most popular posts of 2017

Ask a Manager’s traffic continued to increase this year, with 31 million visits and 70 million page views. Thanks for your part in that!

Here are the posts that interested people the most this year, via two lists: the most commented on posts and the most viewed posts. Until last year, historically the “most viewed” list has been heavier on practical advice posts (how to write a cover letter, how long to wait to hear back after an interview, etc.), while the “most commented-on” list has been heavier on the more outrageous stuff. This year, like last year, there was a ton of overlap between the two lists, and they both tended toward the outrageous.

Most commented-on posts of 2017

(doesn’t include open threads or “ask the readers” posts, which otherwise would hold many of the top 10 places)

10. I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter

9. Fired for wearing a Halloween costume to work, bug drama, and more

8. Did my intern frame my coworker for credit card theft?

7. CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects

6. I didn’t get a job because I was a bully in high school

5. My assistant quit because of St. Patrick’s Day pinching

4. My employee knowingly brought norovirus into the office and got a bunch of people sick

3. Employee got her colleagues arrested for smoking pot at a conference and now wants a transfer

2. I ghosted my ex and she’s about to be my new boss (and the update)

1. Employee won’t come back unless her coworker is fired

Most viewed posts of 2017

10. CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects

9. My boss enlists me in hiding his multiple affairs from his wife

8. I didn’t get a job because I was a bully in high school

7. My boss made me leave a work note at a grave (and the update)

6. I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter (and the update)

5. Employee got her colleagues arrested for smoking pot at a conference and now wants a transfer

4. Employee won’t come back unless her coworker is fired (and the update)

3. Drunk boss got angry I couldn’t drive him, emailing thank-you’s for routine office stuff, and more

2. Is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive? (and the update)

1. I ghosted my ex and she’s about to be my new boss (and the update)

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. Ladybugger*

    Man, people had Very Intense Opinions about whether you should kill a ladybug. Reading those comments I began to wonder if I was a for-real sociopath because I STILL am like “yeah okay, it’s a bug though…”

    Brief update, the ladybug did not end up in my coffee but probably did die at some point anyway. I haven’t seen it since. The ladybug rehomer occasionally comes down to yell-train a new guy and generally bring a vibe of forced bonhomie to the floor but has not brought more bugs to live there, so, win.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      *strokes chin (or persian cat) thoughtfully*

      More bugs that you know about to live there….

      (jk–I was one of those pointing out that unless the plant was infested with aphids, he was the bug murderer)

    2. Don't Blame Me*

      That WAS surprisingly tense. I’m also on the side of “It’s just a bug so …” A lot of people pointed out that bugs that appear to be ladybugs are actually destructive pests (some other kind of beetle, I think it was), which I had never heard before. After knowing that, I’m decidedly on Team Bugkiller.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        WHich is weird cause lady bufs are known for killing OTHER destructive pests (like aphids, little fuckers always go after my roses).

        1. seejay*

          Sure, those are the native ladybugs to North America. But there’s a type of ladybug that’s an invasive species that was introduced in the 70s and it’s not as helpful as the native ones. They still eat bugs but they’re more invasive, can bite and emit a stink bomb. They’ve actually caused damage to the native ladybug populations. That’s why people are divided on the ladybug issue.

          1. Lady Phoenix*

            Sre those the stink bugs, cause those fuckers are annoying.

            How can you tell the in asive from the native?

      2. Ladybugger*

        That discussion illuminated for me why I hate ladybugs. When I was a kid we had the smelly, orange, swarming, ladybug-impersonator beetles every summer in my upstairs window. Blergh.

        Now I happily tell people it was probably a bullshit ladybug anyway.

    3. Greg M.*

      I still feel he didn’t care about the ladybug but saw it as a way to annoy you and score victim points for when the backlash hit him and he got to act like a victim.

    4. Temperance*

      I was firmly on team “Kill It With Fire”, but I hate ladybugs and find them disgusting. I did not realize how much of a minority opinion that was!

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Ladybirds can be evil but I’m just not getting the ‘it’s just a bug’ thing. Is it because they’re small? They’re still alive!

      1. Ladybugger*

        Lots of things are alive that we happily kill or have killed for our eating pleasure so it seems weird to be squeamish about a bug.

    6. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Be nice to bugs. They can’t help what they look like.

      (The exception are roaches. Kill them with fire.)

