my company publicly shames people who get hurt on the job, current employer asked my new job to change my start date, and more

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

1. My company publicly shames people who get hurt on the job

I work for a moderately sized, privately owned company. A year ago, our director of facilities retired. His replacement is a big proponent of trophies and awards, and has heavily campaigned with company leaders to get the business involved in voluntary safety and efficiency certification programs.

To this end, the Facilities department has launched a “behavioral awareness” program, which states that most workplace injuries are caused by lazy or absent-minded behavior, and seeks to “educate and inform” about how to change our actions to improve our safety numbers. We receive a weekly email newsletter that anonymously outlines workplace incidents and critiques what went wrong.

These newsletters amount to poorly disguised blind items that give explicit details about employee medical issues, while also shaming the employee for getting hurt. Anybody with a modicum of awareness can figure out who is being discussed. The most recent newsletter discusses a mid-level manager who slipped on wet leaves in the parking lot, badly spraining her ankle and chipping her kneecap on the way down. The newsletter reminded everyone to wear appropriate slip-proof shoes (the company has cracked down hard on the dress code, so business pumps are expected), to stay on the sidewalks (there are none in the middle of a parking lot), and to not hurry while walking (she was caught in an unexpected downpour). Basically, reality cannot meet what these newsletters claim should occur.

I know that HIPAA does not apply here, but shaming people who get hurt and sharing their diagnoses feels incredibly inappropriate. I don’t have the power to influence this project, but I’m looking for a sanity check: is this as terrible as I think it is?


There can be value in discussing specific incidences if there are lessons to be drawn that will be widely helpful to others, but the focus should be on helping to educate people on what they should do rather than things that one specific person may (or may not, in this case) have done wrong. And the example you gave is particularly absurd, since it sounds like the advice wasn’t even applicable to the person who got hurt.

If you have some capital to spend, consider speaking up with some coworkers about how unhelpful this approach is.

2. When your ex owns your company’s HR firm

My friend and his ex dated for several years and lived together for most of that time. They also work together – he is, let’s say, a teapot maker, and she’s the teapot company’s HR rep. She owns an HR company, and he helped her get the HR contract for the small (20 or so employees) teapot company he works for. She personally deals with all HR issues at the teapot company such as benefits, retirement, mediations, etc. Well, they broke up and it was as painful as those things go. He doesn’t think she will retaliate (no one cheated or was abusive or anything like that, and she initiated the breakup).

The owner of the teapot company is fully aware of the situation and attempted to end her contract with his company when the breakup occurred due to the obvious conflict of interest, but for legal reasons it was not possible (as I understand it – I don’t know the details of the contract). Now, that brings me to the question, wouldn’t it be a larger legal liability/conflict of interest to keep her on, acting as my friend’s HR rep, than finding a way to terminate her contract and hire a different company? My friend has had to have more than one meeting with her since the breakup regarding HR-related issues, some meetings with just the two of them including a one-on-one meeting that happened well after working hours, by her appointment. He told me these meetings have all been extremely awkward and uncomfortable. She hasn’t done anything overtly unprofessional (other than schedule a private 7PM meeting with him), but the power dynamics make him uncomfortable to say the least. What’s your take on this?

Well, it was a conflict of interest earlier too, when they first set up the arrangement. HR can’t be dating someone they handle mediations for. So it’s been a problem all along, and both the ex and the company were remiss in allowing this from the beginning.

That said, it’s good that the your friend’s boss seems to recognize the problem now. If they can’t break the contract, then the company needs to arrange for him to have another HR rep as his contact — whether through this firm or through another one.

3. Covering for a coworker with hearing loss

When a coworker has a disability they keep secret that is affecting their department’s work, what should a coworker do? I worked with someone who had partial hearing loss that he kept silent about. Those of us who knew (we figured it out and asked him) often found ourselves in a position where he’d depend on us to cover for him, although he never outright asked us to. He would just expect us to be listening for him at all times and then be annoyed if we hadn’t overheard his conversations. Since he was often given information for our group, we’d end up spending time trying to piece together instructions from managers who would be annoyed we were bothering them instead of just asking him. Other times he’d agree to tasks we knew he couldn’t do well, say writing down data yelled to him from a distance, and we’d need to redo his work later if we wanted it to be accurate. Even more frustrating, he literally sat next to someone open about their partial hearing loss, there wasn’t any risk that he’d be sidelined for this. Just he’d be the person yelling data instead of listening for it. I left that job months ago but I keep thinking about this. I don’t feel I handled the situation correctly by covering for him, but I also don’t know what if anything I should have done. Any thoughts?

(If you’re wondering how I figured it out: when we first met I noticed he was holding his head in a way that seemed like he could hear better out of one ear then the other, I asked which side it would be easier for him to hear me from. Obviously I was below him in the office hierarchy. He was more cautious around managers.)

Yeah, that’s not reasonable. It’s definitely true that employers should accommodate people with disabilities, but that accommodation shouldn’t be an unofficial one that places unreasonable burden on the person’s coworkers. He was asking far too much from you, and getting annoyed at you if you didn’t listen to all his conversations for him was out of line.

Ideally you would have said something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t listen to your conversations for you since I have to focus on my own work. But I know if you talk to (manager) or HR, they’d have a legal obligation to work with you on accommodations to ensure you get what you need to get your work done.”

4. My current employer asked my new job to push back my start date

Ask a Manager has been a godsend while navigating a recent interview process. It went exceptionally well and I received an offer that was too good to turn down. I’m sad to leave my current position, both because I haven’t been here a year yet and because between the holidays and our Q4 workload the timing is atrocious.

I really want my relationships at my current employer to remain positive for personal and professional reasons. The kicker is: my current employer owns half of my new employer. Right now my new employer operates autonomously, but there is a significant chance we’d all end up under the same roof on a long enough timeline.

I gave a little over two weeks notice because my manager is OOO this week. She will return on the Monday of my last week. We are a two-person team so I was very apologetic and reiterated my commitment to making my transition as easy as possible.

Today, I received an email from soon-to-be manager letting me know that someone at my current employer reached out to his boss about pushing back my start date. No one has mentioned this to me and I’m a little at a loss for how to proceed. I understand the timing is less than ideal, but with the nature of my work there isn’t much I could do with another week beside handle whatever would normally come up.

How do I gently push back on my current employer while maintaining that relationship? This is very out of left field so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t feel comfortable going back on my word with my new employer.

What on earth?! They were out of line in doing that themselves rather than going through you, even though they own half of the new company.

Do you know who contacted them? If so, talk to that person and explain that you’re committed to leaving on the timeline you originally worked out. Say that if they want to discuss your last day, they should talk to you directly. And talk to your boss too so that she knows what happened and knows that you’re not up for changing your last day.

You don’t need to have a compelling argument here about why you’re not changing the date — you can just say, “I’m planning to move on as of December 1, and that’s not something I’m comfortable changing.” You should say this in a perfectly friendly tone, but this is your call, not theirs.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. I’ve been asked to give feedback about someone I don’t work closely with

I work for a large organization but personally am on a small (and overworked) team. For the past few months, I’ve been involved with a project that has spanned several departments. Recently, I received an email from the manager of a woman who is also on the project, asking me to meet with him for a few minutes to talk about this woman’s performance, to get “outside perspective.” He requested that I create an appointment during whatever free time on his calendar works for me and meet him in his office.

I doubt he knows this, but my office is in a building far away from his, making getting there a bit of a challenge, especially for a 15-minute meeting. Also, due to our respective roles, his employee and I had only minimal contact so I don’t feel as though I have much in the way of feedback.

I guess I’m looking for a sense of how common this is, how important it is from the manager’s perspective, etc. I do try to give unsolicited feedback to managers around review time for people who have done, in my opinion, outstanding work, but this felt really out of the blue to me.

It’s not uncommon for a manager to solicit feedback from people who work closely with their staff members, especially if it’s around performance evaluation time (which is right now for a lot of companies) or if they have concerns that they’re trying to get more information about. This is a good thing — managers should seek out other perspectives on the people they manage, since otherwise they may not hear important feedback (good or bad).

But since you haven’t had much contact with the employee he’s asking about, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to email back something like this: “I actually haven’t worked very closely with Jane so I don’t have feedback off the top of my head. If there’s anything specific you’re wondering about, I’d be glad to try to answer it — but I’m probably not going to be able to be very useful. My schedule is pretty packed right now, but I could do a phone call if you want to. Let me know!”

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. Leah*

    I’m wondering if the behavior in 1 could be construed as illegal, since it could intimidate workers who get injured on the job from coming forward and claiming workers comp.

    1. neverjaunty*

      I suspect that’s exactly what this behavior is intended to do. Not sure where the OP’s workplace is, but in the US, this merits an immediate call to OSHA and/or your state’s equivalent.

      1. Manders*

        Yes to what neverjaunty said. I work in the workers’ comp and safety field and this definitely warrants a call to OSHA.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had the same reaction. It’s certainly not ok to share information about individuals’ workplace injuries, but the shaming and nonsense suggestions could have a chilling effect on people who are entitled to file worker’s compensation claims.

      I’m not saying what they’re doing is illegal—I don’t know enough to say either way. But I do think that what OP#1’s employer is doing is shitty and sounds like it’s depressing morale (which can contribute to absentmindedness and be distracting, which compounds the likelihood of injury).

    3. Mike C.*

      This is exactly what this behavior will do and someone is going to get maimed or killed it it continues.

      Shut this sh!t down immediately.

      1. Mike C.*

        Also I want to point out that talking about specific examples (that have been annoymized/generalized) isn’t inappropriate but it needs to take into account the size of your company. Say, talk about falls in general rather than warn about specific injuries.

        Also, this guy is either a jerk or he’s incompetent. People are always going to screw up in some way so his focus should be on the processes and procedures to keep folks safe, not on blaming them. That way you can also account for the situations where folks aren’t at fault either.

        1. Moose and Squirrel*

          Exactly. Send out a newsletter saying “This week’s topic is preventing falls”, “Next week: Safety while using ladders”, or “It’s ice season! How to avoid accidents.”

          This way topics are covered but no one feels like they’re being blamed/shamed.

          1. Hlyssande*

            All the quarterly and monthly webcasts from the VIPs that I have to attend start with a “safety moment” with that sort of information. Most of the time it’s common sense and fairly boring, but I have learned a few interesting things from them in the past.

        2. SystemsLady*

          The post actually called to mind some safety programs I’ve run into (it is not uncommon to hear “all accidents are avoidable”).
          But they are all based on actively giving POSITIVE feedback for safe work and very concerned about anonymity and sensitivity when reporting near misses or accidents.

          1. Jesca*

            Yes. This. We have something similar at our work place as the industry is very heavy on safety due to past occurrences and the actual nature of the industry. They actually do something similar to this, where a root cause analysis is done every single time. This is something actually expected by customers and other stake holders. The industry in all levels is very dangerous – from making the equipment to the actual customer sites.

            The difference here is that the root causes here in this letter are not appropriate AT ALL. You never ever do a root cause that ends with ONLY a person responsible. Your root causes for anything should come down to product/service, process/procedure, or management! MANAGEMENT! Not a personal employee.

            It should also recognize that there are times when some things are just not avoidable, like our employee who got kidnapped and help for ransom walking to a meeting. A lot of people in my industry have to perform work in some of the most dangerous places in the world – with both people and environment. While everyone was of course reminded to not walk alone at night anywhere, the real root cause was an unavoidable criminal activity situation.

            The thing is, a lot of companies adopt this approach- specifically industries where you will not get customers unless you do. There are even watchdog groups that monitor the industries and rate companies on their commitment to practices like these. But root cause analysis is NEVER EVER meant to single people out or punish. It is meant to improve processes.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I was thinking of someone here who commented that passive voice was useful for workplace safety root cause analysis, because it avoided the impression that the person described was responsible for everything. This company has some weird inverted version of that, where everything contributing circumstance is something the injured person failed to control.

              1. Middle School Teacher*

                That’s correct. I teach English, and when I teach passive voice, I go over why it be used, and one reason is “when the action or process is more important than the person doing it, ex. Bread was packaged yesterday.” The person who packed it is irrelevant; the fact that it was packaged is the focus. (Of course, if the incident (and the people involved) is so obvious to everyone, the passive voice kind of becomes moot.)

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Scientific experiments was the other example given that made me say “oh, right.” Because “I added 10 mg of solution. After 3 minutes I observed bubbles rising….” sounds like my very special science blog about my day in the lab, when the point is that anyone following these steps should observe the same things.

                2. synchrojo*

                  I was a TA for a writing-intensive undergrad class on public policy for science/engineering types. The professor hired me specifically to spend a lot of time providing feedback on their writing– both organization and style– because she felt it was so important for analytical types to be able to communicate clearly with broad audiences. I was forever training passive voice out of them, which after reading your comment, I’m realizing was probably because as engineers they spent the majority of their time in other classes emphasizing processes and actions. I wish I’d thought of that at the time!

                  The way I explained it to them was by telling them to watch/listen to politicians and when they use passive vs active voice (i.e. they use active voice when they want the credit, and passive voice when they don’t want anyone figuring out that they’re to blame!)

                3. Normally A Lurker*

                  My best friend is a Physicist. He said they are trained to use passive voice in paper because nothing they do can be done without the history of everyone who has gone before them.

                  So instead of saying “I discovered XYZ happens”, he writes “It was discoverered that XYZ happened” because XYZ could never have been discovered without the millions of other science data points throughout history that he was not responsible for.

                  I don’t know if any other scientist thinks like that, but I think it’s a cool way to look at it.

                4. A grad student*

                  @Normally a lurker- I’m a graduate student in chemistry, and at least in my department, we’re being encouraged to avoid the passive voice in papers, except in materials and methods. In theory, this makes the paper more interesting and avoids excessive wordiness. So Falling Diphthong’s example becomes: “10 mg of solution was added. After 3 minutes, bubbles rose…” It also gives credit where credit is due for those who went before us- where many papers say “recently, it was discovered…”, we try to say “Recently, A et al. discovered…” . We take credit for our own discoveries as well, and do say “we discovered that xyz happens”.

              2. Jesca*

                Yes this is exactly right. Root cause is meant to be a logical OBJECTIVE approach to problem solving.

                It is was one of the things I have an expertise in, so it is a huge pet peeve of mine when I see this.

                And see what is so irritating about this is that it is such a small company. This approach to safety is generally meant for large companies, companies with unsafe work practices that need significant improvement, or companies that operate in notoriously dangerous industries. The goal is to track for safety rating scores and analysis. The size and likelihood of environment here makes this seem all the more arbitrary.

                1. LW #1*

                  I was a bit vague with “moderately sized” but the company in question has approximately 2,500 people, if that helps.

                2. LW #1*

                  Darn, hit return too soon and now I can’t nest.

                  2,500 globally. Local campus is ~100, with groups very segregated by discipline (thus the easy determination of who did what and when).

                3. Jesca*

                  So is it local management initiating this, or is it a global initiative? This makes a difference.

                  If it is site specific, then I would definitely pull some other people in and let them know that is simply a failure of appropriate root causes analysis. let them know what while you ARE JUST SO SURE this isn’t meant purposely, but there are consequences to doing this that may cause them legal trouble down the road. This may put an end to it or at least get someone trained on root cause.

                  Now if it is global – but only your site is doing it this way, I would actually contact HR and whoever is in charge of HSE and let them know that this is occurring at your level. If they are aware of how this should be done at all, they will stop it.

                  Now if it is global and systemic, I would still do the same above and just kindly let them know how it can be perceived by both employees and in a legal sense while also pointing out that this is counter productive root cause analysis. Hopefully they push for appropriate training.

                4. LW #1*

                  @Jesca, both. The local campus is small, but it is technically global headquarters. There are many more field employees than there are permanent single-location employees, but this is the hub.

                  Also, thank you very much for your expertise!

            2. Just Another Techie*

              Also in the case of the fall on wet leaves, you know, maybe if the company spent budget on street sweeping the parking lot instead of naming and shaming employees the fall wouldn’t have happened!

            3. Lindsay J*

              Yes, exactly.

              I am in aviation, and this is a thing that we do, and it is a thing that is important to do because even small mistakes in this industry can have deadly consequences.

              However, a root cause analysis is not being done correctly if all the blame is being put back on the employee. A correct root cause analysis would look at things like “is the dress-code adequate and does it make sense for the tasks the employee is doing?” “Should there be sidewalks in this area to prevent future accidents?” “Why were there wet leaves there and how can we stop them from being there in the future – do we need to hire landscapers or have them come more frequently?” “Do we need to create a safety training program or step up our training efforts?”

              “The employee is a dumbass” is not a correct conclusion (even if they were doing something pretty objectively careless or unsafe). If they stacked a step-ladder on top of a chair in order to reach a high shelf and fell down when their precarious creation collapsed, you still look at why and how you could prevent it from happening again. Were there not enough tall ladders? Did they not feel empowered to ask for help from a taller person? Why was the step ladder able to be stacked on top of the chair and can we prevent that somehow? Do we need to include in our training to not stack ladders on top of chairs? Did they feel like they could not take the time to get the correct height ladder because their team was being pressured to do things too quickly? The employee acted carelessly and ignored proper training can be part of the conclusion, but it should be a very minor part. People don’t purposely try to get hurt (generally). If they’re cutting corners or ignoring training there is probably an underlying reason why.

              In our company, not all of the cases are published, either. They’re all studied by a committee on the safety team, who looks at and makes recommendations to improve the company’s safety overall. If it is decided that there is value in publishing it in the newsletter because publishing it will help other people to avoid the same error, then it is published.

              But everything is anonymized and we’re a big enough company that generally you don’t know directly who the information is referring to.

