my boss won’t let me quit, treating people like adults while enforcing high standards, and more

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

1. Yesterday was my last day — but my boss won’t let me quit

So two weeks ago I put in my resignation letter at my job. I agreed to work for two weeks and that’s it. My boss and coworkers had been nothing but rude and unprofessional to me the entire time I was employed there. Everyday they would go to a bar and drink while I was back at the office working. That and a few other things are what made me quit.

Getting to the point of my letter, yesterday was my last day at my job. I finished up projects and did everything they asked of me while remaining professional and providing a smooth exit. However, after it was time to leave I was “forced” to make edits to projects and that resulted in six hours worth of overtime. Today, my boss keeps emailing me and giving me tasks even though yesterday was my last day. She keeps telling me they don’t have time to find another designer when I gave two week notice and she just posted the job on my last day of work. Shouldn’t that have been done when I gave my two week notice? Should I block them from emailing me or texting me? It is my first job and I don’t know what to do.

Oh my goodness. They can’t force you to do anything — you don’t work there anymore. It’s not your problem that they haven’t found another designer. People resign from jobs all the time, and it’s often inconvenient for the employer; that does not mean that they get to insist the person continue working for them! That’s not how this works.

Email this to your boss: “Since yesterday was my last day, I’m not able to continue working on this. I wish you all the best with it.” Then if she continues to email you after that, wait two days before responding and then email back with, “I’m just seeing this — I’ve been really busy. Since my last day was the 15th, I can’t continue doing this work on top of my other commitments. Please don’t count on me seeing emails you send to this account.” Then, that’s it — stop responding. (There’s an argument for stopping after the first one, but I think it’s better to reinforce in her head that you might not even be seeing what she’s sending, and that you definitely aren’t seeing it quickly.)

And since this is your first job, I want to make sure you’re really clear on this: This is not normal. Generally when a last day comes around, that’s it. It’s not normal to insist that the person needs to do more work.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How to balance treating people like adults with enforcing high standards

I’m having a little bit of a conundrum. In the past, I was all about being strict on being on time and working a full eight hours. But your insight into treating people like adults and if they are getting their work done, you shouldn’t sweat it, was enlightening. So here is the conundrum. One of my employees is totally taking advantage of this by saying he’s running behind and showing up two hours later. Once he showed up 45 minutes late and still took an hour and a half lunch. This person is also sick at least twice a month, if not more.

So how do I draw the line between letting them manage their hours and stepping in if they are getting work done but it’s not stellar work? I’m a relatively new manager to this team of four and only one is a strong, dependable team member.

The key part of “if they’re getting their work done, don’t sweat it” is “if they’re getting their work done” — and the subtext of that is “at a high level of quality.” It’s utterly reasonable — and in fact necessary — to say to someone who isn’t performing at a stellar level, “You’ve been coming in late a lot recently. I need you to be here on time.” That doesn’t mean that you then enforce it to the minute — five or ten minutes late isn’t a big deal versus 9:00 in most jobs. But an hour or two is a big deal!

And certainly on a day that he’s late, if you then see him taking a long lunch, address that right away: “Hey, you were two hours late today and then away for an hour and a half for lunch. I need you here more reliably than this. What’s going on?” It’s also reasonable to say, “The flexibility with your hours is dependent on you hitting all of your goals. Right now, you’re not where I need you to be in work areas A, B, and C. Part of the problem may be that you’re not putting in the time I’d expect to see. I need you here 40 hours a week — in general, but especially while we’re working to raise your performance.”

Also, if only one of your team of four is strong and dependable, you’ve got some serious performance issues on your staff that you need to address more broadly as well.

This may help too, and this and this.

3. Third-person bios on resumes

My wife recently picked up a “resume service coupon” at a silent auction at our church. The people writing it have done quite a few, and are both writing professionals that do this together in their free time (and I have known them personally for quite some time).

My question stems from the fact that they are writing my resume with a short bio at the beginning in place of the “objectives” section. While this doesn’t seem weird, they are writing it in third person for me. I am currently working on pursuing a director/VP level role and they stated in the past that they have produced about a dozen or so in third person, as they see the trend shifting to this for higher level hires. When I read it, it just seems off. I have been reading your blog for some time now so I figured I would get your input on this matter. I searched and found this from 2009, but I wasn’t able to find anything more recent.

So what say you? Current trend shifting where this is the norm, or should I stick to the tried and true first person approach?

Don’t write about yourself in the third person on a resume! It comes across as a little weird and pretentious.

That said, don’t use “I” on a resume either — for whatever reason, the resume convention is to leave out pronouns altogether. So, for example, instead of writing “I successfully raised 62 llamas” or “Burt Flanagan has successfully raised 62 llamas,” you’d write “Successfully raised 62 llamas.”

4. Is “trim the fat” insensitive?

I’m an avid reader, and I’ve seen a lot of comment threads on the insensitivity on commenting on others’ food choices, and how it can potentially be a trigger for someone struggling with an eating disorder.

I’m also in HR, and I post the wellness newspaper on my door every time it goes out. As I walked into my office today, I realized the headline, “Trim the Fat,” might fall into that category. (It them goes on to talk about Halloween candy and holiday eating habits.) I recognize that not everyone needs to trim the fat, some people should maybe add more in. Some people might see that walking past my door every day and it might trigger them to rethink their lunch choice in an unhealthy way. On the other hand, promoting healthy eating habits is usually an integral part of employee wellness programs which can positively affect the business.

So my question is this: Am I overthinking this, or should I pull the poster?

Yes, it may make some people cringe for all the reasons you listed here. It’s not the biggest outrage in the world — there are similar things posted in zillions of companies — but I think you’re right to be aware that it may affect people in ways you didn’t intend.

For what it’s worth, if you want to promote healthy eating habits, a wellness newspaper posted on your door probably isn’t going to do it — I guarantee you that every adult in your company knows Halloween candy is bad for them. If you really want to promote healthy eating, encourage the company to do stuff like providing free fruit and other healthy snacks, make sure there are healthy options in your vending machines, and make it easy for people to find a range of healthy options at company-provided meals. That’s both more effective and less problematic than the “trim the fat” stuff.

5. Should I email follow-up questions to my interviewer?

I recently interviewed for a position and sent a thank-you email the next day. At the end of my interview, the hiring manager suggested that I was the top candidate but emphasized that if I had any questions to email him. I feel I should have included questions in the thank-you. How would a second email be perceived?

As annoying, honestly. “If you have any questions, feel free to email” just means “if you have any questions, you can email me.” It does not mean “I hope you will email me questions” or “I expect you to email me questions” or “it will be impressive if you email me questions.” Moreover, much of the time when people say this, it’s because it feels like a polite way to wrap things up, not because they’d even particularly welcome an email with questions; writing out answers to questions can be time-consuming. It also tends to be obvious if you’re asking questions for the sake of asking questions.

So unless you have an absolutely crucial question that can’t wait until you next speak, don’t do this.

{ 551 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp*

    #2 – I definitely agree with Alison’s advice, but I would note that I don’t think you should factor this person’s sick time into the time management issue (unless you have a really strong suspicion that they’re not actually sick when they call in). Calling out sick isn’t the same as coming in late or wasting time, and you don’t know what health issues this person might have that could be causing it. I would focus on the lateness and the quality of their work.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Two sick days a month is 24 sick days a year, or over a month of sick time. That’s a lot. If there’s a health issue in play, certainly they can talk about accommodations. But it’s reasonable to factor it into a discussion about how he, at a minimum, needs to be working diligently the rest of the time.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Twice a month during peak flu season or allergy season isn’t too bad, but twice a month all year long is excessive.

        1. Fiennes*

          Depends — for years, I had chronic sinus infections. I wasn’t out two days a month, but I would have more than the average sick days because I’d wake up with a pounding headache and dizziness that made my commute inadvisable. It wasn’t something I’d have dreamed of getting accommodations for — just sinus infections! — but the illnesses were real and genuinely debilitating. Luckily I had generous sick time there and kept on top of projects.

          (The recurring/chronic sinus infections didn’t slow down until I finally had surgery to expand my sinus cavities. They still occur, but much less often and much less severely. If anyone reading this suffers from the same problem, consider getting this done — it’s outpatient, recovery time isn’t bad, and it’s so great not to feel sick at least one day a week.)

          1. ENFJ in DC*

            I used every sick day plus vacation time for illnesses after I first had kids. I got a sinus infection every time they got a cold.

            Two sick days per month was par for the course. I bristle at the suggestion by Alison that using one’s benefits when genuinely needed is a problem.

            1. Cherith Ponsonby*

              I think it can be a logistical problem (in the sense of “something that may adversely affect your work”), while not being a moral problem (in the sense of “something you have done wrong”).

              I’m in a similar situation right now – for health-related reasons my commute is suddenly twice as long as usual, and I can’t guarantee I’ll be in the office at my normal starting time. It’s not my fault and everyone is sympathetic, but it is a problem that has the potential to affect my work, and it’s at least partly my responsibility to help mitigate that.

            1. Paquita*

              I had to use 40 hours of vacation several weeks ago because I was sick. Never knew a UTI/kidney infection could be so bad. :(

          2. V*

            I am not a doctor, but I do have a glorious history of frequent sinus and ear infections. And here are some tips that may give you even more relief:
            -Get the pneumovax – my allergy doctor read that there’s new(ish) research that indicates that getting the pneumonia vaccine (even if you’re under 65) can help reduce the number of sinus infections people get (and I can anecdotally confirm that in my case, I saw a lot of improvement)
            -“Silent” acid reflux is a thing, and it can can cause sinus issues. I was having so many sinus issues, even though I didn’t feel like they were congested, and my allergy tests weren’t showing any new allergies, and I was taking anti-histamines. Then I had a really bad stomach flu, and it was lingering, so I took some reflux medication for a few weeks, and my sinus issues/chronic sore throats/ear drainage problems miraculously disappeared. The silent reflux can cause inflammation that prevents sinus and/or ear drainage, and then there’s a mucous situation, and things get unpleasant.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I think you could also reasonably ask if their health is affecting their punctuality and performance. It seems weird to leave out that part of the bigger picture.

      To that end, I’d want to ask some questions about what’s going on to try and establish whether he’s really taking advantage or actually suffering from stress or juggling caring for someone terminally ill or something.

      However, I am from a country which has some different norms to the advice I see on here (eg you need to explain the nature of your illness or injury, not just keep it vague) so my advice may not translate.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        The 90 minute lunch break sounds like a long time. Based on my office (flexible hours with some restrictions) 30 minutes is usual and anything longer is due to an appointment or networking lunch. The longer lunches are not so common, so that would be something to raise with the employee if longer lunches are happening regularly.

      2. Wintermute*

        It’s very problematic in the US to ask about health specifically or about details, because of a whole host of legal and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues.

        It’s far safer to lump all potential causes into one and make it a part of the conversation about the time off, it’s never a bad idea, after all, to ask someone who is struggling with a performance issue if there’s anything going on that might be impacting their performance that you should know about. This then puts the onus on them, as it should be, to ask for an accommodation if one is needed and allows them to decide how much information to share about the reason.

        1. Juli G.*

          But it can be problematic to not ask because the ADA requires reasonable accommodations plus the FMLA… it’s not a bad idea to
          advise employee that their time management is becoming problematic and letting them know those options are available for qualifying issues.

          1. dC*

            But under both ADA and FMLA, it is the employees responsibility to disclose and request accommodations. It’s never the employees position to assume that there is a disability or medical issue

            1. Soon to be former fed*

              With respect to ADA, I’ll leave it at not true, it’s been talked about a lot on AAM. This is a common misconception. A manager may certainly open the ADA discussion after noticing erratic attendance.

              1. Anna*

                Isn’t that a fine line, though? An employer can’t walk up to an employee and say, “Gosh! You probably need FMLA because of your [condition I’ve decided you have]!” They can, however, ask if there’s something going on that FMLA might be a good solution for. The flip side is once an employer learns of a qualifying condition, they have to offer FMLA, whether or not the employee has directly asked for it.

            2. Juli G.*

              Yep, I would never recommend assuming but would recommend advising that these are available to those with qualifying issues.

          2. Wintermute*

            That’s exactly what I meant, Juli G. Ask if there’s anything you need to know about or that they’d like to share about the situation, and that you want to make sure they are set up for success and have the resources they need if there is something going on. Then leave the door open to them choosing how much to share with you. If that conversation includes an accommodation request that’s great, if it includes some context about their personal life, that’s also useful, if they choose not to share anything and just shape up it’s still a win-win.

            The problematic part is the presumption “you must have a medical issue” or asking specifically about medical issues you don’t know about from the employee’s information. It’s not directly illegal, of course, but this is all about managing the risk of a suit or other action if you end up having to separate the employee.

        2. Snark*

          At the same time, it’s ridiculous to feel like you’re tiptoeing around a minefield when someone is taking a disruptive and unreasonable amount of sick leave.

        3. designbot*

          it’s also just bad form because the way a lot of people do it sets up the impression that the boss may judge some people’s reasons to be valid and others potentially not. Even when people think they’re being objective, we see people slip into that mode of thinking in the comments around here all the time, casting aspersions on whether someone’s really sick. Easier not to make those calls (which aren’t yours to make!) if you just don’t even know the details.

    3. Triplestep*

      One thing that came to mind as I read this: Even if somehow this employee’s performance is not being impacted by the hours he keeps, I think a manager is well within her rights to point out that people really need to be available the majority of established business hours. I sometimes flex my hours, but there’s a limit to how creative I can get since people may be looking for me for a quick answers during the business day.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. My job is 8-5 (minus lunch), and we serve outside clients so we need to be staffed during those hours (no working from home most of the time, no “creative hours”). We get a little wiggle room–one of us likes to come in later, but she leaves later, too. I like to come in earlier when traffic is lighter, and I can leave earlier. But, overall, we’re always staffed, and it’s understood that if we need all hands on deck for an event, “flexible” hours no longer apply and we will all be here 8-5-minus-lunch. If I weren’t getting stuff done in the morning before my boss arrives, though, this arrangement would end.

      2. Snark*

        With my folks and I, we’ve got a decent amount of latitude, but we do have to be present for core hours, which can be construed a lot of ways but my rule of thumb is 8:30 to 3:30. So, like, if I gotta scoot and do some grocery shopping and the to-do list has been beaten into submission until tomorrow morning….fine. But we do have to be present and available to support our clients during, as you say, the majority of established business hours. If I were running two hours late and taking an hour and a half lunch, that sounds like three PTO hours, not a flexible schedule.

      3. Mandy*

        My job has defined “core business hours” we have to be in the office between 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM. Within that stipulation we can select our hours. One of my co-workers comes in at 7:30 and leaves at 3:30, while I come in at 9 and leave at 5. (Lunches are not paid so if we take a lunch then we adjust our exit time accordingly–generally though I prefer to eat at my desk and work while eating). It is perfectly normal to define core business hours.

      4. Koko*

        Yep, this is why I’ve always worked longer hours at any job that offered me flexible hours. Because I had to be at least semi-available during core hours, so I might run an errand or take a long lunch or, on a day I’m working from home, get some chores done. But the entire time I have my phone nearby and I know that even though I told people I wouldn’t be in until 11 today, I might have to stop what I’m doing at 10 and respond to something time-sensitive. My willingness to do that on the rare occasions that it’s truly needed are the deposits in the good-will bank that lets me tell them I wasn’t going to be in until 11 in the first place.

      5. TootsNYC*


        I had a stretch where I was consistently late, and my boss sat me down and said, “People need you. I don’t want to nickel-and-dime you over getting in to work, and you certainly stay as late as necessary and work hard while you’re here. But two things: First, people need you. They have questions, they need help–and you’re not here. Second, being THIS late creates the wrong atmosphere in the office.”

        If you have a meeting in the morning to divvy up workflow or disseminate info, and he’s not there, that’s a performance problem. It makes your life harder, because you need to repeat yourself, or he doesn’t hear the input of other people.

        Those things are performance!

      6. many bells down*

        My husband’s office does “core hours” which is a block of about 5 hours when you’re expected to be in the office. If you want to come in early and leave right at the end of the core hour block, cool. If, like my husband, you don’t do mornings well, you come in at the start of core hours and leave later.

    4. Original Poster*

      OP here. First, thank you for all the comments they are very helpful. I think what I’m struggling with is how do I hold one low performer accountable for their time when they see the others still coming and going as they please. Without a question the group as a whole has not been held accountable for years. The previous manager retired and had checked out when it came to really looking at the work product.

      I think they are able to get their work done because in actuality, they don’t have that much work to do. I feel like they’re checking the box and probably handling 50% of the work that they could be doing.

      Because of privacy and out of sheer respect, I don’t want to question this person’s health but they ARE calling in sick at least twice a month because of some type of illness. We don’t require a doctor’s note if it’s just one day and I can’t help but feel they are taking advantage of me because they seem perfectly fine when they return to work.

      1. Jesca*

        Well yeah, it does kind of sound like you have overall performance issues. And certainly you will always have that one person who will take things too far. I would say with calling out twice a month thing wouldn’t be too aggregious if they do have a medical issue and do not have a job that requires them to be available on site all of the time, but coupling that with being late and then taking long lunch breaks on the same day, I would certainly believe at the most they are really disconnected with how they are coming across if not completely taking advantage.

        As far as the work load goes, I would do this. Set very clear goals and hold them to it. Like, I need these projects completed by X date with this level of workload. It might be beneficial to start there across the board since it is so systemic in your department. Then everyone knows the expectation. If the employee who keeps taking a lot of time off/being late cannot meet these standards, well now you have perfect segue into that conversation without killing moral as a new manager. Up their game so to speak by raising the bar on how quickly works needs to be completed and how the quality level needs to be. This also has the benefit of letting them know that you are more than aware of them working only at half capacity.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It’s also totally OK to base those new work goals based on what you truly think someone working with moderate efficiency at a moderate pace could achieve in the basic work hours (leave some room–working for 8 hours isn’t going to produce 8 hours of work; you have to allow time for administrative stuff and interruptions).

          With your current team, that means you may end up raising the bar–that’s OK.

          And it also means you’re going to have to put in some work–you’ll need to really educate yourself about what that tasks are, and what it truly takes (in time and resources) to do those tasks, and how you can measure whether people are succeeding.

          That’s one reason so many managers and companies end up just saying, “Be here on time, don’t leave early, don’t take a long lunch, and work continuously.” That’s just easier to observe.

          So you can say to him, “The company expects to get 8 hours of productivity out of you. You only had 4-1/2 hours here today–and you produced X things.”

          And it’s OK to pull them into the idea of figuring out what a reasonable amount of work it–even if it’s only that you pick a timeframe and insist they be on time, take a normal lunch, and leave on time, and you watch over what they do.
          (Since so many of them are bad performers, I don’t think it’s smart necessarily to say, “use your insight to help me figure out what a reasonable amount of work is.”)

          1. Jesca*

            Yeah, definitely do not want to ask their insight. But it would probably be helpful to ask the one performing well what they have noticed works and doesn’t work. They may be a great way to find out if their are any problems within the work. This would also be helpful when the lower performers come back with “but X system is slooooow.” It would probably also help the higher performer by giving them some level of validation for their efforts. High performers, I have found, can be really appreciative when asking them how they do things so well and what could be improved upon. Of course, you will want to give them goals as well, but obviously they aren’t going to need the level of oversight like the others will.

      2. Samata*

        With only one strong performer I think it might be necessary for you to pull them all in a room and say that until the department is up to an acceptable level of work product/effort/reliability that everyone needs to be available more often, which means coming in at 9, taking only an hour lunch, and staying until 5. Then, of course, be flexible within reason – 10-15 minutes here or there not a big deal.

        This isn’t going to win you any brownie points, but management rarely does, right? And with 3 of 4 performing at below-standard or at a minimum an unreliable product perhaps you need to address this with everyone.

