my boss suggests hiring her boyfriend for everything, someone threw out my boots, and more

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

1. My boss suggests hiring her boyfriend for everything

My current supervisor is a real go-getter. In the way that she’s unaware of how many heads she steps on to be validated in her success. And successful she is! She’s roughly 27 and has worked for our Fortune 500 company for the entirety of her professional career, beginning as a waiter in the executive dining suite and progressing quickly through channels to reach her current, significantly elevated position leading the events planning team.

Leaving aside my personal feelings about her management style in general, I’m really struggling on how to approach her about her tendency to suggest using her boyfriend, let’s call him Sam, for a number of tech-related projects for our team. She always suggests this solution when her supervisor is out of the room, thus making her the ranking “person in charge” and always with a tone suggesting the boyfriend could provide this service to our team better and more efficiently than using the existing company-approved channels. In one meeting she even went as far as to say that we should hear what the company tech group has to say, and then “when they fail our expectations” we can bring on Sam and ask for forgiveness when it’s done.

Worth mentioning — I happen to know that Sam, with whom she lives, is currently unemployed and working as a “consultant for a financial thing.” So does everyone else on our staff. I mention this because his employment would have a clear positive effect on her financially as well, given their cohabitation, and it makes it feel extra-sticky inappropriate for the workplace.

In as much as it irritates me that she is influencing our very young staff (I’m only 36 but I feel ancient in this crowd) to believe it’s okay to ignore company policies and procedure in favor of a personal connection — and others are beginning to imitate her behaviors — I also think that this makes her appear very immature and that it’s inappropriate. Is there any way to politely tell her how unseemly these proposals sound?

Agh, yes, that’s really inappropriate.

How does she normally handle opinions that are different from her own? And what kind of relationship do you have with her? If you have decent rapport with her and she doesn’t penalize people who disagree with her, I think there’s a lot of room to say something here.

First, check to see if your company has a conflict-of-interest policy. It probably does, and she’d probably be in violation of it if she gave paid work to her live-in boyfriend.

Then, approach her privately, one-on-one, and say something like this: “Jane, I know you’ve suggested a few times that we could hire Sam to do work for us. I wanted to mention that I think we could get in trouble if we do that. Because he’s your boyfriend, we’d be in violation of the company’s conflict-of-interest policy. I figured you might not realize that.” (The “we” here isn’t strictly accurate, of course; it’s Jane who would get in trouble. But sometimes that formulation can make this kind of thing sound less adversarial, without changing your actual message.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Someone threw out my boots

I have a question about lost property and responsibility for it. When I come into my office, I wear snow boots that I take off and leave in my recycling bin so they don’t get the carpet wet. I have other shoes at my office that I change into. I was under the weather on Wednesday and wasn’t really myself. After I left the office, I realized I had walked out in my office shoes and not the snow boots. I worked remotely the next day since I was still not feeling great, and when I arrived on Friday there was nothing in my recycling bin.

I’m afraid that my boots were thrown away by the cleaning staff, which would be really upsetting — they were expensive and I’ve only had them for a few months. I reached out to the person who manages the property and she also thinks they were probably thrown away. Had I been thinking clearly, I definitely wouldn’t have left them, but I also can’t understand why someone would have thrown them away rather than erring on the side of caution and thinking, “These don’t actually look like garbage.”

The janitorial team is contracted through a vendor and are not employed by my company. Does anyone have an obligation to me here? I just can’t believe that a momentary lapse in memory resulted in my $140 boots being thrown in the garbage.

No, I’m sorry. I totally get why this is upsetting — it sucks! But … well, you left them in the recycling bin, so it’s understandable that the people in charge of emptying recycling bins assumed they were being thrown out. It’s not that different than if you’d put them in your trash can and they’d gotten thrown away. They aren’t expected to double-check that the things in trash and recycling bins are really meant to be there. You could certainly try contacting the janitorial vendor on the off chance that they know anything about the boots, but if they don’t, there’s no standing here to ask anyone to compensate you.

3. How much weight should I put on bad Glassdoor reviews?

I am a college senior, and I landed an interview with a very prestigious company (in a month). When looking through Glassdoor, I started to get really worried about the company culture.

Many people are complaining about the work-life balance, but I think you have a lot of good scripts on how to handle unreasonable requests! What I am more worried about is what one reviewer said is a company culture of subtle racism and sexism. White male researchers supposedly get more complex and exciting work than women and minorities. As I fit into those categories, I’m obviously concerned. Is there a way during the full-day interview to try to suss out if this has changed at all over the last few years? Also, the CEO has a reputation on Glassdoor as screaming at people, being emotionally abusive, reducing even senior staff to tears at meetings, and often switching priorities with no warning so that hours are suddenly crazy.

This place is really prestigious, and obviously I’d really love a job. But I’m really new to the work world, and I’ve only had really great experiences interning. Should these be major red flags? How much weight can I give these Glassdoor reviews?

Yeah, they’re pretty major red flags. If the majority of reviews are positive and it’s a small minority that are negative, it wouldn’t worry me so much. There will always be some people where the culture just wasn’t the right fit. But if you’re seeing multiple people report that the CEO screams, is abusive, and make people cry (and it sounds like you are), I’d take that very seriously. Switching priorities without much warning isn’t great, but it’s not on the same level as verbal abuse and I wouldn’t let that on its own deter you. It’s the rest of the picture that’s an issue.

Can you find anyone in your network who’s connected to someone who works there or has worked there in the past? If so, that person might be able to talk with you confidentially about their experience there.

I’ve also got some advice here about how you can spot problems before you take a job … but candidly, it can be hard to suss that out competently when you’re brand new to the work world, so I’d put a lot of weight on what you’re reading. (And pay attention to the age of those reviews too — how recent are they?)

4. The person who got me an interview just got fired

I’m looking to switch fields, and networked my way into a coffee appointment with a hiring manager who seemed to like me. However, the friend who got me the coffee appointment and subsequent offer of an in-person interview and portfolio presentation just got fired. I’m really not sure what this means for me and the prospects at this company. I only know their side of the story, so I’m trying to work out whether this lead is worth pursuing or whether this will affect my candidacy.

It’s hard to know from the outside! If you and the person who got fired are very good friends and they know that, it could potentially impact their interest in hiring you. (For example, they may worry that you’ve heard a not-very-accurate version of what happened from your friend and that they’d be starting things on a weird foot, and if they have other good candidates, it might be easier for them to just not deal with that.) Or if they were basing their interest in you largely on a glowing recommendation from your friend, and they now don’t trust her judgment, that could have an impact on your candidacy. But in a lot of cases, this wouldn’t impact you — your friend did the work of connecting you, and if you’re a good candidate, they might just proceed with you the way they would in any other case. It’s going to be hard to know until you see how it plays out. I’d just move forward with the interview and see how things go.

5. Running into my interviewer after I interviewed badly

Earlier this year, I applied for a job and didn’t get it; I underprepared for the interview and really wasn’t at my best that day. Now I’m starting an organization in the same very small industry, and I’m very likely to run into the CEO of the company where I didn’t get the job. I’d like to stay on positive terms with her if and when we see each other at the same conferences. Should I be worried that she’ll hold a grudge against me? Should I be doing something preemptively to smooth things over?

It’s very unlikely that she would hold any sort of grudge against you! Sometimes interviews just don’t go well. Interviewers don’t normally take that personally or hold it against the candidate in non-interview contexts. If anything, she may worry that you feel negatively toward her and the company; that’s the more common concern with rejected candidates in a small industry. When you see her, just make a point to be warm, friendly, and normal!

{ 416 comments… read them below }

  1. Robin Gottlieb*

    For OP #2, what we do during the winter is carry a plastic bag to put our boots in and leave it under our desks. Just a note for the next wet weather.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      #2, I hear that this is disappointing but you cannot and should not blame the janitorial staff. It’s entirely possible that not emptying the trash and recycling bins fully could get them fired. It’s not okay to blame them for this. You knew your boots were new, but they didn’t – for all they knew, they had a hole in. I know you had a memory lapse but if you’re going to use a bin to store belongings then you need a plan in place for just this situation. I’m afraid you’ll have to chalk this one up to experience and buy new boots.

      1. Casuan*

        The janitorial staff is doing what they’re engaged to do.
        Think of it like this: The bin collectors on the streets don’t have the responsibility or the time to validate items on the curbs, especially if the items are in a trash receptacle. Their job is to be thorough & efficient, so if something is on the curb with the other trash then away it goes.
        Same thing with your office’s janitorial staff, only on a smaller scale.

        I’m sorry about your boots!

        1. Casuan*

          ps: When you remembered about your boots, could you have contacted someone in the office to ask the favour of moving them?
          If so, remember this as an option for the next time- hopefully there won’t be a next time. :-)

        2. Not Australian*

          Friend of mine had a similar experience; he stored his wetsuit in a (separate, marked) plastic bin at the back of his house – and although the regular rubbish bin was put out at the front as usual the guys actually went round the back and emptied the wetsuit into the dustbin lorry. It’s the kind of mistake you only make once.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Actually, that would be grounds for seeking compensation – if not charges of theft. At least where I am, the bin men are NOT ALLOWED to go onto your private property (i.e. round the back of your house) to collect bins. If the bins aren’t at the front on collection day, they don’t get taken. I would imagine they could have taken anything stored in the back yard (not just a wetsuit in a MARKED plastic bin) and claimed they were removing rubbish.

            1. Not Australian*

              Yeah, I think he did pursue it but I can’t remember now how far he got. His more immediate problem was getting another wetsuit, IIRC!

            2. Trout 'Waver*

              In most places I’ve lived, the bins have been the property of the city or the trash collection company. Using them for other purposes was forbidden (although I’ve never seen it actually enforced).

              1. Doreen*

                To some extent, that depends on how the trash is collected. The places I know where the trash containers are the property of the city/collection company have trucks that lift the containers and empty them into the truck. But in other places, the workers lift the containers/trash bags and empty them into the truck – and in those places, people are generally responsible for buying their own containers if they want them.

            3. Turquoisecow*

              In my neighborhood, they go into the yard and take the garbage cans. We were told we could leave them at the curb if we preferred. My husband and I thought this was ridiculous when we first moved here, so we put them on the street. They were not picked up.

          2. Not a Morning Person*

            I had something similar happen with some plants I placed in the sun in my driveway, the only spot that was reliably sunny for most of the day. The trash collectors walked up onto my driveway where they were up against the garage door and took them away, even though they were not placed with the trash cans at the street. I realize they looked “dead” but sun and water would revive them and I’d been doing that for years, just maybe not on trash day before. I was unhappy about that for awhile, but chalked it up to experience. I think losing a pair of expensive, new boots would have made me unhappier and I’d be kicking myself for it, but I’d have to chalk that up to an expensive experience, too. I’m sorry about the boots.

      2. Violet*

        Yes. I work evenings and have gotten to know the janitors on my floor. Most of them work two and even three jobs. By the end of the day, they’re weary and just trying to finish up and go home. Words can’t describe the pain in their faces when they walk into an especially messy room. In addition, their company pushes them to hurry. With so many people throwing away usable items, the janitors don’t have time to inspect the bins. I know it hurts to lose the boots, but the janitors were probably doing the best they could.

        1. Not So Super-visor*

          This!! I have been the person working 2 jobs who would leave my office job to go clean an equally large office. The janitors are timed and do not have time to double check every bin. They literally teach you to dump and go as fast as you can. When I was doing it, I had about an hour and a half to empty over 300 bins spread out between 3 floors. If it’s in the trash/recycling, it goes.

      3. Blackcat*

        Yep, I refer to things like this as a stupid tax. As in, “I did X stupid thing and now Y is the cost of rectifying my mistake.”

        It sucks. My last stupid tax was a parking ticket because I fed the wrong meter… And it was totally obvious it was the wrong one.

        1. K.*

          My best friend lost a pair of shoes she was planning to return because she put them in a bag by the front door on the same day the trash was to go out. Her husband saw them as he was taking out the rest of the trash and assumed they were supposed to go out too. Oops!

          1. AnotherAlison*

            My kids put ~3 bags of Goodwill items out with the trash. They obviously were items I was getting rid of anyway, but I definitely would have kept some of them before throwing them in the trash. (What was especially irritating was that they sat in the garage for a month first. Like, you guys didn’t notice these mysterious bags of trash for 4 weeks. . .)

            1. Oxford Coma*

              My local Goodwill had a trash dumpster right next to a nearly identical donation dumpster. It was almost two years of donating before I realized I’d just been taking things to Goodwill to throw in the trash.

          2. justsomeone*

            My husband lost $300 worth of medical supplies because he left them in the box…next to the recycling bin in the house. So I recycled the box, and the supplies with it because I had no way of knowing there was still stuff in there and I was in too much of a hurry to inspect every box.

          3. AMPG*

            When I was a teenager it was my job to put the trash out on the curb, but sometimes if I had a lot of homework one of my parents would empty the actual garbage cans from around the house into one big heavy-duty bag for me. One night I grabbed the bag at the top of the stairs and took it down to the curb. The next morning, my father, who was a dentist with a small private practice, couldn’t find the bag of white hand towels he had brought home to be washed and bleached. Of course, that was the “trash” I had taken to the curb. He had to replace dozens and dozens of them.

        2. Adele*

          I was helping my mother clear old clothes from her basement laundry area. As I lugged bags up to the car to donate, she said “Don’t take away my good clothes.” I was annoyed by that comment–why would I take those away? Turns out she had, for some inexplicable reason and unbeknownst to me, put those some of those good clothes into laundry baskets and some into plastic garbage bags that looked just like the plastic garbage bags that the not so good clothes were in. Granted, to her mind they were set in a different place. To my mind, they were about two feet away and in the laundry area. She wanted to check all the bags before I drove to the thrift shop where we were donating them, but time was running short and I said, “Mom, I didn’t take your good clothes. We need to hurry.”

          Yup, I gave away bags of expensive, very well-made, and often new clothes. I called the thrift store on Monday to try to retrieve them but they were all gone–probably to the lucky volunteers who first opened the bags and saw this bonanza of high-end clothing since none of the items were on the racks. This also left my mother with few items of clothing and cost me a bundle to replace much of it.

        3. Genny*

          I accidentally left an opal bracelet from my dad at the gym (I had put it in my small bag that holds my headbands and bobby pins, and then failed to put that bag into my backpack). Naturally, it wasn’t there when I asked about it the next day. I was devastated, and then found the bracelet online and bought it myself. We’ve all been there, OP, but there’s not much to do but figure out a way to avoid the mistake the next time.

      4. Not a Blossom*

        Also, the OP commented that the janitorial staff should have erred on the side of caution. For all she knows, they DID and didn’t throw them away the first night. However, because the OP was out the next day, the boots were in the bin 2 nights in a row, so of course they were thrown out.

        1. K.*

          And really, what caution is there for the janitor to exercise? I could see that argument if the boots were next to the bin and not in it, but to a janitor, if they are in the bin, they’re supposed to go out. This isn’t the janitor’s mistake, it’s the OP’s.

        2. Samiratou*

          This was my first thought, too–they might have thought it a mistake the first night, but when they were still there the second night, well.

      5. Purplesaurus*

        Perhaps I’m being generous today, but other than OP not understanding why someone would throw the boots away, I didn’t read it as her assigning blame so much as wondering if there’s a way to recover the loss.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It sounds to me like she is assigning blame to the point of expecting the janitorial staff to buy her a new pair of boots!

        2. Jesmlet*

          “Does anyone have an obligation to me here? I just can’t believe that a momentary lapse in memory resulted in my $140 boots being thrown in the garbage.”

          That to me sounds like she’s expecting someone to reimburse her for her own mistake. I think you’re being a tad too generous here.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think she’s expecting–I think she’s hoping. She’s in the processing-of-the-horror phase.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Sure, we can chalk it up to “still haven’t fully processed the mistake I made”, but that hope is still seriously misguided. If I accidentally put $140 in the garbage, not a single part of me would hope for that money to be paid back out of the janitor or cleaning company’s pocket.

              1. fposte*

                I think she’s just hoping the universe will, because the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Of course, we never notice all the times our crimes didn’t get punished at all.

                1. Casuan*

                  I’m with fposte.
                  “processing-of-the-horror phase,” indeed!

                  OP2’s question is in line with what my friends & I sometimes ask each other. We ask to verify what we [usually] know to be right yet we’re kind of secretly hoping we’re wrong.

                  eg: “I bought these boots last spring & I’ve only needed to wear them a few times & I discovered a hole. Is it ethical to ask for a refund, because it’s kind of my fault I didn’t notice the hole sooner, tho it’s kind of the weather’s fault for not snowing since I bought them & the manufacturer made a defective product…?”

                  Sometimes the consensus is that it’s unethical although sometimes we might decide it’s worth a try. The shop that sold me the boots shouldn’t be punished because of the manufacturer’s or my mistake. More rarely, we might be indignant [“somebody needs to pay & it isn’t me”] & we set the other straight & would learn a lesson in the process. Or the boots owner will ignore friends’ advice & return them anyway.

                  OP2 was asking her online mostly-anonymous friends for their thoughts. My advice to her is that yeah… she screwed up. If I was there I’d take her to Happy Hour & commiserate with a toast to the missing boots!

                2. Psychdoc*

                  This into Casuan. The thing with your friends is brilliant!!!!! It is so helpful to be able to bounce ideas off someone you can trust to give you an honest answer. I am also thrilled to hear that it sounds like you all are receptive to the occasional “no, no you can not ask the person whose car you keyed to replace the key you damaged in the act” (obviously not a real example ).

            2. neverjaunty*

              Your kindness is one of the most amazing things about you, fposte, but I think you are being a little generous here. The processing-of-horror phase is natural. The “outsourcing blame” phase is a choice.

          2. Purplesaurus*


            She’s asking the question. She may well expect it, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume. I suppose I’m making the assumption that she isn’t blaming anyone, but I’d rather assume positive intent and be wrong about that.

