my coworker keeps saying she’s my boss, my boss didn’t reciprocate my gifts to his kids, and more

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

1. My coworker keeps telling people she’s my boss

I’ve worked on a small team in a large company for about ten years. I have two peers — same pay grade but different functional work — one of whom started after me, who I’ll call Jack, and one of whom has been there about 20 years, who I’ll call Jill. We have together been through a half dozen bosses.

Both Jill and I have been encouraged to take the manager of the team position as our bosses have left, and both of us have repeatedly declined. I like the career I have and have no interest in converting to management. Jill seems to want the authority of being the manager without any of the responsibility. She frequently tries to assign work to Jack and me, repeatedly directly tells people inside and outside the company that we are her employees (in front of our current boss), and scolded our current boss because he “needs to clear changes to team assignments” with her first — which he immediately made clear to her that he does not need to do, as he is the boss.

So far, I have simply ignored this, since I work at a different site and don’t see most of it directly, but I’m starting to run into issues because she’s told this lie to so many people that there is confusion among some vendors and the teams we work with, especially since we do change bosses frequently. Our current boss has called her out when she claims Jack and I are her employees, and she claims she “misspoke” or that our boss or other hearers “misunderstood,” so talking to her directly isn’t terribly productive.

Is this something I should keep mostly ignoring and just correcting with individuals as needed? Given that she won’t own up to the fact she is doing this, I can’t think of any way to say, “Knock it off. If you want to be the boss, then take the job next time it comes up!” What do I say to someone when they have been directly told by Jill that she is my boss, and I have to correct that lie?

It’s bizarre that she’s doing this in front of your boss, who would obviously know the truth.

I think you do need to call it out directly, both on principle and because it’s causing confusion. It doesn’t matter that she’ll deny it; there’s value in calling it out and making it clear to her that you’re not going to tolerate it. You also don’t need to prove that she’s doing it in order to be able to speak up. It’s come up enough that you can safely say this to her: “Jill, why are you continuing to tell people that you’re my manager?” If she says she hasn’t and that people just misunderstood, then say this: “It’s happening frequently enough that if it’s a misunderstanding, it’s being caused by something you said. But to make sure we’re all on the same page, you’re clear that you’re not in fact my boss and that we’re peers, right?” Assuming she says yes, then say, “Okay. I’ll assume there won’t be further misunderstandings, but if there are, I’m going to ask (boss) to intervene.”

Or you could skip that last part and go straight to your boss now, which would be more than reasonable.

When you need to correct the facts with someone who’s been told Jill is your boss, you can just be matter-of-fact about it — “No, that must have been a miscommunication! Jill and I are peers. I report to Fergus.”

2. I’ve given gifts for my boss’s kids’ life events and he hasn’t reciprocated

I’ve been in my current position for 16 years; I started shortly after college. I’m only a few years older than my boss’ oldest daughter, who joined our firm after college also. When she graduated high school, my wife and I received a graduation announcement and we sent a card with a check for $50. When his son graduated from high school, we sent the same. We’ve also given gifts for wedding showers and baby showers for both of his kids. Our practice is small (eight employees) and we are very successful. When my oldest son graduated from high school about five months ago, we sent graduation announcement to my boss and his wife. No card, no check, nothing, even though he asked me about where he was going to go to school and knew that I took a few days off to move him in. What gives? This is not a financial issue, we all here do well in that respect. Would I be wrong to point this out?

Yeah, you can’t point that out; it’s impolite to ask for a gift or indicate that you expect one (even if it’s for a family member rather than for yourself).

I wish I could send you back in time and tell you not to give all those gifts to his kids in the past. This is a business relationship rather than a social one, plus gifts at work should flow down rather than upward for all the reasons I talk about here.

But since you did give them, all you can really do at this point is to decide that you gave them to his kids, not to him, and that you were presumably motivated by genuine good will toward them, and that doesn’t change just because their dad didn’t reciprocate when he had the opportunity. (It’s also possible that he didn’t even know that you’ve been giving gifts for his kids’ life events, assuming you’ve sent them to the kids directly.)

3. My job changed on my first day

A few weeks ago, I accepted a new position as a technician in, let’s say, the Teapot Manufacturing department. That’s what it said in the offer letter, and I interviewed with the Teapot Manufacturing manager. During the interview, the manager had emphasized that I would be in Teapot Manufacturing, not any other department. On the first day of the job, after all the paperwork was finished, another supervisor comes in and tells me that I’m now on a project for Teapot Delivery, and that I report to the Teapot Delivery manager now.

Also, communication seems to be lacking. On my second day of work, I got a call from another team member asking why I wasn’t at the office at 7, even though the regular call time is at 8, and no one mentioned an earlier call time. I didn’t get any background information on the project until we were too far away from the office to turn back. I would talk to my manager, but I have been out of the office from sun-up to sundown, so I haven’t seen them face-to-face since day one.

So basically I’m working 12-hour days in a job that I hate and never officially agreed to, and I still need to ask my manager what my actual job title is and what my real responsibilities are, since the information given to me in the interview no longer applies. Teapot manufacturing isn’t my dream job either, but I was prepared for that job. I have a small interest in teapot delivery, but I have absolutely no background in it, and I don’t even know what I would be able to contribute. I realize it’s only been one week, but this is an established firm that hires new grads often, so it seems unusual for them to look this disorganized. Is this a normal thing for the first week? Should I look for a new job and walk out while I still have my sanity, or stick it out to see if it gets better?

No, this isn’t normal. Certainly things can sometimes change and it’s not outrageous that you might be asked to temporarily pinch hit in another department if they have an urgent need — but they should explain that context to you and how long they’ll need you there, and they should be apologetic about changing things on you. It doesn’t sound like any of that has happened, and it doesn’t sound like they’ve even indicated that this is temporary.

Do what it takes to talk to your manager in the next day or two, even if that means telling the new manager that you can’t be on her project site tomorrow because you need to speak with your original manager about the role you were hired for. (Also, make an appointment to speak with the original manager; don’t just show up and assume she’ll be available or you may miss her altogether. Call her or email her today and let her know that you urgently need to talk with her about the role and ask if she can speak today or tomorrow.)

When you talk to her, say something like this: “I’m concerned that the work I’ve been doing isn’t the work that I signed up for. My understanding from our conversations during the hiring process and the job offer was that I’d be working in Teapot Manufacturing and reporting to you. I wouldn’t have accepted a job in Teapot Delivery, so I’m trying to figure out if the current situation is temporary — and if so, for how long — or if it’s a permanent change.”

4. What’s the subtext of the responses to my thank-you emails?

I had a Skype interview on Tuesday, and sent thank-you emails to the search committee about three hours after it concluded. On Friday, I received two similar emails from two out of three committee members I interviewed with. Their responses seem to imply that I am not getting a second interview, but maybe I’m looking too much into them? This is basically what each said:

1. “It was a pleasure speaking with you. Good luck finishing up your degree, feel free to contact me if I can do anything for you. I remember applying for jobs and finishing up myself. Praying for you.” Seems to imply no more contact will be made?

2. “It was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for your interest. I can tell you’re passionate about this field. I wish you the best in your future endeavors, whether it’s at (company name) or elsewhere.” Why mention “elsewhere” to the candidate you really want?

I might just reading too much into some casual responses, but this was for the “dream job” so I’m pretty nervous about the whole process.

You’re reading too much into them. They’re being non-commital because they either haven’t decided or aren’t at liberty to tell you whether they’re moving you forward or not.

You are doing that thing that job seekers do where they start trying to read signs into all sorts of small things, when it’s usually impossible to do that.

(“Praying for you” is inappropriate in a business context though, although undoubtedly kindly meant.)

5. I can’t get hired back at my old company

Earlier in the year, as a fairly young professional, I wanted to get the experience of working for a different organization and sector (a smaller one) but still in a relevant discipline. I knew it would be a high risk move but I did it, taking a pay cut and giving up a permanent contract at the company I had grown to love, with the intention of returning to a role in another part of the company, which I had always wanted to work for.

Now that my time has come to return, I can’t seem to get any interviews after applying for numerous relevant jobs. It’s a huge global organization so there are always opportunities coming up. I have tried using cover letters to explain my career to date, and feedback suggests that I meet the requirements but my application just isn’t competitive enough against other candidates. They do not accept speculative applications and all applications have to be made through the group careers site. Do you have any specific advice on returning to my previous company? I think the problem may be that it’s seen as a curveball move or career change when I don’t see it that way and also didn’t realize that it would be seen that way.

The best thing you can do is to talk to your old manager there. Explain that you’re interested in coming back but that you’ve been unsuccessful in your applications, and ask if she has any advice for you. And say something like, “Can you give me your candid opinion about how competitive you think I’d be for those roles? If I’m not as strong as they’re likely looking for, it would be great to know that so I can change the types of positions I’m targeting.” The idea here is to make it easy for her to tell you that, if it is indeed the case. And you can also ask, “Do you think the fact that I left for something so different and now am looking to come back could be working against me?”

Also, how strong a performer were you in your old role? If you were okay but not great, that could be working against you now. Or it could just be that other candidates are stronger, which is a thing that happens all the time. Or yes, it could be that you look a little scattered (especially since you were only in the role you left to take a short time). But talking to your old manager is likely to give you the best sense of what might be going on.

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m side-eyeing y’all’s manager. How has he not nipped this in the bud with Jill? Is he not aware of how widespread her lying has gone? And then Jill is trying to gaslight him and you? I’m flummoxed.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think that’s a bit harsh. By the sound of it he’s corrected Jill on this in the moment when it’s come up, which is more than many people manage to do in such situations.

      1. sacados*

        True, but given how widespread this is and the fact that it’s causing confusion/problems with other departments and vendors, he also really ought to sit down with Jill and have one of Allison’s favorite “This needs to stop happening, can you commit to that” conversations–and then enforce consequences if it doesn’t happen.
        Which it doesn’t sound like the manager has done.

        1. Just employed here*

          I don’t think it’s clear whether current boss knows that she’s saying these things to external people as well. It might just be that he’s heard it from her maybe a couple of times, responded on those occasions, and probably can’t even imagine she’s saying it all the time to everyone.

          He sounds pretty new, too (half a dozen bosses in about 10 years).

          1. Amber T*

            Yeah, we’ve had letters here from new managers asking how to handle subordinates who have been around much much longer than they have. They might be confused/misunderstanding as well – maybe Jill told him that she’s team lead or something. Boss definitely needs to nip it in the bud, but I’ll cut them some slack for now. This is something for OP to bring up to boss anyway – “Jill, Fergus, and I are all on the same level, and I’m concerned how she’s representing herself as stationed above us.” That wording isn’t great (haven’t finished my coffee yet) but something along those lines.

        2. Wintermute*

          To be honest this points to such a huge problem I think it’s one of the rare cases where summary dismissal might be appropriate. Lying about your job title to inflate your importance is a *big deal* and it’s not okay if you’re doing that to external vendors and internal departments.

          It’s one thing if it’s a little white lie or even a simplification. I say I’m a technician because no one outside my company knows what a technician’s associate 1 is. But with internal people I’m punctilious about making sure to note that I’m an associate, not a tech 2. But that’s out of an abundance of caution not rigorous moral rules.

          This is not that situation, this is saying “I’m a manager” when you’re not, and not just letting people get a mistaken impression because you’re on point or a team lead but actually telling people outright you have more authority and a higher rank than you to. That’s a huge integrity issue.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yeah. A little white lie or oversimplification would be a team lead (who can assign work and give directives, and whose input is taking for annual reviews, but who doesn’t make hiring/firing/raise decisions) saying they were someone’s boss. They’re technically what I’d think of as a “supervisor” or “team lead”, but in terms of directing someone’s work, they’re acting as a boss/manager, and are supposed to.

