letting a former thief make amends, the ego blow of not being interviewed, and more

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

1. Letting a former equipment thief make amends

My husband and I both manage small teams at our respective jobs, both at cultural heritage institutions. Recently, a man reached out to my husband on behalf of a former employee (someone who had left the organization before my husband worked there, and thus, a stranger). The man was the Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor of the former employee, and stated that the former employee was in recovery, and was working through the eight step of the 12-step program, which entails making amends to those you have wronged during your addiction. The former employee had stolen some equipment from the organization and hoped to return it as part of his “amends,” but the sponsor didn’t want him to step forward if it the organization would pursue legal action against him. My husband assured him they would not.

This week, my husband met with the former employee, received the equipment, and they had what my husband described as a profound talk over coffee about shame and personal growth that left him feeling very contemplative and happy with the action he had taken. The equipment was re-entered in the inventory, and it’s likely that everyone will continue to believe that these items were mislaid a few years ago and just turned up again during a thorough cleaning of a supply closet.

This left me wondering what I could or should do in a similar situation. I would hope that I would be able to take the same altruistic approach my husband did and support someone’s recovery by allowing them to return stolen items without legal repercussions, but would I be creating some sort of liability for myself by not addressing the issue with higher-ups? Is “An anonymous source returned these and I accepted them, no questions asked” a legally actionable answer?

I think this is a “know your company situation.” I don’t have any ethical problems with what your husband did, but there are some companies that wouldn’t accept the “anonymous source” story and would press for more information, and would be pretty irked if you steadfastly refused to say more. In theory, they could require you to disclose more as a condition of remaining in your job … and while that sounds awfully punitive, I can imagine a situation where they required that because they were wondering if you were somehow involved in the initial disappearance of the items.

A more cautious option would be to inform someone higher-up about the initial contact before responding to it, so that they were in the loop from the beginning. That way you’re not making the decision for the company when they might prefer to handle it differently, and you’re protecting yourself from any suspicion of involvement afterwards. But again, it’s “know your company.” If you know you’re working somewhere where you could easily handle it the way your husband did, I can see making that call.

2. Pumping etiquette in an office with a culture of opening doors

I recently returned to the office from maternity leave and am pumping several times a day. I know I am already lucky – I have a supportive employer and a private office (with lock installed upon my return from leave specifically to accommodate pumping!) – but am still running into issues of pumping etiquette. My office is conservative, but has a largely open-door culture, and few of the offices have locks; it is customary for folks entering to knock briefly on the door (open or closed), then simply walk in without waiting for a response. Multiple times I have had colleagues (particularly those senior to me) knock and attempt to open the door (occasionally multiple times in a row) while pumping. By the time I disentangle myself from the pump, they often have walked off. But ignoring the knocks seems rude, posting signs on one’s office door (particularly about something so personal) seems out of step with the office culture, and I have too many colleagues to do one-on-one conversations to address it. So far, no one has raised concerns about not being able to reach me when needed, but I would love a polite, professional way to head colleagues off without making a Thing of it.

I’d go for the sign on your door. It doesn’t need to say HI I AM PUMPING BREAST MILK; it could simply say “please do not disturb.” If you think your manager will wonder about it, you could give her a heads-up, but I think this is the best of all the imperfect options — for everyone, including you. Your pumping time shouldn’t be interrupted (you definitely don’t need to disentangle yourself from the pump and answer the door!)), and it’s more courteous to simply let folks know you’re unavailable than to have them knocking and waiting around and unsure.

3. Dealing with the ego blow of not being interviewed after doing great work for an organization

I have a question about how to get over a massive ego blow. I recently finished a contract position for an international event. I did extremely well at my position, had praise singing from the rooftops about how fantastic I was, and worked very closely with an organizing body of the event. I thought I had developed great relationships with this organization ad when a position came to join them full-time, I wholeheartedly applied with a lot of encouragement. I also sent a courtesy email to the head of the organizing body, who I’ve known for about five years, just saying that I was excited that the position was available and had tossed my hat into the ring.

Well, weeks have gone by, I haven’t had a response, and it looks like they’re already past the interview process. I found out that the person that this position would report to is someone who personally didn’t like me very much. But I would have thought that because my background/experience matched the qualifications to a T and the talent pool where I live is extremely small, they would have at least let me interview for it! But nope — not a peep.

I can’t help but take this blow extremely personally. A lot of people on this organizing body sang my praises during my last position (I’m not making this up — I have proof) but I guess it was all fake and they really think that I’m crap. This has been a massive ego blow to me, and I’m having a hard time picking myself up. I know you would probably say “don’t ask for feedback” but in this case, since I know a lot of the team personally, should I? Also, this has shown me that it’s very unlikely that should another position become available with this organization, there seems to be no point of me ever applying?

You are taking it way too personally. If the manager for the position isn’t a fan of yours, that’s the most likely explanation — not that everyone else there thinks you’re crap or that they were lying about all their praise for you previously. If the manager doesn’t want to hire you, that’s their prerogative (and it makes sense that they wouldn’t offer you an interview if the manager already knows she doesn’t want to hire you), but it says nothing about how other people there view you. I would believe exactly what you’re seen: lots of people there like you and think you did great work, and this one person doesn’t.

Don’t make this into more than what it is.

4. My last day at my last job was awkward and I don’t want to leave things that way

Recently I was laid off very suddenly and unexpectedly. After a year at the company, some circumstances changed and my position was restructured in a way that meant it stopped existing; there were no problems with my performance or attitude and things were explained to me in a way that ultimately I understand and respect.

However, like I said, the termination was VERY sudden. I’d received my first round of business cards literally four days earlier, and since a review in the fall where I was told I was “crushing it” I was being groomed for a promotion and a raise. The vibe I got from the boss who let me go (who I did 75% of my work for) was that it had been decided in just a few days after something major changed on his end because he didn’t want to string me along unnecessarily. The termination was effective immediately, and no one else in the company knew it was happening.

As I mentioned, I completely understand and respect the decision … now. At the time I was so shocked and devastated that I’m afraid I didn’t react well. I was in love with my position and the company, and I got very teary and openly cried once I realized what was happening. My boss is not a touchy-feely guy and doesn’t react well to people having strong emotions, and excused himself right away. I eventually composed myself, but not until after I reached a point that I’m rather embarrassed about. (There were also several concerns he hadn’t known about; my immigration status complicates unemployment and insurance issues and I was very distressed by these as well.)

After cooling off for a day or two, my outlook completely turned around for several reasons, and I’m really okay with what happened. However, I don’t want to have left things with my former boss under awkward circumstances. I did consistently good work for him in roles well beyond what my position would usually call for, but he’s rather socially awkward and really didn’t take well to my reaction. I know he would never intentionally give me a bad review, but I don’t want my reaction to color anything he says/thinks about me going forward. Help?

I don’t think you really did anything wrong here — it’s common for people to react emotionally when they’re laid off or fired, and if your boss has let people go before, this was probably not the first time he’s seen someone cry when it happens. But I get why you don’t want to leave that as his last impression of you, so I’d send him an email. Tell him that you weren’t at your best on your last day because you were surprised and saddened by the news, but that you understand the decision and want to thank him for your time there. Tell him a few things that you learned from working for him, and that you’re excited to apply those to future jobs. (You could also ask if he’d be comfortable being a reference for you, if that hasn’t already been covered.) Hopefully that’ll leave him with a calmer, more recent impression of you — and really, his impressions of you during your year working there (which sound quite good) will carry a lot of weight too.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Dealing with a name change while job-searching

I have just begun divorce proceedings, and I am trying to focus on moving forward. I’m planning to move away from my very rural area as soon as I can find another job. I’m planning on changing my last name, giving up my married name, and taking my mother’s maiden name. How do I address that in a job search? Professionally, I am known as “Emmanuelle Warbleworth,” but by the time I am hired and moving, I plan to be “Emmanuelle Skeffington.” How do I send resumes and give my references the heads up that not only would I appreciate it if they can give me glowing reviews, but also, my name is changing? I don’t want to wait until it’s finalized to start job searching, especially since my spouse is keeping the house and I will have to move as soon as this is final, but I also don’t know how to address this. I’m sure I am not alone in this boat!

Are you willing to have a transitional time where you use both? One easy way to do it is to put Emmanuelle Warbleworth Skeffington on your resume for a while. But if you don’t want to do that, I’d just email your references and say something like, “I wanted to let you know that my name is changing — I’m dropping my married name and switching to Emmanuelle Skeffington. You may get reference calls for me asking about Emmanuelle Skeffington so I wanted to make sure you knew!” (It can also be smart to note the change to reference-checkers as well, by saying something like, “Jane Smith worked with me when I was using my married name, Emmanuelle Warbleworth. She knows I’ve since changed it, but I wanted to mention this to ward off any potential confusion.”)

Basically, all these options are the same thing it makes sense to do if you were changing your name upon marriage, rather than divorce. Just be matter-of-fact about it, and other people should be too.

{ 452 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, your last question about whether stating that an anonymous source returned stolen equipment, in cases where that equipment is not regulated under specific laws (e.g., charitable income, human tissue, scheduled drugs, firearms/alcohol/tobacco, government-owned equipment, etc.), usually will not create or increase your legal risk. That is, in many cases, your employer couldn’t sue you for failing to disclose the identity of the person returning the stolen equipment.

    But that doesn’t mean that your company will accept your decision. They can, of course, still fire you if they ask you to disclose the source and you refuse… which is where Alison’s advice comes in.

    You really have to know your company well, and it’s generally safer to float a hypothetical if you’re truly worried about your job. Another option would have been for the sponsor to return the equipment on the former employee’s behalf without disclosing the former employee’s identity. It wouldn’t fulfill AA’s purpose in making amends, but it would insulate you from having to make a disclosure that you feel ethically torn up about.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is one where I would want to give someone higher up a heads up when the issue came up. That way you can proceed with tail covered.

      1. Anon druggie*

        I have been in that situation as well as others I describe below, and it went fine. Receiving financial amends is a first for many people, especially when you are receiving them in behalf of an organization.

        1. Specialk9*

          I was surprised by the intensity of all of this, because floating equipment is a thing. At an old company with a 3,000 people HQ, we did a big office cleanup and tech recycling day, and we got 1,000 old laptops! 1k unaccounted for laptops for 3k people! (They had bar codes and all.) I think this was pretty extreme, granted. But equipment sometimes does go missing or is redundant or gets replaced by something shinier and kept in a closet and then the person who put it there leaves, etc. I guess I don’t expect a huge freak-out over ‘finding equipment in a closet’.

          1. CM*

            I think it depends on if it is equipment or something else. For example, artwork or historical artifacts that were stolen could have been reported to insurance or could need to be reauthenticated if it was no longer in their possession.

            1. Nita*

              Yes, that’s it. If it’s just some kind of hardware, it’s definitely a “know your company” thing. If it’s something which was reported as stolen, at the very least whoever deals with equipment inventory should know it’s turned up again. And if it’s something that creates the risk of sensitive info being compromised, like a laptop… that’s a more complicated situation, I don’t know that it would be OK to just return it without management knowing it’s been who-knows-where for some time, or who took it (and may potentially have let the data fall into wrong hands).

          2. JoJo*

            Somebody might have gotten fired over the missing equipment, so yes, it could be a big deal.

            I think the husband should have notified management immediately instead of handling it on his own. That could have serious blowback if his role in covering up a theft is discovered.

          3. OP#1*

            Hi! OP#1 here! And yes, floating equipment is definitely a thing! The scenario you pointed out is similar to my husband’s– his division has a spreadsheet with the make/model/serial number of the equipment, and where it is stored. The stolen items simply had a note on the spreadsheet that denotes that said items were “Missing as of [date].” He told me he just added “Found 02/2018; returned to [storage]” on the spreadsheet. He said he felt it was important to acknowledge that the items had been missing for a particular period. They are in the process of preparing for a new capital project and everything is upside down, so no one has been at all surprised that “lost” equipment is turning up during the chaos– that said, he also is keeping a close eye on his inventory as they move around so that nothing else gets “lost”– literally or figuratively.

      2. London Grammar*

        Yes, I agree. It is important to loop someone higher up in.

        I am also a fan of having this in writing and so I would ensure that I had sent an e-mail to the higher up (probably, in addition to having a talk with them about the matter). You need to ensure that you’re not in any way implicated in what happened and it is much better to let the higher ups know from the outset, rather than having to explain yourself should they query it later.

        It should also be the company who decides how they handle this and not the employee.

    2. Casuan*

      Another option would have been for the sponsor to return the equipment on the former employee’s behalf without disclosing the former employee’s identity. It wouldn’t fulfill AA’s purpose in making amends, but it would insulate you from having to make a disclosure that you feel ethically torn up about.

      What PCBH said, especially the above quote, to which I’ll add:
      OP1, I think your husband’s approach, in part, is working because he never knew the thief. In a way, that gives your husband plausible deniability, as oppose to *air-quote* plausible deniability *airquote*.
      There are several judgment calls to be made here. If it were me [who received the call], factors would include the company culture, the costs of the stolen items, the circumstances under which they disappeared & even the terms of why the employee left the company [Poor performance? Suspected thievery? New job? Moved?]. Probably I’d do what I could to help the ex-employee to return the items & if I thought the items could be returned without much notice, I’d do what PCBH suggested.

      There’s a caveat for your husband [& our hypothetical selves]: If your husband is asked direct questions about the re-materialised items, then he should answer the question as simply as he can. Subterfuge & lying wouldn’t be good for his employment or his career.

      Thanks for the question, OP1. I like hypotheticals like these questions because I always learn from them. :-)

      Making amends doesn’t implicitly imply that one can evade penalties from the wrong they’ve caused [to clarify, this is my general perspective; I am not speaking from an AA perspective because I’ve never had direct experience with the steps]. Whilst I can appreciate the sponsor wanting assurance for the ex-employee, I’m curious what would have happened if your husband couldn’t guarantee there’d be no legal repercussions [is it “Oh, well, we tried although the company wants to prosecute so now we just have this equipment”?].

      1. Anon druggie*

        He would likely have found some other way to give the items or the value of the items to the company. My guess is that he would have done so anonymously but making face-to-face direct amends and admitting what you did is a key part of this step. There are times when that is a bad idea, such as being unable to support your family because you are in jail, so I see how this happened the way it did.

        1. Anonymoose*

          ” making face-to-face direct amends and admitting what you did is a key part of this step”

          Yup, this is exactly what he’d have to do if the sponsor dropped off the equipment on his behalf. Although, frankly, if it’s not an official representation of the organization (like a manager who obviously represents the Co) doesn’t it mean that he still hasn’t technically made amends? The idea of ‘directly’ is what is making a kink in this for me. I would think making amends to his previous direct supervisor (or their leader if said supervisor is no longer with the Co) is what would be official amends. I mean, why apologize to some dude who wasn’t even around? If I stole from Joe, but Bob has taken his place, that means Joe still hasn’t been apologized to, no? Any AA/NA members want to chime in…?

          (–dad was AA)

      2. SophieK*

        I do have experience with NA and AA and the steps. I used to work at an answering service that had these accounts, so I used to find meeting times and sponsors for people.

        And my current landlord, who rent a portion of his house from, is in active recovery.

        Yes, making amends means that you are not free from consequences. It also means that you are not to make amends if it would do more harm than good. The person you are trying to make amends to does not have to accept the amends.

        In this case the sponsor and husband enabled the bad behavior. The husband was put at risk. The person in recovery needed to pick up the phone his own dang self and CONFESS. Failing that, there was no reason on earth he couldn’t have mailed the stolen item back to the company anonymously.

        The person in recovery AND the sponsor are still displaying sneaky, shady, addict behavior. OP and husband should be pissed and sponsor needs to not be a sponsor. He can be reported to the local AA chapter.

        Harsh? You betcha. That is what recovery is supposed to be about.

        1. neeko*

          Though I wouldn’t have done it this way, the person doesn’t HAVE to confess. There isn’t a real right or wrong way to do this step. I really doubt that the local AA chapter would do anything punitive with this information as I’m fairly sure that would be against the traditions.

        2. Anonymoose*

          I thought that too about sponsor. Maybe the sponsor is new-ish to the role? Although I can’t fault him for caring so much about sponsee’s freedom from jail/prosecution. :)

          1. neeko*

            No sponsor is perfect. They are just alcoholic/addict in recovery trying to help another one. Sponsors have their own sponsors and trusted friends that they ideally also run things by.

        3. Petunia Pig*

          I agree! Sneakily conniving to have the loot magically show up in inventory doesn’t exactly fulfill the spirit of the 8th step, so why bother? Well at least the OPs better half was able to feel good about himself (although how this works since he’s not the one who was wronged I don’t understand).

    3. Anon druggie*

      After 26 years in sobriety, I can tell you every situation is different. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a sponsor coming forward first (and I have heard literally hundreds if not thousands of stories about amends), but I like the solution.

      My advice is to wait and see what the scenario is before trying to figure it out. The person will likely come to you and admit what happened, then ask how they can set it right.

      I have made amends by handing over cash, shopping at businesses I stole from as a loyal customer, and making donations to nonprofits when those options weren’t available (the store from which I had shoplifted closed). People who are serious about their recovery will go to great lengths to make their amends.

      1. Mookie*

        People who are serious about their recovery will go to great lengths to make their amends.

        I know we’re alluding to a specific process associated with specific organizations operating on a shared philosophy here, but just a heads-up from another person practicing sobriety: not every successful and whole-hearted recovery involves a performance of amends-making.

        If this is something, LW, you’d like to explore with your current employer, it’d be useful to hash out the precise circumstances under which you’d accept the return of stolen property. I’d hope whatever policy you come up with will not limit the extension of this generosity only to people battling or having battled substance addiction.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, that struck me as a little… odd. I am not in AA, but I have been on the receiving end of “amends” and know many folks in recovery, and my understanding is that the sponsor’s role is a counselor to the sponsored – not to be a mediator or to talk to other people as if they were negotiating legal immunity.

        Which is a short way of saying that I have to wonder if the sponsor was actually the employee or a friend of his, and how much this was an addict sincerely making amends vs a thief wanting to ease out of potential future consequences.

        (However, anon, congrats! That’s awesome!)

        1. Katniss*

          Hey, I’ve got around the same amount of time (I think it’s probably 2 years and 6 months right now, I’d have to check my sobriety app to be sure). Congrats!

    4. SpaceNovice*

      OP#1 – It really does depend on the situation, but in general, I always air on what is best for society. Punishment is supposed to be to teach a lesson, create consequences, and/or protect society. Giving someone who is changing their ways an arrest record (or even a felony) that limits future growth/wages and destroying their renewed faith in humanity doesn’t help society. (It also costs society money, both in lost wages and in the legal fees or providing for them while in jail.) The “punishment” is taking a good hard look at themselves and atoning; that isn’t easy. Completely rewriting yourself to be a better person after hitting such a rock bottom is the absolute most difficult thing a person can do.

      If the ex-employee succeeds, the ex-employee can go on to help others. And those others can help others. And so forth and so on. The ex-employee, without an arrest record, and knowing that your husband was able to forgive, will go on to better society. The butterfly effect in practice.

      As opposed to arresting the former employee and potentially causing jail time. It’d set back their recovery–especially since they would be broken away from the AA support network that’s helped them so much and destroyed their newish faith in humanity. Reacting punitively could actually cause a life or death situation for the ex-employee, quite literally.

