should I do mediation with my incompetent boss, recruiter said she felt used when I turned down an offer, and more

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

1. Should I really do mediation with my incompetent boss?

I am an admin at a small company, 15 employees, and have a high-anxiety supervisor. Every day the supervisor’s work includes multiple errors, not remembering items or situations, and anxiety about issues that have no impact on the day-to-day running of the office. These situations are impacting the office in various ways: time spent fixing errors, frustration that issues are not being corrected, the position that the supervisor holds and pay grade that goes with it, and general morale.

I am not the only employee to have spoken to the general manager about what is happening. The manager has spoken to the supervisor numerous times, but he is good at deflecting and minimizing. I do not know what the manager has discussed with the supervisor, or what they have agreed to to try to fix the issues. I do know that things are not improving.

The manager suggested mediation. I’m not sure what we can achieve with mediation. Will it just be a session where we air our grievances and then everyone goes back to work as if nothing has happened? Will we all be expected to change our behavior? My feelings are that the other employees will be expected to make concessions to accommodate his anxiety, because it could be considered medical. I think the answer is to simply look for another job, but my question is: Does mediation usually work in situations like this?

No. This isn’t a situation where mediation is appropriate. This is a situation where someone needs to manage your supervisor and for some reason isn’t doing it.

Mediation isn’t used much in workplace situations because it’s rarely the right tool. It can be helpful if you need to negotiate an agreement about how you’ll work together or reach a settlement of some sort; it’s not helpful when the problems are rooted in someone’s work quality, as they are here. It’s particularly sketchy when you have concerns about your manager’s work quality, since she has authority over you and can really impact your day to day quality of life if she doesn’t like what you say in mediation.

It sounds like your general manager doesn’t want to manage or doesn’t know how (see also: she’s spoken to your supervisor many times and nothing has changed). This suggestion is crap.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Recruiter told me she felt used when I turned down an offer

I recently relocated (a temporary long relocation actually, but I’m open to staying here), and part of that was a job search because I didn’t think my company would let me transfer. I waited until I had an offer to approach my boss and, to my surprise, he offered to make sure I could transfer without being told about the offer of employment I had. I told my recruiter about this and she was upset and said that she felt used and that she had to salvage her relationship with the company that had given me the offer. I haven’t heard from her since.

I love working with the team I’m on, but I’m realistic. The teapot manufacturing field is harsh and over half of new people leave, get fired, or squeezed out in five years. I’ll need a recruiter to help then, but frankly she got me an offer that was serviceable but not in line with my long-term career goals. I would be forced to work in teapot sales, and once you make that change you can’t go back. I don’t even want to sell teapots, but I needed a back-up plan if my company fell through. I told my recruiter this, that if she could get me an offer in teapot manufacture, not sales, I’d take it. It obviously didn’t work out that way.

Do you have any advice for how I can normalize this relationship and make it productive again? Long term, recruiter relationships are normal in this field, as far as I can tell, and she’s very good. But frankly I didn’t do anything wrong here, I just made the best move for my career, and in fact I’m in a better position for her to place now than if I’d taken the offer.

She felt used? You’re never under any obligation to take an offer. The only way her response was reasonable is if (a) she’d specifically asked you if there was a possibility of you taking a counter-offer and you’d sworn up and down that you wouldn’t and (b) she really went to bat for you in some way, based in part on that reassurance. Otherwise, this is just a normal part of hiring — people turn down offers, particularly when they’re not even offers that are in line with their goals.

That said, it’s true that it can be pretty frustrating when a candidate takes a counter-offer from their current employer, if it seems like they were just using the other company’s offer to try to make that happen. Maybe she thinks that’s what happened here, in which case you just need to explain to her that it’s not.

But otherwise, she’s taking this way too personally, and I’d be wary of working with her again. There are other recruiters out there. But if you really want to try to salvage the relationship, I’d say, “I’m sorry if I miscommunicated; I thought I’d been clear early on that I was really looking for a position in teapot manufacturing, not sales. So this offer wouldn’t have been quite right for me regardless of the new offer from my current boss. But I really appreciate the help you gave me in this process and I hope we can work together in the future.”

3. Boss, then friend, now boss again

I’ve been working at my university for three years now. After two years, I took another position in the university away from my department. It had nothing to do with my boss (who I loved!) but the limited nature of the job. My new position turned out to be a terrible fit, and within a year, I found another new position in the university. In my interview, I was warned that the position that would directly supervise me was vacant, and they would be hiring as soon as possible. My start date ended up being a month later, and on my first day, my boss’s boss shared the news that they had hired my boss from Job #1 into the vacant position!

I had a very, very good professional relationship with my former boss when I worked for her, but when I left, we friended each other on Facebook and have traded informal texts pretty regularly since I left. Both of us slackened our professional filters since neither of us thought we’d ever work together again. Now that we are, I’d like to sit down and discuss whether to defriend each other, and how to transition back to the very friendly but professional relationship we had, but I worry that it’ll sound obnoxious coming from me, and it’s perhaps something that should be coming from her? Should I give her the chance to bring it up first, or just let it go and see if our relationship settles back on its own without a potentially awkward conversation?

I’d wait and see what happens. If you had a professional relationship when you worked together before, it’s pretty likely that she understands professional boundaries and that you’ll both do some natural pulling back and it’ll work itself out. You could say, “Hey, now that we’re working together, I’m disconnecting on Facebook just so we’re back to more of a boss/employee relationship” — but I don’t know that you even need to do that right away. I’d be inclined to just wait and see how it plays out. (On the other hand, if it doesn’t handle itself on its own, then it’s more awkward when you do need to bring it up a few weeks in, so there’s the other argument for saying that now.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Captain Picard is a file author

I had a really weird thing happen at work. I am an assistant and I occasionally get documents to proofread. I was sent my usual batch from my boss, which he had received from a third party. As I saved the batch to a folder on my computer, I noticed that the author field on all the files was curiously filled in with the name of a science fiction character – let’s say Captain Picard.

I had a laugh, but then realized I was not sure how to deal with this to ensure minimal embarassment. It could be some person’s kid messing with their computer or a personality quirk, but it could be a computer virus. Also, I doubt the boss’ computer is the issue here, but the third party professional. It’s definitely not my computer messing up files, as I opened it using my coworker’s laptop and the same “Captain Picard” author name was there loud and proud when saving the file.

Should I alert anyone to this, or leave it be? What if the person doesn’t notice the issue and is mortified to discover they’ve been moonlighting as Captain Picard for months? Also, these documents are getting uploaded to an official database for all sorts of professionals to see, with the third party’s actual name in the documents themselves. However, I worry it’s not appropriate to covertly change the author name of the file without flagging up the issue directly. What should I do?

You’re talking about the author field hidden inside the preferences for the file, not something you’d see just reading its contents, right? Assuming so, I think you can safely ignore it. Someone put that name into their software because it amused them; I don’t think it’s going to cause any issues. That said, if you want to be sure and you happen to know the third party who sent the files, you could jokingly say to them, “Hey, did you know you’re listed as Captain Picard in the author field for these files?” But if you don’t know them, let it go and assume it’s someone just having some fun on their computer (and probably not realizing it would be visible to anyone who would care).

5. Turning down a position I think might have been created for me

I am currently a contractor. I have been here a year and a half and have been contracted through a third party for my services, so I am an employee of the temp agency and receive a W2. Right now, my title here is Tiny Teapot Project Manager. My manager recently came back from maternity leave and was promoted into a new role as a director.

I am now doing the work of a Teapot Manager (and have been for some time, starting with her maternity leave or before). I spoke with her about my interest in becoming a Teapot Manager at our last 1:1 as well. I am currently being recruited to be a Teapot Manager at other companies and have been told I am a leading candidate at one in particular. If I was offered a job as a Teapot Manager at this other company, I would take it immediately.

Recently, I asked to meet with my manager and a mentor to talk about opportunities for a permanent position. My manager canceled the meeting, stating she was busy, and then sent me a message stating that they are planning on posting a position for a Tiny Teapot Project Manager but have not posted it yet as it is still being approved. She cannot say anything, but I am the only person who would likely be considered for this position at this time. I am not interested in applying because I want to be a Teapot Manager. Tiny Teapot Project Manager is not the same. I have other skills/income and do not “need” this job like she may think, so I can afford to be picky or even unemployed if I want. People in my position are in high demand generally due to our unique skillset. I think she assumes I will apply for this position and perhaps ever believes she is doing me a favor or campaigning on my behalf. I have not seen the salary but I assume this is also low for me.

Am I not direct enough? I have been frustrated with my boss in the past as we are not a great fit generally and she has micromanaged me in the past (not so much now as I am no longer her only direct report; she is new to management but I like her fine on a personal basis). We have very different styles of working, too. Should I apply and then turn it down or try to negotiate up into the other position? Should I tell her I am not applying? What do I do? Maybe nothing? It seems ridiculous that they are creating a position presumably to hire me but did not actually talk to me beforehand. Am I totally off-base here?

Are you sure they’re creating it for you specifically? It’s possible that they were creating it anyway, but she assumed you’d be interested.

Definitely don’t apply if you don’t want the job. Tell her now. Say this: “Thanks so much for giving me a heads-up about it. I’m really focused on moving into a Teapot Manager position so I’m going to pass this one up, but I appreciate you alerting me to it.”

{ 270 comments… read them below }

  1. Parcae*

    #3: Personally, I’d address the Facebook situation right away. Keep it super-casual and really positive– a Facebook message/text or (ideally, if you’re already working together) an off-hand, in-person remark that you’re defriending her on Facebook because she’s your boss now and you don’t want to make it awkward.

    If you can tell her honestly that you think she’s a great boss and you’re excited to work with her again, it’s not going to be hard for her to take. But after you tell her about it, defriend her IMMEDIATELY, because being FB friends with your boss is a giant pile of nope on top of a nope sandwich. If, as Alison says, she’s a professional sort of person, the rest of the friendship deescalation should happen naturally. A sit-down talk isn’t necessary– just be honest about Facebook (because some people are Weird about Facebook) and let everything flow from there.

