update: my employee dressed up as a coworker for Halloween to mock her

Remember the letter-writer last month whose employee dressed up as a coworker for Halloween to mock her? Here’s the update.

As of the Monday following Halloween, my report stopped coming in. She didn’t say anything about resigning or leaving. She just stopped coming in (the Friday after Halloween was her last day).

I was concerned when she didn’t come in because it wasn’t like her. I called police to do a welfare check when she didn’t show up and could not be reached. The police did a check and told me she moved and didn’t live at the address we had on file. I called the property management office, but they didn’t have a forwarding address and said she had informed them abruptly she would be moving a month before her lease ended and wouldn’t be renewing and she was moved out within days. The email and Google voice number she put on her resume and hiring paperwork are no long in service and we don’t know any other contact/phone/social media information for her.

I feel terrible about what happened. As for going to HR, we are in the HR department. I am the manager of Employee and Labor Relations. The director of HR and the C-suite individual they report to both voted for the costume in the contest. Everyone including them thinks it was “good fun.” The company I work for is a large one, anyone who lives in this state would recognize the name, but no one sees things my way.

I didn’t mention this in my first letter, but some of the comments did pick up on this. My report who wore the costume was not the same race as the report she imitated. The costumed report also weighs more than the person she dressed up as and intentionally wore too small clothing and a crop shirt with her stomach and cleavage showing. Her makeup and mannerisms were exaggerated, according to everyone. My report she dressed up as is actually very intelligent and articulate. She said her portrayal was not meant to be insulting even though it obviously was.

I’ve started looking for another job. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m going to be a dad soon, I would have resigned already (my wife is a freelancer with many clients, but given that she is pregnant we want the stability of a guaranteed income).

Thanks to Alison and all who commented. It made a big difference knowing I was right to be upset even though no one else saw it this way.

{ 396 comments… read them below }

  1. a1*

    The additional info on the costume and portrayal make this even more horrifying. How can no one else at this company (or at least this department/team) except the letter writer see how bad this is?!?

    I don’t blame the coworker for getting out dodge and being unreachable. I feel so bad for her.

    Good luck, letter writer, on finding a new job. I hope one comes through fast for you.

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      Ok since there are no names (and it gets confusing) I’m naming the report who dressed as her coworker Matilda, and the report who left Susie so I can ask my question better.

      “I don’t blame the coworker for getting out dodge and being unreachable. I feel so bad for her”

      Let me preface this with saying: I don’t blame Susie for getting out of dodge either. And obviously the OP doesn’t either and also thought Matilda should not have dressed as Susie.

      But in some offices, wouldn’t Susie resigning without a word be considered unprofessional or hurt her references later? Again, we have no clue what was going on in Susie’s personal life and maybe Matilda dressing up as her pushed Susie over the edge, but wouldn’t it be better to at least send an email “I’m resigning effective immediately due to X issue.”? OP says it was Susie’s first job after college so I realize she can probably not include it on her resume if she wants. But what if this was a solid job that you worked at for 5 years? How would Susie then explain the abrupt leaving? If I was her manager I would give her a good reference either way (assuming Susie was a good employee) but I would probably be a bit peeved of absolutely NO notice and/or not being able to reach out to her. The OP cared enough to do a welfare check so I’m assuming Susie was a decent person and they had a decent relationship.

      All said, I feel terrible if Matilda dressing up as Susie is what caused her to leave so suddenly and even move/change her numbers. It’s abhorrent that this happened in an HR department as well!

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yes, it would presumably hurt her reference but at that point I can easily understand Susie concluding that her entire workplace had no respect for her and wasn’t going to be a professional contact ever again anyway. Especially since this was her first job out of college and can probably be left off her resume entirely.

      2. Natalie*

        In the original letter the LW said Susie had only worked there for 4 months. Given that short tenure, she wouldn’t list anyone from this company no matter the circumstances of her departure, and I doubt she’ll mention this company to future employers except as required for a background check.

        1. Seal*

          And if she does list it, she could certainly tell anyone who asks that she was bullied with HR’s tacit approval to the point she didn’t feel comfortable staying. While I’m not usually one to recommend badmouthing former employers, this is so beyond the pale that no decent person would fault her for leaving abruptly.

          1. Wintermute*

            Not to mention that “I can’t comment on an ongoing trial but my claims of race discrimination were deemed well-founded by the EEOC” is one HELL of an answer to that question, the cross-racial mockery here makes this a situation where the leaving worker’s silence may be the quiet before the barrage, in this case from the government.

      3. designbot*

        I can only imagine that Susie does not plan on asking for a reference from these people for any reason. From her point of view, they are a team that disliked her so much that one of them mocked her (potentially in a racially charged way) and the rest of them cheered Matilda on for doing so. Why on earth would she expect to get a good reference from that crowd? This could be easily interpreted in a “this is what you really think of me” way, which would not make a reference something Susie’d even think to ask for.

      4. SignalLost*

        I mean, I feel pretty safe assuming that the mockery and insult is what triggered Susie to cut off all contact and move out of her home. She has no idea that anyone at the company is on her side, and you take what power you have at that point. As for the reference, why she would assume she would get a good reference from these people is beyond me – they almost to a person signed on to belittling her! Why would she assume they wouldn’t belittle her in a reference check? – and having been there only four months makes it a lot easier because she doesn’t need the reference. She shouldn’t put this job on her resume due to her tenure length, at the very least.

        OP, I’m sorry you’ve wound up in this position. I hope you had the opportunity to say something to your report to let her know you didn’t agree with what happened; I think that would have been a kindness for both of you. I wish you luck in your job search.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        When you do this (leave with no notice) it’s understood that you are setting fire to whatever embers of the bridge are still burning.

        I think you should always hit a formal notice for exactly what happened here–did she quit, is she lying unconscious in her apartment, was she kidnapped? But not because you hope to extract a good reference out of the flaming cubicle walls of a job that would drive you to just not show up.

        1. Mephyle*

          It was the company that set the bridge on fire in the first place.
          And OP initiated a welfare check and knows that she isn’t lying unconscious in her apartment.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Not to nit pick, but what O.P. sctually knows is that “Susie” is not lying dead in the apartment she USED to live in. The update says she had already moved out when O.P. tried to reach her; ergo, O.P, actually has no idea what has happened to her since then. I’m sure we would all like to assume that she’s just fine, but the fact is we don’t know and neither does O.P.

            I think the fact that “Susie” put that much effort into disappearing and being unreachable indicates she probably did so with every intention of putting the whole thing behind her and moving on, but I’m pretty sure that if I were O.P., not knowing for sure would really bother me. Obviously O.P. will have to find a way to deal with this uncertainty, but that’s kind of a separate issue. In the meantime, how about we not assume things are known that are not, in fact, known?

              1. whimbrel*

                I mean, she doesn’t work there anymore, so I don’t think the company shouldn’t be making use of her emergency contacts if they still have them. She seems to have wanted to completely scrub that workplace and the experience from her life and I absolutely can’t blame her. They should respect her apparent wish not to be contacted.

                1. Julia the Survivor*

                  Just in case anything did happen to her – we don’t know for sure it’s just that she didn’t want to be contacted. The emergency contact could reassure OP.

      6. ten-four*

        This woman was the subject of what sounds like a racist joke (with some bonus mockery about her weight), was laughed at by her entire company and management structure, and the person responsible for the cruelty won an award. Of all the people behaving unprofessionally here, this woman quitting without notice is at the bottom of the heap. It’s not even worth discussing the “but what if she’d been there for five years” hypothetical or questioning whether this incident was actually the cause of her walking out on the company. The company showed her that they don’t value her as a person – much less as a professional! – and her response was entirely rational and fair.

        I hope she leaves this company off her resume, gets a much better job at a company that values her skills, and writes a sadder-but-wiser article about her experience that goes viral.

        1. Zip*

          I hope she writes an internet post that names the company, the employee who mocked her, and the higher-ups who voted for the costume. Anyone who does this to a co-worker and execs who put up with is deserve all the public shaming in the world.

        2. LadyCop*

          I don’t see how it’s racist or making fun of her weight…especially since the employee who dressed up weighs -MORE- than the one who was made fun of…

          and as far as racism is concerned…well the general connotation of a basic, and the info we have suggests that the one made fun of is not a minority…which of course doesn’t mean people can’t be racist towards her, but that’s not generally how the term is used.

          I think you should re-read the letters…

      7. Is it Friday Yet?*

        When you lose all respect for your employer, you don’t really care about using them as a reference in the future.

        1. Bea*

          And from a personal standpoint, you don’t trust them as a reference. They allowed her to be ridiculed and bullied. Who’s to say they don’t say she’s not a team player and can’t keep up with the rest of the team in some attempt to hurt her more.

          I know my former employer had the balls to give a memo out about who can provide references after I quit to assure if someone called about me he would get the call. I’m not even kidding. There are terrible bosses out there that will try to hurt your reputation despite legalities.

          1. J*

            I had an HR director tell prospective employer that I never worked there. Someone who really wanted to hire me called and asked if I could provide proof of previous employment and looked at copies of W-2s and paystubs. Who knows how many places that I interviewed has called and assumed I liked about having worked there and based their decision on that.

            1. Juliecatharine*

              I would talk to a lawyer and see what can be done to prevent that from happening in the future. That’s awful and I’m so glad someone bothered to ask you for verification.

            2. Bea*

              OMG, I’m sorry that you had to deal with that garbage. I’m glad that you found out that they were doing it though, I’m sure that some employers just dropped you because they were like “oop lied on their resume”, ARGH!

      8. Bea*

        Coming out of a situation where ghosting crossed my mind numerous times, in this day and age along with a huge city, I do not need my previous employers reference. It depends heavily on the network you’re in. It took me less than a month after deciding to leave to come up with an exit strategy.

        I’ll never use my former employer as reference and I’ve carefully crafted a way to tell others he is angry at me for daring to leave (after he turned hostile).

        Nobody I’ve interviewed with wanted references.

      9. Wendy Darling*

        I would have such a hard time writing that resignation letter. “I am resigning effective immediately because SUSIE DRESSED UP AS ME FOR HALLOWEEN AND EVERYONE THOUGHT IT WAS AWESOME, WTF” is probably not appropriate, but anything more appropriate would feel somehow not true?

        I also would not use that place as a reference if I could possibly avoid it because they clearly have questionable judgment. I might just pretend the job never happened.

        The fact that she apparently bailed on her lease and presumably moved out of town makes me think that maybe this was the last straw and she decided to make some major life changes. Wherever she is I hope she’s happy and no longer surrounded by jerks.

        1. designbot*

          How about, “I am resigning effective immediately due to the blatant racism directed at me by my coworker, as well as management’s explicit endorsement of same. I cannot continue in such a hostile work environment and you will be hearing from my attorney.”

          1. KarenD*

            Saying “you’ll be hearing from my attorney” is so often a hollow threat that few companies take it seriously.

            If the departed worker has already decided to bring an attorney in, then that’s the next move — once that decision is made, the former employee should cut off all direct contact (which is in fact what she might have done). Let the attorney handle it; there’s no way employee can do herself any good by talking to anyone at her former company any more.

            I’m not sure this would be actionable, TBH. Many horrible things aren’t. But a good employment attorney would be the one to make that call.

            1. InvisibleDuck*

              I went through a discrimination suit against a former employer based on my HIV status (which was incredibly messy and dragged on for 18 months). You have it right KarenD. I was explicitly instructed by my attorneys to cut out all communication with the company. The company’s internal HR department called me twice daily at the beginning (the manager in question had reported me for job abandonment, when he had told me not to return which medical documentation that was in violation of HIPAA) .

              So I put up with twice daily calls for almost 6 weeks. I repeated the same line each time “My attorneys have instructed me to cease direct communications with you or any representatives of [company]” to which the reply was always “We are just trying to engage you in a helpful and friendly dialogue”.