  2. Nana*

    Will you be allowing commenters to continue the conversation you shut down about the sexual harassment from your old job?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The comments there were open all day and went to something like 800 comments. But that was a discussion where I wanted to be able to engage meaningfully, and while I set aside the day to do that when I posted, I can’t do that every day and also continue to do other work. I hope that makes sense.

      1. o.b.*

        Completely makes sense. Thank you for being consistently on top of the comments—thoughtful moderation is one of the reasons I value this website and why the comments actually feel like a community.

        In my understanding there’s always room for other conversations about work-related sexual harassment in the Friday open thread.

      2. happy New Year*

        That’s completely reasonable. It’s not your responsibility to make moderating comments on your behavior years ago your full time job.

        Clearly you were not alone in making the wrong decisions when dealing with a sexual abuser in the workplace. It’s very difficult to know what is best, and to do it, when in a toxic environment created by your boss. All of the people being outed as sexual abusers this year shows that many many people have made the same decisions… And it’s NOT that everyone who was nearby was a bad person. Good people can be in unsure of what to do in complicated situations, in a culture that tolerates abuse. Making the wrong choice shouldn’t be a moral death sentence, if a person learns and changes.

        1. No gifts*

          It seemed to me that Allison was making an honest effort to do what seemed best to her based on the information she had at the time, and that based on what she learned from that experience would probably handle a similar situation differently today. Doing our best, acknowledging and learning from our mistakes is all any of us can do.

        2. eplawyer*

          I’m not sure calling a “wrong” choice is the best way to describe it. She made the best choice she could at the time based on what she felt safe doing and based on information she had (which can include fears of retaliation). Calling it the wrong choice is blaming the victim for not dealing with the wrong doer in a fashion deemed acceptable by the person judging. Blame the wrong doer for putting the person in that position in the first place. Then stop.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I did make wrong choices! But this isn’t the place to get back into it, for the same reason I explained above (I’ll feel like I need to engage and can’t reliably do that on this particular post).

      3. ArtsNerd*

        This absolutely makes sense. I’m someone who thinks that “wrong” is an apt term for your choices in that situation, and I agree with commenters who found your language distancing and an indication that you might still have some work to do. But you’ve acknowledged both those points and that kind of work is not a process that needs to be (or should be) public.

        I am also deeply disappointed by the number of people hell-bent in holding a woman accountable, once again, for the bad behaviors of men. Fuck that.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          And I am among the commenters who felt that even if Alison’s language choices had been ‘not distancing’ people would still have found things to nitpick about, because god forbid we just appreciate that a human being is making themselves vulnerable and talking about something uncomfortable – picking on her language choices is an easy way to make the world feel a bit more just.

          We are kind to commenters and do not nitpick their language. If only we could have extended that courtesy to the host.

    2. NaoNao*

      Yeah don’t go after the actual harasser or hold *him* accountable, at all. Make sure you pile on and demand even more engagement from someone who had the guts and courage to come clean, engage in discussion, admit wrong doing, and add her extremely influential voice to the conversation.

  3. A Nonny Mouse*

    The post about not getting the job because the OP was a high school bully had an update–a doozy of an update too.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I was particularly struck by the indignant comment on the CEO followup that her (prestigious) university should have taught them that being a jerk to people can have negative repercussions, as a job searching skill along with resume writing.

        The high school bully update was kind of sad. Her life had spiralled out of control, due to both her own behaviour and various uncontrollable external things, but she was still clinging to the need to blame her former victim.

    1. SignalLost*

      Did the “unmanager” have two updates? I feel like there was a second one that suggested she was working on her issues, but I may be conflating it with the attractive coworker letter and its updates.

      1. fposte*

        I thought there was too, but one of those updates may have been in the comments, since the OP was pretty interactive.

        I really like that and the attractive co-worker one because I think they’re great examples of a time when Alison has been able to make a real difference to somebody going down a bad road, and because they’re a reminder that people can, in fact, come to a point where they can see that they’ve been erring and find a different way.

        1. SignalLost*

          What was really nifty about them to me was that the letter writers were coming from such different places – maybe not in terms of root cause, since therapy helped both, but definitely in terms of sense of responsibility for the situations they were part of. I liked that both ultimately did take the advice Alison offered, too.

      1. LBK*

        Oh, this is such a relief. I just reread the original update and was seeing red again over just how stubborn and obtuse the OP was being, but glad to hear she did eventually come around.

