I had a fling with my new boss’s then-husband, my team isn’t using the gift cards I gave them, and more

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

1. I had a one-night fling with my new boss’s then-husband

The company I work for is going through a merger with two others. Some people have taken retirement, but other than that no one has been let go. Locations and departments are changing, and people are moving around and being promoted.

I am about to have a new boss. We have a history. I used to work with my new boss’s husband. We had a one-night fling and somehow she found out. She divorced him and it was not amicable. I have a child with her ex-husband. The two of us share custody, but we’re not together and have never been beyond that one time. I was dragged into the divorce proceedings and she went out of her way to humiliate me. She is still angry about it and she took her ex-husband to the cleaners.

I asked HR if there is any other job I could take but they said there isn’t. They also say my concerns are not valid because my new boss is a professional. I can’t afford to be without a job but I also can’t have her as a boss. HR has said their decision is final. They won’t give me another job or let me go and if I quit I can’t get unemployment. What should I do, do you have any advice as to how I can convince HR to change their minds?

It sounds to me like the company doesn’t value you enough to feel like dealing with this. They have to know that this is going to be untenable for you (and frankly, I would think it would be untenable for your new boss too), and the fact that they’re declining to intervene in any way says to me that they’re probably counting on you to quit.

Maybe I’m wrong and they’re really just that clueless, but it’s hard to imagine an HR person looking at this situation — where someone will be managing the person who her husband had an affair and a child with — and thinking that it’ll all work out fine. I’d put money on them assuming/hoping you’ll leave over it.

That said, if you’ve only talked to someone relatively junior in HR, you could try escalating to someone more senior. But really, you might be better off trying to negotiate severance in exchange for leaving quietly, and that might be a better outcome than working at a company with someone who you have this history with, even if you’re not working directly for her.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. My team isn’t using the gift cards I gave them

I am a team leader to about 10 staff. I ran a mini-incentive about nine months ago, which resulted in me giving out e-gift cards that I purchased with my own money. I am moving on from that company and will be finishing up in less than two weeks now.

I checked the balance of the gift cards, because I had a calendar reminder set to follow up. Out of the six I gave out, I was pretty shocked to find that only two have been used! It is obviously very demotivating to go to that effort for your team just to find that your effort was mostly for nothing, but there is also the financial investment that I undertook on my own accord.

Should I be obligated to remind my staff about these before I leave, or should I just wait the three months and if they still haven’t been used spend them myself?

You didn’t say what kind of gift cards they were, but if they were for a specific place, it could just be that not everyone goes there. For example, Starbucks gift cards are popular to give, but loads of people rarely step in a Starbucks — which means that gift card may go unused, if they don’t think to give it away to someone else. But even if they were some more universally liked — Visa gift cards, for example, which are easier to spend — some people are bad with gift cards and forget to use them. So who knows what the explanation is here.

But as for what to do: Stop checking the balances and put them out of your mind. These were gifts, which means it’s 100% up to the recipient when they use them and whether they use them at all. You cannot reclaim them if they’re unused after a certain period of time; you gave them to people, so they’re no longer yours. This is just a risk you take when you give people things.

3. I was offered a job but they won’t tell me how much it pays

I just recently got hired at a new job. When I asked how much I would be making hourly, my boss told me I had to wait until I get my first check. Can they legally do this? My rate of pay determines if I take the job.

What?! That’s ridiculous. Of course you need to know what pay they’re offering in order to decide if you want to accept the job or not.

I can’t think of a law this is violating, but it’s a major felony in the Courtroom of Common Sense.

On the off chance that you somehow misunderstood him, I’d say this: “Before I accept, I’d need to know the rate of pay you’re offering.” If he again refuses, say, “I’m not sure I understand — you don’t want to tell me what the job pays? How come?”

But at that point, you’d be asking just out of curiosity to find out what this loon’s reasoning is, because you can’t really take a job working for someone who thinks that this is reasonable.

4. Job applicants using a company’s live chat service

My company has a “live chat” window on our website so prospective customers can ask about the product. Today we received a message from someone who started off by asking us about the company and eventually clarified that they were interested in internship opportunities. It wasn’t just a short “do you take interns” query — the questions were quite detailed (“What do you enjoy most about teapot painting at EarlGrey4U?”), and they persisted even after we said, “For internship opportunities, we ask people to email us at teapots@earlgrey4u.com.”

We’re a startup and we’re always interested in meeting new talent, but honestly, none of us have time to engage in an impromptu online chat about potential internship opportunities. (Emails are different, as we can respond to them at a time that’s convenient for us.) While it feels rude to just shut it down, I also don’t want to waste my time or theirs when another mode of communication would be so much better.

How would you recommend handling an inquiry like this aside from “I’m sorry, I really don’t have time to talk to you about this right now”? And am I wrong to find this annoying? (To be clear, a simple “Are you accepting interns, and what’s the email to use to inquire about that?” would have been fine, although not my personal preference.)

No, that’s legitimately annoying. It’s no different than someone who called you about internships and kept asking questions even after you told them to follow the instructions on your website instead. And the specific questions this person was asking sound particularly annoying.

In the future, I’d handle it the same way you should handle it if it happened on the phone: If the person continues pushing after you tell them to email, say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t take internship inquiries by live chat. You’d need to follow the instructions on our website and email us for more information.” If needed, you could add, “Our live chat is really only for product inquiries.”

5. Hiring manager hasn’t gotten back to one of my references

I had an interview couple of weeks ago, which went very well, and have been asked for the references. I know that hiring manager talked to one of my references (my current boss), but for the other one, the hiring manager left him a message but did not get back to him after the reference replied. It has been a week now, and I am still waiting for a response from the hiring manager. I don’t know what to think about why the hiring manager never followed up with a second reference person. I did follow up with him but haven’t heard back yet.

Lots of possibilities. The hiring manager could have gone on vacation or be out sick. He could be busy with higher priorities, or just disorganized. He could have decided the first reference was enough and that he doesn’t need to spend the time with the second one. He could have decided to move forward with another candidate for reasons having nothing to do with what your first reference said. Or, that first reference could have given him pause for some reason.

{ 731 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    OP #4, would it be worthwhile to get the name of any potential intern who is being particularly pesky in order to keep a list of interns you do not want to consider?

    1. Mike C.*

      I don’t think it’s particularly unusual for interns to be completely clueless. So long as they don’t continue after being told directly to stop, you could just be punishing someone for the sin of receiving bad advice.

      1. Bonky*

        It’s not that unusual for interns to be completely clueless – but it’s also not particularly unusual for interns NOT to be completely clueless, and when recruiting them I’m very keen on the latter sort!

        1. Mike C.*

          But this seems like such a harmless mistake. Our whole culture encourages people to do exactly this sort of thing.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In my experience, people who are really pushy during the application process (to the point of ignoring clear instructions) are pushy/unprofessional once hired. It’s reasonable to consider this a black mark.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              yep. Can confirm. The applicants who ignore general norms of professional communication usually continue to have problems once they’re hired.

                1. OP #4*

                  OP here. I’ll be the first to admit that earlier in my career, I definitely overstepped this line – I had some pretty bad/dated career advice from otherwise trusted sources (“Always call to make sure they got the application!”), and I followed it until I learned better strategies and realized the error of my ways.

                  But even then, I was able to read social cues, and if someone was clearly uninterested in talking to me, I didn’t push it. I think what put me off the most about this wasn’t the fact that they reached out over chat, but that they were very aggressive in their questioning. It did read a bit like bad advice taken too far, and if we got their CV we’d still review it to make sure we were making the right decision, but it definitely did not incline me favorably towards them.

                2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  Yeah, when they start pressing the issue, I think it’s blacklist time.

            2. Mike C.*

              A black mark is fine, I just don’t think this falls into the category of black list. That’s all.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                but it’s an internship. Interns rarely provide much value to the company – they usually get more of the benefit because the company invests in them. It’s also a buyers market for interns – there are too many available to waste your time with one who already has a big red flag.

                1. Joe*

                  Absolutely to the multitude of available interns, and weeding people out for simple reasons. Way, way back, I was on our intern hiring team for a job I was at, and we had 1200 resumes for 6 positions. So there were some people I weeded out for stupid things that I could have easily overcome. For example, one person’s resume was light blue text on a white background, and I couldn’t read it. I could easily have changed the font color, but it was even easier to just throw it out. There were several others that got tossed for similar superficial but annoying reasons, before I even got as far as reading the details and evaluating the content.

            3. Karen D*

              I agree it makes sense, but I’m the rare exception, unfortunately; being pushy kinda worked for me.

              I had a summer internship (required to graduate) lined up. A few weeks before the end of the semester, the owner of the company where I would be working called and said my slot was being “eliminated.”* So I was desperate, and I called all the teapot companies in commuting range of my parents’. One of the much-smaller ones initially said “We don’t take interns” but after I’d struck out everywhere else, I called them back and said, “Look. I will work for free. I will pay you to work for you. Whatever it takes; all I ask is that you fill out these reports once a week that I showed up and did something useful. Heck, I’ll fill them out for you and you can just sign them. PLEASE.” And they sighed and said OK, be here on Monday and we’ll find ya something to do. I remember when I was introduced around several people said “Since when do we have interns?”

              I worked my butt off for them; after a few weeks they started paying me on a piecemeal basis because the work I was producing was good enough to use in their products. At the end of the internship, they offered me a full time job. So … that worked out.

              That said, it was a totally different era. A few internships were paid, but most were not, and certainly I would not advise anyone to try the same trick today.

              *Later found out it was given to somebody else in my program who was a pet of a particular professor, who called around on his behalf. Yeah, 25 years later I’m still mad.

            4. New hiring manager*

              Yesss. I’m hiring an entry level position right now, and one particular candidate has email my work email, my personal email, my LinkedIn account (multiple times), and even reached out to people in my network to see if they’d reach out to me to put in a good word. And I haven’t even started the screening calls!

              Part of me wants to reach out to him and give him some gentle feedback about professionalism and boundaries, but the rest of me doesn’t even want to open up the door of communication with someone with that kind of stalker potential.

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Harmless how? It’s pushy, unprofessional, shows a lack of awareness of workplace norms….and even as an intern, if you’re this off the wall, you’re probably going to stay that way.

            1. Mike C.*

              Harmless in comparison to spectrum of things an intern or employee could do in the workplace. I mean sure, I agree that this sort of behavior shows a lack of awareness of workplace norms and professionalism but I also believe that this is going to be common with a lot of interns because they simply don’t have a lot of experience.

              So given all that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be direct once, give them a mulligan if they behave and go from there. If we were talking about normal employees then I would feel differently.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                That’s fair enough. I thought you were talking about excusing the issue entirely.

            2. LKW*

              I agree that it’s pushy and unprofessional but if it’s your first job (or first job search) in a more professional line (aka office work), you may not know it’s unprofessional or have any clear sense of workplace norms.

              If you’re in retail or food service you get people in every day asking if you have any openings. I can see where it would seem normal because you have only a shallow set of experiences against which to compare.

              I would draw the line when I’ve explained this line is for product information requests – if you continue to use this line for employment opportunities, yeah… I’m going to red card you.

            3. The OG Anonsie*

              Eh, I disagree. This is true in general of your regular applicants, but for an internship consider all the students out there with no context for professional norms whatsoever getting horrifically bad advice from their school’s career centers, families, professors, etc.

              We’ve had this discussion here before, but a lot (a lot) of students do not have families or communities who gave them exposure to these types of professional standards growing up. If you come from a blue collar background, white collar standards are like getting dumped on Mars. That coupled with the fact that schools often give really crappy advice exactly like this makes me think it’s pretty reasonable to cut generous lengths of slack to interns coming in doing real kooky stuff.

              I would be hesitant to say the least about considering this applicant and be looking for signs that they’re a tool rather than someone inexperienced who got terrible advice, but I wouldn’t conclude right away that kookiness from an internship applicant is because they are foundationally a kook.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          If the potential intern has been told by the OP’s company that this is a bad idea and they’ve kept it up, then yes, I’d definitely consider that a black mark. If they haven’t yet…well, I might give them a break. Maybe. It depends on how they act going forward. They’ve shown one clear sign of cluelessness and over-aggressiveness, so they’d better not show another.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I agree with this. There’s enough bad advice out there that someone might think this is a good idea. However, when someone asserts boundaries, the offending party should listen and respect those.

      2. Colette*

        Well, one of the consequences of bad advice is that it hurts rather than helps your cause. and rewarding someone because they got bad advice means that they will think it’s good advice and do it again – and probably tell others to do so as well.

        1. Mike C.*

          That consequence comes from the advice itself being ineffective, not because there is a responsibly for others to punish someone for following such advice in the first place.

          You can avoid the whole situation by remembering that these folks are intern candidates (and thus don’t have a whole lot of experience), be clear and direct with what you want them to do (don’t bother us on chat) and if they respond well to that then it should be a no harm/no foul situation. If the candidate listens to you, then they are succeeding in spite of previous bad advice rather than because of it.

          1. paul*

            They’ve already offered clear feedback and it’s being ignored; that’s where it goes from “Oh they’re new” to “eh, bad sign”

            1. Colette*

              Exactly. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to “punish” -I.e. not reward – people who take bad advice, but in this case, the intern candidates have been told that they’re doing the wrong thing and they’re continuing to do it anyway.

            2. Mike C.*

              No, they haven’t.

              We’re a startup and we’re always interested in meeting new talent, but honestly, none of us have time to engage in an impromptu online chat about potential internship opportunities. (Emails are different, as we can respond to them at a time that’s convenient for us.) While it feels rude to just shut it down, I also don’t want to waste my time or theirs when another mode of communication would be so much better.

              How would you recommend handling an inquiry like this aside from “I’m sorry, I really don’t have time to talk to you about this right now”? And am I wrong to find this annoying? (To be clear, a simple “Are you accepting interns, and what’s the email to use to inquire about that?” would have been fine, although not my personal preference.)

              I don’t see anything here that talks about steps the OP has actually taken, just background info and a request for advice.

              1. paul*

                “the questions were quite detailed (“What do you enjoy most about teapot painting at EarlGrey4U?”), and they persisted even after we said, “For internship opportunities, we ask people to email us at teapots@earlgrey4u.com.””

                Yes, they did tell them they were doing it wrong.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      That could be a bit problematic, legally – depending on where you live and what laws they have about data collection and about employment blacklisting. I would not be able to legally do what you just described.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        This person did not apply, as far as we can tell from the letter. And, if they did apply, the data would be collected and stored according to their company policies, which hopefully comply with applicable regulations. It is illegal to blacklist people in a protected class for being part of that protected class. However, being a pain in the ass non- instruction follower is NOT a protected class so this intern can certainly be placed on a “do not hire list” with no concerns.

        1. Aunt Margie at Work*

          “being a pain in the ass non- instruction follower is NOT a protected class”
          Just want to say I love this.

      2. TL -*

        I don’t think this would be a problem in the USA as long as it wasn’t tied to a pattern of blacklisting a protected class.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Ah. Gotcha. In the U.K. we also have a lot of rules about what information we can store on people.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Almost by definition, interns don’t understand business norms. I wouldn’t blacklist someone for being annoying when they didn’t know any better. There’s a good chance they’ll learn as they get more experience. And, if they’re still annoying later, you can continue to not hire them.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        This isn’t so much a business norm, though, as it is basic understanding of how to move through the world not pissing people off. It’s no different than demanding to know about internships by accosting people as they walk out the front door, or sending emails to a personal account, or requesting a sales consultation and then flipping the script. Those are all so obviously Not The Done Thing, and so is hitting up a live product inquiry chat interface.

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          Funny story that this reminded me of: I used to live in a city in which walking tours were very popular. There was one guy who did his own walking tours who was, shall we say, incredibly pushy about how he went about promoting them. My workplace was in the city center and ran occasional events – since my name was on one of the banners promoting the event, I got emails from him about how he was gearing his walking tour with the theme of the event, and what did I think of it? Okay, annoying but no big deal….but I remembered him. Later on I found out through the grapevine (it was a busy city but the city center working community was pretty small and tight-knit) that he set up a dating group through the meetups website, which he used almost exclusively to promote his walking tours. He also visited a friend’s house with a view of applying for housemate status, and left his walking tour cards in various places throughout the house.

          I wonder if he’s a job coach now? :)

    4. Artemesia*

      this. I don’t see the problem. If an intern applicant tries to use the chat, you type ‘we don’t interview interns on our chat service, it is for customers only, please apply through the process outlined’ or somesuch. And if they continue then write them off. Once is gumption, twice is annoyance.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed. If they are young, they may not know any better. If you tell them and they continue, that’s where it becomes a problem.

  2. Sami*

    OP#1: I’m sorry that you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place here, but it’s time to polish up your resume. Alison’s advice is spot on- ask for severance and move on. Good luck to you!

    1. JessaB*

      Why do I get the opinion this OP isn’t in the US. I’ve been on unemployment a lot of times in my life and at least in Ohio, I could absolutely spin this as “I was involved in a major court case with this manager and she was on the other side and it was a disaster and they insist I report to her, toss in more details.” I would absolutely be able to manage getting unemployment from this. So if a lawyer is saying “having to be managed by someone who basically sued you and won, and not over some general injury but in a divorce case naming you as cause,” is not constructive discharge if you leave, I just wanna know what jurisdiction this is, where it would also prevent unemployment.

      Now it’s also possible that what the lawyer MEANT but didn’t say was that you’d have to actually be MANAGED by this person before it would be constructive discharge IE they’d have to be snooty or snarky to you and THEN if you left… As in you can’t pre-emptively leave. But still I wonder about the jurisdiction.

      1. MK*

        I think you probably put your finger on the issue in the second paragraph. If the OP starts working for this person and then gets fired for cause or is forced to quit, she may well be able to claim unemployment and/or constructive dismissal, especially, because she will the have concrete facts to relate (like, the “cause” is something one doesn’t usually gets fired over, but this boss used it as an excuse, or that she was treated badly by the boss). But being asked to work for someone you had personal confict with years ago will not be seen, on its own, as something so totally unacceptable that you has no choice but to quit over it.

      2. Dweali*

        I wonder if it could be the “You’re not eligible for unemployment if you quit” advice people give/get. It’s not until you are either in the situation/decide to learn about it/get farther along in a career/mature a little that you learn there are circumstances where that advice is 100% untrue. Also, the knowledge of being likely to be denied unemployment when you first apply but you should appeal it anyway (I wish 21yr old me had known that)

        1. fposte*

          In this case, it looks like the OP explored it pretty thoroughly with a lawyer, who even talked to the unemployment commission. So I’d still apply for the hell of it if I were her, but I think she’s being reasonable to see her chances as small.

          1. Dweali*

            Yeah I saw farther down that OP has hit up the UE office and a lawyer so my 2 cents isn’t applicable to their particulars anymore…I am pretty impressed/glad that OP has gone through that much though…so many seem to not know (willing to learn) what rights/options they have (even if they don’t do anything with them at the time).

            I second all the advice of everyone who is saying document anything unprofessional since the options for OP may change when the circumstances actually change (in which case loop in the lawyer if need be too) and to brush up the resume.

        2. Liz2*

          But it’s still a risk and still takes evaluation. I know I ended one job with iron clad documentation on why it was justified but it still took the max time of review plus my regular calling in to talk with supervisors to get through the red tape. I was all out of savings and credit by the time it all got processed.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Isn’t there also another part to constructive discharge where if the situation is just so toxic, any reasonable person would leave? In addition to a specific boss pushing someone out. I do hear it’s not easy to prove but worth looking into. She has the first requirement- taking it to HR, which hopefully she has record of.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The tricky part, legally, is that in some states constructive discharge only exists if it’s tied to a hostile work environment claim (which requires evidence that you’re being harassed because of your protected class identity) or if you’re not an at-will employee. Some states describe constructive discharge as a form of wrongful termination, but again, you have to tie your dismissal to discrimination on the basis of a protected class—this is true even in California.

          There aren’t as many states that allow constructive discharge because your manager/boss/employer was a raging asshole or personally hated you because of their divorce or how they perceived your role in the dissolution of their marriage :(

    2. INTP*

      Totally agree that she should polish up her resume here, but if she doesn’t have the savings to just leave without unemployment, she *might* have some luck playing chicken. Maybe the manager will make a big fuss about it and she’ll be offered a severance to leave quietly, maybe the manager will quit, maybe HR will be willing to rearrange them once the manager is caught doing something unprofessional to OP. It’s certainly an untenable long-term situation but I think it’s worth at least trying to hang in there until something better comes along, unless it’s damaging to OP’s mental health of course.

      (I imagine this is a controversial subject because viewpoints on just how much of a wrong adultery is on the part of the non-partnered party vary significantly. Personally, I think one night does not justify ruining someone’s life or livelihood over, so I don’t think OP is obligated to take the hit here so the manager doesn’t have to.)

      1. Sparky*

        Would having to work for your ex-affair’s ex-wife constitute a hostile work environment?

          1. Allypopx*

            I know this is a serious conversation but I have to admit this made me giggle a little. Oh that they were.

        1. Liane*

          Not a lawyer or HR, but from what Alison repeats often here, hostile work environment requires it be because of the victim’s being in a protected class (race, religion, etc.) and, I think, repeated instances. Now it might be possible in an area where family status is a protected class if the boss kept bringing it up or others got involved.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            I’m in a state that protects marital status, but I’m pretty sure it only protects against being treated negatively specifically because of being married or unmarried, or because of “the identity, situation, actions, or beliefs of a spouse or former spouse.” And I think we have one of the more expansive sets of protections, too. I suspect that being given a hard time or fired because you had an affair with your boss’ husband would not violate the law, but, somewhat ironically, it would protect your boss.

        2. neverjaunty*

          “Hostile work enviroment” doesn’t mean people are unpleasant. It’s a type of otherwise illegal discrimination and harassment.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Usually it would not—a hostile work environment is a legal term that has to be connected to unlawful discrimination on the basis of a protected class identity, which at the federal level includes race/color, national origin/ethnicity, gender/sex, religion and disability status. Even in states that protect “marital or familial relationship status,” this kind of hostility probably wouldn’t fall within those bounds because it’s not discrimination for being a single mother, for example—it’s personal.

          But I’m tempted by the “playing chicken” approach, myself.

          1. De Minimis*

            An aside…that has been really driving me nuts lately, people misusing and otherwise misunderstanding the term “hostile work environment.” Someone was giving bad advice in a Facebook professional group suggesting that the person might have a claim for a hostile work environment because their boss yelled at them all the time.

      2. LBK*

        Wildly unkind and not in the spirit of this site at all. Please take nasty comments like this elsewhere.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I would ignore the specifics and just take the broader issue: Due to a merger (no deliberate action on anyone’s part) I am about to be managed by someone with whom I have a horribly fraught personal history.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Or just say difficult personal history. No need to make it sound drama-y if you don’t need to.

        2. Emmie*

          I would simply say “my company is merging with another, and I don’t have a stable job.” I’d leave out the personal history – even if ambiguous. It would raise more flags than help.

          1. Czhorat*

            Agreed one hundred percent. THe merger gives a professional and neutral explanation for leaving; “personal history” is a bit of a red flag. At the very least it is too easy for an employer to read it as a sign that you create drama and are difficult; given the choice, they’d opt for a similarly qualified candidate without the difficult personal history.

            Never give a prospective employer reason to not hire you unless you ahve to.

              1. Thlayli*

                This also explains why the reference is a retired manager – given that he took retirement due to the merger also.

                Losing your job in a merger is really common and no other explanation is needed.

