working with an over-complimenter, former employee is angry we didn’t acknowledge a death in his family, and more

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

1. Working with an over-complimenter

We have this new coworker. She has a really nice demeanor, so when she gave me a couple of compliments, like clothes and makeup, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Now that a few months have passed, I can honestly say the complimenting has gotten out of control. It’s every single day! For example, I do my makeup the same most days; one day I think I went a little heavy-handed on the bronzer, and she complimented me on it.

The next day, I didn’t go so heavy. So she said “Oh, no cheeks today?” Then another day I have more bronzer on “You did your cheeks! I’m so glad!” Then another day it’s “You should really do your cheeks more often!” And so on.

If I re-wear a piece of jewelry or a shirt that she has complimented me on, she will say “Oh, you’re wearing my necklace today! I love it, it’s so nice!” Then the next day. “Awww, where’s my necklace?”

Currently, she is focused on my eyebrows. I do my eyebrows the same every day since college, yet she insists they look *just* a little different every day. “Your eyebrows were darker yesterday.” “Your eyebrows are so dark today! So nice, I like it.”

I almost want to believe that she simply does not know how to communicate with others, other than complimenting. I obviously feel very silly thinking about going to a manager about this. Is there any way to approach this?

How about this: “I know you mean it kindly, but I actually feel a little uncomfortable having my makeup and jewelry commented on so frequently. Thanks for understanding!”

2. Former employee is angry we didn’t acknowledge a death in his family

I am the manager of a small department. A little over two years ago, I had to terminate a long-term employee. It was a long time coming: For years, he had been unable to perform basic job duties, he was resistant to correction, and his interactions with other team members were becoming increasingly hostile. The termination process went predictably badly, and the employee went out in a blaze of vitriol: accusations, profanity, etc. I did not take any of it personally.

I have had no interactions with him since then. However, today, he sent an email with a link to the obituary of his adult daughter. He took us to task as a group, saying he would have expected at least a card and basically implying that we were horrible human beings for failing to acknowledge the loss, which occurred about two weeks ago.

Alison, no one from my team knew! If we had, I think we would have sent some sort of acknowledgement as a group … even though when this worker left, he said horrible things and was clear that he wanted nothing further to do with us.

But what to do now? Do we send a card? Flowers? He has behaved badly, but now he is a grieving parent, and we are all genuinely sorry for his loss. Does contacting the employee just open old wounds? I’m torn.

Yeah, it’s not typical for people to know about deaths in the family of employees who left two years ago, unless they’ve stayed in touch! Since he’s now alerted you to it, it would be kind to respond to his email with something like, “I’m so sorry to hear of this! We didn’t know this had happened, but of course now that we know, you have our deepest sympathies for this terrible loss. You and your family are in the thoughts of all of us here at Teapots Inc.”

I think sending a card or flowers is really optional here, given the vitriolic history, but it would certainly be a very gracious gesture.

3. My manager approved me for more vacation days than I actually had

The manager who handles vacations left mid-2016 and another manager filled in until a replacement was hired early 2017. During this time, the interim manager approved several vacation requests of mine. It turned out I had run out of vacation days but the interim manager approved the days anyway. So with nobody realizing it, four 2017 vacation days were pulled to cover 2016 and it wasn’t discovered until July 2017 when I was told (while I was on vacation) that I was already out of vacation days for the year.

Obviously if I had been told in 2016 that I’d be losing the 2017 days, I wouldn’t have taken the days off. Whose responsibility is it to know how many vacation days I have left? They’re not giving me any days back and say if I want to take any more days off in 2017, I have to now pull days from 2018. Any ideas?

Everyone here messed up. Your interim manager shouldn’t have approved the days if you didn’t have them (although many managers approve requests based on whether it’s okay to have you out of the office on those particular dates, and count on you to make sure you actually have the vacation time available) — and definitely should have told you she was pulling them from a future year to cover it. Although maybe you’re saying she didn’t realize it at the time either, and then when someone spotted it later, the day were pulled from 2017 at that point?

But you also should track your own vacation days and know how much time you have available to you. I can understand if you were off by a day or two, but going over by four is something that you should have been aware of. I mean, assuming you get, say, three weeks of vacation, that means you went over by nearly a third of your annual allotment, which normally you should have realized you were doing.

Ideally your employer would say, “Hey, this is partially our fault too, so we’ll split the difference with you (or even let it go this time) but you need to watch this more closely in the future.” And since they’re not offering that up, you could try asking for that.

But if that doesn’t work … Well, it sounds like if this hadn’t happened, you’d have four remaining days this year. You could split the difference and pull two from next year … or ask them if you can take the time unpaid this year … or just get through the next four months without more (non-sick) time off, since four months isn’t a huge length of time to invest in getting this squared away.

4. Can I ask a company to slow down their hiring process?

Yesterday I had a 40-minute Skype interview with a company that is across the country. I was potentially interested in learning about the opportunity but not sure the location or the organization would be right for me. The questions were typical, but I couldn’t see much on the screen and I’ve never visited the small town where the job is located. I thought the next stage would be an in-person interview where I could learn a lot more.

Today they are saying they want to check my references, which they had requested along with my resume in the initial job posting (I hate it when they ask this at that stage, but sent them along thinking it would be a final-decision last step — now I regret some of the names I sent). I’m not sure after 40 minutes of conversation I’m seriously committed to moving forward, and this is all feeling very real all of a sudden. I’m not sure I’d be willing to move for anything but an amazing opportunity, and I don’t feel like I have enough information to know if this is one. Is one of us out of step with the hiring process? Part of me is thinking this is a red flag and maybe I should just withdraw.

Ask them about it! You could say something like this: “Can I ask where you are in your process and what additional steps I can expect? I know reference checking typically comes at the end of the process — if I stay in the running, do you plan any additional interviews? If we get to the finalist stage, I was hoping we’d talk in-person so that I can learn more about the organization and the role.”

You might find that they check references earlier than most employers (which is weird and inefficient but is occasionally a thing that happens). But if they tell you that they weren’t planning on additional interviews, it’s reasonable to say, “I’m definitely interested in the job, but I’d want to have another in-depth conversation if we move forward. Is that something we can arrange?” (Keep in mind that they might have done things this way because they don’t want to pay travel expenses. It’s reasonable for you to ask them to, but be prepared for them telling you that they’d need you to get yourself out there.)

5. Can I leverage a job offer for more hours at my current job?

I have been part-time (20 hours/week) at my current job for two years. I love the autonomy, my manager, and the general atmosphere. I get complete flexibility with my hours AND can take unlimited time off (unpaid). It’s a pretty sweet gig. Due to finances and life, I need to bump up my pay and hours. There are two positions that I could potentially take over, but one person would need to retire and the other would need to vacate the position.

I’m well liked at work and multiple people have said I should “have their job(s).” In my performance reviews, my boss has said she “wants to expand X department and promote me” but it hasn’t happened, and she can’t give me any sort of timeline when asked.

A job opportunity has fallen in my lap. Same general job description, 30 hours/week with a bump in pay. I clearly need to wait for an offer, but if I get one I really want to leverage it for a full-time job at my current place.

For example, “Fergus, I really love it here at Teapots Inc. I’ve received an offer from Zookeepers Inc for more hours and more pay. Is there any way we can look at the budget to try to keep me?” That sounds terrible written out and it sounds like I’m totally full of myself (“Promote me now or lose me forever!”) but I have a feeling if I moved jobs, my boss would say “Gosh, if only she’d waited X more months we could have kept her.” What do you think of all this?

The thing about using another offer as leverage with your current employer is that you have to be prepared for them to tell you to take it. If you knew your current job wasn’t going to make you full-time for at least the next year, would you want to take this other offer? If not, I wouldn’t trying to use it as leverage; there’s just too much risk that your manager will say, “Unfortunately nothing here has opened up yet, so I understand you’ll need to take the other offer.”

But if you’d want this other job if nothing is going to change at your current job, the risk is much lower. In that case, you could say, “A job opportunity has fallen in my lap for more hours and more pay. That’s hard to turn down, but I’d much rather stay here. We’ve talked in the past about making me full-time at some point. Is there any path that would let us do that now? I love everything about working here, and if there’s a way to stay here, that’s easily my first choice.”

In general, trying to get a counter-offer can be tricky even when you’re willing to risk being told to take the other offer — some managers get really weird about knowing you were ready to leave and you can get penalized for it down the road in ways you don’t expect — but when you’re part-time and it’s known that you want more hours, it tends to be less risky.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Do you often initiate conversation with your coworker? If I find myself stretching for things to say to overly quiet people who never initiate, I’ll default to compliments sometimes. If you otherwise like her, why not? You can’t adjust your rapport with her unless you give her something to go on. I do think it’s important to maintain some level of conversation with her for the sake of a positive work environment. You don’t want to give her the impression that you’re shutting down all conversation.

    1. LS*

      Agreed, it sounds annoying and over the top but perhaps she doesn’t know what else to say to you.

      You could try smiling briefly to acknowledge the compliment and immediately changing the subject to something else: “So, have you met the new guy in teapot design? I used to work with him at Super Spouts.”

      1. Diane Berg*

        Are you sure the LW doesn’t work with me? I had a similar experience with an over-complimenter, and finally, and firmly, stated that I was uncomfortable with so many compliments about my appearance (it was ridiculous and over the top and NOTHING was off the table for a remark: my eyebrows, my perfume (I don’t wear any), my jewelry, clothing, handbags, lipstick, even the tidy state of my desk). The over complimenter seemed taken aback and replied, “But you are lovely!”. Creepier than ever, but she has stopped. We now exchange good morning/have a good weekend remarks, but that’s it. I’m totally fine with it.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      But when you default to compliments you probably don’t sound so patronising and strange, right?

      The LW never said they were overly quiet (whatever that means) or that they didn’t initiate.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I don’t read the compliments as patronizing and strange. They sound like desperate grasps to make conversation with someone who maybe just isn’t interested in small talk, which is fine but isn’t always something that can be realistically enforced in the workplace. OP’s daily changes in appearance might be the only new thing that the coworker can think of to talk about.

        No need to get defensive on OP’s behalf. “Overly quiet” means exactly what you think it means. I asked OP if she initiated conversation; I didn’t lead with any pointed accusation. I went in that direction because it offers an explanation for why someone else might be scrambling for stuff to say and come up with something that’s a little weird.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Really? Fair enough. They sound very weird to me. I’d be pretty uncomfortable with being so scrutinised.

          Overly is a judgement – that’s all I meant.

          1. NJ Anon*

            If someone was commenting on some aspect of my appearance all the time it would freak me out. I would have to ssk them to stop.

          2. Lilo*

            I am with Ramona on this – especially the “oh you didn’t do your cheeks” and the “oh you did your cheeks, I’m glad”. That’s really weird to me. Who cares or reacts that much over how much makeup someone at work is wearing?

            1. Hedwig*

              Yes, frankly the comments described go beyond compliments into criticism of her appearance. When you are telling someone they are not wearing the right makeup that is bizarre and also insulting

              1. Karo*

                This is exactly what’s bothering me about it. Saying “I like your makeup” is fine, but saying “Oh no cheeks today?” or “you should really do your cheeks more often” gets into weirdly critical territory.

                1. Toph*

                  It goes beyond even that for me. It’s not just compliments and it’s not just criticizing appearance. It seems to be…establishing what she thinks is the best look for the OP? She points out when she likes the makeup, the jewelry, the outfit…and then expresses disappointment when OP dresses any other way. It’s like she wants OP to have a uniform.

            2. Elsajeni*

              Yeah, some of these are compliments, but some of them, like “Your eyebrows are darker today!”, are just… comments (at best — some of them, especially anything starting with “You should…”, are veering awfully close to being insults!). Even unambiguous compliments could get annoying eventually, but this sounds more like commentary and critique, which is WAY more obnoxious.

      2. LBK*

        I’m with you. I kind of get Regina George “I love your skirt!” vibes from these comments – I think it’s because they’re effectively retracted once the OP is no longer wearing/doing whatever was being complimented. And there’s also the weird phrasing that makes this sound like the OP is doing it for this coworker (“where’s my necklace?”) as if the coworker has done a makeover on the OP and is trying to give her ongoing coaching about her appearance.

        I frankly wouldn’t be taking these as compliments at all. They feel more like backhanded digs; given their frequency and how disappointed she sounds when the OP doesn’t do her makeup or dress the way the coworker likes, I’d have a hard time not interpreting them as “Oh, you actually looked decent for once when you bronzed your cheeks! Why did you decide to look like garbage today by not doing it again?”

        1. Koko*

          Yes, her calling it “my necklace” was an especially disconcerting facet of this weird behavior. I can’t imagine ever calling someone else’s possession “mine” because I saw it and liked it once.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          Really? This all sounds totally normal to me. I mean, it isn’t the sort of thing I say (like, ever), but I have had several current and former coworkers who say things just like this. I don’t think I’ve ever heard “my necklace,” but I have heard “my favorite necklace” and “that necklace that you know I love” and that sort of thing, and that’s just what this sounds like to me.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            I think it’s combined with everything else that makes it so weird. This coworker is somehow making the LW’s appearance about her own feelings. The coworker is glad the LW did her cheeks a particular way the coworker approves of! The LW wore a necklace the coworker really likes! What the LW wears and/or how she does her makeup is not about the coworker in any way, shape, or form.

          2. Delphine*

            I would be very weirded out if coworkers started pointing out things I wear as “their” favorite. It’s just too intimate for professional conversations. “I love that necklace” is great. “Where’s that necklace that you know I love” is not.

            1. LBK*

              Yep – I have a particularly bright shirt that a coworker of mine always commented on how much she loved whenever I wore it, which I didn’t have a problem with. What would be weird is if I came in wearing another shirt and she said “Aw, where’s that shirt I like?” Uh, in my closet because I decided to wear something else today? Why is that your business?

        3. RabbitRabbit*

          Yeah, those aren’t compliments if she gets the sad puppy reaction when she’s not done up sufficiently. It’s weird. It could be just someone socially awkward, possibly, who doesn’t know how to interact.

          I almost never wear makeup, or will do something small like a little color correction, some powder for shine, etc. When I do wear lip color, I’ll get a little compliment from female coworkers I’m friendly with, but never a “where’s your lipstick today?” sulk from them.

          1. Jenny*

            Yeah, I don’t think “over-complimenting” is the right thing to call this – it sounds more like general scrutiny, and sometimes happens to be positive (but sounds like it often isn’t). Either way, this would be extremely irritating to me, especially if this is someone I was interacting with every day.

    3. LW#1*

      At first, I didn’t mind the compliments. This is something that wasn’t weird at first, but became strange after maybe the 10th day in a row or something.

      I try to keep things work-related with her, but she still at times interrupts me to let me know that she likes my shirt/necklace/makeup and asks if I contour or if I use cocoa butter. It’s like she’s forcing herself to be my bestie. Even if I’m working urgently on something and running around trying to get things done, there have been times where I still had to avoid her without being rude so as to not find myself talking about kylie lip kits for the next 20 minutes.

