my boss helped my girlfriend’s mom ambush her at our house, what does “polished” mean in job postings, and more

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

1. What does “polished” mean in job postings?

I’m office temping and looking for a full-time job. I was at first focusing on nonprofits, but after some great experiences temping in the corporate world, I’m expanding my search. Every now and then I see in a listing that they’re look for a “polished” assistant.

The first time I saw this, it was for work with a luxury brand, and I immediately imagined a conventionally attractive woman with sleek hair and freshly manicured nails. I suspected that luxury brand work was not for me — I dress tidily and professionally, but don’t want to work someplace where the tweezedness of my brows might come under scrutiny.

Now I’ve been temping someplace a month, and one of their temp-to-term postings also used that word. I know this company isn’t like that — they’re corporate, but clearly not judging admins on pore size or whatever. So: what does “polish” mean? How is it different from “professional?”

Sometimes “polished” does mean what you’re envisioning — a particularly high level of attention to grooming and overall physical presentation.

But more often it just means a high level of professionalism. It means, for example, that you’re going to handle even difficult callers smoothly, that you’re not going stand in a VP’s office fumbling through papers for five minutes rather saying “let me find that for you and I’ll bring it right back,” that you’re going to greet visitors warmly even when you’re feeling harried, that you’re not going to complain about work while you’re at the front desk, that you can competently juggle multiple things without getting flustered … overall, that you’re going to be highly competent, make the job look easy and be a calming presence in the office rather than a stressful or chaotic one, and not need coaching on professionalism.

2. My boss was fired my second week on the job

After a year of being unemployed, I had an interview with a manufacturing company for a role in my field. The first interview went well, very standard, although there were a lot of behavioral questions and none about my actual technical skills as an accountant. In the second interview, I met directly with the controller, who wanted me to know that the financials were a mess and that it would be challenging but rewarding. A mess was an understatement. Two weeks in now, and the controller was walked out of the building. HR has reassured me that my job is safe and that my technical skills were part of the consideration in hiring me, as they were discussing removing the controller at that time.

I’m concerned because I definitely do not have the skills to sort out this mess. The role I was hired in to is a brand new one, so I technically have no duties. They will be hiring a new controller but they are starting the process now so it will likely be a few weeks.

Do I start looking for a new job? Should I put this one on my resume when applying? I’m not sure what looks worse … a year of unemployment or applying for a new job within three weeks of the start date of the latest one.

I think it’s way too premature to assume this job won’t work out. It’s possible, sure, but it’s also possible that this was just crappy timing and you’ll have a bumpy first couple of months and then it’ll be fine. And it could even be a good opportunity for you to get experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I would just be very up-front with whoever you’re reporting to in the interim about your skills and what you can and can’t do, and ask how you can be most helpful during this period.

That said, there’s no harm in applying for more jobs if you want to, so that if this one does turn out badly you’re ahead of the game. (If you do that, don’t put this one on your resume; there’s no point in including a job you haven’t at for very long.)

3. My boss helped my girlfriend’s mom ambush her at our house

My girlfriend and I work together, and her mom is friends with our supervisor. We’ve recently learned that our boss discusses the current state of our relationship with her mom. We try to be as professional as possible at work, which our boss interprets as a lack of affection and caring. Now both my boss and my girlfriend’s mom think I don’t care about her and she shouldn’t be with me. At home, we’re loving and affectionate, something neither of them see.

After not reaching my girlfriend for a week because her phone was shut off, her mom talked to our boss, who told her about a night that I would be at work but my girl would be home. Not even 10 minutes after I leave for work, her mother and brother show up, uninvited, at our house and just walk in on my girlfriend in her underwear. Her mom is convinced I’m abusive, so I can assume she walked in as a way of getting an uncensored version of our living environment.

Did our boss break the law by sharing our schedule with her mom, essentially planning this little ambush? If some random person had asked for our schedule, would it be legal for her to give it out? I see no difference. The house is a rental in my name so I see it as trespassing and I see my boss planning this with her as conspiracy to commit trespassing. Do I have any legal recourse or am I wrong in thinking laws were broken?

It wasn’t illegal for your boss to share your schedule with someone outside the company — poor judgment, definitely, but not illegal. (And of course, that pales in comparison to her poor judgment in pretty much every other detail of the story.)

I can’t speak to trespassing law, although I suspect that it wasn’t trespassing unless your girlfriend ordered them to leave and they refused.

Either way, though, there’s a big problem with your boss and your girlfriend’s mom. I don’t know how solid your other options might be, but I’d be looking at changing jobs to get away from all this drama.

4. Is this a vacation day or a sick day?

My office has separate vacation leave and paid sick leave, not combined PTO. Would you suggest counting the following scenario as a vacation day or a sick day? An employee was out of town on a personal trip over a weekend, and the return flight Sunday evening was cancelled due to airline delays related to weather. Since the employee was booked on an evening flight, they were rescheduled to the following morning and therefore missed work on Monday.

This is in reference to a salaried employee who works only four days per week and already has 10 days of vacation time (essentially 2.5 weeks of vacation per year) that is allowed to be used in single day increments if desired.

Most offices would handle that as a vacation day. But if you’re particularly flexible about how people use sick days and don’t really care if someone charges a day off to sick or vacation, there’s no inherent problem with doing it that way.

5. Company put hiring process on hold — should I tell them I’ll have to look at other jobs instead?

I went on a fantastic interview. I was told at the interview that I had a “really great shot” and was an awesome fit. I was asked about my schedule for a final interview on July 19 and responded the same day but never heard back. It’s now the end of August and I’ve not been offered the position and that final interview has not been scheduled — but I have received emails stating they are so sorry the process is taking so long, they’re still very interested in me, but the hiring process has been delayed at this time.

I am extremely disappointed with my current company and salary, which makes this potential opportunity even more desirable than when I first interviewed and wasn’t really looking to leave (they contacted me via LinkedIn). How should I respond to this email sent yesterday telling me things are on hold? Should I let them know I am eager to leave and was waiting on them but will now have to explore other companies and positions? I really liked the company, location, potential to grow and the salary they offered so letting this one go would be difficult.

Oh my goodness, no, do not tell them that. They are assuming that you’re exploring other options, so it would be odd to state that — it would sound like you were relying too much on this job panning out and that you were trying to make that their problem to deal with.

Even people who are told they’re a great fit end up getting rejected, and hiring processes get put on hold or stopped altogether. You definitely don’t want to rely on this job, and you even more definitely don’t want to tell them you’ve been doing that since that will look naive. Moreover, they have reasons for having things on hold, and those won’t change just because they hear that you’re disappointed. (In fact, you want them to take whatever time they need to figure everything out before they offer you a job; otherwise you risk major changes to the job or team after you’ve already accepted it.)

So just thank them for updating you and tell them that you’ll be interested in talking whenever they’re ready to move forward. Then, the best thing you can do is assume that it’s not going to happen (not because it won’t, but because it’s better for you if you’re not waiting around for it), put it out of your head, and proceed the way you would have if they’d rejected you — meaning, presumably, that you start applying for other jobs.

{ 452 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP#3- Wow, that was terrible of your boss. I agree with Alison that it might be a smart idea for you and possibly your girlfriend too to look for new jobs. I’d also consider new locks on your doors.

    1. Artemesia*

      Good catch. If they walked in on her in her underwear then they have a key presumably. Today, get the locks changed. This can be done in half an hour (they just reconfigure them and give you new keys); it is not very expensive. And then make sure Mom doesn’t get a key. And then discuss new jobs and a move at least to another city and preferably far far away.

      The key change can be done immediately but job changes take longer; so it is up to the girlfriend to let her mother know how inappropriate she feels this all was and how enraged she is about the boundary crossing.

      1. caryatis*

        This is the best advice. Why tf does the mother have a key to the girlfriend’s home? That needs to end, and in an ideal world they would move to a place where the mother didnt’ know the address.

        1. BRR*

          I don’t think it’s that strange in general for someone to have a key to your place. But the mother sounds way too invasive and shouldn’t have a key. It’s also not clear if she does have a key or if the door was unlocked. Not that that makes it acceptable in any way for her to enter a home without permission, it only is in reference to if she is abusing having a key. It doesn’t strike me as odd that the mother was concerned about not being able to reach her daughter for a week. There are multiple things we don’t know like if the girlfriend didn’t give a heads up or if the mother doesn’t have the lw’s numbers but if I just didn’t answer the phone for a week my mom would have called the police (we live in different states though).

          Don’t get me wrong though. The boss and mother are both very wrong with how they handled things.

          1. Artemesia*

            Lots of people give keys to relatives — my adult kids have keys to our place, I have keys for my daughter’s who lives in my city. I would NEVER enter her home without authorization and she wouldn’t do it for mine.

            People without boundaries though should not have keys. In a long life so far there has never been an ’emergency’ that required a relative to enter my home.

            1. Julia*

              I just let myself into my grandma’s place because if I announced myself, I’d end up making a 94-year-old woman get up for me. She is okay with that.
              My mother and father also both refused to knock on my bedroom door because it’s their house (ugh), which I was not okay with. Context matters.
              In this case, the mother seems like a boundary-crosser.

              1. Gaia*

                Same here. I walk into my grandparents’ house because otherwise I am forcing them to get up and walk downstairs which isn’t always easy or possible for them. So instead I open the door and immediately announce myself.

            2. Kelly L.*

              My mom has a key to mine. But that’s because I trust her to not just walk in there. The only thing I’ve ever used it for was when I locked myself out.

            3. alter_ego*

              Yeah, my mom doesn’t have a key to my place, because she lives 300 miles away, and what the hell would she do with it? But if we lived in even the same state, she totally would. And like you said, I have a key to her place, since I stay there whenever I go back to my hometown, sometimes to visit friends when my parents aren’t even there. Now, this is the case because she and I both have good boundaries and a great relationship, but giving relatives a key to your place is not an inherently strange thing to do, especially if you don’t realize how bad their boundaries are going to be until it’s too late

              1. Anja*

                Me too. My mom doesn’t have a key because she lives over 1000km away (620 miles?). My brother who lives in the same city a me has a set of my keys, though. Just in case. But it would never occur to him to use them unless it was per a specific request (eg. bring in my mail while I’m on vacation) or no one had heard from me in days and our mom sent him to check (which would start with lots of doorbell ringing and knocking and calling out once entered – no surprises).

                I technically still have my parents’ “keys” because it’s a number code and it’s the house I grew up in. I always notified of visits but then still let myself in for convenience – with a knock. When I still lived in the same town if no one was home and I wanted to borrow a tool or something I’d let myself in and then just leave a note. I told my parents I’d stop letting myself in once they didn’t live in a house that I lived in for over a decade.

            4. GreyjoyGardens*

              My neighbors and my best friend have keys to my house – in case something happens to me, my cats are taken care of, mail taken in, etc. But these people all have boundaries, and don’t barge in for the heck of it.

              I think LW3 should change the locks, and then, if there are kids or pets that need taken care of in case of emergency, they need to give a spare key to a neighbor, friend or relative they trust, NOT boundary-busting mom.

            5. SystemsLady*

              Adding to the pile that if my mother lived anywhere near my apartment she’d have a key (granted, I have some health problems that make living alone a tiny bit of a risk and spend a decent chunk of time living alone).

            6. Lemon Zinger*

              “People without boundaries should not have keys.”

              This is so important. Many of us have relatives with boundary issues, and in no way is it smart, safe, or appropriate to let them bully you into giving them keys.

              My mom lives in another state, but she’s never been big on privacy. When I got my first apartment, she insisted on making a copy of my key and being put on the list of “approved” people who could be let in by management. It gave me the heebie-jeebies.

            7. Chalupa Batman*

              Mr. Batman, my son, and I all have keys to a close relative’s home from when we lived there. I clearly explained to my kids when we moved that once you don’t live somewhere anymore, you no longer have implicit permission to just walk in. Even if the door is unlocked. Even if you have a key. You knock at other people’s houses unless they’ve told you in advance to come on in (like the commenters who let themselves in to spare elderly relatives from having to exert themselves). I thought adults understood this.

            8. myswtghst*

              “People without boundaries though should not have keys.”

              This. I love my dad, but there’s a reason my spare key is at my brother’s house, not with my parents – my brother can be trusted not to just show up to “help out” whenever he gets bored. We’ve definitely had “emergencies” (i.e. accidentally leaving my keys at home when my husband locked up on his way to visit relatives an hour+ away and finding myself locked out), but nothing that required anyone else to get into our house without one of us there.

            9. Moonsaults*

              Absolutely agree about the people without boundaries not having keys.

              I had a friend that for years, I had a key to her place. She was on heavy meds and wouldn’t always hear the knock on the door anyways. I also needed it for well-checks.

              However when I got my own place, she asked me a few times if I could get her a key. No, that’s not possible. I knew she’d show up and then never leave for the most part. She had a habit of coming over for a weekend and staying for two weeks.

              My mom on the other hand won’t even use her key unless she has announced herself and I have responded with “I’m occupied, just open the door!”

              I do waltz into my parents house whenever I please but they don’t care and if I did knock, they’d just turn around in their chairs and give me the “well are your hands full, why aren’t you just opening the door” look, lol. They have a sliding glass door though, so I just walk in and holler out.

          2. JennyFair*

            ” It doesn’t strike me as odd that the mother was concerned about not being able to reach her daughter for a week. There are multiple things we don’t know like if the girlfriend didn’t give a heads up or if the mother doesn’t have the lw’s numbers ”

            Except that we know the girlfriend works for the same boss that gave the mom the boyfriend’s schedule info; surely the boss knew the girlfriend had been to work and was not dead or being held prisoner, etc. Mom could have called the office if she was that worried, but it sounds more like the mom and the boss have cooked up some conspiracy and acted on it, irrationally. I’d like to know what the girlfriend said to her! I’d have had some words, for sure.

        2. blackcat*

          If my parents or my in-laws lived close, they would have keys to my place. I trust them, even though I don’t have the best relationship with my in-laws. Hell, I have a key to my parents’ house, and I live 2,000 miles away.

          As it is, 2 sets of neighbors have keys (one is our closest neighbor, the other has a kid who sometimes feeds our cat. We have keys to the close neighbor, too.), and 2 friends also have keys (they have house-sat & done cat care as well). I have keys to those two friends’ places as well. Having others with keys can be useful in an emergency or just when things come up (close neighbor once called when she ran out of flour. My husband and I weren’t home, but I told her to let herself in and where to find the flour).

          If you have good, trusting relationships with people, it’s not odd to have keys to others’ homes. I do definitely have friends/colleagues who would NEVER get a key to my home, but I don’t see anything odd about friends/families having keys.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Off-topic but I wish I had neighbor relationships like this:

            (close neighbor once called when she ran out of flour. My husband and I weren’t home, but I told her to let herself in and where to find the flour)

            1. anonononononon*

              I do too. That’s how we are on the block my parents live on/grew up in. I’ve run over to the neighbors tons of times for flour/butter when we ran out growing up. Actually we are close enough to them that it is pretty much a given that we will just sort of show up (they have kids the same age we did and so we grew up running between the two houses). Some mornings when I am back home, you’ll just wake up to fresh baked cinnamon rolls from our next door neighbor on the kitchen table, because they woke up earlier while we slept in so just let themselves in to drop it off without bothering us. I always say we have sitcom neighbors.

              It makes me sad though because I imagine that I will not have that close of next-door neighbor relationships again.

              1. Marisol*

                Before I finished reading your comment I was thinking, “that sounds like something from tv!” At least you get to experience it sometimes! (Sounds bittersweet though).

            2. blackcat*

              I <3 my neighbors. They are the best. I knew nothing about them when I bought this house, and they are totally the best feature of it.

              We also have a roaming pack of neighborhood kids in the summer, evenings, and weekends, and parents yell out the door when it's time for dinner. The big kids (~12-14) teach the little ones (~4-8) how to play games, and it is adorable. Presently, my driveway is a goal in a game of street hockey.

              It's like Leave it to Beaver, except with people of multiple races. It's the best.

        3. Ros*

          Having a key to someone’s house isn’t necessarily strange. My in-laws, who live next door (well, in the country, so a few hundred feet down the road, not RIGHT next door) have the key to our house… mostly because they’d NEVER use it if it wasn’t an emergency.

          My mother, on the other hand, does not have a key, because the last time she did she came into my old apartment and caught me in bed with a girl I was casually seeing. Took that key right back, never gave her another one.

            1. Ros*

              Well, she’d spent the 7 previous years in vocal denial of the whole ‘bisexual’ thing. She quieted down after that. So… silver lining?

        4. Temperance*

          Seriously it’s so weird to me that people give out keys to their homes. I think it’s a cultural thing – I grew up in an area where family members just walked in to your house, because you’re family. (Same logic that leads to people doing drop-bys without calling.) So we don’t give out keys to our house, lest we come home and my MIL be there, inside, waiting for us.

          1. designbot*

            It’s often situational too. My inlaws have keys to our house bc my FIL was helping us with some repairs and would stay with us over the weekend occasionally. At those times it made sense for him to have a key so he could come and go as he pleased, and we just never asked for it back. I don’t think we would’ve gone out of our way to give him one otherwise.

          2. many bells down*

            My in-laws almost never lock their doors. Everyone just strolls right in.

            Also this thread is making me wonder if I made the mistake of giving my mother a key to my house when we moved.

        5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          My mother-in-law has a key to our house. My mother does not. And it has to do with who can be trusted not to just show up unannounced and let themselves in. My mother would come over and just wait for us to get home if she had a key or let herself in while we are still sleeping. My mother-in-law comes when invited.

        6. paul*

          Hell, my parents have keys to my house, I have keys to theirs. My wife and I have a key to a friends house, they have a key to ours. Some degree of key sharing isn’t abnormal (if there’s an emergency it’s handy, plus our friends and us house sit for each other regularly).

      2. EmmaLou*

        It could be the doors weren’t locked. In some areas, that’s not unusual. In my parent’s house in the country, the doors are open all day. If we’re home, often our doors are unlocked even in the suburbs.

    2. Alli525*

      Totally agreed. Plus I am flummoxed as to why the manager would (apparently) prefer her employees to be making out regularly while on the job or using baby talk with each other, instead of remaining professional. WT actual F. If my supervisor told my mother that my BF was abusing me because we weren’t “affectionate enough” at work, I’d be livid.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah this whole dynamic is weird. But I’m wondering where the girlfriend stands on all this. Does she stand up to the mom? What gave mom and boss the idea hes anusive? That’s a pretty far leap from no pda at work.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If mum is a drama llama, and the girlfriend doesn’t discuss that sort of thing with her, then I can see her making up a whole bunch of crap in her head, especially if she doesn’t like the bf. “Oh he must be abusing her–she won’t talk about him with me!”