        1. Buffy Summers*

          I disagree. I understand what you’re saying, but the strong performer doesn’t need to be a part of the conversation at all. There’s nothing I hate worse than a shotgun approach to management. While this seems a little different because there are 3 out of 4 underperformers, I believe the principle is the same. If one person violates the dress code, address it with that one person rather than sending out a blanket email or pulling everyone into a meeting about the dress code. If three people violate the dress code, address it with those three people, not with the entire department. I believe this is the same. If the strong performer isn’t a problem, there’s no reason she needs to change her habits or schedule, so she doesn’t need to be a part of this conversation.
          Also, each of the others may have different issues, so each person needs to have an individual meeting to address the specific concerns for that person.

          1. Samata*

            Yeah, the more I read other comments and re-read the original post I do agree with you here. I was thinking of it as a department issue, when the reality is it’s a partial department issue.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        Focus on the performance you want to see, not on whether they are ‘taking advantage’ of you.
        – Some illnesses have short-term, acute problems but don’t linger (think migranes; some have lingering after effects, but many don’t), and you are not their doctor. It’s a lot, sure, but if they can step up to your work goals, then let it go.
        – Think through what goals you’d like to see them reach, including how those goals tie to the department and business’s overall strategy and goals. You want to make sure you’re requesting real added value, not just busy work.
        – Talk through these goals with the team so they understand why you want changes, then 1 on 1 so that each team member can understand how they need to close the gap between the old normal and the new.

        From this update, it sounds like you may have unexpressed expectations, and you need to walk through ensuring the expectations add value to the company, educating the team, and setting their goals to be achievable and SMART. Once the expectations are clear, then you can require them to put in time if they’re not meeting the expectations.

        1. serenity*

          Very good points here. And yes, the illness or sick days is not the major concern here. This employee’s work ethic (and the productivity of the larger team) is what the OP should be concentrating on, not policing people’s use of sick days.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Good points!

          I want to highlight this: ” it sounds like you may have unexpressed expectations”
          Because that seems really true to me. I think they are unexpressed, and also kind of vague. To the extent you can think about and express your expectations in concrete terms, as actionable things for your team to do, please do that. Not just “do more” and “be more productive” but… “get through x% more data analyses” or “increase sales by x” or “resolve x customer issues” or whatever makes sense for your business/metric.

      4. Working Mom*

        I always preach to my staff that I will treat them all as individuals. So if I offer some kind of flexible work hour perk to all, I make sure they all know the understanding is work is getting done on time, high quality. If it’s not – I’m not going to react by “taking it away from the whole team” but rather working with the individual directly.

        I think when one person is struggling, it helps to position it to that person as “these changes in working hours/reduced flexibility are not permanent, but let’s work together to get you back on track, then we can slowly add those perks back in.”

        Another alternative, is asking the individual why they are struggling – perhaps the erratic hours are not helping them be productive. But maybe the official 8-5 (for example) hours are a challenge because of a long commute, school aged kids, etc. So depending on the person’s history – maybe you agree to a more formal but still unique schedule, that allows the person to focus on work better. (I would more willing to offer a unique but more formal schedule to an employee who has already proved their responsibility and performance before and is just struggling now, for whatever reason.)

        1. Original Poster*

          I do like the idea of presenting this as a “this is not permanent” approach because I want to give them every chance to improve. I think they’ve just gotten comfortable in what they’re doing. I have given the group expectations and had conversations with this person but maybe it just needs to be more direct.

          Again, thanks to all who have weighed in, getting the perspective has been helpful.

      5. Anna Held*

        If you have too little work for them to do, that’s a separate problem. I’d talk to your boss about your team’s goals and what work needs to be done, and offer to take on a new project (if possible). This truly sounds like it’s a host of issues not of your making, and you need to figure out what your team needs to do to shine — and keep employed! It’ll be rough, but your team will come up to scratch or, eventually, leave. And if the added workload comes from upper management, it’ll make it easier on you.

        And be sure to reward your high performer! Advocate for a raise, etc.

      6. Project Mangler*

        I’m like your employee right now in alot of ways, right down to the retiring boss. I lost focus at work for reasons (both work and personal) and started calling in sick all the time and coming in late and what have you. I wish my boss, who is retiring this week, had sat me down at any point and discussed how it was affecting my performance. Instead he mumbled something about HR saying I’d been taking too many sick days one time and considered the matter closed. If we’d really gotten into why it was happening, a huge part of it would be because I needed his help on a big project and he was checked out for years and didn’t have my back. I mean, I should be able to be a professional despite that but, I don’t know, it wears on you. Not saying the latter is what is happening with your employee, but just consider that it could end up being a more productive conversation than you think if the employee needs guidance or a new challenge.

      7. Risha*

        I’m not going to assume that that this person is not taking advantage of you given everything else, but as Jules noted, there are plenty of medical issues out there that have regular flareups and limited aftereffects. I tend to be on the high side of sick time as it is, as my immune system has always been crap, but there are some years where I’ll get migraines in time with my cycle for several months at a stretch, which results in one day off per month for maybe 4 or 5 months in a row, with no visible side effects when I get back to work the next day.

      8. TootsNYC*

        Because of privacy and out of sheer respect, I don’t want to question this person’s health but they ARE calling in sick at least twice a month because of some type of illness. We don’t require a doctor’s note if it’s just one day and I can’t help but feel they are taking advantage of me because they seem perfectly fine when they return to work.

        This is when you go to HR and say, “This is disruptive, these many sick days. Is this the point at which we call him in and say, ‘Please formalize this with FMLA?’ Isn’t that what FMLA is for, for his protection and ours?”

        Because that “they seem perfectly fine when they return to work” is problematic, for the reasons other people have articulated here. For one thing, of course they’re fine–the problem is now over!
        But also, having a doctor speak to his need for the time off will hopefully remove the impression he’s leaving, which is that he’s taking advantage of the company’s leniency.

      9. anathema*

        I’d ask you to flip your thinking around. What will your higher performers think if you continue to let the low performer operate this way? Sometimes thinking about the people you would want to spend more time or resources on helps frame your thinking.

        Separately, he has self-selected to be treated differently by behaving differently and not meeting performance standards. If he wants to push back on why Jane gets to flex her time and he doesn’t, it’s okay to tell him. “Your performance is low and we need to focus on that. Until your performance reaches meeting expectations consistently, we won’t be able to revisit time flexibility.”

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Think of it this way. It’s not that they won’t let you quit. You HAVE quit – it’s just that these people are choosing not to accept it. You don’t have to help them keep up that pretence.

    1. Artemesia*

      The important thing is to know that they cannot hold your final check hostage. You are entitled to it, they have to pay it out in X days (this may vary by state but is a very short time) and this is not contingent on the ‘accepting’ your resignation.

        1. Emac*

          Yes! My first thought was wondering if she was paid for the 6 hours of forced overtime.

          And I also want to add to Alison’s advice – after sending the second email, set up your email so that you won’t see any more emails from former boss. I know for me, even seeing them in my inbox would make me tense, even if I were resolved to not answer.

          1. Antilles*

            I don’t know if I’d do the last part. At least until the final paycheck is in the bank, you want to make sure you’ve got all those communications to your inbox in case they try to play games with your money.

            1. Solidus Pilcrow*

              Most email systems allow you to set up a rule or filter to shunt emails from to a separate folder so you still have them but they’re not right in your face every time you see your inbox.

      1. Amy*

        This is what came to mind for me, too. OP1, it might be worth checking what the regulations are in your state and what your options are if the law isn’t followed, so you know what leverage you have if they do make an issue out of it. Your ex boss sounds like an absolute nightmare to work for, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to retaliate (and they also sound not very competent, to be honest, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they inadvertently picked an illegal way to retaliate either). You’re well rid of them!

        1. A Person*

          Also, document all your working hours/travel costs and communication. I had to go to the labour board to force a company to pay my last paycheck for one job and it was made so much easier by the fact that I had a diary of my work days, sicknotes for the days I had been ill, copies and postal receipts for the ‘pay me or I’ll go to the labour board’ letters and of the e-mails/text messages I had exchanged with the bosses.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I was coming here to say exactly this. Make sure you get your money! They are legally obligated to pay you and they cannot withhold any ridiculous expenses they drum up from it either. Check your state regulations and if you don’t get your final paycheck in the proper amount of time, take action.

    2. Dot Warner*

      Yep! OP1, think of Stacy in the Wayne’s World movie. You’re Wayne and your former employer is Stacy:

      Stacy: Wayne, if you’re not careful, you just might lose me.

      Wayne: I did lose you! That’s what breaking up IS!

      They did lose you – that’s what resigning IS!

      1. Mookie*

        Great example. To complete the exercise, their next paycheck to LW1 (because she still works there and is just playing coy) should contain a promotion and a severed head a gunrack a company watch.

      2. blackcat*

        Yes, I was just thinking that this is like a dating relationship.

        Person A: We’re breaking up.

        Person B: No, I still need you around! You’re not allowed to break up with me right now.

        Person B is an asshole. Person A should run for the door.

      3. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I thought of the first episode of Coupling (the UK version: YouTube link to the whole scene in my name)

        Steve: It’s over between us.

        Jane: You want us to split up?

        Steve: Yes! Yes, I do.

        Jane: …I don’t accept.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      OP #1, if this helps at all, imagine you broke up with someone you were dating and they wouldn’t let you out of the relationship even though you had very clearly broken up with that person. They can’t force you to stay in a relationship with you. It’s wrong. The same thing is true with this job.

      1. TootsNYC*

        the funny thing is, people really ought to look at it the other way. I think many people are less willing/able to see how screwed up it is that your sweetheart won’t “let you” break up with them, and more able to see that a job can’t force you to work there.

    4. LBK*

      I think another thing to think about is: what are they going to do if you just don’t answer? Fire you? They don’t have any power over your actions anymore. Really the worst consequence they can levy against you is a bad reference, and it doesn’t sound like you’re likely to get a good one from this kind of manager anyway. They could also try to withhold your last paycheck but fortunately on that one you’ve got the law on your side, so they can only play that game for so long.

      Frankly, I don’t think Alison’s suggestion is blunt enough – I think the wording could imply that if at some point you’re less busy you’d be willing to continue to do this work, you just can’t get to it right now. If they follow up with you after using Alison’s first response, I might flat out say “As I’m no longer an employee of No Boundaries, Inc., I won’t be continuing to do this work and will not be replying to further emails asking me to continue to work.”

      1. OP1*

        The main thing I was concerned about was them holding my pay since it is a very small business (i.e. 4 employees and now 3 since I left).

        1. Chinook*

          When it comes to pay, company size does not matter. If they don’t pay you within the time required by your labour board, they are in breach and they need to be reported.

        2. LBK*

          US federal law requires that you receive your final paycheck no later than your next regularly scheduled payday, and there are some states that have even stricter laws than that. It sounds like it’s been a few weeks since you quit so if they haven’t given you your last paycheck yet, they’re likely in violation of that law already.

  3. AnonAndOn*

    Number 1 sounds like the woman who was shunned by her boss (who wrote in) and co-workers who were into partying and drinking all the time and writing her off as unfun because she was was different than they were. Just like in that letter and in your letter, they sound very rude and disrespectful.

    You don’t owe them any of your time anymore since you no longer work there. Alison’s advice is good. Other than those few responses you don’t owe them anything else.

    1. OP1*

      I agree. I don’t feel like I owe them anything. She’s just mad because I would go out drinking with her and the rest of the office which made me the unfun employee who doesn’t fit into her sorority. They were/ still are the biggest bullies I have ever met. That says a lot because I was bullied really bad in middle school by a group of 20 guys.

      In her post for a new graphic designer she said she was looking for someone “extremely talented and most importantly FUN!”

      So unprofessional.

      1. E**

        Sounds like someone who is churning out some real high quality work. [/sarcasm]
        And YOU. ARE. OUT. Three cheers!!!

        1. OP1*

          Yeah they DID churn out some really high quality work..that’s because I was the only one who worked.

          Yeah! I’m so excited to be out of there and I have already gotten some interviews lined up.

          1. Fafaflunkie*

            Excellent news! Don’t let ex-boss pull you further into the toilet that they already put you into, and if you don’t need them as a reference, all the better! The only communication you need to make with them is to assure that any money owed you (including the 6 hours of overtime you were talked into after your last shift) is paid to you in full. Also remind them any cheque returned will automatically result in a call to your labour board for full payment + fines + fees from your bank + interest + any other penalty allowed by your jurisdiction’s labour laws. Remind the boss that she’s personally responsible for this as well, even if it means her going personally bankrupt or spending some time in jail for not fulfilling her obligations to you.

            All the best in your future endeavors, hopefully without any more toxic bosses/co-workers.

      2. Ambulance Chaser*

        If fun is the “most important” quality, they’re gonna be out of business awfully quickly.

  4. Recruit-o-rama*

    I end almost every phone or in person interview with “please feel free to email me with any questions”. I mean it sincerely and quite literally. I field benefits questions, hiring process questions and other legitimate questions daily. I can totally tell when someone is asking something to appear impressive. It’s not. If you have a real questions, feel free to ask. Don’t make stuff up, we can tell, and we’re not trying to test you.

  5. Mike C.*

    It does not mean “I hope you will email me questions”

    I just want to point out that it did mean this with the letter where an interviewer wanted to tell a candidate how terrible the workplace was but didn’t want to come out and say anything.

    Many, many people responded that the letter writer should respond with something along the lines of what the OP was told on the assumption that the candidate would understand the hidden meaning and find out how toxic the work place was. Unfortunately the candidate didnt catch the second meaning and took the job.

      1. Mike C.*

        So you’re saying that when it’s a manager of some sort that they have the standing to just come out and say something they will, and since in this case the manager hasn’t the OP shouldn’t look further for hidden messages or the like? Or am I misunderstanding?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m saying that if a hiring manager has something she wants to communicate to an applicant, she’s not likely to do it through “feel free to email me with any questions” and hope that the person just happens to ask the right question. The letter you’re referring to was about a non-manager who didn’t feel she could freely volunteer information.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          This would be a strange place to look for hidden messages, as it’s such a normal thing to say at the end of an interview.

        3. annon*

          Well, the speaker matters, doesn’t it, when it comes to interpreting a message? “Let me know if you have any questions” would be a standard sign-off from most people, but a would-be peer unexpectedly reaching out and saying “hey, if you have any questions about this workplace, please ask me” is a bit different precisely because it’s not usual – that context matters.

          Like, if someone asks me for directions and I suggest a route, that’s a lot different than me rushing into the road to flag down a car and suggest an alternate route, even if I send both cars the same way.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I actually think that wasn’t the way to convey that anyway – it’s way too vague and I’m not surprised the cue was missed.

            1. annon*

              I agree – it’s really not the best cue, and whenever you are trying to be subtle like that, you have to expect a lot of people will miss it, or will misinterpret. If I received an unexpected email from a potential coworker asking me if I had any questions for them, I don’t know that I’d jump to “there’s something here they want to warn me about.” I might jump to “there’s something they want to tell me,” but I’d also be wondering if it was a sign of a highly connected workplace culture, or if maybe they’d been asked to reach out to me.

  6. annon*

    #1 – You cannot be forced to work. Your last day was your last day – not only is it not appropriate for them to keep trying to dump work on you now, it wasn’t appropriate for them to force you to work overtime either. You absolutely had the right to just walk out at the end of your day; you still absolutely have the right to refuse their demands. Remember: they are the ones being unreasonable here. Don’t let their audacity persuade you otherwise.

    #4 – “Trim the Fat” is absolutely insensitive and not appropriate, and for more reasons than just those you gave. Speaking as a fat person working to be healthy, who is tired of being shamed and judged by total strangers who think my weight means they have a god-given right to critique me despite knowing nothing other than that I am fat, I avoid titles like that like the plague. There are plenty of nonjudgmental resources available to me, and I would rather utilize them. It would also make me nervous about the workplace culture, fairly or unfairly; it would send the message to me that fat-shaming might be considered acceptable, or that I couldn’t go to you if someone were harassing me about my weight.

    It also sends the message that this newsletter is only for people trying to lose weight. If that’s not the case, you need a new title just to make sure you’re aiming for the proper audience.

    1. Wintermute*

      I think you make a good point about #4, and I’d like to tag on that “trim the fat” originally comes from butchers, well, cutting away pure fat from meat cuts before packaging them for sale, because the fat was not wanted and it would be cheating your customer to charge them meat price on its weight.

      So “trim the fat” has come into wider use as a term for “remove the useless/excess parts or people to become more efficient”. Using it to refer to actual fat, if you’re not working in a meat packing plant, is problematic for a few reasons. Not the least of which is because it’s a phrase so often associated with layoffs and downsizing in a business context.

      1. annon*

        I think I’ve always seen it in either a butchering or financial context (slimming down your budget), myself. Either way, yeah, you make a good point.

      2. Moosie*

        Yeah, for one thing it’s not normally used in the way it sounds like they’re using it in this paper. And the way they are using it is “eat less Halloween candy so you’ll be less fat” I guess? Which is definitely a weird thing to have an article about at all since, as Alison says, candy is something people recognize pretty well as something you’re supposed to moderate. That’s before you even get to the propriety of having that kind of advice posted up at work in the first place.

      3. Susan K*

        Yeah, based on the headline, I expected this question to be about using the term “trim the fat” for “remove the useless/excess parts or people to become more efficient”. I am not a fan of that use of the term, either, because of the negative connotations of fat being bad or useless and the implications of judgement on body fat (even though the term is not about literal fat). In this case, I think the main problem is in trying to dictate people’s food choices. Not to mention that some people believe that it’s more important to trim sugar or carbs from your diet than fat. But this type of article is not uncommon in health newsletters and such, so I doubt anyone will be horribly offended — mainly annoyed about the condescension, if anything.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Not to be nit-picky with language, but this is my area of specialization. :)

        The goal isn’t to make all the employees emaciated, it’s just to have them all be healthy, right? So it’s a better, more inclusive message to focus on “health” or “healthy” than “fat”.

        People can be healthy at any size (Google “HAES” for more inclusive health information and resources), so focusing on the “do’s” (health, activity) instead of the “don’ts” (fat, weight) makes the message more achievable and sustainable anyway. Just like people know that Halloween candy is not good for them, people know that carrying around too much extra weight is not optimal. They are bombarded with that message daily from everywhere, and so they’ll probably tune it out at best, or resent it at worst. The most effective health message will be a positive one of inclusion.

        1. Triplestep*

          Language is NOT my area of expertise, but I get irked when terms and colloquialisms are used the wrong way, so I can only imagine how you feel! (My latest pet peeve: “Out of pocket”. People in my company have started to use it to mean they’ll be away or unable to answer e-mails due to some offsite meeting or other.)

          “Trim the fat” is just not appropriate here for all the reasons Wintermute points out. It was the wrong choice for a wellness newsletter even before anyone stopped to consider that it might be insensitive, or triggering, or that sugar – not fat – is the issue with lots of Halloween candy.

          1. Anonygoose*

            A bit of a tangent, but: Out of pocket to mean out of the office? That is absolutely using that phrase incorrectly, and it’s not even close to how it’s supposed to be used! That would drive me up the wall.

            1. PB*

              This. “I have to pay for my travel expenses out of pocket, and get reimbursed later” is correct. “I’ll be out of pocket all day and unable to answer email” would seriously confuse me.

              1. Artemesia*

                This is a colloquial phrase used by many. Out of pocket means unavailable and most people understand that usage as it has been around for decades in that meaning.

                It also means being required to pay for something usually in a context of expecting insurance or the business to cover something that they don’t.

                1. Zip Zap*

                  Honestly, I had never heard the phrase until I worked at a high profile company in a very affluent area. I’ve only heard it used by people of certain backgrounds, in certain regions. But that could be a coincidence. Maybe it’s because that was the only job where it was normal to stay on top of email, texts, etc on your days off.

