I was replaced by a cartoon, managing a snide former peer, and more

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

1. I was replaced by a cartoon

I work in an in-house legal department for a large company as a legal assistant. As part of a recent move to promote the legal department to other departments in the company, a few of the attorneys have been doing presentations. Sort of a get-to-know-legal type of thing. One of the attorneys I work with has done a PowerPoint presentation that includes pictures of our “team” and descriptions of what we do. She replaced my actual picture with a cartoon depiction of a secretary sitting a desk with files stacked around her and papers and envelopes thrown up in the air. Every one else has their actual picture featured except me. Do you think this is cause to be offended or am I overreacting? I feel as though I am being considered a non-person by placing this cartoon picture next to my name.

That’s … definitely weird. Any chance that there’s an explanation for it, like that you weren’t there on the day she was collecting photos and she thought this was a cute way to still get you in there? If it’s not something like that, then yeah, it’s demeaning, even if she didn’t intend it to be.

Regardless of her intentions, though, you can ask her to fix it. At a minimum, you could something like: “Hey, can you please use an actual photo of me, like you did for everyone else?” But if you want to get into it more, you could say, “I’m baffled about why I’m a cartoon secretary while everyone else has a real photo. What happened there?” (Followed by, “Well, I’d prefer to use my photo like everyone else does. Can you swap it in?”)

2. Favoritism from a team leader

I’m part of the PR department in a company of about 300 employees. After some staff changes, my former colleague Cersei is now team leader for our group of four. After further changes are carried out, she will also be my manager.

Cersei is very close with one of the other team members, Arya. They live in the same neighborhood, work out together and drink bubbles and chat once a week. (All of this is on their social media and comes up in conversation.) Lots of people at our company are friends, managers usually socialize with HR or other managers. But the trouble is that it’s affecting the team dynamics. Arya gets to turn down assignments, leaves early, and simply mentions that she “will have next Friday off” before checking with the group. She sees herself as equal to Cersei.

This behavior is causing a rift in our group. If Arya does take on an assignment, she gets endless praise. If it is a rework of existing material, it is “her campaign.” If my colleague Jon or I create material, we must present it as our team’s effort.

Jon and I have brought up the issues with our current manager. He came back to us and asked what we would want him to do. Jon and I are uncertain how to proceed. We fear that bringing it up ourselves will only case a bigger rift in the group. Any suggestions how we can get the group back to a working dynamic?

Your manager sucks for throwing this back on you and asking what you want him to do. It should be obvious to him that he needs to talk to Cersei about the way she’s being perceived. So I’d go back to him and say, “You asked what we wanted you to do about this. We’d like you to speak to Cersei and tell her that she appears to be heavily favoring Arya and that as a manager she needs to be impartial and objective. And we hope you’ll continue to observe her and coach her on this, and hold off on any decision about promoting her to manager while this is still happening since it’s such a serious credibility issue.”

That said, I’m pretty skeptical about how well your manager will execute this, even if he does it. Handling this well is going to require more than a one-time conversation with Cersei; it’s going to require continual attention and addressing it if the favoritism just goes underground.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Managing a former peer who’s being rude and snide

I have recently been promoted and have a question about managing former peers. I work in a small team. There are just four of us and we have been working together for two years. My colleague, Fred, has been the manager for the last two years but, to put it bluntly, organization and management are not his strengths, so the company owner has gradually asked me to take on more and more of the management responsibilities. We have finally formalized this and I have been promoted to the team manager.

Fred has been happy for me to cover more and more of his duties over the past two years, but now that I have the job title and authority to go with it, he has been making snide remarks and generally giving me some attitude, which has never been an issue before. I should note that he hasn’t been demoted; he has retained his job title but some of his responsibilities have passed to me, and I have a newly made-up title that makes it clear I’m more senior. I also have management responsibilities for all staff, including him. I’ve always had a reasonable working relationship with Fred in spite of my increasing frustration about having to cover his duties, and I would like to nip this negative behavior in the bud before it becomes an issue. Do you have any suggestions?

Sit down and have a serious talk with him where you make it clear that the snide remarks need to stop. For example: “Recently you’ve made a number of remarks that sound dissatisfied with things here, like X and Y. Some of them seem to express dissatisfaction with me in particular. What’s going on?” … Followed by, “If you’re unhappy with your role here, I’d certainly support you in looking for a position that you’d be happier with. But as long as you’re in this one, I need you to treat everyone here, including me, with respect.”

That might be enough to stop it, by putting him on notice that you’re actually going to address this stuff and not turn a blind eye. But if it continues, then you treat it like you would any other serious issue (because it is one), which means a more serious conversation with him where you explain that if he wants to stay in his job, you need him to behave pleasantly and professionally. (Loop in your own boss ahead of time, because you need to ensure she’ll back you up if you need to act on this.)

4. I can see my team lead’s calendar reminder about layoffs

The leadership team at my company recently announced that we were shifting our strategy to focus on “rebuilding our product for scale.” While the leadership team is trying to spin this as a positive opportunity for the company, we’ve discovered that this means we will be terminating the majority of our client contracts to focus on a much smaller client base. For those of us in client-facing positions (like me), this has understandably caused a lot of anxiety around our job security. The leadership team has reassured us that we don’t have to worry about our jobs at this time, but they’ve remained tight-lipped on any specifics.

Today, I was looking at my team lead’s calendar online to check his availability for a meeting. In our company, it’s very common for everyone to have their calendars publicly viewable. On his calendar, I found a very visible event that appeared to be a to-do list item for himself that read “Improve Delivery of Lay-offs.” Obviously, this is not meant to be publicly viewable, but if I’m able to see it, the rest of my company can see it as well.

I’m torn on what to do here. It’s very likely that I would be included in any potential layoffs, as I’m the least senior member of my team. On the one hand, the most tactful thing to do would probably be to quietly let my team lead know that everyone can see his calendar events. Our leadership team has set up an anonymous web form where we can submit questions about the recent strategy changes, so I could send a quick note that my team lead could read, but the rest of the leadership team would be able to read it as well. On the other hand, I’m also inclined to just leave this alone so that I have visibility into any developments that could potentially affect my job. What would you recommend I do here?

If you like and respect your team lead, the right thing to do would be to let him know that it’s visible. If you don’t, it would still be a kindness but I don’t think you have any particular obligation to point out the mistake to him.

Mainly, though, I’d take it as useful confirmation that you shouldn’t believe the “you don’t have to worry about your jobs right now” assurances and assume that you should be actively job searching, if you weren’t already.

5. Can I get reimbursed for personal supplies that were stolen?

I work at a very small startup (nine of us, including the CEO) that requires a good deal of travel for events that we run. I know that a lot of our policies aren’t best practices (sharing hotel rooms while traveling, packing work items into personal suitcases, etc.) but we make it work.

We often bring our own items to these events. Usually, it’s not directly requested by our boss, but they’re how we make sure the event runs smoothly. For example, two trips ago, the one office supply that no one thought to pack for our event was scissors and our whole staff was constantly searching for them (running all around the convention center multiple times). On this past trip, I threw a couple of extra pairs from home into my suitcase (in addition to other supplies), labeled them with my name, and left them in the staff office to avoid the stress of last time. All of our office supplies came home in our COO’s personal suitcase, which was then stolen out of her apartment lobby!

