my coworker gave someone a tattoo at work, I don’t want to be my boss’s chauffeur, and more

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

1. My coworker gave someone a tattoo at work

I have a question about the ethics of telling on someone who exhibited unethical behavior at work. During an internship I was at this summer, one of the interns gave another one of the interns a stick-and-poke tattoo during work hours, in the organization’s building. I should clarify that we were interning at a very well-known art nonprofit, not a tattoo shop or anywhere this would be an acceptable use of our time! Additionally, the intern was slightly younger than many of us and had some issues with professional norms, but I feel like this was pretty much a no-brainer even for a young college student. I did not personally witness this, but at least four other interns did witness it (since it took place in one of the building’s conference rooms) and were told to “keep the door shut” and not tell anyone.

None of the other interns said anything to a higher-up because they were shocked by the situation and they didn’t want to be labeled a tattletale, and I didn’t feel like I should be the one to bring it up because I hadn’t seen it. Although the internship ended about three weeks ago, I just thought about emailing you to ask whether I should fill in our former supervisor about what happened. I personally don’t want our former supervisor to unwittingly endorse someone who has exhibited such unprofessional behavior, and I don’t want someone who would knowingly endanger their coworker (no sanitation!) and the art in the building (permanent ink!) to continue working in my field.

Do you think telling my former supervisor would constitute tattling or be a reasonable professional courtesy?

This is weird and unprofessional to do at work, and if I were those interns’ manager, we’d be having a serious conversation about how they think they’re supposed to be spending their time at work, why this seemed like a good use of said time, and why “keep the door shut and don’t tell anyone” is usually a flag that your work judgment has gone seriously awry. And unless they’d been exemplary up until this point, I’d be considering ending their internships early, because engaging in top secret “don’t tell anyone” conference room tattooing makes me think they have real disrespect for the jobs they were hired to do, and that’s something I’d assume would come out in other ways too.

That said … I’m not convinced it’s something you need to report, especially now that your internship has ended. If you’d walked in in the middle of it, you could have gone to your manager in the moment and said, “Hey, I think you should know what’s happening in the conference room right now.” But now that the internship is over, I don’t think this rises to the level of “must report.” It’s more just a horror story about fellow interns that you can tell as a cautionary “what not to do” tale when you have your own interns.

2. I don’t want to be my boss’s chauffeur

One of my managers and I recently moved (separately) so the same neighborhood. This neighborhood is definitely further from work and makes taking public transit to the office pretty difficult. For this reason, I have a car which I now drive to the office with. In the first week after the move, this manager mentioned (not really an ask…) that I could drive her to and from work everyday. From an already demanding and boundaries-crossing manager, this “request” (or suggestion) has really put me over the edge. I’ve already been considering leaving and this just feels like the last straw. While I look for other jobs, is there a professional way for me to get out of being my bosses chauffeur? I know I could just say “no” but it feels awkward and I would like to leave on the best terms possible.

The way to do this without giving a flat no (which I agree will not be great for the relationship, even though in theory you should be entitled to say it) is to have reasons why this won’t work. For instance, you are now going to the gym in the morning on your way to work, and you’re got a bunch of commitments in the evening that you need to go to straight from work. Explain that, and say, “Sorry I won’t be able to do it!”

If you’ve already started doing it, I’d give her a week’s notice so that she has time to make other arrangements. You can frame it as, “My schedule has gotten really hectic and starting in a week I’m going to have things both before and after work so won’t be able to keep driving you.”

3. Getting info from an unresponsive HR department at my new job

A couple weeks ago, I accepted an offer for a position in a new state that I’m really excited about. The hiring manager and team who I met with during my interview were all great and have been anxious to get me on board. I bumped up my start date to a week earlier than I had planned because they wanted me to start as soon as I could, which I have been able to accommodate just fine for the most part.

My issue has been communicating with their HR department. They have been very slow in sending over documentation, not very helpful with basic questions, and just all around not easy to deal with. The big issue now is that I’m supposed to start on Monday and still have no information on what time to report, if there’s orientation, what I need to bring with me, etc. I’m moving in two days, and all these unknowns are making me pretty anxious. I’ve tried sending and email, and have left a voicemail all of which have gone unanswered.

Do I reach out to the hiring manager directly at this point? How do I tread carefully so I’m not already throwing my new team members under the bus?

Oh my goodness, reach out to the hiring manager today! Say something like, “I was hoping you could answer some quick questions for me about Monday. I’ve tried contacting HR, but I’m sure they must be swamped and haven’t had a chance to get back to me yet. What I’m wondering about is…”

That’s not throwing them under the bus. That’s politely saying, “There’s stuff I need to know, and I haven’t been able to get it the first way I tried — can you help?” (And it’s possible your new manager knows HR is slow and/or disorganized and won’t be at all surprised. But either way, she’ll understand why you contacted her directly and will probably be grateful that you did!)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I keep bombing phone conversations

I’ve decided to freelance full-time in the field I was working in before I got laid off a year ago. I have a couple clients already, thanks to my network, and it’s been going well. However, I’m stuck on one issue: I really, really suck at talking about myself on the phone with potential clients.

Even though I’m confident in my work (feedback has been great) and overall a fairly confident person, I stumble over my words like crazy when I talk about my professional experience. I keep shooting myself in the foot by focusing on the things I’m not as familiar with, instead of the (many!) things I do well. I sound like I’m just getting started in the field, when really I’ve been at it for over six years now. I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on freelance opportunities just like I missed out on salaried positions last year due to my poor performance on the phone.

It’s at the point where it’s driving me crazy and I break down after these phone calls, convinced I’ll never be able to land a client all by myself. I do everything you suggest to prepare (quiet room, notes in front of me, a professional yet conversational manner) yet I keep botching these things. Any advice? I just can’t seem to get in the right headspace.

You have the huge advantage that these conversations are happening over the phone, not in-person, so you can use scripts. I know you said you have notes, but I’m suggesting actual scripts — word-for-word scripts of what you’ll say throughout the whole conversation. You’ll just need to practice them enough that you don’t sound like you’re reading. (And after you’ve used them enough, you likely won’t need them anymore because you’ll have more experience having these conversations go the way you want them to.)

So: Write down the most common questions you’re asked. Write down the ones that have tripped you up in the past. And then write down the answers you want to use, with a particular focus on the questions that have tripped you up. Basically, script out your dream conversation — the way you wish you’d handled calls in the past. And then practice your scripts out loud over and over, enough that it sounds natural. You can have those scripts in front of you when you talk to prospective clients. You won’t be able to foresee every possible thing you’ll ever be asked, but I bet you can cover 90% of it this way.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

  1. Junior Dev*

    Is it “wildly unprofessional behavior at work” day at AAM? What’s next, making moonshine in the office toilet tank?

    I agree with Alison that there’s not really any point in reporting them now, but…wow.

      1. Greg NY*

        What is it with these people? In the space of 24 hours, we’ve seen a manager open an employee’s door to let their dog in, Nerf shootouts, and now someone treating one of their reports like a free driver.

        1. Snark*

          Commentariat: “Man, remember the one where the boss bullied out a direct report? Never gonna top that.”


      2. Meredith*

        Honestly when I read the headline I thought it was an actual, permanent ink-and-needle-tattoo, so I have to say I’m relieved it was just peel and stick. Still bad, but not Tetanus bad.

        1. Meredith*

          aaaand I just realized I misread my own re-reading. stick and POKE. Not peel.

          Nevermind, this is terrible.

          1. Amber T*

            I thought it was a stick and peel tattoo at first, and I thought eh, that’s a bit immature for a professional internship, but not the end all be all. But wow… actual stick and poke is bad for a whole host of reasons.

            I sincerely doubt/hope you won’t run into the *same* situation (this is really one of those WTF? moments that are pretty rare), but the next time you see someone participating in such a sheer lack of judgement, it’s definitely best to talk to your management then. I agree though, I think it’s water under the bridge now. One day this will be a ridiculous story you tell as an ice breaker.

            1. Frio*

              Or, you know, the crappy kind that American teenagers have been giving each other for decades because they’re bored *shug*.

            2. Maeve*

              I mean, I’m a professional in my 30s and a lot of my peers have stick and poke tattoos…often given by unlicensed friends, sometimes fairly recently. I’m not saying it’s a good idea at work but this seems like a dramatic way of putting it.

            3. Petunia*

              This is actually a huge thing right now among college kids, who give them to each other for 5-10 bucks apiece. They take forever because each line consists of a whole bunch of little dots (needle sticks).
              The only positive is that they are nowhere near as permanent as professional tats, and they fade relatively quickly. But they look really crappy.

          1. AKchic*

            My 1st ex-husband got one while in prison and he was so proud of it.

            It was (as of the last time I saw him) the only tattoo he had. Because it was free. He hadn’t gotten more because that one was painful (but he didn’t want to show weakness in prison… so many eyerolls).