            1. Psychdoc*

              To her defense, we often hear that “it never hurts to ask” (though reading AAM has taught me that it certainly CAN hurt to ask, which is good to know).

        1. I Was A Teenage Janitor*

          Very possible. It really isn’t their job to second guess what people will throw away. My first few weeks on the job, I would do things like take food wrappers out of the recyclable paper bin and put them in the trash. My supervisor came to me and said that people in the office “had concerns” that someone was going through their trash. Of course now I understand why this was inappropriate, but back then I was so offended that somebody thought I would go through a wad of snotty tissues to snoop, so I just tossed everything.

          1. Klaxons*

            Plus, they’re not paid to sift through it. They’re paid to remove it. OP’s recycling bin is hardly the only bin they had to empty that night. They have to go through and empty each and every bin in the building. There is literally no reason they should look in the bin and go, “Ah, but this trash out of the five hundred trashes I’ve had to deal with tonight is special, accidental trash.” Their real thought was probably, “Huh! Welp,” and then nothing.

            When I was six years old, I encountered my very first book fair and my mom let me buy a little plush Clifford the Big Red Dog toy. I took him with me to lunch and promptly accidentally threw him out with my lunch. I was heartbroken. And Toy Story had just come out that year! Imagine! I think plenty of people accidentally throw stuff out because of oversight. It blows, but it’s life. And I like to think one of those dumpster divers found him and thought, “Well that just won’t do,” and washed him and gave him to a kid who needed him.

            I digress. OP, I’d suggest getting a cheap little plastic bin from Walmart and using that as your boot tray. A recycling bin is for special, recyclable trash, but for all intents and purposes it’s still a trash can. If you don’t want stuff to be trash, don’t stick it in a trash can.

            1. Dove*

              OP doesn’t even need to get a bin! They could get an actual boot tray, for probably the same amount that a bin would cost, and then there’d never again be a risk that someone might assume that this is a bin of things which are to be disposed of.

    2. HannahS*

      I know it’s frustrating to make a silly mistake that winds up being very expensive. But it’s not fair to leave items in trash receptacles that are emptied by janitors and then be confused/annoyed as to why the janitors have emptied the trash receptacles. People throw away all kinds of things that look perfectly good, and it’s not the janitor’s job to figure out whether or not the things in the trash receptacles are supposed to be there–after all, the boots could have been leaky, or had the sole flapping off, or been so run down in the inside so as to be unusable (all reasons why I’ve tossed fine-at-first-glance-looking winter boots). Their job is to empty the trash, and the boots had clearly been placed in a trash container. It’s a lesson learned, that’s all.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I totally agree. Having janitors call me on the weekend to find out if the things I put in the waste receptacles were actually trash seems like a scene from either a Kafka novel or a British comedy.

      2. Antilles*

        People throw away all kinds of things that look perfectly good
        Heck, people often throw away all kinds of things that actually *are* perfectly good.
        Drive around a middle/upper class neighborhood on trash day sometime – you’ll often see furniture, clothes, electronics, etc on the curb for pickup that’s either completely usable as-is (but replaced with a newer model) or broken but in a way that’s easily fixed.
        For all the janitorial staff knows, you got new snow boots recently and those are old ones that you’re recycling because nobody really needs two pairs of snow boots.

        1. Trash Plan*

          We have done this before! We moved to a significantly smaller home and put everything out in the driveway one day with a “Free for pick up” notice on the neighborhood FB page & on the street. It was like a garage sale but everything was free. Some were duplicates from a merged household and some were things that we physically didn’t have room for.

          With such a short notice move we just put things out as we loaded the truck. At the end of the night we took to a local youth home charity for them to keep or sell, whichever they preferred, but if we had kept it on the curb I couldn’t have then got upset when the garbage collector took it all.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Any college dorm/other housing area right before summer break… Furniture, appliances, clothing, whatever, all pretty brand new and in perfectly workable condition.

      3. Nan*

        Ours at work are actually pretty observant. They took my broken pair of headphones out of my trash like 3 times. I finally buried them at the bottom. Really, thanks, but I am trying to throw them away!!

        Most people, though, assume if it’s in the trash bucket, it’s supposed to go out.

        1. Klew*

          Once I tried, at least three times, to throw away a cracked waste basket. I finally had to write “PLEASE DISPOSE OF THIS” on some post-its and stick them on it.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            This happened at my house–my husband kept dragging full heavy cans around, and scraped open the bottoms. I finally had to cut them into small pieces, because the trash collectors kept ignoring them.

            1. Klaxons*

              We used to have an extra bin for tree branches and grass shavings and stuff, but it was slightly smaller than the other, city-issued bins, so one week the trash folks took it and jammed it right inside one of the bins, and it was heavy and the lip caught on the inside and wouldn’t come out. So then every week for like a year we got angry notes from the trash folks like, “This is too heavy. Do not put this in here,” and we were like, “You did this!”

      4. Dude, I'm a volunteer*

        I volunteer at an organization where part of our duties is to clean the fridges. We have a pretty clear system for it written on every refrigerator: put a sticker with the date on it to keep food, anything over a week old or no sticker gets tossed.

        You wouldn’t believe how inside-out peoples’ brains get when it comes to finding their food gets thrown out. It isn’t their fault for not re-writing the date on their food (or eating it), it’s that “it was obviously still good” or that “condiments don’t expire”, etc.

        1. Yorick*

          Well, if my mayo is good for 3 more months, I shouldn’t have to write Monday’s date on it every week so it doesn’t get thrown away.

    3. JessaB*

      If you don’t want to use a plastic bag because you’re worried it’ll hold the water near to the boots, there are boot trays that are pretty cheap with grooves in em to hold the water or you could even stick a folded towel under your desk. But yeh, if you’re going to use a waste basket you need to tape a note on that says “for drying boots, do not throw out contents.” This is so much not on the cleaning staff.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I got the impression that it was an individual small bin, like an under-desk trash can. I worked at a place where we all had them, even though a single small bin would’ve sufficed for the whole team.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            That never even occurred to me until you said it (but I kind of doubt someone who has a personal recycling bin would repeatedly refer to something in the bin being “thrown away” or “thrown in the garbage” instead of saying it was, you know, “recycled”).

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Boots aren’t generally recyclable, so I would assume they did get thrown in the trash instead of being recycled. That’s usually what happens when non-recyclables are put in recycling bins.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Oh, never mind, I get what you’re saying now. Individual as in “one per desk” rather than individual as in “bought it herself.”

            I’ve worked places where people got pissy about workers repurposing individually-allocated office supplies though (example: the many pregnant women who were told they were not allowed to use their overturned recycle bin as a foot stool), so it’s not safe to assume that you can use it however you like just because it’s under or near your desk.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I had a boot tray at work, and it was excellent (and cheap). I’m very sorry OP—this situation sucks. But I agree that the only reasonable solution is to avoid using the recycling bin for non-recycling purposes going forward.

      2. Xarcady*

        Marking the container might not help, if the people doing trash duty can’t read English. This has been an issue a couple of places where I’ve worked—where we put signs on things too big to fit in the trash cans that said “This is trash. Please throw it out!” and the stuff would hang around for days. We have to wait around for the cleaners and tell tell them to take it away.

        So I wouldn’t trust a sign. There’s always the possibility that someone in a hurry to finish won’t notice the sign. If you don’t want something thrown out, it should not be in or near any trash receptacle.

        1. Lora*

          Yep. When this happens I try to find out which language would have worked…the janitorial staff at CurrentJob err on the side of caution and will carefully work around an empty soda bottle on your desk if you don’t put it in the bin.

          1. Antilles*

            In a lot of companies, the janitorial staff is directly instructed to be overly cautious and *not* to toss out anything that isn’t in the specific receptacle because there’s always a chance it isn’t trash. Sure, that crumpled piece of paper on your floor almost certainly the piece of worthless trash that it appears to be…but it could be an important client phone number you crumpled and threw at the wall in a fit of rage but do actually need.

        2. Natalie*

          When I used to contract cleaners, multiple companies provided little sticky notes that said Trash/Basura and Recycling/Reciclaje (Spanish being the most common primary language besides English in my area) and had a graphic. I imagine any cleaners that could read neither Spanish nor English would recognize the sticky note. So for anyone with this problem in the future, ask if they have stickers.

    4. I Love Thrawn*

      #2… years ago I worked for a place that had $10k of quarterly material, boxed up in many heavy boxes, still taped up, thrown out by the janitorial staff. The boxes were in the place usually considered a sort of to be trashed area. I was told by someone on that staff that the person who did it knew perfectly well they shouldn’t have, but did it anyway because they were too peeved to ask someone. And this was a LOT of boxes too, so that took some effort. Sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes they are just being obnoxious and following the strictest letter of their job.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        A similar thing happened at a place where I used to work. An entire print run of a magazine was unloaded in the ‘wrong’ part of the loaded dock, next to the rubbish containers. Unfortunately it was collection day.

      2. Artemesia*

        We had a neighbor who put a box of shoes or clothing or something on top of the trash can. The trash haulers set the box aside thinking it was not trash and our neighbor read them the riot act ‘if it is on the trash can, it is trash’. You know where this is going. He did some painting and cleaned all his expensive brushes and put them out to dry on a tray on the trash can in the sun. Yes. All the good brushes trashed at the next pick up.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*


          In my neighborhood, if it’s at the curb *or sitting on a trash can* it’s up for grabs. So yeah, if it’s on the closed bin, I don’t want it anymore. I think it’s still useable so I put it where people can see it, but I have clearly released it from my personal orbit.

          Your neighbor’s an idiot (but you knew that already). He couldn’t have left the brushes to dry *behind* the house? And yelling at the trash collectors? For heaven’s sake. Malicious compliance is a thing for a reason (usually having to do with an imbalance of power).

    5. MCL*

      I bought a cheap carpet door mat so my boots can sit on that and dry during the day. Bag works too. Unfortunately, the recycling bin was not a good choice and the custodial staff was just doing their job. I used to be a janitor type and I didn’t have lots of time to evaluate the contents of people’s waste bins. Sorry about your boots, but consider it an expensive lesson learned.

    6. Thursday Next*

      Adding my voice to the chorus of those affirming your disappointment while saying you should let this go. Custodial staff typically aren’t allowed to make judgment calls about what to throw away.

      I think my accidental trash story might top the others I’ve seen here. I was sharing a hotel room with a colleague on an international business trip, and came back one evening to find her fuming because she couldn’t find her return plane tickets (this was back in the day of paper tickets). Where had she left them? In a paper bag. Perched on top of the wastebasket. And she was angry and PUZZLED that they’d gotten thrown out! This was someone who was ten years older than me and had lived away from her home country for over a dozen years, so she was neither a work newbie nor a travel newbie.

      1. nonegiven*

        Someone I know of would take all her underwear that needed to be thrown out, too many holes, stains, etc. on vacation with her. She’d take them off and throw them in the trash in the hotel when she was done wearing them. Over the years, she had a few hotels pick them out of the trash can and mail them back to her. She had to start hiding them in fast food bags in the trash can.

    7. Jenny*

      Exactly – I lived in Chicago and this would happen at least once a winter and every time it did everyone was reminded again not to do this. I ended up buying a $6.00 boot tray online and keeping that in my office. I think I even ordered it online from Amazon or BB&B and had it shipped directly to work and that worked out perfectly. I could even drop my wet umbrella on it during rainy season.

    8. OP #2*

      Hi, all,

      OP for #2 here. Just wanted to answer some questions and give some additional details.

      First, I should say that I’m the type of person who wears my shoes and clothing until they/it falls apart, which is why it never even occurred to me that these shoes could be thrown away. The boots I keep at my office literally do have a hole in them. I should have thrown them away at the end of last winter, but I never know when I’ll be able to replace something so I tend to hold onto items just in case.

      I was out of work last summer through fall after my position at my last organization was eliminated due to funding cuts, and I’m still catching up financially in a lot of ways. At $140, these boots were the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve ever owned (a little ironic considering they weren’t all that fashionable). I live in NYC, where winters involve walking around in the cold, but it was 11 years before I got a proper pair of snow boots because of the cost. They’ve made a HUGE difference in my life because I have Reynaud’s, a circulation problem that causes my extremities to become numb, feel prickly, or sting in the cold. For the first time in my life, I had shoes that allowed me to go outside without pain.

      fposte’s comment about me still being in the processing-the-horror phase was definitely accurate! Please read this as me, someone who was sick last week, and who works at a nonprofit and doesn’t have the disposable income to buy nice snow boots twice in six months, hoping that the thing I needed for 11 years but couldn’t afford wasn’t gone forever.

      I obviously don’t expect the janitorial staff to buy me a new pair of boots and I can understand how difficult their job is. My mother cleaned houses while she was pregnant with me and my aunt still cleans houses and offices. My thought process was that I work in a huge NYC building for a large organization and it was possible that someone might have insurance that would cover this sort of loss. But yeah, it was also just me being in the denial stage of the process of grief.

      I definitely could have contacted someone to move them—believe me, I’m kicking myself for not doing that! The reality was that I wasn’t feeling well and was generally out of it. I was focused on catching up on the work I had missed when I was out sick earlierin the week, and it simply didn’t occur to me that anyone would throw them away. Not a Blossom’s point about them being in the bin for two nights is a good one. Someone might have thought it was a mistake after one night but on purpose after two.

      When I realized they were gone, my thought process was not only “Who would throw away a pair of boots at their office?” (and even then, in a recycling bin rather than a trash can) but also “Who would throw away a pair of boots?” At the very least, I would have donated them, but the more likely scenario based on my history is that I would have worn them until they had a hole in them or were damaged in some other way, and then would have continued wearing them until I could afford new ones. It’s what I do.

      Yes, it was my own personal bin. It was also a recycling bin, not a trash can. There are only two or three trash cans on the entire floor, but everyone has their own recycling bin. I only put recyclable items in mine. When I reached out to the person who oversees the facilities team, she said they were probably “thrown out,” which is why I used that terminology.

      It’s just frustrating that I put them somewhere where they wouldn’t leak on the floor in order to save the office carpet and that resulted in a personal loss to me. I would have been better off putting them directly on the floor, carpet be damned, but I try to be a more considerate person than that. I can’t afford a new pair so I’ll have to finish the winter without them and see if I can maybe get a deal on a replacement sometime over the summer.

      1. Laoise*

        You’re asking who throws away usable boots but the answer is: you!

        You literally threw away those boots into a disposal container every day.

        The fact that they were disposed of after you put them in a place specifically for disposal of items is the only reasonable outcome. I understand that you’re upset. But you literally threw them away yourself.

        Unfortunately, the only way forward is to never again throw away things you want to keep. That means don’t use disposal bins for storage, ever, but especially when you’re not the person solely responsible for emptying the disposal bin.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – This is clearly a conflict of interest. You really need to contact legal
    My concern with contacting your lead first is that she’d retaliate. It isn’t just a single incident but a pattern of suggesting her boyfriend on multiple occasions. That points to a deep rooted issue.
    It’s really bad behavior coming from a leader.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      Agreed. This supervisor sounds like a piece of work and the first point of communication should either be HER supervisor, or some sort of ethics or legal department. Most large companies (since LW mentions this is a Fortune 500) have departments to handle such things.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Yes – the Fortune 500 company I work for has an ethics “hot line” to report issues like this, where you don’t can’t go to your boss.

      2. Starbuck*

        Agreed, this doesn’t seem like the sort of issue where her boss would expect you to work it out with the supervisor before taking it up the chain of command. It’s not something that the OP needs to work out with the individual herself and I doubt anyone in management or HR would expect OP to do so. But anyone please do chime in if my assumption is not your experience.

    2. JessaB*

      Yes, especially since she seems to know enough to not say this with her bosses in the room, and only seems to make the boyfriend suggestion when she is the “ranking person in charge.” She knows very well it’s not an appropriate suggestion or she’d be making it to the people actually in charge instead of phony-ing up the idea that they’re gone so she’s allowed to take these particular decisions and not wait for them to come back or even raise it with them.

    3. Casuan*

      In one meeting she even went as far as to say that we should hear what the company tech group has to say, and then “when they fail our expectations” we can bring on Sam and ask for forgiveness when it’s done.

      “ask for forgiveness”…?
      That’s just… OP1, yeah… if your supervisor waits until her supervisor is away then she’s definitely aware there is a line & she is trying to rush across it.
      There’s an adjustment I’d make to Alison’s script.
      “I figured you might not realize that.”
      I’d replace this with “Did you realise that?” or better yet skip the phrase entirely.
      reason: “I figured” can come off as patronising & whilst I can only care so much about her feelings I do care that you don’t damage the relationship with a supervisor who shows such bad judgment.
      Good luck!

      1. Blossom*

        I don’t know that I’d raise it with the supervisor OR with anyone above her. This sounds like a worry the OP doesn’t need to take on. Let her supervisor get in trouble when she “asks for forgiveness” – assuming the relationship isn’t spotted and questioned before then.
        Or, alternatively, Sam’s work may be good and the company may not care, or care enough to investigate – in which case, personally, I’m not sure I’d make it a hill to die on.
        Or, if the company doesn’t spot it but Sam’s work is bad and this affects the OP’s work, only then might I raise the concern with those higher up – “it’s a bit delicate and I wasn’t comfortable taking this to Supervisor, since – as I assume you know – the contractor is her live-in boyfriend.” Hehehe.

        1. MK*

          I don’t actually get this part of the letter: has the boyfriend been hired for something? Because if he has, there is actually something very specific to report. But I cannot understand how outside tech support could have been hired in a company that has a tech department of its own; who authorized this and where did the money to pay him come from? It sounds to me as if the manager doesn’t have the authority to do this, but how is she getting away with it? It’s all very well to wait till her supervisor is out of the room to suggest it, but what about when Sam sends an invoice?

