employee overstepped with a coworker’s tragedy, boss told me to change my ringtone, and more

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

1. My employee alienated a coworker with her opinions about his personal tragedy

I’m a relatively new manager (six months in) and this is my first management job. I’m still getting the hang of things. My boss and everyone above him don’t work in this branch. I am wondering when a manager should get involved in a personal dispute between two employees that has nothing to do with work.

“Robb” is the relative of someone who was murdered. He changed after it. He lives alone, doesn’t celebrate holidays or things, and wants to go through the motions and be left alone. He has been vocal in his personal (not work) life about there being no justice for victims. “Arya” is a newer employee. I don’t know how she found out about Robb because he doesn’t talk about it at work, but she thinks Robb needs to forgive the perpetrator (who got life with no parole) and fight for prisoner rights to fix the prison system, and she told him this a few times. Robb now avoids Arya as much as possible (and she hasn’t made any further comment). Other employees are enabling Robb by dealing with Arya on his behalf.

My conundrum is that all the work is getting done, Robb has not been hostile to Arya (nor has anyone else) and he just avoids her, and no one has complained or brought forward concerns about anything. As a manager, should I be dealing with Robb’s situation or should I leave this alone because it a personal conflict?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that personal conflicts are off-limits to you as a manager. If they impact your employees’ work, work environment, or overall satisfaction at work, you can get involved.

If you haven’t already, you should tell Arya clearly and sternly that her comments to Robb were unacceptable and that in the future she needs to stay out of other people’s highly sensitive personal situations. You should also let Robb know that you’ve done that, and that you’re sorry he was subjected to that.

I don’t know how big a deal it is that other people have to deal with Arya on his behalf, and that’s very relevant here. If it’s not very frequent and if it’s not disrupting other people’s work, I’d let this go for a while so that Robb can get some space from her. Even if it is frequent, if you can change the workflow to keep them apart without compromising what you need each of them to be producing (and without overloading anyone else), that might be the smartest path. If that’s not possible, then yeah, at some point you’ll need to talk to Robb and find out what he’ll need to be able to work with Arya again. But if you can give him the grace of some space from her now, that would be a kindness.

2. My boss asked me to change my ringtone

Is it worth it to try to push back when you’re the only one in an office of 10 people asked by your manager to change the ringtone on your personal cell phone? My standard one (that’s the one when anyone calls, but I have distinctive ringtones for certain folks) is the theme from the Beverly Hills Cop movies, and I keep my volume at about 20-25%. Everyone else in the office has their ringtones on full blast. I know because I hear them. One is a particularly shrill old-style telephone ring, and another is the bugle call “Release the Hounds” from a fox hunt.

In any case, mine’s not bad, and it’s not loud, but I’m the only one asked to change it. Is it worth pushing back on?

I mean, I think everyone in your office should be keeping their phones on vibrate; this sounds like way too much jarring noise.

But I don’t think you can push back on this. Your manager has told you that she finds yours in particular to be disruptive (and maybe others have told her that too), and that warrants changing it. Or if you feel strongly about keeping it, then keep your phone on vibrate when you’re at work.

(And actually, even if this request had come from a generally reasonable peer, rather than your manager, I’d say the same thing. It can be hard to work in an office full of other people’s noises, and if someone tells you you’re making a noise that’s particularly driving them round a bend, it’s kind to try to accommodate them if you can do so without major inconvenience. Even if you feel like other people are just as bad!)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How can I explain a medical absence without sharing the details?

I am a 30-year old woman working in my first professional role following graduate school. The team I work on is small (eight people) and fairly tight-knit. In two weeks, I am going to be missing a few days of work to have a tubal ligation. This surgery is completely elective and something my husband and I have been discussing for a long time. I’m actually really excited about it.

My issue is that I’m not sure how much I will need to tell my team. As a woman who has never had and does not want children, I am used to getting a lot of unwanted commentary from friends, family and – most annoyingly – strangers about the issue. I know that I’m making the right choice for myself, and I don’t want to open myself up to lectures or judgment from well-meaning coworkers with different value systems.

How do I explain that I will be taking a few days off to recover, without getting into the specifics? I have disclosed the reason for my surgery to my manager, who is very supportive. I’m just not comfortable going into great detail to the rest of the team, and I know they will be curious and ask questions.

You don’t need to tell them anything! Or at least nothing beyond “I’ll be out for a few days” or, if you want, “I’m just having a medical procedure — it’s nothing to worry about.” The idea here isn’t to hide the details out of shame or stigma; the idea is that this is the appropriate language for any medical procedure, because none of them are your coworkers’ business! It’s totally normal not to divulge medical details at work. (The same was true with your boss, actually — you weren’t obligated to share the details with her either, unless you wanted to.)

4. My job doesn’t provide safe parking

I currently have a second job at a restaurant with not a whole lot of parking. On weekend nights, in order to free up more parking for customers, they force us to park in a strip mall parking lot (if we don’t park there, we can be sent home for the night or fired). This parking lot is across a very busy road, past a sketchy gas station, and past a very dark store front. I am a tiny young woman and am forced to walk alone back to my car, usually between 11 p.m. and midnight. I am always in my restaurant uniform and almost always carrying nearly $100 in cash. We have asked several times for a remedy to this situation, and their best answer was that they would drive us to our cars at the end of the night. They’re promised this four or five times, but it still hasn’t happened. In fact, one of our managers has a suspended license so, if he’s closing, it isn’t even possible! They’ve also offered to go get my car for me, which I politely declined because I don’t want anyone else driving my car, god forbid they get in an accident.

I know that employers aren’t technically required to provide parking, but the place they require us to park is owned by other businesses! There is a large supermarket and probably eight other smaller stores in the strip mall and we are effectively stealing their parking. Are they within their bounds legally? Do we have any avenue for action here, or do we just have to suck it up?

They are indeed within their bounds legally. There’s no legal requirement that an employer provide parking to employees. If the lot where they’re telling you to park is marked for those other businesses’ customers, you can point that out, but then they might just shrug and tell you to take public transportation.

Your best bet is probably to push for a solution with a group of your coworkers, which will make you harder to ignore. Insist on the rides-to-cars plan happening, and push for a work-around on the nights the manager with the suspended license is working. Or you could ask if they’d pay for a group cab for you all to that parking lot, but who knows if they’d be willing to do it.

If they won’t budge, or if they agree and then flounder when it comes to actually implementing what they agree to, then at that point you’d need to decide whether you want to stay there, knowing that this job doesn’t come with safe parking, or if you’d rather leave. (Or a third option — unionize and make parking part of the negotiations! But that may be more invested than you want to get.)

5. Should I do more to show I want a job at a particular company?

I applied to a position at my alma mater which I didn’t get because they felt I was overqualified. But they said they were impressed with me and would be in touch if a more suitable position opened up. They reached out to me about another position 5 months later but I didn’t get that job either because I didn’t have experience in one area they felt was relevant for the job.

A few of my friends think I should do more to get them to hire me: one suggested going there and having a conversation with the HR manager about how unsatisfied I am with my current job and how I really want to work there. Another suggested applying to other positions even when I don’t have all the qualifications just to show how badly I want to work there. My instincts say that would hurt rather than help my chances because they have already stated in both interviews that they like me and that it’s more a matter of finding the right fit than anything else. Should I do more to show I really want to work there?

Listen to your instincts here, not to your friends. This employer knows that you’re interested because you’ve applied for two jobs with them. The reason they’re not hiring you isn’t that you don’t seem insufficiently interested; it’s been about your qualifications not being the right match both times. So finding ways to impress upon them how very interested you are isn’t the right path here (and rarely is, after a certain baseline level of interest has been expressed).

Definitely stay away from that advice to tell the HR manager how unhappy you are with your current job (after showing up in person, no less!). That’s not why employers hire people. The way to get hired there is going to be the same as it is for most jobs: Be a very strong match with what they’re looking for, and be able to convey that in your resume, cover letter, and interviews. That’s a boring answer so sometimes people (like your friends) go looking for alternative paths, but those alternate paths are often off-putting (as “show up in person and explain you hate your current job” definitely would be).

{ 983 comments… read them below }

  1. LouiseM*

    OP#2, I really have to agree with Alison here. It seems like you’re like the OP from the other day who was mad her boss asked her to stop changing into gym clothes 10 minutes before closing because her coworker did it too–but what she was missing was that she was in the wrong, regardless of whether her coworkers were also in the room. Personally, hearing all those ringtones every day would drive me loonier than a Canadian’s coin purse! I can’t even imagine. Turn your phone on silent (or vibrate if you *must*, but even that is too loud for my liking) and hope that your boss asks your coworkers to do the same.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Fuddy Duddy! JK

        I agree. Occasionally mine is still on when I come in in the morning, but the first time I hear it, I immediately put it on silent.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          I swing the other way, my phone is always on vibrate unless I need to be able to hear it for some reason. Heck, I’m not even sure what my ringtone is!

          Just checked, it’s the opening 30 seconds of “Jump With Me Baby” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

          1. einahpets*

            Yeah, my default is to have my phone on vibrate. I only turn on the ringtone when I am expecting a call outside of work.

            1. SarcasticFringehead*

              I rarely get phone calls (work is all email; loved ones are mostly text), so I always leave my phone on silent, to the point where on the rare occasions when it does ring, sometimes I don’t realize that’s what’s happening.

          2. Sketchee*

            I’m the same, my phone is on vibrate unless I accidently turn it on. It’s definitely still the default Google Pixel ringtone, whatever that might be

        2. AKchic*

          Mine is always on vibrate at work unless I need to hear it for something.

          My ringtone? Dean’s Dirty Organ. My text tone? The TARDIS materializing.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Completely agree. A former coworker would have hers on full blast and it was so loud and annoying. And then she would decide to play Angry Birds with the sound on.

        1. The Original K.*

          One of my old coworkers had hers on and would actually let it ring longer and dance to it because she liked the sound. It was really annoying. She was a nice woman and good at her job, but everything about her was loud – she was one of the ones I mentioned in a previous comment about the department that was regularly reprimanded for their very loud voices.

          1. Amber T*

            That is ridiculously obnoxious.

            My office neighbor has all sorts of alarms and the like to help remind himself of stuff, so I’m constantly hearing short and very loud bursts of ring tones (unfortunately, it’s not -by far- the most annoying thing he does). Once, he left his phone behind while he stepped away from his office, and his alarm went off… and off… and off. I went bonkers. When I finally came back, I asked to please please PLEASE remember to take his phone with him or turn it on silent before leaving (seriously, it was going off for a half hour straight). He just laughed and told me it was just an alarm and to turn it off myself next time. So the next day, when he forgot it again and it started going off, I waited, I waited, I waited (while trying not to pull my hair out), I called a coworker on the other side of the building that he works with frequently to see if he happened to be in her office (he wasn’t). So I turned it off myself. Next time it happens, I’m hiding it in the ceiling tiles.

            1. Jules the 3rd*


              I would be livid if my coworker asked me to do his job (silence the alarm). I am not his mom. I would address this with him again. DITCH the ‘please please please’ and any other softening language. Move to ‘That is disrupting the office. Stop it. You’ve got 2 – 3 other options (vibrate, take the phone, use visual alarms on the computer); having me take care of your responsibilities is not one of the options.’ with Serious Face.

              If he’s annoying in a lot of ways, then there’s not a relationship to salvage, right? You are there to work, don’t be afraid to be ‘that jerk’ who needs to get your job done.

              And document. Write this stuff down, if only to remind yourself why you said x or y.

              1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

                >DITCH the ‘please please please’

                Am I the only one who thinks of someone down on their knees begging and doing the ‘shaking the clasped hands’ thing when they hear that phrase? It’s so… desperate.

            2. Penny Lane*

              When he told you it was your job to turn off HIS cellphone ringing, you should have told him where to stick it.

            3. LBK*

              He rocks in the treetops all day long, hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singin’ his song…

            4. einahpets*

              What do people think about loud alarms when it is a medical situation?

              My husband is Type 1 diabetic, and he has an app on his phone that alerts him if he is dropping quickly or has blood sugar below or above a certain threshold. This app has basically changed our lives because he can treat highs/lows in almost realtime and I also get the alerts (my settings right now only alert me when his sugar is critically low).

              I know how annoying this alarm is — it is designed to wake you up in the middle of the night to administer glucose if he is dropping too quickly to register it himself. But… I just can’t see myself silencing the alarm because it is so critical to his health. I can think of only a few times that it has gone off for me; I know it goes off more frequently for him (since he gets all the various alarms).

              1. Amber T*

                Huge difference!!! Doesn’t even compare. If it’s something that’s fairly frequent, I’d be a bit more open with those who might be hearing it (no more than “sorry, medical monitoring related” – and assuming they’re not busybodies).

                I have a lot of issues with with my annoying coworker neighbor (he’s known to a friend of mine as my office’s Fergus), far beyond just the annoying phone bit. But if your husband was my coworker and his phone went off, I’d be more concerned if there was anything I could do to help rather than be annoyed.

              2. Stitch*

                I speak only for myself, but I’d definitely be okay with a medical alert, because I know it’s important and your wellbeing trumps my desire for quiet. But I think part of it is that people who show consideration also get a pass – I’d think much differently of someone who said “I’m expecting an important call, so sorry if my phone goes off!” than someone who gets lots of calls and never addresses that the sound might be disruptive. So, if it’s just once a day or he at least seems to try to minimize the frequency as much as possible, I would be more sympathetic than bothered.

              3. 2horseygirls*

                Not even in the same hemisphere. Medical alerts are entirely different than a personal ringtone.

              4. Genny*

                In addition to what everyone else says, it might be a bit annoying if the alarm goes off for 15 minutes straight, but not if it’s addressed in a reasonable amount of time. Doing little things like that shows your coworkers that you understand the sound might be annoying/jarring, but that you’re doing what you can to minimize its impact on other people. People tend to be more understanding when you demonstrate you’re trying to meet them half way.

              5. Kaz*

                If this alarm was going off while you were at work and presumably nowhere near your husband, I would be annoyed. You can set rules (at least in Android) for when alarms are permitted.

              6. NotPiffany*

                It’s a medical alert. That’s the epitome of “need to hear it.” You and your husband are fine.

              7. Geillis D*

                My daughter was very premature and went home with an apnea monitor that occasionally beeped.
                Was it fun to be woken from deep sleep with all of hell’s bells ringing in my ear, especially when my own alarm was set to wake me up every three hours for feedings? Nope. Was it still better to have a baby who, you know, breathes? you bet.

          2. Life is Good*

            Yeah, a former (nutty) co worker had AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap as her ringtone and it went off all day long. She was also running a personal business on the side and did hiring campaigns in the Spring for summer work. Of course the phone number in her ad was her cell phone. Argh!

          3. Elizabeth West*

            One of my former coworkers had “Kung Fu Fighting,” a loud crazy laugh, and a dog barking (I guess she had assigned ringtones for different people). That in itself wasn’t so bad, but she would turn the volume WAY up and often walk away from her desk and leave her phone. Ugh.

            Mine is a wind chime noise that goes along with my Dark Tower theme so it’s not very loud. I hardly ever get phone calls, however.

        2. essEss*

          I’ve had coworkers with full-volume ringtones that leave their phones on their desks all day even when they are away in meetings and so when they are away from their desks the thing rings constantly.

        3. a1*

          But this isn’t the same situation. Everyone has their phones with the sounds on. AND she wasn’t asked to silence her, but to change the ring tone. It does seem a bit odd to me, actually.

          1. fposte*

            I think that’s because the manager felt a change would be less of a burden than requesting silence, though; if the OP would rather silence it, that would be a reasonable thing to suggest to the manager as an alternative.

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            He, a1. I’m a he, not a she. No problem, ’cause how could you know. Just wanted to clarify.

            1. Parenthetically*

              AAM commenters are asked to assume any letter writer is a she unless otherwise specified, fyi! :)

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Ah, I always assume because you assume! It feels like a nice, stereotype-busting thing “we” do, not just something you do. :)

                2. Pollygrammer*

                  Yep, anywhere where the default isn’t consistently male is something of an oasis. :)

          3. AdamsOffOx*

            My theory: The manager was traumatized by seeing the trailer for Norbit, and since then hates anything that reminds him/her of Eddie Murphy.

        4. Snow Day in April*

          Previous job had an officer manager whose phone was ringing all day long with personal calls. Her office adjoined the waiting area, so the receptionist, myself and all customers were treated to her husband’s voice saying “hey baby, it’s your stud muffin. pick up the phone” over and over,

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah a former coworker used to have a ringtone of one of her small grandchildren screaming , “ grandma, the phone is ringing! Pick up the phone!” Over and over.

            Now I have a coworker whose ringtone is a quacking duck. Our manager told him to change it, but he hasn’t.

            1. Quoth the Raven*

              My text message ringtone IS a quaking duck (the duck was actually my pet; I recorded his quaking and have kept it as a memory of him). But that is also a very important reason my cell is on vibrate when I’m at work/a meeting/during a quiet get together.

        5. Razilynn*

          I had a job where I wish the only noise issues were annoying ringtones! I’m talking sudden bursts of laughter, animal calls (imagine you’re a manager reviewing a recorded phone conversation and hearing elephants in the background…), and motion activated toys that spewed out laser beam sounds. Also the usual coughing, “Dad sneezes,” and random whistling. And headphones were not an option since it was a call center type environment. To say I developed a complex is an understatement…

          I am happy to say I now have a non-call center job and “work headphones” that never leave my desk!

          1. QuietWorkHorse*

            Animal calls: in the early days of “excitingly different” ringtones, I set mine to a not-particularly urban animal sound I could hear above all the ambient noise in the office or the clubs or parties. Most of my personal contacts knew I could never respond at work and I left it while on meetings one heavy day. Well, i forgot i worked opposite a race track, and my colleagues had apparently been about to call the track about an animal in distress. One of my colleagues had sought response at last to multiple whinnies: “Poor bloody horse!”

            Think it was a Motorola or Nokia. But I learned my lesson about ringtones and phones on receiving calls. And, that “excitingly different” tones are extremely contextual.

      3. Red 5*

        I agree. I actually don’t like ringing cell phone noises pretty much anywhere, but I recognize I’m in a minority there.

        I actually have my phone set to just not ring unless it’s one of the three or four people who I know will never call me during work hours unless it’s an emergency. Because I have gotten an emergency “drop everything and leave this second” kind of phone call at work before, and they didn’t have my work number and couldn’t have gotten ahold of me any other way. This was before I had set up my phone the way I have, so it’s just by sheer chance I had forgotten to turn my ringer off that morning.

        Which is just my way of pointing out that I’m not anti-cell phone or anti-ringtone, just that people need to corral that into “emergency situations” and that it’s not actually that hard to set up that way. I’m also lucky that basically those three or four people are the only ones I really would want to talk to anyway, I’m a curmudgeon.

        1. Julia*

          No, I’m the same. My phone is always on vibrate (emergency contacts being let through) even at home, unless I know I’ll be doing laundry and might not notice, but expect a call.

          People having their phone on non-vibrate at work or during class drive me insane. Actually, even if it’s on vibrate, if you share a desk with someone, it’s pretty loud.

          1. Red 5*

            Seriously, even vibrate can drive me bonkers. Before I figured out what I have set up now I tried to keep my phone on vibrate and it was so loud on my wooden desk that I gave up and went to silent until I could figure out something else. In somebody’s pocket it’s usually fine, but on a desk it can be really obnoxious.

            1. Alli525*

              I am SO glad I am not alone in hating even the vibration sound! The woman in the cubicle next to mine is in a line of work that requires her to wear headphones for much of the day, so she often doesn’t hear it vibrating away. I usually have my own phone perched on a stack of post-it notes or other paper products so even the vibrations are muffled.

              1. zora*

                A previous upstairs neighbor used to leave their phone on vibrate and must not have had rugs or anything because I could hear it through the floor, and it drove me CRAZYYY. I am so glad that person moved out.

              2. QuietWorkHorse*

                I do a bit of audio work through headphones at my desk now and again, and other people’s phones vibrating cut through. Phones can be interrupters, even with headphones on. It’s the different sonar and the intermittent sharpness of the sound. We’re primed to respond to audio for emergencies and calls.

                The way audio works, though, you might wonder if your muffling the phone only works where you are, yet carries clearly elsewhere. Not a criticism of your thoughtfulness, but it could just be the materials and layout of the desk setups, over which you have no control, since you can hear your colleague’s phone when she can’t.

            2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

              Yes! My phone is always on complete silence. I do have it set up that when it rings my fitbit vibrates (if I’m wearing it) but I hate noisy cell phone distractions. Anywhere. And the vibrate-on-desk sound is awful.

              1. Witty Nickname*

                My phone is always on vibrate because my husband gets annoyed that he can never reach me when it’s always on silent. I HATE phone noises. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of background music/sounds any of the games I play use because the first thing I do when I download them is mute them. I watch videos on Facebook without sound – if they have captions, that’s awesome, and if not, I don’t really need to know what they are about that badly. The only time I turn the sound on is if I’m watching YouTube or streaming a tv show/movie.

                It irritates me when my phone vibrates when it’s on my desk – thankfully that’s infrequent.
                The person at the desk on the other side of mine has his phone go off multiple times a day (sometimes ring, sometimes vibrate) and strangely enough, that doesn’t really annoy me at all (it’s not loud and doesn’t ring forever). It’s just my own phone that annoys me.

          2. Jennifer*

            I have mine on silent all the time because any noise out of me sets someone off. I miss calls constantly, but it’s better than having coworkers or a boss mad!

          3. Annie Moose*

            My phone is on vibrate so much, I don’t even remember what my actual ringtone sounds like! I kind of want to step into the lobby and check now…

        2. Nanani*

          I actually use a call filtering app in addition to specific ring tones for people I might actually want to talk to.
          My favourite ring tone is “silent mode”

        3. DDJ*

          Everyone in my office has their personal phone on vibrate or silent. I was even at my employee’s desk one day and her phone started vibrating and she apologized for the disruption. But I think it can be an office culture thing. People here really don’t take personal calls unless they’re urgent.

          I did have one coworker a few years ago, though, whose phone always had the ringer and the keystroke sounds on, and would take calls all day and text constantly, with the little click-click-click for every key (which is one thing that just…really drives me up the wall). Thankfully I didn’t sit in the same area, or I probably would have had to say something.

          1. Windchime*

            One of my coworkers texts on an old flip phone, so I hear “beep beep beep …beep beep….” when she texts. Fortunately she doesn’t do it often.

      4. plot device*

        Our new desk phones have “ring tones” instead of a regular ringer and it’s THE WORST. When my phone rings, I automatically tune it out because it sounds so much like a generic cell phone ring. I had to scroll through “mountain rain” and “ascent” tones to find the least ring-tone-y sound so the sound would register on my consciousness.

        1. Cercis*

          We had cisco phones that did that. One ringtone was promptly renamed “70s porn theme” because one of the techs commented about it. Most of us just used the typical office ring tones, but a few went and got fancy and then got griped at because they were so disturbing (it’s never the folks who are there to answer their phone that choose to be “creative” and then turn the ringer all the way up).

          I keep my phone muted all the time. But it doesn’t work on alarms, which I found out during a workshop one day. Alarms override mute. At the time I had two kids at home that required several prompts to be sure they were getting to school on time (while I’d have loved to make it their problem, the state of Texas makes it the parents’ problem if the kids sleep in, and with school starting at 9, you have to be out of the house and at work before they’re out of the house).

      5. Tardigrade*

        My phone lights up like a beacon when I get a call or text anyway. I don’t need the audible whizzbangs in addition.

      6. Jules the 3rd*

        Most cell phones have a call forwarding option. I set mine to my office phone every day I am in the office. I believe there are apps that will do it automatically, based on GPS location (ie, “set forwarding to X if GPS is within Y distance of Z location”). I get texts (silent notification) but never calls.

        There are, of course, offices where this won’t work, but they’re ones where you probably should just turn your phone off when you come in (call centers, retail, food service).

      7. Kyrielle*

        I have mine on when I’m at work, because sometimes I get calls about my kids in school that I need to respond to. I don’t use vibrate because sometimes I miss it, and also because the vibrate on my phone is pretty loud, especially if I’ve set it on the desk. (Yes, I have a desk line – but I’m not always at my desk.) I can also see this being relevant for any responsibility that might include emergencies.

        That said, I *always* have my phone with me, and if it rings I either answer immediately or press a button to silence it. If you hear more than three notes of my ringtone at work, I’d be shocked. And I don’t get a lot of non-emergency calls (the occasional robodial and other annoying things) – I don’t think it even rings once a week.

        But if you’re going to have your personal phone on and able to ring, then you ought to be taking every precaution to make sure you shut it up ASAP. (And if anyone complained about my ringtone, I would change it. I love it. I don’t want to change it. But if it was bugging someone and I knew, I would change it anyway.)

        1. Czhorat*

          In my industry it’s the norm for people to use their personal cell phones for business; my cell number has been on my business cards for years now. This makes it feel perfectly reasonable to have the ringtone on.

      8. J.*

        My office doesn’t have a landline and everyone uses their personal cell phones for work purposes. We get a monthly reimbursement to cover a chunk of our bills. You could use it for a work-specific line, but most people find it easier to get a google voice number and run it on one stream.

        Anyway, people’s cell phones ring all the time, and it’s not a problem because we keep them on vibrate or with the volume turned down low. It’s not any more distracting than a bunch of land lines ringing all day.

      9. Tomalak*

        And isn’t having a personal cellphone ring a sign of immaturity anyway? I don’t judge teenagers for it but I would judge grown adults if they came to work and their phone played movie soundtracks or whatever every time they got a phone call.

        1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

          I see it as wanting to know that it’s my phone and not someone else’s or a phone on TV.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          And isn’t having a personal cellphone ring a sign of immaturity anyway?

          No. It’s a sign that I want to immediately recognize that (a) it’s my phone ringing and not someone else’s, and (b) that it’s one of a few people who are important enough to have their own ringtones.

    1. Matt*

      I’m all for silent phones too, but since “Everyone else in the office has their ringtones on full blast”, it still seems like OP #2 is singled out here for some other reason.

      1. Gen*

        Most ringtones don’t turn into ear worms the way theme music can. The rest would irritate me but I wouldn’t be humming them four hours later

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          And Axel F is extremely ear-wormy. I’m hearing it right now, thanks to this post. I love it intensely and wouldn’t mind, but I guess I could see it driving other people crazy.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I love that track, so it wouldn’t bother me. But a coworker at Exjob had this obnoxious country song as his. I hate country and I hated his phone. Fortunately it didn’t ring often and he was diligent about picking it up very quickly.

            BullyBoss at OldExjob had “Roxanne” as his ringtone for a while, which is a little less appropriate, given the lyrics. Every time his phone rang, everyone would start singing “ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOXXXXAAAAANNNNE” under their breath and then giggle. He got sick of being teased and finally changed it.

            I think sounds (reasonable ones) or the programmed ringtones are probably the best ones to have at work. They’re less likely to bug people whose musical tastes don’t align with that of the phone’s owner.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        Yeah, this exactly. We usually do let our phones ring in my office, and that’s because most of us have offices, so it isn’t usually too disruptive. But a now-retired admin’s decided for some reason I never could figure out to use “Bad to the Bone” by George Thurgood as her ringtone – which is not a particularly bad song (certainly there are far worse), but the admin got a LOT of calls, and I do mean a LOT LOT LOT of calls, and eventually I grew to loathe that ringtone with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns. I guess there are things I dislike hearing even more – a croupy baby crying or a traffic accident, for example – but not very many.

        1. Penny Lane*

          One way to make your favorite song not-your-favorite-song-anymore is to make it your ringtone. You’ll get so tired of it.

        2. Arjay*

          I used that as my alarm one time, figuring it would wake me up easily. It did, in a terrifyingly abrupt sort of way that made my heart race. I changed it back to seashore sounds, lol.

    2. Indie*

      I deal with this attitude of consistency policing from kids at the school where I work. ‘He got away with it! Why cant I?!’ Don’t really expect it from adults. Look if a group of people are doing the same misstep, someone will be the one who is spoken to first (and as far as you know, it may not even be you). The sooner you remove yourself from the group, the sooner the manager can tackle it with others. How hard is it to say ‘k, it’s on silent, no problem’?

