job candidate keeps talking about her mother, HR forwarded my message to my boss, and more

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

1. Job candidate keeps talking about her mother

I work in an administrative role for a school program. I’m not involved in the hiring of our staffing, but I know what’s going on behind the scenes.

We had an employee who interviewed for several teacher positions last year, and was not offered any of them. She ended up resigning in the fall and taking a job with another district. I always felt bad for her, because while I’m not super knowledgeable about her skills, I know she’s performed well on evaluations and she is a pleasure to work with.

When I asked, it turned out that often in interviews, she would mention her mother. When asked questions like “why do you want to be in this role?” or “what interests you about working with children?” or “what prompted you to pursue a degree in education?” she would say things like “my mom wanted me to.” Of course that would turn off the interviewers!

She just came into our office today to ask about openings because it hasn’t been working out at this other job, and she mentioned her mother AGAIN: “My mom raised me not to quit a job without another one lined up.” I just want to shake her! At the very least she needs to brush up on her interviewing skills. Is there anything I can say to her to help?

You’ve gotten the feedback about her interviews secondhand, and so it’s not really yours to pass along. (That’s the interviewers’ call to make.) But can you talk to whoever told you what happened and suggest that they give her feedback about this? If she’s applying for an opening there again, that’s a decent context for them to do it in, and you can explain that you’ve heard good things about her and that you think that if this one weird thing weren’t getting in her way, she’d be a strong candidate.

2. HR forwarded my message to my senior manager and lectured me about political talk

I work in a large biotech company. In the wake of the recent executive order banning refugees, I sent this message to HR through our “secure, confidential” HR messaging system: “I am deeply disappointed in Company’s lack of response to President Trump’s egregious executive order banning refugees from entering this country. In a company of ~20,000 people. we have colleagues and friends who have been directly affected and hurt by this executive action. Remember, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”

HR forwarded my “secure, confidential” message to my skip-level senior director, who forwarded it to my boss with instructions to have an “emergency, ad-hoc one-on-one meeting” to convey HR’s response.

The HR response, as read to me: “We are a multi-national company with a very diverse workforce and people from all walks of life – including Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters. Given this, taking a political stand is not good for the company. What makes the company such a beautiful place is its diversity, and that’s why we need to remain neutral. We’re a publicly traded company with people from all walks of life. There are forums outside of work for expressing your political views, and it’s important to keep this stuff out of the workplace. You need to keep your feelings on the president to yourself and be careful who you talk to. It’s a form of harassment to talk about this stuff with people who don’t share your views. We work in a diverse place and it’s important to get along with everyone.”

I get that it’s important in a workplace for everyone to get along, and I have NOT discussed this matter with anyone outside a close circle of friends. Both throughout and since the election, I have been very careful to only talk politics with and around my friends, despite some truly frothy discussions occurring around me daily.

Is it normal that HR to forward this message to my senior management? And is it really considered harassment to discuss politics with people who don’t agree with you?

It’s not harassment in the legal sense, no. Your company could certainly include it in their own internal harassment policy — but even then, that would generally apply to forcing political conversation on people who don’t want it, not on giving input about your company’s practices to your HR department. So that part is really ridiculous. If they don’t want to receive that kind of input, they can just explain that to you and say that the HR messaging system is for issues with benefits, payroll, and so forth. Responding with this particular lecture was really weird.

And that “be careful who you talk to” wording is gross.

Looping in your manager isn’t out of the ordinary though. They shouldn’t call their messaging system confidential, because by definition there are loads of things you might talk to HR about that they shouldn’t and in some cases can’t keep confidential (like harassment reports). In many cases, it makes sense for HR to talk with your manager about things they’ve talked with you about. It doesn’t make sense, though, for them to preemptively promise you confidentiality when any decent HR person knows they can’t make that promise ahead of time.

Your HR department is pretty crappy, basically.

3. My boss asked me not to come in to his office while other people are in there

My manager and the company’s CEO were sitting in my manager’s office with the door open, and with another colleague standing in the doorway talking to them. I had a document I needed my manager to sign, so I walked into the room and placed a document on his desk, just saying “sorry ill just leave that there” and walked out.

Now my boss says “just wait until we have finished our meeting before bringing things in.” The door wasn’t closed (in fact it was wide open) and none of us were informed they were having a meeting. What should I say/do? I feel like I am in trouble for something that I feel I didn’t even do wrong.

Unless there’s more to it than what’s here, it doesn’t sound like you’re in trouble; your boss just asked you to do something differently. Now you know that he doesn’t want you to interrupt him while he has people in his office.

Sometimes a manager will correct you or ask you to do something differently; it’s not usually a big deal. Message conveyed, messaged received, and there doesn’t need to be more to it than that.

4. Online applications that require graduation dates

I’m encountering too many online job applications that require that I enter educational graduation dates, which is just a sneaky way to determine my age. I’m frustrated because often I feel this eliminates me from interviewing, which would allow me the opportunity to discuss in person that yes, while I’m over 40, I’m not technology-phobic, I enjoy learning new skills and software, I have a wealth of experience, and I have a stronger work ethic than a large number of younger candidates. How can I get around this question and still maintain my integrity?

If it’s a required field, you may not be able to get around it. But you can try entering or selecting a year that’s obviously incorrect, like 1902. They may think it’s a typo for 2002 or they may be annoyed that you didn’t answer the question accurately, but that’s the only way to get around it if it’s a required field for an online application. And if it’s not a required field, just leave it blank. That’s fine to do; it’s really normal for people to leave their graduation year off their resume once they’re 10+ years or so out of school.

I wouldn’t be so sure that it’s being used for age discrimination though. I mean, age discrimination is a real thing, but it’s not necessarily in play here as the reason you’re not getting interviews; people of all ages often have trouble getting interviews, so it’s hard to say with any certainty that it’s a factor. (Plus, most hiring managers just look at your resume and not at all the info collected by online screening systems anyway.)

5. Staying in touch after turning down a job or an interview

I recently turned down a job offer and a second interview offer somewhere else, but would like to be able to follow up with some of the people.

The offer I turned down was with a local company, but through a contracting company. Unfortunately, what the contracting company said the job was and what I learned in the interview were very different. However, the boss there was great, and if she were hiring for other positions in her organization I would be interested.

The second position I interviewed for because I met the boss at a networking event and he asked me to send my resume, which led to a phone interview and then an in-person interview, but when they asked me to come in a third time I politely declined. The organization is an expansion in my area and the interview process was terribly disorganized and unprofessional. I am sure they will get the kinks worked out in time, but it is a mess I don’t want to step into. However, the boss is well connected in my industry in my smallish city, so I would like to remain on good terms with him.

Is there a good way to reach out to them and say “I’d like to stay connected with you professionally, but don’t want to work for your organization”?

With the second place, you don’t need to say that you don’t want to work for them, because they already know that since you withdrew from their hiring process. But you can email the manager and say that you really appreciated the chance to get to know him and his company, enjoyed your conversations about X and Y, and would like to stay in touch. Connect on LinkedIn too.

With the first place, send a similar message but add something like, “While this position ended up not being the right match, I really liked what I learned about the work you’re doing, and if you have a position open in the future doing Y or Z, I’d love to talk again.”

{ 571 comments… read them below }

        1. Be the Change*

          Well, new people come along all the time. The message is most authoritative from Alison, although the rest of us certainly can do our part.

        2. Starship it's*

          Also she posted.this immediately after the post was made before there were any comments so I don’t really see it as a weary reminder so much as a preemptive one.

    1. HannahS*

      Just want to say, Alison, that you’ve been more actively shutting off-topic things in the last few weeks, and I really appreciate it. I feel like since you’ve made it a goal, the section here has become more focused and kinder to letter writers.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        On the flip side, I find it has made the comments section much more like an echo-chamber and far less interesting. I pretty much just read the columns and skip the comments now.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If not having to deal with political discussions means a less interesting comment section, I am 100% okay with that! There are loads of places one can go to talk politics; this doesn’t need to be one of them. (And there seem to be increasingly few places one can go if one doesn’t want to talk politics.)

          1. Electric Hedgehog*

            Well, but it’s other stuff too. There’s been a lot more of the ‘Just popping in to agree with Allison but nothing else to add!’ comments lately, which aren’t particularly interesting additions to the conversation (besides demonstrating how many of us agree/disagree – which, on those lines, what would you think about adding a polling feature to show that?). It also seems like the commentariat the last week or two have been jumping rather violently upon those who hold opposing viewpoints. It’s alienating and shuts down thoughtful and measured discussion of all the topics at hand – including politics (but I totally support a full politics ban!).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The norovirus post was a freaking disaster, but other than that I’m actually not seeing a difference in those other things in the last week. However, the site’s traffic jumps every January and there’s been a big jump in the last week, so it’s possible that’s playing a role. I’ll keep an eye on it!

            2. Mike C.*

              Honestly, I don’t think you can determine a trend from a few unusual questions. When you combine health/safety issues with a wide gulf in cultural expectations (either you know about noro or you don’t) there’s going to be conflict. Even then, conflict isn’t always a bad thing.

            3. MillersSpring*

              I disagree that comments need to add something to the conversation. A bunch of commenters agreeing with Alison, especially if they’re also seasoned managers, adds weight to her advice. The OPs might be more apt to take the advice.

          2. DelavayaZhenschina*

            At the risk of sounding sycophantic, I find myself coming here more and more precisely *because* of the lack of politics. And I love politics, but boy is it nice to think about something else, particularly when it’s constructive.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Yeah. It is UNRELENTING in daily life right now. My husband and I can’t seem to think/talk about anything else. Our friends are having the same issue.

        2. Lissa*

          Hmm — I actually found the comment section to be more of an echo-chamber before, because you’d get 300 comments all essentially agreeing with each other in an off-topic thread (often something like going off on a letter writer or a commenter who used a word choice some people didn’t agree with.) I really like the rule of “call it out once, then let it drop.” It’s made me feel less like I might get jumped all over for using the wrong word.

        1. Anon for this*


          Also haven’t felt it was creating an echo chamber… This is the least strictly moderated site I visit, and that’s including a couple of Reddit subforums. I feel like we’re free to talk about anything that might help OPs, and that’s really what I would expect from any advice site.

          1. Honeybee*

            Yes. In fact, I think it may feel like an echo chamber because people here disagree with each other very politely and reasonably here. In other Internet forums when people disagree they do so more…vehemently.

  1. Zombeyonce*

    OP #2, I feel for you. I also work for a large company and everyone was quite happy when our president sent an all-staff email talking about the ban and potential pressure to give up information on immigrants and assured everyone that our company would in no way participate in any of that. Also that he and all the executives supported diversity and would publicly be against the ban.

    It really bothers me that your HR didn’t give any credence to your message about how plenty of employees would be affected by this and likely worried and waiting for some reassurance from their employer. No matter what people think or who they think is in the right in this situation, they can’t deny that people they know and may see every day are affected, either directly or have family or friends that are going to suffer because of these changes. I wish more companies would get in front of this and tell their employees how they will be participating or not in all this, even just as a warning.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed—OP#2, I’m sorry. What HR told you would have been appropriate if you were going around sending political emails to your peers or trapping people in the hall to talk politics. But you did none of those things, and HR’s reaction makes them seem really incompetent (and bad at reading comprehension).

      At a minimum, an organization that relies on workers impacted by the President’s order should let folks know what it is or isn’t doing to support those employees—and that message should go to everyone, because even U.S.-citizen employees may need support if they have family members (children, SOs) that are affected by the EO. Explaining how an employer intends to proceed does not require taking a position on the EO itself.

      I don’t know if it makes sense to follow up with your supervisor (or whatever more senior person HR sent this to) because it could backfire and make things worse for you if senior managers are on the same page/level as HR and think your follow up is “political harassment.” But I would be really irritated if I were in your shoes, and I’m sorry you’re working with people who don’t seem to have the tools to manage the hot-button issues that are going to cross the company’s path.

      1. Mookie*

        At a minimum, an organization that relies on workers impacted by the President’s order should let folks know what it is or isn’t doing to support those employees—and that message should go to everyone, because even U.S.-citizen employees may need support if they have family members (children, SOs) that are affected by the EO. Explaining how an employer intends to proceed does not require taking a position on the EO itself.

        Exactly. There’s nothing divisive or provocative in acknowledging a world event that may have serious consequences for employees (and, by extension the employer), especially if the employer is in a position and has the means to support those employees and cushion them or assist them in recovering from such consequences. The ban is directly related to labor rights. This is a labor issue in addition to being a humanitarian one. It is not harming “diversity” to accept this reality. “Diversity” will shrink if the employer does nothing.

        Would HR have reacted as harshly if the LW was, in fact, one of the people directly targeted by the ban? (And why is HR equating those people targeted by the ban with “Trump supporters?” Trump supporters are in no way injured or discriminated against by an employer advocating on behalf of all of its employees and their families. Both sides are not equal here because the suffering is only doled out in one direction.) Would that not be some kind of low-grade, probably-not-actionable harassment in itself? As it stands, there was nothing “neutral” about what they e-mailed the LW; being told to be quiet is an active, not passive, response, and favors insulating the existence and experiences of one group of colleagues from another in order to protect that other’s feelings. That creates a hierarchy and not equality.

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


          “Both sides are not equal here because the suffering is only doled out in one direction” YES, THANK YOU. OP2’s company is taking (in)action that impacts people based on a protected class (national origin). And “Trump supporter” is NOT a protected class – even if they were being impacted by this, which they’re not.

        2. Zombii*

          > And why is HR equating those people targeted by the ban with “Trump supporters?”

          This HR’s commitment to “diversity” seems to actually be a commitment to “making no statement and taking no action that might make anyone uncomfortable—even though the situation we refuse to address is also making other people uncomfortable, and we don’t understand that sometimes not taking any action is still an action that will be judged.” The coward’s way, basically.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      I don’t think HR is in the wrong here. While I think the ban is wrong (not trying to insert politics here), I don’t see why any company MUST issue some sort of statement regarding political policies.
      People can all wish all they want for companies to disclose their political views, but companies are under no obligation to do so. In fact, most people advocate for workplaces to be free from politics, so in this case, the company is doing so and I can’t see the problem in it.
      If indeed there are employees affected, then those affected, anyone who works with them not just the people themselves, should be informed by the company on what actions will be taken. However, it seems to me OP#2 wants some sort of public or company-wide comment on the order despite the fact that she isn’t personally affected (disappointment doesn’t count as being affected), and I don’t see the need.
      That said: I feel HR could have just reached out directly to OP with their response. But I also don’t see is as problematic that OP’s manager was looped in.

      1. BWooster*

        “I don’t think HR is in the wrong here.”

        They did, completely aside from the issue of taking or not taking a stand on the EO. A company could have and should have simply addressed OP’s concerns without weirdly-sounding quasi-threats. “We understand your concern. Concerns of our employees are important etc etc and we welcome comments etc etc. Diversity etc etc. .”

        If ever a question called a boilerplate response, it’s this one. And looping in the entire chain of command to scold the employee was completely over the top.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yeah, it sounds like the HR person is inserting his/her personal views in an attempt to intimidate the OP. That is Not Cool, and would be problematic not matter which side HR and the OP were on.

          1. caryatis*

            But the HR person said nothing about their personal views. The message was, we are neutral and we want to respect Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters alike. It says something about you if you think that’s a biased message.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Without getting specifically political, I will simply say that apparent neutrality is not always truly a neutral stance. History has shown us that in clear and vivid detail. When one side of a conflict is targeting the other side to cause them harm, neutrality isn’t neutral, it’s a passive vote in support of the side doing harm.

              1. Kate*

                Except hurt is not necessarily factual, people can feel hurt without actually being hurt. And hurt isn’t a zero sum game. Both sides in an issue can feel they are being hurt. Neither side is necessarily wrong or right. And no one can say whose overall hurt is greatest or truest, collectively speaking. That would require omnipotence, which none of us have.

                1. SCAnonibrarian*

                  I strongly disagree with that. If toddler Jimmy is about to burn his hand on the stove, but teen Jenny is on the phone with her super-cool boyfriend and would have her feelings hurt if I yelled at her to rescue her brother because I was halfway across the room and needed her to, then you can bet your bananas that Jenny’s feelings are gonna be hurt. In Jenny’s mind (full of teen drama and angst and roiling chemical developmental soup) I have done her and her relationship serious harm, and Jimmy’s happily clueless either way, but objectively speaking, my outside perspective (or even maybe them looking back on it once it is in the past) it’s pretty clear that Jimmy faced a much higher potential for actual physical real harm, even though neither he nor Jenny thought of it that way in the moment. I feel like it’s up to the moms (the company here, and other people with power) to use their perspective and experience to try and understand the potentials for actual physical harm (and for hurt feelings too, when possible) and to focus at least partially on preventing or mitigating actual harm to their employees regardless of who else might have their feelings hurt. Sure in an ideal world the company would help with both feelings and actual actuarial harm, but you can’t control people’s feelings. And I strongly disagree that anyone’s hurt feelings are equal to specific targeted physical harms.

                2. Kate*

                  Reply to SCAnonibrarian, since I can’t nest it: You are comparing things that aren’t the same at all.

                  My point was that even if someone is feeling hurt, they aren’t necessarily being hurt in reality. My second point was that even if someone is being hurt in reality, that unless we have god-like superpowers, we can’t decide definitively who is being hurt more.

                  For us to discover it would mean a decades long study examining everything from a psychological, sociological, personal financial, national economies of multiple countries, national security of multiple countries, etc, angle.

                  We can’t do this so no one, no matter who would like to think so, has the power to declare who is definitively right and who is definitively wrong and who is getting hurt more and by how much and so on and so forth.

                  All we can do is state our personal opinions (“I think”, “I feel”) and why we feel that way.

                3. Trout 'Waver*

                  Some things are right and wrong though. You can’t just throw up your hands and say, “we can never know” at everything. There are people out there actively hurting people and they should be called out for it.

                  Jadelyn is spot on. A neutral stance is a permissive stance when people are being hurt.

              2. BeautifulVoid*

                “Without getting specifically political, I will simply say that apparent neutrality is not always truly a neutral stance. History has shown us that in clear and vivid detail. When one side of a conflict is targeting the other side to cause them harm, neutrality isn’t neutral, it’s a passive vote in support of the side doing harm.”

                This. Or to make it even more non-political, to paraphrase the great Captain Awkward, if your boyfriend abuses you and you break up with him, and when you tell mutual friends about what happen and they respond “oh, I hate drama, I don’t want to choose sides”, guess what? They’ve chosen a side, and it’s not yours, the victim’s.

            2. Liz2*

              To me the bias is because it doesn’t actually address the issue the email was asking about- support for employees and their families who may be directly impacted by this new policy.

              Instead it lumped it as a scary problem and used scare tactics to silence the issue.

            3. Working Mom*

              I would have to agree that I don’t think that this HR dept did something inherently wrong. Could it have been handled better, of course. I definitely can see where the response, engaging senior leaders, the “emergency meeting” was overkill. A boilerplate response that basically says, “we appreciate your opinion, for reasons X, Y, and Z our company is choosing not to participate in the dialogue, etc.” That would have been sufficient. I could also see the other side – from the HR and leadership perspective – that maybe this is not an isolated comment. It’s possible that several employees have made related statements to various outlets within the organization, and HR/Leadership have agreed to take a firm stance on staying out of the conversation. So from that angle I can moderately understand the over-reaction be HR and leadership, but agree it’s an overreaction. While I generally agree with nearly every comment of Alison’s (and learn a ton), I personally wouldn’t agree that this is a crappy HR department. An overreaction, definitely; but like I said I could see the overreaction if these types of comments from employees (on both sides of the argument) have become frequent.

            4. JM60*

              “The message was, we are neutral and we want to respect Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters alike.”

              The latter writers message didn’t reference Trump supporters though; It mentioned policy relevant to employees. So it’s a bit strange to respond by talking about respect and diversity. I bet what really happened is the HR person was someone who strongly disagreed with the letter writer.

            5. Zombii*

              It’s a biased message because it compares people that are being affected by something to people who are not being affected by something, but (hypothetically—I know some of them don’t) support the thing that is affecting other people.

              Other companies who have employees that are going to be affected by this have made internal, and external statements about it. I don’t think it’s out of bounds to ask your company whether they have an official statement about something that may have an effect on their workers, especially after you see other companies addressing it. Getting a response back that includes the advice “be careful who you talk to about this” is just weird, as is looping in the manager’s manager, to tell the manager to address it with LW instead of just approaching LW directly (it reads to me like when you cc management to make sure the person knows it was seen).

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yeah exactly. This was a pretty nuclear-level response to something that could have been smoothed over with a well-placed copy-paste.

