my manager said the wrong number when giving me a raise, director sent around a photo of my messy desk, and more

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

1. My manager said the wrong number when giving me a raise

I’m not even sure where to begin on this one. I recently had my one-year evaluation with my manager. To thank me for my good work, my manager said I would receive a raise and it would go into effect in the next pay cycle. Instead of phrasing the new salary in terms of the increase (like “your salary will increase this much”), she said the actual new salary amount. This new salary amount gave me a 6% increase so I was very happy.

Today I received the first pay stub with the new raise and it is not what I was promised. In fact, instead of a 6% increase, it’s only a 3% increase. I ask my manager if some error had occurred. She calls a meeting with me and insists I must have misheard. She tells me all her notes for this meeting specifically mentioned the 3%, not 6%. She says she apologizes, but I obviously misheard and she implied I should be grateful I got any raise at all (which is an odd idea, considering my evaluation was glowing and the only suggestion given was the throwaway “continue always striving to improve.”)

I never received anything in writing. The evaluation was very informal. I will swear on every holy book that she said the salary I heard. Perhaps she misspoke, and I could forgive that in a second if she hadn’t tried to gaslight me.

My question then is, what are my rights here? I have nothing in writing and I have now been embarrassed by the whole “are you sure you heard correctly, sweetie?” episode. On top of all that, I’m feeling plain ripped off. What’s my next step?

I suppose it’s possible that you misheard, who knows. It’s also possible that she misspoke. It’s also possible that she intentionally told you one number and then gave you a different one — but that’s not the most likely explanation of the three.

Regardless of how this happened, the question for you now is: If she’d told you this number originally, would you have been happy with it? Or would you have advocated for more? If you’d have been happy with it, I’d write this off as a miscommunication, assume no malice, and move forward. If you would have advocated for more, then do that now. Say something like, “It seems like we miscommunicated somewhere, because I’d thought I’d heard $X. Regardless, if I’d realized it was $Y, I would have asked to talk about a higher number because (fill in your case for a raise here).” And from there, proceed like you would in any raise negotiation.

As far as any rights you have here — with this set of facts, there’s not really much you can do. There’s no practical way to hold her to a number that she says she didn’t give you when there’s nothing in writing to the contrary.

2. I was fired for making a joke about a knife on Facebook and now I can’t get hired

I was dismissed from my employer of eight years over a Facebook post, in which I stated that I owned and knew how to use a small pocket knife, and mentioned that part-time workers don’t understand the difficulty of working full-time. It was, in reality, a completely tongue-in-cheek joke with my friend I posted as “public” by accident. But the HR director called me up after work and said the post was threatening to other employees, despite my explanation that it was sarcasm/a private joke. Afterwards, I did not seek unemployment because I thought it would be contested in court due to the nature of the termination, and I didn’t want to see anyone from the company again. (Prior to this incident, I had a good relationship with my organization, except for the final six months in which I had FMLA-related attendance issues.)

Since then, I’ve been care-taking for elderly relatives and started a small business that, after a year, wasn’t financially viable. I used up my savings and maxed out my credit, and have been searching for a job for several months, trying to keep my condo. I had six interviews in September alone, but no job offers.

Hiring managers and HR reps seem to be quite understanding about the reason I got fired during phone and in-person interviews. Are they just being polite while making a mental note to never call again? Or is it truly something else?

Well … yeah, it’s possible that hearing about what happened is making them write you off. It’s not because this incident should define you, but because they have so little data about candidates that every thing they do know looms larger than it might if they knew you better. (I talk more about that here.) So when they don’t know much about you, hearing about something that was bad judgment and potentially a red flag of something more serious (no matter how remote that possibility), they’re going to take it seriously and not want to take the risk. I know you said that they sound understanding about it during interviews, but I suspect they’re being polite while mentally writing you off.

Can you call your old employer, explain that you think this incident is preventing you from getting work, and ask if they’d be willing to come to an agreement with you about what they’ll say to reference-checkers about why you left? If you can get them to agree to call it a layoff or a resignation, or even to decline to give a reference at all, you will probably have an easier time of it.

3. Employee doesn’t want her work times shared with coworkers so that people won’t know when she’s not home

I am a director of a mid-sized nonprofit. My department heads many worksites that are widespread around the county. The staffing for the sites can vary, and staff are assigned on a weekly basis to the various sites. Because none of us works in the same building, schedules are emailed to the group for the week, with employees’ first names and last initials and where they are scheduled for the week.

Yesterday, an employee came to the worksite manager, very upset that her “privacy” was violated by people seeing what her schedule is, and that it is a “safety issue” — not necessarily because people will see where she is working, but because “people I don’t know will know what times I won’t be at home.”

She has certainly strained my logic with that one. How people who she admittedly does not know would care about when she is not home is beyond me. Further, we told her that it is pretty common practice to post a schedule at a workplace, and she replied “I don’t come from any background like that.” By this logic, everyone in our company would know that I usually work from 8-5 each day, and would not be at home. Am I missing something? Is there any reason to not post or email schedules in this fashion?

People do indeed typically know when their coworkers will be at work and thus not at home. That’s a pretty unavoidable part of having a job. And it’s normal to circulate schedules so that people know who will be working when, and in many cases it’s necessary to being able to function smoothly.

Generally when someone raises a privacy concern, I’d say that you should try to accommodate it if you can, or at least try to understand more about what the concern is. For example, if she had privacy concerns about being featured on your website or having her home address circulated to coworkers, I’d say you should respect those. Or if you were posting the schedule in an area where customers could see it, I’d suggest changing that. Or if she raised a privacy concern that didn’t make sense to you, I‘d say that you should talk to her to get a better understanding of her concern rather than just blowing it off.

But in this case, she’s asking you not to do something that I assume is key to how your business functions. I’d say this to her: “ I’m sorry this is making you feel uneasy. We circulate schedules because ____. This is a pretty common practice in our field and others — think, for example, of 9-5 jobs where people are reliably away during those hours. I can’t not include you on the schedule that we share with each other, but if there’s something else that would help you feel more comfortable, I’d be glad to talk with you about it.”

4. My director sent around a photo of my messy desk

I am from South America and work as a programmer in Sweden. Our director is always asking everybody to keep our office clean, and I strongly agree that many people need to learn how to not leave dirty cups all around the tables. Sometimes I myself organize and clean some messy shared spaces.

My own desk has two screens, a cable adapter hub, a laptop, a big keyboard, and a special game mouse — which are my work tools but make a lot of cables. I really struggle trying to organize my own cables and they never look 100% neat. I am very sensitive to it. I also have a notebook, a pen, and a Swedish grammar book on my desk, since Swedish is my fourth language and I am still learning it.

So, today the director was really pissed about messy and dirty desks (some tables with rotten food and dozens of dirty cups) and took pictures of them. She posted the pictures in a private Facebook group with everyone who works in the office (about 40 people) and wrote “clean your desks.” I was shocked and surprised to see my desk in one of the pictures — the only picture which identifies the owner (because of the screens and the grammar book). All the other pictures were focused on specific objects, not the entire desks, so we were not able to identify them. I am super uncomfortable and thinking about what I should do about it. I am feeling very badly treated. Should I open it to everyone? If yes, how?

Nah, let it go. It sounds like it was more of a group-shaming and I doubt any of your coworkers think it was a shot specifically fired at you. (And your desk doesn’t even sound particularly bad. Cables are a pretty normal part of many desks.) Other people may feel they were singled out because they recognized their mug or something. Your manager is just making a point about how people need to be neater; it doesn’t sound like it’s personal or something to feel bad about.

5. Asking people to be references for a second job

I started a full-time, career-type job three months ago that I’m very happy at. I live in a notoriously high-rent region and pay half my salary in housing costs, and my students loans are coming due soon. In order to be able to pay all bills and expenses, I think I need to take a second job, which I’m perfectly happy and willing to do.

The employers I apply to may ask for references, and I’m concerned about letting any of the people who just recently acted as my references know I’m looking for another job. I think it might look bad — either like I’m not good with money (not true, I just know from experience that I would just have a hard time maintaining the level of health, energy, and focus required for my work if I lived in chronic want and self-denial), or that my very well known employer doesn’t take proper care of its employees (also not true).

So when I ask people who have acted as references in the past to take that role again so soon, how do I phrase it so that they know it’s for a second job, that my employer is great and that I am not an irresponsible spender? Also, I’m assuming that it would be too weird to ask my current boss to act as a reference in this case. But please tell me if I’m wrong about that.

Just be straightforward! “I’m really happy with my new job at Teapots Inc. Thanks so much for being a reference for me when I was applying. I wanted to give you a heads-up that I’ve decided to try to pick up a weekend job too, so you might be contacted as a reference again.”

And yeah, I probably wouldn’t list your current boss as a reference — largely because you’re still pretty new to her and to your job there.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. Liz T*

    AAM: If you were the previous employer in #2, would you agree to calling it a layoff/not disclosing the reason?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t agree to call it a layoff because that’s dishonest, but I’d considering agreeing to simply not provide a reference, if the OP had otherwise been a good employee until this happened.

      But plenty of employers will agree to fudging the reason, which is why it’s worth the OP considering whether hers would. (I don’t feel awesome about saying “hey, see if your former employer will agree to a cover story for you,” but the reality is, if I had a friend or family member in the OP’s situation, that’s the advice I’d give them — and I want to hold myself to the same standard of advice here.)

      1. Willis*

        If the OP’s former employer agreed not to provide a reference, how could she describe the reason she left that job without getting into the threatening coworkers thing? It sort of sounded like her description of the incident might be turning employers off before they’d even get to reference checks. Maybe say she took time off to care for elderly relatives?

        1. INTP*

          If the OP wants to be honest about getting fired, she could just say that she “violated the social media policy” or “made an ill-thought-out social media post in a moment of frustration” and has learned her lesson. I’ve known people to get fired just for posting that they don’t want to go to work or don’t like their jobs, so without specifying that the post was violent in nature, I don’t think they’ll suspect anything like that, and they might be more understanding.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I wouldn’t say the second one because then people may assume OP posted something racist or sexist. But the “violated social media policy” one could work if OP expounds on it a bit so it won’t sound like she was looking at porn or something and can describe what she learned from this situation so that it won’t happen again.

          2. Amadeo*

            Basically this. I was fired once for some ill-advised LJ posts that should have at the very least been friends-locked over 10 years ago, back when nobody had quite yet dreamed you could lose your job for what you posted online and basically when an interviewer asked I explained that it was not work related and lesson learned. They didn’t need to know it was because of some online rants that I had grown out of.

