telling a rude candidate we’ll never interview him, someone is going through my trash, and more

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

1. How can I tell a rude candidate that we’ll never interview him?

I am pretty used to giving feedback to rejected candidates. I know how terrible to have a great conversation with a recruiter and never hear back. I do my best to maintain relationships, especially if I like the person but just don’t have the right role yet. That isn’t the case with this candidate, let’s call him “Joe,”

I had spoken with Joe about a role on a project in a small town my company just won. He seemed nice enough, a little quirky but that’s common in IT, so I sent his resume to the hiring managers. There was some interest, but then the PM heard from a very reputable source that this guy has made a very bad reputation for himself in the local industry — angering coworkers and pissing off clients. The managers had no interest after hearing that, and he immediately went into the reject pile. I had a short call with Joe to let him know we were not going proceed for any of our open roles and left it like that (which has been 99.9% effective with my other candidates).

He’s reached out a few times since then to see if anything changed, and I let him know they hadn’t. His emails have gotten more and more aggressive, but I have remained friendly and firm that there isn’t an opportunities. Fast forward to today, he emailed me again asking if I had updates and I let him know I didn’t (I really don’t have any priority roles). He responds with the note, “Oh really? You don’t have any openings?” attaching a list of every job listing in his area (all of which are different and don’t fit his background — i.e., he has no cyber security background but wants to be the team lead).

I do see why this guy has a bad reputation! At this point, his persistence is beyond annoying and downright frustrating. How do I tell this guy (without getting sued) that he will never be hired by my company?

Eh, I wouldn’t. You’re better off just not engaging with him. You don’t have to respond to his messages, and he can continue applying and you can continue blandly rejecting him. If he sends you more messages demanding to know why, you can ignore those or you can send back a bland “we’re focusing on candidates who are more strongly matched with our needs.”

I used to think it was worth being more explicit with candidates about how their bad behavior had removed them from consideration permanently, but there’s so little to be gained by doing that — and potentially a whole lot of hassle. I totally get wanting to say something on principle — I want to, too — but there’s really no business advantage to doing it.

If you really want to try to get him to stop applying, you could say, “We’ve considered your candidacy in the past and don’t think the match is right for the roles we hire for so I won’t be able to offer you an interview in the future.” But this guy sounds likely to argue with that (and you can just ignore the messages at that point, of course, but given his rudeness, you really don’t owe him this kind of explanation).

2. Someone is going through my trash every day

The level of petty and micromanaging at my office is getting absurd, almost comical. After I leave for the day, someone has been going through my trash and taking out things they feel should be recycled and putting them in the recycling. I get it. Recycling is really important. But I’m talking SMALL things like used Post-Its, receipts, the paper that a roll of stamps comes on, etc. I know this sounds really insignificant, but on top of other micromanaging that goes on and generally feeling like I’m working a job that is far below my capabilities, it feels like whoever is doing this doesn’t even feel that I’m throwing my trash away correctly. For reference, I come in and leave earlier than my colleagues and we don’t have the luxury of cleaning staff, so I know it’s a colleague who is doing this. (I’m 99% sure I know who, and the person’s I’m thinking of is senior to me.) Is this just someone’s weird quirk that I need to let go of?

Probably, yes. And really, the bigger issue is that you feel like you’re being micromanaged and working at a job below your capabilities, and this is rubbing salt in that wound — but it’s not a totally outrageous thing on its own. Annoying and strange, yes, but not an outrage. If the person who’s micromanaging you is the same person you think is doing this, I can see why it really grates — now she’s micromanaging your trash? But really, the broader micromanagement is the much more important issue.

That said, if you really want to address it, you could certainly say something to the person you suspect. You could say, “Hey Jane, this is a weird question, but by any chance have you been sorting small recyclables out of my trash can? I’ve noticed things like used Post-Its are being pulled out there and put in recycling and I wanted to touch base with the person who’s doing it.” If the answer is yes, you could say, “Would you mind leaving it to me? I feel strange about having someone going through my trash every day.” But of course, you risk this leading to a lecture about separating recyclables better, and if the person is senior to you, it may not be something you want to use up capital on.

3. Is it appropriate to not tell employees that a coworker’s child has died?

I worked for a small company with about 50 employees. I was in an employee support role. One of the employees in the producer area had several children, and while I worked there he and his wife had another child with a severe birth defect. The support team talked about it often and discussed ways to help the family. We were all emotionally invested in this family. They all came to company functions, we all held the adorable baby, and so on.

After a few months, the poor baby passed away. No one told me and I only found out the day of the funeral. My manager and the owner of the company went to the funeral, as did several of the production employees, but no one spread the word. I only found out because I saw on an employee’s calendar that he was attending “XX employee name funeral.” I was aghast because the next time I would have seen that employee, I would have asked how the baby was, as usual.

When my manager came back to the office, I was teary and mentioned that I would have wanted to go to the funeral to pay my respects. He told me I was being “way too emotional” and that it wasn’t his information to share.

What are your thoughts on this? Obviously it was a super sensitive topic and of course an employee shouldn’t have to talk about it if he doesn’t want to, but should management have given the support team a quiet heads-up?

In general, managers do let people know news this devastating, unless specifically asked not to — if for no other reason than that helps people avoid innocently asking “how’s the baby?” the next time they see their bereaved colleague.

It’s possible that your coworker asked your manager not to share the news. But it’s probably more likely that your manager isn’t very skilled or experienced around handling this kind of thing and genuinely did think that it wasn’t his to share.

4. Explaining to people why I’m revoking their coworker’s remote work privileges

I’m new to management — I was initially hired as a peer to my coworkers and was unexpectedly promoted to be their manager a few months ago — and your site has been absolutely invaluable in helping me figure out how to be an effective manager.

For some background, I am a project manager on a contract with a government agency and I have several direct reports. The agency has a generous telework policy and allows us to telework several days each pay period.

The government employee who supervises our contract has asked me to discipline a contract employee by cutting their telework privileges significantly due to some performance issues. Normally I would keep disciplinary consequences and performance issues private from other employees, but it’s going to be immediately evident to others that this person is in the office a lot more (and I have a strong suspicion that the disciplinee will complain to their coworkers about it). What do I say if my other reports ask me what happened?

“Working remotely doesn’t make sense in every case, and we reserve the right to ask people to work from the office if their work requires it.” That’s true, it avoids getting into details that people don’t need, and it provides some context for the decision.

By the way, I wouldn’t present this to your employee as a disciplinary step, or think of it that way yourself. It’s reasonable to decide that someone who’s having performance issues should be in the office more where they can be more closely supervised, and it’s reasonable to treat remote work as a privilege that you aren’t entitled to if your work isn’t up to par. But you don’t want revoking it to be a punishment; you want it to be a logical consequence of the work issues. (In general, you rarely/never want to punish people; you want to your actions to be logical outcomes, but not designed to be punitive.)

5. Looking at an organization’s tax filings before an interview

I’ve applied for a development job at a nonprofit. I’ve never worked expressly in fundraising before, but my skills are a fit and I’ve got an interview lined up. I looked at the organization’s tax filings from the last few years to get an idea of their budget and growth, because I’d like to have a strong conversation in the interview about my vision for the position. Is this going to come across as intrusive or weird? Or is it normal with development gigs for people to come in with this kind of research done?

Totally normal with nonprofits and not at all intrusive or weird. I don’t think I’ve ever talked with a good senior-level development candidate who didn’t do it. (For anyone who doesn’t know how to do it, you can look up nonprofits’ tax filings on

{ 322 comments… read them below }

  1. Kenneth*

    #5 Depending on the level of the position, it could be uncommon (but not unwelcome) or expected. This is about the same as looking up the SEC filings or annual report for a publicly-traded corporation before interviewing with them, something I did with my previous employer (my current employer is privately held). It shows you’re interested in the company beyond the superficial, especially if, as in your case, you’re using that information to tailor your “sales pitch”.

    1. Woodswoman*

      Effective development work for nonprofits involves exactly this kind of research when searching for funding prospects. Demonstrating your initiative and ability to do this should be a plus. You just want to communicate what you found in a thoughtful way. It’s the difference between saying, “Looking at your IRS 990, it appears that your contributed revenue is half of of your budget. Can you explain your funding model?” vs. saying “Reviewing your CEO’s salary, she’s being paid too much of your budget. How do you plan to fix that outrageous figure?” Okay, you wouldn’t say that of course, but you get what I’m driving at. Good luck with the interview!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Also, when you work for a charity it’s helpful to know how much per pound (or dollar or whatever) is spent on delivering services. Just so you have an answer ready when people start soapboxing* about how charities just spend all their money on marketing**.

        *Ask me how I know
        **We actually don’t

        1. Al Lo*

          Or admin and overhead.***

          ***If you don’t pay your administrative staff, your rent, or your utility bills, you don’t have a program once you get past a certain scale.

          In my world (non-profit arts), you could have, say, a small community choir with 40 members and a $40,000 annual budget; pay a single artistic director and an accompanist and get free rent because someone can get a church basement for free; and you can basically put everything into your product: paying your artists, buying music, and putting on concerts. Scale that up to the $2M arts non-profit that I work for, with 500 members and 60 contract artists on staff, and you have to actually put money into running the place.

            1. Antilles*

              It’s doubly ironic because donors usually work/worked in the private sector where spending money on infrastructure is usually viewed as a smart long-term plan due to the improved efficiency.
              Remember how you used to have an ancient computer and it wasted countless hours of your time, then you became way better at your job when you got an actual reasonable workstation built this decade? Same deal here; non-profits do not operate in some magical world where having a functioning computer is a luxury.

          1. Wintermute*

            Not to mention to do the most good you need to incur overhead sometimes. Sure a community nonprofit with a 2% overhead is awesome, they put the vast majority of their money to doing great work, locally.

            But you’re not going to go international for that. Logistics costs money, international flights cost staggering amounts of money, international shipping costs money, in many countries corruption and expected bribery takes its bite, it costs a LOT of money to move money

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


            You get what you pay for – if you pay garbage and don’t offer benefits, you’re going to wind up with a lot of bad employees, and maybe one or two who are truly passionate and have outside sources of income/healthcare/etc.

        2. paul*

          Or god forbid pay their employees enough that they don’t rely on foodstamps and WIC. That’s just sheer profligacy, we’re all in it for the money! SHAME ON US.

          I need another vacation already

          1. Junior Dev*

            What, you mean organizations whose mission is to alleviate poverty shouldn’t be paying poverty wages? *Head explodes*

        3. hayling*

          Oh man, don’t get me started. I worked at a non-profit community blood bank, and some people got *incensed* when they found out that we “sold” the blood to hospitals. How exactly did they expect us to pay for the supplies, vehicles, employee salaries, testing, laboratories, etc?!

    2. Smithy*

      I agree that this isn’t weird or too intrusive – but I think if you’re going to ask questions based on it, depending on who’s interviewing you – they may or may not have a response. If you’re applying to an “American Friends of….” place – they may very well have a fairly large overhead and talking about what that means would be a totally normal question to ask. But getting deeper into the tax side may not result in solid answers.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, can I ask something that might be dumb? Is it possible the janitorial staff is sorting your trash? At several of my workplaces, they’ll go through your trash and separate recycling, and someone else might come by to empty the trash later.

    Unless it really is a manager, in which case you have to let it go, but yeeesh. Who has time to sort their reports’ trash??

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m glad you caught that! I definitely missed it. Question withdrawn! Instead, I’m left agog with wonder at whoever has time to rifle through others’ trash.

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          Not me! Not after I’ve seen the amount of used tissues some people have in their trashcan.

        2. SLR*

          So we actually run the risk of fines per item of recyclable materials found in garbage bins in the city I work in. I was wondering if there is someone who is responsible for this in the office & the OP might need a refresher on the recycling policy? I’m the responsible party for my office and it’s been hard to not go through everyone’s bins to make sure they’re compliant. I don’t do it though. If I see something in a common area I might place it in the correct bin, but not their personal bins. I’m wondering if it could be something similar here instead if a cleaning person.

          1. Natalie*

            I would hope that person would at least try having a conversation with the LW if that was the case! I know some people are often loathe to have even the most low key direct conversation, but sorting through someone’s trash every day sounds so unpleasant it might be the worse alternative even to the super conflict averse.

          2. hayling*

            Does anyone ever actually get fined for this? I’m very pro-sorting, and I live in a city where it’s technically illegal not to sort, but I can’t imagine this ever actually happening.