            Stick and poke, if done by a professional, can be a cultural tradition. Done by some random intern in a conference room like kids hiding a frog in a classroom is all kinds of dangerous for the pokee. The risk of infections, scarring, damage… nobody that knows about tattoos would risk all of that. And to risk their internships for a (possibly?) free amateur tattoo? Bad judgement abounds.

            LW, your window of opportunity to say something closed a long time ago. Keep the story, sure; but telling the supervisor now makes you look somewhat bad too. Why? Because you knew (even if you weren’t there) and you didn’t say anything. You helped keep the intern culture of secrecy, which they used to hide questionable activities.

    1. Brittle Soup*

      I’m trying to imagine my response if an intern at my company did that and I don’t actually think I’d be that put off. Or at least not any more put off than if I’d heard some neutral third party group of kids did it. There’d be a mentor-y chat about not doing wierd and dangerous things in company buildings and perception about work habbits.

      But then, I’m young, not a manager, and I’ve seen worse (at least it’s two consenting idiots being stupid to each other). Maybe my perspective is warped.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        I rather want to know what you’ve seen that’s worse!
        I’m not young (40) but I’m not a manager either and my feeling is that if this happened in my office they’d have been lucky to get away with a disciplinary and not be sacked, and the story would still be told ten years later in hushed tones when anyone asks why we don’t offer internships any more.

      2. Stan*

        Eh…anecdotal of course…but I supervised interns for an arts organization for several years, and I don’t know that this would rise to the level of ending an individual internship, let alone the internship program. There would certainly be a straightforward conversation with the participants. It would also be an opportunity to give a reminder about professional norms. Interns do dumb stuff. Unless there were other issues or red flags, I’d let it go with a stern talking to.

        And honestly, I’d much rather have a conversation about why anything that starts with “close the door and don’t tell anyone” is a problem than the “this is why you don’t sleep with other interns” conversation I seemed to have every summer.

        1. Icontroltherobots*

          Stan – Your job sounds exhausting and hilarious. I work in a conservative field and I’d be inclined to have the “stern talk” with the offending interns (all of them). To me, the ones who watched are just as guilty, since their complacency enabled the behavior.

          Also – sometimes it works out! One of our 2nd years who was supervising the interns (oops) ended up getting married to one of the interns. When you get too many 22 year olds in a room it’s bound to happen.

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            It can indeed work out! I met my husband when I was a 22 year old intern. (He was a 29 year old intern). Married going on 6 years now.

        2. Micklak*

          Yeah, I’m feeling like an outlier here. When I worked at an art museum after school this wouldn’t have seemed that outrageous. If our boss walked in on it happening he would have let us know he thought we were ridiculous and told us to get back to work.

          It was a casual, creative environment with periodic downtime and it drew a particular type of worker that wasn’t prone to histrionic handwringing.

      3. Daisy*

        Yes I agree- it’s obviously unprofessional, but I don’t really follow why it’s ‘unethical’ as well. OP’s two given reasons (sanitation and ink getting on the art) seem a bit of a stretch, particularly the latter- why would the ink get anywhere near the walls? Presumably they use pens in the building?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Agree. Definitely unsanitary, but it’s not like the person getting the tattoo was unaware of the situation.

        2. Perse's Mom*

          Unethical in the sense that this isn’t what they were there to do and they were clearly aware they were in the wrong or they wouldn’t have had other interns playing look-out, most likely? Particularly if they’re paid interns, this is probably not what they’re being paid to do!

          Though… that a group of interns could wander off for probably hours to do this and no one noticed…?

        3. Ender*

          What’s really strange to me is that OP wants to report only the tattoo-er, not the tattoo-ee. Was this tattoo forcibly given? As in they held down the intern and forcibly tattooed her? If so, definitely report that!

          Presumably that is not the case and the tattoo-ee was a willing participant. So why is it just one of the participants that OP wants to report? Getting a tattoo at work is just as unethical as giving a tattoo at work surely? And shouldn’t accepting an unsanitary tattoo be just as much reason not to give a good reference as giving a sanitary tattoo?

          Why the focus only on one of the participants when both were at fault?

          1. Hedda Lettuce*

            Yes! I read this and it sounded like OP potentially had a bone to pick with this individual. There seems to be a fixation on getting them in trouble and jeopardizing their job prospects. Made me pause for a second.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Fixation? How is it a fixation to ask if this is something they should report? If she were fixated with getting the person in trouble, she’d have reported it when it happened.

              1. Hedda Lettuce*

                Fixation, in that weeks after the internship ended, she’s still trying to think of a way to bring this up that would bring maximum damage to the offender, and only one offender of the several involved mind you.

        4. AKchic*

          Tattoo artists have to be licensed to give legal tattoos.

          Assuming this person isn’t licensed (otherwise, they would have been more safety/sanitary conscious), that is unethical.
          Not following sanitary practices.
          Risk of blood-borne pathogens in an office-setting.
          Illicitly tattooing a coworker while being paid for an entirely different job.
          Getting tattooed by a coworker while getting paid for an entirely different job.
          Being look-out while a coworker receives a tattoo, and another coworker tattoos someone, while being paid to do a different job.
          Standing around witnessing an unlicensed person tattoo someone while getting paid to do a different job

          That’s all unethical. Each of those interns accepted money (and allowed the business to sign off on hours-worked when they didn’t actually work) for getting/doing/watching a tattoo application.

          1. Starbuck*

            They’re interns at an arts organization, I doubt they were paid anything. That’s probably the most unethical thing about the whole situation, honestly.

      4. huskypunx*

        Yeah I’m kinda with you. On one hand, I’ve gotten a stick and poke in far less sanitary conditions (not at work though) so I’m not phased by that part. On the other hand, the more managerial hand, it more shows a lapse in judgement to do it at work. At most I would have reminded them that people get fired for far less and there’s a reason professional tattooers sterilize things to medical standards. Otherwise it’s in the past and they all got a good story out of it…

      5. Folklorist*

        I’m with you! (I’m also late to the party and no one will read this, but…) I couldn’t find myself to be that shocked. HOWEVER, I also interned/worked at a VERY well-known, prestigious non-profit (think dream job that rates up there with Google and Space-X) that has been around for a long time and has kind of a cult following. Getting an internship there is nearly impossible.

        It also has (especially in its heyday) a reputation for massive drug-and-alcohol fueled parties, to the point of people taking locked doors off hinges to get to people passed out inside. There are also stories of spies using the building for operations, and ghost stories, etc. It’s kind of got this mythos built around it. The idea of interns giving each other tattoos to commemorate their time there is less-than-shocking to me. Hell, I’ve thought of getting a tattoo of their logo! Glad I didn’t, though, they turned out to not be that great.

      1. Persimmons*

        It’s okay as long as your company doesn’t already make wine. Non-competes are serious bid-ness.

    2. DiscoTechie*

      Back in the day when I worked in North Carolina (less than a decade ago), one of our higher ups came into Raleigh to schmooze with some state legislators about transportation funding. He brought some gifts in the form of quart mason jars of moonshine. Looked to be white lightning, the hard stuff. Just casually walking around the office with a box of not so legal moonshine. (I did enjoy when NC met some of the stereotypes of the South in hilarious fashion.)

      1. Artemesia*

        There is ‘legal’ moonshine sold in jars; it is a going commercial thing in Tennessee. Wouldn’t be surprised if that is also true in NC.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          It’s fairly prominent at my local liquor store in Virginia, so I’d be shocked if this weren’t the case in NC.

      2. TootsNYC*

        if you make it yourself, is it illegal? You can’t SELL it, but can’t you make your own, for your personal consumption?

        It’s the gifting part that might be weird.

        1. Anon - I've Recommended This Blog Too Much Lately..*

          Yes, it’s illegal. You can homebrew, but you can’t home distill. Tax revenue reasons.

        2. Free Meerkats*

          Yes, unless you have the proper federal (and possibly state and local) permits, it’s illegal to distill alcohol, even for personal consumption.

          That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen it done in the labs I’ve worked in…

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I have to agree. When I read a lot of these letters I just think to myself, “Where the hell do these people come from??” I truly don’t understand how these people think the things they do are OK. A manager expecting their direct report to drive them to and from work? Interns giving tattoos at work? I’ve been reading this website for awhile now, and it still boggles my mind.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Sorry I’m late, but I’ve known a few of the type who’d expect to be driven to work. In fact, I used to be like that.
        Being raised by people who had no respect for others, I didn’t understand the concept of respecting a colleague’s or friend’s time. I think that’s what it usually is. It might also be combined with an overbearing personality and/or a high level of selfishness. Or someone who never grew up, who expects people to take care of them like when they were a young child. I was a little like that, too.
        I’ve known all these types of people, and I expect they learned it from their parent’s example.
        It sounds like the interns thought they were still in high school, ditching class and looking for ways to get in trouble.