      2. Czhorat*

        If they want a “no politics” rule in terms of office chatter, I somewhat understand that. To privately and respectfully request that management take a position on something because of both business needs and ethical reasons strikes me as one hundred percent reasonable and acceptable .

        I also have a pet peeve with misuse of the language of diversity, inclusiveness, and harassment to protect bigotry. They essentially said, “”We’re a diverse workplace. We respect bigots and those who struggle against bigots.” That is not what diversity is or means. Simply stating an opposing position is NOT harassment.

        There’s little potential redress, but they are as wrong as they can be.

        1. Jadelyn*

          “We’re a diverse workplace. We respect bigots and those who struggle against bigots.” I love this rephrasing! Stealing this to use in the future, as I’m sure it’ll come in handy.

        2. Electric Hedgehog*

          Well, actually that’s the kind of language they’re trying to avoid. Neither party is full of monsters or bigots, and both parties have reasonable concerns that the other side finds horrific. But calling names or declaring that either side is evil is just going to put up people’s backs, and won’t result in changing anyone’s hearts or minds.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            That’s a perfect example of false equivalence. Rather than using labels or blanket statements of ‘both sides do it’, we should judge based on the outcome of people’s actions. If the result of their actions is persecution of minorities, they should be called out for the bigots they are, regardless of political identity or affiliation.

            1. Zombii*

              But that would be refusing to tolerate intolerance, which is something tolerant people aren’t allowed to do.

            2. Durandal*

              Are you willing to call the person who sits next to you at work a bigot, and accept all the consequences of your actions?

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Yes, if they act like a bigot to my Muslim coworkers, I would absolutely call them out on it in a heartbeat. Likewise any faith, orientation, ethnicity, gender, etc.

        3. Kate*

          According to Webster’s II dictionary: bigot (n) One fanatically devoted to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and intolerant of those who differ.

          By assuming that a group of people has certain beliefs and deriding that entire group on the basis of your assumptions about their beliefs, without any tolerance considering that some of them might have different beliefs, and by deciding that your group is the best and the only right group, and that all other groups are wrong, wrong, wrong, such a person would in fact, be a bigot.

          People can have a lot of reasons, good or bad for supporting any issue (I have heard some really weird ones for some issues), you shouldn’t assume you know what they are, or that they are bad people because they feel differently than you do.

        4. LabTech*

          It’s also frustrating how “diversity” has been re-defined to mean “people with different political views,” rather than racial diversity, proportionate gender representation, LGBT inclusion, religious diversity, inclusion of people with disabilities, etc. etc. – ensuring there’s proportionate representation of people who actually have a hard time getting jobs because of who they are. What really gets me is that ban has directly made the workforce less diverse, so no, they’re not supporting actual diversity.

          1. Zombii*

            Appropriating and redefining words the other side uses to cause confusion among bystanders is a common tactic.

        5. Trying hard not to make political arguments here*

          This! I was trying to figure out how to phrase what you put so perfectly with “We respect bigots and those who struggle against bigots.”

      3. sstabeler*

        I don’t disagree with you about the reasonableness of OP#2’s request, but I see two problems.
        1.they claim it’s harassment to talk about your political views to someone who disagrees. Um, not inherently. ( it’s fine to debate politics with someone, for example, although probably not on the clock)
        2. it’s not really reasonable to loop the manager in- particularly for what is effectively the equivalent of being told off by a teacher- when the messaging system is supposed to be confidential. It means that they see it as if they consider the complaint baseless, they will share details. What if it was a complaint of bullying, they consider it baseless, and inform the bully?

      4. always in email jail*

        I think HR was wrong. I don’t think the company was under any obligation to put out a statement regarding something political, but their handling of their “confidential” messaging system is wrong.

        1. Jenbug*

          Agreed. I also think that asking LW’s manager to have an “emergency” meeting with her about the email was unnecessary.

        2. NJ Anon*

          Op #2 lesson learned. Don’t EVER assume anything you tell HR will be kept confidential no matter what they say.

          1. AMG*

            Yes, even if HR promised you they won’t tell anyone, you have to assume it will get back to the last person you would want HR to tell.

            Also, it sounds to me like your email reached someone who doesn’t agree with your political stance. It feels kinda…personal? Emotional?

          2. Anon for Now*


            I’m sorry to say that my experience with HR is that HR plays fast and loose with promises of confidentiality, does not always comprehend the meaning of confidential, and tends to use it as a broad, sweeping statement. I’ve more than once had to recommend that they stop making broad statements that employee complaints or statements will be kept confidential.

            1. Recruit-o-Rama*

              I think this HR broad brush is so unhelpful and really disrespectful to all the HR professionals who regularly post here.

              1. Anon for Now*

                I’m not implying some nefarious intentions. This is the perspective of someone who has had to deal with the fallout of HR overpromising broadly in this arena. HR absolutely cannot promise to keep complaints and statements confidential, especially on big stuff that may result in litigation.

                Certainly, HR can circumscribe their responses. “We will be discreet and keep mattes in confidence to the extent possible during an investigation. However, we cannot promise absolute confidentiality.”

                No employee should accept at face value a broad statement from HR that employee complaints will be kept confidential because HR cannot make such blanket promises and keep them. Not sure why that is disrespectful to say. That is a fact.

                1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  You know, what often happens is that an employee will tell and HR rep something and then say “please keep this between us”. It recently happened to me when an admin called me to tell me that a bunch of people called her from another location to ask about applying to her location because their manager was being an ass. She told me she was only calling me to tell me because she wanted to know the internal application process and THEN asked me not tell anyone. I said “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, I have to tell the HR Manager and the faculty manager that there is a problem at their facility” and she ranted at me about how HR can’t keep anything confidential, etc… I never promised her confidentiality and I am BOUND to look out for the company. The assumption of confidentiality is something that exists and maybe we need to do a better job of being clear, but I cannot control what people assume or what they tell me as a result of those assumptions. This doesn’t appear to be applicable to the OPs letter, but I just wanted to point out that HR is in a tough spot sometimes because what people assume about the role of HR and what the actual role of HR is are sometimes not in synch and that saying HR plays “fast and loose” with the rules is so unfair.

              2. Retail HR Guy*

                I don’t find it disrespectful at all. Anon for Now’s talking about their own experience, not calling out all HR professionals everywhere.

                I also think it’s fair game to point out that while individuals vary, nevertheless certain professions tend towards a certain flaw or a certain limited point of view (lawyers tend to use excessive verbiage, academics tend to be less practical and more theoretical, etc.). So long as it’s presented politely as a word of warning and not being used to bash an entire profession I don’t see the problem.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  MegaMoose, thank you for providing us with your feedback as a valued AAM commenter. We will investigate your claim(s) into any possible wrongdoing on the part of Retail HR Guy, Inc. and take appropriate action.

            2. Jadelyn*

              I’m sorry to hear that’s been your experience, but as Recruit-o-Rama said, that’s not helpful to the discussion and is pretty rude to commenters who are ourselves HR professionals.

              Also, I’d say that it’s not that HR does not “comprehend the meaning of confidential” so much as employees misunderstand the term to mean “literally nobody will ever hear about this at all”, when I’d argue that it has a meaning closer to “we won’t just shout this from the rooftops to those who don’t need to know.”

              1. Anon for Now*

                Then don’t say that it’s confidential. Because “who needs to know” may end up being extraordinarily broad in scope.

                1. NJ Anon*

                  +100. I get it. I dabble in hr myself. Confidentiality should never be implied or promised. HR does what is best for the company, period.

                2. Anon for Now*

                  It’s not even a matter of what is best for the company. It may be best for the company to keep certain matters confidential, but they are legally required to disclose the information.

                3. Jadelyn*

                  “Dabbling” in HR does not make you an expert voice on HR best practices, NJ Anon. And since you just “dabble”, you’ve apparently got the same skewed idea of “what HR is” that so many people seem to have, which is that HR is about the company *instead of* the employees. In case nobody has noticed, companies can’t function without their employees, so HR’s role is to support BOTH PARTIES. Sometimes an individual employee may be disadvantaged by HR’s actions, as in cases like yesterday’s post about someone dressing up as Jesus, if HR steps in and says “no, you can’t do that.” Sometimes the company may be disadvantaged by HR’s actions, if HR steps in to say “you can’t do XYZ thing you wanted to do for compliance reasons.” HR should be, and in many many places (such as where I work) is, about supporting the employees so that those employees can support the organization through their work more effectively.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @ Jadelyn, but ultimately HR is there to serve the employer. Serving employees is often a means to that end, but the ultimate goal of HR is to benefit the employer (and that’s totally fine!), and I think that’s what people reference when they make comments like that.

                5. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I think HR can be compared to a real estate agent. It’s their job to match sellers and buyers, but in the end, the seller is the one who pays them, and that’s where their duty lies.

            3. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I respect and appreciate all the HR regulars, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that one’s general experience has been difficult in this area. Privacy law/policy is a pet interest of mine and it’s an area where it’s extra important to be clear in what you mean because misunderstandings are both common and can carry significant consequences, most commonly a loss of trust, as appears to have happened here. I think it’s important for conscientious HR professionals to be aware of this and make sure they’re proactively compensating in the direction of communication and clarity.

              1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                I don’t think it’s fair to imply that an entire group of people “tend” towards fast and loose with the rules and are untrustworthy because of one person’s limited experiences with a very, very large group of people.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  I get feeling like you’re being painted with a broad brush (lawyers definitely NEVER get stereotyped), but Anon for now made it explicit upfront that their comment was based on “my experience with HR”. If anecdotal discussion isn’t allowed that would cut waaaaaaaay down on comments. Of course, if that’s where we’re going, I propose requiring that all legal advice be accompanied by a license number.

                2. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  Nobody likes being painted with a broad brush. If I had say….three bad experiences with three lawyers and then came here and said “well in my experience, lawyers tend to play fast and loose with the truth” you wouldn’t find that eye rolly and irrelevant? You would really think that is fair? The implication is that because of her experiences, we can all conclude that most HR people play fast and loose with the rules. Anecdotal stories are helpful, just not in broad brushing a group of people. I don’t play “fast and loose” with the rules and none of my co-workers do either, so I find it disrespectful when people imply that it’s the norm because they ran into a few bad apples.

                3. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  The point of my first comment was just that in my own personal experience studying privacy issues, it is an area where many professionals, including HR professionals, can get in trouble.

                  It’s common to forget that the expression “a few bad apples” concludes with “ruins the bushel”. It is the obligation of the legal profession to proactively address bad actors in our midst so that we aren’t all rightly judged on the basis of those bad actors, not ignore them and then get upset when people have bad opinions of lawyers based on their personal experiences. If you told me that your personal experiences with attorneys had been bad, I would apologize on behalf of my profession and hope that your experiences in the future were better.

                4. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  I realize in re-reading my comment that it might sound holier-than-thou and that was not my intention. You are entirely entitled to your feelings on this matter. I simply take my profession perhaps a bit cloyingly seriously. I really do understand feeling unfairly accused of bad behavior and how much that stings.

                5. Anon for Now*

                  I am not sure what “rules” you are referring to. Perhaps you could clarify on that point.

                  I am not saying HR is inherently untrustworthy. However, HR will undermine itself by promising confidentiality that it cannot keep. If HR promises to keep confidences and then an employee is summoned for a scolding from the big boss or subpoenaed, that undermines the trustworthiness of HR and the employer.

                  HR cannot keep broad promises of confidentiality to employees. My experience is seeing exactly that. HR should not make such promises. Employees should look at such promises with skepticism.

                  I am not talking about bad motives, intentional deception, or somehow HR being “bad apples.” Promises of confidentiality surrounding complaints are, nonetheless, a mistake that can have consequences for the employer and the employee.

                  I’m not sure why you take issue with me describing my anecdotal experience with how “confidential” has been used with employee complaints when you are also relying on your own anecdotal experience.

                6. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  I’m sure your experiences are whatever you say they are, I’ll take my leave now as this conversation is going in circles.

                7. matilda*

                  I mean…it’s not just one person’s experiences. HR has the reputation that it does because so very many people have had the same experience. HR exists to protect the company. Sometimes that includes me and sometimes it doesn’t. Personally, I’ve only dealt with HR departments whose primary concern was for my supervisor and/or CEO. Lots of us have these experiences. I’m not sure how that’s offensive to HR professionals in general. It seems to me that the only ones who need to feel offended are the offenders.

      5. TL -*

        A biotech company is very likely to have a large number of employees who are immigrants and are on visas. My company sent out an email after the election saying it had been heated but please remember Mission and treat everyone with respect. A second email was sent after the ban, with information on who to contact if you/your family were affected by it and needed to get into the country.
        The second email, I think, is pretty necessary if your workforce looks like a typical biotech workforce.

        1. Trying hard not to make political arguments here*

          This. STEM and sciences especially are hit pretty hard by this. It might be exaggerating to say this is true of “most” STEM/science workers, but I think it’s true of many – that people travel, collaborate overseas, take post-docs abroad, etc, so the field itself is kind of hit harder than a lot of fields that are typically internal to a country and don’t trade across borders/oceans as frequently. That trading doesn’t only happen with Europe and East Asia either – from what I’ve seen, many US graduate programs have plenty of students originally from the Middle East/North Africa, and I doubt it’s different in the workforce.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            At least three of my friends in STEM are directly affected because of the ban. There are other aspects of the political situation that may affect my work place.

            Regardless of how one feels about this ban or the rest of the political landscape, places will need to talk about it if only because it may/will affect the work in very direct ways. At the very least, morale.

        2. Purest Green*

          I think that’s an appropriate message to send. It acknowledges the situation and provides its employees information without seeming to take a political stance.

        3. blackcat*

          Yeah, my university sent out a “We will make university counsel available to students, faculty, and staff directly impacted by the ban. We recommend individuals from those countries do not leave the US during this time…” email. That seems 100% appropriate if you’re at a large employer with a large number of immigrant workers.

          Taking steps to support the individuals whose lives have been uprooted isn’t particularly political, and it’s the right thing to do. Even if you believe the ban is important for keeping people safe, surely you don’t want to treat your colleague like crap.

          One of my close friends and colleagues is new at another university. She is from one of the countries on the list from the ban. She’s lived in the US for almost 10 years and is close to getting her green card. Her university’s response was basically a threat to fire her should she speak up in any context (she was told to decline to talk to any students about the ban or even mention that she is from one of the countries listed on the ban) or should she leave the country and have difficulties getting back in. That is a very, very shitty thing to say to an employee, regardless of your politics!

            1. blackcat*

              Private, serving a pretty conservative student body. They claim the “don’t tell students where you’re from” is to protect her.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Ugh, I’m sorry, blackcat. That’s awful and a bad practice—if they want to protect her, they should protect her, not try to isolate her in this manner. It sounds like they’re setting her up so that if a student does attack her, the university can victim-blame.

            2. Camellia*

              Just to share, I didn’t notice the user name and thought you were offering three possibilities –

              public university
              blackcat university
              private university

              I was looking forward to learning exactly what a blackcat university is!! :)

                1. blackcat*

                  It is where students learn how to take naps all day in the oddest of locations. The honors students learn how to sleep in locations perfect for getting stepped on in the night.

          1. Dr. Doll*

            *wow*. If that’s a public university, I’d say their demand skirts the edge of First Amendment! Also, what a crappy university. Even my university, which is the most timid, risk averse, non-speaking-up institution I’ve ever been at, would not do that to someone.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              If it’s a public university, it almost certainly violates the First Amendment.

              But what a tremendously crap way to treat an employee who is already in an uncertain and vulnerable position.

              1. fposte*

                In fact, ours got sued by the ACLU years ago for telling staff and faculty not to talk about something.

        4. OP#2*

          Good morning, OP#2 here.

          First, thank to everyone who has responded. There is a lot to think about here.

          Company has literally (not figuratively) thousands of employees and patients affected by the ban. The fact that Company said nothing about either group is being perceived both internally and externally in our larger community as very strange.

          After it became clear that several of our local execs had participated in demonstrations, the Company did issue the following internal statement (ellipses indicate removal of Company-specific information):

          “In response to the disruption caused by the Executive Order…we advise all travelers to avoid all demonstrations as a basic security precaution. Should police or protesters begin to gather nearby, calmly vacate the vicinity…Clear the public areas of airports quickly and without delay to avoid being impacted by demonstration delays and crowds.” So, that’s something?

          1. Trying hard not to make political arguments*

            So just “take care of yourself if you choose to demonstrate” (which is not bad) and nothing about the many people affected? That’s weird.

            1. Trying hard not to make political arguments here*

              Oh wow I misread this originally. I read it more like the Berkeley statements of how to deal with protests (to leave if things start to get violent or arrests start happening) which is similar to how my university has addressed things. The actual way this is worded is entirely different from how I’d read it originally (I was not fully awake yet) and this bothers me.

              1. Morning Glory*

                Ok, this is gross in my opinion. It’s one thing to say you should keep politics out of the workplace. It’s another to implicitly come down on one side of an issue, and discourage people on the other side from expressing their opinions outside of the workplace.

                1. Working Mom*

                  I would suspect that this is probably why the Company wanted to “stay out of it” entirely, and not be in a position to issue statements. I read the statement as “if you are traveling, we encourage you to steer clear of demonstrations for risk of violence, if you choose to demonstrate, please do so safely and disengage should it become violent.” However, it’s very easy for both sides to interpret messages based on their own personal feelings, or read into “hidden meanings” on both sides. I think this is why the Company was trying to avoid having to make statements, to try to stay neutral. And I am really not being political here at all – the reason this issue is so hard for people to discuss is because it’s fundamental to who we believe we are as a country – how we interpret our constitution. I suspect that’s why the Company tried to stay out of it.

              1. LBK*

                You don’t see how implying the protesters are dangerous might discourage people receiving that email from protesting?

                1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  Yes, I can see how people would perceive that, it doesn’t make it true though. Many protests HAVE become violent, and many have not, without any way of predicting ahead of time which way it will go.

                2. LBK*

                  My point is that to solely issue guidance about avoiding dangerous protests and say nothing about the rest of the impact of the ban sends a very specific message.

                3. LBK*

                  And it also pretty heavily implies their position on the issue, treating the negative impact as solely being the protests disrupting travel and not, you know, the fact that some of their employees might be detained by CBP and/or have their visas revoked. This is far from a neutral statement.

                4. Kate*

                  But they didn’t say which protesters! They just mentioned protesters in general. They could have meant pro- or anti-issue protesters.

                5. LBK*

                  Oh c’mon, that’s intellectually dishonest and intentionally obtuse. 99.9% of the protests have been against it. It’s pretty clear who they meant, and if by some bizarre chance that’s not what they meant, it’s unbelievably stupid and careless wording.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I was going to say what Recruit-O-Rama said; I think they’re saying it for safety/security reasons. But if that’s the only thing you say, I can see how employees would perceive this badly.

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

                It really does sound like a backhanded way of saying “don’t protest”.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I absolutely understand how it could be interpreted that way. I’ve just been in meetings where it’s clear that the intent was to say “please be safe,” not “don’t protest.” It just seems like the execution was not great, here, because it left open a great deal of ambiguity that could lead an employee to think they were being told not to exercise their free speech rights outside of work.

                2. LBK*

                  I think it’s one thing to issue a blanket statement telling people to be safe and smart, which could be left completely up to interpretation as to whether it’s about those protesting or those interacting with protesters. It’s another to deliver a very one-sided message about staying safe *from* the protesters. It has clear implication about how the protesters and therefore any employee who plans on protesting are viewed by the company (ie a nuisance at best and a danger at worst).

                  There’s a certain eye-rolling quality to saying “Clear the public areas of airports quickly and without delay to avoid being impacted by demonstration delays and crowds” that, were I someone who were involved in those protests, I’d find extremely condemnatory of my actions.

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

                  But when you couple their response to the OP’s original letter (which I admit, as did OP that it could have been better worded) and the statement they DID issue, it creates a much clearer picture.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @LFOGOTW, I agree with you, but I also wanted to note that sometimes employers are just bad at communicating. :)

          2. Catalin*

            I’m reading that (in context of OP2’s letter) as “We expect you to not protest (and may find ways to discipline you if you are a protester).” I mean, “Should protesters begin to gather nearby, get away from them” isn’t exactly politically neutral and in the context of the protestors being *at airports*, (unlikely to be pro-ban protestors), rather than a general message that protests in general are potentially dangerous…

            You’ve been notified, OP. This is who your workplace is; decide your next actions accordingly.

            1. Anon For This*

              My organization went through something similar to this in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. A BLM rally was scheduled to take place a block from our offices. One of our top leaders sent an email to the full staff, notifying us of the protest, reminding us not to let protesters into the building (to use the bathroom, etc.). The tone was clearly conveying the idea that “protesters are potentially dangerous.”