      1. Thursday Next*

        Thanks for saying this! OP, the question here (and with the running clothes letter earlier this week) isn’t whether anyone else has been asked to do something, it’s whether what you’ve been asked to do is legitimate. In this case, it is.

      2. Czhorat*

        Selective enforcement of rules is one way in which bad managers can show personal bias, and disadvantage employees who they don’t personally like. At extremes, it can open the door to gender- or race-discrimination claims if the one on the receiving side of an arbitrarily enforced rule is a minority.

        Beyond that, it’s poor management and creates a toxic culture if there isn’t at least a perception that rules are enforced equitably. If a manager told me to change my ring tone (the most annoying one I ever had was a recording of my own voice saying “ring, ring”) and everyone else’s ringtones played with impunity then I’d feel singled out for different – and worse- treatment. That’s the kind of thing that kills office morale.

        1. LCL*

          Yes. I’m the person who is singled out first, because I’m kinda big and kinda tall and outspoken. This hasn’t been an issue in a long time at my workplace, probably because our management has spent a lot of money on training people about unconscious bias and how to treat people fairly.

          I like the idea of your phone’s ringtone being ring ring, I think that’s clever.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          Yes, it’s selective enforcement, but not on a gender or race basis. I’m the FNG here, these folks have been working with each other for five years before I came on the scene. There will be no complaints coming from me. The same thing would be happening even if I were not black, I am absolutely certain of that.

          1. Czhorat*

            I didn’t mean to imply that it was; my point is that a culture of selectively and arbirtarily enforcing rules creates the opportunity for intentional or unintentional gender- or race-bias in management. There are potential legal issues therein.

            That aside, even if it isn’t gender- or race-bias it’s not a healthy work environment and will lead to resentment.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Because, Indie, it’s not going to be tackled with others. My manager explicitly said “I know other people have ringtones, but yours is so distinctive….”.

        “Consistency policing”? That’s an excuse for treating some people differently than others for the same actions. Calling someone not an adult for objecting to that is NOT productive.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, that’s really unreasonable.

          “No loud ringtones” is a fine rule.
          “Nothing other than ‘standard’ ringtones” is probably OK.

          “No ring tones which personally annoy me” is pretty much management by whim. You have every right to be irritated. That said, it’s not, as we’re fond of saying here, a hill on which to die. If it’s indicative of other inconsistencies then it might be time to polish the resume and get it out onto the streets. If not, it’s unfortunate but something you might just have to live with.

        2. Indie*

          Are you concerned that he/she just doesn’t like you and is picking on you? That’s totally different if that’s your vibe or there’s been more than one incident. If it’s just that she finds your particular ringtone annoying…thats a fine request for boss to make isn’t it? Do you need your ringtone on? What am I missing?

    3. CityMouse*

      A friend of mine has this ringtone that is a quote from Star Wars. I love Star Wars but her ringtone drives me absolutely batty. I don’t know what it is precisely, but hearing it over and over just grates. If I had to hear it at work all day, I would ask her to turn it off too.

      1. A*

        There are two nightmare ringtones in my office. One is a sheep bleat and the other is a baby crying. Drives me completely up the wall.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            The sound of babies crying is worse than nails on chalkboard to me. I would flip out if I constantly had to hear that as someone’s ringtone.

          1. Tricksy Hobbit*

            My aunt’s ring tone is a very high pitched whiney child saying “I love you, mommy, I love you, mommy. I love you, mommy” and she lets it ring and ring and ring…aaahhh! We took a road trip together and I nearly lost my mind every time it when off.

            I prefer all cells phones on vibrate during the work day, UNLESS it’s an emergency situation, for example, when my grandmother was in the hospital and very close to death. I told our business manager that I might have to leave if Mom called me.

            Also, I use a do not distribute app with help with some of the non-emergency calls.

              1. QuietWorkHorse*

                Imagining a horror movie (recently saw A Quiet Place) where only those with the kiddie voice ringtones all die, but only the viewer gets it right from the start. The colleagues have all been trained to couch their annoyance and focus on rational factors; except maybe two childless workers who can only feel the irritation factors but suppress that idea because they need not only their jobs but their social credits for continued and promotional work. It garners scathing reviews for its filmic work, but audiences love it, and it passes the Bechdel test.

                1. Marie B*

                  The Bechdel test is no indication of whether or not a film is good. Smart audiences would recognize it as having been shoehorned in just for the sake of it, which would be likely given your mention of it. The film passing that nonsense isn’t anything to be proud of.

        1. Oxford Coma*

          My least favorites are the Wicked Witch of the West theme (a guy who thinks he’s clever uses it for his mother-in-law), and an old-fashioned barge horn.

          1. TheCupcakeCounter*

            If it wan’t in a work situation I would totally be on that guy’s side – I think it is pretty funny and so would my MIL (she rocks). But in a work situation…I’m with you. I would also throw the phone with the barge horn out a window into traffic.

            1. JessaB*

              My ringtone for my sister is “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” she’s a huge Justified fan. For Mr B it’s “Linus and Lucy” from Peanuts. Other than that it’s a 1950 Ma Bell AT&T tone. So when my phone goes off people are all what the? Cause it mostly just goes ring, ring (and not the cool ABBA song.)

              On the other hand yeh I could totally go for Willemijn Verkaik’s version of Ik lach om Zwaartekracht (I still can’t sing Defying Gravity in English, laugh. German, French, Suomi, sure, English I never learnt the words.)

              But geez I’m hearing impaired, my phone is LOUD, I know how to set to vibrate and all when need be, or off entirely.

              1. Julia*

                That’s funny, I’m German and saw Wicked in Japan (in Japanese), and I only know the English words because I found the translations (especially the Japanese) to lose so much of the wit and irony (hello, Popular!)

          2. Facepalm*

            I had a coworker who used a funeral march for his wife’s ringtone. Brodudes thought it was funny and everyone else thought it was rude and creepy

          3. JustaTech*

            One of my coworkers has the whistle song from Kill Bill as his ring tone. It creeps me out and I’ve asked if he could change it or put his phone on vibrate. The frequency has gone way down, which I really appreciate.

            Then again, this coworker had one of those exploding Galaxy phones he wouldn’t get rid of. As in he kept it in a metal bucket at night while it charged, with a fire extinguisher next to it.

        2. Parenthetically*

          As a person with a child going through a pretty major sleep regression, I think I would have committed GBH by now against the person with a BABY CRYING RINGTONE I MEAN…!?!

            1. Parenthetically*

              Grievous Bodily Harm, but I like your idea better, I will now 100% throw a large waterfowl at you if your ringtone is a baby crying.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Grievous Bodily Harm.
            In English Criminal Law, if someone has committed an assault then the most likely charges they will face will be either ‘Assault occasioning actual bodily harm’ (ABH ) or the more serious ‘Assault occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm’ (GBH).

            I think the difference is mostly about how seriously the victim is injured, and there is a significant difference in sentencing (0-3 years for ABH, 3-16 years for GBH)

        3. Professional Merchandiser*

          I used to have a phone with a siren ringtone. I do merchandising work in Walmarts, (which are incredibly noisy places) and I kept it loud so I could hear it. One of the managers suggested I change it or turn it down because it was making his customers nervous. He said it with a smile, though. I apologized and found another tone. I think we get so used to our tones we don’t really hear them anymore. (And I didn’t even pick this one. One of my kids put it on there as a joke and I had never changed it.)

          1. Penny Lane*

            Perhaps your manager was suggesting that he wanted your ringtone entirely off and you didn’t pick up on it?

            1. Anna*

              Then that’s what the manager should have said.

              And I’m pretty sure it was a store manager, not Professional Merchandiser’s manager.

          2. Peggy*

            I was in Nordstrom recently and a cashier’s iPhone alarm (the blaring default one) was going off for several minutes in her pocket. She wasn’t even busy, she just didn’t touch it. Another cashier lost it on her and was like “YOU DO THIS ALL DAY, WHY IS YOUR ALARM EVEN SET? TURN IT OFF!” and the woman was like /shrug, doesn’t bother me. Her coworkers must hate her. I wanted to stomp her phone and I was just in line for 5 min.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Wow. I would have said “Well, it bothers me … as a paying customer, I shouldn’t have to hear your ringtone.” And if I were in the mood, I’d take it to a manager. I seriously doubt the managers at Nordstrom find that acceptable.

            2. Tricksy Hobbit*

              A few months ago I was at the checkout and the cashier stopped ringing me up to text back. The first time she did I didn’t say anything, the second time she did it. I said in a very blunt voice “Can you do that later?”
              Her: Yeah yeah sorry.
              Seriously? I’m standing in front of you with a line behind me. It would have been one thing if she took a bathroom break and texted instead or if there were not any customers, but geez.

            3. Not Tom, just Petty*

              We had a new coworker start (desktop publishing) between being hard of hearing and unfamiliar with PC settings (another story) every action had a sound. And the sound was HIGH. Like, the speaker went to 11. After a couple days of jumping out of my skin at every email, typo and program opening, she went to the ladies’ room and I went over and turned the sound off. Just went into properties and picked none.
              Don’t. Care.

            4. SophieK*

              Report that to Nordstrom Corporate!

              I am from the Seattle area where even millionaires dress like homeless people and I moved to a less wealthy area where people, weirdly, dress up to go to the mall.

              So my mother and I, who were dressed down, got very snarky, very less than “legendary customer service” treatment. Normally the salespeople are all over us back home in Seattle.

              I recounted my experience in the comments section of a news story and the service has been stellar since.

              So tell them!

          3. 2horseygirls*

            The chair of the fire science department had the most awesome tones-dropping ringtone . . . sounded just like the firehouse :)

        4. Nita*

          I would keep showing up in the cubicle of the person with the baby ringtone every time it goes off, looking alarmed, and going “OMG! Did you bring your child to work today? Are they OK??? I heard them crying!!!” Every time, until they change the tune :)

      2. Violet*

        I’ve never been bothered by a ringtone and couldn’t imagine why the Beverly Hills Cop tune was singled out. Oh, but that was before I Googled it to find out. I found it incredibly nerve-racking and hope I never have to hear it again. Here’s hoping your friend changes her ringtone soon!

        1. Lady Blerd*

          I had to Google it because I completly forgot what it was. That said, I actually considered getting it for a second LOL but I tire of novelty ringtones very quickly so I’ve learned to stick basic ringtones. That said, I keep my phone on vibrate at work no matter what I have.

          1. Jules the 3rd*


            From my experience, about 70% of the population would be really bothered (nails on a chalkboard level) by it. My mom and I are some of the 30%, but my dad and sister are on the 70% side, so mom and I pull it out on car trips.

          2. InfoSec SemiPro*

            I HATE bagpipes and I set this as the ringer on my first cell phone on purpose so I’d want to kill the noise soonest. It worked well.

      3. Karma*

        Someone in my office has an audio clip from Despicable Me of a little girl yelling “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!!”
        I like that movie but as a ringtone it’s right up there as one of the most irritating I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately she works in a role where she gets urgent calls to her cell phone so she needs a loud and recognisable ringtone so it seems unreasonable to complain about it (and whatever she changes it to has the potential to be worse).

      4. Red 5*

        When I first got a smart phone, I tried to set up ringtones for people that were movie quotes that reminded me of them for one reason or another. All from favorite movies, all quotes I liked.

        I turned that off within like a day. I ended up getting sick of my notification tones too, when I had changed those to custom noises from favorite shows/movies (think of like the chirp of a Star Trek communicator, short and still a notification noise, but a specific one). I was rewatching one of those shows and when that noise happened I tensed up because I had the same “ugh” reaction that I do when I need to check an email I don’t want to read and realized it wasn’t really helping make anything more pleasant.

        1. Lilo*

          The same can be said about alarms. I use my iphone for my morning alarm and just have the default tone. My coworker has the same tone for her birth control alarm (which goes off at about 4pm everyday) so if i’m in her office when it goes off, i get that tense feeling. also a good reason not to use your favorite/a popular song as your morning alarm!

          1. Jadelyn*

            I disagree – I have a couple of my favorite songs on my morning wakeup alarms, and I like it because it helps to ease me awake in a less-grouchy frame of mind. I can lay there and listen to a favorite song for 30 seconds before I turn it off and get up, which is a nicer start to the day imo than lunging for a squawking beeping thing to shut it UP ALREADY.

            1. tangerineRose*

              I like to hear a favorite song as a morning alarm too. I do have to switch songs every so often.

          2. Mephyle*

            I have custom tones for my most used functions (alarm, ring, message) for just that reason: so that I will never hear them on someone else’s phone.

        2. Nolan*

          I briefly had the “you got spotted” noise from Metal Gear as my text notification, but it was too alarming so I quickly changed it to something else. I’ve had the Playstation trophy noise for a few years and it’s proven to be prefect for me, and only occasionally causes confusion with the actual Playstation.

          But when I staff a convention, I use the Mario 1 Up sound for department group chat, and by the end of the convention I’m sick of it! It’s just constant, hundreds of those little dings all day long. But it can be heard over the crowds.

          When I was a (miserable, stressed out) convention manager and using IM a lot for organizational stuff, just hearing the IM ding would set off my anxiety instantly. And I’d hear it like 20 times a day. Thankfully, since I resigned from that role that no longer happens!

          1. tinyhipsterboy*

            I used to have Phoenix Wright’s “OBJECTION!” as my text tone back in high school and it used to legitimately scare me. Oof. I’ve more-recently used the Playstation message notification tone, but that would get me confused too, haha. Still trying to find the perfect tone, since the Persona 5 text tone is a little long.

            I feel you on the anxiety, though. If I start getting more than maybe 3 messages in a row I have to set my phone down and walk away because my anxiety goes bonkers.

          2. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

            I briefly had one of the turrets from Portal saying “I see you”. It’s a creepy little kid-type voice, and it went off once while I was home alone, without power in a storm. Nope, nope, nope. Haha.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree – your boss has asked you to change it, so change it (or put it on silent / vibrate while in the office) .

      If you personally find someone else’s specific tone particularly difficult to ignore then you can raise that with them or with your boss.

      I think the fact that yours is a tune rather than a more straightforward alert may well be why it has been singled out, I think most people who work in an office re used to filtering out the sound of (say) a ringing phone or something beeping, if it isn’t on their own desk, as those tend to be normal office background noises. A tune is more intrusive (and I suspect for a lot of people, also more irritating.

    5. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      My ringtone is the theme from “Spongebob Squarepants” and my theme for my husband’s phone calls is the theme from 1960’s Batman. I’m on silent at work 99% of the time but when I forget, it is *hilarious* . Because it happens once a year! (Happened once when I was leading a meeting with VIP suppliers – hilarious! Because it happened once!)

      Nobody wants to hear anybody’s ringtones regularly.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think there is a huge difference between hearing a ring tone *once* because someone has forgotten to turn their phone off, and hearing the same ringtone repeatedly.

        I had an acquaintance whose ring-tone was a voice clip of a small child saying something like “There’s someone on the phone, they want to talk to you.. are you there..?” which was funny once, but would, I suspect, have become intensely irritating if you heard it multiple times a day.

        Yours and your husband’s would probably make me laugh if i heard it once, but only once (or only about once every 6 months or so!)

        1. LaLa*

          My FIL’s ringtone is a few of his younger grandkids screeching “Answer the phone”. It’s pretty horrible.

        2. JokersandRogues*

          A coworker had “Help, I’m stuck in your pocket!” British small child’s voice. It’s a good thing I couldn’t find a hammer.

          1. Teapot Tester*

            Haha – my son has this as his notification tone. It’s actually “Let me out, I’m stuck in your pocket!” It is cute for an 11 year old. It would drive me crazy all day long at work.

      2. natalie*

        Mine’s the FFVII victory theme because my brain can parse it as something I need to pay attention to and because I think it’s funny. But I either have it turned off or set very quietly when I’m at work; I have a private office, so it being quiet isn’t as disruptive as it would be in an open plan office. The first thing I do when I install an app is turn off the notifications unless it’s something I absolutely must be notified about because I can’t cope with constant dings and screen messages and those horrid little red badges.

    6. Ann Onimous*

      I actually got used to setting my phone on vibrate at my first job. Our manager set a rule, that whoever was caught with their phone ringing would have to treat the office (~10 people) to a soft drink. At one point things got so out of hand, that people started requesting the exact type of juice that the culprit was supposed to buy. :P

    7. Murphy*

      I’d be really unlikely to notice my phone ring/text if I had it on completely silent.

      There are a lot of people in my office who have theirs on really loud though.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Well, for most people it’s not really mission-critical if they don’t hear their phone ring/text in the moment, because you’re there to do a job, not listen for your phone to ring so you can engage in your personal business. Unless you’re the heart surgeon waiting to hear that the heart transplant team is on route to the hospital or something, it can wait til you take a quick break later on.

        1. Anonygoose*

          Yeah, a couple of my coworkers keep theirs on vibrate (and in their pockets to minimize the vibrate noise) in case of a kid-related emergency or something like that, which I can understand, but I leave my phone on Do Not Disturb almost always when I’m at work because nobody EVER calls me, and if they do, it can wait 5 minutes until I check my phone to see texts/missed calls/voicemail etc. It’s never an emergency, and if it REALLY is, everyone I know knows where I work. I cannot see a need for having a ringtone on at work on purpose!

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, I don’t get calls from my kids’ daycare often, but especially when my wife is out of town I like to have my phone set so I won’t accidentally let it go unnoticed for several hours. But that means on vibrate, not blaring music everywhere.

            I think a lot of people used to give out their work phone numbers more frequently – the dentist, the kids’ school, the insurance company, family members – so that they could deal with those business-hours-only or emergency items at work. Now people only give out their cell phone numbers and need to take the occasional personal call at work, but it amounts to the same thing. My phone is basically never off vibrate, and it works out fine.

            1. lena duffin*

              At a former job, the person before me had been the kind to give everyone on earth her work number. So I spent about a year getting calls about things like family funerals, picking up her kid from school.

          2. Red 5*

            Yeah, as I mentioned above, I actually did get an emergency call on my cell phone at work once, and that person wouldn’t have known how to reach me on my work phone. It is a thing that happens, and I respect that people worry about that, I worry about it even more now that it happened to me.

            But my solution was to set up my phone to just not ring at all unless certain people called me (so basically it’s set to silent for the ringtone but specific people have a personalized ringtone) and the only people who get ringtone privileges are the ones that I know won’t call me during work hours unless it’s important. But this does remind me that I need to give me work number to them just in case.

            Before this was possible, I remember at a job where I wasn’t allowed to have my cell phone with me at all (retail, yay) and my mom was having surgery one day. So I turned my phone on vibrate and put it in my pocket just in case anything happened, and my manager saw me walk to the back room to take it out and check it when it vibrated (I was never going to check it in front of customers). He tried to give me a talking to about it and I basically told him that if he had a problem with this special situation I’d be happy to take the whole thing up the chain as far as he wanted to go and then went back to work. Six years later I had another retail job and even the managers were basically texting all day from the sales floor.

            I will say though, that “drop everything this has to be taken care of now” emergencies are a lot more rare than people try to make them out to be, and a lot of things get elevated to emergency status when they shouldn’t be.

          3. Hlyssande*

            I always keep mine on vibrate and available at work. I have elderly parents and other family members who aren’t in the best of health, so I want to be able to pick up if someone is trying to call me with news.

          4. RoadsLady*

            I am still trying to rebuild compassion for kid calls. I had a co-worker who spent about half the day, every day, on the phone solving her adult kids’ issues

            1. 2horseygirls*

              Um, kid means under 18. It drives me up the wall when someone feels the need to not only discuss the problem at full volume with said “adult” child on the phone, then repeat BOTH sides of the conversation to the next 50 people they see. Oy!

              Two previous co-workers (mid 60s ladies) would micromanage their husbands all. day. long.

              “Wear the blue shirt . . . . no, you don’t like the buttons on that shirt, wear the other one.”
              “What did you have for lunch? How much mayo did you put in? That’s too much. How did it taste?”

              Bless their hearts, but I was ready to scream by 9am every morning.

        2. Murphy*

          No, but once daycare called to tell me that my infant daughter was having difficulty breathing.

          1. Penny Lane*

            That must have been scary. If they hadn’t been able to reach you, though, what would they have done? They would have called 9-1-1, taken her to the ER, etc.

            I am not downplaying how scary that was, but in our youth our mothers weren’t reachable by cell phones – if we got hurt at school or whatever, our mothers could have been shopping, walking the dog, visiting grandma, whatever, and not gotten the message for hours. The adults in charge would have taken care of the situation.

            1. Red 5*

              While that is technically true, I actually am very glad that the parents of today are able to actually leave to be with their children when their children are having a medical emergency.

              Could you imagine if the adults did everything they could but the child died, and the mother was at the grocery store or getting her hair done instead of being by their side and telling them they loved them one more time? We live in a world where awful things happen, but technology allows us to make some of them a little less awful. We just have to use that technology responsibly and with kindness towards those around us.

              When a loved one dies or even just has an emergency, nearly everybody I know has at least one regret about not having that one extra moment, or not calling them back last week, or not going to that birthday party because they had work, or something. There’s always something. Why add to those possibilities when we don’t have to?

              Plus, I would hope that the daycare center called 911 and started first aid BEFORE contacting the parent, since that’s what they should be trained to do. Contacting the parent is actually part of the first aid procedures for children that I learned though.

            2. Red 5*

              (Also, I should be clear, I agree with you that 99% of the time what people think they need to be reachable for are not emergencies and could have just waited. I just think in this particular example, it’s actually an exception. If they were calling the parent because their child wasn’t eating their carrot sticks, that’d be different).

            3. Murphy*

              I’m not advocating ringers on full blast or having long chats with friends during the workday. My point was more that there are legitimate reasons to get a “personal call” during the workday.

              1. Guacamole Bob*


                This is also an office culture thing. I’ve been in a range of offices, and in nearly all of them the occasional personal call on a cell phone was totally fine. Some offices are fine with quiet, unobtrusive ring tones and others have a culture of phones on vibrate or silent, just like offices vary about other noise-related norms, but the calls themselves aren’t the issue.

                I’m actually pretty confused about all the people who seem to think it’s wildly unprofessional for your cell phone to ever ring during a work day. There are limits on frequency and volume and type of ring, of course, but the prevailing sentiment here that personal phones should be life-or-death-emergency-only confuses me.

            4. Nanani*

              And yet, going by what my kid-having acquaintances tell me, “Call mom” is still way up there in the priority list even when the daycare has been repeatedly told to call DAD. Or call grandma who is retired and can actually go.

              Yet they often prefer to interrupt mom at work for some mysterious reason

              1. Cercis*

                The school nurse once called me even with the kid sitting there saying “you need to call my dad, my mom can’t come get me” and with dad’s number listed first. I listened to her and said, “yeah, I work downtown and take the bus, I’m at least an hour away, you need to call his father, the first number listed on the form” and then hung up and texted my husband. She did call him, so I’ll give her that. That was the second time she’d called me, the first time I took an unscheduled break and went and called my husband and did all the coordinating back and forth. It took up a lot of time and my boss was understandably not happy. The second time I heard the kid say “I told you to call my dad, why did you call my mom?” in the background so I felt a lot more comfortable refusing to play coordinator.

                It’s very much a sexist society still. But women are still more likely to have jobs that have less flexibility than men (in my case, my husband was middle management and could just leave when he wanted while I was support staff and couldn’t leave and even breaks were kind of a big deal).

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Sorry you had to deal with that annoyance, but HIGH FIVE to your kid for speaking up like that!

            5. Kimberly*

              But then they could often call a neighbor or family member who would know where to find the parent. Also hospitals/ERs would treat kids or at least make sure they weren’t in pain.

              Because of lawsuits especially from followers of certain religions – ERs won’t start treatment without parental permission unless the child is in danger of dying. Not to mention if it isn’t life threatening they want insurance/payment information before they treat.

              I had a student with a broken leg sitting in pain for 4 hours and no treatment until his mom got home from work. Like many of the parents at my Title I school, the numbers she had put on the form were outdated due to phones being turned off and changing jobs.

              Pre cell phones – My cousin’s son sat in the ER for 3 hours, with a severely lacerated foot until his parents could be located. He had jumped barefoot off a gazebo in a park with a friend and landed on glass. He was in the ER with his Maternal Grandparents. Mom a teacher was at a teacher workshop held on a summer weekend at a private university. No one at the university was answering the phone. A relative that lived near there went over but couldn’t find the workshop. His Dad was a building contractor working in several different new neighborhoods. Now we all have limited medical POA’s for the kids in the family so we can authorize medical car.

              1. Student*

                I ran into the “ERs won’t treat kids without parental permission” thing once, and I am deeply horrified by it. I don’t understand it at all.

                I went to an ER for treatment once, and they tried to turn me away. Didn’t even bother explaining their rational. When I insisted on being treated and asked what was going on, the guy behind the intake counter told me “We can’t treat you without parental permission. Go get your mom and then come back.”

                I was in my mid-twenties. I was also in a place where it’d be very unusual to run into children at this ER location. I had to actually take a minute to process what he was saying (probably didn’t help that I was in active medical distress and a good bit of pain), and figure out that he must think I’m a child because I’m short. At that point, I was angry about the not-treating-children-in-pain thing, angry at being mistaken for a child, angry at this guy making assumptions instead of asking questions, angry at the guy for being a crappy communicator, angry because the ER was otherwise completely empty and here I am arguing with somebody to get in, and angry because I was in pain and embarrassed about the medical issue. I pretty much exploded at him.

              2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*


                Who decides the outcome in lawsuits like that? A judge or a jury? Because I would NEVER agree that child should be left untreated or in pain until the parents are contacted, and I’d be ready to slap child abuse charges on any parent who is against conventional medical treatment/pain relief for their kids in an emergency, no matter what the parents personal or religious beliefs are.
                Children are so vulnerable to abuse & mistreatment, and have no agency to act for themselves. It is abominable that parents are allowed to get away with this kind of medical abuse, and misuse of courts so they can force their harmful beliefs on those that are unblemished to protest.

            6. Anna*

              But this isn’t back in the day, it’s now, and most people have cell phones and most places know most people have cell phones. It’s okay to want to keep your cell phone on you just in case, but it’s also reasonable to turn it to vibrate so you aren’t disturbing everyone around you with a ringtone.

        3. Sylvan*


          For people concerned about missing important personal calls: Depending on your phone, you might be able to use a “do not disturb” mode that only allows calls from selected numbers to ring/vibrate, or that only allows your phone to ring if someone calls twice in a row.

          1. KarenK*

            I used to have my “Do Not Disturb” set up so that only certain numbers would ring through, but when my father moved into long-term care, this was no longer possible. Calls about him could come from any of dozens of numbers in the facility where he lives.

            My husband turns off his phone at night. His mother is 97. It’s a good thing I don’t turn mine off.

            I don’t turn my ringer off at work, unless I’m in a meeting. Most people don’t here, but then again, I’m not in a cube farm or open office situation.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I stopped turning my phone off at night because I always forgot to turn it back on in the morning, and the day my father died, my mother couldn’t get hold of me because my phone was off.

        4. bunniferous*

          I am in real estate. Sadly phones must be on. My tone is a musical riff now but back in the day it was the theme to Animaniacs. I would not have that one now!

    8. Justme, The OG*

      I keep mine on because I’m a single parent of a kid in school and don’t have an office phone. But I have a private office and my ringer sounds like a regular telephone.

    9. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

      Stealing “loonier than a Canadian’s coin purse” and using it prolifically and lustily. :-)

    10. Database Developer Dude*

      No, I’m not the OP from the other day. I don’t change into my taekwondo uniform until I get to taekwondo class anyway.

      The point is here that she didn’t ask me to LOWER my ringtone’s volume (which, by the way is the lowest in the office, you can’t hear it if you’re all the way across the office from me), she asked to CHANGE it *because* it was ‘so distinctive’….

      1. einahpets*

        Maybe change it to babies crying? :)

        As a parent with two young kids, I still can’t get over the fact that people use that as a ringtone, heh.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          OP#2 here. Funny, einahpets, but no. Doing that would completely undermine my entire argument.

    1. Mark Roth*

      What’s that old saying, “All is forgiven after walking a mile in someone else’s face”

  2. paul*

    Would Arya doing that rise to something you could actually formally write someone up for? I’m asking because that type of boundary overstepping seems pretty egregious and I’d wonder if they’re going to be problematic later.