      1. PollyQ*

        I’d be entirely tempted to kill her, so as long as you don’t do that, you’re at least ahead of me.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with downshifting your interactions with her to “pleasant, professional, and brief.” You know, it’s an office, not a cocktail party.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        Ick, there’s a different flavor to the interactions than it seemed from the letter. It sounds like she’s someone who’s super into the current online-based makeup trends. It’s realllllllly hard to find other people in real life who have even heard of ColourPop so I can understand the impulse to latch onto someone who appears to have the same fringe interest as you (Doctor Who fans might relate).

        People who talk about the Kylie lip kits and contour methods to people in real life are often the sort to spend a lot of time online/on reddit in general, whatever that might imply about her general mode of conversation. If you keep this in mind you might have a better handle on where this is coming from and how to deal with it.

        1. DCompliance*

          I wished the Kylie lip kits worked out for me. The color would oxidize too much (as does the rest of all me makeup- boo) and the colors would not look right on me. I am just back to good old Revlon Color Stay.

        2. Justme*

          I’ve heard of Colourpop! And love Doctor Who. But the majority of my interactions with people who also know about those tings are online. I can get my fill without being too weird.

      3. Thlayli*

        Actually it does sound like Stellaaa may be on to something. Given that you are both into makeup it seems like she’s trying to use that as a way to initiate conversation but just being really awkward about it.

        It sounds like it’s the classic introvert/extrovert problem exacerbated by a lack of social norm awareness.

        Possible reason: She desperately feels the need to connect with you on some level (coz extrovert/people person) and she has seized on appearance as your point of common interest (coz nothing else she knows of that you can talk about). She also isn’t aware of the social norm that it is rude to comment on other people’s appearance either good or bad – so altogether that leads to really awkward comments about your appearance as her desperate attempt to be friendly. And since it sounds like you are an introvert / not interested in random chat during work time you do not experience it as friendliness but just as uncomfortable comments on your appearance.

        Of course that might all be incorrect but if it is correct then one way to redirect her would be to find another point of conversation. Figure out if there is anything else you can talk about that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. Ask her about her other interests – maybe it will turn out you are both game of thrones fans or something. Then you can have a conversation that will satisfy her need for personal connection without making you uncomfortable with weird comments on your appearance.

        You could of course just ask her to stop commenting on your appearance but then I suspect she would just try to find another point of contact – and you might experience that as an interrogation. so it would be better for you to take control of the “interrogation” and find out what another common interest is.

        1. LW#1*

          I’m not really into makeup, though. She just commented on my makeup one day since I just happened to do it differently than I normally do, and has commented on it so many times since then. I do see your point though, I am wondering if this is a social norm that she doesn’t understand (though it does make me uncomfortable at times)

          1. Thlayli*

            Oh, given that you do your makeup every day and know what kylie lip kits are I just assumed you liked makeup. She could be making the same assumption.

            I’ve actually just come across a comic that sort of shows what I meant – link in my username.

            1. memyselfandi*

              I do not have a television, do not participate much in social media, have no real interest in make-up and even I know what Kylie lip kits are! The Kardashian/Jenner promotion engine is powerful beyond belief!

                1. Bretley*

                  Did you hear there was a solar eclipse this week? :-P Kidding, kidding – consider yourself fortunate.

                  Just this week I had a colleague compliment me on what she thought was some bronzer or highlighter on my cheek, and I had to sheepishly reply, “Oh, that’s just some eyeshadow that fell down onto my face.” That said, this was the first and only time she’s ever said anything about my appearance in any way (though I have complimented her on a cute sundress here and there), but if she were to comment on my make-up again I would internally raise an eyebrow and think that was a bit weird.

          2. LS*

            The thing is though, that you might be interested in makeup but not interested in talking about it. I like makeup but I don’t want to discuss it with my colleagues.

            1. Thlayli*

              Absolutely. I’m not saying what LW should or shouldn’t do. I’m merely suggesting a possible explanation and one possible method of dealing with the situation. There are myriad possible explanations and myriad possible solutions.

              I could be wrong about the reason and LW may decide that she would not like my solution any better than the current situation. That’s totally fine.

            2. gwal*

              Sure. It seems very silly, though, to imply that someone should know this about LW #1 without being told. If someone is visibly partaking of something that I find interesting, I’m going to talk to them about it. If they like that thing but do not want to talk about it, it should be that party’s responsibility to shift the conversation or enforce some boundary like “I really would prefer to not talk too much about makeup at work” or “why don’t we stay focused on the report”. Don’t hold “lack of psychic powers about other people’s conversational preferences” against people, that’s unreasonable.

              1. Hedwig*

                Maybe it is just because I cannot relate to the idea of being into makeup, but I feel like it falls into a different category than having Yankees memorabilia or a Tardis on my desk. I wear makeup as many women do, but I don’t know how having makeup on my face suggests that it is a hobby of mine. I drive a car, but I don’t know why anyone would jump to the conclusion that I am into cars just by virtue of driving one. Not that I think it’s rude to try to ask if it is a hobby, but it seems like such an odd thing to just assume based on the fact that she happens to be wearing makeup.

                1. Nervous Accountant*

                  I think there are ways to tell if someone is really in to make up vs someone who just does the bare basics as a normal grooming activity, or like driving a car as in your example. FWIW I’m really in to make up but I don’t wear a lot very often. A cw and I can talk for hours about it, even though both of us barely wear any on a daily basis, but that’s just talking about makeup in general, not really criticizing or focusing on the others’ appearance. That to me is a little weird IMO but I don’t think it’s malicious…maybe a little bit out of social norms but that’s it.

                2. gwal*

                  She is wearing it and has not ever rebuffed conversations about it in the past (which seems, in this case, to be a desire to be nice and not rock the boat) which may have been interpreted (yes, wrongly, and perhaps with serious disregard to nonverbal cues) by the compliment giver as interest or a lack of anti-makeup-discussion sentiments. Mild pushback seems like it could go a long way in such a case where a coworker assumes you want to talk about makeup and you actually don’t.

                3. AsianHobo*

                  If your car is basic and looked the same every day, I would assume that’s just your car that you need to get around. But if your car has unique features that usually only people into cars have, or you came in with your car customized differently one day, I would then assume you’re into cars.

          3. Name*

            Sorry, while I can understand this will upset you LW, it’s not even a little bit on the par of that poor woman who was killed for protesting against Nazis. Heather Heyer.

            No question, it’s hurting and annoying you, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal, it’s a deal you need to deal within the ordinary cosmos. You are actually being complementing you too much (which I agree can be annoying) but seriously? The alternatives are terrible.

            1. Katniss*

              In that case the entire blog should be shut down because nothing anyone could write in about is going to be worse than being murdered by white supremacists. I’m curious as to what you hoped to achieve making your comment?

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              It’s never helpful or appropriate to address someone’s problem by pointing out that other people have bigger problems. It’s true that none of us here today have been killed by Nazis. That doesn’t mean people don’t have problems.

              1. Name*

                Disagree, it’s always helpful to remind people that the things that they think are awful are things they need to put in perspective in the actual real world. There is a huge difference between being murdered for your beliefs and having someone critiquing your makeup. And over complimenting you for that. Should LW be pulled up for that in an ideal world?? No. But seriously, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s way down there on the scale.

                1. Dee*

                  People are actually capable of knowing that terrible things happen in the world AND being irritated by interactions with a coworker. They’re not mutually exclusive.

                  And honestly, living your life by reminding yourself every few minutes “but other people get murdered!” sounds miserable to me.

                2. LBK*

                  If only 10s were worthy of addressing then this whole site should probably just be shut down. You understand that this is a workplace advice blog, right? Of course 99% of the issues here aren’t going to be life and death. I don’t know what point you think you’re making.

                3. Jesmlet*

                  Everything is relative. Can we not police people’s feelings? We can care about civil rights and also care about our happiness at work at the same time.

                4. LW#1*

                  You’re right, there is a big difference between being critiqued about my appearance and being murdered by white nationalists…. the difference being: they have nothing to do with each other. So how is it supposed to give perspective?

            3. YuliaC*

              So I guess nobody can talk about any ordinary things ever because there are always terrible things happening in the world.

            4. siobhan*

              I understand that it irks you that people sometimes ask about how to address mildly awkward interpersonal situations, but advice blogs, in the grand scheme of things, are always going to be low-stakes relative to current events. If that fazes you, remember that your experience of reading advice columns is not even a little bit on par with the landslide in Sierra Leone.

            5. who?*

              Uhhmmmm… What? Did I miss something? I don’t see anywhere that the LW likened herself to Heather Heyer.

            6. MashaKasha*

              You’ve got to be kidding.

              The alternative to being complimented too much is not being killed by the Nazis (what even), it’s being left alone.

            7. LW#1*

              Are you seriously saying that the alternative to having someone compliment me incessantly is being killed by Nazis?

              I mean look, I got some great advice on this. But let’s be clear: I’m just trying to clear up an awkward situation in my office. At no point was I trying to be a social justice warrior. People are allowed to be uncomfortable *in* uncomfortable situations. But implying that I’m trying to be some Heather Heyer in my office is a big of a stretch.

        2. Buffy Summers*

          Wait, what? It’s rude to comment on another person’s appearance whether good or bad?? I don’t get that. Of course, I understand certain things…like weight, for example. I’m actually on a medication that’s made me lose a lot of weight (as a side effect, not a medication FOR weight loss), and I’ve gotten a ton of people saying things like, “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight! You look great!” or “You’ve lost so much weight! What have you been doing?”. It gets a little uncomfortable so I get that.
          But, to say something like, “Hey, that color looks great on you,” or “I love the way you’ve done your eye makeup today!” I’m just not sure how that’s rude. Things like that are just part of normal conversation, or at least it is where I live. Why on earth wouldn’t I tell someone her new haircut is nice or I like her shoes, etc. I enjoy compliments myself, so I give them to other people because I want to brighten their day a little. I never thought of it as rude. Is that really a thing?

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I think it’s ok to give an occasional compliment like the examples you gave. But I would find it rude and definitely annoying to have someone commenting on something every single day. Especially if they started commenting that I wasn’t doing/wearing something they had said they liked previously.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, and especially if “I love the way you did your eye make-up” becomes “your make-up looked better yesterday.” Like, maybe she didn’t have time for more this morning, or she likes the other way better, but it’s none of anyone’s business.

            2. Kathleen Adams*

              I disagree that any of these comments are rude. Irritating, sure. But rude? No.

              Which doesn’t mean the OP has to endure them in silence, however. I think a few “You know, I really don’t enjoy talking so much about makeup and clothes at work” plus the introduction of topics that the OP wouldn’t mind discussing ought to do the trick. It seems clear, at least from what I’ve read here, that the coworker isn’t trying to be rude or intrusive – she’s just trying to connect with the OP on a friendly level. It should be possible to do that without the OP having to discuss her bronzer routine every other day or without hurting the coworker’s feelings.

              1. Lissa*

                I think the compliments aren’t rude but the non-compliments like “no cheeks today” are sorta rude. Maybe this is just because I’ve received, in the past, “comments” on my appearance that aren’t really compliments and it’s always awkward! And it’s fairly hard to shut it down without coming off as ungracious, so I can see why the LW is frustrated…

                1. many bells down*

                  Yeah I’ve got this dude that occasionally messages my blog that he loves my hair – immediately followed by how he thinks I should cut it. Most of his suggestions aren’t even good ones as I have curly hair and I am not EVER having bangs again thank you very much. And of course I’m not about to take some random weirdo’s styling advice.
                  It’s not really complimentary to say “I love X – here’s how you should change X to make it more appealing to me.”

              2. tigerStripes*

                What bothered me about it is that it seems like the co-worker is trying to push the OP to wear makeup and jewelry that the co-worker has decided looks best. That just feels wrong.

          2. JMO*

            C’mon. “Hey, that looks great on you” is radically different than what was described in the letter. “Your eyebrows are darker today.” “Good, your contouring is back to standard.” (?!?!) Who notices stuff like that, let alone comments on it? Every. day. Co-worker is being weird.

            1. Buffy Summers*

              I wasn’t talking specifically about what the OP was asking. I was replying to the comment of Thlayli where he/she said it was rude to comment on someone’s appearance whether good or bad.
              I didn’t say what the Co-worker was doing wasn’t outside of the norm.

          3. Elemeno P.*

            It’s more the frequency and the tone. There is a guy at work who once said, “I like your dress! You always wear such bright colors.” And that was nice and fine! He has now commented on my clothing and whether it was a bright color or not every single day for the past year and a half. I can tell he just wants to say something nice and isn’t sure how to socialize other than that, but it is awkward. I’ve worked with people with much worse social issues in the past (and when I was younger, I did the same thing), so it’s not the worst.

            If the lady at LW’s work just said that her makeup looked nice every day, it would be lightly uncomfortable but an understandable attempt at being social. It’s the backhanded aspect of it that’s really grating: noting that you really like someone’s bronzer and then being verbally disappointed every time they don’t use it is basically saying they look terrible the rest of the time. You know those moms that will gush over a conservative dress and then ask what happened to it if you wear something more your style (and not hers)? It’s like that, but 40 hours a week as an adult.

            1. Liz2*

              YES! I was worried I was an overcomplimenter because I pay attention to styles and notice things like new haircuts and shoes, but I would never suggest my own preference in a compliment!

              I had a coworker say once “Oh you are wearing make up today, nice!” but I wear makeup everyday and had just spent some extra time doing cover ups and blending so it was more noticeable. Her faux pas!

          4. who?*

            A compliment is fine. To me, this coworker doesn’t sound complimentary, more like a critic…
            “You did your cheeks! I’m so glad!”
            “You should really do your cheeks more often.”
            “Awww, where’s my necklace?”
            Calling LW’s necklace “mine” is supremely odd and invasive to me.

            LW herself said that at first the compliments weren’t bothersome, they’ve just gotten out of control and imo they are now veering into backhanded compliment territory.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              Of course tone of voice means everything, but none of this sounds like a back-handed compliment to me. It just sounds like the coworker is a little clumsy when it comes to compliments – perhaps because she can’t think of anything else to talk about?

              I’ve known people like that. I know it sounds odd if you have not – I mean, why not ask about movies or TV shows or sports or the weather or the carpeting in the elevator lobby? – but this really does sound to me like the conversation of someone who is not good at conversation. But I freely admit that I could be wrong.

              1. tigerStripes*

                It just seems like the co-worker is telling the LW how she should look, which feels invasive.

          5. Friday*

            In general, it’s fine to (OCCASIONALLY) compliment someone’s appearance when it’s a deliberate choice they made, like a new haircut, certain shoes, etc. Every day like what LW is dealing with gets into whackadoo territory.

