coworker is bringing daily gifts to our team lead, coaching a combative employee, and more

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

1. Coworker is bringing daily gifts to our team lead

My coworker and I have a situation we were hoping you might be able to give us some guidance on. At my company, each department has at least one team lead on each shift. They basically act as a shift supervisor and report to the department manager. Each lead has a certain number of direct reports who they are responsible for but all work together to manage workflow and assignments for the day.

One of the leads — I’ll call her Julie — shares cubicle space with my coworker and me and is new to the role, less than six months. She has not been in any management type position at this company, but has at previous jobs. There is a tech in her dept, Mary, who is not doing so well. She’s had documented attendance and performance issues and has been placed on a PIP. Mary has been bringing in gifts for Julie every day. It started with coffee or office supplies, like colorful Post-It notes and funky pens; however, the gifts keep getting bigger. Two weeks ago, there was a ring from Kay (not crazy expensive, but a ring nonetheless). That felt a little inappropriate because its jewelry, but that was nothing compared to last week, when she gave Julie a brand new iPad.

We don’t know if we should intervene at all and bring it up to the department manager or just ignore it. She isn’t technically a direct report of Julie’s, but Julie does have the ability to assign her work or tell her what to do. The whole situation seems inappropriate and we’re a little uneasy with it. She has been out of work, so neither of us has been able to ask about it, but now we don’t know what to do with this information. I should note, we don’t know if Julie herself has said anything to the department manager (or anyone else higher up). Considering the timing of when the gift was given, it’s likely she hasn’t since it was late on a Friday night when all the department managers were gone for the week.

Say something to your manager. The best case scenario here is that Julie just doesn’t realize how inappropriate this is — and in that best case scenario, she needs someone to intervene and explain that to her. The worst case scenario is that Julie is intentionally taking advantage of the power she has over Mary. Either way, your manager needs to know.

You can frame it this way: “I feel awkward watching this and felt like I needed to bring it to your attention in case you weren’t aware of it.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Coaching a combative, negative employee

I have an employee who I would really like to succeed, but her reputation precedes her and makes it difficult for her to get ahead. She has an us vs them mentality when it comes to management and often times takes a combative approach when discussing employee issues, policy changes, updates, or general feedback. It makes other departments shy away from her, and promotional opportunities are denied due to her attitude. I appreciate her involvement in the department and employee issues, but she is so against management that is makes it hard to work with her (and out of all the jobs I have had, I’ve never worked for a place that cares more about its employees and ideas for improvement). She constantly butts in when it’s really not her business and stirs the pot when there is no need for it.

She and I have come a long way, and she has confided to me that she would like a promotion because of all the years she has worked here. How do I impress upon her that in our divisions, promotions are earned based on skill and not given out due to longevity? If I were her, I would be learning basic Excel/Word skills and brushing up on email skills. I know she isn’t doing that on her own time. Her skills with our internal system and knowledge are top notch and if the rest of this could change, I could see her blossoming.

If an opportunity presents itself, I am not sure her computer skills would be up to par and, frankly, her attitude makes it difficult to want to see her in a position I could possibly hire for. I do not want to spend my days/hours with somebody who constantly questions and complains in a non-constructive way. If she could couch her opinions in more positive and useful feedback, I feel like she would get further ahead. I’ve had talks with her before, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. Any advice? Or is that people don’t change and I need to let the chips fall where they may?

Many people do change … and many people do not. If you’ve talked with her about these issues multiple times and not seen any change, she’s probably in the second category, at least for now. That said, how direct have you been with her about all this? If you haven’t been very direct and instead have tried to sugarcoat it for politeness’s sake, you could try one final time, and this time be quite blunt. But if that doesn’t work, it’s probably time to give up on that and instead start thinking about whether it even makes sense to keep her in the job she’s in (let alone promote her, which I definitely wouldn’t do without serious changes).

3. Differences in dress codes for men and women

I’m a woman working in a very conservative, corporate office in a male-dominated industry. I’m about six months in to my one-year contract and am quite junior in the industry. The office has a business-formal dress code (suits and ties only for most of the year, suits without ties on Fridays in the summer) for their professional staff. Support staff wear business casual. All of the professional-level men wear suits. But the women will often wear what I would categorize as upper-end business casual: sheath dresses with a cardigan, blouse with dress pants and either no jacket or contrasting jacket.

I wear a suit every day. I like them, I feel comfortable in them, and I love not having to think about my wardrobe every morning. But is this putting me at some sort of disadvantage? Do I look like I don’t know how to dress properly? Is there a difference between business attire for men and women? Or is this just a weird cultural thing because there aren’t that many women in the office who aren’t support staff?

It’s true that business dress can be hazier for women; while there’s a pretty clear business-formal uniform for men (suit and tie), there’s a lot more leeway for women, which is why what you’re seeing isn’t an uncommon way for things to play out in business-formal offices. There’s a lot of haziness around business casual as well; in fact, a lot of people would say that what you’ve described as “upper-end business casual” is just regular old “business wear.”

In any case, in the context you’ve described, I think you’re fine wearing suits every day if you prefer it. (Or at least that’s true as you’re not in an office that puts a lot of emphasis on clothes; if you are, you’d want to either move more toward what you’re seeing more senior women wear, or make a deliberate decision not to care.) However, if you’re uncertain about it, you could always ask a more senior woman in your office whose judgment you trust. It’s very likely that you’re going to hear that what you’re doing is fine, but you’d get some peace of mind that way.

4. Temp agencies called my references — to pitch their services

I have signed up with two nationally well-known temp agencies. Both agencies were very aggressive in asking for my professional references (despite me having had no interviews or offers of work) and both have contacted my references, not so much about ME but rather to see if they could book an appointment to discuss my references’ hiring needs. Needless to say, a couple of my references are highly annoyed at this intrusion (one has been called repeatedly by multiple recruiters for an appointment) and I am deeply embarrassed.

I realize the actions of the staffing agencies are not illegal but it certainly seems shady to me. How do I handle this in the future? Do I refuse to give references unless an actual job offer has been made? Do I caution recruiters not to solicit my references (and no doubt risk angering them and maybe getting me blacklisted)? I’m starting to think I need to leave staffing agencies alone altogether!

That’s incredibly obnoxious of them. To avoid it in the future, you could try saying this the next time a staffing agency asks for your references: “Can you tell me how you use these names? Is it simply to obtain references for me, or do you also pitch the agency? I ask because I had an agency pitch themselves to my references in the past, and several of them were really turned off to have their info used that way, to the point that I worry about jeopardizing them as references if it happens again.”

5. My mother’s coworkers are complaining about my driving

I give my mother a ride to and from work. I have a loud car and I drive fast, and she has had coworkers complain about me. Bottom line, can she be punished for something she has no control over?

Yes. It would be weird (but legal) for them to discipline her for it, but it would be very normal for them to tell her that she needs to ensure that the person driving her drives safely in their parking lot and around their building. Why not just slow down and stop whatever’s causing the complaints?

{ 414 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #5 needs to grow up and drive responsibly. The noise is IMHO not a big deal although annoying but fast driving around a parking lot or a building entrance where people are arriving is unsafe and the response to hearing the complaints should be to fix the problem not ask if ‘it is legal.’ I’d rather fire Mom than have one of my employees hit by a careless driver.

    #2 why do you want to retain this employee much less promote them? Someone who has burned through several departments and is a PITA to peers and management alike can’t be worth the negative impact they are having. I’d be very clear about why she isn’t being promoted and how she has been and is being perceived and what she needs to do to change and then get rid of her if she doesn’t make rather immediate strides to be easier to work with.

    #1 Wow. That seems tremendously abusive. Is Mary from another culture/country? There are parts of the world where gift giving is pretty aggressive, but even there this would look like either bribery or abuse. It is hard to imagine Julie is not aware how inappropriate a gift of an Ipad from a subordinate is even if she didn’t see the little gifts as a big deal. Julie needs to be not managing if she hasn’t either reported the situation herself and/or returned the large ticket items. And someone needs to let Mary know that this is inappropriate as well.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      The noise might be able to be fixed. Take the car to a reputable mechanic and see what they say. I had a neighbor years ago who deliberately made his engine sound louder and would rev the engine at all times of the day and night. You can bet that other neighbors hated him and trouble was stirred up over it.

      1. Anonymously*

        My read was that it’s intentional noise. People do that, though I personally have never understood why! I imagine I’d get a lot of headaches.

        1. Mike C.*

          It could be any combination of intentional modifications for noise, factory settings or intentionally using a low gear while revving the engine at high RPMs for increased power.

        2. BPT*

          Yeah, every time I hear loud cars or motorcycles reving, all I can think of is “they’re extremely insecure and are compensating for something.” May not be the case, but that’s the impression I get. OP5, if you slow down, drive like an adult, and try not to garner so much attention, you will probably be better received in a lot of areas, including your mother’s workplace.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Motorcycles are loud for a reason. It’s a safety thing so you pay attention to the fact they exist. When your motorcycle sounds more like a car people are oblivious to you. I have riders in my family; and use to enjoy being a passenger on rides with my dad. He rode a 2008 BMW KGT 1200 (for bike enthusiasts) It sounded like a car and people would nearly hit us constantly. I noticed people were quite a bit more conscious of the growly Harley’s and other cycles that were well loud.

            1. Charlie*

              Multiple studies have confirmed that there is no distinguishable advantage to loud motorcycles; there is no safety difference, statistically. Motorcyclists love to justify riding intolerably loud motorcycles on this basis, but all it does is confuse people.

              The reason people hit motorcycles is not because they can’t hear them, it’s because there’s cognitive processes that tend to “edit out” unexpected or novel stimuli from visual processing of highly familiar areas.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I almost hit one once when changing lanes because he was hovering right in my blind spot. I looked in my mirror and behind me and when I started to change, he roared up beside me and yelled at me. Good grief, man, drive where people can freaking see you then. I’m SAW-RY.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              The NTSB has passed a regulation stating that electric cars have to be louder by X year, for those reasons.

              Living in Harley country, however, I might say that Harleys could still be heard and distinguishable without being quite as loud as they are. ;) But Harley owns the rights to that noise (either a Patent or a Trademark, and too lazy to google which right now) and that isn’t ever going to change.

              1. Mabel*

                I would love it if my Prius made noise when the electric engine was running! Not being able to hear a car coming is bad in all sorts of ways.

                1. cataloger*

                  My Chevrolet Volt has an automatic “pedestrian alert” sound, somewhere between a whirr and a chime.

                1. anon for this*

                  Actually it’s so the blind can better hear them at places like cross walks. A car that doesn’t make much noise can make it seem to someone solely dependent on their hearing to be a safe time to cross.

              2. Mike C.*

                Man, I’ve had those sneak up on me before – all you need is a little wind and you can’t notice them at all.

            3. LawBee*

              Loud motorcycle engine is one thing. Sitting at the red light outside my office window and constantly revving the engine just for kicks is something entirely different.

            4. Not So NewReader*

              BMW R90/6, here. Over 100k miles as a passenger.
              Beemers do sound like cars… well in terms of loudness they are not very loud. Nothing truly sounds like a BMW bike. Even our dog knew which sound was the bike. He’d run to the window when he heard a BMW. (Friends had BMWs also, the dog was really motivated to run to the window.)

              Just wanted to go on record that not all bikers think loud is good, nor do they think it adds to safety as some people can get very ticked and start doing a road rage thing.

              My vote is for air horns. Nothing like an air horn to make other drivers wake up. Motorcycle safety courses emphasize the use of space cushions because on a bike all you really have is prevention.

              I doubt OP has loud mufflers for safety, though.

          2. Lunchy*

            I think the same about the noise! Whenever I’m riding shotgun and an engine revs up loudly like that, I turn to the driver and say, “Why can’t *you* be cool like that guy?”

            Seriously OP, slow down. This your mom’s job we’re talking about. The impression you give reflects on her. It’s not too much to ask you to go 25mph for a minute or so. If you’re rushing because you also have somewhere to be, then leave earlier. It’s as simple as that.

          3. JessaB*

            Actually the motorcycle thing is for a reason. One of the reasons why bikers ride obnoxiously loud is because it makes drivers pay attention to them even if it ticks them off. They’re actually less likely to get hit by an inattentive driver. It stinks that they have to do that, but it’s become a thing now and a lot of people forget WHY the thing started.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yeah, I have met a lot of bikers and no one ever mentioned loud and safety in the same sentence, maybe the word loud and the f bomb, though. Many touring riders are less interested in loudness, their focus is on comfort, eas of use and so on.

        3. SleepyMel*

          In defense of us loud music players, listening my music turned up in my car is a freedom i would never want to lose. That said, I keep my windows rolled up. Not everyone wants to do that though…it’s not always about immaturity as much as just being an audiophile. Speeding is dangerous and something I never do in parking lots. That, IMHO, actually IS a matter of maturity. Because at some point you grow up and realize how easily you could hit someone, end their life and ruin your own by doing that.

      2. Tempest*

        My take on this is that this person thinks they are living in The Fast and The Furious and are the next Dom or Letty and drives thusly.

        The modified car is what it is, but when you have your mom in your car and are in built up areas in the middle of the day slow the hell down and drive like a person holding other people’s safety in your hands.

        If you want to race you can generally find tracks that do pay for use and modified car days. It doesn’t belong in car parks where people are working and you really shouldn’t be causing your mother to get comments on your inconsiderate driving. Keep these antics on the race track where they belong. I say this as someone who’s been involved with supercars and modified cars since before The Fast and The Furious was a thing.

        1. LavaLamp*

          It’s entirely possible that the OP isn’t going fast but is perceived that way due to the noise. An ex bf of mine had altered his car to sound faster than it was (we’re not going into the times his driving almost killed me) but he did get pulled over a couple of times and was able to point out that said officer just pulled him over due to it SOUNDING fast and since he wasn’t clocked on a radar he got out of that ticket. But seriously, if you’re doing what I think your doing OP, stop. It’s all fun and games until you don’t have a driver’s license anymore.

          I also have a neighbor with a Subaru that’s modified to sound fast. With the snow there’s no way it’s going up my street quickly, but it sure sounds like a drag race. I do want to point out that Loud doesn’t always equal fast although in this case the OP has stated they like driving that way.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            In a similar situation, my high school age son got road-raged on by a middle-age man who was apparently the self-appointed boss of the neighborhood. The guy threw a football at my son’s car to get him to stop, asked him to get out of his car, and then pushed him. (My son shouldn’t have stopped or got out, but he was 16.)

            He thought my son was going too fast in the neighborhood. I’m the first to admit that he does drive fast, but he said he wasn’t at that time (just turned into a neighborhood and had a friend’s mom as a witness). He has a 1998 4Runner. It’s old and loud. I’ve been riding with him other times when people standing on the streets give him the “lower” hand gesture to slow down, and look over and he’s going 30 (the speed limit).

            That said, even though perceptions aren’t always accurate, it doesn’t hurt to slow down and be cautious.

          2. Nolan*

            When I was younger, I had an old clunker. The muffler was attached to the body of the car, but not the rest of the exhaust, so it was extremely loud when it should not have been. I got pulled over specifically for the noise once, the officer heard me from way down the street, caught up to me at a red light, then pulled me over as soon as it went green and I had to press the accelerator.

            I now drive a tiny turbocharged hot hatchback, and it is also very loud, but by design so it’s a different kind of loud. I’ve never been pulled over for the sound, and I do *really* enjoy the noises this car makes. But I don’t drive with gusto through town centers and parking lots, and I keep the volume as low as possible at night, in tight residential areas, etc.

            #5 sounds like they just don’t use that kind of discretion when dropping mom off, when they should be dialing it back a notch in a parking lot or congested area.

          3. Lance*

            It’s possible, but considering the wording (‘I have a loud car and I drive fast’), I’m inclined to believe that they are, in fact, driving fast. Which, ultimately, needs to stop, especially in parking lots where people can and will be walking.

            1. Jill*

              I guess I’d like to know why OP#5 is concerned with the “is this legal” aspect of the issue when He/she should be concerned with his mother’s reputation at work. If I was doing something that gave my parents a bad name or embarrassed them in front of co-workers and bosses, I’d be mortified.

              And I’d STOP DOING THAT THING.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        The noise might be able to be fixed, but a family where the mother needs dropped off at work by her son may not have the money to do the fixing. Older cars are often loud.

        But it seems to me OP5 wrote in to AAM simply to try to win an argument with his mother. Since he lost this one, I hope he slows down in the parking lot. If he doesn’t, mom needs to see about alternate transportation or getting him to drop her off a block away.

    2. Michele*

      I hadn’t thought about the cultural aspect to #1. My mind went straight to they were having an affair and were really bad at keeping it secret. Your answer is more likely, though. Of course, I could be saying that because we just had our corporate training on what is and isn’t appropriate gifting, and they sort-of addressed the cultural thing.

      The real issue is with Julie accepting the gifts. Graciously accepting some post-it notes once is one thing, but any manager should know not to accept some gift worth hundreds of dollars. She should have shut that down long ago.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        If they were having an affair, the gifting would be done in private when they are meeting to have the affair, not in front of the entire office, I’d hope!

