employee is pushing for a job she’s not qualified for, my boss sent me a job posting from another organization, and more

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

1. My employee won’t stop pushing for a job she’s not qualified for

My boss, who oversees the entire division, is hiring for an opening on another team. “Elizabeth,” an employee I manage, wants the job. She has no experience and doesn’t have the education or certification required for it. If she were given the job it would be like hiring a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, and never set foot in a law firm to be a lawyer. My boss is looking externally since no one who works here is qualified. The job wasn’t posted internally but Elizabeth still applied for it and she also emailed her resume and cover letter to my boss and HR. She was immediately rejected since she isn’t qualified. HR explained why she wouldn’t be considered for the job. She emailed HR telling them she disagreed with them and she has emailed my boss asking him to reconsider. She thinks showing initiative and being a quick learner is enough when it isn’t. Besides an internship when she was in university, this is her first job.

I’ve tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can’t have the job but she still wants it. My boss is getting fed up with her badgering him and he wants me to make her stop it. I don’t know how since she won’t listen to anyone who says she can’t have the job. It may seem obvious but I am out of ideas.

“I know HR explained to you that you don’t meet the minimum qualifications for this job. Bob is on board with that decision as well. That’s not a decision that’s going to change. You’ve continued to raise this despite that explanation, and it’s becoming a distraction from our work. You can’t continue to approach Bob or anyone else about this, and I need to know you understand that.”

If she pushes back, say this: “Continuing to push after you’ve been told this isn’t a possibility is raising pretty serious concerns about your judgment. This isn’t something we can continue to spend time on. If I hear that you’ve continue to approach people about the job after this conversation, I’ll consider that a pretty serious problem.”

Also, how’s her work and her judgment aside from this? This behavior is weird enough that I suspect this isn’t the only sign of trouble with her, and you might need to take on any other issues with her more head-on as well.

2. My boss sent me a job posting at another organization

I’ve been working at an arts organization for 4.5 years straight out of college. The workplace is somewhat dysfunctional, but we’re fundamentally a small family. Yesterday my boss asked if I would be interested in what is essentially a dream position at a much larger and well-known arts organization, and of course I said yes.

She said it was in no way an indication that she wanted me to leave, but I’m not so sure. I have doubts that I would even be the most qualified person for the job, so if I don’t get it, I’m worried that I would need to find a new place to work anyway. Additionally, the person my boss sent my CV to is her friend, so in the event I do get the job, I wonder if there would be any issues negotiating salary, etc. since she can easily ask my current boss about what I’m making here. I know it’s bad practice to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help but feel like I should have declined. Is this a common practice? How do people deal with this sort of thing?

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s a nice way of telling me she wants to fire me. When I sent her my CV, she responded with some tips on how to make it better for the future. I know that it could genuinely be her looking out for me, but it seems really weird! Am I crazy for being so sketched out?!

This isn’t that weird!

It’s possible that it’s your boss trying to push you out, but that’s pretty unlikely. It sounds like she’s just looking out for you — she learned about an opening that she thought might interest you and she told you about it. Some managers do that, and it doesn’t mean they’re trying to get rid of you; it just means they’re not territorial about you, and that’s a good thing.

There’s no reason to think you’d need to find another job if you don’t get this one; you can just tell her that it didn’t work out, but you’re okay with it because you’re happy where you are. She’s not going to assume you were actively seeking to leave, because she knows that’s not how this came about.

As for negotiating salary, it’s possible that the new employer could get info on your current pay from your manager, but you shouldn’t let that freak you out. It might not happen, and regardless, you can negotiate based on the market rate for the new job, not what you’re getting at the old one.

3. Is it normal to advertise for a replacement before someone knows they’re being fired?

I have a question about the act of firing someone. I am a copywriter for a small agency and there is a trend in my office that disturbs me. My boss has repeatedly put up hiring ads to replace my coworkers without telling them that he’s planning on firing them or giving any warning. Thrice my coworkers have found the job postings online and were horrified and devastated to realize they were being replaced. Every time I believed my colleagues were hard working and of good character, and were being blamed for other flaws in the business.

I find this extremely heartless and sneaky. However, this is my first job out of college so I’m not sure what’s “normal.” Is my boss a snake? Or is it normal to quietly try to replace your employees while they’re still working for you? I find it weird that he tries to overlap so that there’s no time with someone empty in my coworker’s seat. I feel on edge like I could be next any minute, that if I googled the company name I’ll find an ad for a copywriter job. Am I overreacting, or is this business?

You’re not overreacting. This is a underhanded way of going about replacing people, and it’s not the norm. It’s unfair to the people being fired, and it’s generally going to seem shady to the people applying once they realize the entire interview process has to be kept under wraps. It’s an excellent way to destroy trust with his other employees too, since they’ll see this happening and realize that it could happen to them at some point.

And it’s even worse if your boss is gearing up to fire people without having had straightforward conversations with them about his concerns about their work, and without conveying to them the seriousness of the problems and what they needed to do to improve. It’s possible that he does have those conversations since you wouldn’t necessarily know if he did, but I’m inclined to think that he doesn’t, based on the rest of this and the fact that he seems overall quite cowardly.

4. Our coffee system is stressing me out

I work in a small office of between 10-15 people, and somebody is always getting Starbucks, or ordering lunch, etc. It’s been the custom to ask around the office if anyone else would like a drink or food, even if that means the asker is collecting eight or more coffees at Starbucks and bringing them back for distribution. Most people offer to go and collect food as often as they ask someone else to grab something for them, so it’s a fair system. Sometimes we order delivery using an app — free to download and easy to use, and no one has to leave the office and struggle back with a bunch of orders.

Here’s the issue: it’s getting out of control. When I pick up a coffee for myself before work, there’s semi-joking, semi-serious talk of “Where’s my coffee?” as though I’m selfish for getting coffee just for myself. If I run to the corner store for a soda, I hear cries of “Why didn’t you ask me what I wanted?”

Additionally, there’s one woman in the office who doesn’t have a driver’s license or a car, so she can’t offer to pick anything up, but she is always eager to have people get her something when they go and never offers to help collect the drinks/food. She often goes office to office asking what people are doing for lunch, and immediately asking them to bring her something if they say they’re going out.

Today she came to my office asking if/where I was going for lunch. I replied that I was going out to grab something, and she “put in her order” as expected. I offered for her to come with me and order her own food; she said that she couldn’t afford the time away from her desk. That’s fine — I was going anyway and I know she’s busy. She leaves my office … and returns shortly with other orders from other people. She had asked several other coworkers if they wanted anything, although she had no intention of coming with me and hadn’t asked me if I was willing to order for the office.

Am I being oversensitive? I hate being volunteered for things without being asked; I already know that it’s a sore spot for me. I don’t want to be rude, but it seems like some people feel increasingly entitled to delivery service. Is there a nice way to say “I’m going to grab lunch, and I’m not taking orders”?

I don’t think you’re being oversensitive, but it also sounds like this is just the culture of your office. It sounds like the chore is more or less being shared, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with having this system; it just doesn’t work well for you.  (The exception is your non-reciprocating coworker, who we’ll get to in a minute.)

In response to the “why didn’t you get me anything?” chorus, you can just say, “Sorry! I was in a hurry!” or “My hands were pretty full.” Don’t treat it like it’s a big deal or a serious complaint. That will probably go over fine.

But unlike everyone else, your non-reciprocating coworker isn’t putting in her share of labor, so I’d handle her differently. When she tries to give you a lunch order without you offering, it’s fine to say, “Oh, I can’t bring anything back today.” You don’t need to give an explanation for that, but if you want to, you can say, “I’ve got to do some other errands afterwards” or “I need to get back ASAP” or “I’ve already got more orders than I can easily juggle.” You could also pointedly add, “But you can come with me and help me carry things if you want.”

And at some point, you should try, “Hey, could you be the one who goes today? I’ve been getting it a lot and I think it’s your turn.” (That won’t work if she’s senior to you, but if she’s not, have at it.)

Read an update to this letter here.

5. How much editing should I do?

I’ve recently started a six-month rotation at a new office as part of a fellowship program I am in. The job is mainly data analysis and visualization, and my coworkers are mainly people who focus on data analysis and web development. I like the job and my coworkers, and am looking forward to this six month stint. I might even try to turn it into a permanent position, though that is not my main goal at the time.

One of the first tasks I’ve been given is to do a final edit on a report that we will be publishing soon. The instructions were to do a thorough proofread for grammar, typos, spelling, make sure all the numbers match the results, and check language and tone consistency. I’m doing this, and making edits based on those instructions. However, the writing style is one that I find quite poor. I have a lot of writing experience — I have an PhD in a social science field, and my previous jobs included writing long reports. My writing style has been complimented by all of my previous supervisors, and my most recent supervisor turned to me for all writing-related questions. But my writing skills are not what I was hired for in this job, and I don’t know how much style editing I should do. Even if I simply limited the edits to fixing places where the style made the substance less clear, it would be a lot of changes. I don’t want to start out this job by being the person who tells her colleagues their writing style is poor.

Should I just stick to proofreading and basic editing, or should I also suggest edits to style?

You should ask! Some people will welcome style edits and some people won’t. But it’s a reasonable question to pose to whoever assigned you the work. You could also do style edits on one or two pages and use that as an example of what you’re asking about, saying something like, “I made some suggestions on these pages, but didn’t want to do it throughout before I knew if you’d want those sorts of edits as well.” That’s particularly helpful because it can be hard for someone to say “yes, do more editing” without first seeing if they like the types of edits you’d be making.

But if for some reason you can’t ask — if the person is unavailable all week or something like that — then stick to just the literal instructions you were given and skip the style editing. In that case, it’s better to err on the side of just following the instructions rather than do something they might not want.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Meinschatz*

    Number 4 would stress me out too! Just he thought of having to juggle the money and orders and food and cups and did everyone get their correct condiments…I didn’t even like carrying a tray in the cafeteria in high school and college!

    1. Kc89*

      Ia it sounds like a nightmare

      I’ll offer for one or two co workers who sit near me but not the whole team

    2. JamieS*

      Yeah, sounds like a hassle. If I worked in an office like that and took orders occasionally for the sake of harmony I’d only do it for places that have online/app ordering options and would have everyone place their orders using that.

      I think best OP can do is accept it as part of working there even if it’s aggravating, strongly encourage the woman who doesn’t drive to at least come along and help get the food every now and then, and only pick up for places with limited menus and/or online ordering.

      1. Annie Moose*

        This is what I was thinking. If OP is willing to continue participating in this, then it might help if she only ordered through the app or through online ordering. (e.g. sometimes at work we’ll do an online Jimmy John’s order, where it sends an email to everyone to put in their own order)

        Alternately, start running errands at lunch… “Sorry, I can’t pick up everybody’s order today, I have to stop at the store/pick something up from the post office/drop by home/??? and I don’t know how long it will take.”

      2. Brandy*

        Yes, theres a place called MajorMenus.com that does office deliveries for many offices. They do a different restaurant daily and you pay online so they just drop off the food. Soo much easier.

    3. KimberlyR*

      I’ve always hated being the person to pick up food and deal with money in this situation. I do have a coworker who asks me often if I want her to pick something up for me but she asks first. And I help her in other ways. (I don’t often leave the office in the middle of the day so I don’t have much opportunity to reciprocate.)

      1. Gerry*

        I agree this is stressful. I would probably bring my own lunch in for a week and then sneak out on my break by myself the following week. Then start an erratic pattern of brining in food and buying food so eventually I would be completely overlooked as everyone would be sick of me participating or not, and eventually no one will bother asking again.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Sneaking out is key. I used to have this issue in old office where it became expected that if I was going out I would offer to get food for five or six people. I started to work around it by not telling anyone where I was going. If someone asks if you are going out for lunch say that you need to run a few errands and you might grab food on the way back but you’re not sure what yet. If you don’t know where you’re going you can’t take orders. If someone pushes after that just say “Sorry – I can’t do pickup today.” Sometimes you just need a break for it all. Organizing picking up food for a bunch of people is a ton of work.

          1. Antilles*

            A similar strategy for lunch is to just always eat the food in the restaurant (or a nearby park or etc) rather than bringing it back to the office. Out of sight, out of mind.

          2. MCL*

            I think that if OP employs this strategy (which is a good one), she should really be judicious about asking others to pick up orders for her. If she’s picking up orders for others very rarely or never, she should place orders rarely or never with others at her office who are going out to pick up food.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I agree with that – you shouldn’t take if you don’t give. I actually still did a lot of food pickups for people around the office, the problem was that people expected me to offer every time I went out, and I didn’t always have the extra energy for it, leading to me sneaking out sometimes.

        2. Washi*

          Yep. My office has this culture, which I always thought was an outlier, but maybe it’s more common than I think! The first time I came back with a sandwich from outside and my coworker was like “why didn’t you ask me if I wanted anything?” I just stared at her blankly for a second, because it had never occurred to me that I had some sort of obligation to bring back food for others. The next time I bought lunch, I did ask, and it took FOREVER. People giving me their first choice order and their backup order, people changing their minds, some people have cash, some people don’t, some people wanted me to stop at another place next to the place I was going to go…

          It’s annoying for sure, but tbh it’s actually better for my budget because I always bring lunch from home now :)

          1. Clorinda*

            Oh yes, bringing lunch from home is the key. The OP can save up all the money s/he would have spent on lunch for a month, and go out to a fabulous dinner with significant other/best friend or alone.

            1. lunch*

              Yes, this. Silver lining- it’s a great money-saver! Even a fancier homeade lunch still costs so much less than eating out around here at $15~ a day.

          2. Whit in Ohio*

            That doesn’t work for me, I’m way too scatterbrained to remember to bring lunch. I’m also too scatterbrained to get anyone else’s order right or remember all the orders. This system is a nightmare for me.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              Maybe that’s the key to OP getting out of this…royally screw up the orders each and every time!

              1. Somniloquist*

                This actually worked for me in one office! Someone wasn’t explicit on an order and I majorly screwed it up for the whole office. I was never asked to place an order again.

          3. SavannahMiranda*

            This office culture sounds wholly infuriating. I’m infuriated both for you and for LW.

            And yes it does sound remarkably like the right time to eat tons of homemade lentils salads. And salads with lentils in them. And lentil rice. And rice pilaf garnished with lentils.

            Lennnnntils. No one will ever ask you to pick up their lunch again.

        3. careergal*

          That’s totally what I’d do. I’d make my own coffee and bring it in a giant thermos in the morning, and pack and bring my lunch for a month or more. This sounds like a hassle and a distraction.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yup. I switched to bringing cold brew coffee and having a french press, just so I could escape the office coffee bullshit. I’m far happier.

          2. Tricky Hobbit*

            Or if you want Starbucks, pour it into your own thermos so it looks like you brought it from home. Same with the take-out lunch, just “run home” for lunch, and eat in the restaurant or someone not at work, if possible. I would hate to be the lunch person! I would be afraid of getting the order wrong, or maybe have your co-workers call in their order, have it under your name for pick up.

            1. Mine Own Telemachus*

              I legit just bought myself a fancy thermos mug thing just so I could do this with Starbucks drinks. Bonus is that it saves on the plastic because you can just hand the cup to the barista!

        4. Anon commenter*

          I worked in an office at one point, where even when I had brought my own food/ gone back to place of living to eat/ said I was doing other things over break/ said I was busy, I would get called out on what exactly ‘it’ was and told how unimportant those things were and that I was ‘going right by’ where ever it was the fools wanted me to go, which included one time being a distance from anywhere that I actually was. Experiences like these, and I was not a push over, have contributed to me partially seeing how little I was worth and generally people dislike me regardless of anything. What would you tell someone to do in the situation A’s scripts don’t work?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            These are the kind of people you must not JADE (justify, argue, defend, explain) because it just gives them something to argue against. You’re not going in that direction? Of course you are. You have other things to do? But this is more important! With that kind of pushy person, there’s no benefit to actually giving them reasons. All you can do is turn into a polite but very unhelpful brick wall and keep saying “sorry, I’m not going to be able to help you with that.” (Or, you know, be less polite, but I kind of love the idea of wrapping up your “F you” in a nice package with a pretty bow.)

            1. Queen of Cans and Jars*

              Or, you know, be less polite, but I kind of love the idea of wrapping up your “F you” in a nice package with a pretty bow.

              This is 100% my MO in pretty much every situation with difficult people, but I’ve never heard it put so beautifully. :D

          2. Washi*

            What do you mean by “don’t work”? There’s no script that can make people stop asking about food, it’s just a question of what, if anything, you want to say to soften the blow and smooth things over. In my office, I’ve just continued to bring my own lunch, and when people do ask me to get stuff because I’ve said I have an errand, I just say “sorry, don’t have time!” They can keep asking and I can keep saying that I can’t, and I’ve found that with reasonable people who just have different expectations, there aren’t any long-term hurt feelings, especially because I try to be a friendly and helpful coworker in other ways.

            1. Anon commenter*

              In the situations you seem to be describing, there wasn’t blatant rudeness of what the co-workers were asking me or more specifically why saying what A mentioned might not work. These people pushed they didn’t go away for the day and then return the next. They didn’t take no for an answer.

              1. Not A Morning Person*

                It’s frustrating when people won’t take no, but it’s also okay to keep saying no and looking at them quizzically when they keep asking. …no….quizzical look as they try another way to ask… no…furrow your brow like you don’t understand what they are saying and then say again…no.
                Then they ask again and you say, no. No explanation. No justification. Just no. That won’t be possible. Don’t add any qualifiers such as I can’t do that “today.” NOOOO. Don’t say today, or this time, or anything that would imply that if circumstances were different you’d agree.
                Just nooooooooooooooooo. Just keep saying it. You have to outlast them. It’s frustrating but it is doable. It might require practice and getting over the feeling that no is rude. It’s not. It’s just no.

                1. Not A Morning Person*

                  And if it’s not clear, it doesn’t matter if they keep asking. Just say no and don’t respond to the, why not, well it’s on your way, it will only take a minute, or any of the wheedling they might try. Just say no.
                  And if someone says something like “what’s your problem?” I’d suggest saying, “I don’t have a problem. Do you have a problem?” in as friendly and quizzical a voice and expression as you can summon.
                  It’s like when I don’t appreciate particularly salty language or something else that bugs me and I say so and get in response “What’s your problem? You’re pretty sensitive.” I reply, “Yes, I’m sensitive. Thank you for noticing and not using that kind of language (or whatever) around me.” It typically works. But you have to be prepared.

          3. Jennifer*

            Hide your food consumption, I guess? Not eat in public? Not leave?

            Your office is ridiculous about it, though, geeeeez.

            I could not juggle 8 food orders as one person. This is nuts.

            1. Happily Retired Now*

              You gave me an idea – Limit food orders to 2 people. “Sorry, I can only handle 2 orders, Jack & Jill got to me first.” Or even just 1 order, whatever you can handle without getting stressed.

              Personally, I would either be bringing my lunch, or eating my purchased food where I bought it or in a nearby park. Or even my car.