          I would be SO MAD at my mum if she did this. No key, no contact until I stopped being pissed. Which might take like, months. Fortunately, I don’t think she ever would.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It sounds like Mom has some serious boundary issues to begin with, which makes me more likely to believe that she’s making up stories in her head as a way to insert herself into the situation (because her daughter needs “saved”).

          2. Jo*

            I can really see the mother doing this, particularly if something has changed with the girlfriend and/or her relationship with her mother. I hit a rough patch a few years ago (severe anxiety/depression) and my mother decided that it had to have been caused by something; ergo, I must have been through a very particular type of traumatic event (I had not been). But no matter what I say, she is adamant that that happened to me and remains angry that I won’t just “admit the truth” to her.

            So I could easily see the mother for some reason fixating on the boyfriend and that relationship as being some sort of problem, despite the utter lack of any sort of evidence at all.

    3. DM*

      Or you could install one of the code panels – so you can change the code whenever. I use that, and it’s great, and I also have a separate lock I can fasten if I don’t want anyone — code or not — to be able to walk in.

  2. Reb*

    LW3, your boss certainly sounds crazy BUT I think you should leave it to your girlfriend to handle the boss. If you try and handle it for her, you risk boss thinking you’re controlling your girlfriend and taking that as evidence you’re abusing her.

    By the way, Alison, you call the boss “he” but LW says “If some random person had asked for our schedule would it be legal for her to give it out?”

    1. Mags*

      In this case I think it would be fine for the OP to handle this if he wants to. It would be great if they both did, but he is being painted as abusive which obviously concerns him.

      If I were in this situation I would immediately go over the supervisor’s head on this. She has shown horrifically poor taste and it seems unlikely that discussing this with her will fix anything. This sounds like an absolutely awful situation.

      1. BRR*

        Id consider going over te supervisors head too. There are a ton of reasons to not give out an employee’s schedule and the aupervisor shouldn’t be commenting on the state of her coworkers relationship.

      2. Colette*

        I’m not sure how effective going over the supervisor’s head would be – it’s likely to result in the suoervisor being told “hey, don’t give out schedules to people who don’t work here” and not much more.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          I dunno, this is so beyond the pale that a reasonable boss would want to know. Even if the boss’s supervisor can’t do anything punitively, it may be valuable to hear from someone above her that her behavior was Not Okay and she needs to leave her employees personal lives out of her discussions with her friends. I’m not a fan of the idea of telling people what they’re allowed to discuss out of work, but her lack of discretion led to serious on the job issues-I’m pretty sure this incident has caused some serious mistrust for the employees, possibly including employees who weren’t directly involved.

        2. Marisol*

          Well maybe hearing that said by big boss *would* stop little boss from doing it in the future, which is what the OP wants I think.

      3. Jayn*

        If boss already thinks OP is abusive, then I think it’s best to have GF talk to her so that OP doesn’t look like the dominant one in the relationship. The way the boss sees him is important and does concern him, but I worry that him talking to the boss may just come across as confirmation of those suspicions.

      4. alter_ego*

        Yeah, I’ve worked at a ton of places with shift work, and at every single one, the policy has been to not give out employee schedules to *anyone* for exactly this reason. We could answer if the person was there at the time of the call/visit, and that was it. But if you don’t know the person well enough to ask them for their schedule yourself, you’re certainly not entitled to getting it from the store directly.

    2. Purple Dragon*

      I’d leave the boss out of it and have the girlfriend have a serious chat with her mother. The mother is the one who overstepped by a long way. If it was my mother I’d be seriously peeved at her.

      The boss didn’t do the right thing, but I can kind of understand her position. Her friend comes to her and says “I think LW#3 is abusing my daughter. Can you let me know when LW#3 is working so I can go and see if daughters OK”. Undoubtedly exacerbated by the bosses own opinion on how they’re not lovey-dovey enough.

      So for me, I’d leave the boss out of it and have the girlfriend have a long chat with her mother. I honestly can’t see an outcome involving the boss that isn’t going to be weird.

      I’d definitely be looking at either changing jobs or trying to transfer to a different department. This sounds all too close and chummy to be at all comfortable. Good Luck !

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yes to all of this. Girlfriend needs to get her mother in check and OP needs to find a new job where his supervisor won’t be such a shit-stirrer.

      2. Mookie*

        Her friend comes to her and says “I think LW#3 is abusing my daughter.”

        This poisoned the well for him in this company. Details of people’s private lives shouldn’t matter in most instances, but if the supervisor doesn’t respect boundaries here she’s probably more likely to share this “abuse” allegation with the OP’s peers.This is a terrible situation for both of them.

      3. Darbie O'Gill*

        I agree. OP isn’t going to have the best time convincing Momma Bear that he’s not abusive, and so far, OP hasn’t really told us much about his girlfriend’s reaction to the whole thing. Does she think he’s worried over nothing? Is she uncomfortable, but hesitating to be firm with MB? First I’d get on the same page with her, and then I’d ask her to have a serious, firm conversation with MB about her behavior, if nothing else. Maybe something along the lines of “you know who’s REALLY being controlling here? You. I appreciate loving concern, but I am an adult who can make my own decisions, and I am TELLING you that my relationship is fine.”

        1. LQ*

          This is so important. The girlfriend really has to be the one doing the talking on this with mom. Ideally with the OP not even there. With the OP there it will look controlling, even if it is supportive. If gf can do this on her own to go in and have that conversation and leave that will be the strongest. Even if she already freaked right out on them when they walked in. I know I’d scream like a banshee if someone walked into my apartment like that. Another sit down is in order. And your language is great.

          And look for a new job that one is all the bad news and unfixable.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        I’d leave the boss out of it and have the girlfriend have a serious chat with her mother.

        If it is otherwise safe for the GF to do so, then yes. And at that time, ask for the key back (if they have one).

        The thing that stood out for me was that the GF’s phone was turned off for a week, which says to me that money was an issue (or maybe a broken phone). If that’s the case, while changing the locks is a nice idea, it may not be economically feasible. Also, no information on whether this is a property the GF’s family owns that they are renting, their own rental or a house they have purchased. I don’t think a landlord would appreciate finding out that the locks had been changed, but might be willing to change them if requested. If it’s the GF’s family property… it’s going to be hard to make a case that they shouldn’t have a key.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I thought that too, about the phone being off. This could have been for any number of reasons, but I can see the mother’s concern but still think she overstepped boundaries with no real facts to back it up outside of friend saying they weren’t affectionate. I mean, it’s not like she came to work with a black eye and broken arm from the sounds of things.

          In regards to the other, OP states that he and GF live in a rental property rented in OP’s name. We had to have locks changed in a rental before, so this might be something OP can talk to landlord about. Explain situation if necessary and landlord might be willing to change the locks for him. Depends on rental relationship.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Oops, I missed that about who was renting what from whom!

            Also, if Mom was so concerned, couldn’t she just have called her daughter at work? She obviously knows where her kid works.

          2. Marisol*

            I don’t think it’s more than a hundred bucks to have a lock changed, is it? And maybe closer to fifty? Most landlords I think would prefer to err on the side of caution and block any unsavory characters from having access to the apartment. Even if it’s “just” someone’s mother–smart landlords don’t want drama in their building. If it was really an issue, maybe he could pay back the landlord a little bit each month.

            1. Judy*

              The last time we had locks changed (when we bought a house maybe 15 years ago), we took the cylinders out of the locks and took them to the locksmith shop. It cost $8 plus keys to rekey each lock. When they don’t have to come to you, it’s generally cheaper.

              1. Marisol*

                Got it, I must have been thinking of the whole doorknob apparatus but yeah, just the cylinder would be the way to go. 8 bucks is nothing.

                1. Prismatic Professional*

                  I would just like to say that $8 can be prohibitively expensive when you already are having to choose between which bills to pay.

                  (I’m not saying that is the circumstance, but I’ve worked with a lot of people who can’t afford bus fare and basic necessities.)

          3. SongBird*

            I have changed the locks on apartments I’ve been renting – all I do is make sure to change them back when I move.

            (In my case, the issue was that my landlord would show up when I wasn’t there. He said he was ‘fixing problems’, but I hadn’t HAD any problems. The next time, after I changed the locks, he called me to ‘check up on things’. I said that the apartment was great, thanks for checking. He never tried anything again.)

      5. Observer*

        I agree that the GF needs to have a chat with her mother (and change the locks as well.)

        But, the boss was waaay out of line. This is NOT appropriate at all, even for a friend.

      6. Marisol*

        If the boss wanted to help, though, I think the first thing to do would be to speak to the daughter and offer help. Maybe the company is big enough to have HR resources to get involved with domestic abuse. And if the daughter refused help, then the matter would be closed.

        Conversely, not wanting to be a party to domestic abuse is one reason companies don’t give out schedule or other information to non-employees. In this case the manager knew the mother and evidently thought it would be ok to break the rules. This is a boundary violation nonetheless.

  3. The IT Manager*

    I’m quite confused by question #4. A delayed flight has nothing to do with sick days. My business is clear sick days are for when you’re sick, injured, have a medical/dental appointment or when a family member does. I really can’t imagine a scenario where travel delays are “sick days” although the wording makes me think that someone else claimed this and the LW is using Alison as an impartial decision maker.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I would agree with you that most common definitions of “sick day” would not include a delayed flight. However, one way I have heard the distinction between sick and vacation time articulated is that vacation time is for things that were optional and/or could have been planned for in advance, while sick time should be used when something emergent comes up suddenly. While the distinction is clear to me, I could imagine someone who had internalized this definition being a bit confused.

      1. Jeanne*

        A company can call anything a sick day if they want. What I would want is for them to be consistent. If this is a sick day for Employee A, don’t tell Employee B to use vacation in the same situation just because A is the boss’ friend.

        1. SystemsLady*

          I was going to say if A is a high performer you really need to retain and B frequently misses deadlines, maybe it makes sense, but even then it might be a problem for office politics.

          1. CrimsonCaller*

            I’m curious to know AAM’s take on this. To me (a new-ish manager), if handled correctly, this is exactly the sort of leeway that one can earn as a top performer. Presumably as a top performer across the board they’ve made it abundantly clear that they respect the rules, adhere to PTO policies, and generally do not abuse privileges granted to them.

            The occasional “mental health,” sickday, allowing someone to duck out an hour or so early without charging PTO, or stretching the lines between Vacation/Sick feels like one of the few tools we have as managers to reward our top performers when otherwise unable to give promotions, raises, etc.

            Thoughts from AAM or anyone?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree, although you have to be careful to do it in a way that doesn’t raise concerns that who you’re rewarding is based on something other than merit (and that it’s not actually reflecting bias around race, sex, etc., to Kimberlee’s point below).

        2. Kimberlee, Esq*

          It’s also a situation that a strong HR dept would flag as having a need for consistency; even with a small rule like that, when we have the opportunity to be inconsistent, evidence tends to show that we give more or less leeway for biased reasons. It’s definitely fine to do it either way, but we should be careful to examine who we want to give leeway to and why!

      2. Laura*

        The company, where I started my career, had time off that was planned and not planned. Not planned was tracked and considered undesirable. I could understand someone thinking that this would have to be considered unplanned/sick time.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes, the wording makes me wonder about the person asking the question. I wouldn’t generally count a travel delay as a sick day, but if (for example) my boss did approve my peer to use a sick day for this, it wouldn’t be up to me to object. On the other hand, if OP is the boss, then that’s a different story.

    3. JR*

      My last company had two types of PTO – vacation days and personal days. Vacation days were basically discretionary and/or fun – you (in theory) had a choice about whether and when to take them. Personal days were for sickness as well as the other things that you just have to do as part of being a functioning adult – taking your car to the mechanic, waiting for the cable person, moving, etc. If the LW groups sick days with the broader personal days category, I can see how an unplanned, uncontrollable, and totally un-fun extra travel day (that is part of a trip that is otherwise clearly vacation) would fall into the grey area between these two categories.

      1. chocolate lover*

        Similar, except we have vacation and sick days, and can use a set number of sick days as personal days. So technically, I guess that would be considered “sick” time.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We just have a PTO bucket and time accrues each pay period. But they do let us go in the hole a little bit, which is nice if something happens when you’re low on PTO.

    4. BRR*

      I recently had a similar flight situation and had to spend the night in the airport. I didn’t sleep at all because I’m a terrible sleeper and I was traveling alone and felt like I needed to keep an eye on my stuff. I would definitely say I felt i couldn’t work the next day (in my case it was Sunday though so I was already off) because i felt ill. I feel far more comfortable using a sick day for that than even using one for a mental health day.

    5. DoDah*

      The only nice thing I will ever say about my employer is that we can use sick leave for things like pet care.

    6. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

      What if the person had burned thru their vacation but still had ‘sick’ time? Depending on the policy, it might make sense to charge the situation as ‘sick’ so the hours off are accounted for.

    7. SystemsLady*

      It isn’t required or technically correct, but can be a kind thing to do in a lot of cases, keeping in mind the employee didn’t plan for the delay.

    8. Michelle*

      I don’t think a delayed flight should be counted as a vacation *or* sick day. Hanging around at the airport is not a vacation.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if you’re only required to use vacation time if you’re doing something fun, what about the time I took a week off to paint my house? Should I have been able to claim it as sick leave? Which I am all in favor of, BTW. ;-)

      2. Not My Usual Name*

        If it was business travel I would agree, but it sounds like this was personal travel. So I can see why the company wants the employee to use some kind of PTO. (Which would be annoying as the person who’s sitting in the airport burning through PTO, but which is also kind of hard to argue with — it’s like if your car breaks down and you have no way to get to work, you don’t just get that day off “for free”)

    9. Kate M*

      I’ve never understood the need to differentiate between sick days and vacation days. I mean…if you’re out of the office, what’s the difference? If you have 15 vacation days and 5 sick days per year, and you’re not out of the office more than 20 days total, who cares?

      1. Loose Seal*

        In some states, your job has to pay out your unused vacation days if you quit or are let go. So it’s less of a financial liability for the company to put a hard cap on vacation days so that you use them up each year.

      2. doreen*

        Some employers let you accumulate way more sick leave than vacation leave – my current job lets me accumulate 200 days of sick leave* and a previous job had no limit on sick leave at all. Which has come in handy for a number of people I know who’ve had injuries or illnesses that kept them out of work for months. But at both, you could only use sick leave for something medical. If it all went into a single bucket neither employer would have allowed such high balances.

        * And there are enough benefits to having all 200 of those days at the point of retirement that there is actually an enforced rule that you cannot call in sick and take a vacation day unless you don’t have any sick days. Because people would use vacation time when they were out sick.

      3. Mela*

        Also because the employer doesn’t want you out for the full 20 days unless you’re sick. Sick days by definition aren’t meant to be used up 100% by every employee. (assuming a reasonable amount of sick leave)

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Me too. Maybe the Op was wondering if she should be generous by letting her use a sick day. Some employees never call in sick or use them, and they’re often use them or lose them and not cashable when you leave. My manager would totally do this with a wink wink.

    11. nonegiven*

      If you got in really late sunday or early monday, you might want to take off Monday to catch up on sleep, for health reasons. If you were up all night puking, you might want to call in sick to catch up on sleep. Just where is the line? If I’m that short on sleep, I will get sick.

  4. Feo Takahari*

    #3: My boss says we could be legally liable if we gave out another employee’s schedule to someone who turned out to be a stalker. I’m not sure if he’s right about the “legal” part, though. (I work in California.)

    1. jack of all trades*

      With California you never know. But without instruction from the worker in question I see no reason that any more information than “Jane” is or is not available and may I take a message? is really necessary in most cases.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        The issue is the mom and boss are friends. And clearly have no boundaries. Im sure it never even occurred to boss not to tell mom when hes working.

        1. Marisol*

          Yeah, birds of a feather. If the mother acts this way, then it would make sense for her to have friends who are similarly boundary-less.

    2. Jeanne*

      I think you would need a lawyer to sort it out and know exactly what crime the stalker committed. However, even without legal liability it’s considered professional to not give out schedules. It’s a simple way to treat employees like adults who are in charge of their own lives.

      1. Sarah from Long Island*

        “… it’s considered professional to not give out schedules. It’s a simple way to treat employees like adults who are in charge of their own lives.” Agreed WHOLLY!! What a crappy, crappy situation all around. I can only imagine the discomfort both at work with boss, and at home when dealing with LW#3 GF’s mom. Ack!!!

        Regarding the “legality” of the purported trespassing, I truly don’t even think should matter. Whether or not it is illegal doesn’t affect the fact that mom and boss both encroached and crossed some icky boundaries all around, and that LW#3 is simply livid about it. We don’t even know how GF feels about this whole mess, or even how she handled the initial walking-in of her mom and brother.

        I feel that if it IS illegal, and LW#3 chose to report this to the police and/or press charges (< for example), it could get super ugly… ( < I mean MORE ugly) . Not to mention the additional potential damage to the aspects of their respective relationship dynamics. It would probably be best for GF to sort this out both with her mother and her boss on her own by being upfront about the boundaries that were crossed and what is acceptable and unacceptable at work and at home.

        As a side note, I can TOTALLY understand and appreciate LW#3's GF's mom's concerns and her wish for her daughter to be in a safe, healthy and happy relationship. Her concerns for abuse may very well be unwarranted and she might just be an over bearing "helicopter momma bear" but we cannot really tell that from the information provided. I think it is up to her daughter to set the record straight with as little "interference" from OP as possible.

        I wish OP and GF the best.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        YES. Whenever I get a call for one of my colleagues, I don’t tell the caller “Oh, she’s out on medical leave” or “He’s taking the day off to interview elsewhere.” It’s nobody’s business.

    3. Joseph*

      I’m not sure about the specific California laws, but it’s probably a stretch. Theoretically you could possibly be liable in a civil suit, but there’s a lot that would need to go into it – you’d need to have a demonstrated harm from Stalker, you’d need to prove that Company providing the schedule was linked to the harm, AND you’d probably need to prove that Company had a reason to know that Stalker would cause an issue.
      As for this situation in general, Company would be in the clear when they mentioned details like “it was her mother”, “couldn’t reach her daughter for a week”, and “possible abuse concerns”.

    4. Pwyll*

      A lot of times when employers say things like this, whether they mean to or not, they’re really saying that if anything happens they’ll need to have a lawyer look into it and that will cost lots and lots of money that they’d rather avoid. It “feels” illegal, and legal advice is expensive, so they create policy statements like what you quoted.

      It’s probably not illegal. But why even bother with the hassle?

      1. CA Admin*

        There’s a difference between something being illegal (this isn’t) and something making you legally liable if something bad occurs (this likely is). Legal liability relates to lawsuits–in this case, if a stalker harmed an employee because another employee gave out her schedule, the company and/or first employee could potentially be sued for the harm caused. IANAL, but that’s how it would likely go. Something doesn’t have to be illegal for the cause to open you up to liability, especially if someone is harmed as a result.