    3. OutThere*

      I work with (around) a #2 and a lot of times it’s one of those “been here forever, knows everyone, institutional knowledge is too great” situations. They aren’t negative or interfering ENOUGH to outbalance the rest, but just an ongoing thorn in side thing. And then if they are something of a pet to even one powerful exec, it’s generally just not worth the effort to build a case against them.

    4. Artemesia*

      Yes when they have a long history of being resistant to being managed as does #2.

      The biggest problems in many workplaces is that intolerable behavior is allowed to go on endlessly. A good manager gives feedback and then acts if the employee makes no effort to improve.

      for #1, the employee didn’t ask; the thoughtless child did who is driving Mom and the only concern seems to be how can I keep driving the way I want to. When people complain about someone’s fast driving it is usually pretty egregious; do you want to wait until Fergus is run over to act?

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      I was going to say the same thing about Jukie and the gifts. She should not have accepted them (beyond the office supplies). That would have clued Mary in.

    6. shep*

      My dad was very excited to put a sports muffler on my car when I was in high school. I was (and still am) a very tiny girly-girl, and I think my family appreciated the juxtaposition of this monster-sounding car to my appearance. My first car was an ancient BMW with no AC (in Texas, nonetheless) and no power steering. It had absolutely NO get-up-and-go, so it would positively SCREAM when I tried to get up to the speed limit. I thought the addition of the sports muffler was awesome.

      But my car was SUPER-loud and by the time I was in college, I was mortified by the fact that just trying to accelerate to the speed limit made it sound like I was challenging everyone in the vicinity to a drag race.

      It sounds like OP5 is cool with their car sounding this way, but personally, although I used to be delighted my car was angry and monster-sounding, I couldn’t afford to have the muffler replaced for a simple aural/cosmetic reason once I’d outgrown the delight.

  2. Mags*

    1 – What an odd situation. Honestly, Julie continuing to accept these gifts is as big of an issue as Mary giving them IMO.

    5 – Goodness, perhaps consider not driving in such an unsafe manner. Especially with your mother in the car.

    1. Amber*

      #5 Agreed, the only time I’ve ever been in a car accident is when someone going too fast, hit my car in a parking lot. That person having a truck and mine a sedan meant that they had a scratch while my door had to be replaced. $0 cost to me, the person speeding had to pay for it all.

      1. blackcat*

        This is incredibly common. Just a few weeks ago, I saw a speeding driver in a parking lot nearly take out a pedestrian (I yelled and the pedestrian jumped out of the way. The car still hit his arm and it was very nearly very bad).

        Parking lots are the most common location for accidents. They’re full of pedestrians. It’s the worst place to speed.

        1. Suz*

          Yep. About a month ago I was hit in the parking lot next to my office while I was walking from the bus stop.

      2. Xarcady*

        Yes, I was hit in a parking lot by a speeding car. The driver backed up and raced away. Unfortunately for him, the accident was witnessed by the mayor and the town fire chief, who recorded his license plate number.

        The other owner’s insurance paid for my new rear bumper and tail lights. (And the driver of the car was the 17 year old son of the owner of the classic Thunderbird. Who had lost his license due to DWI. And who was forbidden to even touch the car. Karma has its moments.)

    2. Loose Seal*

      I agree with you on #1. It was one thing when the gift was something cheap and useful for the office, like the post-it’s. I could see how someone would have a hard time knowing if or when to decline those. But the line got crossed here in a big way with the ring and the iPad. Even the cheapest iPad is several hundred dollars and should make anyone realize the gifting is out of control. I don’t even know what to say about the ring. Jewelry seems like such a personal gift that it feels especially icky to accept. Does Julie wear the ring? I’m just curious if she’s accepting because she doesn’t know what to do and then doesn’t use the items but doesn’t know whether to return them either. If she wears the ring, however, that changes things, in my opinion, by making her complicit in the exchange.

      Regardless, I agree with Alison: Tell the manager.

      #5 – Is your driving style so important to you that you are willing to risk your mom’s job? Seems like an easy thing to fix.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes, holy Hanukkah balls! I read the headline and was expecting, like, gifts of Starbucks.

        Mary, save that jewelry and iPad money for if you get fired! Yikes!

      2. Rachael*

        I agree with what you wrote about the gift giving. If someone gave me a ring or an ipad I would be flabergasted and put off. It is just unacceptable. Julie might feel all these things but doesn’t feel comfortable telling the gift giver to stop. I would report it for 2 reasons (1) It is inappropriate and may be due to the power dynamic and Julie is encouraging the gifts (2) Julie actually doesn’t like receiving the gifts and doesn’t know how to say no.

        Either way, you will be helping.

      3. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, I would feel super uncomfortable if someone at work tried to give me a semi-expensive ring or an iPad. The office supplies or occasional Starbucks drink are one thing, but those gifts are too pricey and personal.

        Honestly, I would even feel that way if the gifts were coming from a peer (rather than a subordinate). Julie needs to refuse further gifts and tell Mary to stop. Since she doesn’t appear to be doing that on her own, telling a manager about what’s going on seems like a good next step.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I love, love, love post-it notes and am always on the lookout for something fun and unique.

          I had a staff member bring me these really cute notes and wouldn’t take cash in exchange. It felt super awkward not taking them, but I really disliked having a staff member get me a gift. I used the next opportunity to cover her lunch, which helped me feel a bit more “even.”

    3. snuck*

      I’m flummoxed. Why on earth would a ring and an iPad be given as gifts?

      This is WEIRD.

      A nice pen is a stretch. A gift of some post its even feels a little strange to me (unless they’ve bonded over Sailor Moon and the post its are Sailor Moon themed)…

      I’d report up the chain. Something very odd is going on. And if Julie doesn’t have the nouce to realise it someone should set her straight. If she does…. then someone needs to manage this out.

      Gifts over a small amount are usually expected to be entered on a gift registry – even in team gifts – so you can bet your bottom dollar that your manager will want to know. The iPad and quite possibly the ring will exceed the usual corporate gifting policies… and if there’s a pattern of small gifts then some policies require they are all recorded too – when the value over a shorter period of time exceeds the gift registry limits.

      I’d be betting Mary is brown nosing for something. Or going to get Julie in trouble. Or secretly crushing on her and hoping for a date?

      1. MK*

        Frankly, to me an iPad or a ring are gifts that only family/a significant other/super close friends would give, and even then only on a really important occasion (graduation, landmark anniversary); and the ring even has some “romantic” vibe.

        1. Anna*

          I love my best friend so very much and I still wouldn’t give her an iPad and if I did, she would feel really uncomfortable accepting it.

        1. Mreasy*

          My first thought was, they’re dating and handling it oddly? But yeah you…don’t give those gifts at work, even if coworker’s romances aren’t expressly forbidden like they are in some workplaces. This is so strange!

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            And this would be a supervisor/report romance, which if not forbidden is at least hugely inappropriate pretty much anywhere.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That was my reaction once I saw it reach “ring” status, and then it made me even more worried about the power dynamic.

      2. Catalin*

        When I started reading #1, I was thinking, “Okay, I see how constant coffee/post-it/cutesy small crap could be pretty brown nosy. Then we got to the ring (What the Actual) and an iPad (What? What?). You’re not Christian Grey, knock it off!
        1) if it isn’t less than $5, never gift up. (Cough, bribery)
        2) if the supervisor has ANY clue, she knows rings and iPads are wildly inappropriate for anyone outside of a Billionaire-Cinderella romance novel.

        In a good/great office, the supervisor wouldn’t have accepted the latte without reimbursement for the fetcher.

    4. TL -*

      On #5 – my brother is very good friends with a former racecar driver who now does occasional stunt driving (he was in the last Captain America movie) and when you’re in the car with him on the streets, he is the smoothest, safest driver I’ve ever been in the car with.
      On my brother’s request, they’ve gone to deserted lots and taken vehicles through their paces – turning so hard you literally lift into two wheels – but friend would never drive like that on the streets. He has the skillset to drive safely and does so.

      1. Anonyby*

        Adam Savage has talked about how all the stunt driving he learned on Mythbusters has made him a much better driver. There was even one point where he was driving with one of his sons and something went wrong with the car and reason there wasn’t a wreck was because he had learned.

    5. Jadelyn*

      You know, I’m seeing a lot of conflating of “my car is loud and I drive fast” with “clearly this is an UNSAFE DRIVER who is going to KILL SOMEONE”, which is a bit of a leap. “I drive fast” is…really kind of a subjective claim? For all y’all know, OP5 is perfectly safe on the road (just goes a bit faster than most people – and again, “fast” is a really subjective term when it comes to cars and driving because it varies enormously with the conditions), which makes this look like a lot of moralizing about something we don’t have any grounds to assume (that OP5’s driving is specifically *unsafe*).

      1. Anna*

        The OP for #5 states they drive fast, so we are taking them at their word. They are also asking if their mother could be fired for their driving, which indicates someone may have said something to the OP or their mom. There is no moralizing; we are trusting the OP to report their own behaviors accurately.

        1. Natalie*

          OP specifically says, in fact, that mom’s co-workers have complained.

          I’m sure there’s some circumstance in which the OP is a perfectly normal driver who is being singled out, but if enough people have complained that mom is worried about her job I’m inclined to believe that the OP is not driving sedately.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Again, “I drive fast” is not the same as saying “I am an unsafe driver”, which is what a lot of people are treating it as. That’s all I’m saying.

          1. turquoisecow*

            But the coworkers are perceiving him as an unsafe driver, enough so that they’ve complained about it. Does this mean he comes around the corner in the parking lot at 40mph, but stops in plenty of time, or does this mean that he’s come pretty close to hitting people? Or does it mean that he drives safe and their perceptions are incorrect? We don’t know. But enough people have complained that he’s unsafe to make their complaints hold wait to the OP and to us.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            IDK, “I drive fast” + multiple people have complained makes it more likely that it is unsafe driving, or at least borderline, because it makes it more likely that the OP is driving fast in a parking lot or around pedestrians.

          3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Maybe I have just spent too much time reading about traffic engineering this morning (odd perks of the job), but speed limits are in place for a reason. They are not arbitrary.

            Even if a parking lot does not have a speed limit, the National Motorist Association recommends a *maximum* of 15 mph in a parking lot. And in my state pedestrians always have right-of-way in a parking lot, which really makes going more than 15mph a very dangerous proposition.

      2. Brogrammer*

        I think the responses would have been very different if OP5 had said something more along the lines of, “I’m a conscientious driver, but my car is loud and a lot of people automatically assume the worst.”

        1. Mints*

          Yeah, I actually drive fast in general and especially on freeways, but I’m also a conscientious driver and go really slowly in parking lots because pedestrians have the right of way and they pop out of nowhere. Saying “I drive fast” in the context of parking lots – I think the response is warranted

  3. Bee Eye LL*

    #2 – I work for a city government where employees used to have civil service protection. Some of the ones that have been there a while still have it. As a result, you often get people who are incredibly hard to fire and they stay in one job for years, if not decades. After a while, they can turn bitter and be a real pain to deal with. It sounds like this person is their own worse enemy. If they have that many issues with management, it maybe time for them to look elsewhere. It can be amazing how much a difference it makes to go from one place to another. A fresh start could be in order here.

    1. LW #2*

      OP #2 here! It’s like you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is almost impossible to do anything about negative employees

      1. Bee Eye LL*

        OP #2, do we work together? Hahahah. I call it senior-itis. They are so close to retirement that they’ve totally burned out and just don’t give a darn any more. They know they’ve gotten as far as they can go and are bitter about it. Not much you can do other then wait until they are eligible for retirement then try to coax them out the door.

      2. designbot*

        Can you be honest with her and tell her she’s making just enough of an effort to keep her here but not enough of one to get promoted? If promotion is a real goal for her for money reasons or just pride, that could be something that motivates her to shape up. Just be sure that if you say it, you’re actually willing to follow through if she does change.

      3. MuseumChick*

        Have you tired framing it this as something like “Let’s talk about the promotion opportunity you expressed interest in. Your skills in X and Y are great, but to make you a strong candidate you would need to build your skills in A, B, and C. ” One of the skills to build you could frame “positive relationship with management” or something to that effect. If she pushed back, hold your ground “This is what we look for when in looking to fill a position internally.”

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      We have some employees like that here, but we’re not government. It’s a shame because they’re really nice people, generally speaking, but when their names come up in any conversation with management, there’s a lot of eye rolling.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        We had an employee like that here. They were fantastic at their job, but constantly negative and thought senior leadership were all idiots (and were vocal about it).

        They were the only ones who were surprised when they were first on the list for layoffs. Nobody wanted to work with them.

  4. KR*

    #5 I used to have the loud car too. While I didn’t drive incredibly fast, I’m used to driving defensively, my work was directly off a busy main road and the car was a sports car with a lot of power. Sure it’s legal for you to drive quickly as long as you’re driving safely and don’t risk lives but I think the path of least resistance is to slow down in this particular parking lot. I like to make it a competition with myself to see how absurdly cautious I can drive.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah look, if we’re talking about areas with mixed transportation modes, slow down. You need to be at a speed such that you are aware of surprises and predictable to others – so making a “game” of this might not be the best idea either.

      1. KR*

        Well people’s safety isn’t a game, but as someone who drives fast and knows it, it helps me focus on driving slow when I have to be.

      2. Mookie*

        Actually, defensive driving in many countries is taught, at least in part, as a game (in simulators and on the road), because it provides a proven positive incentive. Same with fuel economy when current fuel efficiency rates are displayed in the dashboard; people conserve more when they’re “competing” for an optimum mpg, L/100 km, km/L. The two also, predictably, correlate: behavior designed to conserve fuel results in safer driving habits.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think KR is describing ways to focus on slower driving while tricking oneself into it being “fun,” as opposed to being a “thing I have to do.” I didn’t get the impression that they were suggesting being cavalier with others’ safety.

    2. blackcat*

      While a parking lot may not be covered by traffic laws (b/c it’s private property), I am sure they are allowed to forbid OP5 from driving on their property all together. That could be enforced by trespassing laws, though the employer may think that the easier solution is just to fire the mother.

      1. Gaia*

        So at least in my city, if a private company posts a traffic sign they *are* covered by traffic laws. So my work parking lot says 5mph. If someone is speeding, my work could call traffic enforcement who will come out and ticket you (or mail a ticket) for speeding in the parking lot.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In my state if you are 20 mph over the limit you lose your license. So in your example here doing 25 would cost OP their license. Then there is what happens to your insurance costs once you finally get that license back.

  5. Graciosa*

    Regarding #3, one aspect that wasn’t addressed is the difference in dress for executive women. When I’ve worked at companies with formal business dress codes, the interesting thing was that the very top level women dressed as the OP described while more junior employees stuck to traditional suits.

    I can think of many possible reasons for this. The women at these levels may feel that they now set the rules, and can dress in a slightly more feminine way (dresses versus suits, brighter colors not found in men’s suiting, etc.). They may be responding to an unwritten code of how to demonstrate power (our top executives violate our dress code with impunity). It could be related to evolving standards in business dress. I don’t really know, and in many ways it just doesn’t matter.

    What matters is that clothing sends messages (intentionally or not). The OP should study the way various levels of the company dress and figure out how she wants to position herself. Every company has its own set of rules.

    I think I’ve mentioned before that our company’s female executives bond over shoes. I wear very plain flats and have no interest in heels, so I carry statement handbags instead – but I know what unspoken rule I’m breaking and I’m doing it deliberately.

    On the other hand, the last time I was in a meeting with our president, I wore sneakers. Dressing up to meet the president is the mark of a junior employee and conveys insecurity in our culture.

    Know your culture.

    1. FTW*

      Agree there is a different standard for business dress for women than men, and that a straight suit for women can read junior.

      As you go up though the ranks, you get a better sense of how and when to break the ‘rules’ to express yourself.

      1. MK*

        Well, the OP is junior. Also, I disgagree that wearing suits is a mark of being junior; perhaps wearing only those can be seen as such. Do the women the OP mentions wear cardigans on a regular basis, or is it just occasionally?

        By the way, I would never think a contrasting jacket is bussiness casual, but here even a man wearing a jacket and trousers that aren’t a suit would be considered bussiness dress. And wearing a blouse without a jacket is me 90% of the time, but I do come into work in the jacket, which is back in my office, ready to be worn. I have found that the optics of a person wearing a skirt or pants with an apropriate top and a jacket hanging somewhere in their office is equated with someone actually wearing the jacket.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Wearing suits can be a mark of being junior in some workplaces, i.e. “I’m dressing up so you’ll take me seriously”. In some workplaces it would be a sign of being completely out of touch with cultural norms. It’s absolutely a know-your-culture thing.

          1. v casual*

            I mentioned this recently on a Corporette post, but junior employees may also not have as extensive a work wardrobe as their senior counterparts, and wear suits more often because that’s what they have in their closet for workwear. (At worst one might look out of touch, but you’d make sure you never become one of those dress code horror stories!) I don’t think it’s as simple as “take me seriously” or “I don’t know what office norms are here”.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree with Graciosa and neverjaunty that it can vary by industry. There are many industries in which “breaking” the suit-rule (for women) translates as being a position so powerful that you get to break rules you want. Those women often still look extremely professional; they just get to be a little less straight-laced. Think Hilary’s extremely colorful pantsuits (or her all-white Tupac suit), or Marissa Mayer’s fancy work dresses. They’re still professional, but they’re not in the same navy/black/gray/pinstripe suit model required of other rank-and-file workers.