    1. hi.*

      I don’t think it’s terrible to be FB friends with your boss. Obviously it doesn’t work in all environments, but it’s not a big deal at all in others.

      I don’t even care for my boss and we’re friends on FB. All of my coworkers are friends – when I started at this job, the COO and a VP and my director and senior manager friended me, then all of my new coworkers from sales to account managers to admins to project managers and ops specialists and marketers all followed suit. (I work for a huge company, you’ve heard of it and probably use our products!)

      None of these people have ever been inappropriate or dramatic on FB – I see pics of their kids and vacations, innocuous status updates, etc. I am careful what I post because I am friends with 700 friends and acquaintances from spanning almost 40 years of my life – it’s not just a place for my current close friends to keep up with me! My friends are made up of colleagues, former colleagues, family, former college professors, even a few elementary school teachers, my friends parents and some of my friends kids. Facebook isn’t where I let it all hang out (that’s what my private instagram is for). To me, being Facebook friends with someone is not really a big deal. And if I feel like I’m seeing too much of a person’s personal life – like someone who doesn’t filter themselves and is overly dramatic or spouts of offensive opinions, I delete or hide them.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yup. All this, except for me, replace “my private instagram” with “smaller Friend lists on FB”, or possibly “Google+”.

      2. SarahKay*

        I’d agree with “hi”.
        I was (and am) friends with my previous boss on Facebook. Given that I’m also friends with all my family, parents included, I’m not posting anything on there that I would worry about my boss seeing.

      3. BananaPants*

        Or the OP can use Facebook’s custom privacy settings to just prevent her friend/manager from seeing most of what she posts. I wouldn’t go to the potentially-awkward level of telling the manager that they’re being de-friended. Just gradually back off on the friendship and use those privacy settings judiciously.

    2. edj3*

      Not sure I fully agree with this; as with so many situations, it depends on the people involved. If the OP feels weird, then sure, consider either unfriending or moving the boss/friend to a limited access.

      However, it’s possible to stay connected on FB and not have it interfere. I have known LJ for nearly 20 years and we connected on FB when we were nominally peers. Fast forward to a couple of years ago, and she hired me to work on her team. We were both clear when we had discussions as employee/manager and when we didn’t. Now I’m in a different position that doesn’t report to her.

      So go with your gut.

    3. OP #3*

      This is good advice, and I think she would take it okay, but my worry is that if I take the opportunity to bring it up first, It’ll come off like I’m trying to manage her. I think I’m going to take the below commenter’s idea of moving her to a filtered off list for a week or so, and if she doesn’t bring it up by then, have the conversation.

      1. Bwmn*

        I’m actually in basically the exact situation – and my response has been to move my boss to the acquaintance filter.

        Along with what other people are saying, I also think that keeping in mind how your industry regards Facebook is an important factor in this. While my job doesn’t have a high emphasis on having a totally public-professional Facebook profile, I’m part of a work Facebook group for certain program updates and it’s relatively common for colleagues to reach out via that medium.

        While there are definitely colleagues I would not want to be Facebook friends with, it would also appear strange to bring this up. That being said, I also make sure to be very aware of my filters and post very little that “everyone” sees.

      2. Moonsaults*

        You’re not trying to manage her by bringing it to her attention.

        As a boss, she’s thinking of a million different things and the last thing on that list may be her social media accounts and that you’re attached to her FB. So if you bring it up in that “How do you want to handle this?” since it involves both of you, instead of expecting her to put it on her priorities list at the same level as it is on yours, it’s not wrong at all.

        This is like anything you have to bring to a supervisors attention that they may not even have pinging on their radars. You aren’t doing their job by any means.

    4. PK*

      I wouldn’t mind having my boss friended but I also limit which of my friends can see my usual posts on my wall anyways. So, when coworkers friend me, they are added to a group that doesn’t see my everyday posts. I find it works better controlling who can see my posts without worrying about offending someone because I don’t want to be their Facebook friend.

    5. Crazy Canuck*

      I agree with this. I’d stress that is has nothing to do with her personally, and it’s just a policy you have with all your colleagues because good boundaries make for good co-workers.

      If that policy seems harsh, I will point out that I am a gay male working in a conservative part of the country, and I have been fired in the past because of that. I keep my social media locked up tighter than a duck’s asshole.

    6. Not Rebee*

      I wouldn’t remove her – in a lot of environments it’s not crazy to be FB friends with your boss. Just be really conscious of the fact that she can see your activity! If you happen to take the day off work for an interview, know that she will see if you post about this, or if you’re online when you are pretending to be sick for the day. Don’t post if you’re out partying with your friends… that kind of stuff. As long as you stay reasonably classy/professional on your FB in general (which is a good idea anyway because in theory potential employers can look you up there) it shouldn’t be a huge issue with your boss as long as you keep further out-of-work conversations more on the professional side.

  2. Edith*

    #4: Doesn’t Microsoft Office ask you for your name when you first install it? I can totally see someone wondering why on earth your word processor would need to know your name and deciding to have a little fun with it.

    On the other hand, last year I found a client profile in our system for Leonard Nimoy. It turned out to be a dummy client dating from when we switched to a new system. A coworker had used it as a sandbox to test out how changes she made affected the client-facing side of the system.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Yes; we’ve had this come up often enough in my department (where we make files for public consumption) that “put a real name and company name in there when you install” is part of the new hire onboarding SOP for a couple of types of word processing/publishing software. Lots of people don’t realize it will ever be used and put something mildly silly.

    2. Julie Noted*

      At Old Job we had a document library that held the CVs of people who had applied to be placed on our temp register in a restricted part of our intranet (only HR and hiring managers could access). The global search on the intranet had filters for, among other things, document author. I noticed one day that there was an author called ‘Dad’…

    3. Joseph*

      Back in the early to mid-90’s when computers were just starting to break into common use in homes and many people were installing Office for the first time, tech support people sometimes *directly advised* people to use a fake/joke name and business because (a) Office has no real need to know it and (b) Privacy was still something that people worried about, having their real name attached to documents.

      1. Newby*

        I tend to use a fake name for anything that I install because they do not have any need to know my real name and it creeps me out that so many things demand my name (or e-mail or phone number or access to my phone or even my social security number).

        1. Paige*

          I can’t believe the number of non-essential online places that try every trick in the book to get my cell phone number now. Some won’t even give you the option of NOT giving your cell phone number. (“Do you want us to text you or to call you to confirm your password change?) I have stopped doing business with some; it’s bad enough they can track you everywhere online as it is, they don’t need to follow you offline as well.

          1. Not Yet Looking*

            So many Chicagoans use 312-588-2300 as a dummy number (major advertiser in the local area). I think the only number more well known out here is 867-5309. :)

            1. AisforA*

              I don’t live in Chicago, but am familiar with the commercial. I believe they’re cross-country. 800-588-2300 Empire Today! Just sang it in my head. I never thought to use it for the phone number thing. I am going to have to do that!

              1. Not Usually A Hacker*

                Please be careful using dummy numbers if it’s at all linked to password recovery.

                I got texts from Facebook for months about how I needed to go back and post, and very kind offers to help me recover my password. Wasn’t my account I was getting texts for, but it sure made it easy to guess my way in and deactivate some guy’s abandoned account.

            2. Nancie*

              Empire carpet! I moved away from the Chicago area over 30 years ago, and haven’t even watched WGN in forever — but it was a real blast from the past when Empire started to advertise on other stations. They have an 800 number for those ads, but the number ends with 588-2300!

    4. One of the Annes*

      Yeah, at my last job, I’d sent some files home to edit over the weekend on my home computer. I was pretty horrified to find that all my edits and comments were attributed to [silly name my husband had chosen when setting up MS Office]. My boss just laughed, though.

      1. EmmaLou*

        Did you ever actually see the author of the spreadsheets and Batman in the same room? Just saying… could be true…

    5. FiveWheels*

      We used to have a dummy client called Mickey Mouse, The Mousetrap, 1 Main Street, [local town ].

      A mass mailing letter went to him by mistake, and the real occupants kindly returned it marked “not known at this address”.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I had forgotten about this until today! I had this temp job years ago where a mailshot was sent out about help available for people starting their own business. Months earlier the team had done some training on the system where they had created dummy records, and obviously no one had done anything about deleting them. So one day this man phoned saying “Why have I had this letter addressed to George Clooney?”

    6. Bad Candidate*

      We get dummy data from clients all the time. Then they get mad when Emily Employee and Marty Manager show up on their invoice.

    7. Ama*

      I spent a little time a few weeks back trying to figure out why a file that we annually update and post to our website suddenly started appearing with a random phrase as the title of the browser page (it wasn’t anything bad, just “send this to all applicants” like it was someone’s old note to themselves. With the help of a coworker who works more in our website CMS than I do we finally realized it was in one of those hidden document info fields– somehow in the process of updating the file through several editions of Office Word and several updates to our CMS software it converted a field that had originally been entered as an internal note to first the document title and then the CMS read it as the tab header.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      We have funny names in our test software–someone made a record for Kermit Frog. And a coworker I’ll call Hermione named a fake record Hermione Rocks. I just had to be careful which ones I used screenshots for in reports, ha ha. Not everyone has a sense of humor!

      1. sloan*

        My boss was in a training one time and did not want to be there. Suddenly, there’s an email in my inbox from “Darth Vader.” “Hi, Sloan. It’s Will. I’m in training. Can you call Client X?” I laughed out loud.

      2. EmmaLou*

        Not everyone has a sense of humor! Sad, isn’t it? I once heard a lecturer on working in business talk about how to inject a little fun into your workplace to make it seem less like drudgery. One of her suggestions was when standing in front of the copier waiting: Do a little twirl! I’d so do it. I also enjoy the image of just about everyone I’ve ever worked with doing it too. Imagine new people thinking it was some odd requirement to make the copier work just right?

