what to do if your boss finds out you called him a moron

I’m off for the holiday so there are no more posts coming today, but here are some random things:

1. I talked to the Boston Globe last week about what to do if your boss finds out you called him a moron. (Warning: this is politically-themed.)

2. Brit + Co. compiled a list of their 10 favorite Ask a Manager letters.

3. Some other pieces from the last few months: I talked to CNBC about office lunch thefts and side gigs and why the ghosting ex story attracted so much outrage, the Washington Post about interview questions you don’t have to answer, Quartz about how soon you can fire someone you know was a bad hire, and Moneyish about offices that pressure people to buy their bosses gifts.

{ 164 comments… read them below }

        1. Kate*

          There wasn’t a witch or wizard who went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin. At least that’s my guess, since the people in some of these letters (the food stealer, the ex ghoster) behaved REALLY badly.

  1. Hills to Die on*

    I love seeing how much AAM’s readership (is that a word? It’s okay to tell me.) has grown over the years!

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I am very impressed with how diplomatic you were in the Boston Globe article :)

      1. Hanna*

        a lifetime spent trappin’ beavers and waitin’ on the harvest moon or whatever

        It’s the “or whatever” that really sells it.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Mmkay but I’m from WY and I think that this is more a comment on Rex playing coy than it is a comment about…rural life up here. Hope the writer hadn’t intended it as a jab at us.

          1. fposte*

            It seemed pretty clear to me that it was a jab at Rex’s pretended innocence and that the tropes were deliberately as exaggerated as his pose.

            1. Alli525*

              That’s how I read it too. It’s a little ridiculous of him to act all small-town when you’re a global oil exec who received an Order of Friendship from Putin himself.

            2. Becky*

              Yup that’s how I read it and I believe how it is intended to be read.

              For me it made a mental picture of Rex Tillerson in a Davey Crockett-esque outfit complete with racoon cap.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Try cleaning out your cookies. You may have looked at other articles and the cookies are keeping track of you. You could delete the cookies and try again.

    1. a girl has no name*

      has anyone seen the episode of Veep where Selina asks Amy to find out who called her the c word, and it was every one of her staff but Gary? This totally made me think of that. hahaha

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        There was an ep of 30 Rock where Liz said some stuff about Jack in front of a reporter and had to investigate who was responsible!

  3. Lady Phoenix*

    Yeah, my friend deacribed the ghosting letter as a public execution. People REALLY wanted to see this guy get bit by the karma fairy and were happy he did. In a lot of cases, this attitude can be horrifically toxic… but because this guy was adamantly unsympathetic and uncaring, the public outcry was well deserved.

    My other friend said that he mostly likely was working with a visa, so quiting his job meant he HAD to leave the country and his girlfriend — because some visas require you to have a job.

    I feel bad for the new girlfriend, but it was apparent this company did NOT want to deal with this bullshit.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It was definitely the fact that he seemed to have zero concept of how horrific his actions were 10 years ago that outraged people. The simple fact that he called it “ghosting” after living with a woman for 2 years was pretty telling.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And also the fact that he kept leaving out really relevant info (like he didn’t mention it was a long-term relationship where they lived together until I asked him directly how long they’d dated).

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, that was… interesting. If he’d gone out for coffee once and then “ghosted” it would be slightly immature and conflict-averse, but not really worse than that. That they were actually living together makes it so completely different that he was either deliberately lying by withholding information or really, REALLY clueless as to how social interactions work.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right! And if he did leave it out deliberately, that’s really weird — because how can you get good advice if you leave out really important info? Like, is looking better to a group of strangers more important than actually getting advice on the question you wrote in about? So that makes me think that he genuinely discounted the importance of that in his mind, which speaks to a certain coldness/lack of empathy that was the pattern through both letters. (I also think he probably isn’t hugely motivated by avoiding looking bad to a group of strangers, since he was willing to send in an update after getting savaged by the whole internet after the first letter.)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Not just send an update, but double down on his statements! And in both letters he speculated Sylvia was to blame for his troubles, which contributed to his theory that she was “crazy” and “obsessed” with him… including when there were much more logical explanations that didn’t involve her. It was bizarrely cavalier in a disturbing way.

