should HR reveal an employee is planning to quit, boss lets us leave early but it’s a secret, and more

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

1. Should HR reveal an employee is planning to leave?

My husband applied for and was offered a new job. It’s contingent on a background check, so the new job told him explicitly not to give notice until the background check clears. They also told him during the interview process that they did not need to speak to his current supervisor; he gave them contact info for a colleague instead. He did not let his supervisor know about the new offer, because he was awaiting the results of the background check.

Then last week, HR at his current job got some form from HR at the new job. I’m not sure precisely what the form was, but it at least implied that he had gotten an offer from this new place. HR went straight to my husband’s manager and told her. His manager approached him and was livid that she had heard through HR rather than from him.

Now, it would have been ideal for the new job to give him a heads-up about that form, especially considering their specific instruction not to give notice yet! But that seems like a problem where the right hand isn’t talking to the left. What I really don’t get is why HR at his current job felt the need to go directly to his manager, especially without talking with him first. I know HR works for the company, not for the employees, but they’re also expected to respect confidentiality as a basic component of the job, right? They of all people should appreciate the sensitivity around these kinds of transitions, and should understand why employees should be given the opportunity to give notice themselves. My husband now looks less professional to his current boss because he was deprived of the opportunity to give notice on his terms. What do you think? What, really, is the role of HR?

The new company screwed up here, not your current company. It definitely wasn’t great that HR went straight to his manager, but it’s also not surprising. They have a duty to the company’s management, which is very often interpreted to mean that if HR knows someone is planning on leaving, that’s information they’d share with the person’s manager. Not to get anyone in trouble, but so that the manager isn’t in the dark about info that another piece of the company’s management has, and which will impact her team. And because the manager may want to try to find a way to retain the person before it’s too late, or start planning for their departure, or so forth.

HR doesn’t actually have a duty of confidentiality around this stuff. There is some stuff they should keep confidential, like private medical info in many cases, but not so much with something like this — where a form indicating someone is on their way out shows up out of the blue. To be clear, there are some HR people who would choose to keep it confidential anyway, but it’s not a field-wide expectation. In general, HR’s duty is to act in the best interest of the company, not to protect confidences.

That said, they should have ensured that the manager would handle it better. If they’re going to loop managers in on stuff, they need to ensure those managers know how to deal with the info they’re receiving (which in this case would mean not blowing up at your husband).

2. My boss lets us leave early, but it’s a secret

I work at a midsize nonprofit where employees switched from salaried to hourly a few years ago. I’ve been here two months and love it, but there’s a practice here that I find a little strange. Nearly every day, the head of our department dismisses us early. We normally get to leave anywhere from 5-45 minutes before our shifts would normally end, and generally an hour before on Friday. I have been explicitly told by my manager that my time card should reflect the scheduled end of shift and not the actual time I left. Literally everyone in the department does this. We are physically a little remote from the other departments, so it’s not obvious that we’re all leaving early almost every day.

I’ve been told that the reason our department head does this is that the change to hourly was one he resented and he doesn’t believe we are being paid enough or getting enough vacation. (Both true — this is one of the lowest-paid and most stingy with PTO organizations in the industry.) I have been told that he’s using “manager’s discretion,” which is allowed, to do this. I love leaving early, and I do feel that this perk goes a long way towards making the staff not resent their terrible pay and PTO, but is this legal?

It sounds very much like he’s not actually authorized to allow this, which I’m basing on no one else knowing about it and the fact that he’s explicitly linked it to a change he resented. (“Manager’s discretion” would typically mean he could occasionally okay someone leaving early without docking their pay, not that he could have his whole team leave early every single day, while recording extra time on their time sheets.)

If I’m right about that, it’s a big deal. Time card fraud is fireable, and it could potentially be illegal in your state as well. Many states also have statutory duties of loyalty that your boss’s actions could violate. So yes, it could be a huge problem if it ever comes out. It’s more likely to be a problem for him than for you, but you could certainly be caught up in it.

If doesn’t have the authority to okay this, what he’s doing is fraudulent, and it’s theft. If he wants to push back on the hourly pay, he can do that, but he shouldn’t be deceiving the organization and taking money from it, and it’s particularly crappy that he’s doing that as a member of their management team. It would be different if he weren’t doing this as deliberate deceit — in other words, if he just wrongly assumed that he was authorized to let people leave early without docking their pay. But he’s doing as a deliberately secretive F-you, and that’s not okay.

3. Recruiter asked to set up an interview and then dropped out of contact

I have been working outside of my intended career field for nearly a year and recently received an offer to interview for a position within my desired industry. In this interview offer (sent via email), the recruitment officer asked me to provide several dates and times for their consideration and I shared three options for the following week. It’s now the week in which I offered dates (with the first option being tomorrow), and I’ve not heard back from the recruitment officer. I don’t want to be too eager and ruin my chances by checking in, but also don’t want to lose out on a potential hiring opportunity should there have been a communication error. I definitely have some anxiety about this given the length of my search and desire to transition into my desired field, and don’t want this to cloud my view.

How would you advise proceeding?

Follow up once, but then put it out of your head and move on. Unfortunately, this happens a lot. Sometimes it’s because things are just dragging out longer than anticipated and they’ll get back to you at some point. Other times, they’ve moved on with other candidates, or changed the position entirely, or have other reasons they no longer want to interview you. It’s rude not to tell you when that’s happened, but it’s very, very common. So do one follow-up email (“just wanted to check back with you; I’d still love to set up a time to talk about the X position”) but then assume something changed and move on, unless they do get back in touch.

4. Gum-chewing coworker stops me from hearing anything else

One of my coworkers chews gum all day long. She chews very loudly, much louder than most people chew gum. When she speaks, she speaks through her gum chewing. The only time she stops chewing gum is if she is eating or drinking. She quit smoking several years ago and I suspect she started chewing gum as a coping mechanism.

I find it incredibly distracting, I can’t block it out or tune it out. I never have been able to for sounds like that. Fortunately, I seldom need to work with her. On the rare occasions, I’ve have a question for her, I tried sending email, but she always comes over to my desk to answer and no matter how hard I try, I can’t pay attention through the gum chewing. As a result, now I ask anyone else who might know the answer first.

In group meetings and training sessions, I have a hard time paying attention even when sitting far away from her. I miss important stuff because all my brain is hearing is this coworker chewing. I’m concerned that she thinks I don’t like her because I avoid her so much. She’s a nice person, I do like her, just not the sound of her chewing gum so loudly.

What can I do? Especially in light of the fact that she may be using this to avoid a return to smoking. That’s incredibly important reason to chew gum! I’d love to ask her to stop when speaking to me or in group meetings. If she absolutely can’t, I’d like to ask her to chew more quietly in those settings but am flummoxed as to how to ask and what to say if she pushes back.

Be matter-of-fact about it. That’s really the only way.

When she comes over to your desk to talk to you: “Sorry, can you take out your gum? I find it hard to listen through the gum chewing.”

In group meetings: “Hey, would you mind taking out your gum or chewing more quietly? I find it really distracting.”

It’s okay to ask that even though she’s using it as a smoking substitute. You’re not asking her to give up gum entirely. You’re asking her to temporarily stop chomping so that you can hear / not lose your mind. And if she’s a considerate person, she’d probably prefer that you say something, rather than to obliviously go on aggravating you.

If she pushes back though … well, that would be fairly rude of her, but if she does, then at that point you’ll have to accept that the noises of her gum chewing are going to be part of the backdrop to your work life. That sucks, but there’s not really anything you can do at that point if you’ve asked her directly and she’s refused. (I mean, in theory, you could escalate this, approach her as a group, take out billboards, etc., but those would all be making more of it than is warranted, irritating as it is. It really falls in the category of “ask nicely, hope she agrees, and that’s all you can do.”)

{ 440 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Eric

    I’m not seeing the #2 says this is being done fraudulently or without the originization knowing. OP says “I have been told that he’s using “manager’s discretion,” which is allowed, to do this.” That makes it seem like it may be ok.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I strongly suspect “manager’s discretion” is a fabrication, or in the best case, being misapplied in this context. If such a policy exists, OP should be able to look up the policy and verify that it exists.

      I’m skeptical that the organization allows this kind of policy given that (1) they’re a nonprofit, which means they have higher ethical and legal obligations when it comes to how money is spent; and (b) the manager’s primary complaint is that he’s mad that people were moved to hourly instead of salaried classification. Additionally, if they’re paying people for an hour that they’re not working, that would usually be captured in a different way than falsifying timecards.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        Yeah it doesn’t sound like the organization has permitted the manager to let people consistently leave early. Maybe the LW can try and find out in a low key way if higher ups/HR know but I am going to go with they will have to report it and should do it sooner rather than later.

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      2. ExcelJedi

        Yeah, from what I understand, depending on the state there may be insurance implications for workers who are “on the clock” (as approved by their managers, and therefore theoretically known by the organization). IANAL, but a company where I was a manager used to do this regularly for Summer Fridays, until a new director came in and made them change the timesheets to reflect that they were not actually being paid for work on those days.

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        1. PerpetualStudent

          ExcelJedi, were there any consequences for employees when the new director came and the change happened? Just curious. (I’m the LW.)

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      3. Antilles

        I strongly suspect “manager’s discretion” is a fabrication, or in the best case, being misapplied in this context.
        For me, it’s the frequency and length that jumps out. Manager’s discretion is certainly a thing even in timesheet workplaces…but there’s a reasonable limit to it. Allowing an employee to leave a few minutes early on a holiday? Letting an employee take a slightly longer lunch due to an errand? Not hassling someone who got there at 9:05 instead of 9:00? All legitimate cases where a manager could use their discretion.
        Letting the entire staff leave 15+ minutes early every single day? No, just no. That’s *way* beyond the bounds of acceptable ‘manager discretion’.

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        1. Jadelyn

          +1. There’s “manager discretion” and then there’s “changing schedules for the whole team without letting anyone else know and while continuing to fill out timesheets with the old schedule.”

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          1. Paquita

            My group went out for lunch last Friday. This is a quarterly birthday thing. We were gone for two hours. Manager adjusted our time to an hour lunch at her discretion. However, this is usually four times a year, not daily!

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        2. PerpetualStudent

          I’m the LW, and I actually agree with you, Antilles, having been a manager in this same industry in the past. No way would this have been OK at my old company.

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    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, it really reads to me like the organization wouldn’t be okay with it if they knew, but I’ll make that clearer that my answer is assuming that’s the case.

      Reply
    3. Artemesia

      Filling out a time sheet fraudulently is a gigantic big deal in most organizations. A boss who is at odds with the organization is not in a good place to protect you if someone decides to make an issue of it.

      Reply
      1. Cat Herder

        So, OP 2 asked if this situation was legit, but it would be helpful to know what OP 2 should do since it’s wrong. Tell the manager, That’s OK, I have work to finish up — and then not leave early? Report it? if so, to whom? What might be repercussions if she reports it?

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        1. PerpetualStudent

          **LW here**

          To make it more complicated, I don’t have personal knowledge that the head of our department really resents the changes — I’ve just been told that he does, by people who have been here a long time. I know the industry very well, and the change from salaried to hourly was very unpopular. (As someone said below, it was because of the changes in the law that never ended up being implemented.) This is the type of work that attracts people who want to make their jobs their lives. The department head, my boss’s boss, seems to get along with the big bosses and with other departments. The organization and our department function very smoothly overall compared to other similar places.

          I’m not planning to report it. I like leaving early on Fridays. We also never really take lunch breaks even though we’re required to punch out and back in for a lunch. Because of this, I do not feel like I’m being paid for any time I’m not working. I’m not worried about my job because they would literally have to fire every single person in the department, which is a very large and important one. Many people on our board were people that directly benefited from the services of the people in my department and are very loyal to them. We are a very highly rated charity with almost every accolade a charity can get. I mention this because I personally don’t believe that this would rise to the level of a scandal that would justify firing an entire department of experienced people with specialized skills. It would render the organization completely incapable of providing any services at all. I think the most likely scenario if this came out would be that my boss’s boss gets fired, my boss and the others at his level would get a slap on the wrist, and the rest of us would be told not to do that anymore.

          My boss’s boss, by the way, could have retired 5 years ago but chose to stay working because he loves the job and the organization. I have the feeling that if they fired him over this he would just shrug and take it as a sign that it’s time to go.

          Reply
          1. Lurky Lurkerson

            “We also never really take lunch breaks even though we’re required to punch out and back in for a lunch”

            Wait, are you saying that they require you to punch out even if you keep working? That’s straight-up wage theft.

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          2. (another) b

            I’m sorry but that’s really the wrong decision. This is fraud. and a BIG deal. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite you and your coworkers.

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    4. MicroManagered

      I work in a nonprofit where this is typical before a holiday weekend. (I definitely never saw it in the private sector.)

      Management, usually director-level, will come around and dismiss everyone 1-2 hours early, but we still get paid the full day. I think some discretion is allowable, but I don’t think anyone would think it’s reasonable to do every single day like this manager is doing.

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      1. Hush42

        I work in the private sector and this happens for us the day before almost every holiday. HR or one of the executives will send out an all company e-mail that we’re closing an hour or two early but everyone will still get paid.
        I have “manager’s discretion” to send my team home early on special occasions or if I feel they’ve done an outstanding job on a project they just finished and still make sure they get paid for the full day. But if I did this everyday I would definitely get in trouble. Plus we would get way behind because the reason we pay people to work for 40 hours every week is because there’s work to be done… if there were only 30 hours per person we would adjust our staffing. As it is we currently have like 50 hours per week per person and I am in the midst of hiring at least one more person- growing pains are the worst.

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        1. MN

          Also in the private sector, and we get this on the day before a holiday (9-5 job, usually dismissed early afternoon).

          We also have “summer hours” where in the expectation is that there are no Friday afternoon meetings and, at least for my department, you go home shortly after lunch if there’s nothing pressing.

          Caveat is that I feel like this is more the case for salaried employees than hourly.

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          1. Artemesia

            This is the issue. Salaried workers, no problem. Hourly workers being asked to fudge time sheets? Good chance the whole team would be fired.

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            1. Jadelyn

              Depends on the situation – if we had something like that, the manager would be fired, but the employees would most likely be coached and probably given an MOU that basically says “Hey, we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you didn’t realize this before, but Now You Know: if your manager has you do something like this you need to tell someone, or else you will get fired with the manager next time.”

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    5. Jadelyn

      “Manager’s discretion” isn’t a concrete or legal concept, though – it’s a nebulous term for “in healthy organizations leadership doesn’t micro-manage middle managers, so those lower-level managers have a certain amount of leeway in how they manage their team as long as the work gets done.” It also sounds like the “which is allowed” part is coming from the manager, not that OP is confirming that manager’s discretion *is* allowed by the organization in this fashion.

      Of course, the manager could be right and he’s got the authority within that organization to make decisions like that. I would suggest OP ask him directly, if they’re concerned.

      Either way, though, it absolutely is fraudulent in the sense that the manager having them “clock out” at the end of the shift is producing falsified timesheet records. In some states that may not be a big deal, but I know in California you can get smacked hard for having deliberately falsified timesheet records. If it were above-board, the manager could have them use some kind of “comp time” or “authorized time” code on their timesheets for that extra time, which would allow them to be paid at regular rate, without docking their PTO, but which would also make it clear that this was not time actually worked (which could also affect OT calculations, since time not worked doesn’t count toward OT thresholds, even if it was time paid). That’s how it should be done, if you’re going to do that – I’m hourly and when my VP decides to let us all off early the Friday of a 3-day weekend, they don’t put my end-of-day regular punch out at my regular time, they have me clock out and then fill in the rest with “authorized time”. That way, anytime someone looks at it later they can see, okay, this person got paid for a full 8, didn’t work a full 8, but it was paid at the manager’s discretion.

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      1. Michaela Westen

        “suggest OP ask him directly, if they’re concerned.”
        It sounds like the manager is doing this without authorization. If he thinks OP is catching on to that or will let the employer know, he might fire her.
        If she’s fired it might be better in the long run because the pay and benefits are so bad, but she should be aware of the risks before asking him.

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      2. HS Teacher

        I agree. Also there are other insurance implications. If you are on the clock and get in a car accident, the other party could sue your company because you’re on company business. In that same car accident, you could have an employee claiming workers compensation for being injured while on the clock. For hourly employees, this is a really bad idea and the OP is rightfully concerned.

        Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, this is so very illegal. Not only is it illegal, but it will very likely get your boss and everyone working under him fired (it might end with him, but I think your odds are 50/50 that they’d fire everyone involved in this kind of fraud/theft). Your boss is handling this in the worst possible way—he’s endangering all of your livelihoods, and because it’s fraudulent, anyone fired because of his policy won’t qualify for unemployment and will likely get blackballed.

    If your employer has a whistleblower policy—which it should for most nonprofits—I would seriously consider making a confidential complaint. If it won’t jeopardize your employment, bringing it up with your boss, first, and give him a chance to fix the problem. But if there’s any indication he’ll ignore you, retaliate, or blow you off, then I would blow the whistle. You do not want to go down with his ship.

    For context: I sit on the Board of Directors for a nonprofit with multiple field offices, and one of our offices was committing timecard fraud. We literally had to fire everyone at that location except the whistleblower. When this kind of thing comes out, it taints everyone involved, even when they’re not the most culpable/blameworthy. This is especially the case for nonprofits, because public charities are held to stricter standards than for profits (although this is fireable at a for profit, as well).

    Reply
    1. Sherm

      I think this job may not be salvageable, and I would start an aggressive job search. With the cruddy pay and PTO, disgruntled staff, a switch from salaried to hourly that was either sketchy or not communicated well (neither possibility is great), it’s sounding like it’s time to jump ship.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Going from salaried to hourly really can’t be “sketchy” unless people are still being required to “volunteer” extra hours, just not on the clock.