  5. jack of all trades*

    #3 – I have no words. Most workers are trying (hoping) that they don’t have to deal with the potential problems of dating coworkers. To have a boss decide your relationship must be bad because you are professional at work is just ridiculous.

    1. Darbie O'Gill*

      Exactly! It’s not boss’s business unless one party comes to her asking for help, or she sees something definitely sketchy.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Yes, this is total insanity. I immediately thought of my parents. They were married for 49 years and had one of the best marriages I know of. They also worked at the same manufacturing plant for 30 years, where my dad was a supervisor with 50-70 people under him, and mom was a supervisor in another department with five people under her. They kept it so professional at work that most of the people at the plant did not know they were married to each other. I cannot begin to imagine any of their supervisors/colleagues behaving like LW3’s boss in that situation; jumping to the most damaging conclusions and acting on them. In a small town where we lived, that would’ve been awful. Luckily, it did not occur to anyone my parents had worked with in their 30 year careers that this crazy, ridiculous behavior was an option. Why LW3’s boss thought it was okay, I have no idea.

      1. Pwyll*

        Very similar to your parents, in one of my first jobs we have a pair of married folks who worked together on different floors. Almost no one knew they were married. The secret came out when they kissed each other goodbye at the company picnic (and immediately became flustered–I guess being in the park took them out of work mode and into spouse mode) and someone commented that it was strange to see siblings kiss on the lips. Poor woman was surprised that people thought her husband was her brother. “How’s your brother” became the go-to joke for the next few months. And we, too, could never have imagined interfering with their private life like this.

    3. Karo*

      Right?! I’m incredibly passive agressive, so I’d be tempted to start making out in front of the supervisor whenever possible. Also, call each other schmoopy. Be nauseating. You can do it, OP!

      1. neverjaunty*

        Encouraging the OP to act unprofessional at work in front of a bad boss is really not helpful advice.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I do believe that was sarcasm… but the point behind it is valid.

          Because *everyone* knows that the quality of a relationship lies firmly in # of PDA/hour * $AmountOfPeopleWhoWitnessThem. I just can’t believe that this manager would rather have all kinds of other employees coming to them with such complaints as “OP+GF are fighting again in the break room!” or “OP+GF are getting it on in the storage room again.” or “OP+GF are making out in the parking lot, right where the customers can see again.” What’s she going to do? Just titter and be all “Those crazy kids! So in love!” I doubt that.

      2. Qmatilda*

        Hah! while this advice should never be necessary, the fact that it seems totally appropriate in light of the question asked shows how wrong the situation is to begin with.

  6. Office Plant*

    #1 – When I see “polished” in a job description, I tend to read it as one of those fluff words. Something that’s there for filler but doesn’t really mean anything because it should be a given. I mean, most employers want employees to be polished, professional courteous, enthusiastic, and all those other things that are sometimes mentioned in job postings. I tend to ignore that stuff and think of it as literary flair (unless there’s something weird that stands out). I focus more on the meat of the job description – what will you actually be doing and what qualifications are they looking for?

    Often, job descriptions are not written by the hiring manager. Or they may be written by that person but polished up by someone else before being posted. The writer doesn’t always know a lot about the job. So I think it’s best not to over think things like word choice and focus more on the basic gist of it, and whether the company seems like a good fit.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think it is a bit of a filler word. They’ve been using the word for decades and it has probably meant a million things. The worry about having to be very attentive to eyeliner and nail polish will be obvious during the interview.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      That’s a good point although, with my many many many skill sets and awesome abilities, being polished isn’t one of them and I’d pause over a job with that word, wondering how long I could fake it.

      I need a job that’s looking for a “very smart, often rumpled, overly boisterous yet professor type. Walking into walls okay.”

      I admire polished people so much. Am not one.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Same here! When the posting says, “It’s okay to wait 6 months between hair cuts, have ragged cuticles and bare, close-clipped nails, and never wear a belt here,” sign me up.

          1. vpc*

            I love that all three of these are fine where I work.

            There’s a sweet spot right in the middle of the career ladder where I am now… after you can stop wearing makeup to make yourself look like you’re not a highschooler masquerading as a researcher, and before you have to wear executive makeup. I’m right at the “bare faced is okay because I have a reputation for competence and that’s all anyone cares about right now” stage.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yesssss. Also need a line for “hair that spontaneously looks like an 80s spiral perm whenever it starts to rain.”

          1. Tammy*

            So much this! My daughter used to say that my hair in the morning looked like a poodle climbed up on top of my head and exploded.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Yeah; I can perform miracles and demonstrate near-psychic powers of research, but I could not look polished if my life depended on it.

        “Ability to drop lunch into bra an asset. Candidates who litter desk with knitted ammonites preferred.”

        1. alter_ego*

          Look, if god didn’t want me to drop my lunch into my bra, he wouldn’t have given me a shelf directly underneath my mouth to catch all my dropped food.

          1. Jadelyn*

            My dad, who has a bit of a pot belly on him, once teased my mom about dropping food on her chest. She responded, “I can’t help that my food-catching shelf is above the table when I sit down, while yours isn’t!”

          1. Sarah from Long Island*

            This whole thread on being “unpolished” at work has me laughing so much! You guys and gals are so funny and matter-of-fact. I think we all ride the same waves.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              This conversation prompted me to use one of my earrings (polished!) to clean under my fingernails (UNPOLISHED! UNPOLISHED! UNPOLISHED!).

              1. JMegan*

                I just got up to use the washroom, and bumped into a wall. Then when I got to the washroom, I discovered that I had spilled coffee on my brand new white shirt – the one I bought on the weekend and am wearing for the first time today.

                Whatever this “polish” thing is, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have it!

                1. Ros*

                  Just yesterday, my toddler rubbed her blueberry-stained mouth on the under/side of my breast when I picked her up… RIGHT at the spot where you don’t see if you looked down. Guess who showed up to work with a blue lip mark on my boob?

                  (I keep a spare shirt and a blazer at work for a REASON. Clearly.)

                2. vpc*

                  Just like there is a REASON that my closet contains exactly one white shirt. Which I only wear under a long-sleeved dark item. I run very heavily to berry, navy, forest, black… doesn’t show the blotch.

        2. JB in NC*

          Oh my god! I have a knitted ammonite! I used to work at a university and a student made it for me. Was that you??

          1. ceiswyn*

            Alas, my knitting still isn’t that good! But I am surprised and delighted to learn that knitted ammonites are an actual thing that people other than me own!

            (Am currently studying geology part time and looking wistfully at PhD positions)

      3. JMegan*

        I once had a roommate who really was polished. At the time, I also had a job that theoretically required me to be polished, but I could never quite pull it off. I used to think that my roommate looked more professional hung over in her pyjamas on a Sunday morning, than I ever did when I was dressed for work in my suit and nylons and makeup and heels.

        I think polish just comes more naturally to some people than others. I’m definitely one of the “others” in that scenario.

        1. SystemsLady*

          Naturally curly hair here. Some days I wish I had stick-straight hair that never frizzed, ever. I’ve had some mornings spending 30 minutes trying to untangle knots (and it’s still a bit weird when I’m done) and some mornings where I wake up with amazing hair.

          I like having interesting hair, but what I wouldn’t give to wake up to the latter everyday.

          Having tiny arms doesn’t help either. I’d need a tailor to look truly polished.

          1. Marisol*

            SystemsLady, you didn’t ask, but I can’t resist–have you ever tried a curly-haired haircut? It is a real thing. I have naturally curly hair and, although it is *not* the most polished look compared to glossy-straight hair, I get compliments on it all the time. Look for a Deva cut or a Ouidad cut (I prefer Ouidad). They are expensive but you only have to go a few times a year. And then the stylist can give pointers for how to style it so that it doesn’t frizz.

            Speaking as someone who hates unsolicited advice with a passion, I hope I didn’t overstep here…I just want all curly girls to be happy…

          2. Sarah*

            I used to have this problem, then I cut it all off so I didn’t have to deal with it.

            Now I worry about looking “unpolished” because I’m a woman and my hair is short. Like very short. We just can’t win.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I work with someone right now about whom I might say “poised,” and that’s not a word I really use all that often. It’s sort of outside my comprehension. You have to see her in motion. Every movement she makes looks choreographed, every word she says is perfectly enunciated to overenunciated, etc. Like…if she so much as moves her arm, it looks like a model gesturing at the diamond watch she’s selling. It just never looks like she does anything accidentally. I…have no idea how this works. Any given day, I will probably hit my hip on the desk, spill a little bit of coffee, and say “um” occasionally. I’m not sure if she went somewhere to learn this or if it’s innate.

          1. Jadelyn*

            You actually can teach yourself some of that, to some extent anyway. I was so envious of a friend I had in college who had that whole super-graceful-poise thing going on, that I started paying a TON of attention to the mechanics of how she moved, and how I moved, and started trying to incorporate parts of her movement style into my own. I can’t speak for your coworker, obviously, but for me it takes conscious effort to maintain that kind of poise, so it depends on how much brain processor space I want to dedicate to appearing graceful and somatically poised at any given moment, but if I want to seem poised I can manage it for awhile.

            I’ll never understand how people can do it naturally, though. So jealous of that still.

          2. KTB*

            It’s possible that she trained in ballet (or other dance form) growing up. Every former dancer I know is twice as graceful as I will ever be. I think it has something to do with controlling body movements and having excellent spatial awareness. The sports I played all gave me strength, but not grace. Oh well.

            1. nerfmobile*

              I’m decidedly not polished or poised, but there is something about dance training that sticks with you. I took ballet as a child (about 7 years, from age 6 through 13) and it does help me be a lot more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Also, I took a class earlier this year on public speaking, and one of the instructors asked if I had studied dance. There are apparently a couple of ways of standing (positioning feet, how you shift your weight, etc.) that she commonly sees in dancers and I was doing them, too. (Some were good, one was something I needed to stop doing).

          3. paul*

            I once gave myself a fat lip and a bloody nose at work by walking into the doorframe of my office.

            I know people exist that are poised and coordinated, but I can’t understand it.

        3. Formica Dinette*

          I once temped as an admin in the Nordstrom executive offices. The work wasn’t difficult and everyone was incredibly nice to me, but I struggled to be as polished as my coworkers. It was a great place, but I was such a fish out of water.

      4. WT*

        Right on – I was an admin for years and a good one, but polish and poise are not my strong suits. I was totally the person who would walk into my boss’s office, whisper under my breath “shit” and have to come back with the forms I needed in the first place. But everyone in the office was just as out of sorts as me so I fit in.

        I think as long as the term is not just filler, it is very useful information for the applicant. If I saw an ad wanting someone who is polished, I would know it was a bad fit for me.

        1. Office Plant*

          Yeah, but you don’t know what they mean by it. Are they referring to appearance? Manners? Experience level? Coming across as well educated? Calm under pressure? It can mean so many different things. That’s why I wouldn’t put too much thought into it. I’d just apply and use the interview to get a sense of whether it was a good fit or not.

          1. WT*

            Because it does not feel like a filler word or at least not a well considered one. It feels like a viewpoint into the mindset of the office. And while the intent may be more harmless then some posters wonder, it may not. To me, there are far better terms to describe wanting someone who is professional and good with people. It also goes to show how different people read into words and is really no different then the word analysis a hiring mgr might do on my resume.

      5. designbot*

        I need one that specifies that “will overlook personal and desk appearance as long as the work looks stellar.”

      6. Lindsay J*

        Yes, I am many things. Polished is not one of them. Seeing that word in a job description would make me very concerned about whether that position was a fit for me.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I don’t know. Whenever I have seen this on job ads, its been for attorneys offices and plastic surgeons.

    4. Sybil Fawlty*

      The first thing I thought of when I read the word “polished” was Joan on Mad Men. Not in terms of her looks, but just that she made things look easy and knew how to smooth things over. More of a behavior term than an appearance term, but who knows?

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Thats a good one. I also think of this girl i knew in jr high. She was a model. She didnt walk through the halls, she glided. She had ridiculously good posture. Her outfits were perfectly matched and crisply ironed, etc etc.

      2. irritable vowel*

        Yes, me too! It strikes me as kind of an old-fashioned thing to mention in a jo ad, and also something that could really only apply to people in Joan’s type of position (early Joan, that is, not later, more professional-level Joan). Someone who is in a people-pleasing, somewhat public-facing, and lower-level role. I doubt you’d see a job ad for an accountant or a vice president where the term was used. It seems old-fashioned because it feels like there’s probably some classism behind it, whether or not that’s conscious on the part of the job ad-writer. And would traditionally probably only have been used for positions that were intended for women (see people-pleasing, etc. above), because of course men in an office would just come with natural polish, whereas women can’t be trusted to know not to wear their curlers and housecoats to work… /sarcasm

        PS – love your username!

  7. Greg*

    Number 3

    Please tell me you have HR because I cannot think of a better reason to go talk to them. This is so inappropriate. 1. this is clearly a hostile workplace, no question, 2. this actually could be sexual harassment. Go with me on this, you work with your girlfriend and keep it professional but your boss doesn’t think your affectionate enough and tells your GF’s mom about your relationship and then sets up this ambush. She is meddling in your lovelife, spreading rumors and gossip and telling you that you need to be act more affectionate while on the job (maybe not in those words) but honestly a decent lawyer could make this argument.

    1. Colette*

      I think you’re really reaching here. I don’t think this is a hostile workplace legally – what protected class are you basing this on?

      And I don’t think she’s pressuring the, to act moe affectionate on the job, but she is reaching conclusions based on how they act.

      The OP can go talk to HR, but I doubt much would come of it.

      1. Sunshine*

        I’d think HR would want to know about this supervisor’s boundary issues; but you’re right, I don’t see anything that would be defined as hostile or harassment in the legal sense.

      2. Observer*

        I think that a competent HR department would find this concerning though. Not because of legal issues, but because of hugely poor judgement on the part of the supervisor.

        Although this particular situation almost certainly doesn’t present a legal problem, the manager’s thought process definitely make legal problems a real possibility.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Yes – that supervisor needs some coaching on boundaries and appropriate management tbh, even if there’s no formal disciplinary action taken. I know we’d want to know immediately if any of our branch managers pulled this kind of crap.

        2. Colette*

          I’m not sure whether HR or the manager’s manager would be the best place – it probably depends on the relationship the OP has with them. But if she decides to bring it to either one, she should be prepared for no visible action.

      3. nonegiven*

        Walking into her apartment without permission to catch her in her underwear is sexual harassment, no matter what the motive.

        1. chickabiddy*

          I don’t particularly want my mother to see me in my underwear, and I would probably be unhappy and uncomfortable, but it’s really a stretch to claim that it is sexual.

    2. Liane*

      Probably doesn’t meet the legal definition of hostile, from what I have read on AAM about how high that bar is.
      But Boss and Outta-line Mom are being about as unprofessional as if they’d organized a Duck Club for office encounters. Seriously, that was my second thought (right after WTH?!): Boss and Outta-line Mom can’t deal with SOs acting professionally towards each other at work instead of PDA All Day/Every Day – they should go get jobs at the Duck Club company.

      I think the OP should report this.

    3. Office Plant*

      I think it could be sexual harassment, or some form of harassment. Realistically, going to HR probably wouldn’t help, though. HR departments usually don’t want to get involved.

      The situation is a perfect storm, working with your girlfriend for her mother’s good friend. I think it’s time to find a new job.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        In terms of harassment, I think this sounds like a situation where a really good team of attorneys with access to a *lot* of resources could possibly make a fairly novel case and maybe get something out of it. And I would almost never recommend anyone try and take that route unless they’re willing to devote a lot of time and energy to it. Here? I’d say look for a new job.

    4. Marisol*

      This is an interesting take. I think the sexual harassment argument is valid. The OP is, in essence, being punished for not hugging, kissing, or being otherwise affectionate and/or sexual with someone else in the workplace. Not punished in terms of job duties, but punished in the sense of having his boundaries violated.

      Practically speaking, would it fly? I doubt it, but I agree that a lawyer *could* make this argument.

      1. Greg*

        yeah I’m not saying it be an easy fight or it would fly in court but dictionairy definition he’s being punished for not being affectionate with his Girlfriend. HE doesn’t say it but it wouldn’t surprise me if the manager scheduled him separate so the mother could do this.

    5. Manon*

      If I was HR in a company any employee would be instantly canned for releasing confidential company documents (like shift plans) to unauthorized third parties. Especially given the facts of this case.

      In my country (Germany) this may also well be criminal and actionable additionally as sexual harassment.

  8. Artemesia*

    #3 — get out of there, both of you. This is intolerable behavior by both the mother and the boss and if the two of you want to make the relationship work and you live in New York — time to move to Seattle (or the equivalent wherever you are)

    #5 Please listen to Alison — you don’t ‘almost’ have this job. Your issues are not their issues. Always assume even the best interview in the world will lead to nothing because more often than not it does. It is a hard thing to learn but it will drive you nuts if you don’t simply assume no job is a lock until there is an actual offer and never stop looking until an actual offer is made. I have watched several young people go through this repeatedly. They always got good jobs in the end, but the number of hopeful starts that yield nothing is always great.

    1. Nina*

      Agree on #3. This feels like a really bad case of the telephone game; everyone has their own perceptions of what is going on, and the boss/worker dynamic is making things worse and even more confusing. The boss should be reported to HR regardless, but even so, it might be better for OP and his gf to wipe the slate clean by working elsewhere.

      The mother visiting doesn’t really surprise me (not saying it’s right or appropriate) but if the boss is basically an unofficial spy for the gf’s mother…no. That sounds very uncomfortable, especially if you’re expected to put on a romantic show to convince people things are OK.

    2. BRR*

      #5 definitely echoing you don’t almost have this job. You just can’t count too heavily on any one job. the two jobs in my life I thought I was for sure going to get didn’t result in an offer. No job offer is guaranteed.

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband was actually made an offer one time which then fell through with partner politics; the offering partner jumped the gun without getting full approval. That led to an excruciating moment at a party for the firm he had been invited to and they had forgot to disinvite/tell him things were not going forward.

        Never feel comfortable until you are sitting at your desk.

        1. BRR*

          Oh that’s awful. I always say AAM gives advice for the situation instead of how things should work in a perfect world. I call it the practical versus the principle. Sometimes it really sucks to give the practical advice like needing to be cautious that you don’t have a job until you start it (I think #5 is further from this than your husband) instead of placing the onus on employers.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, #5 has happened to me even made a verbal offer. In both instances, they ended up dropping the job requisition all together. So, sh&@ happens, unfortunately and no matter how well you did.

  9. Jack the Treacle Eater*

    #2, look at this as a fantastic opportunity rather than a problem. You won’t be thanked for baling out when the going got tough. You have a chance to make a real impact with your professionalism and the way you handle a difficult situation. You might, by applying yourself, even be able to handle more of the mess than you think.