        2. irritable vowel*

          I agree that it sounds like the interviewers are asking the OP why she left her old job, and she’s saying more or less verbatim what she put into her letter – that she was fired for a FB joke about a knife that her employer found threatening. OP, if that’s the case – you don’t need to be so forthcoming! I think you could probably get away with “I was let go because I made a Facebook post that was set to public by mistake, and my employers took issue with the content. But I’ve learned my lesson and it won’t happen again.”

          As a hiring manager, what I would want to hear is that you’ve learned to be more circumspect online. The content of your original post wouldn’t matter to me – as long as you’re not going public with your posts, I don’t care what you say to your friends. (And I would also take a look at your social media presence after the interview to confirm that there was no evidence of more recent problematic posts.)

  2. persimmon*

    OP #2, the way you describe what you said in your post sounds deliberately misleading to me: like you are trying to pretend it was totally unreasonable to think you were threatening but are hiding what you really said. If that’s how you report this in interviews I’m not surprised it goes over poorly. I think you should practice this with a friend and work on something succinct and appropriately contrite that doesn’t come off as selectively told.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Yeah, this can go either way.

      On one hand, this could generally be a story where OP 2 was previously a knucklehead who now regrets doing knuckleheaded things . . .

      On the other hand, I am now reminded of the dudebro that spent over $100 for a “Fat Girls Can’t Jump” decal and not understanding why he could get fired for it.

      Definitely, ask the old company for a reference. If that doesn’t work, then maybe try to not be too specific as to why you got fired.
      “I made a post that my previous employees found offensive. I did not mean any offense, and I truly regret making the post. I have since deleted that post, apologized to those who were threatened by my post, and learned to be much more respectful online and in person.”

      I feel the key is to take your negative and turn into a positive. I feel like you might win a few more companies over if you show you regret your decision.

    2. Jane*

      Agreed. Something like “I made a poor decision in a moment of frustration to vent online, making what I thought was a joke about a frustration at work in private, but my hyperbolic wording came out sounding like a threat and on top of that my FB was accidentally set to public. It was a bad error of judgment on my part to make the joke, and compounded by its visibility to an audience that wouldn’t understand the context in which I meant it. I learned my lesson the hard way and am much more careful about how my words online can impact others.”

      I’m sure others can suggest better language, but the key is to acknowledge and explain what happened and show that you understand why it was wrong and how you will change your behavior in the future. The wording in your post is avoidant and leaves the reader filling in the worst case scenario without any indication of remorse or learning.

      1. Sherm*

        Lady Phoenix and Jane, I think you had excellent wording. And if I were the OP, I would indeed apologize to whichever coworker saw the post and complained, and if the coworker accepts your apology, you can also mention that in your interviews if asked why you left.

        I would also make sure to mention the caregiving and starting a business, to avoid giving the impression that whatever you said was so bad that it has left you unemployed for over a year.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I would cut out the part about the wording sounding like a threat and just go straight into saying the post was accidentally made public, then move on to the contrition part of the speech. If I heard, “My wording came off threatening,” as an employer, I’d think this person made a joke about workplace violence, which is not at all funny when you’re the one charged with bringing someone new into your company who could potentially endanger the lives of your current employees, and I’d pass even if the person swore they wouldn’t do it again. But then I’m really risk avoidant when it comes to stuff like this, so I may be in the minority.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I agree. I would not go down that path at all. Just say “I made a joke that I meant to keep private, but it was accidentally set to public, and it violated my employer’s social media policy.”

          1. LD*

            That wording is succinct and sounds very reasonable. Maybe add the stuff about having learned a lesson about how easy it is to misinterpret humor in social media.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I would leave out the threat of violence, as well, and also make sure to say that I now realize that venting work frustration online is inappropriate, even if I did think that my settings were private. And I don’t think you’re in the minority about taking a pass on someone who had threatened violence; I would, too.

        3. BananaPants*

          Agreed. We just went through our annual workplace violence/active shooter training. Frankly if I heard, “My coworker interpreted it as a threat”, the candidate’s resume is going in the ol’ circular file. Why take even a remote risk that they’d repeat this mistake as an employee, or worse, actually make real threats or take violent actions?

          1. Sofia*

            I agree. So my friend was fired from a job because he was joking with two other coworkers and one of the coworkers made a dead baby joke. They knew the other coworker had previously had a miscarriage and she became upset and the joke was seen as threatening and they both got fired because the company saw them as liabilities.

            After the matter when he went on interviews he said that he was fired for a misunderstanding and a disagreement with a former coworker and that he saw his error and learned his lesson. It worked well for him and his coworker as they both found jobs rather quickly.

    3. LadyCop*

      Yes 100% I get the idea what the OP said was not gregarious or specofic…but their story seems to be vague enough that somethings being omitted…and I frankly don’t believe they “accidentally ” left a post meant for a single person to see as public…isn’t that what messaging or texting is for? If it were me…isn’t would say I posted something on FB that they didn’t approve of and it was foolish etc…specifics and minimalising seem messy. It may still come up, but not everyone will dug for the why and how if you’re otherwise squared away.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Let’s take her at her word that it was accidental, since she says it was accidental. I’m also not inclined to criticize her for not being specific enough here; she’s not required to share all the details with us in order to get advice (and it can be hard for letter writers to know how much detail to share).

        I agree though that she shouldn’t get into the details of the post with employers.

      2. Lady Phoenix*

        Hm, not quite. I can see how FB posts can sometimes be tricky enough that you can accidentally post to the wrong audience. If you forget to make sure the small privacy drop down list is set up right, you can get some weird results.

        1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

          Especially if this was eight years ago—Facebook now kind of checks in with you if you change your privacy settings for one post and forget to change them back on your next post, but it was much easier to accidentally make yourself “public” circa 2008.

        2. shep*

          Agreeing with Lady Phoenix. I’ve used FB since it was open to college-only networks, and just a few weeks ago, I made post private so I could get a discount on some gym leggings. (The requirement was to post your purchase on FB, so I did…but only so I could see it, because I didn’t want a shill-like post to appear on my friends’ feed.)

          Of course, I didn’t realize that in making this one post private, I’d accidentally made my subsequent posts private, and it took me a full week and a half of no FB interaction on my posts to realize this.

          I realize this is different from making a post *public*, but still–I know my FB pretty well, and came off feeling SUPER-silly because I flubbed the post settings.

          1. Cranky Pants*

            I once had all of my posts limited to one friend and that friend was hardly ever on FB. I have no idea how I managed to do that but it took over 2 weeks of me not getting any interaction before I realized it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I’ve done this with public and forgotten to change it back. Thankfully I don’t bitch about work on FB. It’s a strictly no-work site for me–I don’t friend peeps from my job until one or both of us is out of there completely.

            So it’s more like – Public: Important thing I think people should read/know. Still public: video of cats falling off furniture.

            1. Kikishua*

              I personally can never get enough of cats falling off furniture on Facebook. So I try to keep the flow going ;)

      3. snuck*

        I’ve done it. THe one time I made a stupid joke about something in my small town was the day FB changed a bunch of privacy settings on me, and it went to a couple of people who really didn’t need to see it.

        I’ve never before, and never since, made a post that could be taken so badly… the one time I did it… FB had made a bunch of people I’d had as acquaintances suddenly friends… and they could see what I’d thought I had shielded (and did… from the public!). And one of those was the local sh it stirrer. Ugh.

        (And yeah… I know… don’t have difficult people on your FB etc.. I live in a teeny tiny little country town, and not having them is ruder than having them and restricting them… it’s complicated)

        1. TL -*

          Facebook is famous for privacy flubs like that. They change their settings all the time and don’t do a great job of letting users know.

      4. Whats In A Name*

        I’ve thought I was posting to a private group I am a part of with close friends that span the country and accidentally put it as my own status update, public to boot when my settings are *usually* set to my friends only. It’s a little easier than you might think to make an error on FB.

    4. INTP*

      I would leave out the stabbing part entirely, as I don’t think there’s a way to explain that part that people will be understanding about. (Maybe it’s cultural or generational but to me this is the sort of thing that is common sense that it’s Absolutely Not Okay to say in any context that might reach a coworker or the employer, not just some vague, unspoken white collar job rule – you would have been expelled from my middle or high schools in a second for posting something like that about another student, joking or not.)

      IMO, just say that you posted something about work on social media when you were frustrated and you’ve learned your lesson and it will never happen again. Hopefully, the interviewers won’t ask any further questions and their imaginations will fill in that you posted “Ugh I hate working at Chocolate Teapots Inc.!” or something similarly mild.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup – this suggestion for wording is perfect because it doesn’t get into detail, and what is left unsaid doesn’t evoke thoughts of violence, any kind of -ism, or that OP was doing something inappropriate during work hours.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, I agree. I have a pretty dark sense of humor, but if someone I was interviewing for a job mentioned posting a joke on social media about violence in their workplace it would be a huge red flag. Probably huge enough for me to put them in the “no” pile as soon as that interview was over.

        The issue for the OP is that none of these companies know her, so they don’t know if this was truly a joke between colleagues (like INTP, I would suggest it’s probably a bad one in any context, but YMMV), or if it’s a signal of other issues like poor judgment, a poor attitude, or a real threat of violence that the OP might bring to her next job. But they probably have other suitable candidates, and all else being equal it would be safer to move forward with them.

        I would use INTP’s phrasing and leave out the specifics about threats of violence or stabbing coworkers. I think that will go over better in interviews.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        As I’ve said over and over and over again –


        If you’ve ever worked in radio – you would live by the rule = “consider every microphone live”. If “we’ll put those two spots in, then take the mayor’s call, and take it up to the news at noon” gets out accidentally, no problem. “What a jerk”… Problem.

        Same thing with a keyboard or keypad.

      4. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Re: cultural or generational: I was 16 when Columbine happened. I’ve noticed that people in the 1982-1987 ish range are especially conscious of not threatening violence.

        1. Gaia*

          Growing up as the first group that got to practice what to do when one of your fellow students came to school with a gun or a bomb…it leaves a real impression.

          I was 13 for Columbine (8th grade). I remember watching it on the news in my History class. Starting that spring, and every few months after, we would practice lock downs and evacuations. We had more of those drills than fire drills because, let’s be honest – we knew which one the real threat was.

        2. Isabel C.*

          Also about 16 at the time, and it’s interesting: someone joking about shooting people really makes me uneasy, but “Jesus Christ time for stabbings” or “die in a fire, Obnoxious Client” don’t bug at all. Apparently it’s a very specific aversion in my case.