          1. Calallily*

            I wish I could dress like her at work – I would ROCK the Tupac suit! But instead we tilt towards casual on the business/casual dress code and I may stick out a tad.

    2. Caity*

      I think some savvy executive women dress more femininely to counter (or perhaps complement?) their (often considered non-feminine) competence and power.

      1. Lora*

        (Disclaimer: I work in biotech, where it isn’t uncommon for the genius dude who has cured several horrible diseases to be flopping around the office in ratty sneakers and a 3-decades-old MIT sweatshirt, so judging by appearance is discouraged in my geographical region.)

        It’s a test. If some ding-dong doesn’t think I’m in charge / underestimates me because I’m wearing a knee-length skirt, 4″ stilettos and lipstick, then he can be safely dismissed as unworthy of my or anyone else’s time.

        Take note, sexist dudes: *other men* also judge you in this fashion. You will literally pay money because other men realize you have poor judgment and fleece you accordingly.

    3. snuck*

      I’ve worked in large corporates in Australia… telco and banking in IT and business change…. and I’d agree to some extent with this.

      You can always tell the contractors and consultants. They wear neat suits and court shoes.

      Very senior staff had more ability to dress away from the norm… think bright colourful but beautifully tailored clothes – blouses and skirts that were immaculate and feminine without being lascivious or compromising modesty. Beautiful fabrics, carefully fitted and tailored, carefully selected items in a range of pastels to soft brights. Immaculate, clean, safe styles… high heels (stiletto heels even) but not tottering plastic things. Shoes that matched the bag and the clothes. Pretty floral dresses tailored – think garden party without the bare shoulders.

      Younger staff would wear a lot of dark, navy, black, grey, tee it up with shell tops… Both were fine, but the aplomb of the senior staff was a mark of their success.

      1. Littlemousling*

        This sounds exhausting. I’m officially grateful for the existence of black suits, black flats, black tights, and black briefcases.

        1. snuck*

          Me too ;)

          Except for the odd moment of madness when I want to look pretty… but one of these outfits is as much effort as I generally stretch to.

          My style is more slightly kooky librarian – suits with feature stitching and longer pencil skirts, patterned stockings, simple shirts in darker colours with dark coloured suits, unusual fabrics.

        2. the gold digger*

          I work with almost all men and, with the exception of the five marketing communications people and the four admins, all engineers.

          I have

          1. A black skirt
          2. A blue skirt
          3. A dark green skirt
          4. An orange skirt

          that I wear with one of

          1. Seven white t-shirts
          2. Four black t-shirts
          3. An orange sweater

          and a pair of

          1. Black heels
          2. Brown heels
          3. Leopard-print heels

          My life is so, so easy now. There is no worry about clothes at all.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I need to do this. Unfortunately, all my clothes come either from Walmart and are wash-and-wear because I don’t make enough money to afford dry cleaning. Or better clothes, unless I get them from the department store remainder shop.

            And ironically, I got paid much more at NewExJob but we all wore jeans and t-shirts every day. :P At least I managed to get some good shoes while I was there.

            1. Not A Morning Person*

              Check Goodwill or consignment places. I know several women and men who dress very nicely in their Goodwill finds.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                OH my yes! Thrift stores can be cheaper than Walmart and you get better quality. There is so much available that you can be choosy and still come home with a bag full of stuff. For the price, if you get tired of it then you just get rid of it, guilt free.

        3. Jadelyn*

          I’m with you. My company went to a casual dress code this year (jeans and neat tops, no tshirts – guys tend to wear polos or plain black tshirts since nobody minds those) so it’s gotten even easier, but even prior to that my standard mode of dress was black slacks, black sandals (summer) or boots (winter), and colorful camisoles or shells under black or grey cardigans in various styles. I have…two dresses and one tunic top that I can pair with tights or leggings and boots in fall or spring, and one summer dress that I wear once in awhile, but I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to do fashion beyond that tbh.

      2. Chinook*

        snuck, I think there is one other aspect at play when more senior staff dress as you describe – money and time to build a wardrobe (which senior staff both have).

        When starting out, two suits and three blouses are infinitely cheaper than a minimum 5 dresses plus matching shoes and will last longer (in a fashion sense) if you go with classic cut and neutral colours. It is only once you have time to build not only a sense of what looks good on you while still feeling comfortable plus the money to buy beautifully tailored clothing that you can really pull of the look senior staff often have. There is no way I could have the closet I have now when I started my professional career 20 years ago – my money was too tight and I had no clue what would look good and still be functional (plus my favourite clothing website didn’t exist even as a concept, but atleast I had more options for clothing made of decent quality fabric in the local stores)

        1. Trig*

          This whole thread is feeding my lack of ambition. If being a senior staff member means I have to fork over my cash to buy beautifully tailored clothing, I don’t ever want to get there! I’ll stick to whinging over paying average prices for off-the-sale-rack stuff, thanks.

          (Realistically, I know to look for jobs where the corporate culture matches my somewhat ascetic aesthetic. Thankfully I work in hi-tech, which trends toward startup culture.)

          1. RKB*

            I get $150 dresses for $20 at Banana Republic, $50 skirts for $10 at J Crew, and all sorts of discounts at other stores. Combining store percentages + coupons on clearance and waiting for the right time saves you hundreds of dollars. Looking professional can be budget buying off the sales rack!

    4. Katie the Fed*

      ” the interesting thing was that the very top level women dressed as the OP described while more junior employees stuck to traditional suits”

      I dressed much more formally when I was younger. But I was also skinny and J. Crew/Banana suits looked awesome. Now I’m older and fatter and suits don’t look so great anymore – they’re not great for well-endowed women :/

      1. Central Perk Regular*

        As a woman with a pretty ample chest size, I agree with you that suits are not flattering on me. I did find one at The Limited years a decade ago that looks okay and thats what i wear for interviews. Its classically cut and a dark charcoal gray.

        I know I need to buy a more updated one but I can never find any that look halfway decent on me and honestly, I dont want to spend $300 on something that i might wear twice a year.

      2. sam*

        This is definitely a part of it for me as well – when I was very junior, I wore suits all the time (it was also the 90s, so it was a slightly different time). When you first get out of school and into the workforce, the easiest thing to buy can tend to be a series of suits (or suit-like separates) that can be like a uniform.

        As you get older/more senior in your profession, you start to learn what your actual style is a bit more. I haven’t worn an actual suit in years – I’m all about dresses and separates. It’s part style, and also part being both plus-sized and short – buying an actual suit is…complicated…to say the least.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Oh, heaven forbid your proportions be out of line with what clothing designers seem to think is acceptable! I’ve got a friend in the same boat (plus-sized and short) who complains bitterly about finding anything that fits her… and my sister is in the opposite boat, she’s tall but skinny, and every clothing line seems to assume that if you’re over 5’10”, you must be built like a truck. Any pants that are long enough for her have a waistline about double what she needs.

          1. BPT*

            I’m short and curvy, so I know the struggles! That’s funny about the second friend – I would have thought that being 5’10” and skinny is exactly who designers create for, since that’s what’s on the runway. But now that I’m thinking about it – maybe that’s only for very high end clothes (that tend to run smaller anyway). I guess in your average store it’ll be different.

              1. halpful*

                I’m short and my limbs are curvy, but my waist is in-between. I’ve had to pass on a lot of pants without belt loops, or with no size wide enough for my calves (and of course they all need hemming); skirts that either fall off or slide up almost to my bra; shirts with no shoulder space, shirts that fit my shoulders but would show my breasts at the slightest touch, even jackets that don’t fit my *forearms* of all things!

                I love those short yoga pants that end at the calf and have both drawstring and elastic. But winter actually came this year, and a lot of my long pants are a bit on the tight side. :/ I’m also wondering how I bought four pairs of leggings without noticing the cheap synthetic fabric itches 15 minutes after I put them on. (one, sure, but four? I went back and bought more?)

                maybe I should just throw out all my old pants and let my waistline grow to match my thighs ;)

          2. Not A Morning Person*

            For the tall thin person, try Talbot’s in longs, Eddie Bauer in Talls, Lands End in tall, Long Elegant Legs (online), and Long Tall Sally (online) and I’m sure there are more. As a tall person, I will buy the talls and longs and still have to hem them, but it’s better than having pants that are too short. And it was nice to find tall sized dresses in the Lands End catalog this past summer.

      3. Purest Green*

        I have broad shoulders and a larger chest compared to the rest of me, but I wouldn’t claim to be well-endowed. Point is, I haven’t found a button-up that fits me properly – it’s either gape city or little girl in daddy’s shirt. I’m therefore convinced button-ups simply aren’t made to fit most women, period. And maybe I’m looking in the wrong stores but every suit blazer I’ve seen has shoulder pads. I don’t understand why designers think women don’t have shoulders. Haven’t they seen us?

          1. Artemesia*

            Especially one of those inside pockets that all men’s jackets have. I still have an ancient — probably 30 year old — tweed jacket that I always loved that I got when Joseph Banks sold women’s clothes that has one of those pockets inside. Perfect for a flat wallet to be secure or glasses. Now as an old who travels a lot I make hidden pockets my #1 criterion for buying shirts, coats and jackets.

        1. nonprofit manager*

          I also have broad shoulders and am definitely not well-endowed and I have the same problem with button-up shirts.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I’m fairly sure the only way to have decently fitting button-ups if you have literally any curves to your figure at all is to buy big and have it tailored specifically for you. I’ve hunted for years and haven’t found a single off-the-rack button-up that actually fit me – like you say, it’s gape city or little kid in dad’s shirt.

          1. FatRascal*

            Pepperberry do curvy clothing eg shirts that don’t gape. They’re in the UK but ship to the USA and Canada.

        3. turquoisecow*

          Ugh. I hate shoulder pads. Every shirt/jacket/cardigan I’ve ever owned that came with them, I’ve cut them out. Ick, ick, ick. And I’ve never known any woman not stuck in the 1980s who didn’t hate them also.

        4. Trig*

          I once found a blouse with a little hidden snap between two of the buttons – right where the gap usually hits. It was the BEST THING EVER. Of course it was a raucous shade of fuchsia, which I’m not comfortable in, and came from a cheapo store that also sold club-wear (student town), so I have since eliminated it from my wardrobe. But that snap! Next time I find that almost-perfect blouse, I will consider adding a snap to it in just such a way.

          Also, ugh, shoulder pads are back, aren’t they? This ex-swimmer says no thank you (and even removing them doesn’t help.)

          1. Ayla K*

            I had a tailor add a snap in to a shirt like that and it was LIFE. CHANGING. I don’t have the funds for that anymore, but as soon as I do, button-ups will return into my life.

            And from one swimmer to another, I feel you on the shoulder pad thing.

      4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I too dressed a lot more formally when I was younger, but mostly because I look rather young. Even now, I am almost 40 and most people guess that I am 26/27, and when I was right out of college, I used to get carded for R-rated movies.

        Now that I am older and more established in my career, I feel more comfortable relaxing to business casual.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      My only concern with a junior person wearing suits is getting past that “uncomfortable in a suit” look. You know, there is a look that says either:

      1. I’m on an interview.
      2. I sell Cutco knives.
      3. My mom made me dress up for this wedding, and I’m taking this off as soon as I can.

      The OP is wearing this every day, so I’m sure she’s gotten comfortable in the look and it’s fine.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This is a great point. It’s often less about the actual clothes themselves and more about how you carry yourself in them. I used to feel like a kid playing dress-up when I put on business formal clothes for interviews, and it probably showed. Now, I can carry off that kind of outfit simply because I’ve gotten more comfortable with time.

    6. Gaia*

      Yes. Know your culture. I work in a casual company in a conservative field. We are known in our field for our casual dress. Dressing in business wear is absolutely the mark of a junior employee here. I met with our CEO the other day via video conference and I was wearing a company sfotball uniform tshirt and jeans with flats and he was in a sweater and jeans. The person with me in the meeting has been here two weeks and showed up in a business suit. Our CEO started the meeting with “well, aren’t you fancy today!”

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Your CEO’s comment seems kind of rude, although I’m sure he didn’t intend it to be. Even if a junior employee was clued in to the daily casual dress code, it wouldn’t be stupid to think that a meeting with the CEO should be an occasion to dress up more.

        Even at our senior manager levels, people get together and talk about what they’re wearing for client visits, etc. (Suits, ties, sport coats/no ties). There is not secret handbook explaining this stuff. I think people should go out of their way to kindly let juniors, who might be afraid to ask, know what is appropriate in new scenarios.

        1. the gold digger*

          Really! I would have been mortified if I were the junior person and the CEO said that to me. Poor junior person trying her best to do the right thing and gets teased (the most generous interpretation – as a 21 year old, I would have taken the comment to mean, “Wow did you totally totally get this wrong”) by the CEO!

      2. iggu*

        If I knew the CEO well enough I would have responded with, “I’m so fancy
        You already know
        I’m in the fast lane
        From L.A. to Tokyo.”

      3. Nervous Accountant*

        oh gosh that’s so cringey! Our only dress code is no ripped clothing. Otherwise, you’ll see everything here–leggings, dresses, sneakers, ties, polos, khakis, button downs, etc. Two years and I’ve yet to see anyone really break it, and I think it’s bc it’s so flexible.
        On Saturdays, it’s even more casual (workout wear, leggings hoodies etc). Only our CEO dresses up in sweats/sneakers but obv its OK for him.

    7. Meg*

      I work in an office with almost the exact dress code described by OP #3. Almost no one will notice if you are a woman and wear a suit every day. They also won’t notice if you wear a nice dress or a skirt and cardigan. Nobody cares unless you are very underdressed. As a more senior woman, though still relatively young, I appreciate that I don’t have to wear a suit every day because women’s suit jackets are not comfortable for me. OP #3 should wear her suits if she wants and not worry about it.

    8. Artemesia*

      I have observed this too but the top execs were wearing fashionable obviously expensive clothing that just shouted power while junior types wore those practical little black suits or grey suits you can buy in the career shops of inexpensive chains. I always advise young women starting out to avoid the little black suit/white blouse as it is the universal garment of the intern and the admin.

      It is alas a truth we all know that fabulous clothes are usually expensive so the trick for those starting out is to get a feel for how to spend their limited budget in ways that mimic the more expensive looks that one can’t actually afford to buy. Some people have the skill of going to Loehmans or TJ Maxx or Steinmart or Nordstrom Rack and spotting the one item in 100 that looks like it came from a pricier place. I had a friend like that; loved to shop with her as I didn’t have that eye.

    9. rawr*

      Good lord, this stuff is exhausting. There are so many ways dressing for work can go wrong, and I think women have a harder time of it because of the wide variety in silhouettes, fit, colors, etc. I envy the men in my office. Their work wear is sharp (if a bit boring) but I guarantee you they don’t have nearly as many questions as we do about what to wear. I often feel frumpy next to them. Director and mid-level guys wear shirts and ties, dress pants and nice shoes. The exec-level men wear suits and ties. The women at all levels wear more color, but jackets and tailored pants are still the norm. Our office is very buttoned-up for higher ed and I am so jealous of my peers across campus who get to dress more fashionably. People here would be apoplectic if an employee showed up in a dress or long tunic with leggings, which is pretty standard elsewhere on campus. The skinny-leg LOFT dress pants I’m wearing today are tottering on the edge of breaking our invisible rules.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am glad to see so many people commenting that picking out clothes for work is exhausting. I have always hated it.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Today is actually the first time I’ve ever heard of companies where the dress code is different between executive and support staff. Warehouse and office, yes. But never the office divided like that.

      1. Artemesia*

        These are not dress code differences but the subtle signals of status you need to master to get along in a complex world. There are places where the top people look like they rolled out of bed at the homeless shelter too — it is all about context and observing norms.

  6. Schmooples and the Binkie-Boo*

    #1 Where I work, Julie would be in violation of our professional boundaries policy by accepting monetary gifts from someone she has power over. Perhaps she feels awkward and unable to speak up but I’m stunned she doesn’t realise it looks like bribery or coercion.

    I think the first thing to do is to check whether you have a similar policy as this may dictate what you do. What a terribly awkward situation – I really feel for you as it’s put you in this position of feeling uneasy but you are right to do something as AAM says.

    1. Jeanne*

      The situation may have gotten out of control in a way that left Julie unsure what to do. The beginning was subtle. If someone brought me fun sticky notes, I’d probably say thank you and use them. The gifts get bigger but Julie didn’t say no to the first few gifts so it feels harder to say no without seeming rude. Then boom things are out of control because this gift is $400. You have to report it. The gifts truly crossed a line.

      1. Bwmn*

        Yeah, I feel badly for Julie in the sense that the gifts really did start out so mild they likely didn’t feel like gifts – particularly when it’s food or moderate office supplies. That being said, with the realities around high end office supplies and even just what it would cost to regularly be getting someone a Starbucks latte – those gifts can really start to add up.

