the rise of the Dark Knight workplace vigilante

The Guardian has a pretty funny article on “Dark Knights of the office” — or, as they put it, “lone vigilantes who police the workplace, ever watchful for heinous crimes that cannot go unpunished. Woe to those who step out of line and return from break two minutes late, leave food in the office fridge too long and fail to refill the photocopier.”

Some researchers studied this phenomenon and among their findings:

Derided as members of the “little Justice League” or simply “Batman”, vigilantes were described as “slinking around” and “creeping over people’s shoulders”, to catch others perpetrating even the most minor offences …

“Workplace vigilantes often reported people for minor offences, such as being two minutes late, or leaving food in the office fridge too long,” the researchers write. Not putting things back in precisely the right place was another crime that vigilantes commonly swooped on. “Our paper is the first to demonstrate that workplace vigilantes are indeed among us, in virtually every industry,” DeCelles and Aquino add.

You can read the whole thing here.

{ 483 comments… read them below }

  1. Doug Judy*

    In my last job I had a coworker that would track every typo I would make and then email me and cc our boss once a month with “the list”. It was annoying and worse was my manager (who sucked in many ways) would let her do it. He said he didn’t look at it or care and that I should ignore it, but the fact that he didn’t insist she knock it off pissed me off. She did it to everyone, not just me.

    She was very good at her job, which is sure why she got away with it, but when she would complain how she worked 50 hours a week, I wanted to scream if she stopped trying to “catch” every mistake others made, she’d probably be closer to 40/45.

    And of course she was the type of person who when she made an error would deny it tooth and nail or just giggle and say “Oopsie”. She as the worst.

      1. Squeegee Beckenheim*

        Doug Judy and Amy Santiago together in one thread! Can we get a Jake Peralta in here too?

        I confess I once made a list of typos that my BEC coworker made in a drawing, but the only thing I did with it was send it to a friend of mine who didn’t work there.

        1. Doug Judy*

          There is The Vulture and Detective Rosa Diaz around here too. I haven’t seen Jake though.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I haven’t seen a Jake, yet, but I’ve been dying for a Rosa Diaz, a Raymond Holt, and most importantly, a Gina Linetti.

        3. PB*

          I once started counting the number of words per sentence in a cover letter. It’s awfully hard to believe that someone has “excellent communication skills” when the average sentence length is over 35 words. It was just out of my own curiosity, though.

          1. Zombii*

            What level do you hire for? If they’re interns/entry level/right out of college, 35-word sentences are a show of restraint. ;P

            Seriously, writing academic papers will warp your sense of what a sentence is meant to do. As a personal challenge, I’ve managed 100-word sentences (that were grammatically correct) because writing academic papers bores me to the point that they won’t get written if I don’t do something/anything to keep myself interested.

            1. SeekingBetter*

              Back in college, I had to write 5-page minimum papers and I do also admit I was very wordy back then too.

            2. Rainy, PI*

              In grad school, a common joke while reading Cicero: “So what’s he saying?” “I don’t know–I’m only two pages in, so I haven’t gotten to the verb yet.”

              If it’s good enough for Cicero..!

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I would actively be finding ways to make this person’s work life miserable. I don’t know how besides resorting to bullying or anything illegal, but powered by pure spite I would find a way.

        1. First Initial . Last Name @ email . server*

          I think I would write intentionally uncorrected documents and send them just to Batman.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      That sounds perfectly miserable.
      I am a spiteful enough person that I would very earnestly ask her if she was alright with her workload, and if she wanted she could stop sending me lists of my mistakes because surely that took up a lot of time, and that’s really something that Boss could probably take care of…. just as a helpful suggestion, to get some stuff off her plate :)

      1. Doug Judy*

        Oh I don’t work there anymore. She’s a big reason why when I was laid off I gave zero cares.

    2. the gold digger*

      I think the “Oopsie!” would bother me almost as much as everything else.


      Hates baby talk in the workplace
      AKA Has set up her social fixer filter on FB to block anything containing, “Nom nom!” but said filter does not catch the Spanish version, which is, “ñom.”

      1. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

        I was going to say the same. The typo police would be annoying, but something I could probably ignore most of the time. But baby talk in the workplace just sets my teeth on edge. Too bad you can’t filter it out of spoken conversation!

        1. Lissa*

          I definitely see it as baby talk, but the kind that has moved into Internet talk/lolcats type speak as well. There’s a lot of overlap, and no rhyme or reason as to why some make me want to run screaming into the night and others are fine…

    3. Allison*

      I had a co-worker who brushed off every mistake with a giggle or an “oopsie!” or said she made the error because she was soooo busy and couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to little details. But when I made a mistake, she’d act like I was an idiot, or clearly too inexperienced to know how to do my job properly.

      1. Midge*

        That’s so annoying. I had a coworker who would argue vehemently about something where she was either wrong or had misunderstood something. Once you finally convinced her that she was wrong or she finally understood what you had been trying to explain, she would just say “haha oops!” I drove me completely nuts.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      Over a year after my MA thesis had been submitted and accepted and I had left grad school a former friend emailed me to tell me he’d read it and give me “his feedback” (on my MA thesis on Subject He Had Never Studied, which was 90% a list of typos and 10% failure to understand my entire field of study. I just didn’t respond, but I was tempted to ask if he had recently discovered negging, because that was the only motivation I could think of for doing such a thing.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        That’s *horrifying*. I mean, etiquette vi0lations and general rudeness aside, it feels like an actual nightmare of most grad students come to life. Another set of corrections to do? I’m flinching at the thought!

        What a jerk.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        See, I would have been more than happy for someone to check a paper of mine for typos *before* I submitted it, as that would be useful. After? What possible purpose does that serve?

    5. Gov Worker*

      You should have said what you wrote, that if she knocked off the not-her-job proofreading, her hours would decrease. Obnoxious people like this don’t deserve courtesy. And your boss is a wimp.

    6. Synonymous*

      I do tend to count when someone giving a presentation has a verbal tick. One of my college professors would say “What have you” all the time. I would giggle with my friend at our tally, but that was it.

    1. tw*

      This article reminded me of the episode where Jim tracks Dwight’s time after Dwight says he never steals company time. Annnnd Jim gets no work done because he’s busy tracking time

  2. Somniloquist*

    At Toxic ExJob, you were given the “rules” on the first say because our Dark Knight was also the Exec Admin and office manager. Her reign of terror on people who don’t use lids on their coffee cups or don’t push the seats in to the conference table after a meeting as well as a host of other infractions was so legendary that it made it into orientation.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wow! She made it into orientation?? Was there no higher level manager to get her to knock it off? That sounds insane.

      1. Gen*

        I wasn’t imagining plastic lids on paper cups but now I’m picturing all the staff lining up with a sippy cup, a biscuit and a blankie for mandatory nap time…

        I did know a manager who didn’t allow bottles to be set down on worktables without a lid but we’d had a previous incident that destroyed stock and caused an ant problem, so I can sort of see the reasoning

      2. sam*

        my office asks that we do this. They put in new carpeting recently – and while it’s scotchguarded, they got REALLY tired of having to clean up all the stains from spilled drinks that would happen and that people wouldn’t bother to tell them about until after it had dried/set. Asking people to keep lids on their coffee to minimize damage isn’t the worst thing in the world.

        But no one reports people for not doing it.

        1. Chaordic One*

          I keep thinking of all the keyboards that certain former coworkers went through because of spilling things on them.

          Luckily, I.T. apparently got a heck of a deal on new keyboards.

        2. Zombii*

          Yeah, I don’t see what’s so unreasonable about requiring people to have lids on drinks or pick up after themselves/push in chairs. If it’s a larger company, this isn’t even a question (and a smaller company could use a system where certain people had to use lids after destroying X-number of keyboards).

          I’m guessing the issue is with someone rigidly policing these obvious policies, but depending on company size, you kind of need to. Toxic ExJob had the security guard(!) in charge of throwing away drinks that didn’t have lids and chasing down newbies to tell them they were expected to bus their own tables in the break room; I don’t imagine that was fun for her, it seemed like a huge waste of her time.

          1. Somniloquist*

            The difference is that it wasn’t requested, which totally makes sense and is a good request. It was if you forgot one day and she “caught” you, you were yelled at in front of your peers and managers for awhile. And this went up to the director level — like, she did not care at all. And for good reason, since ToxicCEO allowed it.

            1. sam*

              Oh – absolutely. I was just trying to explain to Mike C. further down why lids on cups might be a real thing that offices sometimes require. All the rest of the bad behavior is completely inappropriate!

              (of course, my office, when they installed the new carpet, also gave us all nice ceramic mugs WITH lids to try to keep the spillage down. positive reinforcement, rather than negative!).

      3. Mishsmom*

        anyone else watch “Keeping Up Appearances”? reminds me of Hyacinth and Elizabeth :D

      4. Amadeo*

        You laugh, but I worked in a newspaper office that issued you your own ‘sippy cup’ for beverages at your desk. A wide bottomed insulated mug with a lid. I still brought a waterbottle.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I often go to performances at local venues that allow you to take your beer or wine back to your seat if you take it in basically a grown-up sippy cup. I’m for it in that context, since it’s a nice change from chugging your drink during intermission.

          1. Koko*

            Yep, there’s a synagogue around here that does that when they host performances in the evenings. You pay for the cup, so refills are cheaper and then you get to take the cup home with you! I have a small collection of them.

      5. Can't Sit Still*

        My last job required lids on coffee cups to prevent slips and falls, but stopped providing paper cups and plastic lids because it was wasteful. They bought us all coffee travel mugs instead, but then they replaced all of the coffee makers with machines that made individual cups of coffee and then the mugs were too tall…I’m glad I don’t work there any more.

        But the worst that would happen is EHS would tell you to use a lid next time if they caught you without one. It wasn’t something you would be written up for, but now I’m imagining a coffee cup PIP.

      6. Nic*

        My office also requires lids on all drinks, and when you’re hired they give you a coffee cup with a lid that has a tiny opening. We have raised floors with computers under them, so it’s quite reasonable.

        1. Chaordic One*

          You know, my former workplace did this too. At the time we thought it was an act of generosity on the part of our paternalistic employer, but now that I think about it I can see that it was part of a vast conspiracy to stop employees from spilling things.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I temped at a place that only allowed employees to have beverages in a company-branded water bottle which they had to purchase themselves. As a temp, I was not eligible to buy one. They tried to forbid me having water at my desk in my personal water bottle, but I basically just… ignored them and they decided that was not the hill they wanted to die on. (The hill they wanted to die on was me clocking in 45 seconds late after lunch because there was a line for the ONE time clock.)

            1. Koko*

              “I’m afraid I have a medical condition that requires me to have clean water available for drinking. It’s called being alive.”

    2. PB*

      But some people are militant anti-lids, because of the waste.

      You just can’t win.

  3. heatherskib*

    Why are these never the ones to report that the bathrooms need TP or that the printers are malfunctioning beyond repair? You know important stuff that is actually helpful.

    1. Red 5*

      As someone who is kind of the vigilant of our kitchen (long story short, it was a lawless place because no one would take responsibility for it and I said listen, I’ll start cleaning but I’ll set the rules if I do and was told to go ahead) I do also restock the paper in the printer, tidy up the copy room, report the lights that have gone out, call IT when the printer needs new ink, etc.

      But then, I also don’t report anybody for anything in the kitchen. I just posted the rules and what the consequences were and that’s just how it is. Reporting people for infractions is boring and useless if I can just deal with it and move on.

        1. Red 5*

          Depends on what it is exactly, but generally the stuff gets thrown away. Well, if it’s food or a container full of food. The fridge is cleaned out at a specific time each week, so people in theory know to not have anything in there unlabeled at that time.

          Dishes I’ll actually wash out and stash for a while in case somebody says “oh no, I accidentally left my mug that was given to me by my great grandmother and now I can’t find it!” After a week or two if nobody speaks up or moves it, I’ll find a way to donate or repurpose it.

          For the most part, I just grumble to myself while I clean up messes though.

          1. sssssssssss*

            I did something similar – the fridge was purged before every long weekend, giving everyone a good enough time to rescue food and containers and before Christmas, since we were shut down for 10 days, the fridge was completely emptied. It’s amazing how much food is forgotten and wasted.

            Containers were washed and stacked on a table nearby. If not claimed, well, I now have a few nice containers!

            1. Alice H.*

              At my sister’s workplace, they had a bit of a fridge clean out mix up recently. I believe the office got cleaned every Friday, and the janitorial staff would clear out the fridge. Everyone knew this, it wasn’t a big deal. The big deal came when after the office was closed on a Friday. So come Monday, people bring in their lunches/condiments/etc for the week, and the janitorial staff comes to clean the office.. and the fridge.

              1. Old Biddy*

                I work at a university. There is a conference room fridge for the 15 or so grad students I work with. My boss (who doesn’t really use the fridge) went on a cleanup frenzy and dumped all the condiments that were way past their expiration date. Sure enough, the students were still using those.

                1. Zombii*

                  Depending on the condiments, they might have been okay despite being past the date: hot sauce, mustard, basically anything that isn’t mayo-based. Sriracha (for example) lasts as long as it takes to be eaten—I have a big container in my fridge that’s 2 years old and it’s fine I swear.

              2. KR*

                A few years ago, my preferred snack was to bring in a large bag of carrot sticks and eat it throughout the week. The fridge was cleared out every Saturday morning and I had to work an early morning opening shift one Saturday… and my brand new bag of dated and initialed carrots got tossed. I asked the HR manager and she just said, “The fridge gets cleaned out every Saturday and I got to work after you, sorry.” Still mad.

      1. heatherskib*

        We don’t have one of you at my work. While we do have a general receptionist who takes care of the ordering of supplies and a weekly fridge clean out we share a floor with several offices and share bathrooms. Bathroom supplies are kept by the third party cleaning service that is only in contact with certain people- but no one will ever say “Hey, there’s no TP. Can someone contact the cleaning people for more” Nope, they tend to go to another floor to use the bathroom. So people will throw a small fuss over minor things but not report common things to improve other people’s lives like TP.
        Truly though our building has one common enemy. The elevators.

      2. paul*

        I played that role for a year or two for our kitchen (a coworker of mine took it over after she started, god bless and keep her).

        The first month I was here I found a milkshake that had been in the back of the fridge so long it had grown mold. I was only in the back of the fridge because I was desperately trying to fit my lunch in *somewhere* because it was so full because no one threw stuff away.

        I never complained about individuals but you bet I threw away a *lot* of stuff.

        1. copy run start*

          Old jobs fridge smelled like death for a similar reason. Once a coworker cleaned it out and found a soda can with someone’s initials, but it didn’t match anyone currently working there. It became the afternoon mystery.

          After a few hours, someone finally remembered who it was. The soda owner hadn’t worked there in 5 YEARS.

          1. Midge*

            Ok, now I’m intrigued. The soda can wasn’t the source of the smell, was it? I can only imagine that being the case if it was an open soda can. Sitting in the fridge for at least 5 years…

            Anyway, finding the most expired thing in my pantry is a fun game I play every time I move. Once, and I can’t remember if this was my husband’s or mine, we found a thing of mustard that was several years past its expiration date. Kind of hilarious when it’s your own (non-smelly) stuff. Not so much in a shared kitchen.

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      Last week in a team meeting boss told us all off about cleaning up after ourselves in the kitchen. She had been outraged to see the TL washing dishes. The funny thing is that we all wash our dishes and put them away after use. The TL leaves her dishes for days and sometimes weeks. I thought it was very unfair.
      Another annoying thing is the office down the hall has a thrower. She has thrown out all their dishes and cutlery so they come and steal ours, which then in turn is thrown out. We hide our stuff now.

