interviewer asked if my resume exaggerates, office is weirdly secretive about hiring, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked, “is there anything on your resume that’s an exaggeration?”

I recently interviewed for an internal six-month “detail” in my organization, a position that wasn’t a promotion, just a lateral transfer. After an hour of good questions, I was asked, “Is there anything on your resume that’s an exaggeration?” After I responded “no,” the interviewer asked me with the biggest, almost-coquettish smile, “Were any of your answers to my previous questions lies?” Again, I replied, “No”.

My advance degree and almost 30-year work history are a matter of record within the organization. Even though I didn’t lie and my resume isn’t filled with exaggerations, I personally found these questions to be stupid and offensive. I immediately decided that I was not interested in working with these people.

What’s your opinion of these questions?

Insulting. I wish you’d followed up by asking your interviewer, “Was anything you told me about the job a lie?”

2. Our office is weirdly secretive about hiring

I’ve been at my current job for over three years now, and I’ve noticed a pattern: when we are hiring anyone, it’s very hush-hush and on a “need to know” basis, with almost no one in the know until the new hire gets there for their first day. This is true for every new hire (entry-level up through executive). The fact that the office is looking to fill a role is never announced or talked about, the fact that the bosses are interviewing candidates is never announced — even when candidates are actually here being interviewed and we’re trying to find the bosses — and most of us don’t know a new person is starting until we meet them, or until the bosses send out an email announcing the new person (which is usually on their start day or a day or two later). The effect has been that a majority of the office tends to be surprised at being introduced to a new coworker, because they were not informed beforehand.

While this is not my first job, it is my first white-collar, office job. What I want to know is: is this practice regarding new hires normal? If not, what is considered normal? For reference, this is an office of about 30 people and there is no separation between departments. The new hires are not replacing current employees (which is the only situation I can think of where it might make sense to keep hiring a secret); they have been hired to replace employees who resigned or to keep up with an increasing workload.

I understand when a boss keeps quiet when someone is fired, but I just don’t understand why a company would keep hiring on the down-low, even from their employees.

No, that’s definitely not normal, and especially not in a small office. Normally you could expect managers to be open about the fact that there’s a job opening, and good managers will keep people (at least the people in their departments) in the loop on things like the expected timeline for hiring, and definitely the fact that someone has actually been hired and when they will start.

I wonder if the secrecy in your office is deliberate (which would be really weird) or accidental (like that they don’t realize that it’s useful for people to know what’s going on). Assuming that it’s more likely to be the latter, you or a group of you and your coworkers could speak up and say something like, “Hey, could we be more in the loop on new hires so that we’re not surprised when we hear about them for the first time the day they start?”

The only other explanation I can think of is if you work in a really small field and they’re trying to protect the privacy of candidates who may not want people to know they’re interviewing, but this still seems pretty over the top.

3. Coworker’s response to the anniversary of a tragedy

At my workplace, we are approaching an anniversary of a tragic event that involved the loss and injury of multiple people. It is a highly emotional event for those of us who were here and lost people. It was essentially a random event, so any of us here that day could have been victims. Many of us, myself included, did not know if we could return to work and face the memories of that day and those that we lost. We did return, and we pulled together to honor those lost and hurt and continue the work of the organization. It was and continues to be hard.

In the intervening time, many people have left and new people have come to fill those jobs. I understand absolutely that it is part of life that people will leave and new people will arrive. My problem is with a particular new person, who admittedly I have found to be immature and uncaring in the past. So I am uncertain if my reaction to her recent email is based on past dislike, an emotional response to the anniversary of that day or a reasonable disdain for what she sent.

She emailed the entire department a message with a subject line that referred to “a bit of levity,” so I was not prepared that the email was about the tragedy. She mentioned that she was not here when it happened but that she read a blog about the tragedy which discussed balancing mourning our dead versus celebrating life. She had decided that her method of dealing with the anniversary would be “geekish enthusiasm,” including a reference to giggling at a song.

This is not someone who I have any sort of mentoring relationship with, nor has she reacted well when I have asked her to moderate prior behavior. In fact, her reaction was to increase the behavior. So talking to her seems to be out. Frankly, I am not sure if I can talk about that day without crying, since that is what I am doing right now. Do you have any recommendations on coping skills? I may be able to avoid seeing her until after the anniversary, when perhaps my emotions might calm down. However, my perception of her will continue to be colored by her email.

I’m so sorry. Your coworker’s email sounds tremendously insensitive, at best, and I think you’re entirely justified in feeling that that’s going to color your perception of her. She’s giving you information about who she is and how she operates; you’re entitled to believe what she’s telling you about herself.

That said, it would probably be helpful (to both your own state of mind and your working relationship with her, to the extent that you need to have one) to think of her less as a callous jerk and more as astoundingly clueless.

You’d also be well within your rights to ask her manager to have a word with her about sensitivity to other people.

Beyond that, is your workplace offering any counseling support around the anniversary (or ongoing)? It would be a good thing to suggest if they’re not.

4. Should I send graduation announcements to my managers?

I’m 17, and will be graduating from high school this year. I work in a retail store for a global brand, and have now for almost a year and a half.

I will be mailing out graduation announcements soon, and was wondering what you feel would be the proper workplace etiquette in regards to sending them to my managers? They’ve been present in my life for the whole second half of my high school career, and have definitely played an important role as mentors in my growth as an employee and person. Basically, they feel present enough in my life that if they were anyone else, I would send them an announcement. I just don’t know if the fact that they’re my managers should influence that. I also certainly don’t want them to assume that I’m looking for gifts or money whatsoever. What would you do?

People do tend to see graduation announcements as conferring an obligation to give a gift, even when that’s not the intent. I like Miss Manners’ advice about graduation announcements, which is basically that they should only go to people who would genuinely care but who don’t already know … and that sending a more personal note to those people is the better way to go.

Translating that to your managers, I think you’d do better with a one-on-one conversation letting them know about the milestone and telling them what an important role they’ve played in your life during this period. That’s the kind of conversation that managers remember forever. (You could also put it in a written note if you prefer.)

5. Employee claims that no one can stop her from leaving early every day if she wants

I am starting a new position with a company. Part of my duties are to make sure that all employees are putting in the required eight-hour day.

The office manager, who is salaried, is continually leaving early by 30-40 minutes a day and leaves at 2 on Fridays. It’s making the owner crazy. I’ve told her that although she is salaried, that salary is based on a 40-hour work week. Her response is that the labor board informed her that as a salaried employee she can leave early every day and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. We’re in the U.S.

She’s flat-out wrong. You can absolutely set required work hours, even for exempt employees. (And it’s exempt or non-exempt that would be relevant here, not salaried or non-salaried, so she’s not getting that part of it right either. But either way, she’s wrong.)

Unless she is an independent contractor who is paid by the job rather than by the hour, you absolutely can set required hours for her and for the job (and in fact, doing so would be really, really normal for an office manager). You’re on safe ground saying to her, “The job requires you to be here from 9-5:30 (or whatever) and I need you to clear it with me before leaving early.” (I would normally recommend giving people as much flexibility in their schedules as their work allows for, but in this case she’s gone so rogue with the “there’s nothing anyone can do about it” line that you’d be justified.)

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, she can also be fired. Your office manager seems to be operating under the delusional idea that she’s owed a salary regardless whether she actually works or meets her job requirements (caveat: if she’s meeting expectations, then it’s worth trying to figure out if she’s under-challenged or if her position should be converted to non-exempt and hourly). It sounds like she’s being brazen because she thinks there are no consequences, and based on your description, it sounds like that’s true right now.

    But if this is making the owner crazy, why aren’t they doing anything about it? It’s really strange that she believes she has enough power to ignore directives that you and the owner have given her. Is it fear of being sued? Because labor boards definitely don’t advise employees that they can leave early if salaried and there’s nothing an employer can do—I’m 95% sure she made this up knowing that you’d both feel stumped and confused about how to proceed.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Frankly I think LW#5 is in trouble. Clearly this employee should have been fired. Despite brazenly cutting out of work every single day and “driving the boss crazy” the boss hasn’t fired her yet. It almost sounds like you were hired to mostly make this employee put in full day. This is an impossible task if the owner isn’t willing to do what should be done and FIRE her.

      1. Leah*

        A lot of managers/bosses will completely shut down when they hear words like “labor board”. The first thing OP should do is educate the owner on the law so that he knows that firing her is safe.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Exactly this. She’s using scare tactics and holding the boss hostage. Fire her. Fire her right now and never look back.

          1. Naruto*

            Or at the very least, be very clear with your boss if you will have the authority to discipline this person, up to and including firing her. You could give her another shot, but you need to know that you have the support to do this.

            If you don’t have the support to do this, then you need to tell the owner that you won’t be able to control her because you haven’t been given the tools to do so — and then stop worrying about it or trying to. In that scenario, you also need to look for a new job, because it will be toxic and only get worse if you work at a place where employees can’t be held accountable.

        2. Noobtastic*

          Perhaps the owner or the OP5 should contact the labor board, themselves, and confirm that the employee is wrong.

          Get that confirmation in writing, and start your PIP. If she leaves early again, without managerial approval (as in a scheduled absence, or an “Oh, my goodness, there’s an actual emergency!” unscheduled absence, but she DOES alert her supervisor for it), then the axe falls.

          However, that’s only if this is the only issue. Her “there’s nothing anyone can do about it” attitude is rising all sorts of alarms in my mind, and seriously, I’d say it’s time to audit her work, as well. Up close and personal with a fine tooth comb. I’d lay money that she is letting important things slide, because she simply can’t be bothered, and feels safe to do so.

      2. Zombii*

        This is exactly what it sounds like. I’m almost wondering if the owner previously tried to curb the employee’s behavior by threatening to dock her pay and she talked to (someone at the labor board, a lawyer friend, whatever) and found out they can’t do that if she’s salaried, so that’s where she’s getting this “and you can’t make me!” nonsense.

        The owner needs to know that the options available are coaching and progressive disciplinary measures up to and including termination, but if he’s not willing to authorize those things, the OP has no leverage to stop this—and probably shouldn’t waste the braincycles trying.

        1. AMT*

          Yep, I think it’s a case of “can’t dock my pay” vs. “can’t do anything/can’t fire me” confusion. They definitely have to pay her a full week’s salary, but they can also fire her butt. (Or warn her if they’re determined to be kind.)

          1. Mae North*

            They can’t dock her pay for hours missed, but they can reassess her salary to reflect the schedule that she’s working, provided they give her notice and the change is not retroactive (and if it takes her below the exempt threshhold then they have to make her non-exempt).

            E.g. If they’re paying her $1000/week on the assumption of working 40 hours, but she’s only working 30, they can decrease her salary down to $750/week until she shapes up (or quits).

      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        If nothing else, this person needs to understand that their job is absolutely on the line, that her boss can absolutely require her to be present and working from 9-4 (or whatever), and that such a requirement is now in force and exceptions will be by prior explicit manager approval (which she shouldn’t expect to receive in the near future).

        But yeah, this person is noxious and needs to be spaced immediately.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          But yeah, this person is noxious and needs to be spaced immediately.

          Jeez, TNMBOIS, I think we can settle for just firing her. No need to chuck her out an airlock. :P

          1. Noobtastic*

            “How many times do I have to tell you? Clothes are expensive. I’m sorry. It should have been stripped, and then chucked out an airlock.”

            I might have gotten the quote just a little bit wrong. It’s been a few years since my last B5 marathon.

    2. Is it Performance Art*

      I would be very tempted to tell her she can either stop leaving early or she’ll be reclassified as non-exempt hourly.

        1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          I though you could treat exempt people as non-exempt if you wanted, but can’t treat non-exempt people as exempt?

          Disclaimer: I am not in the USA, literally everything I know about US employment law comes from this blog.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You’re right. It’s much easier to treat an exempt person as nonexempt than vice-versa. I also usually caution against developing policy around one bad apple, in part because the problem isn’t the job’s classification; it’s insubordination. This might be one of those situations.

            As Alison noted, it might not be a great move if the job requires more than 40 hours in some weeks. But right now it sounds like she has no desire to meet, let alone go over, 40 hours (that might change if she realizes her salary is tied to her presence in the office). But whoever replaces her might be diligent and competent, at which point you may wish the position were still exempt.

            The obvious first step is to have a straightforward, expectations-setting talk with her.

            1. Jadelyn*

              My understanding would be that in the scenario you describe, when you’re ready to hire someone new, you could re-reclassify the position back to exempt, so long as it still meets the duties and wage tests.

              But I agree that’s more of a “nuclear option” than perhaps OP would want to start with.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Yes, you can – hell, you can reclassify a senior VP as hourly if you really want to. Non-exempt status is the default, with exempt status to be applied only if an employee’s role passes various tests, so a company could conceivably decide they want everyone to be hourly and that would be entirely legal. It’s just that usually, for higher level or more specialist positions, it’s less expensive to classify someone as exempt, so that you don’t have to pay OT.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You could — you can treat anyone as non-exempt if you want to. It’s just exempt that has specific requirements attached. However, it wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea to do it, because you’d end up needing to pay overtime on any week she worked over 40 hours. It would be better to lay out clear requirements for her working hours and hold her to them (and be prepared to fire her if she’s as adversarial as she sounds so far).

          1. LBK*

            Considering the issue is her constantly leaving early, I don’t know that I’d be too concerned with her somehow working more than 40 hours – if anything, that’s closer to the desired outcome!

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              I wouldn’t risk it. She could easily start “working” more than 40 hours just to get the overtime pay but not actually be more productive.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You could — but it’s an awfully convoluted way to handle the situation when you could just hold her to the expectations of the exempt position.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Tell her she can be reclassified to non-hourly unsalaried exempt and see how long it takes for her to work it out.

    3. Artemesia*

      Fire her yesterday. Sheesh. I believe in flexibility, but someone who says ‘I don’t have to do the job you hired for me and blank you —‘ cannot possibly be an asset to the organization.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Agree. And add that she is lying about what “the labor board” said. There is no reason to employ someone with this behavior.

        1. KSM*

          I truly believe there are options here beyond deliberate lying.

          (a) She accidentally misrepresented the situation to the labor board (actually easy to do, since most people are quite bad at telling stories with the clarity necessary for legal work)
          (b) The labor board misunderstood her
          (c) She misunderstood the labor board (exceedingly common; ask a lawyer who has a private practice “crazy things my clients thought I or someone else said”)

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            These are very good extrapolations. (Upthread a suggestion for a+c, she asked if the boss could really dock her pay if she is salaried and they told her no.)

          2. LBK*

            I think it’s probably a combo of all three – I’d bet she didn’t give a completely accurate account of the situation to them, they in turn gave her a hedged answer based on a vague understanding of what was going on, and then she interpreted that in the way that basically validated the answer she’d already decided on.

            It’s like when someone asks a broad question and you say “Well, it could be x or y or z, depending on a or b or c” and they translate that as “You are in situation B, which means X” even though that’s not remotely what you said. This is why I don’t answer broad questions and always just reply with “What’s the question you’re really trying to ask?”

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s definitely possible that she’s not being deliberately misleading, but it doesn’t change that her behavior is insubordinate (and unacceptable to OP’s employer, although if the owner is frustrated, they need to start managing).

          4. Thornus67*

            If by the labor board she means the NLRB, then they definitely don’t just give out advice willy-nilly. And this wouldn’t even be something the NLRB handles; they’re just the agency I most often hear shortened to “the labor board.” Also, if it were the NLRB involved, then the employer would have received a Charge of some sort from them.

        2. AnonToday*

          Is it bad that I just assumed “the labor board” was really Google? In my field people often come up with similar misconceptions because they Googled something and either got bad results or things they didn’t understand.

          1. Koko*

            I like to call Google “my assistant” because it lends an air of credibility to my bluster.

            “My assistant found a great deal on hotel rooms for this trip!”

            “I’m not sure about that one. I’ll have to ask my assistant.”

            “My assistant says it’ll take half an hour to walk there, and we should expect rain.”

          2. Anna*

            I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I found it amusing the labor board told her personally that she could leave her specific job early if she wanted.

        3. Antilles*

          My guess is that she never actually talked to the labor board and is simply using it as a convenient bogeyman to name-drop. No, no, you can’t restrict my hours because the Big Bad Labor Board of The State of ____ says you can’t do that. Aren’t you scared? You don’t want to get into a fight with them, do you?
          It’s basically the work equivalent of threatening a lawsuit or “my lawyer says…”.

