3 updates from recent letter-writers

Here are three updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. Someone drew genitalia on our intern’s cast

The intern was only in her third week here. The intern and the employee who did the drawing both had the same manager and that manager is one of my reports. The company does not have an HR department and, as at least one person in the comments guessed, there were some politics in play.

Both the employee who did the drawing and the manager were suspended for a day without pay and sent to sexual harassment remedial training. The employee was warned that he’s on thin ice and if he puts one toe out of line, he will be out the door. The manager was demoted. Although it is still a management position, her title and pay were both lowered and she no longer has anyone reporting to her. A reminder of the laws and company rules regarding sexual harassment was sent out to everyone.

I spoke to everyone who worked with the employee and manager and those who were witnesses and they all said that although the found the behavior upsetting, none of them had ever witnessed stuff like that before and had never felt harassed on any occasion by the employee or the manager.

I attempted to contact the intern after she ceased contact. The phone number and email address she had used on her resume were no longer in service. She was couriered a letter of apology and a list of the steps taken to remedy what happened, along with an offer to return to her internship. It was returned the next day unopened with a profanity written on the envelope.

(One point of clarification: There were many comments about course credit and the intern being a student. The intern is not a recent graduate or current/prospective student and no school has anything to do with the internship)

2. My boss won’t approve my time off for a video game competition

Thanks so much for answering my question and to your readers for all their encouraging comments and additional advice! I did go to my boss to ask about the day off again, using the language you suggested. The second time he agreed to let me have the day off, though he was clearly unhappy about it. I mentioned the situation to a couple friends at the office who have been here much longer than I have, and they both said that boss’s son is a bit of a difficult/spoiled kid and apparently, it’s not uncommon for boss to complain that video games are ruining today’s youth and his son. I guess there’s the explanation for his weirdly intense opinion on how I spent my time off.

In terms of my own future, my team performed very well in that tournament and in subsequent ones. The game I play is starting to move towards building the professional scene, and I am in a position where I may be soon facing the choice of leaving my job to play full-time. I haven’t decided yet if that’s a good idea, but I’m happy to be here and happy to know I can count on days off for future tournaments (even though I won’t be telling my boss that’s what I’m doing!)

3. I accidentally described myself as “outgoing” when I’m not (#3 at the link)

I emailed you a few months ago to ask if misrepresenting myself in an interview as “outgoing” would hurt me in my then-upcoming, now-current job. You said it probably wouldn’t, but I was still unsure.

I have a really good update for you: it ended up that calling myself outgoing in that interview hasn’t been a misrepresentation of myself at all. I LOVE this new job – the culture, the nature of my position, and the people have actually turned me into a legitimate social butterfly, to the point where I now realize how much of a bad fit some of my other jobs were inasmuch as they made me somewhat reserved. But now that I’m surrounded by people who have similar values and career goals to mine with different skill sets and backgrounds (think musicians, magicians, theatre people, painters, voice actors, etc.), I’ve been flourishing. This job is a perfect fit and I’m so sad that my term is scheduled to end (as is everyone’s; it’s a summer position) in only a few weeks. You told me: “your best bet here is to be yourself and see how it goes.” Well, it’s been going amazingly!

P.S. A few people said that having a job at Disney World meant I should be fine calling myself “outgoing,” but that job required a VERY different type of “outgoing-ness” than other jobs I’ve had. That job was very, very, very repetitive (I have my spiel memorized, even 3 months after leaving, because I said it hundreds of times a day), and being “outgoing” there was very draining in a way that it isn’t here at Current Job.

Thank you for your advice!

{ 446 comments… read them below }

  1. KatieKate*

    The phone number and email address she had used on her resume were no longer in service.

    That seems… extreme? I’m glad steps were taken for the manager and offending employee, but the intern’s follow up reaction seems a little bizarre.

      1. anon today...and tomorrow*

        I re-read the original letter and it states that the intern was forced to finish out the day with the genitals clearly there on the cast. The letter states that she met with clients and such. This, and the fact that her complaints weren’t taken seriously when she complained to her manager? Yeah, I don’t see her reaction as that extreme.

        1. M-C*

          +1 I’d never talk to anyone at that company again if I were the intern. Except in court maybe.

        2. Batshua*

          You’d think someone would have at least given the poor intern some white-out or helped draw over it…

          1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

            The intern tried to use marker and white-out to cover it up, per the original post.

            1. JessaB*

              Yeh white out and stuff doesn’t stick well. The best option if it’s a regular plaster type and not one of those fancy heat mould plastic things is to slightly dampen the outer layer and use a blunt straight edge (paper knife, part of a scissors,) to scrape the top layer off. The other option is if the place has electrical tape or something to tape over in a fancy design. Sports tape would work too.

              But yeh there was no going back from making her client facing with that.

        3. Tuckerman*

          I agree. I had forgotten about that detail until I went back to the letter. The employee was seriously wronged, and the manager refused to let her out of a stressful and potentially traumatic situation. Can you imagine the media outrage that would occur if a college student was sexually harassed during class and the professor refused to let her leave?
          I also wonder if the employee sought legal help, and was advised not to communicate with the company.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, it was really bad. Really really bad.

            And not only did the manager refuse to let her leave to try to fix her cast or cover up the genitalia and profanity, she laughed at the intern, refused to discipline the guy who did it, and forced the intern to interact with clients while wearing that profanity/genitalia knowing that the intern felt extremely uncomfortable and distressed. That’s really, abjectly humiliating and callous.

            Nevermind whatever it may have cost the intern to have to go back to the doctor and plead for the profanity to be covered with extra layers of wrapping. On every single level where the manager (OP’s report) could have behaved like a decent human, she did not and instead made an already horrific situation much worse for the intern. And then there was radio silence, as OP and others tried to figure out what had happened and how to address it—which the intern did not see or know about because she had already quit.

            The original incident was so bad that I would have fired the manager and the employee. A profanity marked, unopened “return to sender” letter is not taking the high road, but it falls within a range of what I would see as normal emotional reactions to being treated so terribly.

            1. Jesca*

              I agree. I have seen some comment on here that the company reacted appropriately. No they really did not! With all due respect to the OP, she did not react. She wrote into a management advice column for answers on what to do in a text book clear cut case of sexual harassment. I’m sorry. I said it in that post, and I will say it again here. It was all so wrong and then handled poorly with what I hope in the least was complete ignorance to the law and a lack of experience on management’s part.

              1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

                I don’t think asking for advice is an inappropriate response. I think a lot of people would be caught wrong-footed in the face of such a bizarre event at work. And even though the OP didn’t react immediately, OP did the right thing in the end by demoting that horrible manager.

                1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

                  Although I do wish that the genitalia-drawer had had a more severe consequence than just a stern warning and extra harassment training.

                2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

                  Although I do wish the genitalia-drawer had had a more severe consequence than just a stern warning.

            2. Aphrodite*

              “The original incident was so bad that I would have fired the manager and the employee. A profanity marked, unopened “return to sender” letter is not taking the high road, but it falls within a range of what I would see as normal emotional reactions to being treated so terribly.”

              Quoted for truth. OP, I think you should have been notified about this immediately and taken action to fire both immediately AND made sure the intern had it taken care of right then. Your punishment of one day without pay and a demotion for one and warning for the other was far too light in my opinion. I am not surprised no one at the company can get through to her; you waited too long to do what should have been done.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Exactly. Not all managers are given the authority to fire their reports, even when their reports have committed blatantly fireable offenses, because office politics or short-sighted policies or good old fashioned toxic work environments.

                  I worked at a place where a man in my training class was reported by half a dozen woman for various flavors of sexual harassment and physical boundary-crossing (I don’t know what it is when a man puts his hand on your hand and then leans all his weight on it, against a table, for no apparent reason other than to get some kind of reaction and doesn’t stop until the third or forth “stop”—I had bruises).

                  The complaints started on the first day, he was put on paid leave the middle of the third week and wasn’t fired until the beginning of the forth. Background we found out later: TPTB were arguing whether he should even be fired or just moved to a different training class, then he tried to light a woman’s hair on fire (?!) and that was apparently the line, so they gave him a paid one-week vacation to keep him from doing anything else terrible while they kept trying to argue him into a different class. Fun times.

            3. Amy*

              Agreed. The circumstances are so extreme here, I think the otherwise-extreme response is completely justified. I can’t imagine having to go through a day of work like that.

            1. Noobtastic*

              I think she was too afraid to open the letter, for fear it would be some victim-blaming bullsh!t.

              If OP really wants to apologize, OP should send a person to the intern’s house, with a big sign that says, “OP’s Company Apologizes!” and wave the envelope around for her to take, IF she wants to. Because really, the way she was treated, it’s a shoo-in that she will not trust anything they send her.

              The only way she’s going to see a letter they send her is if her lawyer opens it, first, and approves it for her viewing.

      2. Jesca*

        I would be questioning this if I were the OP. As in, did someone (one of the two in this situation) contact her after the fact. OP may never get the honest answer, but it would not hurt to ask. I would pull aside the weaker of the two and just flat out ask in a tone that speculates that I already suspect. See if it gets a response.

        But really, I am not sure how I would react if someone did this to me … it wouldn’t be pretty, I can honestly say that!

        1. Zillah*

          That’s a really good point – especially since they were disciplined, I can see one of them contacting her.

      3. mccoma*

        After thinking about, I’m a bit worried about the intern. I don’t think it is extreme as much as I think it indicates the harassment continued. Given the reaction, I suspect this isn’t the first letter sent from the company. Now the company might not know it sent any mail, but company envelopes aren’t exactly on lock down in a lot of offices. I honestly suspect the cancellation of phone & email combined with the letter reaction indicates continued harassment.

        1. Noobtastic*


          Odds are one or both of those jerks harassed her, after she left, because they knew they could get away with it.

    1. De Minimis*

      I wonder if there was more to it that the OP wasn’t aware of? It does seem a little extreme.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That was my first thought – there’s very likely something more going on. Or the intern found the harassment so bad that she wants nothing to do with the company at all.

        But OP, thank you for taking action on this problem! It can’t have been easy, but you did and you’ve created a safer workplace for everyone.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, this was my suspicion as well. Either more may have been happening that slid under the radar, or the single experience was such a violation of the intern’s personal boundaries/identity that it tainted her entire relationship with her former employer. Profanity is a bit much, but if you had been let down so profoundly the first time, I can understand why you might trash a follow up letter without opening it because you expect to be let down, again.

          That said, I’m glad OP took the steps that they did and that there was some kind of reprimand. I’m very curious about what the manager said when asked why she laughed, etc.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I agree. I cannot imagine either that drawing genitals on an intern’s cast was the first mis-deed the employee committed, nor can I imagine (even remembering what a hothead I was at 19-20yo) returning a couriered letter with a profanity written on it, in response to that one incident, even though that one incident was horribly violating and humiliating. There *has* to be more going on than OP is aware of.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I am sure the clients she met with did not ignore the drawing. Clients may have said something to her. Hopefully, it was supportive things like “Get our of here! I can’t believe your boss is making you work like this.!” But the comments could have been anything really.
              Likewise with cohorts, if she thought her cohorts were also laughing at her that would just make a bad situation 100 times worse.
              She made the right call, unknowingly, as the guy is still there. I don’t think I would go back for an internship, either. Some things only have to happen once and I know I am done.

          2. Amy*

            There’s also that this is an intern, which suggests she’s likely new to the workplace. Not that there are clear-cut professional norms for how to react to a situation this unusual, but it’s easy to react in an extreme or unexpected way when general professional norms aren’t as ingrained. In this case, her reaction is hard to criticize, and hopefully it will wake up the LW a little bit to just how badly this was handled.

          3. Ego Chamber*

            “Profanity is a bit much,”

            Kind of depends on the profanity. As written in the letter it sounds insulting but I could easily see myself writing “STAY THE F*CK AWAY FROM ME” or some other ill-considered thing in this scenario—especially if this wasn’t the first time someone from the company was contacting her against her wishes, which seems likely considering she shut down the email and phone number the company had. These are all pretty clear signals that something’s up.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I had to go back and reread the original letter. I disagree with how the intern responded to the letter (not opening it, profanity written on the envelope), but if someone had harassed me in the same way and the company did nothing, then followed up by sending a letter to my HOME, I would assume the worst and can’t say I would take the moral high ground. Again, I disagree with her final reaction, but given how the manager laughed at her over it, I’m not entirely surprised.

      1. Jesca*

        Ya know, I once heard a quote. I am going to paraphrase it as best I can. It was something along the lines of “I understand its against the rules/not taking the moral high ground, and I will have to react the way I have to react as a position of authority. But, that does not mean I wouldn’t react the same way damn the consequences if it happened to me. Let some body force me to walk around with an effing penis drawn all over my arm all day long. Yeah. You just let them … LOL man this letter st

    3. Anon.*

      My gut reaction to the phone number change was perhaps the intern had been getting other calls from her former employer. Like, the guy or the manager. No way to know of course.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Mine, too. If so, it puts a more understandable light on her reaction to a courier’ed letter–harassed by phone and email until she changed both, she wouldn’t wonder “gosh, what a pleasant surprise” when someone from the company found a new way to track her down.

        1. M-C*

          +1 I could totally see either the offending employee or the even-worse manager trying to apply pressure after they were pulled in. Trying to get her to say it was OK or something, or threatening her with retaliation of some kind. That’s a really likely scenario, considering the initial incident.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Even if they weren’t contacting her to harass, like maybe they wanted to apologize (read: “apologize”), that’s also not okay. An apology for something like that by the parties involved is a really obvious power-move and not something I would want to be pressured to respond to. The OP had a good impulse to send the apology letter and explanation, because the OP wasn’t involved with the initial incident and honestly wanted to make things right.

