my employee uses constant jargon, unpleasant coworker wants to have lunch together, and more

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

1. My employee uses odd, repetitive jargon

I have an employee who has a very unusual habit. She uses the word “visibility” in almost every second sentence she says. For instance, someone will ask her, “Can you tell me why we give a free teapot to all our customers?” and she will say, “Yes, it’s to give them visibility on the ongoing tea.” Other examples are “We need more visibility on this issue,” ”visibility is key,” and “Let’s turn that around by creating visibility.” She says it so much, I wouldn’t be exaggerating at all to say it’s in every three to four sentences. It’s actually hindering people’s ability to truly understand what she means.

I have addressed it with her in a one on one, and then ongoing I try to dig deeper into what she means in terms of actions.

I have a meeting coming up in which she will be a large contributor. How can I continue to address this or help her overcome this odd, repetition jargon speak she is using? As you can see, I could use some visibility on this.

If this were just an annoying habit but wasn’t really impacting anything, I’d say you should give her some feedback on it and then let it go. But since this is actually interfering with people’s ability to understand her, I think you’ve got standing her to push harder on it. (And really, it sounds like it’s so constant that it’s probably impacting her reputation, which really sucks for her.)

I’m wondering how direct you were when you addressed her with it. Did you take a soft approach like asking her to try to be aware of how often she says it and cut down on it, or did you directly tell her that it’s impeding people’s ability to understand her and she needs to stop using it, period? Managers often take the first, softer approach, thinking that it’s kinder to soften the message. And sometimes that works — but often people will miss the message or not realize that the manager is serious about it (as opposed to giving an optional suggestion).

So unless you were very, very clear and direct the first time, I’d go back to her and say something like, “I know we talked about this in the past, and it may have seemed like a small thing. But it’s at the point where I think it’s hindering people’s ability to understand what you mean — which means it’s making you less effective and potentially frustrating others. I know it’s not easy to change a habit overnight, but I’m asking you to really work on this. Your work is good, and I want people to see that — not get distracted by this habit.”

2. Unpleasant coworker always wants to have lunch together

I work in a department of about 25, but my position works most closely with Jane. Jane is junior to me and has only been in the position for about a year. I’m close friends with my manager, and essentially second in command in the department, and we often have lunch together where both work (not pertinent to Jane) and social matters are discussed. Most of the rest of the department has lunch together in the meal room and anyone is free to join (which I also do about once a week).

My problem is that Jane doesn’t really have any friends to have lunch with, and is constantly chasing me to have lunch with her. Which wouldn’t be a problem if we had anything in common, or I found her pleasant to be around. She’s a very negative person and spends her time complaining about other people in the company. I do make an effort to have lunch with her at least once a week, but I’ve stopped scheduling meetings with her before lunch so I can avoid the inevitable “what are you doing for lunch?” conversation. I’m now feeling guilty that I’m leaving her on her own for four days a week, and the “what are you doing for lunch?” conversations are getting awkward. Should I make more time for her, or if not, how do I set reasonable and kind boundaries?

You do not need to eat with Jane more often than you’re doing now. Frankly, you also don’t need to keep up the once a week lunches if you’d rather not, especially since like she’s welcome to join most of the rest of your team in the lunch room. (But even if that weren’t the case, you still wouldn’t be obligated to spend lunches with her.)

It’s perfectly fine to say you’re heading out to do some errands, or reading a book, or any other solo activity. It’s also okay to ask her to readjust her expectations by saying something like, “I won’t be available for lunch as much as I’ve have been — I’m trying to use that time to catch up on work / read / get some exercise / clear my head / ____.”

Your lunch is your own time, and Jane is an adult who can figure out what to do with that time herself. It’s certainly kind of you to eat with her on occasion, but you’re not responsible for providing her with lunch entertainment. There’s definitely no cause to feel guilty when you’re already eating with her 20% of the time.

3. Company Easter egg hunt

My company is planning on doing an Easter egg hunt for all the employees this year. Based on similar events they’ve done, it will probably be less than an hour and in the building.

The thing is, I’m really not comfortable participating in what I consider an overtly religious holiday since I don’t celebrate it. What makes this more complicated is that they had a hunt last year, before I joined the company. I don’t want them not to have the hunt, I just don’t want to participate without seeming like an Easter grinch. Should I bring it up? Or just not participate and hope nobody comments on it?

I’d just not participate and not proactively explain — it may turn out that you’re not the only one not participating and you may not be asked about it at all. But if anyone does ask, you can just say, “Oh, I don’t celebrate Easter. I hope people had fun though!” If someone responds that you don’t need to celebrate Easter to participate, you can say, “I appreciate that — but I’d prefer not to” or “I have religious reasons for not participating.”

4. My boss told me not to get pregnant

I am an EA for a VP of a medium sized company. This VP has a background in social work so boundaries tend to be crossed both ways (we each share way too much info). I have chronic pain which she knows about. I don’t mind her questions about how I’m feeling, but several times she has asked if I’m pregnant. Lately she has told me that I can’t get pregnant until I figure all this out and today she wouldn’t let me end the conversation until I agreed with her.

For some background: While I was on maternity leave a few years ago, she constantly texted me asking if I’d had the baby yet, which made me feel rushed to come back to work. She then went back on her word to let me work a flexible schedule when I returned.

Normally I would go to HR but since I work so closely with her I worry about how that will affect my job. She can’t tell me not to have a baby, right??

Nope, she cannot. You don’t need to factor in her thoughts on your reproductive plans at all.

You’d be quite entitled to tell her to back off if you want to. Or you might find it easier to just “mmm hmmm” her and then ignore whatever she says. But if you do want to tell her to back off, you could say something like this if she brings it up again: “I’m really not comfortable talking about any potential for pregnancy with my boss — I’m sure you can understand! So I’m taking that topic off the table for us.” Other options: “I really consider the pregnancy stuff private and don’t want to talk about it at work.” Or, “I worry this conversation is putting us into really weird legal territory, so let’s just have a moratorium on pregnancy talk.”

5. Sending customer praise to my boss

I would like to share some customer feedback with my boss, but I’m not sure if doing so will come across as bragging. I’m a government contractor, working on-site with a federal agency. My primary government customer sent me an email saying, “You received mad props in the attached document.” Said document was internal notes, from another government entity, saying I did a “magnificent” job on some work with them, and deserve “special recognition.” I’m a team of one, and the only way for my boss, back at company HQ, to see this feedback, is if I share it with him. My first instinct was to forward the email, but I’m hesitating because I think it might be showoff-y. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do share it! That’s the kind of thing that most managers love to see, and it’s not show-offy. Think of it as keeping your manager in the loop. When you forward it, you can include a short note like, “It made me really happy to see this, and I wanted to share it with you.”

{ 424 comments… read them below }

  1. Katastrophreak*

    LW 5:

    Absolutely forward this on to your manager! This sort of feedback can – and likely will – be used during your yearly review and can help not just with bonuses and raises, but can help with future awards. Please forward it to your boss! And congratulations on the great work!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Bosses like to see this stuff too, as it reflects well on them. It’s totally okay and good to share.

        1. Denise Biscuit*

          Not trying to get off topic, but I disagree that employee performance is brand management, even if said employee is in a very public facing role.

      1. LKW*

        Yup – you doing a great job made your bosses look really good and your client is likely to do more with your company.

    2. Insufferable Bureaucrat*

      Yep, I love when my reports forward these kinds of emails to me. Really helps me out come evaluation season :)

      1. Zephyr*

        Good to know, our evaluation season is coming up. I was updating my project tracking sheet by going through email to true up numbers and all the “thank you, you’re awesome” messages I’d forgotten about in a busy season really brightened my evening. I’ll pull some together.

        Would it be overstepping to share those with my boss’s boss too? Boss is so busy these days I’m not sure that detailed performance conversation happens regularly. Or maybe I’ll try to work the subject into conversation with grand-boss next time I have some one on one time?

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I reckon this depends on your relationship. My grandboss sits with us and it’s not weird to send feedback to both him and my manager but it will really vary.

          1. starsaphire*

            Absolutely varies by company.

            At LastJob, my boss’s boss put out a mandatory memo about sending any kudos we received on to him personally, so there are some grandbosses who actively do want to see this stuff!

    3. Pam*

      Definitely! I forward this kind of thing to my boss. I also keep a file of these types of messages, both for cheering up and as support when I’m requesting a raise.

      1. TheGreenSmurf*

        We have a tradition in our (relatively small) company to ‘forward all’ those kind of emails. You get to brag a little bit, thank everyone who participated in the project and it makes us all feel a little proud that we deliver good work. It’s always great to get them!

      2. King Friday XIII*

        I started doing this because I saw it recommended here on a post like two years ago and it’s good on a bad day but GREAT when I was putting together my half of my annual review.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Solid things like this give your manager ammunition when she advocates for raises and promotions. Absolutely sure this.

    5. Engineer Woman*

      This is why I love AAM. I would hesitate like OP to forward as I don’t want it to come off as bragging, but that there’s good reflection of the company to the client. Alison’s wording for the short note and AAM commenters’ support in forwarding is great.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        The most important thing I learned in a women’s leadership training course is that the work does not speak for itself! You have to speak for your work — and all the better if it’s a third party speaking for you.

      2. Artemesia*

        You just phrase it as ‘Xco is getting some good feedback from our clients’ or ‘Our Llama Yoga project is a real hit’ i.e. frame it as the company is doing great. Of course it reflects on you but it is about the company visibility. When I was teaching I would share wonderful stuff students did; the focus was on the great students, but of course they are MY students doing stuff as part of my efforts so it reflected on the University and on me.

      3. Not Rebee*

        It’s hilarious because I would also hesitate to FWD on to my boss, feeling like it’s braggy (I don’t know why, but it seems weirdly inauthentic to have to draw attention to praise I’m getting) but just last week I sent an email to a vendor of ours telling them we (okay, me) were incredibly impressed with their speed at getting a project (still ongoing) up and running and how smoothly things were being handled. It is a night and day difference from our old vendor and they are continuing to impress me. I specifically requested in my email that both recipients (in two different departments) forward it on to their team and anyone else internal who should see that type of thing. I guess on one side of it, I want people I’m praising to tell their boss and yet on the other side of it I’m hesitant to show my own boss. It’s good to keep in mind that, if I were the sender, I’d want my boss to see it and so I should just send these things on to him without worry.

    6. Jilly*

      Yup, when your company is working on the proposal for the follow on to your contract, they would love to include a little text box that quotes a government employee complementing someone on the team.

    7. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Exactly, as a boss I love getting emails like this, I don’t care who they came from, the one giving the praise, the one receiving the praise, a person that tripped over the praise in a random way. Doesn’t matter to me.

      I do a couple of things. If it’s the praise recipient, I’ll reply with a Woohoo! and a reminder to hang on to it to add to their self appraisal. I will also send it on to my boss (VP) (who really likes to get them and will usually call the employee to show recognition).

      I also remind my team before Self Appraisals to not be shy writing out your accomplishments and successes from the year and to include recognition emails. I try to keep track of as many as I can but I will miss some. I also remind them that self appraisals have no place for modesty, toot your horn like you’re in a one-man band!

      1. Not Rebee*

        I love that your VP calls the person to show recognition! Even a response email to the person is fantastic but doesn’t always happen, and of course a call is even harder to make happen. Filing this away for if I am ever in management

    8. [insert witty user name here]*

      Agree with everyone. This can also help prove past performance for future work, so don’t think of it as show off-y (and if you’re someone who has enough self awareness to be worried that it might, I bet you’re not the type of person that people are worried about being a braggart), think of it as a positive reflection on your company and their work, as well as personal praise.

      Well done!

    9. Samiratou*


      If forwarding it feels weird, you can respond to the email acknowledging their praise and CC your boss (Thanks so much for the great feedback! I’m so glad everything worked out so well! or something like that).

    10. Only here for the teapots*

      My folder for these is called ‘testimonials’. My job doesn’t lend itself to hard data collection in terms of ‘customer’ opinion, so having these little notes & kudos fills in that gap and lets my boss and upstream management know that the work I do is important.

    11. alana*

      Yes yes yes do it, and I’ll chip in with a management perspective: the best thing about management is basking in the joy and accomplishment you feel, too, when your direct reports succeed. (Sometimes in a “this reflects well on my team” way, and sometimes just in a “I’ve been working hard on developing this skill and I knew they could do it!” way.) Your manager WANTS to know this stuff!

    12. Becky*

      I actually worked for a company once where the only way to get a top score on your evaluation was to be able to show documentation that you went above and beyond — usually through third-party feedback such as this. If always felt weird forwarding these things along, but when I became a manager, it made my life a lot easier.

    13. oranges & lemons*

      When I get this kind of email, I often forward it with a note like “it’s good to know that [client] is so happy with our work!” However, my boss usually responds with something like “that [client] sure is a nice guy” which I find annoying.

    14. Nic*

      As a new manager, I’m specifically working to foster an environment of this type of feedback from my team; not just towards each other but towards those who support them and work with them in other roles.

      It’s great for the other employee, it’s great for their managers, and it creates a positive overall atmosphere.

    15. Denise Biscuit*

      If anyone uses halogen as peeformance management, you can forward emails like this directly into the program for your boss to review when they go in to do your performance review (instead of relying on them to keep a folder for you and review that-its all there when they log on if you use it!)

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 You have chronic pain and she told you not to get pregnant until you “figure all this out”? That’s really offensive and I am so sorry to hear it. Because your reproductive plans and your health are your choice and your business. The end.

    I would strongly advise you to stop sharing any personal information with her, other than anything absolutely necessary (eg if you need an accommodation for your pain). Having a background in social work shouldn’t equate to poor boundaries and it’s not an excuse for the way she is treating you.

