my boss made me leave a work note at a grave, company won’t tell us when someone is fired, and more

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

1. My boss made me leave a work-related note at the grave of my bereaved coworker’s relative

Three weeks ago one of my coworkers lost a relative. She has been off work on bereavement and family leave. Our boss isn’t happy with her being off for so long. Since it is out of his control and he doesn’t get to approve or deny her leave in this case (the HR department is in charge of that) I have been doing my best to ignore him whenever he complains.

Last week my boss gave me an envelope with my coworker’s name on it and told me to leave it at the grave of my coworker’s relative. He said it was a condolence card at first, but I didn’t buy it because our work had already sent a card. When I asked him about it again, he said it was a note with some work-related items only she knows about and he needs answers ASAP and she won’t answer her (personal, not work) phone when he calls her. He gave me directions to the cemetery and everything.

Alison, I hope you don’t judge me for this but I did what he said and brought the envelope to the grave. I don’t know if she has seen it yet. I am horrified and disgusted with this. I am disgusted with myself. My boss threatened my job if I didn’t but it’s still no excuse. I don’t even have a year of work experience not counting internships in college. I was scared of being fired and so I did it. But now I’m disgusted with myself and I don’t know what I should do about this. I imagine telling my boss off or telling his boss but I’m scared to actually do it. I wish I had never delivered the letter but I don’t know what to do next. Any help or tips you or your readers have for me would be so helpful.

Your boss is officially the worst person in the world.

But you are not. You are brand new to the work world and scared of being fired. You are not to blame for the fact that your boss is a shitty, shitty person.

Tell HR.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. My company doesn’t tell us when people are fired — they just disappear

I’ve had the same job for a couple of years – my first since leaving college. Mostly it’s great – supportive team, interesting work, I regularly get good feedback about what I’m doing from my supervisor – but I do get weirded out by the way they fire people, and I’m not sure if it’s normal. Because people just disappear.

If someone retires or leaves voluntarily, they circulate a goodbye message. If someone is gone forever/for a while because of sickness or family emergencies, our managers circulate an email explaining. But if they’re fired, not a word is said and management never mention their name again. This is particularly weird because the whole team circulates through a few locations – so sometimes it will be a few weeks before I notice I haven’t seen someone for a while, ask about it, and track down the rumor that says they’re gone forever.

Because we are all working individually, we don’t have insight into each other’s work – so someone who from the outside seems to be doing just fine can end up vanishing and we don’t know why. I just learned today that someone else has been vanished and it’s made me feel really jumpy – as though at my next meeting with my manager I could be bundled out the door. Is there any way I can ask why this person was fired? Is what they do normal?

Inexplicably, this is a thing some companies do. Presumably it’s because they don’t want to call attention to a firing, but it’s a really bizarre practice because it creates all sorts of logistical problems: people are still emailing the fired person, not realizing they’re gone; no one tells you who’s handling their work now; you don’t realize that the answer you were waiting on from the person is never going to come, etc. Plus there’s the whole strangeness of having people just disappear with nothing being said, which makes for a pretty strange atmosphere.

So no, it’s not normal. Some companies do it, but they shouldn’t.

You generally shouldn’t ask why someone was fired unless you worked very closely with them and arguably have a work-related need to know — because typically you won’t get an answer unless you truly do need to know, for the reasons I explain here.

However, if you’re worried about your own job security, it’s very reasonable to ask your manager for feedback about how you’re doing. Hell, you can even say that you’re a little rattled about recent firings and ask what kind of warning you’d have if you were ever in danger of losing your job. Most companies — not all, but most — warn people first if things are at the point that a firing is possible, and you’ll probably feel better if your manager explains to you how they handle that.

3. Maximum number of applicants?

I was interested in an internship at a distinguished production company for the summer. Their website says they’re accepting applications until the end of the month (several weeks from today). However, right below that it states that the maximum applicant pool has been reached for the summer program.

Being confident in my experience and skill set, I emailed a cover letter, resume, and my portfolio anyways. My thinking is that if just the right person came along, they’d still consider them for the opportunity. The reply I received several hours later read: “We have indeed reached the max of 50 applicants for the summer term. Would you like to apply for the fall term instead?”

Now I’ve applied for a lot of jobs in the past and have even had the opportunity to be actively involved in hiring at my previous position—and during that entire time I’ve never heard of a position which had a “maximum number of applicants.” Especially one that pretty much makes an “apply by” date completely arbitrary.

Is this actually a thing? What happens if the most qualified applicant happens to be #51? And finally, is there anything I can write back that would convince her otherwise of her somewhat illogical and limited policy? I’ve been trying to think of a way to make light of it, but anything I come up with could be interpreted as sarcastic or rude. Any suggestions?

It’s a thing, yes. I’m not a fan of it personally, for exactly the reason you state — you want to hire the absolute best candidates, not just the earliest candidates. But internships can be a little different, and who knows, maybe they know their applicant pool well enough to know that they’ll have strong candidate in the first 50.

In any case, though, you will not make a good impression by sounding like you think you know their business better than they do (and ignoring that they may actually have good reasons for doing things this way, which you can’t know from the outside). Don’t try to convince them to suspend the policy for you.

4. Interviewer wanted the notes I took during the interview

On Friday, a very large Fortune 500 company flew me up for an in-person interview. Interviews consisted of three panel interviews over three and a half hours.

After the first panel interview, they asked for my notes (everything I jotted down during the interview), saying HR required my notes. Have you ever heard of this?

At the end of the second panel interview, the panel leader reached for his cell phone, which was placed in the middle of the boardroom table, and he stopped the recording. Are employers allowed to record interviews without interviewee’s consent in Georgia? Does this sound strange to you?

Asking for your notes is weird, and it’s also a crappy practice — your notes are none of their business.

Georgia allows audio recordings as long as one party consents, so they didn’t break any laws there — but it’s rude to record you without letting you know from the start that they were doing it (if in fact they hadn’t alerted you).

So these people are rude all around.

5. What should my networking emails say?

I’m currently in the process of looking for a job a state over, as my spouse is military and has accepted a base transfer. I work in academia as an administrator, and many of the amazing people I currently work with have offered me contacts to reach out to in the region I’m moving. This is awesome, except … what do I even say to these people in my introduction emails? I have a tendency to overthink emails like these, and I’m afraid of coming off as too eager or too schmoozy.

“Jane Warbleworth suggested that I get in touch with you because I’m about to move to Phoenix. Jane and I currently work together, and when she heard I was moving, she told me that you’re incredibly knowledgable about the teapot industry in Phoenix. I wonder if you’d be willing to jump on the phone with me for 15 minutes and let me ask you some questions about the field out there?”

Replace that last line with whatever you want to ask — whether it’s getting together for coffee when you arrive, or giving you a reality check on salary ranges there, or whatever it might be. Generally, the clearer you can be about how the person can be helpful to you, the better. There are people who will be happy to meet up just for the sake of general networking, but there are lots of others who will be more receptive if you say “I’m hoping to ask you about X and Y specifically.”

Also, if you can have the connection send the initial email introducing the two of you — and saying why she’s connecting you — that’s even better. (But if that’s a hassle to arrange, it’s okay to do it yourself.)

{ 469 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp*

    OP1, your boss put you in a really awful situation. I think that the threat of being fired is definitely an excuse, and I agree with Alison. It sounds like your HR is reasonable and that it’s just your boss who has issues, so please tell HR what happened.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. OP#1, your boss is behaving like a truly horrible human being, and although you’re going through a lot of self-blame, he threatened your job, which is a b.f.d. Please don’t blame yourself—what he did was craven and designed to make you feel emotionally distraught so that you’d do what he wanted. It’s abusive, and part of why it works is because he knows you’ll blame yourself (and he’ll pretend you had a choice and chose to do his bidding). It’s contemptible that he came up with this idea, and it’s doubly disgusting that he then tried to use you as his instrument.

      Please tell HR. Or at least tell whoever gets to make decisions about bereavement leave. Your boss’s behavior is beyond the pale, abusive, and so far out of line that the line isn’t even visible anymore. And please forgive yourself, if you can. This is 100% on him.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Also it’s clearly not the best way to contact them. This is more manipulation and punishment for someone daring to take time off work for a personal need.

        Don’t buy into the mindset that by doing this task you agree with and condone this behaviour. You don’t. You’re a young person in your first “real” job with student loans in a bad economy who was threatened with firing if you didn’t comply.

        Go to HR (who sound reasonable) and let them know the whole story:

        how your boss has been contacting her for work stuff on her private number and she (rightly) has been ignoring him,
        how he wanted you to leave a card at their relatives grave site and told you it was a bereavement card but when you asked again he came clean with what it was and threatened your job if you didn’t deliver it.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Cosigned 100%. This isn’t about contacting the employee — this is about causing them pain. Your boss is a horrible human being, and you absolutely should a) take steps to protect yourself and b) do not let this awful person trick you into thinking they are any kind of authority on how the working world functions.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Can you imagine being the coworker in this situation? You visit the grave as part of your grieving process and find WORK MATERIALS having been left there for you. That’s a specific, targeted, lashing out of someone who’s angry that you’re not responding to their attempts to reestablish control over you. That is, frankly, flat-out abusive behavior.

            If it’s really that damn urgent, and literally nobody on the planet aside from the coworker knows the answers (and apparently nobody at the entire company is capable of figuring it out from whatever documentation they have available?), there are other avenues! Send an email to the person’s personal email address. Send a literal physical letter in the postal mail. (Not that I’m endorsing either of those, ye gods, figure stuff out for yourself for awhile! They’re on leave! Cope! Just noting that there *are* options besides “leave messages at a gravesite.”) The fact that he skipped over those and went straight to “leave work materials at a place where this person’s emotions will be raw and unstable when they’re there” is less “I need answers” and more “I’m going to torment you until you give me what I want.”

            That boss would never see my face again. I’d wait out my leave period (purely to spite him and force him to wait before beginning to try to replace me) and then resign. And probably file a labor violation complaint with the DoL over his violation of what I assume is protected leave (based on the OP’s use of the term “family leave”).

            1. Alli525*

              This is such an excellent point. He took the nuclear option to punish her – this was NOT the most direct or convenient way to assure that someone received a message. Also, in the U.S., the post office offers a return receipt service for just a couple extra dollars – mail her something and make her sign for it, if you’re so desperate to make sure she received legitimate business communications. (To be clear, this is still a terrible idea, it’s just LESS terrible than leaving mail at a grave.)

      2. Liane*

        “Your boss’s behavior is beyond the pale, abusive, and so far out of line that the line isn’t even visible anymore.”
        An advice columnist, might’ve been Carolyn Hax, recently described this level of Jerk Crossing Lines something like this:
        That little dot on the horizon? It’s someone with a telescope, trying to find The Line.

    2. Lablizard*

      The boss sounds like a bullying jerk. And a crap manager to boot. If the office can’t function for a week or two without a specific employee, it is a poorly managed office. What if the bereaved co-worker quit? How would these questions get answered?

      1. SophieChotek*

        If the bereaved co-worker hadn’t realized through the unfortunate grief that the time away job made he realize “hey I have a crappy boss”…the bereaved co-worker now knows…

        1. RVA Cat*

          I so want the bereaved co-worker to send the envelope with his or her resignation letter – and a brick, all shipped overnight at the highest rate and billed to the boss.

          1. Damn it, Hardison!*

            I hope the OP and the coworker come to work one morning to find that their terrible manager is no longer with the company.

    3. LKW*

      Yeah, there is so much wrong with this. Your boss is awful and you definitely need to discuss with HR, if only that he gave you a task far outside of the scope of your responsibilities (and reasonableness) and threatened your job.

      I have so many questions here but I have to assume that he either hasn’t had to deal with the death of a relative or his experience was so different and he has no empathy whatsoever. He’s an ass.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Absolutely – there’s a lot of outrage here but I really want to make sure that this compassion gets heard, too. You’re not a bad person, OP. You were stuck and given a completely unfair choice: “Do a horrible thing or lose your livelihood.” We know nothing about your life, but for myself, I’m in the middle of buying a house, I have a cat and a partner who depend on my income. If I lost my job, we’d lose the house we’re trying to buy, might lose our crappy apartment if unemployment didn’t cover enough for rent, shit would get dire Quickly. So nobody blames you for getting trapped in this situation, it is 200% Not Your Fault. Shovel that guilt right back onto your awful boss, who is the one who deserves every single tiny ounce of it.

        2. Workaholic*

          I keep wondering who will pick up the envelope. Transient, kids playing in a cemetery. Some other family member who reads it, sees the inappropriatey of it and destroys it (probably the best outcome). Hope there was nothing detailing private work or personal details. Also will it be rained on and destroyed?

      1. Bea*

        Sadly I know one too many dicks in the world who truly don’t care about anyone outside their own world. An old boss’s response to saying that I needed time off for my dad’s major surgery due to a huge tumor was to question me about how my dad got cancer in the first place. Yeah, he’s 66 years old, that’s a good start of why his health is starting to give him problems! Argh.

        Even people who have lost loved ones of their own can only understand their own grief and not give a hoot about a coworkers tragedy :(

        1. Guava*

          I used to work for a man who threw a tantrum on 9/11 because everyone was crying at their desks. He literally raged around the office, shouting at us to “pull yourselves together” and eventually sent us home because “this will be just another day when no work gets done.” I lost a childhood friend in the North Tower, and had three different family members who worked in the Towers or in that area, all of whom were unaccounted for until later that day (the others were all OK.) He was, and is, a terrible human being.

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              Maybe, but I highly doubt it. If Guava’s boss really had a brain, he should have tape recorded himself and played back his own voice, before spewing that to her and her unfortunate coworkers.

      2. Observer*

        Eh, you don’t have to have lost a loved one to understand that this is waaaaaay sick. The OP is a young person and killing herself over this. How come she gets it and he doesn’t? That’s the difference between a decent human being and someone who doesn’t deserve the name.

    4. Grey*

      Yes. And when you tell HR, you could even frame it in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re tattling on your boss (even though he deserves it). Just say, “I’m afraid Jane might find out I left that note and report me for it. I just want to let you know I had no choice”.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also, you could frame in terms of how you’re supposed to report your hours if you delivered the note outside of your usual schedule – because a boss this bonkers would order you do to his dirty work off the clock….

        1. Grey*

          I know it’s not tattling but you can’t assume others will see it that way. I can’t see any harm in framing it the way I did.

      2. Morning Glory*

        I think that HR is likely reasonable, seeing as they granted the colleague bereavement leave over the boss’s objections. Talking about something as crazy and horrifying as this without being clear that the OP knows it is crazy and horrifying may make it seem like the OP has poor judgment.

        It’s not tattling to state what happened.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yep, I’m betting HR will run out and try to get the letter before the employee, or anyone else, sees it. This is a PR nightmare waiting to happen. An upset employee receives work correspondence from beyond the grave…Eeek!

        2. Grey*

          We know it’s not tattling. But how will it look to this crazy boss? That’s what I was getting at.

          1. neverjaunty*

            The boss is going to see this as tattling to matter what the OP says or what phrasing she uses. There is no magic formula that is going to make this trash fire of a person think “Oh, I guess I can see why you did that.”

          2. Morning Glory*

            I don’t think that the boss would react any better to your approach, to be honest – and I took your wording to mean you were talking about HR’s reaction, not the boss’s.

            However, my comment was also in response to RVA’s suggestion to make this a logistical question about off-hours payment, which would mean broaching the subject in an even more casual way.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Yes. I think it is absolutely fine – and actually, important here – to broach the subject as if it is as serious as it *actually is*. There is no need to play dumb or dissemble or beat around the bush. What happened is really disturbing and needs to be reported as if it is really disturbing.

              It does not actually help, when something this problematic happens, to basically attempt to hint about the problem. Direct is the way to go here (not least because it will show HR that *someone* at least has some semblence of an understanding of professional boundaries and decency.)

              1. Charisma*

                I agree, I’m afraid it would reflect even more poorly on the OP if she were to “play dumb” as to the seriousness of the original situation. It’s a good thing that she is aware that it wasn’t a good idea and that she is now going to HR for help to try and rectify the situation. It would have been better if she had reached out to them in the first place, but at least here we/they can attribute her being newer to the working world and her fear of her boss for that.