          4. MassMatt*

            I would second Rusty’s advice, don’t get drawn into an argument or explanation of why/why not with people so unreasonable. As they say, no is a complete sentence, in this case as it is a workplace you can keep a civil tone and say “No, thank you”. Repeat as necessary. If someone is so weird as to keep badgering you then you can ask what their problem is, why they are expecting coworkers to do their errands, etc. and to stop.

        5. smoke tree*

          I think I would personally have a policy of never eating out to avoid dealing with all the hassle. Although it’s pretty rare that I eat out anyway, so I probably would just have been left out of the rotation from the start.

    4. hoho*

      Yep, #4, as other people have said, this would drive me nuts. My personality is such that I would be very friendly and polite, but also direct and just say, “Nah, I don’t do food runs for everyone else.” Obviously, I wouldn’t expect to be included when other people picked stuff up either. I feel like that’s super reasonable, and if anybody got annoyed with me, I’d just tell them that getting out of the office and picking up coffee or lunch is relaxing for me and juggling a bunch of other stuff ruins that. I’d be cheerful but firm and would probably bring in doughnuts or cookies or something for the whole group once or twice a year, or occasionally proactively offer to do a food run, just to assuage anyone whose feelings were weirdly hurt by my nonparticipation. But you’re not oversensitive, and in particular your co-worker collecting orders without asking you was really irritating.

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, I’d be looking for any way I could to just exit stage right from this whole farce. Don’t place orders, don’t offer to pick up, politely decline when requested to do either, keep lunch and break plans super vague, and be free.

    5. chi type*

      How does one person even carry 8 coffees? I’m lucky if I can get in the door with 2 (okay, sometimes I can’t even handle just mine).

      1. AcademiaNut*

        For large orders, they can wedge them into bags. Four coffees in a bag is two bags to carry, which is manageable. Or, you go through a drive-through, then do a couple of runs from the car.

        This strikes me as one of those situations where an informal arrangement works well for a small number of people (like picking a restaurant or a movie), but once you get past a certain number of participants, you need a formal system, or you’ll end up feeling like the OP. For example, I’m part of a group that goes for lunch together. Originally, whoever thought of lunch first would collect the others from their offices, and we’d head off. The number of people increased, and we had to spend more time figuring out who was around, checking offices on different floors, waiting for people who had just one more thing to do. It got to the point that I was considering dropping out altogether, because this sort of dithering drives me up the wall. We ended up forming a LINE group to gather people and pass on information, which has made things much more streamlined.

        In the OP’s situation, I’d probably drop out of the system completely, and manage my own lunch and coffee.

        Oh, and as a non-driver, in a situation like this, I’d consider helping carry stuff, and occasionally treating the driver, to be a reasonable exchange for access to take-out.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          It sounds like OP’s office’s coffee/lunch orders hit critical mass a while ago.

          If I were OP I’d bring in my own coffee in the morning (ignoring comments from others), in my own reusable cup so that even if I did go to a coffee place I would have plausible deniability and let others think it’s coffee from home.

          I would find something else to be doing during my lunch break thus making it “simply impossible to do a lunch run…sorry.”

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Yeah, I was just coming to post something similar. And maybe also start move away from the food business too. This doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Just enough to break away from what the pushy co-worker is expecting and maybe also, to help scale this back.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          The non-driver should be put in charge of ordering on the phone when there isn’t an online option. Next time she tries to put in a food order for someplace that will be complicated to order from you should say ‘Since you can’t drive to pick up, you can call to place the order this time!’ Be polite and cheerful and act like it is no big deal.

          1. Jennifer*

            All these people should just be ordering delivery food, all the time. Seriously. Or bring their own lunches and coffees.

        3. nonymous*

          I dunno, is delivery really that expensive/unavailable? I used to live in a city of <$60K and there were still multiple delivery options for ~$5. Also, grubhub has an integrated group ordering option using venmo to split the bill.

          The best group ordering situation I saw skipped the app services, though. The organizer would send out an a reminder to order from a local restaurant by cutoff time with a group code and everyone would just call their orders in and pay individually. iirc the resturant offered free delivery because the total order was over some threshold, so anyone ordering was actually saving both time and money without creating too much hassle.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        You get your coffee through the door? Yesterday morning I just stared at the barista waiting for her to read my mind…apparently.

        1. chi type*

          Haha. I feel you, my friend. The horrible catch-22 of having to order before having had your coffee.

      3. Snark*

        They have those cardboard cup holders, and I’ve seen one of those stacked on top of another. It’s not impossible, it’s just dumb.

        1. chi type*

          Yeah my coordination is so bad I can’t handle even one of those without panicking so I guess I’d have an out.

      4. Middle School Teacher*

        As someone who got 12 coffees every three months, I used a rubbermaid tote. But it was so stressful, I was always terrified I would drop it or something.

        1. Heather*

          If you drop everyone’s coffee in front of them a couple of times, they’ll probably quit asking you to get it ;)

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Exactly. I got asked to make tea while I was a temp at a small office. I screwed it up. Accidental, but after that they asked other people to make the tea. I had TOLD them that I don’t drink hot drinks, but I guess they didn’t believe that I had no experience of tea making.

            If you’re carrying lots of coffee, you could try copying the “Two Soups” sketch from Acorn Antiques, where the wobbly waitress has very little left in the bowls by the time she gets to the table.

            Or, if you’ve told people you have errands to run but they insist “aw, it’s not far! You can just pop into x place in passing” – well OK. Get the food and drink. Eat your own. Do your errands (even if they are just “chill out and relax”). At the end of the hour, return and deliver the coffee and food, like usual, no fuss, here you go, enjoy.

            What’s that they said? It’s gone cold? And they’ve been hungry for a while, waiting? Well you DID tell them you’d be running errands, but they were adamant about you collecting for them anyway…

            Any and all of the above will probably make you a far less appealing target for the lunch and coffee runs.

        2. chi type*

          Sounds like an actual nightmare (inspired by an old waitressing fiasco *shudder*) I still have occasionally.

    6. Jen*

      I worked in an assistant type role in college and getting coffee or lunch for 2-3 people was challenging enough. I don’t even know how you carry that many coffees and that many lunches would be very heavy, plus the stress of collecting and checking that many orders. Lunch for 8 could easily mean handling a lot of money too, not every restaurant has an app.

      While this may be office culture, this sounds like something that may be worth pushing back on a bit. I might start by using a reusable cup and bag to store food in, so no one can pick at your lunch and coffee. Also keep lunch plans vague. Obviously, this means abstaining from ordering from others yourself.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        It’s too much like a job. Checking orders, checking tickets/change, getting all necessary condiments, napkins, forks, keeping track of cards/cash, etc…

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          The money thing bothers me the most. Suddenly you are expected to have exact change for five or six people. I am not a bank people, I don’t have a cash register. If you don’t have close or exact change I am not picking up lunch for you.

          1. Antilles*

            My general rule is that you’re not getting change back unless it’s a huge amount. I am paying with my credit card, so getting change would require doing two separate transactions. Does it mean I pocket a few cents on the deal since you gave me a five for a $3.99+tax coffee? Yes.
            But I’m basically (1) serving as your delivery driver and (2) saving you the time/hassle. So the 73 cents or whatever is basically my tip for doing all the work. If you have an issue with that, feel free to hop in the passenger seat and ride along.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I never worked anywhere where there were more than two or three (including mine) meals/coffee to pick up so that wouldn’t have been an issue for me, but when it starts being 4+ and everyone needs special orders, cash, different cards, etc. that’s just too much to ask.

          2. Lexi*

            no change, Our office has a rule when you get lunch ordered and brought back by someone in the office Give cash for as close to the rounded up dollar amount as possible, any difference is gas money/discount on their order for going and getting the food/drinks.

          3. MatKnifeNinja*

            If they don’t order AND pay via a phone app, I’m not doing food/drink fetching.

            Our Starbucks does mobile phone orders. Either they order through my app AND pay me upfront, or order on their app and send me a screen shot of the order with number.

            There are also food order deliverly apps that work well for my area. It delivers from all the local restaurants.

            No way in hell am I fidding through menus, picky eaters who do big modification on dishes only to be unhappy, cheap people who are always broke etc.

            Phone app and paid or NOPE.

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              Forgot to add, people where I work want back THE EXACT CHANGE owed. While I agree with rounding up, too many people resented the driver getting that 49 cents. That’s why I do phone app only now. People are nuts.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Oh picky eaters… nope. I’m saying this as a very picky eater myself. The thing is I don’t expect other people to have to do the grunt work of getting my BLT just exactly right. “Close enough” works if someone else is doing the running for me.

    7. Lizabeth*

      This would drive me crazy…and would bring my lunch and coffee from home every day*. I’m assuming there’s no coffee service in the office?

      *doing this would save some serious money for something that matters.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        This was my thought too. “I’m trying to cook more and save money!”

        I feel like only a really unreasonable group would object to dropping out of lunch pick-ups if you were also dropping out of the lunch orders.

      2. Snark*

        Seriously – if you’re doing Starbucks and lunch runs daily, that’s a serious hunk of change.

      3. Oxford Comma*

        I think this is the way to go. You get everyone out of the habit of expecting you to be fetching food and dealing with money. You do this for a few weeks and then after when you occasionally want to go in for take out, maybe opt for the times when the app and delivery is an option.

    8. Persimmons*

      Agreed. I’ve managed to avoid this in my workplace through partial Luddite-ism. I don’t use a smartphone, and everyone pays each other via apps. I’m (happily) left out so nobody has to deal with me needing to use actual money.

      1. Persimmons*

        ETA: I also don’t do food or drink in my car. Other than groceries, of course, but everything is sealed and goes into lined boxes in the trunk. I’ve had too many spills.

    9. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      At old job I used to pick up food for the receptionist when I went out because she wasn’t allowed to leave the office during lunch break. I didn’t mind at all because she was a friend and she always put the orders in for me (I hate placing order on the phone). Then suddenly another coworker asks I she can put in an order, then another one, and suddenly it was up to five people and I knew I couldn’t handle anymore than that. Some of the guys around the office would come around and make comments on ‘awwww, why didn’t you ask me?’ both in joking and very serious, upset ways. Usually I would ask them when the last time they brought me lunch was (it was never). Sometimes I would just say ‘Sorry – five is my limit’ other times I would say ‘Ladies only’ (we were all women, mostly just because they were my closest friends in the office). This worked mostly because no one else in the office really ever picked up for me.

      If anyone had ever brought a list of names and order for people I didn’t offer to get food for myself I would have flipped right out. That is a good time to lay down some kind of law. I would probably say “I’m sorry – I wasn’t prepared to get food for a big group today. This is too much for me to handle on my own. Someone else is gonna have to come with me for pickup. If you can’t find someone that can you need to tell everyone I can’t get lunch today.”

    10. AdminX2*

      *In response to the “why didn’t you get me anything?” chorus, you can just say, “Sorry! I was in a hurry!”*

      I’d drop the sorry, there’s no need to apologize for someone’s entitlement. Just say “You know how it goes!” cause well, they should. If they don’t, this lets them graciously be excused from their entitlement and hopefully think next time.

      1. Yorick*

        But this isn’t random entitlement, this is an office where they reasonably expect others to offer to pick something up for them. If OP just stops doing it without any social niceties to smooth it over, it’ll seem super rude. OP can’t really just say, “you know how it goes!” “How it goes” would have been getting their coffee too.

        1. Washi*

          I’m not sure how “reasonable” it is in an office that size. My team has the same culture, but there are only 7 of us, whereas this seems like a much bigger group. That said, I do agree that continuing with the social niceties is important. OP doesn’t need to agree to be the food runner, but it doesn’t cost anything to stick a “sorry” on the front to preserve the relationships.

        2. AdminX2*

          It doesn’t matter how often they have done it before, if they didn’t do it on THAT day, you presume they have good reason. You don’t call them to the floor because you decided you wanted something and they should have gotten it. If it really mattered you should have checked early an asked nicely.

      2. Antilles*

        I disagree. In most offices, you’d be completely right – if someone asked “why didn’t you get me anything”, they’d mean it as an off-the-cuff joke, so it’s perfectly fine to respond with “you know how it goes” or even a semi-snarky joke right back “oh, yeah, yours, I think it’s at the Starbucks where I got mine, haha”.
        But here, it’s apparently so well-established as a culture that you really do need to put in a bit of extra effort and phrasing, because Not Bringing Back Food is apparently a notable issue. Responding without some kind of ‘sorry’ or excuse or the like is going to come off out of step with the culture and moderately irritate someone.

        1. Artemesia*

          Hence having your own mug, pouring the Starbucks into it and pretending you made coffee at home is the way to go. And actually, making coffee at home is so easy — I use a drip cone and it takes no time at all — and you save hundreds of dollars a year doing it.

          I think the only way to break out of this is to bring your own coffee and lunch for awhile till they get used to you being out of the rotation.

          1. Judy (since 2010)*

            I think you can just take your reusable travel mug to Starbucks. They’ll fill it instead of the disposable cups.

    11. Anonforthis*

      Yeah this sounds way beyond the usual offering to grab something on your way out – and people asking stuff like “where’s my coffee?” or “why didn’t you get me X?” would annoy the hell out of me. Also what if the lunch order is messed up, etc.?

      I’ll ask if anyone needs anything if I’m running to the drugstore or Starbucks, but only in my department. There’s a reason delivery services exist.

    12. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’d be concerned how the money aspect works out. I guess the apps take care of that, but it sounds like some people just send orders with whomever is going out.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett*

        Seriously. At my work I used to organize having pizza delivered on Fridays when only a handful of us were in. I’d put it on my card, and tell my coworkers to give me cash for their share, and said that they could pay me tomorrow if they didn’t have cash. One of my coworkers didn’t have cash on him but ate the pizza and took the leftovers home. I never offered to organize a pizza lunch when he was in again.

    13. Laurelma__01!*

      To me, that would be turning my lunch break into working hours. If hourly, this could be problematic for the employer. The other commenters have great ideas to get out of it. I would hate it, it would cause me to disappear at lunch and no tell anyone where I am going.

      I hope your job isn’t expecting most people to work through lunch, with the exception of the individual picking up lunch. Sounds like you should be ordering in versus asking someone to pick up. It’s asking too much. I ran into that years ago, and told them that I was going for a walk at lunch. Didn’t volunteer that I was walking to a restaurant.

    14. Secretary*

      Yep #4 would stress me out. I’d actually be the most stressed about the money. Is everyone PAYING for their own lunch? Or is it someone buying all the coffees and it evens out because most everyone goes. That’s the thing I get the most nervous about that stops me from saying, “Hey, I’m getting Starbucks, want anything?”. I don’t want to buy 8 coffees or 8 lunches.

    15. Sally Forth*

      Could the OP easily opt out of the process and take a break? Just brownbag it for a bit. It won’t change the office practice but it will alleviate the stress.

    16. I See Real People*

      I don’t mind bringing someone lunch back, but handling large drinks is a real chore! Even if they come in a fold-out cardboard carrier, I always manage to spill or drop one.

    17. bookwyrm*

      For my first job out of college, I was an admin assistant and a required part of the job was getting lunch for the ~15 person office every day. Man, I hated it so much. I wasn’t getting food myself since I cooked and brought it with me. They would sometimes ask me what they should get, and I was like I don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me and they basically only ordered Chipotle and American food like Chili’s, Five Guys, etc. Usually about 3-8 people would order, and dealing with getting accurate change or all the orders on separate credit cards drove me up a wall. Plus having to drive in an area that was a pain in the neck. I did not stay there for very long.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I’d hate doing it because I was fronting the money and even when people paid me back I always ended up short by a few dollars. Also, I hate food that is cold when it’s supposed to be hot so I never ordered for myself.

    18. always in email jail*

      This would definitely stress me out to no end. I get what people are saying about bringing in your own food/coffee for a while, but I think that’s part of why I would find it so stressful/upsetting. I would feel like I’m being held hostage by this situation and FORCED to do without my starbucks drink I want or my favorite lunch or whatever.

  2. HR Jedi*

    #2, I think you are reading the situation totally wrong. If your boss is looking at job postings, then she is probably on the way out and thinks it’s best for your career to move on. You have probably come across someone who wants to informally be a mentor to you. Go for the job and maintain the relationship (for the rest of you working life, if possible); it seems like at the very least you have found a good reference.

    1. MamaCat*

      It’s also possible she was contacted by someone within the hiring organization to see if she knew anyone; that kind of thing is super common in fields like the arts.

      1. MamaCat*

        The fact she sent off the OP’s resume to a friend of hers makes that scenario seem even more likely, IMHO.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, when OP said boss had passed her resume to a friend I was like oh this sounds super normal! I can definitely imagine the friend mentioning she was looking for someone for this job and the boss being like oh dang I actually think I have someone on my team who would be great for that.

          OP, this all sounds very nice honestly! In this one story at least, your boss sounds like a good boss! So if there isn’t anything else she has done to make you think she is *not* a good boss then definitely don’t overthink this!

        2. NLMC*

          That was exactly my thoughts too. If there is someone I’m trying to get rid of I’m definitely not passing them along to a friend.

    2. sacados*

      I dunno, I think that might be reading too much into things. Especially since Other Job’s hiring manager is a friend/contact of OP’s boss, it’s equally likely the manager just reached out about trying to fill the opening and asking if OP’s boss knew of anyone who might be a good candidate.
      Not necessarily that she also is job hunting.
      Either way though, I agree that it sounds like a good opportunity and extremely doubtful that pursuing it would hurt OP’s career in any way.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I agree. The impression I get from the letter is that there’s not much room for advancement for OP within the organization, the boss thinks OP is great, and the boss wants OP to advance in her career. Sounds like a great boss. Good luck with the opportunity, OP!

    3. Dot Warner*

      This is one where it depends on how well the OP gets along with their boss. If they have a good relationship, then I’d agree with your and Alison’s take on the situation. But if they don’t get along, then I can’t blame the OP for thinking this is a subtle hint.

    4. chi type*

      Eh, I’d be excited to tell my reports if I heard of a great job I thought they could get because I want them to be successful in general.
      Even if it would be a pain for me to replace them, I like them and want what’s best for them.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Same here. I’d do the same thing, and I have. I think this is the most likely scenario in OP’s case. Sure, it could be that her boss knows something about the future of the company and wants her to have a chance to move on and look out for herself, or maybe there’s no chance for advancement, or even that the boss is moving on. But I think the most likely explanation is that the boss thinks she’s great and this is a great opportunity for her.

      2. OtterB*

        Ditto. As someone relatively senior in a small not-for-profit that doesn’t have much room for a growth path from early-career positions, I would pass along a posting that came through my network if I thought it offered a good employee an opportunity they wouldn’t have if they stayed with us. It wouldn’t mean I wanted them to leave, or that I planned to leave myself.