            What’s not OK is complimenting/critiquing someone’s body when it’s something they have no control over, or something that sometimes people have control over and sometimes they don’t. Weight loss is definitely one of those things as there are many medical reasons, sometimes devastating, that can cause weight loss. Unless I knew that someone was very dedicated to fitness and diet and was actively sharing those details with me, I wouldn’t compliment them on their WL progress.

            (One of the things I learned with my first pregnancy is SO many people have an opinion on your baby bump, and some will indeed tell you if it looks like the right size to them, if it’s too big, too small, etc. As if I give a craaaaaaaap, good lord.)

            1. tigerStripes*

              Amazing that people would tell you if your baby bump looked the right size to them. I’d be tempted to tell them that they aren’t my doctor.

          6. LW#1*

            I guess you could say that it just feels ingenuous and manipulative. A compliment here and there is not a bad thing. But in this case, it is literally every day.

            She even did it again the day after this was posted on AAM, too. I wore “the necklace” again, and didn’t interact with that coworker much that day ( not because I was trying to ignore her or anything like that, but because I was just immersed in my work). Then suddenly when going to the bathroom, she came careening around the corner saying “Hi LW#1 LOVE YOUR NECKLACE!”

            On the surface, it seems like a nice gesture. But to me, it was almost as if she saw me wearing that necklace hours ago, and had been planning for hours to let me know for the millionth time she loves “the necklace.” It just rubs me the wrong way. And it’s daily. I mean a compliment on something is nice sometimes but when it happens every day, it feels incredibly off.

      4. LS*

        Yeah, that’s annoying. If she’s interrupting a work convo or a meeting, I’d try something like “Thanks, but let’s focus on the teapot handle redesign project. We have a lot to cover.”

        If she’s coming up to your desk and interrupting you while you work, you could carry on with what you’re doing, waiting until she’s in full flood, and then look up up at her with a confused look as though you’ve just noticed she’s there and you haven’t heard a word. Followed by “What? Sorry, I didn’t see you and I’m really busy here.” It sounds a bit contrived but it’s worked for me with people who struggle to read body language and tone of voice. (I’m not comfortable with the “Please stop talking to me to me about makeup – I’m not interested” approach – I worry about hurting people’s feelings.)

        It sounds as though she maybe had this type of gushing, share-everything relationship with someone at her previous job, and doesn’t have the savvy to realise that it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing?

      5. Katniss*

        I have to offer some empathy here, LW. I have a very similar thing at my work, except my serial complimenter also always gets it wrong. She thinks I’ve dyed my hair when it’s just fading from last time, and she thinks I’ve changed my makeup when I’ve told her every time, in a friendly way, that I don’t actually wear ANY a makeup. She also feels the need to ask me why I’m wearing a cardigan at least once a week, even though the answer has remained the same for two years: because it’s cold in the office. I know she’s being friendly but it gets very frustrating. I hope some of the tools people suggest here are helpful to you!

        1. Synonymous*

          I’d be so tempted to start doing it back to her. “Oh did you change your eye color? They look different. Is your nose longer today? No? How strange.”

        2. LizB*

          What possible answers are there to the question “Why are you wearing a cardigan?” other than “I like how it looks” and/or “It’s cold in the office”? Does your serial complimenter think you’re part of some secret outerwear cult that sends coded messages through its members’ cardigan habits?

            1. Librarian who left her cardigan at home today and feels self-conscious*

              1.5 weeks later, it has to be said…

              You get your MLIS and become a librarian, of course!

        3. many bells down*

          Ever since I cut my hair short, people have been asking me if I permed it. I am having difficulty finding a way to politely say “how have you never noticed my hair is curly?”

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            I’ve had people ask me “How did you get your hair so straight?” with the clear implication that it looks much straighter than usual, and trust me, it’s always just as straight as a string.

            And the answer is, of course, “Inherit straight hair – really, really, really straight hair – from some ancestor or other.”

      6. a*

        OK, so, random compliments in the middle of work are one of my top pet peeves. Not saying this is what your coworker is doing, but I used to have a coworker who would use them to deflect from business discussions. As in “So, I was wondering when the TPS reports are going to be ready for our group to–” “You know, I LOVE that jacket you have on!” Spoiler alert: it usually turned out my coworker was behind on the TPS reports and wanted to sidetrack me.

        I know not everybody who throws out compliments is doing that and your coworker may be totally benign… still, it’s useful to become practiced at the art of the pivot. “Oh thank you! Now back to those TPS reports…” Sometimes, just pulling back and being “boring” when the other person brings it up slowly teaches them it’s not worth it.

        1. Anna*

          But that’s not at all the same thing. You’re talking about a form of deflection, which isn’t really about the compliments and is about avoiding having to answer for late work.

          1. a*

            I literally acknowledged twice in my comment that it may be a different situation from what OP’s coworker is doing.

            It’s still useful to have your own form of deflection from unwanted commentary on your appearance.

    4. Julianne*

      I noticed the person who wrote in already added some additional details in this thread, but I came here to agree more with Stellaaaaa. I have one coworker in particular who I run into all the time in not-explicitly-work-situations at work (ex. waiting in line for the microwave or the water cooler), and the only thing I know about him besides his name and job title is that he has this one super-niche hobby that I know nothing about (and thus I struggle to come up with reasonable small-talk questions beyond “So, are you still recreating ancient Viking rice sculptures? How’s that?”). (I also know basically nothing about his job, as it has no overlap with the work I do.) I discovered that I was defaulting to always talking about the weekend when he pointed out that ALL my small talk was about that and asked me point blank if I hated my job or what.

      So although it sounds like being at a loss for conversation topics might not be the case here, I can suuuuuuper relate to that situation.

      1. the gold digger*

        I am always at a loss with one of the VPs. She terrifies me (OK, makes me slightly nervous), so I start chattering and saying stupid things about how she wears such high heels all the time and how I can’t wear heels that high anymore and I wish I could and don’t her feet hurt and wow, those heels are gorgeous and HIGH!

        She smiles graciously and gently removes herself from my inanity and I feel like a moron.

        I have been working on just saying, “Hi VP! How are you today?” and biting back any commentary at all about what she puts on her feet.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Well yeah, I will compliment a coworker’s outfit once in a blue moon, and when their outfit is so stunning, it makes me stop as I walk by, turn around, and take a second look. I can count on my one hand the number of times this happened in my career. But I agree that it’s okay to say something when an outfit is out-of-this-world phenomenal.

      2. Jesca*

        I think it might actually stem from that whole “we are here to work and not socialize” that was discussed yesterday with the too quiet writer. These types of things have happened to me so much because I just didn’t accept that other people wanted to talk about things other than work with me from time to time. I realized after a time that the reason they keep focusing on this one *obvious* aspect of myself is because I am literally sort of making them feel like they need to constantly find a way to open dialogue with me. So I my *weekly rounds* with everyone, and then go about my work life. It seems to work. Instead of constantly believing that everyone should always be focused on work all of the time, maybe initiate a conversation with her? Ask her how her weekend was? Control the dialogue? We all have to understand that everyone is different and are not always going to “live up to our social normal expectations”, and for peace of mind if not anything else, we have to learn how to work with them by understanding WHAT works for them.

        Like a sociology professor once told me, it isn’t always about treating people how you would want to be treated, but understanding how they would want to be treated may be different than yours. (of course, that is all within reason).

      3. tigerStripes*

        So glad to be in software development, at least at my company because we aren’t expected to be good at small talk. Smile, say something about the weather, and that’s usually OK.

    5. Koko*

      “If I find myself stretching for things to say to overly quiet people who never initiate…”

      I’m curious why you would stretch for things to say in that scenario when it seems like silence would be perfectly acceptable. If the other person doesn’t initiate conversation and you can’t think of anything to say, then why the need to scramble for things to say?

      1. MashaKasha*

        Right? “Hi, how’s it going” – “not bad, you?” – “good, thanks!” there! done! And no stretching required! God, I love working in tech.

      2. k8*

        this! perhaps they are “overly quiet” and “never initiate” because they, i dunno, don’t want to talk to you?

      3. Stellaaaaa*

        Because it’s neither healthy nor reasonable to expect people to not have 60 seconds of enjoyable conversation over the course of an entire workday. Because even though OP was there first, her default work mode shouldn’t necessarily be the baseline for everyone else who works there until the end of time. Because if OP wants her coworker to adjust to fit OP’s preferences, maybe OP should reciprocate by adjusting a bit as well, as is expected and common among human beings who are participating in society.

        1. who?*

          I can see your point to an extent… But just because a conversation is enjoyable to one person doesn’t mean it will be enjoyable to someone else. It sounds like in this case it’s not so much “60 seconds of enjoyable conversation,” it is actually “60 seconds of bizarre, uncomfortable conversation”

        2. MashaKasha*

          If a conversation is only enjoyable to one side, then it is not an enjoyable conversation. Nobody owes 60 seconds of enjoyable conversation to each of their coworkers that they might run into over their entire workday. If the other person does not want to chat and I do, my best course of action would probably be to go find someone who does?

        3. Stardust*

          I mean, i get what you’re saying but I wouldn’t say it’s unhealthy or unreasonable to decide to be quiet when someone else is silent as well. If people want to chat with each other about meaningless stuff, that’s cool (i’m someone who’s very good at that as well), but you seem to be framing these “60 seconds of enjoyable conversation” as some kind of prerequisite for a good workplace even if the situation doesn’t call for it and i’m not sure I can get behind that.

          And we don’t even know if the LW is overly quiet or doesn’t initiate smalltalk with this coworker, so I’m not sure where you’re getting anything past your first sentence in this comment.

          1. MashaKasha*

            You’re right, we actually do not know that at all! For all we know, LW does initiate smalltalk, but the coworker only wants to talk about LW’s makeup!

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m curious why you would stretch for things to say in that scenario when it seems like silence would be perfectly acceptable.

        This. If you’re waiting for the microwave to finish so I can get my food out and you can have your turn, it’s perfectly fine to just smile and say “hi” and not have an entire conversation.

      5. Specialk9*

        In the US, silence between people is intimate. It’s culturally inappropriate to be with strangers or acquaintances and sit in silence, but with close friends it’s fine. Silence with acquaintances is like expecting people to strip to their undies in a work meeting. It’s seriously anxiety producing. We get judged by Europeans for making meaningless banal chatter, but it’s silly to judge people for being culturally appropriate.

        1. Kindling*

          I think most of the people responding to this and saying silence is fine are probably from the US, though? I’m in Canada and feel like our norms are relatively similar (I did live in the US for a brief period) and I wouldn’t say silence is ‘intimate’ in this particular situation.

    6. MashaKasha*

      Whatever happened to talking about the weather, last night’s sports game, kids, grandkids, pets? oh, literally hundreds of things one can default to before they start discussing a coworker’s eyebrows!

      I would change the conversation to any of those subjects if I were OP, to be honest. “Your eyebrows look gorgeous today, OP!” – “Ahhh… thanks? beautiful day today, we haven’t had this much sun in a while, about time, don’t you think?”

      1. Serin*

        Yeah, I was just about to say — if social awkwardness is the co-worker’s issue, it might help to inject some possible topics (that you actually enjoy talking about) into the conversation. With someone who’s as conversationally odd as this person, you don’t even have to think of a really smooth segue, just change the subject.

        “Did you do your eyebrows differently?”
        “No, but I hear there’s a potluck on Thursday. I’m thinking cupcakes. What do you usually bring?”

        “Where’s my necklace?”
        “Heh, I know you love that necklace. So I just got an invitation to a wedding in New Hampshire, and I don’t even know what the weather’s like up there — have you ever been there?”

        “You did your cheeks!”
        “I may have gotten some sun — I just joined a hiking club. I saw four eagles last night. Someone told me they nest near the river. Do you see them from where you live?”

        1. MashaKasha*

          These are all good topics! The coworker might even learn something new about NH, or the eagles, or something of the kind. Much more interesting than discussing eyebrows for the Nth time!

        2. who?*

          This is just my thing, but the fact that the coworker calls LW’s necklace “my necklace” really rubs me the wrong way. I would probably say “Hm, I don’t remember borrowing a necklace from you, what are you talking about?”

          But these are good ideas to steer the conversation away from makeup and toward other small talk.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yeah, my brain would probably freeze at “my necklace” and that would be the end of that chat; since “how the hell would I know where your necklace is? have you tried checking at your home?” is not an appropriate answer.

  2. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, like Alison I am puzzled at why you didn’t realize you were over (or close to) your maximum number of vacation hours. I realize your HR may not have a tracking system like the college I work for (so we can see our built-up and used vacation and sick time at any time) but it seems a bit odd to be so unaware of it.

    Since it is obvious your company doesn’t have such a system, have you thought about keeping it yourself? But if I were in your situation I wouldn’t “borrow” 2018 time; I’d stick it out for the rest of the year and get back on track for 2018.

    1. Professor Marvel*

      Agreed. We are allowed to go -5 days. I would assume you knew how many days you had and were borrowing when approving vacation.

      1. Trillion*

        It depends on the timekeeping system. Where I used to work we had a mix of vacation, personal and floating holiday that were more or less interchangeable. Only the office manager who entered our time could see updated totals for each but didn’t look at them every day. Being a shift worker who worked rotating 12 hr shifts I lost track of what I used when, she mistakenly used personal when it should have been vacation and my pay stub was a month behind with listing the time off remaining. So when I needed to be at my cousins wedding no one realized I was out of time until 2 days before. Luckily my supervisor was awesome and we worked stuff out. But I understand how it’s possible this happened.

        1. paul*

          Same thing’s happened to my wife more than once; she takes a personal day and they enter it as a vacation or sick day or vice versa.

          It’s part of why I like all PTO in one bucket, makes it easier to keep track of

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I wondered the same. At my job we track our own leave and it is on us not to request more than we have. LW, I use a spreadsheet and subtract each type of leave (sick and vacation) from the total I earn each year each time I request a day. If I have carry over leave (rare but happens on occasion), I just add it to next year’s total.

      1. Anna*

        The system where I work is pretty good. It’s all part of timekeeping so we can see how many hours we have, how many we’ve used, and we can submit requests based on what we’ll earn. Even with that, though, I’ll frequently count out how many hours I’ll earn between a given time and when I want to take my next vacation just to make sure I’m not going to go over.

    3. Liane*

      One thing to actually like about retail work: A number of the bigger names have schedules, up to date available leave etc. on their intranet, where you can log in and see it any time. A lot of these include the leave request form–you fill it online and management approves it or not the same way. You can even print out your leave requests and many of us did so after they were approved just in case we got scheduled.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        My non-retail job has that, as have most of my medium-sized and larger employers. (Except for the one that actively decided to stop tracking leave time, which I think was a finance decision???)

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Everywhere I’ve worked the total hours used has been on our pay statement. I’ve actually not worked anywhere that’s allowed you to go negative. If you put vacation or sick on your timesheet and you didn’t have any to use, it would be marked unpaid by payroll.