      4. Rachel - Letter #1*

        Unfortunately no severance will be offered. He has stated that I can either take the job or quit. And if I try stuff like just not showing up in will be dismissed for cause. The say my new boss is a professional with the full backing of her manager and I will also expected to be a professional. By law I can’t get unemployment if I quit or am fired for cause. There is no way I can work for this person and don’t think I can just hang in there until I find something.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Start looking now if you haven’t already. They’ve laid the ground rules and it sounds like they’ll be watching the situation.

          I’d be very very careful because it sounds like they know alllll the details, which clearly isn’t good for you. You want to handle yourself professionally every minute of every day until you can get out.

          You’ve made your case, they declined to accommodate your request, and now you just have to rise above it and leave with grace when you find a new job. And I would not give ANY whiff of this to a new employer. With both your boss and presumably her ex working in the same industry, your reputation could be at risk.

          1. I@W*

            +1000% I also wanted to add, just because they aren’t immediately doing layoffs now, doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. I’d honestly be surprised if they didn’t have further reorgs and at least one RIF within the year. They probably see how the org is functioning and reassess their staffing needs, meanwhile waiting to see who’ll leave on their own volition.

            In the meantime, keep your head down, be professional, and try to get out of there ASAP. The good thing is you can frame your job seeking based on the merger–you really want to be doing “x,” when org is now having you focus on “y.”

        2. Artemesia*

          I’d be looking of course. BUT in the meantime, take the job and do the job. Maybe the manager will behave professionally at least long enough for you to find something. Heck maybe the manager will promote you out of her division just to get rid of you.

          Stand your ground.

          1. Chickaletta*

            Good point. Your new boss doesn’t want you there any more than you do, and if she has a chance of transferring you out I bet she takes it at the first opportunity. The question is if you can work at the same company as her.

            Call their bluff, show up and be professional as well. I bet you’re not working under her for long.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree with this wholeheartedly. Unless seeing New Boss will be so traumatic that it triggers something like a panic attack, I think the best option is to continue to go in and do the job (for now) while actively job searching.

        3. Thlayli*

          Why did he mention you just not showing up? Did you bring that up or did he? Does he have some reason to believe you might try that? Or was he being an A-hole?

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            It was mentioned because the choices the company has given me is to take the job or quit. So if I tried to do something like not show up in hopes of getting fired, it would be for cause and I still wouldn’t get unemployment.

            1. Anna*

              Your company’s HR is being really stupid. I’m sorry they are forcing you into this crappy situation.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                Agreed. Yes, a lot of things can and should be overcome in a professional setting, but for gods sake, they were on opposing sides in a courtroom. This seems like a conflict of interest or something like that but I can’t quite think of the term. And what’s the Op supposed to do, not put up any pics of her child? Not mention the child if they need time off when he or she is sick? Etc etc

                1. fposte*

                  Geez, I didn’t even think about the fact that the kid was going to have to be mentioned. Yes, that’s going to be strained for sure.

        4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          You’re the best judge of whether you can work with her, but …while I realize that she was nasty in the thick of the divorce, but if it’s been a few years, she may indeed be in a place where she can be professional about it. Can you deal with a boss who is civil and professional, but not necessarily anything more than neutral towards you?

          If so, is there any chance you could just go to her personally and say, “I know we’ve got a personal history, but I know I’m capable of handling our work relationship in a professional way, and I’m willing to do what it takes to make it work. I realize we’ll probably never have a warm rapport, can we swing being civil and cordial enough that it doesn’t feel like we’re permanently at odds?”

        5. Sunflower*

          This sounds like a nightmare for everyone involved. It would take a lot of convincing on my part to want to mange someone who says they are ok managing a person they have this kind of connection to. OP I’m sure you know this but this situation has drama llama written all over it. What the heck is her manager thinking?

        6. TWAndrews*

          Documentation is your friend. Make sure to document any and all instances of even questionable professionalism from the new boss / ex of your child’s father.

          One of two things will be true-either she acts professionally, and you can do the same, or she doesn’t and with documentation, the company’s position on severance may change.

    3. Blaine*

      I just have a feeling there is much more to this then OP #1 is letting on for HR to not see this as a reasonable transfer. Or they want/or have wanted her out – small world to hire the woman with whom you slept with her husband knowingly, became pregnant, and became a part of the divorce proceedings.

      I mean…

      1. Ted Mosby*

        I think she’s letting on plenty for it to make sense. I’m sorry this is happening. It sucks a lot. But OP created a personal conflict between herself and someone else in her field, and now that conflict is coming back to bit her in the but.

        I think a reasonable comparison would be if she had once punched her new boss in a bar. Does it make her a terrible person? No. Do I blame HR for not wanting to go to bat for her? Not really.

  3. Rachel - Letter #1*

    Thanks for responding to my question Alison! The decision came from the head of HR and was backed up by the executive that HR reports to now. Unfortunately my company doesn’t give severance and they aren’t offering any through the restructuring process. HR said I could either take the job or I could leave and if I try to just not show up or do anything like than they will fire me for cause. I had a consultation with a lawyer and he said if I get fired for cause I can’t get unemployment just like if I quit and that the company isn’t doing anything illegal. I have been in denial but I think you are right that I am not valued by them. It hurts to think about but it’s probably the truth. Thanks for your help. I am likely to be unemployed soon and will use your tips and help in my job search.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I have to ask, Rachel, does this woman know you are there and will be reporting to her? How do you think the new management will be? If she comes down hard on you will they back her? (The stubborn part of me would think “hell no, I won’t be driven out” but I am the first to admit that is probably not the better idea.)

      1. Rachel - Letter #1*

        She is aware I will be reporting to her. My boss and boss’s boss are both taking retirement. She is friends with the management of my department equivalent at the other company. Her boss is from her company, according to the restructuring chart she has worked with him for like 10 years and if I remember from the divorce trial his name is similar to a friend who assisted with her legal fees. Her boss’s boss is going to be her current boss who recommended her for promotion to this new job. So I don’t think anyone will come down hard on her and I was told by HR that they expect me to act like a professional (as she will)

        1. Lillie Lane*

          Yikes, it seems like the more things progress, the more decks are stacked against you. So sorry, Rachel. From someone who also lost a decent job and reference through no fault of her own, it sucks. It sounds like you are job hunting, good luck to you and your child and I hope you will find a much better job. Please update us.

        2. Caro in the UK*

          Ooof, it sounds like she’s personally friendly with a lot of people involved in this situation. This going to make it doubly hard for you, because it seems like they probably knew her when the fling and subsequent divorce happened, and so they’re probably going to be much more sympathetic to her than they would if she was a someone who they’d never met before she applied for the job.

          Also, I’m not one to blame the other woman (or man) in affairs and flings, but a lot of people (unfortunately) do, so that may also be working against you here, especially with the people who knew her at the time of the divorce.

          I think Alison is right, you probably need a new job :( If you can stick it out while searching, be as professional as humanly possible and as others have said, scrupulously document any unfair treatment from the company. Good luck, I hope you find something soon :)

          1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

            I think OP1 lost face in her company after the scandal, and might be considered “a troublemaker” or somebody with boundary problems, hence the reluctance to accommodate any other option than “suck it or leave”. To me it feels the company is using this chance to politely show her the door.

            1. Czhorat*

              But the “scandal” had naught to do with work; her affair was with the husband of the woman who is *now* to be her boss and, presumably, was not at the time.

              They’re letting her deal with it or leave because they simply don’t care; they’d probably be just as OK if the new boss left.

            2. Mike C.*

              How would the OP have “lost face” with the company? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

              1. fposte*

                Whether it’s fair or not, I could see it happening with the OP’s employer at the time, where people see her as somebody who stepped out with her married boss and caused drama. I’m not clear, though, if that was the same employer as the current one.

                1. paul*

                  I’d say she definitely did. Stepping out with a married coworker is an invite to drama in the workplace, no two ways about it.

              2. Mazzy*

                Mike c as with the intern discussion above, I understand that you don’t want certain people to get judged for things, but to keep acting like it is completely outrageous or that you don’t understand what another commenter means, such as here, is coming across as insincere

                1. Mike C.*

                  I don’t think that’s fair of you to say. I may have unconventional views, but those views are always sincerely held. I have plenty of faults, but insincerity is not one of them.

                  The whole “losing face” doesn’t make sense because it’s not like the OP and the man she was with were cavorting around in public representing the company. The sort of situation were consenting adults do things that consenting adults do happens a lot of the time and companies don’t get involved at all, and they certainly don’t feel like they’ve lost face or their personal corporate honor or whatever.

                  Combine that with the fact that this situation is a textbook example of “conflict of interest”, the company’s decision to not care literally makes no business sense what so ever.

                2. MK*

                  Mike, I don’t think anyone suggested that the OP’s affair made the company lose face, rather that the OP lost face in the eyes of the people who run/work at her company because of the affair (unfairly or not, it is a fact of life that a person who has an affair with a married person will be viewed negatively by a large percentage of people). And that the reaction she is experiencing might be a result of that; would HR treat it the same, if the court case that the OP and her new manager were involved in was a land dispute or a traffic accident?

                3. Mike C.*

                  I swear I was quoting someone in this thread who used the term “lose face”, that’s why I put it in quotes.

                4. V*

                  Mike, the issue isn’t that you have unconventional views, it’s that you refuse to consider the fact that the world might not share them. Like it or not, someone’s reputation will suffer if they knowingly start/continue a relationship with a married individual, and that would go double if the spouse was a colleague. And Alison already explained what the company’s reasoning likely is in this situation.

                  It’s unfair, sure, but that’s how the real world works. It doesn’t share the moral righteousness that you seem to fall back on time and again here, to the point that I actually remember your name when I hardly ever check the comments.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I had the same reaction as you, Mike C., fwiw. I don’t see how the “scandal” relates to her current job/employer, except for HR reintroducing this awful moment into OP’s day-to-day.

                1. JulesCase*

                  Agreed, and Mike C, you’re correct- ReadWithSpanishAccent mentioned losing face – it’s clear you didn’t come up with that term. And I concur- it doesn’t make sense, especially since the original affair/fling between OP and the husband of OP’s soon-to-be-boss occurred while they were working at an entirely different organization than where OP is currently.

                  Also, Rachel, I am so very sorry you’re having to deal with this b.s., it’s beyond nutty and absolutely blows my mind that your employer is moving forward this way. They sound pretty crappy overall, so hopefully in the long run this whole insane situation will become a blessing in disguise and you’ll land at a much healthier, respectful, appreciative company.
                  Good luck and please keep us posted. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!

              4. Ted Mosby*

                If nothing else sleeping with your boss is not good judgement. Drunkenly sleeping with a married coworker is not good judgement. We have ALL made mistakes. The crappy fact of life is if you make them in the realm of your work then yes, your reputation can be damaged. It’s not really unreasonable.

              5. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

                Because people is people. Yes, we all agree that it has nothing to do with work, but I bet there was A TON of comments and gossips around + all the drama + everyone involved is working there. Besides, the ex-wife -as the OP mentions – has been very aggresive towards her, trying to humilliate her as much as possible. And she is a boss, working with other bosses, who do not have the emotional detachment we have. For us she is OP’s new boss. For them is Jane, and OP is the *** who destroyed Jane’s marriage / the girl who give us this big headache and created all the gossips and drama / etc. This is not about her being guilty of something, or about a fling being job-related or not. Is about people being people, placing blame, taking sides and probably being a bit male chauvinistic (I wonder how much backlash has The Man gotten about all this issue).

            3. Rachel - Letter #1*

              I was working for a different company when the fling and divorce happened. Not the one I work for now. Unfortunately I lost my reference from the first company over what happened and if I quit or get fired I will lose my reference from this one.

              1. Czhorat*

                Be sure to keep contact with your old boss; even retired, they can give a reference.

                If you talk to them, they’ll likely understand why you’re quitting and, I hope, will do what they can to help you moving forward.

              2. Caro in the UK*

                Oh my gosh, you lost a reference from your old job because of this? I’m so sorry this is happening to you. We all make bad choices at one point or another (at least most of us do) and no one deserves to be punished this way. As another commenter said, the escalation of this personal issue into your professional life really isn’t your fault. If you can try to hold onto that while job searching, it might help you stay sane.

                1. paul*

                  I’d argue that losing a reference for an active choice that may well have impacted work is kind of an appropriate response.

                2. paul*

                  Oh, for an edit feature:

                  At this point, OP, just brush up on your resume and figure out careful diplomatic phrasing to use when explaining why you left this job.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  I’m not sure how it’s punishment to get a bad reference for making extremely bad work choices at work?

                  That said, LW, I’m not sure why you would get a bad reference from THIS job if you are professional and give appropriate notice when you leave.

                4. Mike C.*

                  It wasn’t a work choice to begin with, this was entirely within the realm of the personal.

                5. paul*

                  Mike: you also said that plenty of places take the stance that people’s personal life can violate their conflict of interest policies, and we’ve seen myriad letters written to AAM about personal relationships causing drama at work. It’s not incorrect to say that getting romantically involved with a coworker–particularly a married one–might have work related implications. Lots of employers have rules against romantic involvement between coworkers, largely for this reason.

                  It kind of sucks, but I can see how it’d be an issue. The fact the ex is being vindictive in this case doesn’t mean the original workplace is necessarily wrong for disciplining her over this.

                6. Mike C.*


                  These aren’t contradictory views – the company created the conflict of interest by allowing the ex to become the OP’s boss, not the OP for sleeping with someone outside of work in the past. The employer has the ability to make this right, but either out of incompetency or vindictiveness they don’t seem to care.

                7. paul*

                  The first company was a different company that denied her a reference over this; the current company is an entirely separate one.

                  The first one I can understand being upset with her; I read your post as being upset with them, which to me makes no sense.

                  The second though, yes, they shouldn’t be putting the manager into her department and shouldn’t deny a reference should she quit.

                8. fposte*

                  @paul–I’d say really there are three companies. The one where the OP worked when she got pregnant; the one where she worked pre-merger, and the one who will be moving her job now. She will get a decent reference from her manager at company #2.

                  The reason I’m differentiating this is that I’d functionally do that if I were the OP–“my old company got taken over by BigCo, so I left; all my employment references are from Middle Co.”

                9. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I mean, really, what a reference should do is speak honestly to the employee’s work. Unless the reference checker asks if she ever slept with her boss, I don’t see why this should come up. Did she show up on time, manage her workload, alert management when there were problems, function independently, turn in quality work? I see how this could potentially be spun as “bad judgment” but it feels a lot like people who are personally mad at OP are hiding behind that.
                  (But then, I feel strongly that there is little to no sense in vilifying the “other woman” in such situations, and it’s possible that bias is reflected here.)

              3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                What about your current boss? The one who is leaving and being replaced by this other woman? Could they serve as a reference?

              4. Tuxedo Cat*

                Why would you lose a reference for this company? Maybe this should be the conversation to have with someone. If you quit today or even within a few weeks, you new boss really couldn’t be able to say much about your work (issues aside).

                1. Rachel - Letter #1*

                  My boss is retiring and besides him I have no one else to give me a reference. There is no way in hades I would even ask my new boss and the company will just say I quit without notice.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*


                  Even though he’s retiring, couldn’t you ask him to still serve as a reference? After all, he’s worked with you for quite some time.

                3. Rachel - Letter #1*

                  He will be a reference for me. But I don’t have any references from my first job because of this and I won’t get any other references from my company now, before the merger or after. I have 12 years of work experience and barely anything to show for it reference wise.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Rachel, I think your feelings about how awful the situation is might be disrupting how you see the reference issue. It is extremely normal for a prior, retired boss to be your reference, and it’s easy to signal that he was your primary supervisor at your current employer (especially because folks often do not list their current managers if they’re job hunting because they usually don’t want their employer to know). All you have to do is add a line with his contact information that explains his relationship (e.g., “Manager 2007-16, retired 2017”).

                  You have not lost him as a reference, and you should proactively keep in touch with him specifically about your job hunt and need for a reference. Chin up—this situation sucks, but you will not be in a situation where you have “nothing to show,” reference-wise, for your prior years of service.

                5. Rachel - Letter #1*

                  I have him as a reference yes, but he is the only reference I have for 12 years of work. The bridge from my first job was burned after what happened and there is no way I am getting reference from my new boss or her friends in management.

                6. Thlayli*

                  I think this was said elsewhere but your reference doesn’t have to be a boss. There must be someone from your first job who can attest to your work. Hell, you could even use your baby’s father as a reference – he worked with you and he can probably give a valid reference and how will employers you are applying to know the history. The chance they would find out he was involved with you is pretty slim unless it’s a tiny industry in your area.

                  This is totally unethical but there’s no law against it.

                7. Natalie*

                  @ Rachel, regarding your first job, I’m assuming some time has passed now. You might consider contacting your former supervisors there and asking if they’ll be a reference. It doesn’t matter what “the company’s” opinion of you is, your bosses may well have a different one.

                8. Rachel - Letter #1*

                  The bridge with the company has been burned. I don’t even want to think about kicking the hornets nest. I wish it was different but I’m realistic.

            4. Stranger than fiction*

              Right but then why would they go to the trouble to keep her rather than lay her off during the reorg?

        3. Logical*

          Is constructive dismissal not a thing in the US? (Sorry OP, I know you’ve already consulted a lawyer but this seems crazy to me). No reasonable employer would expect the two of you to work together.

          1. MK*

            Actually, a lot of employers would take the stance that your personal life should not affect their bussiness decisions.

            1. Mike C.*

              Actually, a lot of companies would take the stance that your personal life can easily violate their conflict of interest policies.

            2. Logical*

              In the UK, this is the case:

              “Constructive dismissal is when you’re forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer’s conduct.”

              Legally employers are not allowed to:

              “let other employees harass or bully you”

              In reality of course, this happens all the time. But as someone lower in the thread comments, the boss would have to do it first for the company to be held liable.

              1. Thlayli*

                This is my thought – if Rachel genuinely can’t afford to quit now then the best option is to look for work and be as professional as possible, and if (when) boss start bullying her then she will have reason to claim constructive dismissal. But anticipation of bullying doesn’t count – the bullying would have to actually occur first.

                If you can afford to quit though, that’s probably a better option for your own mental health.

          2. blackcat*

            Based on what everyone has said here (both in this thread and the past), it would only count as a constructive dismissal if the new boss harasses the OP. So… document, document, document. Any time OP is treated differently than other employees, write it down. Write down all snide comments.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In the U.S., constructive dismissal would usually mean that they changed your wages, job, location, or other black-and-white circumstances so much that any reasonable person would quit, or that you were being clearly treated abusively. So far this isn’t likely to qualify.

          4. MegaMoose, Esq*

            For purposes of receiving unemployment, yes, you can be constructively discharged, but the standard varies by state. I would have to defer to her attorney, but it doesn’t seem crazy that the circumstances she’s described don’t meet her state’s requirements.

        4. RVA Cat*

          The fact that your company is not giving anyone severance during a restructuring means they are heartless to everyone and don’t deserve any loyalty whatsoever. I’m pretty sure everyone else is looking and your industry knows and doesn’t fault anyone.

          Good luck with your job search. Honestly I would put most of your energies towards that, maybe take PTO to focus on it especially if it wouldn’t be paid out. I hope your retiring bosses can provide glowing references to help you move on ASAP.

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            They aren’t giving severance because no one is being laid off. The only people leaving are those who are retiring. Since they are offering me a job with the same pay, benefits and title at a location less than half an hour away from my home, they say it is my choice to leave so I won’t get severance.

            1. Dankar*

              Wait, I’m confused. In the letter you say that you’re not being offered a different job, but now it sounds like they’ve offered you a job at a different location..? Would that be the move that places you under the supervisor you don’t want to work with?

              Also, I think it’s a little silly to say that she took this job to “take things out on you” as you say below. Perhaps this team is located more conveniently to her, or the work appeals to her more than the other position she was offered. I agree that you should be looking for a new job, and that HR (if they are indeed refusing to give you a different position or move you to another team) is being unreasonable. But perhaps considering the possibility that this woman’s career choices might not all revolve around you would bring some peace in the interim.

              1. Rachel - Letter #1*

                The office I work at is closing. My job will be at a different location under this manager. The new office is 30 minutes away from my home, as opposed to an hour and 15 minutes like my current commute. Both jobs she was offered were at the same location, she took this one right after she found out I would be reporting to her. Given the history I doubt she has good intentions.

                1. Hey Annony Ho*

                  Dang, Rachel/OP1….I feel for you. This is an awful situation all round, and I can relate: my husband and I met when we worked together and fell in love about twelve years ago. Unfortunately, he was married at the time and they were expecting their first child. It was ten months of hell for everybody involved -including our coworkers and bosses! – and they decided to give their marriage another go, I left my job, and we all (sort of) moved on with our lives. Ten miserable years later, she filed for divorce. He got back in touch with me and were married two years after that. Luckily, in our case, everyone is civil to each other and we get along for the kids’ sake. I can’t imagine being forced into this situation, and I really, really feel your pain – I don’t particularly like her, and I’m certain the feeling is mutual, and despite the fact that we’re all civil doesn’t change the fact that having to work under her would just be untenable.

                  My advice is, as others are saying, see what you can do about getting a good reference from your current boss (I ended up using a coworker instead of my boss in the above situation – my boss was not willing to give me a positive reference. I used the reasoning that my coworker saw more of my day-to-day work, and it worked just well enough for me to move on from that).

                  My other (small) word of advice is that, as hard and impossible as it may seem, do try to give her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to maintaining professional boundaries. Be wary of course and document, document, document….but I feel like if I expect the worst out of someone, my attitude gets worse and it’s harder to divorce my personal feelings from the situation. It has so much potential for drama, it would be a shame for you to start reading things into the situation that might not even be there.

                  Best of luck – I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

                2. Red Stapler*

                  This just seems like a huge liability for the company, the boss specifically chose to manage you, HR has been warned that there is a significant legal history, your boss’s boss was involved in paying for the divorce. It seems like HR would want you as far away from this woman as possible, they certainly can’t say that it was unforeseeable if she ends up harassing you.

                3. Midge*

                  She specifically chose to be in a job where she got to be your manager?? Man, this woman is definitely committed to being vindictive. While I would certainly not be happy if my marriage broke up the way hers did, I can’t imagine going out of my way to inject that grudge into my working life. She would be so much better off trying to move on.

                  Anyway, I’m so sorry this is the situation you’re in. Like others have said, document everything she does to you (because I’m assuming she will not actually be professional). Sounds like HR is already pretty biased toward her, and there might not be anything legally actionable, but you never know. Good luck with your job search so you can get out of there!

                4. TWAndrews*

                  Document every interaction with her. Either she decides to be professional, and you deal with the awkwardness, or she is vindictive and awful and with sufficient documentation, you’ll be in a stronger position to negotiate an exit.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Did you ask your lawyer if this would be considered a constructive discharge? It seems like it would be a totally untenable situation—for your potential boss as well as for you. (That said, I’m not an employment lawyer, so my instincts on this could be way off.)

      1. Rachel - Letter #1*

        The lawyer I consulted with said it was a nice thing that they were doing but it wasn’t illegal and wouldn’t be considered constructive under the law here. Obviously it was not what I was hoping to hear.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        See above! It’s not about whether something would be emotionally untenable; it tends to be about more black and white stuff than that (pay, location, etc.).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          If it’s any help in sorting out why it sounds like we’re asking the same thing repeatedly, Turanga and my comments were made early last night (i.e., before the comments above were posted).

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#1, I am so sorry you’re going through this and that this is the position your HR has adopted… because it is certifiably batshit crazy. The only silver lining I can see is that they don’t give anyone severance, which indicates they don’t really care much about many (if any) of their employees.

      If you can bear it, I’d continue going to work and being insanely professional while you job search. And if HR puts you in a position where your new boss is harassing you (in the colloquial, not the legal sense), it may be worth asking your attorney if there are constructive discharge laws in your state. But I am truly so sorry that you’ve had to endure this, and I’m sending you a great deal of sympathy.