          1. Myrin*

            I don’t think Sam has been hired to do any work yet. It sounds like… the supervisor just kinda regularly suggests it but also never really follows through with it?

            1. Femme d'Afrique*

              That’s how it read to me too, which raises the issue of plausible deniability. If OP *does* raise it with the higher ups, what’s to stop the supervisor from brushing it off as “just a joke,” etc (and THEN retaliating against the OP)? At this stage I’m not sure there really is anything to report.

            2. Blossom*

              Yeah, this is how it read to me too, which is why (in my job, at least – other workplaces may vary) I wouldn’t expend any further energy on it.

            3. MK*

              On second reading, I think what she is trying to do is get as many people as possible thinking that the tech department isn’t doing its job and/or that the OP’s department has special needs. Which would probably be the only case for a consultant to be hired.

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                Although if that is a legitimate issue with the existing tech people, (I have to admit I did wonder whether there was, although even then bringing Sam in isn’t the way to resolve that) that needs raising with them initially, not bringing on Sam!

                1. Jules the Third*

                  You’re so much more generous than I. I went straight to ‘she wants him to make money and doesn’t care about quality or potential conflicts of interest.’

                2. SusanIvanova*

                  At some places (probably not this one) a team might be so niche that it’s more efficient to go outside than have IT or other support teams try to add skills they won’t use very often.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          It doesn’t matter if Sams work is good. It’s still conflict of interest.
          If this were a government contract then there would be fines.

          1. Blossom*

            It is, and the OP has every right to speak up – just, personally, if it was happening at my office, I have 1000 more pressing worries without taking this one on myself, especially if it’s the kind of thing people higher up should be checking for.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              Many companies expect employees to report ethics violations. If employees knew about an issue and didn’t report it they’d be reprimand or fired.

              1. Lars the Real Girl*

                This. If there is every fallout from this or an investigation and the OP is asked whether she knew about the conflict, answers like “It wasn’t my business” or “I assumed it was okay” or “I assumed you knew” are not going to reflect well on them.

                That being said: say it once. Say it to someone in charge (her manager or ethics/legal). And then let it go,

                1. Blossom*

                  OK, I’m guessing I have a pretty low stakes sort of project in mind, plus it sounds like other sectors/industries are a lot stricter about this than I realised.

                2. Judy (since 2010)*

                  All 3 F500 companies I’ve worked for required employees to annually list if anyone in their household, or parent/child/sibling & -in-law are more than a 5% owner of a supplier to the company. They would also be expected to recuse themselves of any decisions in regard to those suppliers.

                  Former admin’s parents owned local barbecue restaurant, one that caters many events. Our team never had them cater an event, because admin was the one picking. Our division used them, though.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  It kind of sounds like Ms Stepping Stone’s plan is to have Sam do the work (or start doing the work), and then bill for it after the fact.

                  In any rational company, that would get her fired—along with anyone else who thought it was an appropriate way to operate (it seems like she’s trying to sway people to her side, like having enough people agreeing with her will save her), so OP flagging this early if it starts to look like it’s happening would be a good self-preservation measure if nothing else.

            2. Ramona Flowers*

              Whereas I could not in good conscience fail to report this – and I would worry about repercussions later due to having looked the other way.

            3. Cody's Dad*

              True but from the tone of the letter it appears that there is definitely harsh feelings towards the supervisor. I’d recommend reflecting on how the OP can channel her energies to be more positive and decrease the negativity as it will only help her.

              This isn’t to say the supervisor is not wrong in any way buy why is OP so obsessed with Sam? Yes, listening to the supervisor talk excessively about Sam is wrong but there seems to be so much emotion in this letter that there’s more to it. Perhaps this is the one thing the OP can spin against a supervisor she doesn’t like?

              1. Loopy*

                OP doesn’t seem obsessed with Sam at all to me. She seems concerned about something that’s happening that is, in fact, concerning.

                I don’t read harsh feelings, just discomfort at the supervisor’s actions.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think OP is concerned that her boss is (1) creating a culture that approves and supports ethical violations, and (2) hearing about boss’s boyfriend and his unemployment all the time is BEC-level obnoxious. I think #1 is legit and merits intervention, even if no violation has yet occurred (YMMV), and it may have the added benefit of curbing #2.

              1. CD169799*

                OP#1 here. Princess – that’s exactly it. A large company provides policies and procedures to guarantee that the work (and working relationships) reflect the brand. It’s a fail safe. I could really care less if the boss lady’s bf could do a good job or not – and I truly don’t know him. He could be fab or horrible, no idea. But (1) encouraging entry level 21-26 year olds in their first corporate environment to bend the rules, especially in a way that benefits one’s self, is worrisome to those of us who believe in doing the job right (call me Frump – but the company way is important). And (2) other employees are starting to follow her behavior – one frequently brings her husband in because it’s easier to ask him to help with IT issues than put in a work order.

                If she’s identifying a gap in services on the part of the wider organization that’s okay – but let’s try and comply with the way the company asks us to do so. I agree – right now it just *feels* unethical because she’s talking about it. But the programs she’s talking about bringing him in to create define a core portion of our internal customer service model (and some external). If he failed, or they broke up (and whatever possible consequence could come from that) it would have a deep impact on how 75% of the department functioned on a daily basis.

                1. JessaB*

                  Wait, wait, wait, did I read that right? Someone is bringing in an outsider and letting them touch company IT infrastructure? Report that now. This has gone beyond theory and into potential major problems. What if the guy screws up the system or worse steals information from it. Nope, this is way beyond what was mentioned in the letter “coworker bringing in someone and because of manager talk thinks that’s okay.”

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Well, I guess you know why she moved up so fast in the company. Maybe this will be a learning moment for her.

                3. CD169799*

                  No – we’re still in the hypothetical but other direct reports of hers have followed her example and HAVE actually brought on outside parties to assist with minor fixes. Those folks report to her through another line so I don’t feel like I can get involved there – but I don’t want it happening with MY projects because of all those unpredictable things folks have listed in this thread.

                4. CD169799*

                  Neverjaunty – Amen. She also likes to tell people she’s been asked to plan an event from the bottom up and then pass the work on to a direct report. Which is cool, I’m a grown up, but present the work as collaborative at least. Ah well. A story for another day.

                5. Starbuck*

                  “And (2) other employees are starting to follow her behavior – one frequently brings her husband in because it’s easier to ask him to help with IT issues than put in a work order.”

                  Woah, you’d know better than any of us commentors, but that could be a serious issue depending on what kind of information your company handles and what that employee has access to. That might be something you’re obligated to report to management or HR if you know about it. Giving a non-employee access to whatever company systems seems like a big deal, even if they are a spouse.

          2. AFineSpringDay*

            My former boss once had her husband compose a musical piece for a video we were doing. He didn’t get paid, nor did they have the same last name, so it’s unlikely anyone in the company would have known he was her husband. She framed it to her boss as, “hey, good news, I saved the company money on production costs!” And she still got in trouble for a conflict of interest.

              1. Wehaf*

                The conflict is that the quality of the end product may have been compromised because the boss was potentially more interested in having her husband do the music than finding the best person to do the music. She was putting her/her husband’s interests before the company’s interests.

        3. Chan*

          I’d go right to the compliance department, which is what teams of that nature are there for. I wouldn’t just forget about it and hope the company finds out. This could have far reaching effects on the organizations ability to meet regulations (some compliance issues are also tied to whether you can do business with certain companies).

        4. LKW*

          If the OP and teammates are being asked to make a recommendation to the supervisor out of fear of this manager, then they have to get involved. If there is any paper trail, emails or other communications that lead back to the OP and the team as influencing the decision to hire this guy then they have to ensure they make sure it’s clear they wanted no part in the discussion, let alone the decisions due to conflicts of interest.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I still remember the first time I ran across the expression “easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission” (in a Vorkosigan novel) and I’ve concluded that while it can be a fun quality in an over-the-top fictional character, it’s a huge red flag in any real-world people.

          1. Cordoba*

            I can think of reasonable cases where “forgiveness rather than permission” is a good approach, especially when dealing with slow-moving bureaucracies.

            Example: working for a Big Company and need a new piece of equipment quickly to solve a problem that our customer has in the field.

            (1)Permission method: Follow standard procedure, fill out requisition, get 3 quotes, hopefully get purchase approval, generate PO, send PO to supplier. This all may take 2 months, during which time the customer problem is only getting worse and upsetting them more. The person who can give “permission” to forego this policy is some double-super executive VP emeritus who may as well be on Mars for all the access that I have to them.

            (2)Forgiveness method: Violate policy, buy equipment on personal travel card, have it in-hand this week and solve customer problem by Friday.

            If I asked my boss how to address the problem she has to toe the company line and either tell me to do (1) or go spend a huge amount of time and effort tacking down an executive and bothering them to give me approval to just buy what I need.

            From experience the typical response to (2) is “that was an emergency so it’s fine, but make sure you use the normal process for things that are less time sensitive”.

            There are a lot of things in big organizations that are a Big Deal beforehand but it turns out that nobody cares after the fact once something has actually happened.

            1. Anony*

              I think asking for forgiveness rather than permission is really only ok in an emergency situation where asking permission will take too long and the time crunch involves significant negative repercussions.

              1. Reba*

                I think it’s pretty clear that it’s an acknowledgement on the part of the manager that what she is suggesting is against the rules, but she doesn’t much care.

            2. N.J.*

              If someone did this where I work, they would be fired. It could work, as your example shows, but I would add a strong caveat to know your environment very well before ever attempting something like that.

            3. Cordoba*

              Sure, you have to know your organization/boss and know what you can get away with.

              I also agree that doing something without permission and justifying it after the fact is not always the right answer.

              I am just proposing that “forgiveness rather than permission” is *sometimes* a reasonable option that merits consideration, rather than the cringeworthy “huge red flag” that the previous comments make it out to be.

              1. Anna*

                This. It comes up where I work on occasion and the deciding factor for us is what is best for our clients. Sometimes the answer is “what’s best for the client is an answer now and we can’t wait for our regional office to make a decision, so we’ll do X and ask forgiveness.”

            4. Jules the Third*

              Wow – in the company I do procurement for (fortune 500, US), #2 would get you PIP’d at the very least and probably fired. I’d certainly get fired, because I’ve been there long enough to know better.

              But for us, ‘permission to forego’ this policy takes under two weeks, not two months, if I have my ducks lined up, and the paperwork afterwards gets scrutinized. The company has worked hard to get effective procurement authority down to an accessible executive, because both the customer *and* ethical, controlled processes are important to our executives.

            5. St Arfur*

              I know what you mean. But rather than “forgiveness vs permission” i frame it as “which of the organisations holy texts shall i preach from”.

              The Scrolls of Strict Procurement Compliance? Or the Grimoire of Customer Focus? Or the holiest of all, the Codex of No Compromise About Safety.

          2. J.B.*

            This is an individually logical response in the context of a dysfunctional environment, but definitely not productive overall. In my case, I’ll beg forgiveness because 9 times out of 10 it will never be an issue, although asking in advance ALWAYS opens major drama. Even if it should be something delegated to me in the first place, management needs to go through that. (Won’t be here too much longer, thankfully!)

          3. Jules the Third*

            Love Miles, but it’s a huge red flag in that fictional world as well. The seizures, especially.

            But that’s what makes that series so good – the main characters are actually flawed, in ways both obvious and not. Cryoburn’s epilogue makes me cry every time. And That Idiot Ivan… by Civil Campaign, I’m cheering for him.

          4. Specialk9*

            “What Would Miles Do” is generally more helpful in deciding what NOT to do. I adore that fictional hyperactive loon so much, but he is not a role model by any means.

            And yeah, I hate reading Cryoburn for the epilogue, though I liked the follow-on with a bittersweet happy ending for Cordelia. But I’m loving the Penric series.

            1. Casuan*

              If Miles helps by causing you to eliminate options, I’d argue that he is a role model, just not in the usual sense of the term.

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – the key is a common thread through multiple reviews. It sounds like work life balance is a key issue. I think you’re naive thinking that a script is enough to handle unreasonable requests. It may be an inherent part of the culture, and as a newbie you’ll have no standing to push back.
    Prestige isn’t worth it if your first job assignment eats you for breakfast.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I do think you have a point here, though perhaps it’s a little directly made – OP, unfortunately it’s not always possible to assert yourself enough to keep a work-life balance, even with AAM-style scripts. It depends a lot on your field and your individual employer. I work somewhere it’s absolutely possible, but that hasn’t always been the case. But then I worked in media before.

      With Glassdoor, I would factor it into your decision making and also trust your spidey senses / gut feelings when you go for interview.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah. AAM’s scripts assume your workplace and boss are reasonable about work-life balance. From the sound of the Glassdoor reviews, you know that they would not be. AAM’s scripts may not be successful, and would definitely not protect you against the negative consequences for going against the flow.

        1. Specialk9*

          Exactly. With all online reviews, assume that they trend overly negative because angry people look for a place to complain, and happy people often stay quiet. So then you look for trends. If a number of people say the same thing, it’s likely true, or was true in the past. In this case, people are consistently saying the CEO is volatile and abusive. Listen to that (but also consider how much that would trickle down to entry level you).

          One person saying sexism and racism, take with a grain of salt – may not be true, or may be an individual rather than a culture.

          But the pattern of top down abuse is troubling.

      2. Willis*

        Yeah – for all the great scripts AAM provides, there’s also the frequent conclusion that if X and Y don’t work….well, you’re working for a jerk, and you’ll have to decide whether you want to stay there or not. If what the OP described is the majority of the reviews, I’d say they already know the CEO is a jerk.

        1. Betsy*

          Yes, I had a look at scripts here before addressing my overwork issue with my boss. I was working around 80 hours a week. I laid out exactly what I was doing and how long the tasks took, so it didn’t look like I was lazy. My boss didn’t really listen to it all and then suggested I needed to try ‘time management’. I think some things have changed since the conversation, but only modestly.

          The scripts are obviously really helpful, but someone can still ignore what you’re saying or just decide the amount you’re working is reasonable.

          1. Specialk9*

            When reasonable measures don’t work, you’re in a broken environment. The only fix for broken work environment is to leave. Staying ends up breaking you.

    2. Kat G, Ph.D.*

      “I think you’re naive thinking that a script is enough to handle unreasonable requests.”

      You beat me to it! Also, it’s good to keep in mind that a culture of poor work-life balance might not include ANY direct requests on your time, so the scripts may not even be useful. It’ll come in the form of passive aggression, subtle shaming, lack of promotion for not being a “team player”, etc.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      This is what I was thinking, too. The LW is new to the work world, and doesn’t have the experience to know just how soul-suckingly bad it can be, working for a sexist, racist employer who demands every waking hour of your life and screams at you when you fail to perform miracles. The kind of job where you find yourself sobbing in the car on the way to work, and having to quit without another job lined up because of the anxiety attacks.

      Good scripts don’t work if your employer is already convinced that you’re the wrong race and gender to be good at the job.

      1. Puffyshirt*

        I’m a bit surprised that the consensus seems to be to believe Glassdoor. It’s anonymous and unverified and in my experience not particularly accurate. I’d agree it’s appropriate to read it and possibly address in an interview. But I wouldn’t weight it as heavily as other investigative avenues. After all, some managers are wonderful and others are terrible- even in the same department.

        1. Jesmlet*

          I think it’s one thing to take it with a grain of salt, but to disregard it or hope that you end up in the non-racist -sexist department seems like way too big of a risk. What other investigative avenue would OP have that would be more reliable unless she actually knows someone who works there?

          I interviewed at a place like this once. The moment I stepped in, everyone felt miserable, there were very few females/minorities in any of the videos or rooms. What OP said sounds so familiar that I’m wondering if it’s the same place. OP, if you want to still interview, just pay very close attention to the energy and the non-verbals that you can see. Don’t let your first job out of college taint you for life. If the culture is to not have any work-life balance, then even the best AAM script will not work and you’ll just get sucked in, spit out, and have unrealistic expectations of work for a long time.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, this. No script will change a badly behaved CEO or a culture of racism/sexism. And this isn’t one complaint—it’s several. Of course, take them with a grain of salt, but don’t discount them fully.

            1. Specialk9*

              It’s multiple accounts of abusive CEO, only 1 complaint of sexism and racism. By numbers, the former is credible, and the latter is not reliable enough to factor into decision-making.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think the latter could be credible, also, depending on the demographic makeup of the department/division. In my experience, people who are not on the receiving end of “subtle” sexism/racism often do not notice it until it’s pointed out.

                1. Jesmlet*

                  Yes, especially if the demographic makeup of the company leans white and male. You’re not going to get a million complaints about racism and sexism if you only ever hire a handful of non-white, non-male employees, and the ones you do won’t post about their concerns until they leave because they’d be afraid of their employers seeing and knowing it’s them.

              2. Anna*

                Sexism and racism fit under the umbrella of abusive. It’s more likely the people who wrote about an abusive CEO were just not naming the exact abuses rather than the person who specifically wrote about racism and sexism being the outlier.

        2. C.*

          Well, I think that Alison gives good insight here into how to weigh these reviews in your mind. If you’re seeing the same complaints and grievances made over and over and over again, I don’t see how you could really ignore that. For example, looking at the negative reviews on my company’s Glassdoor page… they’re accurate. And, in my mind, they’re not hyperbolic or over-the-top. They point out their frustrations with the company and why others might want to steer clear.

          While I know that the OP had a specific question about a particular person’s management style, Glassdoor reviews don’t always hone in on specific person. By and large, reviewers are writing about the company culture and day-to-day that many people on the outside would not at all be privy to on their own.

        3. Fiennes*

          This is true for any one Glassdoor review. Once you see several saying the same thing, they gain a lot more credibility.