      1. SophieChotek*

        My pay check has total PTO hours I have, and then I if I use them it goes down. It is still on me to ensure that my PTo get added and subtracted correctly, though, as I have had issues with it not getting subtracted or not getting added or one time I got too many hours, but I always know I have how much POT I have, within 8 hours or so, since it (obviously) lags behind a bit with pay periods.

      2. Sal*

        That sounds nice. I worked somewhere where they added it to our paystubs and then informed us it was wrong in some unenumerated way, and that we couldn’t and shouldn’t go by it.

      3. memyselfandi*

        Yes, it is on my pay stub and I verify it to make sure it has been allocated correctly. However, I sign off on leave for two staff members and am not aware of any way to verify if they have enough time – but I am going to check. I base approval on making sure they don’t have something work related that conflicts. It never occurred to me that the individual wouldn’t know their totals.

      4. who?*

        Same here. And on our time off request form we have to manually enter how many vacation hours we have remaining, and then it calculates how many will be left after you take the requested days off.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, sorry, OP3. I don’t think it’s your manager’s job to track your PTO at all. The manager who handles approval of vacation requests has to handle a LOT of vacation requests. She can’t be expected to know how many days each one of those people has left — she’s trying to make sure there is adequate coverage in the office, not trying to manage your benefits for you.

      Of course it would be nice if your company had an automated tracking system that allows you to see at any moment how much time you’ve used and how much you have left. This seems curiously difficult for companies to implement, in my experience, perhaps because so many of the agencies that I’ve worked at have absolutely antiquated timekeeping systems. Which means it’s your job as an employee to look out for yourself, unfortunately.

      1. Kvothe*

        Yeah agreed, I’ve always had to keep track of my own vacation time. My employer now doesn’t actually care if I take unpaid time off as long as workloads allow for it so they doubly wouldn’t care if I ran out.

      2. ss*

        Agreed. At every company I’ve worked for, my boss has no idea of my current PTO balance. He/she simply trusts me to know my own balance and that I’m requesting an available amount, and then my boss is making the approval decision based on the current workload and other team-members commitments to figure out if I can be spared on my requested days.

    6. BlueWolf*

      My company has a really good tracking system that allows you to see how much you’re accruing and your available balance at any point during the year, so you can plan out time off. It automatically deducts any requested leave so you know exactly where you stand at any point in time.

    7. Anon for Sure*

      Honestly, some systems and some HR departments are screwy. Where I work I keep a very close eye on my leave totals, because the system randomly adjusts the number of hours I have left. If I don’t watch it like a hawk and go to HR then the wrong information is recorded. I suspect most people assume that the totals are correct until they suddenly are not.

    8. MashaKasha*

      When I started at CurrentJob, we did not have a vacation tracking system. So I used a spreadsheet (still do, because nobody knows when the vacation tracking system might crap out and make a mess of the data that is being stored in it). I will however say that it’s pretty easy to get mixed up even with a spreadsheet, especially if you’re taking half-days or one day here and there. It gets confusing pretty fast.

      I think OP’s company is handling the situation pretty well. They are still letting OP borrow days. I’d borrow what I absolutely need to take in 2017, and start tracking my vacation time myself right away (like, starting today).

    9. Infinity Anon*

      I think it is nice that there is the option to borrow time from next year. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of using it if needed, but I would apply an extra high bar for determining if it is worth it. Use a day to go on a vacation? Probably not. Use it to be able to travel home on Thanksgiving? Maybe. Use a day to go to an important family event, like the wedding of an immediate family member? Definitely.

  3. Junior Dev*

    I disagree on #2. I think you should not respond to this guy. If this were a one-time lapse after he parted amicably that would be different. But I worry that if you respond–let alone send flowers–it will encourage him to keep dragging you into his drama.

    1. Lona Manning*

      I think that a response email along the lines Alison suggested would be very gracious. Better than silence. However, it’s a given that the email will bounce back, or he will reply in a nasty fashion — either, “oh NOW you say you care” or “well, I don’t care if you’re sorry because you suck.” But so what, take the high road and then forget about him again.

      1. Infinity Anon*

        I agree that sending a nice note back is probably the best choice. Expressing sympathy is minimal effort and it’s true. They are sorry that his daughter died and he is obviously having a hard time. I would be wary of sending an actual card or flowers though since he might respond angrily that it happened after prompting.

      2. tigerStripes*

        I agree that sending a gracious e-mail like Alison suggested would be a good idea, even though he might not respond well. Taking the high road tends to be a good idea.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I think I’d reply once and then leave it, but it’s pretty bizarre to lash out like this at a former employer – and while having a death in the family is sad, it doesn’t somehow erase all the other stuff that happened.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        My sibling died unexpectedly and having seen my parents go through that, I do sort of understand where the guy is coming from. I mean he IS being totally unreasonable, but I understand how he arrived at that place of unreasonableness. When your child dies the grief is just SO big — it was definitely head and shoulders the worst, most traumatic, most devastating thing that ever happened to my parents. It’s such a huge thing for you that it seems on some level offensive that the entire world doesn’t grind to a halt the way your life has ground to a halt. Like, how DARE literally everyone ever not know?

        You also get angry. My take is that the ex-employee is possibly kind of a prickly guy and has experienced a massive devastating event and is lashing out because he’s just… furious at the universe that this has happened. It is bizarre but people do bizarre things when they’re that upset.

        I suspect that if he’s in any way a reasonable person under normal circumstances, in a few months or a year when his head is back on straight and he’s not just shuffling around being a living black hole of grief he’ll be embarrassed that he lashed out like that.

        I think it would be fine to ignore him, because while I understand where he’s coming from he IS being ridiculous, but also fine to send an expression of sympathy and then ignore any further contact. Maybe it’ll make him feel better, maybe it won’t, maybe it’ll make him lash out again, but I feel like the risks for the LW are very small (they’re risking one more angry email). If it was me I’d probably express my sympathies because, I mean, why not.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          the ex-employee is possibly kind of a prickly guy

          All the sympathy in the world to anyone who loses a child, but there’s no sense in reinforcing anyone’s egotistical belief that they have no reason to at least try to manage their damage.

          If there’s some “optics” reason to send an email acknowledging his loss, sure, fine, whatever—but do not send anything physical he can hold up as proof of how awful the company is for not being way too invested in the lives of ex-employees.

          (My position on this would be drastically different if it seemed more like his lashing out was an expression of grief and less like his grief was just another excuse to lash out. I’m guessing this man doesn’t have a lot of friends or family to help him process this, and I’m also guessing there’s good reason for that.)

    3. Arya Snark*

      Especially after 2 years! That’s a bit much to expect from former coworkers/employers, especially when you parted on bad terms and hadn’t kept in touch.

      1. Anna*

        It could very well be that in his grief he’s lashing out at perceived wrongs. It’s weird to expect a job you left two years ago would acknowledge a family death, but then again when you lose a child you might do weird things.

        I think an email in reply to express condolences would be kind and after that, the OP can just let it go.

    4. NoMoreMrFixit*

      I agree that you should let this go. The person hasn’t worked there for two years. There’s no longer a connection and they left under less than ideal circumstances. FWIW I got laid off and had a death in the family 5 weeks later. Never got a card or an email. I was no longer working for my past employer and didn’t hold it against anybody. They were just coworkers and only 1 was a personal friend outside of work. He did respond but that’s because we were friends anyways.

    5. chi type*

      Eh, I don’t think you can ever really go wrong offering sympathy to a bereaved parent. He is bizarrely out of line but grief does crazy things to people.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I agree. Clearly he didn’t start out with the best personality but he must be going through a lot, and if his friends and acquaintances are doing that common thing where people avoid the bereaved and even cross the road to avoid speaking to them, he might be just lashing out at everyone and feeling that people should acknowledge the magnitude of what has happened (it can be hard to realise that the world just keeps going without your loved one). I’m sure OP and colleagues can be genuinely sad for this guy and offer sincere condolences even though he was a pain to work with.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed. Bereavement can affect people in different ways, and can cause people to blow perceived slights out of proportion – a nice email saying “we weren’t aware – so sorry for your loss” is a measured and kind response.

          1. anon today*

            Yes – let it go, keep that door closed, don’t engage. We have 2 armed (armed!!) security guards in my building right now because someone who was let go 14 YEARS ago came here last week and made a huge scary ruckus. I’m sorry for this gentlemen and his family’s loss, but he is lashing out at innocents.

      3. Lilo*

        Bereavement is one thing, but everyone has experienced losses and this kind of lashing out like this is almost a little scary. I know losing a loved one unexpectedly is very hard, I had a nephew die unexpectedly in a car crash this year and watched my family go through that loss as well as my own sadness. But this behavior is way out of left field and is almost threatening. It’s not okay and I agree engaging more than just a quick response is not a good idea.

        1. nani1978*

          I agree with you, don’t go further. The man clearly has a lot of emotion-management issues regularly, and his loss has only exacerbated it to frightening levels.

          Lilo, my condolences on the loss of your nephew.

      4. Solidad*

        I wish I could agree with you but my experiences taught me otherwise. I’ve had too many clients who got divorced and had the X use grief as a means to wheedle their way back in.

        People who are narcissistic or emotionally manipulative or simple lack emotional control and boundaries use any major event to reopen a channel of communication. I’ve seen abisuve ex husbands use this to get an in and try to manipulate their ex wives and kids.

        Here’s the thing for me: if this is just normal grief, then a non-response will be forgotten in time. If it’s not and he’s trying to be manipulative, a non-response is the best one.

        I get that we’re all trying to be kind because somebody is grieving. I truly do. However, even people with major issues and those who are major jerks experience grief. Rapists grieve.

        It’s not always a kindness to feed need for attention. It’s particularly not necessarily in the best interest of the company or the former coworkers.

        If it were me I would ignore it. If he attends contact again, I would play it off as if the spam filter caught the first message.

        I would also be very, very wary of any communication that is more than cursory.

        1. Lora*

          YES. THIS. Dude set the bridge on fire and then jackhammered the pylons. You’d think he’d stay the heck away, if the workplace is chock-full of terrible people – why would he invite trouble by contacting a bunch of hosers? Wouldn’t he expect them to be all, “haha, I’ll dance on her grave”?

          If it’s that important to inform past colleagues, post a blurb on LinkedIn: Dear everyone, some of you know about my daughter’s struggles with Horrible Disease – I am sad to say she passed away on (date). Please support the Horrible Disease Foundation to find a cure. Many thanks to the staff of Hospital for your excellent care and support.”

        2. chi type*

          I see what you mean about not resuming contact and that it could be opening the door to more unhinged behavior.
          I, myself, would still err on the side of sympathy for one who has lost a child, even if they are a “major jerk”.
          But I can also see how the OP might want to be cautious and maintain the blessed silence of the last few years.

      5. Amy*

        This is what I was thinking. He just lost hist child–that’s hard for anyone, and it’s not unheard of for people to behave in out-of-line ways when handling something like that. (He may also be a jerk by nature, but I’m generally willing to make allowances for grief.)

        If OP does choose to reply, I think the response should focus firmly on sympathy, without apologizing for not having messaged him before. And if he tries to turn it into a back-and-forth of nastiness, OP should feel free to disengage and stop replying. The connection is too distant at this point to warrant extended tolerance for that kind of behavior.

    6. Paul*

      Gotta agree. Did he maintain a relationship with the people there? if not, why did he think they’d know?

      I’ve buried people damn near every year I’ve been at my current job (OK, I need a drink now). I can’t imagine expecting my last job to know or, bluntly, to care.

    7. Bagpuss*

      I wouldn’t send flowers, but I would send a response, just an e-mail saying that you didn’t know but are sorry for his loss.

      And unless he was deeply unpopular with everyone, I would consider letting the current employees know that he had lost his daughter so that anyone who wished to could reach out to him directly.

      It strikes me as very odd that he would expect an organisation he left 2 years ago (and not on good terms) would stay in touch at all. In places I’ve worked, it’s not uncommon for individuals to maintain friendships after someone leaves, but not for there to be an ongoing link with the former employer.

      1. JulieBulie*

        It strikes me as very odd (and a little creepy) that he was even still thinking of the ex-employer in the present tense (as in, expecting them to still be thinking of him) two years later. He should have moved on by now.

        I agree that a brief email like Alison described is a reasonable, polite, and humane response. Ditto informing employees who might be interested. But I’d beware of further contacts from him in the near future, whether they send that email or not. Maybe this is just a one-time thing, but if the grief has stirred up a whole mess of unrelated bad feelings as well, he could be fixating on the ex-employer as a coping mechanism or something.

    8. Mookie*

      I agree. In the past two years, did no one amongst the LW’s co-workers experience tragedy or loss? When they did, did he reach out? I doubt it. What he’s asking for his not standard convention; there’s no reason to enable this expectation, or the expectation that whenever he vents at people who are now strangers he needs to be coddled and apologized to. No. Do not encourage him.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t see this as something where you need to keep score on who offered condolences to whom. The OP can send an email back to say she’s sorry to hear of his loss and move on.

    9. Apollo Warbucks*

      I cant understand what the guy hoped to achieve by reaching out to a company he hasn’t work at for over 2 years to people he hasn’t stayed in touch with and given the way he behaved when he left I’d be tempted to ignore the email too.

      1. Colette*

        I’d guess it’s tied up in the grief and feeling alone because of it. Which is why I’d recommend replying as Alison suggested.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Grief makes you angry about the strangest things.

          I’m still irrationally annoyed at the receptionist at my dentist’s office who told me she was so emotionally distraught about my mom’s death this spring that instead of coming into the visitation, she sat in her car & cried, I’d have loved to have done that. Or other distant relatives who tell me how much they miss her. Yeah, I get it, but sheesh, she lived in my house, I’m gonna bet I miss her more. There are only two people who can tell me how much they miss my mom – her brother & sister. My brother doesn’t even get that pass.

          So tl;dr, grief messes up your emotional capacity to deal with things properly and you find yourself lashing out at stupid things.

          1. Lissa*

            Just out of curiosity, do you mean that it’s inappropriate to tell someone that you miss their relative, or that you’re reacting to it badly because of grief? I ask because I lost my mom young and didn’t mind others saying they missed her – it just felt like they cared about her too. The receptionist saying she cried in the car, that’s inappropriate and making it about her, but I wouldn’t have thought saying you miss someone would be a bad thing! (though that one still wasn’t as bad as the teacher informing me I hadn’t grieved properly….hate that guy still!) Not in any way criticizing for having this reaction, just wondering if it’s something generally considered rude/not cool.

          2. Arjay*

            When my mom died, I learned that my sister’s ex (who had been really close to our mom) “doesn’t do funerals.” I get that no one enjoys funerals, but him choosing to opt out across the board left a really bad taste in my mouth.

          3. Wendy Darling*

            I think grief gives you a lot of anger that you don’t really have a place to put, so you just hang it wherever there’s space for it.

