic gym equipment and offered patron to use it as well. Patron, who had to drive quite a distance to get to the gym, enthusiastically agreed. And then when he told my boss, he was apparently all ::sadface:: and “That is not how you treat friends!!1!” and pouty and disappointed beyond belief. When patron told me all that, his only reaction was “What the hell, since when have I been friends with Boss?!”.

    1. MK*

      I think that goes beyond people having different views of the same relationship. Even if they were friends, you can’t expect someone to be a customer out of friendship.

      1. Myrin*

        And yet that was exactly past!boss’s stance. He was a nice guy but not cut out to lead a business.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I’ve had at work in the office that way as well. I bartended in college, and I had a couple of bar patrons I ran into outside of work who didn’t understand why I didn’t want to sit and hang out with him. I also had a customer who got really upset that I hadn’t told him I was leaving the bar.

      1. hbc*

        I had a babysitting gig where the kid would call me up to see if I wanted to play with her. Like, off-the-clock play date. Why the parents allowed this to continue and made me keep lying to a six year old about my busy schedule (versus “I’m only spending time with you for money”), I have no idea.

  10. Rika*

    Hello Alison, I’ve recently discovered this website and come here almost every day now. I love your insights! I find them incredibly useful. Although I’m from The Netherlands European work ethics are basically the same as American. Every now and then, however, I come across some cultural element that is the exact opposite of how things would work over here, which is very interesting to read about (putting a picture on your cv versus not for example).

    Like #1: if this would have happened in my country her boss would be considered rightfully angry. Not because she should have thought of him as a friend, but because in her professional environment a pregnancy is, apart from a happy occasion, first and foremost something that will impact her availability. It is therefore considered to be the bare minimum of courtesy to let your manager be one of the first, if not the very first, to hear about it. And in this case not only did she tell him last, but she didn’t tell him until she was already five months along.
    Not judging, it’s just what I’m used to. In every case of a pregnant colleague I’ve come across our boss always knew about it long before everyone else at work.
    Of course part of the reason for this might be that here we have a minimum of 16 weeks maternity leave, so your boss would like to start making arrangements to fill a four month gap as soon as possible.

    1. Cookie*

      Unfortunately for people in the US, we don’t have any mandated paid maternity leave. For someone who is planning on taking minimal leave, they may not want to wind down projects or transfer work to colleagues. In my last job, most people took one or two weeks off and then returned to work,

    2. blackcat*

      I’ve also had pregnant friends tell their boss early, and then get high profile projects removed from their work list (WAY earlier than necessary to plan for leave), suddenly get bad evaluations, get denied promotions that were previously promised… that sort of stuff. At least among my friend group, some level of crap for being pregnant seems pretty usual in the work place. And this crap is pretty likely to come from a boss like the OPs, who treats pregnancies as a problem. So I completely understand the desire to keep a pregnancy a secret for as long as possible at work so that there’s minimal impact on your career.

      But the OP didn’t keep it a secret at work. Her boss shouldn’t have found out by overhearing. I think it would have been fine if she told these coworkers/friends *outside* of work and kept any pregnancy discussion *outside* of work. But talking about it in the work place without telling the boss was a recipe for things to go badly.

      1. blackcat*

        Also, unless the OP is a very high level person, 3+ months remaining in the pregnancy should be plenty of time to plan for an 8 or 12 week leave. It’s not like she told the boss less than a month before her due date.

        1. TheSockMonkey*

          The issue is that her boss was the last to know at work, not that she didn’t give enough notice. I think she should have told her boss before coworkers, but after family/friends.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “I’ve also had pregnant friends tell their boss early, and then get high profile projects removed from their work list (WAY earlier than necessary to plan for leave), suddenly get bad evaluations, get denied promotions that were previously promised… that sort of stuff. ”

        That’s how you get introduced to my lawyer.

        1. blackcat*

          Oddly (or perhaps not), it’s my lawyer friends who report this problem most often.

          1. K.*

            My best friend is a former BigLaw associate and saw this happen around her frequently, so she announced her pregnancy about 5 months in (she was showing). She also said that after she returned to work (and the hellish hours started up immediately), she received the least amount of support from other working mothers there. Like “This sucked for me so it’ll suck for you. Deal with it.”

            … She left BigLaw.

            1. YouHaveBeenWarned*

              Not to get all #notallbiglawfirms about it, but this is definitely a huge problem in some BigLaw firms and totally the opposite in others. My firm, for example, has fantastic policies about maternity leave, ramping up after coming back, and alternative work arrangements.

              I just mention it in case any law students are reading this. The U.S. recruiting season starts next month and I would hate for any women to be discouraged from applying to any BigLaw firms.

        2. Not Gonna Say For This*

          Sure, but it doesn’t make it less true. Gosh, I work for a law firm (in employment law!) and I’m not telling my boss about my pregnancy until… later. My plan is basically to wait until I start showing enough that I can’t really hide it reasonably anymore. It may be illegal, but I don’t want to even deal with the pale of being unstaffed from big cases and the like. Illegal or not, its real and I would rather keep my job than sue for it after I ruin my career. And I’ve certainly told coworkers before my boss, because they don’t have the authority to evaluate me or change my staffing. So… I get this OP.

      3. Sadsack*

        Yeah, I was surprised that it was openly discussed in the office when the boss hadn’t been told. That was kind of dumb, honestly. The boss’s reaction was weird and uncalled for, but I don’t think OP handled the issue well at all.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          From her later comments, it wasn’t really openly discussed, just that the boss was most likely eavesdropping on conversations the OP thought were private.

      4. Friday Brain All Week Long*

        I was offered a tentative promotion when pregnant, after telling the company I was pregnant. It would have been a natural succession planning promotion from my current management position to upper management. But then they dragged their feet, and then pretended they never even made noise that I was in line for the promotion. I wish I had waited a lot longer than 12 weeks in to tell them.

    3. Corporate Drone*

      Hi Ritka:

      I spent the last ten years as a US based employee of a Dutch company. I agree with you that this would have been handled very differently in the Netherlands. However, in the US, a woman’s pregnancy is often regarded as a liability to the business, and in the US, there is very little support or protection for pregnant workers.

      As an aside, I had a colleague in the US who was in the process of an international adoption. Her manager, a Dutch national who was based in Amsterdam, was horrified that the only leave available to her was the 12 weeks if unpaid leave under our FMLA law. It really is draconian.

