my ex won’t leave our company after our break-up, I cried in front of my boss, and more

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

1. I got my partner a job at my company, we broke up, and she won’t leave

My partner of eight years and I just split up. We are not legally married. We are both female. Recently, I helped her get a job at my longtime workplace. I have worked there for more than 10 years. Our relationship has been rocky in the past, so when I helped her get a job at my workplace, I asked her to promise me she would find something else if we split up. Well, we broke up and she won’t leave.

I am planning on asking my HR department for help. I don’t know what they can do for me. I thinking about quitting, which I absolutely do not want to do. I don’t want to bring in any drama into my workplace. I don’t want to slander her.

I’m sorry you’re in that situation! That sounds really hard. Unfortunately, though, there’s not really anything you can do here, short of deciding to leave yourself. This isn’t something HR will intervene on; it’s a private relationship issue. The fact that you’d had an agreement that your ex would leave if you broke up isn’t something they’ll enforce. If you approach them, they’ll almost certainly just explain to you that this is a personal matter between the two of you and that they won’t ask someone to leave because a relationship ended … and it won’t reflect very well on you.

It sucks that you had an agreement that she’s not following through on now, but who knows, she might have more compelling reasons to stay now than she did before. And this isn’t the type of agreement you can insist someone keep; you’d be insisting that she abandon her source of income and that she do something that could have significant professional ramifications for her. At this point, you’ve got to accept that for whatever reason she no longer feels she can keep it.

The best thing you can do is to wait this out and see if you feel any differently a month or two now. If a few months from now, you’d still rather quit than work there with her, then sure, go ahead and start job searching. But it’s possible that after some time goes by, you’ll decide that you can continue to work there reasonably comfortably — or at least that you’re willing to make it work rather than quitting your job. Don’t decide anything now while you’re in the immediate aftermath of the break-up.

2. I’m mortified that I cried in front of my boss

Our entire team is overworked. We have too many projects and are over capacity. Management recognizes this and is working to bring on new hires, plus constantly thanking us for all our work. I have been flagging my work load for my supervisor every week. She is empathetic and keeps trying to pull things off my plate, but until we hire new staff, it is what it is.

Last week, a mistake was made on a project that had serious ramifications. I should have caught the mistake, but was moving so quickly and buried under the volume of work that I didn’t. No one blames me, but I still feel horrible.

In a check-in with my boss this week, I broke down. She was taken aback and tried to be as understanding as she could — apologetic for my work load, trying to come up with a plan to relieve my capacity, etc. But I feel awful. It was unprofessional, and I think shows that I am not capable to lead and/or handle this volume of work. How do I move forward from this?

Lots of people have cried at work, especially when they’re under a lot of strain. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. If you generally conduct yourself well and don’t normally collapse under pressure, a good manager isn’t going to see this one instance as indicating you can’t handle your job or not equipped for leadership. You are human! You had a human moment. I’m not encouraging crying at work — in general it’s good to avoid it — but it’s really not a disaster.

You could say this to her: “I wanted to apologize for letting my stress get the better of me when we talked last week. That’s not typical for me, and I appreciate how understanding you were about it.”

And then let yourself move on mentally! Truly, so many people have done this.

3. Can I ask an interviewer how much of the day I’ll spend on the phone?

I recently applied to a job, and I wanted to know if it’s rude to ask about how much of the day will be spent on the different duties. Basically, it’s for an administrator role, but as it’s such a small company (less than 15 people), it’s very much a “wears many hats” role. The job listing lists some of the key responsibilities as processing orders, managing stock levels, invoicing and finance support, managing customer reviews, dealing with employee requests (such as time off, sick leave, training), assisting in the monthly mail out (it’s a subscription service company), and speaking to customers over phone, email, and webchat.

I am happy to do all of those things. In fact, I love being busy and thrive in an environment where there’s always something to do. The trouble is, like most millenials, I hate speaking on the phone! I will do it, but there’s a difference between “10 – 20 short calls a day, but still plenty of time to do everything else” and “you will be glued to the phone eight hours a day and have to fit the rest of your responsibilities around that somehow.”

Is it rude to ask how much of the day I can expect to spend on the phone? If it’s the latter, I wouldn’t take the job, but I also don’t want to come across like I’m refusing to speak on the phone and them take me out of the running! I’ve worked in a call center before and absolutely hated it, so I want to make sure this isn’t like that before I take the job (if it was offered to me).

That’s not rude at all! With any job duty, it’s perfectly okay to ask, “Can you tell me what portion of the time I’d be doing X?” Or even more broadly, “Can you break down for me roughly what portion of the job each of the core responsibilities account for?”

So in this case, you could say, “Do you have a sense of how many calls this position takes in an average day?” or “What portion of the time would you say is spent doing phone support?”

4. Is a job I can’t prove better than no job at all?

I’m looking at finishing school and entering the workforce soon and I’m having a bit of trouble making a decision about my resume. The only job I’ve ever had was a part-time position in a very small business — and by “small,” I mean eight employees max, counting myself and the owner. I held the job for seven years, from when I was hired during high school until it went out of business two years ago. My problem is, I can’t get in touch with the owner to ask if she’d serve as a reference for me.

The only contact information I have for her is an email address, and she hasn’t answered any of the several emails I’ve sent her. She doesn’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or any other kind of social media, and I have no way of contacting anyone else that worked at the store – it was a very informal environment; I don’t know any of their last names – to see if they have a phone number for her. Basically, I’m stuck.

Is it better to have the job on my resume and have to explain that I can’t provide a reference or even confirmation that I worked there, or should I just leave it off and have my resume totally empty, as I’ve never worked anywhere else?

Definitely include it — even though the owner can’t be reached to talk about your work there, including it is better than a completely empty resume! (The same thing would be true if she’d died, for example — you wouldn’t have to remove the work from your resume just because she couldn’t be reached.) If anyone really pushes the question of whether this job even existed (which is unlikely to happen; interviews aren’t normally that adversarial), you can offer to provide W2s from those years showing you were employed there. (I’m not generally a fan of providing private tax information like that, but in this case it might be the only option.)

To help employers put more weight on that experience, since they can’t talk to the manager who managed your work, I’d just be prepared to talk in specifics about the work you did there, what you accomplished, and what you learned from it. But really, even if your manager were still around, employers probably wouldn’t be putting a huge amount of weight on a high school/college job anyway. So it should be fine.

That said, do an internship before you graduate if at all possible — or a part-time job, or anything else to help flesh out your resume. You’ll be glad you did.

5. My friend got fired from a job I recommended her for, and she blames me

A few months ago, a friend and someone I worked with about 10 years ago saw a job on my company’s website that she wanted to apply for. She asked me to help. I agreed to let her email the HR department directly with my name with her resume. She had a job at the time but it was a retail job she didn’t like much. She went through the interview process and I was contacted by the head of the department. I gave her a great reference but was also honest that it had been quite a while since I worked with her. She was offered a position, and she went through a too lengthy (in my opinion) negotiation including asking for a higher compensation level than I would have thought appropriate.

She took the job and started shortly after. Everything seemed to be going well until I started to get text complaints every once in a while from her. She was unhappy about losing some pay for days she didn’t work. She was upset when asked to do things outside her job description. She was unhappy when she was unclear what her duties were. She was unhappy when her boss didn’t have time to meet with her.

I found out this week from her that she was let go. I get the impression that she had no idea it was coming and that she hadn’t considered it a possibility. She is now having an enormous pity party. She told me she doesn’t know what she will do now. They can only take her back at her previous position part-time. I suggested that she look for other jobs but she told me she isn’t able to eat or sleep.

I understand that it would be hard to be let go, but I think she is overreacting and not taking any responsibility. I do think my company hired her in good faith and she didn’t measure up. I think she was very immature and continues to be so. I have a feeling we won’t remain friends as I think she feels I am responsible for talking her into taking this job in spite of her approaching me. Was there something I should have done?

As long as you gave her an accurate reference — and didn’t shade it more positively than what was warranted by your previous experience with her — then no. Sometimes jobs don’t work out, but it’s not your fault for recommending her if you gave an honest reference. And it doesn’t sound like you talked her into the job! It sounds like she asked you to recommend her, you did, and that was that. (And really, even if you had talked her into it, you still wouldn’t be responsible for what happened, unless you had deliberately hid information about the manager or work culture from her.) If she’s blaming you at all, it might be part of the larger pattern you’ve already picked up on with her.

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. KR*

    Hey OP 1! The good news is you get a choice whether you bring drama into the work place or if you slander your ex! Be extremely polite to her but otherwise pretend she’s just another work person you kind of know. If she makes it wierd say, “I can’t talk about this right now. Let’s talk about it outside of work.” Or “Got a deadline – let’s limit this discussion to TPS reports!”.

    1. Tyche*

      Yes, I think that you should retreat in a strict professional relationship from now.

      You have to consider that maybe she won’t change job, or that she needs to find another before to support herself, or that change it now could ruin her career.

      Personally I think that you shouldn’t extort a promise like that. Obviously if I need a job I’ll say that I agree, but no one knows what can happen in the future. And I think that if it doesn’t cause problems on he workplace, you don’t have any right to make her change job to relieve your awkwardness.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Who knows, she could be job searching right now and might leave in the next few weeks/months.

        Or she could not. I feel like it is a little unfair to recommend an S.O. for a job at your company while forcing them to promise they’ll leave if you break up. They can’t say no if they really want the job and the relationship. And asking her to give up her source of income (and affecting her career) right after a major emotional decision, in which she/you may have to move if you were living together? That’s a lot to ask. Plus once she’s at the company, honestly she has just as much standing to ask /you/ to leave.

        The whole thing sucks and I really feel for you OP… best of luck!

        1. KHB*

          I really feel for OP1’s ex, and I agree that OP1 put her in an impossible situation. What if she wanted to leave the relationship but couldn’t afford to be without the job? Or what if she feared OP1 would want to break off the relationship, so she felt unduly pressured to do everything she could to keep OP1 happy?

          I’ll give OP1 the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t trying to control her partner on purpose. But extracting a promise that if you want to keep your job, you need to stay in a relationship with me is the sort of thing controlling people do. If she felt pressured at all into making that promise, I don’t think it’s fair to try to hold her to it now.

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah, I can believe that OP didn’t intend it to come across that way, but… unless her ex is in a position where she can essentially get new employment anytime she likes (which is pretty damn rare), that is functionally the position she put her in at the time. A promise extracted under those circumstances is by its very nature forced.

          2. Annabelle*

            Yeah, that’s the thing. I can understand why someone would want to make this kind of agreement — working with an ex immediately post-breakup would obviously be awkward — but actually expecting someone to uphold something like this doesn’t really sit well with me.

        2. Parenthetically*

          it is a little unfair to recommend an S.O. for a job at your company while forcing them to promise they’ll leave if you break up

          Agreed. This is a hard situation, but it’s neither kind nor smart to extract a promise from a person who has career motivation to say yes and no motivation to say no.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Any time you’re considering doing X only if your romantic partner promises to do various things in the event you break up, X is a really bad idea.

            (I know of an unmarried couple who bought his grandmother’s beautiful house from the family at a great deal after she passed. They then broke up, and since she earned more she kept the house, he moved out, and the family lost the connection to it. (Heard this through her family, who were really uncomfortable with how things had unfolded.))

            1. boo*

              Eek, the house thing is not great. And, I can see how it might have happened-if he couldn’t afford it on his own, and she was already living there, it “made sense” for her to take it. It’s only when the emotional dust has cleared that everyone realizes that it didn’t make sense at all and they were only pretending to be rational and now I have to come pick up my boxes of winter clothes and spring regrets at your house which is actually MY GRANDFATHER’S HOUSE. But not anymore, because we made the totally rational decision for you to buy it instead of, say, reaching out to the rest of the family to see if there was something else we all wanted to do.

              I think that in the midst of emotional stuff, like a rocky relationship and someone needing a job, agreements like this can feel rational, or like the mature thing to do. “We’re thinking ahead!” “We’re considering potential consequences!” “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst!”

              Really, what you’re doing-what *we’re* doing, I should say: I am human and not a Russian bot, despite the rumors. What we’re doing in those circumstances is half-acknowledging that the Worst might be on the horizon, and making a gesture at planning for it like it’s a talisman against the Worst actually happening.

              My point is, I agree that it’s a terrible idea to extract a promise that X will quit her job if the relationship ends. But I think it’s less a coercive tactic and more a kind of pact against the forces of chaos: “We are the kind of mature people who can handle this (and also everything else that is currently falling apart).”

              OP I’m generalizing and musing here-none of this may apply to you. But it’s also possible that while you took the agreement literally, your ex took it as a pact against the forces of chaos.

                1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

                  +1 Russian bot, which I have both been confused for and sometimes wonder if I actually am.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I can see it feeling very reasonable in the moment to say, “Hey, one of the reasons people are cautious about working together is in case they break up, so let’s have a plan for that. We won’t want to be working together if that happens, so since I’ve been there 10 years, can we agree that you’d be the one who moves on?” The problem, of course, is that it’s easy to agree to that and harder to do when the time comes, for all the reasons everyone has pointed out — and it’s definitely not an agreement that the OP can hold her ex to. But I can see why they thought it was a reasonable arrangement when they made it.

                1. LBK*

                  I agree, and I think generally speaking having frank conversations about tricky relationship situations like that is healthy. I’m just not sure the decision they landed on here was the right one since it’s obviously unenforceable; it hinges on the ex no longer having a reason to want to accommodate the OP’s needs because they’re not together anymore.

                2. Kate*

                  This is why some couples sign prenuptial agreements, right? It’s not saying you’re expecting to break up, just planning for the possibility. I can definitely see her ex, especially before even taking the job, thinking she would have no problem moving on from that job if they broke up, but then the job turned out to be awesome or the job market is especially tough or losing your partner, job, and possibly housing in a short span is like *A LOT*. Just because the agreement turned out not to be practical doesn’t mean it was one-sided.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  The thing with prenups is:
                  • There is going to be a legally recognized relationship with various protections and obligations.
                  • The lawyer can regularly say “Ha ha, no, that is in no way enforceable, not in any court.”

                4. Kate*

                  I brought up prenups just to point out that people make these kinds of agreements regularly, so I don’t think it’s fair to say the OP forced her ex into it just because the ex seemingly loses out in the end. I wasn’t trying to suggest their agreement was good or enforceable. It probably seemed reasonable at the time, but I agreed with Alison’s answer that the OP should wait to see how things play out, and then decide whether she (the OP) wants to move on to another position elsewhere.

                5. Safetykats*

                  I see how it could seem reasonable, but I really think it’s not. If you don’t think you can handle working with an ex, then you a) shouldn’t be dating people at work, and b) should be helping your bae get a job at your work.

                  Alternatively, we can all just recognize that people don’t disappear from the face of the earth the minute we quit sleeping with them, so it’s on us to figure out how to be adults about it when we interface with them – whether that’s every week day or only occasionally.

                  At any rate, taking this to HR only gets the OP flagged as the potential trouble maker in this situation. And nagging the ex about leaving is actually grounds for the ex to go to HR. So the only real options are to deal or to move on.

                  Therapy might help. I say that in all sincerity. This too shall pass, and it sounds like what’s needed is some perspective, and therapy is great for that.

