I’ve become the office seamstress, is it OK to block someone from being hired, and more

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

1. I’ve become the office seamstress

I’m a marketing professional in a small-ish office (100 employees) and I’ve made a name for myself recently as the office seamstress. I’ve made quilts for a few of my colleagues who I’m friends with when they had babies, and they were well received and admired throughout the office.

I’m worried this unofficial role is getting a little out of hand. We recently had an event which had bandanas as swag, so I offered to make pillows out of the leftovers for the office, with the assumption that it would be relatively at my leisure. I received the go-ahead to expense the materials; I wouldn’t have made them if I’d had to pay out of pocket for the required resources. Recently, the HR person gave me an “If you can do it, it’d be great!” deadline for the pillows — two weeks away for +30 pillows — because there’s a company-wide meeting she’d like to show them off at, so it’s not really at my leisure anymore, it’s a project with a deadline. Also, I was recently I was speaking with our head of HR and office manager and it was suggested I become an official quilt-maker for baby gifts for pregnant office members, rather than the office manager simply sending a gift basket, and I would expense that, too, versus the quilts I put together previously, which were self-financed gifts to people I care about.

To be clear, I don’t mind this unofficial role. It gives me the resources to practice my quilting without actually having to invest any money (or storage space for finished projects!). My question is whether I should be billing for my time. I feel like making a quilt or pillows on a deadline moves the activity out of a goodness-of-my-heart project into, “maybe I should be charging more than just material costs” territory. I have, however, already shown willingness to do these things, so it feels weird to go back and insist they pay me extra for my time. How do I unblurr that line between unofficial crafter and seamstress on staff?

Hmmm, I think these are two separate things. For the if “If you can do it, it’d be great!” deadline for the pillows, I would take your HR person at her word and reply, “Unfortunately I won’t be able to do it by then. I’m working on these as I have time, but two weeks wouldn’t be feasible.” If you get pushed about when you will have them done by, say, “Hmm, I’m not sure. It’s not the kind of work where I do it to deadline. In the future if I’m donating any of this work to the office, I’ll make sure that’s clear.” (And then make sure you do that in the future. If they’re paying for the materials, it’s not unreasonable that they’d want to know it’s going to happen within a certain time period, but you’re allowed to say at the start — before anything is expensed — that this isn’t deadline-driven work for you, and if they don’t like that, they can opt out at that point.)

As for becoming the official quilt-maker for baby gifts … honestly, I wouldn’t do it. It has too much potential for problems if you don’t feel like doing all of them (and when you’ve done them for some people but not for others) and there’s going to be more built-in time pressure on those. But if you do decide to do those, then yes, absolutely you can bill for your time; otherwise it would be a baby gift that’s mostly from you, rather than from your office. It would be perfectly reasonable to say something like, “If we were going to have an ongoing arrangement like that, I’d charge $X for time and materials. Does that work?”

But really, it’s okay to set boundaries here and say, “I really just do it for fun, so I’d prefer to keep it more ad hoc and just when I have the time and the inspiration.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Is it okay to block someone from being hired for personal reasons?

I’m a cashier, and recently a few of my managers pulled me aside. They told me that one of my former friends (and coworker) was looking to get rehired, and they wanted to know if I was okay with that. I’m one of their best employees; if I said I was not okay, then he would not have been hired. I did give my approval, I wasn’t happy about seeing him again, but as long as we weren’t in the same position, I knew he wouldn’t do anything that would be a deal breaker. (He left less than a week later anyway.)

This made me wonder if preventing someone from getting hired is morally the right thing to do. There are two bullies I knew when I was a kid, and I know for a fact that I would be nervous to work around them. I’m not angry about what they did, but I would be very afraid of being treated badly if I had to work with them every day. I would be willing to find a new job if this were to happen.

If this situation were to arise, would it be alright to ask if they would not get hired? I know the people I work for do not want to lose me, and I do think it’s fair for them to know what would make me want to quit. But is it the right thing to prevent someone from getting a job just because I might feel uncomfortable?

It depends on your motivation. If you just don’t like someone, then no, it would be unethical to keep them from getting a job just based on that. We all have to work with people we don’t like at times, and it’s wrong to stand in someone’s way of employment just because you have a personality clash.

But if someone has bullied you, or you’ve worked with someone before and it went badly, or you have a horrible history with someone that would make it difficult for you to keep working there, those are all things that a good hiring manager would want to know about. Good hiring managers want to keep existing great employees happy and don’t want to bring drama/tension/toxicity onto their teams, and they’ll appreciate you letting them know about any relevant context that they should take into account.

Of course, you need to be mature and even-handed about it. That means, for example, that you wouldn’t demand someone not be hired, but would say something like, “I want to be transparent that while I’ve never worked with Bob and can’t comment on his work, we have a personal history that would make it very difficult for me to work with him.” And again, be judicious in when you’d say something like this. Someone who just annoys you, no. Someone who has treated you badly enough that you feel unsafe around them? Absolutely.

3. My coworker won’t share his concerns with me, and it’s becoming dangerous

I have a new coworker who won’t express his concerns with me at all. We are at the same level in our organization and sometimes I lead projects and sometimes he does. I first noticed it with mundane things. He would complain to our boss that I hadn’t emailed him documents I said I would; I actually had and our boss had been CC’d each time, but I digress. Or complaining to others that the drafts I had given him to look over had mistakes; I would hear about these mistakes secondhand and would then have to track him down for clarification so I could fix them.

But most recently, we were doing fieldwork and I was the lead. We each had a map of where we were hiking to and everyone was following it well. Until there was a direction change in the path. My coworker saw the rest of the crew and I head one direction and he decided we were going the wrong way. Instead of expressing his concerns, he just went off on his own. This resulted in him being lost in the desert with less than a liter of water on him. Luckily we found him within an hour, but he could have died! How do I get him to express his concerns to me?

Second email: Sorry for the quick follow-up, but he literally just got lost again. He stopped to record data, didn’t tell anyone and we had to go search for him again.

On the non-safety problems, first you start with him, and then you loop in your boss if that doesn’t work. To him, you say this: “I’ve noticed that when you have a concern with the way I’m handling a project, I hear about your concerns secondhand — for example, you’ve told Jane I haven’t sent you documents I was supposed to send you (when in fact I had), or talked to others about mistakes in documents. Can you please come talk to me directly about these things so that I can fix whatever’s going on? It’s not efficient for me to hear about things secondhand when it involves my work — and sometimes there’s important context you need to have, like that I actually did email you those documents!”

But if the problem continues, at that point I’d talk to your boss. Explain what’s going on and that you’ve directly asked him to come to you but it’s still not happening, and ask your boss to underscore it with him.

The safety concerns are a separate issue. Take those to your boss directly, right now.

4. How do I hand out business cards?

I recently started my first professional job post-grad school, and finally got my shiny new business cards in a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to represent my graduate school at a fancy dinner that is held at the conclusion of a national conference in town this weekend, in an adjacent field (but not my field of study or work). I was honored and will be there, but I was wondering — is this an instance in which I should pack my cards into my shiny business card holder and stash it in my pocket or bag? How does one approach handing out business cards in occasions like this or other occasions?

As a person at the beginning of their career, it can feel sort of sleazy and unnatural to be whipping out my card, but I don’t want to miss out on a potentially great networking opportunity. Help!

Yep, it’s totally normal to hand out your business card at events like that. You’re not being sleazy; you’re conveying “since we might want to stay in touch, here is my contact info.”

If you’re talking with someone and the conversation feels like it’s coming to a close, you just say, “I’d love to stay in touch. Let me give you my card.” That’s it!

5. How do I ask about making my temp role a permanent one?

So I’m on the fourth month of a six-month “temporary full-time” position as a production artist in marketing with a great company. It’s a great environment, my team, my manager, and the whole department has been nothing but friendly, and I’ve learned a lot here. The original job description was for a temporary position but it was stressed that they’d like it to become full-time in the future. Now that I’m nearing the end of my contract, how do I broach the subject of being a more permanent employee here? “Hey should I start looking for a job soon?” And on the tail end of that, I’ll be moving from hourly to salary and want to negotiate a bit more money for myself. Is it even a good idea to bring that up at all?

I haven’t gotten any indication one way or the other whether I’m gone in two months or I’m here for the next two years, etc. What do I do?

Say this to your manager: “I’m really enjoying working here. I know you were hoping to make this position full-time, and I’d be really interested in that if it were to happen. Are you able to give me any sense of what the timeline is for knowing if that will happen?” And then you can also check again a month from now and say, “I”m of course job searching since I know my role ends in a month, but I wanted to check with you about whether there’s any update on whether the position might become a permanent one.”

Meanwhile, though, proceed however you would if you knew for sure that wouldn’t happen, which presumably means start job-searching so that you’re not starting from scratch later on if the position does end.

And if they do offer you a permanent position, you can negotiate salary at that point — but it would be premature to bring it up before then.

{ 482 comments… read them below }

  1. Cambridge Comma*

    Wouldn’t OP3’s colleague’s behaviour during fieldwork rise to something he should be warned or disciplined for? The resources lost to the organization by a number of people searching for him (twice) rather than doing the work they have been sent to the field to do would be enough, but I can also imagine scenarios where he’s putting the colleagues who search for him at risk.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m just full-on astounded that someone would leave the group, twice, without telling anyone, and at risk to their safety and the safety of the team. I’m not in a profession that does that kind of fieldwork, but from what I know from all my science friends who do go on trips, the colleague has broken really important safety protocols/norms when undertaking team-based fieldwork.

      So I think OP really has two distinct problems that require distinct approaches. With respect to the second-hand complaining and poor communication, OP should absolutely go to their colleague and bring the issue up directly. But with respect to the “going rogue during fieldwork, and risking resources and possibly one’s life” problem, it may make more sense to check in with whoever’s in charge of safety standards (possibly OP’s manager or the colleague’s manager) before speaking to the colleague.

      1. Geoffrey B*

        Agreed. Either they badly need to set up safety protocols for this sort of thing, or they need to address why people aren’t following the protocols they already have. I would consider reporting this as an OHAS issue, even if it was just on a no-names basis.

        1. Nita*

          It’s not “people” though. It’s this one guy who has a problem with OP’s leadership, or maybe with authority in general. Frankly, it doesn’t matter which. He’s a problem either way. I’m pretty sure in my company the field safety issues would mean firing him, not a warning – and they don’t like to fire people.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            IME in some professions the males think they are inherently better/smarter/etc. than the women, even women with considerably more education and experience than them. I am wondering if this is one of those areas.

            My area is notorious for the “old white guy with a beard” thing. It’s a stereotype that’s going away finally (not fast enough), but it became a stereotype for Reasons. I have seriously had first year undergrad males challenge my knowledge which all told is going on 40 years (nearly twice as long as they have been alive) experience because apparently my ability to understand the intricacies of my field are chromosome dependent. On the upside more women than ever are majoring in this area so yay!

            1. Oranges*

              I like to think of it as “all my knowlege is stored in my male genitalia” it makes me giggle and reinforces that the person talking down to me is being a jerk.

          2. Rebekah May*

            Ding ding ding. The smacks exactly of someone who doesn’t think they need to take direction from the Letter Writer. I work with a guy like this and basically he thinks he is smarter, better, more qualified and underpaid (even though he’s actually overpaid because he does pretty much nothing) with a smidgen of males don’t take direction from females. I work in public safety and that happens a lot. Might this be male-dominated industry and LW is female per chance?

            If he takes direction from their manager fine, then he has an issue with the LW. It needs to be addressed now.

            1. Liz*

              I’ve had that experience working with veterans. The vast majority are fine, but some refuse to take direction from anyone who hasn’t outranked them, preferably in the same branch. They didn’t do their however-many years in the sandox to take orders from anyone who hasn’t done the exact same thing.

      2. Snark*

        Scientist with lots of field experience here: this is so very not in keeping with norms and expectations. Even with a recreational hiking party, it’s unacceptable.

        1. Adlib*

          Agreed. I am in the same industry, and our safety culture is priority #1. (Not a field scientist, but work with plenty of them.)

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “My coworker saw the rest of the crew and I head one direction and he decided we were going the wrong way.” He also stopped to record data and didn’t bother to tell the rest of the team?

        Seriously? Nope. I have done fieldwork (archaeology) and Dude sounds like he thinks he can just do whatever he wants because he is smarter and more important than all of the other team members combined.

        I have a feeling that the colleague thinks he knows better than everyone else. I also wonder if he isn’t trying deliberately to undermine OP. The email thing, telling others that her work has mistakes (proof?) and her hearing it second hand…?

        1. Chinookwind*

          Yup – this type of behaviour is why it can take time for new people to be fully trusted when they join a field crew until they show they know how to follow established safety procedures. If he openly ignores map directions, what else is he ignoring when no one is watching?

          It is perfectly fine to speak up if you think the map is wrong (speaking as someone who spent a day with a group of experienced hikers who misread the terrain and followed a dried creek bed up the wrong mountain, speaking up can save everyone a lot of work), but you never silently go off on your own. That is a backwoods no-no and should get him sent home from the site and fired from any and all field work ASAP.

      4. willow*

        Agreed about going rogue in the field. The company should have at least a basic field safety plan, maybe a specific one for each project, that states that nobody is to be in the field alone. This would cover his going off on his own and because it’s a written requirement, he could (and should) be disciplined. I mean, come on, that’s one of the first things you teack little kids when you take them hiking – stay with the group!

    2. Nom Nom*

      It would be a formal verbal warning and you’d get written up the second time (most likely as a final written warning) where I work, minimum. Colleague is not just placing their own life at risk but potentially all the others in a desert environment. Colleague’s concerns are irrelevant. Colleague needs clear direction and the understanding that this is compulsory and not up for dispute.

    3. Airy*

      Heck yes. Not only did he go off in what turned out to be the wrong direction all by himself, but he saw other people going in what he thought was the wrong direction and didn’t say anything to them. What did he think was going to happen? That they’d just have to go a longer way round to the destination, or that they were going off into unknown wilderness to get lost (the way he did, the fool)?
      I suppose it’s just possible there’s a reason for this that appeared reasonable to him at the time, but that’s why his boss should have spoken to him at the earliest opportunity to ask what he thought he was doing and why, followed by extremely clear instructions on what he should be doing instead.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Not only did he go off in what turned out to be the wrong direction all by himself, but he saw other people going in what he thought was the wrong direction and didn’t say anything to them.

        That’s a really good point. If he thought his colleagues were going the wrong way, why did he let them? Did he not realize how dangerous it is to get lost in the desert?

        1. Willis*

          Judging by how he handled the OP’s drafts, it sounds like he’s more interested in being able to draw attention to someone else’s mistakes than in actually working together to achieve anything. He was probably looking forward to the opportunity to email the boss pointing out that OP’s group went in the wrong direction!

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I agree. He wants to be the ‘right’ one and for everyone else to be ‘wrong’. He wanted to show them all up by being the only person in the right place. For him it’s more important he can show people up than to get a good work product turned out.

            And if the OP is female there might be a whole layer of not wanting to follow a woman’s directions?

            1. Cami Brookes*

              While reading OP’s letter that was my thought through out: well, if the OP is a woman then this makes even more (or in that case, less) sense, and makes it even a stronger point to me that the Colleague is not a team player employee at all. Not someone I would want on my team as a manager/boss for the long run.

            2. Lynca*

              Could also be a double whammy if the co-worker is older than the OP. There can be a whole other level of problems if the co-worker has a “how dare this young upstart tell me what to do! I’ve been doing this 20 years! I know what I’m doing, etc. ad nauseam.”

              I’ve dealt with a mix of both when doing field work.

            3. Anon today*

              Yeah, he needs to realize that in situations like that, going off on his own, even if he was “right” is completely the wrong thing to do.

              1. Chinookwind*

                He also needs to be made aware that, when it comes to field work, that most direct/obvious path may not be the correct one for hidden safety reasons (like sink holes), but also because it may cross property lines you don’t have access to, cause cultural issues, impact various animal species (some of which are fragile or protected and others which can be very hungry and/or stealthy), or just not plain cover what they need to look for while they are on the path.

                Basically, this idiot (and I do not use that term lightly) was willing to go forward and risk lives, breaking regulations (which incur fines) and/or create cultural headaches based on his limited knowledge without even recognizing that there needs to be research, prep work and ground work done before you set even one foot into field work. The team lead picks her path for a reason, not just because she thinks it will make a nice evening stroll.

          2. Annie Moose*

            Precisely what I was thinking. These two issues might need to be handled separately in terms of talking to OP’s boss, but they both seem to be tied to an underlying issue where he wants to be Right and wants to passive-aggressively get everyone else to see how Right he is without actually working with anyone.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            This. I so see this guy negatively and I can’t quite articulate why just yet (need…more…coffee). I see his actions as deliberate, self centered, self serving, and dangerous with possibly a touch of nefarious.

          4. Decima Dewey*

            The purpose of circulating drafts is to improve the document and, yes, catch mistakes. How does Wrong Way Corrigan not telling OP about what he says is wrong with the draft improve anything?

        2. peachie*

          Agreed. If it had been a one-off, first-time-in-the-field genuine mistake, I don’t think it’s that bad, especially if he apologized profusely and made a plan to prevent it from happening again. (I think–I’ve never done field work, so I could be very off.) But this is something different entirely.

          1. Observer*

            Eh, even one time is waaaay too many. As others have noted, this is NOT done. At all! It’s not even acceptable in a recreational hiking situation.

            Also, there is nothing to “plan” for. This is a pretty binary situation – either you speak up or you don’t. You don’t need prep time to speak up, and even if you have an issue that keeps you from speaking up in the moment, you can then just “go with the flow”. Someone claiming that they have a “plan to prevent this from happening again” would be a signal that the person does not respect me or the rules and is trying to snow me with fluff.

            1. peachie*

              That makes sense–as I said, no field work experience. I guess what I meant is (a) “mistake” meaning “got lost accidentally kid-in-the-supermarket style” rather than “made a choice to leave the group because I think I’m right” (still super not okay, of course, but… maybe there’s a difference?); and (b) “plan” as in “I [the person who stupidly wandered off on my own] am going to sit down and talk to my supervisors and coworkers, apologize a lot, explain specifically how this happened, why it’s bad, how serious of a problem it is, and that I’m never ever ever going to put myself or my coworkers in an unsafe situation like that again”–but again, I don’t do field work, and that’s clearly not what this person did or how they see/responded to the situation.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Sure all of what you said but his guy made a conscious, deliberate choice to go his own way because he thought everyone else was wrong and he was right.

                One, he saw everyone else go in the other direction so it’s not like he got lost in the supermarket with no idea which way Mommy went, two you just don’t do that at all, ever, three he just did it again.

                This guy wants to be right. Whether it’s something he believes he is, is insecure and trying to stroke his ego, trying to prove something to his bosses, etc.

        3. Les G*

          I’m seeing quite a few folks commenting along these lines and can’t quite understand it. This applies equally or more so to the OP and his crew. The coworker, while a d-bag, didn’t “let them wander off in the wrong direction”; they did that to him. The logic isn’t really working for me.

          1. Ethyl*

            It doesn’t apply equally at all. LW3 and their group followed the map to the correct location. Coworker slipped off from the group to go his own way without telling anyone, and was only discovered to be missing at a later time. It is not at all the same as what LW3 and the main group did. It is almost like the exact opposite.

            The idea that coworker “let them wander off” is an attempt to describe explicitly what the endgame of his reasons were — he claimed he went off by himself because he thought everyone else was making a mistake. If so, what was his endgame? What did he hope to have happen? If that is what he did, he did indeed let them wander off in the wrong direction.

          2. Not a Blossom*

            He let them wander off in what he thought was the wrong direction, so even if the result wasn’t bad for them, his intent certainly was. They didn’t notice he was going off on his own; he did that on his own and didn’t follow protocols. He intentionally let them get lost (or so he thought); they didn’t know he was getting himself lost.

          3. Anon today*

            They told him where they were going and were under the impression that he was going with them. He did not tell them where he was going or even that he was leaving the group. That is the difference.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              That’s how I read it. I don’t think the others were responsible to make sure that he didn’t deliberately go off on another path.

          4. Genny*

            If I’m traveling with someone and I see them make what I think is a wrong turn or get on the wrong train, I don’t just leave them to it while I get on what I think is the correct train. I stop them to clarify where we’re going. That’s what this guy should’ve done. Instead, he put everyone in danger by going off on his own.

          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            What? No. He saw them going a particular way and essentially evaded them to go in the wrong direction. They didn’t let him wander—he’s not a child. Both in recreational hiking and fieldwork, the person who deviates from the group has the obligation to speak up before going a different way. The default expectation is that the group travels together, so if you break with the default, the onus is on you to notify others that you’re going to go your own way. (And in many cases, you’re not allowed to go your own way even if you want to.)