    3. Lora*

      I was thinking of the grown adults who express their emotions in bathroom destruction – the poop-painters, seat-splatterers etc mentioned a few weeks back. Now THAT would be useful, because it’s a thing nobody wants to supervise for and it’s a conversation nobody wants to have other than these Dark Knight people.

      1. Girl friday*

        That is more people stuck in a developmental stage, either psychologically or physically: unable to follow or unaware of norms. Vigilantes are criminals. Criminals with a popular motive though. I didn’t even know about poop smearers until I read Allison’s post, by the way.

  4. EJ*

    What I’ve noticed with these self-enforced “office vigilante” types of people: They are usually the ones not following the “rules” themselves… and like to brushoff their mishaps like it was no big deal!

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      My experience has been that these sort of people have been in the position for a long time, virtually unsupervised and a law unto themselves. It takes significant restructuring to get rid of these types buth also costs a lot in terms of money and goodwill.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yep, my first thought. I mentioned in the open thread a coworker who burst into my room between classes and proceeded to scream at me, in front of students, for… undermining another teacher’s authority. She was nitpicking about the words I had used to describe something to her son (a student), while massively violating every professional and interpersonal norm adults and teachers should practice. This same teacher harshly punished any student who broke the tiniest of her rules, but was late most days, left early most days, unilaterally exempted her children from participating in class projects/reading certain books/doing certain homework, refused to come to teacher meetings, etc.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        “unilaterally exempted her children from participating in class projects/reading certain books/doing certain homework” — wait, how did she get away with THAT one?

        Like, man, I attended public schools and I know there’s a high level of burnout / don’t-give-a-crap-attude among public school teachers and staff (I had some excellent teachers too! Not against teachers, but my school seemed to have a disproportionate amount of teachers who straight up said they didn’t care anymore and openly disliked their students). And people get away with a lot because…I mean it’s probably a complicated issue, but it seemed to boil down to the fact that the school didn’t pay a lot, so they couldn’t attract great candidates, so firing a teacher and hiring someone new inevitably meant hiring someone equally bad.

        So, over-punishing students, teachers showing up late (or never), screaming at other teachers–I’ve seen it. But exempting her own kids from assignments, presumably other teachers assignments? That wouldn’t fly. It would wound the other teachers’ pride that their assignments were rejected. There would be a throw down. Or, at the very least, hella passive-aggressive action against her kids.

        I feel sorry for her kids and her students. AND for you for having to deal with her as a co-worker. I majored in English in college, and everybody is like, “So, you want to be a teacher?” and I’m like, 100% no.

        Anyway, keep on keeping on; we need good teachers.

        1. Parenthetically*

          It just wasn’t worth pushing back against. She had already decided to pull her kids out at the end of the year and homeschool, and she was SUCH a defensive, passive-aggressive, demanding person that it wasn’t worth the inevitable nightmare.

        2. Frozen Ginger*

          I just remembered all my high school history/government teachers, and oh my god they would’ve shut down so hard.

          My senior history teacher had/has a PhD, but everyone still called him Mr. Teapot. However, if someone (*cough* a parent *cough*) ever gave him grief, the first time they’d start “Mr. Te-” and he’d cut them off with “Actually it’s DOCTOR Teapot.”

          This is also the teacher who threatened to burn down our house if we failed the IB test. Everyone loved him.

          1. A4this*

            OMG we may or may not have gone to the same high school. I had a history teacher who had a PhD in a mysterious, unspecified subject, and would make us call him “Doctor.” (I suspect it was either a P.Ed or ABD)

      2. Rainy, PI*

        A temp employee once followed me into the washroom to shriek maniacally at me about why our payroll system was messed up and said she wasn’t being paid. (They were upgrading it. It was not going well.) This was 4 days before payday. I had already called to check and was told whatever the system said, everyone would be paid on time (they were).

        Joke’s on her–I got promoted to run the program her job duties involved, and we’ll never hire her to temp for us again.

        1. Zombii*

          That’s unfortunate. Shrieking maniacally is definitely not the way to handle it, but the possibility of not getting paid is a big deal for some most people. I hope you meant to say this information had already been passed along but she was ignoring the reassurance in favor of dramatics, instead of saying she shouldn’t have been upset about this for reasons?

          As a counterpoint, I worked for a company that had a glitch in the payroll system that looked like we weren’t getting paid, and everyone was told we’d be paid on time—but then we weren’t, at least not those of us with direct deposit (everyone who had elected deposits to the expensive payroll giftcard thingy got paid just fine). They tried to say we had to wait for the next payday to get paid and were shocked when anyone pushed back on that.

          1. Rainy, PI*

            Of course I’d told her. Twice. I had checked on her personally by name to make sure she was being paid, after the email she sent me accusing me of not doing my job, despite the mass email I’d sent out that due to the upgrade, the system was displaying incorrect payroll information but that I’d received assurance from the main office that everyone was being paid correctly and on time. Which is literally the only control anyone in my previous role has over the process, so screaming at someone in that role is not only rude, it’s pointless.

            That wasn’t good enough, hence following me into the washroom to scream at me.

    3. JoJo*

      I had a similar situation many years ago. I brought the mail to the mail room at 3:00 p.m. and Pat was supposed to bring it down at 11:00 a.m., the mailman came to pick it up at 4:30. Anyway, a couple of times I was busy and didn’t bring the mail down until all of 3:05 or 3:10, and Pat had a hissy fit every time and threatened to go to my boss about this gross dereliction of duty.

      Anyway, I make a formal log for two weeks of her mail delivery times, which included the two days she didn’t bring it down at all, and the other eight times she was late. The next time I was all of 15 minutes late, she marched into my boss’s office to complain. The boss showed Pat the log, and told her that she was being very childish.

      I don’t get the people who spend all their time and energy trying to bust their co-workers over minor things.

    4. INFJ*

      They’re also the ones leaving passive aggressive “your mom doesn’t work here” notes.

      1. Cleopatra Jones*

        Those notes are so stupid to me. Even if your mom did work there, it’s still not her job to clean up after you. Even if your mom was the office janitorial staff, still not her job to clean up after you because you’re an adult.

    5. The Moving Finger*

      Yeah, mine has been “It’s perfectly fine if we and my friends do X, but if YOU do X….”

    6. PB*

      So true! I had an office vigilante at my last job. She also made up her own rules and enforced those. She is a huge part of why I’m not there anymore.

    7. BananaPants*

      Our office had a dress code vigilante – we’ll call her Sue. For years she made a habit of policing and reporting young female employees whose apparel she felt was “too revealing” or violated the dress code in some way. She is a woman of size and only reported questionable clothing violations on slim, young female coworkers – never plus size women or men. Note that for the last 2 decades Sue herself has worn tee shirts, black yoga pants, and sneakers to work every single day, ALL of which is blatantly against our dress code.

      Many times I had female colleagues come to me after being hauled in to HR to be told there was a complaint from Sue about their apparel. She never filed a report on me, but I’m a size 18/20 (so, not skinny) and at the peak of her vigilantism I wore chinos and polo shirts every day, often with coveralls or a lab coat. I had friends reported for stopping at the ladies’ room while still wearing sneakers after a lunchtime walk, as well as having a polo shirt unbuttoned (“showing cleavage”), wearing a dress shirt with cap sleeves (which Sue interpreted as a “tank top”), or clothing that Sue felt was too tight (“accentuating the bust”). I swear, I’m not kidding. The HR manager kept assuring the reported women that he wasn’t actually recording the complaints anywhere in their files, but he also didn’t do anything to get her to stop.

      Blessedly he left and we got a female HR manager who told her that her reporting pattern was obvious, it was actually discriminatory, and that if it continued she would be taking disciplinary action against Sue.

      1. Midge*

        I’m so glad that someone finally told her how wrong that was and to stop! Ugh, uncool Sue! :(

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That was my reaction, too. I feel like they picked the wrong metaphor… :/

      2. Tyrion*

        I think of it as ironic mocking. Like in basic training, our drill sergeants would refer to the most ate-up trainees as “hero” and such.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I actually got to use that quote in real life at work once. I was rolling the chair back and forth in my supervisor’s office while filing, and I said something about this rug that kept catching the wheel. I said, “Somebody’s gonna trip on this.” Supervisor said, “Yeah, it needs replacing, but Boss doesn’t want to spend any money.” I whipped out that quote in Joker’s inflection and she cracked up, hahaha. :)

  5. Academia for sure*

    Our department has one, who is luckily too busy for much policing these days. Unfortunately this kind of behavior is usually eventually rewarded with a promotion to managerial rank.

  6. DecorativeCacti*

    I used to work with one of those. She tried to get me in trouble for being exasperated after I got a ton of hang-ups when I was the receptionist. No one was around to hear me except her! All I did was sigh. She also yelled at me and told me it wasn’t my job to tell a staff member when someone dropped something off for them. Not my job as a receptionist… Hmm.

    1. Red 5*

      UGH, this reminded me of a thing I’d forgotten from when I was a receptionist. I had worked one job for several years, where I had one particular phone greeting. Then I got a new job. A few months into the new job, I was fighting with the old job about my vacation payout and had them on the brain, so I absentmindedly answered the phone with Old Job’s greeting.

      It was a co-worker’s wife, and I thought “oh good, that wasn’t too bad, I can just make a joke about it and move on since it wasn’t a customer.”

      HA. No, she told her husband how horribly unprofessional I was, and then HE went to my boss about how horribly unprofessional I was and then I got a talking to about how I’m supposed to answer the phone a particular way and they can’t have me saying the wrong business name and what did I think I was doing etc. etc. It was a 15 minute conversation and I just sat there completely baffled the entire time.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I answer the phones at my current job sometimes, and it’s the same kind of organization as a previous gig, with a similar name and I am SHOCKED that I haven’t said the old name yet. Or maybe I did and just didn’t notice!

      2. Leenie*

        They sound like a well suited couple. At least they aren’t inflicting themselves on other romantic partners, who might actually be nice people.

      3. Zombii*

        I don’t understand how this doesn’t happen more often, since very few people work for the same company their whole lives anymore. Hell, I still answer my own mobile phone “Borders” sometimes. ;P

        1. Rabbit*

          I have a good friend who’s been an emergency dispatcher for 6 years and more than once I’ve called her to be greeted with “9-1-1, what is your emergency”. I think it’s hysterical but apparently it bothers her mother in law. :P

          1. Pippa*

            I used to answer the house phone with “Burn Trauma Unit” after a rough day at work. Friends thought it hysterical (and knew they had the right place and just had to remind me I had already clocked out) and I think I scared off a few telemarketers.

  7. Muriel Heslop*

    As a teacher, I am unsurprised that education has an overrepresentation of Dark Knights. I attribute less to unions (I teach in a non-union state) and more to people who have authority/power/control boundary issues. Currently, we have at least six or seven of these on campus and the worst offender is our assistant principal. He makes most of us crazy with his breakroom policing. We have students – go nitpick them!

    1. Manders*

      My husband works in a high school department with a “flat hierarchy” and I swear it’s a petty vigilante breeding ground. The department is really insistent on team teaching and sharing every emotion as you experience it, and it means that every teacher is up in everyone else’s business all the time.

      1. Dee*

        There are really good reasons we don’t share every emotion as we experience, but instead stuff it down and prevent ourselves from yelling at our coworkers.

          1. Knitty*

            Omg this came up today since I have a meeting with a highly aggravating person next week. A coworker and I went full Dr. Suess and made up a rhyme.
            I will not punch you here or there.
            I will not punch you anywhere.
            I will not punch you in the head.
            I will not punch you till you’re dead.
            *Not kind obviously, but laughing at that did take my murderous thoughts down to a manageable level. *

    2. Mike C.*

      I always found that folks like assistant principals fall into two categories – those who are interested in teaching students and those who are petty tyrants.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s because a lot of schools task assistant principals with crap jobs like student discipline, test-taking, and low-level HR problems. I can’t tell if tyrants are attracted to the job, or if they become that way because so many of their duties are about rigid adherence to rules and a (in my mind) relatively punitive approach to “discipline” issues.

      2. Kiki*

        Both my middle school and high school assistant principals fell into the ‘petty tyrant’ territory. In middle school I got busted for things like wearing ribbons in my hair, having my school-mandated gym shorts be too short (sorry I’ve got long gangly legs), and spending too much time in the library after school. In high school it was sitting in a car with a boy (we got in the car to drive home), shutting my locker too loudly, and spending too much time in the library after school.

        1. Scotty Smalls*

          Uhm did you have Trunchbull as a vice principal? They didn’t grab you by the hair and swing you over the fence did they?

      3. Bryce*

        Mine were nice to me, but my mom was a substitute and it was a small town so I grew up knowing everyone.

    3. ReneeB*

      The fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small.

      That was originally said about academic settings, I think.

      But it seems to hold true in any situation where the general sense reigns of excessively low pay or no pay (like all volunteer organizations), disempowerment (teaching is classic), being always expected to do more with less ‘for the cause’ (like churches), and where the steps to advancement or relief are unclear, unfair, or arbitrary.

      It makes us fight and go vigilante over the stupidest low-stakes stuff.

      1. Labguy*

        See also, under-paid prison guards who turn into torturers, breaking prisoner’s arms for not standing up fast enough.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I actually don’t think that’s at all analogous, or that the stakes are small.

          1. winter*

            Yeah I don’t have compassion for people in power abusing that power. You are an adult and can find a way to deal with your frustrations without abusing vulnerable populations, geez.

        2. Gov Worker*

          My ex was a federal correctional officer. He did this fir an amazing 23 years. His lip was busted because he jumped in an inmate fight without waiting for backup because otherwise the guy would have been killed. He got nothing for his trouble. Please don’t disparage correctional officers.

        3. Zombii*

          That has nothing to do with pay and everything to do with gross powertrips brought on by conditioning, training, and expectations. See: the Stanford Prison Experiment.

    1. Dorothy Mantooth*

      Exactly what I was thinking. How many times has someone asked if they should keep a log of their coworkers comings and goings – or that they are someone being logged!

      1. The Moving Finger*

        I actually keep a log of the phone calls I get in case someone claims I screamed at someone again.

  8. Aphrodite*

    Okay, I want to know who here has been an office vigilante and do you now regret it or it is merely in remission? (I have never been one unless, once, the refrigerator is beyond disgusting with months-old lunches quietly molding away.)

    1. iseeshiny*

      I don’t tattle or confront but I definitely take note of who the jerks are who don’t refill the paper and who leave gross messes in the breakroom. I’m just one of the scared sheeple, who notices problems but is too cowardly to go out and fight minor irritations evil.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Nothing that can’t be solved with a cape, mask, skintight body suit, and same basic parkour ability.

    2. sam*

      I think there’s a difference between having a policy of “we’re going to clean out the fridge every Friday” so that things don’t get disgusting and trying to get people in trouble for not throwing out their food.

      I mean – when I notice that the printer is low on toner or paper (not just the machine, but the supply – I know how to put more paper in the machine!), I let someone know – but it’s so that we can order more, not so that the person in charge of doing the ordering somehow gets in trouble for it?!

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, I don’t really give a flying f what other people do, but I’ve spoken up about lax fridge policies and used to be the go-to copy machine declogger.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I spoke up about electioneering in the workplace after someone conspicuously left a National Enquirer with a screaming anti-Dem headline on it in the office break room last autumn. It lay there on the table gathering sidelong glances until I shoved it in the trash can. We had an anonymous company suggestion box/complaint board on the intranet (anonymous to the readers, but not to IT or bigwigs) and I reported it there. The company president backed me up.

          1. paul*

            Someone in our building used to leave Watchtower magazines all over the damn place. Two agencies moved out last year and it stopped. Thankfully.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I spoke up when someone bought pink bedazzled rubber gloves that said “perfect housewife” on them for the office kitchen (we all take it in turns doing a week of kitchen duty, and part of that duty is to replace kitchen supplies if they run out; everyone buys their own favourite handsoap or dish detergent when it’s their turn. Yes, we get reimbursed). I said to our Operations people that I didn’t think it was workplace appropriate, and they agreed and removed the gloves. That was my one vigilante incident and I would do it again :)

            1. heatherskib*

              I could totally see that being a white elephant gift that they just hated to throw away or something.