    4. Sarahnova*

      We (UK) have notification requirements – you must notify 15 weeks before you expect to take the leave if you want to get statutory pay. Beyond that, many people do notify earlier, but there’s no requirement to do so, and I’d side-eye any boss who was so put out that he wasn’t “the first to know”. I would probably not notify my employer until post a 12 week scan, tbh.

    5. Nanani*

      I have seen coworkers get suddenly asked to resign (firing would have been illegal) when pregnant and, in the most egregious case, told not return when already out on maternity leave.

      This wasn’t in the US nor in Europe.

      The rest of the world needs dramatically higher standards for leave.

      (Also some people just don’t WANT to share personal things like that with their boss?)

      1. MK*

        Notifying your boss you are pregnant is not sharing personal things with them. In this case the reaction is ridiculous, but I don’t think the OP handled it very well either. Telling all your coworkers and not your boss was a recipy for disaster: he was very likely to find out, as indeed he did, and feel like something of a fool that you told everyone but him. I understand you had your reasons, and it’s your prerogative, but if you want to keep things private at work, don’t share them at work.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Notifying your boss you are pregnant is not sharing personal things with them

          Well, it’s an odd combination of business and personal. That’s why it’s so tricky.

          In the OP’s case, as long as she told him within a reasonable amount of time to make arrangements, she did nothing wrong. Friends get to know earlier. People who aren’t friends but HAVE to know tend to find out when it’s necessary. The only thing wrong about this situation is that the boss assumed he was a “gets to know” instead of “has to know.” Iff he feels foolish, it’s his own fault for assuming someone who’s heard him be really non-supportive of pregnant employees would be eager to get that lecture from him.

        2. LAP*

          “Telling all your coworkers and not your boss was a recipe for disaster: he was very likely to find out, as indeed he did, and feel like something of a fool that you told everyone but him.”

          This. Of course she has a right to reveal the pregnancy whenever she wants, but it’s easy to predict that the boss could find out indirectly about it if she’s telling everyone else. That is the worst way to let him know.

    6. Ad Astra*

      In the U.S., many pregnant women don’t tell anyone but their husbands (and maybe a best friend) until they at least 12 weeks in, and sometimes more like 18-20 weeks because of the risk of miscarriage. Is that typical in the Netherlands?

      1. INTP*

        2nd this. The earliest most people would even think of telling their employers about a pregnancy is 12 weeks, and if there is any medical risk, probably wouldn’t consider it until later.

        I’m not sure if this is common practice everywhere, or if it’s just a product of miscarriage being a pretty uncomfortable topic for Americans to discuss. Most Americans realize it is not a woman’s fault, of course, but it’s just not spoken about much so it would be incredibly uncomfortable (on top of the emotional pain) to have to inform all your coworkers that you miscarried. Not to mention other tragedies involving the baby – a not-insignificant minority of Americans believe a woman shouldn’t abort even to save her own life, so you couldn’t discuss the circumstances of any sort of termination at work. Because of all this most Americans wait the longest amount of time they can get away with before they start showing to disclose pregnancies at work.

      2. CanadianKat*

        OP#1: Here it is expected that the boss would find out from you, not second-hand. If you’re very close friends with a coworker, you should extract from her the promise not to share this info with anybody. If you’re ready to openly discuss it with your coworkers, you should have the courtesy to inform your boss first, as this affects him (i.e. finding a replacement).

        However, here it is the norm to take a 12 month maternity leave. Normally, people notify their boss at around 12 weeks (after the risk of miscarriage is lower, but before it shows). If your leave is only 8 weeks (don’t even get me started on how screwed up that is!), he may not need to reorganize his plans as much.

        BUT – if he usually displays his annoyance or more when employees are pregnant, he’s given up the right to be treated with courtesy. Of course pregnancy is bad for business. So is illness, vacations, weddings, divorces, people moving on. But it’s part of having human employees, and he should figure out how to deal with it without being nasty.

      3. De*

        It’s standard at least in the neighboring Germany.

        My boss now knows, but that’s because I had three consecutive miscarriages and at one point I wanted to be honest why I was missing weeks of work.

  11. Hannah*

    #1 I don’t think the OP did the right thing by talking openly about her pregnancy with her coworkers before she gave her boss a heads up. This could have created a weird situation where other people referenced her upcoming leave to her boss before the boss knew she would be on leave. The boss would be right to be upset about this. It would be like telling your coworkers that you were quitting but not telling your boss. If affects the boss the most (work related, not socially) so he should have been told first.

    The boss’s comment that he wants her to come to him as a friend is just wrong. But it wasn’t the best choice to just procrastinate on the tough conversation because the OP don’t like her boss and knows she wouldn’t like his reaction, that’s not really a valid excuse to avoid tough employment conversations in general.

    1. Elkay*

      I agree. If it was open conversation in the office then it seems unprofessional to not have informed your boss.

    2. Rika*

      It’s not just me then. I was ready to put it down to cultural differences, but I agree with you 100%.

      Although her boss suggesting that she should consider him a friend is just plain weird. Especially when he then turns around and gives her a speech about how inconvenient pregnant employees are to him.

    3. Cloverhart*

      Original poster here. I told my coworkers, who I practically sit on top of- MAYBE two weeks earlier than I told my boss. He is a grade A eveasdropper And I believe this is how he heard. It’s not like I waited until I was crowning to let him I know I needed time off. The issue I believe is not whether I gave him enough notice – four months should be plenty and we have more than enough coverage for when I’m gone – but his childish reaction that I should consider him a friend. He practically stomped his foot and pouted. He’s also a terrible boss in ways it would take me hours to type up- (maybe I should’ve mentioned that) so I didn’t exactly feel the need to run to tell him the good news. And like I said – he treats pregnancy like a bad business move on my part. Just wanted to shed some light on the situation

      1. Happy Lurker*

        OP, my sympathies with your boss!
        I had a weird situation 17 years ago :0! I was an admin, reporting to a very senior engineer. It was just us in a remote office, servicing clients. My boss (senior engineer) had just taken her maternity leave a year earlier and there were minimal issues with coverage. I did what needed to be done while she was gone for 4+ months. When my boss (SE) and I told our remote boss (a new boss to us), around the 5 months mark, he told me I needed a coverage plan, immediately. We hung up the conference call and laughed – thank goodness I was good friends with my direct boss, SE! Then I had to come up with a plan (for a basic admin position) interview and hire a temp to fill my own position. I had to give remote boss weekly updates on my maternity leave plan. I had to call him from home (across country on my own dime) to let him know I was on maternity leave and that I had set up the new person to start. It was a bit stressful. When I came back from leave, we got our old, old remote boss back…and my SE boss was pregnant. We joked about what her plan would be and how many months out she would have to submit it. She never had to. Some bosses are so strange.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Yeah, it’s the “you should consider me a friend” reaction that is the most bizarre to me. It would be one thing if he said he wished he knew sooner because of concerns about certain projects or something work-related.