            2. msmorlowe*

              I don’t think OP should be too casual about this, especially when speaking to HR: this is very serious and egregious, and if HR treats it the way they should, it could reflect badly on OP to appear more concerned about her payslip than about the ethics/appropriateness of the situation.

    5. kms1025*

      Re: OP #1 Sorry so late to seeing this and maybe it has already been mentioned, but OP#1 the note wasn’t from you. You were the unfortunate “mail carrier” delivering bad news. Its not your fault that your boss is a grade a asshat! Its unlikely anyone would know your involvement, and even more unlikely that anyone would blame you. You need your job. On the other hand, your boss has serious problems. I would bet this isn’t his first foray into crazy town. Not yours to fix, but please do go to HR, UNLESS….you think that might make your situation with him worse???

      1. MarsJenkar*

        If HR is any good, they’ll sternly warn the boss that any retaliation is *illegal* and will not be tolerated. And they’ll follow up on any reasonable complaints to that effect. Not saying that OP #1 (or, for that matter, the grieving coworker) will necessarily be safe, but the boss will be skating on thin ice, and will likely be watched carefully. Depending on circumstances, the boss might even be fired if he’s exhibited a pattern of unreasonable actions in the past, and/or HR decides he’s too great a danger to the company to keep.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In this case retaliation wouldn’t be illegal (retaliation is illegal when it’s retaliation for engaging in legally protected conduct, like reporting discrimination or harassment) but a good HR dept will still make it clear there can’t be retaliation.

          1. Jadelyn*

            If you tilt your head and squint, I could see OP’s going to HR being interpreted as reporting harassment, since the manager is harassing an employee who’s supposed to be on possibly-legally-protected family leave right now. If it’s been granted as FMLA (due to mental health bc of OP’s coworker’s grief, for example), the boss attempting to force them to do work or respond to work requests is a violation of FMLA, and OP reporting it would be a protected activity. From the DoL’s fact sheet on FMLA retaliation: “All persons, whether or not employers, are prohibited from discharging or in any other way discriminating against any person, whether or not an employee, because that person has —
            Filed any charge, has instituted, or caused to be instituted, any proceeding under or related to the FMLA;
            Given, or is about to give, any information in connection with an inquiry or proceeding relating to any right under the FMLA; or
            Testified, or is about to testify, in any inquiry or proceeding relating to a right under the FMLA.”

            I could see this qualifying as giving information in connection with an inquiry relating to the coworker’s FMLA rights.

            I mean, there’s a lot of “if” in there – if it’s FMLA, if attempting to contact the employee on leave rises to the level of actionable misconduct under FMLA, etc. – but I could see it being interpreted that way.

            Though, as you say, it’s a moot point since a decent HR dept would make sure there’s no retaliation over this regardless of whether it’s specifically illegal or not.

          2. sstabeler*

            isn’t reporting a genuine concern to HR legally protected anyway? It certainly seems like it should be…

  2. Sami*

    Holy cow OP1- Your boss is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person. I’m so sorry you were put in that position.

    1. If It Doesn't Make Sense, It Isn't True*

      Regarding OP1, it seems odd to me that the manager would think that leaving a note at the grave site would be the best and most direct way of getting a grieving relative to respond to a work request. I suspect that the manager’s motivation in choosing this method is simply to underscore their displeasure at the employee for taking leave time, rather than trying to resolve any urgent business. And asking a staff member to be the messenger of this displeasure, well…that’s just passive aggressive. Any reasonable person would just figure out what to do until the employee returned to work or, if it was really an an emergency that cannot be resolved in any other way, ask HR to reach out. I would guess that there are a lot more kinks to this manager’s personality than demonstrated in just this one incident. If this situation isn’t reported to HR, OP1 and other staff in this manager’s orbit will undoubtedly experience more questionable behavior from this guy.

      1. MK*

        Yes. If I found a work note on a recently deceased relative’s grave, I would be more likely to call HR in hysterics than call my boss back to answer questions. Sounds more as if he is trying to emotionally blackmail the employee into returning to work.

        1. Gen*

          Yep, it’s a terrible unproductive idea. And what if another relative finds it and opens it thinking it’s a condolence card are they going to ring hr or go on Facebook/twitter to complain? And then who will the manager involved blame? Or if it gets blow into a tree and the employee doesn’t get it at all will the manager ask them later and horrify them all over again?

          1. Liane*

            “Or if it gets blow into a tree and the employee doesn’t get it at all will the manager ask them later and horrify them all over again?”
            Yes. Plus accuse OP1 of not doing what she was told and lying to him about disobeying.

          2. LKW*

            I went to my father’s grave twice: when we buried him and then when we buried my stepmother next to him 3 years later. If someone left me a note at his grave it has not reached me.

            1. I'm a tailors apprentice*

              I had this same thought. There are few people in my life who regularly visit the graves of their loved ones. Of all the people I know in my life who have lost someone dear to them (quite a few, sadly) there are only two people who make a regular visit to the graves – regular enough that they may actually get a note left for them there. The rest may visit once a year or never at all.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              That was my thought as well. In my experience, people visit graves on important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and not on a daily basis.

            3. Xarcady*

              This was my thought as well.

              I still live in the town where my parents retired and I probably drive past the cemetery where they are buried 6-10 times a week, but I almost never visit their graves. Maybe twice a year.

              And to that wind, rain, snow, caretakers picking up trash, squirrels and other wildlife, and there’s a good chance the bereaved employee will never see that envelope.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                My grandfather was buried at a military cemetery (not Arlington), which was nowhere near where anyone lived. My grandmother would make the hour + drive once a month while she was alive. Since she passed away, and was buried with him, one of my aunts will go occasionally and another will go with her for special occasions, but that’s about it.

              2. V*

                Around here people often put a bit of money (for flowers or to help with the funeral costs) into condolence cards. That letter would disappear very fast.

            4. blackcat*

              Yes. I don’t know anyone who visits a grave–even of a spouse or child–more than once a month or so.

              The only grave I have visited somewhat regularly (once a year) is my grandfather’s gave at Arlington, and that’s because I visit DC roughly once a year. And part of why I make an effort to go is that my grandmother is too old to make the trek to DC and visit.

            5. Tuckerman*

              My thought is that if the employee’s name is on the envelope, if anyone else visits the grave, that person might pass it along to the employee (and generate speculation as to the nature of the contents). So this strategy is also designed to embarrass the employee.

              1. JMegan*

                Agreed, and also to demonstrate power over the OP. It’s gross, all of it.

                OP, please don’t beat yourself up over this. You did the best you could under the circumstances. And please do tell HR, because any halfway decent company would want to know about the boss’ behaviour here. I’m so sorry he put you in this position.

                1. Alice Ulf*

                  I really think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding the motivation here. It’s all about demonstrating power–not only over the OP, but over the grieving coworker as well. Ugh.

            6. Kate*

              I actively avoided even driving past the graveyard where my best friend was buried for about 5 years after his death, and only visited again when his brother asked me to come along.

            7. Jennifer*

              Yeah, odds are she doesn’t get the note either. The boss is assuming she just hangs around the grave crying all day, really?

              1. zora*

                Exactly. The reason you need time off around a death is not so you can sit on the grave rending your garments, it’s so you can take care of the estate and, you know, the other relatives who are STILL ALIVE! This boss is a horrible person and also kind of an idiot.

          3. Alaskan in Denver*

            I have to wonder if the location is some kind of sick test. If the grieving co-worker doesn’t find the letter, will the boss accuse her of never visiting the gravesite and therefore not really being bereaved?

            1. sstabeler*

              I doubt that is a primary motivation, but wouldn’t be surprised if that was a “bonus” for the manager- “and as a bonus, if she doesn’t get it, I can accuse her of abusing her bereavement leave!” since he didn’t want her to get the leave in the first place.

      2. Susan*

        Yes, there is something horribly wrong with someone who would do this. This is exactly the kind of jerk who would, say, show up at an employee’s chemo appointment to ask work questions.

        1. On Fire*

          Or their wedding.

          And was OP in proper business attire on this important delivery trip to the cemetery?

          OP, your boss is monstrous. He’s attempting to harass and embarrass your colleague. Just because Colleague has been out three weeks doesn’t mean s/he is going to the cemetery daily. It’s shocking how much work goes into someone being dead – nobody realizes it until they’re dealing with it. It’s not just showing up at the visitation and service. There’s a lot of prep work (making arrangements, contacting family, etc.), and then there’s a lot of follow-up (insurance, lawyers, settling the estate, helping the surviving spouse settle into a routine, etc.). So it’s possible, and I hope, the colleague never sees this letter.

          But *none of this is your fault.* You did the only thing you could do, under the circumstances. I encourage you to go to HR immediately … and you might begin looking for either a different job, or a transfer out from under this manager

          1. blackcat*

            I just thought of something when reading your comment:
            Boss might assume that if the coworker *doesn’t* get the letter, then then are abusing the bereavement leave. Basically, if they’re not at the cemetery ALL THE TIME, they don’t need the bereavement leave.

      3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I suspect that the manager’s motivation in choosing this method is simply to underscore their displeasure at the employee for taking leave time, rather than trying to resolve any urgent business

        Ugh, I think you’re right.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Probably right. In a fantasy world, now his employees can show up at his family’s vacation with mundane questions to underscore their displeasure when he’s gone. (Slipping notes under his hotel door, asking the waiter to deliver an envelope)…except his employees are probably absolutely thrilled when he goes on vacation and hope he never comes back — if he’s this jerky all the time…

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            Ooooh, I really hope someone does this! But you’re probably right, they’re all just happy to see the back of him.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          That’s what I thought–that this was primarily an emotionally extortionist move.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            I love all the new terms I learn on this site – ’emotionally extortionist’ is a great description.

      4. Bonky*

        I think you’re bang on the nose there: he’s leaving a note as a power play, not as a sensible way to get a work request done. My mouth actually fell open when I read poor OP’s letter.

        OP, this man is a bully who flings his weight around. You’re not to blame here; your job was at threat. I hope HR are responsive; please let us know what happens!

      5. Alton*

        Yeah, it’s got to be passive aggressive. How does he know if the bereaved employee will even visit the gravesite in the near future? She might, but she might not (my dad died in 2002 and I haven’t been to the cemetery since the funeral). I think he just did this out of spite.

      6. INTP*

        It sounds like he’s already tried emailing and calling and she hasn’t responded, at least he told OP she wouldn’t respond to his questions. Of course, it doesn’t make sense that someone who refused to answer emails or calls would get in touch after finding that letter, so st this point he’s probably more interested in harassing her emotionally than getting answers.

        1. sstabeler*

          He says he’s tried emailing and calling. With a boss this wierd, it would be utterly unsurprising to find out he’d lied about that.

      7. Fiennes*

        I agree. This guy is just hoping it rattles the bereaved person and scares them into never missing work for any normal reason ever again. The one consolation is that the bereaved may not even see it; not everyone mourns at gravesites, even this soon after a death. Here’s hoping HR hears about it and LW1’s coworker never does.

      8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The boss’s decision to do this is entirely about causing the grieving employee pain while demonstrating he can “still get to her” even though she’s been unresponsive. It’s similar to what stalkers do to terrorize the people they stalk.

        It’s not in any way passive aggressive—it’s full-on aggressive (as is coopting OP#1 to serve as the messenger). This behavior is not ok and not normal.

        1. Oranges*

          Thank you for putting what I was feeling into words so perfectly. I love when that happens.

      9. Sans*

        Exactly. It’s a sarcastic response that says “You’re not answering your phone so I guess the only way to reach you is to show up at the cemetery.” It’s a disgusting response, totally self-centered and without the slightest empathy for anyone’s needs except his own. And as others have said, it’s not even the most likely way to reach the employee, so if that was really his goal, it’s just plain stupid.

        And I believe it’s also illegal. Aren’t their rules with FMLA where you can’t contact the person on leave with work-related questions? Yeah, HR would want to know about that.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think this is bereavement leave (slightly different, usually an organizational policy and not a legal policy like FMLA), but given what OP has noted, it’s probably the case that contacting a person on leave with work-related questions undermines/violates the company’s policy on bereavement leave.

      10. Bwmn*

        In addition to all of this – if he was going to go the route of reaching out via a letter – wouldn’t it be best to send the letter to her house? Whether someone is going to visit a grave site multiple times during bereavement is hardly standard as often long bereavement times mean that there are issues at the loved one’s home/business/etc. that need to be addressed.

        I wonder if the boss had already sent a letter to the OP’s coworker’s home and was being ignored or if this is truly just some kinda of petty/nasty way to lash out. Not to mention – if the grave site is outside, I would have left the letter without any rock to hold it down and hope that a combination of precipitation and wind would ensure the employee never saw it. Not to mention some cemeteries will clear items left behind on a semi-regular basis. Because as a message delivery system….this is relying on a lot of “I hopes”.

    2. babblemouth*

      How cowardly too. The boss didn’t even do it himself, he forced someone else to do his dirty work. Absolute slime ball.

      1. JMegan*

        Not only that, but he forced the most junior person in the office to do his dirty work. It’s not a coincidence that he sent OP, who likely has the least leverage and the least ability to say no.

    3. Venus Supreme*

      I spat out my coffee when I read OP1’s letter. This is not normal. I’d hate to think what else JerkBoss has done– I’m sure this wasn’t the only offense.

      OP1, tell HR. This can’t be normal in any circumstance, and HR should have your back on this (considering they’re a sound department). You are not to blame. Please don’t beat yourself up about this.

      WTF Wednesday indeed…

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: I keep thinking I’ve read about the worst ways bosses can treat their employees, and I keep being proven wrong.

    Don’t beat yourself up, OP. It’s your boss who’s the horrible, awful, despicable person, not you. Run, don’t walk, to HR immediately.


    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup. And start looking for either an internal transfer to another team or a new job altogether. You don’t want to work for someone who’s not only a terrible manager, but just an all around shit guy.

      1. Undine*

        +1000 If it feels right to you, tell HR this has made you uncomfortable working with your boss and see if they can help you. This is stalkerish and also disconnected from reality. I’m hoping the employee never sees the envelope or doesn’t figure out it’s for them. I’m sure this guy is all around horrible and not a good guy to work for.

        He sure did gumption that, though.

      2. K.*

        Completely agree. Tell HR and do everything you can not to work for that guy anymore. He’s a bad boss and a bad person.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        I’m hoping the manager will get fired. This can’t be the first crazy thing he has done, ya gotta work up to that level of complete disconnect. Management may have been waiting for an over the top situation that would make firing him easy.

    2. Really?*

      My boss fought with an employee about the company’s leave policy after the employee’s parent died suddenly. My boss wanted the employee to take PTO instead of leave. HR supported the employee in this case, but it should never have been a question since the bereavement policy was written. Some people just don’t understand there is a time and place for everything. I would like to believe there is a special place in hell for those types of people but as there isn’t much punishment for that kind of bad behavior in this world, I doubt there is much if anything in the next.

      1. Mirilla*

        I don’t believe in a literal hell but I do believe we are all held accountable for our behaviors. I believe in an after life review where we feel all the sadness but also joy that we have caused others. That could feel like hell to someone like this who has obviously behaved terribly. This boss has a lot to account for as a human being.

        Op you were put in a terrible position. I hope HR will help.

        1. Fiennes*

          The final performance review, except the boss will spend his PIP in Hades. I’m good with it.

        2. Anon for this*

          I… think you just blew my mind with that comment. Best conception of an afterlife I’ve ever read. Thank you. Profoundly.

        3. JanetInSC*

          Mirilla, we must have read some of the same books. My belief about the afterlife is exactly like yours.

        4. Allison*

          I remember a short play we did in high school where in the afterlife, you have to sit in a room by yourself and listen to every lie you ever told. I forget what it was called, but boy was it depressing.

      2. I'm a tailors apprentice*

        I was a manager of a retail store many years ago. The day after my grandfather died I had to open the store because none of the other managers wanted to cover me. One told me that she had a pedicure and facial scheduled and I’d just have to work. So I called the District Manager who came in to the store that day…and wouldn’t let me leave for 5 hours! He actually said these words to me “When someone dies it’s better to just work through the grief. I’m actually doing you a favor.” I was numb from grief but also knew I couldn’t just up and quit as I had rent and bills to pay. I ended up taking 3 days of bereavement and several days of PTO, attended a funeral and worked on my resume. Less than a month later I was working in a completely different field and before I left I was randomly given an exit interview – by my DM’s boss. She asked why I was leaving and I quoted my district manager’s word. The horrified look on her face was wonderful. I don’t know if anything came of it…I left that place as quickly as I was able and never looked back…but just knowing that his boss was aware of how big a jerk he was was enough for me.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That is horrific and deeply nasty—I am so sorry you had to go through that, I’m a tailors apprentice.

