an affair is causing drama at work, video thank-you notes, and more

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

1. An affair is causing drama on my team

“Michael” is married to “Amy.” Amy is having an affair with “Jake.” Jake is single. All three of them work here. When Michael found out about the affair, he left Amy and filed for divorce and did not hide the reason why he left. Michael and Amy don’t have kids, and he refuses to see or speak to Amy now. He didn’t know Jake before the affair but is keeping away from him also. The divorce is not an amicable one.

I manage Michael. Amy and Jake don’t work in my division or even in the same building as us, but that hasn’t stopped news of the affair spreading everywhere and all the gossip that goes along with it. Everyone feels sorry for Michael. I have heard from both of the people who manage Amy and Jake respectively, and they are being ignored and treated coldly by everyone who works here over the affair. Jake’s manager has heard people calling him a homewrecker because he knew Amy was in a monogamous marriage and didn’t care. Michael isn’t feeding the gossip but will thank people if they tell him he is right or they feel badly for him.

All everyone here can talk about is the affair, how horrible Amy and Jake are, and how sad it is for Michael. Amy and Jake are outcasts now because Michael told everyone they know (family, friends, and coworkers) about them. I feel badly for Michael too but I don’t know how to get people to stop talking about the affair and gossiping instead of working. I thought things would die down but it has been months and people are still talking like it is new. It’s a company-wide problem and isn’t just happening on my team. How do I get it to stop when it is so rampant?

You can’t control it in the rest of your company, but you can control what’s happening on your team. It’s entirely reasonable to say to people on your team, “This has started to impact our productivity as a team. You can of course discuss anything you’d like outside of work, but while you’re at work, I need all of us to be focused on work, not discussing other people’s personal affairs.” And then if it continues to be a problem after that, talk to offenders individually and remind them that you’ve asked them to stop gossiping and that you need them focused on work. You can also get at this by managing people more closely for a while, and intervening right away when someone isn’t being as productive as they should be. Make sure people have deadlines for their work, and address it if they’re not hitting those deadlines.

And if anyone on your team is part of the freezing out of Jake or Amy, it’s also reasonable to tell them that part of their job is to interact with other colleagues professionally and politely. They don’t have to like Jake or Amy, and they can privately think whatever thoughts they want about them, but they do need to treat them politely as long as they’re employed there.

2. Reading performance evaluations out loud to the person being evaluated

For the past several years, I have noticed that my higher-ups will read aloud to me their written evaluation of me. I walk into a meeting, they hand me a document, and then they read aloud their copy. It’s really quite awkward! Maybe it is more awkward because it is coupled with not being given a copy of the document ahead of time. It’s as though there is some “best practice” that says reading the evaluation aloud, without prior notice, enhances some kind of reception of the evaluation by the employee.

Are you able to comment about where this practice might stem from, and how reasonable it is for an employee to ask for the document to be given to them ahead of time and for it to NOT be read aloud? It seems more ideal to me for the meeting to be about the employee bringing discussion points and thought-through responses about the evaluation to the table, rather than just digesting it and responding in the moment.

Yeah, that’s weird, and I don’t know where it’s coming from! Have you been at the same company the whole time you’ve been noticing this? Sometimes a weird practice takes root and spreads throughout a company, either because someone at the top is doing it and so the managers below them start copying it without realizing it’s just that one manager’s own weird style, or because it’s officially promulgated by the company. (That’s not to say yours is the only company where managers are doing this, but it tends to be a sign of extreme rigidity and/or discomfort in having real management conversations.)

In any case, yes, you’re correct. It’s strange to read an evaluation out loud to someone. Either give it to them ahead of time so they can read and digest it, and then meet to discuss it, or meet and talk first and then leave them with the written review, with the offer to discuss it more once they’ve read it. (It’s not good to just hand the document to them in the meeting and then expect to have a conversation though, because most people won’t be able to resist reading through it on the spot, which will mean they won’t be fully present for whatever conversation you’re trying to have.) But reading it out loud is a strange use of everyone’s time, and not exactly conducive to the sort of open dialogue that you want to have in an evaluation meeting.

It would be perfectly reasonable for you to say to your manager, “Would I be able to read the evaluation ahead of our meeting, so that I’m able to digest it and come more prepared to talk with you?” But what they’re doing indicates a tendency toward rigidity, so you may or may not get a yes to that.

3. Sending a thank-you video instead of a thank-you note

I came across an article this morning that suggests that regular thank-you notes after an interview are so passé now, and that if you really want to stand out you should send a one-to-three-minute video of yourself saying everything that should go into a good thank-you note (or rather, follow-up note, as you discuss).

I’m guessing you’re going to say it’s ridiculous (who wants to watch three-minute videos instead of reading a 30-second email?!) but maybe that’s just my take. Your thoughts?

You guessed my thoughts. It’s ridiculous and shows a total lack of understanding of how hiring managers think. No one wants to watch a video rather than reading a thank-you note they can read in seconds. It’s also weird — video thank-you notes are not a thing, and a job candidate who sends one is far more likely to come across as attention-seeking and out-of-touch (and annoying) than as innovative or delightfully tech-savvy or whatever else is intended.

This is one of those ideas that stems from someone thinking, “What could job seekers do that would be different from the pack and thus get them extra attention?” when that someone doesn’t have much experience doing actual hiring and doesn’t bother to test it with enough people who do.

4. How do I get people to stop getting angry that my contract might not be renewed?

My contract will be up for renewal in a few months, and there is a strong possibility it will not be renewed. Not because I did anything wrong (my boss and my boss’s boss think I am a valuable asset) but because we’ve been hiring a lot of full-time employees in anticipation of increased business that didn’t materialize this year, and because regulations changed and we are bringing in less revenue. HR is now trying to avoid renewing contractors’ contracts unless the position is critical and needs to be filled.

I am aware of all these things, and in the past months since I was hired, I’ve built a truly outstanding resume that i know will help me find other employment, even if my contract is not renewed. Every week I complete more projects which make it even stronger. But for some reason, everyone I know is outraged that there is a chance that I might not have my contract renewed, and I’m receiving advice that ranges from “work extra hours and don’t put them on your timesheets to show how committed you are so they will renew the contract” (parents) to “I know , I’ll tell them they have to get your contract renewed” (random friend who was surprised when I said I couldn’t commit to plans a few months out because I might be job hunting). How do I respond to these people in a way that makes it clear that I am not panicking about my future, and that well meaning angry rants about how I need to be upset at the fact that my future here is uncertain are not productive?

“Thanks for thinking of me! But I’m totally okay with this! The decision makes sense to me, and I’m positioned well for my next search, so please don’t worry about me.”

And for anyone who continues to rant after that: “I think you’re more upset about this than I am! I’m actually not upset or alarmed by this, and I feel fine about the situation. So please don’t worry! Now, what about (insert change of subject here)?”

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Can I back out of a job offer after getting bad health news?

I signed a offer letter with a company I was excited about. I like the manager who would be my boss and think the work would be interesting. It is a change from my current industry into a new one and I was excited to learn new skills. I accepted the job offer on Tuesday morning of last week. Thursday I went to my doctor for some results and got a huge surprise. Labs came back crazy and now I am scheduled to travel half way across the country in the beginning of June to see a specialist. I have already put in my two weeks notice at my current job but I don’t think I can start the new job.

First, I am not sure what I need to do medically to get a handle on this new diagnosis. I also can not commit to my start date now and feel I can’t promise to be completely present at the new job. My current employer is willing to extend my notice — up to July 31 — and is very hopeful I choose to do this. They also indicated they would consider keeping me since they were upset I put in my notice to begin with.

Is this an acceptable reason to back out of my job offer? My diagnosis is for a chronic illness that has the potential to greatly impact my quality of life, or not. The doctors don’t know since each person has a different experience. How best can I navigate this situation?

Yes, this is absolutely an understandable reason to back out of the job offer if you want to! People will understand if you explain the gist of it.

You could say something like: “I’m so sorry about this, but since accepting your offer, I’ve gotten some difficult health news that would make it hard for me to be starting a new job right now. I was so excited about working with you, but I want to be realistic about the impact this is likely to have. It’s terrible timing, and I’m really disappointed.” (You can tone that down if you prefer, but the idea is to make it clear that you take this seriously and aren’t just being cavalier about backing out.)

The response you’re most likely to get is that they’ll be concerned for you and disappointed about the job but will understand. It’s possible that they’ll ask if there’s anything they can do on their side to make the job possible for you (like pushing back the start date, etc.), so think through what you’d want to say if that’s offered.

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Oh, for the love of all that is good in the world, may I never receive a video thank you. Just the thought of it made me cringe. :(

    1. LouiseM*

      +1. When I get a video of my best friend’s baby odds are good that I won’t watch the whole thing. No way am I watching a thank you video.

      1. Artemesia*

        I once did a consulting trip in Kuwait for two weeks and took an intern who videoed the trip including some of my presentations. It was about ME and it was about MY trip and I still didn’t watch the whole 90 minute video he produced. Nothing is more boring than ‘real time’. I would not open a video thank you and it would move that person down the list unless they were so fabulous otherwise that it was no contest. Does anyone love getting Ecards? I don’t open most of those either.

        1. Annie Moose*

          NINETY MINUTES!!

          I’ve been on various volunteer/mission trips where someone put together a video, and I can barely stand to sit through a 10-15 minute version… I don’t need a feature film about my trip!

    2. Overwhelmed*

      Unless the thank you video somehow features Oscar Isaac dancing with kittens, I won’t be interested either:

      1. Specialk9*

        I don’t know who Oscar Isaac is, so my mind went to Chris Isaac crooning “what a wicked thing to do” while in a moody beach video… With kittens.

        1. SarahKay*

          I would watch that video!
          But as a rule: skip the video, give me the written words.

          1. essEss*

            I hate videos. I get irritated going to cnn or other news agencies and I see a news headline that I want to read and I discover that it is a video clip of a news announcer giving the information. Unless there is actual video footage that is the central piece of the story, give me a transcript option so that I can get the information quickly and move on. Most of the time there is NO benefit to the item being in a video format. I’m not going to sit and play videos at work to get my news.

            1. Max from St. Mary's*

              Yes! Give me written words that I can read in far less time than your rambling video takes to run…and pictures, still photos are good too.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Me too! I was coming to say all these things!
                I *hate* when I go to a web site for info and it’s only videos! So presumptuous, they think I have nothing better to do than spend hours watching!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Seconding. I really do not understand the logic behind websites incorporating video for the sake of being a video.
              Text: I can read at my own pace (far faster than anyone reading the text aloud), go back to check things, skip what I don’t care about.
              Podcast: I can use my eyes and hands to cook dinner, drive, exercise, etc.

              A video thank you is like someone issued a challenge to be as annoying as possible. (Exception if you are a tiny child who cannot write, in which case 10 seconds of “Thank you for bear!” while hugging the bear I sent is probably utterly adorable. Job seekers need to recognize the limits of their adorableness.)

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I’ve been watching I Love Lucy DVDs and one of the bonus features is episodes from the radio show she was in before, called My Favorite Husband.
                These are even better because they’re enjoyable without being distracting. Bring back radio shows! (on podcasts) :D

            3. Lindsay J*

              Me too. I won’t watch them.

              Especially because most of the time it’s just a reporter sitting at a news desk, or maybe standing in front of someplace vaguely relevant.

    3. Luna123*

      I’m not a huge fan of the pivot-to-video trend so I’m probably biased, but this sounds extra annoying

    4. GovSysadmin*

      Ditto, ditto, ditto. As someone who’s spent way too much time on hiring teams the past few years, believe me, #3, a video thank you would certainly make you memorable, but not in the way you’d like. You would go from “the candidate we interviewed” to “the weirdo who sent us the video”.

      If you want to stand out, demonstrate solid skills, answer questions honestly, and be willing to say “I don’t know” when you don’t know something.

      1. Mookie*

        In the correct context, “I don’t know but I want to [and here’s how I’d find out]” seems like it could charm the proverbials off of more hiring managers than not.

          1. GovSysadmin*

            I don’t get this. If you expect people to come up with BS answers, what you’ve just learned is that the candidate is willing to lie to you. What do you think they’ll do to your customers?

            (Of course, I suppose there are some industries where this would be considered a plus.)

        1. GovSysadmin*

          Totally. One of the things you realize as you gain more experience in tech is that there’s far more things out there that you could possibly learn than you ever will have time to learn. When we’ve asked candidates about things they didn’t know, the stronger candidates are the ones who will say they don’t know, but then describe how they would find and absorb the information they would need. It’s usually the less experienced candidates who seem to believe that we expect them to know everything, and will then try to BS a (usually wrong) answer.

          I mean, to be honest, a big part of my job is being really good at using Google to find the information I need for things. :)

      2. WS*

        Yes, all these weird ideas certainly make candidates stand out, but the people proposing them seem to think that this is automatically a good thing!

        1. smoke tree*

          I figure the reason for all of these weird job seeking protips is that media outlets need to keep generating content and “write a good resume and cover letter” isn’t very clickbait-y. It’s similar to the principle behind weird diet fads–there’s only so much traction you can get from “talk to your doctor about a healthy weight loss plan.” Much easier to generate income by coming up with a new food group that everyone should stop eating.

      3. Kiwi*

        Yup, that’d be my reaction too. I hire creative people and even from them, a thank-you video would horrify me. I’d probably be stunned enough to watch it but I’d be squirming so hard on the candidate’s behalf and I’d definitely drop them well down the list.

    5. Gen*

      Unless the video arrived with a separate description and/or subtitled it’d get deleted straight away because it’d be entirely meaningless to me, except maybe highlighting the candidates lack of thought about accessibility

      1. Specialk9*

        I’d assume it was a phishing attack or other attempt to gain access to the network.

        Unsolicited attachment or link? (check)

        External email? (check)

        1. Nonsensical*

          Rep the IT security hats. So would I
          In fact my work would probably block the link.

          1. Op #4*

            Depending on where the video was uploaded to it might not be blocked (we allow access to youtube for educational videos, although not everyone has the tier of internet access that allows it) but I would certainly add it to the “possible malicious senders we are tracking and blocking” list. And if someone submitted a request to get another video site unblocked my manager would possibly laugh at them and definitely say no.

            I should probably use the same name for all my posts today even though this is entirely unrelated to my question.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            The follow-up video will be him thanking the next interviewer when law enforcement raids his house to investigate his set up for spyware. “Sir, no one sends a video thank you for a job interview. You are not three years old. Who are you working for?”

        2. AnonEMoose*

          That’s what I was thinking, too, is that I’d think there was some kind of malware involved. No way would I open that attachment or click on that link.

      2. Viola E.*

        Good point! I’m not deaf/hard-of-hearing, but the way my computer is set up, it would be a HUGE pain to plug in my headphones just to watch a totally unnecessary three-minute(!!) video.

        Although, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t plug in my headphones; I’d play the video for my office-mates because they’d want to know why I was banging my head against the wall.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Three minutes is the length of a long movie trailer–and those are littered with explosions, witty quips, and car chases. Does your video thank you have explosions?

          1. smoke tree*

            Okay, if the video has explosions and the candidate sliding across the hood of a car, I’ll reconsider my stance.

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      There are few things I hate more than having to watch a video of something I could have read in 1/4 the time. If anyone sends me a video, no matter how cute or funny, it had better be 15 seconds or less. Tops.

      If I click on an article on a newspaper site, and it’s a video with no text, I almost always decide I do not need the information that badly. Ugh. Just, ugh.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Agreed. Reading is much more efficient. I love that NPR has a website with text. I remember the days that it was radio-only. :-)

        I feel like the people who come up with these ideas don’t really think them through beyond “this is different! You’ll stand out!” Who’s going to waste their workday this way? And who wants wants random audio audible to coworkers? Not everyone has headphones on as their default work mode.

        1. the gold digger*

          Podcasts are for listening to while you are in the gym. Other than that, they are not my favorite.

          And for videos – I watch DVDs with the subtitles on and with one click of the FF button. I hate waiting for people to talk in real time. They are so. slow.

        2. essEss*

          Agreed. I have several columnists that I love to read and follow, but I never listen to podcasts either. They always feel so inefficient and I get impatient trying to listen to them. I haven’t tried listening to any of Alison’s (sorry Alison). The times that I’ve taken online classes that make me watch videos (like at I always watch the video on 1.5-2x speed. :-D

          1. LQ*

            The podcasting technology to speed up voices without having them sound wonky is so much improved. I have to ramp up bit by bit but when I’m not doing presentations or my own voice work I listen at 2-2.25x.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Podcasts fill a separate niche, something to take in while you cook, drive, or exercise. Like NPR. I don’t put on a podcast and then sit and gaze at my computer while it plays; I do chop vegetables or work myself into pidgeon.

        4. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I felt that way until I started a job that is largely data entry/document review. Podcasts are now a delight.