      3. TheSockMonkey*

        Your explanation helps. I was picturing everyone in the office talking about it while only your boss wasn’t told. I worked in an office where my boss and her immediate buddies were making bets on who would get pregnant first so I wasn’t about to tell her. The only reason she found out is that she asked me and I decided not to lie to her.

        Bosses are weird. It’s your news to tell. He will hopefully eventually get over himself.

      4. Sadsack*

        Sorry you have an ass for a boss, but…you know he is an eavesdropper and yet discussed your pregnancy in the office. Even though it was a select few, it obviously wasn’t kept very secret. Even without your boss’s ridiculous need to be your friend, I would have been put off by the fact that others in the office knew and were discussing it before I knew. I get that if your boss was nice/normal/a good manager, you probably would have told him first. It just didn’t happen that way. I think you should just ignore his comments and if he says anything like them again, bring the conversation back around to work and what arrangements you are making or need to be make to get through your maternity leave. Good luck, and congratulations on your pregnancy!

        1. Cloverhart*

          Thank you! Yes if he was a good boss who reacts in a normal way I would have been happy to tell him sooner. Seeing as this is technically a “medical” thing (and some pregnancies can be quite sensitive in nature) I think a good manager, even if I had offended him, would have been professional enough to swallow those feelings and offered a congratulations and then proceeded with the next step in figuring out my upcoming maternity leave.
          -OP #1

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I’m going to sort of agree with this.

      In an office where you have friends, it’s not weird to tell your friends, confidentially and quietly, well before you tell your bosses. It is weird or awkward for it to not be confidential or quiet. There’s a lot to plan for a maternity leave and of course bosses want to know as soon as possible (even if we don’t have the right to know as soon as possible).

      It’s certainly happened to me and it was NBD, but “that awkward moment when she tells you she’s pregnant and you’re thinking I’ve already known for 2 months”.

      1. Cat*

        It also sucks for the coworkers who know and have to remember not to drop a stray comment to the wrong person. One of my coworkers told some of us the sex of the baby and asked us not to tell anyone else. I do not have the brainpower to keep that straight.

    5. CeeCee*

      Generally, I agree but I guess I look at it a bit different. It’s one thing to tell your office mates, before you’re showing, if (just for example) you’ve got a bad case of morning sickness and want to explain, with discretion, why you’re having some urgent bathroom runs — potentially in the middle of conversations or when someone walks into the room with food. In this case, it isn’t open conversation so much as telling them on a need to know basis. (And you can’t control what your coworkers do with that information from there.)

      It makes sense to me to wait until you’re showing to mention it to the boss. Not only because the beginning of pregnancy has risks associated with it, but also because 4 months is plenty of advance notice. And I am also on team “My boss isn’t my friend, so I don’t need to excitedly share news with him, but rather give him acceptable notice.”

      I agree that if this was public conversation, she should have clued the boss in as well so that he wasn’t hearing it secondhand, but in general I don’t think the OP was in the wrong.

      1. Pwyll*

        +1 to this!

        Frankly, IMO the decision of who to inform about any medical issue, including pregnancy, is no one’s business except your own. Deciding to tell a few people doesn’t suddenly entitle everyone else to that information. And it sounds like OP gave more than enough advance notice to the employer.

  12. Erin*

    #1 – Yes, your boss is an ass for wanting to be a friend instead of a boss, but I have to to slightly disagree with Alison – I read, and I agree, that you should tell your boss before your coworkers. It’s not really surprising to me that he wasn’t pleased you didn’t. I too am pregnant and researched this thoroughly.

    Also, my company has less than 50 employees and I only get eight weeks. If you get 12, take it and thank the stars!

    1. Kat M2*

      I understand that in general, it’s a good idea to inform your boss first. All the same, it might feel natural to tell your coworkers if you’re already friends with them. I don’t think it was necessarily unprofessional. Maybe not the best, if you’re trying to keep things under wraps, but people share all kinds of personal things with coworkers before cluing their boss in.

      The boss should make it a safe environment for pregnant employees or employees with other medical/family needs to give them notice. Otherwise, as a measure of self protection, they will be the last to know. She gave four months’ notice. That’s certainly a decent time frame.

      1. INFJ*

        I can’t agree more. Normally it would be best to tell boss first so that he didn’t hear it from someone else, but he lost that privilege by being slimy about it in the past.

    2. Mookie*

      You probably don’t intend to sound this way, but your last sentence seems to suggest that because other people have it worse, the LW has nothing to complain about. If you find the twelve weeks’ leave generous, then surely you find it troubling that when it transpires that someone may ask to actually use it they are given a discouraging lecture. Those twelve weeks don’t matter if the message sent to everyone is that they’ll be penalized for using them.

      1. Erin*

        I hear you, it was more a jealousy/venting on my part cause I’d rather have 12. :) I’m very thankful for my eight thought, I know some people get six. Or as you said, get 12 but are basically penalized for using them.

    3. WT*

      I wanted to comment on this line of thinking that we have to tell our bosses first because it impact them the most. It seems very wrong to tell someone when and how they should be informing others of their own health concerns (not that pregnancy is bad thing, but it is a health related situation). Just because pregnancy is related to a more happy event does not mean someone is obligated to reveal their private information any earlier then they choose to anyone. As for planning for leave for the boss, they should have ideas in place at all times anyways for how to handle an unexpected leave.

      1. Erin*

        As for the when and how – there’s definitely no one right answer to that. Again, I researched this a lot. Definitely depends on the individual, the industry, and other specific circumstances.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      And, I’m going to sort of disagree with this one. Apparently I’m middle of the road on the whole topic.

      A lot of our employees have become good personal friends with each other, to the point of bestees. I think it would be weird the other way around if an employee didn’t tell her best friend before she told her boss.