            2. Phoebe*

              Interesting, I’ve seen the phrase used this way many times and would assume it meant someone was unreachable. I’ve also seen it used in the financial sense, it just depends on context. I grew up in the midwest and am now living in the southeastern US, if that makes a difference.

            3. Anion*

              “Out of pocket” in that sense is, afaik, a football reference–the quarterback is supposed to stay in the pocket (until he’s not). So if you’re “out of pocket,” you’re not where you would normally be. It’s not incorrect, it’s just a different reference using the same phrase.

            4. Soon to be former fed*

              Perfectly acceptable usage in my neck of the woods. I say it also. I don’t get the pearl-clutching going on about this phrase used in the context of being unavailable.

              1. Floundering Mander*

                You learn something new every day, I guess. I’ve never, ever heard it to mean being unavailable, only to mean paying for something you shouldn’t have had to.

          2. Annie*

            So I always interpreted that phrase to mean they’d be available from their cell phone – i.e. working out of their pocket. I’m glad no one really uses that at my office, otherwise I might be expecting responses to emails when they’re actually on the beach!

          3. Cercis*

            It’s a nonstandard usage of “out of pocket” but one that is over 100 years old. It was used in an O Henry story to refer to someone being unavailable. I don’t remember the first time I heard it used that way, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it that way all my life.

          4. anathema*

            That’s too funny – I’ve heard out of pocket (to mean unavailable or unreachable) my entire life. (Note – I’m not young.)

          5. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’ve only seen “out of pocket” meaning “unavailable” in that Sweet Potato Queen book, where they kind of made a joke about it, so now I can’t take it seriously.

      5. Trout 'Waver*

        I agree that misusing ‘trim the fat’ in a wellness newsletter is incredibly cringe-worthy. I don’t see any issues with the phrase being used correctly, though.

      6. NLMC*

        That’s exactly what I thought too. I’ve never really heard it in a diet/get healthy context. It’s always, in my experience, been used during downsizing.

      7. TootsNYC*

        Plus a butcher could probably do something to sell that fat on its own, therefore converting it into a more powerful economic engine.

        1. Anion*

          My beloved butchers sold drippings (rendered fat) by the half-pound. I always had some in my fridge–occasionally they’d have lard for me, too, because they knew I wanted it.

      8. Jesmlet*

        Right, I’ve also never really heard it used in a literal/food-related context and think it’s a lot more insensitive in that context than it is in a business/financial context

    2. On Fire*

      #1 – thanks for pointing this out about the last-day overtime; I came to say the same thing. OP1, for future reference, at shift-end on your chosen last day, you CAN simply – walk out the door. (I mean, if you’re a surgeon in the middle of an operation, or a firefighter battling a house fire, finish THAT job, but in most jobs, someone’s life is not literally in your hands each shift.)

      A few minutes before time to leave, simply take the project back to your boss and say, “I finished the first 12 pages, but someone else will have to finish this since it’s my last day. Goodbye.”

      And good luck, OP – this is NOT normal behavior, so here’s hoping you don’t encounter it again.

    3. PB*

      These are all good points. Regarding #4, my last workplace actually had a decent employee wellness program, largely because it addressed total wellness, and not just weight loss. They offered monthly optional talks on a variety of topics, from basic nutrition togetting a better night’s sleep. People could go to the topics that interested them, and skip the ones that didn’t. An invitation from HR to “trim the fat” would definitely rub me the wrong way. It only addresses a subset of your employees, and does it in a fairly demeaning way. No one likes being told to “trim the fat” when you’re referring to their own bodies. And, as Alison points out, I can’t imagine any of your employees think that Halloween candy is healthy.

      1. Kj*

        I agree. I’m thin and I’ve had an ED, from which I have been recovered for over 10 years (10 years is usually thought of as the threshold after which relapse is unlikely). I’m not triggered by things like that headline, but I find it demeaning to me and others. Wellness is a great thing to focus on. But any literate adult in today’s society has nutrition info shoved in their faced daily. Everyone knows the basics or can find them out via google. Please don’t put up articles that might bother people just to “give” info that is not new or helpful. I hope the OP will take it down and figure out, if wellness is a priority for the company, how to give useful information or help to employees who would like it.

        1. lawyer*

          +1. Also longterm recovered from an ED. I have emailed our corporate wellness folks before when they used this kind of language, not because it is bothersome in terms of my own health, but because I feel like it’s unhelpful.

        2. Angelinha*

          Yes! The idea that people are fat because at age 30, 40, whatever, they have simply never had access to information about what foods are healthy and how weight loss happens, is so insulting. It bothers me just like when someone says moms on welfare need budgeting tools, as though a basic budget is somehow the cure for chronic poverty.

          1. Specialk9*

            Interestingly, societies that tend to skew thin, like in France, fail at nutrition quizzes compared to obese-skewed societies.

        3. Wendy Darling*

          I’m fat and that’s none of my employer’s goddamn business.

          I resent corporate wellness a lot because 1. it hands out offensively basic information like “eat more vegetables and less candy!” and “try not to sit like all the time!” and “have you considered taking the stairs?” and 2. if my employer genuinely wanted me to be healthy they should try paying for comprehensive health insurance. Nothing like getting wellness info from an employer that charges you out the nose for a health plan with a $3000 deductible!

          Also… like, I am not a healthy person. I have a laundry list of minor chronic conditions and vague autoimmune problems that add up to I am just kind of a sickly critter. No amount of “wellness info” is going to make me healthy — this is just my life. My immune system and I have been engaged in a cold war since puberty. It’s not going to go away. Having my workplace constantly push for people to be healthy and active just makes me feel judged and like I am somehow *failing at work* by not being very healthy.

          If I’m doing my job effectively my health is none of my employer’s goddamn business and I wish they would accept that and get out of my way.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I had a co-worker who wore a step tracker so she’d know when to *stop* walking – her “target” steps were the point where the next day would be very painful, a sign that she’d been more busy than usual and should take the inter-campus bus next time. She volunteered on the wellness teams to make sure they understood that offering prizes for people who did more walking, or other similar things, was the exact opposite of helpful for people with health conditions.

          2. Specialk9*

            Exactly! My doctors get derailed from my chronic health problems because I’m now fat (as a result of said chronic health issues), so they think the *solution* to my chronic health issues is… weight loss. FFS, please tell me your doctor logic works better than that??

          3. MsChanandlerBong*

            I feel you. I used to get so mad when my husband’s employer made us take wellness assessments because OF COURSE someone with heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and lupus is going to flunk. And then they had the nerve to have a “health coach” hound me by phone…all while charging an arm and a leg for an insurance plan with a $4,000 deductible.

        4. Really Rosie*

          +1 And Allison is spot on; offer healthy things to eat maybe as snacks in the break room, people don’t need more health info generally.

          To quote Oprah “Fat people know the calorie count of every food on the planet.” Tis true for me although I could tell you the Points for most foods in the 2000s.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob had wellness initiatives to save money on insurance (tobacco-free, your yearly stupid invasive health check). They had a Biggest Loser competition.

        AND YET……

        Every floor break room in both buildings had vending machines full of candy, crisps, jerky, pastries, and soda.

        I hated the health check but I did it. I refused, however, to be weighed. I don’t weigh myself at home and I don’t let the doctor’s office tell me my weight. I already know it’s not where I want it to be, and if I put on muscle, the number isn’t really reflective of where I am anyway.

    4. Lora*

      I actually think of “trimming the fat” as a euphemism for layoffs, so double-definitely something I don’t want to see from HR.

  7. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

    Alison, I think this comment should be okay since the letter itself was asking about using specific language, but if this runs afoul of the nitpicking language rule, I’ll understand if you delete this.

    LW4, I was a bit surprised reading your letter, because you used the phrase “trim the fat” in a different way than I’m used to. IME, it’s metaphor for getting rid of excess or unnecessary things (expenditures in a budget, things like that) and it comes from how excess fat is removed from cuts of meat. Your usage sounds more like it’s referring to body fat or dietary fat intake.* So personally, I would feel a moment’s confusion over the use of the phrase, though not offended.

    * which is related to fat on cuts of meat, I know, but feels a step removed from it.

      1. Wintermute*

        Another reason I’d hesitate to use it in an office setting– it’s a phrase usually associated with layoffs!

        1. Susan K*

          That’s a good point — not a great idea to imply anything about layoffs, especially if you’re in HR. Maybe next week’s newsletter will say, “TIME TO LAY OFF… Lay off the candy, chips, and fried foods.”

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            And the following week: GETTING RID OF REDUNDANCIES…… We don’t need both sugary drinks and candy in the break room.

          2. MashaKasha*

            LMAO, this is brilliant. Better yet, wait a few weeks and put it in the newsletter that comes out around Halloween. Give everyone a good old scare!

            (totally kidding, don’t really do it, OP)

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Company: “Employees, we’re going to trim the fat!”
          Employees: “Gah!” *hide under desks* *start sending resumes*
          Company: “No, no! It’s not layoffs. Come back out. We just want to explain that eating a bunch of Hallowe’en candy could cause you to…. dun dun DUN! gain weight! This is one of the great diet secrets….”
          Employees: *glare over the edge of their desks like an army of Kilroys*

          1. Wintermute*

            That’s something straight out of the sadly short-lived Dilbert cartoon show.

            Along with the four-inch-tall employees who were LITERALLY downsized. Having no other skills and so dysfunctional they couldn’t work anyplace else, they just stuck around the building.

          1. Chinook*

            OPPI #4 – thank you for your fast reaction. You probably prevented a few heart attacks by taking it down, thus helping with the wellness program over all!

          2. annon*

            Hey, I did want to say, thanks for caring enough about this to write in in the first place, and thanks for caring enough to listen.

          3. Wintermute*

            To tag onto what others are saying, major respect for asking the question, and listening openly, and acting so quickly when you realized you might be communicating something you didn’t want to. I wish we had an HR rep like you.

      2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)*

        That seems so weird to me, like mis-using an idiom (I believe it’s used! It’s just … It feels like someone not quite understanding the meaning/origin and trying to use it in a literal sense. But the literal sense isn’t the same as the original metaphor so it’s just … Odd).

    1. Éti*

      Yeah, it’s a pun on the phrase meaning “cut the excess”, but it’s also a pun that’s essentially telling people to lose weight. I’d steer clear of hanging it up.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I read it the same way. It seems quite a jarring phrase to have on your door if you work in some kind of HR role.

      Is this an internal newsletter? If so, you might want to reconsider your use of puns or idioms in headlines.

      1. Rockhopper*

        I imagine this is external. Our company distributes a monthly health newsletter, but I think it comes from our insurance provider. Although looking at our latest issue, the OP’s newsletter is not the same as ours, I’ve noticed in the past that they try to get punny with their headlines. I just roll my eyes and move on.

    3. birchwoods*

      Yeah same, this gives me a really nasty feeling.

      Also, the wording implies that there is ALREADY fat there that needs to be trimmed off, meaning targeting people based on who (the company perceives) needs to lose weight. It would be much better to use a phrase that focuses on healthy choices in the future and that applies to everyone.

    4. Emma the Strange*

      I had a similar thought, especially given that it’s a work context, not a health context.

      (Also: greetings fellow Dragon Age fan!)

  8. Observer*

    I guarantee you that every adult in your company knows Halloween candy is bad for them.

    OP, if you have the slightest shred of a suspicion of a doubt that Alison is correct, please disabuse yourself of the notion. And, perhaps find a better “wellness” letter. Because any newsletter that thinks that telling people something they have heard umpteen times and know perfectly well is likely to be full of other similarly useless “News flashes” and might surprise someone who have been living under a rock, but no one else. As for the “advice”, I really wonder where they get this stuff from. It certainly is not useful.

    1. annon*

      Yeah. If you want to write a useful wellness letter, assume your audience is comprised of competent adults. I am really tired of the notion that if I am seen doing something unhealthy, it must mean I don’t know it’s unhealthy, or that I’m fat because no one has yet told me the good news about diet and exercise.

      Although if you do want to put that kind of stuff in a basic office wellness newsletter, at least have the courtesy not to aim it only at fat people, as if a can of cola in my hands becomes radioactive waste, while in the hands of my skinny colleague it’s as fine as water.

      1. Snark*

        The best one I’ve seen was “instead of carb-laden beer, try a fun seltzer like La Croix!” And I’m like DO YOU KNOW WHAT BEER IS AND WHAT IT IS FOR

        1. General Ginger*

          small print: fun not included with standard seltzer purchase; vodka, gin, whiskey and other fun infusions sold separately

        2. Jadelyn*

          All those “substitution suggestions” crack me up. Like, yes, I’m aware that butter is fattening, but IT’S WHAT MAKES BAKED GOODS DELICIOUS. If I wanted applesauce, I would eat applesauce, but I’m not eating applesauce, I’m baking cookies, so let me use my goddamn butter the way it was intended to create delicious confections. But beer>seltzer is even worse than most. The only thing they have in common is that they’re liquids one can drink! Come on, now. Drink seltzer instead of beer, what even is this?

          1. CMart*

            I’m someone who DID stop drinking (so much) beer and started drinking seltzer, but it was because I deliberately wanted to cut my alcohol consumption and regular water is boring (and caffeinated drinks at night are a bad idea for me). At least half the time I reached for an adult beverage at home it was just because I wanted something fun to drink, and bubbly flavored water is more fun than tap water.

            But they are certainly not equivalent in any way other than “slightly fizzy, not plain water, comes in a can maybe” and do not serve the same purpose.

            1. paul*

              I quit drinking the 1st of this month and I *still* get tetchy when people suggest alternatives.

              no, your seltzer is not a substitute for bourbon. It doesn’t make aches and pains go away, and it doesn’t make my head pleasantly fuzzy.

              It’s telling someone to eat broccoli as a substitute for ice cream.

          2. Cercis*

            Instead of mayonnaise, try mustard. Because, you know, those are totally the same.

            Most of the substitutions are really lame, but I have to admit that the mashed cauliflower is actually a really good substitute for mashed potatoes.

            I use coconut oil in my baked goods, but that’s partly because I REALLY like the taste of coconut oil in cookies (and I’m not sure which is healthier).

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Probably butter — 63% of its fat is saturated vs. coconut oil at 82%. Neither is a health food. It works GREAT for frying eggs, however. I don’t like crusty fried eggs so I use a tiny bit of coconut oil and a small Teflon pan.
              Oh yeah, and it’s a fab deep conditioner for your hair! :D

          3. Jaydee*

            Soda to seltzer? Okay. They are both soft drinks with generally sweet flavors. Seltzer is a lower calorie, lower sugar, lower random chemicals alternative. I get it. But beer to seltzer? ‍♀️

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I love me some La Croix but I would definitely stop short of calling it “fun”. It’s fizzy and it kind of tastes a bit like something, so it does a kind of okay job of fooling my soda craving into thinking it’s being satisfied. But if I wanted a beer (I don’t even like beer) and someone handed me a La Croix I would make SUCH a face.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Apparently yes because it is in fact the face I made when my granny asked when I was going to “give her grandchildren”. I am told it looked a lot like the face you make when you step in poo.

        3. Specialk9*

          I mean, even Polar Seltzer (the best thing about New England, and yes that includes the trees in fall, Cape Cod, and the sports teams) is a poor substitute for beer. But La Croix?! (Shudder)

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I must admit, I get a kick out of diet/lifestyle advice that sounds like it was written by an alien who has been observing humans, but just doesn’t understand them. Things like “instead of a bowl of ice cream, have a scoop of cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon” or “instead of a shamrock shake, make an avocado smoothing for something cold and green” (I’ve seen both suggestions).

      If a company wants to promote wellness, they should put their money where their mouth is. Provide fresh fruit and vegetables for snacks, install a soda water machine, subsidize gym memberships, offer decent vacation, sick-leave and health care plans, don’t work people into exhaustion, things like that.

      1. Moosie*

        I remember the exact moment that I reconsidered going into dietetics, and it was when of the faculty in my program was putting out these brochures on healthy choices that suggested cottage cheese as an alternative snack to potato chips. If someone were to actually suggest this to my face I wouldn’t even know how to begin explaining to them how those foods were not comparable– like if they couldn’t already tell, I’m not sure I could make them understand.

        1. Emi.*

          See also: pretending that shredded squash counts as “noodles.” Do not spit on my people by calling shredded squash “noodles.”

            1. Emi.*

              I have no problem with people eating squash instead of noodles! I just have a problem with pretending that squash *is* noodles.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            Shredded squash tastes like squash. My mother in law made some “pasta” with butternut squash and I did not like it because it tasted like butternut squash. I mean, maybe it was healthier, but if I don’t like it, I’m not going to eat it, so that defeats the point of serving me healthy food.

            1. Snark*

              I actually really like…..julienned squash….because I like squash. If I want to eat pasta, though, I eat pasta. A reasonable portion of pasta is not lethal or even all that harmful.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                Right now in another tab I have a search for recipes for those, because I’ve seen them in the stores and they do look interesting – _as veggies_. No, I do not want to sub it in for pasta. I want something that complements whichever veggie it actually is.

                1. annon*

                  Not sure you want unsolicited drive-by recipes, but one of my favorite things to do with squash in general is just fry until soft with some garlic, salt, pepper (all to taste) and whatever oil/fat you prefer. If you want a sweet squash dish, drop the garlic and add some cinnamon instead, and if you really want to kick up the sweetness, toss in some apple or pear.

                2. SusanIvanova*

                  Recipes should probably wait for the open thread, but that’s pretty much what my grandmother did with sliced squash. It’s the spiral-cut ones that I’m curious about; I think they’d fall apart with that technique.

            2. SSS*

              Oh… my mother did that to me too as a child. She bought Spaghetti squash, insisted it would taste just like spaghetti, and topped it with spaghetti sauce when serving it to 6-year-old me. It does NOT taste (or have a texture) like spaghetti! I hated squash for decades because of that bait and switch.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Spaghetti squash kind of scares me. I actually love squash but… man. That stuff’s just not right.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Never, ever tell a child one thing will taste just like another, or claim a shot or other medical procedure won’t hurt. Few things are more infuriating to someone of any age than being told their own senses are wrong, and you’ll lose their trust forever. (And probably make them MORE reluctant in the future, not less.)

              3. Specialk9*

                Mine too. I won’t eat the stuff to this day, and I’ve owned FOUR vegetable noodle makers. Spaghetti squash can go f itself.

          2. Specialk9*

            I still, decades later, feel betrayed by spaghetti squash. **Putting tomato sauce on spaghetti squash isn’t the same as pasta, MOM!!**

            And I love zoodles and sweet potato noodles.

      2. annon*

        I now really want to read diet advice by a really confused alien. “Instead of a plate of carb-laden spaghetti, try earthworms covered in the blood of your enemies!”

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          The Humans by Matt Haig is good for this. “And how could I believe that Australian wine was automatically inferior to wine sourced from other regions on the planet when I had never drunk anything but liquid nitrogen?”

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          “Instead of artificially processed meat, only eat meat that you have personally defeated in honorable combat! Qapla’!

      3. Nox*

        Unfortunately it’s easier for a company to recycle basic information to you over and over again in a newsletter vs providing any of the things academianut suggested.

        Awareness is sexy these days. Cause it’s free.

      4. finderskeepers*

        we used to have a weekly farmers market come on-site. That was discontinued but we still have the blingy snack and soda machines

        1. Rockhopper*

          Ooh, I like that idea! I would actually patronize that instead of the occasional “gourmet” (read: very high calorie) food trucks that we seem to get.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh yes! Exjob had food trucks too. My favorite, the Cornish pasty truck, did come (hey, an oggie has veg in it!), but the rest were tacos, burgers, and the sugar-frosted calorie bomb that is Hurts Donut.

        2. Oryx*

          We had something similar, but I think it was an unsustainable business model for the company that ran it so they closed shop. It makes me sad, it was great knowing I could get all this local produce right at the office.