              You also cannot be punished for information that comes from a safety report. It’s kind of like the laws that prevent people from being arrested after getting treatment for a drug overdose. If you punish people, they won’t come forward, and the benefit from being able to learn from and fix problems far outweighs any gain there would be from punishing the individual.

              1. Beaded Librarian*

                Didn’t a state make it so that you could get arrested when seeking treatment for a drug overdose and they saw overdose deaths skyrocket? Or was it just a concern because a state was looking at making it so people seeking treatment for overdoses could be arrested.

            4. Ann Nonymous*

              ” our employee who got kidnapped and help for ransom walking to a meeting” Wait, what??! You have got to tell us the full story!

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I was thinking of that “all accidents are avoidable” which I’ve heard re cars, despite knowing two people who were stopped in lines of traffic when a large vehicle behind them failed to notice the brake lights (once coming around a bend to a traffic light, once coming over a rise to a traffic jam) and had their car totaled, along with everyone behind them and a couple of cars in front. But that line is often given as though everyone involved could have done The Thing to avoid the accident, not just the driver who wasn’t paying attention.

            The example given is especially egregious, because THE COMPANY could have made high traction footwear the rule for all employees anywhere on the premises, and THE COMPANY could have made sure all leaves were quickly cleared from the parking lot, and THE COMPANY could have really emphasized “Rain from the sky, you could die! Stay in your car until it’s dry!” and followed that up by never being angry that people didn’t enter the building if the parking lot was damp. Oh, and installed sidewalks in the parking lot. But they put all the onus for everything on the person who got hurt.

            1. Observer*

              Well, in the case you cite, the accident WAS avoidable. It just was not avoidable by all of the parties – the issue was specific to one person.

              In the OP’s example, it’s quite likely that the accident was also avoidable, but the steps to avoid this accident were not in the control of the person who suffered the accident. That’s what is really egregious about the example – the root cause analysis was flat out incorrect.

              1. Jesca*

                Yes exactly. Not everyone involved in an accident could have prevented it, but usually the accident itself could have been prevented. That is why they do analysis of injury scenarios. The root cause here would be like blaming the person rear ended (which coincidentally happened to me earlier this year, and my god it is terrifying – I hope the person who did it learned of his mistake and corrected whatever behavior caused him to not see stopped traffic).

                Make no mistake, this was a management failure on all accounts – with some policy problems to boot. Forced heels in any work environment it going to increase risk of injury.

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              My organization has a lot of people driving large vehicles around an urban area for business purposes, and we classify vehicle accidents as “preventable” or “nonpreventable,” but it’s from the point of view of the organization. If someone rear-ends one of our vehicles, there’s nothing that the company or its employees could have done to prevent that (assuming appropriate lights and markings on the rear of the vehicle, etc.). Sure, the person driving the other vehicle could likely have prevented it, but knowing that doesn’t do much for us. But when an accident was deemed preventable from our perspective, we can start looking at root causes and fixes – repositioning mirrors, filing a report with the city about overhanging tree branches that interfered with safe operations, having the driver to go through additional training, changing the procedures for how employees are supposed to operate the vehicles, etc.

              Kind of like Jesca’s example above of an employee being kidnapped, sometimes you have to operate in an environment with inherent dangers and can’t 100% prevent all bad things from happening. Sometimes things are the other guy’s fault.

            3. JanetM*

              Falling Diphthong wrote, “knowing two people who were stopped in lines of traffic when a large vehicle behind them failed to notice the brake lights (once coming around a bend to a traffic light, once coming over a rise to a traffic jam) and had their car totaled, along with everyone behind them and a couple of cars in front. ”

              Do you know me? Because that latter example happened to me in 2002 — a loaded semi came over a rise into a traffic jam on the freeway and totaled my car and four others.

            4. LizB*

              Did you make up that rain rhyme on the spot, or is that actual safety advice you’ve heard before? Either way, I’m impressed.

            5. T3k*

              This reminds me of one of my college professors who mentioned a book during a talk about accidents (the industry he was part of was very big on OSHA). If I remember right, it talked about how every incident usually comes to be because of at least 6 or 7 factors. For instance, an airplane crashed in Asia years ago in a mountainside and it went something like 1) the airport he was trying to land at was in a valley between mountains 2) it was very foggy that night 3) the pilot had very little sleep 4) the co-pilot didn’t care question the pilot (at the time pilots in that area were like hotshots) and so forth.

            6. Totally Minnie*

              “All accidents are avoidable.”

              No. Not really.

              I used to work with children. Nearly everyone I know in my former profession has tripped over a child at least once. You can’t exactly avoid it. An 18 month old can’t really understand the concept of looking where they’re going and staying out of other people’s way. We try as hard as we possibly can, but a running toddler can end up in all manner of unexpected places. So you’re surrounded by small humans and you need to get to another part of the room. You take a step in one direction because there wasn’t a child there half a second ago, but surprise! There’s a kid there now!

              Which is how I ended up on workers comp with a sprained elbow. (The kid was fine, BTW. No tiny humans were harmed in the creation of this anecdote.)

              1. ThatAspie*

                I once tripped over a tot at a baseball game as I was going to the bathroom during halftime. I felt so bad about it. I don’t think the kid was hurt, thank goodness, but it could have been a lot worse. But I do take comfort in knowing that you’ve tripped over toddlers, too, so thank you for helping me feel like I’m not a complete monster!

          3. Annie Moose*

            Yeah, my OldJob was for a large chemical manufacturing company, and they took safety VERY seriously, for obvious reasons. Even though I worked in an office building, they still had quarterly safety meetings with us, and would discuss safety incidents in anonymous ways, with an emphasis on what to do right rather than haranguing employees for doing things wrong. (things like saying how many recordable safety incidents occurred in the past quarter for our building, as opposed to calling out specific incidents, or if a larger incident occurred [like a lab fire, which might occur once or twice a year], talking about how it was handled and what steps were taken to improve safety) Even then, this was only a small part of a larger meeting where safety was talked about in general ways.

            Given that our building wasn’t all that large, if they said there was 1 injury during that quarter, the odds were good you had an idea of who it was–but they still didn’t call them out in any way, and certainly didn’t provide explicit medical details.

            It was a bit of a running joke any time someone tripped or had some minor incident to go, “oooh, you don’t want to end up mentioned at the safety meeting!” But it wasn’t said out of shame or fear. We knew nobody was going to be denigrated for having an accident. A lot of times we’d make fun of the safety meetings, which seemed overkill for us office workers, but in retrospect I think they were handled pretty well. Aside from the obsession with making everyone use handrails–but that’s a story for a different day.

        3. Thlayli*

          “This guy is either a jerk or he’s incompetent” this hits the nail exactly on the head. I work in a very safety conscious industry and safety examples are really common. I have often seen examples like “someone slipped on leaves and injured their knee – reminder to be careful in the parking lot”. This sort of thing is super common. The problem here is not that examples are being used – it’s the lack of anonymising the examples, and the level of detail of medical information. In a tiny company where everyone knows who injured their knee there’s no pretence at anonymity.

          Also – the hierarchy of safety related hazard mitigations says pretty clearly that group protection is ALWAYS a higher priority than individual protections especially when the individual protections rely on someone to remember to do something. If people are slipping on leaves in the parking lot the solution is to Clean up the darn leaves, not to tell people to wear special shoes and walk slowly on rainy nights. This is so blindingly obvious that my money is on this person being staggeringly incompetent at their job, rather than simply being a jerk.

          It sounds like they have a vague idea how these safety initiatives usually work in big companies but have no idea of the actual principles behind them.

        4. Amber Rose*

          Eh, that varies. A lot of time time, as part of the corrective action process, I have to discuss the specific incident even though we are a small company. I think it’s in the audit somewhere that employees have to be notified, actually.

          The difference is, our corrective actions are always focused on program improvement rather than people improvement.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Yep. The company is letting you know off the bat that they think they have absolutely no liability in these accidents. Novel thought: clear your parking lot of obstructions.

      1. Observer*

        I’d go further – I suspect that they DO know that they might have liability and are trying to get out of it.

        1. Jesca*

          Yeah. Because workers comp will see it otherwise. And in all likelihood, so will a civil court as well. People get hurt on your property in general, and you have a certain level of liability. You have employees who get hurt on your property, then that even escalates it.

          (This is what happens when you have worked as the chairman of a safety committee!! Haha)

    5. chuck*

      Are people really that sensitive? “I’m not going to report this incident because they might embarrass me a little.” Seriously?

      Maybe it’s because I work in an industry where incidents can be very serious. People die. So I’m more than willing to “suffer” a little embarrassment about the time I fainted in a poorly ventilated substation, if it can help prevent someone else dying of suffocation in some other confined space.
      And if I cut my finger because I did something careless, I want everybody to know, because when another guy does something similar, he might remember my story, and avoid losing a hand.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yes, they are. And let’s be clear. This isn’t just making fun of someone. It’s shaming, in a public way, and it feels intimidating and nasty.

        1. RVA Cat*

          There’s also a nasty gendered dynamic to this. She was wearing the shoes the dress code requires of female employees, which compromised her safety. Men’s dress shoes don’t have these hazards. If the company cared about safety, they would want women to wear flats, plus the dress code could have some unisex items like a suit with loafers.

          1. Pineapple Incident*

            Yeah I really don’t appreciate that the dress code mentioned here requires business pumps for women- I for one look far more ridiculous than professional wearing pumps and stumbling around than I do in a pair of nice flats or ankle boots with a thicker heel or traction on the soles. Also as you indicated, requiring employees to wear something that endangers their safety based on gender is definitely discriminatory, as is shaming them for it after-the-fact. That manager probably has ammunition for a great court case.

            Workplace safety initiatives should involve some amount of personal responsibility- obviously following reasonable policies set forth by OSHA and the industry your company belongs to does place some responsibility with individual workers. A company’s safety culture should encourage reporting of unsafe conditions and injuries, no matter how they occurred- and a blame-free atmosphere for frontline workers is necessary to maintain good reporting of safety hazards.

            If your company is instituting ridiculous policies of their own that don’t enhance safety but endanger it, shame employees when they are injured, and don’t incorporate tried and true best practices for safety awareness into trainings the company should be held responsible for the consequences of that. In this case, I think some media coverage of this kind of crappy behavior and a call to OSHA are in order, and maybe the state labor board as well.

            1. Jesca*

              OSHA will likely not do much. The issues have to be pretty egregious. But definitely contacting workers comp and a worker’s comp attorney will certainly change the atmosphere.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think PI is referring to the shaming. OSHA is usually more proactive about activities that try to discourage reporting workplace injuries or accessing workers’ comp (but I agree that the kind of injury that occurred is not egregious enough to trigger their review of the injury/workplace conditions).

                1. Jesca*

                  They can be, but keep in mind OSHA is an administrative body. They have no legal authority to do anything. They can come in and investigate, sure, but they need to convince the Justice Department to do things like levy fines or shut them down. To reach this level, again it will have to very egregious. In this situation, they may come in, but will likely just see the situation as an employer just not doing an analysis correctly. They may say some harsh things to them, but that will be about it.

              2. neverjaunty*

                Yes. I suspect the company’s workers’ comp insurer might have a few things to say about this approach.

      2. Dove*

        This isn’t “I’m a little bit embarrassed”. This is “if I get injured because of a situation that could not have been avoided by anything on my part, the company will not support me and will go out of its way to make it clear that it wasn’t at fault”. One of the listed examples was someone who slipped on wet leaves in the parking lot, during an unexpected downpour, badly injuring herself in the process; the newsletter’s “advice” didn’t significantly apply to reality (you can’t do much about the weather, and there were no sidewalks to stick to), and ignored the company’s role in what happened (heels are notorious for their utter lack of decent traction, but the dress code made it impossible for the person who got injured to wear a good pair of non-slip shoes without getting penalized for not being in heels).

        This is, flat-out, behaviour that will result in people trying to avoid reporting injuries because they will be shamed for it even if they can clearly prove that they did everything they reasonably could have. This is the sort of behaviour I’d expect from a company who will fight tooth and nail to avoid admitting to any kind of workplace injuries, especially if it means that they have to pay worker’s comp for them; people aren’t going to admit to having cut themselves by accident, in this environment – not unless the damage is so bad that an ambulance *needs* to be called (and even then, they’ll try to downplay it). They’re going to try and patch themselves up and keep going, and that’s going to get people killed because no one’s willing to admit they got hurt with the piece of equipment that should have been replaced three years ago and is being held together with duct tape and prayer.

      3. Natalie*

        People can definitely be that embarrassed, even when there’s no earthly way for them to have prevented it. I worked with someone who got glass in their eye when a tiny tiny sliver somehow fell through the vent hole in their glass safety goggles. Super mortified for zero reason.

      4. Mookie*

        Given the examples the LW has provided of on-the-job accidents, this is not an industrial or manufacturing situation. Also, if it were, the onus is still on the employer to provide training and equipment and to adequately maintain infrastructure, which does not end and begin with smarmy newsletters about the stupidity of employees they failed to protect and “awards” (are the trophies given to facilities staff when accidents fall below a specific weekly / monthly / annual threshold or summat*?).

        Also, your logic here is pretty unsound. In environments you’re describing, you want to encourage people to appropriately mitigate risk, both before accidents occur and when they do so that they don’t compound or create additional consequences. Fostering an atmosphere in which all accidents, injuries, and equipment failures will be treated as though they are the product of negligence and laziness on the part of the employee will not help matters, and yes, as you say, risk of further or more serious injury increases when that happens. It doesn’t matter whether that reaction (a disinclination or wariness to report problems when doing so puts your employment or reputation in harm’s way) seems reasonable; it matters because it happens and responsible management is meant to deal with reality, not an idyll they would prefer to exist in.

        They’re right, though, in that there do appear to be some lazy or inefficient people working in this organization, and they’re working wherever that utterly facile newsletter is being churned out of.

        *it’d be interesting to know whether this awards scheme has anything to do with a new insurance policy or if implementing it (which they’re obviously not really doing successfully) is netting the company a better rate

        1. Myrin*

          That was actually what jumped out at me the most about this letter – “which states that most workplace injuries are caused by lazy or absent-minded behavior”. I certainly have no empirical data for this but at least from my (albeit limited) experience, this doesn’t seem true.

          1. SystemsLady*

            That’s an incredibly negative version of something I hear all the time (“if we all actively strive to work safely, all accidents are avoidable”). But usually people running those programs understand human psychology and focus on increasing safe behavior, not punishing accidents.

          2. Mookie*

            The other weird thing about “lazy and absent-minded” is that it’s always undesirable in an employee, and yet here they are, advertising that, on top of their safety measures, their management and hiring practices are subpar. The buck got passed and then turned into a beautiful self-owning (and returning) boomerang.

        2. LW #1*

          LW#1 here. I chose the most recent example for sake of timeliness, but it is in fact a mixed manufacturing and office campus.

          1. Mookie*

            Thank you for the clarification. That double-standard (“heels are bad but wear them, anyway, but don’t blame us if they hurt you”) is striking, though.

          2. Thlayli*

            Does the policy actually state that accidents are a result of people being lazy and absent minded? Or is that your interpretation of the document?

            1. LW #1*

              The exact wording of the newsletter content changes from week to week. Some examples:

              “90+% or more of safety incidents are due to poor choices and risky behavior.”

              “Time, and time again, we see injuries because employees take their mind off the immediate task at hand. Maintain complete concentration at all times.”

              “Over 90% of injuries are due to risky behavior or employees not thinking about the risks before acting.”

              1. Jesca*

                Yeah see here is the problem with this. While those statistic are likely correct (maybe inflated a little bit), they are still missing that the ONUS is still on the employer to mitigate this for their employees.

                For instance, if the work is tedious and repetitive, mental exhausting and boredom can occur. This can result in mistakes. Employers can rotate the work to prevent mental fatigue.

                Another example is the environment itself may cause an issue. Is it quiet, warm, and dark? Again this is still up to the company to correct and prevent! It is never the employees fault! They are so absolutely misguided and uneducated on this, that they may find themselves on the wrong side of a lawsuit in worst case! They are not correcting the issues. Holy crap, they need training!

                When you are doing root cause and corrective action (CAPA) at any time, you are looking at all avenues to prevent the reoccurrence. And like with auditing, you need to be trained, have actual experience, and a predisposition to logical analysis to perform this in a successful way. I can tell you right now that they lack all the above. They are really putting themselves in a terrible situation and their employees as well!

                Your safety moto is never “take care of yourself out there! Or be punished!” That is why they have effing labor laws! If this is their approach to safety, then they are just going to increase their lost time incidents and likely eventually get sued.

                1. A Teacher*

                  Thank you! Before I became a fulltime teacher, I worked as an athletic trainer for a large company and did a lot of the functional capacity testing for work comp patients to send them back to work. This letter seriously bothered me–the onus is on the employer and not the employee to correct for error. This letter bugged me.

              2. AcademiaNut*

                And how would the company react to an employee saying “It was raining when I arrived, so I decided to stay in my car until the rain stopped to avoid slipping on the wet leaves, and that’s why I’m late”?

                Or, for that matter, “I have a weak ankle, so I’m wearing lace-up flats to prevent accidents.” Which would be pretty accurate for me – I tend fall over in heels even without the wet leaves and rain.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  I would tell anyone who required me to be in business pumps that ‘When I was in the Air Force, I wore the standard shiny oxfords. Why would that be a problem here?–and with any luck, there would be some veterans in decision-making areas who would pick up on that.

              3. Mike C.*

                I work in a very similar environment (but massively scaled up) and these sorts of things are absolutely useless.

