my mom is my HR manager and it’s not good, I walked in on my boss crying, and more

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

1. My mom is my HR manager and it’s not good

Our company is small enough that we contract out our IT work. One of those contractors, Billy, is good friends with my ex-husband. Five years ago, during my divorce, I requested Billy not work on my computer because he had been passing personal information about my whereabouts and activities to my ex to facilitate my ex stalking and harassing me. Billy was likely getting this information from social media and mutual friends, not my computer, but I was wary about giving him access to any personal files, emails, etc., that might be on there. I later received a restraining order against my ex-husband for the stalking.

The problem: my mother is the HR manager. Not only did she deny my request, she has continued to employ Billy’s company the last five years and invites Billy to mandatory office social events, like anniversary and summer parties. I have repeatedly requested he not be included, but was told, “What is he going to do at a party” or “He’s been working for the company for years, you need to be more tolerant” in response.

Because of our contentious mother-daughter relationship, it’s hard for me to tell if what I am asking of her as an HR manager is reasonable or not. What would happen in an office where there weren’t those pre-existing relationships? Am I dragging a personal matter into the workplace or is this an issue of the workplace not doing enough to protect its employees?

No, what you’re asking is very reasonable. A reasonable and responsible and normal company would not tolerate their IT contractor passing personal info to an employee’s stalking ex. They would not continue giving said contractor access to their employees’ information, and they would not continue inviting him to office parties.

It’s always going to be tricky to work somewhere where your mother is the HR manager, but if your relationship with her is contentious, it’s going to be Very Bad. The level of dysfunction you’ve described is untenable — and it’s worrisome that the non-mother portions of your company’s management are okay with this too (if they’re aware of the situation). Unless your mother is retiring tomorrow, you should be job-searching very, very actively so that you can extract yourself from this.

2. I walked in on my manager crying

I have walked into my manager’s office (open door policy) unannounced twice in the past two weeks and walked in on her in sobs or tears. Being her direct report, is it advisable to address it in any manner? I know that she noticed me both times before I turned on a dime and left, and I don’t want there to be anything weird between us.

In the moment, it would have been fine to say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt! I’ll come back.” And to be honest, it probably got a little weirder when you left without saying anything at all (not your fault — you were surprised). But since some time has passed, I wouldn’t bring it up now. You could say something like, “I hope you’re doing okay,” but the chances are pretty good that whatever’s going on, it’s not something she’d be excited to discuss with people who work for her, especially without initiating that conversation herself. Another option is “I’m sorry I walked in on you earlier — I’ll knock first next time,” which acknowledges what happened without requiring anything from her. But I also think it’s fine to just let it lie if she doesn’t bring it up herself.

3. How honest should I be with a recruiter about our concerns about a candidate?

I am wondering how honest to be with a recruiter who has a candidate, Cersei, who wants to work at my company. Cersei looks great on paper and I expressed enthusiasm and thanks for approaching us, and I said we would discuss potentially setting up a meeting.

As it happens, we snapped up an amazing employee, Sansa, who jumped ship from Cersei’s current company in favor of working with us not that long ago. So we asked Sansa what she thought of Cersei. Her reaction was visceral. As in, as soon as I mentioned the name, she yelled out reflexively, “Oh FUCK NO.” (Side note, this is totally acceptable language in our industry and I had a good laugh at her instinctive honest reaction.)

Speaking to her further about it, she elaborated that Cersei was combative and not team-focused at all in her role, and often caused trouble for Sansa’s team with her lack of cooperation. Basically, as soon as Cersei won a sale, she would withdraw all effort for the rest of the process of delivering the project. Now, I understand Cersei’s behaviour may have been a top-down response / learned behaviour from working there, but that firsthand feedback has meant we are now 100% not interested in considering Cersei for a role here. I’m also not willing to take the risk of a personality clash that large in a team this small.

How much of this do I say to the recruiter? Would it be helpful for the recruiter know this? Do I just give the standard “we have decided not to move forward with interviewing Cersei?” even though this would seem like a 180-degree about face from how I was speaking about the situation just days ago?

What kind of relationship do you have with the recruiter? If this is an ongoing relationship, yes, let the recruiter know that you got feedback about Cersei from someone who used to work with her that made you not want to consider her further. It’s helpful for her to understand what happened so that she’s not mystified by your change of mind (since in order to do her job well, she needs to get feedback from you on the candidates she sends you). On the other hand, if this isn’t a recruiter you generally work with and she just approached you out of the blue to pitch Cersei, there’s less of a need to fill her in. Those recruiters are functioning more like salespeople, and it’s more acceptable to just say, “After discussing it with my team, we don’t think she’s what we’re looking for.” (I might argue it’s still worthwhile to give her the feedback, but it’s really up to you.)

4. Is it okay to care about diversity in company website photos?

I’m a new grad looking for my first post-college job. My field serves marginalized communities but has had a history of not being sensitive to issues like racism, homophobia, etc. Things have improved but there is still a real problem of not understanding diverse populations and ignoring diversity issues when hiring.

I’m looking at one kind of job and when comparing employers, I checked out their websites. Company A only has white people (95% one gender) in their 30s-40s in their photos. Company B has photos of people of different races, ages, and genders. Once I noticed the difference, it really soured me on working for Company A. With all of the discussion happening in the profession about needing to not assume whiteness as the default, having only white people on the company website representing customers and employees seems incredibly out of touch. I then did more research on Company B and it seems like they are objectively a better place to work (better and longer training, professional development opportunities in abundance, support programs in place for mentoring for new graduates, etc), but it still feels like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill with the stock photo thing.

Is it fair to take things like photo demographics into consideration when job-hunting? Is it reasonable to extrapolate anything from the photos a company picks to use to represent them on the web?

Absolutely it’s fair. Either the photos are an accurate depiction of the lack of diversity on their staff, or they’re not an accurate depiction and instead are a sign that they’re not thinking very much about how they’re representing themselves to the public (and back to their own employees) and why that might matter. You are very much allowed to take that into account.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should instantly write off Company A (although if you have other excellent options, maybe it does), but it might inform the kinds of things you pay particular attention to if you interview with them.

And of course, when you’re interviewing with Company B, don’t get lulled into complacency by their photos. A company could have demographically diverse photos, and even a demographically diverse staff, and still have serious equity and inclusion issues in how things play out internally. (One very good sign, though, is if their leadership ranks are diverse.)

5. Can I ask to change my schedule only three months in?

Thanks to advice from your blog, I was lucky enough to get a new job at the end of February of this year. I really enjoy the work and the company culture. But, if everything were perfect, I wouldn’t be writing you.

The issue is the schedule. Well, actually, the issue is my commute. When I accepted the job, I thought my commute would be about 40 minutes each way. This was more than double the commute at my old job, but I was excited enough about the work that it was a trade-off I made happily. The problem is I miscalculated the actual length of my commute. On a good day, it takes me an hour in the morning and about an hour and 15 minutes in the evening. This is all a result of having to drive in terrible traffic because of the hours. To avoid the rush, I’d need to shift my schedule an hour earlier or 90 minutes later.

I’m so miserable I’m seriously considering quitting over this. I’m so exhausted from this I can’t imagine doing this for even another six months, let alone years.

The company I work for does offer flex time, but it’s not available for my specialized department. However, I’ve been told repeatedly since I started how lucky they were to find me, how in the past filling this position has always taken such a long time, etc. Do you think there’s a chance I could talk to my manager about changing my schedule, even though they’ve never allowed it before, given how long it would probably take them to fill the position if I left? And if so, how should I approach this conversation? Or should I start looking for another job and only bring this up when I have an offer and can walk away?

Talk to your manager. Say something like this: “I’m finding that my commute is much longer than I’d anticipated because of the amount of traffic at the times I’m on the road. I’ve realized that I could significantly shorten it if I were able to start work at either 7 or 9:30, instead of 8 like I’m doing now. I know that our department doesn’t typically offer flex hours, but I wonder if you’d be open to me switching my start time in either direction as a way to solve the commute issue.”

It’s possible that this will be all you need to say. But if your manager seems resistant, ask if she’d be open to trying it for a month as an experiment to see how it goes; sometimes that’s an easier sell than committing a change long-term right from the start.

I know you’re concerned that they’ve never allowed it before, but every policy that eventually changes starts with someone contemplating a change that hasn’t been done before. And it’s a reasonable thing to ask about. You’re not demanding it; you’re just asking, and that’s allowed.

Also, you don’t need to wait until you have an offer before you have this conversation. There’s no reason to go through all the trouble of job searching when you might be able to solve this in a five-minute conversation. If your manager says no, then yes, at that point start job searching — but this is a very reasonable thing to inquire about without needing to have another job offer waiting in the wings.

{ 643 comments… read them below }

  1. Marie B.*

    Letter #3 reminds of a previous letter where an employee quit rather than work for the new, incoming manager because they had worked for her before and it was not good. In this case, I am glad the OP is giving consideration to Sansa, because that is the sign of a good boss. However, I would also be cautious if I were in OP#3’s shoes because Sansa could have been part of the problem, or not telling the full story. I don’t mean to imply Sansa is a liar and acknowledge she could very well be correct. But as the saying goes, there are 3 sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. Just some food for thought OP#3.

    Also, I would love it if there was an update from the previous letter I mentioned above as well as this letter once the situation has settled. I hope it all works out for the best OP#3!

    1. TL -*

      I disagree. The OP has evidence that Sansa is reasonable and that’s enough to trust her judgment about someone that is otherwise completely unknown.
      It would be different if the OP had conflicting reports – some people work incredibly well with some personality types and not others, but the OP has one piece of valid evidence and there’s no need to go poking holes in it when there are plenty of other people to hire that don’t come with damning references from known quantities.

      1. Lionheart26*

        Also, OP knows that Sansa is going to have to work with Cersei. Even if Cersei were great, managing the two of them is obviously going to bring in a lot of unnecessary drama. It’s reasonable for OP to side with Sansa on this one.

      2. Cat Herder*

        Really? Sansa is a fairly new hire according to the OP. OP knows *something* about Sansa, but perhaps not enough to make a fair assessment of Cersei.

        That doesn’t mean OP has to interview Cersei, but I personally would be really circumspect about passing on information like this if it’s been reported by just one person. I would not want to torpedo Cersei’s career chances on so little evidence that I had not verified.

        1. A Reader*

          I agree with this. There is so much that is unknown about Cersei, so it seems unfair to decline to even interview her based on something Sansa said. As mentioned above, Sansa could very well be part of the problem, too.

          OP, is there a way to verify anything about Cersei? Do you have any mutual connections that you could ask? If she looks great on paper and you would have otherwise brought her in to for an interview, I would at least ask around.

          1. Amber T*

            I agree that there is the unknown with Cersei, but if you have an “amazing” employee who’s instinctive reaction was that visceral, why bring her in and create drama now? Sure, Sansa may have been part of the problem in the past, or she may not have. But the sure thing is *now* that they have one great employee. I don’t see a reason to throw the cat into the bathtub to see what happens.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              **Feels slight bit of shame for time she put cat in bathtub for just this reason**

              1. LPUK*

                **Feels even more shame for the time my friend and I tested the saying ‘a cat always lands on its feet’**

        2. Anon for now*

          I agree. In this situation I would not hire Cersei but not say why. It doesn’t really matter whose fault the poor interactions were for the hiring decision. Sansa already works there and Cersei does not. You know that they did not work well together. But there is not enough information to say that Cersei would not work well with other people.

    2. Bea*

      Even if she was part of the issue, she’s at a new company and doing well. There’s still a good reason to pass on hiring someone who someone established is so opposed to. Why sour the pot and bring in a person who is not a good teammate with others right from the start? The risk is hella high and reward is very low.

      If I had a candid discussion with a boss and they still tried the toxic person out, that’s my cue to start job searching.

      1. Thlayli*

        This is the key point and OP acknowledges it when she says she doesn’t want a personality clash on a small team. Even if Cersei were fabulous, hiring her would conceivably mean losing Sansa, so OP is right to decide not to hire her.

        However I’m going to disagree slightly with Alison’s advice regarding what to say to the recruiter. If you do decide to give feedback, I think OP should limit it to saying there’s a personality clash, or some other reason that doesn’t put al the blame on Cersei.

        OP herself acknowledges that Cersei’s behaviour might well be driven from the top down. I’ve worked in plenty of places where salespeople were incentivised to win sales but not to engage with the project afterwards. It’s very annoying for the people who then have to deliver the project (often with an insufficient budget), and usually leads them to be really angry at the salespeople, just as we are seeing with Sansa. However this is a very common dynamic and is a result of bad management, not the fault of the salespeople. It’s not fair to punish Cersei for it. any feedback you give the recruiter shouldn’t make it seem like this situation is all Cersei’s fault, as that could reduce the opportunities the recruiter offers to Cersei.

        It seems pretty obvious that Sansa really hates Cersei, so the chance you are getting an objectively fair assessment of Cersei is pretty low.

        1. Glowcat*

          I agree. They haven’t even interviewed her, so they don’t know first-hand her personality; it would be a little bit unfair to say she’s difficult to work with, unless the recruiter really insists for detailed feedback.

        2. Jesca*

          I actually agree with this. There are many situations where management is poor and actually is creating the *conflict* between departments. Some people handle the stress of very poor management more poorly than others, and sometimes you cannot tell who that was in any given situation.

          I know that there are people out there that behaved so far outside the norms of professionalism towards me (sexual harassment, screaming in my face, power playing, boundary stepping, etc.) that they would say these things as well. But if the OP and other management at the new place are paying attention and their new employment is showing any signs of boundary crossing, then I suppose they can with some degree of certainty disregard this candidate, but I still think that should just be on the basis of not trying to introduce known conflict to a small team.

    3. LuJessMin*

      A few years back at my previous job, a manager had asked me about a candidate from my OLD job. That candidate had been my supervisor at the old job, and she was just horrible. I told the manager if she hired candidate, I’d have to quit because there was no way in hell I was working with her again. She ended up not hiring her. :)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        These are great examples of the naivety of switching up “The prospective employer should not mention your application to your current boss” and “The prospective employer should not mention your application to ANYONE but the people you tell them are okay to ask.” If they realize someone in their current company or extended professional contacts might have worked with you, then they are likely to ask for their input.

        1. Jun Aruwba*

          Yes! And honestly, while I wouldn’t actually check references until the end of the hiring process, if I’m at the resume-screening stage and I see a candidate worked at the same place as someone I know well, I will ping that person immediately like 90% of the time (usually, this is when they worked together at a previous job; I wouldn’t ping someone else at their *current* job unless they were, like, my best friend and I knew they wouldn’t spill the beans around the office).

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I’ve absolutely done this. I got a super iffy vibe from an interview candidate, and I saw on her resume that she previously worked for an organization that one of my colleagues also previously worked for, so I asked. And I’m incredibly glad I did.

        2. Observer*

          Good point. There is a HUGE difference between “don’t endanger someone’s employment (by telling their current employer that they are interviewing with you)” and “don’t do your dud diligence (by allowing the candidate complete control over who you talk to.)”

    4. Jules the Third*

      Sansa’s explanation is so specific and professional that I’d give it a lot of weight in my considerations.

        1. SarahKay*

          Well, provided that OP also passed on the background / possible reasons / caveats that OP gave us, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to pass on the full info from (minus names and swearing, of course). This is assuming it’s a recruiter that OP has an ongoing relationship with.

      1. Specialk9*

        It was decidedly unprofessional. Yelling “OH F#@K NO!” is super not-cool, even if f-bombs are generally ok.

        I’d still take that unprofessional response seriously, and not hire that potential employee. (I forget which is Cersei vs Sansa.)

        But I’d also be on watch for other areas in which my employee’s high emotion led to unprofessional blurting out. You just gotta button stuff down a lot more at work, even if cussing is ok. They’re different axes.

        1. MrsCHX*

          OP has NO issues with ‘Sansa’s’ swearing so it is not a factor in this discussion…

          Personally I wouldn’t do it…I don’t even swear in front of my siblings (and everyone is over 35!) but yeah…that is not at all a concern for OP.

    5. machiamellie*

      Also, if it really is a small team, Cersei may be aware (through LinkedIn, etc) that Sansa went to work there, and if the OP gives feedback to the recruiter that makes it back to Cersei, she may realize that it was Sansa who gave the feedback. It may be bad for Sansa if that’s known.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Since they aren’t working at the same place, what can Cersei do? Get a job somewhere else, and then block Sansa? Sansa wouldn’t want to work there anyway.

        I have an ex-coworker that I would block so hard from joining my team, and if he doesn’t already know that he’s more oblivious than I thought.

  2. Kay*

    The third letter reminded me of the guy who resigned on the spot rather than work for the new boss who he had worked for in the past only in reverse. It’s good that the LW had the sense to listen to Sansa here. Cersei sounds like a nightmare to work with.

  3. Anonicat*

    #4 – I don’t think you’re unreasonable to be noticing it and and factoring it into your job search decisions. We were having this discussion at work last week! Our comms/marketing person wanted to have our whole-department and group photos taken soon so they could go on the marketing for an event we’re holding. Otherwise it would be just headshots of the group leaders, all men, which in no way represents the actual diversity of the department. I joked with her, “Well, at least ONE of them isn’t white!”

    1. FTW*

      Agree, especially if they are using stock photos. It is SO EASY to get diverse stock photos, that it really shows a blind spot if everyone looks the same.

      1. designbot*

        oh I’m more bothered by it if it actually represents their staff than if it’s stock photography. It’s the difference between having a diversity problem on the ground and some marketing coordinator not thinking about it.
        I think OP’s handling it just right so far though—don’t make a snap judgement, but acknowledge that it’s a flag and let that be the impetus to dig a bit deeper into life there.

          1. MrsCHX*

            Still matters though. It always jumps out at me when there are lots of photos and no one is black. And then I immediately look for other minorities. And that’s in any type of marketing.

            I live in Minneapolis and still, 20 years into my professional career, I’ve never worked with another black woman. It’s the oddest thing. And for the most part, all other companies I’ve worked for has had one black guy.

            1. Oooh*

              As a black woman, I felt shivers reading this. I’ve been very fortunate in terms of the diversity in past and current departments I’ve worked for so 20+ years without another would seriously hurt my morale. Moving to tech soon though so I’m preparing myself for your type of surroundings. I do the same thing you do in terms of scanning for black people and other people of colour in marketing products.

        1. Random Obsessions*

          A marketing person not thinking about the image all white people in photography sends is part of the definition of a diversity problem.
          Hiring people of diverse backgrounds is only a diveristy accomplishment if you can ensure that the culture they’re hired into cares about all aspects of diversity not just numbers.

      2. Not myself today*

        Yeah, our company isn’t as diverse as we’d like but our website’s stock photos sure are. That’s a deliberate decision, because we’re aware of the company’s lack of diversity and don’t want to put people off.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          Forever ago, I worked for a place that was almost exclusively cis, white dudes but every time they needed promotional photos they’d grab me (white lady scientist) and the two men of color (engineers) who worked there. I’m glad they were aware of the image they were projecting but I sort of wish they’d gone the stock photo route because all three of us felt like we were boxes on their diversity bingo card. We all left pretty quickly and it was >15years before I was willing to be in any sort of photo associated with a workplace again and I had to spend ten of those years explaining to my boss, my boss’s boss, HR, and our outreach groups that “but it looks great for us!” isn’t a good way to convince me to get in front of their stupid cameras.

          1. Hey nonny nonny*

            I actually came to comment on this myself. I’m a woman of color that works in a typically male, white-dominated field. My company is probably middle-of-the-pack when it comes to demographic representation here, but “middle of the pack” is still pretty abysmal given the industry. Somehow, my face manages to find its way into a lot of our external facing pictures and recruitment videos. I have mixed feelings about it – I’m glad that my company is explicitly thinking about this and wants to try to diversify the talent pool. But I also don’t want us to portray a fabricated image of what our team’s makeup actually is, nor do I especially appreciate being a Diversity Mascot.

            For that reason, I’d take more diverse photos as a sign that Company B is thinking about these things but not necessarily that they actually are diverse, or that they handle diversity well.

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              Great point. It is hard- every company is likely to be failing on some level of diversity and representation. You want folks to notice and ensure that communications reflect the goal, but when does it cross a line into misrepresentation?

          2. Persimmons*

            My company was so into pulling the one mixed-race “lady scientist” (as you say) into every possible photo op that she was still showing up in new publications for a few months after she had quit and moved to the other side of the country.

            1. Mad Baggins*

              I’m genuinely concerned my old company is still using my photo in ads. They had no problem using it for projects I wasn’t working on. Or asking me to pose with a coworker I didn’t know so her job would look “more international.” When I said I wasn’t comfortable they asked if they could use the back of my head, at least? :/

        2. soon 2be former fed*

          And people aren’t supposed to notice the lack of diversity when they come on board? Bait and switch is never good policy.

      3. Nita*

        Are they actually stock photos? I’m a bit confused about that. OP does refer to them as such, but is it common for a company to represent its staff with stock photos? I can see it if they’re showing something like stock photos of working with clients (to preserve the privacy of actual clients), but if you’re just showing the employees… are stock photos common anyway?

        1. OP4*

          Hi there, OP4 here! They are shot very much like stock photos but appear to have been taken specifically for the companies using models. They are meant to represent customers and people performing the job. I hope that helps!

            1. OP4*

              They don’t appear to actually be of customers and workers. Imagine a photo of a smiling person at their desk using the companies product, but it’s meant to represent customers rather than being an actual factual picture of a real customer.

              1. Nita*

                Oh – in that case, their value in assessing the actual diversity of the company is pretty limited. They only reflect what some marketing person could get their hands on (or what models showed up when the photo sessions were scheduled). It sounds like you’re leaning toward Company B overall, but if you want other sources of information about how diverse they are, look at their actual management (some companies will have brief intros about top staff on their website), look at your interview team, maybe ask for a tour when you’re interviewing, and check out Glassdoor on the off chance someone commented about that.

                1. Doe-Eyed*

                  We also ran into this – all of our volunteers were white so on our photo day I had to go chasing people around cubicles to PLEASE come take pictures :|

                2. Luna*

                  Yeah I don’t think the choice of stock photos matters much at all, especially since you don’t know who in the company is choosing the photos/models (or if it is an outside vendor the company contracted with). Plenty of companies (especially smaller ones) just have some lower level marketing or admin person maintaining the website.

                3. Specialk9*

                  If they’re professional models, as opposed to random workers who were around that day, I side eye them a lot harder. It’s not hard to find models of color or diversity. It’s about bothering to think about that in advance and schedule them that way.

                  I know someone who runs a photo-heavy education app. I assure you they look hard for diverse photos, and make sure that teachers, leaders, and bosses are diverse, and criminals and other bad guys are white guys. It matters, a lot.