            But if the employee and/or manager already reached out, that needs to be another write-up at the least. Someone wanting to apologize for their own benefit doesn’t obligate anyone to accept that apology, or to forgive whatever they’re apologizing for. It’s like “Okay. You apologize. Great. I don’t forgive you. Are we done?”

      2. CityMouse*

        Yeah that seems really suspicious. I would do some digging, if possible. Check the phone records to see if there were calls placed to that number.

        1. Mpls*

          What? No. Let it be. Intern wants to be left alone. This is not a relationship that needs to be saved. There is no need for closure.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I didn’t take CityMouse’s comment as indicating OP should seek closure with the intern. But if OP’s employees have been harassing the former intern, OP definitely needs to find out and discipline/fire, not because it will benefit Intern, but because who the **** wants a staff full of jerks who continue to harass someone who quit because of sexually harassment? OP needs to figure out what else has been going on on the crappy manager’s watch and clean house.

          2. Alastair*

            I took that to mean dig to see if company employees called the number and then escalate firing accordingly.

            1. Julia*

              Me, too. And the intern doesn’t need to be involved in that. The company phone (or their provider) should have a file with all outgoing calls.

    4. Specialk9*

      I assumed the intern graduated so lost the .edu email, but the post-script squelched that. Who deletes an email address, instead of forwarding it on through gmail?

      Phone, who knows, maybe her parent(s) took her off their plan.

      As to the profanity, there’s a slight chance an overly loyal sister, brother, or parent did it without the intern seeing it. Sheer conjecture though.

      Or she is deeply offended and makes poor choices.

      1. Anony Mouse*

        I think you missed the end bit: “There were many comments about course credit and the intern being a student. The intern is not a recent graduate or current/prospective student and no school has anything to do with the internship.”

      2. Jessica*

        I dunno. It’s not like she really has to worry about burning bridges with the place where your coworkers draw dicks on your broken arm and then management makes you go out to deal with clients that way.

        I’d say that a returned couriered letter with GFY written on it is a lot nicer than a lawsuit.

        1. Salamander*

          But the guy just didn’t draw a dick. He “drew male genitalia and wrote profanities.” So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he wrote some majorly harassing and humiliating stuff on there, too. I think that’s getting glossed over, and I’m pretty curious what else was written.

          1. Jessica*

            I’m personally amazed that a) neither the manager nor the “artist” were fired, that b) the LW actually expected the intern to be cool with everything by now, much less consider coming back when that employee and manager are both still there, and that c) people are all “tsk, writing a swear word on the envelope is so unprofessional”. If this wasn’t a firing offense for this company, what on earth is? Do you actually have to use real dicks in front of clients before someone thinks, “Maybe this isn’t an employee who brings value to our organization”?

            Like holy cow. The LW should be making burned offerings in gratitude that all the intern did was tell them to F off and change her phone number. She could’ve gone straight to a lawyer’s office WITH THE CAST and had a field day. Take your envelope swear word with grace and pray it ends there!

            1. Beancounter Eric*

              From all I’ve heard regarding this, company might really want to give counsel a heads-up if they have not already done so….courier package might just be the nudge intern needs to go into attack mode.

              And frankly, I would not blame them.

              1. Liane*

                Also, I think I saw a comment while skimming that it’s possible the intern already has a lawyer who advised her to not contact or respond to the company.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  @Jerry Vandesic Maybe but who cares? A lawyer advising you not to do something doesn’t mean the case is automatically dismissed if you do it, it just means the judge/jury might not look favorably on whatever.

                  Fwiw, I think it looks even worse that the company continued to try to contact her after she made it blatantly clear that she didn’t want contact, and it looks a bit tone-deaf that the LW seems to think things are all copacetic now and apparently implied as much in the letter.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              She only answered in a method from her perspective that the company uses and seems to understand.

            3. Salamander*

              Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think that both the manager and the intern should have been immediately fired, and the LW needs to be disciplined for not handling this.

              There’s this curious thing that I’ve noted among responses to this and the letter where the woman was shoved out of the way by the bird-fearing guy into the path of a car. We expect victims to always turn the other cheek and take the high road. I feel like aggrieved parties often have a breaking point when they’ve been repeatedly treated poorly by their employers, and that must be respected.

              1. Blurgle*

                We expect victims to act perfectly. I think subconsciously we want them to ‘fail’, thereby ‘proving’ that they’re partly to blame.

                It’s a form of denial, I believe; if we can identify something victims have done that’s ‘wrong’, we can reassure ourselves that we’d never do that ourselves.

                And how often does the “high road” require the victim to play the doormat?

                1. Gadfly*

                  The ‘I’m safe because I wouldn’t do something like THAT. He’s no angel, she’s no saint, of course something like that is more likely to happen to someone like THEM’ mentality…

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  I don’t know if it’s wanting victims to fail so much as it’s difficult for most people to have kind consideration for other people if we don’t feel like they deserve it on some pseudo-objective moral level.

                  If someone gets rear-ended, we usually sympathize because they didn’t do anything to deserve that. If they then get out of the car and start swearing at the other driver, we feel a lot less sympathy because they’re not acting like a victim anymore (it’s like a nonreligious, modern take on Calvinism).

                3. Kate 2*

                  Yep, it’s called “just world” belief or syndrome. I learned about it when I almost became a psych major. The world is a big scary place, and no matter how careful you try to be, bad things can still happen to you. You can be stopped at a red light and still get hit by a car, you can be in a movie theater or mall and get shot at, you can buy organic and still get e. coli, and so on.

                  People use “magical thinking” to look for things the victims “did wrong” so they can avoid doing and save themselves in the future. Like wearing a short skirt for example. It’s a modern version of “the volcano is angry at us, we must appease it” or the actually modern “don’t step on the cracks in the sidewalk”, “13 is an unlucky number” or the personal “wearing blue is lucky”.

                4. Elizabeth H.*

                  I don’t think that’s expecting “victims” to act perfectly or subconscious misplaced moralism, I think it’s more like people are expected to behave well in general. You’re not supposed to scream and curse at people in traffic, so you’re not supposed to do it even if someone rear ends you; it makes you look bad. This kind of behavior in almost every case just accelerates a bad situation and makes it worse.

      3. Toph*

        My first instinct on the phone/email thing might have been that she had dummy accounts for both when applying in the first place. Like a dedicated gmail she only used for intern/job applications and nothing else, and the phone maybe a google voice number. So if she’d used those originally when getting this gig and never gave them her actual personal info, to me it seems…less extreme…to ditch the accounts that were only used for applying for stuff anyway. It’s very possibly this is way too generous an interpretation, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

        As to the profanity, overly-loyal-someone-else-in-the-house was also my next instinct. I mean, she may have done it, but it’s also very possible someone else who lived there did on her behalf.

        Until I read the comments it didn’t occur to me that maybe some harassment continued after she left leading to both the cutoff and the extreme response, but now I can’t unsee it.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I sincerely regret not having thought to get a burner Google Voice number for job applications. I once accidentally made my info public on Dice and was getting nuisance calls from staffing agencies for jobs I wasn’t qualified for for MONTHS.

      4. Stan*

        As an aside, there’s a way to set-up Gmail so that it bounces the email back to a specific sender or domain without actually closing the email account. I did it when I couldn’t get a former company to stop bothering me with questions long after I’d left (and asked them to stop).

      5. Samata*

        I was wondering if she set up some kind of rule that any email coming from @company.com would get an auto-reponder saying the email was no longer being monitored.

    5. k.k*

      I was thinking maybe the intern has the company phone number and email blocked in ways that made OP think they were out of service. I don’t have a lot of experience blocking contacts, but I assume there may be various ways to go about it.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yes, depending on your phone/carrier, you can block people and have them get the message that the number is no longer in service.

      2. nonegiven*

        You can do that if it was a Google Voice number. When you block, the caller gets an out of service message.

    6. LBK*

      I’m not quite as surprised as everyone else seems to be. Think about just how demeaning this whole experience was for her. Imagine that you’re in one of your first jobs trying to establish yourself as a professional and someone does something totally cruel and embarrassing like this, you go to your manager and she literally just laughs at you, and you’re forced to stay in the office all day talking to clients with this blatantly inappropriate image plastered on your arm. That’s just compounded by you having to go back to the doctor to get something this stupid and childish fixed, embarrassing you all over again.

      I get self-conscious just being in the office on a bad hair day, and that’s neither permanent nor graphic. If this happened to me, I’d probably be inclined to tell that company to fuck off too.

      1. Jessica*

        Not to mention the hit to your professional image that you take when your customers see you that way. It isn’t just a reflection on the company’s professionalism, it’s a hit on her individual reputation. Like clients aren’t going to remember that?

        1. nnn*

          And, added to that, every single moment of every single day until she can get the cast fixed, everyone can see this. Everyone on the subway. Everyone at the grocery store. Any random children she crosses paths with.

          If the profanities were such that they commented on the intern’s own proclivities, it might actually put her safety at risk in public space.

        2. Jesca*

          OMG I am telling you, I am all for professionalism. but damn. In this situation, I may have even told every client I had to meet the exact circumstances on why it was there and how it was handled. This company is lucky they only got back a profanity laced letter. I mean, can you even imagine! This is likely one of the worst things I have read on here (up there with the dead horse and the manager who wouldn’t let his top performing attend graduation). Sometimes, its not just business. Sometimes its effing personal.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Ooh, I like the idea of telling clients exactly what happened. “Sorry there’s profanity and genitalia on my cast. One of the employees did that instead of signing my cast, and my manager thought it was funny and won’t allow me to go get it fixed until after I’m done with my client meetings for today.” Let the company take that hit to their reputation.

            Honestly, if it had been me, I’d have completely flipped out at the coworker, and when the manager laughed at me for complaining I’d have immediately been reaching out to my state DOL to file a harassment complaint. The company is lucky the intern seems only to want to move on with her life.

            1. BF50*

              I’d also be posting on reviews of the company on Glassdoor and Indeed.

              Sure you’re not going to be anonymous, but the bridge is already burned, so why not.

              My curiosity is too great, so I would have opened the letter before I sent it back with profanities, but I’m not sure that anything in it would prevent me from writing “bleep you” on it. Especially since no one was fired.

          2. Just Another Techie*

            I desperately wish the intern would write in with her side of the story. I’m so curious to know what else was going on in this place.

          3. Liane*

            I like this, and Jadelyn’s script below, which are both totally professional, even by Miss Manners’ exacting standards, I daresay. She’s long advised employees that in the case of mistakes (big ones in this case) by one’s employer, one should apologize on behalf of the company.

      2. Justme*

        I’m with you. I am not surprised at all that the former intern wants no contact from this company. I cannot imagine how awful it was for her to be treated so horribly by everyone there.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I remember thinking that she was pretty sharp to think of asking the doctor to add another layer to cover it up. That might not have occurred to me!

        1. This Daydreamer*

          Considering how many middle and high school kids break limbs, I bet the doctor had dealt with this sort of [long stream of profanity] before.

      4. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. You can make a number or email seem turned off without actually turning them off, even. In the intern’s position, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I did when I left my own toxic, shady employer.

    7. Bookworm*

      I agree. I think there’s more that either the LW doesn’t know about or didn’t share. But I could understand the intern being extremely upset at how this entire situation was handled (because it also meant she had to go to the doctor to have it covered as the original letter stated).

      1. IvyGirl*

        I can totally see an intern writing F*CK OFF and dropping it back in the mail “return to sender”.

      2. Rainy, PI*

        Someone drew a dick on her cast and wrote a bunch of profanities. When she went to her manager, her manager laughed in her face and made her meet with clients and coworkers for the rest of the day in that precise state. No one did anything to the guy who drew a dick on her arm and covered it in profanity.

        Telling the company that humiliated her to go fuck themselves is not an overreaction.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Doesn’t sound like an overreaction at all, to me. Her last contact with the employer involved personal humiliation, harassment, and then the employer taking no disciplinary action, resulting in her quitting early and on the spot with a request not to contact her. Why should she expect a letter from them to contain anything reasonable, particularly after explicitly telling them not to contact her?

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          This is what I was thinking, too. (Also with a side of “let me explain this to you in your employee’s preferred language: [profanity].”)

          1. eplawyer*

            You got it. Since the company seems to have no problem with publicly expressed profanity as the people involved are still employed, there should be no problem about the profanity written on the letter.

            Not sure I might not have done the same thing. It’s not professional in the least and the intern should not have done it. But I can’t fault the intern either.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              All that is known is that someone wrote a profanity on the envelope and that the envelope was returned. It could have been the intern, someone at the intern’s house, maybe even someone in the stinkin’ company mailroom.

            2. Wendy Darling*

              It ain’t the high road, but no one in this story has been on the high road in a while.

      4. Just Another Techie*

        Well, her manager and colleague have already taught her that this company is A-OK with profanity and X-rated doodles as a means of communication. Did she take the high road? No. Do I really hold it against her though? Not one tiny bit.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I think it makes sense. The company showed her, “This is how we interact with each other and it’s okay.” Why would she think differently?
        Or it could be she thought, “How do I get these people to leave me alone for once and for all. Oh. I know I will write cuss words all over this envelope and return it to them. I bet they will understand that one.”

      6. Chaordic One*

        And profanity on the return letter? A very bizarre overreaction indeed.

        No. Not really. It’s sort of a case of fighting the profane with profanity.

      7. Amy*

        Really? It sounds like an underreaction to me, actually. An appropriate reaction would be potentially suing for the sexual harassment she experienced–compared to that, returning a letter (regardless of what’s written on it) is a pretty minor way to blow off steam and communicate that you want to be left alone.

