coworker is angry about a prank, using time off for elective surgery, and more

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

1. My coworker is really angry about a prank

Some of my colleagues decided to pull (what they thought was) a harmless prank on a coworker. The coworker, “Jane,” is particular about her car – she always parks far from the entrance because she is concerned about car door “dings” and does not want anyone to park near her. As a joke, several people pulled their cars around her one morning last week. No one touched her car or impeded her ability to get into the car or leave the parking lot.

When Jane saw what they had done, she went ballistic and started yelling at everyone in the office. Keep in mind, Jane is usually the first to pull a silly prank in the office (think printing out pictures and papering a coworker’s cube with them).

Fast forward to today, and the weekend didn’t calm her down – nearly a week later, she is still refusing to speak to anyone involved in the prank. She has started parking her car even further out to ensure it is the only one in the area. The office is typically a friendly place, but Jane feels hard done by and shows no signs of getting over this. The employees who engaged in the prank feel she is completely overreacting since no harm came to her or the vehicle. It is a public lot after all with no assigned spots. Thoughts on what to do?

Pranks tend to be highly controversial in the comment section here (I suspect they’re more controversial here than anywhere in real life, but who knows), but honestly, I think this is funny. You shouldn’t do this to someone who’s known not to be able to take a joke or laugh at themselves (because then it’s mean-spirited rather than funny), but if Jane has a track record of silly pranks herself, I can’t fault anyone for thinking she’d see the humor in this.

And yes, she’s certainly overreacting.

That said, since she’s upset by it, the coworkers involved should be the bigger people and apologize. It doesn’t need to be a groveling apology or anything that would be out of proportion to what happened. But they should say something like, “Hey, we’re sorry that upset you. We meant it as an affectionate joke and thought you’d find it funny. But we see that you didn’t, so we’re sorry it upset you.”

If Jane continues to refuse to speak to people after that, a manager needs to intervene and tell her to let it go.

2. My coworker used time off for elective surgery

One of my coworkers is not being honest for the reasons she is taking time off. The company I work for allows people to take unpaid time off. This time can only be used for things like a special vacation (i.e., someone is planning a destination wedding or honeymoon) a family emergency (not parental leave) or medical reasons (your doctor says you need a week of sick time after surgery but you want to take two weeks). If your request is approved, the company will hold back money from your pay each week for the rest of the calendar year so you aren’t without a paycheck during the time off.

I saw the social media of one of my coworkers. She has used this time off twice since she has worked here. Both times it was for time off after surgery. But looking at her social media, the surgery was elective and for cosmetic reasons (a lip lift and some kind of non incision eye lift). I am certain she didn’t disclose what type of surgery she was having. I am concerned that she was less than truthful with the company and was able to take advantage of the time off policy because of it. Her social media clearly states the surgery was for cosmetic reasons. My coworker is the same age as me (29) and her posts clearly say they were elective. Both times she didn’t come back until she was completely healed and no one here has any idea she was off for plastic surgery and opposed to a serious medical concern.

How do I bring this to the attention of our boss and HR? I don’t think it’s right that she should be able to take advantage of time off for non-medically necessary surgery, instead of using her own regular PTO time for it.

You don’t. This is none of your business, it doesn’t impact you, and you have no standing to get involved.

Plenty of people use leave time for elective surgery; there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. And she took the time unpaid! I don’t understand what you’re concerned about here.

Leave this alone, and also read this.

3. What’s the etiquette for approaching people for references?

How I should ask for references from those I’ve worked with in the past? What is the etiquette here? For instance, do I ask them now, right as I’m beginning the job search, or do I wait until after I get a specific reference request from a company? Would this differ for people connected to my resume (like a former manager) vs former professors or other personal connections? Are there any other common conventions I should know about?

Additionally, I haven’t done the best at keeping in touch with potential references. Is there any way to go about remedying this? I worry that asking out the blue would not come across well, but it also seems disingenuous to suddenly reach out and reconnect and then ask for a recommendation shortly afterwards. Thanks to you I now understand the convention for staying in touch and I intend to do that going forward, but what should I do right now?

Contact the people you’d like to use as references now, to make sure that’s okay with them and to give them a heads-up that you’re starting a job search and so they may be contacted. (If you wait until you’re at the reference-checking stage with a company, things may be moving quickly enough that you won’t have time to do that before you need to say “hey, I’ve given your name and number out”). And there’s no difference for former managers versus anyone else (but I wouldn’t plan to use professors or other non-managers unless you have absolutely no alternatives; reference-checkers will generally want to talk to people who managed you).

You don’t need to worry that you haven’t kept in touch with your references. It’s very, very normal for people to email out of the blue when they need references; it’s not considered rude or disingenuous at all. Giving references for people you used to manage and maybe haven’t talked to in a while is a totally normal part of being a manager.

4. Veterans using civilian titles on their resumes

I’m a former military officer who successfully transitioned to the civilian world. I frequently see veterans’ resumes, either because former colleagues ask me to review theirs, or because they’re passed to me at work to get the military opinion.

Lately I’ve been seeing a trend of people “over-translating” their military skills, at least in my opinion. For example, I recently had a resume shared with me where the person described every military job in terms of business jargon. This individual re-titled every role into things like “Program Manager” and “Senior Account Manager” instead of “First Sergeant” and “Senior Logistics Sergeant.” Those things don’t really translate into the titles the person is using, although they might be the best match. They also refer to themselves an executive. I’m pretty sure this is advice they’re getting from military transition programs.

I was hoping to get your opinion on this. Would you rather get a resume from a vet that reads like this or one that lists the correct titles? Assuming that the job description underneath is accurate in both cases. Coming from a company that often has vets review military resumes, it seems like bad advice to me, since you now have to “back-translate” the job titles. But not all companies are like that.

Yeah, they shouldn’t be making up titles. It’s misleading, and it’s going to be confusing to people who have enough of a passing familiarity with military titles to know that these aren’t them, but not enough familiarity to figure out why they’re doing it.

When you have a title that will confuse people outside of your industry, it’s fine to add a parenthetical explanation like this:

* Mediwizard II (nurse)

And maybe there’s something like that that the vets you’re seeing could be doing. But they shouldn’t just substitute in new titles in the way you’ve described.

5. Letting my boss know I applied for a job with a closely allied organization

I am preparing to apply for a job with an organization that works closely with my current organization, both nonprofits. Because of the close relationship, I am planning on letting my boss know. Outside of this job, I’m not searching. If it wasn’t this job with this employer, I’d be happy to stay in my current role. If the application is unsuccessful, I plan to continue to approach my work with the dedication and detail that I do now. What is the best way to phrase this to my boss?

I’d say it this way: “I want to let you know that I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for the llama wrangler position that Llama-grams United is hiring for. I really love my work here and actually hope to stay for a very long time, but that kind of opportunity is so intriguing that I couldn’t pass it up. I wanted to be up-front with you about it since we work with them closely, but I also want you to know that I’m not job searching more broadly. It’s really just about this one role. And I’ll keep you posted if it goes anywhere, which of course it may not.”

To be clear, in general I don’t recommend letting your boss know when you’re job searching unless you have an extremely unusual relationship. But this is different since it sounds like the relationship between the two organizations means that it could more awkward not not let her know. (Although be sure that you’re about that! I’ve had people apply for jobs with me from closely allied organizations, and they just asked us to be discreet for the obvious reasons and we were.)

{ 656 comments… read them below }

  1. Greg M.*

    so to make sure I understand correctly the entirety of the prank was to park near her, in a legally allowed way impeding no one?

    wow, I get apologizing to smooth things over but honestly it would really cheese me off to have to.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, me too. I’d roll my eyes at this prank, but it’s 100% harmless, similar to my college roommate’s one successful prank on me: she took my many colored pens and swapped out the ink in each one, so I’d pick up a pen, start writing, and it would be an unexpected color. It was poking fun at my elaborate color coding of all of my notes, which is a pretty harmless thing to poke fun at.

        I’m not in favor of any prank that can be harmful, damaging to belongings or outright mean. But there are some that 99% of people would think are harmless. This fits into that category.

        1. Midge*

          More like if your roommate had surrounded your multi-colored pens with 50 yellow highlighters. No actual harm or change to your stuff. Just something that points out your quirky habit. I hate pranks, but this seems pretty harmless to me. I’m sure they were expecting a “Haha, you guys are right. I *am* super particular about my car.”

          1. Blue eagle*

            If she never pranked anyone and this prank was done to her, then I agree with the need to apologize. I would be pretty upset, too. But if she has pranked co-workers before, no way.

            Perhaps the co-worker or manager with the best interpersonal skills could use the Socratic method on her to help her understand that this is the same way that co-workers feel when she pranks them. Something like – “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” but using much nicer words. For that matter, if she feels an apology is warranted, perhaps she should be apologizing to co-workers she has pranked in the past.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              This, 1000%. Don’t dish it out but cry and say it’s not fair when your coworkers return the favor.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I get apologizing for upsetting her to try and smooth things over. But you would really be upset by this if you had never pulled pranks before? Could you elaborate more on why that is?

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                The above comment is directed @Blue eagle.

                @TrainerGirl sadly there are many people who can dish it out but can’t take it when it’s served back at them.

              2. Business Cat*

                If you never pull pranks, it might not occur to you that this was good-natured teasing. I’ve never been much of a pranker and it always takes me aback when I get pranked because I just don’t get it and wouldn’t think to prank someone else of my own volition. I imagine if it had happened to me, as a non-pranker, who happened to be overly anxious about my car for whatever reason, it might feel mean-spirited , like my coworkers were laughing AT me and I wasn’t in on the joke.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Business Cat @Blurgle

                  Okay that makes sense. My partners’ father is similar when it comes to parking but not as bad. Everyone in the family teases/makes fun of him for it to his face all in good fun.

                  One time I made my partner get out of the car before I parked and parked super close to his car where he couldn’t even open the door to get in. As we were walking back to the cars I said “I saw some a-hole (aka me) parked super close to your car.” We all had a good laugh about it.

            3. miss_chevious*

              Someone who pulls pranks but doesn’t like pranks pulled on them is not a fun-loving prankster, but a bully. I agree with apologizing, but I would expect the pranks to stop from her as well, and if they didn’t, she and I would be having a serious conversation.

              1. Tara*

                I don’t think that is *entirely* fair. The car is something special to her, so I think it’s fine for her to say that pranks regarding her car are off limits. This doesn’t mean she can’t prank anyone anymore. Being a fun-loving prankster is about accepting what’s going to actually hurt the victims of those pranks and not doing those things. Its definitely possible that Jane is accepting of all sorts of other pranks being pulled on her. Silly photoshops of her into pictures, covering her workspace with random nonsense, changing her desktop photo to butts or whatever could all be perfectly fine pranks that she would accept. She just doesn’t want her car needlessly endangered, and her fellow pranksters should accept that, as I would hope that if she put a fake spider on a coworkers desk and then found out that person had a phobia(or even just general fear) of spiders that *she* would stop.

                I would think a conversation about not getting so hissy-fitty about it wouldn’t go amiss, and just tell her she can set those boundaries and they’ll be accepted but people can’t be expected to know what’s going too far with her until she lets them know.

                But I don’t think that in order to prank people you have to willingly accept any and all pranks people might come up with to do to you, especially considering their prank endangered an item she cares about that costs thousands of dollars (and might cost hundreds to repair if something with the prank went wrong).

                1. Zombii*

                  “Endangered”? If I’m interpreting correctly, they parked their cars in spaces next to where her car was parked in the far-away-way-back-inconvenient part of the lot where no one else parks. If she’s so concerned about her car that she can’t stand anyone parking near it in a public lot, she needs to start using public transport instead and leave the car at home.

                2. Lisa*

                  Yeah, people can get funny over their cars in ways they may not normally for anything else. I used to work with a young women who was a great coworker,pleasant and nice and a good work friend. She was absolutely psychotic about her truck though. No one could touch it, go near it, breath on it or eve dare go in it. We all would go out to lunch and take turns driving and she would never ever offer,and we just kind of accepted that. We had a huge parking lot with an extra empty lot across the street that belonged to an abandoned business, she would park there, all alone, side ways next to a pole, just to make sure no one dinged her car. She even told me that she would take of her shoes and put them in a bag and then would put on a pair of slippers she kept in her truck that she would use to drive in. So if my office pulled this prank on her, she would have gone though the roof.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, I’m MEGA anti-prank, like don’t get me started, but the minute I got to the fact that she’s a prankster, my sympathy towards her plummeted to zero.

        1. Is it Friday Yet?*

          I’ll be interested to see if she continues pranking after this incident.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I’m also vehemently anti-prank but that particular prank, like… really? It didn’t even inconvenience her. Like… it harmed nothing, she doesn’t even have to clean up after it, the worst you can say about it is it is gentle ribbing about her being precious about her car?

          I’m precious about my car AND loathe pranks (and therefore never play them on others) and my response would be like “Ha ha but seriously if you door dinged me I’m buffing the mark out with your hide.”

          1. Ghostlight*

            Right, seriously. This is a prank that had zero consequences, caused no action of any kind to be taken (they didn’t park her in, they didn’t do something disruptive to work), it didn’t damage the car in any way, it just wasn’t the parking arrangement she prefers. I am incredibly anti prank and even more anti work prank but this is…….barely even a prank

        3. Blurgle*

          +1. If she’d never pranked anyone this would be fine, but

          As I typed the above it occurred to me that this might be a reaction to the specific form of the prank. Imagine she’d been boxed in before by someone who’d harmed her – an abusive ex or even some kind of creep – and she’s been parking away from everyone for that reason (and possibly explaining it away as not wanting dents because she doesn’t want to go into details).

          I sure hope I’m wrong.

          1. Ol' Crow*

            Generally speaking, if someone has been a victim of someone or frightened by someone, they would tend to park as close to others as possible. Having to walk to the far end of a parking lot, which is also isolated, is generally avoided by those concerned for their safety.

          2. OP1 Adjacent*

            Hi – so after my coworker told me this story, she submitted this letter at my suggestion (I read AAM all the time and sometimes send her links to particularly outlandish letters). My understanding is the colleagues in question (I’m not in that office) parked their cars in marked spots around Jane’s car after her car was parked and she was in the office – no boxing her in so she couldn’t easily access or move her car, no creepily sneaking up on her while she was still in the vehicle.

            1. fposte*

              Thanks, informed person. That’s what it sounded like in the letter, but it’s good to have confirmation. Do you know if things have cooled off at all or if Jane gave any explanation for reacting at such length?

    1. ladydisdain*

      I keep thinking I must be missing something. There is literally nothing to be upset about in the prank as described.

      Maybe she overreacted initially (in a “they’re making fun of me” way) and is now holding firm because of pride?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, the emotional reaction is not at all proportionate to the prank. What they did was silly, non-offensive, and non-dangerous. It wasn’t designed to humiliate, and it poked fun at a legitimately funny quirk—Jane’s habits remind me of Donna’s Mercedes in Parks & Rec.

        If folks offer a sincere (but not over the top) apology or sense of contrition, then Jane needs to let it go. After that, I think it’s fine for the pranking coworkers to move on, even if Jane doesn’t.

        1. Banana Sandwich*

          I feel like apologizing would legitimize her response, which is clearly over the top and not warranted. Should something of similar circumstance happen again, she might feel that a similar reaction is ok, which it definitely is not.

          Manager should address it with her.

          1. Kyrielle*

            If I were involved in the prank (and I could see myself being involved in it, because it seems so harmless on the face of it), I would apologize. It would be something like this: “Jane, I’m sorry for the prank. I didn’t realize you felt that strongly about it, and I won’t do that again.”

            Because yes, it’s disproportionate – but that just makes me more concerned, and in any case, it _wasn’t_ funny. I would not be willing to say it was a horrible idea, and I would not be willing to tear myself down, but I would absolutely be willing to say sorry (the same way I do if I step on someone’s foot with no intent to do so – there’s no bad intent here, clearly) and promise not to do it again.

            That last may be what’s needed to calm her down, judging from the further changes to her habits.

            1. MillersSpring*

              I like this apology wording better. It’s an apology for the act itself, not “I’m sorry YOU got upset,” which is a non-apology.

              1. JessaB*

                Thank you, I was going to point that out. Instead of “I’m sorry it upset you,” it should be more like “I misjudged that really, I thought it would be funny. I won’t do that again.” You’re still pointing out that since she’s also a prankster you really honestly thought she’d think it was funny.

                Personally, I think the next person she pranks needs to tell her that she needs to quit that because seriously (And I am likely to be THE singular most anti-prank person on this list, the word by itself with no actions attached gives me the shivery willies, and regular readers have heard me rant about it before) do NOT prank people if you don’t want to, or can’t hack being pranked back.

                1. OhBehave*

                  I might also throw in, “We thought you would get a laugh out of it considering you like to prank others.” She really needs a reality check that her subsequent attitude has not chilled. She also didn’t have control of this prank. Maybe that’s the issue.

              2. DArcy*

                A “non-apology apology” is completely warranted in this situation because Jane’s response is grossly unreasonable. The coworkers did nothing wrong, but are taking the moral high road by extending an olive leaf.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree with Kyrielle. There’s another value at play in apologizing, though—we’re humans, and we have to be thoughtful with one another, even if we think someone is being over-the-top. It’s not about legitimizing or delegitimizing Jane’s feelings; it’s about recognizing that it’s ok to apologize when we accidentally hurt or upset someone and making a good-faith effort to address that hurt. It also gives OP’s coworkers the high-road way out of an incident that escalated quickly.

            Of course, don’t apologize if you don’t believe what you’re saying. But if I were a manager, I would want to know if my team tried to resolve this directly with Jane before bringing it to me.

            1. Karen D*

              Well said. I’d be torn between this reaction and a “OK if you wanna play it that way” refusal to engage with Jane’s pique, but I think the thoughtful expression of regret at hurting Jane’s feelings is by far the most constructive way to handle it. We all have our little pockets of irrationality and there are some that make us really tetchy in ways that can seem irrational.

          3. TootsNYC*

            “I feel like apologizing would legitimize her response, which is clearly over the top and not warranted.”

            Except that what if her reaction is driven by, “They clearly make fun of my parking habits behind my back! That hurts my feelings; I didn’t think they would ridicule me so much!”

            That definitely is something that deserves a genuine apology, and a reassurance from the prankster. Sure, grownups hopefully have learned how to manage their hurt feelings, but we all have vulnerabilities we don’t even realize are there, and if you LIKE someone, why wouldn’t you apologize for hurting her?
            In fact, digging in your heels and making it clear you resent their reaction only reinforces the “we don’t REALLY like you; we just make fun of you behind your back” message.

            I really liked Alison’s “We meant it as an affectionate teasing” wording. Stress that you hold her in high regard, maybe even that you admire her smarts in parking far out, even as you find it an amusing thing.

          4. BethRA*

            I agree she’s over-reacting, but in their shoes, I’m not sure I’d want to go to my manager and ask her to intervene at this stage, because it’s not going to make the pranksters look good, either. It would be worth an attempt at apology to avoid looking like we couldn’t settle things like adults.

            1. Anna*

              Not at this stage, no. As Alison suggested, if the behavior continues after the apology, at that point it’s time to talk to a manager.

              1. BethRA*

                Oh, of course – I was responding to Banana Sandwich who was suggesting they skip the apology and go right to the manager.

      2. seejay*

        The way I see it, she’s protective of her car. They pranked her by putting her car “at risk”. It’s not that they made fun of her, teased her or whatever, but in her mind, *they put her car at risk* and to her it’s a valuable possession.

        Yes, she’s over-reacting at this point, but I’d be mad as hell too. When I was in my early 20s, my car was my pride and joy and I took extremely good care of it. If my friends pranked me by doing something like that, I’d be peeved to hell and back. Pranking someone by papering their office is done to tease, but in Jane’s eyes what they did wasn’t teasing her, it was threatening something valuable and precious to her. It’s not the same level of pranking IMO.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Would you be actively seething for this long, though?

          1. seejay*

            Oh heaven’s no, which is why I said she’s over-reacting.

            But I would totally have decked my friends for pulling that kind of stunt on me back then. They knew better though. ^_^

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ok, just checking! :) I was like, “Surely this is not normal. Or is it?”

              1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                And just because she’s overreacting doesn’t mean an apology isn’t in order. If you’re going to be a responsible prankster, i think you always have to be ready to apologize if something doesn’t go the way you expect.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s a useful philosophy, and it’s much likelier to move things forward than insisting you did nothing wrong and won’t apologize.

                2. bearing*

                  I teach my kids that the purpose of an apology is to invite forgiveness. You don’t have to be sure you were in the wrong to hope that people forgive you and to sincerely ask for it.

                3. Allypopx*

                  This. Not everyone responds the same way to pranks, and you’re always taking the risk someone will react poorly. If they do, it’s not humorous anymore, and you should be prepared to apologize.

                  For instance I have a very wry sense of humor, and if my sarcasm is taken as mean, I apologize quickly. Intent and reception both matter equally in humor.

                4. Kathleen Adams*

                  I have pretty much zero sympathy for Jane – because even to an anti-prank person, it’s clear to me that what they did didn’t harm her or her car or inconvenience her even One. Little. Bit. – but still, a mild apology for having upset her sounds like a good idea to me.

                  And then she needs to let it gooooooooo. And if she doesn’t, her manager needs to be extremely clear that she absolutely must let it gooooooo. She can park in the next county and surround her car with bubble-wrap, if it makes her feel better, but she must work with her colleagues as though they were her colleagues, not some sort of scum who must be shunned.

                5. TrainerGirl*

                  True, but does that mean that the coworkers should expect an apology from HER? Perhaps a conservationist would be upset at her for killing all those trees when she papered their cube. But come to think of it…that might get the point across better with her, so maybe they should apologize and then request apologies from her for all the previous pranks.

                6. fposte*

                  @TrainerGirl–apologies really don’t work if you require them. This isn’t a signing of a peace accord, it’s just an acknowledgment that she was upset and that wasn’t their intention. It’d be nice if Jane apologized too and then let the matter go, but if she doesn’t, it was still worth apologizing to her.

                7. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  When I was growing up, my sister and I used to fight endlessly over who was supposed to apologize or who needed to go first. I’m older and hate confrontation, so I felt like I apologized more, which, of course, made me resent her and occasionally just dig in and refuse to apologize because It Wasn’t Fair and She Started It. Something I realized as an adult is that it very rarely actually hurts to be the first one to apologize,* and that holding on to resentment because you believe you’re owed an apology rarely leads anywhere good.

                  *(And yes, this is excluding certain types of abusive situations and you should still stand up for yourself, etc.)

                  @TrainerGirl: The only person you can be responsible for is yourself. If the coworkers truly feel like they are owed an apology they can ask for one, but this isn’t about winning or getting anything across to Jane, it’s about acknowledging that the coworkers did something that hurt someone.

                8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @MegaMoose—agreed. Even if you disagree with how someone reacted, apologies aren’t about whether you think the person’s response was reasonable and therefore “merits” an apology. In this case, it’s about acknowledging that your intent didn’t match the impact on Jane, and that you’re sorry to have caused her distress.

                  @TrainerGirl, apologies are kind of worthless if we only deliver them because we’re keeping score. I would hope that a coworker who was upset by Jane’s pranks communicated that they were upset to her. But that doesn’t negate that the coworkers should at least try to make it right with an apology. They don’t have to be over-the-top about it—Kyrielle offers a really good script further up. But they should try to make a good faith effort before washing their hands of Jane.

            2. Kate*

              The smiley face means you are joking, right? You wouldn’t actually have hit your friends for parking next to your car?

            3. Courtney W*

              My brain really just can’t comprehend this. You’d deck a friend for…parking their car by yours? What on earth do you do in busy parking lots where even the very back of the lot is fairly full?

          2. Just Another HR Pro*

            I think the difference here is the car is property that cost money. If she saved up for a long time to buy her dream car, I can empathize with her being this upset. I probably would be too. Maybe she worked really hard for that car, and doesn’t have any extra money to fix anything out of schedule.

            A door ding costs a lot of money to fix – taking paper off of a cubicle costs a lot less.

            1. fposte*

              Can you explain more? I can get being upset at an actual door ding or being freaked out in the moment, but being angry with people for a week just for what seems to have been parking lawfully near you goes beyond something I can understand.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                Exactly. Getting angry about a door ding = totally understandable. (Though even there you have to let it go after restitution is made.) Getting angry and *staying* angry about people parking near your car, however cherished it might be = toddler-level temper tantrum. Or so it seems to me. If someone can explain how it isn’t a toddler-level temper tantrum, I’d be very interested to read the explanation.

                1. fposte*

                  It’s got more commitment, for one thing :-).

                  But clearly for Jane this crossed a line in her head and heart in a way that doesn’t make sense to most of us. I suspect for her this is emotionally more like a prank where you tell somebody their kid has been in a terrible car accident–just fooling, you made it all up! There’s no actual damage to the kid, but the feeling that there was is horrible, and the fact that people made you that vulnerable and upset is hard to let go.

                2. Chalupa Batman*

                  I agree with you, but for the sake of argument, here’s why I can kind of see Jane’s side: I am a terrible parker. Really, really bad. I deliberately choose parking spaces based on how easy they’ll be to get out of, will park further away if it means I can get in and out easily, and I always try to park at least 1 space away from other people if I can. Parking in non-compliant spots gives me a lot of anxiety. Panic attack level anxiety.

                  All that connects to Jane because it’s an example of the complicated parking schemas that happen in people’s heads. She parks where she does because she has specific reasoning in her head as to why she NEEDS to park that way. I can’t say whether it’s anxiety level or not, but even if it wasn’t, her plan was deliberately shaken by the prank, and that can cause a lot of discomfort. I think she overreacted and needs to get over it, and maybe apologize herself for blowing it out of proportion, but I can feel some sympathy for her it feeling bigger to her than it might to other people. (I also think an apology for the prank’s impact on her is helpful, but all of my reasons why are well articulated elsewhere on the thread and in Alison’s response.)

                3. The OG Anonsie*

                  Yeah Chalupa Batman (pftttt just writing that out) I used to be like this with my car, too. I had a lot of car related anxiety for a long time (to the level of not leaving home for stretches of time because of it) that was set off pretty easily.

                  So I get that this might be a Thing for her. At the same time, I would know that’s not something everyone around me is going to know about, so if someone did this I would be upset in the moment and maybe still later to myself, but I sure wouldn’t continue to be openly angry at the people involved after that day. Even if I was mad, I would have to reign that in.

                  To an extent we can expect people to understand and accommodate us for things like this when they are aware of it or around things that are common problem areas for many people. But that doesn’t include reading my mind to know that this is something that will actually be really stressful and anxiety-provoking for me. At many points, your anxiety has to be your own responsibility to navigate. I could say hey guys, that really wasn’t funny to me because ___ and I am not happy about it. I know you didn’t know that so it’s ok but I need you to not mess with me in this area. But I can’t huff around like they should have known better.

              2. Sylvia*

                We all have our weird hangups, but I don’t get this. If another car being parked several feet from hers is this upsetting, how does she handle a grocery store parking lot? She must have some way to deal with this other than week-long anger.

                1. Arjay*

                  Yes, if you want to drive and park in public in the world, there are inherent risks. At the grocery store, you might be able to try to park in an isolated area too. But hat about sporting events, concerts, theme parks, and similar situations? It seems really limiting to fetishize your car so much that it inhibits its function as transportation.