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        1. Jadelyn

          Yeah, the “sketchy” change is usually in the other direction – taking an hourly employee whose job may or may not qualify and making them exempt to avoid paying OT. Moving someone from exempt to hourly can be poorly handled if there’s a lack of communication or transparency around it, but it’s not sketchy.

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        2. KayEss

          A friend of mine worked at a nonprofit that changed her department from salaried to hourly, but expected the same off-hours overtime coverage and then try to pay for that coverage with comp time. It was never clear if the management straight-up didn’t know the law, or if they were secretly counting on all their previously-exempt employees to not know the law and let them get away with it. They also did monumentally weird and shady stuff like claiming the change was retroactive to an earlier date but then never paying out the accrued overtime that would require, and firing anyone who asked for it.

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    2. Susan K

      After reading this question, I was left wondering what the heck the OP should do. This seems like a no-win situation for her. If she does nothing, she puts her job and career at risk. If she does something to put a stop to it, she will be the most despised person in the company. Even though she is trying to do the right thing and keep people out of trouble, I guarantee almost none of her coworkers will see it that way — they will see her as the person who ruined everything.

      I think anonymous reporting is the way to go here. I can’t see it going well if she tries to bring it up with the boss directly. He has already proven himself to be unethical and have an unprofessional way of resolving conflict, and I’m guessing he will not hesitate to retaliate against the OP.

      Also, OP says the department is dismissed anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes early most days. If it’s just 5 or 10 minutes, it’s probably not a big deal. A lot of places allow rounding to the nearest 15 minutes, so a few minutes would not be timecard fraud. But the earlier dismissals, especially 1 hour every Friday, is.

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      1. irene adler

        I was wondering the same thing myself. What should the OP do?
        OP has to follow their manager’s direction. And, OP doesn’t want to commit time card fraud.

        I wonder, what would the ramifications be if the OP submitted an accurate rendering their time card each week? I realize they would be shorted on pay by the time not actually worked. But they would not be committing time card fraud. Would the time card entries be enough to signal to anyone what was going on?
        Or would it be seen as someone leaving early each day?
        Susan K – obviously yours is the better idea- anonymous reporting. I’m just projecting what I might do here. Because I won’t do time card fraud but I don’t think I’d be ready to anonymously report right away.

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        1. Bibliovore

          Don’t do this. I did this once on a job. The norms was to fill out the time card the same every week, no matter what hours you worked. My supervisor may have gotten reprimanded. I have no idea. I got called on the carpet for “not following directions”

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        2. AKchic

          If she is going to keep an accurate time card, make sure it’s not turned in. Keep a record of accuracy on hard copy, away from the office. Document the date, time released, and a reason for the release if one was given. Document it every single time.

          This will help if OP does report, anonymously or not.

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      2. Bagpuss

        I think it is a really tricky situation. F she reports it anonymously then she won’ be protected from the fall out when management investigate.

        I think her best bet is to go down the whistleblower route and ask that her name is kept out of it.

        LW#2, your manager is instructing you to commit fraud. I don’t think that claiming you were following instructions is going to save you when this comes to light, as it is something you ought reasonably to know isn’t appropriate. So in your own interests, report it, and do so directly, non anonymously.

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        1. ExcelJedi

          “LW#2, your manager is instructing you to commit fraud.”

          This. Especially if this nonprofit is funded mainly by donors or tax funds, this is very not good.

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      3. Helena

        If the non-profit receives federal money, the federal agency has an Inspector General that OP #2 should report this to. Usually, the organization is required to have a poster in the breakroom with the whistleblower hotline for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

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        1. pleaset

          “I was wondering the same thing myself. What should the OP do?”

          Maybe say something like “I’d rather work till the normal end of my shift – it’s not a problem” and then stick around trying to work (assuming one person staying is possible – not always the case).

          That won’t solve the problem of earlier time cards though.

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      4. Nita

        Maybe OP should talk to the boss and point out the implications to them. It’s possible the boss is genuinely not realizing they’re putting everyone’s jobs at risk…

        And agreed – if we’re talking about 5-10 minutes, I doubt that this rises to the level of actual fraud!

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        1. smoke tree

          Unfortunately I wonder if the safest course of action would be to find a new job and speak to the boss and other employees about the risks on the way out. This boss is really putting everyone in a hard place and I have a feeling his anger toward the company could easily be transferred to anyone who opposes this policy. He seems to have a very “us vs. them” attitude toward higher-ups. It’s not really a kindness to your employees to implicate them in fraud.

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      5. PerpetualStudent

        I’m the OP. To be clear, I don’t actually have any ethical problem with this; I was just wondering how bad it actually is. I LOVE my job, coworkers, and managers, and am okay with the low pay and benefits because for one thing the location is a dream and for another thing I don’t have to work at all if I don’t want to. My partner makes enough to support both of us and would be willing to do so if I got fired.

        The actual times for early dismissals are usually less than 10 minutes every day except Friday and holidays, which are typically an hour. Occasionally we get a surprise midweek dismissal half an hour early. There is an unofficial, organization-wide practice of early departures on Fridays. Most salaried employees are out the door by noon. So I’m not sure that anyone who matters is actually aware of what’s happening. What I suspect is that they sort of know but everyone prefers to turn a blind eye because everyone thinks it’s a little unfair that hourly employees don’t get to leave when salaried employees do.

        I did notice when I got this job that the training I got on the timecard software was very… “relaxed” for lack of a better word. I asked if it mattered when we punched out for lunches, exact time of arrival/departure etc and was told it did not by HR. So this is not just my boss or his boss, it’s kind of the whole organization.

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        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Well, now I’m a little embarrassed, because I’m going to do a 180. Clocking out within 10 minutes of the end of your shift is totally fine and doesn’t violate most labor laws—the Feds allow companies to round up/down, and if your employer is always rounding up, they’re going to be ok. The 30-60 minutes early is probably not wise to clock on a timecard (i.e., they should call this “authorized time” or something similar for tax and liability reasons), but if it’s an organization-wide practice for Fridays, the whole scheme is probably legal/ok.

          Reply
  3. Sami

    I find gum to be completely unprofessional.
    While I’m glad the OP’s coworker isn’t smoking, chewing gum in the workplace needs to either not happen or be very very discreet.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Number 5 sounds low-key maddening. I’m not opposed to gum chewing in the office, but it sounds like it would help if the coworker were a bit more discreet when it comes to (1) the volume of her chewing, and (2) how she places her gum in her mouth when speaking to people.

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      1. Bleeborp

        I’m a compulsive gum chewer (not for smoking reasons, just love chewing gum and having fresh breath) but I am courteous enough that I automatically tuck my gum away when speaking! She’s giving gum freaks like me a bad name!

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    2. CJH

      So I’m a highly sensitive person in the scientific sense (see here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201707/are-you-highly-sensitive-person-should-you-change) and one of the things that I’m sensitive to is the sounds of people chewing. My sister used to come over my shoulder chewing cereal while I was doing homework and the number of times I nearly slugged her is astronomical. To this day, being able to hear her chew across the dining table means I loath family dinners. If I was working with this person, I would be LIVID.

      While I would normally agree with Alison’s advice re: “ask nicely, hope she agrees, and that’s all you can do,” I would probably have to put my foot down if she refused to comply. Luckily I also have some hearing issues, so I could probably make it more about that than the chewing.

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      1. JamieS

        Considering this is an issue between peers how would you be able to ‘put your foot down’ if you talk to your colleague and she refused to cut out the gum chewing? Complain to HR? Not really their problem. Complain to your manager? Maybe more their problem but strong possibility they aren’t going to order an end to gum chewing. Start a protest, complete with signs, at your job? Will probably end with you being told to cut it out.

        I strongly suspect part of the reason for the “move on” part of Alison’s advice is there’s not really anything OP could reasonably do beyond asking the coworker that would end with the coworker stopping the gum chewing. They could maybe ask numerous times but if the coworker refuses there really isn’t anything OP can do to force her to stop.

        Reply
        1. Traffic_Spiral

          Play the Oompa Loompa gum chewing song on repeat whenever she’s chewing – mainly the old one, but occasionally throw in the new one from the Johnny Depp version.

          Reply
          1. Technical_Kitty

            Definitely this. But also if someones gross personal habit is drastically impacting productivity talk to the boss or HR.

            Reply
            1. Traffic_Spiral

              Yes. There’s a widely-loved song about how awful it is because everyone considers it unoffensive. Also, workplaces frown on punching people, so this is the next best thing.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                I’m not sure I’d say it’s a “widely-loved” song. It’s one song, in one musical, which doesn’t to me suggest that it’s a universally despised practice. And either way, that’s still a really passive-aggressive way to handle it, which is generally also frowned on.

                Reply
        2. Kathleen_A

          I too wondered how the OP could possibly “put her foot down.” I agree that it’s annoying and unprofessional, but it’s unprofessional in such a way that there isn’t much the OP can do about it except ask nicely for the person to cut it out. I guess if that doesn’t work, she could talk to the gum-chewer’s supervisor, but if the supervisor can’t/won’t do anything about it (and honestly there isn’t much even the supervisor can do), the OP is just out of luck.

          Reply
          1. BF50

            And going to management about gum chewing is going to make the OP look petty and childish. Even if going to management is successful in getting gum chewer to stop, is it worth the damage to your reputation with management?

            My coworker used to occasionally chew gum very loudly directly behind me. He once asked me if it bothered me because it bothered his wife. I said, yes, it absolutely does. It’s highly distracting and annoying. He… didn’t care.

            Headphones didn’t work. I could hear him over the music in noise canceling headphones. The only defense I found was when he was loudly chewing, to start chewing gum myself, though at a normal volume because I’m not a cow. Also, to fill the candy dish with something besides Hubba Bubba until he was tired of gum. That probably won’t work for the OP, but it worked for me.

            His poor wife.

            Reply
            1. Kathleen_A

              The OP says the gum-chewer is (unlike your coworker, BF50) a nice person, so it could be that if the OP goes to her and says, “I know this is going to sound really odd, but there’s something about the sound of gum chewing that really bothers me. Is there anyway you could not chew it around me?” That way, it’s less about “Your gum-chewing is gross” and more about “There’s this odd thing about me.”

              Reply
              1. BF50

                Yes, that would work for most people, but people are weird.

                Oddly enough, that coworker is actually a nice person most of the time. Someone I could enjoy hanging out with outside of work, if I didn’t actually work with him and therefore leave work most days annoyed because he is crappy at his job and smacks his gum.

                Reply
      2. A.N. O'Nyme

        I would already be annoyed with someone if they came over my shoulder WITHOUT the chewing, but while chewing on whatever? Nope nope nope nope nope.

        Reply
      3. jolene

        Exactly, and you don’t even need to have specific hearing issues, as it were. You just keep saying: “Janice, I can’t hear you over the gum chewing. Do you want to take it out or shall we do this over email?”

        Reply
      4. SpaceNovice

        Same here–I’m sensitive to noise because of my ADHD. My brain assigns all noises the same priority, pretty much. So tiny noises that are barely audible seem to be as loud as a presenter, even though I can tell they’re not. This would drive me insane.

        Reply
      5. AKchic

        As a person with misophonia and family with terrible chewing/eating habits (seriously, my mom can crunch mashed potatoes, and my sister’s eating habits could fill an entire blog for a month) – loud gum chewing/smacking is enough to drive me up a wall and want to start acting like a cartoon character silencing things.
        My sister is/was a gum smacker. 6 giant pieces of watermelon bubblicious at a time to the point she could barely close her gob, and smacksmacksmack. Then trying to talk while smacking and chomping and still trying to breathe. I swear she snorted quite a bit in the process. Thinking about it is making me cringe.
        I have banned Bubblicious and all watermelon scented objects from my home. Too trigger-y. And my kids have to chew properly. None of this “shovel food in until we can’t close our mouth” business. Naw, eat correctly or you can wait until you’ve settled down enough to do so.

        Reply
        1. Sunshine's Eschatology

          Oh my goodness, my shoulders have taken up permanent residency around my ears. 6 pieces of gum. For me it’s not just the smacking (bad enough), but the WETNESS of gum in particular. Matched only by apples, but at least people *finish* apples. Ugh ugggggh.

          Reply
    3. Gingerblue

      Same. I cannot believe other adults actually walk around making slurping smacking noises without embarassment. I would already be thinking about where to hide the coworker’s body.

      Reply
      1. Panda

        If it’s a smoking replacement, then have gum breaks. Jeez, they were hardly puffing away 24/7 as a smoker at work, were they?

        Reply
        1. Autumnheart

          They used to! People didn’t take smoke breaks, they simply smoked at their desk. That’s why workplaces ultimately went no-smoking.

          Reply
      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Add to that gulping water from the fountain like a dying man in a desert (Great news, everyone! We had a desk move and I am now nowhere near any water fountains!). Given that, since the desk move, I’ve been able to review it far more rationally and concluded that it was always the same two men, it’s entirely possible that they were unaware of exactly how loud they were being compared to others.

        Reply
        1. AKchic

          ACK! Gulping! Or exaggerated gulping sounds, followed by the satisfied “ah” sound and smacking lips. I have a kid staying with us right now who does this and thinks he’s cute. No. No you’re not. You’re looking for attention and I swear you won’t like the attention I give you. Act like a person, not a cartoon character dying of thirst. You just drank 2 minutes ago when you were given a chore, y’not that thirsty. Quit stalling and go back to what you were doing.

          Reply
      3. Doupi

        Chewing gum for at least 20 minutes is recommended in order to avoid tooth decay, especially after eating sugar. Also, for me it’s a way to taste something sweet without eating anything and keep my food cravings at bay. I only chew gum when working on my own, not in meetings.

        Reply
          1. HS Teacher

            I am a shameless gum-chewer, and if someone is so freaking sensitive to that it bothers them then they should probably get a job where they don’t work with other people.

            I was able to quit a 20-year smoking habit thanks largely to gum, and I’m not going to stop chewing it because people can’t bear to have someone chew something in the vicinity of them.

            Why in the world would you be embarrassed about chewing gum? Good grief.

            Reply
            1. RachelC

              One of my best and most productive colleagues has misophonia – in other words “is so freaking sensitive to that it bothers them” to hear other people eat. I’d far rather take a bit of effort to not eat noisily near them than have them decide to “get a job where they don’t work with other people”. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

              Reply
      1. Bleeborp

        Indeed, I’m a big time gum chewer but not in meetings! I have a private office but even when I shared, I still chewed gum (but at a reasonable volume and not WHILE talking to people!)

        Reply
    4. A.

      At my last job, my coworker chewed and cracked her gum all day long. She sat in a cube outside my office and I usually had to close my door to block the sound.

      Reply
      1. A.N. O'Nyme

        I remember a story of someone going for an interview while chewing and cracking gum. He ended up blowing a big bubble which covered the interviewer in gum when it burst.
        He was not hired, and the interviewer got a haircut to be certain all the stray bits of gum were gone.

        Reply
        1. A.

          This is amazing. If I had to cut my hair because someone got gum stuck in it, I can’t promise it would end well.

          Reply
          1. Totally Minnie

            I had to do this back when I worked at a daycare center. Someone had given their two year old gum for the car ride and not made her spit it out. So she came in and gave me a hug while chattering all about her morning and the gum fell out into my hair. I tried ice and peanut butter, but neither worked so I had to go get a haircut.

            Reply
        2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

          Peanut butter, man! Well, probably anything oily.

          Signed,
          Someone who has had long hair her whole life and had gum stuck in it more than once.

          Reply
      2. WellRed

        This is my boss. Unfortunately, no door to close. She does apologize when she lets out a big snap/crack, but if she knows how much I hate, why can’t she Just. STOP! she now also chews it in our one on ones.

        Reply
      3. Bow Ties Are Cool

        Aaaaaugh, gum cracking! I was confined next to a gum-cracker on a crowded bus recently (they got the aisle seat), and it’s a miracle I didn’t slug the perpetrator. How do people not know that’s annoying?

        Reply
    5. Violet Beauregarde

      I’m a gum chewer normally but when I heard about these ticket things I laid off the gum and tried a candy bar instead. Now I’m right back on gum

      Reply
      1. Sally-O

        The thing is, it’s possible to chew it almost silently. If you can do that, go for it! But if your mouth is at all open, or if you god fordbid pop your gum, you are driving a lot of people crazy.

        Reply
    6. Roscoe

      Are you in the 1950s? I’ve never been anywhere where gum chewing wasn’t allowed, unless it was an in person public facing job. Its not unprofessional at all. Maybe once upon a time it was, but just like it used to be unprofessional to wear anything but a suit to work (for men), its not unprofessional to chew gum in an office

      Reply
      1. Environmental Compliance

        I don’t care if people chew gum either.

        However, I do mind when someone is chomping or slurping on their gum or fumbling around with it in their mouth as they’re speaking. A lot of people at my workplace use chewing tobacco, which I find personally disgusting as a concept. Some of them it’s quite obvious, and they constantly fidget with it in their mouths as they talk. Some of them I legitimately had no idea they even chewed at all, and I talked to them on a daily basis. Should be the same with gum – people around you shouldn’t be immediately & loudly aware that Person Has Gum.

        Side note – you can apply this to most any food/drink. I generally don’t care what my coworkers are consuming, as long as they’re being appropriately normal/quiet with it (shout out to the coworker I once had that insisted on using the crinkliest plastic water bottles and then squeezing them to get the water sips out, every. single. time).

        Reply
        1. Washi

          Yep. A brief crinkle as you open a packet is fine, but if I can continuously hear chewing, that’s not cool. I don’t want to hear the squishy spitty sounds of chewing with an open mouth.

          Reply
          1. Cube Ninja

            Chewing gum is a conscious decision, being sensitive to certain sounds is not. Being this dismissive about the concept of unexpected noises in an office setting is really out of touch with professional norms.