    5. AemiliaJane*

      Yep, I’m the same. I’m a manager in a small org with relatively few opportunities for climbing the hierarchy, and if I saw/heard of an opportunity that would be great for one of my longer-term reports I’d definitely tell them and encourage them to go for it.
      They do great work and I’d be sorry to see them go, but also I’d want them to succeed generally in their careers.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t agree with this interpretation at all. It sounds like the hiring manager is friends with the boss. Likely, the subject came up in a “oh, I’m looking for an experienced llama wrangler if you know anyone” and boss said “actually, I have a great llama groomer working for me who might be ready for a new challenge.”

    7. kindabosslike*

      I’ve struggled with this on the team I manage, where a stint as a temp often leads to a permanent job. But sometimes it’s not going to, and when one of the temps asks me about a permanent job, I sometimes try to suggest a permanent job I know of in some other area. I’m not trying to get rid of this temp; I’m trying to support their career development by suggesting a path towards their goal: permanent job. But sometimes they take it wrong. They fear I am trying to get rid of them. Sigh.

      1. AMPG*

        I’ve dealt with this in the past by just being really direct:
        Option A: “I think you’re great and would love to help you advance your career within the team, but our turnover rate is such that you’ll almost certainly be waiting longer than you’d like. Can I keep my eyes open for other opportunities elsewhere to point you towards?”
        Option B: “I’ve enjoyed working with you and appreciate your strengths of [example], but I don’t think a permanent job here is in the cards for you. Having worked in this field for some time I suspect you’d be happier in [related field] – is it OK if I keep an eye out for positions you might be interested in?”

    8. BRR*

      I come across job posting all the time without looking. They’re part of my professional organization’s listserv and always show up on LinkedIn’s homepage. While it’s possible the manager is looking for a new job, I think it’s that the manager is a good manager who saw an opportunity for their direct report.

    9. Jule*

      I do not agree, especially since the boss has a friend at the organization and could have easily been asked if she knows anyone who’d be a good fit for the job. Beyond that, all of the trade enewsletters I read for my industry put job listings front and center. People look at them to get a sense of who’s growing/expanding (including smaller companies they may not have even heard of before), what skills are in demand, who might have moved on, etc. It’s just the smart thing to be doing.

    10. Artemesia*

      I have had bosses do this for me — pass on possible job options. And I have done it for people working for me. It is always for a good employee whose career you hope to advance. If I know that my employee would benefit in ways we can’t provide, then passing on a good job option is about me boosting that employee. I would take it as a compliment whether you are interested in the job or not.

    11. op2*

      op2 here! When she asked me if I was interested in the job, I originally said I’d check it out as it’s not unusual for us to share “dream job” postings around the office — all of us applied to work on Prince’s estate at Paisley Park —but she immediately said it hadn’t been posted. Also though I think her time here may be coming to a close, as the director of a pretty powerful (but small) arts organization, I don’t think she’ll be trolling NYFA for leads. But interesting take!

      1. Teapot librarian*

        And if she passed your resume on to a friend, she must think you’re good-to-great. I wouldn’t pass along someone’s resume to a friend unless I think that person would do a good job. I don’t want to hurt my own reputation by trying to dump someone on a friend.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Yeah, this! She wouldn’t screw over a friend by recommending someone she wants to fire.

      2. Logan*

        I work in an environment where 5 years is about the max time spent in one job (often there are internal promotions, but no matter where someone goes – they tend to want a completely new challenge after 3-5 years). If you are in a smaller workplace, with few opportunities for a total change in pace, then it makes sense to me that your boss would want to help you with something new. A good boss / mentor will help you find the next step, with the idea that in 20 years you can be that same person who is helping support the next generation. Outside of personal accomplishments, I can think of nothing better than seeing a former employee succeed elsewhere (it’s even better than success when they are with me, as it proves that they have the ability to do well with others).

    12. Lizzl*

      I agree. I could see the other side of this letter posted here. “I want to recommend my direct report for a better job but I don’t want to offend her”. It sounds to me like you have a great boss who only wants the best for you.

    13. Cat Herder*

      My boss and grand boss (academia but not faculty) send job notices thru our all-staff email group frequently. It’s very hard to move up within our office (smallish number if employees, flattish org chart, people in leadership positions rarely leave), and they are genuinely committed to developing their people. I’ve always told them when I’m looking at another job, and they have given me good advice on how to prepare for interviews and such.
      It’s quite possible your boss is one of these people, OP #2.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I think you might be overthinking this! A good manager is going to look for opportunities to help you advance… including referring you to positions at other organizations if there is not much room for upward growth at your current employer. My old bosses still send me jobs—it’s part of them being good and caring mentors.

    1. Tim Tam Girl*

      This. At my last two jobs, I had fantastic managers who went to great lengths to help me get subsequent jobs. At both of those organisations I was well-respected and well-liked but had no real option to move up within the organisations and it was clear in both cases that my next job would be somewhere else.

      These managers helped me so much, and in neither case was there even a hint that they wanted me to move on or that they were moving on themselves and thought I shouldn’t stick around. They were just being good humans, and I am very grateful.

    2. Kuododi*

      A hearty second to this!!! I have had clinical supervisors give me leads on internal transfers/ (both lateral and promotion.). I have also been given postings external to the clinic I happened to be working for at the time which would have been a promotion. One of my favorite clinical supervisors at the first place I worked for after seminary went to bat for the center to create a new position for me which was a promotion and took me off his treatment team.

    3. Jen*

      There is also a benefit to having someone you trained be successful at a related organization. It gives you a good contact somewhere else. This doesn’t mean they are expecting any kind of favors, but knowing someone you can call and have a straightforward chat with in another workplace is super valuable. That is why good bosses help career development generally.

      1. BadWolf*

        And you’re likely to send good candidates back to your old job — so the networking works both ways.

      2. op2*

        op2 here! This is especially relevant to this situation, so thank you! Where I work now is sort of on the “discovering” end of art, and Other Job would be in curation. Putting someone that will go to bat for your artists in a major museum would definitely help!

        1. Jen*

          Exactly. My spouse did his co op in college for a company that supplies basically teapot clay. Now he works for the company that makes the finished teapots and buys teapot clay. He didn’t give his old teapot clay job any unfair advantage, but the teapot clay company realized they should listen to him and didn’t resist any of the changes teapot company wanted to make to the teapot clay, unlike some other clay makers, who resisted making changes. As a result his old teapot clay place spent money improving their processes and doubled the amount of teapot clay they sell.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed! My last boss presented me with a job she found through a connection because she knew that I wasn’t going to stay with her forever. It opened the door for us to have honest conversations about my plans and she was very supportive when I interviewed for my current position which is basically my dream job.

    5. Jule*

      100%. OP, it sounds like your manager wants to help you BEFORE you hit the limits of your current position and stagnate, which wouldn’t be a good situation for you or her!

      1. op2*

        op2 here! This stings because I haven personally felt for about a year that I have been stagnating HARD! That’s also why I was a bit surprised at the recommendation!

        1. Chameleon*

          It sounds like your boss may have noticed that you are ready for a new challenge, then. You said that you don’t think you are the most qualified person for the job–I just want to point out that your boss obviously thinks you’d do very well in the position, even if you don’t have a lot of current experience. People don’t refer bad employees to their friends!

          As someone who has always struggled with feeling unqualified, I will ask you the question I ask myself: Does your boss usually make pretty good decisions? Is her judgement pretty good in general? If so, then accept that her judgement about you is also good, and you *are* qualified for this job.

          1. Logan*

            Qualifications are about personality / soft skills as much as technical qualifications and experience.

            Also, while I don’t want to pick at gender, please keep in mind that – on average – men are more likely to think that they are ‘qualified’ for a job if they meet something like 80% of the listed requirements, whereas women are at 100%. Do you see yourself in this article?

            My workplace tends to have ‘mandatory’ and ‘ideal’ qualifications, which is a really useful way of framing things. The mandatory are fairly straight-forward, and set the minimum bar. I have applied to a job where I didn’t have many of the ideal, but I thought that I excelled at some of the mandatory aspects. I did really well at the interview – I ended up declining because of a logistical problem, but it reinforced my belief that personality and soft skills can be a really important aspect of a hiring decision. In fact, now that I think about it, I recently moved jobs and I found out from my reference that they had only one important question, which was “Is this person adaptable?”

        2. Genny*

          Each job has a life-cycle. First it’s a steep learning curve, then you get to the point where you can handle everything, then you start stagnating a bit due since the job isn’t challenging you like it used, and finally burnout. It sounds like your boss knows you’re good at what you do, but sees that you’re ready for a new challenge and wants to help you find that new challenge before you hit burnout.

    6. HumbleOnion*

      A friend of mine supervised young people who were just out of college, early in their careers. She told me that if people stay in their jobs more than about 3 years, she feels she hasn’t been doing her job properly. She recognized that it wasn’t the sort of job that allowed for upward growth & felt it was part of her job to help people grow out of it. She was a really good boss & cultivated really good employees.

  4. Friday*

    OP4, if I were you, I’d probably hit Starbucks in the morning but have them fill my own travel mug, and let everyone think I make my own coffee at home.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I would go further. I would opt out of the coffee mess entirely and then go get my own as needed. I’m not under obligation to anyone so I don’t have to supply them.

    2. Meg*

      I think the person asking “where’s mine” should have bought one on the way to work if they want one that much. Lazy and entitled.

  5. Scubacat*

    #2. I would bet that your boss was trying to help you.
    My current workplace once sent me a job posting from another organization. Boss thought that my knowledge would genuinely help the other program. Plus, she thought that the other job would advance my career. Sometimes humans do try and look out for the best interests of other humans.

    1. MamaCat*

      And it isn’t all altruism; if you help your friend hire someone who can really shine at that program, then there are two people who are probably more likely to help you if they know someone who can shine in your program. Or even let you know of a new position you might shine in. It pays to help out in cases like that. Just another vote that your boss isn’t trying to push you out!

      1. Scubacat*

        Indeed. If the job had worked out, my original company would have benefited from strong connections at another organization. And that’s especially important in the nonprofits where supporting a client needs to involve multiple programs at many places. Everybody wins.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Not to mention, if she recommends you and you work out well in the new role, your boss has just boosted her reputation by sending them a great new employee and strengthened her relationship with the manager over at the other company, so it’s a situation of mutual benefit.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, run when you can. Your boss is behaving in a pretty cowardly and underhanded manner, and it’s pretty far outside the norms of typical hiring/firing conduct.

    1. Chaordic One*

      This doesn’t sound like a good situation at all. It would certainly stress me out having to work in an environment like this. I hate to say it, but you need to start looking for another job.

    2. MsSolo*

      There’s something in this that reminds me of the way a former boss of mine behaved, not in the workplace but in relationships. He always strung them out while he started definitely-not-cheating-but-yes-actually-cheating with another woman, and once the new relationship was a sure thing he’d jump ship (more than once he moved straight from one woman’s house into another’s, so he wouldn’t even have to live on his own in between). It was very much a case of when things “stopped feeling right” he’d start looking around to see if there were better options out there; if there weren’t, he’d stay, but if there were, he’d move on. #3’s boss is doing the same with employees – he’s interviewing people to see if there’s a better option out there before deciding whether or not to fire them.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        One of my female friends in high school did that (only without the moving in together part) – you could always tell when she was lining up the next person because she’d start referring to them using a particular nickname. It didn’t sit right with me then and it wouldn’t sit right with me now, whether in a work or relationship/friendship context. OP3’s boss is one I’d be doing my best to leave behind ASAP by trying to find another job.

        1. Jadelyn*

          There’s something almost…objectifying? About doing something like that. They’re basically treating their current partner as a placeholder, rather than, you know, another human being in a relationship with them.

    3. Spooky*

      It was the norm in my last position (PR agency in NYC). I think it’s happened at my current company too, as well as at some of my friends’ companies. I don’t know if it’s just an NYC-area thing but sadly it’s becoming more common.

    4. not really a lurker anymore*

      Does it matter if it’s a retail type job instead of an office job? One of my siblings got a reputation for being the hatchet man at a previous job. He’d be sent to a troubled store to fix the employee problems. He’d go in, see what was going on and then go on a hiring spree. Once he had his new cashiers, stockers, etc lined up, he’d start letting people go, if they hadn’t already seen the writing on the wall and left.

      1. aebhel*

        Yeah, no, that’s still hugely obnoxious. Especially since widespread ’employee’ issues at stores are usually management issues (or ‘we don’t want to give this person their annual $.25/hour raise, so we’re going to fire them’ issues). You can have a few problem employees who need to go, but if 90 percent of them are ‘problem employees’, the real problem is with management, who tends not to get the ax in these kind of hire/fire sprees.

        IME, it actually happens a lot more with retail jobs, since retail workers are often more replaceable.

        1. Antilles*

          You can have a few problem employees who need to go, but if 90 percent of them are ‘problem employees’, the real problem is with management
          It’s like the old joke about jerks – If you have a bad employee on one shift, you have a bad employee. If you have all bad employees all day, then *you’re* the problem.

        2. Observer*

          That’s true, but sometimes the solution still is to “sweep clean”.

          Remember the supervisor who was freezing out the person her bosses were trying to groom for advancement? Obviously a management problem. But, the company was right for also firing the entire department once they realized what was going on. There really was no choice but to clean house and start over.

          1. aebhel*

            True, but I generally think that’s a rare case, especially in the customer service industry where bad managers are a plague. In a situation like ‘this particular store branch is not performing to expectations’, the issue is very rarely that all of the staff are terrible. And, most importantly, the management team that’s actually causing a lot of the problems is often retained while lower-level staff are ‘swept out’.

          2. Monsters of Men*

            It can for sure be both… my boyfriend’s boss is, frankly, the most whack person I have ever met in my life, and his personality (aggressively hits on younger female employees to the point of stalking them, is constantly in a bad mood because they won’t respond to him, refuses to treat his male employees fairly, etc. — and he’s a government employee hired by other men like him so no, there’s no way to get around it) breed dysfunctional workplaces. He hires the people he gets along with who are just like him. My boyfriend was a referral from another branch of the government and if it didn’t pay so good, he’d have left years ago. The drama of that place is beyond me.

            If they swept it clean and replaced everyone, it’d be so much better.

          3. Antilles*

            The problem is that in my experience with retail and restaurants, the “sweep clean” method is often the only thing they do to ‘fix’ the underperforming store.
            If the fresh start is part of an overall strategy to replace the management, look in depth at the issues, and thoughtfully consider root causes…then it can make sense. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of time and effort, so far more often retail companies skip all those other steps and just jump straight to “must be an employee problem” and fire all the cashiers, stockers, etc…without bothering to address the actual issues of bad management, outside issues, store policies, and everything else that went into the store doing poorly.
            So the ‘refreshed’ store eventually ends up looking just like the last one, because all you did was put a fresh coat of paint on the wall without really fixing the problem.

      2. Let's Talk About Splett*

        Nope. If someone is underperforming enough to get canned, they are underperforming enough to be fired now vs. when we can find someone better.

    5. RoadsGirl*

      I could have written this if the field were mine.
      This happened to me. This happened to me a few months ago! At least I think it happened. The upside was the place was Toxic Horror and I actually quit before I was let go.
      But my field is its own and like 99% of hiring goes through this very specific job site (one of those situations where even if you’re networking your way in they tell you to go through this site just because… and there my position was. I suppose it possibly could have been a leftover as I’m not the only one in the position, people move in and out of positions, and it’s certainly not unheard of for job postings to be forgotten on this site despite being filled. But, oh, the writing was on the wall and I also sort of overheard my boss reading other boss funny cover letter she received related to my position.

      So not cool.

    6. Anon Accountant*

      Absolutely get out of there. My ex-boss hired Jane’s replacement with the intention of firing Jane and having a replacement waiting.

      It backfired because somehow the new hire learned what he was trying to do and told him “I’m no longer interested”.

      1. Uncanny Valley*

        A few years back my contract was close to expiring and I had to start looking just in case. I made past the initial stage of phone interviews with another company and was speaking with my prospective new boss. He seemed personable enough initially, however, during the convo he started inquiring about my interpersonal skill etc. Why? He then spilled the beans about the employee they were going to fire, his bad attitude etc. (Nothing about performance, however). I played along until the call ended but I was not moving forward with that job. Since I had recently been unfairly forced out of a job and this felt too close to home. It would have paid very well but I would not have been comfortable moving forward under those circumstances.

        Thankfully the company I contracted for extended my stay long enough to become a full-time employee.

        Disaster Averted!!

    7. SDSmith82*

      I worked for a boss that did this. I was already trying to find a new job (it was during that recession that we all suffered through) when I discovered he was trying to replace me in a sneaky way, and discovered the posting on Craigslist (and he’d stupidly left a print out on his desk). So, I called him on it. And I mean really called him on it. Walked into his office, handed him the ad, and said “What’s the deal?” I asked if something about my performance was a problem (I was easily the tops salesperson by leaps and bounds, and the fastest service person at the same time. It was an office of 3 employees, so we all knew who brought things in and sold what). He flat out said “No, you make me money, but I can’t stand you because you look like the employee you replaced, and bring back bad memories of what she did.” During that meeting/confrontation he basically admitted he’d actually disliked me from the day I started, and only hired me to kick her out.

      So, I wasn’t the first person he tried to replace in a sneaky way, (only that former employee really did do some shady stuff which we actually discovered upon my arrival). I’ve mentioned this before on here, but the only thing her and I had in common was hair color. That’s it. Different work styles, different back grounds, different everything except we were brunettes.
      I lasted another three months, and then after my husband ended up in ICU- and he refused to let me stay with him in the hospital (too small for FMLA protections), I quit on the spot, with nothing else lined up. Only time I’ve ever done that, and hopefully ever will. I decided financial uncertainty was better than one more day in that office. He was a toxic boss in so many ways. I hope OP#3 can escape.

      1. Jadelyn*

        ……what the hell????

        What an absolute snake of a man. With all due respect to actual snakes, who are probably nicer than that guy anyway.

        1. SDSmith82*

          I’d rather deal with snakes than ever deal with him. He was a former D-list celebrity musician who truly thought he was the best guy/boss/human on the planet. Tainted my view of celebrities for a very long time. There are a few people on my list for Karma to hit- and he is still at the top. I actually filed a labor board complaint as I was leaving for some overtime related rules- and found out he forced the remaining staff to all sign statements saying I was lying (despite my actual evidence) and convinced the labor board agent (who knew of his celebrity status and was a fan) that I’d made up all my two years of files. It wasn’t worth fighting over at that point.

      2. smoke tree*

        I had a similar-ish situation with a boss who hated me from the start–in this case because he didn’t hire me himself. His method was to try to make my work life as miserable as possible until I quit. Joke’s on him–at the time I was so new to working that I just put up with it. Sigh.

        1. smoke tree*

          I guess the other joke on him was that my previous jobs had been bad enough that he couldn’t live up to them, even on purpose. Well, he’s making up fake reasons to yell at me alone in a conference room and not letting me leave, but at least he’s not sexually harassing me, following me home or making me clean up used syringes.