    As it stands now I agree; make it plain to Arya that she can’t do that at sort of thing, and talk with Rob about if he’ll be able to professionally work with her again in X amount of time if you can handle some reshuffling of duties.

    1. Artemesia*

      She should have been ‘managed’ the first time this outrageous behavior occurred and if it occurred again then written up. It is hard to imagine too many less appropriate and more harrassing things to do to a co-worker than lecture him about the poor poor murderer who destroyed his family and how much he should be doing for him. Arya is a monster; she should have been shut down hard by the manager the first time she pulled this crap.

      1. paul*

        That’s part of why I’d be interested in starting a written record now; that sort of overstep is big enough I wouldn’t feel like a verbal warning is sufficient. I’d want written documentation that they were coached/trained/whatever so that if it happened again it’d be easier to justify termination. Not just specifically for this, but for other PITA behavior.

        Of course some of that depends on how your business handles terminations but still, it’s something I’d look at.

      2. jg*

        How is she a “monster”? She’s absolutely right – the criminal justice needs reform and now. You can’t discriminate against her for her beliefs on this.

        1. LouiseM*

          She’s a monster for telling someone whose family member was murdered how he should feel about the perpetrator. I am a big believer in restorative justice and prison reform, but that’s something I talk about at DSA meetings–not to a murder victim’s family member *at work*.

          1. LouiseM*

            And I’ll add that people like her do our cause no favors by coming off as unempathetic and frankly unhinged.

            1. Jesca*

              Yes, this. I am a HUGE advocate for prison system reform here in the US for various reasons. But even within that argument there is an accepted counter-argument in regards to victims of horrible crimes and their families that does have to be taken into account. Besides, forgiveness is a hugely personal decision that no one else gets a say in.

              1. PhyllisB*

                Totally agree. There is no bigger proponent of forgiveness than me; but there is no way I would approach someone who had a family member murdered and tell them they needed to forgive the murderer. Now if they approached me and wanted to know how they could forgive and move on, that’s different. But to tell someone they should forgive someone in this situation, nope, nope, nope.

                1. The Friendly Comp Manager*

                  And not only forgive them, but try to *help that person, specifically*. There is a difference between being forgiving, which is personal and usually a pretty health step (but a *personal* one) versus taking action that could potentially cause yourself or your family/friends even more emotional or physical harm.

                  This woman (Arya) has lost touch with reality. Some people could be super-forgiving and become an advocate for their perpetrator, but that is not the baseline expectation for all victims. *Surviving after the event* is the baseline expectation for victims.

                2. The Friendly Comp Manager*

                  (I actually don’t even like my own final sentence… surviving after the even is the baseline goal (not expectation) for victims, but not even an expectation, because some people can’t cope, and that’s not their fault, so I amend my last statement and did not mean it the way it sounded, after I wrote it!)

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Right. I believe we are in dire need of prison reform too. But there’s a time and a place to discuss that. This was neither. What really angers me about this situation is that she’d found out about Robb’s situation, that Robb never talks about at work, through some side channels, and then confronted Robb about it, not even once, but “a few times”?! Who does this??

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              That stood out to me too. How the hell did she find out, and why on earth would she bring it up at all?

              What is WRONG with some people?

          3. Tuxedo Cat*

            This is what I’m thinking. What she’s doing is incredibly cruel to the victim’s family, who are arguably victims too.

          4. jo*

            I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word “monster,” but I’d probably want to in Robb’s position! And I agree with your latter point wholeheartedly. I can believe in prisoners’ rights and prison reform, and also be exasperated by the failure of our various systems to prevent violent crimes, and also feel sympathy for specific people on both sides, and all the while understand that none of these discussions belong at work (unless your job has something to do with these issues). Robb took the right approach by keeping his opinions out of the workplace, and Arya screwed that up. If Robb was out there being a neo-Nazi, I can see there being a debate about how to handle it, but I don’t think it’s debatable that Arya should not have brought this disagreement into work.

        2. paul*

          Having problems with our criminal justice system isn’t what I’m objecting to (FFS I donate quarterly to the Innocence Project).

          What I *do* object to is haranguing a coworker about your own pet cause in general. And in this case that goes double given that he’s being told to advocate for the rights of someone who killed a family member. That’s the sort of WTF’ery that displays a pretty bad lack of judgement re: what is or isn’t appropriate at work. To the point I’d want documentation that it’s been an issue that I’ve tried to correct, in case it keeps happening (or in case other professional norms are problematic).

        3. Marie B.*

          I one thousand percent agree that justice system needs reform.

          But I think Arya is awful for telling the loved one of a murder victim, a few times and completely unsolicited, that he needs to forgive the killer AND fight for the killer’s rights, in a work situation where he was minding his own business and has to be professional.

          Arya got in his face about it and not the other way around. He never brought it up at work but she did and brought his personal stuff into the workplace. She is awful for how she treated Robb. Not because of her views on justice reform.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Exactly. Plus there’s the hypocrisy of letting her compassion for prisoners make her be aggressively insensitive to her co-worker.

        4. Giant teapot*

          She is. Her beliefs are her business, but her behavior is monstrous. She should be way more sensitive about her co-worker’s tragedy. And the criminal justice system might need reform but the fact that murderers are in prison for life is not one of the faults of the system. Victims need way more support than criminals.

          1. Ex-Humanities student*

            Yeah, that’s really another debate, but you can’t really say that so bluntly. It is much more complicated than that, and has no bearing on Robb and Arya, really.

            1. Kyubey*

              How can a murderer that is in prison for life possibly be more complicated? People who commit crimes like that have no rights and deserve nothing.

              1. Really?*

                This is starting to drift off topic, but there are lots of reasons people kill people, and not all of them are irredeemable monsters. I work in the domestic violence world, and there are women who finally killed their husbands after being brutally beaten for years with the police failing to do anything, and with them fearing for their lives if they ran away. I certainly don’t think those women have “no rights and deserve nothing.” They may need to be punished for what they did, but there isn’t any risk they’ll do it again now that they are out of the situation.

                1. Giant teapot*

                  I’m not saying that everyone who has killed someone is beyond redemption but some people certainly are.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Not… quite. The prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies to everyone.

          2. Seriously?*

            The point is that it is irrelevant who needs more support and advocacy. It would be just as wrong for Robb to tell Arya that she needs to advocate for the victims. Arya needs to learn to focus on the job and leave her cause for non-work times and places.

            1. Giant teapot*

              What? No, it would be (maybe) unprofessional for Robb to say this to Arya but Arya saying these things is rubbing salt in the wound. She is basically traumatizing him all over again.

              I mean, come on, murder is the worst crime imaginable. How would you feel if a man started telling a rape victim that she needs to forgive her rapist and advocate for his rights? It would be terrible. If a victim starts telling people to advocate for rape victims at work this might be awkward but not terrible.

              1. AMPG*

                Telling a coworker what political/policy opinions they should have or actions they should take is ALWAYS inappropriate.

                1. Giant teapot*

                  But it’s not always traumatizing. Inappropriate is nothing compared to traumatizing. Being inappropriate means you’re out of touch. Traumatizing someone means you’re a monster.

                2. smoke tree*

                  I agree, but in this case, I think even that is overshadowed by her cruelty in harassing her coworker about his family member’s murder, particularly since it sounds like all he wanted was to avoid talking about it.

        5. Bea*

          If the person was given the death penalty, then I would have some softness for her in the respect I’m anti death penalty too.

          However this man is being tormented by a woman about forgiving a person who murdered his loved one. She’s not chattering about the overall prison system that’s disgusting and needs reform, she’s actively telling him to forgive a murderer. She’s grotesque and doesn’t do any good for those fighting for prison reform by tormenting a person who’s been tormented by a savage criminal.

          1. Marie B.*

            I’m anti-death penalty also.

            But even if the perpetrator got the death penalty instead of a life sentence Arya would be wrong.

            Robb wasn’t talking about the murder or his personal views at work. The OP said he never brought it up and just wanted to be left alone.

            Whether the sentence was life or death, Arya is a jerk for telling Robb what to do or how to feel. She brought it up first. She brought the matter into the workplace. And that was wrong and inappropriate. Full stop.

            So as anti-death penalty as I am, I have no softness for Arya here.

            1. CityMouse*

              I am anti death penalty too, and I agree. Arya sought him out over something he clearly still feels. She put her own feelings about a concept over his feelings about the loss of an actual person. Nope.

            2. Alton*

              Right. It sounds like Robb is minding his own business, here. If he was talking at work about wanting the perpetrator to be killed or abused in prison, I would sympathize with Arya more (though I still don’t think her approach would be tactful given the sensitivity of the situation).

              I was in an awkward situation once where a coworker who knew someone was murdered (but not this big of a connection) was talking about how much they wanted the killer to get the death penalty or be abused/tortured in prison. I didn’t want to get in a debate with them or tell them how to feel on a visceral level, but I was really uncomfortable with the conversation and was pretty upset by it.

              But it sounds like Robb is just minding his own business and Arya is the one who took it upon herself to bring it up.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Reminds me of the LW who took it upon herself to correct her coworker for using the wrong words to describe her cancer treatment.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  WOW, I missed that. That is a jaw-dropping spectacle of self-righteous, sanctimonious point-scoring.

              2. Seriously?*

                Yeah, it he brought it up then he opened that door and it would not be fair to tell Arya that only Robb is allowed to have opinions. However, since he did not bring it up it was very wrong for Arya to try to force him to talk about a personal tragedy while also telling him that he is wrong in how he feels about it.

                1. anon for this*

                  No, the guy is the victim-by-proxy of a violent crime. He had someone he loved MURDERED. If he went off on, like, the anniversary of the death about how he hopes that guy roasts in hell, he still gets a pass and it’s wildly inappropriate for Arya to say anything. It’s not a casual conversation about the next highway construction project; it’s one person with very strong, personal feelings about a specific situation. Arya should still show some humanity and keep her mouth shut.

                2. fposte*

                  Agreeing with anon. It’s absolutely okay in some situations to say that one person gets to express their opinion and the other needs to keep theirs in their pocket.

                3. Tuxedo Cat*

                  It depends on how it’s brought up. If Robb just stated the facts and Arya went into this, she’d be wrong.

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Honestly, if I knew someone who had been traumatized by something as serious as this, I would give that person a pass even if they wrote an award winning Broadway musical about how badly they wanted to see the perpetrator get tortured & abused & killed in the slowest, most painful way possible, and gave free tickets to everyone so as many people as possible could see them sing & dance it.

                Because to me, it’s not about my feelings, or how I personally feel about the death penalty or prison reform or human rights or any of that. It’s about THEIR feelings, and if those are the feelings they need to express st the moment, who am I to tell them otherwise?

          2. Temperance*

            Nope. Not even then. If your personal politics are such, that’s fine, but you would really cross the line by telling a crime victim how they should care so much about the perp.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I feel like crime victims get a pass to vent about the people who hurt them in whatever way they want to. I can’t IMAGINE having the gall to tell someone who is in that kind of pain that they are doing anger/grief/forgiveness/etc wrong.

              But I’ve been in the position of people telling me I should “forgive & forget” with a toxic family member who has deeply hurt many other individuals as well as myself, so I *am* a little biased here.

              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                *oh and I am agreeing with you because I realized that comment might not be clear on that

        6. Observer*

          The prison system may or may not need fixing. That’s utterly irrelevant to the current system. To ignore what she did – demand that someone forgive and fight for the rights of the person who profoundly harmed them is utterly and completely outrageous.

          To claim that she’s right to do that is, at BEST totally disingenuous. It’s also inhumane.

        7. RoadsLady*

          I believe in the need for prison reform and I still think life without parole will have its place

          She is not Robb’s spiritual advisor or counselor or even bosom buddy and therefore has no business saying he should forgive.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Exactly. It is simply none of her business, and sbe crossed a major line here.

            And I say this as another who is in favor of reforming the criminal justice system and opposed to the death penalty. Mind your own damned business, Arya!

        8. Knitting Cat Lady*

          So, telling the family member of a murder victim that they HAVE TO forgive the murderer is fine and dandy?

        9. Marcel*

          Criminal justice system reform doesn’t mean randomly lecturing a murder victim’s family member multiply times that they need to forgive the murderer and help him get rights and an improved life.

          Robb was minding his own business. He never said a word about it at work and Arya still brought his personal tragedy into the workplace and used it as a platform. She was completely wrong and her actions were terrible.

        10. Quoth the Raven*

          There’s a time, a place, and an audience for everything. It’s extremely tone deaf at best. And I’ve seen topics less delicate than this one turn into full blown “Don’t ever talk to me again” fights.

          Advise like this would be questionable coming from a therapist or a spiritual advisor, let alone from a coworker you’re not even close to.

        11. Scarlet*

          This exactly. It’s not about her beliefs, it’s about lecturing a victim at his workplace. Imagine if Arya told a rape victim that rapists deserve forgiveness too…
          There’s a time and a place for advocacy, and it’s certainly not at work anyway. Upsetting a coworker traumatized by a violent crime won’t help her fight the system.

          1. Irene Adler*

            Yes. All she needed to say was “I’m so very sorry for your loss.” (assuming he’d brought up the subject).

        12. Cornflower Blue*

          When someone is suffering because they lost a beloved person, that is not the time to put the onus of making life better FOR the person who is responsible for that loss.

          To put it differently, if you punch me in the face and hurt your knuckles because of that, I’m not going to be interested in how much you’re suffering because you can’t pay your medical bills. Do I think the healthcare system needs fixing? Yes, I do. Will I give a damn if it’s put within the context of I PUNCHED YOU AND NOW THE CONSEQUENCES ARE HURTING ME? No, I won’t.

          I agree the prison system needs to be reformed but what Arya is doing is targeting and harassing someone who is already hurting. That is incredibly unkind and needs to be shut down ASAP.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This. One can reform the prison system without a single victim or family member forgiving the person who hurt them. These are separate issues.

            Chirping “I learned of your personal tragedy! You need to forgive!” is monstrous; advocating (noun) reform at your coworkers who are trying to do their jobs and mind their own business is tone deaf and inappropriate at work.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This. To be honest, the whole episode reminds me of the letter where the intern (?) told an appalling joke about 9/11 to someone who turned out to have lost someone in the Twin Towers – but at least he didn’t know beforehand.

              1. Nea*

                I remember that letter! To me this is even worse, though – the jokester didn’t know that his audience included someone effected, while Arya has targeted someone she knows has already suffered. (And the OP in the intern letter was suitably shocked and angry. OP #1’s use of words like “enable” instead of “run interference between harasser and harassee also suggests that OP is… not seeing Robb’s point of view.)

            2. Kelly L.*

              +1. Arya can be right that the system needs reform and Robb can be too deeply hurt to take on that cause himself. Arya needs to go recruit someone else.

          2. PepperVL*


            Plus, prison reform is needed on an institutional/government level. Even if every single person affected by anyone in prison in the United States truly forgave that person, or wouldn’t fix the issue. We’re just have a lot of people in prison who had been forgiven.

            I am 100% in favor of abolishing the school-to-prison pipeline, for reform that truly addresses the issues that cause disproportionate amounts of POC to be incarcerated, for eliminating the practice of using prisoners for basically no-cost labor, and lots of other issues. None of those changes require the victims to forgive the people who hurt them/their loved ones.

        13. Wintermute*

          I disagree entirely that she’s right, but that’s neither here nor there. Haranguing the victims of a crime is reprehensible behavior no matter how you slice it.

          Also, political opinions are not a protected class they absolutely may discriminate against her regarding this, but they don’t have to go that far, her unacceptable behavior towards a co-worker wouldn’t be okay even if it were legally protected somehow: you are never obliged to allow harassment.

        14. Mike C.*

          From a purely ethical standpoint, you don’t force the burden of something like criminal justice reform on someone who is still clearly dealing with a very personal loss related directly to such things. That’s even before we get into the issue of forcing advocacy at work.

        15. Akcipitrokulo*

          The reason a lot of us are in favour of reform and restorative justice, etc, are that there is a basic compassion for human beings and belief in treating them decently, while recognising that a justice system is necessary for everyone’s safety and well being.

          It’s a little off to have your alleged compassion for one group of people cause you to be cruel to someone standing right in front of you.

          1. RoadsLady*

            This is so aptly said!

            Arya is not thinking about the humanity of her good wishes.

            I’m sure most of us criminal justice reformers imagine a system that still considers the rights and feelings of victims.

          2. Observer*

            Thanks for putting it so well!

            There is a saying that “One who is kind to the cruel, is cruel to the kind.” This is a classic example.

            Arya is not kind or ethical.

          3. Michaela Westen*

            Sorry a little late to this thread.
            My mother is like this. She was all about saving the world, but didn’t care how her own children felt or what we needed.
            Following her example, I behaved inappropriately in similar ways until feedback made me realize how wrong and disrespectful it is.

        16. CityMouse*

          I knew a guy who was murdered and, even just this guy I was casual friends with, it changes when you know the person. Because you can put yourself in their shoes. I couldn’t shake the concept of he was such a nice guy and how he must have been so scared. It sounds like Robb lost someone very very close and that feeling must have been infinitely worse for him.

          1. Shamy*

            I don’t know anyone that has been murdered, but I do know I have a tendency to think that even about strangers when I hear of terrible cases. I can’t begin to imagine when it’s actually a loved one what must go through their heads.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            A friend of mine- my best friend/roommate’s BF- was murdered a couple of blocks from our apartment when he came to visit one weekend.
            She and I had been out for a bit, and when we were driving back, the major street we lived off of was blocked by police cars and ambulance. ‘Huh, must be an accident’ we thought, as I detoured down a side street.
            It was his murder being investigated. We didn’t find out til the next day, but she already knew something terrible had happened.
            Almost 30 years ago and I’m tearing up writing about it.
            If someone like Arya said something like that to me it would take every ounce of willpower I had not to smash my fist into their face.

          3. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

            A friend of mine is close friends with the family who lost their son during the Boston Marathon bombing. In the months following the bombing and subsequent trial there was that Rolling Stone cover of the surviving bomber. She was completely outraged by the amount of support that cover got and how people could be sympathetic to him. She was hoping for death sentence. Obviously that wasn’t the case. She says that her reaction is very much like yours: she imagines how scared he must’ve been, how quickly it all happened. She says she remembers visiting him when he was a baby, holding him in her arms, and it is a keenly painful feeling to know that she will never see him again… and she is only a family friend. Robb is family. I honestly cannot even imagine what her reaction would be if a co-worker did to her what Arya did to Robb so I commend Robb on holding back.

            1. tangerineRose*

              How could anyone be sympathetic to either of the Boston Marathon bombers? They killed and maimed innocent people on purpose.

          4. CMart*

            Adding my voice as a person who knew a murder victim. My cousin, who I was not close to but still grew up with and saw sometimes, was shot and killed in an attempted robbery.

            My surviving family (there’s really something poignant that we call those who live beyond someone “survivors”) weren’t the ones shot, but they were certainly victims of a violent crime. My cousin’s killer is still out there–it’s been nearly 10 years so he probably always will be–and I know my aunt, uncle, and other cousins are re-traumatized every time there’s another shooting in their city.

            Anyone who would dare to tell them they need to forgive the killer and actively fight for prisoner justice (while they fight for justice for their dead son) would be a monster in my book.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I’m so sorry.

              In my friends case, they found the murderer/s, but witnesses were afraid to testify, and they went free.

              Hearing Arya’s blather when the killers aren’t in prison, but you WANT them to be seems like it would be even worse, because it would feel like she was saying “it’s good the murderer is free because prisons suck.”

          5. Elizabeth West*

            This is true. I knew someone very casually who was unfortunately involved in some sketchy stuff, and he was gunned down on a street corner. I still felt terrible about it.

        17. Veronica*

          The ‘monster’ element is the complete lack of tact or empathy in who to share that opinion with – i.e. not asking a recent murder victim’s family member that you know in a professional capacity to go campaigning with you.

        18. Mazzy*

          Well, what do you expect Rob’s response to be to this? Also, not every criminal falls into the category of “prisons need reforming.” Do you really think you or Arya know how to completely reform people who murder, rape, kidnap, or torture? Prison reform usually refers to not keeping someone in jail for ages for selling pot, murder crosses the point of no return in my book.

          1. This Daydreamer*

            Prison reform is also about abolishing solitary confinement, providing adequate health care, and a whole host of issues surrounding the fact that inmates are still human beings. These are issues I care about very deeply.

            And if someone in Robb’s position tells me that the murderer of his loved one is a subhuman monster who deserves to be thrown into hell I AM GOING TO KEEP MY FREAKING MOUTH SHUT. My beliefs don’t give me the right to make Robb’s grief hurt even more.

            1. NotPiffany*

              I believe in prison reform as This Daydreamer has described it, but I also had a friend murdered over a decade ago, and if anyone were to tell me that I had to “forgive” the murderers, I would be sorely tempted to kick that person repeatedly in the genitals. Arya is not only a monster, she’s an idiot; does she think that Robb is going to support anything even vaguely resembling prison reform after she shot her mouth off?

          2. Giant teapot*

            Exactly. Personally, I don’t care about violent criminals’ healthcare and well being in prison either.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I am ok with prisoners having health care etc but I’d rather see average folks get that kind of help before rapists, murderes, and child molestors.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              Speaking as someone with a family member who spent time in prison (not for a violent offense) – perhaps you should think more carefully about what you are saying.

              (My relative is now on parole, clean, employed, and a decent and loving person. I don’t take kindly to people implying he should just have been thrown away and left to die if something happened to him.)

              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                I too have a family member who has done prison time- more than once- all for non violent offenses. My family member is pretty much irredeemable, unfortunately (think sociopath/toxic narcissistic…no concrete diagnosis but the behavior fits) but last I heard they were off drugs & staying out of jail. We’re long estranged, so I don’t actually care except for the fact that means they are hurting less people than they used to.

                I also have a few other friends/acquaintances that have done jail or prison time, but turned their lives around like your relative.

                Prison reform is absolutely necessary in this country, and has been for a long time. The prison-industrial complex, the school to prison pipeline, mandatory sentencing, “three strikes” laws, racist double standards (like crack getting more jail time than regular cocaine), mistreatment of pridoners, poor healthcare, prisons overfilled minor drug violations, all things that need to be eliminated or changed, do not disagree with any of that.

                BUT- and this is a BIG but- I cannot stomach the idea of prisoners, who have committed crimes, sometimes heinous ones- being provided with good, free healthcare when millions of NON-criminals go un- or under-insured. I chafe that murders get three square meals a day when millions of poor children go hungry (and benefits continue to be cut.) It infuriates me that rapists can get a free education in prison while free citizens either can’t afford it or end up with crushing debt. It’s ridiculous that even now, as fucked up as the system is, pedos & armed robbers have better lives than millions of homeless people. We refuse to feed, clothe, or house Veterans of our armed forces but drug kingpins get three hots and a cot, guaranteed (prison food may suck but it’s a damn sight better than eating out of trash cans, or starving.)

                As it is now, a serial killer who preys exclusively on street people can get caught, go to prison, and end up with a far better life than the people they murdered. That’s just WRONG- unbelievably, overwhelmingly wrong.

                Prisoners have rights and deserve to be treated like human beings, but when they have more right to food, shelter, and healthcare than victims & law-abiding citizens then the system is not working right at all. I don’t know what the answer to that is. I sure hope it’s something proponents of prison reform keep in mind.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Yes, and I certainly do keep that in mind. It infuriates me too, and it especially infuriates me that so many people in power right now are actively working to make things even worse.

                  The answer to that is to fix our social safety net for everyone. But that’s… easier said than done.

                2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Thank you GS. I’m so glad you understand where I am coming from. After I posted I was worried I might have opened up an oil drum of wriggling night crawlers.

              2. Giant teapot*

                I clearly said violent criminals. If someone is in prison for something non violent, then it’s a different story.

          3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            Recent MRI studies on violent prisoners has shown that the part of psychopaths brains that is in charge of empathy tend to be underdeveloped, and no amount of reform is going to fix that.

        19. Murphy*

          There’s a time and a place for championing that cause, and she definitely chose the wrong one.

        20. Temperance*

          Oh hell no. She is absolutely a monster. Telling the family member of a person who was brutally murdered that they should care about the prison conditions said murderer is facing is something only a real jerk would do.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            Yep. As far as I’m concerned, crime victims & survivors have the right to say whatever they damn well please about the people who hurt and/or traumatized them, and I’m happy to nod along even if they think all (for example) murders should be thrown into an oubliette to slowly starve, or have their face eaten off by rats, or even worse stuff. They EARNED the right to do so and I would never tell them otherwise. Their hurt/anger is not mine to control or direct, or my job to try and fix (that’s what therapists, counselors, spiritual advisors, etc are for.) And contrary to what some people think (the “don’t dwell on it/anger only hurts YOU” types) vomiting out those negative feelings instead of holding them in to fester & rot can be incredibly healing.
            I can’t even imagine how Arya thinks what she is doing is even remotely ok!

        21. Penny Lane*

          Oh goodness, jg. She’s a monster because she pushed her opinions in the face of someone who had just undergone a personal tragedy and who hadn’t asked for her opinion on the matter.

          No one would be “discriminating against her because of her beliefs.” They would be taking action based on her behavior – which was inappropriate for the workplace. Do you remember the letter-writer who decided to take to task his coworker who had cancer who wrote a blog called “Janie’s Cancer Fight” because he wanted to “correct” her on the choice of the word “fight”? This is the same kind of thing. Have all the beliefs you like, work in the public square to change them, but leave your coworkers alone unless they have asked for your opinion.

        22. justcourt*

          A close family member of mine was murdered a few years ago, and the pain of it can still catch me off guard. It can literally (and I do mean literally) feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me when I think about it and what my family member’s last moments were like. It doesn’t happen all the time (it’s usually when I’m not prepared to think about it), but when it does, my chest tightens and I can’t breathe.

          If someone confronted me at work about the worst thing I had ever experienced and tried to tell me how I should feel and act… It is monstrous to not only disregard someone’s feelings on something so traumatic but to actually try to dictate how they should respond. It’s completely disrespectful of Robb’s trauma and his grief.

          1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

            I’m sorry for your loss. I agree with you, this poor guy probably just wants to come to work and keep his mind occupied, and then to have someone bring it up at the place where he has a distraction from constantly thinking about it is horrible.

            1. Erin*

              I’ve suffered loss too. Not in the traumatic way, but I used work as a way to keep my mind off of my pain. This woman is just making things worse for him, and distracting him from doing his job.

          2. Plague of frogs*

            I’m so sorry for your loss.

            I can’t even read news reports about violent crimes because it takes me days or weeks to stop thinking about the victim’s last moments. Can’t imagine if it were someone I knew.

          3. Anion*

            I am so, so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain of actually dealing with that, and how strong you have to be to get through it.

          4. justcourt*

            I want to thank everyone for their support. :)

            I’m mostly okay, but I know that Arya’s comments would really upset me. I really feel for Rob and can’t fault him for his response. Nor can I fault Rob’s coworkers for “enabling” him.

        23. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Well, technically, you can discriminate against her for her beliefs on the justice system — that’s not a protected class. But beyond that, her beliefs aren’t the issue. It’s how she’s acting on them (poorly) that is.

          She’s a monster for telling the relative of a murder victim that he needs to forgive the killer and advocate for the killer’s rights. That’s pretty damn horrible.

        24. Lady Blerd*

          Add me to the list of those who thinks the prison system in the US is absolutely horrendous. But Arya is still overstepping and beyond wrong when she demands Robb to advocate for prisoners right or to forgive the perpetrator, that is his journey to take. Plus, we’re talking about a murder here not accidently hitting the future king so the level of forgiveness she’s asking for is of the highest level.

          1. Luna*

            I’d take that one step further and add that Robb gets to decide whether he even wants to go on that journey at all. I really, really dislike this idea that everyone must “forgive” anytime they have been wronged. Like, yeah it’s probably best for the wronged person to not go around feeling super angry all the time, but there is a whole lot of space between anger and forgiveness. It doesn’t have to be just one or the other.

            1. Lady Blerd*

              On that note, I feel the same when people get upset at stories of family members forgiving whomever commited a capital crime against a loved one. Some people do take the notion of forgiveness seriously and good on them if they have that in them.