            2. PurpleNovember*

              Pretty sure his post-savaging update was out of self-pity– it sounded very much like the toxic mindset that says “Everyone is mean to me for no reason, therefore I’m justified in everything I do because I have to protect myself because everyone is mean to me for no reason.” It kind of goes along with the “I might as well trash this relationship because you’re going to leave me anyway” mindset.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              He told the story in a manner that he thought would get him a certain type of answer.
              He did not get that answer.
              It looks to me like suddenly nothing mattered any more so that is why he was able to update. All was lost anyway.

              1. Lady Phoenix*

                Sometimes I wonder if people like the dude write knwoing deep in the back of their minds that the answer is gonna hurt, but hoping that there is a less painful answer… then they realize, yeah, AAM is not gonna give them the answer the really want.

                Hate that in the update he threw Allison under the bus too. Allison, does it ever disapoint you when these people blame you for their troubles and ignore your advice?

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      The whole letter – and even, though to a lesser extent, the update – read like a guy who wanted us to agree that, “This, like, wasn’t really that big of a deal, was it? She really needs to let this (being abandoned and vanished on) thing go, right? Only a crazy person would be bothered by this, right? Boys will be boys, right?”

      Ugh. It was a big deal; she does need to let it go but only because that’s the way for her to have a nice life and in any case, that won’t minimize what you did to her; you don’t have to be a crazy person to be bothered by being abandoned; no, boys won’t be boys; and besides, you weren’t a boy.

      It was the whole attitude of his that yeah, he realized it wasn’t his best option, but she practically drove him to it and hey it’s all water under the bridge now. It rubbed wide swathes of the internet the wrong way – including me!

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Oh true, but I just feel bad because she is essentially another woman left behind. Granted that was because he was on bisa and she was on a different one, and not just “I don’t wanna deal with drama so I’m gonna dump it all on her, our friends, and my family”

        You know, I probably would be pissed at him if I was his sister and he dropped off the planet without a word and I had to deal with the fallout.

  4. Margali*

    Ugh, though Brit + Co includes this in the first paragraph, “…[Ask A Manager], a handy resource to give every working gal a place to vent their frustrations and get actually helpful answers to their most burning work-related questions.”

    Working gal??? Seriously??? Bleah!

        1. Sarianna*

          There is also a great meme going around about people assuming instances of queer women as “just gals being pals!” instead of dating. The meme images can get super snarky.

          1. many bells down*

            I say this (sarcastically) to my sister and her girlfriend all the time. There’s a few family members who still don’t *quite* get it, and they’ve been together for 7 years!

          2. Willow*

            Or straight women referring to platonic female friends as their “girlfriends”. So confusing!

        1. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

          Everyday sexism … so very not 2017!

          I overheard some women talking about you and THAT LETTER a few weekends ago at an event in Detroit. (It was D’Electricity, not a professional networking thing.) We were walking through the crowds and a few people in front of us were going on and on about it and couldn’t remember the blog so I piped up and said it’s “Ask a Manager” dot org. We ended up standing around looking at your blog on our smartphones for 10 minutes instead of looking at the exhibits!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, I assumed the “gals” thing was a Brit thing (sorry to all Brits in advance if I’m being problematic with my assumptions).

          1. Looby*

            I don’t think Brit + Co is British, they talk about “Fall” on their website.
            Anyway, speaking as a British person, the first time I heard someone use the phrase “gals” was in Canada.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              OMG my misreading is amazing. For all I know, this woman’s name is Brit. X_X

          2. Wintress*

            I live in the UK and have never heard anyone use “gals” unless they are doing a mock-US accent.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s annoying. And the rest of the article is really well done! It’s meticulous in getting the summaries of the letters right (which often doesn’t happen) and even links to them. De-gal it and it would be completely delightful.

  5. Brandy*

    I have a question on the lunches. It says that the brown bagger spends $1700 a year and a eat outer around $1100. The eat outer spends more per day but looks like the brown bagger spends more per year. Am I seeing this correctly?