    8. AW*

      Blocking someone you don’t want to hear from is pretty normal. I agree with the existing comments that the phone/email being out of services was either 1) co-incidence or 2) just blocking the company in a way that made it look like they aren’t in service.

      And based on that intern’s experience, profanity is totally cool with this particular company. It would seem hypocritical, at least from her point of view, for the company to force her to deal with clients with profanity and genitalia written on her body but then get offended over one profanity on an envelope.

      It may be unprofessional but going tit-for-tat isn’t bizarre.

    9. An Inspector of Gadgets*

      What I don’t get is why a courier was required? If you know where she lives, then snail-mail should do the trick. Sending a human that you’ve hired directly to her front door with a message from a company she has cut ties with might feel a little more imposing than just receiving mail.

      1. AW*

        They wanted to be certain she got it and that requires getting a signature.

        I’m guessing they were worried that not being able to reach her by phone or email might indicate that she’d moved as well.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        The company is covering itself, legally – there would be proof that they offered her the position back. This can preclude her from suing for loss of income.

        And ‘intern’ in this context was misleading – if said “intern” is a junior employee getting paid, she’s not necessarily an “intern” but an employee….

    10. I Am Fergus*

      depends on how many times she was contacted after she left. I have told a few recruiters to GFO because in the course of the day I received 5 emails and 10 calls

    11. kittymommy*

      While I think that the other employee and manager should have been fired, my sympathy for the intern is somewhat diminished with the profanity envelope. Either throw it out or send it back, writing curse words ask over it isn’t that much different than what originally happened.

      1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

        I am…kind of shocked by your last sentence. How do you feel that having a cast vandalized with genitalia and profanity, being laughed at by management, and then MADE TO STAY AND WORK WITH CLIENTS THE REST OF THE DAY, is even close to writing profanity on an envelope from the company who did nothing (that the intern is aware of) about the aforementioned incident? Had she graffitied their building, then yeah, I’m with you, that’s closer. But this…they are not even in the same realm of offensiveness to me. Imagine a coworker drew a penis on your person, and threw in some profanity as well, then your manager laughed about it and made you work the rest of the day? Do you really feel like writing”F*** Off” on a letter you receive from the company that allowed that to happen is almost the same thing?

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        The other intern violated this intern’s actual *person* – and then she was mocked for it all day and suffered financial cost to fix it, to add insult to injury.

        In response, the intern swore at the company.

        Those are not remotely equivalent.

      3. motherofdragons*

        It’s…pretty different than what originally happened. The OP won’t have to walk around with a profanity-laced envelope stuck to their arm while they meet with clients.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #1 – I am so glad to hear that the people involved in this incident were disciplined.

    The intern’s response is really odd though. Changing your phone number and email address *and* returning something unopened with profanity on the envelope are… not exactly typical reactions.

    1. paul*

      yeah…that’s odd. Particularly after some time had elapsed. Returning the couriered letter with profanity on it particularly. That’s just bizarre. I’m all for giving a lot of leeway to heat of the moment reactions to inappropriate behavior, but this sounds like it was well after the incident.

      OP, I’d chalk it up to doing what you could.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Last time I got mail from a company that required a signature, it was a notice of job abandonment stating I didn’t have a job if I didn’t return to work immediately. Punchline: I had quit that job two weeks prior and been sent home/terminated the day I’d told my manager I was quitting. I’ve also gotten a paycheck by certified mail, when a company didn’t pay me on payday by accident.

        Signature required is always a CYA for the company, is what I’m saying, and she could have thought the letter was all kinds of things. Given the experience she had, I doubt an apology and offer of future employment was her first assumption, especially if HR or anyone else had contacted her for any reason before this.

    2. HisGirlFriday*

      This was my thought, too. I mean, I get having an e-mail address that you use *just* for job-searching (so it doesn’t get cluttered with spam and offers of free pet supplies and whatever else), but I’ve had the same phone number for more than a decade, and I cannot imagine changing it.

      Maybe the intern used a Google voice phone number and disconnected that?

      The reaction, though, seems extreme — to return a couriered envelope with *profanity* written on it?? I feel like there’s more to the story that OP doesn’t know.

      1. paul*

        Or it’s an intern who is new to working and doesn’t understand that investigations and repercussions may take time, and doesn’t know how to professionally express anger. I don’t think jumping to extreme conclusions is warranted. Besides…if the intern goes totally no-contact it isn’t like they’re going to have a chance to find out about anything else.

        1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

          I don’t think the intern’s professionalism should be in question here. No, it’s not professional to ”return to sender” with profanity on the envelope, but given the experience she had at that workplace, she may well have thought that the entire place was full of unprofessional people. This was something very personal to intern (it’s not like she could have left the cast at work, like, say a briefcase or something, she had to walk around personally/socially with the cast like that too), and I don’t feel like the unprofessionalism of writing on the return envelope in any way puts her even close to the level of unprofessionalism of the two miscreants.

            1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

              THANK YOU! I love “Kowalski! Options!” and so had to go with my second-favorite cartoon catchphrase : D

                1. Kraziekat*

                  That is the last time we’re taking directions from a SQUIRREL!

                  To get back on topic, though, I hope the intern got mental health help, because as said above, she was violated just as if the offending ‘artist’ had groped her, ripped her clothes, and she had to see clients that way.

                  Shoot, I’m surprised he wasn’t arrested, come down to it.

          1. nonegiven*

            Wasn’t like she had to write on it and then take it to the post office. It was couriered. If they asked her to sign for it, she could have written that on it instead and told the courier she refused delivery.

          2. Frozen Ginger*


            The “artist” barely got a slap on the wrist. I wouldn’t want any platitudes from the company that thinks one seminar on sexual harassment makes everything okay with that employee. The demotion for the manager was good, but the employee should’ve been reprimanded much more.

        2. Beckie*

          I could see that the intern may have felt that the company had already missed opportunities to make things right (like, multiple times on the day of the event), and that any additional follow-up from them was too little, too late.

          1. Jesca*

            It is entirely possible that she absolutely already knows what the company *eventually* did, and didn’t feel it was appropriate.

          2. Chaordic One*

            It was disturbing that the OP was so clueless about things, although I’m glad that she appears to have taken Alison’s advice about how to deal with the situation and the guilty parties in this sad situation were held accountable. It’s hard to say whether or not the OP’s actions were too little or not.

            Still, I think we can all agree that they were too late.

        3. Liane*

          “Or it’s an intern who is new to working and doesn’t understand that investigations and repercussions may take time, and doesn’t know how to professionally express anger.”
          I usually agree with your posts, but not the above.
          I think it’s more a case of an intern who realizes that neither drawing X-rated stuff on a coworker’s cast nor humiliating a report who was sexually harassed in such manner is professional behavior, so she decides she can’t be bothered to be professional towards the company. To borrow a phrase from a novel I just finished, I can’t admire it, but I won’t condemn it either.
          What should have happened IMO is that OP’s company should have sent THREE people home that very same day. Let the harassed intern take the rest of the day off with pay so she could get a new cast **paid for by the company**
          At the same time, suspend Dick-Drawer and Jerk-Manager for however long it took OP, higher management, and HR to fire this sorry pair for cause.

          1. paul*

            Can’t admire but can’t condemn pretty well sums up my feelings on her reactions; I guess that isn’t coming across like I intended.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I can’t condemn it because I can understand the reaction and I can understand the level of reaction. I also think that if the company left her alone she would not randomly send profanity filled letters to them. She was only reacting to their action.

              I can’t admire it because my primary feeling is that I feel badly for her.

              I guess I am saying that this is not a situation where I would even try to look at it through eyes of admiration or condemnation. I don’t think anyone won here. Everyone lost.

            1. Gadfly*

              And then she gets accused of being a petty money grubber. There really is no way to be a good victim other than to be infinitely patient and forgiving. Anything else apparently means that the books are balanced.


              1. Ego Chamber*

                Seriously. Suing a company rarely ends well for the person doing the suing, so I hate how it’s recommended as this magic bullet solution for any bad situation with an employer.

                I know two people who have sued their companies—both for totally valid reasons—and both have had a very hard time finding work despite good references and qualifications. It might have something to do with the lawsuits that come up in their Google search results, because there’s nothing illegal about not hiring someone who sued their previous employer.

                (One had such a hard time finding a new job during the lawsuit that she negotiated being rehired as part of her settlement. Imagine going back to the company that screwed you over because no one else will hire you.)

      2. ZenJen*

        I definitely wonder if there was something between the intern and the obscenity-drawing employee. Maybe the employee was harassing the intern, or maybe they hooked up and it ended badly?
        I AM glad LW1 had the manager and employee seriously disciplined, though–great part of the outcome!

        1. De Minimis*

          No way to know, but the reaction would make more sense if there had been multiple incidents of harassment by the employee.

          I am glad this was taken seriously, I think many would have been tempted to ignore it.

          1. Jessica*

            No, I really think that this single incident of spending all day with genitalia and profanity on one’s body is really sufficient to justify the reaction. That’s a hostile work environment if ever there was one. There doesn’t need to have been *more* than that for the employee to fire the company from her professional association with extreme prejudice.

            I mean, come on. People are actually arguing that just because she was blatantly abused ONCE, it doesn’t really count and therefore she’s overreacting? What even.

            1. Liz2*

              Agreed. I think the intern is utterly justified and the company should be grateful it got off so lucky.

            2. BF50*

              Agreed, but then I also wonder if there is more because this first incident is so extreme. Frequently harassers build up to this level of grossness.

              1. Gadfly*

                It sounds frat house. He easily could have built up to it with drinking buddies outside of work.

      3. seejay*

        I was going to suggest that it was maybe a Google Voice number that was used for the job and that’s why it was disconnected.

        If that explains the email and phone number being trashed, going full nuclear on returning the couriered letter and everything might show that she was full on legitimately traumatized by the incident. Or stooping to the full level of telling off the company that did this to her. How many letters have come in where people ask “is it ok if I do something vindictive/petty in response to this?” It could be that this was her knee-jerk reaction back. Gods knows I’ve wanted to very similar when I’ve had horrible terrible people from my past cross my path (yet I’ve refrained so far). Just two weeks ago, I only just stopped myself from responding back to someone with “HAHAHAHAH HELL NO!” when he sent a connection request on GTalk when I knew he was only sending it because he wanted me to be a reference for him because we used to work together. Instead I just pressed “deny” and went on my way. (the temptation was there though).

        1. paul*

          I’d lean towards suspecting a knee jerk reaction *if* the investigation didn’t turn up anything else and it didn’t seem like it did? This is one of the reasons that I’m not as fond of the nuclear go no contact scorched earth thing as some internet sites are. In this case the intern could have finished their internship and if there were additional problems they’d experienced could have sought redress. It’s not an totally non-understandable reaction but it did harm them.

          1. seejay*

            Oh undoubtedly it’s harmful to the person going nuclear if you’re sitting on the outside watching it, but having been on the other side and feeling your patience and tolerance eroding over time, and all your politeness being ignored or bowled over, sometimes you feel like you run out of resources or proper ways to handle it and you go from 0 to 10. It’s almost like there’s no in-between. Reading the update, I can almost see that between the lines. I could see myself being in that situation where I would try to handle something by being reserved and quiet about it, feeling pushed around and bullied, and when I got out of it, totally flipping my wig if anyone came near me about it afterwards.

            Is it the adult/proper way to handle it? Absolutely not. But it’s definitely the way 20 year old me would have dealt with it because 20 year old me didn’t have the tools and experience 40 year old me has now. 40 year old me sometimes feels like behaving like that though when some people don’t get polite subtle messages either. ^_^

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Actually, 50+ year old me knows that it is just fine to go to an extinction level event sometimes.

              Sometimes, it is the only thing that will get someone’s attention and when one is older one can carry more weight with it depending on the context.

              1. Barney Stinson*

                I love it: ‘extinction level event.’
                And if you don’t do it very often, it’s very impressive when you just completely go all Dinosaur Killer. I’ve done it once at work in a thirty year career and it got results!

              2. Liane*

                “Actually, 50+ year old me knows that it is just fine to go to an extinction level event sometimes.”
                Applies to me also.

              3. seejay*

                You know, the more I think about it, the more I think I agree. Especially since I just got messaged again yesterday by someone that I’ve been trying to “politely” ignore for a year and apparently they haven’t gotten the message… I might just have to get rude for them to understand that I don’t want them to contact me anymore. Maybe not extinction level but small meteor in their yard level might get the hint since none of the other obvious signs are obvious enough.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  If you see something three times you have a pattern. When you have a pattern you can take action.
                  Now this rule applies when you are not certain. There are some things that we only need to see once and that is enough to move forward. However, sometimes it’s not so clear. This rule can be helpful for those less clear times.

                  Another good general rule is to match what is coming at you. If someone says something over the line, it is fine to say, “That’s over the line.” If they have the audacity to say it then you can have the audacity to point out that you are not going to be tolerating it.

          2. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

            I think it’s about boundaries. Everyone has limits to what we can/will put up with; her limit was crossed.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I mean, she saw no evidence that anyone would take her concerns seriously or discipline the person harassing her. And that was true all the way up until the point at which she quit early and with no notice, which indicates how profoundly upset she was by how she was treated.

            I don’t think it’s professional to return letters with profanity on them, but I don’t think her reaction is unreasonable given that she was subjected to a really humiliating, demoralizing, and awful situation, was laughed at/ridiculed by the person who had the authority to fix the situation, and received no indication that anyone would take what happened seriously. If your first interaction after quitting under those circumstances is a couriered letter, what would you assume the letter to contain? I certainly wouldn’t suspect that it detailed that anyone had been disciplined.