            2. with a twist*

              This happened to me in real life! Got married, and we bought my grandparent’s house (that they built and my dad grew up in!) when my grandfather passed shortly after our wedding. Got divorced several years later and couldn’t afford to stay in the house on my salary, so I let the ex have it. I did it mostly for the sake of our kiddo, so she wouldn’t have to lose the only home she’d ever known on top of the divorce, but it was hard! Even harder when his new girlfriend moved in and I would have to see them together in my family’s home. But it was the only decision that made sense once I disconnected the emotions from it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ They ended up selling it and moving a few years later so they could have a fresh start, so at least I don’t get the slap in the face by going over there anymore.

            3. Kali*

              I’d argue that that story shows the opposite point. It’s important to plan what to do in the event of a break-up, especially when moving in together, so you don’t make that kind of decision when you’re more emotional. In the OPs case though, I agree, her partner quitting was unfeasible and shouldn’t have been agreed to.

      2. Bloo*

        Yeah, you should not have extracted that agreement from her. You obviously considered that a break up could occur, good for you, but getting her to promise to be the one to quit in the event of? That’s trying to have too much control of the future.
        You may be feeling very raw right now but you *do* have a lot of control on keeping drama low and professionalism high. Focus on that and do not talk to *anybody* at your company about your feelings or details of the breakup.
        You may be pleasantly surprised that future you can acknowledge that’s she’s a valuable asset to the company.
        Or conversely, if she’s a drama queen, then someone can loop in HR if need be.

        1. Specialk9*

          Well put. The OP tried to control something she had no control over, and no RIGHT to control. And yet so many of us try to do just that – it’s so human.

          So the next step is to work at letting go of the illusion of control, and of the belief that you are owed that control, and figure out how you should act. The only part you control is you, your actions, and the thoughts you choose to feed and nurture.

          As a help in separating your ‘but my situation is different because’ thoughts — which again we all have, but it really isn’t different… Imagine you have co-workers who are divorcing; how would you expect them to act at work? Then do that.

        2. myswtghst*

          “You may be feeling very raw right now but you *do* have a lot of control on keeping drama low and professionalism high. Focus on that and do not talk to *anybody* at your company about your feelings or details of the breakup.”

          All of this. It can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of the breakup, and I can totally understand not wanting to see an ex all the time while the breakup is fresh, but there really isn’t any way to bring this up at work without creating the potential for drama. The only person whose reputation will suffer is your own, so finding outlets outside of work to vent and focusing on being utterly professional at work is the best way to get through this.

      3. Betsy*

        I’m guessing that she may have had to move out of the house too, hire a moving truck and buy some new possessions if some of the shared ones went to the OP (unless she was the one who got to stay).

        It took me years to recover financially after my last break-up. I ended up being the one to move out, with hardly any furniture, moving in with housemates. I’d always heard of people never really recovering financially after a divorce (especially stay at home mums) and understood it on an intellectual level, but I really get it now. If she’s the lower earner in the relationship (and it sounds possible if she hasn’t been with the company for as long as the OP) *and* is also the one who has to leave and start from scratch, then she might be struggling.

        It’s normal to be hurt and want to be the one who keeps the job, the house, the furniture, or whatever, but if you think about yourself looking back on this years down the track, it’s a good idea to just try to make sure everyone comes out of this OK, and you both have a good chance to start over without losing out too much.

        1. Samata*

          yes. i recently got out of a 7 year relationship and was the one to move out with nothing to my name. I got rid of all my possessions (and my cat) when I moved in, saved what would fit in a 5×7 box trailer and a civic.

          I thought he was being generous by paying for movers to take what little furniture I had and giving me enough to cover my deposit on the apartment and utilities – and I do realize that was more generous than what most people get.

          But what it didn’t cover is the ongoing – I worry pretty incessantly what my day-to-day is going to look like for the next 5 years. Groceries, savings, car repairs, etc.

          1. Kali*

            A similar thing happened to me, though after a much shorter relationship. I was extremely lucky in that I was heading to university only 3 months later, I was able to move in with a friend who didn’t ask for a deposit, and my grandmother had left me enough money to cover the debts I’d had before then. My credit report is still shot from those three months though.

        2. Spelliste*

          “just try to make sure everyone comes out of this OK, and you both have a good chance to start over without losing out too much”

          Kind and wise, and excellent advice!

        3. AKchic*

          Some people actually do come out ahead when they break up with a long-term partner/spouse, but generally, it’s because the other person was already a free-loader or otherwise a drain on the finances, or they were very young and hadn’t hit their maximum earning potential yet.

          I know in the case of my first divorce (and my second), I came out on top. I did better financially without my ex, without him around, without his “help” (trust me when I say, his idea of help was simply being a looming presence, that’s it) and generally burdening me with extra stress.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I just did, with the “different technical issue” on the “report a problem” page.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I agree. You definitely should not get HR involved. Your break up is not your employer’s problem. It’s hard, but you need to keep things professional.

      If your ex were to behave inappropriately at work, then at that stage of course you can involve HR, but her not resigning from her job, without having a new job lined up, is not inappropriate, and if you bring it to HR it is you, not your ex, who will appear unprofessional.

      In dealing with her, keep it polite and professional, and keep any interactions to work-related stuff.

      Your ex may well be job hunting already, and if not, may start to do so soon (remember, she’s just been through a break up too, and both that, and job hunting, are exhausting, maybe she doesn’t have the mental energy to do both at once)

      You can start to look around you and consider looking for another job so that you have choices – you may find that things improve over time and that the two of you can continue to work in the same place. Or she may move on. Or you may find a new job and decide that it is worth moving in order to get out of this situation.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        And even if the ex did start job hunting right now, there’s no way of knowing how long it would take before she found something suitable, it may not be as quick as OP would like, and there could be any number of reasons why it might take a while for her to move elsewhere that are no fault of hers.

    3. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Absolutely treat her like she’s just another colleague, OP 1. There’s no need for drama.
      The upside of this is that if she’s a normal, reasonable person she’ll appreciate things staying professional and not getting weird. In case she is a weird drama queen who tries to paint you in a bad light, you won’t be giving her any material to work with.

      1. Mazzy*

        I once referred a BF for a job at a large company I used to work at and he got hired. We discussed it and realized that there was too much going on to life and good jobs were too hard to find, to have this kind of agreement that one of us had to leave. And we eventually broke up, and actually worked together even better the few times we had to, because it was like therapy to get out all of that energy that would have gone into a petty argument into something work related and productive.

        We also had an understanding that career-type jobs are hard enough to come by that the benefit of both of us being employed outweighed everything else.

    4. Snark*

      Totally agreed. In addition to KR’s points about remaining professional if you don’t want drama, I offer a few observations, OP1:

      1) HR has no role to play in your personal dispute over a promise your former boo made to you. Put that completely out of your mind.

      2) It was not reasonable to extract that promise from your ex-SO, because it was made under duress and it’s absolutely unenforceable and leaves you with zero recourse, as you are now discovering. She’s not going to forgo an income just to avoid messy feels, and it wasn’t right to expect that of her. Knowing that, I advocate that you forgive her for not going on unemployment due to the change in relationship status and move on as best you can.

      3) You don’t need to forgo an income because of messy feels either. Put your game face on, treat each other professionally, go cry in the bathroom if you need to, but take it from someone who once worked for a year with a woman who cheated on him: it’s easier than it sounds. Don’t throw away a ten-year tenure at a job you like.

    5. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

      LOL’S @ TPS reports.

      OP1, tell you’re ex she’s not wearing enough flair. :-D

  2. Bea*

    #3 Absolutely ask! I can tell you that phone traffic has died down in every office I’ve worked at over the years. We have moved towards emails for the majority of transactions.

    A decade ago it as 75% phone calls for customer related questions, now it’s probably less than half. We can email from our phones and many people hate talking on the phone as much as you do. You’ll still get some who prefer it but that’s to be expected.

    1. copy run start*

      Sales reps love it! 75% of my phone calls are our sales reps. While I don’t mind talking to them about projects at all, I really wish they would email first because my mind just doesn’t switch tracks quickly. I get so lost when they call out of the blue, especially when it’s something I designed 3 weeks ago and haven’t touched since… it might as well have been 3 decades mentally.

      Our terrible CRM system doesn’t help much either… takes several minutes to find whatever they are talking about in the system to try and remember what we were doing.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, my husband works for a relatively small tech company. Aside from planned conference calls, 99% of his phone calls are from sales reps, asking non-urgent questions they could easily have put in an email, allowing him to answer on his own time.

        They have some folks overseas working support (for the night shift), and he said that the number of actual phone calls they get per month is in the single digits – people are much more likely to use live chat for urgent things, and simply email or use other channels for non-urgent things.

    2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      This. And also, you do get used to it. I’m not a millenial and I hate the phone. So does my mom and she’s wayyyy not a millenial, so you’re definitely not alone in the phone phobia. I’ll never love picking up the phone to call someone and if I can do it by email, I will, but it is something that you can learn to live with – and should, as some things are just easier when you can talk in person.

      Now, if this job involved cold calling, I would run like the hills, but answering questions, placing orders, that sort of thing really does get less painful the more you do it.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        I’ve also found that being on the phone for work vs being on the phone for anything else is so different. I avoid actual calling like the plague but I have no issue on a professional call. I don’t know where the difference comes in, but it’s real.

        1. OP 3*

          There’s definitely a difference! I don’t have a problem speaking on the phone for things outside of work (any more anyway – hello 15 year old me having a panic attack because mum forced me to ring a local business about a job advert!), but it’s mainly speaking to customers I don’t like. Maybe because I end up anxious they’ll shout at me, or I’ll tell them the wrong information? In my experience, customers are at their absolute rudest on the phone! In person or over email I’ve never found them to be as bad as on the phone.

          1. Specialk9*

            When I had a phone based client facing job, I made little scripts for the common topics, and posted them where I could see them. It helped me not stammer or sound unprofessional as I gathered my thoughts. So in your case you’re worried about people yelling at you – so if you take this job, discuss with your manager how they want you to respond (and verify by email so you have a trail, just in case) and create some scripts for that (there was a post a couple days ago where customer service reps were posting their scripts for abusive clients).

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Having a script, and maybe even practicing what you can/should say is super helpful. If possible, ask your coworkers who also do phone work how they answer certain questions, or just listen to how they answer them.

              I think a big reason why the phone is so scary for so many of us is that it’s fast paced. You don’t have a chance to think about your response, or ask a manager or coworker for clarification before you answer. What if you get a question you don’t know the answer to?? You definitely don’t want to seem stupid in a workplace.

              If you have a script or a canned set of comments and answers, you’re no longer required to think on your feet about things you don’t know. Sure, there may still be a question that’s not on your list, but if you have a standard, boss-approved script for that, like “I’m going to have to look into that, and put you on hold for a few. Would you mind waiting a moment?” Or “I’m afraid (boss) is going to have to get back to you on that. Can I have her call you back later?”

          2. Bea*

            I’ve done customer service for so long and literally have been yelled at zero times. I’ve had weird interactions and snotty folks but truly in the size of company you’re looking into the customers are rarely nasty.

            Be kind and as long as your boss isn’t one that ties your hands and gives you little authority to make them happy, the monster we build in our heads is by far worse than the reality.

            1. OP 3*

              Specialk9 and Bea that is so helpful thank you! Creating scripts is definitely a great idea (also why have I never thought of that? I always have ideas for what to say in my head but then forget them in the moment). When I worked in a call centre a couple of years ago I did get yelled at a ton of times, but that was in the billing department of a huge company, and I definitely did have my hands tied in terms of what I could actually do for the customers!

              the monster we build in our heads is by far worse than the reality

              That is so true! In all areas of life, I think.

              1. Bea*

                I see that you’re coming in with call center background and that makes it clear why you’re worried going into this!

                A company with 15 ppl is so different, you’ll only know that when you’ve experienced it though. I have always been in that slot that it sounds like this position is only with accounting responsibility on top of the rest, not just back up.

                You will get the answers down quickly. I didn’t know a damn thing when I was thrown into the lions den right out of school.

                I just recommend you listen and absorb what the people around you do. But also know to keep an open mind to tweak things they do that may feel wrong to you.

                You shouldn’t be held to such strict rules and scripts like in a call center. It becomes organic after forcing it awhile.

                In these cases they frequently won’t reach out only to complain! It’s about taking orders, explaining the services and cheerfully helping them correct errors if they pop up.

    3. OP 3*

      Thank you! My basic concern was really that it would come across like I was unwilling to do that part of the job, which is not the case! Although I really don’t enjoy speaking on the phone, it definitely gets easier over time as people have said, and my main concern was really just about the volume of calls. My last workplace hired “admins” when really it was customer service, on the phone all day, often over 100 calls per day, and expected to do filing on the side. So maybe that has clouded my judgement of what most companies expect from an admin!

      1. Amelia*

        I think it’s completely fine to ask but… I wouldn’t follow up with “Great, because I really dislike speaking on the phone.”

        I’m an older millennial so I understand not loving phone calls. But this type of stated preference would still give me pause for hiring.

        I’m in sales and strongly believe that our communication styles need to match client preference.
        And some clients still prefer the phone. Also there are many times when one 3 minute phone call can replace 20 emails and be less confusing.

        I probably speak on the phone no more than 30 minutes daily, but those 1-2 calls can be the most important part of my day. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t hire someone who expressed a strong dislike of it. I’d suggest playing that card close to the vest.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed! I think it might give the impression that you would be unwilling to ever talk on the phone. That said, I wouldn’t balk at a candidate saying in an interview that they are looking for a job where they have a variety different tasks, rather than being on the phone for 80% of the day. We have an admin who walks around all day with a headset and needs to find someone to cover for her when she needs to pee. It takes a special kind of person to do that job.

          1. Amelia*

            We have a very hard time finding people to do straight telesales at company. I think we’re up to $22 an hour because people loathe it so much.

            1. TootsNYC*

              and there is capitalism at work!

              I think sometimes about the jobs that supposedly you “can’t get Americans to work” (meat-packing plants, mushroom farms, heavy landscaping…) and wonder if you’d get people if you paid more. Which would raise prices, but maybe that’s appropriate.

          2. OP 3*

            That is the exact impression I’m looking to avoid! Especially since it’s not even true, I’m not opposed to speaking on the phone at all, I just don’t want it to make up the majority of what I do.
            My thinking is, with the amount of different tasks involved in the job (I didn’t even mention them all in my question, and the job advert stated it wasn’t an exhaustive list), they can’t reasonably expect me to do everything else AND spend the majority of my day on the phone anyway! So I’m probably worrying about nothing :)

            1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

              I think if you ask that, and then ask about what portion of the job other duties make up it’ll look more like you’re trying to get an overall picture of what you’ll be doing with your time. It might also be good to ask questions like “Can you tell me what an average day/week will look like in this position?”

              I also hate generalizing that millennials hate the phone because technically I’m an older millennial and I have no problems with it (likely because my grandfather worked his entire career for the phone company and instilled his love for the phone in me). I think it wouldn’t appear to be entitled to say that you’re not looking for a job that’s 100% phones, but that you have no problem making/answering several short calls throughout the day. As long as you’re not applying at a call center or something like that, you should be fine.

              1. OP 3*

                I agree! I did have a thought that if I ask about the phone and only the phone, it will be obvious I’m focusing on it.
                Someone else has also pointed out to me about the unfair generalisation I made regarding millennials, so I do apologise for that! It was meant to be a self-deprecating joke, but I see now that it might not be taken that way.
                It’s definitely not a call centre, so I think it will be fine too :)

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  Thank you for that, OP3. I’m very likely twice your age and I hate the phone too.