      1. Rachel - Letter #1*

        Thanks! The lawyer I consulted with said it wouldn’t be considered constructive under the laws where we are. It does hurt to think they don’t value me enough to help me but at the same time I appreciate your point that by not giving severance they are showing they don’t value anyone.

        1. Gadfly*

          On the bright side, I suspect that they will have to be scrupulously professional about things if they do let you go with cause because otherwise at that point you might have something more to argue, at least for unemployment. Like “they did not follow standard procedure,had double standards, etc due to personal history.” Just because there is nothing yet does not mean that will continue to be true. They either can be excruciatingly professional or they can behave badly and create openings to where it crosses a line into constructive discharge or something else. Assuming that they stay professional to avoid that, it gives you a little time to look. Just long term you will need to leave.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            This is an excellent point. While you are stuck there, please make sure you keep off site copies of everything that might be relevant (performance reviews, emails, etc). HR insists that she will be professional, so make sure that if anything happens that is not, you have documentation.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Yes, please keep copies, and off-site, in case something goes horribly wrong one day, and you get marched out. Or quit.

              If you and your boss do manage to remain professional, you’ll have time to do a proper job hunt, without stressing out too much or jumping at the first job on offer, which may not even tell you what you’ll be paid until after you’ve worked there for the first week (OP#3 -What the HELL?! That is just… No words. Nope.)

              Anyway, my advice is to be as professional and polite as possible, until you have a GOOD job, elsewhere. If anyone screws it up, let it be the boss, and then you might just have a case. As it is, you can’t get the constructive dismissal preemptively, nor can you have a hostile workplace, preemptively. It may develop, in which case, have all the documentation. And if it does not develop, and your boss does maintain professional behavior, then count your blessings and take the time for your job search.

              Good luck!

              1. OhBehave*

                While you job search, absolutely document everything in your dealings with new boss. I would communicate with her via email as much as possible. If she becomes abusive or outrageous, you have documentation. She is going to try to make your life miserable. Does her ex know you will be working for her?
                Do your level best to maintain your professionalism.

        2. UI Benefits Know-How*

          Hi Rachel. IMNAL, but I have worked in the unemployment world for many years. Unemployment is designed for those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Typically a voluntary quit is not a qualifying issue, however if one can show “good cause attributable to the employer or the job” you may prevail with the state and be allowed benefits. The situation you described is one that would appear that any reasonable person would have no choice but to leave. Check with your state unemployment office for possible legal advocates to work with you. It seems that the lawyer you consulted may only be looking at your case in light of whether it would be a legally wrongful discharge. Unemployment benefits do not determine if an employer should or should not have terminated someone, it only determines if unemployment benefits should be allowed.

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            Thanks for the information! Unfortunately where I am I won’t qualify if I quit and if the company has to fire me for cause they stated they will contest my unemployment and the lawyer said they will prevail. I appreciate it though.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Has your lawyer told you that you won’t qualify for unemployment or are you assuming that? It’s true that generally you won’t qualify if you quit, but there are times when you can qualify even if quitting, depending on the circumstances. This may be one, and it would be worth talking to your local unemployment agency.

              1. fposte*

                It’s also usually a pretty easy thing to do to apply and to appeal a denial, so I’d encourage you to do so anyway.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  Just as an FYI, though, if the OP is granted benefits based on their initial application, it’s also possible for benefits to be retroactively denied on appeal, in which case she would have to pay back anything she’d received. Considering the appeal process can take a while, this can get ugly quickly.

                2. fposte*

                  Oh, that’s a point. And this definitely isn’t a situation where one can take vindictiveness off the table.

              2. Rachel - Letter #1*

                Thanks for answering my question Alison! My lawyer says the law is clear and advised me not to quit as I would definitely not get unemployment. He phoned the unemployment office during the consultation to ask them questions. I will give them a try but given what the law says I’m not optimistic.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I am not optimistic about a lawyer who has to phone the unemployment office WHILE YOU ARE SITTING THERE (!!!) to ask questions. An experienced employment lawyer should have already been able to tell you what the rules are in your state and the likelihood of qualifying for unemployment.

                  You might want a second opinions.

                2. Anna*

                  Yeah…I feel like your lawyer may not be as well-versed in how things go. I mean, it does vary by state, but both times I was denied initially, my appeal was granted and neither one of those situations was anywhere near as potentially fraught with landmines as yours.

                  I would skip the lawyer and speak directly to the UI office, explain the situation, and see if you have any recourse.

                3. MT*

                  Neverjaunty, the prob is that with Unemployment, the decision tree is not set in stone, and up up either a judge or a worker in the Unemployment office to make the call if they feel like there should be an exception.

                  I feel better about an attorney who knows where to find the right answer and willing to seek help when needed vs knowing every little nuisance off the top of their head. Still a second opinion never hurts.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I agree with neverjaunty that this attorney does not seem particularly competent in unemployment law. Truly, you should not have to call in a consult in front of your client to obtain the information, and unless case law on the issue is very clear (and it doesn’t sound like he did any case research, so I’m skeptical), his approach is not normal when compared to other employment lawyers.

                  That said, Rachel, I encourage you to speak to the unemployment folks directly. The attorney may have failed to pick up key issues that you’ll notice simply because he’s processing the information you’re giving him differently than you are and is missing red flags. In the meantime, don’t quit. But keep notes about everything and either print (and keep hard copies) or bcc key correspondence to yourself.

          2. Shadow*

            how so? If I say I can’t work for someone bc of a personal, non-work related reason how is that attributable to the employer?

            1. Anna*

              Because only a seriously dumb bureaucrat would take a look at this situation and say, “This is completely reasonable and the employer is handling it appropriately. There is no way this will impact the OP professionally and it makes absolute sense for her to keep working for this manager and company.”

        3. Jessesgirl72*

          It wouldn’t be constructive discharge now, before you’re working for her and/or she’s done anything to you, but might it be if the working conditions are what you think they will be?

        4. Oh They Didn't*

          Making you work with her may not be considered constructive discharge. But if you stick it out while job searching and she is mean or petty to you, her specific actions *may* rise to the level of constructive discharge, at that point.

      2. Kathleen Adams*

        I would have said that it’s clear the company doesn’t value the OP and wants her to get gone, but apparently they don’t value her boss-to-be either.

        Because this is ridiculous. Sure, we’re all supposed to be professionals, but as others have pointed out, do they expect us to be robots, too?

        I think you need to get out, OP, and so does your future boss. They are putting both of you in an absolutely untenable position, and no matter what they say, they could do something about it if they really wanted to. And clearly they don’t want to.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s possible that the company has asked future boss and she said “That was in the past; I can be professional at work.” It might even be possible that now, years later, she means it.

        2. Rachel - Letter #1*

          She accepted the role knowing I would be reporting to her and chose the position over a job in a different department. Given how things are gone in the past I have no doubt she wants to take things out on me. She is still angry at me and her ex-husband.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Well…of course she is. I mean, why shouldn’t she be? But the point is, neither of you should be put in this position.

            So I join my voice with that of everybody else who has said, “Polish up your resume, be as professional as you possibly can, and get the heck out ASAP.”

            1. Katie the Fed*

              She can be angry but also professional. It’s pretty poor judgment on her part to willingly take this particular position given the circumstances.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                Sure it is. But the OP can’t do anything about that, so it’s best if she concentrates on what she can do.

              2. Thlayli*

                Honestly I think it’s more likely she really doesn’t want to work with OP but is thinking “I’m not letting her ruin my career as well as my marriage – I’ll do what’s best for my career and just be a grown-up about it.”

                for this to be poor judgement would mean she was an extremely immature person who would intentionally sabotage her own career by taking a worse position just to be able to bully someone she dislikes.

                on the balance of probability I think it’s more likely she’s just doig what’s best for her own career and has no intention of dragging up the past in her new role.

                if I were in boss’s shoes I would be very careful not to let my dislike show because I woudk be worried my own career could be destroyed by bullying a subordinate over a personal issue.

          2. KellyK*

            This is why you need to be perfectly professional and document everything, off site where they can’t access it. And when she starts trying to take things out on you, in addition to documenting them, check back in with your lawyer. I don’t know the laws in your state, but putting you under someone who has a specific personal grudge seems pretty likely to turn into a constructive discharge once she starts going after you as your boss.

          3. TL -*

            So definitely be professional and polish up your resume. Give her a chance to be professional, at least, but if she’s not, definitely keep a written record of everything.
            There is a chance that, if she’s truly awful, she’ll use some gendered language and that can put you in a protected class.

          4. Mainly lurking*

            What? She was offered a different job and she CHOSE to manage you instead? And HR knew about your history and allowed it? Everything about this situation is toxic. I know there is a risk if you quit now, but I’m genuinely worried how much damage could be done once this woman becomes your manager, and has access to all your records and would be your reference for other jobs. I seriously think we quitting now is the safer option.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                There is another comment below noting that the manager was offered two “equivalent” positions and took this one after finding out that she’d be managing the OP. There absolutely look to be hard feelings here.

                1. The Supreme Troll*

                  I think for Rachel’s boss, this opportunity feels like opening gifts on Christmas morning (in a sense…a vengeful sense that is!). She is probably relishing the upcoming day!

          5. Chickaletta*

            Wait, you think she took the job as your manager just to make your life miserable? Ooo, I’d get out of there then. That’s no bueno. Start looking for another job.

            As for references, since you mentioned above why you won’t have one from this job or previous, start thinking outside the box. Any chance you’ve been doing volunteer work, are a member of a professional organization, or have other professional connections?

          6. Artemesia*

            Yes — you had a kid with her husband. She will be furious about that betrayal to her dying day. But since you are in this position if I were you I’d detach — become an anthropologist, find what humor you can in the situation, and do your best to do a great job while you of course search for another position.

            The management of the company is horrible. But don’t let them push you into doing something that disadvantages you.

            Hope you find something soon.

          7. Another First Wife*

            I admittedly am having trouble being super sympathetic, given that my marriage broke up over my ex having an affair with a coworker. With that said, if somehow things got shaken up between our companies and I was in the position of potentially being his fling’s manager? Absolutely not. This woman sounds like she seriously has it out for you if she’s choosing this role (and that HR and the other execs are totally find with this toxic behavior). Get your resume updated and start looking for a new job.

            1. Just_Dixie*

              I agree with you, Another First Wife. This happened to me as well (minus a child resulting from the affair). No amount of money would make me want to sign up for being the boss of the person my ex had an affair with, period! This is especially true if I was given an option of doing the exact same thing with the company in a different area from where this person worked. Seems like she deliberately chose to be the letter-writer’s boss and has a hidden agenda, imo. I don’t care how mature a person is, having to daily see and interact closely with someone who slept with your husband and produced a child just doesn’t seem like a typical reaction.

              1. Lora*

                Me three. Although given what happened afterwards (the hot affair dumped him when he signed the financial agreement in which I got most of the money), I’d probably buy her a beer because it was an endless source of amusement. But I still wouldn’t want to work with her, it would be too weird, even if only because I wouldn’t be able to stop giggling.

                Ah, memories…that still makes me smile…

          8. Anon55*

            Is that….surprising to you? I hear a whole lot of “woe is me” here – sometimes actions have consequences in life.

            1. Stephanie*

              Thank you! Maybe I have a different perspective, as I’m a psychologist- but, after 18 years in my field, I still don’t understand why people seem surprised when they make horrible decisions, then those decisions come back to bite them in the ass. My thought is, LW made her bed, now she has no one to blame but herself for the fact that she has to lie in it.

              1. Fushi*

                I don’t think it’s reasonable to act like OP should have anticipated this consequence. You wouldn’t say “you made your bed, so now that an unrelated third-party has set fire to the sheets you so conveniently placed there, you have to lie in it.” Like, yes, she screwed up, and she’s probably faced assorted consequences for it already, but suggesting that she should have expected her company to irrationally put her and ex-wife in a position that will be harmful to them both is really reaching. This is not “forseeable consequence” territory; this is her employer abusing their authority to punish her for something that’s not related to them, and it’s perfectly reasonable for her to want to minimize the damage.

                1. Anon55*

                  Completely agree that the employer’s actions are beyond wrong. What I was replying to was the “his ex-wife wants to punish me” comment, because it’s juuuuust a little rich, given the situation.

              2. Anon55*

                My best friend is a psychiatrist and we’ve discussed this phenomenon about a million times since she started practicing – truly head-scratching. Add a totally ridiculous employer to this situation and…what a clusterfudge!

              3. esra (also a Canadian)*

                I don’t think being employed while trying to take care of yourself and a child is really a bed you should just lie in because you made a bad decision. This isn’t really an appropriate ‘punishment’. OP is still entitled to do her job professionally and provide for her family, and this HR is insane to consider this scenario. New Boss was offered two positions, when she should have just been offered one.

              4. JulesCase*

                With all due respect, someone making their bed and then having to lie in it is usually along the lines of “You went out drinking until 2 am while knowing you had an 8 am meeting the following morning. Now, get your hungover ass into the shower!” Not “You had sex one night with a sleazy married dude who is a cheater and you happened to get pregnant then he later divorced his wife (who blames her miserable life and poor choice of men and following divorce partially on you) so now 12 years later after that incident, don’t you be surprised that the ex-wife is about to be your boss and most likely wants to make you pay for her then-husband’s transgressions since her company and yours are merging and she chose supervising you over another position – you OBVIOUSLY should have been prepared for this totally not-normal scenario, considering you had the one-night fling 12 years ago!!”

                Yeah, I can think of a lot of “you made your bed, now lie in it” situations, however OP 1’s current clusterfudge work set up? Not so much.

    4. TheLazyB*

      Rachel i would just like to send sympathy your way. You have terrible luck :( i hope the situation doesn’t work out too badly and that you can find something else soon.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I removed a comment here. We’re not going to get into questioning the OP’s choices in her private life here; please keep the focus on the question in the letter.

      1. Oryx*

        Thank you. I was worried this was going to turn into a pile on for reasons that have nothing to do with the OP’s question or professional life.

    6. Pascal*

      If you want to convince HR to change their minds you first have to understand what they are thinking. Their statement that your “new boss is a professional” may be a hint about their feelings towards your behavior. If they feel you have been, or are continuing to be unprofessional, they may be of a mind that you’ve made your own bed so why would they go out of their way to help you?

      There is always the chance HR is correct and she actually does behave professionally. If not, make sure you document everything. Don’t run back to HR at the first problem, but once you have a stack of documented unprofessionalism perhaps they will fire her. You may even get promoted into her position, if you behave professionally the whole time. You lose it just once though, they will see it as more evidence of your unprofessionalism and she will have cause to fire you.

      1. Logical*

        I feel that it is literally impossible for either of them to be ‘professional’ in this scenario. They’d both have to be robots.

        1. MK*

          I have seen it done by people who were not robots. It is possible that the manager will have cooled down a lot in the intervening years, maybe she is in such a great place in her life that she no longer cares, etc., if their work relationship doesn’t require much interaction maybe she will grit her teeth and be polite for the shake of her career, It’s still pretty unreasonable of HR to not try to resolve this some other way.

            1. Mike C.*

              Be creative. It’s really not that difficult when people are willing to be flexible. The fact that they aren’t shows that HR just doesn’t care.

                1. Logical*

                  This doesn’t seem particularly considerate toward the manager either. A decent manager above that person would say. “I’d rather not set you up for interpersonal conflict – I’d like you to take the other role.”

                  If she thinks she can be professional, she’s likely setting herself up to fail, and if she wants to get revenge, she’s putting herself in a very dodgy situation. A good manager would steer her clear of both.

            2. Kathleen Adams*

              And apparently they don’t care about the OP’s soon-to-be boss, either. Because this is…earlier I said ridiculous, but a better word might be “preposterous” or “outrageous.”

              This is not right, and HR has to know that, and they clearly are simply hoping it resolves itself on its own.

              1. MT*

                We don’t know if the OP’s new boss even cares. Who knows, maybe HR doesn’t care. This situation is a coin flip for me. Neither side is completely right, or wrong. Then I just default to , let private businesses run themselves as they see fit.

              2. Jessesgirl72*

                Or maybe they are more than willing to let the OP’s boss get whatever revenge she wants.

                It’s more likely they don’t care about any of their employees, as you say, but the OP says she’s friendly with her boss and grandboss- to the point where the person who paid the boss’s legal fees has the same or similar name as the boss’s boss! Given that level of workplace incest, it’s not that out-there to posit they are doing this, and not giving the OP any other option- as a favor to the boss.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  I think that’s certainly possible, but it seems more likely to me that they just don’t care enough to try to manage the situation.

            3. MK*

              I don’t think they have an absolute obligation to find another position for the OP, but it is unreasonable that they won’t even try. I mean, if they told the OP they would look into it and then came back with “We studied the new merged company’s chart and tried to find a place for you that doesn’t report to this manager, but unfrotunately there is no suitable opening”, I would agree that they did their job in good faith.

              1. Anna*

                Yeah, the idea there is absolutely no other position anywhere available. Right. Because nobody was moving on anyway, or thought that a good time to go would be during a merger. HR is being incredibly lazy and thoughtless. And frankly not taking their job of protecting the company and the employees from liability very seriously either.

          1. Thlayli*

            Exactly. People say and do things in divorces when feelings are high. Things change over time. Given that the manager “won” in the divorce she may well have gotten over it.

            Start looking for another job and in the meantime be super professional and polite, never bring it up and keep an open mind – she may be over it entirely.

            IF she starts treating you badly then keep note of everything that happens and evidence if you have any. There may well be a case for constructive dismissal IF e.g. She starts bullying you.

            1. Thlayli*

              Also – it may be helpful to eat in mind that people manage to be cordial with their partners ex’s all the time when children are involved. If you were stil with him and he had kids with his ex, then you would be her kids stepmother and would have to deal with her all the time. Many people manage this very well an if they can do it so can you!

              I wouldn’t be so certain that the reason she chose this job over the other option was just to get back at you. There could be any number of reasons why she chose this job over the other.

              Honestly the best thing you can do is look for a job and in the meantime be as professional and polite as possible and document anything she does to treat you badly. And try not to prejudge her, she may well behave professionally, you don’t know.

              1. Rachel - Letter #1*

                They did not have kids together. I’m thankful for that only because she would have made it that much worse for him if there were kids involved. According to him they don’t have contact except through lawyers. Given the history and her feelings towards me I don’t doubt why she took the job. She is still angry at both of us.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  Rachel, I don’t mean to pile on or anything, but…of course she’s mad at you. I’m not saying she will never, ever get over it (though some people never do), but you keep saying “She is still angry at both of us” that as though it is something wild and weird. It’s not. It’s in fact normal. Positioning herself to become your supervisor so she can get back at you would NOT be normal, but being mad at you is completely normal, and it’s even more normal and understandable that she’s still mad at her cheatin’ ex-husband.

                2. Willis*

                  I think the “She is still angry at both of us” info is directed to the many comments that have wondered whether the soon-to-be-boss took the job because she considers the situation water under the bridge. The OP is giving more context in response to people’s questions.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Willis, agreed, it seems fairly clear that the implication is “she’s still angry at both of us – that’s why I don’t want to be her subordinate” rather than “she’s still angry at both of us, how dare she?”

                4. Devil's Advocate*

                  Just a thought….could the fact that you two have a kid together make it worse? She may have been unable to have kids. It would be a very long time before I could get over my husband having a kid with the person he had an affair with when I couldn’t have kids.

                  On that vein, I would recommend not having any pictures of your child at your work station

                5. Marcela*

                  @Devil, if my current OW has a child with my cheating husband, I am going to know a hate without end. I cannot conceive. It is going to be worse, a lot worse. However, I am determined to save myself from being as low as they are, so I would never want to even breath the same air as the despicable OW.

          2. Logical*

            There’s a difference between being able to get along at a potluck or while discussing custody and putting a person in a position of power over someone they have a grudge against.

            Leaving out the personal elements, I wouldn’t want a staff member managing someone they’d last seen in court. As a HR person I would be having nightmares about the potential liability. None of this seems remotely sensible.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Oh goodness, it hadn’t even occurred to me that they were implying she was unprofessional. If this is their perspective then it’s horribly judgemental (OP works for them and is a human being) and sadly a sign that you do need a new job.

        1. Rachel - Letter #1*

          No one at this job said I was unprofessional. They said my new boss will act like a professional in this situation and I am expected to as well.

          1. Karen D*

            Honestly, Rachel, my heart is breaking for you. You’ve had such a series of blows here.

            That said, it seems clear to me that there’s more bad weather ahead. You’ve made it very clear; there is no legal recourse for you that lets you keep your economic situation and your personal happiness intact, at least in the short run.

            You’ve also said you see no way to work with the Ex, that you’re convinced she’s gunning for you and will actively try to make your life hell. You’re probably right.

            But. Consider this. Your company has said — and let’s give them the benefit of the doubt here — that they expect Ex to be professional. Even if they said it with a smirk and a significant nod toward the door, they said it. If you stay — if you can steel yourself to work with Ex, if you can maintain a high level of professionalism yourself (no matter what the provocation), if you can keep up a high standard of work — you will be much better-positioned to find a new job, or even make a case for a transfer if that becomes available. Somebody will probably be watching this situation — even if it seems like they don’t care — and if they see you acting above reproach and your boss being vengeful and petty, they may reconsider and help you find another spot.

            I worked for someone who hated my guts for a short time. He publicly stripped me of any status. He contradicted me and berated me in front of co-workers and outsiders. He did his best to isolate me. I stuck it because I didn’t have any choice: I was frantically job-searching but right at that point, there was nothing. It was hell, and I did everything I could think of to get through it, from the pathetic to the bizarre (I wrote a lot of very angsty fiction featuring pitiful doomed queens and improbably gorgeous martyrs during that period). But I stuck it out.

            I don’t think I ever earned the respect of the people who put that bad boss in that position in the first place, and they certainly never defended me. But they let me be, and things got better. I’m still at that job and now things are fantastic.

            (It’s so weird that today I have not one, but two personal experiences that kind of go against the flow, but I’ve been working a very long time so it was bound to happen at some point.)

            1. OhBehave*

              WOW Karen D, such perseverance!

              OP has a no-win situation here. She needs to make a decision as to whether dealing with this new boss is doable for the next several months or quit now. OP has stated that she cannot afford to quit now, so she needs to stick to it and weather the storm. It’s going to be hard. Possibly the hardest things she’s ever done.

              New boss is justified in still being mad at both of them; they did cheat on her and changed her whole world. She is NOT justified in wreaking havoc on OP’s work life.

              1. Karen D*

                Right. She went straight to “I have to quit, I have no choice,” and I know there were so many times that I was just sitting in my office, trying not to cry (sometimes failing) and thinking “OK, this latest thing is it. I have no choice. I have to leave. I can’t take it any more.”

                But like OP, every other option looked worse, at least in the short term. So I stuck it out. Boss eventually (rather abruptly) left. They hired AwesomeBoss, to whom I’ve sung hosannas many times in this forum. It took him about a month just to coax me out from under my desk, but things are fantastic now.

                1. OhBehave*

                  Why am I picturing you under your desk while your boss holds out a bar of chocolate (the only reason I would come out of hiding!)? LOL

              2. JulesCase*

                @OhBehave. – Just a small yet very important correction to your comment: “THEY” did not cheat on Rachel’s soon-to-be-boss. The HUSBAND cheated on Rachel’s soon-to-be-boss; Rachel had zero relationship/contractual obligation/loyalty with or towards her soon-to-be-boss during the fling.