              My attorneys sent a cease and desist letter in regards to their communication and the senior attorney explained that this was a tactic often used by that particular company to gain more information about suits filed against them without having to involve the attorneys. After all, if they can lead you into saying something on a recorded line…

      10. Artemesia*

        I am assuming she will drop this from her resume and one hopes her memory and more power to her.

      11. Barney Barnaby*

        My advice to Susie would be to never, ever ask anyone at that company for a reference. They could torpedo her job prospects with innuendo, snide comments, or the like, and Susie would never figure out exactly what they are saying and why she keeps not getting jobs.

      12. Jojo*

        I would have reported this incident to the 800 number the comany lists for EAP. it is a serious breach of conduct that included unacceptable behaviour by a manager and several workers. Not just the one who dressed up (down).

    2. Travis Garret*

      How can no one else at this company see how bad this is? The answer might be: Culture trumps all, and it’s set from the top down. The company’s employee handbook, the mission statement on their website, etc. is all secondary to an organization’s culture, which flows from the example set by top management. In this case, it appears that the company is run by racist ashsoels, who hire more racist ashsoels, who chase off anyone who happens to get hired who isn’t a racist ashsoel. Sadly, a sickening company culture doesn’t always mean the company cannot succeed for a while (see: Uber), but it’s only going to be a good fit for people who thrive in that kind of environment.

      1. JP*

        I agree. Also, this is definitely one of those AAM letters where I really, REALLY want to know the name of the company!

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I NOW, RIGHT. I want to know the name of this company so bad I can taste it. Here’s hoping O.P. writes this story up for Glassdoor.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Ugh, got in too big of a hurry there.

            EDITED VERSION: I KNOW, RIGHT?. I want to know the name of this company so bad I can taste it. Here’s hoping O.P. writes this story up for Glassdoor, once they have left for a new and better job.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        Other people might realize how bad it is but are not able to take a stand and leave their jobs in a show of solidarity. OP hasn’t even left this company yet.

      3. Been There, Done That*

        My employer has a written zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying. It’s toilet paper.

    3. MLB*

      The last company I worked for had a ridiculously incompetent HR department so it doesn’t really surprise me that many of them had no issue about what happened. The only thing that would get them to change would be a lawsuit I’m sure.

  2. Murphy*

    Wow. I was hoping for a good outcome here. Your co-workers are in HR and still thought this was OK??

    Good luck with the job search!

    1. K.*

      I feel like we’ve read about a lot of bad behavior from HR departments here lately – the people who led a coworker to believe that she was being arrested were also in HR (and the outcome was the same: she cut them off and the letter-writer decided to quit because of the incident).

      1. KT84*

        Add to that all the sexual harrassment stories we have been hearing lately in the news where HR ignored complaints or buried them and I am not exactly feeling HR departments lately.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          That’s not particularly fair, since people who have competent and professional HR Departments to end up needing AAM for advice. (Or needing to resort the media to oust their harassers.)

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            It’s fair if it tends to be a lot of people’s experiences. I’ve worked at three different companies. There were multiple sexual harassment complaints submitted to each HR department (some from myself, some from coworkers). None of the three HR departments did anything. Two of them victim blamed women who complained and one threatened the victims with not getting promotions or being seen as hard to work with.

            Of my friend group who all work in different industry, this is a pretty common occurrence. With three out of three failures and accounts from other people that it’s the same situation they’ve dealt with, I think it’s fair to mistrust HR.

            1. Been There, Done That*

              Years ago after a job change, a former coworker told me the HEAD of HR at my old co. had been canned for sexual harassment. Great example, him. I once went to the lunchroom for coffee and he was there in the middle of the room discussing an employee’s performance with another employee, just gossiping.

            2. Nico M*

              HR reflects the company culture. If the company is run by arseholes, the HR department will be arseholes.

        2. Future HR Queen*

          I’m a middle-aged student who just transferred to university for an Business Administration degree. I was already leaning toward Management (specifically HR) this summer, but after all this Hollywood sh*t hit the fan, it strengthened my resolve to be a good HR manager that employees actually trust. We’ve all been hearing such nightmarish tales of complicit and/or useless HR departments, and I want to to my small part to change that.

          1. KarenD*

            Good for you. The woman who runs HR at my current company is cut from the same cloth. She’s trustworthy and kind. She doesn’t promise miracles but she does intercede when she thinks she can make a difference.

          2. Kittyfish 76*

            Good for you, thank you for aspiring to be a great HR manager. At Oldjob, the HR (1 person) wanted to do the right thing, but was pressured by the clique company culture and just ended up doing what they wanted to keep the clique happy.

      2. LBK*

        FWIW, they weren’t in the part of HR that would’ve had any relevance to employee behavior, unlike the culprits in this letter.

        1. SignalLost*

          Oh, is there a special branch of HR training that leaves off ethical violations and harassment, discrimination, and other legal concerns for people who “just” do payroll and benefits rather than have employee contact?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, yes. It’s not uncommon for the people who do payroll and benefits have a specialized background in payroll and benefits (or even no particular background it in and just have ended up doing that work) and not in broader HR issues. I have a payroll manager in my family who knows payroll and not other HR stuff. It’s not that odd.

            1. SignalLost*

              It just seems very strange to me that one could seek work in a specialist industry and not know the conventions of the industry when they are so prominent (and the people involved aren’t new – I’m contrasting the letter from the new worker with a friend with celeb contacts, where it’s more excusable to not know industry norms.)

              1. LBK*

                “Don’t be an asshole to your coworkers” is not an industry convention. It would only be particularly galling if they were HR people who actually had anything to do with mediating or addressing the kinds of bad behavior they committed, otherwise I don’t get what difference it makes. Lumping benefits people under “HR” is kind of an arbitrary choice; they could just as easily be put under payroll or accounting, and I assume you don’t find it especially ironic when a payroll admin is a jerk.

              2. HappyToHaveANewJob*

                The last place I worked (under 30 people) the person who did payroll and HR was the finance manager. As the finance person she was expected to do payroll, and because she did that she was told to handle HR. She was the biggest bully in the company. She did funky stuff with paychecks if you were on her bad side. She particularly messed with the sales crew whose paychecks had more variance because of the different status of sales that were pending, had gone through, etc. The sales crew were primarily a different race than she was and that seemed to play a big part in her behavior too. She was awful.

                Anyway my point was she was in charge of the company finances, payroll and HR and that she ended up in that position made it easier for her to abuse her power .

          2. Former Hoosier*

            I would say the same could be true of benefits management. I am a COO and people I supervise in my role of HR Director do not understand all of the nuances of HR law which can be quite complicated. I am not defending the department but stating that someone could not know and still be competent in their area of work.

            Also, just because someone is trained doesn’t mean that they apply the rules or standards.

          3. Beancounter Eric*

            Several companies I have worked for had payroll under Accounting – philosophy was the tax issues made it a better fit there vice HR…..we still worked VERY closely with the HR folks (actually, next door to each other….sometimes shout questions back and forth through the wall!!)

            1. LBK*

              Right – I’m pretty sure our payroll/benefits people don’t even sit in the same building as the employee relations side of HR. It is a very broad umbrella depending on the size of your company.

              1. Beancounter Eric*

                Depends on the company….I’ve been away from payroll for a few years, but my preference is if processing in-house to have Accounting VERY closely involved, as my experience is they will be the ones getting the nice letters from the Internal Revenue Service and the various states if accurate & timely remittance of withheld taxes does not occur. That’s not to say HR doesn’t need to be part of the process….there are so many issues in payroll which need HR’s TLC.

                Using a payroll service, it depends…

          4. LBK*

            Are there any jobs period where those aren’t part of your training? My point was that there’s no ironic juxtaposition between processing benefits and doing something crappy to your coworker, any more so than any other random job. There’s no position where you’re not expected to be a decent person.

            1. Esme*

              At least in my experience, NOT being a decent person is one of the job requirements for HR. Anyone who thinks HR folks are on the side of actual humans does so at their own peril.

              1. Former HR person*

                That isn’t fair. Yes, the job of HR is to ultimately protect the company from lawsuits, but the best way to do that, and is recognized as the best way according to all the HR training I had, was through prevention of this behavior. My focus was benefits management, and it was SOP to make sure all our employees knew about all the benefits that they were eligible to enjoy.

              2. Jadelyn*

                …you do understand that HR folks are actual humans too, right? Working in HR doesn’t make you magically not an actual human anymore.

                HR, as a field, has both good and bad actors, the same way as literally any other field, specialization, industry, etc. will. Because we are human, and some humans behave better than other humans, and that is a universal constant regardless of which subgroup of humanity you’re looking at.

                But maybe consider that, within HR, the bad ones are amplified by the particular kind of knowledge and power that they wield. They’re not necessarily worse people than the jerks in finance or IT, they’re just jerks who have the kind of access that makes being a jerk easier and makes the results of being a jerk more potent.

                And the good ones…think about the kind of person who specifically makes a choice to go into a frequently-reviled field, knowing that people will make the kinds of comments that you’re making right now that basically position HR people as being something less than human out of your own bitterness at bad experiences, and who does that because they think they can make a difference and do good for people, amplified in the same way that the jerks’ behaviors get amplified. And then think about the fact that you are, yourself, being kind of a jerk to those who are trying to do good things for people like you despite that bitterness.

                And then ask yourself if you’re really on the winning side of this argument, regardless of what you’ve personally experienced.

    2. LadyL*

      There is no way they actually think this is ok. I refuse to believe any adult human in society could truly be that oblivious. I’ll bet you anything that what they actually thought was the victim deserved it.

      It’s smart to run away from this company OP, run away and never look back.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yup. People will adapt to just about anything, and become convinced that everyone who doesn’t hop over a missing stair on the way to the lunchroom, and submit their timecard written on a chicken, are the real weirdos. (Mostly–like for thousands of years of spreading into almost every environment on the planet–this uber flexibility is a good thing.)

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            “submit their timecard written on a chicken”
            Alive or … dispatched? feathered or plucked? sauteed, roasted, or fried? real or rubber?
            Thanks for the images. I needed some comedy.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Not a great ending. Such a shame.

      I appreciate that you posted. I am hoping for good things for you and your direct report. I hope the other people involved step on Legos.

      1. The Expendable Redshirt*

        Yes. May everyone at this company step on Legos!

        Good luck to the OP in their job search. One person can’t shift a culture as broken as that one.

  3. firebolt*

    Wow. I’m so sorry for her, and I hope you find a new job soon. What an insensitive bunch of people.

    1. eplawyer*

      I am believing that she cancelled her lease a month early because she got the perfect dream job where she will eventually be CEO but it was the next state over and she had to start Monday.

      I have a very active fantasy life.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    So the person with the offensive costume didn’t suffer any consequences?

    Good luck on your job search, OP. I would be running out the door.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I really wish karma would be a bit more consistent in targeting the people who need a good boot up the backside.

      1. another Liz*

        I may be wrong, but I don’t think karma hits until your next incarnation. In which case, it’s highly likely the costume wearer will come back as a slug of some sort.

    2. Arya Snark*

      I would also like the OP to update us when he does get out. Preferably after telling someone exactly why he is leaving. Please?!

  5. Tad Cooper*

    Just to clarify, the report who ghosted was the one who was being made fun of, correct? Not the one who did the dressing up?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That’s how I’m reading it. From the original letter, it seems that the mocked employee was OP’s direct report but the one in the costume was not.

        1. serenity*

          No, I just went back to re-read the original letter and it seems like both women were direct reports of the OP. So I’m very confused by this update as to who is who.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Yeah, that’s not clear. It sounds from the first letter like both were his reports, but I’m assuming it’s the one who was being made fun of.

      1. serenity*

        Oh my, that’s so awful. And the leaders of HR actually supported this activity as “good fun”. The mind reels.

    1. MN*

      She’s not missing. She’s deliberately not reachable. The leasing office saw her and was told she was moving—that’s her choice.