              1. winter*

                In that situation, I would not care how it got there, but the effect it had in the workplace. Which is promoting sexism.

                1. Gov Worker*

                  I think the gloves are cute, especially when the men wear them. Not everything has to ve so serious.

            2. Sherry*

              I *almost* spoke up when a “hot chicks in bikinis” calendar appeared in a high traffic area. I held my tongue for half a day, though, and it disappeared. A manager must have spotted it, or someone else must have spoken up.

              I wonder if it hadn’t been taken down, whether I should have gone to a manager or spoken to my coworkers directly. I had a reasonably good relationship with those guys, so I probably would have spoken to them first. I just wasn’t up for a debate on what is and isn’t appropriate at work!

          3. WellRed*

            Our former bookkeeper office mgr (since retired) had dinner with our crazy Republican gov. (he’s a bully and windbag, I am not accusing Republicans in general) and proceeded to send a lengthy email to the whole staff about how “real” he was and how how the media just doesn’t “get him.” And on and on. Did I mention we are media? My publisher jokingly asked the head honcho if that meant he could bring in a certain dem running for office.
            The bookkeeper was asked not do it again.

            1. Zip Silver*

              Every politician I’ve ever met has been “likeable”, even if I disagree with their positions. Usually you have to be at least a bit of a people person to win elections.

              There’s a reason we’ve only had one academic president elected on policies!

              1. Definitely Anon for This*

                I work in politics, and trust me – in the office, when the media and/or voters aren’t around, they are not so likable. Many of them are just plain jerks, but are sociopathic enough or good enough liars/actors to fool the voting public in snippets of publicity. I’ve worked for two who (unbeknownst to them) don’t get the votes of many on their staff, because they’re quite reviled.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  The ones who I find really fascinating are the ones who lack any charm in any context. They’re certainly more rare than the capable-of-being-charming jerks, but I’m always left wondering, “how? why?”

                2. Once a Staffer, Always a Staffer*

                  I’ve served on congressional staff in the past, and I couldn’t disagree more. We were always very proud to work for our member, and we still are, several years after that member retired.

                  To be sure, your mileage may vary;. Still, you should reconsider generalities like “trust me, they’re not so likeable,” because others’ mileage may vary as well.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          At my old office, the person who sat closest to the copier had a sign up explaining that it was not her job to fix it. Unfortunately this just alerted people that she might know.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I was hovering at the edge of it when I started working. I still notice stuff like attaching Certified Mail stickers incorrectly to envelopes, but I trained myself out of saying anything about it.

      1. Anna*

        The rational person may notice it, but knows to keep a lock on commenting. (I notice, too, with a swift reminder to myself that it is Not My Business and Harms No One).

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      I confess, I’m the office perfume vigilante. We supposedly have a no perfume policy, but there’s some who ignore it. I’ve gotten better though, because I realized my nose is stronger than most my coworkers and they began to think I’m a bit wacky. My friend/coworker is the actual vigilante though. People joke about the postits she leaves around and even she laughs about it.

    5. Sarianna*

      I definitely tend in that direction–I notice things!–but since starting my office job, I observed that the culture was not to say anything. So I don’t either. Unless it’s customer-facing and matters, in which case I’ll soften my “please fix your typo/spelling error/wrong word” with “I really liked the way you explained xyz, it was very helpful/clear/whatever. Oh, btw, [should the ‘abd’ on line n be ‘abc’|do you mean abd or abc in this section, because abd implies to me other thing]?”

      Using my nice words gets things fixed, but being a butt about it doesn’t. And ultimately I’d rather see the changes happen than be self-righteous.

    6. The Optimizer*

      I once confronted a coworker who habitually thought it was beneath him to wash his dirty mugs/silverware, replace the water jug or make coffee after he emptied it (and those were only his break room offenses – the list would be SO MUCH longer if I listed his actual work offenses). The last straw was when I went to heat up my lunch and had to wait for him to be done reheating his lunch. When I went back a couple of minutes later, I found the microwave covered in tomato sauce because he hadn’t bothered to use the spatter cover let alone clean up his mess. I brought him the glass tray from the micro and told him to not be such a slob and clean up after himself. He denied it despite the half eaten plate of spaghetti in front of him.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I might be misunderstanding the article, but I wouldn’t call that vigilantism. In fact, it’s preferable for coworkers to bring up issues regarding shared resources with one another before making an anonymous complaint or escalating. As long as there’s already an (in)formal shared “policy” about the shared stuff (e.g., everyone does their own dishes and does them promptly), the person raising the issue does so directly and professionally, and the request isn’t unreasonably nitpicky, then it’s ok in my book. And as a manager, I’m going to ask you what you’ve done to address it, first, anyway, so it’s reasonable to talk to your peer about problem behavior, first.

        That said, I worked with a junior coworker/vigilante who was insufferable and condescending to only me. She actively tried to get me in trouble with my boss and would straight up lie about me to him. I always called her on it, but she thought she had a special relationship with my boss (she did not).

        But my favorite was when I had to take an emergency phone call from my grandmother because my grandfather, who has had a prior stroke, was in the hospital with a second suspected stroke. My grandmother, who has her own earth challenges, was panicked about power of attorney issues. It was the first time I took a personal call on the job, and I told my boss what was going on so he wouldn’t be alarmed that I couldn’t meet right away when he dropped in. The coworker not only loudly complained to me and everyone that I was “always on the phone taking personal calls,” she brought it up every day for 3 months, told employees in other departments, and continuously said to me, “Wow. I would never take a personal call because it’s so unprofessional.” It was the first time I actively hated a coworker. As far as I’m concerned, she can go straight to hell and burn.

        1. SadPanda*

          I cannot believe that people *never* get personal calls at work.

          It doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that!

        2. The Moving Finger*

          I guess you should have just waited and hoped he didn’t die before 5 pm???

    7. the gold digger*

      After months of washing, drying, and putting on the counter the same bowl left in the breakroom sink – a bowl with leftover oatmeal and soaking water, which made it look like it contained vomit, I finally just threw it in the trash one day. (It wasn’t my bowl.)

      1. Camellia*

        Did a new one magically appear or did unknown person go oat-less forever more?

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha we used to have dishes and a dishwasher in our kitchen/break room. There was a cleaning rotation, each department was assigned to a week and we had to make sure the sink was clean, dishwasher run, tables wiped, etc. For the most part, people were good about cleaning up after themselves but some people would just put their dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter without rinsing them. One of my coworkers would just throw those dishes out instead of scraping dried food off of them or hoping the dishwasher cleaned them! After a while, they got rid of all of the dishes and the dishwasher.

      3. Canadian Natasha*

        [hides face in shame]
        I may not be that bad but one of our office vigilantes did put up a passive agressive dishes-washing note in our breakroom with a direct reference to my oatmeal bowl.

        I generally eat oatmeal on my morning break, throw the bowl and spoon (which are office supplies) in the sink with water*, and then wash it on my lunch break because there isn’t time to wash it on my break. (Other office vigilantes are anal about break times being only exactly 15 minutes from desk back to desk and the bosses back them up). On occasion if I don’t eat lunch in the break room I forget to wash my bowl til the next day.

        I leave myself a sticky note now so I rarely forget but honestly I think the people who stole all the forks from the breakroom and still haven’t returned them more than 6 months later are way worse! (Not that I’m keeping track… Grrrr! ;) )

        *I fill the bowl with soapy water not the whole sink

        1. Pet Hate*

          Argh! Please do not leave stuff in the sink! Leave it on the counter so the sink is usable.
          Thank you!

      4. likes a clean kitchen*

        Ugh, there is one of those bowls in the breakroom sink all day, which gets in the way of those of us who wash and dry our lunch dishes. I finally took it out of the sink and set it hard on the counter, slopping the mess all around. I think the culprit was forgetting about it, as it’s not visible in the sink. The bowl is being cleaned up now. But I like the idea of throwing it away.

    8. London Calling*

      I detest with some vigour a) those people who send a load of printing then don’t pick it up and refill the tray 2) people who DO pick up their printing but don’t bother to refill the tray and c) people whose printing jams the printer but who have not bothered to pick up their printing and leave it to the next person to do the unjamming. No circle of hell is deep and dark enough for them and no suffering too great but I confine myself to tutting and muttering and slamming copier trays rather than fresort to vigilantism.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Ooh, or people who send a print job that needs legal size paper but don’t walk over to the printer to find and manually feed in the right paper, so then all subsequent print jobs don’t go through until someone else realises and goes to do it for them.

        1. calonkat*

          I am an awful person apparently. I’ve waited for such print jobs for a while, then I just tell the printer to print it on regular paper (which is just cuts off everything oversized).

          Keeps the line moving and solves my problem!

          The sort of person who doesn’t realize what they’ve done is also the person who has no idea it took a manual override to mess up their print job (in a day or so when they meander over to get it, that is).

          1. Bridget*

            If my job is behind someone else’s who can’t be bothered to load the right paper…I just elevate my own so that it prints first and let them figure it out on their own. :)

      2. heatherskib*

        I approach it another way… If I know who it belongs to, I run it over to them. It’s an easy office kindness and I get some exercise.

    9. Red 5*

      In a way, I currently _am_ an office vigilante, but not quite in the way described.

      Basically our kitchen wasn’t anybody’s responsibility. There were rules but no enforcement, the cleaning staff (rightly) wouldn’t touch it and it only got cleaned when somebody like you got fed up with it.

      So one day I said I would take on the responsibility for it if I was allowed to set the rules. I posted them, and now the kitchen is generally a much better place. But at the same time, there’s no report or shaming or anything else going on with our kitchen. There are certain posted cleaning times and anything that doesn’t follow the rules is thrown away at that time. I don’t need to go through a ton of hassle over a forgotten container of yogurt that expired six months ago when I could just throw it in the trash and move on with my life.

      1. Canadian Natasha*

        You are totally not an office vigilante. I’d say you are, however, the legitimately appointed Kitchen Sheriff. Use your powers wisely! ;)

    10. Manders*

      I have a bad habit of stewing with resentment when I see people getting perks or a flexible schedule I don’t have due to nepotism. I would never, ever say something about it though, and I have to balance my enjoyment of working in small offices with the knowledge that I’ll probably never be able to get away from this thing that bugs me unless I work at a larger company with stricter rules.

      I’ve also thrown molding food away, but that’s because some people were let go or quit unexpectedly and I’m pretty sure the fuzzy lunches belonged to them.

    11. JanetM*

      I have been the cleaner-out of the refrigerator (send a reminder on Wednesday; clean it out on Friday) and the orderer of supplies for many years. I don’t think I’ve ever actually tattled on someone, but I have been known to wander into a friendly coworker’s office to ask, plaintively, “WHY are there three empty boxes that used to contain batteries in the supply closet? I don’t CARE who’s using batteries or for what, I just want them to TELL ME when the supply is getting low!”

      On the other hand, and I’m not sure this is the same thing, I have also been the person who has had to call the maintenance office and say, “Okay, your guys showed up, looked at the leak, said, ‘Yep, that’s a leak all right,’ and left for lunch. That was yesterday. The leak is still leaking.”

    12. Guilty!*

      Before being diagnosed as on the autism spectrum (which helped me recognize and learn how to counter it!) I had these kind of tendencies because it stuck out to me SO MUCH. It would drive me batty to see even little things, but I learned quickly what a waste of time it is and trained my brain in different ways to let it go – which means way fewer people avoid me in the workplace now! I still see things, and they still make my teeth grind, but I have a built-in reality check-er now.

    13. Feo Takahari*

      I spent four years working for a college, then got an entry-level retail position. It took me a while to adjust. At the college, people wanted work to be done properly because they were proud of their work. At the store, people wanted to work for eight hours and then go home, and if that left a mess for the next shift, that was too damn bad. I spent a while being really picky over people I thought weren’t cleaning up after themselves.

    14. Rainy, PI*

      I terminate expired food with extreme prejudice, but I also send multiple warnings before I do so. And I don’t get people in trouble, I just toss everything without a name or valid date, and everything that’s gone bad.

    15. Mallory Janis Ian*

      The only vigilante thing I do is that, if someone leaves their dish “soaking” in the sink for three days or more, I “disappear” said dish into the trash. No regrets. In fact, I disappeared a coffee mug yesterday that had been soaking since Monday with soap and oatmeal in it. After several days, I consider such dishes abandoned.

      1. Duck duck goose*

        That’s not OK. Who appointed you to determine whether dishes are abandoned? Merely because you brush it off as “the only vigilante thing I do” does not make it right.

  9. Hermione*

    He’s probably more accurately Two-Face: “It’s not about what I want. It’s about what’s fair!”

    1. Stephanie*

      Oh God. Yeah, I had a time-clock watcher at OldJob and he talked about “fairness” all the time. I refrained from pointing out all the time he spent on YouTube instead of working.

      1. twig*

        He should have spent that youtube time watching the Princess Bride.

        “Life is not fair. Anyone telling you otherwise is trying to sell you something”

        1. Amber Rose*

          I was thinking of the Goblin King from Labyrinth after Sarah whines again about fairness: “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?”

      2. Red 5*

        I actually had a boss take me aside and give me a talking to because I was a few minutes late sometimes because I would get stuck in traffic and my co-worker had complained that it was unfair to her that I was late getting in (again, by a few minutes).

        I pointed out that said co-worker would literally sit in front of customers and pointedly ignore them and act like they weren’t there because she “wasn’t on the clock” yet (instead of just saying “I’ll be ready for you in a few minutes or anything else) and that even when she DID clock in she always spent the first 15 minutes of every shift gossiping with one of the managers before moving on to spending 20 minutes cleaning and readjusting her work space. I actually did far more _work_ but I still got a note in my file because it’s still “disrespectful” to coworkers to clock in a few minutes late.

        1. the gold digger*

          co-worker would literally sit in front of customers and pointedly ignore them and act like they weren’t there because she “wasn’t on the clock” yet

          That is so maddening for customers. When I worked at Macy’s over one Christmas, they told us to take our nametags off when we went on break (and still in the store) so that customers would not get annoyed that we were not available to answer questions.

          1. Liane*

            I bet it didn’t help. I’d get questions–I mean rude demands–when I had my badge off and was carrying lunch food, a drink, my purse, and my iPad.
            Speaking of questions, I have no questions as to why–even in the middle of 100+ degree summer–College Son wears a tee under his Grocery Store polo so he can remove said polo as soon as he clocks out.

            1. Zathras*

              I appreciated that my retail uniform was a vest that went on over your normal clothes. You could remove the vest and stash it behind the registers when it was time for your break, then move about the store in relative stealth mode. (It still didn’t stop everyone, but it helped.)

              My favorite rude customer story is a time I wasn’t even at work. I was at Home Depot and a woman got angry with me for not being able to answer her question, even though I politely explained to her that I didn’t work there. (I was not wearing any orange whatsoever.)

              1. Chaordic One*

                I find that when I wear a red polo, people at Target keep stopping me to ask where things are.

                I always tell them, “It’s over on the other side of the store.”

          2. Irish Em*

            I had two managers at Old Job who were vigilantes purely so they could bully the rest of us. It was so demoralising. And I just heard that one of them (who was an awful person in many, many other ways) just got a huge promotion. *disgusted noise*

        2. Meddling Little Belgian*

          This same thing just happened to me, almost word-for-word. I usually show up early, but was running a few minutes behind one day last week. So, I was still early, just not as early as I usually am. Next day my supervisor confronted me (in the open break room, by the way) about being on time and respecting my co-workers. Never asked me what happened, why I was later than usual, or if everything was okay, just took our vigilante’s word for it like ALWAYS. I was, and still am, livid. Our vigilante rules the roost here to the point where people have been let go or changed divisions to get away from the toxic work environment. And my current supervisor probably has another 5-10 years before retirement, so I don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.