        Not to mention, I can easily see the first pricier gift being a case of “I have an extra toaster that I’m looking to just give away, would you be interested?” or something similar. In my job, I end up with some gratis corporate gifts – alas nothing like an iPad – but something where someone’s like “wow, that would be hilarious to have” – I’m very quick to say, “oh I’ll get you one, whatever”. Yes, it’s something that I’m giving to someone else, but the interaction to me rarely feels like a “gift” per say.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Unless you’re my one coworker who was sent a ring from across the country from a customer who knows darn well she’s married.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I would feel weird if I got an iPad from anyone I wasn’t related to! How can anyone think this is ok?

      1. Is it Friday Yet?*

        I’d be really uncomfortable, but I’m honestly not sure how I’d handle it because I’d just be so baffled.

      2. Spider*

        Or a ring from Kay! That’s very odd to me. Any jewelry would be odd and too intimate, but a ring most of all.

        I ‘m so curious about Julie’s response to these gifts. Has she worn the ring?

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1: Wow. Has Julie been accepting all of these gifts, or has anyone seen her refuse them? At best she looks clueless, and at worst it looks like Mary is trying to bribe her to keep her job (in the context of an extremely unequal power relationship). Surely she can’t think this is normal?

    OP#2: I’m also confused about why/how your employee has managed to stick around if her attitude causes significant trust issues and frustration, and given that she seems uninterested in developing skill sets you believe are necessary for her professional advancement. Of course, you should first ensure she’s receiving clear and direct feedback that explains what she needs to do to even be eligible for a promotion (I would structure this as “In order to achieve X” or “In order to be eligible for X, I really need to see Y change in the following ways”). But if you’ve been doing that, then I’m not sure why your organization is holding on to someone who appears to be more soul-sucking than constructive.

    OP#3: Are you consistently “over-dressed” compared to the other women with similar roles in your office? Although I’ll note that in some industries/regions, there’s not much distance between the women’s business outfits you’ve described and a full-on women’s suit.

    OP#5: Would you have to make dramatic changes in order to minimize the number of complaints your mom receives from her coworkers? I know sometimes the loudness of a car can’t be helped much, but it seems like the speediness is within your control (I’m assuming they’re talking about your speed on/near her workplace, not on roads in general). Even if your mom’s employer doesn’t sanction her (which would be weird), is it worth putting her in a position where she has to hear complaints and risk embarrassment? Or do you think she’s making up the complaints and is masking her concerns by pretending that complaints are coming from her coworkers?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Agree on #2. I had an employee who had TERRIBLE interpersonal skills, but was really good at the fundamentals of her job. She showed marginal improvement on the interpersonal front, but it remains an issue that’s holding her back professionally. However, if she wasn’t so good at her job, we probably would have moved her out by now.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I have a similar employee who’s made it on the basis of her subject matter expertise, but I’m not seeing enough progress on the interpersonal front. Alison gave me the very sane advice to consider moving her out, and I’m starting down that path. It’ll probably take several months at least, but it’s gotta be done.

      2. RVA Cat*

        The fact that all these anecdotal examples are women is an interesting data point. I’m sure plenty of office grumps are dudes, but maybe people don’t object to it as much? “That’s just how Fergus is” or “he’s a numbers guy” etc.

        1. Artemesia*

          I managed one of these guys who when I took over the department that was struggling temporarily. When I explored the issues, they all seemed to go back to this guy who was hoarding information and actively undermining the director (who was on leave when I took over). And yes ultimately he was no willing to change and I fired him. I have seen both men and women who are constant irritants to those around them but are allowed to keep no work jobs, or jobs where they damage productivity for years retained because management is too lazy to deal.

        2. LQ*

          I can think of several in my broader department who are men and if you were to ask people who had the worst interpersonal skills I think almost everyone would name a man (different men in different departments, but all men, and all men who have been stalled in their careers because of it). And this is despite our boarder department having, I believe slightly more women than men.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Unfortunately, my impression and experience is that being a jerk (and being perceived as a jerk or as difficult), at least in the contexts provided by the OPs, is an equal opportunity occupation.

          [I’m also trying to mind Alison’s request that we dial back our discussions of sexism when there’s no indication that gender/sex identity is driving the underlying problem the OP has written about.]

    2. Sadsack*

      Your last question raises an interesting estng issue. OP, whether there are actual complaints from the employer or your mom is just telling you that to get you to slow down, why don’t you just slow down? Why do you want people riding with you to feel unsafe? If you are whipping around the lot, people probably are noticing. I’ll bet that you are not attracting any positive attenion. When I see people driving fast in lots, I assume they think they look cool. They look like fools who don’t know how to drive. Slow down, save a life.

      1. Jadelyn*

        “Why do you want people riding with you to feel unsafe?” Well, I don’t know about you, but I tend to be very “my car, my rules.” It’s less about *wanting* anyone to feel unsafe, and more a question of “this is how I drive my car.” Unless you own the car I’m driving at the moment, you don’t get a vote. Not everyone will like the way I drive, I know that, and I won’t judge – but in that case, get another ride. If you feel unsafe riding with me, I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s best if you find someone else to carpool with (or whatever) in that case.

        1. CMT*

          That seems so unnecessarily hostile to me. It wouldn’t take much effort on your part to make passengers in your car feel comfortable, so why not do it?

          1. Jadelyn*

            Because it’s my car, my driving habits are very well-established, and I don’t see why I need to change that for someone who is in *my* car with me? It’s not hostile, it’s just saying “I am how I am and I’m not interested in molding myself for someone else’s comfort when I’m doing them a favor in the first place”. Nobody is entitled to have someone else’s driving suit them, unless they’re driving your car.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          In most driving circumstances I’m like you, Jadelyn, although I do modify how I drive based on my passengers. For example, I have a friend who feels like I follow cars too closely on the freeway, and I’ll often back off because I know it will decrease his anxiety. I go way slow/defensive for my mom and grandparents. For me the distinguishing issue is whether I’m clearly making the passenger feel unsafe and whether I think the request/comment is reasonable. If they’re being absurd or overly controlling, I won’t drive recklessly to bother them—I’ll just suggest they get a different ride.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I have exactly one person I moderate my driving for – my boyfriend – and tbh the end result there tends to be that when we go places, he drives and we take his car, since he doesn’t like how I drive and I tend to get mildly resentful about being told how to drive. I agree that a lot of it comes back to how reasonable they’re being vs how controlling they’re being. I get pretty upset with my mother, for example, because she does the dramatic “grab the door handle and mash the invisible brake pedal” thing if I am less than a quarter-mile away from the car in front of me, so I avoid driving with her whenever I possibly can.

            I wouldn’t drive *more* aggressively to spite someone, because that’s just mean, but I just don’t take particularly kindly to backseat drivers (even if they’re in the front seat with me, which in my car they kind of have to be, lol).

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Well, if you’re driving in an unsafe manner, I would gladly find another ride. I don’t want to be with you when you make a fatal mistake.

          I tend to lean toward rules of safety–you don’t ride in my car without the seat belt, for example. Don’t want to wear it? Get out and call a cab. I’m responsible for the people in my car. If we get into an accident and it’s my fault, I’m the one who will have to pay any hospital or funeral expenses.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Driver’s safety course talk about attitude as a safety issue also. Safer drivers typically display a particular type of attitude.

            Something I learned recently is that insurance companies can decide a person is uninsurable by certain statements. A friend of my mine parked in a dangerous spot, she could have gotten hit. She said, “that’s what insurance is for”. An agent said that they would not insure her because she was unwilling to reduce risks. Insurance companies do not like drivers who engage in risky behaviors this means the driver is more likely to cost the company money.

            While we HAVE to have insurance, companies do not HAVE to insure us. We have to show a willingness to mitigate risks.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Whoops, that sounded like I ratted my friend out. NO. I had another friend who was an insurance agent. Neither friend knew each other and nothing happened to my first friend’s insurance.
                I did tell my first friend to be careful who she says that to, though.
                Sorry I could have been more clear there. I had deliberately asked someone I KNEW would not make trouble for my friend.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s true, but I do think there are objective and subjective ideas of “safe driving.” I’m objectively a really safe driver, but nothing I do is going to make my mom think I’m a safe driver (and of course, my mom is the kind of “defensive driver” that creates really dangerous situations by being oblivious to her surroundings, going too slow, and slamming her brakes hundreds of yards before it’s appropriate instead of slowly decelerating, etc.). I also think it’s possible to be a safe and defensive driver without necessarily driving super slow, etc.

              Anyway, I don’t mean to go too far afield, but just wanted to note that there are some kinds of “good driving” that everyone can agree on, and some which folks will never agree on because it’s tied to personal ideas of what good driving entails.

    3. TootsNYC*

      “Or do you think she’s making up the complaints and is masking her concerns by pretending that complaints are coming from her coworkers?”

      In which case–this is your mom. Isn’t it worth it to slow down so you don’t make HER feel unsafe in your car?

      Considering all I’ve done, and given up, for my kids’ enjoyment and comfort, I’d be pretty pissed if my kids wouldn’t drive more sedately.

      1. Allison*

        Seriously. I drive extra carefully when my mom is in the car because, at least when I was learning to drive and getting used to the road, she freaked out over everything. Lots of gasping, lots of “oh my god, Allison!” “STOP STOP STAAAAAAAHP!” So yeah, careful driving with my mom, because I hate getting yelled at.

        1. Seal*

          My mom is in her 80s and still does that when I’m driving, no matter how careful I’m being. For the record, that’s why my dad taught me and my brothers how to drive.

          1. ginger ale for all*

            My mother is a Hyacinth Bucket too. Her co-workers all refused to be in a car with her as a driver or a passenger due to her comments on traffic. She once started screaming at me on an empty interstate because there was a truck ahead and ‘you know how all truckers are on drugs’. The truck was on the overpass ahead of me, not ahead or behind or even in the opposite lane.

          2. turquoisecow*

            My dad & a paid driving instructor taught me how to drive. Mom STILL won’t let me drive her car (which is now about 10 years old) even though I’ve had my license for a while now, and drove 30 miles to work for a few years and so obviously have driving experience. It’s also worth noting that my 41 year old sister never got her license, and I didn’t get mine until I was 25.

            Sigh. Moms.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OMG my mother still does this, and I suspect she always will no matter how careful someone drives.

          Her favorite is to clutch wildly at the grab handles while slamming her foot down on an imaginary brake and gasping like a Jane Austen heroine at a ball where someone says something risque. Please note she does this approximately 100 yards before a red light, with no traffic, while I’m driving 25 mph and decelerating. Assuming OP#5’s mom is like mine, I’m slightly sympathetic, but even I drive granny-style with her to try to assuage her panic (she still has the same reaction, but at least she feels like I’m trying).

          1. Nolan*

            This is my mom too! The best was on a family vacation when I was a teenager. Whole family is in a rental minivan, dad is driving, waiting on a red light. Mom suddenly starts freaking out, “omigod, omigod, wha- ugh-!” etc. The rest of us start looking around frantically, thinking someone’s about to come careening into us. Nope, there was a convoy towing a big ass boat through the intersection and she thought it was going to hit the lights or power lines or something. •_•

            If we’re carpooling I usually just let her drive these days.

          2. zora*

            My mom does the brake pedal thing, AND sucks her breath in on a loud *hhisssss* that sound makes me inSANE. It literally goes right up the back of my neck. I drive slower and slower and do everything more carefully and gently, but she STILL hisses! omg, it’s giving me goose bumps now just thinking about it… I keep trying to talk to her about doing anything but making that sound, but it’s a total reflex… siiggghhh, I love her but driving with her is not my favorite activity

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Zora, this is 100% me and my mom. It’s either the hissing or a “GAHHH!” kind of noise or theatrical gasping. Including once gasping and saying “STOP” when we were already stopped at a red light.

        3. Michele*

          My mom wasn’t too bad when I was younger, but as she has gotten older, she has become afraid of everything except her own frightening driving. She lives in a small town, and doesn’t seem to understand that in a city you have to drive more aggressively and can’t literally wait for an entire block to be free of cars before going across an intersection. Her yells and cringes are a dangerous distraction.

      2. OhNo*

        Yeah, I really don’t get the intent behind this question. Why would you not just stop the first moment it was mentioned, rather than risking your mom’s job? I’d much rather look like a dope and drive super slowly rather than ever risk someone getting fired or reprimanded because I didn’t want to slow down.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Even if OP is mad at mom, taking it out on her behind the wheel is not the route to go. A person might be able to do this for quite a while and then one day something goes wrong. And it can make newspaper headlines.

  8. Jess*

    #3 – I wouldn’t stress too much about choosing to wearing matching suits in your case. It really does sound like the senior women you’re describing are wearing business dress, not business casual. The flip side to the greater difficulty women face in walking the minefield of business & business casual wear is that there’s also a little more flexibility to have “fun” & mix it up a bit (w/in the very narrow confines of the dress code). As long as all the individual pieces are clearly of business-dress-level formality, many women in business-dress settings (I’m thinking of law here) will wear contrasting blazers & jackets with dresses, skirts, & pants. I do, and I also wear full matching suits. But that’s b/c I enjoy the variety. It’s totally personal preference. Don’t worry if that’s not something you want to do or if you just feel more comfortable in a full suit!

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    If the noisiness of LW5’s car can’t be changed, perhaps the drop-off point could be? If the car wasn’t entering the company car park, the co-workers wouldn’t be able to hear it.
    However, I wouldn’t agree that the LW’s mother doesn’t have any control over the issue, and probably neither would the co-workers, because if your mother makes a reasonable request of you, you comply, don’t you? (If not, that’s another problem.)

    1. Tempest*

      I suspect the noise is a minor issue as if it’s a sports exhaust it’s just a louder sound not a broken sound. The issue will be the full throttle way this person tears off after dropping their mother, likely tyres squealing ect. The person comes across like they think life is a movie about fast cars. I would think if they drove cautiously and kept their accelloration to and from the car park under 10mph which is a reasonable speed limit in the average car park, no one would have cause to complain. But when you get someone pulling up full throttle, stopping with a squeal as they slide to a stop with the brakes locked up and then wheel spinning as they full throttle away again as if their commute is a race they must win, they make such a show of themselves that the sports exhaust note is just an audible reinforcement of the rest of the driving being inconsiderate. I know a lot of modified car drivers and most of them are able also be considerate of other road users.

      1. Mike C.*

        Look this is the second time you’ve posted something like this, and I don’t think it’s fair to make all these judgements given such a short letter with little to no context.

        I don’t want to deny your experience or anything but you even end by saying how most owners are considerate – without more details how do we know that the OP isn’t?

        1. Tempest*

          His mother is getting complaints about his/her driving in the car park at her work. I have managed to use modified cars in my life to do everyday tasks without having people complain about me.

          The person writes that they have a loud car and drive fast and then worries if their parent can get in trouble for the style of the child’s driving in dropping them off. I’m sorry if the need to even ask this question makes me think that a) the style of driving is so inconsiderate that people have noticed it enough to comment back to the parent and b) asking this question means they have no intention of changing the style of driving unless they find out that other staff finding the drop off style bad enough to comment on the lot can get their parent in trouble.

          As a reasonable person, a) I would drop my parent off in front of their work in a fashion sedate enough that its doubtful anyone would ever comment on my car’s noise and b) the minute my parent told me that people were making comments about my driving when dropping them off, I would die of mortification and stop doing that. It wouldn’t take a letter in to question if she could get in trouble for something I did in the car park. I also drive fast, but I don’t relay it in a style of bragging about it to the internet at large. And I taylor it to the time and place for my own safety and that of other road users. It’s common sense.

          1. Mike C.*

            Again, this is a great deal of judgment with very little to go on. As a reasonable person, I took the letter to be from someone with not a lot of experience in the working world who is either driving irresponsibly or had a mother with weirdly judgemental co-workers.

            I know plenty of folks who need to calm down on the roads. I know plenty of folks who get weirdly bent out of shape if you drive anything that looks sporty and presumes all sorts of unsafe behavior.

            As a reasonable person, I think it’s best to advise caution where it’s needed and not presume ill will otherwise.

            1. Alice*

              Hi Mike – we do all want to be reasonable, but personally I see a lot more “folks who need to calm down on the roads” than ones “who get weirdly bent out of shape if you drive anything that looks sporty and presume all sorts of unsafe behavior.” Of course, my perspective comes from observing the road bike my bicycle; a lot of drivers who probably think they are safe drivers still turn right or pull over without bothering to signal, etc, etc.
              Maybe it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect.

              1. a different Vicki*

                Some people have an “it’s not illegal, so it’s fine for me to do it” attitude, which I found more than a little worrying when I lived in a neighborhood with a 40 mph speed limit for the street I had to cross to get to the bus stop.

                The OP may be thinking that it’s fine to drive as fast as they want because the parking lot isn’t a street and has no police-enforceable speed limit. If so, well, they should remember that they can also drive as slowly as they want, or as their mother asks, because there’s no posted minimum speed either.

                1. Whats In A Name*

                  @ a different Vicki – I didn’t get that he had that attitude at all from his 2 sentence question. I also didn’t get the impression that he was bashing anyone else for driving slowly. I actually didn’t even get the impression that he is not open to slowing down.

                  All I got was that he gave us a very succinct question instead of a bunch of noisy background detail.

                2. Venus Supreme*

                  I’m not sure where OP5 is located, but I know in my part of the USA, there’s either a 5 or 10MPH speed limit for driving within parking lots. I found out the hard way when I was driving across a convenience store parking lot and a police car pulled me over and ticketed me for speeding. I was going 25MPH. THAT’S when I learned about this uncommon rule (at least for my area), and there were no visible signs.