            I got super angry at petty annoyances — I developed the grocery shopping version of road rage for a while. Someone would block the yogurt I wanted with their cart and I would get so angry my vision went red. My mom developed a raging vendetta against coworkers who expressed their sympathies poorly (like, she definitely had the right to be grumpy about it, they were total heels about it, but her rage level was out of proportion to the offense). Although at least that was vaguely related — people who stand in the middle of the grocery store aisle and gaze into their phones have nothing to do with my loss but I hated them for it anyway.

            Grief is weird.

        2. Solidad*

          If he says feeling alone, The appropriate thing is for him to reach out to friends, his church or other community group, or a therapist. It is not acceptable for him to reach out to an employer that fired him.

          Being overly sympathetic to somebody displaying this level of inappropriateness is not a kindness.

          1. Colette*

            But a simple statement of sympathy is not “overly sympathetic”. If he wants more after that – or turns abusive – they can cut contact then.

            1. serenity*

              This is an employee who was terminated for cause, and exited in a storm of vitriol. His email is not standard behavior – what workplace proactively reaches out to former workers who left on bad terms to send thoughts about family members?

              I think everyone’s default is kindness and sympathy in these situations. That’s a good impulse. But this person seems to court drama, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to suggest “Don’t engage”.

              1. Mina*

                Yeah, the expectation that the company should have been aware of this two years after he left is unrealistic, to put it kindly. If I were in OP2’s position, I’d trash the email.

              2. Colette*

                Why wouldn’t you be kind to someone who lost a child?

                Sure, replying could cause drama – but so could not replying, and I’m inclined to think not replying is a bigger risk. (Think more emails with escalating levels of anger, followed by a visit).

                And replying once doesn’t obligate the OP to rehire the employee, or continue contact, or anything else. It’s just about being sympathetic to someone who is going through a hard time.

      2. Trillion*

        I’m wondering if he hasn’t been able to find a job since being terminated and this was the last group of people he worked with. Makes more sense then that he would expect a response from them when in reality on their side two years have passed and they’ve moved on but he hasn’t.

        Just a theory. But I’d only send brief condolences and ignore future contact.

    10. Solidad*

      I think he’s got some issues. I think it’s dangerous to feed the monster. So they should either not respond and claim they didn’t get his email of employ a gray rock strategy.

      The gray rock works best w these types of personalities.

      1. Solidad*

        This method was originally developed to work with psychopaths, narcissist, and other severe mental and personality issues, it also works on lower-level manipulative behavior. Basically, you employee up with anyone who’s being emotionally manipulative and trying to get you to be their source of kibbles.

        I suspect that is what’s going on here. He wants a sympathetic response bc he wants attention. It’s not about the sympathy, it’s about the attention. If you give it to him in any form, you will be pestered for more.

        I’ve dealt with similar situations with divorcees. Ex-husbands demand sympathy for their mothers dying. It’s a play to re-open communication and get emotional kibbles. Once you give a man (or woman) like this one kibble, they will try and come back for more.

        Any response is likely to open the floor for further demands.If you feel one must be given, the best thing is a completely non-committal form response.

        I’m not giving this advice based on corporate managers to a normal employee. This is an employee who has demonstrated issues with emotional control and with boundaries.

        His emotional state is not your responsibility or the companies.

        It is not normal to do what he has done. It would not be normal to even notice unless you had worked somewhere for a long time, were very close to your team, left on good terms, and maintained contact. In other words, it would only be normal if there were a friendship and not just a working relationship.

        Either the guy he has no one in his life Who is displaying sympathy for him or he’s got severe emotional problems best worked out w a therapist. This is not a normal grief reaction. Yes, people do weird things when they grieve, but The choice of target is concerning. He didn’t direct this back on his friend group, but former coworkers.

        Red flag

        1. Colette*

          These are people he’s known for years. There’s nothing wrong with them expressing sympathy (and then cutting contact if necessary) – they don’t have to go scorched earth immediately.

          1. Anna*

            Seriously. No harm would be done by just expressing condolences and moving on. The OP can block his email after sending her response, which would be reasonable.

          2. Kate 2*

            These are people he hasn’t seen or spoken to for years after being forced to leave for cause amid “a blaze of vitriol” including accusing his coworkers and swearing at them.

        2. anon today*

          Thanks Solidad, well said.
          Mentioned in another reply earlier but we have 2 armed guards in our office right now because someone let go 14 years ago came in last week and was very scary… I don’t want to be on the news and I don’t want to see anyone on the news because of this or anything similar. A former workplace is not an appropriate grieving target.

    11. Tuxedo Cat*

      I agree with this. I feel like anything the letter writer says will be taken terribly by that guy.

  4. LemonLymon*

    OP 3: I’m sorry, but this is one of the very few instances where I disagree with Allison. When I approve an employee’s vacation days I’m considering if there are large projects going on, how many others are out of the office during that time, if we can be without a person for that amount of time, etc. What I’m NOT doing is looking to see if they have the proper amount of vacation days before I approve. To me, that’s the responsibility of the employee. I assume the employee has an eye on that. I assume that the employee, an adult, can manage their own sick and vacation days. I also assume that if the employee is asking for days off that they don’t have, they have considered that they won’t be paid for those days. I’m 99% certain that in the 20 years I have been working, none of my bosses checked my vacation days prior to approving.

    My advice would be to take this as a learning opportunity. Brush up on how to check your days off and check your totals each time you’re asking for time off and take a sick day so this error doesn’t happen again.

    1. Gen*

      I’m not sure if it’s because the UK has legal vacation entitlements but I’ve honestly never worked anywhere where I was in charge of my own holiday allowance. I’ve known generally what I have left but management have kept a rigid eye on it (especially in the places that have been the awkward kind with mandatory bank holiday working and a blanket ban on summer time off with the annual scramble to get everyone’s days of crammed into the last month before it rolls over)

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Same here – it’s always been tracked, and if I don’t have access to application that tracks holidays (before tech caught up!) then I’d ask my manager how many days I had left if I wasn’t sure.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I remember years ago when we filled in paper form for manager – we’d been doing stupidly long hours (and definitely over legal limit of 48 hrs/week!) on a temp basis to do testing with 3 third parties… so we did it, it was a success, and I brought him the sheet requesting the next day as a holiday. He asked (conversationally) what I was doing – I said “sleep!” – and he handed it back without signing it off and said don’t bother with taking a holiday, just don’t come in tomorrow!

            1. Jwal*

              I read it as being nice and saying don’t worry about using your holiday for it. Sometimes when we want to take a couple of hours off we’d make up the time and not have to use a holiday, so perhaps the reverse of that?

              Many thumbs down to the boss if not!

            2. Mona Lisa*

              I took it to mean that Akcipitrokulo’s boss allotted comp time for good service instead of taking away a vacation day to rest after a busy period at work.

      2. Jen RO*

        I’m also in a country with a fairly generous vacation entitlement and I think it’s 100% the employee’s responsibility to track it. I can assess whether it’s a good time to be off, but I’m not going to count remaining PTO days.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I’m also in the UK, and I’ve always assumed it was down to me to keep track. It’s my holiday, after all!

        As a manager I might glance at what my employee has left and would query it if I noticed that they had requested more time than they had , but it’s their responsibility to keep track.

        We have an online system so everyone can access their own records and see what holiday they have booked and how many days they have used, (it also tracks absences for sickness etc)
        Staff members can’t see each other’s records, but we do have an office calendar which shows who is/will be in or out on any given day so people can check for conflicts before requesting holiday. As a manager, when I get a request, i will check for conflicts. If I happen to notice that the person is booking time they don’t have I would flag it up and query with them whether they are asking for some unpaid time, but I”m not specifically checking for that. (HR checks each month when doing payroll, but if there is time you are not entitled to it would simply be treated as unpaid leave, you can’t normally ‘borrow’ or carry over leave from one year to another, so if you were asking to do that you’d need to make a specific request

        1. Ponytail*

          Same here – have worked in the UK for 30 years and it’s always been my responsibility to know that I have enough days to take whatever leave I was asking for. It’s only my boss’ issue when we get to the end of the leave year and I have too many days left over, and they need to remind me of the use it or lose it policy.

      4. Miso*

        I’m in Germany (so also many paid vacation days) and my boss made it very clear from the beginning it’s my job to keep track of my vacation days.
        Unfortunately our department doesn’t have flex time (everyone else does…) so we aren’t part of the electronic time stamp stuff and can’t see our vacation days in the program. But we write everything down on good old paper to keep track and in January we always request a the details of how many vacation days and when we took off the year before to compare (mine were always off, since I don’t work on Fridays but do on Saturdays… So they always subtracted only 4 days for a week and not five *sigh*)
        When I was done with my apprenticeship this year I also requested to know my vacation days, cause I got an additional one and just wanted to make sure all my internal calculations were actually correct.

        I don’t know, I honestly can’t understand why people would think it’s not their job to keep track of this. Especially if you don’t have so much vacation time in the first place.

      5. Doreen*

        Everywhere I’ve worked, there has been some department that has kept track of my time, but it has never been my supervisor or manager. At some jobs, the balance was printed on my paystub and at others I kept a running balance on my timesheet and payroll/timekeeping notified me if there was a discrepancy between my records and theirs. But my supervisors/managers never kept their own records and even the forms used to request time off have a statement that the supervisor’s approval does not mean the employee actually has available leave to take and that employees are responsible for keeping track of their own balances.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Where I work, we are explicitly told that it is the employee’s responsibility to keep track of leave time. Unless there’s a glitch, every paystub has figures for available leave time (which may be off a day or so if employee has taken time recently. We also get official statements of time used, and a date by which we should submit timesheet changes if we want to challenge the number of days.

      6. only acting normal*

        I don’t think it’s a UK thing. I’ve always had to keep track of whether I had enough days to take. Most places have occasionally audited to make sure people were staying honest, and as the UK has a legal *minimum* to take, good employers exercise their duty of care to ensure you’ve taken that.

    2. Sue Wilson*

      My company keeps an eye on it, and they specifically won’t let you borrow ahead too much. I’m pretty sure accounting likes it that way. I agree that an employee should be aware first and foremost, but you should absolutely remind your employee they are borrowing ahead/won’t be paid, and if you can’t do that you should have an automated system.

    3. seevee*

      This is not on topic but I squawked loudly in delight when I read your username. West Wing forever.

      1. LemonLymon*

        My favorite show! I’ve been listening to the West Week Weekly podcast and recently learned a little more about where the Lemon Lyman storyline came from!

    4. Engineer Woman*

      To me, the responsibility lies more with the employee than with the company. It’s quite nice that they allow to pull from the next year although I get you’d rather not.

      I don’t see any issue with what has happened and now you’ve learned you should be tracking vacation days. When I left my company, they actually miscalculated that left me with less than I should have (I get paid out) and I was able to reconcile and get back an additional day’s pay. Mistakes happen so ideally both sides should keep track, but in terms of usage – main responsibility to me is employee.

    5. Trillion*

      To do that at my last employer meant asking the very lovely but very busy payroll/benefits person to check. As a manager we kept track of time on an excel spreadsheet (not accurate) and employees kept their own running tally (also possibly not accurate) so payroll was the only way to verify this. You can keep an eye on it but only one person had the official tally.

    6. Rookie Manager*

      I’ve always tracked my own a/l very carefully and would be able to tell you exactly what was used/planned/not yet assigned. When I’ve been job hunting I’ve even done calculations to check if I would owe a/l if my interview was successful.

      As a manager I do keep a rough eye on my teams a/l and counsel young employees in particular (such as my apprentice) that it is often useful to have a day or two in hand in case of emergency, burn out, exciting opportunities etc. If someone hasn’t used their allowance towards the end of the year I remind them about carry over limits and suggest using their entitlement. Having said all that we use a IT system that tracks this so employees can easily see balances and cannot over book (unless hours change midyear).

    7. WhirlwindMonk*

      Normally, I’d be in agreement with you, but I think this is a special case, since the employer has handled this pretty inconsistently, and kind of badly. Approving the days and then silently pulling them from the next year one year, and then approving the days, but calling you while you’re already gone on vacation and possibly out of town to say “You’re out of days, come home or lose days from next year” the next year is not a good way to handle things. She should have received some notice from whoever in the company is tracking these things that she was requesting days she didn’t have before she even left on vacation last year, let alone a year later. Regardless of how this works out, this company needs a better, more consistent system.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree with you. And I even think taking the days from the next year was a nice option, considering the alternative would be not getting paid for those days! My first year I started in June so I only accrued half the normal amount of vacation, but my boss actually encouraged me to take a couple from the next year so I could take a reasonable amount of time off for the holidays. I appreciated that that was an option available to me!

    9. Koko*

      I am a new-ish manager and I recently had my employee submit her fall/winter vacation days to me. They totaled up to around 10 days and she gets 15 days a year. Since I knew she’d been out already this year but couldn’t remember exactly how many days, I went into our time tracking system and checked before I approved her request. It turned out that she would have exactly enough days accrued to get her through her request, but then she’d have none for a few weeks until she accrued more.

      So, in my response to her I told her I was approving her days, and also that I wanted to flag for her that it would just about use up her vacation days through X date and that she would only have 1.5 days accrued by Christmas, just in case she was planning to take time off that week and hadn’t realized that.

      Now it’s a bit easier for me because I only manage the one person so it’s easier for me to notice, but it definitely felt like part of my responsibility as a manager to make sure she understood what she was requesting.

      1. Arjay*

        We have an online system that accurately tracks time available which is great because we accrue some weird number of hours each pay period that would make it sort of challenging to keep up with manually. So I know how many days I get a year, but at 7.23 hours per pay period or whatever, it can get mind-boggling.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I agree, I think Alison was overly generous in suggesting that splitting the difference might be acceptable. If the OP suddenly got an extra $5K in their paycheck one month and never thought to ask if it was an error, they would be expected to pay ALL of it back, although it would be nice if it was spread out over time. And leave or hours == pay.

      Then again, it might not be a bad idea to ask, but I don’t think I could bring myself to do that, especially with leave rather than pay. It’s not like the OP won’t be able to pay the bills because they can’t take leave! (I hope!)

    11. Peter the Bubblehead*

      At my current job, I always included how much PTO I have built up in my request to take time off. That way my supervisor knows I know how much time I have earned and knows my request does not exceed the amount I have banked.

    12. Cassie*

      My dad works for local government and their online timekeeping system keeps track of the leave balances. In their office, the process is for the employee to print the screenshot of the leave balance and attach it to their leave request form. One of his staff members submitted the leave request form but refused to print it the screenshot, saying that it was a privacy issue and told my dad to go look up the leave balance himself.

      Yes, the managers can see the leave balances for their staff in the system but this is seriously odd. Why would there be a privacy issue for a screenshot vs him logging in to the system to look at the balance? Why would you not want to make it easy for your boss to approve your vacation request?

  5. chi type*

    #1: I don’t really see this as complimenting. She’s expressing displeasure at your appearance as often as not and seems to be trying to dictate how she wants you to look.
    Perhaps re-framing it to yourself as her being inappropriately opinionated about your looks would help you feel less awkward about telling her to knock it off?