        4. MBTILibrarian*

          My very anecdotal experience has been that Glassdoor reviews are, overall, pretty accurate. I’ve looked at reviews for places I’ve worked in the past, both places I loved and those I hated, and well… they were just pretty accurate as long as you discount the outliers. It’s especially helpful, I think, to look at the “trends” option. Things can change a lot for the better or for the worse when there’s a change in leadership and the trends part can point to if things are changing. My $0.02.

    4. Casuan*

      For some reason I’m concerned that you might be put off by the comments made so far because they’re calling you naïve. If that is how you are reading them please know that this is not the case!
      They’re simply pointing out that whilst AAM’s [& the commenters’] scripts are good in a variety of situations, they are not one-size-fits-all & sometimes the best way to know is from having experience.
      …probably I’m projecting my quick read of the comments & if I’m wrong I hope someone will correct me :-)

        1. K.*

          Exactly. There are lots of industries and companies in which a request for a more reasonable work/life balance will be met with a straight no – or worse, with a firing for poor cultural fit.

        2. Lora*

          This. Culture is set from the top. Likelihood of any script, no matter how artfully delivered, of getting a company to change its culture, is slim to none.

          When senior management or the board of directors realizes that a culture change is needed, they fire the people responsible for the culture, usually with some innocent bystanders for good measure to demonstrate their sincerity. They don’t try to talk to a-holes, above and beyond, “thank you for your service, here is the severance we agreed to when you were hired, here is a box for your things,” because there is no reasoning with a-holes. Those same a-holes rarely learn from the experience and go on to create horrible cultures at new places, until they are forced to switch fields or retire or whatever.

          Also, something I would encourage you to think about: your first job is going to be an important place to learn about the working world and your field, and will strongly influence your jobs down the road – you want to stuff your head full of GOOD habits and behaviors, not the crappy ones you’d learn from a crappy workplace. The biggest a-holes I know in my field, all started out at companies that had terrible corporate cultures, and they learned a lot of terrible habits which had to be un-learned for new roles. In some cases they never un-learned the old habits or replaced them with good habits, and they found themselves blacklisted a few years after leaving that first crummy job.

          1. Casuan*

            Also, something I would encourage you to think about: your first job is going to be an important place to learn about the working world and your field, and will strongly influence your jobs down the road – you want to stuff your head full of GOOD habits and behaviors, not the crappy ones you’d learn from a crappy workplace.

            This is excellent advice.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Come on. Don’t scare the kid. You’re not ruined forever if your first job is working for a bunch of abusive a-holes who teach you all the wrong ways to do everything, you’re only ruined if you can’t be self-aware enough to gtfo, find something better, and learn to do better.

              I Had To Learn Everything Again After A Lot Of Terrible Jobs

      1. KitKat*

        Good note! I think everyone is using naïve = inexperienced in working world, just like all of use were right out of school :)

        And yeah, AAM scripts work best when you have supervisors who genuinely care about your well being, and just aren’t aware of how your work is affecting you. If your don’t care at all about you and your work/life balance, there is no script that will make them do so.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      So, my interviewing counterpart described our culture as “work hard, play hard” to an interviewee last week. If you hear that, it’s code for “we work all the time.” Also, to the point that you cannot just opt out, we have a couple areas that are particularly understaffed right now and there simply aren’t people available in the job market for these roles right now. I’ve got a couple guys working really unreasonable schedules, but the work still has to be done by “X” date and there is no way around it. Sometimes, that’s really just how it is. We will give them some relief when we can, but right now we can’t.

      1. Cordoba*

        In general, if there “aren’t people available in the job market” for a position then that is the job market telling you that you need to pay more for that position. That’s how markets work.

        Sounds like your employers are overworking several people with unreasonable schedules because they’re not willing to pay what it will cost to get more staff.

        You can get any skill set you want for the right amount of money. Even literal one-in-a-million people like astronauts and NFL quarterbacks are available if you’re willing to pay for them.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yes and no. It’s specialized work where we’re not looking to get into bidding wars with our local competitors, but sure, we could get a few people that way. For one discipline, the folks really aren’t available. They have a need for, say 20 people with 10 years experience. Back when those folks graduated, there weren’t jobs for that type of work available, so we have zero people in the market with the experienced needed. They work around it with younger people and retraining people, but the salaries are already double what we pay for anyone else.

          1. automaticdoor*

            As someone who graduated from college in 2009–yeah, there weren’t jobs available in MOST fields. If you’re looking for someone with about 9-10 years of job experience in a specific topic, you’ve either got to pay more to get more experience or be willing to let someone catch up a bit who might only have 5-6 years of experience. I realize it sounds like that’s what you’re doing (“retraining”) but please, please (continue to?) keep in mind that there are a lot of folks my age (30-32 or so) who likely have the skills but just don’t have the resume years. I just feel like we’re going to keep being punished for the rest of our freaking lives for graduating into a recession in ways just like your comment details. Personally, as a job-searcher, it’s so frustrating to constantly feel like I’m years behind where I “should be” experience-wise because other people screwed up royally. It means I can’t command nearly the salary I should be able to in my line of work/location, and it’s just demoralizing.

      2. Jesmlet*

        Yep, “work hard, play hard” is my hard no red flag in any interviews. To me, that says, “We overwork everyone but make up for it with free lunch on Fridays”. A big fat NOPE for me.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Or, “In addition to running you ragged, we also make demands of your time in terms of happy hours and like, climbing walls in the name of ‘team-building,'” or at least that’s how I’ve seen it used in industries adjacent to mine.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Same, on one interview I went on a couple years ago, there were pictures around the office of the team “socializing” outdoors doing various activities that’d make me want to rage quit. That’s where I got the connection between “work hard, play hard” and “extroverts with unlimited time for your employer who are okay never having time for anyone outside of work only”.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          When that line comes up, I like to smile and ask “What do you mean by ‘work hard, play hard’?” I’ve never had someone not talk about all the quasi-volunteer-but-essentially-mandatory unpaid activities the company has set up and/or stupid shit like “unlimited free soda in the break room” but I’m waiting for the day and giving the benefit of the doubt, you know?

          (Similar to “we’re like a family here.” Effing nails on a chalkboard but I always ask for clarification and I finally found one where it means that the owner believes in good communication and encouraging people to be their best self, even if it means leaving the company, and when the weather is too crap to go out for lunch management orders in food on the company card. Too bad it was only seasonal.)

    6. #3*

      #3 here!

      A bit of clarification – I’m fully expecting to have no work-life balance for the next several years. This would be a job for 2-3 years (which is what it is contracted for) before a PhD, so it’s going to be a lot for the next decade no matter what. From the scripts AAM provides, I was thinking along the lines of being able to explain what will get moved or might take longer to prioritize a new thing. “I can certainly do X, but that means A and B might take a bit longer than planned.”

      The sense I got from Glassdoor was that the CEO/director person is absolutely ridiculous, the upper management is the same, but then almost everyone else is really lovely. That was definitely a common thread – even people who talked about how much they loved everyone else they worked with had issue with the director. Since I would be at the bottom of the totem pole, I’m hoping I wouldn’t end up interacting with the upper people too much, even though the whole thing is around 50-70 people.

      1. Sara without an H*

        If you interview, it would be good to come prepared with some very pointed questions about company culture, work-life balance, etc. Also, try to suss out how much contact you’d have with the senior leadership team. If you get consistent bad vibes from the interview, trust them.

        That said — early in my career I took a job with some obvious red flags, but I thought I could handle it. I was wrong and, by the time I left, I had picked up some self-protective habits that worked against me in more normal workplaces. Alison has said on several occasions that working for a bad boss can seriously warp your professional judgement going forward. You may think of this as a temporary position, but that’s no reason not to exercise caution here.

      2. Judy (since 2010)*

        I’d still be wary, those scripts work on reasonable employers. They do not work on unreasonable employers. Unreasonable managers respond with “Get it all done when we need it done”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, to be clear, the scripts aren’t magic; they won’t make an unreasonable manager reasonable. (Well, sometimes they will, but not 100% of the time.) If you have an unreasonable manager, what the scripts will do is let you get real clarity about what will and won’t change about your job, so that you can then make good decisions based on that knowledge.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yep. As the saying goes, reasons only work on reasonable people. Early in my career I had a supervisor who would literally reply to “I can do A or B in that timeframe, but not both; which do you want first?” with “That’s not my problem, it’s your job to make it work.” Or he’d say “A” and then be furious when B wasn’t done until the next day. Or would grudgingly say, “A” and then treat you like warmed-over garbage for weeks afterwards. Scripts are great, but they can’t change a bad manager or a culture by themselves.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, the racism/sexism would worry me—that usually permeates all the way down. When added to your work schedule, I wonder if you’ll get the kinds of assignments that make those hours and the structural abuse worth it.

        Interview, but do your due diligence. Don’t be fooled by a prestigious name.

        1. GrandBargain*

          I agree. And, I don’t think it’s only women and minorities who should be concerned. Anyone and everyone (whether in the discriminated against group or not) looking for an open, healthy, progressive, and supportive culture should look elsewhere.

      4. Wheezy Weasel*

        There’s a saying that the fish rots from the head. Unreasonable people at the top is a big, big deal, because everything that they do wrong filters downhill through their staff, all the way to you….on the bottom. If those wonderful people have been only under the CEO and management for a few months, you can bet that the most competent ones will leave shortly for better working environments. Those that stay won’t have much choice but to put up with the constant horrible environment. If you haven’t ever worked for someone who hates their job and fears being fired, it’s not a great experience at all.

        I’d also caution you about how the company reputation might affect your later employment. There have been threads recently about how higher ed won’t hire anyone with a stint at a for-profit school, for instance . Are there are other companies out there who would look askance at why you worked under a terrible CEO for 2-3 years?

        1. Natalie*

          It really warps your own expectations, as well, *particularly* if this is your first job. You have nothing to compare their behavior against, and you could easily end up spending years getting this place out of your system. (I have, and my first job wasn’t as dysfunctional as it sounds like this place is.)

      5. JS*

        What industry? This sounds a lot like a certain online streaming company I worked for and if its the case STAY AWAY, everything is true LOL.

      6. neverjaunty*

        OP, talking yourself around red flags with “hope” isn’t realistic. It absolutely makes sense that you want this job! But you can’t magic your way out of toxic upper management (who those lovely people must answer to).

        And there really is a difference between a functional company and a toxic one when it comes to “no work life balance”.

        Do not set yourself up to be kicking yourself five years from now.

      7. Stranger than fiction*

        Just because you wouldn’t interact directly with the horrible higher ups doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be affected. Sh#% runs downhill.

    7. Earthwalker*

      A past employer had such a bad record of promoting women and non-whites that if you counted the number of white males vs others in management you’d conclude that they’d have to improve diversity to reach even the level of tokenism. If you look at Glassdoor reviews for this employer, this problem is barely visible, perhaps because there aren’t enough people there to create the multiple similar comments that you’d normally expect. You might want to ask in your interview if HR has stats on the race and gender breakdown of management just to see if they’re at least somewhat mixed or at a red-flag-level of white male. At another past employer where racism/sexism was not a problem, the race and gender breakdowns of various levels of employees were analyzed by HR and posted around the office along with HR’s action plans to address issues. That suggests that if HR doesn’t know their numbers, it might be a red flag right there.

      1. #3*

        Thank you so much for all of this everyone! I have a lot to think about. As nerve-racking as this is, I think I’ll just have to wait and see how the interview goes! To everyone who has weighed in – thank you all so much!

  4. LouiseM*

    #1, WOW. I have no words. That is so wildly inappropriate that there is a permanent dent in my desk from how hard my jaw just dropped. It sort of makes me wonder what your boss has going on at home. Is it possible that Sam is pressuring her to keep dropping his name at these meetings, or does it really seem to be her idea?

    1. MK*

      Nothing in the letter suggests that the boss is being pressured, or that she is the sort of person who would bow to it anyway. Frankly, this sounds sexist to me.

      I would think the most likely thing to go on at home is that the unemployed boyfriend isn’t contributing and she trying to get him work.

      1. T3k*

        Likely this. When I was unemployed and living with my mom, without any provocation from me she kept insinuating to people at one of her department’s dinners (where I was brought along as her plus one) about how I needed a job if anyone was looking to hire, knew someone who needed to hire, etc. Took all I could not to do a face palm by the 5th time she did this (and no, it wasn’t a networking dinner). Thankfully I landed a job through my own search a few months later as I hate to think how often she mentioned it at her workplace.

    2. Jesmlet*

      Women are perfectly capable of exhibiting shitty behavior without their male significant others pressuring them to do so.

    3. Aisling*

      Even if he were pressuring her, she’s perfectly capable of saying no or not bringing it up at all. I really doubt she’s a puppet. The advice to the LW wouldn’t change even if this were the case.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Why would they have a grudge against you? I’ve never heard of such a thing – only the opposite situation. So please try not to worry, and good luck with your new venture!

    1. Casuan*

      “Grudge” stood out to me, too.
      Even though your industry is quite small, even if this CEO remembers you she probably won’t remember the details. Treat her as you’d treat anyone in her position!
      You might feel better if you’re prepared just in case the CEO remembers details. & If she does, it’s quite unlikely that she’ll mention it- especially not with others close by.

      CEO: Yes, I remember you! I felt bad that your interview was so horrid.
      You: Impressive memory; I was hoping you had forgotten! I felt bad that I didn’t show my best that day. I learnt from it & in the interim I’ve gotten to know our industry much better. Can I tell you how my organisation can benefit yours?

        1. Casuan*

          I would lose the last line – it could make someone feel really irritated.

          “Can I tell you…?”
          How so, irritated?
          I’m not disagreeing although I don’t understand why that line could cause irritation.

          1. Casuan*

            Okay, that makes sense.
            When I wrote that script, I was thinking that the scenario was a networking-type event or convention. Why I assumed that, I have no idea; the OP didn’t imply the scenario.

            Definitely “Can I tell you…” is inappropriate & I retract the suggestion. Now that I’ve re-read the rest of my script, I’m shuddering at the phrase “Impressive memory”; I retract that as well.
            Thanks to all for the feedback!

    2. Lance*

      The only reason I can think of is if the candidate said/did something offensive… but I really don’t feel like that would be the case off of just being underprepared.

      1. Flinty*

        I mean, maaaaybe if it was a very senior position and the candidate like, completely blew off the requested exercises and was asking really basic questions about the company. In that case, the CEO might not think too highly of the candidate, but having a “grudge” seems weirdly personal. Even interviews I’ve had with someone suuuper underprepared, I don’t hold a grudge, and I would happy to see that they had learned from their mistakes and landed a job in our field.

    3. Ugh*

      I’ve been in LW #5’s position and felt the same way even though I was aware it wasn’t logical. For me, it comes from replaying (what I perceived as) the worst moments of an interview over and over and over. I totally get it, but #5, chances are excellent that you don’t need to worry

    4. Murphy*

      I’ve never heard of such a thing – only the opposite situation.

      Yeah, I’m still kinda bitter about an organization that ghosted me after interviewing me a while back. And it was the local chapter of an organization I’d be otherwise inclined to support. I don’t actually hold it against them, but I do think of it every time I see their name. I don’t think I gave a bad interview but even if they did, I’m sure they don’t think about it at all.

  6. Artemesia*

    #5. You think about you a lot but the interviewer never gives you a thought. Unless you did something spectacularly awful — and I doubt you did, it just wan’t a great interview — they probably barely remember you or at worst just remember that you didn’t look like that great a llama groomer or sweet potato carver or whatever. Their future impression of you as a professional will be based on the reputation you build in your new company going forward. Be cordial, don’t bring up the interview or act apologetic, give yourself and her a clean slate.

    1. Penny Lane*

      Unless you pooped in the potted plant, no one is going to remember your interview. We all loom much larger in our own minds than in anyone else’s. And the whole notion that a CEO would remember and say – I remember you, your interview was horrid – just doesn’t square with reality.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yep. It’s really freeing to realize how little the vast majority of people think about you. No need to get knotted up — happens all the time.

      1. Artemesia*

        As the old saw goes — when I was young I worried what other people thought of me; when I got older I didn’t care what other people thought of me; now that I am old I realize that they weren’t thinking of me at all.

    3. Cody's Dad*

      Great advice. Move forward and don’t mention you interviewed with them. I hate it when someone reminds me months later in a totally different situation I interviewed them and didn’t hire them. It just becomes awkward to me on how to proceed with the conversation and at that point l just want to wrap it up quickly.
      On the same note we interviewed someone this summer and we all looked at each other and said nooo way. Didn’t even debrief on her. I wouldn’t even remember her if I saw her at a professional event. Point being the interview was more significant for you than to me (and we all remember interviews that just flopped for whatever reason). I went in to work that day knowing I was going to turn away 5-6 people (more candidates than positions) and have moved on.

  7. Nobody Here By That Name*

    #3 speaking as someone currently working at a company where folks really SHOULD trust our negative Glassdoor reviews I would say another thing to watch out for is details. Our company did multiple pushes to get associates to leave reviews in the hopes of upping our Glassdoor score. This resulted in lots of honest reviews from associates about the long hours, bad pay, micromanagement, sexism, and so on. All of those reviews had their own voice and cited different examples.

    Conversely the only positive reviews were very clearly left by HR (esp. since they often didn’t bother to hide that they were from HR) and each had the same flavor of buzzword speak about how our company is so innovative and diverse with many great opportunities and loves to promote from within and is better than Cats and they’d love to work here again and again and again…

    So I’d keep an eye out for something similar, if I were in your position.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And in both directions–one angry person can probably use burner emails to leave a bunch of negative reviews. (Remembering a letter here where the responses from Alison and commenters were variations on “it’s weird for you to pay any attention to this” and OP created a bunch of sock puppets to agree with her that men and women just cannot attend the same work functions in innocence.)