              1. Luna*

                I don’t think people are upset at the family members themselves, more so at the media for feeding into this narrative that forgiveness is always better and makes the forgivers better people than those who can’t forgive. If a family member is able and willing to forgive the perpetrator, I’m not going to say good on them or anything else about the family member specifically because I have no opinion on it either way- it’s their personal choice. But I do have an opinion on the media choosing to constantly push those storylines on everyone else.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  If someone can forgive, that’s great- FOR THEM. If that is what helps them cope & get through a terrible or traumatic experience- more power to ‘em, and all that. But that doesn’t mean I think they are “better” people or “better” at grief or more evolved/mature/blah blah/BS BS.
                  I’m just happy to know it made them feel better.
                  Similarly, if screaming into the void, or writing nasty limericks, or drawing mustaches on pics of the perp, or putting a curse on them* or WHATEVER, makes them feel better? Then that’s great as well! More power to ‘em, etc.
                  Stuff like that is so personal, how can anyone think it’s OK to tell someone “UR DOIN IT WRONG”?

                  *black magic is one of many occupational hazards.

            2. Plague of frogs*

              Yes, I hate that too. I have a friend who was terribly abused by her mother when she was a child. She has wisely cut off all contact. When she tells people, they often reply that she needs to get in contact with her mom so she can “make amends” or some other stupid thing.

              And in her case she has actually forgiven her mom, but just needs distance to protect herself from abuse. But it would be fine if she chose to never forgive her also.

              1. Mandatory Fun*

                Forgiveness sometimes means that the person who had been wronged is simply choosing to let go of trying to “collect” on the debt that is owed by the person who did the wrong. Restoration of a relationship is something that might not ever happen, and whether it does or not would be a completely different matter. And it’s only the victim who gets to decide if restoration is something that is desirable.

              2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                I was actually close to my toxic relative when I was younger and they weren’t as messed up yet, which makes people get *even more* weird & sentimental with the “Forgive! Reconcile!” comments. And apparently the fact we were close 30+ years ago is supposed to magically erase all the wretched, unforgivable actions (against scores of people) he’s taken in those ensuing 30 years.
                It’s appalling that people do this. And it makes me mad, because it feels like they’re telling me that I don’t have the right to be angry, hurt, or upset that someone have done terrible things to me as well as people I love.

            3. Betsy*

              I agree. I hate the whole forgiveness brigade. I think they’re either immature enough that they need the idea of forgiveness to reconcile their beliefs that the world is actually an OK place, and to get some kind of closure, or they are trying to let the perpetrator off the hook.

              Either way, it’s bad for the victims. Some victims may choose to forgive, which is their choice– although choice is perhaps a bad way of wording it, as I believe forgiveness comes with time, if it does come at all, and isn’t necessarily something you can control. Also, I think it’s possible for people to ‘let go’ without having to forgive. You can still be angry that someone harmed you or your loved ones terribly and get on and continue with life successfully.

        25. Nita*

          She can forgive whoever she feels like forgiving. She can advocate to her heart’s desire for the release of anyone who harms her. She can, and should, get in the face of public officials who have controls over the prison system, criminal laws etc. But getting in the face of a murder victim’s relative, unsolicited, and telling them that *they* must forgive? And implying that they are somehow responsible for the fact that the murderer is in jail, or the state of prisons in general? I’m sorry, but no, decent people do not act that way.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            And I’d like to tell her- so WHAT if someone say, testified in court or provided evidence or tipped off police and helped put a violent criminal in prison? Does she think murderers, serial killers, and psychopaths should be free to walk the streets? Some people are far too dangerous to ever be allowed access to victims again. And that’s going to be true even if you reform prisons til they are golden palaces of luxury. Some people are broken in ways that can’t (as of yet) be fixed.
            Prison reform ABSOLUTELY needs to happen, but “jail/prison” as in “a place to keep people too violent for normal society away from people they can further victimize” will ALWAYS exist.

        26. Jam Today*

          But you can “discriminate” against her for being thoughtlessly and needlessly cruel to a coworker.

        27. Sylvan*

          When someone’s just lost a relative, using that as an opening to chat about your beliefs about the circumstances in which the relative died is tacky at best.

        28. Ainomiaka*

          I would say that’s true if, for example, Rob was refusing to speak to Arya about work things because he overheard her and Hotpie saying she went to a criminal justice reform meeting last weekend. But this is going beyond having beliefs to bullying Rob.

        29. Wendy Darling*

          As the immediate family member of someone who was murdered and who is actually totally on Arya’s side as far as my political beliefs, everyone who is not my partner, my therapist, or a member of my immediate family (NO AUNTS) can shut right the hell up about how they believe I should respond to my family member’s murder. It is none of their damn business. I have enough pushy aunts who don’t talk to my family hardly ever telling me how to feel. Coworkers are right out.

          Arya can hold whatever beliefs she wants about criminal justice but it is not acceptable for her to proselytize for those beliefs at work, and it is especially not acceptable for her to make someone else’s personal tragedy all about her and her politics. If she was doing this to me I would 1. be livid and 2. be making giant complaints as far up the chain as I needed to to get her to knock it off, and I agree with her. I do not believe in the death penalty, I do believe in criminal justice reform, and I still think Arya is an insensitive, outrageous jerk who needs to stop and that firing should be an option if she refuses.

        30. NotPiffany*

          As a person with a friend who was murdered over a decade ago by people who have not been arrested for it, Arya deserves a punch in the face.

          And as a person who agrees that the criminal justice system in the US needs a hell of a lot of reform, keep in mind that every time Robb hears about attempts to enact prison reform, he’s going to think about Arya telling him to “forgive” his family member’s murderer. What do you think the chances are that he’ll support said attempt? Arya’s not only a monster, she’s an idiot.

        31. biobottt*

          Beliefs are different than actions. And her actions–telling the family member of a murder victim h needed to advocate for the murderer–are monstrous.

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        Yes. OP, you’re new to management, and this is a case of you missing a trick and needing to learn from the experience. The first time Arya did this, you should have made it very clear that she should apologise and never do it again if she didn’t want to face consequences. What she did has everything ‘to do with work’ because she cruelly badgered a co-worker, unprovoked, when he was trying to stay professional and do his job. That’s interfering with his work, as well as just plain crappy. Another time, step in right away.

      4. Ex-Humanities student*

        A monster, really ? That’s a bit harsh and not really helpful.
        Misguided at least, absolutely. Over the line, sure.

        But believing that jail is an environment which fosters crime doesn’t make her a monster. But she probably should keep it to herself at work, and she should assuredly not dictate how people should spend their time or how they should feel, especially to the victim of a crime.

        I mean, Robb does seem pretty forgiving if he just avoids her. I would be livid.

        1. Forking Great Username*

          No one said that belief about jail makes her a monster. They said that the way she’s harassing Rob about forgiving and advocating for the person who murdered his family member makes her a monster. I seriously can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel if one of my loved ones was murdered and one of my co-workers kept bringing it up and making me thinking about it at work, especially in the context of telling me that I have some sort of personal responsibility to forgive the murderer and fight for their rights.

        2. Forking Great Username*

          Meant to add to this before submitting!

          But really, whether or not monster is an appropriate word to use is neither here nor there. The main thing is that OP gets that Rob is not the one whose behavior is problematic in this situation, as seems to be implied in the letter.

          1. Business Cat*

            I got that vibe as well, that OP thought Robb was the one whose response was problematic. Others are “enabling” him by talking with Arya on his behalf? Enabling him to avoid a heated confrontation in the office is the only appropriate response when your manager lets something this inappropriate slip by without reprimand.

            1. Luna*

              Yeah I thought that wording was strange too, I couldn’t figure out at first what the OP was even talking about “enabling.” It sounds to me like Robb is being smart and avoiding a situation he knows might escalate quickly into a confrontation.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Agree, “enabling” jumped out at me too. Robb is being harassed about a personal tragedy by a gone-off-the-rails coworker, and his teammates are “enabling” him by talking to her on his behalf? That’s an unfortunate choice of words, and good on the coworkers for helping Robb out.

              1. Salamander*

                Yeah. It sounds like they’re protecting him from Arya’s horrible behavior, since the boss isn’t. That’s a compassionate reaction on their part, and good on them.

              2. Foxy Hedgehog*

                Thank you. I found the OP’s decision to use the word “enabling” when the correct word would have been “helping” a bit odd. As well as OP’s rather judgmental language of Robb’s reaction (which as far as any of us know might be severe depression), describing this poor man as “going through the motions” and describing this inter-employee conflict as “Robb’s situation.”

                And yes, I know it’s best not to quibble about words, but I’m a little worried about the way that OP is letting his or her dislike of Robb show through.

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Yeah I noticed it too, and was hoping OP just picked an inappropriate word without realizing it.

            3. Wendy Darling*

              I can’t decide if it’s poor word choice or if OP thinks Robb is in the wrong, but his coworkers are just preventing him from landing in a situation where he justifiably blows up at a coworker in the middle of the office.

            4. bonkerballs*

              Yeah, this really rubbed me the wrong way in OPs letter. None of Robb’s actions seems to be in the wrong, but OP is painting him as the person that needs to be dealt with and not Arya. I 100% agree with Arya that the US prison system is a failure and needs a complete overhaul. But if I was Robb, I also would 100% have been fired by now because I would have decked her. Good on him for keeping his cool during such horrific harassment and good on the rest of his coworkers for stepping up and mitigating any further damage Arya could cause. That should be OPs job.

              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                If I was his manager, I’d fire HER for provoking him to that point. I’d consider it unfortunate, but justified.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I was pondering “enable” which raised my hackles on first read, but this is a time when “enabling” is the correct action of compassionate people. Like stepping up to run interference when you know one of the parents on the T-ball committee is dealing with a dying family member, and so someone else should listen to Cersei’s rant about the orange schedule. Sometimes we’re near the end of our reserves, and compassionate people step up to give us a little breathing room. Done occasionally and spread evenly, that’s social lubricant, not disfunction.

        3. Earth Angel*

          Her beliefs do not make her a monster, no. But her lack of compassion, awareness, empathy, understanding and most of all her behaviour does.

          Robb may or may not be forgiving. It’s also possible he is so hurt, scared, upset or traumatised by her behaviour that he has totally shut down and is unable to function around her, hence the avoidance. We don’t know, and it is not really helpful to speculate on how he feels.

        4. Giant teapot*

          Yes, really. She’s traumatizing him again. She’s causing him more pain just because she thinks her beliefs are more important than his trauma. And it doesn’t matter that prison breeds more crime when it comes to life sentences without parole – the murderer is never getting out and can’t commit another crime, so it doesn’t matter in this case.

        5. Chalupa Batman*

          Yes, Robb is showing some serious restraint and class at this point. Frankly, if Robb is like most people I know, the distance from Arya is probably at least partially to prevent him from saying something he thinks he might regret when she starts in on her forgiveness spiel on the wrong day. Being a decent human is reason enough to tell Arya to knock it off, but objectively speaking, allowing her to continue poking the bear could have some nasty consequences that impact work ranging from Robb walking out all the way up to a breakroom brawl, so it makes sense for OP to be invested in shutting this down before it reaches critical mass.

        6. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Ok, then she’s monstrously vile, insensitive, foul, thoughtless, disgusting, uncaring, sick, selfish, rotten, self-centered, soulless, and narcissistic to an extreme.

          Because WHO the HELL with an ounce of compassion or sense would insist that a victim/survivor of VIOLENT CRIME must forgive the perpetrator and work that improve the conditions of his imprisonment? (Implied “if you don’t, you’re a bad person!)

          I have dealt with the pressure to “forgive/reconcile” with a toxic relative I have been estranged from for years, and it’s *infuriating*. They might as well be saying “your feelings don’t matter, and you don’t have a right to be angry at the perp who has hurt you and your loved ones. Follow the accepted Social Script, or you are a Bad Person- even worse than the criminal who hurt you!”

          If someone did that to me over my friend that had been murdered? They’d be lucky to not get their nose broken.

    2. LouiseM*

      +1. I’d worry about what other boundaries Arya might be overstepping in the office. This is messed up, OP, and I feel just terrible for Robb.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is a great point. A conversation about boundaries is probably appropriate.

        1. Whoa*

          So true. If she doesn’t have an issue with this sort of behavior and she’s still new? Imagine how much worse it can (and likely will) get as time goes on and she becomes more comfortable.

    3. RoadsLady*

      Arya has every right to her social views on the matter, but to force them at someone like Robb is beyond tactless.

      I would hate for that sort of monologue with those factors in my workplace.

    4. Kali*

      The way the letter’s written, it reminds me a lot of that one about the doctor’s wife who told someone off for an inappropriate comment. Although the letter writer knew that the commenter was in the wrong, her concern was still “How do I make the injured party play nice, so everyone gets along?”.

      1. Nea*

        Yes, I’m deeply troubled by the word “enabled” when it comes to co-workers running interference between Robb and someone who is, let us be blunt, adding to his grief. The coworkers aren’t “enabling” bad behavior on Robb’s part, they’re protecting him from harassment from someone way, way, out of line.

        1. CMart*

          I took it as a value-neutral term. Perhaps “allowed” would have been better. People for sure use “enabled” in positive, not-codependent ways all the time. “My wife’s job pays her enough that it enables me to stay home with the kids”, or “My employer offers very generous PTO which enables me to take several international vacations a year”.

      2. Lara*

        Isn’t it a weird quirk of our society? When the problem isn’t that X did / said something terrible, it’s that Y won’t ‘get over it’ and make everyone else feel comfortable again (including X).

        1. Jesca*

          Yes. It like how bullies are always referred to in some vague plural form while the focus is left on the victim. “Bullies tormented Jane out of work”. Bullies are not just some nameless being; they are literally people out there behaving horribly to other people! But, by everyone always making it about the victim, it then becomes all about how the victim should “have the strength to move past it and rise above like some mythical rising phoenix and then be much better for it in the end anyway because we all grow from suffering … yep”. The reality is, bullies have faces and names and do really awful things and create tons of issues within society. Let’s start focusing on telling victims that it was wrong and reprimanding bullies.

          1. Julia*

            I would love it if we could do that. It just seems like a solitary enterprise most of the times.

        2. Amber T*

          Captain Awkward talks a lot about that. Bullies (and general a-holes) are unreasonable, whereas victims, assuming they take it and don’t snap, are reasonable. So when dealing with conflict, who is it easier to work with, the unreasonable one or the reasonable one?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Heh – you read yesterdays, then, I take it?

            ‘Why do they keep asking *me* to be nice to my brother who did an awful thing, and how do I shut them down quickly?’

            ‘Because you are not a total jerk. Shut them down by reacting in a natural way to this upsetting request. Get upset.’

            Love CA.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            This makes me SO glad that I am the kind of person who literally cannot keep my mouth shut when I see this shit going on. And I do mean “literally” because my ADHD means if I get riled up by injustice, my mouth will open and words will come out before my brain is aware that I have begun to speak.
            And I’m actually glad about that, because I would rather risk getting written up or even losing my job than stand by silently out of fear or to “go along to get along”.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Oh, good example.

        OP, your problem isn’t Rob, who keeps his professional and private life separate, nor his coworkers, who try to give him some space from the flaming boundary stomper you hired. It’s Arya.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I kind of want to hug the other co-workers who are helping Rob – sounds like they’re making it more possible for him to deal with this.

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It reminded me of the letter about Jan who sent around photos of her coworker’s colostomy bag. He refused to work with her because she did a horrible thing, and the letter seemed rather equivocal between whether her violation was worse than his refusing to work with her.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh yeah, and they had first stalked the co-worker outside of work to get that picture (porch IIRC) and then spread around that picture to embarrass them. And the OP was still like, well that’s about equally bad, right?

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*


            Bad enough they don’t realize the seriousness of the rest of this jerk’s antics, but how do they look at STALKING as NBD??!!!

        2. smoke tree*

          That’s kind of the sense I get from this letter too–it sounds like the LW is trying to be impartial, maybe because she isn’t sure whether it’s her place to intervene here.

      5. 5 Leaf Clover*

        Yes, I’m glad someone said this – the writer seems concerned more about Rob’s behavior, which is totally appropriate, than Arya’s, which is completely out of line. OP’s main concern should be protecting Rob from further injury.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I could understand being all torn up about who’s in the wrong if Robb had punched Arya in the nose or threatened her or something, but he’s just… avoiding her really hard because she’s a jerk to him. I’m not sure why there are any problems here other than “Arya is being an unbelievably massive jerk”.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I would still find HER on the wrong for continuing to provoke him on such a personal, painful subject.

            But I also would have shut her down IMMEDIATELY, and with consequences. Instant write up, no warning.

      6. JS*

        I thinks its valid. I think people tend to have sympathy for others who are the victims but no one appreciates someone who draws out an issue or makes it necessarily difficult to move forward. There’s no reason why Robb needs to socialize with Ayra beyond basic job functions and courtesies, however there can’t be a witchhunt by the rest of the staff after Ayra either. You don’t have to like someone but you need to at least maintain a professional working relationship to get your job done in a pleasant manner.

        1. Kay*

          If there is some kind of witch-hunting behavior going on I agree that OP#1 needs to step in. But OP mentioned that everyone is being professional, Robb and everyone else are not being hostile at Arya and neither Robb, Arya or anyone else has complained about anything. So there isn’t any witch-hunt that Arya needs protecting from right now.

          1. JS*

            OP also said “Other employees are enabling Robb by dealing with Arya on his behalf.” “Enabling” and “dealing with on behalf” are strong choices of words here. It’s one thing to say other people are helping keep space between them by being mediators, it’s another thing to say “enable” which means people are encouraging Robb to have nothing to do with Arya as well as “dealing with on behalf” which comes off as people being openly biased towards Arya in favor Robb.

            1. Kay*

              They are shielding Robb from the person who made intrusive, uncalled for and inappropriate comments to him. Arya is not being treated with hostility. No one is bullying her or being unprofessional. Actions have consequences and Robb not wanting to be around her and people helping him with that are the consequences. She was unprofessional and inappropriate to Robb but none of that is being done to her. Robb is fortunate to have such caring coworkers. OP comes off as being biased against Robb. If people were being hostile to Arya it would be unacceptable. But considering how she acted everyone else is behaving way better than she is.

              1. JS*

                Dealing with or shielding after a certain point becomes passive aggressive. Passive aggressiveness can be hostile as well as unprofessional. It is unclear the extent others need to step in and it really shouldnt have to be much at all. Even Alison said “I don’t know how big a deal it is that other people have to deal with Arya on his behalf, and that’s very relevant here.” It’s more disruptive and a bigger of an issue if the whole office dynamic is thrown off by everyone needing to be alert to keep Ayra away from Robb then if it were two coworkers who keep their distance and Robb having a designated mediator for when he needed something from Arya.

                1. JS*

                  Again, none of this is Robbs fault (he seems to be the type to want to be over with it and non confrontational), this is more of how the coworkers are handling it and the overall office dynamic now.

                2. Totally Minnie*

                  I don’t agree. If Arya’s never apologized or stopped her behavior, Robb and the rest of their coworkers have no way of knowing whether she’s going to bring up the topic again. The very first thing OP needs to do is make sure Arya knows that this topic is 100% off the table in the workplace. Step two can be talking to Robb and the rest of the coworkers about getting everything back to a proper, professional working relationship. But if I were Robb’s coworker and I didn’t know whether or not Arya was going to say something massively hurtful to him, I’d run interference too.

                3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  I’d be much more concerned about protecting the victim of Arya’s blatant, overt, obvious aggression than in protecting her against any *possible*, maybe, sorta if you squint P-A she may be experiencing as the natural result of being a giant clueless asshole.

                4. JS*

                  @Totally and Iforgot – if its gotten to that point then its time for management and HR to step again. Again, going back to my point that this is not something coworkers need to be handling, there is no scenario that makes it OK for that its an HR nightmare waiting to happen. (Also, its not the case in this situation but coworkers could be hurting Robb if it was a witchhunt on Arya and upper management perceived Robb to be orchestrating it even though he had nothing to do with ppl doing it on his behalf. This is just another reason why coworkers need to stay out of it).

              2. JS*

                @Totally – your well meaning intention of running interference might cause more harm than good. It is not any employees job to run interference. That is what HR is for. That is what management is for. This needs to be handled by management if its at the point they cant work together and it takes a group effort to mediate.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Well management has already screwed the pooch on this one, thank Dog this guy has coworkers that care enough to protect him from this jerk.

                2. JS*

                  @iforget – OP said they are a new manager and the other managers dont work at that branch so upper management hasnt been alerted to the situation and OP is wondering whether they should step in. This needed to be handled by management much sooner or escalated if OP felt they were in over their heads in dealing with this. Management hasnt had the chance to address this.

                3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  From the letter there’s no way to tell how long this has been going on, if it started before or after OP started as a manager, or even how they found out at all.

                  What we do know is that, at some point, OP found this out, and *didn’t do anything*. They let it go, and it’s been an ongoing problem under OPs watch. And even still, OP can’t figure out what to do, and maybe thinks this is “Robb’s personal issue”, instead of putting their foot down HARD on what is very clearly one employee acting wildly inappropriately and actually bullying/abusing someone who is the collateral victim of a violent crime. A crime, I might add, that affected him SO severely that his entire personality changed. (And did this happen while OP was manager? If so, OP’s inaction here is both appalling and inexcusable.)

                  I think it’s pretty obvious to Robb’s coworkers that OP has dropped the ball, so why would they bring it up when they can see (or assume) nothing is going to be done?

                  As for why it hasn’t been escalated, I can’t say. Maybe Robb doesn’t want to draw any more attention to himself, or want to bring up something he already doesn’t talk about at work to people who may not know, or it’s just to painful for him to even deal with. Maybe coworkers have tried but HR won’t look into unless Robb himself complains. We read about bad management and useless HR in here all the time, so I don’t know why it would seem surprising or weird that employees are trying to handle this themselves. And once again, good on them. They have more sense and empathy their fingernail slivers than OP does in their entire body.

                4. JS*

                  @iforget – You are assuming a lot. We are missing a lot of details for most of what you just said to be the case. We honestly don’t know if this work place has good or bad management. Not one coworker has went to OP either for what we know for whatever reason which isnt necessarily indicative of OP being a bad manager. I would give OP the benefit of the doubt they are a good manager (or trying to be) because they know this situation likely needs to be dealt with they are just out of their depth and wrote in.

                  Regardless if Robb wants it, if the entire office or more than one coworker is going out of their way so he can avoid Arya, HR needs to be involved and quickly. Far too many legal implications and black holes if this escalates. The other coworkers mediation could be twisited into targeted harassment if Arya decided to laywer up, regardless of what she said to Robb. I am not saying HR will be able to resolve or will care, etc, but all the proper channels need to be went through before coworkers start acting like Lord of the Flies.

            2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              And??? Id encourage him to have nothing to do with her too. Why should he? Why should she have more chances to hurt him?

              1. JS*

                Because they work together. If he decides he can no longer work with her well he needs to alert management so it can be addressed. Its one thing if he is going to another coworker in a department for things instead of Arya and this doesn’t effect anyone’s job but if they have to interact and other coworkers are going out of their way/job description to keep them apart then its a problem.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Robb sounds like he just wants to avoid talking about the subject entirely. I don’t blame him. And since OP says the work is getting done, it doesn’t sound like he *can no longer work with her*, but that he’s avoiding her to get away from her harassment, and that coworkers are helping to shield him from her. OP clearly states that NO ONE has been hostile to Arya, so I don’t see a problem with people either keeping her away from somebody she enjoys harming, or having no interaction with her themselves other than what is politely necessary to conduct business. She’s reaping what she’s sown.

                  And I will argue that since management has been aware of this situation for some unknown amount of time, it is *management’s* responsibility to do what is needed to fix it. That’s their JOB- it says so right in the title. OP needs to actually MANAGE to situation *yesterday* because their inaction looks like tacit approval to everyone else and it’s going to poison the relationship they have with every employee there (if it hasn’t alread.)
                  Not a good look for a brand new manager.

                2. JS*

                  -Work is still getting done but is it getting done at the cost of inefficiency? Thats the problem. We dont know that.
                  -Hostility and passive aggressiveness are two different behaviors and it is much easier to get away with PA. Theres no likely way they are shielding Robb from Arya in a non passive aggressive way or non toxic way if she has to have regular communication with him. Its just not possible.
                  -OP is a new manager, cut them a break.

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          There is NO WAY I could be anything but the barest acceptabile minimum of “work polite” to someone who treated one of my co-workers so hideously…even if I didn’t actually like the coworker who was mistreated. And that’s not a “witch hunt”, it’s my basic inability to tolerate assholes who treat others like dirt.
          And if I was the manager? That’s all the most I would expect from her coworkers as well. Why would I try and force them to be “nice” to someone who’s shown themselves to be morally bankrupt? Nope, she earned their emnity fair and square. Basic politeness is all she gets, and that ONLY because it’s a work environment. If their rude to her on their own time, tough shite. Must suck when you make people dislike you so much.
          Of course, I would have written her up on the first offense and fired her on the second. I have ZERO tolerance for this kind of behavior- how dare ANYONE treat their fellow human beings so callously?

      7. serenity*

        I remember that one. And it wasn’t just an inappropriate comment – it was a racist one.

    5. JS*

      I think in order for their to be a punishment or write up I would like to know whether she gave this advice unprompted. It seems super odd and intrusive for her to hear about Robb’s situation and go up to him multiple times to say how he should feel and what he should do. It’s so ridiculously bizarre. I wonder if someone else in the office started the conversation, or brought it up to Robb and she jumped in from there. Not that she should have inserted her opinion regardless but at least it explains why the subject was brought up and she just isn’t a busy body brown noser with zero social skills. I actually agree with her but I would never tell someone how they should feel.

      1. Marie B.*

        OP was clear in their letter that Robb doesn’t talk about the murder or his views on the justice system at work and just wants to be left alone. How ever Arya found out, her talking to Robb (more than once) was unprompted and she needs to face consequences for it.

        1. JS*

          We don’t know its unprompted. We know Robb doesn’t talk about it so she didn’t find out from him. That doesn’t mean another coworker didn’t bring up the issue to Robb or someone saw a news article about justice system which prompted a water cooler discussion. We werent given much detail as to why or how Arya brought it up. OP doesnt know, for all anyone knows people could be talking about it in the office behind Robbs back. Either way Arya is still wrong but in terms of punishment I think a person who came out of the blue, cold and brought it up to Robb signals them being problematic in more areas then two people with strong views who had a disagreement.

          1. Marcel*

            It was unprompted by Robb. He doesn’t talk about it at work. It doesn’t matter if the rest of Robb’s coworkers had a meeting about it with Arya present.

            She brought it up to Robb first. He never talks about it and she got right into his personal business and told him more than one time.

            1. JS*

              It’s unprompted by Robb but that doesn’t mean Arya prompted the conversation she may have just joined it if another coworker brought it up, that’s my point. Note I am only making this point in regards to what kind of punishment she should receive.

              1. Marcel*

                Arya is bringing Robb into the conversation though. She isn’t talking about Robb, she is talking to him. Regardless of what others are doing she is the one who is bringing Robb into something he wants nothing to do with.

                1. JS*

                  Yes but if Robb is present in the area when it is brought up and Arya then says something is different and should be punished differently than if she heard about it and strolled up to his desk to tell him what he should do with his life.

                2. JS*

                  My point is if Robb is in the general area within earshot and it is brought up (even if he isnt participating) that could be seen as an invitation to approach him on it. It’s different than if that wasn’t the case. I am merely speaking on how one punishment should be more severe than the other, not that she was right to do it.

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  @JS, the OP was pretty clear that Arya said these things TO Robb, not just when he was in earshot. And I don’t care if other people were talking about prison reform in the area. Arya had absolutely ZERO right to say “Robb, I know your family member was murdered, but you should forgive the murderer because prison is bad.” It was an overstep, it was hurtful, and she should be spoken to about it.

                4. JS*

                  @Totally – Please read through the entire thread. I am not talking about whether or not Arya was right to say something to him or debating if she said something directly to him.

          2. Kay*

            The issue is not Arya talking about it to just anyone but that she personally talked to Robb about it. Even if others were talking about it, Robb himself was not. Arya should not have brought it up to him. Period.