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              I’m sorry if you are hypersensitive, but that is life when you live in an office. You will deal with things that are annoying. Everyone does. If it is that “rage” inducing, maybe people should find a work from home job where they can have complete silence

              Reply
              1. Amber T

                Agreed. People live, people exist, especially when they spend the better part of their life at an office. Fergus across the hall, who annoys the crap out of me for a variety of reasons, grinds coffee in his office. Listening to people’s phone calls on speaker annoys me, especially when they’re personal. One guy chews gum when he talks and I swear it’s gonna fly out and hit me one day (and he’ll hear my wrath then). You balance out the pros and the cons of a job, and if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out.

                Every time someone does something that’s super annoying to me, I remind myself that I probably do something that’s super annoying to someone else.

                Reply
              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yeah, I get that it’s irritating, sometimes incredibly irritating, but it’s life in an office. You can politely explain you’re extra sensitive to something and ask the person to alter what they’re doing, but that’s really the limits of your options with something like this.

                Reply
                1. Cube Ninja

                  I disagree, Alison – there are absolutely environments in which this is 100% a professionalism issue. For example, I manage a call center. If someone in my area is popping gum, that’s not an annoyance, it’s something that could come across on a call with a customer.

                  Frankly, I’m a little shocked there’s so much disagreement about this concept. As I said in another comment (also in reply to Roscoe), chewing gum is not inherently unprofessional, but chomping at it mouth open, popping, etc in an office setting really isn’t appropriate either in any office I’ve ever worked in.

                  And while it’s obviously not going to be the case 100% of the time, I DO think it’s worth noting that misphonia absolutely can be a legitimate medical diagnosis/disorder and depending on the severity of it, may fall under ADA. That we’re so easily dismissing a potential disability here is extremely disappointing.

                2. LBK

                  Okay, but most people don’t work in call centers. Incidental noise is part of office life. If you’re misophonic, you can ask for an accommodation, but also just finding universally annoying noises annoying is not misophonia. That’s being a human, and you kind of just have to learn to get over it.

                3. Beezus

                  Or you can throw a tantrum like my coworker and now I can’t eat crunchy food in the office but everyone else still can because apparently I chew loudly (?? [as if I do/was doing it on purpose]) and it bothered her enough to make everyone else miserable around us.

                4. Ann Nonymous

                  I’m glad for your co-worker’s sake that crunchy food was banned from the office. It should be a universal rule. Eat that stuff in the break room or outside. Obviously you bothered her enough to make her miserable and now you’re complaining about her.

                5. LBK

                  There are a ton of noises that happen as part of working in an office. Elevators dinging, doors opening and closing, footsteps, printers, shredders, people typing, traffic outside, talking, phones ringing, etc. It seems kind of ridiculous to me to single out this one particular noise as so distracting that you can’t possibly work through it or just put on headphones and tune it out like all the other noise.

                  If I’m trying to work through lunch (or like many offices there is no break room/cafeteria) you don’t have more of a right to be at your desk than I do, and my being able to eat food definitely trumps your ability to not have to put on headphones.

                6. Not a Mere Device

                  Ann Nonymous: Except that crunchy food hasn’t been banned–the rule is “everyone except Beezus can eat crunchy food,” which seems unfair. Maybe LBK crunches more loudly than average, but if so, they should have been told to try crunching more quietly–or maybe someone just disliked Beezus and got the company to do this unkind thing specifically to annoy Beezus. I would be much more annoyed by a rule that restricted my behavior, but let everyone else continue to do the thing, than by a rule that nobody could eat crunchy food, or eat at their desk, or what have you.

              3. GumYuck

                That cuts both ways: you like chewing gum, but if annoys your colleagues, then stop. That’s office life.

                Reply
            2. LBK

              I would actually argue that learning to ignore mild annoyances is part of professional norms. You can’t reasonably expect that in an office populated by other human beings, no one will ever do anything that bothers you. If you truly need it that quiet to work, get noise-cancelling headphones, find a job where you can work from home and/or see a medical professional.

              Reply
              1. medium of ballpoint

                Plus, just like our coworkers irritate us, we also irritate our coworkers. Live and let live is so much easier than deciding who should be catered to over something so quibbly.

                Reply
      2. Rusty Shackelford

        It’s extremely unprofessional if you’re chewing gum in a way that makes it obvious to everyone in the office that you’re chewing gum. If you can do it unobtrusively, that’s fine. If your coworker can hear you across a conference room, it’s unprofessional.

        Reply
      3. Future Homesteader

        I would find it extremely weird for anyone in our office to be chewing gum, but maybe that’s just me? I mean, we eat constantly at our desks, but somehow that feels different. Maybe because you can stop eating easier than you can stop chewing gum? I never chew gum, though, so it might just be personal bias.

        Reply
        1. MCMonkeyBean

          I think it’s likely that there are people chewing gum in your office and you just don’t realize. For most people, it’s not a noticeable task. Chewing gum in meetings or while carrying on a long conversation is fairly rude, but I think it’s extremely common to chew gum at your own desk–whether it’s because someone just quit smoking, or they’re on a diet and are trying not to have a snack, or they just want to get rid of the onion breath from lunch.

          Reply
        2. Marillenbaum

          And it’s the constant chewing of gum. If you need to freshen your breath, you usually aren’t stuck awkwardly spitting out a mint before you go to a meeting!

          Reply
        3. Jen S. 2.0

          Gum chewing goes on for HOURS, constantly with no break. Lunch or snacks take 15 minutes. You can escape for a few minutes while a smacking chomper eats lunch, but you can’t escape if they are chewing gum.

          Gum would be illegal if I had my way. There are no words for how much I hate loud chewers, and gum is the freaking worst because it makes snapping and popping and cracking noises in addition to the chewing and smacking. I once actually moved offices to get away from a loud gum chewer. He chewed from 9:01 – 4:59 all day, every day, and his only pause in the gum chewing was to eat lunch. I wore earplugs. It was AWFUL. (I have also dumped perfectly nice men for their chewing noises. I don’t mind if you snore loud enough to wake the neighbors, but you smack gum ONE TIME and we are DONE. Misophonia is real, y’all.)

          Reply
          1. AKchic

            I hear you loud and clear.

            I shared a cubical area with a loud chewer. She assigned herself a special diet to lose weight and she was eating every 90 minutes. She slurped scrambled eggs! Slurped them!
            When she wasn’t eating, she was chewing gum (popping/snapping) and drinking protein shakes (slurping, gulping).
            If I knew she was having soup for lunch (at her desk, of course) – I made sure to take my lunch elsewhere.
            This was in addition to her Negative Nancy viewpoints, her aggressive demeanor, the singing along to the same 20-25 country songs on repeat every day, and gossiping.

            Reply
    7. Phoenix Programmer

      There is nothing unprofessional about chewing gum quitely (i.e mouth closed no bubbles) at work.

      Reply
    8. Now I Only Chew Gum When I'm Alone

      I was once told that when I chew gum “I sound like a cow”. It stung, but I don’t chew gum in front of people anymore. I was a bit taken aback in the moment but I also figured that the person who was so blunt did me a favour.

      Reply
      1. grace

        Lol. My little brother told me I did the same — but somehow, when I asked literally anyone else (including a coworker that I share an office with), they all said I didn’t…. So I chose to ignore him. ;) Maybe they were just irritated with it and didn’t have the guts to tell you that it was a ‘them’ thing, not a ‘you’ thing.

        Reply
      2. A.N. O'Nyme

        Over here people who chew with theorie mouth open are regularly referred to as “rechewers” (i believe the correct English term is ruminants?) because…Well, it does kinda look like that.

        Reply
    9. Braces

      I have chewed gum at work almost non-stop for two years due to wearing braces. My mouth gets so dry that my cheeks and lips stick to the brackets and tear, and I prefer discreet gum-chewing to a mouthful of blood. (Sipping water also helps, but it needs to be constant, and three bathroom breaks per hour is not terribly productive.)

      That said, it really isn’t that difficult to be quiet and polite with gum.

      Reply
    10. Avacado

      I find the fact an adult human cannot just listen past gum chewing to be frankly, a “the world revolves around me” situation.

      If the employee had a lisp or hard accent, or torrets, what? You just cant deal?

      Give me a break.

      Reply
      1. puzzld

        As a person with a hearing problem… people who talk with stuff* in their mouths are very difficult. Your mouth is distorted, so lip reading accuracy goes way down. The gob in your cheek muffles the words, etc. Add in a bushy John Bolton style mustache, or a hand to your mouth, or turning away to talk to your screen, whiteboard what have you? ARGGGH send me an email.

        *gum, chewing tobacco, cigs, half a snickers bar… whatever.

        Reply
      2. Bow Ties Are Cool

        If someone is chewing loudly WHILE speaking, which appears to be the case here, that would legitimately make them difficult to understand.

        Also, misophonia is real and it rather sounds as if the writer has it. Asking someone with that condition to concentrate around the murderous-rage-inducing sound is like asking someone who’s vision-impaired to “just look harder”.

        Reply
        1. Avacado

          You are medically diagnosing someone via a complaint about one coworker chewing. I dont think that’s fair or reasonable

          Reply
      3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        I think I’m with you on this. The amount of energy spent on this seems to be disproportionate to the problem.

        Reply
      4. Dolphin Girl

        Well perhaps you have never sat next to someone at a trading desk or in small quarters who cracks gum all day. Yes, it is unprofessional to be on the phone with someone who is chewing
        and cracking and yes it is unprofessional to chew gum in any matter that other people can notice it. As an adult I am fully aware that the world does not revolve around me, but I also don’t need to be a party to your lack of class.

        Reply
    11. Mike C.

      I find it weird that folks think it rises to the level of ~.~being unprofessional~.~.

      It’s just gum. How do folks deal with meal times?

      Reply
      1. poolgirl

        I have misophonia, it was such a relief to find out that was actually a thing and I wasn’t the only person that is so bothered by the sounds. I very politely asked a co-worker not to slurp and smack so loudly when he ate, and his response was, “NO ONE else in my entire life has EVER told me I do that so you must be wrong!” He’s still does it and I’m still trying to come up with the right words, if anyone has an idea please weigh in.

        Reply
        1. Uniform Problems

          The thing is, if you have misophonia, he isn’t slurping and smacking loudly, you are perceiving it that way. I have medical issues that make me feel cold all the time. No matter how miserably cold I am, that doesn’t make the room actually cold, nor should anyone have to turn up the heat to point where I’m comfortable (about 85-90F). It’s unreasonable to ask your co-worker to eat and drink more quietly than normal because you have issues with certain sounds.

          Reply
        2. Leenie

          If you have an otherwise good relationship with him, you could tell him that you didn’t mean to offend him, you believe that no one else has ever complained, but that you’re particularly sensitive to such sounds, and it would mean a lot to you if he could make an effort for your sake. Ask as if it’s a personal favor to you, because it kind of is.

          If your relationship isn’t that good, you could pretty much say most of the same things, without asking for him to change at the end. He might come around on his own, once he realizes that you weren’t criticizing his manners.

          Reply
      2. AMPG

        But chewing with your mouth open at a work lunch would also be considered unprofessional, and that’s the equivalent of what’s being described here.

        Reply
      3. Ann Nonymous

        It’s not “just gum”. It’s constant chewing and noises and annoyance. It’s easy to deal with meal times because people aren’t walking around the office holding a plate of food and continually shoveling it in. You can go elsewhere for a meal, and hopefully your colleagues are not eating at their desks right next to you.

        Reply
  4. aurelia

    Regarding the gum chewing, that could be a fairly serious issue, depending on the situation. I’m extremely misophonic, and the sounds of people eating, chewing, and making certain other “people noises” can be traumatizing. (No, I’m not exaggerating.) I do understand that living in the world, I can’t always control my environment… but OP has a greater amount of control over their coworker than, say, a random person at a coffee shop. For me, if that was going on, it’s likely that I would be literally unable to be in meetings with this person, or would have to spend the rest of the day calming down from an panic attack. If the coworker is rude about refusing to stop chewing gum, it very well might be a situation that needs escalating.

    In any case, I think chewing gum is gross and rude at any level, but it’s especially difficult for me to deal with.

    Reply
    1. Knitting Cat Lady

      Interesting. I’m misophonic as well, but for me it’s towering rage, not panic attacks.

      Which, in a work setting, is not ideal either, seeing how it makes me really resent some coworkers…

      Reply
      1. MK

        It’s not like it replaced smoking exactly, I imagine they started chewing gum to get out of the habit of smoking and now it is a very ingrained habit on its own.

        Reply
      2. Tardigrade

        Yeah, same for me. I’ve gotten a little better over the years but every once in a while, with a particularly bad chewer, I curse the person and the parent(s) who raised them to be so wrong.

        Reply
      3. Julia

        Same. I get super mad that some people were apparently not raised to use the handles on doors, to put their phones on silent in shared spaces where people concentrate, and to not slam their phones and pens on the desk or huff and puff in frustration over work.

        I only get anxious when there’s a sudden sound like a door slamming, or someone sounds angry. Or because my husband is the loudest sneezer in the world…

        Reply
        1. Sally-O

          Yes, the door thing! The correct way to close a door is to turn the handle, close the door, and then release the handle. Not to just pull it closed with a clunk!!! ;-)

          Reply
      4. Amadeo

        It’s the same for me. I don’t get panic attacks over open-mouthed smacking (and there are people in my life I will never offer a stick of gum to every again), but ‘towering rage’ about covers it. The longer I try to just ‘deal with it’ the angrier I get, to the point where I can get sick to my stomach with it.

        Reply
    2. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.

      Ah, misophonia… aka why I know exactly how well every single pair of noise canceling headphones I own work. I have a range to account for a variety of circumstances (as well as some straight out high quality ear plugs). Admittedly, I was taught to not chew gum in the work place. The person discussing business etiquette even heavily suggested trying the patches and pointed out that nicotine gum is supposed to be used as a one to one substitute for cigarettes, so you should only use it at smoke breaks. Thus, gum should NEVER be chewed in a professional setting. I personally support this but I admit to the bias freely.

      I get the physical “Oh hell no” followed by escalating anger if I stick around things like loud chewing noises (corn on the cob is one of the worst things you can serve around me), so I’ve learned to be very careful about how to handle this type of situation. The other one that gets me is if people moan into their food (particularly if they chew with their mouth open). Seriously, why?

      Reply
      1. Dr Wizard, PhD

        Because it’s MMMMMMMMM SOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOD.

        …sorry, that enrages me too, though I don’t have misophonia (as far as I know!).

        Reply
      2. Lumos

        I used to sit at the breakfast table with tears running down my face because my parents would not let me eat alone. The sound of them and my sister chewing was so incredibly distressing and enraging.

        Reply
    3. JamieS

      This sounds like it might rise to the level of you needing an accommodation as opposed to it just being annoying. While possible, I very much doubt it raises to that level with OP because your situation sounds like the exception not the rule when it comes to something like a coworker chewing gum.

      Reply
    4. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

      A co-worker used to make a long sigh that sounded like air escaping a tube, ahhhhhhhhh, almost constantly. Normally, I can block out any environmental noise but that sigh was like nails on a chalkboard to me. No matter where she was in the office I could hear her. Almost worst than the sigh was waiting for the next one.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn

        I had a direct report that would do this all the time and it drove me nuts. We had worked together for a long time so it became a joke eventually. She made a supreme effort to keep her sighs quiet. We are working together again and once in awhile she will walk by my office and let out a big exaggerated sigh and we have a laugh about it. But yeah, it was really annoying for a long time.

        Reply
    5. Birch

      Yes, this. It doesn’t matter why you’re doing it, it’s an established fact that chewing sounds make a lot of people ragey. I literally never even raise my voice in arguments, I’m so conflict-avoidant, and gum chewing gives me vivid images of strangling the chewer. I cannot be in a small or quiet room with someone chewing gum, it is so distracting and physically disgusting. Like nails on a chalkboard.

      As someone has pointed out above, it’s also really unprofessional! I get how it might be useful for needing to replace a habit, but it’s the same as someone needing to fidget and shaking their leg to make noise at their desk–it’s distracting and impeding your ability to do work. I think OP can use the script Alison has suggested before about annoying things, by framing it as something quirky about OP. Like “Hey, I have a strong aversion to particular sounds, and gum chewing really sets me off for some reason! Can you wait till we’re done chatting?” And if she pushes back, I think it’s totally fair to say “In that case, can we chat via IM or email? I just can’t concentrate through the gum noises.”

      Reply
    6. Mimmy

      I’m super-misophonic myself (which is interesting given that I also have a slight hearing impairment…). In addition to what you listed, I get rage-y around chip bag crinkling. Ahhhhh

      But misophonic or not, gum chewing is extremely unprofessional.

      Reply
        1. The Ginger Ginger

          In and of itself, no, but some types of gum chewing can be unprofessional. Open mouthed smack-smack-smacking, for instance, is pretty unprofessional. Blowing and popping bubbles, a HUGE wad of it while you’re giving a presentation or speak to a colleague? All unprofessional. A normal sized stick in your mouth, chewing quietly while you work at your desk? Nothing unprofessional about that.

          Reply
          1. Delphine

            I feel like we’ve started using “bad manners” and “unprofessional” interchangeably recently. Bad manners can be unprofessional, but calling specific behaviors (e.g., chewing with your mouth open, elbows on the table while eating, taking extra helpings of food) unprofessional just seems odd to me.

            Reply
            1. Cube Ninja

              Hypothetical: You call a customer service line, the call takes 10 minutes, but the whole time, you can hear the phone rep eating/chewing gum/etc while talking to you. Is that bad manners, or unprofessional because it’s representing the company in a negative light to a customer?

              Reply
            2. medium of ballpoint

              Agreed. And manners aren’t always universal and can be highly context-dependent, so that’s a slippery slope.

