I paid for fake references, Leap Year birthdays, and more

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

1. I paid for fake references

I did something stupid and paid for two fake references after a job interview. Well, as you could probably predict, it’s blowing up in my face a little bit. They both did not respond to the hiring manager in a timely fashion and the hiring manager actually called the place of employment I listed for one (!!!). I had to scramble and come up with an excuse as to why the staff there wouldn’t know her.

I ended up providing two more real references, people at my current job that I should have asked in the first place. How can I nicely apologize for my unreliable references and basically tell the hiring manager to please forget them?

I don’t know that you can. If I were the hiring manager, I’d be digging more deeply right now, and that’s especially true if you told me to forget about the references you’d already given me.

You did something wrong here — you paid someone to lie for you, and then you lied to try to cover it up. Your integrity has been destroyed in relation to this job. The only way to salvage it is to back out of the process and start fresh somewhere else, this time without lying.

I know you’re looking for a way to make this work, but paying for fake references is such a serious thing that all you can do is accept that you made a bad choice that means you can’t pursue this job anymore.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Is it rude to shush someone?

Is it generally considered rude or disrespectful to “shhhhh” someone? Context is that there is a small break room pretty close to patient care areas. Anytime lunchtime talk or other loud conversations can be heard outside the door, the manager from that department comes in and shhhh’s everyone — as in literally “shhhh-shing” us.

One of my coworker gets triggered and low-key pissed off every time. I don’t see the big deal personally because sometimes we do get rather loud when catching up at work. But because its always the same manager/person doing the shhhh-shing, my coworker thinks she is being personally targeted and disrespected regardless of who else is in the kitchen at the time.

“Can you please keep it down in here?” isn’t rude. Literally shushing you is … well, kind of scoldy and unnecessary when she could use actual words. But since it sounds like this happens a lot, she may just be frustrated that she has to keep asking you to be quiet over and over again.

Your coworker who’s getting pissed off about it is being unreasonable. The manager is on solid ground in asking you to stop disrupting her department’s work, and the fact that she’s had to ask repeatedly isn’t good. You might try pointing out to your coworker that you’re risking losing access to the break room altogether if the noise problems continue, and she’s not doing any of you any favors with her stance.

3. Telling an employee born on Leap Day she can’t have her birthday off

One of the perks provided by my workplace is a paid day off on your birthday (or the day after if it falls on a weekend or holiday) provided by the firm and not taken from your own vacation days, and a gift card which works at several restaurants our city. Once a month, a cake is also provided at lunch for everyone as an acknowledgement of everyone who has a birthday that month.

There is an employee on my team who was born in a leap year on February 29. Since she only has a birthday every four years, she does not get a day off or a gift card and is not one of the people the cake acknowledges. She has complained about this and is trying to push back so she is included.

The firm doesn’t single out or publicly name anyone that has a birthday. People take the day off and that is it, nothing is said. The gift card is quietly enclosed with their pay stub. The cake is put in the lunchroom without fanfare for anyone that wants some. There is no email or card that goes around and no celebrating at work. If there was I could see her point, but since everything is done quietly/privately, she is not losing out on anything. My manager feels her complaints are petty and she needs to be more professional. I agree with him.

She has only worked here for two years and was hired straight out of university. I want to tell her that she should be focusing on work issues and not something as small as a birthday. If she had a complaint about a work issue it would be different. How do I frame my discussion with her without making her feel bad or like she is trouble? Her work is good and I am sure the complaint is just borne of inexperience and I don’t want to penalize her for it.

What?! She doesn’t only have a birthday every four years — she has one every year like everyone else. (Surely you don’t believe that she only advances in age every four years, right?) She might need to celebrate her birthday on February 28 or March 1 in non-leap years, but it’s not true that she doesn’t have a birthday and it’s absolutely unfair and wrong for your office to give her fewer days off than other people because of this. She should get the day off, she should get the gift card, and she should be acknowledged with the other birthdays at the same time.

It makes no sense to demoralize someone over something so easily fixed, and it’s very odd that you and your manager are digging in your heels on this. It’s not about her being inexperienced or petty, and it’s alarming that you and your manager think that! This is about you and your manager not looking logically at what you’re doing (and, frankly, being petty yourselves). You two are wrong, she is right, and you should remedy this and apologize to her for mishandling it.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. How to respond to recruiters contacting me about jobs that don’t pay enough

I’m looking for a tactful, professional way to respond to recruiters who contact me with jobs that pay significantly less than what I make in my current job. When I say “significantly less,” I’m talking 50-60% of my current salary. I am happy and well compensated in my job, and am not actively looking for a new role. However, I would be interested in hearing what’s out there in my current salary range and don’t want to burn bridges. I’m worried that any response will make me look like an entitled ass, especially since I am fairly young in my career.

When a recruiter is contacting you and asking for your time, it’s perfectly polite — and normal! — to say, “I’m not actively looking, but I’m interested in hearing about the job. I should say up-front that I can’t see leaving my current job for less than $X. Does it still make sense to talk?”

That’s not entitled! It’s sharing information that will help the recruiter too, since they don’t want to spend time wooing you for a job you’d never take.

5. How honest should I be when my boss asks for my impressions of job candidates?

I’m a new employee at the small nonprofit I work for; I’ve been here for a little over four months, and I have loved being a part of the office culture. I have also endeared myself to the boss, who is a fabulous mentor to me as I navigate my new position and the organization.

We have a rigorous hiring process in which potential job candidates are flown into our city. They spend a few days getting to know everyone at the organization, and they often lead public programs (if the job they’re interviewing for requires it). In giving feedback on potential candidates, I try to be generally positive and downplay any issues I had. I’m new, I’m still getting a feel for the institutional culture, and it’s ultimately not my decision if someone gets hired.

This week, we had a candidate come into the office for an important, public-facing position. The position is at my level in the organization (leading another department), and I’m conscious that he would be my colleague and an important partner in my work. I, along with another coworker and my boss, traveled with this candidate to an event that he was leading as an “audition” for the types of things he’d be doing regularly in his job.

I had some reservations about the candidate before I met him because of his professional background, and in person I found him to be awkward with small talk (another important part of the job), but his leadership of this program really gave me pause. He was one of the least confident public speakers I have ever seen; he made mistakes (because of nerves?), gave a generic speech, and kept making uncomfortable (but not inappropriate) jokes that got no response from the attendees. As an interviewee for a position that would involve regular public speaking and serving as a representative of our organization, I was worried.

My boss is keen to ask for feedback from every staff member about potential job candidates, and she stopped by my office the morning after the program to ask for my feedback. I demurred somewhat, saying that I felt that he seemed nervous and lacked confidence. I tried to sandwich my criticism in compliments, mentioning that I thought he was very personable and the attendees at the event seemed to enjoy chatting with him before and after the program.

I find myself wishing I had been more honest about my concerns, but I also don’t want to be seen as the person who badmouths job candidates, especially if this person ends up being hired. I’m looking for advice for the future: how candid can I be with my boss about job candidates who aren’t my hires?

Be very candid! Don’t be rude (“he seemed like an idiot”) but do be honest (“I thought he struggled with creating rapport and thought he was weak on public speaking; I noticed mistakes like X and Y in his speech, and I didn’t think attendees responded well to him”). This isn’t a situation where you need to balance your criticism with compliments, or where you need to sugarcoat. Your boss is asking you for feedback because she wants your feedback. Give it to her!

There’s another piece to consider here too, which is that the feedback you give your boss reflects on your judgment. If you hold back what you really think, you risk coming across as if you don’t have a particularly high bar or great judgment, and you definitely don’t want that! If you want to leave room for the possibility that she might end up hiring the person, you can always include something like “I only talked to him for about 30 minutes and I know others interacted with him more” or other such caveats … but do be straightforward about what you really thought.

{ 1,028 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    There are already zillion separate threads going on letter #3 (the leap year birthday one), so if possible, please add your comment on that letter to one of the existing threads in order to keep things somewhat organized here. Thanks!

      1. nonegiven*

        I am appalled by the idea that the employee loses a day off and a gift card unless the year has a leap day. She should get the 28th off unless it’s a weekend, then a different day, also she should get the gift card. This whole attitude is petty af.

        I have a grand nephew born on leap day. His birthday has always been celebrated on February 28 on non leap years. He’ll be 22 this year, not 6 two years from now. I’m not entirely sure if he legally turned 21 on 2/28 or 3/1 last year.

        1. JamieS*

          I have to assume 3/1 since he was born the day after 2/28 regardless of whether that’s technically 2/29 or 3/1

          1. kate*

            I’m born on leap day and my license (NH) said I was underage until 2/28, not 3/1, so I could have gone out on 2/27 and gotten a drink at midnight, which would really technically be almost a day and a half before I was actually born. (I did not take advantage of this, though.) My mother uses your logic and thinks I should celebrate 3/1 (“you didn’t EXIST on the 28th! You were born on the day AFTER!”) but I think I should celebrate the 28th because I’m a February baby, not March, and I was born the day BEFORE March 1st! Since no one can agree, we just celebrate both days, so in the end by having no birthday I actually get two :)

        2. In HR H*ck*

          I’m more surprised and dumbfounded than anything. This just seems like such a petty hill to die on. I mean total cost of the day and the card is probably, what, a couple hundred dollars at the most? It just seems like the LW and their boss are more concerned with cowing this employee than with making sure they’re treating everyone fairly and equitably.

          I don’t say that to be overly critical, it just seems like their priorities are skewed, and not in a good direction for talent retention.

          1. Annonymouse*

            I think a good way for LW1 to approach this is to imagine they are the employee in question.

            How would you feel getting only 1/4 of the perks everyone else does for reasons outside your control? Perks not related to your role or performance, that you should have access to.

            Pretty annoyed, right? Wouldn’t you ask for you to get your fair share?

            Then your boss tells you that YOU are being petty and unprofessional for wanting equal treatment.

            If it were me I’d be demoralised enough to start job searching.

            My bosses don’t value me enough to treat me the same as my coworkers for a minor thing then it makes me question what happens with raises and promotion opportunities. It breaks the trust and respect I have in them.

            1. Anonymoose*

              “If it were me I’d be demoralised enough to start job searching.” YEP. This argument is very telling of the office culture, especially the poor birthday girl’s manager.

              LW should be ashamed of herself for mean-girling about something so dumb, and scientifically incorrect to boot.

        3. Editor*

          Is this a law office or accounting practice? Being so didactic seems so odd to me, but then, almost all the commenters have disagreed with the supervisor’s ruling on this one.

          And… is the company reporting the gift cards as compensation? Because tax law says gift cards are taxable compensation, not an end run around taxes. I don’t know the specifics of the law, but any argument the gift cards aren’t money apparently doesn’t succeed with the IRS.

          1. Anonymoose*

            I feel like there is more to the story. As in possibly a personality conflict or regrettable hire or something. LW and Manager are just so diehard about something so trivial. It’s just…sketchy.

            1. selena81*

              i think that maybe the writer _is_ that asshole boss: because i find it so unbelievable that there’d be 2 people going to such great lenghts in redefining the word ‘petty’ in 1 office.

              the story makes way more sense to me when it’s one dude and his imaginary friend bullying all the straight-out-of-college hires in the department: belitteling them and making them earn all the stuff that’s actually part of normal company policy.

      2. Kisses*

        OP 3 that sounds really mean! I don’t care how new or inexperienced someone is that is demoralizing and rude! It’s something that would honestly make me cry once I got home.

    1. Suggestion*

      I would like to humbly suggest that there be categories for the “Worst Boss” awards and that LW#3 be considered for the pettiest. I know you don’t usually like to nominate bosses that write in, but given their complete lack of self-awareness…

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Hey now, they were open enough to write in, and Alison wants to encourage that, so let’s try to remain…well, if not supportive, at least constructive. I am glad they at least thought to question their practice. Although I honestly can’t imagine how it didn’t occur to them that it’s unfair and inequitable, I know that most of us have had a forehead-slapping moment at least a few times in our lives, where we suddenly gained a new perspective on our situation, so let’s hope that that occurs, rather than keep ragging on the LW.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          Unfortunately they wrote in asking for help in telling the employee their complaint isn’t valid – not in a “are we handling this correctly?” way. They are in no way questioning their practice and think that she is being petty about wanting to be treated like all of the other employees.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I feel the same way, but note the very first commenting rule:

            Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters, which especially means being constructive if you’re criticizing. If you want a steady supply of interesting letters to read here, people need to be willing to write in and expose themselves to public critique. Treating them kindly makes that far more likely to happen.

          2. tangerineRose*

            I think people can be at least slightly more receptive to feedback if the feedback is constructive.

            I don’t understand how the LW thinks it is fair to give the employee 1/4th of the birthday vacation days.

        2. Globe Trotter*

          I’m having trouble believing this letter is even real. I mean, I have zero doubt that someone could be this obtuse…but really?!

          1. NYC Weez*

            At Old Job, my coworker got a call that his father in law was about to pass away. He left work four hours early to be with the family. FIL passed away just after midnight, and coworker only took one half day for the funeral. We were allotted 3 days bereavement but they charged him a full vacation day for the half day he left early because “FIL wasn’t dead yet.”

            1. Just Jess*

              At first I thought that the half day should be included with bereavement as well, but then I thought about the literal writing of many bereavement policies. Bereavement time is for traveling to a funeral or mourning while preparing for final arrangements. Some people need more than three days just to travel out of state or out of the country to meet with family during mourning and the funeral. Some people don’t need to travel far, but need that time for mourning someone close.

              Writing and implementing policies is an art and not a science. It just depends on how the policy was written.

              Why TF they charged your former coworker for an entire day of vacation? Well, that’s Petty McPettalot.

        3. Scott C Carpenter*

          They weren’t writing in to find out if they were wrong though, they were completely convinced that the employee was wrong and petty, they wrote in looking for advice on how to break the news to this stupendously petty and naive employee that they were being unreasonable.

      2. Anony*

        That’s unkind. They were thoughtless, but that happens to everyone sometimes. If letter writers start getting attacked in the comments and shamed in subsequent posts, no one will write in.

      3. Strawmeatloaf*

        Yeah I’m kind of wondering why they even hired her. If they consider her birthday only on leap-years, wouldn’t she be too young to even be hired? If she’s in her 20s then she’s only what, 5 years old or something?

        1. selena81*

          wouldn’t that be glorious: this story ending with a headline about a 20-something sueing over child-labor.

      4. DaniCalifornia*

        Agreed! This one is already in the contending. I cannot believe she wrote out that entire email to Alison and didn’t realize how she sounded, came across, or how petty she was being. Doesn’t have a birthday every year. Then why did she hire a “6 year old” then?

        1. Life is Good*

          Yep, I’m a leap year baby and I have the problem that “there are only 28 days in Feb” all the time. Websites that ask for your day of birth, only go to 28 in their Feb dropdown menu. At all my jobs, though, I have always been celebrated each year. This employer is being goofy. Alison is correct, we still age one year every year like the rest of the people. (Dammit!) My husband says we will have a birthday blowout on my 21st – I will be 84!

          1. Rather Be Reading*

            I have a friend with a leap day birthday who threw herself a Sweet Sixteen party on her 64th birthday. It was super fun!

        2. Dillybop*

          Ridiculous is what she sounds like or is. This reasoning could come from a young child, not an adult. Employee most definitely needs to be included like everyone else.

          Imagine people who don’t like getting older taking advantage of this. For example, 4 years in a row they say, “I’m still 30 because my birthday is on a leap day”. Side eye from everyone!

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          It reminds me of the manager that wrote in complaining that her employee quit because the manager wouldn’t let her go to her own college graduation and *then* the manager wanted to contact the former employee and giver her lessons on professionalism. ::eye roll::

      5. Candi*

        Alison made it quite clear back with Graduation Boss that boss who make mistakes and write in themselves aren’t considered for Worst Boss nominations.

        Exclusive Workplace/Beer Run boss shows why this is a good policy. The thread through her letters and comments went from “I can’t be wrong” to “maybe I was a little wrong” to “I screwed up, didn’t I?” to “I’ve course corrected and am working on fixing me.”

    2. Glad my Birthday is in July*

      This is one of those letters where I desperately hope the letter write makes the correction AND writes in with an update…I like happy endings.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, sometimes we all get stuck in our position, and need someone to help us course correct. Good for the birthday manager for writing in, and may they be receptive to the excellent, and very clear, advice Alison gave.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Especially since the poor employee is actually getting less compensation as a result of the way they’re treating her. Everyone gets a gift card and a day off (both of which have a cash value)… except her, because “oh well blame astronomy”? They’re singling her out for completely specious reasons.

          I once had a job which promised specific non-cash compensation as part of my offer, on which they did not deliver. You bet I started looking elsewhere as soon as I realized they had no intention of giving me the compensation I was promised. It was very much a factor in my decision to accept the job, and I wouldn’t have accepted the salary they offered without it. Aside from the cash value of it, it was a strong indication of how much they respected me and my work (and how dysfunctional that office was).

          1. Ladycrim*

            Exactly! “she does not get a day off or a gift card … she is not losing out on anything.” Um, she’s losing out on a paid day off and a gift card! If you think that’s ‘nothing,’ LW, why not donate yours to her?

          2. Cat Lady*

            “Aside from the cash value of it, it was a strong indication of how much they respected me and my work (and how dysfunctional that office was).”


            Again, yes.

            I’m not a fan of running offices like third-grade classrooms, in which everyone has to get something or no one does. But this is part of the compensation package, and singling out one person to *not* receive this is petty. Ultimately, it’s not about the gift card or the day off; it’s about singling her out and treating her like she’s the problem for noticing that she’s singled out.

    3. ArtK*

      I do have one contribution on #3 that I haven’t read yet. Did anyone have a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan running through their heads when they read that?

      Pirate King:
      For some ridiculous reason, to which, however,
      I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
      Some person in authority, I don’t know who,
      very likely the Astronomer Royal,
      Has decided that,
      although for such a beastly month as February,
      twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
      One year in every four his days
      shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
      Through some singular coincidence–
      I shouldn’t be surprised if
      it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy–
      You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement,
      having been born in leap-year,
      on the twenty-ninth of February;
      And so, by a simple arithmetical process,
      you’ll easily discover,
      That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet,
      if we go by birthdays,
      you’re only five and a little bit over!

      1. Koko*

        Hahaha yes, I wanted to come here and be like, “This is literally a trick used by PIRATES to get out of contracts.”

        1. Decima Dewey*

          In Gilbert and Sullivan, this was used by the pirates to enforce a contract that had already been completed!

          “I was bound to serve the Pirate Captain until I reached my one-and-twentieth birthday.”

          “But you are 21?”

          “I have just discovered that I was born in leap year, and that birthday will not be reached by me until 1940.”

      2. SignalLost*

        So many people. (I don’t know Pirates of Penzance, so all the bits referenced went over my head. Thanks for posting the whole song – I need to hear it now, as it sounds quite funny!)

        1. Koko*

          There’s also a slightly newer remake/parody of Pirates of Penzance called The Pirate Movie which is extra campy and raunchy. I’d recommend both :)

          1. Anion*

            The Pirate Movie was what I thought of immediately. I loved that movie as a kid, and last year I found it on YouTube and showed it to my girls–they loved it, too! It holds up much better than I thought it would.

            Poor Albert, stuck being a pirate until he’s 164.

        2. No Longer Lurking*

          May I recommend the Angela Lansbury & Kevin Kline 1983 film version for this bit (the whole thing is great but I love their performance for this song).

          1. Gayle Davidson-Durst*

            YES! I immediately thought of this song, and the 1983 movie is awesome.

            (And not just because Kevin Kline wears tight leather pants. But that’s a perk.)

      3. Joe*

        Oops. I made the mistake of commenting upthread before reading through, and I see now that you beat me to it by a couple of days.

    4. Chicken*

      Even though it’s only January, I’m going to go ahead and say that I hope you reach out for an update on this one if the LW doesn’t send you one!

    5. Es*

      I have nothing too insightful to add regarding #3 except to say that my birthday is also Feb. 29 and if this was a policy at my work and I didn’t get a day off my first year in a non-leap-year, I would 100% have not let it go and everyone would have hated me. (Upper end “millennial” here who has very strong opinions on birthdays and leap years.)

  2. ThisGuy*

    How can LW3 say the employee isn’t losing out on anything when she doesn’t receive the extra day off, and presumably, the gift card, that all other employees receive?

    1. Lauren*

      Right? That’s what I was thinking. Just because it’s not broadcast, doesn’t mean it’s not a benefit with a definite value that she is being denied for something she can’t control.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Company: “We gave everyone a year-end bonus in their paycheck.”
        Employee: “Um… I didn’t get a bonus…”
        Company: “C’mon, we didn’t TELL anyone that you didn’t get a bonus. Why are you being so petty?”

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Haha, yeah, just apply this scenario to any other benefit and I think it becomes extremely obvious how ridiculous this is.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          Really, the only question here is to discuss whether the day off will fall on Feb. 28 or March 1.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Exactly. She didn’t CHOOSE to have her birthday on a day that only exists once every 4 years. This is worse than a Christmas birthday for those that celebrate! She absolutely deserves to have her birthday celebrated every year and to received the same perks as everyone else.

        I am seeing red at this letter. LW, you state that people already move their day off if their birthday falls on a weekend, so not letting the Leap Employee take an altered day off is ridiculous. You and your manager are the ones being petty, not the employee. You are so very in the wrong, and I hope you take a step back, examine the situation, and rectify your position immediately. The employee deserves the 2 gift cards she missed, plus the one for the upcoming birthday, and honestly, you should give her the days off she missed too.

        1. Not a Blossom*

          “LW, you state that people already move their day off if their birthday falls on a weekend…” This is what jumped out at me too. This whole situation is insane, and if I were that employee, I’d be looking for a new job, not because of the perks being withheld but because management has shown spectacularly bad judgment and lack of common sense.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, the fact that other people aren’t limited to the actual date of their birth makes this whole thing even more ridiculous. I would seriously be considering looking for another job if my company was treating me with this kind of disrespect.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            And it’s PETTY! It is just SO PETTY. Like literally everyone else gets a day off but this person doesn’t because they were born on leap day? THIS is where you are choosing to plant your flag? What other totally unreasonable horrors are in store for someone whose boss does this? You may as well just hang up a sign that says “I WILL HAPPILY SCREW YOU OVER ON A TECHNICALITY”.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I think that’s the last straw, for me – because now, I’m thinking, “Wow, apparently I work for a boss *and grandboss* who are perfectly willing to violate the spirit of the rule in order to uphold the letter of it, and in particular they’re actively taking advantage of a technicality in order to justify treating me less well than other employees.” And the immediately following sentence is “Clearly it’s time for me to GTFO from this place and go somewhere that cares more about fairness than technicalities.”

              1. Anion*

                Not only are they treating her less well than the other employees and providing her less compensation than every single other employee gets, AND justifying it with a ridiculous petty technicality, they’re acting like SHE’S being a petty child for complaining about it.

                1. Julia the Survivor*

                  Oh, that rings a bell. I grew up in a fundamentalist area with abusive parents. As a child, teen and young woman, whenever I tried to stand up for myself against blatant abuse and chauvinism, the men acted like I committed a crime! Thank God I had enough sense to leave and move to the big city as soon as possible.

              2. Anonymouse*

                +1000 this
                I rescued my beloved pit bull from a shelter for puppies and young dogs. She was 1 year and 364 days old when I adopted her. She would have been euthanized one day later.
                There’s so much empathy that’s lost when people follow rules to the letter. It’s honestly just cruel.

            2. Esme Squalor*

              This also struck me as such a weird hill to die on for management. Why single out and marginalize an employee, and in the process crush her morale, kill any company loyalty she may have, and drastically raise the possibility that she’ll start job hunting, when you could just buy a damn cake and a gift card? Not singling out individual employees for poor treatment for arbitrary reasons (especially when it means withholding a part of their compensation package) is such a basic HR concept that it really leads me to question whether management is actually two kids in a trench coat.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I was thinking Veridian. This is definitely something I can see Veronica calmly explaining to Phil.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I don’t want to derail, so this is the last I’ll say on this, but it’s nice to meet another Better Off Ted fan :)

                3. SebbyGrrl*

                  I love ALL 0f you!

                  No one, NO ONE in my Universe knows about the show, SO FUNNY!

                  Thank you for the joy!

              1. oranges & lemons*

                Especially since I would assume the idea behind the birthday celebrations is to make employees happy.

            3. Triple Anon*

              Yes. If you want the same number of days off as everyone else, you’re being petty. Entitled young people.

        2. Turboencabulator Engineer*

          I would say Christmas birthday is worse. At least Leap birthday is an awesome conversation piece. There was a kid in my class elementary school who was born on February 29th. I remember celebrating his “second” birthday in second grade and how everyone made a big deal out of it. Of course, we celebrated his seventh birthday normally during first grade.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I meant ignoring her for 3 years is worse than having a Christmas birthday. Sorry, that was def not clear!

              1. Ainsley Hayes*

                “It’s from Penzance. or Iolanthe. one of the ones about duty.”
                “They’re all about duty.”

                1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

                  “Were you the recording secretary of the Princeton Gilbert and Sullivan Society?”

        3. JJJJShabado*

          Given the weekend policy, I want to point out that the next Leap Day is Saturday February 29, 2020, so the employee will not have her actual birthday off the next time it is on the calendar. Given this fact (on top of the logic of you are taking benefits even if you don’t make it another day), why would you deny a benefit everyone else is getting.

          1. Marie B.*

            Under the policy she will get the Monday off, since her birthday falls on the weekend (I don’t agree with what the company is doing but if the 29th is on a Saturday she will get the Monday in this case).

        4. myswtghst*

          Your second paragraph was what really caught my eye as well. I’ve seen situations where the day off was only if your birthday fell on a weekday (which seemed short-sighted but whatever), but in this office, even if my birthday falls on a Saturday I can take a Friday off… so there is literally NO requirement that the day off be on the actual birthday, which means there is NO logical reason to deny the employee a day off.

          1. Marie B.*

            Exactly. People with weekend and holiday birthdays get the Monday or the day after off, so why can’t the same logic be applied to the Leap Year employee? The company is being so short-sighted here.

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              This was my immediate thought as well- it’s very strange that the LW and management didn’t apply their existing approach to birthdays that don’t fall on a workday to this employee’s situation. Also, why on earth are they digging in? It’s excluding someone for the most arbitrary of reasons.

              1. Jadelyn*

                SO arbitrary. Literally what is the *point* of deciding to die on this hill? What does the company gain? You save a day’s pay and a gift card. What’s that come out to in terms of percentage of revenue retained? I’m thinking about the woman on twitter who’s started tweeting at billionaires to ask them for $50k, on the logic that $50k is literally 0.00001% of their wealth, akin to her giving someone $0.15 out of her bank account, and if she could give someone $0.15 and completely change their life with it, she would happily do so. What’s one day of pay and a gift card come out to, on a company scale – the equivalent of $10 for a regular person? Is it really worth all this fuss to save $10?

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I am trying to understand, everyone gets a day off, a card and shares a cake. Then a couple sentences later, OP says this employee does not lose anything. But she did not get a card and a cake and a day off.
                  And she needs to be more professional?
                  It seems to me that a professionally run business would see to it that ALL employees were included in the company benefits, and that would include card, cake and day off. To me the company is the one who is being unprofessional. “It’s not convenient for us so we will just skip it.”
                  OP, very, very seldom are conflicts or disagreements resolved by telling someone to be more professional, which is the work place equivalent of saying “grow up”.