    I’d definitely discuss the problem with your current line manager as Alison suggests. Be clear about what you feel your limitations are and set expectations appropriately, but be positive; approach it from the point of view of ‘this is my skill set; this is where I think I can help – what do you need me to do’ rather than ‘I can’t do this’.

    Next, look at the areas you don’t feel happy about, particularly if there are any where your interim manager has said they need cover. Can you improve your skill set enough to cover any of those competently, perhaps by learning in your spare time or with help from the company or professional body?

    Don’t wing it though. Given this is a financial role, you won’t be thanked for getting things wrong or digging a bigger hole. Your aim should be to do the absolute best you can do competently, so that you keep things ticking over and the new controller tells everyone what a great job you did.

    One other option might be to ask the company if they’ve considered hiring in a contractor short term. It may be that a self employed accountant might be able to come in on an ad-hoc basis to cover the parts of the controller’s role that are absolutely necessary in the short term. If you’re able to shadow or work closely with the contractor you’ll pick up a lot of new skills and get some support.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Yeah, I read that and the first thing I thought was “what a great opportunity!”

      Which, doesn’t mean that things couldn’t go pear shaped but, it could be the best thing that ever happened to your career.

      And, great advice.

    2. mazzy*

      I know! I’ve been in really messy jobs like this, not with a fired boss, but with bosses so hands off that it was like not having one.

      OP if you aren’t comfortable actually fixing the problems, then at least start documenting and pulling lists of impacted accounts, how large errors are, what caused them, if they are fixed now, how much money is owed or wasn’t received, what is too late to fix or not, if there are deadlines to fix it (for ex with taxes)

      I literally spent months doing just that at a few jobs so far. Then when new boss starts you can start presenting this stuff to him or her and get sign off to fix them or have them hand off the fix to someone else.

      1. mazzy*

        Wanted to add that seeing the mess is a step in and of itself. I worked a few places that did sooooooo much wrong and were messing up soooo many things and I was so overwhelmed when I started, but everyone else was barely doing 40 hours and thought everything was fine.

        So just being able to find the mistakes and quantify them was considered a huge project, even before I fixed anything

    3. Harper*

      Great advice! I understand totally why the LW is could be feeling panicked, but really, I think the company has already expressed that they know it’s going to be hard so that’s a good thing.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I’d definitely discuss the problem with your current line manager as Alison suggests. Be clear about what you feel your limitations are and set expectations appropriately, but be positive; approach it from the point of view of ‘this is my skill set; this is where I think I can help – what do you need me to do’ rather than ‘I can’t do this’.

      I wish I’d read this advice BEFORE my boss retired. :P
      Filing away for future reference.

  10. Bex*

    #3 sounds like a pretty awful situation, but I can kind of see where the mom was coming from. Her daughter was unreachable for a week. That is NOT normal. If there were other things that seemed off, then showing up really doesn’t seem completely out of line and doing it when he is at work is pretty reasonable.

    I also think it’s a bit strange that the OP is jumping straight to trespassing and conspiracy charges and legal repercussions. That seems a bit drastic.

    1. Nina*

      Not having phone access doesn’t mean unreachable anymore. That’s what email is for. Even social networking can be of use in an emergency. Or if the mother or brother had OP’s phone number, they could have called him.

      I’m wondering if OP’s girlfriend doesn’t have much contact with her mother much anyway, whether the phone is shut off or not.

      1. Fluke Skywalker*

        If she was already convinced that the boyfriend is abusive, I doubt she would call him in order to contact her daughter. I do wonder why her mom didn’t ask the boss to say something (since they’re friends), though. Like just a quick “Hey, your mom hasn’t been able to get hold of you and she’s worried” or something. I mean, not that that’s appropriate either, but maybe it could have avoided the ambush at home.

        Everyone’s parents are different, of course, but I don’t think showing up at the house would be an unreasonable reaction in some situations. Obviously it depends on the already existing relationship between kid and parent. I also wondered if the girlfriend was already not talking to her mom much in the first place.

        1. Nina*

          That’s why I mentioned email and social networking. And again, the gf could have been avoiding her mother, regardless of the phone situation.

          1. Fluke Skywalker*

            I can’t speak for everyone’s parents, but I guarantee you mine don’t know my email address, and I don’t use Facebook, so that wouldn’t work. *shrug*

          2. Anony*

            I agree. And I’m just saying: If my mom did things like this, I might be a little harder to reach.

            1. Tinker*

              Yeah, I concur with that. Some of the elements in this story are familiar to me, and one of the features of my particular scenario has at times been that a phone call with my mother may well include things like picking at me about my career, running down my friends, and fretting over why I don’t have enough friends. These things are energy-consuming and unpleasant to deal with, and consequently they tended to happen less often than they might otherwise.

              I can well imagine that someone whose mother was occupied with running down her partner might not be terribly motivated to maintain seamless availability for that activity.

        2. A Girl Has No Name*

          But at least part of the issue with this excuse of not being able to get in touch with the daughter by phone is that the mom does know she is okay (because the daughter’s boss is telling her that she’s showing up for work). This is not a case of a mother bursting in the house because she thinks her daughter is in imminent danger (after all, she knew for a fact that OP wasn’t home because daughter’s boss told her). I don’t think she should have shown up at all, but since she did, she has no plausible excuse for bursting in unannounced – she should have at least knocked or rang the bell.

          1. Jo*

            The most confusing part of this is: if the mother suspected an abusive relationship but knew the boyfriend was at work and not in the house, what was the point of bursting in like that? What was she expecting to find? The girlfriend vegging on the couch watching TV? Crying curled up in a ball in the corner? Vacuuming?

      2. Temperance*

        I have a crazy mom who is a boundary-overstepper, which is probably why I saw so many red flags in this letter. My mother used to tell anyone who would listen that Booth is an alcoholic because I bully him, and alternatively that Booth isolates me from my family. I choose not to speak with her unless I absolutely have to because she’s a jerk who likes to throw grenades into my life for funsies.

        Things aren’t going to get better for LW and his GF until they get new jobs and set boundaries with GF’s mother. Boundaries that include not having a key to the house, not knowing where they work, and maybe even some nice geographic distance.

    2. caryatis*

      I don’t agree. You might call your parents every day, but not everyone does—not responding for a week is 100% normal for some of us. An adult child is an adult, and she gets to decide how often to talk to her parents. Now, if the mother had keys, it’s not trespassing, but that’s all the more reason to make sure the mother doesn’t have keys. If my mother was this intrusive, I wouldn’t even give her my address.

      1. chocolate lover*

        Ditto. I talk to my mom regularly, but it wouldn’t be unusual to go a couple weeks without talking. I’m a grown woman, I don’t need to report back to get regularly.

        My mom has a key to our apartment for occasional pet sitting, but if she showed up unannounced and let herself in at some other time, I’d take that key back in a heartbeat.

        And if a boss of mine colluded in such a stunt, I’d be following all the existing advice and looking for a new job post haste.

      2. Natalie*

        Having keys is not the arbitrator of what is trespassing. Its about permission, not physical access.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think it’s normal not to talk to your parents for a week, but for your parent to contact you and for you to not respond for a week? That’s not odd? It is to me. (Given a normal, healthy relationship, of course.)

        1. Darbie O'Gill*

          Yeah, we can only assume so much about GF and mother’s relationship. I would assume that if GF didn’t get super upset with mother for showing up out of the blue, it could be normal for such a thing to happen. Or mother has cowed her. I love my mother, but she is manipulative and angry, sometimes to the point of being emotionally abusive. She doesn’t mean to be, but that still doesn’t excuse the behavior.

        2. Isabel C.*

          Nah, that was absolutely me in college/early twenties. I meant to respond, just kept forgetting or not having time and then holy shit it was Friday already. In my case, it was being young and kind of an asshole: in #3’s GF’s case, it sounds entirely justifiable, because I wouldn’t want to talk to that mom either.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Haha, my first semester I was so busy with a show that I couldn’t return my mom’s phone calls, and she called campus police to check up on me. My mom has zero chill, but I’ve since trained her to trust that I have a whole host of people who will notice and act if something is wrong. It can be done, OP’s girlfriend!

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              That sounds like something my own mother would do. Two years ago when I was 27, I left my phone at home on the couch by accident and went to work. Apparently, she tried to text me and I didn’t respond – so she showed up at my apartment (she works across the street from my building) and asked the front office if they could go check on me. I happened to be coming home for lunch at that exact moment and saw her. I’m like, “What are you doing here, crazy person? I just talked to you last night!” Needless to say, she and I had words about her randomly showing up at my home after only a couple hours of silence. Some people really need to chill the eff out.

            2. alter_ego*

              Haha, I was just talking about this with my roommates. We’re friends, but we have such different schedules that even though we live in the same house, we’ll sometimes go a week or more without seeing each other. I told him that my mom is comforted by the fact that there are people around to know if something is wrong, but I realized that if I died in my room, since I take the train to work, not my car, it could be at least a week before my roommates would red flag that anything was wrong. He told me that when he hasn’t seen me for a few days, sometimes he’ll knock, and then look in my room to make sure I’m not like, dead or sick or anything, which I thought was really sweet.

              1. Isabel C.*

                Ha! Fifty percent of my roommates came from CL or random dorm assignments, and I was always sort of amazed by the way people on crime shows seem to have all this information about their roommates. If Briscoe had ever talked to me, he’d have gotten an “…I don’t know where she goes. Or what she does. She might have been home last night? She was definitely around two nights ago, unless I have a really disgusting poltergeist, but…enh.”

                1. nonegiven*

                  Son’s first college roommate met someone quickly and spent a lot of time out. Son is a geek who would spend whole nights in the computer lab. He could probably count the number of times he actually saw the guy on one hand. He did walk in one morning and find 4 bare feet sticking out of the top bunk. One time the guy’s mom called, apparently for the umpteenth time because she hadn’t gotten a hold of him. Nobody had cells or often email then. He had to tell her he’d message the guy on the school’s IM system since he was unlikely to see him in person.

            3. Isabel C.*

              Hee! Mine did call the cops once–I was right out of college, hadn’t gotten back in forever, she watches a lot of CSI, so. These days I’m better about it, but also we worked out a system wherein she sends me ecards and they will let her know when I’ve picked one up, so she knows I’m alive.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Oh man, my mom called the cops to do a check on me when I was in college too – I hadn’t been answering my phone because I was already feeling stupid overwhelmed and couldn’t handle trying to either pretend everything was cool or explain it to her, and it freaked me right out when the cops showed up at my damn door. I like the ecards solution actually, that’s really great as far as a low-spoons way to signal “yes I’m still alive” without having to face a conversation with anyone.

                1. Gandalf the Nude*

                  That wouldn’t work for my mother. When she’s in paranoid mama mode, she won’t accept anything less than the sound of my voice because “any sex trafficker can imitate his victim over text”.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  My mom went through a phase where she left me the most morbid voicemails. “Hi, this is Mom, I don’t know if you’re dead in a ditch, but…”

                  This was not after an unusual break in communication! LOL! And I didn’t have a cell back then, just my landline, so this was the kind of stuff I’d find when I’d just been at work or class or the mall.

                2. Isabel C.*

                  GOD SO TRUE.
                  Parents in general, actually. My Law & Order-watching dad’s insistence that I take a taxi if I’m going anywhere after 4 PM is kind of adorable these days, but living several states apart helps with that.

        3. Anon13*

          Agreed. Happening to not talk for a week or two is not odd, but not responding for a week after repeated calls is a reason to be concerned, and that goes for a mother, a friend, etc.

          1. addlady*

            We’re allowed to cut off relationships with moms who are rude/abusive. No mom has a “right” to have at least as constant communication as a good friend. It just happens to be the case most of the time.

            1. Jadelyn*

              +100 – especially given Mom’s lack of boundaries as demonstrated in the current situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if GF was deliberately minimizing contact or avoiding her. I’ve done that with my dad when I couldn’t handle managing his emotions for him. In a healthy parent-child relationship, GF probably would keep more regular contact (although that depends on all kinds of other factors too), but this doesn’t sound like that situation – it sounds like an adult child who’s distancing herself from a controlling, overbearing parent.

          2. chocolate lover*

            Not necessarily. Unless mom specified some urgency, I could very well ignore a couple calls and think nothing of it. As would she.

        4. Beezus*

          I do that sometimes. It happens because we’re in different time zones, we both like to talk for a long time, and I have a tiny window in the evening after I’m free to talk for a while and before she might be in bed. If I work late, have dinner plans, kiddo has an afterschool activity, etc., I don’t have any window at all. Letting a week slip by is not unusual.

        5. Temperance*

          This isn’t a normal, healthy relationship though. GFMom is clearly overstepping by involving their manager in their personal life, and she very obviously has no idea of reasonable boundaries.

          I wouldn’t call this woman back, either.

      4. Aurion*

        Not calling every week is totally normal. Calling every week is normal. It depends on the family. But even if it’s “not normal” for you, a checkup should be done in the least-intrusive and disruptive way possible.

        Years ago, I moved to a new city for a job, and rented out the basement from my cousin. My cousin’s landline already had a long-distance calling plan, so he told me to just use the landline to call my parents rather than deal with Skype or getting long-distance for my cell phone. (My parents were not hip to email, texting, or other technologies until much later.)

        My cousin worked at the local hospital and typically they were not allowed cell phones, but he got special permission to carry one because his daughter had asthma that could be life-threatening. One time, I didn’t call my mom for about a week due to work stress and not being very chatty to begin with, so…she called my cousin. On his cell. When he was at work.

        Cousin told me to call my mom when he next saw me. He didn’t even say anything about whether her random call scared him (although I’m sure it did; he probably thought there was a medical emergency). Man, did I rip my mom a new one for that. She was totally bewildered and “I thought something happened!” when I icily pointed out that if something DID happen, my cousin would’ve informed her, and calling essentially my landlord adult cousin to check on my coming and going as another adult was not cool and Cousin was very generous in not also ripping her a new one.

        I’m not sure she really understood, but she did recalibrate her expectations. (And texting/Skype has been a godsend for us.)

    3. Violet Fox*

      Not talking to one’s mother for a week is not unreasonable. Granted I don’t live close enough for my mother to come over and ambush me, but it isn’t unusual to got a lot longer then a week without talking.

      1. TL -*

        It depends. I often go weeks without talking to my parents and take about a week to return phone calls. My mom freaking out about this would be overreacting.
        A friend of mine talks to her parent every day or every other day and calls back within 24 hrs. Not answering her phone for a week would be cause for worry.
        The question isn’t really what’s normal but what’s normal for the gf and her mom.

        1. Rater Z*

          I used to go three, maybe four, months between phone calls to my dad. But, I normally had jobs where I was working during the evenings so it made it a lot harder. It was back in the days when there were no cell phones or calling programs so phone calls were a dime a minute at night and even more during the day. He’s been gone now for 25 years (and my mom 40 years) and I wish I could talk with him now.

      2. Anon13*

        Is it usual for you to not return repeated calls over the course of a week, though? IMO, Bex isn’t saying that it’s odd that they didn’t talk, she’s saying that it’s odd that the mother couldn’t reach the girlfriend at all.

        1. TL -*

          Yup. I talk to my mom on Sundays. If it’s important, she can leave a voicemail or send a text. If not, she can call all she wants and I’ll call her back on Sunday.

          1. doreen*

            I don’t talk to my mother every day or even every week and I don’t always call her back right away. But if she was calling repeatedly I would call her back – because there are some things that can’t wait until Sunday that really are not appropriate to expect someone to communicate through text or voicemail. If I sound like I’m being judgmental, I’m really not- but I can’t imagine expecting my mother to send me a text to tell me a close relative is dying and I should get to the hospital.

        2. Temperance*

          Eh, I don’t really talk to my mother, and when she calls, she’ll call me sometimes a dozen times in a week. I don’t need to speak with her, don’t want to, and repeated calls aren’t going to change it.

        3. Tinker*

          Back when my parents and I were still talking on the phone (we’re presently not, because after the last time my mother blew up my phone I set boundaries regarding repeated calling and my parents consequently have not called for months), it wasn’t terribly unusual for me not to return scattered calls (say, a single call or a double-tap; side note, GODS do I hate the double-tap) over the course of a week or two.

          A good bit of the reason for this is because I had learned through the course of experience not to answer the phone or to call my parents unless I had the time and energy to conduct at least an hour-long conversation and was mentally prepared to manage prying and criticism should these arise. (I stared at a lot of cooling dinners and baked in my parked car many times before I learned this.)

          I’ve also broken my phone a couple times, and when my phone is broken I tend to not be able to receive calls or to return them. In my case, this hasn’t resulted in more than about two days of unavailability, but a) I am a tech professional who makes enough money to be able to replace a phone at the drop of a… well, phone and b) for years, my choices about things like repairing phones, switching carriers, and such like were driven by substantial anxiety that any time my phone might not be notifying me of calls might be a time in which my mother was hammering my phone and freaking out. Item a) is far from a universal trait, and item b) is not healthy.

          There’s a wide variety of interaction patterns that people have, but these are always going to be bounded by things like “if you steal people’s spoons, they’re going to have fewer spoons” and “if someone’s phone service has been cut off, it’s going to be hard for them to answer the phone”.

        4. nonegiven*

          If you don’t want to talk to the person. If she left voicemails only on subjects you’re trying to train her to drop. If every call was harrassing.

    4. LQ*

      Eh I go for weeks without talking to my mom. I don’t even have a bad relationship with her. Just sometimes she’s busy and I’m busy and we don’t text. More often she’ll text me pictures and I’ll not respond for a few days. That’s pretty normal. I can think of a lot of steps my mom would take before breaking into my house. (And how it sounds it wasn’t knock on the front door a few times and then unlock the door, though that could be just how it was written, if it was just unlock and ambush that’s really over the line, knock!)

    5. Liane*

      Maybe Mommy WAS worried because daughter was out of touch for a week. That’s understandable. But reasonable people would run by to just check in, NOT barge in and have an intervention after involving a boss/coworker.

      I doubt OP would have been upset if Mommy just stopped by their place, rang the bell, waited for someone to open the door and said, “I got worried, you usually return calls within a day or 2. Glad you’re fine and it was a phone issue.”

      1. toomanybooks*

        Actually, as far as we know that is what happened. It’s the LW who is reading it as “barging in” even though all it actually says is that the mom came by when the LW wasn’t home.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          LW said the mother and brother walked in on her in her underwear. I’m assuming that means they let themselves in (key?) or maybe the door wasn’t locked and they didn’t knock (or possibly the girlfriend didn’t hear them).

    6. Whats In A Name*

      My mom and I sometimes go a month without talking and it’s not unusual for her to call me and it take 2 weeks for me to call her back. It’s been that way since I moved out of her house 22 years ago. Could be similar here, even though we really don’t know either way what the relationship is like.