            A peer making the same claim is a pretty significant lie.

          2. Lil Fidget*

            I also do think that a very long term employee (20 years) versus a brand new manager is an uncomfortable arrangement. The seniority factor can be complicating this and making the manager less likely to speak up than otherwise.

        3. Foreign Octopus*

          Definitely agree with Sacados. The manager needs to sit down with Jill and make it clear that this can’t keep happening. As for the LW, keep shutting it down when it comes up so that she knows you’re not accepting it.

      2. Important Moi*

        Jill has been corrected on the moment. Jill continues to do this with others outside the group. Jill sounds like a smart woman.

        Jill’s claims that ” she “misspoke” or that our boss or other hearers “misunderstood,” so talking to her directly isn’t terribly productive” is the definition of gaslighting. Rather than risk running afoul commenting rules, I would suggest looking up the definition of gaslighting. It is the perfect word for what is taking place.

        OP#1 stated “I’m starting to run into issues because she’s told this lie to so many people that there is confusion among some vendors and the teams we work with, especially since we do change bosses frequently.” Unfortunately perception can be the viewed as reality even if it’s inaccurate, Jill has no reason to change the perception, it.

        OP#1 does not have to tolerate being viewed as someone who reports to Jill.

        1. Anna*

          Gaslighting is normally associated with abusive situations and I’m not sure it’s relevant here. This is shitty, but applying gaslighting to this situation takes some of the power away from what a terrible thing gaslighting actually is.

          1. Specialk9*

            Exactly. It’s not wrong by definition, but using the term in this context erases the key element of abuse, that an abuser deliberately makes one doubt one’s own sanity and perceptions and ability. It’s a fairly all encompassing thing, and goes far to explain why people put up with behavior that on paper is so clearly not ok, but in context things get warped. It’s not *offensive* to use it out of context, in my view, but it isn’t quite right in an important way.

          2. Wintermute*

            I hate how the term has been diluted so far. Gaslighting is when you alter someone’s physical environment or evidence to make them doubt their own perception. Disagreeing about what the truth is, lying, or acting differently under different circumstances is not freaking gaslighting.


    2. Amy*

      I’m feeling the same way. What kind of manager lets such blatant lies continue to the point where people don’t know what’s true anymore?

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        But it’s not clear from the letter whether the manager DOES know. Real-manager has told the non-manager to stop when it’s come up, but it doesn’t seem as if OP has told her of the problems it’s causing – especially as OP says herself that she’s been ignoring it until recently.

    3. Specialk9*

      This woman sounds pathological – living in her own made-up world, lies methodically and without guilt, continues lying after correction. I’d worry about her embezzling, or shooting up the place, except that she seems to be so upfront about her duplicity. This is unsettling behavior.

      1. AMPG*

        I think you’re way off base, here. I had a coworker who did something similar – putting the wrong title in her external email signature, and she had to be corrected at least twice that I know of. But she wasn’t “unsettling” in any way, just self-aggrandizing (which did come out in other ways).

      2. Specialk9*

        Could be. I just had workplace violence training so may be primed toward the extreme scenerio.

    4. Snark*

      When she tries to gaslight everybody, I’d shut that right down. Just run her right off the road. “Jill, this comes up so often that it really can’t be someone else’s fault. You’re misrepresenting your position either implicitly or explicitly, and it needs to stop today and never happen again.” “Jill, it’s not a mistake when it happens this often, and you need to be very careful that nobody gets the impression that you’re higher on the ladder than you actually are.”

      This is bonkers. If I were the manager, I’d be taking the “If you mislead anybody ever again about your position in this company, or suggest that you’re the boss or that you have management responsibilities, explicitly or implicitly, you will be summarily fired on the spot. Am I very clear?” tack.

      1. Barbara Lander*

        I agree. I once was hired as an in house lawyer for a company and the other lawyers raved about this guy Steve, who worked in another location. So naturally I assumed he was a lawyer and whenever I spoke to him, I addressed him as though he was and he never corrected me. It took a paralegal at my location to inform me that Steve was a paralegal. He absolutely had a duty to correct me. On top of everything else, impersonating a lawyer is a felony in most states.

    1. Hannah S.*

      From my experience graduation announcements are just thinly veiled excuses to ask people for money and generally, the people who do them are the least in need of money. They definitely get an eye roll from me

      1. TL -*

        I sent announcements for my university graduation. I only had 6 tickets to the actual event but there were a lot of people who cared enough that an announcement was more appropriate than a facebook status update. I didn’t expect money; it was more a way to say thanks for being a supportive presence in my life.
        And I was $25K in debt after graduating.

      2. (Different) Rebecca*

        Excuse me. I will be sending them out shortly as I graduate with a PhD in December. I don’t give a damn about money or gifts, I care to let the people who care about me know about this life change that I have worked extraordinarily hard for. Please keep your eyerolls to yourself.

        Alison, feel free to delete if this goes too far past your commenting guidelines.

          1. (Different) Rebecca*

            And even though the post was about high school graduation, that’s a) still a big deal, and b) not the problem, the problem is the lack of reciprocation. Next gift the OP gives should be a highlighted copy of something by Bronislaw Malinowski or Marcel Mauss.

            1. Willow*

              Except she’s been giving gifts to the boss’ adult children. They’re not the ones who didn’t reciprocate. No indication that she even sent them the announcement.

          2. Susanne*

            It’s definitely regional, cultural and/or socioeconomic to send graduation announcements (whether high school or college). It’s reminiscent of the “cover the plate” discussions about weddings (do you mentally tally up what it costs and give the per-plate cost or more). The more traditional etiquette mavens such as Miss Manners tend not to be in favor of either graduation announcements or cover-the-plate.

            I think some cultures/groups are also more “gift-y” than others. Additionally, I sense the OP is someone for whom gifts are a language of love and so not receiving one feels more insulting than it would for those who are less gift-y in general.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, it seems to be very cultural/socioeconomical. There are demographic groups where it’s perceived as tacky and others where it’s normal and celebrated. I think that’s what’s causing the sharp divide on this below, and I’m going to ask that we accept that this is indeed a cultural difference in different pockets of the population and leave it there. Thank you.

        1. Anion*

          And those of us who care about you, are pleased to see those announcements! I never see that sort of thing as a cash or gift grab; I have kids (so I’ve known a lot of kids) and we’ve moved a few times; I’m always thrilled when they reach out with something like that (or for any reason). It makes me feel like I mattered to them the same way they mattered to me.

          Graduating, getting a degree, getting a PhD–you should be proud of yourself, and those of us who’ve known you are proud of you. Honestly and truly. (I don’t even know you, lol, and I’m tearing up–sorry, I’m a little emotional and mom-mode-y this morning.)

        2. Artemesia*

          I don’t know anyone who doesn’t see a graduation announcement as an invoice. If you are close to people they know you are getting your PhD (or whatever) and it is something you can certainly mention in a note or on your Christmas card if you think they might not know you graduated. If you are not very close, then probably they don’t care and will just feel that there is a hand out.

      3. SignalLost*

        Wow. Not that my financial status is any of your business, but I sent announcements when I graduated because I wanted my extended family to share an important milestone with me. Your assumption that there can be no other reason for something like that than a cash grab is unpleasant and unkind to anyone who wants to share a life event they’re proud of with you.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, it’s standard practice, at least for high school or higher, where I am. It’s nice to send a token money gift but doing so is by no means a must–a card is fine. It’s not a huge deal.

      4. Marthooh*

        “Graduation announcements are a thing…?” Yes, they are used to announce someone’s graduation.

        “…graduation announcements are just thinly veiled excuses to ask people for money…” No, mind reading is actually not a thing.


      5. Hannah S.*

        Okay, I will admit to being harsh and it sounds like it is a cultural/regional thing (where I grew up they weren’t a thing and then I moved to a another country and in that part of the country it was only a thing the rich did and it was totally expected you sent cash if you got an announcement. Kids in college bragged about it). This is my personal experience and I shouldn’t have made such a snap judgement on everyone.

        However the train of thought is completely relevant to the situation as the OP sent out an announcement and expects something in return. Now, the boss should have never sent them to employees in the first place and they are the ones who started the tradition of sending the announcement and the OP should never have been put in the position of gifting cash to their bosses children but this highlights the fact that these announcements aren’t just being sent to celebrate their child and their achievements.

        1. Anna*

          Yes, I think it’s a little weird to keep a tally. “I sent kid A cash for thing; I didn’t receive cash for my kid’s thing.” It’s totally okay to have that thought, but maybe check yourself when you have it and under no circumstances should you mention it to the person.

          I sent announcements for my HS graduation and I am not from a rich background and on top of that, I graduated on a military base where there were people from all sorts of backgrounds from all over the United States and I know the majority of my classmates sent them, so I’m not sure I totally buy that it’s really culturally dependent. I sent homemade invitations to my graduation from college because there were no ticket limits and I wanted as much family there as could come. I didn’t attend my graduate school graduation, so I didn’t send invitations or announcements. It just depends, I guess.

          1. Specialk9*

            Interesting, I consider the military to be it’s own little world. It’s a mishmash all around, but people who grew up in that world have distinct characteristics. But you’re right that those deepset regional “but this is the only way it is done and if you do otherwise you are an offensive lout” rules* would likely still be from location of origin.

            *They’re the hardest part of traveling. One trips on one’s own regional assumptions, and others’.

    2. Kc89*

      I think they are super tacky. I also remember when my sister sent them out for her high school graduation several people mistook them for invitations to the graduation

      1. Liz*

        Not judgy, but it does seem tacky to me too. I don’t go around telling people who send them that it seems off to me unless they ask for my input. But since it is a topic here, I want to add my perspective (which is just as valid as the one that says they are a good thing) so it is clear that we don’t all see this the same way. It is a different perspective and a different opinion, not a judgement.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Seconding this – I also don’t interject my opinion if I receive announcements (and try my hardest to view them through a charitable lens – ie. remind myself of the things said in defense of these types of announcements), but my personal opinion is that they are tacky/gift grabby.

          Just adding my perspective (since it has come up as a topic) to a give a more accurate accounting of the ratio of people who are for/against this. I feel like this a thing that has come up before where some regular/vocal commentors agree on something so therefore their opinion is treated as the majority (both on this board and as a representation of the real world) when in reality it’s probably closer to 50/50.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Hey, can we not derail on this? It’s not helpful to the letter writer, who also sent an announcement. Thanks.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        Thank you. It’s quite insulting to come right out and tell the LW that their practices are tacky and money-grubbing, not to mention any commentors who have sent out announcements or received them.

        They are totally common in my part of the world and don’t really mean anything except “hey look, I graduated and I get this fancy announcement! Aren’t you proud of me?”.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. It’s something that varies by social subgroup, either unusual or as common as sending Xmas cards. For some people the idea is “Look! A tangible expression of Muffin’s milestone, suitable for putting in a memory book (if a grandparent) or sticking to the fridge for a month or so (for people who will smile fondly and think ‘aw, young Muffin, already graduating’).”

        2. Artemesia*

          But the OP indicated that they do in fact see this as an invoice. THEY send money when they got the announcement and they are peeved that the boss didn’t send money in return. They acknowledge and embrace this interpretation of a graduation announcement.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There are super long conversations about their prevalence, which can be driven by any number of factors (including but not limited to geography, social class, neighborhood, etc.).