            1. seejay*

              Oh I don’t think her reaction is unreasonable at all… I can totally see myself doing something similar, having had an extremely hard time dealing with people who constantly push and cross my boundaries to the point that I finally have a meltdown and freak out, sometimes at myself, sometimes at them.

              I also think that sometimes it feels great to be able to freak out at someone and do something like this. Maybe it wasn’t professional, adult, mature, or the best response, but maybe it was cathartic for her.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              And if the company had not sent the letter, she would not have sent that response. She was leaving the company alone up to this point in the story. But the company had to kick the hornets’ nest, they just couldn’t leave her alone.

              Since both people are still employed at that company she is right in not returning to the company.

        2. SystemsLady*

          I’m sad OP’s intern won’t ever have a chance at the experience I had of running past a villain (I wish I was exaggerating more…) from my past, where the sight of me being happy with my spouse eliciting an inappropriately loud “UGHHRRRR” from her, followed by literally stomping off.

          She’d have had a small chance had they properly reprimanded the guy!

      4. Sylvia*

        I actually understand the reaction to the couriered envelope a little bit. She, not knowing that anything has been done about the harassment because she doesn’t want to communicate, got a reminder that the people she holds responsible for it know where she lives. It’s paranoid and it’s a bad reaction, but I’m not surprised she wasn’t receptive to the letter.

        1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

          I’m genuinely curious what led you to intern being “paranoid”. I’m not seeing paranoia here at all. I’m seeing someone who was so disgusted with the entire company that she chose to disassociate from them entirely and gave them back a little of what she got while she was there. I mean, she has to know that they have/had her address; she would have provided it to them to work there.

          1. Sylvia*

            I characterized the interpretation of the couriered letter that I suggested as paranoid, not all of her reaction.

            You can ctrl+F “Sylvia” to see my other comments on this update. I don’t think we disagree.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          I also don’t understand why it would be paranoid to react badly when someone who you’ve told to never contact you again sends you proof that they know where you live. That sounds borderline threatening to me.

          1. Sylvia*

            I characterized the interpretation of the couriered letter that I suggested as paranoid, not her reaction itself. It’s not actually likely that anyone’s going to go bother her in person after they tried to send that letter.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I will agree that there is more to this story.
        A person does not just draw a penis on the cast of another person out of the blue. There was a build up to this one. If the intern is like the way I was, she probably did not think of ways to shut this guy down. (We shouldn’t have to shut people down, but this is the world we have sometimes.) I suspect the guy had been saying things to her right along and the drawing was the high point of a longer story.

        1. Amy*

          This is very possible, but sometimes people do do things like that to just a random person. Especially if he had stereotypical-frat-bro-esque culture built up with some of the other people there, I could see them goading each other into doing inappropriate things as ‘pranks’ to random coworkers, and drawing a penis and inappropriate sexual commentary on someone’s cast is in line with that kind of not-so-harmless ‘prank’. I’m definitely not discounting the possibility that he was harassing her in other ways, but I wouldn’t consider it a certainty either.

    3. Caro in the UK*

      My instinct was that either… She hasn’t actually cancelled her phone and email, just set them to auto-reject anything from the company… Or someone from the company (not OP, I’m guessing one of the offenders) was contacting her repeatedly behind OP’s back, and the letter was the final straw.

  3. Cake Person*

    I get that it was a terrible situation…but the intern in update #1 looks worse for responding like that. I get not wanting to go back, but their response was pretty bad itself.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      Unless they were feeling harassed. I’m not condoning their behavior, but I’ve responded less than nicely when I’ve made it plain in “soft” no’s that I no longer wish to have contact with someone.

      1. AnonForThis*

        As someone currently dealing with a stalker/harassment situation, if I received something from a situation that I had taken great pains to get away from, I can’t say that I would deal rationally or logically with it. The reaction does seem a bit extreme. And I would personally want to know what was in the envelope because if it’s something I could report to the authorities (for all the eyerolling good that doesn’t do), I’d go that route.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Insert a few hypothetical emails and phone calls from the employee and manager in question (“You ruined everything you’re so expletive immature and unprofessional and…”) and going all “oh HELL no” when the company finds a new way to track you down becomes quite understandable.

          (I am reminded of the poor woman whose arm was broken by the guy with a bird phobia, who had to get a lawyer to tell the company to just stop contacting her.)

          1. paul*

            yeah, I’m having a hard time deciding which is more likely myself. I mean, those two obviously have crappy judgement but I’ve also known people that would react like this to one incident.

            So I can see them having been harassing her afterwards, but I can also see this being the sum total of what happened.

            I’d definitely pull their email and phone logs if you can.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Hey, if you can’t afford a lawyer that means you have to do it yourself.
              It sounds like the company kept trying to contact her and she clearly wanted no contact.
              Which brings us to the NO word. NO means no, it does not mean keep trying.
              The company kept trying. There are reasons they say never let another person feel cornered. When a person feels they have nothing to lose, that is when things can get really tough.
              From her perspective this is a company that endorses and perpetuates sexual harassment annnnd acts stalkerish. She finally gets out of the place and they KEEP contacting her. The nightmare that won’t end.

              1. Gadfly*

                Even Machiavelli basically said that when people have nothing left to lose then they have everything to gain. You can’t scare someone who has nothing you can take away from them.

          2. Jesca*

            Exactly. Sometimes, it becomes personal. We are all human beings. What we should do doesn’t always jive with what we would end up doing in a situation. You’re not in it until you’re in it, am I right? I would lay off the victim in this situation. It was bad enough that judgment need not be passed. This was bad. If you have ever been sexually harassed, this would push you right over that ledge. Younger me would have done this. Older me would have gotten on the phone with a lawyer that day.

            1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

              I like to think I would have responded a la Alison: “So, just to make this clear, Boss, you’re telling me that you find it funny that Coworker drew a penis and wrote offensive language on my arm, and that you’re refusing to allow me to leave work to get it covered. You’re further telling me that I am to continue to interact with our clients…with a penis and profanity clearly visible on my arm. Is that correct?”

              1. Rainy, PI*

                I’m gonna be honest…I’ve reached that beautiful age where I just DGAF anymore, and if I looked down and saw that some douche had drawn a dick on my arm, I’d probably already have broken his nose with my cast and they’d be pulling me off him before I really processed that THERE WAS A DICK ON MY ARM.

                Professionalism? Yeah, that goes out the window when someone DRAWS A DICK ON MY ARM.

                1. Jesca*

                  Yeah I agree. The only reason I would have the conversation with my manager that is mentioned above was to simply have a clear idea and response from my manager of what my expectations were so that I could inform my lawyer! Lol

                2. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

                  Exactly what Jesca said. If spelling it out, in all its ludicrousness, doesn’t cause Boss to go “Wait, no, stop, IS THAT WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?!”, then absolutely take the whole situation to HR (if still want to be employed because I know not everyone in the place is a damn lunatic), or just go on my merry little way without Boss’s approval, and see what happened next.

        2. Another Anonymous Individual*

          +1 million

          I’ve been dealing with an ex who won’t go away for years. Whenever they try to contact me, I give myself a second before reacting, because my primary response is to send a GFY like the intern probably did.

          Wouldn’t be good to send that, but I can’t blame the intern for it!

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Solidarity. I hope it all works out okay for you eventually. I don’t respond to mine at all and I would block him, if it wasn’t more useful to know when he’s trying to contact me so I’ll know if I should put a serious exit strategy in place (like leave-the-state for a while serious).

    2. CBH*

      +1 I agree that the intern stooped to the level of the offender. This is not a case of the intern needing to learn the ropes as a student interning for experience. It sounds like the intern was there in a more professional capacity

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        It’s not a good look, but I disagree that it’s on the same level as the harasser. OP can tuck that envelope in the intern’s file and not have to see or deal with it ever again. The harasser violated the intern’s actual person. Until she got it covered up, she had to visibly carry that harassment around with her everywhere she went. I personally probably wouldn’t have been able to look at the new cast without burning up for a good long while.

        It’s not a shining example of professionalism, but I’m not gonna condemn her for it.

        1. CBH*

          I agree with the emotional aspect. The intern was wronged and has long term affects to deal with. I think the company is doing what they can to right a wrong based on two horrible employee’s actions. I just think that the intern could have made a more professional statement just sending the letter back. There was no reason for the profanity.

          1. LBK*

            She was an intern, I don’t think she can be expected to be the paragon of poise and dignity when it comes to responding to emotionally charged situations. I’ve seen people with much more experience under their belt behavior equally as tactlessly.

            1. CBH*

              I agree with what you are saying. My comment was made based on OP saying that this was not a school or educational intern. I was interpreting the intern to have been in the work force for a while, maybe a change in career. So while I can totally see, maybe even justify the intern’s profanity response, I interpreted that the intern had enough work experience to not need to use profanity.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            Same. It’s so mild compared to what she dealt with initially, the focus on how she should have been in contact and gracious despite it all feels so gross to me.

          2. Mike C. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻*

            Same here. The idea that we all must take everything in life on the chin or risk being seen as “unprofessional” has limits.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Precisely! 1) She’s an intern, which generally means not being expected to handle every workplace interaction perfectly. 2) She was the wronged party here by a mile and a half. 3) She never wants to go near this place again, so may that burned bridge light her way to better things.

              Besides, it’s not like she bit the guy.

              1. Jesca*

                I think we should drop the whole “intern” thing in general. She is not just an intern. She was a human being who reacted the way many human beings would have reacted. These posts of “omg her response is so shocking!” are akin to other sites I have seen of very overly judgy behavior on armchair holier than thou moral preachers. If this was the victim writing in, everyone would be commiserating with her. It does not matter how experienced she was, every single one of us have a breaking point. I don’t fault her for this being it!

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I think folks are invoking “intern” to clarify that she probably didn’t have the benefit of experience to know she could escalate her complaint, not to diminish the severity/wrongness of what she experienced.

                  But yes, this is a situation in which I find the pearl clutching particularly side-eye-worthy.

                2. paul*

                  PCBH: that’s exactly where I’m going with it. When I was young, I wouldn’t have known you really *could* escalate a complaint past your manager you know? It just wouldn’t cross my mind.

                3. This Daydreamer*

                  Yeah, I think it’s just emphasizing her vulnerability as a young woman with little to no workplace experience. 22 year old me would have been wrecked by this. 44 year old me would have left the offending parties a wreck.

              2. This Daydreamer*

                That last sentence – thank you. I seriously needed the laugh after all the damn pearl-clutching.

            2. Another Anonymous Individual*

              Personally, I don’t respect people who don’t show any backbone. I wouldn’t hold it against this person.

              1. Julia*

                I find that oddly victimy-blamey as well. You don’t know what happened to someone that makes it hard for them to fight back.

            3. motherofdragons*

              Right. And you know what? Maybe she did not give one single whatever-curse-word-she-wrote-on-the-envelope about appearing professional to this company. Why would she? It’s not like she’s gonna ask them for a reference!

          3. Gazebo Slayer*

            Same. Honestly, responding to other people’s outrageously bad behavior in a rude or “unprofessional” way does not make you a bad or irresponsible person. People are allowed to be upset.

            You have no obligation to be polite and gracious to people who treat you horribly.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Except the person who sent the letter wasn’t the person who treated her badly, it was the person who was attempting to make things right.

              1. The Other Kate*

                But she had no way of knowing who was really contacting her from the company – if the letter just said “Company X”. It could have been the manager or the employee for all she knew.

              2. Jessica*

                The *company* certainly treated her badly, and it was the *company* sending the letter.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            So very with you on this. The intern’s response is not even on the same level of insanity as the original incident.

            Honestly, I’ve been working for over 20 years, now. I would be sorely tempted to respond the way the intern did.

            1. nani1978*

              I feel like I’d still be on the verge of tears each time I looked at the cast I probably still have on. So, I very much admire this woman for being able to complete her day’s work and her clear attempts to end this situation. Frankly, I am not impressed that the OP hasn’t fired the offending employee AND his manager. I realize a one-and-done offense is pretty harsh, but not only did they create an emotionally wrought, untenable situation for the intern, they deliberately represented their company incredibly unprofessionally. I can’t believe that just because other people had never had previous harassing experiences, a refresher training would be sufficient. One toe out of line? Next time? He was already displaying all 10! And the manager, boohoo for her demotion.

              1. Amy*

                Not to mention, they put their company at legal risk. I’m betting that if the intern wanted to make a case for sexual harassment or a hostile workplace, it would at least be a strong enough case to make the legal department unhappy (not trying to predict if it would win, just saying that HR and legal departments tend to not like to see scenarios where it’s even remotely possible).

                And they put client relationships at risk, since I’m betting at least one or two of the intern’s clients saw the cast and possibly learned the background behind it, and it’s not a story that reflects well on the company.

                Either one of those would have been enough to get me fired, no second chances, no questions asked.

                1. Gadfly*

                  Not to mention that a lot of places would have all sorts of fun sharing her story. I can see the Huffpost and Buzzfeed and similar stories…

                2. Gadfly*

                  Loads of horrible PR, and not what you want clients to see when trying to google your website….

      2. paul*

        It’s not a good look maybe and it had negative real world consequences for them, but it wasnt’ really stooping the offenders level.

      3. Sylvia*

        No way in Hell did she stoop to the level of the offender. I’m sorry, but no. Radio silence and a “F— off” or whatever are not on the same level as turning someone’s educational and professional role into an opportunity for sexually-charged embarrassment.

      4. Mike C. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻*

        You know, I’m really getting tired of this expectation that everyone must take whatever life throws at them with passivity and perfect manners in the name of professionalism.

