our staff chat all day long and it’s messing up their work, my daughter rejected me for a job, and more

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

1. Our staff chat all day long and it’s messing up their work

We use Skype in our office as it’s a great tool for sharing your desktop, talking to international colleagues, and conference calls. However, our staff use the instant message feature and chat ALL DAY with each other. It’s causing a distraction that affects their quality of work and productivity because we are often dealing with tight deadlines. They make easy mistakes that cause processes to take longer and are not doing the proper analyses their jobs require because they are just working to get things done so they can be social rather than trying to do a good job.

I’m a manager and I’m often responsible for their work product, but they don’t report to me. What would be the best way to deal with this that doesn’t make me the “bad guy”?

Well, you might need to be the bad guy. Someone here does. If you have seniority over them and are responsible for their work product, it’s reasonable for you to say, “I’m seeing problems X, Y, and Z in your work. I also see that you’re using instant messaging all day long, and I’m concerned they’re related. I need you to better focus and eliminate these problems, and I don’t think you’ll be able to do that without scaling way back on the chat.”

You also should talk to their manager and explain what you’re seeing. That person has standing to be even more directive with them and could tell them to cut out the IM’ing, period, and enforce it if they don’t. She should also start managing them more closely since the IM’ing isn’t the real issue; the work quality and productivity are, and their manager needs to start paying more attention to those things and imposing some consequences if the work isn’t what it should be. So you need to loop her in.

Sometimes managers do need to be “the bad guy” when people aren’t meeting expectations. That’s part of the job. (Although I think “the bad guy” is the wrong framing. Who are the good guys in this situation — the people who are blatantly not doing their work? I don’t think that’s the paradigm you should be using.)

2. I received a job rejection letter from my daughter

I received a letter today from a company I’d applied for a job with. The letter stated there are no jobs open there. But the letter came from my daughter, who works there and can’t stand the sight of me and has changed her surname. I knew a long time ago she changed her name, but I didn’t realize the receptionist would be the one to write to say there’s no jobs. Do you have any advice?

Yes: Move on and apply to different companies.

It’s very unlikely that this company would hire you without talking to your daughter about it, if they know you’re related (and it sounds like she’d certainly tell them), and it’s near impossible that they’d bring you knowing that the two of you are estranged. Companies don’t want to invite that kind of drama into their workplaces. So any company where your daughter works isn’t one where you should apply.

3. Applicant sent an unhinged response to rejection — and I know his reference

I was recently hiring for a position, and we sent a rejection email to a candidate who responded incredibly rudely. What he said was inflammatory, extremely egotistical, and at times down right crazy. It went beyond the “sour grapes” of a candidate who hasn’t moved on — it was a rambling and bitter diatribe. Of course it isn’t fun to deal with this, and honestly a clear bullet dodged, but that isn’t where it ends. To make this a little more troubling, he has put on his resume someone who I know as his reference and his referral.

Should I tell her about this experience, and is it even ethical to tell her? I’m not interested in blackballing this candidate — it wasn’t a personal attack on me, and he clearly needs a job based on his level of desperation, but probably should never work in this department, and I have told HR as much, and this will be included in his applicant file. His reference works for our same company, but in another division and we do not interact regularly, but I like her. I’m nervous that someone as unhinged (or at the very least extremely misled about what is professional or acceptable behavior upon receiving a rejection) as this applicant was could do her reputation harm. Thoughts?

Yes, I’d tell her. He could indeed do her reputation harm, and if she actually referred him to a job where she works, she really needs to know that he’s doing this. You could say it this way: “I noticed that Fergus Warbleworth listed you as a reference and the person who referred him when he applied for a job with me recently. I’m forwarding you the response he sent to our rejection email since I thought you’d want to be aware of this.”

4. My manager promised to write me a recommendation letter and never came through

I was recently let go from my company along with a large group of people. I had no idea it was coming or that it would be such a large lay-off. However, I’ve come to terms with it and I have moved on and continued my job search. The day the layoff occurred, my manager said she felt so bad and that she really liked me and wanted to do anything possible to help me find a job. She told me any job I applied for, to let her know and she would write a letter of recommendation tailored to the job. I really appreciated her support, so when I started my job search I asked if she could just write me a generic recommendation so I can include it when applying for jobs. She never responded to the first email. Three days later I followed up, and still no response. Finally, a week later I sent a final follow-up note, and still no response.

I am extremely rubbed the wrong way about the lack of response, effort, and care involved in this situation. I feel that if you’re going to offer up your help to write a recommendation, you need to follow through with your promise. My question to you is, do I need her recommendation or is it fine to explain you were apart of a company re-organizaton? Also, do you feel it’s appropriate for me to “call her bluff” about not responding?

Yeah, your manager was crappy here. She shouldn’t have made the offer if she wasn’t going to follow through, and if there was some specific reason why she later realized she couldn’t follow through, she should have responded to you to let you know that. But I don’t think you have anything to gain by calling her out on it — you’ll still want her to be a reference for you if companies call her in the future so there’s no point in antagonizing her. That said, you do need to know if she’d be willing to respond to reference calls, so you could wait a couple of weeks (so that you’re not rapid-firing emails at her) and send a note that says this: “I know you’re busy so I’m moving forward without the reference letter we’d talked about, but I wanted to confirm that you’d still be willing to take reference *calls* when I’m at the reference-checking stage with future employers. If for any reason you’re not, please let me know so that I don’t list you as someone they can contact. I’d much rather know that now than put you down if it would make you uncomfortable.”

An important side note though: In the vast majority of fields, there wouldn’t be a ton of use to having a letter of recommendation anyway. Most employers want to talk to references, not read letters from them. That’s because they want to ask questions and probe around, and they want to hear tone, hear where a reference hesitates before answering, and hear what happens when they dig around about potential problem areas. Plus, employers generally know that recommendation letters don’t count for much since no one puts critical information in them. When they want references, they’ll ask you for phone numbers. So the original offer didn’t have a ton of value anyway. (Exceptions: some parts of law and education, where recommendation letters are still a thing.)

5. How to thank people who went above and beyond while I was out for several months

I went in for what was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure that went terribly wrong. What was supposed to be an overnight in the hospital and three days off of work turned into a near death experience, two weeks in the hospital, and over a month off of work. This all follows on the heels of my having taken significant time off following the death of my mother a couple of months ago.

My plan, when I return to work, is to bring in some kind of communal treat, but there are a couple of employees who stepped up significantly in my absence and I’d like to give them something individual to express my thanks.

Both of them will see their work reflected in their annual reviews, which will impact next year’s pay increase and have been recognized publicly, but what’s your opinion on providing a gift certificate of some type as an additional thank-you or should I just stick to a heart-felt thank-you note?

Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to offer a company-paid bonus, and due to a vacation policy change, we all have more vacation days than we know what to do with and I would never deny these folks a requested day off.

A bonus would be great, but since you’re not in a position to do that, I’d go for a heartfelt conversation. Talk in specifics about the ways they stepped up (specifics are nearly always more gratifying to hear than a blanket thank-you because it tells them that you really see all they did), and tell them what their help meant to you.

At least, that’s what I’d want, and I’d find it a lot more meaningful than a gift certificate. That said, some people really like getting gifts, so if you happen to know that either of these people respond well to that kind of thing, there’s no reason you can’t do that too. But don’t skip the heartfelt convo with specifics.

You should also let them know that you’ll be making sure their work is reflected in their upcoming reviews. That might not be obvious to them, and it’ll be good to hear it.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 302 comments… read them below }

  1. Drew*

    OP#5: Even better is if you back up your heartfelt conversation with a letter that can go into their files, copied to their managers. That’s the kind of documentation of excellence that is so rarely done and can have such a huge effect on people as they continue to move through the workforce.

    1. VioletEMT*

      Second the suggestion of formal, written recognition in addition to verbal thanks. Way better than a gift card, IMO.

    2. OP5*

      I am their direct manager. Our next level supervisor is actually the one who has been keeping me in the loop on how impressed he’s been with the way they’ve both stepped up. The comments so far definitely have me leaning towards your suggestion Drew.

      1. Tuckerman*

        I would definitely let them know the higher-up has noticed and appreciates their work.

      2. TheMonkey*

        Oooh, a summary from that next level manager would probably be great as well. If he’s been the one witnessing it and being impressed, a firsthand account from him along with your heartfelt appreciation could be a good option.

    3. Red Rose*

      Yes, we did this for a teacher who went above and beyond working with our son. We wrote the letter to the principal and copied her. I know she was very moved by it.

    4. Hillary*

      Absolutely yes. I do this regularly with service providers who go above and beyond – I found a letter I’d written framed on the break room wall at one of my vendors once. I always send it to the individual and cc someone up the food chain.

  2. Emmie*

    No. 2: Did you know or think your estranged daughter worked there before you applied? If you did, I recommend not applying at companies she works at and finding some peace with the fractured relationship. If you did not know, this may have been jarring. I can see why a company wouldn’t want such a close familial relationship in their environment- especially when it appears to come with some challenges. Even so, move on.

    1. CityMouse*

      Yeah, I really wouldn’t care what the circumstances are, I would never, ever consider hiring someone that would create that kind of drama situation. No way now how. People also tend to be very loyal to good office managers and receptionists, and generally primary duty is to the existing employee. OP should not apply there again or try contacting there again.

    2. Snark*

      I, for one, can see nothing but good things coming from a new employee working in an office whose admin assistant is her estranged daughter who can’t stand the sight of her. Other than increasing the office popcorn budget by 1000%, I say hire her and let the good times roll.

    3. Springsteen is My Favorite Boss*

      No. 2: If you and your daughter are estranged and do not speak, then why on earth would you want to work at the same company as she does? You ask why “the receptionist” would send you your rejection letter. Either it’s a very small company, or she’s been promoted to a job with HR functions.

      Disclosure: I’m am adult stepdaughter. My stepmother and I are estranged. I do not wish to speak to her or see her. Long story short: She’s very critical and has a hair-trigger temper, which is the direct opposite to my people-pleasing personality. After many years of screaming tirades, I finally told Stepmother I’d had enough and stopped speaking to her. (The straw which broke the camel’s back: As I was ending six months of chemotherapy and only working part-time to attempt to support myself during my cancer treatments, Stepmother called to scream and scream at me because she found out I was in bad financial straits and was behind on my rent.) She’s retired and lives in another state half the year. But if she were in the work force, I would not want us to be at the same workplace.

      Allison’s right: Spare everyone the drama and apply elsewhere. Especially if you care anything about your daughter.