      2. chickaletta*

        It’s amazing, right? Even totally normal people will come up with crazy on the fly. Like my current supervisor who on the surface is a normal, sane woman. She just happened to ask me one day to help her write her son’s resume so he could get a job at our company. She also spent two or three hours yesterday crafting name plates for our cubicles, using fancy scrapbooking scissors, construction paper, and glue (we’re talking full-on crafting) — which would be fine, except she has work that’s been sitting in her queue for over a month and everyone on our team is working mandatory overtime this month to get caught up. She herself complains all the time that she has too much work to do, yet she chose to use several hours at work basically doing a hobby. So, I really, really question her judgment and common sense.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      I have worked in a place where someone brought in their homebrew equipment. If it’s stupid, and shouldn’t be done at work, someone’s done it.

      1. Artemesia*

        There is more than one office that I am aware of that makes home brew as a sort of team moral thing in the office. Part of one’s initiation is getting to make the beer.

      2. Kj*

        Maybe I have been in Seattle too long, but homebrewing as team bonding activity would not bother me… Several of my husband’s coworkers homebrew and bring the fruits of the labor to work. Then, husband’s company provides beer for people to drink at work….

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Homebrewing as a planned team activity: great idea! Sign me up.

          Homebrewing in secret on company time when the team should be productive (and sober): good Lord, no!

    5. Gypo Nolan*

      I think the OP sounds a bit immature, if not unhinged, in that she’s far too eager to squeal on a contemporary for a fairly minor infraction. I can easily imagine what kind of schoolkid she was, bending over backward to dime on little Debbie or Tommy to garnish favor with Teacher (in days of old, she’d be called an “apple polisher”). These tattoos are a huge trend on some college campuses right now, where there’s usually one “expert” in every dorm who will oblige fellow students for a few bucks. While stupid, it doesn’t rise to the level of human sacrifice, as the OP seems to imply. Not to mention that she didn’t even witness the activity, it’s hearsay, and the internship is over, yet she seems to be itching to inform her former supervisor. I’ll never understand why people like this are willing to screw with someone’s job prospects over something so silly. Does she really want to be known for this kind of thing? Especially since the supervisor might just have the same opinion as I do about this fairly innocuous offense.

  2. Sami*

    OP 2– And when you do drive straight to or from work, do NOT drive past your manager’s house. Good luck!

  3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #2 If you weren’t living in the same neighbourhood, how was your manager planning on getting to work? Could you ask her that while you explain why your schedules don’t mesh?

    1. The Doctor*

      If I were a cynic, I might suspect that The Boss chose that neighborhood specifically for the purpose of getting a free ride from LW2.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m guessing more like it was a move to a location which required a car, and the manager realized there was no rush on that purchase because the employee could drive her.

        As others have said–get busy mornings and evenings and if your car is at all distinctive, don’t drive past her house.

        1. Amber T*

          Why pay for gas if her employee could just chauffeur her around?

          Yeah, if there are already poor boundaries, that’s gonna be a big N-O for me.

      2. Antilles*

        I’m normally pretty cynical when it comes to managers-being-terrible, but I think that’s unlikely. A house is a several hundred thousand dollar commitment for years if not decades – and one which affects her spouse’s commute, kids’ school, future finances/resale value, etc. “Maybe I can skip buying a used car and save a few bucks on gas for the next couple years when both OP and I work at the same place” is an absolutely idiotic motive for picking your neighborhood.
        I mean, I guess it’s possible the manager is truly that dumb, but that seems more likely that it was a pure coincidence and the Boss realized “hey, nice side perk!”.

    2. Seriously?*

      My guess is that there is an inconvenient public transportation option that would work in a pinch but be terrible for a daily commute.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or, hey, why should I spend my own money on gas and car maintenance when I could spend my employee’s instead?

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, I only skimmed the article you linked because I thought it would probably cause me to cringe and shriek–and I was right. Once having “read” it however my first thought was if the conference table or side table or chairs were contaminated at all. That alone would send me straight to the manager’s office even if I heard it second hand.

    OP #2, think carefully about what excuses you come up with. You don’t want the manager to say, “Gym? What a great idea. I’ll join too and we can work out together?” or “I need to stop at the market too.” I’d probably try something like “My mom needs my help every morning and night after work. I can’t give anyone rides any more.” It’s long term, at least for as long as you need it, and she can’t join you in it.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Re: #2, I agree. I think it may be easier to say that you have too many commitments (or the like) than to give a specific excuse, like running an errand or going to the gym.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      #1 Whyohwhyohwhy! That is so gross and dangerous and I hope they didn’t use company pens. I usually tend towards “full disclosure, and if you don’t want the truth out then you shouldn’t have broken the rules” so I would report them, just so that the supervisor knows about their professionalism. But I also don’t know how far out of my way I’d go to torpedo someone’s job prospects over this. But who knows, in a small industry, their name might come up again…

      1. Wot, no sugar?*

        I seriously doubt they’re using anything but professional tattooing inks; what office has bottled ink among their supplies anymore? The practice is pretty common on college campuses (at least at the large East Coast institution where I work and the one my daughter attends in Pa.) They differ from regular tattoos in that they’re hand drawn with needles vs a tattoo gun. They’re usually quite small and fade wihin a few years. It’s not as though blood and ink are gushing everywhere.
        I think some people are overreacting. I wouldn’t get one done, but I’ve never heard that they’re any more dangerous than regular tattoos or at-home ear piercing.

    3. Ginger ale for all*

      You could also say that you wouldn’t want the perception that you are getting preferential treatment from the boss from others in the office. Stress the difficulties that would arise if a coworker wanted to make trouble or thinks that plum assignments are discussed, etc.

    4. Bagpuss*

      OP2 – if you can, be vaguer in your excuses. e.g. “Oh, that won’t work for me, I often have commitments before or after work at short notice”

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes, gosh, LESS detail is so much better than, “Well, my mother’s ferret has to be bathed from 7:50 to 8:25, soooo…” gets, “I ADORE ferrets!” which then becomes, “Oh, uh, well, Ferdinand doesn’t like strangers,” which then gets, “I’ll just tag along and sit in the car, then.” It’s the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie scenario. If your mother doesn’t have a ferret, don’t make Imaginary Ferdinand your excuse, because a boundary-pushing boss will find a way to factor Imaginary Ferdinand into his ongoing demand to use you as a chauffeur.

        Bagpuss’s wording is perfect.

      2. LDP*

        Well, OP mentioned having a boundary pushing boss. Having one myself, giving vague excuses doesn’t always work, especially if there’s already no boundaries and they’ve bulldozed you into giving more information than you’re comfortable with in other situations. If my boss was insisting on rides to and from work and I gave a vague excuse she would badger me until I finally told her something concrete. Saying you have to help a friend or family member is going to be the easiest, especially if your boss asks what’s wrong with them, you can say something like, “I’d rather not say, it’s their private matter and it’s not my place to talk about it.”

    5. ChaoticGood*

      This kind of falsehood-system might work. Try the following statements:

      1. I was a designated driver, and my friend got drunk and barfed on the passenger seat so no one is able to sit there until I get the car properly thoroughly cleaned.
      2. The back seat won’t work either, because that same night my other friend got drunk and barfed all over the back seat, too, so, same story. (Or your friend’s dog barfed there. Also a neighborhood cat. Also a raccoon that won’t leave.)
      3. Nope, it’s so bad that a towel laid over the area, or air freshener, just won’t do, and it’s just not at all possible to have any passenger in the car for the time being.
      4. Nope, I won’t be able to afford the thorough cleaning for many months, so carpooling just won’t work, sorry.
      5. Because I have other expenses, is why.
      6. I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable discussing my other expenses with you.

      Deliver as many of these as needed, in tandem, with a straight face, knowing that your boss will know that you’re lying, and use heavy direct eye contact to let her know that you know she knows you’re lying, but that that doesn’t matter, because you are sticking to the idea that you’re absolutely not able to have any guest passengers in your car for a while.

      You may need to practice your improv and de-railing skills. A boundary-ignorant person may try to get a rise out of you every time, asking about your car cleanup every last day. At first you can defend the idea that it’s still dirty, and eventually you can brush past it, smiling faintly as if they’ve said something vaguely rude to you, and ignore any mention of it, moving right on to something else. Even if something else means “Hey, have you seen my pen? Seriously I just had it. Can we order me more pens?”

      This direct lie, known but not acknowledged by both parties, should signal that your boss isn’t welcome, you’re not willing to say that she isn’t, but you’re not backing down and she’ll have to figure it out.

      Another long-term line is this:
      I have to pick up my… ailing great aunt (now is a good time to drop a mention of this fake relative, so that you can lay groundwork) and take her to go shopping / doctor appt / community center / etc every last day until further notice. If challenged, once you stop mentioning it, you can invent a fake cousin who has now taken over these duties.

      It’s amazing what boundary-crossing people will eventually realize if you force them to eat a bunch of blatant falsehoods. Obviously, I have dealt with this kind of person before, though mine was toxic and would NOT give up. But eventually he did :)

      1. Utoh!*

        The more you say the more you have to remember. Keep it short and to the point, and then continue saying the same over and over. Bottom line it as much as possible while keeping it neutral, unless she pushes the subject. It always amazes me the boundaries that are crossed by people who work together.