    1. Brandy*

      OK never mind. I realized the eat outer was only 2x a week and the brown bagger was 5x a week.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      It appears the eat outer only has two lunches a week? The $1100 was for two lunches a week, the $1700 for five brown bags. But that doesn’t make sense either, since eat outers still eat all week. What this really tells me is that going to the source (reading AAM directly) is the better option.

      1. kittymommy*

        Maybe they’re like me and can stretch one restaurant meal into two (or three) meals?? I doubt it though. Sounds like they’re just forgetting snoabout ut the other three meals.

      2. Amy*

        It’s poorly presented. The average is $2,476 that includes eating out and brown bagging. The average person eats out twice a week at a cost of $1043. If they brown bag the rest of the week that’s an additional $982 for a total of $2025. A person who brown bags all the time is spending $1704. The overall average is being driven up by people who eat out more than twice a week.

      3. k8*

        i think they’re trying to show (poorly) how great the cost difference is– as in, if you eat out only twice a week its already this much, or something. but yeah it took me a minute to figure out what was happening.

    3. trilusion*

      I read it not as a comparison of 2 people (one who buys lunch and one who doesn’t) but as 1 person with 7 weekdays and their average costs for lunch.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Oh, I see below Alison reached out to her but hasn’t heard back. I’m hoping it is because OP doesn’t want to relive the memories and has moved on with a big settlement.

  6. Antilles*

    In a recent survey, 18 percent of workers told American Express OPEN they had eaten someone else’s lunch out of the office fridge.
    I don’t even know how to respond to that. Like….what…in the world? 18 percent? That seems *crazy* high to me. But maybe I’ve just gotten lucky to work with non-lunch-thieves and/or it’s happened to others at my offices but I never heard about it?

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      I had exactly the same reaction. I don’t think I’ve ever had my lunch stolen. I wonder if it’s more prevalent in certain work situations than in others? E.g., I wonder if it’s more common in big companies where you aren’t going to know many of your coworkers? I mean, it’s probably easier to steal from strangers than from people you’re going to have to look in the eye on a regular basis.

      1. Ellen N.*

        I’ve worked in several companies all of which had about 30 employees. Every one of them had problems with lunch thieves.

        My lunch was never stolen. I am a vegetarian who brought leftovers from dinner for my lunch. When I told a coworker that I’d never had my lunch stolen he said it wasn’t surprising that nobody wanted my vegetables.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          Huh. Well, then I guess I’ve just been lucky…or you’ve been unlucky, Ellen. I tend to bring pretty good stuff in my lunches, which are seldom if ever vegetarian, and no thieves so far. But if the survey is at all accurate, I guess I’ve been the lucky one.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Same, never had mine stolen and have only seen someone else’s food stolen once. A few of us went out to lunch and stopped by a local ice-cream shop and got ice cream. One of us wanted to save her ice cream for later, and had the shop pack it for her in a to-go cup, a brown bag, with a plastic spoon inside. She put the bag in the freezer and went to get it, either later in the day, or the next day… The brown bag and the spoon were still there. The ice cream was gone! Only case of lunch theft I have ever seen in my 20 years in the US corporate environment.

        I don’t think I’d eat a random coworker’s lunch if you paid me to do it, for all the reasons mentioned on this subthread.

    2. Baffled*

      I just don’t even understand why this thought occurs to someone. Why would see a prepared meal that wasn’t yours and go, “oh, look, lunch!”?

      I make exceptions for packaged foods, especially those that are brought in by the box/bunch, just because some offices do offer free food.

      But that’s not always the kind that gets taken. And people also still take things that are labeled. I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        The morality of theft aside, you have no idea what the person put in their lunch. Sure, from the outside it might look like a PB&J or leftover casserole, but maybe it’s made of baby harp seals and methamphetamine. Why take a chance?

        1. Jaydee*

          Exactly! I mean, doesn’t everyone know you need a downer with your baby harp seals? Meth goes much better with bald eagle eggs.

        2. Alter_ego*

          I have so many good allergies, the idea of eating anonymous food is mind boggling to me. Did you know there are people who put peanut butter in chili!? You can’t assume anything is safe (Not that I’d eat people’s lunches if I didn’t have allergies, for the record)

          1. Lissa*

            Ooh, peanut butter in chili…. I’ll have to try that! I love putting weird things in chili and it hasn’t been inedible yet! (I don’t cook for anyone but me and my partner, so I’m not surprising anyone though.)