        4. Mephyle*

          It’s time for LW#1 to “talk to the labor board” – that is, to find out what the legal options really are.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            And maybe point out if that were true, nobody exempt would be working eight hours a day. Everyone would be like George Jetson (“man, these four hour work days are killing me”)
            I mean geez, does she think everyone else is putting in a full day fornthe fun of it?

      2. Midge*

        I came away from the letter thinking that the OP might be in a position where she doesn’t have the authority to fire people, but is still being asked to keep tabs on their hours. Maybe not. Her life would certainly be easier if she could fire this woman!

        1. TyB*

          Maybe she is an essential worker the owner doesn’t want to lose? She’s still acting way out of bounds though. Maybe you could start deducting her leaving early from her vacation pay? My wife who is exempt has to use her vacation hours whenever she leaves early or comes in late for a doctors appointment. It’s a thoroughly ridiculous policy and they come down hard on anyone who doesn’t put in 40 hours but doesn’t care if you put in more than 40. The policy trained her to make a beeline for the door as soon as the hours were 40 since the company obviously only cared about that.

          1. LKW*

            That’s what I was thinking. Outline the time expectations and then the penalty for not meeting them is that she is using her PTO. I would follow up with a weekly review of her hours to ensure that she understands the impact on her PTO bank.

            Also, if you go this route outline that comp time is not an option to get that PTO back.

          2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

            Ugh, my job is the same way, very rigid hours with little to no flexibility without notification/prior approval. And I do the same thing as your wife… I stare at the clock the last few minutes of the day and jump up and practically run out the door the very minute work is “over”. It’s ridiculous! I wouldn’t care at all if given even the littlest bit of autonomy or flexibility and would likely tend to stay longer or have a more productive last 10 minutes. But it’s like my little act of daily defiance. :)

    4. LadyCop*

      Yes. Literally the first thought that crossed my mind… you can be fired dear. I sure it’s not necessary, but I’ve seen people with less attitude be walked out…

    5. Engineer Woman*

      She can and should be fired. I do agree first you and the owner need to understand the job duties: is there a need for her to stay until a certain time of day? Is employee completing all the work set our for her and hence she’s leaving early everyday? If not, then I would formally write her up and give her a warning and let her know that if she continues to leave early, she will be fired.

      1. New Bee*

        At my job, the office manager receives packages, opens and locks up each day, and manages supplies under lock and key. If it’s the same at OP’s office, her leaving early is really out of line with what the job needs.

        1. New Bee*

          To be clear, not disagreeing with you, just giving an example of what “ofice manager” could mean.

          1. HisGirlFriday*

            Seconding this. At my job, our “office manager” is also our front-desk person and receptionist, and there is a legitimate need for her to be here from the moment we open until the moment we close. Obviously she is entitled to and takes a lunch, but then her back-up switches in, and their lunch hours (they’re both hourly, non-exempt) are deliberately staggered so that they aren’t gone at the same time.

            Can we function without her? Sure; in fact, she was just on vacation for two weeks, but we planned for that and shifted around responsibilities accordingly.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        It would be very unusual for an office manager to be able to leave 3 hours early every Friday, without someone in the office needing something from her! It’s not normally the type of position where there are X tasks to do, and when they are done, she’s done.

        30-40 minutes at the end of the day is one thing- it would be rare that something wouldn’t just wait until morning, but 3 hours on a Friday is just ridiculous.

        I’d fire her the next time she left, and take my chances with the labor board, even if I did think she was telling the whole truth!

    6. Casuan*

      OP5: You’re tasked with ensuring that your colleagues are working their 8-hour day. What is the scope of this responsibility?
      Are you to simply spy, speak up to the malefactor then report it to the owner?
      Do you actually have authority to enforce the 8-hour day? If so, does that include firing?
      Have you the authority to monitor timecards & talk with staff to educate &or reprimand?
      Are there established guidelines about the 8-hour policy; if so, do the staff know this?
      Does the staff understand all of the above?

      bonus question: Does this office manager realise that “labour board” is *not* actually the disgruntled worker at the grocery? You know, the know-it-all who thinks her 1997 3-minute talk with the Labour Board about her not getting her promotion so it must be because her managers don’t like cats… Does your colleague realise that this woman is not indeed the Labour Board?

    7. AnonToday*

      I am exempt, but my office takes time sheet fraud very very seriously (I do work for the government so it makes sense) and I would be in huge trouble if I systematically left early like that. Although even in the ergregious cases (like a report of thousands of hours) this is rare, I think you can technically be prosecuted for systematically certifying hours you didn’t work. I can’t understand this lady’s attitude at all. If you’re hired to work at least a certain number of hours minimum and don’t you’re cheating your employer. You should expect to be fired in that situation.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I have the feeling there’s no fraud, here, because it doesn’t sound like she’s filling in a timesheet or clocking in/out. And it’s not inherently thievery to work less than 40 hours when salaried. But you’re right that it is a less than honest practice that should be taken seriously.

        1. JustaTech*

          This is an important distinction. If there’s nothing to do and the boss says “hey, everybody take Friday afternoons off all summer” then that’s fine. But if the boss *wants* you to stay, regardless of whether your work is done for the day or not, then you do need to put in your 8 hours because that’s part of your job description.
          This is like the perfect inverse of the letter from last week with the woman who wouldn’t go home.

    8. always in email jail*

      If I understand correctly, you can’t dock her pay for leaving early, but you CAN make her use her leave. Though I’ve always been confused about what happens with exempt employees if they run out of leave and then need to leave early….

        1. always in email jail*

          ha! Our organization has you request “leave without pay” (which seems illegal?) though I looked further into it and the general advice is “you can’t dock exempt employee’s pay but you CAN start the process of firing them for not being there” so I guess I’d rather be granted “leave without pay” and have my pay docked by a couple of hours (despite being exempt) than get fired.

          1. Parenthetically*

            My husband’s OldJob had basically unlimited leave without pay once they ran out of paid leave. Most of them used it (with the enthusiastic permission of management) as travel leave. They’d use their normal vacation time for family trips to see grandma or long weekends or cutting out early on Fridays, and then take a month of unpaid leave to go backpacking in Thailand or walk Hadrian’s Wall or whatever.

          2. hermit crab*

            Leave without pay for vacation time/other personal reasons for exempt staff is legal, for full-day increments at least. The DOL’s website says “…either leave bank or salary deductions may be made when the employee is absent from work for a day or more for personal reasons, other than sickness or accident.”

            We actually have a program at my office where you can “purchase” additional vacation days — essentially, you ask for a certain amount of leave without pay at the beginning of the year, and the cost of it is spread among all your paychecks for the year, so it’s not as big a hit as if you took all the LWOP in a single pay period.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You can definitely dock leave, although some states are more strict about what kinds of leave can be docked than others. The most common way to do this is to adjust someone’s PTO/comp time, but I’d guess this woman has very little of either if she’s consistently working less than 8 hours/day and less than 40 hours/week.

      1. Natalie*

        One common solution I’ve seen is to require the person who has run out of leave to only take full days off, because their pay can be reduced in those circumstances.

      2. Noobtastic*

        One of my early jobs had a weird scenario.

        You were scheduled to arrive at 8, take a one hour lunch and leave at 5. So far, so good. If you came late, you were docked for the time you missed, EVEN IF YOU STAYED LATE. And we were encouraged to stay late, and work long hours, and do at least one Saturday a month (or you were considered “disloyal”). However, our salary was the same, no matter how often we stayed late, or worked on Saturdays. This was considered “free time,” that we “donated to the cause.”

        So, it was entirely conceivable, and happened with some frequency, that a salaried person would work ten hours in a day, but since they started their ten hour day at 9:30 or 10, they would have their salaries docked for the day.

        At the time, I had a feeling something was hinky, but had very little experience, and didn’t know for sure. Now I know my boss was breaking all sorts of rules. This was the same boss that had bugged the entire office, so he could listen to us, any time he wanted. And just to add to the ick factor, there was a gun in his office. He showed it to all the new hires. And there were a lot of new hires. For some reason, he could rarely keep an employee for more than one year. Go figure.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Note – this was NOT a non-profit business. But we were still expected to “donate” our time on the regular. The business, itself, was “the cause.”

          It was a small office, with never more than half a dozen people working there, at a time.

    9. Grey*

      If you don’t want to be confrontational, just go ask her, “Did the labor board really tell you that you couldn’t be fired for working less than 40?”

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        And then she says “Yes!” because she drastically misunderstood what the labor laws say and what the labor board said about them.. and so then what? I wouldn’t ask the question that way – because no matter what she thinks, the labor board most definitely did NOT tell her that. But asking the question would make it seem as if the OP doesn’t know, and as if it is possible they did tell her, which would help confirm in her own mind that this is actually a true thing.

        But also, someone whose job it is to enforce people’s work hours and schedules really can’t afford to not be firm and direct and yes, even confrontational, when it’s warranted. I’d go with something along the lines of “While it’s true that we cannot dock your pay for leaving early, we can set hours and require that you meet those hours. Being here from 9 to 5 is a requirement of this job, and to keep this job, you’ll need to commit to being here for these hours.”

        1. Grey*

          And then she says “Yes!”

          And there’s your perfect opening to tell her she’s been misinformed or she misunderstood.

          But I’m betting they said nothing about firing and only told her that she’d still get paid the full 40.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            So just start off with the “you can be fired” bit, rather than getting into an argument with her about what the labor board did or did not tell her. Because there is no sense arguing with her about that aspect of it – she’s wrong, but she seems willing to die on that hill, so just deal with what the actual facts are, rather than argue about what she heard, what they said, etc.

            (I agree with you that they likely told her she had to be paid her full salary regardless, and she took that to mean much more than it does.)

            1. fposte*

              Agreed–the point here isn’t what the labor board said, it’s what work needs her to do. If she thinks it contradicts what the labor board said, she’s free to go back to them.

            2. Grey*

              I don’t disagree with your approach, but I’d probably still ask the question I posed with a sense of disbelief. Kind of like, “Wow! They really told you that?”

              No matter what you do, there’s always a worst-case scenario.

    10. Green Goose*

      Yikes. There are two things:
      1. I am salaried and though I can occasionally leave early, more often than not I’m staying late to finish my work. With salaried employees there is an emphasis on work completion instead of hours worked. However, an Office Manager’s duties revolve around being in the office during regular business hours. Our OM has to be there when we open and close. Does the OM at the OP’s office has a job description that doesn’t include language around being at the office during office hours or specifically at opening and closing?
      2. I don’t understand why the manager is not doing something about the OM’s behaviour. It seems weird that the company is hiring a new position to police people going home early, when that should be part of the manager’s job duties. Does the OP have more authority than the OM? It just seems weird.

    11. Chalupa Batman*

      It really bugged me that she took this stance so adamantly and brought the labor board into it. A 40 hour workweek is so far within conventional expectations that it comes across as very odd for her to push back so vehemently. To me it would be understandable to protest an overzealous response to an occasional long lunch with no business consequences under the “exempt employee” banner (and as Alison pointed out, she’s not necessarily exempt just because she’s salaried anyway), but basically wanting to be paid full time and work part time, and making an implied threat when challenged by suggesting she’s spoken to the labor board already? There’s more going on here, either with the employee or the employer.

    12. Paea*

      We’ve had at least one other letter recently where the exempt employee was under the impression that he/she never had to work a full 40-hour work week, which is mind-boggling to me. I’m not sure where that mindset is coming from. I was always under the impression that the flexibility is provided primarily in exchange for those periods when the employee is expected to work FAR MORE than 40 hours to make certain project deadlines etc.

    13. Casuan*

      Just caught up on all the posts & this is what I’m getting… the real issue is the insubordination & whether or not her managers are willing to do something about it or to give you the authority & back-up so that you can.

      When she’s in the office, how is her work? If she manages others, is she effective? With her attitude, I can’t think that she is a good manager to others.

      How she responds to a labour board & insubordination challenge will give you a really good idea of whether or not to keep her.

      I’m not certain if this could work or is even a good idea: If her work is good enough to warrant she stays, could she be suspended for at least a day to show that you’re taking this seriously?

      Also, I’ve been trying to decide if what she’s doing is indeed a type of time/work theft & I’m getting more convinced that it might be. If so, then fire her for that & the insubordination. She’s trying to deflect by invoking the name of the Labour Board.
      And the more I think of that, the more I think that she should be fired for the insubordination. Although at first things might be a bit rocky, the office will function much better without her toxic attitude. Firing her will also send a clear message to the staff who are probably seething that this woman gets away with so much.

      “Either the person with whom you spoke at the labour board gave you wrong information or you misunderstood. We can indeed do something about what you’re doing & this is it: [option A that requires an attitude adjustment & clarifications of the job & hours required] or [option B that involves her no longer working there]. When you’re here you do good work so we’re willing to try A with the understanding of…/ We’ve reviewed your work & we don’t think A is in this company’s best interest because not only is your work subpar, you’ve shown a blatant disregard for your job, colleagues & managers.”

      note: If you do let her go &or dismiss her immediately, be certain she doesn’t have information that she can use as “hostage” such as passwords & such.

  2. Me2*

    LW#3, by all means try to avoid the coworker, someone that is that clueless about grief and loss should be ignored. If her supervisor is approachable, I would possibly say something there but not every memo deserves an answer. In the meantime, I’m sorry for your losses.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes; all of this. OP#3, I am so sorry that you and your coworkers went through such a difficult and deeply traumatic experience. It’s unfortunate that in addition to missing “adulting” and “good taste” bones, she’s also missing a “basic human decency” bone. I’d avoid her, especially since she seems committed to becoming your BEC.

      But I also agree with Alison that it’s probably better, if you can, to look at her actions with pity instead of anger. She may have genuinely been trying to offer a way for folks to move past grief toward remembrance, but it sounds extremely poorly executed. I tend to pity people who have not yet learned how very lacking their judgment can be in serious, triggering, high-emotion circumstances like this one. That doesn’t mean you have to forgive her, but I’ve found it helps for taking a step back and letting your anger/frustration run cold instead of hot.

      1. Casuan*

        Oh, I so agree with the thoughts about pity. Doing just this has helped me to deal with certain insensitive people & my own emotions about whatever they were insensitive about. Your colleague deserves pity because she might truly have meant well yet lacks the experience &or tact to understand how insensitive her email truly was. Also it’s possible that she personally has never lost someone or know someone who has so she doesn’t grasp the emotions involved, let alone mortality on a larger scale.

        It would be kind for someone— probably not you— to convey to her that her remarks were hurtful whilst acknowledging her [assumed] good intent. One can’t learn something like this if no one teaches them.

        OP, I’m so sorry for your & your colleagues’ losses & my thoughts are with you.

        1. OP#3*

          Casuan and Princess Consuela Banana Hammock,

          Thank you for you for your sympathies. I had not considered that pity could be a response to my co-worker rather than blind rage. I have noticed that she is not as valued a collaborator as she believes that she should be, and she attributes her lack of success to others being prejudiced against her. Perhaps treating her as someone that has no self-reflection will help.

          Her supervisor is not someone that I am close to, but I will consider mentioning something to her. I may touch base with my supervisor, who has been understanding in the past.

          1. Rachael*

            Hi OP#3, what your coworker did reminds me about what a lot of people do on Facebook during tragedies. They try to make it about them. Instead of sitting back and allowing the people who the tragedy actually affected to mark the anniversary as they saw fit she decided to let everyone know how SHE was going to handle the day. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about that type of personality. I agree with Alison to ask her manager to talk to her because she needs to be told to not do it again next year. The day is not about HER. It is about the company.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Yes. If she has any decency, she will be mortified when she realizes her error. Does the Dunning-Kreuger Effect apply to acting like an a-hole? I also wonder if the Geek Social Fallacies have enabled this behavior in her personal life.

        Also, I wonder if HR should address the tragedy as part of the onboarding process, especially as time goes on and new hires may be less conscious of it.

        1. Landshark*

          I absolutely second that idea. If it hasn’t been addressed in onboarding before, it should be. Do it respectfully and don’t spend too long, but correct misconceptions and emphasize respect.

          And OP3, whether it’s what I think it is (I think I know because of the dates and because it was pretty close to home for me) or not, I’m sorry you have to deal with this tone-deaf response to tragedy. I agree that you should probably just give her a wide berth for now, but, especially since you were there, I’d politely bring it up with her supervisor if that’s an option, especially if the supervisor wasn’t there. I’m sure you’re not the only survivor who this rubbed the wrong way, and that’s a perspective that someone who wasn’t there may not have. Anyone can see that it was tone-deaf, but the extent differs based on your own experience.