    9. gR*

      Anything that I set up that doesn’t have a, to me, legitimate need for a real name gets a fake one. Excel, for example, is set up as Lord Voldemort. My current favorite is my router, set up for the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen

    10. Anymouse*

      Another thought is, maybe it’s actually their name – especially if the person who wrote the document is young and had silly parents.

      We’ve got a support person that happens to share a name with a VERY famous former NBA player. Much is the amusement when they find out he’s a 5’9″ fat white guy (who had the name first, by the way) instead of a 6’6″ athletic black guy!

    11. Bee Eye LL*

      It’s possible they are using a bootleg version of Office and didn’t want to put their actual name in there…just in case.

    12. paul*

      I have a *very* large spreadsheet of anonymized client data named “Spocks Observations” on my personal C drive at work; I use it if I need to try new things in Excel and don’t want to risk really breaking stuff in a real one.

  3. Turtle Candle*

    4 – Or perhaps the files were actually created by Captain Picard during one of the Enterprise’s many time-traveling jaunts! Best not to mention it lest someone get in trouble for violating the Temporal Prime Directive.

    (Sorry–I’m easily amused.)

        1. EmmaLou*

          No, no, no! Holodecks are bad! They never work properly. I’m surprised they kept using them! Shouldn’t someone have eventually said, “You know… maybe we need to work on this technology a bit more before installing it on galaxy class starships…”

    1. Libby*

      When my middle/high school first set up a network, apparently the guys who did it were very into Star Trek, so all the intranet portals were Star Trek Themed (“Enterprise”, “Vulcan”, etc.). We were super early adopters of technology and wifi (think 2000). No one knew how to change them, so they stuck like that for 5-6 years. Around when I graduated, they actually switched over to more “professional” names for the intranet.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        When I was in college I was on the newspaper staff, we named all of our printers and PCs after AbFab. Some were characters, some were booze.

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I once worked for a ecommerce site where the servers were named after South Park characters. And yes, Kenny was the one that died the most. Then management found out and we had to switch to something blander and less copyrighted. I also worked for a software company who named all the external drives after Norse gods.

  4. Milton Waddams*

    #1: Good mediation is not based on concessions or forced changes. It is about re-arranging the parties’ interests (without changing them) to open up new possibilities. Like with two employees bickering over a red stapler: the unspoken assumption is that the fight is actually about the red stapler and that it can only have one resolution — one person gets the stapler and the other doesn’t. In reality, it is far more likely that the stapler has been latched on to by both sides as the solution to their problems, which may not in fact even be the same problems and also are likely to have multiple solutions. Mediation is about pulling apart those unspoken assumptions to make room to move forward.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s inappropriate in this situation. This isn’t a personal conflict. This is someone who needs to be managed because she’s not performing her job well. Mediation won’t solve that.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Is she being given the tools to succeed? I would argue that we don’t actually know. We are starting out with the assumptions, rather than the problems, such as that she is “not remembering” items and situations, rather than focusing on the true problem, which is that there is a discrepancy between what was thought would happen and what actually happened. There seems to be frustration that “time is spent fixing errors” rather than relief — why? It almost sounds like there’s a bit of magical thinking going on — “if no time is spent fixing errors, then we won’t have any errors” like those folks who refuse to waste space in their bag for an umbrella since that would make it more likely to rain. :-)

        The fact that the supervisor is still stressed out by all this is a great sign — when they stop caring, check-out, and start ossifying into deadwood is when things get rough.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I still think that it wouldn’t be a mediation situation.

          Suppose there is in fact some flaw in the way the job is set up which is causing the manager to make a lot of mistakes and forget things, and for these mistakes to then be passed down to multiple lower level people – that it’s not a matter of incompetence on the part of the manager.

          Then the manager and her manager need to sit down, look at the process that’s going on, figure out what errors are being made and why, consulting with the lower level employees as needed, and decide how to change the system to improve things. That’s very different than bringing all of the low level employees and their manager into a meeting with a third party mediator, and trying to figure out as a group why the errors are being made. Particularly if it does turn actually out to be incompetence.

          For the anxiety, it’s not clear from the OP if it’s a cause or effect – is the manager anxious because she’s making lots of errors, or is the manager’s anxiety causing her to make mistakes and forget things.

          1. OP #1*

            The problem is not how the job is set up. The supervisor was on vacation for two weeks this spring and there were no errors made by the rest of the admin staff. The errors and forgetting things are caused by the anxiety, although when the errors are pointed out, he gets much more anxious and more mistakes are made.

            1. Lance*

              That sounds like a situation where some sort of therapy might come into play… and mediation is not that. If his anxiety flares up when his shortcomings are pointed out, mediation bringing more of them to light is likely to make it worse.

              1. OP #1*

                Thank you Lance. That is my thought as well. Apparently he is getting some sort of therapy, but I feel the situation is not improving. I also believe that because he is the sole breadwinner and has small children, the GM is reluctant to fire or demote him. Not a great situation for everyone involved.

            2. Milton Waddams*

              Were no errors made, or no errors caught? If the supervisor went on vacation, I imagine it was during a period that is traditionally slower? That’s at least how vacations were timed at many of the places I’ve worked. If there clearly were no errors, what was different in the approach in how the substitutes went about the work and how it is normally done?

              When failures cause anxiety, anxiety can increase the risk of failure. It’s important to be cautious attributing cause, as it can easily become a “chicken or egg” scenario. Keeping an open mind makes it easier to see solutions.

              1. OP #1*

                I should clarify a few things. As a way to help manage the supervisors issues, he was given a shift where he comes in earlier than everyone else to have ‘quiet time’ to do some tasks without the noise and other people to distract him. He also leaves earlier. This is a medical office where we take co-pay using Visa, check, cash, etc. The person at the end of the day must balance the revenue and make sure all of the proper information has been entered into the patient’s file. Because our supervisor also does some of these duties during the day, the errors are glaringly apparent and the end-of-day person then spends time fixing these errors. This is not simply a difference in how each person does things.
                He was granted his vacation when he requested it. The office was not less busy, as all the other staff members were there. No errors were made, and the end-of-day staff could balance and leave work at the designated time.
                I will add that the two weeks he was away was wonderful. We were busier being short one person, but it was nice not to have to work around his anxiety.

        2. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*


          If the supervisor doesn’t have the tools to succeed, this is their manager’s problem to sort out. It doesn’t involve the OP at all, and it certainly doesn’t involve the OP and the supervisor having mediation.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            I think you may be mixing up fault and responsibility — generally responsibility for a problem lies on whoever it impacts the most, as they have the most motivation to see it resolved. Upper management may be at fault, but the consequences of the problem fall squarely on the front-line staff. While it is possible for the OP and others to simply say, “Not my problem!” they will be the ones waiting around for a solution that may or may not be quick in coming.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But the OP and her coworkers don’t have the ability or authority to fix the problem. It needs to be fixed by someone with authority (the manager’s boss). Otherwise we could say that front-line staff are responsible for the incompetence of a VP or CEO.

              And in fact, there isn’t any real way to give someone responsibility without the accompanying necessary authority.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                If the front-line staff was impacted the most by the incompetence of a VP or CEO, then they would indeed be responsible — if their jobs are on the line in a community with few alternatives, but the CEO will get a multi-million dollar parachute to retire on, then expecting the CEO to take responsibility simply because they are at fault is a risky bet.

                Being caught in a position where someone is responsible for something they aren’t authorized to fix is tricky, but not impossible. This is largely how the union movement developed.

                1. LBK*

                  Wow. I profoundly disagree. Something potentially having a negative impact on you does not make it your responsibility.

                2. Milton Waddams*

                  I suppose we can agree to disagree. My perspective is that if the CEO can go on with their life and their millions, they won’t care that they are at fault for a particular problem, because they don’t have to deal with any of the consequences. I’d grow old and die waiting if I depended on them cleaning up their own mess when there is zero incentive for them to do so.

                  This sort of dynamic plays out again and again. While I might have the moral high ground on my death-bed, I think I’d prefer for the problem to be fixed today — even if I have to do it — rather than getting a pie in the sky when I die.

        3. OP #1*

          I’m not sure I understand what your comment means. Are you saying that the rest of the staff should be relieved that we have caught the errors and are able to fix them? The problem remains that fixing errors costs time and money. I do understand that we all make errors at times, but when it is a daily occurrence, we are taken away from the rest of our duties to fix the errors.
          I don’t agree with your statement that a stressed out supervisor is a great sign. I think it means he is not cut out for the job.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            Fixing errors costs time and money, but unfixed errors generally cost more. If that’s not the case here, then naturally the best solution would be to ignore them, but generally those sorts of issues aren’t framed as errors.

            If I understand correctly, it sounds like the problem is not the errors, but that the business process pretends that errors won’t happen, which creates bottlenecks in other workflows. To me, this sounds like a workflow problem. Different companies delegate authority differently, but generally front-line staff and supervisors have a lot of flexibility in how to construct their workflows, so long as the end products meet requirements; looking into workflow and process improvement to make time and space for these sorts of things might be worth considering.

            Being stressed out is not always a good sign, but it does signify something very important — they care about the outcomes. When management cares about outcomes, they are willing to work towards them, they are willing to work with others, and are willing to participate beyond the minimum required to avoid blame or getting fired. When they don’t care, it’s easy for them to become deadwood employees — not so bad at their job to justify termination, but inflexible, indifferent, and inert. An accumulation of deadwood employees can sink a department, even if there is nothing to justify firing them individually. Once that drive to see the department do well is extinguished, it is very very hard to re-ignite.

        4. LQ*

          Even if she isn’t given the tools to succeed a mediation with the subordinate staff won’t solve that. This is above the OPs pay grade. Pretty literally. The person who it might be helpful with if you want to take it that way would be the manager, who does seem to have checked out.