      1. Koko*

        I also paused a bit at the word “abruptly” in OP’s letter. A 30-day notice period to give notice that you aren’t renewing is pretty typical in a lease, so I’m wondering what led the office to characterize her notice as “abrupt” when it sounds like she may have just done what many people do, and wait until they either have their new apartment locked down or it’s the last possible day to give notice before telling their current landlord they won’t be staying.

        The move may have been unrelated to the Halloween prank and it was just coincidentally timed that her lease was up on Nov 30 and therefore the 30-day notice window would close on 10/31 or 11/1.

        1. LBK*

          I read it as her breaking the lease, not deciding not to renew. That’s usually a pretty serious decision since it generally comes with hefty financial consequences.

          1. LBK*

            D’oh – didn’t read carefully enough, clearly. On rereading, it sounds like she decided not to renew at the last minute and then moved out immediately rather than waiting until the remainder of the lease was up.

          2. Koko*

            Hmm, the sentence is a bit hard to parse –

            “she had informed them abruptly she would be moving a month before her lease ended and wouldn’t be renewing and she was moved out within days”

            It’s possible that means she told them she was “moving a month before her lease ended” but the last half of the sentence made me parse it as “she informed them…a month before her lease ended [that she was moving and] wouldn’t be renewing,” and she moved out a few days after giving notice that she wouldn’t be renewing. Otherwise it seems weird to clarify that she wouldn’t be renewing a lease she was breaking.

            1. Lurker*

              I’m reading it as, for example,

              Her lease was set to expire on November 30. On October 28 she went to the landlord and said, “I’m not going to renew my lease; and in fact, I will be moving out as of October 31.”

              And then she did. I think normally landlords have to give tenants at least 30 days notice to renew, so she may have already had the lease renewal offer and/or indicated informally she intended to renew.

              1. Artemesia*

                Many leases automatically renew if you don’t give notice X days usually 30 in advance of the least end.

            2. another Liz*

              I’m reading it as she is not renewing the lease, but not breaking it, so still paying the rent, but letting the landlord know the place will be empty a full 30 days before she pays her last rent fee. So she gave the landlord at least 30 days notice, but left 2 days later. If it was a short term or monthly lease, paying rent for a month on an empty apartment seems feasible. And if this incident is typical of the company’s culture, she may have been looking to leave already, had plans in the works, and decided “Fuck it, I’m out” since there was already somewhere to land if she jumped ship early. That’s my hope anyway.

        2. Nope.*

          I have never had a lease that requires less than 90 days notice. So I would think 30 days is abrupt in some areas of the country.

              1. peggy*

                I’ve had more than a few Boston leases w/ 90 day notice periods. I had one management company try to force me to sign in Feb if I wanted to renew for Sept 1 (I opted to find a new place).

                1. LBK*

                  Oh, if you have a 9/1 lease they’ll definitely ask you that far in advance, especially if you live in a college neighborhood like Allston, but I don’t think the terms of the lease generally stipulate that you’re legally required to give them an answer that far in advance.

                  I was also more talking from the flipside – you have to give them 30 days notice if you choose to break the lease (in other words, you’re still liable for rent for the next month even if you move out today).

                2. Mabel*

                  I don’t know about renewing the lease, but my ex used to do rental real estate in Boston, and the time period for people to sign 9/1 leases is Jan – Mar with some stragglers in April. But if you don’t have something locked down by March, you are definitely choosing among very few apartments. I’m sure it’s not like this everywhere, but there are so many schools here.

                3. blackcat*

                  Depends on exactly where. Boston proper, particularly Allston? Yeah, I’ve heard of 60-90 days. Cambridge? Ditto. Any area in the *immediate* (as in, within 1/4 mile) of one of the major universities? Yep.

                  Waltham? Watertown? Malden? I haven’t heard of anything other than 30 days. But those are also less on the Sept 1 pattern.

                  But I also have heard of places asking way in advance, and then telling tenants to move out if they say no. Generally the notice period cuts both ways–so as long as they tell you to leave with 60 or 90 or whatever days notice, they can give you the boot without cause in most areas. And so if someone else is willing to sign a lease for your place in February and you aren’t ready to commit to renewing, they can simply tell you *they* aren’t going to renew the lease.

                  It’s CRAZY different in areas with rent control, but, in the places I’ve rented (Boston area, mid-sized city in the south), the notice period cuts both ways. Landlords can not renew a lease without cause as long as they give proper notice. And my leases in the south all became month to month after the first year or six months. So as long as I told my landlord on October 31st I was moving out in November, I would not be on the hook for December rent. As it was, I really liked one landlord, so we gave him tons notice (like 5 months) and accommodated contractors coming in and fixing some small stuff up/prepping for bigger work. Since our move date was flexible, we negotiated a date that worked well for him as well as us. Neither of us were legally obligated to do anything like that. Legally, he could have given us the boot at the end of March after we told him in February that we’d be moving that summer. We also could have waited until June 30th to tell him we’d be gone by August 1st. But that wouldn’t have been nice.

                  If the report had a month to month lease, it wouldn’t even be “breaking” the lease to notify on Halloween that she was leaving sometime in November. In some parts of the country, that would be normal.

          1. No Parking or Waiting*

            Mine is thirty days. But it’s my first apartment, so I have nothing to compare it to.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            30 days is much more common and standard in the majority of states. A landlord can request more than 30 days’ notice for any lease longer than one month, but the default in most states is 30 days.

          3. Bea*

            I live in a state where 30 days is standard. You also can’t charge someone more than 1.5 months of rent as a penalty for breaking a lease.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          It doesn’t sound like she gave the leasing office 30 days notice; it sounds like her lease was ending December 1 and she moved out on November 4 (or etc.), without prior notice.

          1. Koko*

            The notice period would be based on her lease ending date, not her move-out date. I’ve typically started new leases with some overlap on my old one so that I can take my time moving out and cleaning (and get into the exciting new place sooner), so I would give my notice 30 days before the end of the lease as required, but would usually move out 1-2 weeks after giving notice, which had been my plan all along but my landlord wouldn’t have known that.

            1. LBK*

              It sounds to me like she gave notice and then left immediately, even if she could have technically stayed another 30 days. Which could be like what you said, that she’d already had a place lined up and didn’t have any reason to stay in the old place longer, but given the rest of the circumstances it sounds to me like she did indeed “abruptly” decide to move when she hadn’t been planning to previously.

        4. Mimmy*

          True, but to not even inform her employer that she’s leaving is what is worrying people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, tbh.

          1. Student*

            Many places “require” 60 days notice, but many US states have laws around vacating an apartment that trump the clauses in rental leases. Generally speaking, the state laws usually require the apartment company to make an effort to lease the leaving person’s apartment as soon as possible, and to only charge the leaving tenant for rent due until the apartment is re-leased or to a maximum period of a few months, whichever comes up first. So, if apartment complex leases your apartment out a few days after you leave, you don’t pay much penalty at all.

            However, most apartment complexes still keep in scary clauses that make it sound like you’ll be out a small fortune if you break your lease early, even though the clauses are not always legally enforceable or are badly misleading. They’re trying to scare folks into giving more notice than legally required to make it easier on themselves, and so they can sometime pull in large payments from those who don’t know their local legal rights.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        It is her choice, but I’m actually really concerned. It is really odd to disable a personal email address and to move like that. Was she being bullied more than the OP realized?

        1. blackcat*

          She might have just blocked them in a way that makes it look like she disabled the address. Gmail has an add on that does that.

    2. Manager Mary*

      I would bet the leasing office actually does have a forwarding address (or phone number or whatever), and instructions NOT to give the forwarding address to anyone who calls asking for it.

      1. nonegiven*

        The post office may have a forwarding address, or she may have just given it to people or businesses she wanted to have it.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Or, they have professional standards and won’t give that information out, period. Because if the tenant wanted you to know how to reach them, they would have told you. And if you have a true legal right to reach them, you can bring a warrant or subpoena or other paperwork signed by a judge.

        That would be a huge ethical thing for me, were I an apartment management office.

        1. DArcy*

          Yeah, but in that case it’s often much easier to *say* you don’t have a forwarding address than to say you do but you’re not giving it to them.

          1. aebhel*

            Yep. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that” usually gets a lot less argument than “I could do that, but it’s against policy, so I won’t.” Less headache all around.

      3. michelenyc*

        I agree. I would also hope that they wouldn’t give the address to anyone that called. It would be easy for anyone to call to say that they were her manager but it turned out they were actually a deranged ex.

        My thought is the police may have had a conversation with the leasing office and either they knew the truth or they called her and she personally told the police that she did not want contact with her previous employer.

      4. SignalLost*

        I wouldn’t. When I moved out of my last apartment, I didn’t give the leasing agency my new address. I did give my new address to the Post Office, and let them deal with getting my mail to me.

        1. always in email jail*

          ^this. I’ve never given my old leasing office my new info, my mail gets forwarded through the post office…

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          In my state, we have a statute that allows a tenant to recover statutory penalties against a landlord who does not timely refund the security deposit, but to recover that penalty you must have given the landlord your forwarding address. And frequently a least will reflect that language and require you to give a forwarding address in order to get your security deposit back. So in at least one state, the landlord will usually have a forwarding address. But even so, I doubt they’d give out the address to anyone.

          How does it work where you are? Are they required to give you your deposit back before you move out? If not, how do they know where to send it?

          1. SignalLost*

            I have no idea. :) I moved out of my previous apartment because of an issue that ultimately became a legal dispute – they notified me of a rent rise, I notified them that the plumbing needed repairs, then they claimed they’d notified me 10 months previous of a rent rise so actually my rent was even more than they’d initially said and also I owed them back rent, so then I told them where to stick it and moved out with the required 20 days notice, as my lease had been up for a while and I was on month-to-month. They tried sending me to collections, and I reiterated where they could stick it but this time with a lawyer’s help, and then it just kind of all vanished. (This is 12 years ago, so details are a little vague right now.)

            Given the circumstances, I had no assumption they were going to give my security deposit back to me, and tbh, it’s possible I didn’t actually pay one given the rental market in my area at the time. I know I moved in on a $99 special for the first month. Which is hilarious in hindsight, given that I live in a market that has become incredibly competitive and horrible. But I haven’t had a rent rise in 12 years, so I am really, really lucky.

  6. Jaguar*

    Wow, that disappearance doesn’t sound good. I almost hope that it is in reaction to what happened in the letter and there isn’t something more serious going on with her.

    1. JD*

      I agree. I have to say it sucked but moving town, changing phone numbers, breaking a lease, etc. all over this seems WAY beyond extreme. I have to think there was something far larger motivating this. It was offensive but to go that far would be an very drastic response.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, given that this was her first job out of college, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that was a logical fallback, and a bit less of an extreme change than it would be for someone who’s been moved out for decades.

          1. LBK*

            And it’s also pretty traumatic to be bullied out of your first job vs someone more seasoned who might be able to take that in stride. That can be really formative when you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional (and it sounds like she was a pretty good employee, so how terrible to be the one who got forced out by assholes).

        2. SKA*

          Yeah, for my first job out of college, I moved to a small town where I knew no one and where there was not a lot of other jobs in my field (outside of the company I moved there for). If I had had to suddenly leave that job, especially before I’d made friends/contacts in the area, it definitely would’ve meant moving out immediately (either back home with my parents or to a city with a better job market).

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        We don’t know that she left town or anything. She just moved out of an apartment and cut off the contact numbers/e-mails people at the old job had. She could have kept her personal number

      2. R2D2*

        “Beyond extreme” seems a bit unfair, JD. We do not know what she has been through. Perhaps this traumatic experience triggered her to make [seemingly] rash decisions to protect herself from further harm.

      3. nonegiven*

        It was a GV number and probably a gmail address. Easy enough to change those without changing her real number, especially if she just used them for employment and not for personal accounts, friends, and family.

      4. Still Lurking*

        The “far larger” could be anything or a combination of anything and this could have been the breaking point. Maybe she doesn’t have many friends, maybe she has mental health issues, maybe she is going through a bad break up or death in the family. The take home message is that we should be kind to all – never know what someone is going through nor do you know what they are capable of. This story has a happy ending for those who took part in this despicable behavior because the OP ghosted vs. showing up the next day revengeful with a loaded handgun (extreme, yes, but still valid).

