3 updates from letter-writers (the hypochondria, the religious enforcement, and the automated phone screen)

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

1. My employee has hypochondria and is annoying all his coworkers

Your answer to my question was great. I am in the process of speaking to my boss and consulting with an employment lawyer. Thanks for publishing my question and I appreciate how you were thoughtful, polite and helpful you were when you answered. You are right, a lawyer does need to be consulted. I was already thinking it and it was great to hear you affirm it.

Just to update on was has happened since I emailed in my question: My report who had melanoma resigned from her job without another job offer and in her exit interview she said it was because of Ronald’s continued actions. The employee who had the ablation asked to move to another desk away from him and other employees have started to avoid Ronald unless it is absolutely necessary and will only speak to him about stuff that’s related to work. I have been doing to my best to support Ronald while understanding the frustration of my other employees. Our company is not eligible for FMLA and although Ronald has disclosed his hypochondria to me he has not asked for any other accommodation besides understanding about all the sick time he takes.

2. We can be fired if our friends and family don’t follow the company’s religious values (first update here)

I wanted to send you a more positive update since my last one was rather…well… dismal. The new lifestyle document did go into effect on July 1. However, it turns out that I didn’t have to sign it after all, because my last day at my previous employer was before that. Although I never did find another job and am currently unemployed it’s because I was accepted into law school with an awesome scholarship. Although I have a good idea of what kind of law I would like to go into, my situation and your and Donna Ballman’s response have made me very interested in pursuing employment law.

As far as work is concerned, I ended up viewing that place as a social experiment in order to survive. Our turnover in my department was and continues to be incredibly high with my leaving pushing us up to 87% in the last two years. Here are a few issues that have occurred since my initial letter was posted:
* Unpaid overtime
* Supervisor blames me for her mistakes when she gets embarrassed
* Manager won’t talk to problem/bully employees
* Burn out (both myself and others on my team)
* Financial troubles have led to a hiring freeze

You, Donna Ballman, and your commenters not only provided useful information on how to navigate an interesting situation, but provided the encouragement I needed in order to push through this. Thank you, Alison, and thanks to everyone who belongs to this community!

3. I was asked to complete an “automated phone screen” (#4 at the link)

So a guy from the law firm that sent the automated phone screen email just called me about setting up an interview. But wait! Not really an interview!

They are doing 10-15 minute in-person screens on Friday, and I had a sudden vision of a line of business suit-clad people being marched in and spit out like a cattle chute. I interrupted him at that point and told him that the automated phone screen thing had put me off.

He asked me for feedback, and I basically told him the same things we talked about here–that it would take someone time to listen to all the recordings, it might make people feel weird, it seemed impersonal, and it reminded me of a mass interview I’d been called to with over 100 people, where I wasn’t sure if I would be interviewed for a job or sold some Amway (yes, I actually said this; at this point, I knew I didn’t want the job).

He said he appreciated the feedback, and sounding a bit defensive, he told me that it was a new thing and the first time they’d tried it. He said they thought it might be helpful since it was a receptionist position, they could hear how we sounded on the phone. Um, yeah–you can do the same thing when you ACTUALLY CALL PEOPLE.

He also said they’d had 350 people apply (which reinforced my vision of the cattle chute) and that they were hoping to find someone who would stay with the firm long-term.

I said that probably wasn’t going to be me, since I was hoping to get into documentation work in future and would probably have to leave the area eventually to find that kind of work. I said this process might turn off more than just me, and they might miss out on the perfect person for the job by going off-piste. He thanked me very politely and we ended the call.

I’m sorry this wasn’t a better update, but it really does not sound like a place I would want to work.

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Kalamet*

    Regarding #3 – I find it incredibly irritating when people ask for feedback and then get defensive about it.

    Once a team on my company sent out a link to their new website asking for thoughts. I sent mine back, noting that some of the user experience features seemed spammy and annoying In response I received a very patronizing response about how their design was made by experts and every decision carefully thought it. I’m like, sure, but you *asked* for feedback. Don’t complain when it doesn’t match your expectations.

    1. Kalamet*

      Typos, blarg: “seemed spammy and annoying.”, “every decision carefully thought out”.

    2. Lance*

      So much so for that last point. If you’re requesting feedback, you have to be prepared to hear ‘it’s bad’, or some variation thereof.

    3. Fake Eleanor*

      Their design was made by experts … and then a bunch of stakeholders swooped in and insisted on features that were found to be annoying but moved the needle on key metrics.

      1. Stuff*

        Or a single stakeholder swooped in and pretended to be Steve Jobs. I’d like throw out a PSA to c suite execs: you’re not Jobs. You’re never going to be jobs. End.

      2. Kalamet*

        Yes. :) Having worked in the same company under similarly frustrating conditions, I am sure this is what happened. But I’d hope that my team would at least react gracefully to feedback even if the decisions weren’t ours.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        There used to be a blog called something like “Things Never Said About Restaurant Websites” with things like “I don’t care what the address is, I just want to experience the audio of clinking cutlery and murmured conversation.”

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          OMG, we have a medical clinic on campus and during one of their umpteen website redesigns I pointed out that their business hours weren’t listed until about three pages in and it should be on the homepage. They were like “no, we want them to have to explore the website to get to that.” what??????!!!!! The key pieces of information that I will go to a business website for are location and business hours. Then they complained that they were getting a lot of traffic on the website but it wasn’t translating into new patients.

          Honestly, I’ll forgive a clunky looking website, but not one that plays hide-and-seek with essential information.

          1. seejay*

            I’ve been a UX/UI developer for nearly 10 years now. Technically I just put together what the designers mock up but as part of the UX team itself, and someone that also engineers the interface, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what works and what does for what customers want. Plus I play with these UIs for 8 hours a day when I’m working on them, I get to see how the flow works and what doesn’t and what pisses me off and that’s when I *know* all the intricacies of the steps to navigate it.

            The pushback we get from clients or other “experts” is baffling. My team has been doing this for at least 10 years, between the group of us, we have 30+ years of experience in user experience, if we’re telling you not to do something, it’ll translate to dropped sales and customers walking away, we’re probably not blowing smoke up your butt for fun.


            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I went to a small circus where a woman had house cats who jumped through hoops, walked across teeter totters, and generally cooperated in ways that I have never seen any other house cat do. It was eerie.

              And as a person who occasionally tries to look things up on the internet: phone number, address, hours of operation. If I have to “explore your website” to find those, I probably just clicked the back button to the search results and am now looking at the website of your less annoying competitor. (I disrupt the google auto-fill for the multiplex near me because if I google search on the theater, google gives me a box with what movies are playing at what times. The multiplex believes that this information is better found after exploring the site and its evocation of ye olden tymes. Of the theaters near me, this is by several multiples the largest and the one I go to least often.)

            2. Red 5*

              I have tried so, so many times to explain to the people in charge of my company’s website that if a user has to click too many things to find the one thing they came to our website to find, they’re just going to leave and it continues to fall on deaf ears. I have asked them to put together a group of non-native speakers to test out the site and make sure they can figure out where things are supposed to be, but since they haven’t even really gotten together a test group of native speakers, I don’t know if that will ever happen.

              The death knell for UX/UI, IMHO is “well, it makes perfect sense to me…”

            3. Kathleen Adams*

              Bless you, seejay. Keep fighting the good fight!

              I looked at three websites of the same general type of family business, and only one of the three had the address where it could be easily found, and only one (a different one) had the phone number in an easy-to-find place. And this happens all. the. time. What the heck? Have none of these people, you know, ever looked up a phone number or address online?

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                Darn it, I meant to say that I happened to look at these three websites this morning. This happens all the time, but this happened to be a recent example of How Not to Design a Website.

            4. bean*


              Late to this thread – and getting a little off-topic here – but this is something that’s been bothering me as I’m contemplating starting a solo practice… In general I totally agree with putting all contact info on the website in a clear and obvious place (either on the landing page or under a “contact info/hours” tab on an obvious and clear menu on that front page), but if anyone is willing to give an opinion on this, here’s my question:

              I have space in my house for a home office (separate entrance) and that’s the office space I’d be using if I go ahead and start this small business. Problem is, I’m hesitant to put my home address on a business website. Do you think it’s ok to put phone number and email address (or secure online contact form), with a statement that basically says, “Office hours are by appointment only… directions to the office in [TownName – can specify general area of the town] will be provided with registration paperwork” or something along those lines?

              Thanks for any thoughts!!

              1. The Strand*

                I think that would close off some of the potential customers you would get. I know I was really annoyed when I couldn’t find the location of a specialist I wanted to see anywhere on the site until I had digged thoroughly. In my case, I was deciding in part on location, because traffic is such a bear where I live now.

                If you can’t list your address, I would consider something halfway, such as information about the location (North of Hwy 66, near the Great Neighbors shopping plaza), and a map that has a star on your location, showing prominent cross-streets. I use a mail drop address for my side business, but I also don’t see clients at my home.

                You might also want to consider renting a less traditional space that costs less, but is offsite.

                1. bean*

                  That’s a great idea – could definitely do a map with a star and cross-streets. I *definitely* understand people deciding these things based partly on location and wouldn’t want to discourage that. But for a solo practice that’s part-time I’d so love to use this perfect home office space. Just totally hesitant to put my home address out there for people who aren’t yet clients. Thank you so much!

      4. still not over this, tbh*

        “Make it look like the apple front page. They’re doing really well, so we want to use their design, since of course is they’re doing well = their design in the best.”

        We go to the apple front page, it is just a really big iphone.

        There is very limited information on that page.

        We don’t sell products. We’re involved in process improvement.

        “But make it look like the apple front page!”


        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In a recent thread, someone described the coders being made to visit porn websites and study their user interfaces, on the theory that porn websites are really popular and it must be their fonts.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I never google to see if something is an exception to rule 34. You can’t erase that knowledge.

          1. SSS*

            Of course users only go there to read the articles. :-)
            (For those old enough to remember, that was always the excuse given when a guy was caught with a Playboy magazine)

        2. Coffee*

          I don’t even like the apple website, which I find difficult to navigate (unless you are trying to buy the latest iPhone).

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      Reminds me of my ex-boss. He asked for feedback on his website from a developer (we worked in IT recruitment) and proceeded to get very red in the face and defensive after the developer said it wasn’t the best.

      Just don’t ask.

      1. Fake Eleanor*

        Yeah, being able to take feedback about your design is a key skill for any kind of designer. Someone getting defensive that quickly is revealing themselves to be relatively inexperienced in that sense.