There were things that were stolen that are way more important than my handful of office supplies. But since I now have to replace them, whose responsibility is that? Should the expenses be reimbursable? There’s no record of exactly what was lost but now I’m going to have to replace things like scissors and tape and envelopes that I keep in my home and use for personal business. It’s not going to be a huge sum of money, but I live in Manhattan and every bit helps…

Yes, you should submit those for reimbursement — at least the two pairs of scissors, which are an item that wouldn’t have gotten used up at the event the way the tape and envelopes might have been. You contributed your own items to help out at a work event, they got stolen, and a sensible organization will make that right.

{ 191 comments… read them below }

    1. JD*

      I wonder if, as many companies do, the admin staff and the like are not photographed while attorneys are. Almost every website I have ever seen for an attorney has pictures of them but not admin staff. If she is the only non attorney this could make sense. Personally I despise my picture being taken and used at work so I’d be tickled pink.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Another large company here. Everyone gets their picture taken for their badge on the day they start, and it is then stored in Outlook/Sharepoint. They are really not hard to come by. Maybe at a law firm it would be like you describe – I wouldn’t know. But for a legal department of a large company, I’m fairly positive OP’s photo is available. Even if it wasn’t, the attorney could’ve asked OP for it?

        I hate my Outlook/Sharepoint profile photo with a passion and cringe each time I see it (which is a few dozen times per day!), but the one thing I’d hate even more would be having it replaced on a presentation that’s meant for the entire company, by a clip art of a coder banging on a keyboard or something similar that minimizes what I do for work. I’m pretty incensed on OP’s behalf right now, to be honest.

        1. Koko*

          I work at a large nonprofit (~650 employees) and the only people who get professional photos taken are people with a public-facing role and C-suite. Even high-level VPs don’t have professional photos if their role doesn’t have a public presence, and even low-to-mid-ranking PR staff have photos if they talk to press a lot.

          1. MashaKasha*

            I wouldn’t call ours professional. I reported to work on my first day, an HR employee had me stand with my back to a blank wall, and took my photo.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I call it my work DMV picture – I’ve had mine retaken twice, and it’s still awful but not as bad as the first one, which people not-so-tactfully told me was so bad as to not really look like me at all.

              Attorneys versus non-attorneys is a big thing in law firms and in some law departments. I’m not surprised that there are photos of the lawyers but not others, but that’s no excuse for using a frazzled cartoon to represent someone.

              I’m one of the few people who’d prefer a cartoon representation (though I’d go more with Leela from Futurama, maybe Daria Morgandorffer), but I really think that’s something you should ask someone about before treating them differently than the rest of the staff.

              1. Emily*

                Oops, hit send too soon. There are about 150 people in my office and no badges (we just use Castle fobs for security) so the vast majority of people never have their photo taken.

      2. Alli525*

        But OP’s boss could have asked for a professional photo, like the kind people have on LinkedIn.

        I also don’t buy Alison’s possible excuse – that OP was absent on the day her boss was putting together the PPT. It’s very easy to email someone and ask for their headshot, regardless of whether they are in the office that day. Unless the decision to insert staff photos happened 15 minutes before the presentation, there IS no excuse.

        1. Adlib*

          Half the people I’m connected with on LinkedIn likely took their own photo/selfie. I’m always surprised when they have a professional-looking one! I barely know anyone new to the workforce so it’s pretty common for people mid-career to do this too.

          1. Product person*

            But why would a cartoon be more professional than a selfie? The person making the presentation could have asked for a work-appropriate picture if the assistant’s was the only one missing.

      3. Samata*

        Yes, but I would prefer not picture at all to a cartoon picture. Even if not intended, it’s pretty crappy.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Yeah, being replaced by a cartoon just feels…depersonalizing? I’d feel like I’m seen as generic and replaceable, if it were me.

          And I mean…everyone has selfies these days. Just ask them to text you their fave work-appropriate selfie and be done with it. I put together the new hire welcome presentations at my org, in which we include photos of all new staff and introduce them to everyone at the quarterly all-staff meeting, and that’s all I do – I just ask everyone to send me a selfie they’re comfortable with having everyone see, and I use those. It seems to work well, because people get to choose how they represent themselves and what they’re most comfortable with, and I still get the pictures I need for my presentation.

          1. Anonymoose*

            Well, especially considering the image used was one who couldn’t keep up with their workflow. Way to ruin any credibility the OP might have had with the rest of the company!

      4. Fortitude Jones*

        Almost every website I have ever seen for an attorney has pictures of them but not admin staff.

        This was the case for the law firm where I used to work. The operations staff, of which I was one, got our photos taken for badges, but we were not displayed on the company website. However, the OP’s letter doesn’t sound like a website omission. She says:

        As part of a recent move to promote the legal department to other departments in the company, a few of the attorneys have been doing presentations. Sort of a get-to-know-legal type of thing. One of the attorneys I work with has done a PowerPoint presentation that includes pictures of our “team” and descriptions of what we do.

        This is concerning because it appears like the person who put the presentation decided that all of the lawyers got legitimate, professional photos put up showing them in a flattering light; however, OP gets shown as being cartoonish and frazzled. Even if the person who put the presentation together thought this was a joke, the fact that legal assistants, secretaries, and paralegals are kind of looked down on in the first place makes the optics of this not great. If I was the OP, I would have felt some type of way about this as well.

        1. Collarbone High*

          “OP gets shown as being cartoonish and frazzled”

          This to me is the worst part of it — the strangers in other departments who see this presentation will be primed to think of the LW as overwhelmed and incompetent. It’s also weirdly infantilizing.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            There’s actually a cartoon pic I used to use on sites that showed a well-dressed woman sitting at a typewriter with meticulously stacked piles of documents around her – she looked sharp and focused on her work. Her workspace was tidy and professional. Why couldn’t the attorney have used a photo like that instead of one where papers are strewn about in disarray? That’s what made me think there was a slight demeaning undercurrent here even if it was subconscious on the attorney’s part.

          2. Anon anon anon*

            Yeah. It could just be me, but I’m wondering if this is one of those subtle corporate hazing things – they like her, they think she has potential, and so they’re publicly making fun of her to see how she handles it.

            If I were her, I would say something, but I’d be friendly about it. “Can I ask you about something? What is going on with the cartoon? I sent you all a picture…” If they’re nice, let it go. If they get weird, then, yes, be offended.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s pretty normal for folks at large companies and firms to have their photo taken internally—usually for internal directories or security badges—even if the photo isn’t used on a website or externally. Except for the GC, most in-house counsel’s photos aren’t put up on company websites, either.

        It sounds like OP has a company photograph that wasn’t used, and I strongly suspect OP isn’t the only legal assistant or ALS (it’s a large company), even if she was the only one represented on the PPT.