        1. nonegiven*

          She did show up for the rest of the week. Halloween was Tuesday, she probably got home, informed the landlord she wouldn’t be renewing her lease, and started packing. She would have had to pay the rent on the first if it was like a lot of places, then she moved out over the weekend, probably to live with friends or family.

      5. No Parking or Waiting*

        I think the pieces were in place for her to leave if the situation got to the breaking point. Like she was able to change her address, remove all contact info, walk out of a job. I believe she knew this was a horrible work environment, and much like a spouse in an abusive relationship, she prepared an escape plan. Probably hoping she wouldn’t have to use it, but not too surprised she did.
        In an office not run by scumbags, she would have had reason to stick around and see what the company offered in the way of apologies and repercussions to those involved. But she knew she was outnumbered, so she planned and executed her escape.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I wonder what else those horrible people had done to her or said around her, too. This may be the big issue that the LW is aware of, but it may or may not be the only issue she faced, either at work or living in the area, depending. :(

        2. Genny*

          Yeah, I think she was probably already job hunting and probably just moved up her start date (or decided that all the jobs she was looking for are in X city, so packed up and moved there to find a job faster because her lease was ending). She seems like she had just enough pieces in place that she could speed up the rest of her plan. I hope for her sake that assumption is close to the truth.

      6. nonymous*

        I have some acquaintances who create google voice numbers/emails for spammy events in life (think job search, apartment hunting) and then just abandon them once objective is reached. And then they wonder/complain that they get left off group emails from the LL! Um, b/c it got sent to the address you gave them? not their problem if you don’t check it…

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect there was more low-level but persistent problems happening that OP may not be aware of. For the company to not understand that the costume was not funny (let alone racist/classist), I would bet money that there were other very offensive things happening, too.

        1. copy run start*

          My thoughts exactly. This feels like the Halloween costume was the “last straw,” not an isolated incident. Changing contact info, leaving no forwarding address, not telling anyone you’re leaving — all that makes me think the harassment didn’t stop at 5 p.m. either.

          I hope the victim is with those who love, care and respect them and that their next job is so, so much better than this one. OP, I hope you get out soon too.

    2. Jesca*

      Well she had the phone number for a reason, and I don’t blame her. And the move is likely just timing. As in, she is out of a job, might not want to stay in the area, and just moved out early just to add the extra “don’t contact me” to the list.

      I don’t blame people who ghost employers in this fashion. No one wants to work with a junior high cheer squad!

    3. SignalLost*

      Well, it seems unlikely that her secret life as an international spy caught up with her at the same time her cover employer decided it was institutional policy to make fun of her. My assumption is that she wanted no one at the company to be able to reach her, and without a job was unable to afford rent, so either moved home or in with a roommate. If I were treated that badly by my employer, this is the least of my reaponse, and we have seen other people do the same thing, like the bird phobia letter and the one where the intern made a terribly tasteless joke.

    4. JulieBulie*

      Honestly, as I read the update I jumped to the conclusion that the mocking incident was simply the last straw on top of whatever else might have been going on in her life.

      Also, with the culture in that office as bad as OP describes, it’s possible that her exit was already in motion, and the mocking incident motivated her to cut the cord sooner and more drastically than planned.

  7. MN*

    I have zero words for this update. I’m horrified for the poor employee, I’m horrified for the OP…this is disgusting.

  8. Malibu Stacey*

    Who stopped coming in? The report who dressed up or the one who “inspired” the costume?

        1. Morning Glory*

          From the context of the rest of the letter, it’s pretty clear it was the employee who got mocked that stopped coming in, as Elizabeth said.

          1. serenity*

            It isn’t clear, actually. It seems to refer to the mocked employee but it could go either way.

  9. Jay*

    I was so hoping for a better outcome…instead the further description is even worse than I thought at first. That poor girl. I understand your need for stable income and I wish you luck in your job search! What a crazy world.

  10. Lady Glitter Sparkle*

    Wow. I was hoping for a happy ending from this update but that really sucks. I feel so sorry for the woman and I can’t imagine that she had to take that kind of exit. I hope she is able to find a job for someone that respects her. Good luck on your job search, OP.

  11. Emi.*

    This poor woman! That’s a much more thorough ghosting than I would have thought worth the trouble–it must have been so awful for her.

    1. k.k*

      The first letter mentioned that the report was a recent graduate and hadn’t been there long. I wouldn’t be surprised if she moved to the area for the job, and once she left that didn’t have any reason to stick around. It’s so sad. If I was fresh out of college and landed a job at a big well known company, I’d think I’d hit my big break. Then to have this happen….it has to be so disheartening.

    2. nonegiven*

      It probably wasn’t that hard to move out without telling the apartment where she was going, delete a Google account she used only for jobs, and give a forwarding address to the post office online.

  12. namelesscommentator*

    Op: I hope you can get out soon.

    I’d say I’m consistently amazed at structural disfunction, but unfortunately, this sounds all too familiar to the acceptance and defense of other harrassment we’ve been seeing.

    1. Still Lurking*

      I wonder how many people who took part in this felt bad it was happening but seeing senior leadership taking part felt they couldn’t speak up against what was going on. I remember being in the “peon” stage of my career where I would have been too afraid to speak up [first] about something like this.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. When the cruelty rises to the top, people play along – and also think that’s how you get ahead. Eventually it is.

  13. fposte*

    Did anybody ever talk to the person who did the mocking, though? The OP’s question in the letter was whether or not it could still be done, and the answer was a resounding “Hell, yes.” I can see that in that environment the OP might have felt it was a struggle (or felt the negative message was likely to be drowned out by everybody else’s positives), but I’m curious.

    1. TootsNYC*

      In the original letter, it’s pretty clear that the OP must have talked to her; otherwise the OP wouldn’t have been able to report on what the mocker thought.

      The costumed report swears she wasn’t dressed as her colleague and it was all a coincidence …

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          And it was an unusual name too. It would’ve been BS to play it off like *just* a coincidence that she was dressed Jen, but I mean, how much proof would they need when she’s wearing a nametag with an unusual name?

      1. fposte*

        Sorry, I didn’t mean “talked to her” as in “got her side”; I mean “talked to her” as in “told her off with the full blessing of AAM.”

    2. Antilles*

      Given that apparently senior management, HR, and her co-workers are generally OK with it, it probably doesn’t matter – if someone (OP?) *did* try to have a Serious Conversation about this, the mocking employee would likely just blow it off as “what? you can’t take a joke either?”

  14. MuseumChick*

    This just breaks my heart. When you do land a new job, at your exit interview please make very clear that this is the reason you are leaving. This company sounds like a lawsuit/PR nightmare waiting to happen.

    I’m curious what the others in your company think about your report not showing up anymore.

    1. Anon non non*

      “I’m curious what the others in your company think about your report not showing up anymore.”

      Agreed. I worked for a company where an employee ghosted. She normally worked the later shift. One night she literally packed everything up, left the company and never came back. She found me on Facebook a few months later. She and her entire family moved about 12 states south of here that night. Apparently there was a lot of unseen drama at work on her end – a promised promotion that ended up going to a lesser qualified internal candidate and years of feeling taken for granted coincided with her husband being offered a job in South Carolina. She was angry enough to want to do maximum damage and so she ghosted on the job and left town. A lot of us were really worried, especially when another coworker had driven by her house and seen it vacant and with a for sale sign in the yard. She did ultimately come to regret her decision for maximum damage because she’d worked for the company for over 10 years and had found that the company wasn’t really giving her the stellar reference she’d thought she’d get.

      1. SignalLost*

        My nephew did something like that, where he took all his vacation time to prep for a cross-country move that was long planned, then called out the night he was due back to work and quit … because he thought if he gave notice they wouldn’t pay out his vacation, which in this state they are obligated to do. So that’s 7 years of exemplary work down the drain.

    2. Merida Ann*

      That’s a good point about what the others at the company think. I bet they won’t acknowledge the connection. To them, it’ll just be that she randomly disappeared one day and, “Oh well, she never really fit in anyway – whatever”, instead of recognizing that their actions and attitudes towards her made it unbearable to continue working there and drove her away. Ugh, I just feel awful for her, and sadly, I have little hope that anyone in the company other than the OP will care. :(

  15. Longtime Listener, First time Caller*

    I’m confused. You’re the manager of the person who dressed up, right? Why couldn’t you hand down some consequences even though your manager was on board with the costume?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m pretty sure OP was the manager of the mocked employee, not the costumed one.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Because this company has made it clear where they stand. Not only did neither OP’s boss nor a C-suite executive have a problem with the costume, they actually voted for it! Can you blame OP for fearing for his own job if he were to impose consequences on the offender?

      I hope OP gets out very, very soon.

    3. a1*

      A lot of managers don’t have firing authority, or even punitive measure authority beyond a “talking to”. And considering the higher-ups don’t see a problem, if he did try more I don’t think it would fly.

      1. Student*

        I don’t understand why we collectively allowed this title creep to go so far. A manager ought to be someone who can hire and fire people.

        It’s one thing to have a team or task lead that divvies up the workload and makes project or day-to-day operations decisions. However, that person should be more of a respected “first-among-equals” and shouldn’t be responsible for everything everyone on the team does. There should always be a boss who the ultimate actual authority over the team, settles disputes between team lead and team members, and can hire/fire people to create the team.

        I know the real reason for this is it’s a legal protection for the company to have a layer of lower level “managers” who can’t hire or fire people, and it’s also done to keep some low-level people from being overtime eligible. I think it’s a despicable corporate cop-out, though, and super dysfunctional to actual work getting done.

      2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

        Exactly. I had a racist employee pull something but my boss wouldn’t agree to even counseling, let alone discipline. I had to go WAY above his head (to labor relations) and they handled it.

      3. nonymous*

        well, there’s nothing wrong with OP passing the “costumed” employee over for projects that need an abundance of tact and sensitivity. Which, imo, is most of the high-profile projects that are greatly deserving of raises and promotions…

    4. TootsNYC*

      If I wanted to have official consequences, I’d have to get the sign-off of my boss. And (since I’m not in HR) of HR.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Forgot to point out: Our OP’s account indicates that they must have talked to their boss already, because the boss has said, “I don’t think it was a big deal.”

  16. GumptionIndeed*

    People do know that an office is a work environment and not an extension of high school, right? OMG, that poor employee. I hope she sues.

    1. seejay*

      Some people still treat offices like high school unfortunately… and when you have management that can’t figure out how to manage the high school offenders… well, you get antics like this and some people wind up suffering for it. :(

    2. Nea*

      Sounds like she’s just decided to ghost and get on with her life.

      Once in my life I moved and left no forwarding address. The absolute last thing on the face of the Earth I wanted to do was have any further contact or even further thought about the reason why I made that move. Plus, it gives the mocked employee a superb way of avoiding the whole issue going forward – “Why did I leave my last job? Oh, I moved and the commute got to be too much.”

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      She probably doesn’t have a basis for a suit :( Unfortunately, being an asshole is not legally actionable.

      And it sounds like OP is in a den of jackholes.

  17. LKW*

    I really have no words. I can’t imagine working for a company that would not only allow but positively reinforce humiliating another employee. HR professionals should know that “intent” does not excuse poor behavior.

    I’m sorry that you’re dealing with that, but congrats on the kid!

    1. nonegiven*

      I have to wonder what else coworkers may have said or done to her before the Halloween incident.

  18. brightstar*

    This is a horrifying update, it’s so upsetting that terrible behavior like this is being supported by HR. Good luck in your job search, OP.

    1. OverboilingTeapot*

      Letters like this really make me admire people’s restraint. I don’t think of myself as a major hothead, but I would probably be publicly trashing this company on every platform I could find. And I know it would be a terrible idea professionally. But I think I would be doing it anyway.

  19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


    I’m sorry. I. WHAT?!