      If mom knows boss and knows where daughter works asking boss to say something wouldn’t be out of line. I mean, if she was willing to ask boss to get involved at this level passing on a message wouldn’t seem like overstepping.

    7. toomanybooks*

      Yes, I agree. I’m inclined to be a little more suspicious of the LW’s presentation of the situation. The mom and daughter live fairly close to each other (close enough for the mom to be friends with her boss and go to the daughter’s house) and I’m assuming that if it’s troubling the mom to not be able to reach her daughter for a week, that means it’s weird for that to happen (not that the mom and daughter probably just have a casual, talk every couple of months relationship that the mom is suddenly out of nowhere freaking out about).

      1. Bex*

        Exactly. My (obviously uninformed) guess is that the phone being turned off was the latest in a string of red flags since even a nutcase doesn’t jump from “phone off” to “abusive relationship” unless there is a lot mor going on. The brother was there too, so it wasn’t just the mom that was worried. Personally, if it my my little sister and I truly thought she might be in trouble, I would basically break any professional norm to make sure she was ok.

        I also still think the OP is completely over-reaching with wanting to press charges against both his boss and the mother.

        1. Tinker*

          One time, several years ago, I broke my phone demonstrating dive rolls for a small child at a party. The next morning, I was at a store for my phone carrier when it opened, prepared to fork over whatever amount of money was necessary to walk out of that store with a phone — and the amount that I ended up forking over was, relative to my budget at the time, not small.

          Reason? Because every once in a while, and I didn’t know particularly when, my mother would decide that she needed to talk to me right then and would start hammering my phone until I answered — and if this did not happen, she had recently proved that she would escalate at least to the point of calling my friends at unsociable hours. I was afraid to be without a functioning phone for one night, lest it turn out to be Phone Hammer Night or lest my phone behave in some unexpected manner when called while turned off (at that time, from what I recall, one would sometimes get error messages akin to “the cellular subscriber cannot be reached at this time” rather than ringing, and my mother had been known to Get Worried when experiencing such variances in behavior). I thought it was a real possibility that I might thereby end up having the police show up at my work, or some similar event.

          I can tell you that it is absolutely possible and that I have experienced it personally for a person — I’ll decline to comment regarding the application of the label “nutcase” — to go essentially directly from some variant on “phone off” to imaginings of worst case scenarios that call for the breaching of social norms.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      Her mom could have called her at work or simply asked boss/friend if she was at work/ok. If he’s overreacting, it’s only in response to their weirdness.

  11. Drew*

    LW2, this is a fantastic chance for you to show that you’re a team player. Having your boss walked out of the building right after you were hired has got to be nerve-wracking, but it can only reflect well on you if you’re there every day, with a good attitude, trying like hell to sort out what you’re capable of sorting out.

    LW4, if the employee regularly works a four-day week, couldn’t they just work Tue-Fri instead and not have to burn any leave at all?

  12. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    “Polished” for me implies “we want someone who’s neatly groomed with perfect hair and makeup, not working class and preferably white”.
    So it’s not a word I would use or like to see used in a job ad.
    But that might just be me.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      You had me up until “white”. There are some jobs that require a large degree of elegance and smoothness. Those jobs usually involve contact with CEOs etc. That isn’t race dependent that I’ve seen. In fact some of the most polished women I’ve seen were black.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        Yeah, I’m not reading color in that. I don’t think it’s coded. *Maybe* coded to class, but polished can be learned or innate, it doesn’t mean monied.

        I applied to a job at Ann Taylor once when I was young and starving. *Hilarious* in retrospect because what on earth was my young, broke, came from a working class neighborhood, had holes in my shoes because I was so broke, butt doing applying for a job at Ann Taylor in a ritzy suburban mall?

        I didn’t even know what Ann Taylor was. I still think about that job interview and laugh because that poor woman interviewed me for like 40 minutes. I think I was her first job interview ever. I was quite politely rejected later on and I’m like damn well I guess they missed out.

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

          Agree with Wakeen. As a black woman, I don’t see the word “polished” as a code word, but that’s only my opinion.

      2. Huddled over tea*


        We use ‘polished’ to talk about our best candidates, it’s a huge compliment because we don’t see it very often. It’s not just professional, because we want everyone to be professional, but it’s just that person who is effortlessly professional, is calm when faced with back-to-back diaries and the phone ringing off and travel plans changing left, right and centre. It’s the person you could plop in front of an important visitor with no notice and they just deal with it.

        1. F.*

          THIS is what “polished” means in the corporate world. I am many very admirable things, but polished isn’t one of them, and I would not apply to a position that used that word. It is about behavior and having an unflappable demeanor, not just about appearance.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here–this is NOT me. And frankly, I don’t really want it to be. (Not that I couldn’t use a little polishing, but I would be uncomfortable in this kind of job.)

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Not me either, but thanks to so much time spent at church growing up, I can fake it pretty well sometimes.

      3. rando*

        I don’t think it is automatically racially coded language, but there is potential. I am a black woman who does not straighten her hair. To some people, my hair is not polished by definition unless I straighten it.

        A black woman I know with long, neat dreadlocks was told by an interviewer that the interviewer thought that black women with natural hair looked unprofessional, during the interview. She knew she wasn’t getting that job!

        I know many black people cut their dreadlocks or straighten their hair because they can’t find a job otherwise – they don’t look “polished.”

        This is also an issue for men who have beards for religious reasons because of a preference for clean shaven men.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          Hmmm well, dreads are polished to ME so some of that is eye of beholder but I do surely take your overall point.

          I’m whiter than a ghost but have a head full of curly hair with a texture that is closer to a person of color than a person of my color. I love my hair and would never straighten it but on a day of an important meeting or whatever I do pull it back and throw a ton of product in it to slick it down, so I can’t disagree that curls and hair can be an issue in 2016 and, obviously, that affects people of color in larger numbers.

          For ME I’m thinking about the many people of color I know that I’d think “polished” and that doesn’t equal “hair is straightened” but, I’m obviously pro natural curls and styles etc and prefer natural hair to straightened.

          1. Anononon*

            I know you don’t mean it this way, but this comment comes across as very minimizing to me. Whether or not you don’t have racist beliefs doesn’t remove the fact that society can be extremely racist regarding black individuals’ hair. Saying that you don’t reads like guys who say, “well, not all men…”

            Also, the institutional response to natural, black hair versus even similar hair texture on a white person is not comparable.

            1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

              Well I surely didn’t and I almost didn’t comment at all because I thought, as soon as race is involved anything I say on the internet is going to come across some way to some person in a way I don’t intend.

              But ya know, screw it because things aren’t going to get better if we don’t talk to each other. I had closed the window and I opened it again and wrote out exactly what I was thinking to my my most honest ability.

              I’m not denying anybody’s experience. I said truthfully what I thought.

            2. Christopher Tracy*

              Also, the institutional response to natural, black hair versus even similar hair texture on a white person is not comparable.

              Exactly this. Any time I see a white woman bring up her “curly, almost ethnic” hair in a conversation about black women’s natural hair, my immediate reaction is, “No. Just no.” It’s not the same in any way shape or form.

              1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

                Well, I can scratch that off things I ever say again in my life but the next time somebody who isn’t me says it, you might ask the person why they feel there is some point of commonality. (Commonality not being “same as”. ) And why that person feels a closer relation to ethnic hair than they do Marcia Brady hair.

                But, I failed because I can’t continue the conversation that I thought I was bold enough to have so, I’m out of it.

                I’ll catch you guys in the next thread. :)

                1. Christopher Tracy*

                  But that’s the point – there is no point of commonality because your hair, your very existence, is not politicized the way black women’s is. It’s just not. And we’ll leave it here.

                2. Anon for this.*

                  I agree that things aren’t going to get better if we don’t talk to one another, so I want to genuinely thank you for trying to start the conversation. :)

                3. moss*

                  It would be better if, when being gently corrected by people whose lived experience is not your own, you didn’t make it all about your hurt feelings and how you try so hard and get misunderstood. Take your lesson and move on. I too, as a white person, got the “minimizing” vibe. Being a person of color who has to make decisions about hair every day is nothing like being a white boss who might have to slick back her hair for a meeting once in a while.

                4. Engineer Girl*

                  I’m disappointed that people are trying to shut down conversation based on the “I feel minimized” and the “I’m offended” derailment.
                  I like the dose of moral outrage too.
                  Instead of continuing the conversation and finding out how/why people think that way you retreated into the victimhood stance. Great. You just lost another potential helper. You lost a chance at letting people see how things are different (so they can help you change them). You just made yourself more of the “other” because you chose to highlight differences instead of commonalities.
                  Do you really think most people want to continue inequity? They are trying to “get it”. But as long as you retreat into victimhood status they can’t have the hard conversations needed to understand the nuances of the situation.

                5. Christopher Tracy*

                  @ Engineer Girl – your comment is ridiculous, and Alison asked everyone to drop it at 1:15 and 1:24pm.

              2. Anononon*

                Yes, exactly. Also, the other thing I forgot to mention that while POC is seen as the proper term for non white people (though I have seen arguments against it, in part for the following reason), using POC when having a conversation about hair is also problematic because it’s almost exclusively an issue for black individuals.

            3. F.*

              Anonon, WTL was presenting HER opinion. She is entitled to have one and to say it in this forum. If some commenters are going to jump all over other commenters every time they express a personal opinion they disagree with, then commentary in this forum will quickly become stifled. Part of what makes this crowd-sourced knowledge forum valuable IS the difference in backgrounds, lifestyles, personalities, opinions and experiences that are offered here on a daily basis.

              WTL: You are correct. Things will not get better if we don’t talk to each other. Thank you for truthfully speaking your opinion despite the certain knowledge that someone would take offense and berate you for it. And you, at least, didn’t hide behind anonymity.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                Where did you see berating? Anonon expressed her opinion that the nature of WTL’s comment could seem like the minimization of a very real problem that people actually face every day. WTL said she wasn’t trying to minimize it. It was put to bed in a calm, civilized manner. No berating necessary.

                1. Lily Rowan*

                  Agreed. As a fellow white person, I don’t think that WTL or I can actually relate to the way racism functions in the professional world, even if we think we “get it.” I appreciate people taking the time to respond to WTL rather than just writing her off.

                2. F.*

                  I see anonon telling WTL that she is racist: “Whether or not you don’t have racist beliefs doesn’t remove the fact that society can be extremely racist regarding black individuals’ hair. Saying that you don’t reads like guys who say, “well, not all men…” ”

                  This wasn’t “put to bed in a calm, civilized manner.” WTL left the discussion because she recognized the futility of trying to continue the discussion with someone who essentially said that she is not entitled to an opinion because she is not the same race. And before you jump down my throat, no it wasn’t said in those exact words, but I will not play semantics with you. The meaning was very clear.

                  WTL has not been a person to back down from an honest difference of opinion in this forum. I consider her to be one of the most valuable commenters here because of her actual management experience and because she is not afraid to say what she thinks.

                  If the commenters in this forum want this to become an echo chamber where only opinions that agree with their own are welcome, then be prepared to lose a number of us who have a great deal to offer—— but only if you are willing to listen.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m going to ask people to move on from this now. People have brought different perspectives and everyone has been civilized when disagreeing, which I appreciate, but we are way off-topic from the original letter. Thank you.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, sorry, I need to add one more thing because I just saw F.’s comment: No one here called Wakeen’s Teapots racist; they said they felt her comments were unintentionally minimizing and they shared why they felt that way. (Although if we continue to act like implying someone/something is racist is the worst thing you can do to someone, we’re not going to make much progress in talking about this stuff openly. We all have internalized biases, and we have to acknowledge that in order to get past them.)

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Honestly, you’re the first person I’ve ever seen who said they considered them polished. When I read “polished,” my first thought was that they meant “no people of color with natural hair, please.”

            1. TL -*

              I know this isn’t message society gives but I’ve definitely seen natural hair (whether that’s Afros or dreadlocks or not any specific style) that I think of as polished – well kept and cared for, neatly shaped, trimmed and/or styled.
              Not to say there isn’t a separate set of standards for ethnic hair, but there are people out there who would use polished and not realize it is racially coded. (If I ever need to hire for an unflappable person, I’ll use a different term, though.)

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yes, I’ve seen natural hair – dreadlocks, braids, afros, etc. – that I thought looked beautiful and professional. But I’ve just never known anyone to say that they considered dreads, in general, to be “polished.” Because of the unfortunate trend to tell people of color, particularly women, that their natural hair is not “professional,” using the word “polished” jumped out as a possible code word to me. I don’t think it necessarily means “don’t be black,” or even that it refers exclusively to hair, but I do feel like they’re saying you need to meet a certain visual style – slender, fashionably dressed, sleek, controlled.

                (As an aside, I don’t think anyone would call my own white-girl curls “polished” either, nor should they, because they’re kind of a disaster. But no one has ever told me I’d look more professional if I straightened them.)

                1. TL -*

                  To be fair, there are no hairstyles I would blanketly call polished. I’ve seen polished dreads and I’ve seen incredibly messy dreads. I’ve seen beautiful, well groomed super straight hair and I’ve seen super messy, untrimmed, greasy super straight hair. And everything in between. Polish, I think, is supposed to be more about the presentation than a particular style.

          3. The Strand*

            The way I interpreted your last comment: your view of “polished” is broader than others. Two of the first, and most important women mentors I had in my life were African American women; every day I appreciate their taking me under their wing. Observing them taught me so much about being a professional, but at the time, I sometimes missed the unique cost that they paid, that I didn’t have to, because my race gave me a pass. One of them was a beauty queen and always letter-perfect in her clothes and appearance, to the point that I was intimidated by her: that doesn’t mean I really understood, until I was older, how many difficult choices she had to make that I didn’t, regarding her hair and clothing choices.

            Periodically, I have an experience that makes me question whether my own openness to diversity can actually make me complacent about seeing racism in the workplace. I.e. there are times when other coworkers, who I assumed had similar attitudes, will say something unbelievably horrible. Just like my husband periodically is shocked when another man says something casually misogynistic, making the mistake of thinking the other man is as egalitarian about women as he is. It’s not really good to treat other people with suspicion, I don’t think, I think assuming goodwill is important, but we have to juggle that with being sensitive to people who traditionally are underrepresented or who have experienced systemic discrimination. Just like casual prejudice can be shared privately with someone of the same “in group”, but not openly, we may completely miss something that’s right in front of us.

            I also agree with you that non-AA women who have naturally curly, kinky hair are also scrutinized as being less professional, that the hair texture is read as “messy”, “sexual”, “ethnic”, “Other”. Women who are Romany, Jewish, and from other backgrounds also experience being exoticized. It’s not an experience limited to women from African, Latin, or Asian backgrounds, but those are far more codified culturally. Only three decades ago, white people were paying good money for permanents and frizzy hair, then using crimping irons, and now the pressure is to have sleek, ramrod straight-hair again.

        2. blackcat*

          Right. My former roommate, who has never straightened her hair, gets this a lot. What boggles my mind is that a lot of the styles she wears (often loose twists) look far more tidy and “polished” than the way I wear my hair (I’m white & lazy). Yet she’s often been told to do something more “polished” and “professional” with her hair, and it’s only happened once to me (and I deserved it. Having needed to get my hair out of the way, I was rocking a messy top-knot/bun with two pencils and a small ruler sticking out of it).

          So, yeah, “polished” can be coded language for “white” or at least “not black.” It isn’t always, but it definitely can happen.

        3. Gaia*

          I think all of those examples can looked polished in the same way that a black person with straightened hair can look unpolished. When talking about polished in the physical appearance sense it is often a judgement call but that isn’t solely related to race. If I left my hair in the natural state without product and styling by a professional and significant upkeep – it would never look polished. I prefer it in the natural state because it is my hair and that is how it grows but if I needed to look “polished” I would need to spend a lot of money, quite often, and change it pretty drastically.

        4. JennyFair*

          Polished can encompass body type, as well, and anything that encompasses body type in the US is likely to put minorities at a disadvantage. (I’m not a minority but I am a socially unacceptable body type)

        5. Audiophile*

          Rando is correct, it’s not always racially coded but there definitely can be potential for it.

          I’m a black woman and I don’t straighten or braid my hair and I haven’t in years. I had a coworker, who was also black, and she regularly had a weave. I thought it suited her, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do to my own hair. She swore up and down that the reason I couldn’t get a job was because my hair wasn’t “nice” enough, that I needed to get it straighten or braided or get a weave. Every time she saw me, she’d ask when I was going to do “something” with my hair.

          I eventually found a job and have found several since then, that haven’t required a change in my hair.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        Size too.

        The race is the biggest one though, since there is this overwhelming need to turn everyone’s hair white-people-hair and frankly that’s absurd. You can’t tell me that my fluffy fly-away hair is more polished because it’s also blond and my coworker’s weave or natural curls which are maintained and planned out are unpolished. In terms of time and money spent, well my limp-haired white colleagues and I are the unpolished ones. Sure, on a humid day (everyday down here), I have to work hard to tame the frizz, but I have never ever ever been encouraged to shave the whole thing off and just start fresh with a wig or use chemicals so harsh they make your hair fall out regularly. People chuckle when I look a bit windswept. They don’t encourage me to try to fake an entirely different head of hair.

        1. OP #1 (Liz T)*

          Thanks for all these thoughtful responses. This speaks to a lot of what I’ve been wondering. People who use the word that way probably aren’t consciously thinking, “be white,” but their prototype is undoubtedly, “as close to the white ideal as possible.” I also ALWAYS imagine women, and thin ones at that.

          I’m a slightly plump, moderately klutzy white woman with terrible thin hair who will only put on heels if someone is getting married in front of me. You can see why the word makes me nervous…and there are groups of people who are probably made MORE nervous.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        As someone who has used this in job ads it really had nothing to do with size, color, hair type or anything else. it has to do with attitude and professionalism when facing clients and internally with co-workers.

        We really just wanted someone who didn’t wear oversized, frayed jeans to an interview or mini shirts and a lacey bralette under an unbuttoned suit jacket and didn’t curse like a sailor or throw a phone across the room if a client decided not to advertise with us. (see standalone comment below)

        1. WT*

          What is the hang up with cursing? I mean I get you don’t want someone who would curse at clients and stuff but lots of highly skilled people curse. For me the measure is how well does someone turn it on and off or know how to read a room. When I hear a hang up on cursing, it feels very gendered to me – like it’s not lady like to do so.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            When I say to you, “how was the drive in this morning” as casual banter as we walk to the interview room and your reply to me is “damn, is traffic always that f*$king brutal” it’s just a red flag to me.

            If you use the F-word in casual conversation and it comes up several times in responses I definitely have reservations about the person being able to leave it out of vocabulary when they are in a primarily client-facing role; the positions I were hiring for were sales where they were either on the phone or in front of clients for 6 of their 8 working hours.