                2. Observer*

                  That’s not really relevant. I do agree that Jane absolutely needs to stop with the silent treatment, etc. But, the reality is that at work she apparently feels like she should have some ability to keep her precious car safe, and her coworkers violated this.

                  I don’t get it either, but some people really do invest huge amounts of time, energy and emotion in their cars. The analogy of pretending that someone’s kid was hurt is not far off.

                3. seejay*

                  The point is the *intent*. I used to park my car further away just to avoid other cars parking near me, but as the lot would fill up, cars would park near me. I didn’t get upset because that was the natural order of things and it happened.

                  What happened here though was the coworkers *intentionally* went out of their way to surround her car with theirs, just to mess with her. I do not doubt that Jane gets upset when people naturally and unintentionally park near her during the day because that’s what happens, but when she comes out and discovers a nearly empty parking lot and, say, four cars all belonging to her coworkers parked up next to hers, she knows they did it intentionally and for the full intent of yanking her chain, she’s going to be pissed, and rightly so.

                  That’s where the difference lies. She’s not going to be mad when it’s the unintentional person at the grocery store, but she *is* going to be upset when it’s four people from work going out of their way to poke fun at something she’s made a point of guarding.

                  Is her response at it valid? I agree that it is… she’s made it clear that she values the space around her car and her coworkers intentionally went out of the way to violate that for fun. Is her continued reaction a week later over the top? Yes it is. She needs to let that go since there was no harm done to her car. And her coworkers need to learn to not mess with her car again. Prank her in other ways, the car is off limits.

                4. seejay*

                  Ugh, do not doubt that Jane *does not get upset* when people unintentionally park near her. My life for an edit button.

            2. GeekyDesigner*

              Yes, but her car wasn’t damaged. Honestly, she has no expectation that her car will be in a protected bubble wherever she goes. It’s par for the course in car ownership that it may get damaged. Is she going to have a fit if someone parks next to her at the mall or the grocery store? She being unreasonable.

            3. JS*

              I have no empathy for her honestly. She shouldn’t have bought the car for regular use if she is going to be so protective over it. States require car insurance by law because of the high risk of accident, damage, etc. I am not diminishing her right to view her car as The Ultimate Special Fragile Thing, but if that is the case keep it at home. There aren’t many places she can take it where she will be the only one around that needs to park and it’s unrealistic to be so neurotic over it.

              If she can’t afford repair, well that’s another story. Reminds me of what my mom said as she used to sell Mercedes-Bens, saying that 80% of the people who bought them balked at the cost to actually own/repair one ($800-1000 for a mere headlight).

            4. Fictional Butt*

              Honestly, this is why I’ll never buy my dream car. If Jane is so protective of her car that she can’t deal with other people parking near her legally, she should be taking the bus to work.

        2. Gen*

          I’ve worked with people who were super precious of their cars like that, mostly in the construction industry and any pranks involving their vehicles would have been met with the same reaction. Even if the car wasn’t harmed in her mind it probably *could* have been, especially if she has a low opinion of her colleagues driving/parking.

          1. Britt*

            This fascinates me. What do these people do in a place where the parking lot fills up, like a garage?

            1. Audiophile*

              They park way in the back, away from any other vehicle or object. I see them all the time at the grocery store, movie theater, etc.

              1. Lora*

                Do they just not drive in cities ever? In Boston that’s liable to get your car towed. Some parts of NYC I’m pretty sure they just remove the extraneous vehicle parts so you can fit in the space…

                1. Britt*

                  This is what I was thinking too as I used to work in Boston and had to frequent the Longwood area hospitals for parking. There’s no way you’re parking in the back or taking two spots there. I had an interview once and two people parked so close to me I had to climb in my car through my trunk! Thankfully I had an SUV otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.

                2. Allison*

                  Wait, you can get towed for parking in a less crowded part of a parking lot? That makes no sense. Unless they assume the car was abandoned there a while ago or something.

                3. KMB13*

                  I wondered the same thing! I live in a much smaller city (Cleveland). At home, I have a parking pad in my back yard, but when I go downtown for work or an event (a play, a sporting event, etc.) it’s not possible to find a spot that no one will park next to.

                  Heck, even at the suburban malls in the area, every spot in the garages and lots can be full during busy times.

                4. Natalie*

                  @ Allison, it’s a little unclear but I’m pretty sure Lora is talking about people who park crooked over two spaces.

                5. Lora*

                  @ Allison, yeah, you can’t park in two places. There IS no “less crowded” area of parking lots in downtown Boston…most people just deal with dents and don’t have fancy cars. The public transit gets you where you need to go, for the most part; a parking spot in Back Bay can cost more than a mortgage payment.

                6. The OG Anonsie*

                  Well for one, urban areas like that are a pretty small minority of places in the country (and on earth) so driving in them is not going to be a regular life necessity for the grand majority of people.

                  But to answer your question, you just don’t go to places like that. You better believe I don’t drive downtown where I live, or park anywhere near it. And we don’t have good transit here, so sometimes that requires some real finessing, but I hate it and I ain’t doing it.

                7. Allison*

                  Ah, I was just responding people parking in less crowded sections of the parking lot, but still only taking one space, as opposed to people taking extra spaces because they “can.” No you can’t. One vehicle, one space. If your big SUV barely fits the space, park next to a small car.

                8. Allison*

                  And I live in Boston, I have a car but I don’t bother driving unless I absolute have to because parking is bonkers. Then again, car’s already a scuffed up piece of junk I’ll probably sell for scrap in the next year or so, now that I don’t commute with it.

              2. Lady Bug*

                I always park far away because its good to walk and I dislike other humans, but inevitability someone will park right next to me even though there are 50 other empty spaces. How is it possible this hasn’t happened to her before!

                1. Former Retail Manager*

                  YES! My thoughts exactly. My elderly mother does this, but not for the same reasons as Jane, and inevitably, a car will always be on at least one side of her no matter how far away she parks. Does Jane get mad at random strangers…..and I hate to tell her, but door dings will eventually happen despite your best efforts. She needs to mentally prepare….God help her if she ever comes out and sees one and can’t figure out when/how it happened….I foresee a meltdown.

                2. Allison*

                  I often park far away because I’m not great at maneuvering, I’d rather take one of the first spots I see rather than drive around looking for a spot close to the entrance, and the competition for “good” parking spots can make some people crazy so I’d rather not deal with that. And I like walking, I can always use a few extra steps!

                3. Havarti*

                  That’s public restroom stall logic right there. Of all the empty stalls, you had to get into the one next to mine. Safety in numbers?

                4. General Ginger*

                  I like to park far away, too, and yes, this happens all the time. People who also like to park far away for whatever reasons will park next to me. I cannot imagine this has somehow never happened to her.

                5. LCL*

                  I was most annoyed when this happened to me in a Starbucks parking lot. Driver parked his giant Suburban, which was even bigger than my oversize SUV, in the far end of the row where there hadn’t been any other cars. I didn’t mind him parking next to me, I minded him parking his car crooked and so close I had to flip in my passenger side mirror and depend wholly on the backup camera. While he was standing there watching me. Jerk.

                6. kc89*

                  I always notice this in giant movie theater parking lots, I park way off in the corner of an empty parking lot, two hours later when I walk out of the theater the parking lot will still mostly be empty but there will be a couple cars parked around my car.

                  People are like sheep, they copy what others do.

                7. Allison*

                  Maybe people prefer to line up with other cars than have to look down at the lines? I’ll admit, my space at home is easier to pull into when my neighbors’ cars are gone, but parking evenly can be a challenge if there’s no car on either side of me.

                  I’ll never forget the mornings where I’ve parked in a sparsely populated lot, only to have someone drive in and insist on taking a spot next to me, as I’m on that side of my car getting my stuff out. You see me standing there and rather than park where there isn’t a human standing, you decide you need to park right there and I’m in your way. Why, people? Why?

                8. CMart*

                  I know at least three people who do this on purpose. While I do roll my eyes a bit when I see not-Rolls Royce cars parked far away (I assume they’re being precious about their very average vehicles, I’m never charitable enough to think “exercise”), the three people I know are somehow personally offended by the action.

                  So they do their part to… balance out the universe? Annoy them back in the same way their brazen act of parking unobtrusively far away has annoyed us all? by parking next to them. That’ll show ’em!

              3. Jessesgirl72*

                There is not always that choice, though. The medical office/hospital where my Doctors are is always filled to the brim- I’m lucky to get a spot on the top floor in the back corner. The same with some malls or movie theaters, etc.

                1. saby*

                  Right? I’ve never worked in a place that had enough parking that you could expect to have an empty spot beside you. Current job has no parking (it’s downtown, everyone uses transit), last job had a lottery system to see who could get a spot in the parking garage and who was reduced to renting daytime use rights of driveways in the residential neighbourhood behind us.

            2. Gen*

              Some of them park across two spaces then really brazen it out and insist that the value of their car entitles them to more space than everyone else. Honestly there was a man in the uk recently who did newspaper interviews defending the practice.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Something I learned at my old job — not everyone who parks like that is doing it to be a dick! I had a coworker who spent several months using a walker due to hip problems, and if she couldn’t get the spot right next to the access aisle, she would park across two spaces to ensure that she had enough room to maneuver the walker. For obvious reasons, she couldn’t park way off in the back. It got some people really up in arms before the message got out of “Hey, that’s Sansa’s car, don’t go screaming to the building manager, she’s doing it for genuine reasons.” Made me reassess my automatic judgment of anyone who parks like that.

                1. TL -*

                  That’s why handicap spaces are a thing (at least in the USA). Lots of them have extra space so you can use mobility aids.
                  And it’s a lot of extra space. Theoretically, someone with a very small car could fit her car in that space if she knew the spaces weren’t being used by people with mobility aids

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  I’ve wound up accidentally parked like that because when I pulled in, it was between two poorly parked cars that have since left. I always felt tempted to write ‘not a jerk! like this when I got here!’ and pin it to the windshield.

                3. KellyK*

                  TL, it sounds like she was parking across two spaces only if the handicapped spot was taken (“Couldn’t get the spot right next to the access aisle.”)

                4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  TL, not all access aisles are that large, and not all handicap spaces have them. Ours was certainly not wide enough to park any car! As well, there was only one access aisle with two spaces to go with it, and four people with handicap placards in that wing of the building.

                5. Liane*

                  @ TL, since I can’t reply directly.
                  The Countess said the colleague with the hip problems parked across 2 spaces only **if she couldn’t get the spot right next to the access aisle** which presumably means a) only when all the disabled spaces were full or b) she did not have a disabled parking hangtag/plate so they weren’t an option. Be mindful, you cannot use those spots legally, no matter how obvious your need, until you have the permit and the application process can take enough time, or be difficult enough, that someone with a temporary disability may choose not to get one.

                6. fposte*

                  @Liane–just so we don’t scare anybody off, in most states all you need to do to apply is get your doctor’s form filled out and turn up at the DMV (or mail it in). I know some DMVs make you get appointments and that can make it take longer, but it usually a pretty rubber-stamp affair.

                7. TL -*

                  I just meant in the USA it would be unusual for someone to park like that for mobility reasons – most places I go have ample handicap parking and the ones that don’t aren’t generally going to have two open parking spaces by each other.

                8. Synonymous*

                  I love when work doesn’t plow the parking lot, but the snow melts before you leave in the evening. You can see how off everyone’s assessment is of what a normal sized parking spot should be.

                9. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  @TL I’m also in the US, in the suburbs of a large city. It’s a big, diverse country — not everything is going to be like it is where you are!

                10. TL -*

                  @CBF – ah, your use of accessibility aisle threw me off. I’ve always just heard them called handicap spots.
                  But I’ve lived and traveled in a whole bunch of different places in the USA, so, I’m actually not assuming that everything is exactly like the town where I currently live. I’m speaking of general experience across a really broad range of places. (Except California. Which could be totally different and I’ve never been there.)

                11. The OG Anonsie*

                  I’ve had to use big, difficult to unload mobility aids quite a few times and it’s definitely always a game of whether or not the handicap spaces with the wide sides blocked off are available. Usually there’s one somewhere, but I can also go pretty far on foot even when I’m using a mobility aid so that opens up my options considerably compared to some people. I’d wager there’s no such available spot nearby, I don’t know, maybe a third of the time at least? Some areas it’s harder than others (anywhere busy it’s always a game) but if you average it out I’d guess that’s been the rate I’ve experienced. Usually for me I could just go a little farther to find one, but that’s not an option for plenty of people.

                  And yeah a majority of people taking up two spaces are just turds, but who knows. Go ahead and imagine they’re a turd but don’t like, do anything, especially if they have a handicap placard.

                12. TL -*

                  @OG Anonsie – eh, it doesn’t really bother me if someone takes up multiple spaces – it’s not really an option in a busy parking lot, and if there’s no one around you, as long as you’re out of the road, you can take up as many as you want.
                  Even if I see the person getting in and out of the car, I’ve never felt the need to take any action other than rolling my eyes if it’s a big lifted truck. (For some reason, any other vehicle and I assume it’s a new driver who is still learning how to park.)

              2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

                I had a coworker who used to park in two spaces. Property management asked her to stop. She didn’t stop, but she did move her car to the back of the parking lot where she continued to park in two spaces. She stopped when the landscapers dumped their huge pile of mulch in the spot next to hers during their annual spring mulching. She was so upset, but it was literally the same spot they dumped the mulch every year so nobody sided with her. That and we all thought her two spot parking was over the top.

                1. Turquoise Cow*

                  There was a guy at my last apartment complex with a Hummer. HUGE car, and he was obviously super protective of it because he parked so far back from the curb (in a head-in spot) that I could have fit my little car in front of him.

                  Eventually the complex switched to a permit-parking system where each unit got one spot in the lot and any additional cars had to fight for street parking. Whoever owned the Hummer must have had a roommate or significant other who got the parking lot spot, because after that it was always on the street. Which shocked me, because it was really tight, fought-for parallel parking and way riskier than the lot.

              3. Former Retail Manager*

                Ahhh….pimp parking….at least that’s what we used to call it. A guy in our office does this with his Lexus, although space isn’t at a premium and we all consider him a bit douchey anyway, so no one says anything. We just roll our eyes as we walk by it.

              4. Sylvia*

                Oh man. That reminds me. Alison, delete this if it’s too off-topic. I found a car parked across four parking spots at once. I need to dig up the photo.

            3. Antilles*

              What do these people do in a place where the parking lot fills up, like a garage?
              The hierarchy kinda goes like this:
              1.) Park out near the edges of the parking lot or on a higher level of the parking garage or something of the sort.
              2.) Park across multiple spaces, if possible.
              3.) Park in a slot where only one person can park next to you (e.g., the slot at the end of the row next to a tree), then go as close to the edge as possible. This way, even though someone can park next to you, there’s plenty of extra space between you.
              4.) Take the spot nearest the best looking car you can find, under the theory that these people will be far more careful about their car than someone who drives a dinged-up pickup truck caked in mud.

            4. Cambridge Comma*

              My partner’s stepfather will take the bus to check out a car park (to see whether there are enough spaces where the car is only exposed on one side) before driving there the first time. Possibly only something you can do if you are retired, though.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                This sounds like the sequel to Calvin Trillin’s Tepper Isn’t Going Out.

              2. getting OCD was the best idea I ever had*

                I do this with google maps or google earth before I drive anywhere. If I can’t figure out that the parking situation is something I can handle, I don’t drive there.

        3. Mookie*

          My dad is like this about his car and a few other worldly possessions (he attributes this to growing up dirt-poor and never having anything of his own until adulthood). I don’t think he’d react with rage, but the prank would absolutely prey on his tendencies to check and then continuously re-check the car to make sure no one accidentally hurt it in the quest to pull off this joke. This would be followed by a blue period, where he’d be depressed because he’d “know” there was damage but just couldn’t find it and, therefore, couldn’t fix it. (Then again, when the flight of fancy is validated by reality, he’s even more devastated, and often has to throw away the “irreparably damaged” item and immediately get a new one. This has happened with cars, among other big-ticket expenses.) A lot of obsessive and/or compulsive people (clinical or no) try to “manage” their obsessions and compulsions by orchestrating power plays in an attempt to control every possible variable, and then blaming others when they thwart or disrespect these fantasies or won’t obey or play the game and its complicated and self-centered rules.

          It’s not reasonable or rational, but this may explain, in part, this woman’s reaction. It may also remind her of a problem she might be working on behind the scenes. She may have felt that she’d gained a lot of ground psychologically only to have lost it here. Again, her behavior is inexcusable.

          1. Mookie*

            People who project these kinds of feelings onto certain material goods that depreciate this quickly kind of break my heart because it truly is a losing game and they know it and it terrifies them and they terrify themselves because they can’t cope. You can’t insure away that kind of risk; just driving it or parking it leaves it vulnerable to outside interference. And often it’s an expense people can’t afford to make more than once or twice in their lifetimes, if that. I just can’t really fathom how terrible it is for them when their worst fears are realized but they don’t have the emotional capacity to accept it nor the resources to fix it. And this is why I buy everything second-hand and relish the small damage all physical (and living!) things accumulate over time.

          2. Mona Lisa*

            Are you my sister? Because you’ve just described my dad to a T. The years I lived in an urban environment were hell for him because, every time I came home for a weekend, the pristine car he’d given me in college would have a new nick on the bumper from street parking. When I moved out of the city, he actually paid to have the bumpers repainted/replaced so that the car would look new again. (And this was on a 7+ year old car at that point.)

            My dad has no sense of humor whatsoever so the situation isn’t entirely analogous, but he would also completely lose it if people intentionally did this to him at his office.

          3. Bryce*

            I had the same thought. It sounds like this didn’t just tweak her nose about a quirk (as was intended) but set off all of her anxieties about the car. That can be tough to come down from.

        4. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I think you really got to the heart of it. I suspect that Jane sees her car as “off-limits” and the very idea of messing with it is what has set her off. Just because someone’s cool with some pranks doesn’t mean they’ll be cool with anything.

        5. eplawyer*

          Totally agree. A prank is meant to be funny. They did not do this to be funny but to make fun of her over protectiveness of her car. Something that is clearly important to her. If the prank is not funny, the pranksters need to apologize.

          She needs to graciously accept said apology and move on.

          1. Natalie*

            They did not do this to be funny but to make fun of her over protectiveness of her car.

            I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.

          2. blackcat*

            Well, but this easily could have been in line with other pranks pulled in their office (including by her): harmless, gently poking fun at people (eg, covering someone’s desk with pictures of cats if they talk about their cat too much). See also: my roommates pen prank I described above. It *was* funny. And it also made fun of me.

          3. LBK*

            The humor from a prank pretty much by definition comes at someone else’s expense, even if it’s momentary or minor.

          4. The Final Pam*

            Also they knew this was something important to her. Whether they get it or not, they knew it would get a rise out of her. Pranks where you wrap someone’s desk in wrapping paper or something like that are one thing, this is purposefully targeting something that people know is a thing for her. I’d be upset just because of that.

            1. Salyan*

              It’s all relative. I have areas in life that are ‘mine’ that people are not to mess up – especially carefully organized spaces like desks. Wrapping them in paper could, under the right circumstances, totally push my buttons as well.

            2. JessaB*

              there was a TV show about a company that makes ice sculptures, they got paid a potful of money to do THE most amazing office prank ever. Even I appreciated it. They took 360 degree photos of the office of some I think retiring executive, and remade the WHOLE thing in ice. Including his calculator and the keyboard and his computer I mean the ENTIRE freaking office of this guy was removed to storage and replaced in ice sculpture. Right down to his executive chair. The guy was flabbergasted that anyone would think to do that let alone someone could actually make an entire office in ice.

          5. OhBehave*

            We REALLY don’t know whether they did this out of spite or fun. Of course it could have been either one.
            “A prank is meant to be funny. They did not do this to be funny but to make fun of her over protectiveness of her car.” Making such definitive statements without the facts is making unfair judgements. Much the same as projecting possible reasons why she reacted as she did (previous abusive situation, it’s her dream car, etc.).

            We can presume her coworkers thought she would get it because she’s been in on pranks before and had fun. As Blackcat stated, we don’t know the nature of the other pranks pulled in the office.

            A careful apology is in order along the lines of, We really thought you would get a kick out of our prank. You like to pull pranks on others so we thought it would be fun. We are sorry it made you so angry. Leave it at that. If she still is ticked, then her manager needs to get to the bottom of this.

        6. SophieChotek*

          @seejay. Yes even though I think she re-acted over the top and because she plays pranks on other people she should be able to take a joke, but because she clearly views her car as a precious possession – I do understand her re-action, even though it may have been disproportionate.

        7. Allison*

          At first I didn’t see the harm, but after reading your comment, this prank seems like the “I’m not touching you” game on a bigger scale. It may seem unreasonable that she wants extra space around her car when she doesn’t have that kind of power over where people park, but to deliberately park near her car when you don’t need to, just because you think she’s being silly, is a little mean. Like “your boundaries are silly, so I’m gonna cross them just to be funny.”

        8. DevAssist*

          Pranking by…parking next to you?

          Yeesh! Jane’s reaction is overkill. I’m on the side of apologizing just to clear the air, but it makes me wonder if Jane is this particular about other aspects of her life, too.

          As harmless as this prank was, I can’t help but think of a story me dad told me: When he was in high school, some of the football players picked up a teacher’s car (it was a small car) and moved it from the lot just onto the curb. That teacher was NOT happy. LOL

          1. seejay*

            look, I get it… you can’t control who parks next to you, but for people particular about their cars, we try to control it to a degree. We park far away in the empty spots. We *know* people can park next to us, and that it will happen when the lot fills up, but if it’s unintentional, it happens, and you just roll with it and move on.

            What happened here wasn’t unintentional. She’s not mad about “people parking next to her”. That’s not the crux of the issue, what the issue is is *intent*. She makes a point of parking away from other cars to guard her car from damage. Her coworkers went out of their way to surround her car with theirs, violating the barrier she had. This wasn’t unintentional. They did it in fun, she didn’t see it that way. That’s where the problem lies. Take away the issue of what was actually done (parking next to her) and look at the actions and how they’re perceived (an intentional violation of a comfort zone Jane prefers). In the natural order of day to day life, that comfort zone isn’t intentionally violated when she’s out doing doing groceries (people will park next to her without realizing they’re violating that comfort zone)… but at work, as a prank, her coworkers went out of their way to intentionally violate it for their enjoyment. *That’s* why she’s upset.

            She’s carried it on for too long, a week to sit and stew about this is way overboard, but her reaction sounds perfectly valid for someone who values her car.

            1. fposte*

              I think you’re right, but I’d have more sympathy for that if she weren’t a prankster herself, since pranking is all about violating comfort zones.

              1. Lissa*

                Yup, if you prank you take a risk that the person will not agree that it was funny/harmless. Which is why it’s such a problem at work – when you can’t predict someone’s “line” things can get out of hand. Since she does pranking herself she should have the awareness to realize that her behaviour looks like “it’s funny except when it happens to me!” I’m sure we could all see a list of pranks that have been played and I doubt there would be *exact* agreement on which are funny, which are mean, which are both, which mean somebody should call the police and sue the company etc.

            2. Kate*

              Sorry, but no matter how much someone values their car, it is never okay to go ballistic and scream at your coworkers for deliberately parking next to it. Actually, unless someone is attacking you, I can’t think of any situations when it IS okay to scream at people. Football game, maybe?

        9. TootsNYC*

          I pranked someone once, and it was funny right up until the marker slipped and I got a mark on his poster. I felt awful–fortunately he forgave that, but he did mention it briefly (in a funny way, but he MENTIONED it).

          So–OK, they didn’t actually hurt her car, but they parked close enough that maybe they COULD have, all for a joke.

        10. Kate*

          Threatening her car by parking next to it in legally marked off spots? If Jane honestly feels “threatened” by people parking next to her car, then, in all seriousness, she needs therapy. She can’t go ballistic on people every time she goes to the grocery store and someone dares to park next to her.

        11. CmdrShepard4ever*


          I get being protective about your car, but you really would have been mad if people did that to you, could you elaborate on why that is? I just don’t get how the car is at any higher risk? If anything maybe they did her a favor by preventing other cars who might be more careless from parking next to her. Her co-workers cars parking next to her know how particular she is about it and probably are going to be more careful to open doors and make sure they don’t ding her car. She was able to get into her car without a problem, she was able to leave the parking lot without a problem (the didn’t actually box her in), I am just having a hard time grasping how someone get upset.

          I agree with Alison I would apologize for my actions and the unintended effect they had on the coworker just to try and smooth things over.

          1. seejay*

            As I stated elsewhere, my friends knew I was protective of my car, it was my baby (back in my 20s). It was something I worked very hard for, valued very much, and took a lot of care of. I knew they wouldn’t damage it, but even pretending to do something to it, which *could* put it at risk, raised my anxiety levels because it had value to me. It wasn’t something to mess with. This can extend to to anything that someone values: their computer, house, something they’ve organized, etc.

            People keep focusing on “parking next to the car” and that Jane can’t control who parks next to her in the real world. I’m saying “stop focusing on that” and look at the intent and what the prank entailed. Pranks should be fun, teasing, light-hearted, and not cause anxiety, stress, or fear. At most they should annoy. Anything that would cause someone to have to go through hours of work to undue the prank isn’t funny. If it causes stress or anxiety? Not funny. Poking at someone’s insecurity? Not funny.

            This prank intended to poke at a sensitive boundary Jane has, and do so with intent. People will unintentionally park next to her, but that is not a prank and it is not intentional so it doesn’t cause anxiety in her (and if it does, that’s a whole other kettle of fish and I’m not about to armchair diagnose that). If my friends intentionally rearranged my book collection, boxed my car in when I intentionally parked it far away for safety, filled my apartment with balloons or jumped out from behind a wall and yelled “BOO” at me, I’d be pissed and possibly swinging punches. They might think it’s funny and pulling a prank, even though I also pull pranks on them, but they would have intentionally violated fears, anxieties and boundaries that I have and they know about. *They* (and some posters here) might think they’re silly, but the point is that I don’t think they’re silly and it would upset me that someone intentionally did this to me.

            1. fposte*

              For me, then, you gotta quit pranking people. You can’t insist that nobody’s allowed to prank you even with impact-free pranks but continue to prank other people; it’s like insisting nobody’s allowed to throw a snowball at you while you’re firing them at others.

              1. Kbo*

                Exactly. Pranks are always about pushing boundaries and if you know you have such a sensitive spot, don’t prank anyone. I hate prancing and so never engage in it, but to me, after a sincere “Jane, we meant no harm, but we realise this really hurt you and it won’t happen again “, if she’s still vexed, then she really doesn’t hold the high road after that.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Kbo I am deeply saddened that you hate prancing so much walking everywhere is so boring, it’s fun to prance around sometimes! Sorry couldn’t help it.

                  @seejay I get your point about not causing a mess/work, stress or anxiety. I have done messy pranks to people but I am always prepared to clean it up. One time in college my roommate and a friend of mine hid my mattress and cling wrapped my half of the room, this was after coming off a week long trip where I was severely sleep deprived. At the time I did not find it funny I was tired, cranky and looking forward to sleep. But I simply went into my friend’s room and told him I was sleeping on his bed and stuff better be put back/taken down the next morning. They cleaned everything up and after getting sleep I thought it was hilarious.

                  In this situation unless they all know each other super well I don’t think the co-workers ever could have imagined that she would react this way especially because she pranks people herself. Again I would apologize for my actions because they caused an unintended reaction and distress.