      I agree with Ramona, though, that it’s not really fair/helpful to describe them as “tacky” or as excuses to gift-grub. It seems like OP#2’s complaint is that OP#2 goes out of their way to acknowledge their boss’s family members’ major life events, but the boss does not reciprocate in the same way as OP, and OP now feels like it’s unfair or skewed. I’m with Alison on this—it’s not appropriate to complain that someone did not send a gift to reciprocate/honor your life events in the same way you honored theirs (invitations/ announcements are not gift requests, and it’s entirely polite by etiquette standards not to send gifts). I wish OP’s manager had politely declined the gifts, but at this juncture, all OP can do is remember that going forward, there’s no obligation to “gift up.”

      1. Mookie*

        There are super long conversations about their prevalence, which can be driven by any number of factors (including but not limited to geography, social class, neighborhood, etc.)

        Yep. One of those conversations took place on this very site, re letter 4 here. (You and others were doing yeomen’s work there, PCBH. Thank you for that.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks, Mookie!

          I should have also clarified that we don’t really have to rehash the “what are announcements?” argument here—folks can just go read the prior comment threads instead of derailing in manner that’s guaranteed to needlessly offend/judge the OP and probably other commenters.

      2. Big10Professor*

        The thing is, AAM said that the OP probably shouldn’t have given a gift in the first place. Well, when you get a graduation announcement from the boss’s kid, it kinda feels like an obligation. My feeling is that the boss overstepped the professional boundaries first.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Eh, it’s possible that the boss viewed it as nothing more than “Traditionally you order these and send them to everyone you know.” And that if OP views the official announcing-and-gifting times as:
          • High school graduation
          • College graduation
          • Wedding
          • Baby
          (Which could all have announcements)
          …. then because they started off with her kids babies and boss’s as high school and college students, boss’s kids hit the four milestones before hers hit the first. If they were the same age, then boss’s non-reciprocality would have happened early and OP would have taken the cue that boss expected announcements to be met with congratulations and enquiries into child’s plans.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            (I do think it was on boss, the second time it happened if not the first, to work through “Oh, OP isn’t going to figure out that I don’t expect gifts for announcements because her kids are so much younger, I should say this specifically to her.” Rather than assume that his subordinates responded to announcements with gifts because they just love the opportunity to cut a check to someone.)

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I think that’s a little less clear when the gifts are being sent in response to various announcements of the children’s milestones. From the boss.

          2. Allison*

            It does seem like there are three groups of people:

            1) People who follow tradition to a T and expect gifts, because it’s tradition, and everyone should keep up with traditions because of reasons

            2) People who follow traditions to some degree on a personal level, but don’t necessarily expect everyone to give gifts because they know traditions and attitudes about traditions vary, and are constantly changing. They appreciate what they get and don’t grumble about who doesn’t give or who gave less than expected.

            3) People who have decided that gifts for life events are an unnecessary tradition we should have done away with years ago, and anyone who even remotely participates in that sort of thing is a greedy jerk.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I disagree. There’s no obligation to do anything, other than RSVP if there’s an event attached, when you get a grad announcement (or wedding announcement, or any other similar “major life event” announcement).

          I understand that OP’s personal practice may be different and that there’s a power dichotomy, and I know there’s any number of families/communities where they will feel pressured to send a gift when receiving an announcement. But Emily Post and all other advice columnists are aggressively united around the idea that announcements do not require gifting, and that a person who sends them believing they should receive gifts in exchange is being incredibly rude. Sending an announcement is not, imo, inherently “overstepping” professional boundaries (especially in a tight-knit office like OP’s where there are very few employees).

          I do think OP’s boss should have proactively declined the gifts and/or reciprocated. But since OP can’t (or shouldn’t) really do anything to change the boss’s behavior on this front, all OP can do is change their own behavior/expectations.

          1. Specialk9*

            I do love high school graduations though. I love to give the books on money that I wish I had received. I can afford to do that even for semi random folks and 2nd cousins.

          2. Artemesia*

            I think it is WAY overstepping because this is not a social but a professional relationship. If the employee knew and had socialized with the young graduate then maybe. But for a boss to send this kind of social announcement to his employees implies a gift will be expected or he can assume the employees will feel this pressure. To send social announcements to professional associates is inappropriate IMHO.

    5. Zip Silver*

      Super common thing in the South (or Texas, at least) for high school. Not as common for college. Not totally sure why, but we’ve got some weird high school traditions that others don’t (homecoming mums, anyone?).

      Wedding announcements (with no invitation) are just a gift grab, though.

        1. TL -*

          I’m from Texas and I agree, though I just sent out invitations for mine, since I could’ve accommodated anyone who wanted to come. (Small school where nearly everyone was related anyways; all of my extended family, family friends, and their extended family could’ve come and it would’ve been fine.)

      1. MashaKasha*

        I figured it was very location-specific. I’ve never received one, never sent one out (have two kids who graduated HS, one of whom also graduated from college), would not know what to do with one if I got one. And I now want to know what a homecoming mum is.

        Our HS tradition, that I find super adorable, is that on the morning of the day of HS graduation, the school has one or two employees drive all around the school district and leave a “home of (year) graduate” sign on each graduate’s front lawn. If there are twins living in the house that are graduating, they leave two signs. You wake up ready to go to your kid’s graduation and there’s a sign on your lawn. I love it.

        1. oviraptor*

          That is really a neat tradition! I especially like that they leave 2 signs for twins – each is recognized. Way cool!

      2. Hills to Die on*

        You must not have learned anything from reading the posts above.

        The same applies to wedding announcements, Zip Silver. We didn’t have any guests to our wedding as we eloped. I was thrilled to share the news with my friends and loved ones, and didn’t care about the gifts—although we have many generous friends who sents gifts with their congratulations.

        Keep your judgments to yourself, especially since you don’t seem to know what you are talking about.

    6. Jenny*

      In my experience, yes, incredibly common – and it’s seen as rude to not send a gift if you receive one. Agree with the comment further down that the boss should not be sending them/allowing his children to send them to his employees.

      1. Gabriela*

        Yep. I agree. My parents wouldn’t let me send out graduation announcements for high school or college, because they believed they appeared to be more of a request for gifts. I’m sure many people don’t mean them that way, but it was still inappropriate for the boss to send one to OP.

        1. oviraptor*

          I had the opposite problem when I graduated high school. I didn’t want to send out announcements as I saw it as a gift grab. My Mom, on the other hand, insisted I send them because it is ‘what everyone does’.

    7. JoJo*

      As Miss Manners says, “Announcements are not invoices”. You’re under no obligation to give a gift to someone just because they sent you an announcement.

      1. Detective Charles Boyle*

        Right! I love getting announcements about graduation, weddings, births, etc. I like to know about the big milestones and see photos of people I care about. I do send a card or gift for most of these, depending on the relationship. If it were an announcement for my boss’s kid, I might read it with interest and then just toss it, but I’d definitely congratulate my boss about it!

        1. ket*

          My spouse & I did not plan on sending birth announcements, but things got a little awkward as people kept asking, What does the baby look like? or Did you have a kid? or some people who we don’t see often didn’t know at all. We want to keep the kid off Facebook and a “birth email” just seemed weird (Hi friend I see now and then and to whom I didn’t announce I was preggo because a “pregnant email” also seemed weird — we have a kid!). Birth announcements seemed like the nice socially acceptable thing to do and perfect for great-aunts etc who like having a picture up on the fridge for a while. So we made some, when the kid was 3 months old.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I didn’t know the name or birth date of one friend’s kid for about 6 months because she never announced it in any way. Not on Facebook, not via email, not with cards. My partner and I had moved several states away. I didn’t want to bother my friend because, you know, new baby and all (and I found out from other friends that she wasn’t answering many calls because, you know, new baby), but that just felt really odd. Announcements can be very useful.

          2. Artemesia*

            An Email with a snapshot actually seems really the right idea to me if facebook is not a choice. That way you can get the word out to friends and acquaintances quickly and it is less likely to feel like an invoice to recipients than a mailed announcement. That is how we made sure the extended family and friends new about the new arrival in our family recently. Close relatives got a phone call from the happy father.

    8. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I don’t know anyone that *hasn’t* sent them for high school. The schools here organize the ordering/purchasing and you send them to everyone you know. Is it to solicit gifts? Maybe. I know if we get one, we send a small gift.

      Now I can’t say I’ve seen them for college, but as an older student (I’m a few weeks from 40) you better believe I’ll be sending a few to as a “holy crap, I finally did it and I’m really freaking happy!!!” and not as a gimme money thing.

      1. Allison*

        I don’t think announcements were sent when I graduated high school or college. I think it was mentioned in emails, during holiday celebrations with family, and probably in Christmas cards, but of there were formal announcements, my parents managed it and I knew nothing about it.

        If it matters, I’m in my late 20’s and I live in the northeast united states.

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        My nephew graduated last year and it is definitely still a thing here. I’m in a small town in the midwest just for reference.

      3. Alienor*

        My daughter graduated from HS last spring, and we didn’t send announcements, just put photos on Facebook for family and friends. It would have been nice to have an announcement as a keepsake, but I think the smallest package they came in was 25 and I didn’t need that many, so I kept the program from the event and called it good. (BTW I did consult with daughter beforehand–if she’d wanted to send announcements I would have, since it was her milestone, but she wasn’t interested.)

      4. Starbuck*

        Based on my own personal experience, I imagine sending out college graduation announcements is less common because parents are less involved at that point. My high school graduation announcements were orchestrated almost entirely by my mother, with minimal input from me- I just signed them, or something, I don’t remember. Since I moved away for college it just didn’t happen that way. I was relived, because it meant I didn’t have to write another round of thank-you notes for Applebee’s giftcards!

    9. kittymommy*

      This definitely must be regional/cultural, because I don’t think I know anyone who didn’t do announcements. HS and college (or grad school).

    10. Zombeyonce*

      They are, but I can’t figure out why LW2 got one in the first place. Does the boss give out all his employees’ names and addresses so his kids can tell them about life events? That seems like the boss is contributing to the “gifting up” idea that shouldn’t happen.

      1. Specialk9*

        Exactly. The boss had a decision point either way – giving my kids this info or coordinating it directly – and should have realized it was putting pressure on subordinates. Even if he missed it before the first one, after that, not cool.

  2. Seal*

    #3 – Same thing happened to me when I was an undergraduate. In my case, I was working part time for a department that merged with another department and had been assured by several people that I would keep my same job duties. The first day I showed up for work in the new department I was assigned to do something entirely different. When I asked my new boss at the end of the shift why I wasn’t doing the work I had been hired to do, he claimed I misunderstood what I had been told. Since I knew for a fact he was lying I quit on the spot. I found out later that he did this to a number of people, but few people actually called him out on it. OP, definitely talk to your actual manager and find out what’s going on. Sounds like bait and switch to me.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I could see this growing out of disorganization and managing by crisis–llama delivery really needs another warm body *looks around office* hey alpaca weaving has someone new coming on who isn’t integrated into any teams yet, grab them.

      Not a deliberate bait and switch so much as constant switching in response to this month’s crisis.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Sure, both are valid reasons to flee. But people sometimes get hung up on motivations over results: There’s no need to stick around until you have a rock-solid case that this stuff was due to malice aforethought, rather than sloppiness.