    1. Gala apple*

      Glassdoor also has a helpful timeline feature where you can see on a graph how their rating has changed vs time. I’ve found it helpful; a few places I was looking at had 2.5/3 and then within a 1 month period a bunch of 5 star reviews. That means those aren’t trustworthy.

    2. Anononon*

      Yup. When I left my last job, either my boss or his office manager left a review on Glassdoor pretending to be me and gave a “glowing” review. It’s kinda hilarious though because two sentences in, it reads like a job posting or ad. “You’ll have the opportunity to….! You get to work on…!” (Terrible, toxic job btw.)

    3. #3*

      I didn’t see a lot of buzzwords, or something that would make me think positive reviews are fake! I wrote in here because I was getting worried that even the really positive reviews had a lot of negativity around the same two areas: work-life balance and the director. I didn’t see any examples though – is that a bad sign?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        No—if people still work there or are worried about being blackballed, they won’t leave examples. But based on your description OP, it sounds like you did get specifics. People didn’t say he was abusive. They gave specific examples of his abusive behavior (making people cry, yelling). Similarly, they didn’t say “this place is racist.” They explained how that racism/sexism affected people’s work and careers.

        As someone who ignored red flags because I was so excited about the employer’s prestige, I’ll tell you, I regret it. It did not help my career. Instead, it took me years to get over the abuse, and I had to hustle to “make up” for time lost at that job. I wish I had paid attention to the red flags people threw my way instead of assuming I was too low in the pecking order to be affected.

        1. Nobody Here by That Name*

          This is an excellent point. Which reminds me that also not all racism/sexism is displayed in blatant acts. At my job you do occasionally hear slurs and such, but there’s also how in the many years I’ve worked here you’ve never seen someone female and/or non-white advance higher than a certain level. It’s nothing specific that you can point to because of COURSE there’s always an explanation for it, but gosh it’s funny how those promotions always shake out.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            It looks to me like you have something very specific to point out: a trend that has not changed over xyz years.

            Of course there’s always an explanation. People may not realize their own bias, but they should still be able to use their eyes to see the result.

            At one point when I was working for Large National Bank I took some required online trainings that made two points: (1) employees should not do certain bad things, AND ALSO they should also not appear to be doing those bad things; and (2) mortgage employees should be aware that lending practices that lead to redlining-type results are not okay even if that wasn’t the intent and even if those practices aren’t against any rules.

            That was eye-opening to me, that they were recognizing that results were as important as intent. And yes, they were demonstrating this ethical stance for important biz reasons, but they were still demonstrating it and asking people to abide by it.

      2. Nobody Here by That Name*

        In my case it wasn’t so much the buzzwords as the similarity, which the buzzwords made it easier to spot.

        For you it sounds like the thing to pay attention to is how recent the reviews are and, as someone else in the thread pointed out, if the reviews were posted close together (suggesting someone using burner emails). If they’re all recent then this would be something to follow up with during the interview process, or using AAM’s suggestions about reaching out to your network if you can.

      3. tangerineRose*

        When even the very positive reviews complain about work-life balance and the director, that’s a big warning flag.

    4. Vivien*

      My former company on pain of reprimand had us writing positive reviews once it was found out that we had a solid 5 bad reviews with the same thing. I like to check it every now and again to see who has the confidence to post the truth. The company says it was “all one bad former employee” but it really, really isn’t. The job looks good and if you can handle the CEO’s awful management, it might be good. But they hire fresh college students in lieu of people with actual experience in what the CEO wants to be done. Like marketing management. Every time he got an EXPERIENCED marketing director, they left because he thinks he is BRILLIIIANNNTTT at marketing (no. no he is not.)

  8. sacados*

    I am in a similar position now too, as I’m looking to relocate and am just starting that job hunt so I’ve been researching potential companies.
    There’s one company that I had been really interested in, mainly for the location (the majority of jobs in my industry are going to be in LA and I’m just not sure if that’s where I want to live). But after checking their glassdoor I found a string of (recent) reviews talking about how the company has a toxic boys-club upper management, is an overly “bro” culture, no sense of planning or long-term strategy for the future, the current CEO is running it in to the ground… etc. It was disappointing because I’d really wanted to like that company but such consistent negative feedback is just too much of a red flag.
    If that’s what you’re seeing in your search as well, then I would definitely take it to heart.
    It still may be worth applying/interviewing with the company, if only to get firsthand experience and see what your sense of the organization is. But unless they are able to show really explicitly that your concerns aren’t actually a problem and/or are being proactively and effectively addressed, I don’t know that I would accept any offers.

    1. CW*

      Great point @sacados! Do the interview to get the experience and see what they respond with when the hiring manager is asked testing questions.

      1. KitKat*

        If I were really on the fence about the company anyway, I might ask something like “I checked out Glassdoor when preparing for this interview, and I noticed that many of the reviews mentioned a disparity in projects given to women and minorities. Could you tell me a bit about what the company’s response has been to that?”

        If you’re already unsure that you would even take the position if offered, I think you’re in a good position to ask the hard questions, since you don’t really have anything to lose, as long as you phrase your concerns professionally.

        1. #3*

          Thanks for this!
          I am really curious as to what people think about asking these kinds of questions in the interview, or what kind of questions to ask. I oscillate it would be completely off base and too forward to ask the interviewer hard questions like that (because I want a job!) and thinking that it’s the only way I’ll have an idea of what is happening (because I don’t want a terrible job!).

          I’ll also have the opportunity to meet with the group I would be joining. This place takes on recent grads for 2-3 years before sending them elsewhere, so I would get a chance to talk with them. Should I pose these questions to them only?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If it’s a decent company, it’s fine to ask those questions if you frame it the way KitKat did. However, if it’s not a decent company, then yeah, they could bristle and decide they don’t want to hire you. I’d argue that’s a good thing — that’s part of how you screen for places you don’t want to work. But if you want the job even if they suck, then you’re taking a risk.

          2. J.B.*

            As an old person, I would suggest that early in your career the work life balance might not be a huge deal. Screaming is. If you’re a young energetic person you can keep long schedules up for a while (as long as it allows you to still carve out SOME time for what you want to do – like if you never even get to go to the gym or something because you just have to drop stuff). Screamers aren’t worth it.

            When it comes to racism and sexism – can you suss out from the reviews general levels of people involved? I have been in environments where entry levels are fairly even, women can advance to mid levels ok, but aren’t rising above because they don’t get the face time opportunities. It depends on your situation and who you’d be working with but if that’s cultural be very wary.

            In an interview you could suss out what the group does and how often they are impacted by management directives. Also what immediate coworkers are like.

            1. #3*

              There were two reviews that worried me about racism and sexism. One was someone who had interviewed for the same kind of position I’m going for, who wasn’t even allowed to finish the full day of interviews (even though they fly us all out from all over the country). They said that there were no people of color in the group I would be joining, and that there were accusations of unethical practices – but they seemed really angry about how the interviewing process went.

              The other review I trust a bit more. This was for someone a bit higher up in this organization, who said that there were very few minorities and women of color and that white men get opportunities and promotions and interesting projects while if you don’t fit that mold you get grunt work.

              I would not be looking to advance in this company – I could only be there for 3 years max with their program – but I do want to do interesting work. Although I also realize it’s not often you get to do really fantastic projects straight out of college. I just have no idea what to expect with what is normal and what isn’t!

              1. Jules the Third*

                There are companies that REALLY WANT diversity hires and want to give new hires fairly interesting work. Spend some time looking at those ‘best places to work’ lists, especially for ones that focus on minority populations (for African Americans, for working moms [even though you aren’t one]), Diversity). Ones I see regularly: FedEx, SAP, Aflac, SAS, IBM, Quicken Loans, Dropbox. I’d avoid retail, and I think hospitality’s in for a tough few years (in the US). Be flexible about what you’re looking for – for example, FedEx uses a lot more coders that you’d expect, especially in AI.

                If it was me, I wouldn’t want to spend three years working for a bleah company when there’s good opportunities out there, and I think you’re seeing a bleah company.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, agreed. The first one I wouldn’t take too seriously (what did they say or do to get their whole interview cancelled? What would the interviewer’s version have been?) I’ve interviewed some awful candidates, and they all thought they were great.

                  The manager saying that the glass ceiling is real, and lower than usual, I’d take seriously. But you only plan on a couple years, so that’s not really applicable to you.

              2. Indie*

                The interview process will reveal all. If this is a place which is racist and sexist, theyll operate on a ‘might is right’ basis which will actively lean the hardest on the lowest workers (because this is the whole point of isms – a poor managerial idea get certain groups of people working as society’s drudges).
                You won’t be safe as an entry level grad under that policy. Think ‘muggles statue’ from Harry Potter. Nor will your willingness to work around the clock make you safe. Sick systems ( are about making you convinced you haven’t worked fast or well enough no matter what. I would specifically ask for an example of low level employees rewards or praise. My guess? You’ll never complete a project or receive positive reinforcements, or develop a healthy sense of deadlines. Youll be pressured beyond time restraints into stress territory. The mention in the reviews about interview processes could be the company screening for willing victims and that is a truly dysfunctional sign. You will be able to see if so. Is it anything like the group interviewees used as free caterers?

              3. sacados*

                Seconding JB, in that I think interesting projects and coworkers can balance out a lot of the balance issues, but it’s really important that you are enjoying that aspect of the work.
                I’m in an industry known for periodic “crunch time.” It’s very deadline-driven, when something needs to get done everyone works nights/weekends to get it done.
                Early in my time here, there was about a year to a year and a half period where I was working twelve or thirteen-hour days every day, with 2am Fridays thrown in every couple of weeks. It was hard, and I didn’t have a lot of time for myself, but because I enjoyed my work– and more importantly my team — the long hours didn’t really bother me all that much.
                As JB said, when you’re young/energetic and presumably without a lot of family obligations, then it’s easier to make the choice to put that work-life balance aside for a couple of years.
                But it’s *REALLY* dependent on enjoying the environment you will be in, if you’re going to be stuck there for 60~70 hours a week.

          3. neverjaunty*

            OP – go back and re-read what you just said. You don’t want to ask hard questions because you want this job. Closing your eyes and hoping the bad reviews aren’t true won’t make them any less true. Don’t ever let wishful thinking get in the way of your career.

        2. Reba*

          I wouldn’t ask the question in that way, since I think it would put whoever you’re talking to on the defensive and therefore not be that productive. (although maybe that would be illuminating, who knows.)

          I’d ask about what they are doing within their company to promote equity and diversify their staff — that’s something that companies in any industry should be thinking about — then see if the answers are revealing.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I really like Kit Kat’s framing because a good company should be able to respond without getting defensive. If they get defensive, OP should take that as a sign that the reviews are accurate.

            Unfortunately “diversity and equity” are used so frequently as jargon, these days, that many companies really don’t have a vision, plan, or understanding of what it means. I worry that they’d bury OP in platitudes that don’t accurately reflect the work culture.

            1. KitKat*

              That’s what I was thinking. A good company would read those reviews, take them seriously, and at least be in the process of putting strategies in place to improve things, and would want to talk about those to candidates. A company that is uncomfortable even talking about racism and which can only talk about discrimination in terms of platitudes and euphemisms is probably not going to be effective at addressing systemic issues.

            2. Lora*

              Heh, I bet they got a motivational poster about it though.

              First job out of grad school had a very nice diversity motivational poster with muppets on it. Like, different colored fraggles and Bert and Ernie. That represented the sum total of their commitment to diversity. We got quizzed on how we had represented the BigPharma Company Values on our annual reviews, and of course one of the Values was Diversity. As the only woman in my group and one of two women in the department, I always kinda felt like, “hey, I showed up and ignored the comments all you fkers made about my personal appearance and love life, that should be 5/5”.

              Telling Fergus et al. to quit making rude comments was apparently Unpossible or something.

              To be fair, most places kinda suck at diversity. They are fine with doing touchy-feely things like having recruiting booths at traditionally black colleges & universities, or having a Women in STEM support group wherein everyone sits around getting lectured about Leaning In at 5:30 Thursday evening, but doing the hard work of “how are you going to react to bigots in your organization, especially if they are high up on the totem pole and are seen as rainmakers?” is not a thing they want to think about.

  9. SophieK*

    Re: #1
    I’m a big fan of giving people enough rope to hang themselves *and* having actual proof before I speak up.

    So in this case I would wait until “Sam” is hired or about to be hired, and then give the heads up anonymously and discreetly. Because if manager IS aboveboard with revealing the connection and the OP tattles? Yeah, that’s not going to look good.

    If manager does not reveal the connection and boyfriend is incompetent? She’ll just screw herself over. Let her!

    1. JessaB*

      I think the issue with waiting is the OP is worried about the effect on other employees who are beginning to think what the manager is doing is okay.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think the in-the-moment question about whether this would violate the anti-nepotism policy would be enough there.

      2. Starbuck*

        OP 1 commented above that one of this supervisor’s reports has brought in her husband (not an employee of the company) to help with tech issues, so there has definitely already been an effect.

    2. Casuan*

      The OP is trying to avoid that scenario. And whilst I like the idea of the rope & proof, doing so only serves for OP1 to become part of the drama.
      Also, I’m not certain that “tattles” is the best word here because of the stigma that if someone is making a valid suggestion about the work itself or ethics then it isn’t tattling/throwing under the bus/[synonyms].
      SophieK, if I misunderstood your usage, I apologise.

    3. Lynca*

      That’s only a good plan if there is not a risk of repercussion to you.

      The problem is the supervisor has routinely told her subordinates about this idea. If she goes through with it, management could realistically look at this as involving the whole team in the plan, since they did not raise a complaint or red flag to management. I’ve seen that happen and it’s unfortunate for the people that just wanted to keep their head down. But I understand the management side of it, people that are permissive with this have a serious problem with ethical judgement.

      You’re also assuming she is above the board with this. We have no information to verify that and in most companies this wouldn’t even be something you could do above the board. Raising the issue of it not being okay ethically (and probably against company policy, which should be verified) is not “tattling.”

      1. Nico M*

        The LW could point out the error, privately, out of kindness.

        But for Sam to actually get the job and for this to reflect badly on the LW would require an unlikely mix of circumstances:

        A F500 IT Dept that don’t defend their turf like rabid badgers

        And has

        No confidential ethics violation reporting

        An HR Dept that don’t do any due diligence for temporary hires

        (But are evil enough to do a witch hunt after the fact)

        Sam actually being able to do the job a bit

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would use the question technique. She suggests it, and you say immediately, “That would violate the company’s anti-nepotism policy, wouldn’t it? And since you live wth him, it’s a conflict of interest danger too, isn’t it?”

      And then just leave it at a question. If she answers, then be “concerned for her”: “I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”

      1. SophieK*

        But right now it’s all talk. That’s all it is.

        And if the timing isn’t right it does have the potential to look like sour grapes on the part of the OP. She mentioned that the woman is younger and has risen quickly. That means she has the favor and the ear of multiple people in the company.

        No, technically, on paper, reporting ethics violations isn’t tattling. But in the real world, handling it without finesse can put you on the bosses radar as a pot stirrer and green eyed monster.

        When people try to rip me down I almost always leverage that into making me look good and the other person look bad to the point of being fired. And I’m one of the nicest people on earth. If this woman is as treacherous as she is made out to be this is only going to go badly for the OP.

        But if she wants to insert herself into this potential drama, let her.

        Bottom line–let people ruin their own careers. Keep your head down and do good work, whether or not you like your bosses and co workers. I’ve had situations where things were already on the bosses radar and I’ve been rewarded and thanked for being an adult and staying out of it.

        Heck, I have a non work situation where people are trying to rip me down and they keep destroying themselves in the process because they look so dang petty and mean! It’s hilarious!

        Again. Head down. Eyes on your own paper. Don’t look for drama. And if you are so clueless about office politics that you need to write to an advice columnist don’t expect things to go your way.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Hey, that’s really unkind. Especially saying, “And if you are so clueless about office politics that you need to write to an advice columnist don’t expect things to go your way.” That’s really not appropriate, regardless of how you feel about OP.

          OP wrote in because this is a tricky situation, not because they’re clueless. We want people to be able to do that without being personally attacked or condescended to.

          Your office culture may be different than OP’s company, and what you may see as “drama” may be a legitimate Big Deal at another company/department. Rising quickly doesn’t always mean someone is going to cover for you if you pull the kind of bullshit OP’s boss keeps promoting/suggesting. And as lots of folks have noted, it’s not always wise to sit on something that’s “only talk” (and sometimes it is—it’s really context dependent).

          Everyone has given OP the pros/cons of how raising the issue might play out. Now it’s up to OP to evaluate how they want to proceed in light of that advice and what they already know (that we don’t) about their workplace.

            1. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*



              “And I’m one of the nicest people on earth.”

              Um. Maybe SophieK should actually read her own comment?

        2. Casuan*

          Again. Head down. Eyes on your own paper. Don’t look for drama. And if you are so clueless about office politics that you need to write to an advice columnist don’t expect things to go your way.

          SophieK, you contradict yourself & it’s a bit confusing to me.
          Your “clueless” comment is unkind. We all have things we can learn & AAM is a great source for that. Alison doesn’t pretend to know everything & the commenters benefit from various perspectives. This is why I read & comment & I dare say that it’s why most others do the same. What puzzles me is your motivation. If you’re so not-clueless, then why are you bothering to read & comment?

          Also I’m confused because you’re giving advice & then using your experiences that go against this advice. If you’re actively working to make yourself look better & for your colleagues to be on the firing-offences list, then you’re not keeping your own head down. You say you do this at work & in your personal life. Perhaps you didn’t look for drama & you let it find you, however your subsequent actions fuel it.

          One should try to work with colleagues, not against them. Have you ever tried to talk with the parties that make you look bad? They might not be aware of what they’re doing & the responsible thing is to talk with them & work out a solution. That takes patience because often things aren’t corrected on the first try.
          If you have done this, that’s good & I’m sorry the problems escalated.
          If you haven’t done this then I encourage you not to default to survivor mode & give it a go.