        The intern didn’t “stoop to the level of the offender” because the offender was sexually harassing her. Publicly humiliating her. And then laughed at by management.

        A returned letter with a naughty word written on doesn’t even come close to this.

        1. KHB*

          Agreed. And I think a big part of it is the tendency to reduce everything to “bad language,” as if that’s the central problem here.

          “She had profanity written on her cast, and then she wrote profanity on the envelope, so it’s the same!” No. No, it’s not.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          This. And this demand for perfect poise and professionalism is especially harmful to people who are less powerful or more marginalized and are therefore more likely to be the targets of wrongdoing and less likely to have socially “acceptable” ways of shutting it down (like getting an offender fired or harming their professional reputation).

        3. LKW*

          For me I can’t imagine the lack of curiosity. What did they write? Are they trying to justify their actions? Are they sending me a check? What’s going on?

          That’s the only thing that’s making my head spin. How could she NOT have been curious about what was in that letter?

          1. Decima Dewey*

            Because when she received it she expected corporate jargon, explaining how Company X handled everything properly and she should be content with that?

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Right on, Mike C.
          We don’t get to pick how other people react to something.
          Most certainly, I am painfully aware of my incorrect responses to things. I have a choice about that. I can let it teach me about other people or I can escape reality and get lost in, “Well, s/he SHOULD have done X instead.” There is no point because in reality what is done is done.

          I think the moral of the story here is when people say “Leave me alone” that means leave them alone.

    3. Bella*

      I disagree. Someone drew genitals and profanity on her cast, she was laughed at when she complained about the harassment, and (this is the part that really matters, I think) she was forced to stay at work and walk around and meet clients with that harassment clearly visible on her person. I am not surprised by her reaction at all and I certainly don’t think she looks worse for her response.

      1. Justme*

        I kind of think her reaction to the letter was mild considering. I can’t say I would have acted as well as the intern did in that situation.

    4. Alex*

      I don’t actually think the intern’s response was all that inappropriate. She was clear at the time how upsetting it was and according to the original letter “ceased contact”. She presumably changed her phone number and email address to avoid being contacted again. I don’t understand what purpose the letter was meant to serve other than assuaging the company’s guilt. She went to pretty extreme lengths to avoid being contacted by the company and they didn’t respect that. An expletive on the envelope is extreme but I read it as exasperation, which I sympathize with.

      1. LBK*

        Right – sending the letter feels like too little too late, unless the timeline on this was a lot shorter than I’m inferring from the OP’s letters.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Yeah, I wonder how much they had already tried to contact her (prior to the problem being taken seriously) that she felt the need to cut herself off.

      3. Caro in the UK*

        Yes about “assuaging guilt”. I know OP means well, but the letter seems to be much more for the benefit of OP and their company than for the intern herself, which I can imagine was frustrating to the intern.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It reminds me a little bit of the OP who had anxiety who wrote in last week. After a transfer and no contact order was in place, folks were suggesting “apologizing” through an intermediary, which seemed like a massive boundaries violation to me.

        I think this situation is certainly different, but somewhat similar. The intern quit on the spot, cut off all contact, and her last interaction with the employer was that she was laughed at, publicly humiliated, mistreated, and then no one did anything or took any corrective action while she was there. She had no idea that OP then went on to explore the issue and address it—all of that happened after she left. She’d cut off contact, so there’s no reason for her to believe that anything changed in the weeks between her quitting and receiving the letter.

        The letter, while a sensible thing to send from OP’s perspective, might seem real boundaries-crossing if the intern has effectively treated the employer as if she has a restraining order against them. The letter was well-intentioned, but the intern doesn’t have the benefit of knowing what OP did. In a circumstance where you feel that violated or victimized by your employer, I can understand why a person might reject reading or responding politely to a letter from that employer.

      5. I Am Fergus*

        She thought if she change her email and phone they won’t contact her. Next she gets a letter, she writes GFO and sends it back. I bet they won’t contact her anymore, unless they are retarded.

        1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

          So I do get offended by the use of the word “retarded”, as you’ve used it here. Please don’t use that as a derogatory term.

          1. Julia*

            Thank you for saying this! Too often people roll their eyes at me or tell me they have the right to free speech. True, but I also have the right to judge them on their speech – plus, it doesn’t hurt them to not use that word, but it might be harmful to hear from some, so why not be a good person and stop using it?

    5. Princess Carolyn*

      Yeah, but what’s the real harm of returning the letter with “F*** off” or something? These are not people she wants to maintain a relationship with or people she’ll be asking for a reference, and they seriously mistreated her. She doesn’t owe them anything, and I have a hard time faulting her for being harmlessly impolite.

        1. nonegiven*

          F*** off, GFY, Leave me the F*** alone! Something like that I’m sure.

          I’d like to see that Glassdoor review.

      1. paul*

        *some people* in the company seriously mistreated her and were harshly reprimanded for it.

        As soon as upper management actually heard about the incident they demoted the manager and nearly fired the employee (I’d have been leaning towards terminating them both FWIW).

        That’s the thing: the line manager really screwed up, but once it was brought to a manager’s attention they actually looked into it and took appropriate action. The intern went scorched earth too quickly to find out, and that’s harming them (probably mildly, not hugely).

        To me this is a pretty good reminder not to go scorched earth with an entire agency or corporation because of one or two asshats.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I do feel like, if she opened the letter and learned anything less than “they have both been fired” it would have been little comfort? The employee in question received a talking to, which could easily be interpreted from outside as “heh heh boys will be boys… consider yourself talked to.”

          1. paul*

            Depends on what the letter said, but neither the intern nor us know.

            I’m just filing this away as a case study in how understandable reactions aren’t always necessarily the best ones I guess.

            1. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

              When someone asks not to be contacted, and goes as far as to block phone and email communications from the offender, you respect that request. The company was wrong in not leaving her alone, irrespective of the actions of the two assholes.

              Honestly, by sending that letter the company burned the bridge with her, not the other way around.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s kind of a distinction without a difference to the intern, though. I don’t think she went scorched earth too quickly. She likely felt helpless and like no one would take her complaints seriously. Based on how egregiously the manager behaved, why should she even suspect that anyone higher up would care or support her when she was that early into her internship (and her primary relationships were with the people that did this to her)?

          Do I think it wasn’t the wisest course of action to return the letter with a profanity? Sure. But do I blame her for doing it or think she overreacted or was irrational? Nope. She gets a pass from me on this one.

          1. nonegiven*

            I doubt the courier asked for ID, it might have been a roomie, gf or relative that wrote it.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I don’t even think she went scorched earth. She left. That is a pretty neutral, calmed and controlled reaction. This an adult-like response. People are behaving poorly, nothing is done to fix the situation, then one should quietly leave. Most adults do this a few times in the course of their lives. It wasn’t until she got the letter that she had any behavior that one would question.

            To me, scorched earth would involve yelling/screaming maybe even the police. None of this happens here though. She stopped showing up and she removed all points of contact. Those are pretty passive actions that have ZERO impact on the company, but required effort on her part.

        3. nonymous*

          I think especially since the intern was not part of a school program it is entirely possible that she experienced greater personal and financial fallout from having a failed internship. While from a social justice and emotional perspective I think she was completely legitimate in her response, I wonder if from a pragmatic perspective (read: money), she is suffering excessively because this choice. That would make this situation seem worse, somehow.

        4. Amy*

          But one of the people who treated her so badly was her manager. For many people (especially people newer to the workforce), your manager IS the face of company policy, as far as you’re concerned. If it was a couple of peers, I could see this ‘it was individuals not the company’ interpretation; when her manager is involved, I don’t blame her at all for assuming the problem went up the line and reacting accordingly.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Exactly, I’d want nothing to do with this company or any of the people in it if I were her. This was a bridge already burned on their end.

    6. mccoma*

      I don’t think the intern looks worse because there doesn’t seem to be a followup that would indicate the intern hasn’t been continually harassed. I am actually more worried about the intern after this update.

      Let me explain. We have a person who left the company and has cancelled their phone and e-mail. The company now sends a letter that was returned with obscenity on it. This would indicate that someone should investigate if the cancelling of e-mail and phone were the result of continued harassment. Further, the response to the letter indicates a pretty good possibility that harasser has used mail from the company for further harassment.

      The company might want to find out some more information because this could become a situation that lawyers will become involved.

      1. M-C*

        They should definitely have a deep audit of the offender and his manager/accomplice emails. And phone records if they have company phones.

    7. Xay*

      It wasn’t the most professional look. That said, it was a three week internship during which the intern was treated harmfully. I doubt the intern has this company on their resume or plans to use anyone from it as a reference. If there was an occasion to safely deploy a GFY, this was it.

  4. Lady Phoenix*

    OP1: I am glad your company took all the right steps. Unfortunately, their behavior had pretty much inadvertently burned the bridge between the company and this intern. Maybe there was more to it (like maybe the employee and the manager had also been bullying her behind closed doors), but she seems scared enough to feel that ANY contact with your company is going to be an attack.

    1. cheluzal*

      Changing phone numbers? Refusing to merely throw away the letter? Extreme.
      I can’t attack her for her reactions without 100% of the facts and her side, but I really wonder if this cast thing was a final straw of a very big red flag about this company…

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, I had the same thought – this is not “you people humiliated me and are a bunch of glassbowls,” this is “If I could nuke your company from orbit just to be sure, I would be going full Ripley on your asses.” So I do wonder if she were subject to other ill-treatment or harassment.

        1. Lora*

          +1. I have a hard time believing that the employee in question just woke up that morning in a genital-drawing mood, and his boss purely coincidentally had a 48-hour brain fart, you know? That level of 7th grade nonsense doesn’t appear out of nowhere.

          1. Snark*

            I have known people who wake up one bright morning and say, “Self, the highest and best purpose to which I can apply myself is the drawing of dicks,” but they were all 12.

          2. LKW*

            Agreed. I’ve worked for some solid companies with good policy and active oversight but sometimes a rogue team or two develops because a manager takes a hands off approach. Eventually something tips the scale and the team is either disbanded or key players are moved or fired. This sounds like an ongoing issue where the manager created the environment or ignored/ enabled such behavior. I have no doubt this was not a first offense, just one that couldn’t be blocked by earphones, deleted or tossed in a shredder.

  5. CBH*

    OP1 It seems like you covered all the bases professionally. I know you personally were in a tough spot and handled it as best as could be. I’m glad the offender and manager had appropriate repercusions to their actions.

    I agree with KatieKate that the phone number and email address no longer being in service is a bit extreme, but understandably the intern has every right to be ticked off. I think sending the letter was an appropriate way to get intouch with the intern, but at this point I’d just let it go. PS not to be overly cautious but I would save the returned letter. You never know if the intern would find a loophole to take legal action – the letter at least proves you tried to make amends.

    1. CBH*

      I wanted to clarify something with the phone number and email from my point of view. I know a few are mentioning changes in communication companies (for example Verizon) have effected everyone’s personal account; hence OP may have a justifiable reason for not being able to reach the intern.

      For my above statement, I personally don’t buy it. I think the intern personally disconnected the email and phone number. I think the intern is just done with and insulted by this company. I find it very coincidental that within a few days/ weeks both phone and email were discontinued. I actually almost believed that maybe is was due to a communication company issue, but the returned letter with profanity written on it makes me believe that the intern has intentionally cut off communication.

      Just my opinion

  6. Snark*

    “It was returned the next day unopened with a profanity written on the envelope.”


      1. Chereche*

        This intern takes after my own heart. I only wonder (read: hope) if the profanity she put on the envelope was taken from what was written on her cast.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        So am I.

        I’m the sort who would be far more likely to be extremely assertive in the moment when it happened — even when I was a 20 year old. However, everyone has different levels of what they are willing to confront and deal with. This behaviour on the part of the company surely couldn’t have been totally out of the blue and it was outrageous. I wouldn’t be surprised if she might be working on a lawsuit. (Not my first choice, but I could see someone taking it there and I would not tell them ‘no’ from my perspective.)

  7. Granny K*

    OP1: Regarding the intern changing numbers/addresses. When I was in my early 20’s, I moved at least once a year, whether or not I needed to, so the address/phone number changes were a regular part of my life. Maybe this person is similar.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, and a bunch of people just lost their Verizon email addresses because Verizon stopped supporting email. There are more logical explanations than that she did it in response to the company.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I don’t know — both phone and email, at the same time?

        As I thought I said elsewhere on this thread (but maybe it’s in moderation or I neglected to click submit), the intern’s reaction would cause me to get curious about whether additional sexual harassment had happened.

        1. paul*

          How can they go about checking it? I’d say maybe pull email logs and if your telephony equipment keeps calls logged (I know CISCO has software you can set up to record outbound and inbound calls) that might be a start, but that’s only going to be productive if they were dumb enough to use work resources.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            At least one of them was already dumb enough to use work resources to draw the penis on her cast in the first place—unless Friend Artiste has a dedicated dick-drawing pen he bought himself that he only whips out for that specific purpose. It doesn’t seem like these are the sort of people to really think through the potential fallout from using company resources to harass someone, so I’d at least look at email and call logs (you don’t need recordings of the conversations, just something showing they called her number at all).

        2. Mike C. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻*

          It’s all the rage to bundle tv/internet/phone service from one company.

          1. spellyzunkles*

            Actually, you can. I cancelled my Verizon landline/internet when I moved and my email got cancelled too. I was not happy.

        3. Owl*

          She probably just blocked calls and emails from the company, and it APPEARS that they’re disconnected from their end.

      2. Gwen Soul*

        huh didn’t even know Verizon had emails but that is a good point, I know a bunch of people who use their internet providers email.