          1. Gaia*

            Same for me. I notice the same thing with other people around our age – we tend to pay a lot more attention to news of shootings in public areas. Where other generations might just read, be horrified and move on a lot of folks our age tend to really focus in.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      It reads to me like she’s testing out her phrasing on us to see if employers might think it’s acceptable. IMO playing it off as a lighthearted goof is more concerning than if she simply admitted she was wrong. Personally, I never joke about stabbing my coworkers. That’s just not a thought that should ever cross the mind of an adult who’s old enough to have held the same job for eight years. I don’t care if it was “just a joke.” It’s a BAD joke.

      1. Misc*

        ….I would. But only because I know my coworkers are onboard with that sort of humour >.> It’s definitely a ‘know your audience and get the intonation right’ thing.

        (in fact, I think someone threatened me with a knife last time we went to lunch and a coworker told me I was fired for a terrible pun right before that).

        1. JaneB*

          Around here (in the UK, so the possibility of workplace shootings/rampages is much less on peoples’ minds) the standard joking/despairing first answer to the question “what should we do about person X” has become “defenestration” (university, tall buildings, liking for long words), and helping-hide-the-bodies jokes are also commonplace. Partly culture, I guess, but also something it’s much easier to judge in person than on line.

          For example, I jumped a little the first time I read someone on here in the comments saying “this thing makes me a little stabby” – a beautifully concise way of expressing a feeling, but also potentially worrisome without realising it was something of a norm…

          1. J*

            In person vs online is a key component here. In person, you’re able to calibrate to your audience and use body language to make it clear that it’s meant in jest. Online, this is *much* more difficult to suss.

          2. BPT*

            I think there’s also the difference in specificity – “helping hide the bodies” is kind of an accepted way of saying “I’m with you no matter what.” But if someone went through and specified the way that they would create these dead bodies, it would be a lot more worrisome.

            With OP, I think the fact that they specified using a weapon they actually had and described it was probably what caused it to go from possibly funny joke (although it doesn’t seem that funny to me) to a legitimate threat.

            It’s also like saying, “ugh, shoot me if I ever act like that” vs. “if I ever act like that, I’m going to go home and get my [weapon] and [explicitly do this terrible thing to myself].”

            1. JessaB*

              On hiding bodies, back in the day I had one of those ex cop car land yacht Crown Victorias. We used to and still kinda do amongst friends measure boot/trunk space by how many bodies you can hide in it. I had what we used to call a 3 body space. So my friends would have no problem whatsoever promising to use my car to help hide the evidence and then go on the lam with the person in question so they don’t get caught. Obviously we’re kidding, nobody is going to actually get killed or anything. But also we’d never ever post that somewhere it’d be forever. We’d only do that verbally in a group that we know is safe.

              1. Candi*

                I know exactly what you mean.

                I’m part of an online writing group, writing in a shared OU that involves a known-galaxy-at-war sci fi scenario. After nearly a decade, we know each other as well as you can anyone you’ve never met. But we also know to keep the writing discussions, and the ensuing jokes, out of the public eye. The freewheeling discussions of ‘what happens in this battle scene’ could especially cause trouble if seen out of context.

                So we keep discussions to chats, IM, emails (occasionally), and a locked-down forumotion account. Because we know better. (Plus copyright fun.)

            2. SimontheGreyWarden*

              I agree with this. I have a couple friends from work that go out to coffee with me and we blow off steam by venting about stupid school policies, and we needle at each other, and one will occasionally pick up her fork or knife and tap it against her palm when I remind her that I was born the year she graduated high school (usually part of a, ‘so what was it like to have a pet dinosaur’) style jokes. Because we’re good friends it is never threatening. However if someone were to post something like that on FB I would probably be a little bothered, and if it was someone I wasn’t close with, I’d be really bothered.

            3. BananaPants*

              There’s a difference between, “If Bob sends one more email about the new format for the TPS reports one more time, I’m going to go postal” and, “I have a Leatherman in my purse and so help me God, Bob’s getting stabbed in the jugular after the next email.”

              My rule of thumb is that any sort of dark joke or gallows humor should be said in person rather than posted on social media or emailed. You can’t easily discern tone in the written word, and especially if the friends/coworkers know someone actually HAS the stated weapon, that’s when I start to get antsy.

        2. JessaB*

          Yeh, that kind of joke or any kind that could come off as really badly offensive really needs to be said face to face in private. Gods know my close friends and I have said things to each other that you could never ever ever say in public to other people. And it really boils down to really, really, really, knowing each other for a very long time and what we can say to each other.

      2. seejay*

        Yep, I was “friends” with someone on FB who posted at least three or four times about his depression and that only certain things in his life were keeping him from “going postal” at his work place (and I’m rewording it to be very light-hearted here, he was seriously crossing the line into disturbing words and imagery territory). I finally wound up screenshotting a bunch of it and sending it to the local police in his area anonymously. Was it bad of me? Maybe. He wound up coming onto Facebook *and losing his shit* that one of his friends would backstab him like that because the cops showed up at his house and anyone that knew him should know he’d never hurt anyone like that, but considering how violent and dark and scary as hell his posts were, I wasn’t going to sit there and not do anything, only to wind up reading months later that he killed his coworkers in a fit of rage, because it was *really reading like that*. This didn’t read as a joke, it didn’t read as light-hearted, or anything else… it read as a seriously disturbed, manic depressed individual on the edge of violence and there was no way I was going to not give at least a head’s up to *someone*.

        I didn’t report it to his workplace, but I did contact his local police to at least keep an eye out. I unfriended him eventually because I couldn’t deal with how volatile he was. I don’t think he ever figured out it was me. >> but yes, you don’t joke about workplace violence, especially when people don’t know how to read it and *especially* when you come across as being super unstable. It’s going to give more weight to your claims, even if you’re joking (or in his case venting).

        (just to note, not saying the LW#2 is unstable or venting or anything, just pointing out how others can read something… text medium is really hard to read any emotion into and without any sort of context and inability to read body language, something that’s totally meant as an inside joke or whatever can really be blown out of proportion or taken the wrong way or *anything*. Take utmost care in anything you post.)

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I had something very similar happen in law school with a student I was overseeing on our law journal and in a course I was TA-ing. In that case, we had a mutual friend who’d known the person a lot longer, so I checked in with her about it, but a few of us still ended up having a conversation with that person about social media presence. The line between Facebook and LinkedIn is a thin one these days.

        2. Mags*

          “Was it bad of me? ”

          No. Not at all. You were possibly saving his coworkers as well as your friend himself. You, bravely, did the right thing.

          1. seejay*

            Yeah, ultimately my argument was “I’d rather live with the feeling of him being mad at someone for ratting him out than the guilt of him shooting up a place and knowing that I could have said something and didn’t”.

            I learned a long time ago to trust my gut instincts on things that scare the shit out of me and it’s rarely been wrong. Sure he hasn’t “gone postal” (yet) but maybe me calling prevented it. Maybe he never would have but his behaviour and posts were *certainly* even remotely in the joking territory and I wasn’t going to risk that it wasn’t and watch it become another statistic in the news. People don’t suddenly snap… there’s warning signs and the more people pay attention to them and say something, the less likely we’ll have “sudden outbreaks” of violence where people say “I don’t know what happened!”

            1. Gaia*

              Maybe he would not have…or maybe the police showing up at his house with copies of social media posts scared some logic into him or convinced him to get some help.

              The thing is, he can say he was just joking all he wants but…those jokes aren’t funny. People say that stuff and then show up to work. With guns. And kill people. Pretty regularly. That’s like me posting online “Ugh so sick of XYZ Political Group saying thing L. Somebody should just kill them!” Not funny – because it is frighteningly real.

              1. seejay*

                yeah I didn’t trust or know him enough to know if he was genuinely *not serious* enough about it but I saw enough in his posts to know that he had serious depression and suicide issues. Like, not joking about those things posts, and then he’d post about how his life was so terrible and there was only one or two things holding him back from going into the office and giving into his violent urges… things like that. Like seriously *disturbing shit*. I’ve read Stephen King stories that were less disturbing than some of the stuff he’d post, and he wouldn’t end these posts with “oh, ha ha, just kidding”. After a few of these, I finally just decided it was enough, grabbed copies of some recent ones, did a few searches, and got his address and the closest precinct, and called it in. Fortunately I got an officer that took it seriously and took a report.

                A few days later, he posted a big rant about how his posts were private and friends’ only and how dare someone he trusted backstab him and do this to him when he would *NEVER* hurt anyone. This was also after people had commented on his posts saying that some of what he posted as pretty scary and a bit out of line (while others laughed and joked and actually encouraged it???) I was just… dumbfounded. We’ve heard enough shit in the news, there’s enough violence and random killings and people flying off the handle and why in the world would anyone think posting this stuff is ok??

                I quietly unfriended him not long after. I wanted to put a few weeks of space in between so it wasn’t too obvious I was behind the report, but I also couldn’t stay on his list “as a friend” because he was just too disturbing. As far as I know, he hasn’t done anything, but I think he still goes off on his rants every now and then (we have some friends in common).

                Crap like that is just… yeah. I’m not going to stay quiet if I witness it because I won’t be able to live with the guilt if I could have said something and didn’t and something does happen. :/

        3. Gaia*

          Honestly? Good for you for saying something. That kind of shit isn’t a joke. Too many people ignore real signs and people die because of it.

      3. ket*

        Agreed it’s not funny or in any way a good joke… but am I missing something that everyone in the comments is talking about stabbing and the original LW just mentioned a small pocket knife, no action?

        Of course, this is the *problem* with a “joke” like this — people leap mentally to stabbing and personal violence, even though a small pocket knife isn’t a common weapon for such attacks. But I can imagine a person waving around their 2-inch Swiss Army keychain in a moment of frustration, thinking it’s funny, and then being a bit taken aback by the reception.

        I think it’s best to admit she was thoughtless. “I made a thoughtless comment about workplace stress on social media that was accidentally set to public. I’ll never do it again.”

        1. seejay*

          I pulled a small 2″ pocket knife out on the bus in grade 9 to show to someone because I brought it to school to show to a friend. It was a souvenir I got on a trip that had the place stamped on the handle. Someone reported it to the principle, I got called in, got it taken away for the day, got a stern talking to, got it back at the end of the day and warned to not bring knives to school again.

          Now, this was 1989, in Canada, I wasn’t threatening anyone, I was 12, had never been in trouble, and we didn’t have the levels of school violence we do now. I can just imagine what the results would have been if it had happened today though. There’s really no excuse these days for adults to just *not know better* than to make carte blanche thoughtless comments like this. I was a dumb 12 year old in 1989 when people flying off the handle with violent attacks weren’t commonplace. :/ Criminy.