        12. Izzy*

          One might look at it another way. They didn’t put her car at risk; they protected it. They were careful not to touch or ding her car, and prevented others from parking beside her who might not have been as careful. I think, as someone said, the issue is (she felt) they were making fun of her.
          Unless she feels entitled to more than one parking space because her car is more important than anyone else’s (or by extension that she is more important). In that case, no sympathy from me.

        13. sfigato*

          Reading that letter, I kept thinking of Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction talking about how you do not mess with another man’s automobile. People get intense about their cars.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        This is such a good point! I have learned to NEVER prank my mom – she is very insecure and always thinks she’s being mocked. But she loves to prank us on April Fools Day, go figure.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          This makes me wonder if Jane is vocal about her car or if this is just something her coworkers noticed. It’s one thing to acknowledge that you are particular about something, it’s another to suddenly realize that your entire office has noticed and is (gently) teasing about behavior you find normal. I think we all have quirks that we find normal (don’t think of as quirks) and to have a prank pulled that highlighted that everyone else found it funny would be quite jarring.

          I still find it to be an overreaction, but this would put it in a framing that would make sense for me.

        2. JessaB*

          Mr B and his friends are pranksters, I am not. Mr B knows this. We had a talk before our wedding that because we were marrying out of state, we were going to have a rental car, and by gods if they did anything to that car that caused my insurance to take a hit, there’d be Charon to pay at the river because I’d “murderize dem bums.” (can you tell I’m from NY?) He made it clear that any pranks had better not damage the car one teeny bit, they left the car alone, and they prank each other all the time but they don’t prank ME.

          But that was a specific issue. If I’d owned the car, and whatever they did was cleanable (at their expense btw,) I’d have let it slide. Cause people are supposed to, I guess screw up the car at a wedding.

      4. OP1 Adjacent*

        My personal take is that’s exactly what happened – I’ve never met Jane in person, but I think she felt like they were all making fun of her behind her back and then doubled down after she freaked out.

    2. Annonymouse*

      I agree.

      Pranks can become mean if the intent is to hurt or humiliate the target instead of minorly annoy/give a chuckle or mild fright.

      And of course you should know your target well enough to know where they stand on prankish.

      This was meant to annoy her and since she does pranks herself I can see how they’d think she’d see the funny side.

      But still being ticked a week later when no one has repeated it, there was damage or harm caused and the intent was to annoy with a weekend to cool off? Yeah, over reacting.

      1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        This. Also since she is also a prankster, she looks very silly being mad about this totally non-harmful prank.
        If she wasn’t a prankster her over-the-top reaction would be less silly.

        1. Tempest*

          I guess it’s just me but I’d have had to fake a yawn and been like ‘oh wow, you parked near me? Good one!’ *eyeroll* Even if I was seething inside. And this is a rubbish ‘prank’ if they didn’t touch her car or park so close she couldn’t open her door without touching their car. They effectively used parking spots. OH WOW!! We used to pick up (yep lots of us vs small car) a friend’s car and carry it elsewhere. He had to go find it in fields and all sorts. And he didn’t get bent out of shape.

          I drive a nice VW convertible and a Focus ST3. I’m very proud of both of them. I’ve had tuned street/show cars much of my life. There have been times I was a single person and owned three cars because I’m into cars. They’re both quite expensive cars I have today(but at least now I share them with my husband not Bogart them all for me lol). I leave them in car parks because I have to and pretty much anything that happens can be repaired. I work with super cars and most of the people who own them are not this out of whack over a car. It’s part and parcel of driving to places. Jane seriously needs to work on her prank reaction game, and being so concerned over a car. It’s going to drive her crazy.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I agree with all of this. I hope Jane can at some point find a way to be less protective of her car because, if she’s driving it daily, it will get dings or scuff marks or scratches. And outside of this kind of scenario (which isn’t going to happen with these coworkers again), the only person who is going to be hurt by it is herself.

          2. JessaB*

            Regarding moving the car places, didn’t the MIT senior prank squad put a VW Bug up on a roof somewhere one year?

        2. BRR*

          That stuck out to me too. I think it’s similar to how I’m part of a gaming group and we tease each other but in a good natured way. If you’re going to give it you have to be willing to receive it with this type of thing. Those who don’t like it don’t participate in it and are left alone. If someone pranks others, that to me shows they have a sense of humor about these things.

          I’ve read the letter a couple times and it sounds like coworkers parked next to her in spaces that are normall empty while she wasn’t in her car (maybe because I read it so early in the morning but I originally pictured it as several coworkers pulling their cars up to her simultaneously which would probably freak me out). If Jane wants to protect her car and park far away I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that buget there’s always a possibility someone is going to park next to you.

    3. Casuan*

      What Alison said. I think it’s funny, too.

      The apology doesn’t need to be so much an apology to Jane as much as to express sorry-you-overreacted-took-it-wrong.
      This non-apology should also include the phrase “Given that you like pranks, we thought you’d see the humour in this especially because no automobiles were touched or otherwise harmed during this prank.”
      Probably that needs to be rephrased. :)
      The gist is to convey one can’t prank without expectation of having a prank on them & that your colleagues were careful not to touch her car or to impede it from being driven away.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yeah, I think my concern at this stage would be that Jane’s so PO’d by this that she comes back and plays meaner pranks on her colleagues in future on the basis that ‘they moved the goalposts’. It’s all pretty childish IMHO, but this was harmless enough; it may not stay that way, though.

        1. gmg*

          I would not include the “but we thought you liked pranks” phrasing in the apology, for this reason … BUT next time Jane tries to lead an office prank, she should be gently reminded that not everyone likes being the target of them, as she herself proved. Passive-aggressive? Perhaps, but this colleague needs to be nicely made aware that “it’s OK for everyone but me” is not a thing.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t think there’s ever a point to saying “Sorry you overreacted.”

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I agree, and I don’t understand the resistance to apologizing. Even if she’s overreacting, the pranksters did something to upset her – isn’t that worthy of an apology? This half apology thing seems designed to shame her into realizing she responded incorrectly and strikes me as really mean-hearted. Apologize once, like Alison said, then leave it. If she’s still mad, it’s up to her manager to correct.

          1. TL -*

            I don’t think she felt incorrectly but I think she responded incorrectly. Getting upset by something doesn’t automatically make a person right.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              @General Ginger: I don’t know – but does it really matter? Is this about winning universe fairness points, or is it about apologizing because you upset someone? My suggestion is simply that the coworkers lose very little (or nothing) by being the bigger people here. And maybe everyone acts differently going forward because of the overreaction, I don’t know.

              @TL -: Apologizing doesn’t have to mean that you’re saying the other person did everything correctly or that everything was your fault. It’s just acknowledging your part in things.

              1. fposte*

                I think this discussion is demonstrating that people have different takes on apologies. I’m with you–she’s upset, I didn’t want her upset, so I’m sorry. I don’t see that as an admission of error, just that I don’t want to make people upset. But I think some people’s experience ties it more to wrongdoing than mine and yours.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I’m perfectly willing to apologize for the error of not realizing it would be a hurtful prank (either bcs she feels it’s extra disrespectful because of the value of her car, or bcs her feelings are hurt bcs it sounds like they talk about her behind her back).

                  I wouldn’t feel that I needed to grovel and declare myself a horrible human being–is that what people think apologies are?

                2. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @TootsNYC: That’s certainly not what I think an apology is. I tend to think the best apologies are genuine, to the point, and undramatic.

                3. Kate*

                  Actually, apologies are pretty tightly connected to wrongdoing, legally speaking as well as culturally. When I worked in retail, we were told that we could not, under any circumstances apologize to a customer who had fallen in our store. They told us that an apology on the part of the employee to the customer could and *had been* successfully used in lawsuits as evidence of responsibility on the part of the company. Why else would the employee be apologizing, if they hadn’t caused the fall? was the thinking.

                  It’s sort of like on advice blogs, I see all the time people asking what to say to a grieving person, and grieving people advising what not to say, and apologizing always comes up. The advice I have always read, is not to apologize, it isn’t your fault after all, that someone’s mother or spouse is dead.

                  In short, I too would balk at apologizing. I might say something like: “I’m sorry you were so upset over the prank we pulled last week. We thought you liked pranks, since you pull so many of them.” said sincerely, because I would be sorry that she got upset, but I wouldn’t be sorry that we pulled the prank. I would also be pretty miffed if we (the coworkers) didn’t get an apology for being screamed at.

                4. Statler von Waldorf*

                  I agree 100% with Kate above. I have apologized before and had that apology used to beat me over the head going forwards. It is simply not true that the co-workers have nothing to lose by being the bigger people and apologizing. Many people will take an apology as proof that they were in the right, and the person who did the apologizing is now in the wrong.

                5. fposte*

                  @Statler–sure, that can happen. But I don’t think it makes things much worse than the current situation (Jane already thinks they’re in the wrong, after all), and it’s also not the likeliest response, so I think the math is on the side of the apology.

                6. Statler von Waldorf*

                  @fposte – Sure Jane might think they are in the wrong, however most offices have more than two people in them. It’s the reaction of the rest of the peanut gallery that makes me hesitant to apologize in this situation, as they will also assume that the person apologizing is in the wrong.

                7. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @Statler von Waldorf: This might just be one of those areas where past experience makes such a difference. I have never had a bad reaction (that I can recall) from apologizing when I have hurt someone’s feelings, even if their response was out-sized or I would have reacted differently to the “slight” in question. It sucks that your experience has not been the same. I guess the moral, as so often is, is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to interpersonal issues like this.

                8. fposte*

                  @Kate–Wow, I’ve never seen advice not to say “I’m sorry” to a grieving person; that seems weird to me, and when I’ve had bereavements, that’s usually what people said (and that was fine). It’s also usually perceived as being more of a liability by laypeople than I think legally it is.

                9. Statler von Waldorf*

                  @Megamoose – I agree for the most part that it’s not the normal reaction, and I don’t want people here to think that one should never apologize. If you have done (even a little) wrong by another person, I honestly believe that one should sincerely apologize and make amends if suitable. Anything less would be uncivilized.

                  On the flip side, I was burned bad for apologizing when I didn’t think I was wrong, and my apology was used as proof of my guilt. So now I don’t apologize unless I actually mean it. In this situation, where the office prankster didn’t like the taste of their own medicine, I wouldn’t.

                  I can happily and fully agree that there is no one size fits all solution. In the end, you gather

              2. TL -*

                No, I just think a half apology is fair – they are sorry they upset her but they didn’t necessarily do anything wrong by pranking a prankster in a harmless manner.

                1. (another) b*

                  @Kate – Yes 100%. They even tell you when you get in a car accident to NOT apologize, because that is an admission of guilt!

                  Honestly I probably wouldn’t want to in this situation either. Jane is being ridiculous and they didn’t know she would overreact. There was no damage, move on.

            2. Elsajeni*

              Well, we don’t know if she does, but we also don’t know if any of her pranks have ever backfired and really upset the person they were played on, which is the actual reason people are saying the OP and their coworkers should apologize — not because they played a prank, but because their prank was unexpectedly upsetting to Jane. I don’t really understand objecting to them apologizing on the basis that Jane might or might not have apologized for pranks she’s played that might or might not have upset anyone.

          2. Casuan*

            Even if she’s overreacting, the pranksters did something to upset her – isn’t that worthy of an apology? This half apology thing seems designed to shame her into realizing she responded incorrectly and strikes me as really mean-hearted.

            Wo, MegaMoose!!
            Your comment hit a nerve because it’s spot-on.
            That the pranksters upset her & isn’t that worthy of an apology?
            Yes, absolutely. My half-apology suggestion was meant for the same goal as Alison said, which was to keep the office peace. It wasn’t meant to shame her.
            That said, my half-apology would shame Jane & she doesn’t deserve that; very few do & in a professional setting that’s almost never [if at all] appropriate & it can be counter-productive. When I first read OP’s letter, I wondered if part of Jane’s reaction was from embarrassment then I dismissed the thought.
            Thank you for the much-needed humanity check. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I did deserve that…

            Still I think that any true apology should include some form of “because you like pranks” to convey that one shouldn’t play jokes if one isn’t willing to to have jokes played on them. I’m against any joke that might cause inconvenience, embarrassment or other distress. Arguably many pranks do just this, although there are boundaries to respect. From the letter we read, Jane does seem to be overreacting which makes me wonder if there’s more of an underlying cause.

            1. Mananana*

              Casuan, what a lovely, gracious response to MegaMoose’s observation. (Which, FWIW, was delivered tactfully.) But too often, we’re so quick to jump to the defensive that we don’t see the the validity to another point of view. You’re a delight.

              1. Casuan*

                Mananana, thank you so much for your kind words; I needed that kindness just now because it’s been a long… since I posted my own thanks to MegaMoose [it was a family emergency & thankfully all is well now]. re MegaMoose’s original comment, I agree her reply rocked & was very tactful!

                Reading the posts on apologies, as fposte said there are many different thoughts on when & how apologies are warranted.

                If an apology is sincere, it is never wrong to do so. The recipient can accept or reject it & if one chooses rejection then I might still be hurt that I caused harm to the person &or relationship, yet I also know that I’ve done all that’s possible to make amends & the decision is theirs to make. I also believe one can sincerely apologise for a situation without claiming non-existant personal culpability [to be clear, if one is at fault one should apologise].

                From OP’s letter, for whatever reason Jane was personally hurt from the prank & the colleagues should apologise for having caused this. That said, Jane’s response doesn’t seem to fit the crime [as it were], so much so that I think she deserves some empathy here. Perhaps the car was willed to her by a beloved relative or perhaps she worked very hard to find the car of her dreams…
                caveat: If Jane continues to prank others yet doesn’t accept being pranked in kind, this changes things a little. And there should be a moratorium on all pranks so everyone can cool down.

                As for the company that told its employees not to apologise if someone tripped…? I understand the theory yet the lack of ignoring human nature & kindness astounds me. If I tripped, regardless of injury I’d be more upset that no one offered a simple “I”m sorry” than from the fall itself. I can’t imagine how anyone with intellect or feelings interpreting such an apology as “This establishment is declaring [a reason for] guilt” or for letting their attorney make such a statement.

                Is this really a valid legal argument…?!?
                If the company were to offer a gift card or whatever just after an accident, I could see this as being construed as potential guilt, yet there’s no guilt implied from an employee who apologised.

                Years ago I worked at WorldFamousThemePark & lawsuits were common because free-money-the-place-can-afford-it. We were trained to helps guests who had an accident & this training never included the mandate “Do not apologise.”

                I appreciate all of the comments on this letter; they’ve been quite informative!

          3. TootsNYC*

            if you like someone, don’t you WANT to apologize if your actions accidentally hurt their feelings?

        2. Snazzy Hat*

          As I’ve had to describe interactions with two of my former tenants, there’s a difference between “Sorry I upset you” and “Sorry you got upset” when the speaker did something which upset you. It’s as cut-and-dry as being apologetic & remorseful versus being annoyed & impatient.

          1. Kate*

            Except feelings aren’t justification. It upsets me when people (like my coworkers) talk about hunting, does that mean I should ask them not to, and expect them to apologize for doing it? It is their office too. Just because I am upset doesn’t make me right for feeling that way, and it doesn’t justify my actions (such as screaming at people or asking them to stop talking around me).

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Strong agree. If the apology is in the school of “I’m sorry you felt offended,” then it’s not worth delivering. It’s going to sound insincere (because it is), and that’s only going to make things worse.

          But it sounds like there are different expectations of the purpose that an apology serves. As fposte notes, some folks see it as an admission of “fault” or as a thing only the “wrongdoer” must deliver, and because of that, there’s opposition to apologizing.

          My take is that we apologize to recognize when we’ve hurt someone (and I mean “hurt” in a broad and non-abusive-relationship sense), particularly if we do it by accident. It’s just acknowledging, “oh hey, my bad—I’ll try not to do that again because I want you to feel ok around me.”

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I can understand that; at the same time, if Jane were still freezing me out after a week, I would feel less sorry that I’d hurt her feelings. It might not be reasonable, and it might not be kind, but her response seems disproportionate, which makes me doubt how worthwhile it is to try getting onto a good footing again.

        4. SeptemberGrrl*

          Seriously. Talk about putting out fire with gasoline! “I apologize if you were offended/that you over-reacted” is 10X worse than no apology because it’s not an apology, it’s an insult (The way you reacted is wrong). It’s a fine thing to do if you want to zing the person and make the point that you’re not sorry, but if there is a genuine desire to smooth things over, this is a terrible way to go about it.

      3. Observer*

        Either apologize or don’t. Do NOT do the sorry-not-sorry bit. That’s just offensive.

    4. Tealeaves*

      I feel it’s not really about the subject of the prank. It’s more about she made known a specific request (no matter how silly it sounds to others) and her coworkers actively chose to disrespect it (thus disrespecting her). It would feel like a very hostile action from them, like intentional bullying. The psychological discomfort she gets from seeing the situation + People Who Should Know Better & I Thought They Were Trustworthy = SNAP.

      It’s best that they can apologize to smooth things over, and then give her some time to cool down. And just take it as a note to be respectful if someone has made specific requests, even if it sounds meaningless. It’s silly to you, but not to them.

      1. Myrin*

        I don’t see any “specific request” anywhere, am I missing something? The only thing I can think of is “does not want anyone to park near her” which I didn’t interpret as a direct request she made but rather a general “Gosh, I really hate it when anyone parks near me!”-kind of thing. I would feel differently if she had indeed in the past earnestly said “Guys, I know it may sound silly but could you make sure to not park directly next to my car unless no other space is available? It gives me real anxiety.” or something like that. But as it stands, I just don’t think that it’s unreasonable on her coworkers’ part to expect her to find the situation humourous, as would many of us when someone pokes gentle fun at our silly pet peeves.

        1. TootsNYC*

          She parks WAY out in the lot, and she has specifically said to them that she does so because she doesn’t want to risk door dings.

          That seems pretty damned specific to me.

          There were undoubtedly tons of spaces closer in–the lot was empty enough that ALL of them could move their cars to completely surround hers.

          1. Myrin*

            Maybe I’m getting too hung up on vocabulary, but that’s still not a specific request (which is what Tealeaves said in her response).

            1. TootsNYC*

              I would regard it as one–I would regard a strongly voiced preference that was expressed in my presence as a request to be treated that way, even if it’s not explicitly said to me, about me.

              1. fposte*

                I think it’s fine for you as a listener to decide it’s one, but I don’t think everybody would, and I don’t think Jane can consider it a request denied when she never made a request.

      2. Colette*

        Not expecting anyone to park beside your car ever is not a reasonable request, even if it’s important to her. It sounds like they have lots of parking, but not everywhere does.

        And since she’s damaging her relationship with her coworkers over absolutely no damage to an object, she would probably be well served by some sort of therapy.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It sounds like the lot is normally pretty empty, so people would have to go out of their way to park next to it. On this day, there was enough empty space around her that ALL the people could move ALL their cars to completely surround hers and have it be very visible.

          So yeah, it’s pretty reasonable to think that people would park at the closest available parking space, instead of out in the far reaches of the lot near her.

          1. Colette*

            But people park at the other end of lots all the time – because it’s a nice day and they want a walk or because they’re going somewhere closer to that end of the lot. She doesn’t own the lot, or that row.

            It’s her prerogative to not like the prank they pulled – but it’s also on her to express her dislike like a grownup (e.g. Hey guys, it really bothers me when people park next to me. Please don’t do it again.) and then to move on.

      3. General Ginger*

        Her request isn’t really reasonable. OK, so maybe coworkers know not to park next to her car, and feel like accommodating that — but what does she do if there are visitors to the office who don’t know these ‘rules’ and park near her? Or landscapers who have to put their vehicles into the lot as they work? Or really any other people who might potentially park near her?

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          She didn’t make any request of her coworkers, so it’s weird to judge this request that she did not make as unreasonable. She parks far away, and we don’t know what she does if a visitor or a landscaper or who knows who else just happens to park near her, because that isn’t what happened. What happened is that her coworkers pranked her, and she she knew it was a prank, and knew they were poking her about her protectiveness of her car, and so she got mad. Presumably, some aspect of her reaction had to do with the intentional “I’m not touching you” feature of the situation (to borrow from someone’s sibling fight analogy upthread).

          I think her reaction is over the top, in light of her history of pranking. I am surprised she didn’t cool down and get back to normal after the weekend. But don’t start inventing even more things about her that you can declare as weird – she didn’t make any request in general, and we have no evidence that she loses her shite in the normal course of anything.

      4. The Final Pam*

        Exactly. Pranks where it’s something goofy are one thing, but this is where she drew the line. This is something they knew would make her uncomfortable, but they did it on purpose. I’d be mad too.

        1. fposte*

          I honestly wouldn’t have expected it to make her uncomfortable. You park like that because you’re worried about heedless strangers with wide-flung doors and marauding strollers. The people who did this are people with whom you would probably leave your literal baby; I would not have expected her to feel threatened by their cars.

          Obviously she was nonetheless, and I’m not discounting that; but no, I wouldn’t have expected her to be upset.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      The one part that confuses me is “several people pulled their cars around her.” It seems like 2 or 3 would occupy all the normal spaces (left, right, in front if there’s not a wall there). Were more cars somehow involved?

      Either she’s someone who can dish it out but not take it, or this prank somehow hit a really deep nerve no one suspected was there. (As Seejay, Gen, and Mookie alude to.) If the latter, it’s an illustration of how work friends can be different from real life friends–they have a more superficial knowledge of you, and so gauging what’s a safe topic for teasing and what’s not is more fraught. (This is why I despise the PUA argument that if insulting your close friends or siblings is a form of affection, insulting total strangers is also polite and it will cause them to sleep with you.)

      1. LavaLamp*

        So she’s mad because someone parked near her? Okay. My response would’ve been to laugh and tell them they better move before I leave because I suck at parking. I like my car a lot, but I can’t muster that amount of anger for something so inconsequential. I just can’t compute this. Generally cars parked in the oblivion parking area that I see are either the local fire department taking the fire truck to inspect the store/get groceries or cars with paper tags that people aren’t used to yet.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I can’t compute it either, but it’s not the first time someone has done something that made no sense to me. Like my neighbor who commiserates with me over things I don’t find upsetting–sometimes you nod and say “Mmmm. Mmm hmm” or “… Okay.” Or “Sorry about last Friday; I had no idea you would be so upset by that.”

        2. Blurgle*

          Or involuntarily reminded of an abusive ex (or other creep) who boxed her in to trap her.

      2. TootsNYC*

        even your close friends can poke a nerve they–and you–didn’t realize was there.

      3. Lynxa*

        I think they mean that people parked in front of the people who parked next to her, like this:

    6. kittymommy*

      This is ridiculous. I’m not big on pranks in the workplace as too many things can go wrong, and I kept waiting for the OP to say something horrible happened to the car, but nope. A known prankster got pranked and is now having a hissy fit. Jane needs to grow the hell up.
      And yeah, I’d be pissed if I was asked to apologize, I’d do it to keep peace, but not happily.

    7. LiveAndLetDie*

      Yeah, the prank-ee in this situation is being really unreasonable about her car in general. Does she walk into grocery stores and scream at everyone inside if the parking lot is crowded?

    8. Gene*

      I’m assuming Jane doesn’t realize that her precious car was actually less likely to get door-dinged with her coworkers, who know not to touch her car with their doors, parked around her in a protective cordon. Were I her in this instance, I would have profusely thanked my helpful herdmates who surrounded me and protected me; and turned the prank around.

      PreviousJob had an active prank culture, the only things off limits were vehicles (actual damage) and food/drink. It was a 24/7 operation where most of your time was taken up trying to not fall asleep. Every hour or so, you needed to walk around and check some gauges and levels. If you left your locker unlocked, you were likely to find it full of packing peanuts. Even though vehicles were off limits, on my last day there I came out to leave at noon to find my car sitting on stacks of 2X4s with the tires off the ground. It was a goodbye from my friends at the plant, a hip check to the side of the car and it fell off the stacks.

      And if you park across several spaces, I’m the guy who will park as close to you as possible while remaining in an actual marked spot. I did that once to a guy at an airport who was parked diagonally, then went on a cross-country training flight for 6 hours. When I got back, he went off on me; he had been waiting for over 5 hours to leave, because he had nosed into a planter to protect the front of his car. I shrugged and drove away. Never saw him parked like that again.

      Sure, apologize to Jane if you think it will make her happy, I doubt it will.

    9. Ol' Crow*

      I’m not so sure that I would apologize, nor would I encourage anyone else to. Mainly because, as someone said below, this prank harmed no one, there is no cleanup, it wasn’t offensive, etc. And because the prank was “in a legally allowed way impeding no one” as you said. Apologize and she’ll see them in the wrong…so what’s going to happen if one day the lot is more full and coworkers do park near or next to her? You’ve essentially told her through your apology that that part of the parking lot is hers.
      I think if anyone should be apologizing, it’s her and she should be told that her little pranks are no longer allowed as an outcome of this.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think apologies say anything other than what they say, and if Jane thinks they do, that’s Jane’s derangement, not the apology.

        1. Ol' Crow*

          You’re right in that the apology says only what the words say. But words can be interpreted differently by people. And if I’m going to be honest here, I think that Jane is a little, um, unbalanced here and sounds exactly like the sort of person who would stretch an apology into some completely unrelated thing. As in “you all apologized…which means you said you’d never park near me again.”
          And I still think she is the one who needs to apologize and that she should be told her days of pranking are over. She did, after all, set the stage for pranking.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it makes sense to play defense like that about a perfectly normal thing like an apology, though. (And why would they park near her again anyway?)

            However, thinking that Jane isn’t entitled to an apology is a different matter. I would still apologize because I had clearly upset her more than intended, but that seems to be a divided issue in the comments :-).

    10. puzzld*

      I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around this one. YOU HAVE ACCESS TO MULTIPLE EMPTY SPACES??? Ahem. Sorry. We can usually find a space first thing in the AM (our office starts work 1/2 hour earlier than most campus offices) But doG help you if you have to leave for a dentist appt., to pick up lunch, or to run an errand.

      So anyway we don’t have a prankish culture, worst thing I ever did was to replace all the sounds on a co-workers computer with baas, moos and oinks. This was many years ago, when the fact that her computer had a sound card that could be coaxed to moo was quite the novelty.

  2. AliceBD*

    Also with references, frequently companies have application systems that force you to put in names and contact info when you first submit your resume and cover letter. You want to have information ready to go in order to be able to fill those out just to apply.

    1. Tuesday*

      I’ve thought about writing in on this topic. I really don’t like putting someone else’s contact info into online forms. And it’s not like they’re going to check references until after an interview anyway. If I can, I’ll write “references can be provided at interview” or something similar on the form.

      I sort of wonder if doing that is making me look like I’m hiding something, or being presumptuous by assuming I’ll get to the interview stage (which I never assume. But I do assume they don’t actually need my references until then.)

      If a form requires actual names and phone numbers, I usually just put in the reference’s company’s main phone number, assuming no one will ever call it and if I get to the interview stage, I’ll give them my references with their individual contact info. That way the info I’m plugging into the form isn’t anything that can’t be found elsewhere online.