      Mind you, if I had trusted my higher up enough (I actually do in my current place of work), I would have gone to them and made them part of this process to give myself cover. Or if the item was something in particular that is more than just normal equipment. Sometimes regulations tie your hands. But even in those cases, I would make effort to make sure the ex-employee’s life wasn’t destroyed as a result and that their faith in humanity was preserved. Someone who’s bettering themselves as much as the ex-employee isn’t a threat to society and has already self-punished themselves enough. This is just some equipment from a company, not a crime where other people need the ex-employee to see justice in order to heal. (Situations like that are far more complicated.)

      When a person fully understands the second chance they’re getting, it’s pretty amazing what they can do with it. I’d be willing to be fired to preserve that second chance. Not everyone would be, and that’s understandable: not everyone is in a position where they can be so forgiving or risk their job. In this case, where the stakes sound like they were so low, I can definitely say your husband did the right thing. He could have regretted turning them in for the rest of his life, and if someone compassionate destroys the life of another, even if it was warranted, they usually hurt, or even destroy, themselves.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        That being said, there’s a huge difference between someone just saying sorry and someone who’s trying to rework themselves into a better person with a large amount of effort. The latter person is actually sincere.

        (Also I like the idea of looping in the company if the company can be trusted so that everything is covered legally but no prosecution happens.)

      2. CM*

        But it might be in the husbands best interest to just not take the equipment back on his own. Loop in the higher ups or just say sorry I can’t guarantee that there will be no legal repercussions because that is not a decision that I have the power to make and then the former employee can decide whether to risk it or not. I don’t think anyone is advocating for the husband to turn in the former employee as a thief. I wouldn’t want them to be prosecuted, but I wouldn’t be willing to lie to cover up what they did either.

        1. JoJo*

          I wouldn’t cover up for the thief either. If management finds out about this, they could very well terminate the husband’s employment for not reporting a theft and/or covering up the theft. Why risk your job because of someone else’s bad behavior?

        2. SpaceNovice*

          That is true. Someone else did have the suggestion of looping in the higher ups and also lawyers to make sure all the legal bases were covered while not actually prosecuting.

          You’re right.

      3. OP#1*

        Hi SpaceNovice! My husband has more latitude than I do; there is a fairly short reporting line above him, so he’s empowered to make a lot of unilateral decisions. I’m in a much more hierarchical organization, and at a lower level, so I don’t think I’d be able to act in a vacuum the way he could in this scenario. I particularly agree with your last paragraph and think that’s why my husband did what he did– he felt that the stakes were relatively low for him, but much higher for the ex-employee, so he followed his conscience. While his conscience is one of the things I love most about him, I think applying “know your company” is valid, and I think I would need to take a different, more CYA, approach in my own office.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          How much latitude someone has definitely does change what you can do. Anon 12 had a good suggestion of how to loop in the right people while avoiding prosecuting the former employee. There are definitely CYA ways to do this while minimizing risk to the ex-employee’s future. It just sucks that there’s no way you can 100% know you can stop things from going south, auuugh.

          Yup, that’s exactly why he did it. Good people don’t just think about how things will affect them but how they will affect others. Even if that other person wronged them or their company in the past.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Maybe some photos of blue-footed boobies and tits. You know, for the bird lovers in the office.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I’d probably get that joke.

          I’d personally be tempted to put “milking – do not disturb”. But the nursing moms at my job tend to refer to the nursing/pumping room as the milking room.

          As an aside – the sound of a breast pump in a shared office is kind of disturbing, until you realize what’s making that noise.

          1. Anancy*

            My friend used to call me to chat during her pumping breaks, and she was in a hospital, using an industrial pump, and it was so disconcerting to hear the background noise! (And I’d pumped for the year before that so you’d think it would sound normal!)

            And I’d be tempted to put up a picture of a cow. I agree, a sign or note that says unavailable, please email or wait 20 minutes makes the most sense.

            1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

              Back when I was pumping my son (now in HS), I used to shut myself in an empty office and put a Do Not Disturb sign. One of our higher-ups who had a crappy sense of humor knew exactly what I was doing in the office, and thought it would be funny to “moo” at the door if no one else was in the hallway.

            2. Specialk9*

              Breastfeeding is normal, not remotely something to be hidden or stigmatized, and thankfully, increasingly protected. But pumping is vulnerable and unpleasant in ways that breastfeeding isn’t. I hope that OP has a lock or at least a door wedge, and is able to find a way to put aside that anxiety and it sounds like misplaced guilt for mildly inconveniencing a few people.

              At the end of the day, your coworkers are 100% fine. They are not knocking, trying the door, flying into a total panic at the horrors of a locked door, and then careening through the office, bouncing off of walls and flipping over potted plants before crashing through the window and tearing through 4 awnings before landing in a dumpster. No, they are knocking, getting a locked door, going ‘huh that’s odd’, then wandering off thinking about lunch or TPS reports.

              1. OP#2*

                Thank you for the laugh I got as I imagined some of my senior colleagues careening around the office this way, and for the perspective that gave me on my misplaced guilt!

            3. Anonygrouse*

              My former grandboss used a sign that was just a picture of a cow! We worked at a place with some major gender issues so I think she wanted to be a bit in-your-face about it. She was awesome.

            4. Beancounter in Texas*

              Ananey – When I pumped, that’s exactly what I had up – a picture of a cow getting milked. Of course, in my office culture, that was perfectly acceptable and nobody dared disturb me when that sign was up.

        2. Nita*

          OMG! That’s horrible and hilarious at the same time. Seriously though, the Do Not Disturb signs work fine around here. People knew better than to even try knocking if they saw one. That’s what email and chat are for.

        3. Reba*

          Always here for bird jokes!

          This is of course, a very know-your-office thing, but I could definitely see myself posting an understated “Do not disturb” with a tasteful line drawing of a blue footed booby.

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I used a coworker’s office to pump last semester (my role does not permit an office) and I had a sign I hung on her door that simply said “room in use” and there was a cartoon picture of a cow underneath. Most of our adult students didn’t get it, but the ones who did found it hysterical, as did my coworker and I. YMMV though. I totally understand why not everyone would be ok with this but my baby exclusively pump-fed so I felt like a milk cow (still do, still pumping, just less frequently so no longer doing so at work).

    1. Just a Thought*

      I just yell in pumping through my locked door when people knock. But I work in Public Health so pretty much everyone understands/is super supportive of pumping st work :)

      1. the_scientist*

        One of the many things I love about the Public Health environment is the relative lack of pretension when it comes to stuff like this. I’m working on a colorectal cancer-related project at the moment, so I spend a LOT of my workday talking about poop!

    2. Murphy*

      Even better: HUMAN MILK

      (I know that’s what it is, but every time I see that written somewhere, it just sounds so creepy!)

      1. PolarBearGirl*

        I used a sign that said “On a conference call.” Most people finally tumble to the fact that it means “I’m pumping – go the F away.” But, you could always add “Email me if it’s urgent” or “Do NOT disturb” or something else for your particular office.” Good luck!

        1. Kate*

          Yep, that’s exactly what I did. My office had an open door culture, but it was normal for people to stick post-its on their door saying “on a conference call– email me.” I’m sure everybody figured it out pretty quickly, but we never had to talk about it. I never had anyone so much as knock while I was pumping.

      2. BetsyTacy*

        People will figure out your ‘code’. I had a sign that said ‘unavailable’ and just blocked out the time on my calendar.

        Verbally, I would say, ‘Sorry, I’m going to be unavailable at that time.’ My staff used to refer to it as ‘closed door’. It wasn’t an issue at all – people just needed to figure out that I was OCCUPIED but available via email. Took about 2 weeks.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          Agreed. Also, if this place is full of professionals hopefully they can use the context clues of, “unavailable” on the door, plus a mom just back from maternity leave, plus pumping equipment to figure out what’s going on. It’s fine OP. Don’t overthink it. Congrats!

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I’ve posted here before that some people are just clueless. At my old job, at an open door firm, a mom back from maternity leave used to close her door and blinds a couple of times per day. Let’s call her Alice. Bob was a coworker she was friends with. The offices were in a U shape around the building with a cube farm in the middle. I was talking to some people in the cube farm across from Alice’s office (closed door, blinds closed.) Bob wanders up and say “I wonder what Alice has been doing in there. Her door and blinds have been closed a lot lately. So weird.” The (female) staff just stared at him, mouths open and said uh, she’s back from maternity leave….. He still didn’t get it. “Oh, does she need a nap or something?” Finally, one of them said Bob, she’s pumping breast milk. He turned BRIGHT red and said, oh, and walked away embarrassed. It was priceless.

            1. GG Two shoes*

              ha! I mean, that’s embarrassing for him, but pumping shouldn’t be embarrassing at all. Hopefully a tactful note that normalizes it will help make that happen.

            2. agmat*

              I got a laugh out of this because I imagine Bob to be my FIL, whose name is Bob and very well might be that clueless (I like him very much, but the thoughts that come out of his mouth sometimes…)

            3. Science!*

              Well I’m sure she probably would mind a nap as well! I wish I had had protected napping time after returning from maternity leave as well.

              1. CMart*

                I know I definitely had days where I used my pumping time to multitask with a catnap. Not the most comfy 15 minute snoozes in the world, but you take what you can get.

        2. HumbleOnion*

          It seems like it’s not unlike the code you & your roommate (general you) came up with in college for when you were having sex with your significant other.

      3. Van Wilder*

        I’m a pumping mom. When I first came back I said I had to go pump and my male coworker (friend) told me it was too personal and I needed a code word for it. For about a week I said I was going to a meeting. But when I thought about it, I thought it was important to be open about it and try to normalize it in our office. Especially as a manager, I think it’s important for the younger women to see that our office can be supportive of pumping and working. So now I don’t broadcast it but if someone needs to know I’m stepping out I’ll just tell them matter of factly.

        1. Specialk9*

          Good for you. Yeah, F him and F that. Breastfeeding is normal and good, and it’s sexist to shove male discomfort with their own sexualization of routine biology onto a new mom, or really any woman. Hey guy, you mention going to the bathroom, I don’t give you a hard time about your biology even though your equipment can be used for both excretion and sex. Same thing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Hahahahahahahaha I’m imagining this conversation.

            “Be back in a bit; I have to go pump.”

            “That’s too personal. Please use a code word.” Later: “Excuse me, on my way to the bathroom.”

            “That’s too personal, Fergus; please use a code word.”

        2. Kat*

          I’m right there with you. I refuse to censor that i’m pumping. I don’t hide my milk or my pump, I don’t use euphemisms (though we do call the pumping room funny irreverent names which is OK by me!) . It’s normal and I want to do my part to normalize pumping to make it easier for the moms who come after me. I’m the first pumping mom they’ve ever had at my office (now we have another) so it’s extra important, I think.

      4. motherofdragons*

        I’m also a pumping mom. My office is a weird mix of co-workers I’m close with and can joke with, and colleagues who I don’t know super well. Plus, we often have visitors. So I avoid any kind of cow or milk-related sign, and just keep my “Please do not disturb” sign up when I am pumping. No issues so far!

      5. CW*

        I used a sign that said something like “Please call or email if you need me when my door is closed.”

        My door didn’t lock, but I did have a blind to pull down to cover the glass door (the only people with blinds are those who have asked for them for this specific reason) and I knew that my 20-something male colleagues wouldn’t really understand not to enter without the sign to deter them.

    3. Anoning for This*

      When I came back to work after having my baby, my office had changed locations and the new building is all glass with doors that can’t accommodate a lock in any way. So while I had my own office, it was a fishbowl. While the office management struggled to figure out how to combine the all-glass aesthetics and my not wanting my coworkers to see me topless, I just brought in a curtain and hung it up myself to cover the glass. As soon as I was done one of my (oldest, male-est) coworkers came over and said “Hey! Looks like you made yourself a lactation room. Well done!”

      So for me, there hasn’t been any hiding the fact of what I’m doing – closing my curtain is basically broadcasting to the world “HI HERE I AM IT IS PUMPING TIME.” There have also been times when I’ve been in all day meetings and have needed to make a point of asking for a 20 minute pump break, or saying I couldn’t have a meeting during lunch because I needed that for pumping time. I know this is a “know your office” thing, but I’ve just embraced it and people have been surprisingly cool. If they were awkward when I started (and some were) they took the cue from me that it was just not a big deal and they should feel free to treat it as not a big deal. I’m still pumping now and my baby is a year old, and I don’t think I could have made it this long if I was trying to “hide” all the time.

      So, I guess in short, put up a sign. Tell a few select folks and they’ll probably make sure the right people know at the right time. But don’t feel like you have to be all delicate about people’s sensibilities. Treat it like its not a big deal, because it shouldn’t be.

      1. Arjay*

        When we moved into our new office and our first mom returned form maternity leave, there was quite an issue around locating the key to the pump room for her. Maintenance was being very dense about why we needed access. It turns out that the door marked “pump room” housed the mechanical equipment for the fountain in our lobby. The “lactation room” didn’t have a keyed door and was tucked away on the first floor where no one had ever noticed it since no one had ever needed it before.

    4. LadyL*

      The moms at my open-door office used a cute little door hanger that read “Pumping In Progress,” which was quite useful. We knew better than to interrupt something important, and we knew if something came up that person might be busy for a bit so we needed to figure it out without them.

      1. Anon.*

        We use a sign that has pictures of several types of pumps on it (shoes, air mattress pumps, bike tire pumps, etc). It gets the point across.

    5. J. F.*

      When I worked at Giant Tech Company, I had a sign with a picture of a cow, which said “Please come back in 15 minutes, call X9999, or email me (email@gianttech).” Worked like a charm!

  2. Observer*

    #2, Please DO put a sign on your door. Allison is right, you don’t need anything major, but just something that lets people know that you’re not available just now. It won’t be a bad thing if the culture changes a bit. The idea that you feel like you have to stop pumping and untangle yourself to answer the door is not a good sign. Nor is the fact that people actually try to open the door multiple times.

    I’m not advocating for a culture where no one ever goes to someone else’s office without a meeting set up. But people need to be able to be uninterrupted on occasion. And it’s not like it’s a deep dark secret that you pump.

    1. Cat*

      My office has a similar culture and our doors don’t lock, so it was more pressing for me that I find some way to let people know that they should not come in while I was pumping, and so I pretty quickly went over to a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign. I also had a “please see my assistant” note on it for anyone with an urgent inquiry, and my assistant knew that I could answer emails while pumping and so could divert people to that line of communication (don’t know if OP#2 has the option of suggesting people contact someone else if it’s an emergency, but it doesn’t sound from the letter as if people are necessarily coming to see her about urgent things).

      The sign worked and no-one ever asked me about it.

      1. Susan K*

        That’s a good idea to designate some alternate means of communication. If OP #2 doesn’t have an assistant, she could just add “Available by e-mail” to the sign. I was also thinking maybe she could put a time on the sign, e.g., “Please do not disturb; available after 10:00,” so people aren’t left wondering when they’ll be able to talk to her, or having to keep checking to see if the sign is still up or the door is still locked. I’m not sure how feasible that is, though (does pumping take a fairly predictable amount of time, or is it the type of thing that’s done when it’s done?).

        1. KWu*

          People can choose to pump either for a specific amount of time or until they’ve collected a certain amount, which might vary depending on when they last nursed or pumped, how relaxed they are, etc. Usually there isn’t a huge variation in the amount of time needed for whatever your method is, though, you would probably know to within the closest half hour mark.

        2. Kheldarson*

          “does pumping take a fairly predictable amount of time, or is it the type of thing that’s done when it’s done?”

          Once you’re used to it, it can take a predictable amount of time. When I was pumping, I always pumped on my lunch break. I was able to clock out, get to the room I could use, set up, pump and eat all in the half hour I got.

          1. Anonymous Ampersand*

            Yeah but I bet for quite a lot of people if you hear a knock on the door and someone tries to come in, that might interrupt your, err, flow.

            1. Frank Doyle*

              Really? Do you have to have to concentrate in order to get the milk to flow? I thought it was purely a mechanical process.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                No, you don’t have to concentrate (or at least I didn’t). But, like many bodily functions, it can come to a screeching halt if you’re startled.

              2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                It really depends on the woman. Some women can do whatever they want while pumping but others need to actively think about their baby (including maybe looking at photos or even listening to recordings of baby cooing or crying) to get maximum output. I’m a pumping mom, and have found I’m somewhere in between – I can watch YouTube videos or read blogs or answer straightforward work emails, but I can’t do anything that takes huge concentration or might be stressful.

                1. SpaceySteph*

                  Pumping/working mom here and I actually find that I make the most milk when really engrossed in work. If I’m thinking about pumping I worry about how much I’m making and the stress shuts things off.

                  I also occasionally (less than once a week) take my pump break in a single-stall bathroom* and it definitely throws me when someone tries to come it. The door is self-closing so its closed even when empty. And I lock it but it still startles me. I might try putting a sign next time and see if it helps.

                  *Yes they do provide a pumping room but its a bit of a hike and on certain days I don’t have as much time as I’d like so I choose to use the closer bathroom in order to maximize pumping time.

              3. Anonymous Ampersand*

                It’s hormonal. So if you get a sudden adrenaline surge because someone just tried to open your locked door, that can dry up the milk. Not so much if you’re actually feeding a baby though.

              4. Specialk9*

                It can be frustratingly psychological. Your milk letdown is based on a number of cues of safety and connection – looking at your baby’s face, baby smell, relaxing. I had to listen to guided meditation, look at pictures of my baby, and work hard at relaxing, or I’d pump and just have a dribble after 20 minutes. Other people could just hook up and continue to do work email and such, and their cups would overfloweth.

                I have never in my life ugly sobbed so many times as I did when breastfeeding and trying to pump. It can be incredibly hard for some, and there is so much pressure (if you don’t BF your kid will be fat, stupid, and criminal! Pfffffft). But it can also change for the same woman – my friend BFed fine for 4 kids, but her 5th was incredibly hard, and teaching women how to BF is her job!

                1. Bacon pancakes*

                  I am incredibly lucky to live close enough to work that it made more sense for me to just go feed my baby. But all the ugly crying while I was on maternity leave, pumping to “build up the stash” before going back to work and… just nothing. Nothing. And convinced that my baby would be the first in history to starve their child by being a working mom.

                2. NYC Weez*

                  I went back to work the Thursday before 9/11. For those first few days I pumped a full amount for my son—roughly 32oz a day IIRC. After 9/11 and the following anthrax scare (which I worked at a NYC media company at the time), I was so anxious and upset, i was only able to pump 8oz a day. We had to supplement because I no longer was able to produce enough milk.

      2. KHB*

        I had a colleague in a similar situation a while back, and she opted for a more strongly worded sign (something like “Do not disturb under any circumstances”) to clue people in that this is more serious than the usual situation of someone closing their door to take a phone call or work on something uninterrupted. I think it worked for her.

        1. Caro in the UK*

          I like this too. Unfortunately I know too many people who would take a simpler “Do Not Disturb” as a suggestion, rather than something non-negotiable. But whether this is necessary depends on the office culture.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            Story time number 2. At the same firm I mentioned above, I got in a pickle where I needed a place for my dog for a day. My rented condo had workers in it and the landlord required the dog to be out for that day. We had just moved to the state and didn’t have a local required vaccination yet (kennel cough) so she couldn’t go to daycare. My options were to take the day off and spend it driving around town with her, or keep her in my office with the door shut for just one day. I talked to my boss and he said for one day, it was totally fine for her to hang out in my office with the door shut.

            She was a large rottie/shepherd mix, usually friendly but timid too. I put a sign on my door that said “DOG IN OFFICE, DO NOT OPEN DOOR WITHOUT CALLING FIRST.” I didn’t want them knocking because she might bark. I also wanted a hand on her collar if the door opened so she wouldn’t bolt.