            1. KMB213*

              I know of several businesses who’ve been fined for this in both places where I’ve lived and worked as an adult (Washington, DC and a suburb of Cleveland, OH). Most municipalities don’t fine individuals, but it’s not uncommon to audit and fine businesses.

        3. Case of the Mondays*

          At an old job where the building didn’t have recycling, my husband’s coworker/friend would go through his trash and take home all his cans and bottles to recycle. It drove him nuts.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            I collect bottles and cans for redemption as a hobby! I do realize it can drive other people nuts though. I stepped it back a little over the holidays but am going to go full throttle again when it gets warmer. I don’t take them from the street, just my friends houses and parties (with permission!) I think it’s wasteful not to IMO. At least put the trash out where canners can get them.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        If there’s no janitor, whose responsibility is it to empty the office trash cans? In every office I’ve worked in, a janitor would come in after everyone (or at least most people) had left and dump the individual trash and recycling bins from the individual cubicles and offices into larger bags.

        Who is doing that task in OP’s office? Is it the person who is rifling through the trash? If so, maybe that’s part of their job?

        1. Charlotte Gray*

          I had a temp job where we were all responsible for putting our trash in the garbage can outside every Friday before leaving. Another family business win! One of the CSRs did the cleaning on Sundays (paid separately from her CSR job).

        2. Bea*

          I had the biggest “moment” when my trash magically disappears in my current position. This is my first job in a 15+ year career that I’ve ever not had to empty my own trash.

        3. KMB213*

          This just changed at my current job! (Same job, but we moved offices and are on our own now instead of subletting office space from another business.) Having to take out my own trash is so strange, but, from what I’ve gathered, it’s not *that* uncommon in a small business.

    1. SystemsLady*

      Not to mention things like post-its, thermal paper receipts, and sticker sheets have impurities and really shouldn’t be recycled. Paper biodegrades just fine, so if you toss something like that or a paper plate it really isn’t a huge environmental deal.

        1. hermit crab*

          That was my first thought as well. This is a good reminder that offices should share the guidelines from their recycling providers – in our area, for example, commercial buildings often use private services that have different standards from the local municipal services, so the things you can recycle at work are different from the things you can recycle at home.

      1. finderskeepers*

        If you have SSR, it all comes out in the wash. Moreover, even though it degrades, not recycling paper means you’ll be killing more trees.

      2. A grad student*

        I was thinking this as well… Depending on the place, putting stuff like that in can potentially mess up a recycling batch.

    2. Blue Eagle*

      Or – you can just do the proper recycling your own self so it would not be necessary for someone else to do it.

      1. fposte*

        She may be doing the proper recycling, though; as noted, in a lot of places what’s being pulled out wouldn’t be appropriate for recycling anyway. Just because somebody has a bee in their bonnet doesn’t mean they know what their recycler accepts. (My office one got a snotty note telling us we should recycle the padded envelopes in our garbage, despite the fact that our recycler wouldn’t take padded envelopes.)

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Some people get surprisingly uptight about this kind of thing. Once I was helping pull a particularly fast-spreading invasive plant from a local park, and at least one person a day would stop to ask if we were using biodegradable bags. We told them that we weren’t, because it took a minimum of 7 years before the seeds would lose their viability, and they would have spread all over the place. Apparently this explanation was not sufficient for anyone.

      2. Antilles*

        I don’t think that’s true.
        The co-worker thinks it’s acceptable to dig through someone’s trash can without even asking/telling them or providing a reason. So my guess would be that *even if* OP did the proper recycling, it wouldn’t stop co-worker from ‘checking’ in order to ‘make sure’.

          1. Diane Berg*

            I thought OUR peculiar co-worker was the only one! She will go through every trash/recycling can in the building, almost every day, and sort out recyclable items from the trash….while muttering loudly about irresponsible persons who toss recyclable things. And not wearing gloves….this is disturbing to me, but I have never said anything because it’s the least weird thing she does. And at a very good salary, too!

          2. Anne (with an "e")*

            The coworker is indeed creepy. Further, who has the time to do this? Another thought, this just seems gross to me. Usually my work trash is fairly innocuous. However, sometimes one might find discarded food wrappers, containers, etc. or the occasional used Kleenex. Uck! It’s trash! Who wants to sort through that? It’s sticky and unsanitary. Gross.

      3. Bea*

        This kind of attitude can bread contempt with the people you are trying to get to do something. Yes we should all feel responsible to take care of the environment but getting snippy like that leads stubborn minds to do things out of spite.

        My response to someone roaming in my trash is to have a daily yoghurt container to dump in there and make it interesting for them.

    3. Midwest Red Sox Fan*

      (raising hand) I fully admit to plucking a recyclable off the top of the communal kitchen trash. But I would never be so presumptuous as to go through someone’s individual bin.

        1. Rookie Manager*

 for Scotland.

          When interviewing for a third sector job I always stop by here and check out the reports. I’m not in fundraising but it gives an idea of how stable your role will be.

          1. Al Lo*

            I also use it to get a sense of salaries. In Canada, the reports don’t give specific salaries (I’m pretty sure the U.S. ones give specific salaries for the highest paid [3? 5?] positions) but they indicate how many full-time employees are in given salary bands. It’s useful to see where things fall and to compare those salary bands with other comparable organizations.

  3. Drew*

    LW2, I would be sorely tempted to put all the trash into a single bin and include a note somewhere in there that says, “I appreciate all the help keeping my trash and recycling sorted. Thanks, Trash Fairy!”

    I wouldn’t DO it, mind you, but I’d be tempted.

    I think Alison is right; this is one of those things that probably isn’t worth starting a fight over. If you’re concerned about your own security, you might start shredding all receipts, but beyond that, let the person have their fun.

    1. LadyL*

      I had the same temptation, but without the note. I would just starting putting everything in my trash bin, secure in the knowledge that I now have my own personal recycling service. How useful!

      1. Drew*

        The point of the note (and remember, this is Terrible Advice that should Not Be Taken) is to make the passivity more aggressive. You don’t want someone thinking you are unintentionally not sorting the trash, after all; you want it clear that you are doing it completely aware of what’s happening.

        But don’t actually do that.

        1. LadyL*

          Ah, see, that’s where you and I differ. Although I hail from passive-aggressive people, their ways (mostly) did not sink in for me. Because while it would irk me to know this person thinks I’m some environment hating oaf, my fondness for being lazy usually overrides my ego. I would very much enjoy no longer having to do my own recycling, and I would be wary of scaring this person off now that I know they’re doing this work for me. Hell, maybe they’ll start rinsing my coffee mugs for me, or vacuuming under my desk if I play my cards right. They’ll enjoy the feeling of self-righteousness, and I’ll enjoy fewer chores. Could be a win-win.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        THIS. I was trying to think of something gross and wet/sticky but that didn’t smell. Gum is the answer.

        1. MidwestRoads*

          I think used teabags would work too. And I would totally do this because I’m a petty, petty person.

        2. Baby Wiper*

          I use baby wipes for my hands at my desk. Some partially eaten chocolate in one may just help the trash pickers.

      2. OrganizedHRChaos*

        I had a coworker paranoid that someone was going through his trash can so he started pouring a cup of cooled coffee in his trash can before he left for the day. This was after he was told that he could not take his trash bag with him every day.

          1. OrganizedHRChaos*

            Haha, he is one of a few “quirky” coworkers over the years that have provided some cheap entertainment during long work days.

      3. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        Yup, my first PA thought was to put something gross in my trash every day.

      4. As Close As Breakfast*

        My first (totally passive aggressive) instinct was to make sure I threw away my yogurt containers in my desk trash. And by ‘throw away’ I obviously mean that I would eat about half of the yogurt and then dispose of it with a sort of upside-down-circling-shaking kind of motion into the trashcan. I wouldn’t actually do this. I don’t think I would actually do it. I would think about it often for sure.

      5. Cat*Lady*

        Or a nice squeeze of dish soap over the top of your trash before you leave.

        Personally, I am the type to recycle smaller bits of paper, but I don’t go through other people’s bins for them. OP can also rip post-its and receipts into itty bitty confetti before throwing away :)

    2. Helpful*

      I think LW2 needs to get focused on dealing with the micromanagement, rather than this. Start polishing your resume, talking to networking contacts, get control of your professional future! This is a symptom, not the real problem.

    3. TallTeapot*

      Maybe a used tampon applicator, a bunch of sneezed-in kleenex or something equally personal and gross int eh trash can would deter the snooping sorter…

  4. Artemesia*

    I had a situation very much like #1. One of the applicants who was local looked plausible and was in our final 10. He had done some work elsewhere in the organization that was similar to our need so I talked to the department head he had worked with. They were very negative and the negative issues were precisely what we were trying to avoid in that role, so we decided not to make him one of our 6 phone screens, or eventually our 3 interviewees on site. If not for that, we would have probably interviewed him at least as it would have had no cost (the other candidates had to be flown in).

    In addition to the bad feedback, his own behavior got increasingly annoying. He pestered the admin and had an embarrassing email handle (this was a man in his 60s) and the admin begged me to deal with him so he would leave her alone, so I sent the ‘we won’t be proceeding’ boilerplate. We normally waited till we had narrowed it down to finalists to do that. He then began harassing me with long queries demanding reasons why he, a perfect candidate, was not being interviewed. After one bland response, I ignored further contacts at which point he went to the CEO claiming age discrimination. He was so ‘off’ that this caused us no problems. The last 3 people hired in this role, including on this search, were all men and women in their late 50s or older.

    There is no percentage in engaging someone like this. Stop responding.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Dear indignant rejected candidates,

      When you behave like this, you prove people were right not to hire you.

      Thank you for giving them the gift of peace of mind, but know that it’s your own time you’re wasting.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 You absolutely shouldn’t put a mousetrap in your trash can. But thinking about it might just bring a calming smile to your face in times of great need.

    I would suggest an envelope full of glitter but, you know, it could end up on your desk. And you shouldn’t do this, either. But see above.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      I was thinking confetti rather than glitter. Marginally less pretty, but easier to clean up :)

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          It would be an interesting experiment, as this would be recyclable waste, to see if the trash searcher would painstakingly remove each tiny circle…

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I think a heads up would have been wise to avoid the kind of situation you describe. And there are ways of saying things! Even if the colleague didn’t want anyone to know, it’s a bit harsh to say you’re being too emotional (and when I say harsh, it is because what I really want to say is unprintable).

    You cared about this child and it’s completely understandable and human if you DO feel emotional about it, especially given you stumbled on the news so completely out of the blue. I know I feel less equipped to deal with difficult news if it doesn’t come to me carefully, from a person who’s telling me on purpose. Look after yourself, letter writer.

    1. CatCat*

      I feel so prickly about the manager telling the letter writer that the letter writer was “way too emotional” about wanting to pay respects and being tearful about a dead baby. That’s just a dick thing to say to someone.

      Maybe manager is not skilled at delivering this news. But I think it’s equally likely that manager is just a jerk.

      1. Parenthetically*

        My God, yes, what a horrible response. It may be possible to be “too emotional” about such a devastating tragedy, but as I look at my five month old playing on the floor next to me, I frankly cannot extend my imagination to picturing it.

    2. Marvel*

      I agree, the “too emotional” comment was weird and reads as potentially sexist, to me. (Those women and their uncontrollable emotions, doncha know.) Despite me trying to see where the manager was coming from below, that’s… not the wording I would have chosen, and it definitely makes me think less of him.

        1. Wintermute*

          it’s a power dynamic + gender thing though. Studies have shown women in power roles still resort to sexist stereotypes of other women in their workforce, despite, presumably, sharing whatever they feel essentially feminine traits would be. Just because your boss is a mother does ‘t mean you don’t have to worry about family status discrimination, for instance

      1. OP#3*

        Oh my goodness, you hit that nail on the head, Marvel!

        For reference, I am female and have two children under the age of 10. The manager in question is male, in his 60’s, and has adult children. He has made many other sexist comments in the past, including telling females to smile, saying he doesn’t want to promote more women, etc.

        That’s really interesting that without knowing the genders of the people in the story, you guessed correctly :)

        And FWIW, I was not bawling or anything like that. My eyes were wet and I was dabbing them when I talked to him about it.

        1. AthenaC*

          You’re not off-base to think that someone should have spread the word, especially in this situation where you all met the baby!