      1. Erin*

        Ha, you’re funny. But I understand. I hear what you and the OP are saying.

        I do think it’s almost always best to tell the boss first, but if you are close with a particular coworker, I could understand telling them before the boss. But I think it would have to be done very discreetly.

        With the OP, clearly it was open enough that the boss found out about it. (Admittedly, she mentioned in a comment he has a habit of eavesdropping, so that needs to be taken into consideration as well, because that is not cool.)

    5. Myrin*

      Erin, I had no idea you’re pregnant – congratulations and I hope everything is going well for you! :D

  13. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – OP, are you sure your interests with this person are purely professional? I’m getting a slight vibe that there may be something more. Even if there isn’t, giving gifts to someone you only worked with 5 months is little much – sounds like you maybe came on a little strong?

    1. Just Me*

      No. Nothing more than a professional relationship. She would ask for advice or my opinion on her work. This person was new to the profession and the gift was simply to encourage their pursuit of their interests. It wasn’t anything lavish. We’re connected on professional social media, but I never breeched into personal. This person was just a really great team member and someone I would have liked to have on my team.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, I picked up on this too.

      5 months a couple years ago? Why would you use skype and not e-mail? Did you buy gifts for other colleagues or just this one? I hate to speculate, but was this person a young woman?

      OP#4, I’m not accusing you of acting inappropriate in any way. But I had a previous boss who paid an inappropriate amount of attention to young attractive women that worked two or three levels below him. And he would phrase his attentions in similar ways to what you wrote in your letter. New to the workforce young professionals may not be able to tell the difference (or care to tell the difference) between inappropriate attention and appropriate, but too strong, attention.

      But, crossing norms by coming on too strong is a warning sign that you might cross other norms. And most people would not want a boss who did that. With only 5 months experience a couple years ago, she might not have the depth of experience to balance your coming on too strong (giving gifts, skype vs e-mail) vs a track record of not doing so.

      Also, don’t reach out to her. You already got your answer. How many times have you accidentally blocked someone? And if you have, wouldn’t your first response be to contact them immediately and tell them that it was an accident?

      1. Just Me*

        I wasn’t planning on it. Ball was in their court. To answer your question: Yes. I gave other people who I worked closely with small gifts – again small, nothing more than $10 – before I left. I worked with a great team and I appreciated them. No hidden agendas.

  14. Elysian*

    #2 – California might not be the broadest on this one! A lot of laws that would fall into play in this situation were passed in response to employers trying to limit off-duty smoking, so a lot of really surprising states have laws prohibiting firing you for “any legal off-duty conduct”, which usually includes speech activities. California IS broad, but so are New York, Louisiana, North Dakota and Colorado. As always though, lots of exceptions, consult a lawyer, etc.

  15. Jen*

    #1.- your boss is an ass, he’s not your friend. That said, as both a boss with reports that go on leave and someone who has been out on 3 Mat leaves, you really don’t want your boss finding out 2nd/3rd hand. I don’t disclose to anyone at work until I disclose to my boss. There was once an exception where a director on my team told me he had 3 women going out at the same time…and I hx found out the week before I was surprise pregnant again and would be out at the same time! We went to HR to talk through options and I ended up telling my boss a week or so later (at 7 weeks pregnant vs my typical 12-14).

    1. lulu*

      Agreed, you need to manage it better by not letting your boss overhear it. You can tell one or two close coworkers if you’re close to them but ask for their discretion until you disclose to your boss.

  16. Fish Microwaer*

    “His response is the response of an ass”. Absolute gold!!! I love this comment so much.

  17. Allison*

    #2 Funny, right after seeing this, I go to Facebook, and someone I know posted a picture that says:

    “Each time you see a racist ignorant comment on fb just kindly screenshot the comment. Then click on their page. Most of them they have their job listed. email comment to the HR dept of their job and tell them their company will get boycotted if they do not take action and fire the racist employee.
    Simple as that. Start hitting these asshole trolls online where it hurts the most – their pockets.”

    So yeah, I guess this is a thing now.

    1. KT*

      Oh it’s a thing. And I will admit I’ve taken part of it; people need to know there are repercussions.

      I’m involved in feminist issues and I wrote an article on the Stanford rape case. Then got tons of social media messages threatening to rape me, come to my house and gang-rape me, etc. People looked up my address and posted aerial snapshots of it.

      I ABSOLUTELY took screenshots of those posts and posters’ names and sent them to employers, wives, mothers.

    2. bearing*

      Yep. And to all those who say “Well, it’s not okay unless it’s hate speech,” my question is… who decides what is hate speech? Do we just know it when we see it, like the judge said about porn once upon a time?

      Certain professions in the public trust require their members to avoid the appearance of impropriety as well as actual impropriety towards the populations they work with. In a sense the people who work for the government work for all of us, so I can see reporting, i.e., ethnic slurs to the government office/school district/etc that employs the person who made the statement. But intervening between a private employer and their employees because you don’t like the employee, don’t like the words they say, don’t like the political causes they donate to… it strikes me as inappropriate, unlikely to change anyone’s mind, and contributing to rather than healing social divisions.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a bit of a cop out. If someone has their employer in their public profile, then what the person does in public does have some reflection on their employer, just as though they were in uniform. And, this is not about “knowing it when seeing it.” There are some pretty clear lines and pretending that they don’t exist is providing tacit support to this kind of behavior.

        If you are really confused here are a couple of items that are unacceptable:

        Making threats of violence to a person or their family
        Making derogatory comments about an entire class of people.

        1. bearing*

          Threats of violence are illegal and a different class of comment.

          It’s wrong to make derogatory comments; I also happen to think it’s wrong to take it upon oneself to try to punish a stranger with loss of employment when the derogatory comments do not happen on the job and are not related to the ethical requirements of the job. There are cases when a job requires one to present a neutral nondiscriminatory face to the public even off-duty; most jobs are not like that. Everybody needs to put food on the table, and doxxing people who hold objectionable and/or unpopular opinions will not likely change their opinions.

          It is indeed possible for people to have different opinions about what counts as a derogatory comment or not. I’m seeing quite a bit of that in the news right now. And I agree with you that many opinions are *obviously* wrong and *obviously* vile, and that there’s a line that most of us agree on even though the line is blurry about some of them and even though in some cases one person’s reasonable difference of opinion is another person’s unreasonably vile. I say you’re crossing a different sort of line when you try to get someone fired. Unless it’s relevant to the job, basically, you’re engaging in vengeance at that point.