    1. neverjaunty*

      THIS. Boss’s intrusiveness and crappy behavior has nothing to do with a background in social work.

      OP, now is the time to gradually stop sharing and to back away from getting personal with her.

      1. Lizziebeth*

        Oh yes… I’m a social worker…If she did it for any length of time she wasn’t trained well… Social workers are trained to be “friendly” but “not your friend” You are taught to value someone’s privacy and ( once you’ve been doing it long enough) you develop a near pathological need to protect your own privacy. And that biggest one… the right to make your own choices ( for good or bad)
        She’s just prying and has no boundaries.

      2. Sunshine Brite*

        Agreed, I was coming here to say exactly that. This is not the core training that social work represents but a lack of boundaries that she has.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m creeped out that the boss wouldn’t let OP4 end the conversation unless she promised not to get pregnant.

      1. Not Australian*

        It would be interesting to know how boss would react if OP actually came in one day and said she was pregnant. “But I specifically told you not to!”? I can’t imagine how unpleasant OP’s life would be made if that happened. OP’s reproductive plans are nobody’s business but her own, obviously, but there could potentially be even worse to come from this in the future.

        1. OP #4*

          Yes exactly! Is her plan to fire me if I answer yes to ‘Are you trying to get pregnant?’ I almost want HR to be aware in case she tries to pull any sketchy stuff.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. Definitely protect yourself – especially given her bait-and-switch with your return from maternity leave.
            Not a lawyer, but pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the US. Also note that sexual harassment can occur between heterosexual people of the same gender (the oil rig case).

          2. Observer*

            “Almost”? No, you need HR to know what is going on. When you talk to them, don’t excuse any of the behavior with the social worker background. And let them know that you are going to cut back on how much personal information you are sharing with them. But be clear that that conversation was a MAJOR over stet, even by the standards you were working with, and the you are concerned about how insistent she was about making you agree with her.

            You don’t need them to do anything at this point, but you wanted to give them a heads up.

            And, by the way, HR DOES need to know about this, because if someone else has issues with her (and it’s quite likely that they might), they need to have a picture of her overall behavior.

            1. Wintermute*

              You make a very excellent point, oftentimes the full picture of an employee only arises when the spotlight is on them and HR starts looking into things more deeply.

              If your boss has been this blatant with you, OP4, there is a very great likelihood they have done so with other people as well, and some of that inappropriate behavior may have involved actual adverse employment actions or even more egregious statements (and this was pretty darned egregious). They’ve already dipped their toes into hostile workplace territory (in the legal sense) with just you, there is a good chance the full picture will reveal far more hiding in the woodwork.

              Plus, if you do reach out to HR or the EEOC, any adverse action your boss DOES take will be viewed in an entirely different light. it’s the best protection you could have. Attempting adverse actions without a strong basis while an investigation is ongoing is asking for big trouble.

          3. Millennial Lawyer*

            Please document this just in case. Like write in some sort of notebook or even Word, with dates, on when you spoke to her and what she said. Even if *nothing* comes of it, you do not want something to happen and you didn’t document it.

          4. Tuxedo Cat*

            If I were you, I’d document this. If I had a boss who was this way with me, I would document it even though I have no desire or plan to become pregnant.

          5. AKchic*

            I have chronic pain issues and worked in behavioral health too. *sigh* The boundary stomping was “fun”. Especially since I was hired on during my last pregnancy. I was always told I wasn’t allowed to get pregnant again (it was kid 4, like I was really going to try for another one).
            I always threatened to, just to make ’em sweat.

          6. Else*

            You should! At least, record it and save any weird emails just in case. That sort of thing is so out of the bounds of both professional norms AND manners that who knows how she might roll if you do get pregnant or make some other choice she decides to judge?

        2. Only here for the teapots*

          I would hope boss’ life would be the one made unpleasant when consequences for this kind of pressure come home to roost. Document everything, and do speak to HR.

    3. OP #4*

      OP #4 here. You are right and it’s something I’m aware of, but it feels like she expects her direct reports to share as much personal info as she does. It’s definitely easier said than done to just stop talking!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        It’s awkward but (to borrow from Captain Awkward I think) you can return that awkward to sender and let the awkwardness not be yours to fix.

        This reminds me of when I worked for someone who was a friend (I don’t ultimately regret as the job she hired me for helped me get my current role but things did get a bit sticky) and she kept asking me in the office if I would babysit for her – I didn’t even like being asked that as a friend (I have a chronic illness and have limited energy / need to rest in my off hours) but this was even more awkward. I rehearsed all sorts of ways to explain to her why I needed her to stop asking, then realised I couldn’t control that and I should just focus on what I could control – ie whether I would answer. After that I kept saying “I’m not able to discuss this at work” and it shut it down pretty quickly.

        1. Wintermute*

          Yup, one of the best pieces of life advice from CA– let it be awkward, they made it awkward not you, don’t feel the compulsion to sooth the awkward, they lit the fire, if they don’t like the smoke that’s not your problem.

          1. Lefty*

            Absolutely one of my favorites from CA too! It can be hard in practice though, especially at first. Like CA also says, boundary setting takes time and practice too.

            OP4, if it helps- maybe make a mental list of things you will talk about- pets? gardening? weather? and stick to them. If your boss asks something inappropriate, you can just stay silent… wait for her to say something. If she repeats it, you could even try, “Oh! I thought you were kidding about that! Have your tulips bloomed yet?”

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        It might help to respond by being politely interested in what she’s saying – if she wants to share, be sympathetic to what she’s saying without actually giving away anything in return.

      3. TL -*

        One strategy (that is high effort but generally useful) is to be a selective oversharer- you choose a few parts of your life that you’re comfortable sharing and talk about them intimately and excessively. You can give the illusion that you’re sharing a lot and an open book while actually, many parts of your life just don’t exist at work.

        For instance, I share lots of stories about my family and my childhood – but all but one or two of them are before my mom got sick when I was 12. Nobody has ever noticed and because I can share family stories cheerfully, no awkward questions about family if I don’t go home for a holiday. I share fun stories about my friends and grump if my roommates are frustrating me, complain if I get the cold. I never talk about serious interpersonal issues, but people still think I’m sharing a lot emotionally.

        This is a lot more effort but it’s been pretty useful to me in many different social groups, including family. And you can use any nearly any subject – you could talk about how your favorite TV show is emotionally impacting you, for example, and it can still feel like you’re opening up so much.

        1. Myrin*

          I do the exact same thing!
          It helps that this really isn’t any effort for me at all, it comes very naturally to me and depending on the situation, I shape it accordingly; but I’ve found that even for people who have a bit of a hard time with this initially and who I gave this very same tip to found it easier to do this in the long run because a lot of other exhausting mental effort fell away because of it.

        2. KnittyInABrowncoat*

          I do this too! There are one or two people who get the actual sharing, but most get the KnittyInABrowncoat version which is mainly silly stories or easy to relate to moaning (“would it literally kill that man to fold a load of laundry?! *eye roll*) It really does give the impression that I’m sharing when really they know very little.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          This is great advice. I’ve developed a theory that this is one of the reasons that so many people overshare in the workplace about their kids and their pets – the topics are often relatively emotionally safe and feel relatable and personal without actually having to get into tough territory. If you talk a ton about your cat or your knitting or the cute thing your toddler said or your football obsession or your daughter’s potential for a lacrosse scholarship, usually no one notices that you aren’t talking about the state of your marriage, your elderly parent’s poor health, your bank account, and your childhood trauma.

          1. blackcat*

            Everyone knows a whole lot about my cat. My phone is full of adorable cat pictures. Few know about my dysfunctional relationship with my parents and brother.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Pet stories are my go-to in so many situations. They work well when you’re trying to stay off politics too.

          3. Nerfmobile*

            Yes! It became so much easier to share at work once I had a child. I can talk about her swim classes, what she’s interested in at school, what our weekend plans are… So much easier than details about my spouse’s complicated work life, sticky family situations, or other messier things.

        4. Kelsi*

          I do this by accident! I’m naturally pretty reticent about certain topics, but I talk a LOT about my immediate family so people don’t realize there’s other relevant stuff I’m not sharing.

          A little while ago I mentioned my boyfriend (of more than a year) completely offhand at a work thing and it was like I dropped a bomb–only one person on my team was aware that I was seeing anyone. I had no idea until everyone reacted that way that I hadn’t really talked about it.

      4. CA in CA*

        The gall of your boss astonishes me. I think back to the struggles I had getting and staying pregnant and if I had a boss tell me to put all that off until it suited her I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have just walked out of the office and never looked back. Imagine feeling so entitled that you can dictate your employee’s family plans. Just wow.

      5. LKW*

        While it’s very common to share (“I have a pain” “I have a pain too!”) start working on sympathy, asking her questions or better yet redirecting her so that you avoid giving her too much personal info.
        Sympathy: Oh, that does sound painful
        Questions: Have you seen a doctor?
        Redirect: Oh my, well I know it’s difficult to focus with pain but I need to ask you about this very specific work thing.

      6. Else*

        Oh, one of those. Definitely do go browse Captain Awkward’s archives as @Ramona Flowers suggested. I’d try coming up with a script bank of low/no information responses to give when she asks intrusive health question a, b, c, d; intrusive romance questions a,b,c,d; intrusive family question a,b,c,d; etc. She might or might not notice if you always say the same things, but at least you have something to say so that she doesn’t keep trying to dig into you to pry out her jollies. Hopefully.

  3. Mad Baggins*

    Oh man oh man do I hate vague business-speak! “Feel free to reach out to me and we can work out the verbiage and get some visibility on this.” As someone who works in two languages this stuff gives me and my non-native-English-speaker colleagues headaches! Not sure if you deal with international clients but this kind of unclear language can really hinder understanding for the reader/listener.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      One possible idea is to do some plain English training (over here we have an actual Plain English Campaign that does this). But I don’t think you can find a solution without knowing whether it’s a lack of confidence, a misguided belief that jargon makes you sound clever, or even that she doesn’t realise how often she does it. Toastmasters might be another possible avenue.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        That’s actually a good idea. In my circumstance it’s not just one person, but a whole group of people. Do you (or other readers!) happen to know any specific resources for Plain English training or a similar program/handout that could be used for groups?

        1. MerciMe*

          Last time I checked, the US govt had a really nice plain English guide (written in plain English, appropriately enough). If I recall correctly, you should be able to just search on “US Federal plain language standards.”

          1. Wintermute*

            +one (1)

            I SECOND THIS! I use that site all the time and introduced some of those principles around my last position at my current employer, as well as pointing it out to a friend that works writing actual government policies and other reports. It’s priceless information and a laudable goal.

          2. LizB*

            These are fascinating! I write a lot of documentation and instructions, and it’s interesting to see which of these guidelines I’ve been following instinctively and which I still need to work on.

        2. One of the Annes*

          Plainlanguage dot gov (spelling this out so this comment doesn’t get hung up in moderation) has great training resources. Good luck!

        3. Triple Anon*

          I just looked up Plain English. I have been communicating that way for a long time – for the reasons given – without knowing there was a term for it. Not 24/7. Just in business communications and anything that’s aimed at a wide audience.

          However, some people get offended by it. It can come across as too direct or lacking in personality. I’ve run into these issues in certain contexts. I have also worked at a company where exceedingly polite business jargon was the norm and people would literally get angry if you communicated more directly. So maybe Jane comes from that kind of place? Maybe it would be helpful to talk about the company’s culture and how people communicate. And to have some Plain English guides on hand as a reference.

      2. Contracts Killer*

        I second the Toastmasters idea. One service they offer (at least my group did) was if you have a tenancy to use a repetitive or filler word, you can request someone use a clicker every time you use the word when speaking. It’s mildly embarrassing, but it broke me of my “um” problem pretty quickly.

      3. OtterB*

        I took a course more than 30 years ago and still remember an animated film clip of a presumably fictional example. The boss told a worker to “remove the extraneous vegetation around the periphery of the facility.” He meant pull the weeds around the fence. The worker dug up all the landscaping. :-)

      4. Tomalak*

        “a misguided belief that jargon makes you sound clever”

        There’s plenty of this about. There is, of course, a profound difference between expressing concepts in an intelligent way and substituting obscure jargon for the correct wording.

        I think what happens is that when people of average or low intelligence hear smart people speak they hear confident use of a wide vocabulary – and sometimes think the way to emulate that is to throw in jargon a lot. They don’t necessarily see a resultant lack of understanding as reflecting poorly on themselves: after all, they sometimes struggle to understand smart people, so why wouldn’t others fail to understand them when they talk smart? The letter writer’s colleague sounds like the most extreme example of this I’ve ever heard.

        Another thing that drives me up the wall are people who speak slowly or rephrase their points to add emphasis. The irony is that I’m sure it does encourage people to stop listening, bored, and then go away having missed the point that was laboriously hammered home. So in turn, the people doing this think that emphasising their points with even more repetition or speaking in an even more artificially slow way is the answer.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I had a boss who would repeat everything three times.Never mind if you got it the first time–if you said, “I understand, Bob,” and attempted to move on or ask a question or even leave the room if the damn phone was ringing, he would get pouty. Apparently, he didn’t feel as if he’d made his point until he’d gone through all the repetitions. There might have been an underlying reason for it other than a personality quirk (though I doubt it), but it was the most annoying thing ever.

          1. Tomalak*

            Oh, isn’t it painful? I’d write some more but I don’t want to risk rephrasing the same point and repeating it over and over. :-)

          2. nonegiven*

            Knock, knock, knock, “Penny.”
            Knock, knock, knock, “Penny.”
            Knock, knock, knock, “Penny.”