          At one of my jobs a few years ago, a coworker’s father had died. She tried to keep it a secret, but her manager did two things:

          1) told us anyway, and told coworker that “people will want to know because we care about you” – in our office, this was a true statement.
          2) told us that coworker didn’t want us to know, so we shouldn’t initiate conversation about it, but we were being told anyway to let us know what was going on in coworker’s life, and also to allow her some flexibility if she needed it.

          It worked perfectly! We gave coworker the space she needed, she got to grieve in private the way she wanted, and everything moved along normally.

          YMMV, of course.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, I’d be pretty uncomfortable with that if she specifically told him not to share it! I could see him telling people that she was dealing with something tough outside of work and to give her some flexibility but I don’t know that he should have shared the actual news if she asked him not to.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              It seems really patronizing and overstepping boundaries to share that news if he was specifically told not to.

            2. AthenaC*

              Upon reading replies, it probably does sound inappropriate. Some additional details that I think are relevant here are:

              1) We all knew her father was dying. She took personal calls related to administering his end-of-life care within earshot of all of us and even said, without prompting, “sorry about that – my dad is dying and there’s just so much to take care of!”
              2) Most of us went to college together and went on to work at the same place.

              It didn’t make a ton of sense that she wanted the actual death to be a secret. And as I mentioned, we all respected her privacy and didn’t make the mistake of asking her, “Hey! How’s your dad doing?” Because we already knew.

              1. Tuxedo Cat*

                I could see #1 possibly although I think it’s just better in those situations to generically ask how the person is doing, if you’re not that close.

                #2 doesn’t really make sense to me. I went college with people and I like them, but I don’t know if I’d want personal info shared with them even if we were in the same workplace.

                1. AthenaC*

                  But she didn’t want people to ask. She didn’t want to talk about it at all. She just wanted to grieve and take care of everything in private. That’s why she said she didn’t want people to know her dad had died. There was literally no other way for us to completely leave her alone about it without being told her dad had died, and further being told she didn’t want to talk about it.

                  Was it against her wishes to tell us? Sure. But did it get her the privacy she wanted which was the bigger thing she wanted? You bet.

                  Sometimes when you work with human beings, the details of their requests don’t fit in with the big picture of what they want. I’m sure you think I sound “patronizing” but that’s the reality. You work with human beings and their situations on a case-by-case basis.

                  In the specific situation the OP asked about, it sounds like the grieving coworker didn’t want to share the news. Okay – fine. But then he has to field “hey, how’s the baby doing?” (the same baby they all met, if you recall) from all these people who don’t know what happened. And then he has to field their reaction, which is it’s own emotional labor. I cannot imagine that fits in to what he actually wants/ needs, having just lost a child. It sometimes takes another person to think a few moves ahead on the chess board – again, not intended to be “patronizing” – just the reality.

          2. BananaPants*

            It’s really inappropriate for the manager to have told everyone specifics after she had asked him not to.

            1. Life is Good*

              Yes it was. Our co-worker at old dysfunctional job had a stillborn at 8 1/2 months. Not only did she not want anyone to know, she quit the job. The manager not only told everyone about it individually in a gossipy way, but also that the infant had severe issues -“but, don’t let her know I told you”. This was 100% the former co-worker’s “story” to tell. What is wrong with people.

          3. all aboard the anon train*

            I would be livid if I tried to keep a death in the family a secret and my manager went around and told people anyone. My grief is mine, not my coworkers’. Your coworker didn’t get to grieve in the private way she wanted because her manager disrespected her privacy by telling everyone else about it after she specifically told him not to.

            1. AthenaC*

              But … she did get to grieve in private. Her father never came up at work so she didn’t have to share with anyone. Specifically BECAUSE we were all told so we knew not to bring it up.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ugh, that is terrible. Not telling you about the death of a co-worker’s family member (and BABY, no less!) is a true dick move, and telling you you were getting too emotional about it was far beyond that. I am not surprised to hear that this manager has a track record of sexist comments like that and I hope you are able to move away from working with him – either by finding a new position or by his getting canned. Good luck, OP, and I’m so sorry about your co-worker’s child.

        3. Emi.*

          Look, even if you were bawling, that is a totally normal reaction to the death of a child. Your manager is a jerk. But it sounds like you know that already.

        4. Robin Sparkles*

          Ugh I am sorry – sounds like you have bigger problems than that one extremely insensitive and cruel comment. What a jerk. Any chance you could report to HR (the not promoting more women and telling females to smile)?

        5. Akcipitrokulo*

          Someone should have spread the word. It’s different from a truly private issue because this will be known eventually; spreading the word is just letting people know in a controlled and kind way, not in a “hey, where you been? How’s baby doing?” pain causing way.

          I’m really sorry you found out like that… he’s a jerk.

        6. neverjaunty*

          *sloe motions head exploding*

          A dude manager openly talking about not promoting women is, at least in the US, behaving illegally. If you haven’t reported this guy to HR consider doing so. But you should 100% consult with a lawyer.

        7. Observer*

          He’s not only sexist, but unfit for the role. This is the kind of situation where even “manly he-men” wind up with “something in their eye”. NOT being emotional in this case is a far bigger problem than needing to dab your eyes. The man’s level of callousness is a really bad trait in this kind of field.

        8. Nita*

          Your manager does sound like a jerk. But in this case, maybe your coworker did not want the entire department to know/come to the funeral. For some people, it’s exhausting for one’s grief to be public knowledge. Some people need to hold on to denial a little longer than others – as if not talking about what happened keeps their child alive a little longer in their memories. Maybe they just didn’t think through that this might result in people innocently asking them how their baby is, because they weren’t thinking clearly in general.

        9. Anion*

          OP, I would recommend contacting your bereaved coworker asap, and saying something like, “I have just heard the terrible news about [Baby]. I am so sorry for your loss (etc.).” Make clear that you weren’t told, that no one in the office was told, because those poor people might be thinking that nobody at work cares since nobody else contacted them or showed up.

          Or they might return to work to face “So how’s [Baby]?” questions, yeah. It’s awful that your manager set them up for that kind of pain.

          And yes, most normal people would/will get emotional about the death of a baby or child, especially one they know. I get teary every time I see (yet) another innocent child murdered by a pit bull; that doesn’t make me “overemotional,” it makes me a human being.

        10. Sterling*

          My mother passed away this summer and I was gone from work for 2 weeks dealing with her house and such half way across the country. when I got back people kept asking me if I had a a good vacation and I would respond with info about cleaning out the house. This left me feeling everyone was kinda heartless thinking of it as a vacation and my coworkers were left fumbling for words because they had no idea my mother was dead. In my office my supervisor typically spreads the word but for some reason didn’t this time. It was really awkward for everyone involved. So I do think unless asked no to managers need to make sure your coworkers know what is going on so no one steps in it.

    3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      A quiet word is absolutely necessary. Imagine not one but several colleagues asking about the baby because they didn’t know about it’s passing. It just adds an extra layer of pain to the family because it comes across as though their baby wasn’t worth mentioning. That being sad I believe the LW should send a card or have a quiet private word with the employee.

      1. Reba*

        The news should be shared, sensitively, not for the colleagues but for the bereaved parent.

        Doesn’t sound like management is particularly sensitive, though.

        OP #3 You sound like a compassionate coworker. I’m sure your colleague will appreciate a card or other gestures from you, even if your office as a whole didn’t handle it quite right.

    4. Justme, The OG*

      My old office had something similar happen. My co-worker’s child died, co-worker was off for some time afterwards, and we were told that everything was fine and not to worry. Everything was NOT fine and we were right to be worried about our co-worker. I felt awful that I didn’t reach out to her because I had no idea anything had happened. It took another co-worker Googling her name a few weeks later and confronting management about it.

  7. Story Nurse*

    In general, you rarely/never want to punish people; you want to your actions to be logical outcomes, but not designed to be punitive.

    Thank you so much for saying this. I wish more people would apply this outside of the office as well, but especially within the office, thinking in terms of “punishment” often goes to really bad places really fast.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Yep. I think the best thing the OP can do in this situation is to ensure they don’t frame this as a punishment / revoking of privileges. You don’t need to lie – just explain that this is going to happen and then outline what will be different as a result eg what support you will give the person while they are in the office.

      Also, you could maybe head off the potential for complaining to colleagues by suggesting wording for explaining. It’s possible nobody else will notice or care that much, it’s possible they’ll be intensely curious, and I’m not going to tell you they won’t notice as they would in my office.

      But you could help Llamelia by saying, or suggesting she says, that you and she have decided she’ll be in the office a bit more at the moment. Framing it as a joint decision is a kindness to her (which could head off the potential for indignant grumbling) and will stop other colleagues freaking out.

      1. Circus peanuts*

        You could also just say that this employee does some of their best work while they are in the office if anyone asks.

        1. London Bookworm*

          Your mileage may vary with that one; I know people who would certainly take that as a passive-aggressive dig. (Regardless of how it was meant.)

          Of course, if the employee feels awkward, she might be able to present it that way. “Oh, I just find that I do better work when I’m in the office.”

    2. London Bookworm*

      Honestly, that’s a good mindset to have for life in general. Particularly when I was working with children, I found it helped me maintain focus on what sort of rules I wanted to set, and what the consequences would be for breaking those rules.

    3. Ainomiaka*

      Except this is punishment. I get that we want employees that were punished to not take it personally but the OP said it, the employee is almost certainly going to feel that way. I mean, I agree that we need less of a culture of punishment in the office. I just don’t think telling the OP and the employee “this isn’t a punishment I swear” will make it not a punishment.

      1. Anony*

        But it isn’t a punishment. A punishment would be if they were revoking his ability to work from home just to be punitive. They don’t want him to work from home because he has demonstrated that he cannot perform quality work that way.

          1. Anony*

            If the goal is to make someone feel bad then it is a punishment. If the goal is to increase productivity and quality of work then I don’t think it is a punishment.

        1. Autumnheart*

          In the end, it’s a consequence—productivity drops when working remotely, no more working remotely. The employee can decide for themselves how punitive they feel it is, but the logic remains that not maintaining a minimum quality of work means a revocation of privileges.

          Maybe it’s just me, but although I understand that a manager shouldn’t make an employee feel like they’re being metaphorically put in the corner with the metaphorical dunce cap, at the same time an individual disciplinary process isn’t inappropriate. I’d say that it is on the employee to manage their feelings about this change and what to say to coworkers about it. If they complain and make a stink about it, then that will only reflect worse on them.

      2. Parenthetically*

        There’s a pretty big difference between “consequence” and “punishment,” though, and it seems that, however upper management may be framing it, this is a necessary adjustment to improve someone’s work output.

        1. Ainomiaka*

          Not frome the point of view of the employee who had their work situation made worse to change something about them . I mean, I get that the managers here that have to punish people need to believe that there is a difference, and after this I’ll leave. But it’s psychological framing to help you, not them.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But managers don’t have to punish people, and the point of the framing is to help managers make better decisions — so that they’re not searching for punitive consequences, as opposed to figuring out what actually makes sense for the work they need done. If an employee feels like something that’s truly a logical outcome from their actions is a punishment, that’s either on the manager for not explaining the context and reasoning well enough, or on the employee for not being clear-eyed enough about why it’s happening.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yep. If, when I was a latchkey kid, my parents had one day said to me, “From now on, you’re going to have a babysitter after school because we can no longer trust you not to set the kitchen on fire*,” that, to me, would have felt like a punishment. As an introvert, I really loved having my unsupervised downtime after school. By my parents would not have chosen to get a babysitter because they knew it would upset me and they wanted to punish me. They would have done it to keep me from burning the house down.

              *Please note that I never set the kitchen on fire despite some close calls, this is just a hypothetical

    4. Kyrielle*

      Yep. It’s not “We are taking away your remote work option because you value it and we want you to feel bad about its loss”.

      It’s “We are taking away your remote work option because it is not working well for the business, and we need the greater productivity we believe will happen when you’re in the office.”

      It may make them really upset, or it may be a minor aggravation, and either is fine; the goal isn’t to make them miserable, it’s to get productivity where it needs to be.

  8. Crystal*

    If you don’t have cleaning staff how does the trash get emptied? Do you take yours to a dumpster? If it’s just a small under desk trashcan why not get two? I’d be tempted to ask the person whose doing it if recycling is so important why you don’t have separate bins? I guess I’m just confused by what the “normal” procedure would be – maybe this person’s sorts everyone’s trash because they’re the one in the office that wants to? I need more info.