                  Maybe OP5 can simply slow down. The noise thing isn’t a quick fix, but the speed definitely is.

              2. Mike C.*

                I’m sure there are a ton of jerks out there judging you for taking a bike out. Also if you’re in SF, watch out for those Uber automated cars – it’s been reported that they take the hard right across the bike lane rather then merging.

                As far as drivers believing they’re safe, there’s really no feedback on bad behavior until you’re pulled over or something terrible happens.

                1. Alice*

                  Mike, I would consider this criticism from the mother’s coworkers to be “feedback on bad behavior”!

                  There definitely people judging me for taking a bike out — bicyclists get a lot of “it’s not safe for you to be here.” Well, actually, it’s not safe for anyone to be driving without paying attention to other road users. If we could all behave more predictably (I’ve given up on everyone behaving courteously), we’d all be better off. And that goes for all road users, including pedestrians.

                  Anyway, I brought this up to point out that common driving manoeuvres which feel quite safe when you’re in a car can in fact be quite dangerous. I’m talking about things like speeding on surface streets, failing to signal when you’re turning or pulling out — very common things that I used to do before I started biking. When Mike equated lots of bad drivers and lots of nervous nellies (I’m paraphrasing), I wanted to say that I see a lot more of the former than the latter.

                2. Natalie*

                  For whatever it’s worth, I’ve definitely given a couple of friends and co-workers feedback on driving. I generally limit to things I consider pretty egregious (like “put your damn phone away”) but it does happen.

                  And in this case the LW is getting feedback, from the mom’s coworkers.

            2. Whats In A Name*

              I have got to agree with Mike here. People are making waaayyyyy too many assumptions about his bad behavior. OP admits to loud car and fast driving, OP did not say he was having a burnout contest in the parking lot like many others are insinuating.

              Do I think he should slow down? YES. Do I also think there is a possibility they are complaining about his driving on the road vs. parking lot speed? YES.

              The OP is looking for advice not “relay[ing] it as a style of bragging about it to the internet at large”. You can tell him to slow down without telling him he’s is in general a horrible person which is how I am ready many of these type comments.

              1. TootsNYC*

                We don’t even actually know if the OP drives fast –in the parking lot–. Many of us have made that assumption because we think that’s the only place the coworkers would see the OP and Mom in the car together.

                But I’ve lived in some smaller communities where people really WOULD know that the OP drives fast on the street, and they’d complain to her mom about the way her daughter drives on the streets of their town.

                1. Purest Green*

                  But I’ve lived in some smaller communities where people really WOULD know that the OP drives fast on the street, and they’d complain to her mom

                  People can be oddly busy-bodyish about things like that. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, a friend of my great-grandmother’s (!) called and informed her that I was in Walmart at 10 p.m. in sweat pants getting toner, and what was she going to do about it.

                  Not to dismiss legitimate safety concerns, but I also know how intrusive some people can be.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Yeah, I’ve had that one – going home one day as a teenager, I got stuck on a one-lane road behind someone creeping along at about 20 mph (posted limit was 40). So, the first chance I got, I swung out around them and left them in the dust. Turned out they recognized my car and knew my mom, so they called her to complain about my “dangerous driving”. I counter-complained about their obstructing the roads, but the point remains, people can be nosy and pushy and judgmental as hell about other people’s driving even without reason.

              2. New Bee*

                I’ve noticed lately responses to some questions assume the OP will be resistant to the advice, which leads to pile ons and snarky criticisms. Your comment is a good reminder not to do that; let’s take folks’ questions at face value.

            3. LQ*

              I want to mention that it might not be “weirdly judgemental co-workers” it might be their actual livelyhood. Not as my full time job but as a side job I record audiobooks and podcasts. My studio is good, but not a full giant professional studio, so when someone is driving their car and it is really loud? It actually makes my job impossible. I have to stop what I’m doing and wait for them to finish. Someone’s loud car makes an impact on my income while they idle in the parking lot.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Great point. We have to record at work, any excessive noise from the street means we stop recording until it is over. This is not a big deal for us but it is just an odd thing not many people think of.

          2. Here*

            I don’t consider myself terribly unreasonable, and I drive an old lady car, but if I got complaints about someone who was giving me a ride, I’d find another way to work before I presumed to dictate how someone behaved while they were doing me a favor.

            1. Anna*

              Yes and no. I would mention it to the person because why not? And if it continued to be an issue, I’d figure something else out. Also, if you’re driving people around, it’s your responsibility to keep your passengers comfortable and safe. Even if you’re doing me a favor, that doesn’t give you de facto right to make me uncomfortable.

              This is also the OP’s mother, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that mom probably has a bit of say in how her kid drives her to work.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I disagree that it’s my job to keep people “comfortable and safe”. Safe, yes. Comfortable…eh. If the way I do you a favor is making you uncomfortable, then find someone else to do you the favor. Asking me for a favor does not inherently give you the right to dictate the specific terms under which I may grant you said favor. If the child is an adult – not sure if they are from the letter – then no, mom has no more say than any other person in how the driver manages their own vehicle.

                1. Anna*

                  Right. Because why should you care if someone feels unsafe with you?

                  Sorry, but no. If you don’t want to be considerate of other people, then just don’t do the favor. It’s a compromise. Your passenger can’t dictate everything you do in your car; but if you feel okay at 80 miles an hour it might be a good idea to slow down if your passenger doesn’t.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  @Anna “If you don’t want to be considerate of other people, then just don’t do the favor.” That’s…kind of exactly what I was saying? If you don’t like the way I do the favor, don’t ask me to do said favor. It’s not a compromise. If someone isn’t comfortable in a car going 80mph, don’t be in a car that routinely goes 80mph, and since that’s my standard freeway speed (in decent conditions, anyway – my tires are garbage in wet weather so I slow down significantly!) my car is not the place for someone who’s not comfortable for that. That’s all I’m saying.

                  I don’t know, this whole thing bugs me because it strikes me much in the same vein as someone coming into my home, then trying to scold me for swearing. It’s my house – don’t like it, don’t hang out here. Same deal with this, it’s my car – don’t like it, don’t ride with me. Can people *choose* to accommodate other people’s comfort levels in various ways? Sure! Go for it! But it’s the attitude of expectation and entitlement that I’m getting from a LOT of the responses in this thread that I find really irksome.

            2. Not A Morning Person*

              I agree, with the exception of that someone being my kid, or my spouse, or anyone else who might be putting me in danger. I’m judgmental like that and enjoy providing “constructive” feedback that might save my life or my livelihood!

          3. Less anonymous than before*

            Going to have to agree with Tempest here and their educated assumptions of the letter writer. I read a bit of arrogance in this letter too, which while I would love to be wrong, it comes off as with the idea of even writing in in the first place. Your mom is getting complaints about how fast you drive and you decide to write a letter to ask if that’s “legal” instead of just cutting it out!! HELLO!!!???

            Whether the car is modified or not is an assumption, however. It could be an old junky car that is loud and therefore that portion of it is not something he can control if funds are an issue.

            The driving fast is something that you can control and something you should curb immediately, not write a letter about asking if its legal to get his mom in trouble or not. Why not just STOP? Those 2 minutes coming/going in the parking lot aren’t going to kill you for driving normally and slowly and being considerate of others in the lot as well as your mothers repuation and JOB, for crikees sake. You can pull back out on the main road and doing what you wish within the limits of the law… or get ticketed for all I care. But respect moms job. Sheesh.

        2. Juli G.*

          Well, I think OP isn’t considerate because they said they drive fast and their car is loud and then asked if that could get their mom fired.

          At the same time, I’m making an assumption but if the household doesn’t have a car for everyone, I lean towards believing the car is not intentionally loud and wonder if driving more cautious might eliminate some of the noise complaints (i.e. car noise might be an eating crackers complaint because of the unsafe driving)

          1. Alice*

            Personally I think OP behaving inconsiderately in this instance because she wrote in looking for permission/affirmation to keep driving fast in an area where others think it’s dangerous.

            On the other hand, OP must be very dependable and have a close relationship with her mother. Those are great characteristics.

            Now, if there is an update saying “I started driving sedately and still people are complaining because my car is noisy,” I will feel very sympathetic to OP. It might happen – it’s harder to change reputations than to make them. But at least OP will have the knowledge that she has responded with grace to the complaints.

            1. Mike C.*

              Or maybe the OP it’s just writing in and asking for advice? We’re supposed to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt and this isn’t it.

              1. Alice*

                Mike, I’m trying to do that (give OP the benefit of the doubt) by pointing out positive characteristics.

                That said, what I take away from this concise letter is that the OP acknowledges she (or he) drives fast, and will start driving slower IF her mother can be punished at work for it. Does she intend to keep driving fast despite the complaints if her mother can’t be punished?

            2. Whats In A Name*

              I didn’t get the impression that OP is inconsiderate or looking for validation….or not open to slowing down.

              He wrote in to a blog for ADVICE.

              All I got was that he gave us a very succinct question instead of a bunch of noisy background detail.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yeah, we don’t have much to go on here to be making assumptions. But I can see where people are getting that from–she admits that she drives fast and that her mom’s coworkers are complaining–making it likely that she’s driving fast in front of the office or in the parking lot. And she asked if her mom could be punished for something she has no control over, which makes it sound like she doesn’t want to stop doing what she’s been doing.

                But she could also be asking that because she’s worried that her mom will get in trouble for the fast driving she’s already done. So while I see where people are getting the idea that she wants to keep driving too fast, I agree we shouldn’t assume that’s the case.

        3. paul*

          If someone’s getting complaints from multiple sources about their driving (and that’s what it sounds like here), I tend to suspect they actually suck at driving safely.

  10. Caity*

    I immediately thought of union issues in letter 2–could the employee’s combativeness be related to a difficult labor/management situation she’s seen through the her role in the union? I was on the board of my union for a time and certainly some of my fellow organizers fomented an us-v-them mentality, though it was far from universal among us. (More universal during contract negotiations, though!) That was my first thought based on experiences in my workplace, but could be totally off the mark here.

    1. Observer*

      Interesting thought. But, in that case, I would expect her to at least brush up on the harder skills like Excel.

    2. Mike C.*

      At the same time, union situations can actually work to foster greater cooperation. Volkswagen tried to form a union in their new plant a few years back so that there could be formal worker representatives on their board*, to match their corporate structures in Germany.

      * It’s really complicated and I’m likely getting details wrong but in Germany many companies have worker representatives that sit on the board of directors, have board voting power and so on. It all depends on how things are structured.

      1. Bartlet for President*

        Union-Management relations in Germany are vastly different than in the United States, though. This is, in part, because German works are afforded considerably more labor protection/rights legally than American workers.

        Unions in Germany are typically less adversarial (or combative) than in the United States, in general. For example, one year the bus drivers in the German city I lived in at the time had an ongoing dispute with the government. Over the course of a year, there were four or five strikes, but it was incredibly….well, polite. The date of the strike (which, was always one day) was announced at least a couple of weeks in advance so that people could arrange alternative transportation. Signs were posted at most bus stops to inform people of the suspended operations. There were no picket lines or demonstrations. Eventually, an agreement was reached.

        Another time, during contract negotiations between the union I belonged to and the university, many members were barely even aware there was protracted negotiation about wages. It took nearly four months for the wage issue to be resolved, and during that time everyone continued working and there was minimal tension. At one point, some people organized a “protest” in front of the administrator’s offices. Said protest was basically some people standing alongside the large walkway and handing out flyers to those that would accept them.

        In America, those situations almost certainly would have gone a very different way.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I am German and whenever I read about unions on this site (not because there’s anything weird about AAM but just because this is the only place where I hear about US unions at all) it’s not in situations or with behaviours that I know of from home at all.

          1. Bartlet for President*

            I’m actually American, and so the two union disputes were really shocking to me. But, I think there is a general societal expectation of being conciliatory. German elections, for example, were certainly intense – but, they were also quite short, and there wasn’t any of the vitriol I have come to expect from American elections. Some of that (if not a huge part of it) is simply because the various parties knew that when the (very short!) election was over, they would have to work alongside these people and form coalitions to govern.

      2. krysb*

        Yup, I’m from Tennessee (Nashville, not Chattanooga), where they tried this. Personally, I thought it was a great idea, but it pissed the state off. I wonder what would have happened if the state hadn’t lobbied so hard against it.

      3. Caity*

        Mine has great representation at many levels of our organization, too! We’re in a great position. But it’s the case that depending on your work site and role (both at work and in the union structure) you might see things that keep you more irritated at management than other people would normally be. For example if you’re a steward who works a lot on resolving contract violations. But again, this might not apply to the letter at all.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Some people are just malcontents. I actually think you can get by being one (usually) if you’re good at the other aspects of your job. But it sounds like she isn’t. And unfortunately she doesn’t sound inclined to bring the boss an iPad either :/

    4. Mookie*

      I was on the board of my union for a time and certainly some of my fellow organizers fomented an us-v-them mentality

      Interesting. In my experience unions react to that kind of sectarian hostility — indeed, that is the nature of their origin — rather than create it. I think what you’re suggesting, that the OP’s employee is burnt out by office politics, sounds very plausible.

      1. Anna*

        I think it can work both ways. I have heard people who used to be union discuss their employer in very adversarial ways. The Us-v-Them thing can come from either side of the table.

        My friend is a union rep right now and 99.5% of the time she talks about it in a very cooperative way, but then that .5% pops up when it becomes very clear that despite how much the union and the employer try to work together, they are still dealing with issues that will put them at odds at times.

    5. Patrick*

      I don’t think this is necessarily what’s going on in the OP’s situation as it sounds like this employee is just a negative person, however this topic makes me flash back to an older comments section on here where people were discussing the difficulties of transitioning from blue collar work to white collar/professional work (or having grown up in a blue collar household and working a white collar job.)

      One thing that really jumped out at me is that, without generalizing too much, the “us vs them” mentality is much more common in jobs where workers are clearly separated from management (unionized or not.) This happens in traditional/stereotypical blue collar jobs like factories, but I also see it a lot in people who have spent a lot of time in retail/service positions. I know when I transitioned from working retail management to a professional job with the same company my perspective changed pretty quickly from “home office doesn’t know what they’re doing” to “home office is looking at things in a much different way than I was.”

      Anyway, to get to my point, I had an employee who came from a blue collar background who started with that “us vs them” chip on his shoulder, and after talking about it a bit realized it all came from him always hearing growing up that “the suits” didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. Once I helped him understand that there wasn’t some shadowy “management” and that management was made up of people he regularly was in meetings with and interacted with he eased up on the “us vs them” stuff a lot. Not saying that will help here, but I do think a lot of the us vs them mindset really comes from people feeling completely disconnected from their management.

      1. Michele*

        As someone who has been on both sides, I don’t think most management is nearly as good at communicating as they think they are. I see it time and time again. Big boss tells small boss what is expected, and small boss doesn’t relay the message to his direct reports. Or two co-managers will have a conversation that affects someone, but no one bothers to tell the person affected. As someone who transitioned from blue-collar to white-collar, I had to learn to speak up and say that someone did not relay a message. LW needs to make sure that all of her reports understand what is expected of them and why. They also need to understand what they can expect from management. That might not fix LW’s problem, but it would fix the vast majority of problems where I work.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Ha , that’s so true and reminds me of a story my bf just told me recently. His director had a convo with the ceo and came over after and told him several things they discussed. My bf, knowing full well this guy is the poster boy of absent mindedness, told him ok great can you please go document that for our next meeting. Fifteen minutes later, the director sent an email with literally only one of the several items they had just discussed.

          1. Lora*

            OMG I literally just had a conversation with a junior manager representing his senior manager. Senior manager does not want to make modifications to our current building because that function will be performed in our newer fancy custom building. We said, that is fine, but the new fancy building isn’t scheduled to come online until 2018. What would you like us to do about all these other projects you have planned for 2017?


            Oh yeah, projects in 2017. It’s still only 2016 for a week and a half. Are we all going on vacation for a year? “Uh, no, there needs to be another discussion…”

            They literally forgot what year it was and postponed, inadvertently, $500M worth of projects, and now they have to go have another 4-hour meeting to fix their screw-up. The moral of the story is, get enough sleep before you go making any big decisions.

      2. LQ*

        This is a good point and what I’ve been thinking reading through the comments, union came to mind for me too, but us vs them is more than just that and I think it can get super entrenched, either in a person or a company.

        I was really glad my first white collar job was with a tiny tiny company (2 of us!) so I never really had the chance to get that mind set. But I still hear my family bring it up often and it comes up with me.

        Especially with places where management doesn’t really connect to people for whatever reason, and sometimes they are reasonable reasons, but I think it is a bigger bridge to cross than it seems.

      3. paul*

        My own suspicion is that in retail, home office really doesn’t know what it’s doing all the time. I still remember our store getting in trouble for not correctly setting planograms that physically wouldn’t fit in our store (they called for shelving several feet longer than we *could* have given our size).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Some how they have managed to get a bunch of adults to use that word regularly.
            I always snicker at that word. It sounds like it should be a child’s game.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Back in the day when I worked retail, home office had a policy that in order to close a shop early for inclement weather, we had to wait until there had been no customers in the shop for an entire hour.