                I don’t want the guy in charge to be hurt, but it would be funny for him to have to write up his own workplace accident.

              4. neverjaunty*

                Good grid, this is awful.

                The person who hurt her knee should be talking to a worker’s comp attorney, and the idiot who runs your safety messaging should be sent packing.

              5. Ramona Flowers*

                “Maintain complete concentration at all times.”

                You officially work for ignorant fools, then. It’s not possible to maintain complete concentration at all times, however hard you try.

              6. Alton*

                I think that type of language is pretty common, though maybe moreso in retail and manufacturing environments. I think even in those settings, it can be kind of obtuse in that it doesn’t really address ways in which the workplace is responsible for creating a safe environment. But I think the main issue here is more that they’re both using thinly-veiled real cases as examples and using cases that aren’t even applicable.

              7. LizB*

                Maintain complete concentration at all times? Yikes. Hire some robots, then — that isn’t really how humans work.

              8. Us, Too*

                Yep, this person sucks at their job all right. Sorry, OP.

                +10000 to the other commenters who have noted that this isn’t how root cause analysis works.

              9. boop the first*

                That’s so frustrating. I know in my workplace, a few coworkers are willing to do some dangerous things, such as, scale some wobbling furniture to reach high storage that has “do not stand on this” written all over it. But at the same time, the provided ladders are admitted to have unmarked, broken rungs, and no one wants to accidentally discover which rungs are broken after they have stepped on them. So… which choice is poor in that case?

                (Personally, I choose secret option #3, which is to just ignore that supply that is out of my reach, shrug my shoulders when my work can no longer be done, and then go home. But that’s just me.)

      5. Fish Microwaver*

        Even without public shaming , workplace injuries /worker’s comp is fraught with blame and lack of accountability from management. When a worker is injured, they are often in a state of pain and anxiety and what you call a bit of embarrassment is unnecessary unpleasantness.

      6. Valegro*

        My employer is pretty clear you’re a baby if you need to go to the doctor for an injury because the boss will just tape suffer with a dislocated finger. A coworker got shamed for saying she had a head injury and the boss told her she was misremembering the incident that she wasn’t present for. If something happens to his favorite support staff however, you had better get their butt to the ER.

      7. fposte*

        But that’s the point–if you’re in an industry where safety is important, you *want* people to report safety problems. This is making it less likely that they’ll be reported–the opposite of the goal.

      8. Observer*

        Actually, there is a reason that OSHA got mentioned. I suspect that they would not respond in this case, but in more dangerous industries, they would come down on a policy like this like a ton of brocks, because it most definitely DOES deter reporting.

    6. Polymer Phil*

      This is a very common thing at large chemical companies. Employees are severely disciplined for any safety-related incident, with the consequence that there is a strong incentive to pretend that an injury happened outside of work.

    7. mugsy523*

      Safety manager here. OSHA is indeed cracking down on companies who create a culture of shaming employees for getting injured or who have incentive programs designed to discourage the reporting of workplace injuries. This new philosophy at the LW’s office would be frowned upon by calling the local OSHA office. The OSHA website has a wealth of information on their whistle-blower program, if an employee would be retaliated against the company for notifying OSHA of these actions.

      Reading this situation regarding the leaves in the parking lot, I’d say the new Facilities director is trying to take the heat off of his group for not properly maintaining the work environment. Behavior based safety programs are almost always used to point the finger at the employee, which is a shame. This is a case where the processes in place (keeping a hazard-free parking area) clearly failed to protect the worker, but they are going to turn it around and blame the worker for not wearing slip-resistant shoes and not paying enough attention to the work surface.

      PS- In my experiences in the safety world, when the safety culture is all about blaming the employee, it’s a symptom of a much sicker corporate culture. I’d bet there are many other signs on a dysfunctional workplace outside of employee safety, but this is just one issue coming to the surface.

      1. Observer*

        Reading this situation regarding the leaves in the parking lot, I’d say the new Facilities director is trying to take the heat off of his group for not properly maintaining the work environment.

        I was thinking just this!

      2. Former Employee*

        It’s good to know that OSHA takes this sort of thing seriously. And I was thinking this seemed like a sign of an overall not good place to work. I used to work in commercial insurance and the Loss Control (LC) people who visited the insureds and came up with safety programs and training were all about the process and procedures as opposed to who did what because LC knew that if people were doing things the wrong way, it was likely that the real problem was that the employees had’t been trained on doing things the right way.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I own and love my Clark’s, but even they won’t protect your from slippery leaves and pavement during a downpour. Heck, even rainboots may not be enough.

      2. Jessen*

        I haven’t really seen much of them that I would consider both actually nonslip and suitable for business attire. They’re better than cheap pumps, but they’re still going to let you slip on slippery surfaces.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I have a pair of Italian high heels with a proper rubber tread on them (like you would find on a desert boot).

          1. Jessen*

            I don’t think any pair of heels can be properly qualified as non-slip in my book! Even if the tread holds it’s just so much easier to twist an ankle.

            (I also wonder how much they cost – I already have a hard time affording dress shoes, having to make them non-slip too would be impossible.)

            1. Us, Too*

              Not to mention the obviously smaller surface area for a slip-resistant heel’s “sole” to come into contact with the walking surface. Physics tells you that it CANNOT be a slip resistant as a comparably soled “full” shoe with more surface area.

      3. AnonForNow*

        Clarks quality has gone right down over the last 18 months, last two pairs we’ve had the tread wore off entirely under normal use in less that two months and became just slippery as other much cheaper shoes. One of those pairs was an identical style to ones we’ve bought for over five years that used to last at least a year between pairs. Very disappointing.

        1. Jesca*

          Cobb Hill isn’t bad. But in all honesty, heals are awful. I will also point out that I have awful issues with my feet from wearing heels and non-supportive shoes in manufacturing/office environments. The floors in the entire building are normally all concrete. I am in my younger 30s and my arches are collapsing from wearing shoes like this over the past 12 or so years.

          Definitely go with a Cobb Hill or Vionic or another brand that I cannot think of haha. They are not going to be pretty little shoes, but they are much safer.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          My last pair of Clarks, the sole separated from the upper in less than three months of light wear. I used to swear by them too :-(

          1. Jessica*

            Born. They’re expensive and not very trendy, but they last ages and have excellent weather-resistant soles. I live in an area with a long winter and I’ve basically switched to wearing only this brand.

            That being said, a lot of people wear winter boots into the office and then change shoes at their desk.

    1. JamieS*

      Well I mean I think the solution is pretty obvious. What the women at OP’s company need to do is buy themselves a nice pair of mountaineering boots. Not the cheap kind, the boots should set them back at least 2 months rent so they know they’re good quality. Then once they’ve attained the boots they should wear them walking to and from their car and the office building and change their shoes in the elevator. They can drop the boots in their reasonably sized (but not oversized!) purse.

      Something tells me my “solution” isn’t as preposterous as some of the advice OP’s facilities director has bestowed upon the masses.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        (Sigh). I was trying to go up on the gantry at one space launch location. The launch officer was not going to let it happen. He kept nixing every pair of shoes I had, while approving the shoes of all the men. Then I remembered I had left another pair of shoes in the back of my truck.
        I stomped in wearing my steel shank, steel toe, mountaineering boots. They were the kind that could take a full crampon.
        There was nothing he could say. I was the first civilian female on that gantry.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Okay, you sound like you have thousands of interesting stories.

          I love that you eventually stunned him into silence.

      2. Mel*

        I always wear (nice) mountain boots because I have fibromyalgia and I need the extra support. I hate days when I need to wear “nice” shoes, which are usually flats or the most stable slight heel I can find, and even then it’s usually pretty painful. So I actually do that mountain boot switcheroo you suggested, although on very rare occasions.

    2. David St. Hubbins*

      The solution is simple. If it rains, wear appropriate shoes so that you won’t slip and fall. Just like you might wear a rain coat. Once you’re inside, take them off and put on the required pumps. Problem solved.

        1. David St. Hubbins*

          They can manage risk, but they can’t eliminate all hazards. When it rains, it will be wet outside, and there may be wet leaves. And they won’t be able to keep the area free of leaves all the time. That’s just physically impossible. But they can manage that risk by making employees aware of the hazard, and highlight possible actions they can take to reduce the risk. Which is what they seem to be doing.

          I have seen nothing that indicates that they are actually using language that shames people, except someone’s opinion.

          If they actually said “She was injured because she didn’t think, and she didn’t wear non-shoes (or whatever) and therefore it’s her own fault” then I would agree with the other commenters.

          1. Natalie*

            “They can manage risk, but they can’t eliminate all hazards.”

            Doesn’t the same standard apply to the people who are injured?

            Also, come on, it literally says “sudden downpour” in the letter.

            1. David St. Hubbins*

              Yes, it says “sudden downpour”. Which is probably why the wet leaves couldn’t be removed in time.
              And they can not eliminate all hazards. That’s just physically impossible. So safety is everybody’s responsibility.

              Maybe the language used in these newsletters is insensitive , but I don’t have a problem with it in principle. I think safety advice is more effective if they use real incidents that happened to people you may know, instead of some made up thing.

              I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by a sprained ankle, but maybe it’s just me.

              1. Mookie*

                I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by a sprained ankle, but maybe it’s just me.

                Who suggested they should and where?

              2. Colette*

                The company couldn’t remove the wet leaves but the employee should have known she needed to wear different shoes that she would have to change out of at work?

              3. Violet Fox*

                Are you going to mansplain how to safely wear business pumps too? Any experience there with having to wear them because they are required and then being blamed for being injured for following the dress code?

                It also isn’t for you to decide how other people feel about their own injuries.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yeah. If you don’t personally carry multiple pairs of shoes everywhere you go, just in case the traction/dressiness needs suddenly change, it’s weird to assume other people should find that simple.

                2. Mockingjay*

                  Exactly. I have permanently shortened hamstrings from years of wearing high heels, because back in the dark ages women were required to wear these at all times (even in an aircraft hangar. OSHA hadn’t caught up with the agency back then). The fact that a dress code still requires heels in this day boggled my mind. I thought (hoped) most employers had moved past requiring harmful clothing.

                  The day I was able to purchase work boots for a project made me so happy. I love these things. Great arch support, toe protection, grippy tread, secure ankles. I can wear them all day and I don’t have to worry about tripping, climbing ladders, or maneuvering through hatches. And for business meetings, I wear loafers. Heels be damned.

              4. Nephron*

                But rain is a regular thing that you know will happen eventually, the company should have removed the leaves when they were dry and then no leaves to get wet.

              5. Observer*

                The leaves should have been removed BEFORE it rained – this should be a normal part of maintaining a lot.

                And if you are providing advice relating to a real incident, make sure that the advice actually makes sense and is practical. Some of the advice was literally impossible for the person to have followed. And the rest was highly impractical – but highly gendered. How many men are expected to adhere to a dress code that requires them to change their shoes when they get into the office? (Obviously, I’m not talking about situations where people need to get into safety gear.)

              6. Natalie*

                But they aren’t treating it like “everybody’s responsibility” – they’re treating it like the injured empoyee’s sole responsibility. If they were treating it like everyone’s responsibility their write up would have included things like parking lot sweeping and adjusting their dress code.

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

                Sure, it’s possible that the leaves + rain happened in such a way that it wasn’t really possible to clean them up before this incident happened. Like a sudden gust of wind blew the leaves onto the previously clean path.

                The solution, however, is not to blame the employee for her dress code mandated choice of footwear and conclude that this, plus not using sidewalks that don’t exist, means that the employee was solely at fault and should be shamed for falling and injuring themselves.

              8. NaoNao*

                They’re not *embaressed by the injury*. They’re embaressed by the fact that their injury, which was partly caused by conditions outside of their control, is being used as a negative example by a harsh newsletter that goes out to all of the company and uses language that can be reasonably construed as embarrassing and blaming.
                The injury is not described in neutral terms to show potential accidents. It’s described in terms that clearly make the person who suffered the injury solely responsible. That’s the issue.
                It’s fine to use real examples. It’s fine to issue safety bulletins. But those items aren’t under discussion. The *manner* in which it was done is the issue.

              9. Engineer Girl*

                Your argument is a logical fallacy called black and white thinking. It basically states that since you can’t eliminate all the hazards you can’t be responsible for any of it. That’s an utter falsehood. As someone that’s done a lot of risk mitigation, I know that reducing risks to a lower probability or consequence is still progress.
                The company has a responsibility to maintain a safe work environment. That means cleaning up leaves, maintaining good drainage for parking lots and sidewalks, excellent lighting, slip resistant treads on sidewalks, and a mat in the doorway to absorb water.
                The employee has a responsibility to wear decent shoes and not run.
                The issue the OP described put all responsibility on the employee. This is a clear fallacy.
                It’s also embarrassing to be publicly called out in front of ones peers for ones errors. Most people can’t handle that. Remember the old management principle Praise publicity, correct privately? They’re not doing that.
                It would be very different if the accident data was anonymized.

          2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            Well, then they shouldn’t require employees to wear high heels.
            And there probably is something they as an employer could do to mitigate the risk (like anti-slip mats/coating, someone coming in to blow wet leaves away…) that will have a larger effect than just telling people not to slip.

          3. Mookie*

            I have seen nothing that indicates that they are actually using language that shames people, except someone’s opinion.

            Sure you have. The LW and a bunch of people here are telling you so. Your dissenting opinion about that is also a data point, but it doesn’t cancel out the consensus that is growing here (and likely growing in the LW’s organization, as well).

          4. Shop Girl*

            I would want to know what kind of shoes are the men required to wear? Are they required to wear shoes that are not only dangerous in bad weather but can be dangerous on stairs as well as detrimental to the legs for some people. Is there a place for women to change shoes and stow them during the day. Are the men required to have 2 pairs of work shoes.
            If the management takes so little care of women that they shame them for falling in the parking lot then I would question how they treat women in other ways.

            1. Shortie*

              This is exactly what I was wondering. It is incredibly sexist for a company to require women to wear business pumps.

              There are plenty of professional women’s shoes that are flat and look nice–why would they be required to wear shoes that can damage their backs, legs, and feet. I would not comply with this rule, even if it led to termination of my employment.

            2. blackcat*


              I have enough orthopedic problems I’m sure I could get a doctor’s note to try to get out of wearing heels, but I wouldn’t want to work anywhere that made women wear heels on principle.

          5. Katie the Fed*

            Well, here’s the deal – when it snows it also gets slick outside. But my employer still has a responsibility to salt and shovel the hazard. Except they didn’t once – including around the pregnant-lady parking and a friend of mine face-planted on the concrete at 8 months pregnant. She was fine, but still – it’s an employer’s responsibility to manage hazards so their employees have safe working conditions. All the care in the world isn’t going to matter when you open your car door and step on a sheet of ice you didn’t see because your employer is too stupid to get salt out there.

            1. K.*

              My former coworker damaged his car pulling into the parking lot because the company hadn’t done anything about the snow or ice in the parking lot at all – and the only reason he came to work at all was because his boss demanded it. (Working from home privileges varied by department – my then-department was very in favor and in bad weather it was understood that we’d be remote; his department rarely allowed it and his boss told him he couldn’t take the day off.) He hit a sheet of ice, couldn’t stop, and hit a sign. He was fine; his car was not.

          6. eplawyer*

            And the sudden unexpected downpour? I guess you should carry multiple shoes at ALL times so you can change quickly for the unexpected?

            Spoken like a true male who has never had the problem of multiple shoe changes.

          7. Observer*

            You haven’t been paying attention. Not only does the OP make the general claim, but they also say that the Facilities guys says that “most accidents are the result of lazy behavior and not paying attention.” The incidents being described are being pitched of examples of people being lazy and not paying attention.

            I’m not sure how not walking on non-existent sidewalks and avoiding the only surface available to got into the office is either lazy or inattentive, but that’s precisely what the newsletter is saying.

      1. Pat Benetardis*

        Sometimes it starts to rain after you leave for work. Usually, the footwear you choose to wear is in accordance with the company’s dress code. im sorry, but unless it was a torrential storm with flooding, I would not wear boots. I expect my employer to provide me with a clear parking lot with sidewalks. And if I got hurt, it’s their negligence, not mine.

        1. Kyrielle*

          This. This, all the way. I come in to work in all weather, and I wear my usual flats (which have the WORST traction, I am never buying this exact type again) pretty much all the time. But the parking lot is kept clear, with good traction. There’s not sidewalks from every parking space, but a) the lot itself is walkable and b) it’s never too far to a sidewalk.

          Now, if it’s a little snowy/icy out (rare here) and I come in at all rather than work from home, I will wear my hiking shoes. First, the dress code doesn’t require me to change out of them when I get into the office, and second, I will want the traction. In that case, facilities does what they can and posts warning signs about conditions being potentially slippery.

      2. Purple Jello*

        So I need to have two pairs of high quality shoes, while my male colleagues only are required to have one?

      3. Temperance*

        When men are required to both own and carry two separate pairs of shoes with them at all times by this ridiculous policy, we’ll talk. Up until then, I will maintain that requiring women to wear heels is discriminatory and this policy is stupid.

      4. LBK*

        Expecting women to have multiple sets of shoes available but (presumably) allowing men to wear less-dressy, safer shoes all the time seems like blatant sexism.

  2. Kiwi*

    Number 1 makes me mad. If the company really wants to reduce accidents like that, they should do something about the dead leaves in the carpark instead of blaming the woman who fell. Here in NZ, we’ve got pretty stringent health and safety laws and that’s what we’d have to do.