        2. HeatherT*

          Super common because using real staff comes with the risk of someone getting fired (especially for a bad reason) and then the whole photo set with that person is unusable.

      4. Doe-Eyed*

        You’d think that, and yet doing our web development our stock photo pool is incredibly limited. They contract out to a few dinky companies and then get super stingy about anything beyond that. I was trying to find ANY non-white or female doctors for our site and it was like pulling teeth.

      5. Erin*

        my work has stock photos of diversity on their training manuals. Honestly in my opinion the model’s expression looks irritated and combined with the diversity it looks like they’ve been chosen for jury duty. Not my first choice. I would’ve went with a photo of hq on the cover.

    2. ObviousAnonIsObvious*

      I had misgivings when I noticed that the leadership team at the company with which I was interviewing was nine white men and a token white woman — who later told me that she had no idea she was ON the leadership team and “I guess they wanted a woman!” I ignored my gut and took the job because I was desperate. Eight months later, they illegally fired me for requesting reasonable accommodation for an ADA-protected disability. My intuition tried to warn me. Next time I’ll listen.

    3. Julia*

      To be honest, if I saw a photo of a diverse team and then saw that the leaders were still all white men, I’d find that even weirder. “Sure, people of color/women/etc. can work here, but only as low level employees!”

      1. Specialk9*

        Is that weird in your experience? Outside of the government, where most of my managers and senior managers were POC, I’ve almost only had white male executives. It’s pretty discouraging.

        1. Julia*

          Not weird at all, unfortunately, but as you say, discouraging.
          What good is knowing that the staff is diverse in the lower levels, but only white men can advance?

        2. Justin*

          I also only have a diverse managerial group in this one job I have now. I hadn’t ever had it before.

          So sadly rare above something other than the line workers.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          I don’t find it odd, but I do find it discouraging and often telling about how individuals are valued.

        4. Chinook*

          I had that happen at an accounting firm I worked at in Calgary. Everybody over a certain management level and age were white with only a couple of women. In that case, it happened to reflect the local demographics 30 years earlier and they were actively working on “growing their own” internally to reflect a more diverse workforce. Basically, if you gave them another 10 years, those at the director level will have much more diversity but they weren’t prepared to have someone jump the ranks just to make themselves look better. (Which is what happened at DH’s job – their newest leader literally was literally promoted two ranks at once to be qualified for the top job, which makes you wonder whether she got the job on actual merit or to fill a quota.)

          1. Blueberry*

            Hopefully the newest leader’s performance will soon put worries about “filling a quota” to rest. Although, to be honest, they’re not really fair to have raised unless he was famously terrible — no one wonders if a White guy got promoted however far to fill a quota, but even the most brilliant POC will be stuck with that accusation dragging behind us like a “kick me” sign.

          2. Oooh*

            Er, hang on. You said that promotion only for diversity’s sake is definitely what happened at your DH’s job, but you seem to base that on the size/surprise of the rank jump. If that’s only why you think so, reflect seriously on what you’d think if it had been a white man promoted like that. As it stands, your comment reminds me of people who think minorities at Ivy Leagues are only there due to affirmative action and not because they met the school’s requirements. Maybe, just maybe your DH’s boss got the big promotion because they’re…suitable for the job!

        5. soon 2be former fed*

          In the US Federal gov for 32 years, and I can count the managers of color on one hand. And those are just supervisors, not chiefs or division directors or higher.

      2. The Original K.*

        I’m a Black woman and I don’t think it’s weird at all – it’s messed up, but it’s very common in my experience. In a previous role, I was the second most senior person in my department and my boss had quit, so I was tapped to go to a senior leadership meeting. The only other person of color there was the CEO’s assistant, and there was one other white (and gay, but she wasn’t out to everyone) woman (who they later fired in a really gross way).

        1. Julia*

          I didn’t mean weirded out as in unusual, I meant I’d be pretty wary of a company that boasted a diverse staff but then only promoted white guys.

          1. Lora*

            Unfortunately this is routinely the case, more often than not…and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

                1. Anon for now*

                  I’m in a global n0t-for-profit with 1000+ worldwide employees (diverse workforce overall). Our senior leadership (29 people VP and higher) is about 50% white men (mostly American, a couple Nordic and one Middle East/North African) and 20% white women. The Black leadership is one Black European and one MENA. Our only Asians at the SVP/VP level currently are in our India location.

            1. Artemesia*

              Yup I have watched a startup promote ALL the guys in a cohort and none of the two women who actually were arguably the most productive employees on the major new project that promotion was touted as rewarding.

              1. Logan*

                If they promoted the women then they would lose all that productivity! Their decision makes total sense

    4. Media Monkey*

      i’d also check that it is an actual representation of the workforce – if you looked at the website for my daughter’s school. you would think it was really ethnically diverse, and it genuinely isn’t (not as some kind of selection or choice – it’s just the demographics of the fairly small village that is its catchment area – we’re in the UK and all state schools take from a radius around the school in case that’s not the case elsewhere)

      1. GreenDoor*

        But in addition to the workforce, I think OP#4 also needs to ask more questions about the client base. Sure, they may “serve” underrepresented populations, but how well do they do that? Can they give numbers about success rates across each demographic? Do they acknowledge which groups they are falling short of serving well? If so, can they describe what they are trying to do to provide more equitable service or include them in a better way?

        Doesn’t do much good to say you work on a diverse team if the workplace culutre would put you, the employee, in a position of excluding or underserving certain groups.

    5. Jules the Third*

      It’s totally reasonable to notice it. Then if you want additional information, sometimes you can find interest groups that rank companies, like best for ‘Black Engineers’ or ‘Working Moms’. My experience has been that the lists are pretty accurate. My employer certainly works to be on them.

      Attention to diversity is a big reason I want to stay with my employer. We’re always on those lists, we’ve got a white female CEO, my site manager (site = 10K people or so) just changed from a white woman to a black man, we have an office of diversity, leadership pushes the ‘diversity = competitive advantage’ regularly, there’s PoC and openly LBGTQx in multiple VP roles. We’re in tech, so it’s always challenging, but I think we’re doing ok with results.

    6. Triplestep*

      I think it’s a good thing to take into consideration, but I think it differs by field as well. I went to an ethnically diverse Architecture school, but this was back in the 80’s and women (I’m female) weren’t studying architecture at the rate men were. So if a large firm or company today is lead by a cross-section of people who graduated with me thirty years ago, I don’t think you can hold it against them for having a predominately male leadership. By the same token, I guess it would be seen as extraordinary if a similar-sized company had a predominately female leadership.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think that’s a little bit of a cop-out at this point, though, especially when you’re talking about all men vs. predominantly men (or even all men + one woman). Sure, there might not have been as many women entering the field, but there were surely some. Were any of them given opportunities to advance? Were most of them driven out by a sexist culture, because “that’s just the way things are in this field”?

        1. Triplestep*

          I’m just talking about simple math. A firm that wants to hire an architect who has a work history of 20 – 30 years (I do, and I’m 54) will find more men than women who check that one box.

          The extraordinary firm has sought out the women who graduated back when I did. But the firm that has had an easier time finding that experience level in men is not “copping out.” There are just more of them.

          If you’re talking about hiring women with 15 years experience instead of men with 20 – 30 years experience, that’s a different conversation! And I think it’s valid to say that after a certain number of years in the workforce, 15 vs 25 (for example) is probably immaterial.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            I agree with all of what you’re saying, and still stand by the idea that a firm with all male leadership has a problem.

          2. Hey nonny nonny*

            I don’t think it’s “extraordinary” for a firm to seek out the women who graduated when you did. That’s basic decency and sense. I view it the other way around – the firms that don’t do that are lacking something.

            I work in a similarly male- and white-dominated field and we hear the same excuses all the time – people of color and women simply don’t major in the fields necessary to get the jobs (even though not all of our executives majored in those fields, either, and we still hire proportionately fewer than the POC and women who actually do major in the field); it’s really hard to find the few people in the field who actually have the experience (except that when my company expended a little effort and implemented some new techniques to do so, suddenly they were able to find and hire them). And you also make a good point at the end – actually requiring 20 or 30 years of experience may be an unconscious way of shutting out people who were literally legally kept out of the field at that time when someone with 10-15 years would suffice.

            1. Triplestep*

              I’m using “extraordinary” to mean not ordinary. Not as a compliment as if to say “Hey, that’s really great, give yourself a big pat on the back!”

    7. ExcelJedi*

      This backfired on us back when I worked at an IT startup. As part of our newsletter, we sent out a photo of the entire company – which was diverse in terms of race and gender, even at the top, but of whom only 4 or 5 people of 200 looked like they were in their 50’s or older. We catered to an elite crowd who tended to be a bit older, so many of the responses we got were exclamations of surprise/accusations of ageism.

      (Which wasn’t the case, to my knowledge….being a ‘hip’ tech start-up in NYC attracted a certain crowd, which is a discussion for another day….)

      1. Chinook*

        But the response you got did highlight the fact that diversity should not just mean cultural and gender diversity. It should also include age and experience.

    8. LurkNoMore*

      Every morning when I see the video from the following day’s opening bell at the NYSE; I always count the white men and compare it to the amount of women and people of color there are on the platform ringing the bell and where they are all positioned. I’d say at least 70 to 75% of the people have been white men. When a company has all white men in their 50s and 60s on the platform and I have any stock in their company, I know it’s time to sell.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Heh- this is what weirded me out the entire time I was watching “The Post”, most notably the Stock Exchange scene just like you’re pointing out. Meryl Streep was constantly in board rooms full of white men in suits, with herself the only woman there, and definitely no one of color. At the Stock Exchange it was even more notable sine she walks through an outer room with a lot of women in it (I assumed secretaries and assistants etc.) before entering the inner Stock Exchange boardroom full of cigar smoke and men in suits. I’ve just never lived in a world like that- I was born in the late 80’s and live in pretty diverse areas, so those scenes were totally alien to me. So yes, if a company’s leadership still looks like it belongs in that movie they need to do some work to figure out why.

    9. Kittymommy*

      I would be careful if how many photos are there and if it’s an accurate reflection based on the size of the organization. My workplace doesn’t have a lot of photos of employees and it’s about 1500 people big. However our demographics our more diverse than the area we are in. Personally I don’t think photos are a great way to judge something like this becaus it’s so dependent on other things it’s hard to really be accurate.

    10. SpaceNovice*

      I agree it’s not unreasonable at all. Diversity is one of the things I look for in a company. If the company leadership and most of the employees on LinkedIn are mostly white men, then I avoid the company like the plague. We have a diverse pool of talent here, so the only way you can really end up with a lack of diversity is by conscious or unconscious discrimination.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        Also, I would like to add that I am in the DC Metro area where tech companies tend to be far more diverse.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          That’s a really good point. I’m not planning on leaving my current job any time soon, but when I do, I have no intention of going into an organization that’s all male, pale, and Yale.

      2. MJ*

        What if all of the employees aren’t white (like where I work)? As in, not a single white person in the bunch. Should I avoid those companies because there aren’t any white people, as you avoid companies with mostly white people? I’m asking because if I did that it would be called racist I’m sure.

        1. Blueberry*

          In a world and/or a country with a history of hundreds of years of discrimination against White people including systematic and personal patterns of excluding them from higher level employment, it would make absolute sense to avoid a company that employed no White people at all.

          The amount of similarity between such a country or world to the world we live in today and any of the countries existing in it… well, therein lies the real-world answer to your question.

    11. Anonym*

      OP4, consider looking at what the company says about diversity as well. My (large, Fortune 100) company is very committed to inclusion, and publicly discusses not only its efforts on that front, but addresses things like the relatively lower diversity of the C-suite.

      Not coincidentally, the public imagery is very diverse. It reflects what the company wants to attract.

  4. Caledonia*

    OP1 – this is all kinds of disturbing. Please take Alison’s advice and go get a new job immediately. This is not a normal situation, it has been going on years already. Please, please get a new job.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Oh my goddess. Abort mission, immediately. Please, OP1, find a new job, like, yesterday.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes. Your mother is actively harming you, and gaslighting you like crazy. No reasonable loving mother would side with the stooge of her daughter’s stalker, then go out of her way to employ and shove him in her face. This is a mother who wants to hurt you, then convince you that you’re unreasonable and unprofessional for being hurt. This is a mother who is likely twisting and distorting your whole life.

        Please, look for another job.

        If you can afford it, find a therapist who can help you see what’s real, and how to create a healthy life. Really. Really really. (I just talked with my former therapist who helped me in my own abusive situation, which I couldn’t see at first. She helped me so much.)

        Read up. Get some books. I like the library Libby app – free audiobooks with a library card, right to your phone. I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That” (the author worked with the courts, which aren’t great at seeing female abuse, so his book focuses on male abusers; a friend with a female abuser said it still applied though.) It opened my eyes and let me see the underlying structure. No other book so throughly explained what I had lived through.

        You are a person who is worthy of better. Worthy of having people who love you and are on your side. Worthy of a job that isn’t full of evil bees. Worthy of loving healthy relationships. Please know a bunch of people are on your side. (And we’d love an update, or several!)

        1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          I have an excellent therapist who has been helping me through this. She’s been working with me on something called “structured contact,” ie where you remain in contact with an abuser, but only on specific terms so that you can protect yourself as best as possible. Unfortunately (for me, hurray for her) she is on maternity leave right now, but I absolutely agree with your advice.

        2. Usted es una Sin Vergüenza*

          Removed. If you don’t wish to engage with another commenter, don’t — but you do need to be kind to others here and not personally attack them.

          1. Usted es una Sin Vergüenza*

            It wasn’t a ‘shot’. It wasn’t meant to hurt, wasn’t unreasonable, and I haven’t ‘parted’ to anywhere.

            1. Mel*

              I don’t know what your history here is, but I read that comment about projecting and then had to re-read it because I found it uncommonly unkind for AAM comments. My two cents.

            1. bolistoli*

              Thanks for posting the free version. I wish I’d waited until I got home from work to look at it. I honestly didn’t think I’d see my (wish he was) ex in there because, even though I realize he was emotionally abusive, I’ve never seen his exact behaviour described before. I jumped to the types of abusive men, and when I got to the Water Torturer, I started to cry at my desk. This is exactly him. I feel relief and anguish (all over again) seeing this validation. I have been seeing a therapist for ages, and she did validate that his treatment was not normal, but I’d never actually seen it categorized, as in, this is not unique to him. NOW it’s time to go home and read in private.

              OP, it absolutely sucks that anyone here is doubting you. As if we don’t doubt ourselves enough. And my experience was/is nowhere near what you’ve been through. As you can see from the comments, there is an overwhelming majority of people who do believe you. I just want to add that you have my admiration – you have come through some serious shit. Your strength is truly admirable.

              1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                Ah ha moments are the best. I mean, they’re upsetting at first, but it’s just this, “Holy poo, I’ve been ignorant to this all this time?!”

                You’ll have a lot of them if you have this one. It might be down the road to you getting away for good. But I can promise you as someone who has been there, it’s worth the pain and difficulty. I own my own house now, my dream car, a great job (other than my mom), and I feel accomplished almost every day. And I made it happen.

                I hope today is your ah ha day, but if it isn’t, that’s okay. People take the time they need to get where they need to be. Just please trust yourself. It’s so hard, but your instincts are stronger than you realize. You only get one life and I hope you live the happiest, healthiest one possible!

                1. bolistoli*

                  Thanks! Your empathy is amazing. I’m actually mostly out – he is an alcoholic, and somehow I was able to use his drinking (which he never admitted to despite all the hidden booze bottles I found) to get him to move out. Unfortunately, he’s still managing to control me by dropping out of contact, making it extremely difficult to get a divorce. I’m under a month away from filing by publication – last ditch was sending him a letter to his company’s HQ (he’s an onsite Government contractor).

                  I still worry about the havoc he’s going to wreak on me when it all hits a head. He was never outright violent, but he exhibited some threatening behaviour, so I do have a bit of fear. Plus I think he has the capacity to be financially vindictive. I am probably the first person in his life to hold him in any way accountable for his actions, so I have no idea ultimately if he’ll lash out or just passively fade away (fingers crossed for that one).

                  BUT, as I try to keep telling myself, it will eventually be over and I can be free of him. You give me so much hope, because you have had to overcome much more difficult circumstances. I’m glad you give yourself the credit you are due! :)

          1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

            Thank you and CanuckCat. I will absolutely find that book and read it from cover to cover!

      2. Ccm*

        Agree with this, but not that the situation is entirely as we think it might be. I am going to be talking in general terms not necessarily specific to this Op, we don’t know any of the details. During break ups, it is extremely common for people to request restraining orders. They often get them, and aren’t difficult to get. There are many types. (Horrible.) We don’t know what role the friend had in anything really. Male friends can be kind of loose with information sometimes. Op works at the same place with a relative that she worked at when she was in the relationship?! I don’t think friend was revealing things intentionally as most of her information has not changed. The friend would have nothing to gain. Could the poster genuinely be afraid, yes, and should distance themselves from this entire situation.

        1. MakesThings*

          Did you actually read the letter?
          The OP clearly states that the husband was a stalker. Not “I got a restraining order for some vague reason”, but “my ex was stalking me”.
          The mother refuses to acknowledge a very clear and reasonable request, which any reasonable HR manager should have no problem with.
          The friend passed on information about the victim to the stalker. Routinely. Then that very same person was going to service her computer.
          How is that not a problem in your view?

          1. Annoyed*

            “How is that not a problem in your view?”

            My money’s on “possesses a penis.”

        2. MakesThings*

          Also, your assertion that many people get a restraining order after a break-up is so wildly off-base, it makes me want to know where you live and who you hang out with. And at minimum, it takes a ton of paperwork, so they’re not “easy to get”, either. Where are you even getting this?

          1. MakesThings*

            Aside from the fact that your comment is not parse-able, here’s a direct quote from YOURSELF:
            “They often get them, and aren’t difficult to get”.

            No, you didn’t say “It’s easy to get any kind of restraining order in any situation, always”, but you did say they were easy to get.
            Maybe this sin’t really a good place for you to exercise your “subtle” RedPill argument skills? This isn’t actually a subreddit or 4chan.

          2. OhNo*

            I agree, MakesThings. I don’t mean to pile on, but I want to add my voice to pushing back on this point. The only times I’ve ever even heard someone mention a restraining order in relation to a break up, it’s been when one party was abusive or stalking the other. And even then, it’s been very rare.

            I feel like that narrative of “everybody does it, this happens all the time” is really dangerous, because it normalizes the kind of extreme abuse that often leads people to consider a restraining order. Having to get an RO against your ex due to stalking or other threatening behavior is NOT normal, it is NOT common, and no one should have deal with that.

            1. Strawmeatloaf*

              It really makes me wonder where that info is from that everyone gets one. Even for people who are actively being stalked and have been threatened with physical violence will find that they can have trouble getting a restraining order against their harasser/stalker/abuser.

              1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                I had multiple (sorry, not trying to be sexist here) react the same way when I told them I had one. “Ugh, they’ll just give them out to anyone nowadays,” and “Oh, you’re one of THOSE GIRLS.” I do not know where this stereotype comes from, but I believe anyone with an EPO because they are seriously HARD to get.

              2. AKchic*

                They can be extremely hard to get, especially when you factor in judges’ biases. My state is kind of notorious for them. Every cop has a story, and most women who have needed a restraining order have a story. We all have judges we can’t stand and actively try to avoid.

                Some of the stories I could tell you (from personal experience) are enough to make a bald person’s hair curl.

              3. monsters of men*

                Also, a lot of the time restraining orders actually escalate the violence. I don’t have the book with me for the direct quote but Lundy Bancroft talks about it.

            2. MakesThings*

              Yes, exactly. There is no universe where this is a common thing. Casually normalizing restraining orders in a series of vague comments is completely bizarre and clearly agenda-driven behavior.

          3. Nonsensical*

            It is very difficult get a restraining order and you’re completely not taking the OP at their word, which is what we’re asked to do here.

            It is not normal to request a restraining order, since you stated the fact, rather than stating vague anecdotes, either back your statistics up with actual data or stop quoting some expert opinion you don’t have. If you work at the courts, you’re already biased by the fact the only people showing up there are extreme cases.

            The fact you think it is alright for someone in IT to pass on information or even want to accept as normalcy is something that isn’t normal nor should it be accepted as status quo. It also has numerous legal issues and that is coming from someone in IT security! This is violating any company’s data policy and most companies, especially in IT, have specific agreements that don’t allow abuse such as this so called friend is displaying.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              It some jurisdictions it can be very easy to get a temporary restraining order. It is much more difficult to get a long-term one. It varies widely between different courts and states, though. With such differences, it’s impossible to make blanket statements about the ease of getting a restraining order.

              It is pretty obvious thought that the vast majority of people that break up or divorce do not get restraining orders against their ex, though.

              1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                It’s especially difficult without threat of bodily harm. My ex physically abused me during our marriage, but because he hadn’t abused me or threatened to once we divorced? No restraining order. Stalking and harassment aren’t enough to get one. You have to have YEARS of continued abuse to show obsession in order to get a restraining order against someone smart enough to not blatantly threaten abuse.

                “I’m going to kill you at your birthday party” = enough for restraining order.

                “Why didn’t you invite me to your [private, as secret-as-possible] birthday party? Is there someone you don’t want me to see there? Maybe I’ll come by and see for myself” at one in the morning? = not enough for a restraining order, at least in my state.

          4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            How many of your exes have you taken a restraining order against? How many took them against you? How many of your friends/relatives have taken out restraining orders after a break up? How many have had people take it against them?

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          “Male friends can be kind of loose with information sometimes”?

          Sounds like more words to say ‘boys will be boys’ to me.

          Come the hell on, the OP has told us the specific situation. This isn’t helpful.

          1. MakesThings*

            More like, nobody sees things the way YOU want them to. I don’t think anyone’s buying your BS over here.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              You’re all over this post trying to claim that nothing is going on and the OP has an axe to grind against innocent Billy. Give it a friggin rest.

            2. MakesThings*

              Just casually throwing out false information, and then backtracking when people press you for proof. That’s all.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            There’s a big difference between a post saying “Had a great day at the water park and unexpectedly ran into Jo” and sending a private message saying “Hey, I heard Jo is going to the water park on Saturday”. From what the OP wrote, it sounds like they are dealing more with the latter.

            1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              Trust me, if you’re being stalked, having a random message from your ex saying, “Which chili did you vote for at the chili cook-off? I know you were there, because I watched you tasting them,” and “So that guy in the photo you were tagged in, are you f*cking him,” and “I know your birthday party is tonight at [location], why didn’t you invite me,” is enough to be plenty terrifying. This was not a one-off, “Oh, I saw OP.” This was unrelenting for two years and, five years later, there are STILL people taking my photo to send to my ex and he’s body-checking me at events.