                I might be alone in this, but it will forever baffle me beyond words how people will be pissed off at the other woman yet give the MARRIED dude a pass for cheating on his wife. What’s up with that?! Seriously, it’s the husband who is being a complete bastard. Half the time the other woman is in the dark about the guy even being married! Either way, the only person a wife should be upset with is the person she is married to who broke the marriage vows – HE did wrong, so despite the need to blame anyone else BUT him, all anger should be laser-pointed at the cheatin’ spouse. The “other woman” is just one more person the cheater has duped. And believe me, if it wasn’t the other woman you know he cheated with, he would have been with a different other woman……

                Sorry but I’ll never ever understand this.

                1. Devil's Advocate*

                  Because the know the person they are sleeping with is married. It’s like money–just because I didn’t steal it doesn’t mean I should use it.

                2. Joe*

                  @Devil’s Advocate: Nope, nope, nope. She is not at all responsible for this person keeping or not keeping their vows of monogamy. The ONLY person at fault here is the husband who decided to break his vows. The woman did nothing wrong, and should not be penalized in any way for it.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Their feelings toward you: OP, small consolation but it might not be personal against just you, it might be a way of life for HR. They treat everyone this way.

        I had a boss who ended up supervising her husband’s ex. She did not leave her husband, they stayed together. I can tell you first hand that the tension in the department was INCREDIBLE.
        Yes, both women remained professional as possible under the circumstances but there was that sense of we were all waiting for an explosion. People took sides. My solution to the whole thing was to ignore it and treat each person with the same level of respect/courtesy. This did nothing to get rid of the knot in my stomach. Not really a big deal considering what other people were working through, but it made me realize that it had to be hugely difficult for them.

        You may work for a company that believes business first, people second. As in, a DISTANT second. That is what we had on our hands, the company did not care about the people doing the work. You can try to look at this by considering other things you have seen with your company. For example, my company had a lonnnng history of choosing company needs over employee well-being. Matter of fact we were told things, “Go ahead. Quit. I have a dozen resumes on my desk of people who want your job.”

        Again, small consolation and I do realize this. However, surrounding context can help to give you perspective so that you are able to move forward.

        I have a story that I hope it helps with looking at the differences in employers. One job I worked at an employee took a company vehicle and drove across country. His intention was to keep the vehicle. However that plan backfired when he ran out of money. He could not even buy gas. So he called the employer and my boss sent him money to bring the vehicle back home. The employee brought the vehicle back and remained employed.
        My punchline here is that some employers understand that each person is a resource. Some employers understand that stuff happens. These employers find ways to move on and keep their people in place. I am sure in my story the employee was told “You do this again and it is going to rain in your life!” However, fair is fair and the employee kept his word and so did my boss. Differences in companies.

        1. Allypopx*

          I just don’t understand how companies expect employees to function and be productive in that kind of environment (the first story, specifically). Human Resources should, in my opinion, treat humans as resources and understand that morale impacts output. Greatly.

          1. Mike C.*

            Reasonable companies wouldn’t let this happen in the first place. It’s textbook conflict of interest.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Actually that’s a thought – OP have you checked whether there’s a personal boundaries policy at your work? Mine doesn’t allow people with close personal connections to work together and in this scenario the policy would require them to reassign you or her.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            See letter 3, where the company doesn’t understand why employees get het up about “being paid.” Alarmingly, a recurring theme.

        2. Shadow*

          Okay I wouldn’t categorize a company not firing an employee who stole a company car as understanding. I’d categorize it as incredibly risky and misguided. How do you ever justify firing someone for theft when a current employee steals a car and doesn’t get fired?

      4. Dani X*

        It does seem like the company thinks the OP is unprofessional. They told her that if she just stops coming into work they will fire her, so for some reason they think that is something that she might do. I would say that your best bet is finding a new job – sounds like the bridges are burnt here.

        1. fposte*

          Or they’re just experienced; sometimes people do try to get themselves fired (we had a post about somebody’s dad trying to do it just a couple of weeks ago).

          1. Anna*

            Sometimes experience is our biggest enemy. It’s what keeps us from seeing bigger potential issues than “This employee may try to get fired to get away from this manager and collect UI.”

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I think they’re making a dumb mistake by not making the OP’s exit an easy and cushioned one. I’m even more baffled by the no-reference thing–employees quit and still retain references all the time.

    7. Greg M.*

      You will want to document everything. Every comment, every slight, date time witnesses not them and keep them in a safe place.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Also, if you live in a state that allows one-party taping of conversations (www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/tape-recording-laws-glance), you might want to use your phone to record any conversations related to this issue.

    8. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Good luck with your job search and hope you find something soon. It really hurts when a company (or anyone, really) sees you this way.

      If you can, it might be worth taking up JessaB’s suggestion above and asking the unemployment office if you can get benefits in your situation. Every area is different, of course, but if you use her wording of ‘on the opposite side of a court case’, they might be willing to make an exception. (They might not, but it could be worth a try.)

      In addition to the excellent advice others have offered, you may also want to consider how to answer the question of why you left your last job (I’m no good at answering that, but again, JessaB’s wording above might work).

      Good luck, hope all goes well for you!

      1. Rachel - Letter #1*

        Thanks I appreciate it! The law here is that if I quit I am not eligible and the company stated if I am fired for cause they will contest any unemployment I file and the lawyer I consulted said they will prevail. So I am out of luck it looks like for that avenue.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Thank you for the update and information. I am so upset to hear this because the company is simply being cruel because they can. Honestly, if I could give you a job, I would. Sending you all the good thoughts.

        2. blackcat*

          Well, it depends on what they cite as that cause, and if they can prove it.

          If, for example, you are fired for taking a single day of sick leave and none of your coworkers are, I strongly suspect you could get unemployment. I might consult with another lawyer if I were you–get a list of the things that CAN get you unemployment, and be on the look out for those.

    9. Allie*

      HR is being absurd here. I think they probably expect you to quit. I know this is hard but just hold on for now and keep your head down and send out your resume asap. Document and keep your self as strict to policy as you can for now.

      I want to emphasize something: this is not your fault. Whatever choices you made in the past are over and done and your job years down the line absolutely should not be at risk as a result. No one deserves this.

      1. CBH*

        +1 will said Allie

        Rachel – is this whole take over/ reporting to the ex wife happening right now? I mean do you have a few weeks transition before everything is in full effect? What I am getting at (and even if everything is happening right now)… I think you have some recourse if the ex makes a hostile environment. That aside I think regardless of outcome, if you stay, its just going to be a challenging environment. The past is the past but it sounds like the ex will do everything to keep this topic fresh in everyone’s mind. As everyone is advising you step up your job search, sign up with placement agencies, send out your resume, network with everyone and anyone in a variety of fields, be open to working in another field – just something to get your foot out the door on stable ground. I guess the whole point is that if you are still in a transition period and if you attack your job search with gusto you could possibly avoid the whole situation. If you are already reporting to the ex, then doubling up on your efforts only gets you to move on from the situation sooner.

        By the way, I realize this is a personal issue but HR seems to be avoiding it at all costs.

        Just a side thought, Any chance your son’s father has something in the divorce agreement about treatment (ie not harrassing) the mother of his child? If she took him to the cleaners is it possible his lawyer was able to get his issues solved in a non monetary way? Good luck. Keep us posted.

        1. CBH*

          Rachel I know this is going to sound extreme (I watched too many movies on my part!). Someone mentioned keeping a record of emails and interaction off site if you ever needed a defense. Is there any laws in your state about recording conversations? Just turn your phone on and leave it in your pocket when corresponding with the ex. If she does go to the extreme to ruin your professional career, its only logical that you be able to defend yourself. If not do you have an ally at work that can be present when ever you talk with her?

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            Where I live everyone has to consent to being recorded and the company has a similar policy. The lawyer I spoke to warned me about secretly recording her because that could mean civil or criminal trouble. I have no doubt she would have me arrested and take me to court over it. There is nothing in the divorce settlement about me. He didn’t get any issues solved in the settlement.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The attorney was right on this count—every time someone recommends surreptitiously recording the other person, my brain bleeds a little. I would avoid all of this, but do take good notes, and take them regularly. If you can show that you keep regular notes or a regular diary, it can help down the line if you have to appeal unemployment or (lord forbid) end up in litigation.

    10. Czhorat*

      I’m sorry to hear about this as well, and appreciate your candor in bringing up the whole situation.

      If it’s any consolation, after a merger they’re likely looking for even more ways to trim headcount and cost. With your boss and their boss leaving there’s really nobody left to go to bat for you, while she still has her natural power-structure in place. So it’s not “choosing” one over the other, it’s just a case of a soulless corporation doing what soulless corporations do; focusing on the bottom line while ignoring personal issues and factors. If you’ve been around for a while and quit, they might just replace you with someone cheaper – or not replace you at all.

      It sucks, but it’s what it is. I’m sure your lawyer is right; a corporation is under no obligation to make work personally conflict-free, and their might calculate that the relatively low risk of you taking them to court and fighting it out isn’t worth the cost of paying you off. They might judge that having been through the divorce battle you aren’t really interested in fighting it out and dragging your messy personal life to court.

      Again, I’m sorry. Sometimes ghosts from your past come back to hurt you, and there’s not much you can do about it save move on.

    11. Karyn*


      I would file for unemployment even if you do quit. It can’t hurt; if they don’t respond, there’s a chance you could get it by default. Good luck!

      1. Rachel - Letter #1*

        Unfortunately Karyn the law says I’m not eligible if I quit. If I get fired for cause HR stated the company will contest. The lawyer I consulted said they will prevail and I won’t get it if I quit.

        1. Winifred Tigerlily*

          Of course your company will contest an unemployment claim. That’s what they always say.

          I’m in Massachusetts… I resigned from an awful job (they changed the job description and duties, and my boss constantly berated me for not knowing how to do it) and I filed for unemployment, even though the UI office told me I was ineligible since I’d resigned. The company contested the claim and I appealed. Got a lawyer, had 6 hours of hearings before a UI arbitrator, and I won the full amount to which I was entitled. My lawyer found employment law precedent that showed I was eligible for benefits for resigning from a job that had fundamentally changed from the one for which I was hired. Keep a log of behavior and interactions, as others have noted, and you may find precedent on your side regardless. Good luck in your unhappy situation.

        2. partgypsy*

          I was going to say the same thing HR is of course going to say you are not eligible. It is the Unemployment office who decides who gets benefits, not HR. I know in my sister’s case, she had a situation where she was essentially fired (given no additional shifts) but also told by the job she wasn’t eligible for unemployment. She filed for unemployment and got it anyways.

          My advice is, either file for unemployment explaining the situation. Or stick with it, be as professional as possible, and force them to fire you. Them saying in advance if they fire you for cause you will be ineligible, is again, not true. If their fire for cause is trumped up, you will be eligible. There is a strong case that if you stay, do your job and are then fired for cause (after working there successfully for years), that by explaining the situation to Unemployment they will rule in your favor. The caveat being, you need to be professional and do your job.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Although Rachel could certainly give it a shot just in case, she would need to be careful because if the office reviews her claim (which they likely would if the employer challenges it, and could even do on their own if they think it looks questionable) they could require her to pay back any benefits she’s received. That can be even worse than not getting benefits in the first place.

        1. Karyn*

          Wouldn’t the office review the claim before they pay out any benefits? That’s how it works in all the states I’ve lived in, but I suppose YMMV. Thanks for pointing that out!

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Yes they do, but there are multiple levels of review – in my state the initial grant of benefits is usually issued based on the information submitted by the former employee, and is probably decided by a lower-level state employee who handles tons of applications at a time. The department might start issuing benefits right away, and then later have a higher level review by state attorneys based on additional information received from the company, or the case might get flagged for follow-up for whatever reason and you have to submit additional information (this actually happened to me once – I reported some part-time income and they asked for additional verification) which might trigger an additional review.

            In a really nightmare situation, your file might end up being reviewed when *you* submit supplemental information or even when you cancel your benefits, if it brings something to the attention of the state that they’d missed. Not to scare people, just to let you know that claw-backs absolutely can happen. And since appeals can take months if not years, I can’t imagine that any state waits until all potential reviews have been exhausted before issuing benefits.

          2. Jenny*

            In law school clinic I represented an unemployment hearing that I thought had no way of succeeding (bad info got dropped on us the day before), but somehow it worked and the guy got his benefits (judge new a technicality we hadn’t even found, I can’t take credit for winning).

          3. Not Yet Looking*

            The one time I lost unemployment benefits upon appeal, I received benefits up until the appeal was resolved, and while I did have to pay them back, I had a few YEARS to do so.

      1. Work Hydra*

        You are being incredibly unkind. Not only that, you are not being very constructive either. If you are simply looking for a place to vent frustration about extra marital affairs, this is not the place.

        OP1, I’m sorry you are going through all of this. The important thing is that you see the companys’ true colours, and therefore are able to make a decision to not waste anymore time with them. I know it looks bleak now, but trust me when I say that there are almost certainly way better opportunities out there. Best of luck in your search!

    12. Roscoe*

      I don’t know if it means you aren’t valued, they just value your potential manager more, which does make since if she is a manager.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        The company has effectively sided with the potential manager. Try to keep it reasonable as long as you can and start looking for a new position immediately.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          I don’t think what they’re doing to the prospective manager is particularly kind or helpful either. The OP has said elsewhere that she’s indicated that she’s fine with it, but even if that’s so…what the heck? Nobody sees any red flags here? Nobody thinks there might just be a better solution? They think putting these two together and letting them out-polite each other is a good thing?


          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Ooh, bad writing on my part. When I said “she’s indicated she’s fine with it,” I meant the boss-to-be has indicated that she’s OK with it.

        2. Roscoe*

          I wouldn’t say they “sided” with anyone. It seems they don’t want to let social dynamics impact the work decisions. So basically, they had a plan to merge and what department would go where. This unfortunate situation occurred based on the plans that they made. They aren’t letting this past incident affect a much bigger business decisions. So they effectively said you can deal with it or you can leave, but we aren’t changing our plans. I don’t necessarily think its a bad way to go. Yes, it could end up bad, but chances are there were much bigger stakes in this than this one employee.

    13. Tala*

      OP#1 who brought the issue of your history together to HR – you or her? You mention she took the job knowing your role reports to her but I’m wondering if HR knew at that stage that you have an unpleasant history or whether the first they heard of it was when you raised concerns about it. If you’re the one who brought it up it may be that HR see you as a ‘trouble maker’ making an issue of something your new boss was apparently fine with…

      She may well try and be professional and may succeed for a while but you’re both human and there’s a lot of water under your bridge. How your Company has handled it so far doesn’t instill confidence about how they’d handle things if they go south. Documenting everything is all well and good but it becomes tiring and tedious and may well affect your wellbeing. I’d be jobhunting like my life depended on it!

    14. Miaw*

      I am sorry to hear about this. But from what I have read so far, looks like the higher ups are on your new boss’s side and are making things hard on you on purpose. I think it is time to look for a new job and I hope you & your kids are fine.

  4. LadyL*

    LW #2: I was once given the advice that you should hold on to gift cards for when you’re struggling, because they’re easier to save than cash. So if they’re practical ones (like Visa) you have a safety net for necessities when you’re low on cash. If they’re more fun gift cards (like Starbucks) you can use them as an excuse to treat yourself when you’re not in a position to otherwise. Maybe your employees are of that same mindset and are treasuring your gift card, to save for a rainy day.

    1. Emelle*

      I have a handful of GC to a kitchen store I love. I carry them with me so I when I get a free moment to wander the store without kids, I can buy something. The thing is, I have it narrowed down to like 30 things that I would like to buy… But I am holding out for some sort of miraculous Le Creuset sale. Or more GC at the end of this school year, or I win the lottery.

      I would be horrified if I knew someone came behind me and checked on the balance and called me out on it.

      I also have a bunch of Starbucks cards that I am saving for Disney World because I like a mug that a friend bought at Epcot’s Sbux. Again, there is a plan… It just may not be in the time that the giver expects me to use it.

      1. Casuan*

        Emelle, are you certain that the EPCOT Starbucks will accept the Starbucks cards? Sometimes niche locations won’t accept them.

        1. Manderley*

          Our Barnes & Noble Starbucks doesn’t accept their gift cards. We have to use the standalone store – the one with the bad parking and long drive through lines.

          1. Mother of Cats*

            The cafes in most B&N locations aren’t Starbucks, they’re B&N cafes with B&N employees that serve SBUX coffee. They take B&N giftcards.

            1. Oryx*

              Yes, this. I worked at a B&N Cafe and around Christmas, when people were getting Starbucks gift cards, we always had to explain that we couldn’t accept them.

            2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              However, if there is a Target, grocery store, or other store with a Starbucks in it, those are actually Starbucks. B&N is an outlier in that case! (friend and I used to work for B&N and she transferred into the cafe for a while – it happens really often)

              1. drashizu*

                Basically, you have to look at the sign – a real Starbucks will say it’s a Starbucks. A Barnes & Noble cafe will have a sign that says “Barnes & Noble Cafe, serving Starbucks coffee” or something like that.

                (Also, there’s an easy cheat: if you’re in Starbucks often enough to be familiar with the pastry case & non-coffee branded items like the Teavana teas, any cafe you’re in that has a different pastry selection and different teas is not a real Starbucks, they’re just serving the coffee. B&N cafes have Cheesecake Factory pastries and sandwiches and Harney & Sons tea, if things are still the way they were when I worked there.)

        2. Noobtastic*

          You can call WDW, and they’ll be able to tell you. I’d hate to get my heart set on it, only to be shot down at the time. Better to know in advance.

        3. Red Reader*

          We were just at WDW a couple months ago and my fiancé used Sbux gift cards at sbux inside two of the parks. (Naturally, Epcot was not one of them, but it worked in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.)

        4. Emelle*

          Yes! Or at least last summer they did. I used one to get caffeinated for a very late night!

        5. Bonky*

          I’m not sure what the Starbucks business model in the US is, but in the UK they have a lot of stores run by franchisees, and those do not take gift cards (or Starbucks cards, which is very annoying!)

        6. SL #2*

          Disney property Starbucks (yes, the ones inside the parks) take Starbucks gift cards! I’ve been able to use mine with no problem at 3 different Starbucks inside Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot.

          1. Director of Things*

            I’ll be there on Wednesday and look forward to putting my Starbucks GC to good use! ;)

            1. Those were the days*

              Once upon a time, before there were Starbucks, cell phones & polyester that only existed in two versions of hot & thin material or hot & thick material… I worked at Experimental Polyester Costumes of Tomorrow.
              It was also known as Every Paycheck Comes on Thursday.

    2. bridget*

      Totally plausible explanation, out of many. (Although I would probably be skeptical of this advice personally – “saving” gift cards has the downsides of forgetting you have them when the rainy day comes, or inadvertently missing an expiration date, or the business in question going out of business, or any number of things. Barring the downfall of our country, cash will always be case, minus erosion from inflation).

      Also LW#2, think about it more like if you had found out you gave someone a bottle of wine and it’s still unopened in their pantry nine months later. At most, you file it away in your brain for next time that it appears so-and-so isn’t a fan of Cabernet, maybe pick something else next time (or ask for feedback about what people would like). Then put it out of your mind and move on.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think there are laws (at least in the US) against gift cards expiring. That’s why when you buy a Groupon or LivingSocial deal, there is fine print that says the promotional value expires on X date, but the amount you paid never expires.

        I’ve definitely read advice that suggests people buy gift cards out of each paycheck through the year to use for their Christmas shopping, so it’s plausible that people are saving them for some specific reason.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          A coworker of mine a few jobs ago used that strategy for her Christmas shopping, and swore by it! She used Visa gift cards, so that savings was also usably there in case of an emergency, rather than committing the funds to any one particular shop.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          The laws are State dependent, not National. California has the law, but not all do.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Actually, as of 2010 the CARD Act prohibits inactivity fees for the first year after purchase and prohibits expiry of gift cards until five years after purchase in the US. State laws can expand those protections, but absent any state law the national law sets those limits. (Link in a reply)

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I know there was a legal case a while back about monthly fees that ate up the value of the gift. Like, a $20 gift card to the nieces, went to spend it on summer reading a month later, only then discovered the $3/month fee they had been deducting. I think that might have gotten rid of monthly maintenance fees for gift cards, at least at major companies.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            As of a month ago, Visa was still including a $2/month “inactivity fee” if you don’t use the card for 12 months. I remember there being some changes to these kind of things recently as well, but apparently Visa at least still thinks it’s allowed to do the monthly fee thing (in most states, at least).

        4. Work Hydra*

          There are laws in Canada against that too. If they pay for a gift certificate, it never expires. However if it’s a promotional gift certificate they didn’t pay for, you’re allowed to give it an expiry date. You’d need to keep excellent records for that though.

        5. Stranger than fiction*

          Don’t they decrease in value over time though? Or did they stop doing that. Obvi gift cards aren’t a big thing in my life and when I do get one I use it.

          1. Work Hydra*

            No, they don’t decrease in value. If the price of the service goes up though, you can be charged the difference in price. So if you bought a gift certificate for a manicure that was $25, and the esthetician ups their price to $30 for a manicure, your gift certificate would only give you the $25 that was paid, and you would have to pay the difference.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Or the store closes! I am still smarting about the Borders Gift Cards I had received and found after all the stores closed. And I just found store credit for a shoe store that was in my area and also closed. There’s $200 out the window…sigh…

        1. bridget*

          When I was in high school, I went to my after school job (small local craft store) and witnessed the store owner sell a few gift cards. At closing time, she locked the door and told us it was the last day of the company and it was closing down and going out of business. I remember feeling sick about those people she had sold store-specific gift cards to just a few hours before. It was a tiny store and the owner lived out of state, so those people were never getting that money back.

          1. SophieChotek*

            I am upset just reading about it years after the fact. It’s one thing if you just forget you had a gift card or deliberately “save” it for too long – that woman was knowingly “stealing” from customers. I know companies like gift cards/certificates since so many go unclaimed (supposedly) but the situation you describe is very different.

          2. drashizu*

            That seems like the kind of thing you could bring a class-action lawsuit for, if it weren’t a small store and you’d likely never get anything out of it since the store has no money anyway…

          3. JulesCase*

            That reminds me of a company I worked for that folded after being active for 20 months. Only the owner/president and the CFO knew during the company’s final 4 months that the company was going to be closing, yet they continued hiring talent agents up practically until the final week of business….meaning they knowingly had people leave their stable, long-term jobs with great benefits, vacation time and steady salaries to come over to an organization that would be folding shortly. They hired them and took them out of good jobs knowing these new hires would be unemployed within a month. It was all to save face in the entertainment industry; there has been rumors about the Company doing poorly so for publicity’s sake they hired new people in order to make it look like things within the firm were hunky dory.

            I found that to be so incredibly heinous and unforgivable – it gives you an idea of what vile people were running that hell hole. It’s really no shocker that they went belly up in under 2 years. Such despicable humans. Hey, what’s the big deal about ruining a few lives so an organization can prove they’re still clinging to life for a few more weeks? Gross.

        2. Fafaflunkie*

          Alas, when the business you have a gift card to goes bankrupt, you become one of a very long list of unsecured creditors. Guess how much you’re going to get back after the proceedings?

          At least the card can be used to help you scratch the part of your back your arms can’t reach otherwise.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s why I think the lesson for the future is to just give cash. It’s work, the money was a bonus for the work, there is nothing icky about pulling money into the relationship. (I think this is good for, say, your babysitter or housekeeper, too–money is infinitely flexible, it’s taken everywhere, and it doesn’t expire.)

        Gift cards are that little extra step harder to spend. (See the discussion upthread about which Starbucks take Starbucks cards.)

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I like grocery store gift cards for that reason. You’re always going to be able to use those, no matter your tastes!