      2. No Green No Haze*

        Few years ago I was working for the day with a couple of guys, let’s call them Goofus and Gallant. All three of us had gotten lunch from a local sub shop: Gallant ate half of his and saved the other half in the communal fridge for later.

        Goofus later ate it, thinking it was his.

        They had not ordered the same kind of sandwich.

        When confronted, Goofus was relieved. “Oh, that explains it,” he said, having been confused about how his sandwich had changed identity. No apology, no thought for Gallant’s loss of sandwich, no explanation about how he powered through eating something he didn’t recognize — just blank, problem-solved relief. “SORRY I ATE YOUR SANDWICH, GALLANT,” I had to prompt, to bafflement.

        Gallant stopped being angry because Goofus’s total incomprehension was clearly pathological and also hilarious.

        1. nonymous*

          This happened to my mom once! She said when she found the culprit, he looked down at her spaghetti he was chowing down and said something along the lines of being confused why his wife had packed spaghetti (cause leftovers from his home was something else). And then he offered her his leftovers as compensation!

      3. Amy*

        We had an issue at one place I worked because a lot of people ate lean cuisines and smart ones and yogurts. People would lose track of which ones were theirs and end up eating someones by mistake. We out a sharpie and a roll of masking tape by the fridge and it solved most of the problems.

        1. Jen in Oregon*

          This. I am the 18%. I made abject apologies and immediate restitution. Now, had the question been “Have you ever knowingly eaten some one else’s lunch, I think/hope the percentage would have been a lot lower.

        2. Cercis*

          Yep, the one and only time I stole someone’s lunch was when we had the exact same type of frozen meal. I’d thought I was out, but no one else had ever brought that type and flavor so when I saw one in the freezer I assumed that I’d just miscounted (I’d recently had a baby and miscounting was actually a thing for me at the time). I apologized and offered to buy her lunch and then the next day brought in a meal to replace the one I’d taken and a sharpie that was taped to the fridge so we could label our meals.

          Thankfully she was very gracious about it, but since that time (more than 18 years ago), I’ve always made sure to either label my food or bring it in something distinctive so I didn’t mix it up with someone else’s.

      4. Ulf*

        I will say that when my lunches consisted largely of sardines and crackers, early in my career, no one ever tried to take them.

        Since then, well…no one has tried to take my non-sardine lunches either, so maybe that theory isn’t quite on target…

      5. Lison*

        I accidentally may have done this with generic packaged food and since I suspected I did it I have gone without lunch on a couple of occasions rather than pick the wrong one of the two (yes I know I have issues) it to me has echoes of https://theoldvillage.wordpress.com/2004/01/28/douglas-adams-shares-a-true-story/ in that I imagine the other person is coming into the lunch room, correctly looking in the fridge they put their meal in and finding it gone, seeing me eating their lunch and not looking in the other fridge to see an available same meal because they can remember which fridge they left their lunch in and I’m a dolt.

        1. SarahKay*

          I just read the story at your link and ended up nearly crying with laughter when I got to the end.
          But, oh, gosh, just thinking about if that was me is making my prickly with embarrassment. I can entirely see why you’d leave the lunch if you weren’t sure which one was yours!

      6. schnauzerfan*

        Not a lunch, but we had an meeting that we ended up having to reschedule due to a snow storm. We put the 18 dozen cookies in the staff room freezer to keep them fresh for the rescheduled meeting. When we went looking for them they were gone. 18 dozen! in a room that only 10 people had access to.

    3. fposte*

      It might include us inadvertent lunch thieves–I know I’m not the only one who’s posted here about grabbing a commercial frozen lunch that was the brand I buy–but wasn’t one I bought.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, I think this happened to me, that the thief probably didn’t do it on purpose. I started labeling after that.

      2. GiantPanda*

        You are not the only one!

        This microwave meal looks as if it were mine, but is it… oh well, it expires in 2 days, I’ll just eat it…

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I accidentally ate someone else’s apple once, because I thought it was the one I’d brought. The kitchen was right beside my office, so I heard her come to the fridge and look for her apple and express confusion that it wasn’t there. That’s when I figured out that I’d eaten an apple that wasn’t mine, so I fessed up and told her I’d bring her an apple the next day, which I did.