              Staff reacted strongly against the email, and our leadership responded immediately with an apology, a series of listening sessions, etc. I don’t think the response was fully satisfactory to those who felt hurt by the email, but it sure was better than whatever is going on at the OP’s company.

              1. Kate*

                Unfortunately any protest for any issue is likely to gather a few people who are only there to make trouble.

                1. Kate*

                  AAM, I guess maybe it is just the major issues. I say that because every protest I have seen or heard of has had a violent fringe. Including the inauguration protest when one protester set another protester’s hair on fire.

            2. Perse's Mom*

              Right? There is pretty neutral PR language for basically every situation out there – this company for some reason is just really intent on not using any of it. They’re working really hard to ignore the elephant in the room by pretending it doesn’t exist but also advising their workers to avoid being seen in public near it.

            3. Artemesia*

              The combination of messages the OP has received make it clear that this organization HAS taken a political side here and plans to punish those who disagree with it. The original treatment by HR was outrageous and designed to bully. They have made their political position clear.

          3. Lora*

            Oh, dude. I am so sorry. Pretty sure your HR headhunter actually LinkedIn pinged me about a year ago. Asked if I’d be interested in a management job in a state known for being unfriendly to LGBTQ folks. I said sorry, nope, not interested in moving to that state, here are locations I would be interested in if anything else comes up and thanks for thinking of me. It was not received well and then some months later I heard about a mass exodus, people going back to their previous workplaces from years ago and asking for their old job back. Some of my colleagues who went there contacted me to say they were looking, if anything came up please pass along their CV.

            Yeah, they’re having issues. I don’t know the whole story, I only hear mutterings, but it doesn’t sound healthy. On the plus side they can’t afford to actually fire anyone…

          4. Oh no, not again*

            That’s terrible. I wonder why a company with so many affected people is saying nothing in support of the affected people regardless of the company’s opinion regarding politics. Very bizarre. And I absolutely would take that statement to mean “don’t participate in your constitutional right to free speech”. I’d be seriously concerned about retaliation. Have any employees been disciplined or fired for protesting?

            1. OP#2*

              No one has been fired for protesting, to my knowledge, but I have heard murmurs that the topic has come up in several people’s end-year reviews (which take place in Jan and Feb, natch). Mine is next week, so we’ll see what happens.

              When asked what I do for a living, I tell people that it is my job to keep corporate greed from killing people. I mean this both literally and seriously. Retaliation is something that I have regularly encountered in my professional life and am accustomed to dealing with, which is why I figured that if anyone could ask the question, it would be me. It still could have been phrased more dispassionately, though.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That is beyond the pale. Unless they have a policy banning employees from protesting off the clock, there is no way this should be raised in end-of-year reviews. OP, every piece of information you’ve shared really makes me feel like this company is not run by reasonable people.

              2. Oh no, not again*

                Wow, OP. You were (and are) very brave (that’s a good thing–looking out for your fellow humans). Hope everything works out okay for you and all affected.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                It could be me, but it looks like you have a company that needs to have a clear explanation of why something is in it’s own best interest. It does not sound like taking care of its people is on this company’s radar.

                Or there could be a person who jumped up and down and made a big noise over your email. The result you see was in the interest of making that person stop yelling. It’s really hard to tell which way this started.

                I think going forward, that it would be wise to include an explanation of how it is in the company’s interests to be concerned about a given situation. That and it sounds like everyone and their cats can read all of the employees emails to each other. I am wondering how you can help this company IF the company’s stance is explained to you AFTER you do something. Wouldn’t it best to give you that information up front?

                I agree with Oh No above. You are brave. I wish you the best and I wish the best for those effected around you.

        5. Lora*

          My employer, also a biotech (we have about 570 employees now), has >50% of the C-level staff comprised of immigrants. The CEO (an immigrant) sent out an email to the entire company saying that if you have a problem with immigrants then think long and hard about whether this is the right place for you because the executive order is the exact opposite of the company’s mission/vision/values and that if any immigrants need legal assistance please contact (legal dept person) in charge of such things who is prepared to help in any way possible.

          I like this CEO a lot. So do all our partners (who are the biggest pharma companies in the world) and three major VC firms. So I’m going to go with, whichever HR person saw what you wrote is waaaaayy out of line. At the very most you should have gotten the canned response someone else described: thanks for your input, we value diversity at MegaCorp, please direct all concerns of this type to the Committee For Committee Studies, this particular hotline is for ignoring HMO complaining, blah blah best of luck.

          Also, what the…? Literally HALF the biotech community is immigrants, whether they came here for university and stayed or came here to work under E2/3 or H1b and HR knows this for absolute certain because they have to sign off on the visa applications! Are they saying they aren’t going to do their jobs and make sure the company is hiring properly?? I don’t think I’ve encountered any HR person who reacted to a visa application with anything worse than mild annoyance at having to do extra paperwork. So this is a new one on me. If I was your senior director I would have kicked it right back to the HR person’s boss with a “uh, is this going to be an issue? Is HR person new here?” And a strong “why are you bothering me with this crap” implication.

            1. Lora*

              Just technical positions I’m afraid. Hey, on the plus side I’ll be getting a lot more applications soon! And here my boss was complaining that we hadn’t been getting applicants with appropriate experience and I countered that we need people soon so let’s just get some people who are nice and reasonably intelligent and train them…Guess we can put that argument to rest.

      6. Morning Glory*

        There are two different kinds of statements – the company is under no obligation to take a public political stance, of course.
        However. a lot of companies with employees who could be affected by the ban (like mine) sent around internal statements, including resources on how to handle, whether to cancel travel, etc. That is a standard part of keeping an operation running, and also a good way to let those affected employees know that people care about them.
        It’s not an inherently political statement, my company has done similar things for natural disasters, etc. I think HR was in the wrong to make this “A Thing.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is exactly what I was trying to convey upthread—HR could have easily turned this around and explained what they would be doing to assist employees, which does not require taking a political stance at all.

        2. Becky*

          My company CEO sent out a note to all divisions saying if anyone was affected to immediately notify up the chain of command and if anyone was stuck unable to return to the US, that the company would do what it could to make sure the employee had safe accommodations wherever they were stuck.

          This is, like Morning Glory indicates for their company, similar to their reactions when a natural disaster struck. My company has an office in Nepal and when the earthquake in 2015 hit they made sure all the employees were safe and had adequate shelter and supplies.

      7. neverjaunty*

        Whether or not the company should take a position, HR is in the wrong here. Escalating this to the OP’s boss and then responding back down the chain with veiled threats? Wow, no.

      8. Just Answering*

        I completely agree. And, in fact, had my company issued such a statement, I would have been very concerned and offended. Your interpretation of what did or didn’t happen is not necessarily my interpretation of what did and didn’t happen in the political realm. All of you supporting the idea of the company issuing a statement should just turn it around. What if the company had issued a statement in *support* of the ban? How would you feel? How would it impact how you felt about your company?

        Yes. Exactly. The company was right.

        1. INFJ*

          Again, the company doesn’t have to say they support it or not. They just have to let the employees (as part of a global company) know how they will be affected.

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

          It would have then given me additional insight into the leadership of this company. Not about their political ideas as much as it is about the people involved. In THIS case, the ban affected thousands of its employees. Good leaders (and managers) will address what’s going on and hopefully offer something whether its moral support, legal aid, whatever. The response of this company (at least from HR) was way over the line and if they’re job is to protect the company then they need a lesson in PR quickly because this was not the way to handle it.

        3. Zombii*

          “How would you feel if the company had answered a completely different question than they were asked?” isn’t turning the situation around, that’s exactly what happened. I don’t think they’re wrong because of the side they’re on, I think they’re wrong because they first chose to ignore a valid and reasonable concern, and then later issued a statement that continues to ignore that concern by pretending it’s something else.

          If I am routinely out of country on business trips coordinated by my employer, and now I might not be able to get back into the country once I’ve left, I very much expect my employer to say something about that situation, not deflect it by talking about “political differences.”

      9. INFJ*

        But they wouldn’t be “disclosing political views”. They would be recognizing that this EO affects some of their workers, and would be informing people what to expect. It would be like as if the administration dissolved the FDA and then my pharmaceutical company employer didn’t release a statement about it. Obviously we would be affected and need to know what is different going forward.

      10. PlainJane*

        Regardless of anyone’s political views, they are in the wrong, because they penalized an employee for making a suggestion that doesn’t appear to have been abusive or unprofessional. When an HR department responds like this, they send a strong message that they don’t want feedback from employees and that employees will be punished for providing feedback management disagrees with. I’d have the same view if the politics were reversed, and someone who supports Trump had made a suggestion to HR that involved a current political issue. Employee feedback is valuable, and good HR departments know that and act accordingly.

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      My initial reaction to reading #2 was that someone in HR was a Trump supporter.

      You’re asking your company to participate in a political protest. Somebody higher up doesn’t want to take a stand one way or the other and that is entirely their right.

      If this part is considered political, delete it and please accept my apologies. Having said that, protests don’t work with someone like Trump. He finds them amusing. Instead, contribute towards a legal fund for one of the court challenges. Contact your congress rep and your senator. Be polite and back up your story with solid facts. If possible, visit in person. The various forms of contact are weighted with an email rated low and an in person visit to their office rated highest. Keep it civil and keep it up. I’ve learned this from talking to politicians from various levels of government. Use the system to work towards changing things for the better. Join a political party and volunteer. Work from within. Get your friends and coworkers to do the same thing. And good luck. Defending people’s rights is most definitely a hill worth dying on.

      1. aebhel*

        Eh, I mean, protests often aren’t specifically about changing the mind of one person in power; they’re about putting pressure on multiple elected officials and drawing public attention to whatever is being protested.

        /end derail

    4. Temperance*

      A large part of the issue is that, real talk, no one really knows how this EO is going to impact people, so the employers can’t really offer assurance that things will be okay. It wasn’t even applied or interpreted the same way at every airport; some places were turning away green card holders from certain countries, barring attorneys from contact with anyone, while others were allowing green card holders through.

      My org supports diversity and has issued statements in the past that have taken an overtly political stance. We aren’t this time, for many reasons, but we’re working as a group to identify ways to help immigrants, including green cards and citizenship for those who qualify.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s true, Temperance, but it’s possible to send a note about what the company intends to do—even if the note is kind of murky.

        For example, “As a multinational company, we value the contributions of our diverse staff. We understand that there is a great deal of confusion regarding the President’s recent Executive Order limiting travel and admission of citizens of [list of seven-countries]. As we monitor ongoing legal developments, we will do our best to update you and to inform employees affected by the Executive Order of available resources. In the meantime, we encourage employees to avail themselves of [EAP, other counseling being made available, etc.].”

        1. Temperance*

          I really like this statement. I’m in so deep that it’s hard for me to even think of ways to discuss neutrally, so I really appreciate it.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, this is basically the email my company sent out internally, plus direction to basically do whatever you need to do if you’re concerned about the ban affecting you (eg if you have a business trip planned, you can use your discretion to cancel it if you’re concerned about getting back into the country).

        3. Jadelyn*

          My org, which works heavily with immigrant communities and has probably a good quarter of our staff with non-citizen work authorization status, said something like this in an all-staff email. But in addition, our HR VP reached out one-on-one to employees on non-permanent work authorizations to personally to offer support – and our organization actually contracted with an immigration attorney on retainer and offered that person’s information to the affected employees in case they wanted or needed that service right now. I’ve been gladder than ever about working for a nonprofit these days, and one so well-aligned with my own values, because I’m so proud of how we’ve addressed these developments.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Jadelyn, this is, in my opinion, the gold standard for how to address the EO and its effect on staff. This is what my employer is doing, and I am extremely grateful for their efforts.

        4. PlainJane*

          I love this wording. It acknowledges the situation, suggests the employer cares, and offers resources. That’s all this HR department had to do. Instead they punished an employee for making a suggestion.

      2. Mike C.*

        Sure, but a statement to the fact that the company is working to identify ways to help as the situation changes still goes a long way.

    5. Anonimouse*

      I WISH my company would have remained neutral. We are the largest employer in my state at around 30,000 people and, while not a political organization, the leadership definitely leans one way politically. We received a quite one sided letter from the President and the CEO of the Org stating that we are believe ____ as a company. Myself and many of the other peons feel quite threatened as we voted the other way. I honestly feel like my job is in danger if it gets out to the upper management that I disagree with them politically.

      1. OP#2*

        Oof. That is a really tough position to be in, and I’m sorry it feels as though your livelihood may be threatened.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The company I work for is an international brand. Our founder leans one way, but my local franchise leans the other. It’s a little awkward sometimes because we don’t always agree with the advertising methods that corporate chooses.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        You are making me think. I know of a union that was telling its members how to vote. The literature was written in such a manner that some people might believe the union would KNOW how a person voted, so the union would be able to track that person down.
        This was decades ago.
        I cannot imagine what that is like now, if that behavior was left unchecked. More of what you are talking about here.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes exactly. Seems that part of her message was completely missed and they quickly jumped to “uh oh. Politics. Bad.”

  2. Sami*

    OP#1: I do hope you can figure out a way to talk to this teacher about her comments.
    That said, as a teacher myself and if I were interviewing for another teaching position and asked something along the lines about why I wanted to go into education, one of several examples I might use would be that both my Mom and aunt were teachers. It definitely wouldn’t be my only answer but watching them and going to school with them absolutely contributed to why I became a teacher.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, but it’s very different to say that you were inspired by your mother and aunt versus saying, “My mom told me to” or “I’m applying because my mom taught me not to give up.” Frankly, it’s strange for an adult to talk about what their mommy told them in this context and in the way the applicant has been mentioning the issue. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen—I’ve seen grown men and women do this—but it undermines my confidence in the applicant.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, I’m wondering if she really wants to be a teacher at all, or just did it to please her mom, and maybe that’s coming across in interviews?

        1. Artemesia*

          If she is saying ‘my mother wanted me to do this’ then she is extremely tone deaf and perhaps doesn’t belong in the classroom. That is so different than ‘my mother inspired me to do this by her work’ or whatever. Very immature people are probably not good candidates to put in charge of a classroom full of kids.

    2. JessaB*

      There’s a difference though between “Mom and aunt are teachers, yay for teachers in my family being great role models for what I wanted to do growing up. Now I’m one too,” and “I’m doing what my mother told me to do and I’m not saying I wanted to, but that she wants me to.” In the second place I’d be worried long term if this person really wanted to teach, and whether or not they’d burn out or quit and leave me a space I could have brought in someone else for who would appreciate the professional development, etc. because THEY wanted to teach.

      1. Critter*

        “In the second place I’d be worried long term if this person really wanted to teach, and whether or not they’d burn out or quit and leave me a space I could have brought in someone else for who would appreciate the professional development, etc. because THEY wanted to teach.”

        This exactly. A handful of these positions that were and are open were vacant after someone retiring; they were often looking for someone who could be there for the long haul.

      2. Caity*

        Absolutely! I interviewed students for a scholarship once, so their parents often came up organically, but one student said, “my mom thought it would be a good opportunity. She found the application and filled it out for me.” It really felt like the student was trying to say, “this isn’t my idea or preference at all, but I have to be here.” Certainly this adult employee is in a different situation, but she should be told she’s coming across this way.

    3. Sami*

      Yes, completely agree with you both. I’m just pointing out that mentioning a parent in a job interview can be useful- but only in an appropriate context. What the OP describes isn’t.

      1. Purest Green*

        Agreed. Probably because I’ve been binging Bates Motel, I was thinking about Norman the whole time while reading this letter.

  3. RKB*

    I always thought graduation date was to determine whether or not you were still in school or you weren’t. Or to help bridge gaps in your resume. I never thought it was for determining your age, but huh, maybe it’s a sneaky way to!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Same. And if someone was intentionally leaving out their graduation dates from an application/resume, it would look extremely weird/shady to me. Having read AAM, I now know that this is apparently a real thing that older applicants do because of fear of age discrimination, but I think leaving off information only draws more attention to that part of an application because I either have to guess whether you completed your degree (particularly if education is a qualifying criteria for employment), or ask you clarifying questions if you make it to interview.

      Age discrimination is a thing, but I don’t think most employers are scrutinizing graduation dates for the purpose of discriminating against an applicant. They’re usually trying to figure out (a) if you completed your degree program, and how long it took; or (b) if you pursued a technical degree, how long it’s been since you received that degree and what you’ve done to maintain and update your technical training since your graduation.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think that the dates are used for exactly that purpose. As middle aged applicants know, it is easy to get screened out for age; this is the easiest way to spot the age.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I flatly disagree. I’m sure there are employers who use it for that purpose, but I seriously doubt that the majority of employers use graduation dates for the purpose of screening out older ADEA-qualifying candidates.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I don’t know about the majority of employers, but out here in the Bay Area it has long been used by tech companies to weed out the olds. That has slacked off some after at least one well-publicized lawsuit, but it’s a thing.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Definitely agreed! I do think age discrimination happens and that it can be particularly acute in specific industries/regions. But OP and Artemesia seemed to be arguing that it’s the primary reason all employers ask for graduation dates. I wanted to push back on that because I don’t think that’s the practice of the majority of employers across all industries, and in some fields being middle-aged is seen as a benefit.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              Yep, I’m with you. I have friends who, as soon as they removed the dates from their resumes, suddenly started getting calls for interviews. (and most of the companies around here are tech)

          2. jm*

            Right – in my experience with large companies, the graduation date you enter is then used by the background check company to check with your university/college that you actually met graduation requirements.
            I guess the graduation date COULD be used to toss out older candidates, but what about older people who went to college late in life? Their graduation date would be recent.
            Also, OP#4, unless you’ve personally observed the work ethics of all the younger candidates, PLEASE don’t make judgements about this based on the ages of younger candidates. Isn’t that EXACTLY what you’re thinking employers will do to you — make judgements about your proficiency with technology based on age?

            1. AKJ*

              I was a non-traditional student. I have had interviewers who seemed surprised that I am in my mid-30s because my graduation date suggests I would be about ten years younger than I am.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I did not get my degree until I was in my early 40s. It sort of amuses me that people could use my date of graduation as a jumping off point for guessing my age.
                Reaction to age is a people filter for me. I felt this way when I was 20 and I still do. I look for people who can see more about me than my age. I am sure I missed opportunities when I was younger and I know I have missed opportunities at this stage in life also because of my age.

          3. Anna*

            Ha! Then I guess dropping out and going back to finish undergrad in my late 20s and grad in my mid-30s has an advantage!

        2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          I graduated at age 42 so I can slip in under the radar if you are using the year I got my BA as an age indicator.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Easier than looking at dates of employment? If you’ve been working since 1998 it’s an easy guess that you’re not in your 20s.

          1. Judy*

            You generally only put recent experience on your resume. An application may be different, but I’ve dropped my first 5 year job off my resume, and I’m considering dropping my second 7 year job off the next time I look. I would still have 15 years of experience on my resume as of today.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s actually super normal for people to leave their graduation year off their resume once they’re 10+ years out of school. I think these days I see more resumes without the graduation year on it (from people 30s and up) than with it!

        But you don’t have to guess at whether they finished their degree or not, because people list the degree (B.A. in History or what have you).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks, Alison! I honestly had no idea that this was a thing people did.

            I have literally never seen a resume that left off dates during hiring—unless someone has an advanced degree, because possession of the latter usually requires that you received a bachelor’s degree, first. So if it’s normal/common to omit dates, and I’m reading applications incorrectly because of an unsubstantiated assumption on my part, then I need to change my expectations!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I bet it’s because you’re mainly looking at lawyers’ resumes (I’m guessing?) and they are often much more traditional in how they write them.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It’s certainly true that I now hire mostly lawyers, and that there are weird resume norms that we follow that aren’t common in other fields.

                But I also hire community organizers, faculty, and admin staff. And in my pre-law life I hired policy advocates, data analysts, event planners, development staff, and scientists, and most of those positions were above my level in seniority. (I worked at organizations that used hiring panels where management would include at least one “low level” staff—usually me—for all hiring.)

                1. bridget*

                  Law firms (not sure if PCBH works at one or hires lawyers in some other context) also tend to have rigid advancement structures based on law school graduation year, and in large firms they tend to have lock-step compensation packages. Legal job posts I see tend to be pretty specific about class year for that reason (as specific as “associate from the classes of 2012-2014”). An associate from the class of 2010 is quite literally $50-100k more expensive per year (depending on the bonus structure, which is also usually dependent on class year).