  3. Amy*

    OP3, the one thing I have to add to Alison’s response is, be careful about saying anything like “I wouldn’t have accepted a job in Teapot Delivery”. Many people will interpret that as you being likely to walk away from the job if it does turn out to be Teapot Delivery centric. That’s not necessarily the impression you want to give if you would prefer to keep your options open (e.g. stay working at this place while job hunting, or give Teapot Delivery a shot and see if it works better for you than you think it will). Of course, if you really are ready to walk away, then go ahead and use it–it’s good for getting across how big a deal this is to you!

    The rest of Alison’s script works just fine with or without that line, and is great for discussing confusion over your role.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds to me like the OP wants to leave if this is the job now. But yes, if she doesn’t, she shouldn’t say that. (I think she does though.)

      1. OP*

        OP here. I am about 50% ready to leave. I talked wih my supervisor, and he did not exactly put my mind at ease. He said that I can pretty much be moved to any department at any time, and that this is normal.

        1. Jadelyn*

          So…he sold you a job based on the premise that you would be doing specifically Thing A with Team A, but now he’s telling you that you might at any moment have your job duties be completely replaced with Thing B, Thing C, Thing D, etc.?

          That’s a hell of a bait-and-switch. I’d be looking for a new job immediately.

        2. Julianne*

          Ohh, I have no outstanding advice here, but I’ve been there, too! I chose to stay in the job a bit longer, and I was ultimately “lucky” that the position was eliminated in a round of budget cuts when I’d been there about a year – gave me a perfect excuse to leave. I think it would have been easier if I were in a role/field and/or of a personality where I could be in the mindset of, “This is my job, and I do this to get paid, and I leave my work brain with its many work thoughts at work at the end of the day.” But that’s challenging for me. Best of luck with whatever you decide, OP!

        3. Cat*Lady*

          I worked for a company that did this. I applied, interviewed for, and accepted a job doing X. Then we start orientation and training, and it turns out any of us could be switched to P, Q, R, Y, or Z at any time! They do it all the time! Fun!!!! Um…. no. Luckily, I was not switched and kept doing X, but it was red flag number one (of about 25 million). I worked there for 7 weeks. That company was bolloxed from the ground up. I would advise you to start looking because if you aren’t happy and you suspect the company is just going to screw you around on a whim, there is no point in staying.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      The OP actually has an offer letter stating the job is in the other department, right? I think I’d focus on the fact that the job they were offered is totally different from what they are doing, and seeking clarity on whether this is supposed to be a permanent change.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I think if the OP really feels that way and wants to leave, it’s fine to say. And yes, I think it speaks to how big of a deal it is that they appear, based on her letter, to have pulled a fast one on her.

      1. Anonymous and Loving It*

        The OP may want to leave, but does the OP want to be terminated on the spot? Because that’s a possible outcome. I’d hold back on that part of the script so as to assure myself some time to look around for another job. A lot depends on whether you’re in a financial position to be unemployed for a while. Some folks are not.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I had the same thing happen to me at a job about twenty years ago. It’s kind of a funny story involving my now husband.

      I was hired for one position, and when I showed up they tried to put me to work at some other, less desirable position. I spoke up immediately, saying that I had been shown a different job and that I’d prefer to do that one. The manager said he’d see what he could do, and it turned out that he was able to place me in the original, better, position.

      A little while later on that job, I was talking in the break room to another employee who had started the same day and had been pulled from a good job and placed in a worse job. We figured out after comparing notes that he had been placed in the worse job after I objected to it and requested the job I’d originally been shown. After that, I thought of him as “that guy who hates me”, but a coworker later set us up on a date, and we’ve been married 21 years now.

  4. neverjaunty*

    OP #5, you knew this would be a high-risk move; not being able to get re-hired at a company you quit less than a year ago is a pretty substantial risk. It also sounds a bit odd when you refer to your “time to return” – unless it was clear with your company that you were taking a detour and they also expected you to return, you can hardly expect that they would treat your leaving as a temporary career-building sabbatical. Definitely talk to your old manager, but it’s not going to come across well if your approach is ‘well, now I’m back so of course you’ll fit me in somewhere’.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I was a bit confused by the idea of having a particular time to return, and wondered what determined that.

    2. Tau*

      Yeah, the OP seems very… confident she should be able to return to her old company, which strikes me as a bit strange unless it was discussed that way from the start.

      +1 to everything neverjaunty said, and also prepare yourself to start looking at similar jobs in other companies. It might genuinely be that you’re not able to get rehired right now for whatever reason.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Exactly. Did the *company* agree that OP 5 was welcome back after a specified period of time, or did she assume that she’d be able to get back in because she was a known quantity? And does the organization have some sort of express lane for former contractors (note that OP 5 was not even an employee, so it’s not like she’s returning to a place where she previously was an employee)?

      If not, I’m not understanding why she seems surprised at the challenges of applying. It sounds like OP 5 had a plan for how this sequence of events ideally would occur in her optimal situation, but unfortunately the company doesn’t have to get on board with the plan. You’re applying for a job you’ve never held before, at an organization that does not take referrals, at a company that is not obligated to give you special treatment, where apparently your application is only moderately competitive, after a short stint at your previous job, in a pool with the rest of the masses. Standard job-search advice applies.

      1. Sue No-Name*

        I don’t know if the “permanent contract” mention necessarily means OP was never an employee. Hasn’t it been said many times before on here that employees working in other countries than the US often have employment contracts?

        1. MK*

          In many jurisdictions, all employees have a contract, usually a verbal one, without too many details, that is permanent in the sense that there is no prejected end date to the employment.

          The only truly permanent employment contracts are life-appointments to government positions, which are very rare. Also, even rarer, in certain fields there used to be contracts so long they are effectively permanent; in my country, banks used to offer them before 2007, a friend’s husband has such a 40-year contract.

          I really doubt the OP gave up something like this; they probably had a indefinite-time employment contract.

        2. Hrovitnir*

          Ahh, I was confused about the “not even an employee” comment as having a permanent contract just means a permanent job in my experience. Don’t know if OP is in the US, but in NZ you are legally obligated to have a contract (or “employment agreement”). It was illuminating to discover they’re uncommon in (some parts of?) the US on this blog!

      2. Lars the Real Girl*

        I can actually see the “express lane” thinking for large global firms. Something like Big 4 or the consulting giants really do express-lane former employees. And with the constant hiring they do, I can see how someone would think that when the time was right, something would come up.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Certain places definitely have this. I work for the US federal government, where former employees who left on good terms have priority when applying. But it’s *really* not clear that OP 5 has that situation, or had any reason to think she would. Apparently at her company, once you’re gone, you’re gone, and you go to the back of the line.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            I also wonder whether OP 5 got her previous position with relative ease, through some combination of luck and circumstances. She may have thought that was the norm and not the exception, and is learning otherwise now.

            1. OP5*

              Yes, there is some truth in that. But the department I used to work for was much easier to get into than the one I ultimately want to get into. And when I was there, I had actually previously applied to the department I wanted to go to as an internal candidate with no success. The 2 departments are so different that they may as well be different companies. And this is a huge company.

    4. JN*

      Yes. One of my friends got a job in a government department and has said that they now want to start applying for jobs at a higher pay grade, but that given the amazing benefits that the government job provides, they’re only going to be looking within government listings rather than private company jobs. As they put it “Once you get in, you stay in”. If OP5 didn’t have a written agreement that their departure from the original company would be short-term, then it’s possible they are out of luck. Those making the interviewing/hiring decisions now could be looking at OP’s file and thinking “They left us once, they’ll do it again” and opting for candidates who they think won’t do that (even though reasonable companies know employees leave all the time). Or there might be a policy against rehiring former employees under any circumstances. It could also be that OP didn’t have as good a quality of reputation or work than they thought or else is applying for jobs that aren’t the best fit.

      1. OP5*

        Since I wrote this, I had actually got a couple of interviews with the company, I told them my reason for leaving and it seemed to have been accepted. This is a huge global sized corporation with a very narrow focus and so there are others who have followed a similar path to myself and eventually returned. And it generally seems to be accepted by the company. Being an internal candidate doesn’t seem to make it that much easier as there could be roles within the company that has few similarities with the role they applied for.

        1. OP5*

          It’s also worth noting that there’s a particular department within the old company I wanted to go to and without having done my current role, I don’t think I would have had the overall theoretical knowledge to be able to put together a competitive application for that department.

    5. Artemesia*

      It sounds like the company is not that anxious to have the OP back unfortunately. I know two people who left with the understanding that ‘if things were possible’ they could return after a year. In one case, they clearly wanted to unload the guy, because at the last minute he told them he wouldn’t be taking the leave after all, and they fired him. They had hoped he would leave and then they would just not ‘have anything’ when he wanted to return. The other guy took the leave on a similar promise and then the economy soured and so they couldn’t take him back; I think he was not poorly regarded but they were in cost cutting mode at that point. This forced him into early retirement in a poor financial situation, but he coped.

      If they knew the OP was leaving and told him they would take him back ‘if’ then it might be a case of ‘happy to see him go’ or ‘things are slow now’. But if he hadn’t made arrangements, then well, lots of places aren’t wild about hiring people who leave unless they are super stars. The company I worked for for many years, took a couple of people back who were very productive, but most people who left and then tried to return although they wouldn’t have been let go if they had stayed, were also not highly regarded enough to be sought to return.

      The OP needs to talk with his old boss and listen between the lines.

  5. AlligatorTrainer*

    Without more context in letter 5 it’s hard to say for sure, but such a short time at this other company might mean it’s not appreciably adding to your perceived experience but is making you look uncommitted.

    Unless the company is huge, I think starting with your old boss is the right first step, as AAM suggested. Perhaps if people in the department you’re applying to have asked her about your departure and now return, if she doesn’t know anything about it, that could be coming across poorly?

    1. Cody's Dad*

      I was going to say the same thing. If the OP has only been at the new company a shirt time, the skills she learned may not be strong enough to compete with people that have been using and applying those skills for a few years and are now ready for the jobs she’s applying for. Switching jobs yet again in such a short time may be a red flag as well. Perhaps she should reapply for positions less senior that are more in sync to what she used to do just to try to get herself back into the company and with time try to advance within.

      1. C*

        I use to work for a large company that had a policy to not re-hire anyone who left for 6 months to a year (depending on the level of their position). If they applied before this time was up, their application was turned down automatically. It is possible that the OP is trying to go back too soon. (And this policy was not one that HR advertised….you had to know to ask about it.)

      2. OP5*

        I guess I forgot to mention that it’s such a huge company and the department im trying to get into may as well be a different company to the one I was in before.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The timeline seems awfully short. I can see feeling that you have to go around to move up (or change fields) in some organizations, but what great career-redirecting job skills could OP have obtained in 6-8 months? For most professional roles the estimate seems to be that 6-12 months is just when you’re really up to speed on the details.

      1. Myrin*

        I thought the same thing. For some reason, I got a similar vibe from this letter as I got from the “I got fired for attending a conference I wasn’t invited to” one.

        In that one, the OP was so set on attending this one particular conference, even though she didn’t really know much about it and was explicitly forbidden from going, because she found it “sounded interesting, […] was trying to show initiative, and [thought i]t would be good for [her] career to attend something like that”; it all seemed to me like she’d heard somewhere that Conferences Are Good but didn’t actually put much thought into why and how exactly and what context there needs to be for them to be Good.

        The equivalent in this letter here is that it reads to me like OP heard that working at different places can increase your value and give you relevant experience but that she didn’t really internalise what that entails. It’s like a sort of checkbox thinking, like “work at place other than current one? – Check!” without realising that what’s meant by that is something like “You’ll want to find your own strengths and interests by working at different companies who do and value stuff differently and where you can learn to make Teapots in a variety of ways, one of which might be new to others and might make you an interesting prospect for them”.