              Reply
              1. Cube Ninja

                Sure, but the two things aren’t mutually exclusive, either. I mean, elbows on the table is barely even “bad manners” in most circles these days, let alone unprofessional.

                Chewing gum is not inherently either one in my mind, but can certainly cross the line in some scenarios. In my mind, it’s more about presentation. There are a non-zero number of people who would likely consider someone less professional if their presentation involves smacking away at a piece of gum in a meeting, but that number would probably decrease to near-zero if the gum chewing isn’t terribly noticeable.

                Reply
                1. medium of ballpoint

                  There are a non-zero number of people who think the fact that I have curly hair is unprofessional, and that number would decrease to near-zero if I straightened it every day. Just because somebody has a quibble doesn’t mean it’s automatically legitimate, and gum chewing, like curly hair, seems like an excessive hill to make a stand on.

                2. Cube Ninja

                  At the same time, are you really intending to make the argument that loud-mouthed gum chewing in a meeting is professionally acceptable? That seems like a pretty strange hill too.

                3. medium of ballpoint

                  OP knows they’re sensitive to these things and there’s no indication the gum is bothering anyone else, so yeah, gum chewing that bothers one sensitive person gets a pass from me.

            3. AMPG

              Well, I think it makes sense that bad manners in a work setting are also unprofessional more or less by definition.

              Reply
            4. Doupi

              I still don’t understand what’s wrong with elbows on the table. My mom kept on telling me I shouldn’t do it but it never made any sense and I’ve seen people do it and it’s perfectly fine.

              I think some “manners” exist just so that certain snobbish people can feel superior.

              Reply
              1. LilySparrow

                It’s a posture/body language thing. If you’re sitting up straight, you have a more open body posture and look ready to pay attention to your companions. If you lean on your elbows while eating, it’s easy to slide into a closed posture, hunching over your plate, which sends a nonverbal signal “I’m just here for the food.”

                Of course, it’s perfectly possible to have one or both elbows on the table and still be engaged with your companions. But when you’re training children in table manners, you can’t give a dissertation three times a day on nonverbal communication and the cultural rituals of eating. You need one-liners.

                Reply
      1. puzzld

        My hearing issues are with high frequency sounds… Lower frequencies I hear better than most so, your bass is way loud… I can maybe hear two guys chatting many feet away, but not the little girl voice right next to me. I heat deep resonant dogs barking that no one else notices, but the little yapper in my house doesn’t bother me at all.

        Reply
    7. JSPA

      I have no emotional response to the chewing, but I would have a very hard time processing audio information through it. But the same’s true for me with TV or radio playing in the background–and I recognize that many people (probably well over 50%??) can do this without difficulty. If you want it to be ruled “disgusting,” you can ask her manager to speak to her; if you just want it to stop for your comfort, better to play it as, “it’s me not you”: focus on “I can’t process sounds reliably in presence of repeated competing sounds.” You’re not claiming a formal medical need, but you’re still hinting at something very mildly along those lines; enough so to motivate others to make simple changes out of good will. In contrast, if you go the route of “unprofessional / nasty,” you’re more likely to get some “you’re not the boss of me / you’re not my mother / who died and made you queen” blow-back.

      Reply
  5. Grumpus

    I’m in HR, and I would absolutely have taken a form indicating that someone was leaving to their manager – but it’s because I’d be angry that the manager hadn’t told me about it, and I’d be worried the person was being overpaid! Happened a lot at my old job, sadly.

    Reply
      1. Thornus67

        I think possibly still being paid for a job despite having left already, or at least interpreting that form as “Employee X has left and been gone, I haven’t been told, and we’ve still been paying them.”

        Reply
      2. Yvette

        I don’t think Grumpus meant overpaid in the sense that the person was being paid more than they were worth, I think Grumpus meant overpaid in the sense that the person had already left days ago and the manager had failed to process it properly by notifying HR. This would result in the person was still getting paid though no longer working there.

        Reply
    1. Blossom

      Ah, that makes sense.
      If the only reason had been because HR “thought the manager should know”, I would have thought it inappropriate. But this shows a different perspective – i.e. assuming the manager already knew!
      Even so, couldn’t they go to the employee first?

      Reply
    2. ABK

      This is really surprising to me. I recently resigned from my job, and before I did that, I sent an email to the “HR Questions” email asking “If I resigned, when would my health insurance be cancelled?” I sent that question with the expectation that what my inquiry suggested would not be forwarded to my manager and would be kept confidential! From what I can tell, they did keep it quiet, but you’re saying that you would have let my manager know???

      Reply
      1. Copper Boom

        This is a different case than the one the OP wrote about. This is a hypothetical, where HR wouldn’t necessarily feel compelled to contact your manager (I haven’t in these cases before). In OP’s case though, HR received paperwork from the new employer, indicating that the employee had already decided to leave and, for all HR knew, had already put in their notice.

        Reply
      2. Duffman

        No. That’s not what they’re saying at all.

        They’re saying if they got something that seemed to indicate that a person no longer worked at their organization, but they were listed as an active employee, they would ask the manager about it because that person would potentially still be getting paid despite no longer working there.

        Reply
    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Thanks for confirming this. I thought that any HR person would go to a manager if they received paperwork for an employee that indicates they had already left or were planning to leave. It would make sense to make sure the manager knows and to make sure there wasn’t some type of oversight/miscommunication.

      I get that this put the OP’s husband in an odd spot, but the reaction of current company seems totally reasonable and predictable. Including the manager, who if I had been in that same spot I would have been pissed that I’m hearing about a resignation for the first time from someone other than the employee.

      Reply
    4. beanie beans

      I am mostly surprised by #1 that the new company told them not to give their notice until after the background check. Maybe people have skeletons that they fear will be unearthed, but most of the time if they are getting a background check, they’ve already signed a formal offer.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        Speaking as an HR person from an organization that is required for regulatory reasons to conduct full background checks, we tell people not to give notice until after the background check clears because we don’t want to put someone in the awkward position of having to try to retract a notice they’ve already given if their background check doesn’t come back clean. Which actually has happened a couple times in the time I’ve been here, which is why we really stress DO NOT PUT IN YOUR NOTICE YET, cause that’s a really rough spot to be in and we don’t want to get people into trouble.

        We give the person a verbal *conditional* offer prior to the background check, “pending successful completion of background and credit checks,” which explicitly means that if the background check does not come back clean, we retract the offer. We do not produce formal, signed offers before the background check clears.

        And I know it’s easy to think “well, they’d know if there was anything a background check might find” but background checks are not that black-and-white. It depends on the type of organization and the type of position as far as what will disqualify someone. We’re a financial institution, which means that someone who’s had a foreclosure or a bankruptcy will be flagged in background check – we can still move forward with them, but we have to talk with them and get documentation of any extenuating circumstances before we can do that. My partner, on the other hand, works in an industrial field where criminal history relating to explosives or weapons would get you denied, but they wouldn’t look twice at someone with financial issues in their background.

        We actually had someone start recently-ish who had worked at a bank already, so the hiring manager assumed the background check would come back clean (because obviously she was able to pass whatever background checks the bank did) and pressured us about giving a formal offer without waiting for the background check. We put our foot down and refused, and guess what? The background check actually did get flagged, and while we were able to resolve it and hire her anyway, it caused a delay and if the candidate hadn’t been able to produce the necessary documentation we would’ve had to retract the offer. Which is why we have that policy in the first place.

        TL;DR There is a reason that a company would tell a candidate that, and it’s a legit concern. If you have to get a background check done, just hold off on putting in your notice, just in case.

        Reply
        1. Michaela Westen

          “We give the person a verbal *conditional* offer prior to the background check, “pending successful completion of background and credit checks,” ”
          Could you give them that in writing, in a form or email?
          People often don’t remember what they hear, especially when they’re distracted by excitement over a new job!
          If it’s not in writing, there’s a chance an employee might think they’ve been offered the job and might try to sue or something if it doesn’t work out.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            It often happens over email, or via phone with email follow-up, depending on the hiring manager (since they’re the one to make the offer). It’s just not an official offer letter. I always stress to the manager to really emphasize the conditional nature of the offer when they talk to their candidate, whether they do a written follow-up or not.

            Though tbh, I’m not sure what they would actually sue *for* – gods know we’ve seen enough stories here on AAM about employers pulling offers, sometimes after people have relocated for them, and it’s generally not something one would get litigious over, unless the employer deliberately acted in bad faith somehow.

            Reply
            1. Michaela Westen

              I just think it’s a bad idea to put yourself (employer self?) in a position where it looks like promises are broken. Whether a lawsuit makes sense or not, someone might try it. Or other legal action, or damage to reputation.

              Reply
      2. Nephron

        That also assumes something does not go wrong on the background check and it gets flagged for not you. The federally required check of can you actually work in the United States legally has notoriously flagged people who can work when they have non-European names and it can take months to fix that type of thing.

        Reply
          1. Cacwgrl

            Ditto. We hire hundred a year and have been running 50+ new hires through eVerify every two weeks right now. Haven’t seen anything of the sort you mentioned.

            Reply
    5. Cacwgrl

      I would go to the supervisor first also, in my current and my prior role. I would need to make sure a checkout was processed or scheduled and figure out staffing challenges. Even if it’s a “hey, were you expecting this” inquiry, I’d talk to the manager first always. However, if I knew it was a problem manager, I’d be addressing that issue already as well.

      Reply
  6. Observer

    #2 – this is going to blow sky high one of these days. Payroll and time-sheet audits do still happen. And sometimes you get funders who specifically try calling at these times to sniff out this kind of behavior.

    Shenanigans like this are one of the drivers of adoption of time clocks. Auditors who see paper time sheets (or spreadsheets that are the equivalent of paper time sheets) tend to raise an eyebrow. This is one of the reasons.

    Reply
    1. Det. Charles Boyle

      I don’t think anyone in a professional job setting would submit to timeclocks. That just will never happen. I wonder what the impetus was for changing everyone in the OP’s office from salaried to hourly, anyway? I’m salaried but am required to enter my time in a weekly timesheet online but, to me, this is just a way to keep track of my PTO. I wonder what the rationale is for weekly timesheets in a salaried setting?

      Reply
      1. I'm A Little TeaPot

        Um, I know several professional environments that use electronic time keeping (for client billing), but there’s an element of time clocks. It can still happen.

        That said, I’m an auditor. Without time clocks, unless I’m able to see people leaving early, etc I may not pick up on it. The time sheet would match the paycheck.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          We’ve been audited. At least they stopped the nonsense of surprise payroll audits unless the payee could provide acceptable ID. The burden, as always, fell disproportionately on the people least able to afford it.

          But, we’ve had auditors explicitly look for indications that timesheets are not accurate. And, we were dinged quite seriously for not having a timekeeping system. We did eventually put one in. People didn’t like it, but it stuck.

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            We got a time card system at some point, but no one was ever trained in how to use it (and it’s so bad you’d need training) and a week after we got it and everyone dutifully tried to submit their time card (we’re all salaried) we get this fuss from on high, oh, don’t use that.

            OK, sure, fine, whatever.

            Reply
      2. Bea

        They changed because of the law that was supposed to go into effect awhile back upping the minimum salary requirements.

        Salary requirements are brutal and most professionals actually aren’t exempt from OT. So timeclocks are tools utilised to make sure hourly folks are paid to the letter of the law. This has worked in the favor of timeclock punchers for a long time.

        Unlike the year I spent killing myself. Not tracking time officially. Just salaried. My PTO was just driven by years of service. And I was spending 60hrs at times but my scumbag bosses never acknowledged or cared. The point was “that’s what salary means. We heap it all on your plate because you’re tethered to work as many hours as it takes to complete your never ending tasks. But hell broke loose if an admin clocked ten minutes of OT.

        So yeah. Timeclocks are frigging fantastic and not a punishment used only to keep people down or some crap.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          Seriously, this. I will never understand this idea that somehow being classified as salaried exempt is some social status symbol. It’s not. You aren’t special just because your manager is legally allowed to make you work for free.

          Reply
          1. HS Teacher

            I couldn’t agree more. Teacher contracts are a little different, but because I have an hourly rate on my contract, if the district requires me to do anything beyond my contracted time, they have to pay me my hourly rate. I would never want to be salaried again.

            Reply
        2. GibbsRule#18

          Yeah, the year I switched from salaried to hourly (for the same job) was awesome. I made so much extra money and didn’t mind clocking in by phone at all. Then they switched me back :(

          Reply
        3. PerpetualStudent

          I’m #2 LW. I totally understand how switching to hourly helped a lot of people; however, in our industry, most people WANT to work as many hours as it takes to do the job right. I know I do. I still work on weekends, which I am not supposed to do, but it’s the difference between pulling off a GREAT presentation and doing one that’s just mediocre, all while still making the primary job gets done the way it’s supposed to without taking any shortcuts to get the side assignments done. Since the law that was the reason for the change is not in effect, and I know how many unpaid hours I (and most of my coworkers) work on the side, I don’t feel like I’m getting paid for time I didn’t work.

          Reply
            1. rldk

              Some people are strongly motivated by work, especially in nonprofits. They’re cause-driven. If it works for them, nothing wrong with it.

              Reply
      3. Kyrielle

        I would bet the impetus was the change in the requirements for exempt status. Which was then rolled back, but by then a lot of employers had made or started to make changes to address it.

        Reply
      4. Turquoisecow

        I’m paid hourly and have to clock in and out – via either a website on my computer or an app on my phone. I work remotely and sometimes have to visit other locations, so I have the ability to clock in/out from anywhere via the app, but my coworkers who only work in the office have to be within a certain radius of the building in order for it to work.

        Reply
      5. Observer

        That’s just not the case. People will often strongly dislike it, but that’s because they don’t like being hourly. And the reality is that if that’s what the organization requires, that’s what happens, no matter how much people dislike it.

        In terms of why they went hourly, that’s a good question, but not really relevant.

        Reply
      6. ExcelJedi

        In IT, particularly, I’ve had several positions where I’ve had to clock in and clock out – even for lunch! It came with being hourly and part of a ticketing system. I didn’t like it, and did find it patronizing, but the pay was good and I liked the rest of the job, so I dealt with it fine.

        Reply
      7. Mike C.

        This is a really weird assumption to make. Time clocks happen all the time in professional environments, mostly as ways to pay optional overtime, track who’s actually at work for emergency situations and to better understand the amount of time being spent on specific projects for future planning purposes.

        Reply
      8. Jadelyn

        I suspect you’re picturing old-school punch cards when you say no one would “submit to timeclocks”, because otherwise that’s a frankly bizarre statement to make. For professionals in an office setting, the “time clock” is a website you log in to and click a button labeled “punch”, which just records the system time. It’s not some terrible indignity and it takes about 90 seconds at most, if your internet is slow and you have to look up your password.

        Re the impetus for the change, probably the proposed change to the salary threshold for exemption. A lot of workplaces changed people to hourly to avoid giving them very large raises to stay above the threshold (which was criminally low).

        Reply
      9. Totally Minnie

        We use electronic time clocks with fingerprint scanners for our non-exempt staff, who are mostly clerical or technical. The exempt staff are those with certain educational requirements who do the more professional level work. And yes, there’s some resentment from some of the clerical staff who don’t feel like they should have to use the system when the exempt staff don’t.

        Reply
      10. Michaela Westen

        I and my colleagues log in and out of a timecard system on our computers, and we’re professionals.
        I’m a professional data analyst, two of my colleagues are professional admins, and one is a professional educator.

        Reply
    2. hermit crab

      I’m intrigued by your timeclock comment. I work in federal government contracting, where timesheet accuracy is of course a HUGE deal. But we still use timesheets where everyone self-reports their hours; we use a web-based interface that’s linked to our accounting systems and everything, but from the user perspective it’s not much different than entering numbers into a spreadsheet. We have frequent audits and the auditors just go through the electronic records.

      Reply
      1. VioletEMT

        I work in a professional non-government environment, where I’m salaried/exempt, and we have to log our time. Like you, it’s web-based and self-reported. It’s used for billing clients, allocating staffing, tracking level of effort on projects/tasks, and determining raises/bonuses. I’m a professional, and I’m in no way insulted by the notion of having to be accountable for the amount and kind of work I have been doing.

        Reply
  7. Safetykats

    For OP1 – I can’t tell exactly what’s going o. Here, but if your husband had an offer in hand, had accepted the offer, and the background check was complete then from that point on you should just assume people are going to find out and give notice. The most likely form to have come from the new HR wouldn’t be something confirming employment, which may have been the last step of them background check. However, it’s not out of line for him to call his HR contact at the new company and ask exactly what happened here, as obviously it worked out poorly for him. In the future, it’s always a good idea to ask a new employee whether they will be contacting your current employer as any part of determining hiring, so you understand the process.

    The thing that surprises me most here would be if new HR actually disclosed they had issued an offer, which would seem to be very nonstandard. Although so much of the story is hearsay by this point I don’t know that you can verify that occurred. If someone from our HR had heard in a formal contact from another company they had issued an offer to one of my people, I would definitely expect to be told. If our HR was contacted to verify employment because someone was interviewing, I would not. If new HR did formally contact current HR to tell them they had issued an offer though, I find that really questionable practice.

    Reply
    1. Taryn

      It sounded to me more like OP1’s husband had the offer in hand, had accepted it, but was still waiting on the background check to clear, with the new company SPECIFICALLY TELLING HIM not to give notice until it was complete. So he would have been still holding on giving notice at the new company’s request when they send in paperwork to his current company.

      Reply
      1. Knitty Gritty

        I started a new job earlier this year and this exactly with the new job told me: wait to give notice until the background check is complete.

        Reply
    2. Snowglobe

      I’m guessing that they outsourced the background check, and the background check company contacted the current company to find out if he worked there.