        I strongly suspect this has more to do with the way in which many attorneys fail to pay appropriate attention or use basic courtesy when engaging with administrative and support staff. As Fortitude Jones and Queen Anne note, this kind of casual rudeness is frustratingly common in the profession.

      6. Justme*

        Not having a photo taken is one thing. Having your likeness be a stereotypical (and sexist) cartoon is something else entirely.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Especially if it’s a “get to know us” presentation: Meet Bob, who accomplished this; introducing Mary, who leads that; and get a gander at Cartoon Admin. Do the powers that be want the rest of the organization to “get to know her” as a joke who can’t get a handle on her job?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I wondered if it could just be a misjudged attempt at humour. But they should’ve run it past you if so.

      1. Liz T*

        I’m sure it was a misjudged attempt at humour–but those kind of jokes often reveal a genuine lack of respect, even if the jokester doesn’t realize it.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          This. I just noted above, I was a paralegal and before that, an admin type at a law firm – a lot of the lawyers at our firm treated us like garbage. The firm in and of itself treated us like trash. It’s highly demoralizing to be doing a ton of work for people who don’t appreciate it, so I can see how the OP felt slighted looking at that presentation.

          1. wb*

            Attorney here. I have legit never understood other attorneys who disrespect legal assistants/paralegals. Law is a profession where the ‘bosses’ (lawyers) actually do the directly revenue-generating work. Everyone else in a law firm or legal department is there to make our lives easier so we can do more of that revenue-generating work. Attorneys who interpret that as ‘staff do unimportant things and are therefore themselves unimportant’ are jerkwads who don’t deserve good support staff.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Oh, there were a few attorneys at my firm who were super sweet, including one of the named partners. But his other partner and the rest of the executive-level staff? Pssh. They thought we were useless peons who were interchangeable cogs in the machine and fired people at whim for the slightest things. They trash talked and berated people endlessly, and a lot of the younger attorneys got the same treatment us Operations folks were subjected to (though I didn’t find that out until I left to work somewhere else with one of the junior associates, and he broke it down to me how horribly he was treated). I wish there had been more attorneys with your line of thinking at that firm, otherwise, I wouldn’t have left.

              1. Anon anon anon*

                I’ve seen a lot of highly successful people behave this way towards people with lower paying, less glamorous jobs. The mentality behind it is often, “Your job is a reflection of how smart and hard working you are so I have a right to belittle people who are beneath me.” It’s disgusting. It ignores the fact that we don’t all have the same opportunities, there are social inequalities, etc, etc. At the end of the day, I’m glad I’m not one of those people because they must take so much for granted.

            2. Beancounter Eric*

              And you just hit the nail on the head…..the “salespeople” – attorneys in your case – bring in revenue, and the support staff – Admin, IT, Accounting, etc. don’t. And it’s rare that the salesforce recognizes the importance of that support team in their success.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Seriously. I haven’t worked w/ attorneys in years, but I’ve worked with a lot of sales staff. At times I’ve wanted to say, “Hot flash, hotshot. If I’m not creating the product, you got nothing to sell. If Jane isn’t following up with your clients, you have to handle their complaints yourself. If Fergus isn’t sending the invoices and making sure they’re paid, all our work is for bupkis. You’re here to serve the organization, just like the rest of us.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I remember a letter from some weeks ago (maybe open thread?) where the company stopped allowing people to use cartoon avatars, and they all had to be photographs of your face so people could recognize you.

    3. ClownBaby*

      Yeah, I would feel incredibly unappreciated. It’s a bit dehumanizing to be reduced to a caricature when everyone else gets their real picture out there.

    4. Specialk9*

      Especially since they took off an actual picture of OP and replaced it with a demeaning (and likely sexist) cartoon of a generic secretary. Wow.

      They didn’t put a cartoon in place of her photo, they replaced her photo with the cartoon.

      1. Adlib*

        Oh wow, I didn’t even catch that on first read-through! If that’s true, this is way worse. I’m wondering if OP meant to word it differently, but since we take them at their word, yikes.

      2. beanie beans*

        Ugh I missed that too – you’re right! She already had a picture of herself in the presentation and they replaced it with the cartoon! So much worse!

    5. Queen Anne*

      20-odd years’ experience in law firms in a support staff role. This doesn’t even begin to surprise me – it’s par for the course. Support staff are interchangeable cogs in the eyes of the majority of attorneys (not all, but most). The cartoon is probably there on purpose so that when they shuffle support staff around at some point, they won’t have to replace the photo. (I’ve only worked in one law firm where everyone in the firm had their photo taken and it was huge with multiple offices in at least three states. The photos were for the internal directory, not for external use. I’ve never seen support staff photos on a firm website or other public documentation.)

      1. legaldrone*

        This is the absolute truth. Support staff don’t count at law firms, but the entire place shuts down without them.

    6. TootsNYC*

      This “replace the low-status person with a cartoon” issue reminds me of an advertisement (I think for a phone service or something) that was a jokey illustration of the world with little cartoon people in each country. All the people had things like “ethnic/national costume” to tie them to the spot on the globe they were. Like, America was a cowboy w/ a stars&stripes shirt; Europe had a “Swiss maid”; Mexico had a person w/ serape and sombrero.

      Except Africa.

      It had a monkey.

      It was breathtaking.

      I’m sure the person doing the illustration didn’t say, “Oh, I think all black people are horrible, so I’ll use a monkey.” I’m certain it was completely unconscious. But it was phenomenally racist.

      So yeah, I’d be REALLY offended, and I wouldn’t hesitate to personally and privately assume that this was a genuine, though unthinking, revelation about how she views me.

      However, I wouldn’t say anything of that sort. I’d just say, “Please use the photograph of me instead of the cartoon.” And leave it at that. I might ask my boss to speak up and make the same request.

      1. TootsNYC*

        (in that ad, the “ethnic dress” concept was troubling enough, but it could be argued that these were costumes often chosen by members of the country itself to represent their nationality)

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Um…except that the people of Africa (a diverse continent full of humans!) most certainly did not choose a MONKEY to represent them. Yikes.

          1. Teacher*

            I don’t think Toots was suggesting that they did. The second comment seems to address the ethnic dress as a separate issue from the awful monkey bit.

        2. Sukeishima*

          When I started reading your comment I thought you were leading toward a point about how bad it was to represent people with stereotyped ethnic costumes, but NOPE IT GOT SO MUCH GODDAMN WORSE.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I strongly suspect the answer to “why would someone do this?” is that attorneys are jerks. But I’m really sorry that the person who did this somehow thought this was normal (or at least not weird).

    In terms of dealing with it, I vote for Alison’s “return the awkward” option (i.e., force her to explain why she did it while you deploy your best puzzled look). In terms of offensiveness, it’s certainly weird, but I would try not to take offense and instead treat it as an eye-rolly/tone-deaf situation. If the attorney is anything less than apologetic or does it again, then I think it’s fair to go full-on frosty with an edge of disapproving school-marm.