    2. TL -*

      I worked in a lab for a while where how you said something was much more important than what you said – it was business jargon on top of science jargon and there was a lot of puffery that translated into not-so-impressive data which was treated as more important than solid but simply-presented data. There were more than a few times when people – working off the assumption that I used simpler language because I was less smart – got quite annoyed when I would parrot back their unnecessarily complex sentences into clear, concise, easily understood language* to “clarify”. (We had a lot of ESL speakers in the lab and a few blue collar background coworkers and the racist and classist dynamic that played out from their attitude was pretty much exactly what you would expect.)

      *this is how I handle intellectually pretentious jerks, along with picking extremely precise SAT words to throw in. I have extraordinarily excellent verbal reasoning skills and a very large vocabulary but I also believe that language is for communication, not obfuscation. People who rely on overuse of jargon and 5 dollar words are generally people who are depending upon your inability to actually follow what they’re saying.

      1. Let’s get Visible*

        Good point Tl. I agree she might not be certain of what she is saying.i think there is lots of great advice here I can use with her. She truly has some great knowledge just needs to say what she intends

            1. Let's get Visible*

              it goes through my head every time she says it ! Today i was working on something with her and I wanted to use the word “indeterminate”.She actually asked me to change it to visibility as apparently visibility was easier to understand. I said it’s to vague.
              Would anyone here say indeterminate was a word most people don’t understand? I am off base? Certainly visibility wasn’t the word to use either.
              As in ” the day it will arrive is indeterminate” she wanted “the day it will arrive has no visibility”

              1. Anonanonanonanonanon*

                “Indeterminate” is about sixth grade reading level. Her version of the sentence is incoherent. It’d either convince me she did not know what she was talking about or she was intentionally obfuscating any point. She could’ve changed it to something like “”is unknown” or “has yet to be determined” if her objection were actually to the word “indeterminate”.

              2. Observer*

                I might not have used the word indeterminate. But at least the sentence is clear if you know what the word means, and most people should. Her version makes no sense.

                And I agree that she was blowing smoke with her claim that indeterminate is too hard to understand. Because if that was her issues, there are many other MUCH better alternatives.

              3. Little Twelvetoes*

                Oh my goodness. Her version is ridiculous. It is a fantastic example of how “far off the rails” she has gone with this word.

                I will not internet diagnose her, but I think she should seek out some kind of counseling to find out why she is married to this word. It sounds like it has gone beyond quirky levels.

              4. Jennifer Thneed*

                Visibility is absolutely the wrong word here. But I wouldn’t have used indeterminate either. I would have phrased it like this: “We do not yet know what day it will arrive.” (If it had to be more passive: “The arrival date is not yet known.”)

                Can you actually correct her in the moment? I think she may not have as much vocabulary as she could. (I’m reminded of a bus trip where I listened to a bunch of 14-15 yr olds describe everything as “weird”. They just didn’t have any other words, like “creepy” or “overheated” or “an unexpected color”.) So when she says “it’s to give them visibility on the ongoing tea”, you can say “the word you want is ‘encouragement’. The free teapot is to encourage them to buy our tea.” When she says “we need more visiblity on this” you can say “the word you want is ‘understanding’. We need to understand why this happened.”

                You could also ask her to elucidate: “What can we do to get more visibility on this?” and her answers might enlighten you about her thinking.

                Of course, you want to precede this with a private conversation where you say to her, “You’re using the word in so many different ways that it can be confusing. It’s actually hindering people’s ability to truly understand what you mean. So I’m going to suggest alternatives to you when I can.”

                1. Cactus*

                  “Visibility” is a weird buzzword that shows up a lot in a few different jargon-circles–I wonder which one she picked it up from.

      2. Julia*

        This is so true. I’m in grad school right now (why Julia why) and sometimes we have to read academic texts that are so bloated with unnecessary language that even the native speakers cannot comprehend them, not even speaking of all the ESL students (including me). It’s almost as if they’re trying to distract people from the fact that their actual message is… not that clever.

        1. TL -*

          It’s a combination of inflated egos, a fair amount of nonnative English speakers trying to write complex and nuanced things incredibly precisely, and the (justified) prioritization of precision over brevity.

          The first time I edited a grant proposal for my ESL boss, I thought he was going to explode from happiness – he spoke near-native level but he struggled with academic writing and I’d made the document easier to read, shorter, and clearer without losing any accuracy of information. I wrote a note for every single edit I made and he studied all of them (!) and the changes were reflected in the next thing I edited for him.

          1. Julia*

            Some of the most incomprehensible English I have read this semester came from people with very English-sounding names. And it wasn’t just me who had trouble understanding them, my British classmate was actually the first to complain.

            1. Femme d'Afrique*

              Ah, grad school! I’m with you Julia, the worst offenders (in the humanities and social sciences) were people who spoke and wrote English extremely well. The problem wasn’t that they were non- native speakers having difficulty communicating, it was more like “writing at expert level” required obscure, dense, incomprehensible jargon. Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick are most certainly native speakers and I’ve yet to meet a grad student who breezed through their work.

              I’ve been allergic to jargon since grad school too. As Albert Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” (A tad simplistic, of course, but not a bad guideline in general.)

              1. Parenthetically*

                It’s totally a grad school thing. One of my most beloved grad school profs speaks with such passion and clarity on his subject, and could absolutely explain it to a six-year-old, but his writing style, ye gods alive! Even his more popular-level stuff needs to come packaged with a machete to hack through the undergrowth. It seems almost like there’s an expectation that the writing err on the side of poshness, even if that means sacrificing, you know, comprehensibility.

              2. saby*

                Ah yes. Didn’t Judith Butler once say something like, that she can’t write comprehensibly about gender because gender itself isn’t comprehensible? Like… or maybe you’re just better at thinking the big deep thoughts than communicating them clearly.

                I took one class on postcolonial theory and MAN, that has the most dense and unintelligible writing of any field I’ve witnessed. That’s another one where it seems to be partly intentional, i.e.: “Can the subaltern speak?” “Yes, but only in the language of the oppressor.”

                1. Femme d'Afrique*

                  “Even his more popular-level stuff needs to come packaged with a machete to hack through the undergrowth.”

                  Parenthetically and saby, you’ve made me laugh out loud. I love AAM. I’ve found my people!

                  (Signed, a subaltern well versed in the hermeneutics and semiotics of obscure incomprehensibilities.)

            2. TL -*

              The nonnative speakers are just part of the mix – certainly not the cause of all or even most of it! (And there are nonnative speakers who are great writers as well.)
              But at least in my experience, multiple ESL speakers have told me that writing academic papers well is one of the hardest things to learn – and these are people, who, like my boss, take it very, very seriously and dedicate themselves to doing it well. And who are good at every day writing. Part of the problem is that what they primarily read in English are…terribly written academic papers. Because writing academic papers is a difficult thing for native speakers as well; there’s just an extra barrier for nonnative speakers.

              (Institutions should hire people with expertise in the field who also have the writing chops necessary to properly edit and draft documents as needed – so much of funding depends on your ability to communicate. That would help a lot for 90%+ of people writing academic papers and it would make science more accessible to the public.)

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                Right? I’m an academic tutor in writing, and I’d say at least 30% of what I do is help students read through journal articles for composition classes, trying to explain to them how do we make sense out of the senseless. The students I work with are from lower income backgrounds, which around here translates to poor schools; they are often the first in their family to go to college; and many of them have learning disabilities (diagnosed or undiagnosed). Trying to translate an article on the fly from academic English to everyday English is rough even if it is what you were trained to do, much less if you have a cornucopia of stumbling blocks in the way.

            3. FRChick*

              Any chance that this employee has French roots/education (or Spanish/Italian)? The French equivalent “visibilité” is a very common word and wouldn’t sound jargon to me. But obviously I would be annoyed it is was used in every second sentence…

          2. Observer*

            I don’t buy it. The problem with a lot of this writing is not that it’s too long. The problem is lack of clarity. And lack of clarity is the exact antithesis of precision.

          3. Former Employee*

            “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Pascal

            He was a pretty smart guy and was clearly onto something. The only time you make something longer or, by extension, more complicated is if you don’t have the time to condense it to its essence.

            When writing a paper or doing other technical writing, you generally don’t have the excuse of lack of time.

        2. Fake old Converse shoes*

          I had the same experience with history texts back when I was studying for University admission exams. For example, a popular historian used “alliphile” and “Comunistphile” instead of “Ally side” and “Communist side”. Absolutely unnecessary.

        3. Miss Betty*

          I hated writing papers when I was earning my MLIS degree! I did them well and always got As but hate-hate-hate the awful academic writing style. I actually find it worse than legalese. At least there are movements toward plain English within the legal field. I don’t see that ever happening in Academia. (And I’d love to get a subject masters, preferably in folklore, but having to return to that bloated, turgid, intentionally obfuscating writing style gives me at least as many second thoughts as the financial costs involved.)

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            When I went back to grad school to retrain I wrote all my papers in plain English. Sure, I used technical or field specific terms when needed but I wrote like a human – after almost a decade a professional writer I couldn’t not. I got very high marks so it didn’t hurt me, quite the opposite in fact.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, some professors these days are really advocating for plain language. Unfortunately, some still prefer bloated and incomprehensible.

          2. PlainJane*

            Oh dear God, the jargon in librarianship journals is ridiculous. And half the time, if you eliminated all the puffery and pretension, you’d be left with 2 paragraphs of useless information. I love being an academic librarian, but we as a profession really need to learn how to write in plain English.

        4. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          One graduate prof told our class that she continued to understand more and more things about a certain text from each reading, and she’d read it a dozen times and still had more to understand. She did not enjoy my reply that such a necessity indicated a very poorly written text.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, literary is a different type of text from academic papers. Heck, even Harry Potter, which was written for children, had different layers.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yup. There’s a difference between “I notice and resonate with different things in a book as I get older and have more experiences” and “it took me 10 tries to even understand the literal meaning of the words.” LOL.

                1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                  The entire conversation stemmed from me saying “I know what all these words mean individually, but I honestly can’t parse the sentence the way it’s put together.”

            2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              There’s a distinct difference between “finding new layers of meaning in an organically complex and nuanced piece” and “deciphering verbiage that is so dense it takes 20 read-throughs per sentence.” This was the latter.

        5. Natalie*

          Ugh, horrible flashbacks to the one semester I ran the newspaper at a college full of people who had learned that particular style of academic writing that is dense and impossible. No, you cannot have a 200 word paragraph with multiple semi-colons in your article, have you ever read a newspaper!? Big surprise, they did not have any non-literature writing classes.

          1. copy run start*

            The semicolon is my favorite punctuation, but I hate to see it abused! I used to feel happy when I sprinkled one or two into a paper in college.

          1. Princess Scrivener*

            Jam Today, thanks for the link–I’d never heard about this. It took me back to grad school when we had to edit and critique others’ writing. *shudder, frantically scrawl with the red pen in my head, shudder some more*

        6. Triple Anon*

          Yeah. It reminds me of being a student and having to write one of those papers where there’s a 5 page minimum and not much to actually write about. (Like when only a few short articles have ever been written on your assigned topic.) You end up learning more about how to expand one sentence into a page of writing than you do about the actual subject.

        7. Elemeno P.*

          I am also in grad school and some of the writing is just atrocious. Our textbooks vary, and I definitely read the ones with plain English a lot more closely than the jargon-heavy books.

          I’m a technical writer and spend all day editing down bloated sentences, and that has extended to my group projects as well. I…may not be very popular.

        8. Elizabeth West*

          Oh that is super annoying. I find I have to read those out loud sometimes to understand them. Excuse me, but I don’t want to do the same thing with informational material that I had to do with Beowulf. :P

      3. Former ESL teacher*

        Agree! I had a colleague who insisted on using the word “percentile” instead of “percentage” when talking about marking students’ exams: she thought it sounded smart. It didn’t.

            1. Julia*

              To be fair, this was on The Bachelor Japan, and I sometimes wondered if they didn’t cast some candidates based on looks alone…

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          It also doesn’t mean the same! It changes the whole meaning! (You could get 30% on a test and be in the 95th percentile on a very hard test, for example.)

          1. Antilles*

            Yeah, this.
            Hearing someone say “percentile” instead of “percentage” actually makes you seem *dumber*.

        2. Triple Anon*

          That kind of thing is really annoying. Like when people say, “A specie,” referring to an animal, implying that everyone else is wrong to use species as singular. Well, it is the singular form of the word. Specie refers to coins, not biology. I never point that stuff out, though, because it would sound arrogant. I might with a teacher using percentile to refer to percent, though. I mean, that’s just incorrect. Hopefully she wasn’t actually grading by percentile.

      4. Triplestep*

        “People who rely on overuse of jargon and 5 dollar words are generally people who are depending upon your inability to actually follow what they’re saying”.

        Yes! Either this, or they are trying to prove to themselves that they know what they are talking about. I had to work closely with someone who did this in my previous job, and I am pretty sure that was her deal.

      5. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I work with a guy who throws in “per se” for no apparent reason and often in all the wrong places. I think it is one of those classic fancy word misfires

        1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

          Ughh… this is currently running rampant in my organization.

          I work with 3 offenders.

        2. OhNo*

          You don’t happen to work in a library, do you? Because my MLIS program had a guy who used “per se” like punctuation. Every single sentence had to have it in there somewhere.

            1. oranges & lemons*

              I’ve seen “per say” a lot. (I can’t talk, because it took me 25 years to figure out how “segue” is spelled.)

            2. RedSonja*

              It is indeed “per say”. Or sometimes “persay”. I’m not entirely sure which one she thinks is correct.