      2. SKA*

        I used to work for a design firm and before pointing out specific things about their website that could be improved, we’d always ask who designed their current site. If the answer was “me” or “my niece,” we definitely needed to tread lightly. Even if they came to us specifically asking for improvements to their website.

    5. Lily*

      Better yet: the people who ask for feedback and then calmly explain you why your feedback is wrong.

      1. Red 5*

        And why you’re obviously just not enlightened enough to understand why their way is clearly the “correct” way to do this design.

      2. Liane*

        Yeah. I recall one of my Dad’s frequent grumbles was about people who would ask him questions (about things he knew a lot about), then wouldn’t listen to his answer, much less take his advice.

    6. BRR*

      This is so true. “I would like some feedback, please proceed to tell me what I want to hear.”

      1. Typhon Worker Bee*

        Ugh, I know someone who once asked a couple of us for feedback on a mock-up of the advertising wrap for his car. We both assumed it was still a draft and both said there was too much text, and that the phone number and website should be bigger. He got all silent and huffy. Turns out it was already on his car and he really just wanted us to say how great it looked. Oopsie.

    7. Mephyle*

      Here’s another one: propose a project, ask for feedback. When you present the final ready-to-roll version and people object, be baffled, because you did ask for feedback. Why are they picking holes in the project when you gave them a chance to comment on it? Maybe because you didn’t implement any of their suggestions.

    8. Serin*

      As an editor, my true love is people who ask for feedback on an article, and then, when you say, “The article does not answer the following important questions,” they *tell you the answer.* Not helpful unless they’re going to contact all the readers and give them the same explanation.

      1. Red 5*

        When I do work in the film industry and get that kind of thing I always remind people “if it’s not in the movie, then _it’s not in the movie_.”

        As the writer/director you should know more than what you put on screen. But if the audience is confused it doesn’t matter if you know the answer to their questions if you didn’t _put it in the movie_.

    9. CMDRBNA*

      This x a million – and, don’t ask for someone’s opinion if you are going to immediately shoot them down (it’s an opinion!).

      My (thankfully former) manager used to do this ALL the time. I think it was just her communication style but it drove me crazy and it was a big part of why her direct reports stopped giving her any input at all. She would ask you for your opinion on X, and then as soon as you stopped speaking, be like oh well I think Y. It was infuriating, and finally I just started telling her I had nothing to share when she asked for my opinion.

    10. BTW*

      This. I recently went to a festival and then posted feedback on their FB page. Someone involved made sure to respond and tell me to volunteer next year. I live an hour away, it’s kind of unrealistic for me. I pointed out that I shouldn’t have to be involved in order to give them some constructive feedback. I mean, the issues were to the point where I wouldn’t go again… you would think they would be interested in knowing why. I was not the only person who had those complaints either so clearly there was a problem.

    11. Pwyll*

      Ugh, me too! My favorite was when I completed a Helpdesk survey after IT at work closed out my service request (without fixing the problem). Because it was only a problem with shared resource in a building (city) I don’t work from, it didn’t make sense for me to continue to try and get it fixed.

      I spent more time with the IT QC team arguing with me that they couldn’t close out my survey until they could mark it as “user issue resolved to their satisfaction” than I did actually talking to IT to have the problem solved. Apparently, they could not fathom a situation in which an IT survey would be filled out with negative feedback that they couldn’t resolve. Lots of, literally, “Can’t I just have you say that you’re satisfied so we can close this out?”


      1. meagain*

        My school, like many, went to O365. I use the actual applications, not the web version. I had an issue with the OneDrive application- something about size, I don’t remember. IT asked me why I just didn’t use the web version. Um, because it’s a Word document and I use Endnote. Besides, the online version sucks. Why do I want to constantly upload and download? OH, WE PAY FOR THE LICENSES TO BE ON THE HARD DRIVES.

        His response? I was one of five, maybe ten, people that used the applications that he knew of, so I was really causing more problems for him by not using the web version. He closed out the ticket with “client choses not to conform with other’s usage”.

  2. Havarti*

    OP1: I hope the lawyer helps you sort this out before you lose more people. Good luck!

    OP2: Man, what a mess. Social experiment is probably the best way to view it. Good luck with law school!

    OP3: You dodged a bullet. He asked for feedback. You provided it. He didn’t like it. Oh well. I suspect the receptionist position will see high turnover.

    1. paul*

      It makes me think that there’s a lot more going on that what I’d initially thought from the letter too, if it’s that bad.

      1. Cat*

        Yeah , I was wondering this too. What was initially described sounds annoying but didn’t seem like “drive people off” annoying to me.

    2. Catalin*

      350 applicants that they’re doing in-person screening for? 350? For a receptionist position? What does it pay? If your phone screening doesn’t narrow your candidates down to a reasonable number, you’re doing something wrong.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It seems like the logical course would be:
        • 350 applications
        • Phone interview with top 20ish
        • Live interview top 5ish

        What they’re doing really does seem like it is going to involve a multi-level marketing scheme at some point in the process.

        1. starsaphire*

          Yeah, the Bad Idea lightbulb just went off in my head too:

          “Thanks for applying. In order to gauge your fit for this position, we’d like to know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you needed a personal injury lawyer… and if that incident is still within the statute of limitations…”

  3. CityMouse*

    I really hope LW1 gets good guidance from boss and lawyer because the situation right now sounds untenable. You have a clearly disruptive employee, someone actually quit because of him. While you can accommodate his hypochondriac to a reasonable degree, the fact that he is that disruptive shows you need further action here.

      1. Lance*

        Agreed. Hoping as well that the lawyer can help sort something out, because as it is, with one person quitting and another requesting to be moved away (so far), and people limiting interactions with the hypochondriac, I don’t see the current situation being sustainable for much longer. It’s unfortunate for the hypochondriac himself, but something has to give.

        1. Asterix*

          I would consider firing him for some other reason. It’s just not worth all this tip toeing around one person, while the rest are suffering. Sure, be considerate at people with mental illness, but what about when it causes mental distress to others? I don’t think that is fair at all

          1. TBoT*

            I am not a lawyer, but if I were his manager, and if it were possible for his role, I would seriously consider moving him to a teleworking option. I’ve had more than one employee who needed to work from home for mental health reasons. It would put his coworkers more at ease and could potentially limit his exposure to medical talk that could seem triggering to his condition. (I’d want to make sure that wouldn’t be likely to exacerbate things in some unforeseen way … I know hypochondria is notoriously difficult to treat effectively.)

          2. Observer*

            This is a TERRIBLE idea. Either fire him for the problem he is causing, or find a way to deal. Do NOT make something up. Even if firing him is 100% legal, the use of a pretext will make things look much more suspicious.

    1. Clinical Social Worker*

      Not only quit but quit without anything else lined up! It speaks to how much it’s affecting others in the office.

      To be fair, it sounds like LW#1 is working on it. He’s consulting a lawyer and trying. I’m not clear on how long that should take or if LW#1’s boss is supporting their efforts to do everything possible. LW#1 may be hitting their own roadblocks in addressing this sticky situation appropriately.

    2. Sibley*

      The hypochondriac is actively experiencing negative consequences due to his behavior. Best case for him is that he realizes this and gets help to adjust his behavior to better conform to social norms. Unfortunately, things may need to get a lot worse before they can improve.

      1. Artemesia*

        sounds like he is getting what he wants precisely i.e. endless attention and endless awareness that he is mucking things up for others. He is happy; why would he change?

        1. motherofdragons*

          Yeah, it sounds like Ronald is doing fine; it’s his co-workers and manager who are experiencing the negative consequences.

        2. Observer*

          He’s not getting “endless attention” – people are avoiding him. And there is simply no evidence that he WANTS to make others miserable.

    3. Nacho*

      Amateur opinion here, but I really do feel like people would be more understanding if they knew Ronald has hypochondria. Right now he’s coming off as Topper from Dilbert, always trying to one-up everybody’s health problems, and that’s pretty obviously offensive, but if people knew he really did believe he had a heart attack, cancer, dementia, and really couldn’t help his behavior, I’m sure they’d have an easier time ignoring it.

      1. Aphrodite*

        Perhaps people might be more understand but even knowing this it can get very old very fast. You can be sympathetic but once your patience with his taking so much time off (and likely his work being passed to co-workers) and his complaints about illnesses that truly afflict others wears out–and it will definitely wear out–then the business is going to suffer as others leave.

        OP, your other employees are getting desperate. Telling them about Ronald’s hypochondria may alleviate the growing annoyance but only temporarily. I suspect that once known it will only be a bandaid on a gushing wound and you will likely lose other employees who just don’t want to hear it any more.

        1. OhNo*

          Yeah, sympathy only lasts so long. Unless Ronald followed up by decreasing the problem behavior – or at least showed signs of working on it – it’s not likely that the sympathy will last very long. In fact, they may get more irritated with him if they know and don’t think he is handling it to their satisfaction.

          The whole “aren’t you better yet?” line is something I’ve seen happen a lot to people with chronic illnesses, so I wouldn’t bet on a reveal solving anything long term.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I would imagine they have all personally diagnosed hypochondria at this point, even if they haven’t extended that to “and he has a note from the doctor and so management has to accommodate him.”

      3. CMDRBNA*

        I mean, it’s one thing to suffer from hypochondria – it’s another thing to be unable to stop telling your coworkers about your “illnesses.” I have chronic depression, which means that sometimes I need to take time off work for therapy or work a flexible schedule or whatever. It doesn’t mean I need to follow my coworkers around talking about my depression.

        I think this was in Alison’s original advice, but Ronald has GOT to stop talking to people about his “illnesses,” full stop.

      4. NoMoreMrFixit*

        I wouldn’t bet on that. I’ve worked with hypochondriacs and unfortunately live with one too. Knowing it’s considered a legit medical condition doesn’t actually do anything for us in terms of putting up with the constant claims of illness. Worst is when they claim they have it worse than those who are legitimately sick. I’d quit too in that situation. Dealing with cancer was traumatic enough without somebody falsely claiming they had something similar or worse. This person needs to stop constantly bombarding his coworkers with health complaints.

        Yes this is hard-nosed. But I’ve had far too much experience with this type of situation to be sympathetic anymore.

      5. Treecat*

        I mean… maybe, but I personally hate the “but they really, truly believe it” perspective. People “really, truly believe” all kinds of ludicrous, offensive, and damaging stuff. Ronald’s beliefs may be sincerely held, but they are hugely damaging to his coworkers who are dealing with actual cancer, and his sincerity does not mitigate that damage.

        1. Oranges*

          It really reminds me of the CA “get off my foot” problem. Basically no matter why you are doing the bad behaviour (in the saying it’s stepping on my foot) you need to get off my foot.