          2. Zombii*

            The LW isn’t asking about dates on a resume though, she’s talking about those awful online forms. I thought the dates being necessary on those were a roundabout way for the system to determine whether the degree was completed or ongoing?

        1. Mookie*

          Alison, if the industry one is applying in favors the concise rule — graduation dates not necessary — along with a few others (list only terminal degrees, not transfers; leave out AAs for more advanced degrees), should more recent and more relevant professional development and coursework be placed before an unrelated degree, even if doing so mucks up a reverse chronology? (Should the unrelated degree be left off entirely?) Also, after a certain age or level of experience and excluding academic posts*, are Latin honors, levels of distinction, and class rankings as verboten as GPAs?

          *I’m opening a can of worms here, but why are CVs never consistent with this? Education, experience, lectures, conferences, and coursework are sometimes reverse while in the same CV publications, awards, chairs, committees, and the like aren’t, and vice-versa. I’m sure there is rhyme and reason at play (most of it seems explicable and makes sense) but I can never remember the rules.

          1. Koko*

            I think you could either leave off an unrelated degree, or have it at the very end of your resume if space permits under an “other education and experience” section for stuff outside your field but that you maybe still want credit for the time spent there or transferrable skills you picked up there.

            Once you have two post-college jobs on your resume, I think your education section should be one line per school/degree. If you can fit “B.A Teapotmaking – University Name, City, ST – Summa Cum Laude (2003-2007)” on one line you’re not really hurting anything by including it, though over time it will be increasingly superfluous and nobody will care about it, which is why you definitely shouldn’t do it if it requires your degree to take up more than one line.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                This is one of those exceptions for lawyers, right? I always see people including their law review experience and often other activities (like moot court).

        2. Just Another HR Pro*

          I don’t list my grad year on my resume because I don’t want to give any indication of my age. Maybe its just me, but the most I can do to avoid unconscious bias, the better off I am. And with an ethnic sounding last name…I just want to avoid as much potential bias as possible.

          And yes, I realize that they can probably surmise my relative age based on my work history, but still. I know now, after the fact, that I was turned down for a job with an automaker last year for not fitting an “image” (skinny, young, blonde), sooooo. No big deal. their recent scandal made me realize I dodged a major bullet.

      3. many bells down*

        I didn’t graduate. So I’m loath to fill out a field that specifies “graduation date” because I do not wish to imply I earned a degree that I didn’t. If it’s just “from” and “to” dates that I attended the college, that’s fine, but I’m not going to put a graduation date in when I didn’t have one.

    2. Susan*

      #4 – I doubt the purpose of asking for graduation dates is to determine the age of applicants. For one thing, your age isn’t going to be a big secret once they meet you in person. Plus, if they really want to know your age, there are many web sites where they can easily find this information. I think it’s more likely that they just haven’t really thought about it being something that people wouldn’t want to reveal, as it’s a pretty common piece of information that many people have on their resumes.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I think there is some reptile brain human instinct to want to know someone’s age as a basic piece of information. For example the New York Times gives the age of essentially every person mentioned in a story regardless of whether it has any relevance to the subject of the article. It’s a common convention.

        1. Anonnn*

          It doesn’t, actually, as a matter of course. Especially if they don’t have ages for everyone mentioned in the story — if it’s not all, it’s none. And that all depends on if it’s a hard news story where the age might be relevant or another type of story where it might not be.

      2. Lablizard*

        Also, if someone lists 20+ years of experience, odds are they will guess that the candidate isn’t 23.

        1. Jenbug*

          Yeah, if someone lists an extensive job history, you can figure out roughly how old they are from that. I mean, yes, some people will leave off older jobs, but still…

      3. always in email jail*

        To second what Alison said, I rarely even look at the information in the computer system. I read the cover letter and resume first. If there’s not glaring issues there, I go to the computer system to read their responses to the application questions (actual questions, as in “describe you background and experience in _____”. If I’m satisfied with those they’ll usually be offered an interview and I probably won’t look at graduation dates etc. until right before they walk in, to be honest

      4. HR in MN*

        I know that we ask for an applicant’s graduation date because our background check provider has it as a required field to verify education. It is visible in our ATS only to HR users and not to managers who are making the hiring decision. We have talked to our background check provider about why this is a required field and they indicated it makes it much easier for the university, etc., to respond correctly to their inquiry. We set it up so it is not a required field on our application but then we put in a bogus date in the background check and we have to note that while there was a discrepancy, it was not substantial enough to warrant not hiring the individual. I work in the financial services industry so our regulators actually look at this!

    3. Alice*

      I’m part of a hiring process right now (first time from this side). We have looked at graduation dates to see when people could start (end of spring term versus end of summer term).
      We have also hesitated to bring some highly qualified older people in for interviews because we don’t have a budget to pay them what they would be worth in our scale of x years of experience –> range starting at y dollars. I feel a little sad about that, since some of them have salary requirements below the number that we see as a minimum for the level they are at…. That said, I can also understand the reasoning behind this policy of parity. And happily there are some career changers in the pool who are not experienced in the profession (and so within our range) but also bring transferable skills from their previous careers (which I think are important but which our pay parity policy doesn’t care about). Best of all possible worlds for us.
      TL;DR some older candidates are moving forward and some are not.

      1. Natalie*

        I would be cautious about assuming older candidates have salary requirements you can’t meet – for one thing, you may not be right, and for another it’s illegal discrimination if the people getting filtered out are 40+.

        1. Alice*

          With us it’s not about candidates’ salary requirements – it’s about an internal floor to the range of salaries that we pay to people at various levels, to ensure parity.

          Is it discrimination if the policy (people with more than 5 years of professional experience must be paid at least $X) applies to everyone? In this case, there are people under forty (I assume based on their graduation years) who are being excluded because they have seven, eight, twelve years of directly related professional experience. There are also career changers with limited experience in this profession, but long records in other fields, who are being included in the next round. So, some people getting filtered out are protected, but some younger people are getting filtered out too, and some protected people are not getting filtered out.

          1. Natalie*

            I really don’t know – in general, seemingly neutral policies can still be considered discriminatory by EEOC if they have a disparate impact on a protected class. This is the sort of question without a clear answer though, so you’re best off running it by your company’s attorney.

            1. Alice*

              It will be interesting to look through the list and see how many people fit into each box of a matrix – probably older / probably younger versus 5+ years of experience in this profession /0-4 years in this profession.
              I remember several older 0-4 candidates (who moved on) and several younger 5+ candidates (who didn’t) – but it was a big pool, so maybe I’m just noticing the unusual cases and ignoring the rest.

              1. Alice*

                Since there was some interest – I made this matrix, based on the assumption that people who graduated from college before 1999 are probably over forty and people who graduate from college after 1999 are probably under forty. (2017-40+22)
                BTW, if OP4 is still reading, I noticed that there were plenty of resumes that didn’t include the college year, but they all included the year of the most recent degree. When the resume didn’t include a college year, I looked at the application form to assign people to the right quadrant (and OP, I hadn’t bothered until now).
                50 percent of the applicants who graduated from college before 1999 have moved on to the next stage.
                24 percent of applicants who graduated from college after 1999 moved on.
                100% of applicants moved on in the quadrant of pre-1999 college graduates + under five years experience in this profession. 30% of applicants moved on from the quadrant of post-1999 college grads + under five years experience in this profession.
                Specifically responding to Princess’s question, the percentage of pre-1999 college grads who were screened out was 50% – more than the percentage of post-1999 grads who were screened out based on experience, 20%.
                The interview pool has a higher percentage of pre-1999 college grads than the application pool did. Basically, the interview pool is evenly divided, while the application pool leaned post-1999 graduations.
                Why? Well, my profession is one that people often transition to as a second career. This might explain why there are enough inexperienced older people to hide the effect of the potentially discriminatory no-more-experience-than-five-years-for-this-opening policy. Another explanation is that people with more life experience and work experience (even if it’s not in this specific profession) can tell a better story about transferable skills than many of the younger people can.
                Of course that’s not much consolation if you’re one of the older OR younger people with lots of experience. That’s the trade off for this organization’s commitment to pay parity for people with similar levels of experience.
                Thanks for a thought-provoking discussion everyone. I’ll look at the Friday open thread in case anyone has more comments.

                1. Zombii*

                  Honestly, it sounds like your company needs a cap on their pay scale or something. You are excluding qualified, experienced applicants from your hiring process because of what your company has decided it has to pay them, regardless of the applicants’ own salary requirements.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Alice, it’s discriminatory if the only reason for not hiring someone is their age (and the applicant is 40+ y/o)—age discrimination has a different legal test than some of the other employment discrimination categories. This is tricky because your internal salary policy essentially becomes a proxy for age, even if it’s technically aimed at experience. It certainly made me raise my eyebrows.

            But the fact that younger applicants are also getting screened out makes it less likely for an age discrimination allegation to stick. Then the question becomes: how often are younger people screened out vs. older? I think running a matrix can be valuable. It sounds like your company is trying to do the right thing, but in this case, that policy may be having unintended discriminatory consequences.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        “We have also hesitated to bring some highly qualified older people in for interviews because we don’t have a budget to pay them what they would be worth in our scale of x years of experience –> range starting at y dollars. I feel a little sad about that, since some of them have salary requirements below the number that we see as a minimum for the level they are at…”

        Just to be clear, you are declining some qualified candidates because of their age even though their comp requirements are within your salary range? If so, your TL;DR is inaccurate; it should simply say “TL;DR we illegally discriminate based on age.”

        1. Alice*

          No, we are declining candidates of any age who have more than five years of directly related professional experience listed on their resume.

          1. LBK*

            IANAL but I’d be reeeeeally careful because this could very easily be a disparate impact. You don’t have to be explicitly rejecting people because of their age; if you have criteria that effectively bar older people from being hired it’s still illegal if you can’t prove that this is a bona fide occupational qualification (ie there’s no reason an older person *couldn’t* do the job, and I’m pretty sure deciding on their behalf that they’ll want more money than you can give them doesn’t count).

        2. Awkward Interviewee*

          But she’s not discriminating based on age. She’s discriminating based on years of experience. I don’t think it’s illegal to say we want to hire someone with (for example) 0-10 years of experience, and not interview people with 11+ years. Older applicants who have less than 11 years of experience are getting interviewed, and younger applicants who have 11+ years aren’t getting interviewed. They’re not really considering age itself.

          1. Awkward Interviewee*

            (Sorry, apparently I hadn’t refreshed in awhile to see Alice beat me with her comment.)

          2. Anna*

            See LBK’s comment. It’s no different than having a dress code that requires no beards and short hair if your policy disproportionally affects people of specific religions. Sure, the policy is about how people dress, but it effectively excludes a group of people that is protected. That is how a lot of discriminatory policies are written and used. The policy at Alice’s company would not hold up under scrutiny, I would guess.

    4. Background Screening Co Employee*

      It’s also for background checks. If the company wants to verify education for whatever reason, it’s a lot easier to ask a college about Wakeen O. Teapot who graduated in 1999 with a degree in Spout History instead of all Wakeens who have that degree in the college’s history.

      That doesn’t mean they’re already checking on the OP, or that they’ll even do that check, but a lot of companies like to get the info upfront so there’s no delay once it gets to that point.

      1. Natalie*

        In my experience most background checks have you fill out a separate form rather than pull info off your resume. The latter would be exceptionally silly, as a resume is unlikely to be a complete record.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But it sounds like OP is filling out a form/application, not a resume, so I think we may be talking about background-checkable submissions.

          1. Natalie*

            Hmmm, even when I’ve filled out some kind of application form, when it came time for a background check I had a separate form that included previous addresses, etc. But that could be a field- or area-specific thing. So it would never occur to me that someone would try and background check me based on what was on a non-background-check form.

            1. Zombii*

              Anecdata, but a lot of those awful online applications that ask for an unreasonable amount of information will have a checky-box authorizing a background check in there somewhere, and will sometimes ask about previous addresses, full employment history (“going back to your very first job”), etc—especially if you’re in a state that doesn’t require any more authorization than clicking a checky-box to authorize a background and/or credit check.

              It’s lazy, and a waste of time for the majority of applicants, but it’s beneficial for the employer so a lot of them do it that way.

    5. JGray*

      As a person in HR I can tell you that where I work we don’t really pay attention to graduation dates. If we want to know that you graduated high school or college we will ask for proof like a diploma or GED or transcript. We have an online application and we really focus on the information that you input into the system as far as skills, job experience, etc. We don’t really look at anything over 10 years unless it gives you the required minimums for a job and we don’t actually look at anything you attach unless the job posting has asked for something to be attached. I work for a government agency so that probably has some influence on it but we really treat everyone the same and have the same rules for everyone.

  4. Sympathy*

    I’m Canadian, so I don’t really understand America and executive orders and stuff (I’m trying to imagine our Prime Minister waking up one day and announcing unilaterally that maple syrup is outlawed), but is it possible that OP2’s HR just figured the ban would get overturned so they wouldn’t have to do anything anyway? I’m not saying whether that was the right or the wrong thing to do, but it might explain why the company didn’t do anything.

    But yeah, that HR seems pretty bad. The OP didn’t send a mass politically charged e-mail to the entire company; he send a note to HR about a concern that he had.

    Honestly, things like this are my greatest fear as a college student, that I’ll be panelized for breaking some rule that I didn’t even know existed.

    1. Nan*

      I don’t like maple syrup, but I do like Justin. I’ll trade you my bottle of syrup for your Justin :)

      But, yes, American politics are strange. Although I can’t say I completely understand Canada or Australia, either. Don’t you guys still technically belong to the Queen? I don’t get how that works, and I’ve tried to read about it. All I can gather is your government can do what it wants, as long as it doesn’t tick off Her Royal Highness.

      1. Zahra*

        Well, we could always say “Goodbye” to HRH too. Which is why I think no Governor General (representative of the Queen in Canada) declined to sign something into law within the last 75 years.

      2. Lissa*

        It’s basically symbolic, I can’t imagine the Queen ever actually directly interfering, and if she did, I imagine it would trigger a huge drama that could well end with Canada leaving the Commonwealth.

        1. GingerHR*

          She’s a constitutional monarch, so more or less symbolic even in the UK. Although personally I like the idea that there’s a final check & balance – HRM could refuse to sign laws and even dissolve parliament – they’d get rid of her after, but just knowing that someone can tell them all to go home until they grow up makes me feel better.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think OP’s company just thinks it will be overturned.

      When the Executive Order first came down on Friday night, there was absolute chaos in parts of the country, with some airports detaining citizens or asking people for proof of immigration for domestic travel (?!). That chaos grew as the Administration kept changing their interpretation of who was covered under the EO, while courts issued a bunch of emergency stay orders that had very different legal effects. By Tuesday, most big employers (huge companies, universities) with affected employees sent company-wide emails apprising them of who to contact for assistance and what the company was doing while the courts figure out the EO.

      In light of that chaos, not saying something for a company with the size and diversity of OP’s company is indeed very weird.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also, Sympathy, good employers should not penalize you for breaking a secret rule. So while OP’s story is uncomfortable and seems wrong, I don’t think other large companies would have reacted in the same way. (I mean, they may have said it’s not appropriate to talk politics at work, but OP’s email was not quite that.)

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Basically, the way it’s supposed to work is that Congress (legislative branch) gives the President the big-scope “this is the thing we should be doing” laws, and the President (who is an executive, not first-among-equals in the legislature) uses EOs to say “this is how we’re going to do the thing.” Refinements that don’t need to be bickered over by 500+ people in order to move forward.

      In practice, of course, it’s a clusterfudge no matter who’s in office :)

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. From experience, it can be difficult to know when/if to disturb Boss in his office, especially if said document requires urgent signature and the company is in danger of collapsing if it isn’t done. (Slight exaggeration, but I have been on the on the receiving end of frantic phone calls from people wondering why they haven’t got their form/agreement/declaration back)

    1. Catalin*

      How hard is it to peek in the door, paper in hand and visually check to see if Boss is receptive to interruption?
      Suggestion: designate a spot for your boss to pick up papers she needs to sign or look at. This has worked excellently for us: if it’s under a particular paperweight in her spot, she picks it up and deals with it.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m wondering if they don’t have a chat program she could have pinged boss with?

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – I think that the way HR sees it, to say that you are “deeply disappointed” is confrontational. Demanding a response on something political is in itself forcing someone to engage in politics. Some companies (and people) don’t like being backed up against the wall like that. You’re basically demanding that your priorities be theirs.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think “deeply disappointed” is a huge misstep, but I do think that it wasn’t the most effectively worded message and it would have been better to frame it as “I’m concerned about the impact of the executive order banning refugees on our company and on our employees’ family and friends, and I’m hoping the company will consider doing ___ in response.” And then fill in the blank with something specific (for example, “joining Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft in their amicus brief opposing the order” or “doing X to help employees who may be impacted” or something else concrete).

      That said, HR’s response was unwarranted and weird.

    2. Advised*

      Responding to political talk opens up a company to risk. As an HR’er I can see why the company responded that way.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But with a lecture? They could have just said, “We really appreciate hearing your thoughts. We’re paying attention to this issue and are glad to have your input.” They didn’t need to scold her.

        1. Czhorat*

          Nor do they need to misuse the language of diversity and inclusiveness as a means of shutting down opposing political opinions.

          The OP also WAS respectful here; they didn’t pass around a petition, put placards up in their cubicle, post directions to a protest march on the company intranet. They wrote one letter to HR.

          1. Emi.*

            Ehh, it was a pretty aggressive letter, which I don’t think is productive as a first step on nearly any issue.

            1. Czhorat*

              Yes, but “emergency one-on-one meeting for your boss to give you a dressing down” is a major escalation.

              HR could have de-escalated it with, as many have said here, a simple “we’ve chosen to not take a stand on this issue out of respect for those who support the current administration’s policies”. That would be disappointing, but would close the door more gently.

                1. Czhorat*

                  It makes me wonder if the OP wasn’t alone.

                  If this is one of, say, a half-dozen similar messages and if some of the others were more hostile it might explain [though not excuse] HR reacting more harshly.

                2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

                  Out of nesting, but I wonder if Czhorat is correct.

                  The EO cannot have sparked only one reaction in a company as large as OP#2’s. It’s entirely possible that HR was caught off-guard by the number/tone/content of reactions they received and acted disproportionately.

                  Of course, the other option of tacit support and thus the reaction being a smack down of OP is also a possibility, though I hope not.

          2. Mazzy*

            They aren’t shutting down political opinions, they just don’t want to have one or don’t think it is appropriate to come from.

            Also not all political opinions are equally researched or founded, if I can word it this way to avoid any particular issue.

            I posted a few weeks ago about this, but my office went through a phase where they discussed a few political topics – not as controversial as this one – but it was clear some of the people were talking out of their behinds in the office. They even forwarded eachother articles where the title lines seemed to support their stances but the meat of the articles either didn’t or were middle of the road. Which supported my suspicion that some of the employees were simply googling articles that supported what they already though. Which made the political talk all the more annoying.

      2. Mookie*

        Responding to political talk opens up a company to risk

        Possibly, but it’s not remotely without precedent and there’s nothing inherently illegal in doing so; employees can’t sue employers because the board-of-directors publicly voiced a partisan opinion about a current event. Cf: which publicly-trade companies released petitions this week.

        1. peachie*

          Perhaps, but doesn’t calling an emergency meeting and looping in the manager (destroying any illusion of confidentiality) open up a much bigger can of worms than saying “Sorry, but messages to HR should only be about [payroll, etc.]” or even “Thank you for your message, we will take it into consideration”?

          1. OP#2*

            It was really, really jarring to get the call from my manager, but ultimately I’m glad that I now know (as someone else also pointed out above) that the HR portal is in no way, shape, or form confidential.

            1. peachie*

              Oof, I can imagine. I’d be taken aback in any case, but especially considering how much of an overreaction calling your manager was.

      3. Temperance*

        While I probably wouldn’t have sent the message myself, I think that this is not a political issue in the typical sense. This is an action that has consequences for many people, employees of her company included.

    3. Annonymouse*

      I think the company could have said

      “As a publicly traded company we don’t want to alienate people on either side of the issue. We value and respect all our employees and wish to keep politics out of the office.”

      Simple, easy, to the point and no scolding.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, thank you for this. As Desmond Tutu says: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

          1. Emi.*

            But framing something that way is already a controversial political claim, and I don’t blame companies for not wanting to do that.

            1. Mike C.*

              I’m not blaming companies for the choices they make (well, not now anyway). I’m just trying to point out that “staying neutral” often isn’t all that neutral to begin with.

            2. Koko*

              I don’t blame companies for wanting to remain neutral either, but the point is that neutrality isn’t really possible when you are witnessing your own employees being harmed by something. When you witness an act of aggression and say nothing/don’t intervene, you aren’t “remaining neutral.” You are supporting the aggressor.