    1. David St. Hubbins*

      I don’t see anybody blaming her. What I see is someone saying this is a thing that happened, and can happen again, and this is what you can do to be safe.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Uh… I think you’re reading the letter quite differently from others. It’s not reasonable to warn people about slip-and-falls when the causes of the fall are all things completely unrelated to how to be safe (especially since it sounds like the weather and the employer’s failure to maintain the grounds were the primary causes of the accident).

      2. Artemesia*

        Yeah like not wearing the shoes we require you to wear. And to walk on sidewalks that don’t exist in the middle of the parking lot. Of course they blamed her; that was the point of the memo.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, claiming that you can prevent this thing by doing something differently that what the victim did IS blaming her. By claiming that she could have done something physically impossible (ie avoid the wet leaves and walk on non-existent sidewalks), it’s clear that they are NOT trying to give helpful information, but to push the responsibility off of themselves.

  3. David St. Hubbins*

    #1. I’m not sure I understand what the big deal is. Workplace injuries do happen, and the company is informing everyone of incidents that occurred and how to prevent them from happening again. I don’t see anything wrong with the example in the letter. A woman slipped and hurt herself. The company said that to prevent it from happening to you, keep to the sidewalks, don’t rush, etc. It’s not like they said “look at this woman. She didn’t follow the rules, and she got hurt. Shame!” They simply said this is what can happen, so be careful.

    Maybe the specific wording wasn’t great (we don’t know), but there’s nothing in the letter that sounds like public shaming to me.

    1. Katherine*

      There’s a lot of context in that letter that explains why it comes across as unnecessary shaming, and why it’s not helpful – for instance, the details about there being no sidewalks in the parking lot.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Well, yes, we do know, because the OP told us what the wording and the tone are. She also pointed out that the company is giving “safety tips” that are ridiculous and contradictory – insisting on business pumps as part of a dress code and then finger-wagging about “slip-proof shoes” when someone gets hurt.

      A company that wants to prevent workplace injuries, rather than scold people out of workers’ comp, would have proactive safety. Like providing safe places to walk, clearing wet leaves, instructing people on safe methods of performing their jobs, that kind of thing.

      1. blackcat*

        I mean, if the company actually insists on “business pumps”–so heels–they can’t care about safety all that much. At least not for their female employees.

        I am super clumsy and have messed up ankles due to childhood sports injuries. I struggle with even slightly uneven terrain in 2in Clarks heels with excellent tread. It’s not safe to demand I wear pumps! And I don’t think I’m at all unique in that…

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          (I think it’s bizarre that the company’s doing this)

          But depending on exactly how the dress code is written, they could potentially mean that one should wear no-slip shoes outside and business pumps inside.

          That is giving them A LOT of benefit of the doubt though.

            1. Kate 2*

              Yep, then women have the extra burden of buying and maintaining 2 pairs of shoes for work. And since heels of any height beyond flat actively damage your feet, permanent damage, this really pisses me off.

            2. Tiny Soprano*

              I saw ‘one’ and my brain read ‘men’. Just got a beautiful vision of my company’s 6’7″ male CEO donning stylish pumps as he exits the lift.

          1. Observer*

            That’s an eeoc lawsuit waiting to happen. This is totally gender based, has a significant disparate impact, and you really can’t make the case that there is a pressing business need.

        2. RVA Cat*

          I can’t help but wonder if they are demanding she wear a high-heeled cast a la Inglorious Basterds.

      2. Natalie*

        It certainly can be useful to look at accidents retroactively, to see where improvements can be made, whether in facilities or worker training or dress codes or what have you. But that certainly isn’t the same thing as just sharing the details of every individual accident with “here’s all the mistakes this person made”.

      3. Browser*

        My company just put up signs along all the stairs reminding people to use the handrails for safety. Which seems a little silly, but being in an office going up and down stairs is the most dangerous thing I do all day. And it’s *proactive* to have handrails on all of them and remind us to use them.

        Our work dress code is technically “business casual”, but most of us are in jeans and hiking boots because winters can be dangerous. No dress code is worth someone’s safety.

    3. JKP*

      I think the main problem is the details given about the employees’ accidents.

      A long time ago, I had a temp assignment where I helped put together materials for an OSHA class the company was teaching. They had specific case studies like this with details about injuries, but they were not about actual employees at the company. They were general industry case studies they had permission to share.

      1. David St. Hubbins*

        In my industry that is how it works. Incidents are reported, and all the information (including names) is published and made available to all employees and contractors. But then again, I don’t work in the US, and there is a health and safety act specifically for this industry, so this is what I’m used to. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Let’s agree to disagree

        1. Mookie*

          What you’re describing isn’t a bad thing. What you’re describing, however, isn’t what happened here.

        2. Uhhhh*

          Is it then used to shame those employees, blame them for their accidents, and give them useless, contradictory and unhelpful “advice” on how to never ever have an accident?

          Record and inform is one thing. What is described in this letter is something else entirely, and I find it odd that you are unable to see the difference.

      2. Mookie*

        I think the main problem is the details given about the employees’ accidents.

        That’s my read on it. They’re providing as an example of an unsafe situation an actual incident that they created and they are, primarily, responsible for preventing. Neither party control the weather. They do know the season (deciduous trees defoliate on a schedule), they do know talking about sidewalks where there aren’t any to begin with is a non-sequitur, and they are well-aware of their dress code. “Don’t rush while walking,” as a blanket rule, is non-informative. Under some conditions walking fast is comparatively safe. The employer control the conditions where doing so isn’t safe. So it becomes circular. It also sets a terrible precedent if the newsletters are for something other than covering their own ass. Create ludicrous guidelines based on a real accident that they contributed to while disclaiming all responsibility, and no employee is going to bother to read another. If this is the new facilities’ director’s idea of efficiency, she’s got the wrong end of the proverbial.

        1. SignalLost*

          Under torrential downpour conditions walking fast, or even running, is instinctive for some people. It’s astonishing the role that weather, and our ingrained conditioning to it, can play in accidents and disaster scenarios, even when the weather itself is one of multiple triggers for the accident. (For ex, depending on the surface type, fallen leaves can still be kind of slippery when dry, so the rain is a major factor in the described incident, but far from the only one.)

    4. David St. Hubbins*

      I think people miss the point of these “incident alerts”, as they are called where I work. They are not about blaming someone. They use specific incidents to show what can happen, and then give GENERAL tips on how to prevent similar incidents. The safety tips (sidewalks, non-slip shoes etc.) don’t necessarily apply to the specific incidents.

      Example. A while ago I cut my finger while working with small wires. Our health and safety manager could have used the incident to point out the hazards of working with sharp tools. She would then say that wearing safety gloves can prevent a similar injury, which is true. I can’t wear my gloves while working with those small wires (I need to be able to feel what I’m doing), but we do other work too, where wearing gloves are practical, and just a good idea. It is understood that sometimes, wearing gloves is not practical. But in general, we should wear them.

      OK. There are no sidewalks in the parking lot. But the safety tip is not only about this particular parking lot. It’s supposed to make people aware of general hazards that exist (anywhere you go, not just at work), and the different things you can do to stay safe. Tomorrow you might be in a different parking lot, or in a street, or some other similar place with slippery surfaces. There might be sidewalks, or some kind of designated walkway. And you will remember what you read, and you won’t fall and break your leg. THAT is the purpose of these alerts.

      1. MK*

        If you want to give general advise about safety, you don’t have to connect it to a very specific incident. In fact, it’s both useless and counter-productive to do so, if the advise you give is largely irrelevant to the specific incident (as in, it wouldn’t have prevented the injury in this case).

        And it’s unreasonale to expect the people involved not to take it personally, when you use their personal case to make your point.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        You’ve left a lot of comments about this. Why are you so invested in dismissing the fact that people might find these warnings in bad taste because of the way they are communicated?

        1. FD*

          I’m confused about this too. You seem really defensive about this, to the point where I have to wonder if you do something similar at your workplace and you feel like comments attacking the idea are attacking you as a person.

          If that’s the case, it might be helpful to stop and consider these comments as a whole. The commenters here tend to put thought into what they’re saying, and most have a reasonable amount of workplace experience. It’s common for there to be disagreement. But here, almost everyone is agreeing that the delivery of this message is tone-deaf and comes off as offensive instead of helpful.

          If a large share of the commenters here feel that way, there’s a good chance at least a large portion of employees would feel the same way. And if a large share of employees think a safety training is offensive (and are therefore unlikely to listen to it), wouldn’t it make sense to change the delivery, even if you don’t think it should be offensive?

      3. Lora*

        So if you crawl under your desk to plug something into an outlet and bump your head, it’s cool if I make you wear a hard hat at your desk?

        I *could* make a power strip more accessible, but that would cost $7.99 and you already have a hard hat.

        And that’s why engineering controls are the first and best safety practice and PPE (such as shoes) is a last resort.

        1. David St. Hubbins*

          You’re right about engineering controls being the first and best practice. Next in line (in my opinion) is behaviour. I.e. pay attention when using a sharp tool, be aware of what can go wrong, etc.

          And your power strip example is actually exactly what I’m talking about. They can, and should provide more accessible power points, but that only eliminates one possibility. I feel “Watch your head” is more effective because that applies to any situation where you can possible bump your head. Engineering controls are not always possible. What if I’m under the desk because I dropped my phone? There is no engineering control for that. But I can control my behaviour.

          Btw. my employer requires me to wear safety gloves when using any sharp tools, or when a client’s safety policy requires it. And most do.

          1. Lora*


            You’re wrong though. It’s less effective, not more effective. There’s a lot of research on this particular point and it’s not even remotely controversial so you don’t have to feel any kind of way. Putting up ANY barriers or disincentives to accident reporting is a poor practice that merely ensures workplace hazards aren’t eliminated and employers can carry on refusing to pay workman’s comp to injured employees, refusing to fix hazards and putting people at risk.

            I’m guessing you aren’t in the US? Here there is a VERY large financial incentive in the form of health care for injured workers to encourage employers to do everything they can to minimize workman’s compensation claims. In the example OP gave, that injury probably cost at least tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix, plus time off work. It’s to the employer’s advantage to make every excuse in the book why it wasn’t their fault and they shouldn’t have to pay.

          2. Actually a Safety Professional*

            As a real-life safety officer, I’m gonna have to disagree with you there. Engineering controls come first, then administrative controls (signage, procedures, checklists), then PPE, and LAST employee behavior. Even if every employee does what they’re supposed to 99% of the time, if you have lots of employees and lots of tasks, you still end up with a lot of accidents.

            When you’re designing a safety program, which I can tell you about because I do it regularly, you have to assume that employees will defeat any safety features you install that get in the way of them doing their job. In this case, wearing anti-slip shoes would get in the way of obeying the company dress code, so I would assume that few (woman) will do it. In your case, wearing gloves gets in the way of feeling what you’re doing, so you don’t do it. It’s on the safety office to take into account how the job is done before we can make recommendations about how to do it safely. Otherwise we risk sounding as ridiculously out of touch as this company does.

            I work at a large university, so we do collect incident reports and we do share them. However, we do our best to anonymize them, and we only share the ones we really think have important lessons to share. I cannot stress enough how important it is that employees feel comfortable telling us about incidents, including near-misses. A safety office can only address incidents they hear about. And regardless of how *you* feel about this particular incident report, the LW does not feel that people who share incidents are treated well. That’s pretty dangerous, honestly. Again, even if only some of the employees feel uncomfortable, there are still serious repercussions for incident reporting.

            So yeah, LW, not only are your safety officers being kind of jerky human beings, they are also bad at being safety professionals.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              As a public health professional and former lab safety officer, I second every word of this.

              The critical difference is that when employees have an incident, they should feel supported so that they feel that 1) they will not suffer if they fully disclose any incident, and 2) the company will take whatever steps it can to prevent it from happening again. Those steps may include environmental changes or improvements, and/or behavioral measures (training, new procedures), whichever seem most effective.

            2. Trout 'Waver*

              I work with chemicals, and there’s a step before engineering controls. That step is analyzing whether the hazard should even be there in the first place. Always use the least hazardous chemical or machine for the job. I hate to nitpick, but I care a lot about safety. I can tell you do too.

              I strongly agree that behavior is the last resort. Even the best trained people with the best intentions don’t have a 100% compliance rate.

          3. neverjaunty*

            In addition to all of the people setting you straight on safety issues for employees – this company is taking a very lax and self-destructive attitude toward non-employees.

            When a vendor or a visitor slips on those wet leaves (or an icy parking lot, or some other unmanaged hazard) and chips a kneecap, they aren’t going to file workers’ comp or be silenced by a newsletter. They’ll sue. And “we didn’t clear our parking lot and we don’t have sidewalks and oh, by the way, an employee fell there too” is a gift to their attorney.

            Defensive attribution may make you feel better, but it’s neither realistic nor wise business practice.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              Even if the newsletter doesn’t name names, if you know Lucinda hurt her ankle in the parking lot, or Lucinda is currently the only employee with a cast and crutches, everyone will know who is meant. And that can be construed as shaming.

          4. nonegiven*

            Don’t hold me down and tickle my feet while I’m under the desk trying to plug in the power strip.

      4. Violet Fox*

        There is also zero reason to essentially name and shame specific employees, especially for circumstances out of their control.

        Giving safety advice that is not useful at all in the situation given is just piling on the shame, especially when women are told things like “you must follow the dress code” and “you got hurt because you followed the dress code” oh and “you must follow the dress code except when you do and you get injured because of it, we will publicly blame you because it was your fault for not being able to follow two contradictory things at once, silly girl.”

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s supposed to make people aware of general hazards that exist (anywhere you go, not just at work).

        That rain is slippery?

        1. LBK*

          Right – such a vague, general warning is useless at best and patronizing at worst. If the point truly is just to remind people that wet things are slippery, that’s…weird. The point of a safety notice should be controlling much more specific incidences, not an extremely broad set of possibilities. Especially since, as others have noted above, those kinds of general warnings tend to be ineffective.

        2. Alton*

          Yeah, that’s what gets me. What constitutes a hazard that merits warning people about? In this case, there are things the company should be doing differently, like not making women wear pumps. But something like slipping in the rain seems like such a general, obvious risk that it doesn’t need to be addressed unless there’s either a pattern or something the company can do to make the environment safer. Employees don’t need to be treated like toddlers who are just learning to walk.

      6. Xay*

        I think you may have misread the OP’s letter. The OP does not work at your employer. Her employer handles what you call “incident alerts” very differently. Her employer gives explicit details about incidents in such a way that indirectly identifies and shames the employee. We know this because the OP said as much in her letter.

        If the OP’s employer handled the incidents in the way you describe, that would be appropriate. But, as the OP made clear, they don’t.

      7. Mike C.*

        He’s right that it’s common to talk about specific incidents, but it’s not right to tie it back to specific people nor is it right to apply rules and techniques that are impossible or contradictory.

      8. Observer*

        If the safety tips don’t apply to the specific incident, then the people who are putting this together are incompetents. Seriously. Because you actually are not providing actionable information.

        In fact, your example actually proves the point. Your safety manager didn’t use your example for a reason – it’s nonsense! “the way to keep safe is to do X, expect when you shouldn’t do X, and we’re not going to discuss the differences.” is almost the definition of useless.

      9. SignalLost*

        Yup. Where I work, they’re called “safety stand downs”, and if we hit a certain number of incidents in a day (I think three), every department is idled to go to a ten-minute standup with our area managers, who will talk about whatever happened, and either use it as a jumping-off point for a discussion of our department or talk about how it’s not relevant because we don’t work with X but our at-risk behaviours are A and B, and what can we do to minimize those risks, etc. It’s never handled dismissively. Even if it doesn’t directly impact us, making us all aware of our general risks in our building is a good thing, particularly this time of year when we’re going to have so many seasonal workers unfamiliar with the building and everyone will be working at a fast pace that we’ll have safety stand downs basically daily.

    5. Susan K*

      I am a bit surprised by the outrage about this because it is very common in my industry — an industry that takes safety VERY seriously. I’ve always thought it was kind of crappy, but it’s par for the course. They do the same thing when people make mistakes — the company sends out a newsletter about what happened and how it could have been prevented. They do not overtly shame individuals, but the shaming is definitely implied. It sucks, but I doubt anybody could change management’s mind about doing this. On the upside, high heels are forbidden in most parts of the facility for safety reasons, and the company pays a $100/year stipend for safety shoes, so at least they’re not hypocrites about that like OP #1’s employer.

      1. Violet Fox*

        This is also likely a different sort of industry then the type that still makes women wear heels to work.

      2. Observer*

        Well, that last is part of the reason for the outrage. Another part of the reason is that they are actually NOT mentioning things that the person who had the accident could have done differently.

        And, by the way, OSHA takes a very dim view of anything that can be construed as a barrier to reporting accidents.

    6. Colette*

      They’re not telling anyone how to prevent a similar accident because they didn’t give any useful tips. There are no sidewalks, or covered area to keep from getting soaked in a sudden downpour (and thus prevent rushing). They didn’t change the dress code to allow women to wear safe shoes.

      Using a hovercraft to get from the car to the building would also have prevented the injury. They could just have easily have suggested that, and it would have been as useful as what they did suggest.

    7. LW #1*

      Since you seem determined to insist that these newsletters are meant purely in good spirit, you should also know that in weeks in which there was no reportable injury, we’ve instead received links to YouTube videos showing people doing dangerous things. These versions of the newsletters have been titled “Darwin Award Candidates” and “Idiots At Work”.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yeahhh, this might be a good time to make an anonymous report to OSHA or your state OSHA. And the lady who hurt her knee should be talking to a lawyer.

      2. Else*

        Wow, this manager is probably all kinds of inappropriate in other ways, if he thinks this is okay in a professional setting. Do you know if he behaves himself in other ways?