      1. Kali*

        I do wonder about OP2s angle. She asks for advice, but reading the letter, I’m unclear if it’s advice on the job search in general, or if she suspects that her daughter went out of her way to veto her candidacy? The same advice applies either way, but I do wonder what she had in mind.

  3. Blurgle*

    #2. Leave your daughter alone, for the rest of her life. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with you and she’s made that clear. I suspect she thinks this job application was just another way of you trying to force yourself into her life, another way of tormenting her.

    1. Borne*

      Remember that one of the main requirements for the comments section is to be kind.
      We do not know what happened, i.e. the history between mother and daughter.
      We should always give the benefit of any doubt. It is unlikely that the mother applied deliberately to ‘torment’ her daughter.
      Be careful about jumping to unfounded conclusions.

      1. Toph*

        Even if the mother was not at all doing so deliberately, it may be useful for her to know that it is very possible the daughter could have interpreted it that way. We do not know the history here or why they’re estranged, and it probably doesn’t matter the reason. If it’s as broken as it sounds, keeping distance is probably beneficial.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          One of my organization’s publications runs photos submitted by readers – it’s just this lighthearted little feature that mostly shows kids and/or pets doing cute things. We get a lot of them, far more than we can run, and if they do run, it’s always at least a year after we receive them that they are finally published.

          Anyway, one time I ran a perfectly ordinary cute-kid photo that the kid’s grandmother had sent in, and got a very…well, not angry, but definitely upset call from the grandmother. Apparently in the 18 months between the grandmother sending the photo in and our publishing it, there had been a big falling out between mom and grandmother, and the mother accused the grandmother of getting the photo published deliberately so as to make the mother feel bad.

          Yes, really. Taunting through cute-photo publishing.

          Anyway, I told the grandmother that she was welcome give my name to the mother and have her call me and I’d explain that the grandmother had sent the photo well before the falling out. But I don’t think it did any good.

          So what I’m saying is that even if the OP didn’t know the daughter worked there, it wouldn’t be at all odd for the daughter to think the OP did and applied there deliberately, just to taunt her. When there’s been a big schism in a family, feelings run very strong, and people are not always rational. In fact, they usually are not, IMO.

      2. paul*

        Eh. It *sounds* like OP knew her daughter was there. Unless it’s a truly large company (i.e hundreds or thousands of employees) trying to work where you know estranged family is working is just asking for trouble.

      3. No 2*

        Thank you, in actual fact I never knew she worked there if I did I would never have applied to work at the same place , I don’t want to work eat or spit near her she’s horrible telling everyone who listens that I’m a narcissistic mother .

          1. Tau*

            There’s a number of ways she could have worked this out afterwards, starting from the e-mail signature and going from there. Let’s give our OPs the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

            OP – considering how you feel about working with your daughter, I’d view this one as a dodged bullet and not worry too much about the exact details of how it went down.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes. You don’t want to work with her, you won’t be working with her, and so the problem has already been solved.

              Managing the imagined reactions of strangers to your daughter’s stories is something you need to just put down and walk away from–it’s impossible, and setting it up as some sort of standard will bring you nothing but grief.

            2. Malibu Stacey*

              Typically receptionists actual titles are some form of “assistant”, though. I’m an admin and I have gone on many, many interviews with title of “Administrative Assistant” that include reception duties, especially at smaller orgs and small branch offices of large orgs.

              1. Allison*

                Right, it seems rare to see official titles like “receptionist” or “secretary” in email signatures.

          2. SLR*

            I’ve never in life received a rejection letter from a receptionist. This reads to me as OP demeaning her daughter as a lowly receptionist who had the nerve to send a rejection letter. HR has always handled recruiting in my experience.

            1. Cambridge Comma*

              I think there are different ways to interpret it and OP doesn’t explicitly say that she considers her daughter a lowly receptionist. She could equally be wondering whether the fact that the letter was signed by her daughter, who doesn’t have a role that is typically involved in hiring, means that her daughter filtered it out before it reached the hiring manager. (But even if that were the case, as OP doesn’t want to work with her daughter, it wouldn’t matter if that was what had happened, so it may not be the right interpretation either.)

              1. SLR*

                I can see that. And most definitely I see myself projecting a little bit as well. This letter writer’s responses here in the comments were quite triggering for me in relation to my own relationship with my mother. She sounds exactly the same. I know my own mother has little respect for me and my occupation (which is an office manager/receptionist), regardless of the fact this is what I want to be doing, it’s not enough for her. I see so much of my own mother in OP’s comments it’s frightening.
                It’s also possible the daughter is an HR admin and OP had no idea, thinking she was only a front desk receptionist.

                1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                  I was both the HR admin and the receptionist at one of my jobs, and I prepared many a rejection letter. However, I usually had the HR manager sign them, and we only sent out rejection letters to those who actually interviewed.

              2. Kathleen Adams*

                I think the OP pointed out that the daughter was a receptionist just because it’s so odd to receive a rejection letter from the receptionist. So yes, I think Cambridge Comma (great name, BTW!) is right that the OP is wondering if the daughter caught her mother’s application before it got to the manager and sent the letter without even talking to him/her about it.

                But I also agree that it sounds as though you dodged a bullet, OP. You don’t want to work here. It’s far, far better to find somewhere you can start fresh.

            2. Sarah*

              The “office manager” in our office — who is also the front desk receptionist — actually handles a fair amount of our low level hiring. I’m sure the overall manager does sign off on things at some level, but I would not be surprised if low level candidates get an email from the office manager rather than the big boss.

            3. Michelle*

              My official title “Administrative Assistant” and although we do have an HR department that is located in the corporate office across town, I usually send rejection letters to applicants. We have several satellite locations in our city and the admin in each location does the rejection letters. Sometimes, it’s one of those “other duties as assigned” that gets delegated to us.

        1. CityMouse*

          Giving you the benefit of the doubt, best way to refute that is to avoid contacting her. Really. I know it can be hard but she clearly doesn’t want a relationship and you don’t want to hear about her talking about you being a bad parent. I also think contacting the company to complain about the letter might come across as drama seeking and hurt you professionally. Best thing to do here is nothing and drop contact.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          So this is a good thing. Imagine if you had gotten the job and bumped into her or, worse, ended up working together. No advice needed because you got the best possible outcome.

        3. Alli525*

          Oof. I hope you have an impartial ear with whom you can discuss this painful situation.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Hey No 2, sorry you got jumped on. If you are still reading, I had a few thoughts.

          Receptionists are often tasked with communications that a) might result in responses like #3. They are the unpleasantness filter for TPTB or b) are mundane, routine, and not worth a manager doing. If rejections can be done by a computer, is it any surprise they might be outsourced to the receptionist?

          Are you 100% sure that this is your daughter and not a stranger that happens to share her adopted name? This might have been a very unpleasant and upsetting coincidence for you. Obviously there is no way of knowing without doing something that could make the situation worse, but you might want to consider that this person may not be your daughter.

          I hope the unpleasant shock passes and you find a job soon.

    2. Seriously?*

      Wow, that’s super harsh. You have no idea why her daughter isn’t speaking to her. For all we know, it could be something like an overbearing husband who doesn’t want her to be close to her family. Or maybe not. The point is, we don’t know.

      1. BWooster*

        Nevertheless, the daughter is so determined to sever ties that she changed her name. OP knows where she works and what position in the company she holds. OP applies for a job there anyway. OP has thereby displayed some, mildly speaking, questionable judgement. I think Alison has nailed the answer. Whatever the reason, just or unjust, forcing yourself into contact with someone who very clearly doesn’t want it, is a very bad idea.

        1. Britt*

          To be fair, my brother did this because he “hates” my dad, who literally did nothing to him. My brother meanwhile has a myriad of problems but is the one who cut ties out of no where and changed his name.

          Bottom line – we have no idea what happened and why they are estranged.

          1. CityMouse*

            Yeah I have a cousin who vocally hates my side of the family, because my dad is the one who called the cops in him for.some very bad things he was doing. But even though I see us as the “right” side of the family, I just avoid the guy and his allies like the plague. Not worth it.

          2. BWooster*

            “To be fair, my brother did this because he “hates” my dad, who literally did nothing to him.”

            To be fair, the fairness of the reasons is completely irrelevant to the correct route to take in this situation. The daughter cut off contact and the mother shouldn’t be seeking to be employed where her daughter is.

            1. Mazzy*

              I think that comment was about the tone of the comments, not a course of action. And I would like to chime in and say I have a relative who was given a very healthy inheritance and squandered it – like, they literally bought nothing and proceeded to file for bankruptcy and now live with roommates in their 50s. We all have no clue where the money went and are frankly annoyed since it came from someone who lived frugally.

              However, it is they who hate the rest of the family even though the family has reached out to them to try to re-establish a relationship. I guess they hate us for asking where the money went? None of us are sure.

          3. Not Karen*

            who literally did nothing to him

            Please do not make this assumption. You have no way of knowing everything that went on between them.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Possibly, possibly not. My aunt (whom we’re all convinced has BPD) has gone on periodic spells of despising some other family member, but it’s really common for her to say things like “Jane did X to me a the family Christmas party” … when we were all there and X literally never happened. She’s accused people of making phone calls or writing letters that, um, again, never happened. Or claiming (retroactively) that there were fights or tears or accusations at some family gathering. (She said my other aunt was freezing her out for calling to invite her to a party rather than sending a written invitation and refused to speak to her for MONTHS. Over a written invitation. To a backyard barbeque.)

              There are some things that happen behind closed doors, and we shouldn’t presume to know. But, sometimes, you get someone who is just unhinged and claim events or motives that are demonstrably false. All you can do then is block them on Facebook and wish them the best.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          To be fair, the OP only realized the daughter worked there when she saw the name on the rejection letter and says she would not have applied had she known the daughter worked there.

          1. BWooster*

            “she would not have applied had she known the daughter worked there.”

            In light of that I’m a little puzzled by her question. Is the fact that the receptionist is or is not sending out rejection important at all?

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              I think the assumption on the letter writer’s part might be that her daughter intercepted the application somehow, or perhaps that her daughter’s job was to send out form rejection letters and decided to ‘personalize’ that one.

        3. ob*

          Please be kind, give letter writers the benefit of the doubt, and don’t make assumptions to the denigration (autocorrect says “dense gratin,” none of those either please!) of the writer. She said in a comment she did not know her daughter worked there when she applied, so the foundation upon which your comment judges the OP is faulty and, again, unkind.

          1. DArcy*

            She claimed she didn’t know her daughter worked there, but the entire (implied) reason she’s writing is that she thinks that the rejection letter might not be legitimate because it came from her daughter whom she believes to be a mere receptionist.