          2. Whats In A Name*

            It might also be worth it to state that this isn’t a concern with non-customer facing positions, technical positions or the like. I am not inherentlyl opposed to cursing and am fine with it in certain situations.

            I should also say it’s not a complete eliminator but at the end I did of interview I did say “I have some concerns about how casually you use the F-word and other curse words in conversation (sh!t, Je$u$ Chr!$t, etc.), so for our next interview with hiring manager I’ll need you to demonstrate restraint in using these so we know that it won’t be an issue with client conversations. Then we go from there. Sometimes the first word out of their mouth was something completely inappropriate, sometimes they were perfect.

            1. WT*

              Ah that I can see – it is part of the turn it on and off thing. An interview would not be a moment I would just casually throw words around. But if you ask me about traffic and I am not in earshot of customers, I may say it was pretty shitty. I can see screening for it during an interview, it shows lack of awareness about a situations needs.

        2. JennyFair*

          If you want professionalism, then state ‘professional’. ‘Polished’ really does have other connotations.

          1. zora.dee*

            Agreed. I would encourage you to think a bit more about other word choices and how to be more specific about what you want without using “polished” . As in, mention the dress code is on the business side of business casual, need a calm temperament when dealing with frustration or difficult customers, etc.
            I think there are better ways to say what you want, and an opportunity to try to get away from coded terms to help with broadening diversity.

            1. nonegiven*

              What about ‘professional and poised.’ Can you use that describe what you want without looking like code for something?

              1. JennyFair*

                Unless I’m missing something (quite possible) yes, I think that would be fine. Poised is typically associated with mannerism/handling of oneself, as opposed to appearance.

              2. zora.dee*

                poised is better than polished, definitely. But I’d argue it’s still vague and subjective. I think you could use more words to be even more explicit about what you mean.

                “Able to handle difficult customers while remaining calm and polite.” “Able to roll with many last-minute changes without getting flustered.” etc. It sort of relates to other things Alison has said about job descriptions, don’t just cut and paste a bunch of keywords, be more specific about what exactly you need someone to do, and you are likely to get better candidates.

      3. fposte*

        I’m reminded of the 60 Minutes piece years ago about coding entry level applicants as “FO” for suitable for front office, receptionist jobs–which also identified all the white candidates.

        1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

          OMG. About ten years ago I walked into a temp agency and the person behind the desk had a form with four boxes: Front Office, Back Office, Retail/Customer Service, and Light Industrial. The moment she saw me – a young white woman – she checked off “Front Office” before I’d said a word. “This is code for race, gender, and age,” was my very first thought, and I’m somehow both annoyed and relieved that other people have had the same experience and the same thought and that this is A Thing.

          1. zora.dee*

            I worked in a small, privately-owned grocery store that was just super blatant about it. Only white people could work in Health and Beauty, Latina women could only be cashiers, and Asian men could be low-level managers of departments, but Latino or black men could only be stockers, kitchen staff or cleaners. It was horrifying, but somehow seeing it so blatantly made it easier for me to see subtle versions of this in other workplaces. That was also the only job where I lied and ghosted to quit (after only a few months) because it was such an awful, terrible, horrible place.

    2. zora.dee*

      I agree that it has implications of “preferably white” for a lot of reasons. I think the vast majority of people putting it in a job ad probably don’t realize it or aren’t thinking that, but I think it’s there. So, I think it’s a word we should try to become aware of and get away from, in favor of words that are more specific and clear. While also examining our biases about what we consider “professional” and “polished” (curly hair, accents or dialects, fashion style choices, body shapes, etc)

    1. JellyCat*

      Really? I always took it to mean somebody who paid attention to detail in their appearance, i.e. the small things you can influence that have a big impact on your overall look, rather than the things you cannot alter each day such as your weight or skin tone.

      A ‘polished’ look for me would mean not just wearing clean well fitting clothes and being hygienic, but also wearing appropriately applied makeup, having my nails manicured (even just clear polish, but all nails being the same length and in good condition), subtle and work-appropriate perfume or aftershave, and subtle tasteful jewellery rather than none. The little added touches that take an overall look from ‘fine’ to ‘well put together’. I do all of the above each day even when not at work as I enjoy spending time on my appearance but I can see how if you’re not into that it would be draining and a whole load of extra effort/expense if a job expected you to look like that each day.

      But I really liked where AAM went with this answer, and the things she talks about are of course so much more important in the workplace than whether or not your eyeliner is even of your manicure matches your pedi.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Unfortunately, for a lot of people, “paying attention to appearance” includes “make yourself not fat anymore”, so fat people tend to automatically be interpreted as less put together. Speaking from experience here.

        As far as looking polished, though, why would that need to require makeup? Don’t get me wrong, I adore makeup and have fun with it, but it seems really ‘off’ to me to interpret a woman who’s well-dressed and neat in appearance, but who doesn’t like wearing makeup for whatever personal reasons, as not “polished” simply because of that.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, I hate that too. There is a woman in my office who is quite overweight and she dresses way better than I EVER could. Hair is always styled, her clothing is in great shape, colors flatter her, makeup on point, etc. I told her, Dang I want you to take me shopping. I need your style advice.

          Also, I agree–women can look polished without makeup and jewelry.

          1. JennyFair*

            So, as a fatshionista, I can say that we frequently dress very, very well in order to compensate for the immediate abhorrence people have at our size. I try to make how I dress about how I like to dress, but there are definitely times when what I *want* to wear I would never wear because it would be called ‘slovenly’ on me, even though it would be ‘adorable’ on a slim 20 year old.

            At any rate, you may enjoy fatshion blogs, because you don’t have to be fat to gain style from them, but they’re way more accessible than your average fashion magazine.

            1. Jadelyn*

              As I once said to someone who was wondering where that phenomenon comes from, the farther you fall from the thin/white/young/cisgender/etc definition of “beauty”, the harder you’re expected to try to compensate for it. So a thin 20-yr old can do leggings, a baggy white tshirt, and messy bun, and it’s cute, but a fat 40-yr old wearing the same thing is a slob and receives social censure for “not trying hard enough [to overcome your failure to conform to the beauty standard]”, in essence.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Yeah, my personal experience (in the legal community and in my immediate family, joy!) is that there is a definite subset of people for whom fat can never be “polished”. Same if not more so for wearing makeup. My father is convinced it’s why I can’t find a job and there are more days than I care to admit when I believe him.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Well, if you asked my mother or my grandmother, or basically any female relative around their age, they equate going out with a naked face the same as going out without clothes on. Not saying this is right, but it was subtly engrained in me growing up for sure. They think it seems like the person didnt bother pulling themselves together if they don’t apply at least some makeup. Took me years to feel comfortable going to the grocery store without it, but I would never dream of going to work without it, unfortunately (or fortunately for my coworkers).

        4. JellyCat*

          Oh, that’s why I said a polished look ‘for me’ would mean makeup etc, as I do wear makeup every day. I should have made it more clear that I meant how I would portray myself as polished, not that it was my opinion on other people being polished!

          I completely agree that women shouldn’t need to have to wear makeup to look polished, it’s a crazy double standard that women should have to spend tonnes of time and money and effort on putting stuff on their faces just to look as ‘polished’ as a male colleague who can wash his face and go.

          However, there are definitely many people who believe that a woman not wearing makeup is someone who isn’t making an effort. I guess just because there’s such a social pressure to wear makeup (similar to women who don’t shave their legs being seen as slovenly), it looks more out of place when someone doesn’t… I see lots of women not wearing makeup around and about, but if they were in the workplace expected to be ‘polished’ I think it’d be quite apparent unless they were one of the rare ones with perfect skin, naturally defined eyes and groomed brows, a natural flush to the cheek and pigmented lips.

        5. OP #1 (Liz T)*

          I would assume that the people who say they want polish also expect women to wear make-up.

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

      Interesting…this thought didn’t cross my mind either. I guess I think about the overall package and how a person handles different situations with dignity, grace and ease. Hmmm….

    3. zora.dee*

      This was another thought I was including in my comment above about this word being problematic. I have definitely known employers who had internalized feelings that a big person with a large chest just didn’t look as “professional” as their thinner colleagues. It’s something to think about and investigate our own biases about.

  13. hbc*

    LW2: We have someone who stepped into a similar accounting mess (though there really wasn’t even an existing controller), and no one expected him to get it all wrangled. He was in my office probably every hour with a question about why things were done a certain way and I had to keep saying, “I don’t know, I don’t know how to find out, and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.” The guy made sure everything that went out under his watch was done right and fixed what he could of the past mess, and he’s become very well respected. I’m sure if anyone looked back at the books for the year he started, they’d be horrified, but we all know it wasn’t his fault.

  14. FD*

    #1- I also see polished used in postings for lower level jobs to simply mean “We want you to know that you can’t show up looking like you just fell out of bed.” In those cases, there tend to be some candidates who are new to the office world and the person who wrote the poster is trying to give them a heads up that if they come to the interview in ripped jeans, they probably won’t get the job.

    1. OP #1 (Liz T)*

      See to me that’s what “professional” means, but I could see people being extra explicit if they’ve been burned before.

      However the jobs I’m looking at would all want someone with high-level admin experience, and thus an understanding of basic professional norms.

      1. FD*

        I don’t disagree. However, I have personally worked with people who hired and put in ‘polished’ because too many of the potential candidates didn’t understand that professional means how you dress and present yourself for the interview, and not just how you talk.

        1. FD*

          For clarification, this was mostly for fairly entry level work, and they didn’t even expect a full suit–just khakis and blouse/shirt rather than ripped jeans / stained clothes / etc. (All of which I also witnessed on interview candidates.)

    2. Bob Barker*

      In my temping days, this sort of thing was conveyed verbally (when the agent called me up to bring a job to my attention), and I had the hilarious experience of a “I hate the word slacks” conversation occurring in the wild. I see it all the time on the internet, but here was a real live person on the phone with me saying, “I hate the word slacks, but this kind of office, when you wear pants, you should wear slacks not khakis, why do we not have a word for the kind of pants I mean that isn’t slacks.”

      …I like to think that part of my professionalism was (a) immediately knowing what he meant and (b) not bursting into hysterical laughter and asking him how he felt about ‘moist.’

      N.b. I think ‘trousers’ and ‘dress pants’ are both adequate ways to say slacks without saying slacks, and do not carry the Hello! I am plaid polyester bell-bottoms! connotation that slacks seems to carry for so many. That said, he could also have just said, “This is a spiffier office than the usual. Please endeavor to look spiffy.”

      1. OP #1 (Liz T)*

        I had no idea that khakis weren’t slacks! I would use the word (if I used it) synonymously with “trousers,” aka “pants that aren’t jeans.”

        1. Bob Barker*

          You know, it may vary. In this case, I almost never wore khakis to that office unless we were, like, moving furniture that day. I did wear cotton trousers now and then, but they usually had a crease on each leg — the kind of thing that you can’t really wear without an iron somewhere in the mix. So, even the khakis were spiffier than usual.

  15. Macedon*

    #1. Depends on the industry. In mine, ‘polished’ generally refers to writing quality & presentation.

    #3. Afraid all your employer did was release information about your schedule to a party she had no reason to suspect intended you harm. This has inconvenienced you and marks (very) poor judgement on your employer’s behalf, but doesn’t enter illegal territory. What you should be wary of is your employer’s inability to separate personal and professional commitments. This isn’t something you can teach your manager — start looking.

    #5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when job-hunting. The math is unlikely to favour you.

      1. Event Planner*

        Not the same person, but I am an event planner and conference director and we often use polished to describe events. A polished event is one where you can’t see the seams, where the attendee experiences the event rather than seeing all the work going into presenting the event. It means something like “never let em see you sweat” or try to be unflappable when things go wrong.

  16. Lizzieb*

    To me, polished (in some contexts) also means that you have exposure to the lifestyles of well-off people and have/can emulate the manners that are expected by old money. Sort of like being Carson from Downton Abbey instead of Daisy. (Not that PAs/EAs are domestic staff, but in the office sense.) I guess that would mean being able to book suitable hotels, purchase the expected Christmas gifts for clients, book the right restaurants for lunch meetings, etc. I think it’s pretty entrenched in class structure.

    1. Tax Accountant*

      And I think it means different things for different jobs.

      Assistant to CEO? Completely agree with what you said above.
      Receptionist at law firm? Polished is less about booking the “right” restaurant, and more about looking well groomed, conservatively dressed, and sounding calm, professional, and competent.
      Receptionist at a hair salon? Polished is having really good hair and makeup and trendy clothes.

      It depends on the context, but I think a common theme is being very aware of your surroundings and what is appropriate and professional in that environment. And then doing that, pretty much without fail.

      1. fposte*

        I was just thinking that–there are different sheens, if you will, for different fields. And there may be a parallel code word for fields that hate the idea of polish and want you to be “real”–with real usually being as scripted and uniform as polish :-).

    2. OP #1 (Liz T)*

      Oooh that makes a lot of sense. I bet you’re really right.

      That’s related to the things I was thinking, but fits a lot better with what I’ve actually seen here.

  17. Leatherwings*

    #2 I’ll echo others and say that this could actually be an opportunity for you. It sounds like they aren’t counting on you to sort out the mess on your own, since they will be hiring a new Controller. So you have lots of opportunities to make things better without having the expectation that you’ll fix it. Even if you clean it up a little bit that’ll be a huge improvement on the mess they have now and your new boss will probably be really grateful to see that you took initiative right away.
    I hope you update us on this situation!

  18. Roscoe*

    #4 I think you should use this as a sick day. It was an unplanned event that they couldn’t help. I feel like a lot of jobs would have no problem just calling it a sick day if someone’s car broke down, or they had to stay home to wait for someone to fix the furnace. And in those situations, it seems to be similar. Maybe its just that I’m someone who typically has sick days left over, but makes sure to use all of my vacation time. But I’d be annoyed if you charged me a vacation day for that

    1. The IT Manager*

      But he’s not sick. You described a distinction between personal days and vacation days – not sick days and vacation days.

      It does depend on how this particular business defines it but if they use the term “sick” it’s not a stretch to think they mean illness and injury and not unexpected not fun time off.

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure. But it sounds like there are only 2 options, sick and vacation. Assuming the car example I gave, most places, if they only had those 2 options, would let someone use a sick day for that. Most places I’ve worked have basically made it where sick = unplanned absence and vacation = planned.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Everywhere I have worked used sick to mean sick and used annual leave (AKA vacation) for everything else.

  19. Callietwo*

    Regarding sick vs vacation time. Maybe I’m dense but what difference does it make?

    For my company we’re treated like grownups and if we feel it was a sick day, we take it as such. If we’re out of sick time, we’re out and we can use vacation time if we choose. Or we can choose to take it unpaid. But then we get 12 days of sick time per year, which in the US is pretty generous.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It makes a difference because many people who have separate sick/vacation time find themselves using up their vacation time more quickly than their sick time, so they don’t want to squander a vacation day that could have come out of their larger pool of sick days instead.

      1. Callietwo*

        Sorry, I meant I don’t see what difference it makes to the employer. Yes, I can see why it would matter to the employee!

        I think I’m looking through the lens of someone that is salaried non-exempt… once my sick & vacation days are gone, I’m not paid so it behooves me to manage my time accordingly.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Many employers pay for unused vacation time when you resign. So it’s in their best interest for you to use vacation time instead of sick time.

          1. Callietwo*

            Gotcha.. thank you for that explanation, it helps me understand why it would matter to an employer. I have no idea if our company pays out vacation time when we leave, this is something I may look in to at some point.

            Our company does allow us to borrow vacation time but not sick time. I’m heading to Africa next year for 3 weeks and may not have enough time accrued and I’ve been told not to worry about it if I don’t have enough accrued time by then, I will be able to go negative in vacation time (though I get 1.5 days accrual starting next month added with what I’ve accrued so far so I think I’ll be fine).

            I believe that is not normal in the US though.

            1. Callietwo*

              (I know this contradicts what I said above, sorry- short on coffee this morning)… sick time, cannot borrow- vacation, you can, to a point. We’re paid every other week so I suspect we can borrow up to the amount of days we’re owed pay so they can deduct those days should they need to do so)

          2. Jadelyn*

            In California, they’re required to pay out unused vacation. It’s considered earned wages basically, which they’re holding “in trust” for the employee, but for which the employee does have to be paid at time of separation.

    2. Bertie*

      Based on my experience, the difference is in how leftover days of either type are treated. CurrentJob has a bucket of PTO and there is no distinction whether you call it a vacation or sick day.

      FirstJob would pay out unused vacation days at the end of the year but would drop any unused sick days (and HR encouraged us to always use sick days first, regardless of the state of our health). NextJob rolled over unused vaca days to the next year but would cancel unused sick days at the end of the year (and were militant about us actually being out for health reasons to count it as a sick day).

    3. TG*

      It makes a big difference where I work. We can use annual leave for sick days but can only use sick leave for illness, medical appointments, etc.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        This was huge where I used to work to. My BF and I live together and with exception of a piece of paper saying we are husband and wife we function as such, with no plans to marry. I was not allowed to use sick time at old job when I had to accompany him for a surgery and requested 2 days off. Company very specifically defined sick leave as “care for self or family” and legally we are not family so I had to use vacation.

  20. Totally Anonymous for obvious reasons*

    #2: While this could be a great opportunity for you, my first thought (based on experience at my employer) was to look out for signs of embezzling. We had a controller embezzle over $2 million! He was fired, but will not be prosecuted because the company owner was also illegally taking money from the corporation. So be very careful what you are stepping into. What looks like incompetence may be a cover for something far more serious.

    1. MommaTRex*

      Yes. This. Could be incompetence. Could be something else. If it looks suspicious, you should recommend that your employer seek help from a forensic accountant.

  21. F.*

    Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe in jurisdictions that have mandated sick leave, there are also proscriptions on exactly what that covers. Using sick leave for absences that are not under these restrictions can result in problems later if all sick leave is exhausted and the employee needs it for an actual covered situation. Check with your employer.

  22. Isabelle*

    #3 you and your gf need to enforce some boundaries with her mother or she will poison your relationship.
    This fake concern from the mother is a well-known tactic of people who have no boundaries, and it can have dangerous consequences like seriously harming your reputation both at work and in the local community.
    Putting physical distance between your couple and her would be a good start, it won’t solve all your problems but it will make it harder for her to pull this kind of stunt in the future. You should consider looking for work with a different employer and if possible have the two of you relocating in a different area from where the mother lives.
    Then your girlfriend needs to have a long think about what kind of relationship she wants with her mother, how to set boundaries with her and most importantly, enforce them.
    There are some things you both need to think about, for example why was her brother OK to come along to invade her privacy like this? Did the mother and brother interfere in your gf’s previous relationships? Have you said or done anything that could make them think you would abuse her in any way? etc…

  23. AthenaC*

    Hi #2 – At your level, no one is going to expect you to fix everything without the guidance of a controller. So take some comfort in that. But if it helps, here’s my off-the-cuff thoughts for what your priorities should be (in order):

    1) Keep doing (or figure out) what needs to be done every day. I’m assuming things like check runs, entering payables, entering sales and cash receipts. As long as there is SOME paper trail for everything that happens, it WILL be possible to sort out later. It will be a mess but it will be infinitely more difficult (if not impossible) to sort out if there is NO paper trail.