    8. always in email jail*

      Hi David,
      I work in a field where I frequently have to distribute similar safety messages. However, at least culturally in the US, the best approach is usually a two-pronged approach:
      -outlining what the building/organization is doing to increase safety
      -outlining what employees can do to protect themselves.

      In this scenario, it may have been more appropriately to share that it has come to their attention that the wet leaves outside pose a slip and fall hazard, that they’re working with property management to address the issue, as well as evaluating if the recent dress code updates prevent employees from dressing appropriately for weather hazards. but in the meantime here’s some additional safety tips folks can consider to reduce their risk (then insert suggestions about surveying the area, wearing shoes with tread, etc.). The company can acknowledge someone was injured, but needs to view preventing further injuries as a team approach.

      1. Oryx*

        This is what our company does. Usually its related to winter so we’ll get the “There have been reports of ice patches. We’ve already ordered the city to come out and salt the drive and parking lot but be aware when leaving.”

        1. Annie Moose*

          My OldJob was quite similar. They’d warn employees to be careful and provide advice on walking/driving safely on ice… but this was in addition to salting and being like, “if you see an icy patch that was missed, let so-and-so know so they can take care of it” and “the snowplows come by at 6 AM so be extra aware if you’re coming to the office earlier than that”. It was a multi-pronged approach.

    9. Observer*

      They are most definitely NOT informing people of how to prevent this kind of thing from happening, because teh things they are telling people to do are either forbidden by policy (ie wear sensible shoes), or physically impossible (ie walking on non-existent sidewalks or avoid leaves that cover the way from the car to the door – and which facilities should have cleared)

  4. Mythbri*

    Safety management which seeks workplace injury root causes solely in employee behavior rather than environmental, engineering, or cultural issues is lazy. This practice is absolutely going to discourage some employees from even reporting injuries, which means that management is cheating themselves out of valuable data. Sharing lessons learned is useless when those lessons are incorrect and/or incomplete. Expecting employees to take responsibility for safe work practices is only really effective if the employees also trust the company to take responsibility for a safe working environment.

    1. Mike C.*

      This this this. People need to stop looking at surface reasons for everything and take the time to look deeper.

      It really, really pisses me off when I see so many offices take such a shallow attitude towards safety, even after someone totals a car or is involved with a similarly dangerous incident. What’s worse are the attitiudes surrounding it – “ we just don’t do things like that here” or “that’s not very common, it seems like it’s a lot to ask for” or “we’re just an office, why should we even bother”.

      If you think this, get your sh!t together before someone else gets hurt.

        1. Mookie*

          Exactly. “The shoes we require our female employees to wear are dangerous, and this is a thinly-veiled example that demonstrates that. Our policy is that you need to avoid dangerous situations while at work. Good luck!”

      1. Anon4this*

        I was injured at work after I was assaulted by a client (health but not mental health, disability or dementia ) who assaulted a number of coworkers. I sustained injuries which required surgery and left me in chronic pain. The workers comp/ rehabilitation was nearly as bad as the assault and the pain. The woman who coordinated it regularly shouted at me that I wasn’t trying hard enough. When my provider suggested I attend a pain clinic, she vetoed it and told me I wasn’t worth the $4000 it would cost,she blocked me moving to a desk job and gaslighted me to the point where I questioned whether my pain was real. She was abysmal. The psychological stress I was subjected to made a terrible occurence so much wore. To be publicly shamed as well would be too much. As it was this rehab woman and management acted like it was all my fault.

        1. NaoNao*

          Why are so many people in the “helping professions” or professions that ostensibly are in place to assist the public (social work, HR, worker’s comp, the DMV) full of people who are so mean?!?

          Look, I get it.”The public” is full of “special” people. I worked with “the public” for years and I can tell you stories ranging from hilarious to terrifying. But I also constantly reminded myself I was doing a valuable service and if it weren’t for me and my coworkers, some of these frustrating and confounding patrons would have nothing.

          If you find yourself yelling at patients or clients or patrons or getting to BEC it may be time to move to a no-contact with public job.

          1. KellyK*

            Why are so many people in the “helping professions” or professions that ostensibly are in place to assist the public (social work, HR, worker’s comp, the DMV) full of people who are so mean?!?

            This was probably a rhetorical question, but I think a lot of it is burnout and compassion fatigue. There might also be something like the just-world fallacy going on as a kind of emotional self-defense. That is, if you’re trying to help people and the problems feel insurmountable, it’s much easier to blame *them* than to think that you might need to improve, or that there are larger systemic problems. Especially if you’re *also* being yelled at by patients/customers/clients for things you can’t control and probably underpaid and overworked on top of it.

            Not that any of that makes it okay, but I can see how someone who initially wanted to help people can get burnt out, bitter, and cynical.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      No. 1 I’ve worked in kitchens ranging from 2 person to hotel size. In every single one accidents happen. Most of the time it is minor cuts and burns but I’ve seen people continue to work with cuts that need stitches because of hard deadlines or not enough people on the line to take up the slack of a missing body. Naming and shaming will not change anything.

  5. Picky*

    I’ve chaired Health and Safety committees more often than I care to remember, and along the way learned some really important common-sense lessons. The first one is: if you have a system that requires that no human being ever make a mistake, you will never have a safe system. Your system has to be overloaded with back-ups and duplicate safety mechanisms that will overcome human error, momentary distractions, the element of surprise, someone having a heart attack while operating machinery, and so on. So a newsletter that blames the human element is not actually accomplishing anything useful, and meanwhile is going to negatively impact morale. Workplace safety is hard work, and a scolding doesn’t get you there.

    1. Bryce*

      At the same time, act as if all those backups aren’t there. My first week in one internship had me attending a safety post-incident meeting (I wasn’t involved, just good timing) that boiled down to “power supplies are supposed to discharge safely, this one didn’t, here’s how the safety procedures we were following meant we just had a loud bang as it arced to the ground wire rather than killing us.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep. In the lab it was “treat every sample like you know it is positive for HIV and Hep C”.

        1. JustaTech*

          It’s so hard to get people to believe this! I had to (gently) hit a coworker with a stuffed Ebola to get him to believe me that yes, we do need to apply universal precautions. (And then the West Africa Ebola outbreak happened a month later and everyone was like, oh, you weren’t kidding.)

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Thank you for both your dedication to safety, and giving me a most wonderful google hole to fall into full of stuffed pathogens.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Good point. You’re safer if you expect accidents/malfunction on both sides, right? Set up controls, systems, etc as if you expect human error; and train humans to be prepared for tools to malfunction.

      3. Annie Moose*

        Yes! At OldJob for a chemical manufacturing company, once or twice a year they’d report on a fire in a lab, and most of the time, the conclusion was “welp, it just sort of happened, and the employees in question did all the right things, which is great because if they hadn’t, things would’ve been way worse”. E.g. one time, a certain chemical which was not supposed to be flammable… turned out to be flammable. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, but the safety procedures in place meant that something that COULD have resulted in a building burning down just meant there was a small fire that was quickly contained with virtually no damage.

    2. FD*

      And EVEN IF YOU DO THIS, even if you follow all the best practices, sometimes s**t happens on occasion. Unexpected mixes of events that no one could reasonably predict and prevent means that some accidents are inevitable. That’s why you should have a good response plan as well as a good prevention plan.


      I fell down the steps recently at work. I could have been seriously hurt, but I was fine. I would have been mortified if people had found out. I am also on the safety committee, in which we discuss the incident reports without mentioning the person’s name. For my incident report, there wasn’t much discussion — we determined that you can’t entirely klutz-proof an office. These were indoor steps, not wet, and nothing was wrong with the steps. I had 2″ heels on and was holding the handrail. This manager in the letter is a jerk and is not being helpful.

  6. Workplace Ninja*

    #4 – This is common at my workplace where the management teams of multiple familial companies work together quite often, but employees not in management would have no idea this occurs. It would be very apparent if an employee was moving between companies and the transition timing would be up to which manager has more clout with ownership.

    You’ll know best in your circumstance how to navigate this gently, because as you said, you could be back under the same roof shortly.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, this doesn’t bother me so terribly much, given that there’s a relationship between the two companies.

      I can see the old manager (or the old manager’s boss) saying, “This timing is really going to hurt us–can you wait two or three weeks for him to start? If the answer is yes, then let’s start talking to him about it.”

      I would hope that they’d initiate the salary change as originally scheduled–if the company/companies do indicate that they’d like to organize your time in order to help out the department you’re leaving, this is absolutely something you should bring up.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, there’s no greater conflict of interest now than there was when your coworker was dating his ex (arguably the conflict was worse then). But it seems like it’s a good case study for the company to revisit its conflict of interest protocols.

    The contract is probably for a fixed term, and the cost of breaking it likely exceeds the risk the company thinks might come from retaining the ex for the length of the contract. And if they think the risk from retention is low, that also means that they think their legal liability (in damages) would be less than the cost of breaching the contact. That doesn’t make it less awkward, but I think the legal liability ship has sailed.

    1. Juli G.*

      Yeah. Think of it this way – before the breakup, the conflict was potentially harmful to the company or other employees if Friend was treated better Now, Friend has the potential to be treated worse because of the conflict.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      It sounds like the primary concern for LW 2 is that Coworker will be uncomfortable. That’s unfortunate, but…not the end of the world? No, it’s certainly not ideal, and yes, you should try to mitigate that, but well, that’s why Coworker should have thought twice before creating this situation by getting his then-girlfriend a contract, from which he’s now essentially trying to get her fired. Legal issues with an HR person having a personal relationship with an employee notwithstanding (which, as already has been pointed out, was a problem all along, but Coworker didn’t seem to care about that until the relationship ended badly), Coworker’s comfort is not always going to be the company’s first concern, and especially not when the discomfort is due to a problem of his own making.

      I hate victim-blaming as much as the next person, and obviously it’s too late for this, but this is all one big “you should have thought of that” to me.

  8. Tau*

    #3 – I’m usually super sympathetic to people who want to keep their disabilities on the down-low in the office (says the person with Asperger’s that my work will never hear about if I can help it). And as someone in that situation, I wouldn’t read too much into another person with the same disability who doesn’t appear to be getting treated any differently – there’s a lot that can be hiding in “appear”.

    However, I’m with Alison – this behaviour was not OK. Asking you to go to lengths to cover for him, and getting annoyed at you when you don’t (!) – not OK. When you have a secret disability, you figure out how to manage in the job without accommodations, you don’t pull your coworkers into some conspiracy to provide ones for you. You don’t pull your coworkers in, period! I’ve never disclosed to any of mine in part because it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to keep a secret from our boss for me.

    1. Myrin*

      Yes, I was thinking along the same lines – it sounds like he simultaneously did and didn’t want accommodations (and the “did want” part of this was only conveyed passive-aggressively by being annoyed after the fact, to boot!). I’d be fairly taken aback if what I’d understand as a practical show of sympathy – asking someone if they’d like me to stand to one side of them so they can hear me better – devolved into a demand for my ear at all times. Alison’s script is surely the right one in any such situation.

    2. Snark*

      I’ve been hearing impaired since birth, so honestly I don’t get this and have no patience for it, but I do know that a lot of people whose hearing loss happened later in life tend to view it as shameful and something to be denied. Hearing is weird for people, in a way that visual impairment isn’t. People just outright deny that they can’t hear well anymore – “Speak up!” “Grandpa, I’m basically shouting right now.” “You just mumble!” And they often, like this guy, seem to view the wearing of hearing aids as an imposition somewhere between “dunce cap” and “lingerie of the opposite sex” and reject it completely out of hand.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Well, if someone says “speak up” at least you know they haven’t heard you. My late grandmother had major problems with hearing and she usually never said anything if she couldn’t hear something. She answered with a mix of yes and mmh and other suitable conversation replies, so that if the person speaking to her wasn’t aware of this, they could have thought she heard and understood everything. Only the nearest family members would recognize a certain look in her eyes and realize that she doesn’t know what people are talking about. This was obviously a massive problem.

        1. Tau*

          I wince in sympathy at this. I don’t have a hearing impairment, but I do have auditory processing issues that can lead to a lot of trouble understanding people. At some point in my childhood, I apparently internalised the rule that I cannot ask someone to repeat themselves more than 2-3 times. After that, if I still don’t understand them, I have to fake it.

          Which… can be a massive problem, as you say. And it’s so ludicrous because I know, rationally, that the sky won’t fall in if I go “um, dude, I’m really sorry but I am having so much trouble understanding you, can you write this down or something.” And yet. It’s embedded in my psyche. Most of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it until I’m halfway into a conversation that’s mainly made up of guesswork and vague statements on my part.

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            I call this my “vacant smile and nod” defense. I’m completely deaf in one ear, since birth or very early childhood, and have the same internalized rule you do. And I get that it’s kind of silly, but I really stop being comfortable asking someone to repeat themselves after 2-3 times. Part of this is because I have the (bad) habit of sort of scrunching my face up and saying ‘what?’ rather than something like ‘I didn’t catch that, can you please repeat yourself?’ which doesn’t make it immediately clear that I didn’t hear you. In fact, my brain sort of tries to process what it sort of hears into words so I guess I’m usually too busy contemplating if you might have actually said you wanted a cat wearing a bandanna to ride a horse at dawn, or not… Anyway, I’m totally with you about deep reluctance to keep asking someone to repeat themselves.

            Side note – My name here actually comes from a classic example of my brain coming up with it’s own version of what it’s hearing. When I was a child I was riding in the car with my family and loudly singing along to a Wilson Phillips song on the radio… “I want to be as close as breakfast, and lose myself in your kiss!!!”

      2. SophieChotek*

        Yes I have been hearing impaired (I wear 2 hearing aids) since near-birth too (illness when I was less than a year old) and I have never had a problem just getting it out right front and center from the get go (“hey I wear hearing aids, I may need to ask you to repeat things, it is not that I am not paying attention”) when I meet new people where I think I will have extended conversations. (Obviously if it is at a meet and greet where I think I’ll talk to them for all of 2 mins., I don’t bother.)

        Snark, I think made a great point – when it happens later in life, some people can view it as something shameful. Perhaps because the culture does have the stereotypes of the older people who won’t wear hearing aids? (Because it is a sign of getting older? Because they think they’ll get blamed for the hearing loss becuase they listened to too much rock when they were younger? I don’t know.) My elderly uncle needs hearing aids and refuses to get them…love the way Snark described it an imposition between…

        At work missing key details is a major problem. I think you might need to be a bit more proactive about asking people politely to repeat things or speak a little louder — but I’ve often found, people with normal hearing often don’t mind if I ask a speaker to repeat something — often they missed a detail or something too.

        1. Snark*

          I think it’s because people have the preconception that they’re for old people, or something. Like wearing them means you’ve got a foot in the grave.

          1. Jesca*

            My stepdad has been hearing impaired since he was a child. He still refuses to wear hearing aids because of this.

            I had an ex who had a disease that caused very significant hearing loss, but refused to wear hearing aids as a child. He was bullied a lot for them and would have rather failed than continue to wear them.

            People get weird hang ups, I guess. Also, not all hearing loss can be controlled with hearing aids. I once worked with an Engineer who accidentally electrocuted himself. This caused an odd hearing loss that even hearing aids could not correctly properly.

            1. Snark*

              And as someone who was bullied for his hearing aids, I’m sympathetic to that….but I also think it’s BS. We’ve internalized a lot of ableism around hearing, but if you’d rather fail than wear hearing aids, hie thee to a therapist, my brother. The difficulty refusing to wear aids imposes on your own existence and on everyone around you is too big a sacrifice for a weird hang-up.

              Obviously that doesn’t apply to those for whom aids won’t correct their loss, but.

              1. Else*

                I had a friend in college who lost all of her hearing as an adult, and the hearing aids didn’t do anything for her unless it was a 747, basically – but she wore them anyway to signal to other people that she was deaf. Because it’s useful for hearing people to know that you’re deaf when you want to communicate with them! If I see someone is wearing them, I know to make sure not to face away or cover my mouth when I’m talking to them (I wave my hands a lot) and that they aren’t necessarily ignoring me if they don’t respond when I’m talking to them. If it’s a group thing, hearing aids can remind us to make sure they aren’t being left out by the scatter of conversation.

              2. SophieChotek*

                I was never bullied for wearing hearing aids (thank goodness)…or maybe I was and just never heard anything they said, he he.

                I do have sympathy with those for whom hearing aids does not help – other solutions like implants, etc. are equally challenging.

                I have a friend that is now deaf in one ear – she had some sort of surgery go wrong. (She wasn’t deaf before, but had like a torn ear drum or something, and the doctor managed to break the little bones in her ear instead.) She now has tons of sympathy for me, she is always like “I had no idea you missed so much sound” and I’m like “well, since I never heard it, I actually don’t know I am missing it”…

                I agree, Snark, if hearing aids help — it’s a pity not to use them – like you said – one is sacrificing a lot of improvement and enjoyment, both for onseself and others around!

                1. As Close As Breakfast*

                  I actually laughed out loud at your “well, since I never heard it, I actually don’t know I am missing it” comment! I’m completely deaf in one ear since birth or very early childhood, and am one of those lucky few for whom hearing aids would do no good whatsoever. But I don’t know any different, so most of the time I feel like I hear just fine. I have always made sure that people I work with know that I’m deaf in one ear, just in case any issues do come up.

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

          Personally I think that losing your hearing from listening to too much rock is nothing to be ashamed of.