        3. Samata*

          We had this. It was actually a retro-fitted city bus that would come and people could shop. It was so popular there were literally lines all day, but the bus is in need of repair and not coming :(

        4. Hlyssande*

          We have a little farmers market in my office complex Wednesdays all summer long, but because of some construction (replacing the large concrete pad where it was normally set up), they moved it to the far end of the complex from my building and I generally don’t have the effort in me to go that far on my lunch break when I could just walk past it on my way to the usual cafe previously.

          It was disappointing for sure – the fruit and veg I bought before it moved was fantastic.

        5. Anon anon anon*

          That’s a great idea. What about a company subscription to a CSA too? Offer everyone a discounted rate and have the CSA deliver to the office.

      5. Antilles*

        As far as I can tell, the suggestions discussed in the first paragraph are usually only (seriously) proposed by three types of people:
        1.) People trying to shill you something health-related, either directly through a product ((“…and I’ve got this great avocado blend mix I happen to sell”) or a service of some sort (“…and while you’re fixing your diet, I can help you get in shape”).
        2.) People who actually prefer the healthier alternative, so doing so is not a sacrifice. It’s real easy for YOU to drink avocado smoothies instead of shamrock shakes when you never liked shamrock shakes in the first place; it’s not easy for the other 99.9% of Americans who love the sweet taste.
        3.) People who are just mass-producing ‘health’ information without actually caring about how effective or realistic it is, because they don’t actually know you.

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        “instead of a shamrock shake, make an avocado smoothing for something cold and green”

        Wait. Someone out there thinks people get a shamrock shake because they’re craving something cold and green? And this person is allowed to give advice?

        1. Snark*

          It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder just how off base Jane Goodall is, because if we screw it up this bad observing our own species….

        2. Risha*

          It’s like those articles that keep trying to sell us on using green peas instead of avocados to make guacamole.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Just this weekend, my spouse made something that was supposed to be “healthy” chocolate pudding out of cocoa powder, avocado, and banana. While I like all three of those things independently, they were absolutely foul together, and he threw the whole thing away. He is obsessed with some of these healthy alternatives, 75% of which are fairly awful.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            He screwed up the recipe then, or needs a better one! I have made fudge with those ingredients before now and it was delicious. I’ll dig out the recipe, hang on…

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              So it didn’t have quantities – I tasted as I went along – but it was avocado, banana, cocoa powder (I melted down some cooking chocolate instead), half a teaspoon of baking powder dissolved in 15ml of water, an egg and I also added butter and a few drops of vanilla essence. It was lovely – thanks for reminding me to make it again! The trick is to use lots of chocolate, and not leave lumps in the avocado.

            1. Floundering Mander*

              Anything combining avocado and sweet sounds utterly revolting to me. Maybe this is partly to do with the fact that it’s quite difficult to get a good avocado here.

      7. CMF*

        healthy “advice”: instead of eating ice cream, have some broccoli!

        helpful “advice”: if you have a serious craving for ice cream before bed, try having a small glass of ice cold chocolate milk instead. It’s not GOOD for you, but it’s BETTER than the ice cream sundae you’ll otherwise make.

      8. Jadelyn*

        That is the best explanation for where those inane substitution suggestions come from, lol. Vaguely incompetent alien anthropologists trying to experiment with emulating human communication.

    3. Floundering Mander*

      I really don’t want to pile on OP #4 here, because I appreciate that they are recognizing that this language (and the content) is problematic, and I want to encourage that.

      But yeah. I’m fat, I know that I don’t always eat in a perfectly healthy way, and that’s my business. I really don’t need a newsletter from my employer to tell me that I shouldn’t eat too much Halloween candy, or that maybe stuffing my face at Thanksgiving maybe isn’t the best idea. I already know that, and there are various reasons why I might decide to do those things anyway. It’s incredibly patronizing and demeaning to suggest that I might be so ignorant as to not have noticed my size, or considered that there might be a connection between it and what I eat.

      1. Elfie*

        I’ve taken to replying in fake shock-amazement these days whenever I’m subjected to the most obvious of comments. I used to do it only to people I knew well (e.g. hubby), but as I get older, my f**k-budget gets lower and lower, y’know?

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m with you here. When I get bored with that, I think about asking for sources and the relavent credentials of the speaker.

          It’s actually quite annoying when non-professionals start handing out medical advice.

          1. Cercis*

            There’s a great TEDx video called “The Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”. I’d post a link, but I think links get moderated.

      2. the gold digger*

        I really don’t need a newsletter from my employer to tell me that I shouldn’t eat too much Halloween candy

        Exactly. I don’t need a newsletter from my employer to tell me anything that is not work related. I do not need lifestyle advice from my workplace, thank you.

        1. Mike C.*

          I think an ok exemption to this is discussions about safety at home. We’ll get reminders about various seasonal issues for two reasons – if we get hurt at home it means we can’t work, and if we’re thinking about safety at home, we’re more likely to think about safety at work.

          But I certainly agree with your general approach here.

          1. fposte*

            Though I suspect that’s an industry-specific thing; it would be weird to me if my university was silent on all aspects of health save that.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            It’s okay to remind me that it’s time to check the battery in my smoke detector. It’s not okay to remind me (or, god forbid, inform me as if I didn’t already know) that Halloween candy might not be good for me.

            (You know what might be useful? A chart showing which common Halloween candies are highest/lowest in fat, sugar, protein, carbs… at least I can make an informed choice.)

            1. LizB*

              That would be fascinating! Like, are peanut M&Ms more filling than regular M&Ms because they have protein? Or do they also have more chocolate/sugar because they’re bigger? These are the kinds of things I would love to know.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Right? “Given these completely inappropriate lunches, which is the least awful – peanut M&Ms, plain M&Ms, a Payday, a Snickers, or a Twix?”

              2. Suz*

                In the interest of science, I had to look up the nutrition info for M&Ms.
                Plain M&Ms have the highest carb count (33g per serving)
                Peanut M&Ms were 2nd for carbs (30g) and are highest in fat (13g) but also have the most protein (5g)
                The “healthiest” M&Ms are pretzel or crispy (tied) with 4.5g fat, 24g carb, and 2g protien

                1. LizB*

                  Interesting! I do love crispy M&Ms. I think for me personally, the best are probably the dark chocolate ones for the sole reason that they satisfy me way more than any other kind, so I just eat fewer of them.

            2. Mike C.*

              I once saw a scatter plot of specialty coffee drinks where there was a “calorie” and a “caffeine” axis. The most caffeine for calories came from iced coffee.

              1. veggiewolf*

                I must find this scatter plot for reasons that have nothing to do with world domination via caffeine.

        2. Joa*

          Some places aggressively encourage healthy practices in order to lower insurance costs, especially when self-insured (fewer claims = less to pay). Granted, my experience comes from local government work, but that has been the driving motivator at ever place I’ve worked. They are doing it because (presumably) people’s lifestyles are having an effect on others’ rates.

          1. Joa*

            That is not to say it’s not often annoying or misguided. There’s just a practical purpose motivating it.

      3. Working Mom*

        To OP #4, you have the best of intentions and I DO think that you can find ways to encourage a healthy workplace. Agreed, “trim the fat” may not be the world’s greatest headline, but I also don’t think it’s highly offensive or flame-worthy. Like Alison said, I guarantee you could google “healthy diet advice” and see that headline at least 100 times, if not more.

        That said – from someone who actually has real education and experience (totally not saying that as snarky – but piggy-backing on an earlier comment made about how annoying it is when people with no education or background in health, wellness, or nutrition start doling out advice because they are selling shakes or wraps or whatever is trendy right now!) I have some ideas!

        You know the whole “switch witch” thing that some parents may do? (Cliff notes: kids can trade in their huge bucket of halloween candy for a toy, etc.) Maybe you can offer to your employees, if they want to trade in their leftover candy and in return have massage therapist come in and do those free 10-min chair massages. Or have the candy “replaced” with healthy snacks. Or – have a local Registered Dietician come in and do a “lunch & learn” on some tricks to get through the holiday season with a healthy mindset!

        Someone commented that they don’t need tips on being healthy at the workplace. I get it – but done right it can be a real benefit. Healthy and happy employees are productive employees, and trust me – just as you want to invest in your staff with things like development, continuous education opportunities, and professional growth; investing in your staff’s health and wellbeing in workplace-appropriate ways goes a long way too!

        1. fposte*

          It’s the middle part that’s tricky, though. Healthy and happy employees are good–but wellness initiatives don’t reliably correlate with healthy and happy employees. Some do seem to have good outcomes, but a lot of them don’t, and some can actually have negative effects.

          1. Browser*

            The ones that have good outcomes are always ones that incur a cost to the company. Which is why so many pay lip service to wellness instead of actually taking action.

            1. fposte*

              But most of them that incur a cost to the company *don’t* have good outcomes, not when looked at objectively. That’s the problem–taking action doesn’t automatically equal a good outcome.

            2. Working Mom*

              Browser – Yes, yes, a million times yes! Good, well planned and well implemented solutions can have great outcomes, but the employer likely has to foot the bill. I feel like it comes down to that saying, “What if we invest in our employees and they leave? What if you don’t – and they stay?”

              Good employers understand that (especially today), treating employees well goes beyond offering a decent PTO package (and how many companies don’t is kind of insane).

              Things that are actually valued by many employees: discounted or free gym memberships, free healthy snacks at work, access to health coaches / EAP / wellness-related vendors, etc. Health plans that actually cover chiropractic care, etc. These things all cost money, but done well, will get you some really engaged employees that don’t want to leave. (And hopefully the company has good managers too, so they actually perform well!)

              What doesn’t work – weight-loss competitions. (Enough already, right?!)

              1. SusanIvanova*

                *Edible* healthy snacks. We had a “healthy snack initiative” that replaced the plain M&M with peanut – or “deadly poison” to the allergic amongst us. Other options – some sort of grain cake that was more durable than a brick, granola with its own share of “deadly poison”, unflavored rice cakes, and some really good oatmeal cookies in the smallest of the bins, that was always gone within hours of the weekly refill.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          My employer is not a registered dietitian, nor do they employ anyone (HR or otherwise) who has any sort of health education training or mandate. I highly doubt most corporate employers who are giving health “advice” and healthy “awareness” information out are doing anything outside of packaging information from their health insurance company’s marketing department. I find practically all of it infantilizing and condescending – I’ve yet to see any sort of health awareness campaign that either taught me something I didn’t already know or made making a lifestyle change more probable. They’re basically there for the company to say that the did something without really having to (like “awareness” campaigns on social media that result in very little actual donation money or volutneerism for the cause).

          You know how employers could foster more healthful practices in the workplace? Pay a wage that offers people an opportunity to purchase fresh fruits/vegetables regularly or sponsor a CSA share. Offer adequate PTO and don’t hassle employees for not coming into the office sick. Make sure that people are able to take their lunch breaks and get up and walk around – no shaming people for not being instantly available 24/7. Offer standing desks or other health-friendly furniture. Stock break rooms with healthy snacks and beverage options.

          1. Working Mom*

            Yes, I agree SO much with what you said! PTO is a big soapbox thing for me, personally. Staying home while sick… YES! Standing desks, walking breaks, etc. So much awesome here.

          2. Lora*


            My current workplace has lunch catered (we are about 600 people). The meals invariably consist of:
            -Green leafy salad
            -protein main course
            -vegetarian main course
            -side dish of cooked vegetables
            -side dish of pasta or rice, occasionally naan if it’s Indian Buffet Day

            They also have snacks: yogurt, edamame, fruit, granola bars, orange juice. I think they get some kind of break on the health insurance for this, but I have no idea how much. We do have a soda machine, and people use it, but plenty of people use it for flavored seltzer. We get a free class at the local gym once a week, they rotate what kind of classes. Working from home is an option for many, and it’s expected that if you are sick you stay home. Only have a few snot-warriors who insist on coming in. And we have adjustable height desks, and a sort of quad area outside to get sunlight in good weather. Taking mass transit and biking is subsidized – if you take mass transit, generally you have to walk at least a few blocks, so you get slightly more exercise than car commuters.

            I don’t know if we are actually healthier though, we all drink quite a bit on Friday night team-building exercises.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              If my workplace offered free snack edamame I would eat so many soy beans I would in fact turn into a soy bean. This could be dangerous.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Amen. I love edamame and in fact have discovered that it’s possible to eat enough to have a bad, bad time. (Listen, it’s not eating a pound at a sitting when a fair bit of that pound is in the pod!)

          3. Gazebo Slayer*


            Without these, a “wellness” newsletter is outright insulting.

            (And don’t forget temps! Temps need to be allowed to take sick days and paid decently too!)

          4. Mike C.*

            Yeah, I’ve always felt that my employer could help a great deal by either taking out the fryers or keeping them but jacking up the prices of fried food to subsidize veggies and fruit.

        3. Jadelyn*

          “have a local Registered Dietician come in and do a “lunch & learn” on some tricks to get through the holiday season with a healthy mindset!”

          Alternatively we, as a culture, could acknowledge that the holidays are 4-6 weeks out of the year (depending on how intensely you celebrate, and even within that it’s not like you’re going to parties literally every day of those weeks) and it’s okay to partake of special seasonal foods for a small portion of each year without imposing guilt and shame on each other and turning what should be a time for merriment and coming together into a time for apologizing for enjoying oneself.

          *cough* Sorry. I have a particular pet peeve for the whole “staying healthy through the holidays” thing. I get turkey and special holiday cookies once a freaking year, just let me enjoy the damn things. We can go back to venerating the ascetic lifestyle afterward, just let me have this.

          1. Working Mom*

            Jadelyn, No I totally get it. You’re absolutely right – our culture is so “all or nothing” that creates problems we shouldn’t have. Indulge in grandma’s pecan pie – absolutely! But don’t deprive yourself so much that you end up eating 5 slices… then feel sick. I think the moderation piece is hard for a lot of people over the holidays; because so much of our socializing resolves around food. And so much of the food is emotional – like grandma’s special pie because she only makes it once a year, and so on.

            I do think there are helpful hints that people probably *know* but don’t remember to put into practice. Things like – don’t starve yourself all day leading up to thanksgiving dinner “so you can eat whatever you want” – I am a firm believer in not thinking that way. (You’re not a dog performing for treats, etc.) I wholeheartedly agree with you there. You don’t have to “stockpile calories” so you can eat whatever you want. Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, go for a nice walk with family, and then enjoy thanksgiving dinner without feeling like you starved all day so it’s time to feast, and then eating so much you don’t feel well.

            There are behavioral things that could be beneficial to be shared – especially emotional things. Like feeling obligated to eat XYZ when you really don’t want to – family functions can be like emotional eating minefields for some.

            Now all of this said; our fictitious “lunch & learn” with an RD to talk about things like this would ONLY be executed well if it’s optional, and that the presenter understands the context and doesn’t try to get participants to “share feelings” or anything like that. More like an informational session offering tips and tricks that might work for some, others, or whatever.

            But basically all that to say I think there can be value in things like that – but I’m not suggesting encouraging people to “diet” their way through the holidays. Years ago I read somewhere that the average American gains like 10 lbs during the “holiday season” – no idea if that’s accurate or not, I’m curious if it is… and if it’s still accurate! (I’m remembering this random stat from probably at least 5 years ago, if not more.)

            1. Jadelyn*

              I see that claim – about how much weight everyone gains during the holidays – pop up almost every year, but I’ve no idea how accurate it is.

              Anyway, I could definitely see there being value in helping people to navigate the stuff like Grandma getting in a snit because you didn’t have thirds of her sweet potato casserole, and how to give yourself permission to eat special holiday treats without either starving or gorging yourself (unless that’s what you actually want to do, but often people eat so much because it’s the only time they’re “allowed” to and it’s a “lure of the forbidden” kind of thing more than anything else). If I could trust that the session would be that kind of thing instead, I’d be all for it – I just get all “my precioussss” over holiday treats sometimes because of how morally-fraught people wind up making them.

          2. Lora*

            You will pry my real eggnog made with enough bourbon to kill the Salmonella out of my cold dead hands. Hate the fake stuff, but the real thing with a huge dollop of barely-sweetened whipped cream is divine.

            Also gravy made of pan drippings, Madeira and fresh rosemary, little bit of flour to thicken it, poured over mashed potatoes and chanterelle mushroom stuffing.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Madeira gravy? Oh, my. My family has always done the very simple pan drippings and a bit of cornstarch kind of thing with ours, but I may have to mention that Madeira thing to my mom for this year and see if we can give that a try.

      4. OP #4*

        Pile away! I don’t mind at all. I have had training on real wellness programs and their potential impact on business. There are legitimate business reasons for a company to care about your health, and by extension your eating habits, and promoting healthy habits. (Please note, I ended that at promoting healthy habits, not enforcing!!!)

        On the other hand, hearing these perspectives is very useful to me. I had always seen these newsletters as boring, but never considered them to be demeaning! That was certainly never my goal in any of the wellness programs I’ve been a part of; it’s always been about providing more opportunities to be healthy. (And yes, a poster doesn’t do that, it’s just all I have at my current job.) I love the idea from Rusty Shackelford on posting information so that employees can make a more informed decision.

        While I do not have the resources implement a lot of the ideas I’m seeing in the comments, I’m definitely getting a good look at what not to do in the meantime.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think that most people think that all newsletters are by definition demeaning. But ones that peddle bad information, or information more suited to the “weekly reader” do come off that way.

          I’d say that a good rule of thumb is that if you could use this line with a 7 year old you know (or if it could be an Onion headline, as someone noted), it’s probably not going to be positively received by competent adult staff.

      5. Specialk9*

        For what it’s worth, I’m fat but I eat really well. I just have a chronic illness, or 3, that they can’t figure out.

        All those diet magazines say things like just cut out the 10 Cokes a day (0_o), or grate hard cheese instead of Cheese Whiz, or stop eating ice cream every night, or put extra veggies in your casserole. And it’s just breathtakingly unhelpful.

        One of these days I’ll be healthy, and then after a bit I’ll be thin. Not the other way round.

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          Next you’ll get budget tips like:
          Stop ordering random stuff on Amazon every night!
          Brew your coffee at home instead of buying a venti frappucino!
          Have a staycation instead of a trip to Vegas!
          Sock away just $100 from each paycheck, and you’ll have an emergency fund in just six months!

          Why did I never think of that! Thanks for opening my eyes!

        2. Floundering Mander*

          Once upon a time I was a vegan. I tried to explain this to a doctor, but he gave me a handout on how to lose weight that told me to stop cooking everything in bacon fat anyway.

        3. Anon anon anon*

          I think the focus on thinness is silly. There are lots of ways to assess how healthy someone is, and lots of health issues and unhealthy behaviors. Being overweight can be a symptom of various things, it can be unhealthy, but it isn’t always the worst thing. If we’re going to talk about health (we meaning work places), we should get real and talk about the big picture. And if we’re going to generalize, it should be about eating a healthier diet, reducing stress, staying in shape as much as possible depending on your circumstances, cutting back on things like tobacco and alcohol, going to the doctor as needed, etc.

    4. OtterB*

      I realize OP4 was asking about the wording (and was correct to think it was a problem) and not about other activities, but if you want to do something positive around Halloween candy, you could sponsor a candy collection that goes to one of the organizations that assembles care packages for troops. Something that encourages me to get the leftover candy out of my house for a good cause seems like a win-win.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        No please don’t! I gained 25 pounds on an overseas deployment. You have no idea the amount of candy, girl scout cookies, and other crap people send. And combined with the stress of a deployed environment..GAH.

        1. TootsNYC*

          This reminds me of the lady from my church who thought we should include a bag of candy in the barrel of clothing & foodstuffs that we were sending to the orphanage my church supports in the Dominican Republic.

          I’m like, “They’re up in the hills of Haiti, near the border, miles from anywhere! They don’t have dentists. No sugar!!”