        1. fposte*

          In my case the person posted an angry note. It didn’t say who it was, so I posted a note saying sorry, I have a ton of Michelina’s in the freezer too and just grabbed the wrong one; let me know who you are and I’ll pay you back. And my guess is that they were embarrassed about how angry the note was, because nobody ever contacted me.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ha. You could put a Michelina’s in the fridge with a missed-connections post-it on it :-)

    4. paul*

      I ate someone else’s lunch once.

      They’d quit a week ago and left a frozen microwave meal in the freezer and I was starving. Still felt bad.

    5. Czhorat*

      I used to keep my lunch in an insulated bag with an icepack, which is a good way to prevent stealing.

      Nowadays I leave it in the fridge, but work from home. Uusally the only one around to steal it is the cat, and she and I have an understanding.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I misread that as “icepick” and thought, “Yes, that would be a good deterrent to theft.”

    6. Temperance*

      It seems so gross to me. IDK, you’re either eating leftovers that someone might have taken a bite out of (gross) or food prepared under unknown circumstances. Maybe it’s because I worked with a woman who never washed her hands in the bathroom, but yuck, yuck, yuck.

      1. Kit Cat*

        Agreed. Maybe they have cats who walk on their countertops. Maybe they have cold sores. Maybe they have cats with cold sores.

      2. Kathleen Adams*

        Before stealing their food, I would absolutely remember those who I know don’t always wash ! Heck, I think about it at potlucks sometimes, too. But even aside from that, some people are just not that careful with food hygiene. Yuck, yuck, yuckety yuck!

      3. lunch thief victim*

        I know, right? Last week my lunch of leftovers included a huge chicken breast. I couldn’t eat it all, so put the uneaten half in a plastic ziploc bag and in the refrigerator at work. The next day I did not eat it because I brought a full lunch, but it was still in the refrigerator. The day after that, I brought only vegetables and wanted the partial piece of chicken, but it was gone! Who does that??

        Maybe I am unlucky, but this is my second or third time that someone stole my lunch. For that reason, I use a lunch bag with ice pack. The one time I put food in the refrigerator, it’s gone.

    7. Regular Commenter Who's Going Anonymous For This One*

      Depends on how you define “lunch thief”… I did steal a piece of pizza out of the fridge once, but it was in a box of other slices of pizza that were obviously leftovers from a group of people going out to lunch (and there were four or five other slices too). In my defense, I was unbelievably bored and hungry and wandering around the building in late afternoon on a Friday. And it was from the break room on a different floor. And they had plenty of other pieces. So… I didn’t feel as guilty as I probably should.

    8. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, I was flabbergasted by that.

      I really…really…REALLY hope that that 18% includes a lot of people who did it once when they were super clueless or broke and desperate and will Never Ever do it again.

    9. Annie*

      I did once – accidentally! I thought it was my Lean Cuisine in the freezer as I would bring in a few boxes at a time and didn’t realize others did the same. Then my blind coworker came and asked me if I could help him find his meal, he couldn’t find it. I accidentally ate it! I was mortified.

  7. Bob*

    In regards to your comment from the article about dysfunctional work environments, I have been there. Working for an extremely dysfunctional boss eventually spreads to her directs and then to their staff. I think you often have to be somewhat dysfunctional in how you treat your co-workers to be successful in such an environment. I know I found myself sometimes doing things I would be ashamed to do in my current job and never gave them a second thought at the time. You started out thinking they were weird, even bordering on unethical, but eventually it became business as usual.

    And much like our current White House administration, we had the same positions turn over many times. I think that is also a sign of dysfunction. You start out trying to simply do a good job, slowly distort your job performance to please your boss and then finally realize you ultimately can’t do both. Not pleasing your boss will always get your fired so you choose that over doing a good job. But not doing a good job will still get you fired, just not today.

    I will admit I can only see how things went down at that job with some hindsight. When you’re living it, you can tell something is not right but it’s hard to pinpoint the boss is the issue. When I’m interviewing for jobs now and I hear the last few people weren’t in the job long (assuming they weren’t promoted), I take that as a HUGE red flag.