                  If this were happening to my employee, then my employee would take my own birthday off and I would stay and work. It seems like she asked politely for something that she should not even have to ask for. Her bosses should have been on it already and already advocating for her.

        5. LizB*

          I’m also seeing red at this letter. Think of it this way, LW: Leap Employee just happens to have a birthday that pretty much never falls on a workday. Since she can’t take off her actual birthday, she should get to take off an adjacent workday just like every other employee does when that happens to them, and she should certainly get the gift card and cake that everyone else gets. She’s still getting a year older! If the rest of your employees deserve to be celebrated for that achievement, so does this employee.

        6. ZW*

          I fully agree that their policy is totally unfair and I’d fight for the equality here too….and this is coming from a Jehovah’s Witness who has never celebrated a birthday in her life!

        7. Chelsea*

          LW says she’s worked there for two years. Since 2016 was a leap year, I wonder if she was hired after or if they acknowledged her birthday the first year and then skipped it in 2017.

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, it isn’t just the lack recognition (although that’s petty too), she’s being cheated out of actual material benefits.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Exactly! Come on 3, try to put yourself in her shoes. I think you are being very disrespectful of her right now and need to treat her like everyone else. It may not be the most important aspect of the job, but it’s about being treated equally, not a piece of cake or a gift card. It’s bigger than that.

          1. Specialk9*

            Who do you think is being petty here? The employee who is not getting money and PTO like every other person? Or the commenter saying that denial is disrespectful management?

            1. fposte*

              The LW isn’t the manager; she’s the team lead. MommyMD is saying that both the team lead and the manager are being petty.

            2. Rat in the Sugar*

              I think MommyMD is talking about the LW, who is leap year employee’s team lead and makes reference to her own manager.

        1. Anony*

          Or, since the letter writer thinks it is petty, she can give the leap year employee her gift card and day off. Problem solved!

      2. Anion*

        The LW’s assumption that the only reason someone would want this benefit is for the cake and attention (and so if cake’n’attention isn’t on offer, who cares?) also says something.

    3. MadGrad*

      And calling her petty, no less. It is infinitely more petty to deny someone tangible perks and personal acknowledgement over a technicality than it is to be upset at being denied those things.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I did catch myself thinking that maybe there was another problem with this employee and some how that is muddying the waters.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Also, if it’s petty to care about birthdays and the company acknowledgement, why is the company offering this benefit to begin with? Surely the company believes that people value these things, and that’s why they do it? If it’s so petty to care about it, why not stop offering the benefit to anyone?

        The whole practice is a little bizarre to me. I mean, I’d love it because my birthday is adjacent to a national holiday and 5 out of 7 years I’d have a built-in 4 day weekend. But my mother hates recognition on her birthday and doesn’t tell people when it is, and some people don’t celebrate birthdays for religious reasons, and for some people it just doesn’t fall on a day/week/month when they’d most want to use a vacation day. Why tie material company benefits to something so variable, instead of just giving everyone an extra floating holiday? Cards and cake and other low key stuff can be really nice, but this is way beyond that.

        But if the company is going to do this, they need to do it for everyone equally. Sheesh.

        1. Anony*

          That is what jumped out at me too. Either this is a nice benefit that should be given to everyone or something that doesn’t matter and should be discontinued. You can’t have it both ways.

        2. WerkingIt*

          I have worked places where you get your “birthday” off. It’s really just an extra personal day that you can use on your birthday or whenever you want. No one polices it.

          1. Nicki Name*

            My current workplace does something similar to that. Alongside some standard holidays off, we get a “birthday holiday” which we are encouraged to use on or near our birthdays, but we can schedule it whenever we feel like. It is tracked as a holiday rather than vacation/PTO, so it’s a use-it-or-lose-it thing.

      2. Luna*

        That LW also comments on the employee’s young age and that she was hired straight out of university makes me think LW and her boss might have bigger issues with the way they view younger workers in general. I can’t believe they didn’t realize how wrong this is even after the employee complained (and good for her for standing up for herself!).

        1. I can do it!*

          I was thinking this too, like “ugh Millennials think they’re so special with their BIRTHDAYS.” I feel like there HAS to be some ageist element somewhere. I recently had a meeting where the youngest employee was constantly talked over and all her suggestions were automatically shot down, even though they were good ones.

          Also, do they deny the benefits to Jehovah’s Witnesses or others who don’t observe birthdays because they “wouldn’t use them anyway?”

          1. Anna*

            To be fair, and I could be wrong about this, I believe Jehovah’s Witnesses would have to turn them down because they’re connected to birthday recognition. Not that they shouldn’t be offered at first, but they would have to be creative in offering someone who is JW so as not to bump up against their religious observances.

            1. Mikasa Ackerman*

              Jehovah’s Witness here. We just say thank you, but we would not like our birthday to be recognized.

              1. Willow*

                Would you want the company to offer you an extra day off that can be used anytime instead, or would that still be too obviously a birthday thing?

                1. Mikasa Ackerman*

                  I think it’s a “conscience matter.” I think I would want an extra day if offered to me (but for others it may bother their conscience). My reasoning is, it’s like Xmas (for places closed on Xmas). We do not celebrate, but we also do not go into work and sit there all lonely. That would be weird haha. This situation seems like everyone should get an extra day off, maybe? I’m not sure. It’s really weird, especially since they are denying someone who actually does celebrate birthdays. (Disclaimer: I am in college, and I never experienced a work situation like this before.)

                2. CR*

                  I’m a Jehovah’s Witness so I’ve never celebrated my birthday. I’ve also never worked somewhere that gives birthdays off, but if I did, I would ask if I could use the day off at a different time of the year. I would personally view it as an extra vacation day that all employees are entitled to. If the company was OK with me using it sometime other than my birthday, I would probably take the day and make sure I let them know that I appreciate them accommodating me. If they insisted on using it the day of my birthday or not at all, I wouldn’t take my birthday off because that would give the impression I was celebrating. Different Witnesses might have different opinions on this, though

        2. Brittasaurus Rex*

          It seems like the LW and her manager think they can cow the employee because of her age. I’m glad the employee is standing up for herself.

        3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

          Maybe its because I’m a millennial, but I picked up on that, too. Her youth and/or inexperience are not factors here–the LW and the LW’s boss are being ridiculous. You can’t exclude one person from a benefit that everyone else in the company receives and not expect that person to be upset.

          1. Observer*

            No, it’s not because you are a millennial – I’m older than that, and I’m trying to figure out if the underlying issue is age, class or education level.

        4. KS*

          Funnily enough, the LW seems to be applying the logic of a 5-year-old. Or that of someone making a bad joke. What actual adult thinks people don’t have birthdays in non-leap years?

        5. Not So NewReader*

          I am in my mid 5os and I would complain. I have noticed though, that I can say things at 50 that would never have flown when I was twenty. The tendency to blow off younger people is a real thing and it’s been going on for years.

          OP, if a 50 year old person inquired about this would your reaction be different?

          1. Anne (with an "e")*

            I am also in my 50’s. I agree with Not So New Reader.

            At my current job as a teacher we get our birthday off, if we want. We are encouraged to take a day near our actual birthday, however, those employees who have a birthday during June or July are allowed to pick a random day off.

            I am honestly trying to understand the LW. How is it petty or entitled to ask for something that all other employees are receiving once every twelve months? A day off and a gift card are both “something.” They have value. They also can make someone feel appreciated if everyone else is being celebrated. Not getting a day off or the gift is a purposeful slight to the Birthday girl.

            I remember once when I first started working right out of university that a coworker was greatly celebrated on her birthday. She received a cake, cards, and presents from various coworkers. The thing was, it was also my birthday that very same day. Nobody acknowledged me in any way whatsoever. I felt so terrible. I know it seems extremely petty, however, I felt less than, I felt unappreciated. It was just a sad, lonely feeling. I knew they weren’t celebrating Brenda at me. I knew that she had been there much longer than I had. I never said anything about it, but I still remember it. I tried to tell myself that my coworkers weren’t my family or my friends and that I should not care. However, it really did hurt. It was as if everyone had gotten together and decided to underline the fact that I was being left out. If I had thought for one moment that my supervisor had been aware …. well, I think it is possible that I might have quit over the incident.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I don’t understand OP #3’s response to their employee at all. Obviously the employee has a birthday every year, it just occurs on March 1 in non-leap-years. And if everyone else receives a comp’d day off and a gift card, then not giving her either of those annually is not only “losing out” on something material, it’s also alienating and demoralizing. OP#3 and their manager are basically telling the employee that she doesn’t count or matter except once every four years. At best that’s unkind, and at worst it’s low-grade bullying.

      OP#3, why are you excluding/punishing her for having a rare birthday? (Because that’s probably how she sees it based on her request to be included.) And why are you dismissing her (valid) concerns as petty and unprofessional? Is there something else going on in your relationship with her that’s clouding how you’re seeing the situation?

      1. many bells down*

        Especially since other employees whose birthdays fall on a weekend or a holiday still get a DIFFERENT day off that’s not their actual birthday. I don’t see a difference between giving her March 1st off and giving off December 26th to someone whose birthday falls on Christmas Day.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Yep. I was completely stunned to read this happens for everyone else except the leap year baby.

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          This, this, this. I am honestly flabbergasted that OP3 added this detail about getting to take your day on an adjoining workday … and did not make a horrified face, stop typing in the middle of the sentence, delete the email, get up, walk down the hall, abjectly apologize to this employee, and give her the two gift cards she has not received.

          And what do her tenure and age have to do with anything?

          Just, wow.

          (Semi-related: my birthday falls on 11/11, which is always a (government / bank) holiday in the U.S. Lovely, because I never have to work on my birthday! Now, if I worked for this company, I wonder if I would get to take the 10th or 12th off as well?)

          1. Kali*

            This is probably a silly question, but why is that? In the UK, it’s VE Day, though we normally observe it on the nearest Sunday. Is it the same thing there?

            1. The Tin Man*

              Here in the US 11/11 is celebrated as Vetetans Day. It is always celebrated on that day but if it falls on a weekend the observance is the closest weekday.

              1. Blue*

                I have never once gotten Veterans’ Day off! Works out nicely if you’re in an industry that does close for it. The question about how flexible they are is a reasonable one, though. My birthday is July 6, and I typically take an extra day off around the 4th to give myself a four-day birthday weekend, though the timing sometimes means I end up working on my actual birthday. I wonder if they’d let me use my birthday free-day that way or not.

                1. Kay*

                  The OP is clear about the policy in theit very first sentence. Jen S. 2.0 you would get the 12th of November off since your birthday is on a holiday. Blue your birthday is not on a holiday so you would get the actual day off. If either of your birthdays fell on the weekend you would get the Monday off instead. OP was clear on what the policy is right at the beginning of their letter so there shouldn’t be any questions about the policy.

                2. Marie B.*

                  Your birthday is not on a holiday so your free day would be on the 6th, the actual day (or the Monday if it fell on a weekend). OP mentions the policy in their opening sentence.

                3. Natalie*

                  I’ve never had it off either. It’s worth noting that a lot of places follow stock market holidays for closings, and the stock market doesn’t close on Veteran’s Day.

            2. Bagpuss*

              Er, no.
              VE day is 8th May. (VE being Victory in Europe, and marking the formal acceptance of the surrender of Nazi Germany in WW”.
              11th November is Armistice Day / Remembrance Day, which related to the signing of the Armistice at the end of WW1, and is typically observed on Remembrance Sunday being whichever Sunday falls closest to the 11th.

              1. Minerva McGonagall*

                Except that in the US it’s not moved to Sunday. If 11/11 is a Wednesday, then we do all our memorial services, wreath laying, etc., on Wednesday.

            3. Grandma Mazur*

              I think 11/11 is Armistice Day (now more commonly known as Remembrance Sunday) in the UK – VE Day is 8th May.

          2. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

            Yes! The idea that everyone else can take an adjoining day if that’s how the calendar falls, but this employee isn’t recognized in any way is crazy! I can’t imagine working for a manager and senior manager who are so oblivious. OP3 needs to spend some time thinking through their entire management style. I have a hard time believing this is the only lapse in judgement. Especially if the senior manager is also terrible, and therefore not setting a good example.

          3. Marie B.*

            Jen S. 2.0, your day off would be in 12th (or on the Monday if it fell on a weekend). The opening sentence says it is always on the day after.

          4. eplawyer*

            I like this. And Alison’s advice of she’s right, you’re wrong.
            I would not attribute this to something more going on here. I think it is literally just obliviousness. But the calendar doesn’t HAVE a February 29 this year? Just so stuck on what the calendar shows that there is no deeper thinking on LW’s part. Then wanting to educate the employee on what the calendar shows rather than thinking it through.

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              And that “let me educate you on a thing you probably have way more understanding of than me since it is about you” is such a bad habit to get into! Don’t explain to a tall person that they “shouldn’t” wear heels as if they don’t know they make them taller, or tell an infertile person about adoption as if they’ve never heard of it, or start explaining leap years to someone *whose own birthday is on leap day*, or start explaining asthma to an asthmatic if you’re not their doctor, etc. It’s condescending and weird, and strangely common. Start with the assumption that someone is a competent adult until proven otherwise, or you’ll make a fool of yourself.

            2. nonegiven*

              I’m sure the employee knows how a calendar works. She’s the one that has had different days to celebrate her birthday all her life.

            1. Peter the Bubblehead*

              OP stated she was a fairly new employee. May not have been working at this company in Feb 2016.

              1. JamieS*

                OP said she’d worked there 2 years and that she started straight out of college. I took that to mean she started around summer 2015 maybe winter if she has a December graduation.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Right. So the employee has been there for 2 years, and has complained about not being recognized for her birthday more than once.

                  It’s not February yet, 2016 was a leap year, and if the employee was bringing this up every month I’m sure LW3 would have mentioned it… sounds like somebody got confused about relevant details during their little creative writing exercise.

                2. Marie B*

                  It’s 2018 now so (to me at least) two years ago was 2016.

                  The letter writer just said she has complained about it and didn’t say how many times she had missed out. Maybe she did get the perks in 2016 and not in 2017 and that’s when she realized she was being treated unfairly. Or she started after February of 2016 and got upset when she didn’t get the perks in 2017 like she saw everyone else was getting.

                  These are just guesses of course since the letter writer hasn’t clarified.

          5. Tara*

            That was my exact thought too. How do you include the bit about people whose birthdays are on holidays and not have it occur to you while writing that part out that you might completely wrong on this? You’ve specifically mentioned a related instance where the company makes alternative options for certain birthday problems.

        3. banana&tanger*

          I vote she gets a week off every four years. Paid. With very large gift cards. Not that she has any reason to keep working there.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I truly hope the birthday girl from this letter finds a new job STAT. OP and her boss are acting a straight fool over something that’s easily remedied, and I wouldn’t want to work for people who behave like this.

            1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

              I’m wishing the it worked out that she puts in her notice on February 29. But that’s a long time to work there.
              Anybody else picturing Danny Coleman and his minion from 9 to 5?

            2. Chalupa Batman*

              Frankly, this stance is what should stand out to the OP. Pushing back on the employee wanting to receive a tangible benefit that *everyone else receives except for her* makes management seem ridiculous. You and your boss are making yourselves and the company look stupid by arguing about this. Just give it to her.

              I can understand how it feels petty when it’s about birthdays. It’s not. about. her. birthday. Imagine if everyone got to wear jeans on Fridays, except for you because you’re the only person in the office under 5 foot 7. There’s no real reason why 5’7″ is the cutoff, it just is. You wonder who has it out for you to exclude you for something so irrelevant and stupid. Every Friday you feel irritated getting ready for work, whether you even like jeans or not. Soon, you feel irritated at work in general. You start feeling like maybe this isn’t the place for you. That’s your employee. Give her the dang gift cards, and I’d suggest some wider damage control. If she felt fully valued, I doubt she’d still be talking about her birthday.

              1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                This. She’s asking for something that _everybody else_ at the company gets but she doesn’t for a dumb reason. Think about it as you would another tangible benefit: “Sorry, you can only get health insurance when it’s a leap year.” Does that sound reasonable? Of course not.

                I too wonder if there’s something else going on here.

              2. Khlovia*

                Or like this, LW3: Because of concerns about the depletion of the ozone layer, your company is very generously and prudently giving out expensive super-duper sunglasses to everyone in the company who has blue, green, gray, or hazel eyes. Because you are located in an area settled primarily by people from Scandinavia, this applies to everyone in the company. Except you, LW. You are the only person there with brown eyes. You don’t get the sunglasses. How do you feel about that? Oh, stop being so petty! It’s just sunglasses!

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Management’s rigidity here is disturbing. OP, I hope you put some serious thought into this, if this is how management perceives people then you are not in a good place yourself. At least there is hope for you because you realized that this might be a good question for Alison. But if this is how this company makes decisions, I would work with eyes wide open if it was me.

              1. Zynx*

                Please read NSNR’s note twice, LW!
                (Repeat as necessary.)
                How long have you worked at this place? Your manager is having a bad, very bad, possibly toxic, influence on you.

        4. Romana03*

          This times a million. They literally give other pepople not birthday days off, how i she not being disadvantaged, OMG.

          Also, I now have The Pirates of Penzance stuck in my head.

          “Years 21 I’ve been alive. Yet reckoning by my natal day… I am a little boy of 5!”

          1. FD*

            Literally why I clicked in.

            I mean, this is literally the plot of a comic musical. It’s not supposed to be something that actually happens!

          2. Nea*

            As a big G&S fan I wish I first thought of Penzance. But my first thought was a gobsmacked “The office can’t deny her a benefit given to the others if she was born with different color skin. The office can’t deny her a benefit given to the others if she was born into a different religion. But the office DOES deny her a benefit given to the others because she was born on a different day — and calls HER petty over the discrimination?”

          3. PB*

            I keep trying to re-write the Pirate King’s monologue:

            “For some ridiculous reason, some person in authority (I don’t know who; very likely the OP’s manager) decided, as a rule, a birthday a year is plenty. One employee in every many will have her birthdays reckoned quadrennially…”

          4. RabbitRabbit*

            Came here to look for this reference, was not disappointed.

            And yes, this is incredibly petty and mean on the part of the managers involved. Holy crap, sniffing that she doesn’t “have” a birthday every year and not getting why being stiffed a bonus and a day off is pretty awful?

          5. Candi*

            I Ctrl-F’d “Penzance” because I just knew someone would reference it! :)

            This makes me happy.

          6. Ellen Fremedon*

            This! If OP thinks that this employee only has a birthday every four years, then they must also think they’ve hired a six-year-old.

            1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

              So if the OP really wants to go the Full Penzance, they would be in violation of state child labor laws.
              Now that would be a fun complaint for their labor standards board….

      2. neverjaunty*

        This. It sounds like there is something else going on with the OP’s opinion of this employee – deciding everybody but her gets an annual benefit seems oddly hostile and the OP’s reasons don’t make sense.

        1. Myrin*

          Agreed. But OP, please also be aware that even if there isn’t actually anything else going on in your relationship with that employee, it will quite surely seem like it is to your other employees (unless they also think their coworker doesn’t actually have a birthday three years out of four).

          (Also, let me say that as someone who doesn’t care about her birthday, hasn’t ever taken the day off, or even really celebrates: I’d quit over this if I were your employee.)

          1. Sabine the Very Mean*

            That is what I came to say. I think I may even be a little grinch-y about adults and birthdays and often have to stifle a snarky comment when fellow adults make a big deal for their birthdays, especially at work but I too would quit over this.

              1. Candi*

                Maybe that’s part of the issue with us grinchy and don’t-care types -our parents made a big freaking deal every bloody year, and had a conniption when we wanted a smaller gathering. (Specifically, my social-climbing attention-seeking mother. In her case, these were bad things.)

                So we got our fill years ago.

                People who didn’t have the chance to celebrate birthdays growing up -they missed all that. And now that they can cover it themselves, why not have it?

                Happy early (late?) birthday to you, Ramona. Best wishes. :)

                1. Anony*

                  Although even if you don’t want it celebrated, you would probably want the gift card and extra day off of work.

                2. Aerin*

                  That’s a big part of why I’m kind of grinchy about Christmas: I worked at Disneyland. Full-tilt Christmas, every single day. For a solid two months. And I did it for three years. Basically a lifetime’s worth of Christmases, forever associated in my mind with the most insane crowds we got all year. Beat the merry and bright right out of me.

                3. Betsy*

                  I think it can go both ways too. I’m not a big birthday person because when I was growing up we were often quite poor and birthdays were inconsistent. I don’t think I ever had birthdays with no acknowledgement at all, and I did get a gift every year, but, yeah, I was never really sure what was going to happen. I’ll admit I do judge adults who go on about their ‘birthday week’ just a little.

            1. Kate*

              I’m definitely a birthday grinch because I go into anxiety mode about how another year has passed and have I even really accomplished anything in my life? But I would quit over this too. Or if I were a colleague to the woman being snubbed, I’d be questioning when it would be my turn to be treated equally as badly, because if such ridiculous logic can be applied to this situation, what’s to say it can’t be extended to another?

              1. Busibee*

                I love birthdays because to me, it’s another year that’s passed that I haven’t died, and that is honestly the greatest achievement and something I think is worth celebrating.

            2. Marie B.*

              I don’t really make a big deal of my birthday, but after the letter from the person who cried at work after having their birthday acknowledged (grew up in foster care and never had a birthday gift/acknowledgement once in their life) it gave me pause for thought and made me see why it is important for some people.

                1. Nic*

                  I’m not a birthday person, and I wept with happiness for that LW. Thank you for finding that link!

          2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            Yeaaahhhhh… I am not a bday person. At all. I definitely have judged other adults for making a huge thing out of their bday (not proud of that, and I’m trying to be better about it – just including it for context). I have no religiious or moral objections, I just don’t like making a big deal about birthdays. I think there are like 3 people, outside of family, that know when my birthday even is.

            All that said – I’d probably quite over this. Actively denying me a benefit that is available to every single other employee for a completely illogical reason would lead me to not have any sort of trust in the company/management.

            I don’t mean come down too hard on the OP. I would just really urge them to examine why exactly they’re so adament about this. Is there something else going on with this employee? Do they have a history of making petty complaints? Are you just irrationally rubbed the wrong way by them (hey – it totally happens! I have those people)? It just seems that there must be something else going on here.

          3. Specialk9*

            I also don’t expect anything for my birthday at work, and actually don’t even get the usual “how’s your day, it’s my birthday actually, oh happy birthday!” exchange, because of a standing holiday… And even *I* would quit over this triflin petty othering.

            1. einahpets*

              Yeah, my birthday is close to 4th of July so either people are all out on summer vacation or it falls on a weekend or just doesn’t come up. And that is OK with me.

              I would also find this policy upsetting and probably use it as an excuse to start looking!

              1. nonegiven*

                So is my son’s birthday. He likes to take off extra days or work remotely from here a day or two and make a week of it.

          4. LizB*

            I’d quit over this not because it relates to birthdays, but because it would show me that either my team lead and manager have a personal grudge against me, or they can’t logic their way out of a paper bag.

          5. TootsNYC*

            good point.

            One thing managers need to remember: When you treat one employee unfairly, the others NOTICE!

            And they mind. On her behalf, and preemptively on their own.

          6. anonymous as always*

            The LW and the manager are being very short-sighted here, not just in terms of the morale of this employee and her sticking around, but this does actually affect the rest of the employees in the company both in terms of morale and them sticking around too.
            What I see from the letter is the employee is making noise and pushing back against being excluded from a very clear company policy. This means that other employees are going to be aware of how she is being treated? Personally, I would be disgusted by an employer that would exclude an employee from a financial benefit based on a very ridiculous technicality and one that doesn’t even make sense. I would lose respect for the team lead and manager – in other words, my morale would significantly decrease due to this treatment and it would lead me to look for other employment. One where the employer valued ALL employees and treated them equally. I’d also assume that if they are this willing to treat this employee this way, they would be very willing to screw me as well given the opportunity.

          7. Not So NewReader*

            I agree I would serious start job hunting to see what came up.

            OP, you may not have any issues with this employee right at the moment. But you will find out in a bit that this employee does not trust you with the simplest of things. And her rationale will be that you will not let her have a company benefit that everyone else gets.
            Hopefully, she does not talk about it much with her cohorts because it could cause their view of you to get jaded too. “I didn’t think OP was like that. Guess I was wrong.”

          1. Leenie*

            I was reminded of the boss who wouldn’t give her report the day off for her graduation. I think that LW was even more of an outlier because she wanted to chase the poor woman down after she quit to criticize her. But the tone of absolute confidence in rightness and the desire to give a talking to to the employee feel similar to me.

            The thing that’s weirder about this one than the attractive employee one, or the one I referenced, is that this one is apparently a folie a deaux, since LW and her manager are aligned in their perspective.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “Dear Alison,
              My employer won’t let me have birthday benefits because my birthday is on a leap year. I asked politely but I think my boss thought I was childish for asking. Well I am young, it’s my first job out of school. What are my next steps?”

        1. darthvadersmom*

          It definitely feels like there is personal animus toward this employee. Maybe she’s annoying as all-getout, and impossible to like (though I suspect LW #3 is the problem, not her employee) – that still doesn’t make it okay to deny her benefits.

      3. Jesca*


        I don’t understand the logic of any of this. Not one part!

        1. Other employees don’t have to take it on their direct birthday if it falls on a weekend (soooo why can’t this woman’s birthday be treated this way)?
        2. It is not a work issue? People are getting additional pay and a extra day off – its work related.
        3. The assumption that someone born a leap year just doesn’t magically age every four years? Ludicrous.
        4. Calling her petty – demoralizing and extremely lacking in logic and solid judgement skills.

        If I were the woman OP was writing about, I would quit just because I cannot work with people who lack logic and rational thought. I mean think through this, OP! What the hell is bringing you to these conclusions?

        You are either retaliating because you don’t like her, or you work in one of those places that require such direct and unquestioning adherence to the set rules that you maybe are struggling with a bit of ambiguity? I don’t know, but I do know this is wrong on so many levels.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          It just shows an amazing (and amazingly unpleasant) rigidity. I mean, why do something nice for your employees and then spoil it by *completely unnecessary* edicts? It’s like…”I know, let’s do something nice for our employees. We’ll give them their birthday off and we’ll give them a little present. And if their birthday falls on a weekend or a holiday, we’ll let them take it another day. We’ll be very accommodating and nice…

          “Unless your birthday falls one Feb. 29. In that case, you are just sh*t out of luck.”

          I mean, who thinks that way? Birthdays aren’t a big deal for me, and I admit to smiling indulgently when other adults do make a big deal out of their birthdays. But fairness, rationality and not being petty *are* big deals for me. OP, you and your manager are soooooooo out of line here.

          1. SignalLost*

            I mean, here’s the thing – the company doesn’t care (I assume) if you use your birthday day off to celebrate by hosting a period murder mystery for seventy of your closest friends, then dive into a vat of cake with sparklers in your mouth or if you use it to clean the fridge. From the use perspective of the day off, the company has chosen to not give this employee a benefit. Even were this employee a person who doesn’t celebrate their birthday, it’s not as though you have to have a signed note from the guy playing Chuck E Cheese to prove you used your day off to celebrate your birthday, which makes op’s stance all the stranger. They are saying “everyone else gets sixteen days a year off. Except you. You only get fifteen.”