        I could obviously mis-reading (or rather “mis-vibing”, maybe) this royally but that’s totally how it comes off to me.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          An AAM classic.

          And I know people who used the reasoning in your third paragraph for expensive things, like “education makes you more employable, so any education debt will be easily paid off and I’ll come out ahead,” or “everyone should buy a house (in the early 00s) because you can just sell it for more money”.

          We need an open thread on “When Gumption Goes Awry.”

  6. nep*

    I know not the main point but wow — “Praying for you” ? Glad Alison notes that this is inappropriate.

      1. hermit crab*

        But it’s just kind of weird anyway, right? I grew up in a pretty churchy area, but I have never, ever heard “praying for you” used in the same sense as “wish you the best.” Like, if someone told me their relative has cancer, I might say “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll be thinking of you and your family,” and someone else might say “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, you’ll be in my prayers.” But OP here just had a job interview! Having an interview is a good thing, not something for which someone would need your prayers.

        (Definitely not saying that it’s appropriate to talk about praying for someone in a work context, just trying to articulate why this seems especially off to me.)

        1. Pear*

          I’ve never heard this in this context and I live in the Bible Belt. I wonder if this person is related to the subject of the ongoing letter with the time stealer handmaiden? Ha !

        2. Else*

          Even then – I’d find it offensive. I get that some people (people very different than me) like to say this as a kind thought, but in my actual experience of having this said to me, it’s typically in the context of, “you have put your soul at risk by doing a thing I dislike, so I shall pray for you, and tell you about it so that you know that I judge you”. This is the usual tone of how my mother uses it, for example – known to me because she will usually explicitly say so. I’ve had other say it that way, too. YMMV, of course, but I find expression of religious feeling towards me from people I don’t know very very well both deeply off-putting and creepily intrusive. Keep that ish to YOURSELF, evangelicals.

          1. Em*

            Never thought of it that way. Everyone time I’ve heard it, it’s in a good-wishes kind of way. But I can completely understand how it would be off putting if used in a judgmental way.

        3. Koko*

          Yes, benign religious platitudes don’t bother me, but I’m not at all religious and to me, “I’ll be praying for you,” seems to have an unspoken, “You poor, unfortunate soul!” undertone that suggests the praying person doesn’t think things are going too well for me at the moment.

          1. Artemesia*

            Me too. Banalities like ‘have a blessed day’ don’t bother me. But praying for me really sounds like ‘praying for you, bless your heart.’

        4. Tiger Snake*

          That’s probably a regional thing. I’m used to people praying for each other at a drop of a hat, just because it seemed like they needed a little extra reminder that they’ve got all the support on their side.

          I think the flaw with the logic of limiting when to pray for someone, is that its works on an assumption that the religious entity in question has a limited amount of time and resources available, so everyone should prioritise to only pray for those that need it most. But if you believe that the religious entity of your choice is all powerful, then they have the power to help everyone; time and resources spent on Bob’s minor problem do not take anything away from Alice’s recovery from cancer.

          At that point, it becomes someone saying to you “This is something that matters to you. Therefore it matters to me and I want to help you, but I don’t think there’s anything I’m capable of doing. So I will ask the Highest Authority, whom I have a close relationship with, for their help on something that matters to us.”

          1. Susanne*

            I think the bigger flaw is that – what is this, a popularity contest? God, if He/She/It exists, is going to care more about solving the issues of the person who has a lot more people praying for her than the person who doesn’t?

            Ah, look at all the lonely people …

            1. Tiger Snake*

              No. That was my point; if you believe that there is an all-powerful deity, then it has the infinite care and power. Acting to help one person who has five people praying for them doesn’t impede that God’s ability to act to help a person who can only pray for themselves. Therefore, praying for someone is to do with your relationship with the God in question.

              That said, I don’t see this as continuing to be relevant to the original issue, so I’ll leave the debate at that to avoid getting into any argumentative content.

    1. Mookie*

      I suspect I’m in the minority, but the two key phrases highlighted by LW4 in those messages would rattle me at any stage of life or career.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Honestly, if I got either of those messages, I’d assume I didn’t get the job. They’re both essentially wishing the OP luck on their future endeavours. That’s usually the kind of message you get when you don’t get the job. It’s possible that’s not the case, but I would take it as a bit of a bad sign. I’m a big fan of “moving on” though, so I generally try to forget about the job until I have an offer in hand.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Also wanted to add: We talk a lot about not speculating in the job hunt because it’s not really helpful. I totally agree with that, but I do also think that a lot of times you can tell if you’ll get the job or not. Usually it’s more the feeling – more how something is said than what’s being said. I can tell when an employer is excited about me vs. when they’re only interested (ie, when I might be the second or third pick). So far, I’ve never been surprised by a rejection or a job offer. But I’m also someone who’s never had a problem with over-speculation.

          1. Mookie*

            I’d also assume I was completely out of the running because, as you say, that language isn’t really as ambiguous as it sounds. It’s polite and vague, which is different. Which is kind of why I’d prefer them to just say so because there’s no harm in doing so and a rejected applicant would prefer to know this so they can move on. This is a normal consequence of interviewing–they decided “no.” Maybe they feel it’s indecorous to communicate that in response to a thank-you message. If so, a generic “thanks back talk soon or maybe never” is a better option, in my opinion, anyway. I don’t want to be prayed at (this sounds like something bad has or is going to happen to me) and of course I’ll find work elsewhere if this falls through. You know? It’s not the end of the world, but the language and tone irk me.

            1. Anna Held*

              This sounds like an academic job search. There are strict rules for hiring, budget restrictions, the dean needs to sign off, etc. I agree that the notes aren’t encouraging, but there are even more limitations as to what you can say to a candidate and when than in many other fields. I’d be surprised if they were anything more than non-committal.

        2. Business Cat*

          If some of the comments below are correct and the position OP is applying for is in academia, those seemingly discouraging messages could be absolutely meaningless. After I sent out thank you e-mails to the interviewers for my current position, the response I received from the hiring manager said this: “Thank you for your interest in [University]. It was great to meet you as well. Good luck on your search!” I immediately assumed that I wasn’t getting the job and was devastated. I actually considered e-mailing her back to ask “Should I take that to mean that I’m out of the running for the position?” but fortunately a good friend talked me down off of that ledge. The next afternoon, I received a call letting me know that she was checking my references, and I was offered the job less than a week later. Later on, when I asked my manager about the phrasing of that e-mail, she laughed and said that she had received an e-mail with the exact same wording when she was hired for her position and it made her nervous as well.

          TL;DR – Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to read the tea leaves.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I felt the same way – I’d translate either one as “good luck in whatever you do in the future, but it’s not going to be this job.” Sorry, OP.

        4. nep*

          When I first read that, I was sure both of those responses were: “Thanks but no thanks and good luck.” I really thought they sounded as if the company was moving on. Interesting to hear other perspectives on that language.

      2. hbc*

        I dunno, I can think of so many cases where someone’s “with us or elsewhere” is positive to neutral. OP could be far and away the best candidate the person has ever seen, but if their role is in Phase 1 of hiring only, it’d be cruel and misleading to say, “You’ve got my vote! I really look forward to seeing you again.”

        I’d only interpret either of those emails negatively if they came from the person who was the only decision-maker.

        1. Mookie*

          That’s valid. I just think at this stage — post-interview — and while the stakes are still pretty low, those hedges also seem a little misleading and in a similar way, which would lead me to believe either that this is reflects part of the culture surrounding hiring in this organization or that the committee’ve already come to a decision and are delivering it in coordination and with slightly different words. But I recognize that this is highly subjective.

        2. AB*

          I wouldn’t read into it if i’d received that response. Even if they knew they were offering me the job they don’t know if I’d accept it. If i got a response like “Can’t wait to work with you *wink wink*” I’d probably be put off that that would be so presumptious about me accepting the role. The neutral responses are best from both sides untill an offer has been made, and then accepted.

        3. Koko*

          That phrasing doesn’t necessarily set off any particular alarms for me. That’s the kind of language I would use in an attempt to be neutral if I were writing to a candidate that I liked, but I was just an interviewer on the panel who gave comments to the hiring manager who will make the final decision, so it’s out of my hands.

      3. Overeducated*

        Maybe I’ve just been rejected too many times in my life so things roll off my back, but I read emails like that as the person on the hiring team simply being polite and kind in response to my email. It varies so much even within a single large hiring team that I think it’s truly just a personal contact, and I read those phrases as the respondent being unable to give news but wanting to wish you well, especially because the jobs I apply for tend to have long hiring processes where interviews and committee meetings may still be ongoing.

      4. Anonymous and Loving It*

        Getting those messages, given how they’re worded (and the “praying for you” comment would make me hope I never worked for this person), would give me the impression I wasn’t going to get the job.

        However, it would not change anything for me in terms of how I operated. When I’m in job search mode, I continue in that mode until I get a solid offer. So if I were the OP, I’d simply continue the job search. I never assume I have a job nailed down until the hammer hits the nail.

    2. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

      I disagree. I’d certainly be irritated if I got that in a business email, but I wouldn’t deny the email-writer’s right to say it. Unfortunately, people don’t have a right not to be offended.

      1. Sam*

        Sure, they can say it. But it would make me seriously question their professional judgment (and wonder about the culture of the office, if it didn’t match what I was expecting).

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Sure, they’ve got a right to say it, but in general people have the right to do all kinds of things that are generally context-inappropriate. “Do I have the right to do this?” generally isn’t the question to be asking when it comes to soft skills.

        1. Else*

          I would be. It’s creepy. I’d be more put off than offended, but it’s still a negative response. I can tell you right now that I’d never take a job with anyone who tried bring their religiosity into the workplace.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        If this is in the US, sure, they have a First Amendment right to say it. And other people can use that information to decide whether this is someone they want to associate with.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          The government can’t stop them from saying it, but their manager definitely can if they deem it inappropriate for business communication.

      4. sin nombre*

        This is irrelevant. This is not about free speech or anybody’s rights or any strawman “right not to be offended”. It’s crossing a clear professional boundary that exists for good reason ergo is professionally inappropriate.

    3. Ally*

      She also noted that it was undoubtedly kindly meant so can we can we not kick start yet another debate on religion in the work place.

    4. Grits McGee*

      Plus “I’m praying for you” just seems so… dire? For someone you just met once, that’s what you say in response to a cancer diagnosis, not an interview thank you note.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I think it depends on who’s saying it. I know some who append that to just about any situation whereas others only use it as a form of expressing condolences.

        1. Antilles*

          Yes. There are definitely people who use ‘praying for you’ as a standard closing instead of ‘hope you’re doing well’ or ‘take care’ or ‘fare well’ or the zillions of various other similarly meaningless phrases that people use instead of goodbye.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Seriously. I’d interpret it in this context as “your application/job history/interview manner/whole personality is so dismal, it would take a miracle for anyone to hire you.”

        1. Harper*

          That’s where I would go with it, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant that way. At least they didn’t write “May God have mercy on your soul” or something.

          1. Specialk9*

            Ha ha, me too. “Oh gosh, no, I don’t have cancer, I’m that person who just interviewed with you on Wednesday? Brown hair, black glasses?”