    That is probably the bare bones of what you need to do right now. But if you’re feeling ambitious, proceed to #2:

    2) In your copious amounts of spare time, take the latest version of the financials, pick a closing date (like, say, today! Since it’s a month-end and all), and start at the top. Cash is usually at the top, then A/R, then Inventory (if you have any), then Prepaids, then Fixed Assets, then Intangibles, then Other. Go down the list and nail down as much as you can. For every area, do the following:
    a) Get to your best evidence-based number (For example: Cash = sum of all the bank statements).
    b) Note what you don’t have / can’t find (for example: no one entered outgoing checks into the check register so you have no idea what the outstanding checks are (I really hope that’s not the case for you but frankly I wouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore))
    c) If you have no idea what a line item is supposed to represent (like an intangible or “other assets”), ask someone. If someone else can’t explain it to you, a new controller isn’t going to magically know, either.
    If you do the above for at least most of the balance sheet accounts, your new controller will love you forever, or at least be very grateful and probably rely on you more than she would have otherwise.

    Couple final notes: if the financials truly are “a mess,” be prepared that you (not you personally, but you all at the company) may need to do: 1) full physical inventory count; 2) full fixed asset inventory; 3) accept that there’s some revenue / expenses that are simply not anywhere that can be found and just commit to keeping track of everything going forward.

    Good luck!

    1. MommaTRex*

      Good advice. My only difference in suggestion is after tackling the current assets (cash, AR, inventory) jump to the other side of the balance sheet and tackle current liabilities (AP, deferred revenue, etc.) and any notes or loans payable, then jump back to noncurrent assets, then noncurrent liabilities. Or start with any that are easy because there is good documentation (like a loan from bank that has statements).

      1. AthenaC*

        Ooo – good thoughts. Especially on the bank notes or loans.

        Also, invoices for any prepaids so she can recalculate what the prepaids should be. Alternatively, chuck the prepaids and just commit to booking them going forward (since they will probably wash out within a year anyway).

    2. Pixel*

      AthenaC, thank you so much for this. I’m a new-ish accountant and so far have only worked in public practice so never had to personally tackle messes of such magnitude. With my messiest clients, I just chucked their bookkeeping and started over, but this is not feasible when you’re working as an in-house accountant in industry. What a great summary and guide to breaking down giant messes into achievable steps.

      1. AthenaC*

        You’re welcome! Actually, I got all my mess-tackling experience from being in public practice. Once you clean up a few messes, you start to figure out a few patterns in how best to tackle them. Not going to pretend it’s been fun, but the upside is I’m not afraid of anything anymore!

    3. CAM*

      This is SUCH practical advice. I am an accountant and had a sort-of similar thing happen to me – it was a REAL crappy couple of years, but my previous role as an auditor had prepared me for how to come into messes/mismanaged books and work while feeling very much in over my head. After about 18 months, just as I was ready to jump ship, the company promoted me to Senior Management, which helped with feeling adequately compensated/recognized for my efforts, but didn’t change all the work that had to be done. You can get through it, but a lot will depend on what support you have (any changes I made were supported by the CEO 100% and it was still really tough). I don’t know if you have an Audit Committee or Board, but I would make sure that you own the issues and the need to work through them and set realistic expectations, again without disclaiming it entirely. Basically, it can be fixed, but change takes time. Seven years in, there are still some “unknowns” on the books I inherited that I am researching, but they are few and far between.

      Everyone’s circumstances are different and while I agree that this could be an opportunity (it worked out that way for me), I’ve had friends who were in a similar position and decided it wasn’t worth it and left. Sometimes bad financial management is a sign of a crap company and it makes sense to not waste your time and RUN.

      You are justified no matter which path you pick! GOOD LUCK!

      1. AthenaC*

        Kudos to you! That sounds like an experience to really be proud of.

        Agreed – auditing – especially at the lower and middle tiers of the market – can really prepare you to clean up messes like nothing else.

  24. Audiophile*

    #2 I’m going through this right now. I started a new job in mid-July, the first week was bumpy, very bumpy. Then I went on a pre-planned vacation for a week. I came back to find out my boss had “left” the week I was gone. Through various conversations, I’m pretty certain that my boss was fired but no one wants to use that word because it might set off panic. (This is a non-profit and former boss had friend who donated to the organization.)

    I decided for many reasons to continue my search and I’ve had a steady stream of interviews, but no offers yet.

    I don’t list it on my resume, but depending on the job I’m applying to, I will list it in application.

    I’m willing to stick this out for a bit for all the reasons Alison’s listed. It may end up being fine, I may gain new experience I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    1. Good_Intentions*


      Wow, you really have my sympathies!

      I can only imagine how strange it must have been to return for a second week at your job to find your boss gone.

      Fingers crossed you are able to stick out the awkward situation until you find another position.

  25. crazy8s*

    #1-“polished” can also be a euphemism for discrimination, unfortunately. I have seen it used because the employer wanted to screen out candidates who were overweight, unattractive, old, wearing an ethnic hairstyle, wearing non-western clothing or having appearance issues related to a religious practice (I.e long beards, turbans, head coverings, amish attire, burkas, etc etc) in other words some things that could get an employer in trouble if they come out and say it overtly! It’s unfortunate but true. When I was a recruiter, I would not use that word in a job posting. I wanted the employer to tell me specifically what they wanted.

    #4: if the employer allows this employee to use sick time for this incident, then be prepared to offer sick time when someone’s car breaks down, the dog runs away, or when other unexpected issues arise. that’s the employer’s prerogative, but you are setting a precedent and you could be accused of discrimination if you don’t offer the same “relaxed use of sick leave” option to all employees. I would advise against it. What you are doing is turning your sick leave into PTO, which is a liability on the books and, in some states, required to be paid out upon departure.

    1. Roscoe*

      I mean, I’ve totally used a sick day for my car breaking down or having to wait for a repairman.

  26. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    #1 to me (in the UK) means ‘smartly dressed, well groomed, well spoken (no regional accents or slang), with the right connections, probably privately educated’. Think Kate Middleton…

    My company has a habit of employing such ‘polished’ young women as admins and PAs – they look the part but they never last long because sadly their work skills are not as polished as their gel nails or their Russell and Bromley shoes…

    1. OP #1 (Liz T)*

      Kate Middleton is EXTREMELY all those things. That’s how polished your company hires? Dang.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      That is sad, because etiquette/charm school is a thing. What they need to do is find an experienced, competent, and skilled Eliza Doolittle and send her to Debrett’s.

      If I were twenty years younger, I’d volunteer, I would! ;)

  27. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    This is a great opportunity to stretch and grow professionally. Embrace it. But be honest with management as to what you can and can’t do in terms of your skill set.

  28. Mockingjay*

    #3: Girlfriend can deal with mom. That’s a personal problem. [I have over-reactive parents, too. It took 20 years for them to understand that I wasn’t going to apprise them of every minute of my schedule.]

    The real issue is that you have a boss who refuses to maintain boundaries between professional and personal lives of her employees. Red flag! Take Alison’s advice.

    1. Phyllis B*

      If this shows up twice, forgive me. Just when I got ready to hit submit I lose my internet connection. Back when I was in my twenties, I made a trip out of town to visit some friends. My mother wasn’t happy about it because it was a 6-hour drive and I was planning to drive it after I got off work at 11:00 p.m. I assured her that I was an adult and knew how to be safe. She made me promise to call as soon as I got there. They didn’t have a phone, and this was before the days of cell phones. When I arrived I was tired so decided to sleep for a while then go looking for a pay phone. Well, when I hadn’t called by 9:00 a.m. my mother FREAKED and CALLED THE POLICE to go to my friend’s husband’s place of business to see if I had arrived. Well, he was furious!! Imagine having to explain to the PTB why the police showed up asking for him. He came home for lunch, and came in the door bellowing, “PHYLLIS!!!!! GO CALL YOUR MOTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO YOU NEED CHANGE FOR THE PAYPHONE? I’LL GIVE YOU D..N CHANGE FOR THE PAY PHONE!!!” I was mortified. Luckily, he’s an easy-going guy and by night-time we were laughing about it, but my mother certainly got an earful from me.

      1. Temperance*

        This is why I don’t ever tell my mother when I travel, where I am going, who I will be with, etc.

          1. Temperance*

            It’s probably awful to admit, but I don’t even do that anymore! My mom lost those privileges when she told anyone who would listen about how bad of a daughter I am for spending a week in the Dominican Republic with Booth rather than visit her.

      2. Loose Seal*

        When I was in my early 20s, I worked in the professional theater which meant changing jobs often and driving all over the country. Once, I had a 12-hour drive in front of me but I thought it was no big deal. I’d leave early, check in at my new job, call my mother to let her know I lived, and then grab dinner and go to the orientation meeting that evening at work. Unfortunately, though, it rained the entire drive and there was lots of construction on the road so I got to the place much later than I had expected – basically with just enough time to walk into the meeting.

        So, I’m in a meeting with 150 of my new co-workers for this gig where I’ve been hired as a stage manager (so it’s sort of assumed that I’ve got all my ducks in a row) and the Artistic Director is up front giving a welcoming speech. And a state trooper comes to the doorway of the auditorium. The Artistic Director pauses and then says, “Um, may I help you?” The trooper looks at a piece of paper and says, “Is there a Loose Seal here?” I am sitting in the absolute middle of the group of 150 people but I stand up and acknowledge him. He says, in the driest voice you can imagine, “Call your mom.”

        I briefly hoped I would wake up from that nightmare but when I didn’t I just climbed over people’s knees to the end of the row while the meeting was at a complete standstill. When I get to the doorway, the trooper was grinning at me and said, “I don’t suppose you need her number.” And I died a little more.

        Since that time, however, I have never, ever forgotten to let my mother know I got someplace. (Also, thank goodness for cell phones. Today, if this happened she’d probably blow my phone up with texts before getting the law involved.)

  29. Anonomuss*

    #5- Listen to AAM. Job searches get derailed/paused/etc for many reasons, and usually the people wanting to hire have NOTHING to do with the derailment/pause/etc. I’m at a state agency and our hiring process includes 4 or 5 other offices, all of whom I swear secretly plot on how to make the process as cumbersome as possible. I’m as proactive as I can be- I’ve even been known to go in person to someone’s office and say “I’ll just sit her and wait” until they’ll see me because I can’t get some piece of paperwork signed off, and they aren’t responding to emails/voicemails/phone calls. If I had a candidate call me and say what you planned, I’d have to say, “Well, best of luck to you” because your needs really don’t factor into our process.

  30. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Polished to me as always meant that the candidate was cool under pressure, good communicator in verbal and written forms, had a put together professional look (not expensive or trendy but your clothes were clean, pressed etc). I talk about my cover letters in terms of polished in that they are professional but are also “me”. They hit all the important points, etc. I recently finished interviewing a few candidates this week and had two candidates that show this. The first had far more actual experience in this type of role but half answered questions, dodged on things, made remarks that implied that myself and the other interviewer were too young to understand a particular cultural reference (we weren’t). Generally didn’t interview as well as someone with that much experience should have. The second was by far one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. Answered EVERY SINGLE question with a complete thought and in detail. Clearly did in depth research to the point of using the same words to describe our program that I do. Even found a way to show how they would interact with a potential student in a non-weird, non-sales-y way. That’s polish to me.

    #2-Ask for help. Document that you ask for help and do the best you can. Think of you and the new controllor as a team. The two of you can rescue this company. It will be a challenge but think of all the things you’ll be able to put on your resume.

    #3-Holy swiss cheese boundaries, Batman. So, find new jobs because clearly you two are the only professional ones at this place. Either get new locks or move. I would say a conversation with you and GF together with HR might be in order as well. If you’ve been as professional as you say then I wouldn’t think that would be weird.

    #4-Sorry. That’s vacation. In my world, we’ve had sick leave, vacation leave and (at times) personal leave. Sick leave was when you or your family member was sick or doc appts etc. Vacation and personal could be used for anything. Getting stuck at the airport sucks but it doesn’t count as sick leave. Now, I would say that you shouldn’t hold airport snafu’s against people if you have some sort of requirement that time off must be pre-approved or you get demerits type of thing.

    #5-What Alison said.

  31. Employment Lawyer*

    1. What does “polished” mean in job postings?
    “No rough edges.”

    You aren’t sloppy; you can handle adversity without going off rails; etc. It especially applies to interpersonal and public interactions.

    When I see “polished” I think that folks are looking for “no major weaknesses.” It’s different than looking for someone with “specific strengths.”

  32. Whats In A Name*

    #1 – I worked HR at a publishing company once and we started using “polished” in our job ads because we had an influx of candidates over a 6 month period that thought it was ok to show up to our pre-employment testing/1st round interviews in polo shirts, jeans with frayed hems and mini-skirts. Even after we told them we were professional dress despite being only 25% client facing.
    #3: Largely agree with many comments already made and chimed in a bit above.
    #5: Follow AAM advice and move on. Even if you were the best candidate sometimes things happen internally, from being able to promote for less money to budget cuts to changing job descriptions or department restructuring. This doesn’t mean they don’t like you or think you are the best candidate – but try not to take it personally; thank them and move on. If it does work out down the road – that’s a bonus!

  33. toomanybooks*

    #3 – Am I the only one who wonders if I should be questioning the perspective of the LW? I think it’s possible that the boss and the mom are overstepping. But I read certain things as possible alarms for the abusive situation the mom/boss suspect. Like the part about how they are affectionate in the parts of their life that people don’t see, or freaking out at the mom for “trespassing.” (Or the fact that they live together but the LW is acting like it is the LW’s own place that others are trespassing on).
    I don’t see anything that weird in the mom having a key or coming over to the place. I do see it as maybe a red flag that the mom had to figure out independently of her daughter & partner when she’d be able to see her daughter without the partner (LW) and come by without letting them know. I wonder if LW is isolating their girlfriend. Her mom is not a stranger and I don’t think it’s weird for the boss to say something about their schedules to her mom if the boss and mom are close.

    This is really just “I don’t know the whole story and we are only getting one perspective,” not “I, an Internet commenter, definitely think this girlfriend is being abused.” But do we think it’s more likely that something seems off in the relationship that the boss/mom is perceiving as dangerous, or that the boss is so deeply invested in their employees’ relationship and has imagined an abusive scenario and given someone information to “ambush” the girlfriend? Why would they do that?

    Either way, I do agree it’s best that perhaps one of them finds a different job.

    1. MoinMoin*

      Yeah, agree with everything you said. I could easily see the letter being written from the mom/boss’s side and coming off as sympathetic too. We don’t have enough context to really know which side is “right” and it’s easy to see that both sides might sound justified from their own perspectives. But I wonder what people would advise if the OP were to say something like “Our relationship is not abusive and we’re very happy, but I’m sensitive to her mother’s concerns because I know she has a history with domestic violence/I take domestic violence and the sadly common dismissive attitude of it in this country seriously/I’m a decent person/I’m not that decent but I’m not stupid and I want to smooth things over. How can I be transparent and help the mom see she has nothing to be concerned about while still maintaining boundaries?”
      I don’t think the OP has a duty to necessarily placate the mom, but under the assumption that both sides have valid points, it might be worth thinking about.

      1. Temperance*

        I have an insane/toxic parent, and you can’t give them an inch. If you concede a single point, they’ll latch onto it and then you’re wrong, again.

      2. Anony*

        It depends on the mom, who we really don’t know much about. From her behavior described here, I’m not making the best assumptions, but we don’t know how she got to that point.

        I do want to say that someone who consistently pushes or ignores boundaries really isn’t going to be placated. OP’s going to know whether that’s relevant to them.

      3. Tinker*

        “Didn’t cause it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.”

        One of the things that I’ve more or less learned from having a mother who arguably has anxiety problems and almost certainly has boundary issues is that a thing can seem very real and not provably unreasonable to the person who is experiencing the thing, that their experience of the thing is in fact occurring for reasons that are real and understandable when laid out fully, but that walking on eggshells to indulge and soothe the thing will drive me entirely nuts and leave the essence of the thing unchanged.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I think the “affectionate in the parts of life that people don’t see” meant they weren’t lovey-dovey at work, which is appropriate. Some people are not into PDA. I’m cozy with boyfriends at home but I’m not into hanging on them in public.

      The boss is very definitely overstepping. Reporting to Mom based on the fact that LW and girlfriends are not smoochy at work? What is that? If they’re old enough to live together, they’re way too old to have a third party tattling on them based on non-evidence.

      1. toomanybooks*

        I know how the LW wrote/meant it, it’s just that the sentiment “we are affectionate when we are on our own, but they don’t see it” reminds me of “he’s not really like that, he’s so sweet when we’re together alone,” (what people say to excuse abusive behavior in public) etc etc.

        1. Brogrammer*

          The issue here is that they both made a conscious choice to not be affectionate at work because they wanted to keep things professional. This isn’t their friends saying they’re not affectionate, it’s their boss, who only sees them at work.

    3. A Girl Has No Name*

      While I agree that we don’t have all the details, I think there is just as likely an alternate explanation for the OP’s demeanor. Specifically, if the mom has a history of boundary-stomping, OP could simply have had it up to here with her and is looking for a way to show the mom this is unacceptable and her actions have real consequences. As far as the rental agreement, I felt like OP mentioned it in case it was a technicality that could allow him to press trespassing charges, even if his girlfriend didn’t kick the mom out (i.e., the officer says “sorry, she technically had permission to be there because girlfriend didn’t ask her to leave” and OP envisions himself saying “well technically the home is in my name and gf’s mom had no permssion to be there from me”).*

      *Note: I’m not saying this would work, just offering up an alternate theory for why OP mentioned that it was his name on the rental agreement without jumping to the conclusion that he is abusive.

      1. INTP*

        Yeah, to me this sounds most like an issue of two people (Boss and Mom) with no boundaries. That would pretty much explain everything – they think being professional at work is a red flag because they have no boundaries themselves and would never behave differently based on context, they are friends with each other because they share this lack of boundaries, and it makes things like giving out employees’ schedule information and barging into your daughter’s home seem reasonable. And when you’ve been repeatedly victimized by this type of personality, of course you become extra-sensitive about your own boundaries and react intensely to things like trespassing.

        I still acknowledge that domestic violence is a possibility, strictly on principle because I don’t think the possibility should ever be dismissed – it’s usually hidden so relying on family members’ gut feelings and such can be necessary, and many abusers are good at making the situation SOUND ridiculous and implausible – but in this case, I also think the OP’s account adds up perfectly well. We aren’t investigators here, we’re advising the OP only, and I don’t think we’ll accomplish much by speculating.