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “They didn’t let him wander—he’s not a child.”

              This. That annoyed me because it presumes that the group was responsible for monitoring the actions of this adult who knows more than anyone else. Who knows so much more that when he saw them going what he believed to be the wrong direction he said “fuck it…” and wandered off on his own leaving them to the mercies of being lost in the desert (or so he thought).

              Kind of scary when you think about someone who would allow this to happen. I mean like “dude’s a serial killer in disguise letting people walk in the wrong direction towards certain death in the desert” type scary. Or maybe I read too many books. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          6. JSPA*

            It’s generally incumbent on someone who needs to drop behind or step aside briefly (for whatever personal need) to alert the person ahead of them, BEFORE they drop back or step aside. Even more so if they’re feeling iffy / might need everyone to take an unscheduled break.

            Granted, it’s also normal to regroup at a branching or crossroads (if there are not many) and count noses / check in. But when everyone is in line-of-sight and within voice range, that’s a backup safety feature.

            But all that’s unrelated to the point that people are making.

            We are told that Wrong Way Rodger did what he did because he believed the others were taking the wrong route. If he truly believed that they were going wrong, then by walking the other way, he’s chosen to save himself, and only himself. There’s no earthly good excuse for that decision.

            As far as motivations, could be he wanted to get there first, to gloat. Could be he saw himself sending out a rescue party for them. Could be he’s suicidal, and the “I meant to to that” is just window dressing. Could be he figured they’d hit a dead end and figure it out in another 50 meters. Could be he was microdosing or hearing voices. Could be he was daydreaming. Could be ODD, BPD, ABC, XYZ. There are a lot of possibilities as far as “why.”

            But there’s no adequate excuse that lets him onto another field team, unless and until the underlying (serious-to-the-point-of-potentially lethal-for-someone) problem is dealt with. If he wants to be random, unreliable and an a-hole while sitting in an office, that can be dealt with. But not out in the field.

    4. There All Is Aching*

      So curious for an update to this, esp. more insight into the rogue operator’s mindset. First time I’m reading about breached scientific/fieldwork protocols on AAM, and this guy’s blatant disregard for safety and team resources is fascinating. He sounds like a real “hero of my own movie, y’all are bit players”-type.

      1. Not Australian*

        “He sounds like a real “hero of my own movie, y’all are bit players”-type.”

        Dear Aching, this is such a wonderfully pithy expression that I may have to steal it. Thank you for bringing it into my life!

        For the record, I know several people like this and have struggled for years to find a way of describing them…

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, same for me. Alison updated it about an hour or so after several commenters flagged that the wandering was a distinct problem that needed to be escalated immediately to management.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      I would agree completely. In some groups even once with that explanation (going a different direction without telling anyone) would be enough to get you pulled from field work at a minimum.

    6. PB*

      I would think so. He could get himself or someone else killed. For the first time he got lost, if he’d been right and everyone else was going the wrong way, he let his colleagues wander the wrong way in a desert without saying anything! And, since he was wrong, he put the whole group at risk.

      Any reasonable manager would absolutely want this information immediately.

      1. Les G*

        This. This is the coworker’s fault, not the OP’s, but safety is everyone’s responsibility. This is a fairly rare situation where it’s literally life or death.

        1. Mike C.*

          This is one of the most important safety rules out there. Look out for your coworkers and your coworkers look out for you. It’s too easy to make a dumb mistake or become complacent and everyone needs a reminder from time to time.

      2. The Pocket Wench*

        Hi everyone! OP #3 here. Here’s what ended up happening:

        After he got lost the second time, I sat him down at the end of the day and told him these incidences were concerning and I would really like us to work on clear and direct communication in and out of the field. I then also warned him that getting lost is a colossal safety concern. I told him that if it happens again I’ll file a safety violation report on him. I had been holding off on those because he has already had one of those filed against him this month (different situation entirely); and if we have too many the entire organization could undergo a federal safety audit.

        I didn’t get the chance to loop in one of my supervisors until a week or so later. However, by that point, this coworker had gone out to do fieldwork with a senior colleague. After that field session, the senior colleague had major concerns about the new colleague’s field performance (not even safety) to the point that he went to our boss about keeping the new colleague out of the field. So, he’s now relegated to office work for the foreseeable future and I’m taking over all the fieldwork. 60+ hour work weeks, here I come …

        1. Dragoning*

          This sounds necessary, but ouch. If he can’t do what seems to be a pretty vital part of his job, they should look at replacing him. 60+ work weeks can’t be sustainable long-term.

        2. Snickerdoodle*

          Excellent! I mean that he’s not allowed to do field work any time soon, not your horrible hours. Given how much time/resources he’s already wasted, though, it probably evens out for the company this way. I’m sorry you’re not going to have any free time for a while, but I’m sure this guy is on the way out, and he’ll be replaced with somebody more competent. Try to think of your current situation as just a bump in the road.

        3. Murphy*

          Wow. I’m sorry you have to pick up all that slack on your own, but I’m glad he’s out of the field.

        4. Pollygrammer*

          It sounds like a solution is in the works, I’m glad. He sounds immensely frustrating. Out of curiosity–what has his attitude about all this been like?

          1. The Pocket Wench*

            He’s been very lax about it. He acts like he’s being given a break by being in the office and been sending out daily emails about how much work in the office he’s getting done.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Anonymosity, your succinct answer summing this situation up made me snort Red Bull onto my keyboard. I hope you’re happy. :P

              2. Snark*

                There’s something about “dipshit” that just strikes as so completely perfect for this guy.

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha–My guess is those emails are going to be part of why he leaves.

            2. Amber T*

              I truly wonder if that was the plan all along. Considering your job sounds like it could be relatively dangerous if you don’t follow safety concerns, I’m assuming you’re decently compensated, and if (as Anonymosity beautifully put it) dipshit gets to sit in the air conditioned office all day and still get paid a dangerous fieldworker’s pay… well, maybe he’s not dumb and just highly unethical.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ugh, your coworker sounds like he’s behaving like a turd. I’m just glad he’s out of the field—if he’s this awful, he was probably more of a resource suck than an asset when y’all were out in the field.

              What would it take for him to get fired? I have a few close friends who are field scientists, and I asked them what would happen if this were their workplaces. They all report that this dude would have been fired by now.

        5. Lynca*

          I don’t know if I would have been lenient about filing the safety violation given he seems incapable of doing a large part of his job and he’s had more safety violations than just this. If it’s a wake up call to him or to the organization (just so they realize they have to seriously get him in line) that’s all the better.

          We’ve had a lot of people killed on the job. It’s a risk of what we do so we’re very up front and in your face about safety violations. They’re not okay where I work.

          1. Ethyl*

            Yes me neither. And at some firms in my field, failing to file the proper safety reports for such a big incident as getting lost would cause a write up for the person failing to report as well as the person who did the unsafe thing. I hope that doesn’t happen to LW3! But it may be worth checking in with your boss about handling incidents like that in the future. Good luck, long hours in the field are tough.

            1. Holly*

              I was just thinking that – not reporting a safety to avoid an audit violation is a call that I would not want a lower level person and potentially in violation of procedures/codes of conduct that I’m unaware of for lack of facts here. That’s something I would think would be better discussed with a higher up.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah. This is not a great call. It’s basically covering up something hugely serious to avoid the (reasonable) consequences. Audits for worker safety aren’t an injustice, they’re an attempt to try to keep people from dying or losing body parts.

          2. EPLawyer*

            This is the problem — the fear of the safety audit was preventing people from doing EXACTLY what the audit was designed for, making sure everyone follows procedures. But if you are afraid to write someone up for not following procedures, people think its okay to violate procedures. And round and round it goes.

            Regardless of the long term effect, your boss needed to know before he went out the third time. Let the boss decide what to do about the violation. That’s why the boss gets paid the big bucks.

            Although it looks like the company is conflict avoiding. Oh let’s just sit him on desks, instead of firing him and getting someone who can actually do the job. After all OP can just work longer hours.

            1. Amber T*

              Yeah, I have a cushy office job but still live in fear of being audited, and it’s one thing about having said violations, which of course suck and shouldn’t happen but of course do, but not keeping track of said violations is an even worse violation for us.

            2. Chinookwind*

              “This is the problem — the fear of the safety audit was preventing people from doing EXACTLY what the audit was designed for, making sure everyone follows procedures. But if you are afraid to write someone up for not following procedures, people think its okay to violate procedures. And round and round it goes.”

              Exactly. There really shouldn’t have been a problem if this triggered a safety audit because the remedy for the problem that triggered the audit is to either fire the guy or ban him from fieldwork, which you did anyway.

              Audits shouldn’t be feared (and I speak as someone who worked in a regularly audited field) because they are an outside force ensuring that the company not only follows the rules but also forces the company at large to have enough resources to follow the rules. They are a good thing (if the rules are reasonable and the audits done honestly and correctly) and can often find things that should be fixed but no one noticed because they weren’t an issue yet.

            3. AKchic*

              So true.

              I hate audits with a passion, because natural human error can cause so many problems. Especially when you have an overabundance of documentation to keep track of, not enough people to keep track of it, and an evolving system over time (and new regulations to spur that evolution).

              I’ve been through both annual and surprise audits. I have found the surprise audits more stressful because in one case I know they were looking to fail us because the entity was hoping to recoup money. They ended up owing us money.

              In any case, the audits ultimately help you. It keeps your procedures strong. If everyone does what they are supposed to, it minimizes risk, and with risk minimization, there’s less chance of things going wrong. Blah blah blah (yeah, I’m not feeling the kumbayah today).

          3. Bilateralrope*

            I’d have spoken up.

            Partly because of the Health and Safety laws in my country. If I know about a health and safety problem, the law requires me to do something about it as soon as reasonably possible. If all I can do is tell the right person about it, then I am required to speak up. If I say and do nothing and someone gets injured, I can get in trouble.

            So I make sure to email any health and safety issues. Just so that I have proof that I spoke up should an investigation happen.

        6. Snark*

          Good. Sucks for you, and I hope the overtime doesn’t kill you, but this guy has less business in a field environment than my 92 year old grandmother.

        7. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t know anything about fieldwork, so this is probably a stupid question, but is there any way he can spin this into a victory? Like, yay, I don’t have to do fieldwork now?

          1. Lynca*

            Not without seeming very out of touch with professional norms. There’s a difference between not liking fieldwork (which I sometimes deal with in employees) vs. not behaving professionally and being purposely kept out of the field.

          2. Ethyl*

            I suppose it depends on the field. I was a remediation geologist for many years and I can’t think of any career paths that would not have required fieldwork. Likewise any geology really. There’s jobs that would require more office/lab/computer work, but you would still need a solid field foundation so you could make sense of the rest of it, if that makes sense?

            1. Rock Prof*

              I think positions without any field work are relatively uncommon, but I do know quite a few modelers and geochemists who do only computer or lab work (plus analysis and other office stuff). I think the geochemical or geophysical end members can be field-non-existent. One of my colleagues, a geology professor, makes his research work through processing samples he gets from other people. He’s never spent a day in the field (his academic prep is in chemistry), but he’s the most successful publisher in my department.
              As someone who does some field work in grizzly territory, OP #4’s scenario gave me chills. I’d guess someone who gets demoted from field work and doesn’t particularly care is likely not progressing much in their current field.

              1. Airy*

                I’m just picturing a portrait with a plaque underneath hanging on the office wall. This dude’s mealy mug with the caption “In memory of Some Dipshit, who thought he knew better than everyone else, said nothing about it and went his own way, and was DEVOURED BY BEARS.”
                Desert bears, in this case. Imaginary desert bears.

          3. Marthooh*

            The Pocket Wench (LW) posted a couple of updates in this thread, including: “He’s been very lax about it. He acts like he’s being given a break by being in the office and been sending out daily emails about how much work in the office he’s getting done.”

        8. Holly*

          I am really glad this worked out, but I would advise that you make going to your supervisor a priority in a safety situation. What would have happened if your supervisor knew you knew that this person was a problem (to the point of endangering himself and others) but didn’t tell anyone higher up, and then something happened on the trip with the senior colleague safety-wise? I’m concerned you would be in a lot of trouble yourself, especially if safety protocols are connected to a federal audit.

        9. LizB*

          I get the concern about a safety audit, but I really think your priority needs to be actual safety — and if your bosses would prioritize having fewer reports over actually having people be safe in the field, you work for a place with much bigger problems than one ridiculous coworker.

          1. The Pocket Wench*

            My boss does agree with how I handled the situation. She has mentioned during my training that she likes to give people a couple of warnings before upping to a safety report. I wish I had gone forward with the report though. But 12 hour days in 100+ degree heat and 60% humidity makes me stupid.

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              Can you file it now anyway? Is there anything else you can file instead? If they get audited, they get audited; it sounds like they need it.

              1. Matilda Jefferies*

                Or, is there a way to document it without filing a formal report? I get your concerns about an organizational audit, but I’d also be concerned that too many other people feel the same way, and are avoiding filing a formal report for those reasons. Then all of a sudden you have one person (or several people, who knows?) who is disregarding safety protocols, but nothing is documented because nobody wants to get in trouble.

                It just seems to be that avoiding the documentation, formal or otherwise, is going to cause more problems than it will prevent.

            2. Observer*

              Your boss is flat out wrong.

              And, to be honest, I would not trust her to have your back if there were a safety audit. If this came out and the company got dinged for not having filed the safety report *YOU* would have been on the hook. Your boss would probably be the first one to righteously proclaim that you were told what the procedure is and that she would NEVER tell someone not to follow procedure, oh no, never ever.

              At least now she knows, and she knows that you didn’t file the report, so she can’t throw it on you.

              1. The Pocket Wench*

                Actually, since this is considered a near miss incident, reporting it to the boss is actually all that’s required federally.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Your boss would rather give someone a “couple of chances” before writing them up for pretty serious unsafe conduct?

                  OP, I am getting the sense that there is a culture of conflict-avoidance in your agency, and if so, that’s extremely dangerous.

                2. JSPA*

                  Could you clarify–is it a near miss if the person is recontacted within a certain period of time? Within a certain perimeter? Uninjured, and still in possession of water? Does it depend on whether they believe they were lost? A lot of these options sound a bit too flexible, in a “space shuttle 0-ring cracks are tolerable” sort of way.

                3. Chinookwind*

                  I would call it a “near-miss” because, while a procedure was not followed, the error was caught within a reasonable timeline and there was no negative consequences. It reinforces the requirement for people to stay together as well as the requirement to “count noses” periodically (which is what cause the issue to be noticed) and triggered the counselling of the person who created the near-miss.

                4. Ethyl*

                  I have the same questions JSPA has. I have to think in my field this would be subject to root cause analysis and would not be treated as a near miss.

                5. Snark*

                  “A lot of these options sound a bit too flexible, in a “space shuttle 0-ring cracks are tolerable” sort of way.”

                  Sometimes someone phrases a thing in a way that is just perfect. You just did, JSPA.

                6. Observer*

                  I get that. That’s why I think you are in the clear now in this respect.

                  My point is, though, that her reluctance to file a report is wrong, as is giving people multiple chances when they are doing stupid dangerous things. And also that I wouldn’t trust her to have your back had this blown up before you had a chance to loop her in.

            3. Knitting Cat Lady*

              Uhh. My industry is heavily regulated. And we have several audits every year. By customers and regulatory bodies. From around the world.

              Your boss is wrong. Criminally negligently so!

              And, depending on your industry, not making safety violation reports will get you in serious trouble.

              Do file the reports. The sooner, the better.

              And an additional safety report triggering a federal audit? Is a fucking good thing, if your company is afraid of being subjected to one.

              Seriously. The attitude of ‘Health and Safety is making my work more complicated’ needs to die.

              1. Specialk9*

                Audits are a spiked blessing. Like a bunch of kittens inside your shirt. If something is important enough to audit, it’s important enough to do right. Actively avoiding the audit means you aren’t checking that you’re doing things the right way.

                (Of course, there are bad audits. Once I went in to an audit and they accused us of not complying with the wrong standard. Yeah, you are totally right, we didn’t comply with that standard that doesn’t apply to us!)

                1. Snark*

                  “Like a bunch of kittens inside your shirt”

                  So fluffy you wanna die, so pointy on five of their six ends you might actually do so!

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Wow, this is a problem. Your boss’s approach of “giving a few warnings” is 100% dangerous. I’m glad your coworker was pulled off of fieldwork, but I would watch your back, OP. Your organization does not sound like it actually prioritizes safety.

              1. Snark*

                And I suspect that, somewhere, there’s a safety auditor for the agency that just primal screamed and does not know why.

              2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                Yeah, I would not be happy with this. I’ve had a couple of near miss incidents that were glossed over and ignored, and it was one of the reasons I wasn’t too unhappy when that contract ended. If I were out doing fieldwork and someone disappeared I’d freak. Where I used to do remote surveys on a regular basis they could have been bitten by a rattlesnake, attacked by mountain lions or bears, fallen down a ravine, or passed out from heat stroke. It would be a huge deal, even if they were quickly found, if they had wandered off deliberately. This guy should not be working on your team full stop, IMHO.

                1. Ethyl*

                  Yeah good point — even a “near miss” should be taken completely seriously and not just glossed over and give the guy another chance. The reason they are called “near misses” is because something truly bad ALMOST happened but just barely didn’t.

                2. Heynonniemouse*

                  Yeah. Reporting the near misses is how you avoid the much more extensive paperwork involved with explaining how you ended up with someone dead.

        10. StrikingFalcon*

          If you’re in a field where too many safety violations trigger a federal audit, that’s all the more reason to file one, not less. The organization needs to know what happened so they can react proportional to the number of incidents that this coworker has actually caused. Intentionally hiding an incident is *really* not okay. Like potentially “grounds for immediate firing” level of not okay. If not filing incidents is actually okay with your organization, that’s a really big red flag. Not taking safety seriously is how people get hurt.

          Sorry about the 60 hour work weeks though, those suck.

        11. Observer*

          I understand your concern about the agency as a whole, but I think you were still giving him a pass that you should not have.

          In any case, please make sure that your manager, HR and anyone else relevant knows exactly what happened. Even if the quality of the rest of his work goes up, this is something that needs to handled in a much stronger way, as it’s a direct safety concern, and he clearly has a pattern here.

          Also, without details we don’t have, it’s hard to say if sexism, racism or any other bigotry play a role here, or if he might claim that discipline against him is influenced by bigotry. If either is possible, then the more documentation there is up and down the chain of serious safety violations, the better off everyone is.

        12. neverjaunty*

          A federal audit may be a good idea, really. This dipshit put not only himself but others at risk, and the net effect of his inability to understand basic norms is… you get extra work and he gets a position he sees as a reward.

          This is not a situation that is going to lead to his behavior improving.

        13. Airy*

          I certainly hope you won’t be stuck with all the fieldwork for long because that feels like you being punished for his irresponsible and dangerous behaviour.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes. I work in an industry where safety is critical and not following procedures and safety protocol will get you maimed/killed very quickly. This coworker needs to be put in his place, like yesterday. The documents thing is annoying and needs to be corrected, but failing to follow the rules during fieldwork is quite frankly completely unacceptable. In my work, not following safety rules gets you disciplined and if you don’t mend your ways, fired. Because it’s far preferable to fire someone who can’t get it together than it is to have someone seriously injured or dead.

    8. Wendy Darling*

      I have friends who have dogs that hunt and/or do search and rescue, both of which require the dogs to be allowed to roam off-leash. They have GPS collars so they can track their dogs’ paths and also so they can find them if anything happens.

      I know it is a totally unreasonable response but I’m having fun imagining the team fitting this wandering colleague with a GPS collar. Especially since if you’ve seen the kind they use on working dogs, they’re big and usually bright orange and have an antenna stuck out the back.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I would not become the quilting seamstress. Speaking personally, I’ve found that when beloved hobbies become tasks where someone else thinks they’re paying for my time and sets the deadline, it takes the fun out of the activity (especially if there are made-up deadlines that provide unrealistic timelines, like the one you just received from HR).

    I’m also concerned that your employer would only reimburse your materials costs but not the actual time it takes to make pillows or quilts or whatnot. This could end up totalizing a lot more time than you anticipate, and it might feel like a burden over time. And unfortunately, because of implicit bias, it could undermine how people perceive you in the office (i.e., you become the quilt-person instead of the marketing professional).

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree. You risk losing some of your professional respect among your colleagues but I think the greater risk is that should you keep on with this you risk losing your fun and sense of fun when you make the quilts. When it becomes a business and a chore, and it will–the joy you now have in it will die. I personally can vouch for this, but you don’t need to take my word for it. There was a now-defunct but long-time etiquette forum and now two follow-up forums with a discussion titled “But … But … It’s Not Like It’s Work (Craft Freebies and Assumptions).” Pay attention; if this gives you a great deal of pleasure you are putting all that at risk.