        2. OtterB*

          Okay, sorry. I’m thinking of my daughter’s boyfriend who’s delighted to get things like that and burns off anything.

        3. lawyer*

          I once had a hook-up for sending novels to deployed troops and ended up connecting with a woman stationed overseas who, like me, loved romance novels. She remarked that one Courtney Milan was worth an number of mini chocolate bars.

    5. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      My department’s “wellness letter” includes various “facts” that have actually been disproven or otherwise debunked. And the person who posts it has bought it hook, line and sinker. I tried to push back and got such resistance that I haven’t bothered since – it’s just not important enough.

      For the record, no, eating non-organic or non-GMO anything isn’t going to kill you (I mean that – one newletter strongly implied that you’d die).

      1. Abby*

        I mean, sure, eating non-organic food is going to lead to your death eventually. Just like eating organic food. #mementomori

      2. So Very Anonymous*

        I was once informed, quite self-righteously, that people got cancer because they had failed to eat organic foods. Seriously, the people (it was a whole family) made that a causal connection. I wasn’t in a position to say anything back, but having lost a friend to cancer, all I wanted to say was “You are lucky because it is obvious that you have never been touched by cancer.”

    6. OP #4*

      I have no doubt, and honestly may simply stop hanging them up. (I get no choice on the newsletter, its content, or its timing. Hanging it up is just one of The Things They Want Me To Do.)

      And part of what makes the title so jarring is that part of the content is offering professional counseling to address the emotional triggers of overeating. And here I am, pretty sure this poster is one of those triggers.

    7. Artemesia*

      So this. A company that cares, makes good cost effective health care available, they provide access to healthy snacks, perhaps they have a gym or support some other fitness opportunities. Take the candy bar machine out and have some healthy snack options; let people who want to binge on chips or candy bars bring their own. Maybe sponsor company athletic teams or runs or whatever. Smarmy little news letters preaching what everyone knows are just annoying.

  9. Mookie*

    On the other hand, promoting healthy eating habits is usually an integral part of employee wellness programs which can positively affect the business.

    “Promoting healthy eating habits,” as you admit, does not reliably mean removing fat content from one’s diet, so there’s no other hand here that needs comparing (“trimming the fat” is an entendre needing no hearty dooblay-ing here; it’s a sensitive subject, and body composition and health are too frequently and unhelpfully equated) and, as Alison says, “employee wellness programs” don’t require or really involve advertising detritus on your door, which seems not so much a waste of time and funds as a gesture in search of something to accomplish. Making people uncomfortable is about all that phrase will do in that context, or else it’ll go over people’s heads entirely. Successfully implementing these programs — that is, actually serving existing employee need,s at budget, while meeting your company’s standards for what constitutes value for their money — is challenging, erm, exceedingly so. Does HR manage your company’s program, and do you, otherwise, play a role there?

    1. Mookie*

      (Also, it’s not just people with pre-existing disordered eating patterns who may be disturbed or put off by that language or, indeed, by the content of the newsletter’s message. For me, anyway, that kind of “wellness” advice is stodgy, unhelpful, and lacking both rigor and actual common sense of the non boot-strap, eight-miles-up-snow-crick-both-ways variety. I don’t feel harassed by it, but if it catches my eye I’m going to be wary of doing anything other than the bare minimum to meet whatever “wellness” quotas my company is benevolently foisting upon me this year. By which I mean, it’s bad advertising. Maybe consider something else for your door, like a poster demonstrating stretching techniques or mobility exercises. Those are fascinating to get lost into and are a Positive Message.)

      1. Reboot*

        Agreed. Almost all the “wellness” advice out there is worse than useless for me; it would actively make me sicker. I’m on a highly specialised diet that I consulted with a dietician and nutritionist about to deal with a body that seems to have been put together using conflicting instructions, and that means that the usual “eat lots of fruits and veggies” advice leads to – let’s just call it “stomach distress”. I’ve been forbidden salads, which is what random strangers love to recommend to me because I’m a fat woman. I have to eat every three hours. Small meals, but still.

        I -do- feel harassed by this sort of thing, and I’m beyond glad that wellness programs aren’t a thing in my country. I’d feel differently if they involved things like subsidising gym or pool visits or (actual, qualified) nutritionists and dieticians (not like that poor bodybuilder who was being told to eat terribly for their lifestyle) or, hey, arranging food delivery for people who live in food deserts, but when it’s just “this is how you eat healthy, but of course it’s all generalisations and nobody’s going to actually consider how many people have needs outside of these generalisations, but if you’re not following these recommendations you’re Doing Wellness Wrong” then it’s useless at best.

        1. Oryx*

          Yup, when I was on my old blood thinner medication I had to be careful with leafy greens. I could eat them, but it had to be controlled and consistent, so, no, I couldn’t just go to lunch randomly one day and order a huge spinach salad and be okay.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Good luck, Reboot. Quirky body issues suck. At the risk of being an ‘intrusive random person’, I want to send some good vibes.

      2. the gold digger*

        doing anything other than the bare minimum

        My company requires a physical and bloodwork to get the discounted premium.

        I have a tendency to pass out when blood is removed from my body. That tendency is exacerbated when I have not eaten.

        Even though I am supposed to fast before this blood test, last year and this year I didn’t. I. Don’t. Care. what the results are of the test. (Although interestingly, even without fasting, all my numbers are acceptable.) I am doing it only to save $180 a year.

        I also figured out that I actually don’t have to answer the questions on the horribly invasive Blue Cross online questionnaire (how much do I drink? do I smoke? do I take illegal drugs?). You can just hit “next” on each page until the end and still get the credit for completing the form. (I hate you, BC/BS, and your refusal to tell anyone that a visit to a physician whose office is in a hospital counts as a hospital visit with a $500 deductible instead of a specialist visit with a $45 co-pay.)

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Okay this is baffling to me. You guys have to give all this info to your insurance through your work but you don’t tell your manager why you’re off sick? My head has exploded.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Your insurance company is covered by HIPAA and confidentiality agreements. They can’t even share it with HR (though you might have to share something with HR in order to access care–in which case they are not supposed to reveal (I think they’re also covered by HIPAA, but I’m not absolutely certain).

              Your manager isn’t.

              1. OP #4*

                They can only share the data to HR in a statistical format, no names or other identifying information. HR uses this data to target the program to the most expensive maladies affecting their staff and track progress.

                HR is not covered by HIPAA at all.

            2. the gold digger*

              I don’t think the insurance company sees the information (other than the BC/BS questionnaire, which they are not doing anymore). They just make us do it. My doc has to send a fax somewhere as proof that I had the physical.

              I think the whole thing is stupid. It’s group insurance, so it’s not individually underwritten. And taking my very healthy self to the doctor for a pro-forma physical is a stupid, expensive waste of medical resources.

        1. Mandy*

          My company requires a physical for the benefits (company pays 5% more of your premium) but it is “have you had a physical” and nothing else–no results or stats or anything, just did it happen.

        2. Artemesia*

          We learned this the hard way recently when my husband’s doctor only had an appointment available for the days he was at X site and this was technically using hospital labs and therefore much more expensive. After a recent experience with a moderately serious injury and surgery etc in France, I am even more horrified at the way we are all being hosed by the US health care industry.

    2. OP #4*

      Unfortunately, I am a cog in the machine in my current role. The wellness program is limited to an EAP and the newsletter (all of which is handled above the head of the facility with the corporate office), and the facility has not budgeted for an actual program. No single employee has expressed interest in one (and therefore we will get no budget for it), and in fact, we peddle candy and pizza when the staff have a rough day or do something particularly awesome. I come from a background of starting a wellness program from scratch for a company who fully supported one, and so this was jarring to me, but I have bigger changes to address before I can tackle something no one wants. At this point, I’m just trying to make sure I’m not making it worse!

  10. Former Computer Professional*

    A few months after starting a new job, I was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes. Shortly after, the organization had an “all hands meeting” (about 150 people), and cookies and other goodies were served.

    Afterwards I went to the person who organized the catering and asked if, at the next meeting, a tray of vegetables could be added, and explained why.

    Three months later, at the next “all hands meeting” they had ordered a vegetable tray and a fruit tray. They were DEVOURED and there were tons of cookies left over.

    After that, the trays were vegetables and fruit, with a token (but large) cookie tray for those who wanted the treats.

    The point of the tale is: If you offer up healthy foods, people will eat them.

    1. Sandy*

      I used to work in a country where the cultural expectation, for EVERY organization, was that there would be coffee and cookies for every external meeting. For me and my colleague, that meant 8-10 super-strong coffees and cookies *every day*.

      Then one day, we went to one organization, and they had fresh fruit instead. It was delightful! They were busy apologizing (it’s a dictate from our boss! She says we need to promote healthy eating!) but it was such a relief and we still talk about it years later.

      (And yes, they got the funding they were asking for!)

    2. Delta Delta*

      Exactly. I once had a job that occasionally involved getting lunch in for a large group. The first time I got things I thought people would like to eat for lunch (based on my own food preferences and the fact I am a person). I had very little guidance. I got stuff for sandwiches and a big bowl of fruit. I got blowback from my boss, who insisted the group was more of a “chips and cookies” crowd. The fruit was gone in approximately four seconds, with requests for more fruit at future meetings.

      That said, people should be able to eat cookies if they want to. Also, if I saw a newsletter entitled “trim the fat” I’d think it was about layoffs and I’d start getting worried about job security.

      1. the gold digger*

        I was put in charge of arranging a meeting that started at 9:00 a.m. The hotel manager said my company usually ordered pastries and coffee. I suggested that as the meeting didn’t start until 9, we could assume everyone had already eaten breakfast and perhaps we could just have a fruit tray.

        When the team arrived, one of them called the hotel manager and screamed at him (I am not making this up – he screamed at me, too) until they brought up pastries.

        I never did like that guy.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Some people get reeeeally attached to their carb-y treats. Ask anyone who’s gotten into the habit of bringing baked goods to the office and then stops.

      2. Working Mom*

        Also, if I saw a newsletter entitled “trim the fat” I’d think it was about layoffs and I’d start getting worried about job security.

        Delta Delta, that’s what I thought this question was going to be about originally – lay offs! In that case, trim the fat would be equally as irritating. :)

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I see comments like this all the time, and they baffle me. It is so far from my experience! My work involves hosting a lot of meetings, events, trainings, Etc. I try to offer fresh foods as well as cookies (or instead of), and I always end up with a few lone ginger cookies that nobody wanted and an a 90% unbeaten veggie tray. I suppose it depends on your audience and region.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, my experience is like yours: The cookies tray will be mostly empty, with only 1-2 options (ginger cookies, maybe something with nuts) left standing. The veggie tray is exactly opposite – mostly full, with only a couple options (tomatoes*, green peppers) completely gone.
        *Yes, yes, technically a fruit not veggie, but people treat them like a vegetable.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          (Peppers are also technically a fruit — isn’t anything with seeds inside? But we generally know that for food, “fruit” is for sweet things.)

          1. Cherith Ponsonby*

            I’ve seen tomatoes etc described as “botanically a fruit, culinarily a vegetable”, which I like. I may be a stickler for correct usage in my day job, but if I ask for mixed berries and you bring me avocado, cucumber and banana (all botanically berries) then I will get very cross.

            (And please send me all leftover ginger cookies! The gingerier the better.)

        2. SusanIvanova*

          The trouble with a veggie tray is it’s not as portable as a cookie. If the meeting allows for “standing around the snacks and chatting”, that can work – but still only if the logistics allows access to the dip without blocking everyone else.

      2. paul*

        we have better results with fruit trays (maybe with baby carrots included) than in actual veggie trays. Some mixture (depends on price and season) of cut up apples, pears, pineapples, melons, etc, might include baby carrots. Plain veggie trays tend to remain uneaten.

        1. LCL*

          Many people find the average raw veggie tray offerings to be inedible. Inedible because the veggies aren’t cooked. I have seen veggie trays left mostly untouched, but fruit trays devoured. ‘Course I’m the weirdo that would grab all of the leftover ginger cookies at the end of the meeting…

          1. Starbuck*

            I have seen veggie trays inexplicably loaded with raw broccoli. Gross! I love broccoli baked and stir-fried, but wouldn’t touch it raw. Same goes with cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            I must be the target demographic for the veggie tray -my ideal would be raw broccoli, baby carrots, and snap peas. And I love ginger cookies!

            My previous job had a monthly health newsletter, I skimmed it every month and it always seemed reasonable. It did have “eat this not that” but more along the lines of chocolate milk instead of a sundae, as in realistic options, not ridiculous “they’re both green!” Suggestions.

    4. JessaB*

      Thank your company for actually still offering cookys for those who want them. A lot of places decide okay we’re going to provide what we consider healthy and nothing else.

      1. Floundering Mander*

        A range of things would be nice. A cookie, maybe some cheese, a pile of celery and carrots sounds like a great way to get through a boring meeting. Though the crunching of veggies might cause problems for some.

  11. Oilpress*

    #2 – I dislike time stealing. I don’t buy the premise that as long as you get your work done that you can create your own schedule. Even if you get your work done in 5 hours instead of the usual 8, leaving early/coming in late affects others around you. It is demoralizing to see a teammate working fewer hours. I think part of being an adult is showing up on time and being a team player rather than seeking every opportunity to cut a few minutes off your work day.

    1. annon*

      On the other hand, if your work really can be done well in five hours, why should you be forced to arbitrarily hang around for another three? That smacks of treating adults like schoolkids. I’m an adult, I should be trusted to manage my own schedule, and if people have legitimate issues about my ability to do my work, that’s what they need to talk to me about.

      The only way I’d give a damn if someone came in late was if they’d missed a meeting or were otherwise actually needed, and if they were then they by definition aren’t managing their time properly/doing their job well. And let’s call it what it is – it’s not “demoralizing,” it’s that the people who can’t get their work done that fast are jealous, and part of being an adult is just dealing with it, not expecting other people to inconvenience themselves or put their own lives on hold for you.

      I’m also curious how one would be expected, in your theoretical scenario, to be a team player. If Sally has no work to do for three hours and is just hanging around the office, how does that help anyone? How does it make you feel better if she’s stuck there and can’t leave, but also has nothing to do? Does it really make you feel better to know she’s sitting there wasting three hours? Is she supposed to, what, stand there and cheerlead? Take some of your workload off your hands? I mean, if someone has that much time on their hands, maybe their role does need rethinking, but that’s again about the work, not the time.

      1. Anononon*

        If a full time employee’s full workload can be done in a 25 hour week, they need more work assigned to them. Or they need to formally go to part time.

        1. Honoria*

          Some people really are incredibly efficient and can produce high volumes of quality work in a significantly shorter period of time. Even when taking on more projects and doing the workload of several others. It’s a bit unfair to them to demand that they do all the work and still lose out on the perks of being efficient (i.e. more time to do other things).

          And some people just sit at their desk and work solidly the whole time they are there, while others check social media, comment on AAM, etc. If I spent 5 minutes each hour distracted by something else, and Jane kept working the whole time, it makes sense that she could be done with work 40 minutes sooner.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            I am that person. I just get things done fast. I don’t really know why, other than I’m a fast reader, which I’m sure contributes. I was always the first to turn in my test in school, for instance. That’s just been my experience, that I can get things done in half to 3/4 the time other people can, without sacrificing quality.

            It’s ALSO been my experience that no company on earth will accept an employee routinely working 5-hour days at a “full-time” job because “I get as much done as Bob does in 8 or 9 hours, so what’s the problem?” Luckily for me, the Internet really took off just as I was beginning my career. I get a ~lot~ of personal business done at work.

        2. Michael*

          Sure, but if they can do a full-time employee’s job part-time, they deserve the same money. Companies aren’t willing to formally offer that for whatever reason, so allowing it informally is the only way around it.

          Expecting someone to go part-time because they’re efficient is a great way to lose a good employee.

        3. Observer*

          What the others said. And it’s not time theft, in any case – the person is being paid to do something not for the time spent.

        4. Starbuck*

          There’s often diminishing returns with productivity when you work longer, though. Just because they can work efficiently and produce a quality product in 25 hours a week doesn’t mean they could maintain that same work rate for 40 hours a week.

        5. annon*

          Probably. I’m not sure that just looking at the time it takes should be the measure, though, but more the work itself. Some people are more efficient, some less, and also if you did luck out and get Ms. Super-Efficient, you don’t necessarily want to rework the role so that her successor ends up swamped – nor do you necessarily want to undervalue her work by essentially paying her less because she’s better at the job.

          If it’s a case of “actually, wait, most people can do this work in five hours,” then yeah, it probably does need to be reworked.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Or, if your work can be done in 5 hours, maybe they’re asking too little of you, and your goals need to be raised.

        The only time I was OK w/ someone I employed doing his work in 5 hours, he was paid hourly and he only CHARGED me for 5 hours. He worked very concentratedly, and very concisely. But he was also sloppy, and I did have to start insisting that he make his notations more completely, and that added a little time to his day.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Well, maybe not–if *everyone* (or most people) can get the work done easily in a shorter time, then the goals probably aren’t set realistically and should be higher.

          But if your goals are sensible, and someone’s a super-efficient person, then there needs to be some reward for them–more money, bigger raise, more autonomy–something–if you want them to do more.

      3. Artemesia*

        If there isn’t enough work for 4 people, they need to lay one off. Perhaps there is cyclic work flow; if so then they need to have a plan to make use of slow times. letting one person do little work demoralizes everyone else.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m struggling a little bit because it sounds like the issue with #2 is not that the approach is inherently bad, but rather, that someone has performance problems and is not getting their work done in less than 8 hours.

      There are a lot of workplaces where people come in on time, are team players, and can still head out a bit early. But the folks who do that without performance problems, in my experience, are also not trying to cut minutes of work off their day. Then again, those folks don’t come in 1-2 hours late from core business hours. And effective managers tend to notice if someone can plow through work and adjust the employee’s workload accordingly.

      I’m pretty resistant to “butts in seats” just for the sake of it, but OP#2’s employee sounds like a person who doesn’t meet any of the performance metrics or basic sense of responsibility necessary to take advantage of a flexible schedule.

    3. Emac*

      I think you missed a main part of Alison’s point – an employee who is performing at a high level is not someone who is “seeking every opportunity to cut a few minutes off [her] work day.” The performing at a high level is key.

      And I have to think that if there is routinely one employee who is able to get her work done in 5 hours while everyone else takes 8 hours to finish, there’s something wrong with how work is distributed or things are organized.

      1. Revolver Rani*

        I agree with this analysis. If the employee is getting everything done in 5 hours but the work isn’t that good, maybe the employer does need to spend a little more time working. Accordingly, if I were #2 I think I would focus more on the performance issue than the time issue.

        I suppose in a way I am dealing with a similar situation. I’m a new manager and one of the more junior people on my team isn’t progressing the way I’d hoped. I’ve also started paying attention to when he’s at his desk and I have some concerns about it. But instead of coming at it from the time angle, I’m trying to work on expectations around productivity instead. I’ve been helping him to break down his tasks into smaller bits, so that when he says “I’m going to finish X this week,” we agree on what finishing X means; and when he hasn’t finished X, we can look at our list of X-elements and see which ones he got stuck on.

    4. Wintermute*

      I don’t like the double standard that calling it “time stealing” sets up for exempt employees. “if the work takes 10 hours it takes 10 hours, suck it up, but if it takes 6 hours, it had better take you 8 hours.”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yep, that’s my life – some weeks it’s 60 hours, some weeks it’s 30. I’m lucky, my employer actually understands this and doesn’t police my time, as long as I’m available for unexpected emergencies during core hours.

      2. boop the first*

        It’s annoying even on a tiny scale. Like, we have a timeclock, but it’s located in the middle of the store right next to where customers loiter when they are confused and need help. Us employees are forbidden from using the washroom or using the self checkout before clocking out for lunch because that’s employer’s time. BUT they are free to make us trek across the entire building back and forth, and be stopped by customers on our own time. Not to mention the time we spend having to stand around for 10 minutes, ready and waiting to be clocked in.