            1. Inspector Spacetime*

              “hosting a period murder mystery for seventy of your closest friends, then dive into a vat of cake with sparklers in your mouth”
              This is a hilarious comment, and an amazing idea that I’m going to note for next year’s birthday.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Seriously—my birthday planning is sorely lacking if it doesn’t include a period murder mystery for 70 + a vat of cake w/ mouth-sparklers!

                (Best. imagery. ever.)

        2. Kheldarson*

          What really gets me is the idea that this is petty. Either it’s petty so why does the firm bother with the perk (or argue the point) or it’s not so why are they excluding her?

          And if we work off a firm of 100 people with a $20 gift card and $10 cake and minimum wage, that’s almost $10k in perks and benefits (2k if we drop to a firm of 20). One person is going to break the bank that much?

    5. essEss*

      I agree. She is losing employee benefits. You wouldn’t tell her to stop complaining if she was denied the company health insurance benefit based on the reasoning that nobody knows who is using it anyway so “she’s not missing out on anything”.

      1. Faith*

        I was just thinking – what if she had started her job on Feb 29th and some of her benefits (like stock options or 401k match) vested on her 4th work anniversary. Does this mean she would have had to work there for 16 years to become fully vested?

        1. Anon for this*

          My work anniversary is Feb. 29 and I can’t wait to see how our HR manages to screw something up because they think I only have an “anniversary” every 4 years! I haven’t yet had an anniversary here so I haven’t seen any ill effects from it, yet.

              1. Oryx*

                Not if her work anniversary is February 29th. The last one of those was, as Stormy pointed out, in 2016. She should have had an anniversary in 2017.

                1. EvilQueenRegina*

                  Anon might have started that job on February 29th 2016, therefore an anniversary hasn’t come up yet. That was how I read it.

                2. Oryx*

                  EvilQueenRegina, right, but it’s like the birthday thing in the OP: just because that actual date — February 29 — has not appeared on the calendar since 2016, Anon would have been at that same job on Feb 28 / March 1, 2017 and, thus, has had an anniversary. That’s where some of us are confused.

    6. Lissa*

      I summarized #3 to my dad and he quietly nodded, and then said, “well, if they want to celebrate every four years, they can give her four days off together, four times the gift card…” I think he’s onto something there!

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly she’s not in indentures with terribly written clauses in them. This is outrageous and so far she’s missed out on at least two days off and two gift cards, those are actual tangible benefits.

      2. MonicaLane*

        Except then she would have to stay there 4 years to get a single benefit. And if she left the company in between her 4 year celebrations she would be missing out on the years she got no birthday.

        They need to just treat this like they do when other employees birthdays fall on a weekend.

      3. Feline Fine*

        Exactly what I was going to say. She deserves 4 times the days off, 4 times the gift card, and a cake 4 times bigger than anyone else. Assuming she doesn’t quit before then.

    7. Fake Eleanor*

      What I really don’t understand are these two statements:
      She “is not one of the people the cake acknowledges”
      But: “The cake is put in the lunchroom without fanfare for anyone that wants some”
      Given that … are you actually making a point of telling her that she’s not included with the February birthdays when the February cake is put out? If so, I know who in this situation is truly petty.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        “The firm doesn’t single out or publicly name anyone that has a birthday” but she “is not one of the people the cake acknowledges”? OPs contradictions highlight the illogical and inconsistent behaviour and thinking here. Like one of the other commenters, I can’t help wondering whether OP has a personal issue with this unfortunate employee because this reads as pretty blatant… anti-favouritism?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          She doesn’t lose anything but everyone else gets cake, card and a day off. This makes no sense. Of course she is losing something.

          The biggest thing she has lost is the respect of her bosses. And that is much, much worse than losing one day off.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              In the process of seeing her bosses’ lack of respect for her, she’ll decided to reciprocate the sentiment.

              We are both right on this one!;)

        2. teclatrans*

          I should probably read down-thread to see if this gets explored, but I find myself thinking less of animus and more of a truly toxic workplace where the boss has twisted OP’s ability to see right from wrong and up from down. Imagine the scorn coming first from the boss, which the OP then takes up is a yes-man (Stockholm Syndrome) way.

          In any event, I really hope this woman who is being gaslighted about her birthday moves on soon and gets away from the toxicity? whether it is systematic or just this one inexplicable bit of illogic and ruthlessness.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I was assuming that either there’s a sign, or the cake has writing on it. “Happy Birthday Sara, James, & Carol! (But Not Marcia; It’s Not REALLY Her Birthday This Year)”

      3. This Daydreamer*

        I think I’d have a little fun with the cake – put her first name on the February cake and her last name on the March cake or something like that. It’s the smallest part of this but it still has to hurt to be deliberately left out.

        And OP3, make no mistake, you are deliberately leaving her out, both publicly and with the benefits, and there’s no reason to. One of her first lessons in the working world shouldn’t be that she doesn’t matter and doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else simply because of the day she was born. You already have a system in place for people whose birthdays come on a day when there’s no work, so do the same thing for her.

        1. Bryce*

          It’s every four years, so if their name’s Mercurio then Me goes on the first cake and rcurio on the next.

        2. Koko*

          What a cute idea! Or doing something unusual like putting her name on the cake in 2016 but then putting her name on a mini-pie the next three years – “it’s not exactly the same, but it still counts!”

          Man, you could actually have so much fun with this instead of being a jagweed about it.

      4. Oryx*

        At my old job, we had a staff calendar that included birthdays. I put the calendar together but would get the birthdays from our admin. I wonder if it’s a situation like that? (I also can’t remember if we had any Leap Day birthdays the one year it fell while I was still working there. I hope not, I’d be horrified to think someone’s got missed like that.)

        1. Natalie*

          But you’d think if it was just an oversight they would have remedied it and not tried to paint the employee as petty and unreasonable?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Q;”When can I get on the health insurance plan?
            A;”Stop being petty and unprofessional.”

            OP, think. This is WHO you work for. Think.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          But if someone had spoken up and said, “Hey, I’m being left off the birthday calendar”, y’all would have included them, I presume, and not said, basically, “Well, your birthday doesn’t count [exist].”

    8. sacados*

      True. It sounds like LW and her boss are getting caught up on the recognition and cake aspect of it. And yes, I can sort of see how that could be seen as focusing overly on something not important (the cake is there, available for her to eat the same as anyone else, regardless of whether it’s “for” her or not). It would suck to be left out of that, but in some more conservative industries it could easily be frowned on to push back too hard.
      But the big big problem is that’s not the only thing going on. There are actual concrete, monetary benefits here that every single other employee is getting and this one is not.
      The only way they could justify it is something like “you only get a day off if your birthday falls on a working day that year” with no substitutes for weekend or office holiday birthdays.
      Just because the employee is young and inexperienced doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a valid concern.

      1. Becca*

        Even if it were “you only get a day off if your birthday falls on a working day that year” I’d expect them to choose March 1 or February 28 as a stand in so she had the same number as other people. (And I assume people who don’t get the day off would still get the gift card, so there’s that.)

      2. Engineer Woman*

        I’m amazed OP #3 didn’t come to the realization as he/she was writing this up….oh, wait: not getting an extra day off and not getting a gift card IS LOSING OUT ON SOMETHING!

        I really hope OP reads these comments and retroactively gives employee the missed benefits from past years, because I am outraged on behalf of the employee.

    9. FeralCattz*

      I’m rather concerned about the employee born on a leap year. Since her birthdays only happen once every four years, assuming the year of her birth was less than 72 years ago, there is a distinct risk of running afoul of child labor laws.

      1. TyB*

        Worse than that! Do they have happy hour at work and let her participate? Contributing to the delinquency of a minor! Have they reported her significant other to the police as a predator? Even worse! Have they reported her previous employment for child labor? They are in trouble all over with this one!! Better hope she doesn’t ever start dating a coworker (or worse get harassed by one) now they are employing a child predator! Wait…this is all obviously ridiculous…..

    10. Casuan*

      OP, be fair to all of your employees. How you handle what you term a petty concern…? Her concern is not petty. She is not asking for extra perks, she simply wants one of the perks that the company offers. She is being singled out, rather than being told “You’re right & we’re sorry you’ve missed out. We’ll sort it out.”
      Instead, you’re basically telling your employee that she can’t have her birthday because the computer can’t do that. Blaming the computer or a programme as the cause of why one can’t do something is *never* a valid excuse.
      Probably your staff is taking note, which can have consequences that affect morale. At the least you’ve already affected your employee’s morale as well as your own.

      Please apologise to your employee & retro these particular benefits. If possible (& if you believe it) also tell your manager that you’ve changed your stance & that the company owes this employee the same perks as everyone else. If you don’t have a personal change of heart, at minimum ensure that your employees receive this generous perk.
      And please update us!

      1. LKW*

        Agreed – if you were to tell someone else in the office that they were only to receive 25% of a standing benefit that everyone else in the office received – how would that play out? You can easily rectify this and apologize to her.

      2. Sarah M*

        OP3: I’ve worked for places that have arbitrarily laid down the the law in some seriously stupid ways (such as this one), and then dug their collective heels in when questions were asked, or logical issues/inconsistencies pointed out. It’s one thing to put a policy into place without considering every conceivable issue. It’s quite another to stamp your foot and insist that something so easily remedied cannot – just CANNOT – be changed in any way whatsoever Because Policy. You may think this settles it, but all it really does is confirm any suspicions that the higher-ups can’t be trusted to navigate their way out of a wet paper bag. Is *this* the impression you and your management team are trying to give your employees? I can guarantee you it will backfire on you.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I agree, OP and Big Boss owe the employee a formal apology. And they could probably gift her belated for the time and gift cards she missed out on.

    11. Ramona Flowers*

      Okay you know what #3 reminds me of, because of the part about inexperience? It reminds me of the formerly homeless foster kid who quit after being refused the day off for their graduation. That boss was concerned about their employee’s supposed inexperience, too.

      Here’s the thing, LW3: this IS a work issue. She’s missing out on paid days off and those add up to a lot of hours. She’s being singled out because of an accident of birth and, like, calendars. But also, the thing about teaching someone work norms and etiquette is that sometimes you have to give in order to get. Things like goodwill and respect can’t just be demanded or assumed – you have to earn them.

      You are signalling to this employee that she is less-than. It’s not inexperience, or distraction, to take that personally – it’s just human. It’s really deeply unkind to leave one person out in this way and not include them or show any empathy. I’m left wondering why you’re so quick to agree with your boss and if perhaps you’ve been working in a toxic environment and have lost sight of what is normal?

      Because this isn’t normal, which is why so many people are railing against it. What kind of boss – and indeed person – do you want to be? Is your stance on this situation truly a reflection of that? Why do you new to make it okay that she’s being left out?

      I once started a job where every new staff member got their own purple teapot. I eagerly looked forward to getting mine. Nope. Didn’t happen. My manager told me if I really felt I needed one I could ask to borrow someone else’s. I was really not happy about that. Not because I cared about having a purple teapot (though if it was a day off I would have very much cared) but because I was the only person who didn’t get one and it made me feel singled out and excluded.

      She gets older every year, like you. But also she is a person, like you. I wonder if there’s a reason why you’re trying to make her not be one.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I’m reminded of the movie Office Space, and poor Milton who was told to keep passing the cake slices along and ended up not getting one at all.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I thought of exactly that same letter, Ramona Flowers. It appears to be precisely the same combination of completely misguided loyalty to The Rules at the expense of a good employee plus a desire to “help out” a younger employee by showing her the error of her ways – even though that employee is actually not in error.

            It’s amazing to me that someone can do something so blatantly unfair, all in the name of fairness.

      2. Amelia*

        Yes, this absolutely reminded me of that letter too, where the letter writer clearly thinks everyone will obviously agree with them about their employee being out of touch with work norms or immature. Meanwhile we are all sitting here horrified at the letter writer’s cluelessness.

      3. Jen S. 2.0*

        This also reminded me of the office in another letter where, when Christmas fell on a Sunday one year, the employees were upset that they had to work on Monday. That particular cheap and petty boss noted that they WERE getting Christmas off. (Meanwhile, THIS particular cheap and petty boss absolutely deserves to have people rail against her. I can see quitting over this.)

        1. Just Employed Here*

          To be fair, that one sounds completely normal to me: Public holidays fall on the days they fall, and some years are “better” than others in this sense.

          1. Myrin*

            It is like that in my country but if I remember correctly from when that issue last came up here, it’s not actually that way in the US? Like, say there are ten public holidays that year, then employees will be getting ten paid days off, whether any of the actual holidays fall on a weekend or not. I might be misremembering, though.

            1. Miri*

              It’s the same in the UK as well – if New Year’s Day (which is a bank/public holiday) falls on a Sunday, Monday would be observed as the day off.

            2. The Cosmic Avenger*

              In the US, there are no *mandatory* holidays, but it’s simply customary to give certain holidays off, and to consider that as part of the benefit package (probably since paid leave is not mandatory in much of the US). And so yes, most office-based employers will list the “official” holidays for that workplace, and if that holiday falls on a weekend, the company will give the employees that Friday or Monday off. (We also have some, like Memorial Day, Labor Day, President’s Day, and even Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, that by definition are always officially observed on a Monday, probably because of this custom.)

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                We (UK) don’t have mandatory holidays… but they are generally observed and are part of your legal entitlement. A full-time employee must get a minimum of 28 days’ holiday a year – most businesses will close for the 8 bank holidays* – so you’re entitled to 8 bank holidays + 20 floating holidays. But if your work doesn’t close on bank holidays, you get 28 floating (minimum).

                (Most companies give more than the minimum – 22 days + bank holidays isn’t unusual for entry level, and where I am now I started at 25 + bank, and am now at 27 + bank)

                *Scotland gets 9 (St Andrew’s day) and often effectively 10 as they get 2nd January instead of Good Friday, but a lot of people close Good Friday too.

                1. Grant Us Eyes*

                  Northern Ireland gets St Patrick’s Day and the Twelfth of July… One of the few perks of our wee country!

                2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Ah. I don’t want to get too sidetracked here, but in the US our paid leave is usually separate from our paid holidays. Paid holidays are what you are calling bank holidays, and leave or vacation are “floating holidays”.

                  To make it more confusing, I know some US companies offer all three: specific paid holidays (“bank holidays” like New Year’s and Christmas), X days/weeks vacation leave, and a smaller number (usually only a handful) of “floating holidays”, which are usually given when the company offers fewer fixed holidays. They’re usually intended for smaller, less celebrated holidays or religious holidays.

                  And there’s no nationwide legal entitlement to any of those, although some states are just recently requiring employers to offer a minimum amount of sick leave (separate from all of the above).

                  If anyone’s curious about specifics (not to argue what’s good or bad or better or worse, but just to understand how different countries handle these matters differently, or even just to clear up how the wording might vary), what say we pick it up in the Friday Open Thread, rather than keep this tangent going?

            3. Allison*

              Pretty much this. It’s not uncommon to give people a Friday or Monday off if an observed holiday falls on a weekend. That said, sometimes a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, and people get the day before or after off as well, effectively giving them a 4-day weekend, and then maybe that means they don’t get a “deferred” day off for a different holiday that falls on a weekend.

            4. Koko*

              Yes and no. The federal government observes 10 holidays each year, which includes observing any holidays that fall on a weekend on the nearest Monday.

              Private businesses are not required to keep any holidays, but banks are always closed on observed federal holidays, and it’s extremely common for other private companies to give the same ten days as well. It definitely comes off Scrooge-esque if an employer gives the ten holidays in some years, but fewer in years when the holidays fall on weekends, because of that context where observing on Monday is so common.

              The main exception is front-line service and retail, where about half the federal holidays (MLK Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day) are big sale weekends with more staff required, and about half the federal holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, Fourth of July) many stores will be closed or have shortened hours.

          2. Tammy*

            My company compensates for that thusly: If one of our company holidays falls on a Saturday, you get the Friday off. If it falls on a Sunday, you get the Monday off. This year, because Christmas Eve fell on Sunday (and thus we’d get the Monday off, but Christmas is also a holiday), we got a four-day weekend (Friday-Monday) instead.

            Slavish adherence to “the rules” without recognizing the impact on your team almost always produces bad results. And, if you’re in a leadership role, part of what you’re being paid for is your ability to exercise judgment when the situation arises.

            1. Autumnheart*

              My (retail) company does not alter the company holiday schedule if a holiday falls on a weekend. You get New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. If any of those falls on a weekend, then oh well. And for that matter, if it’s the holiday season you may very well be working on the holiday itself, because it’s peak shopping season. (You are definitely not getting Black Friday off.) Taking PTO at that time is like a CPA taking PTO in mid-April: it’s possible, but you better plan well in advance and availability is very limited. We do try to button things up so that people can enjoy the day off, but that’s just how it works in retail. Most people take their longer vacations in the spring and summer to balance it out.

              By contrast, when I worked for large banks, we got every federal holiday off, plus a ton of PTO that was use-or-lose. If you want to have a lot of time off, work for a bank.

            2. nonegiven*

              Dh’s work got the Tuesday after Christmas. It made sense to give the day after as a travel day instead of the Friday before. Some people may have had to drive all day Monday to get back for work on Tuesday. Next year I don’t think they’ll be able to justify that. It will be Monday and Tuesday, too bad, so sad.

      4. Observer*

        It reminds me of the formerly homeless foster kid who quit after being refused the day off for their graduation. That boss was concerned about their employee’s supposed inexperience, too.

        Good point! I was trying to put my finger on why this was just so off kilter – more than just denying someone tangible benefits, which is bad enough. This is definitely a good part of it.

        OP #3 – this is NOT about inexperience or work norms, and if you say that to anyone who hasn’t drunk your boss’ kool-aid, they are NOT going to be impressed.

        1. nonegiven*

          A formerly homeless, foster kid who worked her way through a degree and didn’t even ask for the whole day off for graduation, just a couple of hours for the ceremony.

      5. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was reminded of that letter. Seriously OP#3, rethink your stance on this very carefully. Just because she’s young and inexperienced doesn’t mean she’s automatically wrong and you are automatically right.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Just because she’s young and inexperienced doesn’t mean she’s automatically wrong and you are automatically right.

          Please can we have this inserted into every management information documentation ever!

      6. MommyMD*

        Imo LW has it in for Leap Year employee. She needs to be honest with herself. This is not how adults behave. There’s more to this.

        1. SallytooShort*

          I think it’s also just possible that she’s over-indentifying with her manager.

          Nothing to this level of WTFery but when I was at my old lawfirm I would find myself empathizing with partners who were by any objective standard just totally irrational, petty and plain old mean. But, even though they were awful to others, I had a good enough relationship with them and could find myself justifying their actions.

          Of course, I woke up and realized how toxic that mindset was. But I can see how this can happen. It’s possible the LW thinks the manager is right just because she’s accustomed to making excuses and rationalizing her manager’s poor behavior.

      7. Frog & Bunny*

        I worked as an office assistant for a place where the boss bought a fancy cupcake for employees on their birthday, which was given to them along with a signed card during our weekly meetings. My BD is early July. I started working there in August. After July comes around again, guess who didn’t get a cupcake? (I think I got the card, thanks to the wonderful secretary who arranged that aspect of the whole thing)
        It wasn’t until late July when a coworker’s BD occured that I got a cupcake along with him. I *think* the typical birthday song was sung then too, not sure. (It would have been to both of us simultaneously, i.e. “Happy Birthday to Jane and Fergus”)
        My point being: I don’t even like the birthday song, I don’t like the attention, but it was the principle of the thing that mattered. It felt to me like they either forgot or didn’t care enough to make sure I had my birthday song and cupcake near my actual birthday, and instead kinda slid my celebration in last minute with Fergus’s.
        I’m not trying to compare my plight with leap year employee’s, (at least I got my recognition) rather, I mean to say that if I still remember that event and how minorly slighted I felt, imagine poor leap year employee’s feelings. I want to go give her a hug, and a cupcake. :(

        1. Stormy*

          I once worked a job at which employees got their birthday off, but mine fell within the first six months of my start date (as it would for 50% of people, I imagine). They claimed I was still on probation, and couldn’t have the day. I lasted less than a year–that was only the first symptom of the petty dysfunction at that place.

          1. nonegiven*

            I’ve been a temp and a probationary employee. No health insurance, no paid holidays. We’d get it off because they closed, just not paid.

        2. AsItIs*

          My boss had a small office birthday party (6-8 ppl) for his favorite, with cake and champagne(!). Turns out favorite boy and I share the same birthday. When this information was made known to all, I walked out of the meeting room. Everyone knew that boss didn’t care about the other employees, only favorite, but it was still humiliating to ‘celebrate’ someone else’s birthday when mine was ignored. :(

      8. Lisa*

        YES! It reminded me of the foster kid graduation thing too. That manager was totally clueless about how important it was for her.

      9. Peggy*

        Not only did it remind me of the graduation letter, I immediately pulled it up and read them side by side because they sound like they’re written by the same person. Only the letter writer would know if that’s true, but they feel like they’re written by a character – the same character.

        Both are an outrageous situation, told from the perspective of the antagonist rather than the protagonist. The letter writer is so obviously wrong, and the treatment of the subject of the letter is so dehumanizing and cruel that it feels like a cartoon villain. A Cinderella’s stepmother type – I have the right to mistreat this kid, take her home from her, destroy her beloved belongings, make her a slave, abuse and humiliate her – and tell her she should be LUCKY we even do all that, because she’s an ORPHAN, am I right?!

        We only give her 1/4th of the same benefits as the other employees because she’s young and entitled and has a rare birthday, and tell her she shouldn’t complain about it because she’s young and inexperienced and she’s lucky we even let her work here, am I right?!?!

        The situation is so obvious to literally every person who reads it, there’s no alternate reading of it or “well let me put myself in the letter writer’s shoes.” That’s why it reads as not real – it sounds fictional to me, the same way the graduation one did. (Of COURSE I’m letting the other person go to a concert the same time as I’m not letting this one go to her graduation, I mean, she PAID for her TICKET!! Am I right?!) It’s so truly absurd that it just sounds like a person wanted to rile up the comments section.

        I know we’re not supposed to come here and suggest that letters are fake, but I have a very hard time believing this one (and the graduation one, for that matter), because they have the same incredulous tone like “I’m mistreating this person and she has the nerve to be upset about it” and even use similar language and style of setting up the situation, justifying the behavior, and framing the question – which is ultimately the same question! I did this horrible thing to a great employee and she’s upset about it, and I’m seeking advice on how to tell her she’s young and unprofessional and petty and won’t get anywhere if she advocates for herself.

        Grad letter:
        Even though she doesn’t work here any longer, I want to reach out and tell her that quitting without notice because she didn’t get her way isn’t exactly professional. I only want to do this because she was an otherwise great employee, and I don’t want her to derail her career by doing this again and thinking it is okay. She was raised in a few dozen different foster homes and has no living family…Since she’s never had anyone to teach her professional norms, I want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. What do you think is the best way for me to do this?

        Birthday letter:
        She has only worked here for two years and was hired straight out of university. I want to tell her that she should be focusing on work issues and not something as small as a birthday. If she had a complaint about a work issue it would be different. How do I frame my discussion with her without making her feel bad or like she is trouble? Her work is good and I am sure the complaint is just borne of inexperience and I don’t want to penalize her for it.

        I’ll probably get in trouble for this comment, I KNOW the rules, we’re not supposed to say letters are fakes. But these are so similar even in style of language, I just can’t believe either one of them!

        1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          Dear Prudence has a sort of recurring catchphrase along these lines: “Reflect on whether what you are doing sounds like something the villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie would do. If so, stop doing that thing.” (My Reese Witherspoon knowledge is not extensive, but this is movie-villain behavior for sure.)

          1. CarrieT*

            I can’t read Dear Prudence anymore because the letters are so outlandish as to all seem contrived/fabricated. I love AAM because it’s (mostly) clear that real people are writing in.

            1. Peggy*

              Agreed. I LOVE advice columns but I lose interest when the tone of the letters starts feeling fabricated.

              I think some of my comments have been misconstrued – I don’t doubt that this type of situation has happened or could happen, I don’t doubt the existence of bad bosses and abusive people and rigid corporate rules that make no sense and harm people. All of this could be very real!

              I just had doubts about the validity of this particular letter due to the language and structure and tone similarities when compared against the one from 2016. That makes me less interested in being a frequent reader and commenter, if things start feeling fictional.

              I’m in love with this site and have a ton of respect for Alison’s work and advice and moderation of the forum – I just would stop reading if we started seeing more of these outrageous type letters because they might be a little entertaining but they don’t help me become a better employee, manager, or person through reading them!

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I do think all advice columnists get punked every now and then, although if I think a letter if likely fake, I won’t print it. But I can’t say with any confidence that one has never slipped through! That said, I’m not too worried if it turns out that I occasionally get fooled, as long as the advice and discussion are useful to other people. (It sounds like you’re saying that this one isn’t useful to you, which I totally respect — but I hope it’s useful to others in some way, if only to reinforce to less experienced managers that they can push back on this kind of silliness from their own managers.)

                1. Peggy*

                  I really respect this comment and your site, Alison. I think it’s one of the best places on the internet and you run it with a ton of integrity. So even if I’m annoyed by the tone of a few letters here and there, that’s not about you. Thank you for hosting us, and these discussions, as always!

                2. EvilQueenRegina*

                  Even if a letter is fake, if the advice in it can help someone who’s worried about a similar issue, it’s still worth printing. Take that letter from the guy who sent his boss to Italy instead of Florida – a lot of people were calling April Fools on that one and/or actually looking at flights to see how feasible it was to make that specific mistake. But if that letter made one person check more carefully when booking a flight and avoid doing something like that, then it was worth printing whether it was a fake or not.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  Agreeing EQRegina. For every person who writes in there are probably a dozen people reading who face a similar quandary. These folks figure out what to do with their quandary by running parallels between the two settings.

                  Additionally, I have seen many personalities over the years. People like this are real. Some where there is a boss quietly reading and saying, “Oh, so I actually should not do this to my employee??! Okay, then.”

            2. All Hail Queen Sally*

              I am a senior citizen and I can clearly state that the expression “truth is stranger than fiction” is oh so true. I have lived long enough and seen so much that very little surprises me any more.

        2. ExcelJedi*

          Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the most abusive and self-centered people are also very good at convincing themselves that they’re not only right, but kind & generous as well. Having been in close relationships with people like this, I believe more exist. I think many survivors of abuse recognize these kinds of personalities.

          1. Peggy*

            I don’t doubt the existence of people who do this sort of stuff. It’s more of the way it’s packaged up that feels disingenuous, if that makes sense. Like someone writing a story from the perspective of a villain and hitting all of the touchpoints and using storytelling language rather than a bad boss not realizing they’re a bad boss and asking a legit question.

            Again. I have no way of knowing what’s real and what’s not. I was just struck by the similarities in the 2 letters in terms of tone, structure, language, and ultimately the same question.

            Haven’t read through all the comments yet – is the LW commenting?

            1. CarrieT*

              I agree with you. The way they are written has a tone like they were crafted by a writer, not a boss.

            2. Observer*

              Well, I’ve heard this kind of self justifying language. Not in this particular type of case, but in others.

              As I noted in another letter, there seems to be a focus on proving that the person is getting “uppity”.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Agreed – this has, to me, a very realistic tone of someone who’s wildly out of touch with reality, feels utterly entitled to treat others poorly based on their own logic of who “deserves” it, and is genuinely outraged at the suggestion that they are anything less than a paragon of fairness and justice, and are looking for someone to validate them and reassure them that “No, you’re absolutely a wonderful and perfect person who can do no wrong. The other person is the one being unreasonable about this.”