    8. Alli525*

      My last job had a big problem with this – we used recruiters/agencies, so no one ever found their own job posted online, but we would bring in candidates and interview them in our fishbowl conference room that linked the two sides of the office, so EVERYONE saw them. And statistically speaking, if it was a young woman, we knew an admin was probably getting fired, so the panic/insecurity cycle would fire up. Super fun.

  7. Bea*

    I haven’t heard of many bosses pushing someone out by trying to find the person another job. Usually if you don’t like someone, you find reasons to fire them and they can fend for themselves! This sounds like your manager thinks highly of you and saw an opportunity for you to move forward.

    It’s also her friend who is hiring, so unless it’s a totally crazy dysfunctional office like the one we heard about here that the person gave a glowing recommendation in order to get rid of a problem employee, it’s really slim chances there’s malice behind the suggestion.

    One of my former bosses is still readily encouraging me to to do things that further my career even though it has no benefit to her. She’s a strong influence in my life and has constantly pushed me towards what’s best for me career and personally.

    1. Willis*

      +1 especially to your second paragraph.

      Also, OP says this is basically a dream job, which sounds like her boss is truly interested in OP’s career success/happiness vs. trying to get rid of her. If she were forwarding OP multiple job ads for unrelated work, I’d be much more likely to read that as a sign to be worried.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Also knowing, that’ OP’s boss may realize that her current situation may not be as fulfilling , as to what she wants for a career, and he may be sincerely helping her achieve that goal.

        And hoping for a friend or two to help out in the future. It makes sense.

    2. op2*

      OP2 Here!

      I will say that it *is* a crazy dysfunctional office, but just *barely* shy of my boss concocting a scheme to get me out of it. The closest thing I can compare said boss to is Laurie Breem in Silicon Valley, where she will act totally robotic and even cut-throat in work related things, and then deadpan say like “You are a very talented and valuable employee.” At my year end review (which happened in May, ha) she said simultaneously that I was spending too much of my time on personal (art-related) projects, but also that those personal projects were really good, and useful to the organization. All of it is a little unclear, which made it just really surprising she reached out on this.

      1. Bea*

        Okay. Knowing she’s possibly a psychopath helps here! I see why you’re concerned and questioning her motives.

        I should have sniffed out she can’t be trusted from the letter but thankfully I’ve only dealt with one pair of unscrupulous bosses, so I lean towards assuming the best.

        She sounds like my other boss that is all over the place. “You’re in charge.” Then Big Boss asks for Bart to help in the other department. I know that last time I said “no, we need him to do his job here…” so I agreed. She snaps in saying “no he needs to do his job…” ONLY WHEN I GET TO THE OFFICE Bart has been swept into the other department because utter dysfunction and psychopaths.

    3. SavannahMiranda*

      I did have a colleague once who pushed out someone she hated by finding them a new job. She told a recruiter who called her that the employee she couldn’t stand was in fact looking for a job, in a very ‘hush hush’ but excited manner, and what a great fit he would be for the position described, how highly qualified he was, and asked could she please pass his number on to the recruiter.

      Four weeks later the target employee was turning in his notice to take a hot new position.

      No one knew at the time of course. It came out about two years later in conversations with her. She wisely kept her mouth shut.

      “You know Fergus from Finance who was causing such problems for us in Accounting? Remember when he left for Great New Employer? Yeah, that was me.”

      After that I worked very hard not to ever piss this lady off. I mean I guess you could say she did him a favor, if in fact it was a better job? But seriously. Still sketchy.

      Agreed that this is not the situation with LW. Her boss is on the up and up, honest, forthright, and looking to build relationships by sending her good friend a superstar. That’s a huge compliment LW. This is all open in the daylight and you’re all good.

  8. Anonicat*

    #5, one way of softening the “your writing sucks” message can be to say that you know how difficult it is to edit your own writing when you’ve been working on something for ages. Then you can ask if they’d like a fresh eye on it to simplify some of the sentences and flag places where there might be 2 different meanings, etc.

    Luckily my current boss has realized that I’m really good at this and now I get to take the pruning shears to everyone’s papers before they go out. Need to lose 1000 words? BRING IT ON.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think an issue here will be that OP is new, so has not yet become the go to person for editing.

      1. nonymous*

        Since this is a training rotation, would it be reasonable for LW5 to fully edit a paragraph or two and ask for direct feedback how her style can better fit the org? LW5 doesn’t even need to do an full style edit – she could just select a different article from the same industry that reflects the style she holds in high regard.

        Separate from the step on toes concern, different orgs can have different expectations and now is a really good opportunity to figure that out. Since LW5 has strong writing skills, it may be that her personal notes can be formalized into a style guide if the org doesn’t have one already.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Honestly, I wouldn’t. And here’s why. Her new role requires her to be highly collaborative it sounds like. And *normally* making small suggestions would be welcomed. But since this is the first report she’s working on, I would sit back and watch the process all the way through to understand how the team works. For instance, is it always this particular writer with bad style? Or has this style become ingrained within the departmental reporting culture? Will she be offending a boss who prefers this style? etc etc

          That said, if someone says ‘hey can you correct for grammer’, I would probably go to town as much as I could, in the name of ‘grammer’, while still keeping the overall style (or lack thereof) as is.

          ps. For what it’s worth, #5, this is my current role. We aren’t doing interactive dataviz, but I can imagine how dry a programmer’s writing would be if they were the contributing writer. *shudder* I think the best way to influence the writing going forward is to be a part of the writing process from the beginning. And remember, they likely just want you to get your feet wet with this assignment, so you can learn who does what. Just be a contributing observer for now. :)

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Unfortunately, my spouse works with someone who only thinks they’re a good writer, doesn’t ask before making edits, and will add 1000 words!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Heh. My brother-in-law is a sociologist, and does his best to live up to their reputation as people who can add 10 pages to any report without needing to know what it’s about.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Oh, I love this comment so hard. I do dataviz for 5 sociologists. Goooooood times editing, lemme tell ya. O.o

      2. Anonicat*

        “And will add 1000 words!”

        *internal screaming intensifies*

        Fortunately we usually have externally-imposed word limits.

    3. A username for this site*

      I think this OP needs to be very careful. I was the go-to for proofreading stuff, and people would be, “Oh A Username is so great, she can proofread stuff for us, she’s really good at it!”

      Then when I’d fix it, I’d get attitude back because the person clearly thought their writing was great, that I was being mean, that I was being insubordinate, that I thought I was better than they are, etc. They asked me for my opinion and then became angry when I gave it. So I stopped doing it and just did strict grammar/spelling edits.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        Yep. Plus, then you’re always the proofreader and never the writer. Ungrateful wretches. ;)

      2. Cassie the First*

        I got tasked with proofreading all the technical stuff that my faculty send out – I don’t have a problem doing it (I even re-write sentences for clarity; I guess it’s okay because none of them have told me not to), but it drives me nuts when I spend the time to proof or re-write something and then the next version has the original text. I once changed something three times before I gave up and just let it be submitted as it was. I would have been fine if the author had told me (after the 1st edit) that they wanted to keep it as is. Just tell me so I don’t have to waste my time!

  9. Willis*

    #4 – I worked somewhere with a really similar lunch-ordering system, and a coworker who didn’t leave for lunch who would often try to enlist me as her food runner. I found responses like Alison suggested really useful…”Oh, I’m going to run some errands over lunch,” “Not sure where I’m going to stop for lunch, count me out for group lunch,” etc.

    I didn’t mind picking something up for a group if it was an easy order and manageable to carry, but I decided when to make that offer. It’s really annoying that the co-worker rounded up additional orders after OP agreed to pick her up something for lunch. I think in the future OP could say (if she wants) that she’ll pick up that co-workers lunch but can’t handle additional orders. It seems like the kind of thing OP can opt out of with some various excuses about errands, carrying capacity, being in a hurry, etc. but she should then calibrate how often she relies on other people to bring her lunch or coffee accordingly.

    1. Alice*

      Hang on, if OP has never told anyone she doesn’t like getting lunches for people (and especially since until now she might have been ordering through this system), then not-driving-colleague may have thought that it went without saying that OP was planning to get everyone’s lunch. The colleague may even have thought that rounding up the orders was doing OP a favor.
      Until OP tells people that she is opting out of the lunch system, I don’t think we should criticize the colleagues who fail to read her mind.

      1. Morning Glory*

        But the other context is really important, I think. This is a coworker who participates – not just accepting offers, but actively seeking OP out – knowing she is not in a position to reciprocate, and who said she was too busy to go with the OP to pick up lunch when the OP asked. And then rounded up the additional orders.

        That is some pretty strong entitlement even if the OP were otherwise happy with the lunch rotation.

        1. Marthooh*

          I bet taking orders is her way of contributing to the system. Clueless of her, but I wouldn’t call it entitlement.

      2. MLB*

        Assuming it’s ok to ask others what they want for lunch when you’re not even the one who is picking up said lunch is a jerk move, regardless of what’s been done in the past. I wouldn’t blame the others, but the non-driver is out of line.

      3. WellRed*

        Nah, helpful people wouldn’t say they were too busy to leave the office then round up a bunch more orders without asking. She’s presumptuous, but LW does need to speak up and that would have been a perfect opp.

      4. AngelicGamer the Visually Impaired Peep*

        As someone who can’t drive and therefore couldn’t fully give back in this situation, you find other ways. You ask, politely, if you could round up other orders. You don’t automatically do it. You offer to go help with the money or the food wrangling. Or the coffee carrying. You don’t just automatically assume that everything is okay with using someone else’s resources without giving something back. That’s just rude and entitled.

        OP, I’m nth-ing the suggestions for your own tumbler for Starbucks. You do get a .10 cent discount and it’s really nice for cold coffee too. Bring in your lunch or just say you’re running errands and therefore can’t pick up. Of course, that means saying no or giving back in other ways if you decide you do want to join in the food order of the day for some reason, but use the ways I suggest to give back instead.

  10. Marzipan*

    I’d probably take to getting my lunch from ‘dunno, haven’t decided yet, I’m going to just see how I feel’.

  11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, you can ask, but as a person who itches to edit style…. I would avoid it, when possible. Some changes are going to be necessary for clarity and consistency. And of course, you should be thorough with grammar, organizational and accuracy-related edits. But style is often a choice, and when in doubt, I would err on the side of leaving it as is.

    1. Willis*

      Agreed, especially on something that’s in a final draft stage. Also, I feel like editing for style is something that’s hard to do “a little” of once you get started with it, so better to err on the side of leaving it as is unless the writer has explicitly asked for or ok-ed a style edit.

    2. oes*

      Also, style is voice. I’m an academic & I see many professors “improving” students’ style, which leaves papers sounding as if the professor wrote them. There’s a lot of subjectivity in this issue, and I think editors should err on the side of leaving the writers’ voice intact.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a good point. Sometimes style is deliberately dry, or deliberately passive, and OP is new–it might be hard to judge at this point which choices stem from mediocre writing skills and which from norms of the department.

      1. Genny*

        Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Depending on how familiar she with this work environment prior to coming, she might not know their convention. I worked in a place where the convention was short, direct, and focused on results (vice process). Adjectives would be cut out, if it could be shortened, it would be, that type of thing. Academics in particular struggled with it because it’s a very different style than what they’re used to. If they had tried to edit a document to reflect the style they were used to, it wouldn’t have turn out well.

    4. LQ*

      Strong agree. Though I’d say it’s ok to do in an earlier draft or when you’ve been invited, but then talking specifically about style and tone is important. You might think your style is the right one but the author is going for something different for some political reason. Or that something else is going on. If you have a conversation about style, voice, and tone asking why they started with this specific one is good. Sort of a what are you trying to accomplish. (And then at some point possibly going for a, I see what you’re going for but it might be more effective if you shift a little to this.)

      I just spent about a month going back and forth on a document. I STRONGLY disagree about the voice, tone, style, and …depth of the document. But at the end of the day I raised my concerns and it’s not my decision (it’s a couple steps up from me on the org chart so even the concerns I raised up were going out on a limb a bit but I wanted to try to spend some of my capital on it). Building up some of that good capital of “OP makes my writing better” is a good way to go. But just charging in isn’t always going to work when you’re new. Especially when you’ve been told this is a final draft. That’s the thing that really says to me, do a great job with the detailed grammar/spelling/numbers, but let the style stuff go this round.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, especially given this is a “final” edit. Presumably other people have already looked at this and are satisfied with the style. And honestly just because people have historically liked your writing style, doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with this style. Stick to what you’ve been asked to edit.

      1. LW 5*

        Thank you all for your comments, and Alison for your advice. I did stick to proof-reading edits, with only a couple of style changes when there was a serious clarity issue. And that was what was wanted. It appears going forward I might be asked to be involved earlier on, at which point, I’ll take everyone’s advice on how to broach some style things, but in a way that isn’t too “I know what’s best, and you suck.” Also, I’ll be writing up some of my own things, and getting other people’s edits on those will help me get a sense of whether my current style is not what they are looking for here. Thanks!

        1. Antilles*

          If you have the ability to pull a few previous reports and quickly skim them, that can help too – if you see all the documents have a similar style no matter who originally wrote them, then that’s probably a conscious style choice by the company.

        2. Mrs. Psmith*

          Glad this all worked out well. If it helps at all, think of the difference between copy editing and line editing. Copy editing for specific grammar, spelling and word usage errors is generally what most people think they are asking you for when they ask you to edit something (especially for business documents). Line editing is paying attention to the structure and style of the whole document to make sure it all makes sense and is cohesive (and I personally think it’s WAY more important than most people do).

    6. Persimmons*

      I’m expected to use a lot of phrasing I hate for Reasons that are sometimes ridiculously convoluted. I.e., while the standard in X field is to say someone “must” do something, company requires the use of “shall” because readers in Y field interpret it in a different way that has solid legal precedent.

    7. RoadsGirl*

      Some years ago I was in a registrar position at a non-profit. Nothing too fancy–I had my stated job, plus whatever else that was handy for helping out (it being one of those offices where we were totally a team, I rather miss it). I dabble in writing as a hobby, and one of the upper guys knew this from a past job. He was a nice, capable guy who also happened to have a TBI that affected his writing, and writing was something that he had to do now and then in his role. Oh, he was certainly capable of writing good enough letters and memos and whatnot to serve his and the organization’s purpose without too much embarrassment, but it was not uncommon for him to ask if I would edit not just for errors but also style. It was fun for me and I enjoyed helping him out.

    8. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer*

      For #5, I certainly feel your pain–I was a writing tutor and freelance editor during my time in academia, and the impulse to edit beyond “make this follow standard English morphology, spelling, and punctuation” is STRONG. I’d bear in mind though that “good writing” varies incredibly widely depending on context, and academic writing tends to be quite distinctive. I know you know this, of course! But it will certainly look stronger to hold off on suggesting substantial edits until you’ve spent some time immersed in the voice and culture you’re in.

      Sincerely, a person who talked like a conference paper for a really long time

  12. nws2002*

    #4 – I really dislike that kind of thing. Selfishly, the last thing I want to do during my lunch hour is round up food for several other people. Ordering food for other people stresses me out, especially when the orders are super specific and particular. I’m the type that would rather take the pickles and onion off my cheeseburger instead of altering the standard way it comes.

    1. GRA*

      The whole scenario stresses me out. I’d do everything I could to avoid participating in any of it!

    2. Seriously?*

      I would be ok picking up lunch for one or two people occasionally if their order was easy, but not for my whole team or if they want any sort of customization or alternatives. Also, they better have cash. Doing it too often would just take too much time.

    3. WillyNilly*

      I think I would only agree to literally pick up lunch – each person would have to call in their own order and pre-pay, and I would pick up their bag and bring it to them. There are too many variables with ordering.

  13. Hello, I’d like to report my boss*

    #4, I managed to opt out of a similar system at my old office. About four or five times a day someone would make tea and coffee and offer to make the rest of the team a cup too.

    This was fine when there were five people and there was just coffee/tea, milk and sugar, but once it got to ten people and fifteen options for fruit teas, different milk and coffees, it could take 15 mins for a coffee break for the maker.

    I simply started saying, “no thanks!” With a big smile when offered tea, and made my own. If I was asked, I explained that I liked very strong coffee in a fiddly way, and I preferred to make it rather than give someone a string of fussy instructions. No one seemed to mind.

    1. Observer*

      Well, that’s the key difference – you weren’t asking people to make your beverage and were also polite about the matter.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Or she could ask! If she just asks how much editing for style they want her to do, she might find out they’re happy to have someone do it. I wouldn’t call it meddling when she’s been asked to proofread anyway.

    2. RoadsGirl*

      I wouldn’t edit for style unless asked to. I’ve been asked to, and that was fun, but if the original writing style is otherwise sufficient for the common man (or whomever…) leave well enough alone. Unless you both agree to it.

  14. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Does your company have a binding style guide?

    I write technical reports for a living and our style guide covers word choices, use of passive and active voice, tense use and much more. It’s long.

    When I QAed reports written by a now retired colleague I spent a lot of time cutting up his run on sentences into smaller pieces.

    So, only edit for style if there’s a style guide, I guess.

    1. MsSolo*

      This. Also, check the current style isn’t in line with the guide already – honestly, some of the most clunky sentences I’ve had to work with are because our style guide has strong opinions about phrasing things in certain ways and trying to rewrite a sentence about X number of clients so it doesn’t begin with a number but still remains active is a headache.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or the phrasing is clunky but technically correct, incorporating context that is never directly mentioned but some people reading the report will automatically drop in the “Well this isn’t correct in Peoria, or with whiffle bats” filter. Or they don’t want to set up a situation where the whiffle bat manufacturers or Peoria–who are not the intended audience–get hold of it and say “but right here, it says, we just went with what you wrote.”

    2. Persimmons*

      Yes, you need a style guide. Possibly two: one for internal-facing and one for public documents.

      If there is no company style and the powers that be seem receptive to your editing, there are plenty of good ones out there that are easily adopted. LW mentions data analysis and web development, so perhaps ASA, APA, or Columbia? I’m also a huge fan of the ASD-STE100.

  15. Maddie*

    I’ve told coworkers outright I don’t order for others and that my lunch time is my time to recharge. Taking orders kills my peace. I don’t ask and I don’t take orders. Ignore the morning coffee remarks and if someone asks if you are going out to eat, say you have a light lunch in your purse you are going to eat somewhere outside in your car. Then leave.

    1. MLB*

      I agree with this 100%. My job is not generally super stressful and I often bring my lunch and eat at my desk. So when I go out it’s my time. I would even adjust your last suggestion, by responding with “Nope”. I feel like people with this sort of mindset, that have an answer for everything, will only keep trying to convince you to do stuff when you offer explanations.

    2. Margery*

      Oh boy I totally agree – my lunch is MY time to recuperate from a hectic morning at work.

      I honestly couldn’t be bothered making tea/coffee for everyone or bringing it in. I’d opt out of the whole thing – you’ll probably find a lot of your colleagues feel the same. Good luck.