      1. Jeanne*

        No, I don’t think it looks like you’re hiding something. It’s the forms that are wrong. It is intrusive to force you to provide references without even an interview. But a lot of forms request unnecessary info like your GPA from every school and the start and end dates to the day of all your employment plus start and end salaries. Ridiculous.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          And sometimes that can be from many years ago where it’s not worth it to track down that info and it’s not readily available without some digging to get. Some application systems won’t let you move forward without entries in those boxes either.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m currently sitting on one of those and it is driving me crazy! Please, at least read my carefully crafted cover letter before you ask for my references. And the next question (which I can’t see yet but was warned about) will be about previous and current salary. Seriously. And the real problem is that I worked for this org years ago (for much, much less) so they have *an* idea of what I’ve been paid in the past.
            All for a job I’m not stoked about.

            1. Jeanne*

              I truly hate that. Have you considered putting in zeros just to get through the form? I just don’t know which answers will make the system automatically reject me.

  3. Weekday Warrior*

    Re OP #3 – I always ask people to send me their current resume and, if possible, the relevant job posting(s) if they ask me to be a reference and it’s been some time since we worked together. That really helps my memory and gives me a heads up about who might be contacting me.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Although if OP is applying for lots of jobs, this doesn’t apply – do send 1-2 postings, but not 20.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      I do this, but only if I’ve had an interview. I gave my references that first ask/heads-up that I was job searching, with an attached updated resume. Then when I get an interview, I give them another heads-up with the job posting and my resume again if it’s been changed.

      Discloser: I’ve never been one to apply to any job in my field, I have a specialty that makes qualified postings few. So when I was really ramped up and looking for a permanent position, this was possibly 2 interviews a month, if that. So never felt I was bombarding my references with e-mails about interviews.

      1. Weekday Warrior*

        Yes, I’m in a professional field and high volume job applications are rare. I’m never bombarded. Your approach seems good to me!

  4. Julie Noted*

    OP2, this is so unbelievably not your concern. And if you allow yourself to get all worked up with moral outrage over this, the slightest of slight infractions, you are setting yourself up for an angry, bitter work life.

    I suggest you use this opportunity to learn how to get over it. (Honestly, that’s real advice that I could have used myself back in the day!)

    1. MeepMeep*

      I agree with you. Not your monkey, not your circus OP2. You should be outraged by having no paid time off and not what your coworkers are doing within such a poor system. Please don’t move forward with this.

      1. Helen*

        OK clearly mentions that they have PTO, and that this unpaid leave is for things like extended vacations or surgery recovery. The company even spreads out the employee’s pay so even though the leave is unpaid they still get a paycheck while they are off. To be honest it doesn’t sound like a poor system or anything to be outraged over at all.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep – it’s actually more generous than a lot of companies that don’t let people take unpaid time once they’ve used up PTO.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            We have this! You can buy an extra week off and it gets spread over the rest of the year rather than out of one payment.

          2. uh*

            My guess is this is why commenter finds it so awful – she thinks cosmetic surgery isn’t “good enough” to qualify.

            I have to confess I don’t get it at all.

            1. Nerdy Canuck*

              I have to confess that deciding what surgery or procedure “counted” isn’t a business I’d want to be in. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company very strongly does not want to know what the procedure is.

              1. Koko*

                Yes, thank you, this x 1,000.

                I would like very much to never have to judge the worthiness of an employee’s PTO request. Do you have the leave time available? Do you have a plan to have your work covered in your absence? Then be gone on your merry way and tell me nothing more than you wish. I don’t want to be in the business of deciding whether a second cousin is a close enough relative to merit you attending their funeral, or whether elective surgery is worth more or less leave than medically necessary surgery. Honestly, I’m not even confident that there’s a bright white line between necessary and elective surgery, so even if there are some clear-cut cases I just don’t want to be in the business of having to decide where that line is when some borderline case eventually comes across my desk. I want to just be able to say, “surgery is surgery,” and let us all go on doing our jobs.

                1. mrs__peel*

                  Hear, hear!!

                  If someone requests time off (e.g.) to get a sinus operation, and comes back with a straightened nose, how is the average manager supposed to know if their procedure was “cosmetic” or “medically necessary”? Request a copy of the operative report? Or X-rays of their nasal cavities? Why would you want to go down that road…?

                2. Annonymouse*

                  It really sounds like OP wants to “tattle” on Jane for using time off in a way they don’t approve of.

                  If OP was concerned about the impact on their role or hours with Jane taking so much time off it would be different.

                  It really seems they want to punish Jane for being “dishonest” with their UNPAID leave.

                  Unless you are HR or their manager and you know they lied completely
                  (I have a family emergency/wedding in Hawaii NOT I have a medical thing)
                  Then you really have no standing to bring this up.

              2. Kate*

                Yep! Not to mention you sort of open yourself to legal liability that way. Like bunion surgery. Maybe the manager decides that isn’t as important as surgery for an injury your coworker got playing flag football with his buddies, and tells you to take the unpaid time and also to buy better shoes.

                That’s just a scary path to go down. I would never want anyone judging whether or not my family emergencies (sick childless great aunt vs sick parent) or surgeries are important and worthwhile.

            2. Jeanne*

              I have wonder how OP is so sure she hasn’t told them the truth. She obviously isn’t trying to keep it a secret if OP knows.

              1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

                That’s what stuck out to me as well. How does the OP know that everyone who needed to know the truth doesn’t have the truth already?

              2. Jessesgirl72*

                Yeah. There is no reason to believe that her Manager didn’t give her the all clear for her breast augmentation! If they allow it for vacations, why wouldn’t they allow it for elective surgery?

                1. Big10Professor*

                  I’d also keep in mind that things like having your wisdom teeth out or LASIK are usually classified as “elective,” and most people would have no issue with time off for those.

                2. mrs__peel*

                  I work in medical billing and reimbursement– in medical jargon, “elective” procedures are basically anything that’s not done on an urgent basis. For instance, if your doctor schedules a cardiac catheterization for you due to recurrent chest pain, but isn’t alarmed enough to send you immediately, that’s typically called “elective” (though it’s generally still covered by insurance).

                  If I was a manager, I definitely wouldn’t want to get into deciding which medical issues were “worthy” of time off. Just treat people like adults!

            3. Immy*

              For me this is also an odd thing to pick on given they’re also happy to give it for holidays like a destination wedding which is also something a person needing the leave has chosen so I can’t see a difference between that and elective cosmetic surgery (ignoring the fact that ranking medical procedures is not the best road to start going down…)

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, that’s the part that made me scratch my head. It’s elective self-paid leave. I’d let people take it to do errands if they wanted, with enough up-front notification.

              2. Allison*

                Because marriage is a time-honored tradition, and an important milestone in most people’s lives. True love forever and babies and stuff. But getting better lips is a frivolous venture only vain people engage in

                1. JamieS*

                  Marriage is a time honored tradition not marrying in Maui. I think you missed the point that OP’s company already allows leave for non-necessities so there’s no reason to think taking time off for elective surgery is against policy.

                  Also we don’t know her surgery is 100% elective and I doubt OP does either.

                2. Observer*

                  Well, destination weddings are NOT a “time honored tradition.” Neither are special vacations.

                3. Allison*

                  Aaaaah, what happened to my fake sarcasm tag?? Sorry guys, I meant to clarify that I was being sarcastic, not sure what happened.

                4. AMG*

                  Lol! I had a giggle at your expense and at Alison’s referring you to the Workplace Vigilante post.
                  In all seriousness, is your beef with your coworker stemming from something other than the fact that she’s having elective surgery? This feels a bit like bitch-eating-crackers syndrome–where every little thing someone does bothers you because you don’t like them.

                5. Observer*

                  I get that you were being sardonic. The problem is that it seems likely that the OP actually believes this to be “the way it is”. And, that’s really what I was responding to.

                1. meat lord*

                  It’s a phenomenon where you’re so irritated with a person that everything they do, no matter how innocuous, becomes objectionable. I forget the origins of the phrase–some viral video, I think, where someone was pissed off beyond all reason by cracker-eating?

                2. nonegiven*

                  You’re so over someone that even doing something as innocuous as eating crackers rubs you the wrong way.

                  “Look at that bitch, eating crackers like she owns the place.”

            4. General Ginger*

              I also don’t understand how OP thinks it’s OK to use this time off for vacations, but cosmetic surgery somehow doesn’t rate. Both are technically elective situations. In addition there are a number of procedures that would appear cosmetic, but aren’t (a rhinoplasty for breathing issues, say). Not that this would somehow make the surgery more time-off worthy, by the way; just saying that does OP really know what OP thinks they know?

            5. Artemesia*

              I just don’t get why she thinks it is her business. It is not that unusual for a business to let someone take an unpaid leave just because they want to take a break. I know many people who have done this when companies wanted to retain them but they were burning out. A couple of months away let them recharge. And if this company allows time off after surgery like this, what difference does it make what the surgery is? It is unpaid leave; how can that be the OP’s business?

              1. TootsNYC*

                It would sort of surprise me that the company would even care what you do with it.

                You’re not being paid–they save money!

                The only possible downside is if you’re gone at a TIME that’s difficult, or if your DUTIES are too difficult to pass off (which, they shouldn’t be, bcs people take vacations too).

                Having it available at all is the benefit the company gets (their employees think it’s nice so they stay longer, or don’t burn out, or have a good attitude while they’re there).

                So why would they care WHY you do it?

                I think this is another example of people bringing a “parent/child” dynamic into the workplace. A parent might care “why” a kid wants a day off from school, because the parent is trying to teach values, and evaluating a kid’s reasons, and weighing in on them, is one way a parent teaches values.

                But an employer’s job is not to teach its workers values.

            6. Observer*

              Which is actually one of the reasons why I find the whole thing so off. Why is cosmetic surgery less valid than a “destination wedding” or a “special vacation”?

              There are very few people who have standing to weigh in on someone’s decision to get cosmetic surgery, take special vacations, make destination weddings, etc. The OP certainly isn’t in that position relative to her coworker.

              1. mrs__peel*

                From my anecdotal experience of couples doing destination weddings, cosmetic surgery is probably likely to last longer…

        2. paul*

          We have a similar system at work and it’s always been OK for us. But we don’t give a damn about *why* you’re having surgery AFAIK.

      2. Annonymouse*

        OP why do you care?
        The leave is unpaid
        It doesn’t seem to impact your work
        And it’s none of your dang business what they use their leave for.

        If you knew and had evidence of them abusing their paid leave I might side with you.

        If it really impacted your job because they did it so frequently I could agree with you about it’s annoying and you should talk to your bosses about ways to spread the load.

        But it doesn’t.

        It’s a person using time off in a way that’s been approved that isn’t “good enough” by your definition.

        It comes across as really petty and bitter.

        Please let this go and use this as a chance to examine WHY such a minor deal (that doesn’t impact you) is causing you so much upset.

        1. KHB*

          Just because the leave is unpaid doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect anyone else. It could be that OP and the coworker are on a small team with a fixed amount of work to get done, and that the coworker’s absences mean that more work falls on the OP. (Granted, I’m doing some projecting here, and the letter doesn’t actually say any of this. But it’s not uncommon for letter writers to leave out information because they’re trying to be concise, and it’s not uncommon for someone for someone who’s upset to have trouble pinpointing what the “correct” thing is to be upset about. So I’m calling this a plausible but not definite version of events.)

          If that’s the case, then OP still needs to keep her eyes on her own paper, but she’s well within her rights to talk to the boss (and to HR, if the boss is unhelpful) about the effect that the coworker’s absences are having on HER. E.g., “Because Jane’s been out twice this year for surgery, I’ve had to (stay late, work weekends, focus less than I’d like on my own project X because I was covering for her on project Y, whatever). Can we come up with a better system for how to handle extended absences by one member of our team? For example, would it be feasible to hire a temp for those periods? Or could we agree that project Y is a lower priority for the rest of us, so when Jane’s not here to do it, it might not get done?”

          But I agree that the reasons for Jane’s absences are still nobody else’s business.

          1. AP*

            Great points, KHB; I work on a small team and any leave by anyone is challenging – we just dealt with this for one of us having jury duty actually. While reading your comments, it also occurred to me that it’s possible that OP is one of those folks who strongly prefer their routines and that the leave interrupts that.

          2. eplawyer*

            Good job of keeping it about the job. If her absences are impacting the work load you can raise that. But saying Jane didn’t have the “right” reasons for taking leave is petty and childish.

          3. #WearAllTheHats*

            Yes, OP can say how it affects their own work. But is OP mad because it affects OP’s work or because it was a surgery OP deemed unnecessary? I read it as the latter. OP could use this time off as well if they had a reason. Really what should happen if it’s a matter of covering work is to denote, “Me/my team needs help/extra staff/reallocation of duties while X is out recovering.” Period. Not, “I sure don’t like X being out because it sure does makes me feel mad.” Otherwise MYOB and don’t be mad someone worked within the rules just because you haven’t had to use the time off allowances. What might be important to me and my health is probably not important to anyone else in my office, so that’s a line where I say, OP you aren’t three years old, please STFU and don’t worry about tattling to the teacher. I don’t have sympathy beyond workload upsets, if there actually are any.

            1. KHB*

              So, I had a situation similar to what I described happen to me a couple of years ago: A coworker took an extended (unpaid) leave of absence, the boss handled it terribly, and I was stuck with a ton of extra work. The reason for the coworker’s absence was unassailable, so my annoyance was aimed squarely at the boss, not the coworker. But if things had been slightly different, I could easily imagine my thought process being less “Why did the boss promise to hire a freelancer and then not hire a freelancer?” and more “Why was Fergus allowed to take a leave of absence for such a stupid reason to begin with?”

              So I’m willing to give OP2 a bit of the benefit of the doubt that, while she’s wrong to feel aggrieved by the nature of her coworker’s surgeries, she MIGHT legitimately be aggrieved for other reasons she hasn’t mentioned (whatever her reasons for not mentioning them). And in the event that that’s the case, I’m trying to offer advice that’s more constructive than “STFU.”

              1. Allypopx*

                Thank you for that.

                But then the thing to do is “I’m finding this issue with being short staffed” not personal policing of the coworker’s use of time off options.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s kind of you, and you made some good points about what the OP could say if she were truly concerned about the work she’s having to do in the coworker’s absence. Two points, though.

                One, that doesn’t seem to be what the OP is actually worried about, given that she said this: “I don’t think it’s right that she should be able to take advantage of time off for non-medically necessary surgery, instead of using her own regular PTO time for it.” It seems like the OP has ideas about what the rules are, and those rules doesn’t line up with the actual rules of the company. If that’s the case, the OP needs to focus on herself and figure out how to not police what isn’t her business. She will be a much more content employee if she can do that.

                Second, if OP is truly, legitimately concerned about extra work while people are out, she needs to not focus on Jane, either in talking with the manager or in her own thoughts. In your example paragraph, this seemed helpful: “Can we come up with a better system for how to handle extended absences by one member of our team? For example, would it be feasible to hire a temp for those periods?” But the next part you suggested focused on “when Jane’s not here to do it,” and that kind of language implies that she thinks Jane’s going to be gone a lot in the future. The OP doesn’t need to sound like she’s predicting that Jane’s going to be out all the time because then she sounds like she’s policing Jane’s time off, and that’s only going to come across as passive aggressive to her manager.

                1. KHB*

                  “The OP doesn’t need to sound like she’s predicting that Jane’s going to be out all the time because then she sounds like she’s policing Jane’s time off”

                  The letter says that Jane’s been out for surgery twice in what sounds like a fairly short span of time, so I don’t think it’s totally out of line to speculate that Jane might be taking more unpaid time off in the future (and that’s true regardless of whether her surgeries are medically necessary or because she just likes having work done). But if other people are making use of the unpaid leave policy just as much as Jane is, then you’re right that it would be better to phrase that part of the script more generally.

            2. NotTheSecretary*

              I agree.

              I had a situation once where a coworker was allowed to take a month + off despite the fact that our job was a seven day a week, two person department that had NO backup and I was not allowed to have overtime. I worked short shifts for about 45 days before she finally came back.

              At the time, I was furious with her for taking so long for something that I felt didn’t warrant a month and a half off. I *should have* been mad at management for just shrugging at my predicament and not stepping in to help me. It took me working at a different company where management actually cared about my workload to realize that it was not my coworker’s responsibility to manage how her work would be handled while she used her approved time off. Perhaps OP is in a similar boat and doesn’t have any trust in her management to care about her workload BUT it still isn’t her business to decide if the coworker has a good enough reason to use her time off.

          4. Annonymouse*


            If OPs letter had read more “I have to do 2 jobs at least once/twice a year while my coworker is on unnecessary leave.”

            It would make more sense and we’d direct them to talk with the bosses about how to best handle everything.

            But it really seems OP has an issue with WHAT Jane is using her time off for.

            She wants Jane to take it as PTO and/or not use any unpaid time at all. Because her surgery was elective.

            She even notes that Jane doesn’t come in until she is fully recovered instead of over the worst and functional but would have to answer questions about swelling and bruising.

            That’s what really stands out to me. She isn’t trying to make sure she gets her work done or her team isn’t put under undue hardship in Janes absence but wants to “tattle” that Jane used time inappropriately.

    2. moose tracks*

      Right?! I keep rereading it trying to understand why this is such an outrageous offense. Co-worker is not obligated to give the details of her medical leave to HR. Also, for all we know, she could be suffering from body dysmorphia and is using these procedures to become happier with her appearance.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, regardless of what’s going on with the coworker, I agree with Mike C. from further downthread—it’s bad policy for coworkers to start trying to judge/determine whether someone’s medical procedures were “necessary.”

        I honestly can’t figure out why OP is so upset, because the complaint focuses on misuse of unpaid time off (?!) and not on the impact of the coworker’s absence on the rest of the team. Which leads me to believe that that’s because there is no adverse impact on the rest of the team.

        OP#2, this level of anger/revenge is not good for you in the long-term. It might be worth thinking a little harder about why this is bugging you. Is your coworker your BEC? Is there something else at play? Because based on what you’ve described, your reaction doesn’t seem congruent.

        1. Casuan*

          Yup, this.

          OP2, I catégorise this in “Special Vacations.”
          Please don’t judge the surgeries. Although cosmetic surgeries are elective, there can still be an underlying genuine medical issue that’s resolved by the elective surgery. One might not want to make that public, even to friends & especially on social media.

          genuine query, not meant as a challenge:
          What do you expect to happen if you were to tell management? How would you expect them to react?

          And this is presumptuous of me, so I’m sorry if I’m off-base… If you routinely look at colleagues’ social media accounts just because… please stop that. It causes toxicity even if you don’t realise it.

          1. Midge*

            Yes to the last part. At Old Job I decided I didn’t want to connect with current colleagues over social media after accepting a Facebook friend request from someone in my department, and then getting annoyed at all of her posts about yoga. (Yoga is fine; she was annoying and smug about her practice of it.) There was just no reason for me to know all of this additional information about her personal life. Even now that I’ve left Old Job, I still haven’t accepted some of the friend requests because they were just colleagues, not friends, and I don’t need to know the minutiae of their daily lives.

          2. AP*

            I am wondering the same thing, Casuan! What is OP’s desired (vs. expected?) outcome?
            “genuine query, not meant as a challenge:
            What do you expect to happen if you were to tell management? How would you expect them to react?”

          3. Elle the Bell*

            Exactly Casuan. My sibling was born with a cleft palate and had some “elective” plastic surgery to reconstruct part of her face once she was an adult and stopped growing.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yep. I was born with Crouzon syndrome and have had a number of “elective” plastic surgeries. Were they technically necessary? No. Have they drastically improved my quality of life? Yes. Have I thought about doing more? You bet. But to look at me now you would have no idea.

              You never know what’s going on with people, OP.

          4. BTownGirl*

            +10000000! Mr. BTownGirl is a plastic surgeon and you are absolutely right that in many cases there is a genuine medical reason behind an elective procedure. So many of his patients struggle with worrying that they’ll be judged by their coworkers and bosses when they go back to work and it’s really nice to see so many people who say it’s no one’s business! :)

        2. seejay*

          this also belongs in the category of “for heaven’s sake, don’t police your coworker’s social media for dirty little things to throw against them!!” That is such a horrible awful thing to do, unless they’re actually doing something horrible and awful with it in the first place, something that warrants actual manager/HR intervention and potential firing. What they’re using their PTO and sick leave for doesn’t cover it, unless it’s detrimentally affecting your job and the work environment.

          I had a crappy coworker that went and told my manager I was baking when I was home from work with a migraine. How’d I know? Because he IM’d me to ask me if I was bringing brownies in for them when I came in the next day. Fortunately he wasn’t being a butthead about it, but that coworker was immediately removed off my FB list after that. Reporting my activities to my manager when I’m at home gets you kicked toot sweet.

          1. Charisma*

            This is the #1 reason why I have a NO coworkers on Social Media policy. I don’t care how buddy buddy we are. And if we were friends before we worked together, then you are going to be muted/filtered until we don’t work together anymore. I have lots of former coworkers friended on my social media, but absolutely NO current ones can see my social media pages (the only exception being Linkedin).

          2. Anon Accountant*

            Can I ask did your manager tell him to mind his own business? Because I sure hope he did. How you spend your time when you are recovering from a migraine is your business only. Ugh

            1. seejay*

              Sadly my manager did not tell coworker to mind their business since manager wanted me to bring brownies into work the next day (I’m well-known for my baking skills apparently). >> Fortunately the comments were meant in fun, although I think the coworker *did* intend to get me in trouble, at least in passing, but I took the whole thing as a reminder that unless I absolutely trusted a coworker, they weren’t to be allowed into my inner circle on social media.

          3. #WearAllTheHats*

            You know, because eating while you are sick is a bad thing. Just like the argument that all poor people should “look poor” and “not have things,” the argument that if you are home sick but need to go to the drugstore or get groceries to eat, you’re faking. Gah! I have to get off of this post, I have no time for yahoos like this. This is the real world and life is GRAY, not black and white.

            To that note, I unfriended all but my actual work friends, whom I would be friends with otherwise, except for LinkedIn. I also went so far as to change usernames I had for years and years because they had my last name in them and I didn’t want to be searchable by cell # or last name… #NeedToKnowBasis.

            1. Snazzy Hat*

              I have a friend I met at work (id est, upgraded from work friend to actual friend) who had to send me a pouty message on Facebook because she couldn’t send me a friend request. I explained I use the setting of “friends of my friends may ask to be my friends”, and since we had no acquaintances in common, we had to use the workaround of her alerting me to her presence on FB and me sending a friend request to her.

            2. seejay*

              Before my CurrentJob, I did keep a very solid line of no coworkers on social media until I’d left the job I was at. CurrentJob though, is so far the only job where I’ve actually formed close friendships and I’ve friended some of my close coworkers on FB. Difference is though, I’ve actually formed friendships with people that I’ve grown to trust and they’ve repaid that trust. The coworker that tattled to my manager though, I’d slipped up and let that one in when I shouldn’t have (since that person was at CurrentJob). Lesson learned, at least before big damage happened.

              But yes, a good rule of thumb is to keep current coworkers out of social media until you leave.

        3. Stellaaaaa*

          I thiiiiiiiink the issue is that the company might reject a lot of these requests for additional unpaid time off. If the coworker got her leave approved by lying about the reason, that’s sort of not okay. I’m not sure this is one of those situations where it’s a management/ownership problem since this leave is in addition to regular PTO, but it could be setting up a precedent for undermining the system. Now people know they can just lie and get their leave approved.

          1. lb*

            The letter writer has no way of knowing if her coworker actually lied to HR, though. She assumes there’s been a lie but since she is not HR or senior to her coworker she has no way of knowing. The letter writer disapproves, therefore she thinks management must have to disapprove as well. But the leave was okayed, and it’s 0% her business.

            1. Elle*

              Seriously, as an HR manager, if someone came to me with this “complaint” they’d be getting a very strong side-eye from me for a long time to come! I’m glad the OP came to Alison first for advice vs. going to HR and making a bad situation for herself.

          2. Gen*

            They weren’t necessarily privy to the conversation with HR/management and they might not know if the coworker was lying on Facebook. I know folks who’ve had ‘cosmetic’ surgery for both severe body dysmorphia and skin cancer and phrased it to acquaintances as frivolous because their personal pain is not their casual social circles business. There could be a world of things going on. Even if it was entirely unnecessary surgery I’ve seen the sort of mess this kind of Facebook policing makes at work and it’s really not worth it in terms of morale. You’ll split the office into people who outraged about the leave and people who are outraged at YOUR snooping. Don’t go down this road.

          3. Lablizard*

            If the co-worker was approved for leave after an elective surgery, it isn’t a lie. Any non-emergency surgery is elective. The LW is assuming that the co-worker lied, but odds are they asked for time to recover from an elective procedure. HR doesn’t need or want to know what procedure

            1. anon for now*

              Getting my tubes tied was technically “elective”. However, given major issues that would occur if I got pregnant again, it’s also “medically necessary.” Just because you can schedule it in advance doesn’t mean it’s frivolous. (Leaving aside any discussion of items termed “cosmetic”.)

        4. Tuesday*

          I’m so glad the urban dictionary result for BEC was the first thing that came up when I searched it so I didn’t have to dig. Also, I see that neverjaunty spelled it out below for anyone else not hip to the lingo.

          I learn so much here.

          1. AP*

            OH MY GOD. I’ve never heard of BEC until this. omg. THIS. Where has this been my whole life?! This has literally just made my day! AAM is my absolute favorite website!

        5. Landshark*

          I agree, there could very well be a legitimate reason outside of just cosmetic concerns as well! I have a cousin who elected to have a nose job because large noses run in that side of the family and his was large enough that there was some sort of minor but persistent sinus issue it kept contributing to. It was still elective, and he could have chosen to leave it be because there was no long term harm, but it wasn’t pure vanity.

          OP2, you don’t know her reasoning (and even if she is just vain or whatever the situation may be, it’s not your business), so don’t worry about it, especially since it’s unpaid time.

        6. Kathleen Adams*

          The thing is, once you start being judgy, it’s very difficult to know where to stop. These procedures sound like cosmetic surgery to me, but…so what? Last year, I took several half- and quarter-days off to get four new crowns on my teeth. One of these was necessary (I was getting a 40+-year-old crown replaced), but the others were definitely cosmetic because they were done simply to make all four teeth match. Was this cosmetic surgery? Eh, sort of. But again, so what?

          OP, I realize that you’re telling yourself that you’re concerned for the sake of the company, but be honest: The thing you’re really concerned about is that you don’t approve how this co-worker is using her unpaid leave. And that’s not your call, and it’s not your business. Let it go, and you’ll be a happier person.

      2. neverjaunty*

        It sounds like the OP is at bitch eating crackers stage with this co-worker?

      3. General Ginger*

        and even if she isn’t, how’s elective surgery really so different from elective vacation?

    3. Jackie Christie*

      Also people like that can never make a mistake or softly skirt the rules themselves because they will have built up so much bad will with plenty of people in the lurch waiting for them to mess up.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is really a great point. You don’t want to foster an environment where everyone is keeping tabs on everyone else.

        1. AP*

          Yes! I once discovered a co-worker tracking my BATHROOM BREAKS. That was definitely the end of the niceties in that working relationship!

          1. Anon Accountant*

            My old coworker did that too! And actually approached our boss about it. I overheard her tattling about my bathroom breaks and it was awkward. He was literally speechless.

            1. paul*

              this would be so unprofessional but I might be tempted to go into TMI detail.

              “Oh hey Bob! You may have noticed I was in there for 15 or so minutes, just damn, let me tell you, carne asada does NOT go with my antibiotics! Oooh boy! Took me 10 of them just to clean up!”