          2. Lehigh*

            When I fantasize about leaving a job and not needing a reference, I think I’d love to spend my last week ending every email with, “Thanks! And may God have mercy on your soul. Lehigh”

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        It also seems so weird coming from someone who actually has the power to do something in this situation. If a friend said that about a job search I would think it was mildly weird but I’d appreciate the underlying sentiment. Whereas from someone on the hiring committee asking for divine aid seems a bit drastic when they can just advocate for a candidate on their own.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Well, some people think that every single thing requires an intervention from or petition to the Almighty. I have people on my Facebook who ask for prayers instead of saying “Wish me luck” on things that are totally within their own control, or stuff as banal as “I have allergies today.” Then they have sixteen comments below it that say, “Praying.” So it wouldn’t surprise me, coming from them.

          From an interviewer I met for 30 or 45 minutes? I would assume they’re like the people I know, but it would weird me out a little.

      4. nep*

        Not necessarily. This is all about the perspective of the person saying it. For many it’s a common thing — as simple as saying ‘you’ll be in my thoughts.’

    5. Specialk9*

      Outside of an actual house or worship or a few very closely affiliated businesses, mentioning prayer at work is Not On. There are plenty of us religious people who both know and respect professional boundaries… But we would never write about praying for someone, especially a stranger, at work. So, as a religious person, feel free to take this as a big old red flag about how this person conducts themself.

      1. Anonymous and Loving It*

        This. I think it’s inappropriate, but I also think it’s good information to have. I would NOT want to work for this person. OTOH, I would not be offended. As an agnostic, if I got offended every time someone brought religion into contexts where it doesn’t belong, I’d be perpetually offended and worked up. I simply use the information to help me decide whether the person using such language is someone with whom I wish to work or become socially engaged.

  7. fred*

    #5 “Now that my time has come to return” It sounds like you expected to just return to your old job, as if they were keeping your position open.

    It doesn’t work like that.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      A lady who used to work with me negotiated going to grad school for a year and returning to her job. It was a capital-T Thing. She was a stellar employee and had a lot of clout, and she still very carefully made sure all of the Ts were crossed and she had it all in writing. It’s never a safe assumption that you can wander away from a job and have it still be there when you get back. If it’s a great job, 15 other people would stab each other (and you) for it, and the next person to get it usually clings to it like a barnacle.

      1. Lionheart26*

        Agreed. A coworker of mine at old-job left to go to grad school. As luck would have it, he graduated around the same time that his successor left and so his old job re-opened. Same job, same (excellent) guy. But the company refused to hire him on principle. The boss said he didn’t want to give the impression that people could leave the company and expect to come back. I guess it was about loyalty or something?? Seems really misguided to me, but goes to show you really can’t assume these things unless you have it in writing.

        1. Oryx*

          Oh how interesting. At my job we frequently have former employees return and I think that inspires more loyalty– I mean, if you left a job for whatever reason but chose to come back a few years later I think that speaks volumes.

          1. Lionheart26*

            I would tend to agree! It seems really short-sighted, but there you have it (it’s not the only sketchy decision made by the director).
            I could understand not wanting to guarantee positions: why would you open yourself to accepting back an employee who was under-performing? But that is DEFINITELY not what happened here. The director made a public statement that it had nothing to do with employee’s performance, and everything to do with this policy he’d just decided on.

          2. Specialk9*

            I always find it odd when companies expect loyalty. I give loyalty in equal measure to how I get it. Where’s my pension and guaranteed job, barring serious poor performance? Oh, no, you don’t give that? Then loyalty is something I reserve for family, friends, and the odd manager who deserves it.

          3. Clewgarnet*

            At my company, we often have people coming back after anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of years.

            I think the bosses figure it encourages us to stay with the company. “If other companies are so bad that Flint came back after TWO WEEKS… I’m staying here, mate!”

            1. Arielle*

              Ours is similar. We call them boomerangs, and we have a lot of them. It’s pretty common for someone to leave for a couple of years and then come back in a different role. It seems like kind of a point of pride with us so I guess it’s very dependent on culture. There are a couple people down the thread saying their companies are the total opposite.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Same, we love our boomerang employees! And we’ve had boomerangs return after anywhere from 3 days to 5 years.

        2. Been there*

          Our CEO has explicitly stated that our company is not a rest home that people can bounce in and out of. His reasoning is he wants people who want to work for our company and not people who treat it as ‘the safe option’. I think a lot of that comes from being in a very small industry (~4 other companies that do what we do) and there’s a lot of bouncing between the other companies by employees.

          Right or wrong, he’s upfront about it. And there is a well known, zero chance of rehire understanding among the employees.

        3. Anon Accountant*

          My job does that. The only people who have ever done that were relatives to the firm partners and that was just 2. The firm has been family owned and operated over 70 years. To them leaving is seen as lacking loyalty.

      2. Eggs Benedict*

        What’s the point of going to grad school if she’s just going back to her old job afterwards?

        Like, I am all about the learning for the sake of learning thing, but when you’re quitting your job to go to grad school, in my perhaps limited understanding, it’s so you can be qualified for better or different jobs at the end of it – otherwise, it’s basically a year-long vacation from a career perspective.

        1. LA*

          Could be that she needs the knowledge/skills from the grad school degree to advance beyond that particular position, and the company wants her to be able to advance, rather than be stuck at a lower tier.

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          In this specific case I mentioned, we work for the US federal government. Getting in can be a long and arduous crapshoot of a process (It took me 2 years of applying to get in, with someone helping me), but once you’re in, it’s much easier to move around and move up. I *definitely* can understand her not wanting to have to start from the outside again if she wanted to remain a fed. So, who wouldn’t want to have a job waiting for them after school if you could make that happen? Then, coming back to her old job meant being able to move on within the government with her new credentials with relative ease. She could transition right back without missing a beat, put in another year or two, and then easily get a new position.

          (That particular lady also is super type-A. She was unlikely to leave anything to chance, including employment after school.)

    2. M is for Mulder*

      That wording is SO bizarre to me, there has to be more to this situation than what the letter says. If there isn’t some kind of job-sharing/sabbatical/exchange student-y agreement going on, then this sounds like the ominous promise of a supervillain.

      Also noteworthy: I right-clicked on “supervillian” to have Google check if I’d spelled it correctly, and it brought up Nicole Scherzinger. Her entry went away when I correct the “i” and “a” juxtaposition. WTF, Google?

    3. Else*

      Especially if it was such a short period – quitting, taking another job for a few months, then coming back – really, what fabulous new skill can you have earned in that period to offer them? It’s not like the letterwriter went and did a training course with their agreement for a thing that they need.

  8. First Time Caller*

    #4, I think you’re reading too much into it and twisting yourself into knots without reason. The second reply you got sounds a lot like the replies I write after I interview candidates for junior faculty positions. Usually I’ve already filled out the evaluation form and I don’t have final say-so anyway, so I try to sound as neutral about the result but still supportive of the person as possible. Even if I loved a candidate and lobbied to hire them, there can be so much involved in the decision about who to extend an offer to, and I never want to give false hope.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes, every time I’ve been on a search committee, my role was to give feedback to my boss, who actually made the decision. Sometimes that’s been written feedback and sometimes a discussion with my boss and the rest of the committee, but I never had more decision-making power than suggesting which candidate I thought would be best. I would be careful not to send any messages to any candidates that could seem like I was promising them anything since it wasn’t in my hands!

        1. Amtelope*

          It would make me nervous if it were one of my first contacts with a potential employer — from the outside, it’s hard to tell whether something like this reflects a single employee who’s inappropriately inserting religion into the workplace, or whether it reflects a workplace where religious talk is the norm. I would be really cautious about taking the job given that.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Sure, I’d treat it as a data point and would be extra curious about the culture going forward. But we’ve all had oddball coworkers; if I screened out workplaces based on one unusual potential coworker I’d have to work for myself.

            1. Else*

              If they think it’s okay to bring religion into a professional setting with a brand-new person they’ve had very little contact with, when they are supposed to be showing off the best of their employer, you know all you need to know. It isn’t just one person – the entire culture promotes that. Or is so poorly managed, it permits it. You’re right, it might not be that way – but the odds are much higher that it is. For many of us, this means you’ve found a nest of bees.

            2. Annie Moose*

              If I screened out workplaces based on unusual coworkers, I guarantee I couldn’t work for myself!

        2. Jule*

          If a person on the team explicitly designed to be a public face of the company feels comfortable saying that in their position, then yes, that’s sending a sign about the company culture.

    1. Lady Blerd*

      I was going to write this. I looked at the second response to see if it had the same line, it would have told me that maybe LW was applying at a religious organization like a church , it would make sense there. But in a secular job? I would take that as a dismissal of my application.

  9. Bec*

    #4 is definitely trying to read too much subtext into what appear to be otherwise very generic messages, but maybe ‘praying for you’ is a sign of their mentality and the way they’d treat people…?

    Then again this could just be me reading too much into something due to my own issues.

    1. yasmara*

      It also significantly depends on the location. I am constantly surprised by the amount of “praying for you” or other religious platitudes I hear in what I would consider to be a secular arena now that I’ve moved to the South.

  10. Taylor*

    Does anyone have the link to the post where Alison lists the things that hiring managers say that job seekers shouldn’t read too much into?

        1. Myrin*

          It’s not hard at all! You just need to copy the URL into the “Website” field below the comment box and voilà!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          While this is indeed handy, I hope it doesn’t become a practice here because I have links go through moderation for a reason (which is to guard against posts from companies/people promoting themselves, and if this becomes an easy way around that, it circumvents my protections against that). So I would ask that y’all continue to include them the normal way, knowing they won’t stay in moderation for long in most cases. Thank you!

          1. Taylor Swift*

            So, what is the point of allowing people to put links in their usernames if not for promotion? I never click on them or even bother to hover over them anyway.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s not the problem; the problem is with companies that leave comments like this on, say, a post about resumes:

              “For more help writing your resume, check out Gimmicky Resume Writers, Inc. at”

              Because links go to moderation, I see those and flag them as spam before the comment gets through. I don’t want them to start getting around that by using the method being discussed here.

              Basically, I have the site set to send comments with links to moderation for a reason, and I don’t want people to try to circumvent that.

    1. Close Bracket*

      > the things that hiring managers say that job seekers shouldn’t read too much into

      Wouldn’t that be pretty much *anything* a hiring manager says?

  11. Myrin*

    I am so incredibly fascinated by #1. If the situation were any different, I’d hazard a guess that for some unknown reason, Jill really does think she’s you guys’ boss (or at least has some kind of seniortiy-based authority over you) but that emphatically isn’t the case here.
    I’m really wondering about her reasons for this odd behaviour – if it were just that she tells others she’s your boss, I’d say she’s trying to seem more important than she is to those who don’t know any better. But the fact that she’s also trying to assign work (!) and scolds her actual boss (!!) points to some real disconnect between how she views herself and her role and how others view both of these things since she seems to think that she can somehow browbeat OP, Jack, or the actual boss to defer to her. Very strange and intriguing at the same time.

    1. Lance*

      It probably ties a lot into the point made in the letter, that she wants the authority but doesn’t want the responsibility. Maybe she’s just convincing herself that she can have the authority if she claims it enough… but even then, there’s a very real problem here that her manager needs to shut down ASAP, barring her termination if she keeps it up.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, that’s what I thought as well – I actually think the OP has really hit the nail on the head with that one sentence. It’s just so bizarre that Jill is extending that weird behaviour to her actual boss – I’m not denying that there probably are weak bosses who’ll let themselves be steamrolled like this but I’d say you really can’t count on that in general, so it’s really strange that she is still doing this, seeing how it hasn’t actually worked in the past.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Oh, maybe. There’s a lot of “authority is taken, not given” advice out there. Maybe she got that advice and mis-applied it?