        3. Tomalak*

          I think the most common example of this is people who say “I” or “myself” when the correct word is “me”. I don’t fully understand it but it’s as if they will say anything but the word “me”.

          “He gave John and I a lift home” or “Just send it to myself when it’s done”.


          1. oranges & lemons*

            That “myself” thing is something I’ve recently become conscious of and it bugs me. I hear it most often when someone is trying to sound ultra-professional: “On your way out, please hand the sheets to myself.”

          2. Airy*

            I’ve noticed people often take an actual rule too far and end up creating a new error. Because they’ve absorbed that “John and me are going home now” would be incorrect but they don’t understand why (because if John wasn’t there you’d say “I am going home now,” not “me am going home now”) they get the notion that “me” is a risky word that’s most likely to be wrong and make you look ignorant so it should be avoided to be on the safe side.
            Or else that “me” is some kind of slang or dialect word for “I” like “ain’t” for “isn’t” and shouldn’t be used when you want to sound formal or professional? I don’t know.

      6. JustaTech*

        At my industry lab we were all sent for a two-day class in “clear communication” which was basically “this is a business and we need to write clearly and you write like a bunch of academics!”
        Which was completely true. The worst offender was a guy who was in the middle of writing his dissertation.
        The teacher told us “Everyone here knows you’re smart, and frankly, no one cares how smart you are. What they care about is being able to understand your report.”

        What’s interesting is that the papers got more technical, but at the same time easier to read, because they weren’t buried in jargon or 20-word sentences.

      7. Lora*

        I once had a colleague who was a software guy trying to do science. He had never taken a class on sig figs, so he thought that if he wrote out all his data points to a lot more places after the decimal, it would be more impressive because it showed how good his data was.

        He did not appreciate our uproarious laughter…

        1. Jiya*

          I’m assuming that, as a software guy, he probably graduated high school – how do you do that without ever learning sig figs?!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I am also on a personal mission to squash silly or useless jargon wherever it pops up at work. One particular contact loves filling their emails with it, so I make sure that when I respond, they get an answer in clear English, with sufficient detail which is as concise as I can make it.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          My company has a style guide.

          It advises us to not use jargon aside from necessary technical terms*.

          As usually both the writers and the readers of the report aren’t native English speakers this isn’t that much of an issue.

          When I review a report written by a native German speaker I end up going through the text with an axe to cut down all the run on sentences. You see, us native German speakers are trained at school to see overly long and complex sentences as ‘good style’. I disagree, because untangling one of those things can take ages. Personally, I blame Thomas Mann.

          *e.g. collapsed level. Explaining that concept in plain English would take half a paragraph.

          1. Myrin*

            Whereas I am the Schachtelsatz-queen – it’s my natural style of writing – and I’ve been told since I was sixteen or so to cut it down and I just can’t. I mean, I try to be aware of it and split sentences whenever I can but I just can’t get myself to do it on the first try. So I always seem superior on that front but then I’ve also been told for the same length of time that my style is too “umgangssprachlich” (colloquial/informal) because I prefer plain words and descriptions. One would think that these two problems would cancel each other out but that only works to a limited degree, sadly. (Luckily, my doctoral advisor loves my style and is aghast whenever I tell him someone chided me for my long sentences because he doesn’t see any long sentences!!)

            1. Julia*

              This German may have once explained the start of the Troian War in one sentence – the sentence was almost a page long. I seem to have, er, gotten over this after high school, luckily.

              I do think one can write really long sentences with words that are too colloquial – whereas words that are simply easy instead of spit out by a Noro-virus-infected Thesaurus are a good thing.

              1. Wintermute*

                Well Juvenil explained the trojan war in one sentence too, but this being Juvenil it isn’t something I can repeat here. Latin vulgarities are a favorite linguistic topic of mine so that’s how I found the quote.

          2. ScreechOwl*

            According to internet sources (so it must be true), the origin of the word “jargon” is from Old French meaning “chattering,” as in the unintelligible chattering of birds. When choosing jargon over plain English, ask yourself a few questions: Is your jargon a necessary shorthand way of expressing a complex but well-defined idea within your profession? Is your jargon chatter meant to confuse the reader so as to obscure the truth? Is your jargon meant to disguise an ill-defined, vague concept? And, whatever your intention, will you be perceived as a well-versed professional communicator, as an obfuscator, or as a pretentious emitter of unintelligible chatter?

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      I had a boss who did this, and he used my field’s jargon wrong all the time or in a very literal way. Because he was my boss, I couldn’t outright tell him he was wrong and looked foolish but I would often remind him to tailor things to the audience. Even if he were using the jargon correctly, the audience wouldn’t know what he meant anyway.

      1. Kitten*

        My former boss literally wrote down ‘key words’ from my updates and just parroted them in a jumble back to customers. It never made any sense and used to drive me insane!

        Either let me write / deliver the updates so that they’re accurate, or deliver them in your own words.

        I think he thought my language sounded more technical and wanted to make himself sound smarter, but it usually had the opposite effect.

        I’m glad that when I get updates from Devs now I either get them to provide the update directly, or confirm that I understand them and then use my own words.

    4. Djuna*

      I work on a team that advocates for clear language and we’ve had a really hard time breaking through to some teams and individuals who cling to the “but jargon sounds professional!” notion like little buzzwordy limpets. Many of them overuse or misuse jargon to the point where it’s hard to know what they mean, or if they even know what they mean, and that is a problem.

      We work in a multilingual environment too, and I feel for anyone who has to mentally translate a slew of jargon on the fly when they’re talking to a customer. It’s an additional burden that has no logical reason behind it.

      1. LKW*

        Jargon and phrases and multilingual environment is where I live and I do struggle sometimes. I love analogies and some do not translate across cultural lines. I found myself yesterday saying “that may be a can of worms” which then turned into “And that issue is a whole other (well I don’t know if this translates well) can of worms, a set of problems so I would like to leave that issue aside for the moment.” But I recognize that I do this and try to do better each time.

        Also, house analogies work very well in many cases. Sports analogies do not.

      2. Julia*

        When I interpret, I often just turn jargon into “normal” language in the target language, not just because I lack Japanese jargon, but also because I don’t see the point.

        1. Nanani*

          As a translator, I have the luxury of working with text and having the time to look up jargon.. but I usually do the same thing. Our job is to communicate the -meaning- after all.

          Unless the jargon using client has provided a list of equivalent jargon in the other language (it can happen, more commonly with branding-related stuff though) I am just going to cut the cruft. And leave a very polite translator’s note.

    5. Julia*

      At my last workplace, we had a guy whose emails were incomprehensible to everyone else, even the native speakers (this was Japanese.) Maybe that was why he always ended up rushing over to the recipient’s desk the second he hit “send” to explain what he had just written, while you were still trying to decipher his message. I’m not even going to talk about his English…

    6. Mike C.*

      Business jargon is almost always terrible and should be eliminated at every opportunity. It’s little more than garbage made to make the speaker sound smart by using words the rest of the group isn’t familiar with and to paint over bad or reused ideas.

      Little more than a cheap sales tactic.

      1. Lora*

        On the plus side, people are basically advertising, “I am a blowhard” so you know right away how to deal with them. I mean, it’s not like we can force them to wear a tee-shirt to warn others.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Around a decade ago, when translation programs were more primitive, my husband would routinely put his emails to various places in Asia back and forth through a translation program. If he could get the gist of the doubly-translated email, he figured they would too. If not, he’d go through looking for the jargon-y stuff and reword it.

    1. WellRed*

      Lower level college English lit class: We had one student who obviously picked up the term “irony” somewhere. Apparently, it was the only literary criticism term she knew because she used it every. time. Finally, after yet another instance of her saying “I find it ironic that Sir Muckety Muck, blah blah” another student spoke up and said, “I find it ironic you don’t know what the word ironic means.” I swear you could hear the silent cheers from the rest of the class.

      1. Else*

        Did they play that Alanis Morissette song for her? Because it doesn’t know what that word means either.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I have had a similar issue recently, except my coworker isn’t unpleasant (but was unwittingly stressing me out). You kind of have to see this as Jane’s problem and not yours, just so you’re not constantly feeling responsible for her. In Jane’s case, I actually think you’re wise to stop scheduling meetings before lunch so long as that isn’t negatively affecting your work (ie they’re meetings that don’t have to happen then).

    And in Jane’s case it is okay not to protect her from the natural consequences of always being so negative by quietly noping out of lunch. However, I’m wondering if setting boundaries around lunch is the answer – or if setting boundaries around your conversations might also help. Jane is junior to you and it’s entirely appropriate to shut down her complaining about other people – and it’s possible that if you stop listening, she’ll stop trying to eat with you or complain to you as she won’t be getting what she wants.

    In a previous job I got someone to stop complaining to me by saying things like:
    – I don’t want to talk about that.
    – That’s not a problem for me and I don’t want to discuss it.
    – That’s not an issue for me and I’m not interested in talking about it.

    And if necessary I would cut her off mid-sentence to say these things. She gave up and moved on to complaining to someone else.

    1. OP2*

      Yes, this is certainly another way to go about it – I have cut her off on several occasions, not just because I don’t want to hear her moan about others, but also because we are an internal service department, and it’s not a good look for some of our “clients” to hear us complain about their colleagues in the lunch room.

      1. MLB*

        You also don’t need to make excuses for not having lunch with Jane. I’ve worked with similar people and had to limit the time spent with them. Lunch time is your time and it’s perfectly ok with wanting to be by yourself (if that’s your thing) rather than making excuses and leaving the building to avoid lunch with her.

        1. mcr-red*

          When I was first out of college, I worked in a small department for a larger company. Everyone in my department was all fresh out of college except one guy who was 10+ years older. And was unpleasant to work with. The department all got lunch at the same time, and the 20-somethings would all go get something together. Other departments noticed us all going out to lunch, and he I think went around complaining too, and eventually someone said something to us about all going together and excluding poor 30-something guy. So we invited him one time. Still unpleasant and had nothing in common except work with rest of us. So we started going out again just the 20-somethings. Another department made a big show about coming over and asking him to go with them to dinner. They only did it once too. People from our group started leaving for other jobs after that and it became a non-issue, but I always thought – it was OUR time off the clock and away from work. Why did it matter if we didn’t invite someone we had nothing in common with?

          1. Jesca*

            Well, AAM has actually broached this subject before and why it can be seen as an issue. See the post (and update) about the lunch runs the “younger crowd” did while the older woman was left at the office alone.

            1. mcr-red*

              I’m not 100% sure I read that one and when I searched “lunch” it brought up several. He wasn’t left at the office alone to work while the rest of us ate, the entire dept. shut down from noon to 1 for everyone to go eat, whether in the lunchroom or off-site. He was also someone who brought his lunch every day.

              In the years since, there’s been a few small groups of people that will go to lunch together, but mostly people eat at their desk, eat in the lunchroom or go offsite by themselves.

            2. MashaKasha*

              I remember that one very well. It really is a bit different. The “younger crowd” would leave for three-martini lunches, err, beer runs, and leave the older woman alone in the office to cover for them while they were gone.

              It still would feel weird to me if all of my group stood up and left together at noon every day and refused to ever include me. Even though it’d be a huge hit to my budget to go out for lunch every day. Luckily, all the places I’ve worked, it’s been either everyone doing their own thing at lunch, or 1:1, or an occasional team lunch.

              1. mcr-red*

                I feel like I’m misremembering Masha, and it was probably once or twice a week, not everyday. You’re right, that’d be a huge hit to my budget!!! I’m old, and my memory sucks. I wouldn’t be invited to lunches with 20-somethings now either, LOL.

          2. Nanani*

            Excluding one person from what is otherwise the whole department is very different dynamic from one on one lunches.

            1. mcr-red*

              I mean, I understand the point, but I also don’t in a way. It’s your free time and as long as you’re not late coming back, I don’t see how work can have a problem with who you spend time with in the outside hours away from the building. I would totally understand that it would be a problem to, say exclude someone from eating at the lunch table in the lunchroom, or in the lunchroom period while you’re there. But for a group of 4-5 people to go to McDonald’s and not invite a 6th person…

          3. anonhereagain*

            I have the opposite problem- I’m the youngest and they don’t like me. I can’t help my age!

    1. Steve*

      I ascertained that that sketch was relevant. You’ve really helped us delineate when a word is being overused. Thanks for giving us all visibility on it.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        Me three! Also I was looking for this exact sketch on YouTube a few weeks ago and couldn’t find it, so thank you for that!

  5. TL -*

    OP #4: You said you were in an oversharing environment, so maybe try an approach that acknowledges that – the next time she brings up your “impending” pregnancies and its “dangers”, you might try something like this:
    “Lucinda, I really appreciate how supportive and kind you’ve been about my ongoing issues. But it makes me really uncomfortable when you say things like that – I feel like you’re pushing medical advice on me, even though I know you are just worried about my health! And it’s doubly awkward because you’re my boss. I know we’re closer than most workplaces, but can we try to aim for being supportive listeners instead of advice givers?”

    And then escalating to, “Lucinda, I appreciate the concern, but honestly, this is beginning to feel weirdly like my boss pressuring me not to get pregnant, when I know in reality you’re very supportive of working mothers*! It’s starting to make me really uncomfortable.”

    *doesn’t matter if this is true or not, as long as she thinks of herself that way. Set her up as someone who you just expect to be supportive of mothers.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      This sounds a bit exhausting. I’ve found with boundary pushers you need to just keep it brief and not justify, defend or explain.

      1. TL -*

        It is more work but if the LW is concerned about the relationship – and it sounds like she is – the extra work may well be worth it.
        Sometimes setting the boundary gently but clearly first is worth the social benefits.