    1. state government jane*

      Yeah, as a former legal assistant, I can confirm that sometimes there’s an unfortunate attorney-professional staff relationship, but not all attorneys are jerks. This could be an opportunity for OP #1 to gently enforce their significance as part of the legal team. It sucks when attorneys do stuff like this, but I’m hopeful there’s a good explanation in this case… and that in the grand scheme of things, the dynamic between attorneys and support staff is improving.

      1. MovingMom*

        After 30 years of working as a legal assistant (I’m a Realtor now, complete change of careers), I can say that the vast, overwhelming majority of the attorneys with whom I worked looked on their staff as “lesser-than’s.” It’s a very caste-like culture in most law firms, with support staff (a.k.a., anyone without a JD, regardless of skills or experience) given quite a bit less in the way of professional respect (not to mention perks, but that’s a different story). As a result, this letter doesn’t surprise me at all. The OP should speak up, and if the attorneys don’t change the presentation, escalate, perhaps to HR. It’s really a sign of disrespect, and I’m guessing, just the tip of the iceberg in her workplace.
        (Side note: large law firms were the absolute worst about the hierarchy, small mom-and-pop style firms much more “we’re all in this together” oriented … in most cases. Ymmv.)

        1. Agatha_31*

          My mileage does vary! I’m in a fairly small city with mostly very small firms & individual practices. It’s far more common than not for support staff to be completely missing from the websites. I tend to note & remember firms that do list support staff on their site. It’s great to see them acknowledge that those people are working their assets off too. (I didn’t type assets, but it’s too amusing to change. And also a relatively timely Muppets reference.)

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I wouldn’t think a law firm saw their support staff as “less than” just because they didn’t have a listing about them on the website. People want to be able to look up information about attorneys before they go somewhere, but it’s unlikely that someone would change their mind about going to a law firm because of the specific support staff that are likely far less Google-able.

            1. Anonymoose*

              On the flipside, I could totally see myself making a monetary decision based on how the company viewed their staff, including them on their website being one of the options of showcasing how they feel. *shrug*

        2. techfool*

          I agree. That said the current lawyers I work for are terrific and it’s a big US law firm. Even so I would be surprised to be included in a presentation, cartoon or not. I’ve learned to appreciate the anonymity of it.

          1. MCM*

            I wouldn’t want my photo up because people would recognize me outside the office. If someone is angry at the law firm or a particular attorney you could be caught off guard if approached outside the office in anger or frustration.

            I know photos on websites & outlook are part of the companies PR, but what about safety issues, etc.

            1. J.*

              It sounds from the letter that this is an internal presentation to other departments within the same company about the kind of resources the legal department can provide. So that seems like less of a concern here.

        3. AKJ*

          This has also been my experience – I’ve been a paralegal for five years. So far, it’s been attorneys who were older and more experienced (and mostly past all of the competition and jockeying for position) that have been the best to work with and the most understanding of how important their support staff really is. My first job was at a small firm with an experienced attorney (a mom-and-pop style firm) and I loved it. I’d still be there if the attorney I worked for hadn’t retired.
          One of the partners at the large firm I worked for always told the new attorneys how much they could learn from the paralegals in his “new associate” spiel, and every time I heard it I’d have to keep from rolling my eyes, because it really didn’t jibe with how we were treated in the office.

    2. Hekko*

      Perhaps she used cartoons as placeholders when slapping the presentation together and then replaced them by photos when she got those? And for some reason did not get OP’s photo. Then the cartoon isn’t “extra work”. I would definitely use placeholders if I were to make such a presentation, and I can imagine using cartoons because then the work in progress would be more fun…

      … and now I can even imagine getting so scattered I would forget to doublecheck all placeholders have been replaced by real content.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Yeah, I was thinking that this where I would start – “hey, Wilhelmina, I see you do not appear to have my photo, here’s a link/would you like me to send you one?” If Wilhelmina wants to save face and say “sure” (or if she really did forget!), this is her chance. If she says “no, it stays as it is”, that’s when I go on the offensive with the “what’s up with that?” and similar questions.

      2. Liz 2*

        I give that a 2% possibility- why add MORE work of finding, saving, and embedding cartoons you’d have to go back and replace rather than just have blank boxes? I’m guessing she thought it would be a cute interlude and didn’t really consider the feelings of the person.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, it sounds to me like she got photos of the “important” people and then, at the last minute, thought “oooh, I better add Jane” and either didn’t have time or didn’t care enough to get the LW’s photo.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          I’m guessing she thought it would be a cute interlude and didn’t really consider the feelings of the person.

          That sounds very plausible.

      3. Specialk9*

        But she didn’t say that the cartoon was “in place of” but “replaced my actual photo” by which I assumed her picture was in the brief, then taken out and replaced.

        “She replaced my actual picture with a cartoon depiction of a secretary sitting a desk with files stacked around her and papers and envelopes thrown up in the air.”

      4. However...*

        But the OP actually used the word “replaced” – “She replaced my actual picture with a cartoon…” Doesn’t that mean the photo was there at one point? She doesn’t say “Instead of using my photo, she depicted me with a cartoon.”

    3. TootsNYC*

      I don’t think I’d want to do a lot of asking “why.”
      I’d just be saying, “Please replace it with a photo of me.” and maybe “I interact on your behalf with people from other departments way more than most of the attorneys; it will be helpful for them to know what I look like.”

  2. Five after Midnight*

    #4 – Most people don’t realize that Outlook posts the meeting time, title, and location to the server by default, so that unless you change your settings or mark a meeting as private, all this information is visible to everyone in the company. I’m not talking about having permission to view and/or edit someone’s calendar – that’s different; I’m talking about the scheduling grid when you try to pick a common open time. I’ve notified people countless times that their “urologist visits”, interviews, etc. are visible to thousands of company employees worldwide.

    1. Amy*

      This is baffling to me, because if they ever schedule things with other people, they should know what that window looks like!

      But then again, I’ve only worked in companies where it’s common to throw an appointment in Outlook for even casual meetings (e.g. meeting for lunch, talking through a question, etc.), so basically everyone is constantly scheduling things. Maybe that’s not as common as I thought?

      1. Antilles*

        I think the issue isn’t that it shows someone’s unavailable, it’s more that the *content* of the meeting is displayed. You’re right that it is convenient and reasonable to be easily able to check someone’s schedule to see if they’re in office and available.
        But in most cases, it only matters whether or not you’re free; not the reason why. I don’t particularly care if it’s a CEO meeting, a urologist visit, or time blocked off to review the 2018 health plan – the relevant information to me is only that you’re unavailable between 10 to noon.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The calendar function on my phone (which I never use deliberately) has occasionally gotten the bit in its teeth and tried to schedule things based on dates and times that appear in emails or texts. At one point it went so far as to set a reminder for itself and then text me that I had a meeting in 15 minutes. So I could believe the boss never deliberately entered those things, it was just a helpful bot.

      3. H.C.*

        Well, there’s also the option of setting the content of calendar items private so your colleagues will still see your availability (or not, or tentative) but won’t see the reason why you carved that time out.

    2. Zahra*

      Where I work, the Exchange server setting is that you see the time slots and availability (free, busy, OOO), but no other details. You can deduce who has a meeting with whom by cross-referencing the calendars, but you still don’t have the subject.