      1. Anonymosity*

        Oh man, there’s a link in that forum called “18 Ridiculously Choosy Beggars That Are Hair-Pullingly Greedy.” I just fell down a rabbit hole of gimme pigs.

        Not only will it kill your joy at doing something you love, but the unreasonable people will come out of the woodwork, like the manager who wants all the pillows in two weeks. Your respect for your colleagues will go down the tubes, fast.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Remind yourself that it’s only funny because bludgeoning people with gumption like this is so rare it stands out as ridiculous.

    2. Yvette*

      I think that often, people who don’t engage in these types of activities seriously underestimate the time and effort involved in creating the items. Especially since it is done on the side as a hobby, everyone thinks the items are simply “whipped up”.

      1. PB*

        This is so true. Things like pillows or towels can be put together pretty quickly. Quilts or clothing? Not so much. 30+ pillows? I might be able to do that in two weeks if I didn’t have anything else to do, but my mind is reeling a little at the thought!

        OP, could you maybe just do a few pillows before the meeting so HR can have something to show, and then do the rest as time allows? I think you could explain in advance that a pillow takes X amount of time, so finishing 30 would be impractical, but you could have three or four ready to go. Since this is a side project, I’d hope that would be fine! Completely agree with Alison and others regarding the quilts.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I agree that you should try to get HR a pillow or two before whatever event is coming up so she still has a display item – but let her know the rest will take you longer. Tell her that in your replay to her as well so she knows she will have something. Maybe even bring them into the office in stages as you get them done just so they can see progress? One or two should be enough for the event though, I’ll admit I’m having trouble imagining what HR is going to need 30+ pillows for that won’t involve giving them away or selling them.

          1. OP1*

            I’ve already shown her four that I’ve finished, so she knows some are done. I honestly think she’s simply very enthusiastic about them! As for use, we have a bunch of couches around the office they’ll live on.

        2. Newt*

          Yeah, I agree that at most making a sample for the meeting would be the thing to do.

          Personally, I’d step WAY back on being the person who keeps getting stuck sewing for work, because 1- I don’t do things for my employer outside my working hours unless I’m getting paid for it and 2- in my experience people who Do Not Create have vastly unrealistic ideas of how long a task takes, how much it costs, and what your actual time is worth. And a lack of appreciation for the fact that you probably learned this skill because you have things you actually want to make, that inspire you to create, and time spent making things for other people is time spent Not Making the things you actually wanted to. Which is fine when it’s the odd exception, but not when you’re being asked to make 30 pillows to order?

          But if you do genuinely want to keep being involved in work projects in ways that use your hobby skills, then I would suggest a very frank conversation with HR about expectations, to lay out the facts. When I volunteer to make things for work, understand that I am doing this in my own time, unpaid, and therefore you cannot give me time-frames that treat this as though it’s the thing I work full-time at. I do not have another 40 hours a week going spare. Unless we have discussed and agreed on a time-frame before I take on the work, understand I am assuming that I am free to do this in my own time and according to my schedule. Or you need to ask me how soon I could get the work done, rather than giving me a deadline like it’s a real work project.

      2. Persimmons*

        Not only that, but the more skilled the artist, the easier it looks. My maid of honor made me a quilt as a wedding gift, and she spent over a year on it–every stitch is perfectly even. It doesn’t look handmade. People see something that symmetrical and “store bought” looking, and don’t give the amount of required effort a second thought.

        1. Jill*

          Persimmons, I an a professional-level seamstress and this is why I don’t sew commissioned work at all. People assume that if they pay $10 for a blouse at Wal-Mart I shouldn’t be charging much more than that. they think that because I can make myself a dress in a day, there should be no reason why I can’t just whip together an entire wardrobe for them, for free because “it’s so easy for you!”

          And if I hear “don’t worry! I’ll pay for the fabric!” one more time I’ll scream. The fabric is the cheapest part. My time and expertise are worth a lot more! OP – I second what everyoen else is saying. Dont’ do anymore stuff like this unless it’s for someone you know would apreciate it and because you’re genuinely motivated to do it. It’s also too easy to equate sewing with “domestic” and lose credibility at work.

      3. Anonymosity*

        This. Whenever I made my own skating dresses, it took me a week at least to turn out even something basic, allowing for errors or just making the time to do it around work/school/whatever else I had going on. Never mind if I had to decorate the damn thing. I made my own for the precise reason that I couldn’t afford to pay for the time and effort of someone who did it professionally!

      4. Snickerdoodle*

        Oh God yes. I have had people ask why the socks they asked for three days ago aren’t done yet, if I can make a hat as a Christmas gift (asking on December 23rd), etc. That kind of thing has a lot to do with why I almost never do commissioned knits anymore. The other reason is the sticker shock. I am known for knitting at work (I have given about half a dozen baby blankets at baby showers over the last couple of years), and a coworker asked if I could knit a blanket with a logo for a retiring coworker. The yarn alone would have cost $200, not to mention my time, and the fact that they only asked me two or three weeks before she left. Needless to say, the blanket didn’t happen (though I did make her a scarf in my own time since it was an easier project and I used thick yarn and big needles). I’m glad they let it go; I remember that post that went viral about the guy who wanted a hand-crocheted blanket from an Etsy seller and insulted her when she told him how much it would cost.

        I also agree with the other point that your hobbies can undermine your professional capacity if you’re not careful. I am known for knitting, baking, and my volunteer work at the animal shelter, and I get lots of questions about those things during work hours. I don’t mind much since I’m a low-level admin and only a few people need to talk to me about work-related stuff, plus it’s a distraction from tedious data entry, but I do mind when it starts to feel like an expectation and shut it down.

        1. nonegiven*

          >if I can make a hat as a Christmas gift (asking on December 23rd), etc.

          Sure, next Christmas.

    3. Sins & Needles*

      I make quilts.

      Princess Consuela Banana Hammock was concerned your employer might be willing to pay you for materials, but not your time and overhead. That’s been my experience, very few people want to pay for my time and expertise (the expertise is why it doesn’t take me too long on most projects). A lot of guilds and church groups make quilts and then give away or sell the quilts for material-cost-only. I can’t even get minimum wage on my quilts, most of the time, so if I do do it for hire, there’s a contract and I need half the money up front. (Also: Is your employer really planning on providing the sewing machines, the tools, the work station, the material storage, etc? I doubt it) If, if, you wanted to do quilts for hire, do it as a contractor. Or continue to make individual quilts for friends and give those quilts as gifts.

      Add in gender politics, and I’d just steer clear of making quilts for hire at your current workplace.

      Finally: I used to make baby quilts as gifts. When I found out I couldn’t be a parent, it hurt too much to try and make baby quilts. Being forced to do so would have hurt even more. Same with when my mom died, I couldn’t sew for a year. Let the quilts be something you love, not an obligation. Then, if you ever do need a break, for any reason, you can take one.

      1. Willis*

        I strongly agree with your 2nd paragraph. I’ve done a bunch of baby/kid quilts for friends as gifts, but if they were things I was making to sell, there’s no way I would come out at minimum wage compared to the time it takes to do them. I really feel like if OP agreed to do the quilts for pay either the fee to make it worthwhile for her would end up being more than the company wants to pay or (the more likely scenario) she would end up on the hook for quilts by certain deadlines for a low price.

        I would keep this squarely in the “hobby” category and just do projects for friends, giving them outside of work hours or when other people aren’t around so it isn’t obvious who is and isn’t getting something. An occasional company project (like the pillows) would be ok but I wouldn’t sign up for anything regularly or get into any contract sewing work.

        Also, definitely push back on the 30+ pillows in 2 weeks thing. That’s a lot of pillows to churn out in your free time over only 2 weeks!!

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Not many people understand when I say “I can’t sell this for enough money to be worth my time, so I prefer to give it away”. (The people who do understand are usually other people who make things by hand, whether with cloth, yarn, or wood.) That way, it’s entirely a hobby and I never feel bitter about how little people are willing to spend.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Strongly agree with your first paragraph. Your office has reimbursed you for the new materials you purchased for this project, but not for your sewing machine, the electricity to run it, and the most important thing: your time and knowledge and skills! So many creative types undervalue their worth. I’m afraid that volunteering to do these will encourage others to undervalue it too. Soon you’ll get “oh can I get it in pink?” then “can I have it by [wildly unreasonable deadline]?” and “can you do it and I’ll pay you eventually [ie never]?” and finally “why didn’t you do it for me/the way I wanted?” and other entitled comments. Nope nope nope.

        1. Genny*

          This would be my concern too. How many times have we see a nice perk/treat get taken away because people start taking it for granted and then abused the system? The first couple quilts everyone oohs and aahs over. After that, people start thinking they get to dictate it. I want this pattern (that takes longer to make). I want these colors or this fabric. Why did Jane get a nicer blanket than me? This quilt is ugly, I want a different one. I’m having twins, why don’t I get two quilts? Why don’t I get a quilt for adopting/fostering? Wakeen’s wife got a quilt for each of their three children, but OP couldn’t even make one for me (no matter that OP is dealing with a family emergency atm). There’s no way this doesn’t become a chore or that you don’t become the face of perceived grave injustices.

          1. Geillis D*

            Whoever refers to quilts as blankets is off the list.

            A member of a FB quilting group I follow posted pictures of the truly lovely, intricate quilt she made for a young family member’s wedding. Two days later she’s heartbroken as the young couple has taken her precious quilt to the beach to use as a blanket. Definitely one of the risks of giving quilts as gifts.

      3. OhGee*

        Agree. Quilts in particular take so, so much time, even when they’re relatively simple. I’d quickly grow resentful if I had to make one for every colleague who has a new baby, regardless of how nice it is to practice without having to pay for materials

      4. On Fire*

        If you DO decide to continue with quilts: “In addition to materials, prices are: $ for (simple pattern) baby quilt; $$ for (simple) full size; $$$$ for (simple) king. Paid in advance.”

        But I personally wouldn’t agree to this extra job at all.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I do like Alison’s language that “it’s $50 a quilt for time and materials” – don’t let anyone haggle, and you can get your time paid for. It’s also good to put the price point high enough that people have to think twice about how badly they really want this item.

          1. Llellayena*

            I just went through the process of having a couple of my quilts appraised. I was told that a lap sized quilt (up to about 4′ x 6′) is in the $300-400 range. Therefore a baby quilt (a bit smaller) is probably $250 appraised and would sell for about $150. (Don’t take my word as completely legit, check with a AQS certified quilt appraiser if necessary) Never undervalue your work!

            1. Edith*

              A wedding quilt I made cost $600 in materials alone. I told them to tell their insurance company it would be about 2k to make them another one, should something happen to it. The couple was, um, surprised by that number.

        2. Specialk9*

          I know someone who knitted baby sweaters as a corporate gift for new parents. I think they paid $200-300 each.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Oh yes, I was not trying to say that $50 was the number, just that it’s easier to state a flat rate that includes your hours in it rather than try to account for materials and time – the latter makes it easier for them to balk.

      5. OP1*

        I have a machine and work area at my house already, but she’s allowed me to expense the fabric and thread and so on required to make the pillows. I’ve never really charged for any sewing projects but one, and I felt very weird about it – it’s what I do for fun, after all.

        Honestly, I didn’t even think about the gender politics, but that makes sense. My workplace is pretty progressive but I have no desire to be seen as The Lady that Quilts.

        Also, I’m so sorry for your loss, and for having to go through that. We’ve not tried yet, but after a miscarriage a few years ago I can only imagine how hard that would’ve been.

        1. Nephron*

          Yes but what happens if your sewing machine breaks and the quilt needs to be done for the baby shower Monday? Previously you could contact your friend and say it was gong to be delayed, do you now have to pay someone to repair it over the weekend, or do you go and buy a new one? What happens if surprise twins and now you have a major work project and only half of one quilt done? In terms of space I know quilters can hold onto fabrics for years, or even decades as they slowly use them. Will the work provided supplies cut into how much of your materials can be stored in your work area? How frustrating is it going to be if you find a deal on a fabric you love and come home to realize you need to rearrange the entire work place to make room for it because of materials sitting for the next office gift?

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          If your employer wants this to be your regular role, they need to let you do it during working hours. If you were becoming the Excel Expert Lady or the Illustrates Our Brochures Lady, they wouldn’t expect you to do it during your off time. The Quilt Lady Who Provides Business Quilts shouldn’t be any different.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Exactly this. Your employer is asking you to do free work and they’re devaluing it because it’s a craft that is seen as something women do as a labor of love for others.

            If an employer said “you like to do calligraphy asa hobby? Great, we’ll buy bibs and paper and you can design and illustrate our marketing materials for free!” it’s be pretty obvious how inappropriate they are. This is no different.

            1. Specialk9*

              This right here.

              You’re a woodworker? Great, how about you whip together new cabinets for our kitchen at work, in your free time. We’ll pay for the wood and nails! And then you can build that new guard shack for us on the weekends. Oh and you can make us a deck in your spare time.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          It is what you do for fun, but you deserve to get paid for it. You’re rendering a service.

          I knit for fun and unless it was a gift for a dear friend or a volunteer project, I would be charging.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Same. I knit as well. Colleagues have asked me to knit things for them. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t, but I charge–not just for the materials, but for my time as well.

        4. Fellow Quilter for This*

          It’s hard to start charging for quilts. They can be soooo much fun to make. but then if you figured out the time to cut the fabric, sew the pattern, quilt it, and then bind it, it takes a lot. People will pay $300 for a Kate Spade purse. They won’t pay $300 for a baby quilt.

          Keep your hobby, your hobby. The way you relax to destress from your job. If your hobby becomes part of your job, you’ve lost that relaxation and added to your stress.

          I quilt too. Mostly as gifts. But sometimes I sell them. I have to be in the mood to quilt and that doesn’t translate into a regular job.

          1. Dove*

            Yep. My mom quilts, sometimes on commission and sometimes for gifts for family members. If I understand right, she does charge $250 for quilts…but she only manages to charge that because she’s established enough to argue that she’s creating quilts of a quality that will let them become family heirlooms. And I think that’s the price she charges for an adult quilt, not a baby quilt.

            (She doesn’t do baby quilts as often, these days, if it isn’t for family – too many people wanting Disney Princess themed quilts who wouldn’t take suggestions for something that’ll fit the theme and age a little better.)

        5. Brent*

          OP1, the other thing to consider is that by not charging, you’re teaching these people that your craft has no value.

          I know you’re coming at this from an angle of generosity, but when creative people work for free, it makes it that much harder for other creatives to be paid a fair, liveable wage. And some of those people are doing this as their main profession instead of as a side hustle. It’s hard enough for them to get by as it is.

          So please, don’t feel weird. Charge them. It’s the kindest thing you can do here.

          1. Dove*

            Plus, if it’s a project that’s being done for work? You *need* to charge for it. They’re asking you to do work, even if it’s of a different sort than you usually do for your employer. You don’t stop deserving to be paid for the hours you put in, just because you’re doing something that’s normally an enjoyable hobby for you.

      6. AdAgencyChick*

        “Add in gender politics, and I’d just steer clear of making quilts for hire at your current workplace.”

        YUP. I’d put this in the same category as being known for baking the best cupcakes. Your coworkers may love you for it, but that love doesn’t translate into raises or promotions.

        1. Minocho*

          Yeah, I do not bring in treats at new job, because all my technical expertise in my _job_ was ignored, all anyone remembered was “Minocho is a good den mother”. Nope. Nope. Nope.

          It stinks, I love cooking and feeding people satisfies me. But this is my career. So nope.

        2. Lil Fidget*

          I totally thought, wow as a female employee I would not become the Baby Welcomer with a ten foot pole. We’ve discussed before on the comments board that knitting/baking type activities that code “feminine” can be weirdly demeaned at work anyway – I’m not saying I don’t knit and bake, just that I don’t bring that up in the office – but to also add a dollop of “lil fidget loves babies and is always so excited when someone gets pregnant!!!!!!1!” – nope nope nope.

      7. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        So agree. My thing is knitting, not quilts (you quilt people are amazing and are better than me), but I find that people who don’t knit have no clue – zero – how much time and work and care goes into making something by hand. It’s not malicious on their part. They just think of blankets and sweaters as things that come from the store and have never really thought about what goes into them. (They also seriously underestimate the cost of materials. No, knitting a cashmere sweater by hand is NOT cheaper than buying one.)

        You can be happy making handcrafted gifts for love or for fun, but if its for appreciation, obligation, or cash, you are going to wind up disappointed.

        1. Anonymosity*

          In addition to that, they fail to consider that blankets and sweaters from the store are cheaper because a machine makes them. It can crank out a ton of items a day.

          1. Dove*

            Yep. And it doesn’t necessarily make things as well, either – I’ve found threads in my store-bought sweaters that suggest ends not properly woven in, or stitches that were dropped and not noticed until cat claws pulled things out of order.

      8. Dog Person*

        I agree with your gender politics comment. I love to bake as well as to cook, but I do not bring in baked goods to my place of employment. I do not want to be seen as the officer baker or the office cook. Also, I looked younger than my actual age. I get concerned that my colleagues, due to my younger appearance, already do not take me seriously. So, I would not want to give them another reason to see me as something other than an archival professional. It is a real shame that one has to even consider gender politics when thinking of making something as a gift or bring something to the office as a treat.
        And for full disclosure: I am a guy.

    4. There All Is Aching*

      Another agree. At one job, Halloween was a huge deal (in-office parade, employees’ kids trick-or-treating down the halls, prizes, party, etc.) and being known for my costume-making skills, I made the mistake of offering to hand-sew a mask for one of the top bosses. It took way longer than I was expecting, there was now a non-work deadline I couldn’t miss, and it may have contributed to this particular person’s treating me with less heft than if I had kept the craftwork to myself.

    5. Celeste*

      I’m a quilter and I agree with all who say that you shouldn’t be the office seamstress. It’s too messy. If you want to do it as a side hustle, then you set your terms. Once you have people putting your effort on their terms, it never ends well. In your shoes, I would extricate myself by saying that fulltime work does not allow me to take on short deadlines. If anyone besides a close friend has a baby, Target gift cards are a thing they’ll love your office for giving them. The reality is that you (we) all have a finite number of quilts we’ll be able to make in a lifetime. It’s worth making sure we really use the time carefully. There are also people who are set up to make quilts as their full time work. I think it’s wonderful to network with them if your office really wants to go forward.

      1. There All Is Aching*

        Celeste makes an excellent point about the finite nature of both the time one has and the # of projects one can complete. Really like the idea of closely considering one’s use of that time. It’s a terrific lens to use on creative endeavors in general. Esp. when burning out on what’s meant to replenish you is a potential risk.

      2. OP1*

        I am in Canada, so Target gift cards aren’t a thing, but I get your meaning. Up til now our office manager has sent lovely gift baskets, and based on all the wonderful advice here I think we’ll stick with that. I have no desire to quilt on a deadline that is not imposed by myself.

        1. Fuzzy Lady*

          This is a good approach. I once read that a handknit sweater is “a container of love and time.” Same is true for a quilt! I made one when my boss had a baby, but I wouldn’t do it for just anyone! And my current boss knit a tiny sweater when I had a baby–it meat a lot, particularly because it wasn’t expected!

      3. Collarbone High*

        “Once you have people putting your effort on their terms, it never ends well.”

        THIS. In addition to the excellent points everyone else has made, I can absolutely see this going sideways once people start feeling entitled to a quilt. Let’s say you make quilts for Blair, Jo and Tootie, but then Natalie’s shower comes along and you’re in the middle of a life crisis, or just don’t feel like crafting, and then Natalie is upset because everyone else got a quilt, and sides get taken and it becomes a whole office politics issue.

    6. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Yes to saying no. I used to knit during my lunch hours and sometimes got requests for sweaters, mitts etc all of which I turned down because of the work involved when I already had a lot of projects in the pipeline. Stating that you already have a full plate of quilting to get through before taking on any new projects is very reasonable. If you don’t want to be blunt, a vague “maybe next year” may work.

      1. OP1*

        I have a lot of faith in our HR person (especially because she also quilted before she had kids and knows how much time it takes) so I’m sure if I told her, “No, sorry!” it would be ok.

      2. Agent Diane*

        Likewise. When I get oohs for any of my craft stuff at work, swiftly followed by “make me one?” or “you should be on Bake Off”, always get a “I’ve not enough time to do everything I need to do as it is!”. Because, really, who can argue with that?

    7. AcademiaNut*

      One thing I’ve also found is that once you start doing something for free, it can quickly become an expectation, and then people take it for granted. If it’s something purely personal, it’s easier to set boundaries, and if it’s purely professional you’re getting paid. If you’re doing this as a hybrid personal-job thing, it could be a lot harder to push back without repercussions.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, some of the warm and fuzzies you probably get from it currently – the surprise! the delight! the effusive thank you! will fade away if people feel like they are “owed” a quilt from the company when they have a baby. And at least in my office, you’d have people coming up to you to let you know what the theme of their nursery is so you match it perfectly, or asking for some super specific complicated pattern…

        I used to bake occasionally, on a whim, for birthdays. One year, I did it a few too many times in a row, and someone came up to me and ordered a cheesecake for their birthday. That was the last year I baked anything.