          1. Lance*

            ‘Checked out’ indeed. All the lack of improvements, and this suggestion of mediation, tells me is that the general manager is just passing the buck, so to speak. It’s a problem they want you to solve, rather than taking it into their own hands like they should be doing.

        5. eplawyer*

          but it’s not the job of the direct reports of the supervisor to ensure the supervisor has the right tools to succeed. What would the direct reports such as the letter writer bring to a mediation session? We’ll overlook your errors because they cause you anxiety and we know you don’t have a wellness plan to deal with it.

          The manager needs to ensure the supervisor has everything to do the job. Then if that is so, needs to manage the supervisor. It’s not the direct reports to participate in the problem solving.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            It may not be their job (which is debatable), but it is certainly within their best interests, as front-line staff are the ones who are most likely to bear the consequences of that lack of tools.

            Good mediation doesn’t involve any concessions by either side, so it wouldn’t involve any sort of overlooking of things. It involves rearranging existing interests to open up new ways to move forward, through identifying unspoken assumptions and clarifying what about certain goals makes them desirable.

            1. LBK*

              It involves rearranging existing interests to open up new ways to move forward, through identifying unspoken assumptions and clarifying what about certain goals makes them desirable.

              So in this situation, what, specifically, do you think are the unspoken assumptions, and what do you think is unclear about why the goal of “work should be done correctly” is desirable? What “new ways to move forward” do you imagine exist in this scenario?

              You’re speaking in platitudes. They’re not realistic steps to actually fix the problem.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                You are asking me to be a fortune-teller here. :-) Right now we only have one side’s conclusions– not even really their thought process arriving there. These conclusions revolve entirely around the OP’s beliefs about the other party’s character — the executive summary is basically, “I think my supervisor is mentally ill, and that is why they do a bad job; that is impossible to change, so they should be fired.” We know nothing at all about how things look for the supervisor or their supervisor, and I’m sure it’s just as bad from the other side — really we as third-party observers can’t expect to provide detail-level advice on this sort of thing.

                However, understanding the interests of the other parties involved and explicitly spelling out their own interests to make obvious how they were arrived at are things the OP can do, especially with the help of a trained mediator. Hopefully that will be the perspective that everyone takes going in to mediation.

        6. LBK*

          It almost sounds like there’s a bit of magical thinking going on — “if no time is spent fixing errors, then we won’t have any errors” like those folks who refuse to waste space in their bag for an umbrella since that would make it more likely to rain. :-)

          That…doesn’t make any sense. You don’t control whether it rains or not, but you do (for the most part) control whether you make errors or not. There’s nothing for the OP and the manager to discuss or get to the heart of here. These are empirical facts: the manager is not doing the job correctly and needs to start doing it correctly. What part of that is going to be fixed by trying to “focus on the true problem” with the OP?

          There may be deeper reasons why the OP’s manager is such a mess, but those are things for the manager’s boss or therapist to sort out, not the OP.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            It really depends on the system — the larger the system, the more it begins to resemble the weather. ;-)

            As far as focusing on the true problem, one place to start might be to focus on the obvious questions that likely haven’t been discussed much, like what everyone means by correct, and what makes those particular ways correct. Are there alternative ways that would also be correct?

            This is a common miscommunication when trying to build things cross-field, for instance. Correct for a programmer and correct for a marketer don’t mean the same things, yet they may need to collaborate on the same product. Without peeling apart their unspoken assumptions this becomes very hard to do.

            1. OP #1*

              It’s a medical office. Information entered into the computer is either correct or incorrect. There is no alternative way. Payment amount and payment type on the correct date, and patient’s personal information. Not a hard task, and no collaboration required. He has the tools to do the job.

        7. Observer*

          Mediation is STILL not the solution. The manager is NOT performing up to par, and it’s not the job of the admin to change that. This is not about them not seeing eye to eye, or as in your example, having apparently competing interests or both wanting to have a singular item that only one can have.

          One thing that is necessary for successful mediation is that it is between two people who have relatively equal power in the relationship. That’s not the case here.

          Another issue is that the issue needs to be essentially two (or multi) sided. ie Both parties bear some responsibility for the issue at hand. That’s not the case here. The boss’ anxiety, errors and forgetfulness are not caused, even in part, by the OP and her peers. There is nothing to mediate here – there is really nothing here for the OP to do. Even if there is an issue of the boss not being given the tools, that it NOT the OP’s problem. She is not in any position to provide the tools, and she (and the rest of the staff) should not be made to bear the responsibility for something they have no power over.

          As for your claim of “magical thinking”, you seem to be reading the letter backwards. If the boss doesn’t make mistakes, no one will have to take time to fix it. That’s not magic. That’s simple cause and effect.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            If the boss doesn’t make mistakes, no one will have to take time to fix them, and if I hold my breath, I won’t need to take time to worry about air quality. :-) Perhaps your office is different than mine, but even our superstars snap if you push them too hard. It’s much more humane and realistic to assume the default is mistakes and perfection the exception, than to assume the default is perfection and the exception mistakes. Most mistakes are easily managed, provided that time to do so is structured into the workflow.

      2. hbc*

        I think there may be more personal elements than not: three of the four listed results of the supervisor’s behavior are emotional (frustration, irritation at the unfairness of salary/title, and morale). I’ll take OP at their word that the behavior and mistakes are outside the norm, but I’ve certainly had people raise a stink on those topics when it’s about different expectations and no one is actually failing at their job. It might be hard to suss out which situation it is from the GM’s point of view.

        Though I wouldn’t recommend mediation versus, say, sitting down and watching the process for a day to get a better view, I can see why the GM might have gone there.

        1. OP #1*

          After months of no resolution, the feelings of frustration, anger and unfairness are certainly a factor. I believe he is failing at his job, and would appreciate the GM sitting in for a day or two to assess the entire situation. He is fully aware of how to perform his tasks, but cannot seem to do them correctly. This is not just one thing that has happened, but a daily continuation of, in my opinion, poor performance. If we ask questions or bring up the mistakes, he nervously laughs and then goes to fix them. There is usually an excuse as to why this happened, instead of accepting and admitting to the error.

          1. Patrick*

            OP, I am a little confused about the nature of your relationship with your supervisor…is this someone you’re supporting as an admin, or a supervisor for the admins in the office?

            I assume the latter is unlikely at a 15 person company, and the former strikes me a bit as potentially crossing boundaries. If a manager isn’t pulling their weight I would say the other people in the office need to be communicating that to the GM, not an admin. This is not putting down admins but in the offices I’ve worked in it would be really unusual for an admin to go to someone’s boss and critique their work unless it was something directly related to admin duties. It sounds like you are shouldering frustrations that quite honestly are above your paygrade (like others have said.)

            1. Lance*

              The letter mentions that LW isn’t the only person to go to the general manager about this, though. It’s not just a problem they’ve brought up; multiple people have, which means it’s having an effect around the office.

          2. hbc*

            Yeah, unfortunately, if the GM doesn’t get in at ground level, “That guy sucks out loud” and “These people just aren’t understanding each other” can look pretty similar. Your information from another post that things run smoothly while he’s gone is a pretty big indicator of the former, though sometimes there can be reasons for that. (For example, if he’s got tasks A-G on his plate, and A-F are put on hold while he’s gone and others can handle G with fewer errors, it doesn’t mean anyone can handle A-G error-free.)

            But even if this situation calls for mediation, the GM should be running it. I’d only go to the professional level if you’ve got 2 superstars butting heads or something. Everyone hates the supervisor and they don’t have a history of hating on supervisors for no reason? There are other supervisors looking for jobs out there, find a better fit.

          3. Troutwaxer*

            But what is the cause of the problem. Does he make mistakes because he is nervous, or is he nervous because he makes mistakes? I can see some possibilities which have not been mentioned:

            1.) Does the supervisor suffer from undiagnosed dyslexia or dyscalculia? Both these conditions can be treated, or the office can find a way to work around them.

            2.) Does the supervisor suffer from some kind of condition affecting his eyes? Perhaps he needs glasses or a new prescription. Are the office’s eye benefits any good?

            3.) Is the supervisor a poor/untrained typist?

    2. Whats In A Name*

      Yes, but I don’t think there are many “unspoken assumptions” here. Yes, there might be various reasons for the misunderstanding tasks, mistakes, etc. but it sounds like these issues are affecting core business processes.

      I am with Alison. The manager really needs to manage, not mediate.

    3. edj3*

      I’m trained as a mediator and I’m a huge fan of it, but I don’t see it as the cure for all issues in the workplace. This situation as described doesn’t look to be a good fit for mediation. Yes, mediation is interest-based facilitation and allows the parties to find their resolution but I’m not seeing that as the right tool here.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, the “interests” here are the OP wanting her manager to do a better job. That’s not something you reason out and make compromise on, that’s something for the manager’s boss to deal with via coaching and training, performance management and/or firing her.

        1. Milton Waddams*

          I think there’s still some room to work here. “Do a better job” isn’t an actual interest, because those words on their own have no meaning. You have to peel apart what is meant by this interest to begin to see how to move forward. Also worth reiterating, good mediation involves no compromises.

          1. LBK*

            Sorry to be blunt, but this is just vague woo woo BS. Work is either done right or wrong. It’s an office, not group therapy.

            1. Milton Waddams*

              I’ve never thought to look up “management, do a better job” in the encyclopedia, what does it say? :-)

              Math is done either right or wrong — even then, rightness and wrongness is entirely based on the foundational postulates people have agreed to build their mathematical structure on, and Real Life is far more arbitrary than mathematics.

              If a customer comes to a hardware manufacturer and says, “I want a computer 10% bigger than your biggest computer!” and the manufacturer dutifully provide it, then the customer comes back in frustration and exclaims, “How can a computer this big run this slow!” was the work done right or wrong? Is the right answer to the wrong question still the right answer?

              1. OP #1*

                Milton, you are trying to make this way more complicated than it really is. The payment amount, and type get entered into the computer and then at the end of the day, it has to balance. The patient information gets entered into the computer, and it is either entered correctly or not. It seems like you are trying to confuse everyone who has an opinion here by throwing out analogies that just don’t fit the situation.
                To the rest of the commenters, thank you for not clouding the issue with (in LBK’s words) vague woo woo BS.