        1. Dragoning*

          This is incredibly accurate.

          It’s not even likely to work. I don’t think most bosses would “refuse to acknowledge” that you’re blatantly lying to them.

          And why would you torch your relationship with your boss like this when there are so many simpler ways out of this?

        2. pleaset*


          I have to pick up my aunt after her operation?

          I thought the operation was last week?

          Oh, this is another another aunt, and another operation.

          I didn’t know you had another aunt.

          Yeah, she just adopted me.

          [Cue laugh track]

      2. Antilles*

        Hard disagree on this strategy.
        Deliver as many of these as needed, in tandem, with a straight face, knowing that your boss will know that you’re lying, and use heavy direct eye contact to let her know that you know she knows you’re lying, but that that doesn’t matter, because you are sticking to the idea that you’re absolutely not able to have any guest passengers in your car for a while.
        This isn’t realistic given that OP needs to continue working there and maintain the relationship (at least till she finds a new job). OP already said she’s afraid the “demanding/boundary-crossing” boss would not accept a simple refusal; straight-up lying to the boss in a “we both know I’m lying but I don’t care what you think” fashion is going to seriously piss her off and completely wreck the relationship.
        In fact, if the boss is really as demanding and unreasonable as OP2 portrays, there’s a good chance the boss would react by firing OP on the spot out of anger. Really? You’re going to lie to my face, with a justification so patently untrue that it’s almost insulting? Well fine. Don’t worry about carpooling, because you no longer work in this office.

        1. Seriously?*

          I agree with you. It is much better to say that you can’t carpool because of other commitments and then say that you don’t feel comfortable discussing those commitments. No need to make up an elaborate lie. Say no and refuse to discuss.

        2. Snark*

          I tend to agree. Elaborately concieved deceptions eventually fall apart or wear so thin as to be transparent. Go with direct, unambiguous setting of boundaries.

          “Oh, no, that won’t really work for me – my commute is my time to listen to podcasts and decompress.”

          “I have other commitments before and after work, so that’s not really a workable arrangement for me.”

          “Given my schedule and other obligations, a carpool situation isn’t really feasible for me.”

          1. HermioneMe*

            I’d leave out the word “really” – otherwise great responses. To me, using the word “really” makes it sound like there may be a little wiggle room. Leaving out the word “really” makes a stronger statement, I think.

      3. OhNo*

        I’ve used this tactic with random jerks out and about, but I would never use it for someone that I wanted (or needed) to maintain a relationship with. Blatant lying shows an almost insulting lack of respect that’s fine for the numbskull who keeps hitting on you at the bar after you’ve said no, but not for anyone that you have to see (and work with!) again.

        1. Wot, no sugar?*

          Sorry, but I think this definitely calls for fabrication. The supervisor’s gall cries out for a big fat convincing lie.

    6. MLB*

      For #2, “No” is all that’s needed. It’s not rude of her to say no, it’s rude of her manager to assume she will do it without asking. Adding reasons and excuses will only allow the manager to have an answer for each one. A short and simple no is the only thing that works for boundary crossers.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        The problem is that this is the manager. And as rude and assuming as it is of the manager, OP has said that the manager is demanding and boundary crossing. So a flat out “no” might have unpleasant consequences.

        1. Greg NY*

          That is true only in jobs where the employee is easily replaceable and the cost of hiring and training a replacement isn’t onerous. It is simply not true that a manager has any power whatsoever over a report in anything that isn’t directly related to their job. The manager needs the report just as much as the report needs the manager. Too many people are still scared, years after the Great Recession, and this perpetuates the supposed “power dynamic” that exists within the workplace that shouldn’t exist.

          There might be unpleasant consequences for doing anything that goes against what the manager wants. But there are also unpleasant consequences when a manager does something unreasonable (even in a work-related context, such as denying flexible work arrangements without a business reason). Everyone needs to be respectful of everyone else, and expecting this employee to be their personal driver to and from work is disrespecting their time if the employee no longer wants to do it. It’s perfectly fine to politely but firmly tell them “no”, just like they would be totally in the right to tell them they’re not picking up their lunch or their dry cleaning (provided being their personal assistant isn’t in their job description).

          1. Greg NY*

            One other thing: it’s a huge reason why I NEVER, ever refer to anyone as the “boss” even though the letters sometimes do and some commenters do. They are supposed to be facilitators, not dictators, and they’re supposed to request things and ask things, not demand things. They really don’t have a right to actually boss you around, they only should firmly explain what’s needed and enforce consequences when someone isn’t doing their job properly. They should also be showing the person how to do it, at least the first couple of times. People with bossy attitudes aren’t going to be liked by anyone, whether in a social or a work environment.

            1. AdAgencyChick*

              But if they ARE the manager, then OP’s refusal can have consequences even if the manager isn’t willing to fire her over it (which is exactly why this kind of request is so inappropriate). She can deny OP raises or promotions. She might be able to block a transfer within the company. She can, as Alison noted, create tension within the relationship that makes OP’s everyday working experience terrible.

              Since OP had already been thinking about leaving, she might be fine with these consequences — after all, they won’t be long-term if she finds another job. But if she plans to stay with the company for a while, it is (unfortunately) a better self-preservation tactic to try and find a way to say no with as little feather-ruffling as possible.

            2. Mad Baggins*

              I mean, ideally yes, but until you have other protections that will prevent bosses from power harassment (bosses using their position to bully, push boundaries, and punish their subordinates with demotions, poor evaluations, and pay cuts), what actually can a worker do? Go over the boss’s head (who will they believe, and what can HR actually do?)? Quit their job (then they have no job and what will their reference look like?)? It’s hard to tell workers to rely on common sense and trust when they can be easily/legally fired for insubordination or for wearing a red tshirt, but the boss can’t be (easily) fired for making them pick up their dry cleaning or working insane hours.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not that the manager is going to fire the OP for not complying. It’s that causing tension or resentment when you can easily avoid it is a smart thing to do. It’s in the OP’s best interest to preserve a decent relationship if she can. It’s not about whether it’s fair or the principle of it; it’s about there being a relatively easy way to handle this that minimizes the chance of the boss seeing her as rude/cold.

            You’re arguing how it should work, not how it does (often) work.

          3. Observer*

            In a perfect world, all of this is true. In the world we live in an unreasonable, boundary crossing boss can make life quite difficult for an employee that they are annoyed at – even when it is NOT in said Boss’ best interests.

            Ignoring that is just not reasonable. Now, someone might to decide to stand on principle, and I’m not going to say that they are wrong. But, in such cases there are generally consequences. Urging someone to act as though those consequences don’t exist is not a great idea.

          4. Jennifer Thneed*

            Oh, that basic power dynamic has been around since long before 2008. I think it’s a basic human thing to be tempted by power of that sort. Decent people recognize it and work against it. Other people take advantage of it.

      2. Observer*

        No, the OP can’t really say no, because they are dealing with an unreasonable boss. The OP is pretty clear that this person will NOT take a “No” well. When the unreasonable person is a coworker, it’s one thing. But a boss can make your life VERY difficult.

        1. Snark*

          There are some boundaries worth a bit of difficulty. If it gets untenable, I suggest OP go to her grandboss or HR – this is not a fair or reasonable request.

          1. Observer*

            Of course it’s unreasonable and unfair. But the OP is best off finding a way to refuse that doesn’t require just a flat no. Not because she should but because her life will be easier.

      3. Specialk9*

        This is the “never JADE” advice that only works in a very narrow band, and has real consequences socially.

    7. Elsajeni*

      The risk of DIY tattooing is really all to the recipient of the tattoo (unsterilized needles, non-skin-grade ink that could contain contaminants), with maybe a secondary risk to the person doing the tattoo if they should accidentally poke their own finger. In terms of “contamination” that would affect others, barring something very weird happening, it would be basically on par with “someone got a papercut in the office and might have bled a little.” I would really not be concerned about the conference table being somehow contaminated.

      1. Specialk9*

        I’ll admit to having only the vaguest idea of how this works. There’s no bleeding on the conference table, or on fingers that can end up on shared surfaces?

        I’m imagining the lawsuit.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          There are videos of tattoo artists on YT. Watch one. You’ll see that there might be some blood at the time, but it’s not flying around the place. Have you ever had a cat scratch you but it looks like they missed, and then you find a thin scab later? It’s about that level of wound.

    8. Lucille2*

      Good call. I had a coworker I carpooled with for awhile who ditched the carpool because she started volunteering for a local non-profit after work. Maybe OP can consider something like that or a niche hobby that manager isn’t likely to want to participate in.

  5. Observer*

    I don’t think you need to tell anyone at this point. But it would have been ok for you to say something even though you didn’t see it yourself.

    If you have a continuing relationship with your former supervisor and you hear that they are giving this intern glowing referrals, you might want to give her a heads up. Otherwise, I’d let it lie. It’s not a matter of “tattling”, but there is no real point. And, I’d also be willing to bet that someone with SUCH poor judgement will have shown less than stellar behavior in other respects. Which is to say that I would be very surprised if your former supervisor is singing Intern’s praises too highly.