            Another senior person, we will call this one Jerk, was pushy, arrogant and well, a Jerk. Jerk decided he wanted to talk to me about something. He came down and went straight for my door, not even stopping to read the sign. It’s rare to have doors closed there and it usually means really, do not disturb. My assistant sat out front and yelled to him “don’t open her door!” He totally ignored her and just came barging in. Did I mention he’s afraid of dogs?

            My dog jumped up from under my desk and ran at him barking. We had never had a dog in the office the whole time he had worked there so it was the last thing he’d ever expect. He might have needed to change his underwear. I hope he thought twice about ignoring shut doors, signs and assistants again. If he had just bothered to READ it, he would have known what would happen.

    2. LouiseM*

      +1. I’m wondering what it is about this company that people just barge into closed offices regularly. People are knocking, getting no response, trying the door, finding it locked and then…trying the door again? Oof.

      This may not be the case at your office, OP, but the last place I worked at like that had some serious workaholic, no-boundaries vibes. Before long I started seeing the doors as a metaphor. Sometimes people need their doors closed, literally or figuratively. Anyone who has seen ‘Mad Men’ has an idea of what was going on behind the aforementioned closed doors, and it wasn’t pretty. Best of luck to you, OP!

      1. Sam.*

        My colleagues are good about respecting a closed door, because the expectation is that we have them open unless we’re truly unavailable. However, we work with college students, who are significantly less good at grasping that closed door = unavailable. I’ve literally watched students knock on colleagues’ doors *multiple times* and after receiving no answer, try to open it themselves, which I find truly baffling. (I do jump in and politely say, “If she didn’t answer the door, she’s either not there or unavailable. Is she expecting you?” and generally get abashed responses.)

      2. LQ*

        We have several office doors that get stuck so you often have to do the pull back and the turn and push forward weirdness, so I could see if that was the case. (Though I always knock and wait for a response (and have nearly always emailed first and they expect me)) I have definately walked away from a closed door that I thought someone said come in and tried it and it was like, it was locked, crap they must have said they were busy and I misheard and then they pop their head out a few seconds later waving me back in, because I didn’t have the right push pull turn twist order.

      3. Susan K*

        I don’t see a huge problem with a culture where people enter coworkers’ offices after a quick knock. Just having an office with a door is more privacy than many people get. Where I work, most people have cubicles, so if you go to someone’s desk, you knock on the cubicle wall just to get their attention, but it’s already “open” (since it has no door), so that’s basically the same thing. I don’t even have a cubicle, and nobody knocks on the door to the room before entering, so even at times when I’m the only one there, anyone could just barge in without knocking at any time. Sure, in some places, there could be a reason to need privacy when your office door is closed (e.g., if you’re meeting with clients or discussing confidential information on the phone), but I would hope that’s not the case here, since it’s common practice not to consider a closed door to indicate a need for privacy.

        Of course OP #2 is entitled to privacy while she pumps, but since most people don’t have that need, they’re just not going to realize that this is a special circumstance unless she tells them or puts a note on the door.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s true that other people are afforded less privacy, but I’m not following why that means people with closed doors shouldn’t have any?

          1. Susan K*

            I’m not saying that they *shouldn’t* have any privacy, just that the fact that they don’t doesn’t necessarily indicate a workaholic, no-boundaries culture. In some offices, people normally work with their doors open and only close their doors if there’s a need for privacy, so a closed door is basically its own “do not disturb” sign. It looks like in OP #2’s office, people normally work with their doors closed (maybe just to reduce noise), so a closed door doesn’t usually come with an expectation of privacy. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with either philosophy, because privacy isn’t necessary or even possible in every job, except in special circumstances such as this one.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t buy the idea that just because a lot of people work in open cubicles it’s ok to repeatedly try a locked door. You can discuss all you want whether the open cubicles are a good thing or not, but that is totally not relevant. The fact is that a open cubicle is already, as you noted. A locked door, on the other hand IS LOCKED. I don’t care WHERE you work, that means THE DOOR IS LOCKED AND YOU ARE NOT WELCOME. It’s not complicated.

          The only reasons why someone would not get that are related to respect and boundaries, not whether some people don’t get the privacy they should have.

      4. mje*

        Ugh, this is a thing! I have an office with a door that locks, and pretty much the only time I close it is if I am in a sensitive meeting or pumping or not in the office. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been pumping and someone has knocked on the door, then tried to open it, waited, then knocked again, and tried to open it again! My strategy has been to ignore and sit in silence, but it inevitably startles me which interrupts my pumping session and then makes it longer. Clearly I never found a better solution, but OP #2, I’m with you in solidarity on this one!

      5. LawLady*

        My office is one where you knock, wait 5 seconds, and enter. It’s because often people are on conference calls on speakerphone. I still want my secretary or another lawyer to be able to come in and hand me a document or sit and wait a moment for me to get off the call.

        But if someone has a post-it saying “do not disturb”, that gets respected. (I know one pumping mother who does this, but I also know a litigator who needs uninterrupted time for brief-writing.)

      6. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ugh, I had my office door closed once, with a sign explaining that I was working on an urgent deadline, and my Annoying Coworker knocked, opened the door, and asked brightly, “So! What are you working on!??” A DEADLINE!! like the sign says! smh

      7. Thegs*

        I work IT, and if we need to install something at someone’s desk that’s pretty much my MO. Knock, try the door if no response, and then knock again while saying something. Then I go get the key to let myself in. I haven’t intruded on anyone yet, but I hope I would get a “Busy!” if someone was in the room.

    3. Tuesday Next*

      OP I think it’s absolutely fine for you to put a sign on your door. Perhaps include a time frame so that people know when to come back. “Please do not disturb. Available at 10:30am”.

      You have the right to uninterrupted time whether it’s to pump, eat your lunch or simply get some work done without distractions.

      1. Beth*

        This is exactly what my coworker does. As an added bonus, she uses the same sign when pumping or on a conference call so it gives her some amount of privacy while also being very clear that you can’t pop in for that period of time.

    4. KWu*

      I agree wholeheartedly that it’s not so bad for the office culture to adjust a little bit and allow for some more privacy. I assume that the people continuing to try to open a locked door might think that handle for jammed or there’s some other malfunction, but still, if there were many more women pumping, in a good workplace, they should all be supported.

      If you really, really don’t want to go the signage route though… You might look into getting an adapter for your pump to use the freemie cups. They tuck into your bra so taking the pump tubes off should be faster than needing to take so the flanges off. You probably wouldn’t want to host a meeting, but you could maybe answer the door long enough to redirect the person and then go back to pumping more easily.

      I’ll say again that you really shouldn’t have to pretend like you’re exactly the same co-worker you are when you’re not needing to pump… But if you can’t or don’t want to let go of that goal, there might be some technical solutions to make the whole thing a little easier for you.

      1. Gyratory Circus*

        In addition to the sign I’d also get a plastic door stop and shove it under the door so it can’t be opened. I pumped for a year after my daughter was born and used a conference room in my department twice a day to pump; even with the sign people tried to open the door on a regular basis (thankfully it had a lock). You’d be surprised at the number of people who think that you won’t mind being disturbed for “just a second”.

      2. Bacon pancakes*

        Freemies supposedly are so good you could pump on the train/subway without anyone knowing!

    5. OP#2*

      I appreciate all the votes in favor of the “please do not disturb” sign — since I haven’t seen others in my office post similar signs in the past, my concern was (1) it would effectively scream “Hear that muffled sh-sh noise? That is definitely my breast pump whirring, beware!” and (2) that it might come across as high maintenance/in your face.

      My company (my industry, really) does tend to attract the workaholic type, but I know the interruptions aren’t intended to be rude or disrespect boundaries — its a big (300+ person) office of a large international company, so change comes slowly and folks don’t always think through – or even know – the reasons they shouldn’t follow the normal door-opening routine with particular people. (Which is probably good — its nice to know my coworkers aren’t spending time thinking about my boobs!)

      1. Bacon pancakes*

        I think you have a lot of freedom with the sign language too! I would avoid putting a time frame, I struggled to pump “enough” in 10-15 min so I would stay hooked up until I felt “done”. But if you are worried about someone needing you, adding on there that you are unavailable in person but available via messanger or email would help. Also, scheduling out blocks of your day on Outlook calendar to say “unavailable in person or on phone, please email or message” could stop people from walking over to see if you are in. I am the kind of person who will see if someone is green on skype before I call them (and in this case, you probably DON’T want them to call you!!).

      2. Mockingjay*

        If your door doesn’t lock, could you get a small rubber wedge doorstop in addition to the “please do not disturb” sign? In case there is someone who ignores that boundary, it would give you a moment to pull yourself together or to call out that you are busy and will get with them shortly.

        1. Lily Evans*

          I was also going to suggest a doorstop. If you wedge it in tightly it will make it difficult to open the door. Your office probably even has them floating around, but if they don’t rubber doorstops are usually under $5.

      3. Anne of Green Gables*

        If your office is that large, my suggestion might not help you, but I’ll add it just in case. When I returned from maternity leave, everyone in my location knew I was pumping. It was not a one-on-one conversation; I don’t remember if it was addressed in an email or if my boss told everyone before I came back. In our case, it was partly so people would know why I went into my boss’s office by myself and closed the door several times a day and partly because this was a public library so we needed to have staff at our service desks, and I was obviously not available to staff the desk during those times.

        I can understand why you would not want to tell all 300 people, but if there is a smaller number of people most likely to need you, perhaps an email? You wouldn’t need to go into detail, just that your door is closed for a reason (which you could name or not, I suppose). I know some folks would not be comfortable with this, but I was. Honestly, I felt better knowing that people knew I wasn’t slacking off at work, and by telling them what was going on, I didn’t have to worry about that.

        For what it’s worth, we had 4 libraries in that system and most staff at all locations knew because I occasionally traveled to the other branches for meetings or to cover and would need a place to pump while I was there. I didn’t receive any negative feedback from anyone.

      4. Reba*

        I know you feel it’s out of step, but you’re the only one, or one of few people, pumping, right? You do have a unique need right now.

        This might also be a situation where you can set a tone of being matter of fact and straightforward about the issue of pumping–not ashamed or apologetic–and most people will follow along and act like adults about it. Not everyone will be able to handle it, I guess, but I think you *know* you have every right to do this, and you can! Good luck!

      5. Specialk9*

        OP #2, I encourage you to stop taking on other people’s stuff onto your shoulders, and just focus on your stuff. You have a new baby and are working and that’s enough to juggle already! It seems like you’re worried about making people feel uncomfortable. That’s just not on you. I encourage you to adopt a brisk matter-of-fact approach (well of course I’m pumping, and of course you support me and are mature enough of an adult to handle this fact).

        So let’s look at some ways to reframe the gibbering gibbons in your head – guilt, not wanting to intrude, fear that breasts are too sexual for work – and see what works for you.

        Any place that is at all dedicated to not discriminating against women in the workplace have to be able to handle the fact that many women have children. (And the good ones take care of dads and adoptive parents too.) Handle and facilitate, in order not to be sexist and discriminatory. It’s the lowest bar.

        Or how about: In some ways, trying to hide a really routine part of life from your coworkers is, well, overstepping your role and insulting their professionalism. They are adults, they can handle it.

        Or how about the angry feminist realization: it stinking sucks that men made the rules that a bodily feature with the sole function of feeding babies was sexually arousing to them, and so therefore women may not conduct a natural parenting bonding and feeding ritual in peace. Women have had to huddle in tiny closets and bathrooms, or give it up entirely in order to be modest enough for the men who weren’t involved. Feel free to get mad that something so life affirming and life giving has been wrenched away from women. Men want to open our bodies and insert their desires into something that has nothing to do with them. (This whole idea slowly filtered to me over months – you may not be there, may never be there, but once it occurred to me, it was hard not to get pissed when men acted like we were the gross ones for being mothers.)

        1. Specialk9*

          /men want to own our bodies (though the current phrasing has a certain truth too, it was more accidentally graphic than I intended)

      6. Observer*

        I hear that. But, the reality is that pumping is not the only reason why people should not keep trying to open the door. So, getting people used to the idea that sometimes you just can’t come in is a good on to have.

    6. Mike C.*

      I just also want to point out that at work, the vast majority of things can actually wait. No, you don’t actually have a dire need to see someone this very instant, that nothing will change between now and when you’re done pumping. We can place so much urgency on things that sometimes managers will ban headphones because they don’t want to wait the extra few seconds for someone to take them off before being responsive to a request.

      Set the expectation that you’re working with adults and that as adults, they know how to wait their turn.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, that’s an alarming conclusion to draw!

    When things like this happen, I think it can be helpful to think of the most benign and least offensive reasons for why it could happen, and then go down the list of other possibilities. For example, could it be that the hiring manager didn’t click with you and passed? It sounds pretty likely from your description. Could there be a secret conspiracy to lie to you to puff up your ego for the purpose of popping it like a cartoon villain popping a balloon? It’s possible, but not very likely.

    And you shouldn’t preclude yourself from applying for positions with someone who you worked with who liked you more. Honestly, if you’d been hired under someone who didn’t like you, you probably would not have enjoyed the position and may not have been able to succeed at the same level that you did while on contract.

    I’m so sympathetic—feeling like you didn’t even make it interview really sucks. But don’t enter the “the world is a hateful place full of lying fakers” death spiral, yet.

    1. JamieS*

      For the record I enjoyed your post a lot more when I visualized it in response to #2. Anyway, I agree. It sounds like OP is focused on the ego blow of not being interviewed so I think it’d be helpful for OP to shift their thinking from “I didn’t get the interview and therefore must suck” to “Would I have wanted to work for someone who dislikes me?” and/or to “My time wasn’t wasted being interviewed for a job I wasn’t going to get.”

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Yes to time wasting! The “they would have at least let me interview for it” is misguided. “Courtesy” interviews are usually a waste of time for both parties. Getting an interview isn’t the goal (especially when the hiring parties know you, and already have an idea about your work), getting hired is. If getting hired is off the table (for any reason, including that the manager doesn’t like you) then an interview isn’t useful.

        1. Miss Betty*

          I think that’s generally true but not always. I’m currently unemployed after 10 years of employment with one company and I know a couple interviews I’ve had were merely courtesy interviews. I appreciated them, though, because they were good practice for me and helped me to see first-hand areas I need to work on while preparing for other interviews. If I were employed, I might feel differently, but since I’m not, I’ve appreciated every chance to interview that I’ve had, even when it was clear that they were filling an interview quota (I think at that one they’d chosen an internal candidate) or doing a favor for someone. Fortunately for me, in both those cases they did a thorough interview, not just a cursory walk-through, and it benefited me. But as I said, if I’d been employed at the time, I might have felt very differently.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Good point about the time wasting.

        OP, the answer is right there in your letter. If 9 out of 10 people think you’re great and 1 in 10 is the hiring manager, you aren’t getting the job. That says nothing about your chances when a position comes up with one of the 9.

    2. Mookie*

      Honestly, if you’d been hired under someone who didn’t like you, you probably would not have enjoyed the position and may not have been able to succeed at the same level that you did while on contract.

      Precisely my thoughts. LW, you’d’ve gladly worked under this person, had you known when applying that she’d be managing you? If not, I’d chalk this one up to good fortune for you; you didn’t have to suffer an interview with a company you adore, knowing you’d sadly have to decline any offer they could give you under the circumstances.

      Nothing’s changed here. They’re exactly as good as you remember them. Don’t hesitate to apply again if another desirable position opens up. You need to let this one go, I think, or look at the situation with a little less wounded pride and a little more common sense and generosity.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Also, it could be money. Maybe they know that a full-time spot wouldn’t pay at the same rate as a consultant.

      I remember a time when I was desperate to get a new job, and I applied to all sorts of jobs that my credentials were a perfect fit for. I didn’t even get an interview. I didn’t take it personally, but it was hugely demoralizing.

      For one job, I found out who got it, and I realized that she had WAY less experience than I did. I’m sure they look at my resume and said, “We cannot possibly match her current salary, by tens of thousands. Let’s not waste everybody’s time.”

      1. The New Wanderer*

        “I remember a time when I was desperate to get a new job, and I applied to all sorts of jobs that my credentials were a perfect fit for. I didn’t even get an interview. I didn’t take it personally, but it was hugely demoralizing.”

        This is me right now. I’m not in dire straits, fortunately, but it is really, really hard to not get past the gate-keeper (whether it’s ATS or a person) for any job even when I think I’m a close match. Worse, to see those jobs postings keep popping up month after month and think, “I could have been there and working if they’d given me a chance!”

        But, there are just things I cannot control and this is one. I’ll never know all the reasons I wasn’t the right match for any given job, so I just have to keep trying.

  4. Observer*

    #3, You are WAAAY over-reacting. And, if anyone gets wind of this, it won’t be too good for. Right now, you have a lot of people who think well of you. They might hire you if a different position opens up, and would be likely to speak well of you if they get asked about you in a different organization. But, if someone hears that you think that they just a bunchof fakers (why would they give you so much fake praise, anyway?) that’s likely to sour a lot of people. You really don’t want someone saying “OP4 does great work, but BOY are they hyper-sensitive!”

    1. Anonymous Ampersand*

      Ok but CF the letter a few days ago where the LW was hypersensitive to criticism. This sounds quite like the same kind of deal but with a little less self-awareness. I feel like there’s an opportunity here for the kind of comments we got on that post. Because seriously, I think a lot of us have been there: not getting an interview and being devastated.

      OP3, I don’t think you need to discount the positive experiences and feedback you got. They wouldn’t lie to you about how well you did! But it’s ok to grieve a bit. I would be gutted too.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, it’s #8 on the recent posts, “I’m hypersensitive to criticism.” Good resource.

    2. Envytee*

      Hi! Original poster here! Thanks for the feedback! I admit I was over confident when the post became available, but I just find it strange that no one has responded to the application – even the head, whom I have a great rapport. When I said that the manager wasn’t a fan of mine, it’s because I worked with her husband on a separate project and he was super shady about it, which left a sour taste in my mouth, and I guess in hers as well. That part I forgot to add as to WHY she isn’t a fan of mine :). But moving forward, onward and upward!

      1. WellRed*

        It us surprising they didn’t communicate with you, but who knows what goes on behind the scenes?

      2. CM*

        I would guess that everyone is assuming that the manager is handling communication with applicants and so it is only one person who is not getting back to you. Or there was some disagreement about whether or not to bring you in for an interview since everyone else likes you. I agree with Alison that there is no reason to think that the people who were praising you were not telling the truth since you already know this particular manager didn’t like you.

      3. Snark*

        I’d wager the head never saw your application unless they were directly involved with hiring, which I’d further wager they weren’t. And even if they did see your application, it’s not necessarily the case that they’d have been involved with selecting the final applicant pool or scheduling interviews.

        It wasn’t fake and they don’t think you’re crap. You just had the misfortune to want a position under the one person who didn’t want to work with you.

      4. Luna*

        It is too bad that they didn’t communicate with you, though to be honest not that surprising. This has sadly become the standard with hiring processes, even for many internal hiring situations. Maybe they feel additionally awkward having to give you an explanation because they do know you, and have opted for the “avoidance” method instead. Not great on their part, but it happens.

        1. AMPG*

          I think it’s really lousy when an internal candidate isn’t at least given a quick heads-up that they’re not getting an interview. Whenever I’ve been on hiring teams, I’ve fought to have it communicated directly to internal candidates if they’re not selected for an interview.

          1. Scrooge McDunk*

            Yes, I think for internal candidates every effort should be made to inform if you’re not getting an interview. I once applied for a newly created position in my six person department. I only found out I wasn’t selected to interview when my boss asked me to set up the conference room for interviews one morning.

            I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t react well.