        5. Friday*

          I always mean to listen to the AAM podcasts in some random made-up free time I create but never do, and would love and cherish a text transcript of the things so I’m not missing out. Basically if I’m not At Work Doing Work, I am At Home Dealing with Kids. So until I’m finally retired and the little loves have grown up and moved out, I’ll always be woefully behind on podcasts.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Maybe include these in the daily emails so I’ll remember it’s there? :)
            Also mental note to listen when I’m not in the mood for regular tv at home!

        6. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

          Yeah, several bloggers that I like to follow have begun doing podcasts–which is great–but many of them seem to have moved into having a weekly podcast and rarely ever actually blogging. I just can’t seem to get into podcasts, even when they are being done by people whose work I love to read.

          1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

            I’m this way too. There are a couple podcasts I really like, because they’re funny, but it’s so hard for me to just listen and focus on a podcast, and if I’m doing anything else I’ll look up an hour later and realize I’ve heard literally nothing happening on the podcast. Reading is active enough that I have to focus on it; podcasts are the same but it’s soooo much easier to get distracted while watching!

      2. Thegs*

        There are few things I hate more than having to watch a video of something I could have read in 1/4 the time. If anyone sends me a video, no matter how cute or funny, it had better be 15 seconds or less. Tops.

        Yes, this is the bane of my existence. How did we get the that point that google’ing a how to gives only videos as the top results? Unless I’m looking for highly visual techniques like tying a bow, a video is just infinitely worse than text. The worst offender was when I was looking for a setting in a game, and the only results were videos! For a process that boiled down to “Menu -> Accessibility -> Enable Subtitles”.

        Why do four words need a 90 second video? It’s madness.

    7. Mookie*

      Contemplating the logistics of it sort of makes me furious, unless the role literally involves polished, short, but still off-the-cuff videos about things that are more efficiently communicated in writing. Are they attaching these videos to an e-mail? What is the subject line? If it’s “thank you for the interview,” your work is done and the video is redundant. If it’s embedded, I don’t want to click on it. If it’s a link, I’d prefer not to risk monetizing this behavior or collecting cookies that spoil my dinner. At least pay for the candygram’s trip yourself if you’re going to obnoxiously announce you are not fit for the position.

      I think my attention span is too short for videos these days. Just beam relevant information into my brain and pre-sort the rubbish out. Barring that, words in a normal font will do.

    8. Jesca*

      I don’t even like to watch those videos people make when they are on trips! Like ohh here is my hotel room. Let me tell you all about it! So annoying. Like most of the time to most people, videos are freaking annoying. I wish I could tell the world this haha.

    9. ElspethGC*

      Every time I see something about video resumes or video thank-you notes or video cover letters, all I can think of is Elle Woods’ video application from Legally Blonde.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Applicants need to know their limitations. I imagine Reese Witherspoon could send a 3 minute video of herself to all sorts of jobs and people would watch all the way through. Same for George Clooney, Christina Hendricks, or Childish Gambino.

          If Gambino did it in character as Lando Calrissian I would watch multiple times.

          1. Julia*

            I was being facetious – stupid internet doesn’t also not convey tone, it also doesn’t convey facial expressions! >.<

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Oh, I was following on the facetiousness. “If it would work for Elle Fanning/Lando Calrissian/an adorable toddler, it will work for me too” is not a line of reasoning job applicants should use.

    10. Allison*

      Yeah, I feel you. I think we’ve taken the idea that people love video content more than text-based content and taken things way. Too. Far. No, I’d rather have a physical resume I can read or skim as appropriate, than watch a video where you talk about how awesome you are. Most of the time, I’d rather read the article and I hate when the video at the top starts playing, and then follows me around in a smaller format as I scroll down the page until I figure out how to make it stop!

      And don’t get me started on “culture videos.” Dear lord, does anyone actually watch culture videos? Do culture videos really go viral and pull in talented applicants that otherwise wouldn’t have been interested? I’m asking a rhetorical question, if you have a “funny you ask” story about this one time where it totally worked, that’s nice, but that’s an outlier; for every video that effectively convinces people to want to work there, there’s like a hundred super boring ones that a misguided HR department wasted their time and money to make. Oh wow, a tech company where people take FOOSBALL breaks and WEAR JEANS, and wait what is this, beer? In the office? AT A TECH COMPANY? Golly gee wiz, butter my butt and call me Biscuit!

      Ugh, sorry, maybe that’s too much sarcasm and maybe I’m cranky this morning, but can we just stop with the videos? I’d still rather watch cat videos, montages of toddlers falling down adorably, and witty 5 minute reviews of movies I might go see in a week or so, than some 10 minute video about how much you value your employees.

      I also hate having to make a video, for any reason really. I would not make a “thank you” video, I wouldn’t want to make a video resume for an application, or record a one-sided interview for a job (and I was asked to do this once, and I passed on it).

      1. Luna*

        I had never heard of culture videos until now and am very sad that such a thing exists.

      2. Lora*

        “Dear lord, does anyone actually watch culture videos?”

        Apparently my boss. He recommended that I watch the various YouTube efforts they’d assembled – basically so I know how our department’s skills are being presented to customers. I’ve chalked it up to the idea that perhaps there are other cultures in the world who really like YouTube videos for business purposes?

        I mean, I like YouTube videos, but mostly about cooking and music. Boss had hyped these videos so much I was expecting a flashmob orchestra playing Ode To Joy AND a dance routine. Instead it was just a video of “look at our big steel tanks!” Yeah I know what a big steel tank looks like…as does everyone who ever drove down the Garden State Parkway past Newark.

      3. Pebbles*

        Oh dear. My tech company did exactly that with a video including foosball and people wearing jeans. Sadly, no alcohol at the office. I don’t know who in the office thought it would be a good idea, but in the video the camera goes up and down the cube aisles (sped up, shaky camera) until it suddenly stops at this team or that holding up a sign with some descriptive “culture” word, and then goes off to find the next group. It was painful to watch.

      4. The New Wanderer*

        I watched one about a so-far-successful start-up company I had a phone screen with. The person hosting the interview made a point about how the most successful Silicon Valley start-ups used open office plans, so they did too because Success! Yeah… except basically ALL SV start-ups use open office plans and almost all fail, so wouldn’t the more obvious and accurate conclusion be that open offices almost always lead to failure?

        Beer and socializing were big draws too.

        1. Allison*

          I didn’t really get why companies touted their open office as a perk, until I joined a company with cubicles and my coworkers were like “I want an open office! I wanna SEEEEE everyone!” and I was the one cranky cave dweller who wanted to keep my cube and wished I could have an office with a door. There are super social people who love coming to work and seeing all their coworkers’ smiling faces all day.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          This reminds me of the 90’s when new tech companies advertised meals, outings, social events to get workers.
          I wasn’t the only one who responded: I already have a social life. The *last* thing I want is to mix work and social, especially in a company where no one understands social skills or work-life balance!

      5. Nanani*

        This. My personal hellscape is litered with repair videos, for software.
        Video makes sense if you’re showing people how to physically solder/glue/sand etc, but when it’s just clicking and typing? HELL NO put that shit in text so I can scroll to the part I need.
        Plus my OS isn’t in English so hearing you say the names of things to click on, instead of text or at worst a still image I can work from, is less than helpful.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        ” I think we’ve taken the idea that people love video content more than text-based content and taken things way. Too. Far. No, I’d rather have a physical resume I can read or skim as appropriate, than watch a video where you talk about how awesome you are. Most of the time, I’d rather read the article and I hate when the video at the top starts playing, and then follows me around in a smaller format as I scroll down the page until I figure out how to make it stop!”
        Me too! Who ever got this idea and why/how did it spread???

    11. Kathleen_A*

      I would actually like to receive one – only one, and only from an otherwise nonviable candidate. That way I can enjoy a good laugh.

      Because that’s exactly what I’d do – laugh and laugh and laugh.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, this may not be at all helpful, but the snark in me would want to respond to parental advice that I not report extra hours with: “That’s fraud. [mic drop]”

    1. Thornus67*

      “That could constitute violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and would result in the company getting in trouble with the government.”

      1. essEss*

        Bingo… I immediately popped over to the comments section to start ranting about time card fraud and violating Department of Labor wage laws!

    2. Shop Girl*

      What kind of parent would say that? I always told my children and the young people I supervise to never do any work off the clock.

      1. Mama Bear Don't Care*

        I once worked a job that was funded by government contracts. A colleague (in his 50s) was working more hours than he reported. I discussed with our direct lead, who discussed it with our manager. The feedback I got back was that it is expected that employees work more hours than they report (even after I pointed out that year’s mandatory training was about accurately reporting time). I never did work unpaid hours on my own, but they did other shady time stuff (an $8 lunch voucher, for an hour-long, otherwise unpaid department meeting lunch; unpaid Christmas party during work hours, mandatory overtime, etc.) so I tried not to worry about it too much.

        1. Specialk9*

          Wow that is a serious violation, at least in the US. You can’t ‘comp’ the government work, it’s a big ethics and contracts breach.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s falls under “gumption.” Unfortunately, notions of what constitutes “hard worker” can vary by generation and class background, leading to a lot of bad and illegal advice.

      1. hermit crab*

        It can also depend on how your job/work is funded. I’m exempt but I bill my time to U.S. federal government contracts, and those contracts require staff to record 100% of their time. (Fun fact: some of our contracts have a clause assuming that exempt personnel will bill 42 or 44 hours per week but get paid for 40.) Timesheet fraud is a huge deal in this sort of situation, even if all the staff involved are exempt.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m not sure that’s the case when your hours are billed. I always had to log hours to the contracts I was working, but since I was salaried I didn’t get paid more for working more hours. (Though managers would find ways to make up for lots of extra hours.)

        2. Totally Minnie*

          I’m exempt and have to fill out a timecard. I’m with local government, and they’re good about not expecting exempt workers to go over the standard 40 hours unless it’s absolutely necessary, and when we do go over, we’re expected to record that time on our timecards. We don’t get paid for the time, but we’re required to track it anyway.

    3. Razilynn*

      There are LOTS of people I know (mostly age 40 and younger) that work an office job who are non-exempt/paid hourly, and they don’t enter the actual hours they work in a week. And I’m not talking like they don’t report an hour or 2. It’s probably around 5-10 hours a week. They usually feel stuck between a rock and hard place – they have way more work than they could possibly get done in 40 hours a week *and* they have to prove why they need the overtime (since it pays time and a half).

      Many managers (at least where I’ve worked) will not approve OT for “every-day tasks” even though that’s what isn’t getting done; you only get approved if there is a special client-facing project that isn’t expected to meet the deadline and you can prove you can’t get any help with anything else you’re working on. There was also a policy where OT had to be pre-approved a week in advance – it’s very difficult to “prove” you’ll be overworked NEXT week.

      So instead of getting in trouble for not completing the assigned workload, they would just work off the clock at home. It was easier for them to accept they would not get paid for the work they were doing than fighting with the manager about getting OT approved. They worried about getting fired if they spoke up too much about needing OT because they are all “regular” employees with no leverage. This is what people mean when they say a company has a “culture problem.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Of course, but not getting paid for your work is fundamentally wrong, and I get really angry at companies that put workers in the position you’ve described. I understand why people may not report their hours, but the situation you’ve described does not seem to apply to OP’s circumstances, which was the focus of my reaction and commentary.

        1. Op #4*

          It actually sort of applies to my salaried exempt coworkers. I was hired in an effort to bring their overtime hours down out of a genuine fear they were beginning to burn out and go job hunting. They were regularly working 60+ hours a week plus being on call, and “vacation” was “go to a different location to work remotely” because they kept getting called with important things only they could do. With me here even if they are on vacation our department’s workload gets done.

          1. OhNo*

            Well that does explain a little better why they’re so up in arms about getting your contract renewed. At least from your coworkers’ perspectives, I’d imagine that their worry over what happens if you’re gone might be driving their frequent comments.

            Would it help at all if you framed it as them looking out for their own interests, instead of fussing about yours? Sometimes things that are irritating become less so when you understand the motivation behind it.

            1. Op #4*

              My coworkers are actually the two people who are not freaking out! They are aware that our manager is doing everything in his power to make it clear that I am needed, and that there isn’t much that can be done to argue with “the budget has radically changed”.

    4. Canarian*

      I’m sure I’m showing my ignorance here, but what would that even prove?! Unless the LW is monitored or makes a point of showing how much time in the office, is the employer going to notice they’re putting in more time than they’re reporting? Or is the idea to demonstrate some kind of superhuman productivity, so the employer will be impressed with how much they get done in so few hours?

  3. LouiseM*

    OP#1, it sounds like you work with a bunch of drama llamas. Where is Michael in all this? Even though you say he told everyone about the affair, it seems hard to believe that he is okay with everyone around him constantly talking about his wife’s affair. Something is missing from this story, but whatever it is, I don’t like it.

    1. KoolMan*

      “drama llamas”

      Quite unsure if you work with robots or humans !! That is a normal human reaction from people who believe a marriage went down the drain because 2 people thought it better to mess it up. Not being judgemental why they did it, but many people would find it wrong. Albeit it isn’t their place to judge somebody but they aren’t robots either.

      1. Anon Anon*

        Finding ‘it’ wrong and the situation being at work is the problem. The details shouldn’t be everyone’s business. Not sure i’d be alright with a spouse, no matter what, bringing almost every detail of a break-up to everyone we knew.

        1. Dragoning*

          OP said he wasn’t feeding the drama. It doesn’t sound at all like this is what Michael is doing.

          1. Specialk9*

            I mean, he’s not actively pot-stirring, but that’s because he did all the stirring right off the bat – he told EVERYONE THEY KNOW (family, friends, and coworkers) all the details.

            And he’s keeping it going by thanking people, months later, for continuing to hold a company-wide witch hunt in his honor. It’s flipping ridiculous.

            He’s certainly not being a cool professional now, what with refusing to even LOOK AT or talk to two co-workers over personal issues.

            I feel some sympathy, or would have if this letter had been months ago, but this is totally bonkers.

            1. 1ALB85*

              Telling everyone could be as simple as saying “she cheated on me with Jake from work so i am leaving her.” Lets face it when anyone hears the word divorce the next question is most likely going to be why?

              It is also awkward to not say anything when someone says “sorry to hear about the divorce. That’s rough”

              If i was in his boat i would not be a cool professional as you call it. There is nothing wrong with not interacting with someone at all at work if it is not needed for the work. From the sounds of it it is not needed.

              As a side note can we stop calling the Jakes of the world homewreckers? Amy would be the one, not Jake. And on that note the home would not be able to be “wrecked” if there were not problems to begin with.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                I agree that Amy is more to blame than Jake is, but Jake knew Amy was married and her husband wasn’t cool with her seeing other people, and he didn’t end it. He’s not the one who cheated on his spouse, but he’s not innocent either.

                1. GlitsyGus*

                  This is how I see it. Amy commited the betrayal, she’s the one who promised not to mess around with anyone else; however since he knew Amy’s situation Jake is definitely guilty of at least aiding and abetting. I really also wish the term homewrecker would die but Jake isn’t an innocent flower here.

                  I also think, that while Michael isn’t actively stirring the pot it is about time for him to start at minimum letting people who approach him know that yeah, it sucks, but it’s time to talk about something else. I don’t think you could force him to do that, but if it’s becoming a distraction to him finishing his work it may need to be mentioned to him.

            2. Chinook*

              Add to that, Dragoning, the alternative would have been Michael filing for divorce and not telling people he knows why (because of course he would know the same people as his wife and her new boyfriend), which, in my mind, seems like it would create all sorts of drama as people try to fill in the blanks. And, if Amy and Jake were known to be dating and Michael divorced Amy, all sorts of assumptions would be made anyway.

              Basically, the only drama Michael created was asking for a divorce so that he didn’t have to be legally tied to a cheating wife. Everything else is on the other two and those who are gossiping, all of whom, unfortunately, are not under the supervision of the OP.

              As for not even looking at the other two co-workers, it is possible that he is doing the best to control his emotions in a situation he did not create nor that he can control. If I were in his shoes, I would probably be ready to burst in to tears or rage in anger whenever I saw those two, so I would actively be doing anything I could to avoid them .

              1. Lara*

                Uh, and telling everyone in the office. I’m not saying whether he was right or wrong to do that but that is definitely causing drama.

                1. Specialk9*

                  He told everyone at work, in both their families, and all their friends. I didn’t even do that for abuse, which is way worse then cheating.

            3. Indie*

              It doesn’t sound like he needed to, an affair at work is pretty blatant behaviour. But if he did, so what? No one has to agonize over telling him, he’s letting people know he knows. He didn’t vow to cover up any affairs his wife may have! If you don’t want an unprofessional reputation, don’t do unprofessional things.

              1. Lara*

                I dunno – I’d also see it as unprofessional for a colleague to tell me his wife had an affair. I don’t want to know that sort of thing about my co-workers (exception for close friends). It would just feel horribly uncomfortable.