    1. Myrin*

      Agreed! These aren’t even compliments half of the time! When I started reading, I thought coworker might have a crush on OP, but the further I got, the more it just felt like she’s a wee bit obsessed with OP’s looks – but “obsessed” is probably too strong a word, whereas your “inappropriately opinionated” sounds exactly right! (Not that the reason she’s doing this matters; Alison’s answer is perfect either way.)

      1. MashaKasha*

        I thought about a crush too. Either way I would feel seriously creeped out if I were OP, and was getting that much attention to the smallest details of my appearance from a coworker. I’d just probably give the coworker a deer in the headlights stare each time she’d compliment me – not intentionally, but because I’d honestly be at a loss for what to say to her!

    2. Sam*

      Yes, thank you. I wouldn’t consider at least half of those things to be compliments. But she’s certainly *commenting* on someone else’s appearance way more than is acceptable. I know it can feel rude to shut down someone who has just complimented you, but it sounds like there are plenty of opportunities to employ Alison’s scripts without doing so on the heels of a well-intentioned comment.

    3. Doug Judy*

      I wouldn’t want my husband making that many comments/compliments, on a regular basis on my appearance. I’d be super uncomfortable if I was LW1. It’s a weird fixation and she seems to want you to look a certain way. I’d go with the advice given and tell her very bluntly that you’d appreciate it if she stopped commenting on your psychical appearance and choice of jewelry. Hopefully that will pit an end to it. If not I’d seriously go to make manager. It’s creepy as hell to say things like “where’s my necklace?” to a coworker.

    4. Purplesaurus*

      *slow clap* Yes! The “where’s my necklace” bit particularly rubs me the wrong way.

      1. Lissa*

        Ugh, yeah. The “no cheeks today” gave me the worst cringe reaction personally…I’d have been so tempted to touch my cheeks dramatically and be like “Oh, no, they’re still here!” or something dumb.

    5. Lehigh*

      Absolutely! She seems to be trying to control the way LW looks, which is Super Inappropriate.

    6. Morning Glory*

      Yeah, that’s how I saw it as well. She’s putting a very strange amount of pressure on the OP to do her makeup a specific way every day, and wear specific jewelry every day.

      If it were just compliments, I could see this as just annoying – but this alternation between compliment and insult is controlling and bizarre.

    7. k8*

      ia. they’re not compliments, they’re randomly specific comments about her appearance. i’d definitely feel awkward if someone talked about my eyebrows three days in a row.

      1. Inspector Spacetime*

        Yeah, same. It’s not whether they are compliments are criticisms, but just the sheer amount of attention being paid to the LW’s appearance that creeps me out.

  6. MommyMD*

    Former coworker’s behavior is odd. But he just lost his child. That’s the worst thing anyone can bear. Send a plant and the suggested card.

    1. Miss Elaine E.*

      I agree. Grief does strange things to people. While the company doesn’t have to acknowledge a death in the family of someone who left two years ago, it’s still a nice thing to do.
      Off topic, but given the circumstances surrounding his departure from the company and his problematic behavior, I frankly wonder if he’s on the verge of “going postal.” Maybe beef up security for the next few weeks?

      1. Miss Elaine E.*

        In addition, people in grief are, at least sometimes, hyperaware of who acknowledges the death or not. In my case, when my dad died, I was extremely hurt by the lack of acknowledgment (apart from the time off work granted) by my then-current employer. (Turns out it was a snafu — the HR person in charge of those things, accidentally had the funeral information buried under a pile of other stuff.) Again, in this case, the guy left two years prior but he does seem to have his issues. I’m guessing he hasn’t been employed since and supposes the most recent employer is the one to acknowledge?

      2. strawberries and raspberries*

        Yeah, I don’t know if I would immediately jump to “going postal” (although there is something a little threatening about directly contacting the person who fired you in this manner), but in addition to sending a gracious email acknowledging the death as Alison described, I would probably also at the very least make upper management or whoever handles security aware that he got in touch and that you plan to respond but only in so far as to send your condolences. That way if he does send more hostile emails or shows up for some reason it can be dealt with immediately.

      3. Lilo*

        I guess I’ve never seen it as my employer’s job to acknowledge that kind of thing. People don’t generally read the obituaries regularly so why would anyone know if you hadn’t told them?

        I had a family member die unexpectedly earlier this year and I actually preferred not talking about it at work.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think it’s standard for employers to offer condolence cards and such, but only if you have told them of the loss–I don’t think they would be expected to figure it out for themselves!

          Presumably most people tell their managers what happened so they know if you need time off or that if you are behaving differently there is a reason. When my brother passed I felt similarly that I actually didn’t want to talk with anyone at work about it. I told my bosses because I thought they needed to know in case I suddenly broke down crying at my desk or something, but I actually told them specifically that I did not want a card or anything.

          1. LBK*

            I’d think would be more self-evident for a current employee since you’d probably have to request time off. But it’s kind of insane for a former employee to expect people to be skimming the obituaries every day just in case someone(‘s relative) dies.

            It sounds like this is in line with his previous hostile behavior, and that mixing with the weird ways grief can make people react has caused this explosion. I’d just send Alison’s suggested email to get him off your back, but I don’t think I’d send cards – it seems nicer than this guy deserves, and it’s not like the gesture will be genuine anyway since he basically forced you into it.

            1. Lissa*

              Yes, and if names are common, I might not even realize if I did read the obituary if they were connected to someone I knew! I had that happen recently – read an article in the newspaper about someone who died, same last name as a Facebook friend, but didn’t click it was her mother until she posted about it.

        2. nonymous*

          I work for an org that has a lot of long-timers + is located in a less populated area (city surrounded by farms/farm towns). It’s pretty common to get notices for deaths of former coworkers and if there is a particularly traumatic death, but that is because people have known each other for 20+ years and still run into them at the grocery store.

    2. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

      Particularly as he worked there for years. It may feel, to him, that significant people in his life aren’t acknowledging his loss.

  7. LavaLamp*

    #3. This depends on so much. My workplace uses a computer system that doesn’t let you take time you don’t have. You can’t request it if you don’t have it. The computer doesn’t let you.

    I find it interesting that no one told you that they were using days from the next year to cover it. Until halfway thru next year. Reminds me of the time the accrual percentage got borked at my work and a large portion of people ended up with an extra week off. My work actually paid people for the vacation and said it was their error.

    No one I know sits and calculates out all their vacation time before requesting a day. You look and it says you have 10 hours or whatever and that’s that. I mean my boss lady had this lovely habit of what I call time splitting. Instead of putting 8 hrs of vacation or whatever on a day shed use 4 hours of vacation 2 hrs sick and 2 hrs personal or something like that so you run out faster. Thankfully the new system doesn’t let you do this.

  8. DArcy*

    OP #2,

    An employee who was terminated for cause years ago contacting you out of the blue to complain about an issue that has nothing to do with your company is clearly trying to stir up trouble. It would be best to ignore his e-mail and to document any further attempts at contact.

    1. nonymous*

      > is clearly trying to stir up trouble

      That’s a little harsh. A human being who clearly has difficulty regulating emotions just experienced a traumatic loss. He’s handling grief poorly, but I doubt this is a master plan of any sort. Major boundary-violator coupled with long-standing anger issues, yes. Still a human being deserving of compassion in a time of major loss.

      fwiw, I do think the advice to document is spot-on.

    2. Mina*

      I dunno about stirring up trouble, although his presumption that the company would have kept tabs on him and his family is way out of line. I’d be tempted to ignore, myself.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      He sounds like someone who’s angry at the world right now and likely lashing out at anyone he can. Not the best reaction, but he’s certainly not alone in dealing with grief this way. I think sending a single, compassionate response would be the humane thing to do. Ignore him after that if he continues to be belligerent, but your conscience will be clear.

      1. DArcy*

        I would argue that sending any response is downright dangerous because it gives him further reason to focus his anger on your company. At the absolute minimum, loop HR in on this before you reply, and security as well if your company has it.

        1. Student*

          This seems like an over-reaction. It’s not likely he’ll get the condolences card and decide to shoot up the company out of the blue. I can understand being afraid of a volatile person, but letting fear of them dictate your behavior to this extent without more substantial concerns is an over-reaction. It’s giving fear of him a power over you that isn’t appropriate or proportional.

          He’s fishing for sympathy and angry at the world and behaving badly. Normally, I don’t like to reward people who are fishing for any specific response to me, especially if we’ve parted on bad terms. However, the death of a child is a very exceptional circumstance. It’s not a circumstance he can replicate to continue to control people. I’d be the bigger person, send an email like AAM suggested, and send a group condolence card (and then ignore him).

  9. Sue Wilson*

    #1: This feels like forced intimacy (it’d be one thing if she was just complimenting you, although you might still feel uncomfortable, but it also seems like she asserting some weird ownership over your choices “my necklace” “you should do your cheeks more often”/”I’m so glad” and that’s whats really bothering you). These aren’t really compliments anymore; at best they are advice you didn’t ask for. I suspect it’s because she’s new and she’s trying to become familiar (as opposed to being creepy, which is also possible), but it can be really off-putting. Alison’s right that a quick “please don’t do that” is appropriate (and less confrontational which can be important), but it’s also okay if you want to be more assertive: “Where’s my necklace?” “I know you like the necklace, but I don’t really like that you’re calling it yours”/”I don’t really wear jewelry for other people”/”I know you’re being friendly but I don’t really appreciate people telling me what I should be wearing” etc. I’d probably start with Alison’s suggestion, but it’s not rude to point out what she’s doing.

    1. LW#1*

      I actually felt funny about having this posted online because I really don’t like the idea of something being there for all to see and then risk the possibility of her seeing it. I think I might be paranoid here, but

      With her, I definitely think it is a forced intimacy, I think you’re right about that.

      I will look at some of my work clothes etc and all I can see is how many times she has complimented me on it.

      After I submitted the letter, I noticed one time I was particularly busy and she was saying “your lips are darker than usual” and I said something like “Oh, thanks. Yeah I usually wear this color….” or something. She hasn’t done it as much in the last week or two. Maybe I showed a lot of avoidance without realizing and she got the hint, who knows

      1. hbc*

        Wait, so your response about the lips was *more* avoidant than usual in these situations? I think you’ve unintentionally been sending signals that this is an interesting topic for you. Which is actually a good thing: you probably don’t even have to tell her directly to knock it off. Just become very boring on the subject.

        “Yay, cheeks!” “Glad you approve. Ooh, I smell bagels!”
        “No cheeks today?” “Nope. Did you see the new teapot regulations?”
        “You should do your cheeks more often.” “Eh. Anyway, catch the game last night?”
        “Where’s my necklace?” “Probably at your house.”

      2. MommyMD*

        At this point with the lip comment I would have said “please don’t take such interest in my lips or makeup” and returned to my work.

        I’ve actually said a version of this to someone a few years ago and the behavior stopped immediately. This person would make remarks on the amount of makeup I was or wasn’t wearing on a particular day. I don’t like being scrutinized.

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      Yeah, Alison’s suggestion is pretty direct, but if she keeps doing it after you say that- well, if it were me, I would likely take a page out of the Captain Awkward playbook and loudly exclaim something like, “Why are you always commenting on the way I look? Are you obsessed with me?” (And then I woke up.)

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          I meant in terms of making it as awkward as possible for the coworker if the direct polite request didn’t work, but you know, I’m also actually okay with being mean to someone who ignores my direct polite requests not to scrutinize and comment on my appearance in a hyper-invasive and clearly beyond the scope of an offhand compliment manner 24/7.

          1. fposte*

            It’s not a great plan at work, though, where you’re expected to get along with people; the concept of the proportional response is relevant here. The first sentence is fine on its own.

      1. anony nonny no*

        Strawberries and Raspberries, I think that’s a terrible suggestion: that just seems hostile and unnecessarily rude.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          I meant the comment entirely facetiously and would probably never actually say that to anyone at work (see “And then I woke up” in my original comment), but I do pretty strongly believe that what the coworker is doing first is hostile and also pretty rude, whether or not she means it that way. And sometimes (not always, but sometimes) it is necessary to say something in a way that will make crystal clear that someone is being weird and inappropriate, even if it temporarily embarasses them.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Ha ha, no. References to a “sarcasm font” or “sarcasm tags” that should have been used is a way of saying everyone else was an idiot for not seeing the very obvious sarcasm.

  10. Gaia*

    I only check my team’s PTO twice per year – once, in January, to make sure it has loaded correctly and once about midyear to make sure it is being used (or there are plans for it to be used). I do not, as a rule, check PTO balances when I approve time off. That is up to the employee. We allow people to go – 5 and it comes from the next year but they will see this in their balance.

  11. lokilaufeysanon*

    I have to disagree with Allison on #3, too. LW should have kept better track of their own vacation time and should take this as a lesson learned. Another good reason to keep track of your vacation time: if a system error occurs or someone makes a mistake and they remove too many days, how are you ever going to know about it if you don’t even know how many vacation days you even have?

    At the end of the day, don’t rely on other people to keep track of your stuff for you. It’s nice when they do, but sh!t happens.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      My employer keeps track of our time, posts it to a database we have access to, and encourages us to check every month and make sure it’s accurate.

  12. FormerAuditor*

    Yea, in relation to letter #3, I agree with most of the commenters here. It is your responsibility to look after how much PTO you have. For context, I have been employed in the UK and Ireland and have worked under a variety of managers.

    Whenever I ask for time off, the first question I am usually asked is “do you have the days for it?”. They check whether I can take the time off due to scheduling, and I check whether I have the correct allowance for it.

    If I did go over, I would expect to go into ‘negative time’, which may be what has happened here. It’s not so much that they have ‘taken’ yours days from this year, it’s more than you owed them a few days and this was paid back to them as soon as you have a positive allowance.

    If you really need a few extra days this year, would just go into a negative balance this year again (if this is allowed), but plan for this to also be taken from the following year’s allowance.

  13. HannahS*

    OP1, this would make me so wildly uncomfortable. I hate that kind of monitoring of my appearance. Ugh. Anyway, I’m a big fan of answering, plus immediately redirecting the conversation when you want someone to stop talking about something (sometimes called the bean-dip maneuver, I think). As in, “Fergusina, it’s sweet of you to try to say nice things about how I look, but could we talk about it less/not talk about it anymore? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?”

    1. Arjay*

      I think this can be particularly complicated when it’s about makeup. Clothing or jewelry may reflect your taste and preferences, but it’s still external stuff. Makeup gets into that weird place of “I approve of the way you have camouflaged/enhanced your [actual] face today.” It can get creepy really fast.

      1. HannahS*

        It’s also super, super specific. If someone says, “Hey Hannah, you look good today,” it tells me that they took a cursory look at me and thought I looked nice. If someone says, “Hey Hannah your eyebrows look slightly darker today,” it tells me that they’re paying a LOT of attention to the details of my face.