    1. ZMM*

      That isn’t really the point though. Whether the office decides to separate trash between recycling and garbage bins or not is one issue. Whether someone is deliberately picking through each piece of the LW’s trash to decide whether each thing should be recycled or not is quite another. At the least, it represents some boundary issues, IMO, and additionally illustrates that certain people in the office are so focused on the behaviors of others that they will go through their TRASH to make sure that things are sorted to their liking. So again, I don’t really see that the problem is one of recycling vs not recycling, but rather of how it’s being currently handled by LW’s coworkers

    2. Antilles*

      Eh, there are plenty of different ways.
      >The company provides a small trash can and has trash bags available in the supply closet, but everybody is responsible for emptying their own trash whenever necessary.
      >The admin goes around on Fridays with one of those full-size 20 gallon trash cans and empties all of the trash cans.
      >Maybe the office pays someone to empty the trash cans a couple times a week, but not a real ‘cleaning service’ per se.
      That said, ZMM is right that the real issue here is the “why are you going through my trash???”, not the lack of recycling.

  9. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    #2 – I completely sympathize. My previous company contracted specifically with a trash company that separates recyclables at their facility; all of our trash went into single containers and they handled the separating. At my new office that is not the case – back to separate bins. It’s really difficult for me to remember to separate things out. In addition, it’s a different city altogether with a different trash contractor, so what they accept as recyclables are not the same as what others take. I have had coworkers stop by to introduce themselves and then make comments about remembering which can is for which items.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      This made me a) shudder and b) think of the manager who kept reorganising people’s desks and throwing away their post-its (cannot confirm whether they in fact recycled these).

      I… really hope this is wrong. But it’s a very good point!

      1. Parenthetically*

        If someone threw away (!!!) my post-its, I would be like level ten furious, I use those things for EVERYTHING

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Oh no, it was better than that — the manager was getting rid of USED posties. As in, with reminders on them. Because untidy.

  10. essEss*

    I would start putting gross things into my trash, such as old coffee grounds from my personal desk coffee pot, sticky kleenex, banana peels, orange rinds with lots of the little zest/pith membranes picked off and tossed in separately….

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      This may backfire when your office fills with the delightful, pungent aroma of Eau de Pass Ag, mind.

    2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      There is no need for me to START. I have year round allergy/sinus crap. Snotty Kleenexes are a regular item in my trash.

    3. MLB*

      I was thinking the same thing. I had a calendar on my wall for 2017 and I often forgot to change the month. I noticed a few times that the month had been changed to the correct one. I asked my manager if she had changed it (no big deal) and she said no. I work in an office with only a few others so I know it had to be the people who clean our building. While I realize it’s a very minor infraction, I don’t want strangers touching my stuff.

      1. Bea*

        I worked as an EA for so long that’s the kind of thing I’ve still had trouble learning to forget. I can imagine doing it without realizing it was an overstep, I’m glad you mentioned it.

        I’m still learning I don’t have to protect others from solicitors either and realizing nobody else screens calls, fml.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          I’ve been out of retail for about 5 years and I still front-face things at the grocery store.

          1. Paquita*

            My husband left retail (grocery) 5 months ago. He still randomly gathers carts from the parking lot when he goes shopping. Not just at his old store, but anywhere.

  11. Lars the Real Girl*

    #4, I think Alison’s script is good, but I wouldn’t necessarily proactively say/send it, but only use it if asked. The employee may not WANT his coworkers to know (it can be embarrassing), and unless there’s a business need (other than people’s curiosity or gossip), I don’t see the benefit of say it up front. I think it will actually be more weird to.

  12. Scotty Smalls*

    For #2 I didn’t even think you could recycle post-its, receipts, and stamp backings because of the adhesive and stuff. It’s not regular paper. Does that depend?

    1. Tired and emotional*

      Think that can vary widely from location to location. My local recycling will do glossy paper and card, my parents’ council won’t touch it with a bargepole, while their food waste accepts the vegetable-protein-plastic bags and ours won’t go near them because they’re still too plasticky. At work we have to throw food waste as landfill, but plastics and paper/card can go in the same bins.

      FWIW, OP2, I used to have people going through my bins to sort the recycling out (it was cleaning staff though) – I’ve tried to be better at recycling since, and it happens less often. It doesn’t have to be coming from a bad place, just a slightly misguided sense of environmental friendliness, so I agree with Alison that this is probably more about the general issue you have about your workplace.

  13. Indisch Blau*

    #2 – I think I’d either take my trash to the rubbish bin daily or discreetly take it home with me every evening. (Without cleaning staff how does the trash make its way from trash can to curbside?)

    1. Circus peanuts*

      I think that the letter writer should let it go and let that person have their quirks and not let the crazy make LW crazy. It would be difficult to get over the reputation of being the one who takes their trash home with them or being the one who volunteers for janitorial duty. Let it go and realize that someone else is having to live with the fact that their recycling zeal has gotten to the point of digging through other people’s trash during the height of cold and flu season to get a stray post it to put in a recycling bin.

      1. Anony*

        I don’t think ending their day by emptying their trash bin would look crazy. Taking it home probably would though.

      2. DrAtos*

        It’s not right. I had a co-worker do the same thing to me. He lacks social skills and is nitpicks about following rules. Everyone in the office knows about his behavior. He sends out emails to our entire office, which is under 20 people, if the last person in the office forgets to turn off a light or lock the office door. There is a very lax rule that we should throw away food in the garbage bins outside of our office in the building’s hallway. This is to prevent cockroaches and other insects. Sometimes I would throw away a wrapper or chip bag (not with food still in it) in my person trash can. Apparently this guy came into my cubicle early in the morning before I arrived to rummage through my garbage and place those wrappers on the seat of my chair. He did this about three times before I reported it to my direct supervisor. At the time I wasn’t sure who it was because I was still a new employee. My supervisor, who doesn’t like my coworker, immediately told me it was him and that this guy has done it to other people before. After speaking to my supervisor, he stopped putting trash on my chair. Some people are just anti-social, odd, and plain rude. I don’t think OP should let this go. Something needs to be done to stop this. I felt it was an invasion of my personal space at work for a coworker to come into my cubicle while I was away. If someone can do that, who knows what else he is opening or looking at in your drawers and on your desk. Creepy.

  14. Marvel*

    #3 – Hmm. From my perspective, it’s possible that this wasn’t actually mishandled at all. Maybe he asked, “Would you like me to let the other employees know?” and the parent said “no thanks, I’d rather break the news myself,” but it slipped his mind in the midst of his grief and the funeral preparations. That’s something that seems to happen a lot when people go through some kind of terrible tragedy, and for that reason I think it’s important not to take it personally if you’re left out of the loop. It’s hard to know exactly what happened, and I’m not sure what a better way to handle it would have been, in a case like I described above. These things are really hard and I can understand a manager feeling like it’s not his information to share.

    Also, while I can understand being mortified at the idea that you might have asked after the baby not knowing the terrible news… I can also see why your boss thought you were overreacting a bit. From how you described what you said, it may have seemed like you were taking issue with not being invited to the funeral, which would be pretty inappropriate as that’s really more about the family and their grief, and not about everyone else getting to pay their respects. It sounds like that’s NOT what you intended, but it may have come across that way regardless–some people can feel weirdly entitled to funeral invitations for people they hardly knew, and will make it into a weird performative thing.

    1. Marvel*

      I should add, LW–I don’t think you were in the wrong at all! Just trying to offer up alternatives to “your manager is a jerk,” which, well… your manager might be a jerk.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Telling someone they’re being “too emotional” for being sad over a baby they’ve met dying is jerk territory. (The OP also updated, above.)

        1. Forrest*

          But not being invited to a funeral isn’t in jerk territory. I’m with Marvel on this one – it really seems that LW#3 is more upset that she wasn’t invited to the funeral and that’s not on the manager to deal with. Make the employees aware of it – maybe. But not every funeral is public and I think it would look a little odd if someone was very emotional about not being invited – it’s not about them. If they were invited to the funeral, they would have known. From the manager very clearly saying he didn’t think it was his business to share, she probably wasn’t invited.

          1. Brittasaurus Rex*

            That’s not what Marvel said, though. The manager may have interpreted it that way, but the LW didn’t intend it.

            1. Forrest*

              Ok, then I think the LW is more upset about not being invited than told.

              Any death is tragic and death of a child is especially painful. But I’m surprised that days later she had assumed that she wasn’t invited to the funeral. I get being upset about not being told and she obviously has the right to be upset about not being told about the funeral. But I think if reflects badly on her for her to be upset about not getting a funeral invite.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I think she was sad that a baby, and a baby that she had met who was a child of a co-worker had died. Wouldn’t anyone be sad about that?

                1. Forrest*

                  There’s a difference between being sad about the death of a kid and being upset about not being invited to the funeral. The former comes off as beyond reasonable and completely understandable. The other comes off as entitled – there’s way too strong of evidence that she wasn’t invited and it appeared that she spoke to her manager a few days after the funeral. Only the owner, manager and members of his team knew about the funeral – she was clearly not invited. And even then, its not reasonable to speak with her manager about that – I think its reasonable to speak with the manager about not knowing the child died and even then, he had a perfectly acceptable explanation.

                  I just think it’s odd that she brought up the funeral to begin with since the majority of the employees didn’t know. I understand she felt a connection to the child but at the end of the day, this is her coworker. She was never entitled an invite and she shouldn’t assume there was one to begin with, especially with strong evidence to the contrary.

          2. Someone else*

            I think there a lot of possibilities and we don’t really have enough info to fully dissect them all, but yes. If I separate my thoughts on the Manager’s reaction in the moment, it sounds like part of the crux of the LW’s concern was “Oh no, coworker might think I’m uncaring and didn’t even bother showing up at the funeral when Other Coworkers did”. Unless LW3 had a particularly close working relationship with the bereaved, I don’t think the parents would be likely to have mentally noted her absence. So while I get the impulse to want to pay one’s respects, at a certain point, a certain volume of people may have been unwelcome, resulting in some coworkers knowing about it, and going, and others having no idea. If the worry here is that they think you’re rude for not going, don’t be worried about that, they probably barely remember the events of the day.
            The manager’s comments about not getting emotional were jerky, but I’m not sure the manager not having told everyone is. If the bereaved only told certain people and said to not spread it around, then respecting that was important. Even if they didn’t specifically say “don’t spread it around” if they also didn’t say “let the team know so I don’t have to”, it could be a reasonable call for the manager to land on the side of “not my news to share”.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I think the way to handle it is to anticipate that people may find out and to be ready and prepared with something to say when they do. This manager seems caught off guard.

      I feel like your post has lots of logical explanation about why the manager said this and did that. Most things can be explained away, but it can be really difficult when you’re the person on the receiving end. Yes, there may be reasons why the manager said x and didn’t do y. But is the letter writer justified in feeling whatever they feel? Yes. Can we validate that? Yes.

      What we can’t do for them now is change how this was handled, and realistically they are not likely to get what they need from the manager. They can acknowledge for themselves that this was hard, and do good self-care, and perhaps take solace in knowing that they have been ‘seen’ by team AAM, even as they went ‘unseen’ by the manager.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’m going to push back on this a little bit – is it plausible, yes, but from experience it’s friggin’ exhausting to have to individually tell every human being that you know when you’ve lost a loved one like a child or a spouse or a parent. You really do depend on your circle to be the ones to spread the news. My workplace sends out a company-wide email. “Please keep ExceptionToTheRule in your thoughts, their parent passed away yesterday. The obituary can be found here:” kind of thing.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I think this is a YMMV issue. I find it exhausting to have everyone know and offer condolences when I really don’t want to deal with coworker’s emotions over my grief. It means sometimes people you’ve spoken to once want to offer their condolences or some people get weepy in front of you when you’re trying to hold it together yourself. I’d ask a company not to send out an email like that in my case because it would cause me more emotional turmoil.

        I think the bigger issue is that we don’t know whether the coworker in question told the manager to tell or not tell the rest of the coworkers about the death of her child.

        1. Observer*

          If the parent just wanted no one to talk to them about it, it would have made sense for the manager to actually TELL THE OP THAT. Because a parent who doesn’t want a bazillion people offering condolences when they are having a hard time processing the whole thing is not going to find it all that easy to deal with “How is Baby?” either.