          I don’t dig vengeance.

          1. Allison*

            I don’t like racism, and I don’t think people should go around making racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/otherwise hateful posts on social media, or anywhere on the internet. But I’m not gonna take it upon myself to get someone fired every time they piss me off. It would really suck if someone, angry that I supposed the BLM movement, e-mailed my boss and said “FYI, your employee here doesn’t respect our boys in blue*, fire her this minute or I will tell all your clients what horrible people you have working for you.”

            *I actually do have a ton of respect for officers, but whenever I side with victims of police brutality suddenly people assume I’m some kind of evil anarchist.

            1. Heather*

              I’m with both bearing & Allison. To me, the appropriateness of involving someone’s employer because of something they said on the internet goes something like this:

              1) Threats of violence or doxxing, regardless of person’s occupation – Yes
              2) Hate/derogatory speech from someone who’s in a position of public trust (cop, teacher) or works for an org whose mission directly involves working against it (SPLC employee making a racist rant) – Yes
              3) Hate/derogatory speech without threats from someone who works for, say Macy’s – No, unless they’re bringing their employer into it (“I can’t believe Macy’s hires [insert racial slur here]”)
              4) Political comments that you find bothersome but don’t cross the line into hate/derogatory speech – No

              1. CanadianKat*

                Agree on 1 and 4. Disagree on 2 and 3.

                I would say Yes to any clear hate/derogatory speech. Many organizations have a general Code of Conduct (which outsiders may not necessarily know about). They may not fire the person over this, but I think they would want to know, and would be in a position to tell the employee that this is not acceptable. It may not be enough for a “for cause” firing. But this may contribute towards a “without cause” firing (with proper notice). And why shouldn’t it? This racist/homophobe/xenophobe/etc. will come in contact with other people in the office, whether those are clients or colleagues. Some of these people may belong to the groups this person is disparaging. Why should an employer risk either (a) this person treating clients/coworkers with disrespect, or (b) clients/coworkers finding out independently about what an asshole this person is.

                Bottom line is if you’re making any comments on the internet under your real name, you should be prepared for anybody in the world to be aware of them (regardless of any “privacy” settings).

                1. Heather*

                  I definitely see what you mean, and that’s how I used to think about it, too. What changed my mind is the research showing that being shamed/experiencing consequences/being lectured not only has no impact on a person’s beliefs, but it can actually entrench them further into those beliefs and make it less likely that they’ll be open to new points of view.

                  Now, my personal goal (YpersonalgoalMV!) is to reduce the number of people who hold hurtful beliefs, not to make sure the ones who do get punished for whatever they said. So unless it’s likely that actual harm to an individual or their employer will directly result from their words, I’d like to save my energy to engage with someone who might actually be willing to hear what I have to say.

          2. Observer*

            You are missing the point. Whether or not to try to get someone fired is not the question.

            The issue was that you can’t claim that something doesn’t reflect on your company what you choose to identify your company in the same context as the behavior. If you are wearing a company tee short when you go to a march it reflects on the company. If you have your employer as part of your facebook profile, then facebook posts that can be seen by the public reflect on your employer.

            And the discussion was not about whether to chase down every not so nice thing people say, but how to respond to egregious stuff – which you complained is totally nebulous. Not so. As you noted, threats are often illegal. And, despite attempts to cloud the issue, it’s generally pretty clear when a statement is derogatory and when it’s being applied to a class of people.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Just because the line is blurry doesn’t mean that there’s nothing across the line.

      3. Clever Name*

        Not to be a law geek but the judge (Justice potter Stewart) was talking about obscenity not porn. If the porn is not obscene it still gets 1st amendment protection.

    3. KT*

      Hmmm. My post went into moderation.

      I do this. I am a feminist and after the Stanford case, wrote about r**e culture in our country. I had death threats and threats to gang r**e me. They posted my address and aerial views of my home.

      You better believe I took screenshots and sent them to their employers, wives, mothers…these people NEED to know that kind of behavior is unacceptable, and sometimes hitting them close to home is the one way to get there.

        1. KT*

          Yes! Thanks for asking :0 It’s amazing how many of them panic and apologize once their moms hear what they did. I have had moms personally call me to apologize, wonder aloud where they went wrong that their sons thought this was okay, then promise they’ll get an earful. Then they magically disappear, never to bother me (or hopefully any other woman) again.

    4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      Last year, I read Jon Ronson’s, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” which I highly recommend. It was about people dealing with the aftermath of having the Internet mob turn on them. The most well-known example was probably Justine Sacco.

      But it made me think a lot about where we draw the line, and I think that the OPs letter is a perfect example of how it trickles down from things no company would want to be connected with to a spat over not getting multiple products.

      1. bearing*

        See, this is why I think we should police ourselves, and just not go down the road of deciding who does and doesn’t deserve to get fired and doxxing the ones that go over the line.

        In the case of people whose jobs or professional associations require them to present a nondiscriminatory face to the public even when off duty, it’s correct to let their employer know of breaches — but even that isn’t “because that racist dude deserves to get fired,” it’s because we want the job to be filled with someone who’s qualified instead. And your average shelf-stocker or bank teller or receptionist or cashier — as long as they treat people with respect on-duty, and don’t pretend to represent their employer off-duty, it isn’t their employer’s business what they do and say off the clock.

        1. fposte*

          But even then you’ve gone down that road–you’ve just drawn the line for how far in a particular place.

  18. Alton*

    Ugh. #2 is why I do very little online under my real name. There’s still no guarantee that someone wouldn’t try to doxx me or something, but there’s a lot more privacy and plausible deniability.

    But there’s also a point where I’ve decided that it’s a matter of conviction and I don’t mind standing up for myself. It’s important to me to be out of the closet, for example, so I don’t make an effort to hide my gender and sexuality on Facebook.

    I hate it when companies overreact to things like this and involve themselves needlessly into private affairs. There are times when it can make sense to care about what an employee is doing online, like if they’re threatening or harassing people, or saying things that do relate to the job (like a cop bragging about breaking the law or something). But an employee having a personal covers at ion where they call someone whiny doesn’t fit the bill.

  19. KT*

    The freedom of speech thing always irks me. Sure, say whatever you want. But freedom of speech means you can’t be detained for saying “down with democracy”…it does not mean there are no consequences for what you say or do.