        2. Observer*

          Don’t you just LOOOOVE those “favors”?

          It’s bad enough that someone would do this. To try to pretend that you should grateful?! That’s just sick.

        3. Ann Furthermore*

          OMG, that is so awful. I’m sorry you had to put up with that. I just don’t understand how people can treat others this way.

          I had many gripes about my last company, but they were very, very supportive about stuff like this. When my father died, my boss told me to take the rest of the week off (I think it was a Tuesday) and not to worry about the month-end close, they’d get through it. My brother died suddenly a couple years ago, and I was in Sweden at the time, leading a software testing event. Both my direct manager and the project manager told me to get home as quickly as I could to be with my family, and to not worry about anything work-related. I felt terrible for having to leave so suddenly, not because I thought they couldn’t get along without me, but because the project was under a microscope due to the launch slipping, and everything was very high-visibility. So I felt bad for leaving at such a critical time. My company’s travel office was great too – they rebooked my flights, and sent me through LAX and back to Denver, because there was a huge blizzard blanketing the east coast, and they didn’t want to risk me missing any connections due to bad weather.

          Stuff like that is part of what kept me there longer than I would have stayed otherwise. If you treat your employees well, they will return the favor. I just don’t understand why people don’t get that.

        4. Jane*

          I’m also appalled at the pedicure and facial person. Really? Skip the damn appointment, even if it means charged the full price. Basic human courtesy. Wow. Setting aside the coworker’s behavior, the lack of consequences for people who behave like this manager amazes me. Do people not realize that when someone acts like this it’s not the only thing they are doing wrong? People who are good people and good employees don’t behave this way. If someone is being this inconsiderate toward someone who is grieving a death, they are guaranteed to be a horrible manager in other ways as well. This type of behavior is indicative of other issues. Why would a smart business want someone like this around?

        5. sstabeler*

          oh wow. wike it’s true some people do better being able to work so they don’t think about their loss, that’s best handled by not forcing the employee to go on bereavement leave- not by forcing them to work despite the bereavement.

    3. Karanda Baywood*

      And please tell us if there’s an update! I think we’d all like to see your boss roast for this.

    4. Amber Rose*

      No kidding. It’s early in the year, but we may have found 2017’s Worst Boss of the Year.
      Possibly Worst Boss Ever, even.

      OP1, in no way should you blame yourself or feel bad about yourself. You did what you felt you had to do to protect yourself and that’s OK. 100% of your negative feelings should be directed at your horrible excuse for a human being boss.

  4. Feathers McGraw*

    #1 The search for the worst boss of 2017 is officially over. But Alison is right. And I’m guessing it isn’t easy to stand up to this kind of boss.

    If it’s actually physically at the grave, it may have been ruined because weather? Otherwise, could you go there, see if it’s still there and, if so, remove it?

    What you do need to know is this: it’s okay for your colleague to be off and not answer their phone in this situation. Don’t let this experience with this jerk convince you otherwise.

    1. Dot Warner*

      Forget worst boss of 2017 – OP1’s boss is the worst boss of all time!

      OP1, please don’t fret about this too much. Like Feathers said, the note could have been rained on or covered with snow or mud and is no longer legible, or it could have been blown away. Talk to HR and explain the situation; your boss needs to face consequences for this, and they should understand that you were scared of losing your job. If your colleague saw the note (and that’s a big if – it’s still winter and there’s a really good chance the weather took care of it), hopefully they will too.

    2. CM*

      I was thinking the same thing — OP#1, if this is weighing on your conscience, go back and remove the note if it’s still there. Your boss will never know.

      1. The Southern Gothic*

        OP #1:
        If you are able to retrieve the note, take a picture of the note and turn it in straight to HR. Explain what was asked of you, why you removed the note. While you are in their office, request that the HR person read the note in front of you. Then explain to HR why you are uncomfortable with the boss’s appalling request.

        That should be all you need. Your boss is a bona fide dumpster fire, and you deserve better.

    3. MarCom Professional*

      This was my first reaction. We didn’t even get through the first quarter of 2017 to find this year’s winner (LOSER). Please, PLEASE post an update when HR rips him a new one for reaching this new low.

      1. sstabeler*

        you would think so, but I could have sworn last year’s Worst Boss had been found by about this time, and I’m not sure it ended up even making the shortlist.

    4. NK*

      I was thinking this as well about removing the note. This is NOT your fault, OP1, but if you can go back and the note is still there, at least you will know your coworker never saw it. And even if it’s not there, they may have never seen it, but I’d go for even the chance of a little peace of mind.

  5. MommaCat*

    For OP 1, I wonder if there’s any way to get hold of the person on leave to tell her not to open the letter, that it’s work related from their jerk boss? If OP 1 were to do that, though, it would need to be untraceable, so probably by phone. Which the person on leave hasn’t been answering. HR is probably your best bet.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, these folks sound kind of skeezy. I’m sure they’re a reputable company, but all of these tactics seem deceptive and untrusting. Were there any other issues that raised red flags for you? Would it make sense to do some due diligence on if these practices show up post-hiring? (Or are you no longer interested in the position?)

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yeah, why in the world would HR want your notes? And why are they taping you on someone’s cellphone? What’s with the cloak and dagger espionage stuff here? I’d be very put off by this personally – I’ve never heard of such things.

      1. Al Lo*

        I’m probably in the minority here, but recording an interview in and of itself doesn’t seem immediately strange to me. I’ve mentioned before that we record (film) auditions at my work, and while an interview isn’t exactly the same, I wouldn’t have an issue with it being recorded if, say, someone couldn’t be there, or for reference later on. In an interview, I would probably default to audio, rather than video (which is what I would use in an audition). However, in our case it’s always very clear from the start, and the additional request for notes is what really seems weird to me.

        1. Lori*

          The request for notes would not be weird IF it were something like they gave you a problem to solve. The notes would be similar to showing your work in math class or something similar. They would see your problem solving logic and how your mind works to know if you are a good fit. This however should be disclosed before the interview started so you would know to be sure to write all that stuff down instead of doing the work in your mind only.

          Since this was a panel discussion, it is possible that they did not want confidential material to leave the area or they wanted to know you were paying attention and what you saw as the important pieces of information. Again though, this should be disclosed beforehand.

          BTW…I have been to focus group discussions and they almost always ask for any notes afterward so maybe this is kind of the same thing.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Focus groups are different, though, because you know your notes and feedback are for the host’s benefit. And ideally companies aren’t talking about confidential matters in their interviews with candidates (if they were, wouldn’t they ask someone to sign a nondisclosure agreement?).

            But I agree that if they had disclosed that they’d collect the notes and had had OP essentially answer “test” questions, then it would make more sense to collect OP’s notes so they wouldn’t circulate to any other potential applicants.

          2. Marcela*

            If the discussion is confidential, they should have asked OP to sign an NDA. My company did that for my interview. Nobody asked for my notes.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I’ve never been recorded in an interview before, but I think I wouldn’t mind if it were brought up in advance. If nothing was said until midway, like the OP described, I’d be pretty taken aback.

          1. SophieChotek*

            +1. I agree: if they said from the outset “we’ll be discussing confidential ideas, not yet releases software or product X, and out of an abundance of caution/per our normal operating procedures/whatever, we will have to ask for your notes” I would have been fine with it.

            (Although I’ve always found those practices a little odd…I mean, if I really was intent on stealing idea…I would just run to the restroom/sit in my car and re-write my notes verbatim if I could–they wouldn’t be as accurate as in-real-time, but they probably would still catch the salient points. Or hey, I guess, if it’s Georgia, I could record the call too?)

            1. ArtK*

              If they were discussing that kind of thing in the interview, then they would need to execute a Non-Disclosure Agreement, signed by both parties if they wanted protection. Confiscating the notes wouldn’t give them any recourse if the interviewee disclosed things from memory, as you say.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                This. Plus, when I take notes, I don’t write that kind of stuff down–it would be more like, “Job is M-F, 8-5, would be working for Wakeen on the new product line,” not what the product line actually is.

                1. Biff*

                  I write down various reactions too. Sometimes coded, sometimes more a emoticon/plus minus system. So they might get something that looks like:

                  “Boss is J. Sandoval, Adam :(.” Which means he reminds me of a micromanager, and is a pretty strong reminder too.

                2. Floundering Mander*

                  The notes I’ve taken in interviews are almost always because something was mentioned that I want to look up later, or reminded me to do something else, or maybe a couple of words to keep me on track when answering a question. I’ve never written anything down that would be confidential info or of any interest to the interviewer.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Very much agreed. What sounded creepy to me was not notifying or making OP aware that they were recording prior to the interview. I find recording generally icky, but I understand that it’s not inherently bad and that there are legitimate, non-nefarious, helpful reasons to do it.

          3. Nolan*

            Yeah, some of my interviews for my current job were video recorded, but they told me up front and it was fine. But if I’d found out part way through that they were recording… well, I might not have my current job if that had happened

        3. Wing Girl*

          Recording an interview isn’t strange, it’s the fact that the interviewee wasn’t advised ahead of time that he/she was being recorded. I’ve been involved in interviews where we wanted to record for others in the company to be able to hear the interviewees responses later and always made sure to let the interviewee know at the beginning that we would be audio recording and the reason why. Even when it was a phone interview and the interviewee had no way of knowing we were recording, we were up-front about recording.

        4. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, what creeped me out was the secrecy surrounding the recording. Why do this?

          1. LQ*

            I wonder if this was just “our 10th interview today” incompetence/fail brain more than intentional secrecy. Like they have to say this spiel at the start of every interview that’s “I’m going to record you and we have to take your notes blahblahblah.” But this person came in and something threw them off and they just forgot to spiel because they’d already spieled 10 other times that day.

            The phone was on the table in view and they shut off the recording in view and they asked for the notes. So I wonder if this was just lack of a good checklist discipline more than anything.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              That could be, but I would think that kind of brain-fart would trigger a “we’re so sorry, we usually ask about recording at the beginning.” I suppose they might have been embarrassed and hoped not to draw attention to it.

              1. LQ*

                That’s true but I think it might depend on how the OP responded, if she just passed the notes over and didn’t say anything then they might never have noticed. If she stopped and asked why I would expect oh, oh, oops! Sorry we missed the start spiel. But yes, embarrassed and trying not to draw attention to it would be possible there too.

          2. Taylor Swift*

            If they were trying to be secretive about it, they probably wouldn’t have made it obvious at the end that they had been recording.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              She didn’t know it was recording until the end – therefore, it was a secret.

        5. Observer*

          The recording didn’t bother me as much – not that I LIKE it, but I can understand it.

          The notes? Utterly weird. And out of line. Unless you signed something before the interview what HR “requires” doesn’t quite obligate you. Of course, if you want the job, you might go with it, but it seems like a HUGE red flag to me.

      2. doreen*

        I wonder if it’s not that HR wants the notes as much as they don’t want the candidates to leave with the notes. For internal interviews ( which are the only sort I’m involved in) my agency requires that candidates leave any notes with the panel – but we don’t keep them. We don’t even look at them. We have a set of standard questions for each panel , and as far as I can tell leaving the notes behind is an attempt to prevent the details of the questions from getting out.

        1. Applicant 24601*

          Does your agency think people will somehow forget the questions they were just asked? How ridiculous! That’s a pointless process that makes the interviewers look bad. Can you push back on this at all? Good candidates have options, so your agency isn’t doing itself any favors with this policy.

          My notes from interviews are for me, to help me remember things I want to reflect on in order to decide if I even want the job. I’m not about to hand them over to an over-controlling interviewer.

          1. doreen*

            They don’t expect the people to completely forget the entire question – but we don’t ask a lot of ” Tell me about the time you ____? questions. In the interviews I’m involved in, most of the interview consists of fairly long and detailed scenarios – enough so that we often give the candidate a printed copy of the questions. People may remember the questions in a general way – but they aren’t going to remember the details of three or four multiple paragraph scenarios reliably enough to help someone else prepare. They are for internal candidates at a government agency- which in my case at least, means there isn’t any discussion of pay,benefits or responsibilities as those are known before you respond to the posting. And for my agency in particular ( I can’t speak for others) good candidates for certain jobs don’t have many other options – at least not ones with comparable pay and benefits. There is a reason that few people voluntarily leave before retirement. ( I only know of five and four came back. The last one works for another government that she was able to transfer her pension credit to).

        2. I'm a tailors apprentice*

          But are they advised of this at the start of the interview? To me, it would be weird if I wasn’t notified of this at the outset and they just took my notes.

          1. Doreen*

            They are- I’m not saying I agree with what happened to the letter writer, just that it might not be the case that HR actually wants to read the notes.

        3. MA*

          Yes, this is how it works at my place, too. We’re a government agency, and many job interviews start with either a brief skills test — or actually providing the interview questions to the applicant. Afterward, we keep the questions, and your notes. I don’t think anyone actually looks at them afterward, but we do this so we’re not constantly re-writing questions that meet our guidelines, especially for the basic entry-level positions, where we are hiring all the time.

      3. LKW*

        My immediate guess was that there was an issue in the past and this is how they’ve decided to cover their asses going forward. Generally I assume that silly rules are in place because someone did something and they’ve made up rules to try to avoid whatever it was.

        That they didn’t tell you before hand seriously unprofessional. They should know that they’re deviating from the norm and announce it ahead of time so that everyone has the same information and expectations.

      4. Snarky Librarian*

        I work for local government and in every job interview they take your notes. It is indeed an HR requirement. No one has ever explained why to me, but I assume it is so candidates can’t share interview questions with each other. We have a lot of internal postings and competition and I’ve had co-workers applying for the same position ask me for the questions if I interview first. I’m usually so frazzled when I leave an interview that I can barely remember my own name, much less what was discussed, so notes would be useful if only I could keep them.

        1. Rebecca*

          I work for a large company that does government work. We inform candidates at the beginning of the interview that any notes they take will need to be left with us. The reason is a the proprietary nature of our work. In many interviews proprietary information will not come up, but from what I understand it simpler for us to manage one standard process so all of the managers implement the guidance. We also use a structured interview process, so another goal is to prevent sharing questions to other candidates. Obviously that could still happen. We also differentiate between notes that are part of the formal interview questions compared to the more informal pre/post dialogue. That is why we give them a specific blank piece of paper for the formal interview part. That way they still can capture informal notes like interviewer names, answers to their questions about the company, etc.

          1. Jane*

            Do they also sign a nondisclosure agreement? I am wondering because if you are telling a stranger that you may not hire about proprietary information, what is the guarantee they won’t share that with others? I never share confidential information with interviewees for his very reason, but I’m assuming that if companies are doing this they have them sign a confidentiality agreement. In my profession it’s not necessary to share proprietary information with interviewees in order to determine whether the job is a good match for them, so this doesn’t come up.

        2. Kittymommy*

          Same and hell, my interview was recorded and submitted for public record. You can go listen to it if you want. Do was the discussion that took place after I left. Government is a whole different world!

        3. Uncivil Engineer*

          I work for the government and, yes, we take people’s notes when the interview is complete. We tell them ahead of time that they can’t take notes once they see the questions but sometimes they bring their own notes from home. We don’t give them to HR or even read them ourselves. They go in the recycle bin.

          We interview a large number of candidates, many of whom are internal candidates, and use the exact same questions for each person. We collect notes so there is less chance of the questions being circulated among the staff that hasn’t yet interviewed. It’s harder to remember every question if you haven’t taken notes. I have never understood why someone would give someone else an advantage over themselves by sharing the questions… but it is definitely done.

        4. Victoria*

          When I’ve interviewed for state positions they have the same policy. Take notes but at the end of the interview we will be collecting it. I think it has to do with making sure the candidates are not given an unfair advantage by knowing questions they are going to be asked.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but for all the government employees/interviewees—I would bet in nearly all cases you were told they’d collect your notes at the end of the interview. Again, the creepiness, here, is not apprising the applicant that (1) they were recording, or (2) they’d collect notes, prior to doing both of those things.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry, let me clarify: I would bet you were told at the beginning of your interview that the panel would collect your notes at the conclusion of your interview.