  10. In Lou Of*

    I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant colleagues, but I’ve honestly never encountered one of these… Thank you, AAM, for always being there to remind me that there are still types of office baddies I haven’t yet seen. :) It keeps the lunch break interesting.

  11. do it MY way!!! /jk*

    I had one in my office who would say “the policy is… ” on shoes, clothes, what pens we could use, how we set up our workspace, etc. but NONE of this was a rule except in her own mind. So I started doing it just to piss her off. Not gonna lie, I got satisfaction out of it, but not enough to continue with anyone else or do it after she moved departments.

    1. Nanc*

      It’s been a long morning and I read pens as a whole different word with an i between the last two letters and gave myself brain whiplash.

      That said, I’m glad your evil dark night has moved on!

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, when I first got into collecting fountain pens, I was looking for different online shops. I came across a store with the name “Island” in the name.

        That was special.

        1. Megan*

          I had a co-worker who was looking for a pen that would write in space (we have to initial things that are sometimes a little wet and it’s difficult to stop them from smearing), and I mentioned to him that pen island had all kinds of pens he should check out.

          He turned around right there and looked it up on his work computer – I really didn’t think he would, I thought he would do it at home later or something, so I tried to intervene but failed.

          Fortunately he laughed.

        2. LoneDragon*

          There is a consignment store called Kids Exchange…but they choose to write their sign “KIDSEXCHANGE”.

  12. Amber Rose*

    Ah, the adult version of the playground snitch.

    I personally have only ever met one, back when I was in retail as a cashier. I was given some bags to re-use, and I set them down on a shelf under my till to deal with later because I had 20 people in line, and was scolded by a coworker for not putting them on the bag holder thingy. Her words were something along the lines of “You’re new here, so you should listen to people who know how to do their job properly.”

    Unfortunately I hadn’t learned the requisite filter between mouth and brain (I was 16 or so), so I told her a small trained monkey could figure the job out given a few minutes and could she please stop treating me like an idiot.

    Things were tense after.

    1. London Calling*

      At 62 I don’t have that filter all the time either and I’d have said the same, at 62 or 16.

  13. AnonEMoose*

    I recall, from years ago, an office vigilante of sorts, although this wasn’t an office job. A coworker who had been on the receiving end of Vigilante activity decided he’d had enough. So he waited for a chilly, rainy night. And then took a bottle of water and carefully, thoroughly, soaked Vigilante’s bicycle saddle (one of those cushy ones) with said water. I think the saddle ultimately recovered after having a chance to dry, but I heard Vigilante spent a pretty uncomfortable shift. I’m not really on board with either of them in this scenario…but Vigilante did ease up after that.

    1. Puffyshirt*

      That’s actually pretty funny, if not inappropriate for a workplace. Haha

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Definitely not appropriate for a workplace. On the other hand, we were all college students, so mostly 20ish, and professionalism was…still developing, you might say. And yeah, it was pretty funny.

  14. Puffyshirt*

    I have a colleague who is a kind and generous man, but occasionally wear the Cape of the Dark knight… like today when he interrupted a team meeting (about 15 people) by jumping out of his chair, pressing his face to the window, returning to his seat and turning bright red while shaking his head. Of course, everyone fell silent and was watching this… he finally explained that he saw a man park in a spot reserved for an expectant Mother and it was NOT right and should NOT be tolerated!!

    I mean, yeah, but that had to be a public showdown?! Lol!!

    1. Nephron*

      There is a chance the person parking in the expectant mother spot was another vigilante. There are people who are deeply annoyed by those for reasons and park in them specifically because they exist and it is their campaign to get rid of them.

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        Because they don’t believe anyone should get “special” treatment because to them, “fairness” is everyone following the same rules to the letter and being treated exactly the same as everyone else, regardless of disability/pregnancy/etc.

        1. puffyshirt*

          That is possible; however, it would be a jerk move. Parking is limited and overflow parking is across a very busy 6 lane street. So you can take your life in your hands and play frogger across the highway, or you can take a shuttle from the overflow lot to the office. Most of our expectant mothers don’t use the spaces until they get uncomfortable. Our company is very service minded, so everyone who is able bodied is encouraged to park in the overflow and allow expectant ladies or people with medical challenges to use the closer spaces. I know there is a fight against “special treatment”, but I’m still a fan of kindness.

          1. Chaordic One*

            Yeah, I do get annoyed when people who should know better take up more than one parking place. Where I used to work, the parking lot was always full and a lot of us had to park on a side street beside the office building. If everyone cooperated and parked with some consideration we could squeeze seven cars in the half block beside the building. OTOH, there were days when people didn’t care and only three cars fit in the space.

            (I used to get especially annoyed with a particular coworker who would regularly drive to work pulling her horse trailer which she then parked on the side street beside the office taking up two parking places. I wish she would have left the trailer at home.)

        2. Liane*

          In my experience, this type defines “fairness” as “I–and possibly my sycophants–get the best of everything & everyone else gets treated like s**t.”

    2. Hanna*

      An acquaintance of mine used to be a handicapped-parking vigilante. Obviously, parking in handicapped spaces when you’re not entitled to is bad and wrong, but she would confront people and literally berate them. Even worse, she did it to people who had handicapped tags but didn’t “seem” disabled to her. She drove one woman to tears as the woman tried to explain that she had multiple sclerosis.

      She finally stopped after a guy with a prosthetic leg gave her a piece of his mind, and a cop had to intervene and tell her to never do it again.

      1. Ayla K*

        I have an invisible disability and some days I just HOPE someone gets in my face about parking in a blue spot so I can give them what for!

      2. tw*

        This is so horrible. They started putting signs above the handicapped seats in the DC metro saying something like “just because you don’t see the disability doesn’t mean they don’t need the seat”.

        1. Allison*

          I like this a lot. That said, as an able-bodied person who knows invisible disabilities exist, I’m wondering, was that sign there so that:

          A) people would stop giving people sitting there a hard time if they don’t “look” disabled?

          B) Able-bodied people wouldn’t sit there at all, and leave it open for people who really need it?

          c) Disabled people could ask for a seat without getting a hard time for not looking disabled?

          I’ve heard some people go so far as to say that if you don’t need a seat, you shouldn’t sit at all, to ensure that anyone who needs a seat can have one without having to ask. Do you agree with that mindset?

          1. Indoor Cat*

            I have an invisible disability (although recently turning into a more visible one, as I’ve begun to need to use my scooter more frequently :/ )

            Re: “If you don’t need a seat, don’t sit.” My feeling is, disabled seating on public transit is much more akin to disabled parking, rather than disabled toilets. That is, disabled seating is exclusively for disabled people, since generally in a city populous enough to have public transit, there’s a decently sized portion of disabled people who will really always need a seat. Whereas toilets, generally there are not very many total people in any given restaurant or public space, so only one or two disabled people might need to use the toilet the whole night. Just don’t use the disabled stall if other stalls are open, you know?

            On the bus route I take, it’s generally not an issue, as it’s not usually a full bus unless weather is bad. So, if the bus is not full, generally I choose a normal seat rather than a disabled-marked seat, even though I qualify, since I can fit into a normal seat fine and don’t need extra space to fold up a walker or something.

            Fortunately, I’ve never had to ask someone to give me their seat; there has always been a seat available so far. I suppose if I had to, I would show my disability placard to the person I asked, and would ask someone in the regular seats, because I assume the disabled seats are full of disabled people. But I *would* feel bad / awkward about it. I mean, what if the able-bodied person just had a very stressful time at work and actually, in this moment, needs the seat more than I do? So, I can see the logic in wanting to not take any seat if you don’t have to, to be polite. That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sitting in regular seats when they’re available, and I would never anyone doing this was rude. Besides, at least in my city (not nearly a big city at all) it would be silly, as the seats on the bus almost never fill up entirely.

            1. Allison*

              Agreed, I hardly ever take handicapped seats for that reason. I’d rather just stay standing than get comfy and then have to get up, possibly in just a few stops. I also often avoid the “normal” seats near the door for the same reason, I’ve had older people ask for them sometimes, and if someone ever did ask for my seat I wouldn’t mind moving.

              However, I’d rather someone ask “can I sit there?” rather than “EXCUSE ME, I need that seat!” Please give me the benefit of the doubt.

              Honestly, I don’t mind standing, but the issue with standing is I have to be super aware of who’s getting on and off, stay out of everyone’s way, and it usually means moving around a lot. If I have a seat, I can stick my butt in one place, plop my stuff on the floor near my feet or in my lap, and not worry about being in the way.

            2. de Pizan*

              The one I struggle with is families using the seats. I absolutely understand a pregnant or very recent post-partum mother needing a seat, that’s basically a temporary disability in my view and I have no problem with that. But the disabled seats (and wheelchair areas) in my city are very frequently taken up by parents with toddlers and their strollers, or else parents and their pre-teens. I’ve got an invisible disability, and I often can’t get a seat because of it. And even though the signs explicitly say the seats are for seniors and disabled people, I would feel like a jerk asking kids to move so I can sit.

              1. Rebooting*

                The issue I usually have along those lines, de Pizan, is parents having their children sit in the disabled seats or wheelchair areas and then sitting halfway down the bus themselves, which happens more often than you might think! And the kids are usually young enough that they haven’t learned to move for someone with a visible walking aid like I have, but their parents aren’t there for me to ask, so it’s awkward.

              2. sssssssssss*

                Any kid over four can asked to move so you can sit, in my opinion. How else will children learn empathy and societal norms? I was once on a bus, two younger teens were in the front where the disabled seats were, a man with a cane got on and they completely were clueless that maybe they should at least think about giving up the seat.

                If the bus is full and it’s risky for the smaller kids to stand, what will quite often happen in my experience is that the kids will give up the seat for the stroller/wheelchair/disabled person and then someone else will give up their seat for the small child. A minor inconvenience but it’s the right thing to do.

                Kids are naturally egotistical. It is a parent’s job to teach them that it ain’t always about them, so please, ask nicely and ask those kids to give up your seat without feeling like a jerk…unless the kid is also disabled. :)

            3. Holly*

              Re: toilets for disabled. Please be aware that some disabled people need to use them at a moment’s notice and having to wait just two minutes can be a real problem. My mother has had that for years and I never ever use the disabled toilets because there might be someone else in the building who has that or a similar disability. Even if it means I have to queue.

              1. Fiennes*

                Granted, but plenty of non-disabled people can also need to use the bathroom on short notice due to UTIs, gastric upset, etc. Even if it’s not a disability, it’s a legitimate need.

              2. HisGirlFriday*

                What drives me nuts is that often the baby-changing station is in the handicapped stall. It takes me a solid 10 minutes to change LO, and I am acutely aware that I’m taking the only handicapped stall, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

                1. Jessica*

                  If you’re too cheap to have more than one baby-changing station, it’s got to be in the handicapped stall, because otherwise, what’s the person with a wheelchair AND a baby gonna do?

            4. Holly*

              Sorry, it wasn’t meant to lash out at you, Indoor Cat. It was more an “in agreement comment” but reading it over made me realize that wasn’t clear.

            5. Megan*

              Curious, what would you do if someone asked you to give up your (regular) seat?

      3. kavm*

        yikes… I have a coworker who has parked in the handicapped spot (doesn’t have handicap tags anywhere on his vehicle) and I admit to being pretty irritated when I’ve noticed him parking there… but I’d never say anything to him or anyone else. my mom has an invisible disability and even though I admit to having the immediate judgmental thought about this coworker, I try my hardest to tamp it down and never act on it because I know I could be horribly wrong.

        1. Ayla K*

          I’ve found the easiest response to this is “hey, did you forget to put your tags up?” It assumes nothing but if they *are* abusing the system, it’s an easy call-out. Honestly, I’ve forgotten to put my tags up sometimes and would appreciate this straight reminder over “YOU’RE NOT REALLY DISABLED HOW DARE YOU BLAH BLAH BLAH”

          1. paul*

            I feel like an idiot for never thinking of doing that. I hate people that park illegally in a handicap spot, but I don’t want to be an ass about invisibile conditions and assume you know?

            1. Artemesia*

              I have known so many elderly people who use other people’s tags or misuse their own long after the temporary disability is over and preen over how special they are to have the tag and park right up close and hop out of their car to shop while someone in a wheelchair coming along later might not get a spot. There is a lot of abuse especially by older people who feel entitled to any use of a tag they can glom onto.

              I would never challenge someone with a tag since you never know, but I do know their is lots of abuse.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I found it aggravating that one colleague admitted to using her elderly mother’s hang tag even when her mother wasn’t with her. She even kept and used it after her mother passed away.

                1. Jessica*

                  Yes, this! I unfortunately have known multiple people who would have a handicap parking tag for a spouse and use it when they were on their own. I’ll tell you, when you have someone else’s handicap tag in your car, that’s when you find out whether you really have any principles or just don’t like getting a ticket.

                2. Fiennes*

                  I had my grandmother’s hang tag for years and parked in a handicapped spot exactly *once,* when I had Death Flu but had to pick up my own meds at the pharmacy. I had 101 fever and a genuine fear of passing out, and I still felt guilty for days.

                3. Megan*

                  That is super obnoxious use of it, and I know this isn’t what was happening, but I have before parked my mother’s car with her placards in a handicapped space when she wasn’t with me BECAUSE I was going in some place to pick her up and she was gonna come out with me, or vice versa. I try not to feel shitty but sometimes I get glares.

                4. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  @Megan: I think as long as you’re using it on behalf of the person it’s assigned to, that is a legitimate use and you have no reason to feel guilty about it. That’s what they have it for.

                5. Rabbit*


                  I’m the keeper of my Grandmother’s placard (I take her to all her dr appts etc) and my standard MO when she’s either getting into or out of the car is to park in a handicapped spot. When she moved into her current apartment complex I wound up explaining to a couple of residents that no, I wasn’t abusing the spot, I was picking my 84 year old mobility impaired grandmother up and if they wanted to stick around for 15 minutes they’d have proof.

                  One of them complained to the complex administrator who told them in no uncertain terms that I was in the right and then stopped me in the hall a week or so later to let me know that the situation had existed, had been handled, and if it came up again to please let them know. If you’d like, please take this as permission to stop feeling shitty! :)

                6. Pippa*

                  I think that must be why Connecticut doesn’t give out permanent tags anymore. You can get a short term tag for six months (I got one after knee surgery) and the long term tags are good for six years and have the expiry date marked with hole punches.

        2. PreExisting*

          I’m not going to lie, when I worked with people who did parking enforcement, nothing gave me more joy than to tell the jerks who parked in handicapped spots without a permit that there was nothing we could do and they owed the full $300 fine and that their excuse wasn’t good enough.

          Oh sure, sure, you could appeal, here’s the form. But just to let you know we have pictures to prove our case and the appeals board has never, ever, for any reason granted an appeal on a handicapped parking violation. You’re welcome to try I guess, but I don’t think “I was only there a few minutes and I was in a hurry” is really going to work.

          That said, I also never once in my civilian life even glanced at who was parking in the handicapped spots. I know quite a few people with disabilities, and none of them are immediately visible. It baffles me how that’s not common sense that you don’t know their life.

          1. Allison*

            I had some coworkers at my last job who seemed like totally decent individuals, until one day a few of them openly admitted that if they’re just gonna be a few minutes, they’ll totally use the handicapped spots. They saw nothing wrong with this. I was livid, but didn’t feel like picking a fight and causing tension between myself and those ladies. But dang, did that change my perception of them.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Disclaimer: I’m going to say something super rude, and I don’t mean it to attack you, Allison.