              1. eplawyer*

                First of all, lock down your social media. If you know people are using social media to inform your ex — lock it down. Cut out anyone you even SUSPECT of feeding him information. You can’t do anything about being seen in public, but you can ignore those folks. Turn your back, flip off the camera, whatever.

                Also, why do you have structured contact with your ex? Unless you share a child, you can cut that person — and ANYONE close to them out of your life. Including your own mother. If you mom thinks you are being unreasonable for taking steps to PHYSICALLY PROTECT YOURSELF, then you don’t need to have contact with your mother.

              2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                This was all five years ago. My media has been locked down for ages, but it took some time to figure out just who I could and could not trust. A lot of the people were people that I thought were my good friends, but I obviously was wrong. I ignore the picture-takers at this point; I think it’s pathetic, I don’t understand why ANYONE would care at this point. They’re the ones with the problem, not me.

                I have structured contact with my mother, not Ex. I haven’t spoken to Ex directly since halfway through our divorce. And I haven’t had him try to speak or message me since the restraining order. I understand what you’re saying about cutting her out completely, but I would lose all the rest of my family doing so. I would have to leave my job and likely start over in a new field. I am setting boundaries now, with the knowledge they are just temporary measures and that I’ll either have to leave my job or wait out her retirement before I can get true relief.

              3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                That is incredibly disturbing and I’m sorry that there are so many trash people around you who are doing this.

          3. Luna*

            “Male friends can be kind of loose with information sometimes”

            Lol that’s funny, I thought it was us little ladies that are supposed to be the gossipy sex! /s

            1. Blueberry*

              So true. It’s so much fun to see the sexism peering out of the different connotations, for very negative values of fun.

        4. epi*

          This is such a callous and ignorant comment. I hope you educate yourself about stalking and abuse, which are really common and rarely lied about; and reconsider whatever impulse led you to say this when you obviously know very little about the topic and don’t care about the OP’s safety.

          1. Nonsensical*

            You’re displaying the epitome of rape culture here. Blame the victim and cast doubt. People rarely lie about stalking or these other sorts of issues. I have no idea what sort of experiences have colored your way of thinking like this but take a step back and realize what you’re saying to people and what you’re broadcasting to actual victims.

            The cases such as The Rolling Stone where the rape victim called foul are rare. Please do more research on this topic. It is a sensitive one for women and leaves lasting damage when they’re not taken seriously.

            I also have to question why you seem so triggered to be all over this post.

            Dealing with stalking is hard. Dealing with people at your company who should be trusted not to spy on your information is hard. Having your mother refusing to see your side is hard. The OP has no family support, her work is compromised, she has an abusive ex. Lumping it on the OP and not taking her at her word is literally blaming the victim.

            It’d be similar to someone who is IT support and has access to fellow workers’ schedule or outlook reporting to an ex when the person might be somewhere so they can randomly just ‘show up’.

          2. eplawyer*

            actually it’s not. It is EXTREMELY difficult to get a protective order based on stalking. You have to prove intent behind the stalking, or even that stalking occurs, not just “knows a lot about what I do.”

            This sounds like someone justifying abusive behavior because “joe blow is such a nice guy, he wouldn’t do that — and we know women are crazy. She’s just mad because he moved on and is getting even.”

            As someone who works with abuse victims, I can tell you from first hand experience, protective orders are very rare and only granted based on actual facts presented — not because of revenge.

            1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              This. It took two years to get my restraining order for stalking and harassment, because at that point, the courts decided that obsession over that period of time = more than just a passing annoyance. But I had to have that intent because just telling someone you’re watching her every move and know where she is at all times isn’t actually considered dangerous by the courts.

            2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              It took two years to get my restraining order because, without my ex actively stating “I am going to kill you at X place,” it was not considered threat of immediate bodily harm. I had proof that my ex had abused me in our relationship, but because he wasn’t threatening (or doing it) AFTER I filed, it wasn’t enough for the EPO. The two years was enough to show obsession and that this wasn’t going away, so that I was able to get the restraining order. So I had to live with this for two years before the courts would do anything.

          3. Observer*

            Pot, meet kettle.

            Actually, that’s not accurate – we HAVE read your comments. And what you have repeatedly said is provably inaccurate.

          4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            I’ve read your comments. They are highly inaccurate, clearly based on some agenda you have, and of no help to LW1.

        5. Lara*

          What? In the UK you have to report a person to the police and get them arrested, then prove that they have engaged in harassment / threats. You have to have ‘sufficient’ evidence to make a restraining order, established to a criminal standard ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – and the person gets to defend themselves in court. They’re neither easy nor common to obtain, and in America you often have to pay.

          1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

            One full evening in the EPO office, describing my information and signing documents. One full day off work to go to court. $800 for legal representation to understand what the heck I was signing.

        6. Ah Nonn*

          Restraining orders are easy to get? Really? I couldn’t get one against my ex because we were not married nor did we live together. I would absolutely love to know what jurisdiction makes them easy to get.

        7. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          It’s EXTREMELY difficult to get a restraining order, especially if your ex is smart, like mine is, and they don’t ever actively threaten your life. It took TWO YEARS to get mine, including spending a year as off-grid as possible, before courts would say, “Oh, well, he’s not threatening to kill you, but yeah, getting someone’s unlisted address off of a deed application within two weeks of them buying a property so you can start sending them personal mail is probably a little off-base.”

          Even then, he still violates it on occasion. Ex married his divorce attorney (yes, I know, this all sounds like a daytime soap, but I swear it’s my life), so she helps guide him on the lines. He body-checked me at a music festival in another city a couple of years back, despite the restraining order. But try finding security, then tracking that couple back down after that point. And then you have to “prove” that the violation of the restraining order was intentional… it’s a nightmare. It does very little for me other than prove to other people that yes, he was in fact abusive, OR, as you mentioned (and as I have experienced), make me look like I’m one of “THOSE girls” and have the (always a guy) roll his eyes at me because everyone knows that women are just running around getting restraining orders as retaliation against their exes /sarcasm.

          And yes, Billy absolutely was getting my information intentionally, this was not stuff like “OP is still a woman;” this was “OP was invited to this party,” so Ex would show up there or I was tagged in a photo and Ex would immediately start accusing me of things or demand to know why I was at [wherever the photo was taken]. And I have verbal confirmation from both Ex and Jean, Billy’s girlfriend, that he was doing this on purpose.

          1. Ali G*

            I am really sorry you are going through this. Please ignore Ccm (if you can). They are dismissive and ignorant of your situation – I would argue willingly so.
            Have you been job hunting? How easy would it be for you to get another job?
            Also, I would be interested to hear thoughts on filing a formal complaint against your mom (ugh that sounds so horrible just to say it) with higher ups.
            You don’t have to give any more info that you are comfortable with, but it sounds like only you and your mom (and Billy) really know what is going on. If that is the case then maybe you can think about what other allies are in your company, at least until you can get out of there.

            1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              I’m sure CCM has the best intentions, but I will say I was very nervous to submit this question for that very reason. I have been doubted for years by “friends,” parents, grandparents, everyone. I feel like the last five years (and honestly, my entire life; you don’t end up in an eight-year abusive marriage without being normalized to it as a kid) have been me desperately trying to explain my situation to people without sounding over-dramatic, but also not easily dismissable. If you say too much, then you’re “depressing and over-dramatic,” but if you don’t say enough, they keep inviting your Ex to the same events and passing your info to him and laughing at his stories about “body-checking that b*tch that took everything [he] owned and broke [his] heart.”

              It took eight years to get away from him and I thought that would be the hard part. But then he managed this horrible social campaign against me for years afterward, and that was even harder because there was NO ONE I could trust, not even my own parents. It just… abusers aren’t like movies. They’re likable and suave and they go after people with sh*tty support groups. And they worm their way into every crevice of your life so that, when you try to leave, it’s SO hard. I nearly went back to him once because I just wanted the harassment to stop and the physical abuse was almost better than the stalking. So to have people dismiss it… it’s difficult and makes me less inclined to speak on it at all.

              It would be VERY hard to get another job; I would either have to move to another city (uprooting my husband from his dream job) or start over in a new field. I am working on the formal complaint right now (making note of all the things that occur at work) so that I can bring that to the president. I mentioned what was happening in front of my mom and the president after this event occurred and he was obviously shocked- my mother acted like it was the first time she’d heard it. It sounds like our company may be shopping for a new IT contractor now, but I’m not privy.

              1. Jersey's mom*

                I’m so sorry that you and your husband are going through this. The ex sounds like a nightmare. I suggest that you look into “crash override”, a website set up to help people protect themselves on line. The ex sounds like someone who may try to dox or otherwise hurt you.

                1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  Thanks for the suggestion! I will check the website out, I’m always looking for more ways to button up my online presence.

                2. Jersey's mom*

                  One additional suggestion – check out Captain Awkward blog. She has fantastic scripts to use with family and friends who are doubting your statements about the ex. You and your husband will need a “team you”, to use a phrase from the Cap.

                  I also suggest you document every single thing he, and others who help him, are doing. A thick notebook with dates and full explanations are more helpfull than verbal explanations. Install security cameras on your home and bring your car to a trusted mechanic to see if there’s a GPS attached to it. If there is, don’t touch it, and consider whether you want to contact the police.

                  Good luck and zen hugs.

                3. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  Thank you for the blog suggestion and support as well. I’ll definitely check them both out.

              2. GreyjoyGardens*

                You have a husband who is employed – how badly do you need your income and/or benefits right now? Because this might be a time when quitting without another job lined up would be an OK option, if you can get freelance or temp work in your field.

                1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  It’s less the money… I love what I do. I enjoy the work itself and it’s doing something good for humanity. I am getting to the point I’m getting an international representation and getting to travel to learn even more about it. Either my husband would have to quit his dream job or I would have to move to a different city because my field is so niche. I’m potentially in-line to head the company in the next five years… there are a lot of complicating factors .

              3. Optimistic Prime*

                For whatever it’s worth, I believe you. It sounds completely realistic and are real things that people do. Good for you for getting out when it was hard, and for connecting with therapy when you needed it.

              4. Specialk9*

                I’m so deeply empathetic. The suave abusers are terrible. It creates a huge fog of confusion and guilt, even though you’re not the one doing things. They carefully make sure that anything you repeat would make you look like you’re overreacting.

                In my case, my family wasn’t in on the abuse and gaslighting, unlike yours, but after the breakup my ex suddenly tried to kiss up to my parents (after being a jerk to my whole family for years) and my parents bought it (until my supportive siblings clued them in). He basically used them as a tool against me. That’s the kind of sneak move that your life is full of with abusers, especially the smart ones. What do you say, “how dare you send a mother’s day card to my mom”? And that’s how every attack is choreographed.

                Is there any way you can move somewhere new, somewhere with a healthy support network? This one sounds so utterly poisonous. It’s not you, but I’m not sure you can ever win. Do you have school friends in another city, or a sane aunt in another city? Or a job (in another city) and a house of worship, or a job (in another city) and a charity that you can get involved in?

                The only thing that helped me was getting out and getting therapy, lots of lovely therapy.

                1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  Oh, therapy is the best. And really, I feel it’s necessary. Physical abuse is one thing, but it’s the mental gaslighting and reshaping of your thought and belief patterns that is the most difficult. It really takes an outside compass to find your way back to yourself.

              5. Specialk9*

                “They’re likable and suave and they go after people with sh*tty support groups.”

                This is so true. But it’s also true that they seek out KIND EMPATHETIC people, both because there are so many buttons to push, and because at some level they want what they can’t be.

                Sometimes it’s easy to see one’s own flaws they exploited and conclude that there’s a brokenness that gets awfully close to ‘and so you deserve it’. But when it’s kindness, well, that doesn’t have to change — just the gatekeeping, and the vigilance for red flags and boundary violations.

                1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  Absolutely true. I don’t think any abuse survivor ever asked for it; abuse is the fault of the abuser and no one else. And it’s a balancing act not to go to either “trust everyone until they prove they don’t deserve it” or “never trust anyone because even your loved ones will hurt you.” I have tried to keep myself through all of this. I am lucky that, through the process, I’ve built a stronger support system than I ever had in my first 30 years of life.

          2. AKchic*

            Do what you can to find another job. My mother used to give my ex (and stalker) information all the time because she was very much blinded and sweet-talked into things, and as a narcissist, she couldn’t admit that she was tricked into giving information. It took my grandfather threatening to cut her out of the will to get her to stop talking to my ex (and then my idiot sister started, but I have completely cut her off for a variety of reasons).

            For me, it has been 15 years and I still have issues (small state mentality, smallish population). I am lucky in the fact that my ex has been largely unsuccessful in the dating realm and dates only those that are easy to control (and therefore abuse) and he tends to be laser-focused on one victim at a time and only comes back to focusing on me when he’s single (so, whenever the latest “wifey” dies, as has been the case 3 times in the last 6 years).

            Find another job. If you have to, move to another state. Therapy is going to be your best friend. If necessary, find all new friends. I know, it’s like the witness protection program, but sometimes, that’s what you need to do. Do not keep any personal details or data on your work computer at all. It is compromised. Same with your phone. Or, get a second phone for work purposes, or a second phone that is specifically for anything non-mom/non-work related.

            You can reach me at the link in my username.

            1. Specialk9*

              Also, if you have Alexa or Nest or any of those smart home things that listen to you and watch you? Turn them off.

            2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              You have described my situation to a T. It truly felt like being in the witness protection program or trying to start an entirely new life. I’ve completely rearranged my life to avoid the Ex and his crew (since they can’t be trusted not to assist him in harassing me). I am doing better today, but even now, I’m very private, I never post pictures until I’ve left a place, I only share my address through text so I know who has it (vs posting on FB invites), I never go to anywhere we used to go together and I never go anywhere I think he might be. I try my best to live my best life, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely safe until he moves away or dies.

              1. Blueberry*

                That is so horrible to have to live through. Unlike many of the awesome people here I don’t have any specific advice, but I’m another person who has seen what you’re describing and recognizes the truth of your account. I’m sending you all strength and good luck.

        8. Trout 'Waver*

          Policing whether OP1’s statements are valid is a really shitty thing to do to someone who’s been stalked to the point of getting a restraining order. Part of the commenting rules is that we believe the letter writers.

          You’re also making a ton of baseless assumptions that are quite unkind. It almost sounds like you’re making excuses for the people doing shitty things to OP1.

        9. Muriel Heslop*

          Let’s trust that the situation is as OP says it was. Restraining orders and protective orders are not “extremely common” but your perception of that may be skewed according to your sample size.

          OP, I hope you can find a new job quickly. Your situation sounds untenable.

        10. Observer*

          During break ups, it is extremely common for people to request restraining orders

          That sounds like someone trying too hard to justify stuff. If you have any stats – like “according to the CDC 78% of exes request restraining orders”, please post. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that this is a red herring.

          Male friends can be kind of loose with information sometimes.

          Right. Because OF COURSE adult men have no concept of discretion. /sarc

          Allow me to point out that in IT, discretion is considered a KEY quality. If you can’t keep from blabbing what you’ve seen, you’re going to be out of a job. Yes, even men.

          And, it doesn’t even matter. If the IT guy is a baby who doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, it’s on the company, in the person of its HR, to keep that person away from someone with information that needs to be kept confidential.

        11. Optimistic Prime*

          We know what role the friend had because the OP told us – he was passing information onto her stalker so that he could stalk her more effectively. This is not that difficult to believe, as it’s how stalkers typically operate.

          This kind of doubting and gaslighting behavior is what makes it difficult for survivors of abuse to come forward in the first place, because people try to make them feel like they are overreacting, misinterpreting things, or that their abuse is “not that bad” or “boys will be boys” or “normal.” It’s not. None of this behavior is normal.

    2. Glowcat*

      Beside the fact that the mother seems to be siding with the stalker (my brain cannot compute it), isn’t it weird that she was allowed to be the HR manager of her daughter? Shouldn’t this be the same as with managing spouses?
      My mother was my teacher for three years, but she was never allowed to be in my exam committee (and I had to work double the other students to earn my grades, to show no preference was at play, but that’s another story).
      I agree that the best option for OP is to get out and I wish her good luck in her search!

      1. Ccm*

        Removed. Please read and follow the commenting rules, which say that we believe letter writers. It’s particularly unhelpful to doubt abuse victims.

        I’ve removed many of your other comments here for the same reason.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Even if the HR person weren’t the OP’s mother, it would still be awful. It doesn’t sound like HR’s hands were tied with some unbreakable contract and even if they were, the least HR could’ve done is shown sympathy.

        2. Observer*

          I find it fascinating that you keep on accusing people of this. There is a Hebrfew saying that one who has a fault accuses others of that.

          It seems to me that this applies here in spades.

        3. MakesThings*

          We’ve all read your stuff, and got a pretty clear picture. Stop airing your issues in public, you’re embarrassing yourself.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Almost makes me wonder if LW1 should get to a computer she doesn’t regularly use and change all her passwords

      2. Lora*

        “mother seems to be siding with the stalker”

        HAHAHAHA*weeps* Oh god, please meet my mother.

        When I was getting divorced from my abusive POS husband who decided he liked girls young enough to be his daughter, Craigslist hookers and coke, more than he liked me, mom and I went out to lunch and I was telling her about my lawyer’s (very good) advice over lunch. She then took out her phone and took a picture of me, and sent it to my grandmother and aunts – while I was chewing fast to ask, “What are you doing? Why is it suddenly a photo op?” She smiled and went back to eating without answering. About 15 minutes later, she got a reply from them that the divorce probably wasn’t actually my fault, because I was still thin – but I should move fast to find a new man, because I’m getting old and soon will be too wrinkled and ugly to be lovable.

        I wish I was kidding about this. Some moms are the Aunt Lydias of the world, and it sounds like OP’s mom is one of these.

            1. Lora*

              Thanks you guys – I’m sort of moved past it, because retrograde people with internalized sexism are who they are and I can’t fix them. They wonder why so many of my generation moved several states away and don’t visit…

              I mainly wanted to push back on the notion that I run into alllllll too frequently that all parents love and support their children and want what’s best for them. I’ve seen that idiom become VERY damaging to people whose parents really are crummy to them; it becomes especially damaging in cases of actual child abuse and neglect because I’ve seen many instances where social services fails to act, and for adult children of crappy parents where there is a TON of pressure to provide caretaking type support or even just pressure on the adult son/daughter to “get over it” when this type of behavior shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone for any reason. The crummy parent becomes a Missing Stair, sort of thing.

              1. bolistoli*

                Lora, I’m so sorry you not only have to deal with a crappy, unsupportive, and damaging family, but you also have to deal with the doubters and those who are so uncomfortable with YOUR decision to disengage with YOUR family. I’ve noticed in my life that many people who have happy families just cannot fathom there are those of us who have shitty families (or family members) that we have to disconnect from for our own well-being.

              2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                This. My parents are supportive… of actions THEY want me to take. If I succeed, they take credit, even if they were against my actions from the beginning. If I do anything against their wishes or to protect myself, they want to “sweep it under the rug” or deny it. They’ve done it since I was a kid. I love my parents, I think they love me, but I think they love themselves and their reputations far more. It’s taken decades for me to realize that I am the only one with my best interests at heart and that they cannot be relied upon for more than just basic civility.

                1. AKchic*

                  Narcissistic parenting can look like this. It can be generational. It runs in my family (only bad habits/traits run in my family).

              3. Tuxedo Cat*

                I’ll cosign that. Not all parents or families mean or do well towards others within their families, including children.

                People should be more understand of that.

              4. General Ginger*

                Lora, I am so sorry you had to deal with this from your mom (and other relatives, ugh). I’m flashing back to telling my mother I was unhappy and considering separating from my spouse, and her telling me I needed to lose at least fifty pounds before I could even start thinking like that. She’s always been abusive, but that was one of the final things that made me go very low contact.

              5. Blueberry*

                I mainly wanted to push back on the notion that I run into alllllll too frequently that all parents love and support their children and want what’s best for them.

                You’re 100% right, and I’m going to remember your phrasing next time I get too exasperated with the Family Above All nonsense and have to say something.

        1. Anon for this one*

          My mother would talk a good game about being in my corner, but unless the person causing me trouble was my father, she found all sorts of excuses to side with other people. Finally, when my college boyfriend hit me, her response was “Well, you have been making him mad lately.”

          I imagine until the day she collapsed and died, my mother wondered why I never moved home after college to get some money together. That’s why.

        2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          My mother is absolutely an Aunt Lydia. I’m so sorry you dealt with that situation. What a terrible relationship and how good that you’re not longer in it!

          1. tangerineRose*

            I wonder if she’s treated anyone else the same way she’s treating you. If she has, well, there can be strength in numbers – if there are multiple people willing to complain about things she’s done to them, management might listen more. And she sounds like someone who would do unpleasant things to people.

          2. Oooh*

            Oh, OP. I’m sorry you’re going through this. For whatever it’s worth, I believe you and I’m in your corner. I’m familiar with the nightmare of the abysive ex and the nightmare of the shitty mother, but to deal with both of those together? You’re incredible. If you’re able and comfortable, please let us know how things work out with your formal complaint about HR mother and going to the big boss. I hope so much you have a happy ending. I know that ‘find a new job’ isn’t always the easy option as you’ve described. Hopefully you do end up running the company and your mother ends up elsewhere.

      3. Justme, The OG*

        I definitely think that is weird. I am looking to get into HR and the company where my mom works is hiring someone for payroll and I cannot apply for it. I am side-eyeing that company so hard right now.

    3. Mookie*

      Yeah, this is nightmare material for me, and I don’t really know why.

      I wish you all the luck in the world here, LW1. Trust your instincts—they’re spot-on. Nobody should have to put up with this. It’s crappy that maybe your mom’s hands are tied here, or that she’s drunken the local strain of kool-aid without realizing, but let her own that problem herself. Your responsibility is you, your well-being, and your career. Protect them, as Kate Willett says, like a man would “the reputation of a guy he’s never met,” ruthlessly and without compromise.

    4. Media Monkey*

      this. run away very fast! if you are ok to respond OP1, i’d love to know how your relationship is generally with your mum after all of this? is she generally supportive of your situation but feels you shouldn’t bring personal stuff to work (not saying that is what you are doing any more than you have to to protect yourself) or is she fairly supportive outside work? that said, i really hope you are OK and the ex is well and truly out of your life along with his enabling friends!

    5. Mama's Lil' Worker Bee*

      OP here, I am in an extremely niche field; I work for one of two possible companies in our large city. The other company is a giant corporate nightmare and our small business is full of people scrambling to get away. Our company, other than my mother, is great: flexible, free high-end health insurance for my entire family, free lunch twice a week, lots of free certification opportunities. It’s hard to leave a job that has one REALLY bad thing for a place guaranteed to have lots of little bad things.