          1. RVA Cat*

            The one I am thinking of has a milestone anniversary this year (which happens to fall on Easter) and has the combination of long-term staff who would have been there and a lot of young people around who would have been children when it happened. I just can’t imagine anyone bringing “levity” to mass murder, but honestly It Does Not Matter what the specific incident was, co-worker’s email was wrong.

            1. nutella fitzgerald*

              That’s the one that first came to mind for me, but I thought it couldn’t be because no one in their right mind could have “geekish enthusiasm” for it…

              1. Long Time Lurker*

                Unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me. I was there then and still live/work in the area. At my previous place of employment, there were people who thought it was funny to joke about taking a shot for every remembrance post they saw on Facebook and they just didn’t get how people still aren’t over it. People are awful.

                OP#3, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. I definitely agree with the point about looking at it from a pity standpoint…I probably need to take that to heart as well as I’ve run into that kind of insensitivity about this even before. Sending love and strength to you these next few weeks.

                1. nutella fitzgerald*


                  I’m sorry that you had to work with such garbage humans, and I hope you are in a more sensitive environment now <3

            2. Arielle*

              Oof, I actually just Googled and there are anniversaries of three huge national tragedies all coming up next week. This isn’t to speculate on which of them it was, just that apparently the third week of April is a bad week for a lot of people. Stay safe, everyone.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Sadly there is another tragedy on the list, there was a school shooting today in San Bernardino. :(

              2. Landshark*

                Yeah, I said my own speculations of things based on my own experiences with the one in my state, but now that I think about it… it’s a really bad week for a lot of people.

              3. Chameleon*

                Yikes, I never knew how much bad stuff has happened this time of year… three terrorist bombings, two major school shootings, and two major industrial accidents, all happened within my living memory within a calendar week.

                No matter which one you were affected by, LW, you have my tremendous sympathy.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Yeah, apparently next week is one of the most tragic in American history. Not only the things that you mentioned, but also some major historical events like the sinking of the Titanic & Lincoln’s assassination.

            3. Pixel*

              Exactly – anyone with a shred of awareness would not try and bring levity to a tragic event, no matter how recent. Would she attempt to bestow some geekish enthusiasm on Gettysburg? Or the WWII memorial? Heck, the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary was this weekend and this was ages ago, I’m sure it’s appropriate to giggle.

              1. LKW*

                For something so recent, it’s totally out of line. But I myself have looked sternly and seriously at people and quietly said “Remember… the… Alamo.”

                Time + tragedy does equal comedy. But TIME is a very important factor. And successful comedians know how to read a room. Don’t poke at the Alamo in San Antonio. Just. Don’t.

                1. Michelle*

                  Personally, I find it very amusing when some fathead making racist jokes gets reminded that some of those who died defending the Alamo had Spanish last names.

                2. Noobtastic*

                  As a general rule, if there are memories of the event, it’s too soon for tragedy to become comedy.

                  And if people who were there to witness it told their children and grandchildren about it, then those children and grandchildren have memories about their parents’ and grandparents’ memories, and the stories they told about it. So you get, “You can’t joke about the Alamo! My great-grandfather was old when he died, but I still remember sitting at his knee, as he told me about that battle. No, he wasn’t there, personally, but he read about it in the newspaper, and it hit him hard.”

                  So, basically, you need one hundred years, at an absolute minimum, and getting longer these days, with many more people living past 100 years, and sticking around to tell their stories to their descendants, so it’s really closer to 200 years before it’s safe to turn tragedy into comedy. If then.

                  Once you get back far enough into history that people stop knowing the details (such as the Middle Ages – it’s all a blur for most people, and they can’t tell the difference between the 800’s and the 1300’s, and historical accuracy is just something most people don’t care about that far back. Once they don’t care about accuracy, then tragedy/comedy is much more of a thing.

                  The only exception (IMO) to this time rule is the “punching up” rule of comedy. For example, it’s OK to joke about the Nazi oppressors (see the “Are we the baddies?” skit, or the “Grammar Nazi” skit, where the Nazi uses bad grammar to out a Jew in hiding), but it’s not OK to joke about the people in the death camps or otherwise being oppressed by the Nazis.

            4. A grad student*

              I didn’t think it would be that one (I say sitting three buildings away from where it happened), because anyone who said anything close to what that coworker said would receive an incredibly serious talking to from multiple individuals before the day was out here. The community has organized several events for people who want to put their feelings toward the tragedy to a good use. Someone remembering the day with “geekish enthusiasm” would probably receive a visit from the crisis response team put in place after the event, now that I think about it.

              1. Badmin*

                I agree, the one it seems to be wasn’t the one that first came to mind, since there is one in my city coming up as well. I would really like to see this as a teaching opportunity but I’m not sure that’s possible. Hopefully someone on that dept. e-mail takes action or forward to HR or someone who can do something? It’s egregious to me.

          2. OP#3*

            RVA Cat and Landshark,

            I am not sure if HR addresses it in orientation. Those of us who were here just expect people to _know_, which may be a disservice to people that have no experience dealing with traumatized people. We have had to point out inappropriate things in the past and my supervisor has been sympathetic, so I may approach him.

            Landshark: sorry that you went through it as well. *hug*

            1. RVA Cat*

              OP3 and Landshark, I’m so sorry for all you went through. The tragedy hit our whole state and region hard. I was a grad student elsewhere at the time, so we were all thinking of what might have been (and changed a lot of our safety protocols for that reason), plus several of the victims were from my community.

              p.s. Shots?!?! That’s a whole new level of insensitive…. I hate when people feel the need to dump their discomfort on others.

              1. Landshark*

                I wasn’t there myself, but many of my friends, teachers, and family had family at the school, and my husband went to the big school in the neighboring town two years later. I was in high school at the time, and watching the ripple effect of shock and horror as people heard was hard to forget.

            2. Pixel*

              I’m so sorry, what an unspeakable trauma. With something as massive, it’s incomprehensible how someone can not get it and needs to be explicitly told what constitutes an appropriate reaction.

    2. kittymommy*

      In still trying to figure out what the hell “geekish enthusiasm” towards a tragedy means?? Good gravy, I’ve had a lot of tragedy in my life, so sometimes I get a little numb to it, but come on!!

      1. Duck Duck Møøse*

        I’m trying to figure out why she thinks she needs to have a method for dealing with the anniversary, considering she wasn’t there for it in the first place. Thanks for making it about you, snowflake. :p

        1. SignalLost*

          Because if it’s a milestone anniversary and she’s from the area it happened in, she was there when it happened and has lived with it much of her life. Given the three major anniversaries that all fall next week, and which one has a milestone, it was not exactly contained to the workplace the OP is in, from the standpoint of effects. I’m not defending her actions in the slightest, but I am responding to the idea that it isn’t “about her” – if she is from the area, it is, in fact, about her as much as it’s about anyone else. Her experiences do count. Foisting her way of “coping” off on others does not.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I had many facial expressions in reaction to that phrase (wtf?, rage, bewilderment, more rage). Even if I were giving her the benefit of the doubt, I don’t want to know what she meant by that. “Enthusiasm” of any sort is insane.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Seconded. LW#3, you have my sympathies–that sounds like a tremendously difficult thing to go through, and that level of insensitivity is just mind-boggling. There’s nothing wrong with restricting your interactions with this person solely to relevant work topics and avoiding her beyond that.

      1. Laura*

        LW, as a trauma survivor you might find DBT therapy useful. I know I did. Trauma can come back to hunt us at any time, and makes us more susceptible to a whole sort of mental health issues. And also more difficult to focus on work. With DBT, which teaches you coping skills, you can be proactive about it. Hope you find the resources you need. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.

    4. Lora*

      I would probably mention something to her manager as a sort of quiet “by the way…” in person conversation, along the lines of “you might want to have a word with Tacky Co-worker about the memo she sent out, it made quite an *coughcough* impression.” Dollars to donuts the boss knows exactly what you mean and nothing more needs to be said, or the boss may have already spoken to her. And Tacky McRudeface can suffer the social ostracism that comes from making a gross faux pas, and hopefully she learns from that.

      I’m so very sorry for your loss, it’s a tough thing to go through, especially when it’s a “it could happen to anyone” type of event.

      And yeah, HR should definitely say something during onboarding or even interviews. I know if I was interviewing with Dow’s Union Carbide division, I would be concerned.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Haha yeah that was great.
          I don’t think not being from the area is much of an excuse, since she clearly knows about it. Just being a fricking human with a little sensitivity should make you know better.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I sent my managers (and teachers who had made a difference in my life) thank you cards instead of graduation announcements. The truth is I didn’t really want to invite them to an event or want them to feel pressure to respond. I just wanted them to know how much they’d affected my development/growth, and I feel really uncomfortable saying those things during a conversation (I’m just weird that way—if you’re better at speaking face-to-face, go with whatever is more comfortable for you!). I think they’ll be really touched by the gesture, regardless of the form it takes.

    1. Artemesia*

      Graduation announcements are pushed by people who sell graduation announcements. I don’t know a single person who is happy to get one. If they know you, they probably know you are graduating and are pleased. A note sharing your news will be so much more impressive when it is to aunts uncles and close family friends. Frankly if they don’t know you well enough to already know you are graduating, an impersonal announcement will be received as an invoice and not with joy. People like your internship supervisor will be thrilled with a note about how much you have learned from them; you can mention the graduation as part of that — or even just share it with them orally. People are not going to resent an announcement just probably laugh a bit and maybe feel compelled to send a gift. A personal note will be remembered fondly and with pride.

      1. Sarah*

        I generally agree.

        That said, in the area I grew up, announcements were very common / standard. My parents seemed to expect and appreciate them from their friends’ kids, or their cousin/relative’s kids. It isn’t necessarily that they didn’t know the kid was graduating (although in some cases, maybe they didn’t), but it was the norm. But sometimes it was an older family friend who had moved or lost touch “Oh, Bob’s girl Emily is graduating this year!”, and it was nice to see the photos of the grown up child.

        I don’t have friends with graduating kids, which is why I’m referring to parents! But – as the student and not a parent, you should write a thank you to those who meant a lot to you!

        1. Meg Murry*

          I think part of this might be what is bundled into a “graduation announcement”. In my area, the “graduation announcement” is typically 3-4 parts, but the whole thing is typically referred to as the “announcement”
          1) the actual “announcement” card saying that so-and-so is graduating from high school X on date Y
          2) One or more of the person’s senior pictures
          3) An invitation to a graduation party, usually thrown by the graduates parents (usually only for local people, not included in the cards to far off family)
          4) If not already listed on the above, or in place of #3, some kind of information about the graduate’s future plans – attending college X, going to the military, etc.

          Sometimes these items are combined in some way (custom announcements with the photos printed on them, etc). In my area and social circle, sending the announcement in and of itself isn’t necessarily seen as a “gift grab”, but it is implied that if you choose to go to the graduation party you bring a card with a cash gift. At least in my circle, receiving an announcement and photo is similar to receiving a baby’s birth announcement from a far off relative – a nice way to get an update on someone who you don’t see often, and a photo to put on the fridge for a little while. If nothing else, it is a pleasant piece of mail to receive, amongst the bills and junk mail.

          My mother was one of the senior managers in a local family retail establishment, and she often got announcements for her high school employees given to her, and they went on the fridge – and if she didn’t have to work that day, she would stop in to the graduation party or send them a card. She also got announcements for her co-workers kids, and I know we sent announcements to the co-workers she had been working with a long time (5+ years) when my sister and I graduated. That said, the ones that had a personal note with them – even just a single line like “thank you for supporting me so I could work while still being successful in school” or something meant a lot to my mother, and those stayed on the fridge a lot longer. In addition, the managers would sometimes ask the graduates for an extra announcement, and they would put them all on the bulletin board in the breakroom – especially if there were 3-4 students graduating that year.

          To sum up this long ramble – I’m on the “yes, sure, go ahead and give the managers an announcement” side, but I would highly, highly recommend it include some kind of note or at least “thank you” sentence.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I really love this comment–thank you so much for sharing! I, too, enjoy receiving these announcements; I have a big extended family (over a dozen nieces and nephews, and 39 first cousins), so I don’t always know what’s going on with everyone all the time (and much though I love my nieces and nephews and cousins, they aren’t always people I want to interact with on social media). It’s nice to get a heads up about their lives, maybe have a photo, and make a mental note to send them a pizza delivery gift card for use during their first college all-nighter.

            1. Artemesia*

              This all suggests that local norms are important here. What do other people do? Does the manager have a bunch of these things posted? It obviously varies by culture.

          2. Meg Murry*

            One other side point –
            OP, my opinion is also coming from the side of being highly encouraged to order a ton more announcements than I actually wound up needing, and therefore actively trying to figure out who I else would be appropriate to send them to or that I might have missed, since otherwise the announcements were just going to sit in the box and then get pitched in the next 6 months

            If you haven’t ordered announcements already, or if you are trying to decide between giving one of your few announcements left to your managers or your Great-Aunt Mildred, I think you are fine with skipping the managers – although the thank you note would be a good idea as mentioned, especially if you think you’ll wind up using these managers as references when you’re trying to find a job in school or if you think you might want to come back to work during school breaks.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq*

          I agree; where I grew up, it was pretty standard to buy hundreds of graduation announcements and send them to any adult you’ve ever met, basically. Especially far-flung relatives, but basically anyone who might send you a gift. There usually wasn’t a requirement around responding or sending a gift, it was just the standard bit of work you had to do to ‘earn’ the gifts. :)

      2. TL -*

        Eh, I like graduation announcements, especially for people I like but don’t keep in super close touch with. (Cousins, family friends, ect…) I’ve got a really bad memory so they’re nice to remind me that so and so is actually graduating this year.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Likewise—I tend to put them in the same category as holiday cards, where I’m happy to see a photo and be reminded of what’s going on with the family. Facebook has cut down on the need for this, but you can’t put Facebook on your fridge.

          I wouldn’t see a graduation announcement as a gift grab. I might send a gift, but I wouldn’t feel obligated to.

          Basically, OP, if you’re sending graduation announcements to most of the adults in your life, I think it’s fine to give them to your managers as well.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I like them, too, when they’re of the “new baby announcement” style (i.e., photos, announcement of when grad happened or is happening). As I get older, I severely underestimate how much time has gone by, and announcements often save me from being super clueless or insensitive about important milestones in my loved ones’ lives.

      3. Pommette*

        This post is the first I hear of graduation announcements, but a quick look online suggests that they are basically a snazzier version of graduation pictures. I’ve enjoyed getting the latter and would probably enjoy getting the former. It’s fun to see younger relatives/neighbours/etc. celebrating big milestones – and it’s a good opportunity to reconnect with people you aren’t in close contact with.

        But I agree with your main point: a simple personal note/statement would convey the OP’s point beautifully, and is sure to be appreciated by the recipient.

    2. Casuan*

      Notes or in person…
      Either is okay. That said, I side with thank you notes: they’re becoming rarer & are quite personal, also it can avoid any hurt feelings from other colleagues [management or otherwise, although I doubt managers are comparing who-got-invited-vs-not]. If you want to avoid the appearance of soliciting gifts, wait until after your graduation.

      They’ve been present in my life for the whole second half of my high school career, and have definitely played an important role as mentors in my growth as an employee and person.

      OP4, you said this beautifully & I think anyone who received such a personal compliment [with an example or two if you’re so inclined] would be touched by it.

      Happy Graduation!!
      [probably I’m a bit early…]

    3. Potato*

      In the area I went to high school in, graduation announcements were both expected and appreciated from every. single. high school student you know. (Maybe it’s a cultural thing? They were big into formal announcements of all kinds.) OP4, personally, I brought one in to the store I worked at and added it to our break room bulletin board so no one felt pressured to give a gift but still go to share in the occasion, which is what most of my fellow coworkers did, too.

  4. Laura*

    #2: that does seem weird.

    I work at a retail store that hires seasonal employees at a regular calendar time. So I know that once this period rolls around to always ask “How can I help you?” to anyone who walks in- good customer service and all- , but especially if they look dressed for an interview and it’s in the period on the calandar.

    And usually management also lets us know, with a quick review on where to send them to wait for their interview.

    While I know not everything is cyclical and gives cues (and that by no means is this your responsibility to know)… are there some cues you’ve noticed that might help y’all be not as caught off guard?

    Also yes. Talk with management. Not only is the whole not knowing thing jarring- it’s also prolly a bit disruptive too?