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This. I won a gift card at a meeting I attended once for a job I had a decade ago. It was for a local small coffee shop that didn’t have branches elsewhere, and was only located in that one town where the meeting was (about an hour from where I lived). I finally ended up giving it away to a friend who traveled that way more often since I never had a reason to go to that town. I appreciate that they wanted to support local businesses, but it felt more like a tease than a reward.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          I am +1-ing that cards are harder to spend. They’re extra complicated, people have to remember to take them out specifically, and split bills across different methods of payments, and frustrating in general.

      4. drashizu*

        My mother always told me to never wait longer than a year to spend a gift card, because the value on it will only ever fall over time due to inflation. What $10 can get you in Starbucks coffee this year might be (ever so slightly) less than what $10 can get you in Starbucks coffee 5 years from now, since they’ll raise their prices between now and then, and you’ll have to pay the difference in cash.

        So it’s cheaper to buy $10 worth of Starbucks this year and spend cash on your drinks 5 years from now, than spend cash on your drinks now, wait 5 years, and buy $10 and also spend cash on the difference due to inflation.

        (There are some circumstances where this doesn’t apply, like if you just don’t get around to buying anything from them for 5 years – no reason to blow it on something you don’t need now just to avoid a few cents’ value depreciation. But the idea makes sense for small amounts where a few cents is a sizable fraction of the total, like coffee cards, when it comes to things you purchase frequently.)

        1. drashizu*

          Actually, I just found a flaw in my own argument. It’s actually not cheaper or more expensive, it costs exactly the same, but the point is that you get less using the card later than you do using it now. So this doesn’t apply to things you buy frequently (because money is fungible), but does apply to things you’d make a one-time purchase of (they’ll cost less if you buy them now than they will later).

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed, or they may be saving them for a special occasion. Regardless, gifts—even in gift certificate form—cannot be retracted or recalled. OP, pretend that you gave them cash. If they hadn’t spent it, but instead saved their cash, would you then demand they give it back? Of course not, because that’s not how gifts work.

      Similarly, you absolutely should not try to access the balances of or use any of the unused cards. Can you imagine if you were an employee who’d been saving a card, only to use it and find it had no balance. It would be rotten.

      Alison, haven’t there been letters where a manager had used up gift cards purchased for staff, by other staff, as a gift for someone who was struggling or taking medical/parental leave?

      1. fposte*

        Yes, using the gift cards yourself would be like taking possession of the car you gave somebody because they weren’t using it. Don’t do that, OP.

        As a manager, I sometimes provide treats for my staff, and I can’t say I do site studies about what they’d deeply love, so sometimes what I think of as a reward isn’t that rewarding for them. They still appreciate the fact that I tried to appreciate them, and I find I’m just better off never inquiring if a gift certificate got used.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I definitely bought treats for my staff on Friday just because I wanted one! I was vaguely conscious about people’s preferences and restrictions, but I know I didn’t entirely meet all of them. I’m still pretty sure they all appreciated the thought.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yes, this. When I’m given a gift card, my brain immediately starts obsessing about whether this or that purchase is really “worthy” of the gift. I might want 50 books from Barnes and Noble, but the second someone gives me a gift card to Barnes and Noble, I’m not sure any of the books are good enough to spend it on, and I tend to hang onto it until something’s really special. Or, alternately, until I’ve hit financial hard times. There’ve been moments in my life where payday was juuuuust one day too far in the future, haha, and that hoarded Starbucks card got me an iced tea and something to eat for lunch.

        1. Penelope Pitstop*

          @ Kelly L…what you’ve described is my giftcard behavior and thinking EXACTLY. It’s comforting to know there are others out there. :)

          1. Mookie*

            I’m in the same boat. For some reason, giftcard money feels extra valuable and important in a way that humdrum cash does not. Very odd.

        2. Ruby 16*

          Yep, I’m like that too! OP #2, please don’t spend the gift cards you gave them! I have like 2 or 3 gift cards right now that are about 2 years old – I’m definitely very excited and grateful for them, it’s just that I’m waiting for something very special (for durable goods stuff), or for a day that I really need the pick-me-up (for food stuff). I would be absolutely horrified if when that day came, the balance was gone.

          Some folks, too, are disorganized and might find their gift card someday under a pile of papers and be pleasantly surprised (not that that’s ever happened to me, *cough*)

          It’s of course possible that a couple of the people you gave gift cards to simply aren’t that into the store, and that’s too bad, but it’s just the risk of giving any kind of gift. I would also respectfully suggest that maybe the fact that this bothers you so much, is telling you something about how you should give gifts in the future – maybe you’d be more comfortable sticking to things you KNOW for a fact the person enjoys/will use, or maybe you’re just not comfortable spending your own money for incentive gifts for staff (personally, I wouldn’t be).

    4. Casuan*

      I love that advice!
      Sometimes there are expiration dates, so if anyone is keeping them for a specific purpose, check if there’s an expiry. Also look to see if there’s a usage fee as some cards have a fee for each use.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I hope there aren’t expiration dates! In most States it’s unlawful to try to “expire” a gift card because it’s the equivalent of cash. You can convert to store credit, but a store usually can’t retract or decline to recognize the gift card itself (unless the company goes bankrupt, but that’s a different universe of legal problems).

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Nope indeed. I keep gift cards for rainy days or sometimes use them to get Christmas gifts (recovering from serious debt and don’t have much spare cash) but I always note the expiry dates carefully and set reminders to use them.

            I won a £25 Amazon voucher in a draw a few months back. I’ve only used £4 so far as I’m spinning it out!

        1. T3k*

          I haven’t looked at gift cards recently, but I knew of a few that would take off, say a dollar of two, after a few months of no use, so there wasn’t a set expiration date per se but you could still lose the money. Not sure if this is still allowed though.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Yeah, I have a current Visa gift card in my wallet that states that it expires in 2023, and that it will take $2 off the balance per month after 12 months of inactivity “except where prohibited by state law.”

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes—they’re allowed to take a “maintenance” fee, but not to “expire” the value of the card, if that makes sense.

            At a practical level though, the impact can be the same—you may end up with an old card with nothing on it.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          That’s just not true, and it’s a little reckless to say that so confidently.

          In the US there is a federal law that says gift cards must be honored within 5 years, and that you may be charged a reactivation fee if it card goes unused for 12 months. States are free to make stricter rules, but there’s also a loophole for abandoned property. In my state, gift certificates must be good for seven years, but can still expire after that. Gift certificates that do not have a clearly marked expiration date never expire, but I have never in twenty years of living in this state seen a gift card that does not have the expiry date printed in huge font. But in Alaska a gift card is considered “abandoned property” if it is not used within three years of issuance. In that case, the merchant must transfer the value of the card to the state’s unclaimed property office. In Alaska, the state holds unclaimed property in escrow in case you ever try to reclaim it. However, in other states, abandoned property gets used to pad the state budget instead of being returned.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m sorry I offended you, and I cannot speak to the legal practices in Alaska. As you noted, at the federal level, you cannot expire a gift card without notice and without a “safe harbor” period, as you’ve noted. I should have clarified that I was talking about gift cards without expiration dates clearly printed upon them, and I apologize if my statement was otherwise misleading. Perhaps we have different experiences with gift cards, but I’ve seen literally hundreds of gift cards without expiration dates, in part because of the advocacy of consumer protection groups who have helped highlight the ways in which companies used to simply “keep” the value of gift cards after expiration (I can’t say this with 100% confidence, but I’m fairly certain that this practice is no longer allowed in most, if not all, states). And in my state, you can’t expire gift cards, full stop, although you can charge maintenance fees. The gift card also isn’t declared abandoned property until the 5- to 7-year stage, so it’s reasonable to think that this varies significantly by state.

      2. many bells down*

        We often get gift cards for Best Buy every year around Christmas from my husband’s boss, and we’d save them either for a specific item that wasn’t out yet, or in case something expensive that we did have broke. Came in handy this year when our PS4 suddenly died right as 3 highly-anticipated games were released! We could go out and replace it immediately instead of having to adjust the budget.

    5. JKP*

      Be careful, because many gift cards charge a “monthly maintenance” fee which can quickly deplete the balance on the card. I noticed that Visa gift cards I got for xmas had that in the fine print: 3 months after activation (which happens at time of purchase), they start charging you $10/month. Some gift cards have expiration dates. So if you hold on to gift cards for a rainy day, you might end up losing them entirely.

      1. Searcher*

        This happened to me! My aunt gave me a gift card to Five Below when I was a kid. Couldn’t drive, so I had to wait until my mom would take me. I picked out all this stuff, only to be told that because of how long it had been, the money had all been depleted by fees and/or maintenance and such. My mom flipped out…

      2. Kelly L.*

        The Visa ones definitely do; increasingly, the ones to individual stores and restaurants usually don’t. I think it’s probably because its illegal in some states, so it’s easier to just have them all the same across the board.

    6. Noobtastic*

      Be careful with Visa gift cards. Sometimes, they have fees, if you don’t use them right away, and by the time you do get around to using it (when you’re already short on cash, as you say), you may not have a balance left on the card.

      When you’re giving a Visa gift card, always check to be sure they don’t do those fees. Then, you can tell the recipient that it’s OK to save it for an emergency. Or, if they do charge a monthly fee, tell the recipient, “I couldn’t get one without a monthly fee, so don’t hold onto this. Go ahead and spend it right away.”

      I got hit by the surprise fees, and was annoyed that after saving it up for my special trip, I wound up being able to spend only 75% of it, due to the fees! Thank goodness my special trip was not planned for the next year!

      1. Judy*

        Also, if the visa gift card is for $20, and you try to use it to pay for part of a $30 purchase, many stores can’t handle that. I’ve not run into an online store that can handle that. (My mother in law gets me a visa gift card for Christmas each year.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Yeah, I got one for my birthday recently and have been having a hard time using it. Kind of a pain, I’m afraid. Amazon gift certificates only, please!

          1. Sadie Doyle*

            You can convert Visa/Amex gift cards to Amazon gift certificates by adding them as new credit cards to your Amazon account and then purchasing an Amazon e-gift certificate with the balance that’s on the card (and then immediately applying the gift certificate code to your account). I’ve done it both with brand-new cards and with cards that had only a partial balance left (the minimum amount for an e-gift certificate is $1, so as long as it’s at least that you’ll be good).

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Oh realllllly?! That’s freaking brilliant and I’m going to try that right now. Thanks! (And thanks Jerry Vandesic, too).

          2. Jerry Vandesic*

            One easy way to take small or partial Visa/MC and make them easier to use it to use them to create Amazon gift cards. Any amount is possible. I do this when I have a small amount left on a Visa gift card, say $4.38, and am having a hard time using it all up. I simply buy a gift card, add it to my Amazon account, and the next time I buy something the gift card amount is deducted from my total. Easy.

            1. Penelope Pitstop*

              Thanks to you guys for bringing this up–have fallen into the pit of devalued giftcards and never thought to do this. It IS brilliant.

        2. alter_ego*

          Typically any store that can run a transaction on two cards can handle it. They just need to know the exact amount left on the card so that they can run it for exactly that amount. If they try to just swipe it and have it take off the amount automatically, like you would for a store gift card, it’s going to come up as over the limit, because the register sees it like any other credit card, not a gift card.

          I’ve worked a bunch of retail stores, small and large, and I’ve never worked somewhere that couldn’t handle those cards, you just had to process them as if they were a credit card with a 20 dollar credit limit, rather than a gift card.

        3. Liane*

          The best way to use the Visa ones is in a brick & mortar store for a one -time purchase that uses it up. Tell the cashier to split the tender and have another payment for the additional owed.
          Distant second, is keep track of the exact balance left and use that up by having the tender split next time. But YOU have to know what’s on it–the cashier can’t inquiry it and you don’t want to be That Customer saying, “Well, try taking $25 off…Maybe it’s $21… then it must be the one with $18 left…$5…”
          If you are buying a Visa/Mastercard/Amex gift card, make sure you don’t pick up a prepaid debit by mistake! They are by law bank products, so the user has to give out their private info, they almost always have monthly fees (Like a bank account), and it’s near-impossible to get the money returned if bought by mistake.

        4. Kathlynn*

          I suggest using the gift cards for gas. Because then you can just buy $20 of gas and put the cash you would have spent on gas on whatever you were trying to buy with the card(s)

        5. tink*

          Yeah–usually if you have a balance on a non-store gift card like the Visa ones, you need to know your exact balance and let the person at the register know up front, so like “$20 of that will be on this Visa gift card, and I’ll pay the other $10 in [other currency].” They sometimes also have to run that gift card as either the very first or very last part of a transaction, so it can get weird and involve a lot of math. Trying to use the last of one of mine was a huge hassle.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      We are given a bonus on visa gift cards and my co-workers just had a big discussion on how we use them. Some people spend them immediately, and they couldn’t understand why some people would hold onto them. For 80% of those in our discussion, gift cards burn holes in their pockets, and other 20% save them for special purchases. There are really two different kinds of gc spenders.
      I hoard my Target gift cards for years, it doesn’t meant that I don’t appreciate them, it means I want a big TV.

      1. Antilles*

        For 80% of those in our discussion, gift cards burn holes in their pockets, and other 20% save them for special purchases. There are really two different kinds of gc spenders.
        Actually, the numbers say that there’s a fairly common third kind: The people who never use it. Depending on which study you read, there’s somewhere around $1 billion (!) annually wasted by people who get gift cards and never use them – somewhere around 10% of all gift cards are never redeemed.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          There are websites where people can sell unwanted gift cards. Raise is one. We bought a gift card from there as an anniversary gift for my parents.

          1. Nonprofit pro*

            I sell my gift cards on cardpool. Great experience and I got 90% of my value back as amazon credit.

          2. It must be zebras!*

            Man, I wanted to love Raise but 4/5 of the gift cards I bought there ended up being invalid. Their customer service was great and refunded me asap, but it was still a disappointing experience and I doubt I’ll be shopping there in the future, even though the discounts can be tempting.

        2. drashizu*

          I got a GameStop gift card recently. I have so little use for it, I’m not even sure I got the name of the store right. Still haven’t spent it and probably never will.

      2. Jesmlet*

        We got $100 Amex gift cards for Christmas and I just used it over the weekend. Not because I was saving for something special or anything like that. I just hadn’t put it in a visible place in my purse so anytime I went to pay for something, I grabbed my usual credit card and paid before I remembered. I finally put it in the same slot so there was no way I’d forget. I also didn’t use it until I had a purchase that was close to the full amount since I knew if I only used half, I’d never remember how much was left and I’d end up just letting it sit there.

        1. many bells down*

          My husband’s employer gives out annual bonuses on custom Visa gift cards. We saved ours because we were anticipating an expensive electronic purchase in a few months. Finally used it in February.

      3. Gung Ho Iguana*

        If you do go for the TV, keep in mind that most stores will only give refunds to the same payment method that was used to buy it. People will buy something on a gift card and throw out the card because it’s worthless, then they can’t return the item. The last time I had a Visa card I used it for groceries and used another card for anything I might want to return.

    8. otherworldling*

      For me it’s not even saving them for a rainy day as much as it is I honestly forget to use them. It might even be to a store that I love, but I forget to put it in my purse when I go, or I forget that I have it with me when I’m paying…or whatever it may be. I actually just a few weeks ago remembered to use some store credit that I had gotten about 2 years ago.

      I mean, I’d feel bad if I found out someone actually wasn’t going to use a gift card I had gotten them. I’d regret not getting them something else. But just someone not using a gift card after a few months wouldn’t even make me assume at all that it wasn’t wanted.

    9. Artemesia*

      I think lots of people really hate gift cards. You can spend money but gift cards have to be thought of and often have various restrictions. Not everyone’s idea of an incentive or valued gift. I’d have rather had a cupcake from my boss than a 5$ gift card for Starbucks or whatever.

  5. Edith*

    #2: What the what?! You gave people gift cards that they earned through an incentive, wrote down the card numbers, set a calendar reminder for it, checked the balances of the cards you gave away, and are prepared to steal them back if the recipients don’t spend their own money before an arbitrary date you set and that they aren’t aware of? None of this is reasonable. If you gave your niece a shirt for Christmas, monitored her facebook profile to track how often she wears it, would you break into her house and steal it back if she wasn’t wearing it as much as you thought she should? This really isn’t that far off from what you’re doing with these gift cards.

    1. Green*

      Yeah, these gift cards are no longer OP’s. If she uses the numbers, that would be theft.

      Also, who retains the numbers? And then checks the balances?

      I’m always hesitant to give broader “life advice” based on one letter: but it may be worth taking a look at places where you’re spending actual time and effort “scorekeeping” and the emotional bandwidth you are devoting to things you could spend zero bandwidth on without missing a thing. If you just relinquish things like the fate of the gift cards to the universe… What’s the worst thing that happens?

      1. Beezus*

        Sometimes when you buy gift cards online, the gift card comes in a .pdf or electronic form in an email that you can print out to have something physical to give to the giftee. I’ve kept the emails and once, I checked the balance later. For me, it was a gift to a family member I didn’t know well enough to buy confidently for, and I needed to buy another gift, and I was curious whether the first gift was really used or if I should try something else for the subsequent gift (and it hadn’t been used, almost 9 months later, so I’m glad I checked….although I admit it was a slightly weird thing to do.)

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh but that’s a reasonable reason to be sneaky and check. To see if someone liked it or maybe there’s a way to tell what they got so you can get them another of it. Not to be annoyed if they don’t use it to your specifications or time limit.

          1. Beezus*

            The way I read it, the OP was looking into how effective her incentive program by checking to see whether the gift cards she bought were used. To me, that part is reasonable. The angst about the cards not being used and the impulse to use the $ is misplaced, though. I am not sure using her own money for an incentive program was a good idea, if she feels like that afterward. And if she’s leaving her employer, I wonder if this is wrapped up with other frustrations that led her to look for other employment, but I admit I’m reaching there.

            1. paul*

              yeah, that makes sense to me. If you’re doing an incentive program trying to track and see if it actually helps/is useful is a good idea. Maybe that’d cut down on some of the weirder or more pointless incentives we see (silly hat day? wha-uh?)

    2. Julia*

      Plus, it seems like OP2 manages about ten employees, but gave out less than ten giftcards…

      1. Casuan*

        I ran a mini-incentive about nine months ago, which resulted in me giving out e-gift cards…

        Tho OP said it was an incentive.

    3. TheLazyB*

      I do wonder if the cards will expire after 12 months. It was nine months ago, OP is leaving in 2 weeks, and there’s nothing other reason i can think of for ‘wait the three months’. OP can you clarify?

      If that’s the case, i can understand the reasoning more… But OP, no don’t do it. You gave the cards away. They are no longer yours.

      My mum regularly gets vouchers and gift cards and regularly lets them expire. She gets annoyed with herself but it happens. But when she receives them she is really happy and at that point at least they serve their purpose.

      1. snuck*

        This is what I thought – a 12mth clause on them (this is common in Australia).

        If that’s the case the OP could send out a friendly email (separate to any other messages) saying “Hey folks, remember those gift cards expire in a couple of months if you’ve got them tucked into a drawer don’t forget! If you’ve lost it let me know and we’ll track down the details for you to use it.” but I’d send it to all the people who got one, not just the ones who haven’t spent it. Ie I wouldn’t let on I was tracking their expenditure on them – that’s a bit… creepy.

        And the OP really can’t spend them, not even in the last 5mins before they expire. They were a gift/prize and not the OP’s to do anything about.

    4. Jubilance*

      I had the same thought. If I gifted someone a coffee mug, I wouldn’t badger them about how often they used it. A gift is a gift and it’s weird to track if/when someone uses a gift.

      1. many bells down*

        Mybest friend and I have a tradition of giving each other the Most Useless Item we can find. So yeah, she’s not going to ask how often I use the “drunk unicorn wine bottle holder” I got for Christmas 2 years ago.

        This tradition’s honestly gotten less fun as we get older. At 44 we both have enough useless junk in our homes.

        1. Candi*

          If you want:

          Trade presents from previous years.

          Set some time aside with drinks of choice and snacks and open them in front of each other. Let the memories, laughter, and tears flow.

          Just a thought. :)

    5. Thlayli*

      that’s not really a fair analogy. Shirts don’t disappear if they aren’t worn for 12 months. And breaking into someone’s house is bad for other reasons not just because of what you took.

      This is more like – if you bought your niece some baby clothes and she didn’t use them till her baby was too big, and you happened to be in her house and saw them in a pile that you hought she was just throwing away, and you had a baby that could use them, would you take them back?

      Personally I think it would be wrong to just take them without asking, but it does seem a terible shame to let them just expire without reminding people of them. Maybe a wild mail reminding people that there is an expiry date and saying that you still have the codes so you can reprint them for anyone that’s lost them.

      1. JHunz*

        According to the CARD law passed back in 2009, gift cards cannot expire for a minimum of five years and monthly maintenance fees can’t be charged until the card has been unused for twelve months. If the incentive was 9 months ago, these cards are not even to the point where it’s legal for them to have declined in value at all, let alone be close to expiring.

        Just because the cards haven’t been used yet doesn’t mean the coworkers will not or do not intend to use them in the future. And if they try to use them and the balance is missing a big chunk it won’t take a huge leap to figure out who was responsible. IMO it would not only be wrong for the OP to consider using any of the money, but also dangerous to future prospects. If I were calling references for someone I had interviewed and her boss from two positions ago told me that they had run an incentive program with gift card bonuses and then personally spent some of those gift cards before they were used by the recipients, I’d pass on them without a second thought.

        1. Thlayli*

          Did the OP post somewhere that she is based in the US? I’ve never received a gift card that didn’t expire after 12 months. Other people have posted above that 12 months is standard in their country also. The OP said it was 9 months since they were used and asks “should I wait THE 3 months and then use it myself”. It seems pretty obviously to me that OP thinks the cards have to be used within 12 months.

          Either way, I don’t think OP should just use it without even asking. It’s always possible that they may use it even on the last day. But I do think a group mail reminding of deadline and that you can reprint if needed is totally acceptable.

    6. Taylor Swift*

      The difference in this comment and the one directly below is huge, though you are essentially saying the same things. But I know if I were the OP I’d be much more likely to consider the other one and ignore this one.

  6. Casuan*

    OP2: What Alison said.
    Gifts are gifts & once given the gift-giver can’t dictate how it was used. If it helps, try to think if there’s something to be learned from this, eg: to ensure the gifts are something the recipient would like & use.
    I don’t mean this as unkind, rather instead of focusing on the negatives take the good you can from it.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I concur. I still have, about a year and a half or two years later, a gift card from my boss for an hour massage. (I love this!) I haven’t used it yet, hanging onto it for something extra special. But I adore it and will treasure (!) that hour when I do use it maybe for Thanksgiving weekend or the long Christmas holiday break.

    2. Pup Seal*

      I agreed. Depending on the card, there are many reasons why the receivers haven’t used them yet. Back in Christmas, my supervisor gave me a gift card that could be used for a variety of restaurants (some of them pretty high in price range). I didn’t use it until 3 months went by when my boyfriend and I decided to go somewhere nice.

      My former boss gave out gift cards as bonuses all the time (this was a minimum wage job), and he gave me a lot of Dunkin Donuts gift cards to show his appreciation when we were VERY understaffed and when I had to spend an additional 30 minutes each day car pooling co-workers. Since I’m not the biggest fan of donuts, it took me 1.5 years to use all the gift cards.

      I also have movie gift cards that were given to me when I was in college.

      1. Arjay*

        Another wrinkle could be based on something I’ve done occasionally – regifting a gift card. We have an established incentive program here where we can redeem rewards for gift cards of our choosing. Often those rewards will come to us around the December holidays, and you better believe some of those gift cards ended up in Christmas stockings. That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate them; I absolutely did, but I also lost control over when/whether they’re redeemed.