    This is completely banana crackers, OP, and I don’t blame your erstwhile report either for NCNSing or you for job hunting. What a complete cluster f**k of a company!

  20. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Would it be too much for OP to reach out to his former report’s references to try and get a message to her that he’s willing to serve as a reference going forward? The fact that the girl moved so abruptly seems to indicate that she was seriously traumatized by what happened and it might help her to know that at least one person has her back (presuming he didn’t get to have that conversation before she bounced).

    I’m not sure if that would be too boundary crossing though since she clearly doesn’t want contact from the company.

    1. K.*

      I’d say the same thing I said about the other ghosting employee, the one whose colleagues made her think she was going to be arrested, causing her to cry until she threw up. In that boss’s shoes, I’d send a LinkedIn message saying that I was quitting over the way she was treated and how it was handled, that I would be happy to serve as a reference for her, and that I hoped she was doing well, and then leave the ball in her court. I would make the overture and then not reach out again unless/until she contacted me.

  21. Landshark*

    I’m so mad about this. They really failed your report, OP, and their continued blindness to the mean intent is horrifying. Best of luck with the job search, and mazel tov to you and your wife!

  22. Elizabeth West*

    Good luck finding a new job, OP–I hope when you do it’s the most awesome one ever, with management and HR who are actually functioning humans and not fecking pod people. >:P

    I don’t blame the employee for ghosting. Not one bit. I wouldn’t stay at a company this horrible either. She may have had other reasons for moving, but either way, sending her good vibes too. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  23. Lady Phoenix*

    It seems odd that she would not only be unreachable, but also that she would MOVE. Either there was some major harassment going on or something else was happening in the background that compelled her to move (like the death of a family member).

    If it wasn’t for the fact they are in HR, I would open a possible investigation.

    Also, blackface/raceface costumes…. no. No no no. This shit needed to die EONS ago.

    1. Nea*

      I don’t know about that. What is easier to say in upcoming job interviews when they ask why you left your last job?

      1) I was publicly humiliated by my entire chain of command

      2) I moved and I’m looking for opportunities with an easier commute

      1. Nea*

        ETA – by “that” I meant the reasons for the move. Completely agreed about -face costumes needing to be over decades ago.

    2. VioletEMT*

      I work at a company that hires a lot of new grads nationally. Many relocate cross country to work for us. I could see someone who quit in this situation moving back to their hometown because the job was the only thing keeping them here.

    3. Another person*

      Doesn’t seem odd to me she would move. She’s just out of college; maybe she couldn’t afford the apartment without the job and moved in with a friend or relative.

      1. Another person*

        Actually the idea that she might had to move back home because of this makes it so much worse. What a horrible workplace to try to start out in.

    4. nonegiven*

      If she only had a month left on her lease, getting moved back home or in with friends and starting to look for a job there was probably at the top of her list.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It sounds like she was really young. She probably moved back in with her parents, especially since she only had a month left on her lease.

      And a POC dressing as a white person doesn’t carry the same negative connotations as the reverse.

      1. nonegiven*

        It depends on what else she’d been subjected to, but I still don’t think it’s a good look for the person in the costume.

      2. Genevieve*

        There are a lot of POC who aren’t black, though, and a white person dressing up as a caricature of them would also be offensive.

    6. buttercup*

      Wait – was this costume blackface? I thought the direct report who was mocked was blonde…also, the stereotypical “basic bitch” is blonde…or am I making that up??

      Either way, it’s a horrible thing to do.

    7. Max from St. Mary's*

      In the original post the OP said the woman in costume wore a blond wig and blue contact lenses to mock the other employee, so unless I missed something we’re not talking blackface.

      1. Artemesia*

        I sort of imagined a black employee mocking a newbie white one. Racism generally goes the other way especially given the structural elements embedded in the culture. But It can work the other way too. I thought it because of the blond wig.

        1. Wordy Nerd*

          Racism never goes the other way. It’s not possible to be racist against white people. It’s possible for white people to encounter *prejudice* but that’s not the same as *racism*. Racism is fundamentally about the systems and institutions that keep one race dominant – that’s not something that white people have to worry about.

          1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

            Could one be racist against a white person in a place that was predominantly not white, then?

  24. Laura Cruz*

    I’d so glassdoor the fuck out of this employer. Let them deal with the consequences.

    Good luck getting out, and make sure you don’t mince words when you resign. They’re lucky that the employee isn’t suing though, the racial element is pretty clearly a hostile workplace claim.

  25. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    This is pretty dang awful and I don’t blame you for wanting to leave. I hope you find something soon, and that you indicate this incident as one of the driving factors when you leave.

    I am sorry that your report seems to have been so traumatized by this she felt she needed to move.

    Your department sounds awful. If I were in your company and got wind of what happened, I would have no faith that HR would be my advocate should I have an issue. This could really harm your department moving forward – perhaps bringing that up with make your superiors see the light.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Or perhaps escalating above HR in your resignation letter or exit interview.

  26. Marie*

    You are in the HR department! That makes it so much worse. I am amazed this isn’t seen as racial discrimination. I would have thought dressing up as a co-worker of a different race and mocking stereotypes would be considered racist. If a white person dressed up as a “ghetto girl” for a costume contest I would hope they would be disciplined for obvious reasons. I assume the report who was mocked was white given the choice of “basic girl” this is no more OK than the other way around.

    1. TootsNYC*

      the original account said the mocker work a blond wig and blue contact lenses, so it’s highly likely that the mockee was caucasian.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Not true. Racists come in all colors, not just white, and victims of racism come in all colors, including white.

          1. Annabelle*

            Prejudice and racism aren’t the same thing. Racism is a type of structural/cultural oppression, so you can’t be racist against a whites person. Rude and discriminatory? Sure. But not racist.

            1. another Liz*

              That’s a recent redefinition, and not at all what I was taught. The same words mean different things to different people, and meanings change over time. Instead of getting lost in semantics, I think we can agree this was a hateful act based on stereotypes, ethnicity, and yes race. Whether the costumed report is black, latino, Asian, native American or other is irrelevant. Whether ‘racism’ is solely systematic or individual is irrelevant, This was a hateful and cruel thing with racially based sterotypes involved. Doesn’t matter what label you put on it.

        2. aebhel*

          No, but race is still a protected class; from a legal discrimination standpoint, targeting someone because of their race is unacceptable no matter what that race is.

          It’s not completely clear to me that this is what happened here, but the academic definition of racism doesn’t really square with what’s considered a protected class.

    2. N.J.*

      There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the idiots at OP’s company thought this was ok just because a white person was being made fun of. Or that they would have appropriately rejected a racist costume if it was aimed at a black person. Your general point of racially based costumes qualifying as discrimination notwithstanding, it is troubling that the focus you took from this is that the higher ups didn’t take issue with this because the person being made fun of is presumably white. It has the feel of a kind of dog whistle comment —the subtext of your comment could be read as saying that minorities are protected when they are discriminated against but that white individuals are subjected to discrimination and won’t be defended. The obvious issues with a view like that include the idea that Caucasians are persecuted in general (which would ignore the general position of power and privilege held by white members of society and would discount the much more pervasive poor treatment of minorities) and the companion idea that reacting to racial discrimination against someone black isn’t a worthy endeavor, characterizing it as some some or bleeding heart liberal, poor little snowflake response. We don’t even know the race of the person who mocked the white employee, only that the employee is not white. I want to stress that this is likely not what you are saying, but something about the comment made me see this sort of subtext and I wanted the address it, if only as a discussion point.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        As a counterpoint, I’d like to remind folks that there were several comments in the original post that stated it was “OK to punch up”. Isn’t that a similar attitude?
        It isn’t OK to punch. Up, down, or sideways.

        1. Natalie*

          No one was advocating for mocking co-workers, regardless of their societal power differences. That conversation was a more broad discussion of commentary/comedy/art.

        2. N.J.*

          Nope, it’s not ok to punch up, completely agree. It’s also not ok to say that the company let everything slide because the person being mocked was white and that this is somehow a case where a minority being mocked would have been protected. We don’t have any context here to imply that scenario, yet the comment seemed to be using this situation to take special grievance with the fact that the person mocked was white. Umm, ok, it’s not bad enough that someone was mocked for their race? We somehow also have to assume that it’s worse of a situation because the person being mocked was white? That ignores the history of race relations and power in the U.S. and is an undertone I was pointing out, that’s all.

      2. SignalLost*

        I think you’re addressing the broader issue that anyone can be a bigot, but in the US it takes being white, with the attendant privilege, to be racist. If I’m understanding you correctly, I agree. And I think we are further in agreement that in the workplace, while racial costumes may indeed be part of a pattern of discrimination, the larger issue (to me) is that, whether legally actionable or not, someone made fun of someone else. Because it’s an individual choosing to -face, it kind of steps outside of racism and legality and becomes an issue of making fun of someone else. Doesn’t mean we can’t use discrimination laws to guide our thinking, but a really large issue for workplaces, I think, is professionalism. That makes something less-wrong in the outside world (whiteface) still really wrong regardless of the historical context, because it’s a person opting to behave badly.

        1. SallytooShort*

          Well, there is also the blatant misogyny. And women can have a lot of internalized misogyny and display it just as well as men.

          1. SignalLost*

            Right, but I’m just responding to the issue brought up by N.J. that the two coworkers were of different races.

        2. N.J.*

          You can be racist and white, racist and not white etc. I was pointing out the fact that it’s dangerous to assume that this situation was let go because the person mocked was white. That casts white peoples as a group as the victim, which isn’t the case. A white individual was the victim of racist mocking perpetrated by someone not white. The individual is the victim, but it’s a racist dog whistle to say that someone black would have been defended in this situation and someone white would not have been. That’s not how our shit show of a society works. If we are talking group level oppression and racial targeting then victimhood, as it were, is not something that the dominant societal group can claim. Individual members can, but the group as a whole can’t.

          1. another Liz*

            True, but it might be how this excrement-show of a company works. So if the company-group as a whole happens to be a minority, it’s quite possible that a white employee would be targeted as -not-one-of-us. The bullied often become bullies and the abused can become abusers. It’s all part of the same cycle, and two wrongs don’t make a right.

            1. N.J.*

              Completely agree with you, it’s definitly a possibility. I just didn’t think there was enough info to assume as such and wanted to point out the issues with that assumption.

          2. ConstitutionallyVerbose*

            …at the same time, though… you’re thinking of this in grand-scale-social-force-abstract terms rather than small-scale interpersonal ones, and I think in a situation like this that’s not good or helpful.

            I’m autistic. A thing I’ve noticed is that most people, autistic or not, think in terms of social scripts. There is a Way Things Go in social situations and if things are not going that way, people are surprised, disconcerted, or horrified. And the default script for most people seems to be “what is everyone else doing? what part do people expect me to play? I will do that and try not to disconcert/horrify anyone”.

            If someone *is* stepping outside the social script, people will scramble to play the part they’re ‘expected’ to play to keep things ‘normal’ so they don’t upset anyone else. Abusers and other glassbowls take advantage of this a lot– they know *they* can take advantage of everyone by doing things that aren’t in the “decent human beings” social script, and everyone else will skitter around to cover things up because everyone else is trying to stick to the script. A lot of Alison’s advice boils down to “acknowledge that this glassbowl is not acting according to the social script, hide your disconcerted surprise, and then either attempt to get them back on the social script or politely let them know that you are Done with their Nonsense.”

            Racism/sexism/general-bigotry are also social scripts. Different communities have different standards for what is and isn’t racism. In some places, there is de facto no “that’s racist” social script, and anything short of burning a cross on someone’s lawn is just “the way we do things around here”; in others, there are many, many different social scripts for what you do when someone is being racist, and many different things that trigger that script.

            …And sometimes, glassbowls will use the “that’s racist/sexist/bigoted” script against people they want to hurt, by intentionally using people’s perception of an event against them.