          If you can’t do that for WHATEVER reason. Then you still need to get off my foot. By removing yourself from the situation if needed.

      6. Observer*

        Not enough, though. It MIGHT have helped the person who quit stick it out for a while, but not that much. People don’t quit because they think that their coworker is awful. They quit because someone is making them miserable. Having this lunacy going on is going to make them miserable whether the cause is clinical or character.

      7. INTP*

        And he also must seem like a pathological liar if they haven’t figured out the truth already. I would still find Ronald irritating knowing what his illness was, but if I knew nothing other than that he was going around claiming to have heart attacks and cancer that he never had, that’s such unusual lying behavior that I wouldn’t trust him with anything and might be frightened.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, as someone who once had a “friend” who was a pathological liar, I wouldn’t trust him one bit with anything if I didn’t have any explanation for his behavior.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m dying to know if mr hypochondriac even knows that people are quitting and moving because of him??
      I’m sorry, I know it’s a real condition, but I’ve also known people who make up cockamamie conditions to cya at jobs.

    5. Soon to be former fed*

      Yeah, this sounds like an undue hardship on the employer, hardly a reasonable accommodation. And now, adding legal fees in. Is the employer in #1 subject to ADA?

    6. The Friendly Comp Manager*

      The ADA requires reasonable accommodation. At some point, it becomes unreasonable, and I think losing employees should be considered in the reasonableness here. You cannot accommodate everyone and everything, unfortunately. I wish him (and OP1) the very best. That’s tough.

      1. INTP*

        I think from a legal perspective it’s difficult to justify why annoyance of coworkers and people’s refusal to deal with him for his symptoms is an undue hardship, though. Morally the coworkers are doing nothing wrong and firing him would be fair imo, but iirc from a legal perspective the hardships need to be more concrete.

        1. sstabeler*

          actually, it IS an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is one that allows the employee to do the job, without needlessly disrupting the workplace. The hypochondria is causing a sufficiently large problem that it is causing other employees to quit. That means the de facto accommodation is “the employer will only employ people who can put up with me” which ISN’T a reasonable accommodation.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Am I the only one whose subconscious autocompleted as “hypochondria, religious enforcement, and an automated phone screen walk into a bar…”?

    1. Catalin*

      I got super-duper excited because I thought the ‘religious enforcement’ one was about the man and the female coworker who wasn’t dressing ‘properly or modestly’.

      1. Snark*

        Oh YEAH! I’d love to hear an update on that one, preferably one where the boss gets dressed down like a fresh boot camp recruit by Grandboss.

        1. Serin*

          And then sent home to change clothes, because in what he’s wearing now, people can conclude that he has a humanoid body.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      I actually misread it as “mitochondria” at first and was wondering how I’d missed a letter about the powerhouse of the cell.

      1. Fifty Foot Commute*

        Dear Alison, I feel like I’m doing all of the work around here. What do they even do all day in the nucleus anyway? Is it legal for them to make me do more than my fair share?

  5. Imaginary Number*

    Unfortunately, bad managers in highly religious businesses seems to be a common theme. I don’t think that has anything to do with the religion and more to do with promoting people because of perceived religiousness/morality/church involvement vs. managerial skills.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        I remember when I was new to my current job an older semi-retired employee was introducing me to some guys in the shop and as we were walking there he told me “You’ll like Bob. He’s a nice church-going man.”

        I was kind of taken aback and didn’t know what to say because a) I’m not religious and he had no reason to think I was and b) this is not a particularly religious work environment where it would be assumed that “church-going” is a quality to identify people by.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      I think you are right – and this applies to small businesses with “closed” systems across the board as well. “Lancel is my cousin – of course he’s capable of running HR!” “Euron is a fellow Iron Islander – I’m going to hire him as my salesperson!” People getting hired and/or promoted because they are “one of us” – whatever “us” means – and who aren’t really capable of handling the job is a major reason why so many small businesses, in particular small family businesses, are so dysfunctional.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        I think you’re absolutely right. It really applies to any situation where anything other than an individual’s performance and overall character is trumped by something else. It could be religion or family. It could be an office culture where everyone plays intramural sports together. As a veteran I’ve also seen it where the desire to “hire vets” means that employers treat veterans like magical unicorns who are going to be awesome just because (especially in the federal workforce.)

        There’s a difference between wanting people who work with a particular office culture and wanting people who have the same out-of-office culture. The latter usually ends up promoting all the wrong people.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Very true! I’m reminded of the recent letter from the manager who got fired for freezing out the excellent older employee who wasn’t BFFs with the team.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I think it’s not quite that. Most religious organizations are small business. And from what we’ve seen on AAM small family run businesses can be the worst at bad management. So it’s really religious organizations being a subset of small family run businesses.

      1. LW #3 (Not Eeyore Anymore)*

        Normally, I would agree with you. The only thing is that this situation with this university has several hundred employees and three separate locations. The student body has been shrinking, but the faculty/staff body has not. That may change in the future if the finances don’t get better, though.

        I think the thing that I have taken away from this is that bad management isn’t just small, religious companies, but can be found in all different sorts of companies – big and small, religious or secular. It just depends.

  6. Amber Rose*

    #3 is a good update. The interview process did it’s job and warned you away from a job that would be a bad fit for you. Better than having a great interview and get stuck in a terrible job.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yes, #3, this is a great update! You evaluated what was in front of you, acted on it, and dodged the bullet.

      Yes, “My workplace is a mess, in X Y and Z ways” letters are interesting, are their updates. But … it’s not a daytime TV show; these are real people. I’d rather hear that people got into better situations, and I’d still MORE rather here that they managed to avoid getting into bad situations.

      That’s a happy ending. Sometimes happy endings aren’t super-exciting, but that’s a feature, not a bug. :)

  7. TeacherNerd*

    I still don’t know how one would manage to enforce behavior from anyone regarding values, religious or otherwise (letter #2). I live and work in Utah; I’m an east coast transplant, and I’m rather extremely non-Mormon. I can’t imagine my school district saying, “Ok, you, your friends, and family are no longer permitted to drink alcohol, coffee, or tea; you must marry as soon as you can and have as many children as you can, etc., etc.” I can certainly agree not to drink alcohol at school (#nobrainer) but enforcing the rest of these values would be impossible. (“Hi Mom, can you tell me how much tea you’ve drunk in the past week so I can tell my boss?”)

    1. Anon for this*

      The generalization here feels a little unfair. It will always be the case that people within a group, even a religious group, follow its rules/norms to varying degrees.

      1. TeacherNerd*

        Of course, and I know that within any group, some will follow the thinking/teaching more stringently that others, and I understand and see this on a regular basis. I was providing an example based on my specific circumstances…or would, if I had ever gotten any pushback. My example was meant to illustrate a what-if sort of thinking that, fortunately and thank goodness, I can’t imagine happening.

        1. TeacherNerd*

          I had also primarily meant only that I couldn’t imagine how one would enforce these sorts of rules from any particular group. I’ve never had to sign anything that said my friends and family had to follow the teachings of another ideology, and since I have no family in a state that even borders the one in which I live, I can’t imagine how such a contract would or could be enforced, given how little I see my family.

      2. LQ*

        I think that just reinforces TeacherNerd’s point. If a company decided to impose a set of values on not only the people working there but their extended family that’s going to be a logistical nightmare.

        If even people within your value subset (religion) vary on what those things mean and how strictly they enforce them for themselves, let alone family and friends then how on earth do you manage to create and enforce a strict set of value on people who disagree with your value subset and then beyond them their family and friends?

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. I’m super spiteful and an ex-evangelical, so I would probably take too much job in drinking alcohol, wearing pants, wearing makeup, and socializing with queer folks. Also coffee.

      1. MissGirl*

        By the way we can wear pants, makeup, and associate with any awesome person we want to and some not so awesome ones.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      The example given was that the employee might be out to dinner with a family member who drank alcohol with their meal, and the employee would be fired for not promoting the institution’s religious values. Presumably, if the employee wasn’t with that family member, they couldn’t be blamed for letting the infidels and heathens run rampant, and they’d only get in trouble if they were present but not keeping things on the up and up. :-/

      1. BF50*

        What about if they were present and told mom to put the drink down, but mom told them to shut it? They are still promoting the values, just not successfully. Do they still get fired?

    4. Liane*

      The Mormon’s I’ve know *well* are pretty cool about such things. Until we moved from Florida we visited a devout Mormon family at least once a week (often for roleplaying games night!) Their take on non-Mormon guests and alcohol was “You’re welcome to BYOB & drink it–just don’t get drunk or something because we care about you.”

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I imagine the enforcement would be more like: “I expect any employee to disassociate themselves from someone who doesn’t uphold these standards.” — like shunning in an Amish community or what has been reported to occur with people who speak against Scientology. If your family or friends refuse to abide by the rules, they are no longer your family or friends.

    6. Marillenbaum*

      Long distance high five from an escapee of the Zion Curtain! (From Provo, left the church)

    1. k.k*

      I love that OP was in a position (not wanting the job) where they could be so blunt with a bad interviewer. So many of us can only fantasize about saying such things.

      1. OP #3*

        Actually, I’m not; I still haven’t found anything and I’m getting a little desperate. But not THAT desperate!

        1. Triangle Pose*

          OP #3, I agree with all your points about the auto phone screen and thing the lawyer was being ridiculous in his defensiveness. Separately, what is “documentation work” that you are trying to get into? Are you talking about document review? Is applying for a receptionist role at a law firm a way to try to get your foot in the door to a different type of work there?

          1. OP #3*

            No, I meant technical documentation–I had little interest in working in law. I only applied because the pay was higher than average for a front desk position here.

        2. Justin*

          Oh it was you! Yeah, I really wanted a job last year (not the same situation but I had been looking for a while) and I was told it would be a group interview with “15-20 people,” and then I considered it because I wanted a new place to work, but then I turned them down.

          They sent me an email the morning of “confirming” my presence, and I was like, “Yeah I already said I wasn’t coming.”

          It was not a good sign.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      It made me picture a receptionist working in a solitary room with no windows and only one door, who never actually sees anyone else all day, only talks to them on the phone.

  8. Colorado*

    For update #1: I know this will come across as insincere and I will admit I am projecting the last couple weeks of my personal life into this response, and I also suffer from a mental illness…but one person left the company, one person asked to be moved, and the others refuse to engage with the person who suffers from hypochondria, and I’m sympathetic, I am. But having a mental illness should not be an excuse for bad behavior, especially in the workplace. He has got to get that under control. People are feeling harassed, their own health issues are being minimized, and they are leaving because of this one person. At what point is enough, enough?