                1. Indie*

                  All it says in the letter is he “didn’t hide it” and that people are reaching out to him – not the other way around as you suggest. You have to remember that this is not a secret, the affair is happening in the workplace, not at home.

                2. Lara*

                  The letter specifically says that Michael told everyone – friends, family and coworkers.

                  I know this may be a personal preference, but I really don’t want to know about my coworkers sex lives, regardless of who’s ‘at fault’.

              2. Minnie*

                This! I absolutely agree with you, Indie. I do not feel it’s fair to point fingers at Michael. He may have spread the word of what happened, but he is not the one who was cheating.

                1. Indie*

                  Exactly. It’s one thing to tell bystanders to cool their jets and focus on work. It’s quite another to tell Michael he needs to be silenced on the matter when these co-workers may genuinely be his support network. It’s horrendously unsympathetic to what his work situation now is.
                  Its also a very weird expectation of his responsibilities to uphold this secret. People can still support him while being polite-civil to the others. Knowing is not the same thing as shaming.

      2. Mookie*

        That is a normal human reaction from people who believe a marriage went down the drain because 2 people thought it better to mess it up.

        But break-ups and divorces happen all the time and it’s really not normal, in my experience, to be this deeply invested in comparative strangers’s personal lives. The sticking point and source of rubbernecking is that the workplace itself, apparently, facilitated the ‘affair.’ Michael made a choice to involve all these people, and it was the wrong one, even if the choice is understandable. Everyone’s free, in turn, to privately disapprove of Amy’s choices and Jake’s choices, provided that disapproval doesn’t manifest as organized harassment, but their co-workers wouldn’t’ve known about these choices otherwise and in some organizations continuing to freeze Amy and Jake out as a consequence would be a fireable offense, like any other disruption.

        Having the freedom to do something shambolic or destructive doesn’t mean that choosing to do so can’t be criticized or punished. Amy, Michael, and Jake can sleep with whomever they like, so long as it’s not coercive or violates company policy. Forming mobs in response to those private decisions, however, really ought not to be allowed and is deserving of criticism. This is all so childish and attention-seeking, forging these public alliances and cold-shouldering the villains of Michael’s life.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          What do you define as organized harassment or freezing out? I agree people should continue to be professional with Amy and Jake when they have to work with them, but I don’t think people should be forced to have lunch with them, or chat about their day, if they don’t want to.

          1. Specialk9*

            Well, when a manager says they’re “outcasts” as a result of this situation, that’s bananas. People calling them “horrible” and “homewrecker”, “they are being ignored and treated coldly BY EVERYONE WHO WORKS HERE over the affair”.

            This workplace is full of bees. (And the bees are not named Amy or Jake)

        2. Chinook*

          How did Michael involve everyone in what is going on? By mentioning a change in his legal status? If anything, that is the only choice he did make as the initial actions were chosen by both Jake and Amy (and yes, Jake does bear some responsibility because he was free to say no to Amy if he at all respected either marriage in general or Michael in particular.)

          1. Lara*

            He told everyone. As another commenter pointed out, some of my distaste for this might be a personality thing… but I would not want a single colleague to know if my spouse had an affair and I don’t want to know if it happens to my colleagues.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Since all of this happened at work, it was probably already known there by at least some of the colleagues.

              1. Lara*

                Eh, they met at work. It doesn’t follow that they were making out in the copy room.

            2. Indie*

              The husband will have been amongst the last to know. After the fifth or sixth person tells you you’re being cheated on, it’s actually less drama to let people know you know. Of course he isn’t going to reveal his sources because that would be more drama.

              1. Lara*

                You really don’t know any of that. Regardless the facts as told are; Jake and Amy had an affair; Michael told everyone; people are gossiping about it at a level that is affecting their work. You don’t have to approve of Jake and Amy to point out that grown adults should be working and not chattering all day.

      3. Specialk9*

        That’s really not normal among adults at work. This is a really weird and intense investment in the personal lives of co-workers, for MONTHS, and resulting in the entire workforce ostracizing the Scarlett Letter couple at work, instead of being professional. I mean, geez.

        One of the great certainties in life is that your co-workers will marry, divorce, screw around, and make poor personal choices. It’s not appropriate to make that play out at work.

        While everyone would understand if there was some friction between those 3, it really was their own choice to work with a spouse. When you do that it may be convenient for commuting, but you need to have a plan for how your personal life exploding won’t impact the workplace. All of them need to grow the heck up and stop acting like they’re in a Dark Ages morality play. Yeesh.

        1. Scarlet*

          Exactly. I can’t even imagine being that invested in my friends’ personal lives, let alone my coworkers’.

        2. Annie Moose*

          If this letter had come in a month after the affair came out, I’d agree with KoolMan–okay, this is the hot new gossip, people are gonna people even if they should get over it because it’s not their business.

          But this has been going on for MULTIPLE MONTHS. That’s excessive! I don’t think I could even maintain the same level of outrage these coworkers seem to be summoning up, months on. They’re taking an already-dramatic situation and making it EVEN MORE DRAMATIC. Okay, so Amy and Jake are the worst (not their B99 versions, though, which are adorable!). But come on! You can quietly avoid them or judge them in your head or whatever makes you happy. You don’t have to make public drama and gossip about it.

          1. Aphrodite*

            Agree. This sort of gossip is, for many, normal for a while. We want, maybe need, to talk about the latest drama at work. But most of us also want to move on. Even juicy gossip gets boring after its first round; How many of us ever want to hear the words “Samantha Markle” again?

          2. Luna*

            Absolutely, this is super excessive and inappropriate. Not only are the coworkers continuing to gossip amongst themselves, but they are still treating Amy & Jake poorly at work for a completely un-work related reason. Not okay.

          3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            In almost every workplace I’ve known there were affairs/drunken behaviour etc. The only surprising thing is when it doesn’t happen. This workplace sounds like an overheated high school.

        3. Jesca*

          Once I date this guy. He literally decided to try to have an affair with a woman at work. Bought her gifts and food and comforted her emotionally. It did not result in anything because he never actually asked her out or made his intentions clear. So his wife finds out, and among other issues, their marriage blows up. He has to move and switch jobs. He gets the woman a job at his new place of employment. He starts up with buying her lunch and what not. Then he finally finds out she has a boyfriend, he is soooo “betrayed”. And his coworkers and him literally talked about it for two years!!! Two years!!! And this woman did not even do anything. Nothing. Obviously when I found all this out, I decided dated him wasn’t working out. But yeah, people get waaaay invested and it was wrong. She had to move to a different location and everything after a while all because some dude “decided” they were dating (never were).

          I think what is important here, though, is that this place I mention above was really toxic. It wasn’t just this. There was so much! So I would ask OP to take a look around his place of employment and really ask if the place they are working is toxic all around. I have worked at places where this has happened, and people talked about it for a minute and then moved on. Left the Michael alone and went about work like they knew nothing. That is the appropriate response.

          1. Specialk9*

            Whoa that’s terrible. Poor unsuspecting lady! What predatory friendzone creeping, followed by a smear campaign.

            I suspect you’re right about the general toxicity of the workplace. It’s just too weird otherwise.

            1. Jesca*

              We were dating like a year before I found this out. And his coworkers and him were literally STILL talking about it. And I’m like dude! You offering friendship is no way a contractual obligation to have sex with you!

              In another universe altogether, I once worked with a guy who got arrested for trying to kidnap some teen (he was 37) and it was all super bizarre and the guy was super bizarre anyway. But it happened, he made top news story, and we told management that as women there is no effing way. We talked about it for like two weeks, and yes, still even managed to MOVE ON. The way this happens is that you have one or more “rationals” who tell everyone else they no longer care, its over, and please move on. Then everyone else goes, oh we are beating a dead horse and then move on. When places are toxic, it is because you do not have enough of these “rationals” to shut down the gossip and too many who love the drama. Cuz after a while, families and close friends even move on to other topics, and those people who are the ones who are supposed to be emotionally invested in your life. Coworkers shouldn’t be so emotionally invested. It is one thing to say “that is messed up and wrong” and it is another to say “they need to be destroyed and marked with a scarlet letter and kicked out of everything in our work faaaaaaaaamily”.

              1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

                Jesca, the term “Rationals” is my new favorite thing and is changing my worldview. You know how we tell kids that if they get lost, they should look around a find a mom or policeman? I’m now going to tell myself in times of frustration that I need to look around and find the “Rational.” Maybe in several decades when I finally acquire some wisdom, I can even *be* the Rational. New life mission!

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I suspect the OP and their colleagues live in a very boring place, or the work is very boring, and this is ongoing entertainment.

        4. Guacamole Bob*


          I’ve got a bit of side-eye for how one-sided everyone is about this. I mean, I guess it’s nice that Michael’s immediate coworkers have his back, but one thing I’m learning as I get older is that you can never really know what’s happening in someone’s relationship based on what you can see from the outside. Sure, maybe Michael is a total saint and Amy and Jake are completely evil, but maybe it’s more complicated than that?

          Mature coworkers in a normal workplace would offer their sympathy to Michael when hearing the news and be understanding if there was awkwardness or even hostility among the three parties. Maybe some who know Michael better would have a few gripe sessions. But I think most people would try to stay out of it, not gossip endlessly.

          1. Specialk9*

            Exactly. I know there are a whole cadre of people who hate my guts on behalf of my poor poor ex, for leaving him. But they don’t know how he was to me behind closed doors. They only know the way he is to everyone else, which is so charming and apparently a Very Good Guy. But he wasn’t.

            And because abusers warp your thinking, I felt like the world’s worst and most terrible person along with everyone else — at the time. Now I’m away, and have had lots of therapy, I see that he wasn’t a Good Guy at all, and my leaving was the right call. I happened to leave by just leaving (and of course there was no ‘just’ there), but I could see someone else choosing to blow things up another way.

            So just agreeing that there can be a world of hidden truths in a private relationship, and from the outside nobody knows, and it’s all for the gods to judge anyway.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Hear, hear! I have a better relationship with my ex-husband than I do with most of our former family friends, who decided to be the moral police and to take sides and to gradually cut me out of their lives because they did not approve of our divorce. My ex really is a nice guy who makes and keeps friends easily. But it was a terrible marriage. We just both really sucked at being married to each other. We were 19 and 20 when we met, were each other’s first, and had no idea whether we would work as a couple. We spent 20+ years together, changed, matured, but still continued not working out as a couple, just in new and different ways. We had exhausted all options, tried to get the marriage to work every which way, before I finally gave up and I dare say we are both the happier for it. I am not even mad at my ex at this point, although our marriage had some fairly awful moments. But holy cow am I angry at the meddling “friends”, who decided to insert themselves where they didn’t belong, and pass judgment on a situation they knew nothing about. They actually gave me an intervention when I moved out! an intervention! I get an invite to what I was told was a mutual friend’s birthday party, come to the party, and every woman at the party takes turns pulling me into an empty room and giving me the 3rd degree about why I’d left and how could I?! who does this!

              And at work, where I barely told anyone, a random coworker found out and walked into my cubicle one day to give me a talk about how she and her husband had had some disagreements too, but they are sticking it out, and I should return to my then-husband and do the same. Lovely! Who asked you, random person that barely knows me and never met my ex?!

              Obviously, mine is a different (and easier, from what it sounds like) story than yours. I just had to reply to your comment to agree that I, too, have no patience for this friendly (or coworkerly) interference. They are not doing it with either of the exes’ interests in mind. They do it for self-gratification. They just love being the stars of their very own reality show.

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh my gosh that’s terrible! And definitely not easier! My marriage was pretty rotten, but nobody ever pulled that kind of nonsense after. A marital intervention?! That’s awful, I’m sorry you had to go through that.

            2. KHB*

              I’m sorry that happened to you, and I’m glad that you’re doing better now. I hate the idea that it’s somehow an act of cruelty (but only for women, usually) merely to end a relationship or decline to enter one in the first place. Even if he was the Most Perfect Very Good Guy in the world, you still have the absolute right to decide that you don’t want to be with him. Anyone who would “hate your guts” for exercising that right is an asshole.

            3. Guacamole Bob*

              I’m so sorry you went through that, Specialk9. I was thinking of more benign scenarios, but yours definitely captures what I meant.

              1. Specialk9*

                Thanks! All good now, and I’m not sure I’d undo that experience even if I had a magic wand, because I learned so much.

                But it does make me very aware that behind megawatt smiles can be so much pain. My coworkers were utterly boonswoggled when I got divorced – ‘But you’re always smiling! You’re the happiest person I know!”

            4. Lindsay J*

              Yup, one of the things that I had to accept when leaving my ex was that to him, and his family and friends and our old mutual coworkers, I was always going to be the “bad guy”.

              I broke his poor heart, and he’s such a nice guy, and why would I ever do anything like that?

              They were never going to know my side of the story – that he was emotionally abusive, that I was profoundly unhappy and was for years, that I had talked to him about it numerous times, that he promised to change numerous times and then didn’t. They were just going to think we had a great relationship and I threw it away on a whim and left him shocked and heartbroken and forlorn.


          2. MLB*

            There are always 3 sides to every story, his, hers and the truth. The co-workers are being ridiculous. Support Michael, but don’t ostracize the other 2. You don’t have to be their friends, but these people sound like petty children.

            BUT I will say that to me, regardless of how your marriage/relationship is behind closed doors it is NEVER ok to have an affair. Be an adult and have the guts to tell the other person you’re unhappy and end it if that’s what you want, because cheating doesn’t do anything but further damage an already broken relationship.

            1. Jesca*

              I agree. But I also no longer subscribe to the idea that the worst someone can do is cheat. There is a lot worse things someone can do. And sometimes people cheat because they have been beaten down so hard they make effed choices before they realize it. I do not like cheaters. I would never date a cheater, but that is because it is a pretty good indicator that the person is very codependent (which I do not like) and not just simply because they did something “bad”. People need to leave as IT IS the most healthy thing to do, but I also understand that people aren’t always in healthy situations. And unless I am deciding to date that person, I never automatically mark them as bad people.

                1. Specialk9*


                  I’ve never cheated, never come close, like even remotely.

                  But I could see how it could happen — I dealt with the pain with my own weird versions of self harm, that were not sexual. But that feeling of self loathing could so easily get channeled into sex.

                  I guess I’m just sympathetic despite not having been in those exact shoes.

          3. Observer*

            While I think that the gossip needs to stop, this IS one sided. Not because Michael is necessarily a saint and the others have horns and a tail. But they DID make a decision that there really is not excuse for. If the marriage was a mess, leave.

            1. Chinook*

              Yup. Unless Michel is fueling the gossip (and the OP says he isn’t), he is innocent in all of this. He didn’t choose to have an affair and he is not the one working with his ex (since she is in another department and he is attempting not to interact with her). He is not freezing them out. He chose to have a divorce, that is all.

        5. annakarina1*

          Yeah, that seems like a really immature response to this kind of drama. I can imagine initially being shocked, but not obsessing over it for months afterwards, I wouldn’t be that interested in my coworkers’ personal lives.

        6. annemouse*

          I don’t know. People like watching drama and obsessing over it. There are hundreds of thousands of discussion boards dedicated to hashing, rehashing, critiquing and straight out b wording the fake dramas of movies and tv.

          Seems rather normal when a real one is happening right in front of you that there would be lots of talk

          to me at least

        7. Pollygrammer*

          Oh, I’ve been in that workplace. Employee A was two-timing Employee B, and B made sure to get everyone on her side. Even after she left for another job, she kept the drama flowing. Months sounds about right.

          1. Chalupa Batman*

            I feel like OP may be mistaken about Michael no longer egging it on. I have a hard time believing that people are still talking about this often enough for it to be a distraction months later if Michael “isn’t feeding the gossip.” My guess is it’s more like your past workplace: Michael might be keeping it down when the boss is around, but quietly feeding new information about his divorce drama to the sympathetic ears at work every chance he gets.

            1. Specialk9*

              That or someone has a crush on Michael and is feeding the monster. But, like, the whole place? That just is bizarre.

        8. Roscoe*

          I agree to a point. But depending on your friendship with Michael, I can see it being very hard to be polite to his wife who just cheated on him. Hell, if my friends gf cheated on him, I can’t say I’d be very nice to her.

          Now again, they do have to be civil and work with the person if needed, but if you see your friend hurting specifically because of the actions of other people, its normal to not be nice to them.

          1. BananaRama*

            My ex and I broke up. The prevailing theory he touted to folks was that I cheated on him. (Because obviously that’s the only reason one breaks up with a “nice guy.” /sarcasm) One of his friends who I happen to see occasionally at work has held onto this grudge for EIGHT YEARS. It now looks worst on her and her professionalism because she’s married with two kids and was never romantically involved with my ex (to my knowledge). She’s basically inserted herself into a situation not involving her and continues to be frosty. Some people like drama.

          2. Scarlet*

            I don’t know what you mean by “not nice”, but there’s a difference between being distant but polite and actually ostracizing people. The first option is professional, the other one isn’t. We don’t have to like the people we work with, but we still have to be civil to them.