        1. Thlayli*

          a friend of mine gets a ton of bonuses in the form of vouchers from her company (something to do with taxes – they give gift cards rather than cash). She also gets champagne and fancy foodstuff from clients and so on. She regifts a lot of it. I don’t mind – It’s still a gift. I just regift it on again if it’s something I don’t like. regifting vouchers is totally acceptable behaviour.

          1. Natalie*

            If she’s in the US, the IRS considers gift cards from your employer to be identical to receiving cash. Just something for her to be aware of – it’s not terribly likely to happen, but if the unreported income is ever discovered she’s on the hook for unpaid taxes.

    3. Georgiana*

      One way to ensure it’s something they will like and use is by having a list of places they can select their gift card from.

      And I, like other commenters have noted they do, often save my gift cards. Sometimes I like to have something to treat myself when I may not otherwise have funds to do so. Or in cases like Amazon I like to save them up for bigger purchases.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My husband got a gift certificate to a French restaurant. He was a diabetic. Neither one of us was into French food. It never got used.

      Fortunately, the boss had the good judgement to give different things each year.We gave a friend a magazine subscription one year. His comment was that he really liked the fact that we did NOT renew the next year. He liked being able to make the choice himself.

      Reality is that gift giving is guessing. Even in our personal relationships we are guessing what the person might like. Some people are easier to guess at than others. But it’s still a guess.

      Tracking the balances on the cards sounds like a good way to make one’s self crazy. People will do people-y things, OP. Always. And if you watch too closely you may find it mind-bending. Better to just let go.

  7. all aboard the anon train*

    #2: Why were you checking the balances in the first place? That’s…pretty strange. Usually when you give gift cards, they’re out of your hands and it’s not really your concern about how or when the recipient uses them.

    Not everyone runs out to use gift cards the minute they receive them. I save Visa or Amex gift cards or ones for places like Amazon or Target for when I really need them – that is, when I have a lot of expenses and the gift cards can cover what my bank account can’t. Other gift cards I’ve had for years because they’re either to places I never go or rarely frequent. Or I just forget to use them (I’m really bad about that – I have $200 in iTunes gift cards that I keep forgetting about).

    It was nice of you to buy gift cards for your staff, but you shouldn’t expect them to use them within a certain timeframe. And please don’t use them yourself because that’s a pretty awful way to treat a gift you gave someone. What if someone goes to use it after those three months and finds there’s no balance? That’s a nasty surprise.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I can understand why OP#2 is upset that people aren’t taking advantage of her generosity, but yes to all of this – there are many reasons why people might not have used a gift card. I had an old boss who bought us gift cards to a specific restaurant (owned by another coworker). We didn’t make it out there for a few months and then the restaurant went out of business!

    2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      Yeah, at this point I have a couple Target and Walmart gift cards from family members from Christmas that I am hoarding. We’re expecting our baby in June and I expect we will need those then for necessities for him, so I’d rather wait and save them for TinyWarden than spend them now on frivolous stuff.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I got an Amazon card for Christmas, and I’ve been saving it to watch Doctor Who since I don’t have cable and have to purchase certain programs if I want to see them. Everybody may have a different reason why they didn’t use it yet, but that’s really none of the OP’s business. The gift is theirs to use or not.

    4. esra (also a Canadian)*

      Right? I got IKEA gift cards from my family for my birthday… in January. They are still in my purse, because I’m waiting for a good mattress sale to roll around so I can buy a new bed.

  8. Casuan*

    OP3: That’s… Wo.
    This has scam red flags all over it. Not the letter, the employer.
    OP3, if you haven’t yet done so, *do not* give the employer your social security number & do not sign anything until you have an answer to this.
    And if you are told the pay rate, ask why the hesitation & declaration that you’ll know when you’re paid. There really isn’t anything they can say that will justify this.
    If the company is legitimate, I’d question if you should still accept.

    Even if the employer isn’t breaking any laws, could this be reported to the Labour Board?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, this sounds wild, and if it’s true that the company is withholding information on compensation in this way, it’s possibly worth reporting to whatever state-level fair employment agency exists or, if you have it, to whatever agency is responsible for unfair business practices and consumer protection (this isn’t a consumer problem, but usually both of those issues are housed under one agency). I’d be curious about whether they’re violating tax reporting and payroll regs, but that’s harder to probe and not really worth the time/energy investment for OP.

      I’d walk away, OP.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Even if this is a legitimate offer it shouts out all sorts of warnings about how this boss operates. Red flags are flapping in the wind over this one. What other types of games will this person try to pull if they are acting like this over revealing salary?

      I’d run away from this one. Scam or not it sounds like trouble.

    3. Noobtastic*

      Yeah, I can think of exactly *one* reason why a boss would say that you won’t know your pay until you get your first check, and that is if he thought you were asking about your actual take-home amount, as opposed to your salary/wages. Because he might not know what your withholding will be. But very few employers will have the thought “what is the take-home pay?” when asked “how much does this position pay?” Most people think “How much does it pay” means the gross pay, not net. Even if it were a commission-based position, they would still tell you the rate of commissions, rather than tell you to wait and see.

      So, OP3, please clarify with him that you want to know the salary or hourly wage, and not the take-home pay. If he still balks, run away as fast as you can, because this is just NOT RIGHT.

      1. Antilles*

        Yep, that’s the legitimate reason that came to my mind too – the job pays salary and the boss doesn’t want to convert it into an exact hourly rate*. But if he’s intentionally withholding any salary information, it’s exclusively more nefarious possibilities:
        1.) It’s a straight-up scam as Casuan mentioned.
        2.) They’re planning on underpaying you. Once you start, you’ve already had to quit your current job (if applicable), refuse other job offers, and withdraw other applications. So if they’re paying you a really crummy rate, you’re left to either suck it up and accept it or restart your job search from zero.
        3.) They legitimately don’t know how much money they have available to pay you either due to budget uncertainty or terrible organization.
        *Quick tip: For a 40-hr/week job, take the gross annual salary and divide it by 2,000 (or divide by two and drop the last three zeros) to get gross hourly salary. So $40,000 is $20 an hour gross pay. This isn’t exactly correct, but it’s close enough for most practical purposes.

      2. Caro in the UK*

        Yes, I was thinking about how the boss could even think this was OK response (although this site has taught me a lot about what people think are acceptable working practices!) and the only thing that I came up with was the same as you, they thought OP was asking about take home pay (and boss mistakenly thinks they’ve talked about gross pay when they haven’t).

        Otherwise, run like the wind, this is so, so far from OK!

      3. designbot*

        yeah something about the language in that one also made me wonder if the company had maybe told OP the salary but she asked for the hourly rate. I may be reading it wrong but the specific language suggested the possibility that they’d told her information in one way and it just wasn’t the way she wanted/made most sense to her. Which is also annoying, but it’s a big difference between someone expecting you to show up at work without any financial information whatsoever, and expecting you to do your own calculations around the salary they’ve offered.

    4. Engineer Woman*

      Actually, I was wondering if new job misunderstood the question. Perhaps new boss thought a salary was conveyed,
      I.e. $40k annually but then gets asked “how much will I get paid hourly?”, which perhaps is translated on each pay stub but varies per month or something? Or new boss is thinking new employee wants to know the hourly after tax rate…?
      But if new job literally won’t let you know how much you’ll be making – run, run, run away!

      1. PB*

        Yep. My partner was offered a job a while ago that wouldn’t tell him what they’d pay. He asked point blank several times, and the answer was always, “Well, that’s up to you!” He turned them down, which mystified the hiring manager.

    5. Allie*

      It seems completely absurd. I wouldn’t touch that company with a ten foot pole. I have never, ever heard of anything like it before. Even my hourly just over minimum wage jobs made my pay rate super clear before I worked.

    6. SophieChotek*

      I can’t add anything more than this (and don’t want to be then nth person to write “Yeah, don’t work here”) but I will admit to wanting a mini update from the OP if they pop in — like “was it a scam?” or “terrible management”? It seems like it has to be one or the other, but now I want details…

    7. Bonky*

      When I was very young and very desperate, I took a job under this sort of scenario, where the details of what we’d be paid AND what we’d be doing were very minimal. It turned out to be a telesales job that was commission only (selling printer/copier paper – nigh-on impossible for cold callers to succeed at, given that most companies hate cold callers and already have a trusted supplier) – I lasted three days and didn’t make a penny! This letter made my mind go straight to that job. Good luck, OP; Alison’s advice here is spot on. It would be very interesting if you could update us if/when you do find out what’s going on.

      1. NW Mossy*

        Totally commission was my first thought. Not technically a scam, but close enough to one for the average person who’s not Zeus’s gift to sales.

        1. Casuan*

          Still, the company should have been able to give a range of “between minimum wage, most are in this range & our high-performance employees have made up to this amount.”

          Are all companies in the US required to augment wages to meet minimum wage requirements? I think they are in certain tipped professions & I’d think this is true for commissioned professions as well…?

          [insert vent re Please let’s abolish tipping & just pay professionals to do their jobs with a set wage so they have a stable pay check & so I don’t have to remember the custom & research what profession gets tipped what percentage or to plan a secret op that requires me to surreptitiously give our server a proper tip when with elderly relatives who tip poorly & never let me contribute by just letting me pay the tip]
          [re the relatives in question: They’re not trying to be stingy; they just don’t understand & I stopped trying to explain it years ago.]

          1. Candi*

            1) The IRS automatically taxes 11% of tips. Not 11% of what you did get, what you should have gotten based on receipts. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll rescind that (if they even have the legal power to) if tipping just stopped, which puts minimum wage people on the hook for the money evenn more then they already are.

            2) Seven states have laws that say servers and such have to be paid minimum wage, not crap + tips = minimum wage. So it’s not universal -and getting full minimum wage doesn’t stop tipping. People like my Dad see it as a reward for good service, and a way to help out those making what is still low pay.

    8. paul*

      Run far, run fast, and if you hear any friends apply there warn them. Hell, if you hear enemies applying there warn them.

      1. NoMoreMrFixit*

        Please consider submitting a comment to Glassdoor about these people as a warning to others. While they technically may not be breaking the law, this is certainly unethical behaviour.

    9. voluptuousfire*

      If OP#3 can afford to, don’t take the job. I once had a job where I didn’t fill out the W-4 nor knew what I was making until I got my first paycheck. Long story short, it was a horror show. It was a doctor’s office and they got busted by a local news show for having untrained workers do things like take blood and do xrays.

      Run if you can.

    10. Artemesia*

      This. The minimal requirement for a legitimate employer is that they tell you what your pay will be. No employer who is not trying to scam you keeps compensation a secret. Run!!!

    11. Casuan*

      OP, this company has already shown a type of cluelessness that confounds me. For several reasons I doubt this is limited to whomever told you to wait until your first pay cheque. As others have suggested, it’s possible that your query was misunderstood so approach it from the angle first.

      Hopefully others can detail this for your situation because it isn’t my expertise…
      If you do take this job, before you start get the details in writing first.
      Rate of pay, holidays, sick & personal days…
      There’s always a risk that the company would rescind the offer. If so, they will have confirmed that the company is badly managed.

      just curious… OP, do you know anything about this company?
      eg: how long in service, what work they do, other…

      I’m sorry you have to deal with this instead of enjoying work in a new company!

      1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        Or Cutco knives. Run away OP! There is no good reason for the whackaloon response you got.
        If you were being paid by commission, a sane boss would have answered your question with an explanation of the commission structure.
        If you were being paid by piecework, a sane boss would have told you the pay per piece.
        In more common pay structures, a sane boss would have told you your gross hourly wage or salary.
        Keep looking and run the hell away from this job if at all possible!

  9. the other Emily*

    #5: No advice, but I just wanted to send good vibes your way and wish you luck for this job and/or any other ones you apply for. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for good news for you soon.

  10. Casuan*

    OP4: Is it possible to give the link to the jobs contact infos near the live chat link?
    eg: “For jobs enquiries, click here”

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m willing to bet they have an obvious link already. We do, and still get jobs enquiries to all sorts of other random departments.

      Common sense ain’t so common.

      1. Thumper*

        Speaking as a recent college grad, college students can be ridiculously impatient. I’m willing to bet this person emailed them, didn’t get a quick enough response, panicked, and then tried to go through their live chat for an immediate answer or to guarantee they get the company’s attention. It’s a unique combo of insecurity and gumption.

      2. Mike C.*

        I dunno, I can think of a ton of places locally that had terrible websites when I was just out of college looking for work.

    2. OP #4*

      Unfortunately, it’s not. :( We do have a “contact us” page, but the nature of the chat app we use doesn’t allow us a lot of flexibility in terms of placement, etc.

      However, I do want to note that there are a lot of ways to contact us – we have a presence on various platforms for our industry, as well as more general ones (e.g. LinkedIn).

  11. HannahS*

    OP2, I have two takes.
    1) If your gift was fairly small, it might help to remind yourself that token “appreciation gifts” exist primarily to demonstrate feeling. As long as your gift was something you could have reasonably thought they’d use (like a $10 coffee-shop card, as opposed to wine and sausage for Muslims) your staff probably got the feeling you were trying to share with them. My supervisor once bought me some Bath and Body works stuff, which may live at the top of my cupboard forever, but I still appreciated the thoughtfulness of it, and understood that she was telling me that she appreciates my work.

    2) If your gift was large, then stop checking the balance, and consider that it’s very hard to predict what people will like. They might be holding on to whatever it is until its useful, or they might just not be into it. For major bonus-like gifts, as close to cash as possible is best, I think.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      This is a really great point. I think OP feels like the money was wasted if the gift cards aren’t used, which technically is the case, but actually you bought them to convey a message and that will have happened.

      I think in future just don’t check something like this – sometimes a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. I understand that you spent your own money and feel it was wasted, but I’d say it’s probably best not to buy something like a gift card if you’re going to feel annoyed if it’s not used – maybe try to find something that won’t personally cost you money next time. That’s not something you should have to do – it’s nice that you did, but from their perspective it’s work, and a gift from work, and not a personal gift.

    2. PizzaDog*

      2) is a great point. OP, maybe next time if you’re running an incentive-based thing like this, you could always ask your employees where they prefer to shop.

      it’s also worth exploring where you bought the gift cards to – sometimes the cards are being saved for a rainy day, but other times it’s just not enough to merit a trip. that’s not to mean that you didn’t give them enough, but that maybe they just don’t have enough money to cover the rest of their purchase. $50 at Barney’s is generous, but if you don’t have the extra $400 to cover the rest of that pair of shoes, why bother going? (Extreme example, but you get it.)

      1. VintageLydia*

        I got $50 at Williams-Sanoma and as much as I love that store, everything I want from there is $150+. It went towards a new knife but I really had to justify to myself if the other $120 was worth it (it was!) If they got me $50 from Target or Amazon, it would’ve been a lot more immediately useful.

    3. drashizu*

      My favorite thing about my employer’s (actually, my office’s) gift-giving ethos is that you get get to pick where your holiday gift card is from. You don’t know the amount until you get it, but it’ll always be to the place you picked, as long as it’s reasonably mainstream/accessible to the person buying cards. It’s very nice. Usually around October I start thinking of which place I want to make a big-ticket purchase from and plan my gift card request accordingly!

  12. MommyMD*

    Letter 1 sounds like a grey’s anatomy episode. Best of luck finding a new position. It’s obvious they want you out. Bad situation all around. I do feel for the cheated on wife as well. Best to just leave the drama behind. What a cad this guy is.

  13. nnn*

    OP2: Imagine if, instead of gift cards, you gave your employees some cash – for the sake of argument, let’s say you gave them a $20 bill. And they put it in their wallet.

    And then some time later, you discover that that exact same $20 bill is still in their wallet.

    Would you be demotivated by this? Would you be thinking about taking it back?

    I strongly doubt it, because that $20 bill is no longer a specific gift you gave them that they have failed to spend, it’s just part of their general pool of ready cash, which they may or may not spend at any given time for any number of reasons.

    Gift cards are also part of their general pool of ready cash, with the added complication that you can only spend them at particular places, and have to remember that you have them at the appropriate time. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how they ended up using the particular piece of currency you gave them.

    1. Mookie*

      Great way of explaining this dynamic. Gift cards are fluid assets, used when and where needed.

  14. Acedemic Probation*

    Baffled by the “somehow she found out” part of letter 1, since there is a child. But, needless to say, this doesn’t sound like a situation that will end well for #1 and she should probably be working on her resume and job searching. I think it’s really unfortunate that her company isn’t supportive in trying to move her around or looking into how to prevent this from being a problem. Work-life will probably quickly become very difficult for LW and I think that is very unfair and irresponsible of this company. (wonder what legal ramifications this COULD have for the company)

    I feel like new boss probably already gave them a heads up and they want LW 1 to leave on her own. smh. Good luck to LW 1 but I agree they do not value you and it’s time to prepare for the fallout of this. Really crappy.

  15. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I’m dumb-founded by HR’s insistence that she’ll be professional, given they haven’t actually put her in this situation yet and given what the situation is. I am not a lawyer, and I know you already talked to one who said it’s not a hostile work environment where you live, but did they consider that this is the person you’ll need to ask for time off when your child is sick, this being a child who she will see as part of the reason her marriage broke down – that seems impossible for you. Could you also look through all your company’s policies about anything to do with parents and see if there’s anything you can point to that they potentially can’t now honour?

    1. snuck*

      My take on this is that this company seems to have taken sides, and the OP isn’t going to win this round.

      Regardless of if the new boss got in first, or the management don’t care about the OP (or don’t like her professional behaviours) etc… the reality is, the breakdown on this is… the company isn’t going to back the OP.

      So… policies only work when there is absolutes, often there’s wriggle room, discretion. Harassment often needs considerable burden of proof, and if the new manager has half a brain (likely) she won’t provide evidence to be used against her (she’s already had a legal case, she knows a fair bit more about the OP than any other employee there, including how to push her buttons, how to hide her trails, how to gas light if necessary.)

      I’d say that this isn’t the hill to fight on. The OP is highly unlikely to fight and win. She doesn’t have a legal grounds (yet, yes, harassment might follow – but it’s a bit insane to deliberately sit somewhere and wilfully allow yourself to be harassed to the extent you could win a legal battle on that front, and a court is likely to take into account the situation and decisions the OP has made in staying), she doesn’t have management support, HR support, probably not even policy support.

      Just bail OP. Bail, hold your head high and bail as soon as you can find someone else. You can answer why you are leaving by being vague (‘the company is restructuring and I’m keen to move in another direction’ and if they push you can then be a little more frank ‘The new manager of my division was someone who had named me in a messy legal case and I didn’t feel comfortable working with them’). Ask the departing management to be your reference (given you’ll be leaving yourself very soon all going well a new manager can’t vouch for you better than the old ones), and get out there and find something else away from the cesspool that this situation will be. Good luck! Let us know how you go…

      1. paul*

        Kind of my read on it. For whatever reason–maybe the manager incoming has a hell of a reputation, maybe the OP’s had some issues, whatever–they’re basically writing her off. Giving her some severance and terminating her sounds like the more ethical course of action to me if they’ve made that call, but that won’t happen apparently. And it really does sound like they’re writing her off.

        1. snuck*

          Yeah. Not exactly ‘fair’ but might not be unfair either… all’s fair in love, war and business.

          They’ve decided to hitch their horses to the new managers cart….

    2. MT*

      My take on it is, the company doesn’t want to let outside personal conflicts dictate a job change, who knows if a lateral position is open? Would the OP be open to a lesser position? Absolutely I would not allow a promotion to happen, just to find a new position for the OP due to an outside of work personal conflict. There has been nothing at work that warrants a job change yet.

    3. Rachel - Letter #1*

      The policies are being overhauled as part of the merger but there isn’t anything in them I could use, the lawyer looked through them. The lawyer said that it is not a nice thing what they are doing but it doesn’t not meet the legal test for being hostile or constructive.

  16. Always anon*

    OP4: Sounds a lot like someone told them to ask lots of questions to “show they’re interested”, but they have no idea when the appropriate time to do that is, or what questions to ask. I think anyone would be annoyed!

  17. Grits McGee*

    OP5, I’ve actually been on the reference side of this- the night before New Year’s Eve, I got a personal reference request call from a place my friend had applied to. By the time I was able to get in touch with them the next day, they must have already made their decision because the woman I talked said my reference was no longer needed. (My friend got the job, for what it’s worth, so hopefully this is a good sign!)

    OP3, do you think there’s any chance this position is actually a commission-only sales job?

  18. Channel Z*

    LW1: Your situation is awful. This is awful for your boss too, as I don’t think she would choose to work with you either, it may be forced on her in the same way. As far as acting professionally is concerned, how much time has passed since the divorce proceedings? While you experienced the effects of her anger, behind the scenes there was likely a different story. She was betrayed in the worst way possible by her husband, and the child made the humiliation public. She would have been obviously devastated, depressed, stressed. She may have worked with her own HR team to overcome her difficulties and maintain professionalism, and if enough time has passed maybe she has shown that she has worked through her anger and she would be professional. You also have reason to be angry too. As a coping strategy, might it help to try and understand it from her side, and why she (unfairly) took her anger out on you. It is also possible that she might decide to quit. However, I agree with other commenters, document everything and start looking because she may indeed continue her campaign of retribution.
    The sad thing about all of this is that he was the jerk, but you both are the sufferers. Sorry you are going through this, and I hope you are successful in finding a new job.

    1. Binky*

      “The sad thing about all of this is that he was the jerk, but you both are the sufferers.”

      Fairly certain it takes two to have an affair. As a male victim of spousal cheating, I can attest that it’s not just men who can be jerks. Unless I missed something in the letter, it looks like he didn’t do anything to be a jerk beyond the affair (which would lump the Op in with that too).

      While this situation completely and totally sucks, and the ex-wife was being totally vindictive, the Op knowingly (at least as far as the letter reads) *slept with a married man*.

      1. Caro in the UK*

        We’re not here to judge the OP on her past choices. While many people will probably sit on your side of the fence in terms of how much fault lies with someone who “slept with a married man”, it’s of no help at all to her right now and add nothing constructive to the discussion, so there’s really no point in even bringing it up here.

        1. Grey*

          We’re not here to judge the OP on her past choices.

          I think that was Binky’s point in response to someone who wanted to put labels on both of them. We’re not here to say who was jerk or who was a victim.

          1. Caro in the UK*

            I completely agree (about not making a judgement on jerk or victim). I took exception to Binky’s post because it seems to add nothing to the discussion in terms of offering constructive advice to the the OP.

            Reading these through, while Channel Z does discuss the cheating aspect of the problem, it’s in service of helping OP to see how the situation may not be as bad as she fears. Whereas Binky just goes for an angle of the OP knowingly did what she did, without actually offering anything constructive to the thread. If I’m reading this wrong, then I apologise.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Given that was a one time thing, it’s entirely possible OP1 didn’t know the man was married.

        Regardless, it doesn’t have anything to do with the question she asked Alison and nothing good will come of being judgmental.

      3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I didn’t get the impression Channel Z was saying that married men are jerks. They were saying that the one that is married is the one who is more in the wrong (especially if the other person doesn’t know the married one is in fact married, as Amy states below). In this case, the married one happened to be the man. But you are correct that this does go both ways.

        Regardless as to whether the OP knew he was married or not at the time, her past choices are what they are and it doesn’t change that this is an untenable situation for everyone involved. HR is being deliberately obtuse on this. They could have (what they deem to be) legitimate reasons for this, but that doesn’t change that it is a terrible situation for both the manager and the OP.

      4. Apollo Warbucks*

        there’s nothing in the letter to say if the OP knew the guy was married, the guy might never have told her.