          Sorry, I went into advice mode.
          Your perspectives are interesting, SophieK, so I hope you continue to comment without faulting others for being on this forum because they must be “clueless.”

  10. lily*

    I trust glassdoor and agree that if you’re only seeing about 50% positive reviews it’s a big red flag. I worked as a security guard for a company called AlliedUniversal and all the negative reviews I’ve read are true. It’s so bad I think I’ll use my personal training background as my only background on my resume in the future. I quit working for the company due to a toxic environment. Three weeks ago they fired the manager, assistant manager, two supervisors and 7 other security guards for time clock fraud all in one day. They only have about 40 people on staff too. The amount of disrespect I put up with at that company was unbelievable. I’m a disabled Veteran and completed 4 years at UCSB. I just did the job for some extra cash. I wrote a letter to HR and it’ll probably be tossed in with the others in the trash.

    1. Mazzy*

      All Glassdoor reviews I’ve seen were accurate, which seeems unbelievable given how many bad and mediocre ones there are, but when I look at each individually, they were correct. And some places I interviewed at had high ratings but their recruitment process was a mess, so I don’t know what to make of that. It seemed like the higher the rating of a company in my last job, the more likely they’d have some very green and disconnected HR rep prescreening and doing the phone interview for my mid level role, and of course, they had no clue what I did or whether my answers or questions were correct or insightful. I remember being interviewed by a company with a solid four point something on Glassdoor. I was all exciting until I got interviewed by someone just out of school who followed a script and only asked generic and hypothetical questions. I felt like they didn’t understand my answers because they were too new to the business world.

      Another thing is that my former company was smaller and so had a problem getting anyone to rate it at all. There were only two ok ratings. I’m sure they’d run the gamut if everyone did them, since some people were coddled while others were overworked because they could be counted on.

      I guess my point is, we tend to give h benefit of th doubt and assume that the bad ratings are overstated, but in my experience, there are actually more not-great employers than you will know from Glassdoor.

  11. JessB*

    #2 I really feel you on the boots! I worked in an office that had a pretty fancy dress code and a lot of the female staff left dress shoes under their desk. At one point, we were moving desks and one woman put all her shoes into her bin to move, then didn’t unpack them in her new location… Yep, they were all thrown out.
    I’m really sorry about this, but don’t put things in the bin that you want to keep!

  12. Anne (with an "e")*

    #2 When I was in college my mother came up to help me move out of my dorm one year. As we were making one of our numerous trips back and forth to her car, we passed a trash can that had various cooking utensils such as pots and pans, etc. Well, my mom pulled them all out of the trash and, in her words, “rescued them.” I never could figure out why someone in my dorm had thrown these things out. They were all very nice, name brand cookware. They were not damaged in any way. I sort of felt like it was stealing, however, my mother pointed out that we found them in the trash. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” she assured me. We took them home and washed them. I currently have them in my kitchen. All this is to say that maybe your boots have been “rescued” by someone on the cleaning staff, or possibly a coworker. If you find out that is indeed what has happened, please remember that the boots were in a recycling bin.

    1. Willis*

      This is what I was thinking. There’s lots of times that people put stuff they don’t want anymore in a trash area where someone might take and use it, or, if not, it would get thrown out. If I were the cleaning crew I would have assumed the OP didn’t want the boots and put them in the bin in a “take it if you want it, otherwise throw it out” way. It’s not on them to second guess whether people really want to throw away things that are in trash or recycling bins.

    2. Samata*

      OH god, this reminded me of a time that we were moving me from one apartment to another and I gave everyone a box, there were 4 of us. 3 were trash and 1 was to go with us – mirror and a very small end table my grandfather made in high school wood shop were in the keeper.

      Smart me says “let’s stop by the dumpster before we hit the road”. I tossed my box, and so did everyone else…including the 1 person whose box was NOT supposed to go. I cried for a minute but then had to shrug it off…he didn’t know that one was a keeper, he just knew we all had a box and I wanted to go to the dumpster with them.

      It was a hard lesson, but we all have at least one.

    3. Pie for Breakfast*

      Not exactly the same, but…
      My mom and aunt were traveling and stopped at a garage sale that turned out to actually be a family moving into a new house with their stuff on the lawn waiting to be brought in. They found this out only after spending time looking at items and commenting/critiquing what they saw to the older woman sitting near by, and then trying to but something.

    4. neverjaunty*

      I was waiting for this story to end with “and then we found out the biology department had been using them to prepare specimens.”

  13. MommyMD*

    It sucks but you put your boots in a waste bin. The janitorial crew was just doing their job. Calling and alerting someone in the office the next day may have saved them.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Not only that, but you noticed you were wearing the wrong shoes as you were leaving the building. You Could have gone back in and gotten them yourself. You could have solved your own mistake in multiple ways. You didn’t.

      Here’s a tip: blaming others for not fixing your mistake—after you identified the mistake and could have fixed it yourself—is a sign of being the bad boss/colleague who will eventually be the subject of an AAM letter. Don’t be that person.

      1. anon scientist*

        Technically, I agree with you. But — OP says she was sick. I’d give a little slack to someone who is not feeling their best not making the best decision. I’ve been sick recently and I can totally see myself feeling like turning around and walking back into the building might have killed me right then and there.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I understand why she kept going, but it would have been a good idea to call or email someone who was still in the office to get them to put the boots somewhere safe.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I definitely get that, but then that’s a choice you make to take the risk that the boots will get tossed–you can’t make that choice and then ask someone else to pay for it!

        3. Observer*

          I agree with you about cutting the OP some slack on making less than the smartest decision. The real issue for me is that she is now blaming the janitorial staff. That’s just not fair.

        4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          anon–leaving the boots is completely understandable. We all mess up when we’re sick. The issue is that a healthy OP#2 wants someone else to pay for the mistake. That is not okay. OP#2 made the mistake, not a janitorial staff worker who had no responsibility to fix OP#2’s mistake.

          It’s normal to make a mistake when sick. It is not acceptable (especially in a workplace) to put the onus of that mistake on someone else.

          1. anon scientist*

            Which is why I said I agree with you, and I totally agree with your last paragraph here – she definitely shouldn’t be blaming the staff. I just read your comment as being particularly harsh that she made a bad decision on the day she was sick.

          2. N.J.*

            Your comment was way too rude. Your first paragraph was fine and got to the point of the OP not seeming to take responsibility for her own mistake. Your second paragraph was incredibly rude and mean and not in keeping with the guidelines for us to be constructive and nice around here. You can see the right way to do this in the way the commenters here responded to your harshness by pointing it out without making a judgement about your inherent character, which is what you seemed to be doing in your initial comment to the OP.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              I disagree that the 2nd para was rude at all, let alone “incredibly rude and mean”. It was a straightforward statement of fact. Because it *is* normal to make mistakes when we’re sick. And it’s *not* okay to blame other people for the outcome of those mistakes.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Oh, I’ve gone back and re-read and I see now that NJ was talking about Escapee’s *initial* comment, not the one they were replying directly to.

                Please forgive me for remonstrating with you, NJ.

          3. Kate 2*

            I get your point. With OP specifically mentioning the price of the boots at the end and asking if they have any recourse, it seems like they wanted the janitors to pay for them, which is NOT okay!

  14. Caledonia*

    #5 – they may not even remember you. Its one of those situations which seems HUGE to you but probably small for them. I am not sure why they would hold a grudge against you?

  15. TL -*

    OP2 if the most a memory lapse ever costs you is $140, consider it a cheap lesson.
    Most of us lose quite a bit more than that to faulty memories. :)

    1. KAZ2Y5*

      One time one of us threw away 5-6 of my husband’s good suits. We were taking them to the cleaners and put them in a trash bag to carry since we had so many. Never again…

  16. The Other Katie*

    OP#3: There is no workplace so prestigious on your resume that it is worth committing yourself to a year or more of living hell to get it.

    1. Rejoinder*

      I’m not sure that’s true (particularly when merely unpleasant experiences get elevated to “living hell” status). Goldman Sachs, for example, is notorious (like its peers) for its long working hours for new analysts. Nonetheless, in many cases you’d be foolish to turn down an offer there; the exit opportunities, even after a year or two, make it worthwhile.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Only in a certain world. The finance world is notorious for not understanding how little people in other industries are “impressed” by it. They all impress each other but outside that world, there are so many creative, fun, intellectually stimulating and well compensated jobs where no one goes “oooh, a GS alum, better grab him, he’s something special.”

        1. MK*

          Sure, and Goldman Sachs probably won’t care that a candidate has had a job at a prestigious creative organisation either. The “certain world” is what matters, as your resume needs to impress the people who are in a position to hire you for the jobs you want, and these people belong to that world.

        2. Lora*

          Yeah, McKinsey is like that too.

          The thing is, the people who are impressed by such things, are not the type of people who you should feel good about impressing. It would be like impressing the socks off the Associate Marquis of Hell rather than Astaroth himself.

      2. Etg*

        Now that you’ve mentioned GS… Keep in mind that the team often matters more than the company culture. My partner is definitely not a GS type, but is on a small team that’s spared all the drama and long hours – they’ve been there happily for years. The name definitely does carry some weight, even outside finance. That said, I’d never put up with a toxic work situation just for the name.

      3. #3*

        Yes, I’d only be there for 2-3 years. That is what a lot of people said on Glassdoor – that you work there for a few years, and then you have plenty of wonderful opportunities later. I’m just feel so new to the work world I have no idea how much to value exit opportunities versus 3 years of my life.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          You are missing a key point. If you are female or a POC then you won’t get the resume enhancing assignments that will enhance your career later on.
          So you’ll have sacrificed your time for no payback.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this is my concern, as well. If there’s systemic bias against women, POC and all the numerous intersections thereof, does that affect how assignments are divvied up? Because the reviews suggest that it does.

          2. #3*

            This is a really good point. I’ll have the opportunity to interact with the cohort who will be my peers while I’m there for the interview, so I’ll make sure to ask some questions about the kinds of projects everyone gets assigned. Thank you!

            1. Engineer Girl*

              It’s not what gets assigned but how.
              How do they rate people? Historically women and POC get lower ratings for the same work. The lower ratings then translate to job assignments with lesser prestige and visibility. This is especially true for group projects.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There a difference between a workaholic workplace and a workplace that is racist, sexist, and has an unhinged CEO, though.

        I’m with the Other Katie. When you’re new/young to your field, people always say you can survive 1-3 years of awful. In my experience, that’s not entirely true. You can survive, but it’s not always worth the cost to your self-esteem, health (including mental health), or identity (because it can take time to un-warp your mind).

      5. The Other Katie*

        Goldman Sachs doesn’t have a CEO who throws things or a Glassdoor page full of terrible reviews. There’s a difference between a tough workplace and a toxic one. What OP#2 is describing is on the toxic side, not a tough one.

    2. Shiara*

      I don’t know that I agree with this. If you go in with your eyes wide open and a planned exit strategy for after you get your year-two years in, it may be worth it, depending on the field/exactly how the culture is toxic. I know people who’ve done it, who’ve hated it, but who feel like they made the right call.

      Also, it can vary pretty wildly from team to team just how bad things truly are. I’ve worked somewhere that had a pretty poor culture overall, but my team lead had sufficient clout and the right personality to insulate us from the worst of it. I was able to grow and learn a lot from the experience, but if I’d been on any other team long term, I probably would have had to walk away.

    3. Cordoba*

      Lots of reasonable people would disagree with you on that.

      Look at the application rates to West Point and Annapolis, for example. You apply there knowing that your first year will be deliberately miserable and hellish, and that you will basically be set for life upon graduation.

      I’ve cheerfully put up with a year or two of terrible treatment in exchange for substantial prestige and/or money on the other end, and would do it again if the right opportunity came along.

      It helps that if you’re a deliberate short-timer who is just using a bad organization you can spend your time there on your own terms as long as you don’t get fired.

      Crappy boss is very disappointed and upset that I’m not participating in the bad culture, working insane overtime, and deferring to his inept leadership? Don’t care, I’m only going to be there for another 5 months and have no plans to use him as a reference so his leverage is nearly nonexistent.

      1. grace*

        I actually agree – I think it’s less reasonable in general, and more, ‘is this reasonable for me.’ OP, I’d do some soul-searching of yourself — I have a friend working at one of those companies like Goldman Sachs, and it’s ideal for her because she knows and remembers that it isn’t forever. If you’re like me and want a place where you feel valued and part of the culture, then maybe it isn’t for you.

        Whatever happens, go to the interview, ask as many questions as you can, and make the best decision for yourself. You’ve got this. :)

      2. neverjaunty*

        Not really following the comparison between West Point and a private company with a screaming, abusive CEO and a bigoted culture?

        West Point and Annapolis are tough because they are difficult and demanding – not because you are expected to tolerate abuse and sexism indefinitely.

        1. Cordoba*

          My point was that some people *are* willing to put up with difficult or unpleasant conditions over a time period most conveniently measured in years in exchange for prestige and material reward.

          The service academies are an example of this, although admittedly an imperfect one. People go in knowing full well that it is going to be unpleasant for the first year, but choose to do it anyway because they want what is at the other end.

          Other examples could be the demanding academics and long hours of medical school, or as already mentioned the high-pressure life of big finance/law internships or entry level jobs. All of these things are often described as a “living hell” by the people who experienced them. That doesn’t mean they’re not a good choice for the right applicant.

            1. Cordoba*

              Because I regard them as variations on the same theme, that theme being “unpleasant but potentially worthwhile”.

              I genuinely don’t understand the distinction you are drawing here. Please help me to understand the difference.

              I worked for a screaming abusive bigoted civilian boss. I was also in the military. In my opinion the two experiences were more alike than different.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                They are not the same theme.
                Difficult = rules are known, meritocracy. Easy to judge success.
                Toxic = rules are amorphous and ever changing. No meritocracy. Hard to get success because no rules for judging success.

                I’ve beem in toxic places and on really hard projects. On hard proejects I can focus on excellence. On toxic projects I waste 1/2 my energy watching my back. My performance is nowhere near the same.

  17. Green Arrow*

    #1 – in my experience, 99% of the time when a connection like this is suggested as a solution for a tech problem, the person brought on is horribly inept and it costs more fixing up their mess in addition to the problem.

    I know this because I spent several years cleaning up after those people.

    1. Delta Delta*

      This. I once worked for a small company (20ish employees). We needed all new computers and a server upgrade. The Office Bully got the boss’s ear and suggested her best friend’s company. I can’t even begin with the disaster this was. We later found out that company wasn’t exactly equipped to do the job we needed but sort of bluffed through it to get the contract. Awful.

  18. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    LW #2:
    I’m sorry about your boots, it sucks and you were just trying to not get water everywhere, which was nice of you!

    But the poor janitors have no way of knowing that your boots weren’t in there waiting to be thrown out. People throw away the strangest things, and if something’s in a recycling bin, the reasonable assumption is to think that it’s trash.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I’ve thrown out shoes at the office before. I snapped a heel, and it looked fine once the shoe was off, but the break was too severe to walk on and the shoes were too cheap to get fixed. Into the trash and out the next day they went, no questions asked. It does suck, OP, but it’s not the janitor’s responsibility to second-guess the contents of trash bins, no matter how obvious it is to you that it’s not trash.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        I’ve thrown out a backpack that had foundation leak inside it, but I bet the janitors were surprised to see it.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yeah, I had a former boss leave a pair of her perfectly good running shoes at the office after she retired, and my new boss gave them to me because he knew I was still in touch with Old Boss. So I called her, and she said to go ahead and throw out the shoes, even though they looked like new!

        I actually donated them, because we always donate any old clothes or shoes that are still in decent shape, so I just threw them in with our next donation, but they certainly could have wound up in the trash.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      What’s getting me is that “trash” went into the recycling bin. I’ve been places where the recyling wouldn’t get emptied if actual trash was mixed in.

  19. hbc*

    OP1: It sounds like she suggests using Sam a lot, but nothing comes of it. Why is that?

    Unless the reason is situational (say, she won’t have the authority to hire him until her boss goes on that scheduled vacation next month) or she’s clearly escalating from asides to suggestions to actions, I suggest leaving it alone. Your supervisor has the very easy fall-back position of claiming she was just complaining about internal tech and saying she knows someone who could do it better.

    And I don’t see the point in going to her. If she’s talking about “forgiveness,” she’s already well aware that what she’s doing isn’t completely kosher and has acknowledged that to everyone.

    1. MK*

      The company apparently has a tech department, so they are not regularly using consultants. I would assume that there would need to be a problem that can’t be handled in-house before hiring an outside person is authorised, and the authorisation might have to come from higher up.

    2. phyllisb*

      I’d call her bluff. The next time she says that (when her supervisor isn’t around.) Say “hmm…might not be a bad idea. Let’s run it by Jane and see what she thinks.” Then, if Jane is in the building, go seek her. I bet Young Supervisor will back-pedal and stop you from getting Jane.

      1. anonagain*

        So the boss goes to Jane and says “OP thinks I should hire Sam for this project.”
        What then?

        I don’t think “calling someone’s bluff” is a good idea in this situation. I think the OP would be better off reporting this to a higher level manager or the legal/ethics people.

  20. Marlene*

    #1, might I suggest a rubber mat on which to place your new boots? They can air out while keeping the floor dry. Sorry this happened.

  21. Ann Onimous*

    OP #3:
    While I agree with Alison’s general assessment that these Glassdoor reviews raise a significant red flag, are you 100% certain it affects you?

    I ran into a very similar problem after interviewing (and accepting!) a job offer a few years ago. I just randomly went on Glassdoor to check reviews, and ended up being scared out of my wits at what I read there. Dozens and dozens of disgruntled ex-sales employees essentially calling the company THE most awful place on the planet. Along with several responses from the director of communications threatening to sue. Understandably, I was just about ready to run for the hills, before even starting the job.