      5. NoMoreMrFixit*

        What happens if you say no when asked to hand over your notes? They can’t exactly hold you prisoner until you surrender the sheet of paper. If I was taking personal notes during an interview then the paper is going in my pocket when I walk out the door. If it’s a pre-employment test, ok they have a point. But basic notes? Sorry but if it’s my paper and pen and they didn’t say up front I can’t take notes then it’s my property.

        1. On Fire*

          Yeah – the notes I take during an interview are about goals/responsibilities/assignments/benefits if discussion gets there. It’s information *I received,* not answers or the questions *they asked me.*

          These are not things that would give another applicant an advantage, but they ARE things I may want to review. After all, I’m evaluating the company as much as they are evaluating me, and I may need to reexamine some of the info I received.

    2. Mike C.*

      So I took notes in a STAR type interview, and they wanted to keep those (or rather, they just threw them away) to ensure that I wasn’t carrying out the questions to others. I was told that anything else I could write on a different sheet of paper and keep that just fine. But they told me all of this in advance, so this situation is really odd.

    3. LawCat*

      It’s weird to me too and icky. I’m surprised by the number of commenters working for government where seizing notes is typical. I’m surprised in that I’ve never encountered it on many a government interview (my current profession has all been in government). (I’m also a little not surprised because it is exactly the kind of inane rule someone thought up in the past and now it’s rigidly entrenched in the bureaucracy, which I’m not sure is unique to government, but may be harder to change in government).

      If an employer asked me not to share interview questions, I would probably honor that. If an employer asked me to turn over my notes, it would be a red flag to me that there are trust issues at the organization.

  7. Feathers McGraw*

    #3 Well done for writing to AAM to check before doing something that could shoot you in the foot. Here’s the thing: you aren’t entitled to an internship or a job, and you don’t get to tell someone they have to consider you. I imagine the policy is there because of the time involved in considering applications, and in some fields jobs will close early if enough people apply, so this isn’t completely unusual.

    But it doesn’t matter why it is there. This is not something you can challenge. The thing to take away is always apply for things as soon as possible (in this case it sounds like you didn’t see it until now but worth saying), don’t translate feelings of disappointment into entitlement and don’t burn bridges with, say, distinguished production companies. Write back graciously thanking them and saying yes please do add you to the next pool of candidates.

    If you try to gumption the internship they will remember you for the wrong reasons. And maybe tell other people. Dont go there.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I took the OP to be querying what they see as an arbitrary cut off in numbers not that they thought they were the 51st applicant

    1. Gadfly*

      It may be as simple as that they feel they don’t need the best for an internship and feel that 50 people is enough to get someone good enough, and don’t want to go through more than 50 applications a term for something that they are not all that excited about.

      Just because it is big for you doesn’t mean it is big for them.

      1. MK*

        If this is an unpaid internship (which are supposed to be for the intern’s benefit, right?) for a couple of months, it could well be the case that there is no best candidate, as in all reasonably good interns are the same, as far as the company is concerned.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Definitely do not try and gumption this. It sucks to have missed an arbitrary cutoff, but them’s the breaks.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        I adore your use of gumption as a verb…It applies so perfectly to a lot of what we read here!

    3. Annonymouse*

      Also if it is a hot job / industry then there are going to be A LOT of applicants.

      (At a fitness industry place I worked over 250 people applied for a reception job in 2 days).

      So the cut off might seem arbitrary to you but if it is like the situation I described then it really makes a difference to whoever has to review all the applications.

    4. LKW*

      Agreed. Consider this – they’re not hiring 50 people. They’ve made the determination that they need to fill x number of slots and that past experience tells them they can find their candidates in a pool of 50 people. It’s a temp position with limited impact to the company’s overall performance. They are going to save their energy for hiring full time paid positions.

      1. fposte*

        And even when employers hire full-time positions, there are limits on the pool–there are closing dates, minimum qualifications, etc.

        Whether for interns or staff, when I’m hiring, I am not necessarily looking for the best ever candidate ever ever. I don’t have jobs that need Liam Neeson in Taken skills; they can be done well by quite a few people in my pool. It would be easy for me to hire like this and still get what I want with the people who applied before the cutoff, and I bet it’s the same in this case; whatever merits somebody else past it brings, they’re not likely to outweigh the extra labor for the hiring person.

    5. Bonky*

      I used to work in an industry where paid internships were really, really unusual. My work advertised for a paid intern, and we were inundated with responses; we had more than 600 in the first week. Although in my case we didn’t decide to draw the line because the administrative burden had become so high for a pretty low-stakes role, I can absolutely understand another business deciding to do that.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, this is not uncommon even for regular employee positions, depending on the field and required level of experience. We have HR to filter out the people who are not remotely qualified, and they send us perhaps 15-20 candidates who are mostly qualified. We look over their resumes (at my current organization hiring managers rarely see cover letters) and decide who HR should phone screen. HR phone screens them and if they seem OK then we call them and speak with them for a little bit, and if we still like them we tell HR to set up an in-person interview with several people on the same day. When you get to the 500th resume and you have 20 in the “looks reasonably qualified” pile and 480 in the circular file…yeah, you just stop taking resumes after a while.

        1. AMPG*

          My last job only left entry-level postings open for five business days for exactly this reason. We almost always had interns applying as internal candidates already, and so the odds that we couldn’t find a solid slate of finalists in just a few days would be basically zero.

    6. Julie B.*

      Complete side note: the fact that they asked if you wanted to be considered for the fall term is a nice nod in your direction. Take it. If they are allowing you to apply for the fall term before that internship is posted, then that is a also good thing. Run with that.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Yes. If you really want the internship, I’d apply for the fall term anyway, if you can do the internship at that time. Maybe if you’re lucky they’ll pull your app out of that list if no one on the summer list is suitable, but you need to follow their process.

    8. AthenaC*

      Yes, I assumed the reason for the cutoff was something logistical, like “We only have the manpower to effectively sift through 50 applicants per term.”

      Not ideal, but sometimes the best you can do is the best you can do.

    9. HR Empress*

      Not to muddy the water but my mind immediately went to the possibility that the employer might be a federal contractor or sub-contact (USA?). This would mean that they are REQUIRED by federal law to account for and disposition EVERY applicant that they review for EVERY position they fill. Many companies will use various tactics to limit the numbers of applicants that they must retain and disposition. This would also account for their asking about the additional role. They likely have a policy about applicants only being considered for the job for which the person applied.

  8. Feathers McGraw*

    #4 Weird, weird, weird. I can’t tell if they wanted to see your notes to judge you on them (weird) or to stop you taking them away with you (weird). I’d be leaving a Glassdoor review.

    1. sstabeler*

      those two options aren’t mutually exclusive. I could see the company seeing it as they can both judge you on your notes, and as a bonus, stop you taking them away with you.

    2. Mazzy*

      Yeah if they’re concerned your jotting down trade secrets then they need to focus on disclosing less, not how you handle the info after it’s already on the table. And if they do overshare, it doesn’t really matter if you wrote it down. If he information was good enough you probably memorized it too

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I’m in a STEM field, and every interview involves a lab tour. Although we don’t confiscate notes, I can understand why some people might.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But you probably tell applicants that at the beginning, right?

          Generally if an employer is going to disclose proprietary, confidential or other “trade secret-y” information to an applicant during an interview, they tell the applicant that ahead of time or they make them sign an NDA. Doing neither is odd.

          1. Marty*

            Additionally, the NDA is typically enough. After they have signed it, there is no reason to keep their notes.

  9. Feathers McGraw*

    #5 If you do get a mutual connection to introduce you, then please make sure your connection asks permission from the person first. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t like it when people do that kind of thing without first asking me if I’m happy to help. (Just saying in case your connection needs prompting to do this.)

    Be sure to mention what particular experience you have and what kind of work you’re looking for in general. It’s amazing how many people forget to say anything about this – the context is helpful.

    1. NutellaNutterson*

      Depending on what’s being asked of the connection, and the industry, asking your connection for permission to introduce them to someone … that’s pretty onerous for a lot of fields. I’ve worked at “dream job” companies, where requests were overwhelmingly frequent. If it was a distant and/or random connection, I had no problem replying “sorry, that’s not something I can help with.” It was just part of the gig. Asking for the mutual connection to make an introduction with all parties included, that feels much more direct.

      1. Feathers McGraw*

        I disagree. I think it’s rude to say: this is X, they will help you, and not check it’s okay with X.

        If you think it’s onerous for someone at a dream job company to be asked every time, ask them once about what they’d prefer?

        1. EleanoraUK*

          That’s not what the introduction would say, though. You can introduce people without promising any help.

          It could read: “This is X, who works in Phoenix. My colleague Y is moving to Phoenix in July, so I thought I’d put you two in touch in case you might want to connect, especially given your shared background in Teapotology.”

          It’s then on person Y to ask for a specific bit of help.

          1. RavensandOwls*


            And in my specific case, it happened to lead to a connection, being added to a listserv, and then finding a position off of that listserv because the type of work I do is actually pretty specialized and everyone knows everyone else. I’d still LOVE to work for Y University, and it helps that I now have a few connections there and will be in the area to potentially make it a tenable goal in the next few years.

        2. Taylor Swift*

          Like others said, these introductions are guarantees that X will help you. But also if you’re X, you’re under no obligation to do anything! You can politely decline, you can even ghost if you want to.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, like so many things, this seems field specific. I’ve been doing a lot of networking recently and it always seems to go, “and here’s some other people it’d be good for you to talk to, go ahead and give them my name”.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, there’s generally either an existing relationship or a cultural expectation of help that precedes this kind of connection; I wouldn’t do it to somebody I barely knew in another field whose conventions I didn’t know, but I’m in one where I get stuff like this with some frequency and give as good as I get.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            “Cultural expectation of help” is a great way of putting it – attorneys are big on the networking stuff (which has its pluses and its minuses). It may have to do with being a specialized field with a lot of sub-specialties. Doing something nice for a random patent attorney might lead to an immigration referral down the road, you never know which law school classmate might end up on the bench, etc. Not that most judges will be nicer to you if you’re buddies, ideally, but you certainly don’t want them to think poorly of you.

      3. RavensandOwls*

        OP5 here – that’s exactly what I did, and the folks here at University X were lovely in their emails introducing me to people at Y University. It helps that I do a lot in outreach; it’s a small community, lol.

    2. AthenaC*

      It can be helpful to be introduced over email (ex. Hi Lucinda – this is Jane, a coworker of mine who is moving to your area soon). But it’s also fine to email yourself and just let Lucinda know how you got her contact info (ex. Hi Lucinda – Jane gave me your contact info, and I wanted to reach out. I will be moving to your area on X date, and I would love to hear a bit about the industry / job market in your area. Would you have 15 minutes to talk?)

      In my line of work, it’s fairly common to reach out to someone initially over email, so I’ve had a lot of success by opening with, “Here’s who sent me in your direction,” so they know it’s not spam.

  10. Lily*

    Next time #1, throw in into a bin and claim you did deliver it. It’s not only shitty to use a grave as a mailbox, it’s fucking unsafe. I visited my sibling’s grave two times since they died five years ago; it’s just not important to me where their ashes are.
    Maybe some relative/friend of the family saw it, opened it believing it was a bereavement card, and let it disappear to not make your coworker angry and sad. Or the rain got it or whatever.

    1. Rubyrose*

      Better yet, tell boss it was delivered and take it straight to HR. That way boss cannot deny it.

      1. Fiennes*

        Taking the letter from the grave, to HR, would be a good idea, I think. Not only does it shield the bereaved, but it also makes it harder for Evil Boss to deny. Should HR not 100% back you up, LW1, you’re at a HellJob and need to get out if and when you can. (Though with that boss, probably you already know it.)

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Yep – I would have trashed it. I have plausible deniability and a clear conscious on my side. (Not blaming the OP for not doing that of course… having your job threatened is not a small thing).

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          Yes. But I also would have opened it first, out of morbid (no pun intended) curiosity. Was there really a note with work related questions? Was it actually a note in which the boss simply chastises the bereaved employee for missing work/not answering her phone? Or was there nothing at all, the whole thing being for show?

    3. Aurion*

      I would’ve delivered it straight to HR and demand my dumpster fire of a boss be disciplined, because jeez. What an appalling human being.

      1. zora*

        I think demanding is hard for a junior employee, possibly the most junior in the company.

        But it’s good to remember that if anyone ever gives you something you are this uncomfortable with, especially if there is a physical item involved, to just go straight to HR and say “My boss gave me this note and told me to deliver it to Lucinda’s relative’s grave. I am really uncomfortable with that and not sure what to do, can you help?” Any good HR is going to immediately take the note and tell you they will take care of it, and not to worry about it any more.

        1. Aurion*

          Fair, that’s a bad choice of word on my part. My rage is leaking through.

          If it was just the note delivery (and I can’t believe I am actually saying this), then I would stop at “can you help, HR?”. But the dumpster fire boss threatened OP’s job, and with that offense on top of the previous one, I think it’s pretty justified to add to HR “and since he threatened my job if he doesn’t comply, I’d really like you tell him this is unacceptable and pretty horrifying.” So maybe not “demand”, but certainly a lot stronger than “can you help” because…wow, what an awful* person this boss is.

          Though using “unacceptable and horrifying” would require at least 15 minutes of calming myself down. If I were practicing what I preach and marching straight to HR right in that moment, I’m not sure I would have the restraint to not issue a “demand”, incidentally >_>

          *most understated word I can think of right now

          1. zora*

            No need to apologize! I totally feel you.

            I meant ‘demanding is hard’ as in, it can feel scary for a junior employee to do, so I was offering my suggestion more to meet a junior employee’s level of comfort. Not saying you aren’t completely within your rights to use the wording you did!

  11. Uyulala*

    #4 – That’s one way to get a writing sample for a handwriting analysis! Kidding (mostly). I’m curious what use my notes would be to HR otherwise though, since when I write fast notes for myself it is a kind of chicken scratch semi-shorthand that no one else is going to be able to read.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Very odd. I always have a notebook/the job description/my CV with me when I am interviewing and it sounds strange that the panel were watching things being written down, but never said the notes had to be handed over. (And I presume the original notes, not to make a photocopy?)

        And recording the interview. Regardless of the legality, surely it would be courteous to inform the interviewee they were being recorded beforehand?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same here–and they can see me jotting things down about the job itself. I’ve never been asked for notes, or not to disclose information like the hours, who my boss would be, etc. And I’ve had city and county government interviews where I took notes, and nobody asked me there either.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        You’re probably right, which makes me wonder when it was the last time any of them had to interview for a job. People’s notes are usually about lunch breaks and job duties and any questions that come to mind. No one’s writing ‘omg these guys suck’.

    1. Emma*

      Yeah, I once had a job interview after which I was put in a room and asked to solve some tricky logistical problems to make a workable schedule for some (fictional) events. They gave me an info pack, a blank schedule and some notepaper.

      Then once I was finished, the interviewer came in and collected the finished schedule… and my notes.

      I wasn’t unhappy with my notes being collected, since unlike OP’s situation there wasn’t anything in them which could be considered private. But they were written entirely in idiosyncratic shorthand. Had they told me in advance that they wanted the notes too, I’d have written them out properly – as was, I can’t imagine they understood more than about 50% of what I’d written.

      1. CM*

        They may have wanted the notes to make sure you wouldn’t pass them on to somebody else, not as part of your evaluation. I’ve given people exercises to complete as part of an interview, and then collected all of the materials including their notes for that reason. I don’t care what the notes say.

    2. Grits McGee*

      I could see paranoia playing a role, as in a bigwig deciding that information about the widget project they’re hiring for is TOP SECRET AND NO INFORMATION MUST LEAVE. It’s silly, but goodness knows I’ve worked in places where the real world stakes of a project where not reflected in how secretive my bosses were about it.

      1. sstabeler*

        it also doesn’t make sense because information would still leave in the head of the person being interviewed- this is what NDAs are for.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yes! Any notes I have at an interview are usually written beforehand, and contain bullet points that I want to cover (highlights/achievements/questions to ask). Anything I learn about the position will be memorable because I don’t interview that often, and to picture myself changing jobs I would need to imagine what the new position would be like in its entirety.