      5. Rachel - Letter #1*

        I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I knew he was married and she was able to prove that I knew in court during the divorce.

        She definitely is not going to quit. She accepted the promotion knowing I would be one of her reports.

        1. Czhorat*

          It sucks for everyone that you ended up together.

          I understand her accepting the promotion; it’s hard to turn down a chance to advance with the better salary to go with it. I’m very sorry that this happened to you; we all of us make mistakes in our lives. Most of them don’t come back to haunt us in this manner. This was, after the initial indiscretion, ill-luck.

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Just want to say that you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. Whatever happened in the past, you sound like you’re committed to making the present and future bright, and that’s what’s important. Good luck finding a better job soon.

          1. Michelle*

            Agreed. OP#1, good luck and I hope you find something soon. Hopefully, with a better HR department and a company that values it’s employees.

            1. MamaSarah*

              Further agreed. I repartnered and my stepdaughter’s mom still gives me the stink eye…seven years later. Sometimes it’s very hard for the offended spouse to move on. I think, Rachel, there are good things ahead for you. One door closes, another is open.

        3. Ramona Flowers*

          I want you to know there are people here who are not judging you for whatever happened. That seems important to say. Whatever happened happened; I really hope things work out okay for you.

        4. Rachel - Letter #1*

          Thanks you everyone I appreciate it! I know she was given a choice between this job and the same job in a different department and when she found out I would be one of her reports she took that one.

          1. Channel Z*

            Ooo yeah, that changes things. It does sound like the company may be using the situation to reduce their headcount. Positive visualization time: imagining your new wonderful job somewhere else.

        5. blackcat*

          “she was able to prove that I knew in court during the divorce.”

          Ugh, I don’t see how that is even remotely relevant other than smearing you. *He* knew that *he* was married, and that should have determined the legal consequences *to him.* You weren’t legally a party to their marriage!

          So, yeah, given that she’s the kind of person who would do that in court means you need to find a new job ASAP.

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            Her ex-husband’s lawyer said it was for her to be in a better position because she filed for a fault divorce and it was better for her if she could prove he was cheating while being open about being married as opposed to him lying to other women about his relationship status. I have no doubt she wanted to smear both of us as much as possible.

          2. chirp*

            If he spent money from their joint account(s) on LW#1, the wife is entitled to that money as it was “marital assets.” I get that it was unpleasant for Rachel, but this really isn’t out of the ordinary nor is this an intention to “smear” her. We don’t know the other side of the story- did the wife turn down better opportunities in order to support her then husband’s career? If so, this ex-wife deserves what’s owed to her. As Divorce Attorney points out, “[g]etting a court order to ensure she gets her share of the marital assets and that ex-husband cannot escape it through bankruptcy is not vindictive or wrong.” Consequently, I also share Divorce Attorney’s concern re: Rachel’s objectivity.

      6. Thlayli*

        I entirely disagree. He was a jerk. Anyone who cheats on their wife is a jerk.

        Whether you believe the OP was a jerk or not is a separate issue but I think we can all agree that the husband was a jerk.

    2. Rachel - Letter #1*

      It’s been a few years since everything happened. When I was subpoenaed to testify in the divorce, she sent someone to serve me at the hospital just after I had given birth, in front of my family, friends, colleagues and the staff while paying the guy extra to loudly and publicy announce I was being served because I knowingly had a baby with a married man. At that point I had not told anyone yet that he was the father (my colleagues) or that he was married (everyone else). I had to answer questions about the fling in court and once it was settled she posted my answers on social media. I’m not in a long term relationship with her ex-husband (and have never been) but we share custody no problem. We have always been amicable. He went bankrupt as a result of the divorce. She went to court to make sure he didn’t get out of the settlement. She successfully fought to have his wages garnished instead of accepting the payment plan he offered, even though the payment plan would have gotten her more money in the end. It’s been rough for him and she hasn’t let up on either one of us. They shared a car and she got it in the divorce. He asked her to wait two weeks because he needed the car for his job and in response she got a court order to have it repossessed from the parking lot at his job. She was offered an equivalent job in another department and she took this job when she found out she would be managing me. HR says she will be professional but given how things have gone in the past I can’t work for her.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Good lord. That’s one deeply unhappy person.

        Hearing these details, you might be better off quitting now if there’s any way you can afford to. She sounds like the type who might deliberately try to do professional damage to you once she has the means to.

        1. blackcat*

          Seconding Alison here. She sounds like she might haven taken the job just to make you/her ex more miserable.

          Get out now, before she can poison your professional reputation.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            …before she can poison it further, as it sounds like she’s already made great strides in that direction.

            1. snuck*

              If she’s this much a loon…. a complete peanut…. then the whole world will get to see it. Particularly if the OP is reasonable and professional. I’m not advocating for staying in the role, I vote firmly on the “Run!” side of the line, but if the new manager is still even close to this vindictive she’s going to come off looking completely bonkers.

              OP Rachel… if she posts new stuff online or keeps it up you might actually have grounds for stalking or harassment charges… she no longer has any legal reason to be in your face (not that she ever really did in the first place)…. and that hospital scene? Oh my… that’s gotta go down in history (with evidence) of just how vindictive she is….

        2. Trillian*

          … Particularly if you deal with money, confidential documents, or anything with legal implications.

      2. PB*

        This is all unspeakably awful. Add in the fact that she intentionally took the job where she’d be managing you… I just don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I wish you the best of luck moving forward.

      3. Michelle*

        Oh my. I’ll be praying for you to get something soon (if you don’t mind- I don’t want to get into a religious debate; I believe in a higher power and in the power of prayer).

      4. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, you have to go. I don’t see a way that this works out for you to stay with the company at all. She’ll tarnish your reputation further within the company. I’m sorry. You definitely need to get out of there though

      5. Apollo Warbucks*

        Have you told HR all of this? Surly that would make a difference to how they view the situation, or at the very least have you asked HR what they will do if she treats you badly?

        1. Rachel - Letter #1*

          HR is aware of the history. They say she will act like a professional and I am expected to be professional also. They say they won’t let personal stuff interfere with business and what happened in the past is not their problem.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            That’s messed up, there’s no way she is going to act professionally your HR department are nuts.

            1. Chalupa Batman*

              I’m going to have to agree. I’m a HUGE fan of “you’re going to have to work with people you don’t like, sometimes even for good reason, so be a grownup and act professional anyway,” but between the seriousness of the conflict and the fact that Rachel is co-parenting with her boss’ ex-husband (not even taking into account how her actions imply she feels about Rachel), there is no universe where this is a good idea. As a mostly reasonable person, if I were the new boss, I probably would have accepted the other position in a heartbeat, even if it meant a slightly lower salary, to not have to work with Rachel (nothing personal, Rachel; I wouldn’t want to think about my ex and divorce any more than I had to, and managing someone involved in the proceedings is definitely counter to that goal). I have to wonder if HR isn’t approaching this from a “Rachel made her bed” position rather than exercising the good business sense to avoid these types of conflicts completely. It would be great if everyone always behaved professionally at work all the time, but people are not robots. It’s unwise to put these two in a boss-employee situation, especially when there’s another comparable position available for at least one of them, and HR is bananas not to want to avoid the inevitable complications of this situation. Personal conflicts *become* HR’s problem when they take people who they have good, logical reasons to believe will have a difficult working relationship (family members, spouses, acrimoniously divorced spouse and person with a key role in said acrimonious divorce…) and allow them to work together.

          2. Gandalf the Nude*

            Okay, seriously, HR? If the jobs were equivalent and they knew the problems with this arrangement, why in the blue fudge did they offer her this one?? Even aside from the ex-wife issues, this is not a place you want to work because they’re either pot stirrers too or embarrassingly incompetent.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I know, right? I feel like a good HR department would have closed the manager off from that position because of the potential for drama and just offered her the other one (OP said it was an equivalent position). Just because a person is qualified for something doesn’t mean it’s the best place for them.

      6. Michelle*

        Wait, wait, wait- she was offered an equivalent job in another department, but took this job when she found out she would be managing you?? And HR says she will be professional. Seriously? That screams she is going to put your through the wringer. Double, extra hard prayers for you.

      7. Channel Z*

        I retract any sympathy I gave to the ex-wife and for saying that husband was jerk. It is sad that you are still suffering. Give the little one a hug, I hope s/he is the bright spot in all of this.

      8. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Wow. There’s being angry and then there’s this. I think Alison is right that she may well try to do long-term professional damage to your career. If you can quit now, it might be the best option – for your career and your mental health.

        I would not be surprised if this turns out to be the wrong career move for her as well. Taking a job out of revenge isn’t likely to end well at all!

      9. Jesmlet*

        Mistakes were made but she’s just being a vindictive witch at this point. Not healthy for anyone involved to hold on to this level of rage, especially several years after things happened. I agree with Alison that maybe it’s best to sever all ties before she has a chance of doing any more damage. It seems like that is her intent on taking the job managing you so maybe just get out while you can to minimize the chances of her torpedoing your career. She does not deserve the benefit of the doubt here.

        1. Lizzle*

          Wow. I’m sure we all have our own opinions about who is much/more/most at fault here, but if we’re refraining from judgmental language toward the OP can’t we apply the same standard to the ex-wife?

          1. Just Another Techie*

            There’s a fine line between being personally judgmental, and giving advice based on what we know of her actions. She served the OP court summons in the hospital and had the affair announced in front of OP’s colleagues. She intentionally chose the position where she’d be in a position of power over the OP. Those are bare facts. From them, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that OP is in serious danger of this person intentionally damaging OP’s reputation and careeer prospects, and that OP needs to get out ASAP.

            1. Lizzle*

              Yep, I agree OP needs to get out ASAP but “vindictive witch” is hardly neutral and supportive language. Anyone could come on and call OP equally nasty names but it’s not necessary or helpful.

              1. Divorce attorney*

                I think if we are going to refrain from judging the LW, we really out to not judge the ex-wife either harshly. We also need to realize all we are hearing about her is being filtered by LW who does view this as a zero sum game.

                I also have to say – as a divorce lawyer – some of what LW is viewing as “vindictive” is really just “getting fair treatment” and “ensuring rights are protected.”

                For example, when LW states “He went bankrupt as a result of the divorce. She went to court to make sure he didn’t get out of the settlement. ” She also says somewhere else that ex-wife took the affair partner to the cleaners.

                Getting a court order to ensure she gets her share of the marital assets and that ex-husband cannot escape it through bankruptcy is not vindictive or wrong. It’s not even morally neutral. Ex-wife did the morally right thing there. No divorce attorney or judge would come down as saying ex-wife was in the wrong in taking that action. But LW seems to think so. She cites it in part of a take on why ex-wife is the unreasonable and morally wrong person here.

                I think AAM is bending so far over backwards to not judge the LW that she’s missing a few things that are huge red flags that LW is not seeing things objectively herself. That’s not being said to judge LW morally. It’s just to point out that, reading this with the best of intent for her, I’m still really worried about her objectivity.

                In the interest of advising LW: the way she is framing this narrative on this site makes me wonder what she is saying at work and in her defense. I think she likely making things worse for herself and coming across very unsympathetically.

                Were she my client or friend I’d tell her that she needs to tamp down her own anger at the ex-wife b/c it’s coming through loud and clear and I do not the she can herself be professional and objective on the job b/c her retelling of the facts shows she’s not objective even on some basic facts.

                She comes across as viewing herself and her affair partner as victims. Even wrt to basic things where they aren’t (e.g., the bankruptcy, wife getting assets). There are things where ex-wife was over the line (e.g., service of summons), but no one at ex-wife’s work is going to hear that if LW is saying “buuuttttt….she tried to get her assets even though he was bankrupt.” There’s also an element of “my child and I aren’t getting ours b/c the WIFE took it in the divorce.” Even though the wife would not have ever taken more than what she was entitled to take.

                That narrative does not make LW look sympathetic at all to me and I’m trying my best to read this in a way that would help her. (I don’t judge the morality of what she did, not my place).

                I do not think that LW is the most reliable of narrators in terms of the ex-Wife’s actions, given the above, but it doesn’t matter.

                It does not matter if LW is being fair on this or if Wife is being a shrew. They will not ever be able to work together. Even if they both tried, there would always be gossip and always be outsiders viewing it as problematic.

                At this point, it doesn’t matter if I’m right that LW is being a bit unreliable and emotional here. It doesn’t matter if LW or ex-Wife is worse. It doesn’t matter who is really culpable for which action or consequence. The employer has made a decision. They chose the ex-Wife.

                Fairness to the LW doesn’t enter into it. Decision has been made. The company is not going to suddenly wake up and say “we think the LW has been treated unfairly by the ex-Wife.” Not going to happen.

                As I see no legal reason for LW to fight and no recourse, the LW has only two choices: stick around and eat Sh*t until the company finds a reason to fire her for cause (which will happen) or leave on her own terms.

                1. Gilmore67*

                  I wonder if this is not the first affair that the husband had.

                  If so, the ex-wife probably just was like…. I am done and everything that happened after that was just a accumulation of all of it.

                  Not judging the OP, not at all. Just saying this might have been the tip of the iceberg for the wife.

                2. OhBehave*

                  I don’t think LW is not being objective. Her livelihood is being threatened. Her future and the future of her child depends upon this job. I bet she feels like she is paying for this fling all over again. We can speculate about what the guy in this mix told her vs. what she actually witnessed in court which speaks to her statement that ex-wife hit hubby while he was down. We just don’t know.

                  Speaking to OP’s actual question, “What should I do, do you have any advice as to how I can convince HR to change their minds?” There is nothing you CAN do at this point. The company has chosen Ex over you. They may feel that her expertise and experience is more valuable than yours. The company wants to preserve continuity and one way to do this is to keep upper level employees who can manage employees through change. The fact that ex chose this job because of OP is vindictive. How does OP know that’s why ex chose this position over the other? This is a no-win situation.

                3. snuck*


                  There is one element of this I’m not sure about…

                  I get the impression that this is in a small community – small industry or small town or similar – the odds of all this happening are not high in a larger community. (The fact that all these people worked/lived in such close proximity to each other. Companies merging, small business/only a couple of lines of management, exiting management to retirement – sounds like a small community where the re-org is related to retirement and shutting down of a family business and the whole lot coming together.)

                  If Rachel OP is in a small community then this might make it all a lot harder, but also a little easier – everyone in that community will know the history, and while there’s probably a lot of half truths out there, there’s also a good chance people will know the parties involved better and thus have friendships/trust etc where it’s best put rather than rely on the gossip. It might be harder to get another job in a place where there’s less jobs – either ones in Rachel’s industry, or in the community overall. All the more reason for Rachel to get out as quick as she can….

                4. Falling Diphthong*

                  Fairness to the LW doesn’t enter into it. Decision has been made.

                  Excellent point. Everyone here can agree HR is bonkers–okay, they are bonkers. Given that reality, what is it actually in OP’s power to do?

                  It’s like complaining that you are being offered a job for a secret salary, or that your boss now insists you keep chickens in your cubicle and give him the free-range eggs they produce–your options do not include “push a button so the other person becomes reasonable.”

                5. nonegiven*

                  But she would have gotten more money with the bankruptcy settlement. She just wanted his wages garnished even though it led to her getting less money.

                  That is vindictive.

                6. snuck*

                  Except that a bankrupt doesn’t have assets for her to be paid out… we don’t know anything much about these people – they might not have much in the way of assets and therefore splitting half of nothing… is nothing.

                  Garnishing wages might have been a guaranteed way to get *something*… future earnings?

                  The whole thing confuses me, I think it’s different in Australia… in Australia both parties have to split the existing assets, there’s no ‘suing’ each other for more… what you have is what you have. There can be cases for spousal support, child support, dependent support (disabled adults etc)… but generally the house is sold, the assets divided…

                7. Just Another Techie*

                  I disagree snuck. I witnessed (thankfully was not personally involved) some god-awful drama at a large defence contractor in Washington DC a few years back. A manager and his fiancee worked in different departments of the same large company. He started sleeping with one of his reports, secretly bought a house (!?!) with his report/affair partner, fiancee found out and broke up with him, he tried to get her transferred to an office on the west coast, then the new girlfriend/affair partner/direct report started cheating on him with another manager, got promoted out of his department. It was mad drama, the fiancee quit, the affair partner got fired (nothing happened to either of the male managers and I wish I could say I was surprised). Five years later the two women ended up working in the same department at a different defense contractor. It was a w k w a r d.

                  It turns out that even in large cities and large corporations if you have a specialized job function, especially a technical role, the community is pretty damn small.

                8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  Divorce Lawyer – undoubtedly, you’ve seen a lot in your day — and I’m sure you’ve had a few “settlement table surprises” (I’m sure you’re also saying “OH YEAH” as you read this!) where your client didn’t disclose certain, highly pertinent facts… again, not saying this is the case here, but in a divorce there are usually two sides to every story. We are reading OP’s explanation; the ex-wife has hers.

                  ex-Wife has probably been counseled by HR and others within the firm, assuming they’re aware of the situation – advising ex- , don’t do anything that would get the company or yourself into trouble but DO take disciplinary action if the situation warrants it.

                  I just find it difficult to believe that the company- knowing what OP told the higher-ups – that they wouldn’t go out of their way to prevent drama from occurring. This situation – which ex-Wife will almost certainly emerge victorious – is a gasoline-and-match one, that no reasonable company would allow to occur.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I can’t blame the ex-wife for being angry. But it’s hard to believe someone who isn’t being vindictive would deliberately choose a job where she knows she’ll be managing the person her ex had an affair with. That’s pretty telling given the other information OP has shared. She could have taken the other one (OP said it was equivalent) and avoided her completely. Why would she subject herself to that unless she had an agenda?

            Of course, I could be completely wrong, but somehow I just don’t see that happening.

            1. jasper_red*

              I have to agree with you…I think her anger is justified but yikes…her actions are Jerry Springer-esque aren’t they?
              I think if I was in the ex’s position I wouldn’t even want to be around OP at all because it would be a reminder of what happened. I have sort of “responsible but impulsive” tendencies and something like this would make me more likely to just cut all ties and move somewhere faaaar away (with a job lined up of course) that way there’s no accidentally running into ex or OP at the store you know?

            2. Divorce attorney*

              I can see it. If she thinks the LW is dangerous to her, having power over her is better than not having power over her. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

              In the end, though, the ex-wife’s motivations do not matter and are unknowable to us.

              What does matter is that the company has taken ex-wife’s side on this one. They aren’t going to budge. LW has no future at the company.

          3. Jesmlet*

            I think if you asked me who I think is more at fault, you’d be surprised by my answer, but that’s not relevant here. I’m strictly commenting on what OP says the wife did, and I don’t think it’s opinion that her actions are vindictive (but admittedly maybe witch was over the line).

          4. Miaw*

            I agree with you Lizzle. OP got my sympathy until she started telling stories about the ex-wife. I feel like all this is done to paint the ex-wife as the bad guy. The ex-wife has all the reason to be hurt. Let’s not be judgemental on the ex-wife too, if we are not allowed to be judgemental on OP.

            People painting the ex-wife as vindictive is not
            Being constructive.

            Remember that we know this situation from OP’s letter and we don’t know the full story.

        2. paul*

          yeah. I’ve seen a few nasty divorces, and while this isn’t as uncommon as I’d like it is unhealthy for all involved. I’m not saying the ex-wife isnt’ entitled to be angry at all involved (FWIW I would be), but there’s a point where it’s just obsessive and not good for any party. Sounds like she’s crossed that a ways back.

          OP, get out before she sabotages you.

        3. A Law Student*

          One of the reasons I like AAM is that this community generally refrains from using language like “vindictive witch.” This is inappropriate, especially when LW1 wronged the ex-wife in a permanent, life-shattering way.

      10. Caro in the UK*

        Having read this, I agree with everyone else. Get out of there. She seems like a very, very angry person who is determined to make you suffer. If you want to try to stay, document everything, right from the get go. The at least you might have a case for constructive dismissal.

        1. Thlayli*

          Yeah I hadn’t read this bit before. Bloody hell. What a nutjob. I think now that there is a good chance that she is just taking the job to get back at you.

          I’m really surprised that none of what she did was legally harassment. Posting the stuff on social media seems dodgy.

          Also that’s just a horrible way to treat an innocent child even aside from how she treated you.

          I think you may be able to get her in a lot of trouble if you stay in the job as you could document every horrible thing she does and use it to sue her for something, but you would be putting yourself through a lot of hardship for little reward. I think you are right in choosing not to sink to her level and leave if you can afford to at all.

          I know your baby-daddy is still paying her money but is there any way that he could financially help you out a bit more while you are unemployed? I dunno the rules on child support where you are but you may also be legally entitled to more from him if you are unemployed.

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            Unfortunately everything she did was within the law, the service was legal and my testimony was in open court. There is no law against repeating it and it doesn’t meet the legal test for harassment. We tried.

            The father of my child is much worse off than me right now. I would help him if I could but I am in no position to. And since we share custody and visitation equally there is no child support paid by either one of us to the other.

        2. Divorce attorney*

          There is no case for constructive dismissal. Being an affair partner is not something that puts you into the type of class where this comes in.

          LW has no legal recourse.

          She needs to just get out now while she still has some dignity and while she still has a chance to say “I left b/c they wanted to put me under a manager with a personal grudge over me.”

      11. Allie*

        I am so sorry. I though HR was nuts before, now I have to wonder what they are thinking? I almost wonder if they want to get rid of the wife because she clearly isn’t going to be professional.

        I am so very sorry this is going on and your employer is being so ridiculously blockheaded.

      12. LizzE*

        I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt that her pain caused her to act in such a way; however, something tells me she is a petty, malicious, vindicative person in general – and you wouldn’t even have to have an affair with her husband to be on the receiving end of her wrath. Even if you were not in this situation, OP, she would probably be difficult to work with anyway. I feel a tinge worried for her other direct reports.

        Rachel, do you have any temp agencies in your area so that you will have some form of income after quitting? Temp jobs are most certainly going to be a reduction in pay, but if you can’t receive unemployment, at least they provide a holdover for a few months until you can find a better job.

        1. voyager1*

          LW1: After reading this, you need to just put a two week notice in. This woman will get you fired or worse if you stay there.

          Wow… just… wow the rage in that ex is insane.

          1. Lizzle*

            Do we really need to make judgments about this woman’s character? People react strongly to being cheated on. People are shot over such things. I’m not here to pick on the OP, but let’s be real–extreme reactions to adultery are not strange and unheard of, nor are they insane.

            1. voyager1*

              Fair enough, but serving someone papers in a labor and delivery ward to me is insane. Paying extra to do it is insane. (Also I think the hospital allowing someone to do that is insane too.)

              1. Michelle*

                Agreed. I understand the (ex)wife being hurt and enraged but after OP just had a baby? The security at that hospital must be lax or maybe the person delivering them was a licensed process server. You have to go through 3 layers of security (ID check, visitor sticker with your photo on it, parking slip from the parking deck- they give you 2 and tell you that you have to show the 2nd one at the security desk) at the hospital where I live before you can even get to the maternity ward. The maternity ward has 2 security officers and then the nurse at the check-in desk has to call the new mother’s room to before you are admitted.

                1. Cedrus Libani*

                  I used to be a professional foreskin dissector (yes, really), and as part of my job, I had to make the rounds of the local maternity wards to collect raw material. So I’ve had a lot of experience in talking my way past hospital security, given a legit but non-standard reason for being there…

                  I can see a process server getting into the maternity ward, assuming they have proper credentials and a named target. If the target is asked for by name, the hospital is allowed under HIPAA to disclose their location. The server would probably be escorted in by the nurse, just to confirm no baby-snatching would occur, but they’d get in.