          This is exactly what I fear is slowly happening to me, so I will proudly say “yeah, too many punk shows” when the time to get a hearing aid finally comes. However, in my old age I have also started wearing ear plugs to any noisy events to try and stave off this problem. I’m perfectly happy to have neon green foam bits in my ears and I don’t care one bit if it makes me look less cool. Not that this helps anyone with hearing loss from other causes, of course.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            I don’t have any hearing loss (yet?) but my ears are sensitive to cold, and I often wear a hat with ear flaps or earmuffs when it’s not *that* cold out. People mock me – sometimes good natured and sometimes not – but I don’t care. If I don’t wear the hat I will have an extended ear/headache that is far more unpleasant than being mocked.

          2. nonegiven*

            I’ve started wearing rubber earplugs to movies. Push in for the sound effects and music and pull out to hear the dialogue.

        3. Laura*

          As a hearing-normal person, please tell me what you need so I can communicate with you properly! All I want is to have a good conversation and not feel that you’re straining to hear me or worrying that I’ll judge you for having hearing issues.

      3. circlecitybelle*

        +1 When I realized that I had to get hearing aids or else continue to miss out on so much, I was up front about it to everyone I was close to or worked with on a regular basis. I grew my hair out to cover them up, but after about a year of living with less stress and tension and not straining to hear, I stop giving a flying fig who saw them and wore my hair back and up at least half the time. I’m something of an ambassador for encouraging people to get help for their hearing. These days the hearing aids are even smaller than the molded ones I originally got. The new ones with transparent plastic wire and earpiece are almost invisible from the front–and you have to look closely to see the receiver that goes over the back of your ear.

        1. Snark*

          They ARE admirably stealthy these days, but I would argue that they don’t need to be. Wearing a hearing aid is like wearing glasses or orthotic insoles or a knee brace – and when I tell people I do, the reaction has never once been negative – but it’s viewed with such a weird and deep shame and disgust.

          1. Observer*

            The really better reason for the smaller hearing aids is that they are more comfortable, and interfere less with other stuff. It’s hard, for instance, to wear a pair of glasses with aids that go over the ear. The little ones that go completely inside don’t get in the way.

            1. Snark*

              Sure, totally agree from a practical standpoint – though it should be mentioned, the ones I have go behind my ear, and even wearing glasses, they’re less conspicuous and more comfortable than the ones that went all the way in my canal, which were my first two “adult” pairs.

          2. Pooh Who?*

            I’ve been wearing a hearing aid since I was 6 (spinal meningitis can kiss my ass). Then I got glasses when I was in 5th grad. Helen Keller was one of the kinder names kids had for me. Truthfully, I really don’t care now, especially since I only wear one now as the other ear is completely deaf and the good one is heading that way too. It never really bothered me back then either. The thing that really bothered me was the weight of the ear piece from my glasses and the weight/bulk of the behind the ear aid I used to wear. I have never been so happy to get a new in the ear aid. I could do without the honkin’ huge price tag.

        2. CheeryO*

          That’s really neat – I didn’t know that they had come so far. I don’t think they’re anything to be ashamed of, but I’ve still been resistant to the idea. (I’ve had partial hearing loss in my right ear since I was young, but I feel like it’s gotten worse in the past few years. I’m only 27!) I should really get back to the ENT.

          1. Snark*

            Don’t resist the idea. Mine are basically invisible aside from a very thin wire, you can control ’em with bluetooth, and they literally changed my life. I couldn’t spend longer than 90 minutes in a bar before, now I can hang for hours.

            1. SophieChotek*

              i still can’t do the bar thing, even though mine have two mics and you can control the direction (to some degree). Mine are bluetooth too…except I don’t have a smartphone so I can’t do some of the controls that come with the hearing aid.

        3. Kristina*

          You can also get some pretty neat colors. I just looked and one hearing aid company offers zebra pattern. There’s red, yellow, pink, blue. Some of those colors are geared towards kids but adults can get them too. I got a see through hearing aid so you can see the inner workings.

      4. RabbitRabbit*

        My grandpa would complain that “hearing aids are for old people!” Well, when I knew him, he was in his 80s, and he lived past 100. What a shame that he spent so much of that time barely hearing many of his grandkids/great-grandkids.

        1. Snark*

          And it’s like, grandpa….you’re an old person. But in any case, I’m a living exception that disproves the rule.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Yeah, he put a lot of pride in being physically fit and living on his own, he even biked with us grandkids. I guess even past 80 he couldn’t admit to one physical flaw, especially one associated with aging.

            I once had a manager who had little unobtrusive hearing aids; you’d never know she had them. She even got a newer version that had Bluetooth integration with her smartphone to give her better audio on calls or something.

            1. Snark*

              My new ones have that. I can do handsfree calling with them, change volume and sound environment programming, stream music/podcasts to them….it’s like being a cyborg.

              1. SophieChotek*

                My audiologist just showed me the new improved ones that do the integration with smartphone for handsfree calling – I would love that. But at least the ones he showed me were $3300 each and not a penny was covered by insurance. Gripe. Gripe. I hate having to pay for my new hearing aids – in theory my audiologist said I should upgrade every 3 years or so, but I would like to get more like 5-7 out of the ones I have now…can’t afford new ones…

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. That’s how my FIL is. He just turned 80, and he still doesn’t want anything to do with anything that might peg him as an “old person”. I mean, at this point isn’t it just empty posturing? Anyone who sees him knows that he isn’t 27.

      5. Else*

        Yeah – I don’t get this either. Why on earth would anyone be ashamed of hearing loss or deafness? It’s also not hard for people who are not hearing impaired to accommodate to if they know about it and have a tiny bit of flexibility – I’ve had friends and employees who were everything from hard of hearing to big D Deaf, and we were always able to work with it just fine. Because we all KNEW about it.

        1. NaoNao*

          Probably because a lot of society is so ableist. If you’ve ever been made fun of by someone for a disability, or seen it happen, it’s heartbreaking.
          Many people who are otherwise good, nice, kind people instinctively recoil with disgust from those with disabilities. It’s partly evolutionary–our instincts tell us “this defect may be communicable! stay away!” and our bodies haven’t caught up with our current reality that things like cancer, Deafness, blindness, or paralysis aren’t contagious.
          Also, people may not want to be treated with the elaborate kindness and kid gloves and/or odd “babying” that many do unconciously around those with disabilities.
          I totally understand why someone might keep a “hidable” disability secret.

          1. Snark*

            I find that confronting people who choose to act like boors is a better approach, the few times it happens. Hiding it just allows them to sail on in ignorance.

        2. Cass*

          It isn’t that I am ashamed of my hearing loss it is just that it gets very tiring to constantly remind people to please face me when they are speaking to me or that I won’t hear if you address me from behind. No kind of hearing aid will ever give me my directional hearing back so calling out to direct me is annoying. Is it too much to ask that the people I work with remember that my hearing prosthetic is not magic and remember to accommodate my needs? Also lip reading is not 100% accurate either and does not work at all if you are not right in front of me. Hearing aids do not ‘fix’ a hearing impairment; they are an improvement only.

      6. Stellaclair*

        My MIL is like this, actually. My mom thought for two years that my MIL disliked her all because she accidentally ignored my mom when she was speaking to her at my wedding due to the fact that didn’t want to wear her hearing aids. And my mom didn’t know that she had a hearing impairment. It’s a vanity thing with my MIL, and sometimes very frustrating.

        I can’t imagine how irked I would be at work if this were going on. Especially when it’s obviously not a problem to make accommodations.

    3. Anon Good Nurse*

      This sounds exactly like my former boss… so much so that I have to wonder if its the same person! At one time, in a meeting, he was taking notes and looking down, so he didn’t hear the person next to him ask a question (twice! While saying his name!) Finally, the exec, frustrated, asked me the question and I answered. Later, my boss yelled at me for embarrassing him in the meeting. I explained what happened and that the exec thought he was ignoring him. He told me I should be ashamed of myself and started excluding me from meetings. There were many other instances of him not hearing and acting defensively/retaliating whenever anyone tried to help or fix the situation. Eventually I left the company (as did several others because of him) and he came clean with his boss about the issue. I heard they were trying to move him to disability, but he left the company to go somewhere else (which is why I have to wonder if he’s trying to hide it again!)

      One thing we tried (but it wasn’t always effective) is communicating with him in writing/via email. Sometimes it helps clear up communication. And the times it doesn’t, it’s better to have a record of the instructions you receive in case you need it later.

      1. Snark*

        And it’s like…MY DUDE. Go to Costco, spend $2600, CHANGE YO LIFE. Seriously. I can sit in noisy bars for hours, I can listen in on conference calls, I hear announcements in airports, I can hear my son’s mumbly little lispy voice, music sounds good….with aids in, I’m completely functional in the world.

        And NOBODY CARES IF YOU’RE HEARING IMPAIRED. Seriously. I tell people I’m hearing impaired, and the reaction is “Oh my god, I never even saw your hearing aids! That’s so rad!” Nobody thinks badly of it, any more than they judge amputees or people who wear glasses.

        1. JAM*

          It was so sad for me that in my grandma’s final years she insisted she didn’t have a hearing problem. By the time she was in hospice it was clear how little she could hear us. It was sad for us because she couldn’t hear what we were saying and even worse for her, she must have felt so alone. I can’t imagine why she was so concerned we’d judge her for needing hearing aids, especially since one of my own brothers has hearing issues.

        2. NaoNao*

          I’m going to politely disagree. No one who is properly socialized and polite cares or appears to care.
          However, abelism is really a thing.
          People ask intrusive questions “how did that happen? can you still…”
          People treat you with elaborate care or baby you
          People ignore you or talk over/around you
          People discriminate against you
          People stare
          People use hurtful terms or outdated terms

          Again, no one *cool* does these things, but take a spin through any FB post about any accommodation in a public spot and read the comments. People say *horrible* things about those with disabilities.

          1. Snark*

            I don’t associate with such people, and if they impose themselves upon me I flame them to a crisp. “I’m not interested in telling a perfect stranger the entire story, thanks.” “You do realize you don’t actually need to treat me like I’m brain-damaged to accommodate my hearing, do you?” “That’s an incredibly insulting term; maybe don’t ever use that around me again.” “Hi, I’m still standing here and I can hear what you’re saying, and my wife doesn’t need to interpret for me.”

            But that’s so rare, so atypical, that nobody really needs to worry about them. They happen. So do rude drivers, and we all still drive.

        3. As Close As Breakfast*

          Haha! I’ve never gotten a “That’s so rad!” Perhaps if I someday have the opportunity to wear a cyborg-like hearing aid, I will! Something to look forward to when I eventually need a hearing aid for my good ear. No, when I tell people I’m completely deaf in one ear, almost unfailingly the response is some version of disbelieving “really???” To which I have developed the deadpan auto-response of “No. I’m just saying that to make myself sound more interesting.”

        4. Pooh Who?*

          MY DUDE!!! I wish mine cost $2600. I’m going to have to look into Costco. Do you need to be a member?

          I will admit though, once I put my hearing aid in, I usually just rip it right back out because it turns out that there is a LOT I really don’t want to hear. I never knew clocks could tick so loud! And my cat’s water fountain and the noise they make when drinking the water, thanks but no thanks.

          My FIL got over his old person fear of hearing aids after he met me. He kind of had to realize that I could wear them since I was 6, he could get over it and wear them when he’s in his 70s.

          1. Snark*

            You do have to be a member, but it’s like $100 for the year. I’ve paid for a lifetime of Costco memberships with two pairs of aids.

    4. Fiennes*

      Although I entirely agree with both you & Alison, I sympathize with the hearing-impaired employee. A few years ago, I lost about a third of my hearing in one ear–overnight, at that. It’s not actually a huge thing now that I’ve adjusted to it; thankfully my other ear is unusually sharp, plus I work from home so noise is rarely an issue. But during those first months of adjustment, I was surprised at how alienated I felt. It was *scary* not to have full use of one of my senses anymore. There are weird side effects too, like audio hallucinations, which can make you feel like you’re losing your mind. And the kicker is–I repeatedly, clearly told people around me when I was having problems, and they’d adjust their behavior for 15 minutes at max. Then they’d forget & go back to talking at a volume I couldn’t make out. They weren’t being deliberately cruel, but people fall back into their usual habits. Every once in a while I didn’t even bother speaking up. It was weird, but sometimes I even felt ashamed.

      None of this means your coworker doesn’t have a responsibility to handle his own problems instead of foisting them off on you. Assuming this is permanent, he has to be prepared to handle this effectively from now on. But probably he isn’t doing this purely to be obstinate. It can be a difficult thing to accept.

      (I’m assuming the coworker’s hearing loss has not been lifelong; this kind of denial is much more common among those who lose some hearing later in life.)

  9. Engineer*

    #1 – Blaming workers for getting hurt is what will eventually get people killed.

    Identifying hazards and eliminating them along with fostering a culture where everyone is encouraged to lookout for each other’s safety is what is really needed.

    For your example of the woman slipping on leave during a downpour, the company should make sure the parking lot and sidewalks are free from any trip/slip hazards, revisit the shoe policy (like being able to change shoes once you reach your desk), and hand out umbrellas to everyone to keep in their cars. Those are more substantive correction actions then what the company offered.

    1. Bette*

      I don’t see how they can regulate what shoes one wears up to the doorstep of the building. I wear heels at work, but always commute in flats or boots. If my employer suggested I needed to commute in heels, I would laugh. I seriously doubt that this company actually requires heels outside the office.

      1. McWhadden*

        Many companies do require you to be completely within dress code the second you set foot on company property, which the parking lot almost certainly is.

        1. K.*

          I think I recall reading a story about a woman who was fired from a big investment bank (Goldman Sachs, maybe?) for not adhering to the dress code, and the issue was her commuter shoes – she was basically leaving them on too long. She tried to argue that she was being discriminated against because of her gender, but they countered that men had to be in dress shoes when they got in as well and men do change shoes when they get to work (my friend’s husband was the subject of some teasing when he posted a photo on FB in which he was wearing dress clothes and really bright, garish running shoes – he was like “Give me a break, they’re my commuter shoes!”).

        2. JeanB in NC*

          So in the middle of winter, I’m supposed to take off my snow boots in the car and put on pumps? That’s crazy. As is the comment below about leaving your coat in the car – that kind of defeats the purpose of wearing a coat!

        3. Snark*

          Many companies are apparently so topheavy with management that people with actual responsibilities have the time and inclination to busy themselves with maintaining and enforcing such requirements, which is….a marvel.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        We recently had a comment about the neat, ascetic look of the extreme open plan office, where no one in the open area gets a locker or a private desk. Employees were supposed to leave their coats in their cars. (And not travel to work by a means that wouldn’t require them to maintain an expensive mobile personal storage locker parked nearby.)

        1. Snark*

          See my comment above about how astonishing it is that actual professional business persons seem to have the time and misapplied enthusiasm to micromanage things like that.

      3. Stilettoes*

        But if the employer takes away their dress code requirement for ‘pumps’ for women, then at least women would be free to wear safer, sturdier shoes. That would cut down on slip-and-falls all by itself, and also help reduce discrimination against women with health issues/disabilities.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I would quit or not take a job if they insisted I wear heels. They hurt my back, so no. There are plenty of other shoes I can wear that look businesslike and don’t cause me actual pain or risk.

    2. Observer*

      revisit the shoe policy (like being able to change shoes once you reach your desk)

      Thank you kindly sir for allowing me to have to spend money on TWO pairs of shoes in distinction to the men. /sarcasmoff

      I agree with the rest of what you say, but when trying to make safety related policy changes, it’s really important to think about what is really happening. A dress code whose only “concession” to safety is one that puts an additional expense on people is never a good idea. When is do so in a manner that has a disparate effect on one group, it’s a really bad idea.

      1. Violet Fox*

        A better change of the dress code would be to loosen up what women can wear on their feet so that a diversity of sensible shoes are options to wear to work. Then again, that is something that I think everyone who has a dress code should do.

  10. ChurchLady*

    If #1 letter writer’s company has a self-administered health plan, they most certainly are required to be HIPAA compliant. And I would at minimum save theses newsletters and any notes you make about the employee involved, if you know – and HOW you know. I’d also think about calling OSHA and possibly the EEOC quick like a bunny, just to ask about workplace safety and discrimination.

    1. Kyrielle*

      The people who are involved in administering the plan would be required. The Facilities manager, assuming they found out by any mechanism *not* involving the health plan or people covered by HIPAA, can say whatever they want. (And they really, really shouldn’t hear anything from the health plan or folks administering it, about anyone not themselves.)

  11. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    My company has done a bit of work in occupational and workplace using behavioral change (Nudges and the like, based on the theories of recent Nobel laureate Richard Thaler) and while *examples* definitely has a place, they’re not… meant to blame, shame or point fingers. This company won’t improve anything like this, it’s crazy.
    People will make mistakes. In order to avoid that, one has to build systems to reduce the effects of those mistakes, and/or processes that minimize mistakes. It’s not generally a willpower thing, like this company seems to pretend.

  12. DG*

    For #1, I’m mostly wondering what kind of company has enough safety incidents that they warrant a weekly newsletter.

    1. Dove*

      It doesn’t need to be major incidents, like the example OP #1 listed. I suspect that the company newsletter is just as shaming and judgey about people who trip and bruise themselves on desks, or accidentally close a door or a drawer on their fingers. It doesn’t need to be a particularly accident-prone site for there to be a lot of little accidents all the time; people trip, they get papercuts, they bark their knees on things, they drop things on their toes.

      1. LW #1*

        Yes, exactly this. Near misses, too. Everything down to neglecting to straighten out the corner of a weather rug in the vestibule (tripping hazard).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I once had to go to the company nurse to get a bandage because when I went to push my chair back, my flat sole slipped on the carpet and the force of the push instead went into kicking my shin into the corner of the desk, hard enough to break the skin.