          1. Gaia*

            To be fair, they were common (although not in the mass killings we have now) they just were not as widely reported. Violent crime is down and has been going down for decades even when you take into account mass killings. We just have more access to the knowledge that it is occurring.

            1. seejay*

              True, the internet and social media has made it far easier to get immediate access to news as soon as it happens.

              That being said, I think we have more access to weapons these days than we did 30 years ago, and weapons that kill more people faster. That has definitely changed the demographic in violence a lot.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I can’t really make an accurate assessment of it without actually knowing what the post said.

      If it were something like “You all make me feel stabby and I have a pocketknife and know how to use it and you full-timers have no idea that part-timers have it hard,” then I might think whoa there, calm down. I’d probably talk to the person about it first rather than just outright fire them, however.

      FWIW, I would laugh my ass off if you came at me with a pocket knife–all I’d have to do is hit you with my enormous, overstuffed purse and that would be the end of you. :)

      1. Angelina*

        If a colleague – or anyone – came at me with a pocket knife, I would absolutely be terrified and would not laugh. Much more of a weapon than a purse!

      2. BananaPants*

        So you’re like CJ Cregg, swatting at suicide bombers with your purse? ;) (I just watched that episode of The West Wing over the weekend.)

        No lie, in our active shooter training last month we were all encouraged to find heavy objects at our desks that could be used as weapons in case “run” and “hide” didn’t work and we needed to “fight” said active shooter. The instructor was talking about reference books, desk lamps, and paperweights. I’m a mechanical engineer with a bunch of club-like steel weldments sitting on my desk within arm’s reach; our hypothetical active shooter won’t know what hit him.

        1. Gaia*

          We had one of those a few weeks back (training, not active shooter. I hate that I have to specify that). They made it clear about 100 times that fighting back should be your last option and only if you cannot run or hide. But what really struck me is how screwed we all are if that happens at my workplace. We’re a giant open room lined with large glass front conference rooms. And the only exits from the building would mean walking further into the giant open room.

    7. A.*

      Yeah, it comes across to me like they’re saying the comment about the pocketknife and the comment about the co-workers were discrete and unrelated. I doubt that’s how it was really written and to say it like that comes across as disingenuous and disgruntled–like they there’s nothing wrong with “technically” referring to those two points (pocket knife usage; co-workers) near each other, regardless of the implication.

      They might have better luck with their former employer if they swallow pride and acknowledge it as the ill-conceived joke that it was, since this wording comes across as defensive.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Me too; I don’t usually think of pocketknives as even jokingly referenced as weapons, so I was wondering why knowing how to whittle and cut string was so upsetting. :-b

  3. MillersSpring*

    For OP #3, could you maybe provide the scheduled hours only to each employee and the full work schedule only to the shift leader(s)?

    Posting/sharing schedules is really common, especially at jobs where everyone on a shift needs to know who’s coming, as well as showing who they could ask if they want to swap a shift.

    I wonder if someone on her shift or another is creeping her out at work or maybe she’s realized that someone on another shift lives a little too close to her for comfort.

    1. Hannah*

      Yeah, if everyone works independently at different sites, and they’re strangers to each other, is there any reason that everyone’s schedule actually needs go out in a mass email? Or are you just doing that because it’s faster for you than sending individual emails?

      I would respect the employee’s concern and distribute the schedules only to those who need to know. I wouldn’t want random people who I don’t know to have access to info about my whereabouts either.

      1. Nerdy Canuck*

        I mean… In the retail world and such, distributing or posting the complete schedule to everyone is completely normal, and anything else would seem incredibly strange.

        If it’s anything where coverage matters, such as remote support, you actually do need to know when other people are working in order to be able to arrange coverage in case there’s a problem with one of your shifts or something.

        1. Liane*

          Also, it makes it easier for people or their supervisors to find coverage if someone can’t come in, ahead of time or on the day. The very, very big retail chain where I used to work had schedules out 3 weeks in advance, so time-off requests had to be made 3 1/2 weeks ahead. We not only found people to trade off with when we had to, many of us would spread the word if we knew someone had something come up after the schedule came out.

        2. Hannah*

          Right, it makes sense for retail. You’re all in the same place so there’s no point in keeping some kind of mystery about who’s working a given shift. But based on the letter, I was picturing something more like nursing or center based therapy of some kind. I’m basing this off the OP saying they do not work in the same building and do not know each other. They may all work for the same company but they work independently from each other, so they aren’t even really coworkers in the traditional sense. In a situation like that, I can’t see why the other people who work for your same company would need to know your schedule, if you don’t otherwise interact with each other.

    2. JessaB*

      That’s what I thought. I think the manager needs to drill down into the why. Has that employee been robbed before or stalked? There are plenty of options as to how to protect someone in those cases.

      1. LCL*

        Yeah, the privacy fetish people are a PITA to manage and work with, but sometimes they have their reasons. It is the manager’s obligation to find out what is going on. If the employee does have a stalker, the workplace should help protect the employee and take more precautions than they are currently. If the employee is just new to the shift schedule thing, the manager should be able to explain it and set them at ease. The manager should not change how they code the schedule at the request of one employee who doesn’t like how things are done.

    3. seejay*

      Mentioning someone on another shift being a creeper does make sense. If someone in the workplace is actively harassing/stalking her, that might be why she’s a bit upset over it. My stalker made a point of going past my workplace and would notice when I was there based on my car (it was a really stand-out car at the time, bright red sports car with personalized plates). Sure, it was obvious my shift was 9 to 5, but once in awhile I would swap vehicles out with my mom when she would take my car in for a tune up or something and I’d wind up with a call from him to check to see if I was in because he’d go by and not see my vehicle.

      If she doesn’t have an actual issue and is just being cautious, then I’d be a little less inclined to worry about it.

    4. bohtie*

      I was thinking this. Or that she has a personal issue (an abusive ex she’s trying to avoid or a stalker or something) but doesn’t want to come out and say it.

  4. Caroline*

    OP4, I agree you need to let it go, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will recognise your desk (they’re probably all thinking, “oh no, my mug that I use everyday really singles me out” when you have no idea what mug they even use!)

    But I got to say, your boss seems really passive aggressive. That would irk me more than the perception of being singled out.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      As a Swede, that’s… not actually a particularly rare way of doing things (not saying it’s a good way!)…

      We are not very hierarchical, and startups and it companies (which it sounds like the OP is at) are even less so. And there is a really strong national culture of “clean up your own stuff, your mother doesn’t work here” and passive aggressive notes.

      1. Purest Green*

        This is a useful perspective for OP to read. As an aside, It sounds like working with Swedes would be awesome, because the culture I apparently work in is, “maybe someone will clean this up in a month.”

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          There’s a joking (but with a grain of truth) video where someone comes in and interrupts the prime minister in an important negotiation because he’s left his dirty coffee cup for someone else to clean up and could he PLEASE come and take care of that now??

          The actual prime minister starred in the video ;)

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            Here it is for anyone who’s interested. It was part of a longer video about Swedishness

            1. teclatrans*

              Hee! That fits with my experience when I lived there.

              Now I need a good video explaining fika.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Ha, here too.

          I bought a cheap toaster for the break room because the one we had in there was old and malfunctioning. NO ONE BUT ME ever dumps out the crumbs. And someone actually lost the crumb tray from underneath it. So there are bits all over the counter all the time. People also leave dishes in the dish drainer for days, and they leave their leftovers in the fridge for days. We have to play Refrigerator Tetris every morning to put our lunches in.


          1. Jadelyn*

            I like “refrigerator tetris” as a concept. I’m so glad I staked a claim on one of the crisper drawers in the secondary fridge when I first started, since we’ve grown pretty significantly since then and the rest of the fridge is a very full tetris board – but my drawer is acknowledged as Mine and I have yet to see anyone try to put stuff in there with my stuff. ^_^

      2. fposte*

        I think this is really important piece here; we non-Swedes are assessing this according to our own national work cultures and behaviors, and I’m not sure that that really works.

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          It’s still pretty rude and passive aggressive in Sweden but not… Shocking or uncommon. Just more of a “meh, he could’ve done that better”

      3. Natalie*

        Apparently it’s baked into the culture enough that you all brought it over to my homeland, Minnesota, where we are famously passive aggressive.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, good point. And that’s where my most passive-aggressive co-worker hailed from, now that I think about it. (Though she took it to a clinical point.)

      4. Chomps*

        Thanks for posting this @some sort of management consultant. It’s interesting to hear that side of things because while I agree that people need to clean common areas, I really dislike people who criticize the messiness of my personal spaces.

      5. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Ah, so that’s where Minnesotans got it… As a transplant, the passive aggressive notes still baffle me.

    2. snuck*

      Just a thought…

      Can any of these devices be replaced by wireless ones? Or the wires replaced by white cables? A short shelf (think 5cm high) be placed strategically to cover them? An extra hole for cables to go in and under the desk be made? A way to route the cables along and around the edges of the desk/wall so they are less jumbled? (Even if you have to get longer cables)

      If it’s just the cables and there’s no realistic way to get rid of them then just make sure everything else is super tidy and roll your eyes… Ask someone with seniority to help define any improvements… and leave it at that. But do this on a normal day not when it’s been super tidied up just to ask the person – ie make it a real review and recommendation, so you have solid feedback.

      It’s not personal, it’s cranky pants day :P

      1. SimontheGreyWarden*

        I had a jumble of cables at my desk because the hole for poking them through is in a weird place and no one from maintenance will drill a new hole (and with the unions I can’t do it myself). So I twist tied what I could and wrapped the monitor, keyboard, and computer cable together with bands of zebra duct tape. Keeps them out of the way and it looks marginally better.

    3. Little Mermaid*

      Ok, but why do you call that passive aggressive? The OP says that the boss is always asking people to keep their desks clean – which sounds like there’s been plenty of direct communication and nobody cared. So the FB post just seems like an attempt to get people’s attention in a different way. They ignored direct communication, so now they’re getting pictures on FB.

      (OP, I agree with the others, let it go. This was not done to single you out. If you wanna do something, then ask for help. Say that the cable mess is frustrating you too, but you haven’t been able to come up with a solution. Oh, and check out IKEA – they have a million practical things for organizing – maybe they have also something for getting cables under control).

      1. Little Mermaid*

        And just to be clear – no, she didn’t handle that super well.

        But I would also eventually get pretty grumpy, if I had to repeatedly tell ADULTS at WORK that they shouldn’t have ROTTING FOOD at their desks. Like, what the hell???

        It might be good that that I don’t have any people management ambitions.