  14. Jen S. 2.0*

    Also, for #5, you are looking longingly at jobs where the current occupants apparently have no plans of leaving soon. If people would need to retire or vacate (!) a position for you… there’s no position for you. If five things would have to fall into place for there to be a position for you… there’s no position for you.

    Not that you said you were, but you aren’t entitled to a job someone else currently has. They don’t have to adjust their career plans to make room for you, or move their jobs around to make things more convenient for you. Plan as if those people will be in place for another 5 years.

    And that goes double if they are good at their jobs and happy in their positions, and thus not looking to leave. This is not an emergency or problem for anyone except you. They’re fully staffed up and the work’s getting done. Your wanting a job isn’t a priority.

    They indeed might be relieved that you have another offer, because now no one needs to feel weird about not being able to move the part-timer to full-time.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      OK, I wasn’t sure if I read that correctly in the original post because it seemed so out there. Does OP expect management to be so excited by the chance to have him/her on board that they would ask someone else to retire? I think the best OP can hope for is that they will agree to make him/her full-time.

      1. Hedwig*

        Yes, that is the really weird part. I think LW is being generous in describing ti g T the impression that there was a vague possibility of expanding a department or something on those lines, even if the other two people do not retire/leave.

        1. Hedwig*

          Sorry for the massive typo there. Ignore the first sentence and a half. iPad retained the beginning of an old comment for some reason and I didn’t notice.

    2. Lora*

      I thought OP was only saying they’d have to create a position for her, rather than move her into an existing opening.

    3. OP # 5*

      I see your point. I must have let office gossip (“I hear Fergus is retiring this Winter; you could totally do his job” and “The Board can’t stand Bruce; you’d be a shoo-in when he leaves”) get into my head. I can’t bet on things that haven’t happened and may well never happen.

      1. tigerStripes*

        Understandable to react that way, but it reminds me of a co-worker who was going to retire and ended up staying several years longer.

  15. Lars the Real Girl*

    Op #5: Have you talked to your employer/manager about wanting more hours directly? You say that they’ve skirted around different opportunities for you, but have you said “hey, I think there’s enough work to justify it, so could we look at/is there budget to move me up to 30 hrs/week?” Same thing with a pay raise. If it’s been 2 years, you can ask for a pay raise and point out your fantastic reviews and your accomplishments, market rates, (fill in all other raise negotiating advice).

    Neither of those things require another offer to leverage against. And I don’t think there’s much risk in asking as long as you don’t frame it as “if I don’t get this I’m looking to leave”. For all you know, they’d like you working more hours but had agreed to 20 so won’t ask more of you!

    1. Samata*

      I had wondered the same about directly asking for more hours and pay. I couldn’t tell from the letter if OP did or not, either.

      OP, instead of leveraging the new offer as part of a negotiation, can you go to your now boss and say what Lars suggested, focusing on work needs? If they say yes, you don’t have to even let them know about new offer.

      I was in your position once at 20 hours a week and went to my boss and said “Hey, I could really take task x to the next level if I had about 10 more hours a week to focus on work, can I bump my hours to 30?” She had to ask her VP and I got a “Sure, that sounds great” within a couple of hours. It was a very casual exchange and I think they were happy because they didn’t actually have to go through adding another FTE or making it a benefit-eligible position.

      1. OP*

        Thank you for your feedback! Yes, about 18 months ago we had discussed 30 hours/week but at that time the workload and my schedule wouldn’t allow it. My 2 year review is coming up (late) but I will be revisiting the 30 hour/week with a small raise.

  16. Lars the Real Girl*

    OP #3: This is on you, not on your employer. Un-accrued vacation time, especially if you’re allowed to go into the negative, is basically money/time you owe the company back. For example, if you were to give notice right now, they could (and probably would) deduct those days from your final pay. The same if you got 2 weeks vacation for 2017, used them all in January and then quit in Feb – they would probably have you “repay” a part of that leave.

    Also, I know most people think of it as “oh I get x number of days per year” but the reality from your company’s perspective (especially in HR/payroll) is that you accrue x days per month/week and you may go into the negative throughout the year until you catch up to the accrual. Jan 1 usually isn’t some magical reset button that makes all other vacation taken irrelevant – just another month that you’re accruing leave.

    1. BananaPants*

      Not necessarily. In the US, at least, some companies do indeed give employees their full annual vacation allotment at the start of the year. My husband’s employer does and mine did as well until 2-3 years ago when they switched to an accrual system to minimize vacation payouts to departing or retiring employees.

      1. Anononon*

        Yeah, at my work, after your probationary period where you accrue one day a month, your vacation days fully reload every year on your hiring anniversary.

      2. Hush42*

        Yep where I work January 1st actually is a magical reset button- we lose all unused vacation time from the year before and get all of our vacation time for the year. I don’t know that anyone has ever tried but I really don’t think that my company would charge back employees who quit for their vacation time. New employees who start mid-year get pro-rated amounts based on the quarter they start in but that’s the only time it’s prorated.

      3. krysb*

        My company does this for hourly workers, BUT it is known that those days are based on working through the calendar year. If you take all of your vacation days in March, but quit in September, you’re expected to pay those back.

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        Yes, seconded- I get all my days at the beginning of the year. I started in April so my days were pro-rated – instead of 15 days, I got 12, effective from my first day.
        And in my company, Jan. 1 IS a magical day- if you haven’t made arrangements with your manager to rollover your vacation days, they go away, and you get next year’s days.

    2. always in email jail*

      regardless of whether it’s awarded in a batch or gradually accrued, Lars’ point stands, which is that they are taking advantage of a benefit they have not been awarded yet. It’s similar to a pay advance, and they could be asked to pay that back if they were to leave before the time they would have accrued that leave.

  17. Chelsea*

    OP#1, this would drive me crazy. I really feel for you. I agree with Allison’s response if you want to put a stop to it. It really does seem like she’s obsessed with you. It boggles my mind that anyone thinks that this kind of attention is wanted.

  18. Juli G.*

    I really am not an alarmist but #2 makes me nervous. This is an ex-employee who has not moved on after 2 years and just had a traumatic life event. I am not a security expert but this is a situation where I know our head of security would want to be involved.

    Again, I am not an alarmist and percentages are very small but do consider escalating through your security team if you have one.

    1. Kyrielle*

      THIS. It was ringing all my ‘The Gift of Fear’ bells. I’d go with Alison’s response, I’d alert security first, and I’d alert them instantly if he followed up in any way – but especially any way that was at all worrisome. (And I would only go with her response email. The card/flowers would be ‘feeding’ this too much, I think.)

      1. gmg*

        I was actually thinking the opposite — the email is a very easy thing to respond back to/potentially escalate the situation, whereas a simple card (and I would make it extremely formal, no individual signatures at all, just “With Sympathy from Teapots Inc”) is a polite response and takes a day or two to arrive, ideally slowing down any potential anger response.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Except he already called them out on not sending it, so it’s likely to trigger an “oh, so NOW you do that, and you didn’t even reply to me” response when it gets there after he’s had even more time to stew while it was in the mail. (Although in reality, unless Alison posted this one within 24 hours of getting it, either they’ve replied to the email or he has had time to stew anyway.)

          1. Sadsack*

            Agreed. Just respond to the email, do not send anything else. Then save the email, just in case you need documentation. A simple card will seem like a cold afterthought and probably anger the guy more. Certainly ignore any further contact from him though after your first response/condolences.

          2. Mina*

            Yup. His expectations are already out of line, and it might feed into them more if you do more than just the email response.

  19. Miss Elaine E.*

    Re the commenter: In my more awkward days back in college, I got into the habit of complimenting a classmate’s appearance. She was similar in appearance to me and I think I got ideas for ways to do my hair, makeup clothing etc. I think I made the compliments in order to try to build up a friendship.
    My roommate was in the same class and she pointed it out to me, kindly, and so was able to break the habit. Perhaps the OP can do the same. Just be kind, please.

    Re: The vacation time thing: I agree with the majority here that it’s the employee’s responsibility to track vacation time (backed up by the company’s data). I wonder though, can the employee simply take a day unpaid rather than “borrowing” from next year? I did that when my honeymoon ate up an additional day from the four allotted to me as a newish employee.

  20. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 2 This person just re-confirmed why firing him was the right thing to do. Anger two years later at people you burned your bridges with because they were unaware of personal events in your life? A simple “sorry for your loss” is more than adequate. It would be a mistake to engage any further, clearly he is still spoiling for a fight.

  21. MicroManagered*

    OP3 It depends on the system your company uses. Some employers give you an allotment of days each year all at once, while others accrue the time each pay period.

    If your employer gives you a set number of days and you know you have 10 days for the whole year, then I can buy that the manager should’ve checked that you were not overdrawing your vacation balance. (But so should you, for that matter.) If you have the kind of system that accrues time each pay, it’s not going to be practical for your manager to work out whether you’ll have the vacation available for a future-dated request.

    Personally I keep a spreadsheet of my accrued vacation and what I’ve used, so that I can see what my balance will be, say, in February if I take a week off in October. (I know it sounds over-the-top to do, but I work in payroll and know all the different ways the system can screw this up!)

  22. Not Today Satan*

    Question re: #1 but applicable to a lot of situations written about on this site. How do you all have awkward conversations if you work in a cube farm/open office? Everyone in my corner of the office can hear pretty much everything everyone says. They might not necessarily listen if they’re focused on work (or talking themselves) but I fear that if they hear anything semi-awkward their ears would perk up. But “would you meet me in an office?” seems kind of dramatic for all but the most serious conversations.

    1. Sadsack*

      I think it’s fine to just say something in the moment and move on regardless if who is in earshot. Say it quietly, and just move on.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I have all the sympathy in the world for this man, and I know grief can do strange things to a person, but….

    you might want to notify security to be on the lookout for him, or be prepared to call security if he shows up. Something about this letter doesn’t read right to me. Hostile behavior – got it. But then TWO years later to fixate on his former employer to this extent – it’s strange. I know he’s going through a hard time but he clearly still has a lot of issues with this former employer and for safety reasons I’d just be nervous about him showing up one day.

  24. Audiophile*

    OP 3: While I’ve never run out of vacation, I did work for a company that did not let employees see their vacation time, it wasn’t written on check stubs nor was it in any portal accessible to employees. It was only available to managers. It was as bizarre as it sounds. There were other issues with the way this company handled vacation time, including that you didn’t actually start accruing home until you’d work at the company for a year.

    Anyway, assuming your company doesn’t operate the same way, someone should have noticed this. If you can see your vacation time, it’s definitely on you to track, but the person who moved it from 2017 to 2016 also should have made it clear to you what they were doing. Imagine if you’d resigned from your job or been laid off, the company likely would have taken that out of your last paycheck.

  25. Madeleine Matilda*

    #3 – Particularly in #3’s situation, where there was an interim manager overseeing leave usage, I would have been double checking that my leave was being properly recorded. Personally, as an employee I feel it is my responsibility to manage my use of leave. If I want to take time off, I want to know that I have that time to take. As a manager, I feel I am responsible for making sure our work is covered when someone is out. I have a couple of direct reports whose leave balances are always extremely low and sometimes at zero hours. When they request leave, I often do double check their available leave because I know that they sometimes don’t have the leave to use. Checking leave either for my own use or checking the balance of one of my direct reports is easy to do in our timekeeping system. Having an easy to use system to track leave does make a difference.

  26. DCompliance*

    OP #1- We used to have an office complimented who would compliment the same person on their again and again and again and it was always in the same style. Other people in the office felt weird about it, not just the person receiving the praise. It just struck everyone as annoying to listen to the same conversation over and over again.

  27. always in email jail*

    OP #3 it may be a good idea for your company to put some sort of official policy in place regarding who is responsible for tracking leave. I actually don’t have access to my employees’ leave status without submitting a request to HR, waiting for them to pull the report to me, etc. In our organization, we’re responsible for knowing our own balance of the various leave types. Going over once is OK, you get a verbal warning and may be asked by your supervisor to prove that you have started keeping a spreadsheet to keep it from happening again. A second offense you may face formal disciplinary action.
    Like a previous poster, I somewhat disagree with Alison on this. I don’t think your manager- especially an interim manager- should be responsible for tracking your leave. They’re merely approving that time based on whether or not it interferes with the business needs of the organization.

  28. RVA Cat*

    OP2 – Was there a charity listed in the obituary? If so, could the company make a donation? That may be the most graceful response as it recognizes his loss, supports something his daughter cared about, and doesn’t involve more contact with this bereaved but still toxic person. (If there’s no charity listed, maybe something to her alma mater?)

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I wouldn’t bother – the guy sounds like a total jerk who chose to burn his bridges. I think Alison’s advice is the way to go.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Okay, it was just an idea.
        I have to admit I’m curious how this woman died. If it was something unnatural like, say, an overdose, I wonder how much having a jerk like this for a father may have led her down that path.

        1. always in email jail*

          that seems like unnecessarily cruel speculation. you could also speculate that he acted like a jerk because he had the stress of having an unwell daughter in his life that he was worried about.

          1. nonymous*

            > had the stress of having an unwell daughter in his life that he was worried about.

            This was my first thought. People don’t process logically under stress. I had a relative who wanted people to be incredibly effusive in their support of her illness (cards, flowers, visits) which she would coldly reject. But if you restricted interaction to the “pretend everything is normal” category, she was mad that you weren’t being supportive. Add to that withholding information and some poor communication patterns amongst the relatives. In hindsight, I understand that she was trying to exert control in a scary situation and unfortunately chose to do so by exerting powers of rejection. What a recipe for disaster!

    2. JulieBulie*

      I think this is a good idea, actually. Helps a good cause, memorializes the deceased, yet withholds any kind of misplaced attention the ex-employee may have been angling for.

  29. I prefer tea*

    OP#5 – If your manager has promised opportunities in the past that haven’t materialized, there’s a risk that a promise will be made now that doesn’t end up happening. Unless they’re able to make you full-time pretty much immediately (or give you a time-table in writing that you’re confident they can fulfill), you have to consider that you might be giving up an actual offer at the other business for an empty promise here.

  30. CMDRBNA*

    OP #1, I’ve had good results just not responding or doing a complete subject change when people keep bringing up stuff I don’t want them to continue commenting on. Think a kind of quizzical smile, half-raised eyebrows, and silence – like I’m waiting for them to finish a sentence.

    Generally, people stop doing this kind of stuff when they stop getting a reaction, so I’d let every comment like that pass unanswered. I worked somewhere where a coworker kept commenting on my tattoos (also, pro-tip: if someone wears long sleeves and you can see the edge of their tattoo, don’t comment on it. Just don’t. They’re covering it up for a reason. If I have to wear long sleeves to be ‘professional’ in the workplace, you need to be professional by remarking on my tattoos, thanks.) and I got SO tired of hearing it that I just started sort of smiling quizzically at him without saying anything in response, like I was waiting to hear what he’d actually come into my office to say, and it worked.