    1. Seal*

      I have been there as well and to this day I’m embarrassed by some of my own actions at my horribly toxic job fresh out of college. To be honest, the whole idea of cause and effect in that situation never really hit home until I started reading AAM. I left that job over 15 years ago after being stuck there for over a decade and I still marvel at what people got away with, myself included. As miserable as that time was, it has also given me incredible insight into how easy it is for organizations to become dysfunctional, These days, I can spot a bully a mile away – that’s proven to be a very important skill to have.

    2. Esme Squalor*

      A close friend of mine recently left her first/only professional job of almost 20 years at a highly dysfunctional workplace, and hearing her describe her behavior at her new job sometimes sends me into apoplexy. For example, she vents to her assistant (her own direct report) about Big Boss, including recapping their one-on-ones and complaining about her behavior, and then will ask Assistant for her “perspective”–basically using her power as this woman’s supervisor to force her to gossip about their shared boss. I’ve tried one or two times to offer some very diplomatically phrased advice, but she gets extremely offended (I think partially because she’s quite a bit older than me and frames herself as my mentor), so I’ve taken a hardlined not-my-circus-not-my-monkeys philosophy and keep my mouth shut when she tells me work stories that set my hair on end.

    3. copy run start*

      At NewJob, we are attempting to land a project for OldJob and boooy am I getting flashbacks just from looking at the page design and verbiage on the documents OldJob provided. I almost hope we don’t get the bid.

      Say it with me now: Staff meetings are not public shaming events. Staff meetings are not public shaming events. Staff meetings are not public shaming events.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Frankly, Bite Lady is my hero. It has never occurred to me to bite anyone, but I have worked with people who sorely deserved it. I hope she got lipstick on his sleeve.

  8. Argh!*

    I can never understand what a “good fit” would be in a workplace that values diversity. How outrageous should the non-fitting be to justify firing someone?

    1. Czhorat*

      ALso, if the place DOES value diversity than accepting and understanding this IS part of being a good fit. Look at the guy who got himself fired from Google for writing an anti-diversity memo; I’d argue that he is a spectacularly poor fit for any place valuing a diverse workforce.

    2. Student*

      As a non-discriminatory “fit” example, we check for fit with our safety culture.

      We sometimes work with dangerous stuff. We frequently work with stuff that is extremely difficult or expensive to clean up. If you aren’t willing to follow safety rules, you don’t belong here. If you aren’t willing to follow safety rules you sometimes vehemently disagree with, you don’t belong here. If you aren’t willing to fill in safety or regulatory paperwork, you don’t belong here. If you aren’t willing to follow rules if they are inconvenient, you don’t belong here. There are plenty of people who fall into these categories, and they can cost our company lots of wasted time and money if we don’t catch them fast enough.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Another good fit example: at my job, we’re very flexible with certain limits of what front-line employees should or should not do for certain accounts. If I get a client that is serviced by a different team, but their request is simple and I’m able to do it, it’s better for me to do it than to transfer them, even though I’m technically not part of their service team, and the border between “I should just do this” and “I should transfer this” can be really squoodgy. That kind of flexibility is not something everyone is capable of internalizing (and, in fact, is the cause of a certain degree of friction between teams).

    4. fit*

      I will keep details spare, but we fired someone not too long ago due to poor fit. In this case, the fit issue related to a working style that conflicted with the way our organization operates, and therefore caused conflicts among employees and resulted in our inability to deliver on commitments we’d made. The person was very micro-managing of their team, when our preference is to empower. The person was also very hierarchical and concerned with titles and levels within the organization, when our style tends towards jumping in and working with whoever can help. The person probably would have done fine in a more formal and structured environment, but did not fit in ours.

  9. Esme Squalor*

    Revisiting the top 10 posts made me wonder whatever happened to the letter writer whose boss was tracking her down at her chemo clinic. Was there ever an update? Does Alison ever reach out to posters directly asking for an update? I hope that letter writer, at minimum, got a new job and went into remission.

      1. Esme Squalor*

        Oh man, I really hope that means she just doesn’t check that email. I hope she’s out there doing OK in a great job with a level-headed, appropriately behaved boss with boundaries.