    1. You're Not My Supervisor*

      Yeah, I’m with you here. I don’t know if I would call it “bad behavior” if he genuinely thinks he has these conditions, but it would be perceived as such by anyone who doesn’t know about his condition, and if he doesn’t want to disclose… well, this is probably just going to keep happening.

      1. Catalin*

        I agree with @Snark: lots of people have genuine medical conditions and manage not to be obnoxious* about it. I’d even venture to say that most people have SOMETHING that impacts them greatly that they manage to suppress at work because it is a professional environment and certain things are inappropriate.

        *(I realize that obnoxious is a strong term, and apologize if it gets me censored, however, it really is the best term for the behavior displayed.)

        1. You're Not My Supervisor*

          Right, but I mean, he thought he was having a heart attack, more than once. Is it reasonable to ask someone to suppress their behavior if they become alarmed when they think they are having a heart attack?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If it were only the suspected heart attack, that would be one thing. But he’s constantly discussing his alleged illnesses with his coworkers who actually have those illnesses or have lost family members to them. It’s not reasonable, IMHO, to require them to put up with that.

            1. You're Not My Supervisor*

              Oh I agree, but even if he reigned in the medical talk, you’re still left with the panic he might have in the moment if he thinks he is having a heart attack. So it’s not as easy as saying “stop behaving badly at work” unless you’re going to tell him to stop acting like he’s having a heart attack, when he thinks that he is

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                But nobody’s saying “we’re not going to call an ambulance for you, Ronald.” No one suggested that. It’s just that the accommodation he needs probably doesn’t include talking to his fellow employees about his nonexistent illnesses. It’s not nearly as vague as “stop behaving badly at work.”

                1. You're Not My Supervisor*

                  He absolutely shouldn’t talk to his fellow employees about these illnesses, but the impression I got from the original letter was that the employee with the heart condition was offended that he “pretended” (as it might appear to someone who didn’t know of his condition) to have a heart attack. From the letter it sounded like Ronald only told his supervisor about that. So my original point was that, while I can see how that might look like bad behavior to someone who doesn’t know that HE thought he really was having a heart attack, I wouldn’t call that bad behavior in and of itself.

                  The LW can ask him to stop talking about his conditions, sure, and that would solve some issues, but you’ll still be left with the coworker with the heart condition being offended when Ronald thinks he is having a heart attack… and as far as that goes, there’s no easy solution I can see, so I’m with Colorado in saying “at what point is enough, enough?”

                2. OhNo*

                  Exactly. It’s a very specific subset of his overall behavior that’s causing problems, and the OP would certainly be able to call out the specific issues rather than just lay down a general “behave yourself” clause.

                  Ronald doesn’t need to cure his hypochondria. He doesn’t even necessarily need to stop the panic response when he thinks he’s having [insert emergency medical problem here]. Just don’t talk about his medical problems – real or perceived – with coworkers.

                3. anon for this*

                  He did pretend to have a heart attack, because that’s the nature of his mental illness.

                  I am currently working with unexplained infertility; I have two good friends who have medical issues that will make them infertile (one possibly treatable, the other one probably not). I’ve gone through a miscarriage, 4 rounds of clomid, 3 failed rounds of IUI, and am starting meds for my first round of IVF.

                  When someone pats me on the arm and sympathizes because it took them 3 months to get pregnant with their first or tells me they really totally thought they were infertile too (until they got pregnant easily and naturally), it kind of makes me want to scratch their face. I know that I am having problems conceiving, because it’s been 30+ months and many treatments, with doctors and everything. For someone who never spoke with a doctor and who conceived easily and naturally to explain to me how they totally understand because of their “struggles” and now they have a “miracle baby” — it’s insulting. They’re trying to get attention, #momlife #blessed.

                  This guy is doing that, only with everyone in the world and for every ailment.

                4. Louise*

                  anon for this – I’m not able to reply directly to your comment but I hope you see this. That’s actually not what hypochondria is. What you’re describing (in terms of faking) sounds a lot more like Munchausens. Hypochondria is a lot more related to OCD, and involves a lot of intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that are nearly impossible to control without proper treatment. It’s less about faking something for attention, and more about misreading a physical sensation, obsessively thinking about it, and having intrusive thoughts telling you you’re going to die because of it.

                  I also do want to say that it sounds like what you’re going through with fertility is incredibly painful and stressful, and I’m really sorry for that. As someone who struggles with a pretty severe mood and anxiety disorder, I react similarly when people are like “I was so depressed yesterday I ate a whole tub of ice cream!” or “Don’t worry, I get nervous too!” so I definitely sympathize with you there.

                5. anon for this*

                  Hey, Louise.

                  Yeah, I get that hypochondria and Munchausen’s are different, but his behavior has a very attention-seeking aspect to it. At least that’s the vibe I’m getting — it’s not just that he feels these things, it’s that he has to let everyone know that he feels these things and experience it with him.

                6. fposte*

                  @Louise–right, he’s not pretending anything. He’s mistaken in his belief, but it’s a genuine belief.

                7. Louise*

                  I think I still just have a tough time with the “it’s for attention” mindset. If I were to have a panic attack at work (which luckily I haven’t had to experience) and someone accused me that I was doing it for attention, I would be pretty upset and insulted. Same goes for things like self-harm and eating disorders. I’m not excusing his behavior though – it’s definitely on him as an adult to get help and find ways to manage his symptoms so they don’t negatively affect his coworkers, but saying that people who have destructive patterns of behavior due mental illnesses are doing it for attention feels pretty hurtful and not super constructive.

                8. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Louise – even if Ronald is actually experiencing this as intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, his coworkers don’t know that – they can’t see inside his head, they can only see his behavior. And, yes, his behavior really looks attention-seeking because of its “copycat” quality and the constant talk of illness, and it’s deeply offensive and hurtful to his coworkers who are actually dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

                9. Oranges*

                  Late to the party and all. But I think there are two things here.

                  a) his thoughts about being ill/his “faking” a heart-attack
                  Everyone is pretty okay with these. He can’t magically not have these symptoms.

                  b) his constant bids for sympathy.
                  This is what’s rubbing people the wrong way, mostly. The co-workers would not care about his ambulance trips and everything else IF he didn’t TALK about them. And especially in a manner which suggests fishing for sympathy.

                  I’d sit him down and say “I know you have this disorder but the job requirements include getting along with co-workers and right now your talk about your own health issues is severely impacting that. Can you, literally, not talk about any health issues you have at work?”

                  If not. Then I would say accommodating his mental illness is undue hardship (points to employees LEAVING due to it) and let him go. And make sure I get a lawyer so I ensure I’m staying on the right side of the law. And talk with someone else I trust to ensure I’m staying on the right side of morality.

              2. Observer*

                It IS that easy- because that’s the thing that is taking up most of the time and is causing most of the trouble.

            2. Elizabeth H.*

              Even a person WITH a heart condition can refrain from talking about it with other people. If one of the symptoms of his hypochondria is that he is unable to control himself from compulsively talking about his perceived health conditions at work, I feel like he should be on medical leave or work from home or something until such time as it gets under control. Any person who was medically unable to keep from doing something that infringed on coworkers should have this happen.

              I realize this is a tricky issue because it’s not an accommodation he has requested, but it’s an unworkable situation as it is.

          2. Snark*

            I mean….no, it’s not reasonable to ask people to suppress their behavior if they genuinely think they’re having a heart attack. But….I’d also be singing a much different tune if Ronald were suppressing other nonessential health talk.

            And maybe if he’d been upfront with OP that “I have been diagnosed with XYZ, and while I’m pursuing cognitive behavioral therapy to address that, it can flare up when I’m anxious or when people around me have health issues. I may occasionally experience psychosomatic symptoms, and I’d appreciate your support if that crops up, because they’re hard to distinguish from real symptoms. But otherwise, I’ll do my best to minimize my time out and not inflict it on my coworkers.”

          3. Soon to be former fed*

            No, but perhaps his beliefs cannot be accomodated in the office. It is not a psych ward and the other employees should not have to do more emotional labor than the one who is sick.

        2. Sarah*

          I think this is a great point. Someone could legitimately have, say, cancer, and STILL not respond to a coworker’s disclosure of their own diagnosis with attention-seeking “Me too!!!!!” responses.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s still bad behavior. Even if I knew he had a dx, I would really feel strongly annoyed if he kept asking me if his moles looked weird and I had skin cancer. Mental illness does not equal a free pass to act out and harm others.

        1. Justin*

          Yes. Mental illness, like other illnesses, requires empathy and reasonable accomodation. It does not require the inability to have rules and/or consequences. (Not that people are really saying that.)

        2. You're Not My Supervisor*

          I agree about asking about moles, I was thinking more of the time that he thought he was having a heart attack in the office.

          1. Courtney*

            Right, but if this was a one or two time issue, you wouldn’t have an employee quitting, another asking to move desks, and even more avoiding him as much as possible. The OP sounded, how I read it anyways, like he is bringing up his health issues constantly.

          2. Courtney*

            Ah, hit submit too soon! Anyways, what I was going to say is that I actually have a heart condition that I’m likely going to need an ablation for, and the only people who know are most boss and one or two coworkers who were present the last time my SVT occurred. I don’t bring it up randomly or whenever another coworker is having a health issue. And based on the coworkers’ strong reactions, I really doubt that Ronald has handled this in a similar way.

            1. many bells down*

              Yeah my heart condition comes up sometimes, because I have a very obvious scar and people will ask about it. But I’ve only really had a conversation about it with a colleague, because he’s also got heart problems so we were commiserating.

          3. Temperance*

            I actually find that one even worse. That can be really traumatizing to a person actually dealing with that health issue, and to colleagues who witnessed the actual heart attack.

            1. Elsajeni*

              He (incorrectly, but) genuinely believed he was having a heart attack. If he’d thought he was having a heart attack and it turned out to be gallstone pain or a regular old non-hypochondria-related panic attack, that could also be traumatic to the person dealing with actual heart issues, but it would be absurd to hold it against him, right? He needs to butt out of medical conversations generally and continue to work on getting his hypochondria under control, yes, but that applies better to situations where the thing he’s concerned about wouldn’t be an immediate emergency if it were really happening; it seems unreasonable to suggest that he shouldn’t talk about his medical concerns in the case where those concerns are “I am having chest pains right this minute.”

              1. Temperance*

                I think we as a group tend to minimize actions by mentally ill folks that cause harm to others. So I’m going to separate out a gallbladder attack, which is incredibly painful in a different region on the body, from the others.

                I don’t think it would be “absurd” to hold him accountable for panic attacks or fake chest pain/psychosomatic chest pain. He needs to develop a strategy for handling his illness.