    3. Fishcakes*

      Same here. I’m extremely clumsy and can barely manage my own coffee, let alone 10 others.

  16. Maddie*

    When your boss is recommending another job, yes, you have an unfortunate problem. The company doesn’t care if it loses you.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This may not be true. It’s entirely possible that the OP has gone beyond the skill set needed for the job and there is no room for growth. This is far more likely with a small company than a large one.

    2. ThatsMyStapler*

      I like the idea that perhaps OP has a boss that actually cares about her growth and development. Perhaps someone who will be a strong contact and sector colleague for years to come When looking from that perspective, the fact that she helped OP with her resume also seems a positive thing. Arts communities are like small towns, and reputations and connections count for a lot, so it’s never a good thing to pawn a bad employee off on another org, especially when friendship is involved. Just my opinion. PS – Alison and AAM Commenters: I couldn’t have gotten through the last few months with my self esteem intact without this blog and all its perspectives and info. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, truly. ☺

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        The fact that it’s within the same arts community makes it especially understandable, I think. I’ve had bosses encourage me to apply for jobs in other departments withing the same company, and it’s kind of the same mindset. An employee is outgrowing their role, and the manager see an opportunity for them to stay in the company/community and keep being awesome, so the manager recommends it instead of waiting for that person to get bored and leave and end up who knows where.

        It’d be different if the manager were recommending jobs with competitors in the private sector, maybe, but here it makes total sense to me.

        1. Sarah*

          I agree GB, I think that is the sign of a real leader looking out for their people, and not just a manager.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      There are people who genuinely want the best for their reports. (A a lot more companies/bosses who at least pay lip service to this concept, especially if they have to confront the fact that there’s no room for growth at their org.)

      And there’s something to be said for an employee leaving on the best terms possible.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Or your boss is a compassionate person who recognizes that after almost 5 years in one position, a person might be looking for a new challenge and want to genuinely help them find it.

    5. Bea*

      Some roles are meant to be launching pads. It sounds more like a boss who is thinking “you’ve grown and you deserve a chance to spread your wings.”

      A boss who doesn’t value you will just replace you or ignore you. We see them all the time here.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      She’s recommending OP to her friend. Assuming the friendship and her professional rep matter, that’s not what people do when they are trying to get rid of terrible workers they feel they can’t fire. (Recalling a depressing letter about lying references.)

    7. JB (not in Houston)*

      That’s a pretty cynical way to read what’s happening when you don’t have enough information to come to that conclusion. I would hate to lose my assistant because she’s amazing. But I have sent her postings in the past because I know she could get paid more elsewhere, and I care about her career growth.

    8. LQ*

      Strongly disagree. If you have a good relationship with the boss, you’re frequently praised, reviews are good? That just means they are trying to be a great boss to work for. Sometimes suggesting other jobs is a great way to gain loyalty, to understand that if you mentor that person they’ll refer other great people to you in the future, to be able to support and help a great staff person you have helped mentor, to be able to extend your network beyond your organization, and many more good reasons.

      If you have a bad relationship with your boss, you’re on a pip, or your company is having severe money trouble…yeah then it’s a warning sign. But it’s absolutely not an always problem.

    9. Jule*

      At a tiny arts organization, they may easily know that they’re GOING to lose entry-level associates eventually and that it’s better for them to set them up for success and have positive relationships with their “alumni.”

    10. Scubacat*

      Well, if the job postings are unrelated to your work then there could be a problem with Boss/the company. In other situations that have factors like 1) the job you’re in has no room for advancement, 2) current job funding may be cut, 3) field norms value connections and networking or 4) the new job is better than current job….. the OP probably isn’t in a problem situation. A boss might be aware that their employee would leave eventually for more challenging work, and try to somewhat manage the departure date. Some jobs are intended to be launching pads.

    11. Not A Morning Person*

      Not true in any situation I have personally been in. It’s apparently true for some base on the stories of other commenters. I had a couple of bosses who approached me about opportunities because they knew I had the skills and experience for higher level roles that didn’t exist in their departments. U did pursue them and got great promotions each time. For one, the boss even told me, CHRO loves you, don’t tell her I’m letting you know about this job at another company that would be great for you; she’d kill me. So I didn’t tell her! I still love that boss and would work for him again in a heartbeat.

  17. Catherine*

    OP #4, I hate these kinds of favor systems so I opt out by cultivating a deliberate kind of flakiness–I made sure I was square on all my favors owed, and then started bringing lunch randomly. On days I bought lunch, if anyone asked me where I was going so they could piggyback their order, I’d just claim I hadn’t decided yet, etc. Eventually everyone learned that they could leave me to fend for myself, and became unwilling to ask lunch/coffee favors of me because they knew they couldn’t predict my availability.

    1. Les G*

      But why not just say “thanks for asking, but I brought lunch from home”? Deliberately annoying your coworkers when you have a direct and polite way to get out of this doesn’t make sense to me.

    2. Jen*

      It is also not unreasonable to say you haven’t decided. There is a great sandwich place near my job, it sometimes the line there is incredibly long. I can walk out intending to get a sandwich, see the line, and pivot. You can’t do that with a long list of orders.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett*

        Right, and the people behind you in line are going to be annoyed when you putting in 6 orders when they might have a limited time for lunch.

        1. Seriously?*

          That happens at the cafeteria at work ALL THE TIME. The construction workers will send one guy with 20 orders. If I knew that many orders were pending I would go elsewhere, but since there are only a few people I think it will be quick.

          1. Jen*

            That many orders should really be called ahead. I worked in a pizza place as a teen, for instance and making 20 pizzas can take over an hour, just for oven time.

          2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Whenever I see a construction guy in line at my coffee shop I know it’s going to be multiple orders. Usually I’ll leave because they will take a long time to fill, especially when he’s choosing his donut selection.

  18. Chaordic One*

    #5 How do you feel about becoming the office editor. If you really enjoy doing this, that’s fine, but I would be worried that you might be too good at it and if it isn’t something that you enjoy doing, it might become a big part of your job description and you’ll be stuck with it.

    If you really don’t enjoy doing it, then just do the minimal spelling, grammar and number check.

  19. Nursey Nurse*

    LW1, I feel like there was a series of movies and TV shows in the 80s/90s that helped spawn the notion that anyone, regardless of qualifications, could get any job they wanted just by being A Plucky Go-Getter. This problem was further exacerbated when college career counselors started advising people that tenacity and uniqueness, rather than skill or experience, were the most important assets of successful job seekers. It seems like your employee has taken these lessons to heart. I would take her aside and say “look, quickness and enthusiasm are great, but they don’t make up for a lack of actual qualifications. You will not be considered for this job, and I need you to quit bringing it up.” If she’s a good employee, and you are feeling kind, you could consider giving her some advice on areas she could improve in order to become competitive for jobs such as the one she wants. Are there skills the company could help her develop? Do you have a tuition reimbursement plan that would allow her to get a degree? Etc.

    1. chi type*

      I like the idea of specifically calling out the Gumption! advice. Especially since the person is relatively new to the working world. “I know you’ve probably been told that persistence and quick learning will get you what you want but that’s not always true. They can actually sometimes have the opposite effect.”

    2. Jen*

      You would think a certification would make anyone understand, though. The lawyer example makes pretty clear this is a pretty clear and non-negotiable requirement (like a CPA). Something you could get in a lot of trouble for letting someone without the certification do the job. Someone who pushes back that much on something so black and white sounds a bit delusional and needs a bit of firm bubble bursting, or she is going to continue to be a problem in the future.

      1. aebhel*

        Depends on the kind of job. I’m a librarian, which in my state and for the size of the library I work at means that I need to have a Master’s from an accredited school and a state certification. But a lot of people assume that anyone working in a library is a librarian, and that, say, clerical work in a library qualifies a person for a librarian position without a degree or certification. Every time a position opens up in my system, there are at least a dozen people who try to apply without any of the relevant qualifications, and I know several of them have been totally baffled/offended to be passed over.

        So if it’s one of those jobs that people feel like ‘anyone could do’ (most people do not consider lawyer to be one of those jobs), then I can see it.

        1. Jen*

          True, but once you work in a library, the distinction should be clear. I have a close friend who works in a library and she has debated getting her MLIS because she knows certain jobs are 100% off the table without it. Elizabeth works in the org, she should be aware if that kind of thing.

    3. Cordoba*

      I like explaining the reality of qualifications as “it’s like having a driver’s license” in the sense that your skills, motivation, uniqueness, and gumption! don’t matter until you actually also have that piece of paper.

      Truly, nobody cares if you are genuinely a once-in-a-generation driving prodigy; you still need to actually go sit through the class, take the test, and get the license before you can drive on the street.

      1. Jen*

        Sadly sometimes I have found that, when someone has had something nicely explained multiple times and still is pushing, you have to go a little harsh. I don’t mean meanness for meanness sake, but a clear “stop now, this is over, you cannot do this again” can be appropriate. When I was first supervising people, I initially let people push back too much and explained a lot. Some people do fine with this, but some people the message doesn’t sink in unless you actually get really firm. Learning to be harsh when needed (to be clear this is not an all the time thing) was a hard adjustment for me.

        1. irene adler*

          Exactly. Harsh.

          Right after scoring my first post-college job, a “friend” gave me some advice.

          She said to wait about 6 weeks, then pester for a raise. And keep pestering. No matter what they tell you, keep pestering. Don’t let them throw policy in your face. Don’t believe the threats to fire you if you don’t lay off. Just go every week after this and pester them for a raise. Then when they give you a raise, wait about 6 weeks, and pester again. Keep on them all the time. Never let up. Otherwise, you’ll be passed over.

          Note that the company policy was a review + salary increase every 6 months.

          No, I didn’t follow this. Thought it was nuts. I’d be inclined to warn and even fire someone who did this to me.

          1. MakesThings*

            How completely bizarre. What game was this “friend” playing?
            Also, I wonder how many people they tried this on?

            1. irene adler*

              Couldn’t say. Makes ya wonder, though. At the time I thought “friend” was very worldly.

              But it shows that some folks out there have a mindset that makes them keep pursuing things that are just plain not gonna happen.

              1. MakesThings*

                Yes, a good window into a the-opposite-of-kindred mind.
                It’s completely incomprehensible to me.

          2. jack*

            I don’t know how you’d be able to do anything worthy of a raise if you’re spending so much time every six weeks(!) trying to get one.

    4. wayward*

      Yeah, if you could help the employee channel the “gumption” in an appropriate way, like by slogging through a degree/certification program instead of repeatedly asking for a job she was not qualified for, that might help. I’ve been in a position where it’s been hard to break into a field, so I have a little bit of sympathy.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        That’s what I was thinking too – if this is a good but misguided employee, maybe OP could point them to professional development programs, online classes, etc. that could help her get to where she wants to be.

      2. Cordoba*

        I often encounter people who say things like “I’m so much smarter and more diligent than everybody else, if only I had the right credentials I could show all those dumb doctors/officers/engineers/whatever that I work with how their jobs should *really* be done”.

        My response is that if they are that smart and diligent they should go ahead and get the credentials instead of complaining about not having them. It should be a trivial task for somebody as talented as they are, after all.

        1. Jen*

          I actually once had to discipline a legal assistant who thought she knew better than the attorney and had gone in and made serious changes to a filing without telling anyone. If the attorney hadn’t caught it, there would have been a serious issue. The assistant hadn’t realized there was an exception that applied in that case and things had to be substituted. Her “helping” outside of her role caused a huge amount of work last minute to.fix the problem. She ended up being let go later that year because she kept pulling stunts like this, despite repeated counselling to cut it out.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That had occurred to me with awkward phrasing in the editing a report letter–if you’re new, you may not know which styles are deliberate clunky choices to comply with some circumstances not explicitly listed in the document, but that might arise later.

        2. wayward*

          if the employer had a tuition reimbursement program or other ways of investing in building employee skills, it seems like that could be a way of meeting “Elizabeth” halfway — like “We’ll help you to obtain these credentials. You show us that you’re serious by doing the work and passing, not by badgering people for jobs.”

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            hmm… I don’t know how good of an idea this is. In my experience an employee that is as far out there as the OP describes is likely to have other issues. I’m not sure that I’d be encouraging tuition reimbursement to the employee at this time. Chances are the employee is not going to be around long enough for the investment return.

            The above sounds harsh, and under normal circumstances I encourage employees to take advantage of benefits like tuition reimbursement. But having had employees like the one described, I’ve found that the last thing they need is encouragement and usually my efforts are spent grounding them in reality.

            1. wayward*

              Maybe, but taking classes on top of a FT job can be hard work. And with a lot of tuition reimbursement programs, if you drop the class or fail to get a decent grade, you don’t get a cent. (Also, if you don’t meet your work responsibilities, you can get fired.) Going through that and having to really earn that opportunity instead of having it handed to her might provide a pretty good reality grounding.

            2. Observer*

              Yes. This reminds me of the letter about an employee who thought that because they had taken some course or other they were qualified to work on a system they were not qualified for. And the grandboss wasn’t slapping him down because “gumption!”

            3. MassMatt*

              I agree, tuition reimbursement is a benefit, this employee seems to need a reality check not a reimbursement check. Taking classes is probably more likely to fuel her “I can totally do that job” feeling than improve her skills.

        3. smoke tree*

          This reminds me of a book I’m reading about con artists (I feel like I keep mentioning this book, but it’s so interesting). Apparently this mindset is what makes impostors so convincing–most of the time they genuinely believe they will be more successful than the people who have the qualifications, and that it’s just a meaningless formality that’s holding them back. This includes impersonating surgeons, professors, prison wardens, you name it.

          1. smoke tree*

            Come to think of it, con artists represent the extreme end of the gumption spectrum.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I suspect as many problems arise from lack of gumption–employees who need to ask about every step, every time, because what if they missed something; employees who want something but have decided that sharing this info would be too forward–but an excess of gumption makes for a more entertaining letter.

      Maybe the entire office could wear “No, Elizabeth” T-shirts?

    6. Bea*

      Yep. They’re not understanding that some things require licensing, so get one or move over.

      I’m full fledged “work your way into things” being a person who went about it old timey like with my quasi apprenticeship. Unless someone is willing and able to “invest” in you, you’re rarely going to just get to throw your hat in the ring and go anywhere.

      I’m in the business of being realistic and so I’ll crush a dream in this case without thinking.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        AAM considered adding a “gumption” tag at one point. I think she should. Some of the gumption stories are real doozies.

        1. SophieK*

          Here’s my favorite gumption story:

          My boss at one job refused to hire anybody who wanted to be management, because he was the OWNER and there was no manager or assistant manager–just two senior employees who were quasi management. *ahem*

          So we went through a round of hiring and ended up with a girl we just loved, but she was accepted into a nursing program so we lost her. My boss reposted the job on the window. (No newfangled computer stuff for him!) In storms a girl he had interviewed who had refused to accept there was no management track for this job. She thought she should be next in line since our first hire hadn’t worked out. She threw a temper tantrum right in the store. Not kidding.

          I didn’t always agree with my bosses hiring decisions but I was glad he kept this girl away from us!

          1. Observer*

            That sounds like the plot of a dramedy. But that sounds like some environment. On the other hand, yeah, that young woman sounds like a winner.

    7. Sara LW 1*

      We don’t have anything like this because of the nature of the job. In order to do the job she would have to attend full time college to get the proper degree, meaning she would not be able to work for us any longer. She would also have to work under a person with the correct certification for a period of time and then write the exams necessary to get a license. There are a couple of colleges across the country that offer the needed degree part time during the day only but she would have to move for that. Then if she wanted to come back here she would have to apply to have her education accepted here. She knows about the regulations to do the job. It has been explained to her.

  20. CrazyJ*

    OP5: I’d tread carefully to start. You know you’re effective at the sort of writing you’ve been praised for before, but you may not know yet as much as you think you do about how well that matches the type of writing your new employer produces. As a professional editor I’ve had a lot of cases of new employees who were very good at academic writing but need to relearn our style and tone once they arrive. This is something you can talk to your boss about, but maybe also wait until you’ve seen a couple more of these reports to get a sense of what’s considered normal in your office.

    1. IinomAko*

      This. I once worked for a university and they hired a grad student who was getting her master’s in English comp. I’m sure her writing style was competent for her degree, but for everyday business letters, she was horrible.

    2. Kate R*

      Completely agree! My graduate adviser used to praise my writing style, but then my postdoctoral adviser had a completely different style of writing, and now I’m in another job with yet again a new style. It’s good to feel things out before jumping right in and assuming your style works for whatever documents they’re writing. Also, as people mentioned down thread, if this is a final edit, they are most likely NOT looking for style changes as then they would probably want to have people proofread all over again.

      That said, I loved this question because this is the kind of stuff I agonize over. Even at the early editing stages, I always wonder if style changes I want to make would be appropriate and if they really are better changes or just my personal preference.

    3. epi*

      This is a good point. I am a scientist and like the OP have had a reputation for being a good writer in a few different job contexts.

      The right move for the OP probably depends heavily on what exactly she is supposed to be editing. If this is a journal article or the same type of report she wrote before, I’d just go for it. (Preferably while referencing a couple examples of published products from this group.) If it’s an even slightly new format, I would wait and see or ask for clarification. “Clarity” about, say, your research methods depends on the format and the audience, but the differences between these types of reports can be quite subtle.

    4. Frankie*

      Completely. Academic writing styles can be so discipline-specific. Also… having a PhD and writing a lot doesn’t mean you’ve actually gained skills in understanding a range of tones, voices, etc., and making really good edits while not imposing your own style on someone else’s work. That’s not really what getting a PhD and writing a dissertation is trying to teach. It’s easy for people to confuse “that’s not how I’d say it” with “that’s not what the text needs” and it’s a particular skill to be able to distinguish the two impulses.

  21. midori123*

    LW#3, in my experience ad agencies are a beast of their own. I have worked at several different agencies and they have all been highly dysfunctional and toxic. Your boss is being sneaky and cowardly, but in my view it’s not surprising. I was fired from a job to be replaced by the owner’s new graduate son (with no experience in advertising except for two weeks of interning with us remotely) and I figured out it was going to happen when everyone else, including the son got new Macbooks except for me. It’s a cutthroat business.

    1. Lilo*

      very interesting! i’ve only ever worked at one ad agency briefly but it was the healthiest work environment i’ve ever been in. now that i’m job hunting and looking at agencies, this is making me think a little deeper about it.

  22. Cheapskate*

    OP3 that is toxic as hell. I’ve had it happen to me and it was part of a wider corporate culture where employees were treated like garbage.

  23. Mark Roth*

    I applied once for a job that I was really unqualified for. It involved staying in the same office, but moving into project management in a different department. Beyond being unqualified, everyone expected I would leave soon if my teaching job was undownsized. I applied anyway. There was a real consensus among the non-managers that I should get the job. My manager was not happy, but more over the chance that I might leave. The manager of the other department was concerned, but I overheard the GM telling him that I had to at least be interviewed.