      3. Kelly L.*

        And I have an email I really just use for job searching. My main email has a fantasy reference in it that nobody can spell and everyone is confused by. I’m happy to explain it to friends, and nobody cares in online shopping, but my job search one is just a super bland “my.name” sort of address.

      4. Antilles*

        “There are more logical explanations than that she did it in response to the company.”
        I don’t agree. I think the critical item here is the *sum* of the behavior. Each individual item could have a logical explanation…but changed phone # AND changed email AND returning the letter unopened-but-received AND that returned letter happened to have profanity on it?
        The only explanation I can think of that reasonably addresses all of the behaviors is that all of this was related to the company. Maybe it’s because of fury at the way the company handled it, maybe there was more going on that she’s worried about anybody from the company contacting her, maybe she’s preparing a formal lawsuit and doesn’t want any direct communications. But I can’t think of an explanation that would address all of these items in total which doesn’t involve the company somehow.

        1. nonegiven*

          If she was preparing a lawsuit, the lawyer would have told her to keep emails and letters, caller ID info, voicemail and notes on live calls.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Did you change your email address? (Or phone number, once cell phone numbers became transferable to different regions and mobile providers?)

      Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, but it is awfully surprising. The outsized reaction from the intern would cause me to get curious about whether there was additional sexual harassment or abuse that happened.

      1. nonegiven*

        My mother has had email for maybe 15 years, one address at a time, changing ISPs 5 or 6 times. The last one told her they don’t handle email and to get a gmail address. She is on her 6th USPS address since she retired and her 3rd phone number, which is cell only now.

    3. Gwen Soul*

      I think it may be more odd now since so many people use their cellphone as the primary phone. Not sure why the email address would change though, particularly in a “no longer in service way”, feels like there is a lot more going on in the former interns life and this may have been the final straw whether it was all work related or not.

      1. cheluzal*

        Can you block a company’s email server so they get an error but her email is still intact?

        1. Anonygoose*

          Haha – her setting up an auto-email (that only goes to people from the company’s email address) to make it seem like her email account is shut down would be brilliant. Unlikely to be the case, and still pretty extreme, but brilliant.

          1. Manders*

            I did do that once to get rid of a stalker. I didn’t flat-out block her because I thought I might need to keep any messages she sent me in case the situation escalated, but I did my best to make it look like I had vanished into the digital ether. It worked perfectly, most people won’t keep sending messages to an address if they believe it’s inactive.

            It’s kind of an extreme move, though, and if that’s what the intern did it would make me wonder if something more extreme happened in the office that the letter writer wasn’t aware of.

        2. Time Bomb of Petulance*

          Yes. You could block all email coming from “**@companyname.org” but still get everything else. That’s probably what the intern did.

    4. Amy*

      Speaking as a younger person, most of us use cell phones rather than land lines these days, and the number doesn’t change when we move. Having both email and phone fail to connect at the same time makes me think she intentionally blocked anything coming from the company, not that she just happened to change both of them.

  8. Fake Eleanor*

    Returning the envelope that way was obviously not an ideal way to respond — even if the intern didn’t want any communication at all. But the intensity of that reaction makes my heart ache for her, because that harassment was clearly exceptionally traumatizing for her, and she deserved exactly none of it.

    1. Snark*

      It makes me wonder if she were harassed or otherwise was already feeling aggreived when the incident described by the LW happened.

      1. la bella vita*

        I was thinking the same thing – the employee who did the drawing might not be harassing anyone else, but people don’t usually go from being a model coworker to putting obscene drawings on a cast in a heartbeat (nor do people tend to go from being stellar managers to humiliating their employees *in front of clients* overnight). The intern might not have had the most professional response, but even if this was a one time thing in an otherwise positive internship, I can’t really blame her for lashing out when that letter showed up at her home.

    2. Unofficial Front of the House Manager*

      I’ve been scrolling through all of the comments with tears in my eyes. At 38, if one of my co-workers did something so humiliating and vulgar to me, I would most likely clock out and quit. The only way I would consider coming back is if everyone who had a part in it was fired, I got a fat raise, and I got retroactive pay for any lost wages. By “everyone,” I am even including bystanders who just didn’t stand up for me/encouraged the behavior by not voicing an objection.

      If my boss laughed at me for being understandably upset, I would keep a log of every bit of contact. Once i stopped sobbing (which would probably be a day or two), my next phone call would be to a lawyer. This is fucking cruel, and I agree with the commenters who argued that this behavior doesn’t typically occur in vacuum. I was floored when this letter was initially posted and I’m still floored.

  9. cheluzal*

    2: Good luck! If you can take your game to a FT professional level, go for it! I think time off should never be under scrutiny. Employers give it; I do what I want with it.

      1. The Strand*

        I am reading this super late, but just wanted to mention – one of my classmates in undergrad is a professional roleplaying game writer/editor, and another from high school does text-based games. If you have the passion, I think it’s quite possible to break in doing it on a part-time basis.

    1. Landshark*

      Same! Though the nerd in me wonders what game it is, haha. But some of that is that I’m starting to get into watching pro Overwatch games with the OW World Cup coming up.

  10. Jessie the First (or second)*

    OP1: While I would never respond to a letter the way the intern did, it seems less extreme to me than the comments so far are saying. That’s because the intern does not know what you have been doing to try to make amends – the last contacts she had with you all were when she was harassed and laughed at and bullied, basically. So she may well have assumed that the letter was going to be more of the same, or excuses, o…who knows. But given the treatment she received there, she really has no reason to assume this was an apology letter. It was good that you sent it, and good that you demoted the horrible manager but the intern doesn’t know all that.

    1. Polymer Phil*

      That’s what I’m thinking. Considering that the manager was OK with what happened, the intern probably expected the envelope from the company to contain a taunting note rather than an apology.

    2. KHB*

      I agree. I also don’t think the scale of her reaction necessarily means there’s more to the harassment she received than what we already know. Because what we already know is horrible enough. If that had happened to me, I don’t know that I’d go full nuclear on my relationship with this company, but I’m pretty sure that I’d want to.

    3. Mephyle*

      But given the treatment she received there, she really has no reason to assume this was an apology letter.
      Exactly. LW know it was an apology, and we know because LW told us, but there is no way whatsoever for her to have known. And she didn’t randomly guess out of nowhere that the letter might further her unfair treatment; she based her guess on her knowledge of the past events (remember, she also didn’t know that the perpetrator and his manager were disciplined and re-educated—or so it seems from LW’s update).

    4. Jesca*

      Its sad because many employers just dont seem to realize how their employees, especially their managers, do actually represent their company. As far as this victim ia concerned, she told the company. The company (manager) did nothing but laugh and continue the humiliation. Take it as a lesson. People see yoir employees as a reflection of yoir company. Now, do you really want to keep dick drawer and humilator as your employees, ya know … representing your company?

    5. Hornswoggler*

      Thanks for saying this! I was thinking they should have written ‘apology enclosed’ on the outside, sot hat she would know what it was.

    1. paul*

      That’s where my mind went too.

      OP, I’d be very careful pursuing esports as a full time gig. That really goes for any hobby; it can ruin a hobby for you (It sure did for me when I tried, although mine wasn’t esports). Enjoy it, use your PTO for tournaments and have a blast…with a possibly more steady paycheck to fall back on.

      1. k.k*

        A while back I considered pursuing a hobby as a career but quickly decided not to. My hobbies are my stress relievers, I would hate to have to that ruined by terrible bosses, toxic work environments, or even just the fact that I would *have* to do it everyday, instead of just because I felt like it.

        1. LQ*

          Yeah, the Have To Do It factor kills a lot of the hobby fun of it pretty fast (also not esports). But a job that is flexible enough to let you do it part-time is sort of the best of all worlds.

          1. The Strand*

            I agree, part-time “passion work” can be wonderful if you have another professional interest that pays well. I had a passion that became full time work for me for about five years, and it got to the point where I had a lot of knowledge/expertise but no longer had the time to just enjoy the passion as a passion. I had to be really strategic and organized about it rather than following my flight of fancy of doing what interested me. It also changes your relationship to “fans”. Going to Dragon*Con or whatever becomes a job to you, it’s business, not just blowing off steam.

            That’s where you decide, do I want to do this professionally and have it be to some degree, “less fun”, or do I want to roll back and do it part-time and have the leeway to enjoy myself. I picked part-time, but the balancing act can still be tough. People will be shocked if you scale back on a glamorous sideline others love to have as a hobby, but then the time you have is so much more fulfilling!

            With certain geeky interests, there may be some pressure to be a completist or an expert on a really high level even if you’re doing this part-time – it really depends on the person and the field. A friend of a friend is the same age (early 40s) and really driven to do this kind of hobby work, but in trying to turn his passion into a business model that sells direct to fans, but not gathering professional skills (say, taking film theory and creative writing classes: he’s a classic TV geek) it’s hurt his reputation.

    2. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

      That was my suspicion as well given all the talk about the Overwatch League’s process of formation.

    3. Dankar*

      I thought the same. I’m a bit skeptical of Overwatch’s potential to sustain a professional competitive scene, but I’m super hopeful that they will. Nice job, OP#2, both on securing your day off and on your performance in the tournament!

      1. Snark*

        And outside Overwatch in particular, there’s enough uncertainty around net neutrality, privacy, and consolidation of ISPs and mobile companies that I wouldn’t bank on activities reliant on free and unrestricted data streaming.

        1. paul*

          Don’t most of the hardcore competitions take place on site, over LAN’s rather than over the internet, just to help avoid service hiccups and latency issues? So that’d negate at least some of those worries.

  11. Myrin*

    Great updates all around, OP #2 und #3 especially – I’m very happy for you guys, what exciting and wonderful developments!

    1. Harper*

      Yes, I was totally excited by both of those updates, particularly #3. So glad you’ve found your “tribe” as they say! That just really brought a smile to my face!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, update for OP#3 was really heart-warming :) It’s wonderful to see someone so happy—it made me happy, too!

    1. Cake Person*

      Yep. Some of the more prominent ones are League of Legends and DoTA2. Both with multi-million dollar prize pools and a lot of money in the scene.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Probably advertisers. A lot of these tournaments can bring in pretty big audiences, so they stick ads and sponsorships on everything. Most people I know that watch these will usually watch the streams online, so I don’t think it’s ticket sales.

          1. Dankar*

            Advertising via their YouTube channels, Patreon support, paywall content and Twitch streaming are the more consistent forms of revenue, I think. (Along with sponsorships from gear and tech companies, of course!)

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yep. I know a guy who makes a solid second income via YouTube and Twitch, and might conceivably be able to go full time at some point.

        2. Manders*

          I think there are tournaments with substantial prizes. They’re often broadcast online (and sometimes even on TV) and a lot of revenue comes in through ad sales. I don’t think the video game companies are directly involved in the payouts, although they do benefit from the publicity.

          It’s my understanding that you rarely get a steady income and benefits that way. I do know that some people build up their own audiences streaming on services like Twitch, and some get significant amounts of donations from fans.

    2. paul*

      Oh god yes. It’s really…top heavy though from my understanding. Like the top names make decent to really great money (7 figure prizes are a thing) and other people don’t. Between tournament fees, keeping your rig up to scratch, paying for really good internet…it’s expensive. And of course only the top winners in a large tournament make big bucks. A lot like MMA really in that. You can have your McGregors making mad bank but the guys on the undercard, not so much.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, that’s my understanding as well.
        Same goes for gaming channels on Youtube. The big ones make really big bucks (PewDiePie, Markiplier and thelike are literal millionaires) but there are thousands of little ones who put a lot of time and effort into their videos without really ever getting much money out of it.

      2. The Cranky Beancounter*

        Yes, that’s the impression I have as well. One of my co-workers tried to make a go of it, but he couldn’t make it work. He does get 1000+ people on his twitch streams, which makes him a small amount of money, but not enough that he can quit his day job.

        I’d say it’s probably easier to make a living streaming while you play video games or making youtube videos about them than to play tournaments at a pro level, though you could call both groups “professional video game players.”

        1. SC*

          My impression has always been that playing and winning tournaments gets you the Twitch and YouTube followers, and playing on streams is practice for the tournaments, so it’s cyclical. Either way, these guys (and a few women) seem to work really hard “playing.” They often stream for hours at a time, in the evenings and early in the morning and on weekends when regular people are home from work and watching. And YouTube videos, like any other content creation, take a fair amount of post-recording production. Like any other creative or entertainment field, it’s a rough slog, and only a lucky few make a lot of money.

      3. Aurion*

        Yeah, I love watching professional StarCraft, but I do not envy the players (the kids!) grinding away at their profession for hours and hours a day, getting RSI after RSI (surgery after surgery), and only the very, very few actually making any decent money off of it. The ones that make it big can make big, big bucks…but most of them would probably make more per hour at a minimum wage job.

    3. Kiki*

      Some of the most popular YouTube channels are videos of people playing video games. I personally don’t understand the appeal, but my husband loves watching those channels and will stand in line for hours at conventions just to meet these people.

        1. Anion*

          My husband and I do this almost every night. It started with me watching him play (and, like you, feeling like I was participating, although in my case I’d go through online walkthroughs and such to help him out) and then moved into me being so engaged that I started playing myself.

          Now we switch off with who watches and who plays, and it’s tons of fun for both of us. Most games he’s better at, but I am a *way* better Assassin than him–I’m more patient.

      1. paul*

        I’ve done that to see how games that I can’t beat play out.

        I’m an *awful* gamer, despite really enjoying it, so sometimes that’s the only way I see the later/harder sections of a game :)

      2. Manders*

        I don’t understand the ones that are just streams of people playing games, but Polygon has some great videos of comedians making jokes as they play, using character creators to make freaky monsters, modifying games in weird ways, etc. It’s hard to explain the appeal but when it’s done well it’s sort of like improve comedy with a surreal visual element.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          If you mean the “walkthrough videos” [with no commentary], then it is just visual instructions only playing the game. It can be very useful when trying to solve puzzles or locating hidden things.