    Good luck.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed that this is weird, particularly in small, white-collar offices. Anytime I’ve worked with an organization with no departments and fewer than 30 employees, keeping secret the fact that hiring was happening was almost always impossible. But it also just sounds like a lot of unnecessary cloak and daggering, which of course makes employees wonder what’s up, which makes the whole thing seem even weirder (and invites the massive speculation gossip monster to fill in the blanks). Unless you’re a contractor for a clandestine organization, this approach sounds pretty far away from the norm.

      1. Casuan*

        Yes, this.
        Also, assuming the OP’s employer is not a covert organisation, this bizarre cloak-&-dagger routine probably doesn’t help new hires to feel welcome. I wonder what they are told prior to their first day?

        1. winter*

          Yes, I would certainly feel weird if several new colleagues in a row would look at me confusedly when I introduce myself.

      2. Amber T*

        I feel like this is the missing stair in my company – this weird secrecy is so normal here that I’m genuinely surprised with how many people think it’s weird! I used to have a responsibility when new people were coming on, so I’d get an email saying “Jane Fergus is starting next Monday, please update the list when you have completed your responsibility.” I’m not in that role anymore, so I usually hear from someone else that someone is starting in a few days time.

        It’s like that when people leave, too. We get an email a few days before the last day saying “Friday is Jane’s last day, please join me is wishing her the best of luck in her endeavors.” It’s always assumed that the person is leaving for another opportunity, but that same email was sent when I *know* someone was fired, so I’m always curious. It usually results in lots of rumors going around as to why someone left, did they leave voluntarily, etc.

    2. Midge*

      Yes, not only is the secrecy weird, but if employees don’t know the company is hiring then they can’t refer qualified candidates they may know or apply for the position themselves. OP, you might want to raise that issue as well if there is someone in management you can talk to about this. The company is doing itself a disservice by shutting its employees out of the hiring process.

      1. Gadfly*

        Makes me wonder if perhaps there is something they don’t want known that would likely come out if people were applying or referring applicants–new hires salaries/wages perhaps?

        1. Chaordic One*

          I wonder if maybe they did NOT want other employees making referrals?

          Sometimes employee referrals are good and sometimes they’re not. It truly is odd.

          1. Amber T*

            We don’t go by employee referrals. We only go through recruitment firms. The one time they tried to go through employee referrals for an admin/receptionist job resulted in very… interesting results.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Referrals can net you a mixed bag, for sure, but it’s not like the company is obligated to hire any referrals they get.

      2. Zathras*

        This was what was weird to me to, OP #2 – everywhere I’ve worked always announced to us “We’re hiring, TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS.”

        But I agree that it could easily seem like secrecy when really it’s just an oversight.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          So true! My old job worked this way, and I was really pleased to be able to recommend a friend of mine–he was looking to move back to our city to be near his girlfriend, and I respected his work enough that I wanted him in the office with me. Part of the reason it worked out was because we were hiring near the winter holidays, which meant HR would take longer than usual with the formal offer letter, but our relationship meant I could tell him (with my boss’s explicit instruction) that just because he hadn’t heard anything didn’t mean he wasn’t the top candidate.

      3. Sharon*

        My thought was they may be keeping this secrecy to avoid internal candidates. Which also isn’t a great practice.

    3. MillersSpring*

      I also guess that the management are keeping hires hushed in case they don’t come to pass–if they have to cancel the position or if candidates turn them down.

      It’s bizarre that the managers aren’t publicly posting the open positions, inviting team members to interview candidates or telling employees about start dates.

      Particularly the latter because new employee starts can mean 1) that you’re getting some long-awaited help, and 2) that you might have disruptions as the new person is introduced and trained.

    4. shep*

      I never know *exactly* when hiring is happening at our office, but usually a position is posted internally (either first or in tandem with an external posting), so I’ll know there’s a vacancy and that [presumably] interviews are happening. We also usually get an email that a new person has been hired, and their start day will be X. Recently, though, our office has gotten quite large with a lot of support staff. Openings are still posted, but actual hires aren’t often announced widely. I think this just more due to oversight than intentionally keeping a new hire secret, though. We have several different departments, some of which have grown substantially in the last few years, so I assume the hiring manager is more focused on getting them onboarded with their team than announcements.

    5. JustaTech*

      There’s nothing quite like coming back from a vacation to discover that your bosses did hire for that position by finding the new person sitting in the cubical next to yours. At least she was the one (of two) that I’d interviewed so I had *some* idea of what was going on.
      (They might have sent out an email, but I take my vacations very seriously so I hadn’t seen it.)

    6. turquoisecow*

      I interviewed for my last major job with my boss’s boss. I was under the impression that I’d be working for him when I started work. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and was introduced to actual boss, and went on to only see boss’s boss on occasion.

      But that was nothing compared to my actual boss’s surprise. His boss stopped by his desk at 4:30 on a Friday and said, “Oh, by the way, your person starts Monday.” Now, he had been asking his boss for a report (he was the only “manager” on the team who didn’t have a person working for him), but he did not know his boss had interviewed me, never mind made an offer that was accepted.

      That was only a small example of the dysfunctionality of that place, though.

  5. Leah*

    For OP #1, since this is at your current organization I would follow up discreetly with your manager about the interview. Maybe the interviewer had a preconception of you/your work before the interview, and your resume didn’t match that (ie she might have heard through the office grapevine that you were better at X skills than Y skills and then your resume was full of Y work).

    But regardless, that interviewer sounds obnoxious, and you should definitely say something about her attitude to someone as well.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#1’s interviewer sounds bizarre and hostile. Seriously, who pulls a Cheshire Cat grin, asks you if you lied on your resume, and then asks if you lied about not lying? If there’s a safe/clean way to do it, I agree OP#1 should consider saying something (in a conversation, not email!) when withdrawing their transfer application.

      1. Leah*

        I wonder if the OP and the interviewer had some sort of prior relationship where the latter felt at ease in saying such things? OP, please give an update; the interviewer should face consequences for this.

        1. neverjaunty*

          That would be a pretty significant detail to have omitted from the letter, so doubtful. The interviewer sounds like one of those people convinced of his own cleverness.

        2. Dizzy Steinway*

          Consequences how? It’s an internal interview and while it was really weird I’m not sure OP is in much of a position to avenge themselves!

          OP, take it as a sign that you do not want to work for this person.

          1. Frozen Ginger*

            I think Leah (correct me if I’m wrong) meant “consequences” less in terms of “punishment”, and more in the “had a talking to about why this is Not A Good Thing To Do” way.

      2. snuck*

        Who pulls a Cheshire Cat grin?

        Probably someone who knows just how cruddy the question is but is forced to ask it and feels super awkward?

        That’s sort of how I might read this. If I knew my resume was rock solid, and reflected in my experience at work… I’d assume that the interviewer was expected to ask that (it’s pretty confrontational, but also sounds very “we need an assurance of truth so we can guarantee stuff later” internal speak) …. and was embarrassed about it.

        1. Patrick*

          Yeah, total speculation on my end but the situation definitely read to me like the interviewer was being forced to ask those questions and was possibly trying to mask their distaste.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          I thought of this. I once had a lengthy interview packet to follow and we had to ask some absurd questions now and then that probably made me look like a moron to the candidate. I kind of felt that might have been going on here.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s possible. It’s just weird that these two questions even exist.

          Ut if you’re embarrassed to even have to ask, it would make more sense to offer a disclaimer (“this may sound jarring, but we’re required to ask this of all candidates: is anything on your resume exaggerated?”) and an apologetic/sympathetic face.

        4. Pommette*

          That would be my guess as well. It’s an awkward situation to have to handle. While smirking isn’t the best approach, it certainly is an understandable one.

      3. JM in England*

        The question is itself a waste of time; after all, will a liar ever admit to having lied?

        1. On Fire*

          “Were any of your previous answers lies?”
          “Actually, yes. Four answers were lies. It’s your job to figure out which four.”
          Really bizarre and unproductive question.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Well, that was awkward for my keyboard.

            Now I am sketching out fictional scenarios where this would be a logical way for the interview to turn. Probably you would be interviewing as a spy.

          2. Lora*

            Must. Stop. Giggling.

            I keep thinking of the scene in The Labyrinth where Jennifer Connelly has to figure out which door leads to certain death and which one leads to the oubliette.

        2. Casuan*

          The only ways I can make sense from these bizarre questions are:
          -The interviewer heard rumours about the applicant & she was trying to ascertain if the rumours were true.
          -She was trying to ascertain how you responded to grace under pressure.

          She was a bad interviewer. I don’t really believe either of these options.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          If I wanted to be a smarta** (and after hearing this, I probably would not want to work for this person anyway), I would just go with “No, I did not lie during the interview or on my resume…but I am lying now.”

      4. Catalin*

        “Who pulls a Cheshire Cat grin…”
        I cannot be the only person picturing Dolores Umbridge.

        1. shep*

          This is EXACTLY who I pictured. As others mentioned upthread, perhaps it was a forced grin out of either nervousness or an attempt, albeit a very bad one, to soften the questions because the interviewer also felt like they were in very poor taste, but was instructed to ask them anyway.

          But I’m still totally picturing Umbridge. “I must not tell lies.”

    2. TL -*

      I once had a not-manager ask me to do someone else’s data entry and when I responded that I wasn’t great at data entry because I flip numbers, she responded, “well, if that’s a lie, it’s a really good one.”
      (It’s true. And frustrating to deal with.)

      1. LQ*

        You are not alone. And I actually did data entry for a while, but there was a lot of double checking numbers by holding them up to the screen and moving the one digit at a time cut out I had over them. I got better at typing them correctly but I still always screw it up when talking. Not alone! (And it may be dyscalculia.)

        1. TL -*

          I don’t think it’s anything big – I’m pretty good at math and if I really focus and double check, it’s not a huge problem (I don’t have trouble telling the numbers apart; I just transpose them more frequently than the average person). It just slows me down at a task I already dislike.
          It’s mostly frustrating when I think I have the exit number right…and I don’t. Or I thought I had the right amount of money…and I don’t. Sigh.

  6. Gaia*

    #5 I imagine what they told her was that you cannot reduce her pay if she leaves early (if she is exempt) which you cannot. But you can charge her PTO or you can subject her to consequences. It is pretty outrageous that she thinks this is acceptable.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Assuming the Office Manager makes more than $455/week, I think the employer actually could reduce her salary to reflect her weekly hours (i.e., prorating her salary for 35 hours/week, not 40). But it can’t be framed as docking—it would have to be a “reset” on her salary based on the expecetation that she wants to work 30-35 hours/week (and ensuring that she really is working less than 35 hours and is still paid at least $455/week). Of course, don’t prorate without having a conversation with her, first. [Also, I may be misremembering this because lawyers are carved out from the $455/week standard, which means I might be applying the wrong framework to an office manager gone rogue.]

      All that said, it’s risky and invites auditing and a DOL complaint. I think the next steps are:

      1. Educate the owner about what exempt status means with respect to hours worked and minimum salary;
      2. Speak to the OM to make sure that she understands the job requires 40 hours/week, and that you cannot keep someone who refuses to meet that requirement;
      3. (If she’s paid at least $455/week and a salary reduction would not bring her below that level and you don’t need her 40 hours/week) bring up the possibility of decreasing her hours and her pay;
      4. If she refuses to renegotiate and is gloating about leaving early, determine what kind of discipline/accountability system you plan to use, and use it to
      5. Fire her. If you clearly let her know she’s required to be here 40 hours and she continues to brag about refusing to work those hours, then you have an insubordination problem. If you’ve given her a fair chance to comply and she won’t, then let her go.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        1a. Make sure the owner will back you 100% on your methods to enforce the 40 hours/week.

      2. hbc*

        I would also start documenting like crazy. Make sure there’s a job description that includes the hours and have her sign it. Make a log of every time she leaves early. Send an email each time you talk about her required hours and the next steps.

        Because there will almost certainly be a lawsuit. She doesn’t have a case, and I bet you won’t even need a lawyer, but it’s better to have the file ready to go when the state DOL or whoever comes knocking about whatever story she told them.

        1. always in email jail*

          ditto. make sure her job description details that there is a “business need” for her role to be present X:00-X:00 and have her sign it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to clarify, if she files a complaint with the DOL, that’s not a lawsuit. The employer probably won’t even need to pay to defend themselves if there’s a DOL administrative investigation (which is usually nothing more than a letter requesting info from the employer).

          (I don’t want to freak out the OP unnecessarily.)

          1. hbc*

            Sorry, should have said “complaint.” Having been through an investigation by our state department of civil rights after three whole months as a manager, I was mostly surprised about how reasonable the process was. We had in-person interviews and all that jazz because this guy could spin quite the story and it was much less cut and dried than this situation, but still, it was much less scary than anticipated.

            In reality, you can’t stop anyone from suing you or filing a complaint that sounds like it could be legitimate, which is why that fear shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what needs to be done.

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Not only should the OP not freak about a lawsuit, or about a DOL investigation – writing up a job description *now* that includes the hours may not necessary and may not really the best idea in the world. (After-the-fact attempts at CYA documentation often just makes you look sketchy. There is nothing odd about having a full-time job equal 40 hours a week, so a lack of specific hours in a job description is not a big deal.)

          Certainly, document her leaving early – that can be simple, through email. “Fergus, Jane left early again today.” Or “Jane, you seem to have left for the day again, unexpectedly.” Or “Jane, I am following up to confirm our conversation today (and then summarize).”

          A worker complaining that she was fired because she was leaving early and thought she was impervious to discipline because “salary” won’t be a Huge Deal. Unless there are other issues, I just can’t see this as being a big thing that OP has to worry about. A DOL investigation, if one actually happened, would be a nuisance. But not an all-hands-on-deck-lets-roll-out-10-tons-of-paper-documentation event.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes to all of this. Definitely don’t try to come up with paperwork if it didn’t previously exist—it will make the employer look like the hours dispute was a pretext. But tracking her absenteeism is fine and should be done.

        4. Person of Interest*

          If it’s not in the employee’s specific job description, the normal working hours might be documented in the employee handbook. This is how our org works – the handbook states that everyone’s work week is 37.5 hours, but individuals can work out their specific schedules with their managers (early, late, when flex time is needed, whatever)

  7. Drew*

    OP#3, my condolences on the sad anniversary coming up. That sounds horrible and you are a strong person for coming back to work under the circumstances.

    I’m echoing Alison’s advice; please try to believe that your new coworker is merely clueless rather than cruel, and perhaps doesn’t realize how deeply this tragedy affected those of you who were there.

    If you’re up to it, you could send her a short note explaining that because she wasn’t at the company last year, she probably doesn’t realize that this is a very sad time and not one that is made better by jokes or distracting levity. You might even mention that it makes her seem uncaring or even cruel to people who aren’t able to recognize what she’s trying so ineffectually to do.

    Full disclosure: I don’t think I could send that note. I think I’d be more likely to forward her notes to your and/or her manager under a “Please counsel Jane that these emails are very hurtful on the anniversary of our shared tragedy” line, And if Jane did this in my actual presence, I would probably lose my mind all over her.

    Again, I’m so sorry. Best wishes for healing in the coming days and months.

    1. Mookie*

      Yeah, I think this something best left to management to tactfully respond to — the message is this is unacceptable, unprofessional, and tone deaf, irrespective of intent, and that message should be delivered by someone with authority whose emotions won’t sway them towards angry or grief-filled confrontation — and they should be doing this without employee prompting or grousing. LW can’t possibly be the only one disgusted here. “Geekish enthusiasm” boils my blood, and I’ve never experienced anything like what the LW and her colleagues have. Nobody asked for or needed this person’s input.

      1. Susan*

        Yeah, “geekish enthusiasm” is in no way an appropriate approach to a horrible tragedy. I get the sense that this person somehow views those who were affected by the tragedy as the “in crowd” and wants to get in on the attention, especially if it was something that made national news. It is just gross. I agree that someone in a position of authority needs to shut this person down.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Not being present at the time of the tragedy is not an excuse for a clueless response. We’ve had our share of workplace tragedies and anyone who reacts with levity is tone deaf. She needs to be made aware her response was inappropriate.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Thank you. In this circumstance, a lack of malice is irrelevant–it’s so astonishingly inappropriate that a firm response is necessary. For me, this would burn up any goodwill this employee has managed to accrue during her tenure, and make me seriously reconsider whether or not she was someone I needed to work with on future projects.

      2. AnonToday*

        I don’t think this is too different from hearing someone else’s parent died and going off on how sad you would be in their situation. Does someone really have to be told not to do that?