    4. Observer*

      In addition to what the others said, it’s just not likely that it slipped his mind that he had that conversationwith the parent.

  15. Oilpress*

    OP#2: There is another way you can handle this: Recycle properly. If you are analyzing your own trash to see if someone is tampering with it then you probably have enough energy to recycle.

    It’s weird that someone else wants to go through your trash, but who are they hurting? If they were breaking into your office to do it or tampering with your computer, papers, etc. then the situation would be completely different.

      1. I Dodged a Ballet*

        Well, I would be. If it’s important to them, rock on! What do I care? I always tear up things that have even a partial name or phone number. Anything else, whatever.

      2. Witholding*

        I get that it’s a bit odd, but it just doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s TRASH. Kinda by definition, I don’t care about it. If someone else wants to paw through it, that’s their problem.

        And I agree that OP should just do the recycling properly.

        1. Birch*

          I think the squicky feelings come in just because people are worried about the trash digging behavior possibly signaling even more problematic behavior in the future. Like using the information they find in there against you, and there’s no way for OP to know what exactly the motivation is. Even if you destroy most important info, there’s always a way to twist that Post-it that has “Dr. Appt Thurs 1200” on it. It’s sort of in the same category as messing with non-personal stuff on your desk. It just signals a general lack of boundaries.

          1. Witholding*

            Sure, but that’s a lot of what-if’s to indulge in, with no indication that they are realistic. What if this person is just really keen to recycle everything and doesn’t care what’s on it? Why get worked up about something that may never happen?

            If there are bigger issues with this individual, absolutely address those! I just do not see any value in stressing out over someone picking recycling out of the garbage.

            1. Natalie*

              Eh, knowing that this outcome is unlikely or impossible doesn’t necessarily make the squicky feeling of being scrutinized go away.

          2. Observer*

            In my experience, trash pickers are always trouble. I’m not worried about someone finding anything in my trash, but if someone were going through it, I would have my radar up in a big way. Because the person who is looking through the trash never has a really good motive. Either they are looking for something to harm you with or they are insanely micromanagy and distrustful.

            1. PlainJane*

              This. I don’t want to feel like I have to shred anything and everything that might be remotely personal. I don’t need my nosy trash-picking co-worker to know what I bought at Target or when my next gyno appt is. Sure, it’s trash, and since it’s on the employer’s property I should have no expectation of privacy, but going through other people’s trash is pretty outside of social norms and general expectations.

        2. Grits McGee*

          I’m all for recycling, but what OP is describing is literally single pieces of paper. How much garbage is this senior person digging through to get to that one post it? OP, you are 100% allowed to be annoyed by people examining your trash, even if you aren’t in a position to do anything about it right now.

          OP, if it makes you feel better, it may have nothing to do with you- we also have some office garbage diggers, but it’s pretty clear that it’s linked to a hoarding/compulsive behavior rather than a judgement of the owner of the garbage can. If you’re already in a micromanaged environment, it may be about a need for control rather than a judgement of your competence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change anything about your situation, but mentally re-framing the situation can make the environment more bearable.

          1. Lilo*

            It depends on the location, too, but some recycling agencies do not want paper with glue or anything on it. Over doing recycling can just mean contaminating it, meaning the whole batch is useless.

        3. eplawyer*

          The LW clearly stated this goes along with other micromanaging. It’s a symptom of a larger problem. The trash sorting at this point is at BEC stage.

          Once you reach BEC it’s time to start looking for a job. Okay, maybe past time.

          1. Witholding*

            Fair enough, but the OP wrote in about the trash issue and not the rest of it. At best, they seem to have a skewed sense of priorities. If the other issues are the real problem, they should address those and stop fretting over the garbage.

            And, to be clear, I was replying to someone who specifically asked if people would be OK with someone going through their trash. I was not addressing the OP.

            1. Natalie*

              At best, they seem to have a skewed sense of priorities.

              I don’t think this is necessarily a fair assumption. When things have been slowly sliding into terrible it’s completely normal for something minor to gain outsized importance, because it’s representing the whole situation. It’s common enough to have it’s own hundreds-of-years-old idiom, (the straw that broke the camel’s back) and a meme (the “bitch eating crackers” ecard). The LW even opens with the big picture problems and mentions the trash as a recent and ridiculous example.

        4. neverjaunty*

          “It doesn’t seem like a big deal TO ME” is different than “objectively the OP should not find this weird and intrusive.” Which it kinda is, even if, as is likely the case, it’s harmless.

      3. Bea*

        Honestly I put only trash in there, they can have at it. The only thing I find obnoxious is anyone who tells me what to do. I’ll throw things into the wrong bin out of spite if someone speaks to be in a “do it right then” tone. That’s a pissing match I’m always going to enter.

    1. anonagain*

      But going through someone’s trash is an odd way of dealing with an ongoing recycling issue. My local recycling didn’t used to take paper with adhesive, so I would always cut that part off of post-its. I was doing that at work and a coworker let me know that I could just recycle the whole thing. She didn’t pull the bits of adhesive backed paper out of my trash.

      If someone pulled something out of my trash and then told me, I’d mostly be grossed out, but I wouldn’t find it unsettling in the same way. I think not knowing who is doing it or exactly why (even though the OP can guess) can make it feel weirder.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, if you’re concerned that people don’t understand what’s supposed to go in the recycling, tell them what’s supposed to go in the recycling. Much quicker.

    2. Anony*

      I don’t think that would fix it. It sounds like whoever is going though the trash may actually be the one recycling improperly. I had a roommate like that once who tried to recycle EVERYTHING, even things that cannot be recycled, like greasy pizza boxes and cling wrap. It is actually worse to recycle things that cannot be recycled than to throw away things that can be recycled because you risk contaminating a whole load of recycling and then everything needs to be thrown away.

    3. Observer*

      How do you know that the OP is not recycling properly? As others have noted, what’s being pulled is often not even accepted by many recyclers. And, at worst it’s minor items. As well, the op doesn’t need to spend time and energy to “analyze” their trash to see that this is happening. On the other hand, needing to go to the recycling bin every time you need to get rid of a post it note CAN be disruptive.

      If you want to talk about better ways of handling things, the person who is supposedly so worried about recycling could get the guidelines from their processor and then approach the OP about it.

    4. tangerineRose*

      The OP might be recycling properly for the area – not all recycling centers take that stuff.

  16. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I had the guy on the desk next to me start rooting through his own trash once.

    You see, he had a really bad cold and was basically a snot monster. The guy across from him and I are both immune compromised. I got that cold. Over Christmas.

    The snot monster had run out of tissues to contain his snot. So he dug through his trash looking for the least snotty ones.

    I was too stunned to say something.

    I keep a box of tissues on my desk.

    He caught me looking at him in horror.

    I held out my box of tissues to him and said; ‘You could have said something!’

    Mind you, that was also the guy who used to gargle with mouthwash at his desk after lunch and spit it out into an empty take away coffee cup…

    That guy was 65 at the time. He’s retired now.

    1. AKchic*

      *shudder* Sounds so much like my family. Snotty, hackers (smokers and former smokers), spitters, and of course everything they cough and spit ends up on their chins. Don’t ask me to eat with them. They can crunch mashed potatoes, and that’s on top of the open-mouthed chewing, lip-smacking, talking with their mouths full, all-out burping contests (and that’s the women)… I feel like I grew up on a pig farm, but pigs are much more polite, and clean.

  17. Steve*

    I disagree with Alyson telling the person not to tell the rude person why things are not going his way. Maybe the person is not required to tell him, but why tell someone who wants to help someone not to? Life’s too hard to be telling people not to help others. Disliked people need help too. If you don’t want to, that is okay but i think it bad advice to tell people who want to help, not to. I have be n3fited in the past from someone telling me a hard truth when they had no need to and could have ignored me.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The problem is that offering this kind of help tends to backfire, sometimes badly.

      You tell the person that they have zero chance of being hired because they have a bad reputation in the industry, and have been pestering the hiring manager to distraction. There’s maybe a < 5% chance that they'll stop and think "Oh, that's why I have trouble getting a job and have been fired three times!" and decide to be a better person. The much more likely scenario is that they take it as a personal attack, and devote even more time and energy to arguing that you're wrong, and they're right, stomping boundaries left and right. And there's a small but non-negligible chance that they'll end up in your office screaming at you until forcibly removed.

      It's like in online dating. You don't tell the guy why you're ignoring their message, or why you don't want a second date, because 95% of the time they'll proceed to argue that you're wrong and you're obliged to date them. Even if they insist that they genuinely just want feedback so they can be better at dating.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        Even if the letter writer left it at their actual experiences with the guy applying, it’s likely not going to go well. I suspect everyone you described would happen.

      2. mrs__peel*

        “And there’s a small but non-negligible chance that they’ll end up in your office screaming at you until forcibly removed”.

        Yep. The online dating analogy is very apt here, too– there’s likely very little to be gained by further engagement, and a possibility of violent reprisal. I would worry that someone this persistent/angry/ disrespectful of norms and boundaries could also be the type to come down to the office with a gun and do something far worse than just making a scene. Not worth it.

      3. Boop*

        “You don’t tell the guy why you’re ignoring their message, or why you don’t want a second date, because 95% of the time they’ll proceed to argue that you’re wrong and you’re obliged to date them. Even if they insist that they genuinely just want feedback so they can be better at dating.”

        This is called applisplaining.

        1. Missing Satchmo*

          If you have clearly demonstrated to people that you don’t listen, you have forfeited the right to whine if they choose not to talk.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The LW is under no obligation to perform that kind of emotional labor for a relative stranger.

      1. Steve*

        Is anyone suggesting the LW is? I have not read that here. I said, I think Alyson is wrong to advise to not tell him. The letter writer seemed, to me at least, to want to tell the rude person why, and to help him. Were you understanding it to be, he/she did not want to and was being pressured to?

        1. Grits McGee*

          You are, by saying that OP should tell Joe what he’s doing wrong. Plus, it doesn’t sound like OP wants to help Joe or get him to realize the error of his ways- she just wants him to stop inundating her email and go away.

          1. Steve*

            I said no such thing. I disagreed with Alyson telling the letter writer not to. I specifically said lw was under no obligation. I read it as letter writer wanted to tell rude person to help him. If lw does not want to she shouldnt.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You are saying that the LW should tell him. Telling him means performing that emotional labor. LW does not need to do that. Alison’s advice was spot on.

        3. fposte*

          Steve, to my eyes the OP is saying “How can I tell him to stop trying?,” not “How can I give him actionable information to improve?” Those are two very different things. There’s no indication that the OP wants to coach him, and her end goal in this communication instead seems clearly to be stopping Joe from communicating further.

          I think your point would make sense if that’s what she wanted, but I’m not seeing the word “help,” “coach,” or “improve” anywhere, so I think my reading is likelier.

        4. Tuxedo Cat*

          Sometimes a person writes in and wants to do something that likely has bad consequences. No columnist is obligated to say “go for it.”

          Likewise, the OP in this situation doesn’t have to follow the advice given.

        5. Observer*

          And what people are telling you is that when a person is not obligated, on the one hand, and there IS a significant chance that there are going to be negative repercussion, the advice to not say anything is sound. ESPECIALLY since this is likely to have negative effects on other people.

    3. Lynca*

      Who’s to say he’s not getting this advice from previous employers, friends, family, etc? Why isn’t Joe doing the mental exercises to figure out the problem?

      That’s not something the OP can help with. Joe wants to argue about not getting a position and not take no for an answer. He’s sending up tons of red flags about how he would receive any advice put forth. None of them end well for the OP.

      I applaud anyone with the willingness to help others but you do have to pick your battles. Helping in a situation when it’s going to do nothing but cause more stress for you is not beneficial.

      1. I am Fergus*

        I have told recruiters not to contact me and a month or two goes by and yup I get another email. I just, at that point, block them. But sometimes after I block them their co-worker contacts me. They don’t get a nice response.

      2. Steve*

        Can you explain to me why the LW could not tell him his rudeness is hurting his chances, then if he continues then she ignores him?

        I don’t think the letter writer “should” help the rude guy. I just think if she wants to, then I disagree with people telling her”don’t help” because there isn’t an upside. Helping a fellow human being is an upside. Again it seemed to me that is what letter writer wanted. Maybe I am reading that wrong .