          I suppose if I were in an industry and (figurative) position where I might interview multiple times a day for days on end I might need to take notes on things like benefits in order to make comparisons, in which case turning over my notes would mean that I would not consider that employer without making annoying queries to HR to replace the information that was confiscated.

          If I knew in advance that this was their practice, I would take notes on my phone or tablet. “Sure, they’re deleted….”

    3. Lablizard*

      I was wondering if they wanted the notes because the LW might have written down the interview questions? However, it would be better to disclose that notes will be collected at the end of the interview. If I knew I couldn’t keep them, I wouldn’t bother taking notes.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      At my work, HR and the office of equal opportunity compliance want to review any notes that members of the search committee write about candidates, but we never ask for the candidates’ notes. I wonder if asking for the candidate’s notes is some sort of overreach prompted by a desire to be very thorough.

    5. Witty Nickname*

      I’m thinking HR probably has a requirement that the interviewers turn in all their notes on the candidates to HR so they can compile them for the decision maker (whenever I’ve done telephone interviews with candidates, I have an online form to fill out with all my notes so the recruiter can easily get each interviewer’s notes to the hiring manager), and the interviewers misinterpreted that to mean HR wants the candidates’ notes too.

  12. Mira*

    OP#1, I second Alison’s advice to go to HR. Today. Right away, if possible. What your boss did was egregious, and dragging you into it under threats of losing your job is such an abuse of power that it makes my head spin. If HR won’t help, drag in your boss’s boss, or even the CEO. What happened was so utterly out of bounds that taking it to the highest levels in the company is absolutely justified. And if they threaten retaliation against you, I’d lawyer up at once.

    What worries me though, that OP’s coworker may also want to complain to HR once she comes back to work, and from the sounds of it, OP’s boss might be the type who ends up throwing OP under the bus to save his own skin. I’d go to HR to prevent that alone, actually.

    I would just like to add that once you have gone to HR and laid your case to them, you could reach out to your coworker via email or text, and let her know about what happened, with your profuse apologies and the caveat that you had no choice as your job was in jeopardy, as well as the information that you have already gone to HR over this. I think it would go a long way towards mitigating your guilt, and would also perhaps prompt your coworker to take action against your boss for violating her bereavement leave. However, if you feel that your coworker may not take it rationally and retaliate against you as well, I’d not say a word.

    1. fposte*

      I’d keep it short rather than profuse, though; the important emotions in that conversation are the bereaved and harassed co-worker’s, and it’s not the co-worker’s job to absolve the OP.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Yes, definitely do something soon to show that this is the boss’s fault, not yours. That guy is a real piece of work and he’d absolutely try to put the blame on others instead of himself.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I wouldn’t write to the co-worker. The letter may never have arrived (wind, rain) so the OP could be causing pain where none yet existed. Also, the colleague doesn’t know who delivered it, and probably won’t care much about that detail.

      1. LKW*

        Agreed unless the person on bereavement likes to collect fingerprint samples from their coworkers – the only person who signed that pos note is the boss.

        If I were the person on leave and I got that note at the grave site of my relative – I would be calling up HR so fast it’s not even funny. The boss didn’t really think that part through though.

  13. Ian Mac Eochagain*

    OP no. 1: please, please, please don’t feel bad. This wasn’t your fault. As others have said, you were pressurised very unfairly and threatened with losing your job (!) if you didn’t do what your boss asked. What boss in his/her right mind could ask such a thing anyway? Couldn’t he just as well have asked you to go to her house and put it in the letterbox (or, you know, just post it himself)? I hope your colleague didn’t see it because of the rain or wind or something. Go straight to HR and let them know about this outrageous behaviour.

    1. Feathers McGraw*

      No. No no no. As OP is new to the work world I’m going to say this: asking you to just go to their house and put it through the letterbox is marginally better than this, but still not okay, as it would involve giving you their address (confidential personal information) as well as harassing them while on leave. That ‘just’ makes it sound like this would be okay. It wouldn’t.

      OP as a general rule you shouldn’t pass on any envelope unless you’ve seen its contents or can trust the sender. When it’s neither, you can’t take the risk.

      1. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

        I wasn’t advocating that the boss send her round to the bereaved colleague’s house. I’m merely amazed that that option didn’t enter the boss’s mind first. Of course, as you suggest, he could have thought, “hmm, sending her to her house would be a breach of privacy, so I’ll just have her leave it on her relative’s grave”. The mind boggles.

          1. Thumper*

            Someone who gets pleasure out of doing something this petty likely also gets pleasure in forcing others to do their dirty work. Boss seems like the worst kind of control freak.

        1. Gadfly*

          Which also raises the question of what if some nosy other relative finds it first. That isn’t a private mailbox.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          We and OP don’t know that he hadn’t tried the house the day before, or at the same time by regular mail.

        3. Fiennes*

          The boss wants it on the grave not as a way of getting her the message actually contained in the letter; he wants it there to send another message, namely, “I don’t respect your bereavement leave, and I want you to understand that your grief can’t get in my way.” What an asshat.

        4. eplawyer*

          He wanted it left on the grave to show his displeasure for her still being on bereavement leave. It wasn’t about her actually getting the questions. It was about expressing his displeasure by highlighting the reason for the leave.

          It would be funny (in a weird way), if she got the letter and responded by leaving her answers at his golf resort.

      2. Liane*

        I don’t know about other countries, but in the USA, leaving non-mail, even letters, in someone’s mailbox is illegal.
        (What the boss did should also be illegal)

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep, in some countries it isn’t illegal — anyone can come along and put leaflets or notes or advertisements in your mailbox — but it is in the US.

          1. skunklet*

            interestingly enough, when I worked for the US Census Bureau during the 2000 Census, we were specifically advised that even as another gov’t agency, we could not use the mailbox to leave Census material in it…

          2. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

            Of course. When I wrote “letterbox” I was thinking of an actual slot in the door like in other countries, but in the US it’s clearly more common to have a standalone mailbox away from the house. That still leaves this boss with the postal option though! But, as others have pointed out, his message may have been something other than what was in the envelope. Just incredible.

      3. RVA Cat*

        “OP as a general rule you shouldn’t pass on any envelope unless you’ve seen its contents or can trust the sender. When it’s neither, you can’t take the risk.”

        That’s actually a good strategy in life. Treat every sealed envelope from a sketchy person as it if was full of cocaine.

  14. MadGrad*

    Holy dumpster fire in a suit alert, boss #1 needs a Clockwork Orange-style education in human decency! This is honestly one of the worst things I think I’ve ever read on this site.

    1. Freya UK*

      All of this.

      When I read the headline I thought it couldn’t possibly be as literal and awful as that made out… but it was WORSE. I am stunned.

  15. Vancouver Reader*

    I hope karma takes a big bite out of OP1’s boss. What a horrible creature he is to terrorize two employees in one fell swoop. Like everyone has said, I hope the OP realizes she is not the one at fault.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I hate situations like this where it’s an employee new to the working world and a dysfunctional workplace. I’m relieved that the OP could recognize that this is over the top bizarre behavior, but there are too many new workers who can’t recognize the craziness and think this is the way offices operate.

  16. Gaia*

    My company handles people leaving in a “read between the lines” sort of way. People that voluntarily leave have an email written from their manager (or manager’s manager, etc) praising them for all their efforts, talking about what they’ll do next (if that is decided) and wishing them well along with contact information to stay in touch (typically an email address or LinkedIn profile, sometimes a phone number) if the leaver prefers.

    People that have been fired get a two sentence email “Wakeen Madelbrook has moved on from Company and we wish him well in his future pursuits. Please contact Judy Carigan for questions regarding Wakeen’s ongoing projects.”

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      A former company never informed employees if a co-worker and the company had parted ways. I once tried to send an email to somebody and got an automatic error message. I asked my boss, and was told “Oh yes, they are no longer working here”.

      Erm, I haven’t seen them around lately, but how was I supposed to know that?

      1. Chaordic One*

        That’s why they really need to have IT get the former employee’s email set up so that it delivers an auto response that tells who to contact for whatever information the person sending the email was trying to get.

        “Fergus Fineapple is no longer working in the position of Chief Teapot Inspector. If you have questions about Teapot Inspections please contact Lois Goodorange at:”

        1. another person*

          The admin who handles everything in our department retired, but I’m a student and so don’t interact with them regularly (and also work in a different building) so I was unaware of this. I’ve been sending them e-mails for weeks before someone let me know they retired in an unrelated question. There was no automatic email response or email forwarding or anything (also she still has not been replaced so right now we just have to sort of email around the whole office until we can find whoever was responsible for a specific task).

      2. It's Business Time*

        My current company does not send out any communications if someone leaves (voluntarily or otherwise). It is beyond annoying when you need to contact someone, only to figure out that they left weeks ago – there is no follow up on who to speak with if you have any questions or issues. It is beyond weird. I think they like to pretend no one ever leaves.

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      That’s similar to what happened at my previous company. If the person resigned or retired, that person would generally send a group email saying goodbye. If the person was fired or laid off, HR would send an email saying something like “Jane Doe is no longer with the company as of Tuesday, February 28. We thank her for her contributions to the company and wish her luck in her future endeavors.” (One employee who was fired when I was there took it really badly and apparently threatened HR and others. The email about his firing also included something like “If Fergus comes to the office, please contact HR and do not let him in. We will be changing the locks this afternoon and all employees should pick up their new keys from Cordelia.”)

      1. krysb*

        We found out one of our PMs was fired when the owner came back to tell me that if she comes to the office to call the police. (Apparently she kept trying to log into our secure system after her credentials were revoked. They were able to trace the attempts back to her house.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob only sent those contact-HR emails to the people who covered the front desk. “If Fergus comes to the office and asks to see anyone, please ask him to call HR at 123-555-1212.” Otherwise, departments handled it internally. When my old boss retired, she announced it in a department meeting and then later sent an email to all of us with her contact info. And they had a departed employees list in the company directory, so if you were trying to get hold of someone and couldn’t, you could see if they were on it. Everybody went on it, no matter what their reason for leaving was.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          It was a small company and we were split between a couple nonadjacent office suites, so it made sense to send to everyone. Luckily, he didn’t try to come back!

    3. If It Doesn't Make Sense, It Isn't True*

      A company that I worked for had a somewhat similar (and brief) message that would be sent to all employees from HR. It was utilized in all circumstances so whether a staff member left on good terms or not, the same standard message was used. The only way you could really tell if someone had been fired (other than the rumors) was the notification of the employee’s last day at work as stated in HR’s message. In the case of someone being fired, the message would usually say something like: “Jane’s last day with Teapots, Inc. was yesterday.” If someone gave notice on good terms, it might read: “Jane will be with Teapots, Inc. through March 31.”

      1. sstabeler*

        Honestly, that’s probably a good way to handle it. Does it really matter to remaining employees if someone has left on good terms, or been fired?

    4. DeskBird*

      People at my company disappear either way. People who are fired are hustled out the door and people who quit are asked not to tell anyone – then two or three days later are also hustled out the door. I can’t think of a single person who has made it through their two weeks notice (which we only know about via gossip – not official information). It is also how we loose massive amounts of information – they don’t cross train anyone and no one is required to keep instructions on their job. It is not a great system.

      1. TL -*

        I’m listening to a podcast rereading the Animorphs series and one of the things the hosts keep touching on is how the bad guy keeps on killing his underlings and this is leading to a loss of institutional knowledge, so everything the bad guys learn in battle is pretty much lost by the next book.

        1. Just Jess*

          Amazing! Found a new gym podcast!

          And DeskBird, this is also my org’s situation. It’s more common than it should be because separations can be kind of awkward and require a certain level of social skills, emotional intelligence, reflection, and planning.

      2. Forever Anon*

        I think upper level managers and senior level Admins at my company are the only people who receive nice “goodbye” messages. Everyone else disappears but my boss is a busybody so I always find out (and he always takes it personally).

    5. the gold digger*

      The awful CEO at my former job (NotSergio NotFromArgentina) was fired. I am used to this, my husband, an engineer, who is used to logic, is not, so he did not understand the code.

      Me: Wow! NotSergio was FIRED!
      Primo: What does it say?
      Me: The press release says that he is no longer with the company and is “pursuing other interests.”
      Primo: That doesn’t mean he was fired.
      Me: “Pursuing other interests” is corporate code for “fired.”

        1. Parenthetically*

          One of the things I loved about the show The Good Wife was the hilarious way it showed how the sausage was made when it came to PR statements about political scandals.

    6. JJJJShabado*

      This is about how it works on my company, too. Messages get posted on the company Intranet page.

      Voluntary: Dara is leaving the company. We wish him the best. . Thank you for your years at company.
      Involuntary: Hugh is no longer with the company.

  17. Chaordic One*

    OP #1 I can understand the boss being frustrated by the absence (even for a legitimate reason) of one of his underlings. But still, his reaction is completly over the top and unreasonable. If there is actually critical information that he cannot access because of the employee being off on family leave, it speaks very poorly of his management of the department.

  18. Coloradan*

    To OP 1: I write for a living, and for once words fail me, except to say don’t beat yourself up.

    1. Me*

      Exactly. There are some really good strategies from AAM and commenters here re: going to HR and what to do “next time” (heaven forbid) — but I want to second this because obviously it’s weighing on OP 1 tremendously. People will know it was the boss’s doing, not yours.

  19. Ferd*

    What a disgusting man! Your boss threatened to fire you if you didn’t cooperate? Go straight to HR. See if the letter is still where you left it, and take it to HR. And when your co-worker returns to work, tell her what happened and go to HR again.

    I’m so sorry you have to work for someone like that.

    1. Freya UK*

      I don’t think we even need to waste our energy – an odious excuse for a human like him is lining up his own karmic coronary as we speak.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        I am going to have to find a way to use karmic coronary on a regular basis; sadly it won’t be difficult. What a delicious turn of phrase.

        1. Freya UK*

          Thank you. Yes, sadly there are a lot of people in the world to whom it easily applies! It helps me stay chilled when clients are unpleasant though.

      2. Parenthetically*

        What a beautiful bit of double alliteration. “Karmic coronary” — my found poetry for the day.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, he’ll make his own bad vibes.

        FWIW, good vibes look like this: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (smooth)

        Bad vibes look like this: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ (pokey and sharp)


  20. Hoorah*

    Couldn’t the OP1 just…pretend s/he left the card? It could have been blown away, somebody else noticed and took it, etc.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      The problem is that when you’re new to the workforce and if you’ve been raised to listen to your boss/authority figures, and if those authority figures use fear and intimidation to get what they want, it’s very hard to say no in the moment. These days, I’d say no or pretend I’d done it. Back then, when I was the OP’s age? It would have been near impossible. And if you’re not a good actor (like me lol), then it’s even more difficult.

      (I should also add it can also be difficult for older people to also say no/stand up to their bosses, for many reasons. I’d also have sympathy for someone in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s etc, who had to deal with a similar situation.)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah. I’m confident that I’d have pretended to be totally on board with this nutjob’s ideas but then I’d have marched straight to HR with the letter in hand; however, that’s because I’m a very good actor (so I could completely mask my inner shocked gasp at the boss’s request) and not easy to intimidate just by nature. I can 100% understand someone not feeling confident in such a situation, being afraid, or simply shutting down and having no idea what to do in the moment (even someone with much more experience in the workforce, so really, OP, don’t beat yourself up over it!).

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Teach me your ways! My face is an open book. Can I just say that I really appreciate someone like you understanding how tough it can be to stand up to someone like this? Because it means a lot. As you said, people can simply shut down in the moment. Your brain says ‘nope, not dealing with this’ and you’re kind of on your own. Of course, that leaves you feeling worse afterwards. Sigh. And couple that with the fear of losing your job, and just ugh. Anyway, many people don’t understand what it can be like, so I’m so heartened by the sympathy here. Here’s hoping the comments make her feel a little better.

          1. SophieChotek*

            +1. (Love “teach me your ways”) — I am like that too — terrible liar, etc. And never think fast in the moment…

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Heh, I have to confess that phrasing was stolen from the internet.