      Reply
    3. Construction Safety

      Why the hell is the potentially new company’s HR contacting his current company’s HR? What could they possibly need?

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        I wonder if it was part of the background check… are you really working where you said you were?

        The new company really goofed here.

        Reply
    4. Nita

      I wonder if this is government employment. I vaguely recall that when my husband switched between two government jobs, the new one sent the old one’s HR some form (can’t for the life of me remember what it was!) This was also either just before he told his manager, or just after he told her, so there may have been some awkwardness there. It was generally a mess of a workplace though, so awkward situations were totally normal…

      And yes, the new job specifically asked him to say nothing until the background check clears.

      Reply
      1. J.

        Hi– I wrote Letter #1. It may have been part of the background check; my husband doesn’t know because he didn’t see the form that current HR received. I understand Alison’s response, but only to a point. If I were the HR person in this scenario, why not take five minutes to call the employee’s line or walk by the employee’s desk (this is a relatively small office with fewer than 50 people, not a huge organization)? You can confirm they’re still working there, to alleviate the concern that this is an already-completed departure you didn’t hear about. And you could also take the opportunity to say: I received this form and am duty-bound to tell your manager. If you haven’t told them yet, you should today. That seems to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the employees who actually constitute the organization.

        Reply
        1. BF50

          But HR works for the organization, not the employees. Their loyalty is to management. I honestly don’t understand why you wouldn’t expect HR to tell management that someone might be leaving.

          Maybe a personal relationship with your husband would influence an HR person not to tell, and it certainly would have benefited him personally if they had given him a heads up, but they have no obligation to do so. That’s personal, and this is work. I can’t blame people for doing their jobs.

          Reply
    5. Duffman

      I think this is another one of those cases where people treat managers and HR people like processes instead of individual people with communication skills

      It was entirely possible for OP1’s husband to tell his boss he had accepted another job without actually putting in his notice.

      Reply
      1. tangerineRose

        That would be risking his job. Based on how the boss reacted when finding out – this seems like a serious risk.

        Reply
  8. Knitting Cat Lady

    #4:

    There’s this thing called misophonia, where certain sounds are just rage inducing. No matter what.

    The sound of chewing or noisily sucking on a sweet can push me from zero to nuclear melt down in no time flat.

    I used to sit back to back with a coworker who constantly grazing on something. He also had a nervous tick that made him clear his throat every few seconds. He also came from a culture where using tissues was the rudest thing ever and the polite thing to do was to pull up the snot.
    Within five minutes of him arriving at work I usually wanted to strangle him with his mouse cord.

    Reply
    1. CJH

      Highly Sensitive People can also be very sensitive to noises like that. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201707/are-you-highly-sensitive-person-should-you-change)

      I have had to leave networking lunches early because the person across from me ate with the most obscene noises that I was certainly not the only one offended. Lip-smacking, open-mouthed chewing, talking through mouthfuls, visible food flying as they spoke… *Shudder*

      Reply
      1. Me. Just me.

        This….I often have to leave the lunch room when one particular person is eating there. Mouth open. Food slurping. Chomping. AARGH

        Reply
      1. Myrin

        Yeah, I’m somewhere in the middle – there is only like one sound I find truly grating but at the same time I have excellent hearing combined with tinnitus, so I’m sensitive to noise in general in a “I can’t concentrate like this!”-kind of way – and this would annoy me to no end.

        Reply
        1. Birch

          I’m curious as to what sound it is that bothers you!

          There are a few sounds I didn’t know affect me like this until they happen. Lip-smacking is another one that a very small proportion of people do when talking, but it’s infuriating. Also jaw-clicking. And smacking food in their mouth. I had to walk away in the middle of a conversation one time at a reception because a colleague was literally making that smacking sound with a mouthful of food and I thought I was going to scream at her.

          I also think it makes a difference that it’s the office setting, where the background baseline is usually fairly quiet. I don’t think repetitive annoying noises are as bothersome in a setting like a cafe or on a bus where the sound profile is constantly changing and has a lot of different types of sound.

          Reply
          1. Myrin

            Literally nails/sharp pencils/chalk going in the wrong direction on chalkboard!

            The only other sound I have a problem with in that it simply bothers me – as opposed to the chalk which actually hurts my eardrums or whatever that is in my ears – is a constant low humming or buzzing. I didn’t use to be so sensitive to it but when I got tinnitus in one ear at 23, I suddenly couldn’t stand similarly uninterrupted noises anymore. It’s like there’s a buzz-war going on in my head!

            Reply
            1. Knitting Cat Lady

              I have tinnitus due to a noise injury.

              If I hear a sound that is at roughly the same frequency as my tinnitus I get this very disorienting echo effect.

              Reply
            2. Julia

              Constant humming sounds can give me a headache if they go on for too long. My awful ex co-worker used to keep her printer running all day long and it drove me nuts. Didn’t even drown out all the other noise she was making.
              Unfortunately, I have excellent ears (I did a test), fit most criteria for hypersensitivity AND probably also have some hyperacusis/misophonia. I really hope I’ll get my own office some day (and an apartment with extremely thick walls and windows).

              Reply
            3. Anonygrouse

              Yes! Humming definitely switches me into Beast Mode. Also whistling and quiet half-whisper singing some people do when listening to music on their headphones. I have a singer on the other side of my cubicle these days and it makes me want to punch through the divider and scream.

              Reply
  9. Not A Manager

    LW#2 – You say you’ve been at this job for two months and you love it. What do you love about it? The pay is poor, the benefits are lousy, and your boss is a cheat.

    Yes, you can blow the whistle, but IDK how happy you’ll be if the whole department except for you is fired, as a poster above mentioned.

    It’s very hard to swim upstream, but is there any way that you personally can not participate in this? Either by saying that you have work to do, or by saying that you’re not comfortable with the idea? I wonder if that would get you off the hook when this is discovered.

    I think you should seriously start a job search. I’m sure Alison can help you out with language for the interviews.

    Reply
  10. AcademiaNut

    For LW1’s case, if there is timecard fraud, and it’s discovered, would the employees be liable for the overpayment? Generally, if there’s an error in your pay and you’re overpaid, you have to pay the money back. And would that still apply after leaving the job?

    Reply
    1. Bea

      If they proved timecard fraud they could try to seek damages probably but the best thing would just be to fire them. It would be nearly impossible to know exactly what the overpay was.

      If it were exactly 30 mins a day every Friday. Easier. But it’s anywhere from an hour to fifteen minutes it says.

      Most employers just want it to stop. Squeezing the fraudsters only makes sense if it’s a huge loss because you’re going to need legal counsel before ever just docking pay!

      Reply
  11. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.

    LW #2, I know you probably don’t want to be painted “The Person Who Ruined the Good System Everyone Had Going” but do you want to be caught up in the wave of pink slips that are going to be the inevitable conclusion to the fraud this guy is encouraging your entire department to commit? No? Look out for #1.

    Reply
    1. GreenDoor

      A manager at my place let everyone out an hour early when the big boss was away. Just once. But he was salaried and wasn’t thinking that 2/3 of the staff was hourly. When the boss found out, she was pissed – in part because she had to deliver the bad news to all the hourly staff that they’d either have to use vacation time for that one hour or take the time upaid. People were NOT happy that their pay/vacation time was affected like this.

      Think of how many hours you’ve gotten to leave early “scott free” so far….can you risk having that much vacation time taken away to make up for it? Plus, YOU fill out your time slips. You cannot assume that “well the boss told me to” is going to be a valid excuse here. File a whistleblower complaint if you have that process, stop leaving early so your time sheet will be honest, or file an anonymous comlaint with HR. Don’t let you boss pull you down!

      Reply
  12. Laurelma01!

    2. My boss lets us leave early, but it’s a secret.
    OP, report it. It’s timecard fraud. The entire department could be fired. You’ll not be eligible for unemployment. Your employer will perceive you as dishonest. Employer could go after you in civil suit for wages paid when u were not working. It’s a felony; jail time and fines. The nonprofit could also lose funding from outside sources if they fail to prosecute in this situation. Report it anonymously, be prepared to pay employer back, and start job searching. Some companies will pay a bonus to employees that report fraud that is recoverable. You do not your professional reputation painted with a paint brush colored by fraud and dishonesty. This situation could cost you a lot in the long term.

    Reply
    1. Carpe Librarium

      Agreed. OP#2, you do NOT want to have to list ‘fraud’ on any document as something related to your behaviour. It’s one of the most difficult things for a prospective employer, landlord, credit provider etc. to perceive as an acceptable risk.
      It speaks to your integrity, and what it says is “Untrustworthy: liar, cheat, thief.”

      Reply
    2. Glomarization, Esq.

      I fee like the concerns raised here should be amplified: court involvement, no access to unemployment, damage to the nonprofit, and so on. LW#2 is risking some real, long-term hurt (“And why did you leave your last job?” “We were ripping off our employer with timecard fraud”) if they don’t report this to their grandboss right away.

      Reply
    3. Kyrielle

      I would not report it anonymously; I would report it openly. That will give the OP whistleblower protections, and also not hit them in the fallout. Reporting it anonymously is going to get them fired and all the consequences they would get if they didn’t report it and someone else did, because as far as the company knows, that’s the case. OP needs protections here to secure their professional future.

      OP – I’d also start job searching, mind you. From what you’ve said this is not a great job, and the probable fallout of reporting this is everyone on your team but you getting fired. That’s not going to make for a great work environment either. But it’s better than the alternative! (And, if I’m wrong and things are fine for you after you report, job searching doesn’t mean you have to take another job.)

      Reply
      1. Laurlema01!

        Kyrielle,
        OP needs to have their name associated with reporting it in order to save their job and prevent prosecution. I’m also thinking that I might want to do an email to the person that they discuss it with and bc : their non-work email address as protection. It’s time for OP to cover their rump in this situation.

        Reply
  13. Nico M

    #2. Have a frank chat with the boss to point out that time card fraud is too dangerous. There may be some other way to stick it to The Man , that at least plausibly could be under their discretion.

    Reply
      1. JSPA

        There’s also a non-zero chance that the boss is clearing the office so as to do illegal stuff in everyone else’s absence. (I’m thinking of past posts about racy snapshots in other people’s workspaces, but that’s probably the least likely of many, many unsavory alternatives…some of which he could be doing on other people’s computers.

        And if boss is popped for it (anything from illegal downloads to cooking the books to who-knows-what), he can claim that it would be impossible in an office full of people, or blame it on the person who would normally be logged onto that computer. Could get very nasty, very fast.

        Reply
    1. Glomarization, Esq.

      I don’t really think that a conversation with a manager who’s OK with LW stealing from their employer would do any good. LW needs to just report the ongoing fraud to upper management ASAP without passing go, without collecting that unearned extra $200.

      Reply
  14. Candy Clouston

    Re “Gum-chewing coworker stops me from hearing anything else” – I don’t know of a workplace where you’re allowed to smoke, so chewing gum in lieu of smoking while working makes no sense (unless it’s nicotine gum, I suppose). It’s a workplace. Gum chewing is unprofessional. Unless you have a mentor relationship, though, the most likely successful message is that you really want to focus on what she’s saying because you value her input, but the gum is so distracting that you just can’t.

    Reply
    1. A.N. O'Nyme

      Even if it’s nicotine gum, I think you’re supposed to use them when you would otherwise light up a cigarette – meaning still not all day during the workday.

      Reply
    2. Braces

      Gum chewing is not unprofessional if you’re discreet (which this woman is not). I’m not going to stop chewing gum at work. My braces make my mouth so dry that the inside of my mouth tears and bleeds.

      Reply
    3. LBK

      It’s more that it replaces the ritual. When you get a craving for a cigarette, you just have a piece of gum instead. Presumably this person was going outside to smoke before. I don’t see what’s so confusing about this.

      Reply
  15. Les G

    Come on, folks. Usually I think adults should be direct and just freakin’ tell other adults what’s bothering them. But flying into a rage about chewing gum? Really? Misophonia, to the extent that it exists medically, is exceedingly rare and you probably don’t have it. Leave your coworker alone and learn to manage your emotions.

    Reply
    1. BookishMiss

      This is pretty unkind, and Alison asks that we take LWs and our fellow commenters at their word, especially on medical issues.

      Reply
    2. ShackAttack

      Misophonia – and general sound sensitivity – is actual quite common (as evidenced by the abundance of comments on the topic, above). And, if you knew much about the condition, you would know the basis is that it generates strong feelings of anger that are extremely difficult to manage – short of behavioral cognitive therapy.

      I’d suggest approaching the topic a bit more open-minded and productively vs. aggressive without the facts.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        But either you learn to control your rage with therapy or other tools, or you demand the entire world should change lest you succumb to rage. Didn’t we have an entire post earlier this week about how a level of rage is incredibly inappropriate and threatening at work. Assuming that you can control everyone else around you to stop them from making noises that might send you into a fit of rage at work seems untenable at best and makes you a potentially dangerous person I don’t want to work with at worst. There will be people who will do annoying things and addressing them directly is really good, but assuming you can make 100% of them change their habits, patterns, and selves (sometimes misophonia is directed at sounds which are medically necessary or caused by medical conditions) seems deeply unrealistic.

        I think that saying, sometimes you will encounter these things and flying into a rage is an inappropriate reaction at work is an ok stance to have.

        *And yes, I’m aware that there are a lot of commentators here who have misophonia. I still think a rage state at work from something that you will likely encounter at work is something you need to find a good way to manage. Asking the person directly to stop? Great. But if that person doesn’t. What is your next step? Find a way to manage that rage.

        Reply
        1. poolgirl

          I can’t speak for the other commenters, but the anger misophonia causes me is all internal, I don’t actually fly into a rage, it just makes me miserable. Misophonia has been proven to activate the brain’s limbic system, the primitive seat of our emotions. You can’t stop it, just how you react to it. So no, I don’t fly into a rage at work or anywhere else, I’m just made to be miserable by this condition which I would give anything not to have, since usually the people who are the most oblivious about making these noises are also not going to care if it bothers you.

          Reply
      2. Mike C.

        as evidenced by the abundance of comments on the topic, above

        This isn’t actually evidence of anything.

        Reply
        1. medium of ballpoint

          Agreed. There isn’t really any reliable research out there about how common it is, and it’s not formally recognized as a diagnosis, so there are plenty of opinions out there but a paucity of facts.

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

            Actually, there is reliable research on the study. While it came too late to make it into the current diagnostic manual, there is significant research on the subject. In 2017, there was a study out of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and the Wellcome Centre for NeuroImaging at University College London. MRI studies found identifiable abnormalities in the brains of misophonic patients, thus, “providing strong evidence that misophonia is a real disorder,” in the head researcher’s own words. Dr. Zach Rosenthal at Duke University’s Misophonia research program has three studies ongoing that are looking into the ties to emotional function and regulation, sensory over-responsitivity, and psychiatric and other neurological disorders. Then there’s NYU’s LeDeux Lab, which is studying how the processing of auditory stimulation can go awry. Their theory is that over-reactivity could be due to either a hypersensitive lateral amygdala or an over-reactive central amygdala.

            Currently, people reporting symptoms of misophonia to therapists, psychiatrists, and neurologists in the know are put through testing for other disorders as there is a very high comorbidity rate. In the earliest research days, since neurologists were less likely to be involved, the more common diagnoses were OCD and anxiety. However, now that more doctors are willing to listen, they are seeing an association to conditions like synesthesia, migraines, and seizure disorders.

            Fun fact: It really frigging sucks to have a very hard to deal with set of symptoms that can alienate you from peers and loved ones. It is especially difficult when these symptoms kick up during the time that is the cultural universal for the most important social gatherings (yeah, church is not, food is humanity’s most important social pillar). So, to everyone ranting and raving about how people complain to much? Until you crawl into someone’s head and experience what they are and aren’t feeling? Invisible illnesses are hard enough to deal with. They are isolating, demoralizing, exhausting, and generally suck in a lot of ways. So, don’t freaking start just because you don’t know what’s going on with that person. Oh, and before you try to dismiss me? I don’t just suffer from misophonia; and my comorbidity is a rare genetic condition that requires multiple trips to a neurologist every year.

            Reply
            1. medium of ballpoint

              I’m not dismissing your concerns; I’m sure there are people who honestly have this constellation of symptoms. What I was pointing out is that the research is super new, few conclusions have been published, and there hasn’t time for studies to be replicated. Currently, misphonia isn’t recognized as a neurological, audiological, or psychological disorder because we just don’t know enough about it yet. It could become a recognized diagnosis or it could go the way of Morgellons disease. It’s too soon for the medical community to tell on a large scale.

              Reply
      3. atalanta0jess

        If it’s treatable, and it affects people’s ability to be around other folks doing normal human things, I think it is worth asking whether it should be approached by getting treatment rather than by asking others to alter their behavior.

        Reply
    3. Myrin

      You know, you could make the same point while sounding less pissed-off.

      Firstly, the OP doesn’t mention misophonia at all, just that the sound bothers her; there are some commenters talking about it and, I mean, it’s rare, but so is, for example, Crohn’s disease (quick googling tells me it’s 7 people in 100,000) and yet we have at least five regular commenters who suffer from it.

      Secondly, she mentions that coworker is an unusually loud chewer and also chews constantly. It’s not at all strange to be unable to concentrate around a sound that is much louder than expected and additionally is present constantly. And apart from that, one issue also is that the coworker speaks through her gum chewing which is bound to at least sound really distracting, never mind might even look quite unappetising.

      (And as an aside, I remember reading other comments by you in the last few days which were strongly in the “what are you making a big deal for?” category; I don’t know if you mean to come across so abrasively but it’s certainly not a good look. If you disagree so strongly and fundamentally with the tenor of this site, I don’t think you’ll have a good time here.)