    1. Liane*

      It was gross and stupid, but I agree it is probably too late to pursue.

      However, since you were worried about being perceived as a tattletale, you may want to search the archives here for one of Alison’s posts about why bringing up bad/questionable/illegal work behaviour to superiors isn’t tattling.

      1. Lexi Kate*

        I think there would be more of a perception of tattling here just because of The length of time that has passed since she worked there. If she had told when she found out or even before the internship was over I would think differently. But coming back with second hand information a month after the internship is over, who knows how long ago the incident was just seems wrong.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Add to the internship onboarding: “Stick and poke tattoos are not to be done on Company property, and must be done on your own time.”

        2. Smithy*

          I have to agree with this.

          I once had a summer job that was similar to a camp counselor position – and there was 100% unprofessional behavior going on that I knew and it did bother me. It was when there was 1-2 weeks left of the summer, and the professional reality of disciplining that many staff would have been a far greater headache than placating/shutting me up.

          Was what the interns do professionally wrong – yes. My former summer colleagues – yes. But in the larger scheme of being an intern or summer counselor – bringing this stuff up can be viewed as tattling because the reality of the report (time to discipline, potentially let people go) is more trouble than it’s worth. Especially in an environment where some professional laxness is expected (ngos, summer programs).

          I was never hired back by that summer program and while I know my complaints were fair, I now see why.

    2. Thalia Menninger*

      Did you ever have to prick your finger in Science class so you can put your blood on a slide and look at it under a microscope? It’s about like that. I find it hilarious that some commenters are imagining a cinematic bloodbath ala Sam Peckinpah. Maybe folks need to get out more.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I’m conflicted re: #1 because although it seems odd to report this information after the internship has ended, what the DIY tattoo-ers were doing opens the nonprofit up to legal liability if that tattoo becomes infected or leads to other medical problems. But yes, it would have been preferable to raise the issue in the moment.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      How would the organization be open to liability if they were adults consentually doing something that they hid from their supervisors?

      1. BRR*

        I believe it’s a liability because it happened at the workplace. It doesn’t matter that the adults were consenting or that the activity was hidden.

        1. MK*

          This is pretty crazy. If one coworker murders another, is the company liable to compensate the victim’s family?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It depends on a lot of unknown factors, like whether the company was aware that the coworker intended to harm the decedent (a version of this is why Tarasoff warnings exist. If the company was truly unaware and did not create conditions that would facilitate/enable the murder, then there’s likely no liability.

        2. Anon From Here*

          “It happened at the workplace” doesn’t magically create liability for the employer, though.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            In many cases, though, it does. People have premises insurance and workers comp insurance and any other number of policies because the range of liability can be broader than we would expect (and expensive to defend).

          1. Dragoning*

            Total derailment, but this has me wondering if legal prostitution has worker’s comp than covers this.

              1. nws2002*

                the independent contractor answer is correct. They rent the space in the brothel the same way a stylist rents a booth in a hair salon.

    2. MK*

      No offence, but is the US laws/legal system so liability-friendly that an organization might be liable for absolutely anything and everything that happens on its premises, regardless if it was authorised and even if it has nothing to do with its services/product? Or do people bring it up even if a potential lawsuit would be totally frivolous and immediately dismissed? Commenters seem to bring this up all the time for what sounds to me pretty unlikely circumstances.

      1. Let them eat torts*

        “No offence, but is the US laws/legal system so liability-friendly that an organization might be liable for absolutely anything and everything that happens on its premises”

        No. PCBH presumably thinks the company would be liable for the tort of assault on some kind of respondeat superior theory. But (1) consent is a defense to that tort, and I don’t see any evidence that the tattoo-ee objected to the tattoo. (2) Employers are liable for torts committed by employees within the scope of their employment. Query (strongly) whether giving someone a tattoo qualifies.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          No—I think this could raise workers’ comp issues, as it happened on site and during time when they should have been working. Consent isn’t a defense in the context of no-fault schemes, and if there truly is some kind of medical or other injury (I’m thinking infection, Hep C, etc.), then the employer would have marginal liability in that context. What’s more likely is that something goes wrong, and an intern (or their parent) files a non-meritorious lawsuit that costs the employer to defend/dismiss, even if it has no validity.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Even if not liable, the company could still be sued — even if the case against the company is ultimately dismissed. It’s a hassle to deal with.

        But at this point, since the internship ended, I am sure if there were problems with the tattoo they would have cropped up already.

        I agree with Alison, no point reporting it at this point. Let it go. Just know what to do next time you come across wildly unprofessional behavior. And sadly, there will be a next time.

        1. MK*

          I don’t want to derail the thread, anyone can sue about absolutely anything without any basis; using it as a scare tactic actually weakens your argument. If I was the intern giving the tattoo and I was disciplined for this, I would listen about how inappropriate and unproffessional it is. If the manager started to talk about how the tattoo might get infected and the other intern might get medical problems and the company might get sued and might be liable, I would start rolling my eyes a bit at the hyperbole. It’s the difference between “if you drive drunk, you might cause an accident and hurt people” tand “if you drive drunk, you might cause an accident and derail a passenger train”; not impossible, but over-dramatic.

          1. LJay*

            I had the same thought about some of the advice in the Nerf dart thread.

            Say “hey, cut that out, I really don’t like that,” when it happens, and people should listen.
            Pull someone aside and explain that you really can’t work when there are nerf darts flying at your head and it’s making you uncomfortable, they really really should listen.

            Start claiming that it is potentially assault and that you’re going to call the cops, or that you’re afraid that someone is going to get seriously injured, and you look unhinged and removed from reality. And yeah, people should still listen, but it actually makes it less likely, not more. It takes a reasonable request or statement and makes it look unreasonable because you’re surrounding it with unreasonableness.

          2. Let them eat torts*

            “I don’t want to derail the thread, anyone can sue about absolutely anything without any basis; using it as a scare tactic actually weakens your argument.”

            Also, contrary to popular belief, you can’t “sue anyone about anything without any basis”; you have to state a claim on which relief can be granted (and can be sanctioned if you don’t).

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            In this situation I think the legal liability is straightforward enough that it’s not a remote risk to the employer. I agree that, in general, identifying catastrophic but rare/remote risks has less persuasive power than identifying more likely risks (although people can still be on the hook for catastrophic but rare risks).

      3. Specialk9*

        That may have been the least offensive comment to ever follow the “no offense but” opening. I was expecting something much spicier!

    3. Typhon Worker Bee*

      I was wondering about this. I’ve always had it drilled into me by work health and safety folks that you have to report any on-site injury that breaks the skin, even a paper cut, in case it becomes a bigger problem later – and it can take a while for a problem to manifest. Granted, I’ve always worked in molecular biology labs and their associated offices, and mostly for healthcare organizations, so maybe we’re just over-cautious that way.

  7. Greg NY*

    #2: Enough is enough. No one has the right to impose the way your manager is doing. Not even a best friend would, and I would even argue that even a family member would have to be transitioned out of this if you no longer wanted to be their driver. Your manager didn’t even ask, they just nonchalantly assumed you’d do it! They have a lot of nerve.

    I’m in the camp of firmly cutting them off, just saying you can no longer do it, and tell them truthful reasons (that can’t be rebutted). If you want solitude during your drive, say that. If you no longer want to take an extra detour between their house and your house, say that. If you have an unpredictable after-work schedule and want the ability to do what you want without feeling the obligation to drive them, say that. You may want to maintain a good relationship with them, but you’ve already given enough. You need do nothing more.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In theory, yes. In reality, it’s in the OP’s best interest to maintain good relations with her manager, and there’s a softer approach that will do that and get her more of the outcomes she wants: stop the rides AND do it with a minimum of resentment from the manager. This should be about getting her the outcomes she wants, not saying something for the principle of it, as much as I do enjoy the latter.

      (Obviously it would be unreasonable for the manager to resent this, but there’s no reason the OP should take that risk with someone who has power over her and has already shown herself not to be especially thoughtful.)

      1. periwinkle*

        What can the OP do if her manager keeps pushing that boundary by shooting down the made-up excuses? “Oh, you can go to the gym in the evenings.” “Oh, I need to hit the market too.” “It’s just a little out of your way, I don’t mind waiting while you pick up Fido from doggie daycare.” If Entitled Manager is that sort of person, JADE might just back the OP into a corner.

        Couldn’t the OP go with the simple “I’m so sorry, I can’t do that,” repeat as needed, with no little white lies added on? While I agree that she needs to keep a harmonious relationship with Entitled Manager, I’d worry that things would get worse if OP needs to make up fabricated excuse after excuse.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          I think there’s a middle ground where the more the manager pushes, the more OP resorts to, “No, sorry, I can’t.” Giving some justifiable reasons may cut it, and it gives the manager a chance to be reasonable and preserve the relationship. Jumping to “No.” is a pretty nuclear option and saying something that amounts to, “I don’t want to, you are a burden” is not going to preserve the good relationship, even if it’s truthful.