          1. Anion*

            I’ve met a few challenging moments etc. in games that I finally managed to finish by watching somebody’s walkthrough.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            They’re also useful when you love horror but can’t play horror games because you’re a whiny little baby who can’t make herself walk up to the monster (*cough* P.T. *cough* Outlast *cough* RE7 *cough*).

        2. MM*

          I don’t even like or play video games, but some of the stuff Polygon puts out is really compelling. The Car Boys series was one of the better pieces of fiction I’ve consumed this year.

      3. Amber Rose*

        I can’t play horror games because I’m a HUGE WUSS, and also pretty bad at them (also anything that could be classed a platformer), but I like the game experience/story, so watching other people play is more or less like enjoying the game without the frustration of sucking.

        Also I enjoy watching other people react. I’m a fan of Let’s Players who crack jokes and have amusing freak outs. It’s like watching very game-centric comedians.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Same here. Suck at horror games, but really want the story and thrills… so I check out Markiplier

          1. Amber Rose*

            I love Markiplier. His horror let’s plays are my favorite thing on the internet.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I need to mention how surreal it is for me to see people on AAM praising Markiplier, mostly due to all the hours (years?) I’ve spent reading AAM while I stream Markiplier on the TV in the background.

              Internet, you are so weird and I love you for that. <3

        2. Amadeo*

          This is more or less why I’ve taken to watching Markiplier. I don’t really care too much exactly what game he’s playing, but I am hugely entertained by his reactions to things. My coworkers were trying to explain Five Nights at Freddy’s to me (the eldest coworker is still 7 years younger than I am) and suggested I look on Youtube. I had such a blast watching Mark play them that I just followed the channel. (I tried playing the first one myself but good lord it is the MOST STRESSFUL game I’ve ever played!)

          1. Amber Rose*

            Yep, Five Nights at Freddys is how I found Markiplier. I enjoy his horror let’s plays the most but I get a kick out of most of his stuff (I Am Bread is amazing). Also his Try Not to Laugh challenges cheer me right up any time.

        3. Ahmea*

          If you enjoy watching horror games, you might enjoy Banewreaker on Twitch. He plays primarily older horror games, and he’s fun to watch. I can’t play those games either, so it’s fun to watch someone who is good at them.)

      4. De Minimis*

        I like the ones where they are doing funny/odd things in open world games, or trying to do something unusually challenging. There’s one YouTube channel where the person does all these crazy variations with Fallout: New Vegas–trying to kill everyone that can possibly be killed, killing no one at all [more difficult but I think possible,] trying to play the entire game on one “life,” etc.

    4. Jaybeetee*

      It’s catching on in North America, but it’s huge in some Asian countries. That said, it sounds absolutely grueling – there are stories coming out of China and other places of professional gamers “practicing” up to 15 hours per day.

      Apart from e-sports, for years people made livings of WoW and other games that involve a lot of “grinding” (i.e. tedious tasks players must do to gain points/money/prizes in-game). People would do the grind-tasks all day, acquire many points/money/prizes, then sell to other players for IRL money.

      1. paul*

        it’s careful to note that esports are usuallly within the TOS of games, whereas selling in game currency or items may or may not be, depending on how it’s done (and WoW has never OK’d third party gold sellers–that’s a perma-ban if you’re caught buying or selling gold between players).

    5. Antilles*

      Yes. In fact, if you add up the worldwide numbers of viewers, the biggest tournaments in eSports often outdraw stuff like “NBA Finals”, College Football Playoff”, “MLB World Series”, and so on.

    6. Amber Rose*

      It comes in many different forms, too. The more popular Let’s Players on YouTube make a TON of money for more or less just uploading videos of themselves playing games. There’s also that guy who paid $335,000 for real estate in Entropia, a game that has a real-money economy, and was making $200,000 a year just running a store there, then eventually sold it for over double what he paid.

      There were also those folks who made a pretty penny off a guy who hired them to assassinate his son’s character in EVE Online.

      1. Debits*

        Rocket League! Great game — No violence, just good clean fun. Your teenager probably already knows that there are pros in the Rocket League scene. In fact his idol could be ScrubKilla, a teenager himself. He’s one of the best players in the world (it’s a global game) and he can’t even compete at the big tournaments because he’s not old enough. If you really want to impress/freak out your kid you should ask who they think would win between Kronovi and ScrubKilla.

    7. Mike C. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻*

      Well, professional chess and go players are a thing, this really isn’t much different.

      1. Relly*

        I know of at least one poker pro who used to be a professional chess player — Howard Lederer. I think he said poker had bigger pay outs.

    8. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yep! My cousin is a professional League of Legends player. He’s actually doing really well at it and I’m happy for him, but it’s still deeply weird to me that there are now fan websites out there dedicated to my baby cousin’s hair :-b

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yup. It’s analogous to being a pro athlete who has sponsors.

    10. Fafaflunkie*

      Very much so it’s a thing. Be it by participating in tournaments with prizes for the winners or by establishing a following while livestreaming your gameplay on Twitch or YouTube, it can mean a steady income for good players.

  12. fposte*

    I love the update for #3, and I’m so pleased that #3 was willing to let herself become somebody new in the right environment. What a great summer, OP.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I love update #3, too! What a great learning experience for you, OP #3 and I am so happy you had such a wonderful summer!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a great reminder of how much are our personality can be a response to environment, rather than some fixed immovable thing about ourselves that can’t ever budge. (For example, as an introvert I am not a fan of making chit chat with strangers…. but every once in a while it comes off gloriously.)

    3. Brogrammer*

      Something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that people aren’t nearly as shy as they think they are. Sure, some people are actually shy, but a lot more are just not in the optimal environment for them.

      Semi-related, I know a woman who didn’t know until she was in her thirties that she was an extrovert. She’d always thought she was an introvert, but what she thought was introversion was a combination of anxiety and being surrounded by jerks. Not the same thing, but until she got her anxiety under control and got away from the jerks, she had no way of comparing.

      1. King Friday XIII*

        Yes, very much this. Once I got on Prozac I very quickly realized I’m not actually an introvert after all.

        Congrats on learning something new about yourself, OP3!

    4. Liane*

      I love this! I hope your summer gig leads to a year-round job in a similar environment, or that at least you can return next summer.

  13. Gandalf the Nude*

    Congrats on the win, #2! I’d be very interested on another update down the line on whether you decide to go pro or not. I can definitely see both sides of the argument.

  14. L*

    OP1 – I would take the intern’s reaction as a hint to look at the coworker and manager’s outgoing emails and phone logs to see whether they have contacted the employee as well. I can absolutely see either of those people contacting the intern (although possibly from a personal account) to blame her for their punishments, and if that came from an official company phone/computer they should be immediately fired.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Yes, I think this is a good idea. It’s entirely possible the phone and email issue is something else entirely. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. If they’ve treated the intern this way, they’ve likely done it to others.

    2. Brandy*

      Or just check to see if they are mentioning her at all. I once had a boss and employee emailing back and forth at work about me. I didn’t even know until the employee left, I took over his job and IT accidentally merged his email with mine and I saw all the emails. I think I spent a whole day just reading and deleting emails and reading what they said about me. I was so young and dumb, I should’ve pressed it more on the bosses end, but the owner wasn’t interested in this.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is really good advice, OP #1.

        The fact that she basically went with the nuclear option does lend credence to the idea that there was more happening than you were aware of. It would behoove you to do some more digging around.

    3. Chaordic One*

      I really wouldn’t have thought of this, because I’m not quite that cynical, yet. But I do think you might be onto something. If I were the OP I would want to have a look at the manager’s and coworker’s emails, just to check and see if any email harassment took place.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        If it helps, it’s not so much cynicism but knowing that people don’t go from zero to a hundred. They start with small steps, pushing boundaries to see what they can get away with. When they see they can get away with small things, they move on to big things.

  15. Amber Rose*

    #1: Your original question was about what to do. This was the best thing to do. You did good. Too bad about the intern.

    #2 & #3: Hurray! You’re both winners! I do SO love a happy ending, thanks for writing in to let us know.

  16. AthenaC*

    #1 – If there’s no HR, I’m confused about who actually administered all this corrective action. Was it you, OP? Your boss above you?

  17. k.k*

    #3 – I’m so happy for you! While your new position may only be temporary, it sounds like it will really help you know what to look for and what to avoid in the future. I can’t think of a better outcome all around :)

  18. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: Glad to hear your situation worked out. Anytime somebody is behaving irrationally, there’s nearly always something personal going on. At least your boss was able to act professionally on the second try.

    You can play video games professionally???? I had no idea. Good luck to you, anyhow.

    1. Amber Rose*

      There’s a whole conversation about that up-thread a little. xD
      People have found ways to earn fortunes through playing games.

      1. Liane*

        MommyMD started that conversation at 12:55. (I can’t remember how to link directly to a comment, sorry. Search for that username or video games and you should find it quickly)

  19. De Minimis*

    #3–when the LW referred to magicians I thought they meant wizards, which made me think of curses in the workplace.

    1. AMT*

      “I’ve been menaced by unfathomably ancient demon hordes ever since I forgot to make a new pot of coffee, but at least I’m making friends!”

  20. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #2 – That’s awesome! Congratulations. Go out there and kick pixelated butt!

    #3 – I am so, so happy for you and found your update reassuring and inspiring. Your update made me wonder about my past jobs and whether it was me or just not a good fit. Your update is a good reminder to be yourself. It’s a shame the job is coming to an end, but who knows what the future will bring? Thanks for this update and good luck with future jobs!

    1. AMT*

      #3, yes! Every so often, a letter comes along that makes me reevaluate the way I think about my career trajectory. This was one of them.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        This happens to me quite a bit here. I read something and think, “Oh, of course!” It’s easy to assume that everything ‘bad’ that happens is your fault somehow, but it’s often circumstances beyond your control and you were simply doing your best.

        (and how many times did i use ‘your update’ in my original comment lol)

  21. I'd rather be blue*

    OP#1: This is going to be an unpopular opinion given the comments section so far, but honestly, I cannot blame the intern at all for her reaction. Professional? No. Warranted given the extreme situation? Absolutely. She was sexually harassed. I think most people would be hard pressed to come up with a more extreme workplace violation. She was there to learn from you all and develop her skills in the workplace. Instead, she was sexually harassed and publicly humiliated. That type of thing doesn’t just “go away” for most people. It’s deeply traumatizing and stays with you.

    I understand you wanted to apologize, but sending that letter seems more like a move meant to assuage your own guilt. Like the last box you could check off. Sending this letter to her HOME address after realizing that she has either disconnected or blocked you from accessing her by email or phone is a pretty big violation of her boundaries. Your intentions really don’t matter here. She’d made it pretty clear that she wanted to have nothing more to do with you or the company. You should have respected her wishes and left her alone.

    Also, those employees should have been fired for this. I’m not surprised that they weren’t, just deeply disappointed.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree with your first paragraph, but disagree with your second.

      I think OP#1 genuinely wanted to try and make this right. She found out too late about it to do anything in the moment, but once it was brought to her attention, it sounds like she took the right steps. And I think making an effort to communicate the outcome of that to the aggrieved party was the right move. It’s not a violation of boundaries to have your employer (or former employer) send something to your home address.

      1. fposte*

        I also don’t think that the company was blocked–just that the person had moved on from those addresses.

      2. Amy*

        It’s not generally a violation for an employer to do that, but I would argue it’s a violation for someone who’s aware that you’ve cut contact in every possible way to try and continue finding ways to contact you. I don’t think the fact that it’s a company rather than an individual changes that social rule.

        1. I'd rather be blue*

          Agreed Amy. It’s not the sending a letter to the intern’s home that’s the issue in and of itself. It’s that they knew that this person did not want to be contacted and then did it anyways. That’s a pretty big violation of clear boundaries. I would argue as well that it’s unlikely that the intern had simply moved on from both her email and phone at the same time. It seems like she did everything possible to cut contact.

  22. Soon to be former fed*

    I don’t understand why the intern did not take a big black marker and eradicate the offensive markings (after taking photos for posterity, of course). That’s what I would have done, there is no way I would have met with clients. But I understand the hostile response, as the former employer is doing too little, too late. She should not have had to endure such crap in the workplace.

    1. Kiki*

      The original letter said the intern tried to cover up the offensive drawing but it didn’t work and was still visible.

    2. No, please*

      I think the original letter said she tried to cover it and it was still obvious. The only way I would have opened that letter is if I thought it was a check to cover my costs for a new cast! That’s the one thing I think the employer should have done but did not.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed! But on the other hand, I guess it’s good that they didn’t include a check or something since it would have just been returned anyway.

  23. TootsNYC*

    Updater #3–what a great update!

    And what an amazing thing to learn about yourself. I hope you can distill what it is about this experience that really brought you into yourself (not out of your shell, btw). Because then I’m hoping you’ll be able to search for it in other jobs.

    What a wonderful experience, even if it is ending soon.

  24. OlympiasEpiriot*

    About #1,
    *I think the number was probably a google voice number or similar
    *I’ll bet the e-mail was blocked to keep out the whole domain.
    *The way it was handled in the moment was SPECTACULARLY horrible and, if it had been me at my age, I would have left then and there if I couldn’t find even duct tape to wrap my cast in to cover the obscenities before having any meetings clients. I would have burnt that day no matter what.
    *I suspect the manager and even the other employee contacted the intern after and essentially pulled the “you can’t take a joke” s#^t. If they did it even once and it was easy for me to block them, I would have done the same. Life is too short to deal with assholes and who cares about a bridge like this.
    *Ok, writing a profanity across the envelope seems a little extreme, but, hey, I, too, would possibly have returned it unopened. Or, I might have steamed it open out of sheer curiosity but then resealed it so it looked like it was unopened and returned it.