            To take a different example for a minute- I think we agree that most domestic abuse is cis men abusing cis women, right? But the minority of female domestic abusers out there know this, and are very good at flipping the script. If someone knows that there is a cishet couple, and knows that men are more likely to be the abuser in a cishet couple, they are more likely to think the man in the coupe is the abuser than the woman. This doesn’t mean that female-on-male domestic abuse is ‘more important’ or ‘proof that the world is REALLY sexist against men’… but it *does* mean that a minority of women who want to be abusive glassbowls will ‘play the part’ people expect them to play in the social script, act like the victim, and let someone else take the fall for them.

            Similarly, most racial bigotry in the US is white people hurting or marginalising other people because of their race, but in a situation like this, that’s not what’s going on here. If your social script for racism maps completely onto the grand-scale academic definition of racism- the ‘prejudice + power’/’you can’t be racist against white people because white people have more power as a group’ definition we’ve all heard a million times before- then sometimes, you are going to run into situations like this, where the script does not apply. And someone deviating from the script will make you really unhappy and uncomfortable.

            In OP’s situation, someone who’s social script said “you can’t be racist against white people”/”it’s okay to punch up against white people” could have seen the situation going on, which was very clearly bullying of a junior coworker that happened to have a racial element mixed in, and been uncomfortable with it. But their social script might have said “because [NastyCoworker] is ‘just’ making fun of white people, this is punching up and not punching down, I should stay in my lane and not say anything”, and since the default social script is “go along with what everyone else is doing”, they might have done that instead of speaking up and saying “this is really mean”.

            I think people are getting upset with you because you’re saying “okay, but you’re going against the script” repeatedly. You are saying “well, my social script says that it’s not possible to be bigoted against white people, because they have more power”. And that’s true in the grand scheme of things- but it doesn’t help in this particular situation, and that’s the kind of social script that it’s really easy for glassbowls to twist around.

      3. ChuckMartel*

        OP stated in the follow up that the costume wearer is a different race. Way to infantilize this individual who held a power differential over the mocked employee.

        1. N.J.*

          I’m not infantilizing anything. I was commenting on the undertone of the item I was responding to, which carried a whiff, real or perceived, that managent didn’t find anything wrong with the employee being mocked because the employee is white and that they would have reacted differently if the employee being mocked was black. That sort of atttitude is bullshit. It’s wrong to mock someone based on racial stereotypes, period, and I agreed with Marie on that point. I commented on this being used as some sort of twisted object lesson on how minorities are protected and white people are attacked. That’s a dangerous and patently false attitude and it’s dishonest to state as such. Again, that’s if Marie even meant the comment in that way.

  27. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    Sorry this is how things turned out, OP. Good on you for at least trying to do right by your former report, even if everyone around you made that impossible. I have no idea what could be going through their heads, especially after the mocked employee ghosted, but you’re entirely in the right here. Best of luck on your search. May you and your former report both quickly find jobs in which you won’t be surrounded by idiots.

  28. Minister of Snark*

    Oh, so the girl in the “costume” is racially insensitive on top of being a horrible person. Awesome.

    OP, I hope you get out of that snake pit, soon. I would hope that this would serve as a lesson to your terrible coworker and your terminally oblivious executives that when you treat people like crap, they will not stick around to take it. But your company’s staff seems determined to learn nothing. So, just … best of luck to you in your future career and in fatherhood. You and “unusual name” employee deserve much better.

  29. Scooter Girl*

    Honestly I don’t blame the victim employee for quiting and vanishing like she did. It’s very hurtful to get made fun of by your peers and for no one else to see a problem with it.

    At my high school, the junior class puts on a goodbye play for the senior class, filled with jokes and mocking about the senior class. Since it addresses a whole bunch of students (and is approved by the teachers in advance to be appropriate), no one has a problem with it. I was surprised when I was included as part of the jokes. I’d broken my foot a few months prior and, rather than crutches, my parents insisted on getting me an electric scooter (identical to one my grandmother has). I was mocked a lot when I was driving the thing for two months through the hallways of my school. I was called ‘Scooter Girl’ for a long time. It was frustrating but I didn’t have much choice because of my broken foot.

    In the play, when the curtain was dropped for scene changes, a student rolled across the stage in a razer scooter with the sign ‘Scooter Girl’ around her neck. Obviously it was me. It wasn’t the most hurtful thing ever done to me as a student (I was bullied a lot as a kid) but to have it out there for all of the school to see was still upsetting. Even my friends laughed. I laughed as well to look like I was sharing in the joke but at the time, I was really upset.

    Time and distance allows me to look back and understand that these were dumb high school kids being kids, though that this play was encouraged by the teachers still dumbfounds. But if it happened now, among adults and professionals, and encouraged by the majority of the department and my boss, I would quit in a heartbeat.

    1. sap*

      That’s so gross. There’s a huge difference between making a joke out of Jessica always wearing a ponytail and making a joke out of Jessica having a disability (even if temporary), and it sucks that your teachers ok’d that (?!?).

    2. Porky Award Recipient*

      My field hockey team did something similar. The graduating varsity players would give joke awards out to the up and coming varsity team. My name is Charlotte. Like the spider in Charlotte’s Web. The award they gave me? “The Porky Award” because Wilbur, from the book, is a pig. When I reluctantly got up to accept it at the banquet…in front of the coaches and parents, the seniors all started oinking. I was a 15 year old high school girl, at the peak of my self-loathing, and probably the chubbiest on the team. I quit field hockey after that and didn’t play again until college, where my teammates were much nicer. I just don’t understand how people in charge can approve things like that…whether in highschool, or in the office.

      I remember all of those graduating girls still. I ran into one of them several years ago and found that she was a college drop out living with her parents working as a locker room attendant. Not that there is any wrong with that. I moved back in with my parents after I graduated from college for a couple years, but I couldn’t help but start to think of all the “funny” superlatives I could give her. It hurts to be made fun of, and it’s near impossible to forget those who hurt you.

  30. madge*

    Wow. If I had tried to come up with the worst possible update for this story, it wouldn’t have been as bad as the reality. Just wow. I hope she lets absolutely everyone know what happened and how poorly it was handled.

    Best wishes on your job search and your wife’s pregnancy, OP! Please mention your reason for leaving when you get an exit interview.

  31. rosiebyanyothername*

    Oh man… I was really hoping for a happy ending to this story, or at least some cosmic justice. And I agree with earlier comments that this really erodes trust in HR if this happened *in* HR! Good on you, Letter Writer, for getting out. This office sounds like bad news.

  32. Lady Phoenix*

    I find it odd that she would not just ghost, but also MOVE OUT. Either there was some serious harassment going on — which I would do everything in my powerr to shut down — or the poor girl had other things happening in the background (like a fanily death?)

    I would tell them in the exit interview exactly what happened and leave a scatching review too. An HR that embraces this shit needs to have their asses kicked in every which way.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We’ve had a couple of updates this year that had similar outcomes (person quit, went no-contact, seemed to have disappeared). It’s a weird pattern.

        1. AKchic*

          It is the ultimate “I want nothing further to do with you, do not ever contact me again”. By simply quitting or doing a no-call-no-show until termination sets in (prompting potential welfare checks), completely changing phone numbers, homes (and addresses), and emails signals “your company crossed so many lines/boundaries that I do not want any further communications from you, if I have anything to say to you, it will be through my attorney, should I choose to retain one”.

          Honestly, I don’t blame this poor girl. She was not only seriously mocked, with the blatant approval of HR and upper management (!!!), but the one HR person who went to bat for her was shut down. She was humiliated. If she did quit through “proper” channels, or tries to bring any kind of lawsuit, she can’t be sure that the mocker or a company representative won’t show up at her house on record to try to “apologize” (or more likely, victim-blame and gaslight) and harass more to try to persuade the former report into dropping any lawsuit she may bring up.

          And I hope she brings a lawsuit. I am not one for lawsuits, but Flying Spaghetti Monster do I hope she brings one up.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        It has stood out to me as weirdly frequent, but I wonder if that’s because people tend to move around the country more now than they used to. Maybe it’s just my perception, but I think people are switching cities for work more and more frequently in recent years. So these folks that vanish after quitting a bad job are bailing out to go back somewhere they used to live, or are leaving somewhere they want to go find new work anyway, which they probably would have done/were planning to do with more notice had whatever Incident not occurred to push them to the end of that line.

        1. nonegiven*

          She might have moved in with a friend on the next block, she may have moved across the country. No way to tell.

      2. J.*

        It doesn’t seem all that strange to me, especially when the person lives alone. I know an awful lot of people in my life who are one missed paycheck away from not being able to make rent. If they had to walk away from an untenable situation suddenly, they’d probably have to move in with family or friends.

        1. nonymous*

          Maybe I’m weird, but I remember college years and immediately post college to include lots of short term housing (nothing more than 9 months in one place for a seven year period). It’s entirely possible that she was already planning to move. I personally would be thrilled to have a couple weeks without job obligations in order to focus on the logistics of moving – perhaps Halloween crystallized that as the best choice for the former employee? At only 4 months in, it’s likely she was still getting follow-up inquiries from her previous job search.

    2. ss*

      Or they may have had a lot of other external personal/family issues but stuck around because they still had a “safe place” for normalcy at the office, and that had been shattered as well now.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      I’m hoping as suggested above that she did move elsewhere and used it as an opportunity to make a move that she’d kind of always wanted to do. Like hopefully she called a friend to cry and the friend was saying, “You don’t need that BS, come stay with me in Big City and start over,” and she said screw it and them, I’m gone.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Yeah, when I left my Most Worstest Toxic Job I quit and bailed out to a new state in one fell swoop. If you’re already using your Eff You money to leave a crappy job, you may also be already looking to get out of your crappy city with it.

    4. paul*

      I’ve got to believe the move was already in the works…moving’s expensive and time consuming and a giant PITA.

      1. Daffodil*

        Much less so if you’re a new grad who doesn’t own anything, though. At four months post-college I was still used to moving twice a year.

        1. blackcat*

          I moved four times in my first 18 months post college. My life fit in my car, and I rented furnished places.

          I owned very little furniture up until a few years ago. What I did own was acquired on curbs and through craigslist. When I moved up north, I got rid of it the same way I had acquired it. Living in a busy-ish area, it took me 2 hours to rid one place of all of my furniture.

    5. Gonna be anon for this*

      As someone who has been in a very toxic work environment and has done the same, it’s usually about a bit more than the work environment, but also the area. Since the LW has confirmed that there was a racist element to this, it could be a combo of dealing with racism at work plus dealing with it in general in that area. And if leaving your job leaves you without income, you may need to go live with family, so leaving town has extra appeal.

      without going into a whole mess of details, it sometimes feels better to get out of dodge in order to feel safer and more comfortable, and especially so if you think your old employer would bad-mouth you to others in the area. As someone that’s done it, it honestly worked for me, and I feel much more comfortable both at work and at home.

    6. Kate*

      I also noticed there have been a few letters this year where a former employee seemed to have just disappeared. I’m more perplexed by the phone/email addresses being no longer in service since I give my phone and email to like EVERYONE I know. I wouldn’t be canceling either of those things over a crappy work situation.

      The move out doesn’t surprise me as much though. The original letter said the victimized report had only worked there for 4 months and was a fresh grad. It’s possible she was living paycheck to paycheck, and when she decided she couldn’t return to that job, she had no choice but to move into a rent-free environment (i.e. back with her parents).

      This whole update has me dismayed.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        If you block another contact from being able to reach you, it appears that the phone number (probably email too?) doesn’t work anymore to the person you blocked. I figure most of these people aren’t changing their numbers but blocking certain other numbers from reaching them after the former employer tries to reach them several times.

        1. Natalie*

          It does depend on the service. If I block numbers on my phone (iPhone) they appear to the sender to work perfectly well, but the calls always go to voicemail and the texts look “sent”. Apparently I can recover the blocked voicemails if I wanted to but the texts are lost in space or something forever.