                  (It wasn’t always this way, but it’s this way now. Not *having* to use the phone has allowed me to realize that I don’t much *like* using the phone, for all the same reasons as anyone else. I much prefer asynchronous communications, which means email, texting, IM, all the regular stuff. OR face-to-face talking, like we spent millions of years evolving to do.)

              2. Someone else*

                Agree. If you ask about it in the context of asking about the overall makeup of the average day, rather than just specifically asking about proportion of phone calls, it’ll be less likely OP’ll accidentally give the impression the phone thing is a dealbreaker because the focus won’t just be about phone calls. It’ll be what it genuinely is: trying to figure out what the position really looks like.

              3. myswtghst*

                This is how I would try to frame it as well – don’t focus just on phone time, but rather on how the day breaks down or how much of your time you’ll spend on various tasks. It might help to have a few questions that could get you there, just in case you initially get a vague answer. So, if you ask “what does an average day look like?” and get “oh, a bit of this, a bit of that, you know…” in response, you could have a follow up question about “what are the top 2-3 tasks that take up most of the day?” or “how much time is spent on responding to customer inquiries, and what does the breakdown of those inquiries look like?” ready to go.

      2. Ainomiaka*

        I’d definitely use Alison’s more general phrasing if you are young to avoid the “entitled millenial brats hate the phone” prejudice that some managers have gotten from too many bs articles about “managing generations” but it’s completely reasonable to ask what percentage of your time is spent in each of the major duties. And not all places treat admins as customer service for sure.

        1. OP 3*

          I am young, about to turn 24 (does that count as young still?), so I definitely want to avoid that type of prejudice! I’m so glad everyone seems to be on the same page about it being fine to ask about what percentage of time is spent on what duties, it’s definitely calmed my worries! This job could be a really great step up for me so I really don’t want to inadvertently mess it up :)

        2. Pollygrammer*

          I’ve never heard a “millenials hate talking on the phone” stereotype. I think it’s true that the more familiar people are with cell phones, the more likely they are to prefer texting to calling, but that’s in personal communication.

          As a work function? I think it’s probably 95% personal preference, 5% generational.

          1. Ainomiaka*

            Oh I don’t think it’s actually true that millenials or any other age group hates the phone because of that. This comment section even has counterexamples. But when and both have articles about it, I think the stereotype has gone into the mainstream enough for the LW to be concerned with managing the impression.

          2. Amelia*

            In my experience with about 300 client accounts, I think there is definitely a correlation between hating the phone and age.

          3. Turtle Candle*

            My suspicion based entirely on anecdata is that a lot of people of all generations hate the phone, but people in prior generations got more used to it because it was necessary—you couldn’t make an appointment online, or coordinate a gathering via email, or plan a meetup via text message, so you kind of had to get used to it. Now we often don’t, so the acclimatization happens more slowly, or not at all.

            (I do not like the phone either, but I spent some time in telephone technical support and sheer repetition got me over a lot of it. Had I not had that job, though, I would have been able to avoid the issue—and I wouldn’t have gotten comfortable with the phone.)

          4. Mookie*

            I don’t know if this is at all supported by the data (are there data? There’re data on everything, so there must be), but one explanation for the stereotype I’ve heard is the obsolescence of the party line and the widespread introduction in the US of residential answering machines, followed by other methods for remotely screening calls without needing someone else to “take a message,” including caller ID and automatic call backs that coincided with the Millennial cohort’s birth and youth. The logic of that explanation, as I understand it, is that the technology that enabled the change introduced the idea that one could readily avoid calls at one’s leisure while reassuring the caller that their message was received, prioritizing empty phone lines at the expense of immediate communication, which thus developed into something of a taboo, the unexpected phone call a kind of performance one begins to dread. Consequentially, phone calls became something that needed to be managed, avoided, or put off, much like the procrastination formal weekly written correspondence inspires. Hence shorthand methods, like text messages and e-mails become increasingly attractive.

            1. Mookie*

              Also, this seems to correspond with anxiety about witnessing one-sided phone calls other people are engaged in. Which ties back into the idea that phone calls feel more like nuisances and public performance than other convenient means of communication, that there is an audience waiting to judge participants on their decorum, their ability to understand and to be understood. People get abnormally embarrassed when they dial the wrong number, I’ve noticed, or when the person they’re phoning is not in but they have to speak to a live person to request a call-back (while worrying that they’re inconveniencing the third party).

              1. Mookie*

                Oh, and multi-tasking! Much more difficult to do when the conversation needs to be constantly flowing.

      3. Angela Ziegler*

        If an introvert like me can get used to talking over the phone, I’m sure you’ll have no problem. :) I know it’s daunting at first, but it’s a skill that will serve you VERY well in the future both professionally and personally. (At the very least, next time your friends are ordering pizza and the site is on the fritz, you’ll be the savior who phones in the order!)

    4. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      Funny you say that because my boss and I were just discussing (and appreciating!) how quiet the phones have gotten in our office, while unfortunately the number of sales people coming through the door has increased. :(

      1. Bea*

        I now have a buffer between me and sales calls along with a locked door for those who try to drop by. I don’t miss fielding those people.

        Once a lady came into the office and I confirmed I was the person to drop her sales stuff off with. Then found out she wandered into my inventory warehouse to pester my crew. Who all confirmed she had already spoken to the person she needed to. The worst.

    5. KR*

      Hi OP3! I don’t lot of ordering and purchasing – the type of person you’d be hearing from a lot in that role. I hate talking on the phone more than I have to and rely on almost exclusively email to talk with my vendors! So there’s one data point for you.

  3. K. A.*

    For #4: Do you have pay stubs and W2 forms that prove you worked there? Make some copies to show in an interview, if need be.

    1. Audiophile*

      I wonder if, because it was such a small company, they employees received W2 forms.

      During college I worked for a very small business, and almost everything was off the books. So while I received a paycheck, without those stubs I wouldn’t be able to prove I worked there.

      Alison is right that OP should look for internships to a expand their work history and experience.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          What about babysitting, shoveling snow, etc? For a young person this may be the only kind of work experience they have, and it can even be relevant (like applying to work with children or drive a snow plow or something)

          1. Jiya*

            Those kinds of one-off, informal jobs being paid in cash isn’t illegal in the U.S., FWIW.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Being paid in cash is legal. Being paid “off the books” is, if by that is meant the employer didn’t report taxes or worker’s compensation and so on. Usually a kid who shovels snow or babysits isn’t going to have enough income to owe taxes on it.

              1. Natalie*

                The filing limits for W2 income are a fair bit higher than that as well – it’s entirely possible LW wasn’t legally required to file a return.

              2. nonymous*

                just because the employer did not issue a W2 or 1099 does not mean the employee is doing anything illegal. Employees can use form 4852 (or simply declare misc income without the 1099 if they’re self-employed).

                That said, if the company had a state business license, it’s possible that those records are lurking in the state database, or has some other lingering electronic presence. Depending on the type of company, OP might try getting references from people with whom she interacted as an employee of defunct company, such as vendors, customers or other staff. I’ve definitely given co-workers recommendations before.

            2. Apollo Warbucks*

              My understanding is that anyone can be paid in cash without any problem. The problem occurs when that income is not reported or taxed.

            3. Jesmlet*

              Nannies and babysitters can be paid in cash and if they’re reporting their income, they’re in the clear. The employer still legally needs to pay taxes on them though if they make more than $2000/year. I think there’s an exemption for kids under 18 though.

              I disagree that they should be left off the resume. It’s not their fault that their employer was being shady. Work is work and experience is experience.

              1. CM*

                Shoveling snow and babysitting as a teenager is rarely relevant to a post college job search though.

                1. Justme, The OG*

                  Babysitting definitely can be. Especially if someone is looking at teaching or child care fields.

                2. Jesmlet*

                  Depends on how much work experience you’ve gotten since high school. Unfortunately, for many that answer is limited to none.

        2. Audiophile*

          I was never paid in cash, it was always a check with a short stub breaking down hours worked. From what I recall, taxes were not taken out, so yes it was off the books.

          I did end up listing the job on my resume for a short time. My situation was different than the OP’s, I presume, as I had other jobs that I had worked where I received W2s and actual pay stubs.

        3. Mike C.*

          This doesn’t make any sense to me. Why should the experience I gain and skills I learned not count simply because the business owner couldn’t follow the law?

          1. Natalie*

            Because it’s not just the employer who has broken the law, the employee has a legal obligation to report the income and pay taxes on it. (Assuming you earned enough over the year to have to file a return.)

                1. LBK*

                  To be clear – I know in the letter the OP was a teenager when hired, but in Mike C’s general question about the responsibility of the employee for working under the table, that doesn’t only apply to teenagers who could theoretically not know any better.

              1. Natalie*

                Absolutely, and I personally wouldn’t expect that from a teenager. To clarify a bit, I thought Mike C. was asking about listing off-the-books work in general.

          2. Turkletina*

            Especially when the employee is so young (high school/college) and doesn’t know better or have the standing to insist that the owner do things the right way.

          3. Graciosa*

            It’s not blaming the employee for the business owner’s decision; it’s blaming the employee for the employee’s decision. There are steps the individual could take to make this right – from reporting it as soon as it was discovered (and not corrected) to insisting on a proper independent contractor relationship and paying the full taxes themselves.

            I have no problem not giving someone credit for breaking the law.

            1. Jesmlet*

              “insisting on a proper independent contractor relationship”

              I hope you realize how unrealistic this is. First off, they’re probably not legally independent contractors so to go full legal, they’d have to “insist” on their employer paying payroll taxes which is a fast track to getting let go. Should they report their income on their own? Absolutely. Should they call their employer out for their illegal yet commonplace behavior? Eh, not if they want to keep getting paid.

            2. LBK*

              A teenager might not know the right way to fix the problem but I think every understands that the whole idea of paying under the table is at least shady, otherwise it wouldn’t be a concept to begin with. If you consent to that you have to know you’re getting into something sketchy even if you don’t fully understand the legal aspects.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        If you received a pay stub, you were *probably* on the books. A W2 is a mandatory document. If those stubs showed any sort of taxes being taken out, there probably was one created – even if you never received it.

      2. Bea*

        Small businesses can write checks manually by calculating them by hand. You still report liabilities to the government and have to account for checks written for any purpose if you’re filing as a business.

        Unless a check came from the bosses personal account, I wouldn’t spend time worrying they’re not filing taxes like that.

  4. Geoffrey B*

    #1: it would be a major red flag if HR did try to enforce this agreement between you two. What you agree as part of your relationship simply isn’t their business, and you really don’t want to encourage them to think that it is.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agreed. There’s no way to bring this up with HR without looking like your “things that are ok for HR to be involved with” meter is way out of whack.

      OP#1, I suspect everything is off-kilter right now. It sounds like you’re trying to mourn the relationship and move on, but you’re confronted with your ex on a regular basis, and it feels like she didn’t uphold your agreement (as Alison notes, I don’t think it’s fair in most cases to try to enforce a pre-employment personal agreement when the underlying circumstances have probably changed so dramatically). I also don’t think this has to be slanderous or dramatic. But I do think it may help to seek out EAP or counseling services, if nothing else, to help you reframe and strategize about how you want to deal with this cyclone of suckiness. I’m sorry you’re going through this :(

    2. MommyMD*

      No. And HR may jump to the conclusion that some workplace violence may occur out of this situation.

      I would be professional and polite and bunker down and do my job. Any acting out at all will come off very badly.

      Those kind of agreements are not legal and cannot be enforced.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        That sounds like quite a leap. I don’t see why that should be HR’s conclusion.

        1. Emi.*

          Maybe because if you’re not worried about violence, this is so far outside the bounds of what you should bring up to HR? But if you were, you would/should mention it explicitly, so I don’t think HR is likely to think that.

        2. Specialk9*

          No, really not, this is way out of left field (although I understand with your history of a workplace shooting, why you would go there). Workplace violence red flags are not in evidence here – there is nothing that this person has said that even hints at any of them.

          (And statistically, active shooters are far more likely to be male… though I tend to side-eye that one after we were told that the two black snipers in DC had to be a single white male because of the statistics.)

        3. Annabelle*

          I actually don’t think it’s that much of a leap. Potential violence is really the only logical reason someone would alert HR of a breakup.

        4. Jesmlet*

          Maybe a hop, not quite a leap. If someone came to me saying they couldn’t work in the vicinity of an ex-partner, it’s certainly something I’d consider.

          1. Specialk9*

            No really, it’s a leap. The OP is not exhibiting any of the signs of someone who does workplace violence. (Performance issues, social isolation, hygiene breakdown, bullying or abusive behavior, escalation in violent behavior and speech, paranoia, blame shifting, perseverating / obsessive thoughts, talking about violence / weapons of violence, stating someone’s deserving and/or intent to commit violence, fascination with violent acts, frequent filing reports or lawsuits, addictions)

            Jumping from “ack breakup why won’t my ex leave?” To “and I’m gonna shoot everyone up” is a leap the size of the Grand Canyon.

            Which again, when one has been in a workplace shooting, one is likely to rate the risk as much higher and jump to it too quickly. We all have our baggage. But objectively, this is not that situation, based on any of the data we have.

            1. Samata*

              I think they meant violence on the part of the ex- in the form of acting out or retaliating, not on the part of the OP.

              I agree with the others saying that if someone went to HR about something this personal/inappropriate it is because they feared their ex may be unstable enough to act out and they wanted the employer to be aware.

              I’m not saying it might actually happen, but its so out of norm it might be something HR wonders about.

              1. Jesmlet*

                Yes, that’s what I meant. Is it what I’d think is most likely to happen? Of course not. But if someone came to me to intervene in their working relationship with an ex, it’s something that’d cross my mind because of how unusual that request would be.

            2. Annabelle*

              I don’t think anyone is talking about the OP being violent. I think the assertion is that going to HR about a breakup is such an odd thing to do that the only way it makes sense is in a scenario where someone has a legitimate safety concern.

            3. aebhel*

              I think everyone is talking about HR being concerned about the *ex*, not the OP. If I were in HR and someone said that they had ended a relationship with a coworker and could no longer work with them at all, to the point where they wanted HR to intervene, the potential that it was a domestic violence situation would probably at least occur to me, even if I dismissed it.

        1. Annabelle*

          Well, there’s no real reason to involve HR in a breakup in general, but it would make a lot of sense to do so if someone was leaving an abusive partner.

          1. Penny Lane*

            …. And the OP didn’t even remotely suggest anyone was abusive. She didn’t suggest anything beyond a garden variety breakup. But leave it to AAM commenters to speculate wildly and jump to major conclusions completely unsupported by what the OP posted.

            Clue: if the OP had wanted to, she could have said “I’m really afraid of my ex turning violent in the workplace; she’s not handling our breakup well, she’s threatening me, she’s talking trash about me to my boss, stalking me,” etc. Did she say any of those things? No.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t think anyone has made any statements about the OP’s relationship? This thread (so far) has been a discussion of the statement that HR might assume violence, and how realistic that is or isn’t.

            2. Annabelle*

              We’re talking about how HR would react to someone coming to them about forcing out an employee who happens to be their ex. Truly, the only thing that comes to mind as a genuinely good reason to loop HR in would be if the OP was concerned for her safety.