          1. e271828*

            I love “It’s just not possible.” With varied small head shakes and perhaps a moue, but without elaboration (which would enable pushback). It isn’t possible to do this any longer, I’m sorry. But it must be used consistently and unwaveringly. No openings!

          2. Thalia Menninger*

            This kind of person will NEVER be satisfied with a simple response like this. Such pushy folk rewuire a concrete yet creative excuse that will cover your ass for the rest of tour tenure there.

        2. irene adler*

          The “I’m so sorry, I can’t do that” is best. There’s nothing they can ‘latch onto’ and shoot down.
          There are the ‘personal’ excuses:
          Doctor’s visit
          Physical therapy (“do you really want to sit in the car while I do this three times a week?)
          Medical lab appointment (early morning blood draw, dropping off specimen)
          Errand for family member
          Family- need to stop by Mom’s to take care of a chore
          Kids – dropping off the kid at school/daycare. If you don’t have kids, then explain that you are helping out the neighbor family.
          Pets – they need to go places too (vet, training classes, physical therapy). And Fido isn’t very amenable to strangers.
          And, there’s always leaving at such an early hour that it’s inconvenient for the manager. Course that means OP will be inconvenienced too.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had to go back and re-read the letter after seeing everyone talk about OP2’s good/harmonious relationship with her manager, because it didn’t add up in my head how one can have a good relationship with a person that commands one to give them rides. From the letter, it looks like OP has in fact a strained relationship with the manager, who appears to also be a terrible person in other ways, and that the manager’s request was the last straw that forced OP to look for work. In other words, that the risk here is not losing a good relationship, but making an already bad relationship worse. In this case I would agree that OP needs to be careful. Who knows what else this manager is capable of. I would actually be afraid of giving this manager rides for the same reason. What if the quality of the rides turn out to be not to the manager’s expectations. Agree with the others’ advice to quote vague family commitments that have unclear hours and occur on short-term notice.

        1. Specialk9*

          Maybe I missed those comments, but most I’ve read acknowledge that the manager is terrible, and a boundary violator. Which lines up with the letter.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        I’m going to give this one a hard pass, Alison. It is a slippery slope with a boundary-challenged manager. Where does it end?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Where does it end? It starts with the explanation that she has other commitments and if the manager pushes after that, it ends with “I’m sorry, it really won’t work for my schedule.”

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I think it’s legit hard to tell one’s boss that you can’t do something for them. The kind of self-confidence and inner strength to do that can take a while to build up in one’s life. As I’ve said before, I’m old, and IDGAF, so I wouldn’t have much of a problem giving my boss a firm “no” to carpooling.

      But I do very, very strongly agree with you that LW shouldn’t make up excuses that aren’t true. The more lies and stories you make up in your life, the more you have to keep track of them. And telling them to a boss just increases the risk of poor outcomes if you trip up and are caught in a stupid lie. No stories, no lies. Just something along the lines of “I have commitments so I can’t drive you any more, I’m really sorry.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

      I feel like “make up a lie” is a piece of advice that comes up kind of frequently here. I like this column a lot, but it’s advice that I seriously can’t get behind.

    3. MK*

      Ok. And when the boss takes it out on the OP and retaliates, what then? Look, the reality is that your boss can make your life a living hell in ways that are perfectly legal (and sometimes making you look bad if you complain). And unfortunately the people who make outrageous demands are the ones most likely to take it badly if you push back. It would be pretty irresponsible of Alison to advise people to be curt with their bosses, when its a possibility that the update will be “I told her I wouldn’t drive her anymore and she fired me” (didn’t that happen once with an OP who wanted to advocate a raise for the secretary and the boss fired the secratary?).

      1. Cat Herder*

        “I have commitments so I can’t drive you any more, I’m really sorry,” can be said with genuine-sounding regret. I agree with the no-lies, keep it vague crowd here — specific lies can be countered by a boundary-crossing boss and it’s too easy to lose track of where you are in the lie a month or two later. Then not only is OP not driving the boss, but the boss knows OP lied to get out of it. Furthermore, OP does not need to be telling the boss *anything* about their private life — boundary-crossers do not need your personal information.

        Whatever the excuse (good, bad, vague, specific, true, false), the boss may still retaliate. Best to stick to a vague truth, stated in a non-confrontational way.

        1. MK*

          “I have commitments so I can’t drive you any more, I’m really sorry,” can be immediately followed up by a boundary-crossing boss with “what commitments?”, especially since the OP hasn’t mentioned them before. And you are back at square one, you either have to lie or scramble for an answer and make it obvious you are making an excuse or continue to be vague and actually sound suspicious. As for keeping track of the lie, I am not suggesting it’s a good idea to provide a ton of details; but if you are too vague, you will invite more comment than if you give just enough context. The number of people who would ask what your commitments are is much higher than that of people who would demand to know what you mother’s illness is and what are you doing for her every morning.

          And yes, the boss may still retaliate, the issue is how best to minimize the chances of that happening.

          1. Kaaaaaren*

            Agreed. If the OP is too vague, it’s going to prompt follow-up questions. Even reasonable people might ask follow up questions about some vague “commitment,” so you’d have to anticipate that a very unreasonable and historically boundary-crossing boss definitely will.

            I’d probably start off with: “A commitment has popped up that I will need to take care of before work, so unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to continue our carpooling.” Said with sincere regret.

            The boss will almost certainly ask what the commitment is, so I’d be prepared with an answer, even if it IS a lie. Something that she can’t really push back on, like: “An old medical condition has been flaring up, and I’ll be getting treatment for it in the mornings before work.”

            If she presses further: “It’s physical therapy, but I’d rather not discuss the details at work. My treatments start next Monday, so the last day we’ll be able to carpool together is XX.”

            1. Kaaaaaren*

              Second comment to add: The good thing about the physical therapy excuse is that even if she’s like “Surely you don’t have physical therapy EVERY morning??” The OP can be like “You’re right, but on mornings when I don’t have PT, I’ve been instructed by my doctor to go to the gym as part of my treatment, so I really will be unavailable pretty much every morning before work.”

          2. Anon From Here*

            And the response to “what commitments” is a repeated, “I’m very sorry, but they’re personal commitments, and I can’t carpool with you any more.”

            Boundary-crossing manager is going to cross boundaries, sure. And there’s always a risk that someone will be fired for whatever reason, sure. There will always be “what if the manager does this” and “what if the manager does that” scenarios. If OP stays vague and apologetic without doing into their own personal details, then I think that would be a reasonable strategy to shut down these chauffeurring duties.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            You definitely need to be vague – as others have said, giving her a definite answer is just giving her something to argue against.

            “What commitments?”

            “I often have to run errands before or after work. Different things, you know – appointments, shopping, personal business. Things come up at the last minute. It would be awfully inconvenient for you if I had something come up at the last minute and I couldn’t give you a ride after all. I don’t want to put either of us in that position.”

              1. Kaaaaaren*

                I suppose, but how is “things pop up randomly so it MIGHT inconvenience you and I wouldn’t like that” less flimsy reasoning? What if the boss is cool with playing it by ear, especially since apparently she’s been getting a free ride for weeks/months at this point without that ever happening?

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  It’s less flimsy because it’s not a lie. Things DO pop up. People DO run errands before and after work. And if the boss is cool playing it by ear, then I’d have something “pop up” every freaking day. Problem solved.

                2. Kaaaaaren*

                  I can’t reply to Rusty Shackelford’s comment below (I guess we’re too deep into the comments for this?) but: It’s not a specific lie, but it IS a lie to say the OP has all this stuff to do, randomly, every or nearly every morning. She doesn’t have stuff to do — she simply doesn’t WANT to drive her boss. And having “stuff” pop up every morning leaves the door open for getting caught in several lies. It also leaves the door open for the boss to say “Well, let’s keep driving together and if something pops up, we’ll figure it out.” Which then, as you said, will lead to “something” popping up every morning to send the message, which would all be lies unless the OP’s car does need an oil change, or she does go to Zumba, or her grandma does slip in the shower, or whatever, all in the same week.

                  I’m not a fan of lying — in a perfect world, the OP could go and say “Our carpool arrangement isn’t working for me anymore so today will be the last day we do it.” But in real life, she is going to have to tell her boss some kind of excuse and in all likelihood that excuse will be a lie because the truth is she simply doesn’t feel like it.

                  Anyway, she doesn’t need to pretend to go to PT or whatever, but my point is if she’s going to lie — and she will, unless she’s cool saying to her boss that she just doesn’t like this arrangement — she should tell ONE lie and stick with it, not be very vague and potentially need to invent several lies once the questions start.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        So you are suggesting that someone comply with every request their manager makes in a work context, no matter how unreasonable, and try to comply with as many non-work requests as possible?

        Who is actually suggesting this, other than you? Every other comment on this I’ve seen so far has been in favor of SAYING NO, but in a softer version than your preference for a hard, flat no.