    However all these reviewers where working in another country, whose employment laws were significantly different to that of my own. Plus it was a completely different department (I work in tech).
    And fair enough, my office never had ANY of the issues mentioned in the review, and the employees from the sales department were treated NOTHING like the reviews claimed. As a matter of fact, as far as office culture went, this company ended up being one of the nicest ones I’ve worked at.

    So what I’m saying is, that if it’s a very large company, maybe things are not quite as cut and dry as they might seem. And perhaps there’s just that one office with a really toxic culture?

    1. Thlayli*

      That’s a fair point actually. In a massive company there’s bound to be at least on branch/department that is awful, and im sure people who really hate their workplace are far more likely to put up reviews than people who think it’s ok.

      However, in this case I’m not sure it applies, because multiple reviews have named the CEO specifically as being a jerk, so it is probably a small company and a company wide issue.

    2. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      Yes! It can be really hard to separate out the reviews for larger companies. My company is a major retailer but I work at headquarters and it was really hard to comb through all of the reviews from store employees, even when filtering by location. May not be the case for OP3 but it’s definitely something to consider.

    3. TheCupcakeCounter*

      This – the company I left is overall a very good company to work for and I know a ton of very happy people. The department I worked in was absolutely NOT like that. It was awful and after telling my tale a few times and hearing people be surprised because their friend so and so works there and loves it I realized I needed to clarify my complaints to my department.

  22. Boy oh boy*

    LW2: someone at an old job had the habit of leaving important files piled on the top of her desk bin. You guessed it — they were collected one evening and went in with the rubbish.

    Which is to say, you are not alone.

    (At Very Important Law Firm, all the non-food rubbish was kept for days in case a lawyer had tossed out a vital document. But we also had backup generators, our own water supply as backup, and a confidential incinerator in the basement. They believed in doing things very, very carefully.)

    1. Oxford Coma*

      This is awesome and sounds like a great movie. (The preparedness part, not the throwing stuff out accidentally part.)

    2. Yvette*

      I once worked in a law firm and the lawyers were infamous for stacking important files all over, including next to the trash bin. The cleaning staff would not throw out anything that was not actually in the trash bins. You could crumple up a piece of paper and leave it on the floor near the bin and it would sit there until you actually threw it in the bin. Better safe than sorry.

  23. Birch*

    #5, unless you did something incredibly unprofessional or personally insulting, there’s no reason for an interviewer to hold a personal grudge against you! They probably didn’t even frame it as you giving a bad interview–there’s no way for them to know what a *good interview* from you looks like. So from their perspective, you just didn’t make the final cut just like almost everyone else they interviewed for that position. It might help you to try to compartmentalize personal feelings vs. things that happen in your professional life. I know that failing to live up to your best professional performance often feels like a personal failing, but you will be so much happier in life if you learn to separate those things. Things that happen at work often have nothing to do with you–if you do your best, that’s all you can do, and if you realize you aren’t doing your best, just try harder next time. None of that reflects on you as a person! Of course everyone has feelings about things that happen at work, but you should be able to reflect logically and realize that even if you were embarrassed by some not-great work or interview, that doesn’t mean others think badly of you in general. Don’t project your negative feelings about yourself onto other people–that’s not fair to either you or them.

    As others have pointed out, we all think about ourselves WAY more than anyone else thinks about us. Rest assured that in most situations you might have felt like you flubbed, in other people’s minds you are fading into a positive or neutral blur! Also, friendliness and self-confidence go a long way toward keeping in good standing with people no matter what your previous history is.

  24. Bookworm*

    I’d trust the negative Glassdoor reviews. Yes, there’s always the possibility of a few disgruntled employees but I have found, on the whole, that it’s a place to air legitimate gripes about the potential work place. You may have to sift through and consider them within the context of the interview/what you’ve heard/anything else you can find but I’ve found that it’s actually a good source that has occasionally confirmed my hunches (as in, I experienced similar issues or had situations very closely resembling what others write about).

    I’d side-eye the overly positive interviews about places. I currently work for a place and have noticed there seem to be a bunch of positive reviews for them. Not saying they don’t have merit, but I also somewhat doubt that many people had such glowing experiences, too.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    #5 – it would have to be REALLY bad for a an interviewer to remember it. I only remember one interview that stands out as horrendously bad, and I would have a negative reaction to the person if I saw him. I was the only woman on an interview panel and he would only direct his answers to the men. When I asked him a question, he interrupted me mid-sentence to ask when he was going to have a chance to ask us questions (we’d already told him there’d be time at the end) and he was just generally rude to me. It was bad enough that the men in the room even noticed how sexist his behavior was.

    1. Betsy*

      We recently did a lot of college admissions interviews, and I can remember only a really awesome guy who aced every question and one terrible one where the candidate did not seem very bright at all. Oh, and the really nervous girl, but we gave her a chance to be accepted and really felt for her. This is out of two full days of interviewing, though.

  26. Rebecca*

    OP#2 – our office is carpeted too, and we deal with winter snow and salt issues. Many of us have a carpet scrap or old rug under our desks, and that’s where our boots go. When it gets too yucky, we toss it and get another one. You might want to check with maintenance, as they may have some leftover carpet pieces from a previous installation. That’s where we get ours.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I will confess—I just let my boots and umbrella drip on the carpet. It’s never THAT much water (I shake the off before coming in the building), the water evaporates.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I think the bigger issue is the salt and ice-melting compounds that get tracked in can discolor the carpet.

        1. Colette*

          I also let everything drip on the carpet. If my employer provided a tray to put my boots on, I’d use it, but if they don’t care, neither do I.

          1. Xarcady*

            This is pretty much where I fall.

            But really, I scrape my feet before entering the building. And by the time I’ve climbed two flights of stairs and walked half the length of the building, my boots are damp, but not soaking wet. There’s just not all that much they can do to the carpet.

  27. SaraV*

    LW #2 – I had something extremely similar happen. I had ordered a gift online for my husband and had it delivered to my office. I cannot remember if I a) forgot it, or b) left it there because my husband was picking me up from work. The box was left under my desk, and the next day it was gone. I could understand them taking it, even, because what I had bought was very light. Still, I had my boss get in touch with the company hired to clean the building, and I was reimbursed.

    Unlike upthread, I don’t think it would hurt to ask to have your supervisor, or however high up the chain you need to go, contact the cleaning company to see if it might be a possibility.

    1. EditorInChief*

      So you want her to get the cleaning staff in trouble because she left her boots in a garbage bin? This isn’t the cleaning staff’s fault.

    2. Non-Prophet*

      I disagree. I don’t think it would be right for LW2 to ask to be reimbursed for the cost of her boots. LW put her boots in a recycling bin. The cleaning company is contracted to empty those bins. Yes, LW made an unfortunate mistake. But why should the company be penalized for doing the job they are hired to do? And if the cleaning company reimburses the cost by docking $140 from the janitor who was on staff that night, it could be a big financial burden for that person.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        Agreed! OP should understand that the janitors are just doing their job. It’s not their fault you put your boots (or for that matter, anything of value) in the trash/recycle bin expecting them to figure out it’s not meant to be thrown out. Life lesson learned. I suggest a boot tray the next time you encounter this situation, OP.

    3. LilyP*

      Well, OP#2 left something in a clearly marked trash receptacle, not just an ambiguous box under a desk, so their situation is rather different. But OP#2, I do think that as long as you’re absolutely clear that you’re not blaming the cleaning staff for doing their jobs and that the whole thing was entirely your mistake, it would be ok to reach out to the company and ask whether there’s any chance they could find your boots. They don’t have any obligation to reimburse you if they can’t! It still was, sadly, your mistake leaving them in the bin, but I think you can ask without getting anyone in trouble.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yep, this is my take. Who knows — cleaning companies may well have budget line items for this sort of thing. If they do, and it’s a simple process and no one gets pay docked or in trouble, why not?

        1. LilyP*

          To be clear, I don’t think OP#2 should even ask about being reimbursed. That’s unreasonable. But if it’s still with a day or so of the incident, it’s possible the boots could be retrieved if you asked nicely, right?

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yes, sorry, I don’t think she should ask to be reimbursed, but if they offer, what would you do?

    4. MK*

      Sounds to me like your boss used your company’s power as a client over the cleaning company to get you a reimbursement you were not rightfully entitled to. That’s a subtle form of extortion, frankly.

      1. Natalie*

        Uh, no, it’s not remotely extortion. When I was in property management all of our cleaners were instructed to only throw things away that were marked “trash” (they even had little sticky notes they distributed for this purpose) or in a bin. Picking up a box under someone’s desk would have been explicitly incorrect and it’s completely reasonable to expect the company (NOT the individual cleaner since that’s illegal and messed up to reimburse someone in that circumstance.

        1. MK*

          I missed the part that the gift wasn’t in a bin, so I guess it would depend on what instructions the company had. But if they were told to clear the floor completely, or if it could have been mistaken for empty packaging (sounds that way to me) it was a jerk move to complain to the cleaning company. Which might have felt they had no choice other than pay or risk losing the client.

          1. Natalie*

            Eh, usually in a commercial situation you have a contract with the company and if they’re following the rules, something like this wouldn’t be grounds to break it. If you rent, you don’t even hire the cleaning company and your landlord is definitely not going through the enormous PITA to replace them because of one complaint about something getting thrown away.

            But more broadly, this just doesn’t jibe with my experience of B2B interactions. Clients ask for things all the time, and sometimes the company says yes and sometimes they say no. Interpreting requests as an implied threat is not a super common reaction, in my experience, nor a particularly useful one. But YMMV, you could be a higher “guess” culture than I’m accustomed to.

            1. fposte*

              I also think removing random boxes is just too hard to distinguish from theft for a company to okay it without buy-in from the client.

    5. ENFP in Texas*

      There’s a difference between “leaving a box under your desk” and “leaving your boots in the recycling bin”.

      One is expected to be emptied by the cleaning staff, one is not.

    6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I disagree. The cleaning staff’s job is to empty the bins. They are not asked–at all–to review what is in the bin because someone who is paid a multiple of their salaries was not diligent enough to avoid a simple mistake. They did their jobs.

      On the subject of salary, OP#2, you lost your $140 boots, but come on. Many janitorial workers make $15 per hour (assuming they are in state that has set that as the minimum wage). That’s over a day’s pay. You expect someone to give up a day’s because you made a mistake? Wow! My suggestion: learn to take responsibility and don’t blame the “underling”.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would absolutely not expect the cleaning company to make the individual pay. In fact, that might not be legal.

      2. Observer*

        Let’s keep a sense of proportion here. It’s almost certainly illegal for the company to dock the worker’s pay.

        But, if could be a black mark against the worker, and that’s just not fair. So, no, don’t even ask.

    7. Temperance*

      I think that’s totally similar, though. Yours was a sealed box under your desk. Hers was a pair of boots literally in a trash bin.

    8. Lady Phoenix*

      I think therenis a difference. Your package was under your deak, where I think it should have stayed there (and if they had to clean, then clean the area and put the package back in that area).

      Op left her boots in recycling with NO indication that they were NOT trash. While she can ASK for compensation, she is not entitled to one because she made an idiot mistake.

    9. Observer*

      This is a very, very different thing, and one that’s likely to both get the cleaning staff into unfair trouble and expend political capital for the OP.

      It’s one thing for the cleaning staff to take something from under your desk, especially a closed box. That’s something that was probably NOT standard procedure. It’s another thing to throw the trash in the trash bin out. It’s not just “you can’t blame them for doing that.” It that this is literally THEIR JOB.

      You are suggesting that the OP requests compensation for the company for the fact that its staff was doing their job the way they were expected to. Anyone who is going to be asked to take this on is going to be looking at the OP a bit differently, and it’s not going to be a positive difference.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I could only imagine:
        “Hey honey. I got you something for your birthday. But I put it in the office recycle bin and that stupid cleaning person couldn’t be bothered to check the contents before he tossed them out. I am gonna call the cleaning conpany and demand compensation.”

        If I was the spouse, I’d be giving that person the “really” look and call then a knob head.

  28. CBH*

    OP1 has anyone called out your supervisor on this. I was thinking you could do it indirectly…. when she recommends Sam have a few people join the conversation and recommend their sibling, neighbor, significant other; or maybe have some say something along the lines of “Gee you recommend Sam a lot maybe he should put in an application with HR”.

    I’m kind of under the impression that the supervisor thinks if she intentionally recommends Sam enough without the big boss there someone may (unconsiously ?) recommend Sam when the boss is.

    Also something else to consider (and admittedly there is not enough background in the letter to support this assumption)…. Supervisor is saying that Sam is working as a consultant on financial things – that seems very vague. It also thought it may be a situation where supervisor and Sam are living together and for whatever reason supervisor is suddenly finding herself to be the breadwinner in the relationship with someone who is perhaps lazy or truly can’t find a job. Supervisor might be doing this to get Sam a job.

    I do believe this is unethical especially with the financial “rewards” indirectly going to the manager. Someone should speak with HR. Alison’s advice is right on with how to approach this – she has given you a great script for speaking with the supervisor.

    1. CBH*

      *supervisor might be doing this to get Sam a job – I mean this as a foot in the door to a full time position

  29. Aerin*

    Just yesterday I was talking with a coworker about the people who use their Outlook deleted items and Windows recycling bin like it was just any other folder, then are astonished and upset when stuff disappears from there. “I mean,” I said, “do they put stuff in their physical trash can at their desk and expect it to be treated like any other storage spot?”

    Here’s my answer, apparently…

    1. BadPlanning*

      I confess that I was thinking about that too…

      Someone also mentioned this sort of thing as a “stupid tax” and I agree there too. Like when I’ve neglected to pay a bill that I totally have the money for…and have to a pay the late fee.

      But I do feel for the loss of boots — sometimes it’s hard to find a nice pair of well fitting/warm/not ugly boots.

    2. sssssssssss*

      Yes! I knew someone who used his delete folder as a to-do list. I was shocked. But it kept his inbox small…

  30. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #5: I ran into a hiring manager while out at a local bottle shop. My interview hadn’t been terrible, but it was a great conversation more than a good interview for the job. It was slightly awkward at first… but only because I didn’t initially realize it was him while I was saying hi to his dog. I said hello, re-introduced myself, made small talk, smiled. I think he may have asked me where I ended up, but that’s about it. I realize this was a social interaction rather than a professional one, but the key here is what Alison suggested about being friendly; it’s far more uncomfortable if someone recognizes you and shrinks away. (I have done that, btw. Don’t do that.)

  31. DC*

    OP1’s question is particularly timely, as my Boss has actually hired a family member. I needed a reminder of the inappropriate-ness.

  32. anonagain*

    OP 2: Right now you’re saying, “The cleaning crew wrongly threw out my boots.”
    What if you try, “I accidentally threw out my boots,” instead?

    I think it might make it easier to let go.

  33. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: I wonder if there is a paper trail. If Boyfriend is doing job, surely it would be a comission that would be put on the books somewhere. And if not, then how would he get paid?

    But otherwise, rope in an upper person: “So coworker is asking us to use her boyfriend for technical issues whenever you are gone. I dunno if you are actually ok with this, since we do have our own technical support.”

  34. Amy H*

    LW3, I understand that some ppl might not be comfortable enough doing this, but I suggest asking the hiring manager point blank about the Glassdoor reviews and gauge the reaction. While I typically take Glassdoor reviews with a grain of salt, if I see a significant amount of concerning reviews, I definitely take them into consideration. I saw quite a few disturbing reviews for a company that I was interviewing with, so Just asked about them them. The interviewer admitted that there were a few “cultural problems” in the office but that they were “working on it.” Unfortunately, I witnessed a couple concerning interactions while I was at the office for my interview. I got a job offer, but decided not to take it.

    1. Struck by Lightning*

      I don’t think it’s about being comfortable so much as being able to get an honest answer. The worst manager I’ve ever had was also one of the smoothest talkers I’ve known…it was part of the reason he was able to get away with his crap for years.

  35. Lady Phoenix*

    #2: i would hang my umbrellas over trashcans if the classroom didn’t have a sink,
    Because I didn’t want to make a puddle that could either running a student’s art project or create a potential slip hazard. But if they get in the transhcan and thrown out, no big loss because they were $5.

    You gotta treat things you hold dear like… well… you hold them dear. If you don’t, then this is what happens. You left your shoes in the disposal…. so of course cleaning crew is going to dispose of them. It is not their fault, but all on YOU for not caring about your things. Next time, buy a plastic/rubber mat and put the boots there.

    I sound harsh when i say this but it is a common sense matter: non trash things do not go in trash. If they do go in the trash, welp, they’re trash then.*

    Same with keeping important files in the recycle bin on computers. It looks like a trashcan, so why would you put your precious files in it?

    So in the end, consider this an inportant and expensive lesson: if it is precious, then treat it as such. And only keep trash jn the trash.

    *Unless you have an office jerk that decides to purpsefully dump your precious things in the trash out of spite like in the one letter from a few weeks ago who purposefully buried OP’s mug in the trash and OP JUST discovered their mug because they were looking for a post-it note.

    1. Observer*

      And, of course, if someone had deliberately dumped the OP’s boots in the trash that person WOULD be liable, assuming you could prove it. And even then it would NOT be the janitor / janitorial company that would be liable.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Of course! Janitorial staff are only doing their job and probably tried keep out of office drama.

        It is on the Bully to reinburse the OP.

    2. Samata*

      All this garbage talk is stirring up memories today. I worked with a girl whose Outlook filing system was to keep all the important emails in her “deleted mail” folder. She would then double delete the unimportant ones. It was baffling but she did her and I let her.