            3. aebhel*

              Leave it to AAM commenters to deliberately misread other peoples’ comments in accordance with the chip on their shoulder.

              No one in this thread is speculating that the relationship actually was violent. We’re speculating that HR might assume that was the case, since asking HR to intervene in a breakup hash-out is way outside the norm otherwise.

    3. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      Yes, plus with ten years on the job already, the OP is fairly likely to be in a senior position to the ex, even if not directly over her. That just reeks of getting someone fired for not sleeping with you anymore.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This is a really good point. I know OP does not mean it to look this way, but it will to a number of people. A great reason not to take this issue to HR.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        “Getting her fired for not sleeping with you anymore” is exactly where my mind went. DO NOT DO THIS.

        Also, you noted that you don’t want to slander your ex. Going to HR asking them to fire her would give the impression that she was abusive or that you feared for your safety because of her. (Because that’s the only situation where this would be a reasonable demand.) Which, unless it’s true, is pretty close to slandering her.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Oooooooh, that had not even occurred to me, but yeah. Ouch. That would look really bad.

    4. Chriama*

      Not only a red flag, I’m pretty sure it would be illegal. Discriminating against someone because of a sexual relationship, especially when the employee being asked to leave is newer (and presumably more junior)? Quite frankly a prudent HR department might fire *you* for demanding that. Can anyone say sexual harassment?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think it’s per se illegal or discriminatory (let alone harassing), but the optics are not good, and OP’s suggested solutions are not ok. The only solution is to figure out how to work past it or to quit—not to try to control ex-partner’s behavior.

        1. Geoffrey B*

          Legality would depend on where the OP is. I’m guessing USA, but in Australia it’s illegal to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of their marital or relationship status*. The examples I’ve seen are generally “you can’t have a ‘married people preferred’ policy” but it’s hard to see how firing somebody for breaking up with a co-worker wouldn’t be a breach of the law.

          *with an exception for religious organisations, who can exclude staff in same-sex relationships etc. – but that’s the opposite of OP’s situation.

    5. Snark*

      And, most competent HR folks would, upon being dragged into a breakup dispute, conclude that all parties involved were lunatics. It would be incredibly self-destructive to say anything to anybody at the company about this.

      1. Scarlet*

        Yes, going to HR over this would be akin to saying “I don’t think I can behave professionally around my ex”.

  5. KWu*

    OP2, try to forgive yourself for not catching that mistake and for crying in front of your boss. It’s not currently an environment that’s allowing you all to be at your best and it sounds like that’s recognized. It’s reasonable that your work or your composure won’t be perfect under the circumstances. You sound conscientious enough to try to come up with ways to prevent the same mistake from happening, which is all your boss is really expecting going forward. They could always choose to deprioritize some of the projects if needed.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      I really like Alison’s script for talking to the boss – it mentions the word “stress” and doesn’t say the word “crying”.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I’ve cried at work, too. Once or twice. It happens. Try not to let it happen if you can help it, but it happens.

  6. FieldBiologist*

    #1 – I would start applying for jobs now, just in case. Unless you’re in a very marketable field, I think it is unlikely you will be hired in a month of job searching anyway, but you’ll at least have got the process moving. And if you change your mind, you just decline interviews and say you’ve decided to stay.

    And well, I think having a job search to focus on might help emotionally, as well. I always like having a distracting mission or project when my personal life is difficult. Sorry to hear about your troubles, good luck!

    1. Kathleen_A*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to contemplate a major life change now – right when she’s in the middle of another major life change. I mean, if you have to, you have to…but I think Alison’s advice to wait for a month or two is good, if the OP can manage it. I realize that applying for jobs doesn’t commit her to anything, but it’s still stressful, and why take on more stress now, unless she has to?

      1. FieldBiologist*

        I’ve never found applying to jobs that stressful, particularly when already employed. Yeah, it’s not tons of fun, but it wouldn’t make my life any worse. I really don’t see what difference it makes, and it gives OP more options.

        1. H.C.*

          I don’t think it’s so much the applying itself, but that OP1 will take a less-than-desirable job offer because it’s an escape from working with the ex – which can override other considerations (like looking out for red flags when evaluating potential employers, not negotiating, etc.)

    2. Marthooh*

      In OP1’s place, I would not start applying for jobs, but I think I would start researching the job market, polishing my resume, anything to remind me that I can escape from the current situation if it gets too bad.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        That sounds like a good idea to me. I don’t see how it could do any harm – and it might even help the OP, even if she ends up not applying anywhere soon.

    3. MLB*

      I disagree. Would I want to see someone I just broke up with at my job every day? Of course not. But this is time to put on the big girl panties and suck it up. Unless the ex is harassing her, or making her job more difficult, she just needs to do her job and be civil. It’s called being an adult – sure it sucks sometimes, but it’s a necessary part of life.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      It’s not a good idea to begin a job search as a way to manage – or avoid – personal issues. The OP can find plenty of distractions if she needs them, but should give careful thought to leaving an employer of 10 years. As Alison said, if interacting with the ex is still too distracting in a few months, then it makes sense.

      Also, count me in with the posters up-thread who thought it was bad form to make the now-ex promise to leave if they broke up. That’s a special kind of control issue, IMO.

  7. Not That Jane*

    OP2, you are so not alone on this. My most mortifying crying at work story is: I cried in a 7-person department meeting, in front of my boss and all my colleagues, AND someone who wasn’t shadowing us for the day to try to decide if she wanted to apply with us. It was a very stressful job, and I felt that I was constantly failing to measure up to unrealistic expectations, and… yeah, it came out in that meeting.

    So… I agree with Alison that you can give a quick, chill apology for the tears, then move on. It’s really OK.

    1. only acting normal*

      Sounds like you did the person shadowing a favour! As red flags go it’s a nice big scarlet one.

    2. Deus Cee*

      I’ve cried in front of my grandboss twice (and survived). Both times stress and burnout got on top of me. The first time, he actually made me aware of some special-case leave I was entitled to take, so it even had a productive result (not that I’d recommend it generally). I think Alison’s script is spot on; do it, clear the air, then arrange a nice evening/weekend of battery recharging for yourself.

    3. Demon Llama*

      Hi OP2, to add to the “it happens” list – I cried in front of grandboss AND direct boss at least 3 times last year.

      Context: it was a new role for me in a highly stressful environment – another team member was signed off sick with stress for several months – and at one point I was handling my workload while also picking up someone else’s. I am the kind of person who expresses stress and frustration through tears so had a few rather soggy 1:1s.

      A few months later, I just got a great performance review and the highest possible raise so it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm!

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – you lose emotional regulation when you are exhausted. So the breakdown was going to happen. And no, you can’t handle all that work and your boss knows it. If you could handle it all they wouldn’t be hiring help.
    This was a wake up call for your boss that you got pushed too far.
    A lot of us have been in this situation.
    Stop trying to do all that work. Force your boss to be responsible for the overload.

    1. WonderingHowIGotHere*

      If your boss is a good boss, she’ll start taking immediate action because a breakdown crying is the first step to a complete nervous breakdown and then she’ll be in a worse position because she’ll be losing a valuable member of the team with industry knowledge.
      (Wow, I feel like I’m writing a motivational speech to myself – I can identify and empathise on so many levels here OP3.)
      I’ve cried out of stress before. I didn’t see it coming – I was in the GP’s office for something entirely unrelated and just started bawling. The GP phoned my office (once I had stopped blubbing enough to be comprehensible again – this was proper ugly crying) and told my then boss directly that she was sending me home. I was signed off for three weeks, and since I had a bad boss and the culture had not changed a jot in those three weeks, and in fact was worse when I returned, I handed my notice in two weeks after that.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        This. It’s a harbinger of worse things to come, and your workplace needs to take it seriously.

        A friend of mine begged for back-up, cross-training, anything to take some burden off him as the only SME at his place of work. He was ignored for several years. Three weeks ago had he a complete nervous breakdown and was rushed to the hospital with what they originally thought was a heart attack, but turned out to be a panic attack.

        He quit with no notice from his hospital bed, and now the company is up a creek.

      2. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Yep, agreed on the good boss thing. Recently, I cried in front of my boss after being bullied too much by a colleague (and telling him about it over time) and having enough. Instead of doing something about it, he got strangely defensive and brought up my performance. Not the way to handle such warranted crying by an employee.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Same here, WHIGH. I was going through long-overdue divorce – I initiated it – and thought I was handling it well. During a fairly calm touch-base with my boss, I simply started sobbing. It was so out-of-left-field that I don’t know who was more surprised, me or my boss. I am forever grateful that she understood where my meltdown was coming from, and that she never held it against me. And I’m sorry you had to deal with that kind of fallout.

    2. Legal Seagull*

      OP#2 — First, many, many hugs from this quarter. You sound like a dedicated team player who is doing your utmost. Second, recognize this crying for what it is: a signal that your essential self needs some care and loving kindness from you.

      If your workplace has an EAP (sometimes these exist through health insurers; check with whoever handles your HR; if there’s no HR, call your health insurer), this is something to ask for assistance with. We have ALL been there where we’ve been overloaded and stressed and, for whatever reason, are having difficulty getting assignments taken off our plates (either because the office is short-handed, has too little money to hire help, etc.).

      Mainly, though, I want you to know you are not alone. Many of us have cried when it all got to be too much. So, forgive yourself, please, and focus on being kind to you. That will go a long way to helping you heal from this event.

    3. mf*

      “Stop trying to do all that work. Force your boss to be responsible for the overload.” This x 1000.

    4. Catskill*

      So true!
      When I joined the military, I thought that everyone would have that tough stoicism that you associate with the military. I learned quickly that the extreme stress could cause me and my Navy/Marine Corps shipmates to break down and cry much sooner than in our pre-military life. There was an unspoken understanding among everyone–we don’t judge each other for crying and just try to give the person what they need, either space or help. So really, don’t beat yourself up over it. It really can happen to anyone!

  9. Detached Elemental*

    Op#1, does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program? Speaking to a professional outside the company might help you figure out your options and come up with some strategies that don’t include drama or slander.

    I’ve never worked with an ex, but I’ve had exes in my social group and had to work with people I disliked. It isn’t always fun, but it can be navigated in a way that keeps your professionalism and reputation intact.

  10. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – For heavens sake, your friend just got fired out of the blue! She’s not overreacting. Your friend is shell shocked. People say a lot of things when they are this surprised and upset. Give her some time to reorient.
    You don’t know what your friend is thinking or feeling and you shouldn’t make assumptions. You don’t know if she’s blaming you or yourself. So stop that part of it.
    She has no income and she’s scared. Even if she deserved to be fired she’s still in distress.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Regarding the question posed by OP#5: was there something I should have done? Do you mean before your friend lost her job? Then: no. I don’t think there’s anything you could or should do that would have helped her keep her job nor was it your responsibility to help her keep her job. You already helped facilitate her getting the job.

      But afterwards: well, you don’t show much empathy for your friend. I agree with Engineer Girl your friend is shocked (warranted or not) and you yourself aren’t sure if she’s blaming you and also don’t know exactly why she was let go. Try not to make assumptions and be a friend.

    2. fort hiss*

      I have sympathy for OP 5 here. I know some people who are great workers with challenging personalities, and even if we’re friends, I can recognize their weak points. You can like someone’s company and still think “yeah, but this is a problem you caused for yourself” when they complain about something. There’s not much reason to speak that harshly with a friend, but unless this is OP’s best and closest friend, privately having some criticisms of her behavior isn’t necessarily a jerk move.

      1. Gen*

        Yes exactly. As long as she’s not saying all of this TO the friend I don’t see any issue here. There’s not much you can do for someone who gets themself fired because they don’t understand/wont accept the basics of the job. I’ve worked with a lot of people like this over the years – “what do you mean I have to be on the phone ALL the time?” It’s a call centre! – they never think they’ll get fired but when they do, the best you can do about it is make sympathetic noises. Don’t get involved in the rest of her job search- she’s been offered part time at her old job which is more than many people can get and if there’s an air of blame about one job it’ll no doubt follow you to any other.

        Hopefully this won’t have any effect on OPs reputation at work since she gave the recommendation but it might be something to be more wary about going forward

      2. CityMouse*

        I had a workplace friend get fired and as much as I liked that person, I spent a month dealing with fixing serious errors in their work when they left. They were not cut out for the job at all. That stuff happens all the time.

      3. LBK*

        Totally agreed. I have a couple friends who I enjoy hanging out with socially but when they tell me stories about work I can’t help but think “It kinda sounds like you’re the problem here.” But they aren’t accountable for turning in reports or making sales for me, just for being enjoyable company, so it doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with them.

    3. Catherine*

      I got the impression that OP5 is not very close to this friend and was bewildered first by becoming her dumping ground for complaints about work, then for her friend’s anxieties and distress about the firing. She seems to me like she’s a little overloaded from having to deal with that.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I disagree somewhat.
      Yes, friend got fired and this was unexpected to her (although the fact that she had been complaining about various aspects of the job suggest that there may well have been warning signs which she ignored), but there is nothing in the letter to suggest that OP has been unsympathetic to the friend in person.

      OP, I don’t think there is anything you could have done.

      In terms of her getting the job, you did what your friend asked you to do, which was to use your name and to provide a reference.

      It sounds as though she found it wasn’t what she wanted it to be, and she has now convinced herself that you ‘talked her into’ the job, even though that isn’t what happened.

      What you can do now is to sympathise with her – losing your job is hard. If she needs a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent to, and you are close enough to her that you’re comfortable being that person, then do that. In other words, do whatever you would have done if she’s got fired or lost her job and it had been any other job, that you have had no involvement with.

      But you don’t have to listen to her blaming you or trying to make you responsible, and it’s OK to back off and spend less time with her if that is how she behaves towards you.

      The fact that this most recent job happened to be one for which you gave her a reference doesn’t make you responsible, either for her getting the job, or for her getting fired, or for her reaction going forward

      And stay well clear of getting involved in her job search or in providing any references etc. in future.

    5. WorkingOnIt*

      Major upvote. Op #5 – have you ever been fired out of the blue? When no one informed you that they weren’t happy with your work/or you weren’t getting along with everyone, or whatever the issue was, you just turned up the next day and were told to leave? It’s humiliating, hurtful, embarassing, and it can make you feel awful about yourself and your abilities and quite obviously your future and your income- no wonder she can’t sleep or eat. So yeah she’s probably going to have a major pity party right now, it is devestating to lose a job, no matter how bad you, OP, (from the outside) assume she must have been. If no one gave her a head’s up, reasonable expectations or pushed back at her demands, then she couldn’t have seen this was coming, and even if she did it still sucks, she’s going backward when she thought she was going forward and she doesn’t have another job lined up. It’s not your fault at all, but she’s having a crappy time, and the best thing to do right now is just be sympathetic and allow her time to get over this blow, and say it’s tough now but you’ll get back on your feet. If she’s directly blaming you that’s ridiculous, it has nothing to do with you. But deciding she was bad at the job by the way she negotiated more money (sounds a baller move actually), and texts complaining about the role (who doesn’t bitch about the stuff that annoys them at work?) and then judging her abilities and calling her being upset about losing her job a ‘pity party’ are likely why you’re getting less than stellar vibes from her, because that’s not how friends behave. It’s management’s role to deal with her behavior at work, it’s your role as a friend to be supportive, and if you’re concerned you’re losing your friend – this is the reason why.