            1. JS*

              That’s not the point. We are discussing punishment here. I think its an important distinction if she is going out of her way to bother Robb about it and bring it up versus a conversation she joined in with coworkers and said something to them then. I, like Robb dont talk about personal business much so I think its completely plausible for coworkers to hear something have a conversation about it with Robb there, without his participation and Arya take him being there as an invite to talk about it.

              1. Marie B.*

                The OP says Arya talked to Robb directly more than one one time. Even if other people were talking about the murder, Arya should not have then turned to Robb and started lecturing him on forgiveness. It’s clear thst whether others are bringing it up, Robb is not. Arya wasn’t just saying Robb needs to forgive as a general statement. She said it directly to him. More than one time.

                1. JS*

                  Again I am talking about punishment, not if whether or not she should have brought it up. She shouldn’t have. In terms of punishment its important to know whether it was a group convo, that she then took too far or her going up to Rob unprompted which could consistent harassment on the issue.

              2. Kay*

                No matter who is starting the conversationArya is talking TO Robb. If others are discussing it as you say, They are only talking ABOUT Robb. There is a huge difference there.

                1. JS*

                  My point is if Robb is in the general area within earshot and it is brought up (even if he isnt participating) that could be seen as an invitation to approach him on it. It’s different than if that wasn’t the case. I am merely speaking on how one punishment should be more severe than the other, not that she was right to do it.

                2. Marie B.*

                  Coworker (to Arya and/or the group:
                  It is so sad. Today is the anniversary of Robb’s loved ones death.

                  Arya (calling to Robb who is not involved in the conversation): Hey Robb you know the guy who killed your family member and destroyed your life? You really need to forgive and absolve him and work hard to improve his life and his rights.

                  Nope. Doesn’t change a think or make the sitauation one iota. There are no mitigating factors or anything that makes her actions less terrible. Especially when Robb had to start avoiding her so she would leave him alone.

                3. JS*

                  Marie B, thats facetious lmao. Convo could have started talking about the anniversary most likely divulged into talking about the court case, punishment, etc. I have actually seen coworkers have water cooler arguments over capital punishment and prison reform so its also a highly sensitive subject (and no one’s family was in prison nor murdered). Otherwise how would Arya know that Robb didn’t forgive the murder? There was likely a lot more context to the conversation if it played out in this scenario.

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Nope, I’m sorry, it doesn’t change things a bit.

                Why would a new employee think they had any right to purposely bring up such a sensitive subject with someone who they barely know, who has not disclosed it to that person on their own?
                If you just started somewhere, and heard that Fergus lost his mother in a tragic drive by llama-ing, but never talked about it at work because it traumatized him, would you trot up to him the next time people were talking about Ranch Reform and opine that he needs to forgive the camelid that killed his mother, because ranches are horrible inhumane places where all those poor murderous llamas and alpacas suffer every day of their lives?
                And if you would, WTF is wrong with you?
                Even if she was just socially clueless her behavior was egregious enough to deserve being written up immediately the first time.
                That she’s done this multiple times is unforgivable. That’s not cluelessness, that’s malice. She should have already been fired over this. There should be ZERO tolerance for this kind off bullying.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Punishment is EXACTLY the same whether she was a socially clueless git who massively overstepped someone’s boundaries, a malicious creep who enjoys emotionally torturing people, or a misguided zealot with an agenda.

                  Why on earth wouldn’t it be? This isn’t some minor faux pas of social manners that can be mitigated by an apology and a plea of ignorance, this is a MASSIVE intrusion into someone’s personal life. I would side eye the HELL out of anyone who tried to claim that it was perfectly innocent and understandable get her to ask that, even in the scenario you keep claiming “could have happened”. So WHAT if she didn’t “know that Robb didn’t forgive the murder”? How is that any of her business whatsoever? Or anyone else’s- at all? There is NO excuse that would make this less hurtful to Robb!

                  And that only applies to the FIRST time she pulled this stunt. As soon as she did t the second time, any claims of ignorance go flying straight into the incinerator. Because at that point SHE KNEW he to leave it alone, and didn’t. And OP should have been handing her a damn pink slip.

          3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I don’t know why you are picking nits so hard to try and reduce Arya’s responsibility for her own actions. OP made it extremely clear what the situation was, and that Arya has been pushing this all the way. And even if we give her all the benefit of the doubt, that *might* excuse her doing it ONCE (and even then it would still be so far over the line that she went all the way around and crossed it again.) To continue to approach him again and again about a sensitive personal issue that he obviously does not wish to discuss takes it into another dimension.
            And if his coworkers are all gossiping about his trauma behind his back? They are all a bunch of assholes too, and THAT needs to be shut down immediately as well. It doesn’t make Arya’s behavior any more excusable or less deserving of immediate disciplinary measures.

            1. JS*

              I don’t know why you are focusing on Arya’s responsibility and not the fact that I said depending on how the scenario played out her punishment should be more or less severe. That’s why I am getting into the nitty gritty, cause someone brought up write ups. This is all in the context of that and I have said that from the beginning lmao. I think that if it played out similar to Wendy’s comment below that’s just grounds for outright firing versus if it was something the whole office was gossiping about that Arya pulled Robb into (which honestly is much more likely because I have not seen a corporate environment in tech, media nor advertising that this wouldnt be all anyone would talk about behind closed doors those industries are a bunch of gossips).

              1. Marcel*

                Arya did this more than one time. How do you imagine it would have happened if not like what Marie B. said? If others were talking about it without Robb being part of the conversation than how did she bring the topic up? How did she think that Robb not ever talking about it and keeping to himself meant it was okay to bring up several times? How did she not get the hint when Robb stopped interacting with her? She was wrong and I don’t see why you feel the need to mitigate her actions. She talked to Robb when it was clear he wanted np involvement. More than one time. She is a jerk with no sense of boundaries

              2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Because INTENT ISNT MAGIC and NO MATTER WHAT HER REASONS for doing it were/are, or how many other people gossip around her, she entirely 100% responsibile both for the actions she CHOOSES to take, and the consequences that occur as a result of them.

                Did these gossiping coworkers hold a gun to her head, make threats, or coerce her into bringing it up with Robb? No? Then why why to deflect blame their way, or suggest she doesn’t deserve as much punishment for harmful actions that she herself chose to do?
                If she had gone up and slapped him in the face, would it make her less deserving of disciplinary measures if she had just heard her coworkers discussing slapping people/slapping Robb?

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                And how does what you, personally, have seen in some of the work environments you’ve been in have ANYTHING to do with this? Not all workplaces are toxic!

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Having a murdered family member, I can tell you that people feel weirdly empowered to tell me their thoughts on the issue, how they think I should feel/respond, and urge me to do things they feel are appropriate. Even people who I didn’t think of as busybodies felt the need to seek me out and say genuinely horrible things to me. Highlights include an acquaintance who heard what happened and contacted me to tell me she watched a lot of CSI so I should tell her all the details so she could solve the murder, and people who informed me that the murdered immediate family member and I weren’t that close so it wasn’t a big deal. Multiple people in my social circle turned out to be unsolved-mysteries buffs and pumped me for details of the investigation for entertainment purposes.

        I find it 100% plausible that someone mentioned Robb’s situation in passing and Arya went to town, because it has been done to me approximately two million times.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I try to make the best of it — like, if someone is that big a jerk I may as well know sooner rather than later. Also I’m a lot of years out from the actual event so the trauma is well healed over and I’m able to be pretty matter of fact about things. I feel like having that kind of tragedy in your life shows you the full spectrum of humanity — you get to see how amazingly kind and empathetic some people in your life are, and you discover that some people you didn’t expect are kinda jerks.

            It makes me really frustrated when people are like that to other people though, because I can let it roll off me and just file that person under “asshole” but other people in my family are not able to detach as much and it really upsets them.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I spent a lot of time the first year after yelling “WERE THESE PEOPLE RAISED BY WOLVES?”

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          My jaw just dropped to the center of the earth.

          I am SO SO SO sorry you had to deal with any of that.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            The best thing about the really outrageous stuff was that it was so outrageous I was too shocked to be hurt. I was too busy being like “You actually said that! You actually thought those words and then they left your mouth! That’s amazingly awful! You’re awful! Holy crap!”

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Ahhh yes, I know that well. And with it is always the glorious moment of realization that you never have to take anything that person says seriously ever again.

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #4, that would be a dealbreaker for me regardless of how fabulous the position. But the fact that it is a restaurant means that you can probably find another job at least as good with relative ease. The additional fact that this is a second job means you can probably easy walk away now. Please do it; don’t risk your life.

    1. AMPG*

      I was coming to say the same thing. Good restaurant employees are hard to come by, and if you’re one of them you’ll have no trouble finding something else. You don’t need to fight this battle.

      1. OP 4*

        Yeah that’s what everyone in my life has been telling me (and what I’ve been reluctantly telling myself). This is just one part of a MUCH greater issue with this place. One woman was fired because she raised a question about the parking issue, but really we think it was because she accused the Regional Manager of sexual harassment.

        The reason I have yet to leave is that I’ve been there a year and a half (and am the most senior of nearly all employees at this point) and I used to LOVE working there. In the past 6 or 7 months, we’ve hired a new regional manager (who is horrendous!!) and all three of our old managers were fired. So we’re working with a completely new crop of management. The RM is the real issue. Under his leadership, the restaurant has lost/fired collectively 25 years of loyalty to the company. It’s insane!

        1. OhBehave*

          The fact that you’re carrying cash (tips) with you to your car is a deal breaker. You describe some areas as sketchy. I would be afraid that one of these days someone gets the idea that, “Hey – she’s a server – I bet she has cash.”. I certainly don’t wish this upon you, but it can happen. My guess is that you can find a new 2nd job with better management. It is not unreasonable to request safe parking areas for employees.

        2. Aphrodite*

          You can’t fix it, and the old way, when you loved working there, will never come back. Get out now for your own sake and safety.

        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Your management has just shown you how little you mean to them. If they aren’t going to look out for you, then you need to look out for you.

          Treat this job like a crappy boyfriend and DTMFA

  4. Emily Spinach*

    #4: I love Alison’s suggestion to unionize and negotiate parking! Though that’s a longer-term kind of plan than you might need.

    In the near-term, could a buddy system be implemented for walks to the parking area? You could drive your buddy back if their shift isn’t actually over.

    1. LouiseM*

      I loved it too! Collective bargaining can be such a powerful tool for workers in situations like this. (Sadly, in my hometown there have been a few high-profile stories about restaurant/coffee shop owners shutting down unionization attempts in really ugly and probably illegal ways, but that doesn’t necessarily mean OP shouldn’t try it)

    2. Wintermute*

      I agree. Food workers are one of the most-abused class of workers in America, they routinely face illegal paycheck deductions, illegal hour shorting and manipulation, complete disregard for the minimum wage, improper hourly classification (guess what employers, if they’re not waiting tables you don’t get to use the alternative minimum wage! so if you want them to clean, clock them out and clock them back in at a legal wage!), impermissible uniform deductions…

      and on top of that there’s the rampant abuse of authority among restaurant management, the sexual harassment, the hostile workplaces…

      Food workers need to start unionizing.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yup. I never worked in a real kitchen, but did a sub shop in college, and a little bit of fast food at an amusement park. I have a huge scar on my arm from burning it with a hot bread tray (and I was wearing more PPE than anyone else did working on the bread, and got made fun of for that, but it didn’t reach all the way up my arm where I got burnt), and scars from oil splash from the deep fryer.

          Both times the responses were pretty much, “shove some of the goo from the first aid kit on it if you want, and then get back to work”.

      1. Chalupa Batman*

        I’d love to see fast food workers automatically join a union upon hiring like in some other professions. They take advantage of people who are either too inexperienced to advocate for themselves or who need the job bad enough that they won’t. My son got his hours massively cut after reporting a burn. He doesn’t want to quit right now so I kept my mouth shut, but it was all I could do not to go full mama bear when my child (he’s under 18) told me they don’t have an incident report process. I don’t believe for one second that a national chain restaurant doesn’t have a policy for reporting injuries, but my guess is that if I started asking about it, my kid would be out of the job.

      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        It just floors me that restaurants are allowed to pay workers less than minimum wage, and also that tips are counted as “income” at all.

        They should be making standard wages from the get go (if not more, that work is HARD), and tips considered a gift from customer to server and not counted as income at all.
        Wouldn’t it be nice if we could give tips as we saw fit for good or bad service, instead of feeling guilted into leaving X% always because you know the workers don’t get paid jack?
        (Note: I tip average-good servers as generously as I can afford, and mediocre servers get 20%. Not a cheap jerk, just would like people to get properly compensated so they don’t have to depend on tips to survive.)

    3. Lynca*

      My first thought was what about a buddy system or everyone walk together, if nothing changes. That’s what we did when I worked retail since the parking lot was extremely dark and we had to park all the way in the back.

    4. Night Worker*

      My idea is that they go get their cars before the shift is actually over and move them to their own lot, without the tip money on them. When I worked nights I would go get my car from a distant spot and move it closer to the front door.

      1. Bea*

        With or without the actual money, you risk being mugged. It’s about the time and darkness, they would need to move their cars before closing and everyone abandoning the area.

    5. PersephoneUnderground*

      Me too! In industries known for big power imbalances between workers and owners like the service industry unions are very important. Reminds me of the book “Heads in Beds” about working in hotels, which ends up illiustrating how very important unions can be as a byproduct of the author’s personal story. His hotel unionized when a coworker who had a personal concern got one started (he wasn’t even sure about signing the document to unionize, but his coworker was sure she’d be fired over a personal concern like illness or pregnancy iirc if she didn’t get a union started, so convinced him it was worth the risk) and later that union saved his own job. It’s a good read and really funny if you have time for a quick novel.

      Similarly, I’m pretty sure if I had had a union when I worked as a hostess, I would have been allowed to perch on a stool at the host stand *when I had my ankle in a walking cast* instead of being told it would look unprofessional or bad to the guests and told I needed to stand or call out for the day. (The management’s assumption was the guests would see the stool but might not see the walking cast unless I came out from behind the stand so it might “look bad”, and they said it was ok because they’d done the same in a similar situation to another employee- no, it just means you were awful to her too!) So I stood on it as much as possible and made my recovery take twice as long because I was using it too much according to the doctor I saw when it wasn’t healing….

      1. Kate 2*

        When I was in retail I had the same situation with one coworker. No paid time off, paid so little he couldn’t take time off, had to walk on his cast a lot, took twice as long to recover. Had two pregnant coworkers, one high risk, even though their jobs were like yours (standing in one place behind a podium) but for 8 hours straight, never leaving, they were not allowed to sit, ever. 8 hours a day, 9 months pregnant, 1 a high risk pregnancy. Because reasons.

        1. Lindsay J*

          That’s one of the things I really like when I’m shopping at Aldi – they let their cashiers have stools to sit on while they are ringing people up.

          After coming home with sore feet and legs from standing for 12 hour retail days, I know it’s the little things like that that make a difference. And they don’t hurt customers either or customer service, either. A hostess or a cashier or a bank teller can do their job just as well sitting on a seat of the appropriate height as they can while being forced to stand, and only the crazy customers not worth catering to would think, “gee, they’re not standing anticipating me coming in.” or “Omg, I had to wait a fraction of a second for them to stand up to lead me to my table. I’m never coming here again.” Like, that’s some Disney villain level disregard for other people’s humanity to need the people helping you to be standing every moment of their shift.

          1. PizzaDog*

            Aldi is a European company right? Glad they brought that over. In Italy, all grocery store cashiers can stay seated.

      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        And this is the kind of situation where I’d be out of a job* because id look at him, say nothing, and get the damn stool anyway. My health is more important than some manager’s petty power trip.

        *But you can be damn sure I would push this all the way up the chain, mentioning ADA all the way.

    6. Wheezy Weasel*

      I might be reaching a bit here, but is there a chance that this is a decision by local restaurant management that wouldn’t be backed up by a corporate/chain leadership? for instance, I can see a safety tip line posted on the wall of my local fast food restaurant from the drive thru lane. That number is answered by the corporate office so employees can let the leadership know of any safety violations happening that aren’t being addressed by local management.

      As others have said, restaurant work has huge power imbalances. I can imagine a general manager saying ‘save this space for customers’ where the regional manager would be able to see that it’s a huge liability for the staff to park offsite. There’s a chance it would be overruled.

      1. OP 4*

        We have a “regional manager” but it’s a small restaurant company with only two locations. And the RM is the source of all our problems! Ugh.

    7. OP 4*

      I love the idea too, but I’m quite certain it wouldn’t fly here. Plus, I am the only one who stands up to the RM about issues, and have kind of turned into a spokesperson for the servers, so he already has a target on my back.

      1. CMart*

        At every restaurant I ever worked at, it was policy that we use the buddy system when leaving a shift–and we parked in our well-lit suburban parking lot dedicated to the restaurants! Even when I worked in a major city and a lot of people took public transit instead, it was store policy that we could not walk out the door in our uniform or have our aprons visible, and we still needed to leave with a buddy. It’s just too big of a “rob me!” flag.

        It’s incredible to me that this isn’t policy (though perhaps an oft ignored one in safer areas, especially in daylight hours) at every restaurant ever.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        You should get a better job. The risk to your safety and all the trouble you’re going to are not worth it for a second job with bad management. :p

  5. LouiseM*

    OP#4, I was in similar less-than-ideal transit situation when I lived in a large city (and I am also a petite woman). One tip I have for you is to make friends with the gas station employees. Stop in for a coffee or just to buy a donut or a pack of gum. If you smoke, buy your cigarettes there; if not, a newspaper could serve the same purpose. Make sure they know your face and name. Knowing people in the neighborhood will make that sketchy gas station seem a lot less sketchy. That’s one thing that will put a bandaid on the womb. That said, I agree, this situation is unacceptable and your workplace needs to change it. Alison’s advice about pushing back as a group has served me well in the past.

    1. Delta Delta*

      This is a good idea. If the people working at the gas station know the restaurant people, they may be apt to keep an eye out for you all as you walk past to get to your cars.

      1. Renamis*

        It depends on the type of sketchy. I have a gas station I drive by going home that’s sketchy. It quite literally has 5 homeless people living in the car wash, and while waiting at a stoplight (on two different days) I’ve seen a drug deal go down and a guy shoot up. That’s not the kind of place I’d walk into with 100 bucks, because you know the employees and owners are cool with it all. If it just has sketchy cars or such pulling in, and it’s run down? That’s a great idea. But it still can depend.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Agreed about it depending on the type of sketchy. I’ve been around places where the last thing I want is people knowing my face, my name, and my comings and goings. It also makes you easier to notice, which may not be exactly what you want.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            And in a sketchy area, the gas station employees might well be sketchy too, or friendly with all the local sketchys that buy cigs or whatever there.
            (<—Has lived in some simply marvelous areas.)

    2. Laura H*

      That’ll be helpful! I do the same thing near where I work- it helps me know the area. Maybe also frequent the strip area where you have to park as well- it won’t exactly help with any legal/ parking issues in the customers only sense. BUT it might help you feel not as bad about having to park there. Good luck.

    3. Thlayli*

      Other ideas that may or may not help:

      If your employers won’t make good on the promise to drive you to your cars, club together with other workers and get a cab to the car park.

      take up a martial art or do some good self defence classes. Lots of affordable martial arts out there – schools that don’t require you to pay for the whole season and a uniform in advance.

      Get a motorbike or moped which will enable you to park closer.

      1. Scott*

        The cab drivers will learn very quickly to not pick up from that location at that time for such a short ride.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          Eh. Short trips are why there’s a minimum for a flag drop. If they tip alright and there’s a cabbie who’s regular territory contains the location they might end up with a regular driver keen for the easy couple bucks at the end of the night.

    4. Michaela Westen*

      Even without knowing them, I’ve gone to gas stations once or twice when I was being followed, and the staff was very sympathetic and helpful. They let me wait there and offered to call the police for me. :)

  6. Dragoning*

    LW 1: As a good friend of someone who was murdered, I would very possibly never be able to work with Arya properly again. She stepped way over a line that wasn’t her place, and I would be mentally and emotionally compromised, probably in a way that would forever color my interactions with this woman.

    If the work is getting done, and he’s not throwing a fit, leave him alone.

  7. AdeTree*

    I wish my boss were more like #2’s. The ringtones (especially non-standard ones… oh and any text alert sounds and the clicking when typing ahhh) in my office are so distracting, but I haven’t worked up the courage to complain yet.

    1. LouiseM*

      Uggggghhh, the clicking while typing! Nothing bothers me more! I used to be annoyed by people who clicked their pens absentmindedly, but if I had known the iPhone was just around the corner to drive me even crazier I would have saved my annoyance

    2. Al Lo*

      OP #2, you can use something like IFTTT to automatically set your phone to vibrate when you get to work and switch back when you leave. Then you don’t have to change your ringtone in your personal life or remember to switch it every day.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Lots of phones have an inbuilt function to switch “do not disturb” mode on to a schedule; you can also define which contacts are allowed to ring and give them their own ringtones. Typically I use mine to swap my phone to silent at night except for a few individuals who are allowed to wake me up if need be, but it would work for the office too.

        1. Jennifer*

          I have that, but it doesn’t work so well. It stays off all day even after it’s supposed to go back to normal after 5 pm, and if I turned up the volume on my own after 5 pm and forgot to turn it back, it’ll ring at work again. Even with the setting on.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I had some software on one of my phones that used geofencing and various statuses to change settings, so I had mine set up to switch to silent any time I walked into the campus buildings I taught or took classes in, and also any time it connected to university wifi. It worked really well until the day the software crashed and my phone rang while I was teaching, but it was like 99% effective!

    3. mimsie*

      Totally agree. Phones should be on vibrate at work. People shouldn’t be getting personal calls during work hours anyway, and certainly not frequently enough so that their ringtones are noticeable.

        1. Someone*

          By having friends and relatives who only call when you are probably not at work… it’s not a given that all are reasonable, obviously, but for reasonable people a bit of communication regarding “times it’s ok to call me, else text or email” should work just fine.
          Obviously that doesn’t work for insurance, banks etc, but it certainly reduces the number of possible calls.

          1. KellyK*

            I think if you work somewhere that personal calls aren’t acceptable (which isn’t a given), it makes a lot more sense to put your phone on silent or vibrate than to try to get everyone who might call you to stick to a schedule. If a specific person is calling you at work with non-urgent stuff, to the extent that it’s interrupting you, sure, tell them to knock it off, but making sure Aunt Gertie out in Texas has your work schedule just in case her calling on your birthday irritates your coworkers is a little much.

        2. Penny Lane*

          Zip Silver – one can’t “control” who calls their cell phone during the day, but certainly among adults, friends and family aren’t calling on a regular basis unless it’s some kind of emergency, right? I mean, your friends aren’t calling you during the work day to shoot the breeze …

        3. Sylvan*

          “Do not disturb,” if your phone has it. It’s great. You can choose whose calls are allowed to come through, as well as toggle a bunch of other settings.

      1. Murphy*

        Lots of people in my office use their cell phones for work, so they’re not all personal calls.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Mimsie, OP#2 here.
        If I were to put my phone on vibrate, I’d be the only one. Furthermore, one of my other roles is being in the Army Reserve, and sometimes my leadership calls me on my cell phone the week before Battle Assembly.

        Further, everyone here’s making it sound like I constantly get calls all day. I don’t. In a five day workweek, it’ll be unusual if my phone rings at work eight times…..in the week.

    4. Murphy*

      There’s someone near me who has their phone on full blast, and also has it set up in some way that they say “ANSWER” and it will pick up. Both are loud. It’s annoying enough by itself, but especially so when it doesn’t work the first time.

    5. Miss Elaine e.*

      I hear ya on that one: I work out of my home (using text and phone calls a lot) and a member of a social group I belong to started texting us in a group message about a Netflix series the member thought would interest us all. 25 texts later, I had to ask them kindly to please knock it off as the constant text notifications (that I have to drop everything to check because it could be work related), were driving me batty.

      …especially so as I don’t have Netflix and wouldn’t watch the series even if I did.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I put mine on vibrate, so do most in my office. Occasionally someone forgets. but, Silence is loverly.

      The worst ringtone is, thankfully, not around much anymore: It was a voice saying “Blah blah blah blah…” I knew a shocking number of men who used this for their wives. Never heard a woman have it on her phone. So nasty.

    7. Wendy Darling*

      I briefly worked with a guy who had the Samsung whistle notification on his phone full blast, so it went off at full volume very time he got an email or a text. I wanted to shove his phone in a trash compactor.

    1. depizan*

      Which makes it kind of odd that #2’s boss hasn’t told everyone to put their phones on vibrate. Then again, I find it kind of odd to single out one person’s ringtone in this situation, period. If a movie theme is bugging one person, chances are pretty good that the bugle call is bugging someone else, etc. (Even if only the person being bothered by the movie theme has complained.)

    2. mimsie*

      OP doesn’t mention the frequency of calls everyone is getting. If the OP is getting more frequent calls (which they really shouldn’t during work hours), that may call for singling out. If this is the case, it should definately be put on vibrate before the workplace bans personal calls altogether.

      1. Ama*

        I wonder if the OP gets a lot of calls when they are away from their phone? The only time I’ve ever had to ask a coworker to put their phone on silent it was because they had a few older family members of the type to just keep calling back if they got her voicemail — so every time she was in a meeting and left her phone behind, the phone would ring constantly. It wasn’t the ringtone itself, it was the fact that it would ring for minutes on end and she wasn’t there to stop it.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        OP#2 here. I’m not. In a five day workweek, it will be unusual if my phone rings at work eight times.

  8. KH*

    LW #2: Agree with Alison here — all personal phones should be on vibrate/silent outside of extreme circumstances (sick family member, waiting on a time sensitive call). If these are work cell phones, different story… but even then, the ringtones should probably be inoffensive default tones. In your case, your boss or a coworker may have a negative association with your specific ringtone. One of my coworkers had the same ringtone I was using when I got the call that my dad died; it was very hard to hear it all day at first.

    Re #4: Thank you for suggesting unionizing, Alison! It’s not a short term solution, but it’s always refreshing to hear people mention it as an option, especially with so much anti-union sentiment these days.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      In your case, your boss or a coworker may have a negative association with your specific ringtone.

      This could be a real possibility.

      In my case , I live in Mexico City and we had that massive destructive earthquake in September last year. Anything that sounds like a siren freaks me the hell out (I’ve been known to literally jump off my seat) because it reminds me of the earthquake alert and what I felt and saw that day, so I’d probably ask you to change it or silence it.

      That said, the request should be for all employees, not just for OP. The less cell phone interruptions the better, I think.

      1. Merida Ann*

        Yeah, there was a guy I knew in college who used a tornado siren as his ringtone because he was interested in meteorology. We were in Oklahoma! I had several classes with him and we were on an extracurricular team together, so I heard it all the time – it freaked me out every time it went off, especially when it was actually tornado season.

      2. Nolan*

        When I worked in a cell phone store, one customer came in because he’d just bought a new phone and it had one notification sound that was similar to the sonar noise from a submarine. He was former navy and that sound was very unnerving for him, but it was the one notification that couldn’t be customized (thanks, LG). I can’t remember if he just left it on vibrate permanently or exchanged it for a different model, but it was a problem for him.

    2. Garrett*

      ” In your case, your boss or a coworker may have a negative association with your specific ringtone.”

      Yes, they may have been forced to watch Pluto Nash and are having nightmare flashbacks.

    3. Czhorat*

      “All phones should be silent” is a very culture/workplace specific assumption.

      Some offices – and industries – tend to have different levels of tolerance for noise. Some have differing levels of tolerance for personal calls. ANd some suggest or even require use of a personal cell phone for business purposes.

      I understand that’s your preference, but it’s not universal.

    4. smoke tree*

      My guess is that the boss is too passive to deal with the general ringtone situation and only singled out the LW because she received a complaint about that particular ringtone. Otherwise, why not just ask the LW (and everyone) to put their phone on vibrate?