    What really bothered me was that there was a guy who was qualified for the job but didn’t have enough time in his current position to apply for a promotion. I was the first to say that he should have been hired before me if all else was equal.

    Ultimately they slow rolled the process until the other guy could apply and then hired him. I had no real problem with that, and was back to teaching within six months anyway.

    If you’re not going to hire someone, be honest. Don’t dick them around

  24. OklahomaMama*

    re: #4
    I work in a very small clinic and we have to stagger lunch breaks. Since I have the 11:00 break I was constantly getting the “what are you doing for lunch?” from the other two. First of all, neither of them ever seemed to have any cash so I ended up paying and waiting to be repaid (always seemed to get hosed on that), then I got to carry everything from our employee parking lot a block away. The most annoying part was after using up most of my break to do all of this, my supervisor would eat whatever I brought back and still take her entire hour afterwards.
    I now have “errands” every single day!

    1. Narise*

      I think my response after awhile would have been, “Collecting all the money I’m owed for lunches.’ Then give them each the total and ask them to pay. No cash, no problem give me a check and I’ll go cash it now. Otherwise I need it by Friday.

    2. Jersey's mom*

      Start bringing lunch. Even if it’s a microwave meal. Or, say you have errands and won’t be stopping for food, sorry won’t have time for an extra stop for your lunch. (then go and eat at the takeout place). If they are bold enough to ask “what errands”, brush it off with “a lot of running around, I just need to get them done”. If they keep asking, the put the awkward back on them “why are you so interested? Are you offering to help?”

    3. Lily*

      I once had this flatmate who was twice my age and for her that meant we (other flatmate and me, and even flatmate’s BF) should do her errands, take orders etc whenever we left the house. She never reciprocitated because she never went to places where we needed something from and she never asked us what we needed but stopped us on our way to the bus, asking where we were going, and giving orders.
      I very fastly invented that one special university library place that was at the other end of town and sadly nowhere near any shops :D

      (And yeah, I could have told her I wouldn’t do it, but she was were moody and in the end abusive (physically attacked other flatmate, we’re out now) so it wasn’t worth it.
      I’m firmly pro lying in cases where the other person has no right to the information anyway.

    4. Blue Cupcake*

      Is this still continuing? If so, stand up for yourself. Don’t do this again. This will continue until *you* stop being a doormat. They thing everything is fine if you don’t speak up.
      Say “Sorry. I can’t afford to buy all of you lunch. In fact, I’m still owed money.” “Lunchtime is my free time and I don’t have time to run errands for everybody else.”

  25. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1, I think you’re asking, “How can I shut this down without hurting her feelings?” and I think the answer to that question is, “You probably can’t.”

    Make your language firm while you try to soften the blow. But she’ll probably take it hard, anyway.

    1. Sara without an H*

      True. I wonder if LW has talked with this person about her career plans and what she would need to be considered for promotions in the future? It might help turn her attention to something more constructive.

    2. MissCPA*

      Also, I’d suggest giving her time to digest. News like this is hard, particularly for someone who maybe isn’t mature in the work world. I would agree with a candid conversation with her about where she wants her career to go. And, OP, if you haven’t I would recommend the Radical Candor podcast or book to help you. The podcast episodes are short and the topics covered are in the titles!

  26. LGC*

    LW2, how much room is there for advancement in your current job? That might be why she shared the posting – not to get rid of you, but to provide you more professional opportunities that she likely couldn’t.

  27. Oryx*

    As someone who works in communications and does a lot of writing for work, if the piece in #5 is in the final edits stage as the OP suggests, now is not the time to make style changes. There is nothing — nothing! — more frustrating than big changes that happen right before something goes to publication or print because, chances are, if you make style changes, people will want to read and re-edit the approval process might start all over again.

    For this, just edit as instructed. You can ask for future tasks, but again, this sort of writing/editing isn’t really appropriate late stage and if this isn’t why you were hired, chances are you won’t be asked to be involved in earlier stages when it would be more appropriate.

    1. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer*

      I don’t have anything useful to say other than, HOO BOY do I feel your pain. Also, if you have any advice for convincing constituents that the time to make major edits to a text is AFTER it’s been laid out for publication rather than BEFORE, I am all ears!

      1. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer*

        Sorry, I meant BEFORE and not AFTER. All these all-caps are going to my head. Also it’s extremely slow in the office right now.

  28. LKW*

    Many years ago I picked up faxes (that’s how many years ago) off the machine and started reading them. They were all resumes with cover letters that really sounded a lot like MY job. My boss had asked to speak with me later that afternoon. I put two and two together and looked at he receptionist and file clerk and said “I think I’m getting fired today” and their wide saucer-eyes confirmed it.

    Luckily for me I had already found a new job (but they couldn’t start me for about a month). Knowing this allowed me to control that final conversation. He wanted me to react and get upset. I didn’t and it frustrated him tremendously. It was, as firings go, quite amusing.

    He was a terrible boss and that just put the nail in the coffin.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Wow, that’s a shitty situation. I’m glad you were already on your way out and it didn’t get you down.

  29. Rebecca*

    #4 – I work in a small office, too, and normally bring my lunch to work. I make my own tea and/or coffee, and everyone else does, too. We handle lunch this way: there are quite a few places in my office neighborhood that deliver and take pre-orders for lunch. Others are pick up only. It is handled like this:

    Someone will send an email out, does anyone need lunch? I’m thinking “Bob’s Subs”. List and menu is on the desk next to Jane. I’m calling in the order at 11:00 so please order by then.

    So Bob’s doesn’t deliver but they take pre-orders. We have printed forms; anyone who wants something writes down what they want, with the total dollar amount in the last column, they put the money in an envelope (writing down their name and amount), person who sent the email calls Bob’s, orders the sandwiches, and normally goes to pick up the order. Sometimes someone else will say, oh, I need to go to the post office, so I’ll just stop by and pick it up on the way back.

    This way, it’s not always the same person going and having to handle money, special requests, etc., everything is called in ahead of time.

    Delivery orders work the same way, someone will say, let’s order from [restaurant that delivers], same deal, write down everything, call it in, toss in an extra buck per order for the delivery person, etc.

    This works well for us and the same person isn’t burdened by losing their lunch break to picking up lunch for everyone.

  30. Cara*

    #1 — Unless the LW is leaving out details this does NOT sound like badgering. Plenty of jobs ask for experience and degrees/certifications that are not actually necessary for the job, or have a list of “requirements” that are actually a wish list. HR departments often screen using those lists as a checklist and rule out people who would actually be great in the job but have a less fit-the-boxes background, often because they don’t have the same subject/job knowledge as the hiring manager. And plenty of people get hired for jobs where they are incompetent, often rising in the ranks over time (although historically this happens more often with males, and I do wonder how the LW and the boss might have responded in this situation if Elizabeth was male).

    I think it’s legit that Elizabeth applied for the job, asked HR to reconsider, and asked the boss directly to consider.

    1. Cordoba*

      I agree that what you describe happens and that HR and hiring managers would benefit from being more open-minded with respect to the firm qualifications for a job.

      Given the LWs description of this situation as being analogous to hiring a person to be a lawyer despite their lack of a law degree or admission to the bar it doesn’t seem like that’s the case here. LW even says explicitly that Elizabeth does not have a certification that is required.

      In that case then there is no room for HR or the boss to “reconsider”. Elizabeth doesn’t have a credential that is absolutely necessary to hold this position, so she is not a candidate for the position. There are many many jobs where this situation isn’t just an organizational policy but an actual requirement of regulatory/accreditation bodies or even straight-up law.

      If I don’t have a pilot’s license it is absolutely badgering and reflects poorly on me if I ask my boss to consider me for a job flying airplanes anyway.

      1. Cara*

        I’m thinking that the certification isn’t a legal/regulatory requirement — that’s a pretty clear “no” to understand and accept, even if it’s frustrating. To me this reads like a situation where it is clear from the boss and LW’s perspectives why Elizabeth is in no way qualified, but from Elizabeth’s or an outsider’s perspective, she DOES seem like a viable candidate. Hard to tell where the communication lines broke down or where fault lies. I guess I’m wishing there was more mutual respect in the mix.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          People can absolutely apply for jobs in the hope that the requirements are more flexible than they appear in the posting. But not taking no for an answer is not a good reflection on one’s professionalism and judgment.

          “HR explained why she wouldn’t be considered for the job” seems pretty cut and dry and should have been the end of the story.

          1. Triplestep*

            Yes, this is what I was thinking.

            I see similarities between this young person and yesterday’s intern in that they both lack self awareness. It would be a kindness to explain to her why this behavior reflects poorly on her. Apparently telling her she is not qualified for the job hasn’t gotten through, but maybe “you’re being a pest and making yourself look bad” (said nicely, of course) would have an impact.

          2. AMT*

            Yep. She emailed HR after her rejection to tell them that she disagreed with their rationale (!), the LW’s grandboss is “fed up with her badgering him” (!!), and the LW has apparently had multiple conversations about why she can’t have the job (!!!). She knows she’s not qualified, and she knows *why* she’s not qualified. This is long past the point where she might have plausible deniability re: not understanding the distinction between the mandatory and non-mandatory qualifications for the job.

          3. Genny*

            Exactly. There’s a huge difference between applying for a job that requires three years of llama grooming experience when you have two years of camel grooming experience and applying for a job that requires a vet license to treat ailing llamas when you have no license and have never worked with animals.

        2. Jen*

          It is interesting we are reading the letter so differently. I interpret the lawyer example as a clear statement that this is 100% a clear, legally required certification, because that is how it works for bar-passage required attorneys. So the analogy drawn makes it seem like Elizabeth is way way off base here (and I have seen people behave this way in the past, unfortunately).

          1. Washi*

            I also read this as being a pretty clear cut situation. OP says that HR explained to Elizabeth why she would not be considered for the position, and while it’s true that sometimes job posting requirements don’t always match up perfectly with the actual job, it’s still not a good look to try to go above HR’s head and ask the grandboss to reconsider. If Elizabeth didn’t understand the situation, she could have sat down with OP and said “I was interested in X role and was disappointed to be rejected right off the bat. Why was that? What can I do to make myself more qualified next time?” I don’t see any lack of respect for Elizabeth here, I see a manager with a lot of compassion for where she’s coming from and who wants to figure out how to set her straight and keep her from ruining her reputation!

          2. pleaset*

            “never passed the bar exam”
            Yup. This is a legal requirement.

            The letter is clear.

        3. Bea*

          You’re assuming a “clear no” is clear to everyone.

          I’ve had people apply for jobs who have no qualifications at all. No schooling or applicable transferable skills.

          I’ve also had a boss who thought I could just train someone to do a job and failed miserably because no transferable skills. Then they got upset when they were let go, they didn’t understand why they couldn’t have another 4 or 5 months to further damage the books. This person also got my ass sent a 1099 that shouldn’t have happened (manual entry of payroll checks, coded incorrectly, extremely unlikely if you have any concept of accounting to begin with), so I’m extra pissed since it bleeds over into many things in some positions.

          I’m a woman who was mentored by other professional women. I’ve fired more men for being incompetent than anyone else.

          1. Just Wondering...*

            How is your last paragraph relevant? It seems like male-bashing, and the reverse sure wouldn’t be accepted here. I am a woman with decades of professional work experience. I have interacted with incompetent people of both sexes. Maybe there were just more men in your workplaces, but to imply that men are more incompetent than women is distasteful.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          A whoooole lot of people think they are viable candidates who are not, and it’s not because the requirements aren’t clear but because they are overconfident and/or unrealistic.

          And asking repeatedly after you’ve been given solid, well-reasoned “no” answers is pretty much the definition of badgering.

        5. Snark*

          I’m thinking you’re totally off base. OP described it as equivalent to applying to be a lawyer with no law degree and having never passed the bar. That is enough to reasonably conclude that it’s a stronger requirement than “well, we’d really like the applicant to have an MBA.” Come on. She’s not a viable candidate. Take OP at her word, as Alison requires. You’re mapping your own resentments and experiences onto this letter in a way that comes off as grinding an axe.

          1. Snark*

            Also, it’s really hard to cultivate mutual respect when one party has no respect for the judgment of the other. Elizabeth is the one behaving in a way that erodes that mutual respect.

    2. Jen*

      It sounds like Elizabeth hasn’t let up though, given it has been explained to her by the boss, HR, and OP and she hasn’t stopped. OP’s example makes it clear there is zero leeway here. Hiring a non attorney for a job that requires bar passage, for instance, can get you in a huge amount of legal trouble because a non attorney cannot be employed in proving legal advice to clients and cannot sign legal documents. If she doesn’t have a necessary degree and certification, there is no leeway.

      My sister is a CPA for instance and in her state her job required education, a certain number of course hours, a certain number of supervised work hours, and a multipart exam. But she’s an auditor and she could not sign off on her documents without this certification.

      It also sounds like even without the certification, Elizaveth is woefully unqualified, both in having any of the relevant experience and sufficient education.

      This goes beyond gumption into the realm of delusion.

    3. Erin*

      But this is assuming that the education and experience requirements that come with the job are part of a wishlist, not firm requirements, and that’s simply not the case for all jobs in all job contexts. I work at a traditional public school in the US, and we can’t hire people for permanent teaching positions if they don’t have a state teaching license. My sister is a therapist and my husband is a lawyer, and their workplaces can’t hire therapists or lawyers who lack proper state credentials. Sure, there are jobs and workplaces where degrees, licenses, or experience are preferred, but not strictly required, but if this is the type of situation where Elizabeth does actually need the qualifications that have been outlined (and based on the letter, I have no reason to think it’s not), then yeah, her behavior is inappropriate.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        The analogy used by the OP suggests that, in this case, they are necessary and not a wishlist. I work in an archives. I can do a lot of stuff here but I don’t have an MLIS or an archivist certification–I am patently not qualified for my boss’ job. No, those things are not legal requirements, but not having that background means I don’t really have the foundation I’d need to do what he does.

        The fact that the wannabe candidate cannot or will not grasp this yet another reason not to hire her, even if she were closer to being qualified.

        1. Erin*

          Agreed. The top level comment seemed (based on my reading, anyway) to be suggesting that the required qualifications for the position might not be true requirements, and I wanted to push back on that because the truth is that there are many jobs for which specific types of qualifications (be they degrees, certifications, licenses, or certain work experience) truly are required for someone to simply get hired in the first place, as well as to succeed in the job. (I admit that I am quite sensitive about this as we in the US experience a particularly robust push to destroy teaching as a professional vocation.)

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I think we should take the OP at her word that Elizabeth is simply not qualified for the job. Why should any of us here assume that we know more about this situation than the OP – you know, the person who works there, knows all the people and knows what qualifications are required?

      1. Artemesia*

        Beyond this, a crucial thing to understand in the workplace is how to take ‘no’ for an answer and stop pushing. No manager wants to be constantly hectored when they have made clear the answer is ‘no.’ That includes top bosses who make it clear to managers that a promotion for a subordinate or raises or new hiring option etc are not going to be happening. Managers who continue to badger without letting significant time pass on that are a real PITA for their own bosses.

        1. AMT*

          Right, and even if the requirements were flexible, there’s nothing wrong with the boss deciding to go with a stronger outside hire regardless of Elizabeth’s desire for the job. It’s not like you’re guaranteed to be considered for a position if you technically meet the minimum requirements for it.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            This is a big distinction. Some people are shocked! Shocked I say… to realize that their current employment is really just a really long job interview for promotions and other internal jobs. Meaning that if the hiring manager specifically posted the job externally, that means they’ve already looked at all the internal people and didn’t see what they wanted for the position.

            I just recently interviewed an internal candidate for the supervisor position in his current group. This employee has not shown any leadership qualities or actions in the 2 years he’s worked for the company. He was really squirming when I asked him if his peers would consider him as a leader and what they would use to base that opinion on. He at least conceded that they wouldn’t have any examples of his leadership.

            The weird thing is he pointed to somebody in my group and compared himself to her (who has been promoted to a supervisory position). I felt a little bad to have to point out that the group considered her a leader long before the title and that her promotions was a case of making the title match reality.

            1. AMT*

              This is a good point. If your company decides to go with an outside hire for a role you want, it’s *possible* that they’re [disorganized/bad at hiring/unaware of your interest in the role/ignorant of your qualifications], but it’s more likely that they know you exist and that you’re just not a great fit.

        2. Tau*

          Yep, I feel like the lack of required qualification is almost a red herring. If all requirements had been flexible and the hiring manager just went “eh, I’d like someone with a bit more experience than Elizabeth”, it would still not be OK for her to keep on bringing the matter up after being rejected.

      2. Cara*

        Sometimes you don’t understand just how unqualified you are for a situation until you’ve reached or surpassed the level of qualification. Think about a three-year-old who wants to cross the busy street alone and feels pretty darn qualified to do that, and pretty darn angry at the parent who is stopping them. And think about the skills and judgment that it actually takes to cross a street safely every time. For me, the question here is not whether Elizabeth is qualified or not, but how everyone involved is perceiving the situation, and how they are letting that influence how they are treating each other.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          The problem with your line of thinking is that Elizabeth is not a 3 year old and if she can’t accept the fact that she has been told multiple times that she is not qualified then she is the problem. If she had applied without the qualifications that is one thing. She was told by HR that she was not qualified. That should have been the end of it.

          It’s actually less about being qualified or unqualified, the real problem is that she is refusing to accept the reality that she has been told by the people in authority that she will not be going any further in the process.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Exactly. If she doesn’t have the qualifications – and it’s pretty clear that she does not – she is simply not eligible for consideration. That’s the plain fact. The OP’s responsibility is to convey that clearly and politely, but Elizabeth has a responsibility here, too, and that’s to recognize when “no” means “no.”

            If there’s a way that Elizabeth can better position herself for the *next* promotion that comes along, the OP should convey that to her too. But not until she learns to take “no” for an answer.

            I honestly feel a bit sorry for Elizabeth, but what I mostly feel for her is irritation and annoyance. She is behaving really quite badly here.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          It does depend on the job, but taking the OP’s word that the requirements are firm and akin to a lawyer’s, this sounds pretty cut and dry. At the very least, it sounds like the applicant hasn’t researched the job which would tell her that some things are firm.

          Beyond that, it sounds like people have told her she’s not qualified. Even if the requirements weren’t similar to a lawyer’s, she was told no.

        3. Observer*

          So you are saying that it’s ok for Elizabeth – presumably a competent adult – to act like a 3 year old?

          Elizabeth is not a monster. But, if the best you can do to defend her is to compare her to a toddler, you’re not making much of a case. In fact, that supports all of the people who are saying “This sounds like the tip of an iceberg of bad judgement.”

          The last thing a functional workplace needs is someone who reacts to things they don’t like with the intelligence and maturity of a 3 year old.

          1. ShortT*

            I’m a preschool teacher. Mostly of three-year-olds.

            I’m insulted on their behalf. The kids are much more reasonable than this.