      1. copy run start*

        Yes, I think this down boil down to Outlook settings. Some organizations have it default that everyone gets “read” permissions to everyone’s calendar, others may have it default to “free/busy” only.

        Either way, I prefer to just write something vague like “Leave” and mark myself as out of office. I used to mark things as private, but the details are still exposed if someone happens to be looking at your screen over your shoulder (not terribly uncommon where I work).

      2. Hlyssande*

        Ours does this, but we also have the option to share the info with people, like our managers – or direct reports, which most of my group’s management does.

    3. Safetykats*

      Some people seriously need to learn to use Outlook. A few months ago, a coworker actually invited our whole group to his colonoscopy – not only did he not schedule it as a private appointment, he scheduled it on the group calendar as a meeting(!). Needless to say, we declined.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Anything I could have said about Outlook ineptitude is covered by this amazing, shining example of how not to do it. Thank you.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “Perfect! Everyone in one spot, holding still, at last I can make them do those new spout attachment correlations.”

      2. Mockingjay*


        Let’s really get to know our teammate.

        1. Teacher*

          Well you’ve got to have something to appeal to the people who don’t want to do happy hour all the time!

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      You didn’t used to be able to mark things private on the Outlook iOS app, so some people could get tripped up by that. (You could however do it on a mobile web browser.) I didn’t think anyone but me cared, but Microsoft has finally added it to the app now.

    5. Emily*

      At my company they’ve configured computers so that private is the default setting on calendars. It actually slightly annoys me (like a 1 out of 10, but still) because I tried setting my calendar public so that I could use my calendar to communicate information about my schedule without having to talk to people. For instance, the days I work remotely, I mark myself “tentatively” booked for the entire day but title the booking “Emily remote (cell-number)” so that people can get my number easily, and see that I’m actually available but if they want me there in person another day is better. Whenever I’m out of the office traveling I also marked myself out of office and include my cell in the meeting title. It’s also common for an event for something like an optional HR presentation to get forwarded to the a list so it shows as “tentative” for everyone until they accept or decline it.

      It would be so convenient if people would just check my calendar when they need information about where I am or how to reach me, but because so few people make anything other than free/busy viewable nobody expects/remembers that mine is public and I still end up fielding questions about “can you move whatever you have at 3 on Thursday?” and “are you in the office today?”

      1. Mabel*

        Even if the default is for everyone’s calendars to be private (it’s that way at my company), you can share your calendar with individual people by making them read-only delegates. When I managed a team, I shared my calendar with them and marked personal items as “private.” My calendar is shared with no one now, but I’m still in the habit of marking personal appointments as “private.” I realize this isn’t helpful unless you make your whole team delegates for your calendar, but you could consider that.

        1. Emily*

          Oh, what I meant by private is that you can only see if they are Free/Busy/Tentative/Out-of-Office. We all have access to each other’s calendars (read-only) company-wide. The problem is that nobody actually looks at the details I include because they’re used to the details not being available.

  3. depizan*

    #1 – My workplace uses a similar cartoon as a placeholder picture in our internal list of employees…for people who haven’t had their picture taken yet. It seems extremely weird to use a picture like that when there are actual photos of them available. It’s not you. That really is bizarre.

    1. Infinity Anon*

      I have seen presentations where they use a cartoon instead of a picture for someone who is notably camera shy. But that is a joke and because they specifically do not want their picture taken or used.

    2. Been There, Done That*

      One place I worked did that on the department directories of the internal website. But they were neutral smiley faces, and the same one was used for every missing photo.

  4. Edith*

    #1: I am so glad I’m not the only person this has happened to. My department’s promotional presentation to other the departments included a short video clip of each person in the department working. The clip of me working was sped up and set to Yakety Sax.

    Yakety Sax, you guys. The Benny Hill song.


      1. Edith*

        Everyone both in my department and in the departments we presented to thought it was hilarious. I kept mum so as to not turn it into a ‘thing.’

    1. Miss Elaine e*

      Boy, is this the week for reminders of childhood bullying or what? First, yesterday’s horrifying prank and now #1 in this post:
      When I was in grade school, all the class composite photos were on a bulletin board at a prominent spot in the school hallway. Fairly soon, one picture was ripped out (it was on an edge and so easy to do). Guess who’s? Yep, mine. The only one in the whole school. It was never replaced. (I wonder if anyone noticed but me?) I have a fairly good idea who did it, but at the time, I didn’t have the strength to speak up.
      I doubt if the attorneys in the post had evil intent, but things like that can sting.

      1. T3k*

        Going on a tangent, but this reminds me of one year in my elementary school, I think it was 7th grade. I never missed a single day of school that year except the one day they did class and club pictures. Normally in the yearbook where they list everyone in the shot, they also add a “not pictured” list as well, but whoever did it that time didn’t and so I wasn’t listed in my class or band group; I was pissed.

  5. MommyMD*

    That this attorney replaced an actual picture of you with a characterization seems pretty petty and intentional. Is she trying to remind you who is “boss”?

    1. MK*

      That might make sense if they have clashed in some way or have a contentious history, but as an isolated thing it’s just odd.

      1. MommyMD*

        Who knows what the attorney is thinking. People become annoyed with one another and it can come out in very passive aggressive behavior.

    2. Yorick*

      And it’s not just a cartoon secretary, from the description it sounds like an overwhelmed cartoon secretary.

  6. Amy*

    #4: Personally, I’d be very tempted to quietly point this out to my peers before alerting your team lead to his mistake. I know it’s pretty common practice for companies to assure employees that there’s no need for concern about job security even while they’re considering layoffs, but it still feels so sleazy to me. This seems like the perfect excuse to let your coworkers know to at least consider job hunting, without breaking any particular confidentiality (since it shows publicly on your team lead’s calendar).

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      You know, normally I would disagree (too many stories of fake news being spread from misinterpreted print-outs) – but given there’s reason to take it seriously I might consider it.

      1. Amy*

        It’s definitely good to be wary of spreading alarmist rumors! But I think if OP is up-front about their source (or even just sticks to ‘What did you make of the 1:00 meeting on Bob’s calendar this Thursday?’), people can judge for themselves how seriously to take it.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There is a risk–I recall a letter from someone whose supervisor tried to secretly do the “right” thing and told her team about the pending layoffs, so people scrambled and a couple took new jobs that paid less but were THERE, and then the reorg got reorged and their team was spared. But the people who’d quit for lowing paying jobs were stuck.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Oh, and this was another case where the manager felt her intent was to save everyone, so that counted over any actual results.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think that all these employees have all the info they need to be freshening up their resumes. (especially because “for now” seems to have been part of the messaging–that’s a hint, people)

      No one should ever believe a manager, or management, when they say, “you don’t have to worry about your jobs right now.” They can’t tell you the truth. Don’t put them in a position where they have to lie to you.

      What I would do is say to people, “Well, we all know that they won’t need as many of us once they’re done w/ the refocusing, so we should all stay light on our feet. Now’s the time to get your LinkedIn ready, your resumé geared up, gather copies of any stuff you want for your portfolio, tidy up your address book, etc. You never know–and they can’t tell us in advance.”