  8. Observer*

    #2, Do you have a child, aged parent, pet or SOMEONE that needs you to be at a certain place at a certain time every day? After all, why shouldn’t you just change your gym schedule, but if doggy care shuts at a certain hour, you “don’t have a choice”, right?

    These games are ridiculous, but your boss sounds ridiculous.

    1. schnauzerfan*

      A few less serious suggestions: you could 1. get a motorcycle and tell boss she needs to provide her own helmet… 2. Make a point of letting your sisters hairy dog ride shotgun for a few days and hope the boss gets tired of deploying a lint roller. 3. Insist on running errands on the way home… 4. run out of gas a time or two. 5. run late every so often and/or arrive ridiculously early and honk until boss gets to the car. 6. have a few spontaneous coffee spills after you’ve ran through the drive thru…

      1. b*

        Maybe start asking for 50.00 a week for gas or suggest that you switch out every week and have the manager drive.

  9. Greg NY*

    #3: The lack of communication from the HR department is a red flag. If they are unresponsive now, there’s a good chance they’ll be unresponsive when you’re working there and you need them for something.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, if the manager and her direct team seem good, I wouldn’t take that as a huge red flag. It’s not uncommon to have very minimal contact with HR once you start (plus the recruiting/onboarding people could be totally different from the people she’d deal with as an employee).

      1. neverjaunty*

        But whether you have minimal contact with HR or not, they’re your company’s HR and will be handling your HR-related issues, like benefits, oversight of policies, handling complaints…. It may not be a “huge” red flag, but it’s very concerning that the LW has had ongoing problems with HR at her new job. It isn’t one missed response or incident of slow paperwork.

        I admit that, having had the Learning Experience of working in companies with bad HR as well as those with good HR, I do not see HR problems as so easily dismissed; even if you’re not dealing with them every day the way you do co-workers or managers, it’s a sign that the company tolerates crummy performance in a department that is, really, part of its infrastructure, and that’s rarely an indication that the company overall is fabulous.

        LW should absolutely talk to the manager about the situation, but respectfully, I don’t think it’s good to pooh-pooh these issues by speculating that maybe it’s just the one guy and anyway how often do you talk to HR.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Yes but the point remains that if OP needs to go to HR for a real problem, this is the kind of situation she may face. And if she needs to hire anyone or someone joins her dept, it might be another headache.

      3. Triplestep*

        The job seeker message boards at Linkedin are filled with stories of people who thought they had job offers when in fact they had everything but the offer letter. When I read the letter from LW#3, I wondered if the company had actually finalized the offer with the her. HR might see her as a pesky job seeker and not a new hire. The fact that she has not been in touch with the hiring manager (who could have clarified things one way or the other) makes this even more of a possibility in my mind.

        It would not be the first time a candidate acted on good faith. One guy on Linkedin told of selling his house and moving his family to a different city only to be ghosted by the company that had made the offer. His story had a happy ending when he found an even better job in the new city, but it goes to show that these misunderstandings can impact even people who thought they’d dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts.

        1. a username*

          About half the jobs I’ve had did not provide formal offer letters. They’d give you a stack of hire paperwork to fill out instead: employee contact information sheet, W-4, I-9, direct deposit info, etc.

      4. That Would be a Good Band Name*

        I’m a little confused by AAM’s response here because Greg NY’s response is almost exactly what EvilHRLady said on the AAM podcast. I would have a hard time trusting an HR person to handle my benefits if they are struggling to handle basic questions.

      5. NW Mossy*

        This is certainly true at my company. Our recruiters are all contracted through a vendor, but our HR staff are employees. Understanding that distinction has been crucial for me in navigating the internal hiring process, both as a candidate and as a hiring manager.

    2. periwinkle*

      Not necessarily. In larger organizations, there’s little or no connection between the recruiting/onboarding team and your day-to-day HR support person.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. Our recruiting organization is a part of HR, but they don’t handle anything but recruiting. The people you deal with once you’re employed are a completely different set of people, with different rules and focus.

    3. Whatsinaname*

      I work for a huge government organization and our HR sucks big time. It’s especially annoying because we’re all over the globe and I’ve had two transcontinental and two transglobal job related moves in the past eight years, with the support provided during each move going from bad to worse. It took me months to get all my paperwork and settlements done this last time, with lots of erroneous information and delays in getting move related reimbursement to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars, making an already stressful situation even worse; however, that really is not a reflection on my day to day work and the organization as a whole. So you can have a horrendously bad HR and still have an overall good organization to work for.

    4. Lady Blerd*

      It isn’t. The hiring process of Canadian government is notoriously slow and often you won’t hear from then as things like security clearance verifications are being done. You can’t judge the work environment on that.

    5. LQ*

      I mean, our HR department is horrible, but eh. I don’t really need to worry about it day to day. The area I work in has built in buffers for that. There is one person (for a few hundred of us) who is sort of the designated battle fighter for HR on bigger things. The union helps out with the smaller things when needed (if they are being shitty about FMLA or something like that). I wouldn’t say it’s a red flag to working here. If you never worked anywhere that there wasn’t a shitty department that might impact you, (HR, training, IT, payroll…etc) then, I mean yay if you can find that place, but I don’t know that I would be able to. Sometimes things are less than ideal, but sometimes we need to get paid. And I’d much rather my immediate team be great and a few other departments that I have to deal with occasionally are crummy, than the other way around if I have to make a trade off.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah I work for a relatively small company, and the consensus is that our HR person (we only have one) is a useless idiot, to the extent that my boss went around her to do some recent recruiting, but on a day-to-day basis no one really has to deal with her regularly.

        The last company I worked with, the internal recruiter who hired me was nice, but I never had to deal with him after the first month or so, when he stopped by periodically to ask if I was settled in. In a large organization, different people do recruiting and onboarding from the day-to-day HR stuff, so unless you’re going to be hiring a lot of people, I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a red flag. I go months without interacting with HR.

    6. Logan*

      It also depends how long the OP has been waiting for an answer – if the hiring manager wanted to speed things up then they may have done it faster than HR could cope. If the OP has only waited a day then that’s less of a red flag than if the OP hadn’t heard from them in 3 weeks.

      Also, perhaps more importantly, the start time and “what do I bring on my first day?” questions are actually best answered by the hiring manager – HR likely has no idea, and it’s possible that the OP isn’t getting an answer is because HR is too busy and this question is low on the priority list (ideally they would write back with “Please contact Hiring Manager!” but the world is not ideal).

      I have rarely dealt directly with HR for most things in large organisations – I have always had supportive hiring managers and colleagues, and they were more than happy to help out (especially since large organisations tend to have centralized HR departments which can sometimes become overwhelmed with many requests). I limited HR interactions to signing documents and finalizing paperwork.

    7. J.B.*

      At my office, HR would respond “you need to talk to the manager about that” because they are not in the business of work schedules at all. It depends on how the workplace is set up. And yes, HR is unresponsive but that’s not a major thing for worker bees – we just get our forms in. It mainly impacts hiring new people.

    8. a username*

      I am inclined to say this is a red flag, too.

      I worked somewhere where onboarding was done primarily through the employee payroll portal. My boss gave me a start date and sent me the documents to do prior to my start date: input my information, input my direct deposit, fill out my W-4 and I-9 forms, etc. I then went to an employee orientation about benefits elections, and was given directions on putting my benefits elections in the employee portal.

      Well, we get to a month later and I have not been paid. I’ve worked places in the past where direct deposits “skipped” a payroll period, so I wasn’t too concerned. I emailed HR.

      Turns out, my supervisor had done her end of the paperwork incorrectly. I had never been hired! And on top of that, they’d lost my direct deposit information from the paperwork I’d filled out, so they gave me one of those scammy paycards and I spent hours trying to figure out how to get the money transferred into my bank account, partially because they had set up the card incorrectly and it could not be activated.

      I quit that job shortly after due to other worse dysfunction, but the failure to not do the paperwork correctly was a HUGE red flag of other operational disasters going on.

  10. Willlis*

    OP #4 – I can totally commiserate with this. It took me awhile to work out (and remember!) the things I wanted to talk about with prospective clients. Scripts with specific wording are really helpful. Also, I’d suggest seeing if there’s a friend who you could practice the scripts with to work out the kinks and make sure they actually work in conversation. Sometimes I know what I’m going to say related to certain topics but then when it comes to stringing them together in a conversation or presentation, I realize I have no transition between them and start stammering. Talking it through with another person may help prevent unexpected stuff like that.

    It also generally helps me to remember that there’s a reason clients are looking for help – you have some expertise that they need. It’s not schmoozy to be confident and assertive when you’re telling them about your experience and what you can do for them. They want to hear it! Good luck!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, that last part is really important! Think of the prospective client as being excited to talk with you, because they’re excited at your expertise and the possibility that you might be able to solve their problem.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes! Just like Alison recommends practicing for an interview, you should practice this conversation. It will help so much!

      1. Ms. Meow*

        And when you practice, try to do some run-throughs actually over the phone. That can help with pacing and tone.