    2. Blue*

      But if she denies it when called out, wouldn’t that suggest she knows it’s not correct? I really don’t know what to make of the situation, but I agree that the manager needs to turn up the heat on the coworker and OP should feel comfortable correcting that misconception whenever she hears it.

    3. Runner*

      I suppose there is the tiny possibility that she hasn’t been shut down entirely because her job actually is NOT the same as the OP’s (though same pay grade) and someone above has (mis?)communicated exactly what her role is — maybe to her, maybe to OP and/or the team. I mean, that she publicly scolded the boss suggests either she has completely lost it or he’s a team boss but not the boss she directly reports to perhaps. That’s a stretch, but I did want to put something like that out there, due to the otherwise inexplicable holes.

        1. Kyrielle*

          True, but having different roles doesn’t mean one is supervisory, and LW doesn’t describe the roles that way – and LW’s boss shutting it down *really* suggests LW’s take was accurate.

          I mean, when I was a senior teapot engineer with over 15 years of experience and my newish coworker was in QA as a teapot tester with less than a year of experience, we weren’t in the same role at all, and I had a lot of seniority. However, we shared a mutual boss, and if I had tried to act as the boss of the newest teapot tester, that would have been shut down *right fast*.

      1. Myrin*

        I thought about that, too, because I desperately want there to be a reasonable explanation for her behaviour but really, OP says “our boss” multiple times and has been on a team with Jill for ten years so I’d guess she’d be able to discern if any of that was the case. I vote for your option of “she has completely lost it”.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      I had two colleagues who were same level, same salary, same responsibilities as I, and they claimed to be faculty to everyone. There were no ambiguities at all- the word “faculty” wasn’t in our title, we didn’t teach, and we were in research positions.

      I think they wanted to look like they held a higher title and were more important. People even corrected them. They didn’t pretend it was a misunderstanding on the behalf of others and apologized, but they kept doing it.

    5. Fer Fox Sake*

      Pure speculation, but I wondered if Jill had been told by Fergus to manage work assignments/workflow, without telling OP1 or Jack. I’m in a similar situation with my boss, as he expects me (literally tells me to) manage some of the work in our department, but won’t tell me coworkers that he’s assigned that to me. It’s been a huge struggle – I’ve finally told him that I can’t manage in a vacuum and he needs to make this role more transparent so my co-workers know why I’m checking in on their progress and sending them assignments. He’s promised a title change/promotion that will make my role more clear, but I’ll believe it when it actually happens.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I was thinking maybe one of those previous half a dozen managers had told her something similar (or maybe Jill misinterpreted something they said to mean something similar) and now Jill has it a bit twisted in her head or is clinging to it for dear life (probably for the reasons that OP mentioned – that she wants to the authority without the responsibility).

        Ex: Three Ferguses ago did ask Jill to manage team assignments (or maybe even asked if that was something she was interested in persuing in the future?), so she just internalized that and thinks (and more imortantly *wants*) it to be part of her role.

        Doesn’t really change the advice – its just the only thing that makes the slightest bit of sense to me (other than Jill being completely detached from reality).

  12. Lars the Real Girl*

    #5. Unless this is a very specialized short-term program that you did this year, then I think you’re highly overestimating the benefit of your time there and probably coming across less like “unconventional trajectory” and more like “I made a mistake and I want to come back”.

    Just from your timeline, even if you had started in January, and you’ve already been applying for a while (which, you have been, right – like, for several months? You’re not taking their lack of interviewing you immediately after your application as a rejection?) that means that you had 5-6 months *at most* in the new role before trying to go back. There’s not a whole lot you can do in 5-6 months in a new job, especially in one that you say veered off career a little. Feeling like you gained massive additional experience can come across as out of touch.

    If you’re also then writing cover letters that stress this short role, you’re really doing yourself a disservice, because most people won’t see the value of your move – not because of where it was to, but because of how short it was.

  13. Narise*

    OP1 tell Jane about telling people that she’s in a specific position when she’s not is that she’s going to ruin her reputation. People are believing she’s the manager and treat her as such and then they find out that they were lied to they could call manager’s boss to complain or refuse to work with her in the future. Also what if one day she does take the job and no one believes that she’s the manager? What then?

    You could say something like the following when it happens again. “I’m guessing Jane told you she was my boss. They have told her to stop telling that to people but she won’t I’m not sure why she does it but it’s not accurate. Fergus is my manager not Jane.”

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, send the awkward back to sender. A fruity chuckle, “ah has she been saying she’s my manager again? How droll.” (Though with clients, that can be inadvisable to show a rift in the team.)

  14. Naomi*

    Would love to see an update from OP3. Given the emphasis in the interview that OP was supposed to be in Teapot Manufacturing, and OP’s lack of contact with the original manager since, I’m wondering if the other manager has poached OP without permission! (Which, if it is the case, is still not a great sign, because why on earth hasn’t the original manager been in touch to demand their employee back?)

  15. Lora*

    1. Used to work with a guy like this who was extremely ambitious. When confronted with the hierarchy as written in the company staff directory, he replied, “oh yeah that directory is all messed up”. When informed that he was kinda making a jerk out of himself, he ignored it. When the heads of other departments corrected him publicly and corrected their own staff who believed Mr Ambitious’s ego-fueled lies, the staff who were misled actually made multi million $$ mistakes because they made an incorrect change that he didn’t have authority to approve, and he was wrong about the change – of course, in addition to not having authority he also didn’t have expertise or even the appropriate technical background. That department has a problem with hiring now because nobody will work with him, and they’re in hot water with Finance about the mi$take$, sooooo…the fact that actual boss hasn’t come down on this like a ton of bricks is concerning. My ex colleague was extremely ambitious and had a nasty case of Dunning-Kruger, nothing else, but if you don’t crack down on that crap real hard and get a very humbled response, it really is indicative of a serious integrity problem.

    3. If there was a competing offer or your old job that you can go back to, RUN NOW. Bait and switch has happened to me three times. Every single time, the change really was permanent and the original position was something that they had hoped to have, or that got better applicants or sounded cool or whatever and if they’d told you the truth then you wouldn’t have looked twice at the job. And they know it. This isn’t a flipping accident. The lesson here is, they lied deliberately to you, they’ll lie about other things, they can’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag, they don’t care at ALL about their employees or turnover or integrity or fixing whatever problem there is in Teapot Delivery that is causing such high turnover there.

    Reasons for bait and switch I’ve run into:
    -Someone who is seen as un-fire-able for whatever reason but is a nightmare co-worker causes people to quit rather than work with them, and if anyone knew they’d be working with the King Of Jackholes, they’d never accept the headhunter’s phone calls.
    -About to re-org or have layoffs but haven’t announced publicly, department was going to be eliminated anyway.
    -Company has some sort of ethics problem/audit they’re trying to resolve but resolution is likely to take years and nobody sure what direction it will take.
    -Management utterly, completely clueless. Most incompetent booger-eaters you ever saw in your life. Should not be entrusted with a potted plant, much less their actual jobs or employees.
    Of course, it can be more than one of these.

  16. Birdie*

    What is going on in OP 4’s one response where the person says:” I’ll be praying for you”. ?
    Adding religious a religious comment to a business response certainly threw me off.

    1. Karo*

      I think this is a thing in some regions. I live in the Southeast U.S. and everyone sort of takes it for granted that everyone else is their type/intensity of Christian. I’ve been told to “Have a blessed day” during a number of otherwise standard conversations, and “I’m praying for you” would make me personally uncomfortable, but wouldn’t surprise me to read in an email.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        That was never my experience growing up in Rural NC. Haven’t lived there in seven years though.

      2. Yorick*

        I am from the South and I know many intense Christians, but I don’t think I know anyone who would say “praying for you” in this context

    2. Libervermis*

      If OP4 was applying to an academic position at a religious college, which is what it sounds like, “praying for you” is totally normal. At my religious undergrad, as at pretty much all of them, the faculty had to at least claim that they agreed with a certain statement of faith, students were required to go to chapel a certain number of times, etc. It was the kind of place where you didn’t just assume everyone else was Christian, you assumed they were Christian and took that pretty seriously. Most explicitly religious evangelical colleges are the same or even more intense.

  17. LKW*

    LW#2 – It is highly probable that your boss has deferred all gift giving / milestone management to his wife. And it’s entirely probable that she has no idea that you’re going through milestones or has assumed that he’s responsible for work things while she manages family/friends.

    He’s still totally to blame for not recognizing your milestones, but he may be blissfully unaware that he’s supposed to do things because in the rest of his life, the magical milestone fairy takes care of those things.

    1. SignalLost*

      I want a magical milestone fairy! I imagine my fairy as being able to keep track of that one card, you know, the one I got for so-and-so, and also able to do Christmas cards so I can use up all the dribs of boxed sets this year rather than keeping them for yet more years.

      1. Close Bracket*

        > I want a magical milestone fairy

        Also known as a wife :-). Yeah, I could use one of those, too.

    2. Lora*

      Ohhhh yeah. See the huge document linked in my name.

      Some people are just awful at even recognizing that emotional labor is a thing which exists in the world, never mind learning how to do it and then doing it consistently. They aren’t bad people or total a-holes, they’re just really exhausting.

      Note for people who haven’t ever learned to do emotional labor: You are super annoying and you are driving your bosses nuts with this stuff.

      From the Harper’s Bazaar article by Gemma Hartley on emotional labor:

      “For Mother’s Day I asked for one thing: a house cleaning service. Bathrooms and floors specifically, windows if the extra expense was reasonable. The gift, for me, was not so much in the cleaning itself but the fact that for once I would not be in charge of the household office work. I would not have to make the calls, get multiple quotes, research and vet each service, arrange payment and schedule the appointment. The real gift I wanted was to be relieved of the emotional labor of a single task that had been nagging at the back of my mind. The clean house would simply be a bonus.What I wanted was for him to ask friends on Facebook for a recommendation, call four or five more services, do the emotional labor I would have done if the job had fallen to me. I had wanted to hire out deep cleaning for a while, especially since my freelance work had picked up considerably. The reason I hadn’t done it yet was part guilt over not doing my housework, and an even larger part of not wanting to deal with the work of hiring a service. I knew exactly how exhausting it was going to be. That’s why I asked my husband to do it as a gift.

      My husband waited for me to change my mind to an “easier” gift than housecleaning, something he could one-click order on Amazon. Disappointed by my unwavering desire, the day before Mother’s Day he called a single service, decided they were too expensive, and vowed to clean the bathrooms himself. He still gave me the choice, of course. He told me the high dollar amount of completing the cleaning services I requested (since I control the budget) and asked incredulously if I still wanted him to book it.”

      I have had employees and colleagues do this ALL THE TIME. It is CRAZYMAKING. I will teach someone how to do the thing I have asked them to do, which as a grown adult with a field-relevant college degree and some work experience they should know how to figure out. I will write out an instruction manual and demonstrate it and hover while they do it the first few times, but after that I expect you to just do the thing. If I ask you to go find a thing to buy, and I tell you to look at a few options and here’s the contact info for some vendors, I kinda don’t want to hear about it again until you have a report for me. Just…figure it out and follow up on the logical thought process, and if you can’t do that then you need to work on this skill of How To Adult because really, it’s a problem. If you want the world (read: your boss) to view you as a competent human person who gets things done, this is a vital thing you need to do, and yes it is work.