          1. TL -*

            I’ve had good experiences with a clearly worded but softened approach like above, especially with someone who I know is well meaning and with whom I have a relationship. Allowing people to save face often makes for a better long-term outcome for all.

            I’ve had times where I’ve had to escalate to “Knock it off; I’m done with your sh!t” but it’s actually pretty rare. (For strangers or people I don’t like/work with, that is my first approach, however.)

        1. OP #4*

          I am concerned about that. While it may be 100% justified to go to HR, that will definitely affect our relationship. I might send an email so that I can say something like that without worrying about getting emotional. Bonus is that the conversation is now documented in writing.

      2. Jen RO*

        Yes, but this boundary pusher is OP’s boss, so she needs to keep a pleasant relationship. Being brief and not justifying risks jeopardizing that.

    2. Specialk9*

      “And then escalating to, “Lucinda, I appreciate the concern, but honestly, this is beginning to feel weirdly like my boss pressuring me not to get pregnant, when I know in reality you’re very supportive of working mothers*! It’s starting to make me really uncomfortable.””

      I love this script! I feel like I do a lot of encouraging people into appropriate behavior by talking to the person I would like them to be, and bringing them along on that. Most of us think of ourselves as decent people, and sometimes can’t imagine how things we say land from the other side.

      1. TL -*

        It helps me a lot when I’m arguing with people I’m really close to, because I’m reminding myself and them that they have X good qualities (that I really like.) Even if it’s just me saying, “You are usually really empathetic and I could use some sympathy today!” – that’s tons better than “Why are you being such a jerkfaced poohead today?!”

        But it’s also helpful when you’re trying to let someone save face. :)

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yes, I love this script too! This is a tactic I use with students a lot — “Well, of course you’re going to get it done because you’re responsible like that, and of course it’s going to be great because you’re good at this, so why don’t you just give me a quick check-in at lunch break and let me know how you’re coming along with it and if you’ve run up against any hiccups” is going to get me a good response 99 times out of 100.

    3. Snark*

      My experience with setting boundaries is that it needs to be short and succinct. They’re good scripts, and thoughtful, but I feel like it’d be setting OP up for a debate. She doesn’t need to litigate it: “Lucinda, this is starting to feel weirdly like my boss pressuring me not to get pregnant, and that makes me uncomfortable. Let’s take that off the topic. How was your vacation to Kansas?”

      1. Snark*

        Or even “Yeah, this line of discussion is making me uncomfortable. Let’s drop it.” I get the argument about being concerned about the relationship, but I don’t think extra work here is going to maintain that.

        1. Natalie*

          Huh, I feel like the extra work is the only thing that will maintain the relationship. It shouldn’t be that way, but in my experience *a lot* of people take blunt boundary setting badly. When that’s someone on the bus, you just go on with your day, but your boss is obviously a different animal entirely.

          There’s definitely a gendered component and potentially also a regional one. I’m a fairly direct woman in a high-context communication culture – ask me how many times I’ve been called a bitch. (And I still come across as passive-aggressive if I go out to, say, New York City.)

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes. To be honest, when I hear “don’t soften it! just be straightforward!” or “no is a complete sentence!” I wonder if the person in question lives on a different planet than I do. Because whether it should be the case or not, my experience is that a LOT of people take unsoftened straightforward no-is-a-complete-sentence boundaries as harsh, in a way that can absolutely damage relationships, and you can duck a lot of problems by, yes, softening it. Yes, saying “sorry” when you don’t need to. Yes, hedging. And so on.

            Same goes for “return awkward to its source.” Yeah, okay, but if you need to maintain a good relationship with the source of the awkward….

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, does it make sense to continue to share so much with your boss? It sounds like she has a history of pushing your boundaries (e.g., your last parental leave). It also sounds like her involvement isn’t serving your professional or personal needs, and is instead causing additional stress.

    I guess I’m wondering if reframing your relationship with her might also help you feel less coerced/manipulated/pressured by her?

    1. OP #4*

      No, but it feels expected and I have a hard time not doing it because of how open she is. I would love to have a purely professional relationship but that’s just not how she is. She would see that as being rude.

      At the end of that last conversation with her I was pretty fed up and my face showed it. That was a couple weeks ago and I haven’t heard any new questions or comments, even when I had to tell her something about my upcoming medical leave. I have a feeling that she didn’t realize how uncomfortable she made me feel until that moment. I also answered her demands with ‘Yup…’

      Should I wait until it happens again to say something?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Is there any way to distract her by asking her lots of follow-up questions? I’ve gone years without divulging personal information by asking an over-sharer questions instead of offering up information. But I hear you on how awkward and coercive this can feel, even if you’re trying to rein back the comments.

        If you’re as close as you’ve described, I think it makes sense to say something to her now(ish) instead of waiting. I suspect if you wait til the next time it happens, you may freeze or feel additionally under pressure. If you pick when to bring it up with her, it might make you feel like you have more power over your interactions than you do right now… Just my $1.50. :)

        1. KTM*

          This is my strategy and what I was going to suggest. I’ve found that over-sharers are easily distracted if you ask more questions about their topic, or respond with simple agreements/acknowledgements. Then it still feels like your engaging in conversation but not oversharing yourself.

        2. OP #4*

          I actually just found out that the one manager that has avoided sharing personal information with her really irritates her. She thinks it’s weird that he doesn’t share everything. So while I do plan on saying something to her, unfortunately this might just be the game we all have to play. I do enjoy my job, I just want to keep everything professional.

      2. Irishgal*

        Adding on “thanks for understanding” removes the risk of accusations of rudeness. Practice a few sentences/phrases in the shower until they roll off your tongue and you feel comfortable hearing yourself say them e.g. “I’m really trying to use work as a distraction from my health problems these days so from now on prefer not to tall about it. Thanks for understanding”. Say it with a tone of warmth as if you really expect her to understand.

        If you struggle to feel comfortable with that type of protection of yourself you might find an assertiveness class or 2 helpful.

      3. TL -*

        One strategy (that is high effort but generally useful) is to be a selective oversharer- you choose a few parts of your life that you’re comfortable sharing and talk about them intimately and excessively. You can give the illusion that you’re sharing a lot and an open book while actually, many parts of your life just don’t exist at work.

        For instance, I share lots of stories about my family and my childhood – but all but one or two of them are before my mom got sick when I was 12. Nobody has ever noticed and because I can share family stories cheerfully, no awkward questions about family if I don’t go home for a holiday. I share fun stories about my friends and grump if my roommates are frustrating me, complain if I get the cold. I never talk about serious interpersonal issues, but people still think I’m sharing a lot emotionally.

        This is a lot more effort but it’s been pretty useful to me in many different social groups, including family. And you can use any nearly any subject – you could talk about how your favorite TV show is emotionally impacting you, for example, and it can still feel like you’re opening up so much.

        1. always in email jail*

          ^this. share what book you read, or what restaurant you ate at over the weekend, or your opinion on I, Tonya, or how much cleaning out your closet over the weekend stinks but was totally worth it…. stuff that sounds like you’re sharing what you do on your personal time but isn’t really personal

        2. TL -*

          Oh, balls, this did post twice. I’m sorry – I thought my computer ate this comment and so I put it in a “better” place.

        3. Jesca*

          I agree. I do this all the time. I am very private about my children, but I also work with very childish (childish in more ways than the following) women who will berate me for having the nerve not to mention them. So I either tell some cute antidote or really just make something up and then move on. I do this about a lot of stuff. Once I made everyone believe I was having mild level drama with my landlord that was “really affecting my stress level” just to create a little drama for them. It is exhausting, but I feel like it is some survival technique for me!

      4. M from NY*

        She would see it as rude because she is an oversharer. It takes 2 people to participate in a conversation. If you don’t want that level of false intimacy then YOU have every right to not participate and pushback on inquiries on topics you no longer wish to share. The awkwardness is hers to deal with. You are under no obligation to continue to participate at a level that is not mutually beneficial.

      5. mf*

        I had a boss that was VERY pushy about wanting me to overshare. I shut it down by being extremely boring and vague. This is also a good time to practice changing the subject. Every time she starts asking personal questions, change the subject something work related.

        Boss: Are you going to have kids?
        Me: Oh, who knows what the future holds.
        Boss: But doesn’t your husband want kids?
        Me: Hard to say.
        Boss: Tell me all about your reproductive plans.
        Me: We really haven’t made any decisions in that area.
        Boss: But you’re getting so old! One day your ovaries will shrivel up and die!
        Me: Sounds terrible. Guess we’ll have to see what happens. Hey, can we talk about the plans for the conference in Phoenix? I would like to iron out some of those details today.

  7. Let’s get Visible*

    Lw#5. I would love to see my employees letters like that. It means a lot to me to know they’re making a great impact. I’ve heard comments from people and really do file them away. It does impact what i think of them. So yes do forward those to your boss

    1. You're Welcome*

      I still have a copy of an encouraging email which a customer sent to my manager yearrrrs ago! It was when I was working at a restaurant. I had gone out of my way to answer the customer’s extensive questions about the menu and help them create a custom order. Apparently, they were blown away by the friendly customer service and wanted to make sure my manager knew. I still get warm fuzzies thinking about it, especially since food service is generally thankless work!

  8. Can't take it*

    My boss is a #1 and it drives me crazy. Everything is either voluminous or laborious. If I’m writing something, boss will add in a line about something being laborious or voluminous but whenever I get a chance to edit the final product, I will take it out. The worst part is when boss cannot pronounce the word boss always wants to use, i.e., plethora.

    1. Specialk9*

      Jefe: I have put many beautiful pinatas in the storeroom, each of them filled with little suprises.

      El Guapo: Many pinatas?

      Jefe: Oh yes, many!

      El Guapo: Would you say I have… a plethora of pinatas?

      Jefe: A what?

      El Guapo: A *plethora*.

      Jefe: Oh yes, you have a plethora.

      El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?

      Jefe: Why, El Guapo?

      El Guapo: Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora.

      Jefe: Forgive me, El Guapo. I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education. But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?

      El Guapo: Like what?

      Jefe: Could it be because you are turning 40 today?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        A+! As soon as I saw the word “plethora”… “Tell me, Jefe. What is a plethora?”

        1. CarolynM*

          Totally OT, but your username is my favorite username on the internet! KILLS me each time I see it! :)

  9. PubServant*

    #5: Does the fact that it’s internal notes change whether it could be forwarded back to your boss? Is there anything else in that document that might not be for external eyes? I only ask since I work in public service, and security is generally pretty high on divulging information outside the organisation.
    But I guess there’s an easy way around that – simply asking whether it’s ok to be sent on externally.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      But their boss is internal, no? Or do you mean forwarding between people within the external entity the doc has been sent to?

      1. PubServant*

        I read it as, OP is a contractor working on site with a government agency. OP’s Contractor Boss is presumably external from the government agency. So the internal/government notes might be ok to be read by OP (in their capacity as an on-site contractor), but not necessarily by external Contractor Boss.

        I may be way off base though – I don’t have much experience with contractors!

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. There was a story last year in the UK, which was the reverse of the Easter Egg hunt story. Basically, there were a number of egg hunts arranged around the country and sponsored by Cadbury’s chocolate, but there was no mention of Easter!

    Like any other event at work, if you don’t want to participate then don’t. We had Epiphany cakes a few weeks back, and some people came for the cake, others declined,

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      We’ve started celebrating (ie having food provided by social committee) for most main religious holidays and national days of staff. People like food. But there’s no pressure to take part!

    2. Specialk9*

      I mean, taking a religious holiday tradition and lopping off the identifier doesn’t actually make it non-religious. That’s the kind of thing that people in the majority think should be totes fine to the minority, but it’s still exclusionary based on religion. (Though ironically, of course, it’s another Christian tradition syncretized from ancient pagan religions, like Christmas. The fertility thing is hard to ignore. I would be much more comfortable with the exact same tradition with a, say, Wiccan frame – though I’m unsure if that’s even a thing. But then the Christians would likely be uncomfortable, which is actually pretty telling about how it feels to the rest of us!)

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I go to a non-churchy church (Unitarian Universalist, for those wondering) and our egg hunt is always labeled as a Spring Egg Hunt even though we do it on Easter.

        1. A grad student*

          Really? I’m also a UU, and we usually call it an Easter egg hunt- though growing up I remember learning about the pagan roots of the holiday as well as the Christian story. Interesting!

      2. Reba*

        Yeah, that’s why I think Alison’s script that turns the conversation to “I don’t want to” should be effective, by sidestepping that. *Should* be.

      3. Jesca*

        it’s still exclusionary based on religion *

        * to SOME people. To my Orthodox Jewish friends, yes, they will not participate. To my more moderate Muslim and Jewish friends, they will get all up in that egg hunt. What is considered secular is different for different people, which is why it is important to never assume either way. But to say that it “always is” isn’t always the case – to a lot of people, it is just a thing you do that weekend those people celebrate that thing. Its like how mostly everyone will get into Valentines day even though they are not catholic – except Orthodox people. Most people do not even consider that anywhere near religious. As in, yeah, as a culture we do things around holidays that people no longer feel have anything to do with the religion, and as more cultures grow in this and other more western/christain based cultures, you will see this removal more often.

        1. Kate 2*

          Yes. It’s weird to me how many people completely ignore both the history of the holiday and how people of the originating religion consider it and decide for themselves whether it is religious or not and what religion it belongs to, ignoring all facts.

          Quite frankly both Christmas and Easter, as most people celebrate them, are historically *not* Christian and moreover are often not considered Christian by Christians! Historically they were culturally appropriated by Christians from Pagans. That doesn’t make them Christian anymore than Caucasian people wearing kimonos!