              I’ve decided people who do this are garbage people. Some are ignorant and redeemable—my dad is one of them (it took years and a hefty ticket to convince him that no, you cannot simply “stand” in a handicapped parking space instead of circling because “you’ll move if someone needs it.” It took a while, but when he finally thought about how he would feel if someone he knew were handicapped and dealt with these problems, he realized how horrible he had been and was extremely remorseful and changed his behavior. Hearing from his kids that he was behaving like a garbage person (of course using kinder but still firm language) was a pretty shocking experience for him.

              But people who double down when you raise the issue and who think it’s ok because they’re only going to be there for a minute? Or because they think they can get away with it? Or because they think it’s “unfair”? Or because they’re engaged in placard/tag fraud? Garbage people.

              1. Allison*

                I’ll admit, I once parked blocking a handicapped ramp. I was new to the neighborhood, needed a place to park, and took a spot I found without thinking to inspect it. The ramp was a good 10-15 feet away from the intersection, and there weren’t any signs that I could see indicating that it was there. My roommate got hit with the same ticket, as have others in the neighborhood, some honestly believe it was put there to drum up revenue. I’m going to assume there’s a valid reason for it, but it is really easy to miss. I felt bad and paid the ticket without a fight, but sometimes it is possible to not even notice that you’re blocking something a handicapped person needs.

          2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            My sister got one of those in college (she had temporary tags and forgot to put them up). The policy was they would drop the fine to $20, but you still had to pay something. It wouldn’t be completely dismissed even if you were legitimately parked, but forgot to out the tags up.

        3. Artemesia*

          This is one IMHO to report to management. If they don’t have plates or tags then either they need to display those or stop parking there.

          1. Allison*

            Parking where you weren’t supposed to was a big issue where I used to work. People would park in handicapped spots illegally, they’d park in visitor spots when they worked there full time, and sometimes they’d just park in spots that just weren’t parking spots. I could see the temptation, if you got to the building later than 8:30 or so it was either park illegally or park a long way from the building, but I found it tough to sympathize, knowing how many people did follow the rules even when it wasn’t convenient. I didn’t mind at all when those people were reported to building management, and e-mails were sent out about the offenders.

            1. Artemesia*

              I had a friend in grad school who would park in the 4 visitor spots by the giant dorm and then pay the ticket. One day she came out and they had towed her car. She was furious because ‘I always pay the ticket.’ I pointed out that the tickets were to discourage misuse of the spaces not a form of space rental.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                My university’s parking department has a policy that a certain number of tickets = a tow on your next offense. Also, my department pays $800/month for a 24-hour reserved spot near our building. People in the department can reserve the spot with the front desk if they have need for it. If any students park in it, we call parking and have them send a tow truck.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed. This isn’t just low level “breaking the rules”—it’s kind of a big deal to eliminate physical access for people with disabilities (particularly when that access is a right that we’ve codified as law).

        4. Fish Microwaver*

          I inadvertently parked in a handicapped spot recently. It was a bare earth carpark so no symbol on the ground and the sign was hidden in a tree. I felt really bad and hope nobody needed it.

        5. Connie-Lynne*

          I’ve had to ask for a seat on the train really often, and I always say “excuse me, are you able-bodied?”

          Able-bodied people get really offended at the question but people with disabilities usually smile and say , “sorry, I’m not.”

          I don’t understand why able-bodied folks get so grumpy about it. I had this one girl go off and lecture me one time, how I was rude and that was a rude question and I should just ask for a seat if that’s what I wanted. I listened politely and then said, “actually you’re supposed to volunteer the seat.”

          1. Um, What?*

            Um, that’s none of your business. Whether people are able-bodied or not. I have a disability and would find that question to be horribly invasive in a crowded, public space. Just ask for the seat. Probably would work ninety percent of the time. And don’t expect people to know and volunteer, that’s really passive aggressive.

          2. bohtie*

            >Able-bodied people get really offended at the question but people with disabilities usually smile and say , “sorry, I’m not.”

            How would you know that it’s only people with disabilities answering this way, or that all people with disabilities are ready and willing to own up to it to a complete stranger on public transit? That’s really repulsive.

      4. Gen*

        A friend of mine has made a habit of trying to hand people his prosthetic foot whenever they have a go at him but some genuinely argue back that “the symbol is a wheelchair, that means you NEED a wheelchair” no, no it doesn’t. Sigh.

        1. Xarcady*

          Oh, good grief! Do people really think the only disabilities that get the parking placard are wheelchair disabilities?

          I can attest to the fact that when my very fit, athletic sister-in-law parks her van in a disabled spot, she very frequently gets harassed by do-gooders. Most of them have the grace to shut up once she lets down the wheelchair ramp and my nephew rolls out in his power chair. But a couple of people have challenged her, saying that because *she* isn’t disabled, she shouldn’t take a disabled spot.

          My nephew delights in rolling up to them and telling them off. And then rolling over their feet as he leaves. It is very, very wrong of him, but also rather funny to watch adults be told off by an eight year old. He gets mad at them for yelling at his mom, more than the parking space issue.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This simultaneously diminishes and restores my faith in humanity.

            My parents have a hang tag, because my father walks extremely slowly, short distances, with a cane. Then promptly sits and rests. They need the spot.

          2. empressspellyzunkles*

            I love your nephew. DH has MS and now it’s definitely noticeable but, I can guarantee that if anyone had to tried to shoot their mouths off during the earlier stages, when I parked in a handicap space (only when he is with me), I would be beating them with his cane.
            I have noticed around here, it is usually the people who have never read the registry requirements to get the placard in the first place, who seem to be the most holier than thou about who should and should not be in the space.

      5. Rachael*

        This is exactly the reason why my mom stopped parking in disabled spots. She has pain in her leg and spine and some days it is horrible, but invisible. She got yelled at by one to many people and just couldn’t handle the stress of what would happen once she opened her door to get out sans walker/crutches/scooter.

      6. Gov Worker*

        I have a chronic heart condition and a legit handicapped placard. While entering Bakers Square, a woman once took it upon herself to question me parking in a handicapped space although my placard was clearly displayed! I gave her such a piece of my mind that its a wonder I had any mind left!

        I truly cannot stand the non-police police, I get ragey.

      7. Nea*

        I’ve heard a story of someone who snapped that a knee brace was not reason enough to park in a handicapped spot and pulled said brace off.

        The prosthetic it was holding in place *also* came off…

    3. Dorothy Mantooth*

      I recently reported a car that was parked in the lined spaces BETWEEN the handicapped spots, ya know, so they have room to get out of their vehicles or take out equipment. Like dude, that’s not even an actual parking space, and now you are blocking the way for people to use the space for it’s proper function. However, I didn’t stand and wait there, I just made a quick call to alert the business he was parked at.

    1. Anna*

      I don’t think this would count as a form of bullying. It’s stupid and immature but it’s not bullying.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m on the Mike C./Elizabeth West train—this can and often is (or becomes) a form of bullying. It’s basically waging a low-level campaign of terror on your coworkers.

    2. LiveAndLetDie*

      I’d only consider it bullying if it targeted only one person. Someone who does this to everyone at the office is certainly a self-important busybody, but I think it’s different from bullying.

      1. Nottingham*

        I disagree. Bullying isn’t always big dramatic incidents; a lot of the most damaging stuff is the sustained low-level stuff that clever bullies use because they know they can get away with (lots of) ‘minor’ incidents. A lot of bullies are also very egalitarian about bullying everyone who’s unfortunate enough to have to deal with them. There isn’t a numbers limit on how many people you can abuse and make miserable.

        Just look at some of the bad senior management / CEOs / owners out there, who bully all their staff and then put in place petty bullying policies and bad management practices to ensure that their staff have to bully and harass each other. Sometimes they even boast about it!

      2. Lissa*

        Yup, this can absolutely fall into the realm of bullying, but I don’t think all of this behaviour is always bullying – I see bullying as more of a pattern of behaviour, so a lot of things can be bullying or not depending on circumstances. Like, yeah, if it’s targeting one person. Whereas if it’s one person doing it to everyone it probably isn’t. Something doesn’t have to be bullying to be obnoxious!

  15. designbot*

    One thing I noticed at a previous job was that a coworker who was egregiously neglecting her job turned us all into vigilantes. We noticed every time she came in late, took a long lunch, left early, hung out in the pantry, or texted during the workday, not because the individual offenses were anything to be concerned with, but because the whole picture they added up to was extremely demoralizing. We all complained about those things much more than normal, and the people who brought it up to the boss were told that we’re not in high school and their reporting on coworkers came off as juvenile tattling.
    I mention this to point out that while an office vigilante can be a terrible thing, when you find yourself with a case of rampant vigilantism, it may be worth looking beneath the surface to see if there’s something going on at the root of it.

    1. Nephron*

      I think there have been letters about this type of issue. The prevailing advice is usually to ignore the small stuff and try to focus on the bigger issues despite the small stuff being legitimate because bosses see it as tattling even if it is the cumulative rather than the showing up late issue on its own.

      1. designbot*

        I took the other option and just left. Not only did they not care that this person was neglecting their job, the boss loved her. If that’s what’s rewarded there, then it’s not a place I want to be.

        1. Chaordic One*

          She obviously had superior social skills, even if she didn’t do her work, and so often that’s a lot more important that doing your job and doing it well. It sucks, but that’s the way it is in the real world.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Coworker Coffeecup had superior social skills, which let him sail through the interview process. But once he had the job it soon became obvious that he spent more time talking than working. It took a very long time to get rid of him, but the day he was fired was especially sweet: it was a school holiday so a lot of people had taken the day off to spend with their kids (totally normal with engineering hours being flexible, though you do of course have to tell someone), and my manager was out on extended sick leave, so when our sister team’s manager stopped and asked “is Coffeecup working today?” I didn’t suspect a thing. But it was such a beautiful straight line, I wrestled with myself a bit and then said “I don’t know if he’s working *any* day.”

            Yes, sister-team manager was looking for him to fire him on a day when he’d not shown up without bothering to notify anyone.

          2. designbot*

            uh, this is the real world, and her “superior social skills” tanked the team. After I left, 2/3rds of the management team was let go, the third forced out, as well as this toxic coworker. Anyone with actual skills left. A team that was 15 people a year ago is down to 5 now. This is largely due to the impact that the boss’s indulgence of this (senior) team member had on the budgets of a couple of very high-profile projects.

      2. Anxa*

        I think what’s tricky is that sometimes it’s the small stuff that affects other coworkers.

    2. paul*


      We actually implemented tracking metrics due to *one* employee a while back. We quietly dropped them after she left. No regrets.

      No one gives a damn if you’re 5 minutes late once in a while, but 20 or 30 minutes at least once a week? And extra long lunches a lot? Which leaves us scrambling to handle your client appointments and the like…nah, not cool.

      1. designbot*

        oof, the person I’m talking about was 30-60 minutes late every day, then made herself breakfast and slow-played checking her email. Then by the time she’s done with that, time for a long lunch! Then out “on time” every day despite all the lateness. Oh and texting, all day, every day. It was so far beyond not cool, it drove us all nuts especially because most of us had to work 10 hour days, often directly to make up for her not pulling her weight.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          What was her job? I’m curious. The only jobs I’ve worked this would be impossible, just due to the nature of the work. This would drive my insane at my job, but, she would also be fired immediately, as missing 60 minutes could have egregious, instant consequences.

          1. designbot*

            Senior Teapot Designer. And I wrote a bit above about how this did not fly in the long run–she was only indulged by management because she was a friend of the director’s, and it eventually came back to bite both of them in the behind.

        2. MerciMe*

          Um. So I have an invisible disability, for which I get – and need – frequent breaks on a schedule set by my doctor (skipping them is not always a good idea, but I do it more than I should, to try to stay under everyone’s radar). Not enough time to leave my desk, so I usually spend it on my phone doing something easy/mindless/relaxing. Mornings are hard for health-related reasons and depending on how sick I feel I’m often late, though I try very hard to make up the time by working late when I’m not too sick. All of that is legally protected, and I’m keeping pace on production, even though the appearance of how I work probably looks very similar to what you’re describing. I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable that I have felt heavily pressured into making the effects of my disability more public than I wanted to, because the alternative is my boss “coaching” me about how my “decisions” are “affecting morale” and my colleagues giving me a hard time. So I’m unsympathetic to people policing their peers. The full story isn’t anyone’s business outside of the person involved and their manager.

          1. Gov Worker*

            THIS, x1000!!! People really need to MYOB in the office. Just keep your side of the street clean. You never know what is going on with a person.

            And how do you know when someone is texting, let alone all day? Time spent monitoring other people is time spent not doing your job, which is no better than anything you may snitch about unless it is criminal activity.

          2. designbot*

            I’m sorry to hear about your health issues.
            I can assure you, if she was keeping up with her workload, the manner of it would’ve have been an issue. Or it would’ve been like 10% of the issue it was. Other coworkers took the tack of complaining about her hours; I was concerned about my workload, my coworker’s workload,, and our project budgets. As she did this, projects we were both on tanked because she was billing a bunch of hours where nothing was produced, I was pressured to “donate” time to make up for it, and as the projects went on was pressured to do more and more in less and less time. It eventually drove multiple people away and ruined the group.
            I can see from your description of your issues why the parts of her behavior that got the vigilante treatment tripped your antennae, but I can assure you this was not that and if you are producing good work that is what matters most. My point was that when an entire team turns into vigilantes, there’s probably something bigger going on underneath it, not that taking a lot of breaks is The Worst.

            1. MerciMe*

              I’m genuinely sympathetic about the impacts on you and the rest of your team. If my manager had a stronger backbone, it wouldn’t be such a problem. In both cases, though, I do feel the ultimate responsibility is with management to do their job effectively, which it sounds like they are not. And it’s just my experience that staff reporting other staff to ineffectual managers is useless at best (and can be pretty harmful at worst).

    3. RPL*

      I’ve been in this situation too. Our manager started regularly not coming back from her lunch break. One day grandboss asked my coworker where our manager was, and when coworker mentioned the frequent midday disappearances, he got reprimanded. It sparked pretty much department-wide vigilantism. There was a spreadsheet and everything. Looking back, it was totally ridiculous, but we did have legitimate concerns.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Great perspective. Around here, there’s definitely a few coworkers who don’t seem to be held accountable (for real things, not food in the fridge or whatever) so it does indeed spawn a lot of chatter.

    5. Dee*

      Been there. Once they started tracking my coworker’s time by tracking when she logged in and logged out, she began coming to work, turning on her computer, and leaving to go get breakfast. Right in front of me, like I couldn’t see what she was doing.

      1. Gene*

        At 3 jobs ago, when I started we had take-home vehicles and could start our day by simply checking in by radio. One coworker, almost ready to retire, started going out in the morning in his robe and slippers and checking in, then later actually starting work. One of his neighbors saw this, tracked it for a month, called the Mayor to complain, and the take-home vehicle perk ended. Coworker retired early, he couldn’t take the shunning in the office any more.

        At current job, a former plant manager told his managers that part of their job was, “be standing in the hall to note when each person gets to work.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Wait, I’m confused. He would wake up, check in, and then not work until much later? Because that sounds like time fraud, unless (1) you’re not paid hourly, or (2) the job “start” time has no real meaning (i.e., no practical import/effect) with respect to your coworkers, your job performance, or your availability.

    6. Scotty Smalls*

      When I was at CC and had a work study job me and a handful of co-workers were debating reporting our co-worker. Technically, we were all hired for grunt work, shelving books, shelf reading, answering basic questions refilling the copier. But this one girl got friendly with one of the full time circulation workers, she’d tell her about all the beer pong she’d play. Even though she’s never do the other work properly. (Her assigned shelves were a mess and she’d be on her phone texting instead of shelf reading.) The circulation worker let her take over circulation duties. We all eventually decided nothing would really change so just sucked it up.