        Respect truly only travels one way.

    5. Colette*

      If someone never has 8 hours of work to do, that’s something her manager should look into. And if she needs to be there because other people rely on her, then she’s not doing her job if she’s never there.

      But if the only issue is that others are jealous, that’s their problem. They can learn to work more efficiently or consider that they don’t have the full story.

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      “Time stealing” applies more to non-exempt positions. As an exempt employee, I am not stealing time if I leave an hour early anymore than my employer is stealing time if I work an hour late. I get paid the same salary.

      LW, at my office, if we are going to be more than 1/2 late we email or text our team (including boss) and let them know and do the same if we leave early or take a long lunch. It isn’t a requirement, just an office courtesy/custom, but I think it allows coworkers to say, “hey, before you take off can you do X?” and gives a sense that we are all accountable to each other to carry our weight.

      1. The Snark Knight*

        So, the reward for being an efficient, hard-working employee is not recognition, but more work?

        True story: Three crews, all were given 8 hours. One crew got more done than the other two combined, but did it in six hours. The manager let them do what they wanted the remaining two. What do you think would have happened to the performance if that crew had more work dumped on them because they “needed more work”?

        1. aebhel*

          If more work comes with more recognition and better pay and perks, sure. If it’s just more work, then yeah… not great.

          1. Honoria*

            Exactly this. You will quickly teach your high performers to drag the work out just so more doesn’t end up on their plate. Speaking from experience.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Well, theoretically, if you’re doing more work than other people, you should be getting better performance ratings, more money, and better bonuses. They should be recognized and rewarded because their performance should be the standard. I can see giving some downtime as a reward for greater efficiency, but two whole hours? Nope. I’d want to know what the cause of the performance delta was. I’d also have the super-efficient crew serve as the model and try to improve the performance of the other ones, not just assume that they were some stellar anomaly that other crews shouldn’t aspire to be like.

          1. The Snark Knight*

            Two words: UNION SHOP

            Manager was NOT authorized to give bonuses, pay was on scale, and, as I said, the one crew did in 6 hours what the other two couldn’t do in 16. Also, that same crew would work through breaks and lunch during emergencies, so there was give and take, as sometimes they would work an hour without being paid.

            That kind of dedication and loyalty should be rewarded, not punished.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I saw that happen (so maybe I’m rethinking my thoughts above) to someone. She was exempt, and she worked late at home to keep on top of her own deadlines. She was always on time (or very, very close); other people were really late.

          Then someone who was late got sick, and her 6 tasks were parceled out. My friend got 2 because she was the only person who had already handed in her projects; everyone else was late, and they got one.
          She busted her butt to get those 2 done (again, working late), and then the boss said, “Oh, you have time, and the other people are still working on their own late projects, so you can do 2 more of this person’s work.”

          My friend said, “I feel like I’m being punished for my good behavior.”
          Her boss got mad at her.

          Though, I pointed out, she should have decided to not work any after-hours for those projects.

    7. Purplesaurus*

      If you’re working on projects that are highly collaborative where tasks can easily be shifted to others, then maybe this makes sense, but otherwise….

      OK, last week I worked through lunches and put in a few extra hours because I wasn’t where I wanted to be with my non-collaborative project. By Friday at 2:00 (I work 7-3:30) I was done thanks to all my extra effort earlier in the week, so I left at 2:00 rather than sitting around doing, I dunno, inbox cleanup?

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      You can’t run at 100% all the time. Most jobs have busy seasons or days or whatnot. If someone’s role takes 60 hours during tax season, 40 hours during normal business, and 20 hours around the holidays, are they supposed to sit on their butts for an extra 20 hours just because someone who isn’t there manager is keeping track of their hours?

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Yep. Software has overlapping cycles – I do UI that connects to the backend stuff. At the beginning of a release cycle, backend people are busy, I’m not. At the end of the cycle it reverses. Nobody gets upset about it.

    9. Alton*

      I think it really depends on the job. There are plenty of positions where, even if someone is exempt, it might be ideal for them to be physically present or at least accessible via phone/email during certain set hours as a rule. For example, maybe they have to sign off on stuff sometimes.

      But I think the positions that have the most flexibility are often ones that are very project/event/relationship-based, or that involve fieldwork. In those positions, focusing on being present in the office during set working hours might be actively counterproductive. When I see colleagues keeping a more flexible schedule than I do, it’s often because their jobs are much different than mine. Sure, they could be cutting out early to see a movie. But if they are, maybe that’s okay because they were working until midnight last night. Or maybe they’re actually leaving early to give a talk or attend a business dinner.

    10. MashaKasha*

      It is not usually about one team member working 5-hour days, because they can. What usually happens are things like the expectation that, if you’re stuck in horrendous unexpected traffic one day due and are 1.5 hours late as a result, that you need to stay exactly 90 minutes late to make up the time. Or, that you should be sitting in front of your computer with worklike information on your screen for 8 hours a day, and if you want to stand up and walk around and stretch, you do that on your own time. That’s the kind of things I’ve seen most frequently in work environments that advocate for “chair time” for exempt employees. One particularly bad side effect also is that the management comes to believe that, the longer the hours, the better the worker. We’ve had people at OldJobs who would stay until 8-9 PM for no reason, doing nothing, actually working on their second side job while in the office (!!) and then at every all-hands meeting, they would be called on to go up and receive the employee of the month award and the department head would say, “Bob is an excellent employee, Bob works crazy hours!”

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        This is the worst. A previous boss was completely uninterested in doing his job so the only way he had to evaluate people was attendance. And he’d make sarcastic comments about people leaving right at 5:00. It killed morale.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I used to work at a place like that, and it was awful. I am fairly certain that, in my younger and less professional years, I did actually ask at my performance evaluation one year if I was being punished for being able to do higher quality work faster than most people. And, sadly, I’m almost entirely intrinsically motivated, so slowing/downgrading my performance to a lower standard is really difficult for me. (I do a good job for me; it just happens to benefit others.)

      3. TootsNYC*

        I had someone who worked for me for a short time who was consistently in the office until 8. But I knew what she was working on, and it shouldn’t have kept her that late. So I asked her what she was working on, and why she was there, and then said, “Look, this shouldn’t keep you late. I want you to leave on time no matter where you are with it, and I’ll live with whatever lateness. But I don’t want to be in trouble for keeping you late, and I don’t want you grousing about how you had to stay late, because there’s no reason for the work I’ve given you to keep you here.”

    11. aebhel*

      Honestly, bosses with this attitude are why I’m in the habit of dawdling at work (even now that I’m in a salaried role where I’m trusted to manage my own hours). I’ve had too much experience with being punished for getting my work done efficiently, either by having slower colleagues’ work dumped on me, or by being forced to do unnecessary busywork so I don’t look idle.

      1. annon*

        Or you get bosses like the one I had who was a real stickler for people doing things in the exact amount of time she thought they should be done, and who would actually punish you, including denying you raises for “not meeting job expectations,” for consistently doing things in less time than she assumed it should take – even when she couldn’t actually find a problem with their work. And we did ask what things we’d done wrong or could do better. She just assumed that there had to be flaws even though she couldn’t necessarily find one, because it got done quicker. (It couldn’t be that she had overestimated, of course.)

        She wondered why people left.

    12. Original Poster*

      I don’t have a problem with flexibility until I feel taken advantage of. Certainly part of the problem is this group seems to be producing at a very low rate. My previous team was high achievers and self starters who really took pride in their work so I didn’t have to micromanage which I don’t want to do. This person does not have a lot of work on their plate but what he does have he is able to get all the tasks done.

      I definitely don’t want to punish high performers by giving them more work because they’re organized and finished on time. I do plan to raise expectations for 2018 so everyone has a clear understanding of their responsibilities. Honestly I feel like at least 2 of my group are just phoning it in. This person is not the only one I have issues with, he’s just the worst.

    13. Horrified*

      completely agree Oilpress. I speak from experience: this can be seen as unfair to the other employees and can be demotivating to boot!

    14. NaoNao*

      Well, which is it, a “few minutes off your work day” or “fewer hours” [than your team-mates]?
      Also, “time stealing” is kind of a harsh phrase for “cutting a few minutes off your work day”.
      It’s “time stealing” if you’re paid by the hour and you get a coworker to clock you out, or you are paid a salary and goof off all day every day, or take four hour lunches on the clock.
      Slipping out the door at 4.45 to catch the last bus home after coming in at 8 and working all day is not “time theft”.
      Generally, a salary represents both the amount of time you spend at work and the product. Offices vary.
      I dislike the word “team player” being used as a cudgel to shame people into working longer days than they have to, or otherwise doing things they don’t really need to.

    15. Cherith Ponsonby*

      I’m a salaried worker; if my company is paying me to produce a certain volume of work to a certain standard, and if that volume and standard are based on what the average worker in my position can do in 38 hours a week, then surely it is to the advantage of both myself and my company that I seek every opportunity to maximise the time available to me for rest so that I can continue to produce that volume of work at or above the required standard!

      But it *can* be demoralising to see a teammate working fewer hours, and I say that as a consistently fast worker who can produce in 5 hours what my colleagues need 8+ to do. So I do my work well, and I “be a team player” and consider my coworkers’ feelings by slacking off discreetly, and my manager doesn’t mind if sometimes I take a long lunch or come in late or leave early during quieter times because she’s happy with my product.

    1. Mainly lurking*

      Janelle, you’re being rather harsh to the OP here. This was OP1’s first job, and it’s not unreasonable for them to ask for advice about workplace norms.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yeah. First job, and being held to ransom by incompetent loons. It’s understandable not to be able to just leave.

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          It’s been noted before that when you are in a toxic job it’s hard to realize how toxic it is when you are surrounded by toxicity every day. It was her first job so she has no real basis of comparison and the experience to know that this is not normal. At one job the manager regularly told people they were losers because if they had a better skill set they wouldn’t be working for him. It was Stockholm Syndrome 9-5.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Ugh, sounds like one of my old bosses, who’d tell us he was doing us a favor because we’d never get jobs anywhere else. While paying late and often less than minimum wage.

        2. Grits McGee*

          I can only imagine how stressful it would be having someplace this toxic as your first job, trying to build up your resume and learn workplace norms, plus having to worry about what kind of reference a boss like this is going to be when you’re interviewing at other places in the future.

        3. MashaKasha*

          Agreed! And, personally, I didn’t know that they cannot hold one’s last check hostage. That would’ve been my concern. Maybe OP had the same one.

        4. RVA Cat*

          Plus there’s the fact this particular toxic workplace seems to be full of alcoholics (given that they’re at the bar drinking *instead of working*). They are experts at manipulating people and making them co-dependent, as they probably have done to their loved ones. Something like AlAnon might be worthwhile for the OP to detach from this particular kind of toxic programming.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree, that’s pretty harsh. What’s the rule? “Be kind.”
        You can say that same thing in a kinder way.

        You may think it’s “straight talk,” but it really comes across very harshly.

    2. Mike C.*

      When I was leaving my toxic job, I literally had to sit there and convince myself to leave. Work can do weird things to people.

  12. Kathlynn*

    You have my sympathy LW1. I gave 1 week notice at my last job. (as a cashier), on my second last day they still didn’t have the next schedule out, and tried to tell me I had to give them 15 days notice. (I basically told them to shove it, I’m a cashier, supposedly easily/quickly replaced.)

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I had just finished a part-time job. It was my last day and the boss told me he was going to put me on the schedule. He didn’t have good listening skills.

      1. Jess*

        After high school I had a summer job as a cashier and at the end of the summer my boss told me I wasn’t allowed to leave for college because he’d put me on the schedule.

        1. Jess*

          Oh! And then when I was home over winter break he filled up my parents’ answering machine with messages saying I was on the schedule and yelling at me for no-call no-showing. He could not accept that I didn’t work there anymore! Wow, I hadn’t thought about that in years.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            That is a guy with issues. Telling you that you weren’t allowed to go to college? That is a new one. Screeching at your parents? Wow. Did he stop or did your parents have to contact his boss (assuming he had a boss)?

            1. Jess*

              He was the manager of the store so no boss besides corporate, I guess? I’m not sure how it was set up. He finally gave up but not before leaving one final message about how I’d really effed up by crossing him, and I could’ve been an assistant manager some day but I blew it, and I’d never work at Burlington Coat Factory again. I was like, “Okay, good! I don’t work there *now*!”

              1. paul*

                Oh no, the horror, I’m blacklisted from a crappy retail chain.

                My wife got nasty messages from the local burger joint she worked at in college when she quit (like, had given notice, and didn’t show up after what she’d said her last day was, she didn’t just ghost)…it was kind of hilarious, or would have been if it wasn’t so pathetic. You’re the owner of a burger joint in a podunk college town; how do you think you’ll blacklist her from ever working anywhere again?

              2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                Damn. That’s unbelievably weird. To take someone quitting so personally, and over a retail position. I’m so glad he stopped and that he didn’t bother you again, what a creep.

                I’m cackling over ‘you could have been assistant manager!’ though.

      2. annon*

        I resigned from a job, and my boss looked at me, congratulated me on the new job I’d gotten, and asked what times I was available to work. I told her again that I’d resigned, so I wasn’t going to be working there anymore. She looked completely baffled by the notion, and tried again to persuade me that I could work my old job around the new job’s schedule.

        1. annon*

          Posted too soon. The really vexing thing about this was that the job I was leaving was a part-time job that was supposed to be flexible with working around student schedules – only Boss wouldn’t work around the schedules unless she was absolutely forced to, and was especially hard on us college students. What was even more annoying was that she would ask us our schedule and then randomly not accommodate people, and basically blame us for not dropping or skipping classes on her whim. She also never came up with a fixed regular schedule, which we maybe could have worked around – she’d change it randomly. This is all a big part of why I left.

          It was so typical of her that she only started taking my scheduling needs seriously when I wasn’t going to be there anymore.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      @Kathlynn…same here. I had a part time holiday retail gig that tried to get me to do that. I got a full time role and they told me I needed to first submit a letter of resignation and when I said no, they said that I needed to give them two weeks notice. Keep in mind, I had only worked about 10 hours in total from Halloween to about mid Dec and they had a ton of holiday help, so they could definitely afford to lose me. I would have been let go after Jan 1st anyway.

      The kicker was that they told me I had to stick around for the Saturday before Xmas, all hands on deck, urgent, urgent, urgent, etc. I had gotten my schedule before I quit and I wasn’t even scheduled for that day!

    3. boop the first*

      Yeeesss! I love when they actually tell you to your face that you are worthless and easily replaceable, only to struggle for months trying to replace you.

  13. Edina Monsoon*

    #1 It often amazes me how far out of their own way people will go to be compliant, and manipulative people know this and prey on it. Be firm now when responding to the email and once you’ve made it clear you won’t be doing any further work I bet they’ll back off.

    Always remember that someone else’s failure to plan doesn’t constitute an emergency on your part.

    1. annon*

      Building on this: OP #1, it feels rude to just stop or refuse requests. It feels irresponsible to refuse to do work when people are insisting it’s yours to do. But that’s what people like this count on – they’re counting on you not wanting to be rude, irresponsible, or unprofessional. They’re counting on you to not want your coworkers or customers to suffer.

      It helps to remember that they are the ones being rude and violating normal boundaries. They are the ones in the wrong.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      People are often socialised from a very young age to be compliant, though. It can take years to unlearn those behaviours and realise that you have the right to stand up for yourself.

      The good news is that OP1 is young and while this was an awful workplace experience, at least she now knows she doesn’t have to tolerate this nonsense. She’s told them she’s quit, she did her job to a high standard, and she’s now done with these people. She’ll take the lessons to her next job and won’t put up with it next time.

      And OP, this definitely isn’t normal or okay. Good luck with your next job and hope it’s much nicer!

    3. fposte*

      And even if they don’t back off, it doesn’t matter; you don’t need them to agree to your not working there.

  14. RobM*

    #1: I always say that you’re not asking them to let you quit, you’re telling them that you will/have quit on a certain date. Alison suggests emailing your former boss to say you’re no longer able to do work and as a courtesy I’d agree, but that, plus whatever minimal communication (not further work) is all that is needed. It’s difficult to appreciate this if that was your first job, but you’re in the driving seat with regards to your own career.

    1. K.*

      Exactly. One doesn’t ask permission to quit; one tells one’s employer that they’re quitting. What they do with that information is on them, but once you’ve resigned and your last day comes, you’re quite literally under no obligation to do anything for the company again. You no longer work there. Their issues are not your problem. Keep that in mind – and make sure you follow the advice above about getting your last check and your overtime pay, if you’re eligible for it.

      I know it can be weird to tell people in power what you are going to do when you’re young and just starting, but you are entitled to tell, not ask, here. You’re empowered to do that. Believe it!

      1. RVA Cat*

        I have a feeling that the OP’s company likes to hire new grads specifically because they aren’t sure of the norms and are still in compliant-student headspace.

        1. OP1*

          Exactly! Literally every employee there has either been an intern there before graduation or are straight out of college. They also make the interns do pretty much all the work while they go out and drink.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Wow. I imagine this place has a reputation, which should make reasonable employers take any bad-mouthing they do on a reference check with like a truckload of salt.

            1. OP1*

              Oh I did! I’m very good friends with the department head and a few of the professors they get interns from since I was in that same department while at school. I reported them the day they bought beer for the underage interns.

          2. Perse's Mom*

            I don’t know how much your industry uses something like Glassdoor. If not, are there industry websites where you would be able to ‘review’ this job to hopefully help future potential applicants avoid this place?

              1. Candi*

                I dunno, but I do know your real name will be linked with LinkedIn activities. From your previous comments, it sounds like there’s plenty of ex-workers who would (theoretically) Glassdoor the daylights out of them.

                Also, word of mouth is a powerful thing.

          3. Artemesia*

            I would share this with your college department head as well as the internship coordinator; this place should not be where they place students.

  15. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP4: I appreciate that you’ve taken the comments regarding this subject to heart and are considering your words more carefully. In addition to the suggestions you’ve received, consider using the phrasing ‘we offer’ rather than ‘we enourage’ when you give employees options, e.g., ‘We now offer the option of vegetable plates’ or ‘We now offer ten extra minutes for people who want to use their lunch break to take a walk.’ If you say something like, ‘We enourage employees to eat healthy food’ or ‘We encourage employees to go for a walk on their lunch break’, it also sounds like a judgement. I know it’s a small difference in wording, but it does have a big impact.

    I’d also like to stress the suggestion of allowing people to take breaks, letting them know they won’t be punished for taking a sick day or sick leave, etc. That will lead to a far healthier, happier and stronger workplace.

    1. SadieGirl*

      As a disabled person who often can’t exercise because of her disabilities I’d be really uncomfortable with that ‘we offer extra time if you go for a walk’ phrasing. Why not simply offer everyone an extra hour of breaks per week as part of your wellness package and as Alison says treat the staff like adults in that they can use it as they choose?

      A lot of stuff dressed up as ‘wellness’ (my least favourite term on earth) is actually really discriminatory against people with disabilities and chronic health conditions as it overrides their coping strategies with those conditions in the workplace (see the fad for standing desks and walking meetings for example) and forces them to ‘out’ themselves to be exempted. The latter is a big no no under the ADA and the Equality Act in the UK as well as being incredibly stressful for the people involved always having to advocate for themselves and being treated as a ‘special case’ because no one ever considers disability needs when they are ordering seats or making rules on laptop use in meetings or enforcing sports and yoga as team building.

      It’s exhausting emotionally and it often makes sick and disabled people less able to manage their conditions and makes it harder to be included in the workplace equally. And it feels absolutely terrible to be constantly ignored and not even regarded as existing so the whole culture becomes isolating and makes you feel freakish for being different.