                My parents divorced while my brother was a teenager – I was out of the house by then – and had agreed to try to amicably “co-parent” him through those last couple years of high school. But because my father is a controlling, abusive jerk, his idea of “co-parent” was “I will tell you how I want situations handled, and you will do as I tell you.” And he used to get SO ANGRY with my mother for not just following his instructions! He would want to vent to me, and I remember actually asking him once “Do you not hear yourself or something? Do you really not understand how much of a jerk this makes you sound like, even though you’re the one telling the story?”

                I think this sounds very similar to the graduation boss simply because in those kinds of people, there are certain patterns of thought and mannerism and self-justification that are very common. So I don’t think it’s at all strange to find it manifesting in very similar ways in two different cases. There are, I’m sure, far more than two self-justifying managers out there. It doesn’t seem like a stretch that two out of hundreds or thousands or more would wind up writing in with something like this.

                1. SebbyGrrl*

                  Well said and explained, thank you :)

                  This is close to what I was thinking.

                  We can see from the teapot story and others the crazy stuff that happens in workplaces around birthday acknowledgement.

                  I’ve got 2 or 3 of my own.

                  I have no doubt this could me a real letter.

            3. Rainy*

              My mother could have written this letter–either of them, really–so it doesn’t seem odd to me at all.

            4. Peter the Bubblehead*

              I think the tone of the letter also has a lot in common with the Casual Clothes interns who thought it very unfair that the company they were working at fired them all instead of agreeing that the interns should be allowed to wear more casual outfits just because they wanted to. Some people are just very tone deaf to their own voices.

        3. Sadie*

          I know what you mean about the letters sounding similar and this to you ‘fake’ but as someone who has been exposed to a lot of very toxic people I felt that misses a crucial point.

          The reason many toxic comments and behaviours sound so alike is because toxic people are actually such stereotypical shells of people who lack any of the nuance of ‘normal’ people. They are like the barest bones of the same cliched abusive behaviours and simply cannot branch out any further than the same controlling insistence they are right and everyone else is wrong.

          For me realising that these terrible people I knew (mainly family but also friends) were actually as shallow as a puddle rather than the raging ocean I thought they were took their power away and I noticed how unoriginal they were using the same phrases as each other to prop up their hollowness.

          They tend to think they are so unique as to be incredible and really they are barely one dimensional. The problem is that their nastiness gets obscured by their vapidness for people who don’t see the coded language and behaviours. Their actions are fake. The harm they do is not.

          1. The Strand*

            Thank you for your perceptive comment. The things I’ve seen during my tenure do follow the “Reese Witherspoon villain rule”, as you describe it – people doing dastardly things from a very vapid, self-absorbed position.

          2. All Hail Queen Sally*

            Oooooooh! I agree completely, Sadie! Years ago, I was in a verbally abusive relationship and after I left, and would discuss my situation with other women, I was amazed to discover that so many of the things he said and did were identical to things other abusers said and did–verbatim–like they had all attended the same weekend seminar! At the time, I remember being amazed and wondering how that could be. These days, I recognize them for the “red flags”they were.

        4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

          Peggy, I am not familiar with the other letter, but upon reading #3, like you, I was in immediate disbelief of the situation because of the complete illogic. It is difficult to imagine any employer denying broad-based benefits and compensation (day off and gift card) to everyone except a Leap Year baby.

          1. Specialk9*

            People who very much want to hurt someone often have to put a public facade over that cruel impulse. They often work so hard to convince others that they convince themselves on some level. I have seen enough of this to recognize both OPs, and believe that this could be real.

        5. Kathleen_A*

          Here’s the thing: Even if these two specific letters are fake, it doesn’t really matter because the *issues* are absolutely real. There are managers out there who feel and exhibit exactly the same pettiness as is revealed in these two letters. They probably justify that pettiness better, at least when talking to other people, but they are truly that petty.

          I’ve known people who would say, or at least think, “If your official birth date is Feb. 29, you are just SOL during non-Leap Years.”

          And I’ve definitely – oh, sooooo definitely – known managers whose reaction to someone who wanted to take part of a day off for her hard-won college graduation would be “If you can find someone to fill in for you, fine. If not, you too are SOL.”

          And I’ll bet you have, too, Peggy.

          To me, the important thing is the issue. And the issue is legitimate even if the letter is, for example, written by someone who is secretly trying to convince us all to support the other side instead of the apparent OP.

          1. beanie beans*

            I feel like situations could get to this point when coworkers get to a BEC point. Where a work relationship has gotten so toxic that anything the person does, no matter how minor, looks outrageous or annoying. There’s a point where the angry person can’t see reality anymore.

        6. Spider*

          These letters make me think of M. Scott Peck’s book “The People of the Lie,” which is about exploring human evil, usually in the form of malignant narcissism. Peck is a psychiatrist, and one of the anecdotes he tells early in the book is about a husband and wife who had had two sons — a golden-child son who had recently committed suicide with a gun and another son whom they treated like garbage. At one point as they’re regaling Peck with reasons why their second son is such a worthless ungrateful brat (with the son sitting right next to them on the therapy couch, nearly catatonic with depression), they reveal that they gave the boy for Christmas the same gun that his brother had used to kill himself and he had ~the nerve!!~ to not be delighted with this awesome gift they were so generous to give him.

          The situations of OP #3 and the boss who wouldn’t let her employee attend her graduation are obviously less malevolent than the one Peck describes, but there’s a similar lack of empathy and lack of self-awareness in the LWs that are blinding them to how unfair, unprofessional, and unkind they’re being to their employees. The reason that this comment section is full of “OP #3, WTF???” is precisely because that mindset is so abnormal and yet people with this mindset can’t discern that for themselves.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Mrs. Turpin could not understand why the cops were upset that her kid was handcuffed to furniture.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            OMG, that anecdote is so abhorrent that I literally gasped in horror.

            People who do cruel things often convince themselves it’s not cruel or that it’s caring. I don’t know if this letter is fake or not—oftentimes I wish some of the letters were fake just to spare others from the misery of living through what’s happening in the letter. But I don’t think they’re as outlandish as many of us would want to believe.

        7. Business Socks*

          With both this letter and the graduation letter, I get this vague suspicion that the events described in the letter DID happen, but that the letter writer is actually the employee, not the boss. It’s like they want to be sure they aren’t crazy at feeling so mistreated so they write from the other POV.

          Then again, other commenters are correct that toxic people often lack the smallest amount of self-awareness so perhaps I am over thinking.

          1. Peggy*

            YES. I have wondered this as well. They almost sound like real situations but fictionalized to make a bigger impact.

            You kind of nailed something that I was abstractly thinking and didn’t get across in my other comments. That’s really it. Like a dramatized retelling of something that happened, but from the perspective of the other guy – to evoke a certain type of response.

            I am reading through the comments and seeing people’s points about how truly toxic some people can be and really relating to this type of situation so I can recognize that I must have some bias here. I’ve got a few very difficult people in my personal and professional life but not much experience with “outrageous” situations like this so it did feel like of wild to me. But what I’m seeing here is that a lot of people do have experiences that have led them to read this differently than me, so I appreciate reading the discussion here. I enjoy a conversation that starts out with me feeling like I know exactly what I think, then I see things a different way as the conversation progresses.

        8. nonegiven*

          Ikr? But there really are people that clueless and insensitive. I’ve met plenty of people like that, I don’t know how they would handle these two particular situations but the pettiness and cluelessness shines through when they speak.

        9. Katherine*

          YESSS. This letter did immediately remind me of the graduation letter and the biggest WTF about both letters is that the LW painstakingly lays out the case against them!!! (For this letter, the explanation that employees with weekend birthdays get to take the birthday holiday on another day; and for the graduation letter, the other employee who got the day off because he’d spent money on concert tickets.) Like, let me torpedo my own case here.

      10. Luna*

        This is a really important point that LW seems to be missing. No matter how small something is, no one wants to be the only one left out.

        At my current job (been here about 1 year) everyone in my department gets at least a card for their birthdays, and sometimes the managers will bring in food and we’ll get together to surprise the birthday person (it is inconsistent in terms of the food, which is not great, but it’s not the end of the world and they always at least acknowledge the birthday with a card). But for some reason my birthday was the only one that they did nothing for- not even a card. On the one hand it doesn’t really matter, but it still doesn’t feel great that I’m the only person they couldn’t be bothered to do even that one small thing for.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Right on about being left out. I got a special company pen at work. It was monogrammed with my name. Another person wanted one and never got it. I did not make the other person feel better by showing them that the monogramming was poorly done and the pen did not write. All this person could see is that they did not get a pen. I threw my pen away.

      11. Parenthetically*

        Yeah the “she’s so inexperienced and doesn’t realize getting arbitrarily screwed over by a boss who is thoughtless to an almost unbelievable degree is a normal part of work life” made me think of the same boss you’re thinking of, Ramona. I genuinely want to shake OP3.

      12. Syzygy*

        That happened to me once. The radio station I worked at announced that all employees would get a station-branded leather jacket. They sent out order forms for sizes and everything. I was the only one who didn’t get one. I asked about it, and they told me that it was only for employees who had been there a year. Except a) they didn’t say that in the announcement, or when I sent in my form, and b) I had been there for 11 months and three weeks. They could have decided to just order me one anyway, and earn some goodwill. But they dug their heels in and refused to give me one. That and other petty little things they did made me feel unappreciated and undervalued, and I quit not long after that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And you were right to quit because that small problem was reflective of other larger problems.

          PS I am sorry that happened to you, but I am glad you got out.

      13. teclatrans*

        Aw, this is so kindly written, Ramona Flowers. And I really think “toxic setting/boss and lost sense of what’s normal/ethical/human” seems like the most likely explanation. Especially with the gaslighting and twisted logic going on here, I am inclined to think it’s the boss’s logic and OP might really want to help this woman conform to “professional” norms, without realizing those norms are twisted and she is the one who needs the reality check.

    12. jl*

      Agreed. #3 is absolutely terrible and unfair and I’m 36! Listen, OP #3… each job I’ve had where birthdays are allowed off also offers flexibility as to when that day can be used with manager permission. I’ve been able to take the actual day and/or use it earlier/later in the month depending on our workloads and events. The day is basically a free day off that I can take any time without restriction. It doesn’t go away if it falls on a weekend. I still get to use it.

      My birthday at my last job fell during the annual sales meeting event EVERY YEAR! So I used that day after the event and was often working very late into the night on my birthday during our busiest time of the year. That day off was a welcome recovery day when everything was over.

    13. MommyMD*

      She’s totally losing out, should get it on the 28 or 1, and employer is a jerk. Why is LW so mean-spirited? Maybe they should just get rid of this “gift”. And it’s pure stupi dity to say she doesn’t have a birthday every year. It’s the day after Feb 28. Sheesh.

      1. Lilo*

        Facebook tends to shove it on the 28th. Wasn’t allowed to drink it buy a lottery ticket until the 1st when I turned 21 or 18, respectively.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I guess that makes sense legally for when bars consider you 21 etc, but I think in terms of socially I would probably go with the 28 because I would think of February as my birthday month, not March.

          I never even thought about how Facebook or Google or whatever else tracks your birthday would do! I don’t think I have any friends born on leap day but I’ll have to check Facebook to find out I guess lol.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Oh how interesting! I’d never thought of the age-change stuff with a leap year birthday. The more you know!

        3. Alice*

          For government benefits like social security you are considered to have turned your new age the day before, to accommodate leap day babies. Sorry about the lottery ticket, but at least the social security administration has you covered!

            1. Totally Minnie*

              In my state, driver’s licenses expire on your birthday. My friend has a leap day birthday and the year her license expires is not a leap year, so her license expires on February 28 instead. The result of this is that most bartenders and TSA agents believe that her license is fake and she almost always has to demand to talk to someone’s manager.

      2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        But, even though nobody is announced when they have a cake, if this perk goes, guess who will get all the blame?

      3. Nea*

        Thing is, Leap Year is already being materially discriminated against for an accident of birth. Making her the target of anger who are losing a benefit they have had is not going to make things right, it’s just going to make the working environment more unpleasant for poor Leap Year.

        OP has got to wrap their head around the basic fact that there is no reason to withhold benefits for ANYTHING regarding birth – not the skin color they’re born with, not the religion they’re born to, and not the day they’re born on. And then OP has to hammer that extremely basic definition of discrminiation to OP’s manager.

    14. Feathered Flamingo*

      #3 Assuming you agree that when the employee has a birthday, her age goes up by four years (and if not, all the child labour law comments are relevant), will you give her four days off, four gift cards, and have four cakes?

      I really can’t see how you think there is no issue here.

    15. ToothPopper*

      If their birthday is only every four years I would consider a lawsuit for employing a minor (5-6 years old) and child labour. Unless…you’d reconsider having their birthday every year c:

    16. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I’m SO ANGRY – like, my reaction is way out of proportion but the sheer meanness and pettiness of LW#3 just… grinds every single one of my gears.

      1. Bostonian*

        I know. I was seeing so much red reading this that I almost missed the part at the end where OP wants to actually have a conversation with this employee about how she was out of line for wanting to have this benefit that EVERYONE ELSE HAS. And now I’m in rage mode again.

      2. CatCat*

        I feel the same way. It’s just downright MEAN. And such a potential for a morale killer. I’d be really upset if I knew this were happening to a coworker.

      3. Parenthetically*

        My first thoughts were basically swear words and words adjacent to the swear words to make them fit together grammatically.

    17. Lilo*

      I am actually a Leap Day baby and I haven’t seen this kind of weird petty attitude about “not a real birthday” since I was in middle school. This is absurd.

      1. blackcat*

        I know, right? I was born in 88, so I knew a number of leap day babies growing up. Saying they were only 3 years old (actually 12) was totally a middle school thing to do!

        Someone is being immature here, and it’s not the LW.

        1. MonicaLane*

          It’s not the LW? I am hoping this is a typo.

          Refusing to acknowledge only one person’s birthday when there are tangible benefits, and then calling them petty for caring… IS pretty immature, and honestly says a lot about what kind of human being the LW is.

        1. Tin Cormorant*

          There were characters in a Piers Anthony series I used to read like this. Twin princes born on Feb 29th and enchanted so they’d only age on their actual birthday, so that they’d live (and thus rule the country) 4 times longer than normal people.

          Of course, in the books they were insufferably annoying because they still looked and acted like children despite being like 35 years old.

      2. Peggy*

        My elementary school best friend was a 1980 leap year kid. She was EXTREMELY sensitive about everyone calling her a toddler when we were in 3rd grade and she was “turning 2” while we were all turning 8, but I’m pretty sure that was the last of the adversity she faced for her date of birth. Of all the things in this world we can be discriminated against for… I never would’ve guessed this one. :)

    18. Slartibartfast*

      At the VERY least, if I’m being charitable op#3 and boss are just too lazy to change the software which takes care of these things. Or maybe that’s the real issue, they don’t know how to work around the software and have too much ego to ask for help. So instead of admitting that there’s a problem, it falls on the employee to “not be petty” so that boss doesn’t look “weak” by not knowing the answer to the real problem.

      1. Lilo*

        The thing is, pretty much every business accommodates for it. Mist businesses who give out free birthday stuff accommodate Leaplings.

      2. neverjaunty*

        That can’t be the case, since they are able to accommodate employees who have a birthday on a weekend or holiday.

      3. Student*

        Just change her birthday in the faulty birthday-tracking software to be Feb. 28. It just shouldn’t be a big deal.You do things monthly anyway; you could select any day between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28 and get the correct results.

        They’re probably having some admin/HR/business manager track it in a normal calendar instead of using clever software that would account for the leap-birthday correctly. I hope the OP goes and finds the birthday-tracking admin, asks her to track this employee’s birthday as Feb. 28 instead , and starts getting her birthday bonus things.

    19. Lisa*

      It’s about being part of the company culture, too. I don’t get why you would single her out just because she is a leap year baby.

    20. nep*

      The answer is in the first line of your post — ‘or the day after if it falls on a weekend or holiday’. Clearly leap-day-birthday should be treated same way.
      Others have already said all that needs to be said. Bottom line, your stance makes zero sense and it’s unfair.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        I’m thinking there’s no flag in the scheduling software on the employee birthday to schedule the following work day off, since Feb. 29 doesn’t occur to trigger the flag. There’s got to be a work around, but the bosses have to be willing to find it.

        1. Luna*

          I don’t think this has anything to do with software. At one of my old jobs we got this same benefit, and the managers knew when their employees’ birthdays were- we just told them ahead of time that we were planning on using the free day off. If a birthday was on a weekend we had the option to choose either Friday or Monday off instead, so we just told our manager which day we were planning to be out. Software wasn’t a part of it at all. Since it is a free day off, there is no need to enter it into the regular PTO tracking system.

          1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

            If it was just a software issue, I don’t think the LW and manager would be digging in their heels and calling the employee petty.

    21. Ragazzoverde*

      If the company is going to be silly and act like someone born on a leap day only has a birthday once every four years then they shouldn’t have even hired her as (in their eyes evidently) she’s actually a young child

    22. Cats On A Bench*

      So many great responses to this one already that all I can add is to wonder what happened in 2016, as it was a leap year. The LW said she’d been working there for 2 years so did she get her day off, the gift card and added to the cake in 2016? I’m really just dumbfounded by the LW and her manager’s stand on this one.

    23. SJW*

      OP #3 — Is this a joke? Because I don’t see how you’d think it’s OK to skip her birthday. Clearly you acknowledge those with birthdays that fall on weekends, and that’s not “really” their birthday, either. Honestly, this might be the most bizarrely petty thing I’ve ever heard of in the workplace. Shame on you for ostracizing an employee over something this trivial. Please fix this! Retroactively and apologetically!

    24. JGray*

      The whole time I’m reading the letter I was cringing. They (LW & boss) are clearly showing that they don’t value this employee at all by digging their heals in on this. It’s a benefit that I’m sure they tell all new hires about and now they aren’t even giving this person this small thing. It sounds like the company doesn’t make a big deal about it but they are making a conscious effort to leave this person out.

    25. Strawmeatloaf*

      What I really find weird/funny with LW#3 complaining is that they clearly treat this woman as an adult, whom I’m assuming is in her 20’s, yet with their policy, they shouldn’t have even hired her since she should only be about 5-6 years old.

      So she’s considered to be the right age for hiring, but somehow her birthday doesn’t exist for quite a few years. Okay.

    26. Anonymous Poster*

      Yeah, this happened to me. There were larger problems going on in my workplace, but what of the things that really stuck in my craw was looking out across my peers and seeing the company do things for them that they refused to do for me. In my case, it was the loss of relatives.

      Other people in the company who lost relatives received a card signed by at least their manager, and depending on if they were comfortable with it, the card would be passed around. It was a quick, nice gesture. Me? Oh no, of course not. You see, that’s because my relatives were grandparents, and “not everyone has grandparents Anonymous Poster, nor even knew them. You can’t expect us to recognize their loss is anywhere near the same as so-and-so has expressed to us the loss of their cousin or uncle is, so it is wholly inappropriate for us to get you a card and put you at the same level.”

      All I wanted was a card recognizing that I lost my grandparents. I shouldn’t have to launch into a story about their impact on my life.

      I don’t know, but sometimes when these sorts of petty, uneven standards are imposed, and management digs in, it could be a major sign of larger problems that will drive people away. Does it really matter that much to the bottom line to treat people differently over things like this?

      Logistically, I could see this might be an issue with the tracking software or calendar, and not every year having a February 29th. As a stopgap, I’d suggest moving this person’s birthday to the 28th so it never gets missed. I’d bet they would appreciate it being a day early once every few years and getting the benefit every year, instead of not getting it at all.

      1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        “not everyone has grandparents Anonymous Poster, nor even knew them. You can’t expect us to recognize their loss is anywhere near the same as so-and-so has expressed to us the loss of their cousin or uncle is, so it is wholly inappropriate for us to get you a card and put you at the same level.”
        My children have no cousins, so by your company’s logic, no one’s loss of cousins should be recognized.

    27. Koko*

      I’m honestly so confused that I feel like there has to be something else going on at this company, not mentioned in the letter, that warped the managers’ view of the situation. I don’t know what it could be, but on the face it seems so obvious that they’re giving every employee cash and extra PTO except for *one* employee arbitrarily singled out for which day her birthday falls. Forget for a moment that this is framed by the company as a “birthday gift” – it is a benefit, and any employee benefit should either be 1) granted to all employees or 2) granted to some employees and not others based on the nature of their job (senior or more tenured employees get extra perks, some jobs can leave early on Fridays in the summer but others can’t because of the nature of their work, etc). Her birthday should not be the reason she’s denied a benefit everyone else gets, and I don’t understand how that was ever in doubt!

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think there has to be a lot of background that somehow evolved this as a logical thought. Maybe everybody else has been there forever so she’s the newbie, and the computer glitch meant nobody got alerted to the birthday and it seems like an extra chore for somebody they don’t like? Maybe she complained in a way that was particularly stroppy or hurtful?

        I don’t think it matters; the employer is still wrong for excluding this single employee from perks. But it is so weird that it’s a challenge to figure out how it could make sense to them.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          It’s possible that this is a benefit that’s evolved over the years, and the end result is that it’s become kind of sloppy. (My company has something similar happen with “summer days” – extra days off in the summer. The rules had evolved to become ridiculously complicated at one point, until they went in and simplified a couple of years ago.) So for example, it may have started when the company was smaller with the boss saying “Hey, tomorrow’s your birthday. Why not take the day off?” And then it was decided to give everybody their birthday off… and then: “Hey, let’s give everybody a gift card, too.” It was all very direct and simple.

          But then someone’s birthday fell on a Saturday, so it was decided people could take another day off. And then someone else’s birthday turned out to be Independence Day or something so it was decided that person could take another day off, too. And then the cake part was added. And then…and then…and then…

          So I think the OP and his/her manager have just become far too attached to the rules they’ve developed over time – to the extent that they’ve forgotten the purpose of the birthday benefit, which is to do something nice for their employees. And they’ve forgotten that if you’re going to do that, it needs to be for *all* employees. Any rule that cuts a good employee out is a rule that needs to be eliminated or changed.

    28. MLHD*

      I’d totally be all, well since I’m only 6 years old (or whatever) I guess I can’t work here at all because I’m under 18, so screw you guys.

    29. EvanMax*

      I worked for the better part of a year at a firm that did the “you get your birthday off” thing, and I personally find it kind of dumb. I talked them in to letting me use that day for one of the Jewish High Holidays instead (which occurred about a month before my birthday that year.)

      From a “maturity” and “inexperience” standpoint, why do I want to sit at home by myself as a mature individual, on a day when everyone else in my life, be they friends or family, is busy at work?

      It makes far more sense to just give everyone an extra vacation day. Even that firm I worked at (which was super dysfunctional for many other reasons) updated their holiday policy the year after I was hired to allow employees to take a certain number of floating holidays chosen from a list of possible holidays (which included both religious and secular days, and the employee’s birthday.)

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Yeah I think a floating holiday policy helps a lot with this. In my company’s case there is an official list of holidays, but it isn’t all inclusive for various religious holidays. Our policy is, de facto, “Use the floating holidays whenever you’d like, you get this many. They will disappear at the end of the year, so use them this year. Happy whatever holiday you’re celebrating.”

        Frankly, why keep track of peoples’ birthdays and whatnot for this sort of stuff – give them time off and let them use it how they choose. As long as the work gets done, who cares?

      2. Totally Minnie*

        “why do I want to sit at home by myself as a mature individual, on a day when everyone else in my life, be they friends or family, is busy at work?”

        As a homebody, this would be the best birthday present anyone could give me. A day at home by myself in my pajamas, reading or watching TV? Yes, please!

    30. Miss Beehive 1963*

      Especially when the letter starts out with, “One of the perks we get…” So, LW3 seems to understand that they are getting something nice but seemingly can’t stretch their brain to realize why someone would miss not having it.

  3. Birthday blues*

    Q3, please put yourself in her shoes. It doesn’t compare all the way, but my birthday is over the summer so I never had a classroom celebration, never got my locker decorated by my friends, never got to play hooky. It SUCKS. Watching other people enjoy their birthdays every month (especially when there are gift cards and PTO at stake?!) would get me irritated too. And she’s had to put up with this for two years?! C’mon. Do better by this girl. Figure out if her day is going to be the 28th or the 1st and do right by her. She didn’t ask to be born on a leap year!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      This. It is so, so crappy that OP and her manager are doing this. WTF is the big deal in letting her pick one of the two days as her birthday and then letting her celebrate just like everyone else? This is part of why people leave companies and managers, because they do petty things like this and feel demoralized by it and like they don’t matter. OP’s employee isn’t the one being petty here…

      1. ForeverAnon*

        I’m always left out of birthday perks at my company unless I give a reminder to the person in charge of it and last year I was totally shut out of the gift cards that are sent out on Admin Appreciation Day. I think the former has to do with working in a satellite office in a different state but the latter was really upsetting. I can’t speak for the employee but I imagine she’s feeling the same way.

        1. Liz2*

          Honestly, as an admin, this is why I don’t like creating any bday system which requires a person having to track things. There’s just so much turnover, people who don’t want to share their bday (reasonable), people who love lots of attention and people who hate it- because inevitably someone will be lost in the cracks and that’s not cool!

          1. Luna*

            And often the one doing the tracking is the admin, who then gets left out because no one is tracking the admin’s birthday!

            1. anonymous as always*

              At my place of employment, we have created a birthday list. Everyone has one birthday they are in charge of so no one is every overlooked and no one is burdened with the responsibility of being the only one to pull these things together.
              Although one year my director was the one organizing my birthday. We always have a few treats and get a $25 gift card. He got me a $20 gift card. Yea, only $5 but when everyone else gets $25 it’s kind a “heyyyy….” moment. Unfortunately, the gift card was also for a movie theater, and I’m that person who has been to the theater once in the last decade (I still have the gift cert). AND this was after the previous year where I was given a gift card to a restaurant I absolutely despise. So I’ve been pretty verbal about getting certs only to Amazon.

    2. Temperance*

      I was just thinking this! I never got a special school birthday as a kid because my birthday is in July. It sucked! This is way, way worse.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Aw, that’s sweet!

          My brother and I were born almost 6 months apart so we used to get half-birthday gifts on each other’s birthdays. I still remember one time on my brother’s birthday he opened a present and made a confused face as he pulled out a dress and my dad said something like “oh, is that not your size? I guess we’ll just have to give it to your sister then.” I thought it was like the most hilarious thing (plus I had a pretty new dress!).

        2. many bells down*

          My daughter’s birthday is June 25th. So not only was her birthday invariably a week or more after school let out, but she wasn’t in school on her half-birthday either!

        3. LawBee*

          Mine always said they would but never did. It wouldn’t have mattered for me, as school was on holiday on my half-birthday as well.

          It took ageibg out of school birthday parties to appreciate the glory of the summer birthday. Presents every six months!

        4. BurnOutCandidate*

          That didn’t work for me, as my “half birthday” would fall during the Christmas break. :)

      1. Liz2*

        I hated my early Feb birthday because it was always cold and likely bad weather so I could never do fun cool things that my sister could do outside with her friends in the summer, then several years it was the same day as the science fair so tons of work, then in college it was always right at semester move in time. Not to mention the mom only recently after being called on it stopped reminding me it was so soon after Christmas I couldn’t expect to get very much cause she was still paying stuff off.