  31. Menacia*

    OP #2 , this guy has not changed at all. I would not be surprised if he does not have a job after the two years and so now has more time to spend blaming others for his problems. He has not moved on, obviously, and has taken no steps to change the way he deals with situations and people. Yes, his circumstance is incredibly sad and unfortunate, but his reaction is way off-base, even for a grieving person. Of course you can send your sentiments, but don’t engage him any further. And as others have mentioned, alert security to this especially if more anger-filled emails are received.

  32. Nervous Accountant*

    Man the PTO stuff I read here confuses me sometimes. Not sure if this is good or bad but my company doesn’t really give us a hard time about PTO. If we have PTO, they’ll give it to us, and we can take the rest unpaid if we want. It’s up to us to manage our PTO, my manager has more things to worry about than if I get paid for my days or not. Aside from the obvious blackout dates, we can take whatever day off as long as our work is tied up and clients are notified via OOO reply. No one asks for reasons why or demands a Dr note for a 2 day absence etc.

    1. tigerStripes*

      I think it varies on the company. Where I work, we can take PTO if we have it, as long as there’s enough coverage for work. No one asks for reasons why except sometimes to make conversation.

  33. Looky-loo*

    OP#4 – We check references between the video interview and the in-person interview because we pay travel expenses to bring folks in. I’m not paying upwards of $1,000 to bring someone in for an interview only to find out they have really bad references. This is particularly useful when I’m on the fence about two candidates and the references might help me decide between them. This is in academia, so the business world might work differently, but I don’t think it is completely out of step to check references after the first interview.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP#4, keep in mind as well that reference-checking is often done by HR but the people interviewing you will mostly be from the part of the business you would be joining. Given how difficult it can be to schedule interviews with multiple busy people, HR may be checking references because it (1) allows them to work efficiently and (2) confirm that they are not wasting the interviewers’ time (as well as the company’s money, as Looky-loo points out). I have had more than one situation where we brought in a candidate, spent hours of people’s time interviewing that candidate, and then learned from the references that we should never have started the process.

  34. M from NY*

    With regards to OP#2 I have slightly different take. Former employee was bad worker but what was his relationship socially with former coworkers? At one of my first jobs there was a lot of mixing between work and personal and over the years (even as some had left original workplace) we stayed in touch. I had gone above and beyond helping others during their time of bereavement. Yet when it was my turn to get zero acknowledgement (not even a card) hurt. Everyone assumed that someone else had taken care of it. While the OP may not have had a personal relationship with former employee he/she should inform the others that did and take it from there. Either let them reach out or if everyone is gone, send a response that you didn’t know with general condolences.

    I no longer get that involved with coworkers but if others benefitted from him socially over the years (especially with a smaller organization) I understand his hurt at the lack of reciprocity (even if he lashed out at wrong person). With some digging you’ll likely find out that someone knew and didn’t share the information.

    1. Let's talk about underwhelming responses to a death in the family*

      I saw this after I posted below — and I agree with this so much. The feeling that people know what happened, but that they just don’t care about you, really compounds the grief.

  35. Let's talk about underwhelming responses to a death in the family*

    I clicked on this article hoping that #2 would be reflective of my own situation. Alas, it is not, and I agree with sending an email of condolence but not further engaging. As for me — when my mother died, my boss acknowledged that I’d be out of the office and would need someone to cover for me in the same way she would have acknowledged a scheduling conflict for a meeting. No condolences at all, to the point that I wondered if she had misunderstood why I was jumping on the next flight out. I’m still in that job, but that disheartening experience contributed to my feeling disengaged with the company and anxious to move on.

    1. gmg*

      Wow. I hope that, when you do move on, you don’t leave without letting her know that she didn’t handle that well. Simple empathy in one of the worst personal moments you can experience is absolutely not too much to ask from a good manager, and she should know that.

      I have a humorous one that I hope won’t be out of place here — some people would not find it funny, but my late father and I shared a very wry sense of humor. My employer at the time of Dad’s death wasn’t always the best in the empathy/work-life balance department, but my direct supervisors were good about supporting me to take time off while he was ill and after his death. Another senior colleague, however, missed the news. I arrived back in the office and a day or two later received flowers from my colleagues in another office, as well as a good-sized potted plant from my mom. Senior colleague, a notably gruff fellow (not necessarily disliked in the office, but just known to be a crank), strolled by my desk, took in all the greenery that had suddenly appeared, and crankily asked, “What, did someone die or something?”

      Back story on my father: He loved nothing more than to drop the perfect one-liner on someone like this and then watch them squirm. So I did what Dad would have done: “Well,” I said, “actually, yes.”

      I have never seen someone more mortified, and my guess is this guy had almost never BEEN this mortified in his life. He turned on a dime, and apologized about five times. If he weren’t such a grump, I would have been a little embarrassed about how effective it was (I did explain the humorous aspect to him, to make sure he knew).

      1. Lissa*

        Haha, oh man. I feel like it would take a much much stronger person than I am not to respond with something similar! I don’t think there was *any* way to truthfully answer that in a way that wouldn’t make the colleague feel awkward.

    2. Mina*

      I’m so sorry. I think if you can, gmg’s suggestion to let your boss know she didn’t handle things well once you leave is a good one.

    3. Miel*

      I clicked thinking the same thing about #2. I was laid off and my dad died 2 days after my final day. I had worked at the company for about 5 years and people knew my father was sick. I had been visiting him in the hospital for 2 weeks, came back and on the first day was laid off, with being given 2 weeks notice of that. Plus, my husband works for the company, so I know people heard from him.

  36. Annie*

    I know it’s already been said, but I disagree with Alison on OP3 as well. I’m the one who approves vacation for over 90 people at my workplace, and I don’t really see it as my job to check to make sure each and every one of the employees who requests time off has PTO left for the year–they’re adults, and they should know how much they’ve used. I make sure the days requested are available, have the supervisor sign off, and then schedule their vacation on the vacation board. If I had to look up each person’s PTO balance for every vacation request, that’s all I’d ever be able to do at work! Sorry OP3, I don’t think the company or your manager is responsible for tracking your time–I do, however, think it was pretty frustrating that they didn’t notify you that they would be taking the time out of the next year’s PTO. I’d take this experience and use it as a reminder to keep track of the days I took off on a calendar or something!

  37. Meg*

    OP#1 I get it.

    I’ve got a coworker who obviously means well, but will sometimes comment on my makeup and exclaim that I should be wearing more lipstain/stick/whatever. It’s always positive, but it makes me feel obligated and examined in a way I don’t like. I think the best thing to do is what AAM said – politely just try to get her to stop before it becomes even more weird. Good luck!

    1. CMDRBNA*

      I find that so bizarre – I would never comment unfavorably on someone’s appearance (unless it was to let them know their fly was down or whatever) and I think it’s so rude when people do. I assume the person knows what they look like, they’re the boss of their own face, and they can wear lipstick and/or not as they choose.

  38. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

    OP #5- I totally get where you’re coming from. I love my job and coworkers, but only work about 20ish hours a week. I didn’t have another offer, but I did sit down with my manager recently and explain that I needed more hours, because I’d *really* rather stay there with people I like, and didn’t want to have to get another job. She responded very positively, because I’m good at my job and clients/my coworkers love me, and while she can’t give me full time at the moment, she was able to give me a few more hours right away at that meeting, and now it’s on her radar that she can schedule me more. YMMV, but if you are someone they want to keep, you may find your boss wants to work with you.

  39. Spargle*

    OP1 – your post made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We had an over-complimenter with exactly that same style of speech. She also would bring in “special treats” for me when she found out I liked something – for example, I mentioned I like tea, and the next day there was a bag filled with really expensive tea on my desk. (I returned it to her.) Every comment I made was AMAZING and THE SMARTEST. If I said something about cooking dinner, it was “oh, you can COOK. I know you can, I can tell these things.” She found out I sing, and suddenly she was listening to opera in her office.

    It was super creepy and off-putting, and made me feel like she was buttering me up for something huge down the line. We ended up not keeping her for performance reasons and I have never felt such relief.

    1. NorthernSoutherner*

      Man oh man. I’m no psychologist, but I see a tinge of hostility and even dislike in the behavior of the (extreme) over-complimenters like the one in your office, Spargle. Like their subconscious is pinging, ‘I’m so [jealous/bothered/unnerved] by you, I have to disguise it with all this flowery a**-kissing.’

  40. beanie beans*

    My mother-in-law gives me non-compliments like OP1’s coworker. “I didn’t really like your hair the last time you were here, but today it looks nice.” It gives you the feeling that they are non-stop judging your appearance and thinking about little else.

      1. beanie beans*

        For a long time I was always left a bit speechless, but eventually I got better at just saying “Cersi, that’s not really a compliment.”

        For OP1, I think it’s pretty reasonable to use Alison’s wording, or be even more clear about what’s making you uncomfortable – “I know your intentions are nice, but your comments on my makeup and clothes feel like judgment on my looks and it makes me kind of uncomfortable.”

    1. LawBee*

      “Glad it meets with your approval.” with serious side-eye. She will protest and “no, that’s not what I meant!” but it’s totally what she meant. Call her on it.

    2. LBK*

      This is exactly it. It’s one thing to compliment someone, it’s another to un-compliment them when they stop doing the thing you complimented them on. Not only is it just flat-out insulting, it also implies they’re mentally keeping track of what you look like every day. It’s borderline creepy.

    3. Student*

      “Haha, thanks! Sounds like you’re paying more attention to my hair than I do, though. That’s a lovely {hair, purse, shirt, nails} you’re rocking today. You’re so much more in tune with fashion than I am!”

      For an in-law or similar relation – just concede they look better than you do. Even if they don’t. It’s what they really want, it costs you nothing, and it smooths over a relationship you just need to keep at “good enough” instead of drumming up more friction. For a co-worker, I’d probably try a similar tactic with somebody at my level or above me. I’d coach it out of a subordinate, probably by being direct about how it was off-putting.

  41. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

    For OP3 – my younger self can sympathize. At my first job out of college, we had combined PTO (sick, vacation, etc – it was all in one pool). I burned through my PTO, leaving no buffer for when I got sick and then later had a bad reaction to getting my wisdom teeth pulled. They let me go negative once, which was against policy – but when it happened again, they docked my pay. I was miserable about it and worried about making rent, so when they said they were doing me a favor, I didn’t appreciate it. In retrospect, their response could have been a lot worse.

    After this experience, I’ve been militant about tracking my PTO myself. I also have developed an extreme distaste for combined PTO, especially in combo with “use it or lose it” end of year policies. And in my line of work, add to that the need for end of year coverage. Blech. I honestly don’t understand how these policies are expected to work. You either hope you don’t get sick at the end of the year, or risk losing your PTO to have a responsible buffer, or you come in and infect everyone else.

    Well, I digress. I have sympathy for you, and I hope you develop a similar militant approach to PTO. Due to my diligence, when my company moved to a new HR system, I discovered they’d short changed me by multiple days – and was able to prove it and get the time back.

  42. Observer*

    #3 I’m not sure why you are so upset. Even when it’s normally the manager’s job to check vacation (which it not the typical scenario), you knew you were dealing with an interim person, which always means a chance of something slipping. In addition, you only have 4 1/2 months left to the year. Can you REALLY not manage to get through without taking more days? If that’s the case, you have bigger problems.

    1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

      That seems needlessly adversarial – and inaccurate, to boot. You don’t know what else they had anticipated using PTO for this year.

      I agree it’s still on the OP to deal with their own hours, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be hugely disruptive to find you have less time than you thought.

      1. Observer*

        What exactly is inaccurate?

        With 4.5 months left, it could be disruptive, but it shouldn’t be all that huge.

        I’m not being adversarial. I just don’t understand the tone here – why the sense that the employer treated them so badly.

        1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

          I don’t know how you can determine that the disruption wouldn’t be a big deal … *confused*

          And that’s all I mean by inaccurate – you don’t know what they were going to use with their time.

          Either way, I think we agree it was the OP’s mistake, and they simply need to adjust to the fallout.

  43. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    OP #5 – I’ve been in a similar situation. I was working full time, but being paid well under market value at a job I loved. When I received an offer at market rate (more than 30% over my salary) I told my boss and grand boss, because I really didn’t want to leave my job. They came back with a counter offer that was a 20% raise from what I was making, but in the end I really couldn’t turn down the bigger salary (and shorter commute) of the other offer. I miss my old job an coworkers a ton, but in all honesty, it was still the best career decision for me. I was torn and really wanted to accept the counter offer, but the reality was that there wasn’t a lot of room for any additional growth in the company.

    1. Just J*

      My first non-retail tech job was as a temp. The policy was that the company wouldn’t hire a contractor on as full-time until you’d been there six months. After almost three months, I got an offer from a resume I had submitted before ever taking the temp job, so I let my bosses know, in hopes that they’d offer me a full time gig. I liked the work, and the people I worked with, so it just made sense to me.

      They did not, and it was honestly for the best. Looking back, there was no room to advance in that job, and they ended up closing the doors (rather infamously padlocking all their facilities over the weekend with no notice) within a couple of years. I stayed at the new place almost ten years, and have been at the next place after that for almost eleven now, so it definitely worked out for the best.

  44. EvilQueenRegina*

    We’re expected to track our own time off where I work, but our manager does do this as well so I think someone making that mistake would be picked up, having said that our manager is someone who tracks every single silly little thing to the point of micromanaging.

    It does remind me of a time when I worked at The Real Office, and we had this admin, Sansa, who liked to think of herself as our manager’s PA even though she wasn’t, and she used to make up annual leave cards for everyone at the beginning of the year. Around Easter of 2008 we had a part time person, Cersei, start, and as she was part time (9am-3.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) her hours were calculated slightly differently. She was given a card saying she had X amount of leave for 2008, and didn’t question it. However, when it came to making 2009’s cards, Sansa realised she had miscalculated Cersei’s leave for 2008 and given her a couple of days she wasn’t entitled to, but by that time Cersei had taken them. Cersei was then given the choice by our manager of either doing a Tuesday and Thursday to make up or be deducted the pay for the days – in the end someone suggested she make up the time by working full days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday instead so she went with that.

    Since then the system has changed and we now have a computer system that can tell us. That seems to work.

    1. Observer*

      Now, that’s different. And I think the manager handled it EXTREMELY poorly. This wasn’t Cersei’s fault – she was given wrong information and no one was paying attention, not just to how much time she had left but to how much time she actually used.

  45. DanaScully*

    Re #3: In my organisation we are required to use a specific template for annual leave. One cell has the number of days and one cell has any days carried over from the previous year which are added together in another cell to give a total allowance in days. When we request annual leave, we enter the dates and how many days we will be taking as leave which is then deducted automatically from the total allowance. The calculation is sort of like: balance due = total allowance – number of days leave requested. The balance due field goes down each time we enter a number into one of the ‘number of days leave requested’ cells. Maybe OP3 could consider putting together a similar spreadsheet themselves to prevent this happening in future?

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