      4. Kathleen_A*

        Drama about this situation is perfectly normal and expected. Drama months and months after the fact is not normal. I mean, criminy, hasn’t *any*thing else juicy occurred in the past several months? Don’t they have *any*thing else to talk about? They must – must – have shared every possible feeling and reaction to this situation multiple times. How is it that they still aren’t bored with it? Because that is also perfectly normal.

        So it’s time to move on. Be as cool as you like to the erring pair, disapprove as much as you like, take their situation as an object lesson in how not to behave as much as you like, say horrible things about them to family and non-work friends – but at work, be polite and professional.

        And for goodness’ sake, get back to work. They are absolutely a bunch of drama llamas there.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Right? I’m not necessarily calling OP’s coworkers vultures, but to derive this much fun and enjoyment out of watching three people’s lives take a hard turn, and out of actively participating in it and taking sides, for *months*, is very vulture-like. This really needs to stop. I get it that it’s more exciting than doing the actual work they are there to do, but come on.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I don’t think I’m as nice a person as you, I Wrote This, because I think I am actually perfectly comfortable in calling them “vultures.” Reacting negatively at the time it happened and even for a while after is not vulture-like. It’s normal, human, and expected, and who can blame them for taking the side of the person who was hurt?

            But I don’t see how anybody except a vulture (or weirdly obsessed person) can still be going on and on about this now, months later, unless they were enjoying it. It’s time to stop making the Michael and Jake and Amy Show your only form of entertainment, folks, because continuing this is not professional, helpful or even kind.

          2. Tex*

            I get the feeling that they aren’t reveling in the gossip as much as reinforcing a code amongst themselves that such behavior is wrong and putting peer pressure on each other not to even have the appearance of cheating with a workmate. After all, the affair and breakdown the marriage happened right under everybody’s noses and most probably didn’t realize anything was amiss until after the marriage went into terminal meltdown.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              That’s certainly a more charitable interpretation, Tex – and it could be the correct one.

              But I’m thinking that they’d keep front-and-center for months only if they are on some level enjoying the drama.

        2. NW Mossy*

          I’m picturing a particularly Machiavellian boss thinking “This would be a perfect time for a reorg and layoffs – that’ll give them something to gossip about!” while rubbing her chin, movie-villain style.

    2. MK*

      I don’t find it odd, it’s human nature. As for Micheal, while I personally would hate it, it’s possible he feels supported by his coworker’s reaction. It’a also possible that they don’t discuss it in front of him.

    3. Lara*

      Or maybe just people who don’t have enough work to do. I don’t know who in my company is sleeping together and I couldn’t care less. I have enough to do and it’s none of my business.

    4. Thlayli*

      It does sound like michaels reaction to the gossip would have been relevant for OP to include in the letter.

      Is michael ignoring the gossip? Joining in? Bringing it up? Sitting there feeling really uncomfortable while his coworkers discuss his personal business in front of him?

      I find it hard to believe the coworkers are still talking about this constantly months later, to the level of it still interfering with their work, unless michael is involved in perpetuating the gossip somehow.

      It seems to me that OP might want to consider Michaels role in the gossip before deciding on her next step.

      1. Free Amy and Jake*

        OP did include it in the letter and CLEARLY stated that Michael is not feeding the gossip. So I’m not sure why you would say that they should have included it when they actually did.

        1. Thlayli*

          Oh right I missed that oops. It’s definitely really really weird that they are still talking about it so much months later then – don’t they have anything else going on in their lives?

      2. Specialk9*

        “Michael isn’t feeding the gossip but will thank people if they tell him he is right or they feel badly for him.”

        1. boo bot*

          I think Michael may be quietly feeding the gossip right there. There’s more than one way to say thank you:

          “Michael we’re on your side against those @#&$%s!”
          “Thank you, I appreciate that, but I really just want to focus on work.”

          “Michael, we’re on your side against those @#&$%s!”
          “Thank you, it’s a relief to hear that from *somebody*, at least.”

          “Michael, we’re on your side against those @#&$%s!”
          “Thank you, without your support I don’t know how I’d bear the unbearable trial those @#&$%s have made of my life! Why just yesterday they – no. I don’t want to cause any drama. Lucinda knows about it, ask her. But don’t tell anyone else, I don’t want to cause any more drama than those @#&$%s already have, as they ruined my life like the life-ruiners they are.”

          1. Specialk9*

            You clearly understand the subtleties of human interaction. All conjecture, of course, but it’s worth noting.

    5. essEss*

      I was very confused by the comment that he doesn’t feed the gossip, yet it also says that he made sure to tell everyone and make sure they knew why. That IS the definition of feeding the gossip.

      1. Chinook*

        But did he say “I am divorcing Amy because her affair with Jake” (which is bare bones truth and has no drama) or go into details that feed the rumour mills? Did the coworkers know about the affair before hand and ask him if that was the reason for the divorce? Did he do all of these reactions with limited emotional reaction or interact like it is a therapy session? Some of these situations create more drama than others while others show that poor Michael as not only having a sucky life but also being focus of gossip which he may want to stop. And, if he is the type of quiet person who doesn’t like to talk about emotion, it would make perfect sense to thank someone who says something supportive about his divorce because “I don’t want to talk about it” could trigger a longer, more drama filled conversation with some nosey Nancy’s.

    1. Sami*

      Yep, it’s happened to me. Eight pages!
      Unfortunately, because it was a complete surprise hit job, I (now) understand why I wasn’t given a copy first.

      1. Michelle*

        Our reviews are 9 pages (seriously). We submit a page listing what we accomplished last year (or how we accomplished our goals) and a second page listing goals or things we want to work on this year. That is put with the other 7 pages, we go to our manager’s office, get a copy, read it and then talk about it. I haven’t been surprised by anything to date because my manager is very much address a problem as soon as it comes up.

        1. SleeplessInCO*

          Our reviews get read to us too, and I hate it! It feels like a scolding and you just have to shut up and take it. I like my boss as a person, but he has a horrible combination micromanaging/being passive aggressive. In my recent performance review, he included a problem with how I approached a particular project in a meeting…a meeting that happened just two days prior. Not only was it something that could have been easily addressed in 30 seconds – literally just differing creative opinions – but instead of bringing it up to me at the moment, he waited until he could dock me points on my review! I was pretty pissed, especially because he is a horrible communicator and we’ve had discussions about it several times over two years. Like, just tell me if you have a problem!!!

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It’s stupid because different people process information differently. Some need to hear it. Some need to read it. Some need to discuss it.

      Reading it to someone makes it very difficult to absorb. Which means you can’t have a meaningful discussion.

      1. babblemouth*

        “you can’t have a meaningful discussion.”

        In some companies, that would be a feature, not a bug.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Also, I’d find it personally insulting. I’d be like “…you know I can read, right? Why are you repeating the exact information I’ve already seen?” If they want to go into a topic further, sure, but just reading it to me would be weird.

        1. MK*

          The problem is that people do misread things, or focus on one aspect of the review or interpret the text one way and begin the conversation taking for granted their interpretation is objective and correct, so the conversation isn’t particularly productive.

          I have had to pause meetings mid-way through and force everyone to listen me read the text we were discussing aloud, because we kept getting derailed to “it says that” “no, it doesn’t” “yes, but it means…”.

          1. Blue*

            Genuine question: how does reading aloud avoid that problem? If someone’s going to take a weird interpretation of the wording, aren’t they likely to do that regardless of the format? It seems like actual discussion is the only way to 1) determine there’s a disconnect in the first place and 2) address it properly. (Admittedly, I say this as someone who would immediately tune out the reader and start reading ahead, because I can read much faster than they can talk and because I generally consider reading text to someone a waste of time and kind of insulting. Revisiting particular points as you mention is one thing, but reading an entire document you could just let them review independently is obnoxious.)

            1. MK*

              Interpretation might be the wrong word. Sometimes people read something and come away with a general impression of the meaning, and then when confronted with the actual text genuinely cannot pinpoint why they felt that way. Having the wording fresh on everyone’s mind helps, and reading aloud prevents people reading “over” the parts they feel don’t matter/ they think they understand.

            2. Bea*

              I’ve misread things due to slight dyslexia. Someone reading it to me suddenly makes me aware that the word isn’t what I thought it was.

            3. PizzaSquared*

              Going over it interactively the first time the person receives the review allows any of these sorts of misinterpretations to be nipped in the bud, rather than them stewing on it for 12 hours (or even 2 hours) between the time they read it and the time the manager got to clear it up. As much as we managers would like to think that we are perfect writers, who would never inadvertently leave ambiguity in something we write, it’s not the case in real life.

        2. Kim*

          That’s exactly the reason my company DOES read evaluations aloud–some of our employees may have difficulty reading but don’t want to say so.

      3. essEss*

        My career manager reads it to me. But he stops every few sentences and asks if I have questions or think it should be modified at all. It’s a give-and-take discussion based on what he is reading to me. He doesn’t give me the evaluation ahead of time because it’s a draft version of what will be submitted on the official documentation to home office so it’s not a final version yet.

      4. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Yes. For me when people read out loud I tend to fall asleep. I know it would happen if I had to listen 8 pages of my year end review.

    3. hambone*

      In my company reviews, they hand you the evaluation and make *you* read it out loud back to them!

      1. I Love Thank You notes*

        I have had 3 (of 4) managers at 2 companies all do this. What makes it even worse is that we write our own evaluations, so unless the manager had some key information he/she wanted to add, they’re reading my own words right back to me! It is so awkward. I dread evaluation time, and we have to do it twice a year! Mid-years are coming up-aghhhh.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Teh fcuk? That’s just weird and mildly Communist China Shaming Session.

      3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        That is bizarre, has anyone asked why?

        I have to be honest, I’m not sure that I could endure that.

    4. Specialk9*

      My awesome boss does exactly this, hand me my review and go through it verbally while I read silently.

      My interpretation of ‘why’ is that
      *He’s required to fill it out in the online system, and the review gets so long that it lends itself to this behavior.
      *He doesn’t want to add extraneous chatter that’s confusing (‘you said X but it’s not here’).
      *He doesn’t send it in advance, as a generality, because some people are getting less good reviews than they might want, and he wants to be able to review in person.

      I have always had managers who treated performance review as a check-box. They have quotas on their side (you can only give 10% this rating) and everything gets artificial.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        To your last bullet, being surprised by a less good review is exactly why they *should* send it in advance! I think it’s generally better to let people process that on their own then to have to process it in front of your boss. It gives them time to compose themselves before having to talk about it.

        1. SoCalHR*

          It also gives people a chance to misinterpret things and go off the rails if given in advance (but I do support a follow up conversation if there seems to be concerns on the employee’s side after the initial discussion).
          Also, in an ideal HR world, no one should be “surprised by a less than good review” if the manager is managing properly.

    5. Karen D.*

      Yeah, that’s how it’s happened at most of my performance reviews. Particularly cringy when the manager is “negging” you on penny-ante BS because of some super-sekrut company directive that reviews can’t be all positive or rise above a certain point on the 1-5 point scale (that point being a 3, “achieves expectations.” Everyone got a 3 unless they gave the boss a kidney or something.)

    6. Bea*

      I’ve only ever had one review and it was handled by reading it to me. However I didn’t have a copy to skip ahead and each one was discussed as much as necessary. It was awkward but I can’t imagine any meeting focused on personal evaluation isn’t.

      I would rather not be given an essay on myself and made to read quietly then ask questions. I never have questions. It reminds me of the bs write up I had where I was just told to read everything and asked if I want to discuss it. I don’t process a page worth of writing at once, that’s why my job involves numbers.

    7. LurkNoMore*

      My company too! These are self evaluations, so the manager is reading back to you what you wrote and then advising whether they agreed with your comments and why – again, all written in the evaluation. The whole process is a waste of time.

    8. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I had a boss who would do this, he would reveal one line at a time of my performance appraisal, read the line and then comment on it. Half way through I was contemplating stabbing one of us with a blunt object just to end the torture. Keep in mind the midpoint of this adventure was 1 1/2 hours.

      He was the worst boss I’ve ever had on a good day, but during performance reviews he really up’d his game for horrible.

      Thank goodness I’ve never had a boss since who did that.

      Typically I will highlight things written. “Fergus, I agreed with your self assessment, there were a couple of things I highlighted, such as, your work on the teapot launch and the work you did on the coffee pot redesign. You can read through the rest of the comments before you sign off. For the next goal….”

    9. ALPA*

      My last job did this. Boss sat down with me, told me she wanted it to be an open conversation between the two of us, then proceeded to read her written evaluation of me, containing complaints and criticisms she’d never brought to my attention before that moment. It was horrible.

    10. Kelly L.*

      My guess is some bosses feel awkward and don’t know what to say or how to rephrase review-speak more conversationally, and that they’re reading it to fill dead air.

    11. DecorativeCacti*

      At my company, they write the evaluations about you in the third person so they read them that way.

      “DecorativeCacti arrives to work on time with regular attendance.” I’m right here! It’s just the two of us!

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Yeah, that’s usually the awkward thing about reading reviews out loud. I think most reviews are written in the third person. It actually helps me write them, I pretend I’m writing a letter to HR :) Seems to make it easier to to get started with the thoughts.

      2. Bostonian*

        Yeah, my entire company at Last Job did it this way. Managers filled out a review template based on 5-ish categories of performance. Each category gets a 1-5 rating with a written rationale, mostly drawn from peer reviews. The review meeting was meeting with the manager and him/her reading line by line what the feedback for each category is. You sign it and keep a copy.

        It was my first “real” job, so I didn’t really think it was that weird.

    12. Beancounter in Texas*

      I had a boss (owner of a family business) who did that exactly. He’d hand-write my evaluation out on paper and then read it to me. If I attempted to interrupt to respond to anything, he’d tell me to wait and hurriedly continue reading. He was good at heart, but when it came to managing people, he was awkward and shrewd. I suspect his goodness had been taken advantage of (from his perception) too much, causing him to be suspicious and a little stingy with employees until they proved their worth/loyalty.

      The business managed several small offices in other cities, and he’d rant about what a remote employee had done, but never correct them, to avoid conflict. Eventually, he’d get so irritated that they’d make a small mistake and end up fired, much to their surprise. When he was on a rampage to fire someone once, I suggested that he tell the employee what she had done wrong and how to fix it, and he was genuinely surprised at my suggestion, but ultimately too angry to consider it rationally. The company always lost unemployment claims because his justification for their termination was hinged on an action years prior.

      One sign that an employee was potentially going to be fired (particularly in the main office) was he’d delay their review (sometimes for years). He was typically late with everyone’s review, so when he finally did review people, if you were not family and reviewed last, you should start job hunting.

    13. NW Mossy*

      I’ve been on the receiving end of this and it annoyed me so much that I pointedly refused to do it the first time I reviewed direct reports. I think I even said something like “I won’t read this to you because I know you know how to read,” followed by a highlight reel.

      Thankfully, we phased out written reviews (and self-evaluations!) last year, much to the relief of absolutely everyone. Considering how poor a job we did of it and how much time it took, I’m glad HR realized that it wasn’t a useful exercise.

      1. Michelle*

        I wish we could do away with reviews as well. I think they could be useful if they were shorter (ours is 9 pages!), maybe just a quick review of what you accomplished last year, what you want to work on this year and done. We don’t get merit or performance based raises, so it really does feel like a waste of time.

    14. mcwriter*

      It’s terrible. My current boss hands you the review to read to yourself, while she sits there and plays on her phone, periodically asking, “Any questions?” There are always a couple comments about projects not handled to her liking – from 4-6 months ago that she never mentioned a word about.

      Then at the end, “I hope this has been constructive for you!”

    15. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yup – my last company did them this way too. Definitely didn’t like it, but I attributed it to a misguided attempt to avoid confusion and head off any legal policing. I also think there was a legal/HR component to it. We did a self assessment and had three peer reviewers each. Self assessment + peer reviews were sent to manager. Manager then wrote year review, then it went to HR for approval. So I think managers were instructed to not go “off-script” to make sure they didn’t say anything problematic for the company.

      In theory – I get it. Kind of even like the idea of an extra set of eyes on the review to keep an eye out for implicit bias issues (again – in theory). In practice though it was way too bureaucratic, time consuming, rigid. Plus our HR dept kind of sucked in general.

    16. I really can read, you know!*

      One of my former bosses did it, but only to the females. And she was female herself. We never could figure out the gender separation.

  4. LouiseM*

    #4 has my sympathy. Sometimes loved ones get overly invested in our professional careers. Alison’s advice here is right on: just tell them directly that it is okay and that they shouldn’t be upset if you aren’t. And I like to think on the positive side about these things too. When I’ve had family and friends who cared a leeeetle too much about my job, 9 times out of 10 they were just telling me what they thought *I* wanted to hear (and the 1/10 were shameless grifters who no longer get the time of day from me).