            If she didn’t know her daughter worked there, how does she know her daughter is a receptionist?

        4. Anna*

          OP already said she didn’t know her daughter worked there.

          Here’s an idea: Let’s not work so hard at guessing the true nature of their relationship based on what has been said in the letter (very little, actually).

        5. Tara*

          To be fair to the OP, the letter doesn’t mention that the daughter changed her surname directly to get away from OP. Could be a marriage thing. Also, its possible that OP didn’t learn the daughter worked there until she saw the name on the email she received.

      2. Caro in the UK*

        I does seem harsh. However the context is important. People become estranged for many reasons, but that fact that the LW, on discovering that she’d inadvertently applied to the place where her daughter works, responded not by immediately removing that place from consideration and moving on with her job search, but instead by writing to AAM implying that the rejection was wrong, is indicative of how she treats her daughter.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a real stretch. She says she wouldn’t have applied. The fact that she then reacted without thinking that entirely through does not show anything. Yes, it could be that she’s stalkerish, but really it could just as easily be that she was thrown off balance and is upset at the company for being unfair an not hearing her side of the story. Not a useful reaction, true. And Allsion’s advice was exactly right. But not an indication of being an overbearing parent.

          1. Alli525*

            But what advice was she seeking, other than vindication that her daughter was wrong to send the rejection letter? Both parties obviously have very sore spots where the other is concerned, so the tone of the question sounds–in my opinion, based on my own estranged relationship with a mother who speaks about me like OP2 does–indicative of the larger problem.

            1. Caro in the UK*

              This was where I was heading.

              I understand reacting in the moment. But I think it is relevant that her response was to write to work blog asking for advice. For one, that takes more than a moment, so it was a considered response. And even if she emailed Alison straight away without thinking it through, the fact that she chose AAM, rather than a relationships advice column, suggests that she feels (or felt) that the rejection was incorrect and was looking for advice as to how to approach this with the company that her daughter works for.

              The fact that she didn’t immediately respond to the realisation that her estranged daughter worked at this company with “well of course they’re not going to hire me, that would be a bad idea all round” does seem relevant to the situation.

              Either way, Alison’s advice is spot on. A company which employs the LW’s daughter is extremely unlikely to hire the LW, no matter who is responsible for the estrangement. And pushing the matter is only going to make them more resolute in that decision.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              But that happens a lot. People write in all the time asking not for advice on how to change a situation but to confirm their feeling of “that was weird, right?”

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, I think if it had been an ex the OP might be getting cut more slack. But the “move on” message would remain the same.

              2. LBK*

                I guess my skepticism comes from the fact that the OP has a pretty clear reason that this might have been handled differently than a normal rejection.

      3. ToxicNudibranch*

        It kind of doesn’t matter why the daughter isn’t speaking to her? The daughter has made it clear that she doesn’t want a relationship and even if it sucks for the other party, that needs to be respected.

      4. Holy anonimity batman*

        Thanks for saying that. I’m somewhat estranged from my oldest child as well. She’s a drug addict and criminal and yet tells everyone it’s my fault and she was so neglected and didn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, etc., which is a total pack of lies, but she has to do to gain sympathy. Not saying I was perfect, of course, but did my best. Everyone she forms a relationship has eventually figured out she’s lying so I don’t worry about it too much. But this scenario would never happen because she can’t even hold a job, sadly.

      5. Jojo*

        From what letter writer says, daughter thinks mom is narsistic. Who knows? It might be the other way and the daughter has a mental problem. Without meeting both there is no way to tell so no sense in passing judgement. Mom should get a personnal shrink to deal with it if she can afford it. Must be mentally taxing, either way.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        That must have been a shock. At least now you do know where she works and can target your efforts elsewhere.

      2. BWooster*

        You didn’t know she worked there but you know she’s a receptionist there? How does that work?

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            I don’t think we need to start conspiracy theories. Some people write differently in a letter they prepare well than they do in offhand online comments, perhaps written on a phone. Or maybe someone is impersonating OP2, but that won’t invalidate any good suggestions the commenters here make.

        1. Colette*

          Perhaps she knows her daughter works as a receptionist? But ultimately, it doesn’t matter – there is no value in being antagonistic to people who write in.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            She got the rejection from her, thats how she knew, or at least it was person w same name.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          You see the name and look her up on the company website? This sort of thing isn’t usually very difficult to find out.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            Some companies don’t have employees listed on the company website. My company has over 900 people with offices all over the world; the only people on the website are our senior executives. As support staff, there’s no way I would make that list, but I very well could be the person sending out the rejection letter.

            If the daughter also doesn’t have a LinkedIn (or has blocked the LW on LinkedIn), it’s possible that avenue is closed for double checking.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            It isn’t difficult, but I’m not sure it’s something I would think of to screen for every job I applied to.

            1. Tara*

              I think you read Sarah’s comment differently than she intended. I didn’t read it as her implying that OP should have screened the place to check if her daughter worked there before applying, but rather that this is how OP might know that her daughter is a receptionist without having known that she worked for that company (in response to the other commenter who seemed to be questioning that OP didn’t know the daughter worked at this company but knowing that she was a receptionist there, as if it were impossible to find out after-the-fact)

        3. Anna*

          Because people don’t usually just sign their names to business correspondence but also include their title? Really, people, it’s not that hard.

        4. Kali*

          I gather that she saw the name on the rejection letter and recognised it, releasing at that point that it was from her daughter.

      3. Courtney W*

        Not a great response if you want people to believe that your daughter is the horrible one falsely calling you a narcissist, as you have said in other comments.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          I wouldn’t think that we do need to make any judgements about the OP’s narcissism, though. She’s written in for workplace advice.

          1. Woah*

            When OPs tell people to “shut their mouth” after sending in a letter rife with interpersonal conflict there’s gonna be some blowback.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              The tone of the comments got off to a harsh start, and I can understand the OP being defensive. I don’t think there’s any point in trying to analyze her relationship with her daughter or try and assign blame based on one letter and a couple of short comments. Alison’s advice is sound, per usual.

            2. Cambridge Comma*

              OP didn’t start the harsh comments, though, although I don’t care for her tone either. It’s just that the comment section gets so boring when everyone piles on a single LW and tears them to shreds, it’s a shame that people are joining in even after OP explained that she didn’t know her daughter worked there.

              1. LBK*

                I don’t know that people’s instincts to question the veracity of that statement in a situation like this are wrong – I’ve certainly read plenty of stories from commenters on this post and elsewhere about estranged parents playing innocent as they try to get back into their children’s lives. That being said, obviously we have the commenting rules that say we take LWs at their word, and aside from that it doesn’t change anything materially about the advice – daughter works there, OP conclusively knows that now so she shouldn’t try to work there, end of story.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  This isn’t Captain Awkward and the OP isn’t asking for advice about fixing a relationship with her daughter. I get that the OP’s letter is setting off all kinds of flags, but this is really not the venue to use OP as a proxy for narcissists in our own lives.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I think that it’s easy to slip into that habit with LWs and their experiences–I think that was happening with yesterday’s biter, too.

                3. LBK*

                  @neverjaunty – I agree, but to some extent I think when a letter heavily draws in interpersonal issues, it (rightly or wrongly) is going to draw answers that relate to those issues, particularly given the OP’s follow up comments.

                4. Just Another Techie*

                  @neverjaunty Very good point. I had to cut off a narcissist parent, so my instinct in all situations of alleged narcissism or parental estrangement is to automatically side with the child. But doing so here is against site rules (take the LW at their word and give LWs the benefit of the doubt) as well as unhelpful to answering LW’s question.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Did she? She said above she has no desire to work anywhere near her daughter. So it’s not clear what workplace advice she was seeking.

            1. Cambridge Comma*

              She’s written to a workplace blog so I would assume so. I imagine that parenting/family blogs exist that she could have written to if she wanted advice on the relationship with her daughter.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, but this wouldn’t be the first time someone has written in under the guise of “workplace advice” when the meat of the letter is really asking for validation about something interpersonal.

                1. N.J.*

                  Yeah, but really, if you think about it, most of the questions written to AAM have interpersonal relationship underpinnings and often the letter writers are seeking validation. For example, all the letters about bad bosses (the letter writers want validation that their bosses are bad as much as they want advice on how to handle these bosses), the letters complaining about annoying, weird or hostile coworkers (the letter writers want validation that the behavior of their coworker is inappropriate or annoying or insert adjective as much as advice on how to handle it). It does not automatically make thus letter writer suspect just because she appears to want validation that her daughter’s actions in sending out a rejection letter were somehow wrong. We all want validation for our feelings and actions, even in the workplace context. It’s Alison’s job to sort through the context and cut through the BS to answer the question in a way that honors a letter writer’s feelings but also honors reality, workplace norms and the stated goal of a letter writer’s question. So what if the letter writer wants validation, everything we say and do on here as commenters or writers seems to be validated or provide validation to someone else. The letter writer’s attitude and tone aren’t healthy by far, but she is not suspect or suspicious in her motive to seek validation. She is human.

                2. N.J.*

                  In the last main sentence my comment says seems validation, should say seeks validation. Sorry, I figured that might affect understanding of my reply.

                3. LBK*

                  I mean interpersonal in that there’s a relationship that exists between the involved parties besides being work colleagues.

                  I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with just writing in for validation or for a gut check on a situation, but in this case the question that’s being asked (if it’s normal for a receptionist to send out rejections) seems reeeeeally tangential to the rest of the situation, and I think it naturally raises questions about why you’d be seeking validation here. My gut says it’s to try to get ammo you could use to fight the rejection, and I can’t really come up with another reason in this context, but maybe I’m missing something.

                  All this being said the OP seems to have accepted that she can’t work there and moved on, so there isn’t really much else to be debated.

                4. N.J.*

                  Ahh, I see what you mean. Yes, the pre-established relationship angle can certainly muddy the intent of a writer. But as you said, there’s not much else for the OP to do, so her motivations don’t necessarily affect the outcome of her situation.

              2. Jojo*

                Perhaps she just wanted an anonymous place to vent is this is the only she knows about. Woman is looking for a job and accidentally applies where daughter. She already knows to stay away now because her daughter is there

            2. ToxicNudibranch*

              Right? Given her harsh and confrontational responses, I suspect what she really wanted was to be told her “lowly receptionist” daughter was super out of line in sending a rejection letter and should be punished.

            3. Just Another Techie*

              Projecting heavily, if this were my parent writing in, I’d assume my parent wanted some way to inveigle the company into hiring the parent and firing me.