  16. Lala*

    Ours retired, and everyone’s workplace happiness improved 100%. It’s amazing how much a difference not having her around has made.

    I notice things (people using the dishwasher that apparently don’t know how to empty it, people leaving a mess in the bathroom or breakroom), but never bother saying anything, because I’m not the break/bathroom police. Mostly I just shake my head that grown adults don’t know how to act like adults.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      This. It can sometimes be tempting to try and figure out who, exactly, is the one that keeps leaving coffee grounds in the sink, but I have never in my life actually come close to actually becoming the person that haunts the break room to find it out. I have work to do!

      1. Mayor of Llamatown*

        I think the difference is in how much this thing effects you. If you cannot use the break room because Wakeen’s dishes are everywhere, and you know it’s him, it MIGHT be worth raising with your boss. MAYBE.

        For something that has zero effect on your own productivity and getting your job done, like coworkers being a minute late or leaving a minute early, or coffee grounds in the sink, you either ignore it or just shake your head about grownups who can’t behave like adults. “Stay in your lane” and all that.

        1. Red 5*

          To be fair-ish on the coffee grounds in the sink, it depends on the volume but that actually can be really damaging to the plumbing and cause very expensive repairs. We’ve had to have half the pipes in the kitchen practically ripped out because they couldn’t track down who was dumping ALL of the grounds from the coffee maker straight down the drain.

          That said, nobody tried to track down the individual person and make an example of them. No point when you could just tell everybody not to do that, and that fixed the problem for now.

          Incidental coffee grounds from washing mugs and not rinsing the sink after though? So not worth any effort beyond rinsing the sink yourself if it bothers you. Yeah, people should be grown ups, but oh well.

          1. Mayor of Llamatown*

            Oh, definitely, and it can cause bacteria growth just like any other food leavings in the sink. But if Fergus is leaving coffee grounds in the sink repeatedly, there’s room to tell Fergus “Please don’t and here’s why”. Not run to the boss to tattle on him.

  17. Another person*

    My old office has a person I referred to as “the human time clock”. Every morning at start time she would leave her cube and make a circuit around the office to see who was and wasn’t present, on her way to our manager’s office. (I have to admit I stealthily followed her once to see what on earth she was doing, and then another time simply out of disbelief she did this every day.) A couple of times I arrived a minute late only to get smirked at as she rounded the corner into the boss’s office, presumably to report I was not in my seat working.

    I and most of my former colleagues have been gone for several years but I heard she and that manager are still there, and she still hasn’t been promoted yet.

    1. Insurance*

      When I managed a team, I had one employee keep a spreadsheet of the time people came to work and when they took their lunch. I asked her why she did this and she told me that she felt it was necessary that I knew how much time the team was away from their desks or late. The look on her face when I told her that I didn’t care at all about when people arrived or took their lunches, as long as they did their jobs and kept their case levels manageable, was priceless.

      She soon applied for a transfer to another department and I was more than happy to let er go.

    2. Boot*

      We have one that does that, too, except she has been dubbed the “Time Clock Nazi”. Sometimes she’ll hang out in the security office, which is located right by the employee entrance & time clock and just watch people. It’s sort of frightening that she cares so much.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s so laughable because isn’t she supposed to be getting actual work done? Someone should turn the tables on her.

  18. PiggyStardust*

    Bleh. We have one of these. He’s the most junior team member, and he does it to curry favor with the boss. Fortunately, our boss knows the quality of our work and ignores any attempts to stir up sh*t.

    1. Camellia*

      But it sounds like he still isn’t stopping it. Why does he think ignoring it is a good way to handle it? Don’t these managers realize the effect something like this has on the team?

  19. Coldbrewinacup*

    We’ve got one. She’s so busy policing everyone else, she can’t get her work done, but the boss won’t say anything. She’s so bold she even takes over the department meetings to let everyone know how they should be doing their jobs. Her favorite thing to do is make signs to post around the office to let us know how to behave. Stuff like: (and of course it’s in all caps) Please close the fridge door” and “Please don’t leave the ice cube tray empty.”

    I am waiting for the one telling me how many squares of TP to use. *eyeroll*

    1. Carolyn*

      If you made a TP square advisory sign yourself and posted it, I bet her head would POP! “Who dared post this sign?!?! I am posting a sign about no one being able to post signs except ME!”

      Plan ahead and keep a little baggie of popcorn in your desk to enjoy while you watch the antics! ;)

    2. JanetM*

      Okay; I have to admit that I have been tempted to put up signs in the restrooms that say, “This is an old building and the water pressure is not what it could be. I know it’s icky, but please check before you leave the stall to make sure the bowl is clear.”

      This is perhaps more passive-aggressive than, “Flush the d— toilets.”

      1. Victoria, Please*

        I swear this is true: We have signs in our stalls that say “Please be kind and look behind! Did you flush??” Honestly, I’m grateful.

    3. Nanc*

      I double-dog dare you to put something weird in the ice cube trays . . . (non-toxic weird!)

      1. Amber Rose*

        Glitter. The answer to “what should I put in this thing?” should always be glitter. Or if you’re worried about food contamination, those glittery sprinkles they use on cake.

      2. NW Mossy*

        This is ripe for Jell-o cubes. If you really wanted to go all in, you could even do a rainbow of colors and make it fitting for the hashtags #regram and #petty.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      We have one of those in my office. She’s one of the big boss’s pets, though, so we can’t say anything. What’s really aggravating is she is happy to take credit for things my friend does but is also happy to throw my friend under the bus when things don’t go well.

      My friend feels stuck because the job involves serving students.

  20. Master Bean Counter*

    This makes me think back to my serving days. I was young and there was a lifer working a shift with me. It became her duty that day to teach me how to bus a table properly. Not that I needed any help. She kept on me about one thing or another. I’d just smile and say okay and go about my duties.
    She yelled at me across the dinning room about something. I just replied, loudly, “Okay mother, in a minute.”
    She got mad. She tattled on me. The manager took me outside for a “talk.” He laughed so hard when we got out there and told me to ignore her and to not call her mother again. Then he had a more serious talk with her.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Ah, the lifers. It was always excruciating getting your sidework signed off by one of them.

      1. Getting There*

        I worked a server job full time back in the day, starting when my oldest son was a toddler. It was a 24 hour chain restaurant staffed with many a lifer, whose purpose in life seemed to be making the job miserable for newbies.

        I worked the detested midnight shift, usually 11-7, which rendered me as the last server out, meaning I had to wait for morning shift to arrive before I could leave. Morning was the lifer shift, and wow…some of these women were among the most miserable people I’d ever met. I have a tendency to be overly anxious, diligent, and wanting to please, which I’m working on channeling properly. Back then, it mainly left me vulnerable to being cowed and taken advantage of. That job was about 40% sidework, and I always tried to have everything done perfectly when morning shift arrived. It was never appreciated or acknowledged, and never good enough for these mean women. One of them took to bringing in a small pocket sized notebook, and jotting down the “transgressions” of midnight shift. She’d then go suck up to the manager, and make nasty passive aggressive comments under her breath. They were so mean! I’d leave there exhausted and cry in my car on the way home.

        I actually stayed on there for way longer than I should have, (got in a rut), and eventually was “promoted” to second shift, and then the coveted mornings. Some of those mean women became friends, but I never forgot how they had unnecessarily gone out of their way to be so hard on me. I left when I found myself beginning to become like that, also. (That wasn’t the reason, but it coincided nicely.) I feel badly that I could get mean to new people too at times, but not on a regular basis and hopefully not as horribly as I got it when I started. The workplace culture there almost encouraged that behavior, but that’s not excuse.

        Whenever I’d start to feel pressured in my eventual office job, I’d remember that horrible place. I have encountered other vigilantes, but they got nothing on lifer waitresses! I almost feel like I served time in a military unit or a correctional facility! That job certainly toughened me up, and made me appreciate being allowed to use my brain instead of being insulted and shunned as I rinsed out a nasty buss tub.

  21. Insurance*

    Ugh. My boss at my last job was also the office vigilante. He was the Dark Knight we didn’t deserve over things like the coffee pot not being on or filled when he wanted coffee, lunch bags in the office refrigerator, the amount of people in the bathroom when he was in there etc. He would send out monthly “motivators” about keeping a peaceful and harmonious work place. For those of us that reported to him, he’d bring up how many times he went to an individual’s desk and they weren’t there (he’d work from 5:30 a.m to 7:00 p.m and would be perturbed that we weren’t in at 7:30 or still there at 6:35 p.m) in our end of year reviews and would use that to knock our ratings down so he wouldn’t have to pay us bigger bonuses or raises.

    In my current job, the schmuck who is the least competent in his job is the one who is the office vigilante. Everything from how close we sit to our desk, to the number of pens we have, to where we have our phones on our desk apparently falls under his jurisdiction. If we have to order prizes or give aways for customers, he’ll count how many you’re bringing and gets upset when we take a few for ourselves (pens and chapstick are the two most popular and we like to keep some in the office). It’s insane. And then he wonders why he hasn’t landed that big account or has been promoted.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Did he also make you give him an annual tithe or payment to his as his vassals? Because it sounds like he’s confused you all for his serfs.

      (Seriously, how close you sit to your desks??)

      1. Insurance*

        Yes how close we sit to our desks because “0it doesn’t look professional.” I sit a little closer to my desk because I don’t have a keyboard tray and I like my foot rest. My 6’2 co-worker needs more leg room. It’s

    2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      I had a terrible boss who was like this about not being at our desks (despite the office culture leaning HEAVILY on meetings that took us away from our desks). She once texted me while I was in the bathroom to ask why I wasn’t at my desk. I came very close to replying, “I’m pooping. Do you need something?” but I decided to ignore it. (I should note: we were all exempt employees, and each of us managers or above – and she decided that time-clocking us was a valuable use of her time. She also thought coding individual invoices was a valuable use of her time as the director of the department–instead of, you know, setting the direction for the department.)

      I really regret not telling her I was pooping.

  22. fposte*

    This makes me think of that Swedish training video about the egalitarianism of Swedish workplaces, where some guy walks into the Prime Minister’s meeting and scolds him for not putting his dirty coffee cup in the sink.

  23. LiveAndLetDie*

    We have a timeclock watcher at work, but what’s weird about it is that she does it for people in departments that aren’t hers. She’ll tut-tut at people who walk in at a time she doesn’t think is an appropriate arrival time, even when that person has an agreement with their manager for flex hours. To her, 9:00 am sharp is when you should be here, and 5:00 pm sharp is when you should leave, but despite managers in other departments allowing folks to come anywhere between 7 and 10am, she’ll still give you the stink-eye for not sticking to a 9-5.

    1. kavm*

      ugh, my coworker complains about how another guy in her department has worked out a different schedule with their manager – the same number of hours, just slightly offset from hers (she’s 8-5, he’s 9-6). she’s even gotten her friend with access to the facility cameras to show her footage of when her coworker leaves to make sure he’s staying his full hours! she’s told him that he needs to make up the time (even if it’s only 10-15 minutes) if he’s a little late getting in, and she’s not even his supervisor! she also complains that when his kids are sick and have to stay home from school, he stays with them instead of his wife. her favorite line is “well when my kids were little I was always the one to stay home with them” as if that’s relevant at all to the way his family has worked out their schedules!

      1. Lizzle*

        “Yep, and you work in the same department, so of course you can remember how it was reasonable for someone in a position like yours to take the necessary time.”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Has anyone reported her to her manager? Not only is she being obnoxious and disruptive, but her comments about staying home with the kids are straight up sexist and unlawful. And I have no idea what the rules are at your company/state, but a lot of employers purposefully limit which folks are allowed to view security footage, which may also be a problem. If I were her manager or HR, I would be really alarmed by any/all of these behaviors.

    2. MicroManagered*

      My ex manager was like this!!! She regularly arrived at like 8:10 to 8:35 so she would stay until like 5:45 and make sure to mention it often. She was a real stickler for staying until 5, even if you had a flex arrangement to work sat, 7-4:30. She often stopped people on their way out the door for “urgent” things and it was enough of a pattern that we began to assume it was deliberate. She let something slip to me one day that indicated she was checking security footage and browsing histories, that was about the time I decided to gtfo.

  24. No, please*

    I did work with a person that was very critical of a new young manager. She would call the owners to complain about stuff that could be easily changed if she had just asked new manager nicely. So one day I came to work and things were just wrong. The place was messy and she had posted a note on the door saying “Exact change or cards only”. I immediately asked her what the hell was going on?! She said she came in to find the back door open (not pried), the cash drawer of the register open and only coins left inside and “they” sprayed cleaner on everything to erase prints. She didn’t call the cops, the manager or owners.
    Guess who mailed a check for the stolen funds after she was fired? Her mom! I’m sure she wanted to pin it on the manager but didn’t think it through- like, at all.

    1. No, please*

      Also, this was salon and she had been doing clients hair for an hour before I was scheduled to come in. So bad for business!

        1. No, please*

          For whatever reason, that industry was/is full of drama in every direction. Even in the small town salons. I some times think I should write it all down before I’ve been out so long that I forget.

          1. Kalica*

            Book? I would buy so many copies of a book about the drama behind the scissors of a salon.

            1. No, please*

              On one hand, I’d be afraid that people may recognize themselves in the stories. Illegal things happened in all but one salon that I worked for. On the other hand, maybe some people would realize how a majority of good cosmetologists are overworked and underpaid. Too many companies expectis the staff to rely on tips. But I’ll keep thinking and jotting ideas/memories for my kid at least.

  25. kavm*

    my office vigilante doesn’t police office policies so much as she loudly and vehemently complains about things that do not affect her. example: our office runs a United Way campaign every year, and the 5 employees who donate the most money get reserved parking spaces the next year. this year, one of the winners decided not to use her parking space, told another coworker he could use it instead (he never did), but an employee from a different company in the same building started using it. the office vigilante (who had one of the reserved spaces) ranted about it for a week and even did some sleuthing to figure out who was parking there, and started talking about taking that info to HR. eventually I asked her “why do you care about this? it doesn’t affect you at all” she spluttered and then complained about my bitchiness to my friend, but she never went to HR about it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. Duck duck goose*

      Presumably she cared about it because she donated a lot of money to the campaign for the perk, and the employee from the other company did not. I think that’s completely fair.

  26. Stephanie*

    We had a clock watcher at OldJob. It drove everyone nuts, even in a department where our raison d’etre was facility time studies.

  27. Imperatrice*

    At my last job I had a coworker who was this to a T. The worst thing was that management wouldn’t tell her to knock it off – they apparently felt they had to follow up on all of her concerns.

    Shortly before I left, she began reporting the people in my office for leaving a fan on overnight. This was your regular tower-sized plug-in fan, not some sort of crazy wind machine. There were floor to ceiling windows in that office, and it helped circulate air to keep the room cool, so we left it on all the time. If someone forgot to turn it off overnight, which happened often, we’d then get an email from our manager, letting us know that Dark Knight had once again reported that we left the fan on overnight. This was in a building with hundreds of employees whose computer stations were left on overnight, plus multiple server rooms – but one electric fan had caught her attention

    I can’t say the pettiness wasn’t a factor in my decision to leave, nor the fact that no one in management was willing to tell her to pay attention to her own work.

    1. Gen*

      Oh gods that reminds me of someone I worked with who was the Electric Vigilante. At the end of the day she’d spent up to half an hour stalking around the three storey building turning /everything/ off. Computers, fans, lamps, everything. I saw her try to turn off a solar powered desktop once (it didn’t have an off switch). She was upper management so no one ever dared question it. Until one day the IT staff forgot to lock a door that led to the server room. I don’t know why the air con for the server room had a control panel outside the server room, but she heard fans running, saw a switch and turned it off. Because why cool an empty room over the weekend? Fortunately the fire station was just down the road so they managed to save the building when everything inevitably caught fire.