      Things got bad enough last year I started looking at positions in another city- and then my husband got his dream job after five years of lay-offs and struggle. I know he would leave at the drop of a hat for my happiness, but I love him too much to do that.

      1. Narise*

        Is there anyone else you can discuss the situation with that can intervene? I think you need to escalate for your safety and because HR is not taking their role seriously to protect their staff.

      2. Bagpuss*

        IS there anyone other than your mother you can speak to? Either your own line manager, or your mother’s line manager?
        I think it would be reasonable to explain the situation, and that you feel that in this instance your mother is reacting as a parent and not as an HR rep.

        I think it is complicated byu the fact that you are asking the company to stop using / bringing you into contact with your ex’s friend, rather than your ex himself, but I think the fact that he shared information with your stalker gives you a valid reason for raising concerns about his having access to your information, even if there is no evidence that he ever shared anything he gained through work.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          The charitable side of me wants to assume that OP1s HR Mom denied the requests because she was worried that it would be perceived as favoritism. And that may be part of it.

          Note for everyone: Treating people differently is treating people differently no matter the direction of treatment.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        If your company is so great, can you talk to your CEO or someone who has the ability to fire your mother?

        I know it might seem extreme to think about it in those terms, but your mother has been endangering your life and possibly the lives of your coworkers.

      4. Observer*

        I’m going to echo the others – is there anyone else you can talk to? Here is something to point out to the higher ups, if you do this: Your situation is clearly not a secret. And others know what you are being subject to it. How do you think people with their own problems feel, seeing this? If you want to be supportive of your staff, you need to be supportive to EVERYONE.

    6. Nita*

      And in the meantime, I think you should feel zero guilt at all about taking this to upper management and informing them how “HR” is ignoring its responsibility due to personal relationships, and exposing the company to risk of a lawsuit or possibly even criminal charges, if the stalking situation escalates (I hope it doesn’t!!!)

      Stay safe.

    7. SpaceNovice*

      +1 to this. OP’s mother is acting the exact opposite of how my mother would react. She would have talked to our CEO and then they would have gone, together, to Billy’s company, and the end result would be Billy packing up his boxes the same day with security keeping an eye on him. That’s the only proper reaction. This is the reaction that any HR manager should have done even without a parent-child relationship.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #1 is the stuff of sitcoms and nightmares.

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

    1. Avacado*

      Its her ex husbands friend. Who worked there for years. And she said didnt think he was in her computer.

      I dont get why he has to be banned from the workplace events because her ex husband was a stalker? While she thinks he got info on her from facebook and mutual friends to pass on, I doubt that she has proof he was the source of the information and not the other 200 friends on social media, or that he even knew of the stalking of her.

      I’m actually against the AAM advice here.

      1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

        I have verbal confirmation from Ex and Billy’s girlfriend that he was the one passing on the information and that he was aware of what it was being used for.

        Billy’s company was hired as our IT CONTRACTOR a couple of months before the divorce. I learned that Billy was in fact passing my information, to which he didn’t have direct access (so he was getting it from Jean, then giving it to Billy) a couple months after I filed. I asked, at that point, that he not work on my computer- I didn’t ask for him to be fired, just simply not be given access to my computer. My mother denied my request.

        During the two years between me filing and finally being given my restraining order, my ex got hold of information that could have only come from my computer or my mother. So I cannot prove that Billy was getting on my computer to get my information, but I do have confirmation (and at least text message conversations) that he was going to great lengths to get my personal info and pass it on to facilitate the stalking.

        I am not asking that an employee lose his job or be banned from events, I’m asking that a contractor is not invited to mandatory social events at my company that I have to attend. I am being told by my mother NOW that he has been with the company for years (even though I complained five years ago), so I should be more tolerant. So because I have dealt with this for five years, she’s saying I should continue to do so- because she didn’t handle the situation five years ago.

        1. Specialk9*

          Why aren’t you asking that he be fired? He needs to be fired. You could live for many years on the settlement that his company would need to pay you.

        2. tangerineRose*

          He’s doing it deliberately, and your mother doesn’t seem to care. This just isn’t right.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        He’s a contractor who is taking information from an employee computer and sharing it outside the company. That would be grounds for termination anyplace I have ever worked.

        And how do you know how many friends she has on social media? Are you Billy?

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          ^ This. Why would employees of another company be invited to company events?

        2. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          I asked the same question. “Why wouldn’t we,” was my mom’s response. And then, “Besides, we’re inviting your husband” (He has done some graphic design contracting for us over the years. I did not ask for him to be invited.)

          1. Lora*

            Yeah, your mom needs to be out of your life. My mom got a LOT better (she slips up because dementia but even so has improved) when I made it clear that I am 100% happy as a clam to never speak to her again, on any holiday or other occasion, if she’s gonna be like that. Because you don’t treat your family *worse* than you’d treat a random stranger on the street.

            Weirdly, all the relatives she totally thought were on her team, also bailed on her.

            TL;DR: Shunning people WORKS.

          2. General Ginger*

            Your mother really doesn’t sound like she has your best interest in mind at all. I am so sorry.

          3. GlitsyGus*

            OK, for real, your mom is so far over the line we can’t even see her anymore. If the restraining order is still in effect you’re going to want to remind your mom of that and the implication that is in there that only one of you can be at the event.

            I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. I really hope you can find a new job really soon, because you really need one.

            1. GlitsyGus*

              Replying because I misread what you said about not wanting to find a new office. So, I really hope your complaint to the President goes well. I would lean on that hard. What is happening is wrong.

              I don’t want to be too hateful, but I really I hope you can find a way to make it better so you can keep moving up in this company. If you do get to a place where you can fire your mom, do so as quickly as you can before anyone else gets hurt by her and her nonsense, including your company as a whole due to a lawsuit based around her completely crazy incompetence.

      3. bolistoli*

        Oh please. Based on her comments throughout, she is not some ridiculous, hysterical female (although, we all are, aren’t we? /s). I believe her 100%. When OPs have big issues or unreasonable biases, it usually becomes quite clear in their comments. The opposite is happening here.

      4. ket*

        Taking out all the personal stuff (and I’m totally with the OP here despite my sour tone to come): if this came to a big lawsuit, the IT contractor taking personal information from worker computers is an embarrassment and a big risk, and the HR person allowing it for personal reasons is also negligent as she’s aware of the security breaches. Sure, maybe he’s just sticking to facilitating stalking and harassment — whatever, right? — but what other security risks are open here? What other problematic data security practices are going on? Doubling down on, oh, we have to invite him to parties! looks even worse.

      5. Optimistic Prime*

        Why can’t we just trust the OP here? Why do we have to continually question and doubt survivors of abuse?

        1. Anonymosity*

          Yeah, that’s starting to really piss me off and I’m moving toward not being polite to the next person I see doing it.

          Also, in my head, I’m going all ninja on Billy and Ex and Mum. >:(

        2. Specialk9*

          I’m wondering if OP mentioned to her mom she was writing in here, or has a keylog tracker on her phone/computer.

          Or just men defending men they’ve never met, on principle.

      6. Engineer Girl*

        Well the key thing is that he’s not an employee and therefore should not be a mandatory work events.

        Sourcing info is difficult. Each data point by itself doesn’t show how it was collected. But several data points together begin to point at certain individuals. That’s forensics.

  6. all aboard the anon train*

    #4: I feel you, OP. I withdrew my candidacy from a company a recruiter had contacted me about after going for an in-person interview and seeing that it was all white men aside from one other woman, who was the receptionist. Same for another company where the workforce was semi-diverse, but every single management position on the website was a white man. I really hope that more companies are starting to realize being inclusive matters.

    Though, on a somewhat related note, inclusivity also sometimes means that if you’re the token person of a marginalized group, you tend to be the go-to person or appear in ALL the promo pics. I’m frankly tired of being the go-to queer employee and work trotting me out to be all “Look, we have LGBTQA+ representation!” and then acting as if I know every issue every single queer individual has (because we’re all the same, didn’t you know? ugh)

    1. Engineer Girl*

      So here’s a clue for people. Women and minorities cluster where they are given equal opportunity. In fact, they’ll be over represented in respect to the normal population.
      My one “to die for” Vice President had anywhere from 30% – 50% women on his programs. He also had several openly LGBTQ people. This was aerospace, white is traditionally white male.
      We were there because we were treated equally and had the same chance of success. Our groups were also high performers (numerous awards) and closely knit.

      So yes, this stuff matters.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Yup. My own department is 2/3 women. Sure, the top VP is a white guy. The other directors under him are 2/3 women, with 1/3 of the directors being non-white. The whole department has a breakdown of about 1/3 African-American, 1/3 white, 1/3 other ethnic backgrounds.

      2. anon for this*

        This is actually a bigger effect then you might think.

        Our lab workforce is 75% women. Not because we have a hiring bias, but because it’s known in town that we actually hire qualified women and pay men-equivalent salaries for them for lab workers. As a result a metric ton of women apply to work here.

        Result for us?

        More applicants == better workers == higher productivity

        No affirmative action (despite what some competitors are snarking at us about) required either, just have to be equal openly.

        1. Anonimous*

          In my company, in the example of how to fill out a salary-related form, it was 4 dudes and 1 lady.

          Guess who got paid least? In the EXAMPLE??

    2. Willis*

      Yes, on the promo pic comment. Reminds me of the Scrubs episode where Turk points out that he was photoshopped to be in a promotional photo twice to make the group look more diverse.

      1. TL -*

        My last boss was extremely successful and well-respected in his field as well as black. He showed up in all the new employee orientation materials for all 3 or 4 institutions he was associated with (academia); I think he said yes every time he was asked to be part of promo materials and he was asked a lot.

      2. Dizzy*

        YES. My husband just finished filming a local commercial for the comic shop where he works, where he was asked to play both Luke Cage AND Lando Calrissian. He was also asked to dress up as Cloak for a Cloak & Dagger promo event they were hosting, but got bumped the instant they found a more musclular black man to fill the role. He lives cosplay, and was really upset as it set in that they didn’t want -him-, they just wanted literally any black guy.

  7. Not A Manager*

    LW#4 reminds me of when I was looking at schools for my soon-to-be high schooler. I was looking at both public and private schools. None of the schools had a mandatory uniform, but one school choose to only post photos of its kids in uniforms or close to it. Sports photos, debate team photos, model UN photos – the kids were all dressed alike. While it wasn’t the only reason that we didn’t proceed further with the school, it was one important reason.

    I feel that what a company posts reflects how it how it wants you to perceive it. Why wouldn’t you care that a company *wants* you to perceive it as all-white, even if in fact that’s not accurate?

      1. Safetykats*

        Yes, but every school photo op shouldn’t be a team activity. One would think there were other photo worthy things going on. As I look back at my yearbooks I was involved in lots of activities (mostly arts and music, and the school paper) that didn’t involve anything like a uniform.

      2. Not A Manager*

        Absolutely they are supposed to be dressed alike. But other schools chose to ALSO have photos of their kids in assembly, or at lunch, or even just in class. This school curated its photos so that the kids’ appearances were all conforming, in every one.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh yeah, I see why that creeped you out. That starts to feel like a value, oozing out unconsciously. How else were they pushing conformity and homogeny?

          1. Not A Manager*

            I can answer that. I did some google searching and the school had been the subject of some kind of homophobia lawsuit. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that a student felt himself to have been systematically victimized. I don’t remember the outcome of the suit, or even if it had been resolved at that time, but I noped my kid out of there.

    1. Agent Veronica*

      …or it was just a school with uniforms? They’re not uncommon in my area, and their presence tells you zero about the school. Usually there are a few top/pant/skirt options, so kids look very much the same without being rigidly in lockstep. Some students find it oppressive to have a uniform at all…but others like not having to think about it, not being judged for brand names or trends, etc.

      I just don’t see this being remotely the same as a lack of diversity.

      1. Agent Kindness*

        ‘Not a Manager’ already clarified that the school does not have mandatory uniforms. Also she was not stating that this example is the same as a lack of diversity. The comparison is in regards to paying attention to how a company or school decides it wants to be perceived, and that this matters. She had concerns about the curated portrayal of conformity that this school had chosen for its website, and made the observation, “what a company posts, reflects how it how it wants you to perceive it.”
        Why the need to shoot down her (reasonable and appropriate) observation?

      2. Not In Uniform*

        “None of the schools had a mandatory uniform” – so, no, it wasn’t “just a school with uniforms”. Which means the school deliberately curated it’s photos to look like a school with uniform. Which tells you something about how that school wants to be seen. Which was the point of the comment.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        That’s a really good point. I always wished I had a uniform when I was in school, because we didn’t have a ton of money and I hated being teased/shunned for not having the “right” clothes. Also, it would have let me sleep in a little longer because I wouldn’t have had to figure out what to wear!

        1. Uniform Problems*

          Uniforms really don’t solve the first part of your problem. If there’s a uniform, the kids judge each other on where you bought it, how many uniforms you own, what shoes you wear, what jewelry, etc. As for number two, I can’t tell you how much time gets wasted doing emergency laundry or running around trying to find the clean uniform shirt you know is somewhere, and god help you if the kid grows out of their uniform late in the year when the stores are out of last year’s stock, but don’t have next year’s in yet.

          1. Specialk9*

            In all my years of schooling with uniforms, we never judged where the uniform was bought (cuz why would that even come up? The uniform store?) or how many we had (how could you tell as long as they’re clean?). Our shoes were mandated.

            Yeah about jewelry (though that was mandated too – earrings this size, nail polish only these colors, etc). People love to find socioeconomic status markers.

          2. Oooh*

            Where you bought it? Uniforms must be different where I am because everyone bought them at the school. Jewellery wasn’t allowed and shoes had to look the same/follow strict guidelines or be sent home. How on earth would anyone know how many uniforms you own if they look the same? Children will always find something to snipe at each other for, but there’s definitely less to work with when everyone is in a uniform than regular clothes. I don’t think you can deny that.

    2. blink14*

      On the flip side, keep in mind that a lot of schools specifically choose “minority” students to be in photos, to portray diversity, when in actuality the student population may not be that diverse. I went to a private high school in the early 2000s and this was a classic and pervasive marketing strategy at almost every school I looked at. What you see in these photos is what the school wants to represent, not necessarily what is true, even candid photos are chosen for specific reasons. Every “candid” photo in the brochures I looked at were all dressed in similar preppy clothes or school branded athletic gear. And that remained true – at my high school, while we did have a dress code (it allowed for some variation) most of the white, well off students wore clothes from the same brands and styled their outfits similarly. There were a large number of us that didn’t, but that was never represented in the school marketing materials. It’s all about perception and the image they want to project.

      A company photo is somewhat different – if every employee or most employees are in the photo, for better or worse it’s a more accurate representation because the point is to include all the employees.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        My university did that. You would see billboards with about a dozen minority students, and those of us who went there joked that those were literally all of the minority students at the school.

        1. blink14*

          Exactly! At the time, we had a couple of students from South Korea, out of about 300 students, and they were in SO many photos. One of them was in my class and was so irritated when she was asked to be in photos, it was so obvious she was picked to represent diversity.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I’m not sure if they were actually students or models hired for the ad campaigns.

      2. Artemesia*

        Given the choice between an organization that is largely white that wants to project itself as diverse and one that doesn’t, which one is likely to be more open to hire diversely? It is a bit of a joke that the PR is so much more diverse than the reality but it is a tiny tiny step in the direction of creating a diverse workplace or campus.

        1. Hey nonny nonny*

          Neither of them, necessarily. Wanting more diverse photos on the website could be a sign that they take this stuff seriously and are trying to recruit a more diverse workforce…but it could also be a sign that they’ve been dinged on it before and are trying to make themselves look good, or that they are willing/able to do very surface-level work but haven’t actually addressed any of the conscious and unconscious reasons they’re having trouble maintaining diversity in the first place.

          As a woman of color in a very non-diverse field (and one whose been stuck in some photos to make non-diverse places look more diverse), I trust photos to tell me nothing.

      3. MattKnifeNinja*

        TPTB did this at my niece’s middle school for things like the local free paper.

        The area has a lot of H1B families. So the photos were skewed showing children from Indian, Korea, and China.
        The school was 80% white, so the running joke was where is the school hiding the Expat kids.

        The photos weren’t club/sports, but things like “enjoying the prep rally”. They were alway tight group shots. My niece said her H1B friend would always get dragged away for a photo op, and the girl hated that. Like she was supposed to be “friends” with random people culled from the bleachers just because they came from the same country.

        So, I would note “how diverse” the picture is, but be aware if it doesn’t give name and title, it could be a person in some really lower level position just plopped in from the camera for “diversity’s” sake.

        1. blink14*

          All about how a place wants to be portrayed to an outside viewer, for sure. At my high school, every student was required to participate in athletics (with some exceptions for drama or community service), yet all the sports photos were of thin, preppy girls or bulked up preppy guys. Granted there weren’t really a lot of overweight students at our school, but you would never find them in a sports photo, it just didn’t fit the image.

  8. Mark132*

    In the case of LW1, would the situation likely be different if the HR director were not the mother? Or would the situation be the same, just without the family dynamic? I mean is the mother trying too hard to be impartial, or would have a more disinterested HR person taken the same action?

    1. JamieS*

      I don’t think it would have been much better if an employee not related to OP’s mom had come to her with this issue instead of OP. She’s displaying some incredibly bad judgment on what a company’s responsibility is towards ensuring their employees well being that I don’t think can be explained away by going too far when trying to remain impartial.

    2. Thlayli*

      The IT guy isn’t an employee, he’s a contractor. He passed personal info on a client to the client’s stalker. There’s no need to be impartial at all in this situation. Once HR found out this had happened they should have immediately requested the IT company send a different rep to their site and reassign this guy. Contractors get reassigned all the time it shouldn’t be a big deal.

      1. Ccm*

        “He passed personal info on a client to the client’s stalker. ” That didn’t happen the poster said.. The ex got the information from the poster’s social media. Why should the “friend lose his job when no one knows what happened?

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          But he’s not losing his job. OP 1 just doesn’t want him to work on HER computer. He can still work on the others.

          Why are you so unsympathetic to her?

          1. OhLortNo*

            I hope the OP isn’t using AAM at work…and this is just Bobby trying to defend himself…

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          No, the OP said that Billy, the tech, got the information and passed it to her ex. Whether or not he got it from work systems, he was the one passing it.

          Why are you so friggin invested in claiming there’s no problem here? Why are you so certain that “no one knows what happened”?

        3. LQ*

          This guy wouldn’t even loose his job and you’re defending him to the end. He would just get assigned to a different place because he’s a contractor, that’s literally part of the deal, you get moved, reassigned. This is such a nonissue that the fact that you are taking the side of the mother and stalker is really strange. Are you the mother?

          1. Former Employee*

            Thank you, LQ. After reading the endless comments of this nature by Cem, I, too, began to wonder if they are the OP’s mother.

        4. Nita*

          Billy got the information and passed it along. It’s in the original post. The fact that he got it from “social media” doesn’t even necessarily mean it was public. It’s not a big stretch to assume that Billy is not only IRL friends with the mom, but also social media friends with her, and can easily get info that is locked down for privacy via her likes and comments.

          Incidentally, OP, if you’re social media friends with your mom and/or Billy – not a good idea. Unfriending them won’t fully stop them from seeing your info (sadly) but it can definitely cut down on what they see.

          1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

            It was not public- since the divorce, I do not tag any of my pictures with locations, I don’t post anything from where I am until after I leave. I don’t check in to Yelp events or anywhere else where my location could be gained. I don’t share my address publicly or even privately (and I lived off the grid for two years as best as possible to get away from my ex)- via text message only so I know who has it. You cannot search for my name on FB unless we have at least one mutual friend in common. I no longer talk to anyone that could even potentially get info back to my ex, I don’t go to any of the old events or restaurants/places we went to. Trust me, if Billy wanted the info, he had to go DEEP to get it, not just grab it off a public FB.

            I try not to let my Ex control my life, but I live a very different existence than I did before we divorced. I’m much more aware of my social footprint and do my best to live happily, but with constant consideration to my safety.

        5. Observer*

          That’s actually NOT what the poster said. The posted actually said that at the time of her request, the contractor was almost certainly passing on information about her, although she could not be certain that it came from her computer. That is more than enough, especially in a field like IT, where discretion about what you see relating to clients is a key operating qualification.

          The OP has also clarified in the comments that she actually has proof that he was passing information on and that he knew what it was being used for. Also, that there is information that the ex has gotten that could only have come from her computer or her mother.

        6. Optimistic Prime*

          Actually, the OP did say that he passed personal info on a client to the client’s stalker. The way in which he obtained the information is immaterial, as it shows exceedingly bad judgment. I wouldn’t trust an IT worker who thought it was okay to pass on private, personal information regardless of how he got it in ANY situation, much less to a known stalker.

      2. mark132*

        Fair enough about the contractor angle, I was mostly curious about how a “disinterested” HR professional would react in this situation.

        1. mark132*

          BTW, the quotes around disinterested are meant to really signify that there really isn’t anyone that is truly 100% disinterested.

        2. tangerineRose*

          An HR professional who actually cared about protecting the company would either fire Billy or make sure he isn’t allowed on the OP’s computer. Letting Billy keep working on the OP’s computer, etc. is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    3. Trouble Making HR*

      I would have absolutely banned the IT person from our workplace. In a heartbeat. They are violating so many things by accessing an employee’s information and passing it on to outside sources. That is a huge ethical breach.

      That aside, I want my employees to feel safe at work everyday. I don’t know how that would be reasonably possible given the scenario OP1 described.

  9. Decimus*

    #5 – the likelihood of success may depend on the function of your specialized department. Does your work actively require you to be there during set hours (for example, receptionist or IT support for another department)? If it does then you’re probably out of luck. If it’s simply that you work in cat hair analysis and nobody thought the cat hair analysts might need flex hours, but there’s no real reason you can’t do cat hair analysis slightly earlier or later than regular hours, you have a good argument.

    For a time I worked an hour later than most people in my department and my boss thought that was great because I was there to answer the phones until 5pm (most people worked 7-4, I worked 8-5).

    1. MK*

      I was actually surprised that Alison didn’t address this and just took it for granted that flex hours were even possible. In a company that generally offers this, if they refuse it for a specific role, there is like a reason. And I think it changes how the OP should approach this.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, I’m not taking it for granted that it’s possible! It may not be. But the OP should ask, because sometimes things look impossible but it turns out that a manager is willing to make them happen after all. Of course, if the job clearly can only be done during certain hours (if, for example, it’s day care and there will be no kids there during other hours), the OP will look out of touch for asking. But there are loads are jobs where that’s not the case, and where the reason the department is the one hold-out on flex time is simply because the manager is old school (but willing to compromise for a great employee), or the previous manager was old school and the new one hasn’t changed things yet, or so forth.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I definitely don’t think it hurts to ask!