  36. Naptime Enthusiast*

    LW5: I had an interview with a company for a summer internship, but ended up accepting an offer with their competitor before they got back to me with an offer. I was interviewed by a college alumnus, and have since run into him at lots of alumni events. The first time was very awkward because I let it become awkward, thinking that I had been rude and terrible and wasted his time interviewing me. Since then, I’ve learned to go up to him, shake his hand, and ask how he’s doing. He no longer remembers how uncomfortable I was and instead chit chats with me at events for a few minutes before we both go and mingle.

    Moral of the story: be confident in yourself! Don’t apologize for not getting an offer, and don’t feel that you need to avoid the CEO either.

  37. Lady Phoenix*

    #3: reading the reviews helps as well. I was reasing the only 1 * review for a pizza place and it was because:
    1) owners wife was conversing with someone
    2) Her precious son did not get hired after football season and thinks that there was some iron clad promise that he would be

    Read the reviews and go with your gut. Do the letters sound ridiculously and/or fakishly positive or negative? Is there a pattern of every generic “outstanding” review after a negative review? Do they attack the reviewers?

    That is the wonders of reviews. Somwtimes you have dumbasses, assholes, or legit good people running the system and clashing with each other

  38. sssssssssss*

    An inexpensive mat for drying boots can be obtained at a dollar store. Or perhaps your operations manager can be convinced to purchase them for everyone to reduce carpet cleaning bills overall. But I’m also told for our cleaning staff, which are truly staff and unionized, they just often don’t have time to do all they would like to do. If we made it an expectation that they had to inspect the contents of each bin, they would never finish the other cleaning tasks they have to do.

    The cleaning staff, ironically, doens’t always empty my garbage bin…and the presence of fruit flies is also a sign that the bag itself needs changing. (Often, they simply dump the contents and leave the same bag in the bin for at least a week as for most desks, there just isn’t that much waste in a regular office.)

    (Not enough time to do, like the monthly fridge purge, which wasn’t being done and I had to complain. I was told that ppl would complain when stuff was thrown out and so the cleaning staff would become extra cautious when doing the fridge purge. I countered that the milk carton with the mould on it could have been a clue and the expiry dates on the four-year-old Ensure was obvious.)

    1. Oxford Coma*

      We also had a fruit fly problem due to emptying instead of bag changing. Changing every bag costs a lot of time and money. We solved it by getting people to put all food waste into one large centrally-located can that is re-bagged daily, and using personal desk cans only for non-perishable trash.

  39. Observer*

    #2, I’d like to point out an additional aspect that makes your complaint even less valid. You say that you “can’t understand why someone would have thrown them away rather than erring on the side of caution and thinking, “These don’t actually look like garbage.” ”

    You’ve gotten some good reasons for that.Beyond that, it’s also quite possible that they NOT ALLOWED to do this. People do NOT want others, including janitorial staff, looking through their garbage. So it’s quite possible that the staff have been told “just empty the garbage and don’t look through it.” Why would you expect someone to break that rule for you?

    I’d be kicking myself BIG time for this, so I get your frustration. But please don’t look for ways to blame other people for the things you do. Accept that you fell victim to a combination of less than optimal choices and bad luck, and think about how you can make better choices so you have a better chance at minimizing the effects of bad luck.

    1. Glomarization, ,Esq.*

      Agreed. Checking the contents of a recycle bin is quite literally above the janitorial workers’ pay grade. After a desk jockey leaves the office for happy hour or a movie or a quiet night at home with the family, that’s when the cleaning staff comes in to clean up after us. Their goal is to clean up the office, not sort through what we’ve thrown out (or appeared to have thrown out) and figure out what we really, truly meant to toss. And not to put too fine a point on it, but as mentioned above, the boots cost probably over a day’s pay for a janitorial worker.

      LW#2, please do not try to contact or ask your company to contact the janitorial service and chase after your boots. It really won’t look good for you.

  40. Tuxedo Cat*

    #5, without de-identifying myself, I once interviewed for a job I really wanted and didn’t get. I didn’t do horribly but I don’t think it was the best interview I ever had. About a month or so later, I ended up at a conference where we all had assigned roommates. One of the interviewers was my assigned to share a room with me.

    It was awkward at first, but the woman was really nice. She didn’t mention the interview nor did I, and we had some good conversations.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I didn’t realize what the rooming situation was going to be like until I got there (and didn’t know who was assigned to whom), and it was substantially far from home. These things aren’t entirely uncommon in my field, so I just rolled with it.

  41. mia*

    #2 – This is a situation where you have to take personal accountability for your actions. You left the boots in a container where the contents are meant for disposal. Don’t be surprised if the contents are then disposed.
    It sucks, yes, but that’s life.

    The workers cannot be expected to examine the contents of EVERY recycling and trash bin and question it. That’s just not even practical to think that. And even if you say “well, I’m not asking them to question EVERYTHING, just obvious things like boots” , how do you know what was in all the other containers?

  42. Grumpypants*

    One detail in OP2’s story that strikes me as important is that she used a recycling bin, not a waste bin. I wouldn’t judge the cleaning staff for chucking them if they were in a waste bin, but they weren’t. Recycling bins usually are filled with paper, cans, bottles – boots would be very clearly out of the ordinary. And they’re not recyclable! I agree that OP2 doesn’t really have any recourse here, but it’s pretty ridiculous that the cleaning staff emptied a recycling bin with a pair of winter boots in them, in the winter when the most likely explanation for their presence in the office is that someone wore them in and changed their shoes. I’m pretty confident that the same scenario in my office would have sent enough “those might not be garbage” signals to prompt a note from our cleaning staff to confirm whether or not I actually wanted them thrown out.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      A lot of the commenters DO know the OP put them in recycling.

      And the thing is, it still doesn’t matter.
      Recyclignis still a thing that goes out and people DO recycle clothes. If I was janitorial, I would still think these boots were going out and either:
      A) She wants them donated
      B) she wants them thrown out and put it in the wrong bin.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, this. There is pretty much always stuff in our recycling bins that isn’t recyclable, but it’s pretty much always meant to be trash instead. People suck at recycling. My co-workers throw all kinds of random garbage in the recycling.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, it’s pretty common at my workplace for people to throw stuff in recycling that the recycling program there doesn’t include. I suspect there’s a policy either to trash it if it’s recognizably true or to throw it in the recycling and accept the lower price on the contaminated stream.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          I might be guilty of it too. With soooo much waste, I can’t tell if skmething is truly recycleable or not and I am worried about it finding its way in the ocean.

          I guess it is a sign that we need to be more conscious of materials and packaging.

    2. Kate 2*

      Honestly I have a lot of coworkers who either don’t notice or don’t care and throw trash in the recycling. And our trash cans are black or gray, recycling bins light brown or bright blue.

    3. Student*

      Fundamentally, this comes down to an easy question:

      Do you really want the janitorial staff to come by and quiz you every time you throw out something that might possibly still be useful? Or do you want them to take the trash and recycling out for you and trust you to be a competent adult who can figure out how trash bins work?

      This is solely the OP’s fault. The OP misused a recycling bin for non-trash. The OP could’ve used a number of cheap alternatives to keep her office dry, or could’ve accepted a small puddle by the door as a normal cost of doing business in a wet climate. Towels! A floor mat! A cheap plastic bin! She might even be able to have the office buy them for her! The solution here is for the OP to use one of the many alternatives available instead of the recycle bin in the future, and not misuse trash/recycle bins again. Expecting the janitorial staff to read her mind is not a viable, realistic, or even a good solution.

    4. Observer (1)*

      Actually, it’s the LEAST likely explanation, because people generally don’t leave their boots behind just like they don’t leave their coats behind. Even in the recycling bin.

      Also, it is NOT the job of the janitorial staff to make these judgements! The ONLY thing they should be judging is “recycle or trash?” It’s frankly ridiculous to ask any more of people who are generally doing a fairly hard job for not a lot of pay, and more often than not under strict time constraints.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’ve had plenty of coworkers who don’t have any regard for the difference between bins.

      I’ve also had plenty of coworkers who don’t know what can and can’t be recycled, even though they have good intentions.

      1. a different Vicki*

        I’ve also had coworkers, and may have been the coworker, who didn’t know what could be recycled in the office, because the rules for residential recycling were different than the rules for office recycling. Or they know the rules for where they live, which aren’t the rules for where they work; or one or the other has changed its rules recently.

  43. boop the first*

    2. “I just can’t believe that a momentary lapse in memory resulted in my $140 boots being thrown in the garbage.”

    Well hold on… I agree that this situation sucks and feels bad, but at least come to believe that your boots were already thrown in the garbage before you left – by you. You threw them in the garbage every day, and every day you rescued them. Until one day you didn’t.

    Though it’s possible that the workers rescued them for themselves. Not that I think it’s any good idea to track them down, but at least hope they aren’t wasted? They’re probably at least relieved that they won’t have to take away soggy, wet paper recycling anymore, which wasn’t terribly thoughtful to do, btw.

  44. Cheesehead*

    For #1, would it be possible to treat it like solicitations/sales for home based businesses within the office? You know, like jewelry parties or any other MLM type of “buy something from me” thing? That is, assuming that the office has a policy against office solicitations.

    I don’t know how it would work to talk to her directly, because of what other people mentioned about her waiting until the boss leaves before she says anything. She knows she shouldn’t be doing it. I’d hate to have her retaliate against you for bringing it up. But if you think you could bring it up, maybe something like “You know, Jane, you bring up hiring Sam a lot. I’m sure he’s great at what he does, but it’s kind of uncomfortable for the rest of us because we’re not the ones who can do anything about hiring him anyway. And I really don’t want to get in trouble for violating the company policies on engaging in solicitations at work by even talking about that! He should really talk to HR or whoever handles the contractors.”

    It doesn’t really address the conflict of interest, but I think “conflict of interest” is more emotionally-charged and likely to result in her bristling and retaliating than if you just bring up the policy of “don’t sell things at work, even your boyfriend’s technical expertise”.

    And if she still continues after you say that, then you can respond with “has he talked to HR?” or “Have you talked to Fergus about that?” Turn it back on someone else because it really isn’t up to you. And then change the subject. Fast.

  45. oldbiddy*

    #2 – I’m sorry about your boots. If you don’t get them back, please get a plastic tray or old box to put your boots in. I use the lid off from a case of paper. As others have noted, people throw out stuff that may look good, and the janitoral staff may not have leeway to leave stuff in the bins.
    Caveat – I am an unintentional boot-remover. Even in a situation where it’s coworkers rather than janitors, it’s hard to tell sometimes. When I started my job 7 years ago, we had a lab that was used mainly for storage. It was full of broken lab equipment, supplies, etc. There was a pair of winter boots in there. My boss didn’t know who owned them, and neither did any of the students whom I asked. In fact, people occasionally made jokes about the mystery boots. They were always in the same spot and never seemed to be wet, have more or less salt on them, etc. After a year or so, I cleared out a bunch of surplus stuff from the lab. Anything that was potentially useful went on the “free table”, including the boots.
    The next day one of the grad students came by to ask if I knew what happened to his boots. He was the person who got to lab earliest and left the latest most days, and was fastidious so he always put the boots in the same spot and wiped them off before doing so, and no one had any clue that the boots were his. Of course, someone had taken them from the free table. I offered to pay for a new boots, but we put up a sign by the free table and someone returned them. I felt so bad about it.

  46. Funbud*

    #2 reminds me of a non-work related but amusing story. When I was a kid, our church had an annual Christmas bazaar. It was s big deal and very successful. I would help out The lady next door who always ran the “ white elephant “ room where they sold used Knick knacks, household stuff, etc. In two days, She would sell like $800 worth of junk for five or ten cents apiece (pretty good money back in the ‘70s). The lady who always ran the fair (she was a REAL church lady, but nice) would be on-site for 2 1/2 days, pretty much continuously. One year, she bought several pairs of
    shoes so she could change them and stashed them in a closet in the white elephant room. And we sold them. Not for ten cents, but we sold all of them. Her only consolation was that her shoes went for a good cause.

  47. ChaoticGood*

    #1, I gotta disagree with AAM here. Do NOT talk to this supervisor. When (not if) there is a situation that violates company rules, you will need to drop a dime on her to HR, and she will know it was you who did. And you will need to do it anonymously. In the meantime, you can say NOTHING to anyone – you may be an old-timer there, but you don’t need to act like this is your first time at the rodeo.

    People who are Go! Getters! and who try to get their unqualified partners tech jobs will ignore any and all company rules. (“Whatever, those rules aren’t real!” – Regina George, meaning the rules aren’t real for HER, just everyone else.)

    (Side note: people whose spouses play videogames all day often consider them qualified for tech jobs, because how else would they be able to beat so many bosses, and have, like thirty followers on Twitch?)

    It’s possible that this supervisor does not have friends in HR who can get her bf the job, but Go! Getters! usually already have friends in HR. Which is why HR isn’t trustable either — they usually turn a blind eye when they feel like it (“Get crucial!” – Heather Number One, who is now head of HR somewhere)

    1. ChaoticGood*

      Or, maybe she’s not considering him seriously for any position, she only does it when a commanding officer is out of the room (because she knows the argument for hiring him is flimsy), and it’s just an irritating habit that she has because it makes her feel good to talk the guy up in public, maybe because she needs to convince herself that dating him is a good idea, who knows — it’s personal and you won’t ever know. If it’s that, if it’s not serious, you just gotta suck it up and move on – as before, this person will retaliate against you in minor to major ways if you stir the pot. Pick your battles!

  48. Jules the Third*

    OP #1: You sound to me like your concern is 2-fold:
    1) Ambitious boss Cersei appears not to care about ethics, which bugs you
    2) Non-ethical boss is starting to affect your team’s attitudes
    I think both these concerns are realistic. I take #2 more seriously, at least until she has Sam apply; #1 – well, she’ll move on and up eventually, or get caught and fired.

    If your company has a no-nepotism rule (most F500s do), privately addressing Cersei *may* address #1. It will also leave you open to retaliation. Openly responding ‘but our company doesn’t allow that’ may address #2 but it also leaves you open to retaliation.

    Bringing it to the attention of Cersei’s supervisor is your best and safest option. To do that effectively:

    Document, document, document: On x date, discussing y issue, Cersei said z to people including a, b, c
    List 3 – 5 different instances to show this is a pattern.
    Specify to the supervisor that you would like this to be anonymous, as you are concerned about retaliation, and if there’s an anonymous reporting option, take it. Her position is too close to yours for safety if her supervisor talks.
    Be clear that you recognize Cersei is just talking, but that you’re concerned it’s undermining the company regulations.

    She won’t get fired for this, unless she somehow manages to get Sam paid for doing IT work for the company, but she really shouldn’t be talking about bypassing the company regulations in front of her team.

  49. XF1013*

    OP #1: The real problem isn’t just your boss’s nepotism, of course. It’s that your boss is openly defiant to workplace ethics and rules in general. She only brings up hiring the boyfriend when unsupervised, and she mentions things like asking for forgiveness afterwards, which are clear signals that she knows the company won’t approve of the plan. And yet, she’s so comfortable with this that she’s not even hiding it from her team, subtly implying that she’s so powerful and untouchable that she doesn’t care if they know about her transgressions. You already describe her as the kind of go-getter who doesn’t care who she steps on to get her way.

    Considering all of that, she is definitely *not* the kind of person you should approach directly. If you express concern about the ethics of hiring the boyfriend, and then either management or HR gets wind of her plan and reprimands her for it, she may perceive you as the party who ratted her out. And she will have no compunction about punishing you for it, by whatever unethical means she pleases. She might even do it preemptively if you merely bring it up. After all, company management must think highly of her for her to have climbed so high so quickly; would they take her side or yours in a dispute? If she lied about you, would other members of the team go along with it as witnesses?

    Given her youth and lack of exposure to other companies, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s not truly malicious. She might simply not realize how out of line she’s acting. But whether she’s operating from malice or ignorance, she sounds dangerous. There are certainly polite ways to talk to her about the nepotism, but I don’t think there’s a safe way. Reporting it up the ladder in ways that protect you from retaliation (ie anonymity, documentation), or just keeping your head down while seeking a transfer or employment elsewhere, seem like the ways to go.

  50. Elizabeth H.*

    I see the boots thing as analogous to, say that you’re a personal assistant and part of your job is putting in Starbucks orders for a weekly executive meeting. Every week you put in the same order, for 2 lattes, 1 soy cappuccino and 3 regular cappuccinos. After some time of this, you accidentally hit the wrong button and order 2 lattes, 1 soy cappuccino and 300 regular cappuccinos. Starbucks receives your order, makes the cappuccinos and charges your credit card for them. It was your mistake, and an understandable mistake to make. But the result of the mistake (300 cappuccinos) is so unusual that you would expect a reasonable person exercising good judgment to double check that this was actually your intent, before taking an irreversible action. I’d assume that the manager of the Starbucks employee would be upset that their employee wasted that much product without looking into it further. Similarly, I think it’d be reasonable for the cleaning services provider to hold their employees to the standard of double checking before they throw out an obviously valuable item that one wouldn’t expect to find in a recycling bin. I think it’s understandable that the cleaning services didn’t do this, but in the best case scenario, someone exercising good judgment in the course of their job wouldn’t have.

    1. Observer*

      I totally and utterly disagree. Most of the reasons have been chewed over extensively, so I’m not going to.

      but, I’m just going to point out that the two situations are fundamentally different. In teh case of the Starbucks order you are dealing with an order which, by itself should inspire a double check AND a significant change in a well defined standing order. In the case of the boots, there is actually nothing “obvious” here – the boots are not new, they almost certainly have salt stains, plenty of new looking boots are actually in the trash for a reason, etc. On the other hand, checking the contents of the trash is most emphatically NOT the job of the cleaners, and in fact, they are often expected to NOT do that. Add that to the fact that they are NOT customer service people and they are expected to get the maximum done in the minimum amount of time, holding them to that standard is unfair. And, considering that you are also paying low wages, it’s also pretty silly. People with those skills are not likely to stay in jobs this difficult and low paid for any length of time.

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