        Birthdays get weird and IMO best left out of work! But if you will have a system, you better make sure it applies to everyone.

        1. Autumnheart*

          My birthday is in July, and it seems like every other year there’s a tornado warning or other manner of severe weather. Or you try to plan a party and everyone’s all “I’ll be at the cabin that weekend”. No way to win!

      2. Nanani*

        My elementary school did triples in the months leading to the long summer break. So for example if July and August are summer vacation, then June 15 is the birthday celebration for June 15, July 15, and August 15 birthdays.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      In fact, #3, in order to demonstrate how petty her concerns are, I suggest you give up your paid birthday off and gift card this year. To show her how unimportant they are.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would willingly give my subordinate my birthday and gift card, then go in the office and tell the boss what I had done. After I did it, of course.

    4. LadyL*

      Same, my birthday falls during the Christmas holidays so I was never in school for it. My parents would just pick a random day in January or February to bring in a treat, because honestly it really does not matter unless the person is trying to claim multiple days a year as a birthday. Let her pick any day she wants, and that’ll be her birthday.

      I feel for this girl also because my cousin was a leap year baby. While we do love to tease her that she’s actually only a few years old or whatever, we of course would never deny her a birthday celebration (on March 1st usually), because that’s cruel.

      Besides the actual tangible benefits of the birthday, I personally still love celebrating mine even into adulthood, and I would be really hurt by an office that refuses to acknowledge mine when they do everyone else’s (if birthdays weren’t part of the office culture obviously that would be different). It’s just nice to have people be extra friendly to you for a day, and to feel a bit special. Who doesn’t want to occasionally feel special?? Unless the birthday person is acting like a diva or a jerk, being excited for your birthday is totally harmless, and I hate the mentality of “You’re an adult now, it’s not mature to be excited for birthdays and holidays.” The employee is not immature or crazy for just wanting the benefits and good feelings that come along with an acknowledged birthday, especially not when you do it for everyone else.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I also had a summer birthday! In fourth grade, we were learning about writing persuasive letters in English, and I wrote mine to the school principal, explaining how deeply unfair it was that summer birthday kids didn’t get to celebrate with our friends or bring in cupcakes or anything, and that we should totally have a pizza party for the summer birthday kids. We actually ended up getting one! The PTA put it together and it was genuinely the proudest moment of my childhood.

      1. Robin B*

        I was glad my birthday was in the summer, one year in grade school all the kids lined up and the birthday kid had to run through “the paddle wheel.” Bet you’d never see that today :)

    6. Gadget Hackwrench*

      Am I the only one that thinks it’s odd LW emphasized that she has “only” worked there 2 years? I mean if someone has “only” been working someplace for a certain amount of time, ya’ll better be measuring in months, because after a year, it’s enough time treating someone like they’re too new to have an opinion.

  4. Michele*

    Anyone else thinking letter writer #3 is not American? (He/she says ‘firm’ instead of ‘company’, ‘university’ instead of ‘college’ and ‘vacation’ instead of ‘PTO’. My last example especially jumped out at me when I read it)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m not sure if it changes the advice? [None of those word choices screamed “not American” to me, but I may be too Amero-centric to realize it :) ]

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        University is the only one I would consider not-US. I noticed on some Canadian shows, they talk about going to “university” instead of “college.” I’ve had friends who were born, raised, and work in the US use “firm” and “vacation.”

        I agree that the advice is the same, regardless. It’s about treating someone fairly.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          Not to get off topic, but university and college are two different things here. They’re actually not interchangeable, but I get the impression that in the US the two words are used interchangeably.

          1. YoungTeach*

            Most people use them interchangeably in the states, but they are actually different things (community college versus public or private universities as well as “the college of ______” within a university…)

            1. Lindsay J*

              Not just community colleges are colleges.

              As far as I can tell, University is a specific status, that involves having some graduate level degrees as well as some other stuff. (As I graduated my college was working to change themselves from XX College to XX University. The grad courses were definitely part of it. Also possibly grad student housing? And research occurring.)

              So you can have a 4 year school that is a college and not a university or part of a university.

              1. Jesca*

                Yeah, and I think size has something to do with it too. How many people in how many degree types that can attend.
                For instance: A community college can move to a standard college when they can offer a certain amount of bachelors degrees. And I think a long with offering more graduate degrees, the amount of students attending can step a college up to university level?

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  I’ve not met community colleges that offer 4-year degrees, but maybe it’s different in my state?

                  The community colleges (also known as city colleges) I’ve known offered 2-year degrees and various certifications, as well as general education for community members.

                2. Gingerblue*

                  Jennifer: I do actually know a community college that offers 4 year degrees. They started out as a more typical community college and gradually evolved into having something halfway between a community college program and a 4-year college program. They have dorms and offer a BA now, but the culture is still much that of a (very good) community college. But it’s kind of an unusual hybrid situation.

              2. Roja*

                My college did that too. Switched to university when I was a sophomore because they were starting to offer more graduate degrees.

            2. ExcelJedi*

              Technically, in the US universities have graduate & undergraduate programs, and colleges are either undergraduate-only, or undergraduate portions of larger universities. Independent graduate schools which do not have undergraduate programs are rare, but are not called universities either. We have a whole classification system (Carnegie Classification, if anyone’s interested) outlining how schools are referred to.

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  Yeah, I attended Albertson College of Idaho, and it had a couple grad programs. And don’t even get me started on University of Maryland University College, which is and honest-to-god real thing.

                2. EvanMax*

                  Reminds me of how University of Maryland Baltimore County is the only (or one of very few) University in the country with “County” in it’s name, making it sound like a Community College to the unfamiliar.

              1. Rock Prof*

                The Carnegie Classification makes definitions which are important for funding agencies, accreditation, and rankings, but I wouldn’t say it outlines, or even intends to outline, how universities/colleges are actually referred to by most people.
                I say this as a professor at a mostly undergraduate institution in a giant state system where all the campuses (2-years, 4-years, R1s) have names that have ‘University’ in them. The college/university thing in the US is fairly regional, as a couple of people have mentioned. Most of my students (who are working on bachelors degrees) say that they’re going to college, but I tend to say that I went to university. Most of the people I went to grad school with tend to say university, but not necessarily the people I grew up with. I’ve lived abroad and all across the US, so truthfully I sometimes have no idea where I picked up some of the things I say.

                1. fposte*

                  Wow, I’m at a big state U grad school, and I’ve never heard an American save in the throes of Anglophilia say that they “went to university.” Whether they call their school a university or a college, it’s “Where’d you go to college?”, not “Where’d you go to university?”

                  Wonder what the patterns are here.

                2. Specialk9*

                  Fposte, I code shift and say university and college based on who I’m with. Around other Americans, especially more country or less educated, I say college – it sounds less pretentious and they know what I mean. If I’m around people from other countries, especially highly educated, I tend toward university because that’s usually their preferred term, I know they think of them as very different things, and it signals that I am aware of other cultures. I live in big cities and work for international orgs.

                3. Autumnheart*

                  Same as Specialk9. It seems a little easier to just say “went to university” if one’s audience is multinational. “College” doesn’t mean the same thing outside the US, so saying “university” gets the point across more clearly even if you went to the COLLEGE of Blahblah.

                4. Half-Caf Latte*

                  And I use “undergrad” most often.

                  Although I did undergrad and grad school at the same institution, so it helps to distinguish – “my friend from undergrad”, for example.

                5. Rock Prof*

                  I think part of my college/university choice comes from attending really international universities. I also think I do tend to say undergrad/grad like Half-Caf Latte more than university, but for some reason I’m not in the habit of saying “I went to college”.
                  But I will admit I could be the weird one: I’ve got one of those accents and make word choices that no one understands and have talked like that forever. (Lots of people from all walks of life and various countries have told me I sound Eastern European since I was in high school. I’m from Appalachia. I have no idea.)

              2. Beckie*

                UCSF does not have an undergraduate program, but I suppose as it’s one campus of a larger legal entity (University of California) it still counts.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yes! Technically the University of California is the overarching entity, and UCSF is the San Francisco campus of that broader university (I think this is the classification used for several state universities, too).

                  At the Berkeley, Davis, LA, Riverside and Santa Barbara, “colleges” grant undergraduate and grad degrees, and “schools” primarily grant professional and graduate degrees (with some exceptions for predominantly grad-level programs that later added undergraduate majors). UCSF is technically “UCSF School of Medicine,” which is how you know that it’s exclusively focused on graduate/professional education.

                  That said, Irvine and Merced don’t use the same college/school classification system, and San Diego and Santa Cruz use the “residential college” model from Oxbridge/Harvard/Yale. Hastings is in its own world.

          2. Edith*

            They’re actually two different things in the US, too, but we use ‘college’ as an informal catch-all. And universities are frequently made up of colleges, so a person studying at a university is often also in a college.

          3. Anon Anon*

            It’s the same in the UK. College is 6th form, and very different than University. You can go to college but not go to University.

      2. rudster*

        “to/from university” are not common usage in the US (normally we’d just “to/from/at college”). “Vacation” is more US usage, though. Non-US speakers would probably say “annual leave” or “holiday”. Despite 13 years in the corporate world in US, I never even heard of “PTO” until I started reading this column. We just had vacation and sick leave.
        Now I work as a freelance translator, and field a lot of requests for UK English (or at least my best effort at it, despite being a US native), so I spend of lot time thinking about these things.

        1. Canadian Natasha*

          Not that it really matters but all Canadians in my circle would use holiday for a special event day (like religious holidays) but would say vacation day (or vacation leave) when you are taking time off work that isn’t a recognized special day or if you are going on a vacation trip. I’ve never heard the term annual leave other than on this blog. :)

      3. Specialk9*

        I’m American and say vacation, leave, and PTO interchangeably. (British influenced English tends to say holiday rather than vacation anyway). I would say vacation for an actual vacation or holiday family leave, though, and would say leave to cover not-fun time off and sick time.

        I often use university instead of college, consciously, because of working with people from other cultures. (With other Americans I would say college so as not to sound pretentious.) I would never say “uni” (which is the equivalent relaxed term as college) because it just sounds too odd to my ears, despite British family.

        so to me this could be American, especially a well traveled or global working firm.

    2. fposte*

      This isn’t a question where it matters, though; the woman turns a year older annually no matter where she lives. Unless the OP wants to claim she’s employing a five-year-old.

      1. Anonicat*

        “Well, you might have been born in 1992 but you’ve only had 6 REAL birthdays. And clearly we can’t let a 6 year old drive company vehicles/attend happy hour/sign legal documents!”

        1. Thornus67*

          Yeah, but think how awesome it will be when the company gets to celebrate her Sweet 16 when she turns 72 like in Parks & Rec.

    3. YoungTeach*

      All 3 examples are regional differences within the US much like soda and pop…
      And as others have pointed out it really doesn’t matter American or not for issues of fairness and equality in the workforce…

    4. Thomas E*


      In some ways it is relevant what jurisdiction the letter writer comes from. being a legal nerd different jurisdictions have solved the leap year problem explicitly. For example, in England a leap year baby is deemed by law to have their birthday on non-leaps on the 1st march; different US states specify either 28 Feb or 1st march but there’s pretty much no jurisdiction in any common law country that doesn’t specify what date a birthday falls on for people not born on a leap year.

      From a management perspective “don’t treat people unfairly” is a pretty good starting point, of course.

    5. Kinsley*

      Idk. I’ve always used firm to describe my current job, but then again it’s a law firm. When I worked in the corporate office of a restaurant, I said company. Just depends.

    6. Armchair Analyst*

      Yeah, I guess if the letter writer is in a different time zone, maybe leap years are different there. What if this looney letter writer is on the lunar calendar? /joking (FWIW, my religion uses a lunar calendar… and has leap MONTHS that only show up every few years or so!)

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Jew here, and I was totally pondering the Hebrew leap month while reading responses. I don’t actually know if anyone uses the lunar calendar for anything real so maybe it doesn’t matter… but would you celebrate your birthday in the previous month or the following month? So weird!

        1. EvanMax*

          Adar I only exists in leap years, with regular Adar becoming Adar II only on leap years.

          So if you were born during Adar I, I think it would be natural to celebrate your birthday in Adar (II) during the non-Leap years, as it would technically be the right number of days, and everything.

          Also, the two months having the same name probably makes it a whole lot more natural.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – To quote Evil HR Lady: “Cheapity cheapity cheap”

    Having a Birthday off is part of her benefits, and you are denying them to her.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          But if the employee only advances in age every 4 years, s/he will never get out of the 20s! (JOKE)

        2. Game of Scones*

          Came here to say exactly this. Ironically, LW3’s strategy is to give everyone a participation trophy every year except for the millennial.

          1. Specialk9*

            Snort. “Ironically, LW3’s strategy is to give everyone a participation trophy every year except for the millennial.”

            I died at this. Perfect!

    1. Marlene*

      My father was born on Leap Year! We celebrated his birthday on March 1st on the “off” years. He will turn 70 next month. I can’t imagine just ignoring that.

      1. Lilo*

        Leapling here. My mom threw bigger parties for my actual birthdays (birthdays in my family tend to be small so I mean I had a party with friends over in my actual birthday). No one ignores them, though.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          A former partner of mine celebrated his 10,000th day birthday (age roughly 28 and a half).

          I have decided to celebrate my kiddo’s 1,000 day increments, too (in addition to regular birthdays). They only come along every 2 years and 9 months.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a case of “We can adjust the software to meet a logical policy, or adjust the policy to meet whatever the heck the software is doing that we can’t figure out how to change… B it is.”

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This comment is giving me cold sweats cause I worry it’s true. I can 100% see it being a case that the software never pinged the manager on the employee’s birthday because their birthday didn’t happen, and OP is trying to retroactively cover their tracks? IDK why you wouldn’t just say “oh, snap, sorry! We’ll make a note for Mar 1 of next year; here’s your gift card” rather than digging in. Though I guess none of us can actually imagine this universe where these people are digging in anyway!

  6. Marnix*

    OP3- Just no. She should feel entitled to the same birthday goodies and celebrations everyone else gets. You certainly didn’t hire a 4 or 5 year old, so she obviously has aged just like the rest of us.

    1. SignalLost*

      Though if that’s their stance, were I the OP, I would seriously consider seeing how far I could get with a child labor complaint. Then I’d quit. The OP’s argument is specious on the face of it – either they hired a five year old or they hired an adult who turns a year older every year. I’m assuming, OP, that you don’t know many five year olds who have graduated university.

  7. Enough*

    LW3 – I have to ask what you do for those born on Dec 25? Or any whose birthday happens to fall on a paid holiday? Do you ignore them too. Is the real problem that your system is automated and therefor Feb 29 doesn’t get triggered? Put her birthday down as Feb 28, apologize and give her an extra day off and gift card for every past birthdays you have already missed

    1. Borne*

      Yes, they should really make up for the years that she has missed getting a day off for her birthday and a gift card.

    2. JamieS*

      No, OP said they get the next day off if their birthday falls on a weekend or holiday. That’s what really gets my goat. If OP’s company simply didn’t think about employees who’s birthdays weren’t on workdays the issue would still need to be fixed but it could be contributed to an honest mistake of not completely thinking through something that’s well meaning. Since they did think it through and made alternate arrangements if the birthday isn’t on a workday it leads me to think this employee is being intentionally left out especially considering the reaction of OP and OP’s manager when the employee complained which eliminated any chance of plausible deniability.

      If this is overly harsh so be it but personally I found OP’s behavior abhorrent and the logic used to justify the behavior ridiculous. At the very least OP owes the employee a few days off, the gift card money for this year and years past, as well as an acknowledgement that OP was wrong and the employee was in the right. It can’t be easy for an employee (especially a young one) to make a very reasonable complaint of being treated unfairly and then be treated like they’re the ones who did wrong.

    3. Almost Violet Miller*

      This is what came to my mind. They might have a system that isn’t ready for a leap day birthday and the related PTO+gift card administration.
      I have seen some terrible ERPs that weren’t able to do basic things and so HR would say it’s not possible even if it was in line with company policy and absolutely legal.
      How companies react in this case is really telling. Employees should not be discriminated against because of a system bug.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        “I have seen some terrible ERPs that weren’t able to do basic things and so HR would say it’s not possible even if it was in line with company policy and absolutely legal.”

        Fetching a bulldozer to build you a mountain to preach that from, brb

  8. Lioness*

    The paid time off has value. The gift card has value. The acknowledgent has value.

    Just because you do it quietly/privately doesn’t mean it’s done in secret. She knows this is a thing. This is a thing. And she isn’t getting the benefits of it. She is losing out on those benefits.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yes insulted and being treated differently than every other employee. It’s almost like it’s a joke letter but sadly I do think some people are this mean and petty. Remember the LW who hated the pretty employee? It’s similar imo.

        1. Talia*

          That LW was self-aware, though; she was writing in for help in stopping behaving badly. This letter seems not to have any idea where the actual problem is.

          1. Mb13*

            I just want to point out that most abusers know that what they are doing is wrong but also build a lot of disqualification in their mind to justify why they dont need to stop their bad behavior. “She just makes me so mad I had to hit her, I know I messed up” “if I let him talk to other girls he’ll leave me” and in that letter writer case “my mental illness means I cant stop hurting people”. It took that letter writer being caught, fired, sued, and forced into exile to actually stop. She’s not self aware, she got caught.

            I have a mental dissorder (I don’t want to share it here but its pretty much every instinct in my body occasionally tells me to do something impulsive even though I know its wrong) and I still stop my bad behavior

            1. Tara*

              What you are talking about was in an update, not the original letter. She was self aware, and not just because she got caught. She did bad things, realized her mistake, tried to fix it but wasn’t able to before things imploded on her. Her letter didn’t have disqualifiers, and was just asking for help. She was trying to take action on stopping this *before* any consequences actually hit her (though I agree, she could probably see them looming, which helped her snap into how serious her problems were).

              Also, while I’m happy you’ve got your own mental health issues handled well, I think its unfair of you to suggest that anyone who can’t is just a bad, abusive person. Not all mental illnesses are the same. Some are harder than others. Some of them are harder than other instances of the exact same disease. Some people don’t have your exact blend of support/medication/therapy/situations that allow for them to be able to handle their illnesses as well as you can. It’s awfully dismissive to say that just because you (which is a very small sample size, btw) are able to do a thing, everyone else in the entire world should be able to do a thing.

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*


            And the updates



    1. Lindsay J*

      And even if it were done in secret, it would still not be cool.

      If one person is paid thousands of dollars less for doing the exact same job as the other employees for no good reason, even if the poorly compensated employee doesn’t know about it and will never know about it, it’s still wrong.

      This is a lesser example than that, but the time off and the gift card do still have monetary value. And getting screwed out of that value would still suck even if she didn’t know it was happening.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Exactly, this is no different than my employer saying “OK everyone gets 15 PTO days and a bonus, except for Masha, who gets 14 days PTO and no bonus, because I don’t like the day she was born on. Nobody tell her, though. Let’s have it be our little secret.” Guess how fast I’d be out the door when I found out.

  9. MsManager*

    Letter #3 – This is so ridiculous I can’t quite believe it’s a real question. Of course your employee deserves to be treated like every other employee. She is not being petty, she is reasonably questioning why you are denying her a benefit (paid time off and a gift card aka cash) that every other employee receives.

    I hope this poor woman finds another job.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      The LW is taking the concept of birthdays WAY TOO literally. Like… Nice try, but they missed the ENTIRE POINT.

      1. CBH*

        I feel like the OP is taking the employee handbook quite literally word for word. If you feel so strongly about officially not giving her the day, how about you give her your day, your cake and your gift card as an honorary birthday token and you work and you do not accept the benefit. That way the company doesn’t loose out in total. I am truly baffled by your thinking. You compensate for this employees benefits for the years they work and you ANNUALLY benefit from their efforts – ANNUAL raises, ANNUAL cost raise for medical insurance, ANNUAL retreats…. why are you skipping her ANNUAL birthday? I don’t mean to be rude, I truly am so flustered with this post.

        1. Natalie*

          Oh, I could totally take the handbook more literally than that! On non-leap years, since February 29th doesn’t occur it can’t be a workday by definition. Therefore the employee gets to take the next workday off (March 1st, 2nd, or 3rd depending on the calendar) just like someone who’s birthday was Christmas or New Year’s Day would.

      2. hbc*

        Yeah, and as much as we’re all up in arms about this, it’s not unusual for companies/HR departments/managers to lose sight of the purpose behind a particular benefit or tradition. It’s like giving everyone ham for Christmas and then getting upset that the Muslims, Jews, and vegetarians aren’t grateful for your generosity.

        If the point of this celebration is that it is totally cool when the day and month on a calendar match the day and month you were born, okay, I guess—though I would argue that it should be 4x the benefit on Feb 29 since it’s 4x as cool. But if the point is to make each employee feel special and valued on a regular basis, then realize that the policy is written has a hole, and it needs to be revised.

        1. Peter the Bubblehead*

          If the employee is being treated like this now, what is the likelihood she will still be there in 4 years to collect her 4X benefits?

          No, she needs these benefits given to her annually on or around her birthdate every year!

  10. Aphrodite*

    Q#1, the way you ended your letter to Alison made it seem to me as if you don’t really understand how egregious creating fake references and then, after being found out, wanting only to backpedal and say, basically,” nevermind.” And I find that extremely disturbing. If I knew you had done this and heard you say say that not only would I not hire you but I’d make sure that networking friends knew your name too. This is highly unethical behavior. Have you had second thoughts about it?

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I agree. It seems like such an odd thing to do especially if your current workplace references are good.

      Is there a reason why you did this? I’m not trying to excuse what you did but perhaps if you shared why you did this, folks here can help you think of an alternative.

      1. JamieS*

        I’m guessing OP did it to either fluff up their experience in a job/industry they don’t have a lot (or any) experience in or their references are predominantly co-workers and they were trying to fluff up references from managers. Either way, at this point I think the only advice to be had is for OP to make a speedy and tactful candidacy withdrawal and (if OP is religious) pray that no irrepable damage has been done.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think withdrawing is the only thing for this job, but I was thinking that the letter writer had some reason like their boss doesn’t look kindly upon people looking to leave the company.

          That isn’t to excuse what happened, but it might be useful for the OP (and people reading) to know there are better alternatives to using fake references.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I also wondered why you did this. And you didn’t even pay for effective fake references! Was it your idea or did someone suggest it to you? Were you panicking about not having references? If you tell us we will try to help.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Maybe they got a recommendation for an “interviewing service” at the end of a rejection letter!

      3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Some years ago I had a group interview for an entry level position at an outsourcing company that starts with A. They made clear that I needed to provide three to five non-personal references, otherwise we wouldn’t be considered for the next stages of the hiring process. I can see someone with little experience and desperate to get a job considering faking it to get a foot at the door.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          They wanted three to five working references for an “entry-level” position? Yeah, sure, that makes sense, just like wanting 5 years experience for an entry-level position.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          Yeah, but at that point, you’d likely also have to be faking a work history, which is possibly worse!

        3. GreyjoyGardens*

          Yes, I can see an inexperienced and desperate person considering shady maneuvers like fake references, but there’s always an honest and above-board way to solve your problems. It may mean not getting Dream Job In Dream Industry right away, but there are always alternatives. (Think – WWDSD, What Would Davos Seaworth Do?)

          If a company wanted three to five work references for entry level employees, they’re either not clear on the concept of “entry level,” or they are swimming in applicants and can pick and choose. Some people might have extensive experience through summer jobs and unpaid internships, etc.

          1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

            There are not such things like summer jobs or internships in my country, so they were asking for proper work references (like retail, restaurants, or ad-honorem TA at Uni). I was sincere and went through all the stages of the process, although I didn’t get the job.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yes. In fact, your best move might be to withdraw your application from the company, saying something like “I’ve realized it doesn’t seem like the right fit for me.” Hopefully that will keep the company from digging more and finding out about the fake references – information that could then wind up spreading to other companies, too. Then never do this again.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          That would be my suggestion. Gracefully withdraw and hope they don’t dig further.

          I, too, am really curious about why you did this. Since you have actual references. Please enlighten us!

        2. Natalie*

          Yep, I’d withdraw. Not just for this moment, but because if you’ve misled them as to your experience that’s going to hang over you the entire time you work there. Even it’s years down the road, at many, many places you’d get fired as soon as it came to light.

          1. Not a Blossom*

            And even if it never comes out, the OP will have to live with the possibility hanging over his head, which would be stressful enough.

            1. Natalie*

              Absolutely. That’s kind of what I was getting at – there’s no point the LW will be “safe”, but I didn’t really explain it well.

        3. Purplesaurus*

          Another vote for withdrawing. It’s not clear from your letter OP, but I hope you realize how wrong this was, and not just because you got caught.

        4. Specialk9*

          Definitely withdraw now. They have caught you already by calling your company. You can’t salvage this. Piling lies on lies on lies won’t do anything you want it too. More lies will push you further into a toxic lack of integrity that you should be fighting with all your strength. Let this be a true teaching moment. Lies don’t serve you well – if for no other reason, pursue integrity because it’s easiest, and a good investment in your future.

        5. sometimeswhy*

          Yep. OP1, you can’t undo this. You can’t patch this. You can’t fix this. And even if you did manage to get the job at this point there’s every chance that if/when they found out about this they’d can you on the spot. Your very best bet is to withdraw and take this lesson to heart.

          I worked at a place where someone was just *poof* gone–escorted to HR when he showed up for work then escorted back to his car–after a company/nation-wide verification of education revealed he’d lied about his degree. He’d had the skills necessary to do the job but demonstrated a fundamental lack of integrity that would (and did) put all the data he generated into question. We had to do so much work to re-verify his results. He’d been there more than a year.

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            I’d like to add, a good employer values the person, not the degree. Their postings say something like “Degree in Specialty Skills or equivalent experience”. It can take a while to get a job with such an employer, but it’s worth it!

            1. sometimeswhy*

              Yes. And that (while not an otherwise good employer) was one of those places. It was totally the lie that got him canned, not the lack of a degree. Dude worked side by side with someone who withdrawn due to family reasons his junior year of college, someone with an unrelated AA, and someone with no formal education but who’d been in the industry so long she was around when the techniques we were using were being developed.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        OP, a lot of your professional reputation is tied up in integrity. While the stakes vary between different industries, I can’t think of any where “lies to cover up uncomfortable truths” would not be considered a Big McFrickin Deal.

    2. K.*

      I wondered this too, particularly since OP has references! Did the employer require an exorbitant number of references & OP needed to fill the gap?

    3. Shelby Drink the Juice*

      I didn’t even realize you could hire fake references. This is along the lines of hiring someone to write your term paper for you.

      LW should try and gracefully pull their application.

      1. MassMatt*

        Well, people used to provide their friends as references and have them lie and say they were their manager, perhaps they still do but I imagine it’s much harder to fake with so much info online. Paying for references would seem to have the same problem.

        OP I hope this experience is a wake-up call for your ethics and you re-orient yourself towards integrity. Perhaps this was an uncharacteristic lapse, but this is big. Years from now I hope you look back on this and wonder “ugh, what was I thinking?”

    4. nep*

      Agree. Deal-breaker, plain and simple. Not a simple little slip-up. I’d also be interested to hear why OP thought this was worth a try. Baffles me.

    5. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      LW1 made me wonder: When paying someone to lie for you to an employer you’re hoping will hire you but who hasn’t yet, and the person you paid subsequently fails to perform the service you both agreed to (lying), can you sue them for non-performance and get your money back, or even that plus damages? Personally, I doubt it, but IANAL. Any attorneys know the answer to this?