      Reply
      1. Les G

        Not a good look would be confusing me with one of the (few) other male commenters, which I presume you are erroneously doing; I haven’t commented in at least a week.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          You’re right – I looked back and realised that I remembered a Len G. I don’t agree that that’s not a good look for me – making one-letter-mistakes happens – but I apologise nonetheless.

          Reply
        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          Wait, what? Why do you assume Myrin is confusing you for another male commenter? That’s a seriously strange reaction to have right now and really comes out of nowhere. You are coming across as abrasive, in your original comment and now this one, and oddly defensive.

          Reply
          1. Lindsay J

            Because Myrin said that she remembered other abrasive comments from him made this week, which could not be from him as he had not commented in this week?

            You’re the one coming off as rather accusatory here.

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              To be fair, I only said that I remember reading those comments in the last few days, not that they were actually posted there – I fell into a bit of a “topics you might also like” hole during the last few days and re-read some threads from early this month, where I saw the commenter with the similar name.

              Reply
      2. Lindsay J

        I don’t think advising people that disagree with the general tenor of the site is a good or valid idea.

        The value of the comments is to get different perspectives.

        If people coming here only wanted one perspective, then it would just be Allison’s advice to read and there would be no comments.

        The comments here tend towards and echo chamber as it is. Getting rid of someone who civilly disagrees on work perspectives because he isn’t part of the echo chamber will make the site worse, not better.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          Amen. People comment about how “civil” this site is, but often its only “civil” if you agree with the majority

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Please feel free to flag it for me when you see it. I’m trying to watch for that and generally make the site better in that regard, but I know I have blind spots (and I don’t see everything). It’s gets more complicated when the person disagreeing with the majority is doing it rudely, as has happened a couple of times in the last few days — I want to address the rudeness but not the disagreement itself and I worry that’s not always clear.

            Reply
        2. Myrin

          That’s not what I said, though.

          I myself often disagree with others on here (and, in fact, I did not disagree with the core message of Les’s comment), heck, there are even people I disagree with most of the time (like Mike, for example), who I hold in high regard and value a lot as a discussion partner anyway. The key is the “civilly” you mention yourself – I found Les’s comment to be much more condescending and unkind than civil but then again, we might disagree on that.

          I said “if you disagree so strongly and fundamentally with the tenor of this site”, which is different from saying “if you disagree at all with anything ever”. I stand by my opinion that if someone is fundamentally opposed to core rules of this site – like “don’t personally attack other commenters” for someone who only comes here because she wants to pick fights -, this might not be the site for her.

          Reply
          1. Hiring Mgr

            Misophonia is not just abou tenor–bass, soprano, alto, they are all potentially exacerbated by the condition

            Reply
      3. pleaset

        I had no idea serious mental health and digestive issues were so common until I started reading this blog. I guess in my life most people are hiding those, which is sad. Or else this blog is attracting people with those problems. Probably both.

        Reply
    4. epi

      I agree. Misophonia is rare and it isn’t even relevant to this question because the OP never claimed to have it. The coworker is developed this chewing habit to quit smoking; playing dueling disabilities isn’t going to determine a winner here. At the end of the day, the OP will still have to say something, work around/avoid the noise, or decide to just accept it. There’s no secret forth option for people whose internet self-diagnosis sounds the most dire.

      Everyone deals with annoyances and people they don’t care for at work, but it’s not ok to get into a rage or snark about others because you don’t like the way they chew or breathe. That’s not just unacceptable professional behavior; it’s unacceptable human behavior that sounds like it calls for anger management. It is certainly worse than chewing gum, loudly or otherwise. I’m really surprised so many people here would share that attitude like it’s common and something something to be proud of. It calls into question why anyone would want advice from many of these commenters, for sure.

      Reply
    5. Avacado

      AGREED! THANK YOU!

      You know what induces rage in my office with me? Idiot co-workers. Those who “Complain about everything!”, etc.

      This goes in the “complain about everything” category. Grow up. Learn to manage living in a society and world with others who may due things that you find annoying/unpleasant.

      Heck, I have to work with people who probably get rage about things like gum chewing or throat clearing. To me, that is rage inducing.

      Mind your own business and manners. If I had a direct report who complained to me about another co-workers gum chewing I would honestly tell them I am not their mother nor babysitter. That gum chewing is fine if their work is being done and that they should get a meditation app or something cause they have to learn to deal with it.

      – a manager.

      Reply
    6. Ask a Manager Post author

      This comment is more aggressively stated than I’d put it, but I do agree with the premise that there are going to be some annoying things at work that you just can’t do anything about, and I definitely don’t want the OP to read the number of ragey comments here as indicating that she should push the issue beyond a polite request to the coworker … which is really all she can do.

      Reply
    7. Observer

      Misophonia IS a diagnosable condition, so it’s not just rude to dismiss it, it’s ignorant.

      Also, to the extent that it’s rare, that does not mean that someone who says they have it, is wrong. “Rare” does not mean “no one has it and anyone who says they do is wrong.” It means “it’s not the first diagnosis a doctor should generally jump to.”

      For you to decide that people don’t have it because it’s rare is rude, ignorant and happens to violate the rules of the site.

      It’s a shame, because the rudeness and ignorance really obscures the one valid point, which is that people do need to learn to deal with their issue and the emotions it causes.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        But I highly doubt that 99% of the commenters here who claim to have misphonia have receivied an actual diagnosis from an actual medical practitioner on it.

        I mean, I have certainly thought that I might, because chewing noises do make me ragey. And I think I first heard about it on this site. But I haven’t actually looked into the DSM diagnostic criteria for it, or brought it up to my doctor or psychiatrist. I’m sure there are others in the same situation as me.

        And moreso, the OP has of the letter has not said that she has it, so it’s relatively irrelevant to the question asked.

        And whether the OP has diagnosed misphonia or not, the answer to the question is pretty much still the same. They ask the coworker nicely to stop chewing gum around them. If not, they work on ways to cope with it on their own.

        I suppose that if they had a diagnosis they could go through the steps of getting an accommodation for it, or bring up to the coworker that they have a medical condition that makes them especially sensitive to chewing sounds to see if that gives their request any extra weight. But the foundation of the advice doesn’t change.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Oh, I agree that it’s not really relevant to the question, and that the essential response stays the same in any case. My point is that the dismissive and rude opening overshadows this fundamental reality.

          Reply
    8. Michaela Westen

      Les’ comment doesn’t seem that bad to me. It seems like advice given with a smile… “come on, it’s not that bad, let’s focus on something worth the attention.”
      I also have a chronic medical condition and understand how that can make a person angry, especially when the medical establishment isn’t addressing it yet!
      So I understand why people who believe they have misophonia are getting worked up – but in this case it sounds like the gum-chewer is very rude, chewing loudly and while she’s talking to others. I suspect it started as a teen, a way to annoy the grown-ups. Hope she stops!

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

        … Okay, I think people don’t actually understand what misophonia is. Loud chewing? Doesn’t bug me. It provokes an actual visceral reaction that I don’t have a choice in. If I don’t remove myself from the situation, that reaction continues into the fight part of the fight or flight response, and (since we’re in a society that isn’t facing a rampaging buffalo) that expresses itself as anger. I literally have no control over this process because it is neurological. How do I know this? It only started after I developed seizures as part of my genetic condition. Even the very expensive neurologists who examine me on a regular basis agree that this is a byproduct of my seizures. They’re actually the ones who gave me the term misophonia and explained that it meant something that was beyond being bugged by the sound. That it was a term for people who had this actual physical reaction to these sounds. So, when someone talks about misophonia? It’s not about dislike, it’s about actual uncontrolled, taps into a fight or flight response, reaction.

        Reply
        1. Michaela Westen

          Thanks for clarifying that!
          I’m not trying to comment on what misophonia is or isn’t – I had never heard of it till now. Very interesting! (I’m a medical geek)
          I was trying to say I didn’t think Les’ comment was intended to dismiss any medical issues, and that OP’s gum-chewer sounds obnoxious enough to annoy anyone, even without medical conditions. Blech. Personally I think someone should talk to her. Just my opinion.

          Reply
  16. VVM

    For #3, some companies are just awful with communication. I recently found a new job, but during my search there was one company who I had 2 phone interviews with, and they invited me in for an office interview before dropping off. I followed up (twice!) and they said they were still interested and were looking at the interviewer’s schedule to set up a time, but never responded.

    I’m going to laugh if they email me in the future after weeks of nothing and say they are finally ready to interview. I’m so glad I got another offer and didn’t have to wait on them.

    Reply
    1. One for the road

      #3 – I sent Alison a nearly identical question just a couple days ago. Companies ghosting after requesting interview availability seems to be a thing.

      I saw an article a few days ago where companies were complaining that candidates, especially young ones, were ghosting on them in the process, up to and including accepting a job and not showing up. Gee, I wonder why they think that’s acceptable behavior? /sarcasm

      Reply
      1. atexit8

        Totally agree with that sarcasm!

        Last year, I applied for a temp-to-hire position.
        The temp agency even paid for me to take online Microsoft Access assessment which I passed.
        Never heard from the hiring company. The temp agency didn’t either.
        Apparently the new normal of silence = take the hint and move on.
        It is very unprofessional, but that is new reality.

        .

        Reply
      2. Observer

        Yeah, I was reading an article (Evil HR Lady) where she mentions the article and she pretty much makes that point.

        Reply
  17. Kiwi

    #2, I think you’re better reporting this in person instead of anonymously. The whistleblower will probably be protected, so you want the higher-ups to know it’s you. Unless your HR’s awful, I’d go talk to them.

    Reply
  18. Delta Delta

    Re gum – I tend to be situationally sensitive to noises. If I’m really concentrating on something I find that outside noises are really distracting – moreso than ordinary background noise. On the other hand, if I’m doing ordinary things I can ignore most noises.

    It’s very possible the coworker doesn’t know how loud her gum chewing is. A polite “your gum chewing is really loud and distracting” should do it. If she resists, offer to record it so she can hear (tell her first befor you do this, obvs). Sort of like how when you hear your own voice in a recording it sounds different than in your own head.

    Reply
    1. Laurlema01!

      When I worked in banking I had a younger coworker that chomped on gum all day. I didn’t handle it professionally. There was tension between us because she babysat for our manager and got by with murder. I got fed up and told her she looked like a cow chewing her cud. Not sure of the spelling. Who want to look at a bank teller chomping away with mouth half open.

      Please be polite.

      Reply
  19. Bookworm

    #3: The recruiter likely found someone else. I have always been reluctant to go with recruiting agencies for this very reason. I’ve had two recent experiences where a recruiter contacted me for an interview and then never responded afterwards. One let me know she filled the position a few days after I replied and that was it. No interview for any similar positions, no “let us know if there’s another position that interests you” note.

    I’m not sure if this is a more recent development (in the past few years I usually just don’t get a response or at least they bring me in for an interview even if they filled job because they have similar positions or something) but I’d have to say keep moving. It’s no fun that it was your desired industry and I’m sure you wanted it more but it seems this is how recruiters operate now. :/

    Reply
    1. Kat in VA

      I’ve been job hunting since May and can confirm this.

      I got an autorejection email this morning. I emailed the recruiter I’d been discussing the job with to ask her what happened, fully expecting to get complete radio silence.

      It’s a sign of the times how amazed I was that she ACTUALLY EMAILED BACK to explain what happened to the position. I’m not thrilled about the job being offered to someone else (it was a security clearance issue, and she was trying to see if they would take me on an interim basis, as the team apparently REALLY wanted me) but I’m thrilled that she was professional and polite enough to at least not let me wonder what the heck happened (and ask if I wanted to be considered for other positions within the company).

      That little interaction is far, far out of the norm. I’ve been ghosted by more recruiters and gotten autorejections even after in-person interviews than I care to think about – or dwell on – at this point.

      Reply
      1. atexit8

        I received an auto rejection email two months ago.
        They use ADP, and it was not set up properly to even have the job position in the email.
        No personal email from HR even though I had had an on-site interview.

        Reply
  20. Roscoe

    #4 . I can see asking her to stop chewing while she is at your desk and you are talking to her. In a meeting, its a bit different. While I believe it may be louder than normal, it seems that it has become one of those things that once you notice, you can’t un-notice. Can you just sit far as possible from her maybe? Because my guess is OP is the only one who this is affecting. If that is the case, asking one person to not chew gum would seem really petty. Even saying “chew quieter” is weird because unless she is clearly chewing with her mouth open and blowing bubbles, she probably thinks she IS chewing quietly.

    Reply
  21. TheNotoriousMCG

    #2 – I got that Alison told OP that it is Not Okay, but I don’t think it’s clear what Alison thinks OP should do next. It’s a very no-win situation in my eyes, and I’d be frozen with indecision in OP’s place

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I think it’s one of those “Hope for a meteor strike” situations. It’s totally not OP’s fault, yet eventual fallout of any path has a good chance of hitting her.

      Reply
    2. CM

      Honestly, I would just follow the herd here. If her manager has explicitly told her she’s allowed to do this, and she doesn’t have any other official indication that she’s doing something wrong (for example, she doesn’t have to sign something saying she certifies the timesheet is accurate), isn’t it more likely that if this comes to light, her manager will get into trouble and not her?

      Reply
        1. Observer

          I think you are. For one thing, it’s common in many non-profits for there to be standard verbiage on the timesheet that indicates that “this information is accurate to the best of my knowledge.”

          Also, a very likely response to “My manager told me it’s ok” is “You are old enough to know that your manager can never give you permission to steal.”

          Reply
        2. Lindsay J

          Yeah, from what I’m getting this seems to be way more serious in non-profits due to where their funding comes from, than it would be in private industry. Because my assumption was the same as yours, but the response from Allison and all the commenters has me rethinking it.

          Reply
      1. Doreen

        In my experience, the most likely outcome is that everyone involved will get into trouble. The employees will get in trouble for falsely filling out their timesheets and the manager will get into trouble for either 1) explicitly telling them it’s allowed or 2) not noticing that they aren’t accurately completing their timesheets if he denies telling them it’s allowed.
        Generally, when an employer allows hourly workers to leave early without losing pay , there is some sort of mechanism that still allows the timesheet to be filed out accurately – maybe a note on the timesheet to the effect of “directed to leave at 3pm due to no heat” or a email to the entire company ( including payroll) that “summer hours are 9-4 on Fridays from June 29-Aug 31”. It’s entirely possible that no one would ever notice or care if if was 5 minutes most days- but up to 45 minutes every day and an hour on Fridays is another story.

        Reply
        1. Laurlema01!

          I wouldn’t be surprised that the cats gets out of the bag. Someone will try to get a hold of someone near closing time and realize no one is in the department. Upper management will catch on. Another department might need an answer and when someone doesn’t answer the phones, they might just stop by the office.

          Reply
        2. PerpetualStudent

          LW here. Doreen, you may be right that everyone will get into some kind of trouble. The thing is that I don’t really care if I get into trouble as long as said trouble doesn’t include firing. It would be next to impossible to fire my whole department — more likely just the department head would get fired, and he should have retired years ago anyway. I’m willing to take the slap on the wrist if it comes to that. I like my early departures just as much as everyone else there! Also, if I did get fired, I am lucky enough to not need to work financially. I only work because I love my job. My partner makes more than enough for both of us, and has been telling me for years I don’t need to work.

          Reply
      2. Glomarization, Esq.

        “My manager told me it’s OK to lie on my timesheet” is not a good defense to fraud. LW is stealing from their employer and needs to report it, no matter how OK their manager says it is.

        Reply
  22. PieInTheBlueSky

    In the case of #1, under what circumstances would HR at any new job contact HR at the old job? Would “new HR” contacting “old HR” be due to the background check? I can’t think of another possible reason.

    As far as I know, this hasn’t happened to me when I have changed jobs in the past. Or maybe it happens all the time and I’m just unaware of it.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      When I’ve had background checks in the past, it generally included confirming my employment history even at my current job and also checking on whether there were any disciplinary problems. It’s also been my experience that background inspectors were actually contracted out rather than HR at the new company, so they aren’t always used to industry norms…or tactful, but I don’t want to judge a whole industry based on the few inspectors I’ve encountered.

      Reply
  23. Roscoe

    I’ll be honest, I’m shocked how many people in this thread are saying gum chewing is unprofessional. At almost every job I’ve ever had, as long as we weren’t public facing, gum chewing was a thing. I think this is such an outdated thought, but apparently more people think its unprofessional than I would have thought. Won’t stop me from chewing my gum after lunch. But it is an interesting thing to note

    Reply
    1. Les G

      What you need to understand, Roscoe, is that in Ask a Manager parlance “I don’t like this for Reasons” translates to “this is unprofessional.” See also: doodling in meetings, sending emails on weekends or after the work day ends.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Yes, I’ve noticed that. Eating too many bagels in a meeting? Unprofessoinal. Chewing Gum? Unprofessional. Not maintining 100% eye contact during a meeting? Unprofessional.

        I think the big thing is the professional “norms” have changed so much in the last 20 years, that there are very few true norms anymore. Hell, my last job (I’m a guy) and I wore, GASP, flip flops to work in the summer. And no one had a problem with it.

        Reply
        1. Sam.

          I think the bigger thing is that “professional norms” aren’t fixed. Like most other things, they vary on situation and context. Just because you haven’t worked in an office where chewing gum is unprofessional and not ok doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Eating 5 bagels in a meeting might be fine in your office, but it would definitely be side-eyed in mine. Wearing flip flops in the summer (I’m a woman) was fine when I worked on the west coast, but it’d be seriously frowned upon in my current office. It’s also entirely possible that you are currently doing things you think are fine that some of your coworkers might consider unprofessional and rude. So I think the snark is uncalled for.

          Reply
          1. Roscoe

            I’m fine with saying professional norms aren’t fixed. So if you agree with that, maybe you should be commenting at the people making blanked statements that “X is unprofessional”. I think saying “In my office, that really wouldn’t fly”, but don’t just make a statement like that, which many others are doing.