          I moved for my SO’s job recently – with me keeping the same job – and went from about a 5 minute commute to over an hour commute. I talked to my manager and got the OK to work from home two days a week (with the normal disclaimers like “as long as work is still getting done and you’re still easily accessible”).

          Of course, asking for that totally depends on office culture; we’re already allowed to work from home in bad weather, car trouble, sick kids, that kind of thing (I even worked from home the whole week after my dog had fairly major surgery), so I felt pretty comfortable bringing it up.

      2. Cat Herder*

        OP5 won’t know until she asks. I had a similar issue in my first job after college — I had never had to drive in commuter traffic until I was employed full time and thus had no idea that it could take 90 minutes or more to go the 17 miles (all freeway) from home to my new workplace. I *love* to drive, and don’t usually mind slow-moving traffic, but this was horrible. I gave my boss a written description of how I would handle my work if I could shift my hours back or forward — what work could be done when the office was fairly empty, scheduling work that needed input from co-workers on a standard schedule, that sort of thing. He was a suspicious fellow (LOL, and a crook too, as it later turned out) and was initially certain I was trying to “get out of work”, but after a few weeks did approve it. It made a real difference.

    2. Millennial Lawyer*

      It also depends on OP’s location. If OP was in NYC and asked “hey, my commute is longer than I thought – I have to commute an hour, can I switch work times” OP would be laughed out of the office.

  10. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – Always give your manager a chance to fix things before you look elsewhere. Many things that appear immovable are easily changed when a good manager gets involved.

  11. KayEss*

    Diversity in website stock photos doesn’t necessarily reflect actual diversity in the staff, but it does indicate that someone, somewhere, with the minimal power to select photos for the company website… is at least marginally conscious of appearances. (I have been that person in at least one job.) Failure to meet even that low bar is not a great sign.

    On the other hand, I once worked at a place that was… loudly diversity-conscious, but also really, maliciously bad at it in practice. They were very proud of their status as a certified woman-owned business that maintained mostly female staff and were quick to capitalize on the opportunities that offered, but I have never anywhere else in my entire life encountered such a concentrated cluster of casually overt misogyny and racism. Everything from “the Irish were also slaves when they came to America” to “I hate the way Asians dress at the gym,” plus a staggeringly broad swath of similar nonsense on a literal daily basis. After the company somehow managed to hire an Asian woman (who would shockingly go on to quit a handful of months later), one of the white employees announced loudly to the entire staff that we should now focus on hiring “a black person, but, y’know… a sassy one.” After that cesspit, I decided that anywhere I work needs to at least have an HR office so that people keep their dang mouths shut.

    1. Emily W*

      This is exactly it — and why I would recommend trying to look into how long people of marginalized communities have *stayed at the company*
      Because the thing is, lots of institutions are good at talking the talk! Especially any groups that rely heavily on young (or other typically more ‘progressive’ groups) people as workforce or users of the product/service. Lots of companies will hire a good number of people from marginalized identities…. and then use and abuse them, for lack of better terms, so that they quit after a year. Then the go and hire more people to fill their quotas and start the circle all over again. I’ve seen this so many places, it’s just so common. So, yeah, all that to say — check their success with retaining people!

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I suspect the type of person who would say that would not enjoy actually working with a “sassy black person” because they would get constantly called out on their crap.

      1. Specialk9*

        Ha good point. They want a very meek black woman who won’t call them out on Irish people having also been slaves. (I’m Irish, I get being indignant about how Irish were treated in America, but good lord, slaves?!)

        1. Thlayli*

          Indentured servitude is considered equivalent to slavery in modern law. Many Irish people were forced into indentured servitude (some having been kidnapped by pirates and sold into indentured servitude, most having been forced into indentured servitude and sold to plantations in the Caribbean and America by Cromwell’s armies). They were bought and sold between plantations and actually did work alongside black slaves. And interbred with black slaves too – ever wonder why the Jamaican accent sounds a bit like the Irish accent? Many of them remained in indentured servitude until they died. There is no ethical (and currently no legal) distinction between someone who lives in indentured servitude until death and a slave.

          also, if an indentured defiant had a child with a slave, that child was automatically a slave, so many of the Irish who survived till the end of their servitude bond would have had to leave their children behind as slaves if they left the plantation, another reason the distinction between indentured servitude and slavery is irrelevant in practice.

          So yes, some Irish actually were slaves in America. If you deny this then you are using a distinction defined by pro-slavery laws, that is no longer recognised as a distinction in modern law, to justify your point. If your claim is based on accepting the law legalising slavery as valid, then your claim is de facto invalid.

          I wrote a long response to this point yesterday but it apparently didn’t make it out of moderation.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The reason the response yesterday didn’t make it out of moderation is because it was quite long and off-topic, and I ask that we stay on the topic of the letters here. (That doesn’t always happen, but if something is off-topic and in moderation, it may stay there!)

    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yup – totally agree. Using diverse stock photos is a positive, but it’s only the first step out of many so keep looking further.

      Also – saying the right thing is great, but again – only the first step so keep probing to confirm there’s follow through. I had a very similar experience at my last company. They loved to tout the overall number of women working at the firm (traditionally male dominated field) and all their women’s initiatives. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Then I got there and realized the only reason their numbers were so high was because the entire HR dept was made up of women and they had a very large number of support staff (again, all women). Women NEVER made it beyond lower-middle management (except for HR) and entry level men were fast tracked for promotions, etc. It was so gross there.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Be especially skeptical if most of the women are in a single department. I once worked for a university which bragged of the number of women faculty, without mentioning that most of them were librarians.

  12. Usernames are hard*

    #2 All other things aside, it’s not really ok that you walked in unannounced a second time after this happened – I would stop doing that.

    1. Bea*

      That’s the point of an open door policy. We would find it absurd if anyone in our office started asking if it’s okay to stop by. The door is open, we walk in and out. If we need privacy we close the door.

      She’s doing well by noticing a bad time and swiftly moving along.

      1. Runner*

        Oh my. I work at a place with an open door policy and was coming into the comments to say that it does NOT mean “Walk In Without Knocking.” Management can and absolutely does close its doors to hold meetings. An open door policy means if you are having problems, you can take the issue to anyone in management. It does not mean walk in freely any time for any reason and pretend there are no doors on any offices.

        1. Triplestep*

          Exactly! I have never seen anyone take “open door policy” so literally as to mean “If my door is closed, just open it up and walk in!” It’s not entirely clear from the letter that this is what the LW is doing, but I tend to think that’s what is happening.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Same in my office :)

            And personally, even if the door is open, I’ll knock on the door frame and ask if they have a minute to hep me out before walking in.

            1. Birch*

              Yeah, I thought there was a standard etiquette about “open door policies” where there’s a door language. Closed door with no sign outside but “open door policy” means knock and wait for a response. Maybe they’re on a call or have a meeting or have sensitive data out or are out to lunch. Open door just a crack means “I’m concentrating, but please come in if you need me.” Fully open door means “feel free to say hi if you’re passing by and don’t necessarily need anything.”

              Is this not the standard? I would NEVER enter an office, even with the door fully open, until the person saw me come in. It’s a weird intrusion on your personal space if people don’t announce their presence first, even just by knocking quickly on the doorframe. It’s polite to announce yourself and ask if the person is available.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s not what Bea is saying. Bea says that if “the door is open, we walk in and out”. If the door is open, it is ok to come in. If it is closed, it is not. That’s been the norm in every office I’ve been in. I don’t know any place where it’s ok to just open a closed door (though I have one co-worker here who disagrees, and it drives me batty, but he’s the one violating the norms).

        3. smoke tree*

          I think in this case the LW is using the phrase “open door policy” to explain that in her office it’s typical for people to leave their doors open and for others to come in and talk to them. I doubt it’s an official policy. I think it was just by way of explaining that she wasn’t out of line in walking in.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I don’t see where it says the OP did open the door. I get why people are assuming that, I know if I were sobbing that I’d have my door closed. But the OP just says she walked in unannounced. I walk in to offices unannounced all the time (if the door is open) because that’s what we do here. Just like at my last job, I stopped in the doorway and waited to be acknowledged because that’s what they did there.

          1. Millennial Lawyer*

            You’re right, I misread, it’s not explicit. I interpreted “walked in on her” as opening the door, since wouldn’t you see someone crying if the door was open? But truly it’s unclear.

            1. Sarah*

              Depends on the layout. My office is at the end of a hallway, there is no way anyone can see me without walking into my office.

    2. Safetykats*

      Yeah, open-door policy doesn’t actually mean “just walk on in anytime!” It generally means that a manager tried to maintain availability to interact with staff outside if formal meetings. Nowhere does it means that you’re welcome to just open a closed door and walk in, which is what it sounds like is going on. A manager’s closed door is always a sign that they are otherwise occupied – which could be on a conference call, having a confidential discussion with another staff member, or what have you. If OP2 is really opening her manager’s closed door and walking in – just stop. You’ve seriously misunderstood the meaning of the policy.

      1. Bea*

        Ah our open door policy means we have doors open physically. So knocking only happens if someone is concentrating and doesn’t see someone at the door.

        So I’m not envisioning opening a door and just a “walks to doorway, manager is crying, FML, swoop off back to my office.”

        We have windows on our doors so that also makes them not prime for crying openly though. Yet I still do because I’m quick to tear up, argh.

        1. Julia*

          Yeah, my last office had mandatory open doors (unless talking about something confidential inside), so I’d just stick my head into someone’s office and see if they looked busy or not.

          This does not seem to be OP’s fault.

          1. Anon for now*

            No, ours is the same. It is not an open office floorplan because there are physical offices that have doors. The doors are just left open most of the time to signal availability. In an open office floorplan, there are no doors.

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            Ours is the same. We all have enclosed offices with doors. If the doors are open, you walk in. This includes C-suite (I report to the CFO). Doors are closed if privacy is needed. We wouldn’t knock if door was closed because that means cannot be bothered. The building would literally have to be on fire to disturb a closed door meeting.

        2. Antilles*

          Ah our open door policy means we have doors open physically.
          Right, but I doubt that your open door policy really means “you can Never Ever Ever close your door”. Instead, it’s probably intended more to encourage people to leave their doors open at all times *unless* there’s a really good reason for it…but if there is a clear reason for it, you’re fine to close the door then open it again afterward. I’d certainly argue that “I’m having an emotional breakdown and crying” probably falls under the ‘acceptable reasons for closing the door for 15 minutes’ umbrella.
          Honestly, I’m not even sure how it would work to be required to always always keep your door open? Does your company really want the door open to anybody who walks along when I’m discussing disciplining/firing another employee? Doesn’t it get distracting for you guys to hear my conference calls on speakerphone?

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            My office has an unofficial open door policy, people keep their door open all the time, but we are allowed to close it if we need privacy. That includes if you are working on something and need to concentrate for a few hours uninterrupted, taking a work/personal phone call, lunch, taking a nap etc . I imagine if someone had their door closed the whole day or days and they were not working on something super pressing that would be weird and out of the norm. But most of them time when I walk in I don’t knock but just ask if someone has a few minutes, I usually knock if they are concentrating and don’t see me enter.

            On the other hand my fiance works in an environment where they have an official open door policy and if she closes the door she gets a side eye from her boss as to why it is closed, sometime he has even asked her why she has her door closed. To me this seems like a weird extension of an open door policy and like you need super compelling reason to justify closing your door.

            1. Johan*

              I honestly think people are confused about what an Open Door policy means, which is figurative, not literal, almost never meaning a policy of having the doors open. (And just to add to the confusion is this discussion about open office floorplans and responses of “No, we have doors, but they’re supposed to be open,” etc.)

              1. Johan*

                An “Open Door” policy tends to refer to a business policy of encouraging employees to take a serious issue to upper management, including someone not their direct manager — maybe especially if the issue involves their direct manager — to resolve that serious issue. It is not about everyone having their doors open.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I’ve always seen them done together, open door policy plus actual open door. Open door policy means people can go direct to managers rather than bowing to hierarchy. But they still have times they need to have private meetings, or buckle down to work, when they’re not available. So when available, the door is open; when unavailable, door closed.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Yes a figurative open door policy is about being able to approach upper management with issues, but I also think a part of creating that figurative atmosphere is having to some extent a literal open door policy. If upper managers have their doors closed 6/7 hours a day it makes them seem less approachable. There many times where I will walk into my managers office to talk about the game or other non work related things that I would otherwise not do if her door was always closed. I’m not going go send a meeting invite re: last nights game. Even work related issues if her door is always closed there are issues/questions that I don’t need her input on and I am not going to schedule a 5 minute meeting to ask her or where I send her an email about it, but if I can just pop in and get her feedback real quick it does not seem as intrusive.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          IMO even if a door is open it’s polite to knock as a way of getting someone’s attention and giving them the opportunity to say something like “hold on just a second” if they’re in the middle of typing out an email or something. There is one person at my company who just waltzes in and sits down in a chair before you even have a chance to acknowledge them, which always comes across as pretty rude.

      2. chimichanga*

        I equate an open door policy to mean that if the door is open I can walk in and talk to you, though if the door is closed I am not going to I will come back when it is open. There is no point to an open door policy if I need to make an appointment to come in.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Sometimes this can be affected by something as simple as the design of the doors–when my college dorm upgraded all the doors to be more fire resistant, they were also so heavy that it was nigh impossible to prop them open. So the old “door open come in, door closed knock only if you need something” social pattern didn’t work anymore, and people both socialized less and interrupted more.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s exactly how I see it (and how it works in my office– and in all my previous offices).

      3. NorCalifHR*

        Actually, no. “Open door policy” can be interpreted in a number of ways. In this organization, an open door means walk in, check to be sure no one else is there and the office owner is not on the phone, and start talking. Same at the last 2 start-ups. However in a much larger organization, one office expected a visitor to knock on the door frame; another expected an IM saying “I’m on my way”; and yet another said an open door is an open invitation to enter. Every one of these options was correct for the environment and culture of that office/organization. I think it boils down to knowing your office/culture. Just as you have to do you, and I have to do me, so with offices!

        1. bonkerballs*

          I was coming here to say this same thing. I’ve worked in several different “open-door policy” offices and each one interpreted that phrase differently.

    3. Thlayli*

      It’s a pretty awful policy if it means you’re not allowed to close your door even when you’re actually crying. Poor OPs boss.

    4. Oooh*

      Yes it is okay, if that’s their office culture. Which they specifically say it is, with the door policy, probably to avoid responses like this. This isn’t a very helpful answer. Suddenly avoiding the way things are done might make manager self conscious.

  13. kay*

    It sounds like LW1 is in an awful situation, but with HR (mother or other) would she need evidence that Billy is ACTUALLY passing on information? Because if it’s just a misunderstanding or something, can Billy be prevented from those activities or aspects of his job if there’s just a connection between the two parties?

    1. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      Billy is being invited to social events for the company. His presence is not needed at those. This is a mother who is pushing her daughter’s boundaries. Considering the fact that the LW is stating that Billy passed information to the stalker, and that there was a restraining order in place, this is not a misunderstanding. This is a power play that should have been shut down years ago by a higher level executive. Quite frankly, if our culture were a little better about how we treated stalking victims, the LW’s mother would have been placed on a PIP because NO head of HR should EVER treat a stalking victim like that. This is repugnant on 1000 levels.

      1. kay*

        I’m not saying there’s not a problem but unless I misunderstood the letter Billy is not the stalker, and he is an employee of the company, and thus would regularly be invited to social events. I guess my thought is- if LW1 does not have proof Billy is passing on information and just a suspicion, could a regular HR actually act on that? If Billy just knew the stalker would that be enough to say he cannot come to social events? I’m not saying he should be allowed to or not, but I do wonder if a mere association would be enough. If LW1 has documentation or Billy has said he is passing the information on then I think she would have no problem as Billy is enabling a stalker, however if LW1 has made an intuitive leap or she doesn’t have proof she might have a harder time with any HR. Although I would have thought her mother would be more supportive than an average HR, not less

        1. D'Arcy*

          Per the OP, Billy openly posts information on his social media for her stalker ex; the only part she doesn’t have proof that he’s extracted it from his company access to her private information, as opposed to cyberstalking her.

          The cyberstalking *alone* should be sufficient justification to fire and blacklist Billy.

        2. Lance*

          Billy’s not an employee at OP and OP’s mother’s place of work, though; he’s an employee of a company being contracted for IT work.

          1. Alex the Alchemist*

            That also makes me wonder- I know a lot of companies don’t let contractors come to social events because that could be seen as them being treated like employees; would this come into play at all here?

        3. Specialk9*

          OP has clarified that the info was not available on her locked-down social media, it would have taken deep digging, on her computer. And that he knew the ex was stalking her.

        4. Dove*

          Billy isn’t an employee of the company – he’s a contractor, which makes him being invited to company social events a bit unusual to begin with. And LW1 says that he’s friends with the stalker ex and is probably getting information from mutual friends and passing it on. I’d think that “he’s good friends with the stalker and is passing information, even if accidentally” would be reason enough to say he can’t come to social events and that the contracting company needs to send someone else instead of him; LW1 does not feel safe letting him have access to her computer, which means that the contracting company needs to send someone else out to deal with that *anyways* or she has to just cope with any technical problems she has and hope that she never has to deal with Billy ever.

    2. Thlayli*

      Billy is a contractor not an employee. It’s prefectly acceptable to ask Billy’s company to send another rep even if an actual employee just SUSPECTS he’s stalking her. HRs responsibility is to their employees, not to employees of the contractor company.

      Assuming this is America, billy may well be covered by “at will” employment which means it would be totally legal to fire him for his social media activities anyway.

      And if Darcys comment is correct that Billy has openly cyber stalked her by posting info about her on his social media, that’s quite possibly illegal anyway. (Though I’m not actually seeing that info in the letter).

      1. Mulher na Selva*

        The OP should definitely check on the verbiage in the order about third-party activities that encourage or help the stalker to gain knowledge. That can be actionable.

    3. Lora*

      No. Billy is a contractor. He can and should be replaced for any reason regardless of how valid you think the reason may be. That’s the point of contractors, they are interchangeable and it’s on them to be on their very best, most presentable behavior at all times lest they be replaced. The contract manager may push back and say, “Billy is our very best Microsoft support monkey!” but OP’s employer can say, “we have reason to believe that Billy is using his access to our employees inappropriately, please send a different monkey” and it is not a federal case because Billy is a contractor.

      The contract goes both ways: contractors can be re-assigned or bail for another project that pays the contracting company better, and swapped out with someone else. Companies who hire contractors typically say, “we need an IT monkey with A, B and C certificates to support our Windows blah blah. Please send someone with at least 10 years experience.” Billy shows up and whatever, does the thing. If Billy shows up wearing nothing but Captain America underoos, you can get a new monkey tomorrow, and the monkey shall have 10 years experience and A, B and C certificates. If Billy actually had 20 years experience and certificates D and E as well, and the contracting firm got a job that will pay extra for Billy’s additional experience, they will happily send Billy elsewhere and tomorrow you get Bobby instead, who has only 10 years of experience.

      Frankly there are truckloads of IT contracting companies in the world and it shouldn’t be hard to find another.

    4. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

      OP here, I’ll try to make a convoluted situation less so.

      My ex immediately started stalking me after I filed for divorce, nothing actively threatening, like, “I’m outside and going to kill you,” where I could get a restraining order, more of the “Hey, how is the couch at Virginia’s house? I know you’re staying there now,” or if I was tagged in a photo on Facebook, I’d get a message like, “So are you f*cking that guy now too? Were you such a wh*re when we were married?”

      I immediately de-friended anyone that was just Ex’s friends, but it’s complicated when you’re a couple for eight years. So Billy’s girlfriend [Jean], who was supposedly my friend, was still on my friend list. I did my absolute best to lay low, but people tag you in things or you end up in photos… FB is better about this now, but at that time you couldn’t pre-approve everything on your feed. You couldn’t NOT show up on guest lists for parties. We knew enough people that, even avoiding our usual places, people were literally snapping photos of me in public to send to my ex to “help him prove [I] was cheating so [he] could ‘win’ the divorce.”

      My info was still getting to Ex, so I knew there were still leaks and I suspected Jean/Billy. I posted a pic of a new tattoo when I was out of town (so I knew I was safe) and within an hour, I got a text from Ex that just said, “That’s hideous.” I confronted Jean, who admitted she’d been sending my info to Billy and Billy had been sharing it with Ex, but “just for fun, [she] had no idea what he was going to use it for.” I immediately blocked her on all social media. My ex later confirmed that, yes, Billy had been passing him information all this time and that, yes, Billy was aware of the stalking and thought it was funny and wanted to help. I can’t prove or disprove that Billy got any of that information from my computer, but I will say there were a couple of times that my computer was accessed remotely when I was at work after hours. And my ex got hold of information that could have only come from personal documents or directly from my mother (which… I wouldn’t doubt).

      So I can’t prove via paper that this happened, but I do have verbal confirmation from both Ex and Jean that it happened.

      1. CM*

        Hey OP#1, I don’t think you need to offer any explanation! You don’t need to prove anything to this community. Facts from your letter: your ex is stalking you, contractor at your company is good friends with your ex and is in a position to give him information about you. It would be 100% reasonable at any company for you to go to HR and say you want to limit your contact with the contractor to the bare minimum. And the company should at least consider whether they should hire somebody else and let Billy go. It would be inappropriate at any company for HR to tell you that you should just “be more tolerant” of somebody who was potentially endangering you. It’s really messed up that it’s your mom telling you that. I hope you can find a new job and get out of this situation.

      2. chimichanga*

        Does your mother know to this detail this is what is happening? Can you get a restraining order against Billy for aiding in the stalking, then your company would have to keep him away. And I know you shouldn’t have to but have you thought about relocating somewhere new and starting over or at the very least changing jobs. My sister could not get her ex husband and his friends to leave her alone after 2 years she had enough and relocated only telling my other sister and me where she was going. (as my mother and family was aiding in “saving her marriage”). When my mother spent her first christmas alone she changed her stance. Now several years later my sister is happy with new friends and a boyfriend that she swears is the one.

        1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          My mother is was/is very aware of every single detail of the situation; I recently brought it up while speaking to the president and she acted like it was all new information.

          You can’t get a restraining order without threat of bodily harm, which Billy isn’t doing.

          There are two companies in town: mine (which is fantastic OTHER than my mom) and a big corporation that is apparently awful to work for. I don’t want to leave a bad situation for a potentially worse one. I tried to move to a different city, but literally during the process my husband landed his dream job after years of working sh*tty ones so… it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for someone I love. But yes, I wish I could get away, I’m counting down the minutes to my mother’s retirement.