        1. fposte*

          I think how sad you would be is kind of okay; it’s hamfisted, but at least gets that it’s a sad thing. But if you greeted a friend’s parent’s passing with “geekish enthusiasm,” that would be a friendship-ending maneuver.

          1. Finny*

            It definitely was a friendship-ending maneuver when one of the husband’s friends said, after my mother died and my father disowned me, that “You must be so happy to not have to deal with things twice!” in a gleeful tone. We think he meant that since my father had just disowned me at least I wouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath of his death as well as my mother’s, but we didn’t stick around to request clarification.

            1. Drew*

              Mouth hanging open. “Thank goodness you’re bundling all your grieving!” is an appalling sentiment. (It’s something you can say, since it’s your grief and you can feel whatever you feel about it, but for someone else to arrogate that feeling to you…oy.)

            2. OP#3*


              Wow! I am sorry that you had someone hamhanding all over your grief as well. That is just…astonishing. My sympathies for both of your losses.

        2. Jennifer's Sad Thneed*

          I’m sorry to say that yes, some people have to be told not to do that. Some people think that they are showing sympathy and don’t realize that they’re making someone else’s emotions all about them. Other people are just clueless and want to be the center of attention.

          And still other people have never actually experienced a huge loss or tragedy (such as the loss of a parent) and they truly don’t have a clue how it feels when it happens. And so they follow whatever cues they follow and more often than not, they make poor choices in that.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree that you should absolutely forward this to Jane’s manager and ask them to have a word with her.

      Honestly, I’m surprised that no one has lost it on her already. People who are grieving don’t always think about their reactions to things and if I had received something that insensitive, I think my instincts would have been to either (a) fire back something really inappropriate or (b) tell her about herself. So kudos to you for not doing either.

      I am very sorry for what you and your colleagues are dealing with and hope you are getting the support you need.

      1. Drew*

        I think the absolute nicest thing I could say in the moment would be some variation on “Wow. That was incredibly insensitive and offensive. You should go away now and not talk to me for the rest of the day.”

        Spoiler: I do not think I would be that nice. Or that articulate. Or that unprofane.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Yeah… add about 12 f bombs and me angry crying and you have something closer to my likely reaction.

          I’m impressed that OP#3 not only kept their cool, but had the wherewithal to write to Alison for advice.

          1. OP#3*

            Detective Amy Santiago,

            I appreciate that you believe that I kept my cool, but my initial reaction was to send a reply all to the entire department consisting of two words, only one of which my mother would have approved. It was only when I was doing my daily reading of this blog, that I realized that I could reach out to see if I was over-reacting.

            I appreciate everyone’s comments and support. As we are getting closer to the anniversary, everything is getting closer to the surface. Your replies mean a lot to me.

    4. JustaTech*

      I think the note is a great idea, but maybe to have it come from someone else who was not there (and therefore might have an easier time writing it).
      Jane really needs to know that, regardless of her intentions, her email was incredibly painful. Just because you didn’t mean to drop that box on my foot doesn’t make it hurt any less.
      LW, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this on top of a painful anniversary.

  8. Gaia*

    #3 I am sorry for what you and your coworkers went through and continue to go through. I cannot even begin to imagine. As suggested, I hope your workplace is offering some sort of grief counseling.

    I think it is worth mentioning to someone (not the coworker) how upset you are by the email. You are likely not the only one and someone (not you) needs to talk to coworker. She sounds like she has negative amounts of class and even less common sense.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      All of this. It sounds like it was sent to everyone so I highly doubt the OP is the only one troubled by it.

      This may be the most tone-deaf thing I’ve ever heard about. I just don’t understand what she thought it would achieve.

      1. On Fire*

        This was my thought as well. Would it be worthwhile for several of OP’s coworkers to approach the person’s supervisor, asking that person to counsel the person?

      2. New Bee*

        I think she may have truly thought she was bringing levity (not realizing it’s neither necessary nor her place) with a side of pay-attention-to-me-itis. I have a coworker I could see doing this who has a similar streak of immaturity combined with needing to stick her nose in everything.

  9. MommyMD*

    If anyone ever in my life tried to bring levity or giggles into a terrorism massacre that deeply affected my family I would never want to speak to them again. I feel so bad for the OP. So very very bad. Thank God I work with people who understand how this affects and changes your life and on an anniversary of our event said things like we are thinking of you, we pray for your family

    You have my most sincere empathy OP. You work with a clod. An absolute idiot.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Where does the OP say it was terrorism? I was thinking it could also have been a terrible workplace accident.

      1. Zombii*

        Some people like to crochet, other people like to speculate wildly about situations without enough facts and then make a big spectacle of being so outraged by this scenario they’ve imagined so they can co-opt someone else’s tragedy. It’s incredibly gross and it does no favors for the person who is actually suffering.

        (My point stands whether it was terrorism or not, since the OP didn’t see the need to mention specifics.)

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Idk, I too assumed it was the Boston Marathon bombing bc it’s coming up very soon, was a random event, affected some workplaces, has been long enough since that you would expect a bunch of turnover in the time frame (I’m in Boston too so it readily occurred to me). But agree that as OP deliberately didn’t identify the event its specifics shouldn’t factor into advice and that commentary on the event itself is a distraction.

          The one thing I can think of that the context might relate to is that some event like the above had a kind of cultural half life apart from those who experienced it first hand. Often people feel like events with broader political, cultural or historical significance become part of the common domain to comment on and interpret in other contexts (generally, legitimately so). That sounds a little like what the coworker is trying to do but it is so bizarre and inappropriate for it to take this form.

        2. MadGrad*

          Um, I took MommyMD’s statement to be referring to a terrorism incident that actually affected MommyMD’s family as a point of reference for her feelings, not a speculation as to the LW’s tragic incident. If that’s the case, I’d argue that that’s a hugely relevant point to bring up when relating to the LW and her coworkers, and your response is very unkind. Please read again.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I suppose it could be read either way, but please be kind and assume the best of fellow commenters here (everyone, not just you, MadGrad).

        3. that guy*

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think MommyMD was making assumptions. The way I read it, her comment referred to an actual event that happened and affected her family.

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Sadly, there have been so many workplace tragedies, both accidental and deliberate that have made national news headlines, trying to speculate on which particular one this could be is a pointless exercise.

      2. Not Australian*

        This. My first instinct was that maybe the OP worked with police or fire service people.

      3. cataloger*

        MommyMD referred to terrorism showing up on her doorstep in a comment in the recent “hiding Easter eggs at work” post, so she’s likely talking about that same event here and how she’d respond if someone tried to bring levity to it.

        1. LJL*

          That’s how I read it too…terrorism in MommyMD’s experience, not necessarily OP’s. I’m sending good thoughts for OP and MommyMD both.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m not sure the distinction changes the advice (or invalidates MommyMD’s comment). Regardless of the scale or nature of OP’s workplace tragedy, New Coworker’s mass email was breathtakingly insensitive and inappropriate.

    2. OP#3*


      You have my sincere empathy as well. Sorry that you went through something so horrible. I am thinking of you and wishing good thoughts in your direction.

    1. Gadfly*

      I have–it was even part of several of the packages you could buy along with things like a wallet sized diploma and such in high school (I didn’t pay as much attention for my undergraduate graduation.)

      1. Audiophile*

        A wallet sized diploma? Now I think I’ve heard it all.

        Who wants to carry around their diploma or their kid’s diploma?

        1. Kat*

          My sister carried around a pocket size diploma because she graduated a year early and needed to be able to prove why she wasn’t in high school (yes we did have to use it once)

        2. Gadfly*

          Well, as a geeky 18 year old it was kinda cool…

          Look, I did a lot of things in those days I’m not so proud of today. I edited and did the pre-pub work on the school’s poetry book after everyone else dropped out, for example. Some things you just have to remember that high school kids aren’t really rational adults yet, and they make weird decisions.

          I also don’t know why I wanted a coffee mug with my graduating class listed on it–ALL of them. And I was at a big school.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      They’re exactly what they sound like :)

      You know how folks send new baby announcements? A graduation announcement is a card/postcard/note that lets the recipient know you’re graduating, except it’s 10x more expensive than a normal postcard. Some announcements provide information about whether you’ll go out to dinner later, where the ceremony is, etc., but it’s mostly just an FYI.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Precisely! When I graduated from high school, the school included graduation announcements in your senior photo package with the information. For me, they were especially helpful because we moved my final year of high school, so I could inform my old teachers about my plans, and let people know who were now part of our circle. For instance, my stepfather’s first wife’s parents (!), who were still alive, got a graduation announcement and very kindly got me a set of XL twin sheets for my college dorm room.

        1. The IT Manager*

          It was a thing for high school in my part of the US over 20 years ago.

          You sent out the pre-printed announcement (which was standard for your school) inserted your pre-printed name card in the slot for (name) and often included a graduation picture.

          Much like a wedding your parents helped you get the names and addresses of all your aunts and uncles and distant relatives so it could be sent to them. Generally you could expect a monetary gift inreturn which you The had to write a thank you note for.

          I did it for high school which had the whole industry around graduation (photos, announcements, etc) and the school sent out info on where and when to buy this stuff, but not for college. Although I wasn’t hooked into the graduation process at college and barely got my gown in time. Also my parents didn’t push me to do the announcements like they did in high school and I didn’t have college graduation photos.

          I have no idea how much this is still “a thing.” First email and now Facebook and social media may have changed the process.

          I mean high school photos used to have to completed well before graduation and proofs printed and selected and printed. Digital had really shortened that timeline and do people even print wallet photos to hand out anymore?

          1. Michelle*

            My daughter graduated last year, and my son is graduating this year, and it’s still a thing here. In fact, my mom insisted that my daughter’s announcements had to be sent out in May or June, even though she graduated late. The concern being that if a family member does not receive an expected announcement, they won’t think you didn’t send them, they’ll think They Didn’t Get One and potentially be offended.

        2. Artemesia*

          When I graduated from high school over 50 years ago in the US, it was a thing — they tried to sell you class rings and these fancy wedding invitation formal graduation announcements. By the time my kids graduated, no one was doing that sort of thing although they were still huckstering them at school. I think one takes one cues from one’s cultural environment. If ‘everyone’ is sending them, then it is fine — if not, it will seem like a gift grab and nothing much else.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            All of that – graduation announcements plus class rings and these (to me) amazingly complicated graduation photo shoots with multiple poses – are all still extremely common here in Indiana. I’d say that, if anything, high school graduations have gotten even more elaborate than they were back when I graduated from high school in 1976.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I’m in the US too and I’ve never heard of it for high school or college. I’d just assume that anyone who cares would know I’m graduating. Unless there’s a party invite involved, no one I knew sent out anything like this.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          You’ve really never heard of it? Oh my. Well, it’s very, very common, and in quite a few different areas of the country, too, including the Southwest (where I grew up) and the Midwest (where I live now).
          It’s not the same as an invitation. It is literally just a formal (and nice, I think) way to let close family and friends know that you’ve reached an important milestone.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            It’s very common in some areas, but very uncommon and just not done in others (I have lived in New England most of my life, and have never seen a graduation announcement in my 40+ years, though yes, I understand what they are.) So this is very region and culture dependent. For some areas of the country it would be not a big deal, it would seem. In others, it would be odd. I don’t know where OP is, but my sense after reading all the comments that she would need to know the practice in her area – though regardless, I think for her boss, something in the line of a thank you note would be better.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              Yes, I agree that she probably shouldn’t send one to her boss. A thank you letter would be less odd – and actually much nicer, too, at least IMO.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, that’s surprising to me. In college, it was literally mentioned/bundled with renting your robe (I could barely afford my robe, so I wasn’t going to pay for announcements). Maybe this varies significantly by locality and school?

          High school was a little different because it’s usually offered as a special package with your senior photos, but it seems to be more common and a bigger deal at high schools where students are likely to be the first in their families to graduate or if graduation is a big deal. For example, graduation was not a big deal at the high school I attended because everyone is expected to graduate and go to college (and 98-99% of grads do). But it was a big deal at my hometown high school, where only 60% complete all 4 years, 27% graduate, and 18% go on to a 2- or 4-year college/university.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            High school graduation is a big deal everywhere here in Indiana, as far as I can see. Socioeconomic status, educational expectations, parental education levels, etc. – none of that seems to matter. Invitations are usually sent to just a very small group, but announcements are sent far and wide.

            An additional tradition (this was not traditional in the Southwest, where I grew up, but it’s a big-time tradition in Indiana) is that many, many families hold an open house right after the high school graduation ceremony. So if you know several kids graduating on the same day, you can hop from house to house, pausing for a short while at each one to graze on party-chow and sip soft drinks. I bet teachers get so full they don’t want to eat again for a *week*.

        3. Gov Worker*

          I graduated HS in 1973 and pre-printed announcements were standard, the same when DD graduated in 2003. Midwestern USA here.

      1. Announcements*

        Pretty much all my cousins sent high school graduation announcements. And only a couple bothered buying college announcements (even though it was an expectation to graduate from both high school & college).

      2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        In my (admittedly limited) experience, there seems to be a class aspect to it – high school announcements seem more common in parts of the country with lower HS graduation rates and college attendance.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yes, I would agree with this assessment broadly — amending slightly to “historically lower HS graduation rates.” My high school in a historically agricultural area made a big deal of 8th grade graduation and HS graduation, even though by the time I graduated we had graduation rate that was higher than the national average. But since that historically had not been true, those traditions became pretty well established over the years.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            I could definitely see tradition being a part of it. I also grew up in a historically agricultural area, with a lot of classmates who were first generation of their family to finish HS (although HS graduation rates weren’t all that great even when I was there). I never thought about it, but we made a big deal of 8th grade graduation too.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          That wasn’t at all the case where I grew up. I’m from a solidly middle-class area with perfectly respectable high school graduation rates and college attendance, yet most of my classmates bought and sent graduation announcements. I didn’t send them to everyone I knew or my parents knew, but my older relatives appreciated them, and I also sent them to adults who might be interested but I wasn’t in close touch with (old babysitting clients, mostly). This was more than 20 years ago, so maybe it was just the thing to do at the time.

        3. BananaPants*

          Yeah. In our hometown with a low dropout rate and >80% of HS grads going to college (whether 2 or 4 year programs), graduating from high school is viewed by most families as an absolute minimum expectation for their kids. High school grad announcements are unusual.

          I have received HS grad announcements from cousins I’ve never met who live in struggling Rust Belt communities. In their area, from families without any college education, it is a big deal to graduate from HS and in most cases is the end of their formal education. They do view it as an important milestone.

        4. CMart*

          I had an opposite experience, though also attributed it to class. In my very wealthy suburb everyone sent out announcements and as someone who only belonged in that area due to zoning (not family income) I associated it with “frivolous stuff rich people waste money on”, largely because OF COURSE we all graduated high school, who the hell needs to announce it?

          I also associated HS graduation parties as “frivolous rich people nonsense” until I learned many years later that those were essentially excuses for your relatives and parents’ business partners to give you envelopes stuffed with cash, at which point I had some major regret about not throwing myself a party.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          My experience was that several factors canimpact whether high school announcements are common. For me, it was a mix of SES, neighborhood, and likelihood of graduating high school.

          In big cities with high graduation rates, announcements were not a thing. In smaller communities or neighborhoods where graduation was less common, announcements were definitely a thing—especially in rural communities (think Friday Night Lights) and communities with high drop out rates. In affluent areas where you’re expected to graduate, announcements were not a thing unless it was small, suburban and affluent enough for people to order individually designed/procured announcements to show how fancy rich they were (similar to CMart, I saw this as a rich people nonsense thing).

      3. Kathleen Adams*

        In the Southwest (where I grew up) and the Midwest (where I live now), I’d say that high school graduation announcements are considerably more common than college graduation.

        It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, have anything to do with graduation rates or status or anything like that. It’s just tradition. And the tradition, at least in the places I’ve lived, is that one’s high school graduation is announced to all an sundry, whereas college graduation is either not “announced” formally to anybody unless that person is invited.

        I also think it might be the difference between being 18 and being 22 or thereabouts. When you’re 18, this milestone might seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. When you’re 22 or so, sure, graduating from college is a Big Deal, but the person is a lot more concerned with the next big thing (e.g., getting a job).

        There might be some indirect proof of this. I very strongly suspect that a far higher percentage of high school graduates participate in the graduation ceremony than do college graduates. I’m sure this varies a lot from school to school.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “When you’re 18, this milestone might seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. ”

          This makes so much sense to me – after all, when you’re 18, pretty much everything seems like a big deal to you, right? I mean, you’ve never done anything like it (whatever it may be) before. :-) I can completely see why the excitement over a high school graduation – it feels bigger than just the end of high school, but about becoming an adult and, to a teenager, crossing into the mythical arena of adulthood. I can see why that seems announcement worthy, regardless of graduation rates and area.