    3. Lil Fidget*

      To be fair, I think we only have OP’s thoughts at the moment, not her actions. What you think in the privacy of your own mind without acting on is excusable. Of course it hurts not to be even offered the chance at a full time position you want: OP shouldn’t feel bad about feeling hurt, even as she (hopefully) accepts that it’s probably not a commentary on her performance or her relationship with other people who praised her in the past. Just – don’t do anything about this, OP. It’s not something you should try to “fix” by going back to your contacts and trying to change their minds or something. They’re not going to be able to tell you the real truth anyway, assuming it’s that this manager doesn’t want to work with you. Sometimes the best thing to do is just accept the hurt and focus on moving on. Your best revenge is finding a great position that wants you to work there.

      1. Envytee*

        Thank you! Yeah – I have no intention of taking any action on this. It’s best to just let sleeping dogs lie and see how things shake out rather than force an issue. I could raise a ruckus, but I have my integrity and reputation to protect – and it would be counterproductive and only affirm whatever negative thoughts she already has about me if I went at this guns blazing! And yes – I know for a fact that they are past the interview process as one of my former coworkers applied as well and has shared with me that she’s already interviewed.

        1. Wendy Ann*

          What would you “raise a ruckus” over? Not getting an interview? All that’s likely to do is put you at the top of their do not hire list.

  5. PN*

    #3 OP, I feel for you. That must have really hurt. But like Alison says, try your hardest not to take it personally. Think of this rejection as a redirection – you wouldn’t want to be working for someone who doesn’t even like you.

    Also, while I think you know what might’ve happened, I think it’s probably best not to assume. Any number of things could have gone on in there that have resulted in you not getting an interview. It is what it is – and you might never know. And that’s okay. You can definitely move forward and make the best of your circumstances no matter what happened. And who knows, there could be bigger and brighter opportunities waiting for you.

      1. Radio Girl*

        Yes, PN is right! Let it go!

        OP 3, I would have felt the same way not too long ago. But I would have also seen this as a chance to grow and learn and even be supportive, if you have the opportunity, of the person who gets the job.

        I always think – and I might be wrong here – that when someone dislikes me for what I think is no reason or maybe an arbitrary reason, I want to prove them wrong. It’s not an overriding goal, or an obsession, but it’s there. In other words, ignore the negative and focus on the positive.

        If you like the organization and its goals, continue supporting it.

        Good luck! Please update us!

  6. Karen*

    So, as someone who actually knows nothing about the 12 steps other than that they exist, I kinda think that putting conditions on making amends isn’t really making amends. Surely to make amends you have to be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions?

    1. Junior Dev*

      This is great in theory but I don’t see how getting a potential felony conviction is supposed to help a recovering addict get his life back on track.

      1. Anon druggie*

        Or provide for their families. It’s not okay to burden another person with your amends. It can be a tangled gray area but people are always able to work something out.

      2. SS Express*

        This! Making amends generally means accepting certain consequences (like paying for damage) but it doesn’t mean blowing up your whole life all over again.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I work for a smallish nonprofit where the theft of not a whole lot of equipment could be a big enough financial hit to stall wage increases or hiring for positions we actually need. The burden goes both ways–the person who *stole* these items may already have created a burden for somebody else. (A number of years ago, when I was new, we had an employee run up a bunch of journal subscriptions, which are expensive, and then quit. It took a long time for us to recover from that.)

        So, yeah, he doesn’t want his family to suffer, but what about the families that might already have suffered because of his dishonesty?

        1. Anon druggie*

          agreed that the full impact of a person’s actions should be a factor. No question.

          1. Snark*

            But in a lot of cases, it’s neither practical nor especially desirable for someone to make amends to every wronged party or every wrong wronged. I’m not sure it’s actually productive to trace the chain of wrongdoing back as far as the person who was temporarily inconvenienced by the lack of a laptop or a llama comb or whatever it was.

        2. bonkerballs*

          What about them? Him going to jail isn’t going to do anything to help them out, so what’s the point?

          1. Petunia Pig*

            But this can be said about any person who ever committed a crime, ever. See how far claiming “but I was addicted!” will get you in an actual court of law. I think many of the commenters who are advocating for letting this person’s bad behavior slide might be singing a different tune if they were the victims of the crime. I smell hypocrisy.

            1. August*

              I’d have to disagree here. The employee who stole those items presumably knew his company well enough to know that he could take those items and have very little effect (i.e. not only did he not experience any consequences, but no other employee was affected. OP has said that it was a “floating equipment” situation). I mean, I’m all for advocating that people take responsibility for their behavior in a broader sense, but in this particular situation, we know that 1) there was little/no negative effect, and 2) this guy wants to make amends for his behavior.

              Having a nuanced and empathetic view of what’s happened here isn’t hypocrisy. I think it’s a little harsh to insist that someone who is going to lengths he absolutely didn’t have to go to jail just for the principle of the thing.

        3. Observer*

          Which is fine. But it doesn’t mean that it makes sense for them to get themselves arrested. They are willing to return the items, but I really can’t see that genuine willingness to make amends needs to go this far – especially in a case where the arrest would not even really be something that is actually helpful to the organization. Getting the equipment back will do far more for the organization that getting the thief arrested.

    2. Anon druggie*

      Ideally, you don’t have any conditions. Most people simply ask what they can do to set things right. As an extreme example, what if you were a bully to someone while drinking and made you amends, then asked what you could to make up for it and the response was that your victim wanted a million dollars in restitution? You have to make sure you are being very self honest in doing everything you can to resolve what you did without being a martyr.

      That’s why you have a sponsor and do 8 other steps first. ;)

      1. JamieS*

        Would taking on the risk of a reasonable consequence to your actions qualify as being a martyr though? If we take “don’t be a martyr” to mean avoiding reasonable consequences/restitution then that’s just giving lip service to the concept of making amends while justifying avoiding any actual consequence for your actions.

        1. Anon druggie*


          That’s why you talk through it with a sponsor so that you aren’t being selfish in the name of not being a martyr. It can get tricky but I have seen people almost always err on the side of doing what it takes to complete the amends at personal cost. The idea is that if you value your sobriety, you’ll find a way to do it—your entire life depends on it.

          It’s really where the rubber meets the road.

          1. Casuan*

            stupid question time:
            What is the term for one who is being sponsored?
            Sponsee can’t be correct…?

            1. Mission Accomplished*

              Sponsee is the term frequently used in 10 step programs and the like, though not generally outside those.

              1. Chriama*

                I like ‘sponsoree’ because ‘sponsee’ sounds weird, but I feel like there isn’t an actual accepted word. Like ‘mentor’ and ‘mentee’ (again, I prefer ‘mentoree’).

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Mostly it just doesn’t make grammatical sense because the -or ending is the person doing the action, and -ee is the person receiving the action, whether it’s sponsorship, mentoring, or whatever else.

                2. Yorick*

                  But sponsoree and mentoree aren’t words. The “or” part of sponsor and mentor are about performing the action, so it doesn’t make sense to include them in the word to describe the person they perform the action to/with.

                3. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

                  (Ran out of nesting: ) In English, though, a sponsor sponsors and a mentor mentors. So it’s different from an employer who employs, an assignor who assigns, etc.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I’ve also heard often of people weighing whether the wrongee wants to hear from them. Sometimes you need to let their “don’t contact me” trump any apology you want to make.

            I think this is similar. Try to make amends but without blowing up any lives. Yours, other people’s.

            1. neeko*

              Yes, a big part of doing amends is determining if reaching out to do the amend will cause harm to the other person. A common resolution in those cases is that the amend is to never contact that person again and in some cases, figure out a way to make some form of an amend that doesn’t involve them. Like donating to a charity that involves a cause close to their heart or something like that.

        2. Kewlmom*

          I think that the experience of facing the victim, admitting what was done and returning the property is putting oneself in a vulnerable and humble position, and is in and of itself a consequence, so I wouldn’t consider it just lip service.

          1. JamieS*

            Very strongly disagree. First, in this case they aren’t facing the victim, they’re facing OP’s husband who isn’t the victim but more or less an intermediary. Second, admitting to wrongdoing by itself isn’t a consequence but at most a way to alleviate your own guilt. A consequence would be whatever results from the admission of wrongdoing. Third, I wouldn’t consider admitting to wrongdoing to be putting yourself in a humble or vulnerable position if prior to the admission you went out of your way (or someone else did on your behalf) to receive guarantees that the victim isn’t going to pursue restitution/repercussions against you .

            1. Mad Baggins*

              This sounds like getting into the difference between justice and punishment.

              The employee in this case could be punished by turning himself in and getting jail time, but if the equipment is returned before the company notices it’s missing, would it be just to force the employee to face legal consequences?

              Since the employee is apologizing to a third party (the husband), has the employee been punished “enough” and who gets to determine this?

              Very interesting questions and I’m not really sure how I would parse this out.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                I’m not sure that punishment is the goal. The goal is to make it right, and simply returning the equipment with an apology isn’t enough.
                It doesn’t include the distress at the original theft, nor the paperwork, nor the future budget restrictions of the group due to the theft, etc. Then there is the question – did the equipment become a write off on the taxes? What to do with it now that it is returned?
                In short, wrongdoing has a LOT of tentacles. It’s really hard to make it completely right.

                1. Anon druggie*

                  All good angles to be considered. Those administrative costs should be factored into the amends IMO. Assuming the company even knew it was missing. Another reason for a face to face conversation.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I agree, it’s hard to make it completely right.

                  I would say that it’s more than hard–it’s impossible.

                  And so the act of making it right will always have flaws. And it’s very subjective.

                3. neeko*

                  Agreed, TootsNYC. And that is in pretty much every case of someone doing harm to someone. Not just addicts.

                4. Observer*

                  The thing is that getting arrested is not going to make any of these things less complicated. And, in general, the idea that a person can always make things completely right is foolish and not something to expect. Sure people need to try to make things right. But the reality is the you can’t un-spill what has been spilled and you can’t un-break what has been broken. You need to make things are right as you can, and accept the limits of what you (and anyone trying to make things right) can accomplish.

              2. Dove*

                “if the equipment is returned before the company notices it’s missing, would it be just to force the employee to face legal consequences?”

                Except that from the sounds of it, the company has known that the equipment was missing since shortly after the employee left. It just wasn’t known for sure whether the equipment was *stolen* or if it had actually been misplaced somewhere. And legal consequences exist *for a reason*; depending on what the equipment was, it may have eaten up a chunk of the budget in order to replace it. It might not have been something that *could* be replaced, since this is a cultural heritage organization.

                Part of making amends is, I feel, accepting that there are going to be consequences for what you did. Sometimes those consequences are that the person you harmed doesn’t want you contacting them. Sometimes the consequences are “the thing you did was actually illegal and we’re pressing charges”. And I can understand the argument for not wanting to derail the life of someone who’s trying to get things back on track, but…my feeling on this is the same as if the former employee was apologizing for stealing large quantities of money instead of equipment: you don’t get to say you’re trying to make amends and also dictate the the terms of how those amends are made.

                1. Myrin*

                  I’m pondering on your first paragraph (have been pondering on what it talks about since the letter was published) since I can’t really tell.

                  OP says “The equipment was re-entered in the inventory, and it’s likely that everyone will continue to believe that these items were mislaid a few years ago and just turned up again during a thorough cleaning of a supply closet.” which to me read like the fact that the equipment had been missing in the first place only came out once it resurfaced – I’m assuming there’s some kind of entry log for when new stuff is entered, so people saw this entry for “new” material and realised it’s actually old.

                  OTOH, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that your read – that the company realised the equipment had gone missing but couldn’t make head nor tails of it – isn’t the correct one, either. I’m really interested in this.

                2. OP#1*

                  Hi Dove & Myrin:

                  To clarify, the organization knew that the equipment was missing, but not the circumstances. There was a master inventory list for his division and these items were just noted as “missing as of [date]”. He amended the entry to include a note that they had been found in 2/2018 but without additional details and just put the stuff back on the shelf, leaving the original note to document that it had been reported missing at some point. They’re in the midst of a capital project right now, so no one was surprised that “lost” items were turning up again as an entire building got cleared out in advance of demolition; I don’t know if the timing played into the ex-employee’s decision (this capital project has been reported frequently in the news and is common local knowledge), nor do I know if my husband would have responded differently if it had come up during a period of relative calm where it might have caught someone’s attention.

                  My husband is fairly high up the food chain at his organization, and is empowered to make a lot of unilateral decisions; in thinking about this question since I wrote in (and since it’s been posted), I realize that my situation is much different. My organization is much more hierarchical, and I’m much lower in the food chain; I don’t think I could have taken the same course of action as he did, I would be putting myself at risk.

              3. JamieS*

                The OP’s company gets to decide whether to report the crime and the legal system in the country OP resides gets to decide the punishment.

                Yes, it would be just. Legal action is a consequence of illegal activity not consequence only if you get caught by someone else. Otherwise anyone could confess to a crime, no matter how heinous, and get away scot-free

                1. JoJo*

                  If I were in management, I’d be concerned that one of my employees actively concealed a theft by another employee. I’d wonder what else they weren’t telling me about.

              4. AnotherJill*

                Criminal charges may not even be possible given the passage of time. Depending on the particular theft, value, location, time, etc., the statute of limitations may be in effect. There also isn’t any indication that the company even realized that the item was missing.

            2. The RO-Cat*

              I wouldn’t consider admitting to wrongdoing to be putting yourself in a humble or vulnerable position if prior to the admission you went out of your way (or someone else did on your behalf) to receive guarantees that the victim isn’t going to pursue restitution/repercussions against you

              Strongly disagree. IME the very thought of admitting honest error, let alone intentional wrongdoing, is difficult and painful for a lot of people. So much, in fact, that willfully admitting is more of an exception than the rule (and AAM’s archive provide plenty of examples).

              More, AFAIK (I didn’t interact with the 12-steps program, only read about it) “making amends” seems like a two-fold thing: you try to right the wrong you did AND work with yourself to change. Both being hard to do. Plus, like with anything human, it’s counter-productive to use black-or-white thinking. It’s not an either / or thing (“either you go full monty or don’t even bother”), because a) it’s a process, not a moment, b) there are many variables to take into account (family to support, kids to grow etc – what’s the use of a “full restitution” if your family goes broke and splits up? – not saying that’s the case here, but I can cases wher see this might come up) and c) the healing process is individual – as in, everybody thinks, acts, changes and heals differently. Using shame (if it’s for assuaging your guilt don’t bother, it means nothing) is destructive – sometimes it stays at that stage, but other times it’s just the first step towards recovery. I do think caution and risk assessement have to go hand-in-hand with compassion (which is NOT accepting, enabling or condoning, though I’ve seen this confusion too many times), because without compassion we tend to look at humanity as a collection of individual robots, which we are not.

              1. Orfeo*

                I suppose I am uncomfortable because the person trying to make amends has admitted wrongdoing to someone who was not wronged. They get the emotional satisfaction and catharsis of confession and forgiveness, but everyone who may have been affected by the theft is still entirely in the dark. There may have been people who where blamed or suspected of the theft, or just of sloppiness. There may have been lingering suspicions and mistrust for some time. Or there may not have been. The letter writer’s husband has made a choice to assist in covering up the initial crime, which may or may not be justifiable.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Usually what seems to happen in these situations is that the stolen goods sit in a garage until the guilt-wracked thief dies, leaving the family members tasked with clearing out the garage to figure out what to do.

                  I’m with RO-Cat: this isn’t about the perfect performance of opening oneself to any possible punishment damn the fallout. “I now have a job and am making regular child support payments” is a reasonable thing to add to the mix–we’re talking confessing to theft of a projector 8 years ago, not murder.

                2. Thursday Next*

                  This is a good point. Yes, the equipment was returned, but OP’s husband doesn’t know the circumstances from the time of its disappearance, and it’s possible the absence of the equipment had consequences that its return doesn’t rectify. Once the return is noticed, questions may be raised and the pot stirred all over again.

                  It’s understandable that the former employee didn’t want to face legal action, but it doesn’t seem as though the former employee and the sponsor really accounted for the full scope of the situation. It strikes me too that they were asking OP’s husband to assume considerable risk on their behalf, without even acknowledging it.

                3. Anon druggie*

                  The person who was wronged should be the person to receive the amends whenever possible. Sometimes that person is deceased, doesn’t want anything to do with the amend maker, etc. but if there is a victim, that person should be told face to face what happened and asked what would make it right.

                4. neverjaunty*

                  Exactly. And going through a sponsor is… well, I have to wonder how much this is about “making amends” vs “getting immunity”.

                5. Susan K*

                  Maybe this is a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good. After all this time, the thief has probably gotten away with the crime and nobody would ever find out about it if he chose to keep the stolen items or simply throw them away. Sure, it would be better if he would make a full confession and be willing to face any and all consequences, but he’s not willing to do that. Surely it’s better for him to at least return the items and apologize than to keep the items forever, right?

                6. Thursday Next*

                  @Susan K I was actually wondering whether in this case returning the equipment is the best move. Because it didn’t come with an apology—OP’s husband just folded it back into inventory without explanation. I was thinking about what Engineer Girl said about wrongdoing having many tentacles, and I think here the return of the equipment, without explanation, may open up old problems.

                  It may assuage the ex-employee’s guilt to no longer have the stolen items, but I’m wondering if there are times when someone should choose not to return stolen property if they’re unable/unwilling to do so in a way that is helpful to whomever they stole from.

                7. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @Thursday Next apology to whom? We don’t know that the employee didn’t apologize to the OP’s husband; after all, they met and had a heart-to-heart. Who is the proper, official person to whom the apology has to be made for it to be acceptable?

                8. Thursday Next*

                  @JB An apology to the wronged party, or a party with knowledge of the original loss of the equipment. The ex-employee expressed sorrow and remorse, but to a relatively safe party, as the LW’s husband wasn’t around when the theft happened.

                  Look, I don’t think the ex-employee needs to wear a hair shirt or do anything to jeopardize recovery. As this thread has been about parsing the nature of “amends,” I do question whether that purpose is truly served by returning property in this way. Some commenters pointed out that at the time the property went missing, there might have been consequences that other coworkers or the company had to bear, which a quiet return of the equipment doesn’t help address. This is why I wondered whether this might be a case where “amends” might better have meant letting things go. I don’t have an answer for this—it really is a question.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Right JamieS. I’m making amends if you promise me I won’t get in trouble.

                But you’re assuming the former employee wouldn’t make amends at all if the LW’s husband hadn’t agreed to the terms. As Anon Druggie points out, he might have been planning to make amends some other way if Plan A hadn’t worked out.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Except there are a lot of problems with Plan A – (supposedly) going through a sponsor, talking to Mr. LW rather than the people wronged, etc. Plan A sounds WAY more like dumping his problems on Mr. LW’s lap than genuine amends.

                2. Snark*

                  When one is going through a 12-step program, you make the amends you can without endangering your own sobriety, which a felony theft prosecution probably would. That might not count as “genuine amends” to some outside observer, but frankly, the employer was probably way down on the list of wronged parties.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @neverjaunty: I’m not saying Plan A is perfect. I’m just saying, it’s incorrect to assume there was no Plan B.

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @neverjaunty I think you are skipping the part where the sponsor is the one that didn’t want the employee to come forward if he’d get in legal trouble. We don’t know what the employee would have done, regardless of the sponsor’s wishes, if the OP’s husband had so no.

                5. neverjaunty*

                  @JB, the thief’s sobriety and choices were his responsibility – if his sponsor were dictating terms then that’s WAY out of bounds and defeats the whole purpose. I agree there’s no way to know what other plans may have been a fallback.