      1. Zathras*

        I started screaming internally once I reached the words “server room” and then your story was even worse than I thought it was going to be.

        1. Rainy, PI*

          Yes I require the rest of the story!

          Also, my boyfriend and I discussed this and we have differing estimates for how long it took the server room to catch fire, so I really need to know when it happened!

      2. Trillian*

        Ye God. I hope they had good backups.

        The combination of ignorance and self-righteousness is a dangerous one. See further down in the thread for a fridgilante who threw out coworkers’ insulin and other medications.

  28. insert pun here*

    Okay, but we can all agree that not refilling the copier is monstrous, right? I’m mean, I’m not knitting names into my scarf like an office Madame Defarge, but…

    1. Parenthetically*

      The copier is right next to our admin’s desk so we are shamed into refilling it just by her presence. But yes. Knit away. Refill or perish.

      1. LCL*

        The same admin who made sure to emphasize that she was in charge of the copier, and making any service calls, and fixing any problems, also locked up the paper. And she was the least technically inclined person in the office. Which I don’t mean as an insult, not all jobs require mechanical skills. But if that is the case, don’t demand to be in charge of an electromechanical thing. Oh yeah, she also caused a big blowup by reporting on one of her fellow admins who was bunching her breaks. Which is verboten here, but since there weren’t any external customers and the buncher was working her full share of time, nobody cared.

  29. Katie*

    I had a coworker once who was obsessed with recycling and kept lecturing people about it and shaming them for not being environmentally-conscious enough. I’m all for recycling, but she was so obnoxious that she made me want to throw away recyclable things just to spite her. (Luckily, we only worked together for about four months, so I didn’t have to deal with her for long.)

    1. Megan*

      My state has a soda can deposit and I had a co worker who would FLIP her shit if she saw me throw it into the recycling bin. I told her she could take it herself if she wanted ten damn cents but I wasn’t going to tote a sticky can around when I could recycle it anyways. She didn’t feel like fishing it out but damn.

      1. Lurker*

        I live is a state that has this, too (and I’m in a very large city). When I wasn’t making much money, I would take my cans back to get the deposit. It was always me and the homeless guys at the redemption machine. Now that I’m not scraping by, I put my cans in regular recycling so the can collectors can have them and get the money.

  30. Karyn*

    I had a coworker like this (who was laid off at the same time I was, which softened the blow a little!). She would police the younger assistants, even if they had been there longer than her. She tattled on people for going to the downstairs coffee shop to get coffee (technically we were doing it on the clock, but we weren’t leaving the building and we were doing it on our break). She liked to go through people’s filing cabinets to see what they were working on. The last straw for me was when she came up behind me (which she KNEW I hated because, for assorted reasons, I startle easily) and blurted out, “You’re always just staring at your email and that spreadsheet! Do you do ACTUAL WORK?” This was in full earshot of partners at the firm. I looked at her and just said, very calmly, “I’m sorry, but it’s really none of your concern how I work. If you have a question about it, please talk to Partner I Work For.” She looked absolutely STUNNED that I had dared to say anything to her, but she never bothered me about it again (actually, she refused to speak to me, but I had no problem with that).

  31. Vicky*

    at my soon to be Ex Toxic Work Place my supervisor is obsessed with where I am every moment. if She thinks I’m in the bathroom too long she starts calling my intercom or sending me ALL CAPS emails about where I am. she *requires* me to email her when I arrive every morning, email her when I go on lunch, email her when I take my break and tell her precisely how long I will be gone. She once sent me an ALL CAPS email for coming back from lunch, literally 1 minute later than I said. the stupid part is that I was already in the office lobby speaking to a co worker about, uh, work? Shes constantly leaving me notes asking me to perform tasks that are integral parts of my job that I perform every day without her telling me.

    thank god I’m giving notice on Monday ugh

    1. Katie the Fed*

      FWIW, when I’ve given an employee that level of scrutiny (maybe not going that far) it’s because they’re already on VERY thin ice.

      1. Vicky*

        actually, if I may tell a story to demonstrate the nuttyness:

        We had some clients who required a Korean translator for some important documents. Instead of asking me to find a translator supervisor walks up to a Chinese girl and the following ensued:

        supervisor: what country are you from?
        woman: China…
        supervisor: do you speak Korean?
        woman: no… there different countries

        I intrvened and offered to find a Korean translator. I was told not to hire a certified one because it was “too expensive” so I found a young woman who works at a language centre and is a native speaker. supervisor misquoted her fee and then tried to blame me for it when it is not part of my job to quote fees like that.

        After the appointment with the family who spoke Korean, supervisor gave me a mini lecture about how we have to have a *certified translator* and how foolish it was for me to get this other girl to come in. of course supervisor dictated and approved everything I did so… wtf

      2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        True, but if your reasonableness in comments is any indicator, you are not a Bad Boss. I suspect more bosses nitpick and micromanage because they are bad bosses, not because their employees are on thin ice.

        (FWIW – I appreciate Alison’s advice to people asking about this to examine carefully their own performance and see if there’s a reason the boss is being micromanaging because it’s always better to be self-aware and self-examining. I still think the majority of cases are due to bad managing.)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I don’t really understand micromanagers because frankly, who has time for that? The time I fired someone for timecard fraud I had to keep VERY close tabs on when he arrived and left, and compare to his timecards, and that was after he had made it so blatant that I couldn’t ignore it.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I know I don’t want to micromanage. I’d rather focus on my own work and know that my report is handling his, but he’s a pain in the ass and is on thin ice, so I have to wear myself out monitoring his probation progress.

      1. Vicky*

        My supervisor is nuts. I do my job well, come in on time, and complete all my work by the end of the day. I wouldn’t tell that story if I thought it was because of something I did. she does it to others as well.

        also, sorry, don’t appreciate the insinuation that this is my fault when I’ve been enduring workplace hell by this woman for a year + blah

        1. Sabine the Very Mean*

          I didn’t like that either. I can hear the frustration in your voice coming through the screen. This is your boss’s problem, not yours.

        2. Deschain*

          Good for you for sticking up for yourself because that comment was very uncalled for. Not to mention, that’s not the correct way to manage the worst employee–there are better ways to handle issues. Micromanaging to that degree and treating someone like a child is never the answer. Not that children deserve that either!

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She’s not insinuating it’s your fault; obviously she has no way of knowing that. She’s sharing a perspective of what it means if she does this. You can take or leave that, of course!

        4. Katie the Fed*

          I wasn’t saying it was your fault, and I’m sorry if it came across that way. I was just thinking that if your supervisor is scrutinizing your hours and time THAT closely, you probably should leave (which you are, and that’s great). Because one of two things is likely going on – your supervisor is nuts/terrible (which sounds like your case, or your supervisor has gotten to the point that she’s probably building up documentation against you.

          I don’t really pay close attention to my employees’ hours unless it becomes obvious they’re screwing up (timesheet inconsistencies, excessive tardiness) etc, and then we have a chat, and then if it keeps up things are getting serious.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      She should just ask you to wear a bell so that she can track your movement using her bat-ears. /sarcastic snark

      (Congratulations on giving notice! I’m really excited for you.)

  32. London Calling*

    We had one who loved leaving notices in the ladies’ toilet. Now wash your hands. The water is HOT. Please leave the ladies room as you would like to find it and a few others I can’t recall but it was overdone, whatever they were. I added my own – Ring Your Mother and Eat More Fruit – and they were taken down, for some reason.

    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      We had a couple post-its in the ladies’ bathroom about not taking more tampons than were needed and not taking the box of tissues to your desk.

      There was a bottle of lotion in the ladies room that kept disappearing and reappearing with a note that told us if we kept stealing lotion we would lose the privilege of having it. Finally someone posted a note, “Put the fucking lotion in the basket.”

      That unknown person is still my hero.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        I worked as an IC for a day at a small office with a female owner. There was a sign on a box of tampons that said, “These tampons are mine. Please do not borrow them.” A male employee added a note that said, “Sorry, I was out” and signed his name.

  33. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    If we could get an office vigilante to catch whoever is throwing incoming faxes into the recycle bin instead of putting them in our mailboxes, I’d be super happy. I realize faxes are pretty old school, but we still get a handful of important documents that way and it’s really annoying that we can’t figure out who is doing it!

  34. Squeegee Beckenheim*

    The only act of vigilantism I’ve done is to add a post-it note reading [citation needed] to an incredibly stupid pseudoscientific sign on our Health and Wellness bulletin board. In my defense, if you’re going to put up a sign claiming that lemon water will destroy all fat and a leaf can cure cancer, you deserve that.

  35. violet*

    I had a co-worker who rang a manager to complain I slept during an overnight shift watching clients. All I said was that I was tired from a 16 hour day.

    1. Megan*

      …I’m not sure that telling a manager that a co-worker is sleeping is unreasonable.

      1. gmg*

        I think what violet was trying to say here is that she wasn’t actually sleeping, but simply mentioned she was tired, and her co-worker embellished that and tattled to the boss.

  36. DCGirl*

    I have to confess to having been the vigilante when I worked at a department store in Washington, DC after graduate school. One of my coworkers was pretty clearly buying stuff for her date nights, wearing it, then returning it as unworn. She’d use something we called the feather gun to re-attach the tags and claim that is was unworn and that she was returning it because it didn’t fit/she’d changed her mind/it didn’t match the slacks she thought it would/whatever. She was also incredibly unpleasant to work with. One day I saw one of her purchases hanging on the return rack, snapped, and reported her to HR through its reporting mechanism. They pulled her purchase records, noticed the “out on Friday, back on Monday” pattern, and canned her. I got a large enough reward to buy a nice handbag (I was not expecting a reward and was surprised to get it). Apparently, HR found a bunch of problems.

    1. Lala*

      That’s not so much vigilantism as reporting what amounts to theft, considering she was reattaching the tags.

  37. Katie the Fed*

    As a manager, I don’t want an office hall monitor working for me. It undermines me, it’s toxic to the team, and ties me up in a bunch of bullsh*t that I frankly have no time for. I nip this stuff in the bud quickly.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I call them hall monitors too, and have the same reaction. I’m a big fan of “Go ahead and take this up with Persephone directly – no need to run that through me!” with a bright smile.

      It’s amazing how quickly I stop hearing about this kind of thing.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, once they realize the boss isn’t going to react every time they file a report, they have nothing to do. Except start to report on the boss to other people, which I’ve seen happen.

  38. EastTide*

    I will never not be a vigilante about vaping in the workplace because COME ON

    1. Semi-retired*

      Quick question: when people say “vaping,” are they referring to electronic, tobacco-type products, or, cannabis? I am never sure unless the context reveals it. In this case, if it’s legal tobacco type stuff, why do you care? And if it’s the other and people are doing it at work…unless it’s prescription non-psychoactive CBD… Then that seems more like “reporting a crime” than vigilantism on minor issues.
      Or, maybe there are other things people can vape? And it’s the smell that’s the issue, like over-perfuming?

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        Well, vaping still has tobacco in it, and I don’t want people doing that inside where I’m breathing.

        I don’t allow smoking or vaping in my house; why should i be subjected to it at work?

      2. EastTide*

        “if it’s legal tobacco type stuff”

        It’s not legal to smoke tobacco in enclosed workplaces in my state so if you’re expecting equal treatment for nicotine vaping, then it doesn’t belong indoors either. It’s against company policy, it has a strong smell, and is disruptive and uncomfortable for those who do not vape. Not to mention that it’s downright rude to assume that non-vaping coworkers consent to inhaling secondhand vapor.

      3. Rainy, PI*

        Also, the suspension that the tobacco products are in for vaping triggers asthma attacks, even in people who don’t usually have asthma.

        Ask me how I know.

  39. Policy Monkey*

    At my old job, one the executive assistants would walk around at exactly 8:30 am with a notepad and write down who was sitting in their chair working (and who wasn’t). Heaven help you if you stopped to grab a coffee in the break room or use the facilities at that time, because she felt that if you were not at your desk ready to work the moment our office opened, you were “late.” Usually, she’d give you a “warning” for your first offence, but then afterwards she would start emailing the person’s manager just as an FYI.

    It was incredibly toxic, and we never knew for sure if she did it of her own accord, or if her boss had told her to do it. My manager never shut her down either, even when I asked her to after she received several of the FYI emails (which I was always copied on). A definite morale killer for sure.

    1. Anon for this*

      Along similar lines, my former boss (CFO at Old Job) is now the CEO of another small company. Rather than use a time clock system or, you know, trust people to be adults, he opts to sit in the parking lot in his car pretending to read the paper while he watches people arrive. He marks it down when someone is late and it trickles down to their manager and then to the offender. From what I understand he has done this while he’s on vacation, too.

      1. The Moving Finger*

        Wait, he doesn’t go on vacation so he can spy on people in the parking lot???

        1. Anon for this*

          Pretty much. A friend of mine used to work there and that’s who told me. It was confirmed by another friend who also used to work there. I don’t think he totally skipped vacations, but, yeah, he was caught doing that more than once during his vacation weeks. From what I understand, he didn’t want to spend the money on time clock software. Which makes sense given that he was CFO at the company I used to work for and he was always a penny-pincher. He would spend a dollar to make a quarter, but wouldn’t spend on things we actually needed.

          1. Windchime*

            Years ago, I worked in a clothing store at a mall. There was a coffee shop directly across from the store, and the owner of the clothing store would sit in the coffee shop for hours, watching the workers in the clothing store. The store was usually dead in the evenings, so he wanted to make sure we were tidying up the merchandise or otherwise working instead of just standing around. It was creepy.

    2. Iris Carpenter*

      Years ago one of our senior managers would lurk in the bushes to catch people coming in late. He stopped after rebuking someone at length, asking “What do you have to say for your self” and getting told that his victim had been at a remote site for 2 hours and needed to get back there after collecting some tools.

  40. H.C.*

    Old Old Job with a kinda conservative but strictly-spelled out dress code* (e.g. dress hems shouldn’t be higher than an inch from the knee, sleeveless shirts must have straps at least 2 inches wide, etc.), which of course came with a busybody who runs around with a ruler to take measurements of “questionable” outfits.

    1. H.C.*

      forgot add the asterisk part – I remember the most ridiculous part of that dress code was drawing some imaginary diamond between the belly button, widest part of your hips & the bottom of your crotch and how that must be covered at all times.

    2. paul*

      Those don’t’ sound onerous to me, but anyone approaching me with a ruler’s getting an earful and sure as hell ain’t touching me.

    3. Recovering Catholic*

      Did she used to be a nun? This is what some of my former teachers did back at Catholic school.

  41. CheeryO*

    I have to confess one workplace vigilante moment… one day I found a super negative Dilbert strip posted on our bulletin board (where the public could potentially see it), so I took it down. Just, no. We already have a reputation (which is not entirely off-base) for having cushy jobs, so the last thing we need is to have someone see that and start flaming us on social media.

  42. Gene*

    Once they retire (or get fired), they move to HOA administration. Thank the Lard I don’t live in one…

    1. No, please*

      Haha! Yes! “I will now measure your lawn with a ruler. Is that paint a colonial color?”

  43. Didi*

    At my office, a dairy delivers milk and cream in quart cartons once a week to all the break rooms. The milk is provided for coffee and tea, but of course some people use it for cereal, oatmeal, whatever. One pantry, near where a lot of junior people sit, happens to be where the most milk is consumed. Many junior people eat cereal breakfasts at their desks each day, using the company-provided milk. A few other people around the office do, too.

    This had never been viewed as a problem. Yeah, it was a bit of an expense, but it was no big deal. We never ran out. The dairy knew to put more milk in that pantry.