        1. KRM*

          We have a cadre of bakers in our department who enjoy baking for birthdays. But it’s understood that, unless you have allergies or a restricted diet, you do not get to “order” what you want for your birthday. If that ever happened I think the baking would shut down right quick (although I and a couple others wouldn’t have an issue saying “Oh, you want X? Then you should buy that for yourself, I’m not making it”).

        2. OP1*

          A friend of mine is the office baker, and she’s had cake orders, as well as requests and apparent disappointment when a cake wasn’t made for someone’s birthday because of lack of time/money/knowing the person, so I definitely get that. I’ve so far been making quilts for people I know well (ie. work directly with and are friends with) so I’ve always tried matching colours and such; doing that for relative strangers, especially as our company continues to grow, would be absolutely exhausting.

    8. media monkey*

      as another seamstress (hobby, not professional!) the number of people who think you will make them something and will just get reimbursed for the materials in insane! a quilt (even baby sized) takes a serious time investment.

      i don’t sew for money – i only make gifts for family and close friends and don’t take money even if it is offered – if i wanted paying, i wouldn’t be doing the project!

      1. Fuzzy Lady*

        I made a friend a sewn object as a birthday present once, and then she tried to “order” a second one, offering to pay for materials. I said no! And felt a bit hurt! That’s not how gifts work.

    9. Ozma the Grouch*

      This is my experience. As a someone who does artwork professionally, every once in a while someone approaches me to do something personal. They always start by telling me how much it means for them to pay me what I am worth. And every time I am lucky if I end up getting paid minimum wage for all the hours I actually put in. I even had a friend once “fire” me from a project after I had already done most of the work because someone else had said that they wanted to do the work for free for the “exposure.” Just don’t do it OP. If you aren’t doing it for the joy of it, you will just be leading yourself down a road disappointment.

        1. Les G*

          Counterpoint: this is why you don’t mix friends and business. Few friendships would survive small claims court.

          1. Ozma the Grouch*

            This is where I am at. It’s very easy to sign contracts with clients and enforce them. Not so easy to enforce them when it comes to friends and family. Suing over $150 would have destroyed a 10 year friendship and probably cost me more in time and effort than I would have gotten back. The whole thing just took me by surprise. My friend approached me for the project, said they would pay me my going rate as I was already and established artist, and then right when I got going and submitted my first couple of pieces he told me he didn’t need me anymore because he had a friend that said she “was really excited about the project, could do the same work as me, and would do it for free.” I thought it was incredibly shitty of them both quite frankly. I just did my best to take the high road. Oh, and two of her finished pieces looked eerily like mine… I will say that after this incident, my friend and I stopped being as close. I think he realized how much he effed up and started to feel uncomfortable around me.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          Dear God YES!

          As a professional artist, it’s time+materials+contract ALWAYS. I donate items. I don’t do things “for exposure”. I don’t let people just give money for materials, while I pour a chunk load time into a stain glass panel.

          I’ve done work for friends. It’s the non squirrelly, non draman ones. The ones where they aren’t adverse to a contract. When I haven’t done a contract, it’s flake times. It morphs into a time/materials black hole.

          If I go a $100 dollars for every expose gig people wanted me to do, I wouldn’t have to work.

          1. Snickerdoodle*

            Hahahahaha; I hear that. I worked in the theatre and film industry for years, and a LOT of people want you to work for free and tell you “but you get copy and credit, and it’ll give you contacts for paying gigs.” Um, no. I already have paying gigs and don’t need copy and credit. I also saw enough drama to never want to mix work and friendship. I’ve been out of the industry for years but still have hard and fast rules about not letting coworkers into personal time or vice versa.

          2. KayEss*

            As a non-professional artist, I do kind of the opposite… I hate, hate, HATE doing formal freelance work, so if friends/family come to me with a project, I only do it if it’s something I can give freely as a gift to them. Otherwise it’s “sorry, no time.”

            But I’m also blessed with eminently reasonable friends/family who approach me with the assumption that they’ll be paying and ask for a quote.

        3. Ozma the Grouch*

          Who says we didn’t have one. Taking friends and family to court isn’t exactly a life winning strategy. I would’ve had to file the small claims in their state, and that state’s fees would have eaten up 30% of my $150 claim. And that’s not even considering time and travel expenses. For me in this instance, letting it go just made the most financial and social sense. So just an FYI… contracts aren’t always going to save your ass.

    10. Susan K*

      I asked about a very similar situation, with baking instead of quilting, in an open thread a few weeks ago (comment linked in my name). One time, I called someone with a work question and he replied, “I want cupcakes!” So frustrating when you do something to be nice and people feel entitled to ask for more. People often tell me I should start a baking business, but (a) it would take all the fun out of it, and (b) I would have to charge ridiculous prices to make it worth my while.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I’m a baker too and I feel the same. Talent wise, yes I could open a bakery. But I never will, I would end up hating what I love to do. Last weekend I did make cupcakes for a wedding, but it was a rare circumstance where both the bride and groom were very dear friends of mine. I was happy to gift my time to them. Of course guests all wanted to know if they could hire me. I said I only take orders on a case by case basis and I charge $X per cupcake. At least that way they know up front what my price is and set the expectation of being paid. I do know bakeries in town charge similar, but honestly I don’t want to work that hard.

        1. Queen Esmerelda*

          I decorate cookies as a hobby. People always tell me I should go into business and sell them. I tell them that a) then it would be work and not fun, plus I don’t want to sit hunched over cookies 8 hours a day; and b) there is no way in hell to make a living selling cookies. The cost of materials and time would make the cookies outrageously expensive. Some one said that they’d pay $5 for one of my cookies, but I said “I can’t make just one; would you pay $70 for a dozen?” She got it then.

          Also to the time issue–someone else doing the “you should go into business” thing said, looking at small tray of cookies I had brought to a party “Did it take you more than an hour to decorate these cookies?” My reply–“It took me more than an hour to get all the icing ready.”

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Office Baker here – coworkers have offered to pay me to cater events or make desserts for them, and it ALWAYS makes things weird. Stuff goes wrong, dates get changed, numbers changed and suddenly it is super awkward whenever you are in the kitchen at the same time as Mark from accounting. Just don’t do it.

        People also tell me I should open my own business – but that is not the kind of baking I do! Making a small batch of cookies one day is totally different than making enough desserts to sell to people in enough varieties to be interesting. I would have no idea how to handle professional level baking loads! I once made 200+ cake pops for my sister in law’s wedding shower and it nearly killed me. I didn’t make cake pops again for two years because it soured the experience so much. Making a huge quantity of things is a totally different species of dragon to making small bits for fun.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Exactly. I get asked if I went to culinary school all the time, and I didn’t and wouldn’t. Making whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want, is completely different from making the same recipes the same way all day every day. I’ve also refused to cater friends’ events because, aside from the complications you mentioned, money and friendship just don’t mix. It’s similar with knitting, etc. It’s only fun when it’s on my terms. If I did it because I had to, it would suck the joy right out of it. I think that’s a serious danger with the OP’s quilting project. I’d hate to see it get ruined because her workplace got controlling about it.

        2. A.*

          Yes! I love to cook and host parties at my home but people will start to make requests for their own parties. Oh can you bring your champagne punch but for 40 people? Oh can you bring jerk chicken for 20? Lobster mac and cheese for 30? etc etc. It’s flattering they enjoy my dishes and want to serve it at their party but I don’t have the time and energy for that. Can’t I just bring a bottle of wine and enjoy myself as a guest like everyone else?
          I do not think people realize how expensive and time consuming making party food for a crowd can be. If it is at my house, then I’ll gladly take on the expense but I’m not too keen on cooking food for other people’s parties. I’m not a caterer nor do I want to be.

      3. OP1*

        I went to culinary school and took a job in an in-house bakery after my BA but before I started this job and it 100% killed my love for baking for years. Even now I don’t do it as frequently as I once did. I absolutely do not want that with quilts, and would hate to have anyone expect it.

      4. Rapunzel*

        Ah, the old “you should do that for a living!” comments. I’ve been sewing since I was a kid and my entire extended family constantly insisted I should get a job in a costume department. In my 20s, I was down on my luck and broke, so I did just that and guess what? It was MISERABLE. Working for eight hours a day on projects that weren’t mine was so exhausting that when I came home, I had absolutely no energy to sew anything of my own. I lasted in that job for six months before I gave up and quit.

        I love that our capitalist society constantly wants us to monetize our art but when we try to charge fair prices for our labor, people think we’re outrageous. HMMM.

        Anyway, to the point, OP1, it sounds like you have cooled off the idea of being the office seamstress and I can’t tell you emphatically enough what a good choice that is. I had one job where I was very open about being a sewer/crafter. I soon regretted it as coworkers and managers would constantly flood me with crazy requests: my boss once brought a trash bag worth of jeans to work and asked me to hem them “for like, $10?” + tons of coworkers asking me to make Halloween costumes for their kids (an un-dead Teletubby was probably the weirdest request I got.) Now, I try to just keep my sewing skills a secret at work. I hope that it doesn’t come to that for you, but in the future it may help you avoid any awkward “well how come *I* didn’t get a baby quilt from OP1??” conversations. Good luck!

    11. Harper the Other One*

      There was even an article about this in a recent issue of a sewing magazine! So that’s what I was coming to say too. An arrangement like this could really suck the joy out of an activity.

    12. Four lights*

      Don’t forget the opportunity cost of spending your time on quilts. What are you missing out on if you are doing them? Time with family? Networking? Relaxing? What happens if you get invited to a party but you have to finish a quilt?

      At the same time, how many quilts are we talking about here? Because if it were five per year for example, that wouldn’t be too bad. You should find out how many babies have been born each year for the past few years.

      1. OhGee*

        Five per year would eat up most of my time for crafting, and I wouldn’t want to be giving all of that time to my coworkers.

      2. OP1*

        I’ve been at this office for four years, and we’ve grown from 30 people since I started to 100 now. We’re also a very young company, and in the last year alone we’ve had six children born, I think. Based on that growth rate, I have little desire to be an office quilter for that many babies.

      3. Genny*

        Our HR person keeps track of office babies as a fun, office bonding thing. The office averages about 10-16 babies a year (some of those are office alumni babies). I can’t even imagine having to make that many quilts, especially because the due dates are evenly spread out across the calendar.

    13. Kes*

      It sounds like the situation has arisen because OP has been volunteering to do this with just the materials, and this has happened enough that the company thinks at that point they should make it official. I agree this is a bad idea since it will become a chore, potentially leave OP feeling undervalued for her efforts, and could undermine her professional reputation in the office by being known instead as the quiltmaker.

      I think it’s reasonable for OP to say no to these requests but I do think they might need to take this a sign to scale back on the volunteering for this and save the enthusiasm more for making quilts for themselves or for things outside the office

      1. OP1*

        I’ve only at this point made three quilts, and not on behalf of the company. Two for a woman I work directly with, and one was for a woman my husband works with (at the same company). I don’t have a lot of people in my life to make baby quilts for, so I love doing it – but I absolutely don’t want to make it a chore, and I doubly don’t want to have it affect my upward movement.

        1. I prefer tea*

          If you find you want to make a quilt but don’t have a recipient in mind, what about making a small gifting stash? I knit, and there are times I simply must make a knitted giraffe (or rabbit or blanket), even though no one in my social circle is having a baby. So I have a small stash of finished items that I can pull from if I find a need. Especially helpful when I don’t have time later, or if I hear of a sudden need, like a house fire or other tragedy where a handmade gift would be a comfort. The key is to keep your stash small – not easy for a crafter!

        2. Fellow Quilter for This*

          Not to derail seriously — but many, many organizations collect baby quilts to donate to families in need. Just google “donate quilts,” you’ll find some. No pressure, no committment. Just when you make one, you can send it off.

          Although I LOVE the stash idea too.

          1. JSPA*

            I’ve seen a lot of handmade stuff for the homeless and near-homeless end up in the trash after a week or a month’s use.

            In practical terms, it generally makes more sense to sell at hand-craft prices to people who appreciate hand crafts; buy many (easily washed, inexpensive, extra-warm-for-weight) mass market of same item to go to people who are struggling with the processes of daily life.

            If they don’t know what the worth of a handcrafted item is, it’s no extra joy to them; if they do know, but can’t treat it as they feel it should be treated, it’s just another burden.

            This is also true of co-workers, who may not, in fact, enjoy or treasure that particular sort of item. There are people who love what you do; connect with them. (Spouse still wears lovely wool sweaters mom knitted in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m allergic to woolite and to cedar and to most wool. I’d be downhearted to get a lovely wool sweater, thinking of all the wasted effort.)

    14. Gdub*

      I often tell people about the $25,000 baby sweater I knit for my best friend’s little girl. It was a complicated, beautiful nightmare, and I calculated that if I had billed at the rate my company charges for my time, that’s what it would have cost.

      1. OP1*

        Gracious! I don’t doubt it, though. My mother-in-law does a lot of crochet and the amount of time and expertise it takes her for complex pieces is simply astounding. I can sew very well, but I can barely do a line of knitting without throwing the darn thing across the room.

        1. Miss H*

          If you ever want to get into knitting, I suggest making a Big Ugly Scarf. One stitch (pick knit or purl, or maybe do alternating lines) and any scrap yarn you can find. Make it a couple feet wide and twelve feet long. I have one that I made when I first got into knitting. It is all different colors, full weird dropped-stitch holes, and just hideous. But making it let me get down the basic purl stitch really well so I can work without looking on pure muscle memory, and it was all done in front of the television or in classes with no attention needed whatsoever.

          1. Miss H*

            Also, I enjoy cooking, but I’ve made a point of NEVER bringing in food to work to share. I have shared recipes, but not the baked goods themselves. That keeps the boundaries between “work duties” and so-called “women’s work” pretty firmly in place for me.

    15. Anon Anon*

      I agree. But, I think HR will back down once they realize how much they’d be paying for the OPs time. I think they think they can give this cute personalized quilt for a similar value as a gift basket. And I bet when you figure in all your time, from selecting fabrics to the actual quilting, it is hundreds of hours.

    16. Falling Diphthong*

      When beloved hobbies become tasks… it takes the fun out of the activity.

      This letter is a good illustration of the critique of “do your passion as your job” advice. Because if it’s something you enjoy, you should be thrilled to get to do it more, on a deadline, as directed by other people, right?

      For OP–it’s totally reasonable to draw hard lines around this before it creeps any further. Treat the pillows as a one-off for which you donated your time, and the baby quilts as gifts for close friends that are not going into your job duties.

    17. Ellen*

      My experience, quilting for people at work only sort of voluntarily burned me out from quilting for over a year. never again. do what makes you money for money, do what you love for love.

    18. Caramel & Cheddar*

      All of this, which I think applies both to requests from the workplace and from one’s personal life. I’ve sewn for work in the past (as in, for an actual work purpose and not a coworker gift) and my boss paid me for materials *and* gave me time off to do the work since I wasn’t going to lug my sewing machine to work.

      Honestly, this isn’t that different from Alison’s advice to freelancers who have to break the news to a client that they’ve raised their rates, but where the client also happens to be someone they’re not that enthusiastic about working with: tell them your actual rate (in this case, materials plus time, whether that’s a wage for time or time off) and then see if they’re willing to meet it. If not, you’re free! If yes, you’re getting fair compensation for your work. And, like with the freelance situation, make sure you only do this if you *are* willing to do the work if your terms are met.

    19. Dust Bunny*


      I sew/quilt, too, and, while I will happily mend the odd pocket, hem an occasional pair of pants, or make a surprise gift once in awhile for somebody, I don’t want to be the go-to person for this. I have a hard enough time finishing my own projects (on top of a full work week): I don’t want the pressure of finishing other people’s.

      I get told a lot that I should sell the dresses I make from vintage patterns. To pay myself fairly and cover materials, I’d have to charge about $300 a dress. Not happening. I don’t want my favorite hobbies tied to the stress of earning a living, or to others’ expectations.

    20. Dr. Pepper*

      Oh yes. I know it sucks because this is a skill you have and something you enjoy doing and sharing it with others can be such a joyful experience. The problem is, as many have pointed out, most people do not appreciate in the slightest how much time and effort goes into making handmade items, let alone cost of materials. We’re so used to factory manufactured goods, and all the cheapness and convenience that goes along with it, that few truly understand just what goes into hand crafted things.

      My mom is a seamstress and she got roped into making stoles for her church singing group for the members to wear over their regular boring choir robes, and let me tell you it was NOT an enjoyable experience for her. They turned out absolutely beautiful because she’s very good at sewing, but it took forever to make them all and the stress of making them to “outside stranger’s” quality standards made her wish she’d never set foot in the church. Sewing something special for a dear friend or family member is one thing, making things more or less en masse for acquaintances and anyone else you’re not close to is quite another.

    21. LJay*

      Yeah, I would definitely be concerned, especially with the quilts.

      My cousin quilts, and people really seem to want to devalue the time and effort it takes for her to make them when she tries to sell them.

      People think, “Oh, I can get a blanket from Walmart for like $20. And even if they expect the quilt to be more money than that, they don’t expect the homemade quilt to go for more than 10x that amount.

      Especially the equivalency to a gift basket concerns me. How much are these gift baskets they are sending now worth? I wouldn’t expect the company to be willing to reimburse you much more than the gift baskets they are currently sending (and they may even be seeing having you make the quilts as a “cheaper option” than sending the gift baskets).

      I would talk to the company and find out what they are expecting to pay you up front before agreeing to do this at all. They may be shocked at what fair compensation for you to do this actually is.

      Making quilts out of the goodness of your heart for your coworkers you like is one thing. At this point it becomes a business production and you should ensure you’re not being taken advantage of for this.

      Also, what happens if a coworker you absolutely hate gets pregnant? They couldn’t pay me enough for hours and hours of labor to make something personal for someone I don’t even like, but if they’re paying you it would become much more of an issue to decline making something for that specific coworker than it would be otherwise.

      1. Karen Hammond*

        That’s so true about what people are willing to pay. I just finished making two different color ways of the Farmer’s Wife Sampler quilt (111 blocks per quilt, set on point). I began the project in January 2015 and finished this month (I did take some time off for other projects, but still–it was a LOT of time and effort).

        Someone I know saw one of the quilts and wanted to buy it. I told her it wasn’t for sale. She asked if she could tempt me by paying $200. Because $200 is TOTALLY a reasonable cost for a project that took me 3 and a half years.

    22. Jadelyn*

      That second point is critical. If you’re doing it *for your employer*, the time should be paid time. Otherwise they’re basically asking you for a donation that they’re not asking for from anyone else you work with.

      I’m a “crafty type” and my team knows that – I facilitated a painting class with one of my coworkers at her house for some of her friends, I gave everyone small art gifts for Xmas one year, that kind of thing. Last year, my VP came up with the idea to get these bicycle bookends (which are just plain brass) and paint them to match our logo, then give away a couple pairs of those at the annual employee event. He asked me to do the painting part, since he knows I do artsy stuff – but he insisted, and quite properly so, that if I agreed I would not only expense the supplies (since it was painting on bare metal, I needed enamel paints which I don’t normally use for my own projects and would have to buy special for this) but also record any time I spent on those bookends on my timesheet so I’d get paid for it. I did it – painted three sets of bookends one Saturday while watching movies in my living room – and the 5 hours I spent was all recorded as overtime for that week. I’ll be doing it again this year, too, but again, it will all be recorded and paid time, not me donating my time.

      If you have an idea to do something crafty that would benefit the office, once, and offer to do it as a special thing – then I could see them paying materials and you donating time. But if they’re actually *asking you to do something* in your non-work hours, like the baby blankets thing, then that’s working time that needs to be paid for, either as a contractor/commissioned artist, or with hours on your regular timesheet if you’re hourly.

  3. Eric*

    #4, when I am in that situation, I always feel more comfortable having them in my pocket rather than in a holder. This way i can get them out more easily and naturally. Not that you need to do this (I can’t say that I recall what sort of case anyone who had given me a business card had used), but it makes me feel less self conscious and less awkward.

    1. joanium*

      I tend to only give it business cards at the end of a great conversation. Once you’ve made a personal connection, it feels less awkward and your card will actually be memorable.

    2. Everdene*

      I run a 2 pocket system at events/confrences. I keep my cards in my left pocket and cards I get given in my right. It makes handing over a card pretty seamless and I’m not rummaging in my bag for the card holder. Only downside is I have to keep my jacket on even on warm days.