      1. fposte*

        Though that gets complicated because things like walks, standing desks, and non-sitting meetings would be helpful accommodations for some disabled people. What’s most helpful is if a workplace avoids a one-size-fits-all approach in either direction.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, it’s really all about being flexible and offering options. Let people stand in meetings if they need/want to. Offer standing desks to people who want them. And, probably most importantly, don’t put people on the spot or make them explain why they’re sitting or why they don’t want a standing desk. Take “no thank you” as a complete sentence.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That’s a really good point. Thank you for telling me. I was trying to come up with a generic example and realise now it wasn’t a good choice. Offering an extra hour and letting employees choose what to do in that time is a far better example.

        The more I hear about wellness packages, the more I feel they’re meant to sell something, whether it’s furniture, food, gym membership, etc. I like the idea of offering nourishing meals (not everyone has time or money to eat) but the best wellness plan is supporting employees in general (real time off, making sure workplace is safe, providing access etc).

      3. KellyK*

        Sadie, thanks for sharing that perspective. You’re right that an awful lot of wellness stuff can be very ableist, particularly if there’s any kind of pressure to participate or the assumption that a particular “wellness” activity is good for everybody.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      I like the “we offer” phrasing, especially if what follows includes a variety of things different people might like to take advantage of (such as things from standing desks, to extra break time for whatever, to vegetables in the break room, to meditation classes etc.) and maybe finish with “if there’s something else we can offer to facilitate your personal health, please discuss it with (name) and we’ll be happy to consider- we understand no single option will be equally valuable to all employees.” And then if someone comes to you saying they’d like to shift their hours to accommodate a mid-day yoga class nearby once a week, or whatever else works for them, be open to that if it’s at all possible!

      I’m a funny case that you might like to hear would not benefit at all from that “halloween candy is bad for you” advice. It’s actually good for me because I need to gain weight! I’ve had my doctor look at me and ask if I can add a chocolate shake to my usual lunch. So- prescriptive and fat-shaming and narrow advice=bad, options to assist with access to things employees might already want to do and just have trouble integrating into their lives = good. Open minds and flexibility to individual requests = good.

  16. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 1. Yesterday was my last day — but my boss won’t let me quit, specifically the following:

    yesterday was my last day at my job . . . . . after it was time to leave I was “forced” to make edits to projects and that resulted in six hours worth of overtime.

    I’m curious to know how you were “forced” to stay after hours on your last day. You put “forced” in quotes so I’m probably taking it too literally, but still…

    1. Cristina in England*

      I don’t think it’s helpful to approach the OP this way. The OP wants/needs a decent reference. Even if the OP doesn’t have any people-pleasing / overly-compliant tendencies, there are power dynamics in play and this is the OP’s first job.

    2. TootsNYC*

      The OP probably also has some pride in doing her work well, and wanted to complete the project.

      I’m guessing the quote marks are there because she knows that she -could- have left, so it wasn’t quite truly forcing her. But she felt manipulated and coerced.
      And she was.

      Lots of us need help fighting back against coercion.

      1. OP1*

        No it wasn’t like they locked the door and said “you have to stay!” I put it in quotes because like tootsNYC said, I have great pride in what I do as a graphic designer and did not want to leave on bad terms with the clients. Plus my boss is very intimidating and I have social anxiety so….

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      “guilted” into working the overtime might be better. I’ve seen that, “Oh no, you’re leaving and this project is going to fail because we have no one to finish it off!”

  17. Corporateville*

    I’ve been pressured to continue working after a resignation 2 times. Both were at companies on my top 3 bizarre list. The first time it happened I was early 20’s and gave one month’s notice. I naively thought it was more than enough time for them to actively find a replacement. On my last day which was a Friday, (I usually worked M-Sat) the office manager called about seeing one more client which would be 2 hours of work on Saturday (social work type of field). I reluctantly said yes only for her to attempt to make me a full schedule of several clients. When I said no to the others,
    She responded: You better come to work tomorrow. Um no. I declined all clients and didn’t work the next day.

    The second time which was recently:
    I gave 2.5 weeks notice with my last day being a Wednesday (I needed a buffer between jobs). I reiterated over and over what my last day was to EVERYONE. Two days before my last day I got an email telling me W-F I would be training a new hire that just started. My response without hesitation was that my last day is Wednesday and I am only available to assist on that day.

  18. AlwhoisThatAl*

    #4 Definitely not a good thing to have on your door. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock has got it bang to rights as usual. These sort of newsletters are a waste of space especially this one as it seems the article seems to be if you eat candy you’ll get fat. Kindergarten stuff.
    I am fat, I do not eat candy, I do not eat sweet food or much processed food, I have very little fat in my diet, I eat lots of fresh vegetables even fruit, lots of protein. I drink beer, lots of beer and wine too. I also snack on bread/crackers with cottage cheese – a lot. I also don’t exercise a lot having smashed up my ankle in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. That’s why I’m fat.

  19. Fronzel Neekburm*

    LW 1 – I could have written that email a few years ago. Don’t escalate, remember what Allison said was spot on but at some point, you can stop responding. (about a month.) Because every time you respond, they won’t stop. If there’s an HR or higher office, copy them on some of your responses. Also: MAKE SURE YOUR RESIGNATION WAS PROCESSED. Only by forwarding my resignation to someone in HR who knew my situation did I manage to save myself from just being declared a no-show and being fired. (I found out when boss tried to file the firing paperwork.)

    Most useful phrase I ever heard that helps me sometimes: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” That’s you right now. This place is no longer your circus.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      This is good advice- I wouldn’t put it past your boss to have “lost” your resignation letter, so if you have an HR department at your company make sure they’ve been made aware. If you don’t have dedicated HR, keep every piece of documentation you ever receive from these folks or send them from this point on, and if you’re worried about retaliation, forward emails regarding your treatment following your resignation (keeping in mind any confidentiality/sensitive information stays out of it) to your personal account for good measure.

      Good luck distancing yourself from these wackadoos- you deserve better!

      1. OP1*

        We don’t have an HR department, but if we did I’m sure everyone in the office except me would have been written up by now.

        It’s a fairly new company. It started in 2014. It’s a marketing company that only has 4 employees including the boss. So she can do whatever she wants pretty much. However she is not going to be getting anymore interns because I reported them to my alma mater. She bought beer for underage interns AND she drove them all home after drinking 10 beers.

          1. OP1*

            I had no choice when she did that. I didn’t want my alma mater to have legal problems if one of them were killed while driving under the influence or being in a car accident while my boss was driving drunk. You want to know something more horrifying? The office is out of her house, so there is so much alcohol it could be a bar instead of an office.

        1. Observer*

          So, your former boss is a semi-functional alcoholic. Lovely! You certainly can’t expect any reasonable or rational behavior from her, that’s for sure.

          1. OP1*

            Absolutely! She drinks maybe 17 alcoholic beverages a day? One employee didn’t even drink before she started working there and now she is almost as bad as my boss when it comes to drinking.

            I mean they put alcoholic coffee creamer in their coffee, so I don’t expect rational behavior from them at all.

        2. Artemesia*

          I recommended you do that up thread and am so gladly that you are ahead of me here. You have done a great service by letting your college know this is an inappropriate internship placement.

    2. Observer*

      Why would she care that the boss tries to fire her? She quit.

      “You can’t quite! I’m firing you!” isn’t all that scary.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        If she wasn’t leaving to go to a new job — and this certainly sounds like something worth quitting without a backup over — it could affect future job applications or unemployment benefits, I think.

        1. Observer*

          She quit. That’s the reality. She quit, no matter what the boss says, no matter what the boss does afterwards, and no matter what the boss says to others.

          If there is every a time that she has to PROVE that she quit, she has her emails. That’s all she needs.

  20. Bookworm*

    To LW1: I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I somewhat wonder that if they know it was your first job they’re deliberately doing something quite shady to squeeze more work out of you.

    I’m glad you quit. That is clearly a very badly run workplace and it’s good you escaped. Also props to asking for help. I know there have been times in jobs where I didn’t know what to do or who to ask or would just meekly accept something even I suspected/knew it was wrong. So it’s great you reached out (and thanks to Alison of course for having this resource). Good luck!! Much better things await you.

    1. OP1*

      Yes, they knew it was my first job and that I have really bad social anxiety so I would take whatever they say to me and not respond.

      Honestly, they have made me feel like such a bad designer and made me question if graphic design is right for me. Which I don’t think I am a bad designer since I was the top of my class and have a lot of recommendations.

      I knew it wasn’t a good fit from my 2nd day. I’ve been there 2 months.

      Thank you for the kind words!

          1. Holey Cheese Sauce*

            You’re a great graphic deisgner, and a wonderfully ethical, hardworking employee, OP, and this dysfunctional boss has created a workplace from hell – none of which is your fault or your responsibility.

            Just look at what you had to deal with here – A sloppy, irresponsible drunk who apparently has to buy ‘friends’ by offering them jobs, and then forcing their frienployees to hang out with them for weird, drunken, forced ‘fun’…?

            I mean, the layers of this boss’s unprofessional bs just keep getting deeper with every comment you leave, OP, but at this point they’re just looking kind of… sad and pathetic?

            Honstly, I think it’s time to put on some of your best victory break-up songs and start dancing around your living room, celebrating your freedom! *applauds you*

            1. OP1*

              Thank you so much Honey Cheese Sauce! Yeah, that’s only a few of her problems. There are many more, trust me. Those were just the main concerns. The only thing I got out of working for this drunk were red flags when interviewing at another company. I know if I hear “passionate about craft beer”, “hot pink and lime green walls”, and “we want everyone to feel like they’re best friends” I’m going to run in the opposite direction.

              I agree. I was debating on sending her the song “Take this job and shove it” or “moving on” by Paramore, but figured that would be unprofessional. Instead I’m taking a few days before I even begin looking for a new job just to get my mental health back on track.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        That’s short enough that you don’t even need to put it on your resume if you don’t want to, so no worries about any bad references they might give either.

  21. Lunchy*

    Wait – Halloween candy is *clutches candy necklace* UNHEALTHY?! I thought it was magical, and none of the calories were actually absorbed, so we can all enjoy that sweet sweet trick or treat loot! My life is a lie!

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Any Halloween candy consumed in October has zero calories. Put that in your newsletter. :)

  22. Government Worker*

    Generic wellness marketing is usually terrible. I wish the people who wrote these newsletters would stop and ask themselves about how a range of people might feel when reading the articles. For nutrition advice, does it ignore the large number of people who are on special diets for medical reasons? Or high performance athletes? Or people with allergies? Are you offering advice that has no real basis in science, or that has been debunked? Or that’s so simplistic or obvious that it comes across as condescending?

    For exercise advice, how would the article read to people with a variety of disabilities? And beyond disabilities that impact day-to-day functioning, what about people with old injuries or other issues that limit their exercise options? And schedule – are you suggesting to accountants that they exercise for 30 minutes a day during tax season?

    Our wellness newsletter had a column about how important sleep is… at a time when I was having a bout of insomnia, and one of my kids was up in the night a lot. It made me want to hit something, but I was too tired.

    1. Fake old Converse shoes*

      I hate when those magazines put people with special diets (celiacs, diabetics, IBS, anorexic, bulimic, lactose intolerant and overweight, for example) in the same bag. And those are only the cases where there is a medical reason. Grrrr…

  23. Soon to be former fed*

    OP #1, I’m at the opposite end of my career from you. I’ve had many jobs, and they all involved some form of official out-processing after giving notice of quitting. I’ve always worked for large employers, in exempt positions, and it may be different at small employers.

    In any case, after giving notice you should be given instructions about returning keys, keycards, parking passes, ID, or any other company property in your possession. You should also be told when to expect your final paycheck, with your ending date of employment clearly shown. Information about com

    If you do not receive acknowledgement of your resignation, either go to HR if available, if your immediate supervisor is unhelpful, or their manager.

    In my experience, after out-processing and removing personal possessions from your workstation, you are free to go. No need to answer weird emails as though you still work there, that is completely non-standard and out of order.

    Good luck to you!

  24. oneils*

    “Trim the Fat” is also a pretty bad headline for an HR newsletter. It is what executives say when they discuss a round of lay-offs.

  25. Soon to be former fed*

    “Information about how your company benefits are affected by resigning should also be provided.”

    Sorry about the incomplete sentence.

  26. Dust Bunny*

    OMG do not use “trim the fat”! I don’t even know where to start with why this is a terrible phrase that needs to die and be buried in concrete. The judgy implications? The massive oversimplification? The patronizing tone?

  27. Allison*

    2) There’s a huge difference between coming in 10-15 mins late every now and then, and being 2 hours late. In the former situation, you’re still present and reachable around the start of the workday, in the latter, that’s two full hours where people who may expect to reach you can’t get ahold if you – clients can’t get you on the phone, requests for work go unanswered, and you’re likely to start the day very much behind, any requested work is delayed and that can gum up the works.

    So while it’s important to treat people like adults and not sweat 10 minutes here or there, not get on someone’s case over every late lunch or early departure if they’re meeting expectations, if someone is constantly, significantly late, frequently taking long lunches and two sick days a month every month, that’s absolutely something you can address.

  28. Allison*

    4) “Trim the fat” when talking about literal weight loss makes me wanna gag. Encouraging healthy diets and frequent exercise is awesome, but once a company starts encouraging weight loss, that’s not great. Yes, many people could stand to lose weight, I’m overweight and I’m trying to figure out what lifestyle changes will work for me in the long run, but if I came to work and saw a big sign telling me to lose weight, I’d be upset, especially if the said “trim the fat.”

    Also, “trim the fat” is often used in relation to layoffs, seeing that phrase at all at work would make me nervous.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      I think of it as downsizing your personal budget. Like shopping at Goodwill instead of the mall so you can pay off your debt. In any case, the financial conotations don’t go well with talking about weight loss or dieting.

  29. Bea W*

    With #1 I wouldn’t even bother responding a 2nd time. IMO they don’t even deserve the first response. That is insane and the reason why the “delete” key was invented.

  30. Elizabeth H.*

    I think if the wellness newsletter bothers people that much, they can ignore it. It also seems like OP#4 isn’t the one who writes the newsletter but just puts it up on his/her door. I kind of like reading stuff like that even if it isn’t new information so I wouldn’t mind it, but everyone is different. It’s also not a zero sum game, like you have to choose between putting up a flier with slightly uninspired prose or having fruit at meetings. You can do both. It seems like a lot of people are annoyed by seeing stuff like that around their workplace so because OP#4 is asking whether or not he/she shouldn’t put it up bc of bothering people, I guess the answer is yes, but it doesn’t exactly require a crisis response.

    1. Observer*

      The issue with many of these newsletters is that they are actively offensive to many people. It’s not just “uninspired” to tell people things that are blindingly obvious to any person over 10 years old or so, or to provide advice that is medically unsound, applicable to only a subset of the population but presented as universally applicable, totally irrelevant to the issue at hand, or condescending and utterly unrealistic or unreasonable.

      “All that Halloween candy may make you feel sluggish and bloated” is the dressed up version of what you tell a 7 year old. That’s not “uninspired” that’s offensively telling your staff that you think that they have the knowledge and maturity level of a 1st grader. Uninspired is “It bears repeating that ~~insert well worn but actually useful piece of advice~~ really does work.”

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I don’t think not eating Halloween candy is utterly unrealistic or unreasonable . . .

        If someone is actively offended by walking by a newsletter with some cliche weight-loss tips on it, get some more excitement in your life. Life is too short to have emotional reactions to everything like this.

        1. Observer*

          Eating or not eating some Halloween candy is not going to be much of an issue for most people. Pretending it is, is just medically poor advice.

          Telling competent adults that overdoing on the Halloween candy, egg nog, pie, and every holiday treat that they encounter is a bad idea is so stupid and condescending as to be offensive to most people.

          Telling people that eating air popped popcorn will satisfy their craving for all the sweets and pastries at all of the holiday parties and get togethers they attend is so unreasonable and unrealistic as to destroy credibility. And newsletters that peddle this garbage are offensive because they operate of the assumption that the people reading them are bone headed idiots who will swallow any nonsense they choose to dish out as long as it’s laid out nicely.

    2. Maya Elena*

      I agree with you. Most likely, nobody at the company cared or noticed the headline.
      But I don’t like or get language policing to this degree in general, so I might be biased.

  31. Esme Squalor*

    As a copy writer, I’m most offended by the extreme literalism of “trim the fat.” That’s not how the idiom is meant to be used. It’s like putting out a workplace safety newsletter at a factory that says, “Don’t get near the giant circular saws! Workplace injuries can cost you an arm and a leg.”

    1. fposte*

      A quick Google of “workplace safety ‘an arm and a leg'” confirms my suspicion that people definitely have done similar things on workplace safety. The on-the-nose (sorry) pun is a staple of some kinds of copy writing.

        1. fposte*

          For me I’m less offended by the flippancy than the literalness. Don’t title your article on palominos “A Horse of a Different Color.”

          1. paul*

            ….OK, that also sounds like something I’d do.

            I guess this is why I don’t write our press releases or anything like that.

            1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

              yeah, I literally laughed out loud at that. possibly I’m the person Dad Jokes were invented for.

        2. Emi.*

          It didn’t strike me as *too* flippant. Then again, using a figure of speech in a literal manner when discussing life-altering injuries is … my transit system’s entire public safety campaign, so maybe I’m just jaded.

      1. fposte*

        It’s a writer thing. I actually like reviving the occasional dead metaphor, but it’s too often “joking the joke,” as Josh Malina would say.

  32. Anon for this*

    OP #1, at the most dysfunctional place I ever worked, I eventually got fired on a Friday afternoon, then my boss made me stay for hours writing a close out memo explaining the status of all my outstanding work, where to find all the documentation for everything, passwords to all kinds of accounts, etc. I was so stunned that I did it (I didn’t want to leave my colleagues high and dry because management was a disaster), but I didn’t realize until afterwards how totally messed up that is.

    You’re gone, whether they accept it or not. You gave your notice, and they can figure it out.

  33. INTP*

    In defense of OP4, while I wouldn’t particularly *want* to see that headline at work, it’s also exactly the sort of thing I’d expect to see in a wellness newsletter, which is typically going to be something thrown together quickly by someone in the communications department with topics of mass interest like weight loss and easily accessible information. If I were feeling diet-media-fatigued, I’d already avoid looking at the newsletter on the door. I definitely wouldn’t stop to read it and feel personally harassed by OP for its contents, since she already posts all the wellness newsletters. I don’t find the headline so terrible that I’d hold OP personally accountable for not reading it and protesting by not posting this newsletter.

    I agree that it’s best to take that headline down. I just wanted to throw this in amidst the strong reactions above. I don’t want OP4 to feel like all her coworkers are now personally offended and feeling fat-shamed by her!

    1. Observer*

      Yeah. And I say this as someone who does have a weight issue. It’s not the worst thing I could have seen, and I certainly would not personally blame the OP.

      But, while Alison is right about this, she’s also right that if the company really is trying to do something about wellness, there are MANY other, far more effective, ways to do this. And, if they don’t really want to put the effort in, they should just junk the newsletter which does have the potential to offend, while not really having anything useful to offer.

  34. Granny K*

    When leaving a job, I used to tell previous coworkers that if they had any questions, to email me. After a previous coworker kept emailing and calling up to 6 weeks after I left (questions like: where’s that file, with that presentation you did for Fergus last year?), I finally had to put my foot down and tell them they had to figure it out. Now, I leave a transition plan with my manager and a few others and say thanks for the cake. Some people are helpless and have no boundaries. Once you stop working there, it’s not your problem.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Same here. I gather a team of people to take over and set my Out of Office Auto-Reply to a non-expiring message like this one:

      Thank you for your message! Anon is no longer with the company. For questions about teapot painting, please contact Wakeen. For questions about metallic teapots, contact Sara. All other inquiries can be directed to the teapot inquiry team. (Insert contact info.)