        1. Esme Squalor*

          I wanted to add: if that letter writer ever stumbles into this thread, please drop Alison a line to let us all know you’re doing OK!

  10. Helena*

    I was floored by the letter about the colleague with night terrors. I mean, I understand it is a sleep disorder and she can’t help it, but when you know you have them, don’t give any warning and don’t listen when your colleagues tell you how freaked out it makes them (it’s no big deal), it doesn’t make you look great. Embarrassment aside, how do you continually not give people a heads up? And ugh to the awful managers who won’t listen to their employees about how much this is affecting their sleep.

  11. Anon for this*

    The witchcraft one still tickles me, because apparently, that’s a thing happens occasionally. A former boss had a temporary employee who threatened to hex my boss if she didn’t hire her on as a full-time employee. Needless to say, the temporary employee was terminated, marked Do Not Use in the system, and building security was notified. At the time, we thought it was the most bizarre thing, but I guess not!

    I also worked in a different office that had an altar for a particularly stubborn copier. If you didn’t make an offering, it didn’t work. It accepted flowers, candy, paper clips, and other small, office-related items. I’m sure it was the greatest office prank of all time, but we did finally receive a functional copier. Nothing is quite as bewildering to office visitors as a large, visible altar to…a copier? I wish I had pictures. It was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door and it was amazing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ooooh, I’m very interested to hear about another instance of hexing at work! (I love that letter so much. For my upcoming book, I picked 20 favorite already-published letters to include among all the new content, and that was top of my list. I even wanted to incorporate it into the book name but was overruled.)

      1. many bells down*

        I had some people at one of my teaching jobs get together and try to have me fired for “being a witch”. I am in fact a Pagan, my boss had accidentally let it slip in a meeting, and I suddenly became a “bad influence on the children” after 3 years working there.

        1. Margali*

          Since it was “tried” in the past tense, I’m hoping that they failed! So sorry you had to go through that.

          1. many bells down*

            They did. They took it to Big Boss who said “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” They didn’t drop it, though, and I got an “anonymous” letter about how I needed to repent so that we could all “party in heaven”. It wasn’t really anonymous because the authors had tried to give it directly to my boss, who told them it was inappropriate, so they snuck it into my work mailbox instead.

            I assume they were spoken to for that because I never heard another peep about it for the rest of my time there. Although one woman in a different department avoided me thereafter.

            1. Sofie*

              I needed to repent so that we could all “party in heaven”.

              … I refuse to believe that any heaven worth the name has mandatory work parties.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                I needed to repent so that we could all “party in heaven”.

                …If they offer you Kool-Aid, run.

      2. Mephyle*

        Just between us who are here on this post, can you tell us the book name you weren’t allowed to use?

    2. paul*

      This must be more common than people thought…it hasn’t happened to me, but a friend back in college worked as a janitor for the local school system (good hours for a college student). One of his coworkers cursed their supervisor when they got written up.

    3. Chinook*

      “I also worked in a different office that had an altar for a particularly stubborn copier. If you didn’t make an offering, it didn’t work”

      Just remember – burnt offerings go next to the copier, never on it (and especially not while the offerings are still burning) – you don’t want to know where I learned that one.

      Personally, I just refer to our copiers as stereotypical, high-maintenance women who need lots of TLC and kind words before you start poking around their insides. If you don’t pet them kindly and tell them how wonderful they are, they will remember and decide to hold back all their services at the time you need them most. Fortunately, no flowers or chocolate are required but they do prefer the high quality toner in name brand packaging.

  12. DataMiner*

    I particularly liked the article about giving your boss a present. This was a bone of contention with me for the last couple of years; we get a $25 gift card from Head Boss and are expected to chip in $20 to his present. Really?!? Why not just save the hassle and call it even? I’m tempted to forward that article to my manager…

    1. Beatrice*

      Do it! Two years ago, I politely refused to contribute to my boss’s holiday gift, included a link to an article of Allison’s about gifts flowing downward, and asked if we could just stick to the (already planned) team potluck. I had one coworker who was a little disappointed, I think the other two were relieved, and I know the boss didn’t care (I think the one year we did get him a gift, it made him a little uncomfortable). Nobody mentioned a boss gift last year.