                6. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @neverjaunty I wasn’t saying that the sponsor was necessarily dictating the terms–we have no way of knowing. And that’s my point. All we know is the sponsor’s feelings on it, not the employees feelings (and, to your new point, not what control the sponsor may have had over what the employee did if the OP’s husband said no). I was addressing your suggestion that the employee was going through the sponsor in an attempt to avoid responsibility. We can’t know that.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Agreed. The person returned what was taken and faced the OP’s husband (people saying he wasn’t the wrong that was wronged are confusing me–this is an organization. The OP’s husband is a representative of that organization. Who exactly is the specific wrongee that people think amends need to be made to?), which had to be uncomfortable. I’m not sure what kind of public performance of regret would be satisfactory–the person going to jail? Taking out a billboard advertising that they took the equipment? Based on harm we’d have to imagine, since it wasn’t present in the letter?

                Plus, I think people are missing that the OP said that the *sponsor* didn’t want the person to come forward if they would get into legal trouble, not that this roundabout way of returning the equipment was the employee’s idea. Presumably the sponsor didn’t want the employee to do anything that would jeopardize his new sobriety.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  If you’re comment is aimed at my last sentence, I agree. We don’t. But I don’t think that it’s going out on a limb to presume that a sponsor doesn’t want their sponsee to jeapardize his new sobriety. That would make them a pretty crappy sponsor if they were ambivalent or uncaring about his sobriety. I’m not sure we need to know exactly what his plan was or why he thought this was the best way to handle it to know he probably doesn’t want to tank his sponsoree’s staying sober.

              2. Eye of the Hedgehog*

                I agree that lots of posters are being weirdly punitive. Are our prisons not sufficiently full that we have to go after this guy, too?

                1. Lissa*

                  seriously! I think though, that this point of view is sufficiently removed from my own that I don’t know that it’d be very productive to debate. I just don’t see what good would come of legal consequences.

                2. Delphine*

                  A lot of people don’t have much compassion for addicts, regardless of the seriousness of their actions.

                3. neeko*

                  Delphine, it’s true. It’s confusing how people pick and choose who to give a hoot about on this website.

                4. OP#1*

                  I admit, I was a little shocked at some of the responses and have had to check myself so as not to get too defensive on my husband’s behalf.

                  Ironically, one of the things that prompted me to write in was that after my husband told me about this, I was feeling like I was lacking compassion because my immediate thought was “I’m proud of you, but I’m glad it wasn’t me–I wouldn’t want to get mixed up with that!” And I’m glad that for me it has been a purely hypothetical exercise.

                5. Thursday Next*

                  @OP Knowing your husband is pretty high up in his organization, that the equipment had been listed as missing, and that no one was surprised when it turned up is really good information! I was picturing a situation where your husband may have faced blowback, or where the original disappearance may have caused other people difficulties. Glad to know that’s not the case.

              3. GuitarLady*

                I agree that it’s not necessary to be so punitive. It seems to be a very big psychological thing here, at least in the US, that when people do wrong they need to “suffer” and be “punished”. Hence our prison and legal system is almost entirely punitive and focused on causing suffering to criminal and then ostracizing them once they are released. Very little time or resources are spent on rehabilitation or reducing recidivism.
                Even if the initial theft had had serious consequences to the company or on people working for the company, how would they be helped by this person now going to prison? Its not like they will get anything from it, and a person who is actually try to right his/her life and change would be thrown into this awful punitive system and actually have a much harder time fixing their life. How does that benefit anyone at all? We should ask ourselves why we have such a need to see people suffer when it doesn’t actually do any good for the world.

      2. Anon For This*

        What if you committed a violent crime against someone and they want to see you held accountable for it legally? They want you to confess to the crime and be punished for it, but you have a family to support. It seems like the surrounding circumstances shouldn’t matter much (family, history of addiction). It’s still a violent crime.

        I’m bringing this up because I have met people who did horrible things while under the influence or dealing with addiction. In some cases, the person takes responsibility and faces the consequences. I have also seen people use their history of addiction and subsequent recovery as sort of a justification for it (“I was under the influence then, but now I’m in recovery so I’m a different person.”) I guess my point is that the ammends thing is good, but it can get taken too far if someone tries to use it to get off the hook for hurting people.

        1. Anon druggie*

          Very good point. No easy answers because you obviously can’t ‘fix’ that one. I will say that anyone who takes a cavalier attitude with this stuff ‘I was under the influence but not now—yay!’ is destined to drink again. The last thing anyone should do is use their past as an excuse. That’s not sobriety at all.

        2. Jesca*

          I was the victim of a violent crime by someone who was a drug addict. I will say to this day, I still struggle dealing with people in recovery in general. It is something I personally try to work through. Sometimes I have seen people play it up as something in between martyr and “not my fault cuz drugs”. But the truth is a lot of people find themselves in addictions and do not go out and commit violent crimes, or physically abuse their family, or react to their addiction in any other violent way. At some point, I think it is important for the person to admit outwardly to the people they wronged while making amends that they understand it was not just the addiction that made them do it. It is something else in them that recovery is helping them identify and control. And in that regard, yes they need to own up and accept any legal/social consequences that come.

          1. EditorInChief*

            I agree with you. The whole “making amends” of AA has never sat well with me because they are dictating the consequences of their bad behavior and we are all supposed to accept it, because, after all, they are making amends. The whole amends process takes advantage of people’s good nature. OP1 has now been dragged into someone else’s drama. If this person really wanted to make amends they would accept the consequences of being a thief. Instead a third party contacts OP and they put their drama on a person who had nothing to do with either the thief or the stolen office items. I would have referred this person to my boss, and let management handle this rather than potentially jeopardize my own job.

            1. neeko*

              “dictating the consequences of their bad behavior and we are all supposed to accept it, because, after all, they are making amends.” I do not agree with this. People very often do not accept the amend and do not want to hear from the person. Or basically, thank the person for the apology and don’t want to hear from them again. Plus, you go through an entire process of removing people from your list of amends that would be harmed by you reaching out to them. And more often than not, the person has already suffered a consequence of their behavior.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              If someone supposedly making amends has told you that you have to accept it, they are doing the making amends part wrong.

            3. TootsNYC*

              I thought that generally, people are encouraged to ask about what WOULD be acceptable to the party who was wronged.

            4. Casuan*

              I think part of “making amends” is experiencing & accepting the reality that not everyone wronged will want to even hear &or accept the apology & not everyone will be available to even try to make amends with them.
              [disclaimer: This is my opinion only; I only know of the 12-step programmes, so I’m not trying to explain what I don’t know. Thanks to everyone who is commenting on their experiences!]

              Intent & accepting consequences should matter here, I think. If one is truly apologetic & if both parties accept the terms of the apology, then mission accomplished. One can certainly try to discourage or avoid consequences [such as legal action] although one shouldn’t let that hold them back from doing the right thing.

              Who knows? Perhaps the heart-to-heart between the husband & ex-employee was the best outcome for all involved.

              Ultimately, there are many factors involved & this topic isn’t always black & white. There is the butterfly effect, although I don’t believe that one needs to think this effect through more than two or three steps- eg: stolen equipment, who gets blamed, the missing equipment affects the current & next year’s budget, the time employees spent to deal with the theft, the responding police officer has to go into overtime for this & misses his son’s birthday party & because he promised him that this time he’ll be there, his absence is just another of his dad’s failed promises & it’s the last straw for the son…
              Society might be different if we all did think things through several steps, although much of the butterfly effect is simply life in action. There’s no reason for someone to think beyond how their actions will affect their company & colleagues’ work situation. This is true for everything, whether it’s a theft or being five minutes late which causes someone to stay over their shift. Hopefully the person who is late is apologetic for causing inconvenience, although there’s no reason for that person to think through that in those five minutes, his colleague missed the bus, which made them late…

              1. Casuan*

                Meant to clarify that the tardy employee would not have a reason to think of the possibility that her colleague missed her bus & that things butterfly-effected from the missed bus.
                As I said above, usually this is simply living our lives.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          You make an interesting point, but that’s not at all what’s going on in this letter, where there’s absolutely no indication that anyone was hurt by the employee taking the equipment.

          1. OP#1*

            For what it’s worth, as far as my husband has ascertained, no one was “hurt” in this case, in that the equipment was listed as “missing” rather than “stolen.” No-one was accused or punished. Obviously, since he wasn’t there at the time, he can’t speak to any suspicions that people may have had at the time.

            1. Thursday Next*

              This is really good information to have, and definitely influences my thoughts. I’m glad to read this.

        4. August*

          I agree with this generally, but I really struggle with how jail time would do any good for someone who has stolen equipment, with no negative consequences for any other employees at the company. From what OP has said, it was a “floating equipment” situation, and it wasn’t like another employee was reprimanded or fired for the unaccounted for equipment. Returning the equipment seems to be about as “right” as this guy can make it.

          In the broader sense– yes, everyone should take responsibility for their actions. For violent crimes– yes, addiction is no excuse, and it should be the victim’s call how restitution is made. But for this crime? Honestly, I think showing some empathy, acknowledging that this person is trying to do right, and accepting the equipment is a wonderful thing to do.

  7. JamieS*

    OP #1, I disagree with Alison’s advice here. Regardless of your company culture I’d advocate for not making any promises to the sponsor, giving the information to your manager (or whoever is most appropriate), and letting the higher ups decide from there what to do. Even if you strongly believe your company would support your actions to avoid legal proceedings by choosing to not disclose that you had information pertaining to a crime your company was a victim of you’d be needlessly putting yourself at risk of being fired and that’s not a reasonable risk to take on just to protect someone you don’t even know who’s trying to make amends while avoiding potential repercussions.

    1. JamieS*

      Edit: I agree with Alison’s more cautious approach advice. I disagree it’s a “know your company” situation.

    2. MommyMD*

      I agree with you completely. Its the company’s decision not that of a single employee. It may violate the principles of the company and is a good way to get yourself fired.

      1. Triple Anon*

        Yeah. If I had received that phone call or email, I would have either ignored it or referred them to someone with the authority to make that kind of decision. Or maybe responded saying that I support their intentions but am not in a position to help them.

        I’ve worked in places where there was stuff of value that could hypothetically disappear for a few years and then be secretly returned without anyone noticing. I would still run it by someone else. I wouldn’t want to be held liable if anyone found out and wasn’t happy about it. Or the opposite. Maybe the employer would love the story and would want to seek media coverage or write a piece for their blog. Who knows. Their decision.

      2. Chinook*

        I also agree that this needs to be passed on to someone higher up, especially because this is a cultural institution. In particular, if it is a museum or similair place that deals with artifacts, there should be a policy in place to deal with stolen artifacts and how the returning of them should be dealt with as the museum could at one point be told to return cultural artifacts that are deemed stolen by the original owners (examaple: anything First Nations). Basically, if the organization wants to prosecute those who steal from them but have later seen the error of their ways and want to make amends, then they may be treated the same way.

    3. neverjaunty*

      This 100%. Mr. LW’s instincts weren’t very kind! But the thief has now roped him into, essentially, making promises on behalf of the company, and potentially being in trouble if the “amends” were not as straightforward as he believed them to be.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s more of a problem for Mr. LW1 at work than civilly. Generally speaking, a promise not to expose a crime is non-enforceable because you can’t contract for something illegal.

  8. IAAL*

    OP #2, your office culture describes my office’s culture almost perfectly. One of my colleagues recently returned from maternity leave. She has a little printed sign that says “PRIVACY PLEASE” in big letters. She tapes it to her door whenever she needs to pump. Since everyone knows she just got back from maternity leave, everybody knows what it means (even though the sign doesn’t say it explicitly). It seems to be working for her.

  9. Tuesday Next*

    OP5, I know you probably want to ditch your married name ASAP but to avoid confusion I would really, really go with the transitional name option that Alison suggested. Most people are suffering from information overload and hoping that they will remember your name change is risky and could add friction to the whole process. You also want people to be focusing on you as a candidate and not getting distracted / speculating on why you’re changing your name.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      I did the transitional name thing as well because I only started using my married name years after I got married (that’s an entertaining story of its own) and it worked very well for me.

      1. Teapots for Llamas*

        Thanks, I’m the OP in that letter, and wanting to avoid distraction/confusion in the process is a big part of why I asked!

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Instead of using a hyphen you can use parenthesis. That’s what I do for my court cases when there is a name change mid case. Jane Smith (Jones) for example with the one in parenthesis usually being the name that is no longer in use.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      Agree with this- I’m thinking of when some businesses like hotels change names, on paperwork their names often appear Hotel Awesome (formerly Hotel Great). Maybe you could simply list your name like that on your resume or make a note wherever makes sense on your paperwork. Like “Jane Jones (formerly Smith)”. I think that’s likely to clear up any confusion the most with the least explanation on your part- if any is needed, just say you very recently changed your name, you don’t even need to say why, or use Alison’s script about that being your former married name.

    3. TootsNYC*

      You can add parentheses if that helps. Especially if “formerly” isn’t exactly accurate yet.

      Some older etiquette says that married women become:
      Jane Maiden Married.

      So you could claim that this IS your name. And then when you get the new job, tell people you are going to drop the old one, and anytime you need to tap into your reputation from previous jobs (like on your list of references), you can use “formerly Married.”

  10. Casuan*

    OP4: Although it seems a bit cruel that your termination was so sudden, I actually think it’s more of a kindness than knowing there was a gap between the decision & your notification. I’m sorry for it because I know how disorienting & embarrassing this can be.

    If crying from shock was awkward, then that’s on your boss & not on you. Probably he doesn’t remember every detail from when he told you; this would be normal. Don’t think anything more about about it!
    Except for the email Alison suggested, don’t think anything of it. If you go into detail then later you might feel even more awkward.

    I’ve had a similar experience, however with me there was the gap. The decision was made & I was told a few weeks later. From that, we planned a one month phase out so I could finish the projects I had & to work to assimilate my tasks into my colleagues’ workload. I was going to diminish office hours & mostly to do the rest of my work from home. We decided not to announce until one week out.

    Except, this didn’t happen. Although I understood the reason for the gap, I was also upset & a little angry. The delay was because my supervisor respected & appreciated me enough that he wanted to tell me personally, although he couldn’t because he was out for a family emergency. During the gap- between the decision & my being told- I was looking toward the future & outlining our goals. I could have used my time & energy more wisely.
    After a week, I received a text that I didn’t need to come in any longer which was reiterated when I called to verify the text. So there was no transition & I couldn’t even reach out to tell colleagues or clients.
    Things got worse from there.

    You’re okay, OP4, & so am!!

    1. OP #4*

      OP #4 here!

      I do appreciate them telling me right away, and they did give me severance in lieu of notice, but like I said it was the shock that got me. The raise/promotion had been planned at my one year mark- approximately a week before they let me go. It was a very tight-knit office and we were all so close that it felt like I was losing a bunch of friends too, and the job itself was the best I’ve ever had. All in all a huge disappointment, but in the end I was actually really overqualified for most of my duties so I’m using this opportunity to focus on something new!

      1. Chriama*

        I think crying during a layoff is *suuuuper* common and I wouldn’t worry about it. Your boss being uncomfortable is not your fault or responsibility. I think Alison’s email is a good idea just to preserve your sense of professional dignity, but not out of any need to make amends or apologize for being human (notice her script doesn’t include an apology, I don’t think you should give one. Just acknowledge that you were upset but want to express that you enjoyed your time there).

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        If it makes you feel any better, I also cried when I got laid off. And the weird thing was that I hated that job! But I’d never been fired or laid off before and it really stung! I can totally understand your tears and I think any manager would understand. In fact, my manager had a box of Kleenex ready for me, she was totally unfazed when my tears started.

        I’ve had to fire people for cause before and I’ve gotten a complete range of emotions: anger, relief, sadness… they were reacting to the situation, not to me.

      3. Samiratou*

        Yeah, I agree with the above folks–it’s a pretty natural reaction to get such devastating news. And “he doesn’t like strong emotions”? Seriously, fuck that guy. He may have had good reasons for the layoff but the hightailing it out of there because you had the temerity to act emotionally to a sudden & serious situation? Coward.

  11. KWu*

    OP3: I think it might be healthy to consider how you might adjust your ego and self-worth to not assume that anything less than 100% of people of liking you and your work means what you’ve accomplished is not worthwhile. Or that what people think of your work means something about your character as a person. Don’t only believe negative things that other people say and disbelieve all the positive things.

    1. Casuan*

      KWu, this is excellent advice & it resonates with me because I’m trying to help a friend to understand this. Thanks for posting it!

  12. YouShallNotPass*

    For the pumping mother- try one of those rubber door stoppers. If you jam it under your office door, nobody will be able to enter even if you don’t have a lock. That plus a sign should give you some piece of mind. And congratulations of course!

    1. MLB*

      She said she had a lock on her door to prevent anyone from entering, but apparently her co-workers still try to open the door more than once. I think they just need to get a clue. My last job was fairly casual and open door, but if someone had their door closed, you left them alone. That’s just common courtesy.

  13. Ragazzoverde*

    OP4 They told you you were being laid off on the day it was happening??? What sort of contract did you have with them? That seems incredibly unprofessional on their part.

    1. The RO-Cat*

      I guess OP4 is in the US, where this kind of thing isn’t uncommon and where employment contracts are a rare appearance. So, from this POV, nothing out of the ordinary (at least that’s my perception – I’m used to having an employment contract, but not as much in the US). But yeah, OP4, usually 1 year of good relationship and stellar results trumps 1 moment of emotion. If you want you can contact your ex-boss, but I’d say don’t sweat it.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds at will? (i.e., no contract involved)

      I actually don’t think it’s unprofessional to lay someone off effective immediately, but I do think it would have been more courteous to have given OP transition time, if they could. Sometimes the rationales for the timing of the lay off are not within the immediate manager’s control, and sometimes those lay offs do need to happen somewhat immediately.

      1. OP #4*

        The contract was at-will but they did also give me a few weeks severance to make up for the lack of notice. To me it wasn’t necessarily a matter of professionalism; they were very clear about why it was happening and obviously did not want to do it, but it was what’s best for the company and I get that. The part that made me really sad was that it almost felt cold: literally no one else (including in management) knew, so people kept coming to me asking why I was crying as I packed up my desk. Within half an hour I had everything wrapped up and went to send a final thank you email to my coworkers and had already been locked out of my email address. Like I said we were all really close so the “effective immediately, turn in your keys and pack your things and leave” seemed unnecessarily impersonal.

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          Yikes! The email thing makes it sound weirdly punitive. I completely understand your reaction!

          1. MLB*

            That’s normal – generally when a manager is going to lay off someone, there’s someone in the IT department who is given a heads up so they can lock them out of everything while they’re being told. It may sound cruel, but an employee can have access to very sensitive information and there are some that would log in and sabotage some of the systems if given a chance. It’s a necessary evil.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              We think it’s a necessary evil, and yet other countries manage to give people time to leave. What makes the US different? Plus, if a company has decent security and backups, most people couldn’t cause damage (and most people wouldn’t consider it either).

              1. KayEss*

                My last layoff they brought in ARMED SECURITY to hang around the building while the termination meetings were going on, which… I get it, but it also felt really gross.

                (On the other hand, they didn’t manage to cut off my system access immediately because the IT department was terribly understaffed, so I was able to send a few emails to people I was working on projects with and retrieve some files. I was also aware of a lot of office accounts where the post-departure security process was… not a priority, but I’m too ethical to attempt to log in just to satisfy my curiosity over whether or not anyone bothered to change the passwords.)

          2. Chriama*

            Pretty sure standard procedure is to cut off your access while you’re in the termination meeting. It’s a security risk to leave it open, and you can like and trust someone and still not want to test out how they might behave if they feel like they have nothing to lose. Basically, it’s not personal, it’s business.