        4. Snark*

          The validity and finality of the no is not contingent on Elizabeth’s understanding, perception, and acceptance of the no. And if that leads others to perceive her as tone-deaf and unable to take no for an answer, and if that erodes their respect for her, that’s natural consequences. I do not see anybody failing here except Elizabeth.

        5. Peach Picking*

          I think you have failed to see that the manager, hiring manager , and HR have seen her resume, the hiring manager and her manager know her and her work. All of these people have said she is not qualified, and they all believe that the person for this job needs the certification and education. She is turning the hiring manager off from ever hiring her for anything in the future even if she is qualified. At this point she is wrong and needs to let it go and stop bothering everyone.

        6. KellyAF*

          The Dunning-Kruger effect! The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. I thought I was an Excel whiz in college…. now I fully understand how little I knew.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Badgering seems like a fair description to me. Even if we give the maximum benefit of the doubt and assume that she could do an amazing job without several qualifications considered critical for the role, her actions in this application process don’t reflect well on her.

      She applied for a job that was only open to external candidates and she went through the wrong channels (direct email to HR and the hiring manager) in doing so, so she’s not following directions. She’s refused to accept the explanation that she doesn’t have the qualifications for the position, so she’s not listening to feedback. She’s continuing to push on both HR and the hiring manager after receiving a clear answer, so she’s damaging relationships with people that she needs to work with well.

      Any one of those three behaviors could be more than enough reason not to hire someone. Put them together and it’s almost a certainty that she’d be difficult to work with and difficult to manage, and it’s understandable that the LW’s boss isn’t up for that, no matter how talented Elizabeth might be otherwise.

      1. Seriously?*

        Yeah. She has been rejected 3 times (including by the hiring manger) and still won’t let it go. That is badgering. Applying once and appealing it would not be badgering.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Elizabeth’s been told she’s not getting the job. If it were a matter of showing gumption or they thought she could grow into the job, maybe they’d interview her. But the decision has been made, and all Elizabeth is doing might be convincing her employer not to consider her for promotion to anything.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      The hiring manager (OP’s boss) has told her she isn’t qualified. I get arguing with HR over whether “ABC qualified” and “ACB certified” are the exact same thing, but not with the person who wrote the job description and believes no one in the office currently has those qualifications.

    7. Snark*

      How is it legit to apply for a job you’re categorically not qualified for because you lack a required certification? You’re assuming this is a case of wish list requirements or unnecessary degrees and certifications, but I think that says a lot more about your experiences and, frankly, your baggage than it does about anything we should reasonably be assuming about this situation. Not that your experiences and baggage are invalid, but I strongly suspect they are not applicable here, and I don’t think this is a helpful comment.

      1. Annie on a Mouse*

        Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether she could do the job because the grand boss decided not to hire her. Even if the qualifications really were more of a wishlist than a legal requirement, it’s still within the company’s discretion to hold out for someone who does meet all of those wishlist items.

        As someone observed above, this has ceased the be about whether she could technically do the job. That doesn’t matter. Now it’s about her response. And that response is unprofessional and shows lack of judgment. OP is asking how to treat that lack of judgment with compassion, not whether Elizabeth could do the work.

    8. Sara LW 1*

      Cara, I’m curious as to why you brought gender into this at all? Do you think we would let a man do a job without the education, certification and experience under a licensed person that the law requires? You must also have a complete different definition of “badgering” because Elizabeth has continually not listened when told she is not qualified for the job and keeps on applying/disagreeing/asking for the job even when it has been explained to her.

  31. Narise*

    OP1 A woman in our office who applied for a different position that was much more technical and demanding in nature. We met with her to explain why she wasn’t ready for that job and provide areas she could work on before applying again. She completely exploded and became angry and was just overall unprofessional. The next couple of days she kept going back to her supervisor and still making some more comments. She wasn’t performing her own job duties very well and even joked with her supervisor to fire her. Finally after a few weeks she found out that a very key person in that department was leaving and that’s who we were hiring to replace and she realized she couldn’t replace that person. She really hurt her reputation with the way she handelded the situation and will probably impact any future applications she submits.

    You may want to make it clear to your employee that she is hurting her reputation by not listening to the feedback and continuing to push for the job after being told no.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “You may want to make it clear to your employee that she is hurting her reputation by not listening to the feedback and continuing to push for the job after being told no.”

      100% this^.

      I came here also to comment to OP1 that you should tell Elizabeth to read up on AAM to see why what she’s doing is completely unprofessional.

  32. Alex*

    #2, I’ve been on the manager side of this. My previous assistant was with me several years and had gotten a higher degree while working for me. She was wonderful and I trusted her completely to cover my department when I was out.
    When an opening for a director position in another agency(equivalent to my position) came across my desk I immediately thought of her. I told her I did not want to lose her, and in no way was asking her to leave, but the opportunity was there and I thought she would be great at it. She eventually decided not to apply and stayed with me for another year before taking a lateral move to a department head position in the same agency. I was equally as happy for her. I always thought my role as a manager was to help my employees grow and move into successful positions if they wanted. For the record, I’ve been a director at my agency 10+ years and 4 of 6 assistants finished their degrees under me. 3 of the 4 moved to be directors/administrators themselves. I couldn’t be happier for them!

    1. MLB*

      That’s awesome and a great example of how a manager should treat their employees. I think the LW needs to look at how her manager generally treats her and go from there. Suggesting another job isn’t an automatic “I want you to leave”.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve done something similar. I had a person on my team–a total rock star–who wanted to grow in her career and eventually get to my senior person’s level, my level or my boss’s level. I was honest with her that it likely wouldn’t happen in our company due to size and lack of turnover. Many people here a long-timers, as in they’ve been here for 30+ years. My boss has been here 35 years, I had just arrived a year earlier and wasn’t looking to leave, and my senior person wasn’t looking to leave and couldn’t move up until I did, and I couldn’t move up until my boss left (he’s not ready to retire yet) or he gave me one of his titles. Also, the company wouldn’t grow enough, soon enough, to add another level in there. I told her the best option would be to look at other companies that are smaller (sound counterintuitive, but makes sense in my industry) and would allow her to wear more hats, or do much more within the department. That would give her more diverse experience and would likely allow her to move to my level or my boss’s level much faster and easier. I didn’t want to lose her, but I also didn’t want her to be unhappy. She took another job and is doing well. (Unfortunately she moved to a bigger company and is doing just one main task, whereas here she was doing a lot more. But at least she will have some “big company” experience to take with her.)

  33. Agent Diane*

    OP2. I’ve picked up one one thing in your letter. You’re in your first role out of college, and have been there 4.5 years. You absolutely should go for your dream job since it’s come up. You’ve a good work background and now is the time to capitalise on it. Stay too long and you’ll find moving harder.

    Your boss is a nice boss. ;)

    Unlike OP3’s boss, who is nasty.

    1. Bea*

      Also this is an opportunity to snatch up. I’m not in arts (good thing, I’m the worst) but it’s a limited industry I’m lead to believe.

      So boss is like “I’ve loved having you here almost 5 years but this new position my friend is filling is a perfect fit to grow your career”

      Who knows if you’d get a job opening like this in 2 or 3 or 8 years time considering the limited roles. Don’t stay in a role just because you’re good at it unless you truly want that for the rest of your career in these cases I would say.

    2. op2*

      op2 here, and yeah! A lot of comments on this thread are really hitting home the fact I already knew, that I probably should be looking for advancement anyway. As many correctly assumed, there isn’t really any room for me to move forward here. They created a full time position for me since they liked me as an intern, and from there, they’ve continually given me an increasing budget and increasing responsibility in terms of what my job actually entails. At the current stage, though, they simply can’t provide me with anything more. It’s already scary and hard to imagine moving, but this was a great reality check!

  34. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    A tale of two bosses!

    OP2, you have a boss who is looking out for you and trying further your career. Treasure this person and use her as a mentor.

    OP3, you have a boss who is underhanded and cannot be trusted. Run if you can, but be very careful dealing with this person.

  35. Jaybeetee*

    LW3: Quite apart from the awful way he’s doing this, is anyone else weirded out by the fact that *multiple* people have been fired from this agency? Perhaps that’s normal in some industries, but it immediately pinged me that it sounds like a sketchy place to work and not terribly secure. At least in my own experience, good companies tend to treat firing people as a last resort, and it’s not such a commonplace thing that you’d see it happening multiple times over a year or two.

  36. Bea*

    #1 Is causing me stress thinking about how thick the person is who can’t understand they’re not qualified. I like Alison’s approach.

    I was able to move into my profession by climbing the ladder, quick wit and learning on my feet. I can easily get through doors without a degree but this reminds me of the people who I’ve dealt with who think they can just slide into my job then fail spectacularly. It’s like if I tried doing our corporate taxes despite not being a CPA, there’s a reason for certification FFS. AND I ACTUALLY SEE THAT HAPPEN…so mega stressed out reading this letter but I’m relieved the company auto rejected her now it’s just an uncomfortable mess. I wouldn’t sugarcoat anything and just tell her to drop it. If she wants to do that kind of work, get your license like the job requires, end of story.

    1. MissCPA*

      yeah, in the case of a CPA or a lawyer, the certification is pretty important. I couldn’t even imagine doing law work without having the proper qualifications. I would be pretty stern with this employee, and wonder as Alison mentioned, if there are other red flags.

      1. Jen*

        I am a lawyer and I can remember the list of requirements I had to meet to represent my clinic clients (3L, under supervision from a specially certified professor who was also an admitted attorney). You don’t mess with licensing requirements.

  37. KellyAF*

    When I was on my honeymoon, I got an email from LinkedIn suggesting I apply for a job. LinkedIn was correct that I was well-qualified for the job…. as it was the job I held at the time! Reading the listing made it very clear they were looking for someone to replace the specific set of skills I brought to the job. I wound up not saying anything immediately, although they were clearly trying to interview people without letting me know. Within a month, I negotiated a severance and left the job. It made me very happy to see that listing popping up every few months for the next year! (It was a pretty dysfunctional workplace, surprise surprise.)

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Terrible advice alert: It would have been funny if you had applied for the job, written a kickass cover letter about how awesome you are and…then, just act totally normal while at work and not acknowledge it at all. Pretend that you didn’t see them post your job and you didn’t apply. Document their reactions if any.

      That’s terrible advice — don’t do this.

  38. Imaginary Number*

    #4 would hugely stress me out. I personally hate putting in orders for multiple people, unless it’s something shareable like pizza. Partly because I can’t stand being in line at a coffee shop or “make it in front of you” type place while the person in front of me rattles of ten different orders and is texting coworkers because they’re out of olive cheese spread or something.

    In that situation, I would rather take the option of being someone who never puts in an order with others but also never orders for anyone else. Holding firm to the “you’re welcome to come with me and get your own lunch” line which keeps you from seeming totally antisocial about it.

    Occasionally my coworkers will pick a local place with mobile ordering, everyone puts their order in online, and one person will volunteer to go pick it up. I don’t mind that because you’re not responsible for getting someone else’s food right. But I’d still rather everyone just came and picked up their own.

  39. kzkz*

    LW5, in my experience and based on the explicit instructions you have been given, they are almost certainly not looking for the kinds of edits you suggest. Specifically, they said this was a “final edit” and were quite specific about a narrow focus on kinds of things to look for, which means they are probably past the point in the process where more significant edits will be something they want to incorporate. (Any change at that point runs the risk of introducing additional error. At some point one just has to stop!)

    I have been in this position many times on the other end– I have something that is close to going to print, and I’ve asked a junior person to do a final proofread to catch any typos or factual errors (bad caption for a table, missing column of data, etc.). In every case, I would have been frustrated if the person had unilaterally spent time trying to improve the quality of the writing itself, since that’s not what I asked them to do. I wouldn’t mind them asking me (and in fact have been asked the exact question you are asking), but I would have (and have) said no.

    You might consider framing it as “You told me to do X. I’m also happy to do Y. Do you want me to do that here as well? If not, I just wanted to let you know that it’s actually something I enjoy [if this is true], and would be happy to get involved earlier in the process on future documents if that could be helpful.”

  40. Old Admin*

    #5 :
    I’ve done proofreading myself.
    One thing I did was to correct real *mistakes* in grammar, spelling, punctuation with a pen in one color (could be red), and add *suggestions* on style in the margins in another color (could be green).
    I still would ask about this first, though, people can be weirdly sensitive!

    1. pleaset*

      It can be weird sensitivity, but it can also be that there are specific reasons they cannot make changes of substance, and getting back edits means the “editor” wasted time.

      Also, some people, most commonly men, cannot distinguish the colors red and green, so they’d have to spend even more time evaluating each mark on the page.

      As you say, ask first.

  41. LQ*

    That your boss doesn’t give clear warning or that the people are surprised is a HUGE HUGE problem. (Though you may not always know what’s happening behind the scenes, sometimes people are on a PIP and the boss won’t (and shouldn’t) say anything. And sometimes you might think the person does a great job but it turns out there is a problem you may never know about – cheating on timesheets, or lying to clients, or harassing people. It’s important to realize you won’t always see the whole picture. But the repetition of it really makes it clear what is happening.

    My org might look like it’s done this a few times recently. We had someone who was really close to retiring but couldn’t decide if it was at the July date or the January date, higher ups decided they’d rather hire someone now and carry the additional cost/train new person longer even if the person waited til January. But she didn’t share until the new job had been posted and so a couple people thought that they were firing someone in that job (there are 6 people in that same role). Nope. Just doing the right thing and making it easier for someone to retire when they were ready, but without sharing her plans.
    We had 2 people doing a role and boss wanted more staff, got approval for 2 more roles. Despite telling the 2 that they were hiring extra people they both had lots of whispered we are being fired conversations. Unfortunately that carried over into when the people were hired and kind of made their jobs hard for the first few months.
    All that to say it’s not always bad when your role is posted (especially if you are one of many and you may not know all of the things about all of the people in those roles).
    But it is nearly always bad when you have a boss who isn’t direct and doesn’t give good feedback because then you won’t know. The boss is absolutely the big problem here and sounds like he’s very snakey.

  42. anon today*

    #3, the government agency where I used to work actually did this to an entire DIVISION. They decided to outsource the function that division performed and lay everyone off. The way people first found out about it was when someone stumbled across the RFP for a vendor company on the state comptroller’s website.

    This is at an agency where historically, getting in on the ground floor had always meant you were guaranteed a steady job and retirement. Granted, there wasn’t adequate accountability and there were plenty of people just coasting along, and they ended up converting many of the affected employees to contractors by having the vendor company hire them; but long-time career government employees across the board lost their benefits and retirement, and the quality of service that division provided for the rest of the agency went way down.

    The leadership who did this were very new. They’d been brought in to modernize the agency (and that was needed), but they were only there for 3-4 years. They all moved up to the next rung in their career ladders and I’m sure were perfectly well aware they wouldn’t be around to deal with the fallout from their business decisions.

    (I wasn’t directly affected, but I think most agency employees had a pretty strong sense of betrayal.)

  43. John Rohan*

    Regarding: “My boss sent me a job posting at another organization” – you have to consider the possibility that the boss knows about some future layoffs coming up, and is trying to cushion the blow.

    1. op2*

      Op2 here, and yes, I have considered that! We have recently created two new positions in a different side of my org’s operations (bringing our staff from 6 to 8), and while I don’t know if my program is going to be cut, it’s clear they have no budget for raises or materials for me.

      1. Snark*

        OP2: something in your letter jumped out at me:

        “The workplace is somewhat dysfunctional, but we’re fundamentally a small family”

        No you are not. You are a bunch of coworkers in a slightly dysfunctional workplace. You are in a standard, at-will employment relationship with your employer, which either party may reconsider at any time if a more favorable arrangement presents itself. I’m thinking that your boss is more attuned to the fundamental reality of the relationship than you are, and recognizes that a relatively young employee early in her career will likely move on. This is particularly the case when their current role offers minimal possibilities for advancement, as you now suggest here. My suggestion is that you stop considering yourself part of a small family and adopt a more mercenary approach.

        1. Plague of frogs*

          Maybe she meant, “The workplace is somewhat dysfunctional, like a small family.”

  44. NicoleK*

    #2. Your boss is trying to help you out. I wished I had bosses that looked out for me.

  45. jack*

    Every time I read something a out coffee/lunch orders on this blog, I thank my lucky stars that my work just pays for our food if we order anything.

  46. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    #4, are there no places that deliver to your office? Yeah, I would just do the ‘sorry running errands can’t pick up lunch… if you need something I think quickie sandwiches delivers’. But I’m curious if you asked the non-driver in that situation how she had time to gather lunch orders but not to go with you to help?

    Otherwise, go with the rules of reciprocation here, get lunch for others if they get lunch for you, keep it even-ish but don’t feel bad for opting out when you want to.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1 is kind of deliciously crazy. It reminds me of the scene in The Dark Knight, where one of Bruce Wayne’s employees figures out he’s Batman and is trying to blackmail him, and Morgan Freeman is all, “you think your boss, this hugely rich and powerful man, is also a dangerous and violent vigilante, and your reaction is to try to blackmail him?” I want to sit Elizabeth down and say “your boss, and your boss’s boss, and the HR department, have all told you you’re not qualified for this job, and that you need to stop pushing for it. And your response is to push harder?”

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m with you… I want updates on this one and other Elizabeth exploits :)

      I think Alison needs to have an open question day of “What was the most illogical thing you have seen an employee or coworker do?” I have quite a few that I could add to that discussion.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      This seems like another “gumption gone wrong” kind of letter. Where Elizabeth picked up the idea that if she keeps pushing and pushing and pushing, she’ll impress these people and land the better job.

      For my ex-bf’s dad, apparently he did this and it worked. He interviewed for the company several times (and was of course rejected several times), on the last interview sold himself so hard he *offered to work the first month for free*, they were apparently impressed/amused enough to take him up on it (I think they did actually pay him, mind you)….and 12 years later he retired in his 40s as millionaire CEO of said company. That said, I think the odds on that kind of thing are similar to winning a lottery, and I doubt it would be generally good job advice for the rest of us.

      1. Observer*

        Also, Dad must have been a pretty unusual person – not just that he managed to sell himself, but that he managed to bring the company to the point where he could retire in such a relatively short time as a millionaire.

        And, he wasn’t really risking much either – what could they do? Fire him?

      2. LQ*

        I think none of the people that this might have the slightest chance of working for need to be told to gumption it up though. They’ve got…whatever else it is…working on their side and they’ve already been doing it. People love those stories because they are different and unusual. The…I applied a bunch of places and got mostly rejected and had a handful of interviews and a couple of offers and picked the one I thought would be best and worked there for a while and gathered new skills and learned and then did the whole thing over again…narrative just isn’t as headline catching as …worked for free and retired at 40!… but the thing is most of the time. The vast vast vast most of the time the first story is much more likely.

        And if you’re a gumption works for me type, you’re not going to listen because it’s worked for you in the past. You’re either Teela Brown and you float through life with gumption rather than luck. Or you don’t and you have to put in a bunch of work.