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        No one should ever believe a manager, or management, when they say, “you don’t have to worry about your jobs right now.”
        Sucks, but it’s true. “Right now” is one second long.

        (Yes, I, also, was laid off after a very heartening conversation telling me how valued I was and how the organization would take great pains to keep me, even if it meant having me work on low-priority projects just to bill. I got axed a few weeks later without ever having laid a finger on those projects.)

  7. nacho*

    Apparently there’s a law in Washington that you have to announce layoffs as soon as you know about them.

    I only know this because I was given about four months notice from my last job, which was nice even if it caused a lot of morale problems.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, Washington doesn’t have a law that says that, but I think you’re thinking of the federal WARN Act, which requires companies with 100 or more employees to notify workers 60 days ahead of time about mass layoffs (or to pay them severance for that full amount of time).

      1. Mabel*

        I don’t know the details, but when my friend’s former employer was planning to lay off 400 people at once, they were required to notify the city the business operated in (in Massachusetts). I don’t know how much notice they had to give the city, but the employees got about 1 day’s notice.

        1. Mabel*

          What I mean is that all of the employees knew layoffs were coming, but they didn’t know which people and when.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My old company used to do pretty large rounds of layoffs with no notice. It might have simply seemed large to me and not been large enough to qualify, though.

        When they filed for bankruptcy (for the second time), we were told we’d get WARN notices in advance. It wasn’t a secret that the company was going out of business, but they told us the general planned schedule a month or two in advance and then people got their specific dates closer to the time.

        We had a few departments wide meetings in September where the schedule was laid out — some in October, some in November. People who were scheduled for October then had individual meetings with HR/their supervisors before they received their official WARN letters. A few weeks later, the same process was repeated for November people.

        It ended up being fairly generous by that company’s standards. Not only did you qualify for a certain amount of severance (a week for each year you were employed) but also a month or more of salary as long as you kept coming to work. If you didn’t show up, you not only didn’t get the month of pay, you also didn’t get severance and didn’t qualify for unemployment. I appreciated the salary but almost died of boredom the last two months.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        And it also depends on how many people are being laid off. If it’s under a certain number, no warning is required. (I’m in WA, and our 100+ employee federal contractor company laid me off with no warning.)

  8. Observer*

    #5 Alison is right when she says “a sensible organization will make that right.”

    However, your organization is NOT “sensible”. If it were, staff would not still be bringing personal supplies to make events run. The organization would supply all of the things needed, even if you had to pack them into personal luggage. ESPECIALLY expensive items and consumable supplies that you can’t take back. There is no good reason why staff are being expected to carry the cost of running the business.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Yes, in an ideal world the (very small start-up) company would pay for everything. But if you read the letter, that’s not the issue anyway. The LW says nobody thought to pack scissors so they threw in some of their own from home. There’s nothing in here about the company refusing to buy them in the first place, only that nobody packed them. (And I for one like to bring my own stationery into work, so I can get fun, colourful things.)

      Letter writer, it would be a good idea in future to ask to buy some scissors or other thing on expenses, not to bring your own. But on this occasion just be really matter of fact about it.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        If they are frequently doing events, it might make sense to get the company to buy some cheap luggage or packing cases and pre-stock them with the necessary supplies. Logistically it would be much simpler than relying on everyone to individually remember to pack everything. It helps avoid the 5 staplers, but no pens, because last time the staplers were forgotten. It would also avoid everyone having to expense something if their personal items go missing and would make tracking what is needed easier.

        1. Alternative person*

          This is a good idea. A previous company used to do a checklist of stuff needed for events about two-three weeks before and order in anything that was needed then we’d pack it all into a box and ship it to the venue. Worked out pretty well for all involved.

          1. Judy (since 2010)*

            I was involved in a group that traveled to events. We did the same. We used those sturdy plastic totes with hinged, interlaced lids. We had a checklist of what we needed, and as part of the preparation for the event, we would verify everything, and then have the tote ready to use at the event. We used smaller plastic bins inside the tote to sort small things, so that the tote was organized.

            My tote I use for camp cooking is similar, but I have a medium (drawers would fit 8.5×11 paper) 3 drawer unit I sit inside my tote, that I take out and put on the picnic table while we are cooking. I keep the small stuff organized in there.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, I kind of read this as “wait, we need scissors? uh oh” scramble…then next time, OP goes ahead and decides to bring her own pair of scissors just in case they’d forgot again – not because she was specifically requested to, but because it seemed like a simple and easy thing to do. There’s no malice or “not a sensible organization” going on here; it’s just plain vanilla forgetfulness.

        1. Stacie*

          Yeah I’m not getting the sense that someone has come forward to management pointing out that they need a more streamlined supplies plan and management just told them no. This is something that could easily happen at my company and if I tried to get reimbursed for scissors when they were going through a bigger cost of whatever else was lost in that bag they would think I’m super petty. I think that’s an important part for OP to think about too. Sure, the correct thing for a company to do is give you your $10, but I know my boss would at the very least super eye roll me if I did that. (Not saying it’s right, just what may be practical.)

      3. Observer*

        Oh, sure. Be matter of fact. But I just think that there is a good chance that it’s going to be kicked back anyway. If nothing else, this could be the wake up call the company needs to make things more streamlined and cost effective.

  9. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 This has been managed really badly up to now (by people other than you, letter writer). Rather than actually managing Fred and addressing his performance and competency issues, they let him just cruise along with the same seniority while someone else quietly picked up the slack. So he got used to that. And then you were promoted above him, which made it official and public. This has been bungled really badly – and he’s behaving like a toddler. It’s okay not to tiptoe around him but to just be really clear on expectations. Don’t let the snide remarks slide, or laugh them off, or make excuses. Do consider formal performance management if he doesn’t shape up.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      Glad I wasn’t the only one who read this and thought “wait they kept Fred on at his manager salary whole slowly unofficially giving his duties to a subordinate?” Of course there is drama now that she is promoted to his senior. I would struggle with a former direct report suddenly being my boss but my title was left the same.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, I thought of that, too. OP#3 may be the first person at the firm to actually apply management to Fred. In her position, I’d want to make sure my own manager was firmly on board, because Fred is the sort who will try to go over her head.

  10. Gadfly*

    OP1–in my head the conversation goes something like this:
    “What would you like me to do?”
    “Uh, manage? Supervise?”
    Not the answer you can give, exactly, but when that is really the real answer, I’d be reluctant to trust it is going to happen.

    1. OP 2*

      The trouble is my current manager is an interrim manager for HR, PR, accounting etc until Cersei and the other team leads will be made managers of their respective teams.

      He does not manage Cersei, because all team leaders are technically managed by our CEO.

      1. Casper Lives*

        I’d consider what you’re going to do if the situation continues with nothing changing. It sounds like Cersei is going to be your manager, there’s no clear hierarchy for you to go above her, and there’s no reason for her to stop treating her good friend with favoritism. Are you going to be happy to work in the same position if that’s the case?