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, that’s a good point. There is a big unspoken norm of reacting the way you think the other person wants. I suspect many of these people are doing that, and a proactive ‘it’s cool’ would help with that.

      “Oh my gosh your baby is so cuuuute!” (Really thinking “oh god is it normal for its head to be squashed like that?!”)

      “No way, they actually said that?!” (Thinking “I mean, you actually DO have a habit of doing that, but my role as a friend is to be supportive rather than your therapist”)

      “Wow that sounds amazing. Then what?” (Thinking about something totally different)


      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I’m a pro at the “Cool! Then what?” response (especially when SO is telling me very detailed stories about their job that I think is horribly boring and uninteresting, but they truly enjoy ;) )

    2. LarsTheRealGirl*

      It may also help to tell loved ones that this is normal (if it is). In most contracting work, projects go away, funding ends, business needs change; it’s the nature of the work. People coming from more traditional avenues may read this as “omg you’re losing your job!” And that’s not exactly equivalent.

      1. Op #4*

        Granted, this organization does have a pretty strong policy of “we hire our contractors as full employees if they work out and do well”, but the situation is so completely out of my manager’s control that it isn’t worth getting upset over. There’s still a chance he could successfully argue that my position is critical enough to keep on, but if he doesn’t, there are other contractors who would be a lot worse off than me, because they have stronger ties to the area than me.

        Being the person who was brought on as a contractor because the department desperately needed a third person and couldn’t get an FTE is awkward. The worst part is random strangers who get themselves involved because they hear dad ranting about how I need to work harder to keep my job!

        1. Rana*

          Oof. Does your dad realize that he’s basically saying you’re being fired due to laziness? And giving you the reputation of being a slacker? (Probably not his intent, so maybe reframing it that way may get him to dial it back.)

          1. Op #4*

            He likes to think I’m hopelessly lazy if he does not push me, unfortunately. His most egregious insane parent incident was making mom drive me around to businesses in our area to make me give them resumes “because she is too lazy to do it herself” while I just kind of started crying and having an increasingly severe panic attack because I knew it was horribly unprofessional but couldn’t figure out an alternative to do this or we throw your things out on the street. I am honestly most concerned that he will do something that he will do something that reflects badly on me when I am in such a delicate position. I’m comfortable getting a different job if I have to but that doesn’t mean I won’t happily stay if given the choice.

            1. Nines*

              Oh geez. That sounds awful. At least you know you’ve survived worse than this at least.

  5. Observer*

    #1 Make sure that there is no implication of who handled what correctly or not when you talk to your team. It doesn’t matter if Jake is a “homewrecker” or not. (I think this is the first time I’m seeing the term used for a guy.) And it doesn’t matter if Micheal could have been more “discreet”. Or maybe you think “a pox on both their houses”.

    All that matters is that there is nothing in anything that’s happening between them now (or not) that it relevant to the workplace. The message is “You can think whatever you want about any and all of them, but it’s not a topic for discussion. And you need to be polite and professional with everyone.”

    1. Specialk9*

      I was kind of stoked by the feminist approach to a gendered slur too, and then was like, hey wait, still not cool! :D

      Everything you said.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Haha, I was thinking the same thing! “Ah, finally we get equality in who gets called a homewrecker… wait no no this is still bad.”

  6. Stormfeather*

    #1 I might not use the term “personal affairs” though.

    Also while this wouldn’t be the OP’s call, would this be grounds for firing the other two? Just as it would be problematic for a manager to date a report, this seems like it might be bad enough judgement and just asking for trouble that spills out into productivity (as it has) that it might be cause for something of the sort.

    #3 I’m on the “terrible idea” train. In theory, thank you notes are supposed to be about the person receiving them, while a whole attention-seeking video is pretty much the opposite: it takes a situation where you should be showing gratitude and turns it around into self-promotion and a flagrant unconcern for the other person’s time.

    #5 Best if luck with everything, OP!

    1. Seminaranalyse*

      An Affair a firing Offence? I have so much Problems with that. You may lose really good Personal with that and you may Not know what going on behind closed Doors. In Case Nr.1 it May be that both have already have separated. An Affair cause always trouble AT Work but it shouldn’t be a firing Offence if 2 Consenting have an Affair

      1. Just Employed Here*


        It’s not the affair that is harming productivity, but rather the gossiping about it done by the coworkers. (I’m assuming there’s no canoodling in the office, and if there were, it would be for Amy and Jake’s bosses to sort out, not the OP.)

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh my gosh no, one doesn’t fire people based on rumors of immorality! This isn’t a factory in the 1800s!

          Adults are responsible for keeping their personal lives out of the workplace. Any two spouses in the same office (on the same team!) should have had a plan for staying professional despite personal drama (a fight, divorce, childcare disputes, money etc).

          Adults are also responsible for not gossiping like 13 year olds, and ostracizing co-workers over 2nd-hand personal matters.

          Nobody knows the inside of a relationship (eg maybe she was cheating bc he was abusive, or refusing sex, or decided against kids). It’s just not good policy to get so far into your co-workers’ pockets that you think you can and should judge their relationship woes.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oops, thread nest fail, I agree with you, Just Employed Here. I was responding to Stormfeather.

          2. ExcelJedi*

            I agree with all of this, but my jaw dropped at the idea that an affair may be more understandable if one partner decided against kids. If she wasn’t caught, wouldn’t that just trap him in a marriage/child support for a kid that wasn’t his and that he did’t want?

            If there’s such a fundamental difference on lifestyle, dissolve the marriage before you cheat. Don’t trap someone in a situation like that.

            1. ExcelJedi*

              Maybe that should have been, “I agreed with all of this until my jaw dropped….”

            2. AnonEMoose*

              SO there with you on the “decided against kids” piece. That could be a reason to end the relationship, if she really wanted kids, and he said “that’s not for me.” For some people, it’s a deal breaker; it’s not like you can “compromise” and have half a kid! There’s nothing wrong with that being a deal breaker in either direction. It can really suck for all involved – people can care deeply for each other, but still not be compatible in the long term, for all kinds of reasons, and the issue of kids can be a big one.

              But as some kind of “justification” for an affair? No. Nope. No way. Sure, she probably had her reasons for cheating, but she still chose to cheat. And anyway, what would the goal there be? “I’ll get pregnant by my affair partner and tell my spouse it’s his?” Yeah…that’s not going to end well.

            3. Josh*

              I think Specialk9 was more saying that would be a reason to cheat, and be more likely a comfort issue than trying to trap the other person in a marriage with kids. It doesn’t excuse the cheating or anything, but it’s given as an excuse.

              1. Specialk9*

                Sometimes people aren’t great at going from ‘this needs to end’ to ending it. I wouldn’t advise that approach, but sometimes people don’t know how to get out and take the dumb option of making things blow up.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  That’s true – some people just seem to have the need for the nuclear option. I don’t understand it myself, but I’ve seen it happen. And I’m always a bit torn between slinking away quietly and going for the popcorn.

                2. Chinook*

                  “but sometimes people don’t know how to get out and take the dumb option of making things blow up.”

                  Unfortunately, that usually means blowing up someone else with them – the spouse. Sure, breaking up and divorce sucks, but being cheated on and the breaking of trust that that involves, takes much, much longer to get over. This is why I don’t see there being an valid excuse for an affair.

                  If the relationship isn’t working, end it first. If he is abusive, leave him (which is easier said than done I know) instead of doing something that will absolutely anger the abuser. If you found the actual love of your life, tell them to wait until you break it off with the other one first (and if they won’t wait, what does it say about them?).

                  Basically, if at any time you care about your significant other, do them a favour and break their heart now but treat them with respect while doing it. It won’t get any easier the longer you fake it.

              2. Starbuck*

                ” It doesn’t excuse the cheating or anything, but it’s given as an excuse.”

                Hmm, it really does sound like trying to excuse cheating.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I’m actually not advocating cheating, I’m advocating choosing not to judge others’ relationships, as much as reasonable.

                  I don’t have a true window into any relationships but my own, and so I try hard not to judge. (And I was raised to be very judgmental on this topic, in a very gendered way, so this has been a long slow change.)

                  I shared above my personal experience with being judged for ending a relationship, and knowing that things looked very different from inside than outside. It’s made me realize how little I am qualified to judge others.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Well it kind of violates the “don’t piss in your drinking water” philosophy.

        Not fireable but absolutely stupid. And then you start to wonder if they have bad judgement in other things.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          A heck of a lot of people (probably most of us!) have bad judgement in at least some part of their life…

          I have no problem judging (silently) people for not wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, feeding their kids junk food, or not doing any excercise (assuming they could, but are simply lazy). :-) But none of these are a sign of bad judgement in matters relating to *work*.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            * feeding their kids junk food with or without wearing a helmet… X-)

            1. Josh*

              If the kids are wearing helmets and exercising while they eat junk food, it’s ok, though, right? ;-)

              1. Clorinda*

                Is that like a kid riding a bike (with helmet) and eating ice cream at the same time? That sounds like a pleasant although mildly dangerous summer afternoon. Wouldn’t you just say, aww, how cute, if you saw it?

            2. boo bot*

              Depending on how much junk food you’re feeding the kid, the helmet might be a sensible precaution for the inevitable sugar frenzy!

            3. Just Employed Here*

              From what I understand, exercising is so important that it beats even healthy eating in terms of importance (I’m sure there are degrees of this…). So yeah, strap on the helmet and bring on the ice cream!

              (Also, I thought sugar highs were just a case of confounding variables: kids usually eat a lot of sweet stuff at parties where they get all frenzied anyway. I’m sure I’ve read studies where they have randomly allocated sugary and non-sugary snacks to partying kids, and that the parents couldn’t reliably tell which kids had had sugar and which hadn’t.

              Anyway, enough of vaguely remembered science about off topic topics from me today :-p )

          2. Engineer Girl*

            It’s a matter of degree. Feeding kids junk food is bad. Having an affair at the place you both work at is going nuclear.

            To equate the two is a false equivalency. A better equivalency would be failure to wear a helmet while motorcycle racing.

            1. Just Employed Here*

              I don’t know about that: having an affair is a big deal (for the people involved!), but constantly feeding junk food to a minor (who is effectively at the mercy of their parent, as opposed to a cheated-on spouse, who can remove themselves from the situation, as Michael seems to have done) isn’t nothing either.

              Still, the point is that none of this is relevant for the work situation. And if anyone brings this into the work situation and makes it a work thing, it’s on them, not on the consenting adults who are conducting their private lives in their own time. Especially since this seems to be a big company, not a 5-person start-up where everyone has to interact with each other all day every day.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                To be clear, I’m certainly not saying cheating on your spouse with a colleague is a good or sensible thing to do! It’s just that it’s none of your manager’s business.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                I’m fairly sure that Michael was not a consenting adult.

                And some of this had to be conducted on company property, because that’s where Amy and Jake met.

                So it’s not as separate from work as you state.

                1. Mookie*

                  Unless we’re speaking colloquially and not implying that a crime has taken place, Michael’s consent doesn’t enter into anything here, beyond the airing of his personal life and private grievances (which he actually directly facilitated), and “company property” isn’t relevant at all. I should think the LW would have mentioned if it violated company policy to meet your interdepartmental colleagues and peers or to develop relationships with them in your free time. Are you suggesting they had sex onsite?

                2. Specialk9*

                  It’s weird that you’re bringing the language of sexual assault (consent) into cheating. It feels like crossing streams to get a moral charge, like the liberal equivalent to spouting Bible verses.

                  Spouses who work together have a 50/50 chance of getting divorced, and there’s a huge chance that divorce will be based on cheating. Breakup is a really predictable end when employing both parts of a couple. So it’s really the coworker-couple’s job to figure out how to minimize the impact on the workplace if things go kablooey, as anyone who’s been around the block would expect. It’s a really basic element of professionalism.

                3. Gaia*

                  SpecialK, the term “consenting adult” comes into relationships in a lot of ways it isn’t exclusive to sexual assault (and, often, it isn’t used as “consenting adult” in terms of assault, just “consenting”). One is a “consenting adult” to get married, to have children, to enter into a contract, etc.

                4. Specialk9*

                  Gaia, good point, consenting adult is a broader term. I guess I can sorta see it here.

                5. Jesca*

                  Actually, the point here is that none of these things are anyone’s business. It is not your business what a parent feeds their child (unless it is like chlorine). It is not your business if someone rides a bike without a helmet. It is not your business if X cheated on Y. None of this is any of either one of your businesses! It is toxic that you are making about it you anyway!

                  There I fixed it for everyone. Continuing to argue these points only kind of derails the entire conversation because you do not have the right to interfere with, judge, or make a deal about any of things you guy are comparing. And that is the point of all of this. It Is Not Your Circus, move on.

                6. Tuxedo Cat*

                  Jake and Amy surely met at work, but I don’t think the actual affair happened at work. At most, they might’ve made plans to meet up later. But you can’t really go around punishing coworkers who make plans to meet up later- many people do.

                  It’s not clear what they did wrong in terms of the workplace. I agree Michael didn’t consent to being cheated on, but to me, that has nothing to do with the OP’s question. If there hadn’t been an affair but Jake and Amy got together after Amy and Michael split and drama still ensued, should someone still be fired? Or if Amy and Michael split and there was gossip/drama around it even if they both remained single?

                7. Lora*

                  “Jake and Amy surely met at work, but I don’t think the actual affair happened at work.”

                  Having known people who had affairs at work – trust me when I say you do NOT want to see a conference room with a black light. It’s beyond gross. Reason #8976340 I am categorically Against hoteling style desks. People are fking nasty, especially off-hours.

          3. Alice*

            Following up on one throw-away line in your comment….
            Actually, there’s epidemiological evidence suggesting that the long term health benefits of bike riding (with or without a helmet) outweight the higher risk of head injuries from riding without a helmet.
            Intuitively, this makes sense — most bicyclists who are killed by cars are run over in their trunk, not killed by head trauma, so a helmet doesn’t influence the outcome.
            What’s more, helmet laws as in Australia lead to decreased cycling participation — maybe because people don’t want to wear helmets, maybe because potential riders see the helmets and perceive cycling as dangerous. As a result of fewer cyclists being on the road, drivers don’t think about sharing the road with cyclists as much, and life becomes more risky for the few cyclists left on the road, even if they are wearing helmets.
            Despite all of this, I still wear my helmet when I ride, mostly so that if I ever am run over, the driver won’t be able to use my helmet-less status as mitigation evidence.

            All of that said, Just Employed Here, your overall point is right, that signs of bad judgment are legion, and if the topic is not connected to work, let’s avoid casting audible stones.

            PS your clarification of the parallel structure made me smile!

            1. Chinook*

              “Actually, there’s epidemiological evidence suggesting that the long term health benefits of bike riding (with or without a helmet) outweight the higher risk of head injuries from riding without a helmet”

              Can you point me to the study. As someone who hates wearing a bike helmet (they feel like they are choking me regardless of how I adjust them), I would really like to have something to point out that my riding helmetless is better than not riding at all.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                I’m curious too, although my bike riding is down to opportunity and time and I don’t mind wearing a helmet at all. So since the helmet doesn’t affect my personal likelihood of biking vs not biking, my curiosity is purely academical.

          4. jt*

            I feed my child potato chips several times week the time. Is that junk food? Food has to be judged in the context of the whole diet – the kids eats lot of fruits, good amount of vegetables, some dairy, bits of meat and fish, nuts, and rice/pasta/bread. A typical breakfast for him is a bunch of fresh fruit, some potato chips (potatos, oil and salt) and a cup of milk. If I knew you, I wish you’d judge me openly, so I could tell you your attitude is simplistic at best.

            Oh, and bicycle helmets? In my city the importance of bike helmets to cycling safety has been blown up by bike share – huge numbers of rides, very few helmets, very few serious head injuries. And generally, the evidence that bike helmets are important to cycling safety is very mixed. So ditto.

            1. Just Employed Here*

              Yeah, I’d judge you silently if I knew you. :-) Silently, because it’s none of my business. Not every thought has to be spoken out loud.

              Potato chips are considered to be suitable as an occasional party snack where I come from (by the national nutritional guidelines) and something some teenagers and adults choose to indulge in probably more often than occasionally (in practice). I’ve never heard before of anyone eating potato chips for breakfast.

              As you say, it’s all about balance and context. I struggle to see the context in which potato chips are breakfast food, but I’m sure I’m making decisions in my daily life that you wouldn’t understand or approve of. You may not judge me for them (although I guess we all draw a line somewhere…), but all of that is moot: your kid, my whatever thing I’m doing, Amy’s marriage — none of our employers’ business.

              (Regarding bicycle helmets, I cannot for my life understand why someone would not care enough about their own brain to wear one, but hey, again, not my problem nor my employer’s.)

              1. Girl friday*

                I might have an opinion but that doesn’t mean I’m judging you personally; and if I state my opinion, it means nothing unless you ascribe value to it. Also, stating an opinion about the subject and moving it away from the people, is an excellent way to change the subject. I love that.