        1. TL -*

          That’s not an appropriate way to deal with it, though. You sit down and talk to people one on one about the desk situation (specifically stuff like rotting food) and if there’s no improvement, you can a) ding their performance review b) require them to spend the first 15 minutes of every Friday cleaning up their desk or c) say that it’s really important to your organization that there’s a minimal level of cleanliness and follow up with PIPs, ect., (up to firing though that seems extreme.)

          You don’t publicly shame and hope the right people pick up the right message.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh because honestly I think OP in this case is not being messy per se. If the boss thinks it’s messy they need to go around to every desk and be specific “OP you need to corral those cables together with a cable tie. You need to put that non work book in a desk drawer (if this is the issue, it shouldn’t be but still.)”

            Each person needs to be told WHAT the boss is considering the messy part. Because honestly I would look at a picture of OP’s desk and wonder what the boss thought the issue was. These people are working in these conditions and not including food mess, I’d be hard pressed in most cases to consider the desks messy. When you’re working with stuff, you’re not thinking “OMG this is a mess,” so you’re likely to ignore the boss’s picture thing as “this is not about me.”

            1. Jadelyn*

              The inclusion of the OP’s messy-but-not-actually-dirty desk in the photoset would leave me confused and wondering if I’ve misunderstood the problem, and would actually make it harder for me to get a sense of what (if anything) I needed to change about my own desk. Or just roll my eyes and ignore the whole thing because I can understand being annoyed about actual grossness, but to publicly shame someone for having a lot of cables on their workstation just reduces the whole message to a level of someone being overly nitpicky about stupid stuff.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                THIS. Admittedly my desk often looks like a bomb hit it, but it’s all clutter. I would be pretty put off if a higher up thought it a better use of my time to tidy my desk as opposed to doing my work.

                Dirty/gross/etc. is totally different. Also different: if these desks are, for whatever reason, visible to the public.

                1. Isabel C.*

                  Cosigned. If you have gross biological stuff going on at your desk, eh, maybe public shaming isn’t the best way to go right off, but I have a hard time condemning anyone for doing it. But…exposed cables? Take some deep breaths, LW’s boss.

      2. N.J.*

        I would classify it as passive aggressive because the boss took the time to take pictures of the messy desks and then post them to a social media group. So instead of speaking professionally with each offender one on one about that person’s particular mess and laying out the consequences for violating this workplace norm or rule, the manager attempted public shaming and specifically shared pictures with everyone in the Facebook group in a way that left a good chance people would know who the messy ones are. It violates the general business norm of always giving criticism or discussing issues in private. It is definitely complicated by the fact that this seems to be part of the business culture norms in the particular culture, but that is how a lot of people would interpret it.

        1. animaniactoo*

          fwiw, it’s not passive – passive means “to take no action”. An example of being passive aggressive is agreeing to clean up your desk but then continuing to leave it sloppy and only making a half-hearted effort to do anything about it. So you are aggressively getting your way by not doing anything (passive).

          Speaking with people one on one would be assertive or aggressive depending on how it was done, and taking pictures (an active move) and posting them (an active move) are just aggressive.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Passive can also mean being indirect instead of direct. I think it does count as passive, because it’s posting it to an entire group and hoping those targeted will see it and realize it’s aimed at them.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                He also didn’t target the OP specifically, though. The picture was included with a whole bunch of others.

                It really doesn’t sound to me like the OP’s desk is that bad. I’d be far more concerned about the rotting food, etc. because that can draw vermin.

          2. Lance*

            The ‘passive’ part in this case is giving partial pictures, examples of the messes, and not pointing out the actual desks or the people they belong to.

          3. TL -*

            Well, no, it’s passive aggressive because the boss is hoping to be able to avoid actually having an adult conversation or enforcing consequences (this is the passive part. The aggressive part are the parts you pointed out.)

            Passive aggressive partially means you’re choosing an aggressive route so you can stay passive on the (generally socially expected) actions you find hard.

          4. N.J.*

            One of the colloquially accepted meanings of passive-aggressive, separate from a more nuanced and absolutely “correct” definition, such as a psychological definition designed to capture the exact elements of this behavior, is the avoidance of direct confrontation. I am stretching the concept of confrontation a bit in applying it here to the idea that the manager chose to take pictures of the offenders’ desks and post them to Facebook, thereby using group pressure and public shaming to accomplish his or her goal, instead of directly going to each individual still violating the cleanliness norms of the office, having a conversation, or confrontation, as it were, and specifically outlining expectations, consequences and required actions related to the messiness problem. It is passive-aggressive because the manager didn’t approach each individual like the professionals they are all supposed to be and deal with the conflict. The manager is trying to indirectly solve the problem and avoid a direct discussion.

        2. Mookie*

          Yeah, I think there’s a passive aggressive element to this, as well, with the attempt at mild “public shaming.” There’s nothing wrong with e-mailing all staff about general or specific failures in upholding standards of cleanliness–because everybody could use a reminder–but the images seem like overkill. The OP mentions that the office is something of a mess, so it’s probably apparent to everyone what the boss is alluding to. Also, it doesn’t sound like the boss has ever addressed the messy conditions before so to use images (rather than words) as a first resort is a little infantilizing. It depends on the culture of the office, I guess: are these the kind of people that push back against direction or even mild criticism such that management have to resort to documenting infractions or no?

          1. Little Mermaid*

            But the OP writes that the director had asked repeatedly to keep things clean. This didn’t just happen out of the blue…

      3. Whats In A Name*

        Actually, IKEA does have these little cord tubes that are awesome. A friend of mine got a bunch when she had to move her desk to the middle of her office and the wires hanging over the front were driving her bananas.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Those, or in a pinch, zip ties – if all the cords need to go roughly the same place, zip ties can hold them in a bundle. (Just don’t pull it so tight that you can’t easily cut it off when you need to move/replace a cable.)

          1. Meg Murry*

            There are also velcro ties that function similarly to zip-ties, but can be removed and re-used easily. A search for “Velcro cable ties” would find them.

            While I agree that this stinks that it went out to the Facebook group, sending photos of areas that aren’t up to snuff is pretty standard practice in a lot of places I’ve worked – although it usually focused on public/shared spaces more than private desks, but I have seen private desks featured as well in the example of “this is acceptable, this is not acceptable”. This is especially common in manufacturing and R&D that have adopted the Japanese principles of 5S – which can basically be expressed as “a clearly labeled place for everything, everything in it’s place, easy to find, and unnecessary items discarded”. It’s especially hard for me, because my immediate boss and I tend to get messier and more spread out when we are stressed, whereas our big boss is super tidy and apparently a stress cleaner – so we’ve gotten more than one ranting email full of “this is not ok” photos from him at 6 am, and now we’ve tried to tip each other off to “Hey, FYI, BigBoss has guests coming tomorrow so you’ll want to straighten up [that area that you don’t even notice as being cluttered but that wouldn’t be up to his exacting standards].”

            OP, was the photo taken in the middle of a workday, or after you’d left for the day? If it was the middle of the workday, ugh – those are the tools you use to do your job. If it was at the end of the day – could you get in the habit of neatly stacking the devices and perhaps putting the pen, notebook and phrase book in a drawer or neat pile? Somehow the exact same amount of stuff, but neatly lined up on a desk, looks far tidier than when it all is just placed there. Since it’s Sweden, can you just imagine staging your desk every night before you leave as if going to be featured it’s in an IKEA catalog? :-)

            Since tidiness seems to be a priority, can you ask for funds to achieve that? Perhaps a wireless mouse and keyboard, one very large monitor instead of 2 smaller ones, a laptop docking station, etc? A way to tuck the laptop under the 2 screens or alongside the desk if you aren’t using the screen on it? Can you ask one of your co-workers what might have triggered your desk being in the photo show – perhaps it’s not the things you are focusing on like the cords, but rather the lint next to the monitor or the 3 post-it notes on your monitor or some other thing that you don’t even notice anymore?

            1. Jadelyn*

              Oh, lord. My grandboss is a stress cleaner and mildly OCD, whereas I get cluttered when I get stressed because I just can’t spare the mental energy for tidying and filing when I’m focused on bigger things. We have adjoining offices, which leads to a lot of muttering about my clutter (and me smiling and sweetly telling him to go back to his office and close the door, but we have a unique relationship for a grandboss and indirect report).

      4. Marillenbaum*

        If the boss feels that people have not responded effectively to general “Clean your desks” emails, the response is to go directly to the people who have quite messy desks and say “Please have XYZ tidied away by the end of the week”, which also gives that person an opportunity to provide some context (like, they’re working on a particular project that is causing temporary mess, etc.) Attempting to publicly shame people by sending out photos of their desks is rude.

        1. Kassy*

          Definitely this. This sounds like those people we read about who send mass emails addressing an issue that really only needs to be addressed with the person or people causing the problem, with an extra dose of shame.

      5. Chomps*

        @Little Mermaid-It’s not clear whether the admonitions to clean up were general and sent to everyone or whether people were talked to directly, one-on-one. I’d agree with you if they were one-on-one conversations, but if they were general, it’s different because it’s so much easier to ignore a general statement.

    4. BananaPants*

      Years ago before our semi-annual “clean up the office” day, management would go around and take pictures of the slobbiest desks in the place. They didn’t include cubicle or office name plates but believe me, everyone knew who’s desks were the worst.

      There are cable management supplies that might be helpful in giving a neater appearance but I think OP4 should just let it go. The coworkers who actually sit around her can figure out who’s a slob and who’s just a bit cluttered (and in my mind, people letting food rot on dishes at their desks are the slobs!).

  5. INTP*

    OP2: If you are telling recruiters and HR interviewers the details given here – that you were fired for joking about stabbing your coworkers – then I’m pretty certain they are being polite but silently writing you off. Joke or not, you showed bad judgment in posting it and again in sharing it with interviewers as though you don’t understand how big of a deal it is. Maybe you just have a really dark sense of humor, but it also gives the impression that maybe you have an anger problem or are prone to hating your coworkers. Discussions of violence towards your coworkers are just not okay in any medium that might get back to your coworkers, whether you’re joking or not, whether you actually intend for them to reach your coworkers or not. It’s not something I’d expect people to be understanding about (though they will pretend to, because it’s more comfortable to express understanding than disapproval).

    In the future, don’t lie, but maybe just share that you were fired for a social media post and you’ve learned your lesson. They will probably assume it was something much milder than jokingly threatening to stab your coworkers! (i.e. I know someone who was fired for posting to friends only that she didn’t feel like going to work – that’s where my mind would go.)