      1. fposte*

        It’s unlikely, since it’s verging on the fraudulent, but the other problem would be going on public record to say that you tried to lie your way into a job and feel entitled. Not going to help your future prospects there.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          And somehow, I suspect WeFakeUrReference.Com knows damn well that people aren’t going to be able to sue them/complain to the BBB if they rip them off. One of the many reasons that paying for something illegal or unethical is bad idea.

          (I mean, it’s not like them doing a good job would bring them repeat business, so really they have no reason not to play their “customers” for chumps.)

      2. MassMatt*

        Every now and then there’s a news story about someone calling the cops because they paid for drugs and/or sex and were ripped off. Unfortunate that this letter reminds me of that.

      3. Samiratou*

        My first thought when I read this letter, after I picked my jaw up off the floor was, “Well, I hope you got your money back.”

        I doubt it, though, since I can’t imagine fake reference companies are all that reputable to begin with.

        1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

          OMG, there are companies that do this? Guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Being willing to hire such a company shows not only that the LW is unethical, but also that they’re, IMO, a person of lousy judgment. Entering into what I believe is an invalid contract, lying about their references when apparently they could have gotten real ones instead – that’s terrible judgment. And that’s on top of the poor character on display here.

          Bad judgment + lousy character = do not hire this person ever, and put the word out to those in your network. I wonder how old this LW is? OTOH I’m not sure that really matters. I would not have considered doing something like this when I was fresh out of school. I don’t think any of my friends or acquaintances would, either. It’s dumb, it’s wrong, and it costs money you probably cannot recover when the other party to this “deal” fails to deliver the paid-for service. A trifecta of terrible. I hope this LW wises up, but I wouldn’t put money on it either way. LW seems completely clueless.

            1. Nanani*

              Well, bots on a social network play into advertising and the impact of that. So if you have a lot of people buying these fake bot accounts, the social network can turn around and say to potential advertisers that they have all these popular people with SO MANY FOLLOWERS, why not buy some ads that these people will see? Which means the network selling ads on the premise of large numbers of followers has little incentive to make sure the followers are real people (who buy things, presumably) and not bots.

              This does not apply to fake references. Nobody benefits from having large numbers of references, since afaik there is no advantage to pointing to large lists of references and trying to sell something based on that.

            2. Hildegard Vonbingen*

              Yes, I saw a headline about this in the New York Times over the weekend. Seemed very odd to me, but then I remembered that some people are in professions where the number of followers you have is an important part of your “image” or “brand” and therefore an important business consideration. Glad I’m not in such a profession!

        2. Natalie*

          Oh, this piqued a vague memory of some “essay writing service” that made news in the mid-2000s for cheating its writers. I feel like I read a couple of longform pieces about it at the time. But yeah, big surprise that a company that sells something that’s not supposed to be for sale doesn’t operate in the most above board manner.

    6. neverjaunty*

      Agree – it’s more than a little worrying that the LW seems most concerned that they were “unreliable”, ie that she’s going to get caught, than that it was unethical and foolish in the first place.

      LW, I’m not sure how you talked yourself into this, but you need to admit to yourself that this isn’t a matter of “I should have hired better fake references”. Fake references are like a fake degree or fake job history.

      I get the sense that on some level you understand how bad the situation is because you’re asking about a solution that’s desperate and unlikely to work.

    7. Undine*

      Yes, for most jobs, integrity is far more important than the specific number of references. And from your own experience you can see why — the kind of people who will lie for money (or to get a job) are the kind of people who don’t take pride in their work, and who won’t step up and respond to phone calls even when it’s time critical. You are telling them a huge amount about the type of worker you are likely to be — willing to cut corners, and focused on yourself to the detriment of the team. It’s possible you’re young and didn’t know you could get a reference from someone other than your boss. But the choices you make shape the person you become and the kind of people you are around.

    8. Jesmlet*

      In the industry that I hire for, we get A LOT of fake references to the point where we subscribe to one of those phone number search sites and we have one person whose sole job it is to call references because there are a lot of industry specific things that can be picked up on that indicate it’s given by a friend/peer. What we always say is that using a fake reference doesn’t make them a bad person, sometimes they just get into tough spots where they can’t reach real ones or didn’t keep the contact info, but it does speak to judgement and that’s something we simply cannot compromise on.

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – your coworker is a narcissistic loon. She’s taking something personally when the manager is clearly addressing the group. That is a narcissistic viewpoint.
    Look – you’re too loud and you’re disturbing the patients. You know you’re too loud. Focusing on the managers wording of the message is really a red herring. Your group is in the wrong and need to quiet down.

    1. gladfe*

      Yeah, I’m worried the shushing issue has distracted LW2 from the significance of the repeated corrections. They’ve had to repeatedly be corrected by a manager for disturbing patients in the same way! Anywhere I’ve worked that dealt with the public, it would not be surprising for the next step to be real consequences.

      1. Merida Ann*

        Perhaps the OP can look into ways to help keep the group quieter overall. For instance, at my community theater, if we’re running a fan in the green room, we can only keep it at the lowest/quietest setting or else people all start talking louder to be heard over the fan to the point that the audience can hear us from backstage. So maybe see if there’s anything in the room that’s making noise that causes you all to talk over it and see if you can reduce that noise. Another thing I’ve noticed is that since people tend to be loudest during the day / in brightly lit rooms, dimming the lights where possible seems to help subconsciously get people to be quieter. So I would look into what options like these you have to make your environment seem more like a place to be quiet and see if that helps.

        1. calonkat*

          Dimming the lights is a brilliant and easy suggestion. You’re right, people speak more quietly in a room that isn’t brightly light.

    2. Dot Warner*

      I agree! OP#2, if you and you coworkers can be heard through a closed door, you are being much too loud. I’m guessing that the door is closed because that’s the way I’ve seen it in most hospitals where I’ve worked; however, if you’re not keeping the door closed, maybe try doing that and see if it helps.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        The kitchen at my company can also get pretty noisy at lunchtime, and a few weeks ago, I guess the people whose offices were across from it finally got fed up, so the company had doors installed. (Previously, there were doorways but no actual doors.) Seems to have helped a lot, so if LW2’s workplace doesn’t have a door on the kitchen, management should look into having one installed. If they do, and the lunch group is so noisy they can be heard through it, they do need to quiet down. It’s just plain old courtesy.

    3. Tuesday Next*

      Your colleague is being weird. You guys are disturbing patients, repeatedly. The “shusher” is probably so tired of telling you what you already know (i.e. be quiet, you’re disturbing patients) that she has resorted to hissing angrily. I can imagine doing the same thing in her situation.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        If they’ve been shushed this many times, maybe they need to be more cognizant of the fact that there are patients nearby and adjust their volume accordingly. Manager shushed them in a rude way, but it sounds like she’s had enough of the noise. Ideally, though, she would come out and say, “Could you guys please remember to keep it down/shut the door (if there is one) so you don’t disturb the patients?”

        1. Lance*

          If it’s been happening this repeatedly, the manager probably has done so, multiple times; more than enough times, in fact, to be understandably tired of it enough to, admittedly, be a little rude.

    4. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. I remember I had someone who had to repeatedly be told to close the balcony door when she stepped out there with her friends for a smoke or a chat (it was a heating/cooling issue). Then one day she was on the balcony with the door open *again* and someone just walked up and closed it. Man, she threw a fit! How passive aggressive, how rude, she couldn’t believe someone would just do that without talking to her about it.

      My only response was “if you don’t like it, don’t make it necessary.” If coworker doesn’t like being shushed, she can learn to use her inside voice. No one is obligated to keep explaining the same thing to you over and over. Once or twice, yeah, you get a polite “please don’t do that because of X.” However, if you keep doing it, *you’re* the asshole in this situation, and you’re lucky you’re not getting squirted with a water bottle or smacked in the nose with a newspaper.

      And yeah, shushing is rude. However, Coworker’s the one making it necessary.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            It’s not very sympathetic, but some people are really so self-centered that they need the clue-by-four to make them understand cause and effect.

      1. Anony*

        I would also argue that the manager is making the situation worse by not using words. If she spelled out her frustration at having to constantly tell them to be quiet instead of resorting to being somewhat passive aggressive, then the point would be made more effectively. The people being loud is still the root problem, but the managers behavior is exacerbating the problem instead of fixing it. It’s like throwing water on a grease fire. It seems like it would be helpful but in actuality it is not.

        1. Specialk9*

          Meh, you’re basically saying that one party gets to be rude and unprofessional at will, despite repeated managerial correction, and the other can’t. Lot of entitlement there. And weirdly so because it’s a manager *managing* them on their workplace behavior disturbing the workplace.

          And come on, shhhh isn’t rude. It’s effective – a sound that cuts through talking noise in a way that talking wouldn’t.

        2. Starbuck*

          Maybe they have already done that multiple times. The employees seem to know exactly why the manager is shushing them!

        3. Kate 2*

          Agree with Specialk9.

          The manager has already asked them to be quiet multiple times, they aren’t listening, now it is the manager’s special task to explain how annoying it is to have to ask them to be quiet multiple times and not be listened to?

          I don’t think it should be, besides what makes you think they will listen to the manager telling them how annoying it is when they don’t listen to her/him?

    5. Enya*

      Your colleague is “triggered” by being shushed? “Trigger” has become so overused these days that I think the real meaning has been lost.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I think it’s the opposite: the clinical sense of the word has become mainstream. The mainstream meaning of the word still exists, though.

        1. Fiennes*

          I always thought that specifically it should be used for things that trigger flashbacks/panic attacks. Some people throw it around too loosely, though, and IMO they’re doing a real disservice to those with genuine triggers. (I’m thinking of a past fanfic kerfluffle where someone was supposedly triggered by the mere mention of a couple they didn’t ship. Just no.) PTSD/anxiety disorders are real and deserve care. But they’re not served by the overuse of the triggering term, which trivializes real need and pain.

          1. fposte*

            I think it carries a bigger weight in popular language than it does in the medical, though, so I think what happens is people want it to have a specific medical significance that it’s already morphed from in popular use.

          2. Lana Kane*

            I think it kind of reminds people of “that pushes my buttons”, and is used in that fashion. It’s definitely a misunderstanding of the actual meaning of the term.

          3. Aerin*

            This is basically what I was coming here to say. (Had to scroll past all the LW3 posts to find the right thread!) If someone is having a trauma reaction, I want to know that so I can take care to avoid inflicting that on them. If someone is just annoyed… I mean, I’d still try not to be a jerk about it, but if there’s nothing I can do they’re gonna be fine. And sometimes triggers seem really random and bizarre if you don’t know the origin–like, perhaps they had an abuser who shushed them like that, or I know of a girl who throws up immediately at the taste of chicken broth because of a horrible experience in the ICU where that was all they fed her for weeks. No one should have to explain something like that to have their issues taken seriously, which is why it’s so important to have a specific term for this specific phenomenon.

      2. Louise*

        Eh, I mean we never know what type of trauma someone has been through. Childhood abuse can be varied and leave deep wounds.

      3. Specialk9*

        Yes. I am a big proponent of trigger warnings, and using “triggered” to mean “annoyed” or worse “annoyed because I want to act selfish and entitled” is pretty diminishing to those of us who actually need them.

        I know how it feels to get hit out of the blue, unprepared, with my personal trigger and then spend days walking through it all, again, and fighting through the emotions, again. Friends with PTSD describe an even tougher process. Trigger warnings help us choose, as much as life allows, to engage with the hard stuff when we have the strength to match the difficulty.

        The term gets undermined both by the sabotagers (who want to say unkind things at will) and by the overly universal adopters (‘oh, so trigger is the new term for any emotional reaction’).

        (Steps down from soapbox)

        1. fposte*

          It’s a standard linguistic transformation, though; the use you’re talking about is already moving it away from the medical one, and none of them is any inherently righter than any other.

          We talk about the euphemism treadmill; I think there’s also an impact treadmill, where the use of a term, especially a medical or legal term, expands to emphasize impact in situations beyond the original use. I don’t think you can really draw a bright line between an acceptable expansion and an unacceptable one.

          1. Specialk9*

            Language morphs, it’s true. But why are some groups allowed to say ‘hey, this is a real thing, don’t coopt this important word for trivial use’ and not others?

            The word ‘crazy’ and other variations are ubiquitous, and yet I take it to heart when people with mental illness concerns ask that we not use those terms, and really try to catch myself. Or like people with chronic illness asking that people learn about spoons, but not coopt it to mean just ‘able person who’s a bit tired’.

            I think that pointing out means that people who care about others’ feelings can at least be aware and choose to be careful. That is my intention, since others have helped me that way.

            1. fposte*

              I can understand wanting it–no argument there–and there’s some interesting company in relevant language. But a broader use of “triggered” isn’t cooptation any more than the popular usage you advocate is cooptation–they’re all just variants that draw on but differ from the clinical usage and the older popular usage, rather than being a term than anybody owned.

              I think one could argue that “spoons” *is* cooptation, since that at least had a very specific origin that’s being defended (though I think it’s a losing battle there as well). I also think there’s merit in the argument that a clinical term like OCD isn’t appropriate to use colloquially because it really trivializes an agonizing disease. But for me the “triggered” argument says “The way we changed it is okay and the way you changed it isn’t,” and I have a hard time getting behind that.

              1. Kate 2*

                The thing is it’s like someone claiming to be allergic when they are not. They are co-opting someone’s very real medical need and the terminology that is used for it and seriously diluting it. Then when the person with the real need tries to use *their* illness’s terminology they aren’t taken seriously. Like being gluten-free.

            2. Starbuck*

              The thing about “crazy” is that it’s not co-opting an in-group word that originated in a specific community, it’s just straight-up ableism. No one needs to wait for a mentally ill person to ask them to stop using that word, we can all decide to do better (like you have). I’ve found that language hardest to unlearn, but it can be done! I used to call things “crazy” a lot and find ‘wild’ is a good casual substitute.

            3. Kate 2*

              I agree overall, but sidenote not all mentally ill people, like myself, object to “crazy” used for non-mentally ill people behaving badly. I’ve never seen or heard of any mentally ill person being called crazy, I think it’s not so much of a stigma anymore. Anyway it’s like person-first language in the autism community, people are pretty divided over it and everyone has preferences. Better off just asking the mentally ill people you know and using or not using it when you are around them as they prefer.

            4. Merula*

              Regarding the “spoon” metaphor, the original meaning was to describe lupus, so expanding it to all disability/chronic illness could also be described as co-opting the term.

              More importantly, the entire point of the metaphor is to communicate to those who don’t understand disability/chronic illness how hard “easy” things can be, and it’s based on the fact that everyone has a limit of capability. We’re all human, we all have limits. Disability and illness can severely alter that limit in ways that able-bodied/neurotypical/healthy people don’t always understand. So I do think it’s appropriate to use “spoons” as a way of saying “I’ve hit my limit” or “I’m nearing my limit”; this is getting to the core of the original metaphor.

              1. Gadget Hackwrench*

                The original creator, the one with Lupis, explicitly stated she intended it for all activity limiting chronic illness including mental illnesses, so… that’s not co-opting. The creator created it to describe her Lupis, but when presenting it to the web, did so as a “this is a thing that all ppl with chronic illness should try when explaining to well people.”

                I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily horrible for people to use “out of spoons” if they have in fact legitimately reached their limit, but it does seem like it’s often thrown around in a casual “I’m starving” kind of way. Yes, anyone COULD starve so everyone should be able to use the term if they are in fact starving, but many people use it when they are in fact merely “hungry” which would likely annoy the hell out of someone who was in fact suffering starvation. Kind of like people who say they are depressed when they are sad, or ocd when they mean pedantic. If this happens too much with a new term, like “out of spoons,” it can diminish people’s understanding of just how seriousness a state it is.

        2. Nonnon*

          Most of the misuse of the word “triggered”, in my experience, has been done by jerks to diminish people’s perfectly reasonable offense when the jerk is being an offensive jerk. Like:

          Jerk: [is gratuitously offensive]
          Person: Wow. That’s a horrible thing to say.

          They’re trying to make people who object to them being horrible seem like ‘crazy’, unreasonable, over-sensitive people.

      4. gmg22*

        Yeah, I think “set off” might be a better word choice here. I understand it, because I HATE, HATE, HATE being shushed and I think most people have that knee-jerk reaction. But after one or two shushings, I think it’s safe to assume most people have the ability to pick up on how to be considerate and avoid the next one.

    6. TL -*

      Eh, I have a tendency to make noises (snap by leg/quick whistle/click my tongue) when calling names doesn’t work, particularly in crowded areas with lots of conversations or outdoors when I’m trying to get attention from a decent distance and need a noise that will make them look. (I’m looking for a nonverbal cue I was heard, not immediate attention.)

      Lots of perfectly nice, normal people have a really strong reaction to one sound but not another – some people think a short whistle is calling them like a dog, some people think snapping is the height of rudeness. Some horse people are not okay with a tongue click, but almost nobody else is offended by it. Some people don’t care about any of it at all.

      So while the coworker may just have an unusually strong reaction to being shushed – it’s on the ruder side – it doesn’t make her a narcissist. It does, however, make both the OP and the coworker wildly inconsiderate – y’all do need to get the hint and shush at some point. Or find somewhere else to talk.

        1. TL -*

          Lots of people actually don’t mind – if I’ve tried normal methods first and it’s clearly a hard-to-navigate situation. It’s not my first – saying their name a few times – or second – waving an arm – or even third – touching their shoulder if I’m close – resort.

          For people who really do mind, I try really, really hard not to.

            1. Harper*

              THIS. Shushing, clicking, whistling… I don’t think any of it is professional. I would not do it on the job. People may not feel strongly about it to say something, but I doubt it’s winning you the reputation you’d like.

              1. Emerald City Sales Associate*

                Also, don’t do this to sales associates or people working in stores. They’re not allowed to show how demeaned they feel when they are whistled/clicked/snapped at, but you will be talked about when they’re on break and it will not be flattering comments about your character.

                1. TL -*

                  Oh my lord, I’d never do that to a retail worker! This is strictly for people who actually know me; the only time I’d use it for a stranger is if they had dropped their wallet and I had no other way of getting their attention. And even though I would apologize.

            2. Anony*

              Yeah. My guess is that most people just don’t say when they are upset by this. I am don’t have dogs or ride horses but would be extremely offended by any of these sounds being directed at me.

          1. Spider*

            I have to add my voice to the choir and affirm that making animal training noises to get a coworker’s attention at the workplace is really not a good idea, even if you do it as a last resort. Although you have good intentions, it’s something that a lot of people would find disrespectful and offensive. (It is, quite frankly, dehumanizing.)

            This is just me, but all of my life, my father has whistled for me like a dog when he wants my attention instead of calling my name, and I’ve asked him not to do it probably hundreds of times, to no avail. If someone did that to me at work, I would be livid.

            1. Specialk9*

              Have you tried anything else other than asking? It sounds like your words of annoyance don’t register, or he doesn’t care. Would he be bothered by you leaving the house or hanging up the phone? Something like that?

            2. TL -*

              I don’t think I’ve ever done this at the workplace – it’s generally neither crowded nor noisy nor is it hard to find someone for something (so if someone is busy I can generally come back to their desk later.)

              This is more for clubs, music festivals, malls – big areas with lots of people and ambient noise.

            3. Aerin*

              There was a thing we did at Disneyland where we would go “ch ch” to get someone’s attention. It started at Indiana Jones, where the station is ungodly loud–you can get decent volume on it without hurting your voice, it cuts through the noise quite effectively, and you always know it’s another cast member doing it. It migrated through the parade route (also very loud and hectic) to other areas from there. I remember one lead saying that he hated it because it was how you’d call a dog.

              I still do it to this day, though, with my husband (also worked at Disney) and some friends who’ve picked up that it’s a guaranteed way to get my immediate attention.

        2. Birch*

          Ugh I can’t stand any of those sounds. I’m not a dog, a horse, or a dolphin. I’m a human. Use words. “Hey Name!” works perfectly well! If you can’t talk, maybe you don’t really need that person’s attention that badly at that particular moment.

          Generally I think shushing is rude, but if it’s done to people who are being too loud, well…. both parties are being rude. Shushing doesn’t do anything but make the loud party irritated. It’s better to take them aside and discuss discipline if it’s a recurring problem.

          1. Lora*

            TL is saying they do that when saying someone’s name, waving at them, calling them has repeatedly not worked. Big difference.

            If I was the manager and had to repeatedly shush people talking loudly where patients are within earshot, whistling to get everyone’s attention is the last step before hissing, “if you cannot use your indoor voices around patients I can start progressive discipline IS THAT CLEAR?” And then follow it up by constantly checking in on the break room for a couple of weeks to make sure things stay quiet. And anyone who complained about being triggered would be treated to a loooooong seminar about why we do not use these terms trivially around people with real problems because welcome to patient care.

          2. SignalLost*

            I’m trying to imagine a situation where someone can hear a tongue click but not a “Hey Name!” I am failing.

            Any of these would piss me off, big time.

            1. TL -*

              Because usually it’s not that they can’t hear me; it’s that they’re tuning out noises. Making an new, unexpected one tends to snap them back in. So a short whistle or a click – which is not a sound they’re filtering as background noise – followed by “Hey! Name!” can get their attention if “Hey! Name! Name! Name!” *vigorous arm wave* hasn’t worked and I can’t get any louder or closer.

          3. TL -*

            I mean…if I’ve been searching for my friends at a music festival for 15-30 minutes; I see them; I yell and wave; they don’t notice me – sure, I could just decide that it’s not as important to find them, even though we’re all trying to leave and have been for the past half hour and it’s now full dark. I probably won’t lose them in the massive crowd and need to spent another 15-30 minutes looking for them while they’re looking for me.

            Or I could give a short whistle, which is generally pretty effective.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              It’s also, (as everyone is telling you) effective at making a lot of people viscerally dislike you. So… yeah, feel free to continue if you must, but bear in mind that there’s probably a lot of people out there that avoid you or decided against getting to know you better because you did something so incredibly obnoxious.

            2. Gadget Hackwrench*

              Try two notes. It’s less offensive, and if you and your friends agree on them and use them traditionally, it’s a great way to find one another when separated. It’s like Marco polo. One person sends up the whistle, another sends it back and you both move toward one another’s whistle. The key is that they shouldn’t be sharp and short, but melodic. (Think Rue’s whistle from Hunger Games, but with just two notes.)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        my coworker thinks she is being personally targeted

        The coworker is being a narcissist because they are making a group shush into a personally targeted insult.

        1. Sparky*

          HCAHPS scores on ambient noise level, which can affect reimbursement. You better believe noise in a healthcare environment is a Big Deal. We have to be very quiet in our breakroom too. It’s part of working in healthcare. If your coworker cannot be quiet, they deserve to be shushed.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Try whispering next time. Sometimes that get’s people’s attention better than speaking at a regular volume.

        I had a roommate who would set like three alarms right next to her head and would sleep through them until I stuck my head in her door and whispered her name and then she would jolt right up!

        1. TL -*

          Good lord, I don’t think whispering someone’s name across a crowded, noisy dance hall is going to be effective. If I’m close enough that they can hear me whisper, I either touch them or get into their line of sight and make eye contact.

      3. Hey There*

        “…almost nobody else is offended by it.”

        You may want to revisit this. The behavior is so outside of the norm that people are most likely instantly writing off trying to reason with you about it.

    7. LKW*

      I would advise your co-worker that when she is not in the breakroom, she has no idea if the manager is shushing others. She only knows that when she’s in the breakroom she’s getting shushed. So there are two take aways from that:
      1. The manager and his team are likely being disturbed throughout their day by her and others which sucks for them.
      2. If she’s regularly getting shushed, she should focus on being more considerate. If she doesn’t like it, she can have her break elsewhere if possible.

    8. Harper*

      Yeah, I think the take away here is that the group is getting loud enough that they’ve drawn unwanted attention on several occasions. The letter was specifically about the shushing, which I agree is rude, but there is that added issue that if there is merit that things get a little disruptive, you may have to address that or you won’t have any standing to push back on the shushing anyway.

      1. Anna*

        I wonder if the manager should stop shushing and just take it up with the coworker’s manager. I mean, it’s turning into a Thing and the coworker seems unconcerned that they’ve been corrected multiple times. It seems at that point it’s not merely a reminder, but an actual behavior that needs to be addressed.

    9. ExceptionToTheRule*

      The biggest thing here is that you’re disturbing the patients. I’m going to give you the patient perspective on what’s going on:

      When I was laid up in the hospital last summer during the near death experience, I was literally plugged into the wall but no longer had a catheter, so to go to the bathroom I had to press the call button and get someone to unplug the pumps and help me out of bed. My room was also right outside the work pod. So the day after I’m back on the floor after ICU, I need to go. I press the call button & can hear everyone laughing and joking at the pod right outside my door (which was closed) and nobody comes. 30 minutes & nobody comes. I ended up peeing myself while listening to everyone laughing & carrying on at the pod. I’m sure a large number of those people were on well-deserved breaks. Didn’t mean I wasn’t lying in my own piss listening to it.

      1. e271828*

        I’ve seen that happen, where the staff is so noisy that they disregard alarms and calls. It’s cruel.

        My mother, a retired nurse, has occasionally made brief and caustic observations to me about nursing staff who are having loud casual conversations and so on in patient care areas. It is inconsiderate in every way. LW2, I’m not saying don’t ever laugh in a patient care area, but it is your professional duty to remember that people there feel like crap and are there to recuperate. Even if a senior doctor is standing there telling the funniest joke ever heard, it is not a coffee shop.

    10. TootsNYC*

      also: “shhh” is quick and takes -no- mental parsing to understand what it means.
      Instant and clear communication.

      Saying, “could you please keep the volume down?” takes more time.

      (I personally hate the “on your left” that bicyclists use; get a frigging bell, and use it. It’s instant communication–the tinkling noise instantly says “bicycle,” the noise travels farther so I’ll hear it while you’re still far enough away for me to do something about it, the angle of the noise tells me where you are, and I don’t have to stop and think about which is my left, and whether that person it talking to me, and to remember to not step TOWARD my left but away from it)

      Of course, there are degrees of snottiness and anger that can be conveyed by tone of voice. But….you guys are in the wrong, so I think that there’s some of that you all just need to bear with.

      1. TootsNYC*

        That “shhh” sound can also cut through the conversation–it’s sibilant and therefore more piercing. If the person trying to quiet you guys had to speak words loudly enough to be heard, that would be MORE disruptive.

        It’s also not words, and therefore will be more noticed.

        1. Nita*

          I was thinking the same thing. If the group is being very loud, would the manager have to shout at them to get their attention? Which is not great considering they’re trying to keep noise down. Loudly lecturing whoever is causing a disturbance is not going to promote a peaceful environment. The shushing just might work better. Especially if the manager from the patient care areas has come by before with polite requests to quiet down (have they?) and it didn’t work.

          I do wonder why it’s always the same person that comes to shush OP and friends. Is this person more sensitive to noise than average? Maybe it’s really not that loud in the break room… In any case, if the chatter can be heard outside with a closed door, there’s clearly a problem. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault – maybe the break room needs a better location, or a better door that provides some sound insulation – but it’s still not good for patients, who would probably be grateful to not have someone’s hearty laughter intruding on what could be a difficult or exhausting moment for them.