              1. Washi*

                Ah internet comments. Where “my coworker has drama around their divorce” turns into defensiveness about feeding a kid potato chips for breakfast.

            2. MamaGanoush*

              Ooo, potato chips for breakfast! Never tried that — adds crunchiness to a mostly soft-foods breakfast. (Not that different from hash browns.) My kid and I are big on cold pizza for breakfast — what’s not to like? Partly healthy, mostly salty and oily and delicious.

              1. President Porpoise*

                I accidentally got potato chips in my salad at a Memorial day barbeque – they make excellent croutons. :)

            3. Trust Your Instincts*

              Are you from the UK by any chance? Because my mom sometimes fried potatoes for breakfast for us, but we called them pan fries. I know in the UK, those would be called chips.

              For the record, I agree with the sentiment that we shouldn’t judge others, and it isn’t our business unless there is proof of harm, or immediate danger. We all have things we’ve done we aren’t proud of, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a chance to live our lives.

              (Barring some truly nasty crimes, but that is for the legal system to sort out.)

            4. Michaela Westen*

              I used to be able to eat chips until I reached my early 50’s. Now I can’t eat any kind of chips. I’m not sure if it’s the salt or the grease, but they upset my stomach. :( I can still eat potatoes, yay! I can eat french fries and I put potato flour in my bread.
              I was raised on junk food and I have a lot of allergies and very sensitive stomach. Based on my experience, I suggest giving your child potato chips every day – especially for breakfast – might mess up his stomach.
              Maybe something like tater tots or frozen french fries would be better? Almost as convenient, you could just take them out of the bag and heat them in a pan. You could check ingredient labels to find ones with little or no sugar. Some of the “natural” brands are made with fruit juice instead of sugar.
              I’m with your child – potatoes are the best! One of the most sustaining and comforting foods. :) I couldn’t live without them!

          5. Chinook*

            I will agree with this. DH has horrible judgement with relationships (and has cheated on me) to the point that I am never 100% sure about our future together (it sucks but whatever). But that isn’t 100% of who he is.

            But, as a cop, I would trust his ethics, his physical skill and his ability to read a situation. He is the only one allowed to call or text me with a message to not go to X and I know it is a safety issue and wait for details why later. Financially, this guy is honest down to a penny and would never dream of cheating anyone out of their hard earned money nor would he consider taking even a free coffee on the job because of the optics.

            This has truly opened my eyes to how someone can be two different types of people in different situations.

      3. Roscoe*

        So I find it interesting that people having an affair in the office (When all 3 people are there) is out of bounds to fire someone. However, the note about the Ghosting Ex, so many people said it would have been perfectly fine for the boss to fire the guy that ghosted her. I’m not saying one is ok and the other isn’t, its just an interesting line where personal matters become personnel matters, and when they are out of bounds.

        1. Lara*

          It’s the difference between crappy behaviour and actual abuse. The ghosting guy abruptly left a live in partner with no note and described her as ‘crazy’ for trying to find out what had happened to him. Then pre-emptively burned everything to the ground by causing drama when ‘Sylvia’ hadn’t said a word.

          There’s such a huge difference between that and two same level employees having an affair.

        2. Lara*

          Also; the ‘ghoster’ had such a weird, entitled, aggressive attitude toward the live in fiancée he’d randomly abandoned that it (understandably) soured how commenters responded to him.

    2. Observer*

      #3- Seriously? You really think that there is no difference between a manager dating their report and two co-workers dating each other? The problems with managers dating their reports has nothing to do with “distraction” and everything to do with power imbalance and fairness to staff. Totally not relevant to an affair between coworkers.

      1. Stormfeather*

        There are differences, but both show a terrible lack of judgement about their professional lives.

        I’m not completely sure I’d be advocating for them to be fired, but am wondering if it would be on the table for their managers.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          Gee, I’m happy I’m in a jurisdiction where that would not even be an option. Managers are there to manage work, not people’s private lives.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            They brought their private lives into work when they had an affair with a coworker. It’s almost impossible for dating people to keep it professional. It’s absolutely impossible with extra marital affairs when both the husband and wife work there.

            1. Mookie*

              They brought their private lives into work when they had an affair with a coworker.

              By that logic, Michael and Amy had already done so by choosing to be married while working at the same company. If their marriage ended for any other reason, there’d still be an opportunity for drama if either chose to stir some up. There’s no bright line in what you’re saying.

              1. Stormfeather*

                There’s a difference between “we are married and this could possibly end at some point, and IF it ends could possibly be bitter but even then we might handle it professionally” and “we’re going to have an affair with all three parties being at work, which is very very likely to blow up in the company’s face at some point.”

                That being said, I should apologize for even halfway hinting the people should be fired. I’m generally really against companies playing the morality police, and sticking their nose into the relationship of grown-assed adults. I wasn’t strictly advocating they be fired, more it had crossed my mind that that could end up being an outcome, but at least part of me was on board with it, for which I blame the whole “cheating” thing being one of my buttons, combined with the fact that it was really late and I was pretty tired when I posted.

                I still say it was staggeringly bad judgement though, totally aside from any moral issues, and would at least make me look side-eyed at them to see what the rest of their judgement and work is like.

                1. Lara*

                  Leaving aside firing, I’m more surprised that *any* of them still work there. In the shoes of any one of them i’d have hightailed it the second I could.

            2. Specialk9*

              My coworker dated another coworker, which I thought was a poor choice, then wanted to moan about it after they broke up. My willingness to have those conversations was nil. ‘Oh you made the choice to mix your professional and personal lives, and now you want to take up work time talking about your personal life? Mmm no.’

    3. Mad Baggins*

      I think case #1 is a JFK situation, where you can disagree with their sexual choices but be fine with their performance at work.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        That said I think it does say something about their integrity, kindness, and judgment and I’d definitely be on the lookout to see if this does manifest in their work performance.

        1. Jesca*

          Or are you just making judgments based on part of the facts only one side told you of an action you personally dont agree with? I think worrying about this is really crossing the boundary into what people choose to do with their personal relationships and not so much what they do at work.

          Let me explain. What if what you didn’t know is that the marriage was extremely toxic. That he was emotionally abusive for years, wasn’t going to hear anything about a divorce, and was blackmailing her to stay. Then along comes this other guy who is willing to show her at least a little affection. Trapped in this toxic world and held hostage by her abusive husband, she turns to this man who is her coworker. Yeah it was a bad decision, but at the time she didn’t have a lot to work with. This is actually a lot more common dynamic than people realize because emotional abuse leaves no physical marks. And quite honestly, if you are not invested enough in this situation to dig that deep in thought about it, then you really should not be judging it all. I never cheated, but I know lots of people who have. They did so because their spouse was an awful abuser. You are taking X and making it Y because you personally feel cheating is the worst thing. It is not. And this isn’t so outside the realm of possibility here since he did in fact go into work and blow all this shit up to get attention from everyone and to hurt her. So yeah.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I think you’re reading a lot into what I said, and I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate on what might be acceptable reasons for cheating. They might be Robin Hood and have great reasons for breaking social mores, sure, but they might not. And it’s not the boss’s/coworkers’ business either way. So that’s why, as I stated, I would privately disagree with their sexual decisions as I understood them and see if they have integrity in their work.

            1. Lara*

              But why would you assume that their having an affair had anything at all to do with their ability to make a good teapot?

              1. Mad Baggins*

                Because someone who doesn’t have qualms about deception, or doesn’t respect others’ feelings, might (operative word) have problems interacting professionally with their coworkers, which is also part of their job. Pulp Fiction is a good movie, but for some reason people don’t want to work with Harvey Weinstein.

    4. Thornus67*

      I’m sure they could be fired in most states given the at-will doctrine. I doubt their firings would violate the public policy exception most states recognize. I don’t know enough about the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to give an informed opinion on that, but that’s a very minority doctrine.

      Now it may not be considered being fired for cause, so they could get unemployment. And it may not be a good idea just because of optics or whatever. But they could probably be fired.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Of course they *can* be fired. But I think it would be ridiculous. Amy and Jake are not the ones making problems – it’s the gossipers who are being disruptive. Amy’s and Jake’s behavior caused problems in their personal lives and threw a bomb into Michael’s personal life. But that’s not work life, that’s personal life. Amy and Jake met at work, but were not actually having sex while physically at work (unless OP left out what would be the most important info here!), so there are plenty of personal issues, but not work issues – except for the gossip *about* them and the shunning of them at work.

        No one has to like Amy and Jake – but if you can’t work with people you don’t like, then you probably should not work in an office with other people. Disapprove of their life choices all you want, but shut up about it.

        (Not directed at you, Thornus – the “you” and “shut up” are to Amy’s and Jake’s colleagues.)

    5. Anon Anon*

      Michael has himself to blame for that (the direct drama). Maybe he could have brought the convo. to work once or something, but repeatedly? And to everyone he knows? And without seeing the bad parts of working with a spouse? Is that normal of a spouse to do?

      1. Julia*

        I think blaming Michael for this goes a little too far. If people asked me why I divorced my spouse I worked with (not that I would want to work with my spouse), and it was because they cheated on me with a co-worker, I’d at least tell people I’m close with.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I suspect Michael was shocked, devastated, and not thinking clearly when he told people. From there it took off.
        The OP clearly states that Michael isn’t feeding the gossip. It has a life of its own.
        No where does it state the Michael is repeatedly bringing things up.

        1. Anon Anon*

          Sure, but there’s what you’re talking about and how he is involving everyone. It doesn’t say repeatedly, but it’s suggested he won’t let it go at work either. No one is saying don’t be upset about a separation or cheating, but he took the details to his job, and there’s the consequences.

          1. Mookie*

            Yeah. This

            Michael isn’t feeding the gossip but will thank people if they tell him he is right or they feel badly for him

            suggests he’s fanning the flames, even if only inadvertently. I don’t want to be hard on him at all — I completely understand his decisions here, I think it’s commendable and healthy that he’s trying to avoid Amy and Jake, and I’m glad he hasn’t had to flee his job because of their shitty behavior — but this will have to be addressed at some point.

            1. MK*

              I think saying he is fanning the flames by thaking people for their concern is going too far. At worst, Michael is abstaining from difusing the situation, which he could do if he proactively told people to stop discussing this. I don’t particularly blame him for not being concerned about the consequences to his ex and her affair partner; and it’s possible the consequesnces to the work aren’t as apparent to him as they are to the OP.

                1. Chinook*

                  So, you believe that Michael should change jobs because his spouse cheated on him and he divorced her? So, not only is he losing his marriage, but also a steady job? Sure, I could see him wanting to look around, but should he leave immediately to avoid the drama?

                  Honestly, if I were Michael, I could see bring it up as part of the divorce negotiations that one of them needs to find a new employer and, if it is Michael, that Amy has to pay alimony during his job search (since it is her actions that are causing the drama at their workplace).

                2. Julia*

                  I didn’t say he should! I just said that working with one’s ex-spouse whose affair partner also works there doesn’t sound like a situation most people would want to be in.

                  I’m not saying he should quit immediately, but I’d definitely be looking. Sure, Amy should be the one to quit, but a) we had a letter a while ago where the ex didn’t quit and people said she shouldn’t have to either, and b) if I were Michael, I’d want a fresh start where no one knew me as the guy who got cheated on.

              1. buttercup*

                I agree. I don’t blame Michael for not sharing the OPs priorities regarding preserving his workplace culture over dealing with his own personal trauma. If I were in Michael’s situation, I would give zero Fs about workplace productivity TBH.

                I always get surprised by other commenters’ surprise about people feeling bad when they get cheated on.

                1. Just Employed Here*

                  “If I were in Michael’s situation, I would give zero Fs about workplace productivity TBH.”

                  But that would make you a bad employee in this situation.

                  I don’t mean that we have to act like robots, or that this whole situation is Michael’s fault at all (as far as we know, see above about never knowing what goes on in people’s marriages.

                  But reacting to a personal crisis with the attitude “zero F’s given about workplace productivity [including that of my coworkers!]” seems like taking a big jump away from the high road… It’s also not the employers’ fault that Michael got cheated on.

                2. buttercup*

                  Assuming that Michael isn’t actively fanning the flames, he’s not being a bad employee. It’s not his problem either that other people are distracted by it.

        2. Mark132*

          reading the post from OP1 I think he is fanning it some. The post mentions he had made it a point to tell everyone. He maybe justified in doing this but it definitely makes the awareness of the affair grow.

      3. MamaGanoush*

        It’s reasonable to think that the affair and the divorce were upsetting enough to Michael that other people noticed and perhaps affected his attention at work, ability to focus, etc. People will ask — why shouldn’t he answer? Why shouldn’t people know just how sh!tty Jake and Amy are? Unless Michael is stoking the gossip — and from OP’s letter, it does not sound like he is doing that — I don’t think he gets any blame for the current situation.
        The gossiping has got to stop, though.

    6. Lara*

      1# No? Apart from anything else, while Michael has pre-empted the situation by telling all his colleagues, is everyone sure the circumstances are actually true? I’m coming at this from another angle, because if my spouse had an affair I’d want to keep it private. I don’t really understand his motivations for telling all his colleagues, so it makes me a little suspicious of him.

      Outside of Churches, faith schools and egregious offences, we also can’t really go round firing people for (apparently, according to gossip) violating our personal moral precepts.

      1. MamaGanoush*

        Agreed that firing Jake and Amy is wrong. Keeping an affair private: not everyone feels that way. A spouse cheating on you has got to make you feel pretty terrible, whatever the cheating spouse’s justification for it. Sympathy from others could help.

      2. buttercup*

        I’m pretty sure Michael told his colleagues to get the exact reaction he did – people are sympathizing with him and have turned on his ex-wife and the guy she cheated on him with.

    7. eplawyer*

      I would not fire the other 2. From what I can tell THEY aren’t the ones fueling the gossip. It might have been poor judgment to have an affair with a co-worker. But it was extremely poor judgment for Michael to spread it all over the workplace. yeah he was mad and it is not an amicable divorce. But you don’t spread your personal life all over your co-workers. He is still fueling it by thanking those who side with him, instead of saying “I would rather let the courts handle it and not talk about it at work.”

      I can’t tell if Amy and Jake are drama llamas but Michael most certainly is. I tell all my clients — shut up about your divorce. No one wants to hear about it ALL.THE.TIME. Even good friends get weary after all.

      1. Seriously?*

        It doesn’t sound like Michael is the one bringing it up. And although saying “thank you” is not a firm shut down, I think it would be an overstep to instruct him to respond differently. The person/people who need to be talked to are the ones actually bringing it up. If Michael were the one bringing it up it would be different since then he would be the one distracting people. But it seems like the best thing to do is to tell people to stop gossiping about his divorce.

      2. Epiphyta*

        Right? If I am Friendly Co-worker – not a close friend – and someone has told me all about the drama of their personal life, what exactly are they expecting me to do with the information? I still need to get the TPS reports from Jake/ask Amy how the test code got out of the sandbox/remind Michael that the process for x has changed before he files the expense report.

        1. The Original K.*

          This reminds me a little of the scorned wife who did NOT work at her husband’s place of employment and still notified all his colleagues that he’d had an affair and a child with another woman who worked there. If I were one of the colleagues, I’d be really annoyed that she’d dragged me into all this personal mess when I’m just trying to get my job done.

          1. Girl friday*

            Yes but that’s just insane behavior. It’s like emotional flailing and most people tend to disregard that. It’s like the comment, “Sh*t hit by fans is not equally distributed.” That’s why the best thing to do in any situation is get in front of the story and disregard blackmailing or threats. Most people duck to get out of the way and then go back to work. Once I became an adult, gossip didn’t change what I think of anybody.

    8. Seriously?*

      I agree that “personal affairs” is probably a poor word choice in this case. I would go with “personal lives”.

  7. CBE*

    And I find it irritating, because she’s a slow reader and adds “so, yeah?” on the end of each paragraph.
    It’s excruciating.
    At least she loves my work so it’s all nice things, so that’s something.
    One year, she was dealing with some health problems and did them by phone. I wasn’t around much that week because I was out in the field, so she just left me a 20 minute long voice mail! That was *the best* one ever.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh my goodness, I’m not sure I’d make it through that whole voicemail (actually, if she sent me a paper or digital copy, I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have listened to the whole voicemail)!

    2. LQ*

      I really hope you had a nice voicemail to text feature that you could just scan the voicemail with!

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I had a professor that read to us out of the textbook…slowly. Really…..really…..slowly. I was counting his words per minute in order to stay awake, and I think it was in the 40-50 wpm range.

  8. V2*

    #3, I wonder if some article authors may suspect that they’re giving bad advice, but they need to write for a living and solid, practical advice doesn’t get the clicks (except when Allison presents it as only she can). There certainly appears to be more demand for articles about creative job-search techniques than there are actual, creative job-search techniques.

    1. owlie*

      YES! This is a serious drawback to the internet. Similarly, articles about nutrition and exercise are often at best boring retreads of information people have seen 1000x before and at worst ill-informed re-packaged junk that will make people injure themselves.