    4. Observer*

      I strongly disagree with you.

      For one thing, why on earth is it a red flag that they are affectionate in private but not at work? Absent clear signs of abuse, the supervisor should stay OUT of staff’s personal relationships, unless they are affecting the office. (And, that’s far more likely when people act in public the same way they act in private.)

      While there are often overlaps between work and personal relationships, it’s really important to tread very carefully there. Getting this involved in your staffs’ personal lives is inappropriate. And, while there is no legal issue, this kind of information sharing is invasive of people’s privacy, and it’s not excused by the fact that the person who wants this information is the parent of one of the people involved.

    5. Temperance*

      FWIW, I see it totally differently than you. I grew up with a toxic mom, and she’s still bonkers. Because of a lifetime without boundaries from her, I am very, very protective of my space and privacy. So yes, I banned my MIL from getting a key to my house, because if she had one, she would use it, and the thought of having someone in my home that I didn’t expressly invite makes me sick.

      I consider anyone entering my home without my permission to be trespassing. I also had to have an express conversation with my MIL and SIL where I told them that they couldn’t share any details about my life or home with anyone, because it kept getting back to my mother, who used the info for nefarious purposes. (My MIL posted pics of m y home renovation on Facebook. You can see my house number very clearly.)

      My own mother would do things just like LW GF mother. My mom always tried to see me without Booth, because she had to behave around him and couldnt’ show her ass like she wants to. When I lived near her, she would show up at my workplace to make sure I was really there. She would “just happen” to be places I was. My mother is the type of person who absolutely would try to get me alone, without my then-BF, so she could isolate me and try and get me to end my relationship. Not because anything was “wrong”, but because she wanted me to date someone SHE chose for me, because she wanted me to date an evangelical Christians, because she wanted me to get married to a blue collar man without a degree and live on her street … get it?

    6. INTP*

      I think the possibility of domestic violence should never be dismissed, and it’s absolutely a possibility that more is going on than the LW reveals. But for the purposes of this blog, we are supposed to take the LWs at face value to keep it from becoming too terrible an experience for the LWs, and I think we should respect that and not speculate too much. I just don’t see how it’s productive in this case – if he’s lying about not abusing his girlfriend, us speculating is not going to stop him from doing it. If he’s not abusing her, it’s just a distraction from the real issue. The details of the letter also don’t scream “This doesn’t add up” to me, the events as relayed are totally plausible with a mom that has no boundaries.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I 100% agree. My brain often flies to alternative explanations and in particular I tend to look a little side-eyed at people who jump straight to “is this legal” questions (even though that’s almost always a sign people not understanding the legal system rather than anything sinister). Once I started commenting here, though, I really tried to turn off the tendency to always question the narrative, as it were, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why it’s not going to be productive especially in this case.

    7. animaniactoo*

      I’m willing to bet strongly that Mom does not have a key but rather that like a lot of people in some areas of the country, OP and gf do not lock their front door when they’re at home. So mom turned the knob and walked in.

    8. Tinker*

      It rings bells to me of an abusive relationship, but not necessarily one between the OP and their girlfriend.

      Toxic-family support groups encounter situations like the OP’s commonly enough that they have devised a vocabulary to describe them — the boss, here, would be called a “flying monkey” (a third party roped in by the abuser; they can be motivated by an existing pattern of enabling, naivete combined with cultural biases in favor of the parent, and/or simply been having told a compelling (and less than accurate) story), and the mother’s behavior would be called a “lawn tantrum” (showing up uninvited at the target’s home or work and causing a scene). People who are first setting boundaries with difficult family members are often warned of a short list of expected escalations, of which these feature prominently.

      As far as what I think is more likely? You’ve omitted in your comparison the fact that the boss and mother are friends, which is an important fact. Rewriting that statement more fairly, as something like “that the boss has participated in their friend’s imagining (intentionally or not) of an abusive scenario and given their friend information in order to ambush the girlfriend” — I’d put that as being at least as likely as the other, because it’s a thing that seriously happens all the time. I’d also say that if the OP were indeed abusive, then involving their boss and barging intrusively into their house is not a productive response, but rather one that puts the mother’s insistence on access and venting of her anxiety over the safety of the purported victim. This also, as it happens, is a trope.

      I’d really recommend that people who are not familiar with these sort of dynamics read Issendai’s “Down the Rabbit Hole” series before they start forming conclusions.

  34. INTP*

    #1: Weirdly enough, the staffing agency I used to work at used “polished” as a euphemism for “pretty.” Not necessarily elegant, but attractive, and obviously aware of white collar/middle class or above fashion sense. We had a lot of clients who, to put it bluntly, would not hire unattractive women for any kind of admin role, even if it wasn’t client facing. If you were noted as polished in the ATS, it was more a comment on your bone structure, skin, and weight than any professionally relevant information.

    Reading the other replies, it seems this context is in the minority, and I really really hope that is true!

    FWIW, “good communication skills” also meant “No thick accent.”

    1. OP #1 (Liz T)*

      Yeah that’s kind of what I was thinking. Which is why it didn’t make sense for the company where I’ve been temping, which seems to hire people of all shapes/sizes/races/numbers on the hotness scale, at least as admins.

      1. INTP*

        I think it was actually a minority that actually wanted to creep on attractive women, and most just thought that an office full of attractive women was part of being a high end business. The worst offender by far – the one that would flip if we sent over a non-beautiful woman to, say, file things in a back room on a 2 week temp assignment – was a woman. It’s disgusting either way, of course, just a different motive than I think most people suspect.

        We also had numerous software industry clients that would not hire immigrants (which I’d estimate at comprising at least 75% of the work force in our city), so you can imagine how fun the job was!

        1. The Strand*

          Are you in California? Because that sort of “face-value” thing seemed to fly a lot more when I was working in California.

          I’m really sorry you had to work for such awful people. Doesn’t anyone want to, you know, actually get things done?

  35. MoinMoin*

    OP #2 Whenever things get crazy at work, I remind myself of Littlefinger’s “Chaos is a Ladder” speech. Things going sideways offer a lot of opportunities to overcome the craziness and shine, or at least look like the calm nucleus of a swirling storm of crap. There’s a lot of room for updating processes and documentation, you have the chance to build relationships with other departments from scratch, and the bar for competence is probably pretty low to start given your predecessor and them understanding that you have a huge mess to deal with. Alternatively, a well-run ship usually doesn’t have a need for people to recreate processes, even for the better, and can sometimes be a little static. Of course, you’ll need to assess what needs to be done and what you’re interested in doing, but definitely think about how this can be an opportunity to stretch yourself professionally and transform the department. Good luck!

  36. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP3 – whoa your boss crossed the line. I mean so did the mother, but the boss – wow. Why is she so interested in your personal relationship? It seems so odd to me – would she rather you two were all over each other at work? Personally I’d be looking for another job. I don’t think it’s a great idea for the two of you to be working in the same place anyway (and under the same supervisor, no less) but you clearly have a boss who doesn’t respect your personal boundaries – and that would be a huge red flag in my book.

    Also, the OP should be the one to handle her mother, but I’d insist on getting the locks change. She’s another one who doesn’t respect boundaries.

  37. LawCat*

    #5, Yeah, follow AAM’s advice move on to applying for other jobs. You’re not necessarily out of the running for this job (my last job had a painfully slow hiring process), but waiting around for them does you no good when there may be other great opportunities out there that you could focus your energies on. I’d only contact the company again if I had an offer from a competitor, but was still interested in the first company. Alison has a section of her book about that.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: Everybody here needs some boundaries. One, your girlfriend should have called her mother (on some other phone) because, yes, most mothers would be unnerved if they suddenly couldn’t reach their kids for a week. Two, your boss needs to get out of this entirely. Three, change your locks. Four, your girlfriend needs to handle her mom. You can’t do it–Mom will only think you’re being controlling.

  39. Observer*

    #3 some thoughts (with some overlap of what others have said.)

    1. You need to stay out of your GF’s relationship with her mother. That means that you do NOT get to tell her that she can’t come over etc. On the other hand, you do get to have a conversation with your GF about whether she is willing and able to deal with her mother’s boundary issues. She has to be the one to deal with her mother, not you. Having said that, it’s worth noting that a week of radio silence is something reasonable people will get concerned about if it’s a significant break in pattern.

    2. While your GF has to handle her mother, if Mom has the keys to your house and you have reason to believe that she might be even more intrusive (eg coming in when neither of you are home and looking through stuff), then you can insist on changing the locks. (Don’t even bother with asking for the key back – Mom could easily make a copy first.)

    3. There is probably no way you can talk to your boss and have it end well. On the other hand, your GF probably could talk to boss and ask her to stop acting as her mother’s proxy. It’s just soooo inappropriate. I do think that a competent HR department would be concerned, so you might want to approach them about this. Two caveats, though. One you need to do this WITH your GF as an active participant. The other is that you need to do this in the spirit of information HR of some really bad judgement that could cause issues for the company down the line, not as a confrontation or with threats of legal action (implied or explicit.)

    4. Start looking for another job.

    1. Temperance*

      I really, really disagree with this. LW gets a say in who is in the home he shares with GF, and it’s important that he back her up on boundary issues … but he absolutely gets a say.

      I do agree on lock-changing. It has to happen. This woman has no boundaries to the point where she thought it reasonable to enter their home.

      1. Observer*

        I agree that he gets a say in who comes in, which is why the door locks get changed. But, he can’t tell GF that she can’t see her mother, and he can’t tell Mom that she can’t come over. Keeping Mom out (when the OP is not home) is the GF’s job.

    2. A Girl Has No Name*

      Hmmm… I agree with everything you’ve said here, except the part about OP not being able to tell his GF that her mom can’t come over. I don’t think we have enough context to know if the mother is a serial boundary-stomper, but if she is, and it gets bad enough, I think OP does have the right to ban her from his home. I don’t mean that it’s not his GF’s home either – it is; rather, my point is that everyone has the right to be comfortable and not disrespected in their own home. There is a point at which GF’s mom is out of line and BF has the right to say his home is his castle and she cannot be here. Ideally this would be with his GF’s support, but I don’t think GF can force him to allow someone in his home that disrespects him (the problem is we just don’t have this information from the OP). In a situation like that, if GF wants to visit with her mother, they can visit outside the home and/or at the mother’s house.

      1. Observer*

        I disagree. I do agree that he can put his foot down and say “not when I’m here”. As for the rest, that’s a conversation they need to have; he doesn’t get to dictate. Of course, this could be a deal breaker for their relationship, but that’s a different thing.

        “You’re giving your mother too much place in our relationship, and I can’t live with that” is different from “You are not to let your mother into this house.”

        1. A Girl Has No Name*

          So I definitely agree that it could be a deal-breaker for their relationship. But I think it’s an option (possibly a nuclear one) to ban mom from the home. Not just when he’s not there but always (and for him to see it as a betrayal by his GF if she allows mom in even when he’s not there).

          Don’t get me wrong, banning someone from your home is an escalation, and not one I think should be taken lightly, but I just don’t think it’s an option that should be taken off the table completely. It just depends on what line is crossed. The truth is, if my husband’s mother accused me of being abusive to him, especially in a way where it affected my job/relationship with my boss (i.e., my livelihood and the source of income that pays for my residence), I’d want the ability to say she’s not welcome in my home. We don’t have to get along, he doesn’t necessarily have to stop seeing her, but someone who can’t show me common courtesy, or delivers (unfounded) accusations against me and jeopardizes my career, etc. doesn’t get the privilege of experiencing the hospitality of my home, my sanctuary, my castle, the place where I keep intimate things and important documents, whether I’m there or not.

          1. Observer*

            So he gets to say something like “I can’t deal with the idea of someone who hates me this much and has such poor boundaries coming in here, even though it’s your mother.” And he gets to decide whether he can live with her reaction, and learn whatever lessons are there to be learned (ranging from “she’ll always have my back” to “She will NEVER stand up to her mother” and anything in between.) And he should act on what he’s learned. If what he’s learned is a deal breaker, then he also gets to walk away from the relationship.

            The difference here is about telling her what to do, vs telling her what he can live with and acting on the latter.

            1. A Girl Has No Name*

              Yep, we are basically saying the same thing. I’m not advocating for a controlling “I’m putting my foot down, little lady, and you just have to live with it”. I’m suggesting that he (and anyone) does indeed get to establish boundaries around who can be in his home (which may also be his GF’s home). GF can decide if she can live with those boundaries, BF can decide if he can live with GF’s reaction. The situation still applies in reverse (swap GF and BF in the hypothetical). In a healthy positive relationship, this option wouldn’t be exercised for everyone you simply don’t care for, but instead I’m those toxic situations. Either way, if neither or both are on board with the other’s perspective, they can choose to go their separate ways. How they decide to split is up to them (does she move out? does he move out? not my circus…).

              Basically, what I was reacting to in your post was the statement that he does not get to say the mom can’t come into his home, because my opinion is that everyone gets a say who comes into their home (and their partner gets a say in whether their stance is untenable).

      2. paul*

        yeah, human relationships are so contexually dependent I don’t like that sort of blanket statement.

        Telling her she can’t go see her mother if she wants is not cool; saying he doesn’t want the mother in thier place at all is drastic but can be justified.

        1. A Girl Has No Name*

          Agreed but without more context it’s hard to say if the disrespect rises to the level of saying she can’t come into his home. When I say context I mean whether or not this is a pattern vs. a one-off, or if there were other reasons to be concerned about abuse (e.g., like if GF is clumsy, shows up to work with bruises after walking into a wall, and then doesn’t pick up the phone for a week because she dropped it and broke it – mom would be wrong in suspecting abuse but one could see how she might in that circumstance and might be more understanding of her concerns).

          We don’t have this level of detail and it doesn’t make sense to speculate. There are an infinite number of other scenarios and pieces of info that might affect a person’s willingness to actually ban someone from their home. As Paul said above, it’s drastic, and since we don’t have all the context, we can’t say it should or shouldn’t be done. I was just pointing out that in my opinion it’s an option (vs completely taking it off the table like it initially seemed Observer was saying).

        2. Observer*

          Sure. And, the OP would be totally in line to say “no threesomes with your mom. Not at home, not elsewhere.”

          Dictating who gets to come into the house at all is a different story. On the other hand, I do think that the OP would be reasonable to tell his GF that given Mom’s lack of boundaries, he’s not comfortable allowing her into the house at any time, and then see how GF responds – and act on what he learns. Including walking away from the relationship, if she doesn’t respond well.

          1. A Girl Has No Name*

            Yes exactly. Or she may choose how to respond to him saying he doesn’t want the mom in the house (i.e., her reaction may be walking away from the relationship as well).

  40. animaniactoo*

    OP3 – I would strongly urge you to give your boss the benefit of the doubt.

    Did boss actually say she thought you weren’t affectionate and were uncaring? Or is that your gf’s mom’s interpretation of what your boss told her? “No, they don’t really hold hands or any other kind of PDA when they’re at work.”

    It is entirely possible that your boss has a friend who is sometimes a little nutty and hard to handle, but she likes her so she tries to draw boundaries and sometimes ends up completely misinterpreted, even when she’s trying to normalize and defend things as no big deal.

    So for instance, Mom says “I bet he keeps after her all the time even at work, hugging her and making sure everybody sees how much he “loves” her” and Boss says “No, actually, they’re very professional, if you didn’t know they were dating, you would never guess.” and Mom hears “They’re so uncaring”.

    And Mom says “I haven’t been able to reach her in a week, I’m so worried.” and Boss says “Well I can’t get in the middle so I won’t pass a message to her, but I can tell you that I’ve seen her this week and she seemed to be fine.”

    Mom says “Hmmm… maybe I can just go check in with her when he’s at work, can you tell me when he’s working and she isn’t?” and Boss thinks, “Ugh, this feels weird, but if a customer called to ask when somebody was working, I’d give out this info so I don’t think I can say no to this” and hopes like hell that it works out fine and there’s no drama from this.

    I’m assuming that personal calls at work are a major no-no for you guys, and that’s why her mom didn’t just call at work to say “Is everything okay?” and why boss also wouldn’t feel comfortable passing a message if she’s trying to keep a boundary between being your boss and mom’s friend?

    I could be completely wrong about all of this – just spitballing so that if I’m anywhere near what’s actually going on, you don’t unintentionally cause more drama by viewing your boss as a perpetrator here, rather than a fellow victim.

    If she’s a fellow victim – you might think about whether or not your mom would be able to call up any new place of work “as a customer” and say “Can you tell me when Jamie is working this week? He waited on me last week and I’d like to come in when he’s on.” as part of your calculation about whether switching workplaces would actually help you reduce any of the drama.

    1. Observer*

      and why boss also wouldn’t feel comfortable passing a message if she’s trying to keep a boundary between being your boss and mom’s friend?

      You really think that a reasonable person would find passing on a health check message to be LESS professional than sharing not only the GF’s schedule but her BF’s schedule as well, so that Mom could see her alone? Seriously?

      1. animaniactoo*

        When you’re dancing on eggshells trying to deal with a boundary stomper – particularly one who is your friend and you like – you end up doing some things that are logically inconsistent. Yes, even reasonable people. Sometimes especially reasonable people as they are trying to remain reasonable.

        However – it also wouldn’t be a “health check” message, since boss has already said “She’s been at work and she’s fine”. At that point, it’s a personal message “Your mom wants you to call her.” So, as I said above, boss has every reason to say “this isn’t necessary and I won’t put myself in the middle of it”, while at the same time thinking that she has to give out the schedule information, because that IS a work function that she is supposed to do in other circumstances. And feel squashed and awkward with it the whole time.

  41. Marisol*

    OP #2 – in crisis there is opportunity. Could you set up a meeting with the former controller’s boss and ask her/him what steps you could take to help the department during the interim? You say you don’t have the skill set, but perhaps there are some things you can do, but you are too new to be aware of the needs of the department. Or could you identify things that do need to be done, and either start doing them to the extent that you are able, or review them with the boss with the goal of developing an interim plan? A person who steps up and acts proactively in a situation like this is generally appreciated and rewarded. You always have the option of looking for another job, but I wouldn’t fold just yet.

  42. Norman*

    #3 – I’m assuming GF’s mother had a key, otherwise she may have committed a crime. Assuming she had a key, take back the key. Her coming in without warning is by far the most offensive part of this story, though Boss is also awful.

  43. Candi*

    Apologies for the late comment.

    The lack of affection in public is not an abuse indicator. (Especially when being professional on the job.) My ex was frequently affectionate in public -despite me telling him many times I was uncomfortable and didn’t like it. He was emotionally and mentally, and toward the end physically, abusive.

    Walked out with my kids and never looked back. (And then he filed for divorce to punish me. Snort.)

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