    Some guy from corporate HQ in the big city (far from us) decided that the office consumed too much milk. He noticed the cereal-eating when he visited, and I guess he is worthy of his pay grade, because he put 2 + 2 together. A sign on the fridge went up that said “MILK AND CREAM FOR COFFEE AND TEA ONLY.” People ignored this sign. Then we started having shortages of milk (I assume that HQ guy directed the dairy not to provide extra milk for the guilty pantry, but I don’t know). So people started taking milk from the other pantries when the pantry closest to them ran out. So there was not enough milk and cream for coffee and tea. Then this whole milk situation became A BIG PROBLEM.

    One Monday we arrived to find that instead of the quart cartons of milk, the fridge now had two cardboard boxes full of those tiny single-serve creamers like you get in a diner – one box for cream and one for milk. Some people started bringing in their own milk after that, or they ate at home, but a few people will stand there for 10 minutes and open one tiny creamer after another into their cereal.

    Just for fun, a friend of mine at work called the dairy to find out how much it cost for a box of creamers vs. an equivalent amount of milk in a carton. The carton packaging was almost twice was expensive. So she estimated that the change from cartons to creamers actually cost the company more, even after factoring in the extra milk that the cereal-eaters consumed.

    1. Didi*

      Oops – I meant the little individual creamer packaging was almost twice as expenisve!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      On Better Off Ted, Linda’s form of rebellion against the company was to steal creamer.

  44. MiouMiou*

    I once worked in an office with a woman who enjoyed nothing more than getting the rest of us into trouble. If you took too many pieces of carbon paper (dating myself, I know) she would report it to the boss. If you needed a second typing eraser (in the days before white out). If you made too many errors on what you were typing and threw the letterhead out she would fish it out of the garbage and bring in it to the boss. Take the wooden peg with the bathroom key on it too many times in one day, she was on that too. Late from lunch, she would tell on you, five minutes late in the morning, the boss would know. It was petty b.s., but she reveled in it. So, one day she had to go to the ladies’ room, which was in the hallway of the building, and when she came back in the back of her skirt was tucked firmly into her pantyhose, and a long trail of white toilet paper was dragging behind her, also stuck in the band of the pantyhose. We were petty that day, all of us, not one of us told her .. . . Laughing so hard inside that it was hard to hold it together . . . .when she found out later on she was furious at all of us, and I think we all got into some sort of trouble, but it was so worth it.

    1. Chaordic One*

      When I had a coworker like this, I ended up taking home any discarded paper with mistakes on it to dispose of the evidence there. (Fortunately, I never got caught doing this.)

  45. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Maybe not a Dark Knight moment, but still: At a former employer, our CFO’s assistant organized our monthly and quarterly management meetings, which meant she ordered in breakfast and/or lunch. For buffet meals, she set up signs in front of each chafing dish and platter: ‘ONE helping only per person!’ For cold cuts, the signs helpfully suggested ‘TWO slices only of meat!’ and ‘ONE slice only of cheese!’ And yes, she watched us. She actually stood by cookie platters, in spite of those stupid signs, and handed out one cookie per person. I actually saw her remove a second cookie from someone who snagged it while she wasn’t looking. It wasn’t me, honest.

    None of this ever made sense because there was always more than enough food, both on the serving table and in reserve. Turns out our CFO told her she could take home the leftovers…and the dawn breaks over Marblehead.

    1. Hlyssande*

      When I first started at my company, the EA for the department was in charge of ordering birthday cakes when we’d have a quarterly cake day. She always, always ordered too much cake, and in flavors that she liked…because she took the leftovers home.

    2. Nic*

      I had a coworker who was similar, without the Dark Knight aspect. Leftovers were for the takings in general, but when one department was done we’d usually offer it to others before considering it “left over”. Not Fergus. He’d go through and pick out the best of everything that was left and stash it in his desk. Sometimes he’d go ahead and grab three or four extras (like if there were breakfast tacos) on his first pass through, and he always made sure he was near the front of the line. When management spoke to him about this, he told them other people should just get there faster.

      Some of us were concerned he may be experiencing food scarcity, but we found out eventually that he was instead regularly taking an illicit substance that was causing him to be super hungry.

      Another coworker from the same place took 100 hamburger patties that were earmarked (and noted!) for a particular department the next day, because they hadn’t been there for a cookout. She left the buns and all the rest.

  46. Anxa*

    Oh dear.

    I seriously worry about turning into a vigilante, but I am so non-confrontational and too much of a people pleaser to probably do it.

    What are better ways to handle little workplace issues that when added up have a big effect? Especially when it’s not really anybody else’s job?

    I know I dread working with one coworker because I’m almost certain he’s reporting his hours as scheduled and not actually worked. I wouldn’t begrudge generous rounding or moving around (we are capped low, so I get rolling over a bit), but there’s one shift he’s never made the first half hour of. Sometimes it just irks me because I feel like a chump, other times I resent it because I feel like now I’m in the position of having to either report or ignore it (a decision I really don’t want to deal with).

    Also, our fridge! No one is in charge, but I feel like one of the workers whose job is to provide coverage or has slow times that they are paid for should it. My paid slow time happens in another building, I literally can’t do it if I’m being paid, and I kind of feel like I shouldn’t just do it on my personal time. I wouldn’t really mind the actual cleaning part as I actually really like that stuff, but I worry that it would be weird.

    And jeez. The recycling. It’s a rare occasion to find a blue bin without contaminating trash in it. I don’t mind if you want to put your recycling in trash, but why put trash in recycling. Unfortunately it’s not just staff using these so it’s unenforceable, but are people not taught the basics of trash recycling? Even if you didn’t know, wouldn’t it occur to you to wonder where your garbage goes?

    1. beanie beans*

      When I first read the thread I thought, “Oh crap I’m a vigilante.” But after reading the comments, I think there’s a difference at being annoyed at your coworkers for not being respectful adults vs being a hawk and watching people’s every move and reporting minor stuff. And a difference between being a hawk about people’s breaks and lunches and minutes here and there vs realizing that a coworker is reporting time fraudulently and it impacts other people’s work.

      We all see stuff that drives us crazy, but the difference is there are some people who use much of their day waiting for people to do something on their list and then actually reporting it or keeping detailed notes about it, where the rest of just say “ARGH” and either let it go or deal with it directly if it’s bad enough to affect morale.

      1. Anxa*

        I think I’m thinking about taking action, but I really am not interested in monitoring people. I just kind of feel like there a few things that someone should kind of be on top of if people don’t self-regulation.

        Actually, after this thread. I went to look at the fridge again. It’s so gross. Sticky, stains, gloop. Chaos. I cannot afford to eat out. Most days I don’t have a car so my options are limited (work is on a highway). I need to be able to bring lunch. There have been days I felt too icked out to put my food in the fridge without an extra layer, and I sometimes I have to cram it in and hope the door stays shut. So, I threw out someone’s lunch (in a large can, not a bin in the room). It was moldy meat. I’m the microbiology tutor there. I felt better already, because health and safety trumps office politics.

  47. Tuxedo Cat*

    My office has had several of these types. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural issue or it’s because I’m in academia. I find that the folks who are behaving like this are insecure and trying to get ahead so they’ll do anything to make the rest of us look like bad employees.

    My boss is aware of this, but unfortunately, although he is a nice person, does nothing even though he is annoyed with receiving a barrage of petty complaints. It’s a shame- it’s part of the reason why I’m on the job market. Some of my work colleagues take advantage of working from home as much as possible because they don’t want to be tattled on for petty things. None of us have experienced any repercussions for being tattled on, but it just has ruined morale. Unless you’re the vigilante, I suppose.

    1. Gov Worker*

      I would keep a closer eye on the tattle tale who came to me about petty matters if I were a manager.

  48. The Moving Finger*

    I love the name for this because I have one and now I know what to call the situation.

  49. OfficeWitch*

    At my old workplace we had an office busybody (our HR head) who would spend much of her day leaning against the door located at the back of our open floor plan for a better perch to watch everyone while they worked. Just a few of her over the top policing activities included asking me to track in a journal how many times a day a co-worker would use the restroom and for how long (I gave a hard no on that), and the most invasive being drivebys of coworkers houses to ensure they actually lived where they stated they lived on their W4’s (our job had a strict residency requirement). I hope she got fired.

  50. Suzy Q*

    I experienced a terrible one of these, whose manipulative actions actually cost me money. Of course, Dark Knight is too kind a description for her; rather, I simply refer to her as a See You Next Tuesday. SO MUCH HATE.

  51. Can't make this up*

    I know someone who got written up for having a “executive” size desk. Living above their station, apparently…

    1. Zathras*

      What? Did they even pick their desk? Aside from people who work from home, and I guess maybe whichever person in the office is actually in charge of ordering the furniture, I have never heard of anyone who got to choose their own desk.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      I knew someone who worked at a very old British company where the amount of empty space on your desk was determined by your rank – so if you had too much empty space, you had to fill it up with corporate manuals.

      1. AMT*

        That reminds me of that Are You Being Served episode where Mrs. Slocombe made Miss Brahms cut off the bottom half of her blouse ruffle because it was too long for her rank as a junior saleswoman.

  52. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I always wanted to ask AAM: have you ever experienced being blatantly wrong in how you interacted with an employee and then had to evaluate, learn and make amends? The reason I ask is that many letters here show a manager making an overwhelmingly poor choice– perhaps with how s/he disciplined an employee, listening to the wrong rumor, etc. I always wondered if these managers were capable of recognizing gross incompetence or unfairness and apologizing to an employee s/he may have wronged.

    I have been the employee who has basically had to say, “you are never, ever welcome to speak to me that way and you owe me a very sincere apology” after my former boss told me that because I’m a woman, I would never be able to understand him– and that guy never admitted fault or apologized. AAM, have you done anything so wrong, had an employee basically stand up to you, and then had to take responsibility for it? How does it work?

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Oh, shoot I meant for that to go on the free-for-all!! I’m so sorry!

  53. Mrs. Fenris*

    We have a daffy older lady who does flex time office work. She does so little and is so clueless about how the place runs that nobody is really sure what she is doing here. She drops by sometimes and makes comments about how we don’t look very busy, and reminds us all how much it costs to run the place. It would be infuriating if she had any actual influence around here.

  54. Jackie Swan*

    One of my coworkers is like that. We have short 5 minute meetings at work every 4 hours and if you don’t show up one of my two coworkers tells our boss. She even called him at home one time when he was on vacation.

  55. SusanIvanova*

    I’ve been lucky not to have to work with any of these, but the stories here remind me of the woman who fought back against a boss who went Hall Monitor (I like that better than Dark Knight) on the dress code – the code said nothing about ponytails or head scarves, but that’s what he called her out on – by cosplaying in outfits that met the requirements as he was interpreting them:

  56. Rebooting*

    Back when I was still working outside the home, I ran afoul of an office vigilante who’d appointed themselves arbitrator of what went in the fridge. Okay, you want the fridge cleaned out by 3pm every Friday, fine – except that she included my insulin and another colleague’s refrigerated medication in “everything” and threw it out twice before we got her talked to by a higher-up.

    1. No, please*

      What the hell man! Who does that, besides that person? I’m enraged just thinking of that. So sorry you all had to deal with that. I would also like to know if she paid you back?

    2. JamieS*

      Did she somehow not realize it was medicine when she tossed it out both times? It’s still a ridiculous thing to do but I’d be able to wrap my head around the absurdity better if that were the case.

      1. Rebooting*

        I can’t recall what my coworker’s medication looked like, but mine was insulin in an injection pen, so pretty obviously not food! I don’t know what was going through her head except “everything in the fridge must be gone by 3pm; this is in the fridge, ergo it must be gone” or something like that. She did have to pay us back, but luckily for her we’re in Australia so it wasn’t too expensive.

  57. Anon for current purposes*

    *find tray in microwave with aluminum foil on top*

    Some people just want to watch the world burn.

  58. CQ*

    I have a situation like this, and I’ve been meaning to ask the AAM community for advice.

    So I work part-time at a large coffee chain (American-based, but I work in a European district), and part of our contracts if that we can be “lent out” to stores within our district for short periods of time to help them out if they have too many people out sick and need coverage, or whatever’s going on. I got sent to a store in a nearby city for a week not long ago, and one of the managers there really rubbed me the wrong way. He seemed to be constantly looking for subpar work, mistakes, and any actions he considers “not up to standard,” even if they have nothing to do with the actual quality or safety of the product we’re putting out. That didn’t bother me so much, because we have a similar manager at my “home store” and I admire that she’s always trying to get us to do our best.

    What irked me was how confrontational he was… like every observation or criticism was expressed like he was trying to start a fight. Instead of a simple “Hey, there’s some dirty dishes left on the table in the corner – could you get that?”, it’s “So, are you just going to let those dirty dishes sit there? Wow, look at all that crap. Is that how you work in your store? In our store, our customers like it when the tables are clean. Do you understand that? Should I explain it again?”

    On one hand, I wanted to defend myself because he was really making me feel bad about myself when I know that, at least in my store, I’m considered one of the best baristas; on the other hand, I’m really uncomfortable with the way he spoke to us, and I didn’t know what to say, so I often just fell silent and just stared at him until he stopped… which doesn’t quite feel sufficient.

    What do you all think?

    1. AMD*

      What are the chances you would have to work for this guy again? Also, was it just you, or did he treat his regular local baristas that way as well? He may have been posturing with you for some reason… either way, it sounds unbearable but not really at the level of “report to corporate.” I think your way of handling him in the moment was probably fine.

      1. CQ*

        Thanks for your response! :)

        Well, my home store is closing this fall, and he is potentially my new boss if I get transferred to his store as a result. He seemed to be talking to everyone that way, not just me. I thought about talking to my boss about him, but she’s a huge fan of him, and I don’t think that conversation would be productive. Maybe, if he asks me again why I’m working SO terribly, I could tell him that I tend to freeze up, get overwhelmed, and make more mistakes when I’m being aggressively talked down to… but I guess that would be just another kind of confrontational.

        1. AMD*


          If this is someone you potentially need to keep a relationship with, and even impress, I would try to reframe it in your mind that this is his personality and despite his disrespectful words he doesn’t actually mean anything by it – he’s just saying what a normal manager would say in an over-aggressive drill sergeant accent? If his terrible management style gets results, (clean, profitable store, happy customers) then the company may not feel like they should push him on the softer skills, so complaining up may not be worth it. (Obviously different if he makes any racist/sexist/etc. comments or is otherwise abusive.)

          He may just be a jerk you don’t want to work for, which would be worth quitting over.

          1. CQ*

            Luckily, this is just a get-me-through-grad-school job, and grad school is almost over! If I do end up working for that jerk, hopefully it will just be during a brief transition period between finishing grad school and finding full-time work in my field.

            Again, thank you so much for your input. It really helped c:

  59. Hershele Ostropoler*

    This seems like the sort of thing that could easily turn (more) toxic in uncertain economic times. People putting down their co-workers to try to make themselves look better.

    1. CQ*

      It happens at my job all the time :/ I hate it. In my experience, it seems to be people who are more insecure about their skills or value on the team who try to point the finger at others. One coworker of mine recently started a rumor that people are gossiping about two employees (two women) who are in a relationship with each other; he told them that others have made comments of disgust and disapproval, all except him because he’s soooo savvy and liberal and awesome.

      Except, there is no gossip. Nobody cares about their relationship. We love both the individuals and the fact that they’re together is not even a topic of conversation.

  60. JessB*

    This was a really illuminating look at some of my own behaviour lately.
    In my workplace, we have values we use to shape how we work together, and they’re really great. I think it’s one thing if I teach my colleagues how to turn on the dishwasher, or ask for help when I’m unloading it, but I need to get over the fact that some people leave their dishes in the sink, or just keep filling the dishwasher when it’s already clearly full!
    My reaction to those last two behaviours is to complain out loud in the kitchen at the time and later at my desk, and it’s just really ineffective and negative.

    I do think there’s still a place for calling people out on not living the values, but I’m reassured that my behaviour has not yet progressed to the level of the people in the article, or some of the stories in the comments!!!

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