      Democratization of access to information and content generation is great, but it really has opened some floodgates of junk in order to get those click-dollars :(

      1. Antilles*

        Similarly, articles about nutrition and exercise are often at best boring retreads of information people have seen 1000x before and at worst ill-informed re-packaged junk that will make people injure themselves.
        That’s because for most Americans, the entire Secret To Improved Health could be like 30 words long:
        1.) Don’t smoke or chew.
        2.) Drink less alcohol.
        3.) Eat reasonable sized portions.
        4.) Cook your own food more, eat less processed food.
        5.) Exercise regularly, however you want as long as you do it.
        6.) Get enough sleep.
        If you do all of these, you’re probably pretty healthy. If you don’t, well…

        1. Thlayli*


          People often ask me how I look so young then look really disappointed when I tell them it’s because I eat healthy, don’t smoke or sunbathe and drink in moderation.

          1. Julia*

            People laugh at me for wearing sunscreen, but I will have the last laugh!

            (To be fair, in Japan, where I currently live, they admire my fair skin. Unfortunately, the Japanese make up for their responsible behavior in the sun with overworking themselves to death…)

          1. Memily*

            Tobacco! Ugh, memories of boys at my high school with the telltale ring indentation on their jeans pockets from their can of dip tobacco. Ahh, growing up country.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              Yeah, my dad knew a kid in his high school that didn’t dip but wanted to look cool, so he carried a can of tuna in his pocket to make the ring!

            2. Thlayli*

              Lol I used to date a self-described redneck from Kentucky. He had 3 teeth in a row that were rotten from the gum line to half way down the tooth. Pretty gross.

              He made up for it in other ways tho.

              1. smoke tree*

                I’m gonna be honest, I’m not generally very picky about appearance, but I’m not sure I could deal with that. I have a low tolerance for any dental hygiene issues.

          2. Rat in the Sugar*

            I’m guessing Antilles is referring to chewing tobacco or “chaw” (as it’s sometimes called). :)

            1. Antilles*

              Correct, I meant “don’t smoke or chew (tobacco)”…not an admonition against chewing your food before swallowing. :)

    2. Allison*

      Right. It’s like diet advice, the stuff what works is hard, and boring, and people react to it with either “but that’s not working!” or “but I don’t WANNA do it that way!” People want a shortcut, a magic button, a secret trick, and that’s why we see so much clickbait “the magic food that’ll make fat melt away” (ew?) or “the one weird trick doctors don’t want you to know!” The advice that tells you to something fun and quirky to stand out gets clicks because people can get on board with doing it, being the quirky candidate with gumption that everyone remembers, even though they were fresh out of college with a BA in basket weaving and no job skills to speak of.

    3. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

      TBH this is also a problem Silicon Valley is creating. There are a couple of now very-well-funded startups that do video interviewing platforms, and because they’re so well-funded, they’re able to advertise everywhere, sponsor conferences, do free professional development webinars for HR people, do studies that come up with the numbers they need to come up with to show off in marketing… all of which creates a glossy veneer of “video interviewing increases diversity and saves you time!” and more and more people believe it, because the company keeps being there and getting more clients.

      In recruiting, there’s not really much need for innovation, doing the job well doesn’t require any tech (outside of a light-touch ATS if you’re big enough that you don’t want to do everything via email), but you can’t monetize that!

  9. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    OP2, my bosses in govt have always done this and I was trained to do it in supervisor training. We don’t read the boilerplate word for word but we must discuss it and then read our 2-3 sentence explanation of the rating verbatim. Then more discussion. It can be painful.
    And OP3, if you send me a video I only have 2 choices – delete immediately and reboot, or forward to IT so we both can delete and reboot. Don’t send me videos. Or gifs. Or jpegs. Etc. You will not be hired bc IT (former Marine sniper no less) will kill me.

  10. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2… that sounds normal to me. YMMV I guess :) but yeah, getting annual review and going through the feedback at the time is how I’ve always had it done. Usually ends up not reading word for word but reading through gist or reading together, then discussing.

  11. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3… trying to imagine our service desk’s reaction to “I got sent a random file and opened it…”

    TBH wouldn’t even get that far. It would be blocked as a security risk on our incoming mail server.

  12. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 5 you have my sympathies. Entirely from my standpoint, maybe it would be best to push the start date forward with the possibility of you turning them down, or accommodations that would let you do the job. Also I know there was another writer in the same situation as you who had to turn down the job.

  13. kay*

    Huh #2 makes sense to me! I’d want to read aloud so we can have a conversation as we go but I can make sure I get all the points I need across, especially if other people’s feedback is being filtered through. It’s not really necessarily an informal chat but it’s also not necessarily a document id just hand my employee with no context or discussion

    1. Kala*

      This is the way managers at my organization have always done it. It never occurred to me that it was weird. Read a segment out loud, then talk through thoughts/questions/concerns on it. Then move on to the next segment.

    2. eplawyer*

      From the letter I don’t think there is a discussion. It’s literally just reading the review out loud. Then going okay you got your review, next.

    3. Well then*

      You can discuss it once they’ve read it, you don’t need to read it aloud to them. It’s a colossal waste of time. If my manager did this I’d think they were joking!

      1. Bea*

        For you that’s the case. Not all of us can read a 3-4 page document and be ready to discuss anything. Unless it stands out to me, I skim and take nothing of importance away from the review if just handed the paperwork to read on my own.

        1. Someone else*

          I usually get the document 2-3 days in advance of the meeting. So it’s not as though you’re reading it once and then immediately expected to discuss it ten seconds later. It’s planned in advance, given to you with the expectation of being ready to discuss it by the meeting.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, I get mine in advance to read on my own then in the meeting my manager just kind of goes through it loosely hitting important points and summarizing bits to bring up for discussion rather than just reading the whole thing word for word.

    4. MLB*

      This seems very odd to me. In the 20+ years I’ve been working, I’ve always been sent my review via email first, with a scheduled meeting to follow with my manager to discuss the contents of it. This is done so I can prepare any questions about what was chosen/written about my work. If you hand someone their review and expect to discuss it immediately, how is that person supposed to fully process what is written and be able to have a constructive discussion about it?

  14. Traffic_Spiral*

    LW#1, If I were you, I’d focus on productivity. So long as things are getting done, it’s not your problem whether they’re discussing this affair, Brad Pitt’s Affair with Angelina Jolie, or the Kora/Asami/Mako love triangle. From my experience, people talk to their coworkers if they’re chatty, and don’t talk if they aren’t chatty, and what they talk about just depends on what’s the interest du jour.

    If people are chatting too much to get their work done, that’s a problem, regardless of what they chat about, so focus on that. But stay out of topic-policing – it’s hard to enforce and makes you seem a bit big-brother-ish. I mean sure, if it gets brought up to *you* casually, I’d say something like “I’d rather not talk about that,” and if it’s brought up to *you* in a work conversation, say something like “okay, but we need to discuss the teapot designs now,” but otherwise stay out of it.

    1. Lara*

      See, i’m never sure about this. I totally get what you mean, but in other threads managers have been encouraged to shut down gossip because it’s generally toxic.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        I’d say as a rule, you should try not to ‘police’ what your employees can and can’t say to each other. It takes a lot of goodwill points to be micromanaging other people’s private conversations, so you should reserve it for really important stuff, like bullying or harassment. Here, gossiping about the 2 adulterers doesn’t really hurt the team’s dynamic because the adulterers work for a different team, so I wouldn’t spend the necessary goodwill points trying to stop it.

        Also, let’s be practical, how do you enforce it? Stalk around the office and hope to overhear stuff? Encourage coworkers to spy and snitch on each other for you? You can refuse to discuss it yourself, but you can’t really force other people to stop, plus it’s not causing any serious damage to your team, so I’d let it go.

        1. Lara*

          Eh I think the only way really is to model professional behaviour. However my answer would change depending on the nature of the conversation. If Jane is spreading false rumours about Lucinda, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell Jane to knock it off, and discipline her if necessary. If Jane is gossiping about Jake and Amy, I think it’s acceptable to tell her to knock it off if it’s affecting her work or disrupting her colleagues.

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      For the life of me, I can’t imagine how you could say thank you for THREE MINUTES! Jeez.

      1. PB*

        I’m picturing the candidate singing “Thank You for Being a Friend,” re-written to “Thanks for the Interview-ew.”

        The resume would still go in the trash, but I’d be telling the story until I die.

        1. Tardigrade*

          you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say,
          “thank you for being a friend!”

          Even in the song, they know to attach a thank you card and not make a video.

        2. Pebbles*

          And now I need to binge watch “Golden Girls” just to see Blanche, Rose, Sophia, and Dorothy in those 80s tops with shoulder pads, eating cheesecake, and listening to Rose’s stories about St. Olaf again!

  15. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP1 – get everybody together, tell them to shut up about the affair, and treat each other in a professional manner whilst at work.

  16. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #1 – Have you considered locking Michael, Amy, & Jake in a room together and live streaming what happens to everyone in the office? This would give the three of them the opportunity to duke it out and satisfy everyone else’s voyeurism.

    But seriously – I don’t blame Michael one bit for being open and honest about what broke up his marriage and since you don’t manage Amy or Jake, I don’t think you have much room to say anything about how they are being treated unless it is directly impacting your team’s work somehow. Amy & Jake are adults and they made a decision. They can live with the consequences.

    You can, however, tell your team to stop with the chit-chat. That would be the case no matter what the topic of conversation.

    1. TL -*

      I think the manager can ask for professional conduct without banning chit chat. Water cooler talk is fine, gossiping to the point of cruelty and icing out coworkers isn’t.
      And you may not blame Micheal but if I were his coworker I’d want to stay as far out of this as possible and I’d be annoyed that I wasn’t given the choice for what is an entirely personal matter. My relationship with coworkers is based on their professional behavior, not monogamy.

    2. ExcelJedi*

      This, 100%. Michael has all of my sympathy, and I think it’s totally fair that the people around him know what happened to him. The fact that he simply thanks people for their support and doesn’t add to the gossip now sounds like he’s handling it more maturely than most people.

      Also, if people are being politely frosty but still working with Amy & Jake when necessary for their job (that wasn’t clear from the letter), well, that’s what happens when you’re a bad person. People interact professionally, but not warmly, and that’s human nature.

      Focus on productivity and cutting down chit-chat.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      I worked in a gossipy office when I was in my early twenties. Everyone knew everything about everyone. Part of the problem was that nobody actually had enough work to fill their day 3/4 of the year, which was just the nature of what we did, so there would have been no point to management trying to cut down on chitchat. It also skewed quite young and mostly female.

      It’s amazing how quickly you lose sight of how weird and inappropriate it is to know that somebody is mad because her boyfriend hasn’t proposed to her yet and somebody else is trying to convince her husband to have a third child. It just felt completely normal. Also, dangerously entertaining.

  17. Detective Amy Santiago*

    My reaction to #2 & #3 was pretty much the same – shuddering in abject horror.

  18. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #5 – sending you good vibes as you learn to manage this new situation.

  19. Mark132*

    OP1 would it be possible to get together with HR and the managers of Amy and Jake and do a coordinated response? Speak individually with the three of them, ask them to stop talking about it at work. And then send out a generic email to each of the teams asking them to be respectful of peoples personal lives and discussions about them at work.

    1. Genny*

      I like the idea of working with HR and the other managers to make sure everyone is saying the same thing, but wouldn’t advise sending out a generic email. No one in the target audience will get that it’s talking about them, and it might inadvertently fuel gossip (i.e. Wakeen in finance who has no part in any of this is now talking about what might have prompted HR to send that email).

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Yup. All thr email will do is spread the wildfire.

        If they want to cut the drama, they have to get those involved to knock it off. They can either tell them, “Get back to work” if say Janice is spending more time gossiping… or bring up one of the main rumor mongers and request they stop and focus on their work.

  20. Lara*

    OP1 – I think it would be best to treat this situation as you would any other that’s causing obstacles to work. Tell people to focus on their work and that while they don’t have to be BFFs with Anna and Jake, they *do* have to work with them.

    However. I have worked in far too many toxic environments to assume that office gossip is always true. While it (luckily) never happened to me, one former colleague’s marriage was almost destroyed by a virulent (and false) rumour that she was sleeping with a co-worker, so I always side eye ‘everyone says’ type narratives. It is also extremely common for abusive partners to shift blame once their spouses break free.

    I’m happy to take OP at their word that that is what Michael says. However I think it’s worth bearing in mind that relationships are personal, affairs aren’t one sided, and that (legal, same level, consensual) personal relationships are not a reason to fire someone, however distasteful you find their personal behaviour.

    1. MLB*

      Yeah, I saw how gossip and rumors are started personally. Nothing like an affair, but I went out to lunch with some co-workers and we witnessed an accident. The people I was with got out to help, and I pulled the car over and stood at the side of the road waiting for them to get back. When I got back in the office, I had no less than a half dozen people say they “heard I was in an accident and was I ok” because a few people saw me standing on the side of the road.

      1. Lara*

        Yep. And in a truly toxic environment, “MLB saw an accident and stopped to help,” could turn into “Pssst, MLB caused an accident.”

  21. Queen of Cans & Jars*

    This is one of those ideas that stems from someone thinking, “What could job seekers do that would be different from the pack and thus get them extra attention?”

    I would bet that the someone thinking this was actually has NOTHING to do with hiring people, but is a writer who is on a deadline and needs something new and interesting to write about. An article about writing a killer cover letter and resume to get a job is about as newsworthy as an article about how diet & exercise are the best ways to lose weight.

  22. OlympiasEpiriot*

    #2, Alison, where do we plebs (non-HR people, non-Management Studies people) find what *are* best practices for reviews?

    My firm is in the review period now — evaluation forms were due early in May, they are being collated, review meetings will start somewhere towards late June and go into July where, I’m sure they’ll follow previous years’ patterns of the reviewer holding all the forms in his (it is always a “him”) hands, reading some stuff off of them, tying it all together with his own take on the reviewee whether or not he has supervised them or worked with them in the previous year and then telling the reviewee what raise they’re gonna get and whether or not there is a title change.

    It is pretty much useless. On more than one occasion I have found that someone reviewed me who hadn’t worked with me. Yes, I push back on this.

    1. Bea*

      Nobody likes performance reviews. It’s not something HR and management do for shits and giggles. Just like most internal controls, it’s tedious and difficult to make the system work for every employee with a one size fits all form.

      It is however absolutely BS anyone is doing them for you that doesn’t even know your work. I’ve never been in a company that size and can add that reason to my list of reasons why I never will work for large companies.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I wasn’t clear in that penultimate sentence. They should actually track who I worked with in a given year (review period), but, they don’t. It is done by handwaving which leaves lots of opportunity for error.

        So, at the end of year X, for example, Jack Frost was given a review form for me. I have actually done a lot of work for Jack Frost — there was a two-year period I was his mini-me; however, that was in years X-3 and X-2. I also did the day-to-day project management on one of Frosty’s jobs in year X-1 (although was very busy with work for Old Man Winter, too). Many people remember me as Jack Frost’s Right Hand. But, in year X, I had worked approximately 60% of the time for Old Man Winter and 25% of the time for Giucà. I had billed only 0.4% of my time to anything for Jack Frost.

        Guess who got a review form for me? Jack Frost and Old Man Winter…

  23. Heather*

    #2, I have worked for the same company for 10 years and my bosses have always done evaluations this same way, too. As a manager, I feel I have always been encouraged to deliver performance reviews to my employees like this. I agree that it’s super awkward and not at all helpful. This year they are changing the way the performance evaluation process works, so I am hopeful that it will be an improvement, more of a conversation and less of a read-aloud situation, but we haven’t started yet so I am not sure what the process will look/feel like.

  24. Name Required*

    My previous boss did the same exact thing, and also requested that we come to the meeting “with questions prepared.” (I guess you might have general questions, but you’re not going to be able to prepare questions about your performance review without knowing what it says first!)

    I always thought it was stupid and would have preferred to get to read it myself ahead of time so I could think about it (I’m not at all good at being put on the spot). My boss was crappy in a lot of ways though, including making us fear we’d get in trouble for questioning anything or making suggestions, so I never asked for them ahead of time and never followed up with questions after the meeting.

    1. LQ*

      Hm. I always go into my performance review with questions. Usually things like what would you like to see me focus on improving most over the next year. What thing did I do that surprised you. Stuff like that. I always seem to catch my boss off guard with them. This year I apparently asked a real difficult question, I thought he was going to make me leave and come back another day he spent a long time thinking about it.

  25. LQ*

    #2 I can totally see happening around here. There was a big training for all the managers about giving better (read: more honest…tell people when they aren’t doing well) performance reviews. And I can absolutely see a couple of the supervisors saying they couldn’t say those (completely true but they’ve been lying and saying people are fine when really they aren’t meeting even the minimum metrics) things to someone and being told they could read it off the sheet but they needed to start having those hard conversations. (Now I will tell you I have other, much stronger opinions of what should happen and it’s largely not about -those- performance reviews…) So… it could be a stopgap to being better if they were worthless before.