              1. Jessica*

                Or to inform the daughter that her whereabouts are known and she can’t escape her parent even if she wants to.

                1. Anna*

                  Or to finally get to tell her daughter she’s the spawn of aliens and that’s why she pretended to try to apply for a job.

                  In other words, we don’t have any way to know and the theories are getting a bit outlandish.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        OP 2 – with all due respect, your comments don’t add up. You didn’t know she worked there, and you’d never want to work anywhere near her, so this should be a win for both of you. So what was the advice you were hoping to get?

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          My thoughts exactly. Aside from “How best to celebrate bullets dodged?”, I’m not seeing much need for advice

        2. Woah*

          Yup, this times a million.

          “Oh goodness, I had no idea Hyacinth was working there now. I know she does not want a relationship with me at this point in time and I’d hate for her to think I don’t respect her boundaries, so I am so glad there isn’t an available position. Whew. Maybe I’ll write to AAM about how to deal with working in a small industry with an estranged family member, or how to make sure my professional development isn’t hindered by this relationship.”

        3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          My guess is that the OP thinks that the letter wasn’t a legitimate rejection because it came from someone in a position she wouldn’t normally associate with hiring, and so she’s wondering if she should try and contact someone else to get a fair shot at the job. This is basically irrelevant, though – even if the daughter intercepted the letter before it went where it needed to go, the OP now knows her daughter works for this company and should take that as a clear sign that this is not the place for the OP to try and get a job.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yup. The background machinations and motivations would be the interesting side in a movie script, and make up the bulk of the plot. But in the real life version all that matters is end result–you don’t want to work with each other, and now you won’t be. It’s done.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            That was my take too, and if it’s a really big company with multiple divisions, perhaps she was hoping she’d have a shot and wouldn’t ever have to see her?

        4. Courtney W*

          Yes, this was my other main thought here. I guess I’m not sure what OP could possibly be looking for here. Validation that secretaries don’t usually send rejection letters? Though as we’ve seen in the comments here, while it’s unusual, it does happen.

        5. kittymommy*

          Yeah, I’m n not quite understanding why one would write into a workplace blog about contacting the employer? Why would you want to contact the employer in a situation like this?

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, #2, you need to be polite to people here, even if you disagree with them. I’ve seen a couple of over-the-line comments to you, which I’ve removed, but you need to be courteous when commenting here too.

      6. Bobbin Ufgood*

        @No 2 – using attacking language like “shut your mouth” as you just did lends support to your detractors, unfortunately. I was feeling badly for you until you said that — now I think they may be right.

    3. Liane*

      I am asking you all to *please* stop piling on to this OP!!! She has been (as No 2) reading and responding here.

      Note Well: I was 14 the last time I saw my mother and have only had 2 or 3 phone calls from her in the 4 decades (yes you read that right) since, in which she said nothing except for some obscene suggestions. I don’t want anything to do with her ever-ever-ever.

      So if I can treat this OP kindly–I am sure the rest of you can manage it.

      1. Jesca*

        Yeah. I can’t help but notice that this letter has drawn up some pretty personal feelings in some people. I think it is best to understand that not all situations are the same. I am estranged from my father. He is who he is. But I would never assume that estrangement is so child to parent all time. I have known my share of some pretty rotten kids too.
        With that said, I think because of these personal projections, people are reading way into what is not there. I believe the LW’s intent was emotion, yes. She was writing because, like so many other LW, she had something happen that didn’t seem fair regardless of the circumstances. She felt her daughter bypassed her company’s systems and closed her out. She was mad that she did this, while at the same time recognizing the good of it as well. She was asking if this was right of her daughter, though. And yeah, it is one of those situations you need to let go, but she is no different than any other writer reacting with emotion to something that did not seem fair in the work place/job search department like a hundred other people do. We wouldn’t so heavily project and pile on that, and we should not be doing that here.

        1. LBK*

          I think for the most part people who are reacting strongly are actually people who haven’t been through similar situations, so they haven’t had a lifetime to come to terms with these kinds of relationships and learn coping mechanisms.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Not only that but if someone had the chance to help my mother and instead gave really critical feedback that made her feel attacked, what exactly would they achieve?

  4. Time Bomb of Petulance*

    I can’t help but wonder if LW #2 applied because the daughter worked there and was hoping to try and reconcile with her. But, regardless of if that was the case, I agree with Alison that you should move on.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I don’t think that can be determined. That said, applying at ones place of employment would be perceived as very, very threatening by the person severing ties. It’s absolutely interfering with their ability to earn a living. At the very best it would cause them distraction and stress. OP, you need to walk away.

        1. CityMouse*

          And, to keep this focused on the employment aspect, it could hurt OP professionally if she contacts the company again, especially if they have heard things. This is not one of those “get my side out” things, that is far more likely than not to backfire, possibly spectacularly.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        Is this comment kind? Is it taking the LW at their word?

        The OP has stated that she did not know that her daughter worked their and was surprised to get a rejection letter signed by her, especially as the title listed in the signature isn’t one that you would expect to be sending out rejection letters. Getting a rejection letter is always a bit of a hit, getting one from someone you know personally (no matter the relationship) would be even harder I imagine.

        1. Been there*

          I think the thing everyone is struggling with is what advice is OP2 looking for? I would think most people who got a rejection letter from an estranged family member would be shocked, but then would cross that company off their list and move on, professionally speaking. But what advice is needed here?

          Do I contact someone else in the company and make sure the rejection is real?
          Do I contact my daughter and start a bruhaha that she sent the rejection?
          Do I … I can’t even fill in the rest of this because I can’t fathom what other advice one could possibly want in this situation. Taking the letter at face value, there is nothing to be gained by doing anything besides moving on with the job search. So the whole ‘seeking advice’ thing seems very strange and out of context.

          1. fposte*

            Imagine getting a job rejection from your angry ex, who you didn’t know worked at this company, whose title seems to have nothing to do with hiring, and who tells you that there are no jobs for you at the company ever. Can’t you conceive of wanting to run this by somebody just for a take? It doesn’t have to have a specific question attached beyond “Whoa, this seemed really weird–is it?”

            1. LBK*

              As I said above, I think I can understand feeling like it’s weird, but I think you can also pretty easily deduce why something weird might happen given your relationship to the person in question. It’s not like it’s a mystery why the ex in your example or the OP in this case might get an unusual rejection letter from this company.

            2. Been there*

              Not really. I’m pretty sure I would be in the ‘dodged a bullet’ mindset, especially if it was an estrangement situation. I’m certainly not going to raise fuss, inquire for details, or even question the letter. I’m sure there would be surprise and resentment on my part, but that’s going to be the end of it.

              Here’s the thing, if my hypothetical angry-ex is working for a company, I’m not going to want to be in a professional setting with that person. Nothing good came come of it. Even if I’m not angry at ex or hold any ill will, I know at the minimum they are angry at me. I don’t need angry at me people at work.

              What else could I expect? That angry ex is going to suddenly see the error of their ways and warmly embrace me as professional – Not likely. That angry ex is going to make things easy for me to get a job at their company – Not likely. That if by some magic I get hired that there wouldn’t be drama and tension – Not likely.

              So I think the normal reaction to this scenario would be “huh… well that was unexpected and it sucks, where else should I apply”

              1. Anna*

                How many actual letters does Alison get where she tells the OP that really, they dodged a bullet and they should just move on? Many, many of them, really. This letter is no different and I don’t think it does anyone any good to try to find the REAL motivation and devise conspiracies for why the OP wrote the letter.

                Apparently AAM is another place I need to avoid today.

          2. Liz*

            Exactly, what advice does the OP want? As unfair as it might be, that company will not be hiring the OP. All we can do is say that stinks and move on.

  5. Talia*

    Letters of recommendation are also a thing in some municipal jobs. I think it’s just outdated “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!” there, though. I very much doubt anyone actually pays attention to them. (These are usually the same places wanting me to have “Web 2.0” skills, for reference.)

  6. Janice*

    #2 “but I didn’t realize the receptionist would be the one to write to say there’s no jobs”. That does not sound quite right to me either. Is there any chance that while the receptionist would not be the one to write to say there’s no jobs, the receptionist is the one who opens the incoming correspondence, and, seeing who the application was from, tossed it and sent the rejection letter? Even so, Allison’s advice still stands.

    1. Dot Warner*

      My most charitable read on this is that maybe OP’s daughter used to be the receptionist there and unbeknownst to OP, has since gone back to school and been promoted into an HR role.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Also, OP said that she wrote to ask whether there were any jobs available, not to apply for a specific, advertised vacancy. It could be that the receptionist is responsible for sending out form letters in response to that ind of application.

        And even if OP believes that her daughter saw the letter and responded without authority, Allison’s advice is still good – if OP contacted the company to query the form of the rejection, they are highly unlikely to want to employ someone where they know there is a pre-existing conflict with another staff member, and if they looked into it and found the daughter had intercepted the letter, and disciplined her, that seems likely to make things even worse between OP and her daughter.

        1. Temperance*

          So there are some parents who would WANT their adult child punished for denying the requested contact or action. It’s basically, you wont give me what i want, so here’s a grenade. Not saying LW is one, but that is absolutely something my mother would do and it’s exactly why she doesn’t know where I work.

        2. Oryx*

          No, the OP says she did apply for a job and the reply back said there were no jobs available. I suppose it’s possible the OP sent an unsolicited job application or resume, in a “In case you have anything open” kind of way.

        3. Allison*

          Ah, I thought OP applied for a specific job, and it did seem odd that she was then told there were no open jobs. Not a great way to reject a candidate.

          1. LBK*

            If they’re sending out that response to everyone then sure, that’s kind of weird, but I think this is a unique situation where the subtext is “there are no open positions here *for you*, so don’t apply again”.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s not unheard of for the receptionist to be office manager, and office manager to handle HR. Or for the person who handles incoming mail to send off form “we are not hiring at this time” letters to people who sent unsolicited queries about employment, just as she would handle other questions about the company. (“Do you buy toner?” “Do you sell purple tents?” “Would you like a giraffe?”)

        1. Nonprofit pro*

          I’m going to pretend in my head that your response of “Yep, very much so.” is in reference to wanting a giraffe.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Man, giraffes just have the best eyelashes. There’s something so appealing about the eyelashes specifically.

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        And it’s not unheard of for other support staff (like the receptionist) to cover tasks for an HR Coordinator or HR Assistant while they are out so they don’t come back to a mountain of work to do – especially in the summer when a lot of people take vacations.