          Especially when you consider that several Christian sects don’t consider pine trees, presents, bunnies or eggs to be Christian. They are Pagan and/or commercial. And that’s the way most people celebrate. I don’t know anyone except hardcore church every week Christians who actually talk about Jesus at Christmas. Most people I know don’t even have an inherited nativity scene. It’s usually all about Santa if you have kids, and eggnog and presents if you don’t.

          1. SechsKatzen*

            I don’t see why the history of the holiday and its associated traditions needs to even be a conversation. Regardless of the origins, Easter eggs and the name “Easter” itself are associated with a specific Christian holiday. And really, the term “Easter” is limited to English and other Germanic speaking countries. When you look at Latin-influenced countries and cultures, you’re much more likely to see a variation of the word “Pascha.” It doesn’t surprise me that as societies became further Christianized that specific traditions and symbols were taken from the originating religion because they could be interpreted to have particular meaning in a Christian context. I studied theology all through college and am well aware of the history of Christianization, but the mere act of taking something from the religion of origin itself is wrong. I certainly don’t consider it “wrong” to appreciate and maintain certain practices and traditions associated with being an Episcopalian (which I was raised) just because I’m now Eastern Orthodox. That’s obviously not a comparable example but I think the point still stands that adopting prior practices and traditions is not in and of itself a harmful or offensive act.

            That said, and I say this as someone who would probably be considered a “hardcore church every week Christian,” it shocks me everytime I hear about workplaces holding Easter Egg hunts. Easter specifically is less secularized and I don’t know anyone who sees it as a secular holiday. So I absolutely see why someone would be uncomfortable! Not only that, but when did Easter Egg hunts become an adult activity anyway? It’s just weird. Heck, I write pysanky each year and love to show them off now that I’m getting better at it, but I still wouldn’t want to do a pysanky workshop at work! I think politely declining is all you need to do, with no explanation necessary.

        2. oranges & lemons*

          Sure, people will draw the lines in different places for themselves, but in a work context I think it behooves organizers to be extra-conscious of any activities that are likely to alienate some employees, particularly if the point of the activity is supposed to be to boost morale or promote team-building.

    3. memyselfandi*

      My parents were keen on teaching us the origin of Christian holiday “traditions” many of which are pagan. Instead we were encouraged find personal meaning in each holiday. When it comes right down to it, it is pretty arrogant for Christians to claim the egg as their own symbol exclusively. Conversely, I am dismayed when people don’t seem to realize that when they add “Easter” to something they are explicitly making it religious. I once worked for a Jewish organization and as part of my job I had to write a letter to a public school PTA reminding them that having a picture taken with the Easter bunny was not an appropriate fund raising event.

      There are so many other fun ways for the employer in this instance to achieve their goal.

    1. Natalie*

      And yet, somewhat amusingly, this issue is largely about optics. (Hers, in coming across weird for using so much jargon.)

      1. Observer*

        Actually, the OP seems more concerned about the substantive issue of being abler to understand what she means rather than the optics of the situation.

    2. always in email jail*

      “Let’s not reinvent the wheel!” makes me want to stab my eyes out almost as much as “the optics of that aren’t great”

    3. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      Ah, yes! I see it around this way a bit and it always makes me think of Transformers. They call eyes ‘optics’ for some reason…

  11. Willis*

    #1 – Can you have her prepare an outline or script for her portion of the upcoming presentation and/or give her a few questions she’s likely to have to answer ahead of time to ward off any “visibility” issues beforehand? It sounds like the word has become a crutch for when she doesn’t really know what she means, or isn’t taking time to think before answering. I’d also try to impress on her that clarity is more important than trying to sound fancy or “business-like.” We had a marketer for awhile who LOVED jargon and corporate-speak. But clients are way more impressed if you can make something easily understood versus needlessly verbose. It was cathartic to simplify all our marketing material after she left!

    1. KatyDid*

      Willis, I think this is a great idea. Loved the idea of writing and preparing!

      OP#1, is she young/inexperienced? Does she believe she must have an answer in every situation? If so, the catchword becomes her crutch to sound like she hasn’t “failed”. It can take time and confidence for a person to be able to say they don’t know, but they know how to get the answer.

      1. Let's get Visible*

        IT’s an open meeting where lots of participation and conversation will be happening. So no, not this time. In the future I will certainly make sure she does that.

    2. Specialk9*

      I had a friend who was in a super jargony office. She and a coworker would have quiet competitions to say the most ridiculous thing that sounded normal. “Let’s just run this schoolbus up the flagpole and see if it flies” was the entry that won that whole game – and everybody nodded and made agreeing noises. :D

      1. Julia*

        I think tone accounts for a lot in oral communication. You might even get away with insults if your intonation made them sound like praise.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I’m now picturing all the many ‘who’s got a rock for a brain? you do! yes you do!’ comments made to my mom’s dog over the years. He loved it; based on tone, so far as he was concerned, we were lavishing praise upon him. (He was not smart, but he was very sweet.)

      2. CarolynM*

        At my last job, the Director of Sales loooooooooved using jargon as much as possible – even used a few that had hand motions! Two favorites come to mind:

        At a meeting after a disruptive employee was let go, he was stuck on “school bus” – “If you have the wrong people on the right bus going to the right place, its not going to work out. You need to have the right people on the right bus going to the right place! Even if you have the right people on the wrong bus going to the right place …” This went ON until he had covered EVERY possibility of right/wrong people, buses and places.” I may or may not have snarked to a coworker “let me off – I am getting bus-sick!” I guess it was a mercy that her stifled snort helped him move along to his next buzzword?

        A salesperson (SP) I worked closely with was also quite sick of the jargon. One day we are on the phone after he had a meeting with the Director of Sales (DoS) – SP said “I bet DoS uses jargon in bed with his wife. Ooooh baby, I want your laser focus (with jargon hand motion!) on my vector! I am going to action your delta!” and so on … I nearly died laughing. From that point on, it was much easier to tolerate the jargon … and much harder to keep a straight face when it was used!

    3. eplawyer*

      Clarity is more important than sounding fancy cannot be said enough.
      Lawyers LOVE to throw around technical terms to clients, thinks it makes their hourly rate sound more justified. The clients just sit there confused and even more lost about the whole court thing.
      Sometimes we have no choice, we have to use a technical term. I then follow up by saying “that’s fancy lawyer talk for [plain English thing]” My clients love me because they understand what is going on in their own case.

    4. Gloucesterina*

      Willis, a script was my 1st thought as well. It may also be worth exploring with the employee whether she is feeling pressure to speak even when she doesn’t have something meaty to contribute, and that it’s OK not to speak all the time.

  12. chi type*

    #2: I was kind of surprised that Alison didn’t say anything about the OP being all BFF with the manager while (slightly cattily, IMO) excluding Jane (not to mention the rest of the team). I know it’s more the manager’s responsibility not to be so exclusive with one employee but I thought she’d mention that it can be problematic…

    1. Runner*

      Except it’s the manager and the second in command of the department. On my first read, it seemed far more appropriate for those two to have regular lunches than for the manager or OP to be eating lunch at least once a week with one junior employee out of 25.

      1. chi type*

        Yeah, it’s not really clear what OPs position is. She describes Jane as “junior” which to me says “peer with less seniority” but I’m definitely aware I could be wrong on that.

        1. OP2*

          My relationship with my boss is pretty much the basis of what has me feeling all guilty. Whilst my position as #2 is not official in any titled capacity, I do take over some of her duties when she is out of the office, such as approving expenditure and as a point of contact for those outside of my department looking for help from us.

          I think part of the problem may be that Jane IS junior in terms of experience, although she is not much younger than me, but certainly doesn’t see herself as junior. It probably doesn’t help that our titles are similar – Jane is a Teapot Support Officer, whereas I am a Teapot and Technical Support Officer.

    2. OP2*

      This is exactly what I’m worried I’m doing. I have no worries that the others in the department have any issues with our lunch arrangements as they all have their own friends within the department to hang with at lunchtime.

      1. eplawyer*

        But even if they have others to hang with at lunchtime, they might like the opportunity to hang with the manager at lunchtime. They may also be wondering if you are the point of contact because you have the lunches with your boss, instead of because of your experience and ability.

        If the lunches are where you strategize with your boss about the department, perhaps those should be separate meetings. You could limit your one on one lunches with the boss then.

      2. Smithy*

        This is what I picked up on as well. In my last place of employment there was a pretty solid “friends have happy hour” dynamic. Not formal, and mostly arranged by people who were friendly with one another. Our ED would only ever go for drinks/happy hour with one Director. When she was promoted to Deputy Director, a huge assumption amongst staff was just because they were close and the new DD was a yes-woman.

        Now this office has all sorts of other dysfunction that fed into this. So if otherwise OP, your workplace is “normal” – then that matters. But even if you see this lunch as largely social and informal, if technically this is also a lot of extra FaceTime with Jane’s boss (?) as well. And her eagerness to join you may have nothing to do with hanging out with you but rather having that time with the manager.

      3. Reba*

        It’s not just about having a warm body nearby during lunch. It’s that you have more access to *your boss* than others in your group.

        To me it seems you could give more thought to this arrangement (or your boss should be giving it more thought)–it’s potentially much more problematic than the Jane thing.

      4. Observer*

        I think you’ve gotten the issues a bit backwards. I don’t think you’re being exclusionary to Jane. On the other hand, the lunches do present a bit of an issue that you really do need to think about.

        You seem like a thoughtful person, and I’m sure that you would try to avoid actual favoritism. But perception matters here.

    3. dr_silverware*

      But the OP hasn’t mentioned excluding Jane from the big lunches, from facetime with the boss, or anything—they just don’t want to have lunch all the time with Jane. It’s not catty to dislike someone; it’d be inappropriate to say “don’t sit here with us” or “oh this is my lunch with me, my friend, and my boss, you’re not invited.” It’s the opposite of catty to be straightforward with yourself that you don’t particularly like someone but you’re going to be professional, you just don’t want to have lunch with them all the time.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think it’s catty necessarily, but it is worth noting that a boss having lunch with one subordinate a lot doesn’t need to involve actively excluding people (“you can’t sit with us”) to a be a problem in the office. Due to the inherent power dynamics, it’s incumbent on the boss to recognize that employees usually won’t speak up about favoritism or similar. They need to proactively manage their behavior rather than assuming everything is fine because no one has complained.

        1. Smithy*

          Agreed. And honestly, this may also explain why Jane is asking so much to join. If the OP was just having lunch with Jennifer in Accounting – then it really would be more a social manners question. But Jane see all this extra time with the boss – and is simply asking to be able to have some of that.

        2. dr_silverware*

          No, you’re right–I somehow missed in the question where OP mentioned that they wanted to eat lunch with their boss alone, and reacted too strongly to “catty.”

          Having actually read the dang question my take is a bit different. If the OP’s & Jane’s positions are in fact quite different, and OP is officially a second-in-command instead of de facto a second-in-command, it’s more ok to keep up these solo lunches. If it’s unofficial, you’ve gotta open up those lunches to more than just Jane (though it’ll probably end up being just Jane most times) or stop with the solo stuff; it’s not a good look.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, same here — I’d read the letter as the OP being second-in-command. If that’s de facto rather than formal, then yeah, that changes things and raises issues of favoritism (the perception of it, if not the reality). It doesn’t change the advice about Jane, but it’s another thing for the OP to take a look at.

          2. Observer*

            I also think the solo lunches need to stop. It’s not on the op to “open up” the lunches – that’s for her manager. But the OP *can* just stop doing the solo lunches.

            In any case, she doesn’t need to spend more time with Jane.

    4. Observer*

      The OP is not being catty – nor is she excluding Jane. She’s already having lunch with her once a week, most weeks. How is that exclusionary?

      1. chi type*

        Yeah I apologize for using the word catty. It’s obvious that she doesn’t like Jane but that’s fine. She’s allowed to dislike whomever she pleases. I knew it was the wrong word last night but it was all my tired brain was coming up with.

  13. Birch*

    #2, it’s not OK for people to demand your personal time and attention. There’s a weird expectation that “being polite” means letting people trap you into spending your time and energy on conversations you didn’t agree to. Polite is maybe once, suffering through this kind of uncomfortable lunch. But it’s your time! You don’t have an obligation to give it up regularly to someone who is being unpleasant. You are not rude to draw boundaries around your personal time.

    1. Specialk9*

      This is so counter to female cultural conditioning that this realization – often later in life – is utterly transformative. Especially the realization that setting boundaries cheerfully means that people just come to… flow around you.

      We think that the world will explode, but 5 levels of “and then what happens” reveals that at the worst, someone might get annoyed and then get over it.

      1. OP2*

        I can’t tell you how much in love with this comments section I am right now.

        I’ve said on another reply that my relationship with my boss is the basis for my guilt, but an additional factor is I have spent a lot of my working life being told that I am intimidating – I’m 184cm tall and very pragmatic/technically minded, so can at times communicate in ways that don’t necessarily take the emotions of others into account (which I am working on). I sometimes compensate for this by being overly concerned with the feelings of others when perhaps it’s not appropriate. Which I’m going to start working on.

  14. MommyMD*

    I think once a week would be too much for me to have lunch with an annoying coworker. You are her manager, not her social director. She’s an adult and can figure out her own lunch. Do not feel guilty. My go to line about lunch at work is “I really need to decompress and have lunch by myself “.

    1. OP2*

      I’m not actually her manager, although I think my boss might be moving in this direction – It’s performance review time and my boss has asked me to think about “what I want to be when I grow up” and has started sending Jane to me to get projects – but I very much like the “decompress” thing. Will definitely be using this.

      1. Observer*

        I know that this is not what you asked about. But you really need to stop the one on one lunches with your boss.