              2. Dankar*

                I have a really, really difficult time imagining a company that specializes in process servers would take that kind of a request/payment. I’ve had family members in that line of work and they not only had 0 direct contact with the person whose case required the documents be served but avoided any unnecessary risks (like showing up to a hospital to shout at family members and friends of the serv-ee) because the work was so thankless and, frankly, dangerous.

                Attorneys are generally the ones contracting process servers.

                1. Michelle*

                  I wasn’t sure. I was trying to work out how someone could get on the maternity floor of a hospital. I was thinking if the process server had some sort of ID they show and was allowed up to serve legal papers or something along that line. I have never been served legal papers so I have no idea how that would work.

              3. Divorce attorney*

                I’ve seen papers served at the funeral. It’s possible that this was done to be vindictive.

                It’s also possible – just possible – it was done b/c it’s where ex-wife knew LW would be and where she could be served.

                It’s also entirely beside the point of the advice LW needs.

                I do not understand why AAM has said not to judge the LW but is permitting all sorts of speculation as to the motives and actions of the ex-wife when all we have is the LW’s (biased) viewpoint.

                If LW were my client, I would advocate zealously for her, but I would filter her take on this through the lens of her own self-interest and realize that her take on it may be 100% fair to the ex-wife.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’ve removed two comments that were far over the line in violating the comment policy here. That doesn’t mean that no one can ever pass judgment on anyone.

                2. The Rat-Catcher*

                  How does that justify all the extra commentary, though? Serving papers generally doesn’t come with a huge side of judgment from the process server.

                3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  “It’s also possible – just possible – it was done b/c it’s where ex-wife knew LW would be and where she could be served.”

                  That is USUALLY how a process server does his/her job. I’ve heard of papers being served at funerals and wakes, outside of churches, at workplaces, coffee shops, even baseball games and PTA meetings.

                  You do the job quickly, with certainty but with efficiency, and sometimes discretion has to be overlooked in order to serve the papers.

              4. snuck*

                We are getting one person’s side of the story though…. I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment… OP Rachel – this isn’t about you… it’s about the commenters on here assuming they know the ins and outs of all this… I’m making stuff up, because it seems to be what is happening in this thread – lots of assumptions.

                We don’t know what happened. But what if it was:

                The OP had dodged the process server a number of times already or had no known address and this was the only place she could be reliably found? (still pretty bloody insane!)
                The serving of documentation was time sensitive (I’m not sure what the deadlines for stuff is) and with a week long stay in hospital this was the only place it could be done…?
                The two jobs the ex-wife were offered were not equal, one was lower in pay or position, or the other was a promotion, or one was closer to her own career aspirations for the long term…?
                The public posting of the court testimony was in response to large scale drama about what was being said in public about stuff and the ex-wife was just trying to get the truth out there…? (still kinda crazy, the best way to deal with stuff is privately! keep the flames low!)
                The ex-wife has put it all behind her – she went a bit bananas when it all happened, but now has moved on – and thus believes she can be professional? (I’d question this, but it might be her head space)

                I could go on. None of this is completely unreasonable either… we’re all looking at this through only one lens – and then placing our own prejudices and assumptions over it.

                1. Mookie*

                  We only ever get an OP’s opinion on things, but this doesn’t give us license to tease out fantasies about them or distrust them.

            2. Salamander*

              Yes. This.

              Additionally, the boss chose to manage a team with the OP on it. We don’t know that this is the only reason. There might have been a shorter commute to manage this department or other opportunities for advancement. She may be deciding not to let the OP’s presence interfere with her career path, which is a decision she is very much entitled to make. She may have made the decision *despite* the OP’s presence. We can’t climb into her head, and we don’t know.

              And there are a whole bunch of people saying that what the OP did with respect to the affair is her personal life and should stay in her personal life, that it has nothing to do with her professional performance. I can possibly buy that. However, if that argument is being made in relation to the OP, it has to be applied to the new boss as well. New boss’s behavior in the divorce proceedings is HER personal life. If you’re assuming that the OP’s personal life is off limits to criticism and that she can compartmentalize, it’s only fair to assume that the new boss can keep it out of her professional life, as well. It’s only fair to give the same benefit of the doubt across the board.

            3. Sas*

              The ex-wife’s actions are completely inappropriate. Call names, don’t. It doesn’t really matter. Those person’s actions are horrible. Being angry: Years have gone by. Things happened legally, OP feels bad about what happened. That is THE punishment. Ex-nasty doesn’t get to destroy someone’s life over something that was a mistake. You shouldn’t support her character not being taken down. She is doing the wrong things here. What would make her wrong? Actually asking for the OP’s means of supporting her child, life, happiness, to live in a dungeon, or expecting it. You decide

              1. Lizzle*

                I would take the loss of my spouse and our life together much harder than I would take the loss of a job. YMMV, obviously.

                I was merely noting that since Alison has made it quite clear that we’re not to get nasty about the OP’s actions, I would like the same courtesy extended to the ex wife.

                1. Tempest*

                  Op slept with this man once. Many years ago. Ex wife still being on a mission to ruin the woman her husband slept with once this many years later is beyond normal anger. The woman needs help. Clearly there is something else going on here as I wouldn’t want any contact with this woman. She’s bankrupted her ex husband – I get that she’s entitled to because it was their marriage and that’s how it ended but she’s managed to ruin his life for this. Now she’s gunning for the woman he slept with once? I don’t know if the child is an issue, I’d guess so purely due to the serving of the subpeona in the labour and delivery ward at the hospital but that’s a level of petty/crazy that I can’t understand. Is it because OP has ex husband’s child that this woman wants to basically force her into being unemployed and having no way to care for her child?

                  Like let’s be serous, that’s a messed up level of give a damn. You want to make sure that this woman who slept with your husband once can’t support her child. This woman is effectively saying she wants OP to be homeless with a child in tow. Now, I get ruining his life. Do I ever. He was the married one who decided to play out, he got caught and now he’s paying the consequences. I also get OP isn’t innocent as she knew he was married. But she doesn’t know their situation. Some people have a freer relationship than others. The onus here is on husband because he’s the one who went against his vows. Ruining the life of the woman you otherwise have no connection to other than she slept with your husband in a one time mistake is crazy. Maybe some people think the history entitles her but in my opinion there is bad country music written about cheating break ups that doesn’t attain this level of bat crap.

                  I feel for you OP, you sound like you went on to see the error you made and move on with your life. You don’t deserve to have the rest of your life ruined over this. Good luck, I hope a new job comes along really quickly for you but it does sound like you need to get out now before she smears your reputation and fires you anyway as that is clearly where her motivation lies. She can ruin your rep at this job and then give you a firing to explain rather than getting to say you quit because the company merged, restructured and you left/started looking due to the lack of security in your role. I mean, due to crazy manager that’s true, and no one else really needs to know why she’s crazy.

            4. A Law Student*

              I agree with you, Lizzle. I’m surprised that comments that would not be allowed with regards to LW1 are being freely allowed with regards to the wife, who is understandably distraught. Cheating is something that you never heal from. Time does not heal all wounds, and it’s really not anyone’s place here to call the cheated-upon wife “insane.” That’s not okay. If we can’t call LW1 “Jerry-Springeresque,” we can’t apply that to the wife either.

              1. Devil's Advocate*

                This!! So This! Basically everyone has deemed that LW1 made a “mistake” and ex-wife should “get over it” and poor LW1. I’m sorry but it was a mistake where she knew the man was married and had a child with him. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for the ex-wife to heal knowing that income (their married income) would be going to support the child, his time would be going to the child, the would be continued contact between LW1 and her husband. Especially if the ex-wife had wanted children/couldn’t have children.

                I’m not sure why LW1 took a job at the same company as the ex-wife but if I am LW1 I would have been looking for a new job for sometime now. In the meantime, perhaps ex-wife truly can be professional in the workplace. LW1 hasn’t given her the chance to do that yet.

      13. Episkey*

        Unfortunately, it sounds like this woman is gleeful about now being able to be your boss…can only think she is relishing in this situation, knowing you will likely be out of a job. This is a really sucky situation.

      14. Elizabeth West*

        I have to agree with Alison. I don’t think there is any way you can stay at this job–clearly she is not over this yet and may not feel like she can be until she has finished laying waste to your life. The company either doesn’t care or is completely behind her, and that’s insane either way.

        I wish I had a better suggestion–I’d see if there is any kind of interim help until you can find another job and then politely and professionally resign. And when job hunting, some commenters suggested making your reason for leaving about the merger, so that’s what I would do.

      15. smthing*

        I second what everyone else is saying. The last thing you want is for her to be on record as your supervisor, thus raising the possibility that future employers might contact her regarding your qualifications.

        This sucks, good luck.

      16. Mookie*

        Best of luck to you, Rachel. This is not a situation of your own making, but I’m glad to hear you’re raising your family amongst sensible, healthy people. Cut this last tie to this woman and enjoy the rest of your life without her. :)

      17. Miaw*

        I would say I cannot blame the offended wife. Let’s not paint anyone as the bad guy here. Your story here about the offended wife is not adding anything useful to your question except painting her as a vindictive person. I think it is best that you just move on to a new and better job.

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          I think the point of it was to demonstrate that the chances of the wife “acting like a professional,” as HR keeps insisting she will, are small given how badly she’s behaved as a person thus far. Some of the things Rachel mentioned are less extreme than others, but ruining the birth of someone else’s child? There is little lower in this world.

      18. The Rat-Catcher*

        If everyone in management are the wife’s BFFs, then they’ve probably been hearing ever since this happened about “that b*tch Rachel,” and there is less than zero chance of that having any effect on your tenure there.
        Run, run, run. And I’m so sorry that this happened to you through no fault of your own.

  19. MuseumChick*

    OP1, others have given excellent advice (document everything, find a new job as fast as possible, etc). I just can’t help but wonder if HR is trying to get you to quit. This situation is completely bizarre and there is no way that you and your new boss can have any kind of constructive relationship.

    Not that it helps in this moment but I would think long and hard about your time there and if there are reason(s) they would want for all intents and purposes drive you out.

    1. mumen rider*

      I don’t know much about this, but don’t employers have some kind of incentive to get employees to quit? Does it affect the unemployment insurance deductions that they have to pay?

      A while ago I witnessed my boss exaggerate reasons to fire an employee, and they gave the reason that just letting someone go would result in the company paying higher unemployment insurance in the future (it was a small business and the boss was owner too). If you’re wondering, boss tended to overshare with me and I could overhear everything in their adjacent office – and yes, I told boss that I could hear everything many times. That was one of several red flags that led to me quitting six months later.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        My general understanding is that the amount of tax paid is effected by how much benefits an employer has paid in the past, but there are incentives built into the system to discourage widespread abuse such as trying to force employees to quit rather than be fired. Certainly companies that do this stink and people shouldn’t work for them if they can avoid it!

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah I had a friend who was told that he was being let go in a cutback, and then when he went to file unemployment, he was told they couldn’t pay out because he was released for cause.

        WHAT CAUSE? Well, there was none. The entity that terminated his employment was being counseled by a company that specializes in helping companies dodge unemployment claims. After five months, and an order from the state – they were asked to “show the cause or else, yield” and they finally turned tail and admitted there was no cause.

        Good thing , for that company, that they weren’t here in Massachusetts doing that stunt…

  20. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1…I am flabbergasted at both the statistical likelihood that this scenario has even occurred and your HR department’s refusal to take any action. I am so sorry you’re in this position. I have nothing further to add to what Alison and everyone else has already said…..just my sincerest sympathies. Time to move on to greener pastures.

    1. MT*

      What action should HR have taken? Move her to a new position that doesn’t exist? Give her a promotion/demotion to an open position? Make some other employ change jobs so that there is a later position available? HR is not responsible for outside of work issues, if either party decides to bring outside issues into work, then its their issue. At this point neither the company or the future manager has done anything wrong.

      1. LBK*

        I dunno, some of those sound like perfectly plausible solutions to me…people getting moved around and positions getting combined into new roles happens all the time during a merger. HR’s main obligation is just to the law, sure, but I’d think they would still have some interest in mediating or mitigating workplace conflict as well.

        I wouldn’t say they’ve done anything wrong per se, but I think if they had any interest in retaining the OP they misstepped. Doesn’t seem like they do given that they’re not even exploring options to pursue.

          1. Former Retail Manager*

            Yes…this is what I meant. To knowingly place a manager who has this sort of history into an immediate supervisor role is a veritable minefield. @LBK…Even if they saw fit to release OP because the manager has greater value to the company, I’d expect a nice severance offer and assurance of a good reference, as fposte says. And as the OP noted above, the manager had a choice of which dept to manage and she deliberately chose the dept that OP is in. Once HR was made aware of the circumstances, I don’t think that a switch-a-roo between the two managers would be unheard of.

        1. fposte*

          I actually think it would be okay for them not to want to retain OP, but it would have been soooo easy for them to make it a decent transition. “Given the circumstances…good reference…two month’s severance..” and so on. This is more like “We’ll just leave you two to fight it out and back whoever’s left standing.”

          1. LBK*

            Oh yeah, I think it’s fine for the company to decide that they’re not willing to find a place for her; generally speaking I think the manager wins in a situation like this since they tend to be harder to replace. But agreed that they could’ve still decided to show her the door while not doing it so gracelessly.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, this feels kind of United Airline-y. There’s a reason why a lot of companies would offer some severance in a situation like this; it reduces the chance of trouble.

              1. LBK*

                Right – at some point you have to give up on the principle of the matter to manage the reality of it.

        2. TheTallestOneEver*

          If OP1 absolutely has to stay until she finds something else, given the circumstances I wonder if it would appropriate to formally ask HR for mediation to mitigate this conflict. It wouldn’t be pretty but hopefully it could put new boss on some type of notice that any lack of professionalism wouldn’t go unchecked, and it would allow OP1 to collect documentation in case this does become a hostile work environment.

      2. Ismis*

        You might not have seen the comment above – she actually had the choice of two positions and took the one where she would be supervising Rachel (commenting under Rachel – Letter #1 if you want to search).

      3. Jesmlet*

        HR should’ve not given this woman the option to manage OP. If they weren’t aware of the personal circumstances before, once they learned of it, they should’ve required her to take the other position – same job, different department – and remained neutral. They have clearly taken a side in this situation.

        1. Student*

          Why should the ex-wife be denied the promotion of her choice because OP had sex with her then-husband? How on Earth is that not punishing the ex-wife for her husband’s inability to keep his pants up around other women – an act that the ex-wife had no control over, was not involved in, and has suffered for in a divorce?

          What you’re suggesting would potentially be illegal sexism – penalizing a women for the bad behavior of others outside her control. If anyone gets juggled to a different department by the company, it’d be the OP, not the ex-wife. It sounds like the company is abundantly aware of the circumstances and is not choosing to accommodate the OP. The OP hurt the ex-wife, and now has to deal with the consequences of burning a bridge that was both social AND professional. If the OP had undermined the ex-wife at work in a non-sexual way, maybe by cussing her out or disrupting an important project or something, she wouldn’t be entitled to accommodation from the company just because of the awkwardness, either.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Same job, different department. She is choosing to have power over someone she has repeatedly harassed in the past. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

            There is nothing illegal about that, in fact also nothing out of the ordinary. It is perfectly routine to give someone a promotion into one department instead of allowing them to choose between two different departments. It was also at a completely different company that this originally happened and from the way it’s worded, OP’s company is one part of a merger and ex-wife’s company is another so ex-wife would not be juggled around any more than what was already going to happen.

          2. LBK*

            Huh? How is sexism at play here? Not wanting someone to supervise a person they have an extremely fraught personal history with would be a logical and generally pretty smart decision regardless of the genders of the people involved. It’s a pretty huge stretch to suggest it would be illegal discrimination.

            It doesn’t sound like this was a promotion, it was a lateral move as the result of a merger. It’s really, really common to just be told what your new role is during a merger – the fact that they even offered her a choice is pretty unusual and far from something she’s entitled to. If anything, I’d guess the offer wasn’t “pick which of these positions you want,” it was “your equivalent title in the new role would mean you’re supervising Jane, so if you don’t want to do that, we’ll move you into this other spot instead”.

            1. Rachel - Letter #1*

              It was a promotion. She was not a manager before this. And she was offered both positions and chose to be my manager.

              1. LBK*

                Gotcha – thanks for clarifying. Either way, it’s highly unusual for someone to be offered two positions and told to pick which one they want; she was by no means entitled to that choice, and the company could’ve very easily just stuck her in the other one without letting her decide.

              2. snuck*

                Was it more a “we need two team leaders, so which team do you want?” or a “We need a manager of teapots and a manager of saucers, which do you want?” …. because if it was two equal and same positions (team leaders of two identical teams with identical work roles and numbers and skills and experience) then… yeah… crazy pants vindictive. But if they were different and the ex-wife prefers saucers over teapots, or your team (Rachel OP) has different job roles (accounts payable vs receivable for example, where ex wife has more experience in one over another)…. then it’s harder to say it’s the same job and she chose to just manage out of spite.

      4. Lily in NYC*

        Easy – there were two open positions and the woman chose the one supervising OP once she found OP was in that dept. HR could have just given her the other position instead of giving her a choice.

      5. winter*

        LW 1 wrote they offered new manager/ex wife two different positions so there do seem to be options.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s statistically unlikely, but stripped of the soapy elements you have three people who all work in the same industry with their personal lives also intersecting, and years later two of them meet through work again.

      1. paul*

        It’s also not that unlikely in some fields; I’ve worked with my best friend’s wife 2x now, and a few of my friends have percolated into and out of my agency (though not in a capacity near mine). I mean, how many lawyers have friends that are also lawyers and may wind up in the same fields? Ditto doctors, whatever else.

      2. Thlayli*

        Also she says that both her and the husbands families and friends are all in the area. I’m getting a small town vibe. It’s almost like a scarlet letter scenario. Let’s all gang up on the scarlet woman who slept with Janes husband. It’s pretty awful behaviour from all concerned – if they know the full story.

        1. Rachel - Letter #1*

          It’s a large city with millions of people. I don’t know about his ex-wife but the father of my child and me grew up in this city. Things are amicable between him and I. I have never met his family beyond in passing but they have never done anything to me and we have no issues. His ex-wife and her family and friends are the ones who have issues.

          1. Rachel - Letter #1*

            I mean, his family and my family were both shocked and upset when they found about the fling and the baby. But they are still supportive and have not cut us off or anything.

  21. rudster*

    I think OP1 should get a second opinion on her legal options. Getting fired “for cause” (the employer’s words, presumbly) isn’t enough for a denial of unemployment compensation – it has to be gross misconduct. Sure, the company will probably deny her claim, but that can always be appealed. A sternly worded letter from an attorney can work wonders; it’s hard to believe that an employer would actually want to ramp the already high level of drama just to avoid a modest increase in their UI rates.

    1. MT*

      It really depends on the state. As someone who has dealt with some super conservation states, and some super liberal states, Unemployment compensation requirements very greatly between each sate. I’ve had someone who was fired for theft, and arrested still able to get unemployment. And I’ve seen someone fired for missing too many days get denied.

    2. LQ*

      This depends on the state. Many states do require gross misconduct, though not all and some vary on how they interpret that.
      Though not all employment lawyers specialize in unemployment insurance law which is sometimes a different beast. I’d try to get a layoff if at all possible. A layoff with severance would sort of make this much smoother for the OP in a lot of ways. (And yes to appealing.)

      1. Shadow*

        if she’s going to propose a layoff to the company she’s going to have to show them how that’s a better option for them. Most companies don’t just agree to severance and unemployment when a job (even though it’s one you don’t want) is available.

  22. Surprise Salary*

    #3 is applicable to me unfortunately. I was offered an internal promotion. After a month of HR bureaucracy (don’t get me started), they decided they needed to send the job description to a third party salary grader… which would take another month. They needed the role filled and asked me to accept it without knowing the salary. I ended up doing so, because my promotion is the result of a restructure, and more a recognition of duties I’ve taken on–so to not accept it would essentially be a demotion into less interesting work. I’m really pissed though, and not to sound dramatic, but I won’t forget this and will be always on the look out for a new job going forward. The only mitigating factor is that my new boss is in the same boat as me (promotion with new pay pending review). What a mess.

    1. K.*

      Did you get your new salary yet? If so, was it fair? It does help that your boss is in the same situation, but that still sucks.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s… Is the third party salary reviewer the college buddy of someone in upper management, who agreed to throw some clients at their consulting startup? That’s the only case where I can see this not being something employers are expected to figure out for themselves.

    3. LBK*

      What kind of nonsense is a “salary grader”? Seems like the only third-party salary grader they’d need is you, insofar as you will rate the salary a pass (accept the job) or fail (reject it). What, are they going to come back and say “We were told this salary is an A+, so you must accept it!”

      1. Natalie*

        I’ve never heard it called a “salary grader” but business consultants often provide compensation research/advice services. So perhaps that’s what they’re referring to?

      2. Ann O.*

        When I was promoted into a job that had never existed before at my company, they had someone perform salary research in a way that sounds equivalent to the salary grader. My manager handled the logistics, though, so I don’t know if it was HR or a consultant. But there was definitely a review of salary based on job description.

        Now that I write about it, I was actually promoted without knowing the specific salary detail. But the promotion was a recognition of work I was already doing, so it never occurred to me to be bothered by it. Both title and salary were going to be improvements–the only question was how significant.

  23. Czhorat*

    OP3 – if you haven’t been told the pay, you haven’t been offered a job. A job is an agreement to do a particular kind of work for a specific compensation. “I’ll hire you and we’ll figure out what you’ll be paid” is not an offer. It’s someone trying to get something for nothing, at the very best.

  24. Anon For Right Now*

    #2 – Oh, gift cards. It seems like you did a nice thing by trying to give gift cards. Your heart is in the right place and I get it. But are the gift cards to places your employees actually go? I’ve had 2 nightmare gift card experiences and they were enough to make me never want to give them unless specifically asked for or to a grocery store or gas station where you can get necessities.

    1. I got a gift card from a cousin as a wedding gift. She lives on the west coast. I live on the east coast. It was for a store we don’t have on the east coast. It was for an amount that was just small enough that it would have paid for something nice if I was in person, but also just small enough that if I used it online I didn’t qualify for free shipping. It was essentially a bill for shipping something I didn’t really want from a store I couldn’t easily shop at.

    2. About 8 years ago I got a gift card from a former manager. She had lunch at a local place (one location). It’s hard to get to, has terrible parking, and is not close to the office. People on our team vaguely knew of the place when she mentioned she was going there; only one person had eaten there and thought it was okay but not worth the trip to that side of the city just for that. For some reason Manager bought everyone on our team a gift card to this place. I’d rather not mention the amount, but the only way anyone could possibly use up the card would be to have lunch there at least 4 times. And they were not open for dinner, where you might be able to use up a big gift card or use it to defray a dinner with friends or something, so it would have to be at least 4 lunches. Of the 6 people on our team, maybe 2 used the cards once or twice, and Manager wasted a lot of her own money.

    1. Non-profit pro*

      My in-laws do that a lot, buy gift cards without considering the logistics of the giftee being able to use them. It used to irritate the deal out of me and make me feel like they gave me an errand, not a gift.
      I’ve since started selling the gift cards as soon as I get them and cash it in for amazon credit so I can buy what I really want. Now I don’t have a stack of unused gift cards sitting on my dresser and I can buy all the romance novels and sewing books I want.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The fact that there is now an entire economy built around selling unwanted gift cards for a fraction of their value is really telling.

        1. CS*

          A lot of that is actually due to people shoplifting things, returning them without receipts, and then getting gift cards. Though I’d imagine sometimes it’s because people don’t use them.

          1. Kelly L.*