          And your sister’s situation sounds just like mine. My mother saw evidence of Ex’s abuse and STILL pushed me to stay with him. When we divorced, she was absolutely on his side; I spent Christmas alone and she called everyone we mutually knew, told them I was having a nervous breakdown, and that they needed to tell her where I was so she could have me put in inpatient. The more distance I get, the happier I am, but it’s a process. I can’t just restart my life AGAIN in my mid-30’s.

          1. Mulher na Selva*

            Yes, you can. It may not feel like it, but you can. It’s exhausting, but it can be done.

            1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              With confirmed continued activity, yes. I don’t KNOW that Billy is still doing this stuff; since I got the restraining order, I don’t get messages from Ex, so I have no idea how much or little information he has about me. So it would be nigh impossible to get something against Billy when it took two years of active stalking to get one against Ex.

              What I do know is that I don’t want to spend a mandatory three-hour office party with someone who has helped to stalk me in the past. Do I think that, at this party, Billy will do something terrible? Probably not beyond telling Ex “Hey, saw OP at a party today, she looks awful” or whatever people say about exes. But in a room of 15 people total, I’m going to have to interact with him and, frankly, I have trouble not screaming at him what a horrible person he is and how miserable he made my life literally every time I see him. He made five years of my life uncomfortable and two years nearly unlivable. That’s not what I consider a “party.”

              1. Mulher na Selva*

                I think this might be out of nesting, but I will just say I know a bit about this, and you are right that Billy is a huge problem, and your mom is actively aiding Billy by not making a fairly simple request. I have had experience with such a thing, and if a third party like Billy were doing this stuff under the order I have, that would be reportable as he is behaving like an extension of your ex. If you were up for it, this is where you would have to be a squeaky wheel with the county attorney and police, letting them know every single time it looks like Billy may have passed something along. You are completely justified in not wanting this person around you. Unfortunately, the nature of this kind of crime is that the victim has to carry the heaviest burden, continuously. I’m so sorry for this situation.

              2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                I know it might suck for you to miss the event, but can you just skip it? Even if it is a bit of a professional hit, it sounds worth it to me to avoid Billy

                1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

                  I would literally have to take a vacation day. It’s during work hours, it’s the 15th Anniversary Party for the company. So.. it’s mandatory, but also social… the office will be closed, so I can’t just stay there. My husband (who is the company’s graphic design/marketing contractor and thus also invited) will be there and I don’t think Billy would ever mess with him. Plus, I’m less worried about Billy doing something at the party and more just having to spend three hours in a small room with 15 people, including Billy, and having to smile at him instead of screaming at him, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW HARD YOU MADE MY LIFE?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS, YOU HORRIBLE MAN,” over and over.

                2. Lora*

                  Jesus H. I would take the vacation day and tell my boss and grandboss why. In extremely blunt terms: “I will not be there because the HR Momster insisted on inviting Stalker Abusive Ex and his pal Billy.” And then I’d spend the day job searching. Best if you can schedule a job interview that day, really…show up for part of the day in an interview suit to make them nervous…

                3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  @Mama’s Little Worker Bee I’m out of nesting

                  I agree with Lora. Take the vacation day and let your boss know why. Your husband (who presumably would have to also miss work for the party?) can beg off because work issues at his real job came up and he can’t be out of the office.

                4. Anonymosity*

                  I agree with Lora. If you absolutely can’t, you are under no obligation to speak to him or acknowledge him in any way. He’s invisible.

                  But I’d take the day. If I were your husband, I’d also take the day.

          2. Nita*

            Wait… you spoke to the president about this? And – any hope of them intervening to get Billy away from you? And if it wasn’t sufficiently clear, maybe have another talk, without your mother present, and tell him how (1) she’s very much aware of the situation and actively resisting having someone else work on your machine and (2) you suspect that Billy may have your remote login info and may be using it to abet a stalker and violate a restraining order.

            1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

              It sounds like there is the possibility of getting a new IT company in place, but I’m not privy to the details.

              1. Luna*

                I think you need to speak with the president again and be very clear about what Billy has done. This guy thought it was funny that your ex was stalking you and wanted to help him do it??! That is horrifying. And I don’t blame you for not wanting to see him at the party, but the focus really should not be on that. This person is hired by your company as an IT contractor. There are strong reasons to believe that he was accessing an employee’s computer in an authorized manner and stealing information from a company computer. This person should have been fired immediately when that happened (and when you speak to the president I think you will need to admit to dropping the ball on not bringing this to her attention at the time, if that is the case, otherwise she will question why this is coming out now, 5 years later). Focus as much as possible on the work aspect of the situation.

                I did see your other comments about there not being many other companies in your city that do this work, but honestly I think it is time to consider whether this place is worth it. I think there is the possibility that you have been there for so long that you no longer realize how messed up it really is (no company should allow your mother to be your HR manager). If you really don’t want to apply to the other company in town, it might even be worth looking into switching fields. I do not recommend staying at your current company, especially if the president is unwilling to solve the Billy situation.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  How did the OP drop the ball? She brought it to HR, which is usually where this should go.

              2. General Ginger*

                I second speaking to the president again, and laying everything out — and taking the vacation day for that party, and explaining exactly why. President, this contractor who helped my abusive ex stalk me, plus the abusive ex, are going to be at this event, so I’m not.

              3. Specialk9*

                You could also talk to a lawyer about drafting a letter to that contractor CEO about the situation, with the later option of suing the IT company. I GUARANTEE you they don’t want to get in the papers as the Cyberstalker Misogyny Company. It’s such a flagrant violation of trust in a position that requires so much trust.

              4. Observer*

                Luna has a very important point about the fact that an IT contractor accessed a company computer without authorization and for non-work related purposes. That’s something that should disturb the CEO regardless of all of the other issues.

      3. Anon for now*

        Have you told any of this to your boss? You need an advocate at the company who is not your mother. If possible, appeal her decision to her boss

      4. Myrin*

        My goodness, OP, these people are monsters, all of them. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with even one of them, let alone this weirdo bunch. I hope you’ll have a better future ahead of you!

    5. MrsCHX*

      As an HR Manager there is NO way this guy’s firm would still be on contract with us. We’d first ask for a different tech and if for some reason we still had issues (“we” = our employee having an issue!!), we would drop the company all together.

      I say that because I’ve had to do it. Nothing remotely near what the OP is dealing with but there is liability. Her mother is exposing this company to massive liability. She’s just lucky it’s her daughter who is less likely to file formal complaints.

  14. rudster*

    I’m reminded of my former employer’s “diversity photo”… They went through the plant and office rounding up whatever token minorities they could find and directed them to the conference room. The photo was set up so that all the minorities were sitting around the conference table being lectured to a middle-aged white “suit” who was standing at the front. I would have cast the photo a bit differently, but nobody asked me, so I kept my mouth shut.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Reminds me of the advert for (I think) printers. The idea was to show the printers as olympic sprinters, ready to go.

        The advert showed a number of black sprinters on the blocks – also looked like they were bowing down in front of a white manager……

  15. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW4 – something puzzles me.

    “My field serves marginalized communities but has had a history of not being sensitive to issues like racism, homophobia, etc.”
    Surely it would be difficult, if not impossible to serve marginalised communities without being sensitive to racism, homophobia etc?
    Not criticising LW, just trying to understand.

    1. Thlayli*

      Not all marginalised communities are based on being non-white and non-cishet. Maybe they help poor people or disabled people, but have a poor record of helping Lgbtqa+ poor people, or non-white disabled people.

      As one possible example, a lot of Christian charities have done great work helping poor people, but have a very poor record of helping lgbtqa+ poor people, to the extent that some have been accused of (or even proven to have committed) illegal discrimination. Most of these charities are currently trying to overcome this past and attempting to be more inclusive, but I can see it being an uphill battle to change the lifelong attitudes of people working in those organisations towards non cishet people.

      1. Hey nonny nonny*

        I would go further than that and say that there are lots of groups that are set up to help communities of color or LGBTQ people or women and still do stunningly poor jobs of doing that – often, because they’ve only done surface-level work to understand the 101-level issues without thinking more deeply about complex or nuanced issues; and/or becaue all of the people they’ve hired/gathered together to serve the community are neither members of those communities nor particularly willing or able to place themselves more fully in them.

        I’ve been at places, for example, that desperately wanted to hire more women, people of color, and LGBTQ people but did absolutely zero to address the toxicity and exclusion (and lack of advancement) that those people experienced in the workplace, so the diverse folks left the company. There are also nonprofits and social service agencies that say they have special missions to address specific populations, but who have employees and/or volunteers who are openly disdainful of people in those populations.

        There’s also the more insidious/complex cases of organizations/companies that are onboard with supporting specific marginalized communities, but only the “prototypical”/”stereotypical default” of that community – e.g., LGBTQ nonprofits that only focus on the G and forget all the other letters (much less any of the people of color, disabled, etc. members), feminists movements that exclude and throw aside the voices of their women of color or women with disabilities or LGBTQ women, etc.

    2. Mookie*

      I found the wording there a little ambiguous. Maybe “serving marginalized communities” means that by the very nature of the work, clients / guests / customers skew to certain demographics, rather than that the field’s mission statement recognizes the hardships marginalized people face and is actively involved in addressing that disparity directly.

      Off the top of my head, I can think of a few fields and a whole slew of public services that are (1) almost absurdly homogenous and (2) notorious for mis-treating or actively neglecting the communities they’re interacting with.

      But it’d be useful if the LW could clarify that.

    3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      There is a large charity in my area, of long standing and beloved by many, which includes a very large homeless shelter/soup kitchen. There have been many reported instances of the shelter booting people out (even in bad weather) if they simply didn’t participate in group (Christian) prayer–not being rude, not talking or praying to other deities during these prayers, simply not participating. Being found out as LGBTQA is also grounds for being refused their services.

      And no, the charity I’m speaking of is not the one sometimes referred to as Sally, though that one has done similar things. Which just goes to show how “serving people” and “being bigots” can and does go hand in hand more than you might think.

    4. OP4*

      Hi there, OP4 here! In this instance, it’s an oppressed population that is also made up of people of different races, genders, sexualities, religions, etc. So folks tend to understand and be sensitive to oppression on the one axis but not understand intersecting issues.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      This is a deeply frustrating reality. Many, many, many organizations that provide services to or partner with marginalized communities have long histories of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

      My current employer is a great case in point. We provide direct social services (among other programming) and the majority of our clients are people of color, immigrants, and refugees. We are currently led by a majority woman-of-color leadership team and, as an organization, are deeply committed to and making strides toward racial justice. (Which is NOT to say that we’re perfect, or even doing a good enough job. But we’re improving.)

      But we have over 100 years of history that make us untrustworthy to many communities — starting with the reality that the money that founded the organization (and still provides a significant portion of our revenue through an endowment) came from a railroad industrialist who came to that money at the expense of Native people.

    6. Positive Reframer*

      More of a criticism of the helping industry as a whole (at least in the USA) than the OP. The OP is correctly trying to find a place where the mission matches their practice. A we/them mentality isn’t unknown and it is hard to deprogram from the White Savior (amazing rich white person coming to the rescue of the poor inferior brown person-as otherwise like a good person they would pick themselves up by their bootstraps) mythology that every TV ad for a charity that I’ve ever seen has exploited.

      I’m glad you find this confusing because it is.

  16. D'Arcy*

    It’s certainly impossible to serve marginalized communities *well* without being sensitive to bigotry, but marginalized communities tend to be a substantially captive population who can’t go elsewhere in response to poor service.

  17. LW #3*

    LW3 here, hi everyone and thanks so much Allison for your feedback!

    The recruiter was unknown so approaching me cold, on Cersei’s instruction as a place she wanted to work. My gut instinct was to decline with vagueness as specific feedback would have made it really obvious who it was coming from as Sansa is the only one who has first hand experience working with her. It’s a small industry and I also had the concern that WE didn’t get a reputation as being difficult or trying to sabotage someone’s job search (I wish Cersei no ill will I just don’t want to invite drama into my already very cohesive, high performing team).

    Amusingly, while trying to be pragmatic I asked about other roles we are thinking about to see who else the recruiter might have had up thier sleeve…and long story short they are now on retainer with us! So I have actually thought now we are getting to know each other better that I’ll enquirer after Cersei again and share some more detailed feedback. As you say it will actually help us at this point as they can add it to the stuff we’re NOT about as much as the stuff we are.

    Also for the commenters wondering, just need to confirm that Sansa is a solid gold rock star – it was a serious coup for us bringing her on board. Cersei MAY also be great – but Sansa IS great and in taking her feedback on board no questions asked I wanted to really show how much we value having her here and that we wouldn’t risk her leaving. Thanks to the commenters I mostly feel like I was on the right track here too!

    1. Hannah*

      I think it is best to be vague unless Sansa was OK with your sharing what she said. Cersei probably knows that Sansa works there, and if she heard from her recruiter something more specific, she might immediately know that Sansa was saying bad things about her. Not that Sansa was wrong to do so, but if Cersei is really as awful as Sansa says, you don’t know how that might affect Sansa’s life, even outside of work (mutual friends, even Cersei trying to get back at Sansa in some way for badmouthing her.)

    2. Lora*

      I think you are correct in this gut instinct, but I also think there is no reason to say anything more about Cersei other than No Thank You – a good recruiter should realize that a flat No without further elaboration (and indeed with an awkward silence) means “no because of Reasons”.

      For commenters who imagine there are two sides to every whatever…no. No, there often are NOT two sides. Sometimes, 100% of the sides are “Cersei is a terrible person who should feel bad about herself and re-think her life choices.” Any fool with money can pay for the right combination of degrees on paper, and plenty of terrible people can schmooze their way into at least one job by virtue of family connections or fraternity bro-power or whatever. Every single time I have checked up on an applicant by talking to someone who previously worked with them, I have never regretted it. Every time I saw a hiring manager rationalize an iffy choice because they looked great on paper and interviewed okay, who discounted the recommendations of people who had previously worked with the applicant, it was a Learning Experience for the hiring manager, who was occasionally demoted themselves for their poor judgment.

      The lesson here is: be professional and respectful and act with integrity in your dealings, always, because it’s a small small world and it WILL come back to bite you if you’re not.

  18. Wintermute*

    OP #1– I’d be happy to give you some advice, as soon as I scrape my eyebrows off the ceiling…

    Seriously though, this is BAD NEWS, but, I suspect you know that. I get a feeling that you were writing in to gut check yourself that this is so absolutely guanopsychotic as you think it is. You are not wrong. It IS that absolutely banana crackers. It’s so bonkers I’ve run out of synonyms for bonkers.

    And I’d like to emphasize that it’s okay if it takes some time to recover your sense of normal proportions after this. Because both abuse (and lets not mince words, what your mother is doing IS abusive, the minimizing of your safety concerns, the forcing you into confrontations) and radically inappropriate workplaces have a way of altering our sense of normal. Your mother’s behavior is not only abusive, it’s also WILDLY out of line for an HR employee. HR is there to protect the company. full stop. It’s nice when they also protect employees but they’re there to protect the company legally, but also, in good companies, morally and ethically as well. Her behavior does none of these things, If, God forbid, you were hurt by your ex, and it was related to Billy in any way, shape or form, you’d have their kiesters on a silver platter because they didn’t take reasonable steps to protect your personal information. They could even be held **criminally** liable depending on the circumstances because employers are considered to have a duty of care regarding your personal information. Your mother’s behavior could have seen her or someone else in jail it’s that out there.

    The fact that management is okay with her opening up such a titanic legal liability seemingly just to spite you is perhaps the most bonkers thing in this entire tale of escalating bonkery. Are they totally clueless or totally unable to hold people to any semblance of accountability? And why does no one have the ability to simply over-rule her dicta on using this company?

    You’ve been through a lot, and any ONE of these situations– an abusive ex, an abusive mother or an abusive workplace– would be capable of altering your perceptions, in concert, I can’t imagine what that’s like… So, don’t be afraid to get any help you need and don’t be afraid to run for the hills first and second-guess later, and really don’t be afraid or ashamed if you come to realize that you have trouble evaluating what is or isn’t normal in your next job, or several jobs, because you’ve been through a lot.

    1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

      You are absolutely right- the main reason I was writing was that I’m simply too close/too involved in the situation, so I wanted to know what was reasonable from an unbiased perspective. As you stated, I do have a skewed view as to what is appropriate, both because of my previous experiences and because, when I do push back at work, I have my mother telling me that I’m wrong for even raising concerns or that I’m the one being unfair. I have my husband and my therapist (and to a lesser extent, a fellow coworker) as compasses, but it’s going to take many years before I can completely say, “Okay, this is my first instinct and I’m going to follow it because I am confident that I know what is right here.”

      I really appreciate this post (as well as all the other posts, I’ll come around later today and show my gratitude) because as much as your ultimate support must come from within, it’s nice to have validation. Yes, this is wrong, no I’m not crazy. I was really scared to post this question due to my experiences discussing the abuse in my marriage, but most everyone has been so supportive. I feel like I’m taking the right steps to record this and make sure something actually happens.

      1. Specialk9*

        Your mom is trying to pull the “why are you being so unprofessional” card, and the expert on professional behavior and hundreds of people who are educated on and care deeply about professionalism all agree:

        Nonsense, and your office is full of evil bees.

  19. ladydoc*

    LW 4, this reminds me of our annual online Title IX training. Lots of photos of ethnically and gender diverse folks. Until you get to the slides about The Powers That Be who will decide the outcome of an investigation…all depicted as middle aged white men. Not cool, internet training. Not cool. Stock photos matter and somebody should be paying attention. Legitimate to be concerned when they seem not to be.

    1. epi*

      My organization’s Title IX training does something else– it includes so much diversity that most of the example abusers are women or people from marginalized groups. I see the value in including some diversity and making the point that any type of person can abuse or be abused, especially for bystander education where you want people to recognize these situations free of stereotypes. But our program looks like someone deliberately gender- and race-bent the real life statistics on sexual misconduct and harassment. That’s not how abuse functions in our society and it’s not educational to pretend that it is.

      1. Specialk9*

        That’s not cool. Diverse images have to include having people of diversity in positions of power and respect, and white people in the ‘bad’ roles. Having brown criminals is further reinforcing a stigma. Having a brown CEO is countering the cultural messaging.

        It’s something I look for when identifying training vendors with pre-canned content. Violate those, enh, yanked.

        1. Wintermute*

          I disagree entirely. I think that it’s VITALLY IMPORTANT because women-on-men and intra-racial harassment are the most under-reported categories. Now if ALL of their “bad guys” are minorities that’s different, but if they include a section where two people of the same race are harassing a third (maybe religious harassment, or skin color harassment) that’s valuable. Same with woman-on-man sexual harassment examples, same-religion harassment, etc.

          I’d say most people probably realize that woman-on-man sexual harassment is still illegal and immoral, though we, as a country, have a VERY long way to go towards making it “acceptable” to report it, but you’d be amazed the number of people that argue that a minority cannot be racially hostile to a majority member. And while some people make elegant arguments starting from the definition that racism is only institutional racism and that without institutional power there is no racism, that’s not legally relevant in the workplace– the EEOC is clear that you cannot make race a factor or an issue, even if they’re a majority.

  20. Seth*

    And yet if every person of color and woman considering a job a Company A sees the photo and steers clear because it’s mostly white men, their diversity level will never change.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Some people might appreciate that challenge. Some don’t. It’s not fair to put that kind of pressure on someone.

    2. Naomi*

      It’s not the responsibility of potential employees to take a job to make the company more diverse; it’s the responsibility of the company’s managers to make it an attractive place for all kinds of people to work.

      1. Lora*


        I am in a notoriously non-diverse (even anti-diverse) field. I often am asked how we can get more women into STEM fields.

        Uh, try being respectful and professional with us? And paying us the same as white men? That would be cool. Because we do talk to each other over beer, and we know who pays crap and treats people badly and who runs on the Old Boys Club.

        I would never tell someone to get into this field, where you will have to deal with a raft of crap that actively harms your quality of life, ability to advance in your career and is just a ginormous time and energy suck, as opposed to a field where you do not have to deal with this nonsense. It’s a friggin millstone around your neck, and will absolutely hold you back in life, because even when you are successful you’ve had to do all the work for success with the additional full-time job of Dealing With Other People’s Personal Problems.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          Yep! If you can’t treat the people you already have well then you don’t have any right to be trying to hire more.

        2. Logan*

          I also have many white male friends who have a good gut feel for diversity, and they add to my knowledge of where / where not to work. People with open minds want to work in diverse workplaces, even if they are part of the majority, and this is why I often find that workplaces are binary with their diversity – very distinctly good or bad.

          If I was the only minority in a really good, open-minded workplace, then I would be more likely to solve that imbalance by recruiting former colleagues, rather than leaving. A very non-diverse workplace tends to start off and stay that way for good reason. Our workplace was asking for minorities (gender, race, disability, etc) who were willing to participate in hiring boards. One of my colleagues wasn’t sure, because they didn’t want to feel token, and I responded that I had volunteered because the place is quite supportive and helpful to us, and a big reason that I chose this employer is because there was someone ‘like me’ on the hiring committee, and they seemed excited about working here so I thought it more likely that I would as well. My colleague’s decision to be part of a hiring board was up to them, but they did appreciate my point of view on the rationale.

      2. Seth*

        It might not be their responsibility, but for every person who steers clear of what they consider to be a non-diverse company, you can’t deny that they’re only making the situation worse when they had a chance to improve it. You can’t complain when you’ve made a choice like that.

        1. Lora*

          Unless you are in the C-suite, you definitely don’t have a chance to change anything.

          Look, if you want to know what a company really values, look at the budget and see how much money they’re spending on it. It’s usually like this:

          Marketing: A hoard of dragon gold
          Finance: A Saudi king’s ransom
          Operations: The GDP of a Midwestern state
          Legal/regulatory/compliance: The GDP of a smallish Eastern European country
          Diversity: a six pack of beer and a stack of motivational posters.

          At one place I worked, they couldn’t find enough POC and women to be in a photo op, so they put Muppets on the poster instead. Fraggles and stuff.

        2. mrs__peel*

          Nobody “owes” anyone else the sacrifice of their well-being and mental health in that kind of situation. Blaming people for not subjecting themselves to a potential harmful work environment is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable.

        3. Blueberry*

          You assume that if we voluntarily put ourselves into potentially toxic workplaces they will magically change just by our presence. As opposed to, say, a pattern I have lived, which is being welcomed in with big talk of diversity, then subjected to a daily hailstorm of microagressions and not-so-microaggressions and lack of promotion and differential treatment that didn’t rise to the level of calling the EEOC but definitely was sufficient to damage my mental health and force me to leave. I call this a pattern because I’ve seen it happen to many people as well as living it myself. Your hypothetical, not so much.