              Yes, I can never, ever come up with something in the moment! My whole live is George from Seinfeld yelling ‘jerk store!’.

          2. Myrin*

            There’s not much to teach, I’m afraid! I just have a natural pokerface in that my face barely moves “by itself” (i. e. in reaction to having heard something) and I have to willingly make it do stuff (that sounds very complicated but it usually only takes a second or so). So when I hear something outrageous, my face just goes *no reaction – no reaction – no reaction* while at the same time my brain goes *oh shit what is happening right now processing – processing – processing*. Which on the one hand leads to my basically never having witty comebacks to anything but on the other hand I come out of situations where people think I’m totally on their side because my bland face spurred them to talk more and more about how cool they are and by the end of it, enough time has passed for my brain to catch up and me to say “Why yes boss, this letter thing is a great idea, I’ll deliver it post-haste!” and then race to HR as soon as I’m out the door. Both my brain and face are weird in the way they react.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Honestly, you’ve got it made. This is an awesome combination. My brain goes ‘buhhhh’ and no words come to mind. But my face gives it all away.

              However, your point that staying silent means people think you’re on their side and therefore incriminate themselves further is intriguing. That’s a pretty good reason to practise having a good poker face. I think there was a post on here somewhere about it.

              Thank you for explaining, this was really interesting to read!

        2. Ferd*

          Most people will panic in a situation like this. There is no way I would drive to a cemetery to leave a letter on a grave (just typing that made me gag). I would probably throw it away and say “I totally left it on the grave. The wind probably blew it away before Millicent found it. Darn.”

          It wouldn’t occur to me to go to HR, but that’s what you should do.

          1. SophieChotek*

            +1. And then said/hoped/helped the wind blow it away.
            Glad AAM suggested HR…not sure I would have thought of that either. Although it sounds like this HR Is reasonable (giving needed time off) so that is encouraging…

          2. fposte*

            I would have panicked and then possibly have been saved by my own tendency to procrastinate; I would have found the wrinkled and dirty envelope under my mail from January and then felt doubly guilty.

            1. Parenthetically*

              This was exactly my thought — I would have cleaned out my car months later and found it under the seat or in the glove box.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        There are people of all ages that would find it difficult to stand up to their bosses or march the letter to HR, but it certainly is most likely for someone so new to the workforce. The OP’s age and experience level is probably why she got sent on the “errand” rather than someone more senior.

      3. Dot Warner*

        I agree. If a boss asked me to do that now, I’d probably laugh at him or her. But 15 years ago, fresh out of college? Between having been much more spineless back then and understanding a whole lot less about how the working world is, I doubt I’d have been able to say no.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly, and some people are really good at manipulating you into doing something you think is okay at the time, or in such a way that you have no argument. I got tricked this way once by a coworker, whom I realized after that was a devious psychopath. Seriously, she has actually inspired a character she was so deceptively awful.

      4. Cambridge Comma*

        Also it sounds like OP had to make a very quick decision while being threatened by what I am going to assume is a very unpleasant person. It’s understandable that she sees other options on reflection.

        1. Myrin*

          Oh god, yes, the hindsight thing. I so admire people who are quick-witted and always seem to have a sassy/fun/intelligent response immediately.

          1. Czhorat*

            The french word for it is “L’esprit de l’escalier” or “staircase wit”. It’s the perfect reply you think of as you’ve left and are heading up the stairs, away from the situation. A pefect response a moment too late.

  21. Gadfly*

    OP#2, at my last job I was a assistant. As well as being available for general office support, I was specifically assigned to support a handful of salespeople who spent most of their time in the field. I was emailing a rep for two weeks after they were let go or quit about various projects we were in the middle of before anyone told me they were gone. Their manager even had forwarded me some of what I needed from them in that time (a not unusual thing to have happen) and didn’t tell me. I just thought they were out in the field or that no one had told me they were on vacation.

    It happens, sometimes even at places where people have very interconnected jobs.

  22. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #1 – If there were ever a candidate for being pushed off a cliff… OP, I am so sorry you were pressured into doing this. Your response shows you’re a good person. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be feeling this way. And I understand completely about the fear and doing something you know isn’t right. Once this situation is resolved (and it will be, as awful as it seems now) take it as a learning experience for yourself. When something similar happens again, you can take a different approach. (The last few times people asked me to do something shady, I either said ‘no’ or gave a non-commital response and never mentioned it again. One time, I also said ‘sure’ and then didn’t do it.) But for now, take it easy on yourself. You did the best you could in an awful situation.

    Good luck, we’re all on your side.

    #4 – lmao what? This is a power play and tells you all you need to know about these people. I hope you get a job somewhere that doesn’t play ridiculous power games (well, at least not to this extent).

  23. Daria Grace*

    Dear question asker 1,
    I know it will be awkward but please escalate this to HR or other appropriate authority figures in your company. If a person is willing to do something this bizarrely inappropriate, it probably won’t be a one off. It might not be this exact thing again, but they’ll likely do something similarly terrible to someone else who is vulnerable if not stopped.

    And please don’t be mad at yourself. Your boss is a bully who terribly mis-used the tremendous power difference between you

  24. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 I’m curious how many people at the company are getting fired that this is even an issue. I can count on one hand the number of people I worked with who’ve been fired, mostly for a very obvious cause and only one of them with out a public acknowledgement (even then the office grapevine filled in the details)

    1. regina phalange*

      I was fired from my last job and I heard that no one was told I was even gone. In fact, it was months before anyone bothered to clean up my desk, etc. I wasn’t even told why I was being let go. It was a start-up, if that matters, so totally lacking in HR and process. I have my suspicions, but can’t really confirm them.

      1. LoiraSafada*

        Yep. My layoff sounds similar to yours. No reason, no prior discussion of any issues, only glowing performance reviews. Also a small company/startup-type environment. I’d love to know how it was explained away, or if it was, since I never heard from a single person that worked there after the day I was let go.

    2. Student*

      My company doesn’t fire many people, but when they do they always use this “let’s not say anything” approach to everyone except direct managers.

      It’s bonkers and it results in messes the rest of us have to clean up. Yeah, you figure it out fast if it was somebody you worked with daily – but if you only work with them once a month or once a quarter, it can take a long time to figure out what’s happened and how to deal with it. And it completely negates any morale boost the company might get for firing bad performers or troublesome employees, all because the boss doesn’t want to risk possibly having to tell somebody nosy to mind their own business if they ask “why?”.

      It also creates its own special morale problems. I’d only been on the job for less than three months when they fired somebody. She had it coming, but I didn’t know it at the time. She was in the cube across from me, and one day when I came in she’d just… vanished into thin air. I was terrified for my job since they didn’t say anything.

  25. Some Sort of Management Consultant*


    I am never complaining about my boss ever again.
    Jesus CHRIST what is wrong with people?!?!?!??!

    I think is the most shocked I’ve ever been by an AAM-post. Other bosses have been… Worse in other ways but this one is just so… LOW.

  26. MommyMD*

    Grave Memo Boss is worse than I Want Your Liver Boss. I didn’t think it could happen.

    Tell. HR.

    1. Lori*

      Imagine if he instead asked for OP to go to the funeral and leave the note on the casket.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I believe the general reasoning is that if person A has agreed to speak with person B, they have surrendered their expectation of privacy with respect to whatever person B chooses to do with their words. I’m not a big fan of those laws, either. An electronic recording shouldn’t be considered equivalent to someone repeating your words to a third party, or even taking written notes and passing them on. That said, there are safety and criminal justice applications that I suppose people want to preserve.

    2. Czhorat*

      It means you can’t record, say, your competitor talking to their client. You can record yourself talking to a client.

      1. Annie Moose*

        This. The point is that at least one person in the conversation has to consent to having it recorded (which can be you, if you’re participating in the conversation), as opposed to anyone being able to record anything, anywhere, with anybody.

        There’s three different levels of recording consent in play: you can record whatever you want vs. only people involved in a conversation can consent to it (one party consent) vs. everyone in the conversation has to consent before it can be recorded (two party consent). Federal law in the US requires a minimum of one party consent, but some states go beyond that.

        (there’s other factors, such as if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. security cameras in stores are legal), but I’m no lawyer so this is just the bare minimum.

    3. Alton*

      It’s helpful for situations where someone may want to make a recording as evidence in a criminal or civil case. Someone might want recordings of their abusive ex screaming threats at them, for example.

      But if it’s just a convenience thing, I think it’s rude not to let the other person know you’d like to record, and give them the opportunity to opt out.

    4. Parenthetically*

      The ability to use, say, an abused partner’s recordings of her abuser’s threats as evidence in court does outweigh other privacy considerations in some jurisdictions. I can certainly understand arguments that those kinds of circumstances alone don’t constitute a good enough reason to allow someone to be recorded without their knowledge or consent, but I don’t think either one-party consent or two-party consent laws are stupid. I think they’re something intelligent people can debate the merits of and agree to disagree about, which is why different states/jurisdictions have different laws!

    5. ancolie*

      I think two-party consent laws are bee-ess now that we know about how much our government spies on/wiretaps us. If they can record us without our knowledge, why can’t we?

  27. Mirax*

    OP#1, definitely escalate this to HR. Remember what we always say here: no one is this crazy on a part-time basis!

  28. Jessesgirl72*

    OP1: A boss could leave all the notes he wanted at a grave for me- I’d literally never see it. I’m not from a family that spends any time at grave sites except for the burial itself. Go to HR, and I’d like to see an update about this after you do.

    Op4: The only explanation for demanding the notes I can come up with is that they are paranoid about corporate espionage. The fortune 500 my husband works for can get a little ridiculous about that- but even they don’t demand notes from people they are interviewing! I’m hoping not telling you that you were being recorded was just an oversight, and not their usual practice.

  29. Czhorat*

    OP1 should perhaps consider a heartfelt and sincere apology to the grieving coworker, explaining that the threat of losing their job made them cave.

    Also, you’ll eventually reach a place in your career at which you can push back against things like this. Perhaps not now and perhaps not even soon, but you’ll not always be at the whim of whatever lunatic ends up as your supervisor. Right now though, as Alison and others have said, there’s not only a very major power imbalanace, but also not much of a track record on your side. Talk to HR. Talk to your colleague.

    And don’t beat yourself up too badly.

    1. Temperance*

      At this point, though, coworker 1 doesn’t know that LW1 left the letter, and might not have even received it. I don’t think apologizing yet is necessary.

    2. Fiennes*

      I think there’s very little chance bereaved employee will direct her wrath primarily at the young delivery person; it’s so clearly the boss who is in the wrong here.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s 100% the boss being wrong, but at the same time, it’s very likely that the coworker hasn’t seen this letter yet, and LW apologizing will bring the issue to light, and then she will reap the consequences.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed—I wouldn’t say anything to coworker, yet, particularly if she’s still on bereavement leave.

  30. Confused*

    3. Maximum number of applicants?
    I figured out which production company you were applying for and it doesn’t look like there was a date when they STARTED accepting applications for summer, just a deadline. People probably started applying at the beginning of the year.
    I’m not at all surprised they reached their max number of applicants (50 really ins’t that many) despite a deadline several weeks away. Production companies are often flooded with emails as soon as an internship or job is posted, especially if they “distinguished.” I once got an email from a friend about an entry-level job. I saw the email about 3 hours after he’d sent it. When I replied to thank him he told me the position had already been filled.
    IMO it’s better this way so you don’t waste your time applying and wondering why you never heard back. I also think it’s nice that, despite ignoring her note, she actually took the time to reply and advised you to submit for a different term instead of just ignoring or deleting your email.
    You’ve already overstepped by applying when she clearly stated (in bold) not to. I would not contact her again unless you are applying for a different term. Anything else and you’re basically asking not be considered for any FUTURE terms either.
    I don’t mean to sound harsh but these places receive tons of calls and emails from people trying to submit ideas or inquire about jobs. Regardless of your accomplishments or how good you may look on paper you’re not going to get, “Wow, this person has gumption!” They’re just going to think you don’t know how to follow basic instructions (a must for an intern) and are too pushy to want around.
    I’ve worked reception at -name redacted for anonymity- and had to screen many calls from people trying to bypass the system. It just makes you seem like you’re unfamiliar with business norms.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, this falls in the same category as the letter we just had from someone who was fired for going to a conference they weren’t invited to. It doesn’t read as gumption or initiative, it reads as arrogance and inability to follow directions.

  31. Callalily*

    #1: This stuff makes me scared to take any kind of leave from work… it terrifies me as to how bad my boss would be on my year long maternity leave in the future. If an employee is off for any reason, he usually starts calling/texting by 10am and won’t stop until he gets an answer.

    It is a good idea to go to HR so that this is documented. He abused his power to get you to do something ridiculous and it needs to be on record should it hit the fan. Ideally you should have brought this letter to HR before you brought it to the graveyard – there is a very good chance you would’ve been protected for not delivering it and your boss would’ve been spoken with.

    Most importantly, you don’t know what was in that letter and it could bite you. It cold’ve been simple work related stuff (which doesn’t make any sense to me) but it could’ve been a rant/threat that she was taking too much time off and she needed to either come back or answer him. By dropping it off you could become implicated… especially if it is threatening and unclear who sent it, if it can be tied to you then you’d be to blame when your boss claims he had nothing to do with it.

    1. Myrin*

      Someone said this above, too, but I have to say I’m not sure that there could be anything in the letter that could implicate the OP in some way (unless the boss for some reason wrote the letter pretending it was from OP which would be so out there I don’t even know). I agree with others that the boss most likely wants to use this letter to make the coworker feel bad and bully her into coming back immediately and such behaviour is obviously going to be much more threatening coming from your boss and not from a random “peon” like OP (which is to say, I think it’s very unlikely that it’s in any way unclear who wrote that letter because the boss can hardly play power games if it’s not clear that this letter came from the person in power).

      And unless the cemetery gardener saw the OP’s delivering the letter and answers the coworker’s question accordingly, there is no way for her to know how the letter even got there; and even if she did know, her thoughts would most likely be that the OP was just the boss’s underling following his orders and not secretly feeling weirdly passionate about her absence.

      1. Hibiscus*

        If you have a year of maternity leave, you must not be in the US. You will have protections and some sort of coverage for your leave.

  32. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I’ve seen this handled both ways since there seems to be no official policy. It’s a tricky thing as a manager because you do want to protect the person’s privacy, but I find it better to be forthright about it because people will wonder.

    My preferred way is a quick meeting to say “This morning we let Tom go. Even though he was in his probationary period, I want to let everyone know that we don’t do these kinds of things without a very compelling reason, and we give warnings in advance.”

    The craziest I ever saw was when my boss called me the night before and told me to come in late because they were removing someone, and since he already had an inkling it was coming they were worried he might not handle it well. They were clearing everyone out of the immediate area. It was a good idea – his behavior had been very erratic in the weeks leading up to it and he owned a LOT of guns that he talked about a lot.

  33. Melissa*

    #1, can you go back to the cemetary and see if the envelope is still there? If it is, take it away. It could help ease your mind that she won’t see it, and you could give it to HR to handle.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yes, I agree with this. More likely than not that (as others have mentioned) the caretaker of the cemetery has already cleared it away bit it’s worth a shot.

      Please talk to your HR department. No doubt your boss will try to tell them it was just a sympathy card so have the actually document will be helpful.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Plus I wonder — if the funeral is already over, how often is family likely to go back immediately in the next few days? I am sure different people are different, but especially immediately following the funeral/cemetary-side service, do people go back often enough that the manager could even reasonably expect the bereaved co-worker would even get it? (I mean, so bereaved worker is not answering the phone/email/text…wouldn’t a letter to bereaved co-workers house–OP didn’t mention a snail letter-so would that…not be better…but easier? Just drop it in the mail. not that I am saying the jerky boss should do that either…but it seems more efficient than this bizarre grave-side delivery…)

  34. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This is awful, obviously. It occurs to me that co-worker may not get the letter. Chances are co-worker has not returned to the cemetery; it’s possible co-worker is using the bereavement time to do other necessary things, and isn’t going to the cemetery on a regular basis. In the meantime, the letter may get lost somehow or may be picked up by someone else, or a hundred other things. Then, when co-worker returns, not only will she get a tongue-lashing for not answering her phone/email, but then also for not responding to the letter which she may or may not even know was delivered. Seems like going to HR is the right solution for OP not only to alert them to the boss’s bad behavior, but also to protect the co-worker.