      2. Renee*

        I am the office manager where I work. As we are a small company, I manage all administrative functions including fielding inquiries from applicants and answering phones. One of my primary responsibilities is acting as a gatekeeper and ensuring that management is shielded from calls and inquiries that they don’t need to deal with. I can’t count the number of times that a solicitor has objected to being blocked by “just a receptionist,” not realizing that I’m the one that makes the call as to whether something gets to the desks of any of the bosses. Even if I judge that the matter requires the input of management, I’m frequently the intermediary, and I issue responses to inquiries from applicants and solicitors all of the time, even if it’s the boss that made the decision.

        Even under these circumstances, the most likely possibility is that daughter was simply doing her job. If this is a small company, she may be the one who pre-screens all applications and rejects those based on certain criteria, or she may be the one tasked with sending out rejection letters at the instruction of a supervisor. If I asked my boss if we should consider hiring my mother, he would say no, whether or not we were estranged, and I would be the one delivering that answer.

    3. JamieS*

      Assuming OP isn’t mistaken and the daughter is a receptionist my guess is it’s a smaller company without HR and daughter’s boss has tasked her with writing the rejections.

    4. Saviour Self*

      I am an HR Manager. When applications come in, I review each one and move them into folders. One of those folders is “need to send rejection (pre-phone).” My admin has access to that folder and sends out a form email weekly to each of those candidates individually.

      Anyone that makes it to a phone screen or beyond, I send a personal rejection if they aren’t ultimately selected but it is a good way to make sure every applicant is notified despite my hectic schedule and being inundated with applicants of varying degrees of suitability for the job.

      There’s nothing odd to me about a receptionist sending out rejections, especially in smaller firms or in companies with an HR DOO

    5. JC*

      I just hired someone and had my department’s admin assistant send out the rejection emails. She is also the one sending out emails now when stragglers apply that say we’ve already filled the position.

  7. Tau*

    Letters of recommendation can also be a thing in certain countries. I got OldJob to write me one because I was/am moving back to Germany and had been told by a few people that it’d look very, very bad if I didn’t have one for this job in future applications. (As in, “no letter of reference – applicant may be lying about ever having worked there” bad.) So that’s worth keeping in mind if you think you might want to apply for jobs in another country one day.

    1. Tau*

      Oh yeah, #5 – I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s advice, but I wish you a speedy recovery and an easy, stress-free transition back into your job!

    2. Julianne*

      This is a good point! Perhaps not applicable in this particular situation, but something to keep in mind when letters of recommendation come up in an employment context on this site (or elsewhere).

  8. Bea*

    #2 Receptionists can have a lot of pull, you’d do well understanding that going forward so that you don’t write someone off due to job description.

    However, it’s bizarre that the letter came from her directly, usually hiring managers send those out and what jumps out here is that she signed it herself O.o

    If this is not the only company in town, you’re better off leaving it alone, she for whatever reason has cut ties and its’ best to respect her space for your own health. My dad was disowned by his oldest daughter and I won’t jump on you like you did something wrong here. Just respect her decision and give her the space she’s demanded from you.

    1. Janice*

      “However, it’s bizarre that the letter came from her directly, usually hiring managers send those out and what jumps out here is that she signed it herself O.o”

      Thank you Bea, that was what I meant to point out.

      1. BMO*

        Agreed. To each their own, but if I’m estranged with someone I’m not going to be contacting them in any way, shape, or form.

        Also, maybe I’m reading it wrong but LW#2 applied to an existing job only for the daughter to tell her there were no available positions? Versus that the position had been filled?

        1. Courtney W*

          It seems pretty obvious why her daughter would want, or at least be willing, to write the letter herself – if the letter came from HR, OP may continue applying for jobs there. This is likely her daughter’s way of saying “Hey, this is where I work. Don’t apply for any more jobs here.”

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, that sounds likely to me. Maybe the daughter was the first person to see the application and didn’t want to get into the whole story at her job, so sent the letter back herself.

            But seriously, as others have said, neither wants to work with the other, so bullet dodged, all’s well that ends well, and best of luck to No 2 in finding a new job.

          2. LBK*

            Yep, that was my read on it. An indirect way of saying “this is my employer, don’t apply here again”.

    2. DecorativeCacti*

      Could it be that the “receptionist” is actually an office manager? Some office managers are actually reception/executive assistant/accounting/HR. If they’re estranged, the parent might not know the full range of the daughter’s duties.

      1. CityMouse*

        I will say that in my org, the person who handles sending the official hiring letters and similar might appear to be a receptionist when you come in to interview based in where her desk is. She is not HR but is an organizing wizard.

      2. Bea*

        If she’s actually the Office Manager and the OP is using “Receptionist” to downplay her title a huge rage bubble is building in my chest. I am an Office Manager and being called a Secretary by dimwits who don’t know better is blood boiling.

        I forgot all about that phenomenon since I work for a company who is respectful and never degrades me like that anymore. Ick!

        1. SLR*

          Yes this was my thinking as well. I am also an office manager and when people call me receptionist or secretary it really gets under my skin. Mostly it’s the tone they use, very condescending as though I can literally only answer a phone and look nice at a desk. My own mother uses those words in that way to demean my profession. I’m lucky like you in that I work for an awesome group who tends to call me their Office Manager or Exec Assistant. It is such a nicer environment than similar positions at previous companies.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Thanks worked at a place where the HR department had an admin and she sent everything out on behalf of the HR department, mostly because she also did all their scheduling.

    4. MuseumChick*

      “Receptionists can have a lot of pull, you’d do well understanding that going forward so that you don’t write someone off due to job description.”

      100% this! Receptionists, secretaries, executive assistants, etc are the “gatekeepers” and when companies have good ones they are highly, highly valued. My dad always told me that when he was hiring if the secretary didn’t like the person they were dropped from the candidate pool. If he saw anyone being rude to them, they were not getting hired, if it was someone who already worked there it would severally damage their reputation and they mostly likely would never be promoted.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      The phrasing (no jobs open at this time) suggests it was a response to an unsolicited general application, not to something submitted for a specific job listing with any one manager. Whoever handles mail might handle those.

  9. Elise*

    #5: Some of my managers would write a nice thank you note and give a gift card (usually Starbucks or American Express/Visa) for exceptional work, and I really appreciated both. I’ve kept the thank you notes, even since moving on from the job, and the gift cards were a really nice touch (even if you can’t give bonuses, a little extra cash in the form of a gift card can go a long way – l think doubly so if these may be more junior employees!).

    1. Al Lo*

      Agreed. I always appreciate a Starbucks or Amazon or restaurant card. Those tend to be the most common thank-you gifts I’ve gotten.

      I have one co-worker who usually gets everyone in our small office a coffee gift card for Christmas, and while everyone else gets Timmy’s, he knows I drink Starbucks more, so I always get a Starbucks card. He’s not my favorite co-worker, but it stands out when he notices that detail and goes out of his way to give that to me. If you know something specific — within the same price point — for different people, that also goes with the personalization of a card.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’d love an Amazon voucher. And some extra days of leave if you have the power to do that?

      1. Willowbough*

        The OP said that they already have “more vacation days than we know what to do with”.

    3. Jill of All Trades*

      The gift thing is especially good if you get something thoughtful you know they like. I recently was appreciated at work and instead of a gift card, they gave me two boxes of tea and shortbread cookies because they know I really enjoy both tea and sweets. They also managed to avoid getting me the tea I’m allergic to.

      It wasn’t an expensive gift, but the thought put into it was especially wonderful and made me feel like they genuinely appreciated the work I did.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 This isn’t the easiest comment for me to write. I’m estranged from my parents and have changed my surname. But I’d like to try to offer some advice and to do so kindly.

    It sounds like your daughter wanted the letter to send a message. When you applied for this job, it probably seemed like one of several things was happening: it might have seemed that you were applying to try to make contact with her again, or it might have seemed to her that you were trying to somehow hurt her, or it might have seemed that you were oblivious to the fact this would affect her. I am repeating ‘seemed to her’ as I want it to be clear that I don’t know – none of us can – and also that I’m not making assumptions about why you did it.

    You don’t mention whether you applied because she works there or didn’t know that, or how you expected her to react. If you’d like some support, I suggest checking out Joshua Coleman’s website and the charity Stand Alone (UK based but operates internationally) who both provide level-headed advice for parents estranged from their children.

      1. PaperTowel*

        Stand Alone are amazing. I am was lucky enough to live near and attend a therapeutic support group for estranged family members which was enormously helpful. They do good work.

    1. dcgal20036*

      This is wonderful advice for any parent in this situation. As a daughter facing a similar issue as yours, thank you for providing such constructive and well worded advice!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        It’s the advice I would want my mother to get if she was the letter writer, basically.

        1. BookishMiss*

          This is a really kind and helpful reply. I’m in a somewhat similar situation, and really appreciate that you took the time to be empathetic.

        2. General Ginger*

          Ramona, thank you. I’m an adult child in a similar situation; I wish someone would point my parent(s) to these resources, but even as is, it’s really good to see that they exist.

    2. AlsoEstranged*

      +1 on this. As we can see from other comments, this is a loaded topic for AAM readers who are adult children of narcissistic parents, so I appreciate you putting it so kindly but firmly.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a very kind and helpful comment.

      I suspect that the letter was signed by the daughter, regardless of her position, to send an explicit message to LW#2 that further attempts to apply at the company were unwelcome.

  11. Nathaniel*

    Honestly, I was wondering for a moment if I was the letter writer in #3… I recently emailed a company that ghosted on me to tell them I thought it was unprofessional and was a poor business practice. I wouldn’t call it a rambling diatribe, however…

      1. Tau*

        Agreed, that seems like it has very little chance of producing the change you want and a high chance of harming your reputation or otherwise backfiring. Maybe take Alison’s letter as a wake-up call? There are some letters here you really don’t want to see yourself in, and IMO this is one of them.

        1. Lance*

          Indeed; at that point, it’s best to just move on, leave it as a poor experience, and not apply to that company again. There’s nothing to actually be gained from telling them what they (apparently) did wrong.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Right. You can take a private note to not apply to this manager/division/company again. But getting a letter from someone whom they don’t want to hire telling them how to run their business to be more attractive to him is almost never going to land the way you are envisioning it in your head.

          If they later come to really regret not hiring you it will be because you were hired elsewhere and did fabulously and when they try to recruit you, you calmly explain that your application process in the past makes you hesitant to consider their offer in the present. That’s really the only scenario in which they are humbled by their poor treatment of you.

        3. Artemesia*

          And you can count on this sort of thing being passed around. It always makes you look bad no matter how ‘right’ you may be. And it guarantees you the ‘never hire’ list.