  4. rudster*

    Re. ghosting BF, I’m still a little disturbed by the sexism evident in the vehement hate directed against the LW. I can’t help but think that if the sexes were reversed, and a female subordinate was worried about an ex-bf boss taking out his frustration over their failed relationship on her, we would have almost universally advised to stick it out, that’s he’s probably over it after by then anyway, and that if he did try any form of retaliation it would almost certainly constitute some of form sexual harassment.
    Personally, I thought he should have stuck it out, quietly, since there was a better than even chance that she would be adult about it, if nothing else to avoid the drama. He lost all sympathy from me with update, with the drama seeking announcement to management, etc.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      A lot of people got on his cause for his sexist reorts by calling his ex “crazy” and claiming she only has inportance because of her marriage (and not her actual achievements).

      So yeah, fuck him.

    2. SignalLost*

      I am … completely unclear what you saw that was not this, minus the harassment part. Since employment retaliation can in fact take the form of sexual harassment but is much more likely (in the scenario presented) to take the form of missed promotional and developmental opportunities, imo, I don’t see sexual harassment as a hugely likely outcome regardless of gender. We pretty much all DID advise him to stick it out, though we warned him the bridge was very likely burned. He was the one who demonstrated he was not a particularly thoughtful or kind or egalitarian person by his choice of comments about his ex, the action he took (resigning without evident discussion) that impacted his current partner, and his need to stand atop Mount Hubris and set off detonation charges rather than quietly putting his head down and trying to work with his ex.

    3. Temperance*

      You can’t be sexist against men. You can be biased against men, and prejudiced against men, but you cannot ever be “sexist” against men.

      Moving on, that guy was acting like such a righteous ass in the letter and the follow up that I think he deserved the comments that he got. It wasn’t “frustration over a failed relationship”, but it was straight up abandonment. It wasn’t a handful of bad dates, it was a 3-year relationship where they shared a home, and he left the country while she was away for a weekend, and didn’t even bother to end things. He then called her “crazy” for contacting their mutual friends for answers.

      1. col*

        “You can’t be sexist against men. ”
        I’m guessing you’re one of those people who also claim you can’t be racist against white people.

        1. seejay*

          Considering racism is a social construct and white people hold the power in society (at least in North America)…. you can’t be racist against white people. You can be biased and a jerk to someone solely based on them being white, but someone who is not white absolutely has zero societal power/pressure over someone who is white, which is the definition of racism.

      2. Casca*

        Temperance and seejay, this may be a better topic for an open thread, but I find it odd when people here take the view that the -isms necessarily include an element of power. I understand that those particular definitions exist and are useful for certain discussions, but they are not even the first option when you look up the definitions of racism, sexism, etc. It’s weird to me when people act as if they’re universal definitions- they’re definitely not. The ‘prejudice plus power’ definition is a much later concept and I think it’s disingenuous to act as if it’s the only existing definition.

        Additional thought: I’m not American or white, but I understand that as a group, white people are the most powerful (or more specifically, rich white men) in America. However, that doesn’t make an individual white person powerful in their own environment. Even if we were to use the prejudice plus power definition, the word is filled with microcosms and there are situations where the general American societal power structure is different to the microcosm power structure.

    4. fposte*

      I don’t know that that’s true. We’ve gotten several letters from women whose romantic relationships have interfered with their job prospects, and when it’s extreme the advice can definitely be “This may not be workable.”

    5. Academic Addie*

      I really don’t see what you’re referring to. I don’t recall seeing anyone saying that it would be OK for the ex-girlfriend to sexually harass the dude, or anything like that. It seems like the advice from both AAM and the commentariat was “Clear the air with Sylvia, apologize, and try to get on.” Which seems, to me, like the right thing to do, and exactly what you’re suggesting.

      Lady Phoenix points out that the initial letter was not a great look. He attributes the worst possible motives to her. She’s crazy and making scenes because she contacts his family after he ghosts her three years into a relationship? I probably would too! I think most people based their judgement of the likelihood of success of working together not just on the facts, but on his continued inability to understand the impact his actions would have on his ex. I’ve not seen a letter on this website that is quite as lacking in self-awareness (maybe train bike LW?).

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I think anyone would go to family or friends if their partner went missing without a word… usually cause said partner is dead, in danger, or made off like a bandit with the lover’s bank account.

    1. Stormfeather*

      Yeah, shortly after it was posted, it was basically “oh the boss was okay with it” from what I remember, which… shocked the heck out of me honestly.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        That person made me sad. It goes to show how the ultra religious/patriachal culture can have duch a brainwashing effect on people, causing even women to support or spout out sexist rhetoric. And they don’t notice, care, or even think that it is all wrong.