      1. Annie Moose*

        At my current job, employees are encouraged to contribute to a donation to charity in the owners’ names. Last year was my first year here so I just threw a few dollars in the pot and didn’t say anything, but this year if I’m pressed on it, and I know the managers do press people on it, I’m planning to politely decline and say I’ve already donated substantially to charity this year. (which I have, and I’ve done it to charities I’ve personally chosen. Which isn’t to say that the ones that were donated to last year weren’t good charities–they were fine–but nobody knew ahead of time what charities were even being given to!)

        I still don’t really have the clout to be like “this is weird” but at least I can decline to contribute.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          That would really make me want to individually donate $1 to 5 different charities in their name and provide their address so they start getting all the junk mail.

  13. Temperance*

    I once had a coworker who told me that Satan was his mentor, and that people were “hurt” when they didn’t do what he wanted. So not a direct curse threat, but he was implying that the devil had his back ….

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Must of made a deal with him. I heard Hades Incorporated has hellish benefits though. And don’t get me started if you get fired, cause it’s the pits.

      I’ll stop demonstrating my puns.

    2. Chinook*

      “I once had a coworker who told me that Satan was his mentor, and that people were “hurt” when they didn’t do what he wanted. So not a direct curse threat, but he was implying that the devil had his back ….”

      Man, if I was told that, I would just whip out the rosary beads and start praying. It will either call his bluff or cause him to leave the premises from discomfort (bonus points if there is a physical reaction). I would also offer colleagues within ear shot as much holy water as they want. Cuz, if you are going to bring out threats/facts like that, then this Catholic is going to bring out the big guns!

  14. Lissa*

    The “called your boss a moron” made me think of what if somebody had written in with “So, I have been the CEO of an organization for the last 8 years, but now I have to move on. The new boss has very different ideas of how to handle things than I do, and my staff are very concerned. How should I respond to them when they express those feelings to me?”

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      “My staff has just failed to launch our signature product for the third time this year. Frankly, AAM, they’re low-energy. No stamina. HR has told me I can’t have them fired due to some very old and bad rules put in place by my predecessors. (If this had happened my old company, these people would be gone. Believe me.) The whole thing is making my organization look big league dysfunctional.

      “Can I improve productivity by shaming the incompetent employees on Twitter?”

  15. Jiggs*

    “Tillerson on Wednesday appeared to foreclose that possibility and denied that he’d ever considered resigning. He spouted some sort of homespun nonsense about his own childlike naivete in the face of Washington’s ferocious backbiting machine. “I’m not from this place,” said Tillerson, who somehow managed to be the CEO of Exxon Mobil after, apparently, a lifetime spent trappin’ beavers and waitin’ on the harvest moon or whatever. These big city ways are a mystery to a simple oil man, who reportedly made $24 million last year.”

    I could not stop laughing. Thanks for the link, Alison.

  16. Jessen*

    On the side hustle one – I suspect the working conditions of younger people are also a reason why they dominate the side hustle business. Younger workers are more likely to be hourly as well as more likely to be in non-career jobs. I’m looking at one now and I meet those criterion. As an hourly worker I don’t really get put on call, and if I do I get paid overtime. And my job right now is just something to pay the bills while I get myself sorted for a real career – I have no intention or expectation of working my way up. If I were salaried and on a track where I was actually expecting or hoping to get promoted, my behavior would be different.

  17. Lora*

    “That said, there’s a point where a higher-up is so widely known to be toxic or terrible that you’ll lose credibility if you don’t acknowledge that,” Green said.”


    Ding-dong senior managers: I can only make excuses for your stupidity for so long. After a while, it is clear to the whole universe that you are either evil or dumb as a sack of hammers. If multiple mid-level and junior managers cannot fix that is your department, the problem is not us. If the most successful people in my group, whom you love best, have been quietly told to pretend you are drunk or on acid when they interact with you, the problem is not the well-intentioned and less cynical colleagues who attempt to interact with you as if you are cold sober and have any integrity whatsoever.

    I’m looking at you, Dead Henri Termeer.

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