                1. Observer*

                  Actually, a gall bladder attack can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. My first gall stone attack presented as an almost total inability to breath with very little pain. By the time the ambulance people showed up, it had mostly passed so I was breathing again, but they confirmed that SOMETHING had happened, because of my color and my heart rate which was through the roof.

                  I am not minimizing the behavior of Ronald and the damage it’s causing. But, he really cannot control whether he has certain symptoms. He really, really can’t. On the other hand, he CAN control what he talks about. And I’d be willing to bet that even the ablation patient would have a much less difficult time if Ronald SHUT UP about his supposed heart condition and all of his other phantom conditions.

        3. I_am_RADAR*

          And really, it doesn’t matter if his issues are of a mental or physical nature. People will be sympathetic to an extent but if he goes on and on and on (whether he can help it or not), the co-workers become saturated and don’t want to hear about it anymore. Furthermore, when it so negatively impacts co-workers’ that they don’t want to work with the person or even be in the same room, it’s hindering the entire company’s ability to conduct business. There are limits to “reasonable” accommodation. I have a chronic illness and while it is on MY mind daily, that doesn’t mean I’m going to constantly discuss it with my co-workers, because they are here to do their jobs, not hear constant medical updates and complaints from me. I am sympathetic to his issues, and it must be terrribly difficult for him, but at some point it becomes unreasonable to continue accommodating this atmosphere.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        But does this condition include the inability to refrain from jumping into every medical related conversation? (I’m asking sincerely)

        1. Louise*

          It very well could! Compulsions take many forms. I know people who suffer from trichotillomania, a compulsion to pluck out pieces of hair, so severely that they’ve developed large bald spots. It would be impossible to know whether it’s a compulsion or something he has no control over without being his psychologist or psychiatrist.

    2. Snark*

      Yay, best state ever!

      I agree. Yes, it’s a real mental health issue and Ronald is suffering, but at some point, he’s costing this business a LOT in terms of turnover, excessive leave, lost productivity, and a dysfunctional office atmosphere that leaves people feeling alienated and hostile.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      Agreed. How many people are going to be set on fire to keep Ronald warm? Unless he has some kind of one-in-a-million skill, it doesn’t seem worth it for people to keep leaving, or at least distancing themselves, in order for Ronald to stay.

      Unless this company is located in an area where there aren’t a lot of other employers, or in a very high-unemployment area, pretty soon the company/division is going to lose more of its people and acquire a bad reputation, because people who are leaving will talk.

    4. Temperance*

      This isn’t coming across as insincere at all. I have been dxed with mental illness as well, and I sometimes think that’s the reason why I get so annoyed with folks who are not dealing with this and who are willing to write off any bad acting (whether intentional or not!) from mentally ill folks.

      I’m responsible for my own shit. To me, this is akin to the bird letter. Ronald has a reason for acting this way, but that doesn’t make it okay nor does it absolve him of any responsibility.

      1. Alex the Alchemist*

        I agree! I’m sympathetic, I really am. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want anyone to absolve me of responsibility for my own actions because they know I have an anxiety disorder. Quite frankly, I’d see that as condescending.

      2. sunny-dee*

        OMG, I hope Ronald never reads the bird letter. He would start shoving his coworkers at random in front of oncoming traffic.

      3. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        Right. What if Ronald had OCD and obsessively thought about touching his coworkers? He wouldn’t be allowed to do that, even though the compulsion was due to a mental illness.

        1. fposte*

          There was a reddit post a year or so ago from somebody whose husband with OCD was fired for doing up a colleague’s blouse button.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      I think it brings up an issue with ADA – that the disability needs to be under control in order to be protected. It’s pretty easy to argue that the disability is out of control when you have this level of chaos and adverse impact on others.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Yup, they just need to tread carefully in how they address the uncontrolled nature.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, the ADA requires reasonable accommodations, and I really doubt allowing an employee’s behavior to drive away numerous other employees is “reasonable.” Especially since his behavior disproportionately affects people with medical issues of their own.

      3. Temperance*

        I sort of hope that the ADA doesn’t apply here. This seems like such a minefield to navigate, even with legal assistance.

    6. Risha*

      I’m bipolar with an anxiety disorder, and yeah. I’ve been stable and un-medicated for a few years now, but I’ve been in the place where my anxiety was so out of control that I was literally incapable of doing any work for weeks on end. I’m grateful that I had the legal protections and such where I was able to go on a leave and get diagnosed and medicated and therapy and come back, but that involved me admitting to other people that there was an issue and doing the hard work to get back to the place where I was capable of being a good employee. Mental illness is a reason, and you can give people the room they need to get themselves together, and in some instances they might be genuinely unable to understand what they’re doing to the people around them and need someone to point out that there is an issue. But in the end, they need to be holding up their end of the bargain. Even at the time, I certainly wouldn’t have thought it unjustified if Old Company had let me go if I hadn’t been willing or able to take steps to deal with my illness.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Something I really appreciate, here and elsewhere on the internet, is the witnessing, “I have mental illness X, and I do not treat the people in my life like crap. Don’t use it as an excuse for this situation–the person with X does not have to behave in this way. People with X do not universally act in this way, nor do we blame X if we do.”

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        This. This so much, speaking as someone who’s been hospitalized several times for anxiety and depression (one time with a health-related panic attack!)

  9. Samata*

    #2 – congratulations on your acceptance to law school. I am sorry you had such a wild ride with former employer but it sounds like it may have resulted in you finding a field you can feel good about entering and that you will enjoy.

    1. LW #3 (Not Eeyore Anymore)*

      Thank you! I am finishing up my very first class on Friday (it was a two week summer course) and have loved it! I’m sad to say that I think this experience has made any desire I had to work in higher ed go away.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        If I may ask, how did you get a law school scholarship? I have not heard of these.

        1. LW #2 (Not Eeyore Anymore)*

          When I applied to the different law schools, I also received scholarship letters from the university either with my acceptance letter or shortly after. I also took the opportunity to visit my top five schools (2 were in my state and 2 of the out-of-state schools paid for my travel expenses) in order to help me decide. Once I decided, I emailed the Director of Admissions (whom I had already been in contact with) and basically said, “You are my #1, but I still don’t think I can go here. It’s still expensive even with the scholarship you gave me. I know you offer in-state tuition, which doesn’t apply to me. If I can’t attend this year, then I will move across the country and live there for a year in order to be able to afford to attend your school. I would still love to attend this upcoming year, but that will only be possible with an increase in my scholarship.”

          It was phrased a lot nicer than that, but you get the drift. In less than a week, I received an increased scholarship. I received a scholarship from every school I applied to and most of my peers that I’ve met so far at my law school received scholarships as well. I think that a drop in law applications meant that the different law schools are trying to incentivize people to come by lowering the cost through scholarships.

          Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them.

        2. Mischa*

          They exist! I’m on a half ride for law school right now. There are different kinds of scholarships – some based on LSAT scores, merit, academics, etc.

  10. MuseumChick*

    Number 1, I really hope that everything works out for everyone involved. I had a very dear family member pass away from a heart condition. If I perceived a co-work as faking the same heart condition…just thinking about makes my blood boil.

    Good luck!

    1. WellRed*

      Yes. I think in comments recently someone mentioned accommodating people to the point that it was untenable for the other coworkers. LW, I hope this gets resolved soon. Having an employee quit because of another employee is pretty bad.

      1. Snark*

        Especially when it’s somebody who, I imagine, will be facing plenty of out of pocket medical expenses soon, and had to weigh that against the ongoing emotional heavy lifting of dealing with someone mirroring your symptoms.

          1. Dot Warner*

            Sincere question: when does it go from wishing misfortune on someone to wanting them to face the consequences of their actions? Maybe I’m just crabby today, but in my mind if someone has alienated everyone they work with to the point where they’re driving off good employees, firing is a reasonable consequence.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think there’s a big difference between “I really hope the employer is able to impose consequences so that others don’t have to deal with this” / “I hope the employer can find a way to resolve this situation, which probably means Ron has to go” versus “I hope this person loses his livelihood.”

              1. Observer*

                I would probably go with “I hope the employer gets a handle on this situation, even if it means firing Ronald.”

                I do actually feel bad for him, but as others have said, it’s just untenable.

        1. Colorado*

          Gosh, I don’t wish him to be fired. What I do wish is he gets help in understanding how his actions are affecting others and is able to make some positive changes for himself, others, and his dx.

    2. Infinity Anon*

      I don’t think it is so much that hypochondria should not be accommodated as it is that having a medical condition (physical or psychological) does not require everyone else to suffer. They can accommodate him by allowing him the sick time he needs while requiring him to tone down his talk about medical conditions around his coworkers (assuming a lawyer agrees). Accommodating him does not mean providing endless sympathy whenever he thinks he has the same condition as a coworker or relative of a coworker.

      1. Snark*

        “They can accommodate him by allowing him the sick time he needs”

        I’d be pretty hard-nosed about this unless the lawyer specifically advised me to do it. Sorry, Ronald, you get X hours of PTO a year, you’ve exceeded that, anything else is unpaid and we expect performance to remain high.

        1. Infinity Anon*

          I wasn’t trying to say that they have to provide him extra paid time off. I meant that accommodating his actual needs does not mean allowing him to do whatever he wants and leaving his coworkers to deal with it.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, that’s more where I’d land. It’s not whether it should be accommodated or not–that’s not really a managerial call–it’s whether the accommodation is reasonable. Allowing him to drive all the other staff away isn’t.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Right. This is absolutely, absolutely, absolutely a question for a lawyer, and good on LW1 for going that route, but I’d be really surprised if they were actually required to accommodate his talking about health issues constantly to the point that colleagues cannot work with him. Accommodating him doesn’t have to mean that nothing changes.

    3. Kate*

      I think this is why consulting a lawyer was so heavily suggested on the original post. The OP can’t just decide not to provide any accommodations to someone with a medical condition, but the question is, what constitutes reasonable. What is reasonable to us maybe not be what is reasonable to the legal sense. I really hope a lawyer helps sort this out because I agree, right now, this just sucks. Employees quitting, asking to be moved, or completely avoiding him isn’t OK.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, that’s exactly right. I keep saying this, but it’s not taking: A layperson’s understanding of “reasonable accommodation” is often very different from the legal one. The OP cannot decide this based on what feels reasonable to him or to us. He must talk to an employment lawyer.

        I usually argue that companies are too risk-averse and that they think they need lawyers when they don’t. This is the opposite of that.