          3. LQ*

            The email thing is really normal best practice. When someone is no longer working they need to no longer have access. Of course the OP here wouldn’t do anything bad, but you want to make it a practice so that it happens clearly and every single time. It’s really normal, and it should be really normal.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I imagine that would feel terrible but I think things like that are often company policy. So I’m sure it was nothing to do with you personally, just what they are required to do when they let someone go!

    3. Triplestep*

      It is really common for companies to do it this way; the thinking is that the remaining workforce will bounce back more easily if people don’t linger around in eliminated positions for days or weeks. Locking them out of the computer system prevents anyone from sabotaging data or shared files, or just poisoning morale by sending not-so-nice e-mails about the lay-off.

      My assumption has always been that companies that do it this way have weighed this approach against one where someone gets to transition their work, etc, and have deemed this better somehow. We just went through it a couple of weeks ago when we lost our admin, and while I feel terrible for her, as someone who now has to move on without her on the team, I can see the merits of the “rip the band-aid off” approach.

      1. Colette*

        Exactly – this is a really common approach. It allows everyone to move on more quickly, including the person who was laid off who can dedicate their time to job hunting.

      2. OP #4*

        Yeah definitely, and I think considering the fact that I worked with a lot of really confidential documents played a role in the email thing in particular, obviously I wasn’t about to start leaking financial information or anything but I see how it could be a company protocol sort of thing. It still felt really harsh though!

        1. Triplestep*

          I’m sorry this happened to you! I agree with all the feedback about your reaction, too – it’s not uncommon to feel shocked and cry.

      3. sssssssssss*

        Except in my case, where they “ripped” off the band aid, no one knew where anything was other than myself for a lot of things…and there was no plan after I left.

        Don’t get me wrong – I was not a job hoarder. Items were labelled, the two managers were instructed on how to contact the Operations people of the landlord, I shared info all the time. But the managers aren’t going to want to know how to do mail, couriers, how to forward the phones, etc. as that’s why I was there, so they could be billable in their hours. I also handled all the security in the office – that’s not something that’s shared with random people. Someone must have had “fun” trying to locate the keys to anything; they were double locked. Giving me two weeks would have enabled me to hand over all the things that were mine to the right people.

        No plan – it was a small office and it took them a week to figure out no calls were coming in (I had forwarded my phone to voicemail during my layoff announcement and didn’t take it off when I left) and when asked, hey, who will take on incoming calls, my old manager, in a different location, had no clue.

        1. Not Myself Today*

          I had a somewhat similar experience in that my manager had no plans for how my work would be handled after I was gone. I did get notice, and the first question I asked when I was told about the layoff was about where I should transition my work. It was more than a week before I got an answer.

        2. Observer*

          Did you not take it off on purpose, or were you not able to?

          Not that it really matters – someone should have checked.

    4. WillyNilly*

      I have only ever heard of lay-offs being effective immediately. I mean companies announce general lay-offs will be happening in advance, but the day names are announced, its effective immediately for those folks.

      1. James*

        Yeah, I’d rather be paid to job search than have to try to transition my work while knowing I won’t have a job in a couple months. I was recently laid off and had to come back later in the week to pick up my stuff — that felt awful and I kind of would have preferred to be able to go back to my desk and pack up, even though I had a lot of stuff. On the other hand, packing up my desk in front of my coworkers sounds like a hellish experience too. So I think my preferred way would be to be called into an early meeting at work, let go, then allowed to pack up all my stuff and be out of the office before my coworkers even showed up.

        1. Jesca*

          At the last job I had, they would call out everyone into a meeting to allow the person being let go clear out things in private. If it was a team member, that team was called into a meeting to discuss what is happening and the transition.

          Except this one time where we were called into a meeting about our boss being let go and had him in there as well as they explained why he was being let go. That was likely the most awkward experience I ever had a job. I am not sure what the hell the president was thinking.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I was laid off a year and a half ago, and we all found out well in advance of our final day–most of us had two months, some people had longer. About a third of our IT department was being laid off as part of a merger.

        It was… a really, really weird environment. I was almost glad I only had two months; I can’t imagine how bizarre it would be for them to sit you down and go, “ah, well, we’re going to lay you off, but not for eighteen months. Also if you leave early you don’t get any severance. Have fun.”

        1. Annie Moose*

          In retrospect, I realize we were covered under the WARN Act because of how large the layoffs were–so not necessarily a typical event.

      3. pleaset*

        My company had layoffs recently with staff remaining with us for two week to three months, depending on role – and they could of course leave earlier if they had to or wanted to, particularly if they found a new position.

        The last time we had layoffs (ten years ago) the longest someone was with us afterwards was four or six months I believe. That was a very senior person who was involved in closing off her team’s entire line or work.

        This is in a global NGO.

    5. Liane*

      I think the OP is in the US, where employees seldom have contracts like you see in the UK and other countries. It is normal here for an employee to be notified the day they are let go, unless both company and scope of layoffs are large enough to trigger the WARN Act provisions which require 60 days’ notice.

    6. TootsNYC*

      this is almost always how it has happened to me the 14 times I’ve been working somewhere that people were laid off.

      Only twice did people have notice. In one case, we were promised a stay-on bonus if we stayed 3 months.
      And in another, they laid people off on Monday or Tuesday, told them that this week would be their last week, and that if they were too upset to continue working the rest of the week, that was fine. But that if they were willing, the company would be grateful if they’d take that time to hand off projects, etc., adn that would give them time to get files off the server, gather material for their portfolio, clean out their personal emails, and get their giveaway-shelf samples out from under their desks.

      And I guess a third time, I went back to my desk to wrap up on the day I was laid off, and that day was my last day.

      Oh, and a fourth time, when my job was being restructured to require skills and experience I simply didn’t have, I told my boss, “I completely agree this is your best move, but since we’re in the middle of a deadline and you haven’t even started interviewing yet, I suppose I should keep working.” She and I had it all worked out, and then corporate came and said, “No! she was supposed to leave immediately!”

      Every other place, they have you leave immediately, often without even going back to your desk–or you go back with an escort (because they’re afraid of sabotage, though I’ve actually never seen that happen).

  14. MommyMD*

    I’d cry, sob and wail if my company terminated me or laid me off. I’ve been there 19 years. You have my sympathy and I don’t think it was a big catastrophe.

    1. Lindsay Geee*

      I’ve wondered about this as a general issue at work. I’ve had only one real situation in which I had to REALLY try and control myself while at work to keep myself from crying because I thought it would be the epitome of unprofessionalism to do so. But then later, I was thinking “Hell, this is a serious issue that impacts me both personally and professionally…an emotional response is not an unreasonable reaction!” What are other peoples’ thoughts on having an emotional reaction at work? (something like being laid off, or your crazy ass boss went off on you)

      1. Horse Lover*

        I think in a situation like this, an emotional reaction is understandable. When our company was bought by a larger one, they only kept customer facing roles so all of us on the back end were let go. I remember my boss sobbing through announcing it to all of us and many people sobbing throughout the rest of that day. I was just numb with shock. One day it’s business as usual, next day it’s you’re all laid off, your last day is TBD.

    2. Anonymouse*

      Wailing? That seems a little overly emotional. I can see a few tears but we can trust people here to handle things in a professional and adult way (as OP did)

  15. MommyMD*

    I’m fairly certain I’d be fired if I accepted stolen property back into the workplace without revealing the source, no matter the situation. Personally I would not have touched that with a ten foot pole.

    1. Myrin*

      I probably wouldn’t have, either, but it sounds like this might have been relatively low-stakes for the husband; if it’s plausible at their place of work that “items were mislaid a few years ago and just turned up again during a thorough cleaning of a supply closet”, there’s very little chance for anyone to find out what actually happened – mostly because no one would question it in the first place.

      1. Myrin*

        Although now that I’m thinking about i moret, it’s not unreasonable to assume that someone is going to see the new inventory entry and promptly ask OP’s husband about how on earth he got ahold of these long-forgotten relics and then he’d have to outright lie about their whereabouts. Uncomfortable. I don’t know how realistic it is that anyone would a) see that it was the husband who re-entered the equipment and b) would actively ask about it. That’s where the “know your workplace” comes into play again, I think.

      2. JoJo*

        Yeah, but why take the risk? The husband had nothing to do with the initial theft, doesn’t even know the former employee, so why should he risk his career over this? I’d report it to upper management immediately and let them handle it.

    2. Snark*

      I wouldn’t have either, but there’s a weirdly punitive tone to a lot of the comments on this that is perplexing me.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I was perplexed, too, but then I remembered that there are a lot of pound-of-flesh people in this world, and we’ve seen a lot of them comment here.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I know some people are quite against 12-step programs, so I wonder if perhaps that’s part of it?

    3. JoJo*

      I think getting fired for taking stolen property back and protecting the thief’s identity would be pretty much a given in most companies. At the very least, it shows poor judgment, at the worst, it’s being an accessory after the fact.

  16. Betsy*

    You never can tell when you’ll get an interview. I applied for two almost identical jobs (in different cities) recently. I was slightly overqualified for both, in my opinion. For the first one, I just got a standard rejection email saying there were many qualified candidates, etc. For the second I got an interview and feedback saying how much they were impressed by my resume and interview, etc.

    For the first one I think it could have been for all kinds of reasons. I think there was one criterion I didn’t meet quite as well as the others. Maybe it was that. Or perhaps they really didn’t like the idea of hiring someone from interstate. I really don’t know.

    I am actually continually surprised by the kinds of places I get interviews for and the kinds I don’t. I’ll get interviews for jobs I *never* thought would consider me because I didn’t feel qualified enough. Conversely, I often won’t get an interview for what seems like a basic position that I know I have all the skills to do.

  17. hbc*

    OP1: Did your husband get all of the company background on this guy before he agreed to the meeting? I think there’s extra risk if he didn’t check into it. For example, there’s an ex-employee here that, if you’ve worked five years or less, simply left for a better opportunity. If you were in management or were here longer, you’d know that he pulled all kinds of crap, tried to sue us after leaving, and has tried to get back in several times. We also have someone who owed the company a lot of money for a salary advance (for complicated reasons.)

    In either of those cases, TPTB would be livid finding out that there was *also* theft by those employees and they didn’t have a chance to weigh in on what to do, or at least have a note in the file. And they *would* find out in the case of Lawsuit Guy, because there would be someone receiving an email about how he was talking to your husband and they had such a good rapport and he mentioned there might be an opening for him.

    1. Midlife Job Crisis*

      I agree. If he doesn’t know the whole story about this ex-employee’s history, he could be putting himself in a more awkward position. It’s this ex-employee’s word against your company’s. It could be a con.

      1. neeko*

        Confused as to what kind of con you think this could be? This person wasn’t prosecuted before so one could assume that they didn’t know he stole anything and could probably have continued to not say anything about the theft.

    2. Bea*

      Yes, this is where my worries went to. The former employee is clearly seeking amends and good for that BUT the husband is not aware of his entire story with the company. I have seen many incredible stories of horrid former employees who wouldn’t be allowed to just drop off some stolen goods and ride into the sunset.

      It also depends on so many factors.

      I have forgiving former employers who would want to be the ones to make the call and I’ve always until recently been given a lot of authority but I know that’s their call and their knowledge of theft is important because that’s their stuff that’s been missing. I would never cover up for a stranger let alone one in recovery, that’s enabling behavior and not a true amends imo

    3. Catabodua*

      It’s interesting that my opinion on this keeps shifting around as I read other replies. My first thought was bringing in a possible prosecution wouldn’t accomplish anything years after the fact but you’re right – there may be a big back story that only some folks who work there know about and would impact decisions that were made.

    4. OP#1*

      I agree that he probably should have checked the guy out first, but he didn’t. As it turned out, the guy was a part-time contract employee, and had continued to work for the organization on a few occasions after the theft, which, he told my husband, was one of the reasons he felt so guilty about the theft and wanted to make it right. My husband tends to take things at face value, as he demonstrates here.

      In thinking about this question since I’ve posed it, I’ve realized that it’s really apples and oranges– he’s higher up the food chain and has significant authority and oversight; I’m in a much more hierarchical organization with much more stringent rules and a different office culture. I don’t think I’d be able to react the same way he did, even though I agree with his actions on a personal level. There would be considerably more risk to me than there was to him, and I don’t know that I’d want to shoulder that risk for a stranger.

      1. JoJo*

        Did the organization file an insurance claim and receive a payout for the stolen items? If so, they could be accused of insurance fraud if the equipment turns up on company grounds.

  18. hbc*

    OP3: I think you’re absolutely right to take it personally, but you’re doing it in the wrong way.

    The hiring manager doesn’t like you. That’s all. They don’t want to spend 40 hours a week working with the person who unknowingly pushes their buttons or whose mannerisms remind them of their ex or whatever. It says nothing about your work, it doesn’t undercut previous praise–it’s just some bad luck in the form of bad chemistry.

      1. LQ*

        So much this! Even if everyone else at the company loved me, if my manager doesn’t like me they can do a lot to create pain for me. Even if they aren’t allowed to fire me. It’s nearly worse and such a bad, and painful way to work.

  19. Triplestep*

    OP#2, I’m going to be the dissenter here on the sign. My workplace is like yours in terms of open-door policy, and a sign would seem really out of step. Actually, a sign DID seem out of step to me when I encountered one a couple of weeks ago – it was on the door of a colleague who had asked me to stop by, so I was kind of miffed when I saw it. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on, and then the miffed feeling dissipated quickly. I can’t help feeling that had the door simply been locked – no sign – it would have accomplished the same thing, only I wouldn’t have felt miffed, and then irritated with myself for feeling miffed.

    I do agree that you should not disentangle yourself or try to stop pumping to answer the door – I think people will learn that you’re busy if you simply do not answer the door when they knock. (And resist the urge to engage in conversation if they start to yell through the door!) But in offices like ours, I think the added step of hanging a sign – even a nice, carefully worded one – could be seen as “in your face” when a locked door accomplishes the same thing.

    1. HR Here*

      I guess u work in a very different environment, but I really disagree, and kind of get like, she’s not responsible for how others “feel” about finding a sign up…. It’s stressful trying to pump at work, then having to deal with the door rattle (heaven forbid you’ve forgotten to lock it…), And, in my experience, the inevitable conversation outside the door about why the door is locked, is she in there, what is going on, etc.
      This is ideally where a brief email to those she often collaborated with is helpful. A succinct, “having just returned from maternity leave, there’s going to be a few times a day when I’ll need to close my office for about 20 minutes. I’ll hang a small sign up as a reminder. If you drop me a note that you’re looking for me, I’ll connect with you when I’m finished.” Most people will be able to figure out what’s going on.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, this is where I land as well. Do what you need to do to give people a heads up, hang a sign (I liked someone’s suggestion upthread of a white board kind of set up that can be changed to say “Please don’t disturb; available at 10:20” or something), don’t try to manage people’s feelings. If they’re annoyed or embarrassed at first, OP is likely going to be pumping for many months so they have plenty of time to get used to it.

    2. anon scientist*

      The OP said that locked doors are abnormal in her office, so the locked door may be more “in your face” in her office than a sign.

      I’d rather see a sign if I stopped by someone’s office, and I’d also rather not have the door rattled if I’m the person on the other side. I always get startled when I’m in a public restroom and someone tries the door. The door rattling would probably startle me every time.

      1. anon scientist*

        Edited to add – of course she should still lock her door, but the sign likely stops most people from trying the knob at all.

    3. anonagain*

      Maybe you were miffed about the sign, but I can see someone else being miffed about an unexplained locked door. In both cases someone is miffed, but in the latter situation the OP has to deal with someone interrupting her pumping session.

      Ultimately if a coworker feels miffed, that’s their business to sort out. All the OP can do is take reasonable steps to guard her pumping breaks.

    4. WeevilWobble*

      So you would prefer to inconvenience someone and destroy their literal or figurative flow by knockinh and then put them in an awkward position of not answering so as not to have the agony of reading a sign?

    5. Chriama*

      I literally don’t understand how a sign would leave you miffed, and I don’t think it’s a common reaction or something OP should try to cater to.

      I do think that if someone tries to open the door and it’s locked they’re likely to assume OP is just not at her desk right now and that will be the end of it. But others have pointed out that the rattle can be startling and I agree that preventing people from even trying the door might be more to OP’s comfort than steeling herself against random, unexpected knocks.

      1. Triplestep*

        I’m surprised at all the consternation over my suggesting a sign might not be well received. This was exactly my point… most people would encounter a locked door and assume she wasn’t there and leave. For the few who have been rattling the door handle, they will learn eventually to stop. (OP can put the word out via email as was suggested, but I bet even the grapevine method would take care of it.) Instead a sign would be a constant visual and in her office culture, might be off-putting. YMMV.

        Is the OP responsible for her coworker’s “feelings”? No. We never are. But if she didn’t care how a sign might be received (she used the term “out of step”) I doubt she would have written to Alison in the first place. Since the locked door essentially accomplishes the same thing, I’d go with that and let people learn.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          But the OP explained that people haven’t seen the locked door and left–they’ve been rattling the door handle, which people here have explained can startle someone trying to pump and interrupt their pumping and make it take longer. Sure, people have to learn, but in this case the better (for the OP’s pumping) thing to let people learn is how to deal with a sign on a door.

          1. Triplestep*

            Lots of assumptions here about startling and milk flow. It’s not the same for everyone, so I’m just going just going by what the OP wrote and what her focus seems to be.

            My street creds, in anyone is interested: I pumped at work before Mother’s Rooms were a thing 22 years ago. I have designed more Mother’s Rooms than I can count, and once when I had to set up a temporary one due to constuction, I drove an hour to work on a weekend to move the furniture and clean the room myself so the Moms would find it ready on Monday morning. I know from pumping at work!

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              What assumptions, exactly? The people making comments here on this site saying that’s exactly what happens to them are speaking from their own experiences. Are you not reading their comments, or do you think they are misrepresenting their own experiences?

              1. Triplestep*

                Neither. I read the OP. The author did not mention flow, being startled, etc. She mentioned not wanting to make this A Thing. That’s what I am speaking to. We are supposed to take LWs here at their word.

                1. Observer*

                  So? She’s clearly having a hard time with the fact that PEOPLE ARE TRYING THE DOOR. She feels pressured to untangle herself so she can respond.

                  She shouldn’t have to deal with it. There is no doubt that it’s going to have a negative over all effect on her ability to continue to pump. And, keeping people’s delicate sensibilities from getting riled by making herself nuts is really not her responsibility.

            2. SallytooShort*

              So that means you know better than the actual OP who explains it is disturbing to her?

              1. Triplestep*

                Nope, it means I read that she did not want to make it “A Thing” and I was speaking to that. It may well be disturbing her, but that was not the focus of her letter. Or even mentioned. *shrug*

                1. Observer*

                  Actually that is the ENTIRE focus of the letter. How to deal with people trying to get into her office while she is pumping.

        2. SallytooShort*

          But you still think it’s OK for her to hide in her office like a criminal while people try to push open her door over a perfectly rational sign.

          It doesn’t accomplish the same thing. That was stated in the letter.

        3. Observer*

          Except that is NOT what is happening. The OP explicitly explained that people actually TRY THE DOOR. And some people even to do this REPEATEDLY.

          If these people get miffed, they need to grow up a bit.

    6. MLB*

      If people had common sense, regardless of having an open door policy, they would realize that a closed door automatically means “do not disturb”. But since her co-workers clearly got off of the common sense train early, she needs a sign.

      At my first job out of college, I worked in a support role in an IT department. Our help desk would often come to my desk to ask me a question. And when I ate lunch, I would generally sit at my desk so I could get online an read the news or something, and although I was eating lunch (and they could see that did this pretty much every day) they would still come over to me and ask questions. So I put a “I’m at lunch, don’t bug me” type sign on the outside of my cube and that seemed to do the trick.