      3. Bea*

        I ran a company when I was 25 when my boss fell terminally ill. My background was 14 months doing books for a place with one customer that tanked by my 21st birthday.

        This gets me a lot of traction places without having to meet every qualification.

        However I now drop into jobs without any training and just books and company basics dropped on me to reverse engineer.

        Yet I have learned my life is a freak of nature and I have tried giving others the chance to “be me”, so many confident individuals crushed and I’m too grumpy to keep trying to let others just prove themselves unless I see me in them.

  48. Triplestep*

    #4, there’s a lot of feedback and suggestions here already, but I just want to chime in over what I think may be going on in the head of the non-driving co-worker. I believe she is trying to “pull her weight”, and is doing so by asking around when she finds someone going for a lunch run. She probably does this often, and to plenty of other people besides you.

    Years ago, I was a single parent of an elite soccer player, who seemed to have practices, games or tournaments every day of the week. I simply could not keep up with the demand for driving him to these things. I used to proactively call other parents when I *could* drive and offer to cart their kids around to build up capital so I could ask them for driving favors later on. I was one of two single parents in the whole league, so mostly I was met with quizzical responses from parents who could split the driving with the other driver in their home. But when you described how this co-worker rounded up orders for you, I saw a person trying to be useful, the same as I was trying to be all those years ago.

    I’m not sure how I would deal with this in your shoes, but I hope this helps explain what may be going on with the one co-worker. I think you are probably not the only person in your office who finds this system problematic. Someone needs to start opting out for it to change, so why not you? Maybe stop using the service when others offer, and stop offering yourself. Start opting to take walks, run errands, meditate, whatever, during lunch. If anyone insists they’ll still get you coffee or lunch, you can say “Well, I can’t reciprocate so I don’t feel comfortable asking others to do it for me.” I am betting others will jump on board with this, and you won’t be the only one opting out.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s a really interesting take on the situation. If the person who picks up the order normally has to do the work of gathering everyone’s orders, I can see why she’d think she was actually helping you out.

    2. Birch*

      Yeah, I agree, she probably thought you were intending to take everyone’s orders. I think if you don’t want to be part of this system (which… legit, this sounds like my personal nightmare), you need to extricate yourself by starting to not participate at all anymore. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going, and refuse offers. People will start to get the message.

  49. Lemony Snickerdoodle*

    OP3 Your post reminded me of a article that was passed around in our department recently from The HR Specialist and has a similar question about posting jobs before firing people. The situations are not exactly the same but it might be worth to check that out. You can search “Witbeck v. Equipment Transport” and you can read up on the case.

    1. Observer*

      That seems to be a bit of a different issue. The question here is whether they were looking for someone to replace him, or they were just trying to generate applications to keep the applicant pool “fresh”. That’s a garbage thing to do, but we know it happens. And, in this case, there are no alternatives that make the company look good: Either they were secretly planning to terminate him or they solicit applications when they have no intention of hiring.

  50. Former Retail Manager*

    Op#4….apologies if this suggestion has already been brought up…

    I’m a big fan of being blunt and direct. I did this for a couple of years, although on a smaller scale than you. My issue was that no one really reciprocated, although some people would be happy to ride along occasionally to make it more doable. The long and short is I just got sick of it. It added a lot of time to my lunch, which isn’t closely monitored, but then necessitated that I work longer to make up for the longer lunch. I just stopped asking people and when a few of them would ask me if I was going out, I told them yes, but my days of picking up lunch orders were over. They all just said “okay” and there were no hard feelings. They all expressed gratitude that I’d done it for so long and didn’t seem surprised that I tapped out. Hard to tell how your co-workers will take a firm stance, but you never know….your stand might encourage others who are tired of it to bow out of the practice as well.

  51. Should Have Been a Mermaid*

    #2, I used to be the ED of a small arts organization, and funding was always a problem. While it’s typical in most nonprofits, I think the challenges that face small arts organizations are particularly unique, because younger generations aren’t patronizing the arts like older generations, and the appreciation for the fine arts continues to decline in our society. I see it as an opportunity and am encouraged, but I always had it in the back of my mind that something could happen and affect our staffing. It’s possible that could be at play and you don’t know about it.

    But I agree, the more likely scenario is she wants the best for you. I have always hired strong people, but I also really want to see my employees grow and succeed. I realize their work for me is temporary and a larger part of a journey that I’m happy to support them on. I can see how if you’ve been there for a while, and a dream job came up I thought my employee was ready for, I’d be eager to share that information. Those jobs aren’t available all the time, and it sounds like you’re at a point where you’re ready to advance.

    Take it as a compliment.

  52. grey*

    Q3… Wait…. that’s not normal? My old job did that *all* the time; but generally speaking when the person was being replaced; it was obvious why. I have no idea if my old management team gave warnings, etc… but I assumed it was really common to start looking once they had determined to fire someone.

    Q4… Sometimes I’m the one asking people if I can add to their order, but usually I give them more money than my order to buy their soda with or something as appreciation for picking up for me. (I do have a car, etc… and will offer if I’m going someplace, but I *hate* going out at lunch so avoid it when I can).

    1. The Other Dawn*

      #3: Same here. I’ve never seen it done differently. Yes, people in my companies who were being terminated knew it could happen since the boss had spoken to them previously (and that’s horrible if OP’s boss isn’t communicating performance issues to those people), but those jobs were always posted before the person was fired since it could take awhile to find another person.

      OP doesn’t know for a fact that these people were never spoken to or put on a PIP. Most managers wouldn’t make that publicly known. To her and others it probably looks like everything is going great and that the person is on top of everything, when that might not actually be the reality.

    2. jack*

      Here’s my thing: if you’re going to fire me and you’ve made up your mind about it, why aren’t you just doing it? I guess where I work, if you’re going to get fired, you get fired. We don’t hang onto you for another 2 months while trying to backfill your position.

  53. Cara*

    Honestly, after pondering this one a while, I think the key is that LW’s boss isn’t giving Elizabeth the human respect of direct communication. Boss received two emails from Elizabeth — an initial resume/cover letter, and a follow-up after HR sent an immediate rejection, and by LW’s account, Boss hasn’t communicated with Elizabeth at all. I think if Boss had responded directly (and kindly) to either one of the emails, LW wouldn’t be writing in. But if you treat an employee like a fly and ask their boss to be your personal fly swatter…

    1. Sara LW 1*

      He has responded to her and she hasn’t listened and keeps on asking/trying to get the job. No one is treating her like a fly needing to be swatted.

      1. Former Employee*

        I am wondering if the employee thinks that because everyone is actually speaking with her about the job even though they end up saying “no”, that it means there is some sort of ongoing discussion whereby she can turn the “no” into (at the very least) “maybe” if she keeps everyone talking.

        Has she exhibited this inability to grasp the reality of a situation in other instances?

  54. animaniactoo*

    OP#4 – I might raise an eyebrow “I’m confused. You don’t have 15 minutes to come with me to pick up the orders, but you have 15 minutes to run around the office and collect orders from other people? Do you realize it takes about the same amount of time?”

    It’s possible that she doesn’t realize that she’s spending the same amount of time “away from her desk”, but it will also serve as notice if she *is* aware that you’re aware that it’s a nonsense excuse when she clearly has the time but isn’t willing to do the physical labor part.

    But… you can also pull her aside and say “Hey, this has been bugging me after what happened the other day – please don’t assume that I am always willing or have the time myself to pick up several other orders, even if I agree to get something for you. If I am, I will offer it myself.” since it seems that the main piece here that bugs you other than the not-pulling-her-weight is that she trapped you into doing that without consulting you about whether you were actually up for it.

  55. BlueWolf*

    I agree that #4 would be so stressful. I would just completely opt out. I wouldn’t expect people to get anything for me, and then they wouldn’t be able to expect me to get them anything. Dealing with all the orders and money and everything sounds like a huge waste of time. My lunch break is my time.

    1. animaniactoo*

      At the very least they might want to create a more organized rotation around it so that everybody share-loads approximately evenly and you know when it’s your turn and don’t feel ambushed or like you HAVE to do it this time just because you happen to be going to X…

      Something like

      Monday – Person A takes the orders and calls them in. Person F does the pickup run.
      Tuesday – Person B, Person G

      Go through that and you end up with one day every other week that you’re taking the orders and dealing with payment, and one day every other week (differing weeks) where you’re doing the pickup run, possibly an extra day here and there as the “extra person” to help with the number of orders.

      Whoever’s pickup day it is can notify people the day before where they plan to get food from, just making sure they’re picking a place that a lot of people like so they’re not setting up a situation where on their day they picked the place that only 2 people like/can afford and therefore violating the spirit of the setup.

      If people want to opt out of that altogether, they’re free to – but then they also don’t get to put orders in except maybe on a rare once in a while occasion.

  56. Marion Cotesworth Haye*

    OP1 — Is there a reason your boss hasn’t shut this down? Your employee won’t take no for an answer from HR or you and she has emailed your boss directly about the job, it seems logical for her to expect a not-interested from the hiring manager (although goodness knows HR’s rejection should have been enough). To me, this reads like both an employee problem and a boss problem, with your boss trying to insulate himself from delivering the bad news.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I didn’t read it that way. I think it’s pretty typical to refer behavior/discipline issues (which is what this turned into) to the person’s direct supervisor.

    2. Sara LW 1*

      He has explained to her more than once why she can’t have the job. Since she is my direct employee and I manage her day to day it is my responsibility according to our policies, handbook and HR to lead any speaking to/write ups/disciplining her.

  57. MicroManagered*

    OP2 I think it’s a massive compliment! Your boss thinks you could be a good enough fit for a job that she’s willing to risk losing you AND she’s referring you to a personal friend. She wouldn’t be doing that if she were trying to push you out–because she wouldn’t want to put her reputation at risk, or perhaps the friendship (depending on the exact nature of the relationship.)

    I think this is a good sign and you should pursue it.

  58. E.*

    #4 would a solution be to only offer for coworkers to ride along with you and pick up their own order? Otherwise, just a “sorry, I’ll have to opt out this time, that won’t work for me” and get your own lunch when you want. This shouldn’t feel like a mandatory every time thing, especially if you’re not asking others to pick up food for you often.

  59. Kriss*

    I had this problem at a car dealership that I worked at. one day I was leaving to go to lunch & I had several people ask me to pick up lunch for them. I told them that I had errands to run & wouldn’t be able to do it. they just said, “oh yes you can. here’s our money & here’s our orders”

    I went to lunch, ate my lunch, ran my errands, & then picked up their food & went back to work. Oh my god, the whining. Where were you. you should have been back an hour ago. “no, my lunch break is an hour & I’m back on time. I told you I had errands to run. I ate my lunch, ran my errands, ordered your food & picked it up. it’s not cold, it’s hot. if you wanted the food sooner then you should have gone out yourself.”

    they never asked me to get lunch again.

    1. Wendy Anne*

      You’re better than I was. If people badgered me to pick up their lunch while I was getting mine, I would take that literally. I would get my lunch and buy theirs at the same time. If it was cold by the time I got back from my break, well then, they should gone themselves. I’m not wasting time and gas to double back so you can get hot fries.

  60. JB*


    I agree that your office process feels like a mess, and there are some great suggestions to stop it or get out of it, but if you can’t get out of the system entirely, is it possible to suggest that each person will only pick up orders? By that I mean, no ordering for everyone, no taking money, etc. Or when you say you’re going, would it be problematic to say, I’m only going to pick up ordered/paid stuff?

    I’m on a small team and we do frequently pick up lunch or coffee for each other, but if I want someone to pick up my lunch at CafeNextDoor, then I have to order and pay for it. They simply pick up the order and I don’t rely on them to verify if it’s correct. They just pick up the order for me along with their stuff. It’s the same with Starbucks. If I’m going, we all order and pay on the app, so I just have to pick up the drinks.

    There is one place we go on occasion where you have to pay when you get there, but we all pay each other via app before we go pick up, so there’s no issue with paying individually in cash and getting change, etc. We do still order individually though. They just don’t take payments online or over the phone.

    Two of my team members, including me, used to be Admin Assistants so we were used to most of the problems you outline and do our best to not make the whole thing inconvenient to anyone. We also have one key difference, you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. If you want to just run and get lunch or coffee for yourself – totally cool.

    Good luck!

  61. Nicole*

    Re #4 — We have a single individual who is always trying to do this to others in the office, even if she’s already eaten her own lunch. I’ve found the easiest way to deflect them when they ask about where I’m getting my lunch is to say something to the effect of, “I haven’t decided yet, I’m just going to drive around and see what catches my eye.” Do that enough times and hopefully your coworkers will stop bugging you. Alternatively, you could say something like “I’m not bringing my lunch back to the office today” or “I have an errand I need to run before I get lunch” or other statements that will make it inconvenient for others to rely on you for lunch.

  62. Bob Loblaw Law Blog*

    #4 – I have worked in this office culture before as well. I used to happily add in my order when someone was offering to pick it up without a second thought until I finally did my time being the lunch pickup person. I don’t think I realized how much effort and what a PITA being the lunch pick up person was. I ended up spending like 30 min before AND after my lunch time coordinating orders, ordering for everyone, picking up orders, then collecting payment. And without fail, at lease one meal would be wrong or missing and disappointment/drama would ensue.

    My solution, maybe not what you’re looking for, was to bring my own lunch. This was beneficial to me in so many ways. Money saved, time saved, calories saved. More focus on work tasks because who needs the added stress of making sure everyone is well-fed – I get enough of that with my kids/spouse at home. I feel like I’ve experienced enough lunch-hour drama in a variety of office cultures that I have become the work-focused, eat-at-my-desk type. Even the going-out-to-lunchers gave me enough headaches that I’ve decided to sit out those parties too. Once you decide to opt out and however you choose to do so may come with some push back at first, but people start to get it pretty quickly and will leave you alone. If you’re the person who brings in coffee/lunch for one and one only, people get used to it, accept it, and it won’t be an issue in the long run. Just let the comments roll off until they disappear.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      YES! The time….so much time. Not to mention the gas (maybe that’s just me being bitter at a lack of reciprocation) I no longer do it either. I once accidentally gave someone my sandwich and I got hers. I realized it pretty quickly only to realize that she didn’t seem to mind and had already eaten half of my sandwich without saying a word. Not worth the hassle.

    2. EB*

      I’m late to the party commenting on this post but seriously– even just sporadically bringing your lunch in will cut WAY back on this because you won’t be a reliable, go-to person to procure someone else’s lunch.

  63. Tabby Baltimore*

    I find myself wanting to ask the Letter Writer to, when she finally sits down with Elizabeth for one last talk about E’s behaviors in the workplace and how they’re damaging her rep, ask at the beginning of the convo “I’ve noticed you’ve continued to seek to change HR’s and the Hiring Manager’s mind, despite their responses that you are not qualified for the position and that they will not consider you. Can you tell me if the approach you’re using now–continuing to contact them after having been told “no”–has worked for you in the past, and, if so, what was the situation, and what was the outcome of your efforts?” Because that is the *only* semi-logical reason I can think of to explain Elizabeth’s continued engagement on this, baffling as it is. This kind of behavior worked for her in the past, maybe she thinks it’ll work again?

  64. Penelope*

    Ah, LW#2… been there. I worked in a small office with three sisters, a browbeaten co-worker, and me, the new guy. They used to go to lunch together all the time and leave me to man the phones, then bring me a half eaten leftover. They had no idea that as a culture, they were horrible people to work with. This seems like a “neither a borrower nor a lender be” kind of situation. Don’t put your order in with anyone and don’t take anyone’s order. This might put you on the outside of the group, but it will save you stress in the long run.

    As for morning coffee, take a reusable travel mug with you and have the coffee shop fill your order in it. If anyone asks, you brought it from home (if you can lie about it), or don’t say anything and since you won’t be advertising the coffee company via the cup, they may not even ask.

  65. Plague of frogs*

    OP#3, I had a friend who was contracting in Iraq during the war. A coworker got killed, and they had a big picture of him on the bulletin board to memorialize him. Also on the bulletin board was a job posting….which was clearly his job.

  66. OwlEditor*

    LW5…As an academic editor, I can say heartily “Don’t do this!!” It’s a proof. It’s been finalized. Barring some huge errors or bias, because we’re human and nothing is perfect, it’s not the job you’re assigned. I mean, yes… you can suggest it, but I wouldn’t recommend putting any style changes in that document. Save those big changes you want to make in a separate document to discuss with your boss afterward.
    It’s hard, I know, but a proof isn’t the place for big changes. That’s for earlier in the process. As an editor, it’s very, very frustrating when someone makes huge changes to something that’s ready for publication, because usually it ends up back on my desk when a student notices and puts in a ticket, or it means more hours doing an edit that was supposed to be completed already. Or it completely changes the meaning, etc. Where you work, I hope, has editors and style guides in place already.
    Do what I do when something I suggested has been turned down… let it go.

  67. bippity-boppity-bacon*

    So many of these questions make me very thankful that we have a cafeteria at my work.

  68. Small company*

    #3 – What do you do if you want to replace someone but they are filling a need that you genuinely cannot do without?

    I work in a small company and there is someone who is not performing well and has a bad attitude that we want to replace. He has been told many times that these are serious issues. However, we really need someone doing his work and can’t afford more than a week or two without someone in that role. There is no one else currently at the company who can do it and not something that a temp could easily do. What should we do? I see a lot of people here angry about starting the hiring process before firing someone, but I don’t know how anything else would work for us.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Some employers will give notice to the employee in the same way an employee gives notice when quitting — tell them they are being let go, but you are giving them 2 weeks to transition out and hire their replacement. Obviously this isn’t always going to work. But also, if there is really no one else at the company that can do the job, you have a much bigger issue that needs to be solved anyway. What if Fergus were to get hit by the proverbial bus or rage quit tomorrow? No single employee should be irreplaceable.

  69. MassMatt*

    #1 “How can I get her to listen?”–you need to have a very serious talk with Elizabeth to make sure she knocks this off and that there will be consequences if she doesn’t.

    I have never had a boss that thought that s/he should ever have to explain a decision more than once. At this point, you have a problem employee that is not listening, and is also annoying YOUR boss. Get this employee under control before your boss wonders what is wrong with YOU.

  70. Kristina*

    For #4: That is infuriating. When she came back with everyone’s order (!), you should have said, “Oh, something just came up. You’ll have to go pick them up for everyone, I guess. I want . Thanks!”

  71. CM*

    #1 — Maybe instead of focusing on making the behavior stop, it’s worth having a conversation with her to find out why she has her heart set on this job and figure out whether there are other paths available to her that would meet the same need. Like, does she want it because she wants more money, or a different title, or she doesn’t feel respected in the job she’s in now, or one of her coworkers is harassing her and she’s trying to get away from them, or that’s the field she always wanted to work in, or she feels like she doesn’t have a clear career path and the only way to progress is by moving into whatever role opens… depending what the reason is, you might be able to set up a plan with her that will allow her to improve her situation and feel good about the path she’s on without needing to have that specific job.

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