        1. Soon to be former fed*

          There is a body of literature on reasonable accomodations for all types of conditions. Health care providers can suggest things, as can the person seeking the accommodation. The employer them has to decide, and make a business case for, which accomodations cam be adopted without undue hardship. Undue hardship is more than inconvenience. A lawyer is not qualified to make the accommodation or undue hardship decision. I am talking only about employers actually subject to the ADA law.

      2. Temperance*

        If the org doesn’t qualify for FMLA, they probably also don’t have to comply with the interactive process for the ADA. Either way, an employment attorney is necessary here.

        1. BethRA*

          ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more people, FMLA kicks in at 50 – my org is in that middle, and I’m sure a lot of others are as well.

  11. Old Cynic*

    What is it with businesses and religion? At the end of a phone call with AT&T yesterday to disconnect service, we were told to “have a blessed day”.

    1. paul*

      The sandwich shop near my office and my grocery store just started doing that. It’s creepy AF.

      1. Snark*

        As a committed athiest, I never find it THAT creepy. I think the default should be a secular kind of well wish, but if you tell me to have a blessed day, I’m going to take that in the spirit of wishing me a good one and carry on uncreeped.

        1. Bookworm*

          Yeah, I don’t mind if people tell me I’m blessed or say “God bless you” after I do something nice for them, and I’m a pretty staunch atheist.

          There certainly are things I find off-putting, but I tend to just assume that’s some people’s way of expressing good wishes.

          1. Snark*

            Hiking with my son in his carrier backpack one Sunday morning, I was told sternly “That little boy belongs in church.” That I found offputting.

            1. Lora*

              Wait…the little boy belongs in church…but neither you nor the commenter should be there?

              *blink blink*

              What kind of church, exactly?

              1. cornflower blue*

                This is a reason I have been given twice for bad tips. “You’re working on the Lord’s day.”

                Apparently eating in restaurant on the Lord’s day, treating your server like sh!t, and then stiffing her is totes okay with the Big Man, though.

                1. Perse's Mom*

                  My brain is stuttering on this one. They’re a direct cause for your needing to work on a Sunday! Are they simply going out to eat just to be disapproving AT people?!

            2. Havarti*

              “So why aren’t you at church?”
              I don’t know how old your son is but if you’re carting him around on your back, I doubt he’s old enough to understand what they talk about during a typical mass.

            3. Temperance*

              I would have asked the person why they weren’t in church, if they thought it was so important.

            4. JoAnna*

              uhhh… my church (Catholic) has services Saturday evenings and Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings. We’ve often gone to church on Saturday evening so we could go hiking on Sunday morning.

            5. kittymommy*

              As a Christian, that’s pretty freaking rude. One, being out on a Sunday morning dies but mean you don’t go to church; two, I if it’s so important, why isn’t her there; and three, your church habits, and your kids, is nobody else’s business.
              Sorry, that kind of stuff gets me hyped up!

        2. Sara without an H*

          True. It’s just a variation on the conventional “Have a nice day.” Not stunningly original, but not an insult, either.

        3. Lora*

          I’m not atheist (I believe there is at least one god, he is a man, and he hates me specifically and surrounds me with stupid a-holes on purpose just to make me miserable), but I’ve been known to smile and “bless your heart” at people when I mean F You. Or “Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise,” “I’ll pray for you,” “well, god is still there,” in lieu of “we are so fked,” “fk you sideways and backwards, buddy” “god has abandoned us” respectively.

          1. MM*

            I’m a Jewish atheist who long ago accepted that idiomatic American English involves a lot of references to a Christian god I have nothing to do with, and happily carry on yelling JESUS when I stub my toe or “thank god” when I’m relieved. It’s just the language I speak and it doesn’t bother me.

            1. Lora*

              Oh, another favorite:

              (annoying person): You can’t do XYZ!
              Me: With god all things are possible.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Do you mean as in…

                “You can’t park there.”
                “With god all things are possible.”

                If so, you’re my hero.

                1. Lora*

                  Yep! That is a perfect use.

                  Yesterday I was in a planning meeting and I said, we should design the experiment to cover both the high and low end of the flow rates, middle points etc. “You can’t do all that!” With god all things are possible.

                  (two of my employees finished their development projects and have time for a larger experiment, but I didn’t volunteer that because then someone else will try to assign them work or borrow them)

              2. Alex the Alchemist*

                I enjoy doing that, and also when the (obviously fake) spam “credit card debt” people come calling: “Excuse me, Jesus paid all my debts on the cross.”

        4. HannahS*

          As a Jew, I loathe it. It’s like, the underpinning of the well-wish is invoking their God to bless my life and it feels just one more way that they’re trying to impose Christianity on me. It’s hardly a neutral act of well-wishing when it’s said to someone that they believe is going straight to Hell. It puts my shoulders up around my ears. I don’t want to thank them for it.

          1. Soon to be former fed*

            I am Christian and don’t believe in hell, it’s really not meant, if I were to say it (I don’t, too cliche-y) to imposr anything on anybody. Not everyone is the same.

            1. HannahS*

              Look, I know, *you’re* so nice, and *you* don’t mean anything by it but when we talk about the collective actions of Christian institutions and their followers over the last 2000 years, it’s not really about what you, as an individual Christian, intend.

          2. Observer*

            Eh, I don’t think they are thinking so deeply into it. Between the people who don’t realize that Jews actually don’t believe in Jesus, the people who never stop to think that the person on the other end of the line may not be Christian and the people who just have no clue that there are Christian connotations to this particular ending, I doubt it has anything to do with any attempt to impose Christianity. Maybe obliviousness, but that’s it. And then there are the Christians who see Jews as kindred souls- we also get blessings, we also actually say Thank G-d actually meaning those words rather than just a reflexive expression. So, you’ll UNDERSTAND about having a blessed day. Again, perhaps a bit oblivious but really, not nefarious.

        5. Engineer Girl*

          This. I find that the people that scream the loudest over this are the ones with the most fragile beliefs. The ones that are the most solid in their beliefs will either ignore it or say – once – “please don’t do that” and then let it go.
          The ones that go on and on and on about how they are offended usually ascribe to the “louder is most right” philosophy.

          1. Observer*

            That’s just not true. I don’t happen to agree with HannahS, but what she’s talking about is not her “fragile beliefs”. Rather, she is responding to a very real history of attempts to force Christianity on people. Combined with the attitudes of many Christians (some of which has been discussed here), it’s not that much of a stretch to find it offensive.

        6. paul*

          It’s like the company decided the “nice day” or thank you they were using wasn’t enough and now they have to be so grateful/happy I spent money they want God involved in it. I know my reaction may be a bit weird. But that really is how it feels to me.

          And I’m not offended as such, just…creeped out a bit.

      2. LQ*

        When I worked in a more religious community and the assumption was that everyone around was religious it was oddly much less strange, I wasn’t bothered or annoyed or creeped out by it. I no longer work in that neighborhood and when people have done it to me now it always has a bit of a creepy feel to it. I’m not sure I can place my finger on why. But I think part of it is it just feels so deeply deeply out of place.

        1. Oranges*

          They’re not following the social rules of their current area. So the action is now a blatant “marker” about their “in group”. Like gang colors it doesn’t matter if you wear red shoes unless you’re in an area where that’s a signal about gang affiliation. Or a sports cap logo/color signals you’re a Packer’s fan.

          Them saying a religious phrase in a non-religious environs makes you uneasy because they’re signaling a couple things.
          A) they are so deeply religious they feel the need for everyone to know it (we don’t).
          B) They want other people to think about their religion (I don’t wanna)
          C) They’re looking for other members of their “in group” of Christianity which automatically makes non-Christians part of their “out group” this is can be an ugly place to be as regards to any majority religion esp. if they believe there’s only one “right” way. (I have much FEELS here about power imbalance due to Christianity being the majority religion and their history towards norm enforcement)

          So yes, there are reasons that your ears go up around your shoulders. It’s kinda… creepy.

    2. Jill of All Trades*

      I once had someone from Citibank tell me not to use the Lord’s name in vain. I hung up on her, called back, and reached someone who didn’t treat me like a heathen.

      1. Borne*

        Religious folks find it offensive when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain. It is a simple courtesy not to do it.

        1. Nacho*

          Right. Different cultures find different things offensive, but it’s not that hard to show some basic respect once someone’s told you not to do something.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s particularly respectful for a bank to tell me not to do something in the first place.

            1. Turquoise Cow*

              Exactly. I don’t need the bank or the bank employee commenting on my life outside of my bank account. It’s not “simple courtesy” for someone to tell me how to live my life or what god(s) I should believe in or how.

          2. Jill of All Trades*

            It’s a standard part of customer service to leave your personal feelings about the customer at the door and provide them with service. This woman was being paid to assist me with a transaction. If she’s not thick-skinned enough to hear the Lord’s name in vain from a frustrated customer in a nation with diverse religious beliefs, maybe she should self-select out of customer service.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              it sounds like you were either saying “Jesus!” or “G-d damn it!” That level of interaction is getting into rude behavior. And name calling and cussing isn’t working on problem solving.
              Many call centers have rules that allow the employee to push back under those conditions.

              1. 1.0*

                I mean, ymmv, but I said “oh my god!” in surprise once, which I wouldn’t exactly consider rude behavior or cussing, and had a friend’s father get spittle-flecked yelling mad about how I took the Lord’s name in vain.

              2. NaoNao*

                Ehhhhhh I was raised in a religious commune of fundamental Christians and we were taught that “Oh my God!” or “Lordy!” were taking the “Lord’s” name in vain.
                I agree with Jill of all Trades. Customer service reps represent the company, not themselves. Unless the company is a Bibles sales depot or a church, it’s not appropriate to ask customers to specifically adhere to your religious beliefs.
                Not to open a can of worms here, but just because Christianity is the majority religion in the US, doesn’t mean it’s okay to ask people to follow its strictures.

              3. Jill of All Trades*

                She said something about my account that made me unhappy, and I said, “Oh Lordy, that’s not good.” It doesn’t stop me from progressing straight into problem solving. If I was cursing at her, that would be a different story (and completely counter productive).

                Please give me the benefit of the doubt here. I was brought up Christian, and even when I practiced Christianity it was not in my place to tell strangers what they could or couldn’t say because of my religion. Even less so in a business context.

              4. Perse's Mom*

                Most call centers with rules about customer rudeness are referring to the customer being actually abusive – cursing at them directly or devolving into profane rants kind of abusive, not random and very common expressions of frustration.

                1. Nox*

                  Call center QA auditor here. Actually some call centers have rules in place to issue warnings to customers who are being perceived as rude even if it’s considered innocent by secular standards.