      I would go so far as to put it down as one reason businesses fail. Because they don’t recognize, value, or promote this type of competence. And it’s often the difference between Happy Customers and “screw those guys,” and the difference between collaboration and silos.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Wow, that document on emotional labour is incredible. Thank you so much for doing all that!

      2. Clewgarnet*

        I think you’re me.

        I’ve just come back after a week of leave to an inbox full of people asking me to think for them.

        It really is exhausting.

      3. Broadcastlady*

        This. Went on vacation last week, started getting phone calls at 4:21 a.m. (I was in Pacific time zone, work is in Central)…exactly 21 minutes into the workday. Not emergency calls, calls that required minimal critical thinking, problem solving and logic. Had texts and calls when I woke up every single morning.

      4. swingbattabatta*

        That makes me appreciate my husband x 1000. It makes me so sad to read that thread, because it is SO TRUE for so many people and WHYYYYY. I think a lot of people (women in particular, but it is by no means a closed universe) have just hit. a. wall. with the way the world is lately.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Back in 1990 two married friends started grad school, and at the orientation-by-grad-students a theme was that they’d determined it really helped to have a wife. Regardless of your gender and orientation. A person who would manage the practical and social sides of your life while you worked in the lab.

    4. Allison*

      Ohhh yeah, didn’t even consider this, and the issue of emotional labor imbalance has definitely been on my radar lately.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      This was my first thought as well, although OP2 notes that the grad announcement was sent to boss&wife, in which case I’d think wife would presumably do the emotional labor and send a gift.

      1. Close Bracket*

        > I’d think wife would presumably do the emotional labor and send a gift.

        Maybe this particular wife is on to that bullshit and said, “Your employee, your problem.”

        I sure hope so.

  18. Broadcastlady*

    OP#1, from the description of your job, I know that my Mom is not your co-worker, but this is the story of my freaking life with my mother! She is NEVER wrong because she claims she “misspoke” or that I or other hearers “misunderstood.” My Mom’s go to line is “You have completely misinterpreted what I said.”

    You can never “win” an argument with this type of person. Ever. I have no advice, because after 36 years with my mother, and 40 years with her for my Dad, neither of us have ever been able to make it stop, but I empathize greatly, because dealing with a person like this is exhausting.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      My fiancée back in college was like this too. It drove me bananas and was a major factor in me breaking off the engagement and the relationship.

    2. Allison*

      Ah yes, the “I never said that” people, or “you’re twisting my words.” Even if someone did misspeak, and said something they didn’t mean, they should still acknowledge the impact their words had, rather than make it seem like you’re crazy or stupid for not magically knowing what they “really” meant.

  19. PRGuy*

    For OP#1, get it in writing by creating an email chain, since boss departure may be imminent. Conversations evaporate, email doesn’t.

  20. Jen Veenay*

    OP #5 I work for one of those huge global companies, and the current director of our unit has a policy of not rehiring anyone who leaves voluntarily. It’s not written down anywhere and I don’t think they tell people this, but I’ve worked for other companies that take this approach. It is sometimes harder to get hired back at a place you worked before than it is to start fresh.

  21. Blue_eyes*

    Hey Alison, see spam comment above. You don’t seem to get those very often so I thought you’d want to see it and delete it.

    1. Natalie*

      It helps if you put a link in your reply to flag it for her; I don’t think she’s any more or less likely to see other comments or replies.

  22. nnn*

    While reading #3, my brain wrote a story where the company hired two people with the same name on the same day, one in Teapot Delivery and one in Teapot Manufacturing. So over on the manufacturing side of the company, there’s another new employee with the same name who’s also feeling very put out.

    1. Myrin*

      Ha, I had the exact same thought! It’s almost too strange for me to think about otherwise. Or maybe OP was unknowingly sucked into an alternate universe where she’s actually a passtionate pro teapot deliverer.

    2. Fabulous*

      SAME!! Except my story just involved a very unorganized HR department that didn’t care who went where for orientation.

  23. Lily Rowan*

    #4 just reinforces my practice of not replying to interview thank-you notes, even though it always feels rude! There’s nothing good to say (especially as one member of an interview panel) that doesn’t have the potential to send the poor applicant into a tailspin.

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      This was my thought as well. Tbh, I have never received a response from a thank-you e-mail I’ve sent after an interview, and I would not expect to.

      I’d like to tell the OP not to read too much into the responses, but my gut feeling is that these responses do not sound encouraging, and are kind of a brush-off. I’m sorry, OP. I hope I’m wrong. Please send an update if you can!

    2. First Time Caller*

      Yeah, now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t respond to thank you emails at all! I know that when I *write* them, I like to hear back a “it was nice to meet you too” and I try not to read too hard into the words of the people who don’t make the final call.

    3. Someone else*

      Yeah. I was surprised to read how normal those replies were considered and not to read into them. I’m used to not getting a response to those unless the point of the response were to either keep your hopes up or an indicator not to. The notion of a neutral response in this context is foreign to me. I’m very much used to no reply at all to interview thank yous, other than to move one forward in the process or as a rejection.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, you say you have been there for 10 years and Jill has been there for 20…Is this something she’s just started doing recently? Have you worked together well for all this time up until now? These questions may not be relevant but it’s just such odd behavior for a long-term (and presumably valuable having been there for so long) employee..

  25. Allison*

    1) I dealt with this in my last job and I’m dealing with it now, to a degree (no one’s calling themselves my boss but they sure do act like I work for them), it doesn’t seem uncommon for people to try to take charge of their colleagues, either so they can feel powerful or so they can get promoted to a position of actual power over their peers. I sympathize, it’s a crappy situation to be in, especially if a difference in age or gender is playing a role. And being relatively young, I feel awkward trying to correct it or confirm the actual hierarchy without sounding insubordinate – what if my boss did intend for so-and-so to manage me on some level? I would ask my boss “hey, I know I officially report to you, but is Jim supposed to be directing my work as well?” see what your boss says, and go from there, reporting on specific behaviors as needed.

    2) It was nice of you to give gifts, if a little unnecessary, but giving a gift doesn’t obligate anyone to return the favor. Some people just aren’t gift-givers. I’m not someone who views announcements or parties surrounding life events as “cash grabs” or “gift grabby,” but in this case you do seem to be expecting someone to give a gift or money in response to an announcement which is tacky. Don’t do that. Announce the graduation with pride, accept what is given and don’t grumble about who didn’t respond as you’d expected.

  26. Marthooh*

    #1 – Don’t bother talking to Jill! Tell your boss she’s making problems for you and for the company. He needs to know, and maybe he needs some ammunition to use on her.

  27. OldJules*

    #5 Some company has an official or unofficial ‘no rehire policy.’ Some think that you need to be ‘loyal’, some think that if you have left before, where is there to stop you from leaving again… etc etc… Especially since you are returning so soon, under a year. A hiring manager, rightly or wrongly, might assume that you tanked it outside and now wants to come back. It’s significantly different, if you have left for several years and expended your horizons and added more experience under your belt. Especially when you are not returning to the same manager. Sorry for being all over the place but there are many places who don’t rehire employees who left for the right or wrong reason. While I think it’s a great idea to go out to expand your horizons, especially when you are younger professional, it’s a gamble and typically you don’t expect to return to the original organization so soon. A method that worked for a co-worker was to stay connected to all the people in the org you want to return to. That kinda keeps a foot/toe in the door.

  28. OP#1*

    Jill has had authority issues with multiple of our bosses along the lines of trying to control assignments, but it’s been tolerated to a large extent because of her long tenure and the fact bosses flip so fast (so it takes them a while to catch on to what she is doing). From my third manager on, the managers have all been here fewer years than any of us. The company reorganizes at least yearly. Sometimes that means a new boss, but managers also leave the company far more frequently than non-managers. Jill has said she doesn’t want to be in management because they all get laid off.

    As far as telling other people she is the boss, I became aware of that over the summer via multiple people expressing their belief she is my boss and a conversation with my actual boss, where he brought up the time she scolded him and the fact she told someone at an industry conference in front of him that she was the boss. (This is when she “misspoke”.) I told him then about people being confused by her, and I can’t tell if it has been curbed and I’m just realizing now how big this issue was as I have to correct more people, or if she’s still doing it. It’s hard to tell with being in different physical locations. She has never said this in front of me, and I would shut it down immediately if she did.

    We are definitely peers. We have some overlap, but we have distinct roles and our company org chart shows us as all reporting to our boss. (Not that anyone goes and verifies what someone says against the org chart – at least I wouldn’t normally check what someone told me.) She and Jack actually have the exact same title, but my job and title are different.

    I have to wonder a little if this is related to a health scare last year that kept her out of the office for a few weeks last year and that she now feels that she needs to reassert some kind of authority, but this behavior just baffles me.

    1. Aurion*

      She claimed to be the boss, in front of your actual boss, at an industry conference.

      Dear lord.

      Your boss needs to shut this down, hard–even if it’s not a current thing anymore, I’d still mention it to your boss because good grief, what the hell. I think you have standing to shut this down right now, even if she’s no longer doing it. I know you said you’d shut it down immediately if she makes this claim in front of you, but you don’t have to wait.

      “Jill, I’ve recently learned that X vendor and Y colleague assumed you were my boss. You are not my boss and going forward, you need to make that very clear to anyone you speak with and correct all misunderstandings on that front. This mistake has caused A and B problems with X and Y and is not acceptable.” (Except with better language–Alison?)

    2. Been there*

      Oh dear. I think if I were you I’d start a campaign on my own to clear this up and to discredit Jill. Apparently your boss doesn’t seem able or willing to correct this so it seems as though you are on your own.

      With people outside of your company I would just state the facts, Jill is a peer and not a coworker, if you need to contact my boss here is their contact information.

      With people inside your company; get a couple of scripts “No Jill isn’t my boss. I have no idea where that rumor started but I work for Jane” “I have no idea why Jill told you she was my boss, we are peers and always have been”

      If you really want to squash the misinformation find the biggest gossip in the office and find a way to let it slip… “Yeah the weirdest thing keeps happening to me, Fergus was the latest person to tell me that he was told by Jill that I worked for her. I have no idea what’s going on… I’ve never worked for Jill. I can’t understand what’s going on, Fergus doesn’t seem like the type to make things up, but the only alternative is that Jill is telling people that I work for her. How weird is that, I mean I can’t believe someone would do that but I don’t know what to think”

    3. RVA Cat*

      “The company reorganizes at least yearly.”

      GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT. That right there is enough for you to be actively job-searching, completely apart from the Jill situation. The two combined sound like Crazytown.

      1. OP#1*

        The company is huge and has gone through mergers, new ownership, and multiple board changes. The frequent reorgs have been happening all along, but the time between has gotten much shorter in the last few years. It started out as not a yearly thing and I think is averaging closer to twice a year the last two years. For various personal reasons, the last few years have not been a good time for me to be changing jobs (and there are aspects of my job I really like), but this year my time outside of work has been about getting my personal life back on track. I plan to start looking post-holidays.

    4. JulieBulie*

      I… I just… I mean…
      She has a history of this behavior? And there’s been a long parade of managers over the years? Any chance there’s a relationship between her behavior and the unhappy parade?

      I wish one of those managers had spoken to HR. And I wish that manager had left a note for his or her successor warning about Jill, and asking the successor to tell HR about Jill too.

      There are companies where behaving the way Jill does would get her fired quickly. Others where it would get her ridiculed. I am agog that she’s been able to get away with this for so long.

      Aside from all of that, yearly (or more frequent) reorgs are usually a very bad sign. I hope you are keeping some irons in the fire.

Comments are closed.