              This is different from just general politics and ideology because OP indicates that it has specifically impacted the business’s employees. Either they are going to stand up for their employees or they aren’t. If they didn’t have employees impacted by the ban, absolutely they could remain neutral and not issue a statement. But as soon as their employees are impacted, staying silent is condoning that impact.

              1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

                Yes. Not saying anything when employees are directly impacted is weird. It would be like if a major health care law passed that taxed employer benefits and the employer refused to discuss the implications because they didn’t want to get political. Also, the personal is political, so there really is no avoiding it sometimes.

              2. Emi.*

                But that argument applies more to the practical aspects than to the moral aspects, and it sounds like OP wants a moral statement. Even talking about an “aggressor” is getting into the morality. There could be tons of things that affect employees negatively that don’t constitute aggression–for instance, my transit system is considering cutting the frequency of the rail line I use. That would harm me, and if it harmed a lot of my coworkers I could see our employer speaking out against those particular cuts, but I would never expect them to describe it as “evil.” The fact that your employees are affected (even when the effect is a bigger deal than transit cuts) doesn’t necessarily mean injustice is being committed.

                If it’s morally right for a company to denounce aggression-as-such in this case, that’s so whether or not their employees are affected. Conversely, if the only concern is how their employees are affected, they can just say that plainly.

                1. Emi.*

                  OK, I’ve since read an update and wasn’t actually looking for a moral proclamation. But I do think it’s likely HR thought they were.

              3. leslie knope*

                yes, thank you. this concept gets lost around here with all the false equivalency between two viewpoints, as if supporting either of them has the same impact.

        2. neverjaunty*

          It would, however, not have created the impression that OP had better watch his step with the company.

    4. Engineer Woman*

      I guess it’s point of view. I read it as Engineer Girl did and found the email of OP#2 to HR to be confrontational and almost demanding that the company issue a response.

      1. sstabeler*

        I don’t entirely disagree, but their response was still excessive, especially effectively threatening them with allegations of harassment. a mere difference of opinion does not harassment make.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, definitely. I mean..considering that OP made the comment in a way they thought was anonymous it seems pretty over the top to assume that they would necessarily go around “harassing” people with different opinions. I get that these things aren’t always anonymous, but it really does feel here like the OP was being punished for just having they opinion they do.

          I mean…I do think the letter was kind of confrontational, but I don’t see how escalating it with the OP is at all helpful here.

      2. Horse Lover*

        I agree. I read it the same way although I do think HR’s response was over the top.

        I’m actually disappointed in Alison’ s answer today, that she didn’t point out that companies are under no obligation to choose political sides (unless that is the business). Plus how often on this forum has it been discussed about work being a politic free zone? Or religious free zone, etc? I feel that was “conveniently” left out of her answer today.

          1. Mazzy*

            That is pretty vague, what do you mean by that? If you are speaking of this particular issue, the only time a company would “have” to have an opinion is if one of their employees came from one of the seven impacted countries. This isn’t a very likely scenario for most companies, I would think.

            1. TL -*

              It is fairly likely in biotech, either to have employees from those countries or have a large number of visa workers who are all generally worried.

            2. Trying hard not to make political arguments*

              It’s actually not at all unlikely for STEM related companies, and this one in question is biotech.

              1. Judy*

                I’ve only ever worked in the flyover country, never further west than Texas, never further east than Ohio over the past 25+ years. Until my current company of about 75 employees, at each company, I’ve had at lease one direct coworker who comes from one of those countries. Some were on visas, some were on green cards. These companies were in defense, automotive and consumer goods.

            3. Mike C.*

              In general, what I mean is that changes in the law or policy can and do have large, wide ranging effects on how we live and work.

              Specifically here, there are a bunch of us that work for large companies with employees who are from or have family from those seven nations. Additionally, there is nothing stopping that list from being set in stone or other international travel from being halted on a dime. That is a new precedent and it throws a huge wrench into how many companies do business.

            4. peachie*

              Just a note, OP#2 mentioned in comments that thousands of employees/patients in their company will be directly affected by the EO.

            5. Lora*

              We have 570 employees where I work, about half of whom were affected and had to cancel travel plans to our partners and contract research/manufacturing organizations, which meant progress on several filings and clinical trials has been, and continues to be, delayed while we try to bring employees who do NOT have the expertise to do nearly as good a job up to some sort of competency because they are white and came by their citizenship by birth rather than naturalization, thus are unlikely to encounter travel complications. Not only are we bleeding money to the tune of several million $$$ but I hope you guys didn’t want any cures for infectious disease or cancer or heart disease any time soon. Cause that’s what we are working on this year.

              I can think of loads of fields which are minimally impacted – I mean, Dunkin donuts probably isn’t too troubled – but even the American widget manufacturing companies have folks who travel between them and countries that supply raw materials and contractors who make sub-widgets. Lots of companies are very much affected, in STEM especially.

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          I don’t think that’s really fair. The issue is not about whether or not politics should be a topic at work. The OP sent the message, HR felt obligated to respond in some way. The issue is about how HR handled it and whether or not it was an appropriate response. I don’t necessarily agree with the entirety of her response today either, and we all know that Alison doesn’t expect everyone to agree with her all the time, but your framing of her response as inconsistent with previous responses isn’t really fair.

        2. Temperance*

          I don’t think that this actually paints an accurate picture of previous responses or this response. While it would be great if religion and politics could be left at the door all the time, it’s just not practical. In this particular instance, the EO will have an impact on employees and their families working at this company.

        3. blackcat*

          I wrote a comment above addressing some of this, but it is shitty for a business that employs a lot of immigrants to basically, though silence, communicate “You’re on your own” to employees. And that is what, for many people, not speaking out against the ban does.

          Issuing a statement saying “We are concerned about members of our community who are impacted by this” is quite different from taking a strong political on other issues.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m actually disappointed in Alison’ s answer today, that she didn’t point out that companies are under no obligation to choose political sides (unless that is the business). Plus how often on this forum has it been discussed about work being a politic free zone? Or religious free zone, etc? I feel that was “conveniently” left out of her answer today.

          This isn’t that. This is an employee sending a message to HR saying that she hopes the company will act on an issue impacting employees. It’s always okay for employees to speak up with input about the company like that, as long as it’s not done in a disruptive way (which it certainly wasn’t here).

          1. PlainJane*

            THIS. And the company’s response sends a clear message that employees will be punished for speaking up, which is, to me, the most serious issue here. Politics aside, once word gets out that HR responds to feedback this way, there won’t be many comments, and the company may only learn about a serious problem when someone is hurt or a lawsuit is filed.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Companies that cannot hack internal constructive criticism are concerning to me. But there are quite a few of them out there. Everyone sees the dead horse on the dining room table, but no one mentions it. Because they know they can’t. It’s a bad road to start down and once in place it’s hard to put a stop to it.

      3. always in email jail*

        I did too, but I still think HR could have just written a reply reminding her to not discuss politics in the office blah blah blah, rather than looping in a bunch of supervisors for an in-person scolding

        1. fposte*

          Yes, this is where I am. My employer’s a university and has been openly supportive of the employees and students affected by the ban, and I wish companies would do that too. But even if they don’t (and I support their right not to), this wasn’t an appropriate reaction to a request that they do, even a request that was phrased somewhat reprovingly.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. Or they could have reminded her of that policy (since it sounds like no one conveyed that there’s a “no politics” policy to OP). The escalation was inappropriate and weird.

        3. PlainJane*

          Eh, not crazy about that approach either. Sending a message to HR indicating concern and making a suggestion isn’t the same as talking politics in the office and shouldn’t be treated as such. It should be treated like any other suggestion from an employee–respectful acknowledgment and an indication of what the company is doing w/r/t the issue.

      4. neverjaunty*

        All of which is beside the point; HR could have issued a bland response and a polite reminder to be respectful of other co-workers’ potentially different views.

    5. Lablizard*

      In my unit, we have approximately 30% of our workforce impacted by the ban and another 40% are worried about future bans, so a number of people have expressed concern to HR about this issue, including me because, between the EO and potential changes to H1-B, I could lose most of my direct reports whose skills are thin on the ground. Instead of a somewhat threatening lecture, a somewhat anodyne company-wide email went out expressing appreciation for all employees and offering meetings with HR to anyone concerned about the immigration situation. It was an acknowledgement, albeit not public, that yes this is an issue, yes the company is thinking about it, and yes there are or will be resources for those affected.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        And that’s a great way to do it if the company is feeling leery of making a large company-wide statement of what exactly their stance is. “We appreciate all our employees, and if you’re concerned, you can meet with HR to discuss it” isn’t taking any kind of a position.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, exactly this.

        It’s true that OP telegraphed her feelings about the Executive Order and that a company may not feel equally willing to condemn the EO. But if I were a reasonable manager, instead of trying to say “oh, politics, shut up!” I would have taken into consideration that employees aren’t hearing anything from the company, and that silence is freaking them out. In situations where a significant portion of your workforce is impacted by a major policy change, it helps to let your employees know that you’re at least thinking about how to manage that change’s impact on the company.

        1. OP#2*

          In my manager’s defense, she did have some personal things to say to me after reading the HR statement. As that is entirely her business and I thought it not implausible that people might be able to figure out who I work for, I left those things out of the question to Alison.

          Aside from my e-mail getting forwarded to nearly my entire management chain by HR, it has now made its way out into the rest of the company through no action on my part.

          1. Emi.*

            Wait, what? The whole company? I think your message was way out of line but that sounds like a ridiculous response.

          2. Lora*

            In what context? I mean… I know my reaction to my grandboss / boss telling me to yell at one of my employees for this sort of thing would be more along the lines of a meaningful cold stare and “*cough* so about those capital budget estimates…” And likely I would whisper, “manager in other department, have you seen this? What is this nonsense? Have they given you this crap too?” And it might spread like that. Or it would spread at the Friday happy hour. But it wouldn’t be like… Officially distributed, you know? It might be passed around in an “oh boy can you believe this crap, whoever sent this effed up big time” way but not otherwise.

            1. OP#2*

              Yes, sorry! I don’t think it was officially distributed, but it has made its way around. I may be overstating when I assume that it’s out in the “whole” company – I only know that it’s been seen by people on both US coasts, which doesn’t account for the other 40 countries where we do business. :-)

              1. Lora*

                Oh ok. That makes sense. I thought, you know, holy crap I guess we can’t put anything past this level of coocoo for cocoa puffs. Yeah, there’s a lot of people who will look at it with a “WTF? Hey Bob, come here and look at this! Holy cow, did they seriously say this? It’s a joke, someone’s email got hacked?”

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Wait, what!?

            Were the personal things she said to you of the “shut your mouth” effect? And how on earth did the email go to the whole company!??

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Holy f*ck no, Batman.

            I used to work for a company that did shit like this–one time someone made a good-natured joke (not derogatory in the least) about a department activity (something they were doing on their lunch). The person they made the joke to shared it with a friend in the department, who got butthurt and complained. HR made the joker apologize in email to the ENTIRE COMPANY. Nobody even knew about the joke until they did that. It could have stayed between the people involved, but no.

            Your HR sucks and if the management condones this, they suck too. I’d start looking. :(

    6. Emi.*

      I agree that you should have been less confrontational, and also with Alison that it would’ve come off better if you’d proposed something constructive for them to do. To me the most confrontational part is jumping straight to the “triumph of evil” line. Regardless of how true you think it is, it’s a pretty aggressive foot to start on.

      Also, I mostly associate that line with the Holocaust–anyone else? It turns out it’s older than that and may be originally pro banning alcohol, but I always hear it in connection with the Holocaust, which puts your message into “my opponents are basically Hitler” territory. Whether you think that’s true or meant to imply it, I don’t think it’s crazy to read it in your message. That obviously gets peoples’ hackles up, and it’s also a way overused claim on way too many issues, so rhetorically I think it was a bad move that might partly explain why they sound so dismissive.

      1. fposte*

        I think you’re right on the likelihood, but even if it’s understandable, that’s still not an okay response for HR to make. Whether it’s “I find it hard to imagine in these times of difficulty that our company has not issued a statement in support of our president” or “I find it hard to imagine in these times of difficulty that our company has not issued a statement in support of our affected employees” the appropriate response is a polite statement of policy, not looping in somebody’s superiors to get them lectured and implying that stating your views is illegal.

        1. LBK*

          Right – I’d think part of HR’s job is to receive fiery messages and respond to them in a professional tone. Surely this can’t be the first email they ever got that wasn’t worded in elegant, stoic prose.

          1. fposte*

            And I would have termed it a polite communication, even–a tad sanctimonious, but still polite. HR blew this one.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I saw deep worry when I read it. I saw a desire to light a fire under someone’s chair to make them move in response to this very deep concern. I don’t think it was rude. And I don’t think OP sat down to write this saying, “Let me see how many rude sentences I can craft.” The first thing I pictured was OP saying, “OMG, so many people I know could get hurt by this. I need to say something. Something needs to be done ASAP.”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t connote “triumph of evil” with the Holocaust—I’ve heard it used way too broadly in life in general to think it’s limited in scope.

        OP’s letter did convey passion and a clear position on the EO, which likely made it harder for HR to read between the lines (I think OP’s real question wasn’t “why aren’t you condemning this?” but rather, “what are you going to do about your employees?”). But HR could have responded in a much more reasonable way, and they didn’t. I think it’s fair to cast their response as deficient.

  7. Myrin*

    OP #3, I, too, don’t think you need to be concerned about anything here. If the situation is a straightforward as you describe in your letter, your boss’s words seem like a very simply FYI to me so that you know how to behave going forward.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Agreed. Some managers don’t mind if you come in, put something on a desk, and leave. You manager does mind, OP3. You aren’t in trouble – he’s just making his preference known for the future.

      1. ZVA*

        Yeah, it really doesn’t sound like you’re in trouble from your letter, OP3. You just have more info now about your boss’s preferences than you had before, and you can adjust your behavior accordingly! If multiple people are in his office, you can assume it’s a meeting & wait til they’re finished before dropping papers off.

        Doesn’t sound like your boss thinks this is a big deal; no need for you to make more of it than he is :)

    2. Hooptie*

      IDK, if I had the CEO in my office with the door open, I probably wouldn’t mind if someone dropped off something. However, and this may sound nit picky, but the fact that she had to ‘announce’ that she was dropping something off likely interrupted the conversation. I would look at this as a learning opportunity for the OP.

    3. zora*

      I also want to point out that this is part of how adults work together in the workplace. You tell each other about your preferences and needs, and we adjust to each other as much as possible. It’s not a reprimand, your boss is just telling you he prefers people not to come in while he is having a conversation. This is also something you could tell your coworkers, when reasonable. For example: “When I have my headphones on, I’m focusing on something I need to concentrate on. Could you please not interrupt, and wait until I don’t have headphones on?” or “I prefer IM for these kinds of questions instead of phone calls.”

      There’s a little bit of negotiation back and forth that is an example of adults having a good working relationship, not every preference will be workable in a given office, but we can calmly tell our coworkers about them and try to accommodate as much as possible. Don’t take it personally or feel like you are doing something wrong!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In a similar vein, OP could say to her boss, “If I have something that needs your sig ASAP, what do I do if there are people in your office?” Of course, if this is not an issue then don’t ask the question. I am lucky because I can just set things in one designated area. My boss knows that means I need her to look at it. Maybe a similar solution would work for you, OP. I was thinking of a wall pocket mounted near the door of the boss’ office, might be a good way for you to signal to your boss, “When you are free, I need you to look at this.”

        There is a person who frequently works in our work space. I have a tray I put paperwork into for him. It’s got his name on it. He can grab the paperwork at his own pacing. Going the other way, he can glance over and see I do not have any further paperwork for him without interrupting me each time. We are both very happy with this system.

  8. Feotakahari*

    #2: “Colleagues and friends” seems like the important bit. If you have employees who would be negatively impacted by this particular executive order, it makes sense for your company to speak out against the order. (This isn’t necessarily speaking out against the President–people who like any particular President can still speak out against specific policies he’s proposed.)

    1. Koko*

      Yes, it doesn’t sit right with me that this is being reduced to “talking politics” as if they’re just debating gun control or abortion rights in the office. They’re talking about a specific policy that specifically impacts their business if employees are trapped out of the country and unable to return. That, to me, is wildly different than just politically opposing the President. Even if the company donated to Trump it is a business interest of theirs to oppose the ban, not a political one. Saying nothing is tacit support, not some sort of Swiss neutrality.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I somewhat disagree. They don’t need to speak out against the order, but they can certainly speak about what they’re doing to deal with the order.

      1. PlainJane*

        +1. It’s an issue that directly affects some employees and therefore the company. It can be addressed without a political stand but with compassion and support for employees.

  9. Duck Duck Goose*

    #2 – I understand why people feel uneasy about this, but I don’t think a lack of response is really an issue (though getting more than a “We don’t really want to talk politics” was pushing a little far). I mean, it’s evident that a lot of people here are left leaning, so look at it this way; what if the President issued an order one way or another that affected abortions (making them harder to get or available for later term) – it’s clearly an issue that’s going to rile up a variety of people (just like this one) and there are extremes from one side to the other. Would it be appropriate for the company to comment on this? It would clearly affect a lot of people in the workplace, emotionally or practically.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      If they don’t want to issue a public statement, fine. But the way they handled it is extremely heavy handed. They could have just responded with something bland like “thank you for your feedback. We will take it under consideration.” But they didn’t.

      They violated confidentiality ( yeah it was stupid of them to promise it, but they did), forwarded it to the LW’s boss’s boss, preemptively warned them against harassing coworkers with unwanted political talk, and warn them to “be careful who you talk to”. Yikes.

      Anytime you open yourself up for feedback like the HR form, you will not want to implement 90% of the feedback you get for one reason or another. Receiving feedback you don’t want to implement is not an “emergency”. Responding calmly is part of the job, even though sometimes people do not phrase their suggestions calmly.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Receiving feedback you don’t want to implement is not an “emergency”. Responding calmly is part of the job, even though sometimes people do not phrase their suggestions calmly.

        Can I get an A-MEN!! This really nails it for me.

    2. Lablizard*

      The difference is that this order can eliminate staff in companies, leaving them scrambling and hurting their businesses. For example, I am at risk of losing 5 direct reports with very, very hard to replace specializations, doubly so if we lose H1-B. Abortion decrees don’t impact the workforce. Immigration bans and visa cancellation does

      1. Parenthetically*

        Ye gods, canning H1-B would gut a few dozen major employers in my city. And the families of all those employees. Terrifying to contemplate.

    3. Mookie*

      The issue of this being a “left leaning” issue* is irrelevant, though, because there are plenty of companies that openly support and make financial contributions in favor of left/right-leaning legislation.

      *red herring because if an approach to an issue is “left leaning” then it stands to reason there exists a “right leaning” approach (and the subject of abortion aptly demonstrates that)

    4. always in email jail*

      I understand and agree with what you’re saying here. I can see how a company may not want to set a precedent of issuing sweeping statements on legislation. I don’t have issue with the spirit of HR’s reply (don’t talk politics at work), but how it was delivered and the fact the OP was under the impression it was a confidential system.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That word “confidential” seems to have a specific meaning in HR, which Alison has done a nice job explaining many times. To the average person the word confidential means that what is said is not repeated.
        Years ago, I worked for a place who employed a person as a “confidential secretary”. People thought that meant they could tell her things and she would not repeat them. Well, they were wrong. When things blew up in a spectacular manner and pitchforks were flying, management could not figure out what went wrong.

        What was wrong was simple. They repeatedly used a word with an industry specific meaning knowing full well that lay people had a different understanding of the word. Management never bothered to explain to lay people what to expect because of application of that word to the industry context.

        I see many other professions doing the same thing. They know that a word has one meaning in general conversation. They also know that within a given arena that word takes on a more limited meaning. And they make no/little effort to bridge that gap in understanding.
        I recently got into a discussion about car repair over the terms “wheel” vs. “rim”. If you are not a technical person, you are not going to know the difference. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect people to be acquainted with which words take on industry specific meanings, if it is not their industry. I think the responsibility is on the professional to make sure that people know the limited context of what they are saying.
        Back to the confidential secretary, bosses in that company were informing the employees that HR worked for the employees of the company and represented the employees against management. Bosses were saying this. Add this in with the secretary was supposed to keep secrets, not tell secrets and the stage was set for the pitchforks scene.

    5. Alton*

      If it was something that might affect employee health benefits, I wouldn’t find that amiss at all.