    This is not just the OP, but a larger issues. It amazes me the things people say on social media, forums, etc that they would never in a million years say to someone’s face, and then are surprised at repercussions.

    (That video of the men reading hateful comments women sportscasters received was astonishing to me.)

    It comes back to what to what your mom always said…if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all…on a timeline, wall, Tweet or Tumblr.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      My friends all laugh every time a “my/their freedom of speech was violated” post comes up because I get so frustrated — evidently I say, “that’s not what the constitution says.”

      It frustrates me that people don’t understand the constitution and what their rights actually are.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        If the best thing someone can say in defense of their stance is “It’s not actually illegal for me to say this,” they should probably rethink their position.

      2. Megs*

        If I see one more person whining in a comment section about moderation being a violation of free speech, you might just have to contact my employer about my actions.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Freedom of speech =\= Freedom from consequences

        I kinda want to get this tattooed!

  20. Daffy Buttinsky*

    #3: This may be regional, but why not also interrupt in the moment? “Excuse me, Big Boss, before you move on to the next point, I want to add to [thing you just said.]”

    1. OP#3*

      See my response to BadPlanning, below. Interrupting means literally talking over the speaker, which we’ve been trying to avoid, because it seems discourteous and not very professional. But it may be the way we have to deal with it if we can’t train the bosses to pause more often for questions/comments.

      1. insert witty name here*

        I conduct almost all my meetings via conference call and interrupting just goes with the territory. It’s not rude. If you’re worried, state something at the beginning: I’ve been having trouble being heard so I may need to interject at times… (or something like that. Allison writes these things better than I do.)

      2. NacSacJack*

        We do this all the time at my job. When on speaker phone or conference line, you have no way of knowing when the other party will speak. Part of being in person is the visual cue’s when someone is about to speak. Sometimes, we will take an audible breath or say, “Ummm” to indicate we want to speak. It’s something that the new company will have learn and yes, it will be considered rude until they realize this is the way things work with remote locations.

  21. Gaara*

    #1 – run. I’ve never known a good boss to think of themselves as friends or family with their employees. It’s a big red flag of lack of boundaries and a poorly managed work environment.

  22. Gaia*

    OP 2 this is tough and I see both sides.

    Depending on exactly what was said, I can see your work being miffed…if you represent yourself as their employee on your FB page. This is one of many reasons my FB page doesn’t list my employer. I don’t talk about work in any form on any social media. I am not friends with anyone I work with, even after they leave, even those I hang out with outside of work.

    If you mix social and work, you run this risk. It would be like you screaming on the street corner in a company uniform. Your employer would be rightfully irritated at how you represented them.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        In some circumstances/professions, you do, though typically if that’s the case, you usually sign something up front like a morality clause or contract that states anything you do off hours that the company/business/school/whatever objects to will lead to your dismissal and you read and understand that.

    1. El*

      BUT the OP said she DOESN’T represent herself as their employee on her own FB page. The miffed debater apparently looked her up on LinkedIn, found out who her employer was, and sent an email to them. The debate wasn’t even about any of OP’s company products – it was a complaint about only being allowed one product from another company. The OP stated that it was right to have limits on how many products each person could buy so that other people would also have the chance to get one product.

    2. Tinker*

      The OP’s “mixing of social and work” constituted allowing people who interacted with her to know her name, and elsewhere having her resume posted publicly in a professional context. That’s hardly “screaming on the street corner in a company uniform”.

  23. Lauren*

    “If you’re in the U.S. and work somewhere with 50 or more employees; FMLA gives you 12 weeks.”

    AAM – Is this true of all workers for a company or just an office? I’m in Mass with less than 20 employees, but we have 250+ people across 4 offices in other states. Headquarters is in PA an to want to remain ignorant so they can get away with stuff like not following healthcare laws, vacation payout laws, etc. that apply to Mass employees.

    1. Duncan*

      FMLA applies if there are 50 employees in a 75 mile radius. Sounds like your company may be too spread out for your location to be eligible, but other locations within the company may be.

  24. Jubilance*

    #2 – Over the past week, I’ve had friends who have posted their support of #BlackLivesMatter, and in return, they’ve received messages calling them all kinds of racist names, threatening to kill them, etc. I absolutely think it’s fair to inform the employers of these people about what they are doing. This isn’t about having a difference of opinion, this is a threat on someone’s life.

    Obviously this isn’t the case in #2 – I mean, who sends a complaint cause they were called “whiny” – but I want to highlight where there are instances where people should be called out for their racist/sexist/homophobic behavior on the Internet, especially when they threaten bodily harm to other people. If you REALLY want to troll, learn to do it without your real name and employer listed.

    1. NacSacJack*

      Please tell your friends they can report the offenders to FaceBook and to the police. As part of 9/11 it was made illegal to threaten another person in any way, method, or means. These people can be put in jail for their comments alone.

  25. BadPlanning*

    On OP3 — I don’t know what sort of phone/conference system that you might have, but you guys might just have to start interrupting if you can’t convince someone on the other side to check in with your team.

    I know on some phone systems, the line doesn’t merge well and the interrupter can’t be heard, but on most of ours, if you break in a couple times, the speaker can hear it and (hopefully) stop talking.

    I’m on a lot of multi site calls so sometimes we just have to do this:

    Current Speaker: “As you can see in the fine print on slide 12”
    Interrupter: “Hey, Thor”
    Current Speaker: “we have excruciating detail”
    Interrupter: “Hey, I have a question”
    Current Speaker: “and tiny font — oh, did someone have a question?”
    Interrupter: “Yeah, sorry, I had a question on the pie chart on this page? What’s the green slice?”

    Is it perfect, no, but sometimes needs to be done. And frankly, as a listener, I often welcome the interruption (okay, not always). Sometimes the interruption prompts the speaker to start checking for questions.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Yup. We do this at my company all the time when people keep talking during a conference call and won’t let others speak.

    2. Pwyll*

      I would do both Alison’s suggestion and yours: bring it up with the boss or coordinator of the meeting in advance that the office is having trouble getting a word in and letting them know that they’re going to start more forcefully interrupting in order to speak, and then doing exactly what you’ve said.

      That way at least the meeting planner won’t entirely be blindsided by the change in behavior.