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Because women are not responsible to manage the feelings of men. Especially not strangers who are rude and demanding.

        2. MLB*

          Based on his responses so far, he is not a rational person. Explaining to him WHY they don’t want to hire him is not going to help. I don’t get why this is so hard for you to understand.

          This is similar to why women tell men they’re not interested in that they have a boyfriend to get them to go away. Because if a woman isn’t interested, that’s not good enough.

          Nothing she tells this guy will be good enough. It’s time to ignore him.

        3. fposte*

          She absolutely could if she wanted to, assuming it’s okay with her organization. But, as I said upthread, she never says that in her letter and I don’t see any indication she wants to.

          And while helping a human being can be an upside, the odds of this actually helping aren’t great, while the odds of this being an emotional suck for the OP that ends up hearing more unpleasantness from Joe are pretty great. People who have civility problems tend to be incivil when given unsolicited advice.

          I also think you’re focusing on this dynamic in isolation; it’s easy to think “Poor Joe, the OP only has to do this little thing to help him and what’s wrong with the people who don’t support that?” But the OP is a person with a life too and she has a finite amount to give, Joe is not the only needy person in her inbox, and her emotional energy is better spent on family and co-workers. I help a lot of people, but I can’t help everybody I’m in contact with, so I prioritize that assistance; I think other people probably do much the same.

        4. Robin Sparkles*

          Because evidence shows this guy does not want to be helped. Her responding to him will not help him or her. In fact, it will invite more rude comments and aggressive behavior. It is only helpful if this guy seems reasonable in any way. He does not.

        5. neverjaunty*

          Why did you ‘read in’ the LW wanting to help this dude, when her actual question was “How do I tell this guy (without getting sued) that he will never be hired by my company?”

          In the spirit of helping a fellow human being here: you took a question about shutting someone down and rewrote it into a question about helping someone change their behavior, and it’s well worth considering why.

          1. fposte*

            Not to speak for Steve, but I think some of this is about cultural experience of the commenter as well. When I went back to look at the post to respond to Steve, I realized that at no point did the OP explicitly say that she wanted Joe to STFU, and her starting with the mention of “feedback” wrong-footed me for a moment too. So while I think that those of us who read this as “how can I shut Joe up?” weren’t wrong, we got there by reading in as well; it’s just that shared experience means our data points for extrapolating subtext were pretty reliable.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Oh certainly. But I think it’s generally worth examining our own assumptions and the subtext we bring to these conversations – and especially to realize we may be acting on a lack of information or experience that others have.

              1. fposte*

                It was just interesting to me to go back to the post and realize that the OP hadn’t explicitly stated what was clear to me was in there.

            2. Queen of the File*

              I’ll say I did the same mis-read as Steve and it was surprising to me to see what wasn’t there when I went back and read the letter more carefully. I won’t speak for Steve either but I am sure I was biased by my day-to-day experience of dealing with people who would change their behaviour if someone told them their rudeness was getting in the way of their goals.

        6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I think you’re reading people’s reactions wrong.

          Remember, also — the LW is at work. The time and energy she spends on dealing with the highly likely result of telling him what the real problem is (in other words, the 90% chance he’ll have a meltdown or get aggressive) is time that she could be spending doing her job. There’s a net loss there that has very little likelihood of any kind of positive payoff.

        7. Observer*

          Because the the rude guy has already made it clear that they are going to try to escalate. That’s not something that it really makes sense for the OP to take on. Especially if it does contribute to the company getting sued. And, if the OP has ANY reason to think this might happen, it would be irresponsible for them to do it.

    4. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Believe me, the LW doesn’t want to ‘help’ the applicant; they want the applicant to go away. As would I. The applicant isn’t being clueless, he’s being a jerk, and no doubt he knows it. That’s not a ‘hard truth’ situation, that’s a ‘make this person leave me alone for good’ situation.

    5. Anony*

      He has already demonstrated that he either doesn’t care about normal behavior and boundaries or doesn’t know what those are. That adds risk to interactions because you do not know how they are going to respond. He could become angry and aggressive and it isn’t worth taking that risk.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Reasons are for reasonable people, though.

      he emailed me again asking if I had updates and I let him know I didn’t (I really don’t have any priority roles). He responds with the note, “Oh really? You don’t have any openings?” attaching a list of every job listing in his area (all of which are different and don’t fit his background

      “Joe” did not demonstrate a reasonable response to OP’s communications.

      1. a1*

        Agree. Based on the descriptions of past interactions, he’s the type to nitpick and look for loopholes to prove he’s right. E.g. “Well you said *red* shoes were unacceptable, mine only had red *accents* that didn’t actually cover more than half the shoe so they were not red shoes…”

    7. Snark*

      I find it very weird that you think OP owes or wants to provide – or should owe, or should want to provide – this guy feedback, coaching, help, or advice. She doesn’t. She wants him out of her face, and that’s where her interest seems to start and stop. And even if she did want to help him, I think that’s a misplaced urge anyway.

    8. Oranges*

      Because if you give a jerk an opening he will be like the mouse with the cookie 99.9999% of the time. The cost/benefit analysis of this is not good for the OP.

      Why can’t the jerk figure out on his own he’s being a jerk? I mean I’m sure his friends/family are all trying to get him to see that this is jerk behaviour. He just doesn’t want to see because he feels entitled to this job. Actually his entire attitude is one of entitlement and you really can’t argue with those.

    9. AKchic*

      What the LW opens themselves up to is this: “Well, I can change! Take a chance on me and you won’t regret it! You’ve only *heard* about the negative, but you haven’t *seen* my good side!”

      As someone else pointed out, it’s like dating. I will take it a step further: It’s like dating an abuser. You know this person abused Susie in high school and is the father of her kid. You know this person abused Carla freshman year in college. And Sarah the summer before sophomore year, and Daphne and Lorraine in sophomore year. Then he dropped out and seemed to be okay when he married Agatha, but there were rumors of other women on the side, but nobody has come forward and those were just rumors. He has children and a wife and a house. Well, now Agatha has left him and he says it’s because *she* has a drinking problem. It sure does explain her many accidents, doesn’t it. And why she can’t keep a job. But he seems like a likable guy if I give him a chance he says. I mean, he’s a changed man since his high school and college days. What could a few dates hurt, right?

      This guy already knows his reputation. He probably thinks its a good thing. He’s the “bad boy” of his industry. Or “misunderstood”. Or somehow the victim. The bad guy rarely thinks they are the bad guy in their personal narrative. Their personal spin paints them in a much more flattering light. Engaging in their fantasy does nothing but suck you down the rabbit hole.
      If you want to be frank about it, tell Joe that the company will not be going further with any applications from him and he’d be better served not wasting his or the company’s time; but that may backfire too.

    10. Former Employee*

      Alison provided a link to where she gives examples of what happens when you try to help a person like this and how things just end up escalating.


    11. Isabelle*

      I have mixed feelings about it. There are probably some people who are badly misinformed and think you get a job interview by following up very aggressively. I know when I was a student I received very poor and outdated advice from my university career center. Then again there are plenty of sites like AAM and others that give excellent job hunting advice, googling “why I am not getting interviews” is all it takes to find this information.

      In OP1’s case it seems the candidate is just a rude and pushy jerk who is experiencing the natural consequences of his actions.

  18. xyz*

    We used to have rubbish inspections at my old job, where a designated employee would come around and do spot checks to make sure we were recycling properly. I would snack and drink soda at my desk and it was cringeworthy having my colleagues rifle through a pile of cans and wrappers, even if they were separated properly.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      Was this part of an overall recycling/green initiative? Spending company time going through employees trash just seems bonkers to me.

      If you want me to recycle, encourage me, make it easy, and spell out what can/can’t be recycled. I’m much more likely to participate if I’m not made to feel like a child.

  19. Candi*

    #2 -Your coworker is a bit weird. She may also be misinformed or not have correct information if she’s dumping some of those items in the recycle bin, depending on your local recycling policies.

    The recycling and yard waste in my area goes through the same company contracted for the garbage. They do not take the glossy paper that stamps come on, or the sticky bits of Post-its; those both contain stuff they aren’t currently equipped* to deal with.

    So your coworker may be just giving your local recycling plant a hard time with that stuff.

    But overall, this sounds like a place you really don’t want to work. If at all possible, start hunting. The economy’s doing better; take advantage.

    * The current shared-with-the-community plan is to move into being able to do it over the next 5-10 years. Projected cost of the necessary equipment = expensive!! This is a way to keep costs down for customers. They do robust recycling as it is, so complaints are few.

    1. Robin Sparkles*

      Sounds like it is a senior level coworker – which begs the question of why she has the time. I agree that the big problem is the micromanagement. This trash is just a symptom of that. If it wasn’t, I would find it a minor annoyance and maybe request the recycling policy or handout.

  20. ChaoticGood*

    #1 – I must disagree. You could do this angry person a favor by sending him feedback (anonymously!)

    He may not actually know that his behavior is why no one will work with him. He may be on some spectrum for a personality disorder and not be in the mind to consider the downstream consequences of his behavior. Hey, it happens! (I’m sure you’ve heard of the U.S.’s current President.)

    I don’t blame people for not wanting to engage – why would you? – but that’s the rub: no one ever wants to be the one to just up and be *honest* with people about it.

    Talk all you want about the stigma surrounding mental and emotional illnesses, but if you talk that talk, for heaven’s sake walk the walk too and be a strong, solid force of honesty with someone. Just once. (From an anonymous email address, OBVIOUSLY, hiding who you are [pretend you’ve worked with him in the past or something, don’t let on that you’re the current person he’s bugging] and then never checking the account again.)

    It might be that one slap in the face that gets him to stop and think. It’s not like you have to be *friends* with the guy, but by ignoring him aren’t you just passing the grief on to the next person? Why not be a buddy and do the small job of sending him an anonymous tip?

    1. Grits McGee*

      Leaving aside the issue of assuming that someone being a jerk probably has a mental illness, there are several letters in the archives detailing how providing honest feedback does in fact often blow up in the advice-giver’s face and result in the exact opposite of what the hiring person wants to achieve (being left alone). I get where you’re coming at with trying to email him anonymously, but it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about how someone’s actions have affected you if you can’t name specific behaviors (ex- pestering the hiring manager) and consequences. It’s hard to find actionable feedback in “Stop being jerk” if someone thinks they’re being perfectly reasonable.

      I do think that we have a cultural narrative that you can fix someone’s life with a single aha! moment, but changing ingrained behavior is a long, hard slog that often requires multiple tries and concrete consequences. (See the updates from the manager who created an exclusionary work environments for how difficult and involved that process can be.)

      1. anonagain*

        Grits McGee, I think I missed those letters about the manager who created an exclusionary environment. Do you remember anymore details so I can find them?

        1. Grits McGee*

          The tile of the letter and updates was “Is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?” I’ll copy and paste the link in a second comment so that this one doesn’t have to go through moderation.

      2. KellyK*

        Exactly! If you give him useful and specific advice, he knows who you are and has multiple opportunities to continue being rude and aggressive *at you.* If you give him anonymous advice, you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a fake email account and trying to carefully craft an anonymous email, and the advice is going to be vague and unhelpful. There’s also nothing to say that he won’t make the connection between a sudden anonymous tip and the hiring manager who (he feels) is unfairly blowing him off. And, either way, you’re doing this at work, and it’s distracting from other responsibilities like actually hiring for the position.

        I don’t think you *can* be a strong, solid force of honesty in someone’s life while lying about who you are and how you know them. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s also not the job of a total stranger when this person presumably has friends, family, neighbors, and current coworkers.

        For that matter, ignoring emails *is* feedback. Refusing to engage with someone is a signal that they’re engaging inappropriately.

    2. ZMM*

      I understand the good intent behind this comment, and honestly at the same time have to disagree. It’s true that he likely does not realize that his behavior is the reason he is not getting hired, however that in no way means that he has a personality disorder. Sometimes, jerks just don’t realize they’re jerks. This is, in fact, coming from somebody with a personality disorder, who simultaneously has friends with personality disorders and is a psychology major, if any of that adds ethos to my comment.
      (On that note, do not point to the US president as an example of a jerk who must have a personality disorder. Most people have armchair diagnosed him with narcissistic personality disorder, but the actual creator of the diagnostic criteria for NPD has stated outright that Trump does not have it, and using mental illness as an excuse or reason for behaviors such as his actually damages the reputation of the mentally ill and furthers the stigma, which is the opposite of what your intent seems to be.)