            Also, why don’t you not presume that I’m doing things my co-workers consider rude.

            Reply
    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I don’t think chewing gum is, on its face, unprofessional. However, it’s not something I would do at a meeting, and if I wanted to chew gum, I would do so discreetly, at my desk, for no more than about 20 minutes. I have been known to crack my gum, and that’s something I try to avoid while at the office. The basic principle of not making annoying sounds in a shared space applies here, with an addition of avoiding prolonged open-mouthed chewing. It’s like slurping, something many of us do but we try to keep it to a minimum at work. Heck, I closed my office door yesterday so I could eat some leftover corn on the cob– I don’t think it’s a good look and I didn’t want my co-workers to see me chomping.

      All-day gum chewing is totally different than a 20-minute post-lunch refresh. I think that’s largely what people object to.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        But even if I’m chewing gum all day and popping in a new piece every hour on the hour, who cares? From reading this, I guess there are some people who have conditions that make them overly sensitive to everyday sounds. And truly, that must be horrible. But unless your office is just completely silent at all times, I can’t see how you even notice that.

        Now I agree if its smacking bubbles or open mouth chewing, that is a bit much. But just normal gum chewing, I wouldn’t even notice 99% of the time

        Reply
        1. Knitting Cat Lady

          Actually…

          Your ears notice everything. Your brain just filters out most of what your ears notice.

          For some people, that filter just isn’t working right.

          It’s hell.

          Reply
          1. Roscoe

            Ok, so are you going to tell people that they are typing too much and it bothers you? Or they are writing too loud. The world has sounds. People need to deal with that fact. If that means invest in noise cancelling headphones, have at it.

            Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Ok, so are you going to tell people that they are typing too much and it bothers you? Or they are writing too loud.

              Those are noises that come with the workplace. I can’t type without making keyboard noises. Smacking and popping gum is an optional noise. You can do your job just fine without it.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Who gets to decide what noises are acceptable and / or workplace appropriate? Are you really going to tell people that they are not allowed to eat in the workplace? I get that there are some workplaces where that’s actually the case, but it’s kind of ridiculous to make a blanker statement that “eating has no place in the workplace”. And that’s what you are saying if you are claiming that chewing noises have no place in the workplace.

                Keep in mind, as well, that people with misophonia or who are sensitive or distractable or whatever it is don’t only have this issue with chewing gum. We’ve had many letters about the sounds that people make that drive others nuts.

                Which is to say, the OP can definitely ASK – politely. Especially about talking through the chewing. But, ultimately, they are going to have to deal with it without expecting the chewer to stop chewing altogether.

                Reply
            2. Knitting Cat Lady

              No. I wear head phones or ear plugs. Or both. EVERYWHERE.

              But. If people chew noisily all day long I WILL judge them and ask them to stop.

              I can’t help the towering rage. It just is.

              Reply
          2. MLB

            I’m sure that’s awful, but honestly what are the expectations in her case? Gum is banned in the office because it drives Jane insane? Or, you can only chew gum in the office if it doesn’t go past a certain decibel?

            Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Or, you can only chew gum in the office if it doesn’t go past a certain decibel?

              But isn’t that how it should be? If you chew gum so loudly that people around you can hear it, then you shouldn’t chew gum. Why is chewing gum a protected activity? If someone were whistling in a meeting, or loudly talking to themselves as they worked, or clipping their nails, we’d have no problem saying that’s an inappropriate noise to subject others to in the workplace. What’s special about gum? Why should you be allowed to do it as loudly as you want, when those other optional noises aren’t considered acceptable?

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                I think it depends on how many people its affecting honestly. If OP is the only one bothered, then no, I don’t think you have to make a rule just for her. If its bothering everyone, its different.

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  So if I decide to clip my nails on a Friday afternoon, and there’s only one other person in the office, that’s okay. If my officemate whistles while he works, but I’m the only one who can hear it and be distracted by it, it’s okay. That’s an interesting mindset, but it does really highlight the “two kinds of people” dichotomy, doesn’t it?

                2. Roscoe

                  I think clipping nails is very different because frankly, many people find it unsanitary. If he is whistling loudly, its a problem. But I do think the level that it rises to is a distinction we need to make here. There are things that a (while I hate this term) “rational” person would find annoying. And there are things that because of someone’s hypersensitivity would find annoying. I think you are willfully ignoring that some people find extremely minor things annoying, and if they had their way, everyone would only do things that they deem acceptable.

                  Its a fact of life that working in an office is going to have things that drive others crazy. As I said earlier, if it is “rage inducing” as some have put it, maybe they need to find a situation where they can work at home or in a private office.

                3. Lindsay J

                  @Roscoe
                  I pretty much 100% agree with you on this.

                  The trouble I have is determining what a “rational” person would and would not find to be okay, since I know I have my own biases and there is no one person to ask.

                  Like I think most people could agree that the person who burst into tears over being asked to use a blue pen instead of a black pen was overreacting. Most people agree that nail clipping at work is annoying.

                  Most people would agree that typing is fine.

                  But there is a huge middle area where some people find it unacceptable, some people find it acceptable, and finding the middle ground or what the average person would agree with is difficult.

                4. Roscoe

                  @lindsy

                  I agree with you that its hard to say. I’m just arguing with Rusty’s assertion that anything someone finds annoying is something that others should stop doing.

              2. MLB

                Not my point. Where do you draw the line? Different people are bothered by different things and as an adult you learn to cope. Unless Jane is doing cartwheels down the hall or playing imaginary bongos on her desk, you just need to let some annoyances go.

                Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          It’s entirely possible that there are several people in the LW’s office who chew gum, but they manage to do it quietly, so she’s not aware of it. And then there are the others. The ones who chew like a middle schooler who thinks they’re really cool because they have gum and they want everyone to know it. There’s one woman where I work who I’ve literally never seen without gum in her mouth. She chews loudly, with her mouth open, cracking her gum constantly. If I worked in her office, I’d have had to find a new job.

          Reply
    3. Katniss

      Yeah, same here. And this weird assumption that everyone who chews gum does it like a cow chewing cud.

      I’ll be over here quietly enjoying my Winterfresh. Which my coworkers only comment on to ask if they can have a stick.

      Reply
      1. General Ginger

        I’m literally chewing gum right now. Quietly. Which I shared with an officemate, who is also chewing quietly, as I can’t hear it. Someone else is typing pretty loudly, the officemate with the gum is clicking their mouse quietly, and scrolling their mouse wheel, also quietly, but they’re close to me so I can hear it. Another person is on a call, which I can hear but sort of tune out. It’s all just “generic office noises” to me.

        Reply
    4. Birch

      Could it be that the norm is just shifting to being more aware of things that make your coworkers uncomfortable and being more empathetic? I mean, “professional norms” used to include things like being able to slap your female secretary on the a** and not having workplace accommodations for disability, so…. I highly doubt that suddenly within the past 70 years people are developing sensitivity to annoying things, it’s just that in the past you didn’t have the power to ask people to be more considerate.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Just because something makes one person uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it is a problem. Someone can be uncomfortable because I’m getting over a cold. Doesn’t mean I should be banished to another section. I think there is being considerate and then there is people asking too much. I look at the gum situation as the latter. Just being considerate is like “please take your personal calls away from your desk where I can’t hear them.”

        Reply
        1. Birch

          Who is saying anything about being banished? The suggestion was for OP to ask the gum-chewer to pause the chewing while they’re talking. How is that any different than asking someone to take a personal call away from their desk? And as you’ve seen, there are certain behaviors that many people find uncomfortable and distracting. Just because you personally aren’t bothered by it doesn’t mean other people have to just deal with it. It’s always a balance, but these things are so easy to fix, and it is actually really important that people can concentrate on their work at work.

          Reply
          1. MLB

            It’s fine for LW to speak up, but she also needs to accept that some people are going to make noises while working that may bother her and she needs to find a way to cope. It’s called adulting.

            Reply
              1. paul

                That cuts both ways though.

                If I’m working through lunch, I may eat at my desk because I don’t want to go 8 or 10 hours without eating. If the sounds of my normal chewing bother her, whose right trumps whose?

                Reply
              2. MLB

                And where do you draw the line? Do I have to walk on eggshells at work because some things I do drive others crazy, when most others find it normal behavior?

                Reply
                1. Totally Minnie

                  I think the line comes when you become aware that a specific behavior bothers a specific person. So, if I were to tell my coworker “Hey, I have a perfume allergy and I got really sick when you and I had that closed door meeting with a client last week. Could you please skip the perfume on days when we have to work together closely?” That doesn’t mean she can never wear perfume again. But it does mean I can have a reasonable expectation of her not wearing it the next time we’re scheduled for a meeting.

                  Not all activities are appropriate around all people. That doesn’t mean you have to stop doing all the things ever for the rest of time. It also doesn’t mean you’re a terrible human being if you happen to do a thing that someone else finds distasteful. But it does mean that if it’s brought to your attention that a behavior of yours is bothersome to certain people or under certain circumstances, you reserve that particular behavior for other times.

                2. willow

                  Not eggshells. Just respect. I used to work with someone who hated being called “ma’am”, so I stopped with her but not with others who were fine with it.

                3. willow

                  Minnie – agree. I can swear like a sailor with certain people, but not around my dad or kids I’m teaching.

      2. Bagpuss

        I suspect that some of it is norms shifting so that workplaces are less rigid, and the boundaries less clear.
        For instance, it used to be common for a lot of workplaces to have much stricter dress codes, more hierarchical structure (even when I started work, there were distinctions about who was called by their first name and who was referred to and addressed as Mr / Miss X )

        So yes, I think probably we now have a situation where people feel more able to speak up if they are annoyed, but also there are more things which would not have been acceptable in a workplace and now are, or are if they don’t bother others. I suspect that gum chewing falls into the category – 60 r 70 years ago it would have been seen as unprofessional in most workplaces so people would have been told not to do it and expected to comply. Now things are fuzzier – it’s not necessarily unprofessional, it depends on context. I think in general the change is good, but it does mean that there are a lot more scenarios without a clear answer about whether or not it is reasonable to do something / put up with something

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          I think you are absolutely right. With things being less rigid, there is more chance of someone being annoyed by another persons behavior, and also they feel more free to speak up.

          I think my problem is the feeling that because you are doing thing A that bothers one person that you need to change your behavior. I think there is a balance between “sucking it up and dealing” since working with people will obviously have things that annoy you, and being a considerate person. I don’t think every behavior that bothers people needs to be changed, but I do think there are reasonable things. As I said in an earlier post, I have no problem asking someone to not chew the gum when talking to them at their desk. I think its very different to ask them not to do it in a meeting. I almost think we have gotten to the point where everyone thinks their personal quirks need to be respected and dealt with, no matter how it affects others

          Reply
          1. Birch

            “I almost think we have gotten to the point where everyone thinks their personal quirks need to be respected and dealt with, no matter how it affects others”

            It really sounds like you are applying this only in one direction. OP’s colleague’s personal quirk is to chew gum so loudly and disgustingly that it causes OP problems doing their job. At work, being able to do your job without distraction is the #1 priority. Don’t we owe it to each other to just be gracious about little things that don’t affect us but affect other people? No one is saying we have to bend over backward to every tiny whim of others, just that if it’s not a hardship on you, it’s considerate to think about how your small behaviours affect others and be willing to compromise. Everyone has something they’re annoyed by and also something they do that’s annoying to someone else. I had an officemate who was on a fasting diet and made one comment once about the smell of my lunch making her hungry, so then I took my lunch to the coffee room because that’s the considerate thing to do. It didn’t cost me anything and it would not cost OP’s colleague anything to show her a little consideration in this one specific scenario.

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              I guess what I’m having a problem understanding, and it may change my opinion, is whether the gum chewing is just THAT LOUD where its bothering everyone. Or most people don’t even notice, but it drives OP crazy, because I think those are very different things. So the colleague may be disgusting, or OP could be hyper sensitive. But my answer would definitely depend on which it actually is.

              So had she wrote in saying “this is driving everyone crazy” I may think differently.

              Reply
              1. Birch

                It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. It’s just for OP to say, “While you’re interacting with me, can you please make this small change that costs you nothing and dramatically improves my experience of our interaction.” OP shouldn’t have to justify that or show evidence that the gum chewing is “bad enough” by consensus because it doesn’t really matter. It would be the same as if the chewer was tapping the table or leaning over OP’s shoulder or clipping her nails while they were talking together. The argument seems to be focusing on whether or not gum chewing is objectively bad enough for a hypothetical person to ask another person to stop, but the situation is just simply that one person can ask another person to stop doing something they find annoying without it being a huge deal.

                Reply
              2. Roscoe

                I agree there. That is why I’ve said a couple of times, I think its fine to ask that when she is at OP’s desk. I think asking her not to do it in a meeting is a bit different.

                Reply
                1. smoke tree

                  I think it’s reasonable to avoid chewing gum in any situation where you might reasonably be expected to speak, which would include some meetings. Personally I would avoid chewing gum in meetings generally because you’re in closer proximity to coworkers than usual so it makes sense to be more considerate, but I think that would be a harder one to try to enforce in someone else.

    5. Falling Diphthong

      The phrase I’ve heard from teachers is “looking out over a field of cows diligently chewing cud.”

      And context probably matters, where it wouldn’t stand out in a lunch meeting where everyone is sometimes chewing, but does stand out in neon if only one person is working their jaws or making chewing sounds.

      Reply
    6. Julia

      Chewing gum itself isn’t unprofessional if you ask me, but chewing extremely loudly or chewing with your mouth open is. Would you chew gum at your boss?

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        If I was in a meeting with my boss, or just talking to him, yes I would have no problem chewing gum in front of him. Now, in general I don’t chew with my mouth open or talk while chewing, because I think that part is impolite. But I’d have no problem chewing it in front of him.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          I think we’re agreeing on the part we find impolite then. I don’t think people are saying that gum per se is unprofessional, it’s the way some people chew it that’s problematic. (Although I think my last boss would have objected to me chewing gum in a meeting, but he wasn’t from the US.)

          Reply
    7. Bea

      The thing with gum chewing is if you’re at your desk working, most don’t notice nor care. When you’re talking around a wad of gum or smacking or popping that’s distracting/rude. I chew gum after lunch, I also spit it out when someone wants to talk.

      It reminds me of the days I worked with guys who chewed. I only cared when they were mumbling or leaving residue in a trash can or left their spit bottles anywhere I saw them. Weak gag reflex. I puked walking the other day, I looked down and on the sidewalk was an emptyish liquor bottle with brown liquid in the bottom and some bubbles that resembled backwash. Frigging gag reflex.

      Reply
    8. Cube Ninja

      I don’t think chewing gum in and of itself is unprofessional. With that said, I don’t think a situation in which someone is openly chomping, mouth open and creating unexpected noises in an office setting passes the reasonable person test.

      Reply
    9. Lora

      Ah, it’s the Curse of the Open Offices: things that people used to not care about (because they were neither seen nor heard through actual walls and doors), are suddenly a giant painful annoyance.

      I have been told that I type too loudly – on a standard-issue $20 keyboard, at that, not even one of the fancy mechanical kind. *shrug* Mostly because I type quickly, I think? Years of typing classes, data entry jobs, programming, and piano lessons.

      As long as employers make Bad Architectural Choices (which I understand the economic drivers for: office space is $100/sqft to build and much more to rent), they need to furnish each and every employee with $200 for the noise canceling headphones of their choice. Really, the other option is working from home (or anywhere not the office that floats your boat), which far far far too many companies are still resisting for stupid reasons. There’s loads of people who still travel to an office, sit there all day, then go home and their only meeting of the day was a conference call, which they called in from their cell phones. There is no legitimate reason to demand that people drive to work to do that.

      You’d think Bose be all over this with solutions for acoustic deadening and white noise, but I have a friend who works there and she says they LOVE the open offices, do lots of collaboration on designs in their R&D group, and absolutely cannot comprehend why the rest of the world does not similarly love it. Asked a friend at Tivoli and she said they just cut budgets drastically so no R&D there any time soon. KEF, Cabasse and Avantgarde need to get on top of this!

      That said…if you honestly, truly have misophonia, there are treatments for that and you don’t actually have to suffer and make everyone around you miserable with weird demands that they ditch their DoubleMint, water bottles, coffee slurping and whatever else you find upsetting. It sucks, but it’s still your personal problem.

      Reply
  24. Thankful for AAM

    Re noise, I want to vent that I have one coworker who makes growling noises. I work in am open workspace shared by 3 departments and I can ignore all background talking, even small parties that sometimes happen. But this growling hits me on some visceral level. I have to stop myself from screaming STOP IT!

    The first time I heard it I thought someone was in pain or danger (trapped or fallen, etc). I actually jumped up to go help. It really is a growl. She has a voice like a 30 year heavy smoker. And as she works, walks around, literally every second, she does this sort of half moan, half growl. Almost like she is humming to herself but growls. I guess it is an involuntary noise. I was told she cannot help it.

    The only thing that saves me is her job keeps her moving so she does not sit within my hearing for more than about 10 minites at a time.

    Reply
    1. Imaginary Number

      I growl at my computer fairly regularly when I get annoyed at it. I think I’m going to make an attempt to stop that now. I didn’t even consider that might be the kind of noise that makes people twitchy as well.

      Especially since I myself am particularly twitchy around loud chewing or slurping noises (like gum.) I have a coworker who sits on the other side of a cubicle wall from me who loudly snacks on chips 3-4 times a day while intermittently slurping a soda.