    1. Purple Dragon*

      Someone you know was fired for posting on FB that they didn’t feel like going to work ? That’s bizarre ! Half my friends list would be fired under those conditions. I think most people I’m friends with have posted something like a “Rather be….” post at one stage or another. Mind-blown !

      1. Zoe*

        I don’t know, it sounds to me like FMLA-related attendance issues might have been the real reason but they couldn’t fire the person with cause for that, so jumped on this instead.

        1. INTP*

          She wasn’t using FMLA, or receiving any accommodations, or pregnant, or anything else she suspected might have been the real reason. Anything is possible but her impression was that it really was just the post plus the employer’s nutty overzealous customer service attitude.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          I wouldn’t say instead, but in addition to. The attendance thing probably didn’t help OP (and we don’t know what OP’s attendance or performance was like pre-FMLA), and then the joke about the knife was the final nail so to speak. If they weren’t that keen on keeping her anyway prior to the post, which they probably weren’t because something like this, depending on exactly what was said (and if it was understood to be an actual joke, even if a poorly thought out one), would usually result in a warning if the OP was otherwise a strong performer and asset to the company, then I could see firing her.

        3. LCL*

          Nailed it. In my opinion. Employees who are on leave frequently are extra work for management. Management should deal with them humanely; in this case they didn’t.

      2. INTP*

        Yes, she was a teller at a bank so I assume the customer service nature of the work was the reason for the crazy overreaction. She posted it before leaving for work, then arrived at work and was promptly fired because a coworker on her friends list had shown it to the bosses.

      3. paul*

        Yep. That’s one of those things that makes me shake my head. In the case of OP, I can’t make a judgement because I don’t know what was said, but I hear about things like that and I wonder WTH the company’s thinking. You bet I’d rather be a millionaire, on the beach, drinking mojitos than be at work!

    2. Mike B.*

      “Joke or not, you showed bad judgment in posting it and again in sharing it with interviewers as though you don’t understand how big of a deal it is.”

      I think you’re half right. OP should not be sharing this beyond the bare details; most employers aren’t so short of qualified candidates that they will overlook even a tiny red flag of that nature, and it’s kind of strange that OP hasn’t picked up on that.

      But a dark joke accidentally shared with a too-large audience does not demonstrate bad judgment, and to end someone’s employment over it after eight years is an absurd overreaction. (Though not as much as firing someone for saying she didn’t feel like going to work–that’s the mildest and least damning complaint a person can make about her place of employment.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        But a dark joke accidentally shared with a too-large audience does not demonstrate bad judgment, and to end someone’s employment over it after eight years is an absurd overreaction.

        Unless, like I mentioned above, there were other work issues we’re not privy to that, combined with the joke, led the employer to believing it would be no big loss to let OP go.

      2. N.J.*

        What I haven’t necessarily seen stated is that an employer has a particular duty to provide their employees with a safe work environment, free from threats and violence. It could have been a dark joke, and most likely was, but the employer had a duty to treat it as an actionable threat. It’s quite possible that any reasonable human being would have interpreted it as a joke, but the employer doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of assuming it was, because if they were wrong, someone could get hurt or killed. If we flipped this situation and had gotten a letter from a coworker saying that a fellow employee made threats on Facebook that they thought were real and their employer wasn’t taking it seroiusly and asking what they should do, we would have a very different set of recommendations. It still stinks that the OP got fired, especially since he or she was joking, but the employer is duty bound to take that sort of stuff seriously to protect employee safety, or more cynically, to avoid a lawsuit or bad publicity if an employer were to be harmed if a threat were ignored. That’s why OP’s track record doesn’t matter, they called her bluff, so to speak.

        1. BananaPants*

          This is very true. In the unlikely event that the employer had written off the comment as, “just a joke” they’d be sued into oblivion if the employee later harmed a colleague or commited an act of workplace violence.

          In our workplace violence training we were told to consider the totality of actions and behavior. If Jane discloses that she has depression, starts missing work frequently and goes a week between showers, is using fatalistic language and suddenly takes up an all-consuming firearms hobby? We are to report it to HR and corporate security immediately. It is extremely unusual that Jane will be fired unless actual threats are made; the company will use the EAP and other resources to get help for an employee in crisis – but if legitimate-sounding threats are made, termination becomes a very real possibility.

          It’s entirely possible that OP2’s use of FMLA (maybe without any explanation or reason being given to longtime coworkers?) followed by making the ill-conceived joke was enough to tip a coworker or management over from, “this comment on social media is in poor taste” to “OK, she might actually hurt someone.”

          1. N.J.*

            Hmm very good point. If it is as just a joke they certainly could have tried to understand that based on patterns of behavior.

      3. Dangerfield*

        It really does depend on the joke. Did I read that OP was a bank teller? That’s a job where you’re always a little bit aware of workplace violence because of the very real risk of a hold-up. We used to have to go through regular training sessions about what to do in case various unpleasant things happened: it’s important that you feel safe around your colleagues when you have to be prepared for the general public to pull a weapon and steal from you!

  6. Cat steals keyboard*

    #3 I can open anyone’s schedule in Outlook and they can open mine. Sounds like there’s more to this story. Is she being harassed by an ex? Though the background comment has foxed me as it sounds like she actually doesn’t know this is normal. I think I’d want to ask her a bit more about it to check she’s okay though.

    #4 That’s horrible but just let it go. There’s nothing you can achieve by this.

    1. INTP*

      My thought was that she’s afraid a coworker will break into her house or give employee schedule information to someone who will use it for that purpose. It’s an irrational fear in most workplaces, but if there are large numbers of employees, who don’t undergo background checks, and are working different schedules, and are paid little enough that some of them might choose to supplement their paychecks with crime, it’s not an entirely out-of-left-field fear. (I’m not saying it’s reasonable, just not completely incomprehensible either, especially if the “background” she refers to is one where break-ins are common.) If schedules are just sent together for convenience and not because people need to easily check each other’s schedules, I don’t see what it would hurt to give her a pseudonym if that makes her more comfortable.

      1. GiantPanda*

        The schedule does not have her personal address and not even her last name. Nobody who doesn’t already know her could use this easily to plan a break-in. OP3, this might be worth pointing out to your employee.

        1. Joseph*

          “The schedule does not have her personal address and not even her last name. Nobody who doesn’t already know her could use this easily to plan a break-in. ”
          Exactly. And bluntly, anybody who is willing to put forth focused effort to track you down isn’t going to be dissuaded by just not having the hours listed on the schedule. After all, it’s pretty simple to call you about a “work issue”, ask the manager if you’re in today, or even drive by your house and check the driveway.

          1. Lissa*

            Yes, and considering all the people who work 9-5 jobs it can’t be that much of a safety issue regularly….unless this person would never plan on working a job with predictable hours?

    2. VioletEMT*

      Other thought for the “background” – custody dispute. She’s concerned that a non-custodial parent will get their hands on info about when she won’t be around the children and use that to interfere.

      OP, my $0.02 is to explain the business need to share the schedule and try to elicit more detail about whether there is a specific safety concern. If so, figure out what steps can be taken to mitigate it.

    3. Annie Moose*

      Wellll, not necessarily, re: Outlook. At my old job, all calendars were by default private (although most people did set theirs to public).

      (but of course someone could still easily find out such a person’s schedule through observation, asking people near them, etc.)

      1. Mae North*

        Everywhere I’ve worked you can’t see what people’s appointments are in Outlook, just that they have one at x time, but you can see their usual “in office” hours if they’ve set those up, and when they’ll be out of office if they marked that down – it seems to be the name & content of the appointment that’s hidden when calendars are set to private, not the set work day or that the appointment exists and is busy/tentative/out of office.

    4. Terey*

      Thanks – I did think that, too, but she insists it’s because “strangers” (her co-workers) will see her schedule. When I reminded her that everyone we work with can see our Outlook calendars, and that every fast food and retail place has schedules posted, she said “well I am not from that kind of background.” She seems to have backed off about it, but we will see.

  7. Gadfly*

    OP#4–Since it is a work desk, can you request they provide some cord-management accessories or system for your desk? There are a lot of nice options out there. If they are objecting to the desk being unorganized due to work equipment, they should have an answer for how to make it look nice. If I had a desk covered in folders and they did not want them on my desk, I would expect there to be a file drawer or similar provided. Same idea.

    1. fishy*

      Good point! My job often involves setting up people’s computers, part of that task is making sure the cables are as neat as possible. It’s usually easier to make sure the cables are tidy while you’re setting things up than after the fact; plus, I am equipped with handy ties and velcro strips for that express purpose. If I saw that someone had messy cables, I would be more inclined to blame the tech who set it up than the user.

    2. Joseph*

      Yes. If it’s such an issue, they should be willing to work with you. If they aren’t willing to spend much (or any) money to purchase something, here are a few low-cost, minimum-effort solutions that might help:
      1.) Cut a hole in the back of your desk to let the cables through. Check with your manager first, but it’s usually the best option if it’s feasible.
      2.) Get some cheap cable ties from a hardware store and use them. I find the biggest source of “cable disorder” is usually due to the fact that cables are always about 5 feet longer than they need to be, so wrapping up the excess makes it look much more organized – even if it’s still in plain view. Rubber bands also work here.
      3.) Get some electrical tape or duct tape (preferably a color that kind of blends in) and tape the cables to the wall/side of your desk/etc to keep them mostly out of the way.
      4.) Attach a binder clip to your desk. The black part goes over your desk, then you fold the metal parts back and put the cables through them. Keeps all your cables near each other rather than scattered in a mess. Super cheap, super easy and oddly effective.
      5.) If you have any cables which you don’t regularly need (e.g., charger for your phone) put them away or off to the side when not in use.

    3. TootsNYC*

      This might be how I’d handle it. I’d go to my boss and say, “I saw that my desk was in the pictures–I try so hard to be tidy. Would you come and give me some advice about what I can do?”

      And I’d print out the picture, and stand there w/ the boss and say, “What needs to be taken off the desk?” And just walk through it.

      If nothing else, it’s an way of making her deduce for herself what’s actually going on on your desk; it’s a way of getting approval for cord-management equipment; and it’s a way of getting a second brain thinking about how to make things look tidier while still being effective.

  8. nonegiven*

    #4 Are you sure the picture of your desk wasn’t put up as a good example to contrast the dirty cups and old food?

  9. NutellaNutterson*

    #4 – in addition to cord management, check out the idea of knolling: arranging objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of to minimize visual clutter and organize for efficiency. There are some fun YouTube videos on tips around this. It makes a HUGE difference in spaces that can otherwise seem disordered.

      1. Manders*

        I had no idea there was a name for this! I had been wondering for a while how some of the photographers I know manage to make photographs of their workspaces look so “clean” even when they’re covering in stuff.