        1. Michelle*

          I agree with Casper Lives. She has shown you what kind of manager she is/will be. If you can’t be happy/satisfied with the way things currently are, you should probably start job searching.

          I saw a good bit of favoritism in the other departments at my former employer and what that did to employee morale. Mediocre workers who were “besties” with managers got perks, flexible schedules and first-choice for holiday time off. Although I luckily was not affected by it (dept. of 2, my manager was head honcho at our location), it was enough to make me job search and find a better place.

      2. eplawyer*

        this is the problem, your company has no clear lines of management. Since managing is an afterthought (really the CEO has nothing better to do?), appearance of favoritism is okay because no one shows how to do it differently. No one has authority, but everyone has titles.

        This is not a functional workplace. As noted, you need to consider your options if nothing changes. Because it’s not. It’s really not.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s still worth calling out, especially since he specifically asked you earlier what you want him to do about it. Maybe they do nothing, but maybe there’s someone in the mix who will understand that Cersei needs to be reined in or even can’t be promoted.

        1. OP 2*

          We had a group conference a while ago (just after i wrote to AAM) where Cersei brought up the new organisation and asked us if we had any thoughts or things we wanted to discuss. Me and Jon brought up this issue, taking great care to sound professional and neutral.
          “This behaviour can come across as favoritism, you may want to think of this going forward” was the condenced version.

          Cersei said she was hurt that we would even think her capable of not being objective and that she and Arya never discuss business outside the office.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, great. Now you have a target on your back. What you need to tell the manager, if he’s willing to listen is what Alison said – this is happening, and Cersei is not acknowledging the issue. So, you are asking management to actually get a handle on it.

            However, you have seen what kind of manager she is going to be. And you have seen that it’s highly likely that it’s not going to be changed. I really suggest you start looking elsewhere. If the doomsayers are wrong, and someone actually does do something about this, you can always stop looking. Looking doesn’t obligate you to anything.

            1. OP 2*

              Talking to Cersei about the issue was actually what our manager suggested to Jon that we do. Jon brought it up at the conference and at that point I didn’t have much choice.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Say this: “We don’t have the standing to address this with Cersei. This needs to come from someone with authority to tell her that she needs to change her behavior.”

              2. Observer*

                Ew. Alison is right – it’s about the only script I could see having a chance of working. But, the manager is an idiot.

  11. Tuesday Next*

    OP1, I would send a photo with an email saying, “Hey, I noticed that you don’t have a picture of me for your presentation. Please use this one, or let me know if it’s unsuitable and I’ll send another one.”

    If she keeps using the cartoon I’d push back with Alison’s script.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I like this approach. It is a good way to say “hey I noticed” and get the picture of the LW’s choice used

    2. Casper Lives*

      I like this idea! The attorney either (charitably) didn’t have a picture to use and now she will, or she thought it was funny and you’re letting her save face with this approach.

  12. Tuesday Next*

    OP4, personally I’d keep quiet. In this situation having inside info (legitimately acquired) is going to help you figure out your next steps. Unless you have a compelling reason to give up that advantage.

  13. Tuesday Next*

    OP3, Fred is a jerk and your management team has mis-managed the situation and created problems for you.

    Fred is trying to [a] undermine you in front of your team, [b] provoke you into losing your temper or [c] both. I like Alison’s script but I would also address it as it happens. When he says something snide, stop, look at at him, and say “pardon me, what did you say?” Most people would be too embarrassed to repeat it. They’re counting on you feeling awkward and letting it go. Either way, tell him that you’ll discuss this “after the meeting”, or whatever is appropriate for the situation. Don’t give him ammo by correcting him in front of the team, but make it clear that you’ll be addressing it.

  14. SCtoDC*

    In regards to letter 3, it seems like this is such a common experience on here and I really don’t understand it. Earlier this year my company went through a reorganization, resulting in two former peers being promoted to manager. We were all really (genuinely!) happy for both of them. I don’t think it occurred to any of us (approximately 50 people) to be anything other than excited and supportive of our colleagues.

    1. CAA*

      Well, people will only write in to Alison for advice when things aren’t going well. If something only happens to 1% of people in a given situation, then it’s not the usual outcome, but the 99% don’t need help, so they don’t write in. It starts to look like the 1% is the majority because that’s the only part you can see here.

      I think we just have to keep in mind that it’s the purpose of an advice column to focus on the times that things didn’t work out, and we’re not hearing about all the times when people were managed well and nobody got jealous or did something stupid.

      1. SignalLost*

        Dear Alison,

        My job is really supportive! I like everyone here, we’re in a great space, and it’s a great job that utilizes my strengths perfectly! What should I do?

        – Concerned

    2. JustaTech*

      I’ve had this happen in my group (group lead/director wasn’t doing well so someone in the group was promoted to group lead/director and the former group lead was demoted) and even though the former group lead wasn’t a jerk about it (that we saw) it was still super, super awkward for everyone else.
      Boss1 was a terrible manager (but not a bad person) and Boss2 was a genuinely good manager, but we could not figure out why Boss1 stuck around after being demoted.

      Personally, I think that if you are removing a manager from a management position because they are not good at their work *and* are replacing them with one of their former direct reports, it would make sense to try to find the now-former manager a position in another group, to avoid awkwardness and resentment.
      To me it’s a pretty different situation from a actual re-org where several people move up. It’s not the moving up, it’s the moving down that’s the source of weirdness.

  15. Zip Silver*

    #4) If you know layoffs are coming, then ramp up your job search and get ready.

    I’m doing something similar. I know, through SEC filings, that my company is planning a business split in Q4 2018, or Q1 2019. Thankfully I’m in a position in Ops where I wouldn’t get laid off immediately after the split, but am at risk after the upper management restructuring. Not 100% sure I’ll get laid off, but it’s worrying enough that I signed up for classes online to get my Master’s from the local university. By the time layoffs come around, I’ll be close enough to the degree that it’ll be alright. If I don’t get laid off, then I’ll still be able to trade up.

  16. Not Today Satan*

    #3– I really wish more bad managers were just fired rather than demoted. I totally get that some people might be bad managers but good workers. But so often when I see it (and unfortunately it happens often at my employer) it muddies the organizational chart and they either have a bad attitude or act like they still have the authority they used to. Plus, at least at my org, they retain their managerial salary and make more than the people who replaced them who are actually competent at performing their responsibilities.

    1. Emily*

      Yeah, demoting an employee and retaining them is like trying to stay friends with someone you dumped. It works sometimes, sure, but it’s really fraught and the continued lesser relationship is likely to just prolong/increase the bitterness on their part than if you’d just made a clean break.

    2. Another GenX Dev Manager*

      I was in that position actually – they moved my manager over to be our product owner and made me the team’s manager. Let’s just say the first six months were reallllllly awkward. Two of my now-reports were still running everything by him, and it took the two of us a while to adjust from a hierarchical relationship to a peer relationship. I had no insight into his salary, but since moving me to the manager role was considered a lateral move, and he’d been a senior manager, I know I was being underpaid for the work (since promoted, still probably underpaid).