      Reply
    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I sat next to a guy at OldJob who made hacking/gurgling/choking noises, especially after he had lunch. Also while eating lunch. I could barely hold my own food down. When I finally received the offer from CurrentJob, my first thought was, “three more weeks and I will never hear this sound again” and I damn near cried with tears of happiness. I am guessing it was a digestion issue and he could not help it. Then at CurrentJob, I sat next to a woman for two years who had a dry, hacking coughing fit every 30 minutes, all day, every day. Again I assume it was a compulsive thing she could not help. Though I sat in meetings and group lunches with her where she wouldn’t do it once, until she was back at her desk and then it would start again. It was kicking my migraines into overdrive, but there was nothing that could be done. Every office has at least one and someone ends up drawing the short straw and sitting next to that person.

      Reply
      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Every 30 seconds. That is quite the typo I made there.
        As in, I started counting the coughing fits one day to see if the situation rose to the level of me needing to buy high-end headphones. Got to 50 in about 15 minutes and stopped counting.

        Reply
      2. Imaginary Number

        When I’m sick I always get awful, seemingly unending coughs. And I’m frequently fine when walking around or participating in some other activity, but as soon as I stop everything seems to settle and I start hacking up a lung. And the same thing seems to happen with physical activity too. I remember doing a particularly intense workout with a sports team I’m on and afterward we were all sitting around and a bunch of us starting hacking about ten minutes later.

        Reply
  25. Murphy

    #2 We get “unofficially officially” to leave early right before a holiday, but not on a regular basis. I’d be uncomfortable as well. It’s a tricky situation…I think anonymous reporting as others have suggested might be good.

    Reply
    1. Decima Dewey

      In my civil service job, when we get to go home early for a holiday, it’s indicated as E-time on the timesheet. It still has to be explained in the notes field.

      Reply
    2. Glomarization, Esq.

      It’s not tricky. It’s fraud and LW needs to quit doing it and report the shenanigans before they get into some real trouble.

      Reply
  26. MLB

    #1 – any competent and supportive manager would not be “livid” that one of their employees was leaving. But we all know from reading AAM that there are plenty of managers that are neither competent nor supportive. Regardless, your husband’s manager could have expressed disappointment that she “heard it through the grapevine” rather than from your husband, but once he explained the circumstances, she should get over it. New company definitely dropped the ball on this one, especially since they explicitly told him to wait for the background check to give notice, but I’d be more pissed that my current manager can’t handle herself professionally.

    Reply
    1. AKchic

      Yeah.
      When I put in my notice, my boss was on maternity leave (not how I’d planned it, but oh well). I told her boss (the COO) and the CEO (both were friends). They, appropriately, took my resignation letter to HR for processing and the COO told my boss. My boss (Backstabby Becky) immediately texted my coworker (Negative Nellie) while still on maternity leave to tell her I’d quit and to ask if she knew about it.

      By the time I got back to my desk, I had Negative Nellie jump my rear about leaving and “putting in your notice without even telling me first!” and “I didn’t even know you were looking!” and general fishing for information.
      I swear, if I could have side-eyed any harder, my eyes would have jumped three feet to the side for a better view.

      Reply
  27. Bea

    1. We had a similar thing happen with an employee. We got forms to fill out for clearance and my response opening the mail was “well damn, she’s leaving.” However we weren’t really shocked and I had to share it with the boss, he got the same request form. The difference is we’re reasonable and didn’t accost the person, we understand when people leave and as long as they give notice at their time, that’s their part. HR was correct but the manager is scummy IMO

    RE: timecard theft…holy sht. I know you enjoy this perk and ef being underpaid but you’re stealing. A manager rarely can pad timecards like that without major consequences.

    The only time we padded cards before is when someone is injured. Then it’s to save from jacked up workers comp bills if they report wages lost.

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      I think you’re being a little harsh on OP2…they’re obviously concerned or they wouldn’t have written in to ask about it.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        I’m harsh because instead of using the frilly language of “time theft”, I called it stealing? Sometimes the different wording clicks better with some folks. Others are calling it fraud. It’s all the same thing here.

        I’m annoyed you’d try to paint me as an asshole over a hundred comments deep with everyone saying essentially the same thing.

        I didn’t say anything harsh. Slow your roll, you’re usually very reasonable and smart. Stop barking up my tree, dude.

        I’m not name calling and I’m sympathetic to being in a crappy lowpaying position. Good lord.

        Reply
        1. Murphy

          Well, that escalated quickly. I said “a little harsh”… I certainly wasn’t painting you as an asshole.

          I replied to you because I felt that other comments focused on the behavior of the manager as being wrong, but your language of “you’re stealing” and “you enjoy this perk” seemed a bit judgmental of OP specifically. They’re in a new position and unsure what to do. They’re obviously having a hard time with this, which is why they wrote in.

          Reply
          1. Someone else

            I think the OP’s situation reads to me more like “My Boss told me to do a thing and I initially did it because he said so, but now I realize he misled me about it being OK and it’s a bad thing to have done, and now I feel stuck” rather “My Boss told me to do a thing that I realized from the first moment was wrong and I’ve been doing it anyway because it benefits me but now I’m trying to get out of it without any consequences.”
            The harshness is because it sounds like an interpretation of the latter, rather than the former.

            Reply
      2. Glomarization, Esq.

        Harsh because it is fraud. Fraud is illegal and when (not if) management finds out LW will be in a lot of trouble.

        Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford

      RE: timecard theft…holy sht. I know you enjoy this perk and ef being underpaid but you’re stealing. A manager rarely can pad timecards like that without major consequences.

      The only time we padded cards before is when someone is injured. Then it’s to save from jacked up workers comp bills if they report wages lost.

      Stealing is bad, and we only did it when we had a good reason? Okay.

      Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      …..padding time to manipulate workers’ comp (I’m not even sure quite how that works?) would also be insurance fraud.

      Reply
  28. Peaches

    #3 – This has happened to me before, too. A recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn about a job that sounded really interesting to me. He seemed super energetic and excited for me to interview with this company. He asked for a couple letters of reference, and said we’d set up an interview as soon as I sent those over. I emailed them over, and never heard from him again. I followed up a week later, no response.

    Reply
  29. EB

    #2 – I’m a little surprised at all the people advocating for reporting this, even anonymously. Depending on the size of the organization it may be obvious it was LW, they’ve only been with the org for two months and this is likely a years-long policy since the hourly shift happened awhile ago. Because we already know they’re participating in illegal activity there’s a high chance in my mind they could face subtle retribution that might be hard to prove (loss of perks/raises/etc).

    Really, I think the smartest course of action (in terms of preserving your reputation) is to leave without saying anything. Or leave and then report. LW has been fudging their timecards for two months now, I think it’s a bit late to claim that they didn’t realize it was illegal. They’d be better off saying they trusted the manager that he had discretion if something blew up. A glaring exception to that harshness on my part would be if LW is in his/her first career role. But if you’re older I don’t think there’s much room to pretend you didn’t know what you were doing.

    I’m falling pretty hard on the “get out” side of things because I have been in roles like this before when I was much younger, working under the table/fudging timecards. It might seem like a great job at first but it’s only a matter of time before you see what’s bubbling underneath the surface– I think this is way more than timecard fraud. You’re seeing it a bit from a manager that has chosen this passive-aggressive, illegal course to “resolving” a pay issue.

    Reply
    1. Bea

      I think it’s reasonable as a new hire to suddenly realize 2 months in the practice is illegal. At first you do as you’re told and then “wait, no…this is wrong.” Also it’s like any whistleblower situation, you talk and you’re immunity starts kicking in.

      If they didn’t fire the manager then he could double down with some retaliation….which then will be what gets him fired instead. Then the OP also has a lawsuit to file.

      It’s been 2 months. It’s better now then doing this for however long it takes for someone to leak to the higher ups this is happening. Then you’re fired for fraud and good luck washing that stain out of your work history.

      But yea, leaving first on your own terms would be my first go to. Ef this landmine of a job.

      Reply
      1. EB

        Yeah, I guess it depends on how optimistic LW is and how clean they think the whole org is. I’m particularly cynical and cautious, I’ll admit, so I’m of the mind that reporting while LW is there is more likely to backfire on them (I doubt the timecard issue is the only illegal thing happening there, for instance, they could do something really nasty like try to blackmail LW) than getting out and then reporting.

        Reply
    2. EB

      More food for thought for LW: If it really is a *known* thing in the industry that your org pays poorly like you say/has poor PTO, consider that it’s *known* that there are shady dealings happening in the whole org as well (not just what you can see from your department). Especially if people bounce around a lot in your industry. Just another argument for getting out as soon as possible for your sake.

      Reply
    3. Glomarization, Esq.

      If LW leaves without reporting, then when (not if) the fraud is discovered, the organization will see that LW also engaged in fraud.

      Fraud, fraud, fraud, fraud, fraud. LW is in deep doo-doo and needs to report this.

      Reply
    1. Jaid_Diah

      And nut cracking. G-d, I hate the sunflower seed people. And not all the shells got in the trash can.

      Mind you, I love me some salted pumpkin seeds and pistachios. But I eat those at home.

      Reply
  30. Persimmons

    Are there a disproportionately high number of LWs in banking or government, or is a background check becoming SOP now? I don’t recall ever needing one for previous office-y jobs.

    Reply
    1. Technical_Kitty

      They are also common for mining, exploration or in jewelry industries. I’d assume in medical industries as well? I have one done whenever I change jobs, often a full medical as well.

      Reply
    2. Environmental Compliance

      Hubs has had one every job in the private sector, and I’ve had one every job (mostly gov’t, recently private sector). I thought they were pretty common/standard, at least in the Midwestern US.

      Reply
    3. ExcelJedi

      I’ve never had a job that didn’t require a background check (ranging from universities to IT services to ecommerce). It’s very, very common.

      Reply
    4. Anon Forever

      I’ve never worked in either industry, and I have had a background check in every job I’ve ever had.

      Reply
    5. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’ve never worked in banking or government and have had a background check at each of my six professional jobs.

      Reply
    6. hermit crab

      I’m currently waiting for my background check to clear, so that I can be formally offered a job at an environmental nonprofit. I think it’s pretty common across the board.

      Reply
    7. MattKnifeNinja

      I worked as a playground assistant at an elementary school summer program.

      Finger printed, felony background check, a convicted sex offender background check and a credit check for a glorious $9.00/hr 5 years ago during the summer.

      Paid out $150 just to get all the checks done, and that was before I was hired.

      There’s quite a few jobs that require it.

      Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          Agreed. That’s not even allowed in CA anymore thank god. (except maybe in high finance)

          Reply
          1. Lipa

            Sex offender list search is not allowed in CA either, although there might be an exception if you’re going to work with children

            Reply
    8. Julia

      I had to hand in my criminal record (or lack thereof, the police will testify that your vest is clean) when teaching an after school program at a school once.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        That’s pretty common when working with kids. I had to have a background check done just to accompany my kid on a band trip.

        Reply
    9. NotReallyKarenWalker

      In my experience, education always requires a background check and sometimes fingerprinting as well, even for the admin/non-student facing roles. Anyone working in the building in any capacity has to submit to the checks, from kitchen staff to the head of school.

      Reply
    10. Solidus Pilcrow

      To be clear, most background checks are a simple search of public records to see if the candidate has any felony convictions or arrest warrants and things of that nature. Some may go into driving record checks and credit report checks if the role needs it (or sometimes if the role doesn’t need it, but that’s a different rant). This likely isn’t like an in-depth background check needed for security clearance, which can take months to complete.

      Reply
    11. NorCalifHR

      I’ve been an HR manager in large and small for-profit organizations as well as non-profit organizations and a couple of public agencies – more than 20 years HR management experience. Background checks and drug tests were standard for all positions in e) all of the above. However, I’m in California, which might explain this!

      Reply
  31. Mom MD

    The time card fraud is very complicated. In my organization everyone would be fired. It’s a big deal. And this is on a large scale. Over months it adds up to thousands of dollars. This isn’t sneaking out half hour early on an occasional Friday. I feel for you OP.

    Reply
  32. Cowgirl in hiding

    #4 I know gum chewing is maddening sometimes. If you are the only one that it bothers, it might not be her, but you. Same thing with people that tap their pencil or click a pen, if your focus is on that sound, you may need to help your brain figure out where to focus. There are some resources online like Lumosity has an app that can help or one of those Brain training courses.

    Reply
    1. loslothluin

      There’s actually a condition (forget the name) where certain sounds are triggers for people, and they can’t just block it out.

      Reply
    2. Roscoe

      This is where I fall. I’m having a hard time figuring out if colleague is really that disgusting, or the gum chewing is just that disgusting to OP and most others don’t even notice.

      Reply
  33. loslothluin

    OMG, smacking on gum (or anything else) drives me up the wall, and my boss does it ALL. DAY. LONG. Another partner eats so loud I can hear him chew lettuce 10 feet away.

    Reply
  34. Rachel

    For LW#5 – I get this. I have misophonia (an actual disorder that causes sounds to aggravate to the point of enragement). Sadly, it’s not in the DSM yet, so isn’t covered by ADA. However, I have successfully used my misophonia to get people to stop doing things like this. While reading your letter, the sound of someone loudly chewing was conjured up in my brain and it’s all I could “hear”. I have apologetically told people in the past that I have a mild disorder that causes sounds to bother me to a point well beyond norms and if they could please stop chewing gum or eating in my office or clicking a pen or whatever else. My coworker across the hall now shuts her door whenever she eats carrots because I can’t stand the sound of her snapping and crunching her way through a whole bag of baby carrots. Please know that there are probably other people in your office that are similarly bothered by this, so if you say something, you might empower a few others to stand up against it too.

    Reply
  35. Hiring Mgr

    On #4, you mention in the letter that you rarely have to work with the gum chewer, so i think this is one of those things you let go. I can’t imagine personally even noticing this, but I had never heard of misphonia before today, though it seems like several people just commenting to day have it, so at least I’ve learned something this morning

    Reply
  36. TJ

    #1

    Yikes. I obviously don’t speak for all HR professionals, but as an HR person I absolutely would not do this.

    Reply
  37. Chaotic Good

    My experience over and over again has led me to the unfortunate conclusion that, to protect myself, my interests, and the health and well-being of my co-workers, I cannot ever trust HR.

    Head of global HR at the place I used to work, you *know* she was being sexually harassed and YOU DID NOTHING. You’re lucky I don’t type your name here.

    Reply
  38. Laura H

    Op 2, you’re not entirely at fault but your integrity is on the line if you continue with this (illegal) status quo.

    That integrity is crucial.

    A few years ago I was majorly overpaid due to an error transposing the handwritten punch times into the digital time clock.(Not my error and I’m not sure what caused me to need to go handwritten in that instance.)

    When I got paid, my first instinct was ‘this isn’t right. I need to get this straight’-and went into my scheduling software and screenshotted the error and emailed my management and HR immediately. I wasn’t sure how it would be dealt with, but knew that it would be better for me to be transparent and take the necessary steps to rectify it.

    Had to pay it back, but it was from my next check- so all ended well.

    But I wouldn’t continue to take this from your manager- they’re putting your integrity on the line and you need to get ahead of it like yesterday.

    Reply
  39. NotReallyKarenWalker

    Re: Gum chewer

    I’m a chronic ice-chewer. I have anemia which drives me to chew ice, and it’s something I actually crave. I went a year chewing ice in a bullpen with 9 other people and no one said a word to me about it, and then I moved into another office with a close colleague. Within two days she told me the sound was driving her batty, and probably other people as well.

    It hurt a little bit to take the criticism and I got fairly defensive internally, and then that morphed into mortification that I had unknowingly tortured all those people in the other office for all that time. Now, I try to be very mindful of when I chew – I try to wait until I’m alone, or until there’s substantial enough noise in the office that the crunching won’t be obvious or distracting.

    The person who brought it to my attention was very matter-of-fact about it, didn’t harp on it, and didn’t make it personal. “Wow, that crunching is.. it’s so loud.. did you do that in (other office) too? Do you think you can cut back?”. A few slightly awkward minutes passed, they started talking about work again, and all was well. Ultimately, as much as it stung in the moment, I’m grateful someone pointed it out so that I could be a better officemate.

    Reply
  40. Mimmy

    As a very misophonic person (my list of noises I’m averse to is looong), I actually recoiled in just seeing the heading for #4. My co-instructor frequently chews gum – she isn’t noisy, but it makes it hard to understand her. I’ve tried explaining that to her and she seemed resistant so I gave up.

    In general, I think gum chewing at work is okay if you’re just at your desk and you can chew quietly, but if you’re communicating extensively–such as talking on the phone, teaching, or in a meeting, take. it. out.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      I’m with you and I don’t have misophnia. In general, any time you’ve got something in your mouth when you are talking that’s a problem. If someone actually TELLS YOU that it’s making it hard for them to hear and understand what you are saying, it’s rude to keep that in your mouth, outside of really exceptional circumstances.

      Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s really hard! There’s a good chance that there’s no good outcome here. But probably the least-bad of all possibilities is to discreetly check in about it with someone above the manager’s head, explaining that she wanted to make sure it’s okay but felt awkward asking the manager about it.

      Reply
      1. Glomarization, Esq.

        OP#2 is engaging in fraud. Whether at her manager’s “direction” or not, it’s fraud, and “my manager said it was OK” or even “my manager told me to do it” isn’t going to come across well as OP#2 delays in speaking up. OP#2 is risking some bad and long-term consequences if they don’t speak up and tell upper management about it. Discretion isn’t really the better part of valor, here.

        Reply
  41. Stranger than fiction

    #4, I just want to say I can totally relate! I too find gum chewing annoying and rude. I have two coworkers who chew in my ear when they call me and I’ve called them both out on it. They both said “oh sorry!” And I said that I just hoped customers weren’t hearing it (which is also true, but I didn’t want to make it all about my extreme sensitivity to that particular sound. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me).
    Funny side note: my mom and grandmother always said proper ladies don’t chew gum

    Reply

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