                  This often stems from the past where it used to be the customer had to use one or more of the 7 bad words you can’t say on TV or verbal threats. Overtime this policy had to evolve to accommodate religious and disabled individuals- so yes I have audited calls to where a customer was warned for saying “my god that’s ridiculous” or “wow that’s retarded”. I have even had calls where the caller said crap and that was an issue becsuse the call center teaches them that the second the caller starts making rude/sarcastic statements, the call may get out of control and so the warnings are designed to advise the customer that we are holding you accountable and you don’t have my permission to offend or abuse me. These had to be updated to help reduce the amount of abuse agents take from an already soul crushing job lol.

                  I will agree that sometimes it’s abused like in the above mentioned example with Citibank but I think places just want their employees to feel as it’s a safe environment since there’s a strong mentality of “we will always side with the customer”.

        2. fposte*

          It’s also a simple wisdom for businesses not to lecture their customers about their personal habits.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          That varies widely by religion and individual expression of it. Should I try to follow all religions’ restrictions on speech just because the customer service person helping me with my phone bill *might* object to something?

        4. Kate 2*

          And I find it offensive to be told I should “have a blessed day”. It is a simple courtesy not to do it.

        5. Triangle Pose*

          Actually, it is simple courtesy not to impose your personal religious beliefs on a customer in your professional capacity as a bank teller. Come on now. The bank teller was bring inappropriate.

        6. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

          Businesses should not be lecturing me about speech (with very few exceptions), especially if I am there to conduct secular business.

        7. Soon to be former fed*

          Doesn’t bother me, I don’t hold other folks to my standards. I just wish folks could accept little social niceties for the micro interactions they are. It’s ugly enough now, rudeness is the norm, so I’ll take whatever little pleasantry I can get. No need to look for offense at every turn. But to each her own.

      2. Temperance*

        I would have asked for her supervisor immediately. I don’t take kindly to religious lectures when I’m trying to take care of secular business.

        1. Nox*

          Depending on the call center, the supervisor would most likely be on the agents side and issue a callback to you instead of directly talk to you so that Q.A. can review the audio and determine if they consider it a lecture. Then never follow up.

          I’ve been in this business waaaaaayy too long lolol.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      I always want to tell someone to have a Satanic day in response, but I don’t do it because I know they’ll flip out.

      1. Anton LaVay*

        If you feel the need, the blessing I use is “May the blessing of the great Lucifer the light-bringer be with you.”

        And yes, it does cause people to flip out in a not-as-funny-as-you’d-think sorta way.

      2. NoMoreMrFixit*

        I did something similar once to a person who was rather hypocritical and far too selective about what particular passages in scripture to follow. After they started preaching and promising to pray for me I responded that I would sacrifice a goat on their behalf tonight. I never got another impromptu sermon.

    4. Amber Rose*

      There’s a place here I have nicknamed Cult Pizza (the actual name starts with a C), because they print the insides of their pizza boxes with religious stories and sayings and bible references. It sort of weirds me out to be lectured about moral behavior while I try to enjoy some greasy fast food.

      The pizza’s pretty good and I still get food from them occasionally, it’s just kind of unnerving.

      1. Kaboobie*

        I’m pretty sure In and Out burger does that with their wrappers. It wouldn’t bother me if the food was any good, but I found it shockingly overrated. And now I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t go there anyway.

        1. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida*

          In N Out burger is pretty subtle … If I’m remembering correctly, the wrapper or the bottom of the cup has something like “John 3:16”, but doesn’t actually contain the text.

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        Similarly, I visited a pizza shop in Portland, OR and on the bottom of my receipt was printed: “DEATH TO FALSE PIZZA.”

      3. strawberries and raspberries*

        I would totally eat from Cult Pizza, though. Could you imagine the promos? “The only thing authoritarian and charismatic about our pizza? OUR COMMITMENT TO THIN, THIN CRUST”

      4. Typhon Worker Bee*

        It bothers me more on Alaska Airlines sandwiches. I’m like “the pilot’s actually trained and not just praying for a safe landing, right?”

        Luckily (?) their sandwiches are so terrible that I now bring my own food instead, and don’t have to read the prayer inserts.

    5. SarahKay*

      With The Handmaid’s Tale having just finished, I think I’d want to respond with “Under his eye”.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      What is it with businesses and religion? At the end of a phone call with AT&T yesterday to disconnect service, we were told to “have a blessed day”.

      Ah, well, if you’re leaving AT&T, you’ve already been blessed…

    7. Jaguar*

      Sorry, what’s the complaint here? You heard something you didn’t want to? Someone was nice to you in a way that reflects their belief system? I don’t understand what the problem is.

    8. Aphrodite*

      I hope I never hear that because it would both astonish and anger me that I would be severely tempted to tell whoever said that to “have a f****** day.”

      I never comment on or interfere in anyone’s beliefs and at the same time I fully expect to not have anyone interfere in my (very antagonistic to all religions) beliefs.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I would find this really weird as a rejoinder to “I no longer wish to do business with your company, no, not even if you offer me the special offer.” And I type that as both an agnostic and a big fan of the earnest “Well bless their heart” in response to a tirade.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Meh, it’s well intended. Kind of like saying bless you when someone sneezes.

  12. OP #3*

    RE the automated phone screen:

    To his credit, the guy was very polite about the whole thing. I’m guessing they either thought this was a great idea or it was sold to them that way. He probably didn’t expect to hear a negative opinion. There are fewer decent jobs around here than you would expect so I imagine nobody else said anything. I’m sure they think I’m an outlier.

    I was not kidding about the cattle call interview I mentioned to him (it was for a dental office). Over 100 people showed up to an auditorium; how are you supposed to effectively choose one person for a job that way? Really crappy screening practices probably mean really crappy HR practices across the board. The law office guy never said they were bringing in all 350 applicants, but if they were doing 10-15 minute in-person meetings, then someone doesn’t know how to screen applications.

    1. Janelle*

      I had a wonderful man do a group interview with three people once and he could tell it just wasn’t working as we couldn’t all speak or would hold back. A short amount of time into it he kindly asked us all if we’d prefer one on one and if we had time for him to speak to us all individually and wait. We all agreed we would prefer this and he was so lovely about it. Said he’d never done the group interview but gave it a shot and realized quickly it wasn’t the best approach. It was in the end the best interview I’d ever had. I didn’t get the job but it was such a pleasant experience I was only upset I wasn’t going to work with such a lovely person.

        1. Mrs. Fenris*

          Seriously, me too. Somebody who is open to trying a new idea, but immediately realizes when it’s not working, and then owns it and candidly corrects it? Yes please.

  13. CM*

    Love OP#2’s characterization of her terrible workplace as an “interesting situation” and a “social experiment.” This is clearly someone who has learned how to compartmentalize — a valuable skill that she will make good use of as a lawyer. (Congratulations on getting a scholarship to law school!)

    1. LW #3 (Not Eeyore Anymore)*

      Thank you, CM! I think compartmentalizing was the only way I survived, to be honest. I do feel bad for those I left behind, but I know their reasons for doing and can kind of understand.

      Plus, I am super excited now that the semester is officially starting in a few weeks. I am taking a two-week summer course for two credit hours that wraps up on Friday. Our professor told us that we’re the smartest group of students he’s ever taught this class to.

      1. LW #2 (Not Eeyore Anymore)*

        Uggg!!! I mistyped my number. It’s supposed to read LW #2 (Not Eeyore Anymore). Sorry for the confusion!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I agree, it’s a hugely useful coping skill. Especially when you have an exit strategy but are not yet out the door.

  14. Nacho*

    Maybe I’m just easygoing, but I don’t see the problem with the phone screening. It’s certainly no worse than a lot of the online screenings I had to go through, including the one I went through to get my current job. This kind of thing is pretty normal for entry level positions.

    1. AMT*

      I don’t think it adds any information, though — or, at least, information that couldn’t be gathered from a questionnaire. As with an in-person interview, the point of a phone screen is to see how the candidate interacts with the screener in real time. The automated screen the OP is talking about seems to encourage applicants to give rehearsed mini-speeches, which definitely wouldn’t show how good they were on the phone.

    2. Lance*

      The problem, as has been mentioned before, is that the person being screened; they’re answering specific questions, in a specific time frame, making it more like a script than an actual, person-to-person interaction, and thereby sorely limited the information you can get from the person being screened. And as also mentioned above, if there are that many candidates, there’s probably something wrong with the resume/application screening process that an automated phone screen (which real people will still have to parse through, so it doesn’t save that much time, if any) will not fix.

      1. Kate 2*

        That’s what really gets me about it. Okay, so you don’t want to/can’t schedule time to actually talk to all 300 people you want to “interview”, but you can schedule and find time to sit down and listen to 300 recordings? How does that save time, really? It’s practically Dilbertian.

        1. LQ*

          The thing that a phone screen gets you is -100 people who were like the OP and NOPED out of the process or who weren’t interested. So you only have to listen to 200!

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Actually, I can see that it would save time, because you can listen back to back, and you don’t have to worry about the interviewee’s schedules.

          Of course, that presumes you actually need to listen to 300 people, rather than narrow that down first. It’s a stupid idea. But if your intent is to hear those answers from 300 peoples’ own lips, it would save time.

          1. OP #3*

            If they knew how to screen applicants, they wouldn’t end up with 300 people to talk to in the first place. Most employers post a job and get a percentage of junk apps–people who are in no way qualified for the job but apply anyway because they’re either doing it for unemployment compensation purposes or just throwing everything out there.

  15. Jaguar*

    I love the claim that 350 people applied. Must be a good system!

    The idea of any filtering system is to eliminate the things you don’t want and retain the things you do want. This system seems to do the opposite: anyone that doesn’t have to put up with it won’t bother and everyone else will. It’s like trying to sell a new gold pan by advertising how much dirt you can scoop up.

    1. OP #3*

      I’m guessing 350 people applied because there are few jobs here that pay more than $10 an hour.

    2. Antilles*

      I loved it too, because the guy says it like it’s a GOOD thing that they had 350 (!) voice mails to listen to. Even if you can whittle out most of the deadwood from the first 1-2 questions*, you’re still looking at a full day wasted doing nothing except listening to people talk to a recording. Seriously, who the heck has time for that?
      *Which itself is optimistic given that the machine almost certainly starts with “Please tell us your name and contact information” – something that even a mediocre phone talker can handle just fine.

  16. CAinUK*

    I hope, if the lawyer finds a way to let Ronald go, that LW#1 also reaches back out to the employee who quit w/o a job and offers her job back.

  17. Just an Anecdote*

    I dealt with an FMLA-related cop-out at my own job related to maternity leave.