          2. FDCA In Canada*

            I once had a coworker count my number of sneezes and report them to the boss. In an old, dusty, dirty office during allergy season. It was beyond weird.

            1. Mike C.*

              Did this person believe you were committing time theft by sneezing on the job or something?

                1. Lissa*

                  I got to 33 sneezes in an hour from a combination of hayfever and mild cat allergy…i felt like I was being annoying but it was super annoying to be me! I also hate sneezing fits when people feel the need to comment on them regularly. YES I KNOW! arrrgh.

                2. Lison*

                  I once counted how many times a person at the desk next to mine sang out loud one line of a song in 10 minutes (he had been doing it the previous day and that day) just to be able to say “do you realise you sang that line 23 times in the last 10 minutes it’s very distracting can you please stop?” But anything more than that I would never countenance. It was the line “I’m just a teenage dirtbag baby” in case anyone wants to judge how truly annoying/distracting it was. I’d never count involuntary noises like coughs or sneezes. (I’d worked with the guy for a year before this without anything similar so it wasn’t an involuntary tick)

            2. NW Mossy*

              I’m a serial sneezer – 5+ in a row is not uncommon for me at all, and I think my record is north of 15. I get some gentle ribbing about it (mostly people waiting a few beats before saying “Bless you”), but have yet to come across someone who’d take time from their schedule to enumerate them for me.

            3. shep*

              What??? That’s bizarre!

              I had a [well-meaning] coworker try to give me medical counsel when I had asthmatic bronchitis, suggesting everything from chiropractic therapy to a pneumonia shot. (I kept trying to remind her that this was NOT my first time at the rodeo and I’d taken HUGE measures to control my bronchitis over the past decade.)

              She literally went to my mother to see if she could convince me to get a pneumonia shot. My mom works in the same mid-sized office, although we hardly ever see each other. My mom also held off telling me this until a few months later, because she knew I would be annoyed as all get-out. She was right.

              I know this coworker means well but the NERVE.

            4. Us, Too*

              One day I was chatting with a colleague at her desk and, in mid sentence, she said “oops, one second, I just heard Bob sneeze” as she turned and made a mark on her white board. I was obviously puzzled so she laughed and explained that she and a few other colleagues have horrible seasonal allergies and played “Sneeze Baseball” during the workday. They had a set of scoring rules in place such that at the end of the day someone “won” based on number or frequency of sneezes or something. They even had “innings” set up by hour or something. Anyway, whenever someone sneezed, each “player” marked it under that person’s area on their whiteboard. Then at the end of the day they met and agreed upon a score for each player and determined the winner. I don’t remember the rules, but thought it was pretty funny. (And it wasn’t a prank – these folks all played it willingly).

            5. MsSolo*

              My mum used to get detention at school for sneezing. They thought she was doing it on purpose. She does sneeze unusually – up to 25 tiny sneezes at a time! Funnily enough, no amount of detention ever changed this.

            6. General Ginger*

              We used to have a bathroom use monitor. Unofficial, of course. It was as infuriating as it sounds.

      2. Matilda*

        This. I have a coworker who will use department meetings as a place to bring up minor coworker complaints (not being on top of refilling supplies for our shared areas or missing a section when filling out a form), essentially “telling on” people to our manager. Mind you she never actually brings these up to coworkers before the meeting (“Hey, I noticed you missed this section on the form. Can you make sure to fill it out so the rest of us have all the information?). This has made it so that every time she makes a mistake (that would generally be overlooked otherwise) coworkers pounce on it.

    4. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of a coworker deciding which surgeries are “needed” and which ones are not. You don’t get to make that call, even if you think it’s “just cosmetic”. I grew up with folks who needed regular Botox injections so they retained the ability to speak. Yes, people presumed that it was nothing more than vanity, and it was pretty gross.

      OP, don’t be that person. Just leave it be.

      1. Lilo*

        Yes. I have had two friends who have surgery that was technically considered elective or cosmetic but in reality resolved a huge amount of pain. One was a great reduction a friend got in college, the other was a tummy tuck a friend got after having a kid to fix some muscle damage in her abdomen. Both technically elective but both had trouble standing up straight before the procedure. Even if this isn’t the case LW needs to back off, but a lot of th ese kinds of things “cosmetic” or “elective” can be misleading.

      2. Mookie*

        I agree, but it doesn’t even matter if it was unadulterated vanity that inspired these procedures. LW is not a moral police officer; her own particular values and sensibilities don’t belong anywhere near this co-worker. Tattling as a form of revenge or punishment, because this woman living her life displeased her, would only hurt her own standing and make her appear ignorant of normal professional and ethical boundaries.

        I put it to you, LW, that your other colleagues might well have noticed a change in this co-worker’s appearance; please don’t think for one minute that most people, if they knew, would experience a similar sense of outrage as you describe. It’s just that they don’t need to “out” her because they don’t think what she did is shameful or aberrant or in need of scrutiny. Please leave this woman in peace and don’t interfere with her using her hard-won benefits as she pleases.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, totally. I understand why people have the urge to say “but maybe it’s actually for something you don’t understand!” but even if the coworker knows for sure it’s 100% cosmetic…. so? considering people can use this time for vacations etc., who cares?

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Thank you. My breast reduction was technically elective, but it was deemed medically necessary because of my back pain. Was it something I could have lived without? Sure, but having it improved my quality of life.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          For my spouse to go through bariatric surgery and then excess skin removal would be elective surgeries, but both would have a big impact on his quality of life. Policing what others do with their bodies never ends well.

      4. Hush42*

        Yep- one of my good friends just had and elective surgery that from the perspective of someone like OP would look like purely cosmetic surgery. However she had it because she’s been suffering from lower back pain for years and this surgery will help fix that.

      5. shep*

        All of this. And as someone who’s also had elective surgeries, I’m a firm believer that even if they are done purely for aesthetic reasons, it’s still no one’s business. I’ve had two elective surgeries, neither of which were medically necessary or suggested by a doctor.

        Still. No one’s business. My work bases were covered, my leave was approved (and I only used what I’d accrued with PLENTY of leave to spare). I was sick unexpectedly a few weeks later and that put far more of a strain on my team than my planned leave.

        I also didn’t advertise my surgeries on social media. I don’t like social media in general, but I can understand if this person wanted to keep her friends and/or family updated with her progress through those channels.

      6. Stellaaaaa*

        Well if I’d had a leave request rejected for something I felt was important and I was sure that the coworker lied and got hers approved, I might bring that up with management. Sure, it’s no one ‘s place to judge these things, but management apparently makes those judgments all the time.

        1. tigerlily*

          If that was an issue, I would think OP would have raised it in her question to Alison.

      7. JustaTech*

        I have a friend who had eyelid surgery very young because she was having trouble seeing. It also improved her appearance, but that doesn’t negate the reason for having surgery.

        And sure, in some offices your coworker might tell everyone she’s having her tubes tied, but probably in most normal places nothing would be said at all.

        OP, if you’ve got this much time on your hands to worry about other people, may I suggest writing fan-fic?

      8. meat lord*

        Yep, yep, yep. (I hope to be able to get some gender-related medical stuff done someday and I sure don’t want my coworkers weighing in on whether I “should.”) (Also, I am all for folks modding their bodies however the heck they like, so frankly, I don’t care how “cosmetic” a procedure is.)

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      It’s unpaid leave. So it’s not like the company is even paying for it.

      OP, you really need to let this go.

    6. Sami*

      The OP sounds like one of the Dark Knight workplace vigilantes Alison posted about last week.

    7. Mom*

      It sounds like this unpaid leave system is pretty unfair to begin with, though. Seriously, requiring admin to decide whether something counts as a special enough vacation or a true family emergency? And labeling *parental leave* as not important enough for someone to get time off? Childbirth, especially if it’s via C-section, is certainly very medically involved.

      “This time can only be used for things like a special vacation (i.e., someone is planning a destination wedding or honeymoon) a family emergency (not parental leave) or medical reasons (your doctor says you need a week of sick time after surgery but you want to take two weeks).”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think that’s what the policy says.

        It sounds like the company offers paid leave, but if you want to take leave beyond the period that is paid, then you can take unpaid leave under the conditions the OP describes. And based on OP’s description, it suggests that there’s paid leave, as well (including for medical care, parental leave, vacation, etc.) and PTO. There are valid reasons for not wanting to let people take unpaid parental leave. For example, because you want to pay them. Or because you let them max out their FMLA time but don’t want them going absent and unpaid for more than 12 weeks.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It doesn’t say there’s FMLA leave or parental leave. But it also doesn’t say that there’s a blanket ban on all parental leave.

          My point is that we’ve been told that paid leave and PTO exist, and then we’ve been given examples of how the company allows employees to use unpaid leave in addition to their paid leave. Given that OP’s question isn’t really about whether their leave policy is good/bad, and given that we don’t have enough information about the full scope of leave to draw conclusions, I don’t think it makes sense to speculate that they’ve “banned” parental leave.

    8. HannahS*

      To be honest, I don’t even see how it’s an infarction at all. The woman had surgery. She’s taking time off to recover from surgery. Even though she herself said she got it for cosmetic purposes, it’s still a medical procedure. What was she supposed to do? Come in to work so swollen she couldn’t see and hopped up on pain killers? I guess you could insist that it be vacation time instead medical leave, but that’s even less accurate and would cost the company more money for PTO! Anyway, the whole POINT of the bank sounds like discretionary medical use; it’s for a person to do things that are comfortable (like the example of an extra week of recovery) but not doctor-recommended…which is what she’s doing.

      If this is really about your feelings on cosmetic surgery…you have to let it go. Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that you’ll often work with people who make choices you feel are wrong. It might be about their relationships with their bodies, or partners, or children, or religion, or, or, or! It’s not a good use of emotional time and energy to be upset about. You don’t have to compliment her. You don’t have to join in other people speculating about her “new look.” If asked, “You always look put-together, Jane” and “I don’t like to talk about people’s looks” are phrases you can repeat again and again.

      1. Charisma*

        Seriously, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Almost any surgery is going to have some level of recovery that you’ll want to take a break from work. This whole question feels more like a moral judgment about cosmetic surgery. I wish I could contact “Jane” and warn her to lock down the FB page to keep busy bodies out of her business.

      2. Alton*

        Agreed. If someone needs time off to recover from a medical procedure, that’s a valid use of leave. It doesn’t matter what it is or why they had it done.

        Whether a procedure is “necessary” is between a person and their doctor. I’m planning to have a breast reduction or mastectomy related to gender transition, hopefully within the next couple years, and honestly, one of my biggest reservations is being judged for taking a couple weeks off work if people know what the surgery is for and deem it too cosmetic. But I don’t think going to work with surgical drains in my body and when I can barely bathe due to limited upper-body mobility would be a good idea.

      3. K.*

        A former coworker had a tummy tuck purely for cosmetic reasons (I think I’ve mentioned her here) and afterward she said that she was delighted with the results but that the recovery was harder than expected. She was out for three weeks and said she needed it all AND that she was glad her MIL came to help with the kids during that time. Surgery requires recovery no matter what the reason for it.

      4. Allison*


        Because elective cosmetic surgery is expensive, and rarely covered by health insurance (people often have to fight for breast reduction to be covered), it’s easy to see it as a luxury reserved for the rich, and think “Oh! Well la-dee-DAH!” when someone gets it. But while it may be a luxury, it’s not like going to a spa, or hanging out at the beach, it’s surgery, and it still involves a painful recovery process.

        OP, your coworker has probably wanted to do this for some time. Most people who get cosmetic surgery think long and hard, because it is so expensive, and there are still risks involved, and because as I said earlier, it still causes pain afterwards. She’s probably been saving for a while as well, so when she could finally do it, she didn’t want to put it off until she had enough PTO, she wanted to do it now!

        And hey, maybe she’s gotten two cosmetic procedures because she suffers from horrible self esteem, or her personal life has driven her to want to make drastic changes to look better. You could dismiss her as being vain, or you can tell yourself you don’t know enough to judge her, and her face is none of your business.

        1. shep*

          All of this. And as someone who’s also had elective surgeries, I’m a firm believer that even if they are done purely for aesthetic reasons, it’s still no one’s business. I’ve had two elective surgeries, neither of which were medically necessary or suggested by a doctor.

          Still. No one’s business. My work bases were covered, my leave was approved (and I only used what I’d accrued with PLENTY of leave to spare). I was sick unexpectedly a few weeks later and that put far more of a strain on my team than my planned leave.

          I also didn’t advertise my surgeries on social media. I don’t like social media in general, but I can understand if this person wanted to keep her friends and/or family updated with her progress through those channels.

          1. shep*

            UGH, I wrote an entirely separate comment in response to your comment, Allison, and it ended up duplicating an earlier comment. Should read as follows:

            Yes, all of this! My experience with cosmetic surgeries is exactly in line with your second paragraph. I am by no means wealthy, but managed to find some limited financial breathing room and a brief window where I thought, “Yes, I’m gonna go for it!” No regrets. Call me vain if you (the general “you”) like, but while I was content with myself before, I’m much happier now.

            If leave exists for people to use, I have no problem with people using their leave how they see fit. If they start abusing the system and taking leave from a leave pool, etc., that’s when it becomes a problem. But I accrued my leave fairly, covered my work duties, and left perhaps 3-5% to others to keep an eye on while I was gone. Not even take action! Just monitor.

      5. Kaybee*

        Thank you. I was hoping someone would make this point. I recently had fairly extensive surgery and I was unprepared for how painful recovery would be. OP, this may seem obvious, but surgery really, REALLY hurts. And there are a whole mess of side effects, depending on what was done, that most people don’t even think about. For example, if gas is used, like in a laparoscopy, what goes in must come out. And it’s unpleasant. Forcing your colleague to come into work in the immediate weeks following surgery would mean a whole lot of nonproductivity, except that the company would be paying for it.

      6. Karanda Baywood*

        Yep. OP, I’m filing this whole thing under “None of Your Damn Business.”

        You might want to look deeply into your motivations for writing this letter. You do no get to comment on your coworker’s personal choices and activities.

    9. Is It Performance Art*

      Yes, it’s really not your problem. Plus, there’s a good chance that her boss (or your other coworkers) may have noticed that she looked a little different after she came back from leave. It wouldn’t be that difficult to put two and two together. If her boss didn’t say anything, chances are it’s either fine or they really don’t want to go down that road.

    10. Zip Silver*

      It sounds like sour grapes or something along those lines. Otherwise, who gives a hoot if somebody pays to get their lips done and isn’t getting paid by work to do it?

    11. Sadsack*

      Agreed. I don’t understand what the co-worker really did wrong. Elective surgery or required, there was a recovery period. So the coworker chose to take that planned time unpaid and save PTO for the future. Why does this matter to OP? The co-worker isn’t stealing from the company or really getting away with anything at all here.

    12. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I think OP2 is most likely a strong rules follower. It took me a while to learn to channel Elsa and let it go. It sounds like the policy clearly states it’s for X,Y, and Z, but not Q and this (to the OP) falls under Q, so it just eats at her. I get that. I just hate seeing people “get away” with things. But believe me, the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself is to just not worry about this stuff. If it’s directly affecting you, then by all means bring up the work impact. But otherwise, I suggest unfollowing on social media so you don’t see it and then try not to think about it.

    13. JessaB*

      Plus how do you even know that they didn’t tell the office what the surgery was for? Or even if they did not, specifically plan it so that it didn’t impede operations like an unexpected thing would. I’m with all the “not your circus, absolutely not your monkeys,” people here.

      If the person applied for leave within company guidelines and it was granted, then that’s it. It was granted. Why OP do you think that a destination wedding is more okay to take this leave for than elective surgery?

    14. JM60*

      For all we know, the cosmetic surgeries may be life-changing surgeries that improve the person’s mental health. If someone is willing to have surgery for something, pay for it or if their own pocket, and forgo getting income during the process, it’s probably a really big deal to them.

  5. Greg M.*

    on pranks in general I really hate it when the prank doesn’t land but the pranker sticks to it so hard refusing to drop it until it borders on gaslighting. Then if you double check or something to shut them up it’s “geez you’re so gullible”

    1. Nerdy Canuck*

      I actually had a situation at work I was half certain was that for most of the day.

      And then it wasn’t.

      Shockingly, if you spend a bunch of time confusing people about when to take you seriously, they won’t when you want them to.

  6. Mike C.*

    As someone who really cares about my own car, I’m having a really difficult time understanding the harm caused by the prank. This isn’t even a case of sibling-style “not touching” where the siblings are invading personal space, but instead in areas where people are expected to be.

    I mean seriously, there are so many (non-damaging) pranks I’ve seen happen to cars that this almost doesn’t even qualify as a prank in my book.

    Apologize because you’ve upset your coworker like Alison says but this is really, really over the top.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      The last time I worked a warehouse job, one of the guys got a new car and his sister/boss led the charge in covering the car in industrial plastic wrap. It was hilarious.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Agreed it’s over the top, but it actually *is* pretty close to the “not touching” thing.

      She parks out that far, and apparently has never had issues with anyone parking next to her *until* the coworkers did it deliberately.

      So I’m imagining a parking lot like the one I used one building ago – where over half the lot is *completely empty* all day long because it’s too large for that building/access space*. Park out in the hinterlands** and no one will be next to you except by deliberate attempt – those parking spaces _are not useful_ for anything and you can get a lot closer and still have empty spaces around you.

      * Which makes sense, because originally they were planning to build a second building, and then didn’t, as I understand it.

      ** EXCEPT under the shade trees in warm or hot weather, but that’s only about ten spaces. Those are popular.

    3. lfi*

      when i worked at a summer camp i had a kid play a prank on my car – he slid over the top of the hood. and scratched it (10 years later it’s still scratched). that is something to be mad about. but someone parking near me? nah.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I can’t tell if they all pulled around her at the same time or just one by one. But I think the line with pranks or jokes is that they need to be genuinely harmless. Which means they shouldn’t touch on anything that’s a known source of either fear or stress for the person, they should be as funny for them as for you, and they shouldn’t humiliate the person.

    For example, at a magazine I worked for, there was a DVD that nobody wanted to take home. This became a running joke: we kept finding ridiculous places to hide it and doing things like changing each other’s desktop wallpaper to the show on the DVD. That was funny. Whereas if a colleague was really scared of spiders, it wouldn’t be acceptable or funny to change their wallpaper to a spider. Know your audience. Pick something that is okay.

    Jane is known for getting stressed and worried about her car, for reasons unknown, so she got stressed and worried and didn’t find this funny, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone involved, and which is why I disagree that it’s pretty funny – if someone worries a lot about something, it’s not cool to pick that thing. It sounds like she went into fight or flight mode, which we can all do.

    There’s a reason why you need to be a trained practitioner to do exposure and response therapy for people with phobias or OCD. Some people may blame Jane for being uptight – but she should be able to trust people with the information that she worries about something, as this isn’t kindergarten and that should mean it’s off the table, not the perfect topic for a joke.

    I’m sure people will be along to tell me I need to lighten up.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      NB I am NOT diagnosing Jane with anything.’

      Just noting that exposing someone to a known source of fear or stress will flood the with adrenaline and cortisol, sending them into fight or flight mode, which is what happens in exposure and response therapy.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But that’s assuming it’s a source of fear or stress, which is a pretty extreme spin to put on “Jane doesn’t like people parking near her car.” It’s possible, but it wouldn’t be the first place my mind would go, and I think it’s understandable that it wasn’t the coworkers’ first assumption too.

        (And let me head this off before it goes further — please no speculation that Jane has an actual phobia, as there’s no reason to assume that. Like I wrote below, people have lots of things that they’re uptight about without phobias being involved. It’s really, really common and normal.)

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Gosh I didn’t mean to make it sound like I thought she had a phobia. Sorry if it did sound that way. Just meant that she’s uptight about it, so it’s unlikely she would find the prank funny.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Phobia or not, when somebody says “I’m easily upset about X” and a prank is aimed at the fact that X is upsetting to you, that’s much less a funny prank than a dick move.

          That said, I wonder if Jane’s overreaction is less about her car and more than she really doesn’t like the shoe being on the other foot.

          1. Commander in Chef's Whites*

            Yeah, I think that’s where I end up on this one. It’s a different, meaner type of prank and that can explain her reaction. She was deliberately targeted because of something they knew was a big deal to her. It wasn’t just a normal office-based prank that could be aimed at anyone, it picked on an specific insecurity of hers and that’s not the same.

            1. Amy the Rev*

              Insecurity or idiosyncrasy?

              In other words, is she insecure about the fact that she’s comically over-protective about her car and flipped out because she was embarrassed? Or is she just comically over-protective about her car and flipped out because her over-protectiveness was kicking in?

              1. neverjaunty*

                “Comically” is really putting your thumb on the scales by implying that it’s ok to target a co-worker’s sore spot for a prank as long as others think that sore spot is ridiculous. That’s… not a good road to go down.

                Regardless, this is a situation that warrants an apology, not extended fury on Jane’s part.

            2. JS*

              But she also pulls pranks too so we can’t assume she hasn’t done the same of “targeting something that is a peeve or big deal to someone else”. If someone keeps their desks immaculately clean and hates clutter than having papers all over their desk like in the example given could have been a trigger for them.

              This more or less just sounds like Jane doesn’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot. Especially since her fear is her car getting scuffed or damaged. It’s not like they put dirt or mud or her car or made it look like it was damaged in some way. The person who Jane put papers all around their desk, because lets be honest Jane likely didn’t clean it up herself, was more inconvenienced than Jane who wasn’t impeded in getting in her car in anyway .

          2. fposte*

            I wondered about that shoe on the other foot thing myself.

            Unless the parking was more aggressive than it sounds in the OP, I still can’t read this as a dick move. She’s worried about bad things happening to her car. Parking next to her isn’t the bad thing; it’s the *potential* for a bad thing. It’s like putting a stapler next to a beloved balloon, but she’s reacting as if somebody actually stapled the balloon.

          3. Kate*

            Yeah, but we don’t know that Jane ever said “cars parking by mine is upsetting to me”. We don’t even know that she said “I prefer cars not park next to me”. All we know is that she acts parks really far away from other cars. Some people I know who do that do it for exercise, some do it because they don’t want to have to deal with parking and pulling out with other cars around. And some people I know are doing it to protect their cars, but wouldn’t care if you did park next to it.

      2. Yorick*

        Honestly, I think you ARE diagnosing Jane with something by assuming some mental health issue is the reason for her behavior, even though you didn’t assign a specific disorder.

        And I just really wish we could stop doing that on this site.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I wasn’t doing that, just drawing a comparison – you’ve misread me.

    2. Jessica*

      Ramona, that’s exactly what I was trying to get at, but you articulated it more clearly.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, if Jane had an actual phobia about things touching her car, then yes, this would be cruel. But there’s nothing to indicate that that’s the case, and it’s far more common for stuff that people are uptight about not to be actual phobias. I have lots of things that I’m uptight about, but I know that I am and I can laugh at myself. It’s not unreasonable for them to have figured Jane would be able to laugh at herself too.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Never said it was a phobia.

        Just that it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that she took this badly.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Actually this is, I think, the crux of the issue. Some people think that being upright about thing means it’s prime fodder for pranking. Some think it means it’s off the table. Neither is inherently right or wrong – but the problem comes when people don’t agree on this, and a situation like this one occurs. One person’s “she should lighten up” is another’s “well are you really surprised she hasn’t”.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Her reaction is surprising, and it’s not OP or the coworkers’ fault that they didn’t see it coming. It’s not surprising that she didn’t find the prank funny on the day it happened. It’s surprising that she’s still nursing a grudge, almost a week after the prank.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Is it surprising though really? Over the top, for sure, but kind of one you could see coming.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The surprising part is the length of the grudge. The immediate reaction is unsurprising—I think anyone who pulls a prank should know it could go sideways. But to be angry and passive-aggressive almost a week later? That’s not foreseeable given the benign nature of the prank.

            2. AD*

              Considering she is an avid prankster, from what OP says, yes it is surprising that she is being such a poor sport about this.

              1. Blue eagle*

                And isn’t that the whole point of a prank. Doing something that you know someone will be a bit upset about, but doesn’t actually hurt them (or in this case, the car). So if she is pranking co-workers, then it is disingenuous to actively act childish toward your co-workers if they prank you back.

                1. Turquoise Cow*

                  Yeah, agreed. “Might upset someone by playing on their quirks/idiosyncrasies/insecurities” is kind of the point of a prank. The goal is to point out the target’s quirks in a humorous way.

                  It’s VERY easy to get it wrong by pushing the wrong buttons or pranking the wrong person (which is why I dislike them), but the point is to push those buttons. If Jane hadn’t pushed other people’s buttons, often and frequently, her coworkers might have thought her car was off limits. In retrospect she certainly doesn’t seem like the right person for the target, but given that she liked to prank others, it was reasonable to think she’d be okay with others pranking her.

                  I think someone else said it best: “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.” I’m sure some of Jane’s targets were as unhappy as she is – she’d have to think it would come back to her at some point. Don’t people often vow revenge (with another prank) after being pranked?

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            I don’t mean the grudge is predictable – rather, that it landed like a lead balloon. I’ll shut up now!

            1. just a thought*

              I know you’re joking but personally I find it really frustrating when an hour after a post has gone up someone has already made 17 comments on it, especially when Alison has talked recently about wanting to find ways to stop the over-commenting trend on posts. I like your comments a lot but I’ve noticed an increasing trend lately of single commenters being really damn loud on individual posts.

                1. Myrin*

                  I don’t see anything wow-worthy about this comment. Alison herself has said in the past that she finds it frustrating to read when someone replies to every comment that disagrees with them only to make the same point again and again because it can seem overwhelming, inflates the number of comments, and often makes it seem like an actual outlier opinion is much more widely held than it actually is. Not saying that that’s what’s happening here specifically but in general, this has been a topic of discussion several times before.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Myron, Hasn’t she also asked people to rein in correcting/policing other commenters? If she finds someone’s commenting excessive or inappropriate, she’ll tell them.

                  (I appreciate the irony of this comment.)

    4. Mike C.*

      But it’s a parking lot, and presumably those spots are up for grabs by anyone who is allowed to park there. It’s not a normal expectation to be able to control where others park.

      Also, the idea of parking way out in the back (or worse, taking up multiple parking spots) is a really common practice among those who are fastidious about their cars. So much so, that I’m really wary about mentioning OCD. If you’re curious, many auto blogs (say, Jalopnik) regularly run pictures of people parking expensive cars in unusual ways to avoid other vehicles.

      1. Matt*

        This prank reminds me of the BBT episode where Sheldon and Penny had their little private war and among other pranke, Penny loaded all the washing machines in the laundry room on Sheldon’s washing day and told him: “Of course you can do your laundry tomorrow, but in your heart you will KNOW that Saturday is your washing day!”

      2. Discordia Angel Jones*


        It actually makes me wonder, what would happen if the office car park was particularly busy for whatever reason one day? What if the car park was full and people had to park around this person’s car?

        Would she get upset for a week about it?

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Also, what about new staff members, or visitors? They wouldn’t necessarily be aware of this and would park next to Jane without even thinking about it.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It’s possible she wouldn’t, because that would be natural, instead of people deliberately choosing spaces near her over available spaces not near her.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think you’re reading a lot into the letter that we simply don’t know about. Jane isn’t known for being “stressed and worried” about her car—she’s known for parking her car away from other cars to avoid dings. Many people with nice cars do that without going off the rails in anger when someone jokingly parks next to them in a parking lot where, y’know, people park cars.