    7. OP#2*

      This was exactly my worry! I haven’t seen anyone else post signs, so it seemed like a potential in-your-face move that would effectively announce to people coming to or just walking past my office that I am pumping. So far, I had mostly been ignoring knockers, but since I’m still having issues weeks later, it may be time to try for the sign anyway. I appreciate the perspective!

      1. Emi.*

        You sound to me like you’re hoping people won’t realize you’re pumping, but imo everything is less awkward if they do, because then there’s no “Ugh, why is her door shut, what’s going on?” It’s just “Oh, right, I’ll come back later.

      2. SallytooShort*

        I think the white board idea might be your best bet if doable. A quick message on it and if people stop by they can write “see Jess when you get a chance” or whatever. So they don’t feel like it’s a wasted walk.

        1. NW Mossy*

          I’m now having an intense flashback to my college days – we all used to have whiteboards on our doors for exactly this purpose. Cell phones were only just starting to be affordable for students then, so this was our very primitive form of texting.

      3. Free Meerkats*

        You’re having the knockers and handle rattlers because

        it is customary for folks entering to knock briefly on the door (open or closed), then simply walk in without waiting for a response.

        Since that’s the custom at your company, you need a sign so they knownot to knock and rattle.

      4. Observer*

        Who really cares if people know you are pumping. I TOTALLY get why you would not want to pump in public – I would not want to either. But who cares if people know you are pumping? There is nothing shameful or secret about this. No one seems to mind announcing that they are going to the restroom, and to be honest, I think that that’s a lot more gross. But it’s a normal function and no one needs to try to hide the fact that they actually use the restroom on occasion, or even that they are going to use one NOW.

    8. essEss*

      But without the sign, you would not have known if the door was locked until you tried opening it and that’s the point of the letter that the OP gets flustered when people try the door.

      1. WeevilWobble*

        Or if someone forgets to lock then you walk in on them pumping. Never open a closed door without knocking. That’s grade school manners.

    9. SallytooShort*

      Since you were irritated with yourself for being miffed you must know that wasn’t a proportional response to the situation. And trying the door would have disturbed the person. (And do you really just try closed doors at work without knocking?!?!)

      So, I don’t think the OP should have to mitigate unreasonable responses from colleagues who would prefer to disturb her than read a sign for some reason.

      1. Triplestep*

        To be fair, the miffed feeling was probably stemming from my having reported as asked (to another building on my campus) and then being greeted by a “Do Not Disturb” sign. I’m not generally miffed by signs, but you just don’t see them here.

    10. Snark*

      “OP#2, I’m going to be the dissenter here on the sign. My workplace is like yours in terms of open-door policy, and a sign would seem really out of step.”

      Open door policy or not, she needs to have some kind of assurance that people won’t barge in on her pumping. That’s way more important than being fractionally out of step with an office culture where barging is common.

      1. Triplestep*

        The lock assures the lack of barging, no?

        The OP used the words “out of step” so I guess it’s up to her to decide what combination of tools she wants to use to get the message across and still feel “in step”. There have been many good suggestions here, and plenty of support for a sign if she wants to go that route. If it were me, I would use lock, grapevine, and headphones so I didn’t have to hear the rattling while the grapevine worked its way around!

        1. Snark*

          It’s still a disturbance. At least according to my wife, whose experience was that pumping still set off a fairly intense hormonal reaction that had nowhere to go since the boy wasn’t present, and who consequently required a peaceful and quiet place to pump. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to tolerate that out of deference to an office culture.

  20. Czhorat*

    OP5 – your current name is your name. I never used my maiden name on resumes or anything else after I changed it, and if there was someone who knew me under the old one is a simple enough thing to say “I go by Czhorat these days”.

    If you worked for a large corporation and they need to call to verify employment you can say, “I was known as NotCzhorat when I was working there”.

    This really shouldn’t at all be a big deal.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I think I agree with what you’re saying, but to add my own two cents: I agree with Alison, and want to reinforce that you should put the name you intend to be hired with on your resume. It was an opposite situation, but I once hired someone who changed her name when she got married in between accepting our offer and her first day — I had to set up a new email, etc., for her, since she didn’t tell me before she started!

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s an excellent point.

        I changed my name while I was employed, so aside from the handful of incredulous questions as to why I was changing it there was little impact. I did make sure they didn’t order a new set of business cards for me until after the change.

        Overall, it’s a very short-term issue. A few years down the road nobody will even think of you as having had the old name.

  21. HR Here*

    OP #2, I second a do not disturb sign. I did with my first and am about to do it all again. They sell them on Amazon. I must work with a smaller group, but I also give my team a heads up that when my sign is on the door I won’t be able to answer for about 20-30 minutes (I work mostly with women, which helps). If you can somehow matter of factly make a similar announcement, it may help.
    I’ve found my team needs very specific instructions. So I include info like, if someone asks if they can wait outside my office, please advise I’ll be awhile and ask them to return later or call me for an appointment, etc.

  22. Christine D*

    In my organization, a simple note on the door saying “On Conference Call” is enough to deter any potential knockers. It might technically be a lie for you, but it’s a white lie that hurts no one.

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks, I appreciate the suggestion! Unfortunately, its pretty routine in my office for folks to enter (quietly!) even when conference calls are ongoing (assistants to drop off mail, people passing on hard copy documents they want you to have asap, deciding to join you for a conference call in your office rather than dial in separately at the last minute), so not sure that would deter effectively

      1. LQ*

        If there’s a lot of document passing what about something that just said, slide documents under the door? It might feel a little odd but if I was passing out mail and normal practice was to open door quietly and drop it off but there was a sign then sliding it under would make sense. I know that happens to a couple people around here frequently. Or if you have the same few people who drop off mail and pass on documents could you let them know that when your door is closed you need to not be interrupted (and maybe they could slide the stuff under the door, or some other arraignment there?)

  23. sssssssssss*

    #4 – I knew the odds were good when we were acquired by another company that I would get laid off but didn’t know when. I figured I would get two or more weeks’ notice like my counterpart in another city (she was given a seven-week layoff notice), so in my head I was preparing for that.

    I wasn’t prepared to be laid off at 10 a.m. right before a national holiday with no further notice, pack up, leave now, we just don’t need you. I cried the entire time I packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes (which someone had to ask permission for me to do) and was still crying when my lovely coworker drove me home.

    Sometimes I wish I hadn’t cried, that I had been more stoic. But then another part of me says, no, it’s okay that your boss and ex-boss were made uncomfortable by your crying since they handled your lay off so awkwardly in the first place. (Truly, they were awkward, like it was their first layoff notice. My ex-boss was invited to deliver the news as someone who I knew well and it might help to hear it from someone I knew well – it didn’t.) It depends on my mood. But there’s no shame.

    This leads to a comment about post #3: I totally get where you’re coming from. When I had been laid off, I was invited to call HR. I did. She stressed that there was no performance issues that led to the layoff and my position was simply no longer needed. HR told me that they had asked around the other departments to see if they could take me on first instead of laying me off and no one stepped up and said I could be useful to them. That hurt more! I, too, had received all sorts of positive feedback from other departments and I believed until the moment I had been let go that I had a good reputation in the company…but no one wanted me beyond what I already did? It’s like being a friend that everybody likes…but no one would ever think to, gasp, date them.

    I intellectually know that the decision to lay me off was strictly a financial one. But three years later, I sometimes still feel stung that no one felt I was good enough to be kept on despite the kudos I received.

    1. Colette*

      Here’s the thing – in most businesses, but especially in businesses that are making cuts, it’s not enough to think someone does good work or to like them personally. You have to be able to justify spending money on paying them, and you need to have work that matches their skills. And, in some cases, if you decide you need to keep someone in particular, someone else is going to lose their job. It’s not personal, so if you can reframe how you think of it, that might be helpful.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Right. In order to be taken on by another department, they have to have a need–and the budget–for another person. That’s not always the case. If someone were being laid off at my company and asked if I could take them on, I’d say no: my department is at capacity, everyone has enough to do and isn’t overloaded, and I don’t have the budget for another person. So it’s not personal, it’s business.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah, the HR lady should have explained that better to you, I think. “Asked around if anybody had room in the budget” is more accurate.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Agreed. I’ve been feeling like that while looking for a job, but no matter how good you are, people usually won’t hire you unless they have an opening.

      2. OP #4*

        I do realize now that it’s not personal; they essentially created the job for me when I was hired and their needs changed unexpectedly. I’m the first person who can admit that it probably wasn’t tenable long-term, especially after all the things that changed on my boss’ end. I super respect his work and even if I’d been given a chance to try to fit in I would have been way over my head. Part of the problem was that I was terrified; I couldn’t legally work at all in 2016 because of immigration/visa issues, so the prospect of being unemployed indefinitely again was really scary. Obviously the circumstances are different this time, but I had that knee-jerk reaction.

    2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      I was facing something similar with my “layoff” in 2016 (I put that in quotes because my job was eliminated and absorbed into a higher-level position, but I had a three-month lead time to find a new position and ended up with no lag in employment). I wanted to stay with the same organization if possible, and I was fairly well liked and respected, but for a few months there were no open positions that fit my skill/education level or my existing salary/responsibilities. One job did get posted just over a month before my dead-man-walking phase ended, but I would have been back to square one if one of the other applicants had been hired. I was lucky enough that something that fit came open, but it was pretty nerve wracking.

  24. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP3 I think you should reframe this as a lucky escape. Would you really want to work for someone who you know dislikes you? I think reporting to this person who dislikes you would cause you to have a miserable work experience.

  25. Serendipity*

    I don’t have any advice to give, but thought I’d share my experience in case you find it helpful.

    I am currently pumping at work too, only there are no locking doors in the office where I work, just a little glass-walled cube with opaque panels called the ‘shark tank’ where I go to express. The only alternative is the disabled toilet – not happening. The cube is used ad-hoc to give a little privacy for phone calls in our open plan office, and people just walk in and close the door when they want to use it.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of ‘do not disturb’ sign I put on the door, someone will inevitably be too distracted by their phone call to see the sign and walk in on me. It’s happened a couple of times a week for the past two months.

    I’ve grown quite blasé about it. We both play a pretend game. They pretend that they were never there and try and back away quietly, and I pretend that I didn’t notice that they opened the door and walked in on me. I do keep everything covered up with a soft muslin shawl around my shoulders, so it’s not R-rated and I can still make eye-contact with my colleagues in the lunch room.

    In all this, I’ve found that my colleagues take their queues on how to behave, by how I behave. When I was trying to be very discreet and secretive, those who opened the door would be very awkward and embarrassed around me. Now that I’m very open about wheeling the pump in, telling my boss I’m going AWOL for half an hour to express, writing “serendipity’s milk!” in black sharpie on bottle labels and acting completely unconcerned by the occasional walk-in, it’s normalised the pumping made things a lot more comfortable for everyone in the office.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That’s terrible! I’m sorry you don’t have an actually effective private space to pump.

    2. essEss*

      If you are in the US, the business must provide a private area (that others cannot enter while you use it) for you to express your milk. A non-locking room where your coworkers keep walking in does not meet the legal requirement.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m impressed that you (plural) can manage both sides of “and then the ground opened and swallowed Fergus, and Serendipity didn’t notice.”

    4. artgirl*

      Sounds like you could benefit from the rubber stoppers! That could stop people long enough that they would have to look at the sign.

    5. Snark*

      Your employer is actually in violation of legal requirements. They need to provide you a private, locking room, and bathrooms are very clearly not included in that.

    6. OP#2*

      Yikes! I’ve gotten pretty blasé about nursing in public with a shawl, etc., but admit the idea of trying to pump and knowing inevitably a coworker is going to walk in on me would be a pretty big deterrent. I’m both sorry you’re having to deal with that and grateful for your example on how to normalize discussions/accommodations of pumping at work.

    7. Observer*

      If you are in the US, your boss has a legal problem on their hands. Even if you are exempt, they NEED to provide a space with locking door – or that provides a guarantee of privacy in some other way, for nursing mothers who are non-expempt. And, in some states exempt employees need to be give a private place to pump, as well.

  26. Bagpuss*

    LW#2 – I think that putting a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door would be appropriate, while you are pumping.

    We have an open door culture in our office but we have ‘engaged’ signs – so if my door is closed but not marked as ‘engaged’, people will knock and come straight in, if it shows as ‘engaged, then they don’t.

    In our case, this is partly because we do sometimes see clients in our offices, but it also works when you are having a private meeting or, as in your case, when you are pumping.

    if you think it will be trickyin your office then consider adding to ‘do not disturb’ something like “if you email me I will come find you as soon as I’m free” or something similar.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      The e-mail thing is a good idea.
      And if they can’t be bothered to e-mail you or even leave a post-it on your door, it probably wasn’t all that important.

  27. London Grammar*

    OP3, you wrote:
    “Well, weeks have gone by, I haven’t had a response, and it looks like they’re already past the interview process.”

    Are you sure about this? There may be other reasons why they haven’t contacted you. Are you sure that they have gone ahead with conducting interviews for the position?

    Sometimes, after applications have been received, events can happen at the hiring company. For example, at my workplace after the advert went out for a position and applications were received, HR were in touch as they wanted us to make a late amendment. There was also one time where we had to add/remove something from the job description following a recent development. In some instances, this can result in the positions being re-advertised

    If they really have gone ahead, then you’ll have to chalk this up as something that happens sometimes. Yes, it could be because the hiring manager doesn’t like you, and if that’s the case, you’ve had a lucky escape. I think finding out at this stage that they aren’t interested in hiring you, is preferable, to finding out after doing well at the interview.

    I think you’re taking it too personally and I also believe you need to have more confidence in your skills and abilities. This has to come from YOU.

  28. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Unrelated side note: #5 is precisely why I don’t intend to change my name in the event I find someone crazy enough to marry me.
    On topic: honestly I feel like the in-between situation is indeed your best option here. You *could* try mentioning it, but then you’d be relying on other people’s memories and keep in mind they might be very busy/contacting other references for other people as well.

    1. Teapots for Llamas*

      I’m the OP for this letter, and it seems like it’s possibly more confusing than it’s worth to change my name now. Between reference checks, background checks, etc., it might just be easier to change my name later.
      It’s a whole ball of wax. Not to mention the number of things tied to my current last name that I didn’t even have to think of back when I got married! Even my email address is my first name.last name, it’s a lot.

      1. Struck by Lightning*

        I know it can feel like a lot (been through it several times…I changed it for first marriage, 1st divorce, second marriage). But, assuming you are in the US, it is INFINITELY harder and more expensive to try to do not part of divorce/marriage. Every system we have is set up to assume women change their name upon marriage / divorce so places like DMV are equipped to cope with it easily. ..changing names in other circumstances they really struggle with. For practical purposes, if you’re changing your name you really want it done as part of your divorce decree.

        Good luck! I know everything is overwhelming now, but I can’t tell you how much happier my ex & I both were even a few months out from our divorce.

        1. Teapots for Llamas*

          Yeah, unfortunately the law in my state only allows me to change back to my maiden name in the process of the divorce, not take a different last name. It’s a kerfuffle!

      2. Nanani*

        Could you set up a new email and just redirect it to your old one? Or vice versa?

        I still have emails from my younger days that don’t have my name on them and are quite unprofessional, but I have very long running subscriptions and such tied to them, not to mention old friends might try to contact me there, so I set up gmail (which has my actual name and is my professional go-to) to retrieve the mail from the old ones for me. Gmail makes it pretty easy and other modern providers probably do too.

        Don’t let technology stop you from using the name you want!

        1. Teapots for Llamas*

          That’s true! I may be talking myself out of this prematurely! Thanks for that point :) It’s easy to get discouraged by tiny setbacks and confusion right now, but it’s also not impossible to find workarounds.

      3. anonagain*

        It’s your name and your choice, Teapots for Llamas. I think you should do whatever is going to work best for you.

        People change their names. You won’t be the first or last applicant in this situation that a hiring manager is dealing with.

        (You’ll be asked to provide all the names you’ve ever used during a background check anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about that piece at all.)

      4. Yvette*

        It’s not that this part of Alison’s advice ” (It can also be smart to note the change to reference-checkers as well, by saying something like, “Jane Smith worked with me when I was using my married name, Emmanuelle Warbleworth. She knows I’ve since changed it, but I wanted to mention this to ward off any potential confusion.”)” is not valid, it is just that with many of online application systems, there is no way to input that kind of information. You are asked to list your references, and often additional information such as relationship etc. are populated in boxes via pull down menu selections. There is no place to make those notes. You would probably be better off notifying your references.

        The same holds true for listing your places of employment. On a resume you can note the name you worked there under, but on-line forms often don’t provide a comment area, you only can list places and dates, possibly a supervisor’s name.

        Not trying to discourage you, just wanted you to be aware of these things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Most places don’t check references until the late stages of their process, even if you provided the info earlier, so the idea is that you’d mention it when you’re getting to that point. (There are some exceptions to this, but they’re highly unusual.)

      5. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Oof, yeah, I forgot about all the other things that could have your married name on it too.
        I can definitely get behind changing your name after the job search entirely, the in-between option is really only an option if your name is changing right now.

      6. MommyMD*

        I’ve go by two names and it’s sometimes a hassle. It’s too long to explain. One time I used a credit card and they asked me to verify my name after I handed it over and I’m like, uh, not sure what name is on the card, I have two lol.

  29. MLB*

    LW#1 – I disagree with Alison on this one. I’m all about CYA at work, and there’s no way I would agree to take stolen equipment back and promise there would be no legal action from the company without speaking to the higher-ups about it. Even if you were well aware of company culture, it could come back to bite you in the ass.

    LW#2 – I would put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. It’s actually no different than you needing privacy to make a phone call, whether it be business or personal, and not being disturbed.

    LW#4 – Your behavior is probably way worse in your head than it appeared to your boss. I’ve been laid off twice (first time we got a heads up 2 months in advance, second time was a shock) and while I didn’t break down in front of my boss, I did get teary. It’s a perfectly normal reaction and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. If you do reach out to your boss, don’t focus on apologizing for the reaction, but more about thanking them for the opportunity and asking about being a reference as Alison suggested.

  30. Chriama*

    #2 — I know it’s awkward to think of someone knocking and wandering away, but I don’t think it’s a terrible thing. You could make a policy of not answering when pumping and leaving your door slightly open the rest of the time, so when people knock the door just opens. It’s more subtle than putting up a sign but I bet people will figure it out in a couple days.

    If not, a sign is the best way to go. I get that you’re looking for an answer that doesn’t make you stick out in the office, but that doesn’t exist. Do you worry that if you draw attention to the fact that you’re pumping, you’ll get “mommy-tracked”, even subconsciously, by your coworkers? I would evaluate that fear against what you know of your company culture. People are human beings outside of work and that sometimes infringes on work time. Don’t be afraid of taking the benefits and protections you’re entitled to.

  31. finderskeepers*

    What does this mean ” taking my mother’s maiden name”? Also, is there a fancy foreign term similar to “nee” that works in this situation?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If the OP is taking her mother’s maiden name, it sounds like “nee” wouldn’t apply, since it’s not the name she was born with or ever used, if I understand correctly.

      (It sounds to me like: Jane Doe marries John Smith and they have a child who they name Cersei Smith, who is our letter writer. Cersei Smith marries Fergus McGillicudy and has employment history under the name Cersei McGillicuddy. Cersei is now getting divorced and plans to take the name Cersei Doe instead of her maiden/”nee” name of Cersei Smith.)