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      OP#2 here, KH. If that were the policy in my office, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

  9. Kay*

    OP#1 you say that your other employees are ‘enabling’ Robb by dealing with Arya on his behalf but you also mention that no one has complained about being the go-between or having to deal with her instead. Unless there is peer pressure going on (which there could very well be) I took this to mean that everyone else sympathizes with Robb and doesn’t want Arya to bother him. You mention that he is not a new employee and changed after what happened. If people have known Robb for a while or they sympathize with him they may be offering to deal with Arya on his behalf to protect him. Obviously if there are any complaints or hints of peer pressure you should step in but if people are trying to help Robb of their own accord you might not be able to do much and trying to stop it will make everyone more upset.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      On a similar note, I’m concerned that you’re characterizing this as ‘Robb’s situation’, as if he’s the one causing all the trouble. You really should have stepped in earlier, because the trouble was caused by Arya; he’s just reacting to it. I mean, maybe his grief and anger make him uncomfortable company anyway, but that’s a separate issue and one that needs delicacy. The situation right now is Arya’s as well as his.

      It’s a common problem when people have been wronged that bystanders can treat them like the troublemaker: the person who hurt them is fine while they’re obviously angry, so if they’d just let it go, everything would be ok, right? Except it wouldn’t: more convenient for bystanders does not equal right. This would be true with anyone, but with someone who’s already angry about injustice, it’s disastrous.

      If he’s so angry and grief-stricken that it’s a problem in general, that’s an issue to deal with by talking about things like compassionate leave and counselling. But the ‘situation’ was directly caused by Arya, and if she’s that insensitive, she’s likely to upset other co-workers in future, so don’t overlook the need to deal with the Arya situation. It’s possible that Robb would avoid her less if he could trust that you’d reined her in.

      1. Marie B.*

        There is nothing in the letter to indicate that Robb is angry or makes things uncomfortable. The OP says Robb keeps to himself, doesn’t talk about the murder or his feelings at work and is professional. Even after what Arya did he has remained professional and not returned Arya’s hostility and bullying behavior in kind.

        There is no problem with Robb. Arya is the problem. The OP should focus on that. Arya has already butted into Robb’s personal business. The OP should not do that too. Robb isn’t doing anything and if OP suggests counseling or pries it would be wildly inappropriate.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          Yes, I agree the letter comes across that way, and OP certainly shouldn’t suggest counselling or anything else unless Robb makes it way more of a problem than he currently does. Right now it sounds like he’s behaving well and all he needs is Arya out of his hair. I should have stressed that my hypothetical was very hypothetical indeed, my bad.

      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        “It’s a common problem when people have been wronged that bystanders can treat them like the troublemaker”

        Which is why I have ZERO tolerance for it. Not on my watch, jerks!

    2. Thlayli*

      I read it differently. By “Robbs situation” I thought OP meant “the awful situation Arya has put Robb in”. I thought OP was writing in for advice on whether she could say something to help Robb, not to punish him.

    3. This Daydreamer*

      A coworker of mine stepped in after another coworker said something jaw-droppingly insensitive a couple of days after my sister unexpectedly died. I think others may have also quietly stepped in. I was grateful. A couple more clueless comments and I might have started screaming at the guy on the sales floor. And he wasn’t trying to change my mind about what happened, he was just an insensitive jerk with no clue how to even fake empathy.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I told my former boss at an old job exactly how hurtful and offensive his comments about “makers and takers” and how there should be no state-subsidized health care were when I was on said health care and having a cancer scare. I told him “You are saying that I and people like me should just lie down and die.”

        It was an unwise, reckless thing to do, but I simply did not have the self-control to hold back. And the look on his face was priceless.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          It’s not unwise or reckless to stand up for yourself. Your former boss is the unwise one for acting so callously.

      1. paul*

        I’ve got “Take this Job and Shove It” as my ringtone for all coworkers and supervisors. It is 100% for sure and certain on vibrate at work.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          I’ve got “The Real Folk Blues” from the anime Cowboy Bebop.

          I had a coworker who had “Hey, listen!” said by Navi from the videogame The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a text ringtone (anyone who has played the game knows the kind of reactions it elicits) . I found it really cool, but I’d be lying if I didn’t wish he’d turn it off after the fifth time.

          1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

            “I’ve got “The Real Folk Blues” from the anime Cowboy Bebop.”

            Is he at his computer?

        2. Penny Lane*

          paul, do you think that makes you come across as a) a serious professional who takes his job responsibilities seriously and is helpful and collaborative or b) a slacker with a bad attitude?

          1. Frank Doyle*

            Since he has it on vibrate at work, I imagine it doesn’t affect how he comes across at all.

              1. paul*

                Yes. If it was on ring I’d actually agree with your statement. As is it’s my own (petty) joke for when I get called at 1am about an emergency.

                I’m tired this morning.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Paul, not everyone (or every boss) is as humorless as Penny Lane seems to be. There is nothing immature or unprofessional about having a silly ring tone, and I don’t doubt there are many workplaces where it wouldn’t be seen as a big deal.
                  Sorry me people take the weirdest stuff SO DANG SERIOUSLY.

          2. mediumofballpoint*

            Penny, over the last few weeks you’ve really been harsh with people. Paul was making a comment, not asking for feedback and you’ve done this with other folks. Can you think about toning it down? I doubt many commenters want to be randomly and unexpectedly criticized.

          3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            If I was his boss, I would think it was hysterical (former manager and small business owner here)

          4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            My ringtone is Baroque Hoedown, an early synthesizer composition by groundbreaking electronic artists Kingsley & Perry which Disneyland later used as the theme song to the popular and long running Main Street Electrical Parade.

            It’s on YouTube, you can look it up.

            I can’t WAIT to hear what fascinating insights to my life & personality you derive from knowing ONLY THAT about me.

      2. LiveAndLetDie*

        For years my brother’s ringtone was “America, F**k Yeah” from Team America. It was hysterical every time it went off, but you can bet he kept it on silent all the time.

        Mine is “The Final Countdown,” but my phone’s almost always on silent even if I’m not at work. I hate phone sounds.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        Yesssssssss. I have actually used the Overthruster sound for my husband – BB’s one of ‘our’ movies.

        Perfect Tommy. So perfect.

    1. Aveline*

      I would have thought “baby boomer trying to be cool, but proving the opposite.”

      Would not bat an eye at someone using AOL as an email, but would totally side eye a ringtone like this.

      On your own time, do what you want. In an office environment, these things are judged.

      I don’t want to hear personal ring tones at work, but if I do, they should be neutral and non-offensive.

      I also think advocating for this ringtone but complaining about the old phone one would make OP look like a crotchety old man.

      These are much like vanity license plates. Often what you think you are signaling isn’t what is being signaled.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Wow, I had no idea ringtones were such SrS BzNz!!1!!11! O_O

        Gosh golly, what other totally inconsequential matters have I not been giving the sober, srious consideration they so obviously deserve.
        I mean, people’s personal ringtone preferences are OBVIOUSLY something I should stick my nose into and sanctimoniously judge them about.

        If you haven’t guessed by now, I think your comment is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Judging someone’s personality and motives by *ringtone*?
        Don’t you have anything important to be concerned about?

      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        My ringtone is Baroque Hoedown, an early synthesizer composition by groundbreaking electronic artists Kingsley & Perry which Disneyland later used as the theme song to the popular and long running Main Street Electrical Parade.

        It’s on YouTube, you can look it up.

        I can’t WAIT to hear what fascinating insights to my life & personality you derive from knowing ONLY THAT about me.

    2. Grey*

      Yes, just as long as it’s not the Crazy Frog version. I hope that’s not what the OP is using.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        No, Grey, I’m not using the Crazy Frog version. I’m using the original. The Crazy Frog version would drive me batty too.

  10. Mad Baggins*

    I’m concerned that OP#1 thinks Robb is the problem, not Arya.
    “Other employees are enabling Robb”
    “Robb has not been hostile to Arya (nor has anyone else)”
    “should I be dealing with Robb’s situation”

    This is not Robb’s situation. This is Arya’s situation. Robb is living his life how he sees best and leaves his personal convictions out of work. Arya found out about them somehow(?) and told him he needs to get over it/switch sides on the issue. She told him this “a few times.”

    You have one employee who is insensitive, has no compassion for others, and is creating drama with their personal beliefs. And it’s not Robb.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      And if I misread these comments, I’m sorry! I hope OP will speak to Arya per Alison’s advice regardless.

    2. Observer*

      I got a bit of that sense as well.

      OP, if we’re misreadng, please jump in. But, if you have any thought that Robb is being out of line here, please rethink. The person who has been out of line is TOTALLY Arya.

    3. Dragoning*

      Thank you for this. I honestly would’ve ripped this woman a new one and then burst into tears. I’ve done it before. Robb is being amazingly professional.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        This is what I was thinking. He’s taking it way better than I would. I can be a hotspur sometimes and ripping her a new one is the very least I would have done.

    4. Jess*

      I actually came to the comments to see if anyone else had read it the same way I had – I also felt that it seemed like the OP was focusing on ROBB as the employee who needed to be dealt with, rather than Arya.

      1. Someone else*

        I think it came out a little bit that way because Robb is actively avoiding Arya at work, and OP viewed that as “a work thing”, whereas for some reason OP viewed Arya’s horrible treatment of Robb that caused the avoidance as “a personal thing”. OP’s wrong about the latter being not-a-work-thing, which that original stance is, I think, why the letter gives the unfortunate vibe about Robb. Really the issue is exactly what Alison advised: Arya need to know she behaved completely unacceptably. Robb needs time and space. There’s only a problem with Robb if it IS causing a problem for them to be unable to work together, but even then, it’s reasonable for him to only agree to do so once he’s been given assurances that she’s been made aware of her previous behavior is unacceptable and must cease. Then if she crosses the line again, Arya’s got to go. If she acts like a human moving forward, it seems like he’s professional enough that he’d be fine.

    5. Veronica*

      This, so much. Arya is utterly out of line here, not Robb. Arya has caused a problem, not Robb. Frankly, I admire his restraint.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I admire Robb’s restraint, too. It sounds like he didn’t even raise his voice to her at the time, and I personally think that’s a miracle of self-restraint (although sheer shock may have contributed, as well).

        Arya is so far over the line that she couldn’t find the line with the Hubble and a star map. Her behavior is stunningly insensitive and completely lacking in empathy. I agree that the criminal justice system and prisons need to be reformed…but trying to dictate to the family member of a murder victim that he needs to advocate for his relative’s killer is horrible.

        1. Veronica*

          Yeah, ‘choose your battles’ comes to mind, as does ‘mind your own damn business’. It is staggeringly naive, hurtful and blind to decide to preach to someone who a) never spoke about the murdered family member with you directly, b) is noticeably grieving, c) hasn’t asked for your opinion and d) presumably clearly wasn’t into this conversation the *first* time you tried, let alone welcomed subsequent attempts.

          Arya sounds foolish at best, and more likely heartless and callous.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I could easily see Rob being quite quiet, and Arya mentions that to a coworker, and they give her the context. “Oh, so sad, he withdrew when his wife was murdered.” Because for normal people it can help to know where other people are fragile so you don’t put a foot through it. And Arya was like “Hot dog FINALLY I have the family member of a murder victim right in front of me! I can get this prison-reform-through-hectoring thing rolling! Hey, Rob…”

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        What a horrifying thought!

        That’s even worse than her merely being a clueless git, and just as bad as if she were purposely being malicious.

    7. Mustache Cat*

      I think you misread the post honestly. I’m not sure why it’s becoming so prevalent in AAM comments now. In context “enabling” clearly is meant to convey “helping”, the lack of hostility is another reason why OP isn’t sure if they should intervene yet, and “Robb’s situation” is an obvious shorthand for “the situation happening to Robb, that Arya caused”. Its a bit much to expect perfect word choice and syntactic nuance from every letter writer…

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I know we’re not supposed to nitpick word choices, but “enabling” has a certain connotation that people are picking up on. While it’s possible that wasn’t how the LW intended it to come across, the fact that multiple people read it that way is useful information for the LW in knowing how best to frame conversations about this in the workplace.

      2. Specialk9*

        Enabling, in the context OP used it, is a now ubiquitous term to mean someone helping someone do something destructive like drugs, alcohol, or abuse. It doesn’t have that meaning in the context of enabling say a feature on a device, but in the context of a group “enabling Robb”, it’s a phrase that is negative to both Robb and his enablers. And not to Arya.

        1. Specialk9*

          Helping is the wrong term. Enabling is someone protecting an alcoholic/abuser/etc from the consequences of their bad actions, in a way that allows and encourages them to continue that bad behavio

        2. Specialk9*

          In this instance, if OP were to reprimand Robb or act like he were in any way wrong, OP would be enabling Arya’s terrible behavior. It would encourage the bad behavior by shielding her from the consequences of being an awful human at work.

          It would also likely result in mass quitting by people angry at injustice.

      3. Kate 2*

        Yeah, agree with the other commenters picking up on odd word choice. I have never ever seen “enabling” used to mean helping, except in science articles about new prosthetics. Traditionally enabling is used to refer to help someone engage in bad behavior. Enabling drug addicts for example. Technically it just means helping, but that is not the mainstream definition, and it is not the way the vast majority of people use it.

        1. CMart*

          I said it upthread somewhere, but I see “enable” used in positive ways with some frequency, eg: “My wife’s job pays her enough that it enables me to stay home with the kids”. That’s the tone I read the OP’s letter in, though perhaps I was being overly charitable.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I think the difference is usually if the enabler is a person or a thing. Things enabling people tend to be neutral or positive. People enabling other people tends to be negative.

      4. Mad Baggins*

        I hope I did misread it. I read the letter several times and can easily see it also going the way you said. But I couldn’t shake that impression based on the lines I referenced, and since no one had brought it up at the time I commented, I thought I should.

        I can only speak for myself, but I certainly don’t expect perfect syntax from letter-writers–but we only have 200 words to diagnose a problem, and we interpret it through our own lenses, and hopefully come up with something helpful to add to the discussion–solidarity, encouragement, a new perspective, alerting OP to an overlooked aspect… Hopefully I missed the mark this time.

      5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        “the lack of hostility”

        Actually, Arya’s harassment of Aron is pretty dang hostile. I don’t think OP realizes that at all.

    8. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I read it that way too and was surprised when Alison went right into “of course you should speak to Arya” when I thought it was obvious the OP was asking if Robb should be spoken to.

    9. smoke tree*

      As I mentioned above, the sense I get is that as a new manager who’s not exactly sure what her role should be, the LW is trying to maintain a neutral stance about the situation. I don’t think that’s the right approach when you’re dealing with an employee as far out of line as Arya has been, but I don’t really blame the LW for not being sure how entitled she is to intervene.

  11. Anon in flamsuit today*

    I am against any kind of sentence that doesn’t allow for parole or is so long that there is no chance if it (I’m talking years in the high double or triple digits) but Arya did not help the cause here at all. In fact her attempt is backfiring hard because of it. The way to get change is by working to change the system. Arya didn’t do that here. Robb is not the system. Further to that, trying to convince him will just upset most of the public and they will think she is harassing a victim. Not exactly a great way to get the public onside with the cause. Arya really screwed up here.

    1. Marie B.*

      I believe in justice reform. But I acknowledge that there are some people who should never be free in society. The two are not mutually exclusive. And Arya should be concerned about how she hurt Robb (who didn’t do anything and is a human being with feelings). Nevermind the cause.

    2. Giant teapot*

      Don’t you think that some people are beyond redemption? Or that some crimes are bad enough that a person can never be forgiven?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to ask that we stay focused on advice for the letter writer (as opposed to our own feelings about criminal justice, which has the potential to take us way off-topic).

        1. Giant teapot*

          OK, sorry, I just found it bizarre that someone has that kind of opinion, I’ve never seen it before!

    3. Temperance*

      I mean, she is harassing a victim. That’s exactly what she has been doing. Telling Rob that he needs to forgive the monster who killed a member of his family in cold blood is a monstrous, mean, and frankly stupid thing to do.

    4. Temperance*

      The problem is that Arya basically went up to a person and said, hey, you know that guy who killed your sister, you need to forgive him and advocate for a lighter sentence.

    5. Observer*

      They will think she was harassing a victim because that is EXACTLY what she was doing!

      Perception is important. Being a decent human being is even more important!

    6. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      Violent psychopaths cannot be changed -ever- and should NEVER be released or paroled from prison.

      And really, would you have wanted Ted Bundy or Dennis Raider paroled into YOUR neighborhood?

      (Robert Hare and Kent Kiehl – the top researchers on psychopathy- FASCINATING reading!)

  12. lyonite*

    Oh God, ringtones. I had a coworker who never put hers on silent, always left it on her (cubicle) desk when she was somewhere else, and had a husband who would never leave a message, just kept calling until she picked up. A couple of times I had to go find her and demand she make it stop.

    1. AudreyParker*

      In addition to experiencing this scenario, I also once worked in a “creative space” building (which is code for “we don’t think insulation or doors are required and prefer hard surfaces everywhere”) where I could hear a good portion of what went on at the company upstairs every day. At one point, whoever sat above me would regularly leave their phone on vibrate on their desk and wander off, and at least one person was very eager to get ahold of them. I eventually ended up with the business card of that company’s office manager after multiple missions up to their office to track down source of the endless buzzing noise – just impossible to work through. Don’t even get me started on the speakerphone Skype ringtone…

      Maybe I’m just super sensitive to sound when I’m trying to concentrate, but I can’t understand why so many people have such little regard for the coworkers they share a workspace with. If you’re expecting a call or need to be available, at least put it on vibrate; if not, you’re at work, it really is ok to just put it on silent and check for messages/missed calls periodically when you take breaks. It’s weird to me that this even needs to be said (and now I feel like I should be kicking some people off my lawn…)

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      People who repeatedly call instead of leaving a message are the stuff of nightmares for me in a work context. If someone did that on my cell, barring an actual legit emergency, oh hell no. Send a text.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I used to work with someone who did this too. One day I finally went in to his office, answered the phone and said “he’s in a meeting and left his phone on his desk.” Co-worker’s wife apologized for being disruptive and then said, “wait, he doesn’t have his phone on vibrate?” Giggles all around.

    4. Temperance*

      My office recently hired an older man who uses the old-school Nokia ringtone at full volume. I can’t help but giggle whenever it goes off.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      OP #2 here, lyonite. None of that is the case here. My phone stays on my belt, and if someone calls me, I answer right away unless I’m in a meeting, in which case I hit the button to silence the ringtone.

  13. Leela*

    OP #5 oh please don’t listen to your friends here, I used to work HR and recruiting! I know Alison already said this but it bears repeating: being dissatisfied with your current job is not what people hire based on! The people who hire owe it to the hiring managers (and the hiring managers owe it to their teams) to focus on finding the best match for the job, and if they take someone on because they said they were dissatisfied, they’re not doing their jobs and putting themselves at risk. Also, even if this is your dream job and you’re the perfect candidate, that will be totally undermined by pushing so hard for “I’m not satisfied with my current job” and it will look like you’re just desperate to leave for somewhere, anywhere! The best way to approach it is to focus on how much you want to work for the company and how well you match up for roles.

    Applying for any random role just to try and get in will most likely make you look unfocused and like you’re not settled on what you want to do — not great signals for the person seeing your submissions. It’s one thing if the jobs were like, teapot painter, teapot painter II, or teapot lead and teapot manager, but if it’s more like teapot painter, and teapot truck loader, and teapot inventory specialist, you won’t look like a great match for either of those roles because they’re going to be wondering how much you want to move around and when they’re going to have to replace you when you do, a costly and exhausting process that they won’t want to have to do more times than they have to.

    I’m sorry it’s been difficult to get in somewhere you really want to work, I wish you the best of luck here! I hope that you’re at least able to get something similar somewhere else and build up skills that will help you into a career position at your alma mater if that’s what you’re after!

    1. Ewoe OP#5*

      Thanks Leela. I figured it wouldn’t help because they already know I want to work there. Right now I am looking at other options available to me but I hope to try again after a few years.

      1. Blue*

        Not only would it not help, I think it would actively harm your candidacy (I’m not in HR, but I work at universities and know this would’ve been poorly received by any hiring committee I’ve been on.) Keep listening to your instincts, and good luck!

        1. Penny Lane*

          OP#5, here’s the problem with what your friends are saying. Your potential workplace isn’t hiring you because you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want to work there. They don’t care. Their job is not to indulge your fantasies or make you happy — it is to find employees with the right set of skills to satisfy their needs.

          Think of the college application process as an analogy. The college asks you to describe “why you want to attend College X.” Some people answer this literally – oh, your campus is the prettiest I’ve ever seen and I could so see myself there; you’re known for your programs in A, B, and C; and I’ve wanted to go there ever since I was in diapers and I’ve collected 100 of your t-shirts and I wear a different one each day. But that response is classic Not Getting It — they don’t care what YOU want – it’s what THEY want. The people who get it understand that it’s about demonstrating that you would be an addition to their campus because you bring X, Y and Z to the party — not about demonstrating that you love them the most.

          Your friends who simply think that you need to demonstrate You Love Them So Much and Want the Job So Much are not getting it. And why would the employer care that you’re not satisfied with your current job? I mean, I may not be satisfied with my current boyfriend, but that doesn’t entice George Clooney to want to date me.

          1. Ewoe OP#5*

            Yea, Penny lane. And I realize they have given me more than most people get by making it clear that they want me to work with them, just in the right position that’s a good fit for us. I’m gonna keep hoping that sometime in the future my qualifications will fit and I can work there.

          2. Yolo*

            Is this philosophy–that going to a given school is about making the college better, not the students’ experience–a widespread one? I am not familiar with that line of thinking. When I applied to college (in the 2000s) it was very much the norm to answer questions like that literally.

            1. Penny Lane*

              It’s the norm among people who don’t get in. It’s a pointless waste of time to tell [elite college] why you want to go there. They already know that they have a pretty campus, excellent professors, world-class research facilities, clubs for every possible interest, a plethora of really smart people, and that lots of people have been dying to go there since they were children. The people who get in are the ones who are smart enough to be able to answer it in the context of “why my presence would add something to your campus experience.”

              This is a classic thing that people who are newer to the college experience don’t seem to get. I worked with people of a certain background who were new to this and they really, honestly thought that the more they poured it on about how much they really really wanted to go to [elite college], the more compelling it was. They really didn’t get that the college wasn’t in the business of rewarding those-who-desired-admission-the-most, and that proclaiming their love the loudest wasn’t the point.

              1. Turkletina*

                I always thought those questions were about showing that you’ve put some thought into why you want to go to *that particular school*, not any school or any prestigious school. Like “I’m really interested in pursuing a career in teapot painting and Llama University’s award-winning teapot-painting program will help me reach those goals. I’m especially interested in taking courses in spout shading, which aren’t offered at other schools” shows that the applicant has done research about the school. Conversely, saying “I want to attend Alpaca University because I’m interested in pursuing a career in teapot painting” isn’t going to impress anyone at Alpaca University, which doesn’t offer a teapot painting major.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Yeah, I think it’s kind of parallel to a job application where you want to both say “I have 15 years of experience in camelid grooming with XYZ awards/quantifiable awesomeness” and “I was very impressed with Alpaca Utopia’s landmark vicuna management program and look forward to working with their development team”.

            2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              And how would you even answer it, really? Like a job interview? That doesn’t seem like what they’d be looking for, (unless it involves skills/knowledge that is necessary/required for a certain class or course of study, or it’s a highly competitive program with few openings) but “I plan to study for XX degree/profession and your school has the top programs in the country for the A, B, and C I need for that” actually DOES sound like something they’d want to know.
              I mean, why??? I’m there because I want an education, not to have to do a “pick me’ song and dance for the admins to prove I’m worthy of *paying them MY money* to go there.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I agree on actively harm. Like really needing a paycheck, really not liking the place you are currently working is not a reason a hiring manager cares about.

          That’s before the whole “this is how I will talk about your company when I’m at my next job” aspect, which is big.

          1. Ewoe OP#5*

            Yes Falling diphthong. That’s another point, talking badly about my current job. Thanks for the feedback!

  14. DoctorateStrange*

    In regards to Letter #1, I always wonder why people think it is up to the families of victims to be prisoner rights advocates. I really think we fetishize the concept of “forgiveness” to the point that people forget that forgiveness is not to be simply given, like some sort of goodie bag at a kid’s birthday, but to be EARNED.

    I really hope Robb the best. He has a right to heal without owing anyone anything, especially this Arya person.

    1. Tyche*

      Yeah, this.

      I’m always astonished when people (journalists often!) ask the victim’s family or friends if they have forgiven the perpetrator. Forgiveness is not an obligation.

        1. Aveline*

          I’ve had the privilege of discussing this with very wise people who were not raised in the Judeo-Christian framework.

          Forgiveness is not a universal good in the way “thou shall not kill” is universal.

          Most Americans and Europeans assume it is, but it isn’t.

          1. HannahS*

            Our cultural obsession with forgiveness comes from Christianity, not Judaism. It’s not a “Judeo-Christian” thing, it’s a Christian thing.

            1. Aveline*

              The term Judeo-Christian means an aspect of Western culture. It’s entirely appropriate here irrespective of Judaism’s stance on the issue.

              It’s refering to the Western cultural throughline, not the actual religion.

              There are plenty of Christian sects that don’t believe the cult of forgiveness either.

              1. Savannnah*

                You are absolutely correct in the definition of that term and I’ll just mention that lots of Jews highly dislike it because it elevates our culture to some kind of mainstream norm when that’s really not how we experience the world and history.

              2. Knitting Cat Lady*


                Western culture is actually only Christian culture and a few things Christianity pinched from the cultures it encountered.

                There’s nothing Jewish about it.

                And the term Judeo-Christian is a fig-leave to conceal the 2000 years of Christian Antisemitism.

                Every Jewish person I met actually loathes the term.

                1. Bryce*

                  The only times I see the term used outside of actual theological analysis is either someone trying to frame a religious motivation as multi-cultural to worm past various laws/morals or, as in this case, people using it reflexively because cultural understanding of Judaism views it as Christianity with no Jesus and funny accents.

              3. Observer*

                What Savannnah and Knitting Cat Lady said is correct.

                “Judeo-Christian” is a term that’s a real irritant to any Jew who knows anything about Christianity. That’s ESPECIALLY so when you talk about the cultural aspects of it.

            2. Turquoisecow*

              Yes. People often lump Judaism in with Christianity, and those people are usually Christians. I married into a Jewish family after being raised somewhat Catholic – they are different.

          2. mari4212*

            Judaism and Christianity also have some pretty emphatic differences on the general religion’s assumptions about the value of forgiveness and how forgiveness works/who does it. The two religions have been theologically separated for 2000ish years and a lot of complicated history. That’s a lot of time for major cultural and theological differences to develop.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It’s not an obligation, and it looks very, very different from situation to situation. To me at least, forgiveness is one of the most intensely personal experiences there can be.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Especially when it’s, I don’t know, just 18 hours after the crime. FFS, the family hasn’t even fully processed the hurt yet. Let them grieve. I know some victims’ family members have become advocates for reform and forgiveness, but it’s usually many years later.

    2. Lara*

      Yes! And the bizarre idea that forgiveness is always ‘healing’. Again, it’s supposed to be healing because it implies the forgiveness has been earned.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        Or else it’s a sign that healing has already happened. Trying to force it is like telling someone to walk off a broken leg: the bone needs time to knit and then maybe they’ll feel like taking a walk.

      2. Luna*

        And there are also other ways to heal outside of this superficial “forgiveness” that people like to push. Victims can focus on dealing with their own emotions of anger & loss in a healthy way, and work on trying to let go of things that can no longer be changed to come to terms with what happened- all these things can help heal a person without requiring forgiveness of the people who committed the crime.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          One can heal & move on without ever having forgiven the person/s who hurt them.
          There are things that I do not think are forgivable- that is, things that no one should *ever* expect forgiveness to be given for (excepting by the victims own free will), and in the end, people truly are allowed to decide for themselves what they will or won’t forgive, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not.

          horrendous that the Cult of Forgiveness pressures people so hard to do so.

    3. Giant teapot*

      Totally agree! Forgiveness is overrated even for personal matters – it has its time and place but it’s not always the best option for those that have been wronged by someone and it can be harmful to their healing in certain cases. And that’s true about things like breakups, betrayal and so on, when it comes to violent crimes forgiveness should never be treated as the default, ever!

    4. Scarlet*

      Exactly. People have no obligation to forgive wrongdoing. I just hate how people who were the victims of horrendous crimes are somehow expected to forgive.