      Jane is now reacting very badly, which suggests that OP should apologize and/or try to get Jane to identify why she flipped out. If indeed she was sent into fight or flight mode, then it’s worth talking it out so that folks are aware and don’t do something that could be construed as cruel. But it’s also not common or normal to be in “fight or flight” mode several days after a very benign prank, and I don’t think we should blame OP for not being able to anticipate that Jane’s emotional response is an outlier.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I read it as her being really uptight. That can just mean fussy or it can mean worried.

        1. TL -*

          I’m with Alison on this one. I’m also really uptight about several things and my friends have definitely poked fun at me for it, because I poke fun at them all the time.
          The one time they went over the line, I just told them I really don’t like being locked in anywhere, even for a 2 minute prank, and please don’t do it again. They didn’t know, and they didn’t do it again. And then I let it go.
          Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it – nobody should be pulling pranks on Angela (from the Office) but Jim shouldn’t be whining if someone pulls a prank on him.

    6. Blossom*

      I completely agree, Ramona. x 1000.

      This prank clearly rattled her, it obviously touched on some quite raw feelings. Even just the feeling of everyone getting together to “jokingly” cross your stated boundaries. If nobody has even acknowledged that since, or apologise, I’m not surprised she’s still upset. She must feel she’s been made a fool of, been visibly upset, and nobody cares – like she’s more valuable as the butt of a prank than as a colleague or friend.

      It doesn’t really matter if other people would find it funny – they obviously don’t have whatever emotional baggage Jane has around her car, or parking, or the feeling of being hemmed in.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Bear in mind that Jane herself is known to be a prankster. I’d believe that she might feel “messing with her car is a bridge too far” for her own reasons, but if she just feels attacked and foolish over a harmless prank, that feels more like “dish it out but can’t take it” territory.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          And that’s something for which I have very little sympathy. I used to work in an office where we did some low-level pranking–I once covered a colleague’s desk in aluminum foil, someone else hid a picture of Nicholas Cage in my desk, that sort of thing, but people who didn’t like pranks were not included in the pranking, nor did they engage in it themselves.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this touches on workplace friendships often being more about shared proximity than intimate familiarity. So the knowledge of what’s a safe teasing weakness and what’s a defensive ball weakness is spottier than it is in families or long-time non-work friendships.

    8. Jillociraptor*

      I think there’s a “yes, and” here. Jane is known for getting stressed about her car, and she is known for appreciating a good prank. There’s very likely something going on here below the surface for Jane that’s causing her reaction, and her colleagues weren’t wildly out of line for thinking this would be a harmless prank.

      Like so many of the trickiest workplace–and heck, life–issues, this is about the challenge of coexisting when we can’t slip seamlessly into someone else’s shoes. We all mess up sometimes on account of limited perspectives (and sometimes poor judgment, prejudice, and just plan old maliciousness, though I don’t think those are at play in this situation). In my opinion, it’s to our detriment to seek to tie most of these daily foibles to some Cosmic Narrative of Wrongdoing because it ups the ante well beyond what’s useful. In most daily human interactions, there are times when we need to eat crow, and times when we need to check in on our own reactions and their utility in the situation. Things work best when folks on both sides of the issue try to de-escalate, when possible.

      1. fposte*

        A standing O here (okay, I’m not actually standing, but I strongly approve). Mostly people don’t upset one another out of malice, and there’s no overall victory or loss to be had by any particular behavior in this situation–it’s just people dealing with one another after an upsetting misunderstanding.

  8. Jessica*

    Hmmm. On one hand (re letter #1), Jane pranks too! On the other hand, here’s a difference that might be THE difference for me. Admittedly we don’t know much about Jane’s own pranks, but they sound generic–like something that was supposed to be comical, but in a general way. The prank against Jane, while pretty innocuous in a way, was very targeted. It was aimed AT her, and using specific knowledge of her weaknesses. I agree it’s in general wacky and unreasonable to be obsessed about nobody parking near you, but Jane’s coworkers KNEW this was her wacky obsession. It’s like the difference between a rubber spider on a random coworker’s desk (arguably comic in a pranky way) and a rubber spider on the desk of coworker you know extra-specially hates/fears spiders (mean). It’s not just generic prank-pulling when you’re using your specific personal knowledge of someone to hit them where they’re weak.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Your last line makes the point I couldn’t quite get into articulate words. Exactly.

    2. paul*

      But this was also something that could happen for entirely non prank related reasons; people parking near you in a parking lot isn’t exactly unheard of. She’s reacting this badly to something that’s a fairly innocuous occurrence that could also happen for entirely impersonal reasons.

      They parked, in legal parking spaces, in the same general vicinity of her car. She doesn’t get to claim the whole damn row as hers.

      1. Dinosaur*

        This is my position on it. It’s not reasonable to expect/demand that other people not use a parking lot of it’s intended function.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Except we know it didn’t happen “for entirely impersonal reasons”; it was a deliberate prank to mess with Jane.

        1. paul*

          And she regularly pranks other people to mess with them.

          When an action is *this* benign and the other person regularly engages in pranks that have more actual consequences (having to clean up post it notes and paper for example) they don’t have a leg to stand on being mad at coworkers. They need to get over it enough to work with them, or they need to quit. Either/or.

          Hell, I’d argue that even if people kept parking near her the correct course of action would be for her to work on getting over it. It’s a damn parking lot, people park in them.

          1. MadGrad*

            This. If you react in a very atypically severe way to something that most people consider benign, and someone does not trigger this reaction knowing the nature or severity of your problem with it, there is a point at which it is your responsibility in the long run to manage those feelings on your own. You are always allowed to react to something badly in the moment, but after collecting yourself and reiterating with clarity how big a deal this is for you, you can’t keep blaming other people for unintentionally poking at your unusually raw spot. As we can see from just these comments, there are tons of people who have her habits who would not take this badly. Her continued grudge is uncalled for.

          2. neverjaunty*

            When you’re arguing that it’s OK for people to use a public space to mess with someone on the regular, you’re at the point where your argument is not a lot more nuanced than “haha Jane sucks”.
            Yes, she’s also participated in what appear to be really mild pranks with others, and yes, this was a pretty harmless prank – just a bit of a thoughtless one. Among grown-ups, the prankers would apologize and Jane would get over it.

            1. fposte*

              It seems like this is the pranker/non-pranker divide again, because all prankers think it’s okay to use public space to mess with people on the regular.

            2. paul*

              She’s participated in pranks; she’s been messing with people on the regular, and blew up over possibly the most harmless prank I’ve ever seen when it happened to her. People that dish it out but can’t take it don’t get sympathy from me.

              Also, she has no actual right not to expect people to park near her in the first place, which makes it even more egregious as far as I’m concerned. From the letter it sounds like they were parked legally within parking spaces; if that bothers her, tough.

            3. Sylvia*

              I don’t think that saying it’s not too bad for people to park in parking spaces one time as a prank, with a “target” who pulls pranks herself, is an argument that it’s okay to use the parking lot to harass someone regularly.

      3. Discordia Angel Jones*


        As I said above, people might park near her one day because the lot is full, etc etc

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        They parked, in legal parking spaces, in the same general vicinity of her car.

        I’d kind of like an update from OP1 as to whether it was somehow more elaborate than this? Like, she could pull out but through a more elaborate gauntlet than would occur via normal parking in designated spots?

    3. Shot on Sight*

      Yeah, this is just mean-spirited even if everyone involved is generally OK with prank-pulling. They went after something she is known to be anxious about. It’s targeted and mocking in a way that a “good” prank just isn’t. Sure she’s over-reacting, on the surface, but I suspect there’s probably a good reason why.

      The co-workers should apologise (for real, not the awful passive-aggressive non-apology some on this post are suggesting , which is just more meanness added to the pile) and stick to generic pranks that don’t target individual people’s weaknesses, if they insist on pranking people at all.

      1. MadGrad*

        I disagree on the mean-spirited interpretation. For most people, this is the type of thing that cause a moment of “aaaugh crap” levels of stress that they get over quickly on seeing that no harm occurred (and, of course, something that she can clearly handle happening regularly if she goes out anywhere without a very very empty parking lot). Even if she has a big unknown reason that makes it all make sense – say a witch kissed her lover and he turned into the car or she once lost a marriage proposal to king due to a dented car, for non-diagnosis examples – 99% of the population does not have that reason, and even most people with those habits do not feel nearly as strongly as she seems to. I think the most logical assumption would be that this is a particular PEEVE of hers, which we usually don’t have a problem with teasing, as opposed to a SEVERE CONCERN that it unexpectedly was. I don’t think it’s fair to assign malice to her coworkers in this instance.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Whether 99% of the population had this issue or not is irrelevant. If I know X really bugs my co-worker, and I pull a prank targeted about their feelings regarding X, that’s mean-spirited.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s only mean-spirited if you do it to be mean. If your co-worker has similarly pranked other people, there’s no reason to think it’s mean when done to her.

            1. BeautifulVoid*

              I agree. I get what people are saying when they’re differentiating between a general prank and a targeted prank, but I don’t think it was necessarily malicious of the coworkers to not spend time thinking about that distinction when they planned a prank on a known prankster. Some people can poke fun at their own quirks, some people can’t. Jane’s coworkers learned the hard way that she can’t, but again, unless the OP says otherwise, I don’t think there was anything mean-spirited behind it. (Note: my opinion/interpretation of the situation would be COMPLETELY different if Jane wasn’t known for pranking others, but as it stands, I’m falling on the “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” side of the line.)

          2. MadGrad*

            There is a difference between things that bug you and things that upset you. Again, most people who are like this are bugged by it, not upset, so it’s relevant to point out that even among car lovers she’s not reacting the way most would. Mildly irritating someone someone who does it to others as a joke is not generally considered to be awful.

      2. Spiny*

        I don’t think this is mean-spirited- I would expect her to have laughed. Isn’t that what a prank/ good natured humor does- poke a bit of fun at our peccadillos? She’s being very precious about an (admittedly very expensive) object that serves a function, and presumably her car is left in other parking areas without so many extra spaces when she goes out in the world, so the idea that she isn’t emotionally ready to have cars parked near her is silly.
        Look, apologize because she’s upset- I’m sure that wasn’t the intent at all. But her reaction is not one that they should have anticipated.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I agree with all of this.

          I am, to use OP’s exact verbiage, “particular” about some of my kitchen utensils – they are heirlooms, old and probably quite expensive to a collector, and I don’t want anyone but me touching them lest they be damaged in any way. Of course it’s absurd in a way – I could easily break them myself and since I also use them (as opposed to just having them stand around gathering dust) they could be damaged by any of the numerous actions I use on them; I still don’t want others to use them in any way. My family of course knows about this peeve and is respectful of it but once my sister pulled a prank on me that’s astoundingly similar to the OP – it involved one of the aforementioned cherished tools. She didn’t move or touch it in any way but put lots of knives around it, pointing at it, “threatening” it. It was a good-natured joke aimed at this weird sensibility of mine and I thought it was pretty hilarious (all hilarity has probably been lost in this un-dramatic retelling but believe me, it was funny).

          So just going from that, I would totally have expected Jane to laugh because that’s what I would have done. I understand that different people have different types of humour but I don’t think it’s unusual that the coworkers might’ve assumed Jane would have a good laugh about the situation.

    4. LCL*

      To me, it looks like Jane doesn’t being physically cornered and the car is just an excuse. I wouldn’t push her in this way ever again. OP doesn’t know what is in Jane’s background. But I bet Jane has good reason to want a clear line of sight to her car. Don’t ask her, if she had wanted you to know she would have told you. I’m sure it was awful, whatever it was.

      1. fposte*

        This seems like a big leap to me, though; plenty of people are precious about their cars without having a traumatic history.

        1. LCL*

          I agree, it is totally a big leap and speculation without any evidence. It’s also one of the reasons I try to park with empty space around my vehicle, if I can do so in a courteous way.

  9. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 When you get in touch, it can be good to let them know a little of what you’ve been up to as well – just a quick summary – for context. They may ask you to send over your resume but do wait until they ask!

    What not to do is to put down a random, generic mailbox that has nothing to do with either the person who you want the reference from or with HR or list someone as a reference without asking. Good luck!

    1. gladfe*

      Why wait until they ask for the resume? I’ve always attached it to my initial e-mail in case it’s helpful. Should I stop doing that?

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Well, at that point the person hasn’t agreed to be a reference, so personally I’d wait. Others may disagree, though.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait until the employer asks for references. You want to know when someone is contacting your references, and there’s no advantage to supplying them early.

        1. gladfe*

          Sorry, I meant that when I e-mail somebody to ask whether they’d be willing to serve as a reference for me, I attach a current resume to that e-mail. I figured it could be helpful for jogging their memory, which might make it more likely that they’d say yes quickly. But if that could be coming off as pushy or weird, I’ll stop!

          1. JessaB*

            I like this idea, I hadn’t thought of it, but it certainly helps (especially if you worked for a large company) for the reference to remember you, and also get a hint of what you’re highlighting in applying to this particular job. Stealing as advice for friends who are job hunting.

  10. ladydisdain*

    I love my car. I wanted this particular car for years. I have occasionally had nightmares where my car is damaged in a crash. (And my subconscious never seems to be concerned that I am inside said car when it crashes and could die. It is purely OH NO my car!)

    I don’t take teasing very well. I tend to cry even when I know the teasing is not ill-natured.

    And I cannot imagine reacting this way.

    Especially after the initial incident was over and a weekend had passed.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 It sounds like they’ve been getting some really weird advice! I’d say what would be more helpful is for them to translate their skills and accomplishments into things that are applicable and transferrable in the civilian world. That’s the bit that needs translating.

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Are you sure you need to say anything?

    If so, I’d at least wait until you’re quite far into the process.

    1. Sherm*

      I’m on the same wavelength. I once told a boss I was looking for another job (I told because of indeed unusual circumstances), and although he was very understanding, it sucked in many ways, one reason being the sheer awkwardness. I get that OP5 is doing a “one shot” job search, but there are still so many risks, big and small, in telling that I would take some time to ask myself if the boss really needs to know, and why. (And “I feel guilty” is not a reason here!)

      And yeah, even if I decided the boss should know and the opportunity was too good to pass up, I’d still wait until I had a phone screen that seemed to go well, at the earliest.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I applied for an internal position at the request of the person leaving the position. At the same time, my boss was training me and a colleague on a new task. When we were in “advanced training”, so to speak, I told my boss I was applying (I think I name-dropped the person who was leaving, too) and she supported my decision, adding that she wouldn’t want to hinder anyone’s growth in the company — I was a temp and the role would have granted me full status. I was rejected before the interview stage, but I had wanted to warn my boss she might need to train someone else in the near future.

        To be fair, I thought I was a shoe-in simply because the attitude was “Snazzy, I want you to replace me because I know you would be perfect for my job; I’ll pass along my recommendation to my boss.”

  13. Amber*

    #4 As a military veteran myself, I think its ok as long as the work is pretty similar. My job title was “Multi-channel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer” I’m sure not putting that on my resume, I have it down as “Communications Specialist”.

    1. Zip Silver*

      It’s sounds like they’re changing their rank to a civilian title, rather than translating their MOS, though. I can understand needing to explain what you do, but ranks are pretty cut and dry.

  14. I totally don't know anything about this*

    Re #2: I think it is important to recognize that “elective” in the medical sense is different from the everyday sense (similar to how a scientific theory is different from the everyday usage of the word). And even cosmetic surgery isn’t just vanity improvements. One of my dirty past times is watching Dr Pimple Popper on YouTube. A lot of the procedures she shows would fall under elective cosmetic procedures but are totally understandable and not vain.

    So, not your fight and you could be totally wrong about the value of the procedure.

    1. Matt*

      Yeah, in the medical context “elective” is everything that is not an emergency.

    2. Sourire*

      Yep. My mother’s 3 day highly extensive surgery to correct severe scoliosis that will (hopefully) vastly improve her quality of life is elective. I doubt LW would take issue with time being used for that procedure. Maybe cosmetic surgery will very much improve the quality of life for LW’s coworker as well…? Why split hairs about something that doesn’t affect you is none of your business.

      I’m very much on the side of MYOB here.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      This comment in OP’s letter bothers me: “no one here has any idea she was off for plastic surgery and opposed to a serious medical concern.” OP, why are you talking about this with your coworkers? The only way you know that “no one has any idea” is if you are gossiping about it with people. And to me, that’s the problem here and the person who had surgery did NOTHING wrong. This is not your business nor is it ok to be judgmental about it.

      1. MommyMD*

        Lily, exactly. I feel for the coworker who is being “spied on”. It’s very strange. Another reason to keep social media separate from work.

    4. saby*

      I took unpaid time off for elective surgery several years ago… it was jaw surgery to correct the angle of my jaw, which both my dentist and orthodontist (and eventually oral surgeon) agreed I needed or I was at risk of seriously wearing my teeth down and having to get dentures at a young age like my grandmother. However, it was still considered elective because it wasn’t “medically necessary” and I could have lived without it (albeit, with worse teeth). I was in the hospital for four days. My supervisor wasn’t exactly thrilled, but since it was unpaid she rubber-stamped my leave request.

      1. saby*

        And actually now that I think of it, that surgery may have been classified as cosmetic. Many people have it to get rid of over- or under-bite.

    5. B*

      This exactly! Just because it is classified as cosmetic/elective that does not mean it is not medical. Sometimes an eye lift is done to help correct vision that is impaired. If it is not that severe sometimes insurance will not deem it as medically necessary. But for the person with impaired vision they find the money necessary to fix it to improve their quality of life. They may not have wanted to put all of those details out there for the world to see.

      You do not know what is going on in anyone’s life except your own.

      1. Lynxa*

        My dad had his eyes done because his epicanthic fold is so deep the skin started to cover his eyes even when they were open! Like a sharpei.

  15. Drew*

    OP1: I have been the coworker who reacted very badly to an innocuous, even innocent stimulus (not even a prank, just something that happened to catch me exactly wrong when I was already in a bad mood). So I kinda feel where Jane is coming from; you may have caught her on a particularly raw day and poked at a known tender spot.

    That said…

    If she’s planning to dish out pranks left and right, she needs to expect that she’ll be the target of one occasionally, too. (Has she never seen M*A*S*H?) IMO, this was a funny prank, but obviously Jane felt poorly done by. So an apology would be in order, just to smooth the waters, but I wouldn’t make it a groveling apology and I certainly wouldn’t keep at it if Jane is all, “That apology wasn’t good enough. You aren’t REALLY sorry.”

    I would also put Jane on the “do not prank” list – but I would also start pushing back a bit if Jane continues to prank other employees. “Really, Jane? Do we need to park next to you again?”

    Here’s hoping that Jane will recognize that she’s being a bit silly, laugh at herself, and everyone can move on.

    1. Not Australian*

      I would also put Jane on the “do not prank” list – but I would also start pushing back a bit if Jane continues to prank other employees. “Really, Jane? Do we need to park next to you again?”

      I know this can be read as passive aggressive but IMHO it would be a good tactic – although hopefully she’ll get the message and stop her own pranking behaviour after this. If she had any sense she’d be asking herself whether some of her own previous activities have made other people feel the way she feels right now.

      1. bananaboat*

        that seems a bit adversarial for the situation we know she pranks people in office but was upset when the prank was with her car which is outside the office in the lot they knew she was particular about her car. so keep the pranks indoors and not specifically targeting someones weaknesses and it’ll be fine. also threatening her based on something you know to upset her would be a terrible thing to do

        1. Mike C.*

          Eh, we had this system in college and it worked out really well. The important thing is that if you prank it’s expected that you are subject to pranks and if you are not subjected to pranks you don’t prank others in return. You just can’t have it go one way.

          1. K.*

            Exactly. I think it’s pretty princess-y of Jane to dish it out but not take it.

          2. JustaTech*

            Maybe they could apply the “protected item” system to pranking? We did that at my college, where you could be on the “no prank” list, or you could say “hey, I’m open to pranks but don’t touch my teddy bear/guitar/computer/beloved trinket”.
            Granted, we had a pretty formalized system because it was college, but if you’re a high-prank office it might be worth while.

    2. beetrootqueen*

      see i don’t think a do not prank is nessecary i think your best plan is to only prank her in the office and not touch her car again.

      1. TL -*

        I think that if she can’t take a prank gracefully – even if she’s gracefully like, hey no, this prank is over the line, please don’t prank my car again – then she shouldn’t be included in pranks, period, including pranking others.

            1. SJ*

              I think I’ve read the word “prank” so many times in this post that it’s lost all meaning. Prank! Prank! Prank! IS IT EVEN A REAL WORD?? :)

        1. Elise*

          I think TL hit the nail on the head. It’s OK to say, “Hey, I know you were just joking, but can you leave my car out of pranks from now on?” Then you’ve shown that you’re fine with pranks, but would rather keep it in the office.

          But she’s reacted really badly to this prank. I mean, giving her coworkers the silent treatment for days? That’s such an overreaction. I would not want to involve her in pranks after that, as pranker or prankee.

  16. Drew*

    OP2: In my opinion, this is not even slightly your business. Keep your eyes on your own paper and trust that if your coworker is really abusing the system (and, for what it’s worth, I’m not at all convinced they are), the truth will come to light eventually.

  17. MadGrad*

    #1 is the epitome of a harmless prank. It does zero lasting harm, requires no unpleasant invading of usually barred space (the parking lot is public), isn’t intended to evoke serious fear or distress and did not occur in front of an audience to judge her if she reacted poorly. It doesn’t even require cleanup like post it notes do! And, we have plenty of evidence anecdotally (plenty of us know/are this person) that most people would take this just fine, barring any information about a very severe anxiety about it.

    I’d think a manager should be involved either way to clear the air after this, because I’d be seriously irritated by any pranks or teasing from Jane after this. If you build a grudge this easily, you should not be in this game.

    1. hbc*

      I 100% agree that Jane has forfeited her “right” to commit harmless office pranks, and if I were her manager, I would tell her so explicitly. Papering over someone’s office has *more* of an impact–time spent taking down the paper is time not spent working. Someone parking next to her just means she has to pull out of a parking spot like a normal licensed driver does in normal parking lots on a regular basis.

      I would bet that there have been a few coworkers who’ve been unimpressed with her pranks who assumed they have to suck it up, and they will not react well if she continues after demonstrating she can’t take a prank in the spirit in which it’s intended.

      1. Amy the Rev*

        “Someone parking next to her just means she has to pull out of a parking spot like a normal licensed driver does in normal parking lots on a regular basis.”

        I don’t know why, but this made me actually giggle a little. I like your style.

  18. PNW Dan*

    #1 when apologizing (if your co-workers do go this route), say something like “I’m sorry we upset you,” or “I’m sorry our actions upset you,” instead of “I’m sorry you were upset.” The last one isn’t much of an apology at all.

    1. beetrootqueen*

      THIS. fake apologies will not help this situation be sincere or don’t bother honestly

      1. Any Moose*

        I wouldn’t apologize. She is being ridiculous. I had a situation at work where I was asked to apologize for something that I was not sorry about. I refused. I asked would they want a fake apology or none at all?

    2. Christy*

      This is exactly what I was going to discuss! Alison suggests a non-apology apology to Jane. And here’s the thing–I don’t think anyone is sorry they pulled the prank. And I don’t think any forced apology of “we’re sorry we parked near your car???” would be very effective either because I think it would be hard to deliver with conviction.

      I think the non-apology apology is the best solution. I think asking for a real apology would be going a bit too far–no one’s sorry they harmlessly pranked an office prankster. And I think the non-apology apology will still help Jane and the rest of the office move forward. Clearly *something* should be said so the office moves on. IMO the non-apology apology is the right compromise for that.

      1. fposte*

        I think I’d still be sorry we upset her, though, because that wasn’t our goal and I really don’t enjoy upsetting my colleagues. It doesn’t mean I did something wrong; it just means that what I did upset her and I’m sorry about that. I don’t think it has to be a non-apology apology.

        1. Christy*

          Definitely! I was speaking to how “I’m sorry ___ upset you” isn’t generally considered a real apology, because it’s not apologizing for the action, just for someone’s reaction. I think there’s also a difference between “I’m sorry we did this thing that upset you” and “I’m sorry this thing upset you.” It’s small, and probably something I’m overthinking because it’s all in text, but I think the difference matters. I think I’m getting a little in the weeds, though.

          1. JustaTech*

            I think the difference between “I’m sorry we did this thing that upset you” and “I’m sorry this thing upset you” is that the first one implies that you did not intend to upset her (and you could re-word it to explicitly say that).

    3. Snazzy Hat*

      Agree 1000% (as you can tell by my comment on this exact situation further up.)

  19. Cambridge Comma*

    OP2, please don’t forget that your coworker telling your boss the real reason for the leave and your boss being discreet, and your coworker lying to your boss look exactly the same from your perspective.
    Also, maybe unfollow your coworker. It’s distracting you, and it sounds like you are much closer to being coworkers than truly being friends.

    1. lurking and such today*

      I searched this one word to see if someone already used it in their reply but did not find it: jealous.

      I believe the OP may be jealous of this coworker. She’s clearly in tune with what this woman does in her social life thanks to social media. The fact that she is considering going to HR over something this silly is a clear indicator she and this woman are not friends and probably should not be following one another on social media. This woman is getting two elective surgeries that are most likely for vanity purposes only. Zellwerger eye job and a Blake Lively lip job – why not? Maybe the OP is jealous because she has self esteem issues or maybe she would get something done if she could afford it – I don’t know. Whatever it is, this kind of concern about details that are none of your business and have zero impact on your job (and the social media monitoring) make me think it is jealousy.

      And for the record, I don’t think it matters why people get “elective” surgery and what they have done even if the end result looks like a Dr. Seuss character.

  20. Tara*

    OP#1: Jane sounds very much like my boyfriend, so I immediately called him over to read this to him and see what he thought. He does funny things around the office all the time (when he got business cards he wouldn’t use, he hid them throughout his coworker’s desks), today he actually sent me a photoshop he did of a coworker who made some comment to the effect of “I drove the train into work today”, and he placed the coworker’s face in the drivers seat of the local train with the caption “Oh, look! He actually *did* drive it!”. Little stupid things like that.

    He also is crazy about his car. Him and I had an argument once because I wanted to eat a banana in the car. During the winter, I have to have my feet out of the car, and tap them together to get the snow off rather than just tapping them on the underside of the car. He also parks at the far end of all parking lots so as not to get dings.

    He still thinks she’s overreacting quite a bit, considering this is the first time that they’ve done it to her. He could see her sternly telling them that she does not appreciate jokes that risk her car at all, but not full out upset at them for a week the first time it happens.

    Personally, I’d say the pranksters ought to do what Alison suggested. Apologize, say that they now know that jokes about the car are off limits to her, and that they didn’t do it to be mean, and genuinely thought that she would think it was funny too.

    1. MommyMD*

      But we don’t really know they didn’t do it to be mean. Papering an office cubicle is silly but not mean. Pointing out another person’s idiosyncracies may have a certain mean edge to it.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That assumes someone isn’t particular about their workspace. Legally parking in a space next to someone who is particular about their car is no more mean.

      2. Tara*

        Well, I guess that’s true. If they *were* being mean, then they’d have no desire to smooth this over, so they’d just say nothing and continue to be mean.

        From the letter, though, they all seem taken aback that she cares, so presumably they never intended to actually hurt her over it. If that’s the case, they ought to tell her that, because she might not realize that they meant it as harmlessly as they did. When someone does something that hurts someone, they tend to take it as the person being hurtful and it might help to alleviate Jane’s anger to know that its not how they intended it, and that her car will be safe from such pranks in the future.