    2. Chriama*

      Well your maiden name is usually your dad’s name, sometimes a combination of mom and dad’s name. So I assume if she was reverting to *her* maiden name it would be her dad’s last name. Instead she’s reverting to her *mom’s* maiden name (aka her maternal grandfather’s last name).

    3. Teapots for Llamas*

      It means that my parents are divorced (NOT amicably) and I don’t want to give up my husband’s last name to take back my father’s. I want to use a last name that means something to me, and my nother’s maiden name is perfect for that. Meaningful, simple to spell, sounds good with my first name.

      1. Lora*

        Totally understand – I have a long married name that I was stuck with post-divorce due to having multiple publications under my married name. In the vast majority of cases, all that will happen is someone says, “um, didn’t it used to be Teapotsforllamas Marriedname?” and you say, “yeah, got divorced” and they reply “oh! ok” and that’s it. No further explanation needed.

        Very occasionally someone will ask for the whole long story of your name, but I’d recommend keeping it as short and matter of fact as possible even then. “But didn’t it used to be Marriedname?” Yep, got divorced. “But weren’t you Maidenname before that?” Yep, took my mom’s name, hers is nicer. “Oh.” You really don’t need more explanation than that – my mother keeps her married name even though she was widowed in the Carter era because her maiden name is long and unpronounceable by Americans. Aesthetic preferences are totally understandable to everyone: “I changed my name to Jane Smith because Jalanea Putinskaya-Ceaucesculuii was too long” is fine, but so is “I changed my name to Stephanie Jones because I didn’t really like Amy Doe” is too.

        1. Desdemona*

          Don’t most widows keep their married name? It’s not the same as being divorced, since at least presumably, one wouldn’t have unpleasant associations attached to the name of the deceased.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Totally. I’m not married, but I have no attachment to my father’s name (we aren’t close, to put it mildly). If I were to change my name, I would probably use my maternal grandmother’s maiden name–it sounds better with my first name than my mother’s maiden name, and I was really close to my late grandmother, so it feels meaningful.

      3. Reba*

        I think that’s lovely and I’m sorry it’s going to be a pain for you to accomplish it! But I think you’ll be happy when you do. I hope it goes as smoothly as possible.

        FWIW I have seen colleagues use FirstName CurrentName (FormerName) on resumes and online profiles. Another colleague changed her name on marrying but used FirstName MarriedName BirthName professionally, so that for publications and in the short form she would be consistently Jolene BirthName. Just to say that different people find different solutions.

    4. Liane*

      That instead of resuming the surname she had before marrying, she is dropping the married surname and replacing it with the one her mother had pre-marriage?
      So Emmanuelle Credenza married and became Emmanuelle Warbleworth. Now that she is divorcing, she understandably decides she doesn’t want to use Warbleworth, but also doesn’t want to resume Credenza. She never liked it, or she doesn’t want to be confused with her brother Immanuel, etc. And picks a surname that honors her mother, Amanda Credenza, nee Skeffington.

  32. Cadbury Cream Egg*

    OP#2 I echo what others have said regarding signs. If you don’t want to be too specific I think the “Privacy Please” suggestion works fine. If you’re comfortable with it just give your colleagues a heads up ‘hey, if my door is shut I’m pumping, please come back later.’ I’ve been back a month from maternity leave and I just initially told my team leads that ‘if my door is shut, it means I’m pumping. But you’re welcome to text me if you have anything urgent that needs my attention.’
    They’ve been fine with it and got used to it within a week.
    This is round 2 for me so I’m more comfortable with it. If this is your first time around I totally get feeling awkward over it but in reality if these are all adults (and not fresh out of college adults, more adult-y adults, :) ) they’re probably more familiar with the concept of pumping than you realize, especially if they have children themselves and it won’t even phase them if you bring it up. Just be matter of fact about it in conversation and they’ll follow your lead.

  33. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    If I were the one knocking on the door, I’d really appreciate seeing a “privacy please” sign. I’d feel like a real jerk if I was knocking on a locked door and no one answered, and then I knocked again. Meanwhile, someone is pumping milk and wishing I’d go away. I typically don’t ever run into a closed door where I work, but if I did and pumping was the reason, a privacy sign would help a lot and I wouldn’t even attempt to knock or enter; I’d just come back later.

  34. bohtie*

    with the phrasing for #5 – I don’t necessarily think you need to tell them that it’s your married name vs. your unmarried name unless you feel totally comfortable doing it. (As someone who has been That Divorced Person in the office, people can be REALLY awkward about acting like “divorce” is a dirty word.) I’d say just that I’m changing my name, and if someone were to ask why, I might tell them the reason. But people change their names for all sorts of reasons — my brother changed his name simply because he wanted to bring back an old family name that, because of having a bunch of straight and/or unmarried women in my family for a couple generations, didn’t get passed on.

    With that said, I didn’t change my name when I got married, so I can’t speak to that aspect of it personally, but I know that sometimes people will get very squicky and weird at first when they find out that you’re divorced or in the process of getting a divorce, even though it’s quite common.

  35. BadPlanning*

    On OP2, if anyone is put off by a “Please do not disturb” — they would probably be more embarrassed to know that they were rattling the door while you were trying to pump. You are saving them some awkward!

    I worked in an office where the doors had built in signs that you could swap from “knock and enter” to “do not disturb.” It was handy because seeing a door set to “do not disturb” wasn’t out of the blue then — it was just a normal option you could select.

  36. CrystalMama*

    OP 4, I’m sensing very resilient vibrations from you. Independence will only make you stronger!

    1. Snark*

      I’m curious to know exactly how one receives vibrations through a computer screen. Or are you perhaps using a very sensitive seismograph?

        1. Snark*

          So did the introduction of woo into the discussion, but I guess OP4 took it in a different spirit than I did.

  37. a girl has no name*

    #2 We have a very similar open-door culture, and my coworker just added the Do Not Disturb sign. It works perfectly. If she didn’t have the sign, and I interrupted her accidentally- I would feel really bad. So, this helps both of us out. This is the perfect way to handle it. All of us know, but don’t need the details. (Her boss was really awkward when she mentioned she needed to pump and couldn’t make a last minute meeting. The sign has saved him from making a fool of himself again lol)

  38. chocoholic*

    OP5 – I was job searching shortly after I got married and was in a similar situation, and then again a few years later. I noted on my references just in parentheses what my name was when I worked for that person, in case they initially thought “who?” when they were contacted. I think name changes are common enough that if you just note something like that it, nobody is going to think too much of it.

  39. neeko*

    OP1, as a person in recovery, I just want to thank your husband for what he did. Amends are a very important and extremely difficult part of recovery. I’m not excusing what the former employee did but there is a very prevalent stigma against people who are in recovery. I assure you that his empathy and willingness to talk with him did the person in recovery a world of good.

    1. Katniss*

      Seconded. My scariest amends was to an employer. I didn’t steal from them, but still behaved badly when I worked for them as I was in the worst spiral just before getting sober. The employer was incredibly kind about it and I still think about it and am cheered by the empathy they showed me. I am sure the person in this story appreciates the kindness just as much.

    2. MommyMD*

      This person did not make amends. They used a third party to get in touch with an employee they didn’t even know, wanting assurances there would be no consequences.

      1. neeko*

        Lucky for the former employee, you don’t have the final say on what qualifies as amends and what doesn’t.

      2. Switching Names for these Comments*

        Only you and your sponsor can qualify what an amend is. No one else has any say in what counts and what doesn’t. While the way they went about it isn’t the way I would have, it’s not my program and they are not my sponsee.

  40. EB*

    OP3 – If it’s any comfort we’re interviewing candidates for an opening right now and there’s an 80% chance my manager, the final say with this hire, will hire the candidate that basically no one else thinks is qualified for the position. Alison is right– you’re probably still well-loved there it’s just that particular person that didn’t find you to be a good fit.

  41. Former Pumper in Higher Ed*

    OP #2 – my former office was much the same way, and I handled it by putting a sign on my door that said “Available on chat/email.” If you don’t have chat, you could just use email. That way, people know you are available to take a quick question, and they don’t have to wonder what is up with your locked door.

    That being said – you do NOT have to be available for questions if you don’t want to. I didn’t mind working while I pumped (I had to pump A LOT so nothing would have gotten done if I didn’t), and talking on chat or email with colleagues. I wouldn’t answer the phone, as you could hear the machine, but a text conversation was fine. HOWEVER – pumping is different for everyone, and some people need the mental break in order to relax and let the milk down. Your sign could say something like, “Please do not disturb – send email if you have questions.” That way you can get to the email when you need to.

  42. Camellia*

    OP #2 – I agree with putting up a sign, and you might also consider adding “Will be available again at (insert time here).

    That way, whoever came to your door would know when they could come back.

  43. What's with today, today?*


    This is different, but neat. A lady called us a few years ago and had a 1960s era microphone that had our call letters engraved in it. She’d found it in her garage. Her ex husband had been an employee during the 80s, so how he ended up with it, we don’t know, but it was great to get it back. My boss actually had one of them too, so he let me keep it. It’s a great piece of radio history.

  44. Sandy*

    I’m also pumping right now and actually had one of the supervisors knock on my door and try to open it just yesterday. (I have had conversations with our supervisors before about how they can open my door when it’s shut to drop off paperwork, etc., since their shifts don’t always coincide with when I’m in the office.) He is a bold fellow and asked me later in the day why my office was locked. While I’m not interested in broadcasting “I’m pumping!” throughout my office, I figured it was easier in the long run (I plan to pump for another 8 months if I can) to say that I’m a new mom who needs to take a few breaks throughout the day. He connected the dots and he’ll probably just slide papers under the door in the future.
    I did tell the person in the next office over that I’d be pumping a few times throughout the day, mainly because she was the one dealing with the “Have you seen Sandy?” questions when people found my door shut. That died down after the first two weeks, as I’m sure people have connected the dots.

  45. Bea*

    I’m a forgiving person who’s worked for downright stupidly kind people where they have trusted to the point of having cases of embezzlement and renting to addicts that almost got them shot (long story as you may imagine).

    I want to take someone at face value when they say they’re simply sorry and returning equipment but they stole equipment and so what else did they do? Maybe they stole money or destroyed something or screwed over their employer in deeper ways they’re not able or willing to admit. It’s a huge can if worms that you open and can get you into deep shht without knowing. You don’t get to make a call that is so far out of your pay grade.

    Your husband has a good heart but is on the wrong side of the tracks so to day. Innocent people get into deep dark doo by doing this kind of thing. I’m not trying to be cynical, my old boss stumbled into a situation where she almost got herself shot though. So yeah caution.

    1. Snark*

      “so what else did they do?”

      We can’t possibly know that, so how is it actually helpful to OP or advancing the conversation to drag imponderable hypotheticals into the conversation?

      1. Bea*

        If you ask your superiors who know the person, instead of thinking someone you just met is being completely honest with you, you can find out.

        If nobody knew the guy then of course not. It depends on how long he’s been gone. You never know unless you do your research.

  46. Emily*

    #2: My pumping sign had a clipart cow on it (which was surprisingly too subtle for many people) and said “office in use, please do not enter.” I also included my phone extension, in case someone needed something right away.

  47. Anon 12*

    In my company I would not have felt comfortable slipping the equipment back into inventory because you don’t know what you don’t know outside of what former employee tells you. I am confident however that I could have had the conversation with the appropriate team members, accepted the equipment back and documented the particulars in a sealed file with our Legal team. It might actually be important to be able to backtrack this later if there were to be missing IP or if the story didn’t end with the equipment return for whatever reason. I would not promise the former EE absolute anonymity for that reason but would promise confidentiality within Legal/HR with no intent to prosecute if the facts were as presented.

  48. Catabodua*

    My office had a specific pumping room, so you went there and weren’t at your desk. Someone was looking for me, was told I was in the pumping room and he said “oh, where is it?” like he expected to go there to ask me his question instead of waiting. My boss said “If you had a need to pump breast milk you’d already know where it was.” and she could tell it finally clicked a lightbulb on for him what the pumping room was. People get oddly determined to talk to you / solve their problem right now!!

    For an office that has a door that closes/locks, I agree – hang a sign and no need to dance around what you’re doing. We should be treating this as normal, no big deal. “PUMPING” should be fine.

  49. Catabodua*

    OP3: You’re really over reacting here. One person doesn’t like you, and that same person doesn’t want to hire you in to a job that they’d be supervising. Making a leap to “I guess it was all fake and they really think that I’m crap ” is really weird and middle school-ish.

  50. Spider*

    #3 — I feel you, sis/bro.

    A few years ago, a position opened up in another department which I had wanted to work in for years. I got along great with the supervisor — we were both part of a small group of colleagues who would eat lunch together once a week and occasionally socialize after work — and I eagerly applied for the job. Everyone I had talked to about this at work told me I was a shoe-in for the position, and the supervisor herself was intimating that I had the job in the bag. However, I am naturally cautious and instinctively told myself (and everyone else) not to be too hasty, the pool of candidates could be really strong and who knows how I measured up against them, etc. I even said this several times to the supervisor, to make her more comfortable with having to reject me, if need be, and for her to know that there would be no hard feelings between us if I didn’t get the job. I was totally cool with that.

    What I wasn’t cool with (as it so happened) wasn’t just not being interviewed, but for the supervisor to not even tell me I wasn’t going to get an interview. I only found out that she was interviewing people when another coworker casually mentioned he had run into the supervisor and an interview candidate in the elevator.

    That hurt. But it’s not that she’d been lying to me all the time she was telling me I had a great chance of getting the job — she might well have thought that before she looked at the other applications. I just expected her to do me the courtesy of telling me directly that I hadn’t made it to the interview stage. She also might have had personal reasons for not wanting to hire me, but she could have easily let me down by saying, “Sorry, the other candidates were just really strong,” or, “Sorry, we’re friends and I think it would make our friendship awkward if I supervised you,” or something. Anything! As it was, I emailed her saying simply, “So, I take it I didn’t make it to an interview? :)” and she responded by apologizing for not having had the time to tell me. Which….riiigght.

    But it was for the best in the long run — in the past four years, she had four people fill and leave that position, and she herself was let go last month for not fulfilling her professional obligations. So, bullet dodged?

  51. EA in CA*

    Op #4

    I was you, back in December. My lay off was sudden and totally unexpected, and I was running the HR department too! Because of my high level knowledge of what was going on, I knew that this decision was going to be in in the best interest of the company. It sucked, since I was being laid off the Monday before Christmas. I cried. My manager cried. My super unemotional CEO sent me a warm farewell text and offered his support in my job search (he was travelling). Then I cried even more at home into my bottle of wine that my former co-workers brought over that night.

    This experience has made me stronger, and it will for you too. I’m kind of relieved that I was amicably laid off. It made my job search so much better/easier. I have since moved on with an organization that better suits me, pays better, and has high job responsibilities. And I no longer have to manager HR!

    Best of luck to you OP #4 and sending you all the good vibes I collected during my “fun-employment” towards you.

    1. OP #4*

      Thank you! My coworkers were all shocked as well when they found out and no one was really okay with it. A member of management sat me down before I left and offered some really encouraging words, which I needed. Fortunately even though I left on awkward terms I left on good terms and I know anyone at the office would be quick to recommend me. Obviously I would have preferred to stay but I’m taking this as a new opportunity to do something different and I’m so happy about the wonderful time I spent there.

  52. Noah*

    I really think #2 should ask for a lock or a room with a lock where she can pump. IMO, that is the least demanding of all possible reasonable accommodations for a new mother who is pumping. A sign is not sufficient. She’s entitled to more secure privacy than that.

  53. Captain Underpants*

    #2 My office culture is the same way! I used to have people barge in when I was on the phone when I first moved into the office because people were used to me being accessible whenever they needed something. Now I put a little post it note that says “Phone Call in Progress” and no one even comes to see me unless my door is open. It’s been very effective for me, I hope a little post it note that says something like “Please come back later” will help!

  54. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 My workplace has a similar culture – open doors *always*. A closed door must be some sort of mistake, so people barge right in. Knocking is optional.

    I hung a sign that said, “Do Not Disturb” is large letters. On the next line, it said, “Try email or slack” in smaller letters. I was absolutely shocked how well this worked. No one said anything about the sign, no one tried to come in, no one even knocked. Sometimes I’d hear people walk up to the door, but then they’d just walk away and I’d get an electronic message a few minutes later. It was glorious.

  55. Barney Stinson*

    I don’t like the culture of opening doors after you knock, and not just for breast pumping. What if you were having a performance management discussion with an employee? Just barge right in and interrupt sensitive conversations! No problem!

    I work in HR, though, so I might be hypersensitive to this.

  56. Yellow Peril*

    I think it’s pretty presumptuous of OP#1’s hubby to be all altruistic and contemplative about someone’s thievery when HE wasn’t the one who was robbed! I’m all for giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but since when is “I was a big drunk” an excuse for liberating equipment from one’s employer? I don’t think a court of law would necessarily see things that way, and I wouldn’t either. I’m especially surprised that the OP aspires to emulate such aiding and abetting as if this were a virtuous path to take.

    I’m very much anti-12-step programs, but I doubt even they would expect or encourage this execution of that particular step. Hubby did not have the right to make such a decision for his employer, and he should have used better judgment. What if the miraculous reappearance of the purloined goods had resulted in the blaming of some innocent current employee? Perhaps he should have considered that possibility and other negative outcomes instead of giving himself a high-five for his generosity of spirit.

    1. neeko*

      Well, what if none of those far-fetched things happen? I’m going to quote Snark from above and say “so how is it actually helpful to OP or advancing the conversation to drag imponderable hypotheticals into the conversation?” And according to the OP1, her husband does have the right to make that decision for the company. No one said that he was excusing his behavior. How is giving someone the opportunity to give something back, excusing someone’s behavior? I really doubt you put this much thought into your own wrongdoings.

      1. JoJo*

        What’s far fetched about that? It’s entirely possible that the reappearing equipment will engender an inquiry, and that the husband’s covering up the initial theft will be revealed.

        1. neeko*

          It’s also entirely possible and far more likely that nothing bad will happen at all. OP1 in the comments made it clear that it didn’t have a negative impact on someone and it’s hilariously presumptuous to assume that this person didn’t take any thought of that before meeting with this person. It’s so strange that so many commenters are assuming that they care more about this man’s job than he does.

    2. August*

      OP’s made it pretty clear that, to her and her husband’s knowledge, both the disappearance and reappearance of the equipment didn’t harm an employee. The former employee isn’t giving an excuse; returning the equipment is his attempt to make things right. Why insist that this guy go through a court of law just for the principle of the thing? OP’s husband used his judgement as a relatively high-level employee to do what he thought was right, and I’m sure he weighed the potential consequences before doing so. He can do something empathetic without “giving himself a high-five for his generosity of spirit” (a really uncharitable view of him, btw. Harsh.).

  57. Jules*

    #3 Honestly, it could just be a political thing where someone needs to be moved and the position you applied for was it. I had that experience where I was a contractor doing the role and they finally hired an inexperienced internal candidate who needed to be moved from her department and they decided that role was it. I thought the decision was poor but ultimately ended in a way better position than I would have if I had joined them.

  58. King Friday XIII*

    I started my last few before my legal name change, so I would apply with a resume listing my correct name, and when we got to references and legal forms for background checks, I’d bring up my paperwork name. So for example, my applications were all “I, King Friday, am applying for this job” and then when I got into the paperwork I’d note that my legal name was still Lady Elaine but I was planning to change it in the near future, and that a number of my previous employers would confirm employment as Lady Elaine. (I’m fortunate that I live in a liberal area, and had the luxury while interviewing to be okay weeding out employers who would be uncomfortable with employing me.) I didn’t get any pushback, even from the interviewers who were clearly confused because I was failing to pass as male completely.

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