    3. CM*

      Also, for OP#4, if you feel awkward, then wait until someone hands theirs over or asks for yours. You don’t have to give out your cards unsolicited.

      There’s no reason to exchange cards unless you actually want to stay in touch with the person, so don’t feel like there’s some quota you have to meet. If you come to the end of the evening and you haven’t given out any cards, no big deal. And the other side of that is, if you get somebody’s card, use it. When you get home, connect with that person on LinkedIn with a note saying you enjoyed meeting them at the event. Or if it was someone you really want to maintain a connection with, email them and suggest meeting up for coffee.

    4. Sally*

      I was just at an industry event last night, and there was a lot more business card exchanging than usual. I think it’s because I had longer conversations with people, and we discovered we had a lot in common in addition to work and wanted to keep in touch. It’s also fine to be honest about one’s awkwardness if it will help dispel the awkwardness (this is a thing that happens!). For example, there was a young college student who came to the event with his work friend, and he told us all about the program he was in and how much he loved the work and the company, and he mentioned that he felt awkward about business cards and wasn’t sure when/if to give them to people, so we had a rather long discussion about it. I don’t think anyone had theirs in a card case, though. I used to carry my cards in one because I thought it was impressive, but it really doesn’t matter. The cards shouldn’t be dirty or beat up, but they don’t have to be in a case if that’s not convenient. I keep mine in my wallet.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I love this! If I were at an event and someone new to the work world confessed they weren’t sure how to do cards, I would be delighted to talk to them about it, and I suspect most people would.

      2. Kimberly*

        Not only is this a good conversation under the usual circumstances, it’s also fun to discuss how “business card culture” can vary in different countries. When my organization first had visitors from several Asian countries, we were all prepped to bring a lot of business cards to the meetings; to be sure to exchange cards with each visitor as part of the shaking-hands/greeting process; to take the time to read both sides of each card as we were handed it (and not just stuff it away in a pocket); and to leave every card we were given out on the table next to our notebook/laptop as presentations were going on. Always useful info to know!

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I’ve heard this before, and honestly, I love this format. No awkwardness, just part of the greeting process, and then, BONUS–you have their names right in front of you when you inevitably forget during the meeting!

    5. Mona425*

      I was just at a conference that included speed networking (like speed dating) where you could hand out business cards. I have a lovely two sided card holder that I found on Amazon, that way I have someplace to put cards that I have received to keep them pristine and separate from mine. I’ve also found that jotting a quick note about the person on the back of their card is helpful also.

      1. IoBIO*

        The quick note on the back of the card you just received at a conference is so good for meaningful follow-up. If I’m collecting a dozen or more cards, it’s pretty crucial. When you send an email/LinkedIn message, giving context helps the other person’s memory.
        Another tip is try to make yourself follow up within two days of receiving the card, even just connecting on LinkedIn. It helps get a response as you’re in recent memory, and even if it’s just a “nice to meet you, let’s be connected”, it’s a good habit to build your network. Sometimes I find a quiet corner (with wifi) at a conference and try to get all of my follow-up items done before the end of the conference. In personal experience, this makes it more likely I get to all of my follow-up items, not just a few. Otherwise, the inbox that got neglected while I was away at the conference takes priority, and following up can start to feel awkward as time passes.

    6. Jenn*

      I am OP#4, thanks for all the advice everyone in this thread. Not keeping my cards in the case is a really great idea! I felt obligated to use it because it was given to me by my school, but I think y’all are right that it adds another layer to giving people my information.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Keep the case to store the cards, because they’ll get bent up in your wallet. And when you go to events, take cards out of the case to bring along with you.

  4. Mike C.*

    OP3: Outside If addressing it in the moment, you don’t go to your coworker to discuss these safety issues, you immediately go to your boss as soon as you can.

    This is an actual life or death situation and I’m really disappointed this being treated as something to initially be kept between coworkers. It’s much, much more serious than Alison is making it seem. There is no “you could add something about the fieldwork incidents” with this issue, it’s the most important problem and something that needs to be addressed right now.

    Your coworker is putting themselves in harms way, by going off plan. Repeatedly.

    Your coworker is putting you and your coworkers in harms way by forcing you guys to going off plan to go and find him. Repeatedly.

    You need to speak with you management as soon as possible, and if they are taking this seriously they will do things like “stop this employee from devating from your safety procedures through serious retraining, admonishment, being kept out of the field until being retrained, etc”, “reiterating the proper safety procedures to the entire group to ensure there is no confusion” and so on. These are things you can’t do alone with a quiet side conversation.

    I have field experience academically and professionally, and a good deal of training in workplace safety. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Strong agree re: the safety concerns. I don’t think this is an issue that goes to the colleague, first—it has to go to the safety officer/manager/appropriate-higher-up. It’s so serious that words don’t adequately express how dangerous the colleague’s “going rogue in the field” practice truly is.

    2. Kiwi*

      Yes, I agree. You need to talk to whoever’s in charge of fieldwork safety as soon as you can.

      If you can’t do that before the next trip, a workaround would be to buddy him up for that trip, so that one person is specifically constantly making sure he stays with the group. But your aim should be to get him taken off fieldwork until someone with authority has addressed this.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        This really isn’t an “if you can’t before…” situation. Hostile work environments are dangerous and deadly. I’ve worked in the Australian Pilbarra (lots of stuff that can kill you, heat, lack of water, snakes, spiders, etc.), the Yukon (lots and lots and lots of stuff that can kill you, and we lived in a remote camp in tents, cold, dangerous terrain, wolves, bears, cougars, etc.) and in the sub-Arctic (also tonnes of ways to die, bears, rabid foxes, hypothermia, etc.). The worst one for me was the Pilbarra, the heat and lack of cover and water have resulted in deaths of people who seemed fine but sat down on their way back to the car and literally died (this is a thing, it happened to a summer student).

        OP needs to get onto their boss asap, buddy could get himself or others injured or killed through his bad actions.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      This is a situation where burning political capital is warranted, up to and including refusing to do fieldwork with this person in the future. This is right up there with “my coworker is committing fraud and wants me to help cover it up” or “my coworker is assaulting clients” in seriousness.

      Regarding suggestions about buddy systems – as the team lead, I think the OP would have to be the one to babysit the guy. “Make sure this person doesn’t die through sheer willful stupidity” is too serious to delegate to someone.

      1. blackcat*

        “Make sure this person doesn’t die through sheer willful stupidity”

        See, I have viewed that as my job for taking kids hiking/camping. Willful stupidity is just a given with teens. Hell, once when I was on a long trip, a teen JUMPED OFF A SMALL CLIFF because he wanted to try to catch some fish. It was a two day detour to get him and his broken ankle to a road to be evacuated.

        But a grown up? An employee? Yeah no. They should get booted from the fieldwork. Willful stupidity + wilderness = bad, bad news.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My brother does fieldwork, supervising graduate students. I am pretty certain this behavior could be grounds to get them kicked out of the program. This dude needs to be disciplined, hard-core. They need to suck it up, take the safety audit, and either whip this dude into shape or fire him before he removes himself from their employment via exposure/dehydration.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ditto. My bff is a geologist—this would have gotten someone removed from any field class, and for a grad student or employee, removed from the program/fired.

            1. Ethyl*

              My field study group got lost once at field camp (undergraduate field course required for geology students) and it was a Big Deal. We weren’t in trouble since we hadn’t done anything stupid (detour significantly around a landslide that wasn’t on the map and missed the pickup time) but it was still treated seriously and steps were taken to ensure it didn’t happen again. For anything past an undergraduate level I can’t imagine anyone being so blase as LW’s boss seems to be.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          I also lead youth backpacking trips. Rules:

          1) You always have to be able to see the person behind you. (Why behind? Because the people in front can always slow down, but the people in back can’t always speed up).
          2) The whole group stops at trail crossings and stream/river crossings until everyone is assembled.
          3) Everyone carries a whistle. One toot=”I am lost”. Two toots=”I heard you, I am coming.” Three toots=”I am hurt/in danger”.
          4) Buddy system.

          It can start to feel like an unnecessary pain in the rear on well-marked trails. And it is unnecessary until it isn’t. Since we are dealing with youth, we would accept breaking the rules *once*, with a stern lecture about how they endangered the group. Twice? The kid’s parent would have to come on the trips and be the kid’s buddy, in order to be allowed to go.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, that’s basically what I meant. A teenager? Gets a severe talking to.

            An adult employee? Gets the boot!

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Agree, so much. I’ve had to refuse to work with certain people for this reason, and while it’s awkward and can really piss off some higher ups, it’s worth it. I’ve been the lead/manager when someone has done something so ridiculously, dangerously stupid that I couldn’t believe my eyes. The only time I’ve ever yelled at anyone at work was one of those times. The fact that they didn’t end up seriously hurt/dead was sheer dumb luck.

        Do you want to be responsible when someone kills themselves out of willful ignorance? I don’t.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Concur. I also have field experience. This dude should be kicked off the project, do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Horribly, my first (facetious) thought was that not addressing problem no 2 (going rogue in the field) would eventually solve problem no 1 (coworker can’t have direct professional convos). OP seems like horrible and Darwinian than me though…

      1. Persimmons*

        Thanks for not making me the first person to say it.

        Rule of thumb: if you’re doing something so dumb at work that people are imagining your cartoonish demise, rethink your behavior.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’ve recently discovered that there is a whole genre of nonfiction made up of books about how people have died in natural parks.

          I am never going anywhere ever again without a blanket, water, and granola bars.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I had a humbling moment while having trouble hiking the primitive trail once in Arches, when it really sunk in–I mean, I’d intellectually known, but really really sunk in–that this place hadn’t been designed by or for people, and there was no reason to expect it to be safe. It might be called a park, but it’s not a theme park!

          2. Rosemary7391*

            I’m glad. They might be a pain to carry if you don’t use them, but it’s worth it. The foil blankets are very light and easy to carry. I’d also suggest a whistle since they’re really light and good for attracting attention should that be needed. 3 blasts signals you need help pretty much anywhere I think!

    6. Madrigal Electromotive*

      I was waiting for our resident safety inspector at AAM to chime in. (Not that he is wrong.)

      1. Les G*

        Indeed, this is an exception to other posts in that there is genuinely a workplace safety emergency and (apparently–I didn’t see it) Allison’s original answer didn’t adequately speak to the workplace safety aspects.

    7. Lynca*

      I audibly gasped when OP 3 brought up what this person is doing during field work. I lead field work and this is just unacceptable behavior. I don’t know what their deal is but I wouldn’t let them return to the field with me until they could demonstrate they can be trusted again. I’d be on the /phone/ to my managers as soon as I had service. This is not something that can wait for an in person meeting. I’d also document what we had to do in my field book for recordkeeping.

      I honestly would have read this person the riot act in the field. I would have been beyond upset that they put themselves in danger and left the group willingly.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Yep, this attitude is the stuff of nightmares for anyone who leads outdoor activities. I would not take this person on a walk, not even in the (relatively safe, compared to deserts!) English countryside. You stay with the group. This is not negotiable.

      2. Genny*

        I’ve never done any fieldwork ever nor am I particularly outdoorsy and even I know better than this guy. Isn’t it common sense not to leave the group when your out in the wilderness? No way in heck I’d go back out to the field with a guy who just wandered off on his own. That’s how people die (or become an inspirational survival story…until you realize it was their own stupidity that put them in that situation).

    8. Detective Amy Santiago*

      OP#3 – I don’t know if you’re a regular comment reader here, but please take this advice. Mike C. is a subject matter expert when it comes to workplace safety.

      1. Les G*

        Please take this advice, yes. I’m not a workplace safety expert and I don’t think anyone else here is, but you don’t need to be one to immediately notice that this is a very serious situation. Frankly, I’m wondering what is going on at work that the OP is even asking what to do about this. Is it an issue of unclear protocols? Bad relationship with the boss or the rogue coworker? Because this is a no-brainer.

    9. Anon. Scientist*

      Amen. As someone who does fieldwork, that is an incident report complete with full, immediate reporting, a full safety debrief, and an extremely tight leash the rest of that project (if the person isn’t removed immediately). And that person would most likely be pushed into an office-only role for the rest of their career with the organizational.

    10. blackcat*

      Agreed. I do not have professional fieldwork experience, but I have been backpacking/hiking/etc in the wilderness for most of my life. I’ve gone to really remote places, deserts, difficult terrain, glaciers, etc. I have the survival training to last for a while alone in almost any environment.

      I still don’t go hiking alone unless I’m in a well-traveled location. Even then, I always bring at least 2L of water, because you never know what can happen. It’s just dangerous to go off on your own.

    11. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I’m honestly astonished that the boss didn’t find out anyway. If a coworker gets lost in the desert and the rest of the team had to stop working and search him out – twice – I feel like this should have gotten back to the boss! Even if it was via office chit chat, and I can’t imagine people not talking about this when they got back to the office.

    12. Boo*

      Absolutely agree with Mike C – I used to work for an engineering company, and the engineers used to have to go out and check the safety/stability of bridges/tunnels etc. We had a no lone working policy. One man broke policy and went to check a bridge by himself. There was a terrible accident, he was electrocuted and passed away. His widow (a coworker) now gives regular health and safety talks to employees around the world. Safety concerns are super serious and should be addressed immediately by management.

    13. LQ*

      The thing that strikes me as most shocking is that from Coworkers point of view he was totally ok with letting his coworkers go off the wrong way, in the desert, just lalalala. Not saying anything. That’s terrifying behavior. Oh I’m totes ok with my coworkers dying because they went the wrong way and I didn’t want to speak up. What happens if he was actually correct and he let people go the wrong way when he knew better? This isn’t like me letting my niece and nephew pick the way home and walking 3 extra blocks. This is dangerous. If he’s wrong at least OP is a responsible person who is following a plan. If he’s right it’s really bad and that he doesn’t care means who knows what he’d do when he discovered it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I know, right? Not only risking himself, but believing others were at risk and doing *nothing* about it?

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        What happens if he was actually correct and he let people go the wrong way when he knew better?

        He would be right. And everyone would have to acknowledge his rightness. And they would all be sorry they had ever doubted him. About anything, including whether they remembered to cc him on that email. At a guess. (I’m guessing the reverse didn’t hold true when someone else was right.)

    14. LizM*

      Yes to this. I supervise field going employees, I would want to know immediately. This is PIP/ don’t pass probation level behavior in my organization. I don’t mean to scare OP, but I’d be upset with the team for not talking to me after it happened if I learned about it through the grape vine.

      If this had happened during my team lead days, I would have refused to go back into the field with him until this had been dealt with by management. Not only is he putting himself at risk, the whole team is at risk in those situations.

      1. LizM*

        Something got cutoff (in other news, kindle is not a good way to type comments)… it’s PIP/do not pass probation/get assigned to desk work for the rest of the season.

    15. Dr. Pepper*

      The manufacturing facility where a family member of mine works recently had a workplace accident where a person died. It was completely, 100% preventable, and occurred because workplace safety standards were not being followed because the lower level people had deemed them “too ridged” and essentially too much of a pain in the butt to bother following for minor maintenance and repair procedures. Well guess what? Now someone is dead, leaving behind a spouse and children, and the company is being audited and is paying a hefty fine to the state for negligence. This non-adherence to the safety rules has apparently been going on for some time, but people kept it “between coworkers” because no biggie, right? Wrong.

  5. Sabrina*

    Q3 – I’ve have a few coworkers like that and it’s dangerous in the field to a point where they get pulled from projects. Right now can you start the buddy system going forward? Everyone has a field buddy to check data/keep on track with, it makes managing a group a little easier when you have someone who wanders. Also if you are walking transects on a grid he’s now in the middle.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, in my field experience, this guy’s shenanigans would have been a “he gets flown home early at his own expense” offense.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I feel a buddy system might be a good solution after OP has gone to HR/management. I think the guy needs to be spoken to about wandering off first before the system is implemented, if it is at all.

      1. Alli525*

        Agreed – this isn’t a strategy you’d want to “test out” without buy-in from senior level people. Too much at risk.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Two things that I remember from fieldwork orientation; what to do when encountering a black bear and always stay with a buddy. You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your buddy. Seriously though, your colleague needs re-training before going back out into the field.

    4. Technical_Kitty*

      Mmmmm, if he is on the same level as OP, and they are supposed to be running the projects I’d say boss/h&s first. This guy being in charge of anyone is not acceptable. And OP is not required to manage his stupidity like they would be with a subordinate.

  6. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #3 ” the drafts I had given him to look over had mistakes” That’s exactly why it was given to him. To check for errors. It’s not something he should be complaining about. Maybe next time you give him some stuff to check, you can add something about how people tend to miss their own mistakes.

    Regarding the getting lost in the desert issue: That’s a life or death situation. Extremely serious. So the higher ups have to address this. They have to make sure he understands just how serious this is, and force him to follow the rules. And if he doesn’t, keep him in the office or fire him. If he dies out there, the company will be responsible.

    We have a guy at our company who has been banned from site by more then one of our clients.

    1. Emily K*

      Back when my report was still new, at one point she responded to corrections I’d made to a draft email to our subscribers that she’d sent me for proofreading with something sort of embarrassed/self-effacing, like, “One of these days maybe I won’t make these mistakes!”

      I told her it was alright, because if she didn’t make mistakes I might start to think all that proofreading I do for her was a waste of my time ;) It’s hard to proofread your own work! There’s a reason that proofreading by a third party who didn’t produce the work is an established convention.

  7. Xarcady*

    #5. One time I turned a six month temp job onto a permanent one by asking my supervisor if she’d be willing to be a reference. This was one month before the assignment ended. She sort of gave me a blank look, mumbled yes, and then disappeared. The following morning I had a job offer. That blank look was because she’d forgotten I was a temp.

    Right now, I’ve been temping in my current position for 17 months. There was no promise of permanent work at the start. My position has been extended several times. My supervisor has made it clear he’d like to hire me.

    The company finally agreed to a permanent position on May, but they advertised the position and I had to apply. Several things have held up the hiring, so I’m still temping and applying for other jobs. (I know they haven’t started interviewing because my supervisor is still wearing shorts to work and for interviews he’d dress up a little bit more.)

    So do ask about a permanent position, but don’t be surprised if you are asked to temp a while longer.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Corporate stuff can move very slowly. Also, if your boss has a lot of employees, she’s probably not thinking about your situation on a regular basis. I’ve found that when I have something I need a boss to address, I need to remind them about it, or it quickly falls off the radar. So don’t be afraid to remind them that you’re a temp, and you’re interested in staying on board, because if you haven’t told straight out, they probably have no idea, and even if you have, they may not recall.

    2. Anon E Mouse*

      I was also a temp who went to a permanent position after several extensions. And they had to advertise and I had to apply with everyone else. So I made sure my resume was updated and as professional as I could make it, I dressed up for the interviews, and did my best not to give the impression I thought the position was mine for the taking.

      And worst case, if I didn’t get the job at least my cv was all shiny and new.

    3. Persimmons*

      Asking for a reference is a solid way to go about this. Either you get things moving in your favor, or you end up with a resource to find another position. You can’t lose.

      My company has lost several great temps by jerking them around and not communicating. They would wait to make an offer at the end of the final week, only for the temp to say helplessly “I’ve accepted something else.” As if people have the luxury of waiting around until the zero hour to look for work.

    4. Xarcady*

      Another resource, if you are working through a temp agency, is to contact the temp agency. This is useful if you don’t know who is making the hiring decisions. As a temp, my supervisor has frequently not been the person who determines how long I’ll be working there.

      As your assignment draws to an end, contact the temp agency, point out that you will be out of work in X number of weeks, and ask them to start looking for new assignments for you. Frequently, they will contact the place you are currently working to see if they want to extend your assignment. You can also just ask them to see if you can be extended or moved to a different department (useful if you really like the company and want to get hired there. Having multiple managers at the company willing to give you a good reference never hurts.)

      If it was a temp to hire assignment, but you don’t know who in the company to talk to, the temp agency can also help out there, contacting HR and finding out if they want to hire you, or who you should talk to.

      The temp agency makes money when you are working. It’s in their interests, as well as yours, to keep you employed. And most temp agencies get some kind of hiring/finder’s fee if a temp is hired permanently.

    5. Chinookwind*

      There is one caveat to Xarcady’s story – sometimes when you bring this up, there can be an awkward pause because they would have to buy out your contract at the agency you are temping through and, while you may be good, you are not worth that type of cash (which could be the equivalent of 6 months of agency fees), especially if they haven’t budgeted for that.

      My first temp job was like that and, luckily, the manager I was working for was upfront about this reality, as well as other aspects of temping (important since I was actually processing the invoices for my time there) and we were both able to laugh at how “I am good but not that good” at the job. But, she also let me know that, when my “holding period” with the agency was up (I think it was a year), I would be able to apply at the company for a job and be welcome.