          1. Kate 2*

            It might be that this manager is in charge of the area where the break room is. Like the “ICU” floor manager and the breakroom happens to be on that floor. Or maybe the other managers have given up, or the other coworkers are afraid of the loud talker’s overreactions, etc.

          2. TootsNYC*

            it may be the same person just because her office is closer, or because she is the one with the authority/responsibility to tell people to pipe down.

            in hospitals, you can’t really move the break room.

      2. Starbuck*

        I had no idea people thought that was rude! I ran track and have done a little derby skating, and calling out your passes verbally is required and considered good etiquette. Is it rude when a jogger trying to pass you says the same thing? I always feel kind of rude using the bell, to be honest. It feels more like honking a car horn.

        1. LCL*

          On your left or bell are considered equally courteous and appropriate here. And yes, the first time I heard ‘on your left’ when I was on my skates so many decades ago I moved left…

        2. Kate 2*

          I actually appreciate the “On your blank” more than a bell. The bell tells me someone is behind me, but not on which side. It can also be startling, depending on the bell, my first instinct is to spin around looking for the bike. Of course where I am bicyclists are pretty rude, I’ve been nearly hit by several going way too fast on the sidewalk (which is not allowed in my state) and they NEVER ring or call out, so this is all theoretical.

        3. somebody blonde*

          “Excuse me” is way better than “on your left”. When you say “on your left”, the person’s instinct is to go left because you said “left”, but then they realize that’s where you’ll be so they do this horrible hesitation dance and then move right. “Excuse me” is better because it causes the person to look at you, figure out which way to go to be out of your way, and execute it much more quickly.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I’m not saying it’s rude, exactly.

          It’s just that it’s not very effective, not when I’m the pedestrian (and I see from other people’s comments that I’m not alone).
          It requires too much thinking at a time when bicycles are moving very quickly. (Bikes move MUCH faster than joggers, so it’s important to have rapid communication.)

          Bikes are required by NYC law to have bells on them (I don’t see it enforced). The benefit of a bell is that it is such an unusual sound that it instantly says “bicycle.” And it carries much farther than a voice does.

          And it will either get me to look and see where you are, or it will TELL me which side you’re on (and about how far away, probably) because one ear will hear it more clearly than the other.

          Using your bell isn’t rude (neither is honking when it’s important to let someone know you’re there).

      3. Hera Syndulla*

        “On your left” sounds really dangerous, I would interpret it as I need to go left…

        Also, I always thought that a bell indicates that someone is behind you and that you should keep going in that line that you were going, so the one behind you can safely pass.

        The only problem I have sometimes, is that I don’t really know when to ring the bell, sometimes I’m too soon, other times it might be a bit too late. (never crashed on anyone just yet *knock on wood*)

  12. Panda Bandit*

    #3 – Give your employee the same amount of appreciation and birthday benefits that her coworkers get! Let her choose if she wants to celebrate in February or March and then stick to that for as long as she’s working there. You’re leaning waaaay too much on the letter of the law and it’s making you look petty.

    1. Kat A.*

      Actually, the OP is not leaning on any law. In the US and elsewhere the employee can sue for being wrongly denied benefits that come with the job and that everyone else gets. The fact that these benefits have monetary value (a day off and a gift card) only reinforce this more.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        well, technically you can sue for anything. Doesn’t mean you have a strong case. This would not be a strong case.

        1. MonicaLane*

          That would depend where they live. Where I live PTO is legally considered wages. Having a policy that everyone gets one annual birthday day off, even if their bday is on a weekend, then denying this one person… Yeah I think she could win that. But the loss of her professional reputation for taking it that far wouldn’t be worth how little she would get for it.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Not unless the reason she’s getting different benefits is a reason prohibited by law, or violates a contract. “Only employees under 40 get a cake” is a legal problem. “Only my favorite employee gets cake” is not.

      3. bonkerballs*

        I may be wrong, but I don’t think Panda Bandit was being literal when saying “letter of the law” but was more using it as a figure of speech to mean you’re being really rigid about birthdays.

  13. Tuxedo Cat*

    L3, this woman literally doesn’t get a day off. It’s not being petty.

    It sucks when you don’t receive the same goodwill treatment that everyone else does. When I left my job, I didn’t receive a signed card even though I had been there for years and helped on many projects that were not my own. Another employee who was basically fired received a signed card from everyone. I would’ve even more hurt (and angry, TBH) if it were something bigger than a card.

    1. Gigi*

      LW3 the company you work for could be at risk of a potential lawsuit because of the way you are treating your employee. You are denying her days off and gift cards which have monetary value that every other employee is getting based on nothing other than her particular date of birth, not only that but with employees who have their birthdays on weekends and holidays you show you are perfectly capable of being flexible by letting them have a day off when it isn’t their actual birthday. A lawsuit would not only cause damage to your company’s finances, it would also cause serious damage to the company’s reputation which would lose you both potential employees and customers/business. Since 2016 was a leap year that means you only need to give her the benefits she missed out in 2017, however she should also receive some sort of compensation for her unfair treatment. My suggestion is two extra paid days off this year which she can use whenever she wishes so long as she notifies you no less than two weeks prior.

      1. Anononon*

        Date of birth, as in the specific day and not related to age, is not a protected class. Unless she had a contract to get those days off, I do not see a lawsuit risk.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Not a lawyer – obviously not a protected characteristic so discrimination probably wouldn’t fly, but might be another loophole somewhere – but probably not the point :) She can raise a lawsuit for anything, and the company would quickly be known as the people who are petty about birthdays – not good for their reputation, even if they did win legally.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yup. Anybody CAN file a lawsuit, but they’re a huge hassle and they’re also not free – unless the OP talked a lawyer into rolling the dice, which would be extremely unlikely.

          1. Anononon*

            I am a lawyer, and that is very bad advice to give to people. There are consequences even when filing a legit sit. You should never encourage people to be so cavalier.

            1. Gigi*

              I wasn’t encouraging someone to be cavalier, I was giving a warning. There are riskier lawsuits that have been won for vast sums of money.

        2. Anna*

          Just out of curiosity, since the employee’s seeming age and inexperience did come up in the OP’s letter, but in states where age discrimination covers ANY age, could it be an age discrimination case?

          Let it be known that I in no way support a lawsuit but it does feel like the OP is linking some of this to the employee’s age.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            Are there states where age discrimination covers the younger end of the spectrum? I’ve only ever heard it applied to discrimination against older people.

            1. Anna*

              Oregon does. I don’t know if other states do, but Oregon includes all age discrimination in its law.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Lawsuit, eh. It’s definitely a morale issue, however, and it’s not worth losing good employees over. And it makes me wonder what other arbitrary crap this employer might be pulling. Even if the Leap Year birthday person isn’t a great employee, others do notice petty stuff like this and they will factor it into their evaluation of whether to seek employment elsewhere.

  14. Anonicat*

    #3 is so mind-boggling. Of course she wants a day off like everyone else! They’re not even insisting on it being the “real” day of the birthday for other workers if the real day is a non-work day.

    Anyway, they’re surely not treating her like she only has a legal birthday every 4 years in other respects. “Sure, you were born in 1992, but you’ve REALLY only had 6 birthdays. We can’t allow a 6yr old to sign legal documents/drive company vehicles/participate in happy hour!”

    1. PollyQ*

      This is more or less the plot of “Pirates of Penzance”, which, I hasten to point out is a *farce*, so not at all like real life.

    2. Geoffrey B*

      “Yes, I know she defenestrated the VP-in-charge-of-birthday-policy, but you can’t jail a five-year-old for that!”

    3. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      If I worked at this company and had a non-leap year birthday, I’d be up in arms about this, too. I’d be right there for the co-worker with the leap year birthday, saying it isn’t fair and needs to change. In fact, I’d refuse my day off and my gift card and state the reason why. The employer is being unfair, petty, and ridiculous. The employer is creating a negative work environment and eroding morale (mine and my unfairly-treated co-worker’s, at the very least).

      I don’t like to be on the receiving end of that kind of petty, ridiculous, unfair behavior, and I don’t like to see others on the receiving end of it, either. How often do you get a chance to stand up and try to stop something like this right in your own backyard? I would jump on the chance to back my co-worker. I would mention it to others and hope they’d join me. I’ll be damned if I’m going to benefit while someone else equally deserving working near me gets screwed. Not for a lousy gift card and a day off.

      To me, it’s an easy call. However, I acknowledge that I don’t have a chronic illness or any other situation that would put me at risk of exceeding my PTO quota and therefore make an extra paid day off a big deal, and that not everyone’s as fortunate. However, I’d guess that most aren’t facing that type of situation. Even if I were in that kind of situation, I STILL wouldn’t like the way the leap year employee was treated, and I’d speak up about it.

  15. Artemesia*

    Re ‘feedback on applicant’. It is deeply crucial that honest feedback be given. Do you want to work alongside a person who lacks confidence, is a poor speaker and has trouble engaging either a group or individuals when all that is critical to the role. You should be polite but blunt when asked for your input on a hiring decision.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      Also, think about why you feel the need to soften your feedback. Do you think your manager is expecting you to compliment the candidate because she shortlisted him? Are you worried about giving negative feedback about someone who gets hired?

      It really is important for you to give proper, objective feedback. It does affect your credibility. If you feel worried, stick with observations instead of interpretations until you feel more confident about doing this.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes, this OP is confusing two situations.
        Q: can you please evaluate this person? I’d like several perspectives on whether we should hire them.
        A: sure, here are my bullets on what they seemed strong, where they were weak, and my hire/no hire recommendation.

        Q: can you please evaluate me, your boss?
        A: [uh-oh, walk soooooo carefully, ok so compliment-critique-compliment, I statements, be tactful!] …

        In short, you don’t have to be so careful and diplomatic about critiquing a 3rd party, especially a potential new hire. In this case, your analysis determines how much they respect your opinion and seek it out. If you feed them perky pablum, they’ll stop asking, or discount your input. Don’t be cruel or petty in your analysis, but don’t worry so much about pointing out that this guy was weak at several key areas that they role needs.

    2. Lilo*

      I once sat through an absolutely terrible interview where the interviewee was also clearly stressed out from not being able to find a job. We definitely all felt sorry for the candidate and one guy wanted to pass candidate through out of pity. The leader of the panel asked, “do you think you would be doing this person any favors by hiring her for a job she can’t do?” It made the guy on our panel reconsider (it was his first time doing interviews). It can feel like cruelty, but speaking up and making sure the wrong person doesn’t get a job they can’t do can actually be the compassionate choice.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        This is an important point. The OP should remember that her feedback may be used to not only gauge her own judgement, but could also be a factor in whether or not someone is hired by her company. Making sure the person will be a good fit is really crucial here.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      OP, I think you have an instinct that would serve you well if the issue were being asked a simple question and slipping into “I once read an article in The New Yorker on this, I’m an expert, soliloquy GO!” But you have gone way too far in the opposite direction. Your boss is asking for your honest feedback, out of earshot and not to be shared with the people you’re talking about, and you should give that. You don’t need to sandwich it with compliments. (Though it is good to find something to praise just as a test of whether you cast everything in a negative light.) Focus on the parts where you know more what the job calls for, but warranted feedback about those, positive and negative, plus a glancing “I thought X might potentially be a problem, but I don’t know a lot about how llama spouts fits with alpaca handles” where you recognize the specifics are more complicated than you yet understand, is what she wants from you.

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks so much for the feedback, all! I have to confess that I was thinking exactly what Alison wrote, and I submitted my question in part to confirm my worries about not being blunt enough. I’m still finding my footing as a professional (first job out of college/grad school), so I’m always glad to get advice.
        I was a bit more blunt than I described in the letter, basically saying that the attendees seemed to enjoy chatting with him before the event, but that I was deeply concerned about his performance/confidence/nerves. I wish I’d had my thoughts together a bit more when my boss talked to me, but that’s life!

        1. Specialk9*

          One thing to be aware of in these situations is you can usually go back, in an email where you can rework and be precise and organized. I recommend bullets and very clear sentences.

  16. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I really struggle with giving negative feedback about prospective hires when I’m relatively new or junior, also. I’ve found that it can be helpful to force myself to get really specific with naming what concerns me (which you’ve done in your letter!)—that way, when I give feedback, it’s based on really demonstrable and concrete problems that directly relate to core competencies of the job. You can even preface it with, “I understand I’m relatively new, but from my experience thus far, confidence and rapport are important skills for presenters/trainers. In light of that, [specific actions] gave me pause.”

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I like to frame it as “potential areas of concern” or “areas for improvement”. You’re not throwing shade by raising legitimate issues.
      I like the idea of naming the issues. You need to be specific and fact based. You named several issues in the latter to Alison. If you stick to facts and keep them in context you are not “bad mouthing” someone.
      You provide a fair evaluation the less you wave your hands and the more you use specific information.

      1. Casuan*

        OP, you have good standing if you can qualify your remarks as you did in your letter. Your manager wouldn’t ask for your opinions if she didn’t believe you had valid perspectives. What Alison said is true- that your response might also reflect on you & your judgment. Also, these evaluations can be a learning experience for you in that seeing the candidate in action might make you more aware of your own strengths & weaknesses.
        In the future, if your manager asks for your opinions then you can ask her if there are any particular traits on which to focus (eg: good at public speaking, personable & such). There’s a learning curve that will probably take some time.

        1. Mookie*

          Yes, Alison’s last paragraph in her response to LW5 is really spot-on. Even if it’s not formalized as an assessment, managers are evaluating you as an employee (as a colleague for the new hire, as a supervisor, as a mentor) when you’re involved in screening and interviewing peers. You should be using the same conscientious judgment, standards, and criteria you’d use when hiring your own direct reports. Often you’ll only ever be confirming what the actual hiring manager already thinks, and that will further endear you to them, as will drawing their attention to a potential problem that they missed or overlooked. This kind of feedback is normal, and in non-toxic environments an opportunity to make your life easier by helping to hire the best possible candidate (and, barring that, knowing in advance what a new hire’s strengths and deficiencies are so you can head them off or help to mitigate them). Take advantage of this opportunity whenever you can, LW.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      And the inexperience is not that relevant, IMO, especially since the position they’re interviewing for will be a peer, and the OP mentions leading a department, so they’re a manager themselves, it’s just that they don’t have a lot of tenure at this organization.

      OP, you might have to work with this person for years, or decades. Think of it like this: if you and your boss were buying a car or leasing an apartment together, would you want to downplay your concerns? These are things you’re *both* might have to live with for a long time, so speak up and chew them over with your boss! If not, it could adversely impact your organization for years.

      1. PolarBearGirl*

        OP5’s note that this person would be responsible for a number of public-facing responsibilities is also a factor that lends itself to giving feedback like, “I noticed the candidate seemed to have weak skills doing X, Y, and Z. I have concerns about how this would affect on all the work we’ve done trying to cultivate partnerships with organizations that rely on us to excel at X, Y, and Z.” This kind of feedback shows you are observant and that you are thinking about not only how it would affect the candidate’s ability to do the job but how they would enhance or detract from the overall institution. The one time I presented extremely critical feedback on a candidate it was along these lines. I work at a non-profit where many of our donors are women, and the candidate answered my question (I am female) by addressing remarks solely to my male colleague. As with Alison’s example, I was not rude (WTF this person is a pig), but I was honest about my concerns (I observed this example and several others i our session together that give me serious reservations about how this person would affect our institutional reputation with key groups). Remember that you are not being asked whether this person is nice but whether they are what the role and institution are looking for.

    3. LQ*

      I thought the OP did a really good job of detailing clear, direct, and useful feedback in the letter. It’s concrete, it’s reasonable. You aren’t saying that you just got a bad feeling, you have specific items. That’s exactly what is useful to tell someone. Definitely talk about it this way.

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks, all! This is really helpful for me moving forward. I anticipated that my boss would ask for my feedback, but I hadn’t totally processed my reaction by the time she came to chat with me. I wish I had been able to be a bit more specific, but I feel okay about the issues I raised.
        The candidate led another session with the full staff of the organization that went very poorly, and I’m aware that other department heads have similar concerns, so I continue to hope that my boss will not make this hire.

        1. Myrin*

          For what it’s worth and since it sounds like you have a good relationship with your manager, I think it’s totally fine to say “I haven’t really processed my reaction to [candidate] yet. Would you mind giving me [reasonable time frame] to collect my thoughts/write down some points I’d like to bring up/etc.”. If you feel like it, do keep us updated!

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think with most bosses, you could say, “here’s a quick impression, but let me organize some thoughts,” and then send them later.

        3. Gloucesterina*

          I agree with Engineer Girl and others above that being specific and using the language of “I noticed ___” which Polar Bear Girl suggested) is really useful, and not just in situations where you are being asked to provide feedback on job candidates!

          You might also think if there are other areas (not just evaluating job candidates, and not just providing negative feedback) where the “I noticed __” language might be useful. These could be non-work situations, like trying a new grocery store or a new TV show or podcast, as well as work situations (e.g. if your work involves collaborating with anyone, creating or improving anything, writing anything). Just a thought!

          I found this discussion useful since I am sometimes asked to provide anonymous written feedback on job candidates applying for full-time at the organization where I am employed just part-time. There’s this element of “who am I to judge?” in those situations that makes me uncomfortable providing feedback even when it’s anonymous and written, and even when it’s literally part of my job training to provide feedback (though to clients and not to job candidates).

          1. Casuan*

            This comment reminds me of something Alison once wrote, although I forget the original post. The gist is that there’s a time when one crosses from being the student to being an authority and how one should accept that shift with confidence.
            nb: This is how I processed what Alison wrote; probably I’m a bit off as to her actual words.
            Alison, your words did help me. Thank you!!

            Gloucesterina, when someone asks your opinion, accept that you are respected as one who can judge.

  17. Mike C.*


    I get these calls too, and they really piss me off. They claim to be reading from a “current resume”, and I presume they’re talking about my linked in profile. Then they start talking about work I did just after college and want me to get really excited about a very similar position taking a 50% cut in pay.

    And you called me at work!? Get f*cked and quit wasting my time.

    1. CW*

      Re: #4

      I get these calls from recruiters too. And they *are* reading from my current CV / LinkedIn profile but it seems that they’re aiming well below the current market rate, haven’t fully taken in my specialisations that I’ve put a lot of effort into over the years, or they have a cheap-skate client that they’re hiring for.

      I respond with “the salary on offer suggests you’re looking for someone a lot more junior than I am, and I’m not willing to take a step backward in my career right now”. Some of them get flustered and try and justify the salary with current market rates, and I then respond with “that’s not my experience of the current market, but good luck!”

      If it is a cheap-skate client they’re hiring for, recruiters usually try and sell the “culture” and “opportunities” but I find everything after this in the conversation acts as a red flag for the hiring organisation itself. Opportunities and culture mean squat for my retirement fund.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        I’m also contacted by recruiters all the time, but they usually don’t want to disclose the salary range (common where I come from). So Alison’s wording will be really useful for me;

      2. TL -*

        Once I had a recruiter (located in the Carolinas) contact me for a pharma/biotech job that paid $35 or $40K in Boston. I told her nope, the salary was waaaay too low and I certainly wasn’t going to work in biotech for less than what I made in an academic lab.

        She got incredibly frustrated with me, told me I was wrong and that was the going rate in Boston for biotech jobs and I wouldn’t have much luck finding something that paid higher. A) my next job, in an academic lab – famously underpaid jobs! – paid higher and B) I consistently get recruiter emails about jobs that are in the 60-70K range. (Which, when you’re in grad school, are really painful. Really, really painful.)

        But I bet part of her frustration was that she was having trouble filling the job.

        1. Mike C.*

          One of these guys offerered me a similar position. I knew where this was headed, told him that unless it was paying 100k that he was wasting our collective time. He sputtered, tried some salesman BS and I hung up on him.

          I don’t walk into a Maserati lot with $20 in my back pocket and a cheery story. If you aren’t prepared to pay what something or someone is worth, don’t waste their time!

          1. neverjaunty*

            And don’t get flustered or defensive when they explain they aren’t interested, either. It’s a business transaction.

        2. Lora*

          Yeah, no. I’m in biotech in the Boston area. We pay more than that for kids fresh out of college. Like 50% more.

          Have seen many sketchy recruiters who hope that nobody really understands cost of living differences. Nope.

          1. JD SAHE*

            I remember seeing a post on reddit where a guy from Alabama was being offered 65k in SF, and the whole chain was people trying to explain to him that it just would not work. He had a wife, one kid, and one of the way. It was a fascinating read because he just could not wrap his mind around cost of living – “I get that rent is more bug eggs only cost 1.99, that cant change that much!”

            My last job hunt was perfectly timed so that I got 4 offers the same week. The one with the highest cost of living came in almost 10k under the others and kept saying they wouldn’t raise it because of “desirability”. Cool, you just priced yourself out of a candidate.

            1. Lora*

              Good heavens, I was offered 150k in SF a few years ago and had to turn it down because I couldn’t make it work.

              1. YetAnotherNerd42*

                SF is one of the places I refuse to relocate to because of cost-of-living. You literally could not pay me enough to live there.

            2. Aerin*

              The husband was all excited about a potential job within his company that would move us to the Bay Area–until he found out it pays 85K. Nope!

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I once had a discussion with a would-be client about freelance rates, where they seemed to earnestly believe that if they applied enough pressure, I would realize that if someone in Texas would do this job for rate X, I should happily turn down work at my actual much higher rate so I could do their project for rate X. After all, some unnamed people in Texas they apparently can’t manage to hire would be okay with that rate.

          1. Specialk9*

            That technique couldn’t possibly ever work, could it? Even people who cave under pressure wouldn’t actually quit a higher salary for a lower salary, due to pressure from a stranger on the phone?

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I imagine it’s like trying to get a date by yelling at women on the street. It only has to have mythically worked once, for your cousin’s friend’s classmate, for people to give it a shot.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I’ve also had this happen. I received an email two months ago for a skill set I could do perfectly – except I acquired those skills in 1998. Sorry, I’ve moved onward and upward since then.

      1. HR Here*

        Yeah, I just was contacted about the line of work I was in before grad school…so clearly not the area I’d be looking in.

    3. Natalie*

      Why do they call people at work??? That is the absolute most mystifying thing to me. I used to share an office with my boss, FFS.

      I have been cold contacted by a good recruiter through LinkedIn (they placed me at my current job) but he sent me a message through LI like a reasonable professional that understands that most people aren’t going to talk to a recruiter at their current job.

    4. Environmental Gone Public Health*

      I get the emails. Constantly. It gets extraordinarily annoying, since they also reference my LinkedIn profile but want me to get excited about a low-paying, entry level job that isn’t even in the same state as where I currently reside, and have for a few years (but IS in the same state as my colleges…). I am looking actively for new opportunities, so it gets my sense of paranoia going – is my LinkedIn profile really only attracting recruiters for entry level jobs? Am I not portraying myself accurately?! Am I stuck with entry level for the rest of my life??!

      Then I remind myself that the recruiters apparently must not be able to read, since they reference requiring only a bachelor’s with no work experience and I have 8 years experience with a Master’s.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a recruiter once contact me about an interesting sounding PH job, but were super cagey about location, company, etc. So I spent the time to write up a cover letter and send them my resume only to have them be *super* huffy at my that I’m not an RN.

        Dude, if I were an RN it would be pretty high up on my LinkedIn, dontcha think?

        1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

          Lol, you mean you don’t have these random qualifications that there’s no evidence of on your LinkedIn profile for this job I won’t tell you anything about? Whaaaat???

          I wish I got postings for PH jobs. For some reason they all focus on the college-lab-assistant positions I had /in college as an undergrad/ and think I’m going to be totally okay with switching to low entry level lab rat for $25k a year in a city where even the cruddiest apartments are $1200/month. Uhm, no thanks. I did have a recruiter recently get snitty at me when I (for once) emailed back and simply stated that while I am open to new opportunities, I would be interested only in relevant positions that are $57k and up that are non contract. “Well, there’s nothing we have like that!” That’s perfectly okay, but that also means you can take me off your mailing list, kthnxbye.

    5. KRM*

      I get so many of those calls, from the same company. Ummm, I’ve been here almost 10 years. Why would you think I’d leave for a contract job well below my skill level? And that’s BEFORE I know anything about salary!
      My favorite was one that said I would be perfect for a job that I have no skills for. They clearly saw that one person on my LinkedIn had (for some reason) endorsed me for a skill. That I don’t have, but LinkedIn is weird with the skills-endorsing stuff. These recruiters are rarely in touch with any sort of reality because they go off what you choose to keep on your LinkedIn profile. I have started just ignoring the one recruiting company that calls all the time. If I ever did start looking, I wouldn’t want to work with them anyway given the acumen they’ve (not) shown in their job, so I don’t feel I’m burning any bridges.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Now I’m picturing someone procrastinating at work by going through their Linked In connections and randomly endorsing skills. “Joe… he’s great at choux pastry! Colleen… a whiz at Mathematica! Marcy… you’re now a trauma surgeon….”

        1. Specialk9*

          Hysterical. :D

          Also, I routinely cull down my endorsements. People can have very fuzzy ideas of what I do, especially since LinkedIn suggests skills. (Uhh, sure, sounds about right.) I delete outliers.

          1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

            I had someone that for some reason I will never understand kept endorsing me for random as all hell skills on a daily basis. I’m an environmental manager. I don’t have any skills in C++ programming. Or Java. Or emergency services. Or metalworking. Or some other random software that there is no reason to suspect I have any technical skill in. I ended up blocking him on LinkedIn because I got so sick of going in there to delete 10+ skills that he endorsed every couple days. Got old real quick.

    6. Stormy*

      I get contacted ALL THE TIME for temp-to-hire positions, which are common in my field. Why would anyone leave a full-time position for a lower-paying job that’s only guaranteed for three or six months? It’s insane.

      1. Lora*

        Have done it, but for the reason that my boss was a mega-douche asking me to do something which was either illegal or highly questionable, and I didn’t want to stay in that position for one minute longer than I had to. Toughing it out until I found something perfect was not a financial option.

        A recruiter won’t know that unless they recently helped a colleague with a similar situation though, and in that case they usually name drop.

    7. DCGirl*

      I’m a proposal manager for a government contractor. Some companies hire proposal managers just for one specific opportunity on a contract basis, so I frequently get calls about three-month gigs. No, I’m not going to give up a full-time job with health insurance, a 401k, and paid leave for a three-month 1099 gig.

    8. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      I get the impression they take a “buckshot” approach on these calls, the way some guys do when they approach women in clubs and bars: Ask 100 people for (whatever), even if you think you don’t have a shot, and maybe you’ll get lucky with two. Maybe with none. They’re concerned about their needs, not yours, so they don’t spend time finding out what might work for you. Because they don’t care. It’s all about the percentages.

      I notice patterns, most humans do. Recruiters with a track record of wasting my time get sent to voice mail or an in-box sub-folder. Maybe they’ll have something, probably they won’t. I’m playing the percentages, too. But in my favor, not theirs. And yeah it’s annoying as hell. But such is life.

      1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        Also, if a recruiter calls me at work, I immediately inform the person to email me instead and terminate the call very quickly. If they call me at work again, they get the same response: Please don’t interrupt me at work, I’m busy, email me the details, good-bye. Repeat as needed, with an increasingly peremptory tone of voice and no “please.”

    9. Anon for this one*

      My dad got some of these when I was a kid. One time he listened to a pitch, said “I make more than that on a Tuesday morning before lunch!” and hung up. Still the best response to this shit I’ve ever heard.