    * I’m glad to read the manager was demoted, but, the employee should have been, too. I think they deserved more than day without pay as well. I also think there should have actually been trainings with scenarios for all the managers, not just a letter reminding people. All those witnesses and no one stepped up and said something immediately to the a$$hole doing the drawing…

    Don’t blame the intern for the reaction. This thing was OTT.

  25. Tap Root Manu*

    Those who believe the intern over-reacted should remember her desk wasn’t covered in graffitti…HER BODY was defaced. She was branded and then ridiculed. We should all embrace the fact that it is not up to us to judge her reaction, she gets to react how she likes as long as there is no violence/harassment involved.

  26. Orlando*

    OP#1 For me, personally, the intern’s reaction was perfectly understandable given the situation (there seems to be a divide on this.) However- you navigated a tough and complicated situation really well. You did the best you could under the circumstances. Don’t keep beating yourself up.

    1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!*

      Yes, I agree with you, that OP did handle this in the best possible way. I don’t think sending the letter to her home was boundary-crossing, and neither do I blame the intern for refusing it.

  27. Havarti*

    OP1: Getting profanity-laced mail back is not unusual when you’re in a line of work that involves a lot of mailings. Oh, the things I used to see! Some people take you knowing where they live and bothering them very, very, very personally. And we never even drew anything on their casts! So I’m not surprised ex-intern did it.

    OP2 and OP3: That’s wonderful news! I wish you both the best! :D

  28. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Just because you apologize doesn’t mean the other person has to accept it. One of your colleagues wrote profanity on this intern’s body. She responded by writing profanity on the letter you sent her. Keep in mind that you weren’t her direct manager. An apology from someone who wasn’t 1) part of her regular workday rotation, 2) the person who vandalized her cast, or 3) the person who made her greet clients with pornographic imagery on her body is meaningless. There’s nothing else that you personally could have done, but this is a great example of how things blow up on everyone when toxic or “c’mon, just be cool” dynamics are part of the overall culture of the office. The vandal and the intern’s manager victimized you too.

    What response did you actually want? If I were in the interns position, I would appreciate the apology but I wouldn’t accept it, which is a nuance that I think is meaningful.

  29. Fresh Faced*

    OP 1: As a note sending the letter to the intern with an offer for her to continue to work for the company isn’t a good thing to do if her harassers still work there .Unless the two offenders are gone it’s not exactly going to be a healthy and safe place for her to work. I mean if she accepted your offer and came back, first week into the job she see’s the person who harassed her, and the person who laughed at her being harassed, what message does that send to her about the company caring for her well being? You can say that there both on thin ice but if what they did prior wasn’t enough to get them fired I wouldn’t believe you, and would be looking out for retaliation from them both.

    1. AW*

      I also wouldn’t go back to that job if the people who did that to me were still working there, even if I *did* believe they would get fired for doing anything else. It wouldn’t really matter whether I thought their punishment was sufficient or not.

      1. Liane*

        If I had been humiliated to that degree, whatever the specifics, I wouldn’t return even if the harassers had been fired. Because that would involve being around all those folks who saw/heard all the sordid details of my humiliation.
        As Capt. Awkward, whom many here admire, has written many times: It is great when someone who has mistreated you finally Sees The Light and starts fixing their problems–but you get to decide you don’t want to stick around for the New! Improved! Them.

  30. Can't Sit Still*

    OP3, good for you! I’ve finally found my people at my current job and it’s amazing. I had no idea that my natural state was bubbly, outgoing, and enthusiastic. I thought I was quiet, shy, and reserved. I’m never going to settle for less again, and neither should you.

    1. life on mars*

      I’m curious what is different about your current job compared to other jobs – what do you think has made you more bubbly and outgoing?

      Question is for can’t sit still and OP3 or anyone else who has experienced this

  31. Essie*

    A very recent letter involved Alison (and commenters) telling a LW to respect a request for no contact (LW had social anxiety, and had gone to the coworker’s house using her payroll address). Thus, everyone acting aghast that this intern went nuclear over her no-contact request being ignored is….puzzling, at best.

    1. Orlando*

      Maybe reactions are influenced by the fact that LW is coming off sympathetic in this story. But yeah, I agree. I was surprised too. With the caveat that I wouldn’t call the reaction nuclear- it was mild, really. Talking to a lawyer to examine her options would be reasonable. I’m not sure what would qualify for “nuclear” in such a case.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      People in general (as in, not just here) don’t always connect the dots between scenarios that aren’t cut-and-dry textbook examples of anything. A while back there was a 5-question post where one question was about a manager whose violent past had never been disclosed by her or anyone else who ever worked with her, and it became a problem when she got violent at work. The next question was from someone who was upset that his record of violence was keeping him from getting a job. No one who was sympathetic to the second OP understood that keeping someone like him out of offices was the solution to the first question. It was weird to see comments like, “OP1, you need to get that violent person out of your office and document it so future employers are aware” next to comments like, “OP2, it’s completely unfair that your prior violence has been documented and that it is preventing cautious people from wanting to work with you.”

      Today we saw people arguing that a wealthy employee probably should change her spending habits to appease people who are jealous of her, but a month or two ago we were mostly in agreement that objects of envy do not have to adjust themselves or put up with jealous people who are talking crap about them at work.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Possibly because there is a difference between explicitly telling people not to contact you anymore and simply ceasing contact. Nowhere in either letter did OP#1 say that the intern told them not to contact her again.

    4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s a really good point and something I hadn’t considered. The circumstances here are slightly different but yes, the intern had made it clear she was done. The company can’t get upset that she sent back their letter when she’d made it clear she wanted no further contact.

      I honestly don’t think there was anything wrong with the intern sending the letter back with a swear word on it. They should be grateful she didn’t take legal action or share the story on social media, complete with photos.

      Thanks for pointing this out.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        And it gets more complicated because the OP is also right to apologise for what happened. So I can’t blame the OP for reaching out, and I can’t blame the intern for her response.

  32. Liz T*

    So happy about #2!! That was one of the ones that stuck with me–I was really really hoping OP would still get to go to their competition. Glad it worked out!

  33. AW*

    #3 – So glad things worked out! It’s interesting that being in a positive environment revealed something about yourself you didn’t know about. It makes me wonder how many things about ourselves we assume are innate or fixed but are just a result of our environment.

    #2 – Glad this worked out. Sometimes it just takes re-wording something to make someone realize they weren’t being reasonable. Kind of silly that your manager is blaming video games to the point that he took it out on you but at least he changed his decision. Good luck!

    #1 – I keep going back and forth over whether the intern should have been fired. Part of me thinks he should have been but the reason why what he did was so awful was because of the actions of the manager, who was demoted. It’s the fact that she was forced to keep that on her cast all day in front of co-workers and clients (!!!) that makes this feel like a fireable offense but that part was largely the manager’s fault.

    That the manager is no longer managing people is very good.

    I don’t understand people’s confusion over the intern’s response though. The profanity on the envelope wasn’t professional, but it makes total sense for them to return it to you.

    The intern does not want any contact from your company whatsoever. The best way to get that message across, since blocking your phone number and email didn’t work, was to send the envelope back. Had she simply kept it and ignored it she risked getting follow-up messages and she doesn’t want that. Blocking and/or returning all correspondence is what you do when you want to go no contact.

    NOTE: I don’t think you were wrong to try to apologize to her. She’s certainly owed one and offering to hire her back was the right thing to do. But she clearly sees what happened as a deal-breaker and I don’t blame her.

  34. esra (also a Canadian)*

    #3 This is where culture really is so important. I worked at a job where a very high degree of socialization was required, but the staff was so insular and clique-y, they churned through new people because no one “fit.”

    Now I’m somewhere where being friendly is valued, but a nice-to-have and not a priority… and it is so much more relaxing. We have the culture the last place wanted to, but couldn’t figure out how to get.

  35. This Daydreamer*

    The intern’s response to OP1 just breaks my heart. She’s clearly still traumatized by that day and, so far as she knows, no one gives a damn about her and her humiliation.

    I hope that someday she finds the first comment thread so she can see how horrified everyone was. I hope she doesn’t find this one first because of how many commenters here are so concerned about her lack of professionalism. She faced a full day of public humiliation. Her workplace got back a well-deserved rebuke with language that wasn’t very polite. Somehow I fail to see where the intern did anything wrong.

  36. Original Flavored Kaitception*

    Yeah, I totally do not blame this former intern for not only wanting nothing to do with this company, but for expressing so immediately and without restraint. She was required to _finish out the day_ with genitalia on her cast, meeting with clients and other co-workers, had her very obvious concerns laughed at by her manager, and then had to go to the doctor to have part of the cast replastered. If this happened in America, there’s almost no way that last was free. She’d AT LEAST be out her physician visit copay, even if they didn’t charge her for the cast.

    OP should be glad she’s just being rude. In her position, I’d have been contacting the police to ask if “drawing obscenities on my person” is vandalism or assault, contacting an employment attorney, and letting every chip thereafter fall where they may.

  37. OrangeYouGlad*

    OP #3 – Yay! This is so great! You learned something new about yourself that will change every single job you have for the rest of your career! Now you know that you shine where you are comfortable and with people you connect with. Now when you interview you’ll ask different questions because of this positive experience! Now you will look for and find new opportunities to use this blossoming side of yourself! THIS IS GREAT!!

    Personal experience: I had a job where I completely shined. It was all of my strengths and practically zero of my weaknesses. Now when I look for new jobs I evaluate them off that new high standard. I’m so happy you had this opportunity!

  38. Mike Crapbag*

    “I spoke to everyone who worked with the employee and manager and those who were witnesses and they all said that although the found the behavior upsetting, none of them had ever witnessed stuff like that before and had never felt harassed on any occasion by the employee or the manager.”

    I feel like statements like these minimise the fact that the employee in question sexually harassed the intern, plus the outrageous response (or shall we say non response) of the manager.

    They’re not being judged for how well they behave on all the other days. They deserve disciplinary action for this specific incident, which was wildly inappropriate. Actually, the fact that the employee behaves normally around his peers and superiors, but specifically targeted the intern as object of his harassment, says something about how he treats people in an obvious power imbalance situation. This is a huge red flag to consider for any future promotion opportunities that may arise.

    1. DArcy*

      Given the intern’s strong reaction, I would consider the statements offered by the co-workers to have a very high potential of being either intimidated or covering up for the employee and the manager. I would definitely consider it justified to invoke “you have no privacy with company stuff” and take a very close look at any available *objective* evidence, like e-mails and phone logs.

  39. MB*

    Like OP2, I’ve been learning to carefully phrase my responses to (invasive) questions about my leaves, whether it’s a sick leave or a personal one. They’re part of my compensation package and as long as my leaves won’t cause any work problems, they’re something that I definitely want to use regardless of what my plans are for them.

  40. Ramona Flowers*

    I could not be more thrilled for letter writer 3 because it’s awesome that you’re so happy!

    I had a not dissimilar experience in that, before I started my job, I thought I was a total introvert who disliked being in offices and couldn’t get things like writing done with other people around. I negotiated part remote working after my initial settling in period. I mostly don’t remote work, as it turns out I like being in the office when I actually have nice coworkers.

  41. Tealeaves*

    OP2: All the best! As someone said earlier, do consider if you mind doing this full-time because having it as a job can kill your hobby. But not trying to follow your dreams will leave you with a What If forever. As you know, pro gaming is results-based and a team can be disbanded any time, or you might quit suddenly because it got too stressful or no longer fun. If I were in your shoes, I would do some financial planning to ensure I can cover a few months in case this happens. Stay disciplined during training and don’t over-celebrate your early victories.

    OP3: This is like a fairytale ending. So happy for you!

  42. MCMonkeyBean*

    People can get really weird about video games.

    My brother passed a few years ago and he had a lot of issues. He also played a lot of video games. My dad decided that meant video games were one of his issues. He sat me down one day and was like “I just wanted to talk to you because I know [My Husband] plays a lot of video games and I’m concerned.”

    He imagines it as a very anti-social thing, and I tried to explain to him that about 70% of the time if he’s playing video games he’s actually playing them online with friends! Being far more social than me, who just sits alone on the couch. But he has it in his head that video games are some evil specter and that’s just how he will think of them forever I guess.

  43. matcha123*

    When I originally read #1, I was pretty surprised at the intern’s reaction. I don’t know how…uh…detailed…the drawing was. But, if I were the intern and I had to meet clients, I’d be ticked and probably just tell them that my coworker “Joe” decided to draw something on my cast. That’s not to say I think the coworker *should* have drawn anything like that. I guess personally, I feel like if I were in the intern’s shoes, there would be more I’d be worried with. I’d have covered it up and went on with my day, because for me, showing that I’m not going to be intimidated by someone’s childish actions is more important to me.

    However, I know that my opinion is totally contrary to most of the people posting here!

    1. Samata*

      I think the interns reaction was likely not to the drawing itself, but to the fact that the manager did nothing about it but laugh & dismiss that anything was wrong with what co-worker did. I mean, someone drawing a dick on you is never nice but your supposed manager making you feel like an idiot for caring about it sends a pretty strong message IMO.

    2. AW*

      You wouldn’t have been able to cover it up. The intern tried doing that and it didn’t work. Also, the intern did go on with their day: that they weren’t allowed to go get it fixed was part of their complaint.

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