      That being said, there is no harm in asking if there are any opportunities for full-time work for that company. The worse they can say is no and, even if they do, they may be able to point you to other opportunities (especially if they like your work).

  8. CarefreeRunner*

    #1 – It sounds like you are a woman? (I assume this because I think seamstress indicates gender, doesn’t it?) This might just be me, but I also wouldn’t want to be associated with a typically feminine activity at work instead of my actual work. I think women often get delegated tasks like cleaning, cooking, etc – in a way, sewing could end up in that category, and that makes me feel… eh. Especially if you are unhappy with the dynamic, it might be better professionally to keep that division. You don’t know to be known as “Jane who sews”, but “Jane who is really great at her job” and women seem to get pigeon-holed into the wrong box sometimes!

    1. Kir Royale*

      This would apply even more if the quilter were male. He would be “the guy who quilts” and would be a conversation piece.

        1. Wren*

          Lauded by some people and other people find it suspicious. And by suspicious, I mean they assume the guy is gay.

        2. Alli525*

          Not always! Nursing is starting to fall out of favor as a profession again (not that it was ever exactly honored) because men are increasingly going into it… and male teachers are often viewed with suspicion. But in the context of a typical office-job workplace, and likely in many other fields, I suspect you’re totally right.

    2. OP1*

      I am indeed a woman. I don’t mind so much being associated with feminine qualities, per se, but I’m also already on planning committees and often end up being the person who takes notes in a meeting despite our office being pretty level when it comes to gender, so I definitely get what you’re saying. I also wouldn’t want to hinder my chances at promotion coming up due to being known as anything but “Jane who kicks ass at marketing our product”.

      1. Clorinda*

        Charge them your hourly pay rate for quilting. Nobody knows how many hours go into that work! The first time you invoice them $350 for a quilt, they’ll either say thanks but no thanks, or you’ll be reasonably compensated.

    3. Applesauced*

      I’m curious – IS there a male name for seamstress?
      Is it “steamster”?
      I would like it to be, because I’m picturing a teamster type guy (probably named Tony, jeans, hardhat, work boots) with a pincushion on his wrist and a pair of those old folding scissors on a chain around his neck.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I believe it was originally either “seamster” or “sempster”. And I also like your “steamster” image.

      1. KHB*

        From what I’ve always heard, “-ster” is still a feminine ending. Think of surnames like Brewster, Webster, and Baxter – they originally meant “woman who brews,” “woman who weaves,” and “woman who bakes.” (The masculine equivalents would be Brewer, Webber, and Baker.)

        Admittedly, I don’t know how “teamster” fits into all this, or whether there’s a male equivalent of seamstress.

          1. Reba*

            Woman who doesn’t *need* to marry because she earns income from spinning. Before the industrial revolution and in its early era, spinning was the bottleneck in cloth production, and it was a critical, in-demand skill.

            The term is not denigrating her for being single, it’s perhaps semi-lauding, semi-suspicious of her remaining unmarried. Of course, its meaning has changed.

            It’s one of many expressions that come from cloth-making that we don’t really have a good grasp of any more, since most people aren’t familiar with it.

      2. Katherine*

        Originally, “tailor.” Which is not a strict equivalent to “seamstress” because a tailor did creative design and fitting work, while “seamstress” implied just sewing pieces together.

        I don’t know of a historical word for female tailors (though they’ve certainly existed for a long time), or for male seamstresses. One more way that female work is devalued.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Modiste? It keeps popping up in Georgette Heyer.

          And in French, couturiere means the woman with the needle and thread, whereas couturier is the (male) designer. Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy were all couturiers. Although it is more common to say createur/creatrice for a designer.

  9. neverjaunty*

    OP #4, another way to handle this naturally is to ask “I’d love to stay in touch – may I ask you for your card?” The other person will normally reciprocate by asking for your card, you don’t feel like you’re shoving cards at people, and now you have their contact information too. (And if they didn’t want to give it out for some reason, they could politely pretend to be out of cards, so there’s no real pressure.)

    1. Cardy*

      I was coming here to say this. :-) I will tell you: of the people I’ve met at networking events in the last couple of years, the ones I remember are the ones who asked me for my card, not the ones who shoved theirs at me while barely even asking what I do. They stand out because they are rare, but also because they seem interested in me and my work. I’m still a little flummoxed by how many people hand me their card when I ask, but then don’t ask for mine.

  10. Mommy MD*

    OP 3: he seems to be seriously undermining you plus blowing off common safety measures. I’d go to management now.

    OP 1: becoming the official office seamstress will soon turn into a burdensome chore and steal your fun.

  11. Akcipitrokulo*

    In OP1… Alison, did you mean “time and effort” not “team and effort”?

    OP4… it might be worth remembering why business cards are used :) You know that point in a conversation where you want to grab a pen and a scrap of paper to swap email addresses? Just substitute giving the card. That’s all it is!

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      There’s a link to report typos at the top of the comment bubble. Just in case you missed it!

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Thanks :) I did miss it but useful info! Had seen similar things before so thought that wad best way to do a friendly heads up :)

  12. Comms Girl*

    LW #2: In case you’re interested, Alison answered a (very interesting) letter focusing on a similar but roles-reverted situation, i.e. a person who didn’t get the job because a girl she had constantly bullied in high school was the company’s “rock star” and pretty much blocked her application. You can find it here: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/04/i-didnt-get-a-job-because-i-was-a-bully-in-high-school.html and the update here: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/12/update-i-didnt-get-a-job-because-i-was-a-bully-in-high-school.html

    Alison’s advice to you is spot-on, as always.

    1. Jane*

      I thought of that letter, too! Did we ever find out how the LW had bullied her? I couldn’t find it in the comments but someone else said that LW had told it in one of the posts. (Too difficult to find on phone instead of computer where you can search for words..)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It was in the update post, I believe. She’d managed to get the girl ostracized from her friend group while they were in high school (over boyfriend jealousy, I think?) and the “rock star” actually ran away from home for a while to get away from the bully.

        1. valentine*

          Something I didn’t see discussed is that the OP lived across the street from Rock Star, which was part of OP’s motive.

      2. OP 2*

        I actually read that letter, that was part of the reason I reason I wrote to Alison. I don’t want anyone I know to end up like the OP, but I also know that I would consider moving on if I had to work with my childhood bully.

        1. Annonymouse*

          I’ve just had a job pulled because someone working there didn’t like me and it sucks. It also feels completely unwarranted.

          The person in question had worked with me before. I held a higher position than him and could assign work or give feedback but had no authority over training or firing him.

          And he was BAD at his job. He took work assigned to others, would make us go over time, made bad product and was inappropriate around clients.

          Trying to talk to him either in the moment or later didn’t work. I’m not sure if he never took me seriously because I was a woman in a male dominated industry, was 13 years younger than him.

          Anyway we both leave there for different companies and our paths only cross a month ago. I apply and get accepted as a manager at a new company. They are super excited to have me because there is maybe 20 people in the whole country with my set of skills anod experience.

          But the guy in question tanked my chances and got my offer pulled. All because he didn’t like me doing my job and trying to stop him screwing up.

      3. Annonymouse*

        It went from
        “I maybe said a few not so nice things or things taken to be mean” in the letter


        She thought I was her best friend and we lived across the road from each other but I didn’t feel the same way

        She liked a guy but he started dating me and it was awkward for the group to hang with her

        I took pleasure in making sure no one went to her graduation party and came to mine instead. I actively won them over to my side over the last 2 years of school and watched her get upset from my front window.

        In the comments were the real truth came out.

        So as a community we went from “Rockstar seems sensitive. That wasn’t fair.” After reading the letter to “Holy crap! You actively turned all her friends against her and took pleasure in doing it. Missing out on a job is the least bit of karma paying you back.”

        Then the follow up. My God. It felt good that OP was feeling consequences for her terrible past, bad that she was hurting but sad mostly because she couldn’t or wouldn’t accept responsibility for her own part of the situation and until she did would be trapped in this downward spiral of negativity.

  13. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #3: Do you have a health and safety officer? Because if there is one, take them with you WHEN you go to your boss about the safety issues. But don’t talk to them before you do so.

    The way I see it: Dude getting lost TWICE during field work in a relatively short time should trigger some sort of root cause analysis to find out why this is happening.

    Hopefully your coworker will be banned from fieldwork until things are settled.

      1. Les G*

        Maybe. Or maybe, given the level of disfunction made apparent in the fact that OP hasn’t already reported that, there’s a protocol issue or something else going on.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*


          My employer is really strict in these matters.

          So strict in fact that you’ll get a written warning if you use the stairs without the hand rail and meet the wrong person…

          1. Technical_Kitty*

            Omg, do you work for BHP? Because they tried to pull that when I worked in their IO operations. Those big mining companies are all about the lowest common denominator.

              1. Technical_Kitty*

                Fair. I’d just never heard of another company outside the big miners with that particular issue!

                1. Ethyl*

                  I can totally see my former environmental company doing that, but their safety standards were driven by their primary clients who were large petroleum companies. Which was its own whole….thing Kinda funny to think of how there’s all these spills and explosions and everything and meanwhile I’m getting written up for not using kevlar gloves with nitrile on top to handle empty glassware.

  14. One of the Sarahs*

    OP1 I wonder if there’s something going on where it might feel that the quilts are a sign of favouritism or clique-ishness? Obviously you’re making them for people you like, but it could be that with them being “admired throughout the office”, it feels like even if it’s in no way your intention, you’re making a very public declaration of who your friends are. If Arya gets a fancy quilt that is shown off around the office when she goes on maternity leave, but Sansa doesn’t, that’s going to make Sansa very aware that you just don’t like her. And maybe Jon works on your team and feels like he’s friends with you too, but when he became a father, he didn’t get a quilt, and he’s feeling like his role as a father is being downplayed.

    I know that’s all speculation, but it sounds like HR could be trying to deal with that kind of hurt feelings in the office, without saying “don’t make quilts”. And if you’ve been dealing with the compliments by downplaying how much time/skill goes into it (“Oh, it was nothing”,”I would be quilting anyway”,”It’s something I do for fun, and this way I can do projects I don’t have to store”) than I don’t blame them for thinking this could be a win-win solution, where you still make beautiful things, but there’s not a very visible clique of “quilt-worthy” in the office.

    Personally, I would NOT become official office quilt maker for all the reasons above, but especially because (as other people say) you want your office reputation to be OP who does kick-ass marketing, not OP who is defined by a feminine hobby. But I’d also think about how the quilt-making looks from the outside, and if it were me, I’d still make them for friends, but I’d give them outside the office, so it wasn’t such a public mark of my favour.

    (This may seem unfair, but making something like a quilt is so much more than buying your work bestie a better present than you’d buy the person who just moved into your team, because it *does* take a huge amount of time and effort. Anyone who knows about creative arts will know that you put in hours of work into deciding the best design/colour scheme, and making it, so it’s naturally going to be a much bigger deal than “On Sansa’s birthday OP decorated her desk and brought her home made cakes, but on Jon’s, OP just signed his group card, even though they’re all 3 Team Stark”)

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I should add, I’m not even suggesting that people without quilts complained, but that management have spotted that this has become a big public ritual that only applies to some people, and are wanting to head off any suggestion that some people’s impending parenthood are more important than others – in the same way that in a lot of offices there there are traditions that people bring in cakes for their own birthdays/only people’s teams contribute cash to a gift, but everyone signs the card/one person or team is responsible for all gift-giving, to try to keep it standardised.

    2. Kes*

      I have to admit I was also wondering if this is a factor and they’re worried that if several people are getting them but not everyone it could start creating problems, especially since they’re displayed/discussed more generally. Combine that with OP volunteering to make pillows for everyone and I can see where HR might think it would be good to make it more official/standard for everyone to avoid prominent displays of inclusion/exclusion in OP’s group of office friends.

    3. OP1*

      To your first point, I don’t think so. Of the 3 quilts I’ve given as gifts, 2 have not made it to their recipients yet as the baby showers haven’t happened yet. They’ve also been spread across the office to people in multiple departments whom I speak to every single day (versus the other pregnant people who I don’t interact with at all except maybe during the occasional walk to the kettle). I do get what you’re saying, though, and I appreciate the insight! Giving the quilts, when they are delivered, outside of the office (which I did with the first one that’s been delivered) is an excellent idea.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        :-) Thanks for the kind words – I didn’t want to sound harsh or blame-y, because I 100% don’t think it would be your intention to do anything other than a lovely thing for someone, that they’ll value and cherish!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      This is where I think there’s a distinction between quilts and baking–if you bake (or visit a bakery) for someone’s special event, then you bring enough food for the entire group. Where ‘group’ is the office, floor, team, etc–something that is consistently defined. It would be rude to bring six cupcakes for your six special friends in the larger office. But setting a lemon drizzle cake on the file cabinet in honor of Thelonius’s birthday shouldn’t obligate someone to produce an equivalent cake for everyone else in the office.

      Quilts, baby sweaters, etc are not a reasonable “if one person in the office gets one, everyone in the office gets one” standard. They’re more like dinner invitations to people you are friends with.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Of course, but there’s a difference between inviting a small group of people in the office to dinner in front of other people, and doing it more privately. I’m absolutely not suggesting OP should make quilts for everyone, just that this could be HR trying to find a mutually beneficial way* to make the office feel as inclusive as possible, without asking OP to stop doing something that’s a beautiful gesture, but could lead others (rightly or wrongly) to feel left out or hard done by – in the same way that a boss might ask people who invite some team members to dinner/drinks etc not to make those invitations it in front of people who aren’t invited.

        (* I think their hearts are in the right place, offering to pay for materials, but like everyone upthread, they’re underestimating the work/skills/time that goes into it)

  15. Rose Quartz*

    OP #1

    As someone who quilts all I could think was “nooooooo” as I was reading your post. In my experience quilts are a labor of love and mine are given as gifts to the people I care about – I’m a profressional, not a profressional quilter and honestly you couldn’t pay me enough to ruin my hobby by becoming one.

    From a business angle, even if you bill for materials you’re not going to be billing your office for the time and labor that goes into a quilt. This is a much higher amount and is the reason why handmade quilts are so expensive to buy. Don’t undervalue your work by not considering this as part of the cost for making a quilt.

    1. OP1*

      After reading all the comments and stories, my reaction is also, “noooo” to my own question.

      As for billing, I recently made a dice bag for a friend and I felt very awkward charging him anything over and above material costs; I can’t imagine now billing my office for the quilts I make out of love.

      1. Quilting Person*

        Glad to see you have changed your mind! I am not good at valuing baby quilts, or even bigger quilts, but I have participated in making several large quilts for charity, one of which is up for silent auction right now. It is a queen, and valued minimum at $3000.00. Another quilt we made for the daughter of one of our quilt group member’s when she got married. We had it evaluated for her, insurance purposes. It was made from plain muslin (unbleached, unprinted material, for those unfamiliar), and had three dimensional work on it (blocks that looked like flowers, for example, and the flowers actually stuck up from the quilt.) Much to our total astonishment, it was valued at $8,000.00! Granted, it was a little more intricate than your average quilt, but none of us that worked on it was a professional quilter. I do have to do some quilts on deadline for another charity group that I participate in on line, and it does suck some of the fun out of it, not to mention I then have to put aside my own personal quilting.

        1. Oranges*

          I knit and I did the math for a sweater I knitted my friend. It cost around $1000 because it took up 60ish hours of my time (small gauge and intricate pattern). The material cost was around $60 (good wool).

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I’m a knitter, and occasionally people will ask me to make something specific. My response is always, “Oh, I don’t work on commission.” Further pressing gets “This is my hobby that I do for fun. If I’m getting paid for it, then it becomes work!”

        The thing to note about both of these responses (but especially the second), is that I am acting with the assumption that the asker intends to pay me. (Many of them don’t, but I’ve led the conversation in the direction where now they can’t admit that without looking like a jerk and a cheapskate.)

        And if I had to work on commission, I’d charge the same labor rate that I would if I were contracting at my day job. I’m a software developer – that’s not a low rate. The logic here is that if I’m working on your commission, I’m not working on projects in my main line of work. (The overall intent is to not make projects to other people’s demands.)

      3. Just Me*

        I am happy that you are re-thinking this. As a marketing person and someone who knits, I have found it best to keep the worlds very separate. I agree with all of the points above (especially the danger of not being seen seriously in your role at work). One point that I did not see in the comments above, for anyone else considering this, is that IF (and I agree that is a huge IF) your office agreed to pay for your time (as they should), once people are paying for something they tend to have a lot more opinions about how something should look. “Well, I really think that sheep would look better with a lighter blue fabric”… multiply that by everyone in the office who is prone to give you opinions and yikes! There is nothing like a group of people trying to micromanage your hobby to suck the joy out of it. If you are looking to sell, in my town some of the guilds run boutiques that items can be sold at, for a fair price.

    2. KimberlyR*

      I agree with this. Non-crafters don’t understand how much time can go into crafting. You don’t to spend your evenings toiling (unpaid!) on something you didn’t necessarily choose. But if you charge, even minimum wage, your office will likely be shocked at the cost. And what if you start to resent your hobby that has now become a chore, as well as the office that has put you in this position?

      1. Rocky*

        I work in a typical office. At home I painted a rather nice cartoony portrait of a colleague, and brought it in to be signed before she went to get married. Everyone who signed the card was enchanted. The next day, I had a manager of another team come to my desk:
        Hi Rocky, Jennifer is leaving our team and I was wondering if you can do a goodbye card for her leaving drinks?
        Sure, when are you having her leaving drinks?
        Um, today…(awkward pause as she looks around my desk and notices the complete absence of paints, cardboard, brushes etc).

  16. Rez123*

    #5 I’ve had temporary contracts majority of my career. It’s not a big deal to ask about continuation. Managers are used to it. I’ve usually approach a manager and said “I have month/2 months/2 weeks left on my contract, should I start looking for something else and can I use you as a reference?” Always at this point they have told me to wither continue or tell me that the person I’m subbing is coming back. It has all been quite casual.

    A colleague of mine did not like her job and was planning on leaving once her contract finished. Boss had forgotten that her contract was ending and had nor offered continuation. He was very unaware of what was happening in the office anyway. He was so confused when she brought “last week on the job” muffins. Not that I would reccomend this, but the boss was terrible, so we all got to enjoy his panic.

    1. CM*

      I’m really surprised by all these stories about bosses who were unaware that one of their employees/contractors was about to leave because their contract was ending!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I know for me, when I have a deadline that’s a few months in the future, it can easily get stuck it in the I don’t have to think about this for a while mental file. And sometimes things don’t make it out of that file.

      2. LQ*

        I think most bosses just have a lot on their plate. Especially if they are over worked or reactionary at all. They deal with stuff as it comes in to them. That’s why you have to bring it to them.

        The other thing is that people sometimes forget they know things that others don’t. Like “we always extend contracts out three years unless the person is horrible and clearly this person isn’t horrible they are awesome.” Heck sometimes bosses just think their employees know their own performance (and that the boss knows it) and so they don’t say anything when they really should.

        (It’s why I really appreciate the “Make the implicit explicit” line!)

      3. Qosanchia*

        I have a contract position that has me come out in fits and spurts, and my account and access permissions were revoked once my defined contract period (in their internal system) was up. This is standard, but also standard are the form emails to the employee’s manager notifying them that “Contractor A’s contract is about to expire. Please log in and update their information if the contract is extended.” Said manager did not bother to update my information.

        That was a fun day, not being able to get into the building or log in to any systems.

  17. File Herder*

    #3 this goes to management and/or H&S *now*. I’ve been out of this work for years so am not up on current reporting procedures and law, but this warrants going straight to HSE or your equivalent if your employer does not yank this person back to base forthwith. He has wilfully put himself in serious danger twice now, in a situation where he has either let the rest of the team walk into danger if he was correct about the path, or put them in danger by rescuing him if he was wrong. The latter is negligence and the former is active malice. Either way he should not be there.

    1. File Herder*

      Addendum: yes, it is appropriate to tell management about his past history of attempting to undermine you by witholding information, because it demonstrates that this was willful insubordination and not absent-mindedness (which is serious in itself after the second time in this context).

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        Yup. I’ve worked in exploration, people like him should not be in the field. I’m in mining now and a contractor pulling this crap on our site would be removed, an employee would be reassigned and PIP’d.

  18. Kate, short for Bob*

    Throwing this in there for OP1 – you’ll never get paid for this side gig. Because as soon as you bring up the number of hours it will take to make even a small quilt, they’re going to realise that they’ll either be tripling (min) their gift basket budget, or falling foul of minimum wage law.

    Don’t do it. I make stuff, but I won’t do it for money because I won’t contribute to the financial undervaluing of artists, and even just on hours spent there’s no way regular people could afford me… Sometimes I swap for other people’s art, but only if I know them already.

    Basically if I make you something I love you at least a bit, and I don’t want to move away from that.