        2. FDCA In Canada*

          Yes, just about everyone I knew sent out high school graduation announcements, it was the Done Thing, but I don’t know of anyone who sent out university grad announcements. And similarly, everyone participated in HS grad, but college grad ceremonies were much more sparsely attended. I think the high-school grad is as much of a milestone as anything–it’s the acknowledgment of the end of “being a kid” and moving into the Adult World.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I wonder if high school rings are as a big a deal as they used to be (I agonized over which one to get and wore it for about three days). Were they a thing in Canada (assuming you attended HS there…)?

            1. FDCA In Canada*

              I went to HS in Illinois, and in a weird twist I did get a class ring (as did about 75% of my female graduating class), but only because one of the rings available for ladies was a very nontraditional-looking ring that had been the traditional class ring for the girls’ school that amalgamated with my high school in the 90s. It looks very much like a normal ring, but the stone is engraved with the school’s initials. They’re distinctive to the point that alumnas have spotted them In The Wild, which is fun. I actually still wear it occasionally and it’s been Many Years since high school.

        3. JAM*

          I live in the St. Louis metro so sometimes I just assume this is tied in with our obsession with high schools but I really didn’t realize they aren’t sent elsewhere! I just noticed I received far more when graduating high school than college but I also graduated from university in December and many of my friends were in programs with atypical ending times so I didn’t think much of it.

          For high school, I did share a single copy of my announcement on the safe for my department which was our equivalent of a message board. The ladies were lovely and bought me a charm that wasn’t expensive but showed how they cared. For university my job was a campus job so they knew I wasn’t coming back and I didn’t do announcements or invites but that was partially because of family drama happening then. I think eventually some relatives got an announcement because a few cash gifts came in but I graduated/got married 10 months apart and I’m realizing that was a decade ago so I may not remember fully what was being celebrated. Why I can remember high school things but not college is beyond me.

    3. JustaTech*

      I did them for college (because what you really need in the last month before graduation is to hand-address 50 envelopes) because they were kind of a thing, and I was very proud of graduating from my college, and while I only have one sibling, my dad is one of 9, so it helps the aunts and uncles (and great aunts, and people who aren’t technically family but basically are family, and childhood friends) keep track of where you are in life.
      My grandmother was very excited to get one (to show off to her friends) because she couldn’t make it to graduation.
      Now, what I’m going to do with the remaining 25, 12 years after graduation…

  10. Gadfly*

    OP2, very weird to me. We used to even have someone from the team they’d be joining asked to sit in on interviews just to be another perspective (probably a bit past normal in the opposite direction.) I can’t picture not knowing.

    1. JustaTech*

      And how do you get culture fit if the interviewee never meets anyone on the team they’ll be working with? (For the existing employees and the interviewee.)
      I know “culture fit” can be a fraught subject, but basic things like “we’re super buttoned up here” or “we all swear like sailors” or “we all do crossfit together” or “we’re a 7am start kind of place” or “no one here gets in until 10am” or “we don’t talk during the day”, those are the kinds of things I would want to know before starting at a company.

    2. Joe*

      Agree. This was my first thought as I read that letter. If they keep the hiring process secret from the whole team, then that means that nobody on the team is involved in the interview process, and that’s going to lead to decreased quality/fit/etc. in your hires.

  11. LawCat*

    #1, that’s so bizarro and inappropriate that I would have withdrawn from consideration if I’d been in your shoes. I definitely would have been thrown in the moment and probably not really been able to process it (I definitely would have missed the time for a witty comeback, alas!) When I’d had a chance to process, I’d have withdrawn. What on earth could the interviewer be thinking.

    1. LawCat*

      Sounds like you would decline at this point anyway. Really weird in the interviewer’s part.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. The other thing which springs to mind about the whole cloak and dagger aproach is that when the freshly hired employee turns up on their first day, nothing is prepared for them. I know we have had various questions on here in the past about the first day of work without a proper desk, telephone line or computer.

    1. that guy*

      I was thinking the same thing. You show up for your first day and people just look at you like “uuhh.. Ok” And you think ‘what a bunch of assholes.’ People need to be prepared for any organizational changes. If there’s going to be a new team member, the team needs to know about it so that they can plan for the change.

      This is just poor management.

      1. Mookie*

        Exactly. Why would you set up both the new employee and their colleagues to fail at their very first meeting? All this does is sow distrust and probably a fair amount of low-key resentment. People meeting their colleagues for the first time should be a happy milestone, not a situation where one side feels blindsided and the other utterly adrift and without support.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Flip side: Leverage often used this to their advantage when infiltrating offices for a little vigilante draining of their funds.

    2. Zathras*

      My boss once said “Here, mentor this intern.” The intern was literally already standing in front of me. I was vaguely aware that we were hiring interns but had no warning that I would be asked to mentor anyone, or even that anyone was starting that day.

      I felt bad because I didn’t have that much to give her for the first week or so, and since I didn’t have a good sense of her background I threw one or two tasks her way that in retrospect were too complicated. Luckily she was comfortable asking questions when she was confused.

  13. Apollo Warbucks*

    #5 I’d be tempted to start docking the employees PTO for these early finishes.

    1. Michele*

      Especially that Friday afternoon thing. It is fairly common to leave 20 minutes early on Friday if everything is done, but not three hours. I would start saying, “so you are taking a half day of vacation today?” whenever she did that.

      1. K.*

        I’ve worked places that had summer hours where you worked half a day on Fridays (my then-roommate and I worked for companies in the same industry with summer Friday hours – mine was half day Fridays, hers was every other Friday off), but that was a company-wide policy that everyone knew about and most everyone took advantage of. Even if you didn’t leave promptly at 1 and/or you worked over the weekend, it was rare to work a full Friday in the office between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That is clearly not what’s happening here. I’d fire her, although if you started docking her PTO she might quit on her own.

        1. Lore*

          Also, at least in my summer-Friday industry, it’s a schedule shift, not extra PTO–you work an extra hour Mon/Thur in exchange for Friday afternoons/alternate Fridays off. (Now, in practice, one often works that extra hour all year round so it *feels* like free time but technically you’re working the same number of hours in a week.)

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            That is also the case in my husband’s company.

            Although he does go in an hour early, most days in the summer, like he’s supposed to.

            1. Lore*

              Oh, yeah, I think I was not clear. I definitely put in the required extra hours in the summer. I just *also* put in that many hours most weeks in the spring, fall, and winter. Say my regular work schedule is 9:30-5:30, and my summer schedule is 9:30-6:30. In practice, I never leave before 6, and rarely before 6:30…so it doesn’t feel like I’m putting in many extra hours at all. (If they’d let me work that schedule all year round I’d be a happy happy camper, but alas no.)

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                Actually, I’m the one who wasn’t clear! :) I wasn’t trying to imply you were shorting the company. I meant that instead of just working the usual 8-5 (and lunch at his desk while he works, if he’s lucky), he ends up working 7-5.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Same at my last job – we could leave two hours early on Fridays in summer, but we had to have already worked those hours Mon-Thurs.

          3. K.*

            Yep, that was exactly how it was at my and my then-roommate’s companies – you added an extra hour to the end of the day Monday – Thursday but everyone was already working those hours anyway. The hours evened out. I loved summer Fridays – even if you weren’t going away for the weekend, you could do all your errands that you usually reserved for Saturdays on Friday afternoons, which gave you more free time on Saturdays.

        2. Michele*

          I used to have a job where we worked an extra hour Monday-Thursday so we could leave at noon on Friday, and I really liked it. However, that was department policy. It was also policy to be charged PTO if you just decided to not work one day (or afternoon).

        3. JustaTech*

          One place I worked the company was in a bad place so our VP often would send an email on Friday morning saying “It’s a nice day, take the afternoon off!” It was his way of saying that he knew life sucked and even if he couldn’t fix the problem (and he couldn’t) and he didn’t have any money for fun stuff at least he could let us go have our own fun.
          It helped more than you might think.

  14. Gadfly*

    First of all, I’m sorry. I think it is clear someone needs to talk to her and that it doesn’t need to be you. That there was not an immediate crack down by her manager and public apology given by her and/or her manager I think shows a management deficit. Is it the first anniversary?

    Something for you to maybe think about, especially if it has been a few years: is it good for you to stay there? I had to leave the job where I was working after my Dad died suddenly–it was a graveyard shift and I’d go see him for breakfast. It muddled them together. Near the anniversaries of them, I can’t drive near either of the locations of the really bad car accidents I’ve been in. (Meaning I cannot be the one driving.) It triggers too much. Staying there, to me, would be like when staying in the waiting room for the ICU, not a panicked ER anymore but that waiting limbo of forever where nothing can move on because you are praying for a miracle and expecting death or worse. It would be stopped time in a lot of ways, even while also having the comfort of people who understand, a sort of tribe of survivors. That this co-worker, who was an outsider anyway, broke that understanding would be extra intolerable for me because that would be my main reason to stay.

    If you haven’t, it may be worth exploring the idea of leaving (with a therapist ideally, who can be helping with everything else) even if you stay just to see if maybe you’re dealing with something you’ve constructed or let grow from this that makes it a bit shrine like or if there is survivor’s guilt. Things that make you trapped.

    I think that your co-worker did something intolerable and ignorant, but I also worry you may not have taken care of you (if for no other reason than that is a normal, human, response to surviving a tragedy.)

    1. OP#3*


      My condolences on the loss of your father. I can see how a workplace so entwined with the memories of your father would be too hard. In my case, the location did start as a tribe of survivors with survivor’s guilt. Now, many people have left, but the organization is still special to me. I have tried to work through thing through community service, but the anniversary has brought a lot of the feelings back.

  15. Dizzy Steinway*

    #3 I’m so sorry that you’re facing the anniversary of a trauma. Your colleague’s email was really lacking in empathy and it sucks. It’s hard to know why she did it – she’s communicating something about herself, though, that’s for sure – but one thing that struck me about your letter was the line about how this could have happened to anyone.

    Some people buy into a just-world philosophy in an attempt to protect themselves from the fact that the world is an unpredictable, unsafe place in which bad things can happen to good people and there’s no way to guarantee that they won’t. They want to believe that the world is within their control, that if only they do the right thing, everything will be okay. Your experiences, your suffering, your losses, mean you cannot shelter in this belief.

    This is just one way in which there can be a divide between those who have lived through the kind of event you describe and those who have not. Another divide is that some people fear the pain of others, do not know how to respond to it. Sometimes they’re unable to and sometimes they just don’t want to.

    Some events change us, take away certain beliefs or defences or ways of being. This sounds like one such event.

    Here is a person writing from the other side, a side you don’t get to be on any more, in which it is possible to unwittingly or selfishly or stupidly make light of the pain of others. Not only does it deny what you all experienced, it also highlights the fact that this person has not experienced the losses that you have, that they have the luxury of not knowing what it’s like, of being able to brush it away and experience it from the outside, from a blog, instead of the inside of your own head and heart. And in doing so they have pushed it back to you, pushed on places that hurt.

    In case this isn’t clear, I am in no way justifying this email. Just thinking out loud about why it may be so distressing to have receive such a thing. It’s not just the denial of suffering, it’s the handing back of suffering, saying: this is yours, not mine, I don’t have to worry about this but you have to live with it.

    It is reasonable that you are upset by this. Someone, ideally her manager, should ask her why she sent it and explain that it was not appropriate.

    What you need to do is take good care of yourself, be kind to yourself, and turn to people who do understand. Sometimes just being together can help – around this time would it help to buddy up with some of the other people who lived through this and agree that you can contact each other with a particular phrase that means: please just sit with me here right now?

    1. IrishEm*

      It’s not just the denial of suffering, it’s the handing back of suffering, saying: this is yours, not mine, I don’t have to worry about this but you have to live with it. This sentence really stands out as the crux of the matter (and also really relevant to my current situation, so I might just borrow it).

      The girl’s email places the survivors’ coping mechanisms (and their grief) into the spotlight in a way that demonstrates utter obliviousness towards what it is they are coping with, which means a) good for her, she’s never lost anyone suddenly, and b) boo for you and your colleagues, you have lost people and now have to navigate the world without them and with the excruciating awareness of the vagaries of life and death. And with the best will in the world, the girl was obviously trying to raise morale and going about it utterly ham-handedly and failed miserably. She might be able to laugh and be “geekishly enthusiastic”, but she was not a part of the original tragedy, and clearly doesn’t have the common sense or grace to deal with it privately.

      The onus is not on you, OP3, to educate this misguided girl, but to pass it on to someone above both you and the new girl to do it. I am so sorry for your loss(es).

    2. always in email jail*

      Wow. Just… wow. Such a well-written response. I, too, was struck by your “It’s not just the denial of suffering, it’s the handing back of suffering, saying: this is yours, not mine, I don’t have to worry about this but you have to live with it”

    3. Marillenbaum*

      I don’t have a specific comment to add, but I do want to thank you for your thoughtful, compassionate response. Stuff like this is why I love this community.

    4. OP#3*

      Dizzy Steinway,

      When I got the email from Alison saying that she was going to post my letter, I had a momentary fear that people would be cruel in their responses. I greatly appreciate that instead I have gotten posts of sympathy and understanding, like yours.

      You have phrased thing wonderfully of how it feels to be on the other side of a tragedy, where you cannot ever explain the changes that have taken place. A friend of mine was not working that day and she had remarked that she does not react to the anniversary the same way as those that were here. You can’t unsee what we saw. You can’t unhear what we heard. You can’t unfeel what we felt.

      One of the things that I got out of the counseling that happened right after was that people that ask you about where you were when it happened or any other questions about it don’t realize that they are throwing you back to that day.

      Thank you for your wonderful, caring response.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        You are completely and utterly welcome. Please try to look after yourself as you navigate this particularly difficult time.

  16. that guy*

    #1 This is weird. I think the interviewer heard something, or suspected something and was trying to make you admit … something. I would have asked her something like “Is there a specific reason you think I’m lying?”

    #3 Either terrible insensitive or just really clueless. Maybe you can sit down with her and try to explain that dealing with death is not exactly easy, and her cheery attitude about it is actually offensive.

    #5 Tell her that her working hours are from x to y and that she can actually be fired. Do it in writing.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Ooh, good follow-up question for #1. I think I would be so shocked at this question, I’m not sure how I would respond.

      But now I think about it, I’d pull out that “So wierd/so strange – why are you asking/saying that” statement and it would be good to tack onto your response: “That’s such a strange question to ask. Why would you ask that? Is there a specific reason you think I lied about something?”

    2. Channel Z*

      #1 I also wondered if maybe the interviewer had heard some baseless rumour by someone who was stirring up trouble, and was forced to ask the question even though she didn’t believe a word of the rumour. This happened to me by an ex-colleague, she spread some false rumours about me falsely claiming she had been doing my work, and told even more damaging lies about another colleague including false claims of plagiarism and inappropriate comments about women. Luckily she is gone, and her lies were caught without it affecting either of us professionally. I think it might be worth mentioning these questions to your own manager, because either the interviewer is entirely inappropriate, or there may be another story behind these questions.

    3. Stella's Mom*

      Good reply for 1. Having been in a situation in February where I was telling the truth, only to not be believed, and to have another person’s outright lies be accepted….I just can’t. I am honest and forthright to a fault – and have major issues around people who lie.

      Also fr 5, good reply. Employment law and guidelines are good to go by, as is documenting stuff. Worked in a place where the HR person/office manager left early also every day but was the boss’s buddy, so the leaving early, and gossiping about employees was never punished. So glad to be gone from there.

  17. Hoorah*

    A formal announcement of high school graduation seems unnecessary. It’s an achievement of course, but one that is common. Unless I personally know the graduate or they had to endure exceptional hardship to get there, a high school graduation announcement would seem over the top or a request for gifts.

    I agree with Alison, a “thank you for your support” would be much more meaningful.

    1. New Bee*

      I guess it depends on where you are. When my former students graduated last year, 94% of them were the first in their family to complete high school. Here announcements aren’t a gift grab though, but rather a more affordable way to give out grad pictures for the scrapbook/refrigerator (they tend to be delivered by hand).

    2. Aisling*

      Having lived in many parts of the U.S., this is absolutely regional. It’s considered weird to send them out in New Jersey, and in Texas it’s considered weird if you don’t.