    2. Lora*

      One that doesn’t actually give a crap about safety. I’ve worked in huge companies chock full of hazardous chemicals, steam/heat burn hazards, pressure vessels and confined spaces you could count our yearly incidents on one hand.

      1. LondonEngineer*

        This response is bizarre to me. I work for a large company that has a weekly safety newsletter and it doesn’t mean we have dozens of people falling in acid or crushed by forklifts or something. It covers minor incidents and near misses as well, including out of work incidents and advice. This company might be going about it wrong but a regular safety roundup isn’t a red flag for a dangerous environment

        1. Nico m*

          I suspect that nitpicking “domestic” safety incidents (I mean, the kind you can have anywhere, like slipping in a carpark or spilling your coffee) actually undermines respect for the necessary safety rules for the dangerous stuff.

        2. Amy*

          But ‘let’s include a regular column on workplace safety tips’ is a different beast than ‘let’s include a weekly column shaming people who got hurt’. The former is targeted at education; it reads as the company being conscientious about workplace safety, and therefore seems likely to go alongside other workplace safety mechanisms. The latter, on the other hand, is targeted at blaming an individual employee. If a company is taking workplace safety seriously, I feel like they’d take these incidents as chances to analyze gaps in their system and address them–not try and pin all the blame on the employee.

    3. purple otter*

      Many construction-related industries have weekly or daily meetings about safety, especially on active sites. It’s usually more of a proactive meeting on general topics, but it’ll often cover incidents that happened previously and discuss ways to prevent it from happening again.

      And if the company is large enough, it’s not a far stretch to think that they would email a newsletter to the entire staff, ranging from project site personnel to corporate HQ. What irritates me in LW #1’s case is the suggestion to wear non-slip shoes while requiring business dress for their office employees. Most women’s business shoes aren’t constructed that way – either a man wrote that safety flash or a woman who’s never stepped into a facility that requires wearing closed-toe steel-toe boots while adhering to business dress.

      (hopefully not outing myself here, but it took me over 2 years to get a “small” sized safety vest that fit me because our corporate HQ somehow couldn’t bring themselves to realize that yes, our firm does have several women who are on-site project managers in various field offices.)

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        You’re not outing yourself. A depressing number of women have had trouble getting company-issued clothing and equipment that fits properly.

      2. Yams*

        I feel you about the safety vests. I’m the only person in my company with a very small frame–I cannot bulk up for the life of me–so my company only buys XL safety vests. I look like a toddler whenever I have to wear mine!
        Thankfully we are getting a new kind of vest next quarter (this one is really cool!) and since they are personalizing them I will be allowed to order a small one :D. I’m way too excited about that.

        1. Warehouse Ops*

          Can you share what kind of cool safety vest you’re getting? I need to reorder for my site and we don’t have anything I’d consider more than functional. Thanks!

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

            Can’t speak for Yams but I was really envious of the supervisor whose high vis vest had little pockets for holding pens and pencils, and a zipper pocket for your phone. Also some of the demolition people had high vis puffy vests, which I was vary envious of in November.

      3. LondonEngineer*

        Yeah, I was ok but one of my colleagues had to use a special catalogue because even the ‘small’ women’s hi-vis trousers were utterly ridiculous on her

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

        This is a very common problem in archaeology in the UK. Plenty of my woman colleagues are quite petite and they can have real problems getting safety gear that fits them. I’m pretty large and tall and can usually wear men’s clothing but even I have had trouble finding things like gloves and boots that aren’t comically huge. It can be a real issue when you have to roll up your waterproof or high vis trousers a million times so that you aren’t tripping on them, or your gloves are an inch longer than your fingers, or you have to wear four pairs of socks to make your safety boots fit.

        The worst was trying to find masks to fit when we were working on an asbestos-contaminated site and doing training with breathing apparatus for confined spaces. A couple of the women had to try every kind of mask they had and eventually had to go with the full-on hood variety (fun to wear when you’re doing manual labour and wearing a hard hat) because none of the other ones would form a tight seal on their faces.

        1. Cercis*

          I only found one brand of tree climbing helmet that fits me. Not the one with suspension, so it’s REALLY hot in Texas. And it comes in limited colors, so I look at the cool kids in their cool colored helmets and have major envy. I mean, it’s to keep me safe, but can’t I look nice while being safe? Especially since other people can. I had the choice of white, safety yellow or pink (because they’re the small size that women wear). I went with white. I wanted green, but that only came in the brand that was too big.

    4. Antilles*

      It’s not about the actual incidents though, it’s about the rest of it. It’s about cultural change. It’s about teaching newer employees people best practices. It’s about reviewing stuff that someone who’s been there five years has gotten lax about “already knowing.
      And it’s also, critically, about near-miss reporting and learning from items. Near misses are basically the times you *could* have gotten hurt, but didn’t – the ice you slipped on but caught yourself, the time you were trying to carry too much and a box dropped but landed on the ground rather than breaking your foot, and so on.
      And reporting and tracking near-misses is crucial. Why? Because when you have major injuries (lost time, hospitalization, or even fatalities), it’s extremely, extremely rare that it was a pure one-off thing that couldn’t possibly have been prevented. Instead, you will invariably find that there was a trend or pattern or a previous near-miss that was totally ignored, so you absolutely *could* have fixed the problem if people had bothered to say something and the company had bothered to do something.
      Most studies have found that for every OSHA-reportable injury, there were somewhere between 10 to 20 (!) near-miss incidents that were ignored. If your company isn’t tracking and reviewing near-misses, it’s NOT that your people are perfect, it’s that your company isn’t learning anything from them and is just (unconsciously) rolling the dice that luck continues to be in their favor.

      1. Violet Fox*

        This makes it make even less sense to shame people for work place accidents and injuries then, and makes so little sense to make people reluctant to come forward for near misses or actual accidents.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Absolutely. Anything that makes people less likely to come forward makes unsafe situations more likely. That’s what is most chilling about this particular newsletter.

        2. Antilles*

          Oh, absolutely – the company is doing it completely wrong. The whole concept behind near-miss reporting and safety culture is that you actually *want* people to be comfortable coming forward and discussing potential issues, so that you get the chance to recognize and address them BEFORE they turn into actual injuries.

  13. Nico m*

    #4. I don’t think the LW should discuss this at all with the soon-to-be-ex employer. That would imply a non-negotiable issue is negotiable.

    They should reply to the new job, in best professional language I can’t muster right now “ WTF? I’m looking forward to start on the agreed date! Kindly tell ‘em to fuck off !”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      You can’t tell people to tell their company owners to fuck off. If her new and old employers were completely separate, that might make sense, but the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.

  14. Bagpuss*

    #4 it is very weird – given that your new manager has contacted you I would respond to them to let them know that no-one has spoken to you about changing your leaving date, that you gave notice to expire of [date] and plan to start with them as agreed on [date], unless of course *they* tell you otherwise.

    If any one from your current job raises it with you then I would respond with “I’m afraid that won’t be possible. I gave notice with my last day being [day] and I have made a commitment to NewJob to start on [date],” You can then go on to say whatever you have done / will be doing to ensure a smooth departure – confirm that you will ensure that you leave notes of any ongoing projects, or whatever is appropriate.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. I’ve beem in the situation where my current workplace wanted me to extend a notice period, but they ASKED FIRST. Treating you as if you had no input here and it was between the employers? That’s ridiculous, and a good sign that you made the right choice in leaving.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I must be outside the norms here, but in my office we often see something comparable when someone is transferring between departments. The old department basically has to agree to release the employee and they sometimes ask for a later start date. Is there any chance this owned company is operating more like a business unit within the same company? It sure sounds like they are.

        1. Between 2 Jobs*

          OP 4 here—As far as I have been aware, the owned company operates autonomously. There are a few people who moved from the parent company to the owned company a few years back. It hasn’t happened since, but now that I’m thinking about it that could certainly be a factor.

  15. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I think this sounds really difficult and it’s understandable that you struggled with what to do at the time.

    It’s always possible he didn’t want to disclose due to a bad experience in another job, but the problem is that he was disclosing his hearing loss anyway, regularly and constantly, but in a way that impacted his coworkers and basically helped nobody.

    If it was a current situation, my suggestions would be that he tells people he needs detailed/ important information in writing – I do that and I don’t have hearing loss, I just worry about forgetting things. He could also have recorded conversations with people’s permission.

    But it’s happened now. The way you handled it was the best you could do at the time. You tried to protect him from getting into hot water with managers. You put your own neck on the line to do that. You didn’t make fun of him or bully him. You followed his lead, which was the wrong lead, and felt uncomfortable telling him how hard it was. You were a human and a decent one. You could have advocated better for yourself and the trouble it caused you – but you did right by him, more so than you needed to.

    It would be okay to let yourself let go of this.

  16. Blah*

    #1: Kind of a tangent, but the idea of a company demanding female employees wear heels is just egregious. I could sit here and cite reseaech about how bad they are for long term joint health all day long, a whole lot of women find them exceedingly uncomfortable, and the entire function of heels is to accentuate sexual characteristics, which is hardly something that should be forced upon any worker. That makes me about as angry as blaming her for falling.

    1. Myrin*

      I agree, but I feel like discussing this further – which I remember was actually the point of at least two letters in the past! – would cause a huge derail away from the letter’s main point.

    2. Rebecca*

      Agreed. When I read this “the company has cracked down hard on the dress code, so business pumps are expected”, it made me think I wish the men who think this is a good idea would be subjected to wearing heels for at least one full day. I wear flats for a reason: I’m already nearly 5′ 8″ tall, I don’t need the joint stress, and I really don’t need to navigate through parking lots in the Northeast in the fall and winter in heels.

    3. Hlyssande*

      I have to wonder how they treat any women who are physically unable to wear heels. I roll my ankles at the drop of a hat and have plantar fasciitis issues. I cannot wear heels. What I do wear are some surprisingly cute mary janes from SAS because they don’t hurt. I can stand and walk in them for hours and they don’t hurt and it’s amazing. Alas, they are not non-slip, but I’ll take cessation of major foot pain over a small risk of slipping.

        1. neverjaunty*

          A “not following somebody’s stupid ideas about appropriate business dress” exemption would be even better. Women can wear appropriately dressy shoes that aren’t heels. And some women prefer pantsuits or a more masculine presentation.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This. I can wear very low heels some of the time, but not all day every day. They aggravate an old back injury and it’s a deal breaker. Just no.

            I have a pair of Crocs mary janes I bought when I had some foot issues and OldExjob wouldn’t let me wear trainers or anything casual. They’re black leather, with the squishy insole, and you’d never know who manufactured them by looking. (Sadly, I don’t think they’re available anymore.) I also have a very expensive pair of black leather Romika walking shoes. They look very professional. I have never ever had anyone tell me otherwise.

      1. clow*

        I feel like even without a medical issue, women should have the right to refuse heels, especially considering they can cause medical issues in the future. I don’t see why all the women in that office have to risk back, foot and leg issues.

        1. Observer*

          By definition, though, heels are going to be a problem, unless they are very low and fairly substantial.

  17. KC*

    For OP1: To me the letter can go either way. The OP could be right on and that the company is shaming workers who are injured. Which is horribly wrong. And the OP should really ask them self if they really want to work for a company that shames its workers for getting hurt. Because changing a safety culture at a company is going to take time and buy-in from upper management. And that is a huge hill to climb and potentially die on.

    Or the OP could be interpreting this newsletter as shamming. When it really is the company trying to share incidents with their workers. I hopes to bring awareness to a potential hazard. Maybe the company is presenting the information in not the best manor or maybe the OP is reading to far into the newsletter. I saw we can’t really determine what has happened without reading the exact newsletter word from word and with a better understanding of the safety culture at this facility.

    I would say the OP should have an open conversation with fellow co-workers and their manager to see if this is how they are interpreting the information too. And what exactly the company hopes to get from giving out this information. Also, the company may not realize they are “shamming” workers. Maybe. Hopefully.

    1. Amber Rose*

      We are asked to take letter writer’s at their word and not second guess them. If OP1 says it’s shaming, then we should assume it is.

      As a safety auditor, I would say it almost certainly is. Safety programs are toxic breeding grounds for that kind of thing.

    2. Observer*

      We are asked to take letter writers at their word. *Especially* about the factual stuff. And it’s very hard to interpret the facts presented as neutral presentation of safety issues and how they can be ameliorated. The facilities manager has explicitly said that he considers accidents to be the result of laziness and carelessness – not SOME of the time but MOST of the time. And the “advice” provided is simply utterly inapplicable to the incident described – yet the advice is presented as something the accident victim should have done. Worse, one of the pieces of advice is actually counter to company policy!

      Add to that the additional piece of information that the OP shared later – that when there is not an incident to share, the newsletter contains links to youtube videos with titles like “idiots at work”, and it’s really hard to conclude that anything but shaming is going on.

  18. AB*


    I might be misunderstand the relationship between new and old company but it sounds like the managers are treating the move more like an internal move rather than leaving one company to join another. I’ve had internal role changes a few times and have been in a situation where future and previous manager negotiated the notice period. I didn’t think anything of it – it makes sense for an internal move. Obviously if I was moving to a new busines it would be ridiculous and I would just leave at the end of my notice.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think if that were the case the company she’s moving to would have more specific about who they talked to and the fact they were negotiating, and ideally she’d be in on that conversation.

  19. Nordica*

    #4: I would ordinarily agree with Allison’s advice here, but in my view it’s relevant that the previous employer owns half of the new employer. This is effectively an internal transfer to an affiliated company, and in that case it’s appropriate for the two entities to negotiate an effective date.

      1. Nordica*

        Well, of course she should ideally be involved; but ultimately the “new” employer will want to take the needs of the existing employer into account in a way that it would not if the two were unaffiliated entities. LW can’t expect that the situation is analogous to moving into a new organization.

  20. WeevilWobble*

    OP2 Basically the company knows the ex will definitely sue if they breach a contract. But your friend probably won’t sue if nothing goes wrong.

  21. sunshyne84*

    #5 I absolutely hate when other managers would comment on my work without actually having interacted with me. At least you recognize this. Were there other people in charge as well? Maybe you can refer him to one of them.

    1. LW5*

      Yeah, I just felt really uncomfortable because I don’t want to come across as though I don’t think she does a good job … I just don’t know! Good idea about referring him to someone else. Thanks!

  22. LondonEngineer*

    I was struggling to understand some of the responses to #1 before I remembered that in the US pumps means a heeled shoe.

    On the other hand while I take the OPs word for it that the alerts are condescending and the advice is not applicable and seems to be coming from a shaming/liability mindset rather than genuinely helpful, my company does something which sound very similar to these letters and it isn’t an issue at all. People provide reports about incidents and near misses and regularly non-office/work issues (e.g. home safety tips and local issues). This is just to say that it doesn’t have to be a terrible idea and maybe if the OP approaches it right it could turn out useful?

    1. Allypopx*

      When safety issues occur at my job there is usually some kind of email or note in a staff letter that says “Remember that the back steps get icy this time of year, be careful!” or “Everyone please take a moment to make sure your cords are organized and don’t pose a tripping hazard for your colleagues!”

      The level of specificity OP has noted (in the comments as well as the regular letters) sounds to me more of a CYA move from people who are scared of worker’s comp claims. For instance:

      ” the Facilities department has launched a “behavioral awareness” program, which states that most workplace injuries are caused by lazy or absent-minded behavior, and seeks to “educate and inform” about how to change our actions to improve our safety numbers. We receive a weekly email newsletter that anonymously outlines workplace incidents and critiques what went wrong.”

      That’s condescending and blame shifting. I’d take OP at their word, with the general understanding of yes, this is a thing most workplaces do and yes, it can be done well. It just isn’t here.

      1. annejumps*

        Yes, it’s strange how many commenters are insisting OP1’s situation isn’t a problem, and then going on to ignore the specific details OP gave to support her conclusion that these aren’t normal safety emails.

        1. LondonEngineer*

          I wasn’t trying to imply that these letters weren’t a problem or that the OP was misunderstanding them – and I’m sorry if they got that impression. I was just trying to point out that having a regular update which details incidents instead of just generic safety tips (i.e. someone fell/had a crash/chopped a finger off as opposed to ‘remember to wear safety goggles!) doesn’t have to be shaming and intrusive. It can often be easier to push back by suggesting adjustments rather than pshing to abndon someone’s pet project altogether.

          Basically I was trying to say that I sopuld equally say that “We receive a weekly email newsletter that anonymously outlines workplace incidents and critiques what went wrong.” without having the same problems, so it is possible to do it right – and the OP shouldn’t feel that they are being unreasonable when asking for change.

          Admittedly the alerts can sometimes get a bit silly when pushing to fill the space (I do not need multiple reminders to check the colour of my pee for dehydration)

            1. LondonEngineer*

              Yep – and also colour charts in the toilets….

              To be fair while we did laugh at those it is also in an atmosphere where we can be confident that manager’s will back us up if we are unwilling to do something for safety reasons

              1. Allypopx*

                That sounds like a fun place to work XD And to be fair, I’ve been hospitalized a couple times for dehydration because sometimes I forget to drink water for a couple days, so younger me could’ve used those posters.

              2. Amber Rose*

                I posted our safety rules in the bathrooms so people could read them while they pee. It made everyone laugh, but it also meant that we saw a 75% increase in the number of people who could remember more than one rule.

                If it makes you laugh, it probably makes you remember. :)

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

            I’ve been on a work site where they had those pee posters in the bathroom. I suppose it made some sense as we were working outdoors doing manual labour but it was still kind of funny.

  23. Anon for this question*

    #4 is why people leaving the organization is afraid to tell co-workers/bosses where they are going to until their very last day. A behaviour I find very strange until I read letters like this.