                1. Milton Waddams*

                  I’m sorry you feel that way — I suspect that the mediation is going to be a difficult one.

                  Maybe my advice is falling on dead ears here, but as someone who has both done and designed that type of work, it really isn’t at all how you describe it. The type of questions you ask predicate the answers you get, and give the illusion that that way was the only way things could have been. I’ve done data entry on legacy systems that were never designed for data entry, and even the best case results left a lot to be desired; there was nothing simple or inevitable about it. I’ve encountered pages and pages of input that never needed to be taken, because it was never read or used and there was no legal requirement to take it — so even when it was free of errors, it was itself a mistake, a mistake that likely wasted months or even years of an employee’s time. These sort of problems are very common in data-centric fields, especially in places where there is an illusion that things are simple because the reader can tell the difference between a 1 and a 0.

                  Hopefully I’m wrong and everything turns out well — I wish you the best of luck.

    4. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Well, no, in the legal sense, mediation is typically only for specific, one-on-one issues between two parties, i.e., your teenage son’s baseball broke my living room window, and we need to amicably establish a timeframe for compensation and repairs. It’s really not about counseling on interpersonal issues; that’s for a therapist.

      Mediation wouldn’t work in an office of 15 people, where the problem (based on the OP’s facts) is really about one person’s poor overall management style, versus… 14 other people? Mediation couldn’t begin to touch (or fix) that group dynamic.

    5. neverjaunty*

      There are many situations where mediation is an ineffective or even destructive tool. This is one of them; one of the parties to the mediation has direct power over the others. Additionally, mediation is the wrong solution when it’s being used as a way of avoiding responsibility, as seems to be the case with Boss’s supervisor. “Here, Mediator, I don’t want to manage this person – can you do it for me?” is not an effective use of mediation.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        To me this sounds sort of like mediation between a foreman and a floor staff’s union rep. While as an individual there would be a power difference between the foreman and the rep, the foreman can’t run the department by themselves — the collective support of the staff equalizes the power differential.

        I agree that does make it harder to do non-positional mediation, though, since it places the rep in the role of a politician whose options are limited by their constituency.

  5. Title-in-limbo*

    On #4 – I don’t think this is strange at all! I have a silly name in MS Word myself, and every training document I make includes screenshots of “dummy” clients from various tv shows – for example, the guide might include all client/employee names from Doctor Who, or the Simpsons. It’s a small way give myself (and hopefully others!) a giggle at work if they happen to catch the joke. This might not be appropriate in some work environments, but I wouldn’t want to work in those environments.

    1. FD*

      I love doing the naming thing too! If you’re already writing a boring how-to guide, you might as well put in a little fun.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I created some sample correctly completed internal forms using Muppet character names and project titles. I had to stop making them available as a .doc file and just provide non-editable PDFs instead, because one individual submitted his forms without changing the Muppet stuff – not once, but twice. We call him Dr. Muppet now.

    2. OldAdmin*

      Yes, but professionally speaking there are all sorts of conventions to clearly mark test/example accounts as such.
      I’ve done technical writing, and things should look like this:

      Mr John Doe, Mrs Jane Doe
      john.doe@example, com ,
      (sometimes machines or people are called Alice and Bob as an alternative)
      There even are officially defined networks and IP addresses (such as specifically reserved for documentation purposes.

      1. CMT*

        Yeah, but that’s not as fun. You can have a little whimsy in your work sometimes and still be professional.

    3. Confused Publisher*

      I’m a massive fan of the TV show Doctor Who. I also have a PhD.

      At my current workplace, my colleagues suggested that my name according to Microsoft Office be The Doctor.

    4. hermit crab*

      When I write user guides, all the names in the screenshots are U.S. First Ladies. Currently, Eleanor Roosevelt is in a starring role authorizing her company’s electronic submissions to a federal agency.

    5. Nea*

      My names come from Jane Austen, all of the minor or lesser-known characters. My straightlaced bosses wouldn’t appreciate The Doctor or Fitzwilliam Darcy… but they don’t know who Henry Tilney is.

      I’m thinking maybe the occasional Martha Jones or Donna Noble wouldn’t go amiss…

    6. BananaPants*

      It always livens up an otherwise dull online training module or user manual to have the author use example names from popular shows or movies. I think it’s fun and in my company would not be considered unprofessional.

    7. Xarcady*

      I have a co-worker who uses fairy tale characters names when practicing in databases. Rose Red, Snow White, Billy G. Gruff, Match Girl. Every so often, one pops up when I do a search. It’s useful, actually, because I know those aren’t real records and can just skip them.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Exactly! We had an entire extended family of Dwarfs (Dopey, Sneezy, etc.) living in our EHR. We needed dummy clients to test changes on/train with, and the business office staff knew not to actually bill out for Dwarf appointments.

        I was in mental health, so sometimes when I needed to actually fill out an appointment note to check formatting or whatever, if I was feeling creative I’d use Doctor Who plotlines.

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I’ve been using Harry Potter characters to learn how our tutor tracking database works.

    8. MsChanandlerBong*

      I use a silly name, too–“Poncho Goblin.” If anyone knows where this is from, we’d probably be good friends in real life!

      * I am self-employed and submit my work via a CMS, so I don’t submit Word docs to clients. I write in Word and then c/p to the CMS. I would not use Poncho Goblin if I worked in an office.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        I had to Google it, but I do get the reference, just never heard that scene/character?/episode referred to as that.

        1. bkanon*

          Her husband calls that alter that at one point! Can’t recall the episode right off, though.

    9. Rusty Shackelford*

      Years ago I saw an office supply catalog that used Dr. Peter Venkman on a desk nameplate. So much love.

      1. Anna*

        There used to be a Barenaked Ladies fan who worked for one of the lifestyle companies. A household name I am now forgetting. Not Anthrologie. Less obnoxious; more earthy. Anyway, almost every photo was set with items containing the band’s name, song titles, their family’s names, etc. It was fun to browse through and see all the references.

    10. Lia*

      I do this all the time for training documents. I like to use characters from TV shows and then see if the audience catches the references.

      Aliasing lets me use real data (well, I mask some of it, changing values, etc) so that the ranges look realistic, and it saves a lot of time over creating a fake file from scratch.

    11. KR*

      Same – I make tutorials for people in my organization on using software and I often put small jokes/cat pictures in there. Also there are memes plastered all over the wall in my office

    12. Gandalf the Nude*

      Fred Rogers is always my guinea pig when I’m testing something or making a tutorial because he’s always so pleasant.

    13. SarahTheEntwife*

      When we were testing our new library system, all the example borrowers were characters from Eric Carle books.

      The vendor we got the system from had filled in a test account for Clark Kent, who had checked out a couple books on bodybuilding, a book of art photography from Kansas in the 50s, and a collection of essays on international ethics. Someone spent a delightfully unnecessary amount of time building that account ;-)

    14. Brogrammer*

      My company uses superhero “civilian” names for dummy records – so we might be placing a call to Bruce Wayne, or sending an email to Tony Stark.

    15. she was a fast machine*

      I was just attending a training on an education product and all the schools were named after Star Wars and Star Trek characters(including SWEU characters like Mara Jade and Kyp Durron). I got stupidly excited about it.

    16. Miz Swizz*

      This is genius! I write training materials all the time and am constantly stumped by naming our test/examples. They’re internal documents so no one would be too squiffy about a nonsensical name but I’d still like to have a better example than Sally Student.

    17. SimontheGreatestMind*

      I used to use “Andrew Ryan” from the video game BioShock as sample sender of memos when I taught business writing. When I need author name examples for Composition, I use other game character names.

  6. Cat steals keyboard*

    #1 Dear god no, it’s not appropriate. It’s even less appropriate if the anxiety is medical and either way it’s making you responsible for managing said anxiety. The person who suggested this sounds clueless and like they are passing buck. And even if accommodations were needed this is not the way to establish them – plus there is a difference between accommodating anxiety and accommodating incompetent people management. It’s particularly inappropriate to suggest mediation with someone who has authority over you.

    #5 The vacancy may never even materialise so I wouldn’t do anything for now. I had a short-term position where they kept asking if I was interested in a vacancy they had coming up.

    When it finally materialised it had to be offered internally to staff at risk of redundancy and so I never even got to apply.

    1. Fabulous*

      #5 – This^
      You never know why a position is created and who it’s been created for. I was working as a contractor in a position for almost a year, having been promised a full-time offer for almost 6 months. When it came down to it, because I had been job searching myself, I eventually found a posting for MY JOB that had been up for at least 20 days. My supervisor (who had promised me the job) said he had no idea it was being recruited for. I talked with the recruiter, and they already had someone in the final stages of interviewing. Neither I nor my manager was alerted to any part of the hiring process – it all went through HR – and I never got to apply.

      As Alison says many many times on here, there’s no offer until there’s an offer.

    2. Original Poster #5*

      It appeared and I was asked if I planned on applying. I said I wasn’t, and it created some friction, but only temporarily. Since then we haven’t discussed it. I offered to train my replacement.

    1. Coffee Ninja*

      I’m sorry I laughed at you that time you got diarrhea at Barnes & Noble.

      And I’m sorry I told everyone about it.

      And I’m sorry for repeating it now.

    2. Mona Lisa*

      I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy!

    3. EddieSherbert*

      I totally read it as “meditation” rather than “mediation” at first… still a good (great!) question but I got a little excited about how weird I thought it was going to be.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          I figure the advice would have been essentially the same, though probably couched in a different tone.

  7. bryeny*

    2. Recruiter felt used: is this a common issue with recruiters? I parted ways with one who asked me what I would do if she got me an offer and my current employer counter-offered:

    Me: A counter-offer isn’t likely given the state of the business, but if I get one I guess I’d have to look at it and decide.