          The crazy 2009-2010 winter happened. The shop itself was in town but many employees lived in the mountains outside of town, with long drives on narrow roads between work and home. The county ordered all non-emergency traffic off the roads as snow built up – home office still insisted we had to wait for the full hour to be up before we could leave.

          If any of us didn’t already have an us vs them mentality, we sire did after that!

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is a really thoughtful insight that’s been true in my experience. Thanks for reframing in this way, Patrick; it helped me figure out a better way to articulate these dynamics.

      5. Lora*

        Ohhhh yeah. Good point.

        Although I would say it is more a feature of management disconnect in general. I’ve experienced the same in white collar jobs where mid- and low-level management felt the same way about senior management…and R&D felt the same way about Corporate Finance or Marketing…and Site A felt the same way about Site B who had a parallel function but never communicated their results to Site A…

        But yeah, it is definitely a cultural thing too. And it goes both ways, when you have management who is all “shut up and do what I say, this is the chain of command, you don’t have to like it” (which is sometimes, often, totally necessary! I get it! Honest, I’m a manager myself and I don’t have time for the Spanish Inquisition and the second-guessing of my decisions can get really really old) and worker bees who are not feeling valued as human professional adults.

        From a manager standpoint: You’re the grownup here, and it’s up to you to fix the relationship whether you think that burden of work is fair or not. The relationship is damaged for whatever reason when there’s no trust, and maybe it isn’t your fault, maybe it was given to you by someone else, but it’s your responsibility to fix it. Start explaining and talking to the person today and try to move forward and make a change and clue them in to decisions as much as is feasible.

      6. Caity*

        Great point, and useful insight about a way to approach this LW’s employee that could be really beneficial.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It could be, although union culture can vary widely based on industry, geography, and the members of the union (i.e., which categories of workers are unionized). I just point this out because I’ve seen tons of managers who have a chip on their shoulder or an “us v. them” mentality when entering negotiations with the union, and I’ve also seen union contract negotiators and organizers strategically play up us/them divisions from time to time. I guess I’m trying to say anyone can bring in an us-v.-them mentality, and I would be wary of ascribing this exclusively to unions.

    7. Princess Carolyn*

      The attitude toward management, combined with the lack of computer skills, made me think this is an employee from a blue collar background who may not understand how things work in a more white collar environment. OP is in a better position than we are to decide if this employee is also just a natural PITA who can’t get along. OP, if you haven’t given this employee that feedback about her computer skills, please do that soon!

    8. LW #2*

      LW #2 here. That’s actually a good point. I didn’t think about that (we are union). So, with that being said, how do you move away from the us vs them mentality in the union environment? It almost seems like too big for to even try and change

      1. Observer*

        It definitely IS changeable – if she is OPEN to change.

        1. Be crystal clear about what you need to see from her.

        2. Where feasible, explain the rationale behind decisions and policies and try to give a respectful and open hearing to any concerns that she has. I’m not suggesting that you allow her to argue with you or make demands. But if she gets reasonable explanations and / or a respectful hearing (of at least the FIRST time she brings up an issue), then it should help her shift her perspective, even when she doesn’t agree.

        There are no guarantees, of course. But, for someone open these things can make a HUGE difference.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s important to remember it’s not about the union—it’s about communication and feeling like you’re on a team (as opposed to being part of two different groups trying to one-up each other). Does your employee’s behavior track by job area? That is, is she more abrasive with managers than with her peers?

      3. Caity*

        I can only speak to my unionized workplace, but some people (stewards and the bargaining team especially) do see the more hostile interactions most often, so their wariness can be founded in some ways! For me personally knowing that my supervisors supported our union and our right to organize meant a lot to me and made me much more comfortable in my workplace (this includes during a threat to strike), so that might help as a start.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Deeply rooted negativity is tough. In the past, I have said things like, “yeah, I understand it’s not easy. But the thing to remember is that everyone else feels similarly. It’s just that complaining makes the work day that much harder, it’s one more layer of complexity.”

        I have also said, “Everyone who works here is in a similar boat and has similar feelings. They are trying to make the best of it, will you do that too?”

        Here the over all pattern is that you find points to agree on. You acknowledge what negative she is saying where you find you can agree with her. Perhaps the place is too cold and you agree about that. Then you expand out to say that she is not alone in thinking this is a problem. Others do too. Here, you have pointed out something she has in common with others. Then you point out that complaining about it seems to make the problem worse. Explain that you all have in common the need to eat and pay for shelter. Out of respect for other people’s need to hold down a job, can she dial back her complaints to help make their day a bit easier?

        She will never say “rah, rah, what a grrreat work place”. Your hope is in getting her to dial back the negative. Tell her that people who cut back on negative statements usually find their work load is easier to carry and their work day does not feel so long.

        I have dealt with some real negative people and found these convos can help a little. It helps additionally if I role model the behavior I am asking for. No immediate miracles, sorry.
        Perhaps you can find a redirect when she gets negative such as she has a grandbaby/child/puppy she adores. So once in a while you ask how the grandbaby (whatever) is doing. This works once in a while because it’s not appropriate in every situation. People who feel that others think/remember things about them can soften their harsh approach… sometimes. And this tactic takes time also.

  11. Rachel*

    #4: I once had an interview with an agency where the recruiter took one look at my resume and told me I needed to give him a revised version listing every temp assignment I’d ever worked (I had temping on my resume listing the agency as my employer and giving a couple companies I’d worked at for that agency in the bullet points) and providing the contact information for my supervisors at each assignment before he could work with me. That request made me very uncomfortable and I never sent that over. First of all, I don’t remember all of it (like I’m supposed to remember contact info for 1 or 2 day assignments I worked 10 years ago?), and second, I didn’t think I had the obligation to provide him leads on clients he could poach from other agencies.

    Years later, the staffing company got into some federal trouble over hiring practices, and that particular branch was cited as the worst offender. I wasn’t surprised at all.

    1. L. Carey*

      I’m the person from #4. I have heard of what you described from others in the past, when talking about their own experiences with recruiters / staffing agencies.

      Something that I forgot to mention in my question to Alison, is that I have also been asked “So, what companies are you been interviewing with? What’s your contact’s name there, their job title and phone number”? I was absolutely floored the first time I was asked for that information, the second time I was extremely annoyed. Neither times did a recruiter get that information from me, I just simply declined to share. I was reading a complaint online recently against one the staffing agencies I’ve been dealing with and the letter writer stated his recruiter had told him he must CALL HER her anytime he gets a job interview somewhere else and let her know what company, contact, phone # and position!

      1. Natalie*

        It does make sense for them to know about other interviews you have, because of the way their contracts work, but yeah, it’s ridiculous for them to expect you to provide a bunch of contact information.

        1. OP #4*

          I’ve been reading articles and postings/reviews this morning on the topic, from current/former recruiters and HR professionals. Everyone was basically saying the same thing: there is NO legitimate reason (on the applicant’s end), for the question of “where are you current interviewing (and what is the position, the company, the contact name and phone # there). Of course for the recruiter, they have a legitimate reason to ask, at least in THEIR minds it’s legit, but it’s all very self-serving and one-ended as well. They want to know that information so they can submit their own candidates for the position and also try to get a dialogue going about securing that company’s future business.

          1. Rachel*

            The last few agencies I’ve interviewed with asked me to list companies I’d applied to/interviewed at within the previous 90 days – they weren’t allowed to send my resume to those companies. (And whenever they called with a possible opportunity, they always asked me if I’d applied at the company in question. Contract rules.) They did not ask me for contact information at those companies, though.

          2. Natalie*

            Yep, as Rachel said they need to know where you’ve interviewed because the employer doesn’t want any sort of disagreement about the fee and often won’t consider a candidate who comes to them through two different sources. I’ve lost at least one interview because of this – two different staffing firms presented me to the same company.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh my goodness, it’s so blatantly obvious they’re just fishing for leads! I’d leave something on yelp or glass door about them. They clearly don’t have your best interest in mind.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I went to a temp agency for an interview with the recruiter, and as soon as I walked in, three or four of them were all over me asking for names and contacts at the place I was preparing to leave. They didn’t want to talk about anything but how they’d been “trying to get in there FOREVER!!!” and strategizing how best to use me to accomplish that. I left and never contacted them again; they were so skeevy.

      1. Feeling Christmasy*

        OP #4, would you be comfortable about calling this firm out? Unless you might land a good position through them, I wonder if “chastising” them will make them realize that it’s not acceptable to call references like this. On a different note, I’ve been starting to lose faith in placement agencies in general. I’ve had two sent me to jobs (one of them was two hours from where I live!) whose details weren’t clearly explained beforehand. Another time, a rep kept insisting I was good for certain job when I was uncertain about taking it. And last week, an interviewer told me a web conference called was at 1:30 PST when it was actually at EST. I kept my evening open to speak this person.

  12. Mike C.*

    Re #5

    These are complicated questions. Hearing “fast” and “slow” is incredibly vague both in terms of driving conditions (time, road type/conditions, weather, regulations, etc) and velocity vs acceleration relative to the traffic and sightlines around you. You might have just a quiet parking lot next to the workplace, I have a four lane highway on one side and an eight lane boulevard on another.

    Furthermore, going fast is sometimes the safe thing to do. For example, while trying to enter an interstate freeway yesterday, the single car ahead of me refused to come up to speed on the onramp and entered at around 40 when the limit was 60 and traffic was moving even faster. You’re right you could hear my engine as I entered early and got up to speed.

    So #5, are the people complaining making reasonable complaints? Are you driving too quickly in a parking lot or are there appropriate roads next to the workplace where driving quickly is appropriate? Have you had any near misses or are folks making assumptions based on what you drive? Think hard on those questions and you’ll have your answer.

      1. Purest Green*

        Agreed. I also think it would be useful for OP to ask his/her mother if she feels safe while riding to work, which I think is the most important opinion in this situation.

    1. anonnn*

      but a parking lot isn’t a freeway, and it’s clear from the letter that other people who use that parking lot are complaining.

      1. Marcela*

        Not really. There is no “parking lot” in the letter. Of course, depending where you are, it is a safe bet to say that OP is dropping mom in a parking lot, but for example, when I was working in Boston, my building did not have a parking lot attached: it was a couple of blocks away. So my husband would stop on the street, as close to the main entrance as he could.

    2. Adlib*

      Regarding your comment on entering the interstate: my coworker was just rear-ended this morning because people were going too slow and actually came to a STOP because they failed to merge/accelerate properly.

      1. SystemsLady*

        On the opposite ticket, somebody barreling into the right lane to pass somebody on the right recently forced me to pull over and wait, when I’d been perfectly prepared to merge into the space between a semi going ten under and another, slower car. Sigh.

        My on topic point being consideration and watching the environment around you is key.

        1. JessaB*

          Sorry typed my comment before you chimed in, yeh add that as a reason that stopping is okay, because stupid people tricks.

      2. JessaB*

        I hate that. The whole reason those on lanes are so long is so you go to speed on them. Geez. Stopping? Unless it’s bumper to bumper because of traffic or construction just no.

    3. LQ*

      No parking lots are freeway on ramps that I know of. There is usually at least some road between them. Parking lots are where humans are walking from cars to places. Humans, soft, squishy, breakable humans.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, the fact that coworkers–plural–are complaining makes it not too likely that this is happening on a freeway on ramp or some place where driving fast is the safer choice. Also, “think hard and you’ll have your answer”–the question was whether the OP’s mother can get in trouble for the OP driving too fast. The answer is “yes.” If the OP isn’t *really* driving too fast but perceived to be (but that doesn’t seem to be the case from the little info we have), her mother can still get in trouble. OP, drive in a way that doesn’t make your mom worried about her livelihood or her personal safety.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Furthermore, going fast is sometimes the safe thing to do. For example, while trying to enter an interstate freeway yesterday, the single car ahead of me refused to come up to speed on the onramp and entered at around 40 when the limit was 60 and traffic was moving even faster. You’re right you could hear my engine as I entered early and got up to speed.

      Yes, but people who drive fast when it’s necessary don’t tend to refer to themselves as people who drive fast. People who say “I drive fast” are, in my experience, those who drive fast whenever they can, not whenever they need to. I think it’s very likely that this person is just as they claim to be – someone who drives fast and has a loud car – and I don’t see any reason to attempt to argue against the way they’ve described themselves.

    5. Less anonymous than before*

      Not understanding what merging an interstate has to do with dropping someone off at their office/job/place of employment? There is absolutely no need to drive fast in ANY parking lot of ANY establishment, period. So instead of writing asking if mom can get in trouble, why not just STOP doing it?

    6. Less anonymous than before*

      #5 – Driving Fast.

      I keep seeing commenters saying they were writing in for advice and I don’t read it that way. While I may be off base here, I kind of feel like LW wrote the letter because mom told them they could fired for the constant complaints and the LW was like “no way you can’t get fired because of something I do when I don’t work there and I don’t intend to stop because they’re not the boss of me and I drive fast in my loud car, so I ‘m going to write this employment advice blog and prove it to you that you can’t get in trouble for what I do, so there!!”

      because I really don’t understand any other reason one would write in regarding a simple thing they have control over. Slow down in the parking lot. Just stop.

      The loudness of the car may or may not be something you can easily control. But driving like a bat out of hell because it’s what you do and what you want to continue doing is something you can easily control. Be courteous of other people, especially your mother, and just drive slowly in the parking lot. Feel free to tear it up on the freeways or whatever when you’re not damaging her reputation and risking her job.

      I don’t understand why else one would write in about something so easily adjustable.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I said this above, but it is possible that the OP wrote in because she’s concerned that her mom will get fired for complaints that have been made in the past–that she’s willing to slow down now, but she’s worried the damage has been done.

        From the letter as a whole, that was not the vibe I got. I definitely got the same impression you did. But if I’m reading the letter objectively, it’s just as possible that the OP is worried about her driving in the past.

        1. Anna*

          I got a somewhat incredulous “that can’t be true” vibe from the letter. Either way, OP, the answer comes down to slow down to a speed that wouldn’t get you pulled over in front of a school when you drop off your mom. (If you don’t know, that’s going to be 20 to 25 or the posted speed limit. Parking lots are about 10 to 15 mph.)

      2. Marcela*

        Because for some of us it’s crazy as hell to think we can be fired for anything, including things we didn’t do, therefore we ask “that can be right, right?!”.

  13. EE*

    #3, I’ve been thinking of writing in on a related issue! I have been doing a lot of finance contracts in a hot climate (Sydney). I usually wear trouser suits as I always have and the rest of the women usually wear dresses or a skirt+top combo, often sleeveless, often showing bra straps. Meanwhile the only concession men make to the climate is dropping the tie sometimes. How are these women not hurting their progression by literally showing underwear at work? The times that I do wear dresses I make 100% sure there is no risk of strap escape.

    1. snuck*

      I’ve worked in Sydney too (and Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth ;) )… Sydney was strange to me – there was a lot more fashionable and skin showing clothes on women than the other cities… the pony tails were tighter and higher, and the skirts shorter… well that’s how it felt to me.
      Brisbane had a less strict approach (unless you were in certain professions like Law), and a lot more business casual, but that’s expected in the sub tropics.
      Melbourne was normal for me (I’m from Perth), a mix of business suits, nice blouses/shirts and suit jackets. Summer dresses didn’t really show bra straps and skirts could be worn while you pick up a ream of paper from the floor. It was much closer to what I see on the Terrace in Perth. Perth you don’t wear floaty skirts or they blow up on the Tce.

      1. Brisvegan*

        I’m in sub-tropical Brisbane and definitely see a lot of women in sleeveless business dress. I totally wear sleeveless tops most of the time at work in summer, though I am a slightly heavy middle-aged woman. It is very hot and humid for at least 3 months of the year. Think 30C at least, every day, up to 40C a lot, and 30C-ish by 9am most days, plus high humidity (every new person comments on the stickiness).

        I’m in academia now, but have a background and lots of contacts in law. Sleeveless is reasonably common even in law offices (perhaps not the top 10 national/international firms, but even there, sometimes). Some professional women keep jackets or cardigans in the office. Part of that is that city parking is insane (up to $60 per day!), so many junior city workers take public transport in 30 -40 C (85-100-ish F) heat. It’s also sometimes really hard to buy dresses or blouses with short sleeves in the current fashion climate.

        Men in law in Brisbane often leave jackets at work and only wear them for client meetings or court (when the women would also often wear a jacket). (Barristers also have robes for court as a handy uniform.) It’s also not unusual for guys to change when they get to work, or at least not wear jackets and ties on the commute.

        Of course, in academia, it’s really common to see a wide variety of dress and short sleeves and open collars for men in summer are pretty much expected. My current well-dressed female dean wears sleeveless tops, but would have a jacket or cardigan handy for meetings with VIP’s. My previous male dean (very sharp dressed guy) would wear beautiful suits for events, but on-trend short or rolled up shirts at other times.

        Some types of suits for women would definitely read as being support staff wear. If you are a female lawyer or academic, you want to give social cues that differentiate you from admin staff. (Of course, support staff have a very important and different role and people in administrative roles need to take cues from their own hierarchy!)