  21. MommyMD*

    The workplace has a policy of letting employees take leave without pay. Your coworker requested leave and it was granted. Why it was granted is not your business. Just like your off time is not your coworker’ business. Let management do their job and you do yours and she does hers.

    1. Rookie Manager*

      One of my team, Bill, is currently upset that a co-worker, Ben, has been granted one day unpaid leave, they think this means all staff are not being treated equally. Ben asked for 3 days and was only granted one.

      Bill does not want any unpaid leave and has not requested it. I’ve told them Ben’s leave is not up for discussion, my strong aim is to treat everyone fairly and if Bill applies for unpaid leave I will condider it. Bill is still upset. I wish she would just realise it is none of her business and there are other issues worth getting worked up about!

      1. JessaB*

        It might be wise to have that conversation with Bill. The “it’s really not your business how we apportion leave here, if we authorise leave we have a good reason to do so, and just like if you ask for and are granted leave it’s not the business of Ben or anyone else. Leave is a private thing between the employee and us. If Ben asks for something and gets it, that has nothing to do with what would happen when or if you ask.”

        I’m going to take a guess here at the origin of calling her Bill and suggest that you go all “The Doctor as Tutor” on her.

  22. Kimberly*

    I agree with all the people that are telling LW#2 to butt out of her co-worker’s leave. I would like to point out that not elective surgery does not equal unnecessary. When I was in my 30’s I found out I had at some point in my life broken my nose. (Probably the from climbing out of my crib, that ended up with my forehead sliced open and a spectacular black eye. No head x-ray because this was 50 years ago). If I ever get it fixed it will be considered elective surgery.

    I know several people that had cosmetic surgery due to old injuries often from abuse. That was considered elective, but was very necessary for their mental health.

    1. Relly*

      I got caps on my teeth. Insurance didn’t cover it because it’s a cosmetic procedure. But I had severe tetracycline staining, and my teeth had permanent brown stripes on them. (Seriously, Google it. That stuff is not messing around.)

      Having people not stare visibly at my mouth when I talk is _amazing_.

    2. cncx*

      yes yes yes. this is me right now., i need some elective surgery that isn’t 100% medically necessary but is important to my quality of life. Luckily i work in a country where time off sick is paid no questions asked, but still. Dealing with a headcount issue at work means i need to wait a few months but i will have to get it eventually, and my insurance will consider it elective.

      I don’t want to dogpile LW2 but yeah, not all elective surgery, and not all elective cosmetic surgery, is unnecessary.

    3. only acting normal*

      Exactly! Technically any surgery that is not done in an emergency is “elective”. “Elective” doesn’t mean unnecessary or done-on-a-whim (is any surgery done on a whim??), it just means the surgery is scheduled in advance.

      We’ve just had this argument at work about a new (hopefully just badly worded) draft HR policy that suggested all “elective” surgery would not be covered by sick leave only holiday (ours are separate, not one pool of PTO, so even if you’re sick on holiday you can sometimes convert it to sick leave). Someone pointed out the removal of their brain tumour was an “elective” surgery, simply because it was detected and removed before major problems occurred and they weren’t blue-lighted into hospital in an ambulance!

    4. DArcy*

      What a lot of people honestly do not understand is that by the medical definition, “elective” surgery includes absolutely all surgical procedures which are not immediately critical, not just procedures which are optional. Non-elective surgery is “get this patient to an OR immediately, time is of the essence”; elective surgery is “this is something which can wait for an available spot on the surgical schedule”.

      Elective DOES NOT mean “not life saving” or “not medically necessary”. Getting a pacemaker is elective, but you are likely to die without it.

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        I get what everyone’s saying about elective vs. not elective, but I think that we should remember that:
        1) it’s none of coworker’s business regardless
        2) insurance companies define elective in a more colloquial way than the medical establishment, and I think that’s how OP and most commenters are using it
        3) even if it’s medically elective, colloquially elective, and the surgery-haven’t genuinely feels it’s unnecessary, but wanted, she’s STILL not doing anything wrong.

        I’m also struck by the fact that, not only is this UNPAID leave, but I don’t think the OP specifies that that gets used after all PTO is gone, so is it possible that this coworker hasn’t even used up her paid leave, and thinks it’s morally better to take this time off on her own dime (given what it’s for), and is therefore frankly making a more cost-effective (for company) choice than I or many of us would in that situation? Like, what if she doesn’t like to use her paid leave in general and just never takes it? I know I’m speculating and it’s not covered in the letter, but the coworker’s decision-making could be more virtuous than neutral, and I really think OP would feel better after reflecting and figuring out why this was so bothersome to them.

        1. TL -*

          Yes. I have a slightly droopy eyelid that is drooping more with age and eventually I’m going to get it “fixed” because I like it better non-droopy.
          That’s still an okay reason to get surgery!

      2. Emmie*

        Even if this is purely cosmetic, it’s not a big deal at all. People have all kinds of surgery. She’s gotten it approved through work. Let it go. ;)

  23. It's-a-me*

    Regarding the car prank, I can think of two possible explanations:
    1. Jane was in a car accident which has caused her paranoia – I had a friend go through the same thing for a while, terrified of every other car and driver on the road. She was hit by another car at speed while waiting to turn in to a park, and I can totally see her being upset if a prank like this happened at that time (Now she is fine – her fears didn’t last all that long, maybe two weeks after the accident.)

    2. Jane is going to pull the ultimate GOTCHA and reveal her emotional overreaction was just a prank guys :D

    1. Sibley*

      If it’s #2, I’d be royally pissed at her, and with justification. She’s treating others badly.

      Honestly, a manager needs to pull Jane aside, tell her to cut it out, start treating everyone like people again, and to never, ever pull any type of prank again because she’s 100% lost her right to it. End of story. If she can’t treat people professionally, then she can find a new job.

    2. Levity Not Brevity*

      Hmmmm, car accident paranoia… maybe next week we’ll see a letter from Jane:

      Subject: Am I overreacting to a workplace prank?
      I park my car in the back of the lot, by itself. I tell my coworkers that it’s because I don’t want door dings. In reality, I park as far as possible from pedestrians. You see, I recently hit a pedestrian while I was pulling into a parking space near our building’s entrance. It wasn’t my fault – some guy pushed the woman out of his way (and into the path of my car!) while he was running from a bird…

  24. Rookie Manager*

    I work with veterans and have come across the CV issue before. My suggestion is always to write their actual rank/title with a translation in parenthasis if really needed (general public tend to understand for some not all military titles). However, when describing the duties/achievments translate that to civvy street language.

    This way, you are clear/accurate about what your actual title was (which will prob be checked with references) and clear about your transferable knowledge/skills. You might be suprised how many people have links with the military and would query a job title that is ‘over translated’ and might even be seen as a red flag.

    1. Lora*

      Yes, this. There are lots of veterans and reserves folks in the workplace, and they will look at the over-translated versions like “whaaaaa?” I usually ask one of my veteran colleagues to look over a resume if I’m unclear on something – or even if I’m not, I know some branches have a particular “schedule” for promotions and if someone hasn’t been promoted out of Private rank for five years it’s a red flag, sort of thing. But I don’t know enough details to make that call, I let my colleagues tell me.

      Weirdly, there are people who pretend to be veterans – some jobs give preference to veterans if they are for a government contractor sort of thing. I guess it’s a bit like people lying about their degrees. Anyways, when they encounter actual real veterans it is very much Not Good.

      I personally LOVE hiring veterans and reserves folks. I don’t have time to teach someone to be super-organized and do fabulous presentations and keep cool under pressure and stay totally chill about organizational chaos and keep meetings short and to the point and get along reasonably well with other humans. The military has special officers and training programs for that and universities do not.

  25. Channel Z*

    OP5: I was in a similar situation, but I was applying for an internal, permanent job in another department, (I was on a contract position). I decided it was better for my boss to hear about it directly from me rather than through the grapevine, so I told him. It also meant I could use him as a reference. He was fine with that. In the end, I didn’t even get an interview, but I was still glad I said something and it never went against me. It depends on your relationship with your boss and how you think they would respond.

    1. Red Reader*

      Exactly. My llama wrangling job might not actually happen – it’s to lead a team that may or may. It have a new leadership position created – but I wanted to emphasize to my boss that I am not actively looking to leave, this opportunity would be a very unique situation if it were to actually arise. As a result, she’s affording me trainings and other opportunities that will improve my candidacy for the position if it’s created (and future promotion chances if it isn’t), gung-ho to be a reference, and crossing her fingers for the best outcome possible, whatever that may be. (My boss is great.)

      1. Sutemi*

        Sometimes for a job like that, where you know the other organization and manager, you can have an informal phone call or coffee and say you were considering applying. Ask if you would be considered a serious candidate and you might learn information that tells you to definitely apply or that you would not have a competitive resume.

        1. Red Reader*

          Yes, I’ve done :) the other manager and I were both on a project team that involved hammering out some details of the overall needs for the ten-person team, which is how I became interested in a potential leadership position for it. He’s already reviewed my resume and has me on his list to talk to in further detail once the PTB on his side get some more details nailed down about the individual roles within that team. :)

  26. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW2. This is completely none of your business. If you bring your “concerns” to HR, I hope you get shut down hard.
    Your level of interest in your co-worker’s use of leave is frankly disturbing. Many office cultures are made better because people can do things like this.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      *By made better, I mean that the culture is better because people can use time off for sundry personal reasons, not made better because they can tattle on each other.

  27. beetrootqueen*

    1. I think first you need to all have a sit down and think about why she’s so upset. From the sounds of it all pranks have been indoors that she has done and not specifically getting one person’s weaknesses or foibles. To me it sounds that you guys did something that targeted something she is very nervous about. It might not seem a lot to you but you’ve hurt her trust by doing so and possibly in her eyes could have damaged something important to her. promise her you won’t ever prank her about her car again, apologise to her sincerely and then leave her be for her to calm down.

    1. Tempest*

      I could get this if they parked so close it was clear their door edge must have touched her car for them to get out of theirs, or if she had to touch her door edge to their car doors to get in. But if they’re parked legally in bays near her and she just happens to like the whole row of the car park left for her? That’s obsurd. What if the office resurfaced the closer section of car park and they all had to park near her in the far row? That’s OK! It’s a car park, with spaces, which people used.

      I get that they did it to wind Jane up, but as long as they didn’t park on the lines really close to her car or outside the bays, they’ve actually done nothing wrong. You’re going to tell me that Jane never goes to the shopping centre or the supermarket and has to just pick a spot in a full car park like the rest of us?

      I’d say they need to apologize once in a very ‘sorry you took it so wrong’ tone but they don’t need to have a sit down. Jane needs to take a deep breath and get over it a little. I’d be more upset pulling down 100 photocopies from my desk than people parking around me.

    2. Emmie*

      I’d be a bit frustrated that an apology should happen. She gives out pranks, but can’t take them. I get there might be a difference in degree and personalization. I understand why it’s in the office’s best interests to apologize. But prankster needs to agree to stop all pranks herself.

  28. Susan*

    #1 – I am very particular about my car, and I’ve been known to park far away to avoid dings. I am also not a fan of office pranks, and I generally do not engage in them.

    …And yet I would have no problem with this prank being pulled on me. In fact, my reason for parking away from other cars is that I don’t know who is going to pull in next to me — maybe some jerk in a beater or a monster truck, who will fling his door open and dent my car — but I wouldn’t mind at all if a bunch of my coworkers (who know I am careful with my car) carefully parked around me and made sure *not* to damage my car.

    In conclusion, Jane is definitely overreacting.

  29. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    I don’t understand why the LW has an issue with a title change, there’s ton of civilian positions that require that type of change to a job title. My current title is Associate; what does that even mean? Is Associate a good title to differentiate from another Associate in a different office; certainly not. So I changed my work title on my resume to better reflect what I do.

    The military subculture is incredibly different from the civilian business culture. Many many civilians do not understand the unique phrases or responsibilities of the military; even people with a familiarity of the military might not pick up on the importance and significance of the military roles and responsibilities.

    As someone who reads resumes, I would NOT prefer to get one that uses full-on military jargon and that includes the titles. I want titles and descriptions that speak to what I’m hiring for. If that means switching NCOIC , Operations to Senior Program Manager as a title, then that is what makes sense. If that means First Sgt becomes Senior Logistics Manager or Sergeant, then that is what makes sense to a person who is not former military or with a strong military familiarity. Like any position though, they shouldn’t be using terms that don’t fit; such as saying ‘manager’ but never having managed anything or saying ‘senior’ when being low-man on the totem pole.

    Fresh out of the military, from a professional standpoint, is like being fresh out of college; great, the person learned some things and they might be able to do the job. There is no guarantee that this transitioning member can perform and I have seen more than one newly transitioned military fail in the workforce because they cannot adapt to the civilian business world and let the military subculture go. (My opinion of whether I support the military, their ability to support American ideals at a high personal cost, and their efforts is not the point of this paragraph; I’m talking from a solely business workplace view.) It is really hard sometimes to translate what a person did in the military and the impact it had to the business workforce that probably doesn’t understand. It can even be difficult being in the military to make leadership or a command understand the importance of what is being done. If achieving that understanding means changing a title to be more clear and concise, then that should be just fine.

    If I received a resume using Navy jargon and titles, I would not know what that meant. I wouldn’t know how to translate it to what I am looking for. What does a CTR or CTN even mean? (Rhetorical, I’m not looking for an answer in the comments.) Even in my own former career field, I might not understand some of the nuances of the role that are important if everything is lumped under military jargon.

    1. Myrin*

      It seems to me that this is all addressed in this part of Alison’s answer, though: “When you have a title that will confuse people outside of your industry, it’s fine to add a parenthetical explanation”.

      I think what is especially “dangerous” about making up titles (even if those titles do exist) is that there is no standard for them – so one Sergeant may translate their rank one way while another Sergeant translates theirs a different way and then there’s no way of comparing the two or even understanding that they held the same military position. Also, it’s just not true, for lack of a better word. People in my country who obtain a doctorate in the humanities have the title of “Dr. phil.” (put in front of their name) and they can’t just go and make it into a PhD when they apply to a position in the UK because that’s not what they are even though they’re technically the same position.

      1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

        The LW asked for an opinion; I gave an opinion. Alison gave hers. It behooves the LW to hear Alison’s readers’ opinions on the same subject, whether they agree or disagree. If my answer matches closely to Alison’s then the LW knows that there is a seconded opinion on the matter. I’m not adding a comment like “+1” or “wow” or “lol”; those comments are not germane to the post.

        Why does it matter which is the Sergeant and which is not? I don’t believe that has a real impact on performance or responsibilities. In the Air Force E4 is not a Sergeant or Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO); but in other military branches it could be. That doesn’t mean an E4 in the Air Force can’t be in charge of things and I have seen E4s that were team leads or in positions of authority. In that same vein, I’ve seen E7s, Senior NCOs, that don’t have any real responsibilities and were not capable of performing the duties of the mission; but were certainly good at achieving Air Force objectives. Once out of the military, the rank isn’t all that important and doesn’t indicate any type of performance bar.

        1. Recruit-o-rama*

          I’m agreeing with all points in both of your comments, also as someone who reviews resumes daily. I also work a ton with transition offices because we hire a lot of veterans at all levels within our organization. I was at a transition event with soldiers just last week in fact. There are a lot of challenges in matching military talent with available jobs and I think flexibility on the civilian side does a lot to insure that we don’t leave an entire class of people out of the work force due to mere semantics.

        2. Myrin*

          Hmm, we seem to be talking past each other. I understood your comment to mean that people who have no understanding of military terminology will be confused by its usage – which I agree with entirely. And you follow that observation by arguing that it means former military should indeed translate their ranks into regular business jargon. My answer to that was simply meant to say that you can have both if you follow Alison’s advice of listing the official military title and then in brackets behind it what that actually means.

          1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

            Yep – we spoke right past each other it. I still don’t think that both is totally necessary; but I can see Alison’s (and your) point on it.

        3. OP #4*

          You’re absolutely right about military rank/title not always translating by itself. The military makes it very hard to credit someone with a title to match the work they’re doing. I’ve know commander’s drivers who were basically executive assistants who had their hand in everything from schedules to budgets. I also knew some who were only expected to drive and nothing more. Same rank, same title, but very different responsibilities.

      2. Important Moi*

        In looking at the response, I wonder if the issue is that LW#4 is concerned that people in creating titles are giving themselves titles LW thinks are too high. In other words, people are calling themselves a “boss” when they should be saying “worker bee.”

        I’m going to throw this out,as well…why does LW#4 care? Are they affected by this at all?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Since they are weighing in on hiring, yes, they are affected by unclear job descriptions.

          And the tone of the question is not “can I circular file these” but “are they getting poor advice targeted at those transitioning out of the military, which should be corrected in some public forum, which the blog is.” So yes on that front, too, as OP wants the vets to attract rather than repel or confuse hiring managers.

        2. OP #4*

          I’m involved in veteran recruiting and also help many of my former Soldiers out with their resumes. It’s important to me for both of those reasons.

          I like the suggestion of including both. As someone thoughtfully pointed out, a translated title can matter in initial screening, even at a company like mine that involves vets in the process.

    2. Naruto*

      I think it’s weird and inappropriate to change a civilian title like “associate,” too. If you’re an associate, that should be your title on your resume. But of course you should explain what you actually do! Just not make up a title, because it can come across as dishonest, even if it’s actually an attempt to honestly explain your role.

    3. N*

      Yes–this is one of the reasons why it’s so difficult for vets to transition into civilian working–they often need special training on how to discuss what they did and learned in the military in a way that your average hiring manager understands. I think Alison’s advice is spot on here and SomeoneLikeAnon is right as well: while you don’t want to *overtranslate* the trend exists to help more vets show off their transferable skills.

  30. Myrin*

    It seems to me that this is all addressed in this part of Alison’s answer, though: “When you have a title that will confuse people outside of your industry, it’s fine to add a parenthetical explanation”.

    I think what is especially “dangerous” about making up titles (even if those titles do exist) is that there is no standard for them – so one Sergeant may translate their rank one way while another Sergeant translates theirs a different way and then there’s no way of comparing the two or even understanding that they held the same military position. Also, it’s just not true, for lack of a better word. People in my country who obtain a doctorate in the humanities have the title of “Dr. phil.” (put in front of their name) and they can’t just go and make it into a PhD when they apply to a position in the UK because that’s not what they are even though they’re technically the same position.

    1. Myrin*

      Ack, I accidentally put this as its own comment first although it was meant as a reply above – feel free to delete when you’re able to, Alison!

  31. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    LW #2: Stay out of it. It does not impact their performance. It is not your business how someone used their LWOP. It’s not even your business how they used their paid leave.

    Even more, it is not your business to judge the medical necessity of any operation, whether you consider it cosmetic or not. As someone who did use my paid leave for recovery from an elective surgery, I would be incensed someone in my office felt they had any right to my decisions about my body. Because that is what you are doing, LW, you are judging the validity of the surgery and they person’s right to do with/to their body as they see fit.

    Also, I don’t see how using the LWOP for a wedding or honeymoon is ok to you; but using it for a surgery, in your opinion, is not. You may want to examine your motives for why you care about this person’s personal business so much that you are willing to potentially impact their career. Take them off any personal social media, because you’re obviously not friends.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      To be fair to the OP, they seemed more bothered by the fact the the person who took the leave might have lied in order to be able to take it.

      Regardless of that they should still mind their own business and forget about the leave

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Which is why I said the employee “might have lied” and that is what the OP appears to be most upset about rather than the leaving taken at all.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        The other thing OP needs to bear in mind is that generally when taking any kind of medical-related leave, you don’t disclose all the details of said leave. If her colleague said she wanted unpaid time to recover from surgery, that’s not lying, and it would be literally illegal (at least in Canada and the US) for the boss to press for details. And there are good reasons it’s illegal. It is not OP’s job, nor her boss’ job, to determine whether or not someone’s medical procedure is “necessary” or “justified.”

        This is also the issue with the above threads breaking down elective/non-elective surgeries. Basically, once you say it’s “medical,” it’s not the employer’s business what kind of medical.

        It’s the same as the “calling in sick vs. mental health day” debates, which came up in an AAM letter a few years ago. Namely, if your colleague calls in sick, the employer (and colleagues, for that matter), cannot and should not be probing for details regarding whether the person is “sick enough,” and cannot and should not draw conclusions or try to get the colleague in trouble if they make an FB post about shopping (or whatever) that day. The colleague could have been sick but felt better later, or had to run some errands even if they felt lousy, or just took a mental health day, or whatever. Not the business’ business.

        1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

          Totally agree. You were much more succinct about it than I was. Once someone says the words “medical” the usually policy I’ve seen is that HR stops with questions since the only person you need to know medical details is your doctor. Other replies have already pointed out that more than likely the boss and/or HR already know it’s a medical issue and have the situation handled.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh, unless you need to give details because of type of leave (FMLA, short term or long term disability, worker’s comp,) then the details aren’t anyone’s business. And then the details are only the business of the person responsible for certifying the leave.

  32. Bookworm*

    “You don’t need to worry that you haven’t kept in touch with your references. It’s very, very normal for people to email out of the blue when they need references; it’s not considered rude or disingenuous at all. Giving references for people you used to manage and maybe haven’t talked to in a while is a totally normal part of being a manager.”

    I just wanted to thank the LW for asking and Alison for stating this. I’ve felt super awkward in the past emailing people I haven’t spoken to in a long time so it’s nice to get confirmation that it’s okay. Sometimes it’s really awkward when those same people don’t respond either to myself or the hiring person but that’s another story. :P

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That last part is why it’s good to reach out early in your search — so if someone doesn’t get back to you in a week or so, you can move on to the next option and hopefully get a solid list of people who are eager to be your references!

    2. Wheezy Weasel*

      I’d be fine with getting emails saying ‘stand by for reference calls, Weasel!’ even if they don’t result in reference calls most of the time. I usually ask what people have been doing, a new copy of their resume, perhaps find out some details about the company that might be calling and see if I know anyone there.

  33. Roscoe*

    The best part of this whole post today is Alison saying how pranks are a much bigger deal on this board than anywhere in real life. Its so true. I’ve never seen so many people get so up in arms about simple pranks. Everything from trying to diagnose a mental condition to hoping the prankster gets some kind of horrible punishment after. Its comical.

    But aside from that. #1 Yes, she is being absurd. Nothing was damaged. She is overreacting. Apologize if you want, basically in order to keep the peace. But I definitely am of the mind that one of those “sorry you took this minor thing badly ” apologies is fine in this case.

    #2 Seriously, this is so not your business. Stop checking up on your co-worker and stop thinking of tattling because you are on your moral high horse about her surgeries. You’ll be much happier

  34. RWM*

    I haaaaate pranks, but Jane clearly does not, and this one was harmless (literally…no harm was done, and also sometimes people will just park by you because we live in a society???). I find her reaction utterly bizarre and totally inappropriate.

    1. AB*

      Some people are more than willing to dish it out but then sulk if they’re ever the butt of a joke.

      1. Kyra*

        And some people find pranks which do not target something they are particularly sensitive about absolutely fine, but still get upset when their buttons are pushed deliberately in an effort to provoke them.

        1. Natalie*

          Unless Jane is omniscient, she takes that risk every time she plays a prank, too.

    2. MommyMD*

      No physical harm was done. There was harm done in that coworker most likely felt humiliated and mocked. I agree she’s overreacting but her feelings are her feelings.

  35. WhichSister*

    I am curious if OP 2 read the post on The Dark Knight workplace Vigilantism last week? Or any of the comments.

    1. Alyssa*

      Alison linked OP4 to that post in her response, so I’m sure the matter has been addressed.

  36. AB*


    In the nicest way possible, maybe you should evaluate why you care about this at all because it’s serious busybody behaviour. You have no idea if her boss knows the reason she is off. They’re not likely to broadcast to everyone that she’s having cosmetic surgery.

    All i can think of is that you’re judging her for having cosmetic surgery (stop), or that you feel it’s an unfair use of unpaid time off because there are things you would like to take time off for which apparently don’t come under the list of acceptable reasons. Take that up with your boss.

    On the topic of being a busybody. I had someone in my team who kept tracking what time people in her team were arriving. I saw it open on her computer once and thought it was really weird since she never did anything with it and never told anyone about it. She had the earliest shift so was always in first. Eventually i found out that she had been lieing about what time she was arriving in the mornings, everyday she was 20-60 minutes late and then recording that she had arrived on time. When I confronted her she said it’s not just her, and everyone was late all the time, then she brought out the list. I always receive an email or text from from the rest of the team whenever they’re running late. There was nothing I wasn’t already aware of. I just didn’t share it with the rest of the team unnecessarily She refused to believe me! She insisted that EVERYONE was coming in late all the time behind my back and she wasn’t doing anything wrong because everyone did it. She was let go.

    Anyway my point is, you don’t know what her boss is aware of. And no one likes a busybody.

    1. Annonymouse*

      My rule is 5 minutes.
      If I or any of the people at work are going to be 5 minutes or more late for start of shift you call/text someone and let them know.

      If it’s for a meeting or class it’s 1-2 minutes.

      But tracking people who are late? Gross.
      Tracking people’s leave when it’s not part of your job? Even grosser.

      It’s my role to track people’s time off (for rostering only). I honestly don’t care why unless it’s medical because
      “Are you ok? Will you need extra time off? Hope you have a swift recovery!”

      Besides that concern for them it’s none of my dang business. I don’t ask why if they’re vague (just a minor thing etc). Unless I need to clarify holiday or sick leave.

  37. boop the first*

    #1. Doesn’t anyone have work to do?
    #2. Weddings/vacations are also elective, so why are they on your “okay” list? Just curious.

    1. TL -*

      #2 because weddings and vacations aren’t to make you look pretty, which every woman should be but no woman should value?

      1. Chriama*

        Yup, I had the sense too that OP has some sort of moral objection to cosmetic surgery that is coloring her opinion of this situation. I’m also wondering why OP thinks it would be better for her to use her PTO (which is paid, therefore costing the company money) than to take it unpaid. People who need their jobs don’t normally take pleasure in finding ways to game the system in order to take time off *unpaid*.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      #2 My reading of the letter was not that OP was OK with Weddings/vacations in particular, but that was what the company had said unpaid leave could be taken for. My impression is that the the OP is more bothered by the apparent rule infraction rather than the time off

  38. Bossy Magoo*

    #2: reason number 1 million why I don’t accept friend requests from people I work with on social media.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      Same. I will only add coworkers on social media when they become FORMER coworkers.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup. I invented this rule on the fly to avoid an over-eager coworker who had some boundary issues, and because I had just started that job I wasn’t lying, and I’ve found it’s a good rule.
        At the very least it gives me something to talk about at lunch, because I haven’t already read it on your FB.

    2. NotTheSecretary*


      I made the mistake once of adding coworkers on social media because it was the culture of that workplace to do so. Nope. Never again. I didn’t need to see all the poorly thought out, TMI, and otherwise WTF posts that my coworkers made. It introduced way too much personal information into our work situation.

      And I started to really, really monitor what went on my own social media accounts. It stressed me out.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      Not only do I not friend co-workers, I don’t even have social media that uses my real name, so they can’t find me. Learned that lesson the hard way.