    Recruiter (all huffy): So you’re using me to pry more money out of ?

    Me: I hadn’t considered the possibility of a counter-offer until you brought it up, so — no.

    Recruiter: I can’t afford to waste time promoting you to employers if you’re not seriously job-searching.

    Me: I’m very serious. Are you seriously asking me to refuse to consider a counter-offer, even if it’s a good one, because it would be bad for you?

    She denied it, but that’s basically what she was doing. She must have understood that what she was asking was wrong (it it even legal?), or she wouldn’t have backed off when challenged and she would have stated it as a requirement up front rather than making it a question, like some kind of loyalty test.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      This is so messed up. But the best don’t use these tactics. Recruiters usually work on commission, so just like any sales position you have good and bad techniques for closing. As a employer I had a similar experience, so it’s not only the job seeker that runs into this.

      We worked with a recruiting agency once that kept sending us bad candidates and our account manager got the same way with us. Convo went something like:

      ME: The candidates you are sending aren’t hitting the basic experience requirements, we really need for you to go after XYZ for us to get the right person in place?
      HER: It seems what I’ve sent you should be sufficient. Why should I waste my time searching for additional candidates if you aren’t going to hire any of them anyways?
      ME: Actually, you are correct. You should not continue to search for additional candidates. I will find another recruiter to do that.

      Changing to a new agency opened new doors and we were able to hire the position within a few months. I would think the same could happen with a job seeker by making similar change.

      Reason #1 we only signed contingency agreements with recruiting agencies.

      1. Finman*

        There are plenty of recruiters in the sea. Don’t try to salvage this relationship, you can find one that is better

      2. Pwyll*

        Ugh, I have had this EXACT conversation. With a recruiter sending me receptionists for an Executive Assistant position.

        Then, the recruiter called up my CEO, left him a voicemail, and then sent him an e-mail saying that I obviously didn’t know how to hire and that she’d like to meet with him about resetting the expectations for the job she was trying to fill.

        There are good recruiters, but there are really, really, bad ones too.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      You don’t owe a recruiter anything.

      That said, Alison has made very good points in the past about why you should almost never (with very rare exceptions) accept a counter-offer from your current employer.

      1. the gold digger*

        I think this is one of the exceptions that can work. My husband was in a similar situation years ago when he left California. He was offered a job in the city where he wanted to move. When he told his boss he was quitting and moving, the boss asked if he would work from home in the new city. Primo hadn’t even known that was an option. He worked for that company for another eight years and left only because he got tired of being the only person who handled the FPGA libraries.

  8. Someone Else*

    I had to re-read #1 several times until I realised it was ‘mediation’, not ‘meditation’. Coffee, please.

    1. Neeta (RO)*

      Hah, yes me too!
      I kept picturing a sort of hypnotism session where people kept repeating “I am NOT incompetent” over and over again.

    2. lazuli*

      Me, three! And I actually suspect that daily mediTation sessions would likely actually help lower workplace and employee anxiety, and I was all interested to hear how that was going to go!

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I don’t know – if the problem is anxiety and frustration, meditation might actually help!

    3. Vin Packer*

      Me too! Until I saw the caveat in Alison’s answer that it can sometimes be appropriate for a boss to make you do it at work, and I was like… is???

    4. EddieSherbert*

      YES! What a fun question that’d be ;)

      (mediation is good too, since I think more people run into that, but… weird ones!)

    5. Aurion*

      I switched between “mediation”, “meditation”, and “medication”, sometimes within the same reading. I was very confused.

      I shouldn’t read AAM before bed…

  9. Billy*

    For question #4, I think part of proofreading absolutely could include checking the document metadata for author information. I’d suggest you contact either your boss or the third party (depending on comfort level) with a “By the way, did you know that the author field in the info box says “XXXXXXX”?. That way you’ve done your job of proofreading and it’s up to someone else to decide whether or not it needs changing.

    For question #5, I absolutely agree that it is ridiculous for a manager to cancel a meeting to discuss your career goals, and then create a permanent position tailored for you. That is exactly why I do not believe that is what has occurred. I think it’s much more likely that your boss and your boss’s boss had a conversation about your imminent promotion to another firm, and the position was created on the assumption that they will soon no longer have a contractor working for them. A response of “Thank you for the information — I am not currently planning to apply to it” would be about as much as would be expected.

    1. OP #4*

      Yeah, I decided to give my boss a brief heads-up, because most of my work revolves around proofreading. I find it hilarious but I work in a stereotypically stuffy industry, so not sure if those downloading the files would find it as funny as I do. I can imagine someone with no sense of humour thinking it brings into question the professionalism of the project my boss is working on. But I’m glad to hear it’s not as big of a deal as I thought it was! (I was imagining some poor academic having a nervous breakdown realising her kid has messed around with her computer settings)

      1. Mockingjay*

        If you reuse an Office document as a template (“Save as”), it will retain the author name in the file Properties unless the properties are cleared or renamed. So what starts as a joke in one or two documents can spread…

        One of my finest hours was when an engineer showed me a document to use as a reference. He had gotten it from another project. “Oh, yeah, I wrote that when I was on the XYZ project.” Huh? “Check the Properties.” And there was my name!

        My name may never be on the cover or the signature sheet (tech writers never get credit), but it is ALWAYS in the Properties of the file!

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep! There are a lot of documents I use in my work that, while I’ve edited them over the years, still “belong” to a person who was about three predecessors ago and has passed away. So I have a ghost in my computer.

    2. Original Poster #5*

      She was annoyed when I told her that I was not applying. It was apparently made for me. Whoops.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Then they really should have had that conversation with you about whether you’d want it if it was created first, shouldn’t they? That’s a mark against them, not you. Were you able to smooth it over with the regretful “I wish we had been able to talk about this beforehand, unfortunately I’m looking for a Teapots Manager position”?

        1. Original Poster #5*

          I did, but then she made it as a Teapot Manager position. But it’s too little too late. Apparently I’m doing the work of an Associate Director of Teapots person, which is a whole other story. I am looking at moving to a Teapot Manager at another place.

      2. Billy*

        Wow…. all I can do is mutter ” it is ridiculous for a manager to cancel a meeting to discuss your career goals, and then create a permanent position tailored for you.”

        Good luck managing teapots at that other company!

  10. The Wall of Creativity*

    #2. There are good recruiters out there and there are bad recruiters. As a contractor I keep notes on all my interactions with recruiters. I know which are genuine business partners, which are CV chasers and which are something in between. And when I’m BCC bulk emailing recruiters (either looking for a new role or notifying them that I’m off the market) I only send it to those that I’m happy to deal with.

    I’d not deal with OP2’s recruiter again. I’d also be wary of dealing with that recruitment firm – maybe start the conversation referring to the other recruiter and if the guy in the phone says she’s great end the call quickly.

  11. Gadfly*

    #3–Facebook ghettos are a possible halfway measure: Make your boss an acquaintance. Then they only see your public posts.

      1. Susan C.*

        Accounting for variations over time and contexts, ‘strongly isolated sub-community’ seems to cover it, as far as I’m aware. Not sure what your objection is?

        (Naturally it has accumulated a lot of negative connotation, seeing how ‘strong isolation’ when it comes to life’s larger circumstances is usually neither a good thing nor entirely voluntary, but connotation != meaning)

        1. LBK*

          “Strongly isolated sub-community” is an almost amusingly whitewashed definition – it kind of leaves out that people were forced into ghettos by segregation and prejudice. It’s not like the people that lived there just chose of their own accord to form a separate neighborhood.

          Alison has asked us not to nitpick word choice so I don’t want to get into a whole discussion, but I’d advise you to actually look at the etymology and history of the term. It hasn’t “accumulated a lot of negative connotation” over time – if anything, it’s become more distanced from its origins, to the point that people use it without understanding the historical context.

          1. Observer*

            That’s putting it mildly. The original ghettos were enforced by law – and violations were CAPITAL OFFENSES (literally.)

        2. Observer*

          No, that’s not a correct definition. And the word has FEWER negative connotations than it originally had, because today, no one is risking his life by leaving the ghetto. That WAS the actual case with many of the original ghettos, and on through history.

    1. OP #3*

      Ooooooh, I like this as a good placeholder as I wait to see how she wants to handle it. I’ll go do that now! Thanks for the idea!

  12. Feotakahari*

    It could be worse. I once saw an author field on downloadable erotic fiction that WASN’T filled with a fake name. I informed the anonymous writer that he wasn’t anonymous to anyone who could see the author field, and he was quite embarrassed.

  13. Erin*

    #4 Geez, now I have to be careful and serious when I “name” my computer and various apps? I have a silly Star Wars name, because of the theme on the computer. It’s not a name of the file, no files are signed with that name, didn’t even know someone looks at that.

    1. OP #4*

      Nah, I’m only worried because my industry is quite stern and I’m not sure other people would find it as funny as I do.

    2. OP #4*

      And I’ve never paid much attention before that time to the name of the author of the file! It just popped up when I was messing around with the folder the files were in. It’s a fluke I even spotted it.

        1. SarcasticFringehead*

          It will actually translate into comments & track changes, which is the only way I’d expect someone who’s not a high-level user to notice the change.

        2. Zoethor2*

          It actually shows up in more prominent locations now and could be fairly noticeable to someone. For example, if you select the file in Windows Explorer, there is (may be, depending on your settings) a pane at the bottom which lists the Author, from the metadata. It will also be automatically pulled into Sharepoint sites. And it’s listed when you click on the “File” tab in MS Word (on the way to “save”, “save as”, “print”, so somewhere people may be glancing fairly regularly).

  14. FD*

    #4- Oh, man, I’ve documented a lot of procedures for various jobs, and I love leaving little Easter Eggs like this, to give future nerds a laugh. If you think it’d be inappropriate in your situation, than I’d reach out to the third party with something like, “Hey, I had a laugh when I noticed these documents are apparently authored by Captain Picard. I do want to change that before they go out on our server–what name should I put on them?” It acknowledges the joke, asks what you should put instead, and minimizes any awkwardness on either side.