  18. Thomas E*

    #5: Even if you can’t directly fire her because of internal politics, a conversation along the lines of “you understand that unauthorised absence is one of the factors considered in internal promotions, performance reviews, pay rises, and which we report on when a future employer seeks a reference from us.” may help.

  19. Daria Grace*

    OP#3, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. The email your co-worker sent would be very inappropriate even for a tragedy that the office only had a slight connection to. To do such a thing in the midst of a workplace that suffered deeply is something I cannot even fathom.

    It’s totally understandable if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, but if you do feel you can manage it may be worth having a chat to a manager about this. Hopefully the manager can pull your co-worker into line so they don’t unleash more cruelty on the day of the anniversary.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If the business isn’t closed that day (which I would be tempted to do if I was in a position of authority), then perhaps insensitive coworker can be encouraged to take the day off.

  20. Rebeck*

    #2 – the *degree* of secrecy seems weird to me (not knowing that the job is available, or that someone has been appointed) but in my experience (government-adjacent work, Australia) the amount of openess people talk about here is just… bizarre. Office tours? Never. Knowing who has applied? Not permitted. Knowing ANYTHING about the hiring process, as a colleague-to-be of the new hire? NEVER.

    But again, Australia.

    1. JustaTech*

      Do you (as a potential co-worker, not as hiring manager) get to interview candidates? In my (limited) experience that’s part of the process, but I’m guessing it’s not true everywhere. (The only time I wasn’t interviewed by my potential new coworkers was when the group hadn’t been formed yet.)

      1. JessB*

        I work in Australia for a great company, and we have peer interviews on a lot of teams. I started as a temp, and am still on a 12-month contract, so I didn’t go on one, and I am a terribly judge of character (I generally think everyone is lovely), so I’ve told my manager there’s no point sending me on one.
        But I’ve heard that they’re really useful for people coming into the company, and for the company. A few people who had really great peer-to-peer interviews have gone on to be star performers, and people with poor peer-to-peer interviews have gone on to be poor performers. Why they were hired after poor interviews is an interesting question, to which I do not have an answer!
        For clarification, I work in higher education.

  21. Grits McGee*

    OP #3, I’m so sorry for your loss and that you have to deal with your boorish coworker on top of it. If you haven’t looked into it already, there are a lot of self-care guides online (I think Buzzfeed periodically posts listicles of them) that can help get you through the roughest parts of the anniversary.

    On a slightly more incredulous note, how on earth does one respond to a major tragedy with “geekish enthusiasm”? And I don’t even mean psychologically; I can’t even imagine what that actually entails. What a thoughtless, awful thing to push on one’s coworkers.

    1. Discordia Angel Jones*

      That was my thought. What even is “geekish enthusiasm” anyway?? I mean, related to video games or the like, sure, but to a workplace tragedy of some kind? No.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      I can’t even imagine what “geekish enthusiasm” may be.

      If the company has an employee assistance program maybe they could have counselor available on site as the anniversary is coming soon? And a manager talk to that employee about her behavior. ASAP

        1. Emi.*

          I interpreted it to mean “I’m going to enthusiastically join the the commemoration of a tragedy that didn’t affect me, lol, that’s kind of socially awkward, lol, I’m such a geek, lol, please somebody pay attention to me.”

          1. RVA Cat*

            Yeah, I’m thinking “Tee hee I will act like a combination of Sheldon Cooper and Michael Scott, but worse!”

          2. Marillenbaum*

            So true! If you are going to participate in the commemoration, you do it appropriately–you show up, you offer your condolences; if relevant, you contribute something practical, like a casserole. The best way to distinguish yourself is by being indistinguishable: you just quietly do the right thing.

          3. Salamander*

            That was my take, as well. I think this person is used to thinking that she’s incredibly charming for being quirky, but no. She’s just not. She needs to just zip it and realize that it’s not about her.

            1. Pixel*

              Sure, hon! You’re a certified geek, and therefore exempt of all and any social behaviour expectations! You be you!

      1. OP#3*

        Anon Accountant,

        We will have counselors available, but I have not found counseling that, er, therapeutic. I will be working on a service project on the actual anniversary, since I find community service more comforting in some ways. Somehow doing something to commemorate seems more right than talking about it.

        1. Anancy*

          I find myself hoping that another coworker speaks to management about this email, preferably one who was not present at the original tragedy. Those of you who were there have enough to handle taking care of yourselves and should not have to expend the emotional energy to point out appropriate behavior around traumatic anniversaries.
          I hope the service project helps and I join the chorus saying that I’m so sorry you experienced it.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      The geekish enthusiasm threw me for a loop as well. I had to read the letter a couple of times and I’m still having a hard time imagining what the coworker was going for.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I was assuming she meant rather than thinking about the tragedy/being sad, she was going to lean into enjoying her hobbies or music or whatever.

      1. Grits McGee*

        I was leaning toward that- ie, “FYI, I’m going to be obtrusively ignoring how sad everyone is!”

    5. Elemeno P.*

      I was wondering if it was something related to the tragedy- enthusiasm for running after the Boston Marathon, or for organizing gay community events after Pulse, something like that. Something that would seem supportive of the event if you’re coming from the outside and clueless, but is really distasteful for the people involved.

      1. RVA Cat*

        The “performance of wokeness” that comes across more like Kendall Jenner handing out Pepsi?

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          Oh, well done. This is exactly the sort of person who would’ve thought up the Kendall Jenner ad.

          1. Mookie*

            Yep, perfect and timely analogy. Ugh, these people are so tiresome. Monetizing a national disgrace on the one foot and totes Geeking Out over a workplace tragedy.

      2. NW Mossy*

        This was my guess, with the possible extension of supporting causes/interests known to be dear to the deceased.

    6. Elizabeth H.*

      I am incredibly curious. I just have no idea what she could have meant. I would love to see the email in full although I know that’s not really appropriate. I guess I am thinking something along the lines of, this blog post reminded me that even as we remember this tragedy, we should remember to also enjoy life and not let tragedy derail us from experiencing the most of what it has to offer in our regularly scheduled pursuits, I plan to keep on enjoying life by doing x, y, z.
      There IS a slightly nice way to say this (like when people talk about the new, meaningful connections that can form between those who have been affected by a tragedy in its aftermath – or remembering the dead by engaging in some nice things that remind you of them like listening to jazz if he loved jazz) but this isn’t really it.

      1. fposte*

        That would still be a better bad thing, though, and not a good thing. In general, if you’re the outsider in a group of tragedy survivors, you don’t want to tell them how they should deal with aftermath and anniversaries at all.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly. The only appropriate thing to say is, “I’m so sorry you all went through this; I can’t even imagine what it must have been like. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help make this day a little easier for you.”

  22. Discordia Angel Jones*

    OP1 – honestly that was just rude. I probably would not have responded wittily or graciously in the moment. “What on earth are you talking about, are you calling me a liar?” would probably have been my response.

    OP2 – my office is exactly like that. And there’s only 7 of us so it’s super hard for it to be secret but a coworker was hired and installed at a desk while her deskmate was on holiday, so when the deskmate returned it was a bit like a surprise party, except more awkward.

    1. that guy*

      One time I came back to work after a week off, and they gave the new guy my desk. It wasn’t the best day

      1. NW Mossy*

        More than once I’ve come back from vacation to find an announcement that my boss moved to a new role. And then I just did the same thing to one of my directs, who was on PTO when I announced to the team. Timing’s a b****, as they say.

      2. Worker Bee*

        Something similar happened at a museum where I previously worked. I worked in the education department and most of us shared a room with an open floor plan. There was a woman from exhibitions who had a desk in our room. She didn’t seem to like sharing the room with us. She wasn’t terribly friendly, but at the same time her job had pretty much zero to do with what education worked on, so there wasn’t really much opportunity for collaboration.

        Once while she was on vacation, they moved her stuff to a completely different part of the museum, and brought in the IT guy to sit at her former desk.

        That place was more toxic than a nuclear waste site.

    2. Salamander*

      Yeah. For situation #1, I think I would have been caught entirely off-guard, and the best that I could manage would be to sputter: “I beg your pardon?”

  23. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.3 This should be enough.
    “Jane, this was a very painful time for many people. Please do not make light of it in front of us.”
    If not, then a word to her boss is justified.

  24. Merida May*

    OP # 5, if you find an employee to be out of compliance with putting in their required hours (as you have), do you have the authority to do anything about it? Can you require her to use PTO for the lost time or start a disciplinary process? If your duties are simply to inform management of patterns then it’s really up to your supervisors to handle this, and someone definitely needs to address this. I know there are a lot of people who feel like unions are inherently offputting to deal with when it comes to disciplining or starting the process of firing an employee, but this situation warrants doing the tedious and uncomfortable. You have an employee who is pretty brazenly insubordinate, and in doing so directly undermines you and your managers’ authority. Since it is a job duty of yours to basically monitor everyone’s hours this is definitely not the precedent you want to set for the other employees to look to as an example. Good luck.

    Also, my condolences to #3. I agree with other commenters who have suggested you let someone know that this upset you if you are able to do that. I think it was probably more wildly out of touch than malicious, but that doesn’t mean she gets a free pass to unload her thoughts into an email.

  25. AnonToday*

    For OP3, it almost sounds like she is trying to co-opt your grief and dictate some kind of response. The mass email was definitely attention seeking and it just feels so slimy. Someone needs to tell her that you ask the actual victims what they want, don’t make it about you and definitely don’t try to tell them how they should react. I know LW or anyone else feeling upset shouldn’t have this on them, but I really hope someone talks to her. It’s just so gross.

  26. Michele*

    LW#3. I certainly understand not wanting to cry at work and being unable to talk about things because of that. I think it would be worthwhile to forward your coworker’s email to your boss with a comment about how insensitive it is and ask your boss to deal with it. You might still have your boss come to you and want to talk about it, but you do reserve the right to say that something is too painful to discuss. However, any decent boss would not be bothered by your crying over the deaths of your coworkers.

    1. OP#3*

      AnonToday and Michele,

      Thanks for your posts. I may talk to my supervisor to talk to her supervisor. My supervisor has been sympathetic in the past to other times that inappropriate thing come up (naming of projects, etc).

  27. Michele*

    Some people do exaggerate on their resumes. I would speculate that a lot of people do. However, if someone is dishonest enough to exaggerate, they are not going to be honest enough to admit it. That interviewer from letter#1 needs to learn to ask detailed questions about the resume or technical questions that only someone with experience could answer and stop playing silly games.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I cannot imagine what kind of response the interviewer was looking for.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, I feel like the interviewer spent the weekend before the interviewer marathoning Lie to Me and got a little overly enthusiastic.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The only thing that makes sense to me is that she thought she was laying a clever trap. Like she’d heard that ‘Kerry from spout adjustments is self-taught on bronzing’ and she’s applying that to ‘Cary from spout welding’ and doesn’t realize they are not the same person.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Plus, I feel like you’re going to get a lot of weird responses, not helpful ones. I know I’d probably look panicked, not because I’ve purposefully exaggerated anything, but because I’d be worried something was misinterpreted or some rumors had been going around or something like that.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Yeah, my “uncomfortable because I’m hiding something” face and my “uncomfortable b/c you’re being a huge weirdo” face are strikingly similar.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Same! I get equally panicky about being busted for something I did and being accused of something I didn’t do. My anxiety disorder doesn’t discriminate.

        2. Sylvia*

          My “I have something to hide” reaction is exactly the same as my reaction to anything that starts with “Can I ask you a question?” “When you have a minute, can you come to my office?” or “We need to talk.” That is, shitshitshitshitshit.

    3. LBK*

      Right? Who’s going to say “You caught me, I actually made up my whole resume”?

      Particularly weird/insulting since it’s an internal candidate…surely her reputation and skills would be pretty easy to verify by asking around the company.

      1. Michele*

        Maybe the interviewer has been watching superhero movies and expects the villainous interviewee to start monologging about their nefarious scheme to exaggerate on a resume.

    4. SarcasticFringehead*

      When I first got my phone number, I would regularly get calls for the former owner from a collection agency (I think). There was never a person there when I picked up – just a computer saying it was a call for [someone whose name the computer couldn’t pronounce] regarding a debt and to please call back. After the fifth or so call, I called them back to let them know that whoever they were looking for (I never figured out what name the computer was trying to say) wasn’t there, and the woman on the other end asked me, “are you sure?”

      Whoops, you caught me! I was prepared to lie to you at first, but you cleverly backed me into a corner and I have no choice but to admit that I’ve been harboring this fugitive, and I will force them to pay their debts posthaste!

  28. Librariana*

    #1 I wonder if it was a question they are asking all candidates (a stupid question that someone thought was clever), and the Cheshire Cat grin may have been embarrassment at having to ask it or an acknowledgement that it was a silly question for which the answer was obvious.

  29. LadyPhoenix*

    #1: definitely go to amanagement about their interviewer’s behavior and questions. Absolutely ridiculous

    #2: Maybe you’re part of some horror scifi where you and your coworkers are being replaced by plant people?
    Ok, joking. Talk to management and see what the up up is.

    #3: Sounds like she’s a 7 year old in an adult body. If you tell her to stop being annoying, she just multiplies it. My thought about the video sent was that it was a MLP video featuring a song from Pinkie Pie (partially cause I happen to like the show), but whatever the vid actually is… it appears to be tone deaf. I would forward the email to her manager and tell the amanager that the actions of this coworker did not exactly sit well with you.

    #4: Congrats!

    #5: And the boss hasn’t fired her… why? Give him some helpful references and encourage him to “owner up” (or give you the power to “manage/supervise up”) and give this obnoxious brat a does of managerial what for.

  30. Valerie*

    OP#2: I once worked in a largish department of a large company where, if the hiring manager didn’t think anyone in-house would be what he was looking for, the hiring would be a surprise to everyone else at a lower level in the company. It was always managerial positions, and the hiring managers didn’t want to have to deal with subordinates who would have wanted to apply and would have been turned down. This was back in the day when most jobs were filled from ads in the classified, and the company went so far as to not mention the company’s name in the ad, describing the position and industry in vague enough terms that most applicants would be guessing about whether their qualifications were a fit. It certainly didn’t do anything for morale; after each of these hirings there was usually often-regretted attrition in the next few months as pissed-off people went elsewhere because they took it as a sign that they were never going to be promoted. It seemed like a bizarre tradeoff to me.

  31. CBH*

    OP1 Admittedly I have not read through all the comments (yet), but if this interview is a representation of the company, are you sure that it is the type of company you want to work for? You don’t even work there yet and you are already being second guessed. Perhaps the interviewer has the best intentions with these questions but it seems insulting.

    1. WellRed*

      But she does work for the company and has for 30 years. It’s a temporary internal lateral transfer.

  32. Myrin*

    I don’t have anything specific to add to the numerous excellent comments already there but I did want to remark that this is a highly interesting set of letters!

  33. Jessesgirl72*

    OP5: Since your owner probably isn’t going to just take Alison’s word for this, I would point out that it’s not only your wayward office manager who can ask questions of the Labor Board.

    Call them, get their opinion, and tell both the OM and your boss that they’ve told you that you actually CAN do any number of things about it.

  34. Amber Rose*

    OP3, I’m so sorry. I also have experienced tragedy at work (on a lesser scale), and I think my response to that kind of email would have been a blinding, searing rage. Since talking to her directly doesn’t work, I think you’re within rights to approach her manager and request that someone ask her to never talk about that event again.

    1. Aurion*

      Yeah, ditto on the rage. I would probably drag her into a corner and rip her a new one, consequences be damned.

  35. Anon for this*

    OP #3: I’m so sorry. My work is connected to Virginia Tech, and the 10 year anniversary of the mass shooting is this weekend. I am *not* speculating that this is what OP#3 is referring to (sadly, there are many tragedies which need to be commerorated), simply sharing which event is shaping my perspective. There’s a tension between those who were on campus that day, and those who joined VT later. Even among the students, there’s a difference between those who were living in the area back then and experienced the aftermath, vs. those who only know about the shooting from walking by the memorial. I’ve heard some people have been pulled aside to be given a quick sensitivity lesson. I think contacting someone higher up to let this co-worker know her actions were inappropriate is perfectly reasonable.

    Be kind to yourself in these days.

    1. Gen*

      We recently had the 20th anniversary of a terrorist incident that affected an entire office of our government department, but it happened on a recreational trip to another city. So when someone made an insensitive comment praising the way terrorists operated back then (in comparison to now) they got a shock when it was pointed out that most of senior management had been caught up in the incident and really didn’t appreciate that kind of talk from government employees. I guess it’s a case of people not thinking before they speak :/

  36. ilikeaskamanager*

    If you offer paid leave in your organization, you can also require her to take leave to make up the hours missed.