      1. Luna*


        At first I didn’t pick up on this but I went back to read the letter a second time, and OP it does sound overly harsh. You said your friend was occasionally texting you about being asked to do things outside her job description, bad communication, lack of clarity in her role, losing pay, etc. This all sound like valid complaints, and if you don’t work in the same department as her then you really don’t know whether she is at fault or her manager is at fault. You seem to be jumping to the assumption that your friend is the problem without having any evidence of that- why are you making this assumption? Being upset over losing a job does not make your friend immature.

    6. Lora*


      Word. Getting fired sucks out loud even when it isn’t out of the blue. It is the job of friends to listen and nod over beer/tea. Even if you know the manager personally and are 100% certain that the job requirements were clear to her (sounds like they weren’t) and that she received appropriate training and coaching (sounds like she didn’t) and the company was delighted to pay market price for her skills (sounds like they weren’t), it still would be your job as a friend to buy her a beer or cup of tea, listen and nod.

    7. Annabelle*

      Agreed. It’s obviously not OP’s fault that her friend got fired, but I mean, getting fired sucks, especially when it seemingly comes out of nowhere. I think a massive pity party and loss of appetite makes sense for someone who is scrambling to figure out how they’re going to pay their bills.

    8. LBK*

      I’m mostly with you on this – if the read the OP is getting is that the friend thinks it’s her fault, then I trust her perspective, but I do think it might be worth examining if the friend is actually acting that way or if the OP just feels a little guilty and is projecting. The friend’s behavior as described sounds like a normal fired person to me; most people are distraught and look to their friends for support after they’re fired.

      If she hasn’t specifically said anything to you about wishing you hadn’t set her up with that job or blaming you for not telling her what it would be like, I don’t think you should assume you’re a target of her ire here (especially if she’s coming to you for support, which would be an odd thing to do if she were mad at you).

    9. PersephoneUnderground*

      Agreed with Engineer Girl! Don’t be so hard on your friend. To me her issues read a lot as if she was having trouble understanding the differences between retail norms and office job norms- e.g. strict job descriptions, hourly versus salaried pay, etc. among other things.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Wanted to add- it sounds like she’s struggling with employment, so please consider giving her whatever support you can. That’s a really hard place to be in- especially if she just failed her attempt to leave retail for a more stable type of job (retail can pay peanuts and be a really insecure kind of employment with no benefits and fluctuating hours. I’m not putting down retail work as a whole, just saying lots of people are there out of necessity not choice and I have been one of those desperately trying to escape it in the past.). If she appears to be blaming you I’d try to forgive her – it’s understandably easier to displace anger at herself or despair onto irrational blaming of you. If you listen and try to be understanding, and say you’re there for her anyway then you’re a true friend, and you might get more back from her in the future by sticking it out now because she’ll remember you stood by her.

    10. Not That Jane*

      I kind of read it that the “out of the blue” nature of the firing was more in the friend’s head than in reality. We’ve certainly heard about people being put on a PIP, failing to follow it, and then being shocked when they’re fired.

      1. Annabelle*

        Even if it wasn’t sudden, getting fired is still awful. From what the OP wrote, it sounds like her friend is just processing the news and not feeling great about herself because of it. That’s a pretty normal reaction to losing a job.

      2. a1*

        I agree. It probably wasn’t out of the blue. She was complaining about not getting paid for tine she didn’t work?

        Also, I don’t think they were close friends, or “besties”, like the way some of these comments assume. They hadn’t worked together for 10 years. I think it’s fine to cut her off. And to not feel guilty about it.

  11. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – HR *can’t* interfere on your behalf. In my 45 year career I have –

    – worked at one place, and may have worked with someone and didn’t get along with him/her; then, as life goes on, you wind up working at another company and guess who either is there. or later shows up!!! What do you do ? If there were personality conflicts you just let bygones be bygones, be professional, and work through everything.

    – seen people fired from, let’s call it Acme Company – they go to Beta Company and – lo and behold, later on down the road, Acme acquires Beta and the firee is back in the fold! You work through these things.

    Now – I know seeing an ex work in the same office can cause a bit of an effect – if your former partner won’t quit, and you can’t get over the drama – YOU are probably going to have to move on.

    1. Ambpersand*

      I’ve worked with an ex before, and it’s difficult but completely possible to handle if you can disconnect yourself from the emotion and drama of the relationship and treat them like just another coworker. Sure, it was awkward, but it was easier to deal with the awkwardness than make more problems.

      Alternatively, I also worked with that same ex’s mother and she was an absolute witch. She hated me from day 1 and even more so after I broke things off with her son. She was hostile and aggressive and tried to throw me under the bus with our top boss when one of her projects went sour. If that wasn’t enough, I also heard that she once called me a “little troll” to a coworker. I just hunkered down and ignored her, and she eventually did the same for me. It got to the point where we acted like the other didn’t exist. So it is possible to work through the drama and have things settle down. I did do a happy dance on the day she retired, though.

    2. Ambpersand*

      I worked with an ex once, and it was awkward but manageable. We both decided that our jobs were more important than any drama, so we tried to keep things friendly and neutral.

      On the other hand, I also worked with that same ex’s mother and she hated me. Pure, aggressive hate. She would be extremely hostile when working with me (although she was hostile in general, but more with me), and tried to throw me under the bus to our top boss when one of her projects went sour. If that wasn’t enough, I also heard that she called me a “little monster” to a coworker on another occasion. I just ignored her, and eventually she did the same for me. It was easier to pretend that each other didn’t exist and get on with my job than get caught up in it. I did do a little happy dance on the day she retired, though.

      Basically- OP is a big component in how this goes. If you can’t get over the drama, then it’s your job to move on like anon2 said above. If you do want to stay, the best thing you can do is act like a professional adult and leave your personal affairs and emotions out of the workplace.

    3. Pebbles*

      I too had to work with an ex which in itself wasn’t as bad as I expected. We were able to be civil with each other when we had to work on projects together, but that wasn’t all the time, so I was able to focus elsewhere when I needed to and we even chatted occasionally in the hallways.

      It was when I turned a hallway corner one day and ran into his new girlfriend that things got awkward! We had all been part of the same friend group at one point so I knew who she was as soon as I saw her and put 2-and-2 together. He had referred her for a job, a few months down the road they were engaged, and then married… I told him at one point that he could have at least given me a heads up before she started that she would be working there and he acknowledged my point.

      Anyhow, my career and heart survived all that. I’m still here and they have moved on to other jobs. OP – just remember that it won’t be forever, you just need to get through now, and it DOES get easier with more time. Stay civil with your ex, stay focused on your own tasks, and build up your other coworker relationships. Good luck!

  12. Sarianna*

    OP#4, I totally understand. Before I finished college as a non-trad student, I worked for three retailers plus a student job in an on-campus department, over the span of ten years. Literally none of those places still exist. The small retailer shut after lease negotiations fell through, one big retailer declared bankruptcy, the other big one closed all locations near where I lived, and the on-campus department has been merged into a different department and no longer serves its original clientele. I’ve definitely had the passing thought that maybe I’m bad for business. ;) Even so, my experience has been that being confident/competent/willing to learn can shine through despite what looks like an implausible resume!

    1. Nea*

      Another person with an implausible resume here. I work in contracting, where it’s normal to change jobs every 2-3 years *and* it’s normal for small companies to be bought out by medium companies that are bought by large companies that fold or rebrand.

      For a while I was putting “Llamas R Us (was purchased by Llamarama Inc was purchased by World Alpaca)” on my resume, but gave up after a while and just resigned myself to the fact that I can never move out of this area because if you aren’t familiar with contracting, it looks like I couldn’t hold a job at places I made up.

      OP #4 – Just go ahead and say “2000-2007 Llama-go-rama” as normal on your resume and explain the situation in the interview.

  13. Lily*

    OP#1. She only recently got the job. She might not be in a position to change. You might have helped her get the job, but you are not the one that hired her or the one she reports to.

    Leaving a job isn’t easy and you can only control your behavior. Be polite and search for another job if it will be to difficult to stay in this one.

    1. Xarcady*

      That’s a good point. Depending on her past job history, the ex may need to stay in this job for at least a year to avoid the appearance of job hopping. And “Well, my ex still works at the same company and I agreed to leave if we broke up,” might not do well in an interview when asked why she is looking for a new job.

    2. Goosela*

      Completely agree. Plus she may like the job more than she could have ever suspected when she made that agreement with OP #1. If she is unbothered by OP’s presence there, but he is bothered with hers, the problem lies with OP, not the ex. If OP can’t maintain a professional relationship with his ex, then, yeah, he should probably be the one looking elsewhere.

  14. MommyMD*

    Truly no good deed goes unpunished. After hearing about and reading about friends and family being recommended for jobs and the problems it causes, I’ve just decided never to do it.

    1. Anon55*

      Probably a good policy! The one time I ever went all-out to recommend someone it was a former coworker who I had worked with closely on a couple of projects with and seemed fantastic. She was hired and I was excited to work with her again. Cut to five months later when she’s cheating on her husband with the office lothario/drama queen (or should it be king? I’ve never been sure!) and then to two months later when he dumped her and she’s using work email to threaten him. I. Was. Mortified.

    2. JamieS*

      That seems like a pretty hard stance. If you’re just basing that on AAM try to remember that we’re going to read more recommendation horror stories just by the nature of the blog since, barring updates to prior letters, it’s not very likely someone will write in “recommended someone for a job, they got the job and are working out great, no advice needed.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! And really, making great recommendations for strong hires who work out is something that builds your reputation. If you do it thoughtfully and you have a high bar for who you’ll recommend, there’s no reason to avoid doing it. (This assumes we’re talking about people you’ve actually worked with, not friends and family who you don’t know in a work context.)

      2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

        Agreed. I have my current career thanks to a family friend who casually asked at lunch one day “hey, do you know anyone who wants to be an accountant?” I’ve known her since I was 7, grew up with her kids, and if I screw it up, she’ll tell my mom on me ;)

      3. LBK*

        Agreed. If it helps balance the scales at all, I pushed a friend/former coworker of mine to my boss for months and when he finally hired him, my friend became an immediate rock star, shot up through the ranks and is now managing a team under that same boss. It worked out great for both of them.

    3. Ruth (UK)*

      I agree with the other comment that AAM will have a higher proportion of ones that went wrong (cause if it went well, they wouldn’t need to write in).

      To combat the number of horror stories, my last job (hospital bookings / call centre style job) recruited through a series of recommendations that saw me and a group of my friends manage to leave retail and get into admin. 2 people worked there, who recommended me and another person, and we in turn each recommend several people. It worked out well and each time we recruited, my boss asked us if we knew anyone.

      The job had other problems but none specifically caused by this thing.

    4. CityMouse*

      I don’t recommend friends and family either, unless I am familiar with their job-applicable work.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I actually recommended a family member once, but I knew the person’s work ethic, and we had talked a lot about our respective workplaces. It worked out well. Admittedly, you have to know the person well enough to be sure they’ll be OK.

    5. Antilles*

      I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about recommending family/friends, it’s just that you need to be crystal clear and honest with everyone about the limitations of your recommendation – do you know their work abilities or is it purely social? are you familiar with the specifics of the job/department? do you have any real indication of whether the job would fit your friend’s skillset? etc.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        ^ yes, this! You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and a willingness to be honest about how they fit with both the specific job and the company itself.

    6. Jesmlet*

      I have the same policy but because I simply don’t want to work with people that I was friends with before, especially if I don’t know them in a work context. Muddies the relationship and sets you up as the person to go to if they want to complain. No thanks, not for me.

    7. Bea*

      My first job ever was a recommendation from a friend because it was her sister who needed an accounting assistant. Thanks to that my career was born.

      When my partner and I worked together it was wonderful and our productivity sky rocketed. We left for reasons not due to our work or relationship, just utter toxicity that we found awhile into the fold and neither of us play that game.

      The thing to take is to truly know your recommendations and appreciate that this is business so HELL NO to “I thought my drug addict sister was recovered and wanted to help her out!!” or “this friend needs a job, any job, I’m helping her out!” or if you ever preface a job recommendation with “but if we break up, you gotta quit.” what do you expect from the person if you fall out with them? Why would they stick to that deal when it takes their ability to live away!!

    8. Oxford Coma*

      Also consider that the person being recommended is not always the problem. I got a job in spite of being related to someone, not because of it.

    9. Lora*

      Nah, you just gotta know if they are good at work. Unless you made friends with them through work, you aren’t going to know that necessarily. There are plenty of friends and family who are lovely people but would not be good fits for particular workplaces: for example, I have a dear friend who is a director of HR, and while she is a lovely person I know for a fact that some places I’ve worked are all legal cases and layoffs, all the time, with very little fun stuff or even neutral stuff to give the HR staff a break from dealing with human misery. I know she’d be very unhappy in a role like that, and needs a mix of onboarding, negotiating with health insurers, bonus calculations, team building exercise planning and other happy stuff to round out the crummy bits. I have a cousin who is the head of logistics and operations where she works – but she’s only had this one job since she graduated, it’s a smallish company with only B2B operations and so she’d be a bad fit for a similar role at Huge MegaCorp as she’d be completely lost in the software and the scale of operations. It just depends on the person and depends on the role.

  15. AcademiaNut*

    Recommending someone for a job is something that you lose control of once you’ve done it.

    I can see this as being something that seemed a good idea in the abstract – some nebulous day in the future if you broke up, she would move on to a new job. But in the practical details of reality, it can be a very different situation. Given that it sounds like she hasn’t been in the job for very long, leaving could have a significant negative impact on her employment. And even if she did agree to leave, she’d have to find a new job first, and that could take months or longer, particularly given that she hasn’t been in this one very long. By that point you’ll have figured out how to work at the same place together, or things will have imploded completely. Expecting her to quit without a job lined up, by the way, would not be reasonable, no matter what the prior agreement was.

  16. Scarlet*

    OP1, this caught my eye: “I don’t want to bring in any drama into my workplace. I don’t want to slander her.”

    I know that going through a breakup is rough and seeing your ex every day at work is like pouring salt in the wounds, and I understand that right now, you’re probably blinded by grief, in a state of panic and your judgement is clouded. But this really gave me pause. You sound like you just want her to suddenly disappear and you’d be ready to involve HR for that (and slander actually crossed your mind). Honestly, what did you expect from her? That she’d just give up her source of income, probably harming her professional reputation in the process, and go live on the street for your convenience? What do you expect HR to do? Do you really think they’d go “oh, OP1 is uncomfortable and we certainly don’t want that! Let’s just fire her ex!”?

    So yeah, behave professionally, limit your interactions with her as much as you can while staying polite and please see a therapist.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yeah, with due respect to the OP it sounds like their expectations here are pretty unreasonable – IMHO, it was pretty unfair even suggesting that the ex should resign if things went wrong since it seems to assume that the ex would automatically be the one behaving unprofessionally. I get that it’s not a comfortable situation, but that’s the case with a lot of other work situations too; management is never going to take sides unless someone’s actively being harassed or threatened. OP wants to grieve, and preferably not have to deal with the ex, which is fair enough – but trying to find a way of pushing the ex out of her job absolutely isn’t.

    2. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Eh, I think she was being casual with the word and meant she did not want to make her ex look bad. Not that she was willing to say anything necessary.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Sorry, I mean she didn’t want to create a bad impression of her ex by going to HR over this.