    3. OP#3*

      Heh, that looks familiar. And yes, that sort of stuttered interrupting, where you have to talk over someone not just once but repeatedly before the speaker’s brain catches up to his mouth and he realizes someone else is trying to interject and FINALLY pauses, is exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid. But what I’m hearing from posters here is that it may be unavoidable.

  26. animaniactoo*

    “Jack, I can understand how you feel. But the reality is that you ARE my boss, and I need to be conscious of that and choose how to handle things with that in mind.”

    That said – oy. What a child.

    I was going to suggest being more careful about what you guys discuss when he’s remotely in earshot, even though you shouldn’t *have* to do that for something like this, but then I realized – it really wouldn’t help. He’d just get pissy over something else.

    Evil Me™ wishes you had told him “Alright then, Jack. As my friend, I just wasn’t ready to hear your “we only have to give you 8 weeks” speech again. That’s why you were the last to know.”

  27. Kelly L.*

    I’m wondering if #4 is just the flip side of something we discussed yesterday. I’m imagining the former associate being deluged with “apply for this! apply for that!” by well-meaning people, and finally getting fed up. It might not be any one person’s promptings that pushed her over the edge, but the cumulative effect of former co-workers + mom + grandma’s cat’s roommate and so on.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Or, if it’s anything like Facebook (IDK, I don’t use Skype), is it possible she deleted her account entirely rather than removing you personally? I wonder if she forgot she even had an account and, upon receiving a message in it, remembered to delete it.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I’ve done this too in the past when I forgot I had LinkedIn (didn’t even remember the password), then started receiving messages, and that’s what prompted me to delete it (that, and I reminder here).

      2. Kyrielle*

        Skype is more like an instant messenger program – and if you don’t have it up, as far as I know, you don’t get any messages, just when you log back in.

    2. Megs*

      This was my thought as well – maybe them defriending the OP was about bad timing and a lot of unsolicited offers. I recently updated my LinkedIn account to reflect the contract work I’ve been doing for the last year, and all of the sudden the offers to do projects for other companies have started coming out of the woodwork. They’re mostly recruiters on LinkedIn, but I’ve gotten emails as well. I don’t think either the OP or their former contact did anything egregious here, though I understand being “unfriended” can feel very personal. Assuming you didn’t stay in touch with this person since you worked with them, however, they might just view you as another unsolicited recruitment they’re uninterested in following up with.

  28. 2 Cents*

    For OP#3, we do a lot of conference calls (not video) and some voice conferencing companies have a significant relay delay so that one side could think you’re just not responding, when, in fact, you just heard the entire message because of the delay. One of our clients insisted on using one of the free conferencing services (rhymes with Boo-Hoo) and the delay on the line was incredible. Like, we’d stop talking, think the other side wanted to hear more, start talking, only to discover they had started talking — it was at least a 2 second delay, which doesn’t sound like much till you’re on one of these calls.

  29. Sparkly Librarian*

    #4 – You worked with this person for 5 months a few years ago? Have you had contact with her since leaving your old position, especially Skype contact? If not, it’s possible that you might be assuming your working relationship is closer than she thinks it is. I used Skype daily at my last job (for about 8 years) and got a fair number of spammy requests. If someone whose username I didn’t recognize messaged me out of the blue with a two-sentence job offer and a link, I’d be inclined to treat it like standard spam: block and delete.

    1. KR*

      Yeah. Skype isn’t a normal means of contact either. If someone tries to contact me via the skype messaging app I usually block and delete so that they don’t try and fail to contact me again.

  30. Christine*

    2. I got in trouble for a Facebook spat outside of work

    Unfriend your boss & make the About Section Listing employers “close friends only” on FaceBook. Regarding the write-up; most employers allow an employee to respond to a write-up. The ability to respond to a write-up, poor eval, etc. Look at your HR department and see who receives the write-up forms; and contact them. Notify your boss that you wish to give a written response to the write-up; and respond in a way that doesn’t put her in the hotseat, but this was something that was personnel etc., I do not like the fact that your boss friended you in order to investigate your FB page. Sneaky, Sneaky and beware of any hidden agendas.

  31. Trig*

    Yeah, OP3, teleconferencing is, as you’ve learned, not easy. I don’t think I’ve been to a single meeting in the last 4 years that wasn’t a conference call (part huge international company, part remote workers), so the most effective meeting facilitators at my company are pretty good at stopping and directly addressing “folks on the phone” to solicit feedback or questions.

    I’m guessing that City A folk didn’t ever have to do it before, aren’t used to it, and so are just conducting meetings as they always have, without realising that they need to adapt a bit. Presumably they’re looking around the physical room and not seeing anyone try to interject, and they aren’t accustomed to asking if anyone on the phone has questions, so they assume you all just have nothing to say and aren’t aware that there’s a problem. Stopping and asking is not second nature to anyone, so it will take conscious effort and practice on their part. Polite interruptions will help them remember and get used to it.

    Hopefully bringing it up with the meeting facilitator will help too (if said facilitator is one of the blatherers, you’ll definitely need to be tactful, but it will get the issue in front of them in an immediate way!)

  32. QMum*

    Re # 1, while pregnancy runs the dual track of personal and health information and should be that person’s business, its a courtesy to let your boss know before your co-workers. Even if the people you told are close and sworn to secrecy, these things can and will get out. From a manager’s perspective, it’s good to let your boss know first, that way if questions do come his/her way regarding workload or adoption of assignments during your leave, he/she isn’t left looking clueless or caught unprepared. You’d do the same thing if you were leaving permanently – so why should a pending temporary leave be any different? I could see a boss not being happy to hear second hand. That said, the boss in this situation is upset for the wrong reasons.

    1. WT*

      This situation, like so many on here is driven by the boss’s reaction. Thinking of the scenario where someone is leaving and would tell the boss first. I can say at my last firm (a terrible place to work) mgt was always the last to know people were leaving because it was known the response was not good. So everyone would help and cover for each other during interviews and mentally prepare ourselves for the workload before hearing from mgt the official word.

      1. QMum*

        I’ve run the gambit from bosses being supportive to one boss telling me what a horrible, deceitful person I was for pursuing an opportunity elsewhere and forbade me from telling my clients that I was leaving. As ridiculous as some people can act in these situations, you need to give them professional courtesy and let them manage the transition in the way they need to, which may be for reasons the employee doesn’t understand. Case in point: Don’t tell your clients. I hated that. It was a horrible thing to do, but she had her reasons. I understood, but didn’t agree it was right. I still transitioned from my job the way my boss wanted me to, and in the end she told me that she appreciated how professional I was. How you handle these situations says more about you than them.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, if your boss is a jerk about stuff, you don’t owe them professional courtesy. So, if your boss is going to fire you the day you tell them you are leaving, you don’t tell them till you are ready to leave. Is that professional courtesy? No? Is it acceptable? Absolutely.