  15. Nea*

    #2 – Far too many recruiters act like they’re getting you a date, not a job, and act shocked! Shocked, I say! to discover that you put your own needs and career over their suggestions. Thank them for their time and don’t work with them again.

      1. BananaPants*

        A friend is a recruiter – frankly, this is likely the case. They only get paid if they make a placement and if pickings have been slim they’ll do or say whatever is necessary to close the deal.

        1. Ama*

          It can also depend on the culture of the recruiting company — the husband of a coworker is a recruiter and they were very worried a few years back because his small firm was bought out by a larger one that has a reputation in the recruiting industry for having its recruiters use very aggressive, borderline unethical tactics to fill positions.

      2. LBK*

        I think there’s probably a mix. Some of the more conniving ones might do it on purpose, but I bet there are plenty who just get too emotionally invested in their work and forget that it’s not intended as a personal insult if someone doesn’t take an offer they got them.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        For some it may be a calculated emotional manipulation, but I think for most recruiters (I used to work for a recruiting firm) it’s more self-centeredness than anything. Yes, they’d like you to get a job. Yes, they’d like their clients to get the best candidate. But ultimately, they want to make the commission—that’s their top priority.

        There’s no meeting at a recruiting firm in which someone says “Hey, we’re down on our commissions this quarter, but lots of candidates got to be happy where they are. Yay!” unless it’s with [sarcasm] tags.

        I don’t think this is unique to recruiting, though, Most of my work has been in schools, and I’ve worked in various departments. Not surprisingly, the English department thinks English is the most important thing at school, and the admission department thinks admission is the most important thing, etc.

  16. Yetanotherjennifer*

    #4: My personal computer has always been a Mac and the hard drive has always had the same name (with macs you can name the hard drive.) The name is a man’s name that is a joke pronunciation of the name of the college I attended. My hard drive password is related to that jokey college name. Recently I temped at a company where I had to use my personal laptop for work and all my documents had that name attached to it and there was some confusion about who this person was. I didn’t realize until then how that name gets used Now I wonder how many companies are scratching their heads at who this mysterious person is.

    1. the_scientist*

      ha! My partner and I name all our drives after Arrested Development characters. Now I’m wondering where those names are showing up……

    2. Venus Supreme*

      On the day I purchase/receive my tech device, I name it whatever celebrity’s birthday it is that day. So my current phone is Rupert Grint. My old phone was Gwen Stefani. My computer is LeVar Burton… just something benign and silly.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I name my stuff too. My work computer doesn’t have one, but I named my flash drive Albert, after Royal Albert Hall. My phone is Bob; my British phone is Monty. My aging computers are Littleun (15″) and Biggun (17″). And my car is Oliver.

        Okay, I’m a dweeb. :)

        1. Venus Supreme*

          Love it! My cat’s name is actually Bob … and my car is Miss Daisy. Because I’m driving Miss Daisy. Hehehe.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            My fugly 93 Camry Wagon has a paint job which has been degenerating for years. I call it Godzilla, because it’s Japanese and it has a skin condition.

  17. Jwal*

    I’m confused about #2. You say:

    if it seems like they were just using the other company’s offer to try to make that happen. Maybe she thinks that’s what happened here, in which case you just need to explain to her that it’s not

    It sounds like that’s exactly what LW2 was doing – they were wanting to transfer within their current company, didn’t think it could happen, and took the job offer (that they didn’t even really want) to the firm to try to strengthen their case and get them to agree. It turned out that it wasn’t needed, but the intention was there.

    Obviously the recruiter should be trying to pick positions that actually match with that the LW wants, and the language used was overly strong, but I’m not sure how I’ve managed to read this situation in completely the opposite way…

    1. ZVA*

      I don’t think there’s any indication it was intentional in the letter. LW says they didn’t think they could get the job they wanted within their company, so they wisely waited til they had another offer before trying to leave that company—at which time their boss, not even knowing about the other offer, offered them the position they’d wanted all along. Nothing intentional there as far as I can tell.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yup. If OP had brought up the job offer with her current boss, then I could see the recruiter’s point (even though she was still overdramatic about it), but she didn’t.

      2. Jwal*

        Ah, okay. I read it as LW approaching her boss about transferring not approaching her boss about resigning. If it was about resigning then that makes sense!

        1. Annoyed*

          That’s how I read it as well. The OP didn’t think a transfer was an option, so she looked for other jobs, and then, after getting the offer, asked about a transfer. It didn’t sound like she accepted the offer, though.

    2. OP #2*

      The below comments are correct – I never even told my current boss or company about the offer. I was two seconds away from accepting the position when my boss said he wanted to keep me and said he’d make a transfer work. I’d vaguely hoped for a transfer, but knew it was both highly unlikely and unusual.

      I told the recruiter I never even mentioned the competing offer, which was actually for better pay and seniority than what I have right now (except, like I said, actually in the field I want a career in). She chose to not believe me, or to take it personally anyway. The people saying she was trying to emotionally manipulate me . . . that rings more true than I want to think. Because my family/friends said the same thing, as did someone else in my line of work when I asked her for advice (she also said to not switch fields because it would limit my career).

      1. Suzanne*

        Read my comment below. My daughter went through a similar thing. Job the recruiter found for her, at the recruiter’s employment agency, was pressuring her to decide within 24 hours. And then was very, very mad she turned them down for a better job that she found on her own. The sad thing is that she really liked the recruiter and would have recommended her to friends, but after her reaction to her taking the other job, nope. Would never tell anyone to use that agency.

      2. Jwal*

        Thanks for clarifying! I think you’re right that she was trying to emotionally manipulate you to ‘close the sale’ as it were. I’m glad it worked out and you were able to get the outcome you were hoping for with your current job :)

      3. LBK*

        I’m still a bit confused – were you planning to even ask your manager if transferring was an option and he just beat you to the punch? Or were you going to just flat-out resign and not mention transferring unless he brought it up?

        Either way, from the outside perspective I can see how the recruiter might think you were just using her offer to get a counter-offer. It doesn’t warrant an emotional response like that, but even as you’ve laid it out here I’m still unsure if that was your intention or not, so I can see how the recruiter might think the same thing.

    3. michelenyc*

      The only thing that stands out to me is the LW assumed that the transfer wasn’t possible instead of just asking her current company if it was an option before beginning a job search. I know in my industry that a majority of companies would not bat an eye if you wanted to move to another office if there was an opportunity available.

      1. Heather*

        It sounds like that’s not the case in the OP’s company, though, and that the boss suggesting a transfer was totally unexpected.

  18. Suzanne*

    #2. My daughter had a similar situation. Desperate for a new job (crazy boss, no benefits) she was going through at recruiter at an employment agency and looking on her own. When it rains, it pours, and she got two offers the same week–one a receptionist job at the employment agency (for which she had to fake sick to get a day off her job to do a day long trial. Seriously) and an admin coordinator at a well known university. She took the university position (better benefits, better pay) and the employment agency recruiter was furious. Daughter sent her a nice thank you for all her efforts (she really liked the woman) and got a terse email in return.

    Really, a relationship with a recruiter is not a marriage. You need to take the job that is best for you.

  19. The Optimizer*

    In the midst of a long, drawn out layoff process, my former coworkers and I found great comfort in the humor of Office Space. My senior teapot analyst and I changed the name on his software to Bill Lumbergh, had a good laugh and forgot about it. Our boss, who also happened to be the VP of compliance for this highly regulated industry, took his job Very Seriously and was prone to panic. One day, which just happened to be April 1st, we hear him shouting from his office, “Who the hell is Bill Lumbergh and why is he accessing our files?!?!”
    We could barely contain ourselves as we tried to explain things to this man who didn’t have much of a sense of humor and had never seen the movie. He was relieved that it was just a joke but did not find It funny at all. To this day, I’m quite sure that we still get credit for the best April Fools’ Day workplace prank ever!

  20. Christine*

    1. Should I really do mediation with my incompetent boss?
    I wonder if your manager was just thrown out there to sink or swim, and his/her supervisor isn’t willing to give them the tools needed to perform. The OP’s manager may not be able swim that well. I’ve had jobs like that, I was lucky I was able to swim, but there was times that I had to go around my supervisor to get the tools I needed because one was a road block. OP — do not assume that your manager is incompetent. It could be that someone hasn’t taken the time to help them put the pieces together in a way that they understand. Has anyone under the manager taken the time to explain the process? The manager’s manager may not know or isn’t willing to take the time to do any training. A talking to will not help, if not given the tools to succeed. It just adds to the anxiety.

    1. LBK*

      Whether that’s the case or not, it’s not the OP’s problem to solve, and sitting down for mediation isn’t going to do anything to fix it. And even if the manager just hasn’t been trained well enough, there’s only so long you can get them a pass/the benefit of the doubt before it just doesn’t matter anymore – if it’s impacting the OP’s ability to do her job because she’s spending all her time covering for her manager, it doesn’t really matter why.

      1. Christine*

        You’re right. If I was in their position I resent the hell out of doing a mediation in this instance. I think a mediation should take place before a grievance can be filed or two individuals are having issues working together.

    2. Suzanne*

      Christine, I say AMEN! I’ve been thrown into jobs with no tools and only a slim idea of what I was supposed to accomplish. So, true. The manager may have no clue how he/she fits into the bigger picture. I liken it to being asked to cook something very complex when you were asked if you knew how to cook but no one asked you if you knew how cook something like a soufflé and no one mentioned that it was for a formal dinner of 30 people. Knowing how to make oatmeal is cooking, but soufflé for a crowd is an entirely different skill.

  21. Greg*

    for number 4 is there a chance that the name is real? I mean we have a john connor at my company.

      1. Rater Z*

        Whr I work now, we had a lines leader whose name is James Bond. I asked him one time if the people under him called him “007”. He just smiled and said they knew better. I always liked him and wish he was still there as he would have been my supervisor’s boss now.