      I try to divide it up among co-workers so that no one will be inundated. And I never give out my personal email at work. If someone finds it and tries to use it, I don’t respond.

    2. anathema*

      Oh my, yes! I resigned in early August, documented everything, did transition meetings at the convenience of the person picking things up from me, etc. After I left, I went to the beach – which all my coworkers and boss knew I had sketchy cell service, fortunately, because I did get service again I had a lot of missed calls and texts that were VERY URGENT!! The first one was timestamped within an hour of the first workday after I resigned and continued. I did return the call (someone I knew rarely answered her desk phone) and left a voicemail (she proudly never checked). There was nothing urgent in what they contacted me about, I would have been an easier source of info than someone else who was also an employee.
      Also, I might have been more willing to help I didn’t have to file a retaliation complaint for using FMLA in the month before I resigned.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      When I transitioned out of my previous role into this one (internally), I spent a lot of time reviewing procedures with my colleagues so that they would have all the information they needed (and frankly, much of it was stuff I had explained to them multiple times since they had started, but they just weren’t listening). The first email I received asking for help, I answered in some detail, prefaced with “As we discussed when Client was in the office on Date”. The second email I received, essentially asking me the same question but with urgent “Please Miss Strawberries and Raspberries I really need your help please” inflections throughout, I CC’d this person’s manager and prefaced my reply with, “As I stated in my earlier email regarding our discussion when Client was in the office”. The manager told me that if she needed my help she would ask directly, and that from this point forward no one else from my old department should be contacting me regarding protocol. She ostensibly spoke to my former colleague, who was actually terminated some time later for (surprise) an enormous backlog of work and not meeting expectations.

    4. Artemesia*

      For the first such call, a quick answer. For the second, let it sit in the inbox for two days then call back and they probably have found the answer. After that, let them know you can’t be of help any longer, go look at the documentation. That assumes one left reasonable documentation of work status, passwords, etc.

  35. ExcitedAndTerrified*

    Alison’s advice is very different from the advice I was once given to deal with a situation like that; I was told to respond saying “I am no longer your employee. If you want me to do X,Y, and Z tasks for you, here is my consulting rate” and name a number something like 20x what they’d been previously been paying me.

    It did work in that instance (never heard from the employer again after that response). But if I had a time machine, I think I’d go back and use Alison’s more professional script.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      It’s only more professional because of the wording, and, yes, asking for twenty times more would be unprofessional. If you’re very polite and you ask for what the more successful freelancers in your field are charging, I think it would be a good move. You’d either get a high paying client and the rationale to keep charging that rate or they’d be left saying, “We can no longer afford her.” It places you out of their league. Which sounds nasty and manipulative, but these are people who went out drinking and left you to do all the work, so just desserts, I say.

      1. OP1*

        I was considering giving them my freelance charge which is almost triple what they were paying me. I think I might still do that, but I’m probably going to use Alision’s advice.

        1. fposte*

          I think that can work out sometimes, but you don’t want to work for these people! They’re going to be horrible clients who will probably never pay, and you’ll have to deal with them when you’re trying to be shot of them.

          1. Brandy*

            Yes stay far away from these people. Doing anything for them at all keeps a tie to them. Make a clean break

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, yes, but the wording is the crux of it! You can ask for a freelance rate in some situations, but it’s usually going to be 2-3 times your salaried rate, and more than that will make you look silly and out of touch (and usually when I see this advice in this context, it’s to ask for something astronomical). But yes, certainly if you’d actually be happy to continue on for pay, doing that and asking for a reasonable rate is a possibility.

        1. OP1*

          I don’t want to work for them anymore and I was worried asking for freelance rates would imply to them that I want to continue working for them, when I don’t.

            1. Artemesia*

              And it is very hard to collect what you are owed when you freelance, particularly with someone like this. She could have you do work and then never pay you and it would be more costly for you to pursue it legally than the money is worth. You don’t want anything to do with this drunk. I’d even leave it off my resume since it was only two months.

  36. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

    So, I have a counter question to #1: In future interviews, how should she describe her exit? What if her old manager won’t give a reference, or worse, tells hiring managers that she stopped coming to work one day and wouldn’t answer emails? Should she keep the email chain as proof of actual resignation, or would that seem more like over kill?

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Well, she was being paid and now she’s not being paid. So it can all be verified via the IRS. Whether you quit or were involuntarily terminated is also public record because it’s a factor in your eligibility for unemployment benefits.

      1. OP1*

        I have kept screenshots of how they have treated me in case they decide to say that I was rude to them or whatever. I was only at the company for 2 months, so I’m not putting it on my resume.

        1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

          Oh good! Also, happy for you that at least the time spent with them was short,and will one day hopefully be a distant memory and good cocktail party story!

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “Whether you quit or were involuntarily terminated is also public record”
        No. I mean, the local unemployment office would have records on your case, *if* you appy for benefits that is, but that’s not the same as it being a “public record” that others can somehow access.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Showing an employer the email chain would be weird, but she could say,”Unfortunately they were upset when I quit and wanted me to stay significantly longer than the two weeks notice I gave. It really soured the relationship at the end, and I suspect the reference will reflect that.”

  37. Girasol*

    #2 (General question): This may be a dumb question but I have never understood the concept of “If they’re getting their work done…” How does anyone know how much work is eight hours worth? Sometimes I have seen one worker do as much work in a day as two others. It usually resulted not in him being given half a day off but in being given more work because his skill makes him the boss’s “go-to” guy. If one worker can do only half as much as all of his peers, the boss might reasonably conclude that he is not “getting his work done” and push him along or move him out. But if it’s not as obvious as that, how does a boss decide if the guy who comes in half an hour late did eight hours of work and he’s fine or only seven and a half and he needs management attention? If exempt people are generally expected to put in 45-55 hours a week (or more) to “get their work done,” how was that amount of work chosen as the right amount for one person? How does the manager know if it’s time to add or remove something from their plates?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      In this case, the LW used to keep everyone on a strict 8 hour per day schedule, and would know if people were accomplishing more or less now that they have a bit of flexibility.

    2. Yorick*

      One’s work is not necessarily measured in time. If Bob has goals for the week, you can check whether he met them. You can also check whether the work is high quality or subpar. If Bob is leaving early every day, but he didn’t meet his goals or they aren’t done well, he isn’t getting his work done and needs to spend more time.

    3. nnn*

      Every job I’ve had has had specific objectives, many of which are quantifiable. How many teapots did you make? When your teapots were randomly selected for quality control, did they meet standards? What percentage of the time did you meet your deadlines? What’s your turnaround time for answering emails?

      Even back when I worked in food service we had objectives. How quickly did the customers get served? How much did you manage to upsell? Did you complete the morning opening checklist or the night closing checklist if you were working those shifts?

      I think these objectives are set in the first place based on a combination of what the business needs to be profitable (e.g. if they pay me $20 an hour and charge $20 per teapot, I need to make more than one teapot an hour – probably 2 an hour, to take into account overhead) and what the typical worker is capable of doing (e.g. if the typical worker can make 3 teapots an hour and the world record is 5 teapots an hour, it would be ridiculous to set the objective at 6)

  38. Creag an Tuire*

    #3: Feel free to disregard this advice if you are, in fact, Bob Dole. Bob Dole can refer to Bob Dole in the third person as much as Bob Dole wants. Bob Dole!

  39. CatCat*

    #1, it’s totally not normal that they act like you still work there. Alison’s script is great.

    In my head, it would be super fun to send the boss a list of tasks of things you need done an assign them to her. Grocery shopping, dry cleaning, paying bills, getting the car washed, making phone calls that you don’t really feel like making. I mean, DON’T actually do this. But enjoy the thought of it.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Or ask for a lot of money. Set your freelance rate much higher than what they were paying you. See if they go for it. It’s a win win.

      1. Artemesia*

        This boss would just never pay a freelancer, especially one she wants to punish. Don’t go there. A freelancer does not have the protections an employee has.

  40. Anon anon anon*

    #4 – I agree with Allison. It’s good that you’re thinking this way. And, argh, it sure is aggravating when companies have things like weight loss incentives and health newsletters, then stock the break room with candy.

    But I don’t think health newsletters are all bad. An article about how to replace Halloween candy with healthier options might be helpful. Just call it something straight forward like, “Have a Healthy Halloween!” You’re doing PR. Over thinking is good. And, imo, keeping things simple and to the point is usually the best option.

  41. Jadelyn*

    OP#4 – For the love of all that is good in this world, stop using that headline. That’s awful, and in particular it’s super dehumanizing to me as a fat person. It’s referring to my fat as separate from me, something that can be “trimmed”, and because I have a history of disordered eating I’ve had to do a lot of very intense work to integrate my self-image so that I can acknowledge that my entire body, as it is, including the fat parts, is mine and deserves to be cared for. A headline like “trim the fat” would be actively counter to my actual wellness – please remember that health includes mental health. I don’t eat particularly healthily, to be honest, but that’s because with my history I have to be very careful about anything that makes me feel like I’m starting to restrict myself again, so for my own mental health it’s actually better for me to “indulge” in “unhealthy habits” – and that’s a choice that’s my own to make, and I would definitely not appreciate my workplace trying to moralize at me over it.

    Promote healthy behaviors, like drinking more water, integrating some kind of physical movement when and as you can (remembering that not everyone can get up for walks every hour or exercise for 30 minutes at a stretch), not smoking, that kind of thing – but leave people’s body size alone. That’s between a person and themselves and, if they want to involve someone else, trained medical and dietary professionals. Not between a person and their employer.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      You’ve hit on exactly why the headline squicks me out.
      The fat you’re triming? That’s PART OF MY BODY. Please don’t cheerfully talk about excising away parts of my body that you’ve decided I shouldn’t have.

      1. Newt*

        When I first read the letter title, I thought they were talking about “trimming the fat” as a euphemism used in their meetings to refer to cutting costs or something. Not a literally title of an article about weightloss posted up in the middle of the office!

  42. OP1*

    Thank you for the comments and advice. The thing is I have just said no. My boss and her “minions” just refuse to leave me alone. They are texting, and emailing, and Facebook messaging me. Essentially harassing me. Even today. I quit Thursday. I have had to block them, but they keep figuring out ways to get around being blocked somehow. I am going to take Alison’s advice. I wonder if a restraining order would work or if it would be too far?

    I have never been in a toxic situation like this. They have been bullying me since I started working there. We even went to my former internship, which was a printing company, and my boss literally made fun of me to the people I interned for. This was my second week of working there. She didn’t even know me well enough to joke around like that. They have called my work preschool and clip art when I create original ideas and they just want to use Shutterstock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you’re paying a graphic designer to design, you might want to use their full capabilities.

    1. paul*

      Can your phone provider block numbers? I’d look into that. And certainly block them all on social media.

      if it continues after that, then I might look at seeing if an attorney can write a cease and desist letter, but that’s more effort to go to so I’d at least try to take the easiest route first.

        1. HRish Dude*

          Yup. Just treat them like a rude ex. Or a rude person you went on a date with and have no emotional attachment to and therefore won’t feel the need to unblock that number.

    2. MashaKasha*

      I cannot wrap my head around these people. They call your work preschool and clip art, but they NEED you to do work for them, even though your last day with them was five days ago? Presumably they’ve all attended preschool. Why don’t they do it? Not advice, just venting on your behalf, your ex-boss and her minions sound horrible.

      1. OP1*

        I can’t either! They are still messaging me today like 5 minutes ago. I don’t know how they did since I blocked them. I’m about to send the response Alison provided.

        None of them are graphic designers just marketing people. I can’t help she didn’t hire someone in time.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          You should feel free to delete without reading all future emails and messages, once you respond this one time.

          They can email you and message you all day long – that doesn’t mean you have to respond, or even read anything! You have *all* the power over your own time. Don’t forget that. It’s okay to ignore. It’s okay to set your email up so that all emails from them go into the junk folder. It’s okay not to read a single thing they send you.

        2. Artemesia*

          You have already said no. It is time to view them as stalkers and not respond at all. Just put there messages into a folder or screen shot them so you have a record and then delete. Every response just eggs them on. They know. You have said ‘no’. Now let there be silence.

      1. OP1*

        Yes, somehow. I don’t understand it.

        Another thing I’m worried about is since I’m starting my freelance business up again while also trying to find another job is my former boss trying to ruin my reputation.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Do you have any evidence of her gross irresponsibility and constant drunkenness you can use as a counter?

          (Actually, considering what you posted earlier about her driving interns after 10 beers, I’d suggest reporting her to the cops. They might pull her over sometime and she’d likely fail a sobriety test. In a small town an arrest would probably put a big ding in her reputation and thus make it harder for her to credibly harm yours. Also, it might end up Googleable.)

          1. OP1*

            The only thing I have is pictures of the refrigerator and her huge bottles of wine. I mean they constantly post pictures on Facebook of what bar they are working from that day so tipping off the police wouldn’t be difficult.

            Yes, it’s a very small town so if she does get pulled everyone will know.

    3. annon*

      Send Alison’s suggested reply, then don’t respond. At all. I know that can be hard, and it can be anxiety-inducing to even see their number/name pop up, but keep filtering, blocking, and most importantly, ignoring, no matter how many times they try to get around it. If you respond, you tell them that you will respond if they bother you that many times.

      If it still won’t let up, you might want to look into switching your phone number or email, if you can. (It might not be feasible for various reasons, but they can’t get in contact with you if they don’t know how to contact you.)

    4. Candi*

      The other thing you can do is report them to the social media they’re using to harass you. If they’re using dummy accounts on FB, that’s especially useful. >:)

      Just remember: It’s not your fault. Ever. They’ll try to make it seem so, but it’s not.

      By the way, the whole “your work is awful” stuff? Emotional manipulation. They probably think it’s great, especially if they’re passing it on to clients. They just wanted you to think you don’t have the skills to get a job anywhere ever so you wouldn’t flee the crazy.

      Rock on and keep trucking. You’re awesome.

  43. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    If someone reads this far I’d like to point out that Alison’s advice for LW3 regarding third or first person use, is very English-specific. Many languages don’t allow you to write that way because the verb also changes according to the person. In English there’s only the third person -s ending so it works but I’d never be able to write a resume in my native language using this system.

  44. Free Meerkats*

    Another tack for LW #1.

    Tell your former boss you are now an independent contractor and will gladly do the design work for them. Your rate is something exorbitant, like $500/hour; 50% of estimated time payable in cash in advance. Remainder payable in cash prior to delivery of work product. Any future communication will constitute acceptance of these terms and will be billed at this rate. Then send an invoice if the nagging from former coworkers doesn’t stop.

    1. Jadelyn*

      In most situations I would recommend against this – it’s a very satisfying mental image, but not a particularly professional way to leave a lasting positive impression on your former employer, who presumably you’ll need references from eventually – but in this case, they sound so utterly nuts it might be worth it lol.

      1. fposte*

        Except I think they’ll drunkenly say “That sounds fine!”, forward all the emails, accept the OP’s work, never pay her, and never stop sending her emails.

        It’s clean break time, IMHO.

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          Hence the “50% of estimated time payable in cash in advance” clause :)

          I mean, I agree with you that a clean break is the best option, but it’s fun to speculate.

  45. T*

    Regarding #1: How should someone in this situation handle the period covered by this job when applying and interviewing for future jobs? Does it go on the resume or stay off? How can the letter writer account for the time and show the work without having to use the horrible boss as a reference or appearing to badmouth him/her?

  46. bookartist*

    #1 – Welcome to the world of graphic design. I am sorry to say I have zero trouble believing your old boss’/company’s behavior, and that you will likely encounter this throughout your career. Disrespect for graphic design skills is rampant (have you ever read Clients From Hell?) and you will sadly be leaning on Alison’s excellent advice for years to come. Nevermind them badmouthing you re: your freelance career – anyone who takes what they say seriously will be just as much trouble for you as them. Stay strong and keep your Dribbble updated!

  47. Winger*

    #3 really highlights the arbitrariness of some conventions. I agree with 99% of Allison’s resume advice because it comes from a very practical place – don’t write complete sentences, people read fast. Include white space, it will make it easier to skim. Highlight accomplishments not tasks, because that’s what employers are interested in.

    But occasionally it curdles a little bit into “the convention is to use third person but with no pronouns.” Yes, that is the convention, I guess, but is there a business justification? A practical concern? Is it truly pretentious to write in a straightforward third person with my proper name? Why on earth shouldn’t I use “I” statements? This level of advice is really inane nitpicking, which is something I almost never see here.

    I recognize that sometimes a convention is a convention and Allison is not looking to challenge the general order of things, but still. It’s silly.

  48. Candi*

    #4, is this related to something your company’s insurance is making you guys do for ‘wellness initiatives’ to get a discount?

    If so, someone needs to talk with them and say, “We need a list of items that accomodate disabilities. food sensitivities, and religious practices.” It needs to be said professionally, and depending on the person you’re dealing with, it may need pointing out that some of the common wellness practices will increase healthcare costs by sending people to the hospital when -not if- their bodies react. (I know people won’t participate because they want to actually maintain their health, but sometimes you have to walk people through the consequences before it clicks.)

    If it’s not, you have more freedom and flexibility. You might want to do a surveymonkey or similar poll (and people will not believe it’s anonymous, so allow for that). Ask for wellness suggestions, including those that accomodate religious, dietary, disability, sensitivities, and other needs. And PLEASE don’t allow one-three people to steamroll everyone else!

  49. Newt*

    Re: LW 4.

    Some things in workplaces I have worked at which have helped me take better care of my health have included:

    1. Factoring a modest “we will pay up to X towards a gym membership if you want one” allowance into the employee benefits.
    2. Allowing work-hours flexibility so some people could take a 2 hour lunch and fit in gym time, or finish earlier and go after work, or start later and go for early morning runs.
    3. Supporting the creation and maintenance of a company sports and social club (note that support doesn’t have to be financial, it can just involve allowing a very modest quarterly amount of work-time for club meetings to organise events).
    4. Fostering a workplace culture that recognises that mental health issues are real and valid, and that makes reasonable accommodations for them.
    5. Non-punitive sick allowance that encourages staff to take time when they are unwell to reduce the spread of viruses.
    6. Office twice-weekly fruit basket gratuity for staff.
    7. Office canteen that provided an actually appetising, filling and affordable/free salad bar.
    8. Office without ability to put on a canteen but which ensured there were ample fridges and microwaves and resources so people could bring in packed lunches and be less reliant on buying lunch or ordering in.
    9. An actual allowance of holiday time that people are allowed to take so they do not exhaust themselves.
    10. Workload balance that accepts that it is not healthy or right to treat 12-hour-days and constant rolling overtime as “normal”.

    Some things that have never made a single speck of difference in actually helping me maintain or improve my health in the workplace:

    1. Leaflets, emails, posters or work newsletters parroting the exact same basic fat/calorie/sugar advice that every single person already knows.
    2. Workplace “wellness” initiatives that focus on telling people what they already know they’re doing wrong, but which provide zero support or framework to actually support people who want to make positive changes.
    3. Punitive or workplace initiatives that incentivise or make almost-mandatory specific diet participation or exercise participation in any way a metric on which staff performance is measured.
    4. Workplace team diets in general.
    5. Anything that takes the role of “educating” people about things most people already know instead of empowering them to actually make personal good choices.
    6. Anything that fails to recognise that “good choices” aren’t universal. A fruit-and-veg rich diet would probably kill my nan, who has repeatedly had to spend multiple days on nil-by-mouth in hospital due to being unable to digest any fibre safely due to an intestinal blockage. A vegan diet that replaces meat proteins with tofu and other substitutes would risk killing my friend, who is allergic to wheat (not gluten, specifically wheat), peanuts, a couple other kinds of nuts, soy, and several types of berries and stone fruit.

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