    So what if your company isn’t covered by FMLA? FMLA is the federal minimum requirement mandated so that companies would have to allow humans to be human at pivotal moments in their health and the health of their families. You always can CHOOSE not to fire someone if they need to take time off (unpaid) to deal with health issues. You can also choose not to, and deal with the consequences.

    AAM’s point that the accommodation is a rare case of actually needing to involve an employment lawyer in order to determine a company’s obligation is a separate issue entirely, IMO. A very important one.

    But I always hate to see a company try to hide behind “we aren’t covered by FMLA” as a way to avoid reasonable accommodation entirely.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Yeah, except that the company has been giving him plenty of sick time and hasn’t fired him. So I don’t think your complaint is actually relevant – they are not required by the FMLA to give him 12 weeks unpaid leave, but even so they HAVE been flexible about his sick time. The company has been working with him, and are in no way using lack of FMLA applicability as a magic shield.

      And it’s really the ADA they have to consider here anyway, more than FMLA at this point.

    2. fposte*

      I agree with your point that it would be great if companies not covered by FMLA offered more leave, but I don’t think it’s that relevant to this situation.

  18. Lady Phoenix*

    Op #1: I think we can say that this guy has pretty much used up his “reasonable accomadations” when one coworker has absconded and another is requesting to abscond. I am glad you got a lawyer involved because this HAS TO STOP.

    1. fposte*

      Though, as pointed out, we can’t say whether he’s used up reasonable accommodations or not–that’s why you get a lawyer involved.

  19. Augusta Sugarbean*

    going off-piste
    Had to google that phrase too and now I feel like off-piste is going to end up in the previous post about misused words. “Don’t go off pissed.”

  20. Gazebo Slayer*

    An employee with melanoma quit without another job lined up because of Ronald’s behavior?!

    Oh. Oh my God. He needs to be gone. I feel so bad for the other employees he has made miserable at a time when they’re already dealing with horrible stuff.

    Has anyone explained the impact of his behavior to him?

    1. Jaguar*

      I agree that he should be laid off if he can’t control his symptoms, but he’s dealing with mental illness, not a neurotic habit. It’s more complicated than explaining to him how his disease affects others, and there’s a good chance he already knows.

      1. Temperance*

        I think after it’s run by an employment attorney, they need to let him go, if they can. He does need to hear how other people are feeling in reaction to his actions, if they need to keep him on. It doesn’t matter if it’s because of a mental health issue or not, he’s harming others.

      2. Soon to be former fed*

        But does he care? Mental illness doesn’t have to make you lose your humanity. He could just be a mentally ill.jeek.

        1. Jaguar*

          Could be! I wouldn’t assume malice without evidence, and doubly so for someone struggling with mental illness.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          This! Mental illness and just plain being a jerk are certainly not mutually exclusive. Neither are mental illness and attention-seeking. Someone can be genuinely suffering and at the same time not give a crap how his behavior (illness-related or otherwise) affects others.

          1. Indoor Cat*

            Yeah, like, ach, this really bothers me.

            So, there is a true, factual statistic that “people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.” This is true and important to remember, especially in the context of mental health as a public health issue.

            But that doesn’t mean mentally ill people are never violent. Statistically, mentally ill people are equally likely to commit acts of violence as non-mentally ill people. And, like neurotypical people, these acts of violence are primarily domestic disputes and bar fights / picking fights when drunk. That is, they don’t get the media coverage of a mass shooting; unfortunately, these are “everyday” acts of violence.

            But someone will get the cops called on them for assaulting someone, and they (and their friends and family) will want to protest or prevent arrest. “Oh, he didn’t mean it, he has bipolar.” “You can’t hold it against her, she has aspergers and anxiety.” And it’s like, okay, there are two big problems here. The first, immediate problem is, this person is dangerous to the people immediately around them, not because of their mental illness but because of their behaviors. If you are not going to press charges, what is going to prevent them from harming someone else?

            Second, you know how to make people in general believe that mental illness =/= violence? By holding the mentally ill people who DO commit acts of violence accountable for their actions.

            Most mentally ill people, just like most neurotypical people, will never commit an act of violence and aren’t dangerous or scary.

            But some people are violent. And some people are jerks. Mental illness isn’t an excuse for either.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*


              Using mental illness as a get-out-of-responsibility-for-all-wrongdoing card INCREASES, not decreases, stigma. It tells neurotypical people that we must be allowed to do anything and everything and that they have no recourse if we harm them – that they’re unkind and wrong if they’re even upset about it. And someone who can do bad things to you with total impunity is someone to resent, fear, and hate.

              1. Jaguar*

                I’m not saying you have to accommodate any symptom of a mental illness. I’ve made of point of saying you don’t, in fact. I’m saying you shouldn’t speculate that someone with a mental illness is just a jerk.

          2. Jaguar*

            Sure, they’re not, but it’s not particularly intelligent to assume a coincidence when causation is more likely. Hypochondria is not just a recognized mental illness, it’s a particularly serious one and like all serious mental illnesses, it’s incumbent upon reasonable and ethical people to challenge the notions they have about the illness so we can begin to treat people with mental illness properly as a society. The insistence that “they might just be a jerk” because maybe they just don’t realize the symptoms of their illness are upsetting people fails that. It’s unlikely to be the case (the much more likely explanation is that, no, he’s just suffering a mental illness we all agree he has) and it’s more about you feeling better about disregarding him – it’s much easier to cast a jerk as the villain in a story than it is someone suffering from an illness.

            As I said, this doesn’t excuse his behaviour as appropriate, and we already acknowledge that illnesses and disabilities are not accommodateable all over the place (someone in a wheelchair probably can’t work on ploughing a field, someone with a compromised immune system probably can’t work in an airport doing customs, etc.). The one advantage people with mental illness have is that, in many cases (and I don’t know how well hypochondria fits into this), they can get treatment to minimize their symptoms and function better in society. Speculating baselessly that maybe they’re just a jerk when their symptoms present doesn’t help them at all. It helps you feel the way you want to feel about them.

            1. Hedwig*

              Agreed. And there’s is no indication that anyone has even actually told him how his actions are negatively affecting others. Give him a chance to improve his behavior before jumping to firing.

  21. Janelle*

    Quitting your job because some guy thinks he has cancer and you also happened to have cancer seems like a very dramatic overreaction to me. It would be annoying but I can’t grasp being so devastated over it. Kind of odd to me.

    1. esra (also a Canadian)*

      This is pretty minimizing. Did you read the original description of his behaviour? It goes rather beyond what you’ve said here.

      1. Cat*

        I read the original letter and their summary seems right to me. I can’t help but wonder if there’s something more going on.

        1. esra (also a Canadian)*

          He doesn’t just think he has these problems, he talks about them (by the sounds of things, a fair bit). I can’t even imagine how stressful it is dealing with melanoma, let alone having some guy constantly talking about it all the time in your workplace.

    2. Temperance*

      Have you been through an actual medical crisis? It’s traumatic. So, for example, the person with the heart condition having to see Ronald’s not-actual heart attack in such a dramatic flair, could be really traumatic.

      Melanoma is a cancer that often comes back. It’s not a “dramatic overreaction” to be upset and hurt by someone constantly harping on about their own moles or predicted cancer. Think about it for a second. You’re a person who has to constantly be vigilant, and you have some guy in your office who doesn’t have cancer, has no history of cancer, etc. rubbing it in your face constantly.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yeah, when someone tells me they know all about how hard life is with my medically fragile son, who struggles daily to breathe and whose life is danger from the mildest of colds, because their kid gets lots of ear infections, it takes every single ounce of self-restraint I have not to scream at them. If I had to deal with it daily, I would not stay.

        1. cornflower blue*

          I feel like you’re saying that you’re undead, and that obviously can’t be what you mean.

      2. Tyche*

        I agree. I think I would be devastated by someone’s remarks about this or that illness when I’m fighting for a cure or suffering for its damaging effects. Cancer patients can suffer from depression too. So it’s doubly upsetting that she has to be around him.

  22. Terra-cotta*

    Has anyone sat him down and explained the repercussions of his behavior on coworkers ?

  23. Indoor Cat*

    Re: #1– I’m really glad OP got a lawyer.

    Like many in the comments section, I am hopeful for as positive a resolution as possible, and I realize that that, most likely, that means letting the hypochondriac employee go. But, I believe consulting a lawyer is wise, even if it delays the process a bit, and even if in the mean time the other employees are still stressed and other employees quit. Obviously, OP #1 should do everything possible to help reduce the stress to the other employees while this process is ongoing. But, really, doing everything 100% legally and by-the-book ensures that they’re not suddenly opened up to some kind of ADA-discrimination lawsuit. Even if a suit is dismissed, having a suit brought at all can lead to bad press.

    So, very good call consulting a lawyer. Also! The chances might be slim, but if there’s a way the lawyer could find to solve the problem without needing to fire anyone, that’d be great! It, uh, seems pretty unlikely. But, potentially, maybe a possible solution.

  24. Attie*

    OP1, it seems like that situation would warrant a strict “no talking about medical subjects with/around Ronald” rule as an accomodation to Ronald. Hearing about his co-workers’ medical problems is clearly making his own condition worse!

    That said, it doesn’t sound like Ronald has a good enough grip yet on how to manage his condition. He might bring up the subject himself, and that would put your other employees in the awkward position of having to shut it down (effectively adding on them the burden of managing his condition for him) or violate the rule. Not to mention it would probably be difficult to explain this rule without mentioning Ronald’s hypochondria, which you can obviously only do with his consent. Still, it’s an avenue to explore. Wishing you luck on resolving this with Ronald and your lawyer before more employees are driven out!

    1. Observer*

      Well, from what the OP says, people have already started to self-censor around him. They avoid him and talk to him ONLY about strictly work related stuff.

      But shutting things down is a lot harder. And it’s just not a reasonable expectation to expect staff to do that consistently.

    2. PhyllisB*

      I know this is terrible, but I can’t help but wonder what happens when one of the female employees gets pregnant? Is Ronald going to think he is, too?

  25. Greg*

    Loved the way #3 approached the conversation. Understandably, it’s very difficult for job applicants to offer candid feedback on the hiring process while they are still hoping to get the job, but once you know you’re not interested, it is (or at least should be) helpful to offer measured, constructive feedback. The message is not “You’re evil” or “You suck at hiring”, it’s “As a member of your target audience of applicants, here’s my honest feedback on your processes.”

    If the hiring manager got defensive, well, that’s too bad, but it’s not your concern. Hopefully if enough people give them the same feedback (either actively or passively, if they’re unable to attract enough qualified candidates), they’ll take notice and remember that a hiring process is a two-way conversation.

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