          The idea that we can only complain about bigotry if we’re willing to put ourselves in harm’s way is putting the responsibility for that bigotry on us, its victims, not on its perpetrators. For that and umpteenjillion other reasons I remain completely unconvinced.

      3. Seth*

        Maybe it’s a new executive team who’ve taken over, and they want to change for the better but they can’t because everyone stays away. Then they’re doomed.

        1. Lora*

          Yes, they are doomed.

          I’m watching a company I used to work for slow-motion collapse under the weight of their own racism and sexism, because they drove out so many good people (who happened to be female, Black, Asian and Latino – but they didn’t want to pay the going rate for white men).

          Sucks to be them, but you cannot change corporate culture from the bottom up. Corporate culture is set from the top down.

          That’s why so many companies fail in their diversity efforts: because it would involve changing the people at the top. Who see no reason to change themselves, and as long as the company is running some kinda profit they’re generally not going to be fired even if the competition makes far more profit or dominates the market.

        2. mrs__peel*

          Then it sounds like the company will experience the reasonable and predictable consequences of their own previous actions. They’re responsible for the people they employed in the past, and for the culture they allowed to flourish at the workplace.

          If a business suffers or can’t hire qualified people because no one wants to work in a notoriously racist/sexist/etc. environment, then that’s entirely on the company.

          1. Seth*

            You all talk a good game in the comments generally, but when push comes to shove – when there’s a choice between sacrifice and abandoning an opportunity to do better – you’ll abandon every time, and with impunity.

            Then the next person will go on to complain that they interviewed at a racist/sexist company, and you’ll all side with them.

            1. Not a Mere Device*

              What sacrifices are you making, and how have they affected your health and income? Just so we have an idea of what price you think is reasonable to pay.

              For that matter, what directly helpful actions are you taking that might not rise to the level of sacrifice? Are you the non-disabled person who takes time to check that the company’s website is accessible to blind users? Do you point out in meetings “yes, I thought that was a good idea twenty minutes ago, when Jane said it. I’m glad you agree” when women’s contributions are ignored and then a man gets “good idea” for the same thing?

            2. mrs__peel*

              You don’t know anything about me or anyone else here, friend, and you can keep your obnoxious assumptions to yourself.

    3. CM*

      …unless they make an effort to actually be more inclusive and recruit, pay, and promote people equally.

    4. Hey nonny nonny*

      As a woman of color in a male-dominated, white-dominated field, I used to say the same thing. After having worked in this field for some years…I understand why.

      Even in the best of circumstances and situations it is stressful being the only one. I have amazing coworkers, great pay and benefits, and my company’s culture is great and one that is actively trying to be more diverse. But the level of education I have to do on a regular basis is exhausting; predominantly white and male cultures usually still have a bunch of unconscious biases and beliefs and stereotypes baked into them and being one of the few to fight the good fight…it saps it out of you. That’s not even mentioning the uncertainty of wondering how high you can go and whether you can even stick around because you know VERY few people who look like you 1) in management positions or 2) who have been here longer than X years. I’ve already made it longer than the average for people of color in my company.

      I make it a point to be really honest and clear with interns and potential friends/colleagues who share my background and want to come in here, because I feel like people need to come into the situation with eyes wide open. There are a lot of good things, and what you say is true on face. But in reality, the actual experience on the ground of being one of the early integrators is far more complex.

      1. Logan*

        You make a very good point – I have worked in places where I was definitely in a minority, but they were very supportive and I didn’t struggle all the time to explain myself. That is almost more important than the balance of people at a place, although they tend to be correlated.

      2. Blueberry*

        God, this. I call it “being a freckle” and it is SO exhausting even when people mean well. And when they don’t…

    5. AnotherGenXDevManager*

      I make an active choice not to take on roles where I would be the only woman on the team. I’m tired of being the unicorn, the good example, the person we use to recruit others. It’s only gotten me lower pay and a lot of heartaches.

    6. Specialk9*

      @Seth “And yet if every person of color and woman considering a job a Company A sees the photo and steers clear because it’s mostly white men, their diversity level will never change.”

      It’s not the job of disadvantaged people to fix the fact that people of privilege create systems of disadvantage.

  21. Chriama*

    #4 — I was looking at a neighbourhood development in my city. They had all these pictures and videos of people living in the community (no idea if these were stock photos/videos or what, but I think they were)… all white people. The problem isn’t necessarily that there’s no diversity in the community (or in company A) but that the person in charge of the website is white and unaware of their own privilege. This isn’t something to turn a job over but I’d probably say something about it… “I looked through the photos on your website and was a little concerned at the representation of people’s backgrounds I saw. Can you tell me a little about how diversity plays out here?” But I’d definitely not expect to get the job if I spoke out!

    1. MissDissplaced*

      And sometimes it’s the manager or owner of the company who makes the website designer change those photos.
      Been there. Had to do that.

  22. VVM*

    For #4, I wouldn’t assume too much from photos. Like others have said, they don’t necessarily represent the whole company or their culture. If you like B better, you don’t have to give A a chance, but don’t write them off for it either. As a women, I’ve actually had far more issues of office sexism from other women than from men, and I work in a male dominated field.

  23. Bookworm*

    #4: I also care about diversity as shown by photos. Is it a dealbreaker? No, because not everyone will have their photos on the website because of their role/company only places leadership photos on the website, etc. Personally I’m someone who never wants their photo on the company website because I’m very private (other people may have other reasons such as safety concerns) so there’s always the possibility the photos are not reflective of the demographics at all.

    In a slight reverse of your situation: I once worked at a firm that had diversity (and not just what was visible in the photos) among part of its staff (the direct group I worked with) but after I left I noticed and heard they gradually became less so. I was not an influence in any way for this change but after working there I know the lack of diversity is a reflection upon the head of the firm.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yep. I’m a Black woman and I would really really REALLY prefer not to be the only one at work (been there, done that), and I would love to see more women and PoCs in leadership roles. So I always look at photos when I’m investigating a company, usually during the application process, and I have indeed ruled out companies that don’t have any POCs – usually small companies. When interviewing, I always take stock of how many women and PoCs I see and what roles they’re in – if all the PoCs work in the mailroom, that’s a no go.

      1. MrsCHX*

        I’ve almost always been the only black person at work and have literally never worked with another black woman since I started working in corporate America at age 21. It’s strange!!

  24. Hannah*

    For #5, it might also matter what a “normal” commute is in your area. Meaning, if an hour commute is average, people might have less sympathy than if everyone usually has a 20 minute commute. Not saying that you can’t ask either way, but knowing how long other people in the office commute will help you adjust the tone of your request (and adjust your expectations of how likely you are to be accommodated).

    Average commutes can vary wildly depending on your area, so, similar to market rate for salary, it is important to know what is “normal” before making requests.

    1. Antilles*

      This is a good point. It’s still worth asking, because worst case, they’ll just shrug it off as “yeah, welcome to LA traffic”…but you’re probably less likely to get a change if it’s just the typical commute for the area than if you’re an outlier.
      Also, while it’s too late now, in the future, Google Maps has a nice feature where you can set a time of departure and it’ll estimate the travel time based on typical traffic patterns. It’s a range rather than a precise number (“typically 40 minutes to 1:20”), but it’ll at least give you some guidance. I presume other traffic apps (Waze, Apple Maps, etc) offer a similar thing too. Or shoot, you could always just check Google Maps for several days in a row during when your normal commute would occur (okay, so I’d normally leave at 8:00 am, let’s pull up the maps app and see how long it would take me to go to Potential New Job rather than my current one…).

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed. I mentioned above, but I recently switched from about really short commute to an hour commute. About 45 minutes is pretty much the average commute in my office, but my manager was flexible with me anyways. Can’t hurt to just ask; a reasonable manager won’t hold that against you (as long as you respond positively and move on like it’s no big deal if they say no).

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, if it’s bad enough that someone is considering quitting over, it’s worth asking. Even if other people don’t mind that commute.

    2. Millennial Lawyer*

      That was my first thought. If she complained about an hour commute in NYC… *whew* that would look bad for her.

  25. Roscoe*

    #3 You can make decisions based on what you like, however, as Alison said, I wouldn’t let diversity be your only or even primary concern. I’m a black man who has been in various jobs in science and education. Neither of which is known for their diversity. But, my last company, a tech company, while if you looked at just the pictures, was not very diverse at all. I was one of 4 POC there. However, the attitudes and personalities there really fit my own. Very liberal (almost too much for even me at times). Very open. Just great people. You also couldn’t tell how many LGBT people there were from the pictures. I’ve also worked places that “looked” great in terms of diversity, but was basically one big hive mind where if you thought differently, you were shunned.

    Now, part of this is personal. I went to a very diverse high school, but in honors classes, there were definitely fewer miniorities. In college I got very used to being the only black person in a class. So it doesn’t really bother me that much and never really has. But if you think it will be hard for you to get past with company A, then do what is right for you.

  26. Observer*

    #4 – On the photos, I’m going to somewhat disagree with Alison. It’s ABSOLUTELY fair to take demographics into consideration when looking at a prospective job. Looking at the stock photos on their site is generally a really bad way to gauge that, though.

    Is this a company the needs to be active on the internet in general? Is their web site active and a necessary and important component of their outreach, marketing and branding? If so, then the pictures to say something – but it could be about diversity or about their ineptitude in their outreach etc. Otherwise, it really doesn’t tell you much.

    1. Washi*

      I think you agree with Alison. She also said it is absolutely fair to take demographics into consideration!

      1. Observer*

        That’s why I said SOMEWHAT. The part I take issue with is the idea that the pictures actually tell you about their attitude towards diversity.

  27. DCompliance*

    #5- The one thing that you would need to take into account is if there are any job duties that would be affected by you starting an hour and a half later or by leaving an hour and a half earlier.
    For my team, they can start anywhere between 8-9. Any earlier or later means they would be missing meetings that are scheduled beyond my control. I wish the flexibility could be greater, but at least my team is understands and knew this taking the job.

    1. OtterB*

      I don’t think LW#5 said if she was exempt or not, but if it’s a question of something like meetings, perhaps she could suggest normal hours that are earlier to avoid traffic but with a commitment to stay later if there is an occasional need.

  28. Cat Herder*

    re OP3: I’m concerned that the OP and AAM are taking it as fact that Cersei is such a problem. OP says that on paper everything about her looks good — *one* person who previously worked with Cersei gives a bad report, and it’s taken as gospel. It MAY be true, but I’d want to gather more info first. Note too that the person giving the bad report is new to the company — that is, no one knows yet how reliable this person is, or whether there is some other reason for bad blood between new hire and Cersei.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      At a certain point it doesn’t matter if the person who is giving the bad report is accurate or not. The LW didn’t mention any concerns or issues with Sansa, so it comes down to a choice upset the apple cart by bringing in an employee that may look good on paper/interview well/or even be the greatest employee ever … what they also have is an issue with the Sansa (justified or not).

      I’m willing to bet that the LW will be able to find another qualified candidate who won’t bring that baggage. In other words, Sansa could have been the one who was the problem child at the old company and put thumbtacks on Cersei’s chair every day. But Sansa is assumingly a good employee at her current position so is the known quantity.

    2. Hannah*

      In this case, though, it doesn’t actually matter if Cersei is good or bad. A person they already hired, like, and definitely want to keep is having a strong negative reaction to her. Why would they take a chance that Cersei *might* be good and risk jeopardizing the employment/satisfaction of someone they know is definitely good? Even if you don’t take it as fact that Cersei is an objectively horrible employee, it is a fact that your current employee, whom you have a lot more invested in, would find working with her extremely unpleasant, and that is really enough to give Cersei a pass. There is no requirement to give Cersei the benefit of the doubt in this case.

    1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

      It took two years of stalking to get a restraining order against Ex- not because he wasn’t doing anything, but because without immediate threat of bodily harm, there’s little to be done.

      Billy never threatened me, so I can’t get a restraining order against him. All I can do is ask HR to please help protect me.

  29. Spooky*

    I walked in on my manager sobbing on the bathroom floor once. I responded by going to the nearest fancy doughnut shop and buying literally every kind they had. They I went to her office with the box behind my back, said “I didn’t know what your favorite flavor was, so I got ALL of them,” and whipped out the box. That made her laugh, at least.

    1. MicroManagered*

      That’s a very nice gesture, but as a sort of private person, I just want to point out I think I’d prefer to not to have more attention drawn to something like that if someone witnessed me sobbing on the bathroom floor…

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        Yes, but sobbing on the bathroom floor isn’t really the same as in a closed door office.. it’s a little bit more of a cry for help, IMO.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          This. I’m also a private person, so my breakdowns happen out of reach of others. I also don’t handle other peoples emotions well. So if someone caught me on the tail-end of pulling myself together (ie: sniffling bathroom to splash cold water on my face) I would appreciate the “I don’t know what to do about this and doughnuts solve problems” approach because it feels like something I would do.

    2. E*

      I had a rough day at work once where I ended up going home early for personal time to deal, and returned to find that my boss had asked coworker what my favorite snack was. There was a Diet Coke and Snickers waiting on my desk. Very much appreciated the thought, and he didn’t pry into the personal issues just tried to make it a bit easier to handle.

    3. Specialk9*

      You sound super nice!

      Also I wish we had a fancy donut store. The old one actually literally exploded.

  30. LQ*

    I had a job where 15 minutes earlier leaving meant an hour earlier arriving, so I talked to my boss about flex hours and she was entirely ok with it, but I made it clear that every time staying late needed to happen that wasn’t a problem and times where there were events or other things I’d be there for there. (Which was at least 1/week.) Super easy.

    On the other hand another job with a difference like that I wasn’t allowed to shift my schedule by 5 minutes (it was to catch a bus) and while there was a need for someone to be in the physical space for that job, I had 2 coworkers, both who supported it, because I was there early (by like 45 minutes) and did all the prep work to get set up, they would have been fine with covering the last 5 minutes on their own (and in fact a few days shooed me out early to catch the early bus). I got transferred to a MUCH closer/better for me location soon after I asked about the schedule.

    But both the yes and the no times it was very reasonable that I asked and I asked fairly soon after starting (definitely within 3 months). I think ask. Assume this is a normal thing to ask about. Be ready to offer coverage where needed or accept no.

  31. cantaloupe*

    #5 Please please do ask your boss about flexing your schedule before you go look for another job! You don’t know until you ask. I came to work for a company recently that was incredibly old school and rigid. I and some other people started talking about flex time –gently and professionally–and guess what? We are seeing change in this area! We are testing it out in a few departments and so far it is working great. My point being is that someone has to be first. And if you are a great employee and handle the discussion professionally you might help trailblaze in this area.
    Good luck

    1. puzzld (I see there's a Puzzled here, I am not that Puzzled)*

      Yes. Ask about flex time. AAMs script is great. I will tell you that if you waited till you had another offer and tried to use that at a negotiating point at my place of employ, you’d be congratulated and asked what your end date is. The department personnel manager here is firmly of the opinion that one you start looking, you’re as good a gone, and she’s not going to try to change your mind. We’ve had several people who’ve tried to make a “better” offer play and found somewhat to their surprise and dismay that they were on their way to that “better” place.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      Agreed! If its serious enough to start job searching. Also if you rent think about moving (of course you can if you are an owner as well but might be easier if you are renting.) It sounds like even if you had to increase your rent cost or put you in a neighborhood you like less it sounds like it would be worth it for massive amounts of life you could get back every single day by living closer.

  32. foolofgrace*

    OP#2: You asked what to do about addressing your walking in going forward. I suggest Mad Men’s Don Draper’s advice to Peggy: “It Never Happened. In the future you will be surprised how much it Never Happened.” This advice has worked for me many times when I felt uncomfortable about something I said or did.

  33. loslothluin*

    In all honesty, if I were in OP #1’s place, I’d speak with an employment attorney to see what my options are and if the attorney could write a letter about any and all violations the company is causing by knowingly assisting in stalking in this situation. It may stop it long enough for you to find another job, so you don’t have to keep worrying about what information is being passed on to the ex.

    1. puzzld (I see there's a Puzzled here, I am not that Puzzled)*

      You want OP #1 to have a lawyer write a letter to/about OP’s Mom?

      Boy I’ll bet Thanksgiving will be fun.

      1. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

        I wrote my mother a letter about this so I’d have a paper trail. It did not go over well. I brought this up with the president in the last few days and she acted like she’d had no idea about any of it (which I can’t confirm because I didn’t write a letter about it five years ago). I cannot imagine the utter poo storm that would happen were I to actively sue her.

        1. Lora*

          Many ski resorts offer Thanksgiving getaway packages. I started an Orphans Thanksgiving for friends who didn’t have family or didn’t have nearby family to come over and have the usual early dinner and then watch James Bond movies and play board games. It’s been ever so much nicer, even though I have to do the dishes.

        2. Observer*

          I wonder if you still would not be better off .

          In any case, I would lay out the history of what happened when, even the things you don’t have a paper trail on. Given your history, track record and the things you CAN document on paper, I think you have a lot of credibility here.

        3. tangerineRose*

          Do you really want to have Thanksgiving with your mother? She sounds tough to deal with.

        4. Blueberry*

          I’d totally invite you for Thanksgiving if I could. I haven’t had it with my parents for over a decade.

          (I know that doesn’t really solve your situation but I hope it helps. :)

  34. Database Developer Dude*

    Wow….just….wow. You have to anonymize the names somehow, in case coworkers read AAM. I’m not a GoT fan either, but some of you need to build a bridge and get over it.

  35. Avalanche Lake*

    #2: I disagree with the answer to #2. I understand the dynamics of being a direct report, but if something has made your manager cry twice in such a short period, I think we’re in a situation where those dynamics are transcended. You can be a human being and acknowledge another person’s humanity, even if they’re your manager. It doesn’t mean you have to insist that she open up to you. But you can say something like, “I just wanted to briefly say that I’m so sorry I walked in on you at a couple of private times recently. I want you to know that I wish you all the best.” You could also add (if applicable) “If there is any way I can support you by taking some tasks off your plate, I’m happy to do that.”

    Keep it short, to the point, and work-related. But I wouldn’t just let it go entirely.

  36. Sara without an H*

    OP#5, yes, please do talk with your manager. I’d be very upset if one of my reports left because of something that was in my power to fix.

    If your (perfectly reasonable, IMHO) request is turned down, you’ll then have an acceptable reason for starting a job search after such a short time.

  37. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    LW3: Don’t give the recruiter any information that could point to your new employee as the source. That won’t be good for anyone.

  38. MLB*

    LW#5 – your request will depend on many factors, but you’ll never know until you ask. And it’s a perfectly reasonable request. My manager is BEYOND flexible with my schedule. We all WFH on Fridays, and after she came to my housewarming party last summer, she said I should work a second day from home because she hated my commute (and that was on a Saturday afternoon). I always negotiate my hours when it seems I’ll have an offer because I choose to live further away than where most jobs in my field are located.

    When you approach your manager to ask, I’d add one more thing to mention…tell them you’re willing to stay late if needed and be flexible. Yes a long commute SUCKS (I’ve always had an hour or more commute) so I completely understand. But know that by getting them to agree to a flex schedule, you need to adjust that if there’s a big project/they need coverage/etc. If that only happens once in a while, it’s worth the trade off if you like the job.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      “because she hated my commute (and that was on a Saturday afternoon).”
      Talk about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes!

  39. FD*

    #4- I do think this is fair. It does likely mean that no one thought about the implication of the photos they were using. I use a lot of stock photography in my work, and if you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to just select pictures of white men and women.

    For instance, when searching “business group” on Freepik (a fremium site that lets you access commercial-use vector graphics, stock photos, etc.), the first page came up with 21 photos that showed human faces, and:
    – 95% included at least one white male*
    – 86% included at least one white female
    – 43% included at least one male POC
    – 29% included at least one female POC

    – 52% showed only white people
    – 5% showed only POC people

    (Note that like most sites, the position of each photo is constantly being updated as images move up or down in terms of number of downloads, but this is a decent snapshot at a specific moment in time.)

    * Obviously we can’t know a person’s true gender identity and race from a photo but it’s reasonable to infer what the picture is likely to be used to represent as contextless stock photos

  40. Goya de la Mancha*

    #4 – I think it’s not weird at ALL for you to consider this, but I also don’t think you should rule a company out because of it. How does a company traditionally lacking diversity change if every new hire takes a look at the CURRENT demographics and runs? Now I’m not saying that they are trying to change their demographics, just that if their not given a chance then it will always remain the same because only white men will apply. Do you fire current employees (who may or may not have great work records) in order to bring in new hires?

    1. raktajino*

      If it’s something that the company cares about, there are ways to reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups to fix the issue. If that were the case with Company A, the LW probably would have mentioned it.

  41. atalanta0jess*

    OP #4, I work in a social service field and think it’s totally appropriate to give a major side-eye to any organization who doesn’t have diversity represented on their website. If you can’t even manage to be thoughtful and welcoming to POC on your homepage, that’s a problem.

    1. anonforthis*

      How exactly are you supposed to have pictures or represent POC. If they don’t represent them on their website then it appears racist. If you try to represent them then they are “tokenizing” and they appear racist. There doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah it’s an unpossible situation. Nobody has ever found a solution to it. Ever.

        1. anonforthis*

          Do you have anything else to add or are you just going to be snarky for the hell of it.

          1. Blueberry*

            I am making myself assume good faith here, despite the textual evidence.

            My advice: err on the side of showing POC staff/members/students/etc. Give us the chance to judge if they’re being used as tokens or treated as full human beings. It is actually possible to tell.

      2. mrs__peel*

        If you actually HAVE a diverse workforce (i.e., you don’t need to hastily pull two employees out of the mailroom for a photo op), then you can just…… take a picture of your real-life employees and there’s no “tokenizing”.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          Yep, this!

          And lots of social service orgs use stock photo type stuff to represent clients, so you just choose appropriate stock photos. It’s actually really easy.

      3. FD*

        I think in general, you should consider a few factors:

        1. In the US, white folks make up about 60% of the population,* and all POC folks together make up about 40%. Do your stock photos roughly approximate that? Consistently having mostly white folks but one single POC is noticeable, and adds to the ‘token’ effect. In contrast, having a better mix (e.g. some pictures where there are more POC than white people, some where the reverse is true, etc.) gives a more representative feel overall.
        2. How are POC framed? In stock photography, one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the time, if there’s one POC in the picture, they’ll be pushed to the back of the frame, and often aren’t given the most dominant role in the photo. (E.G. if it’s a photo of two people at a conference table and one is standing to present, it’s less likely to be POC person than a white person.) Obviously, you don’t need every picture to have a POC person front and center but again if they almost never are, that’s not great.

        * US Census estimates for 2017.

        1. FD*

          Er, too early in the morning, I just realized that POC person is sort of redundant since “person” is in the acronym.