      2. a1*

        Agree. I think she’s worried her opinion of ex’s work could be clouded by the breakup and she doesn’t want that. And even knowing that, an off-the-cuff comment could be unfairly negative when you’re not really thinking.

    3. Agenda*

      I agree wholeheartedly! The phrase “I don’t want to slander her” was really unexpected. It’s not as if slandering someone is unavoidable. Dishonesty should not be your go-to resource regardless of how much you are hurting (and it really does suck that you have to go through that, I empathise). Op#1, try to maintain your professional distance, keep your nose to the grindstone, and keep your nose clean.

      1. Marthooh*

        I think the OP meant “speak badly of” rather than “tell vicious lies about” her ex.

        1. Scarlet*

          Even if it’s just “speaking badly of her”, what exactly did she want to tell HR? And what was she expecting HR to do? “Slandering” is probably not the word she was aiming for, but regardless, it doesn’t sound very good. Esp. when she’s way more senior in her position than her ex, like other commenters have mentioned upthread.

          1. Marthooh*

            Oh, I’m not saying it’s a good idea! I’m just saying OP probably didn’t mean she contemplated committing a crime, just saying something like “Ex failed to keep a promise!” Which won’t make Ex look good, will make OP look bad, and is not recommended by anyone at all.

        2. LBK*

          That’s still a weird thing to be concerned about. If you don’t want to say something bad about someone…just don’t say it. I can’t imagine a context in which she’d be forced to talk about their personal relationship.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I could see, at most, having to mention that she and the ex are no longer together. I’ve had coworkers who knew me and my ex (and friends, of course) when we were together.

            Generally speaking, all you have to say is that you’re no longer together. If anyone keeps asking, you tell them you don’t wish to talk about it.

    4. Hal*

      “Honestly, what did you expect from her? That she’d just give up her source of income, probably harming her professional reputation in the process, and go live on the street for your convenience?”

      To be fair, we’re meant to understand that the OP’s ex did promise to leave in the invent of a breakup. This isn’t a great agreement for either party to make in the first place since most people won’t follow Kant off a cliff, so yes, “expecting” in the sense of predicting an outcome, the OP shouldn’t be surprised; “expecting” in the sense of what was promised to the OP, she has a point.

      1. Scarlet*

        That’s why it was not a reasonable promise to ask of her. No-one could seriously “expect” someone to shoot themselves in the foot professionally, “promise” or not.

        1. Scarlet*

          Also, the ex might have intended to leave, but not necessarily right after the breakup… That would be ridiculous.

        2. Hal*

          Sure, but the agreement, reasonable or not, was struck; the violation of it is by the OP’s ex. And again, there is a sense in which “expecting” the OP’s ex to make good on the agreement makes sense. The OP made a practical mistake here, while the ex made an ethical one; the practical considerations will be the overriding issue here, as they often are, but that doesn’t mean the ethical considerations just fly out the window.

          1. Scarlet*

            I can’t fault someone for violating an agreement that was unethical to start with. It’s not remotely ok to ask someone to lose their source of income, esp. at a time when they also probably have to move, etc. The situation sucks for OP, but it certainly sucks for the ex too.

            1. Hal*

              What’s unethical about it? The conditions were set upfront and presumably clear to both parties, neither of whom was under notable financial duress (taking the letter at face value, and it wouldn’t be universally agreed that financial duress would matter ethically anyway). The OP’s ex agreed in advance to lose her income under certain conditions.

              I agree that the arrangement was foolish for the reasons already discussed, but there’s nothing in the letter to reveal that it was unethical. There were conditions attached to a certain level of help, which the OP’s ex could have refused (and which the OP, in retrospect, should have withheld in the first place).

              1. Scarlet*

                It’s unethical to ask someone to lose their source of income just so you’re not make uncomfortable. And yes, financial duress does matter ethically. Being able to make a living is a pretty big deal.

                1. LBK*

                  I think the counterargument to that is that because having a job is so important, you probably shouldn’t take a job at the same company as your significant other if you have concerns about a potential breakup affecting that job. I mean, it’s common wisdom that you never work for/manage your significant other, and I think many of the same concerns apply about working together in general.

              2. aebhel*

                People don’t usually apply for a job if they don’t need one. That means that there’s an intrinsic financial pressure there, and taking advantage of that financial pressure to extract an agreement that disproportionately favors one party is unethical.

                1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  I disagree. There once was a time where I was happy and content in a job – but saw the PERFECT job advertised so I applied for it (got it, got a raise, stayed a long time).

                  And in the computer world, it’s sometimes healthy to go out and look around and see if you can improve your situation or not. A casual application might , just maybe gee whiz put you into the opportunity of a lifetime.

            2. LBK*

              No, but I can fault someone for agreeing to that agreement knowing they probably wouldn’t ultimately follow through on it.

              At least it sounds like the breakup was a good idea if these kinds of ultimatums were being made and agreed to, apparently in bad faith.

        3. Bea*

          It sounds awfully manipulative to tell someone “so I’ll get you hired but you can’t stay if we break up.” I know they had a rocky relationship but wowzah I’ve never dedicated that much of my life to someone and wanted them to enter into that kind of shoddy deal. “I’ll get you a job when it benefits me for you to be working but if I dump you or you leave me, have fun fending for yourself!” nope nope nope.

          1. LBK*

            I’ll get you a job when it benefits me for you to be working

            Where are you getting that from? I’m not seeing in the letter that the ex was out of work, unless we’re just assuming that she wouldn’t have chosen to work at the same company as the OP if she had any other options?

      2. Millennial Lawyer*

        Such a promise was an abuse of power. Their relationship was already rocky, and this person had the opportunity for a decent job when they needed one. It should have never been asked, and if the relationship was so rocky, OP probably shouldn’t have agreed to help her get a job in the same workplace.

        1. LBK*

          FWIW, the OP doesn’t say that the ex needed the job (eg was out of work and just had to take anything they could get). Assuming that wasn’t the case, it’s just as much on the ex for deciding to take the job. I don’t see how it’s an abuse of power when they had equal autonomy to make this arrangement. The ex could’ve also said, “You know, I’m really not willing to make that guarantee, so maybe it’s better if I don’t work there in the first place so we don’t have to worry about it.” The OP also wasn’t the hiring manager, so while she may have helped the ex get the job, she didn’t have the sole authority over whether she got the position or not.

          1. Millennial Lawyer*

            It doesn’t matter how desperate she was – the matter is there was a condition to getting a job that she wanted, OP had the power to give her the opportunity, so she agreed to it. She basically had to agree to those terms to get the job, so she agreed.

            I agree with you that it was a bad idea on her part as well, my point was more just that sure she agreed to those terms, but those terms were conditional for her to get what she wanted going forward which puts her at a disadvantaged. She could have agreed even if she had no intention on following through with it for that reason.

          2. Annabelle*

            Regardless of her ex’s previous job situation, I do think it’s at least a little manipulative to say “I’ll help you get hired, but if we don’t work out you have to quit.” It’s sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing. If you agree, there’s added pressure to stay in the relationship. But if you don’t, you’re effectively admitting you have doubts, which you might not feel comfortable doing in an already rocky relationship.

  17. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #2 Possibly you need to take a step back and ask yourself, whether a job that is so stressful and exhausting that you have an emotional breakdown in front of your boss is worth doing ? You say they are going to get more staff, well I’ve heard that one many times.

  18. Annie Mouse*

    OP2, don’t beat yourself up about crying at work. While it might not be the most ‘professional’ response, as Alison says, you’re human.
    I’ve cried at work, several times, alone, in front of coworkers and in front of managers. None of them have ever said anything negative about it. I will say I work in a high stress and often highly emotionally charged role, which might increase the acceptability slightly but even outside that, occasional breakdowns, particularly when you’re under the stress you are, is completely understandable.

    1. Beatrice*

      Agreed. I cried a little in front of my grandboss a few weeks ago, under similar circumstances to the OP. He was kind about it and I am sure he doesn’t think less of me, for the error or the crying. We’re all worn a little thin right now.

  19. rudster*

    I find it interesting that here (quite rightly) no-one believes that the ex is obliged to give up her livelihood just so other ex/LW wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, yet from the comments on earlier case of the expat teacher who ghosted on his fiance, he was apparently obliged to do just that, preemptively no less, without any indication that the fiance would actually have been uncomfortable. I can’t help but see an element of subtle sexism there, even if the ghoster did, with the subsequent actions described in his update, lose any residual sympathy he might have had.

    1. Yellow Bird Blue*

      To me, the difference is that the OP in the ghosting letter really wronged his former girlfriend (traumatized might not be right word!). Ordinary break-ups are no walk in the park either, but usually both parties take some blame and everyone who enters a relationship knows it might not work out. The OP in this letter must have been aware that her ex could not quit her job on the spot… that agreement is very tough to uphold.

      1. Scarlet*

        Yeah, and recommending your partner for a job at your place of employment when your relationship is already rocky is a bit… short-sighted. And that kind of promise is absolutely impossible to make. Was she supposed to just drop everything and run after the breakup?

      2. Lynca*

        Also the OP is hurting and it is probably clouding their judgment as to how they need to behave. So far no unseemly behavior has occurred which would jeopardize either job. And it doesn’t have to, hence them asking for help.

        The Ghost OP’s situation was different specifically because his behavior had caused immense emotional distress and the damage was done. His concern was how do I move forward knowing this past behavior will be an issue with my boss. Sometimes the issue is so bad that you can’t.

      3. aebhel*

        Yeah, there’s a difference between ‘we broke up and now it’s awkward’ and ‘I left the country and vanished without warning and she probably thought I was dead’.

    2. Scarlet*

      Er no, just disappearing on somebody and trying to paint them as a stalker when they’re trying to find out where you are (or even if you’re still alive) is definitely not in the same park as just splitting up with someone.

    3. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      I mean, LW1’s girlfriend didn’t write in about how she was an industrial-sized barrel of Summer’s Eve, so that’s one way the situations are different.

      (And I imagine we would have been less sympathetic to the fiancee in the ghosting letter had she written in and asked if she could fire her worthless ex, so there’s that.)

      Also, we have less information on the working relationship here. In the ghosting letter as well, the LW would have been reporting to his fiancee, if I remember correctly. Here, LW1 doesn’t say whether they’re even in the same department (and hopefully they’re not).

      1. Chriama*

        Agreed. I think the parallel comparison is more apt if we consider what we would have advised if:

        1) the woman was asking if she could fire her ghosting ex (uh, no you have to be professional),


        2) the ex-gf was asking if she has to quit now that they broke up (well, you did make a promise so you should probably at least start looking for a new job. But it was an unfair promise to demand so talk to your ex and see if she’s willing to be reasonable about it).

    4. CoffeeLover*

      I don’t know if people are saying OP’s girlfriend shouldn’t resign. I think what people are saying is that it’s unreasonable to expect an immediate resignation. Most people can’t quit their job without anything lined up and that can take time. OP can’t insist it happen any faster than it does, but given the girlfriend worked there for less time, got the job thanks to OP and promised to leave should they break up… she kind of is the one that’s obliged to leave. However, if OP can’t handle working with her until that happens, the better and more dignified thing to do is be the one to leave.

      As for the other LW… his actions were so bad that the only way to even somewhat redeem himself was to quit the job instead of forcing his ex to deal with him (either fire him or have to swallow working with him… not to mention having to tell others about the situation). When you seriously wrong someone, the least you can do is make sure they never have to deal with you again. I think you can’t really compare the two situations.

    5. E.*

      But the ghoster’s ex was his boss – that’s different than just working at the same company.

      1. Murphy*

        Yes, this. If there hadn’t been a boss dynamic to the ghoster situation, I think the advice would have been very different.

      2. Luna*

        Plus the ghoster hadn’t actually started the job yet, from what I remember, or was in the very, very early stages.

    6. Meliza*

      Okay, first of all, Alison absolutely did not say the expat ghoster was obliged to quit his job. She said he might not be able to salvage the situation, and should be prepared to quit if things didn’t shake out in his favor. That’s a significant difference. Second of all (and this is a big one), these two breakups are wildly different! Expat Ghoster inflicted some serious emotional trauma on his ex – he literally left the country without telling her. That’s not your average run of the mill breakup, that’s a seriously awful thing to do to someone. Your claim that Alison is somehow being sexist again Expat Ghoster because he’s a man is ridiculous, sorry.

      1. boo*

        Yes-Alison’s response to that letter was about what might happen if the the ghost attempted to work for his ex, and I think she advised that the outcome might be less than ideal for him, and explained why the ex might not welcome him too warmly.

        ‘Twas the comments that elucidated all the ways in which he was The Worst, which included not only leaving the country without telling her, but describing her as crazy-ten years later-for calling his family to find out if he might be dead, kidnapped, or previously known to be a jackass.

        I mean for all we know the OP here did something equally egregious and just isn’t mentioning it, but we only know what we know, and at the very least she’s clever enough not to tell us.

    7. Damn it, Hardison!*

      The major difference between the two scenarios is that in the expat teacher’s situation the person he ghosted was going to be his boss. There’s nothing in this letter to suggest that the two parties have a similar relationship in the workplace.

    8. Natalie*

      Wasn’t the ex in that other letter the LW’s manager? That’s obviously an enormous difference between a peer who might not even be in the same department.

    9. Parenthetically*

      Hard disagree. The situations are just not comparable. The expat guy quit his job because he wouldn’t meet the requirements set out for him by administration after they learned about his past behavior to his ex. That’s nothing like “obliged to give up your livelihood preemptively,” that’s “I only know one way to deal with problems, and that’s to blow up my life and blame others for the fallout.” These women had a rocky relationship, LW extracted an ill-advised promise, and can’t reasonably expect her ex to comply — and CERTAINLY should not involve HR.

      “I can’t help but see an element of subtle sexism there” Nah. Jerks gonna jerk regardless of gender.

      1. Lora*

        This, exactly: wouldn’t meet the requirements set out for him by administration after they learned about his past behavior.

        Casper had a choice, just as OP has a choice: be civil and polite at work, be super careful about how you interact with the ex, act like a responsible adult and see how it goes. That’s not unreasonable, and it’s exactly what the commentariat is suggesting.

        It’s when the respective OPs get into “but I don’t wanna because of FEELINGS, the other person should have to (do a thing)” that people are saying nah, your suggestion is not the best idea ever.

    10. WeevilWobble*

      Nobody there said he was obliged to do that but that it was realistically a likely outcome.

      And nothing suggests this ex was as callous and horrible as he was.

    11. Rilara*

      I don’t remember anyone on the ghosting letter telling OP to quit. Everyone was just acknowledging that what he did was pretty messed up, so leaving the job was something to be prepared for.

      And really, if you look at the advice Alison have for this letter and the ghosting letter, it is actually pretty similar. She isn’t telling either OP to quit, but to wait it out and see if working together is really as bad as the letter writer is initially assuming.

    12. Marthooh*

      “Dear AAM: My soon-to-be boss knows for a fact that I am completely untrustworthy. Is this okay?”

      1. boo*

        I mean, yeah, it’s great! It’s going to make absolutely all the necessary things so much easier.

        …Oh, did you mean is it okay for YOU? No…

    13. Chriama*

      The official advice wasn’t for the ghoster to give up his employment. They did expect that he should start looking for a new job because things were likely to be uncomfortable for him, and there was advice for talking to the ex before work started.