    1. BRR*

      I’m curious if the LW is non exempt. As you mentioned the number of hours it takes, I’d guess the LW would need to be paid if they’re non exempt and that would probabaly be the end of that. Also regarding hours, I’m guessing the head of hr doesn’t know how long it takes.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Most things are so cheap mass produced in the shops that most people just have no concept of how long it actually takes to make things. Hence the two week deadline and quilts-for-all suggestions. No malice, but reality check needed!

        1. BRR*

          Yup definitely. I don’t know how to do things like quilt or knit and it was very surprising to me to learn how long those things take. I imagine that’s a big part of asking the LW to do this becuae even one is a large time commitment.

          1. Rosemary7391*

            Quite. I’ll sketch out an example for those who don’t have a friend to tell them – I just ordered materials for a cross stitch picture – 9”x12” so quite large. £28 for the materials. I already have all the tools I need but they’d only cost another £20 (or £100 if you include my special light/magnifier for working after dark, since normal room light isn’t bright enough for lots of work). But the pattern estimates it’ll take 80 hours. At minimum wage here that’s around £600.

            1. blackcat*

              Right. I have made exactly one queen-sized quilt that I quilted by hand (I machine-sewed the seams, but I didn’t have a machine that could quilt something of that size).

              It took me 6 months. I gave it to my then boyfriend (now husband). He was like “Awesome, this is so much better than my comforter!”

              One of his (female) friends sat him down and was like “Do you not realize the magnitude of this gift?”

              1. OhGee*

                Yup. My partner *did* understand how much work went in to making his birthday quilt, but it helped that I said “it took three seasons of walking dead plus a dozen podcasts.”

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  I like to do the math and tell people how many stitches went into something I knitted. Tens of thousands, at least! It’s fun watching the eyeballs fall out.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This–you can assume no malice is intended and still give people a reality check. Comes up all the time with volunteer things, where people don’t realize the hours of volunteer labor required to cause some event to organically spring itself into shape. Or distant deadlines that shape local deadlines.

  19. Foreign Octopus*

    I apologise if this has already been mentioned but didn’t we have a discussion on OP1’s issue in one of the weekend threads recently?

    I remember someone posted that they enjoyed baking at home and occasionally brought treats in after the fact, and people she didn’t know were approaching her to make cupcakes and cakes for them. A lot of people had similar experiences to the commenter and shared in the replies.

    This might be a good thread for OP1 to read to know that they’re not alone, but also there might be other suggestions in the thread as well.

    I can’t for the life of me find it though. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  20. Choi*

    We do not support President Moon, because he is too gullible. France and Germany after the war were both democracies, but the North is a Stalinist dictatorship. So Président Moon initiative will never have the same level of trust as the European Coal and Steel Community. Also there is China which is friends with the North. The North will stop this charm offensive as soon as it wants too and then we will have another Kaesong “white elephant.” Problem is that young Koreans do not understand that the North is like a viper.

    1. Choi*

      So sorry, I copied the wrong text. I meant to say that my great auntie is a seamstress and got caught up in this very situation about 5 years ago. She made special garments as a treat for favored clients. One of them eventually asked her to make hanbok (traditional Korean dress) for free as part of tailoring her Wesrern wedding dress. This is an outrageous imposition!

      1. Batty Twerp*

        wow, that’s my favourite off-topic comment ever! :-)

        I agree, hobbies that end up becoming obligations stop being hobbies and end up as chores, taking away all the fun, relaxation and above all BENEFITS (the main benefit being, of course, that it’s something that ISN’T work!)

      2. OP1*

        One of my work friends is currently waiting on their partner’s immigration and I’m plotting a celebratory quilt for her, as well, so I can imagine this all getting very out of hand.

      3. Anonymosity*

        That’s okay; I learned something!

        Wait, she asked your great-auntie to make a WHOLE OTHER DRESS for FREE??? At the same time she was tailoring the dress she already had!?

        Good grief.

  21. Birch*

    OP #4, the one really important thing is to only hand out the cards at the END of the conversation, ONLY IF you have actually had a conversation with someone you’d want to keep in touch with and feel like it’s mutual. I went to a networking event once (sounds very similar to the one you mention!) that “required” business cards and it was a frantic orgy of young professionals throwing out cards like confetti regardless of whether the recipient had any interest in their work or not. If you’ve heard something like “Oh that’s so interesting, I’ll have to look it/you up” or “I’d love to hear more about this” or “I have a friend who’s interested in getting into the industry” etc. that’s a cue to give the business card. Otherwise just end with “It was nice meeting you and chatting” and move on. Giving a card after every conversation comes off as desperate and not understanding how to build professional relationships, and if you didn’t actually make a connection, the person with your card is not going to use it anyway. Just keep them loose or in a sleeve in your jacket pocket and take them out when you really mean to give one out. Good luck networking!

    1. Guacamole Bob*


      When I get back to the office after a conference or network event, I go through the stack of cards and sometimes follow up with people if there was a genuine reason to do so. I sometimes end up with cards for people I must have met within the last 48 hours but who I can’t quite remember, or where I would just never have a reason to contact them. But they were aggressively trying to network, so they gave me their card after a brief conversation in which we established that I’m a teapot analyst with a narrow focus on spouts, and the other person is trying to start up a consulting business helping coffee shops expand their pastry lineup. Like, you can understand why we ended up at the same conference, but that’s about it.

      Don’t be that person.

      1. Cat Herder*

        If you have a moment, jot down a little note on the card: repairs teapots, studied with Dr Chai, ask about chocolate teapots.

      2. OtterB*

        OP #4 you were asking about handing out cards, but I’d follow up on Guacamole Bob’s comment by suggesting that, for cards you receive, you jot down a few words on the back right away to jog your memory later (i.e. “send copy of x article” or “interested in y project”) because they will all run together far faster than you can imagine.

        1. JSPA*

          helps if you make a point of mentioning that you’ll to send along a link to some topic or information if you can find it, and make a note of that on the card. Saves you from the insincere “let’s get coffee” when you don’t want to get coffee, but you’re not sure what to write in the “nice meeting you” email.

          I (after a couple of awkward moments) make sure that whatever “memory aids” I jot on the card can’t be misconstrued as offensive if I drop it and someone else picks it up. So, not “cat lady” for the woman with a cat on her scarf or “angry heart attack” for the guy researching the health effects of negative emotions.

      3. Birch*

        I totally deleted a long example about getting a card from someone who tie-dyes llamas while I am a chocolate teapot designer. Same idea. It was an “alumni event” for a collaboration between 2 universities–I went to one, she went to the other. I got something like 10 or 15 more cards in the same vein. I sincerely gave out three: two to people I already knew but didn’t have recent contact info for, and one to a guy in charge of funding similar research to mine.

    2. Jenn*

      I am OP#4. Thank you! I have received cards in this way at airport bars (of all places) prior to my actually having cards to return to people. The consensus seems to be to treat it more sparingly, which is a huge relief! I love the commenters below who encourage taking notes on the cards too.

  22. KHB*

    OP2: I’d actually suggest a considerably lower threshold than Alison did. If you dislike a person (are annoyed by them, have a personality conflict, etc.) to the point where it would distract you or interfere with your ability to do your job well, there’s nothing unethical about saying so, even if they don’t make you feel unsafe.

    Presumably, your boss asked your opinion because he values your work, your continued employment, and your well-being at work. This is a good thing. You should take him at his word that he’s interested in an honest answer.

    In general, unless you live in a very small town, there are other jobs out there. You’re not blocking the person from all employment ever. You’re just pushing them toward getting a job somewhere else, where they won’t be working with you.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed with this. Your managers asked your opinion because they value you and your contributions. You’re not blackballing this person in an entire industry.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, I don’t think this is too far from what Alison said, but I agree that “it would be difficult for me to work with this person” is still a very valid comment. Especially since you’re most likely not actually vetoing that applicant, you’re just giving TPTB another piece of data.

      1. KHB*

        It’s the first paragraph (in particular, “We all have to work with people we don’t like at times, and it’s wrong to stand in someone’s way of employment just because you have a personality clash”) that I slightly disagree with. To me, this seems to minimize the salient facts that (1) OP is an existing, valued employee, and it’s not wrong for the employer to want to prioritize her interests over those of a job candidate, and (2) the managers specifically asked for her opinion, which makes me think they want an honest answer.

        1. Emily K*

          I think Alison is more getting at the difference between, “Fergus annoys me because he’s long-winded and he always drops by my office instead of emailing me, and also I hate his cologne,” and “Fergus is a jerk to me.” The latter is a valid reason not to want the person hired, the former is minor annoyances that would be a shame to shut someone out of a job they might otherwise do well over.

          1. KHB*

            On the specific example: I actually think long-windedness is a perfectly acceptable reason to decline to hire someone (at least, for a job that requires talking to people – making your points clearly and concisely is important). Usually something like that comes across clearly enough in the interview. But if somebody had that concern about a candidate and kept it to themselves on the grounds that it’d be unethical to raise such a “minor annoyance,” I know I’d be disappointed.

            On the larger point: Usually there are two or more candidates who could do well in a given job. If one of them is in the habit of annoying his coworkers (or even just a specific coworker who already works there) and one isn’t, that’s reason enough to hire the one who isn’t. (On the other hand, if Annoying Fergus is far and away the best candidate, TPTB may decide they want to hire him anyway.)

            Maybe it’s worth flipping the situation around a little bit and thinking of it not as shutting Annoying Fergus out of the job, but rather as giving the opportunity to someone else, who may turn out to have better soft skills.

            1. Emily K*

              That’s fair, I think it’s fine to get your honest opinion of a candidate and let the manager decide if the negative traits are dealbreakers for their position or not. I was thinking more of the situation described in the letter, where you would be telling the HM, “If you hire this person it’s very likely I will quit,” and making a fairly aggressive move to block them – not just giving a backdoor reference.

        2. Annonymouse*

          But what if people aren’t as genuine as OP and have an agenda or vendetta?

          It just happened to me. And it was a once in a lifetime opportunity in my industry.

          What would you feel justifies blocking in this instance?

    3. Bea*

      Also if you’re asked, you should be honest. If your boss knows you know them, you say “Steve? Yeah, he’s fine. No I don’t see why not.” Then he’s a disaster and you knew it, it doesn’t do you any favors. They’ll wonder why you didn’t tell them he’s prone to cussing at customers or sleeping in the broom closets, etc.

    4. Annonymouse*

      But that has to be balanced against how often you’d work together, how good they’d be at the job and for the company and the impact it will have on you day to day and your employment.

      I just had someone I worked with before shut me out of working at the tea shop they work at now. We used to work together at a different shop where I was team lead for caramel spouts and store manager for the main store and he did the spouts at our smaller branch.

      He was not happy that I, a woman 13 years his junior in a niche and male dominated industry was in a higher role. The reason I held the role was because he sucked at his job and I could work rings around him. Even if I was only adequate I would still have been lead.

      When we would work together (once a week) he would take on tasks assigned to other people, make us go over time, produce inferior product, be inappropriate around customers and not follow my directions but I was powerless to invoke any real consequences or do any real training. I’d talk to him, try to get him to correct his behaviour but to no avail. He didn’t get along with me and made no effort to.

      We both leave that company eventually. Anyway 2 weeks ago I was offered a fantastic job at Kettles Ltd for an unadvertised manager role. We set a start date and hours, talk salary and I even try on a staff shirt so they can figure out what size to order me. This was Friday. They tell me they’ll send the official letter of offer and contract on Monday.

      Then on Monday afternoon I get a call from them pulling the job offer after talking to my references. Saying I’m not a great fit.

      My references are close to me so I ask what happened. They don’t get it they were all glowing.

      But. The old spout designer works there. When asked about him I said I had no problems working together again. When asked what he would say about me I was honest and said he’d probably think I’m authoritarian and bossy because that was part of my job but it shouldn’t be an issue. How wrong I was.

      So he tanked my chances. The chances of a manager that business sorely needs with industry specific experience and skill combination that maybe 20 people in the country have with glowing references from industry leaders on the say so of a mediocre employee.

      I don’t blame Kettles Ltd because they were in a tough spot of who to believe. I think he pulled a her or me, choose. But it sucks to know I missed a great opportunity because someone didn’t want to get along with me or admit a woman to the boys club.

  23. Delta Delta*

    #1 – As someone who also makes quilts as a hobby, another thing occurred to me. If we’re talking about making a quilt for a baby, it’s fine to work at your own pace because generally you’ve got a lot of lead time in knowing when the gift would be given. You might have 4-5 months. Sure, a simple* baby quilt might take 10-12 hours, but spaced out in small chunks over 4-5 months it’s a manageable, fun project. If, all of a sudden, you’ve got HR telling you you must make 30 pillows in 2 weeks – on top of your regular job and regular life – that’s not the same.

    *I am not at all suggesting every baby quilt is simple. I am suggesting that OP may have chosen patterns that are simpler to cut out and assemble than others and which may come together more quickly than others. I know I personally have a cute go-to pattern for a baby quilt that I can make pretty quickly.

    1. OP1*

      I did indeed pick simple patterns (lots of squares) and it definitely takes a very smal weekly commitment. Something that gave me a little anxiety I didn’t mention in my original letter was that we recently had 3 babies arrive in close succession and, “maybe we could do quilts for them; it’s not too late!” but getting the fabric from the supplier like is at least 3 weeks’ shipping alone and then the making it itself would be a mad dash, and that doesn’t sound fun at all.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        It is hard once you’ve done something for a few coworkers that becomes known and remarked upon. Now suddenly if you can’t do the same thing for everyone, there’s hurt feelings and it becomes a Thing. That’s basically why I prefer offices to always do group gifts and rarely add something extra that’s personal. If I had a really close work friend who I saw outside of work, I’d keep gifts to that out-of-work context.

  24. Roscoe*

    #2 is really hard for me, because I think “personal reasons” is very vague. What is a valid reason for one person is petty for another. I’m in my 30s. I think if someone that I got into a fist fight with when I was 10 came in to get hired, it would be extremely petty of me to block them from getting a job. To some people though, that would be valid. To me it also really depends how much you’d actually be in contact with them. Even if it was an ex I had a bad breakup with, I can’t imagine trying to block someone from getting a job in a different department because we may run into each other on occasion. In this situation at the LW is asking about with the bullies, it would really depend, to me, on how long ago this happened. I’d find it hard to hold what someone did over 10 years ago when they were a child against them as an adult.

    Of course I think there are exceptions, for where personal reasons are ok. But in general, if I wasn’t directly working with them, I try to live and let live

    1. Cheesy*

      Having been bullied is much more serious than just having had a fist fight with another child. It leaves deep wounds that stay with you for a long, long time and possibly never go away. There’s research out there that shows that bullying has even worse consequences than sexual or physical abuse on a child. It’s not petty to not want to work with your tormentor. Yes, they were kids but so were you. And people change and mature with age but some character traits stay forever.

      I’d rather work with my emotionally abusive ex than with my childhood bully.

      1. Emily K*

        I agree with this – bullying is a pervasive, sustained, intentional targeting of someone for harassment over a long period of time. It’s something more than just “kids can be so mean” callous indifference or occasional moments of cruel self-preservation by throwing someone else under the bus.

        I do think it’s possible for bullies to change, but it’s such an intentional and knowingly cruel sustained behavior that I won’t just write it off as teenage/childhood foibles and assume there’s a good chance they’re a changed person – I would need to see proactively from the bully that they have changed because I think the odds are not in favor of that when you have that kind of behavior.

      1. Roscoe*

        I wasn’t necessarily trying to equate the 2, although I see how it came off that way. But I guess (and this will be controversial), I think the word bullying gets thrown around a lot these days. Some things I don’t think are necessarily valid. That said, if someone was doing stuff to you in 2nd grade and they are 40 now, it just seems so far removed that I’d find it hard to really think it is a valid thing. If this was like someone who tormented you senior year of high school and then this is 5 years later, its definitely more understanable.

        1. Cheesy*

          You apparently have no idea what trauma is. Would you say the same about childhood sexual abuse? Are you allowed to not want anything to do with the person who molested you in second grade when you’re 40?

          Bullying is a terrible thing and most people have no idea how much it hurts. Also, they probably participated in bullying themselves even if they didn’t initiate it.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      Indeed. Honesty is the best policy, give your experience of the person in ways that are relevant to the job. You’re not being asked should we hire/not hire (even if that’s the language they used, that’s THEIR job to decide) you are seeking to provide relevant information just like any other reference. Part of that honesty is including the time since any incident and whether the incident was a pattern or not (to your knowledge), and any biases you might have about the situation.

    3. Independent George*

      I worked with someone for years I also knew from high school. He was a bully in high school and continued to be a bully in the workplace. I worked with him for over 10 years – the behavior did not improve. If I had been asked my opinion of this person before I ever worked with him, several years after HS, I would just say my only experience was in HS and I really have no opinion of him as a professional. I would hate people to judge current me based on 16 year old me, but in this case, it might have been valid.

      1. Cheesy*

        People mature with age and become more responsible. For instance, if someone was always late in high school or was always wasting their time and not studying, they might totally change in a few years. If they were prone to making bad decisions and act impulsively this will also improve. If they were too emotional, they will have better control with time. But character traits are very stable and for instance cruel teenagers will likely grow up to be cruel adults

    4. tangerineRose*

      I got picked on by a few other kids when we were in junior high. Sometimes it was scary, although I didn’t ever get badly hurt (there were a couple of things where I could have been). That was a long time ago, and I usually don’t think about the bullies except when people talk about bullying, but I wouldn’t want to work with the bullies unless they had really done a major turnaround.

  25. T*

    LW#2 there are past coworkers I would have no qualms saying no to working with if they tried coming to my current company. I do not like these people personally, but it is directly due to their lack of work ethic and incredible negativity. A few people in particular wreaked havoc within our department and were impossible to work with, both personality-wise and due to games they were playing (I’m so incredibly busy, but I have time to stand around and rant and yell for 5 hours at a time, etc). If someone was loathesome to work with it’s ok to say so in a tactful way.

    1. Roscoe*

      Sure, but that is a work related reason. I think that is perfectly fine. You may personally dislike them, but its because of their professional behavior.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I’ve never been in this position, so I’m very curious–if you’re going to be working closely with someone, training them, etc, is “I don’t feel we’d be compatible” not a legitimate explanation?

        I’ve heard that sort of comment come up after regular interviews and everyone seemed to find is acceptable cause to dismiss someone from the running.

        1. Roscoe*

          I think it can be valid depending on how closely you work with someone. I’ve had jobs where team cohesion was a HUGE part of it, and if we all felt we wouldn’t be compatible with them (there were always a couple of us in the interview) then it was valid. There have been other jobs, like the one I have now, where I’m so independent that it doesn’t really matter how much I would get along with the person.

          I wouldn’t say it is just about training someone, but about how much you work wiht them on an ongoing basis.

        2. T*

          I was in a position where my boss wanted to hire a woman that had left and jumped around to a lot of other jobs, but wanted to come back on our two person department within a large company. I reeaaalllly did not like her, but I was very young and didn’t speak up that I didn’t feel she would be a good fit. My previous experience was she had a major attitude problem and didn’t seem easy to work with. I paid for my mistake in spades, as she was hired and it was beyond awful. She was newly engaged and proceeded to do no work and planned her wedding all day at her desk. She was rude to vendors, customers and coworkers and balked and being asked to do her job. This was such a nightmare that I now have issue speaking up.

    2. Ladyphoenix*

      In middle school, there was this boyy that would constantly tried to pick fights with me and use his size and weight to intimadate me (he was a bulky guy, I was a girl) and tried sneaking into the girl’s bathroom.

      I would never hire him unless he came up to me and apologized to me first hand WITHOUT desiring or mentioning a job application. Even after all these years, I would refuse out of bad memories and uncertainties (especially if someone claims “boys will be boys”, all fine and dandy when YOU’RE not one of his potential victims).

      Meanwhile, I have given honest thoughts on college students who apply. I did not butt heads with anyone in college and I saw their work during critiques. So That is what I tell my boss.

  26. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

    #2 – I once worked in a retail position as a manager. I had an issue with an employee the night my grandfather died. The store needed to be cleaned and I got a call that my grandfather was getting his last rites and I should get to the hospital ASAP. The person I was working with refused to work beyond his shift end time, even when I begged him. His staying would mean that I could have finished the job in half the time and could have left 30 minutes earlier. I got to hospital 15 minutes too late and never got to say my final good bye. I hated that guy from that day on – though it was strictly personal. Fast forward to 18 months later when I was working at a big insurance company and came back from lunch to find that same guy in the lobby for an interview. I made a passing remark to my co-worker in the elevator that I hated him and why. I didn’t realize that co-worker was on the interview panel. The person who left me high and dry the night my grandfather died didn’t get hired at my company. I didn’t do it on purpose, but if I’d been asked about it, I would have done it that way.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I can’t use the words I want to for this jerk or Alison would ban me. I am so sorry you had to experience that.