      2. No Parking or Waiting*

        The part I noticed was that the mocked employee had Google numbers and email, so they are able to be easily changed. I wonder now if this is something that younger people are learning to do because of cyberstalking/identity theft stories. Like, give your real number only to close friends and family, that way you have control.

        1. nonymous*

          What I’ve noticed when interacting with the crowd now in their early to mid-twenties is that there is a certain group that doesn’t deal with email. Everything is text, and text is very personal. And if they need to engage in email or vmail, they use disposable formats and it tends to be very contextual. So school email is for while in school, and a new set of emails/google voice numbers are created for the job hunt, the apartment hunt, etc. I’m not sure if it’s something they will grow out of, or if app-based communication is the next wave or what. But for certain this is not the crowd that has an emotional identification to that email handle from listserv usage over a decade or two, and there hasn’t been enough time to see how years in the workforce will change that outlook.

          From a HCI perspective this stuff is incredibly fascinating! On a personal level I feel old.

          1. Wheezy Weasel*

            I’ve also moved to disposable emails and GV numbers in my 40’s because of the way they are shamelessly exploited by car dealerships, grocery store loyalty programs, credit card companies and any other company that has a ‘business relationship’ with you and can legally justify contacting you. I’ve never given out my personal cell phone number and it’s one of the best decisions 20-year-old me ever made. If only I’d had such forethought about wearing jean shorts into my 30’s!

          2. Frala*

            My husband is 60 and I’m 50 and we have cells and personal emails, but we have google voice and 4 “disposable” emails we use for giving out to different types of groups.

            The long-term ones are only given to close friends. We have one for companies like Costco, one for businesses we don’t deal w regularly, and one for social and charitable groups. If an email becomes too spam-laden, we get a new one.

            I text my husband a neighbor from my cell daily (doggy status mostly). I text friends from FB.

            I rarely use email. I only telephone when driving (hands free!) and only factime my mother or husband when he travels.

            DH and I have two household Icloud accounts. One for invites and shared shopping lists/password lists/etc. the other is for “business” (we have a small farm that some people derisively call a hobby farm).

            Most of my middle aged friends are doing this now.

            So I don’t really think it’s an age thing. It’s a use of technology thing that is coming. It’s just that not everyone is caught.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          You know I almost made a preemptive comment about this, because I (30ish) starting using different Google voice numbers and separate email addresses for job applications, dating, and some businesses where I’m a customer. There are a couple reasons, the original big one being that over time your phone and email (and actual address!) get sold or leaked or whatever so many times that I was just sick of getting constant spam from all directions. Getting a huge spike in scam calls, sometimes 5+ per day, was the kicker.

          I didn’t discover some of the cooler benefits until I had actually started doing it. For example, I can mute only the voice number I use as a customer so I don’t get bothered by dumb scam phone calls, but also it transcribes voicemails into texts. I can do the same with my work number when I’m out of the office, or overnight in the case of an old job where a couple of my getting up before dawn coworkers didn’t see any reason why calling me at 5, 6am knowing I’d be asleep still was maybe a touch rude. Having email siloed also makes it really easy to not get anything cluttered, with a surgical precision that rules and various inboxes don’t typically achieve. It’s pretty nice.

          1. nonegiven*

            You can usually have several email addresses all going to one inbox and if you decide to ditch an email address, it’s easy and doesn’t require changing emails on multiple accounts, since you made it to be disposable if needed.

    7. CMF*

      I wonder if she wasn’t from around there, and had no local ties, so she just was like, “Screw this whole place, I’m going back home/I’m going somewhere new.” I’ve lived in the same area my whole life, but if I moved somewhere else and something like this happened, I’d probably cut all ties to the entire geographical location.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m wondering if she had already been job hunting. Odds are this is not the first bad behavior her coworkers exhibited towards her. Leaving a job after 4 months isn’t ideal, but if it is as bad an environment as the one in thses letters…

        1. Genny*

          I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she was job hunting and something came through or if a job she had applied for prior to accepting her position at OP’s company finally got back to her, so she took this as the perfect opportunity to get the heck out of dodge.

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I guess I don’t find it weird because this was my life post-college? I think I moved states or regions for literally every job I had until a few years ago. And if I were in a more unified metro area (e.g., tri-state area, beltway), it seems less dramatic to move.

    9. Jess*

      I agree w/ others who have said the moving out & disappearing is really not all that big a deal (or at least not an overreaction) when you consider that she was just out of college & had one month left on her lease. I totally get the laying out exactly what happened in an exit interview…but if I was four months into my first job out of college and this happened, I can totally see not having the confidence to do that yet. She probably feels completely isolated & humiliated, and just wants to forget about it. She doesn’t have the breadth of experience yet & feels completely powerless — it would be really tough to push back on the company in that context. If it was me, I think it’d be easier to see how objectively f-ed up this is & that it truly didn’t reflect on me if I had more than one job under my belt.

      1. Frala*

        I’ve recommended this to clients when going “grey rock” to bullies and abusers doesn’t work.

        I find it in neither extreme nor unusual

  33. animaniactoo*

    Your company has missed the #1 rule of mocking somebody “all in good fun”

    Which is that the TARGET has to agree that it’s funny. If they don’t, it’s not fun and it’s not funny. It’s an insult.

    You can think they have no sense of humor, you can think they’re too sensitive, but ultimately they have the right to their own opinion about what is fun and funny and if you don’t like it apologize like hell for getting it wrong and pick another target.

    Not to mention that you have to know your audience well enough to even attempt something like this and that’s shaky as hell when it comes to work relationships to begin with. It should NEVER be allowed and she should have been told to change as soon as she showed up.

    Plus, you don’t mock appearance. It is freaking unbelievable than an *HR DEPT* doesn’t get that standard, not even for a Halloween contest. If my co-workers mocked me by talking 100 miles a minute (well-known and laughed about *with me* quirk), I’d laugh too even though I’d be a bit embarrassed. If they mocked me by showing up in a fatsuit and a limp (from when I hurt my ankle a couple of weeks back), I would not be laughing and I’d be pretty fucking humiliated.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I think another rule to add about mocking someone. If the costume depicts a person of another, real race — DON’T.

    2. Jess*

      Definitely second your point on know your audience! The relationship b/w the mocker and mockee totally matters. There are things that I would laugh at when mocked by friends or coworkers who I know are truly coming from a place of good faith & camaraderie. But I might not laugh if someone I didn’t know as well or wasn’t friendly with mocked me for the same thing. Then, even if it wasn’t overtly offensive like the costume in this situation, it could easily feel aggressive & hurtful.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      In the past, when people have punked me and said, “Dude, it’s just a joke,” my response is, “It’s a bad joke. Don’t play jokes on me. Don’t use me as your entertainment.” “It’s just a joke” is almost never said in defense of something earnest and meant in pure kindness.

    4. J.B.*

      Rule #1 – Don’t be an a$$hole
      Rule #2 – you don’t get to tell anyone else how they should feel

      If you are generally in line with Rule #1 and unintentionally cross Rule #2, then the decent response is to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be hurtful”. If the person is willing to explain their view then listen to understand.

  34. SarahKay*

    OP, thank you for the update – even if it wasn’t the good news we were all hoping for. And best wishes in your job search! For sure I can see why you don’t want to stay with your current one, who sounds utterly appalling.

  35. Say what, now?*

    I’m so sorry, OP. You seem like such a decent and kind human being. I’m sorry that you’re being put in the position of job searching, but I think there will be better things for you out there and hopefully soon. Good luck with the job search.

  36. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

    I kind of get the ghosting / moving of the person bullied. You want to get out, completely, and these people also have her address / phone number. If they’re willing to mock me that openly on Halloween, with the bosses okaying it, what’s to say that the next part wouldn’t be damaging my property? They’re not going to get any consequences, as the bosses / others will side with them, so let me just do a “f this s–t, I’m out”. That’s where my mind would go.

    1. No Parking or Waiting*

      Even if they don’t call to pile on abuse, I don’t want someone from work calling and asking/telling me how to feel about it. “I hope you aren’t upset. You need to get over this. You aren’t MAD are yooooooouuu?”
      OMG, leave me alone.

      1. SignalLost*

        This is an unpleasant comparison, and I feel bad for making it, but there was the letter where the employee went to someone else’s house due to her anxiety. That had a happier outcome than this, and I know the goer in that one was suffering and did not intend to make the other person suffer, but that is what happened. I was bullied a lot in school and have occasionally been put on the spot to accept an apology for that bullying; I would hate for any of those people to have my address or phone number.

      2. Frala*

        If somebody is this abusive, bullying, or transgressive or boundaries, sometimes the only recourse is no contact.

        The no contact school of thought is becoming far more popular among divorce and employment lawyers that I know. I have a friend who’s a psychologist who also says it’s often the only way to go.

        I think you’re going to see more and more of it because Technology allows us to live in a world where we can do this. It was much harder to do back in the day when people only had land lines

  37. kittymommy*

    Have your co-workers lost their effing minds?? Seriously, I don’t know how to say that any other way (okay I do, just any nicer way). The lack of awareness, lack of empathy, …lack of any decency is astounding. I truly wish you all the luck in getting the hell out of there!

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Most likely. Or mail forwarding through the post office, which OP wouldn’t necessarily know about.

  38. wayward*

    If a manager tolerated blatant bullying behavior, what would s/he have done if the target had retaliated in an even nastier way? It doesn’t seem like there would be much moral authority left to say, “That behavior is incompatible with our values.”

  39. moosetracks*

    The level of effort in this costume is really something (colored contacts, wig, nametag, clothes the employee presumably doesn’t just have lying around in her closet — that would’ve all cost money).

    The “basic” thing is such an ugly, misogynist stereotype and it’s so sickening to see so many people totally okay with it, especially when it’s used as targeted harassment. Hope the woman who was targeted by this is okay and both she and OP can find new jobs soon.

    1. KC without the sunshine band*

      Because the level of effort of this costume is off the scale, I wonder if the mocker had been bullying the victim in other ways all 4 months and the LW didn’t know it. I suspect this was the pinnacle of something, not a one time incident.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Agreed, no way was the mocker sitting silently and patiently on that deep well of contempt for four months, just waiting for Halloween to roll around. Surely some of that nastiness must have oozed out beforehand, either in front of the mockee or behind her back.

      2. aebhel*

        Right, something like this doesn’t usually spring out of nowhere in an otherwise functional environment. I’d guess this was just the last straw, and there had been other incidents over the months she was there.

    2. Frala*

      There’s also an element of racism in it. Even though the person doing it was Not white, how we conceive of white women in this culture hurts them and POC women.

      Mediocre, bland white women v “exotic” WOCs is a real concept in our culture It centers whiteness in a way that I find deeply disturbing. The “basic” concept Started out as an attempt to deal with success of mediocre white women over more qualified women of color. It has, however, blurred into something else that plays into the narrative it is trying to subvert.

      I wonder if the term Becky will suffer the same fate.

      The whole dialogue around gender and race in this country is F#d.

  40. Archie Goodwin*

    Juuuuuuuuudas Priest.

    I hope for your sake you can get out of there quick.

    I’d say more, but…something broke inside me. I think I’m shutting down.

  41. Deep Thoughts*

    I really, really hope the employee who was mocked stumbled across this letter someday, so she’ll have outside validation that this was a completely messed up situation and outcome, and she’ll know that she was 100% in the right. It’s almost like the company is gaslighting her and the OP, acting like they’re the ones whose perceptions are way, way off.

  42. beanie beans*

    OP, thank you for being a decent human being. I’m sorry your thoughtless coworkers and management made you question the morality of the situation.

    People do crappy things at work a lot. How management handles it is the key, and when you’ve lost faith that your company will step in and do the right thing, it’s so hard to stay.

  43. AKchic*

    There is just so much here that I’m not even sure I can address my frustration and exasperation appropriately.

    This woman was viciously mocked, and HR not only blatantly and publicly approved of it, but upper management did too. She left. No, she didn’t go through proper channels, but honestly, I think she wanted (and deserved) out. Nuke that bridge from orbit, because that’s exactly what your company did to *her*. All she did was take that last step off of the ashes of the impact crater.