  10. PABJ*

    #4 – Alison didn’t mention this, but the manager didn’t handle this well. Public shaming is poor management.

  11. aelle*

    OP #1: this happened to me last year – I received about 2/3 of the raise that was promised to me (also in an evaluation meeting, also without written proof). I chose not to push too much and like Alison says, proceed like a new negotiation. I didn’t get the rest of my raise but I got extra training and a side assignment with extra visibility to upper management. As a consequence, this year I was offered a 10% raise – and this time I got it in writing.

  12. Milton Waddams*

    #2: When industries start eating themselves in the throes of a CYA panic, it can be really hard on individual employees. The “career derailed by the wrong privacy setting” thing seems like a modern-day update of the sort of work scenarios Vance Packard described in his classic book on toxic work culture, “The Pyramid Climbers”, where any employee who wanted to get ahead had to mash themselves into a very particular corporate image — the slightest difference would disqualify. As it stands, it can be quite the tightrope — a laundry list of references, sometimes including your current employer (and you had better have a current employer), a clean background check, a clean social media check, good credit, low insurance premiums, and then maybe we can start considering if you have the years and years of oddly specific experience and certifications to make it to the second of eleven interviews. :-)

    I wish I had some useful advice here — you have my sympathies.

    1. sstabeler*

      not to mention that it’s far too easy for a bad boss to torpedo someone’s career (in the sense that since there is a labour surplus at the moment, combined with at-will employment, companies can be increasingly picky about who they hire. If a boss gives a bad reference, far too often it would torpedo the application instead of the company making a judgement call. ( The problem, ultimately, is that baby boomers are needing to work longer. That means there is not just a glut of workers looking for jobs, but a glut of experienced workers looking for jobs, so companies can take the opinion “we can always get someone experienced without X problem” ( this is also why there’s an upsurge in companies trying to to pay less than market rate, since there’s almost always someone desperate enough.) It also doesn’t help that Baby Boomers not retiring has slowed career trajectories ( meaning jobs open up less frequently)

  13. strawberries and raspberries*

    #4: This EXACT thing happened to me last year, in which my manager at the time stayed late on a Friday one night and on Monday we came back to an email that basically read, “The condition of certain desks here is deplorable, everyone clean your desk by COB today.” My desk was pretty disgusting, and it had been commented on before, so I immediately flew into a “I’m going to be fired” panic. (Not rotting food disgusting, but lots of paper, loose post-its, I also have two monitors, etc.) I did make a good faith effort to put away or shred as much as I could, and even though it would never be totally neat, it still looked a lot better. In our next team meeting, the email was mentioned and my manager commended everyone for fixing their desks, and EVERYONE said they too were paranoid it was just them. I don’t know if this is possible in your office, but once I showed my manager a few items that I thought would help me stay organized better, she was like, “You know we can order those for you, right?” It’s much easier now that I actually have the things I need (even if it’s still not pristine.)

  14. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – I’d like to add that that the OP should have sought unemployment regardless of their personal feelings. For all they know the state could’ve taken into account the 8 years of good service prior to this incident, or the employer may not have even contested. One time I was fired for something not exactly similar to what the OP did but could be considered equally as shocking and the employer offered right then and there not to contest unemployment (and this was after 4 months of working there). You never know unless you apply.

  15. Trout 'Waver*


    First off, I believe you. That number has a huge impact on the employee, but a minor impact on the manager. So I think it’s going to stand out a lot more in your head than in hers.

    The gas-lighting and the attitude of “You should be grateful for anything you get” are completely toxic. If this was a lone incident, I’d chalk it up to the manager being embarrassed she made a mistake and is being too aggressive trying to cover it up. But if it is consistent with a pattern of behavior, I think you should start looking for a new job.

    1. LawCat*

      I totally agree with you. Is this out of the usual or typical behavior? That tells you a lot. I worked at a place where I requested a raise of $X, my boss said I was going to get a raise of $X, but then later, a couple of weeks before raises would go into effect, “Oops, the higher ups will only approve half of $X.” Had it been isolated, I would have seen it as a forgivable mistake, but it was part of a bigger pattern of incompetence and toxicity that told me I needed to get out of there.

      When I put in my notice several months later, my boss was suddenly willing to raise my salary more. Thanks, but no thanks. (Then there was the time about a year and a half later that she tried to hire me back as an independent contractor at the same hourly rate I had earned there as an employee before I left. LOL, no.)

  16. Mona Lisa*

    OP #1, is it possible that she wrote down 3%, tried to calculate it out to give you a “tangible” number, and accidentally hit a wrong button on the calculator? I could see someone doing this in a hurry right before a meeting and not bothering to double check it. It’s most likely an honest mistake.

    I agree with Alison’s advice on how to proceed from here. If you’re unhappy with the new number for any other reason than your manager misspeaking, then I’d try treating it like a new salary negotiation. It’s not worth it to belabor the point that she said the wrong number because now it’s a case of who said what, and presumably your manager has been there longer with more standing and will win this one (even if she was wrong).

  17. Murphy*

    OP#1, I ask this with all honesty: is your boss bad at math? You said that she didn’t say “6% increase”, she said “Your new salary will be X” which you calculated to be a 6% increase. Is it possible that she meant to add on a 3% increase, but made a math error when giving you the full number?

    (I ask this because I was at a business that owed me a 10% discount and when I got the bill it was only 5%. I politely pointed this out and THE OWNER OF THE BUSINESS said “How do you figure?” In my head I was thinking “Uh…because math?” but out loud I said that a 10% discount would be $X, not the $Y she had taken off. She had to get out a calculator to figure it out and seemed annoyed with me the whole time.)

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup, this. Or the OP’s math was off. Either way, unless the boss has a history of gaslighting you, OP, I would just think this was a misunderstanding on either part and attempt a renegotiation.

    2. Myrin*


    3. Whats In A Name*

      I was going to comment the same, but you beat me to it. I hate that the boss gave her an actual dollar amount, instead of the percentage that it sounds like was written down somewhere in her notes. She likely meant to quote a 3% increase and got her math wrong, especially if she was doing it on the fly.

      Your story made me laugh out loud. I recently had a similar experience. I bought 2 things at a local boutique and had to return one for $42. I got the $42 back but not the tax. When I asked the OWNER why I wasn’t getting the tax refunded she replied “Well, there is no way for me to figure out the portion of the tax for one item, so unless you return both I can only refund the retail price.” I tried to explain how to figure out 9%…which she calculated to be $1.60. I just let it go after that.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Does anybody really think math shouldn’t be taught in school? I’ve seen debates about methods of teaching math in school, but I haven’t run into anyone advocating its total removal…

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Well let me be the first right now to advocate for it.

            J/k – sort of. Math is not my strong suit at all, says the woman who now works with numbers and money. *sigh*

          2. the gold digger*

            I tutored high school students in Algebra II when I lived in Miami. They had to pass it to graduate. I thought we would be talking about factoring polynomials and solving quadratic equations but these kids didn’t even know their times tables. They could not convert fractions or make change in their heads.

            I wondered how they would ever find work. I asked them that, telling them it was going to be hard to find a job without the ability to do basic math. The girls shrugged and said they were going to get married and let their husbands take care of them.

            Yes, I wanted to scream.

            1. Annie Moose*

              My dad’s a woodshop/construction teacher in a high school, and he has teenagers–older high schoolers, even!–who can’t do basic fractions. We’re not talking “what’s 3/18ths minus 4/25ths” or anything, either. I mean if you hand them a ruler and ask them to measure an inch and three-quarters, they don’t know how to do it.

            2. Moonsaults*

              Argh that girl…

              Though my brother didn’t graduate and it was hell getting his GED because of the math requirement. He had a tutor as well and kept fighting along and scrapped by in the very end by the skin of the teeth.

              He has never had a problem finding a job, he was working as he was getting that GED. Funny that he does need a certain amount of math given he’s a chef with the fractions that come along with that but he understands that kind of basics, it was the geometry and doing things in his head that was the worst. Also the pressure of it all wasn’t any help.

              So I really detest the idea of telling a kid who’s already struggling, “How will you survive and find a job because you cannot nail this right now.” :| even if they’re trying to brush it off as no big deal, they’re kids and already know it’s an uphill battle.

              1. the gold digger*

                I didn’t lead with asking them how they would get a job without math. :) This was after weeks and weeks of their showing no interest and not even trying. I would ask them, for instance, just to memorize the times tables – just write one out and carry it with them – and they didn’t even want to do that.

            3. Isabel C.*

              That particular solution would annoy me too, but I can’t convert most fractions or make change in my head, I’m vague on most of my multiplication tables, and…honestly, in the fifteen years since high school, it’s never been an issue. If I’m at my desktop, my computer has a calculator; if I’m not, my cell phone has one (and before smartphones, I’d work it out on paper if need be, or ask the restaurant to bring one over). And I’ve been pretty steadily employed since college. :P

              1. Isabel C.*

                I think my smartass-teenager reply would have been something along the lines of “…it’s the twenty-first century. I won’t get a job where I have to churn butter, either.”

      1. nofelix*

        Yeah, it’s standard good sense that if you have a number to relay then you say the actual figure first and then add the interpretation of it. “$40,000 (a 10% raise)” and “A 10% raise (to $40,000)” should be the same thing, but they are so often not.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I always give both: the percentage, because it’s the one thing that’s solid, and because it link to stuff like, “you did good, so you’re getting 4% and everybody else is getting 3%,” or “it sucks, everybody’s getting 2%, I wish I could give you more, we’re all in the same boat.”

        But then I also have the computer calculate the “what it comes out to” number, and I provide that. I’m certain the percentage is what registers, and if there were some problem, my wording makes it clear that the percentage is the real number, and the other one is math (therefore could be wrong).

    4. AnonAnalyst*

      This was my thought. Unless there are other instances that give the OP the idea the the boss is gaslighting her, my guess is that the boss made a mistake in her calculation but is sure that the number she gave OP was OP’s old salary plus 3%, so she assumes that OP is mistaken.

  18. LQ*

    I think it is really important to make sure you aren’t coming off as bitter in the interviews. Having something different to say is good and there are great examples. But I’d also practice saying it until you sound entirely calm and matter of fact about it. Getting upset, bitter, or frustrated in the interview will take you out of contention very quickly.

  19. Recruit-o-rama*

    #2- I do a LOT of phone screens in my position and something that almost always pings my radar are a particular type of long winded explanation. Is it possible that you a giving a very long version of this event where you are simutaniously saying you are sorry and making excuses for yourself? It really grinds my gears when people give me super detailed explanations where they SAY they are sorry about it but then go on to explain in long excruciating detail why they REALLY think they are not responsible.