      It’s also very easy for people to discredit anonymous emails and advice, as Alison has pointed out before, and I can only think that it would make him more angry and just disregard it than take it to heart. I agree with AAM that the best response may just be no response.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “using mental illness as an excuse or reason for behaviors such as his actually damages the reputation of the mentally ill and furthers the stigma,” This!

    3. Helpful*

      I think the angry guy needs to look at a pattern (not getting jobs, etc.) and realize that he is the common denominator. Or ask a trusted advisor why he is not advancing. The LW doesn’t really have the relational equity to help him transform a large area of his life.

      Also, if it’s truly a disorder (which I can’t speak to and is a bit of a logical leap), one “anonymous note” isn’t going to cure him.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m the person in my friends group that everyone comes to when they want real advice because I am not afraid to say things that people don’t want to hear. I love my friends and I genuinely want to help them, so I’m willing to do that for them despite the fact that it is incredibly taxing for me.

      There is absolutely nothing to be gained by the LW doing this for this guy. And if the LW is a woman, it is especially egregious to suggest that she is responsible for managing this man’s emotions.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      If someone sent you an anonymous tip, would you take it seriously? Especially if it is someone who has trouble picking up on social cues (which frankly seems unlikely), this is basically sending them a tip saying “psst, everyone dislikes you but I won’t even tell you who I am so we can have an honest conversion about it.”

    6. a different Vicki*

      Beyond the fact that anonymous notes rarely do what they’re meant to, this could make things worse for someone: in this case, any or all of the angry person’s former co-workers, if he gets “I used to work with you, and think you should know…” and decides it must be from a specific person. Not “oh, someone at MegaCorp wants to help” but “someone at MegaCorp clearly has it in for me, and is watching me to see what I do now…it must be Fergus, I knew he was only pretending to be my friend.” (The nugget of truth there is, why would a random former co-worker even know you were having trouble finding work, or be aware of how you were behaving in your job search?)

      Then Fergus might start getting the angry calls or emails, accusing him of doing something he knows nothing about. If you’re going to pay attention to helping someone when the main thing you know about him is that he is prone to unreasonable anger at co-workers, think also about helping, or at least not harming, those co-workers. Even if “Joe” could learn to behave better in the interview process, that’s a much smaller change than treating colleagues and customers well, week after week.

      In fact, given the sequence of events here, learning to control his temper while looking for work might not help Joe get a job. First he got a bad reputation, second he was dropped from consideration because of it, and third he lived up to that reputation. Suppose he took this advice on board. Then he applies to Filigree Teapots, Ltd. The hiring manager at Filigree has heard of him too, and when she sees his application she recognizes his name as the Joe who was so much trouble to work with for the chocolate wholesalers, so she doesn’t bring him in for an interview either. Maybe you’ve helped Jane at Filigree Teapots, but you haven’t helped Joe–the advice he needs might involve trying to start over in llama husbandry, or move across the country so he can work for a teapot company that won’t be thinking “oh, Rude Joe.”

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        This is an excellent point that, sadly, could happen, with what Joe has displayed in the past. I understand where you’re coming from.

    7. Natalie*

      In my experience, many people only listen to this kind of feedback from someone they’re extremely close to (like, life partner or best friend level) and even then it’s not the easiest conversation, having been on both sides. Someone getting this kind of feedback from a prospective employer or worse yet an anonymous email seems far more likely to just get defensive and perversely, more dug in to their existing behavior.

      1. PlainJane*

        Yes. And the converse as well: Why should someone invest the time and risk the possible (dare I say likely) blowback for someone they don’t know? My time and emotional energy are limited and valuable; I prefer to invest them in friends or colleagues that I think may be receptive and find my feedback helpful.

    8. Tuxedo Cat*

      We have no idea whether this guy is mentally ill, whether he has received no advice/treatment, etc.

      An anonymous email is likely not make things better. In my experience, they either get ignored or make someone very angry. If the OP pretends to be a coworker from the past, she could be setting someone up to be on the receiving end of someone else’s anger- I’ve seen that happen and it’s not cool.

    9. Observer*

      This must be satire. Please tell me you’re not serious!

      If you are really worried about the stigma of mental illness why in heaven’s name are you actually advising someone to act as though someone’s obnoxious behavior IS a sign of mental illness? Talk about stigma! It’s also fundamentally untrue.

      What you are asking the OP to do is to go through a lot of effort for someone they don’t know, have no obligations to and who, based on available evidence, is highly unlikely to take the feedback in the manner you claim he would. That’s ridiculous.

    10. Gyrfalcon*

      The jerks I know, and especially the one with apparent traits similar to some apparent traits of the mentioned head of state, are completely impervious to suggestions that they might have done something wrong, or should behave differently.

      So I see absolutely no upside I’m trying to tell anything to someone like this applicant that is supposed to help the applicant change and become a better applicant for the applicant’s own benefit. They’ve already shown by their behavior that they’re highly unlike to listen.

      The strategy for how do I tell Reasonable Person A to back off is different from the strategy for how do I tell Unreasonable Person B to back off. LW has already given the responses that Reasonable Petson gets. Now she’s best advised to move onto the responses (including the possibility of non-response) for Unreasonable Person.

    11. sin nombre*


      Please do not equate obnoxious behavior with mental illness.

      Please do not speculate on what spectra third parties may or may not be on.

      Please respect this politics-free zone.

      Also, the set of problems to which “just send an anonymous note!” is even remotely likely to be useful advice is, I’m pretty confident, a very small one, and I’m very confident this problem isn’t in it.

  21. Georgia*

    #4 Unless the government employee in question is the Contracting Officer or Contacting Officer’s Rep, they could get themselves and you in trouble for suggesting “discipline” for a contractor. You mention that you are new to management, but this is one that I would suggest taking to your management. Government contracts have an extra layer of complexity.

    1. hermit crab*

      I thought that was strange too. On our contracts, even our COs and CORs can’t say something like that – thay’re not even supposed to request that particular staff work (or don’t work) on a particular task. We don’t work on-site, though, so maybe that’s part of it.

      1. Snark*

        Even onsite, the client cannot request specific contractors, dictate hours, or limit telework beyond the core hours specified by the contract. I’m almost certain, unless this is a fairly unusual contract, that this client is crossing a big fat line.

    2. Snark*

      YES! I was coming here to post exactly this. If this person is just the client – rather than the CO or COR – this level of direct involvement in contractor employment issues could be legally and contractually problematic. And maybe even if so, depending on your contract! In general, the government and their employees cannot explicitly or even implicitly operate as if there is an employer-employee relationship (key phrase) between them and their contractors. Requesting that specific employees not telework may be justifiable from a management perspective, but to my reading, almost certainly crosses the line to an implied employer-employee relationship. Under my contract, the government would not be permitted to do something like this.

      OP, if you have not already, I very, very, very strongly recommend running all this by your TO manager or program manager to make sure this is contractually allowable. You say you’re pretty new to managing contractors, and so this might be your first lesson that the contract rules all.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yes, please do as Snark suggests and talk to your PM.

        I have a “newbie” government task lead (she’s been on the job a little over a year, after retiring from active duty). My company PM and I have been trying to gently instruct her in certain aspects of government contracting, and refer her to the Government PM for the rest. “Umm, you can’t appoint a contractor as lead engineer on the project and have government staff get their tasking from him. Perhaps you should talk to Government PM about assigning an engineer.” She wanted to limit my assignments to certain big deliverables – “Umm, no, my company is under contract to provide X,Y, and Z. If you want to change the scope of work, we have to mod the contract.” And so on.

        Great person, solid technical lead, but she needs to finish some DAWIA courses so she understands better.

        1. Snark*

          Yeah, a lot of government folks seem to basically assume that contractors operate the same as GS employees, just acquired differently. I’ve had to do the same gentle redirection countless times, for out of scope taskings, implied employer-employee relationship, assigning contractors inherently governmental activities, and the like. And vice versa – I’ve had to work with my folks, especially when they’re former GS or active duty, to avoid giving the impression that they performed inherently governmental activities or stepped out of scope. It’s a dance.

    3. Observer*

      I was wondering about that. Your program officer, or whatever the title they go by, should NOT be dictating what discipline is being meted out to employees.

      Please take is to HR / your manager.

  22. NJ Anon*

    #5 As AAM said, very common. I used to work in non profit finance and always looked up tax filings before interviewing.

    1. Anon to me*

      Me too. I want to see if the organization is regularly in the black (if they are losing money for years on end, it’s possible there will be payout or layoffs), and the CEOs pay. I don’t care what an organization pays their CEO, but if the CEO is paid less than I am (which I’ve seen multiple times) then I know their salary ranges won’t work for me and I can avoid wasfing my time and the organization’s time.

  23. Not Today Satan*

    #1, I’m not sure if this would be against any sort of rule or policy, but if it was allowed, I would set up an email rule to send all of his emails to spam or to trash.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Jerks like this are why email rules exist.
      Depending on the level of aggression in his email, would it be worth having the IT department block him at the server level? Because once OP1 stops responding, I can see him who escalates to the CEO.

  24. WeevilWobble*

    LW#3 while the manager was a jerk for the “too emotional” comment, for sure, the family could have requested not sending out word before the funeral. They may not have wanted everyone at work to come to the funeral. It can be emotionally exhausting to greet and accept respects all at once from all those people.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is entirely possible.

      I’d say that it would be more important for the manager to let people know about the loss before the grieving employee returned.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yeah, the manager could have said something like “Apollo has requested that only family and close friends attend the funeral”, which would have solved the problem of them not wanting everyone at work to go, and yet everyone would still have been aware so that no one asked about the baby.

  25. Helpful*

    #3: Please assume the best of everyone involved. Perhaps the coworker wanted to deal with things before wading into an emotional land mine at work. This is a very difficult occurrence and everyone should be given a long leash. While your boss’ response was not very kind, boss could have been asked not to say anything and was put on the spot. This is a tragedy and it’s not about you (I mean this kindly).

    1. Helpful*

      Also as I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure what an employee support team is/does. That changes my answer somewhat. But ultimately, you could talk to your manager and ask what the plan is for support for the employee going forward. The employee may prefer some space at this time and may have communicated that.

    2. MassMatt*

      You beat me to it, I was going to say much the same thing.

      OP#3 I get that you had some connection to the one who died, and your manager was jerky for the “too emotional” comment, but please try to give people space and let things like this go. Sometimes people grieving don’t want to deal with talking to lots of people about it, or intend to and lose the energy, or just plain forget. It’s not about you.

  26. Laura in NJ*

    I completely disagree with Alison on letter #2. If I find someone going through my trash (I don’t give a flying fig if they’re senior to me or not), then I’m going to speak up (give them a warning and if I caught them doing it again, then going straight to HR). There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to go through my trash and I would consider it to be a very serious boundary violation. If LW #2’s co-worker has the time and energy to go through their garbage, then they can do it with their own and leave mine alone.

    People need to start growing spines and speaking up for themselves.

  27. MommyMD*

    Are you sure they are going through your trash to separate recyclables? Is everyone’s trash gone through? If not, there could be a more insidious reason, such as they are trying to find evidence of something. Is everything else ok with your job? If my trash were targeted I’d start using a shredder.

  28. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    OP #1: I got a misdirected email the other day from a former student. He was *demanding* a job from whomever the email was supposed to be going to. I really, really wanted to tell him that there’s no way in hell he’s getting that job if that’s the way he talks to people, but I weighed the possibility that he’d actually listen against how cranky writing the email would make me, and decided just to let him know that it went to the wrong place. *sigh*

  29. John Rohan*

    I confess I am one of these people that go through co-workers trash. I’m not the one in letter #2 though, since I only take out cans and plastic bottles. It drives me nuts that people throw away aluminum cans and bottles when the recycle bin is just a few steps away!!

    Anyway, this isn’t “micromanagement”. No one is being told what to do. Someone is just taking your trash and putting it in recycle. That’s all.

    1. Allison*

      I’m a big recycler myself, and I don’t like seeing perfectly good cans being tossed in the garbage when they can be recycled (in my old apartment, I may have annoyed a roommate or two by moving things from the recycling to the trash, and vice versa), but I also believe that a person’s workspace, be it an office, a cube, or just their desk and the area under it, may not be legally their property but it is, for all intents and purposes, their space and that should be respected. It’s a boundary issue.