  37. Kyrielle*

    LW1 – in no way would I have thought of it in the moment – but I have to admit, I’d love to see what that interviewer would have said if someone stared at them wide-eyed and then said, “Noooo…was I supposed to?”

  38. Fresh Faced*

    #1 What a rude and ineffective way to ask that question. If there was something specific about your application that rose a red flag the interviewer should have asked about that rather than play games. I once had an obvious typo in my cover letter. I put “22 years” of chocolate teapot designing as opposed to 2 years. For that to be true I would have had to have come out of the womb designing chocolate teapots.(Note that my CV had the correct year) Rather than mention it specifically they asked if I had lied in my application, I said no and they made a big spectical about how it says here you’ve had 22 years of experience in chocolate teapots, the chocolate teapot industry is only 15 years old! All smug like they had caught me in a lie. Needless to say I was not impressed.

  39. Lance*


    As bad as that e-mail was (and it’s really, really bad), this point of your co-worker escalating her behavior that you’ve asked her to cut down on speaks to quite a bit of immaturity on her part. I don’t think it would be out of place to point even just that out to her boss; you could do the same for the e-mail, but by now, I doubt others wouldn’t have said something about it already.

    I’m really sorry for your office’s loss, and I hope you can all find good ways to cope.

  40. OP4*

    OP4 here – thanks for all your advice everyone! Just to clarify some things for people who may be confused, the graduation announcements I’m planning on doing are not the generic (and ridiculously expensive) school ones, but more holiday-card like and personal with some senior photos and a space where I intend to write a personal note to each person I send them to. It’s definitely a cultural norms where I live (a rural area of North Georgia), arguably even more so for highschool than college. Right now I think I may either hand deliver one of the announcements to my GM addressed to all of my managers with a thank you note written on it, or possibly a personal one for each of my managers. Thanks again!

    1. Jillociraptor*

      That sounds like a very thoughtful way to recognize the folks who have been part of your success. It’s been a little while since my HS graduation (2005) but I still remember how nice it felt writing some of my thank you cards after the ceremony and remembering all the ways the people in my life had supported me.

      Congratulations on your graduation, OP4!

    2. Rachael*

      I commented on a post below, but I noticed that you replied directly. When I sent out mine, I wrote “no gifts, please” to make sure that people didn’t think I was mining for gifts and was actually just sending out an announcement. I received gifts from people who wanted to send them and congratulations from the others.

  41. Anonymous Educator*

    Even though I think the employee in #5 has a horrible attitude and is just incorrect, I also think this part is a bit weird (not blaming the OP, because if that’s what someone says your job is, that’s your job):

    Part of my duties are to make sure that all employees are putting in the required eight-hour day.

    I don’t think this problem is unique to that organization. There seem to be a lot of managers too concerned about how many hours employees are putting in versus the quality of their output / their productivity.

    Again, I think this employee’s attitude is rotten (“You can’t tell me not to leave early! I’m leaving early every day!!!”), but I also think it strange that part of the OP’s job is to enforce work hours instead of work productivity. No mention in the letter about the employee being a receptionist or otherwise needing to be tied to a desk…

    1. ArtK*

      I left a job in part because a senior manager told me explicitly that it was more important that I have my butt in the chair X hours per day than I be actually productive. This was a highly technical, exempt job. At the time this happened, the company didn’t have enough work to fill our time. I can tell long stories about the ways that that company failed to manage their talent at all well.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, that’s why this raised an eyebrow for me. I know the letter is about the employee and not the OP or the OP’s company’s management of time vs. work, but I see that latter part as a real (but separate) issue.

        I think part of it comes from this weird idea that if two full-time employees can do the work in 25 hours each, why wouldn’t you just hire one employee to do 50 hours and save the money? But that’s not how things work. Someone doing double the work in the same amount of time will be drained faster and not produce the best work in the long term.

        It’s funny—from a teacher perspective, it’s the exact opposite of this. Teachers usually have a general expectation of how long a homework assignment will take (say, 45 minutes, for example), but if a student finishes the assignment well in 20 minutes, no teacher is going to say “What? You spent only 20 minutes on it! Spend another 25 minutes staring at a blank wall and pretend you’re still working on the assignment.” Likewise, if a homework assignment takes 45 minutes for most students, and another student takes 65 minutes to complete the assignment, the student doesn’t just get to stop at 45 minutes and say “Hey, that’s all I could do.”

    2. Brogrammer*

      For employees whose job responsibilities are more project-based, that does make sense. I couldn’t say what sort of company OP5 works at, so maybe in some cases requiring an 8 hour day regardless of how busy they are doesn’t make sense. But in this case at least, the problem employee is the office manager and office manager jobs often include receptionist duties. So it makes sense to need her there even if it’s not busy, because part of that job is being available when needed.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        Exactly, and I’m assuming that the office manager’s job does have customer-facing receptionist duties (or at least being an emergency backup if, for example, the regular receptionist needs to use the bathroom). These are situations that require your body to be physically present during business hours.

  42. Brett*

    #2 Where I work right now, we use a large (~85%) number of contractors through multiple contract companies. This does complicate the hiring process so that we often do need some level of secrecy and need a level of fairness that precludes direct collaboration with and preference of one company over another.

    What this translates into, is that the companies are aware of openings but their employees who work for us are not. Referrals go through the companies, who then decide if they want to apply that referral to specific positions.

    This does not make as much sense for a small company, but our unit is under 30 people and just within that size unit it is necessary to keep this level of secrecy because of the number of companies involved.

  43. emma2*

    Am I the only one who has never heard of the concept of graduation announcements? I never sent them.

    #1: Nope, nope, and nope. I would just nope out of a job with what seems like a terrible boss.

    #3: I’m not sure how much pitying her would help me if I were the OP. I react more to the impact people’s actions have than their intent, and I would still be very unenthused about her e-mail, even if it were inspired by cluelessness rather than malice. I agree that the girl’s manager needs to speak to her about the inappropriateness of the e-mail.

    1. Squeeble*

      I don’t know if grad announcements are terribly new, but they are commercialized in a way they didn’t used to be. Students are pressured to buy them and send them out, and they can get pricey.

      It’s similar to how senior photos have become such a phenomenon. You can’t graduate high school without a professional photo of you looking pensive in a field or outside a barn door.

      1. Parenthetically*

        My brother and I both, when we graduated, went to a local printer and ordered custom-made but simple graduation announcements/party invitations for about 15 cents apiece. The ones you could order through the school were something like $2 or $3 each? And they were as complicated as the fanciest wedding invitation I’ve ever seen. Double envelope, multi-fold, gold-embossed, a special slot for a wallet-size senior picture, all in class colors or school colors. People spent many many hundreds of dollars on them. Class rings and senior portraits were similarly a huge racket. I did buy a class ring but eventually melted it down with some other jewelry for my and my husband’s wedding rings, so it wasn’t a total loss.

  44. Brett*

    I think the mass email was certainly immature and irresponsible and showed insensitivity to the range of responses to tragedy, but also wanted to put out that there are distinct cultural separations in how tragedy is addressed. The way I was raised culturally (southwest Mexican-American), tragedies like this were met with levity and celebration of the lives and memories of the people lost.

    As an example, one family I knew lost 5 children all under the age of 17 in a car accident in the 1980s. To this day, they hold a party on the day of the tragedy to celebrate their children. Every holiday and birthday, they have a pilgrimage to the grave site to decorate with an elaborate holiday display (especially for dia de los muertos and easter). The tragedy is sad, but their memory of their children is joyful and happy and that is how they mark the anniversaries.

    There is a level of insensitivity here from the co-worker to how others grieve, but it is entirely possible that the content of the letter itself shows none of the tackiness, rudeness, or lack of decency being attributed to the co-worker, because the co-worker’s response to tragedy may be culturally appropriate for her.

    1. Aurion*

      I see your point, and only OP#3 knows what their colleague was suggesting, but at first reading “geekish enthusiasm” isn’t really the first description I’d think of for a heartfelt honouring of the people who were hurt/killed in a tragedy. Especially since in your example, the heartfelt (lighthearted) honouring of the lost was done by their family. That’s a much closer relationship than a colleague who was not even with OP’s company when the tragedy happened. Someone who wasn’t there, who didn’t know the ones who were hurt, has no right to inject “a bit of levity” into a situation they know nothing about, and I think even the ones who culturally celebrate (instead of mourn) the ones who were lost would understand that.

      1. Brett*

        Yes, and I think that is what was wrong with what the co-worker did.
        But I see many comments above assuming a lack of decency on the part of the co-worker because they approach a tragedy with levity and celebration, when this might be the culturally appropriate way for the co-worker to approach a tragedy.

        1. Allie*

          I think there’s no extent of reading the room and letting others lead. On that context it is fine if the family leads it, but not otherwise. My husband’s nephew died a couple weeks ago in a car accident, and there was both solemnity at his funeral and a huge huge bender at his wake (including drinking his favorite alcohol which, him being 22, was disgusting). But, it was definitely a case where my brother in law and his wife lead others, not someone who wasn’t as personally affected pushing levity on others. You have to read the room.

  45. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP #3, I deeply sympathize with the feelings you have and the vibe that you’re getting from your coworker. There are some things that you will never find humor in or can see “the bright side” of (like the September 11th attacks).

    True, your coworker might be severely tone-deaf here, but I think from her past behavior, and the severe hurt that her actions here are causing, this merits mentioning to your HR dept. so that her insensitivity and callousness (intentional or not) will be nipped in the bud immediately.

  46. Gov Worker*

    LW with rogue salaried employee: If this employee is non-exempt, they are dead wrong. Whether salaried or not, non exempt employees get paid for extra hours worked, and docked for hours they are short. Determine the employees’ exempt status first, and if applicable, dock pay for short hours.

      1. Gov Worker*

        I meant in the sense that salaried exempt workers typically are not nickeled and dimed about work hours. Work longer days, then a shorter one, the expectation is it will all come out in the wash. If anything, most salaried exempt workers average more than the company defined full time workweek, at least that was my experience for decades. Its wrong to declare oneself above any disciplinary action for blatantly disregarding company standards or for accepting a full-time position and unilaterally converting ir into something else.

  47. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP #5, I think that you have been pretty clear with the office manager what the company expectations are for her job role. I’m assuming this is a “customer-facing, sit-in-your-seat” type of job.

    If that is the case, her leaving early on her own whims is appearing to be time theft.

  48. Jan Levinson*

    OP #2 – My office is just like this. Although I’m not a receptionist, I sit closest to the door, and often people will come in asking to speak with (supervisor) or (boss) for an interview. It’s odd because my office is very small, so any new employee or position in the company will affect all of us. We only have about 6 full-time office positions, so when someone interviews when there appears to be no open positions, I (along with all of my coworkers) are left scratching our heads, wondering what position they are there for. There is also never a heads-up from our managers that anyone will be coming in at ALL to interview. There is, however, a lot of closed doors and whispering between managers.

  49. Bentoro*

    For #1 is it possible that someone from your team has previously done or is trying for the same move as you are interviewing for? It’s possible the interviewer has noticed some similarities in the resumes and might be reading too much into it.

  50. Rachael*

    OP#4: When I finally graduated from college (age 26) after attending at night and working during the day i wanted the world to know! So, I combined my announcement into a thank you for everyone who helped me financially and emotionally during the time. At the bottom i put “no gifts, please” to let everyone know that it was truly an announcement. I only received gifts from family members and that’s why I worded my announcement that way. I figured that the people who really wanted to send a gift would (and they did) and the others would just get a pretty handmade announcement that thanked them for being my friends/supporters. I got lots of compliments about my choice of language.

  51. Kate the Purple*

    To OP #3

    I encourage you to speak to her manager about this or someone else who has the authority to address your coworker’s lack sensitivity on this matter.

    You can’t dictate how someone chooses to grieve an event, but you can absolutely attempt to set reasonable boundaries in how their expression of that grief affects you. In my experience, doing so is important to the grieving process and in learning how to live with that grief in the long term.

    I say this as someone who lost a very good friend in the 9/11 attacks. I learned early on that when your own personal grief regarding an event is a national event in which individuals also grieve, even when they weren’t personally affected in a traditional manner, you have to set limits you wouldn’t otherwise have to set. If you haven’t already, I highly suggested reading up on the Ring Theory/Circle of Grief concept–the idea that if you’re speaking to someone who is closer to a tragedy (i.e., in a smaller circle), it’s your job to listen, and to not dump your fear, anger, and frustration on the person in the smaller circle. Basically, you dump out, not in.

    It sounds so simple, but it’s often easy to forget when it comes to nationally recognized tragedy because people can be very sensitive about the feelings they have surrounding the event. For example, I can’t stop people from believing that 9/11 was faked or justify racism under the guise of honoring the victims of 9/11, but I can ask that they don’t discuss or say such things in my presence. Likewise, it’s also okay to tell people that hey, I personally lost someone in this event, and since you didn’t, I’m not the best person to help you deal with your feelings of anger and frustration regarding this event.

    This is basically the long way of me saying that your coworker can choose to deal with this anniversary it any way that she chooses, even if that method (e.g., humor) would be seen as insensitive by others. She may even feel that sending the email was necessary to her way of dealing with these emotions. However, given that she works at a place where individuals experienced personal loss, it is absolutely reasonable to request that she exercise more discretion and sensitivity in her actions that she would otherwise have to in a workplace where no one has a personal connection. I think this distinction is important b/c, as a I said above, people can be very sensitive about their emotions regarding a well-known tragedy and any push back can make people very defensive. Politely pointing out that hey, since you didn’t lose someone and these people did, share those feelings someone else can often serve as knock to the head to make people realize how their actions can be perceived by others.

    1. MoodyMoody*

      “Dump out, not in” is a wonderful way to think about processing grief. Thank you for expressing that.

    2. OP#3*

      Kate the Purple,

      I had not heard of the Ring Theory/Circle of Grief concept before. Thank you for pointing it out. In my brief review of it, it seems to match what I have observed in two different tragic situations, but we called it the bubble. People in the bubble were close to the tragedy could presume that everyone knew what had happened and would be understanding of random bursts of tears. Also, oblique reference to “before” and “after” were instantly understood. One of my co-workers and I can exchange a glance and know that we are referencing what happened.

      Beyond the bubble were people that continued on with their lives after a brief pause, who could not be counted on to understand or remember what happened. The co-worker who sent the email was from outside the bubble and cannot seem to grasp the best way to relate to it.

    3. TheLazyB*

      Oh my goodness thank you for this. My grief is not related to a tragedy like this but this comment is still really helpful.

  52. Former Employee*

    OP#3: I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this nonsense email from your dunderheaded co-worker on top of dealing with the reality of the anniversary of a tragic event.

    I would pass this email on to co-worker’s manager and copy your manager just to keep your manager in the loop. I would not include too much verbiage in the cover email, maybe something to the effect of “I thought you’d want to be made aware of this email that X sent to me as well as to Mary, John, Albert and Clarissa.” Then try to let it go (the idiotic email, not the tragedy itself) and ignore this toadish person as much as possible in the future.

    Take care of yourself.

  53. Sydney*

    #1 doesn’t make any sense. If you are going to lie on your resume why wouldn’t you just lie when asked that question? Did he really think you were going to break with that question?

  54. Meddling Little Belgian*

    OP#3, I’m sorry this is something you have to endure every year. I haven’t had time to read every reply yet, but if I may add my $.02 – Sadly, there are quite a few mass casualty events in April because people planning their own attack often study previous ones. There is generally a heightened awareness in law enforcement/security circles during anniversaries, as well. Your letter will hopefully serve as a timely reminder to be vigilant as we go about our daily lives.

  55. Printer's Devil*

    OP3, I am so sorry that you and your colleagues have to go through this- both the reminders and the grating indifference your co-worker is showing. I think a word to her direct manager might be called for, to perhaps remind her that for many of you this is deeply personal, and you each have your own ways of working through it.

    (Reasons why I am not a manager: if she were on my team I would strongly recommend to her that if she can’t take a hint and won’t respect other people’s grief, that perhaps she should use a personal day that day and not be around them.)

    OP4: I might go with a more personal note than an impersonal announcement, especially if they’ve been important to you as mentors, not just employers. If nothing else, they can use it as a “save the date” and make sure you’re not scheduled for that day.

  56. Carson*

    #4 When I worked at a retail store, our whole bulletin board was full of high school and college graduation announcements from current and former employees. Does your store not have something similar?

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