    This is what I would say, “I was terminated for violating the social media policy, which I definitely did, although I did it by mistake. I am much more careful with my settings now and I learned a valuable lesson about how careless words can affect your career” then move on.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I like this wording but would leave the settings out of it–because to me, it sounds like “I posted something I shouldn’t have and somebody saw it, so I’ll just be really careful to not let people see things I post that I shouldn’t.” I’d just leave it as “I am much more careful now, and I learned a valuable lesson.”

  20. Allison*

    #2, the key here is to stop making your former employer out to be some unreasonable “bad guy” with no sense of humor, you made a mistake and you need to take responsibility for your actions. Mention that you posted something to Facebook that would have been private, but due to a privacy setting error went out to the world, your employer took issue with it, and it was a lapse in judgment you deeply regret and won’t do again.

    For what it’s worth, the issue here isn’t just that what you said sounded like a threat – possible threat aside, the joke could indicate an attitude problem that may surface in the future. At least, employers might worry about that.

    1. JessaB*

      I think there needs to be an addition to this. It’s not that the setting was wrong, it’s that the post itself was inappropriate. The OP also needs to address the “Honestly I blew the privacy settings, but I really shouldn’t have said it in print either way. It was definitely the sort of thing that could be misinterpreted by people who do not know me well.”

      Because what if someone else had reposted it. If someone else with lousy privacy settings reposts something you say, it’s going to get out there either way.

      1. seejay*

        Very true. The posts that I reported to the police were set under appropriate privacy settings, they weren’t publicly available to the world*. I still screenshot them, removed my identifying information, and forwarded them to the authorities. I could have sent them to the person’s employer, but I felt that they needed to go higher up, as they were clearly threatening and violent and dangerous.

        Privacy settings mean nothing when someone can screenshot / take a photo / copy/paste. In short, don’t post things online that can get you fired or arrested (or anything else of serious consequence unless you’re willing to pay that consequence).

        (*which is why after the police visited the person in question absolutely lost his shit about friends and privacy settings and backstabbers and how he’d never hurt anyone and someone on his friends’ list was obviously a coward for reporting him to the police for his personal rantings and ventings, despite how disturbing they were. A few people tried to logically explain to him that maybe his posts weren’t that appropriate but… yeah… )

  21. Hannah*

    OP#1 – Regardless of whether you misheard or your boss misspoke, 3% is very normal for raises and it’s best to drop it and move on.

    1. Adam V*

      Sure, but like Alison says, when it was 6%, you might say “I’m fine with that”, but when it’s 3%, you might want a chance to make your case for something larger than an average raise if you’ve been doing above-average work.

  22. Case of the Mondays*

    Just a bit of an aside since other people are mentioning people being fired for saying they don’t want to go to work and the like, such an overly broad social media restriction may violate the NLRB concerted activity protection where you have to be allowed to complain to other workers about your working conditions.

    That doesn’t protect you if you threaten someone of course.

  23. J.B.*

    #5, I don’t think this manager would like me at all. AT ALL. (Looks at piles of paper.) He sounds like a jerk.

  24. crazy8s*

    I am going to forward this post and comment thread to my millennial children to remind them that what you put on social media isn’t always perceived the way you meant it and doesn’t always stay with your intended audience.

    1. nofelix*

      “Never write anything down you wouldn’t want public” is a good axiom to live by. Doesn’t have to be social media. Even if it’s private email or an anonymous post, you never know what will happen in the future.

      A hard lesson to learn for people entering the workplace is what happens if you include a mild rant in a work email and then the email chain gets forwarded to the target of your rant.

      1. ZVA*

        This is why I’m obsessively cautious about every single work email I send. I act like they’re all going to not only everyone in my company, but our clients as well! Because sometimes they do.

        I once emailed a coworker that our account dept. hadn’t completed a task yet and it was “like pulling teeth” to get them to do so—then saw to my horror that he’d forwarded the email to accounting… Luckily, he deleted the “pulling teeth” part before doing so—but it still served as a reminder never to put anything like that in an email… It was a fairly mild remark but I would’ve been mortified had they seen it.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        That’s a terrible axiom to live by — that’s the sort of Cold War paranoia that causes stuff like Watergate, for crying out loud! When everything is about covering your rear, conspiracies, and spin-doctoring, genuine communication with others completely breaks down, and it becomes impossible to do anything as a team, as a family, or as a group.

    2. Allison*

      On the one hand I think it’s a good reminder, on the other hand I *am* a millennial (27) and it often feels very condescending when my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or older people in general advise me on how to use social media. I’m not telling you how to parent your kids, just telling you to proceed with caution, not every young person with a Facebook account is an idiot.

      A “rule” I developed for myself is to stop and think before posting anything personal or “edgy” – how will people react to this? If someone doesn’t know me very well, how might they perceive me based on this? Could someone misinterpret this and feel hurt?

      1. CMT*

        If anything, I think Millenials are going to be better at social media than the Olds. You know, since we started it and all.

        1. Azalea*

          I agree completely. I am in my early 30’s, and I have noticed that the 20somes I deal with are much more aware of online privacy than my peers. Something they grew up with vs something they adopted along the way.

  25. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    #1 – It sounds like a case of bad math to me. But like Alison says, if you think you would have negotiated for more had you heard 3% and not 6%, do that now. If not, then let it go and make sure you cover it in percentages next year, and in writing.

    #2 – I think you are likely giving too much information. The scripts people have provided above are good. Talk to your previous employer about adjusting your reference, and keep the explanation on your end to “violated the social media policy.”

    #3 – This one is just truly baffling to me. I would want more information from her because otherwise she just seems like a crazy person who sees risk in everything. I take it that the schedules are not set and are also odd hours, not normal 8-5, so I understand why she thinks it is different – because her hours are irregular, having them sent out makes it easier to know when she isn’t home. But the idea that someone she works with cares is, frankly, a little ridiculous. It’s also a little rude to suspect her coworkers are master thieves plotting against her – which is how this comes off without additional information from her. If she does have something going on personally, that’s different. But if not, it comes off as very untrusting of her coworkers.

    #4 – This was very rude but other than work on the cords, I am not sure there is a lot you can do

    #5 – I would not think badly of anyone asking me to serve as a reference for a second job.

    1. Mary Meyer*

      Ya I think that there is definitely more to the story. I was assaulted by a coworker and they were subsequently fired. But I was such a mess after that because they did know where I lived and if my schedule been posted somewhere I would have been upset too. For years after that I was paranoid that they would find me and kill me despite the fact that I had moved states several times and had no social media presence (and that they are likely not capable of murder). So ya it could just be paranoia but I wouldn’t expect the employee to divulge personal details that led to her paranoia/ extra caution. If it were me I would assume that something traumatic has happened to her and accommodate her if possible.

      1. MMSW*

        So Sorry that happened to you. I also think its important to note that the person OP is writing about should not be obligated to disclose personal information to feel safe- hopefully OP can ask a vague is it that you don’t understand why we are doing this or is there another reason that you don’t feel comfortable disclosing the details of to me, but that we would take action to address so you feel safe question

    2. JessaB*

      Neither would I unless the company has a second job policy. Which I would make sure of before job shopping.

  26. EA*

    OP#4 my boss office is neat and clean, you never find any paperwork on his desk when he leaves at the end of the day and since my desk is outside his office, he expects me to keep my desk clean and whenever I have boxes in my area for longer than a day, he goes, what are in the boxes. That is my queue to put the boxes away.

  27. OP #2*

    Hello, I am the girl in the second question. Thank you to everyone for your feedback! I am indeed very embarrassed and regretful of the post, and will never make a joke/comment like that again. I don’t want anyone to think I take it lightly, and I’m sorry if my question came off as such. To give an update, right after sending this question to Alison (thank you for your reply!), I was contacted by the two organizations I am most interested in, and had a second interview yesterday with my top desired employer that went really well. A friend works for another company I’ve been interviewing with, and explained that they are in fact still interested, but the position isn’t ready to be filled due to a company reorganization. So I guess this question was a bit premature!

    For those who are interested, the way I have been explaining my termination in interviews is that I was dismissed because of a social media post. A few interviewers didn’t ask for further explanation after that (strangely enough), but when asked to elaborate, I explain that something I posted was interpreted by my HR department as potentially threatening to my co-workers, and although that was not my intention, I am embarrassed and understand why they had to fire me.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Seriously, leave out the part about it coming off threatening in the future. Just say you said something about work that was against company policy and you were fired. You don’t need to be that honest.

      1. CMT*

        If the interviewers push for details though, I think it would come off as a little strange not to offer any at all.

    2. ZVA*

      Yeah, I agree with Fortitude Jones—I wouldn’t say “threatening”… IMO, no matter how diplomatically you phrase your answer, that word will always work against you. I’d assume the worst if I heard it—probably worse than the actual post. Be as vague as you possibly can while still being honest.

      1. Manders*

        Agreed. I’d go with something along the lines of, “I made a thoughtless joke” or “I made the mistake of publicly posting something on social media that I thought was private,” and following up with saying that you’re embarrassed and you’ve learned your lesson.

  28. MMSW*

    #3- OP may also have concerns for her safety that she does not feel comfortable sharing with you- stalker, violent ex, creepy co-worker, traumatic past experience or something along those lines. If there is a way to make her feel more comfortable see if you can figure it out- not posting her full name, limiting the people who have access to that info, etc.

    1. Candi*

      Maybe someone waiting for her like the BTK killer?

      (Don’t Google him while you’re eating. Or want to sleep.)

  29. Taylor*

    Hello! Long time follower, first time poster…as to question #3 I have a possible understanding for her choice and, if correct, recommend doing your best to accommodate her. While some might see this as a lapse in proper protocol, she is almost certainly in some sort of court battle and/or accommodating security procedure. Depending on her work history it’s very likely that schedules were kept confidential (I am in such a position) and due to circumstances needs to be cautious of her whereabouts. Yes it sounds a bit loony but I have seen this struggle before and by now you have probably already been contacted by a representative of hers to discuss the matter if it hasn’t already been resolved. Cheers!

  30. Rachel*

    Leaving aside the fact that the words “joke” and “knife” do not belong in the same sentence. Can’t you just put a friend down as a reference instead of someone you know for a fact is going to tell people you think stabbing your colleagues is funny? That’s what normal people do. Lie. I hate to break it to you, but they do. What’s that you say? They need a company email? Well, it was 8 years ago, and your boss “Mr/Mrs Stabby”, is now only available via their personal cell number.

Comments are closed.