      He’s since been laid off (dumb move on the company’s part, it was a weird restructuring) and I miss him, but at that point, I’d been managing the team for over a year and a half and we’d come to terms.

  17. Jean*

    #1 – I’ve been an admin at a couple of organizations where the admin person is not considered to be part of the team, but rather the person who serves the ones who do the actual work. (I hated those jobs.) I wonder if that attorney has a similar attitude. I like the idea above of sending her a picture and asking her to use it, or just asking her directly why she used a cartoon.

  18. Murphy*

    For #1, I think it’s weird and I wouldn’t like it either. But I wonder though if it was meant to be some kind of tongue in cheek “Look how hard OP#1 works!” or “Look at how much stuff they have to deal with!” since it’s a cartoon of a very busy secretary.

  19. Joy*

    For #1 has the OP ever expressed a dislike of having her photo taken or used in slides/promo materials etc.? It may not be malicious intent?

    [OT but the title line of that question reminded me of a headline from yesterday here in the UK: “Greggs (a bakery chain) says ‘sorry’ after Advent calendar launch replaces baby Jesus with sausage roll”.]

  20. LQ*

    #1 I knew an attorney who would have totally done this. She would have started out with cartoons of everyone and one by one the other attorney’s would have made her change it to boring photos of them and she would have loved the admin who let her keep the cartoon (because if you haven’t spoken up that’s the thought) beyond all reckoning. She would have also made a joke in the presentation about how the lovely admin was harried by having to deal with all the jerky attorneys but you only have to deal with admin who is just above and beyond the best. (I miss her!) She would have in a heartbeat changed if you brought it up or pointed out how it made you feel, but she wouldn’t at all have thought that it would make you feel nonhuman.
    I suspect if you were working with her (or someone like her) you’d know and not feel like that to start with, but if you suspect your attorney is like this, and if you don’t, bring it up.

  21. I See Real People*

    I think the attorney who made the cartoon views the admin as replaceable. Maybe there have been several admins in recent years. Or maybe it’s an ominous clue that this admin is not going to be there long per the attorney. In any case, it’s a definite sign that the attorney or all of them view the admin as NOT part of the team. Even though she probably does most of their work for them.

  22. OP#1 aka the Cartoon*

    Update – I ended up speaking to my manager about this, who spoke to the attorney and an apology and explanation were offered. Apparently a previous manager, who is no longer with the company, had told my team that I did not want my photo to appear on presentations. I have no idea where this information came from as I never said or indicated anything of the sort. I will say that I don’t like my picture but not many people tend to like their own photos. I have never had any conflict with the attorney before so I don’t think it was meant to be vindictive. I think in general I am just overlooked. I have worked in law firms both big and small for the past 20 years but this is my first in-house experience and it is very different. Thanks to everyone for their comments and advice.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I think in general I am just overlooked.

      This isn’t surprising, though I’m still side-eyeing the prior manager. I’m glad this was resolved.

  23. Kara_Lynn*

    I think everyone is looking at #1 too deeply. It doesn’t seem like she was replaced, but rather he used a comic (cartoons are animated) initially because he didn’t have a photo of her. As many have pointed out, attorney websites always have counsel photos readily available, making the taking of or finding of additional staff photos an extra step he didn’t have to take with anyone else. Finding malice is a big leap from what was presented here.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Again, as was stated in the OP, this wasn’t referring to the company’s website – it was a presentation given to others within the company to introduce the rest of the staff to the legal team. Therefore, if OP is part of the legal team (which she is), her photo should have been included along with the attorney photos. People didn’t necessarily say there was intentional malice here, just that it’s not uncommon for attorneys to not really consider how they treat their support staff in general. And as OP clarified above, an outgoing manager apparently indicated to the new manager that she didn’t like her photo taken, which OP never said, so there may have been something personal going on with that particular person the OP doesn’t know about. Who knows.

      1. Kara_Lynn*

        Understood but I never thought it was being presented on the company’s site. That’s just where they’d be getting the photos. Attorneys are generally non-technical and having quick access to find, copy, and paste the photos makes their lives easier and quicker. Path of least resistance.

        I saw several people implying it was done with malice.

        I did not see the clarification from OP.

    2. VC*

      Total pedantic derail here, but “cartoon” definitely includes static illustrations as well as animations. It’s a description of style, not format. (Source: my major was in sequential art.)

        1. Kate 2*

          That’s the standard actually. “Comic” specifically refers to single panel and multi-panel cartoons with written jokes, like the New Yorker or the Sunday comics.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          So. Language changes over time, and “cartoon” originally meant “a preparatory drawing for a piece of art” and still means that in some fields. When newspapers and magazines started, the word expanded to mean humorous drawings, and when moving pictures started, it expanded again to include moving images.

          Useful sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartoon and a book called “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud.

    3. OP#1 aka the Cartoon*

      They have my photo. It’s readily available on our internal profiles. I don’t think malice was intended either, just thoughtlessness. However, I am glad I brought it up to our manager so it is on record in case anything like this happens again.

      1. Kara_Lynn*

        Okay. Thank you for clarifying. I see more information is available now. I’m glad it worked out for you in the end.

  24. kayakwriter*

    RE question 4. At Old Job many years ago, one of my co-workers was a hard-core tri-athlete. She scheduled her training sessions on Outlook and, since it affected what kind of training she’d do on those days, she also “scheduled” her monthly cycle. So one fine afternoon about 200 of us received invitations to her next six months of periods. Fortunately, it was a pretty cool workplace, so aside from some gentle teasing about scheduling conflicts or being unavailable for those meetings, it blew over quickly.

  25. GreenDoor*

    #1….Not a secretary now, but put in my fair share of time as one. I most certainly didn’t have papers stacked up all over my desk and, even on my most frustrating days, didn’t toss my hands up in the air and make a show of it. Even if there really was a good reason to use a cartoon image, this co-worker certainly could have found one that represented the Secretary as being professional and organized. Geez.

  26. Noah*

    Is it possible OP1 is the only admin in the legal department and everyone else is a lawyer or paralegal? This is still pretty strange, but putting a secretary in these PowerPoints was strange to begin with.

  27. KJDubreuil*

    Boss/owner of small business here. If the OP knew the event needed scissors she should have asked for funds to purchase scissors, either ahead of time or at the actual event. She should not have brought her own scissors to the event, in effect ‘lending’ them to the company, unless asked to do so by her supervisor. A good policy is not to lend anything unless you can accept not getting it back. I would be really irritated if one of my employees provided a personal item for the use of my business without it being requested, and then asked for reimbursement if the item was mislaid or broken. If I had not asked the person to lend the item, then I would not be willing to accept responsibility for safely ‘returning’ it. I might reimburse them but I would resent it. I would think ‘hey I never asked you to bring your scissors, why should I have to buy you new ones?’

    I once had an employee leave her purse open under the break room water dispenser. Well, water got in and ruined her cell phone. (I was actually the person who spilled the water into the purse.) I was pretty annoyed that she asked the business (essentially ME) to pay for the cell phoned. I did pay for it, but when she wanted me to write letters of recommendation for her to take with her to a new town I was not incline to do so.

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