    1. stk*

      That was my thought too: I’ve taken bereavement leave, and the implication from OP1’s boss that it’s about going to the cemetery all the time is just bizarre. And I don’t think he actually thinks that. I think the comments above, saying that it’s not about actually getting any information but about making the staff member feel bad for using their bereavement leave, are right on. Urgh. Horrible.

      I am so sorry, OP1. You’ve been put in a really difficult position by someone with power over you. That’s tough even for people with many years experience. Your boss is an ass, and you should feel free to report him to HR immediately.

      1. Not Australian*

        It’s almost like he was actually pushing her to see how obedient she would be, and the note was incidental – just a means to an end.

        1. Fiennes*

          Oh, I think the note’s not incidental – boss is gunning for bereaved person, not OP – but with this horrible precedent established, boss may think he can lean on OP again the next time he wants to egregiously overstep boundaries.

  35. Tomato Frog*

    #1 weirdly dovetails with a major pet peeve of mine, which is how fiction portrays people as visiting the graves of loved ones all the time, mostly to yell and cry at headstones. I will eat my hat if anyone from the family is returning to the grave in such a short time frame. Plus, any caretaker of the cemetery is going to assume that notes on the grave are intended for the occupant, and will clean it away with the flowers.

    1. Justme*

      I have a friend who visits their (adult) child’s grave weekly. So it’s uncommon, but does happen.

    2. MommyMD*

      Not uncommon at all. Many people find comfort in going to the gravesite in the weeks after a death.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        Well, I have a small and tasty hat. But it’s certainly not as common as fiction portrays it.

    3. Cleopatra Jones*

      Maybe not so much fiction but more of a ‘tradition that no longer exists’.

      I took a Art history course in college, and we discussed funerary art and grieving. Apparently, in Ancient Rome, it was thing for families to visit graves weekly. It was also a thing to have picnics and parties at grave sites. It was a way to keep the deceased as a part of the family’s life & to pass down the person’s legacy to future generations.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        I remember as a kid having a picnic in a cemetery with my family. I got funny looks when I told people about that….

      2. Partly Cloudy*

        Oh, this reminds me of a colorful argument on another forum, years ago, about the decorum (or lack thereof) related to grave site parties.

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      People grieve in all different sorts of ways. Many people don’t visit the gravesites but many people DO. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and the boss and OP have no way of knowing how often (if at all) the coworker visits her relative’s grave. And there’s no reason why they ought to know – it’s none of their business.

  36. Czhorat*

    On OP4, there are two issues, the recording and the notes.

    By itself, I don’t have a big issue with recording an interview, though I do think it more polite to ask first. At least they acknowledged it afterwards. Asking for your notes is intrusive. I take notes for every job interview, meeting, or other major professional encounter and have *never* shared raw, unedited notes. If asked (or I think it otherwise appropriate) I will send meeting notes, but only after scrubbing them. I really don’t see the value in an applicant’s notes from an interview, and the request is definitely odd. This coupled with the recording hNTS at a big-brotherish surveillance culture.

    1. Murphy*

      It doesn’t sound like they actually acknowledged the recording, so much as stopped the recording in OP’s presence. Presumably if they weren’t paying attention, they never would have known.

      1. Czhorat*

        I read that differently, but on another look it seems that you’re right.

        Either way, the bigger point is that it is – at the very least – a lapse in professional courtesy. While recording an interview isn’t unreasonably intrusive, they should have said they were recording before the fact. It’s a yellow flag, but probably not a red one on its own.

        Asking for the notes is a bigger breach of protocol which makes the recording seem that much worse.

  37. Gandalf the Nude*

    #1 – Adding to the chorus saying tell HR, consider that the length of the leave and the fact it went through HR possibly means it’s an FMLA leave, which would potentially put your boss’ actions into interference and retaliation territory. HR will definitely want to know about and put the kibosh on that as it is serious business. They will thank you for bringing it to their attention.

    1. Natalie*

      If the co-worker was out on FMLA to care for their relative, it ended once the relative died. There’s no provision for bereavement or similar.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        That’s only if the FMLA is to care for the now-deceased relative. There are plenty of reasons she could need the leave now that they’re deceased. Off the top of my head: the now-deceased relative was caretaker for another relative who’s now come under the coworker’s care; the relative’s death has triggered another relative’s health issue that now that requires the coworker’s care; the relative’s death has triggered the coworker’s health issue that now requires care; someone suddenly required care and the timing is pure coincidence.

  38. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    How awful the boss is aside, people aren’t Sims- they don’t constantly go to the grave to mourn, like in the game when a character dies. So she wasn’t likely to see it anyway.

    1. Bonky*

      That’s very true; I’ve never been back to a family gravesite (other than once, when I happened to be in Malaysia, where one set of grandparents lived, on the date of a grave-cleaning ritual festival – it was horrible. We discovered that termites were eating their coffins). It’s extraordinarily painful, and I prefer to remember my loved ones alive. The graves are indelibly associated in my mind with the funerals, not the lives of the people I’ve lost.

      So I hope that the poor bereaved colleague won’t ever find out this note was left in the first place.

        1. Bonky*

          Sorry; that was not to suggest that my experience is universal. But it *is* the case that many of us choose not to visit gravesites. In this instance, I am hoping OP1’s coworker is one of these people. It would be so much better if they did not discover this letter.

    2. Temperance*

      My family always spent a good amount of time at the cemetery (as in, at least monthly visits for years after a death), but I don’t think that’s normal.

    3. The One with the Brother*

      My parents have been to my brother’s grave every single day since he passed in July with the exception of days when they were out of town to visit me and days when the weather really didn’t permit it (and even then, they still tried until they saw the snow was piled up several feet at the entrance of the cemetery and they literally couldn’t get in…until my dad went and got his snowshoes). Obviously my experience is extreme, but I did want to throw it out there just as a it-does-happen kind of anecdote.

  39. Freya UK*

    LW1 – I can’t even- … I’m just so, so sorry. Alison has said everything necessary, I would only add that unless this boss is a one-off at the company and this gets him booted-out, I would be looking for a new job.

  40. Nobody Here By That Name*

    Sending much sympathy to OP #1. What a horrible boss to work for.

    That being said, I must admit when I read the title I thought the letter was going to be about a boss leaving a letter about work at the grave of a deceased co-worker. As out there as some bosses are, it wouldn’t surprise me if one didn’t think death was a good reason not to have reported back on the TPS reports.

    1. Freya UK*

      Yes I thought that too! Hahaha.

      “Why aren’t you at work?!”
      “… mate I’m dead”

    2. Parenthetically*

      That was my initial read as well, and I admit I skimmed the thing at first and was VERY, VERY confused as to why the boss was trying to get work information from the Great Beyond.

      1. Freya UK*

        Just waiting for a letter on AAM about someone’s boss holding seances because a project didn’t get finished.

    3. Barney Stinson*

      Years ago, my dad had a hiatal hernia repaired. They may be able to make that minor surgery now, but at the time he was a mess post-op: tubes with awful-looking gastro stuff running and they were trying hard to manage his pain.

      He was a director for the company he worked for, and damned if the CEO didn’t show up at his bedside hoping that Dad could tell him what to do about several pressing situations. Dad could barely talk, but he was a gamer and tried.


  41. rageismycaffeine*

    OP2 – I saw this happen a few times at my last job. In one case, Fergus had been on extended medical leave due to a gastrointestinal illness his doctors hadn’t figured out. He lost a lot of weight in a very short time and the last time anyone saw him in the office, he looked like a skeleton.

    Then he went on leave…. and never came back. Nobody would say a word about what happened to him. Several of us honestly thought he had died. It was months before the head of the department sent out a cheerful email announcing that Fergus had taken a wonderful job opportunity in Canada and would be leaving at the end of the month. No acknowledgement of the fact that it had been months since anyone had seen him.

    Turned out that he’d been fired as soon as the company was legally allowed to do so upon his return from medical leave – there were other performance issues, evidently – but with all the silence there was nothing but gossip and rumors spinning around. Nasty, awful stuff.

  42. Q*

    OP 1 – I’m so sorry your boss put you in this situation. I’ve had horrible bosses who made me second-guess myself, and it was overall a toxic situation. Some bosses (the bad ones) have little or no sympathy when an employee has a family member die, and only care about their own temporary inconvenience. I saw this happen when my husband’s father passed away, and his boss would not put in time for grievance leave. A director in another department had enough sense to step in and to ensure he had time off for the wake and funeral. My husband’s boss ended being transferred and then “managed out” due to her poor management skills.

  43. Grey*

    Voicemail? Text? Email? USPS mail? Social Media? There were so many alternatives.

    We had a boss who went to the employee’s home and banged on the doors and windows and another who showed up at a chemotherapy treatment. I never imagined anyone could top that.

    1. Justme*

      My thought was “Why couldn’t he mail it?” but I’m not the OP’s horrid boss.

  44. KK*

    I smell disaster when the boss asks the employee why she never got back to him with his issues bc “OP left an envelope at the grave”. Imagine her horror when she finds out a note was left at the grave AND boss sent OP to do the dirty work??

  45. nnn*

    I’ve been on government interviews here in Canada where your notes aren’t allowed to leave the room as a security measure against the interview questions being leaked. It’s not that they want to see your notes (the manager who took mine put them directly in the shredder), it’s that they don’t want anyone else to see your notes.

    I have no insight as to whether this would apply at Fortune 500 companies or in Georgia.

    1. LawCat*

      That’s a silly reason to take the notes away and an icky practice. First, taking the notes away doesn’t prevent the person from remembering questions and repeating them to other people. Second, the interviewers can always request that someone keep the questions confidential; then taking the notes away implies the person can’t be trusted. It would be a red flag for me as a job seeker.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        That, plus how top secret are the interview questions in the first place? If it’s really that much of a problem that a candidate might know of some questions in advance, it sounds like they’d rather stump their candidates vs. get the best, most prepared answers.

      2. Czhorat*

        Yes, and it doesn’t line up well with any sane interview practices. A job interview shouldn’t be some kafka-esque labrynth of unexpected questions, pit traps, and blind alleys. It should – at its best – be a collaborative effort to determine if you and the employer are a good fit for eathother.

        Silly games such as “hiding” the interview questions don’t help with this.

        1. doreen*

          As I mentioned above, we don’t really ask questions at interviews at my government agency. It’s more of a series of ” How would you handle (some detailed scenario)? And everything gets out where I work *- even with collecting the notes some information gets out, but most of the details are missing so the information isn’t really helpful.. So how do I compare the answers of the candidate I interviewed on Tuesday, who had no advance knowledge to answers of one I interview on Thursday who may have had advance knowledge? It’s not about stumping the candidate , it’s an attempt to keep the later interviewees from having an advantage over the earlier ones.

          * Don’t ask me why people give this information to the people they are competing with- I can only speculate. But give it they do – and part of the reason I know is because that people have given it to me when I am the candidate.

  46. nnn*

    The other weird thing about OP#1: wouldn’t it be terrifyingly creepy to go visit a dead relative’s grave and find an envelope with your name on it???

    1. fposte*

      There is a truly horrible ongoing report on reddit by somebody in Europe who lost a child, and who keeps finding vicious and taunting messages left at the gravesite.

  47. Allison*

    #3, I’ve never seen this, but it doesn’t surprise me. Whoever is going through the resumes may only have time to go through 50 of them. And since it is a short-term position that doesn’t pay much, and serves largely as a teaching gig, it’s not critical that the person they select be the perfect candidate, they just need to be competent, willing to learn, and maybe have some foundation of skills and knowledge to build from. No one wants to work with an arrogant intern who thinks they know better than the full-time employees; interns are there to learn, not turn the organization upside down with their innovative thinking. If you argue with them about limiting their applicant pool, or try to convince them to interview you anyway, you won’t seem like intern material.

  48. Rebecca*

    OP#1 – I’m so sorry you were put in this position. You are working for a terrible manager, and a worse human being. My former manager used the threat of firing to keep people in line for whatever her silly reasons were at the time. I found another job, and during my exit interview, I was very frank with HR, and learned that she didn’t have the authority to fire me unilaterally – it had to be approved by her boss, her boss’s boss, and HR – but I didn’t know that. None of us did. I left, but have since returned to my former workplace under new management. She’s no longer managing anyone, anywhere.

    My point is – go to HR. Tell them what happened, and if you can retrieve the letter you left, all the better, so he can’t deny writing it or sending you to place it in the cemetery. Tell them your livelihood was threatened, and that’s why you complied.

    I wish I had reached out to HR or someone when my job was threatened so many times, but I was afraid. No more. I’ll never suffer in silence again, and OP, I hope you don’t either. I really feel if enough of us rise up and say something about the horrible people in our lives, it just might make a difference.

  49. Here we go again*

    #1 – I’m so sorry. You are not a terrible person… you feel guilty and you know your boss is horrible. I think that is enough to prove that you are a good person who was arm-twisted into doing a bad thing.

    #2 – It is a SAFETY issue when companies pull this garbage. People get fired. It happens. If someone was fired and wanted to retaliate with physical violence, another colleague is very likely to let them into the building not thinking twice about it because as far as they know, this person still works there.

  50. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #1 – Your boss is beyond horrible. If it would make you feel better, maybe go back and see if the letter is still there? I know everyone is different, but I’m not one to grieve by visiting the cemetery. Perhaps it’s still there. It would serve two purposes – you would feel better knowing that your coworker never saw it and then you’d have the letter to give to HR.

    1. lawyerkate*

      #1 – I echo this comment in particular. It’s worth checking to see if you can retrieve the note because delivering it directly to HR is the best possible destination under these circumstances.

      Please don’t be so harsh with yourself. This was a deliberate abuse of a position of authority and it is so many standard deviations from what is appropriate in the workplace (or in society in general) – let the lesson here be that you’re able to identify when things are Very Wrong in a work context. Many people are not able to do that so early in their careers.

  51. Althea*

    #1 is on point for me… I just found out someone in another unit is no longer working here. Apparently she (left? was fired?) as of Wed. I found out from someone who got an auto-reply “I no longer work her, talk to so-and-so.” I went to ask someone else in that unit, and it was true! I asked her to urge her boss to send an email so people would know about it and what to do. The email went out a week after her last day and just said, “her last day was X/we wish her well/talk to so-and-so.”

    I was thinking it felt inadequate, but I realized that there isn’t much more they can say, particularly for a firing :(

  52. mcr-red*

    #2 – My workplace is the same way with firings/layoffs. People are just gone with no explanation. I understand that you can’t say specifically why someone was fired, but morale tanks when someone is just gone and you don’t know if another round of layoffs are coming or someone was caught embezzling.

    People quitting we find out usually from the source or someone else in the department. None of the bosses ever say anything.

    1. Brandy*

      Here, when people quit, its the same. I once tried to email a rep in another dept for a week with no answer, for a question on a pt. Her boss never checked the quit employees email. I only found out once I went to my boss to see why she wouldn’t answer and they went to her boss, who said, “yeah she quit 2 weeks back.” We have communication issues, obviously.

      1. mcr-red*

        The funniest part (most ironic?) of mine is that we are in the investigation business! I’ve joked before its a test of our skills, to see who can find out what REALLY happened to Fergus. Because a group of investigators aren’t going to just let it go!

    2. Annie Moose*

      OldJob was the same way, but with resignations too. It was a large company, so it’s understandable that we weren’t notified for every single firing or resignation, but it always struck me as weird that nobody would say anything official about people in the same department/building. People who were resigning/part of layoffs would sometimes send around a goodbye email to people they worked closely with, but nothing beyond that.

      More than once, I only found out someone was gone because I CCed someone on an email to them, and the other person had to tell me that they were gone. People who I was working with on the same projects! At the time I thought it was normal, but in retrospect it was kind of bizarre.