  42. Lindsay J*

    But when you know someone is in the middle of a contentious breakup, that is not something that you share.

    And if a male “friend” was sharing that type of information with someone, it would be clear that they were not actually my friend nor would the be someone that I should allow any type of information about me to be shared with. It’s not something you just don’t think of.

    What if the guy goes to to water park and causes a scene? What if he goes to the water park parking lot and keys her car? What if he waits in the water park parking lot for her to come out and attacks her? And before you say I’m overreacting, generally getting a restraining order require a specific threat or fear of harm, so I’m really not. You can’t just get one because you don’t want to have to see your ex in public ever.

    Nobody who is my friend would want to put me in that situation. And anyone who is not my friend, but is giving out that type of information, needs to be cut out completely and immediately so they no longer have that sort of information about me to give out.

    It’s not an “oops, teehee, I guess I shouldn’t have said that situation.” It’s an “I’m actively – either purposefully or negligently – putting someone’s comfort and safety at risk” situation. And if a guy is doing that because he’s “loose with information” it doesn’t make it any better than if it’s because he wants the ex to attack her.

  43. The FlufflePuff*

    Hi OP#1. I worked someplace where my gaslighting, emotionally abusive mother had power over me. As a side bonus, she also enabled my stalker and displayed no remorse about it whatsoever.

    If your mother is anything like mine, and from your comments I’m afraid she might be, she may have raised you to disregard your own protective instincts. She may have normalized and downplayed abuse. An upbringing like this primes people to accept more abuse from future relationships in their lives. The cycle is relentless and awful.

    It’s great that you have a therapist you like. This can be so valuable. May I also recommend Will I Ever Be Good Enough by Dr. Karyl McBride? Might be eye-opening. It was for me.

  44. Delphine*

    #4 reminds me of my friend, who creates marketing material for clients (e.g. infographics). Many clients regularly ask for “diverse representation” when they are requesting graphics that will have people in them–but if the ratio of white people to people of color ever skews in favor of people of color, they often end up asking her to change someone’s skin color.

    1. Specialk9*

      That’s… Whoa. I can totally imagine that. It’s a narrow range of “just diverse enough without feeling scary”.

  45. LCL*

    It sounds like among other things your mom sat on your complaint and didn’t tell anyone. Since you have the president’s ear, tell him what happened. If Billy works for a contract company, one phone call to that company from a customer can be enough to get him dropped from your accounts. At least if what I read here is true about contractors, I am not a contractor but some of them post here and I believe them.

  46. John Rohan*

    Wow, am I hearing this right in regard to LW1? Most people here want the mom to fire this guy, because he’s friends with her daughter’s ex-husband? The IT guy isn’t the one stalking her, and he shouldn’t be punished for it.

    Yes, he was passing information to the ex, but they are friends, so of course you can expect they are going to talk. That’s normal. Per the letter, the only information he game him was what he heard people already talking about, or publicly available on social media. it just sounds like an overreaction all around, especially people implying that the woman is in fear for her life, which isn’t anywhere in this letter.

    1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

      The IT guy is facilitating the stalking, which is in the letter and the comments the OP has made in this thread. Why are you jumping in to defend some dude who is passing info to an abuser?

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Even worse. An IT contractor passing on information retrieved from a client’s computer which presumably would violate his company’s contract with the LW’s company

        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

          Oh yeah, I forgot that detail! You’re right, in a functional workplace, this guy would have been dismissed already.

        2. John Rohan*

          He hasn’t passed any information retrieved from her computer! She said she was worried he might do that.

          1. Specialk9*

            She said that her computer was remote accessed 4 times after hours, and her ex got info only available on her computer, and that she was told by the ex that Billy was passing along info because he thought it was funny (even though he knew the ex was using it to stalk her).

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      He’s in IT and contracted to LW1’s company. He is passing on information about a client to a 3rd part. He absolutely ought to be fired.

      1. John Rohan*

        He’s passing information that’s already publicly out there. It has nothing to do with his company.

        1. tangerineRose*

          John, have you read the comments? The only reason the info is out there publicly is because Billy put it there.

    3. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

      Since it apparently needs to be said for some people to take me seriously, I left my home of eight years, including my pets, that I loved devotedly, with two duffel bags and nothing else, because I could not longer safely return to my own house. I bought a gun and carried it for two years because I was scared for my life. I lost nearly every single friend, all of my savings, paid thousands of dollars for restraining orders and legal representation, spent two years basically couch surfing and living off-the-grid, and spent those two years being stalked and harassed because I was scared for my life.

      I do not think I am in danger any longer. But for two years, I was scared for my life.

      1. John Rohan*

        If you are the OP, then I’m sorry you had to go through that. And that is important contextual information that could have been included in your question above. My comment was based on that question only, not any follow ups or any other information you put in comments.

        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

          Also, she said in her letter:
          “I requested Billy not work on my computer because he had been passing personal information about my whereabouts and activities to my ex to facilitate my ex stalking and harassing me.”
          It’s right there in the letter, which you apparently didn’t read very closely or you just didn’t believe her.

        2. General Ginger*

          You know what, no. She doesn’t owe you or any of us that additional information. The policy here is that we trust the OP, but even beyond that, nobody should have to spell out their “abused credentials” to be taken seriously.

        3. Mama's Little Worker Bee*

          Yes, I am the OP. I understand that tone is not possible online, so please read this with a polite tone. This is not an attack, but some advice.

          I was really scared to submit this question because of comments like your own. I spent years being abused because of comments like, “Well he only REALLY hurt you that one time, you need to realize sometimes people lose their temper,” and “No one just starts screaming, what did you do to anger him,” and “stop being so over-dramatic, he was just slamming cabinets, not hitting you.”

          My ex stabbed me with a fork and, when I fought back, he pushed me head-first onto a hard floor and jumped on top of my back in an attempt to break my neck. I immediately went for help- ran out in my underwear and nothing else- and those people CONVINCED ME NOT TO CALL THE COPS. I said I wanted the police, I wanted a divorce, I never wanted to see that man again. They convinced I should have “known better” than to “antagonize” a drunk, passed-out man, so trying to kill someone for waking him was reasonable. I nearly DIED and I was so screwed up in the head by comments like yours and lack of support, I STAYED WITH HIM ANOTHER FIVE MONTHS. I don’t say this because I want sympathy or to paint a “poor me” picture. I say this because abuse is so incredibly effed up and you have no idea how much enabling comments like your own continue it for so many people.

          His behavior escalated again and I got so scared, I got out. And I kept quiet, I tried my best to lay low. But if I asked people to not invite us to the same stuff, I was “being over-dramatic” or trying to make people “choose sides.” When I asked for him to be turned away if he showed up at the office (after he showed up multiple other places) I was told, “It’s not like he’s waiting for you in the parking lot with a gun.”

          Because that’s the thing: for abuse victims, literally, UNLESS SOMEONE SEES SOMEONE TRYING TO ACTIVELY KILL YOU, then you are blowing up the situation. And even if they DO see him doing so, sometimes they will STILL will take his side. It’s a constant battle to get anyone to believe what you’re saying, even with proof. And it shouldn’t be.

          If you read ANY of my other messages, you will see the lengths I had to go through to get away from this guy. I didn’t say any of that in my original post, BUT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO. You don’t know anything about me, but you assume that I’m blowing up a situation when I’m actually severely underplaying it. Your second response, after I clarify, is to say that I should have included that information in the original question. So I should have included deeply personal details about my abuse in order to be taken seriously? Me saying I was stalked and that Billy helped wasn’t enough?

          I don’t mean to use slippery slope logic, but what exactly WOULD have been enough? Where is the point at which I have adequately convinced strangers that I was stalked vs when I’ve said so much that I come across as hysterical and over-dramatic? I just want advice on what is reasonable for HR to do in this situation; why do I have to put my entire personal life on trial for strangers to do it?

          1. tangerineRose*

            It’s awful that you had to go through this, and something is WRONG with the people who told you not to call the cops for this – he could have killed you.

        4. bolistoli*

          You are hurting, not helping. With every comment you make. Commenting rules: give the OP the benefit of the doubt. And if you’re late to the commenting game, maybe take a few minutes to skim the other comments to see if any other context has been added. Although, the OP shouldn’t have to explain herself to you. I hope there’s no one in your life who might come to you for help. Clearly you will need hard and fast proof (photos? video? audio?) before you’ll believe them. This is disheartening.

    4. Observer*

      1. No one is asking for this guy to be fired, although that’s actually not all that unreasonable, given the context.

      2. The guy is in IT – so the concept of “discretion” should be part of his fundamental tool set. The fact that he instead did some digging (including possibly accessing her computer remotely after hours!) and then passed that information along, is not just indiscreet. That is NOT excusable as “just talking with friends.” The OP has clarified this a number of times, as well.

      1. John Rohan*

        There is nothing in the letter that says he passed information accessed from her computer.

        1. Observer*

          I suggest you re-read both the letter and all of the clarifications the OP (Mama’s Little Worker Bee) posted.

    5. Goya de la Mancha*

      You’re talking about something quite a bit different then IT worker saying to friend “Oh hey, I saw Beth today, she looks like she’s put on weight since the divorce.”

    6. mrs__peel*

      Why is it SO important for you to defend a guy who’s abetting dangerous and possibly criminal behavior??

      Attitudes like yours are exactly the reason why more victims of abuse don’t come forward.

      1. anonforthis*

        I actually agree with you as someone who is worried about overreach from anti stalking and harassment campaigns. There is no defending this guy.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “Attitudes like yours are exactly the reason why more victims of abuse don’t come forward.” This!

        The OP just asked that the contractor not be allowed to work on her PC and not be allowed to come to work events that she has to go to. That’s not a big ask. And if you check the comments, Billy did this on purpose.

    7. Lora*

      If everyone who agrees with Mr Rohan could maybe get matching tattoos or wear a special tee shirt or hat, it’d be a help to lots of people everywhere.

      OP, you gave all the info necessary in your letter. You don’t need to engage further, because for some people you could be communicating via ouija board after your ex put you in your grave and they’d STILL be all, “well you can’t just take a man’s remote control while he’s watching TV” or something similarly awful.

      I get less and less patient with such individuals the older I get.

  47. anonforthis*

    I’m not really a big fan of the focus on arbitrary values like skin pigmentation either these days.

  48. Former Employee*

    I don’t care about teapots and I don’t watch any of the shows. (I had no idea these names were from Game of Thrones. When people used GoT, initially I thought they made a typo and meant to write “got”, except it made no sense in context.)

    Let’s keep Fergus, Wakeen and Llamas. In fact, I think we should start naming the llamas. Of course, my first choice would be Fernando Llama.

  49. Curious Cat*

    #4: Definitely reasonable to notice & care about the diversity of their stock photos! You’re not the only one. I run our social media & often use stock images to accompany tweets. One time, months ago, a woman replied to a random tweet w/ a stock photo of a white man and complained how we rarely had any women or POC. People notice; it’s important. That one comment changed the way I’ve been using social media now, which has a much greater emphasis on diversity of all types in our stock image use.

  50. SamSam*

    #4 company photos:
    Sometimes it doesn’t mean a lot if you have an international company, or a company with far-off branches. For instance, I work for a German company that took all the “working for us” photos of the employees for the website at their headquarters. They are soooo white – apparently brunettes are a minority at their office. I cringe every time I see those pages of the site, but they’re just oblivious.
    Meanwhile our U.S. branch is relatively diverse – we’re less than 50 people but have employees from 10 different countries and we speak something like 12 languages between us. It’s a completely different mindset and atmosphere.
    Don’t write the company completely off due to website photos – but keep an eye out, for sure.

  51. Not a Mere Device*

    We can each use examples from pop culture we like–so maybe I’d talk about Pippin, Merry, Eowyn, and Arwen, and someone else would use the names of their favorite musicians.

  52. mrs__peel*


    There are plenty of EXTREMELY GOOD reasons why not everyone is comfortable working in an otherwise 100% white workforce (e.g., physical safety, mental health, opportunities for career growth and promotion, etc.) It’s very reasonable to take that into consideration when you’re making career decisions.

  53. Ginger ale for all*

    I know we aren’t supposed to nitpick the letter writers words but can we please give the Game of Thrones names a rest? Pretty please?

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Ha, I am imagining the related fields for this, like when people currently say they were hired for chocolate teapot spout design, but now are exclusively doing chocolate-percentage testing.

          Claw clipping? Litter scooping? Fur cleanup? Cat bathing? Hissing sound analysis?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        By the way, I’m moving this discussion down to the bottom of the thread. It’s fine to have it here, but because it’s off-topic from the letters, I didn’t want it to be the very first discussion on the post (as it was until I moved it).

        1. WeevilWobble*

          It seems unnecessarily rude to the LW to have the discussion at all. She wrote in for advice and people are just nitpicking her name choice? Ones that have been common but now she gets to feel bad for choosing?

          How is this not nitpicking and against the rules?

        2. I heart Paul Buchman*

          Well Alison, this is a suprise! I always thought that you replaced the names and job descriptions in the letters with your own theme… never realised they came from letter writers. Ha.
          I also didn’t know they were from GoT so there you go. I was picturing the beautiful young woman from 30 Rock. Had to google that she is Ceri not Cersei. Puts a bit of a different spin on the letters.
          Nothing makes me feel older than pop culture references…

      2. Wintermute*

        I like teapots because it’s a neutral form of reference. I was very concerned when I wrote my letter about outing my exact industry (one reason I didn’t reply there using my username), and because of details of how we do business, potentially my exact employer, and because I was writing about an issue that could only happen a few places in the country, they might even track it back to the exact person, place and company!

        Because the names of equipment and vendors are incredibly distinct, but some of the technical details of what type of systems we were working with might matter in a material way to the answers I got. So I could use, to make up an example now, “microwave glaze heater” instead of microwave uplink radio and get the general gist (that this was a radiofrequency part that was dangerous to work on and could hurt you with invisible beams) or “kiln temperature thermocouple controller” as opposed to “environmental control card” (that this is a card that monitors environmental conditions from sensors) across without outing myself.

        So, I think there is a place for it when it’s not shoehorned in.

        I found it funnier when people used the WENUS report from Friends as a standin for some important metrics report, though.

      3. MicroManagered*

        To me, teapots is sort of endearingly annoying. Like, in normal usage it’s a very good shorthand way to refer to different divisions of a company without bogging down details. But I kind of love when people say “I work in Teapot Data and Analytics, Sansa works in Teapot HR.” Just say “data and analytics” and “HR” lol!

      4. Competent Commenter*

        I absolutely love teapots and llamas and think they are an endearing and quirky part of AAM. I realize we could all just say “marketing” instead of “teapot marketing,” etc. but it’s easy to feel kind of exposed when posting and the extra descriptor is oddly comforting when you’re trying to disguise yourself.

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, teapots and llamas are both great! I like tea and fluffy animals, I guess that makes me like them even more.

    1. Anonicat*

      The advantage of the GOT names is that, if one of the coworkers is called Cersei, we immediately know who is going to be causing trouble…

      1. Caledonia*

        Believe it or not, some people have no interest in GOT therefore, I don’t know who the “baddies” are…(nor do I want to!).

          1. Someone else*

            But the Letter Writers supply the names, so until they stop doing that, there’s not really anything to be done, unless all the people who comment about being sick of the GoT references start writing in with their own questions using other names.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I mean, I’m pretty confident most people have picked it up by now by reading the letters. Or not, and that’s fine!

          I’m also not a fan of the show and don’t love the cultural saturation, but I’m not quite sure why people are so bothered by this.

          1. JamieS*

            I get it. Usually it doesn’t really bother me but sometimes it gets aggravating. I mean it’s basically every single day, over and over and over and over, never-ending, no escape, no end in sight.

            1. The Original K.*

              Exactly. It’s not something I’m going to stop reading over, obviously, but it’s like ” … Again?” (I’m also not into GoT, never have been.) Also, as someone noted down the thread, the letters kind of run together if everyone has the same pseudonyms. There are probably dozens of letters about office food that feature Cersei and Sansa.

        2. Mookie*

          Yeah. I want to know how to pronounce the names if I’m going to be asked to vicariously hate them every week.

          Has there ever been a dysfunctional workplace-themed boardgame? “It was Mr White, in the abandoned warehouse, and he definitely wanted Mr Orange to quack him.”

        3. Specialk9*

          Yeah I never know who anybody is in GoT. I’ve seen the episode with zombies , and one with a blind girl fighting, and caught part of one where a blonde lady with black eyebrows rode a dragon, and that’s it. They were nice, but I don’t have the patience to watch the whole thing, and enough people point out that it treats women badly that I don’t feel like I need to watch it. (Plus, HBO) So I never know which one is which, and “sansa” and “sursee” (how I imagine that’s pronounced) sound so similar to me. I don’t actually mind, it just isn’t a clue for me.

      2. What’s with today, today*

        I’ve never seen it. Never read it. No clue who Cersei is or whether she’s good or bad.

      3. A Reader*

        But that’s the problem, though. I am not a GoT fan, but I know who Cersei is in the grand scheme of things. I feel sometimes the use of character names can impact my judgment of a letter when I am reading it. Like “Oooooh, of COURSE Cersei would do something like that.”

    2. AK*

      I wouldn’t mind dropping GoT names, the thing that gets me is when a writer says “let’s call her “Cersei”” as if every name given in other letters isn’t also anonymized.

      1. Mookie*

        “Let’s call [them]” in writing always weirds me out, too. It’s an oral device because scare-quotes can be distracting or missed by the listener altogether.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          I too love Wakeen. I hope “he” sticks around! And I actually knew a Wakeen, who was a customer relations person at a service firm I worked with. Waaay too laid back. His firm ruined my project once and when I said so he just drawled “oh do you want to reject it then?” The AAM version always seems much the same to me.

          1. puzzld (I see there's a Puzzled here, I am not that Puzzled)*

            I went to school with a Wanetta. And this was way back in the day when girls were Mary, Joan or Alice and boys were Tom, Dick or Harry.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I think letter writers want a way to signal that they’re using fake names. God forbid you used a fake name, and the editor changed names for anonymity and accidentally landed on the real name.

    3. brushandfloss*

      I rather have names even over used names than initials. Its confusing to me (I don’t know why) to try to keep track of coworker A, coworker B and coworker C.

      1. Sami*

        I’m not a fan of using letters that way either. Coworker A, Company B, City C.
        And as I’ve never watched (nor am interested in GOT), I’m over the names either.
        LWs, just pick random names! Please.

        1. Bea*

          I think it’s easiest to choose names with a theme like GoT or I’ve seen Simpson’s or Weeds characters to make a couple. Then it makes the story easier for them to keep the names straight.

          It’s really not a big deal in the end.

        2. Thlayli*

          I like the funny tv show names, like when people say Monica and Rachel, and I liked the GOT names when they first started, but I agree i have gotten a bit sick of it now. I hereby issue a call to LWs for some Buffy names! I want to see Tara and Willow, Spike and Angel (with Spike being the good guy of course haha).

        3. Perse's Mom*

          There have been commenters also upset that someone used “Jane” because Jane is a relatively common real-world name and it might upset someone named Jane that her name is being used to anonymize someone else’s jerky behavior. There’s no winning.

        1. Merida Ann*

          I don’t really see how repeating Jane and John over and over is any different than repeating Sansa and Jon over and over, though. I’m all for more variety in the names (and more diversity in the implied ethnicity of the names, too), but I also understand why its easiest for people to default to the ones they see here most commonly.

          I do like fandom/pop culture names in general, though, especially when they can help me remember the relationships involved. For example, I’ve used Harry Potter characters a couple times in open threads because I can use Albus as the top level boss, Minerva and Severus as mid-level managers, and then student names as Minerva and Severus’ employees. For me, it’s easier to track when something from their original story helps keep track of who is who, instead of trying to remember who has which job between Alice, Abby, and Annie.

          I don’t follow Game of Thrones, but I know enough about it to recognize the names and sometimes who is a villain character, so I feel like it’s an good choice, but it would just be fun to see more fandoms represented – off the top of my head Disney, DC or Marvel, maybe NCIS, even American Idol or something would all have very recognizable names to most people, but would add some variety.

          1. Wintermute*

            The thorny part about using non-white-middle-upper-class names is then people start to wonder if there is a racial component to what you’re trying to say. So is it significant that Keyauna and Ajit and Ernesto are Keyauna and Ajit and Ernesto, or are those just placeholders that could be any ethnicity. I’m reminded of a few letters where we were pondering in the comments “okay this REALLY, REALLY plays out two different ways depending on the ethnicity of the people involved”– the letters that come to mind were the woman whose manager told her curly hair is unprofessional (if they’re both white then the manager is a jerk, if racism is involved it’s lawyer time), and the woman who mockingly dressed up as her co-worker for Halloween (if there wasn’t an element of racial mockery then it’s in poor taste and a disciplinary matter, if there is, it’s summary termination territory).

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          I usually just use people’s real names. it’s like the equivalent of having a direct conversation vs leaving an anonymous note.. /s

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            I think that changing names gives the subject their own anonymity. Leaving an anonymous passive aggressive note to your co-worker is one thing. Subbing out Cersei for Susan just in CASE someone knows the company/department gives those who are technically not consenting to having their business posted on the interwebs SOME protection.

    4. YB*

      I’m not a GOT person, so I spent a long time just thinking that AAM readers have interesting names.

    5. Agent Veronica*

      I find it much harder to remember the details of specific letters when the pseudonyms are the same day after day after day after day…

    6. teclatrans*

      I…I don’t mind the names? And I am still perfectly happy with the teapots, though I think lots of folks have moved into llama grooming. But hey, I have one thing I order at any given food chain, and those orders haven’t changed in 35 years, so I am maybe okay with not-change.

      1. smoke tree*

        Yeah, while I agree that it might be nice to vary the names a bit, I can’t bring myself to really have strong feelings about it. I am not yet tired of the chocolate teapots, though.

      1. Caledonia*

        Also, as long as the LW choose different names to those they are writing in about we wouldn’t know that it’s not Veronica’s actual name…

          1. Kuododi*

            I was so terrified by the first Jurassic Park movie I’ve refused to see any of the rest of the series. I have no idea what the character names are or what might be going on if that movie was referenced!!! (Shudder! Scary mental images!!! GACK!!!)

    7. LW #3*

      Hah sorry! In this case I thought it apt (as the actual relationship between the two is hostile and acrimonious). I had no idea it annoyed people – the more you know!

      1. WeevilWobble*

        You have nothing to apologize for! Sometimes people wake up and choose to be petty over things that have no impact on them rather than helpful.

      2. AK*

        LW #3 definitely don’t worry about it, it was more of a general comment on the trend than anything to do with your specific letter, yours just happened to be the one posted today when the discussion started. I agree, the names in this case fit better than some others!