    1. CityMouse*

      I know it might feel emotionally satisfying but it is bad professionally. I would suggest writing it up in word and then just deleting it in the future. You can tell yourself you will never apply there again, but especially in a small industry, rep matters and letters like that could potentially hurt your rep.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Oh wow. I’d consider that I’ll advised and, honestly, pointless, no matter how satisfying it might have felt. You end up looking unprofessional and it isn’t like they are going to read what you wrote and think, “they’re right! We should do X, Y, and Z…thanks rejected job candidate (since only rejected candidates are ghosted on)”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Or “you’re right! We change our mind and want you to be our new vp!”

    3. frank schmank*

      Probably not a good idea.
      Depending on the situation, it may be justified, but it’s not going to achieve anything.
      E.g. I got an interview at some company, but it would have been impossible for me to make it. They wanted me there at 3:30, but I told them I wouldn’t be able to leave work until 4, and then it would take me at least an hour to get there. So they said “How about 4:00”. I repeated I will only leave work at 4, and they said OK and hung up. So obviously I didn’t go to the interview. The following day I got an email from them telling how unprofessional it is to not show up for interview, and I replied by telling how unprofessional it is to expect me to travel 50km in zero minutes. I didn’t expect an apology and I didn’t get one.

      1. Allergist*

        Even on this example I would say no. Your phrasing could be easily be interpreted as agreeing to a 4pm interview.

        1. Anna*

          I’m not sure how someone would understand “I can’t leave work until four and it will take me an hour to get there” as “I can be there at four.” It’s not phrasing on frank’s end; it’s misunderstanding on the other end.

          There have been plenty of times where my emotional need to get it out comes into conflict with my need to be professional. It’s a difficult line to walk, especially when you’ve been walking it a while or you’ve had several run ins over a few days. I got really shirty with a guy not too long ago after I’d had a few run ins with different men who all seemed to want to tell me off in a very specific way. He and I worked it out, and I still feel okay about telling him off, but it wasn’t my finest moment.

          1. Fictional Butt*

            Usually when you’re making plans with someone, you tell them when you are available, not what your own scheduling logistics are prior to the meeting. So I can understand why the scheduler might have thought Frank was saying he was available at 4. Also, in my mind, Frank forfeited the interview–he knew that he couldn’t make the interview, the company clearly did not understand that, and he chose to not address it and just not show up. I might have done the same, but sending a rude email afterwards implying the blame is 100% on the company is weird and unprofessional imo. If he cared enough to send an email then, why didn’t he care enough to try to fix the scheduling error? It seems like he’s trying to blame the company for the decision he made.

            1. Fictional Butt*

              …Or maybe I misread and Frank didn’t think the interview had been scheduled at all.

              1. nonymous*

                this is why I try to close convos about logistics with an action item. It can be as simple as “Look forward to seeing you at tomorrow at 5P! Let me know if this needs to change for any reason.”

                “OK ” doesn’t cut it.

      2. frank schmank*

        Just to be clear: I was right, they were unprofessional, but my email achieved nothing.

        I explicitly told them I would not be able to make it. I couldn’t make it, and they just said OK. And that was the end of the conversation. What I took from that was they weren’t willing to even consider any other time, and therefore there would be no interview. If they thought “I won’t be able to make it” meant “Sure, I’ll be there”, then that’s their problem.

        They sent me a rude email, telling me how unprofessional I was. It pissed me off, so I replied. And I still say I was right, but replying to their email was pointless. Subsequent experience has taught me that some battles are not worth fighting. I should have just ignored it.

    4. Observer*

      You have my sympathies. But, it was a bad idea. Not as bad as a rambling diatribe, but still it does your reputation no good.

      It’s not fair, but do you want to be right or effective?

      1. Anna*

        Sometimes I just want to be right. And that’s okay, too, as long as it’s not something I need all the time.

    5. Allison*

      Oh dear. I was tempted to do this a couple times in my last job search. One guy ghosted in the middle of scheduling an in-person meeting, one woman went dark on me after what seemed like a really great interview; both were sucky and it was hard to hold my tongue. Ghosting is a crappy practice, but there’s really nothing a jilted candidate can say to make ghosters stop doing it, all you’re doing is introducing more negativity into the situation.

    6. Iris Eyes*

      It might be helpful to remember that you don’t have any idea what is going on on their side of the equation, and therefor that it isn’t necessarily about you, so don’t take it personally (as difficult as that can be.)

      1. Nathaniel*

        All great replies and I agree. In retrospect, given tone and context, I am sure I was not the one being referenced in the letter. Still, I appreciate the personalized replies to my comment.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. The likely background reasons are either:
        a) Some sort of extra chaos (like someone had a heart attack) has descended upon the office
        b) This sort of treatment is exemplary of what it would be like to work there

      3. Fictional Butt*

        Whenever I am tempted to write an angry email, I imagine how unimpressed I would be if, say, I came back from emergency medical leave to find a rude email complaining that I hadn’t been in contact. Of course I don’t think emergencies like that are a very common cause of ghosting, but for me at least, sending that email in that situation is enough of a faux pas that I would never want to risk it.

        1. Nathaniel*

          Also a good point. In my specific case I was lucky to achieve some degree of catharsis, as HR wrote back to say “thanks and apologies, xx and yy happened” and my response was “thanks as well for getting back to me, wishing you the best”. But, justify it as I may, I see the true professional response is to let it be and take the high road.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The reason the guy dealing with my vanishing health insurance stopped returning my calls was that he had a heart attack and had been in the hospital for the past week. So I was glad my righteous physical descent on the offices, baby in tow, opened politely.

          For another health insurance one, the phone number of the woman failing to take my calls about a billing problem was actually answered! By what I strongly suspect was a person or group brought in to deal with her never returning calls. Fortunately I was able to recover from my bewilderment at actually contacting someone, calmly state that my insurance was X until June 30th and Y after July 1st and this was the cause of the discrepancy, and they promptly resolved it. Launching into a tirade about the terrible service would not have helped.

      4. Anna*

        I think we need to be careful with “don’t take it personally.” It loses its effectiveness if it’s always the same reply. It’s a cliché and similar to good things come to those who wait. Yeah, but good things also come to those who step up and take some damn initiative and sometimes it is personal and I don’t have to turn my cheek every time.

        You should definitely not fight every battle, but it’s okay to fight some.

    7. OP3*

      Yes I would absolutely avoid that. I do respond to applicants emails asking for feedback. Those are pretty rare (in my experience) and I have no trouble letting them know areas they could improve in order to be considered for a next round. In my personal case- I am a hiring manager for a large department – so this person wont be moving forward… ever, unfortunately. I would try my best to avoid leaving a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. Keep in mind that there could be a lot of competition, so I would instead focus on how to stand out better. You also never know what is going on in the department or in that person’s personal life- so best not to take it personally, it never is.

    8. MassMatt*

      Not piling on, I understand the need to vent frustration. By all means write a reply telling them off, be as scathing as you like, make it an angry diatribe! But DON’T send it. It will most likely only hurt you.

      I’ve done this several times, once I’ve written it out (I like to scrawl it out on paper) I’m much more ready to move on.

      In a similar vein, if an issue is emotionally fraught, if composing an email I will leave the address blank until I have reviewed it and am sure my tone is ok and it’s ready to send. Some people write in word and then paste for similar reasons. How many times do you wish you could recall an email?

      1. Nathaniel*

        We need an angry email club where we all send each other communications destined to be misunderstood but yearning to be read.

  12. Jeanne*

    For #5, don’t just praise your hard workers. Make sure to praise them in writing (email, memo, whatever) at least one level higher in the management chain higher than their direct manager. It can mean a lot to them (in my experience) and may have more effect when raises or promotions are available.

    1. FD*

      Definitely! I like to keep a reference book of great compliments I’ve gotten–it helps when I’m looking to get raises, but it also makes me feel better when I’m having a tough time.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yeah – it’s a great bulwark against impostor syndrome.

        It can also be really helpful if you have to do written self-evaluations! Since I started keeping a kudos folder, mine have been full of quotes. It makes writing my self-eval a lot easier, and I figure that praise from managers and clients outweighs me just saying that I did a good job.

        1. Chloe Silverado*

          It’s also a great tool when preparing for future job interviews. I’ve had a number of interviewers ask me how my colleagues or managers would describe me, or what my greatest achievement was in Role X. Having written records allows me to see what others perceived as my most positive traits and biggest accomplishments which makes interview prep a little easier!

      2. Blue Anne*

        Yes! I have an email folder called “Thank You” where I save emails where people are thanking me or praising my work. It’s nice to just scroll through it sometimes.

  13. Aloot*

    #1: Just because you’re saying something that you know people won’t like doesn’t make you a bad guy. The excessive chatting is impacting their work in a negative way, and it’s impacting YOUR work negatively.

    It’s also entirely possible that they can keep chatting a lot (not as much as they currently do, but not being stifled by any stretch either) while upping their quality of work. It’s possible that they don’t really know, which is why it’s so important that you bring it up with them.

    1. Fictional Butt*

      I think it’s important, also, that you go in not with the attitude of “uh oh I’m being the bad guy” but with an attitude of “I am helping everyone succeed in their job.” This is something I really notice in bosses–I can always tell when they think they’re being the “bad guy”, and it makes me think whatever they’re saying is unimportant or irrelevant, or just a stupid policy that they don’t agree with, otherwise why would they feel bad about bringing it up? But if a boss gives me genuine, specific feedback on how my work is and how to do my job better, I really appreciate it.

    2. Chinook*

      #1, just make sure that you still allow them to use this feature to be able to interact with coworkers who aren’t in the office (you mentioned international colleagues) and understand that, sometimes, minor chitchat is required as a social lubricant when dealing with someone you don’t see. Basically, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and ban the use of Skype completely (which may not be your first thought but I have seen some mangers manage by removing the source of the problem completely without thinking of any negative impacts).

      Example, I deal with a lot of colleagues in BC. If you were to hear me on the phone with them when they call, our first 5 minutes is about the weather or what is going on in their area (unless they signal it is urgent). Then they make their request and we chat some more while I find what they need and send it on their way. It is a cultural thing around here and the few times I have worked in an office where there was no chitchat before the request made me feel so rude to the other person until I realized that wasn’t how they did it. But it is so discombobulating to those of us who do the social lubricant chitchat that, when I trained the person to replace me in Ottawa (she was rural but from the opposite end of the country than me), she hung up her phone the first time and just stared at it like she did something wrong. It wasn’t until I asked/explained about the culture shock of the different communication styles that she realized that it was normal and acceptable for a conversation to take under 2 minutes.