      I am constantly amazed at how callous and selfish some people can be.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The only part of this story I have a problem with is the fact that he likely didn’t realize that his own abhorrent behavior cost him this opportunity.

      1. irene adler*

        Given the callousness he displayed, I’m thinking there are more stories about his lack of cooperation with co-workers or his insensitivity to others. So he wouldn’t exactly catch on that he’s made his own bed.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, that must have made a painful and difficult time so much worse.

    4. Anonymosity*

      I am so angry on your behalf. But I have to admit, my reaction to this also includes a resounding:


      Serves him right.

  27. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, the short answer is yes, it is OK to give a recommendation that someone not be hired. The key is to stick to the facts when talking with your management about why you would not hire someone. For example, “When working with Bob he seemed to really struggle with being on time and got frustrated easily with customers.” Or “Fergus? Yes we worked together in the past. I would not recommend hiring him. While he and I worked together there were a number of ethics issues such as (insert example).”

    If you have a personal history with them Alison script is perfect.

    1. Alton*

      Agreed. I think the important thing is to honest and transparent. I don’t think it would be okay to be purposely vague because you don’t want someone to be hired but can’t justify it. But it’s generally okay to be honest about misgivings that you have, and to let your manager take that into consideration.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yep. When I got a call from a former colleague who was interviewing my former Boss from Hell, I could have easily said “she’s a psychotic hosebeast and you should run like a citizen of Tokyo fleeing Godzilla.” But that’s the same type of thing one could say about their ex’s new girlfriend, and some people will give it exactly that much credence. So instead I gave very specific examples of her management style that made it clear she wasn’t what this former colleague was looking for. The truth is, she knew Boss from Hell was a psychotic hosebeast, but she needed facts to share with her committee. And this is what your manager might want as well. Not “ugh, Jane, she’s such a jerk,” but “Jane yelled at me in front of customers and bragged about calling in sick when she just wanted to sleep late.”

    3. AMPG*

      Yes to all of this. I’ve blackballed someone from being rehired at a former job – management loved her work, but she was a “kiss up, kick down” type who had made all of the entry-level staff she worked with cry at some point. Once I pointed out that rehiring her would damage the collaborative team culture we had worked so hard to build, she was no longer in the running.

    4. Anonymosity*

      This might be mean, but I derived immense satisfaction from imagining a scenario where I could speak about the Coworker from Hell after I left that particular job. It would have gone something like, “I worked with Ursula at Scallop, Inc. She was very good with customers, but I personally experienced very rude and condescending behavior from her on a regular basis. She yelled at her coworkers, and on two occasions, was so abusive to a couple of her fellow saleswitches that they quit. One of these I witnessed; the other happened before I became an employee. I really do not want to work with her in bivalve production ever again.”

    5. OP 2*

      Thanks everyone for your feedback! A lot of you guys brought up some points that I never considered before.

      To clear things up, I was mainly concerned with people I have a personal history with. I work at a fast food place, not getting a job there would not be the end of the world. But I do hope to get a better job once I graduate, and I want to know the right thing to do if this situation were to ever arise. I’m sure I’m not the first to deal with this sort of problem.

  28. Rey*

    OP #1-I would add that if you decide not to work with HR to make quilts for every new baby, any quilts that you personally make and gift to a close work friend should not be gifted at the office. Give it to them at lunch or deliver it to their home, so that it stays out of the work realm. If after that it’s still coming up at work or being mentioned in work conversations in a way that you want to avoid, you could specifically tell the recipient (since they are your close friend) that you would like to avoid discussing it at the office to avoid awkwardness for those who don’t receive a quilt.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think this might be taking things too far. It’s not like the OP is making quilts for half the people in the office and ignoring the other half.

      1. Rey*

        I was just thinking that if it was an individual gift from OP, not an group gift from the whole office, that a personal setting (at lunch or home) would help distinguish that so that there’s no expectation that this is what the whole office receives when they have a baby. OP said that “they were well received admired throughout the office”, so I wasn’t sure if that meant that the previous quilts were presented at an office baby shower or something like that.

        1. OP1*

          I talk about my hobbies to my colleagues, so as I’m making them I show progress pictures, and they’re much admired. The one I’ve given so far I gave at a dinner outside of the office, and of the two that are pending, one will likely be given likewise, while the other is for someone my husband works with more often (he also works at my company) so that one will likely appear in-person at the office, even if we do a lunch off-site.

      2. CarefreeRunner*

        Giving a gift outside the office seems like barely an inconvenience, for the benefit of not hurting feelings and avoid workplace drama.

  29. Cat Herder*

    Re OP1: I don’t do this kind of work, but I do a lot of hiking. There’s an onus on the rest of the group / group leader too — you’re supposed to keep an eye on your group, check to make sure everyone is there, watch for laggards, and so on, to prevent people going off the wrong way or falling behind. Especially in a desert (really anywhere outdoors) — they should have a set protocol to do head counts, walk back down the trail, and so on. And also to ensure that everyone has more than sufficient water, equipment. If he got so far off track that they had to do a substantial search, they weren’t keeping a good enough eye on the group.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      These are adults and professionals, not hobbyists. I’m sure they would notice if someone collapsed from exhaustion, but if someone deliberately breaks protocol and starts walking in another direction without alerting anyone or using an ounce of common sense, I strongly feel that nobody is to be blame but him.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Would they notice if someone quietly sat down for a break and didn’t catch up? You’re right that the person described is bad news, but it’s possibly worth double checking that their procedures work properly. People who are falling ill don’t always make good decisions.

  30. Izzy*

    OP#1: knitter here, adding to the “don’t do it!” chorus. I don’t think your company realises what they’re asking – nobody who genuinely appreciates the skill and time it takes to produce something like that would be asking you to do it regularly for no compensation beyond the materials. They’re probably assuming the quilt is in the realm of “cute present that’s more personalised than a gift certificate” rather than “handcrafted bespoke item made to order involving hours of skilled work”. If they do want to

    1. Izzy*

      (Oops, hit submit too soon!)

      If they do want to keep giving people quilts (which really are a lovely gift for this kind of occasion) I would point them towards Etsy – then they can get one from someone who is choosing to make them to sell, rather than just adding it to your work duties, and it might give them a more realistic view of the value of the items.

      1. OP1*

        I think your estimation is correct; both the office manager and HR person are aware of the work quilts take as they both are crafty types, but to another commenter’s point, I suspect I’ve been downplaying how much time it takes me, and how much it means to me to make a quilt for a person. I can’t imagine charging what quilts actually go for on Etsy to my place of work, so perhaps that’s a sign I shouldn’t be doing it as work at all!

        1. Izzy*

          I do the same thing! It’s really common among crafters, I think, especially since so many people don’t know that much about it.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Please stop undercutting yourself and your work. Why do you downplay how much time it all takes? Instead, be proud of how much time you put into something and brag about it. “This one is pretty plain. It only took 2 months total, about an hour each evening after work, so that adds up to about 45 hours.”

  31. LSP*

    As a fellow quilt-maker, I would LOVE an opportunity to be the official “gift-maker” for my office, but they would need to pay for time as well as materials, and if they wanted 30 pillows in two weeks, they would need to pay a rush fee for that as well, since it would mean basically no free time aside from work and work-related projects. And if they didn’t want to pay for that, then a day of free PTO to finish it up wouldn’t go amiss either.

    Of course, I doubt any of these requests would go over so well. People tend to have a view that those who do art and crafts should be so grateful to have exposure that they should ply their crafts for free all the time. The company probably thinks they are being generous by paying for materials.

    1. Temperance*

      Speaking as a non-crafter, I would like to add that those of us who don’t knit or sew are honestly ignorant about the amount of work involved and how long it takes to make something. My only craft exposure was as a child, and stuff that kids make is generally simple by design and doesn’t take 15+ hours. I was shocked when a friend of mine mentioned how long it took her to knit what I thought was a simple hat.

    2. OP1*

      Our HR person is a fellow quilter and knows how much work goes into it, so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’s just very enthusiastic about the project and potential for custom gifts. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable asking for PTO to do this, though, since I feel like it’d make it seem like I’m prioritizing the sewing over my actual work (and my work is already *very* flexible already about taking mental health days/sick days/WFH days).

  32. pleaset*

    ‘“If you can do it, it’d be great!” deadline’

    This is not a deadline, it’s a request. Say “Sorry, I can’t.”

    That’s it.

  33. Oilpress*

    OP#1 – Stop working for free. You are taking orders from people who are not paying you for your time and effort. That’s a bad deal.

  34. David*

    OP #4 Just start with any time when it feels like you would naturally exchange contact information such as phone number and email address. You’d actually be surprised how having a card makes this exchange much smoother (as opposed to getting out your phone, waiting for your contacts to load, keying everything in…).

  35. Macedon*

    4. I default to handing my card just after I say hello. In certain cultures, the expectation is that cards are exchanged at the start of the dialogue, and withholding your card until later in the game can come off stand-offish and bizarre.

    To be perfectly honest, the more casual you are about it, the smoother it goes. Cards aren’t a commitment.

    If it makes you feel better: I’m a journalist, many folks “just ran out of cards” as soon as they see my badge. If you think swapping cards is awkward, picture me having to seamlessly take down their details on excess supplies of my own cards instead : ))

  36. Robin*

    OP #1
    Add one more to the “don’t do it” camp. I quilt, crochet and bake, and made the mistake of bringing a “cute” cake to a potluck when I started my current job 3 years ago. This company is still small enough that they do monthly birthday celebrations. I was then asked (more than once) if I’d like to do the cakes – they would pay me. When I asked if I could “work from home” to bake these cakes, they backed off. Also, co-workers wanted to pay me to make cakes for grandkids birthdays, etc. Nope, as other have said, it takes the fun out of it. As for the crochet – I’ll gladly make booties, blankets, whatever for co-workers having babies, (or in one case it was their first grandchild, and it was one pair of booties), but it’s because I want to. There is something about being paid that makes it like work, and hobbies should be fun.

  37. RUKiddingMe*

    OP#1: This whole thing just screams “noooooo!!!” Keep making the quilts as gifts if you like but really I wouldn’t do the pillows or do quilts in any kind of official capacity.

  38. Jenn*

    Hi all, I’m OP#4! Many of you are suggesting keeping the cards in my jacket pocket when I am at events like this, which is great for men and people in formal fields. I am in a field that tends to dress more towards business casual (slacks and a nice shirt, but no jacket, for example) and I am also a woman. One of my biggest struggles is that so many women’s slacks do not have pockets or have very small pockets where the cards would get bent, and many dresses also do not have pockets. Is this just a matter of outfit planning? What do you do?

    Thanks for entertaining my irrational stress about the business cards!

    1. Dankar*

      I keep mine in the pocket of my blazer at some functions (even those that look like they have “fake” pockets have one underneath the stitching that keeps them closed) or in a pocket of my work bag. You can get relatively light over-the-shoulder bags with pockets that you can easily pull a cardholder out of.

      I’m also in my first post-grad school job, and I do a number of conferences each year. I felt awkward at first, too. A quick, “Hey, can we swap cards? I’d love to keep in touch about [whatever thing we’ve been discussing]” is totally professional, and even expected!

    2. Nea*

      To be honest, I buy dresses from eshakti specifically because they are tailored and come with pockets. But a new wardrobe is a huge expense, while a purse with two outside pockets – one for outgoing cards, one for incoming cards – is easier and cheaper to obtain.

    3. Positive Reframer*

      You could still get away with a blazer, especially one with more color/personality. Think the female equivalent to a sport coat rather than a suit coat. I get cold easily so I wear a blazer as much for survival as for professionalism.

      I was just irritated by my tiny slack pockets this morning, I can’t fit my entire (smaller than average) hand let alone my phablet with case. So annoying.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      I usually have a bag on me, and I make sure my business card holder is in an easily accessible pocket.

    5. Birch*

      Glad you’re finding the advice so helpful! I’m also a woman in a more casual field. I got an amazingly fitted black blazer that I can roll up the sleeves for coolness/casual look purposes, and it has a tiny pocket just perfect for business cards! There’s been some nice blazers made of cotton and linen around this summer that move more and look less formal, and they should be on sale just about now! You could also wear a nice cardigan with pockets over the shirt. Or, if you really have nowhere to put it, I find a simple, small clutch works great! You can get ones that look like big wallets, made of leather or a neutral colored fabric, that don’t look so much like purses. There’s some that come with a thin strap (sometimes adjustable) that you can wear as either a small crossbody bag or like a regular purse over one shoulder very unobtrusively. Especially in networking settings you want to be able to have your hands free if needed–for shaking hands, holding paper, maybe holding refreshments, etc.

      Sort of off topic, but does anyone know whether it’s against etiquette to keep business cards in pants pockets? I’m thinking and I’ve only seen men carry things they would expect to hand another person in jacket or shirt pockets, not pants, and I think I’d be a little offput by being handed a business card that came out of someone’s pants pocket owing to the possibility of it being more warm/crumpled/damp from sweat, etc.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        That’s an interesting thought. I think in those cases a business card holder would be the solution. Then the card is “insulated” against whatever.

    6. One of the Sarahs*

      I picked up a cheap, bright coloured card holder from one of those businesses that let you make cards with your own photos etc. That way they don’t get creased, or sweaty etc. Mine were from moo.com, and I had one with two sections, one for my cards, and one from people I was talking to.

      Personally, in the days when I was doing a fair bit of large meetings/conferences, I’d have a small bag, like a really mini backpack, or a small bag that went cross-body so I could carry wallet, phone, cards, notebook and pen to get details of people who didn’t have cards etc. I had something as small as possible, that I could pop into my laptop bag/suitcase for traveling with (especially for the times I was flying with “hand luggage only”…)

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Oh, and the advantage of one of those multi-section card holders is it makes it really natural to offer someone your own card. You can say something like how much you enjoyed talking to them, do they have a card you can take, and as you put theirs into your card case, it’s easier to offer one of you own/it’s a visual prompt for them to ask you for yours.

    7. JSPA*

      Yep, outfit planning–shirts with functional pockets can be found, as can pants with real pockets. Or a tiny handbag or passport-holder pouch (the long strap sort is more versatile than a clutch); or tucked in with / behind a conference badge (of the around-the-neck or clip-on pouch variety).

      For someplace super casual or edgy, you could re-purpose or dual-purpose an arm-badge holder/strap.

      More generally: where would you carry your bus pass or car keys? If the answer doesn’t involve socks or bras or other undergarments, it’s probably also fine for your cards.

  39. dramalama*

    I’ve worked with the jerk in #3, more times than I care to remember. (I also work in an industry where there’s both fieldwork, and a similar approach to the safety issues here, so it’s a bit of a wake-up call to see peoples’ reactions.)

    Since the major safety problem this guy poses has already been dealt with by desking him, I would say this: watch your back. The last #3 I worked with was a pathological liar who regularly badmouthed people behind their backs to try and distract others from his gross incompetence. He finally got fired for harassment after throwing a rock at his team lead’s head during fieldwork, then blamed her for getting him canned when he was “just kidding around”. He had most of the office so snowed that the admin staff wouldn’t talk to her afterwards because they blamed her too.

    Alison’s advice is of course good; I would add the obvious of document, document, document.

  40. Riley*

    OP#1, I wonder if it would be better to stop giving your coworkers quilts or homemade sewing projects at all. It sounds like you’ve given quite a few quilts as gifts already and they’ve received a lot of attention from your coworkers. This could create an awkward dynamic if people don’t understand why you’re giving these nice gifts to some people and not others. It’s like the old kindergarten rule, “if you bring in treats for the class, bring in enough to share with everyone or don’t bring them in at all.” I wonder if this is the perspective your company was coming from when they asked you to become the official quilt-maker. If you’re close enough to some of your coworkers that you want to spend the time and energy making them a quilt, then give them the gift outside of work. I could be totally off base with this, but something to think about.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Adults should know that something that is a gift isn’t earned or deserved but are given at the pleasure of the giver and after a gift is given is belongs solely to the recipient for whatever use they wish to make of it.

  41. Valkyrie*

    OP 1: DON’T DO IT!

    I’m also a quilter and have sort of ended up in a similar spot. Luckily, I work at a very small office, but I made a quilt for my favorite coworker as a baby shower gift (it’s my go-to gift), and then another coworker got pregnant…WITH TWINS. I had to make two, that also coordinated. Then my boss asked me to make a quilt with her kids’ old clothes, then my coworker asked the same (I respectfully declined both). It became a lot, and now I’m regretting setting this precedent (especially in an all-female office).

    Generally speaking, people have no concept of how time-consuming this hobby is. They don’t mean to be rude, or unreasonable, but are just totally clueless with respect to the time, expense and brain-power that goes into it.

    Good luck!

  42. Ladyphoenix*

    OP3: Definitely take your concerns to the boss. He sounds like he is trying to undermine you and it is taking to dangerous lengths—like getting lost in the dessert. What’s to say he leads OTHER people away and they aren’t so lucky?

  43. Arjay*

    #2, my personal litmus test would be to reverse the situation in my head. If you were offered a “dream job” at a company where this person worked, would you turn it down because of your discomfort with them? If so, then I think you can speak up about your concerns. But if you would accept it and figure that you’d try to limit interaction or otherwise figure out how to deal with them, then I don’t think you should stand in their way coming on board.

  44. Lucille2*

    #2 – I would definitely speak up, but keep it very matter of fact and professional. When asked about job candidates I’ve previously worked with, I try to list pros/cons and be open the possibility of the hiring manager making a decision that isn’t aligned with my opinion of the candidate, whether I like them or not. For example, I was asked about a candidate I had worked with several years ago and my opinion of him was not so great. I simply told the hiring manager in what capacity I had worked with this person (to give context) and that I found him difficult to work with for X reasons. I also mentioned it had been a few years since my experience with him, things can change, and I was supportive of whatever decision the hiring manager came to. Keep personal drama out of the conversation. It sounds like this person didn’t last long after being hired, so maybe your honest feedback could have helped your manager dodge a bullet?

    1. Observer*

      That’s a good line to take when it’s just someone you don’t mesh well with. But, if it’s someone who you feel unsafe with, it’s fair to speak up. That is NOT “bringing personal drama” into the workplace.

  45. Karen Hammond*

    As a fellow quilter, the only rational response to being designated the “official quilter of the company” is a breakdown of the last quilting job you did. Supplies and time and costs. Especially costs. Because people who don’t sew have NO IDEA how much money we spend even before you start talking about the 20 to 40 hours you spent working on them.

    A few years ago I made a huge quilt top (for me). It was the project of a quilting class I was taking and I went all out with the fabric and material. The quilt top was 100″ square and I used all quilt shop quality fabrics without regard to price because, as I said, this was an all-out thing for me. Another lady at work is a fellow quilter and wanted to see the top so I brought it in to work and showed it to her. Several other coworkers were there.

    One of them asked, “If I give you $50 and some sheets, can you make me one?” I told her that with the fabrics, pattern, cost of the class and time, I was already into the quilt for over $1,000. I didn’t say I couldn’t make the quilt. But she never asked me to make her one again.

  46. Regina*

    OP #3 I am curious if you are a different gender than your co-worker or much younger than him. Because this reeks of bias IMO.

  47. Chatterby*

    Kind of want to laugh at #5. That’s not how permatemp positions work. They’re just going to extend your current contract another 3-6 months. Then do it again, and then again. Try to get hired permanently, and you’ll receive evasive “it’s just not the right time/ we’re in a hiring freeze/ we’re not sure what the workload will look like in a year” excuses. You’ll stay on, thinking you’ll be let in eventually if you just put the work in long enough, and they’ll just keep rolling your contract date along until you get fed up and find a permatemp position somewhere else and start the process all over again.

  48. Aaron*

    #2 There are people I know that are nice people but I would definitely have problems working with. and I would speak up if I heard that a place I was working at was considering hiring them.

    Case in point, I know a nice person who is a good worker but just doesn’t belong in the working world. They simply don’t understand about personal property. We had to ban them from our property because they were drinking up our coffee and the coffee supplies were disappearing, even though they didn’t work there. We had to call the police twice to remove them before they got the message. We still get calls from people about them because they’ve used us as a reference.

  49. J*

    #2: if it’s personal of course you can’t keep someone from being hired. But if they are bullies or they’ve shown toxic behavior you are free to provide that info to hiring mgrs. I worked down the hall from a toxic jerk who literally bragged about bullying people. It was dark. He asked me to get him a job at our company but of course I was not willing to do so though I told him sure thing! If they had asked me I would have simply told them my views and what I had seen. At least then if they decided to take him I had exercised due diligence. I one deserves a hostile work environment. Luckily his resume was terrible so he never was considered.

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