  24. Adlib*

    I don’t find OP #1’s issue to be a big problem. At my company, we do something similar, but that’s to promote a culture of awareness in and out of the office so people go home safely at the end of the day no matter what they do for the company. I guess it depends on size of the company and the particular industry. We could lose contracts if we don’t have a certain safety rating. I also think that because we are so large, the anonymous lessons-learned emails don’t really point out who it was if you don’t work directly with them.

    We also do things like have safety moments at the beginning of every meeting whether it’s a company-wide webinar or just a weekly team meeting.

    1. McWhadden*

      The problem comes that people don’t like being pointed at when they have an accident. Falling and having everyone laughing at you is a classic nightmare.

      And in the OP’s case these aren’t really blind. So everyone knows who fell.

      This is a huge deal because it can prevent people from reporting workplace injuries. Without prompt attention an injury can be exacerbated. And this might have a chilling impact on worker’s comp filings. Perhaps what the company wants but bad for employees.

      They also aren’t particularly helpful, in general, because all incidents are fact specific. Whereas general safety tips that don’t include pointing to anyone having an accident are actually more helpful and not shaming.

    2. Kate*

      I also think part of the problem is laying blame solely on the person who suffered the injury. It’s likely a lot of people will know about the workplace accident regardless of whether it was in a newsletter, but then the company should focus on what the company as a whole can do to prevent future accidents. Like in the example above, the company could have said they were working with grounds keepers to be more diligent about leaf removal in the parking lot and that the dress code regarding shoes would be relaxed on bad weather days or at least that employees could feel free changing into work appropriate shoes in the office. Safety tips for individuals isn’t inherently bad, but that shouldn’t be the only focus especially when they aren’t pertinent to the situation being referenced.

    3. Amber Rose*

      It depends on the wording. “That moron just hurt himself doing X, the rest of you: don’t be morons” is shaming. “A person hurt themselves doing X, therefore we are now implementing Y to make X safer” is more useful.

      1. Kyrielle*

        “A person hurt themselves doing X. They should have done Y (which requires multiple pairs of shoes) and Z (which requires things that *literally don’t exist* and which facilities would have to create).”

        I’d argue that IS shaming. These silly people, using the parking lot we have and not the ideal one in our head, and following the dress code and not hauling a second set of shoes about. How dare they slip on the leaves we didn’t clean up?

        1. Amber Rose*

          Your example was completely different from mine though. In my example, the company was taking action to make something safer. In your example, they were putting the burden on the workers to be safer, and in ways that aren’t practicable.

          1. Jacob*

            Kyrielle’s example is what was actually in the letter. I believe Kyrielle was pointing out that letter #1 is the second situation you outlined, not the first one, and that your first example doesn’t really have much to do with the actual, non-hypothetical situation. The company has made no corrective actions or even stated a desire to do so–they’ve just wagged their finger at the poor lady who fell in the slippery parking lot.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Right, but the example I gave is *literally* what OP’s company has done. I was coming back to the letter.

            Yes, safety letters can be done well. But the ones described in this letter are not being done well, and “if they were doing it this way instead of that way it would be good” doesn’t seem to really address the letter, and I assumed that in the context of the letter, the discussion about “is it shaming” was focused on the actual circumstances…. Also, you were replying to a comment that said OP1’s situation didn’t seem like that big of a deal, where again, I think the actual issues are relevant.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Sorry, I was confused about your comment. My initial comment was merely pointing out that describing an incident doesn’t have to be shaming, as long as the wording and tone is done properly. If it’s not, then you end up with OP’s situation. If it is, you get what I assume Adlib is thinking of.

  25. Phoenix Programmer*

    Lesson from number 1.

    The parking lot accumulates debris and causes unsafe conditions. Expand the maintenance program to include the parking lot.

    There may be other environmental hazards set up an anonymous safety inbox and hotline to determine if there are others to address before more employees are injured.

    1. Allypopx*

      Right. This is what makes it different than normal safety reminder. It reeks of turning “what can we do to make this a safer environment?” into “why can’t you idiots watch your step like adults?”

  26. WellRed*

    For LW 2, yes, there is a conflict of interest. But, the HR woman is not your friend’s manager, she isn’t even an employee of the company. She cannot require him to meet “well outside of office hours.” He can and should refuse.

  27. Green T*

    #1. My company had this exact same situation with the monthly newsletter detailing work place accidents. And it always seemed like they were shaming the employees. The two employees that sent these out left the company and the shaming newsletters stopped. Makes me think one of them moved to your company LW (if you are in the US).

  28. McWhadden*

    OP2 did the boss know they were dating when they hired the company? If not then it could be a basis for breach of contract if they didn’t know material facts before entering into it. And, had they known, they never would have entered into it. Although, honestly, even that is a real stretch. And going down that route also highlights bad behavior on the part of your friend. (However, I suspect your friend was upfront from the start and everyone knew about the relationship.)

    I definitely sympathize with your friend but trying to get out of that contract really could be very expensive. And the corresponding cost from your friend is unlikely to be as expensive. Especially since he acknowledges she is unlikely to retaliate. (Not that he should be forced to continue to work with her. But you asked about the cost analysis of liability from the friend v. breaching the contract.)

  29. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 – There’s got to be some sort of accommodations that can be made until the contract ends. Ask the HR company to send a different rep than the ex, have a third party present, schedule meetings during work hours at work, etc.

  30. Prince of Snarkness*

    #3 I disagree with Alison’s answer about going to HR. There is REASON why many of us hide our disabilities. That reason is that while you’ll never be punished or fired for having one (officially) you may find yourself being disciplined for little-known, seldom enforced policies. Of course, this is COMPLETELY unrelated to your disability and management will never see you as a walking lawsuit time-bomb.


    I’d recommend HR as a last resort and ONLY a last resort.

    1. Allypopx*

      That sounds like it’s coming from a place of some pretty bad experiences, and I’m very sorry you went through that if it’s the case. But it’s not a universal truth and discouraging people from working with HR at their companies for basic issues is going to cause more problems than it fixes. Vision and hearing issues are easy to treat and also easy to accommodate, in most places, and it’s not worth the legal headache for HR to bother discriminating against them if they wanted to.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        Caveat: vision and hearing issues are treatable if you have the money. As I posted below, hearing aids have come a long way from the ones your grandpa used to wear that had loud feedback…but they are also considerably more expensive, and many insurance plans don’t cover them. My current one cost multiple thousands of dollars, not a penny of which was paid for by insurance. Considering how isolating hearing loss can be, I find it sad that treating it is often not considered “necessary” by insurance companies.

        However, hearing issues shouldn’t be that hard to deal with at work, especially if you’re open about it. Have management give you requests in writing (or email, or whatever) and ask them not to shout across the room at you. My coworkers and management know about my hearing loss, and it’s never been a problem.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yes, thank you, that was thoughtless of me. I was thinking more in terms of glasses (which my insurance covers) and not higher tech assistive devices.

          But easy to work around, regardless. And in my time as management, any accommodation conversations I’ve had with HR have come down to “well you better figure out how to work with this person even if it makes your life a little difficult, because you legally don’t have choice”, so yeah they’re looking out for the company but they’re doing it by advocating for the employees.

          1. stitchinthyme*

            I never even had to make a formal ADA request at my job. Sending email and/or speaking louder are not that hard to do. Like, it’s never even really been an issue. I have trouble hearing someone, and I say, “Sorry, I have hearing issues. Can you speak louder?” It’s not that hard. (Plus, I tend to keep my hearing aid on my desk, because it eats batteries and most of the day I work alone and am not interacting with others that much, so when someone comes in, first thing I do is reach for it. They can see me putting it in.)

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is terrible advice.

      The disabled person in question is legally entitled to reasonable accommodations. It is not reasonable to burden their coworker(s) with additional work.

      1. Mes*

        Being legally entitled to something doesn’t mean you’ll actually get it. We live in the real world, not an ideal world.

        1. Observer*

          It’s still bad advice. The coworker is placing an unreasonable burden on the rest of the staff. And that’s outside of the fact that this company’s track record indicates that disclosing a hearing issue wouldn’t be a problem.

    3. fposte*

      The OP notes that there’s already somebody on the team with known partial hearing loss, so it seems unlikely management would suddenly hold it against this co-worker.

    4. Observer*

      That may be true in some companies. But, it still doesn’t make it the OP’s job to deal with it. *Especially* sine the co-worker is being more than a bit obnoxious, and certainly ungrateful. If you want your co-workers to help you out, you need to ASK rather than demand AND figure out ways to reduce the burden you are placing on people. The coworker is doing neither.

  31. Kyrielle*

    OP #1 – this is not necessarily a good idea. (In fact, it is not remotely a good idea.) However, I would be really, REALLY tempted to reply to that newsletter (maybe even accidentally reply-all) with something like, “This is so very true! Thank you for pointing this out! So we can plan for the impact on business, when will the sidewalks be installed in the parking lot?”

    (I’d also be tempted to snark about the pumps and the rest, but there’d be no way to justify that. Really, though, I think they just provided an argument that they need to install sidewalks out there. It would, of course, have been easier to just clear the leaves….)

  32. stitchinthyme*

    #3 – As someone with a fairly significant hearing loss (one ear is pretty much useless and there is some loss in the other), it really irritates me when people treat this issue as something to hide or be embarrassed about. Most people wouldn’t pretend they could see perfectly well when they couldn’t, and would get glasses, contacts, LASIK, whatever. Maybe it’s because hearing loss is associated with aging? But mine started when I was 30, so I’ve never had that view of it, and everyone I work with knows about it, because I’ve told them. I wear hearing aids (which no one would know about if I didn’t tell people — they’re not big enough to be obvious), but I still sometimes have problems, and people are used to having to repeat things for me. I would never even THINK of asking a coworker to cover for me in an attempt to hide my problem from management.

    If you can’t hear well, go to an audiologist. There’s some amazing technology in hearing aids out there now, and most of them are so small they’re hardly noticeable. I have one that sends the sound from my bad ear to my good ear, and I can also stream into it from my phone or iPad.

    1. Cassandra*

      Even aging-related vision problems don’t seem to be as stigmatized/felt to be embarrassing as hearing problems. I just got my first pair of progressive glasses (preferred to bifocals because the mid-distance area is excellent for computer work — I love these things already) and neither I nor anyone around me has made a big deal of it. (Outside the week I had to wear my prescription sunglasses because my regular frames were getting the new lenses fitted, anyway. That was a trifle odd. But it worked out fine.)

      I wonder — and this is only a wonder, not an assertion — about the impact of television commercials for hearing aids. Seems to me most of them only feature very elderly, fragile-looking seniors. In a culture as grossly dismissive of elders as middle-class urban US culture, I can see where that would create stigma.

  33. Master Bean Counter*

    #1–The best way to keep people from slipping on wet leaves? Keep the parking lot clean. Which in my world fall on the facilities maintenance department. So they are blaming other people to distract from the fact that they may not be doing their jobs?
    #4-If I couldn’t find the idiot that called my new employer and get them to apologize I’d be tempted to quit on the spot. Citing that I really couldn’t trust anybody there anymore.

    1. Observer*

      So they are blaming other people to distract from the fact that they may not be doing their jobs?

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

  34. Amber Rose*

    OP#1: Your company has a bad case of Paper Hardhat.

    A safety program has a massive paper trail because if the government safety folk turn up on your doorstep, the company is guilty unless it can prove itself innocent. Unfortunately, this leads to the Paper Hardhat scenario: companies assume the paperwork IS the safety program, and the actual safety of the employees gets overlooked. Which leads to “we have all these policies, why aren’t those idiots following them?” It’s toxic, and it can lead to serious problems.

    As a point of reference, I am not from the US and I am required to detail every incident to the staff in a meeting. I don’t name names, but I can’t avoid the fact that everyone knows it was Fergus who was rushed to the doctor with a broken foot last week or Wakeen who hurt his shoulder. What I can do: emphasize that we investigated the incident thoroughly, talk about how we discovered that the fault was with the safety program for lacking some sort of control, and detail what the new control is.

    I do a LOT of safety training for managers, supervisors and general staff, and your letter is rather appalling to me. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. If you can gather a group, push back on this crap.

  35. Observer*

    On # 1

    I’m a bit taken aback by all the emphasis on the shoes. I agree that pumps, even with a relatively low heel are less stable than a flat shoe in unstable conditions, even with a good tread. But, the reality is that the shoes are NOT the problem here. The real problem is the parking lot, 100%. Even with hiking boots, the person would likely have slipped, because no amount of tread is going to help it the surface under your feet is not stable. If the surface were just wet, yes, tread helps. But wet leaves shift, and tread simply won’t help.

    Of course, that makes the “advice” even more barfelicious. I really do believe that this is partly an attempt to direct any discussion of liability away from the company.

    1. neverjaunty*

      People are pointing out that the company is requiring footwear for women only that isn’t “slip-proof”. It’s a very clear example of how stupid the company’s approach to safety is.

    2. Bea*

      The whole point of the OSHA regulations requiring the employer to take care of the parking lot is because of this ridiculous kind of situation! If it were snow or ice, they’d be held accountable as well and even with tread, you’re going to bust you butt on an icy parking lot! It’s gross that they’re big enough scale to have these newsletters aimed at shaming employees but not a crew dedicated to keeping the facilities, including the parking lot free of debris. This is classic housekeeping stuff that’s not being taken care of and pushed onto the employee themselves!

      I’m already fired up about all this after hours of countless workers comp seminars in my life, the company is garbage and I hate them.

      Long story short, I agree, this is nothing to do with shoes but at the same time, everything to do with it because of the sexist angle of the whole thing.

  36. Girasol*

    OP1: If the cause of an accident is an emergency shutoff switch for heavy equipment that is hard to reach, Health and Safety assures that it is moved. If the floor in front of the sink is wet and slippery and causes a fall, they see to it that an anti-slip mat is installed. Why doesn’t Health and Safety ever take on HR regarding a dress code that requires women to wear unsafe and impractical shoes? The only purpose for heels is to make women look sexy. That was once a qualification for a secretary but the days when that was “professional” are gone.

  37. Amy*

    OP4: In your shoes, I’d let your new manager know that no one at your old job has discussed changing your end date with you, so unless your new manager would prefer to change your start date, you’re still operating on the previously discussed timeline. It’s possible that due to the interconnectedness of your companies and the need to maintain solid relationships, your new manager will decide to push things back as your old manager requested. It’s also possible that they’re not at all worried about that and would prefer to stick to the proposed timeline. Unless you have a really strong preference, I’d defer to your new manager’s decision.

    1. Between 2 Jobs*

      OP 4 here—this is about where I’m at. My new manager has been keeping me in the loop. On his end, it sounds like my start date has not changed but they’re willing to be flexible. I haven’t received any communication about this on my current employer’s end and with the holiday I’m afraid I won’t be able to get to the bottom of this until next Monday.

  38. Anonymouse*

    OP4, something similar (but worse) happened to me recently. I was offered (and accepted) a job by a company which happened to be a client of my then employer. No issues though, because I hadn’t worked as a consultant at that client. The hiring manager was someone I had worked with at a different client. One of the senior consultants took it upon himself to phone the hiring manager, berate her for offering me a job, and push her into agreeing that she’d be just as happy to have me as a consultant – which was obviously not true. I was shocked by his lack of professionalism, and I think she was too. Needless to say I went ahead and moved to the new job as planned. What a bloody cheek.

  39. Earl Gray*

    As someone who got hurt at work completely due to not following procedure (thankfully not anything lasting, hence why I’m laughing about it now), and is now used as the example in training of following procedure, I was never shamed, was contacted about being okay with being the example, and even though I left said job 2 years ago they still keep me 100% anonymous (and as fewer and fewer staff know me each year I truly am becoming anonymous).

    Basically this is the golden rule with this kind of stuff, what happened to me made them completely rework their policies, train better, and they still treat my injury with 100% dignity and respect, and do not blame me in the retelling of it

  40. Noah*

    I rarely think Alison gives terrible advice, but her advice to #4 is potentially job-killing. We know the ownership relationship between the two companies, but other than “autonomous,” we don’t know the managerial relationship. Maybe CEO of New Employer reports to CEO of Old Employer in a manner not generally shared with the employees. Now, let’s say #4 works directly for CEO of Old Employer. Alison is telling #4 to go to New Employer and say, “No, we’re not doing what Old CEO is telling you to do. I’m in charge here!” At a lot of companies, that would result in #4 have zero jobs. Without more inquiry, Alison’s response is irresponsible at best, job-killing at worst.

      1. Visit Minutia Mission*

        I think Noah is talking about the two companies (current employer and new employer) are not completely separate since the one owns half of the other. So what works for norms of leaving a job for a new company don’t necessarily apply in this case. I would think that the job change is being treated more like a job transfer and that is why the someone at current company reached out to discuss the timeframe with the new manager. I also agree that it would be possibly tone deaf to push back too hard on the start date at the new position, when the company is partly owned by the current employer. Eacpecially since the OP already said they suspected that eventually both companies may operate as one in the near future, I’d reframe the idea as transfer vs leaving for a new job. (My frame of reference was when I was an employed at Company A in HR… they “operated separately” from Company B, however I still was involved in various ways behind the scenes, I.e., to take care of HR benefits enrollments, Etc. for smaller Company B. Company B didn’t have their own HR department. I could very well see that they would negotiate the timeframe in cases an employee “transferred” between the two companies.)

  41. Former Employee*

    Regarding OP#4: I never told my about to be previous employer where I was going when I gave my notice. I felt it was none of their business. I mean, if I wanted them to be involved in my life on an ongoing basis, I wouldn’t be quitting!

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