      The flipside is that those who work with social chitchat also need to know/understand/appreciate that we can’t do that all day and expect work to happen (which is what sounds like it is happening in your office). We need to actually do the work while chatting or risk losing our jobs.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I’m actually a bit curious whether the LW knows for sure that they’re just social-chatting rather than talking about work stuff. It could also (or additionally) be that they’re chatting a lot because a bunch of work problems are cropping up and the chat is a result of the lost productivity, not a cause.

  14. SL #2*

    OP #5: Alison’s advice is well and good, but make sure that you praise the two staff members in writing. Ideally, an email to each of them, with their manager copied (assuming it isn’t you!). This is the type of stuff that really helps someone, just as much as a note in their annual review does, sometimes even more because a thank-you note would come presumably before review time. A gift card is also a nice touch. Not required and if you don’t have the financial means, don’t sweat it, but a small amount is usually appreciated in the short-term even more than a heartfelt thank you.

    1. Yorick*

      I agree with this. If getting a gift card, a Starbucks (or another coffee place) card is nice if you are low on cash. You can give a $5 card and it will cover someone’s Starbucks trip.

    2. teclatrans*

      OK responded that they *are* the manager, but that’s doesn’t rule out or limit the effectiveness of a letter. This situation calls for a written recognition sent up the chain and placed in the employees’ HR file.

  15. Rebecca*

    #1 – Our Skype at work keeps a record of conversations. And I think people don’t realize just how much time they spend doing this, looking at their phones, etc. Perhaps if they are missing deadlines, you could pull the chat logs from that time frame, and have a frank conversation along the lines of “we missed the deadline for Project X on Thursday afternoon, and we moved it to Friday, but you, Fergus, and Jane spent 3 hours that day chatting on Skype when this time was needed to complete the work at hand”. That’s not being the bad guy. That’s asking your employees to do the work they are being paid to do. If there was time left over after the project was done, that’s cool, Skype away.

    1. Chinook*

      I like the idea of pulling up the records. Not only is it hard to argue against hard facts, but it also shows you that the chats were not work related (because maybe they spent 3 hours hammering out details that nobody would agree on?).

    2. Janine Willcall*

      I wouldn’t do this unless it continues to be a problem. While most employees understand that their computer activity is logged at work, they’ll probably still feel really defensive if you pull up/read their conversations (I know I would, despite logically knowing it’s a possibility).

      1. AllTheFiles*

        Yes, don’t pull the logs unless you’re ready to have a serious conversation. Even if they know they’re chatting too much, having a manager come to you with copies of all your conversations still comes across as 1) Creepy 2) Like manager also doesn’t use their time effectively.

  16. Brandy*

    #1… If my boss sees us up chatting too much we are told we need to sit down and get to work. Politly, but we’re not there to socialize but to work. I feel this is the same, just thru the computer not in person

  17. Oryx*

    There are a lot of responses to #2 saying it seems off that the receptionist sent the rejection, but I personally have gotten rejections sent from the hiring manager’s administrative assistant before so it’s not unheard of for someone like a admin assistant or receptionist to send those out.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      Yup. Admins, receptionists, HR, and department heads themselves–I think I once got rejected by the document aggregator Interfolio–nothing surprises me these days, apart from the rare, but very kind, personalization that sometimes occurs when I know the department already and they want to let me down easy.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Yep. Some HR departments have admins that send out all correspondence under their name, especially in the early phases and for rejections. In fact, for my current job all the correspondence was by the hiring manager’s admin. Only the offer letter itself had the hiring manager’s signature and it was attached to an email from the admin. The body of the email stated all the logistics of my first day and had the admin’s signature

    3. Antilles*

      I was thinking the same thing reading through comments. Plenty of people seem hung up on the job title, but I don’t see how it matters. The relevant information here is this: “A representative of the company sent you a formal letter of rejection.” Regardless of who wrote it, it’s still a written letter of rejection, so the advice of “move on and look elsewhere” is equally true no matter who sent it.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, and it doesn’t really matter – the OP says she wouldn’t have applied if she knew her daughter worked there, so if that’s true, it’s irrelevant whether this is a “legitimate” rejection or not. She knows her daughter works there now, so it’s time to move on.

        1. fposte*

          Right. Scenario 1: the daughter had authority to reject the OP, and the OP is rejected from a job she now knows she wouldn’t want anyway. Scenario 2: the daughter didn’t have the authority to reject the OP, but the OP now knows she wouldn’t want the job anyway. Either way, the outcome is the OP knows she doesn’t want this job, so I’d say it’s time to move on.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Scenario 3: Daughter works for the person who has the authority to reject the OP and handles all their correspondence. She was instructed to write a rejection letter to a job candidate who happened to be the estranged parent

          2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Yes, this is exactly my thought. I can understand the OP feeling that scenario two (if true) is unjust, but the important thing to remember is that she doesn’t want the job either way. And even if she was willing to work with her daughter and had some way of knowing that scenario two happened, there’s almost certainly nothing she could do that wouldn’t hurt her professional reputation or result in her getting a job.

    4. Rebecca*

      Exactly. My ex manager rarely called or emailed anyone after interviewing for a position. She’d just choose someone and move on. This came to light when people kept following up on the status of their interview. They’d call the main phone#, the receptionist at the time would transfer them to ex manager, and if she didn’t answer the phone, one of us would get the call and have to pass on the news. We had a clerical person but no “admin” so the clerical person took it upon herself to reach out. Ex manager felt that it didn’t matter, they’d figure it out in time that they weren’t hired. That was pretty crappy, IMO.

    5. Allison*

      Yup, and as I said downthread, it’s not unusual for general administrative staff to handle some HR tasks, if the HR team is small or nonexistent. In addition to rejection emails, sometimes admins handle payroll and interview scheduling.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – ignoring your daughter’s wishes to not see you is not going to make the relationship better. It really doesn’t matter who sent the letter – even if she hadn’t, she could have told someone that she didn’t feel comfortable with you working there.

    You need to find a job somewhere else and deal with that relationship (or lack thereof) separately.

  19. Carol Drury*

    #4: Two reasons to ask for a written reference when leaving a job: I’ve run across a few job openings where a letter of rec was required upon application and I would have applied if I already had one (and will not bother my references to write one just for an application), and #2– references die! Once they are gone and you have no letter–that’s it-no references ever again! (No, I would not hound someone for it or tell them you need it in case they die- that would be rude!)

    1. Green*

      But for #4 — I actually have not run into any legal jobs requiring written letters of reference except for fellowships or jobs at law schools.

  20. CityMouse*

    For OP5, I would echo putting personal commendations in their files. I also thing maybe a one on one coffee with each (depending on the number of people) expressing gratitude might come across well. People remember in person stuff. Gift cards, unfortunately, can go unspent and a more in time gesture.mihht be not effective? It depends on office culture though.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – I would absolutely tell her. If someone listed me as a reference and was acting that way, I would very much want to know. I’d either have a word with the candidate myself or ask to stop being a reference.

    1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      Especially if she might not even know she’s a reference! I’ve had people put my name in a referral box because they knew I happened to work at the place they were applying to. I’m extremely selective on who I refer, so having my name and reputation linked to people I have never worked with or met or hands-down do not recommend irks me to no end.

      1. Kate*

        +1 – This was exactly the scenario I had in my head reading this letter. Yes, OP, please tell her. If the reference doesn’t know she’s listed, she would want to know. And if she does know she’s listed, she would want to know he’s behaving badly.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. Sounds like Mr. Reject has just the sort of messed-up boundaries where he would put her down without telling her.

        1. Sas*

          I disagree as using references that aren’t real is its own problem. But to the other topic, I would not suggest Op tells the person. You didn’t use the person as a reference, you didn’t hire the person, won’t, .. Is that enough for you? How much do you need?

    2. OP3*

      Thank you- I agree, I think I was worrying I would overstep, but I think I would want to know too. Part of me is worried that this candidate will think I am voiding any potential for him at this company by “gossiping”- and especially if his reference calls him back and says “the hiring manager told me you were a dick, take me off your applications” or what not- he will absolutely know it was me that complained about him (rightfully so even still- awkward.) So maybe the whole “let security know too” advice above was right for this instance anyway.

  22. CityMouse*

    Letter 1 is so tricky because a chat can be a super useful collaboration tool. So banning it may not be a good idea but going in and reading their messages feels invasive.

    I actually think I would avoid blaming the chat wholesale. I would focus on the problems with work primarily and how to improve them and then bring up the chat as a potential problem source. But keeping it focused on the work quality itself seems more important to me. It feels more professional and less micromanaging.

    1. Lance*

      I don’t think I’d ‘blame’ the chat, as such, but I think it’s a factor that should still be brought up to the offending employees as the factor that seems to be delaying their work; pointing it out in some form can potentially be helpful for making them realize that. But otherwise, yes, I’d keep the prime focus on the work quality/deadlines.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I think this is more a situation of staff spending too much time doing X when they should be doing Y leading to mistakes and missed deadlines. X could be chat, email, talking on the phone, chatting in person, doing interpretive dance, whatever.

      1. Lora*

        Very true. Had a department manager at ExJob who came in late, left early, took 2 hour lunches and spent at least three hours of any given day organizing soccer teams, ordering tee shirts for said soccer team, gossiping with co-workers, and sitting in meetings telling her boss that she just couldn’t seem to get ahead of the backlog, we should hire more people, she needs another temp to help her. As soon as she quit, productivity went way up because they put someone in the position who actually worked an 8 hour day.

  23. cornflower blue*

    LW #4, are you certain that your manager is even still there? Unannounced widespread layoffs do tend to happen in stages, and if the company is in a state of panic and disorganization, IT might not have gotten around to properly closing or forwarding e-mail accounts. It may be worth double-checking her current employment status through other means, as long as you aren’t pushy about it.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      I was thinking along the same lines as cornflower blue. If the e-mails didn’t generate a response, it doesn’t seem to be the best course of action to just send another one. How about figuring out another way to contact your ex-manager and try that.

        1. I'd Rather not Say*

          Those are good points. My initial reaction was that if these are massive layoffs, the manager might just be so swamped and not able to respond promptly. It sounds like things might be pretty bad at old job. I realize that letter writer is anxious to get a job, but manager might be equally anxious and overwhelmed due to reduced staff, or worried about being part of future layoffs. 3 emails in 2 weeks, would feel pushy to me, especially if I was already overwhelmed trying to keep things going at my own job. I also wondered about the tone of the requests – are they sympathetic at all (hope you’re doing ok, etc. vs hey, what about my recommendation?) One final thought, it almost seems like a generic recommendation would be harder to write than a specific one, and that might be coming into play in the form of procrastination or avoidance. Good luck with your job search, in any case.