      1. Kay*

        There have been a few letters here (the bird phobic person who pushed his coworker in front of a car, the person with anxiety who opened a coworkers pay stub and went to their home yelling and crying because that go work didn’t say goodbye to them, the jealous manager who treated their employee so horribly that clients noticed and both the company and manager were advised by lawyers to settle a lawsuit) where more than one commenter said the wronged person were terrible for not forgiving the one who wronged them (despite that they had broken bones and needed surgery, or had the safety of their home shattered and were not left alone at work, or had their job and reputation affected). It wasn’t a minority view by any means but it was suggested by more than one person. There are definitely people out there who think all victim’s must forgive no matter what or they are the bad ones in the situation.

        1. Giant teapot*

          While forgiveness should NEVER be expected, it’s much easier to forgive someone if they didn’t harm you on purpose. Of course, it’s perfectly OK not to forgive them.

          I would like a link to the pay stub letter, I’m curious about it.

          1. Kay*

            The original letter (#2)


            The update (#1)


            In the case of the bird phobia, even if the initial shove was an accident, the person with the phobia only apologized when forced to by HR and phoned and harassed the injured person while she was in the hospital and at home recovering from surgery to the extent that she had to get a lawyer involved so he would leave her alone. He was only forced to apologize to look better for a legal case.

            In the anxiety letter I linked she invaded her co-worker’s privacy and yelled and cried so much her coworker was about to call 911. She was told if she went near the coworker again the police would be called and wouldn’t leave it alone despite being told to by the coworker and HR. She had to be fired to get the point across and even that might not have done it.

            The jealous manager mistreated her employee for months. It was not a one off. When the employee complained to their grandpas the jealous manager used the years long relationship she had with the grandboss to convince him the employee was lying. It was so bad a client raised the alarm. Other employees thought the evied employee was incompetent and stupid based on the manager. The jealous manager and the company settled a lawsuit to avoid worse damages in court and the employee is still in her job.

            In all of these letters the victim’s were wronged horribly. There was intent behind the actions of those who wronged them. Yet they were expected by more than one person to forgive and there was some victim blaming in the comments even.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              It seemed to me like a lot of commenters with anxiety disorders who sided with the person who reminded them of themselves, even when that person was flagrantly in the wrong. As someone else with an anxiety disorder, I frankly found it embarrassing.

              1. Kate 2*

                Yep! Fellow anxiety sufferer here, that made me so made. People with mental illnesses have bad enough reputations as it is, we don’t need someone making it worse.

              2. Bryce*

                My anxiety definitely has me emphathize with what happened, but all the more reason to try and make it right.

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                I have the kind of anxiety that mostly revolves around panic attacks, plus ADHD and dyspraxia, both of which can cause social issues and impulsive behavior. There have been a few times in my life when I let these things get the better of me (mostly due to lack of appropriate coping skills), though nothing nearly so egregious as the people mentioned here.
                I don’t think of those moments proudly, or use them as an excuse to handwave the poor behavior of others. In fact, it mortifies me and I have always tried to analyze the situations later to figure out what I could have done differently (even if “walk away from someone who is upsetting you” would have been the only feasible option.)
                And you’re right- when you suffer from a thing, and work hard not to let the thing negatively affect others, it *is* embarrassing, (and for me, anger-making), when others take the side of someone else with the thing & use the thing to excuse their malicious and/or inconsiderate treatment of others.

        2. Aveline*

          These a very interesting letter over on Captain Awkward about a family trying to force someone to forgive a rapist brother.

          Worth reading wrt this topic.

          1. Annie Moose*

            Yep yep yep. I was thinking of that same letter.

            Forgiveness is deeply personal and not something you can demand of someone. Even moreso when we’re talking about forgiving a murderer, not just forgiving someone you had a minor disagreement with.

        3. Temperance*

          It’s the dominant cultural narrative that you Must Forgive At All Costs. It’s BS.

        4. fposte*

          I’m not finding anyone in either letter who said that the recipient of the behavior was terrible for not forgiving, though. I understand that there were some statements about victim behavior that you disagreed with, as did I, but I think that’s a misrepresentation of what was stated.

          1. Kate 2*

            They are right though. In the original bird letter comments, and I distinctly remember several commenters in the recent office desk breaking letter who said the victim was horrible for not forgiving the OP.

            1. fposte*

              I think that’s a viewpoint thing, because I really didn’t see anybody doing that. The desk-breaking letter I didn’t check, since that wasn’t in Kay’s assertion (I also think she probably meant it wasn’t a majority view when she said minority, but I still don’t think it was present the way she was phrasing it).

              I know there were posts prioritizing identification with different people in the situation and there were definitely people who thought forgiveness would be a good thing; I also think we may be conflating the acceptance of an apology with forgiveness, and they’re not the same thing. Generally I think we tend to overread comments that we disagree with as saying something more extreme than they did.

      2. Anon for this*

        At one of my workplaces, we had a mass shooting. After about two weeks, one of my co-workers rather smugly declared to me that she was now able to view the shooter as one of the victims due to his mental illness. She is religious and obviously felt it was wonderful she was so forgiving. She was not expecting my reply of “Goodie for you, I probably will never get there. So perhaps it is good that the shooter does not need either your forgiveness or my hate, since he wacked himself after killing too many actual good people.” She did try to get me to feel bad for not forgiving him and did not like my philosophy that forgiving people that don’t deserve it (or want it) just leads to them being able to injury you again with a stick that you have handed them.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          “my philosophy that forgiving people that don’t deserve it (or want it) just leads to them being able to injury you again with a stick that you have handed them.”

          Beautifully said.

          Abd I’m so sorry you had to go through either of those experiences.

    5. Aveline*

      Having spent too much time in the court and foster care systems advocating for victims, I can tell you the cult of forgiveness in the USA is harmful to victims.

      It is part and parcel of a culture that blames victims. It feeds a patriarchal system that preferences perpetrators, particularly white male ones.

      The assertion that forgiveness is in the best interest of the victim is bollocks. Healing and transcendence are, but forgiveness not so much.

      The cult of forgiveness is also very racist. Yes, racist. It assumes the Judeo-Christian POV as both the default and the only correct way forward. There are a lot of cultures out there where shunning and community justice are an equally valid way of dealing with a wrong. I have a family member whose married to a First Nation’s social worker. His culture does not advocate forgiveness as the only, or even preferred, way forward. It is never required if the victim.

      Turn the other check and forgive isn’t a universal belief.

      Even in cultures here it is advised, it’s always more nuanced than forcing a victim to forgive. Unless there is repentance, penance, and reparations, forgiveness is premature.

      Far too often, it is about sweeping unpleasantness under the rug for the benefit of everyone at the expense of the victim.

      1. Aveline*

        PS. I’ve seen plenty of women and POCs asked to forgive their white, male perps. Never have I ever seen a white male victim of a woman or POC asked to forgive.

        Whom we ask forgiveness of and for whom is cultural bound.

        I’ve seen victims of child sex abuse asked to forgive the priest who molested them. No one would dare suggest Nicole’s family forgive OJ.

        You cannot take gender, race, clas, and power out of these situations.

        1. Jam Today*

          This is an exceptional set of observations, I’m going to bookmark them for reference whenever this topic comes up. Thank you for posting.

      2. HannahS*

        Can we not with the “Judeo-Christian”? It’s not a Jewish thing! It came into North American culture from Christianity. The whole concept of forgiving oppressors is constantly weaponized against Jews, and has been for centuries, who are expected to forgive and move on all the time, and considered damned because we don’t believe people are entitled to forgiveness if they don’t fix the problem. Don’t lump us together.

        1. Aveline*

          Sorry, but you are nitpicking an accepted term that describes an actual component of Western culture.

          “The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition flows from the Christian theology of supersession, whereby the Christian covenant (or Testament) with God supersedes the Jewish one. Christianity, according to this belief, reforms and replaces Judaism.”

          I never said Judaism or even all sections of Christianity have this issue.

          Use of the term is in no way implying Jews feel this way.

          In fact, proper use of the term is about how Christianity views itself and centers itself.

          I am not the one lumping Jewish religion into this. That’s not what the term means.

          But rather than get into a derailing debate, I will say for the record I was never saying Jews or all Christians feel this way.

          It is, however, an aspect of Westerm culture that permeates beyond specific religious tenants. It’s about the white patriarchal Western culture.

          1. KellyK*

            “The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition flows from the Christian theology of supersession, whereby the Christian covenant (or Testament) with God supersedes the Jewish one. Christianity, according to this belief, reforms and replaces Judaism.”

            That’s exactly why using Judeo-Christian for things that are just Christian is problematic, though. It treats Judaism as just the precursor to Christianity, rather than as a tradition in its own right. It also implies that Judaism stopped changing and evolving after the Old Testament was written, which isn’t true.

            It’s most commonly used *by* Christianity to subsume Judaism into Christianity, or to imply broader support for a purely Christian idea than actually exists. “Christocentric” might actually be a closer term for what you’re describing–the idea that Christian beliefs are universal, and the ignoring and erasing of other (including Jewish) beliefs.

            I do agree with everything else you said about the cult of forgiveness, though. Excellent points on how the idea is weaponized, especially against minorities.

          2. seriously?*

            So your response to a comment indicating that using the term “Judeo-Christian” in this context is both a misrepresentation of Jewish belief and appropriation is to double down on that because some Christians believe they have fixed Judaism? Can you not see why that’s offensive?

            If you mean “white patriarchal Western culture” why not just say that and stop dragging Jews into it?

          3. Kathlynn*

            As I was taught in school Judo-christian means Jewish, Muslim and Christianity. Not western cultures, but specifically people involved in the 3 religions.
            You should not be using it when talking about western culture in general, or just one of those religions.

            1. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

              You should not be using “Judeo-Christian” when talking about Islam, either. If you have a specific reason to be talking about those three religions, it’s my understanding that “Abrahamic” is considered a better phrase.

              But “Judeo-Christian” minimizes Judaism–as described above (though I have to say, I had never expected someone to claim that the phrase is acceptable because of the doctrine of supersessionism; usually that’s used to explain why the phrase is bad, because the doctrine is incredibly minimizing to Judaism) and if it’s being used to sweep in Islam, it’s even moreso. It doesn’t even say “Islam.”

            2. Penny Lane*

              What school possibly taught you that Judeo-Christian means Judaism, Islam and Christianity??

              1. Kathlynn*

                public school. Hopefully this has changed since it was about 15 years ago we had that like one week of religious discussion.

            3. Sylvan*

              Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but the term for Judaism, Islam, and Christianity is “Abrahamic religions,” right?

          4. Observer*

            So, you’re complaining about racism of attitude, and then you turn around and justify the use of a phrase by citing one of the most racist / antisemitic ideas in the Christian cannon? Wow.

        2. Penny Lane*

          Thank you, HannahS (and all others who have noted that Judeo-Christian is just a cutesy way of lumping Jews with Christians, done by Christians who want to show how “tolerant” they are).

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Judeo-Christian can be an accurate term, but only as restricted to theological concepts that are legitimately common between the two — stuff like the creation of the world in 7 days, whether literal or symbolic. The Christian concept of forgiveness is very much not a part of that commonality.

            1. Penny Lane*

              Personally I’ve mostly seen it used by (evangelical) Christians who are tossing in the “Judeo” part because they’re throwing a bone towards Jewish people. Because they know that it comes across as arrogant to talk about Christian values (as if those values are so markedly different from anyone else’s) and so they figure they’re covered among the Jews if they make it Judeo-Christian values.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Which is a valid argument about reining in the inappropriate use of the term. But there’s an awful lot of ground that is validly claimed by both Jews and Christians (and for a fair part of it, Muslims as well!) as part of their theological traditions, and trying to claim that “Judeo-Christian” really just means “Christian” erases that.

                IE, are you really meaning to argue that the Ten Commandments aren’t Jewish?

                1. HannahS*

                  See, this is really interesting example, because Judaism and Catholicism (I don’t know about other Christian denoms) DO have different ten commandments! We divide those verses differently. And so the point of not using “Judeo-Christian” is that you, a non-Jew, didn’t know that, but assumed that they were the same or that the differences don’t matter. And that’s ok, you don’t have to know it (really, why would you?), but the point is that people assume commonality where there isn’t, or that Jews agree with Christians when we don’t. Even in theological commonalities, “Abrahamic” is usually more accurate because it includes Islam. In Jewish spaces, we say “Abrahamic,” FWIW.

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Okay, so because the same passage is translated differently, it’s obviously totally different and we can’t in any way shape or form state that the same basic rules as handed down by Moses are part of a common religious basis?

                  (And I did not use the term Abrahamic, btw, because I actually don’t know if or how strongly Islam draws on that particular passage. Judeo-Christian and Abrahamic are not synonyms, as you pointed out.)

                3. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

                  This is starting to remind me of a lot of debates over acceptable words that I’ve seen over the years: it’s devolving into the edge cases.

                  Here’s the thing: “Judeo-Christian” is a disfavored and distasteful term, for a lot of reasons as outlined above. As such, a lot of people, myself and Penny Lane and HannahS included, feel like it should just…not be used.

                  There may in fact be a case where it fully and accurately describes something (though I think it’s rare; as discussed the Ten Commandments don’t really work for some, myself included, as an example). However, saying “don’t say not to use the word, there is an edge case where it fits!” is…not a good argument to make. There are other ways to describe that edge case, ways that don’t preserve a disfavored and distasteful term, so why die on this hill?

                4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  I’m gonna disagree that having a large body of scripture in common (differences in translation and interpretation aside) counts as an “edge case,” but since this is straying pretty far from the letter at hand, I’ll agree to leave the discussion here.

                5. Observer*

                  The term is not being used here regarding religious similarities, but regarding CULTURE. There is NO SUCH thing as “Judaeo-Christian Culture.” Defending it by claiming it’s the “accpeted term” by people who believe in supersession is just mind boggling. In this context the term is incorrect and offensive. When used by someone who is complaining of culturally insensitive language and attitudes….. Words fail.

                  I know that that’s not what you are doing, but that’s why there is so much pushback.

                  It is worth noting that the differences that you cite are often fundamental to the belief structures of the two religions. Also, the status and placement of those scriptures makes a HUGE difference.

                  It turns out that there is very little similar between Judaism and Christianity that isn’t also covered by Islam, the appearance of Scripture notwithstanding. So, it’s a term that has very, very limited use even in that context

              2. SCAnonibrarian*

                Also a lot of evangelicals and fringe christian groups reaaaally fetishize Judaism, especially their focus on laws and ritual observances (either in a look what Jesus saved us from way, or in an overcompensating “Jews for Jesus” way of appropriating a full religious schedule of ceremony and observances since OBVIOUSLY we can’t use Catholic rituals because they’re actually deluded idol worshippers.) But that is a very fringe element of christianity – most American christians have nothing in common with Jewish practice and would probably not know or recognize the existing religious parallels either.

                If you want to describe the dominant western culture correctly, the most accurate words are Christian and Patriarchal.

            2. Sara without an H*

              True. The concept of forgiveness exists in Judaism, but it’s very, very different from the way it’s parsed in Christianity. And while the concept of forgiving enemies is common to all Christian denominations, what that means and how exactly to do it in individual cases can vary a lot.

              The kind of cheap forgiveness described upstream is more closely related to “moralistic therapeutic deism” than to historic Christianity, IMHO.

      3. Katniss*

        As someone who faced a lot of pressure to forgive someone who did me great harm, this was very validating to read. Thank you.

      4. Kate 2*

        TRIGGER WARNING – mentions of rape, pedophilia and incest

        There’s an awful trend for rapists and pedophiles to be given light sentences. In particular one judge sentenced a man who repeatedly raped his daughter to probation.

        Some articles, like the one below, don’t even acknowledge the well known fact that she was his daughter. And that his wife and his mother advocated for no jail time because it would HURT HIS SONS.

        Here’s some more


        This guy could see well enough to rape a child, but not well enough to serve time apparently


        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I’m just not clear on why this is here. I’m scrolling up to try to figure out what this is in response to, and I can’t see how it is relevant. I’ll talk in other spaces about criminal sentencing issues and sexism and societal attitudes about rape, but we are really, officially deviating way the heck off to the most tangential sides of anything conceivably linked to the letter at this point.

      5. Observer*

        The cult of forgiveness is also very racist. Yes, racist. It assumes the Judeo-Christian POV as both the default and the only correct way forward. . . . Turn the other check and forgive isn’t a universal belief.

        This really rubs me the wrong way. It’s kind of weird to read someone ranting about cultural insensitivity and ignorance and then turn around and do the exact same thing.

        There is NO SUCH THING as a Judaeo-Christian attitude towards forgiveness. And “turn the other cheek” is not only not Jewish – it is actively UN Jewish.

    6. Bagpuss*

      I think also there is a lot of fuzzy thinking about what forgiveness means. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the original wrong is forgotten or that the person should not face the consequences of their actions.
      It *can* be helpful for the person doing the forgiving, if it allows them to move on from feelings of hatred and anger against the perpetrator.
      It *can* be helpful as a step in the road towards reconciliation .

      I think it can be given without being earned, if and when the person who was wronged wishes to give it, but it is in their gift and should not, ever, be something that they are put under pressure to give.

      I don’t think it is up to victims or their families to advocate for prisoners. I think that their position means that if they voluntarily chose to do so, they have a powerful voice, but it is not something that they should be expected to do, or shamed for not doing.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, exactly. Forgiveness is not about “wiping the slate clean” and it’s never something that can be generated from an outside force. Whenever I’ve seen a victim who says they found healing through forgiveness, it’s always someone who chose that path of their own accord.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I’m totally paraphrasing a comment on an old CA post, but even for those who want it, “wiping the slate clean” means starting at zero, not continuing like nothing ever happened.

      2. Kathlynn*

        Social connotations around forgiveness matter. As media money says below
        “forgiveness (and maybe this is coming from a lapsed catholic perspective) implies absolution for the perpetrator and that is not something that you can expect from a victim/ victim’s family.”
        While my family isn’t overly religious (and not catholic at all) thus is the definition I grew up with, and 90% of the people around me used.

      3. Student*

        It has multiple definitions, but it literally does mean to excuse people from consequences normally due as “payment” or requital for their actions under one of the valid definitions of the term.

        If you’ve never had people press you to “forgive” somebody who attacked you, then you may not realize that this usually means the people demanding that you “forgive” your attacker are really, literally asking you to drop your claims against him so he can avoid suffering the full consequences of his actions. That’s also much more in line with what the employee telling the crime victim to start advocating for better prison stuff.

        Using a different definition, to cease to feel resentment against, is probably more what you’re thinking. Resentment does impede reconciliation. You seem to buy into the idea that reconciliation is always a desirable end-goal. Many of us disagree. I don’t think reconciliation makes any sense whatsoever for a murderer and one of his victim’s family members, personally. And I don’t see the inherent harm in those family members resenting the murderer, either. If it leads to depression, or similar issues (anxiety, phobias, PTSD), then solving the depression etc. is a worthy goal; curing the resentment itself, I don’t see what the inherent benefit is to the survivor. Anger itself is a survival instinct, and can lead to good things (seeking justice in the face of opposition, avoiding similar incidents, self-defense), not something inherently terrible to be stamped out. At least, that’s how it is in my worldview.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          “this usually means the people demanding that you “forgive” your attacker are really, literally asking you to drop your claims against him so he can avoid suffering the full consequences of his actions.”

          And/or reconciliation with someone you already know will never, ever stop hurting you (or trying to.)
          I’ve had this happen with people who’s judgement I would otherwise trust and it’s something I have never been able to understand.

          In my early 20s, I dropped a woman who had been my close friend for years after she tried to sleep with my boyfriend- that I lived with. I didn’t get in a huge long drawn out fight with her, just told her what I thought, listened to her BS excuses, ended the friendship and walked away.
          Our mothers (also friends) flipped out and acted like *I* was the one being totally unreasonable. They framed it as though we were having a cat fight over some Casanova who was playing us both against each other, which was absurd (and I assure you they weren’t seeing something I couldn’t.) It wasn’t even remotely true (he was horrified, actually), and my core personality is such that if it *had* been the case, I would have immediately told her “He’s all yours!” and left the building. I don’t play games, and someone who can’t or won’t decide that they want to date only me isn’t worth an iota of my time or feelings.
          “Don’t end your long friendship because of a MAN!” was all I heard, and I could only stare at them like they had just sprouted three heads while I told them “I am ending my friendship because the person who called themselves my closest friend is completely untrustworthy and will betray me if given a chance. Why would I want friends like that?”
          No, I did not reconcile, or even consider it.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            (I know that’s not the same situation as being asked to forgive a crime or an abuser, but those are things I don’t feel like relating the specifics of right now.)

    7. Juli G.*

      And we’ve all seen the perpetrators on the news that spit at the judge or say vile things in their sentencing to the family – people with no desire to be forgiven. These people are the minority and their existence doesn’t mean prison reform shouldn’t happen but Arya has no idea what Robb’s experience was with the murderer

    8. Mookie*

      I really think we fetishize the concept of “forgiveness”

      Definitely. And particularly so when it comes down to intersections of social justice, skipping the hard parts, and going straight to Individual Performative Action [in this case, Forgiveness] being tantamount to progress or a reasonable substitute for change. No: that is pure stasis, and its effects are atomized. A kind of empty feel-goodness that, by design, is not constructive or transformative but wholly conservative. That’s not how the sausage of collective action is ground and filled. The march towards a fairer justice system and more humane sentencing and detention exists within a larger plane and does not hinge upon a single survivor’s feelings or behavior.

      people forget that forgiveness is not to be simply given, like some sort of goodie bag at a kid’s birthday, but to be EARNED.

      I don’t know. Without a doubt, that’s true for some people, for some cultures. In other traditions, forgiveness is a self-centered act, in the most positive sense of the word, a favor one does for oneself, rather than absolution offered up to somebody else. But, again, progress does not hinge upon making peace with the tragedies in our lives, decontextualized from what pre-empted the tragedies and what followed them. Expecting the most burdened to do most of the heavy-lifting is pragmatic, I suppose (because that is, in fact, how it so often happens), but it’s not inevitable and people like Arya should not be pretending otherwise. In doing so, she looks like a fool as well as a pest. All she’s communicating here is: “shut up and say what I think you ought to be feeling.” Go away, Arya.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. I think most of the time forgiveness doesn’t really matter and it could go by a lot of very different names. Arya has a cause and she got overexcited to be near somebody to whom it’s relevant, not just abstract, and decided this was an evangelizing opportunity. And work really shouldn’t ever be an evangelizing opportunity even for inoffensive things, let alone how you deal with murderers.

        1. Parenthetically*

          “work really shouldn’t ever be an evangelizing opportunity even for inoffensive things, let alone how you deal with murderers.”

          YEP. Anything too far beyond, “Oh man I just started watching this great show, you should check it out!” is probably not ok for work.

      2. Giant teapot*

        I don’t think forgiveness is always helpful for the wronged person. Holding onto anger can be healing. It can also be protective against future injustices. Premature forgiveness can be very dangerous.

      3. smoke tree*

        I mean, I’m not Christian, but the phrase “turn the other cheek” actually encourages victims to invite people to abuse them more. Maybe I’m just not sufficiently enlightened, but I’ve always thought that was a pretty strange and radical position to take.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I’m not a Christian either, but I have read a possible explanation of the meaning (Wikipedia mentions it) where it would make sense, but only in the context of the time & place where it was written. So even if it was good advice 2000 yrs ago, it wouldn’t be applicable to modern times at all.

    9. Media Monkey*

      I totally agree. I’m not in the US, and although our legal system can be as problematic as any other, we do have a different set of issues (and thankfully IMO no death penalty).

      I think we need a word (maybe there is one that i can’t think of) that encapsulates the idea of “Moving on”. the phrase “Moving on” suggests forgetting and i don’t mean that at all. clearly most victims will never forget and plenty will not forgive and should not be expected to if that isn’t how they feel. but the idea of not focusing all of your attention and hatred on the perpetrator and letting that define your life forever. once you feel that (hopefully) justice has been done and a suitable punishment has been handed down to the perpetrator of course.

      not explaining it well but for me that would be closer to the “best” outcome (if such a thing exists for someone who has been horribly wronged.

      1. Giant teapot*

        In my opinion and experience, the best way for someone to move on is to feel validated. Emotional validation is key to moving on. By invalidating Robb, Arya is a making it harder for him to move on.

      2. Scarlet*

        This. I wish we had a satisfying term for “moving on, not letting yourself be overcome by hate and resentment and basically erase the perpetrator from your life”. I tend to see forgiveness as a form of absolution. You can totally move on with your life and let go of the anger, etc. without forgiving the person who wronged you.

        1. soon to be former fed*

          For me, forgiveness is the equivalent of writing off a bad debt, a concept that I have found useful in my life. But I a, mt a proponent of cheap grace, or forgiveness without consequences.

          Jesus was a practicing Jew. For quite some time, members of the “Nazarene sect” were considered Jews. An executive decision was made by a group of men to draw a bright line between the two, but it has never been clear to me that this is what Jesus intended.

          That said, I don’t care for the phrase Judeo-Christian because it is commonly used by evangelical types to promulgate a restrictive and inaccurate view of American society. It’s a dog whistle.

        2. Media Monkey*

          exactly that. forgiveness (and maybe this is coming from a lapsed catholic perspective) implies absolution for the perpetrator and that is not something that you can expect from a victim/ victim’s family.

        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          To ME, that word would be “closure”, but it’s had its meaning hijacked into something completely different (and often unhelpful-to-toxic) by the same part of our culture that promotes the Cult of Cheap Forgiveness.

    10. Parenthetically*

      I have come to the view that forgiveness isn’t about the other person as much as about releasing my anger and my desire for retribution for my own health and wholeness, so I won’t spend the rest of my life letting Person Who Wronged Me live rent-free in my head. That’s my personal view.

      THAT SAID, I couldn’t agree more with how awful the “fetishizing” of forgiveness is, and that’s such an apt description. I’ve seen the damage it does when forgiveness is used as a weapon to make victims feel bad for seeking justice. “Yes, this person was horrible to you/abused you/grossly mistreated you in a very real way, but God says you have to forgiiiiiiiive them, and if you don’t do that right this instant you’re the bad person.” It’s abusive and disgusting.

      I’ve donated to the Innocence Project, I’m 100% in favor of criminal justice reform, but I just cannot get my head around badgering someone who’s gone through what Robb has to jump on that bandwagon. Talk about tone deaf.

      1. Amber T*

        “I have come to the view that forgiveness isn’t about the other person as much as about releasing my anger and my desire for retribution for my own health and wholeness, so I won’t spend the rest of my life letting Person Who Wronged Me live rent-free in my head. That’s my personal view.”

        It’s an interesting thought, because I feel like I’ve accepted everything that Person Who Wronged Me has done and have moved on, but I don’t think I’ve forgiven them. So now I’m trying to figure out what my definition of forgiveness is, and I think it’s my belief and trust that you understand what you’ve done AND that you will try to not do it again. PWWM (who has since passed) never understood what she did was wrong, and she kept on doing it, so I don’t suppose I’ll ever forgive her. But I’m okay with that, because it’s something I’ve accepted.

        1. Kate 2*

          Yeah, I have someone who wronged me in a way that changed my life, changed me forever. Unfortunately I still have to see this person from time to time. I am civil, you would never know what That Person did to me, but I have never, ever forgiven.

          This person has never apologized to me, does not seem to regret it at all, doesn’t care how I feel.

          When I don’t have to be around this person, or am not discussing victim’s rights, I don’t think about them AT ALL. They have no space in my head. I am not angry, I don’t spend sleepless nights thinking over wrongs done to me, I am not Gollum!

          I am a very happy, healthy person with a great life. I will still never ever forget or forgive them.

    11. Kate 2*

      Yep! And it astonishes me that some prison reform people (1 commented here) don’t believe in life in prison – ever. What on earth do you do with serial killers then? Like Holmes or Gacy? Letting them out of prison while alive seems . . . unwise.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Is it an opposition to life in prison, or to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole? (I may have missed a comment, but I didn’t see one about not believing in life in prison, only opposing the concept of it being without even the possibility of parole, which to me is a significant distinction.)

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          It’s unrealistic, though, since some criminals are too violent and dangerous to ever walk among the general public again, even if on parole.