        If you do get that promotion, you really don’t want people assuming that it’s because you are buddies rather than your competence. And that you got the promotion because you were able to get buddy face time that other staff didn’t have access to.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think she needs to stop them completely, just ensure they’re not constant (definitely not more than once a week). And it sounds like they have a good enough relationship that she could encourage her boss to eat with others too, pointing out the dynamic she wants to avoid.

          1. OP2*

            Thanks guys, it’s great to get perspective from others about the “visibility” of things from the outside. I am certainly going to have a chat with my manager about this. As I said in the original, I have at least a couple of lunches a week without the boss, and she sometimes blows me off to go network with other department managers (which doesn’t offend me in the least). I think maybe I’ll make a point of bringing Jane to the group lunches in the tea room and try to get her interacting with a few more people from the department there. But I’m also going to stop feeling guilty about not including her all the time, I’m a colleague, not a social director.

    2. Willis*

      That line is great…it doesn’t open up room for argument, or commit the OP to constantly come up with excuses related to errands, working through lunch, going out to eat, etc. Plus it’s the kind of thing that if you say frequently enough, most people will just stop asking.

  15. Yasmin*

    OP#1 – I’m finding that odd jargon is often a byproduct of colleagues who’ve done some of this, uhm, “leadership” course things. Not leadership development in professional or academic settings; those for-profit companies that tend to take over peoples lives, have them “graduate” and then pulled into spending $$$$ for successive “levels.” They often use odd jargony terms, or use normal words in ways that are not grammatically correct. If my coworkers get something lasting and positive, and can afford to layout the equivalent $ a few Ivy League classes would have cost them, more power to them. But the rest of us could do without the jargon and the hard-sell in the workplace.

  16. Wintermute*

    1: I have co-workers like this, working in IT is sometimes almost as bad as the military as far as the acronym and jargon density goes. I’ve had entire, fully comprehensible sentences that consist of no normal English words, something like “The CTO has visibility to the sev-1 IPM issues, when you get PCRF alarms make sure to CYA and check the market in nGenius for S-1 connection MME attach rate failures and look at QOS on our IMS core, drill down into the SIP layer and look for errors other than bad APNs”* Is it possible that they came from an environment like that? or where corp-speak was heavily acculturated into them and people that were seen as “management material” used “management language”? If so incorporate that into the language Alison suggests, something like “I know some places people have to talk the talk to get ahead, but here, we really value clear communication and plain language…” You can acknowledge that you know they might have been trained the EXACT OPPOSITE by their last job and use this as an opportunity to coach them on your organizational values and how to be taken seriously as an effective communicated

    3: Things like this, unless your workplace is really strange and hostile, you tend to build up in your own mind more than other people will perceive things. I’m a militant atheist and no one at work ever gives me a hard time, I don’t think it’s ever come up even when I typically excuse myself from any religious observances.

    4: EEOC complaint time. Just the implication that you need your boss’ permission for pregnancy is discriminatory. The fact there was a prior incident as well raises this to a possible hostile workplace and at the very least strengthens your claim. If you plan to get pregnant, it’s best to have the complaint out there so it’s easier if they do take adverse action to claim retaliation.

    *Translation: “the chief technical officer will see it if we have a high-severity issue that requires us to engage the incident management team. When the Policy Charging Rules Function server has alarms, make sure to defend your derriere and check that region of the country using the nGenius tool. You need to look for failures to contact the mobility management entity in order to build an type S-1 customer traffic connection, and ensure the Quality of Service is correct on those tunnels when they reach the IP Messaging Server core. Don’t just look at the graph, look at any failed attempts one at a time using the Session Initiation Protocol tracer, unless it’s a common Bad Access Point Name alarm which is caused by bad programming on the customer side.

    1. Observer*

      LOL! This is a bad example, though. Most non-technical people would have a hard time deciphering the supposedly non-tech speak version of that, as well.

      1. Wintermute*

        an attempt was made– the non-tech version is “people with a ‘C’ in front of their title will notice if this goes pear-shaped on us, so if you see that customer attempts to access the network are failing, protect your posterior and dig in really deep to see WHY they are failing and while you’re at it look at the whole state to make sure everyone is getting the a fast-enough guaranteed connection that they’re getting a good customer experience.”

        1. Observer*

          That sounds more like it. Fortunately, the only people who really need to understand it should have the vocabulary.

          Pity the poor soul who needs to talk the to person who can actually carry out this instruction and a person who is non-technical at the same time!

  17. Wintermute*

    We’ve had a few of those lately but I’m not even sure what this would be if you WERE trying to diagnose.

    I think it’s more likely that they picked this up working for a place that you had to speak impenetrable manager-speak that would put Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss to shame in order to *ahem* “get executive buy-in on your communication optics vis-a-vis the upward mobility of your personal brand in this particular corporate paradigm in order to achieve synergy with the managerial cohort. “

  18. Argh!*

    Easter eggs are actually a pagan practice that got incorporated into Easter. I would feel uncomfortable with the religious aspect, too, but at least it’s not a truly religious practice.

    1. Anononon*

      I highly disagree with this. Almost every aspect of Christianity can be said to come from another religion. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever get a Christmas tree.

      1. Wintermute*

        Christmas trees did originate with pagan solstice practices… but yeah they’ve been largely co-opted, though there is a “take it back movement”.

        On the other hand Paganism is still a religion! Sure it’s not as odious to a non-religious person as Christianity is but it’s still a religious observance!

          1. Wintermute*

            I wasn’t saying that it was odious *in general*. Only that to someone that is anti-religious or athiest, yes religion can be offensive, and having religious observances shoved in your face in the workplace can be alienating and offensive. So from their perspective it’s (potentially) no less offensive just because it’s a non-mainstream faith.

            I’m fairly sure that many devout religious followers feel the same about religions not of their particular faith. My intent wasn’t to say that it objectively true that religions are odious, but that some people view religion as highly distasteful and inappropriate in general, regardless of its origin.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              You quite literally compared two religions and judged one as more odious than the other. If you don’t see how inappropriate that is, I really don’t know what to say.

              I tend to view people who find certain religions as more or less odious the same as I view people who find certain ethnicities as more or less odious, as well as people who find certain gender identities more or less odious.

              1. SallytooShort*

                They said it wasn’t as odious TO a non-religious person. Not that it was objectively odious.

              2. Wintermute*

                SOME PEOPLE feel that way yes. Some people follow native, aboriginal or pagan religions that suffered forced Christianization and as a result they feel very strongly about that religion in particular, and some Athiests live in places where there are people actively trying to force them to observe religious practices, ban them from public employment or otherwise enact legal discrimination against them so they have a very strong reaction to those religions because they view it as self-defense.

                Other people view religion as inherently offensive no matter the source.

                That is all I’m trying to say. Some people view pagan religion as less offensive because they don’t have a history of persecution against them, others, for philosophical reasons, feel all religion is equally offensive to them.

                I don’t see how this is a controversial fact to explain. I take no position on the morality of these relative positions, however I have empathy for them, and that’s what this entire thread is about: how to have empathy for people that don’t practice your religion and find participation in its rituals uncomfortable, alienating and inappropriate.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Thank you for giving us visibility into your thinking.

                  I understand your explanation as well as the objections to it, but I think this could easily derail the whole thread, so I’ll ask that we leave it here.

                2. Trout 'Waver*

                  Every religion has been persecuted at some point some where. Some religious folk live in places where atheists are actively trying to force them to not observe their religious practices. Maybe we should have empathy for those people too?

                  Ranking religions in order of odiousness to a certain group of people is the opposite of empathy.

                  My point is that we should be open-minded and treat people fairly. If some people are bad actors and try to push their beliefs on others, we should not respond to them by writing off entire groups of people as odious based on their religion or any other characteristic. That is bigotry, no matter how you slice it.

            2. Student*

              I am an Atheist.

              I do not find Christianity to be special from other religions. I do not find it “more odious” than other religions. I don’t think religion in general is “odious,” actually, and I ask you not to erroneously subscribe this belief to my religion in the future. I am not a unique or particularly weird Atheist in that regard, though there are certainly Atheists who feel differently (much like any religion, we aren’t all the same). However, this is not a tenant of Atheism in any regard – we don’t regard any specific religions as better than others as a belief tenant, and we don’t regard religion in general as some sort of blight or evil.

              Our one tenant, and really the only tenant of our religion at all, is that we don’t believe in God, Gods, Goddesses, or God-like entities exist. And Atheism is a religion in its own right. It takes as much of a leap of faith to declare there is no God as it does to declare there exists a God. There is no proof to back up my belief that there is no God.

              As such, we have no natural alliances as a group with any other religion whatsoever. You’ll find individual Atheists who favor (or disfavor) the religions they grew up with, or favor beliefs such as Humanism that make gods less central to the narrative, but that is individual and not representative of the whole faith. You personally run into Atheists who don’t particularly like Christianity in some outspoken way because they are converts away from Christianity specifically. They’d be just as judgemental of Christianity had they converted to any other religion, because it is the religion they have actively rejected (not because of the religion they have come to embrace). Huge difference, that.

      1. Well*

        No, it really isn’t. It’s from a proto-Germanic word for dawn, and has nothing to do with ancient Middle Eastern religious practices. Can we please not promote bad memes?

      2. SallytooShort*

        No, it comes from the word eostre. There may or may not have been a pagan goddess of that name (the only real source for that is later Christian sources and its disputed.) But it literally is translated as “to shine” or the dawn.

        Bede suggested that the Anglo-Saxons had festivals for Eostre. That would have been a couple of centuries before he was born and he couldn’t really know it.

        The connections of Easter egg hunts to paganism are really really tenuous and mostly started in the 19th century.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can we not go down this path (which happens every time Christmas comes up too)? Regardless of its origins, it’s still part of a Christian holiday now, and many non-Christians feel alienated and erased by the suggestion that we shouldn’t find symbols of Christian holidays to be secular.

    3. Laura H*

      Alison, i hope this comment isn’t out of line. Please delete of so-

      If I may, Easter strikes as much much more of a strictly religious holiday. Period. It’s not nearly as commercialized as Christmas. The egg hunt concept, while non-Christian in origin, is very tied to the very Christian holiday. I can totally understand not being comfortable with it, just as I wouldn’t be comfortable participating in other religions’ high holy days.

      That aside, forced fun (with or without religious overtones) is not a lot of people’s idea of a great time.

      Fortunately, there’s plenty of time for OP to bow out of the event.

  19. PM Jesper Berg*

    While I have no problem with reducing jargon, “visibility” is not particularly jargon-y. Anyone outside the industry ought to be able understand the word.

    1. Natalie*

      Eh, plenty of things that come across as jargon-y are actually standard English words that can be figured out from context (optics, reach out, leverage). And while I could figure out what “give them visibility on the ongoing tea” means, it’s such an oddly constructed sentence fragment that it would draw my attention away from the content and towards Jane and why she uses so much corporatese.

      In my experience, some corporate jargon is perfectly cromulent – I find “optics” helpfully expresses a concept in only 2 syllables. But less is certainly more with jargon of any kind.

    2. TL -*

      Jargon is a matter of context as well as vocabulary – when using it, ask does using jargon add clarity and needed nuance?
      In most of the examples given, it doesn’t.

      In my field, convincing is a jargon word – it means, specifically, that you found the data and logic sufficient to validate the conclusions based on the field you are knowledgeable in. “I didn’t find it convincing” implies you, an expert, looked at their work and found it lacking by the standards/knowledge base of your field. “I found it really convincing” is generally high praise, not just an agreement with their logic.
      Whereas in lay-people speak, it might be used synonymously with persuasion or it might mean you don’t know much about the field and you’re convinced now that you’ve learned something about it. So – you could use convincing in a lot of contexts that would make sense for a lay-person but wouldn’t bring in the nuance convincing is supposed to convey as jargon.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Interesting because I feel like “convincing” means almost the opposite colloquially! Like, that it would mean that while the rhetoric is very persuasive you have no way to judge the facts themselves so you have to go on feeling rather than cold hard evidence.

      2. Stormy*

        This is a good example! I also deal with the use of jargon based on legal precedent, which unfortunately has almost nothing to do with denotation.

    3. Helpful*

      It’s not so much jargon as her use of it doesn’t make sense! It’s like she’s using it as a filler word when she can’t quite come up with the appropriate word on the fly.

      My brain would explode.

    4. Let's get Visible*

      It becomes jargon when you use it in every second sentence you say or wright. When it becomes a necessary thing for you to include it constantly.

        1. Airy*

          Muphry’s Law: If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.

  20. Nathaniel*

    I totally understand use of the word visibility in this context. Leave the editing to written products and public speaking.

      1. selina kyle*

        I lol’ed at this being the comment that ended up stand-alone by accident. Oddly fitting for it, don’t you think?

  21. Lily Rowan*

    I wonder if #1 might ask the person to clarify in the moment. Like, they say, “Yes, it’s to give them visibility on the ongoing tea.” and you jump in with, “Can you elaborate on that? How do you see visibility as useful here? Or do you mean XYZ?”

    1. Natalie*

      Hopefully this doesn’t sound too nit picky but I wouldn’t say “elaborate” when you actually mean “clarify”. I think the former will encourage more unclear words and not communicate to the employee that they aren’t doing a good job of being clear and understood.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        You’re so right! I meant to stick to “clarify,” but kept typing “elaborate”!! In real life, what I would actually say is probably more like, “Say more about that — what do you mean?”

    2. Let's get Visible*

      This is my planned approach for this particular meeting. I will be asking everyone to expand on their ideas so it won’t be out of place for me to ask her as well.