      There’s nothing strange about companies issuing statements about where they stand on issues that have practical implications for their employees. This will often apply to left-leaning issues, but it’s not a partisan thing. It’s about having respect for how changes in law/policy might impact your employees’ lives.

      1. KellyK*

        Yes, exactly. There’s no “political stance” in letting employees know how an executive order or other political action is expected to affect the business and what, if anything, the business is doing about it. For example, the government shutdowns and furlough a few years ago affected lot of government employees and contractors. The companies involved let people know how this affected their work schedule, their pay, and whether they could use leave they hadn’t accrued yet. Nobody had to say “This is a good policy/This is a terrible policy,” in order to discuss its effects.

    6. Anon 2*

      There is huge difference in this order that impacts businesses. Where I work we do business in two of the “banned” countries. So it’s an issue for us. An abortion ruling would may also impact healthcare related businesses.

    7. Temperance*

      I don’t think that it’s really a fair comparison, though. This EO has immediate applications in the workplace that just can’t be ignored, especially if you work at a tech company or other firm that has a lot of H1-Bs from excluded countries, or if you have a large population of students on F-visas.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, my workplace had to discuss it for this same reason. It affected a large number of people currently employed here.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Yeah, we’re not even in the US and we have a ton of people affected, especially with some really big US conferences coming up soon. I came in the Monday after the ban was implemented and was like “so how many trips are we cancelling?” We were hustling to find flight, hotel, and conference registration reimbursement policies, get in touch with our parent organisation regarding legal support for people who try to fly to the US but get detained, etc. It was pretty chaotic and it only affects people’s travel plans, with no potential to affect their ability to work here.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, a university pretty near me is VERY politically conservative, but with a huge international student program, their students definitely stand to be impacted by this. It’s not just a political issue, it has very real ramifications for all sorts of industries and institutions.

    8. BPT*

      That’s a stretch to compare those two issues. But, if an executive order or legislation was passed saying, “abortions will no longer be covered under insurance plans,” then it would be perfectly natural for a company to come out and say to it’s employees, “no matter the executive order, our insurance coverage will remain the same for employees.” Likewise, it would be perfectly fine for the company to say, “We know people are worried about the executive order – if you are worried about your own travel or position, please contact X for assistance. We support our employees and will work to make sure that everyone’s legal rights are maintained.”

    9. LBK*

      It’s not about the company making their position publicly known, it’s about something that has very real and immediate implications for many employees and those employees looking to their employer for support if they need it. If you’re an immigrant from one of the countries listed in the ban and you’re supposed to take an international business trip next week, you’re probably now pretty freaked out about getting back into the country, and you’d be looking to your company for guidance on how to handle that.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Yeah, and saying “this thing will impact our employees/customers, here is what we are doing about it/why we aren’t doing anything about it/whatever” is not exactly a big political statement. Talking about the impact of a particular law or executive order or whatever is not the same as explicitly saying that you support/don’t support it.

    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think you’re missing the point, particularly because the example you’ve provided is in no way analogous to the issue that OP is dealing with.

      The issue is not that the company doesn’t take public positions on political issues. The problem is that a significant percentage of their workforce is impacted by this ban, and they haven’t told their employees how they’re going to deal with that. I don’t think they’re required to decry the EO, but they do need to tell their employees what they’re doing to manage the EO’s effect.

      1. LBK*

        And not doing so actually does make some kind of statement about their position, effectively implying that they either don’t think it’s a big enough deal to issue guidance or even that they agree that the EO should be carried out as written. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to infer that if your employer doesn’t give you the discretion to manage your travel as needed to avoid being affected by the ban, they believe that you should actually be getting detained and questioned.

  10. Zip Silver*

    #2 – I think it’s odd that you would expect a publicly-traded, multinational biotech company to make a statement on the immigration ban. Most for-profit companies are going to want to remain politically neutral, unless there is some specific legislation that directly affects the company (being biotech, I’m thinking along the lines of stem cell research).

    As far as HR’s reply to your email, it does seem particularly harsh, but considering you emailed HR about it out of the blue (which is a very bold thing do it, in my opinion), I think they very specifically wanted to shut it down, and make it clear that you shouldn’t do something bolder like email a VP or C-level exec about it. (this is speculation, but that’s the meaning I got from “be careful who you talk to”)

    1. Kinsley M.*

      I tend to agree. OP not only expressed she was ‘deeply disappointed,’ but in essence threatened her company that they would be “evil” if they didn’t do what she wanted them to. She would not have been happy with any answer other then ‘OP you’re completely right. Let me issue that statement now.’

      Was HR’s reply a little odd? Absolutely. But they main point of we respect everyone’s views, and would like to keep it that way is by no means a bad thing.

      1. TL -*

        Yes and no. If the company only hires American citizens, it’s an okay stance to take. If they hire a lot of people on visas (and it’s biotech; chances are high they do) they’re saying, we don’t want to cause any discomfort so we’re just going to ignore this thing that can majorly impact our workforce. That’s not okay.

    2. Mookie*

      I think it’s odd that you would expect a publicly-traded, multinational biotech company to make a statement on the immigration ban.

      That’s odd because earlier this week biotech CEOs and lobbyists did just that, in a letter published by Nature Biotechnology with 150 signatories representing leaders in the biotech community. Among them are the CEOs and presidents of Alnylam, Accorda, and Decibel Therapeutics.

    3. Mike C.*

      How would you explain the list of nearly 100 companies (some of them very large and publicly traded!) that filled amicus briefs against this policy?

      It’s not odd at all for a company to protest policies that hurt them, they do this all the time whenever there is a policy change that costs money. Like seriously, all the time.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        Well the OPs perception of how the EO may or may not impact the company may be different that the company’s perception. This statement is made without judgement of the “rightness” of either perception, just an observation of mine.

        Or, the company could be in a “wait and see” how it plays out holding pattern.

        There are a lot of reasons for a publicly traded company to tread lightly.

        1. Mike C.*

          Do you ever watch or read the business news? Complaining about new regulations happens every single day from all sides.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m sorry if this sounds snarky, but seriously this is so incredibly common that not saying something in this situation makes a company look really weird.

            1. Recruit-o-Rama*

              I disagree. While it is not uncommon to not make a statement, it is also not uncommon to wait and see how it plays out before making a statement. A LOT of companies have not made statements, and many have, as you pointed out. Without being in their boardrooms, with intimate knowledge of their particular needs and impacts, none of us can know if the decision is sound or not. It may be that they are making a mistake in not making a statement, but businesses make mistakes all the time but making a blanket statement that they are assumes a lot of things we don’t know.

              1. Emi.*

                I also think there’s a difference between saying “We don’t object to this because it hurts our business in X, Y, and Z ways,” and saying “We object to this heinous evil because we’re good people.” It sounds to me like OP really wants the second (even if it would have less practical effect), and my sense is that that kind of statement is not common or standard in the business world. Am I wrong about that?

                1. Joseph*

                  Well said. This is particularly true for this case, because even if this hurts your business in X, Y, and Z ways, this isn’t just a garden variety regulation. When a soda company complains about labeling requirements or a finance company tries to influence reporting requirements, there might be lobbying on both sides, but it doesn’t draw strong feelings among the populace or customers. Nobody is going to suddenly stop drinking Pepsi because they fought against the Truth in Soft Drink Labeling Bill.
                  Whereas the immigration ban is a red-hot issue with strong feelings on both sides which also ties into people’s overall feelings on the election results or President in general. If you come out openly on either side for this, you will absolutely draw the ire of a significant fraction of the population.

                2. Mookie*

                  The OP explicitly mentions the material effects the ban would have on fellow employees so, yes, I for one disagree vehemently with that assessment and think it’s unfair.

          2. Mazzy*

            Well, I work in a regulated industry and we discuss regulations everyday, but never the country of origin of employees. That is too….personal for lack of a better word….to come up in any policy or regulatory discussion. That falls into the category of “the company’s private business” no matter what side you are on. It’s just not something any of the competitors would ever discuss openly.

            1. Anna*

              Right, probably because for the most part the policies that your company deals with do not affect the staffing/hiring part of your business. I’d guess that if they did, very soon your company would discuss that because it affects that portion of their business.

              Just as an example, my company is discussing what to do about the proposed wall and any possible changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals because that more directly impacts our clients. We are not so much talking about the EO about the Dodd-Frank Act because that doesn’t affect us at all.

            2. Electric Hedgehog*

              Heh, I work in a regulatory area where a lot of the regs actually have to do with the country of origin of the employee…

        2. LBK*

          It didn’t cause nearly as much of a public outcry but there were absolutely many, many conservative, right-leaning companies who spoke out against the impending DOL regulations regarding fiduciary responsibility for financial advice. Not as sensitive a subject to the general public, obviously, but to suggest that it’s only liberal hippie California companies that ever object to governmental orders is just flat out wrong.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s simply not true, and I think it’s a little spurious to try to pin this on “liberal bias.”

      2. Temperance*

        I think that there are many companies, especially those who rely on H1-Bs, who can very openly come out against the policy without facing backlash. There are other orgs, like mine, where we organizationally do not support the EO but will not file an amicus brief against it, because we don’t want to piss off potential clients or existing clients who might feel some kind of way about any criticism of Trump.

      3. OP#2*

        As of last night, 166 other biotech companies have “signed a letter detailing the damage they say President Trump’s executive order on immigration will have on the industry,” stating that the EO “threatens to undermine a multibillion-dollar industry that relies on a diverse workforce.”

        In other words, a bunch of publicly-traded multinational biotech companies have made a very clear statement about the EO impacting their bottom line, so I don’t think that making a statement is weird at all.

        It’s also worth pointing out that in the US, biotech is intensely political. I worked for one company that held town hall meetings to specifically brainstorm methods of convincing patients to not cross the border into Canada where they could get our drugs cheaper due to price controls there.

        1. Emi.*

          But it sounded like you wanted them to make a statement about evil, not about their bottom line. I think that’s why they got so upset, although they shouldn’t have responded the way they did. (I also think it would be really lame and disingenuous if they did make a statement about evil when they actually just cared about their bottom line.)

          At this point I don’t think HR will hear you very well if you bring it up again (fair or not). Would any of your colleagues be willing to suggest/campaign for your company to co-sign that letter?

          1. OP#2*

            I think you’re right that my ability to be effective on this topic is pretty much toast. There are others who are trying as well and I wish them success!

    4. Really*

      I agree with this. Though the part about who you talk to could also refer to the guy sitting next to you who will make a scene.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I find it odd that a large multinational company wouldn’t — given that employees are likely to be traveling abroad, and the travel ban has hit people with valid US residencies and even (in a few cases) citizenship. This would be something that would be seen as potentially impactful, and that the company would probably want to make some statement about.

      FWIW, I work for an enormous publicly-traded institution and my company was very quick to make a statement of support to employees and an offer of assistance should any employee or contractor find themselves affected by the ban.

      1. Jenbug*

        And even if they don’t want to make a public statement, it would be completely appropriate to make an internal statement if they have a number of employees who are potentially impacted by this. They could do that while still remaining fairly neutral (though I’m not sure if you can really be neutral with something this divisive).

    6. neverjaunty*

      “Most for-profit companies are going to want to remain politically neutral”? On the current appellate dispute over the EO, 127 for-profit tech companies joined in an amicus brief taking a particular side.

      I’m not saying the OP’s company should or shouldn’t have taken a given position, but I am a little puzzled at the idea that a multinational company would have no reason to take a position.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Tech companies tend to be isolated in the SF Bay bubble. Putting your company in a list like that would be locally popular. In my swing state, people (and businesses) in general act neutrally because you don’t know the stances of whoever you’re dealing with, and it can alienate customers and vendors.

        1. Mike C.*

          You realize that a bunch of those tech companies are not located in San Francisco and many have locations all over the country (and world), right?

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s one think if you want to mock investor storytime or the economic bubble going on, but your comment is incredibly reductive and dismissive of what’s actually going on. This isn’t just a “San Francisco” issue, this is an issue everywhere.

              1. Zip Silver*

                My point is that tech companies (generally clustered in the Bay Area) can get away with taking social stances that companies in other parts of the country can’t. Other companies fear alienating customers, while tech companies don’t really need to worry about that.

                1. LBK*

                  Maybe not for something so sudden and divisive, but look back at the number of companies that spoke out publicly in support of marriage equality over the course of the last 5 years or so leading up to the SCOTUS ruling. They most certainly weren’t just a cluster of SF-based tech companies, and many of them certainly did it with the understanding that it might lose them customers.

                2. Mike C.*

                  They have customers and shareholders from all over the country. They take on similar risks as any other large company would.

                3. TL -*

                  Um, I work in biotech. We are not clustered primarily in the Bay Area – there is a cluster there, but there are 2 other equal or bigger clusters and a whole bunch of minor ones with really big, really impactful companies.

                  Also, big biotech companies might be headquartered in one part of the country but their business, investors, and impact is spread throughout many states and/or countries.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think you should read the amicus brief, or at least read the signatory companies. They’re not clustered in the Bay Area, and I think you’re relying on broad generalizations to avoid dealing with a legitimate counterargument.

        3. Lora*

          Tech is not the same as biotech. Biotech == pharmaceuticals and the occasional green energy company. Major locations include West Point, PA (Merck’s big R&D), Research Triangle Park NC, a swath of New Jersey, the Beltway and near-Beltway parts of Maryland, most of Massachusetts, some of Connecticut, used to be a chunk of Colorado although Amgen left and it’s been downhill from there ever since, and most of the West Coast including the notoriously conservative Orange county. Also a lot of major operations in Puerto Rico, although they don’t vote. In Europe it’s mainly Switzerland, a few cities in Germany, Milan, and Paris has quite a lot. There’s a lot in Ireland and still some folks holding down the fort at the old GSK facilities in the UK. There are major sites in Mumbai, Pune, and WuXi is of course HUGE, and a lot of investment in Singapore. Montreal has been building up their industry, I did contract work designing a few systems there. There’s a lot more in India that I’m forgetting because I haven’t been there other than to deal with colleagues in Pune and GVK contract stuff.

          But yeah…Not local. At all.

    7. Former Retail Manager*

      Agreed 100%. I didn’t interpret HR’s “be careful” wording as a veiled threat but rather a warning intended to guide OP in their future actions to save them from an even bigger faux pas. If I were the HR rep who received that message, and presumably doesn’t know the OP due to the size of the company, I would assume that they could use a little guidance considering that they e-mailed such a bold statement out of the blue without asking for any specific action to be taken. As the HR person, I would have considered this person to be a “loose cannon” based on their actions and may have warned them about taking such actions in the future because I don’t know what else they may be doing or contemplating.

    8. LBK*

      “Emailed HR about it out of the blue”? I don’t really understand what this means. Since when does an employee need to have a long-standing personal relationship with HR in order to raise issues with them? What is HR for if not to address complaints like this?

      1. INFJ*

        Yeah, I don’t get that either. How dare OP use the HR confidential line to raise a concern.

        If you want to question the effectiveness of the language, maybe, but not the method!

        1. Zombii*

          This. And leaping from emailing HR via the HR portal that was set up specifically for employees to contact HR to cold-emailing the C-suit or other corporate power-players because the LW just doesn’t have any sense of decorum is more than a bit ridiculous.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        That confused me, too. No snark involved, I would actually want to know what to do to keep my emails from seeming out of the blue. I don’t like catching people off-guard or blindsiding them, I prefer not to work that way. So in this instance I would want to know what HR wanted me to do instead.

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Multinationals of all ilks take public political positions all the time, so this is not a compelling argument to me.

    10. Marcela*

      “Unless there is some specific legislation that directly affects the company”. The company is a biotech and in my experience, in scientific environments it would be extremely rare find an 100% American workforce. Therefore, the ban directly affects the company, either because they have in the present somebody who cannot travel or can’t come back, or they will in the future or even worse, have somebody like me who is not in risk at the time, but who knows what will happens in the future. I do not meant to be rude, but I truly can’t understand how somebody can think this ban doesn’t affect a company like that, even in absence of OP’s words, saying it already has.

      1. TL -*

        In biotech, it’s a legitimate concern (especially as the OP says they have thousands of patients and employees from the areas.)
        The wording wasn’t great, but the concern wasn’t out of the blue, by any means.

    11. paul*

      The OP came across kind of aggressively in the letter IMO, but HR really seems to have mishandled it. If you try to push a company to make public statements about politics, expect pushback. However, this particular push back seems over the top (unless there’s other things that have happened that weren’t in the letter) and kind of like they’re trying to play bully-boy.

      What’s that old song–Nobody’s right, everybody’s wrong?

  11. FD*

    1- I think the issue isn’t so much talking about her mother as the fact that she doesn’t show agency when she talks about the job. I mean, it’d be fine to say something like, “My mother wasn’t a teacher in a school, but she worked hard to inspire a love of learning for her children. Because of that, I really want to pay that forward and share it with other people.” That would be fine because it’s talking about why the person in the interview wants the job. But just saying her parent told her to implies she doesn’t really have any interest in this job over any other.

    2- I do think it’s polite not to talk about politics at work. You’re stuck with the people you work with as long as you’re all at the company, so it can be easier not to know their stance if you greatly disagree with them, and politics has a way of filling a space with negative feelings. It’s certainly absurd to say that talking about politics is harassment, but I do think it would have been OK for HR to say that using a HR messaging system for talking about it probably isn’t appropriate. Those are generally meant for reporting issues with harassment or retaliation.

    4- I think this just goes into the ‘online applications suck’ pile. A lot of these applications just ask for data without thinking about whether it’s useful, and I think this is one of them. (Unlike the salary information, which is best filled in with an obviously wrong number or 0 if you can.) I would also say this–when you do get interviews, I’d be careful about saying you have a better work ethic than younger candidates. There are lazy and hardworking people of all ages, and interviewers are going to be less likely to hire you if they feel that you’re going to cause tension with their younger associates by assuming they’re lazy by default.

  12. Recruit-o-Rama*

    Regarding the “secure and confidential” system, I wonder if HR is trying to reassure people that the system they use is secure and confidential because the system (and most communications to HR) involve private, sensitive information) will keep their information like SS number, tax withholding, etc…secure and confidential.

    I don’t necessarily think their message is out of line and forwarding it to the managers is HR’s way of putting the management piece back where it belongs, with the managers. No company is obligated to take a stand on a controversial issues by issueing a public statement.

    1. Recruit-o-Rama*

      Further, the decision to make a company wide statement would not be made by HR. HR may be consulted and ultimately the messaging may come out of HR, but the decision to actually do it would be made by other people.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        But it’s reasonable for employees to contact HR with concerns that are outside of HR’s scope of authority in the hopes that HR will raise those issues with the appropriate higher ups.

    2. hermit crab*

      That was my first thought, too – that they meant, “this is our secure system for receiving your new W-4” not “this is a confidential suggestion box.” That’s an unfortunate thing to be unclear about, though.

    3. sstabeler*

      I’m not sure it matters- the fact they used the confidential message system means they clearly intended the message to be confidential. Hence,the appropriate response would be “this is not a confidential suggestion box. If you want to send a confidential message to HR, send it to the following link:” followed by a link to the actual confidential suggestion box. NOT disclosing the confidential message,

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        I mean, yeah, the messaging is obviously not clear, but that doesn’t mean the company “lied” about confidentiality, it just means they were unclear.

        1. sstabeler*

          The thing is, the message was sent using a mechanism which is supposed to be confidential. That the system isn’t intended for sending confidential messages to HR is irrelevant. The circumstances surrounding it being sent indicate the sender of the message intended it to be confidential, and that fact would be obvious to the recipient. To ignore that- regardless of content- is a failure by HR no matter the content. It is roughly analogous to approaching HR normally, requesting they keep what you say confidential, and them disclosing it without your permission. (to clarify: there are circumstances under which disclosure is permissible, but this message is none of them.)

          My issue with their actions is they received a message intended to be confidential, and immediately turned around and disclosed it when it was inappropriate to.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            Yes,I agree that their messaging contributed to the misunderstanding. In HR, we make mistakes, just like anyone else. Sometimes it’s hard to see every potential outcome of a well intentioned message. Our HRIS login has a security/confidentiality message at employee login, I should ask someone above me to review it to be sure that it is clear regarding what we are referring to.

            1. sstabeler*

              That’s probably a good idea, but my point was that HR received a message that was clearly intended to be confidential- therefore, them deliberately disclosing it was bad.

              To make it clear, the issue is that HR actively disclosed it. If- for example- the senior manager had a friend in IT who gave him (I’m assuming him) access he wasn’t supposed to, then a) it’s not HR’s fault and b) both the senior manager and IT staff member need to be fired- as in, marched out by security ( because the IT staff member has already proven he can’t be trusted)

              1. fposte*

                This seems to suggest that there’s some sort of binding confidentiality with HR, though, and there isn’t, even if the sender thought there was. I don’t get why they thought it was appropriate to loop the managers in, but I would fully support their right to do so on material that was received this way.