    3. Antilles*

      There’s also the issue that if the company treats it like a state secret, people usually find out from the *fired employee*. Which means that management has zero control over the messaging. A fired employee is going to shift the blame elsewhere; a laid-off employee is going to say that they assume it’s part of a massive restructuring; and the story will be shaded through the lens of the fired employee. And since this is the FIRST story that gets out and spreads, management then ends up trying to fight a massive preconception.
      True story: I was once laid off from a job as part of a phased layoff plan for the department. After the meeting, when I went back to my office to get my stuff (watched by an HR employee, of course), my phone rang. Since I was sitting right next to it, I grabbed it without thought. As the other employee started talking, I just interrupted him and told him “sorry man, I was just laid off as part of department restructuring, take care bro”. The HR person went white as a sheet.
      I later found out that the entire office was thrown into mass chaos. Apparently they had planned on keeping my layoff quietly under the radar for a couple days while the finalized the plans for the layoffs and worked on massaging the messaging, but my off-the-cuff reaction ruined everything.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Wow…this is on them. What’s to stop an employee from communicating with coworkers, even after you’ve been quietly escorted out? To do that BEFORE their messaging is finalized is just dumb.

      2. AMPG*

        I love your story, especially since you did it without malice. Honestly, even if an official announcement does go out, it’s hard to keep up with a fired employee, but at least there’s a competing narrative out there. A coworker was walked out of a former job – they weren’t officially on probation, but had been on thin ice for some time, and violated a minor policy which became the last straw – and talked to a couple of cube neighbors on the way out. It could pretty easily have gotten out of hand if management hadn’t put out an official announcement within the next couple of hours. Even though no details were given, it allowed those of us with knowledge of the situation to at least say something like “I’m not free to go into details, but that’s not an accurate representation of the situation.”

      3. AthenaC*

        Yup – that’s completely their fault.

        I was laid off myself a few years back (something like round 3 out of 5 rounds – nothing structural, just doing some right-sizing), and my company tried to do the blame-neutral spin that I was “transitioning out of Acme Corp.”


        Anyone that actually knew me (so, like, everyone in at least 2 different offices, a decent chunk of people in 3 additional offices, as well as a small handful of clients that knew and liked me) saw right through that. I loved my job, got promoted on time, was excited for my new role, always open to mentoring junior team members, and even connected with clients well enough that I got an unsolicited letter of recommendation from one of them about 10 minutes after I told them I was getting let go … so when people were told that I was “transitioning out,” the obvious question on all their faces was, “Oh crap! If she is getting let go, how safe are the rest of us?”

        They would have been better off just saying – hey, we had to lay some people off, we wish them the best. As it was, though, they kinda screwed up the messaging.

  53. Kathleen Adams*

    There are actually three levels of awful re. letter #1. (1) Horrible Boss decide to contact an employee by leaving a letter on the grave of that employee’s loved one (which is so awful that I simply don’t have the words to describe how awful it is). (2) And he not only decided to contact an employee in this ridiculous and heartless way, but he is such a weasel that he didn’t even have the guts to do it himself. He got someone else to do his slimy work for him. (3) And not content with that, he bullied a powerless subordinate into doing it for him.

    So Horrible Boss is actually Horrible, Weaselly, Slimy Bully of a Boss. I truly loathe him.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          It doesn’t matter. The important words, as far as I’m concerned, are “horrible,” “weaselly,” “slimy” and “bully.” None of those words are gender-specific, goodness knows.

          1. Temperance*

            I was responding to MommyMD’s post that the boss is not a man. Yes, he’s all of those things, but to claim that he’s not a man is silly and actually pretty misogynist.

            Because when you’re saying that someone is “not a man”, and they identify as a man, is that you think that men are so elevated in status that he couldn’t possibly be one. The other piece to that is that you’re identifying everyone who is not a man as beneath men.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              Yes, I realized that. But I actually don’t think MommyMD meant it that way. I think she’s saying that these are not the actions of a mature person, a mature person who happens to be male. It’s a contrast between adult behavior and childish behavior, I think.

              Either that or she genuinely missed that the OP referred to Horrible boss as “him.”

    1. LQ*

      Lets not forget that the boss didn’t want to approve bereavement or FMLA for someone who lost a relative and is pissed off that someone is actually taking time off for this.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        Yep. So he’s also vengeful, in a small, mean sort of way. Thus we have:
        Horrible, Weaselly, Slimy, Petty, Vengeful Bully of a Boss.

        Feel free to add other adjectives as they come to mind! :-)

  54. Sans*

    Reminds me of when my husband’s father died. Very small company, no official bereavement policy and his bosses (a board of directors) starting getting snippy when it was evident he wanted to take a week off. They demanded he come back after three days. And he was taking PTO for those days, not any extra bereavement time. There was no work-related issue they needed him back for. They just seemed to feel he was “milking his father’s death” (yes, an actual quote).

    There are too many assholes in this world, and too many of them are bosses.

  55. zehucras*

    OP1, there is no justification for your boss’ actions, however the request itself doesn’t make sense. Why not mail a letter to the co-worker? I wouldn’t have a very high level of confidence that leaving a note at cemetery would be seen by the right person or by someone who would get it to the right person. If he’s rationalizing this by the urgency of the requests, he’s going about it in a completely asinine manner.

    1. ArtK*

      Mailing a letter would be a rational approach. All the other evidence points to the fact that this boss *isn’t* rational. I agree with others that this is possibly some petty retaliation against the bereaved employee for daring to be absent and daring to refuse to take calls or communicate during their leave. “I’ll show him/her that s/he can’t avoid *meeeeeeeee*!”

  56. Old Admin*

    OP#1’s story reminds me of my own (way more harmless) bereavement story.
    My company has a bereavement policy that gives you one (as in 1) day of leave to attend the funeral of a close relative.
    My sister died after battling cancer for 18 years… and I had to fly overseas for the funeral, so I took additional vacation days to even make the flight happen. I was also immediately signed off on the one day bereavement leave.

    The day I came back, right off the plane, I was called to my boss’s office, still wearing the clothing from the funeral, distraught with grief.
    I was informed that only parents and children were described as “close relatives” in the policy. Siblings were not.
    I therefore was “asked” to sign a vacation application for that extra day on the spot.
    When my boss gave the spiel “Is that OK with you? Do you understand why the company needs you to sign this?”, I looked at him with dead eyes and answered “If the company wishes me to do this, then the company will get it.”.
    I then quietly went back to my office and worked, with lessened respect.

    1. Pebbles*


      Do not ask me a yes/no question if you only want to hear yes. I am so sorry you went through that!

      Also, rational people would include siblings as a “close relative”. If you (your company) want people to understand what a policy says, do not assume everyone has the same definitions as you do. Spell them out.


    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*



      A sibling is a close relative??? Both genetically and in terms of emotional connection??? Do these people not know how words and also reality works???

      I’m very sorry for your loss and am appalled at how you were treated.

    3. Old Admin*

      Thank you for the sympathy.
      This company has won numerous prizes as a “Great Place To Work”, based on (not quite anonymized) questionnaires everybody was “asked” to fill out. The unhappy people didn’t.

  57. Sam*

    OP #1, it has been said and bears repeating: this is not on you. Your boss is disgusting. You are not. If there’s a way you can remove it at this point, that might make you feel a little better, and certainly might make your colleague (and maybe even your disgusting boss, should he have a crisis of conscience) feel better.
    But this horrible experience has given you a little (albeit disgusting) gift. You now know a little bit more about where “the line” is for you. It can take decades for people to find that for themselves. You know how you feel right now, and it will help you next time you’re put in a tough situation.

    1. Old Admin*

      Yes, indeed.
      The gift here is that you, OP#1, have a *conscience*. You suffered after being pushed over the line.
      That makes me *like* you, not hate you.


  58. HRish Dude*

    Apologies in advance for language.

    Here’s why #1 is extremely fucked up: the postal service exists.

    This item could literally just be mailed with a tracking number. I doubt the letter is important. It’s the point behind it.

    You didn’t screw up, OP. You’re working for an emotionally abusive person who a) makes you feel like you’re at fault for his actions and b) does literally the most fucked up thing I’ve ever heard of a boss doing.

    You are not responsible for his actions.
    You are not responsible for his actions.
    You are not responsible for his actions.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      All of this. The postal service also circulates mail to appropriate mail-receiving spaces. A cemetery is not one of those spaces. It’s cruel to both the coworker and the OP to make the OP make this terrible gesture.

      OP #1, I’ve been thinking of you all day. Sending virtual milk and cookies.

  59. Employment Lawyer*

    Some notes on “recording consent:”

    Some states are “one-party” states; you can secretly record any conversation you’re a party to. The word “secretly” is key here.

    Other states are “two party” states; no secret recording is permitted. This DOES NOT usually mean you need “affirmative consent” to record. If you are recording, and the other person knows it (i.e. it is not a ‘secret’ recording) and if they keep speaking with the awareness that they are being recorded, that is generally consent. Even if you say “I don’t want to be recorded” or “please stop recording me.”

    1. lawyerkate*

      Further: this isn’t just about ensuring admissibility of evidence in a court proceeding.

      There are federal and state wiretapping laws – you could be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties if you run afoul of those regulations.

  60. Former Retail Manager*

    Response to OP#1 might be the shortest I’ve ever seen…..and yet…PERFECT! What a d-bag. So sorry you’re in this position. And I know you mentioned that you don’t have much work experience, but I’d start looking elsewhere anyway. I feel like bosses that do what yours did, are likely awful in many other ways and it’s only a matter of time before that behavior rears its ugly head.

  61. The Kurgen*

    OP1-you have my sympathy. Your boss is an a**. I hope the near future finds you in a better place.
    OP2- I’ve worked in places like this. Even long time employees would vanish with no explanation whatsoever. Made for an uneasy environment to say the least. The only reason we ever received was,”Wakeen is no longer with us.” That only fed the gossip monster.

  62. Some2*

    OP#1: I’m with Allison- tell HR immediately. Make it clear that you were told your own job was threatened if you declined. Its amazing how spoiled and tone deaf some people are

  63. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP 1 … I just can’t even. Your boss is officially the worst. I don’t blame you – even without the threat of being fired, in your first job you want to make your boss happy … at my first job I probably would have done it too. But this guy is so far over the line he can’t even see it anymore. If I was on the receiving end of that letter, I would be on the phone to boss’s boss and HR so fast I would be making those calls in the actual cemetery. But since you’re not sure if your coworker even received it, I would definitely go to HR myself. Don’t let him scare you away from holding him accountable for this absolutely disgusting thing he just did.

    And #2 – I’ve been there. It’s weird, right? Do they think you just won’t notice that someone is gone? My old employer had this odd idea that if they didn’t talk about someone being let go (no matter what verbage they would have used) that people would just go on with their day. But it really had the opposite effect – it made EVERYONE talk about it, in addition to being fearful about their own jobs. It’s an odd way to handle it, in my opinion.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      My organization has a policy of explaining departures with, at the very least, some sort of email acknowledgment, but a recent incident demonstrates the folly of the “Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen and it will just go away” approach to personnel changes.

      We recently had someone quit without notice, and the way he did it was the classic slash-and-burn method: coming in long after hours, downloading wads o’ documents and emailing wads more to himself, cleaning a bunch of files off his computer, cleaning every single personal or semi-personal thing out of his office, right down to his alma mater mousepad, then walking in early the next morning, plunking down his resignation effective immediately, and walking out.

      I got in about 40 minutes after he’d left (I picked a bad day to be late), and in the 200-foot walk from the elevators to my desk, two separate people stopped me to ask “What happened to John?” What I’m saying is that it took less than 40 minutes for the news and speculation to have percolated throughout the floor. And I’m sure that would have been the case pretty much anywhere. So why some managements think they’re avoiding unpleasantness or whatever when the pretend that someone has just mysteriously vanished without a trace is a complete mystery to me. People adore mystery, so if you want to minimize gossip, the thing to do is to decrease the mystery component as much as possible. That’s just so obvious I don’t understand why otherwise intelligent people can’t see it for themselves.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When I got fired, they walked me out–but I made the manager who fired me (not mine; she couldn’t be arsed to do it herself so delegated it to someone else) and the HR person wait while I cleaned my cube out and packed everything. They said they would send my things, but I said (nicely) no way; you can wait while I pack. And they did. Then manager helped me carry stuff to my car.

        I tried to be quiet while doing it so I wouldn’t bother any of my coworkers–if they knew what was going on, they didn’t say anything or come over there. I’m pretty sure some of the folks within close proximity realized. I don’t know what if anything was said afterward.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Good on you for standing up for yourself like that. I’m sorry that happened, but you handled yourself really well.

  64. Observer*

    #1 Your boss is a major jerk. Please tell HR. And, start looking for a new job the day you hit your one year anniversary, unless you can get a transfer within the company. Your boss is NOT going to get better. And, you really don’t want to get so used to this craziness that you begin to see it as normal.

  65. Bend & Snap*

    #1 How does this guy look at himself in the mirror every morning?

    And even if the coworker gets the letter, does he really think that’s an incentive to get in touch? She’s probably going to start job hunting.

    #2 In my last company, people would just disappear and never be spoken of again. Enough people complained that managers started sending out “Today was Cindy’s last day at Hell Inc. She’s moved on to other opportunities and we wish her the best.”

    Yes, it was code for “Cindy got shitcanned” but at least it wasn’t a huge mystery for people to focus on and gossip about.

  66. Barney Stinson*

    I think the manager for OP#1 is a front runner for the Worst Boss of the Year contest.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Just a heads up that the site owner has asked us to stop speculating on that because it’s really derailing.

  67. Lady Blerd*

    OP1: The website TV Tropes would say that your boss has crossed the moral event horizon, there is not coming back from this, no redemption possible. I understand your situation, this isn’t somethng you could ever imagine happening so you were not prepared for it, especially in your situation. As Allison’s advice of going to HR it an option for you and don’t beat yourself up on this. This is a lesson you will carry with you. If you have a friend, mentor, spiritual advisor or even therapist, I suggest you talk to them about your negative feelings to help you move on.

  68. Sarah*

    OP3: Definitely don’t write back to try and convince them to accept your application — if anything, you will only be convincing them not to hire you in the future because you don’t understand professional norms. The key here is that the company is not necessarily looking for the absolute best summer intern ever — they’re looking for someone who can do the job competently, and most likely they know from experience they can find that among the first 50 applications. As someone who has been on hiring committees, screening applications takes a ton of time — for a low importance position that will only last a couple of months, it absolutely makes sense to limit the number you will have to deal with in some way.

    Maybe I’m off base here (and apologies if I am!), but since you’re applying to a summer internship, I’m wondering if you are still in school or recently out of school. I think it can take some time to get used to the fact that some of the norms around school really are very different in the working world. It would be bizarre and unacceptable for a professor to suddenly say “Oh, I’m only accepting the first 50 exams that are turned in, everyone else in the class will just have to fail!” And there are much more organized systems around who gets to register first for classes with limited enrollment. All around I think there is more of a sense of trying to do what’s possible to make things more of an even playing field and give students opportunities. But employers looking to fill positions don’t owe you anything — they get to fill that role however makes the most sense for their company (assuming they’re not discriminating illegally), even if that happens to work out badly for you personally.

  69. Tertia*

    OP#1, if you’re loosing sleep over whether or not your coworker saw the note, you might want to check the cemetery’s webpage for regulations. The cemetery where my mother is buried says on its site that they don’t permit anything on the graves except for flowers, and those are removed every Tuesday. So if you had left the note there, you would know that
    a) the graves are checked once a week at minimum, and
    b) if you’d left the note on a Monday, it’d be pretty darn sure that the coworker had no opportunity to see it.

    If you’re concerned that it might still be there but you don’t want to go back (understandable!), call the cemetery, give them a non-detailed account indicating that the note may be there, and ask them to remove it.

  70. OhBehave*

    I am very anxious to hear an update from OP1. Despicable actions by the boss, such a pig.

  71. Lyn*

    Quick! Drive right back over to the grave and toss
    it in the trash….oops, guess the wind blew it away

    Guess what your POS boss is gonna say when the
    grieving employee comes a’ complaining?
    He’s going to blame this on YOU!

    So be ready….Get rid of the letter (my way above),
    or return it to your boss and say, sorry, that’s
    not appropriate (best, safest), or if you’ve got
    the guts, take the letter and dumby’s “delivery
    order” to HR….

    Stay true to your gut! and good luck.

  72. Kitty*

    Letter #2 situation actually happened at our work too, it was so weird. Two people from a different department who our team worked closely with were fired and we weren’t told for weeks, even though we had current projects needing their help and had been continuing to email them. It left a very bad taste in our mouths and damaged relations with that department and their head.

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