    1. NW Mossy*

      In my industry, we work with payroll data so we can see individual names. Years ago, a colleague and I had a game called “Who’s Coming to the Picnic?” – every time we stumbled across someone whose first or last name was a food, we’d chuckle to each that we’d found another guest for the picnic.

    2. MoinMoin*

      Went to school with a John Cochran, Peter Parker, and Jenna Talia (she could have gone by Jennifer but… chose not to…) and worked with a Matt Foley.

  22. Jessica*

    So I definitely misread #1 and thought that *meditation* was being suggested, not mediation. “Boss is just too anxious, but he can’t seem to improve that on his own, so we’re all going to do meditation together to help him calm down!!” Even the first couple sentences of Alison’s response made sense substituting meditation: yeah, meditation is good in some circumstances but isn’t really appropriate here…. It wasn’t until I got to the part about possible fall-out over things said during mediation that I realized my mistake. Then again, forced office meditation is definitely within the realm of the possible based on past AAM letters!

    1. Murphy*

      It wouldn’t be my first suggestion in this case, but if supervisor is anxious, he may actually benefit from some meditation!

  23. overcaffeinatedqueer*

    Defriend your boss, LW!

    When I had my first job after college in my small hometown, a lot of the close office were FB friends and wanted to friend me; but I didn’t, even though we got along, because doing so would mean that I couldn’t be comfortable being openly lesbian on my own page (my county voted 70% for a state amendment banning same sex marriage, a few months after I left and started law school).

    You also might not feel comfortable whining, posting about work, or being silly on your page if you are friends on FB with your boss.

  24. Persephone Mulberry*

    On #4: my MS Office came with some random but real-person-sounding name defaulted into the Author field. I never really gave it much thought, and never made a concerted effort to find the setting to change it. But now I’m wondering if that looks weird/suspicious on things like my resume (which I never send out in Word format if I can help it, but still).

  25. JustAnotherHRPro*

    #4 – Hermione Granger is the “owner” of all the files on my work computer. Nobody has said anything like I need to change it, and in fact several people have commented that its funny.

    To me – having a sense of humor at work sometimes makes it more bearable, and as long as the name isn’t offensive, I say keep it. sometimes it just makes work a little less stuffy and serious.

  26. Caroline*

    I receive Word files from outside people all the time in my job, and you wouldn’t believe how common it is to have science fiction names as the embedded author name. So many Lord of the Rings names it’s not even funny. OK actually it’s really funny. It is not a computer virus–it’s just a document made by a geek! No worries.

    1. Trillian*

      Plus the geeks are more likely to know to suspect where that information goes, after you’re forced to agree to the vague wording of the EULA. I am unimaginative. I use my initials, which are probably in the top 20 most common combos in the English-speaking world.

      1. Random Citizen*

        Wait – how did you get a hobbit name? Did you make it up? Did someone give it to you? I want one!!

  27. Sketchee*

    LW#3 Consider adding the boss to your Facebook Restricted List. It’s the same as unfriending, except they stay in your friend list and can still use messenger. All non-public posts will be hidden from view

  28. Emily*

    #2 – I something similar happen to me once. I received an offer from a company that I’d interviewed through a recruiter for, and another offer from a company that I’d interviewed with directly on my own. When the recruiter made me an offer, I had already had the other offer pending for a couple days, and told her I would like a couple of days to make my decision since I had another offer on the table. She was stunned that I wouldn’t immediately take her offer, and demanded to know the specifics of my other offer, and why I hadn’t informed her that I was job-searching outside of her agency. She reluctantly agreed to give me a couple of days to decide (mind you, she made me the offer late on a Friday afternoon!), only to call me back 10 minutes later and tell me if I didn’t call her by 8:00 AM the following morning with a decision, the job would be off the table. I told her right then and there that I was no longer interested in the job if that was the case. She told me I was making a huge mistake and was regretful that she had “put in so much work” only for me to turn down the offer. Very unprofessional!

  29. Interviewer*

    #2 – “The teapot manufacturing field is harsh and over half of new people leave, get fired, or squeezed out in five years.”

    This made me laugh out loud. Thank goodness it’s harsh! Otherwise Alison wouldn’t have a lot of questions to answer, or “Worst Boss of the Year” contests, or a huge number of us waiting on pins and needles for updates.

  30. slick ric flair*

    Am I the only one who finds the “teapot” verbiage makes it harder to offer advice?

    Sometimes things are field specific, so for example the “Tiny Teapot Project Manager” vs “Teapot Manager” could mean all kinds of things. Is it engineering, where maybe you don’t have the technical qualifications? Are they different jobs entirely, like Project Manager vs Program Manager? How junior is the “Tiny Teapots” position? Or are they very similar, like a Project Leader vs Project Manager, or Jr Rep vs Rep?

    I’m not saying you have to give your exact job, but how far people go to hide their jobs here makes it harder to wrap my head around where they are coming from.

    1. Susan C.*

      Eh, you have some information loss, but I imagine it’s also warding off many ‘false positives’ – a lot of terminology means *vastly* different things between fields, sometimes even between companies, so filing off the serial numbers and supplying relevant context explicitly probably somewhat prevents people from (wrongly) filling in the gaps. It’s a trade-off.

    2. Original Poster #5*


      OP here. It’s not engineering. I have the qualifications. TTPM and Teapot Manager are virtually identical. My coworkers do not know why I am not a Teapot Manager and why I have this other title instead.

    3. animaniactoo*

      I discovered last week that according to our current social media policy I am never supposed to discuss the company where I work on social media including blogs like this one, except anonymously – both me and the company. So the Teapots construct is really useful for that. Because my company is one of 3 that does the kind of work that I do, and is one of the top 2 players in the field. I have previously mentioned exactly what I design, but it’s buried now, and with just a few details it would be extremely easy to figure out who I work for (and probably even who I am within my company). I’ve mentioned it on other sites where I’ve discussed what I do briefly for the purpose of making a point about the kinds of products in general, but here I talk about the company and people within the company and the need for anonymizing it is much greater.

    4. LQ*

      Do we have all the information? No. But you’d have to have ALL the information, and that’s not going to happen. I think asking for clarification is good, but so is offering advice with your own qualifications. The advice isn’t only for the OP, I find myself frequently looking at things and thinking about how I could apply them when it is a similar situation (or even seems similar). I think it would be bad for someone to be afraid to write in because they were concerned they’d be identified because there was an expectation of the serial numbers being left on. It’s ok to generalize in an advice column.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, sometimes I do think the teapots construction makes things harder to understand and I’ll write back to the letter-writer and ask if they’d be willing to send me a version using real details. (In fact, the letter coming later this afternoon is one where I did that.) And sometimes I think people add in teapots where they don’t need to have anything at all (and in those cases I’ll sometimes edit it out because I think it can be confusing for new readers who don’t know it’s a site convention).

      None of which really speaks to your point; it’s just possibly interesting trivia.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        I can attest to the new reader confusion. One of the first letters I read here was the one about the employees who refused to call a coworker by her name. In a comment, the OP referred to her workplace as a small, diverse group of teapot makers. I had the amusing but very odd image of a company full of hipsters making handpainted artisanal teapots all day.

        It didn’t take long to catch on, of course. Now when I’m frustrated about work, I imagine how I’ll describe my job in teapot terms in my letter.

  31. animaniactoo*

    For #1 – I would push back and ask what the intended goal of the mediation is, and how it is expected to address the issues. I suspect that you won’t be able to get out of doing it, so to address your suspicion that you will be asked to do a bunch of workarounds because the anxiety is a medical thing (and therefore you’re thinking ADA, right?):

    Evaluate each workaround request carefully. Go in with an open mind that you’re going to be willing to do at least some of them, because if it works then it solves this situation and you can deal with a better office environment and workflow. Give this that benefit of the doubt. With that in mind, evaluate which ones are major impact on you, and which ones are minor. Then push back on the major ones as being unreasonable to ask, given the impact on you of accommodating them. Because this is the key – the ADA stresses making *reasonable* accommodations, not any and all accommodations. So if you genuinely think that something is going to be too much of a problem, this is your place to make that case and say that it’s an unreasonable ask. Agree to whatever you feel that you *can* reasonably accommodate both because you really *should* be trying to accommodate what you can and so that you will be taken more seriously when you push back on the ones that you have major objections on.

  32. Anonymous Educator*

    For #2, regardless of how the recruiter feels personally (“I put in so much work. I can’t believe this didn’t work out. Did this candidate just jerk me around?”), she should still act professionally and just say she’s sorry it didn’t work out. Her job isn’t to get hung up on a particular candidate. Her job is to find a good candidate who takes the job. Sometimes it will work out, and sometimes it won’t.

    Just as candidates shouldn’t get too emotionally invested in a “dream job,” recruiters shouldn’t get emotionally invested in dream candidates.

  33. Anonymous 40*

    #3 – I worked at a place back in 2010 where everyone friended everyone. One of the executive assistants had a very firm policy of not friending people she worked with. It completely floored me at first because the idea that someone didn’t automatically friend of everyone they new was so foreign to me.

    But then I thought about how annoying it was that everyone in the office knew everything about me and how much of the “good natured” teasing that went on there had nothing to do with work. I adopted her policy at my next job and have never regretted it for a second. I’ve worked with a lot of people I really liked and respected since then but setting firm boundaries between professional and personal worlds was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    In my current job, I’m friends with two coworkers because I knew them previously. One’s the neighbor who recommended me for this job and the other’s a guy from the FB-happy job that I recommended.

  34. Maria*

    I just spent a few minutes wondering how sitting quietly and connecting with the universe could cure incompetence. Mediate, not meditate! *smacks head*

  35. The claims examiner*

    I once found 70 fake loan applications, I’m assuming from some kind of training, that were filled out for nearly every character from LotR. They were scanned directly to our client folder from a copier in house. I think I still have them. I told help desk and they didn’t seem to care.

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