                1. sstabeler*

                  I personally believe there should be, though- however, that’s not actually the point. They received a message that it should be obvious was intended to be confidential- as such, it’s poor practice to ignore that simply because it wasn’t requested the correct way. (basically, regardless of if you receive the message over a medium intended to be confidential or not, if it’s clear the sender intended confidentiality, you should keep said confidentiality.)

                2. fposte*

                  I think we just may not be in agreement here. I think HR blew this one, but not because of the confidentiality thing.

          2. Zombii*

            HR isn’t ignoring their promise to keep the messages confidential if they said something that people are interpreting differently than what they meant.

            If HR says “any communications with HR will be kept confidential between HR and the person who sent those communications,” then, yes, you have a point. It doesn’t sound like they said that though, it sounds like what they said is that the HR portal is secure—which doesn’t clearly say that issues may be discussed with relevant parties, and the language needs to be changed to include that—but a misunderstanding isn’t a lie.

  13. Alice*

    Not only staff, but also “customers.” I think Inside Higher Ed said 12K+ Iranian students are studying in the US, and more from other affected countries. That figure also leaves out students with a second citizenship (e.g. British now, born in Sudan). Then what about students from other countries who fear they might be caught up in a future iteration – with no consideration of the process they’ve already gone through to get a visa? If I were a Pakistani student, for example, British universities would seem more attractive to me now.
    I don’t like to think of students as revenue sources, but they are, and they pay full freight, subsidizing in-state discounts at public institutions. (Unless they are funded PhD candidates, in which case they must be pretty talented indeed)
    Any sensible organization facing this kind of challenge about how many of its current and future customers will be able to enter the country/will want to enter the country will be trying to mitigate this risk.

    1. Amadeo*

      I think the ‘paying full freight’ varies from university to university. I worked in grad admissions for a little while going between the students, the grad director for my department and the grad school itself. Some countries would fully fund their students and send them along with a letter indicating that and there was only one country in my experience that did this (and it’s not on the EO list, ironically).

      Most of the other international students also applied for assistantships, which meant their tuition was waived and they were paid an additional monthly stipend in exchange for teaching a class or assisting in research (mostly it was teaching). So, the paying their way thing with no help from the school is not universal.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – The only notification you really need that they’re having a meeting is seeing them having a meeting. If three people were there talking, that’s a meeting.

    It doesn’t sound like your boss is mad, but I’d be annoyed too if one of my employees walked into a meeting and just dropped something off.

    1. always in email jail*

      I agree, if you see multiple people in conversation in an office, it’s safe too assume it’s a meeting.

      However, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’d be personally be “annoyed” the first time that happened, but I’d do exactly what this supervisor did, which is to say “hey by the way going forward when I’m having a meeting in my office please just drop any documents you need me to sign in the box outside my door. Thanks!” and really wouldn’t think twice about it unless it happened again.

      OP I promise it feels like a much bigger deal to be on the receiving end of something like that than to be the one saying it.

    2. Huddled over tea*

      And on the other side, I would probably never walk into an office where my boss and the CEO of our company were talking and someone else was leaning on the doorframe!

      You’d have had to literally walk between these people who were talking and disturb them, did you not find that strange? If he’s not going to sign the papers until he’s done talking, I’d just wait until they were done talking to put them on his desk.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree—I would have come back at a later time. Particularly since someone was in the doorway, as Huddled over tea mentioned. I generally avoid walking into rooms where my boss is in a meeting or group discussion. If it’s urgent, I may try to make eye contact and point to whatever paper I’m trying to pass along. But if my employee did this, I would find it slightly rude and would want them to know that I’d prefer it they didn’t walk in during a convo/meeting (I wouldn’t tell them I thought it was rude—just explaining why I would want them to know my preference for how to proceed going forward).

    4. INFJ*

      That really depends on the culture, though. If I saw 3 people in/around the open door of of my manager’s office, I would not assume it was a meeting. People in my department drop by and chat about work stuff with each other quite frequently, so it wouldn’t be unusual for that to happen in an informal context.

      That being said, it does sound like OP could have done more to ask if it were an OK time, etc.

  15. NW Cat Lady*

    #2 – I’d be very tempted to start reporting every “frothy discussion” to HR (if occurring at work) as harassment. They’re the ones who said it’s harassment to talk about this stuff with “people who don’t share your views.” It would be really good if you had a written copy of their rebuke that you could show them.

    Of course, I wouldn’t actually do this, but it would feature prominently in several fantasies, and I’d talk about it with my friends.

      1. Candi*

        I don’t see it as out of line to ask what is happening to her coworkers and the patients they serve.

        Her phrasing could have been more professional.

        Acting on NW Cat Lady’s fantasy would also not be professional. Sigh.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    OP 2 – I feel for you. You clearly feel very strongly about this, as do many of us. But I also think you went about it kind of the wrong way. This line especially was going a little too far: “Remember, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”

    I think their response also went way too far too though. I mean, I’m a federal employee and please believe me when I say the last few weeks have been the hardest in my professional career. I’ve never seen people as stressed and anxious as I have recently. But even for us we’re allowed to have conversations amongst ourselves.

    1. blackcat*

      Yeah, that line does seem over the top for a workplace, and I fall solidly on the side of “Companies that employ citizens of the 7 countries have an obligation to support their employees.”

      There were ways to word a letter to focus the company supporting its own employees–that would get the message across without being too preachy.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. Especially because it seems like OP is actually more worried about the EO’s effect on her coworkers. In light of that, the framing of the email sounds more like she wants a public denouncement (which she may also want, but based on OP’s follow up notes, it sounds like denouncement is not as important as a statement on what the company is doing).

  17. Persephone Mulberry*

    #3: I personally think it’s best practice to pause/wait for acknowledgement before entering anyone’s office, but especially if they’re in the middle of a conversation. Just a brief stop in the doorway with a “got a minute?” or “I have The Thing for you” or “can I just get a quick signature on this?” is all you need.

  18. Darren Garrison*

    For some reason, something about #2 made me suspicious that it might be posted elsewhere. So I googled “You need to keep your feelings on the president to yourself and be careful who you talk to.” and I did find this:

    So unless the questioner for you is the blogger from the link, you seem to have been fed a line.

    1. Zombii*

      Good of you to find that and alert the OP to the fact that it was unintentionally posted publicly. I can’t imagine their employer reacting well if they turned that up somehow.

  19. Anon 2*

    #2 – where I work we have a no political talk rule, which is difficult because politice directly impacts our advocacy agenda. It’s not a regular topic of conversation, but I violate that rule as does everyone else at times. However, I’ve also worked in places where I got political chain letters forwarded to me all the time, which made me uncomfortable, so I get why HR departments try to have that rule.

    I guess I would be concerned about having your skip manager feeling like your manager had to address this immediately. That would be the part would concern me.

    1. Unofficial Official*

      This is what is hard for me too. My profession, by virtue of our funding, is reliant on federal funds (at least at the level I’m at). And, frankly, some administrations are more friendly to my field than others (who actively disparage it). It is hard to separate politics from the office when your profession, by its existence, is somewhat political.

  20. Temperance*

    LW2: I think your company has taken a stand here, and it’s just not the one that you want them to. I think that their response went overboard, but now you know what’s expected at your organization.

    I work in a law firm, in the pro bono arm, so I’m mired in dealing with the fallout from these EOs, because so many want to help others (great!) but they have no idea how (neither do we, this is uncharted territory!). There are so many potential changes, not just to the refugee program but the H1B program, DACA, VAWA/U-Visa … I could go on. I’m honestly not sure what your company could do to support immigrant employees or those whose families are immigrants.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Slightly off-topic: Temperance, please let me know if your folks need support/assistance in getting trained up. I’ve been coordinating trainings for pro bono law firms on this issue for the past week and am happy to share resources (e.g., there’s a good number of free PLI webinars being generated, including one last week on immigration detention habeas petitions).

  21. Yikes!*

    OP2, while your HR dept handled it weirdly, they are right to keep politics it of the office. Your company’s focus is to make money, keeping owners/stock holders happy and employees employed. Your HR person wasn’t inserting their political views. And personally, I’m tired of hearing about companies inserting themselves into politics. They should focus on providing the products/services they provide and allow the citizens to vote and communicate with the powers that be. I know everyone feels strongly about their viewpoints, but corporations shouldn’t take sides.
    While you were out of line, I wish everyone at my office would realize that the place top discuss politics is NOT at work and that more loud doesn’t mean more right.

    1. Natalie*

      The products/services a company provides and their ability to provide them are often *directly* affected by politics, though…

    2. Judy*

      Although I believe that the OP may have worded their email too strongly, I also know that at my past position, I would have been contacting HR to understand what kind of support would be available for one of the employees on my team. I was a team lead, not a manager, but my team did include one person who would be affected by the ban, several from other countries that may be affected by similar bans, plus several other people with H1Bs. So it can be a question of keeping your employees employed.

      1. Emi.*

        But it sounds like OP wants the company to issue a grand official political statement about evil, which is different from issuing practical support and guidance to managers and employees who might be affected, and even different from publicly objecting to a policy’s interfering with their business needs.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          She’s since clarified, and it sounds like what she really wanted to know is how her company will deal with these things. But it’s difficult because HR shut her down in a way that makes it less likely for her to be able to articulate her core request more clearly.

          1. Emi.*

            Thanks! I went and found that update. Yeah, I worry about whether OP will be able to make herself well-understood at this point. But maybe she could ask a colleague to speak up more clearly?

    3. Mike C.*

      Politics affects us all, how can you possibly expect a company being directly affected to stay silent? Are you going so far as to say that companies directly named by the President shouldn’t respond?

      1. Mike C.*

        In particular, it’s not that companies are inserting themselves into politics, it’s the politics insert themselves into companies. It can be for good or for ill but to expect them not to respond is a bit much.

        1. Emi.*

          But there are different kinds of responses. The fact that the company is affected should influence whether they say something like “We object because it hurts our business.” It sounds like OP wants a statement like “We object because it’s Evil,” which is different. If whether something hurts their bottom line is the deciding factor in whether they issue a moral statement, then that statement is just virtue-signaling anyway.

    4. MashaKasha*

      OP said that thousands of the company’s employees would be affected by the ban. Doesn’t this tie into every single one of the company’s goals that you listed?

      I am normally very strongly against bringing politics into the workplace, but this sounds like the company, or at the very least the morale of those thousands of employees, might take a hit as a result of the ban.

    5. TL -*

      There is a lab at a workplace here whose professor, the big boss, it is from one of the affected countries. If they leave and cannot come back, the entire lab will come to a halt and all projects will stall; funding might get missed; collaborations will get dropped. If the professor is permanently banned from the country, the lab shuts down permanently and everyone in that lab loses their job.
      The prof has multiple employees at a high level from the same country. If they can’t come back, their projects, and everyone working on their projects, are shut down. If their projects are just stalled for 4 months, they’re going to lose funding and with loss of funding comes loss of jobs.

      This is what biotech companies and academic labs are dealing with. This is why companies need to say something; it’s not about anything to do with politics, it is about the fact that projects, jobs, labs, and livelihoods are at stake here.

  22. Myrin*

    OP #1, I think it’s very kind of you to want to help out this employee. I can imagine she either has no concept of how often she really mentions her mother or she simply has no idea how it comes across, especially in the workplace/at an interview, so a little eye-opener might be all that is needed here to make her stop.

    1. Garrett*

      I was going to suggest if she is so inclined to offer to do a mock interview with her. Then she can directly confront the mommy statements and help guide her.

    2. Sparrow*

      A mock interview or offer to talk through answers with her is a good idea since OP hasn’t witnessed any of this herself. I feel like it would be extra mortifying to realize not just how interviewers were reacting but also that they’d been talking to people about it. I also suspect this interviewee may be giving other answers she hasn’t fully thought through, so interview prep could be valuable all-around.

    3. sunny-dee*

      The only thing that jumps out, though, is that the OP was cringing when she said “my mom didn’t raise me to quit one job before I have another.” That could have just been saying, literally, I don’t want to quit before I have a new job, and the “my mom” thing was just a figure of speech. (My mom didn’t raise a quitter; my mom taught me better than that.) It only stuck out because of one other comment — which the OP got secondhand. It could very well be that the chick said that she applied for the job *because her mom told her to* or she could have said something much more benign, like “my mom inspired me to do this” or “my mom encouraged me to reach out and help people” or whatever, and the interviewer just didn’t like the turn of phrase.

      I only bring that up because the OP worked with the woman before and found her pleasant, competent, and probably free of mommy-issues.

  23. nnn*

    #2: No one else seems to have commented on this so it’s quite possible I’m missing something (I’m not American so there may be nuances I’m not seeing) but is HR really the place to go when you think your company needs to respond to something in the political environment? It seems to me like that sort of thing would need to originate from the executive level

    1. Emi.*

      I think political statements would come from the executive level, but HR is often seen as the interface between The Company and the employees, so that’s probably why OP contacted them.

    2. OP#2*

      It may just be a quirk of this particular company (I’m very interested in whether this is true generally), but using the HR portal is the only way to express opinions/thoughts/comments to the C-series people.

      While we technically could just e-mail them directly, their e-mails are heavily screened by their assistance and censure is both swift and pronounced even for minor infractions such as, “Congratulations on being with the company for 20 years!”

      The HR portal is explicitly encouraged to be used for posing an anonymous question to C-series people during Town Hall events, and the questions are selected and sanitized by HR.

      1. Lora*

        Huh, let me think. Pfizer/Wyeth, the C-level staff had these sort of blog things set up that you could submit questions and Pfizer-Pfizer (as in not the companies they took over but Groton) had a discussion board that was pretty lively. Plus town hall meeting Q&A. Sanofi and their taken-over companies had a bunch of hotlines and generic email addresses and nobody seemed to know where they went. Pre-Sanofi, Genzyme had various meetings, I’ll have to ask a couple of colleagues, but I know they had town hall meetings; they weren’t (aren’t) very organized. My employer has company wide emails because we are smallish, and town hall meetings monthly, and all we really have to do is mention something in the cafeteria, they eat lunch with the rest of us. That will probably change when we open the new facility and people are too far away. The Jnj subsidiary companies have townhall meetings, hotlines, and their internal website is very nicely organized for this stuff–I was impressed when I was there for consulting. My last employer who was actually a supplier (about 11,000 employees) had town hall meetings, newsletters and the CEO had a blog until we got bought. Company that bought us was a generic holding company type of thing so after that we only got a visit once a month or so. When I did biofuels we only had 100 people and a huge open office so pretty much I just shouted, but they also took even the bench scientists out for pizza and beer to chat. Oh yeah, pre-Pfizer Wyeth did these lunch things with C-level staff also, but more awkward than I’ve seen at other companies. Shire had some generic emails associated with internal websites and SharePoint sites and hotlines and once a quarter town hall meetings.

        Yeah, there are usually other lines of communication and when I’ve seen the communication suck where they route it all through HR it’s usually that they’ve been sort of a mom n pop shop that got bigger. As opposed to WyPfi who originally bought Genetics Inst or Shire who bought TKT and it sort of imposed grownup company organization on them.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s not odd to relay a concern to HR if you’re in a large company. Oftentimes staff down the organizational chart don’t have the access or ability to speak to executives, and if they want to submit their comments anonymously (as it seems OP wanted), then it makes sense to go to HR, first. There are certainly companies where going to HR for a response would be strange, but I trust OP that this was the normal/appropriate channel for her company.

    4. Retail HR Guy*

      HR tends to be on the short list of departments employees think of when they have an issue, so plenty of things get sent to HR that really belong somewhere else. It shouldn’t be a problem, though, to just forward the message on to wherever it belongs.

  24. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2: Oof, I think that message was a bit more confrontational than necessary — the line about good men doing nothing was more pointed than you maybe wanted to be. But on the substance, rather than the form, I think you made a very reasonable request, and HR’s response was weird and overblown. In your position, I would feel way leery about raising any future concerns with them, and I would most likely come to the conclusion that I couldn’t look to my employer for assistance if I were to be affected by a future political action of any kind.

    1. OP#2*

      Good morning!

      I actually agree with you and the others who have pointed out that a) this could have been worded better, and b) was super confrontational. Yes to both. A large part of what I do is directly related to patient advocacy and I was seeing people’s health being devastated in real-time. What I wrote came from a place of anger and helplessness and yes, deep disappointment.

      I didn’t actually expect that Company would do anything with regard to making a public statement, but did hope to help (I wasn’t the only one who wrote in) prod them into giving us something – anything – that we could tell people.

      I probably should have taken a few more hours with that message, given myself a chance to read it a few more times and maybe appeal to their sense of duty to their patients.

        1. fposte*

          It’s understandable, but it often diminishes the chance of reaching your goal; however satisfying it may be to vent frustration, the real question is whether it gets you what you want. Confrontation certainly can play a role in that sometimes, but I think it has to be strategic call and not just a moral one.

          1. Mike C.*

            I don’t think it’s about personal satisfaction, but rather urgency. I don’t yell at someone I see being unsafe because I get a kick out of yelling, I’m trying to get their attention.

            1. fposte*

              But if you’re yelling at your HR person, that’s not likely to get you what you want and is quite likely to get you something you don’t want–as this letter exemplifies.

              1. Mike C.*

                I only mean to say “yelling” as an example of an unusual action that would be needed at the time but would otherwise be seen as unusual or unprofessional in a normal professional interaction.

                And while I’m at it, by “confrontational”, I mean being direct without the normal professional niceties and the expectation that the party you’re communicating with would immediately be on board with what you’re saying. IE, “You need to get down from that lift and put on proper fall prevention gear right now”.

                I see I’m likely using the word incorrectly, so I apologize for the confusion.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But if there’s urgency, that’s all the more reason to ensure you don’t convey your message in a way that’s likely to decrease its effectiveness.

          2. Lissa*

            Yes yes yes! I have so many people right now in my life who basically are saying “it’s a life/death super urgent situation so therefore I don’t have to be polite, I can yell, I can be confrontational” and that would be true if there was likely to be a direct correlation. If being super aggressive was likely to change opinions, then I’d agree, but very often it seems to have the opposite effect so I really question *why* being confrontational because something is urgent is the right call if it isn’t actually likely to be more effective.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah — it would be more accurate for them to say “I’m just out of control with anger/sadness/frustration/fear right now” (which would be understandable). If their sole motivation was really the importance/urgency, then they’d put energy into communicating in the way most likely to be effective.

              1. Lora*

                There’s a cultural aspect specific to medical related companies though, it’s not as simple as that. What happens too frequently is, the company is 90% people with a medical/science background who work with patients and feel very keenly the effects of any business decision and understand on a visceral level that a crummy or poorly thought out decision/policy will mean people die and/or are in horrible pain, and they will personally be the ones to deal with the fallout.

                The 10% who don’t have that education or experience….It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they personally have never had that kind of responsibility and don’t even seem to understand it. I mean, it’s only a hospital network/single supplier of an orphan drug/medical device company whose products literally keep people’s hearts beating…It can’t be THAT much different from flipping burgers, riiiight? And they do their job like if patients die it’s not a bigger deal than a McRib marketing screw up (I’m thinking in particular of the Jeff Kindlers and Martin Shkrelis of the world here).

                And the 90% will tell the 10%, if you do this people will die, this is a bad bad bad decision. Worse than that even. The 10% blow us off like we are Marketing asking for extra money for short time only sandwich offers and make it clear that they believe we are exaggerating, no matter how bluntly or gently they are told. You could deliver the news with a foot massage, it wouldn’t matter.

                Then people die, the company gets sued and slapped with consent decree, and the ding dongs who ignored us are all “waaah! I know you told me but I didn’t think you meant it!” After several years of this, it’s hard to find a tone that will both make your meaning clear and not hurt someone’s delicate sensibilities. You start being blunt because nice didn’t work.

                1. OP#2*

                  Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. When I first tarted in this industry I raised a concern very politely and told people over and over again that what they were doing could kill someone. I was called ‘hysterical’ and ‘over-wrought’ and just about every other name in the book one uses for putting down women.

                  Then someone died, and I was immediately beset by management saying, “Why didn’t you TELL us???”

                  After that, I stopped being so polite.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  This is important context for all of us non-biotech folks. Thank you (and I’m sorry this is such a normal and widespread practice—it sounds incredibly frustrating and demoralizing).