        I think other Aussie capitals who share the heat can be the same. One major-firm female Sydney lawyer I know just keeps a second wardrobe of dry-cleaned clothes at work and changes when she gets there.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think this varies significantly based on where you work. Although bra straps are almost never professional, a bra strap peeking out from a sleeveless shell is less scandalous than a camisole/bra-strap combo. And sleeveless shirts can be 1000% ok in some markets and absolutely verboten in others. So it could be that you’re working in a region where there are more relaxed work-dress norms in which it wouldn’t hurt one’s progress to show some skin.

      1. EE*

        This is where we return to the men/women differences theme. I’m not working somewhere with casual norms for the men. All the places I’ve contracted in Sydney the men have been in full suits,albeit sometimes tieless. It makes those bra straps really stand out.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would gently push back on the idea that sleeveless tops are inherently more “casual.” I’ve worked in places where the appearance of a bra strap is really not a big deal and does not diminish perceptions of the level of formality of a woman’s sartorial choices. I’m not saying that you didn’t find the difference to be stark, I’m just saying that it’s possible that in some industries in Sydney it’s not seen as a big deal.

          But to be fair, I have very little patience when my guy friends complain about having to wear suits in summer while women wear dresses. Of course it’s uncomfortable to be overly hot (although frankly, they could buy a non-wool suit that’s adequately formal), but if that’s the only clothing/appearance issue they have to deal with in a day, they’ve got it easy.

    3. CMT*

      Would you rather they don’t wear bras? You probably shouldn’t be so concerned with your coworkers’ underwear.

      1. EE*

        Come on now,there’s quite the false dichotomy between “don’t have visible underwear” and “don’t wear underwear at all.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          If only there were a way to cover those straps and keep them from being visible… perhaps I shall invent such a thing, and call it a sleeve…

          1. Candi*

            When I was in high school, some of the girls used little safety pins to keep the bra straps under the shirt straps.

            Some went through the effort of tucking the safety pins out of sight. Others beaded or sequined them and wore them on top.

            Post-PE locker room was always interesting on hot days as the girls checked the pins.

  14. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2….only wanted to say you have my sympathies. I’ve managed a several people like your employee. Every time, I told them point blank that their attitude was a problem and laid out specific examples of how they behaved/interacted and what they should have/could have done instead. And I’m sad to report that not a single one ever changed. A couple toned down the attitude for a short time, but as soon as they thought they weren’t being monitored as closely it was back to business as usual. The “us versus them” is a mindset that can be very difficult to change, especially the older the person is. I’d give it one shot and be prepared and brutally honest and see what happens. If nothing changes, I agree with Alison and other commenters that it might be time to explore whether keeping this person in their current job is even worth it if they are truly that difficult to deal with on a regular basis. Best of luck!

    1. Czhorat*

      THere are people like OP2 in every organization. The worst part is that we encourage them; when someone complains, it’s easier to sympathize and nod along with them. It’s harder to redirect them to a more constructive way of looking at things without coming across as hostile. It’s possible that this co-workers negativity was nurtured through years of on-the-job gripe-fests. That’s a difficult thing to reverse.

  15. Recruit-o-rama*

    #4- many of the national staffing/recruiting agencies don’t really hire Recruiters, they call them Recruiters, but they are not HR professionals, they are sales people. The pressure on the employees is intense and the vast majority of their time is spent selling, not recruiting. I am called a few times a month by these agencies who first ask me if I would like a job and then when I tell them “no” they ask for my company’s business. Although as a company we do occasionally use (local, industry specific) contingency firms, we do not use staffing agencies because they don’t recruit, they sell. If I were you, I would tell them in no uncertain terms, in writing, that they are not permitted to use your name in their sales pitches and to stop using your professional references in their pipeline. Then, look for a local, independent contingency recruiter who specializes in your industry and who has a good reputation. I personally despise the warehouse firms because they are largely responsible for the bad reputation that Recruiters are saddled with.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      For another side to that coin, we regularly use staffing and temporary agencies to hire employees into good paying jobs at a good company (Wakeen’s!).

      Temporary agencies are indeed aggressive about getting their foot in the door (hello, sales), but we’re long term pleased with the 3 agencies we work with and the way our account and needs and temporary employees are handled. Our agencies are valuable resource for us, one that we’ve worked to cultivate.

      One of the advantages to using agencies for us is that we’re able to give less traditional candidates a try through agencies. The gentleman who now runs a small department for us, came through a temp agency to a $15 an hour job. His resume was very spotty and his interview was, well he was mostly paralyzed by stage fright in it, and if it had been a traditional hire situation we couldn’t have gone ahead. Instead he got a great job (hire after 3 months) and has had 4 raises and now leads a team of 3 people.

      (Ironically, we find the warehouse firms to be the absolute most valuable of all, or at least the one we work with. We have one warehouse firm and two “regular” firms.)

    2. Allison*

      Yup. I work in internal recruiting and we do not like working with agencies, or fielding sales pitches.

      The other day I spoke with an agency recruiter, who told me if I saw a job I wanted I should tell him, so he could pitch me to the company (and either pitch the agency to that company, getting their business, or if they already had a partnership, try to earn commission from my getting hired). Er . . . no thanks, dude I just met.

      Then another guy connected with me on LinkedIn, immediately sent me a pitch, and when I said we weren’t looking to partner with agencies at that time (bad working on my part, I guess), he immediately responded with “when should I contact you again?” Really, guy?

      THEN there are all the people who “apply” via AngelList, but are really looking to “work together” on filling our jobs.

      Agencies sales people are annoying, sneaky, and relentless, and I do not care to work with or for agencies if I can help it.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Sadly, in my area, a lot of the shady salesy “recruiters” are the same guys who used to be loan officers and put people in home loans they couldn’t afford.

  16. Joseph*

    “Yes. It would be weird for them to discipline her for it”
    I disagree. Co-workers are complaining about the disruption the loud noise causes. Basically, it’s no different than if mom got into loud arguments on the phone or had an obnoxious cell phone ring or any other mildly disruptive behavior: It would be weird if the company jumped immediately to discipline, but if you give enough warnings, then at some point it becomes less about the exact nature of the behavior and more about the refusal to address something that’s annoying your co-workers.

    1. Michele*

      It would probably take a lot for them to discipline her, but the would ban LW from company property. Then, if mom keeps bringing her onto the property when she gets dropped off for work, she would be disciplined for that.

      No matter what, just slow down in parking lots. LW isn’t cool because she upsets the olds. Endangering people does not make her a rebel.

  17. Here*

    I’m a little confused at the response to #1. It’s annoying to watch someone sucking up like that, but the usual advice is to MYOB unless it’s directly affecting your work. Not too long ago there was a guy possibly committing time card fraud and the OP was told to let it go. Gifting shouldn’t even be on the radar.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The time card fraud letter was from someone with basically no evidence that was happening. This, on the other hand, has the very strong appearance of being a major ethical issue.

    2. Observer*

      Actually, not only is this an issue where there is strong evidence of a serious ethical breach, it is something that potentially DOES affect others pretty directly. Even assuming that Julie is not demanding the gifts, the fact that she is apparently accepting gifts creates a difficult situation for the coworkers. At best, they cannot trust the impartiality and judgement of their team lead. At worst, they now have to worry that they need to be able to come up with expensive gifts to be treated well and have their work looked on favorably.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Still not kosher, though. If they are dating or involved, the nature of their business relationship means it’s not appropriate for them to be working together at all, and if they’re silly enough not to hide it well, then… Either way, it’s worth looking further into, because the whole situation is just hinky.

    2. Oh no, not again*

      Could be, but if they already were, that’s an odd escalation of gifts. I wonder if Julie has hiring/firing power or if she just has supervising capabilities?

      1. OP#1*

        Since Mary isn’t technically a direct report, Julie has no firing/hiring power or the ability to adjust time & attendance in her favor. She could make a suggestion or sort of report to the direct supervisor or department manager, who does have the final say on firing. Julie can tell Mary what to do and assign or even take away work for the day ( Mary is a known slacker) but that’s about it.

        1. Oh no, not again*

          Thanks, OP. Maybe Mary thinks Julie is her easiest way in to good graces, like somehow Julie will put in a few good words for her with upper management? Whatever the reason, of course it shouldn’t be happening.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If they were seeing each other then there would be no need to bring so many gifts to work. OP might see a couple gifts but because there are so many I doubt there is a dating relationship going on.

  18. KS girl at heart*

    In regards to #1 I immediately thought of a stalker type situation. Is it possible Mary has an unhealthy fixation on Julie and Julie is too scared to know what to do?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You know, it’s funny you say that, because that was my immediate reaction too– that Mary is the one pressing the gifts on Julie, not that Julie is asking for or demanding gifts. As in, Mary is on a PIP and wants to gain favor and is trying to do it by giving these inappropriate gifts and Julie has no idea what to do. Maybe Julie thinks it would be rude not to accept. No matter how this is playing out, it’s not good and management needs to intervene.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Not to be harsh, but if Julie honestly doesn’t know how to respond, she’s not ready to be in a leadership position. She doesn’t need to have the perfect response, but if she doesn’t know to say “no, I can’t accept that” she really needs more training before she’s ready for that position.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Oh, I agree completely. I just found it interesting that the general thought seems to lean toward Julie encouraging the gifting, while my first reaction was more Mary-focused.

        2. JessaB*

          True but unless they’re in a job where there’s a gift policy it’s not always something that’s brought up. Also, is the OP sure that Julie is keeping the more expensive items? Maybe Julie has already brought it up to higher management? Obviously if the iPad is on her desk that fails the test, but there may be things going on behind the scenes. It may be for instance that Julie is keeping the gift while management deals with Mary because they’re worried Mary will go off script and be difficult or dangerous.

    2. Cookie Roberts*

      I imagine that as these gifts ramp up, less obvious other behaviors might, as well. Saying something might help give Julie the chance to ascertain whether she just isn’t manging effectively, or whether there are some other weird things going on. I just feel like the gifting is probably not isolated, and sometimes a third party (grand boss?) can be helpful in pointing out how weird things are. When you are mired in it, it can be hard to tell.

    3. Isabelle*

      I had a more sinister thought, that maybe Mary knows she will fail the PIP and she will somehow use the gifts against the supervisor. Anyone would find it weird that Julie accepted a ring or an iPad. If Mary claims she was coerced to bring those gifts, she could get Julie into trouble. A ring is such an oddly intimate present between people who are not relatives, best friends or lovers.

      By the way I’m curious how she knew the correct ring size.

  19. AdAgencyChick*

    I wonder whether #5’s mom actually wishes OP would drive slower, but is putting it on the coworkers in the hopes that that’s more likely to change OP’s behavior than saying it bothers HER.

    1. JessaB*

      This. It’s really easy to use someone else as a complaint proxy, especially when it’s not someone the OP can go back and ask. “Jo says you drive too fast,” could end up with the OP complaining “Jo, why are you telling my mother you don’t like my driving instead of me?” Whereupon Jo goes “Huh? What the?” In this case there is zero ability really for the OP to ask the people in the company if they’re complaining because if they are oops, and if they’re not, it looks incredibly bizarre. So mom gets to proxy complain and maybe change OP’s behaviour without OP being ticked at mom or even ignoring mom if it’s been brought up before

  20. Menacia*

    OP #5 If your mother was not concerned herself, she probably would not bring it to your attention that her coworkers have been complaining. Slow down, for everyone’s sake.

    1. TootsNYC*

      that’s a good point.

      Mom has a -reason- she is mentioning these complaints to the OP.
      (a) Mom doesn’t care about the noise and the speed, but she’s tired of hearing the complaints or comments from her coworkers, and she wants her child to voluntarily tone down the driving and maybe even the noise of the car

      (b) Mom does care about either the speed or the noise, or both, and she’s hiding behind the complaints of her coworkers.

      (other options may exist)

      Either way: slow down, and check w/ a mechanic about the car.

  21. J.B.*

    OP#2 – I was pretty sure that Alison was going to say something about “be direct”. I have been on both sides of this issue. I was the employee with “attitude problems” (in a dysfunctional group, but definitely me as well) and was able to change when I moved on. I have also worked with someone who is a bully, has been coached several times to “be nicer to people” in order to get promoted.

    Based on this, I would suggest having a direct, specific conversation and then leave the ball in the employee’s court. Please don’t phrase it as “attitude” because that is really nonspecific and can be easily ignored. Give her specific examples of problem behaviors and require her to work on them. In return having an honest conversation about how she got that way may be enlightening. Maybe there are specific workplace issues that could be navigated differently, or maybe they won’t change.

    Please don’t go to bat for her for any promotions. Let her work for those on her own if she improves. She needs to prove herself to others. And possibly move on.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, this jumped out at me too — it’s not clear from the letter whether OP has given feedback to this employee about her attitude, not just her performance issues.

      Also, OP, when this person confides in you about wanting a promotion, what do you say? If you’ve been vague about it, I wouldn’t be — I think she probably needs it spelled out for her exactly what she is not doing that she would need to do in order to get the promotion she wants. (Frankly, the letter makes me think she should be told what she needs to do to keep her current job, much less get promoted!)

  22. OP#1*

    To try and clear up a couple of things- Mary & Julie are both in other relationships, with members of the opposite sex so I don’t think there’s any sort of attraction going on. I’ve been wrong before…. but I don’t think there is. Mary isn’t from any sort of culture or foreign country where this would be common.

    Our company has a gift giving policy that’s posted around this time of year- but the wording seems more for gifts to people outside of the company and not between co-workers.

    I don’t think that Julie has ever insisted on receiving, but she doesn’t refuse any of the gifts.

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

      Someone who has opposite-sex relationships might very well have same-sex ones too – though I’ll defer to your judgment in this case because you know Mary and Julie and I don’t. (My guess would be either Mary currying favor or Julie taking advantage of her position in light of Mary’s insecure position.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP#1 acknowledges that there could be a same-sex relationship (I don’t think there’s any sort of attraction going on. I’ve been wrong before…. but I don’t think there is.”), but says that she doubts that’s the case in this context, so I’m not sure we need to school her on this!

    2. Oryx*

      Well, the fact that they are in opposite sex relationships doesn’t mean same sex relationships and/or attraction is impossible. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

      (I’ll defer to your judgement on this but I just think that needs to be pointed out.)

  23. Allison*

    OP #5, I don’t accept “I drive fast.” Sorry. You don’t get to race around at unsafe speeds everywhere you go and go “well, I drive fast! it’s a fast car! deal with it!” You don’t need to adhere to the speed limit at all times, lord knows most people don’t, but you do need to drive at a speed that is normal and appropriate for where you are. Dropping your mom off at work, drive the same speed as everyone else dropping people off. The loudness of your car is possibly drawing attention to your speed. If it’s a mechanical issue, don’t worry about it, but if you’re doing something to make noise (blast music, rev your engine, honk, etc.) stop. It’s a place of business.

    Your mom won’t get fired, unless she’s issued warnings, but if people are complaining that your driving is distracting and putting people at risk, just stop. There really is no need to be obnoxious when you drop your mom off. Or ever.

    1. Allison*

      By the way, I’d say your mother does have some “control” over how you drive her. She can’t physically grab your leg and ease your foot off the gas, but you’re driving her, she has some say over how you drive. She can (and should) ask you to slow down.

      1. LavaLamp*

        My non-driving grandmother did that to my mum a long time ago. (Mom was going safe freeway speeds; on the freeway mind you) So yes; someone can grab your leg, although it’s a completely stupid thing to do.

        The sudden deceleration nearly caused a horrible accident and I do believe my mom lost it on my grandmother who realized pretty quick that she nearly got them killed. Sometimes people don’t learn until it involves either huge sums of money or near death before they understand that they do not know all. My grandma is one of those people.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh that sounds awful and terrifying. I’ve also seen passengers do this by grabbing the steering wheel and pulling it to the side. Sometimes front-seat passengers can be crazy dangerous and out of bounds.

        2. JessaB*

          This is why when we drove around relatives that couldn’t we made a pretty big habit of doing a Driving Miss Daisy and put them in the back seat unless they couldn’t be. Much less interference.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Hopefully, they had a good talk OR your mother stopped driving your grandmother around. Wow. Just wow.
          I had a dog jump on the cross bar of the steering wheel once. She had gotten loose on me and I did not realize. That was pretty scary. I cannot imagine a person grabbing me like that.

    2. N.J.*

      Just because the OP drives fast doesn’t mean he or she has a “deal with it” attitude. The OP wrote into an advice column so this person does have the wherewithal and I would say, capacity for understanding that their behavior affects others, to try and address their behavior. The OP used short, declarative sentences to describe the situation such as “I drive fast” or similar. Just because we don’t get a three paragraph treatise describing why they drive fast, whether there is a speed limit, how the mother feels about the driving, why the car is loud, whether the OP is ignoring posted speed limits, whether the OP is a new driver, or driving fast because they are always running late etc. Dlesnt mean they are an entitled jerk, which is what you are basically saying. As others have stated further up this thread, let’s give this LW the same benefit of the doubt we give all others. At the very least, this person cares enough about their mother to write in to ask if their current driving will or can get her fired. Geeze.

      1. Morning Glory*

        I can see this both ways because you’re right, that’s making some unkind assumptions, and it is nice the OP is driving her/his mother to work.