          This is not about managing the transition, it’s about managing information to protect yourself.

          In a case like this, as well. There was no chance that the boss was going to be asked questions that he couldn’t answer. On the other hand, the OP had good reason to want to protect herself from an idiot boss who lacks appropriate boundaries. And, he didn’t find out second hand.

          1. QMum*

            You cannot expect a secret not to be found out in the workplace – it doesn’t matter if you work with really close friends or not. Stuff gets overheard or people talk. If you don’t want anyone to know until you’re ready, keep your mouth shut.

            And yes, it is about managing a transition. If you’re leaving or or are planning to take a leave of absence, your boss should know first. Any whisper of change may cause disruption, which needs to be managed. You throw a stone into a pond, it will cause ripples. You’re leaving is your business, but it’s not just about you. It effects other people – some you may like, some you may completely disrespect. Regardless, you need stay a class act all the way through.

            Just because the boss lacks class, doesn’t mean the employees should act in kind. Is it fair? No. But a true professional will rise above it. Your actions in the workplace reflect on you and you alone. Let him look like the ass. Not you. That’s protecting yourself.

            1. Observer*

              Sure, there is less risk of the boss finding out if you don’t talk to anyone. That’s something for each person to balance.

              And, the bottom line is that the boss doesn’t get the courtesy of managing the transition the way he wants, if part of “the way he wants” is to mistreat a person who gives him information. It’s that simple.

              If that has negative repercussions on the rest of the staff, that’s on the manager. People understand the repercussions of a manager acting like a jerk. And, sometimes people will take the risk of telling some staff in order to mitigate the negative effects, although, as noted, they have to balance that against the risk that it will get back to the boss.

  33. Catabouda*

    This is a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to remove my workplace from my FB profile.

    I’m already in the clear on the friending issue – I don’t allow folks from work.

  34. SophieChotek*

    Maybe it is just me, but I found it interesting that at a similar situation (albeit via Facebook instead of Skype) appeared on Dear Prudence today also. Coincidence, I guess?

    (Ex-Co Worker Blew Me off) — similar situation, but not quite…asking for referrals versus suggesting a new job…


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, interesting! In that one, I’d bet the former coworkers thought it was sort of a mass mailing announcement, which are easy to ignore.

  35. Niccola M.*

    I am admittedly socially maladroit, so I could be entirely off base, but for #3 would it be possible for the senior person at your location to compile what everyone at your location would have asked had you the opportunity, then mass email it to everyone on the call with a preface along the lines of “Hey, City B. It seems the phone system wasn’t working properly and you couldn’t hear anyone on this end. Here’s what you missed out on.”

    If the problem reoccurs, suggest using Skype or another videoconferencing program, as there’s obviously something going on with the phones. (It’s harder to ignore someone waving at you.) If this still doesn’t solve or at least lessen the problem, draft a declaration of independence and send it to the head of the company via certified mail.

    1. Witty Nickname*

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all offices are created equal. And when I meet the CEO, imma compel him to include our office in the sequel!” (sorry, can’t let the opportunity for a Hamilton reference to slip by)

  36. stevenz*

    Many many women won’t tell *anyone* but their closest friends about pregnancy until the first few high-risk months have gone by without a problem. especially if they have ever failed to carry a pregnancy to term. Even then, it’s the kind of information that one rolls out based on the status of the relationship. I just don’t think a boss is very high up on most of those lists. If there is a reason for him or her to know, tell her or him in time for he or she to do what they need to do under the circumstances. Beyond that, no other consideration is necessary.

  37. ElizzyBeth*

    Re The Facebook Spat
    Why in the world would you accept a friend request from a boss? Perhaps it’s just me, but the only ‘friends’ I have on FB are very close friends and family, people I actually know, love and have personal relationships with. Otherwise, my profile is locked down tight. I would never, ever ‘friend’ a coworker or a boss.

    But here’s the bigger issue… What confuses me about the OP’s words, though, is that the ‘spat’ was claimed to be during off work time, but was, in fact, related to work somehow. It says, “They wrote an anonymous note to the company I work for saying that I called them names…” Well if it were anonymous, how did the OP know who it was? How did it go from work and end up on FB outside of work? It’s all very confusing. The only thing can gather is that the OP somehow figured out who the ‘anonymous’ person was and took it upon him/herself and contacted them directly via FB. Well, that seems rather unprofessional to me. If somebody makes a legit complaint to your employer about your behavior while in their employ, take it like an adult. Don’t go for some back-alley FB justice or something. The OP admitted to calling the person ‘whiny’ — well, yeah, sounds like it was deserved of a complaint if you are calling patrons ‘whiny’ and then stalking them to fight with them on social media for filing a complaint. They have every right to complain to your employer about your treatment of them if it originated while working. Frankly, I think the employer had every right to investigate the employee’s actions here… if the employee got upset over a complaint filed with the employer and then took personal time to track down and fight with the person over it…. well, if anything that just solidifies the patron’s complaint that the employee has some issues. Seems to me that the OP got off easy with a ‘verbal warning’ — most places I know would consider that kind of aggressive behavior worthy of firing.

      1. ElizzyBeth*

        Thank you. I didn’t see those comments. That’s even more odd. Why would somebody complain to an employer, then? I mean, I suppose it could be a massive personal issue… but at what point should the OP have backed off, ignored it and not let it impact his/her work life? It still seems super aggressive and creepy to actively contact somebody like that in response to an anonymous complaint. If it’s a matter of unwarranted harassment, there are other avenues that can be pursued to resolve it without the person looking like an aggressive stalker themselves. The moment the OP took something that happened at work (the anonymous complaint) outside of work, it became an extension of work related issues. I know if I’d filed an anonymous complaint and the employee contacted ME, personally, through social media, I’d be anything from creeped out and angry to scared and calling the police. That’s the part that bothered me the most. The original complaint may have been unrelated to work… okay, great. But that doesn’t seem to be the best way to have handled it because it does, in fact, reflect on the company if the actions were spurred by something that happened at work.

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