      I don’t like it when people mindlessly place things on my desk and leave them there, or when they come in and take pens, staplers, post-its, etc. from my desk, I get annoyed when people toss trash into my trash can as they walk by my cube (I know, I can’t stop them, but I am allowed to not like it), I certainly wouldn’t want someone to stop by and pull anything out of there, going “Oh no no, this goes in recycling!” I guess it would be one thing if the office manager did it after hours, but a coworker or manager? No, please leave my space alone.

    2. Robin Sparkles*

      Can I request that you stop doing that? Why not just inform people that cans be recycled (assume they don’t know rather than accuse them of being lazy)? I understand how frustrating it is but doing it for them won’t change the fact that they need to recycle and you are more likely to come off looking badly here rather than them.

    3. vjt*

      I have a friend who separates out recyclables wrong at my house all the time. She can’t seem to help herself. I’ve told her, “Oh, did you know our recycling doesn’t accept tin foil and aluminum food containers, even thoroughly washed, or any plastics that don’t have openings smaller than the body of the container, even if they’re marked recyclable? And that putting those things in our recycling actually makes our recycling process more expensive because they have to pay someone to go through and pull out that stuff?” She still pulls anything plastic or aluminum out of my trash and sets it into the recycle bin, every time she comes over.

      1. Allison*

        There are people who believe it’s better to put something in the recycling, even if they’re told not to, because they feel better thinking it’s being given a chance at a second life. This is why it’s good to emphasize that how counterproductive it is to clog up the system with unrecyclable garbage, and that materials generally have to be of a certain grade or quality in order to be recycled. But you’ve done that, so I don’t know what else you can do, other than flat-out tell her she needs to stop meddling in your trash.

        In general, I recommend putting a sign above your trash and recycling area detailing what materials the town or city accepts for recycling, and what materials need to be thrown away in the trash.

    4. KellyK*

      Going through someone’s trash is kind of creepy and invasive, though. I totally get the frustration of people not recycling, but it’s not your job to make sure that happens.

      And do the people whose trash you’re going through know that’s what you’re doing? Or do they have to worry that someone might be looking to gossip about them, get them in trouble, or something else nefarious? Hopefully your office trash doesn’t contain anything that can be used to steal your identity, but your coworkers still might not want you seeing the post-it note with the number of their divorce lawyer, the empty bottle of diarrhea medication, or whatever other bits and pieces might be…interesting…to someone who wants to stir up trouble.

    5. Delphine*

      I would consider it a violation of my privacy if someone was going through my trash, whatever their reasons.

        1. KellyK*

          The fact that you have no privacy at work doesn’t automatically make snooping okay, though. Nobody’s arguing that it’s illegal, or a fireable offense, to go through someone’s trash, just that it’s invasive and can come off as really creepy.

          I would guess that it’s probably not okay with you if your coworkers rifle through your desk drawers (absent some work-related reason like finding a file when you’re not there), or stand over your shoulder while you’re on the phone with your doctor’s office.

    6. Observer*

      And it drives lots of people nuts that you take it on yourself to insert yourself where you have not been invited – and are judging them for it!

      It’s not technically micro management, but it has the same disrespectful roots.

  30. Lady By The Lake*

    #3 To all the managers out there — unless specifically requested NOT to, please do quietly share bad news with the office. I cannot tell you how painful it was when I returned to the office after my mother’s early and unexpected death to cheery queries “how was your vacation!?” Having to tell everyone that my mother had died and then endure the ensuing questions about how and deal with the coworkers embarrassment of having not known added exponentially to my pain.

    1. Becky*

      I want to echo this! I haven’t had this happen to me personally, but a coworker recently had a tragic situation where he and his wife lost their first child (born extremely premature and only lived a few hours), he sent a team IM basically saying, here’s the situation and requested that we let others who may be wondering about his absence know discreetly. He was up front in saying it was easier to explain in a chat message than in person–we completely understood. We didn’t make a huge deal about it but we all appreciated that he told us so that we didn’t accidentally ask awkward questions upon his return.

    2. PlainJane*

      Better yet: ask the employee what they would like you to tell co-workers. It’s respectful and allows the person to control the message without necessarily having to deliver that message 50 times.

  31. memyselfandi*

    Regarding Letter #2 – our single stream recycling system does not want anything smaller than an index card, so recycling the items mentioned would not make sense.

    Regarding Letter #4 – I always appreciate Alison’s ability to focus on the work, not the personalities. Making a change in order to achieve work goals is such a better mind set than punishment.

  32. Fabulous*

    #5 – I was trying to get into nonprofit development for a while, usually in a more junior role though. I would still look at their tax filings, not only to see their financial standing, but to also gauge their payscale. A lot of nonprofits publish their directors’ salaries and some even publish more if they’re small enough an organization. Helped me to figure out how much to ask for and whether the org was worth even applying sometimes.

    1. k.k*

      Even if they don’t have anyone’s salary, just looking at their overall budget helps to gauge pay scale. Plus you can see a list of board members (if for some reason that’s not on their website), who their main funders are, etc. If you can’t tell, I work in development. Part of my job is foundation prospect research, so deep diving into 990’s is second nature to me. I think most development people scope 990s, audited financials, annuals reports and such before interviews.

  33. Jam Today*

    #1 I would send an email with a message similar to Alison’s suggestion, and I would also notify HR and whoever manages security for your building about this. He does not sound right in the head, and its worth it to be a little extra vigilant.

  34. Natalie*

    LW #1 (and Alison for that matter) – consider that telling this person why they aren’t getting interviewed is unlikely to make them fundamentally change their behavior. But it might cause them to try and hide it from future employers. Then when they get hired, they’re just going to continue to be jerks.

  35. bluelyon*

    #5 – just remember that depending on their fiscal year/and general status of having it together the available 990 may be a bit old by the time you see them. Make sure you also take a look at their audit – most nonprofits post those on their websites. I generally look through those to get a sense of the financial standing since it includes year to year comparisons – and if things are shaky I want warning.

  36. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – someone is being wierd! You could start taking rubbish to the bin as your last task of the day?

    It’s also worth making sure you do recycle where possible, and then mention to suspected bin raider that you’re really concerned that the recycling may be being contaminated by non-recyclable materials by someone… which could result in entire load being sent to landfill… do they have any ideas how to handle that?

  37. CoveredInBees*

    #5 you should absolutely look at the 990s and have something to say about them. Since they’re likely to be a year or two behind the current fiscal year, between filing and scanning, you can use that to ask what current percentages of income (individual, institutional, events, etc) are like and whether they are looking to maintain or change those numbers. And how they want to change them.

    Also, Foundation Center has some great classes (many free and online) to help in this area, including how to get the most from reading 990s (or they did a few years ago). I used their classes to break into fundraising and even included some of the more important classes at the end of my resume under “Professional Training”. Multiple interviewers noticed this and commented about it positively.

  38. LSP*

    OP#2 – Tomorrow, right before you leave the office, pour some glue into the bin, and really mix it up, so that you get a nice, even coating. Anyone reaching into a trash can should expect to hit something sticky and gross.

  39. essEss*

    Another idea for the trash can…. before you leave for the day, tape a big piece of paper across the top of your trash with a note on it saying that someone has been contaminating the recycling by pulling non-recyclable post-its and stamp backings out of your trash and to please stop doing that.

  40. Rick*

    Mostly off topic, but I want to point out that most people don’t actually know what’s recyclable to that much detail. I imagine that the recycling facility has a rather annoying process of sorting out all the non-recyclables that people think they can recycle. A lot of what can be recycled is regional, based on the capabilities of the local facility and the market.

    In my area, I consistently meet people who think they can recycle ziplock bags and greasy cardboard pizza boxes, which the local recycling facility explicitly disallows.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Sorting through recycling is a job that is popular with people who have recently gotten out of jail/prison.

  41. OP5*

    Hello! I’m OP5, with the letter about the nonprofit tax filings. Thanks for all the feedback, and I’m glad that my gut instinct — that looking at the filings and being prepared to talk about them was a good idea — tracks with industry norms.

    Since a couple of folks speculated — it is a senior-level position, and I was looking at the filings to get a sense of the scope of their budget and the importance of various revenue streams, not to get an idea of salary range. The salary range for the position was included with the job listing and description, a practice that I wish was the norm across the board.

  42. Stormy*

    #1: I can 75% sympathize with LW in that Joe is a pain. I can 25% sympathize with Joe in that my experience with recruiters has been that they are flaky, dishonest, and misleading. I can’t really blame him for not getting the message quickly.

    #2: Recycling rules vary so much by town, I had no idea until I moved. We got a nastygram in our new area that we were not supposed to be including any cardboard that had any amount of food waste on it–so pizza boxes with grease on them were not allowed.

  43. Oranges*

    If his behaviour doesn’t stop after a reasonable time OR he escalates. Would it be worth getting HR/CEO/Whomever to back you up on an email stating: “We appreciate that you want to work here but you have been placed in our Do Not Hire folder.”

    On second thought that would probably just add fuel to the crazy fire?

  44. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve never worked in gov’t or gov’t contracting, so maybe there’s something basic I’m not getting, but is the process described in #4 common? It seems a little odd for the client to suggest a specific disciplinary action rather than just bringing up the issue with the OP?

  45. nep*

    #3 I get that perhaps the manager thought it was not his to inform people of the news — or something. But to say the LW is ‘way too emotional’ ? Give me a break. It’s not his to judge that — Let him deal with such an event as he will, and let others deal with it as they will.

  46. what's my name again?*

    Apologies if this is a double-post. I thought I submitted it but don’t see it in the feed.
    Anyway, #2 gives me the heebie-jeebies. In my first real job (in the editorial department of a trade newspaper), one of my duties was to sort through the mail, especially the press releases, and get them where they needed to go, including the trash if the release was not involved in our industry, was a duplicate etc.
    One morning, I arrived at my desk to find a hand-written note from my boss saying that “yet again,” she had found a discarded press release in my trash etc. She had apparently been going through my trash for an unknown period of time. The tone of the one-page note implied that my job was on the line for this infraction.
    I went to her office to get more info. She showed me the press release and I went to my records (I had to keep a record of what press releases came in) and showed her that it was indeed a duplicate. “Is my job really on the line?” I asked her, nearly in tears because it was my first job and I was not very assertive. “I don’t know…” she said, very doubtfully.
    I never heard anything more about the particular issue but developed anxiety issues and dreaded every day going into that workplace until I was able to leave. Some time after I was hired in elsewhere, she was also fired, even though she was my grand-boss’ daughter. Turns out she was also a cocaine addict and perhaps that had something to do with her terrorism.

  47. knitcrazybooknut*

    I would be sorely tempted to put a string of single post-its in my trash, unconnected, that would read, Wow

  48. EvilQueenRegina*

    #2 reminds me of a trash dispute in my old workplace – someone had thrown something in the confidential waste bin, and then came in the next day to find her trash (I think it was an envelope addressed to her) dumped back on her desk with a note from this facilities woman saying “This is not confidential waste and shouldn’t be in the bin!” Her response was “And you shouldn’t be going through and reading the confidential waste!”

  49. FloralsForever*

    #3 I am a bereaved person. One of my parents died unexpectedly, quite recently. I was on the opposite coast on a business trip when I received the news and took a few days leave. I came back in the office essentially because I find working and interacting with people generally therapeutic, but needed some space. I expected my boss (who runs this site – about 40 employees) to inform the staff that something happened, but he did not, and had to fend off people when I walked in the door when all I wanted to do was check my email and prioritize my day (which is a normal way I start my day if I’ve not been out). I also had some weeeeird comments about the length of my absence. If he had notified everyone, there definitely would have been less awkward interactions. If he didn’t know it would have been okay if he had asked. Once I asked him to communicate to the team, it became much better for me – I’m getting the space and support I need to get my work done. I guess I’m basically telling my story to reiterate your point “In general, managers do let people know news this devastating, unless specifically asked not to ” but not every manager handles these situations well. But I still really wish I didn’t have to deal with an uncomfortable morning upon my return.

  50. Willow Sunstar*

    If I were #2, I would just start using another trash can for the things that other person thinks shouldn’t be there. On another floor, even.

    Of course, I live in a state that still has personal freedoms.

  51. spinetingler*

    #2: start leaving half-eaten bananas, sticky waffles, and soggy bread with jam in the trash. They’ll stop sticking their hands in. . .

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