      I think the difference has to do with the reasonableness of both parties as well. The ghoster did something awful and showed no empathy or remorse. The OP is extracted a very unreasonable promise under duress. So when you sound unreasonable, people have more sympathy for the other party.

    14. Kathleen_A*

      Oh, I think it’s a completely different situation – and no, I disagree that there’s any sort of “subtle sexism,” at least not on my part. Breaking up with someone is a perfectly normal thing, and ordinarily, what needs to happen is that everybody just finds a way to move on, even if you have to work with them.

      But there are situations when that’s just not tenable, and the case of the ghosting ex is one of them because the way he chose to “break up” was so flagrantly awful and out-of-the-norm that the chances he could ever have even a semi-normal working relationship with this woman are…pretty much nil. And see, that’s what he wanted – he wanted to be able to say to himself that his ex would have to be crazy to hold a grudge, and that just isn’t reasonable. He behaved like a horrible person, and he shouldn’t be expecting people to forget that.

      I don’t think anybody said or implied that his ex has grounds to fire him. But the consensus was that this woman has excellent reasons to think the ghosting ex is a horrible person (’cause he was and possibly still is), and since it’s not a great idea to work for someone who has excellent reasons to consider you a horrible person, he’d be well advised to find a different place to work ASAP.

    15. Snark*

      You’re drawing a connection between two hysterically divergent scenarios to make some kind of reverse-sexism point? Yeah, no, not here for that.

      1. Penny Lane*

        But if you can’t find sexism or reverse sexism in a scenario where the genders of the partners are completely irrelevant to anything, what’s the purpose of living?

        The ghosting ex and this situation are entirely different scenarios. I don’t care whose genitals go with which story.

        1. Snark*

          Comparing them is a stretch that I think I saw a stoned holy man in India perform once, but I think it was only because his muscles had atrophied into that position.

    16. McWhadden*

      Hahaha hope you didn’t pull a muscle for that stretch!

      The funniest thing is the advice here is the same as it was then! It all boils down to “you can’t manage what others do, whether it’s holding your actions against you or choosing not to quit, so you should try to make it work and if you can’t then you should find other employment.”

    17. Millennial Lawyer*

      For the record, in that situation he was going to be a subordinate, it wasn’t just a “break up” it was something truly emotionally traumatizing, and HE chose to resign because he didn’t want to deal with any extra precautions such as a third person present in meetings – they did not fire him. Further, he wasn’t recommended to the job by the woman, and the woman didn’t ask him to leave the company.

  20. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW1, I have two questions:

    1) do you have to work with your ex substantially? You didn’t specify how much your jobs intersect.

    2) was your ex abusive to you, or does she otherwise make you feel reasonably unsafe?

    If the answer to both is no, then I’d tell you to just deal with it and stay there. (You already have ten good years and you want to blow it up over a woman?) I mean yes, she made A Promise, but look at it from her perspective: you want to force her out of a new job just because she’s not in a relationship with you anymore. If the situation was reversed, I’d imagine you would find that extremely unfair (as you should, because it is – your relationship status shouldn’t matter to your job status). And although you had a tumultuous relationship, I don’t think she was planning on breaking up with you just weeks or months after getting hired.

    If she is full of evil bees, then it might be best for one of you to leave asap. Preferably her, but it might have to be you. This obviously is terrible, but you need to do what’s safe for you.

    The trickiest is if it’s just a bad relationship (that is, it’s not abusive or especially toxic) AND you work closely with your ex. I’d still advocate searching, but also…before taking anything, really think about what you’re leaving and why you’re leaving. You’ve had a stable job for a decade, and your letter doesn’t indicate that you dislike your work.

    Like Alison and probably the rest of the commentariat, I’m really sorry for you! It’s an awkward situation to be in. But…like overall, I’d lean more towards staying, and DEFINITELY against trying to force her out (unless it’s an absolute emergency situation – as in, there’s a significant chance she will hurt you). This is one of those situations where the person is way less important than the job.

    1. Jesmlet*

      I think those two questions are crucial. If you just don’t want to be in the same building as an ex, then you need to either suck it up or find a new job. Going to HR is going to make you seem incredibly immature, unprofessional, and petty. If you don’t want to bring drama, then just don’t bring drama. Trying to get your ex fired (or whatever your end goal is) is overly dramatic. As someone said above, it’s going to come across like you’re trying to get HR to force consequences on someone for not sleeping with you anymore. This would be a huge permanent red mark on your record if I was in charge.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        Totally agreed, but also – I’d really think long and hard about leaving to begin with. I assume that she’s otherwise happy with her job, and if she’s otherwise unhappy – this might be the nudge out the door, but it shouldn’t be THE main reason she quits except under extreme cases.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Yeah, OP just needs to give it some time. The wound feels raw right now but who knows how she’ll feel in a few months?

  21. Xarcady*

    OP#2–I cried during an interview once. It was because of an extremely adversarial interviewer, who just kept attacking all my answers. “How do we know that’s true? If I call your current boss today, will they agree with what you just said? Why should anyone hire you? People like you are a dime a dozen. There’s nothing in this resume that impresses me.” Plus the strain of working in a toxic environment I was desperate to get out of, plus my mother had died the month before. But the interviewers knew nothing about those last two factors.

    I got the job.

    If your manager is a good one, she will realize that the tears are simply a sign that you have reached a breaking point with the work load, and she will do something to change it.

    1. Ambpersand*

      Holy cow, I would cry in that situation too! As someone who cries when they get overwhelmed and frustrated, that would have easily pushed my “cry” buttons. Kudos to you for getting the job though!

    2. anon scientist*

      Did you accept it? If so, was the interviewer your manager and how did that work out?

      1. Properlike*

        This is my question. How bad was the workplace you left where the adversarial interview felt like a reasonable option?

      2. Xarcady*

        I did take the job. But not before finding out that I would have almost nothing to do with that interviewer. He was the owner’s husband and the VP of the company, but he mostly did sales and was out of the office most of the time.

        The owner and the other employees were great.

        It was a pretty good job and I learned a lot there. When I got promoted to management and started interviewing people, I discovered that the intimidation tactic he used–was only used on women. With men, he was all buddy-buddy.

        And well after I was hired, I learned that the fact that I kept talking while trying really hard not to cry (and failing), and pushed back on the owner’s husband (What do you mean there’s nothing on my resume? I have a Master’s degree and 15 years of work experience.) is one of the reasons I got the job. This is not a technique I would ever recommend.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          “When I got promoted to management and started interviewing people, I discovered that the intimidation tactic he used–was only used on women. With men, he was all buddy-buddy.”

          WOW. GROSS.

          I hope someone (possibly you?) brought up to the owner how wildly unacceptable (and probably legally actionable) this is. If the owner knew his husband was doing this and kept letting him interview prospective employees, that’s on him too – the owner being nice just makes it an elaborate good cop/bad cop setup.

  22. HR is Fun*

    #4 Try searching for your former coworkers on LinkedIn by their first names and the company name (start with someone who had the least common first name — e.g. Charlotte is less common than Catherine). For that matter, you can even just search for the company name on LinkedIn. Anyone who listed that company name on their LinkedIn profile should come up in your search. Then, you can connect with them through LinkedIn and then ask them to be a reference for you (if you don’t think they’d provide a good reference, you could even describe it as not so much as a reference but as a verification that the company did exist in case some interviewer in the future questions whether the company existed). Or, ask them if they can connect you with your former boss or whether they know anything about why former boss isn’t responding.

    1. Chriama*

      I was thinking OP should reach out through your social network. Do any of your friends or family know the person who worked there? Are there any friends or family of that boss that you can contact? Check old email addresses and troll Facebook, maybe.

  23. Viki*

    Like said above somewhere, going to HR beside being a misuse of HR and a really unfair promise you got from your ex, OP1 it comes across as someone senior (10 years in the company) wanting someone junior fired because they won’t sleep with again.

    Not knowing anything about your relationship, this is just what it can come across as. And what good is a reputation like that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In fairness, there’s nothing to indicate the ex is junior. She could have 20 years of work experience at other companies. She’s only new to this one.

  24. Coincidences*

    re: LW 4

    So I worked a specific retail job for my last two years of high school and my first year of college — and then the manager got arrested for embezzling (which explained why our drawers kept coming out wrong), and became unavailable for references.

    Then I worked the same job in college all four years (overlapping, freshman year, with the retail job), and got promoted to the top, and had a fantastic track record — and then 14 months after I graduated, the university dissolved the department and all of the full-time non-student employees were given early retirement buyouts.

    So I entered the permanent workforce at 24, after grad school, with seven years of work history and literally zero references who could be called upon to speak to my work or even confirm I’d done it. It wasn’t ideal! But I still got through interviews and got jobs and it worked out.

  25. Lauren K Milligan*

    I am worried for LW1. Someone who would think it’s reasonable to ask HR to get their ex to quit is prone for drama. Thankfully she wrote in, but going to HR is such a nuclear option that would backfire spectacularly. OP, please see if your company offers EAP benefits. If not, find a counselor on your own to help manage your feelings and your actions. Even talking badly about your ex to other coworkers could be seen as bullying, or creating a hostile work environment. A counselor could help you get all this in check so that you don’t end up being the one with an uncomfortable visit from HR.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I think it’s a bit unfair to the OP to say that she is prone to drama for considering going to HR. Clearly it’s a terrible idea, but her eight year relationship just ended; it’s not representative of a broader personality trait.

      I agree with your recommendation to check about an EAP or find a counselor though, I think that will help OP navigate a difficult situation.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s actually a really unfounded criticism of LW1. Calling her dramatic for what sounds like a crap situation is unfair.

    3. Scarlet*

      “Someone who would think it’s reasonable to ask HR to get their ex to quit is prone for drama. ”

      I have to agree with that. I understand that it’s tough for her (and it’s probably tough for her ex too, lest we forget), but that’s way beyond a reasonable reaction.

      1. Ambpersand*

        I would agree with this too. And it seems as if the OP might feel they have “ownership” over the workplace because they’ve been there longer (and is in a position to demand that the ex leaves), and that’s not really how it works. Maybe they don’t mean it that way and I’m reading into it, but it’s the impression that I took away.

        1. Annabelle*

          FWIW, I was also guessing an ownership-type feeling was at play here. And I mean, it’s probably somewhat natural to feel that way about a place you’ve worked for so long, but the OP’s ex has just as much of a right to be there as she does.

      2. Marthooh*

        That’s not quite true, though. Someone who would actually go to HR about this is probably prone for drama. The OP consulted AAM instead. Good call, OP!

      3. boo*

        I wasn’t really clear on whether she wanted HR to make her ex leave, or if she just wanted help dealing with the situation. I know she said “I don’t want to slander her,” but I’m pretty sure she meant “speak badly of her in a way that will impact her reputation” not “lie about her” (I know slander has to be a lie to be actionable, but hey, Oscar Wilde made the same mistake).

      4. Jesmlet*

        Okay, but I think we’ve all experienced moments where something significant happens in our lives and we become temporarily dramatic. It should not be a reflection of who she is as a person but unfortunately it may end up being taken that way in a fundamental attribution error kind of way (which is why she shouldn’t do anything).

      5. Boo Berry*

        Agreed, everything described sounds extremely controlling and unreasonable.

        Also, it sounds like there’s a fair amount of seniority for OP within the company and pursuing this line of thought would possibly strike HR as an effort to get a subordinate fired for not sleeping with them. It’s much more likely to blow back horribly on the OP for so many reasons.

    4. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      I don’t know if LW1 is dramatic, but I think her idea of going to HR about this situation shows either poor judgment or a clear misunderstanding about what HR exists for. It doesn’t exist to make someone quit because you broke up with them. When emotions run high, normally good judgment can falter and perceptions can get skewed. I hope that’s what’s going on here, and I’m betting that it is.

    5. McWhadden*

      The LW never actually says she plans on going to HR to make her ex quit. She says she doesn’t know what HR can do for her and that *she* plans on looking around and maybe quitting, herself.

      I think going to HR is a bad idea unless the relationship was abusive. But she clearly knows HR won’t fire her ex or make her quit. She was likely planning to go to HR to inform them of the situation. Which is very common advice although I know Alison likes to use it sparingly.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Sadly, this is the same read that I got from LW1’s letter. Getting one’s partner to promise to quit if they break up, mentioning the word “slander,” and considering a trip to HR to do the dirty deed for her … these are red flags for some unhealthy relationship dynamics, to me. I sincerely hope I’m reading too much between the lines. But I also hope that LW1 will take this energy and pour it into her job and keep her workplace conduct professional.

  26. Marthooh*

    “Don’t decide anything now while you’re in the immediate aftermath of the break-up.”

    …unless you truly look forward to playing the lead role in My Life: The Dramedy!

  27. Dust Bunny*

    OP1, this is why you don’t date at work.

    You don’t really have a leg to stand on here. It was an unfair and unenforceable agreement to ask of her in the first place. The fact that it occurred to you that you might, even if only in theory at the time, break up should have reminded you that recommending her for a job wasn’t a good idea. Your relationship is not HR’s business.

    If you don’t want to work with her any more, then by all means, start looking for a new job. But you don’t have grounds to try to get her to leave.

  28. Linda Evangelista*

    OP2 – I just cried in front of my entire office last week for the same reason. Don’t sweat it. You’re overworked. I’m feeling a tad jealous you have such a supportive environment, though – mine seems to project this air of “everyone can handle this and if you say you can’t then you’re just weak/don’t want to do your job”. (Speaking privately, I discovered I’m not the only one feeling this way, thankfully).

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. Yes. Cry. Just do it. It happens. People cry. And I think as a society we should destigmatize negative emotions.

    1. Sunflower*

      Ugh I’m sorry- I’m in the same boat as you with my team. I’m non-exempt but always worked a lot of overtime at my job and was never an issue. Now all of a sudden, new boss(who no one thinks is good at her job) says aren’t allowed to work any anymore. I work a a law firm(its her first law job) so it’s a pretty crazy environment as is and I’m having so much anxiety about trying to fit my job into 35 hours a week. I have a check in with my grandboss and know it will be emotional for me. I’m debating letting myself cry because I’m not sure how else to make her realize how bad things have truly gotten.

      Just commiserating with you. Hope things get better for you soon :)

      1. Jenny Next*

        If you can’t fit your job into 35 hours, then something will have to be dropped. Working faster and faster until you hit burnout and total meltdown is not a recipe for good health — speaking from bitter experience.

        So for the meeting with the grandboss, it would be a good idea to have a list of all of your tasks and responsibilities, so that you can explain which ones you won’t be able to do any more now that your hours are restricted. The options for your grandboss will then be: 1.) Certain tasks will not get done; or 2.) You can work OT after all; or 3.) New staff has to be hired to pick up the slack. Any one of these is a win for you.

  29. Nicole*

    I really find it shocking how much drama pops up in the questions posted on AAM—aren’t we (mostly) all mature adults here?

    -Q1, this is something that should have been considered before helping her find the job, and if the relationship was on shaky ground already, it was silly to do this. She’s (possibly) being petty for not leaving, but it’s petty to expect her to leave just because LW doesn’t like it. We didn’t get a lot of detail about this position (no idea if they work closely together or in totally separate departments) but it sounds to me that the ex’s only offense is existing. Keep the personal business out of work—if they’re both mature adults, this should be easy—and worry about what HR can do if the ex (or LW, for that matter) starts creating a hostile work environment.