        On the other hand, it seems like there is such an obvious solution (just don’t drive fast when you’re dropping your mother off at work) that the OP shouldn’t need to write in to AAM to ask. I feel like if the OP had a reason why s/he needed to drive fast, it probably should have been included.
        Whether the OP’s mother could get in trouble or not, just knowing it was alienating her coworkers should be enough to change something so easily fixable.

        1. N.J.*

          I agree, this should be common sense. However, since the OP wrote in I would like to attribute it to cluelessness etc. rather than a “deal with it” attitude as described before. It really should be easy to fix, but we all have to learn at some point, so the OP might be at the beginning of that learning curve. I was shockingly unaware of how most of my behavior affected other people when I was younger, at least in certain situations. This may be the O.P. area to grow in. Not that he or she is necessarily young, but hopefully the point still has merit.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It does seem a little strange, though, to ask if your driving can get your mom reprimanded/fired. Like, does it take that level of harm before you change how you drive?

        1. N.J.*

          For some it might. Would that it were different, but a lot of human behavior that would seem obviously bad or dangerous to a lot of us might be oblivious to someone else.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          One likely possibility (which I’m not the first to come up with) is that the LW thinks Mom might be lying or mistaken when she says “I’m going to get fired if you don’t cut that out” and is looking for a counter argument, i.e., “they can’t do that because it’s against the law.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        It’s a question. Alison hung up a shingle that says, “I take questions”. So OP decided to ask her. Why not. Alison seems like a nice lady. OP did not know who else to ask, so what the heck, ask Alison.

        Just because an answer is clear to some, does not mean it is clear to all.

  24. ilikeaskamanager*

    I settled on a work “style” several years ago and everything I buy coordinates in that style. I have about 10 work outfits that all look similar, but have some differences in the cut of the skirt or slacks, and have mix and match colors. They are pretty basic–not trendy–I save trendy for outside of work (and I am pretty trendy there). I might set something off with a scarf or a pin, or some nice earrings. They fit me well and are flattering. I am amazed at how many women come up to me and compliment my style and ask me where I buy my clothes. We don’t have to look new or different every day to make a nice impression or feel good about our appearance. And as a bonus, almost all my work clothes come from consignment shops!

  25. Annie Moose*

    LW3: I too work for a company where the dress code is business formal (it’s a bit weird; we’re actually a web development company and aren’t conservative at all, but it’s just kind of our “thing” to dress formally even when we’re not meeting with clients), and I’ve observed a very similar thing. The men basically always all wear jackets and ties, while the women wear a mixture of suits, nice cardigans, nice dresses, and sometimes just a blouse + dress pants. I think this is just how it goes–women have more leeway in what qualifies as “formal”. And while this is a male-dominated company, we do have a number of female employees, so I don’t think this is a support staff vs. non-support staff thing.

    Like you, I generally just wear a suit every day (well, separates), and in the culture of my particular company, I doubt it’s noticeable at all. After all, even if sometimes other women don’t wear suits, they also sometimes DO wear suits. So at least in my situation, a woman wearing a suit isn’t odd or notable; a woman wearing a suit every day wouldn’t be odd or notable either.

  26. hbc*

    OP5: “Bottom line, can she be punished for something she has no control over?”

    But she does have control over it. She can arrange her transportation to avoid making a noisy, unsafe environment for her coworkers. Whether that’s getting dropped off nearby, or carpooling with someone else, or convincing her kid that he can ease up on the lead foot for two freaking minutes.

    If I’m her manager, I’m looking at the possibility that there’s an accident in the parking lot (maybe not even one where you’re at fault) involving someone who I was repeatedly told was driving recklessly. Is your mom such a good performer that I’m cool with risking that lawsuit? Or to turn it around, is your need for speed so important that you’re willing to risk that your mother’s manager might see the situation differently than you do?

  27. The Supreme Troll*

    Regarding LW #1, I want to (respectfully) play devil’s advocate. Alison, isn’t this a situation where it really isn’t the concern of the OP or coworker how Mary is choosing to interact with Julie? I’m seeing it as a situation where if I see my coworker leave 20-30 minutes early every day, come late to work every day by 15 minutes, etc…but it doesn’t affect my work productivity, it should not be of concern to me.

    1. OP#1*

      You’re right though- which is why I wrote in.

      The other quality tech and myself share the same cubicle space with Julie, but we are both outside of that department’s hierarchy. I realize now that I didn’t make that clear in my original letter, I cut some details out because I tend to get wordy. The co-worker and I that share the space with Julie are in a quality/training type role and report to a different manager than Julie or the other Team Leads, who are in a data-entry department; hence our hesitation at getting involved.

      Does it ultimately affect either of us in the long term? Probably not. We felt… icky about it though and wanted a second opinion on whether to just ignore it and let the chips fall where they may or let her manager know whats going on. I guess I should have included the details about our differing roles in case that changes things

      1. Sadsack*

        You are right to be concerned and should say something. What Supreme Troll is suggesting does not really apply here. You may have a bribery or extortion situation going on. Even if it is an honest mistake, Julie obviously needs training if she truly does not know that it is wrong for her to accept such gifts from an employee. (Sorry, but I find this extremely difficult to believe).

        1. Sadsack*

          P.S. It doesn’t matter what your role is or where you fall in the hierarchy in relation to the others involved. If you see something like this going on, it is absolutely in your interest and is your responsibility to say something. At least that is the view where I work. We all must operate according to our corporate code of conduct.

      2. Nate*

        Could you just say something to Julie, under the assumption that she is naive? Something like, “you may not realize this, but Mary’s gifts to you have the appearance of currying favor. You could find yourself unwittingly involved in some kind if ethics drama by accepting them.”

    2. paul*

      If you’re seeing your coworker offer things that could easily be construed as bribes (seriously, a frigging iPad?) to your supervisor? I’d say that warrants concern.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, I feel like this is less a Mary is leaving 10 minutes early thing and more a Mary and Julie are breaking the code of ethics at the company. Same as I’d be concerned if I saw Mary passing stacks of private data to a competitor, does it directly impact me? Maybe not, but I do think that it is something to report. Even an unsuccessful bribe is still a bribe and that’s what this sounds like to me.

    3. Sadsack*

      No way. You could say the same thing if you knew one of your coworkers was accepting bribes from contractors or making bribe offers to other agencies. Seeing what appears to be an employee bribing a manager or a manager extorting from an employee should raise concerns and management where I work would definitely want to be made aware of it.

    4. Zillah*

      I don’t think that that’s a great analogy – one coworker giving your team lead regular, expensive gifts raises genuine and very reasonable concerns about whether you’re going to end up with less desirable work or performance reviews due to a coworker bribing your manager. That’s not a MYOB kind of situation.

    5. Alton*

      I think things that can create the appearance of bribery or favoritism can become other people’s business. Even if both Mary and Julie see this as normal friendly gift giving, it can create an issue down the line, and Julie should be aware that it’s being noticed.

      The difference with something like leaving early is that there are many more innocent explanations that the whole office might not be aware of (like an employee having an arrangement to leave early due to medical reasons and not wanting the whole office to know the details). There aren’t many good reasons to give a supervisor jewelry, even if you mean well.

      I also think that people in supervisory roles also have a greater responsibility to set a good example and be mindful of conflicts of interest. Not all work relationships are equal.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      For me, the escalation in gift-giving paired with Mary’s tenuous work status make this more than a “doesn’t effect me, so it shouldn’t concern me” situation. Mary could be trying to curry favor with Julie, or Julie could be oblivious/abusing the relative power differential. Either of those reasons would be inappropriate in light of the fact that Mary is giving really expensive gifts, not simply buying Julie lattes all the time. I also think it’s perfectly fine for OP#1 to adopt a “see something, say something” approach when the uncomfortable dynamic has risen to this level.

      But additionally, depending on your coworker’s job, leaving 20-30 minutes or coming in late every day could be a significant management problem, so I’m not sure that that analogy supports your argument.

    7. N.J.*

      Your reasoning is really only correct for mundane things, such as your punctuality example. When something rises to the level of ethics, fraud, physical danger/violence, harassment, discriminatory conduct etc. the usual rules don’t apply. In this particular case, Julie is violating a basic ethical standard by accepting gifts from a subordinate, especially, if I recall correctly, one who has performance issues. That affects the perception of the integrity of not only Julie, but the management personnel at the company. You are applying a general rule of thumb to mind your own business unless a coworker is directly impacting you, but in too broad a context.

  28. The Supreme Troll*

    For LW#5, please, try to see this situation from the point of view of your mother’s coworkers. See if you can take their concerns into consideration. You just might realize that they’re right, and how simple it is to not let this be a problem at all.

  29. Chickaletta*

    #3 – I think the key in a conservative dress culture is to not draw attention to your clothing, keeping in mind that, depending on the dress culture, an overly formal suit can do that as much as a neon tank top. As long as you’re blending in and your clothing isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of you, you’re probably fine.

  30. Chicago Recruiter*

    #4: Former agency recruiter here. Calling “references” to make a sales pitch is unfortunately extremely common, as is asking where else a candidate is interviewing, what other agencies you have worked with, and what companies you have done temp assignments at – we even had an “intake” form we asked candidates to fill out asking for all this information when they came in to meet with us. Agency recruiting is very much a sales job, not an HR function, and generating sales leads was a huge piece of the job. This never sat right with me – needless to say I moved into corporate recruiting as soon as I could. Happy to provide more “insider” tips – AMA. :)

  31. Lillian Styx*

    #4 FWIW this happens to me a lot with my former interns when they hook up with agencies. It is annoying but I would never dream of holding it against my intern! I can usually shut it down by saying that I’m happy to be a reference for Intern, but I am not interested in hearing about any of their services.
    To make matters even more interesting for me, I have a temp agency as a neighbor in my office building and I have–not one–but TWO of their salespeople coming after me regularly. Even though they don’t even recruit for my industry. I feel for them, it must be a hard job but sheesh.

  32. Milla*

    LW1- Either Mary is attempting to bribe Julie into letting her keep her job out of panic for her current poor performance, or, worse, Julie is requesting these gifts from Mary as payment for her to keep her job. I’m leaning towards the first. If you were any kind of position of control over them, I’d sit them down separately and 1) tell Mary that giving presents is not the way to attain job security, improving her performance in ___, ___ ,and ___ areas is, and can we come up with a plan to help her achieve those goals? and then 2) tell Julie that accepting presents of any kind from a subordinate is inappropriate. She needs to return the gifts and shut that down. And then she needs to step it up and actually manage Mary.
    But, you’re not in authority, so I say give Julie one day of grace time to return, see the iPad, and then give it back and inform management of what’s happening. After that one day, go ahead and tell management about all of the gifts. It’s a bit unfair to expect people to do the right thing when they’re not given time to do it, so telling about the iPad when Julie isn’t aware of the iPad is on the jerk side. (But, don’t warn her you’re going to tell, just in case it’s the second situation, where Julie is the one demanding the presents.)
    Be super blunt with this person. Tell them “Your anti-management combativeness, such as when you (specific instance), makes you seem like a non-team player and is making people avoid you. If you want to be promoted to management, you are going to have to learn to work with them and your coworkers, because working with people and making their jobs easier is what a good manager does.”
    You are perfectly fine wearing your suit. Don’t fall into the trap of being “fashionable” if you don’t want to express yourself that way.

  33. 4 more days until holiday vacation!*

    Re #1
    I worked with a colleague like this once. She had serious, serious performance issues and would regularly say to her supervisor “I have kids and a mortgage, please don’t fire me” and she would also bring in gifts for people all the time to try to make up for us having to redo her work and do aspects of her job for her. I blame crap management for why that went on so long. she finally had a “breakdown”, destroyed a bunch of emails, screwed the rest of her office & our clients over and was subsequently fired, after a prolonged battle with the union.

  34. Cassandra*

    #2: I can’t promise what I’m about to suggest will work, especially on what sounds like entrenched behavior, but I haven’t seen it suggested yet, so I’ll give it a whirl. It’s a thing I sometimes do with students who aren’t interacting appropriately with me.

    Step 1: Reflect back, right there in the moment and non-judgmentally, how they’re coming across. “You sound really upset/frustrated/angry, Fergus.” It’s okay to sound a bit nonplussed, as long as that won’t seem incredibly disingenuous.

    Step 2: Empathize/apologize briefly. “I’m sorry about that.”

    Step 3: Ask what the fix might be. “What can we do to fix this?”

    Sometimes what’s going on is that the student (employee, in your case) straight-up doesn’t know how to ask for what they need, or even that they CAN ask an authority figure for what they need and the world won’t come tumbling down around their ears. (I have been this employee, actually, trained that way by an Awful Ex-Job or two; I’m training myself out of it, but it’s taking time.) So they stew and they ruminate and the pile of their unmet needs grows and they become awful to work with — I sure was.

    When this works, I often get an immediate apology from the student — in especially self-aware cases, also an acknowledgment that the behavior was not appropriate. When it half-works, I don’t get the apology or the self-awareness, but the student feels heard and the us-vs-them dies back long enough to work on the issue at hand.

    This technique is hard to use when you’re (justifiably!) irked. If teaching has taught me anything, however, it’s recognizing and dialing back on my own irritability, which I have a lot of under the best of circumstances. If I can do it, I suspect plenty of others can!

  35. Stylish Entrepreneur*

    I read OP 5 as not so much driving recklessly in parking lot, but more so being followed into work by his moms coworkers who then pitched a fit because OP passed them on the interstate going 5-10 over in a Dodge Challenger or something.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I thought about that, but the fact that the OP said more than one coworker has complained makes it seem more like it’s happening in a parking lot or on the road outside the office.

  36. Less anonymous than before*

    meant to post this as it’s own comment, and accidentally threaded it.

    #5 – Driving Fast.

    I keep seeing commenters saying they were writing in for advice and I don’t read it that way. While I may be off base here, I kind of feel like LW wrote the letter because mom told them they could fired for the constant complaints and the LW was like “no way you can’t get fired because of something I do when I don’t work there and I don’t intend to stop because they’re not the boss of me and I drive fast in my loud car, so I ‘m going to write this employment advice blog and prove it to you that you can’t get in trouble for what I do, so there!!”

    because I really don’t understand any other reason one would write in regarding a simple thing they have control over. Slow down in the parking lot. Just stop.

    The loudness of the car may or may not be something you can easily control. But driving like a bat out of hell because it’s what you do and what you want to continue doing is something you can easily control. Be courteous of other people, especially your mother, and just drive slowly in the parking lot. Feel free to tear it up on the freeways or whatever when you’re not damaging her reputation and risking her job.

    I don’t understand why else one would write in about something so easily adjustable.

    1. Jenbug*

      That’s exactly the way I read that letter as well. It came across as the LW wanting validation to continue their bad habits, not advice on how to handle a difficult situation.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t understand why else one would write in about something so easily adjustable.


    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yes. This is IMHO part of taking the LW at their word: this LW straight-up says that they’re a fast driver; we don’t have to guess whether they’re driving fast because they have actually told us that they are. (If it were a question of “I have a sportscar and people assume I drive fast even when I don’t,” I’d expect it to be “I have a sportscar” that they said, not “I drive fast.”)

      It’s not being unfair to them to assume that they are telling the truth and advise accordingly.

  37. Less anonymous than before*


    I didn’t read much in the letter about why this employee was an asset worth keeping on, despite their poor attitude towards management. She really does need to let this go, unless she plans to go into business for herself where she will be the boss (but the clients will still be the boss, in a sense to be honest) because in all stages of her career, she will likely report to someone, or have a boss at any level. So this attitude she is taking will hinder her.

    What else about this employee is so great that you wish to keep her on despite having had these conversations before. If she is so bitter about management simply because they are management, she sounds like the type that holds on to negative feels/grudges/etc regardless of whether they’re warranted or not. So she will likely also develop the same attitude towards her role when she sees it doesn’t change. Instead of examining her attitude and developing herself based on her role, her abilities, the environment etc.

    Like Alison said, perhaps be more blunt but if you don’t see immediate change, examine whether or not keeping her at all is worth. She could be poisoning the well for other employees and you may not be aware of it./

  38. Less anonymous than before*


    I think this one started off innocuously and pretty harmless as you pointed out. Having cute page flags/sticky notes is something I personally enjoy and if I am especially chummy with someone at work, I might grab an extra pack for them or if I have a duplicate or something, toss it to them at work. No biggie.

    But the ring… that’s so outside of… like what? and then an ipad. HUH? Are Mary and Julie hanging outside of work or chummy outside of work? Perhaps its a way to garner favor whilst being on the PIP or perhaps Mary isn’t aware of how it’s looking,and maybe Julie doesn’t think there is much of a power dynamic here only being a lead and not an actual manager?

    Either way, yeah, it looks weird and I think it should be pointed out because even if it’s harmless, the perception to other employees is already bad enough.

  39. Norman*

    Re #4 – My wife worked at the largest temp agency in the United States, and it was definitely not SOP to call a potential employee’s references to pitch them. (It was SOP to get references right off the bat, because the agency checks them to decide if/where they want to place you.) HOWEVER, they encouraged their recruiters to bring in leads very aggressively, so it is not surprising that at least some of their recruiters have taken to calling references to pitch them.

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