    She moved. With no forwarding address. She blocked your company from calling, texting and emailing. Why? Because she wants no further communications with your company. And with good reason. Your company allowed her to be publicly humiliated. And it was approved of. Awarded, even. And I doubt this was the first time. This was just the final straw.
    Her complete removal from your company’s existence is her way of saying “don’t contact me ever again. If I have something to say to you, I will have my attorney contact you, should I choose to retain one.”
    And I hope she does get an attorney. I’m not usually one to say “lawsuit up”, but this time, I really do hope she weighs her options. What happened to her was not right. Your company needs to be scrutinized. It needs a complete detox.

    I wish you luck on your job hunt, and on the upcoming baby.
    I only wish we could all hug that former report. It sounds like she needs it.

  44. Is it Friday Yet?*

    Does it bother anyone else that the costumed report lied about impersonating the co-worker when OP confronted her? I would not be able to trust her after that.

    1. ArtK*

      Bugs the crud out of me, along with everything else about this story.

      My response would likely be “You were wearing a name tag with her name. Are you stupid or do you just think that I am? That blatant lying will be in your next review.”

    2. EasilyAmused*

      And if that person was not mocking the co-worker, why would others have voted “best costume” for throwing on a blond wig and contacts? Everyone knew what was going on and the fact that costumed report could bold face lie as though his/her manager is an idiot should be the clincher in terminating this person’s employment.

  45. MG*

    I understand that this may be trying to avoid identification, but “not the same race” rubs me the wrong way. Let’s call a racist spade racist. Not “insensitive”, but racist. And if the mocker was white, and the mockee was black, or Latinx, or Asian, let’s just say it. People need to be aware that this happens, and dancing around the nomenclature doesn’t help.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The costume was “basic white girl” so it’s fairly likely that the mockee was white and the mocker was a poc. While the costume was incredibly inappropriate and insensitive, I don’t think it qualifies as racist.

      1. AKchic*

        I think it can qualify as racist in the same way that blackface is racist. This instance is worse because it was done purposely to make fun of a specific person that was known to the entire company. And was encouraged/approved of by management/HR in the form of awarding a prize in the costume contest.

        1. Wordy Nerd*

          Nope, dressing as a “basic white girl” and wearing blackface are not the same at all. They are both insulting and harmful, yes, but only one is racist. Even if a POC is mocking a white person, that’s not racism, because the white person still has the *systemic, institutionalized* power and privilege that come with being white.

          1. serenity*

            Perhaps we should steer away from this issue, as issues of race are incredibly nuanced and AAM comments aren’t the ideal forum for us to discuss this (i.e. the recent African-American OP who was white-splained about racism).

            Neither you, nor other commenters, get to decide what constitutes racism.

            1. moosetracks*

              Regardless of whether or not it’s racist (and I agree that getting into that is not a great idea) legally this could potentially fall under racial harassment as well as sexual harassment, right?

          2. dannythedog*

            Nope it’s racist. All of you are in denial. Try to live and work with this everyday and you’ll change your tune.

    2. AKchic*

      Agreed. Now that we have it confirmed that the mocker was a different race, and there was a racial element to this (the “basic” stereotype) as well as mocking the (former) report, this veers from horrible to oh-my-goodness-why-didn’t-anyone-stop-this-dead-in-its-tracks-this-could-be-a-nightmare-if-spun-right.
      And that’s part of the problem. This could be “spun”. There are certain groups that would have a field day with this and try to use it for their own agenda. And that’s wrong too. On a different level than what happened to the report, but what happened to the report is on a personal level, and should never have been allowed to happen. That is both on the mocker and the company. The mocker for thinking it was ever okay, and the company for allowing it to happen, and allowing it to continue once they saw it, and encouraging it. Or sweet deities major, minor and in between. Why would any sane, rational person encourage it?

      1. Frala*

        The optics are very bad. Sometimes it’s best for people to refrain from doing things even if everyone is on board because of how it would be viewed by outsiders

  46. Peter B*

    Wait, your department is the employee relations team within HR? Color me shocked. In my organization, employee relations is the department I would escalate to if my management line wasn’t handling something like this properly. I’m stunned. Best of luck on the job search, I think this is the right choice.

  47. MissDisplaced*

    Yeah, your work sucks. It’s one thing for employees to exercise bad judgement and do this, but for HR (HR!) to be on board and not see anything wrong is just… so wrong.
    Kinda makes you wonder what ELSE is wrong there?

  48. Granny K*

    That your HR department is so very very tone deaf is disappointing, to say the least. I hope your report has moved on somewhere to a company that appreciates her.

  49. Narise*

    If there are any pictures of the coworker in costume and a picture of the coworker she was copying please save them. As well as anything in writing related to the contest and costume. If recent history has taught us anything people can still be held accountable for disgusting behavior even years later. Think of being at a new job and jerk coworker walks into interview. You’re going to want to share the incident with management. Of course would be even better if the evidence could be presented to her and ask for an explanation and watch her panic but the goal would be to never have to work with her again.

  50. Anon Accountant*

    This is horrible. Good luck LW with your job search. That place sounds horribly toxic.

    Hopefully the mocked employee had been job searching or moved in with a friend or family. I can see why she went no contact with the company. Unlikely this was a first occurrence of bullying.

  51. Chris*

    Interesting. I’m going to offer a different perspective.

    For close to 15 years now, dressing up as one of your co-workers has been a halloween tradition where I work. It actually started when someone came dressed as me the first year. A year later, I waited until I saw what a co-worker was wearing that day, got a co-conspirator to bring a matching outfit, and sat down next to them. People have worn the CEO’s face printed out as a mask. nobody’s ever gotten offended by it, it’s just a strange tradition now. I think it has more to do with the culture and the intent than anything else.. our clones are in a spirit of fun and respect. It doesn’t sound like this was true here… but who knows? Sounds like the issue could have been handled better either way.

  52. The_artist_formerly_knwn_as_Anon-2*

    My thinking is – “Susie” may go on to bigger, better, and successful things…

    And if I were at OP’s company, I’d be worrying about this – it may come back to haunt them in some way.

    As far as the lease, ah as long as the rent’s paid, no problem.

  53. Been There, Done That*

    I’m very seriously interested in learning from potential hiring managers and HR professionals here–what would be your response if an applicant told you the mockee’s story in an interview, after asking why they left previous job and if you may call them for reference/employment verification.

  54. chi type*

    Man, I hope Allison is saving the good “karma is a b” updates for later cause these are disheartening.
    Reading between the lines, I think the mocker may have been a bigger POC mocking a skinny blonde white girl and this made everyone think it was okay (see the oft-expressed approval of “punching up”).
    Lesson: cruelty towards members of “privileged” groups ain’t okay either people!!!

  55. Greg M.*

    everyone commenting on lack of notice and professionalism needs to stop. you don’t owe professionalism when you get none in return.

    This poor women not only was openly mocked, with full blessing of her employers. Further her weight, intelligence and possibly race was mocked.

    honestly that’s really bad and could seriously eff a person up. She might not have been able to go back for her own personal health.

    1. moosetracks*

      I didn’t even notice the weight thing, but yeah – making fun of a coworker’s body (or anyone’s body!) is decidedly Not Okay.

  56. kible*

    there’s a lot of stories of workers getting hurt somehow and then just ghosting the company…i don’t personally think this is right, what if the company needs to forward final information or something? also if you just run away then nothing will be fixed, as noted in this followup.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      The company lost their right to ‘need’ anything further from this employee when they failed to immediately, publicly, and firmly discipline/condemn/fire the offending employee and apologize to the offended one.

    2. Lady Phoenix*

      I think that is on the company. The ex-employee emotionally suffered and it is obvious that staying there would continue hurting her, because people can bully her and even HR and the higher ups won’t protect her. So why should she bother to stay in an environment that is going to mentally damage her.

      It is the conpany’s responsibility to make sure she can work safely and optimally and they fucked up. That is their own fault and their consequences to deal with.

    3. aebhel*

      Um, if I no longer work for someone, they no longer have any entitlement to my personal information. Especially if the reason I no longer work there is that I was harassed and bullied by my coworkers.

      There may be a few exceptions to this, but as a general rule, nobody is obligated to tell their former employer anything.

    4. Observer*

      What makes you think that the victim could change? Everyone in power was convinced that this perfectly acceptable, and no one was interested in changing anything or hearing her point of view. Besides why is it her responsibility to suffer this kind of harassment to “fix” others – especially people who don’t want to be “fixed”?

      As for any issues that the company has – that’s their problem. With very few exceptions, an employee’s obligation to their employer stops when they leave the employ of that employer. And in an at will situation, and employee has a right to leave whenever they want. If that causes problems for the employer, that’s their problem. From a moral / ethical point of view, obligations are reciprocal. To the extent that the employee has any responsibility to make things easier for the employer, that obligation only exists in a situation where the employer fulfills its obligation to provide a reasonable workplace, free of bullying.

      1. ConstitutionallyVerbose*

        Yeah. A new employee won’t have built up the kind of social capital it’d take to change a deep-seated culture issue like this to begin with. And if no one will give them any, there’s really not much they can do.

  57. Amyyyy*

    Slightly unrelated question, but what’s a welfare check? Can someone who you don’t want in your life hunt you down this way?

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      A welfare check is a call to the police to ask them to see if the person is in imminent danger to themselves or others. If correctly executed, the cops stop by, knock on the door, ask neighbors/landlords/the person themselves some questions, and leave when satisfied. It’s a last ditch effort to ensure that the person isn’t dead. It’s carried out by the police, and the person who placed the call is not allowed to come with, afaik, so no, it doesn’t enable stalking.

  58. Julia the Survivor*

    This is the second time in a month we’ve seen horrifying toxic and hurtful behavior in a HR department.
    It looks like all the things you hear about HR are true…

    I can think of two possible reasons for her disappearing:
    1. She doesn’t want to ever be associated with such people
    2. She’s afraid the woman who dressed up as her, and those who support her, will continue to harass and/or attack her.

    I feel bad for her also – I was always treated like this growing up. This is just the kind of thing that happened to me. and no one was supportive then either. :'( Luckily I was able to move to a big city and find nicer people!

  59. Chatterby*

    I feel like this is one of those sleeper situations which will come back and bite the woman who dressed up in costume in the hind end eventually.
    If the LW is unable to find a new job, he’s in a good position that the next time the prospect of giving the mocker any additional duties, promotions, reports of her own, or special projects, he can say “I’m not confident in her judgement and maturity.” Which is entirely fair. When pressed for details, offer a succinct but effective: “She mocked a coworker and encouraged others in the office to join in. The mockery had racist and ageist overtones, and the coworker quit as a direct result. This is not desirable behavior for anyone in our company, but especially in HR, to have.”
    He can also express disapproval directly to his report if she ever brings it up herself: “Your costume wasn’t funny; it was intentionally mean, and your defensiveness shows that you know that. I expect a higher level of professionalism going forward and I will not bring this up again unless there is a repeat of poor judgement.”

  60. BoundariesBoundariesVague*

    This is heartbreaking. I hope that the girl who fled gets therapy to deal with how hurt she feels. She was treated HORRIBLY. What that other woman did to her was vicious.

  61. Other Duties as Assigned*

    The info that the person who was mocked was just out of college gives me a terrible thought: I really hope she isn’t the same person discussed on AAM who quit a job because her boss wouldn’t give her time off to attend her college graduation.

  62. Noah*

    Another key point here: OP is basically powerless to do anything in his role as Manager of Employee and Labor Relations.

  63. amanda*

    It amazes me that people actually believe these so obviously fake updates. you all know these get posted for clicks right

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Why would so many letter writers then take the time to write up and send in a fake update (and in many cases participate in the comment section about it)? That’s a bizarre charge.

  64. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Wow, some people are just vile. Thank you for being one of the good ones, OP. Good luck with your job search, congratulations on your new baby, and hope all goes well for the employee.

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