    2. Brett*

      I was thinking the same thing. If OP is contacting former manager’s work email, former manager might no longer be there and those emails are getting forwarded to someone else.
      I would actually go connect to them on LinkedIn and send a message there.

    3. Green Goose*

      I hope that is the case! The OP should check. I had a similar weird experience where an old boss agreed enthusiastically to be one of my references for graduate school and we had a few emails back and forth about it, and then at the last minute he ghosted me. It was upsetting, frustrating and confusing – he still works at the same company and I still to this day don’t know why he did that.

  24. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #5 – definitely write something official for their file

    And if you can’t provide a financial bonus, try to offer some other kind of perk. Take them out for lunch or give them a gift card or something.

    It’s nice to be thanked and acknowledged for going above and beyond, but it’s also nice to have something tangible.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Or letting them leave work a few hours early on a Friday (if that’s possible).

  25. hbc*

    OP2: Like someone mentioned up thread, I’m a little confused about why you wanted advice. If you don’t want a job there now that you know your daughter is an employee, your need to take action is done.

    The only thing I can think of is that you believe there’s something shady/non-ideal going on that may or may not need to be reported. Like, you think your daughter intercepted your application and lied about jobs being open. Or you want to let them know they should take the job posting down so no one else wastes time on applying for a job that doesn’t exist.

    Whatever it is, leave it be. Even if your daughter is grossly overstepping, the harm done to anyone in this case is zero since you wouldn’t have taken the job anyway. If it’s a pattern, let someone neutral report it. Any further action will make it look like you’re ignoring your daughter’s wishes and trying to reengage.

  26. Ginger*

    OP# 5, you are so nice to want to do something for the coworkers that stepped up while you were out. I’m still somewhat bitter about a coworker who several years ago had a similar experience to yours. She was going to be out for a week for minor surgery and ended up being out two months. She’s the only person who does her job (Payroll) at my company, and I’m the only one who had any backup training so I had to do her job in addition to my own for two months. It was incredibly stressful but I got through it.

    Not only did I not receive a thank you, she nitpicked and complained about every single “mistake” she could find. Mistake is in quotation marks because they weren’t mistakes, I just did a few things differently than she did with the same or even better results. I finally went to our mutual boss and said if she comes to me with one more negative comment or complaint, my response was going to be considerably less than professional!

    1. OP5*

      I’m just so thankful that I haven’t had to worry about anything while I’ve been gone and even more thrilled to see one of these folks in particular step up in a way that validates the increased responsibility I’d just given him before all this started. Our next level supervisor had been leery of that decision, but he’s been truly impressed.

      This guy has really put in a lot of work on so many facets of professional development over the past couple of years and I want him to know that it’s been noticed at all levels and that it’s been appreciated.

      1. nhb*

        If I was one of the workers you’re looking to show appreciation for, something like what you wrote here would be fantastic. That the work is noted, appreciated, and is being noticed up the chain of command, so to speak. Also, that the work was impressive, and especially let them know that what they did allowed you to not worry about anything while you were out. That last part is incredibly meaningful to people who care about their coworkers/supervisors.

  27. Allison*

    #2 While rejections are often sent out by someone who works specifically in an HR or talent acquisition capacity, smaller companies often have more general administrative staff handle HR tasks like rejection emails, so maybe she didn’t go out of her way to reject you specifically. Or maybe she did, and maybe she shouldn’t have sent that email. Maybe a better response could have been someone else letting you know that your estranged daughter works for the company and they would rather not have the two of you working there together, but worried that such honesty might put them in a sticky legal or PR situation they’d rather not handle.

    Regardless of how that should have been handled, it’s clear your daughter doesn’t want you there, company doesn’t want the drama that you could bring to the office, and you don’t want to work there now that you know she works there. You can’t avoid the receptionist, after all. It’s possible to contact the company to complain about who rejected you and how, but no good would come of that – you’re still not getting hired there, all it might do is get her in trouble. It might be satisfying, but is that really the right thing to do? The answer here is to say (to yourself) “yikes, that was awkward” and move on.

  28. Observer*

    #3 Please DO tell the reference. This person is harming her reputation by recommending this candidate. And, if the candidate is as unhinged as you say, then worrying about blackballing him should not be a concern to you – it’s not just that this person should not be working in your department.

  29. Malibu Stacey*

    #2 I’ve been an admin a long time. I agree with the others who said in some orgs it would not be unheard of to get a rejection letter from the receptionist. Many receptionists are de facto office managers in smaller orgs or smaller brances of large orgs. I work in a company that has branch offices all over the US – some offices have hundreds of people, some have less than 5. In those smaller offices, the admin is the receptionist, office manager, IT person, bookkeeper, maintenance, and event planner.

    In my professional opinion, it *would* be unusual for a receptionist to have that be her official title that she would sign a letter with, as I mentioned above even if her job duties are 100% reception. 2017 parlance usually officially classifies the position as some form of assistant. So I am surprised that the LW knows she’s a receptionist when she didn’t know that she worked there.

    Regardless, taking the LW at her word that her daughter caused the estrangement and she would never have applied if she knew her daughter worked there, I wonder if the LW wasn’t hoping Alison would confirm her suspicion that her daughter rejected her without authorization.

    Maybe the rejection is legitimate, maybe it’s not. If it’s not, I don’t see where the LW has anything to gain by contacting the daughter’s employer. Even if they took you seriously and disciplined or fired your daughter for it the inevitable fall-out would be 1) they’re going to be glad they didn’t hire you 2) your daughter, if she is unreasonable as you say, could very retaliate and make everything worse. I don’t see how you have anything to gain by doing anything but letting this go.

  30. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    For #1 – I strongly suggesting focusing mainly on the work mistakes rather than the chatting. Sure, mention it as a possible cause for distration that might be contributing to these mistakes, but people have different work styles, and the chatting might not be responsible for these mistakes at all.

    Nothing drives me crazier than when a manager makes rules/policies (or just stongly held assumptions) based on their personal preferences or work styles. Not saying this is the case here! I just strongly encourage all managers to really examine their motives/conslusions when making assumptions on cause (rather than focusing on results).

    Also a note – I literally have Skype open all day, everyday, with a group chat with three colleagues. Just b/c the chat is open doesn’t mean we are actually exchanging messages that whole time. However if you looked at the time stamps you might wonder how I’m getting any work done at all. In my case, there is a business purpose – I work with three others and our responsibilities include phone coverage. We sit in different buildings so we use the group chat to alert each other to when we are away from our desk. Sure we through the occasional chatty messages in there too, but this group chat has no effect whatsoever on any of the mistakes I’ve made.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Yeah, banning IM would be a great way to bring all work to a screeching halt at my workplace. I’m not really a great fan of the alternatives: people barging into each other’s cubicles for loud impromptu meetings, discussing work issues over the phone (which some of my ex-coworkers loved to have on speaker), endless email chains. The first two interfere with what everyone else in the office is doing, the last is inefficient. Maybe requesting daily status updates or (I’m hating myself for saying this) timesheets from the offending teams would be a better solution than telling everyone to stop IMing, period?

  31. Squiderous*

    LW1 – is there anything about the culture of skype messaging that could be contributing? At my office, people will literally IM you if you didn’t respond to their email on the time table they desired. It’s basically a way to hound people and bug them, and it definitely impacts my productivity. Maybe setting some ground rules or etiquette expectations could be helpful.

  32. Non-profiteer*

    An invitation to treat them to lunch, at which time you can have that conversation Allison suggests. Individually, if possible.

  33. jojo mcscroggles*

    I don’t buy #1. I’m guessing the manager is some boomer who’s afraid of technology.

    1. London Engineer*

      1. I find it entirely believable
      2. Site rules require us to take letter writers at their word
      3. I suspect this comment is trying to start some sort of baby boomer vs. millenial debate and those are really boring

    2. MassMatt*

      You base this on what, exactly? You think it’s absolutely Impossible that people could be spending too much time on social activities to detract from their work?

      We should take letters on face value absent significant evidence otherwise. In this case the report is that work is suffering and the department is wasting time on social activities, whether tech is used or not is irrelevant, it doesn’t excuse you from doing your job.

      No one is impressed you can use Skype or Google chat, it doesn’t make you a tech maven, my 80 year old parents use both.

    3. LBK*

      What a bizarre conclusion to draw, as if this is the first letter we’ve ever received about workers not being productive.

      1. JS*

        I dont think its bizarre considering its a pretty big conclusion to jump to that Skype and not lack of resources, lack of training, understaffed, poor processes, outdated systems, overworked, etc, is causing errors. It’s not unusual for one or two people to be overly social but its super odd to assume a whole office/dept of ppl “are just working to get things done so they can be social rather than trying to do a good job.” Especially to jump to that conclusion when OP isn’t their manager.

        It definitely seems as someone who is out of touch a bit (afraid is too harsh) or someone who ascribes to the mantra of “ppl these days are too plugged-in to social programs”.

    4. JS*

      I actually kind of agree with you. Not to the extend of “afraid” but it seems like the OP has a old way of thinking because I highly doubt its just they hired a bunch of people who would rather Skype all day than work and would sacrifice work quality to talk with coworkers (one or two people sure, but OP makes it seem like its an entire dept). Unless the manager has transcripts its rather presumptuous to assume all of their Skype communication is social and non work related and that they are rushing through things just so they can be social. OP should probably tackle the issue of what about their jobs or processes can make productivity easier and if any process needs to be reworked to reduce error.

      OP said themselves that they had tight deadlines, but what we don’t know is if those tight deadlines are realistic given the responsibilities, resources, work load, priority levels of the team. OP doesn’t even manage that team, so they really wouldn’t know the real reason for the errors. Talking to that teams manager should be the first step and expressing concerns.

  34. Rocky*

    #3, I actually wouldn’t forward the rejected applicant’s vitriolic email to the referee. Since she’s in the same organisation I would give her a quick phone call and then offer to show her the email if needed. It’s all too easy for a forwarded email to get forwarded again, for example back to the applicant with a note saying “Fergus, did you write this to Hiring Manager?”. It might end up causing more drama.

  35. RB*

    I’m late to the column again, so there’s not a lot to add. Just wanted to say, good discussion, y’all! And to #2, watch the punctuation in your application materials. Your posts had some issues with that.

  36. Jojo*

    OP4 _ is it possible this manager was also let go during the realignmen, and so has not received your e’mail?

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