  26. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: I partly think Jake and Amy brought this on themselves for not having the forsight to see that having an affair with a coworker when everyone works at the same company would cause drama. I think whatever initial backlash they got is well deserved IF the rumors are TRUE because they were idiots.

    But the managers should have done better to contain this drama. I doubt with something like this, you can completely STOP the drama from happening…. but you can do something to make the drama less big. Verify the events, fire or seperate Jake and Amy, give Michael some time to cool off and get his bearings (either EAP or maybe a small break?), and and steer the rest of the company back on track by shushing the gossip. Instead, it sounds like the managers did nothing and let this drama time bomb explode nuke style… and now they are dealing with the fall out.

    And while yes, two consenting adults blah blah blah… Jake and Amy are still coworkers, working in the same department, under the same manager. They should have used their heads instead of their “heads” in this one.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      And I should that verifying the facts is important because… well… could be that Michael is an absuive d1ckbag and Jake is either helping Amy escape or giving her the emotional support she needs.

      Or Michael is abusive AND Amy is cheating.

      Eitherway, this drama bomb turned into a drama nuke and you now in the stage where the radiation has kicked in or something.

  27. Workerbee*

    #2: Add me to the people who are completely unsurprised by this.

    I’ve been in several companies and have never yet had a performance eval that hasn’t been read out loud to me, whether it was the style headed by the dreaded 9-box grid, or the rate-yourself-and-see-if-the-manager’s-rating-matches, or the “I never give top scores because of Stupid Reasons,” or the “you are responsible for your own career so fill out these four pages with what you hope to achieve and how I can help” non-review, soft-ball touch where the help never actually manifests, but hey, it’s on me, right?

    So I’ve decided that the reading-out-loud is because the manager just doesn’t know what else to do during this time slot because it doesn’t really matter anyway.

    Here in Current!Job, for better or for worse, our evals aren’t tied to our merit increases, which are decided months in advance to lock them in for the budget.

    I’ve written pages of my achievements that were never looked at (I was told this outright); the manager just decides what % to give me, based on something I don’t even know about. We’re also told that “you should fill this out for YOUR records so YOU have a reflection of your achievements!”

    I guess there are worse uses of my time.

    1. Workerbee*

      Also, crap, this year I’m a manager of a person who’s been at the company longer than I have. We do have a brand-new HR lead, though, so maybe things will get shaken up. I’ll see what I can do to change things so they’re at least more meaningful. The person I manage has been demoralized for years before she was assigned to me. :(

  28. search committee gone viral*

    I received a thank you video 4 years ago. I forwarded to the search committee (as they were part of the process) without comment. I should have asked for folks to not forward, but I assumed wrongly that folks would treat it like a thank you letter. The link was viewed a few hundred times in just the day. For reference, the committee numbered 5. The interviewee called me when she saw the numbers and I explained what must have happened. I did share with her while it stood out, it was not in a positive way. I felt bad for her, but it was a cringe worthy as you’d expect it to be. I suggested she take the video down and she did. She did not the get the job, but it wasn’t only because of the video… although that didn’t help at all. I always wondered about the person who gave her the advice.

  29. OP#2*

    I’m OP#2. Thank you everyone for your comments! It is helpful to hear that some others also think of it as awkward.

    I am wondering if readers (and Allison) also have advice/scripts for the employee to request the review document ahead of time? And any additional nuance to the advice/script if you know that other departments do not do the reviews this way?

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m not sure that even if requested from me I’d give the document out ahead of time for several reasons. I want to be able to discuss anything that is not not positive, if I am addressing a negative, I want to have that initial conversation so that there isn’t any misinterpretation. Another reason is even with positive reviews I’ve had to clear up initial confusion (I was able to notice something was taken wrong by the look on the reviewees face).

      I would, though, be happy to schedule a follow up to continue the discussion after the initial review to allow someone a chance to digest the information, and always offer this to the people I’m reviewing.

      1. Washi*

        Why does giving the review ahead of time preclude any of these things from happening? Where I’ve worked, I’ve gotten my review half a business day or so ahead of time so I have time to read through and process, then my manager and I discuss.

        OP, if this is something you feel comfortable bringing up, “I think we’d be able to have a more in-depth discussion if I could read through my review ahead of time” or something like that would be compelling.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          It doesn’t, but I’ve had enough instances of confusion and misinterpretation (in positive reviews) that I like to be able to pick up on the nonverbal and verbal cues and address them right away. I know that if I were to read my review ahead of time and not agree with something or had inadvertently taken something wrong then it would color how I read the rest of the review and I’d not be very happy walking into the discussion.

          I’m also surely not going to hand off a review ahead of time that has negatives in it. I’m a firm believer that there should be no surprises in a review and that anything that’s negative will have already been addressed, but that doesn’t mean people remember that. So if I had a policy of sending the documents prior to the discussion except for ones with negatives and my team knows this I’m going to have a reviewee that walks into the discussion on the defensive from the get go if they don’t get their’s ahead of time.

          This is why I follow the format of highlighting anything specific that I want to discuss from my comments, general discussion, then send the document back with the employee to read through with an offer for additional discussion after they have have a chance to read through the comments on their own.

          1. Washi*

            Hmm, I guess I’ve just totally had the opposite experience, both in giving and receiving reviews! Even with giving a negative review, I think having it ahead of time helps the person process, prepare their questions/thoughts, and for someone like me, prevent unwanted crying. Plus if everyone has read the review ahead of time, you can use 100% of the time to answer questions, go through step by step and clarify, elaborate on the praise, and really dig into any issues.

  30. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

    #2 with the employer who reads aloud written evaluations, I very much wonder if we work for the same company (would you perhaps be in any kind of insurance-related field?). You are not the only one who finds it silly, but my hunch (and this is only a hunch) as to why is for CYA reasons: in the event of future disciplinary actions/unemployment benefit contesting/litigation of any kind, the employer can point and say “as per policy, we the employer both verbally AND in writing told the employee about this problem area or that problem area.” Just a hunch.

    1. OP#2*

      This is so funny – because I am SO far from the insurance field! That’s part of why I am wondering if there is some HR-type advice out there that is available in the popular literature or something, or maybe part of boilerplate legal advising?

  31. Free Amy and Jake*

    I wish the OP of the first letter had used different names and not names from B99. Amy would never be in a relationship with Michael. And Jake and Amy and good people who would never do something like this. If you are going to use names from a TV show at least get the personalities right.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I had to google who the heck “Michael” even is on B99 and it’s Hitchcock. Which makes me think this was written not by a Brooklyn 99 fan, but by someone coming up with names not drawn from Game of Thrones.

      Unless you call everyone 2B8 and 77q, distracting and hard to follow in its own right, any collection of names is going to describe either some fictional characters or some real-life people.

  32. Janie Hobbs*

    Regarding Letter #5, why would you quit a job after you discover you have bad health news? You need to keep that job!!! Whatever it takes!

    1. Buckeye*

      Because they may no longer be able to fulfill the required job duties due to their health condition or they may need to take considerable time away from work in order to get better.

    2. Seriously?*

      If their current job is willing to keep them (which it sounds like is a possibility) then that could provide a less stressful environment and help them get a handle on their health.

    3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      Because you may be without medical insurance right when you need it the most.

    4. Chinook*

      Because you have banked sick days and no probationary period to work your medical appointments around. also, a lack of stress because you already know how to do the job.

  33. Case of the Mondays*

    I just wanted to comment on the discussion above about whether people who engage in affairs should be subject to work discipline. The one place this is common is local and federal government positions (including law enforcement and military) that are subject to security clearances. The reason isn’t about a moral imperative but instead about that person being subject to black mail and therefore potentially compromised. If the spouse already knows about the cheating then that concern is moot.

    It’s the person who was having an affair at work while not telling his wife and afraid of losing his kids that will do anything to protect the secret that security clearance people are concerned about. You don’t want someone in a position to say “drop the charges or I’ll tell your wife.”

  34. M from NY*

    OP#1 What about this situation is actually work related? You seem more concerned about Amy and Jake being socially ostracized than with actual business issue. Michael responding to inquiries isn’t fanning flames. Amy and Jake created this mess and you as a manager have no standing to force things to be easier on them. Jake IS a homewrecker. Michael had every right to share his version with their families. None of that has anything to do with work.

    You’ve already discussed situation with their managers. The involved parties are not adversely affecting work. If reports are on time or teapot assembly on same production rate I’m not sure what outcome you want to achieve.

    If you want workers to stop “gossiping” then lead by example.

    1. Snark*

      It sounds like this is adversely affecting productivity and becoming the overriding topic of discussion, which affects morale and the workplace atmosphere, so I think you’re just about completely off base.

      1. M from NY*

        Reread the letter. No where did poster say it was affecting work just her emotional reactions to how Amy and Jake are being treated by other coworkers.

        Amy and Jake’s direct managers may need some direction if this affair was truly causing discord at work but OP as Michael’s manager in a different department *to me* has no standing and should MYOB.

      2. Lara*

        OP specifically says people are gossiping rather than working. In fact we’ve fallen prey to discussing the morality of the situation when in fact it’s irrelevant. The issue here is that people are chatting when they should be working.

    2. MLB*

      How is this not work related? Some people are ostracizing Amy and Jake. And while you may not agree with what they did, they have a right to a non-hostile work environment regardless of how they behaved in their personal lives.

      1. Kate*

        Actually they don’t. The law defines a hostile work environment as one where the harassment is based on a protected class like race, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Having an extramarital affair is not a protected class. As managers, they should be focusing on how this is affecting their work, and it does sound like this is affecting work since the OP asked how to get them to stop gossiping instead of working. Things like name calling, leaving them out of projects, and refusing to work with them should all be addressed because that’s clearly impacting the work. But if the ostracizing just means that other employees are declining to socialize with them, it’s not really a manager’s place to tell employees who they have to be friends with.

    3. Thlayli*

      Actually Op didn’t ask for advice about Jake and Amy at all. She just wants advice on how to get her team to stop talking about months-old drama and get back to work!

    4. Lara*

      The bit where OP’s employees are gossiping like school children rather than doing their work? In some respects the salacious details are a red herring. The issue is that the gossip is affecting productivity. OP can and should tell them to knock it off.

      “Oooooh, did you hear xyz about Jake and Amy?”

      “I’m not interested Wakeen. Where is the new teapot order?”

      Rinse and repeat.

      1. M from NY*

        Reread. Never said gossip was affecting productivity just she felt bad that they were the subject of gossip.

        1. aNon*

          You reread. “I don’t know how to get people to stop talking about the affair and gossiping instead of working”
          Gossiping instead of working implies affect on work ethic and productivity to me.

        2. Lara*

          “I don’t know how to stop people talking about the affair and gossiping instead of working.”

          Direct quote from OP.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    OP#1, since you are Michael’s manager, is there also a cute woman on the team you could ask to be extra nice to him to lift his spirits a bit–you know smile at him a little, shyly ask him to help her with excel tasks while leaning in close, that sort of thing (nothing untoward..) I’m just thinking if the rest of the group sees him back and with a bounce in his step some of the gossip may dissipate on its own. /s

      1. President Porpoise*

        Hiring Mgr has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. S/he is almost never serious.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*


      I think this only works on tv dramas and soaps :)

      It may make for at least a different topic with the gossip.

    2. WolfPack Inspirer*

      Yay I’m happy to see you commenting again! You always make me snort laugh, I love it.

  36. TV Researcher*

    Re: Letter #5 –

    I was almost in a similar situation, thought luckily for me, I got my bad medical news before I officially got an offer. I had started interviewing and had recently had a strong third interview at a company I was excited about, but then I was diagnosed with cancer, and decided it was not a good time to switch jobs. I’m not sure where you’re located, but I needed the solid health insurance at my current position, along with the years of good-will I’d hopefully bought myself, as I knew that I was not going to be at my best for several months. In other words, I wouldn’t have been able to put my best foot forward at the new gig.

    If insurance (and/or FMLA) is an issue, I’d do what I can to stay at my current job. If that’s not an issue and you can afford to not work, I’d consider that. I wish I could have just taken a year to recover instead of five weeks (due to surgery) and a single day for each chemo treatment (though, I did work from home the rest of the week – which was nice and necessary).

    1. Kay*

      My employer ultimately let me go to New York and find out what I needed to do. I came back last a Friday and let them know I was still cleared to work. It was decided I should stay permanently (they were not in a good place for me to leave). I feel like this could bite me later on but right now my focus is my health. The company I accepted the offer with understood however the hiring manager made a comment along the lines of me telling the truth which was really uncomfortable.

      I’m lucky to get health insurance through my husband but I’m not in a position to not work. Just getting everything figured out is a large cost plus I’ve lost the ability to really eat right now. Elemental diet is very expensive.

      I hope you are feeling better now. Cancer is rough and the treatment can sometimes take longer to recover from than anything else.

  37. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    LW1. It sounds like these people don’t have enough work to do if this is still front burner gossip months later. Every time someone brings it up the response should be “Don’t you have work to do?”

  38. MLiz*

    #4 I’m in a weirdly similar situation. I was hired as a maternity leave replacement and thus I have a fixed term contract. Often these contracts turn into permanent, but I don’t quite see this for me. The company is…not struggling, but I deal with new rice sculptures and recently the company doesn’t turn up that many kinds of new rice to make sculptures of, so there might not be enough work to go around once the woman who holds “my” contract comes back.

    I often have to prepare timelines far in advance and when I say “this will be my last day, so in the week preceding this I will make a thorough handover with Camilla for work to proceed seamlessly” I get exclamations of “this will not happen, you’re too good!”. I am good. I have glowing performance reviews. But no one can generate work form thin air for me to do, and I have worked on good projects in this position, have learned a lot and while the company is amazing, I will not be devastated to be leaving, because that door will remain open in the future.

    What I then say is “Maybe, but right now I’m seeing what is happening and I have to prepare accordingly. If I blithely go and ignore the facts then all of you will struggle if the handover isn’t as thorough as it should be.” Most of the time then people agree with me. But there’s been a lot of rinse and repeat of that dance, I’m getting a little tired of it.

  39. Wolfram alpha*

    #1 I am surprised by the answer on this one. Alison frequently recommends icy polite as a response to unacceptable behavior. Sounds to me Jake and Amy are feeling the chill of their bad choices. Not once does op mention that people are refusing to work with them or anything work related. Only real issue is constant chatter on this which is addressed like Alison recommended. I see no reason to talk about being nice to Jake and Amy.

    1. Op #4*

      It sounds more like the coworkers are being icy than polite, to the point that it’s interfering with their ability to do their jobs because they aren’t talking to people that they need to talk to. It’s as if I, a novice with this scripting language, were to stop talking to the woman in the other department who is a master with it, simply because I didn’t approve of her decisions. Even if she decided to have an affair, even though I personally think getting involved with coworkers is a bad idea, if I don’t talk to her regularly my job performance will suffer.

      1. Op #4*

        Er, to clarify, she is not doing any of these things she is just someone outside of my department I interact with frequently and it would be impossible to behave icily with her and still do my job.

  40. seewhatimean*

    At my work, I am required to complete a self-evaluation and hand that in to my supervisor before my evaluation. I do not see the supervisor’s evaluation until the meeting, some weeks later, usually. It is normally a plagiarised version of what I submit, and the conversation is not generally terribly useful. Our basic increments are (were, I’m at the top of the very short grid already) automatic, and the supervisor can decide to add or subtract 0.5 increments for exceptional behaviour (penalty increments require supporting documents)

    Our supervisor does not directly interact with us regularly.

    I find it a bit of a farce. (Made worse when last year I was called in on a “personnel” matter and when I asked for clarification on whether my efforts had improved the situation this year, I was met first with confusion, and then with “oh that, forget about that”. Um…it was worthy of a rare face-to-face meeting, and while it was a very vague complaint from “some colleagues”, it turned out to be very much like the complaints “from colleagues” that had caused a member of our admin team to leave in disgust after a long and much-appreciated career collaberating with our department on many projects…it felt like it really needed follow up (neither of us got that, I cannot currently leave))

  41. yet another Kat*

    About letter #3 … what about places that ask you to provide a video to apply? (They do exist, although so far I’ve found that requirement off-putting enough to not apply at one). Would a video thank you be appropriate at one of these? Also, if anyone works for a company like this, WHY???

  42. Mimmy*

    #1 – I don’t think reading an evaluation aloud to the employee is all that unusual. At the very least, I think I’ve always had evaluation meetings where I’m handed the evaluation, then we get right into the discussion – I don’t recall ever being given a chance to read it ahead of time. One supervisor did actually read the whole thing aloud as I was following along – no additional comments or discussion that I recall. Ugh. He wasn’t rigid, but I don’t think he was that strong a manager.

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