                3. Lora*

                  Princess, I know of at least 3 consent decrees which were the result of a non-medical/STEM person pulling exactly this nonsense of “waaaahhhh nobody told me that you can’t poison sick people” after having been firmly and clearly yet politely told by both internal employees and the legal team and after having received years of FDA warning letters. On two of them (Genzyme and Abbott) it wasn’t that you’d be fired for being honest or for speaking the truth too bluntly or anything like that, which was even more frustrating – Genzyme and Abbott were notorious for NEVER firing anyone – but that the jackholes in question were such awful, spineless people who genuinely believed that you shut up and do what you’re told and don’t say/do anything to hurt the precious feelings of our glorious leader when you are at work. They truly thought that’s what work was about: kissing up and kicking down. They weren’t afraid that if they told bossman, “hey, we need a new vial filling machine, this one is shot to heck, let’s talk about the capital budget” boss would tell them to clean out their desks, they just didn’t want to have a difficult discussion with someone they honestly thought of as a kind of royalty, and they imagined that anyone who dared to challenge the status quo by something as miniscule as the color of a file folder or revising an SOP to the current software version without convening a five-month debate and begging an audience with a minimum of seven religious leaders was a bad, foolish person. They were mad at the FDA for hurting the CEO’s feelings and crap, even when investors (specifically Carl Icahn) were being a lot less polite than the FDA.

                  We get really cynical really fast in this field. And are much more sensitive to disingenuous crap, I think…

                4. OP#2*

                  Out of thread here, sorry –

                  Lora – It’s really hard to be the candle sometimes. Thank you for holding the line.

        2. Statler von Waldorf*

          Only if you plan on shooting yourself in the foot, like LW#2 did. Before you get confrontational, always remember who has the real power in the situation. If that is not you, think long and hard about what hills you want to die on before you hit send.

          In this case, I’m guessing the HR rep was a Trump supporter. He found the letter harassing, and responded by using his power to make the LW’s life difficult. If the letter had been more moderate and less partisan, it almost certainly would have been better received.

          1. Candi*

            Or they’re someone who gets bent out of shape at the idea of politics in the workplace, or, less generously, thought they were being told what to do and resented it.

            In any of the three scenarios, their response was unprofessional.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        I am looking at your situation from an HR person perspective so I appreciate this particular response, it gives more context. I think it’s important to put a human face on issues so that people can see the trees in the forest.

        As you pointed out, it might have been more effective with a more measured level of emotion. I think it’s so important when there is a controversial issues that any of us frame our debate points without emotion because it makes it easier for people with the opposing point to not get immediately defensive. It so hard though, because a lot of these issues are so emotional and personal.

        I’m sorry your patients are being so directly impacted, it must be very hard to watch.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Going to add to the “weird and overblown” part that the thing about HR’s response that surprised me the most was how they made OP’s message about her “feelings for President Trump”, when the message said nothing of the sort. The message was strictly about one specific EO, that affected many employees of the company. There was no mention of OP’s feelings about the President, and I do not appreciate OP’s HR twisting the message around the way they did.

  25. Emi.*

    About #2, a lot of people are saying the company should issue a statement because the EO affects so many employees, and I think we’re conflating different kinds of statements they could make. They could (A) issue guidelines to their employees about how foreign workers stranded on overseas travel should proceed, or about other practical matters. They could (B) write to the President, probably publicly, to say “We object to this policy because it detrimentally affects our business in X, Y, and Z ways etc,” which I gather is a fairly standard business thing to do. Or they could (C) issue a public statement to say “We object to this gravely evil and oppressive human rights violation etc.”

    From the way OP worded their letter, it sounds like they want C, which is way more controversial than A or B, and demanding it in such “do this or you’re evil” terms is pretty aggressive. I still think HR’s response was weird, but less so than if they had responded that way to a request for A or B, and the reasonableness of wanting A or B is orthogonal to the reasonableness of OP’s letter.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      ….Frankly I don’t see any evidence that OP is specifically demanding C in her three-sentence letter to HR? Yes, the third sentence is rather strong, but it’s just calling for action, not that the company should mirror her by calling this “evil”.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      I agree with this. I will also point out that HR’s response makes a lot more sense if you assume that the HR rep supports Trump and his policies. From that point of view, this letter is a personal attack, which makes what follows afterwards make more sense to me at least.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think OP is demanding C at all. Her letter suggests she wanted a response to (B), and possibly to (A). Her letter had charged language, but I didn’t read it as “how dare you sympathizers allow evil to engulf the wooooorrrrrrld!” I agree that her letter, however, makes it harder for the reader to know if she wanted a denouncement or a review of what her company was doing.

      1. Emi.*

        Do you mean her letter to HR, or her letter to Alison? I do think her letter to HR made it sound like “the triumph of evil” is really at stake, not just how the company would be affected.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I meant her letter to HR. I do think there’s loaded language and that she signals her position on the EO, and I agree that the triumph of evil line could come across as sanctimonious (sorry, OP!). I can fully understand how someone could read her letter to mean that she’s requesting (C). I just wanted to clarify that when I read the letter, I interpreted it to mean that what she wanted was (A) or (B), but she articulated her request in language that blurs the lines between (A), (B) and (C).

  26. Nan*

    OP #3. I’d probably have done the same thing as you did, especially since the door was open. I quick interrupt to drop off the paperwork. The way I read your boss’ response was that he said it in a snarky manner or tone. I don’t think that’s acceptable. To me, it depends on the tone in which it was delivered.

    1. ZVA*

      This seems like a bit of a stretch; there’s no indication in the letter that her boss said it in a snarky tone… I’d say that “Just wait until we have finished our meeting before bringing things in” is a perfectly reasonable & neutral way of phrasing a request like this.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s tough because we don’t know if OP’s boss spoke to her or emailed her. But if it was an email message, then I don’t think we can read in snark.

    1. Critter*

      I’m unsure of how to talk to her directly about it without giving away that I suspect frustration on her part. You know?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Maybe she will mention her frustration to you at some point soon?
        Or maybe she will mention her mother again. It sounds like this is more likely to happen.
        You could:
        1) “Sounds like you think the world of your mom.” Maybe she will blurt out that her mother died recently. This could lead you to more conversation, maybe you can buy her a coffee and chat.

        2) If you think you can pull it off say something like: “Hmmm. You mentioned your mom several times now. You know, years ago we had an applicant who talked about his parent often. The hiring committee did not hire that person because the candidate’s frequent reference to his parent was confusing. They were trying to hire the candidate not the parent. I think they would have hired the parent though based on what they learned about the parent.”

        3) Or maybe you can just open the conversation with, “Can I give you a tip that I think might help you?” Then be as brief as humanly possible but still make your point. “I have heard you mention your mom several times. She sounds like a cool lady. But I know that the interviewers will be asking questions about you, so you want to make sure that you tell them your own thoughts on things and not someone else’s. There’s a lotta people out there with cool folks, but they want to know about YOU.”

        4) I know that schools around here tend to hire their own. So it’s not unusual for families to be employed at schools. She could be thinking that she needs the coattails of a family member in order to get a job. You might be able to say something like, “Your work stands on its own, you’re known for doing a good job. So you don’t have to worry about having a family reference. Just focus on your own thoughts and your own work that you have done.”

  27. NoPoliticsPlzNthx*

    #2 – Keeping politics out of work also means not harassing HR about politics.

    While HR shouldn’t have necessarily forwarded your email to your manager, they apparently considered your – and I apologize I can’t think of a better/less harsh word – ‘attack’ on them as potentially creating a hostile work environment. They deemed it necessary for your boss to be looped in on the matter.

    This was a serious lack of judgment on your part, OP.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I have real issues with them using the word “harassment,” which either intentionally or accidentally suggested a legal issue where there isn’t one.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree—that really bothered me. There were several words they used that I thought were inappropriate and more threatening than necessary.

    1. LBK*

      Part of HR’s job is to address potentially sensitive situations with neutrality and professionalism regardless of personal views. They should effectively be above feeling “attacked” or “harassed” by an employee raising an issue to them.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Harassing? Whoa. A strongly-worded email which did exactly no damage to anyone, sent privately = harassment now? Yes, poor, poor HR, having to deal with a frustrated employee, how will they cope?

      They went nuclear on something they could have responded to with a brief, “Thank you for your input and perspective; we will keep it in mind moving forward.”

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is not what “hostile work environment” means.

      And I disagree with your conclusion that this letter demonstrated a serious lack of judgment. I do think OP should have worded her letter differently for the response she was looking for, but HR’s response was frankly overblown. The email would have been a more than sufficient response.

    4. Retail HR Guy*

      If HR felt this was “harassment” or a creating a “hostile work environment” then that HR department sucks. Lay folk are free to toss those words around casually but in HR they have technical meanings that absolutely do not apply here.

      In my time in HR I have been insulted, yelled at, argued with, threatened, cried to, and (my favorite) called an “anus”. It’s part of the job. Having to handle an emailed suggestion from an employee shouldn’t even raise an eyebrow with an actual HR professional.

      At worst, OP is guilty of using overly strong wording. In a functional work environment it should be fine for an employee to make a suggestion through proper channels.

  28. Aloot*

    OP#2, I find the “Remember, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing” you added to be incredibly adversarial considering that you have no idea what political affiliation the HR person reading it has.

    If the HR person did vote for Trump, you just essentially called them (and very likely several people they love and care deeply for, like family and friends) evil and not-good people. So while I think the HR person didn’t handle this well, I can definitely see a few reasons why that happened.

    1. LBK*

      But part of working in HR is addressing situations like this with neutrality towards your own personal feelings.

    2. MommyMD*

      No matter the political bent it was a very adversarial message. The whole thing kind of shocked me as a very strange thing to do.

        1. LBK*

          Jenny Lawson’s chapter about working in HR from Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was very illuminating in that regard. Especially the part about the penises.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, another reason for me to get to that one.

            But this is just an unhappy communication about workplace policy. That’s daily life stuff in HR. Now I’m just sad that nobody got called an anus.

    3. Morning Glory*

      Only in reference to this specific act, not as a reference to all people who voted for Trump, or even Trump himself. It was certainly a bad idea in this context, no argument there, but not to the degree you are saying.

  29. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#2 – Thank you for speaking up. You at least tried and that counts for a lot, even if it doesn’t look like it right now.

  30. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP #4: “I have a stronger work ethic than a large number of younger candidates.”

    MAJOR side-eye here. You do realize that everyone 20+ years older than you said exactly the same thing about you and your generation, right? As the generation 20+ older than they did to them? And so on back to the beginning of time?

    Stop it. You don’t know every younger candidate. You cannot judge, and have no standing to.

    1. UX Designer*

      THANK YOU! Was coming here to say the exact same thing. I’m in my mid twenties and have worked very hard to get where I am. I’m so tired of everyone calling millennials lazy or unmotivated. Just stop.

      1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        For real. I work at a university, and I see all these people (a lot of them first-generation college students) under 25 coming to school full-time AND working part-time AND volunteering AND trying for summer research or internships, then graduating into a crappy job market — as my age peers (I’m 46) talk about how their resumes have “only” contract work or volunteering or whatever, and I get SO MAD. I don’t recall seeing any of them working that hard back when we were in college.

        But then I go back to reading applications for scholarship programs designed for first-gen and other underrepresented students and have ridiculous amounts of fun recommending that they get lots of free money to finish college and grad school and go be great. It’s nice to know that a some people with money actually do have a conscience and like giving it to worthy students.

      2. automaticdoor*

        Also, as has been pointed out here before, what a lot of people fail to see is that many millennials are 30+ these days! With families and piles of student loans and maybe mortgages and such! Hard to be unmotivated when you have to take care of all those obligations…

      3. Anon for this*

        I can’t shake the feeling that we’re held to a higher standard, too. I’m struggling with mental illness that’s bad enough that all I can really do is work, eat, sleep, repeat – but even if I weren’t struggling with that, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to leave at the end of the day when I don’t have any urgent deadlines. But my management is questioning my work ethic because I leave after “only” 9 hours in the office.

        Some of this is probably my company, because the attitude here seems to be, “I’m not going to tell you to work 12 hour days, but if you don’t want to work 12 hour days of your own volition, I’m going to assume you’re lazy and/or don’t want to be here.”

        1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

          Oh, that’s awful. Any way to take FMLA? I deal with that too, in that my colleagues feel that this isn’t so much a university as a trauma center, and that ignoring your family (including very young children) for fifteen hours a day every day just demonstrates great values. NOT. Hold your ground. Caring as much, or more, about your health as you do about your job is not wrong.

          1. Anon for this*

            Thanks, Tangerina. I actually have PTO saved up, there’s just… never a good time to take it. I may have to resort to FMLA just to get some time to take care of myself, but I’m the sole wage earner for my household and really can’t afford unpaid time off. It’s a tough situation.

            Part of the struggle is I have a hard time telling how much of my difficulty is caused by my illness and how much is caused by my environment. I know that both are a non-zero number, but I can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.

        2. Trillian*

          You have all my sympathy. I came through STEM, and my PhD supervisor’s attitude was that if I wasn’t in the lab every waking hour, I was not committed enough. I got skilled in putting in facetime. I’d leave my coat and bag at my bench in the evening and go off to do sports or meet friends, but vacations were a constant battle. I had to be close to desperation before I could assert myself enough to claim one. Now, many years later, I take every single hour due me.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Seriously. I’m Gen X and we’re the slacker generation, people. ;)

        No really, all the people I know who could technically be called millennials work their everloving butts off. It’s not a fair generalization.

        1. Trillian*

          Tail-end Boomer here, and you know what they say about us …

          I work with a number of crackerjack millennials. Smart, energetic, and with a better sense of where they want to go than my cohort did.

  31. MommyMD*

    I’m shocked at LW who sent such a fire bomb of a political message to HR. I am not happy with the current political climate but no good can come from that. Of course HR was going to contact her manager. It was a bizarre thing to do. Go to work, do your job well and leave personal opinions at home.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to act as though the outside world doesn’t exist as soon as they step through the office door, because many of those people may be worried about not being allowed to return to their home where they should supposedly be leaving their “personal opinions”.

    2. Winger*

      This is what your HR department is for. This isn’t what staff meetings are for; it’s not what one-on-one meetings with your boss about the Crenshaw account are for. If you have an honest concern about the conduct of your company, HR is the appropriate place to air it. They aren’t obligated to take any specific action, but I would hate to work somewhere with an HR department that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing this kind of thing with, whether or not you (or they) think its over the top.

      I would have been shocked if the LW had written an op ed in the local paper without talking about it internally first, or if he had submitted this as a public question at a board meeting.

    3. Mike C.*

      When those political issues affect the workplace to such a drastic degree, how can you expect people to ignore it? The message could have been better, but this is really screwing up how many of us do business. This isn’t some trivial matter.

    4. TL -*

      Nobody was shocked when people started bringing up the new (and then halted) salary laws at work . Even if someone had brought it up in a very political way, and I do think there was a bit of left/right split on that one, people would still agree you need to know how your company is going to handle it.

      If you’re in biotech, this EO is like that salary law change. It’s having a very real impact on the day-to-day of your business. Asking about it is not inappropriate or bringing politics into the workplace – it’s figuring out how to do your job.

  32. Retail HR Guy*

    Re: #3, I have an employee that does this (both to me and to my boss, the VP of HR) and it drives us crazy. She will interrupt pretty much anything for a “quick signature.” (And, no, these are not urgent items.)

    Over time our subtle hints became not-so-subtle hints (“There’s no hurry on these, so can you just put that in my inbox, please?”) and we have now reached the point where we have openly told her that we are never, ever going to reward her interruptions with a signature. She will still, however, do things like leave them in our chairs, stop us in the hallway to ask whether we have signed something yet, etc.

    (To answer the obvious follow-up question, we put up with it because we’re picking our battles with her on some of her other behaviors, and she’s retiring soon so we can just wait it out.)

  33. Critter*

    Hm. I do think LW2’s letter was rather on the nose, and HR’s response way lecture-y (and rather jerky, but that’s just a personal knee-jerk reaction). But I do tend to think that while it’s entirely possible to keep politics out of our workplaces, it’s often not as easy to keep it out of our *work*. Depending on the industry, certainly many of us have been immediately affected by what’s been going on. I do think it’s prudent for those companies within those affected industries to have a plan on how to address these orders, and a plan on how best to communicate it to their employees. I also think it’s very normal for people to be alarmed, and want to hear something from their employer (I know I did). It’s kind of like the overtime rule. All companies that were affected had to have a plan in place to address it, and to address abrupt changes to it, and how to communicate it effectively. That was technically political too, just less emotional. Am I way off?

  34. leslie knope*

    i like the comments here generally, but there’s so much false equivalency thrown around regarding politics and it makes me wonder if people think t hey are being subtle when they propose it. the two sides are not equal, and complaining about the workplace being “too political” when people’s entire lives are being turned around is privileged and ridiculous. your discomfort isn’t more important than doing what’s right.

      1. Reba*

        I think leslie knope was talking about the contents of some comments, not about AAM commenting rules!

        (“your” meaning the general you, and applying to people who might feel that politics does not affect them personally so therefore is unimportant or taboo—not meaning Alison)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, what I got out of it is, “Another human being’s life or quality of life is not a political question. It’s greater than that.”

          But I could be misreading, that is possible. Disclosure: My bias is I believe we label everything as “political” now. And I just don’t understand this trend. With this concern on my mind, I could have misinterpreted leslie’s comment.

    1. Trillian*

      I think there’s a distinction to be made between politics and partisanship. Talking about how political systems work and the implications of political decisions is essential when people’s experiences and origins vary so widely, and when so many of us are part of historically disenfranchised groups. Explicitly declaring support for political decisions without offering anything else to the discussion, or accusing, condemning, shaming or deriding opposing views and the people who hold them is partisanship, and shuts down political discussion.

  35. Winger*

    I’m perplexed that you seem to dismiss the idea that requiring graduation dates is a way to discriminate based on age. What other reason would a company have to ask this, if not to determine the age of their applicants?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s a widespread convention of including year of graduation on your resume (although as I wrote above, older candidates are increasingly not doing that), and the systems are built to mimic resumes.

      1. Nan*

        I think graduation dates only correlate with age if the person has little/no work experience. I graduated from high school in 1996, went to college for 2 years and quit. I’ve worked ever since high school. I went back to college 2 years ago, and graduated with my BA in Dec 2016, and will start my MS program this May. So, as much as I’d like to be 22 like my graduation date would seem to indicate, I’m 38, with 20 years work experience. Given my school experience, there are quite a few adult learners, and this practice isn’t going to be useful to employers for very long, as recent grads turn out to be older people or mid-career people.

        Employers who use a graduation date to pick and chose who they interview/hire may be doing themselves a disservice by screening out older people because they don’t want to pay for age/experience, but they may also not be getting the youngin’ that they think they are, if they ONLY pay attention to the graduation date. A great reason to look at experience, and not necessarily schooling/degrees. Unless the position would truly require a degree (doctor, lawyer, etc).

    2. LBK*

      There is plenty of information asked for by default in hiring systems that never actually gets looked at. I think ours probably does ask for it but I’ve sure as hell never bothered to look for it.

      I think you assign too much intention to a company just picking up the out-of-the-box configuration for something like Taleo. There’s rarely so much thought put into it, and certainly not with such nefarious intent – people probably just think “more info is better” without realizing what they’re really asking for or how the question could be perceived/misused by people who do have a stronger bias against older candidates.

  36. Jana*

    Letter writer #2: I’m sorry you had that experience. Alison’s right: your HR department is crappy. The message you sent isn’t even something that would need a supervisor’s attention. Who knows, maybe they’re terrified that someone might bring up politics at work, but their response to you was unwarranted. What they did isn’t necessarily normal, but that kind of action isn’t quite abnormal, either. I once had a supervisor’s supervisor initiate a “confidential” chat with me about how I thought my project was going. I said I was enjoying the project and was excited about it growing. He told my supervisor, who then got upset with me for “trying to take over”. Subsequently, I had to meet with HR and was told that, despite this “problem”, they didn’t “hate me”. All this to say, no matter what the employer says, I’d have trouble believing that anything said or put in writing at work would be confidential.

    1. Candi*

      …After rereading that about four times, I can come to no other conclusion then someone was trying to sabotage you. And that HR specifically stinks.

  37. Vertigo? Thataway!*

    LW#4 and Alison: Yes, indeed, age discrimination is real. It is real, and it is insidious, and it is everywhere. I will be 50 this year. I graduated with my AS degree five years ago, and was pretty much promised immediate employment. This did not materialize. ving used some of the tips I’ve seen here, I never get called for interviews. Never. I’ve been out of the workforce for 10 years. All my work experience is out of date. Volunteering is out of the question, especially in any elder-care capacity – I just can’t.

    It sucks.

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