  39. MommyMD*

    It’s tempting to prank at work but I think it’s best to just not. In this case I believe that prank victim felt they were making fun of her. And they were. She is overreacting for sure, but the pranksters are 100 percent responsible. Apologize and sincerely. She felt personally attacked, even if most people would find it amusing. She didn’t.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think the “I felt attacked” argument loses a little weight when you regularly play pranks on others. But it’s so hard to know where those lines are. I agree, it’s much better to just avoid pranking altogether.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I think the “I felt attacked” argument is exactly why you shouldn’t prank at work. People are weird about certain things, and even if they are in on the prank for someone else, doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hit their sore spot accidentally.

        Now, at least by the time the weekend was over, Jane should have been able to just say that she didn’t appreciate it or think it’s funny, and please don’t do it again, and that should have been the end of it- and she had better end her pranking days, period. But people are rarely as mature and reasonable as they should be, and prank wars always end up in some variation of this. The OP’s office is actually lucky that it’s not worse- Jane is throwing a fit, but so often something goes really wrong and someone or property is damaged. I don’t have much sympathy for Jane and her “it might have been damaged”- especially for something that is totally normal.

        1. fposte*

          I think most prankers don’t have any problem with this, though. This is kind of like saying “This is why people should never joke at the office” because you’ve seen a joke go very wrong indeed, but that seems a pretty extreme response when normally they don’t.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            I have literally never seen a prank war that didn’t end in some version of this though. If not from one of the people involved themselves, but by someone else either feeling left out (and in one case, calling security! to report a “break in” of someone else’s office while they were on vacation because people filled it with balloons! The Manager was forced to discipline the balloon fillers because security showed up) And it ends up impacting the work because the Janes of the world can’t take a joke on them or no one will talk to Jane because she got them in trouble for a harmless prank that wasn’t even involving her… I’ve just seen it too often, even though I don’t think, rationally, there is anything wrong with what the OPs coworkers did, or in what happens in 99% of the cases. But the world abounds with laws and rules to prevent the worst-case scenarios that happen even less often than things like this.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that did end that way (though I don’t know how we’re differentiating prank war from general pranking practice, now that I think about it).

              And lots of people can’t take jokes on them, so does that mean it’s time to retire jokes? Or just to be careful about audience and accept that the occasional misstep will happen?

    2. LiveAndLetDie*

      I think the bigger issue here is that this person feels perfectly comfortable pranking others, but when the tables are turned, she loses her cool. If she doesn’t want to be pranked, she should also stop pulling pranks on others.

    3. Violet Fox*

      It does not matter what people commenting here would feel about the prank. What matters is how the person who is reacting felt. I also think in general that this office should take a really hard look at its pranking culture in general.

      Can I also please just say that I really hate the term overreacting. It is so often used to essentially erase and invalidate the emotional response of the injured party in whatever situation, and very often to tell women they are not allowed to be upset.

      1. fposte*

        I agree in general on our feelings and on overreacting, but the feelings of the prankee are not always going to be the guide either. Intent isn’t magic, but it’s also not irrelevant.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        But she is overreacting. She is entitled to her feelings, but her actions are well outside professional norms.

      3. Roscoe*

        So honest question, do you think there is never a time when someone is overreacting. The way I like to put it, if someone got super pissed off because they ordered fries at lunch and got tater tots. Would you think that is overreacting? Because I think as a society, there is a range of emotional reactions that are considered normal. And if someone veers outside of that range, I think its fair to say they are overreacting

        1. paul*

          I mean, I had a (former) client threaten to kill me because we couldn’t stop them being evicted.

          If anyone wants to pretend that isn’t over reacting (and counter productive in the extreme) go right ahead, but I’ll ignore you.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          We’re going off brief descriptions from only one point of view, so usually everything from “Cersei is bonkers” to “Cersei is normal; everyone else in this office is bonkers” is on the table through various lenses. (Many an update has prompted a plethora of “Oh. If that detail had been in the original description, my take would have swapped around 180°.”)

          From OP’s version Cersei sounds like someone who can dish it out but not take it, which hardly makes her a club of one. Still, if their intent was not to send her into a days’ long rage, then apologizing seems appropriate.

        3. Kate*

          I agree! Feelings are not facts. Just because someone feels something does not mean that they are justified in feeling that way.

          There was an advice column I read once in which a LW wrote in: My husband didn’t call his mom the morning of her birthday. My husband left for work at 7 AM and there was an emergency at work until 6. He got home at 7 and immediately called his mother, who started complaining about how he hadn’t called that morning and how hurt it made her feel.

          Were her hurt feelings justified and should her son have apologized for not getting up at 5 AM to call his mother, or was she overreacting?

        4. nonegiven*

          If the picture on the menu shows tots and the description in the menu says tots. There better be damn tots in the basket, not fries.

  40. LiveAndLetDie*

    OP2, you are so out of your realm of business that it’s appalling. Stop monitoring your coworkers’ social media accounts to “catch” them doing something so you can report them at work. That is so immature. As someone who supervises a team of people I would be more upset with YOU than any coworker you ratted out for this kind of behavior.

  41. nnn*

    For #2, elective surgery seems exactly morally equivalent to “your doctor says you need a week of sick time after surgery but you want to take two weeks”. It’s a medical thing that you want to do but your doctor doesn’t consider strictly necessary.

  42. Circles*

    Alternative theory for why LW/OP#2 is upset: Maybe individual managers treat that particular unpaid time off differently. For example: Maybe LW/OP#2 applied for time off for elective surgery and manager denied it, saying that was not what the time was for. Then, coworker (who works in a different department, under a different manager) applies for time off for elective surgery and her manager approved it. I know for certain that managers at my current place of employment interpret policies/procedures differently, even if it is explicitly spelled out for them.

    However, I think LW/OP#2 should just leave it alone. It will make you look petty, childish and nosy. Also, maybe “unfriend” this coworker on Facebook because it seems like you don’t like her and she is your BEC.

    1. Jady*

      If it were this situation, I would think she would be happy about realizing she doesn’t need to disclose why she’s having the surgery. She could frame her request differently and resubmit it after some time has passed.

  43. DNDL*

    OP #1 – Would coworker be angry if someone came in to the office for, say, a job interview and parked near her? Or if a cleaning crew came, parked near her? Or any other of other scenarios where someone who doesn’t know her parks near her in a totally legitimate parking spot?

    I don’t think coworker should be policing where her coworkers park their cars. As long as everyone is parked legally in a marked parking spot, it’s none of her business, prank or not. What happens when there is an event down the street and your lot is full? Or if half the parking lot floods so all of the coworkers have to park near her? Prank or not, she’s being unreasonable.

    1. Emmie*

      I think it’s different because it wasn’t random, but intentional. Maybe she is particular about other random people parking close to her. I’ve seen that before. It’s still unreasonable in my other scenarios.

      You are right… she’s wildly out of line for being upset.

  44. Amber Rose*

    #1: Sounds like Jane should just park her car in her garage and never take it out then. I park anywhere I’ll fit (and once, somewhere I didn’t and had to crawl out the back) and I’ve never been dinged, but I have been struck by other drivers about six times now. The entire driver’s side of my current car plus both bumpers and one headlight are new because of one bad driver. The last car was smeared across a highway. Driving is risky. It is unreasonable to be this concerned about a car.

    #2: You are now That One Coworker. Trust me, you don’t want to keep that title. It’s detrimental to your relationships with the people around you, and your own standing and reputation in the company. Tattle tales/gossips do not get promotions in healthy organizations, because their managers justifiably see them as having not progressed off the playground. It’s time you acted like the adult you are.

  45. PJ*


    After reading through some of the responses here, I wonder if Jane is more upset that an entire group of people banded together to “mock” her, rather than the actual car prank itself. Perhaps she’s just feeling sidelined by her co-workers.

    1. fposte*

      I doubt this is the first joint prank in the office, though, if there’s a history of office pranking.

    2. Grabapple McGee*

      Yes to this. Has anyone thought to ask Jane why she’s so upset over it? It does sound like an overreaction, but maybe she has a reason. If I really liked and respected her, I would simply ask. I think that shows you care more than a canned apology does.

  46. RVA Cat*

    #1 – Nothing much to add except that Jane seems to be taking this worse than the guy who needed stitches in his tush from that horrible scissors-in-chair prank.

    At this point everyone should let the car thing go. Maybe the prankers should apologize just to put an end to it. Otherwise, if Jane can’t get over it, someone might actually damage her car out of spite. (Maybe feeding the birds near her car…?)

  47. Observer*

    #2 – I’m having a very hard time wrapping my head around your question. If this site allowed emojis or GIFs I would insert a picture of a fish with it’s mouth opening and closing.

    Why, precisely, is time off for elective / cosmetic surgery any less worthy that a destination wedding, a special vacation or an *extra* week off after surgery that someone’s doctor said wasn’t necessary? Please don’t tell me that this wasn’t medically necessary – NONE of the other uses are medically necessary!

    Why, precisely, is this your business? Please don’t tell me that she “cheated” the company. This is unpaid time, and she gave notice. In other words, she didn’t take money or resources that she wasn’t entitled to, and she followed procedure.

    For your own sake, stop being the person who is so busy policing everyone else’s life that no one is going to want to be around.

  48. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    OP#2 – This is a definite MYOB scenario. Your co-workers surgery and time off approval have anything to do with you. Why are you making this your business? I do understand what it’s like to be a rule follower and to feel that frustration when you see someone doing something that you think is against the rules. I have a son who operates the same way. What I’ve noticed with him is he gets in trouble…nearly every time…even when the person he’s monitoring is breaking the rules. Why? Because it’s not HIS job to monitor other people’s behavior and actions, just his own. Just don’t.

  49. DCompliance*

    #2- I’ll be taking time off this week for IVF- an elective procedure. If someone told me that my elective procedure was not worth of time off, but a destination wedding is…I will just stop there. And I know IVF is different then cosmetic surgery, but this is all about life choices which we should all respect.

    1. Kreacher the Teacher*

      As a fellow person who has struggled with infertility, best of luck to you and all the sticky baby dust in the world!
      I’ve also had to take time off for “elective” procedures, like having a (non-cancerous, but we didn’t know that until later) tumor removed and I would be so livid if someone were to tattle on me for that!

  50. AMitch*

    #1 – Sounds like a massive overreaction, especially as the colleague in question sounds like she’s usually more than willing to ‘dish out’ her own pranks.
    I would personally apologise, and then go out of my way not to joke with her, or play a part in any of her pranks again. If you find anything on your computer after she has gotten over the car thing, calmly and quietly remove it without comment. She clearly can’t take it, and she’ll soon regret having such an OTT reaction to what was clearly a harmless idea of fun.

  51. Sue Wilson*

    #1: Honestly, I’d like clarification on what “not speaking” means. To some it means complete silence, work related or not. To others it means that all friendly overtures have stopped, but the personal is polite and professional but distant regarding work. If it’s the latter, there’s nothing the manager can do here but explain how that might hurt her standing. If it’s the former, the manager needs to tell her to knock it off and behave professionally.

    That said, I, as a person who hates pranks and finds the minute chance of harm not worth the fun, think that where y’all overstepped was making it personal. She’s taking it personal because it was. Jane’s apparently never pranked someone on their personal foibles, so it’s completely understandable that she would take this as an attack, not as a fun thing to do. Apologize. Keep the pranks to the impersonal (that said, it’s completely understandable if you all do not want to include her in pranks anymore).

    1. Kate*

      That’s an assumption though. There is no evidence that Jane *hasn’t* pranked someone in a personal way before.

  52. HisGirlFriday*

    OP #2, I cannot even begin to stress to you how much this is Not Your Business.

    I am currently undergoing treatment for an issue that my boss (who is also HR) is aware of. My job is entirely independent; my presence or absence affects NONE of my other co-workers in any way.

    Two of them have taken it upon themselves to comment/remark upon/discuss/speculate about my early departures and/or late arrivals.

    Both of them went to my boss and said, ‘HisGirl is coming in late/leaving early and it’s Not Fair and we’ve been paying attention and what are you going to do about it?’

    Do you know what their nosiness got them? PIPs. This wasn’t the only issue, but it was a contributing factor and given that the reason for my absences is both medically necessary AND covered by ADA, their speculation got them in serious trouble.

    This isn’t your issue. At all. Stay out of it.

    1. JS*

      I will say I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to notice you leaving early/coming in late and going to your boss. That doesn’t mean they should be going just to “tattle” but if you have the same boss and similar positions they are probably wondering if this is something they can do as well. This is assuming they don’t know that due to reasons that are Not Their Business, you have special permissions. However, your boss giving them a PIP seems like they were doing it in a malicious and not curious way.

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        We do have the same boss, but wildly different positions. Mine is, as I said, entirely independent. My presence in the office affects no one else. My job also routinely requires hours outside of the 9-to-5 our receptionist and office manager (the two complainers) work.

        Further, not that it’s any of their business, but it’s marked on the calendar days I’ll be in late or leaving early — and we’re talking coming in 30 minutes late or leaving 15 minutes early.

        They mentioned it once and were told that GrandBoss and I had worked it out and that it didn’t concern them and to Leave It Alone. They brought it up again and got slapped with PIPs.

        I have absolutely zero sympathy. My job is director-level. I don’t have to be butt-in-seat every minute of the work day; our receptionist does.

        1. JS*

          Ah well then I see, I agree with you in your situation. However I was speaking in general that if they didn’t know anything about it, why it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to inquire. They should have left it alone once told that you have Special Circumstances, and especially because they don’t have your same job title/position so it’s tone deaf of them to expect your schedule to match theirs.

      2. Observer*

        Even without the followup, I have to disagree. They went to the boss to complain, although it’s clear that their work is not being affected. And they also didn’t ask for flextime – they wanted the boss to punish / stop HRGirl. That’s just NOT reasonable.

        1. JS*

          They said it’s “Not Fair” so while yes a compliant, a reasonable complaint because even if their work isn’t being effected it’s not right to let one employee have advantages over another if they have the same/similar requirements of the job. I already said that in this case it seemed as they wanted to “tattle” therefore in this case so it isn’t reasonable. But in general, and in regards to the letter, I don’t think wanting the same treatment isn’t unreasonable. Whether they get to have exceptions(could be based on workload, ADA, different role, seniority, etc) is a different story but they are within reason to inquire why.

          1. HisGirlFriday*

            Yes, if people have the same job, it’s reasonable to inquire *politely* about changes in schedules. But if you don’t, and you’re coming at it from a position of nosiness, it’s not appropriate or reasonable.

            As with so many other things we discuss here, it’s a question of HOW things are brought up and discussed.

  53. BTW*

    For OP 4’s question, would it work to do the “civilian translation” title first, then the official military title in brackets after? It would be accurate for reference checking but also easier to grasp for civilian hirers. E.g. Communications Specialist (Sargeant Military Rank and Title here)

  54. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I completely forgot that I have a question related to OP3! So I like Alison’s answer with respect to contacting people you’ve been out of touch with when starting a job search, but what if the job search goes on for a really long time? At this point, my references are my direct supervisors from my last permanent job (2012-2014), and two different projects from 2015. I’ve sent holiday emails to references before with job search “updates” but haven’t in a year or so since the only update is “no bites yet”. Happy to ask on Friday if this is too off topic.

    1. Naruto*

      After a year, my hunch is that they may not realize you’re still job searching. So I don’t think it could hurt to let them know that you’re still looking and still listing them as a reference. You could also check to see if you still have their current contact info if you think it may have changed. You also could also advise them that you will let them know when you take a new job.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, that last bit is a good idea! I remembered to do that when I graduated for the people who had written me letters of recommendation to grad school, but you’re totally right that you should do it when you get a new job too.

  55. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    #2: The only time I would care would be if the time off was always scheduled around busy periods and causing undue burden on everyone else (this would be the case for “elective” surgery, vacation, etc.). Then I’d talk to management about making sure staffing is appropriate for the workload given.

    Otherwise, let it go, let it go….

  56. BTW*

    OP 2 asks whether coworker is abusing the employer’s leave system. I wonder on the other hand if the employer’s leave system is abusing the employees. Taking unpaid leave means they reduce the paycheck by that percentage for a year? So paternalistic. Why don’t they just, say, not pay an employee on unpaid leave when they have granted said leave. It’s not “let us manage your budget for you for a year” leave.
    (I can’t figure out how they would do this in practical terms anyway. Person X takes a week unpaid so they lower her pay by 2% for a year. What if she leaves the job before the year is up? Or takes another week unpaid? Accounting nightmare. Or, does she have to work for 49 weeks first at a reduced rate to get the 50th week off as unpaid leave? None of this makes sense – must be something I am missing. )
    The crux of the problem looks like a perception of unfairness about what leave is allowed. If that’s it, address the policy. Otherwise stay out of coworkers personal business.

    1. KR*

      She could take the pay for the unpaid week, put it in a separate account, and supplement her budget over the year if the reduction in pay really bothered her.

  57. Student*

    #4: The veterans might actually benefit from this in first-round screening – so there may be a good reason you are not aware of that this is becoming common or a recommended practice.

    Sometimes people do studies on why resumes get rejected and when they get rejected, using a resume with identical info but one item, like a name, changed. One study focused on gender-based resume rejections found that a lot of resumes from women got dropped in the earliest stage of screening. Digging deeper, they found the culprit was that a substantial majority of of the initial screeners are young women (junior HR with minimal training and supervision), and these young women tended to reject other women to minimize competition, often subconsciously.

    If vets are usually (not necessarily at your company, but at most companies they submit resumes to) getting initially screened by the same round of young, untrained, inexperienced HR women, then they are getting screened by people who are likely to view somebody from the military as stereotypically “threatening” instead of on an equal basis with other candidates. I can easily see how they could get unjustifiably screened out faster at this level, before they get to people like OP4, if they used clearly military job titles than if they tried to mask their military career as they are.

    It’s not right that they should need to cover their military experience, but I can easily see how it might be effective, just as women masking their gender or minorities masking their identity can be effective at getting a foot in to reach the experienced decision-makers without getting screened by junior staff with biases they don’t recognize or mitigate.

    1. gwal*

      the initial research mentioned in your second paragraph is already well-publicized, but I was wondering if you could you provide a link to the “digging deeper” results about HR screening? would love to read more.

    2. OP #4*

      That’s a great point about initial screening. I was more thinking on the stage where someone is passing a resume off to me, but at that point they’ve already passed some sort of first round. I like the idea of including both for that reason. Because you’re right that the screener and hiring manager may have very different interest in the military title.

  58. MsSolo*

    The resume thing surprises me – I’m happy to admit I may have been in the wrong in not warning previous employers they may get called* but the idea of not giving reference contact detail at application is something I’ve not encountered before. I’ve never applied for a job where I haven’t been asked for a name and number for references up front, and when I’ve been on the other side failing to provide that means you don’t get an interview – you’ve demonstrated that you can’t follow instructions and make extra work for your potential colleagues. I’m really surprised that a lot of people are resistant to it, and I don’t know if it’s a difference in US/UK culture, or a public/private sector culture, or a generational thing.

    *though I’ve only changed employer a handful of times, so most of my references have either been internal, or with a generic number and the understanding that someone would be able to confirm I’d worked there but my line manager was no longer employed so no one would be able to give performance related feedback (very high turn over of middle management there!)

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yes, I think the difference is due to what you mentioned in your asterisk. When your reference is a specific person who you worked closely with and who is going to do more than just confirm your employment dates, you don’t necessarily want to bug them all the time. For example one of my references is my first ever manager, who LOVED me and is now retired. I still give people her direct number (with her permission) but I don’t want tons of people to be annoying her.

      I don’t think it’s a US/UK difference – I’ve worked in both (always private sector) and this is pretty common in both places.

      1. Blue Anne*

        (I should possibly mention that I’ve only been in the workforce for about 7 years, so my first manager can still speak to my work!)

    2. JustaTech*

      I think part of it is also that a person might not be comfortable giving out other people’s contact info if their application is not even going to get past the first screening. It can be embarrassing to let your references know how many jobs you’ve applied to that never even got to the phone stage (and there’s the fear that it would color their recommendation).
      At the same time I totally get why a very large organization wants all the info up front, so when they do decide to move forward with someone they can do it quickly.

    1. OP #4*

      One specifically was (not the example I mentioned.) I had a vet who needed to do an “informational interview” for the VA Voc rehab and I also agreed to review his resume.

  59. KR*

    Op2… I know it may technically be an elective procedure but if she got plastic surgery, there’s a good chance that those things have been picking at her self esteem and/or bugging her for years when she looked in the mirror. She’s not getting paid for it and even if she was, it’s something that will make most likely improve her mental health and self confidence, make her feel better about herself, and love herself more. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that even if it’s not nessecary to keep her alive.

  60. Dzhymm, BfD*

    OP#2: My guess is that at this workplace unpaid leave is not to be taken on a whim, so there’s some kind of “vetting” process to determine if your reason for requesting unpaid leave is legitimate enough. My guess is that OP2 feels that their coworker may have put some spin on their story so that their request would “make the cut”, and this “deception” needs to be brought to management’s attention.

  61. Statler von Waldorf*

    #1 – This is the main reason I think office pranks are a bad idea. There’s always that one person who likes to prank others, but when it’s their turn to get pranked, they turn into a HUGE drama llama and suddenly it’s not funny anymore. Personally, I think that those who stir the shitpot should have to lick the spoon, so I have zero sympathy for Jane on this one. My biggest concern as her manager would be what she is planning to do for retaliation. I’ve seen prank wars go nuclear before, and I would want to nip that possibility in the bud as soon as possible.

    #2 – Is this the hill you want to get fired on? Because I’d totally fire you over this if you came to me to complain about it. This is a 100% MYOB situation.

  62. nnn*

    As a non-military person, I find “Senior Logistics Sergeant” far more informative than “Senior Account Manager”. I can’t even imagine what an account manager would be in a military context. (In my workplace, account managers deal with clients, and I don’t know who the clients would be in a military context.)

    1. Imaginary Number*

      Military titles can get weird too, because “senior logistics sergeant” is an on-paper title for a job that would normally be called “S4 NCOIC” (which would probably make zero sense to a nonmilitary person.)

  63. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Re: OP #1, I can’t believe how many people are being really mean to Jane, and assuming that because she’s reacting badly to this one prank, then she would necessarily overreact to virtually ALL pranks. Why are you making that assumption? It’s just as likely that an in-office prank, like taping pictures all over her cube, is something she’d laugh at and take totally in stride.

    Her coworkers took something that was clearly A Thing with her — where she parked — and messed her around. She says it’s because she doesn’t want it to get dinged. Maybe that’s just her cover line, because the real reason is that something really horrifying once happened to her in or around her car, which she doesn’t like talking about and which is no one else’s business.

    As soon as she started yelling, you should have apologized right there, explaining that you didn’t realize it was that disturbing to her. And then dropped it, instead of grumbling with all your coworkers about what an overreacting bitch she is. If she’s this upset, it’s for a REASON, which you don’t have to know in order to accept.

    She didn’t like this one prank. That’s not a referendum on all pranks everywhere for the rest of time.

    1. fposte*

      It’s interesting, because I was initially disagreeing with you, but then thought that this is a window into Jane. To you, there’s a clear line between in-office and in-office-parking-lot that there isn’t to me, and I think probably there was similarly some line that was clear to Jane but not to her co-workers that was crossed here as well.

      Which suggests again to me that either they have to put down rules for pranks or Jane needs to bow out, because she’s not in step with her fellow prankers in this.

    2. nnn*

      This is an excellent point!

      I’ve heard a useful analogy that comedy/humour (which in this case would include pranks) is like sex: to be good at it, you have to make sure the thing you do is enjoyable for the other person and doesn’t hurt them.

      So in this case, coming up with a prank that involves Jane’s car is like if Jane always says she doesn’t like having her elbows touched, and her partner comes up with a sex act that involves touching her elbows. Even if most people don’t mind having their elbows touched, even if Jane’s usually up for all kinds of wild things, even if having your elbows touched is considered objectively sexy, it’s out of line to do it with Jane when she’s already clearly stated that she doesn’t like it.

  64. Madame X*

    The one takeaway I have learned from reading Ask A Manager is that pranks at the office carry a huge risk. The workplace just isn’t the place for pranks because you never know how a seemingly harmless prank may be received. Whatever small amount of joy you may get from the prank is not worth the risk of potential fall out if the target of the prank is extremely upset with the prank.
    It is odd that Jane would participate in pulling pranks if she is not willing to be a target of pranks either. Perhaps she felt that this prank was more personal or mean-spirited in nature than whatever she has done. What this situation illustrates is that what is considered mean-spirited varies wildly from person-to-person.

    Regardless of her apparent hypocrisy, the co-workers should apologize to Jane and then everybody should move on.

    1. JamieS*

      I 100% agree with you that pranks shouldn’t occur in the office and personally loathe them with a passion reserved only for office pranks and drivers who drive slow in the left lane. In this particular instance though it sounds like Jane is being over the line. True, OP could apologize just to smooth things over but I doubt an apology would actually help much given the extreme reaction to the prank assuming she’s mad about them parking their cars and not because she thought they were making fun of her.

  65. Lissa*

    On Letter #2 I am seeing a lot of comments that boil down to “it’s possible that the surgery was actually not just for aesthetic reasons” and a lot of anecdotes around that. While all that is very true, I think it also doesn’t matter even if the coworker was doing it entirely for reasons we have decided aren’t medical virtuous, but she just wants to look better. It’s still none of LW2’s business and IMO LW2 should not be taking away “it’s OK if I do this so long as I am absolutely certain there’s no medical/pain/reason I think is valid.”

    If people can use this for vacations, then it doesn’t matter if she’s doing this entirely out of “vanity” or what. So maybe she decided she wanted an extra cup size or different nose instead of going on a European vacation, doesn’t matter IMO.

  66. Noah*

    If an apology from coworkers doesn’t reign Jane from #1 in, then she needs some serious performance counseling and if she can’t control herself, eventually termination. This wasn’t even a prank. Other people parked in public parking spaces that were closer to her car than she was used to.

  67. Noah*

    The company in #2 is awful. I’ve never heard of a company that regulates your PTO like this. Vacation for a wedding or honeymoon? Fine. Vacation because you want to take a trip? No go. Staycation? Sorry, no way.

    That is one of the craziest policies I’ve ever heard of. Basically, unless you have a major life event, there’s no vacation time.

  68. Stop That Goat*

    1. “I’m sorry that I upset you. It was not my intention. I thought that this was harmless but I misjudged the situation.” and drop it. Although I think she’s being unreasonable about it, a simple apology is the best way to smooth it over. I also wouldn’t prank her again. Just stay away from office pranks completely.

  69. OP #5*

    I shared the information with my boss prior to the publication of my letter and wrote out some “talking points,” similar to what you suggested. He was very gracious and supportive, even offering to serve as a reference. Since the new job would be taking over what I do in a specific state, he knew that it would benefit my current org even if I was was working elsewhere. I also shared the information with the vice-chair of our board given his involvement in the partner org, and he also offered to serve as a reference. I feel very fortunate in this and know that others aren’t as lucky. This is the first time I’ve shared that I had applied for a new job prior to getting an offer.

  70. meat lord*

    “The company I work for allows people to take unpaid time off. This time can only be used for things like a special vacation (i.e., someone is planning a destination wedding or honeymoon) a family emergency (not parental leave) or medical reasons (your doctor says you need a week of sick time after surgery but you want to take two weeks).”

    I don’t know how to break this to LW #2, but her colleague is using this unpaid time off for medical reasons–in fact, literally to recover after surgery.

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