  18. Eve*

    OP3 How about you donate your day off and gift card to her on your birthday since it isn’t a big deal to you?

      1. Sparky*

        This. You and your manager should give your PTO and your gift card to leap year employee. Since you yourself say it is not that big of a deal. As a matter of fact, perhaps all of management should give their PTO away to the underlings. Since it’s not that big of a deal. Why would I want an extra day off when EVERY one else at my workplace gets it and I don’t? How can you not see the unfairness of that?

  19. Fake Eleanor*

    I confess I’d find “sshhhhhhhh!” much more irritating than being asked to quiet down — but either way, I’d stop doing it after one offense and know that I was in the wrong.

    1. Lissa*

      Yes me too. I actually have an irrational rage reaction to being “shushed”, it makes me feel like they’re treating me like a child and I have bad experiences because my voice “carries” more than some, so if i’m talking at the same volume as someone else, people will shush me specifically. Even if I said four words and they had a whole conversation. But, I’m aware that this is really not rational and I can’t expect other people to know it bothers me this much.

      Still I would so much rather hear “please quiet down in there” or something.

      (love your name BTW. Pre-show Fake Eleanor would be the worst coworker….I really could see an AAM letter based on some of those flashbacks)

      1. Just Employed Here*

        “Still I would so much rather hear “please quiet down in there” or something.”

        Sure, but how many times would you say that until you would switch to something more blunt and quick (be it shhh or just “quiet!” or whatever)? If you were the manager, I mean.

        I think I’d last no more than three polite corrections, if even that. Why keep saying something that clearly doesn’t stick?

        1. Julia*

          Yeah, and after ten or twelve times, I’d probably lose my nerves and yell at them to “shut the f&§! up” – which is not good, but really, why do impolite people always expect politeness from everyone else?

        2. neverjaunty*

          “Spandelia, this is next to a patient area. I’ve had to ask you to keep the noise level down every day this week. Please help me understand what about my requests was unclear?”

          1. Specialk9*

            But to a loud group that aren’t her direct reports? “Guys? Hey, guys. HEY! Quiet please, I need to address the group. Excuse me…”

      2. Julia*

        My voice is so high-pitched people can apparently hear me through a bus load full of conversation even at a normal volume.

        My grad school professor once shushed me when I answered a clarification question from another student, after several people had been talking non-stop throughout the whole class. I raised my eyebrow and said “surely this goes for everyone?” But then again I’m a quite cheeky sometimes.

      3. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I have a problem with it as well and I will be internally pissy for a few minutes afterwards. I had/have difficulty with volume control. I don’t know if it’s due to being ADHD but I believe that could be part of it – when I get excited or just very into a conversation my attention to volume goes out the window. But “shhhh”ing me or saying “indoor voice please” makes me feel like a child being chastised in a way that “hey could you be a little quieter” or “you don’t have to yell, I’m right here” doesn’t.

        But yeah, I can’t expect other people to know which phrases I like and which I don’t. And I can expect myself to be aware enough that I don’t need repeated corrections.

        1. Anony*

          I’m autistic and have trouble with volume control, especially if I’m discussing one of my Special Interests. And being “shushed” makes me so mad. I think it’s a combination of residual trauma from “social skills” classes and the fact that the sound really disagrees with my sensory processing disorder. It’s one of those things where I’d have to take myself out of the situation and practice self-calming rituals in order to function properly. If I were being “shushed” multiple times a day, I would start feeling like I was being personally targeted even if I knew, intellectually, that I wasn’t.

          I don’t know enough about the co-worker in question to be able to say whether something like this was happening. But the fact that the LW said that the co-worker had a similar reaction to me in that situation does make me wonder.

          1. Anna*

            I think after the nth time being asked to keep it down, it’s no longer on the person doing the asking to worry so much about how the coworker prefers to be told to keep it down. Sure, you may not like it, but probably the person asking doesn’t like having to do it, either.

        2. Birch*

          Doesn’t it become a thing where the annoyed parties should pull the loud talker aside at that point and preemptively solve the problem before the next time it happens? Why would you not just have that conversation and ask that the break room not be the chat spot at that time?

          1. TootsNYC*

            because it keeps happening all the time, at random times, with lots of different people? And you’re busy?

            And sticking your head in the door and saying, “Shhh!” is quick and gets results?

          2. Anna*

            If people are using the break room on a regular basis and work at that site on a regular basis, they should probably know they need to keep it down. This isn’t a new employee who doesn’t know; this is someone who is being shushed frequently. At that point, it’s no longer on the shusher to make the effort. It’s on the loudmouths to keep it down.

        3. Lil Fidget*

          Ugh, I need to work on some scripts for this! I have two friends who are both just naturally Very Loud Talkers. I feel like I’m being shouted at and also that everyone around us must be annoyed by our conversations. I’m soft spoken but clearly my hints are not working (I usually lower my own volume and glance around nervously looking pained when the volume starts going up – yeah, I know, not helpful). It just feels hurtful to say of their natural tone: “hey, you are being too loud, can we lower the volume.” But sometimes it literally hurts my ears! And I also think it’s funny when we’re obviously discussing something intimate or embarrassing and they’re bellowing away like a soprano in the final act haha. I am working on growing a stronger backbone so I’ll try to tackle this head on next time.

          1. TootsNYC*

            sometimes people use a “lower the volume” gesture (turning a dial, or putting their hand out and deliberately lowering it).

            I can project really well, and sometimes it’s a problem for me. Those gestures work really well, even with someone who hasn’t proposed them in advance. Especially if they’re accompanied by a small smile or a friendly face and continued involvement in the conversation. It becomes a simple “mechanics” thing, and not a judgment.

            So I’d say, bring it up: “Sometimes you can get loud; if I make this gesture, will that work to alert you to bring the volume down?”

        4. Specialk9*

          But, I mean, having loud lunches in a quiet workspace, where it can disturb ill patients, after having been cautioned multiple times… That kind of IS acting like a child. Why should your annoyed feeling be more important than you actually following the clearly articulated and reasonable rules of your workplace?

          I had a roommate like that. She didn’t like to take on certain hard tasks, like paying me her rent on time, or cleaning as we all agreed. But she also didn’t like being reminded that she was late *again* and it was a hardship to me, or the suggestion that she create a calendar reminder. “I’m not a teenager and you’re not my mom.” She was right, she was a freaking adult and should have managed her own stuff, rather than using her emotional reaction as a manipulative technique to keep acting like a child.

          It seems like a good parallel to this situation.

          1. Specialk9*

            Uh, I accidently said “you” and “your” when you’re not actually the OP. Sorry, should have been “they” or “one”.

      4. Paper Librarian*

        I absolutely hate the “shhh-ing” sound. Partly because it is terribly grating, and partly because I would much rather use my words. The Shhhing Librarian stereotype does not make it any better.

        Although I do get private enjoyment from large groups of k-12 kids coming in the library, because they will always without fail be talking loudly and shhhhhing each other all at the same time.

    2. LQ*

      I’m another loud talker. I’ve been blessed with great lungs and a voice that can fill an auditorium. Which means you can always hear me. At some point if you’re a loud talker you have to get over being shushed or told to be quiet and understand that the problem is you. And you (I) do need to shush. The nice gentle conversation is great the first time. But the 10th, yeah, it’s going to be just shhh because they want to go back to their desk and get back to work. This coworker needs to get over herself. (Close the door if there is a door to close.)

      (Fun story, when I was little long distance was expensive so we just talked across the swamp to our neighbors, my “outside voice” carries easily a half a mile. When people admonish me for using my outside voice I’m still surprised because most people will never hear me use my outside voice, not even outside.)

      1. Myrin*

        Oh goodness, yeah. I have a very loud voice – on of the less ideal traits going strong in my family – and additionally some weird auditory issues which make it basically impossible for me to accurately gauge how loud I’m actually being (had that conversation just a few days ago – I was becoming agitated about something and louder and shriller and my mum asked me to try to calm down a little and then I started to what felt like whisper but which apparently was still louder than a regular inside voice, although just barely this time). It’s 100% on me to be quieter and I actually actively ask people to shush me because it’s so hard for me to tell. There’s no need to feel attacked because of something like this.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          What would be the kindest way you would like to be told? I have said “let’s try to keep it down a little” but I felt like the other person still felt sort of insulted. They were excited and thought I’d be excited with them, I think.

          1. Myrin*

            That sounds perfectly fine! But honestly, I don’t mind stuff like this in general – people usually make the “shshsh” noise at me, the hand gesture that signifies “lower volume please”, or just say “Quiet [please]!” and that’s perfectly fine with me (as long as they’re people I’ve previously talked about this with, of course; I’d hope a perfect stranger would at least say a whole sentence to me first). But that’s because I’m thick-skinned and also own up to the fact that I have an objectively loud voice – someone in denial or who is very sensitive will have a very different reaction compared to me.

          2. Specialk9*

            I asked my mostly-deaf FIL if there was a way he preferred me to ask him to talk quieter, explaining that my ears are extra sensitive to loud talking. We worked out something that doesn’t bother him. (He’s a great guy, and we get along well, but I didn’t want to risk making him feel bad or annoyed by doing the wrong thing.) He knows he can’t tell when he’s too loud, and this way works.

          3. LCL*

            ‘Please, I can hear you fine, you are talking a little bit too loud for me.’ Let’s keep it down a little is, really, meaningless. Down compared to what?

            1. teclatrans*

              Also, the “let’s” would really bug me, unless the other person was indicating, “Oh dear, I just noticed how loud I am being and me too,” and suggesting we both keep it down. If you find me too loud, identify that and ask me to adjust; if I don’t, then you can decide how to respond.

        2. Kate 2*

          We (my parents and I) found out as an teenager that I have some hearing loss. As a kid I was always way too loud, and louder when I was excited. I got shushed so often (in a nice way) and I guess it took, now I perpetually have people tell me I am too quiet and they can’t hear me.

    3. HannahS*

      Ditto. I hate being shushed (unless it’s in a classroom; then I’m weirdly ok with it) but I’d still recognize that I was in the wrong by making noise. Especially since it’s repeatedly. Maybe next time, LW could try saying something like, “I know you hate being shushed, but she’s right, we’re being too loud.”

    4. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      If I were a repeat offender (and you know if you are), then I’d feel guilty rather than offended at “shhhhhhh.” I can get boisterous when I’m on my down time, talking with friends/co-workers, and I know it. If I’m in the wrong, I’m more concerned about being the wrong and knocking it off than I am with how I’m told about it (short of being sworn at, threatened with a gun, or having projectiles hurled at me…that sort of thing).

      If I realized my pals and I were routinely being so loud it interfered with normal business being done, I’d see if maybe there weren’t a place, like a coffee shop, a meeting room with good insulation, or even the parking lot in good weather, where we could go and not be a PITA to others. It would certainly be worth checking out.

      1. TootsNYC*

        the OP’s colleague may actually feel guilty.

        That could easily be part of why she’s so personally offended–she feels defensive.

    5. TootsNYC*

      One thing about “sshhhh” is that, as a sibilant, it cuts through conversation more cleanly and sharply. It also communicates -instantly- what is needed (unlike “please quiet down”).

      Also: trying to get people’s attention, or cut through their conversation loudly enough to be heard, is going to be even MORE disruptive.

  20. Jenny*

    OP #3 I’m having a hard time believing I’m reading this letter correctly. Your company is singling out one individual and not providing them a benefit – and an extra day off every year is a huge benefit! – that every other employee gets, and you not only see nothing wrong with this, but want her to stop complaining about it? How can you say “She is not losing out on anything” when she’s losing out on a day off she should be getting? And this complaint is not “borne of inexperience” – any employee at any level would respond the same way to being excluded from a company-wide benefit, especially for such an incredibly ridiculous reason.

    If people whose birthdays are on a weekend get the following day off instead of their actual birthday, why in the world would it not be the same for this employee?

      1. JessaB*

        I remember the headlines when the year of the end of his indentures came about. G&S fandom made a big deal of it.

    1. svedin*

      This is one of those letters that I *hope* the woman with the birthday wrote the letter from the point of view of the unreasonable bosses. Maybe she knows the boss reads this blog and thus won’t be able to escape a semi-public flogging.

  21. Drew*

    LW#5, you have to be honest in your feedback, even when what you have to say is negative. This isn’t gossip or being “nasty,” it’s doing the job you’ve been asked to do: evaluate candidates for suitability in their role and for fit in your organization. You owe it to your boss to be forthright and professional when she asks for your opinion about work-related matters.

    I’ve been in your shoes and have soft-pedaled concerns about someone who ended up getting hired, and it was a HUGE mistake. Omitting details because they’re identifying, but the behaviors that made the person unsuitable for our office showed up in the initial interview and we decided they weren’t as bad as they turned out to be.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think it’s worth remembering that giving feedback in these situations isn’t like giving feedback to your colleagues (where the compliment sandwich is a technique, though perhaps not an ideal one). You’re helping your employer make a decision. Are you worried that being critical of candidates is somehow insulting their judgement in bringing those people in? It’s not – it’s vital information that will help your employer make the best decision on who to hire.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like the example upthread of looking at leasing an apartment. To the apartment owner you say “Hmm nice thank you we’ll let you know.” To your roommate, and possibly realtor, you say “The location is poor because while it’s near a subway line, it’s over a bar and will be loud late. The kitchen doesn’t have enough counter space. I like the light and access to the park, but not enough to overcome the bar and counter space problems.”

      2. OP #5*

        Thank you! I, too, don’t love the “praise sandwich,” but it’s what came out of my mouth at the time. I really appreciate all of these tips; I’m new to the professional world, and still finding my footing.

    2. Alternative Person*

      Yeah, I soft pedaled someone once and whilst she wasn’t a disater, she did end up causing me some trouble that took weeks to unpick. I’ve been much more politely explict since then and whilst some people I express concerns about still do get hired, my manager at least has the confidence to say ‘Well, you did tell me so.’ when I turn out to be right (upper management is insisting on some very short-term recruitment policies but that business is above my paygrade).

    3. Totally Minnie*

      I’ve been in the exact same situation as Drew, and I really, really wish I had voiced my concerns about the candidate in the moment. By being honest about your impression of these job candidates, you could be preventing some major headaches down the line.

  22. Greg M.*

    Letter 2. that is not what triggered means. being triggered is not being angry at something or annoyed at something. being triggered means having some sort of attack because something reminded you of a past trauma.

    1. PugLife*

      Yesss I came here to say that. I hate when people use he word “triggered” in this way – because it virtually always comes off as “I think it’s unreasonable that someone else is mildly annoyed.” Triggered means something very specific in mental health contexts, and the threshold is MUCH a higher than “I don’t like being shushed.” (People with auditory disorders, like me, could theoretically be triggered by shushing – but it’s a function of the particular sound rather than the overall action. Or people for whom the action of being shushed brings back traumatic memories/experiences, but I don’t think that’s what the LW means here). When the word “triggered” gets used in this way it dilutes it and can make people who actually use the word in a mental health context to be afraid to use it, and, by using it colloquially and divorced from its clinical meaning, it normalizes the behavior of those people who choose to use “triggered” as an insult. (These people are often the same people that enjoy being intentionally cruel for the sake of “provocation” and then make fun of the people they mock for being hurt.)

      1. JessaB*

        Thank you so much for saying this. I’ve sat here half an hour trying to figure out how to say what you just did.

      2. Artemesia*

        Pair ‘triggered’ with ‘I don’t feel safe, when’. from people trying to excuse their own predatory or abusive behavior and we have a typical misuse of the language of oppression. A lot of terrible people have learned to use this language to protect themselves from consequences. I don’t like to be shushed either. If I repeatedly disrupt other people’s work because I can’t control my blather and my volume then I need to suck it up and realize the problem is me. Tell me the first time — after that shush is what I have brought on myself.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I do appreciate some amount of self-policing from the comment section, and I know that if that’s the case, I can’t pick and choose how it happens. That said, I do think there’s been a heavier touch taken with it sometimes lately than I myself would take, so I’ll ask that people correct others only if it’s particularly egregious. (I deleted a couple of instances of it recently, but realized that I should explain why and what I’m doing.)

        All that said, I also ask that people not nitpick language and this has been called out and is indeed starting to derail, so let’s move on. Thank you!

        1. Bea*

          Thank you. I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the amount of chastising from commenters and it starts to feel weird and throws off the general vibe in the comment section.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        It was never used like this. “Triggered”as a standalone word like this is almost certainly related to the current usage, which often originates in people belittling the concept of being triggered.

        If you meant trigger the way you describe you would say it’s a trigger for a specific reaction, not that they’re “triggered”.

        More generally, I actually think it’s a pretty important derail, as the whole concept has been so thoroughly smeared for the mainstream that I won’t even use the damn word but rather describe the concept if I need to, outside of specific circles where people actually understand and respect that trauma is a thing, and you might even know someone affected by it! (Obviously this doesn’t need to be hundreds of comments long so I’m bowing out now, but this is something that I really think needs to be acknowledged here.)

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t actually think it’s an important detail in this letter (other than to maybe use it to determine whether you’d say OP has an overall cavalier attitude), but I do agree with everything else you’ve said. The key is that in this case, it’s used, like you say, as a standalone word – “One of my coworker gets triggered and low-key pissed off”. MommyMD’s point would only be applicable if the OP had said “This routinely triggers an upset outburst in one of my coworkers” or something similar, although she’s of course right that in general and used as a regular verb, “to trigger” does mean “to set something off/start a reaction”.
          I agree that this doesn’t need to be elaborated furthere, though, so I’mma bow out as well!

        2. Katniss*

          I agree that it’s an important derail. The watering down of the word, or even turning it into an insult, has robbed people like me with anxiety/PTSD of an important tool used to describe what’s happening to us and what we need.

        3. fposte*

          But the popular health usage is already pushing beyond the actual medical use as a more emphatic way to describe an emotion being elicited; I had a therapist who employed it pretty much as the OP did. I don’t think the OP’s out of step here, even if the use is something some people don’t like.

    2. Anony*

      I wouldn’t say that definitely? I have a trigger response to being shushed because of “social skills training” I had to undergo as a child because I’m autistic, and also that the shush sound messes with my sensory processing and is painful to me. It manifests as feelings of absolute, barely controlled rage. (I can control it, but it’s very difficult, and would involve taking myself out of the situation and practicing self-soothing rituals, so yeah. Probably looks like being “low key pissed off” because I am not very expressive, especially when I’m trying to keep a lid on things.)

      I’m not saying this is what’s happening here, but the LW is not necessarily over-exaggerating things here.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Sidenote FWIW: your description reminds me a lot of how a coworker described her misophonia. She said certain sounds (even sounds that to me were fairly innocuous, like biting into an apple) trigger a strong feeling of specifically rage.

    3. Mel*

      Thank you! I actually was triggered at a conference (I ended up having an anxiety attack and becoming physically ill), and I laid low for a few hours. I felt really embarrassed about saying I was triggered, but it was true – it was related to something I have been diagnosed with PTSD for. Having the term “triggered” being used colloquially and so lightly makes it hard to feel comfortable using when it really does apply.

      1. LCL*

        Why has the word flashback fallen out of vogue for these events? I think it’s more clearly descriptive and increases understanding.

        1. Aerin*

          Triggers don’t always cause flashbacks, and it’s possible to have flashbacks without a specific trigger. The concepts are related, but not interchangeable.

    4. Paper Librarian*

      That bothered me too. I was wondering what kind of trauma could be onset by shhhing. (Although, as I mention above, it’s a terrible noise.)

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Pretty much anything can be a trauma trigger if it’s strongly associated with a traumatic event, even if it’s not the thing that was directly painful. It’s like how a particular song or perfume can remind you of a bad breakup, only turned up to 11.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        It’s possible that is a trauma-related trigger. Lots of seemingly benign things are. However, if it is, it needs to be communicated in some way.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It means setting off an acute attack of one of a multitude of medical conditions. The usage for PTSD isn’t the only valid medical usage. That said, ‘being mad for being called out on bad behavior’ isn’t one of them.

  23. Viki*

    Q2- Triggered is a misused of the word; irritated that one has to be quieter at work while on break while a department can get work done is more percise. Just because you’re in the break room doesn’t change that you’re at work. Your coworker needs to become quieter if a manager has to shush her on a regular basis.

  24. Tuxedo Cat*

    For OP5, I think specific examples and how they are relevant, as you laid them out here, are fine.

  25. Atalanta0jess*

    Yes, this!! She is being compensated less (because PTO is compensation) than other employees because of her specific date of birth. That is clearly wrong. Like, ridiculously clearly.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      Well, that clearly didn’t nest properly. But point made, regardless of the fact that you can’t see who I was replying to. This letter is exploding my mind.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        From what I read age discrimination is only for 40+, but I could be wrong on that. Not a lawyer and all that.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think it would apply even if the employee was over 40 because it’s not really about her age, it’s about the specific date on which her birthday falls. It’s dumb as all hell, but probably not legally actionable.

          1. Anna*

            I was wondering about the age thing, though, because the OP made specific references to how old she is and how she’s young and inexperienced.

            In Oregon, age discrimination covers over and under 40, not just 40+.

          2. Miss Beehive 1963*

            Someone brought up above that if her state considers paid time as wages, she could have a case in saying that they are denying her pay without cause. It’d be worth looking into.

  26. phira*

    LW2: Not only do I agree with Alison, but I’d also ask you to reconsider your use of the word “triggered.” It gets thrown around pretty casually these days, often in a derogatory manner, in contexts where it actually doesn’t reply. It sounds like your coworker is just fed up with being asked to be quiet, and instead of considering that they maybe should stop being so loud that other people can’t get work done, they just have an extremely short fuse about it.

    LW5: I was in a very similar position recently, and I’m glad I was honest with my supervisor. Like Alison said, don’t be rude or unprofessional about it, but when your supervisor asks for your opinion, you’re not supposed to hide what you think or be a yes-person. You never know when your supervisor is on the fence and might need your perspective and opinion to better inform them so they can make the right decision.

  27. GingerHR*

    LW3 – if the comments you’ve had already haven’t changed your mind, please consider this. It’s not just this particular person who will think you are being petty and unfair. So will all her colleagues – she will have told some, not for drama, just in conversation. They will think you are being petty and unfair, and this factors into the way that your employees work for you, because fundamentally most of us look for fairness. They will basically care less about what they do. Also, imagine if your employee had written to Alison. I don’t want to second guess what she’d say, but I”d have hoped to read ‘your employer is a jerk’. Do you want to be that employer?

    1. CatCat*

      I agree. I’d be upset to find out a coworker was being treated this way. I’d be wondering when management’s caprice would be coming down on me and others.

      Though I’d be shocked, with LW3’s abnormal and hostile attitude on this issue, if there weren’t other morale-crushing issues already in place.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and not just their caprice, but I’d be alarmed that they don’t understand the value that various forms of compensation have.

    2. beanie beans*

      This is a great point. The management could be losing a huge amount of trust and morale.

      I’m floored more than one person at this office stands by this decision.

      I can’t come up with more words because my jaw is still on the floor.

  28. Boy oh boy*

    LW2: In the UK at least, you say shhhh to small children. I would feel very patronised if someone literally went “Shhhhhhh!” at me. I’d probably be annoyed that they were treating me like a child instead of using words. That might be what is getting on LW2’s colleague’s nerves so much.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think that’s true in the U.S., also (you don’t “shhh” strangers, and this is associated with children or being noisy in quiet areas of the library).

      But given the repeat noise-violations, I don’t really blame the manager for shushing the employees. It sounds like the manager has used her words, they’ve been ignored, and now she has to resort to the quickest and most attention-arresting method of conveying “be quiet!” because OP and her coworkers are failing to modulate on their own. I don’t mean to be salty, but it may be more effective for OP#2’s coworker to keep it quiet than to rile and seethe everytime they’re shushed for impeding the delivery of services to patients.

        1. Reba*

          Thank you for this public service!

          I often wish I would shush theater talkers, but rarely have the guts to do so.

          I can’t wait till I’m old and don’t care. (not calling you old, fposte, just that this is part of my vision for myself as an openly crotchety old lady with kooky bouclé jackets and no f*cks to give)

          1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

            I already don’t care. I usually say “Please keep it down.” Works some of the time. Sometimes not. One of the things I love to do when I have a day off is to go to the movies on a weekday (Tues-Thurs is best), during the early afternoon. Fewer attendees and less talking. Often lower ticket prices, too. Love it!

            I’ve often wondered if the obnoxiousness of so many movie theater-goers is a contributing factor (besides the ever-escalating ticket prices) to the decline in movie ticket sales. It’s certainly a factor for me.

        2. Bea*

          I “shhhh” until they keep being loud and it turns into channeling my rage voice with “shut up.” I’m not here for noises at the cinema.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, good call! I forgot about theaters. I guess shushing is also used by adults when someone has the temerity to forgo their manners in the way you described?

      1. neverjaunty*

        It’s not the thing the LW or her coworker should focus on, but surely the manager, being a manager, has some tools to deal with Ms. Patient Disturber other than shushing?

        1. Luna*

          Maybe, though to me it sounds like LW and her co-worker are in a different department and the shushing manager doesn’t really know them.

      2. LCL*

        I’m curious about the physical details of the rooms. OP says ‘…loud conversations can be heard outside the door…’, which prompts the shushing. Open or closed door? How close together are the rooms? It is possible that the situation is borderline unworkable, given the need for breaks vs the need for quiet. If the room has a door, make a rule that the door will always be closed during conversations. If it’s a doorway but not a door, get the property owner to install a door. Maybe break times can be changed to avoid peak patient times, maybe not.

        I get manager’s frustration but she is dealing with it in a rude way. If someone shushed me in a business setting they would get away with it the first time, but after that their would be words. Many words.

        1. Merida Ann*

          Yeah, I think if this is such an ongoing issue, they should look into ways to change the room itself, whether it’s something directly blocking the sound like adding a door or installing sound-proofing panels on the walls or changing other environmental aspects of the room to reduce the employees’ volume, like getting a quieter refrigerator so that people aren’t talking over it or dimming the lights. They should also be discussing this with everyone who uses the room, if it’s not just these two employees being too loud, and maybe come up with a standard phrase to use to signal to your coworkers that the noise level is getting out of hand so that the “shhh” isn’t necessary.

          1. TootsNYC*

            or maybe they can agree that the sibilant sound “sshh” **is** the standard phrase to signal the noise level is getting out of hand.

            That sibilant sound will certainly cut through the conversation instantly, which is a tremendous advantage.

          2. Kate 2*

            As others have said though, Manager would probably have to shout to be heard over the too loud conversation. Ssshh cuts through that. Also Manager has used their words over and over again and they ignore it. What use would more words be than a quick sound that is known to mean “Be quiet!”?

            1. Merida Ann*

              Oh, I didn’t mean the manager – I mean the other coworkers in the room. I know I have trouble when I’m with friends who are getting loud when we’re at a restaurant or something, but I don’t know a polite, non-awkward way to say “I’m enjoying our conversation, but say it quieter / laugh quieter.” If they could address the issue with the whole team, they could also ask them to sort of self-police, so that anyone could say “patients sleeping” or something quick that everyone would recognize as the agreed upon phrase to reduce volume without having to worry about seeming rude.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I think you use “sshh” in places where a longer sentence would actually be MORE disruptive. In a situation in which you don’t have time or opportunity to speak to people.

        And where (“most attention-arresting”) you need to cut through other conversation to be heard, and you don’t want to have to yell even LOUDER than they are talking in order to be noticed.

        Like the theater, or movies. Or this b