  5. Fish Microwaver*

    Looks like microwaving fish in the break room is waaaaaaay down the list this year. Happy new year AAM community.

  6. Juli G.*

    Allison, do you think this has to do with the proliferation of sites that write blogs about things on other sites? Just curious if you’ve seen a change in how traffic is coming to the site.

      1. Slf128*

        I started reading because of a buzzfeed article. I want to say most of the above were posted in their article.

  7. Sara*

    I had forgotten about the intern’s jacket getting stolen and am just flummoxed all over again. Poor intern.

  8. eplawyer*

    I thought the intern abuse ones would get more views/comments. It seems there were a lot of them.
    Man people seem to get assaulted at work A LOT and then the bosses are amazed the assaulted person quits.

  9. Girasol*

    Hey, potty problems didn’t even make the list this year! Thanks, Alison, for the retrospective, and for the terrific month of “where are they now” updates.

  10. Temperance*

    I was hoping for an update from the woman whose anxious coworker was making the intern give her rides.

  11. GuitarLady*

    I still DESPERATELY want an update about the norovirus employee. Was she fired or disciplined? Did she become more apologetic? Did coworkers eventually thaw, or did she quit because she got tired of everyone hating her??

    1. MamaSarah*

      Part of my job is to educate people about norovirus, and many folks need reminders about how contagious this virus is (you need a very little amount to get sick) and handwashing as prevention. I feel for the OP as this disease gets a lot of media hype but there is little focus on the severe public health consequences. Hopefully the OP can demostrate personal responsiblity.

    2. Specialk9*

      I was actually pretty scared by the commentariat on the norovirus one. My mental image was of everyone lining up on a racetrack, the gun went off, and everybody sprinted to the pile of pitchforks and torches and became an instant mob yelling “burn her!”. It was intense, and extreme, and instant. I generally think this commentariat is full of wisdom and kindness, but lord not that time.

      1. Lynne879*

        I mean… yeah, that employee not only endangered the health of her coworkers, but endangered the health of her coworkers’ FAMILIES (I believe one relative even had to go to the hospital?!)

        Of course that’s gonna touch a nerve with people.

  12. kittymommy*

    I forgot how much Sally the anti-pot zealot pissed me off. I’ve never smoked (anything) and don’t have particularly staying opinions about legalizing for recreation, but I don’t like threats, especially manipulative ones like this. Man I hope they told her no.

    1. Eliza*

      The OP posted further information in the comments of that letter that made the situation look significantly more complicated. Sally ended up quitting and taking legal action against the company, and two other employees quit in support of her with several more threatening to do the same, which kinda points to bigger problems at the company no matter what happened in that particular case.

      1. Quiet lurker*

        I think the updates in the comments indicated Sally felt sexually harassed, but that got lost in all the comments about people’s opinions on pot.

        1. paul*

          That letter was a great example of letting your biases on one topic kind of blind you to other issues/factors (general you not specific you).

          1. Lynne879*

            I know, right?

            It doesn’t matter what your opinions are of legalized marijuana… the boss still asked Sally if she wanted to smoke an illegal drug with him! And even if recreational marijuana WAS legal, when in any circumstance is it okay for a boss to ask his employee if they want to smoke pot on a business trip???

            Like you said, it’s amazing how peoples’ opinions/biases on a specific topic blinded people to other crucial parts of the letter.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      They not only told her no but then formally reprimanded her for insubordination. She quit, and several other coworkers quit in protest of how she was treated. Sally brought a legal sexual harrasment lawsuit against the company and they settled.

      1. Specialk9*

        Oooh nooooooo. I disliked Sally the rigid pearl clutching narc too… But that was… Wow that was not the way to handle it. It’s like someone identified best ways to handle a problem and worst, and then confused the lists. It also makes me wonder what else was going on there – other than terrible decision-making by managers.

    1. paul*

      Its making me think I need a more anonymous username for sure; had no idea it was that widely read

  13. Party Pooper*

    I liked AAM better with more practical advice and a touch of the outrageous. This shift towards more outrageous is entertaining and readable but I encounter many, many, more practical scenarios than outrageous scenarios at work.

    1. Annie Moose*

      The bird phobia thread was bizarrely popular! I get that it was a pretty controversial topic, but man it surprised me how much vitriol got spewed over that post.

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