    -Q5, again this person needs to grow up. She got fired because she did a crap job at it, not the LW’s fault. She’s legitimately upset for not being paid on days she didn’t work, is she a moron or something? LW, no need to feel any guilt for this. If anything, your “friend” should be feeling guilty for destroying the opportunity you were so kind to help her get. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out, but good luck finding a new job” should be the only response to send to any of her whiny texts. Good luck leaving her behind.

    1. Bea*

      Hmmm you’ve never worked in places with anyone dramatic? I’m jealous tbh

      I’ve worked with every age range at this point, fresh out of high school to “I’ll never retire, I’m happy going to work every day despite being 72!”. I could curl your toes with stories since I’ve always been the HR/general dumping ground for grievances. Down to grown men leaving tampons on each other’s work station and one guy storming into the office quipping “thanks for hiring the guy who ef’ed my wife!” As if one of my screening questions is “have you ever had sexual relations with any of these mens wife, sister or brother’s wife’s sister?!”

    2. Lora*

      Lord have mercy, there is a whole world of immature people well past the age of majority and a whole barrel of em have jobs.

      At this point I don’t hope for mature adults at work. I only hope that they can keep their hands to themselves and they don’t ask me to do anything actually illegal. I used to hope that they could keep all their clothing on or at least underpants covered, and that turned out to be too much to ask at the majority of companies I’ve worked for.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Combined work the other complaints though… It made me wonder if she was complaining about not getting paid on training days.

  30. side note*

    Hi AAM – this is a total side note. Alison please delete if not allowed as I am not looking to change direction of all the comments.

    I love the early AM Ask a Manager – 5 questions, 5 answers to ponder during the day. I have noticed lately that the questions I think are going to draw all the comments and discussions (at least that I’m the most interested in!) seem to take a back burner while inquiries that I think are just yes/ no type questions are getting the most debate! It happened again today. Luckily Alison seems to have the magic touch in choosing the right questions to discuss overall.

  31. Chriama*

    OP 1 – I think that was a short-sighted promise to extract from her. You had reservations about the relationship to begin with, and you were gate-keeping her way to a job with this promise. I’m not surprised she’s changed her mind, I think it was a pretty unfair and unrealistic promise to demand. Either get her in or tell her you’re not comfortable working together. And if I was in HR and someone brought this to me, I’d be watching *both* parties for signs of drama and get rid of *both* of them at the first opportunity. This isn’t something you want to put on someone’s radar.

    Anyway, I’m sorry your breakup is so rough. As others have said, your best course of action now is to stay as professional as possible. If she tries to start anything, you have the higher ground. It is much more reasonable to go to HR with something like “we broke up, I’ve been trying to keep it professional but she refuses to communicate even on work-related issues” than your initial complaint would have been.

    1. CBH*

      It’s also probably just as awkward for the ex-girlfriend as it is for OP. It’s really unfair to expect someone to leave because of a personal issue. She needs to work and earn money as well. I know it’s hard OP but hang in there. You can keep it professional.

      1. Chriama*

        Yup. That’s what surprises me most — jobs mean money, which means being able to afford cool things like food and shelter! Is it realistic to expect someone to walk away from that with no preparation?

        1. CBH*

          Also OP brought the girlfriend in voluntarily to the position. You really can’t have someone there when convenient for you and leave on a whim because you don’t like them. This point of view makes the whole situation seem petty; I kind of just want to say we’re all professional, deal with it. If OP and girlfriend had a rocky relationship to begin with then why put yourself in a potential future awkward situation.

          1. CBH*

            Also something to consider… OP’s girlfriend could have made the promise in good faith thinking the relationship would last or if anything this would be a temporary job that with experience she could get out of.

  32. Observer*

    #1 you got a lot of good advice.

    Something to think about – Why are you even considering going to HR? As you yourself note, you don’t see what they could do for you. Why would HR lift a finger to get rid of an employee just because your relationship with them went sour? This is ESPECIALLY true since you are senior to her, and if there could be any indication that you have any influence on her her reporting chain, it looks pretty close to quid pro quo harassment.

    On the other hand, doing this might very well put you on HR’s radar as someone who they need to look out for, as someone with inappropriate workplace boundaries. That’s probably not fair, but from HRs’s perspective they don’t have enough information to know that. All they know is that you want someone fired because you broke up, which as others have noted, could read as “She won’t sleep with me. Fire her!”

    I’m not going to get into what you “should” have done. But, it’s worth taking a lesson here. Never recommend someone for a job if you have reason to believe that you won’t be comfortable working in the same workplace as them. Don’t depend on the leaving if you wind up being uncomfortable, no matter what they say.

  33. Observer*

    #3 It’s a totally reasonable thing to ask. And I have no argument with your dislike of the phone. But, please skip the who “millennials” bit. These kinds of generalizations are NOT useful, and it’s not even true.

    Own your preferences. You don’t much like the phone, and you are totally not cut out for call center work. That’s useful information for you to use in guiding your job search. But that has no more to do with being a millennial than your commute or other job preferences.

    1. OP 3*

      You know, I hadn’t even thought of it like that! My apologies for bringing unnecessary generalisations into it, I will leave them out in the future.

      1. Squeeble*

        As another phone-resistant millennial, I think that if you’re making the generalization about yourself in a lighthearted way (as I interpreted your letter, at least), it’s fine.

        1. Observer*

          I’m going to disagree somewhat. It’s nowhere are problematic as the “kids these days” or “those darn >gen whatevers<" kinds of generalizations. But it still feeds into it. And, even in a self deprecating humorous way, it still does the OP no favors. You REALLY don't want to plant the idea in someone's head (even – or perhaps especially – in a subconscious way) that you are a "stereotypical" anything. Double and triple of some of the stereotypes are negative.

          1. LBK*

            Eh, I think it’s a little different than typical millennial stereotyping because phone avoidance isn’t a stereotype so much as it is an accurate observation about a generational trend. Obviously no demographic description is ever going to perfectly describe everyone in that demographic but especially as age correlates to changes in technology there are accurate observations that can be made, eg that because the ubiquity of IM, email and texting rose up as millennials were coming of age, talking on the phone fell out of favor.

            The world you live in does shape you in a way – it doesn’t necessarily make you a lazy, self-centered ingrate as most articles whining about millennials would have you believe, but I don’t think phone avoidance is an inaccurate trait to associate with millennials as a group. The issue is only if you look at someone’s age and assume they won’t want to talk on the phone before you even ask them.

          2. McWhadden*

            Millenials were raised with texting and emailing and the various chats and, later, social media. Therefore they tend to be more phone resistant than other groups.

            This isn’t some crazy generalization.

          3. Madame X*

            Agreed. I’m also a millennial that prefers texting over phone conversations (especially for work related matters). However, I would never overly generalize my general preferences and attitudes as “typically millennial” because everything that I like and do does not always align with what is stereotypically millennial. There are some things that are ascribed to millennials that are true (ex: most of us have social media) and some things that are not true (ex: we don’t want to work hard). Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that believe every headline about millenials no matter how unfounded the claims may be.

        2. An Underemployed Millennial*

          Agreed. I am a millennial and hate phone calls, though I don’t mind texting and email. I do think it has more to do with being an introvert and having social anxiety about being put on the spot and having to read emotions when I am unable to see the person’s facial expressions, as my dad is Gen X and he also hates talking on the phone, but it could be true that for millennials it is more socially acceptable to hate phones than it used to be.

    2. Alianora*

      Thank you. I thought the same thing — maybe millennials are less likely to be comfortable on phones, but it’s far from universal.

      I don’t think it’s useful in general for people to point to stereotypes as reasons for their quirks. It undermines the group they belong to and makes them look less thoughtful, imo. Better to be honest with yourself about the underlying reason behind it.

      I’m not sure if OP actually meant it seriously, but the ambiguity is something to be avoided.

  34. steve*

    If the letter writer did say that she couldnt work with her ex and one of them had to go, would it be legal for the company to let go the ex in letter one? It might be the case that the letter writer would quit if she had to work at same company as her ex. If the company much preferred her and fired her ex, could the ex sue?

    I have no opinion, other then sympathy for the bad situation they are in. I am just asking what the law is.

    1. Ambpersand*

      I’m not sure what the applicable law would be, but no company I know of (or would ever want to work for) would ever fire one employee in favor of another because they were having a personal dispute. They would (or should, rather) only take action if performance was suffering and the person was causing an issue in the workplace. I don’t even know if there is a law that would apply to this sort of scenario.

    2. McWhadden*

      In the US it’s unlikely she’d have a suit. But not impossible. As others have suggested, if the LW is in a senior position (which is possible but not necessarily the case even though she’s been there 10 years) then there could be a sexual harassment claim. i.e. She’s being fired because she won’t sleep with a manager any longer.

      If she is in a place that protects LGBT people there could be a very tenuous claim that they wouldn’t have responded this way if she were in a heterosexual relationship. I think that is a real stretch.

      Basically, it would be a very bad idea for the company to go this route.

    3. LBK*

      I’m pretty sure they could let her go legally – exes aren’t a protected class, and it’s perfectly legal to fire someone because of an interpersonal issue with another employee.

    4. Observer*

      Technically, I’m guessing it’s legal. Practically, given the relationship context, I suspect that no competent HR / Legal would allow something like this. WAAAY too hard to defend if the eeoc or a lawsuit comes knocking.

      I’m not a big fan of companies allowing this kind of thing to determine hire / fire decisions. But, it is reasonable to take this into consideration when there is no other pressing issue. And, from where an employer sits, losing A (singular) reasonably good employee over their personal issues is not going to outweigh losing another decent if less experienced, employee PLUS the real legal risk it would entail. And, I suspect that it could easily create a morale issue in many companies as well.

    5. Chriama*

      I was thinking it could be considered illegal. They broke up, so the ex could argue sexual harassment. Terminating someone because of the end of a sexual relationship, especially in the absence of any misbehaviour at work, seems to be on shaky ground. A good lawyer could frame things such that the ex was fired for refusing to have sex with the OP. I don’t think a smart HR department would want to touch that.

      1. LBK*

        The OP isn’t the ex’s boss, though, so you’d have to somehow argue that she pushed the ex’s boss into firing her for that reason.

    6. Bea*

      If there’s no contact, you can typically fire someone for whatever reason. It would impact their unemployment rate though. So unless OP was incredible and worth 3 years of a bump in UI payments, hell no is the ex fired without cause.

      You also taint your company’s reputation pulling that move despite legalities.

  35. Amber Rose*

    #2: Chiming in as someone who has cried at work and seen other people cry at work, as long as it wasn’t a hysterical melt down involving screaming and throwing things, it’s not an issue. Your supervisor was taken aback because, quite frankly, the majority of humans have no idea what to do when someone is crying in front of them. You can’t usually comfort hug a coworker. The reaction you saw was not so much “omg what is wrong with this person” and more “oh no, what should I do?”

    #3: I specify in interviews that I have worked hard on my discomfort with the phone to the point that I can easily handle reception duties, but still prefer phone calls to be a smaller part of my day, and have only ever had people nod and say that’s understandable. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Knowing yours is a good thing, not a bad one.

  36. MissingArizona*

    I definitely understand the lack of reference issue. Three out of my four jobs listed on my resume have no references. My longest held job, my manager died, and the owner is a complete nutcase that I had to threaten with a restraining order, and the other two closed down and I have no personal contacts. References are hard to acquire sometimes.

  37. Nita*

    OP 2 – all of this sounds so familiar that I wonder if we’re at the same company. You know what… your boss isn’t blaming you for a reason. These things happen. We all make mistakes, your boss and co-workers have surely made mistakes too, and maybe even big costly ones. Playing the blame game doesn’t help anyone move forward and grow. It’s much better when you acknowledge the mistake, the company presents a united front in apologizing to the client and dealing with the consequences, and life goes on. Sometimes you’ll even find that if you point out the problem quickly and it’s tackled head-on, it turns out to be much less of a problem than you feared.

    And of course you should use this as a learning opportunity, maybe come up with a way to prevent this in the future… but I realize that your ability to do that is limited as long as you’re overworked. I hope your company is able to make some new hires soon, and give everyone some breathing room.

  38. Boo Berry*

    Recommending people for jobs reminds me a lot of loaning friends money, don’t do it unless you can cope with it going badly and not going your way.

  39. Oxford Coma*

    LW #1 The only way I can imagine going to HR over a breakup being acceptable/relevant is if your ex caused the breakup in a way that affects her job. Such as, you’re breaking up because she stole from you and committed check fraud, and she works in accounts payable. Otherwise, no.

  40. Lady Phoenix*

    If breaking up meant she had to quit her job, I can see why she would break up with you. *side eyeing hard*

    I mean, what else can I say except be an adult, treat her respectfully, and get over it.

    If your ex was abusive, it would be one thing. Don’t work with abusive jerks and definitely get HR involved so you can be safe…

    But if you guys are just breaking up and she doesn’t want to leave, then you either need to be an adult or find a new job.

  41. mf*

    #2: I don’t think you have anything to be sorry for here. You’re under a tremendous amount of pressure, and when someone is under a lot of pressure, crying is a *very* normal response.

    In fact, I might even go as far as to say that it’s a good thing that you got emotional in front of your boss. Although management knows you’re overworked, they might not feel a strong sense of urgency about relieving your workload if you’re still getting the work done. Now that your boss has seen how truly stressed you are, maybe that will light a fire under her to do something sooner rather than later about your workload.

    1. Jenny Next*

      I agree — and if it doesn’t light a fire under her, you have the very valuable information that you care a good deal more about your employer than they care about you.

  42. Noah*

    Danger OP#1. Danger OP#1. DON’T go to HR with this. It’s not unrealistic that you might get fired for entering into this agreement. It’s totally understandable that you’d have done so, but if your company is conservative about these issues, it’s a real risk.

  43. Noah*

    #4 Try calling 411. If she’s not on the internet, she probably has a listed phone number.

  44. Miles*

    #1 the most you might be able to do is to get your manager to work with you two in keeping you separated until you each have yourselves put back together without the other person. You might need to The kind of rapid getting over it strategies high schoolers use might be appropriate for both of you right now as well (rebounds and so on. It’s not healthy but it eases the experience of seeing the other person when you’re not even close to getting over her.)

    Asking her to leave her job after she just recently started isn’t really fair to her or your employer though (and maybe she did start looking again. That kind of thing isn’t really your business any more after a break up if she doesn’t want to talk to you about it)

  45. OP #4*

    OP #4 with an incredibly late reply here – my apologies! I was in the hospital for a while and I’m still in the process of catching up on what I missed.

    Thanks very much, Allison, and everyone else who offered their thoughts! Unfortunately I don’t think my paystubs would be terribly convincing (the owner had this Word-generated form with appropriate blank spaces; she’d print it out and fill in the relevant numbers by hand!), but I DO have W2s, should they become necessary.

    Mostly, though, I really appreciate the reassurance! I’ve been worrying about this a lot the longer my attempts at contact have failed, so it really is great to hear that you think employers won’t be putting much weight on it. It’s definitely a load off my mind, so thanks!

    As for an internship, I’m definitely working on it! I haven’t found one I’m eligible for yet (should’ve started looking last semester…they all want currently-enrolled students, not recently graduated ones), but I’ll keep looking!

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