      2. zora*

        This is OT and we should leave it here, but that commenter did not say they didn’t agree with life in prison at all, they were specifically talking about “with no chance of parole”
        Those are different, and there is a lot of prison reform literature out there that explain the difference.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Reform prisons all you want, people like Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer, Ramirez, Buono, etc etc are too dangerous to ever be let out OR paroled.
          Anyone that thinks violent psychopaths or serial killers can be redeemed or rehabilitated has NO idea what they are talking about.

    12. Triple Anon*

      Well, and also that forgiveness is an abstract concept whereas justice involves tangible consequences and protecting the public from a dangerous person. The two are completely separate. You can forgive someone and be glad they got a life sentence, or not forgive them but think they should have gotten a lighter sentence. And because forgiveness is intangible, it’s a private thing. It’s in your own head. It’s no one else’s business.

  15. banana&tanger*

    #3 — congrats on your tubal. I had mine at 32 and I am thankful every time I think about it. As a single, childless woman, I sometimes tell rude, prying strangers or acquaintances (“oh, you’ll change your mind.” “Actually I had my tubes tied.” [awkward silence]). Tell your coworkers a line about a minor medical procedure to explain any soreness you may have when you get back. But know that they may make up stories on their own. Don’t be ashamed to share your excitement if you feel assumptions are being made.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I’m a parent and the “you’ll change your mind” thing drives me crazy. Parenting is HARD! I love my kids to pieces and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It should never be something someone feels obligated to do.

      It seems to me that if people were genuinely concerned about “changing minds” they’d put more effort into creating reliable but easily reversible forms of birth control. Funny how that’s not a priority, huh?

      1. Thlayli*

        There are lots of reliable and easily reversible forms of birth control. Usually when someone gets pregnant on birth control its because they haven’t used it correctly. For example I met a woman once who told me she got pregnant on the injection, and then later said she had missed an appointment, so she wasn’t actually using any contraception at all. Yet she’s going around telling people she got pregnant when using the injection. Stories like this have made lots of people think that contraception is unreliable, when the opposite is true.

        When used correctly most hormonal methods of birth control are more than 98%, with some 99.9% effective. Condoms are less effective, because it’s easier to use them incorrectly, but when used correctly they are about 98% too.

        Nothing is 100% effective, but saying reliable and reversible birth control is “not a priority” is just not true.

        1. Thlayli*

          Note: this is a reply to the statement about birth control not being a priority. I’m not in any way criticising the OPs decision to have a tubal. I may have one myself when I decide I’m done having kids coz I don’t want to be on hormonal contraception for another 20 years.

        2. Health Insurance Nerd*

          Thanks for this comment. There are myriad birth control options, many of them long acting and easily reversible (hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, nexplanon) that allow women to effectively “set and forget” about birth control for years!

        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I’m not going to put word’s in the other commenters mouth, but I feel like they meant “as reliable & maintenance free as tubal ligation/vasectomy but as easily reversible as non-surgical methods of contraception.”
          Which, I agree, would be MARVELOUS if they existed.
          But I’d settle for coming up with more methods of contraception for MEN, so they can take on a greater share of the responsibility as well. Condoms are a really poor solution to birth control for Lon term monogamous couples who don’t have to worry about STI/STD, and especially if the woman cannot use some or all of the more effective options available to her. (Speaking as a woman, I hate them.)

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I hate condoms, I mean. And I know a LOT of women who cannot use any form of hormonal birth control at all.

      2. Penny Lane*

        There are tons of reliable but easily reversible forms of birth control available. Plenty of people put a lot of effort into creating them. They are called researchers and scientists.

      3. Oxford Coma*

        Them: “You’ll change your mind.”
        Me: “So will you, but they’re non-refundable.”

        (Totally stolen from someone else.)

      4. Kate 2*

        Not to mention the people who tell you once you have kids of your own you’ll change your mind, what the hell happens if you don’t?! And plenty of people actually regret the kids they had. There are some support groups for them. Just google “support group for parents who regret their kids” and you’ll find them and articles about them. Also google “loophole in child abandonment law”. People traveled hundreds of miles to give up their children. A lot of people, not just a few outliers.

        Most parents love their kids, but advising people who don’t want or like kids to have some because it will change their minds is WILDLY irresponsible. It’s also sadly not true that all parents love their children. Just look at the parents ranging from regret to abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I had wonderful parents, but I knew plenty of kids that didn’t, and even at 9/10 years old I was wondering why their parents even had them when it was so obvious (to ME, anyway) that they didn’t like or want them.
          I don’t have kids and long ago decided that I never would even if I changed my mind and wanted them, because I completely lack the patience & temperament required to be even a halfway decent parent. Not after seeing what that did to so many people I loved.

    2. BananaRama*

      OP#3: Congrats. I had mine done at 29 and it is a huge relief for me. It was something I had wanted for years, but in the military they won’t entertain the idea unless I was over 35 or already had at least one kid (!!). I had the surgery planned within a year of getting out of Service. I told my office that I was out for a minor surgery and would be back within a few days. My surgery was on a Thursday and I was back by Tuesday.

      If you don’t have a recovery specialist, you might want to look into one. I swear my functional movement therapist (like a manual physical therapist) reduced my inflammation and decreased my healing time to next to nothing.

      1. OP #3*

        That’s so interesting that the military wouldn’t approve it for you while active duty – I am a military spouse and to be honest, I expected some (or a lot) of pushback when I approached my PCM about having the procedure but I was actually approved very quickly. I didn’t even need to dig into the long list of reasons I had prepared – although I did laugh when the OBGYN told me very dramatically that “the most common side effect…..is REGRET”

        1. AnonEMoose*

          My surgeon, at the initial appointment, sat me down and said “I have to ask everyone these questions, so we’re just going to go through them.” And when she asked about my DH having a vasectomy (as it’s less invasive), I just looked at her and said “He’s a guy, and it’s a knife…there.” She laughed, and we went on to the next question.

          1. BananaRama*

            My doctor mentioned the same thing. I replied, “my body and my choice.” While it may have been a joint discussion, my not wanting kids was 100% what I wanted and I would have had the procedure whether married or not.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              For me, it was a quick way of answering the question, and was true. But it was also that I wanted the peace of mind of knowing that, even if DH and I weren’t together anymore at some point, I still wouldn’t have to worry about an unplanned pregnancy. (We’re very happily married, but stuff does happen). I just didn’t feel the need to go that deeply into it, as the doc already knew (through other questions) that I had thought about it carefully, and so on.

        2. BananaRama*

          Yeah, for some reason they were very against it. Probably for the side effect you mentioned “regret.” I found it silly that if I did have a kid already, they would have been more than willing to do the procedure but because I did not have kids they were reluctant.

        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I wanted to get it done at 23, before I aged off my parents insurance. My gyno then was great, except right then- she pulled the “you’ll change your mind/have regrets” BS, which actually made me really mad. I knew I didn’t want kids, had always known it, and had given the matter enough thought to know that NO MATTER WHAT, I would never have biological children, because of my fucked up health/genetics. Passing that on would be child abuse and make me an utterly morally reprehensible person.
          I’m 51 now, and can’t WAIT for menopause. (By the time I had health insurance again, I no longer felt that surgery would be a safe option.) I have no kids and NO regrets. It was without a doubt the smartest single decision I’ve made in my entire life…bar NONE.
          I know it’s probably petty, but by time I was old enough for people to stop giving me the baby BS, I had become so sick of people not respecting my agency (& society trying to deny women’s autonomy), that I sometimes wish I could have a giant menopause party and invite everyone who was so sure I didn’t really know what I wanted, and give them all the double bird as I do a song & dance about how happy I am I never had kids. X-D

    3. AnonEMoose*

      Also childfree here. I had my tubal ligation done when I was 35, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. The peace of mind is wonderful. Plus, I didn’t want to continue hormonal contraception after 35, as my understanding is that the risks do increase after that age.

      OP, one thing you might consider is that I was told I shouldn’t lift anything more than 10 pounds for several weeks after the surgery. I don’t know if that affects your work at all (it was more of a thing at home for me), but thought it might be worth a mention.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Interesting – my experience was the opposite. I had one done on a Friday, just rested / took it easy over the weekend (stayed at home and didn’t go out), and I went skiing the week after with no problem. I don’t recall any lifting restrictions.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Mine was more than 10 years ago, now, so things may have changed in that respect. It might also have to do with the individual surgeon. Mine was pretty amused when I asked her when I could go back to taking Middle Eastern dance lessons, which I was doing at the time – she said that was a question she’d never gotten before. On that, she just said that I should wait until the incisions were healed (as in, no scabs), and for a few weeks after that to not do something if it hurt.

      2. BananaRama*

        I had my surgery on a Thursday, rested over the weekend and was back at it by Tuesday. Could have been Monday, but I wanted to wait for the doctor’s release. I swear my functional movement therapist (like a manual physical therapist) reduced my inflammation and decreased my healing time to next to nothing. I saw him the Monday after my surgery. I’d already been seeing him for other stuff, so we just added in range of motion movements for my abdominal/hip area to target swelling break up.

      3. OP #3*

        Glad to hear you’ve been happy with your choice! I’ve been on hormonal birth control since I was a pretty young teenager, and with the history of blood clots/stroke in my family I think it’s time to make a change.

        That’s good to know about the heavy lifting – I work in a pretty traditional office setting (cubicle-land!) so it shouldn’t be a major issue workplace issue for me, but I’ll be sure to chat with my doctor about how soon I can get back in to working out.

    4. epi*

      I mine done almost a year ago at 30, and had some coworkers I was close with including my supervisor on one project. Normal, nice people do not push after you repeat something like Alison’s phrasing with no details. Reassure them they don’t need to be worried about you, and most people will let it go.

      Also, stay hydrated in recovery and don’t agree to do *anything* from home! Recovering felt a lot like the end of a bad cold to me, where I felt pretty ok as long as I was doing nothing, but terrible if I took that as a sign I should attempt normal activities. I agreed to support one minor task as needed from home– literally just cleaning and uploading a single file– and ended up in tears of frustration having to say no. The brain fog from meds, exhaustion, and just being kind of uncomfortable make this a good week for Netflix. I also highly recommend the lime and cucumber flavored Gatorade, which I drank to prepare for surgery but was great after too.

      1. OP #3*

        Thanks for sharing those tips! I wrapped up a big project last week and purposely haven’t taken on anything new with a tight deadline just so I won’t feel compelled to work from home. My husband is very kindly taking a few days off to look after me too. Fingers crossed that the recovery will be smooth!

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I so agree, epi! Definitely stay hydrated in recovery, especially if you’re on pain medication. For me, I took the heavier duty stuff the day of the surgery and the day after, but after that, was fine with Advil. But one of the side effects (pardon the TMI) of pain meds can be constipation, which isn’t good with fresh abdominal incisions. Staying hydrated helps with that.

        Also seconding what epi had to say about being tired. Healing does take it out of you, and you may not quite have the energy or stamina you’re used to for a while afterwards. Pay attention to your energy level, and be gentle with yourself for a bit.

    5. Orangie*

      I had Essure a few years ago (and I absolutely love it!), and when coworkers asked why I would be out of the office, I just gestured at my lower abdomen and said, “the plumbing needs some work.” The unintentional bonus is that people never asked again when I was going to have kids, which I think is because they wanted to be sensitive of possible infertility issues.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Or possibly they thought you were talking about bowel problems, and were afraid to know more X-D

  16. Marie B.*

    Re: #3 Alison’s script is perfect here.

    Good luck with the tubal and I’m glad you were able to make the decision that was right for you and are getting the procedure you want.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Yep, less information is more. There’s no reason for anyone to know why you’re out. “I’ll be out from Wednesday through Monday” is all they need to know. Your medical details are not your coworkers’ business. At all.

      1. Hard boiled*

        I work in an office where there’s a culture of telling people why you’re taking your sick days (partly because my boss is a germaphobe, but also it’s a casual place and people just get concerned). A comment like this would illicit questions. I’ve found the phrase “it’s nothing major, but I’ll spare you the gory details” a really helpful way to signal when it’s something I don’t want to discuss without seeming defensive. Can’t promise that’ll make people in every office drop the subject, but everyone has always responded well to it in mine .

        1. OP #3*

          I also work in an office where people tend to give some detail about why they’re taking sick leave (for better or worse, I know exactly when my boss is having her upcoming colonoscopy…), so being evasive about it feels a little awkward from that standpoint. But I like that phrasing a lot, I might have to use it!

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I’m the type that would make an oblique reference to some procedure or condition that most people would consider embarrassing or TMI to bring up or pry into, and be LOLing like mad inside.

            Nosey Parker: “Oh you’re taking some medical time off?”

            Me: “Oh, well, not too get too personal, but it sure will be nice to not feel like I’m singlehandedly paying the salaries of everyone at the Prep H & Immodium factories!”

            Nosey Parker: O_0 *runs away*

        2. Kate 2*

          Love this! My office culture tends toward oversharing as a form of friendliness/relationship building. It’s uncomfortable to share more than you want to, but not sharing makes you look really really out of place, they see it as cold and uncaring. So a phrasing like this is super useful, thank you!

      2. Blue*

        Yep. I was out for a couple of days when I had lasik, and while I would’ve had no problem telling people the reason, there was no point. When someone asked about me being out, I just said, “Oh, minor medical procedure. Nothing to worry about – I’ll be back Monday,” and that was it. I often have to fight the urge to justify any absences, but now I ask myself what Alison would do and then take out any details on principle!

  17. hmm what?*


    Seriously, what is wrong with some people!? If I had the authority, I would talk to Arya and if she does it again, fire her on the spot. Is empathy for someone who went through an extreme personal tragedy that difficult?!

    This whole thing bothers me so much.

    1. Wintermute*

      I wouldn’t even give her that chance, personally. She’s soured the working relationship so severely that she’s made her continued employment impossible. When things reach the point that OTHER EMPLOYEES are stepping in to make sure someone doesn’t have to deal with someone else because they didn’t just cross a line, they can no longer see the line in their rear-view mirror, there’s nothing left there anymore, she can’t ever have a realistic working relationship with these people because of her own callous and cruel behavior.

  18. Dot Warner*

    OP1, this line of your letter jumped out at me: “Other employees are enabling Robb by dealing with Arya on his behalf.”

    OP, they are not enabling Robb. They are protecting him from someone who was unspeakably rude to him at a very difficult time in his life. Arya lectured him about how he should respond to the murder of a family member, a topic that is not only extraordinarily painful but absolutely positively none of her business. He should never have to work with her again, and I am appalled by your lack of compassion for him. Maybe you don’t like Robb and that’s OK, but please don’t brush his concerns under the rug. You seem to think that he’s the culprit here, when in reality, he’s the victim – twice.

    1. Tuesday Next*


      “Enabling” gives the impression that OP is not especially sympathetic towards Robb, and that it’s his behaviour that’s causing her concern rather than Arya’s. There’s no criticism of Arya’s comments or the effect they’ve had on Robb. She is the problem here, not Robb, and any awkwardness in the workplace now is a result of Arya’s behaviour and not Robb’s (perfectly normal) response to it.

      The next time Arya feels strongly about something, she’ll probably be comfortable with pushing her opinions onto her colleagues because she’s seen that management won’t take any action (and subtly blames the victim).

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Robb’s response isn’t “perfectly normal”- perfectly normal would be ripping her a couple of new ones and then reporting her to management. Robb sounds like he has the patience of a saint.

    2. Djuna*

      I am amazed at how professional Robb is still being about all of this, and I think it speaks volumes that his co-workers are actively helping to keep Arya away from him. That should be sending a very different message to the one OP is picking up.

      It struck me that work (given what OP said) is a refuge for Robb, somewhere he can go every day without having to talk/think about losing a loved one so horribly, where he con find comfort in routine, and where people are empathetic and kind enough to let him be. And then Arya shows up intent on dismantling that in the service of her cause…I can’t stress enough how wrong-headed she is being about this.

      As many others have said, reform of prisons and the justice system is a very worthy cause, but haranguing someone who has gone through a tragedy like Robb is 100% not the way to address it. OP, please take Alison’s advice to heart, especially the last line.

    3. MuseumChick*

      Good catch. I was so outraged by Arya behavior I kind of swept over the language the OP uses in the letter. It sort of like the letter about the employee the stole a co-workers jacket. That letter writer ended up twisting things around to make the victim of the theft the bad guy.

      OP, Robb is the victim here and Arya is the perpetrator. You need to have a firm talk with her about appropriate boundaries and acknowledge to her that you should have spoken with her when it first happened. Then you need to speak with Robb, again acknowledge that you should have dealt with this when it first arose, let him know that you have spoken with Arya and to come to you if anything else happens so you can deal with it.

    4. Murphy*

      Yes, totally. If I were one of Robb’s coworkers I think I would have a hard time dealing with Arya after those comments. I commend those coworkers for allowing Robb to stay away from her.

  19. Marcel*

    I feel bad for Robb. He has to go through the horrible tragedy of having a family member murdered. Then when he is minding his own business at work someone lectures him multiple times about how the poor murderer needs forgiveness and he needs to work and fight for the murderer’s rights and him to have an improved life. Robb has been through enough and needs to be left alone.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Not to reduce the tragic circumstances, however this reminds me of the questions on here about nosy/interfering co-workers going on about religion, life choices or people’s appearances (see yesterday). What has that got to do with work?

  20. Mark Roth*

    Maybe I am missing something, but how is defending someone and shielding them from abusive comments “enabling?”

    1. arjumand*

      Yeah, I don’t get it, either.
      Maybe it was just a poor choice of words, and OP1 doesn’t get the implications of “enabling”?

      1. Mary Connell*

        I was going to note that the enabling that seems to be happening in this scenario is the enabling of the bully (Arya), but see that Observer made that point earlier.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s literally enabling, in the sense of helping Rob to get through his day. Like “what tools can I give you to enable you to do your job?”

      But I did first read it with the “screw-up and their enablers” sense of the term, which was very off. Sometimes we shield people from the power sander coming at them, and it’s not about enabling them to continue bad behavior. It’s about lending strength when they are at the end of theirs, understanding that in time our roles could be reversed.

  21. Observer*

    #1, I’m curious about something. How is it that Arya was able to harass Rob about his relative’s death without anyone telling her to cut it out? Why are you only now considering intervening?

    It’s a bit concerning because you seem to be of the opinion that as a manager you don’t have a right or responsibility to see that people treat each other with respect and common courtesy. That can be a recipe for a very toxic workplace. I am NOT talking about insisting that everyone has to be “like family” or “best friends”! (Read the archives to see some good examples of why that is a REALLY bad idea.) But, people need to treat each other with respect and professionalism. Arya TOTALLY blew it in that respect and it’s on you as a manager to stop that kind of behavior.

    You really, really do not want to enable bullies. Letting Arya get away with this, enables her bad behavior.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah. I think that OP1 came into this believing that only “professional” issues, not “personal” issues, should be addressed by the manager, but in a workplace personal relationships ARE a professional issue. It’s not at all overstepping to intervene. Observer is right that there’s a balance to be hit, but yeah, OP1, you absolutely should be ensuring that everyone is treated with respect! It might help to think of yourself as a high school teacher–their job isn’t just to teach, they also have to maintain the learning environment. They shouldn’t be forcing people to be friends with each other, but if someone’s behaving inappropriately, it’s right for them to intervene.

  22. Observer*

    #3 Alison’s script is perfect. You have exactly ZERO obligation to explain what you’re planning. “I’ll be out dealing with a minor medical procedure. Please make sure the TPS report gets submitted. I’ll have the numbers to you before I go out.”

    1. Hard boiled*

      I work in an office where there’s a culture of telling people why you’re taking your sick days (partly because my boss is a germaphobe, but also it’s a casual place and people just get concerned). A comment like this would illicit questions. I’ve found the phrase “I’ll spare you the gory details” a really helpful way to signal when it’s something I don’t want to discuss without seeming defensive. Can’t promise that’ll make people in every office drop the subject, but everyone has always responded well to it in mine.

      1. Nea*

        My script for very personal surgery was “Oh, I’m fine; it’s the human equivalent of 60,000 mile maintenance.”

        1. Matt*

          I sent people the wikipedia link for the exact technique that was going to be used for my hernia surgery. No one ever came back to me for more details ;-)

  23. Jannie Mae*

    Robb’s other co-workers sound awesome. They are shielding him from any further bullying and stupidity from Arya while being professional about it and not creating any hostility or disruptions to work. I’m glad they are looking after him since Arya and the OP don’t seem to care.

    1. Wintermute*

      I agree, they’re doing a great, great thing. The OP’s choice of language regarding them and the situation is throwing more red flags than a may day military parade, maybe I’m misreading the intent behind the language.

      These people are being mensches, OP, look at their behavior and learn: “this is how you go about being a good person” they’re displaying impressive solidarity and skill in the art of being human.

  24. Those Flowers Are an Institution*

    I saw you had a new entry and was amused that my RSS feed displayed the Beverly Hills Cop poster (?).

    I personally keep my phone on vibrate, but I’m generally fine with ringtones as long as they’re silenced immediately.

  25. Martha Marcy May Marlene*

    Normally I agree with Alison’s advice but in this case (#1) I think it is dead wrong. Arya should be fired, not because of her views on prisoners [because I agree that the system is broken and needs change] but because she was a complete glassbowl for badgering and harassing an innocent person, in the workplace no less. She should consider herself fortunate she was not shown the door after the first instance.

    1. Ex-Humanities student*

      Badgering and harassing is a bit much. The OP says she hasn’t said anything more. I mean, she was clearly out of line, but it doesn’t warrant firing, especially when the OP hasn’t had the beginning of a conversation about the situation with her.

    2. CityMouse*

      I think the fact that other people in the office are actively protecting him from her shows just however the line she has gone. If it is that bad, OP should consider firing Arya. It sounds like she has seriously alienated quite a few people.

    3. MLB*

      That’s a bit extreme. Yes what she’s doing is terrible and she needs to have a serious conversation with her, but it doesn’t warrant immediate firing.

      1. Temperance*

        It sounds like there have been multiple conversations where Arya felt the need to badger poor Rob, so yeah, I would shitcan her yesterday.

        1. LizB*

          I think if someone in management had told Arya to knock it off after the first conversation (or an early one) and then she persisted in badgering him, I’d say absolutely fire her. But it sounds like OP1 hasn’t spoken to her about her behavior at all, which makes it more of a mixed bag for me. I’m generally reluctant to fire someone for what is from their perspective a first offense (because “nobody told me to stop it before”), but I can also see the view that Arya’s shown herself to be so lacking in empathy and judgment that she’s just not someone the OP would want to keep around even if she shaped up after a warning.

          1. Temperance*

            There are some actions that are so egregious that they don’t merit a warning before firing. “Stop haranguing your colleague about how he should forgive the sub-human piece of trash who killed his relative” is not a sentence that anyone should have to say as a warning.

            1. Kate 2*

              Agreed. Like “don’t run a sex club out of the office”. Shouldn’t even have to be said. Side note, anyone else remember the duck club letter? This reminds me of that, both outrageous, but one angry outrageous, one sort of funny.

  26. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Op2, is it possible the problem with your ringtone is that it gets into people’s head, thus making it difficult to focus? I mean, a song is more likely to stay in my head all day than the ringing of an old-fashioned telephone (although I do agree all phones need to be on silent or vibrate because all that noise sounds like hell to me).

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      A.N. O’Nyme, that might be the case if my phone were ringing constantly. It’s not. In a five day workweek, it’s unusual if my phone rings at work eight times.

  27. brushandfloss*

    #4, Another potential problem is walking back to your car and finding out it has been towed. Most strip mall parking have signs stating parking for customer only or risk getting booted/towed. It may not have happened yet but if you and your coworkers keep taking up spots it can happen soon. I’m going to echo someone upthread, don’t risk your safety for a second job at a restaurant.

    1. Aveline*

      Yep. This isn’t public property. It’s private.

      The OP is trespassing and can be towed at her expense.

    2. Delta Delta*

      Unless the restaurant and strip mall have some sort of agreement that it’s okay to park there at night. The strip mall owners may want foot traffic to help curb potential mischief when the mall stores are closed. Not saying I necessarily agree with the setup, just that I see a possible agreement.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, that would make sense. Personally, I’d only park there under those conditions if that matched up with the posted signs. That is, if it’s posted that non-customers will be towed before 5 PM, great, park there. If it’s posted as customers only, I would definitely not trust any informal agreement to the contrary. (If it’s not posted at all, then I’m not sure what rules apply.)

    3. Nita*

      Yes. From OP’s letter it sounds like they’re being forced to park against the mall rules, and there’s no agreement between the mall and the restaurant. It’s relatively unlikely they’re crowding out many customers late at night, but who knows… one of the restaurant employees can well find that their car has been towed and they’re stranded at midnight in a dark parking lot.

      I hope OP and her coworkers find the leverage to push back, or unionize, or just shrug and start parking in the restaurant parking lot until the driving-to-the car arrangement materializes. Maybe, if carpooling with coworkers is possible, there will be fewer employee cars in the restaurant parking lot and management will be more willing to have them stay there.

      1. OP 4*

        Yeah, there’s definitely no agreement. We’ve tried pushing back and they haven’t done anything. They just keep providing empty promises that they will drive us to our cars at night. We’ve gotten completely new management in the past 6 months (4 new managers!!! and no old ones left!) and they are *horrendous.*

        We’ve also tried just parking in the restaurant lot anyway, but the regional manager then set up cameras (!!!!!) and watched for a week in order to record every single employees make, model, and license plate number. He’s such a sociopath that he would then confront people and ask if their car was parked in the grocery lot, when he knew darn well it was parked at the restaurant, just to catch people in lies! He’s a major butthole.

        1. dawbs*

          do you/the restaurant have permission to park there?
          Or is he just telling you guys to park on someone else’s lot? illegally? ; since you are parking on someone else’s lot.

          1. OP 4*

            No permission!! It’s a huge lot and there is a big vacant supermarket there so I think that’s why we’ve been getting away with it.

            1. dawbs*

              I’d do it in email then.
              “Hey, I’m happy to park in the supermarket lot once I’m sure we have permission. I don’t want to get ticketed or towed, so can you forward on permission once we have it? Until then, I’ll park in our lot where I know we have permission. thanks”

              But do that in email.
              That way you have, IN WRITING, a record that 1-you’re being asked to do this (illegally) by the boss, 2-that yo’re being reasonable and working WITH your manager (because you’re saying you will–he just needs to give you the OK) and 3-that you are going to continue as you are until he does his damn job.
              I know that not everyone goes with this, but I really find that feigning cheerfully oblivious is truly a go to way to solve a lot of stupid crap at workplaces. especially when it comes to written records.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          These are huge red flags even without the parking problem. IME this sort of thing isn’t about the restaurant at all, and they’re not managing and not going to start any time soon.
          I know it used to be a good place to work, but it isn’t any more. Leave sooner rather than later. It will be less stressful than watching it crash and burn. :(

          1. Michaela Westen*

            So frustrating, because restaurant work is so much fun! But it seems to be a catch-all for abusive and incompetent managers who couldn’t make it anywhere else, and it’s so undervalued and unpaid, when most of the people who look down on restaurant workers couldn’t get through a shift to save their life!
            If only it had decent pay, benefits and management I never would have left.

  28. Lurker who knits*

    OP 5: I agree with ignoring your friends’ advice. You’d come across as unprofessional, and it would raise a red flag.

    This is not your question, but is it possible for you to do some self-study/training on your own to get that experience which was missing in your second attempt? Was the missing experience related to your current work? Perhaps freelance or volunteer work can provide that experience? Or, if that was a one-off need for your alma mater, what other types of experience would you need to become a better fit/more competitve?

    1. Ewoe OP#5*

      Yes, I can definitely get the missing experience (fundraising) through volunteer work. One of my best friends does a lot of fundraising projects so I can also tap in on her expertise and join her projects.

  29. SusanIvanova*

    #5 – It took over a year between my now-current manager saying “if we have an opening we’ll call you” and them actually calling me. If you trust they meant what they said, then hang in there. Sometimes it just takes a while for things to line up.

    1. Ewoe OP#5*

      I am glad they called you! They did call back after saying it the first time so I trust that they will call again if something opens up. But right now, I’m focused on getting out of my current situation so I am looking at other options and will come back and try again later.

      1. AMPG*

        In the meantime, I suggest stepping up your alumni involvement a bit. You don’t have to do anything big and showy, but maybe volunteer to be on a reunion committee, or host a mixer fo