  22. a Gen X manager*


    I think OP is conflating two concerns, which is making it feel bigger than it would be as two separate issues. Obviously the oversharing / boundaries is the main issue, but OP mentioning the frequent texts during the last pregnancy leads me to believe there are some basic communication issues that are unrelated to boundaries. Unless the boss is a total spaz, it is unlikely she would have “constantly” texted if OP had clearly communicated how and when she would communicate updates with her (the boss) until the actual return date was set.

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t think this is a fair assumption. I’ve had plenty of people follow up continuously even when the expected timeline is right there in black and white. And the boss has a demonstrated pattern of not being reasonable around boundaries, I’m not sure why the leave issue would be an exception.

      (Not to mention they were doing this when the LW hadn’t even had the baby yet. This isn’t the end of leave where plans need to be made, it’s the beginning when you don’t need any additional information to know you’re talking about weeks at the soonest.)

      1. OP #4*

        Yes. There was only a short window of time to give birth from the time I went on leave. She has done it before so knows all about it. Instead of spending my last few weeks pregnant relaxing, I was stressed about going into labor so by boss would leave me alone. And she finally did, after I texted her that I had given birth.

    2. Observer*

      Unless the boss is a total spaz, it is unlikely she would have “constantly” texted if OP had clearly communicated how and when she would communicate updates with her (the boss) until the actual return date was set.

      You seem to be missing a key point here. The boss is someone who CLEARLY does not have or respect reasonable boundaries. Keep in mind that she didn’t just tell the OP that she can’t get pregnant, which is way over any reasonable border on it’s own. She actually wouldn’t end the conversation till the OP “agreed” with her! That’s beyond ridiculous.

    3. Isobel*

      I know we shouldn’t nitpick word choices, but this is more a cultural question… Is it ok in the USA to call someone a “spaz”? Does it mean something different from the UK? It’s not a word I would ever feel comfortable using.

      1. S.*

        I personally don’t use it because I know the international meaning, but in my area of the US, basically no one knows the origins of the word and it definitely doesn’t have the impact it does in the UK (where it’s as bad as the r-word, I’ve gathered). I doubt most people would even know that it’s derived from the word spastic or consider it an actual insult.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, knowledge of the origin is pretty recent in the US, and not necessarily universal. It’s kind of just somewhere between an airhead and an anxious person. I’ve tried to excise it myself since finding out, but IMO it’s not all that well-known.

    4. OP #4*

      Before I went on leave I did tell her that I would let her know once I had the baby. She asked if she could text me while on leave and I said ‘Ok’ not thinking she would text me weekly to ask if I’d had the baby yet. She clearly assumed I had given birth but forgot to let her know. I was not aware anyone could be that unaware or pushy, especially my boss (who is also a mother).

  23. Emi.*

    I do celebrate Easter, and I would not want to participate in an Easter egg hunt at work, because I’m a grown-up. I would be very, very surprised if you’re the only person sitting this out.

    1. SallytooShort*

      Easter egg hunts for adults are kind of a “thing” now.

      I do not endorse this. I relay this information with no commentary.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I celebrate Easter. To me as an adult, it’s a really religious holiday with virtually no “secularized” aspects (as opposed to giving people presents around Christmas time – which is still celebrating Christmas, but not itself a religious act, unlike going to church, vigil and stuff) – and so I find the idea of celebrating it at work especially weird because religion is so personal. I know that an Easter egg hunt is not very religious in terms of literally just its intrinsic aspects. I can get down with an egg hunt though! Just in my own time! (my parents and I did it until I went to college I think – even though I was older it was still fun and we had a dog who enjoyed trying to find eggs too)

        1. SallytooShort*

          Yeah, I wasn’t denying the religious aspect. OP said they wouldn’t do it even as a Christian because she is an adult. Which I get. But they have become popular for adults as of late.

          I know a couple of people who work for “trendy” companies that put them on. And a bunch of my friends are spending Easter in Palm Springs and are going to do one.

      1. Ca$h Money$*

        I work at a company which does this! The eggs are filled with candy and various bill denominations, and the executive leadership walks around with the basket and allows each employee to choose one. The grand prize egg is a $100 bill!

    2. Bea*

      Kids can have the egg hunts, I’m not giving up my Easter basket though.

      Easter is literally my favorite holiday since I was a toddler, I still don’t want to celebrate it with co-workers though. Also it’s a Sunday, I really don’t want to mesh it with work.

    3. I Hope I Die Before I Get Old*

      After my kids grew up, I made my husband dye eggs with me. Now I’m a grandma, so I guess its socially acceptable again if the grandkids are over. I’d totally participate despite my status as a “responsible person who has good job and pays bills, but enjoys silly childhood things.”

      OP doesn’t have to participate and hopefully no one will care, because they shouldn’t, but as we’ve all learned here there are no reasonable employers left on earth.

    4. mf*

      Also, I have actual work to do. I want to be able to go home at 5, not stay late because I wasted time on an Easter egg hunt.

  24. Temperance*

    LW1: I think you really need to make it clear to your employee that her weird manner of speaking is holding her back. She’s either confusing people or sounding unintelligent, like she’s trying to force big words that she’s sort of misusing.

    1. Let's get Visible*

      Oh I have had that conversation with her. Interestingly enough, she thinks visibility is the easier word and others are too hard. Basically it is like she is inserting the word visibility in where any longer word should really go.Or using it to shorted her actions and thoughts.

  25. Det. Charles Boyle*

    For #5, definitely send the kudos to your manager. Not only will she appreciate hearing about it, and it might factor into your future raises/bonuses, but this is important information that the company can use to bid on future contracts (“see what kind of excellent employees we have? We can hire similar, high-caliber employees to work on your projects, too!”). I worked in Proposals for a large government contractor, and we loved getting these types of compliments on our employees b/c we could “pepper” them throughout our proposals to show how great we were.

  26. nnn*

    If I were advising the employee instead of LW in #1, I would suggest that whenever she finds herself uttering the word “visibility”, she add “by which I mean…” and then elaborate on what she means.

    She’s in the habit of using the word “visibility”, and her use of the word “visibility” is sometimes impeding communication. Breaking a habit is hard and can’t be done instantly. Thinking of a new word on the fly is hard and doesn’t always work perfectly. But developing the new habit of instantly elaborating on what she means would ease the transition.

    Of course, I’m not entirely sure how to communicate that to the employee tactfully, and that’s the problem LW wrote in for…

  27. Stormy*

    LW #5 At one time, I held a position that provided support to construction contractors. My customer praise file was basically a long string of profanity, like “Thanks for saving my a$$!” and “Holy ****, you rock!” It was a bit awkward to forward that sort of thing up to my grandboss, but I did it anyway.

  28. Egg Hunter*

    I had a good laugh at the Easter Egg Hunt letter; not because I find the OP’s problem funny, but because it took me back to when I worked at a large, national corporation that set up an easter egg hunt every year.
    Each year the office manager, first in the office, would go around and hide plastic eggs. Most eggs were filled with a small piece of candy, but there were a few that held valued treasure – bottle of wine, lunch on the company, and the most prized was an hour of PTO.
    Now, all of us employees had staggered hours – one employee started at 5:30, I started at 6:30 and everyone else at various time in between. That 5:30 employee would take advantage of her time alone in the office to search out all the eggs in order to identify where the best ones were hidden. So of course no one was surprise when year after year “Daria” would end up with the wine and the PTO. And me, after two years of this got irritated and chose to not participate any longer since everyone knew Daria did this and no manager would take any steps to keep her from looking ahead of the rest of us. Never mind that easter egg hunts for adults…it’s kind of silly.

      1. Egg Hunter*

        I wish I could tell you this was the only area where management fell short. Sadly, it was not and even more unfortunately, the many other areas were far more significant. The stories I could tell about this place of employment would blow your mind, especially as it is an extremely well-known institution that relies on the trust of its customer base and yet has been in the news for shady practices. I always think if only people really knew what was going on inside -so much worse than what we’ve seen reported on.

      2. Egg Hunter*

        btw, I did speak to a manager about Daria’s practice of peeking. Her response? “yes, we know it’s wrong but we can’t prove that she’s doing. And really, what can I do about it?” I don’t know, manage?

  29. AMT*

    I’ve noticed that people with the problem in letter #1 tend to have global problems with specificity. I’ve had plenty of coworkers for whom it was almost impossible to say “What concrete action are you going to perform/what thing are you asking me to do right now?” and get a straight answer. A lot of the time, they don’t want to commit to solving a problem or answering a question and would rather discuss it at length or describe it in vague terms instead.

    A statement like “we need to drill down and create a collaborative blah blah blah” doesn’t force you to do anything about the problem (while still letting you look like you’re contributing productively to the discussion). But a statement like “I need X department to use Y tool to communicate with Z agency, so I want you to schedule a Skype call with Bob tomorrow to hammer things out” actually creates ownership of the problem and establishes a viewpoint that you might have to defend. I don’t want to read too much into the letter, but I kind of wonder if #1’s employee just has a weird verbal quirk or if it’s a sign of other issues with organization or responsibility that might call for more mentorship/training/whatever.

    1. Let's get Visible*

      Yes, that is a huge part of it with her. I think it is a combination of concrete actions and habit of saying it. She says it in non-work related conversations too.

  30. Shishimai*

    LW #2: I have been in your situation. I found other things to do at lunch – a book, an urgent project, an interest in taking long walks – that I thought (from my Jane’s constant complaints; those are information) that she would not enjoy.

    She did not, in fact, enjoy. I did, and do, enjoy my new lunch schedule of solitary entertainment or time with people I like.

  31. OP #3*

    Thanks for the advice Allison, and to those who commented on my letter!
    Yeah, I’ll just not participate I hope it will be OK. I just don’t want people to think I’m making some sort of statement that I don’t approve of this by not participating.

    1. Egg Hunter*

      I think you’re ok not participating. There are more reasons than just religion to not participate – the ridiculousness that I encountered in my post above, the silliness of having adult professionals run around after eggs. I think you’d be perfectly fine to say that it’s just not your thing but you sure enjoy watching the melee. I’ve found that adding a compliment or positive changes the tone of what you’re saying and makes it more palatable to those who might think you’re maybe making a statement.

      1. Else*

        Yes – say something cheery about other people doing it, or wish them luck, and just decline to hunt. I wouldn’t even say Happy Easter – I’d just say something about good luck with the eggs. FYI, in case you are wondering, Easter candy is universally the WORST unless they spent way more money than is likely – not kidding; it is basically all on par with those orange circus peanuts. Debased forms of marshmallow, fake chocolate, sick-sweet and gummy jelly beans.

        Easter egg hunts are one of those weird completely non-religious things that are religious because they are associated with a religious holiday. Christianity seems to have a lot of those, now that I think about it. Makes me wonder if the other Abrahamic religions do – anybody know?

        1. Egg Hunter*

          on the other hand (if you’re willing to spend money) you have cadbury cream eggs plus the caramel ones, you have robins eggs, cadbury mini eggs (YUM), and the butterfinger eggs, which for some reason are the best butterfinger product I have had :)

  32. Sarasaurus*

    In my experience, people who use excessive and repetitive jargon tend to not actually know what they’re talking about. I have a colleague just like this. When asked a simple question, she goes on a long-winded answer about optics and scope and verbiage and visibility, but doesn’t actually SAY anything concrete. I think she gets away with it because people are scared to ask for clarification and risk looking stupid.

  33. JustAnotherHRPro*

    LW #5:

    Congratulations! That’s a pretty significant accomplishment!

    Assuming you have an HR department, you should send that to your HR Business Partner as well. At the very least, that should be retained in your personnel file in case you are up for promotion opportunities, etc. Also, if you have a formal rewards or kudos program, this is the very thing I would advise managers to send kudos for. Formal rewards and recognition programs are set up for just this kind of thing – not to mention items like that are how we win recompetes and other contracts with the government. You deserve the praise – make sure they know about it!

    (full disclosure – I am an HRBP for a large federal government contractor. I am secretly hoping you might be one of my stakeholders. :) )

  34. Genny*

    LW 5, go ahead and share the praise, just be careful about circulating the actual notes. It sounds like you want to forward the praise to your contracting company, which is fine. You just shouldn’t forward anything that’s not completely unclassified, which means you can’t forward them sensitive but unclassified stuff (which I’m sure you know, I just feel compelled to add that note to Allison’s advice).

  35. nep*

    #5 — As I was reading the question and the response, I said aloud: “Absolutely share that sh*t!”
    Kudos, OP.

  36. Let's get Visible*

    OH MY!! update– I mentioned above in the comments I worked together with her for wording in an email today. I had her remove the word visibility. Excellent, good to go , send it…
    Ah, she just forwarded me a response … in the bottom she had actually added the word visibility back to the sentence , inserted it right in there.
    “The tea pot arrival date is indeterminate”. to “the tea pot arrival date visibility is indeterminate”
    Seriously.. haha

    1. Observer*

      If that is actually what she wrote (replacing tea pot with some other item), then you really do need to come down on her a bit. The second sentence doesn’t even make any sense. This is not about perception or reputation, although I’m sure both will take a hit. It’s about intelligible communications.

    2. Kelly L.*

      That’s so weird! If she weren’t doing it in person too, I’d wonder if she had some kind of autocorrect or macro that was putting it in there.

  37. Free Meerkats*

    My boss’s boss had a problem with constantly saying “basically.” I had a good rapport with him and had mentioned it before. So one meeting I started making gates, counting every time he said the word. He noticed and asked what I was doing after the meeting. When I told him the total, he was mortified and from that point on, he basically stopped using the word where it wasn’t needed.

    I have the feeling that, as Alison asked, you were too soft when you talked with her about this. Literally count the number of times she uses it in the next meeting and show her. She may think she’s reduced it, but hasn’t to the point you want her to. I bet she’s using it as a think space, like some people use like or umm or basically.

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