    3. Washi*

      I agree with this. There are a million articles out there about how to do the hard sell and personal branding and tactics to be more persuasive but they just end up psyching me out. As long as it’s something I do genuinely believe in, and it sounds like you do believe in yourself, I just think of it as explaining why a service would be a good fit. No need for complicated strategy, just lay out the facts and possible deal breakers (with Alison’s scripts!) and a lot of people will probably appreciate the straightforward approach.

      1. Washi*

        (Not all the possible dealbreakers that could exist, but it’s ok if you need to tell someone that a certain type of thing is not what you do.)

    4. Persimmons*

      Also, don’t practice with your sweet friend who wants to please everyone. Practice with your PITA friend who nitpicks everything to death and won’t go easy on you.

      1. Les G*

        I was scrollin’ on up from the bottom and thought this might be advice for someone who wants to get started giving their friends stick-and-poke tattoos. Your thing makes sense too though… *runs away sheepishly*

    5. Traveling Teacher*

      Totally this. When I was teaching private lessons and small group clients, I learned after one experience of taking a (mercifully short) contract that was outside of my skill set (out of the fear-based mindset of “take every job, or the money will dry up!”) that it’s important to be confident in both what you can and can’t do.

      If you get an inquiry from a prospective client that doesn’t line up your skills, it could be a kindness to refer them to a colleague whose work is stellar, instead (and who is open to referrals! Check first!). Something like:

      “I can teach you how to speak confidently in English, teach you how to write a thesis, no problem. I can’t teach business or legal English, but I have a colleague who has an MBA and teaches wonderful business English courses. Her website is:….”

      As Allison said, they have a problem and are looking to solve it. So, when I referred people to my colleague, the prospective client would occasionally refer someone else to me, as they knew (after contacting/taking courses with my wonderful colleague) that they could trust my recommendation, so why not refer someone to me who needed my skill set?

    6. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      Really great suggestions, Willis!
      OP4, I’ll also suggest even before practicing over the phone, record yourself running through it. I use my voice recorder on the phone for this all the time, and you’ll see if you hear yourself come across the way you want your tone to sound. Are you rushed, stammering, do some of the written lines sound more awkward verbally than they do in writing, etc. It also gives me a little boost to practice it alone before practicing it with someone else, before releasing the version into the world.

    7. Elle*

      Definitely scripts! I used a script when I negotiated my salary at my last job, and it saved me from certain floundering. I actually negotiated a 20% pay increase this way!

      One thing to help when writing this script: imagine you’re writing it about your best friend. Heck, ask your best friend to help you write it. Women are programmed to have trouble bragging about themselves, but are often much kinder in their evaluation of their friends. Putting yourself in the right head space to focus on your good qualities instead of the bad is important.

      1. OP #4*

        Thank you, all, for your advice, and thank you, Alison, for your original response. I’ll definitely use these techniques to get through a phone interview without crumbling.

        I can’t believe I’ve never thought of writing out a script before, but as soon as you advised that, Alison, I was reminded of a presentation I gave way back in college. I wrote out everything I planned to say in the most natural way of saying it and it was by far a smoother process than going off of a few notes. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I suppose it’s the best technique for me. Next time I have a phone interview lined up I’ll have a script in front of me.

        Again, thanks, everyone! I know my question wasn’t as exciting as in-office tattooing but I appreciate your input. :)

    1. The Doctor*

      At the very least, they should trade off. Maybe one drives on odd-numbered days, the other on even-numbered days.

      Is the boss covering part of the gas and (if applicable) tolls? If not, then maybe the boss deliberately moved to the same neighborhood just for a free ride.

      1. Liane*

        This & LNZ’s answer would be good answers if OP asked, ” I am interested in carpooling. How do I keep from doing all the driving?” They are not answers to “How do I tell someone I won’t drive them to work?”

  11. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: Just.. why???

    Why let a complete amateur who doesn’t know a thing about proper technique give you a tattoo.


    Do you want to be a feature in the next season of ‘We fix your crap tats for free!’?

    That said:

    If the internship were still ongoing I’d say yes, speak up!

    But since all of you are gone I wouldn’t bother.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “Keep the door shut. Don’t tell anyone” is so far from “Close the door. Have a seat.” Don’t mix them up.

      Though as others have said–speaking up in the moment goes to workplace safety and someone’s terrible professional judgment. Speaking up after you and they have left work is a random blurt of hearsay out of the past.

    2. Triplestep*

      My daughter will forever look like she has a smidge of dirt behind one ear because she let a friend give her a tiny stick and poke tattoo back there when they were in high school. She told me at the time that stick and poke were not permanent and she’s not a dummy, so I think plenty of young adults are misinformed about them in general.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My daughter was extremely mature and responsible in high school, mistaken for a college student from about age 13. And yet–every single rumor that went around the high school regarding how the restrictions on underage drivers weren’t really that strict, there was a Special Exception, she would buy into.

        Young people don’t know what they don’t know they don’t know. Older people too, but the amount of material for young people is vaster, and the amount of real life practical testing smaller. Or real life cross-overs like: “Wait, I heard something similar in another situation, and it turned out they were completely wrong–don’t penetrate my skin yet.”

    3. Coffee with my creamer*

      The amateur part is kind of the point with that type of tattoo, it’s made so you can do it yourself .

      Since op didn’t see it happen and it happened at least 3 weeks ago. I don’t think it would help OP sound good at all to relay this information.

    4. Yojo*

      Hey, as unprofessional as giving someone a stick-and-poke tattoo at work was…bringing in a full-on tattoo gun and its accoutrements would have been way worse :)

  12. Bagpuss*

    OP2, if you have already started driving your boss, would it be possible for you to treat it as if you had understood it was just a temporary thing. e.g by saying to them “I won’t be able to carry on giving you a lift after the end of next week. I’ve been able to rearrange my personal commitments temporarily to help you out but I can’t do that long term”

    If you haven’t yet stated, then stick to something as vague as possible “I often have commitments before or after work which mean I can’t commit to a regular lift share arrangement ” and if they are pushy about what those are, stay vague “Oh, they’re personal” ot “I have a range of commitments, you know how families are”

    I also think that saying you are uncomfortable as it could cause other staff to feel you might be getting preferential treatment, but I think that’s one which the manager might more easily override, and decide that *they* don’t think it is a problem so you shouldn’t either.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I ran into something similar at an OldJob, I happened to working later one night and gave a co-worker a ride home. She loved the convenience so much that she expected it every day. Except she worked 30 minutes later than me and I’d have to wait for her. She was always very effusive with her thanks but it still meant I was hanging around work for extra time and getting myself home almost an hour later. Ironically, she loved getting home sooner because she wasn’t waiting for her bus. It was difficult to say no because she lived close to me and on paper it made sense. After I stopped the free rides, she didn’t speak to me. Fortunately, she was a peer but she made me out to be the bad guy to the rest of the office.

      1. Workerbee*

        I am sorry you had to deal with that. Unsolicited Expectation people do seem to switch so fluidly to the “How dare they not let me walk over them!” responses. Ugh.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          I like that the term “Unsolicited Expectation.” People get the favours and enjoy it so much that it never occurs to them that it might be inconvenient to others. My co-worker loved being home early enough to watch Judge Judy. I hated missing J J because I was giving her a ride.

    2. The Doctor*

      At the very least, the boss should offer to cover some of the fuel expense. Otherwise, LW2 is subsidizing her.

    3. FedUpMillenial*

      Yes, this.

      One day while driving, work in a “So, have you decided which car you’re going to buy yet?” or something to that tune. If she acts confused, tell her “Oh, I thought you were buying a car and I was driving you until you found one. That’s why I’ve been rearranging my schedule to drive you for this temporary period of time.”

      It can help launch into the “this is not a permanent solution” conversation a little easier, just act like you always understood it was a temporary situation.

  13. LGC*

    …man, the intern at my job just makes really nice bulletin board displays. (I’m not sure if he’s into tattooing – he’s not under me or in my field, so we don’t really speak. It’s a large enough office where you can get lost in the crowd.)

    LW1) IDK, I’m just grossed out by the health risk. (I mean, Tattoo Intern isn’t dead yet based off of what you said in the letter, but also they got a freaking prison tattoo in a conference room and that’s just not sanitary.)

    My first thought was, “MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS, YOU SHOULD REPORT THIS – WHAT IF THEY GOT HEPATITIS OR SOMETHING?!” I’m still fixated on that. I probably would mention it because I can’t imagine how you would report someone getting – like – a staph infection because they got tattooed at work to OSHA and what if they come back and decide to get more tattoos?

    LW2) If you were more evil, I would suggest giving your boss a ride and “conveniently” getting her lost. Repeatedly. (Don’t do this. But also if you do, please videotape her reaction and share with us because this would be highly entertaining very educational.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      How they feel about self-stuck tattoos is one of those things I’d rather never know about my co-workers.

  14. OhGee*

    Re: stick & poke tattoo, if you wanted to report your fellow intern, should’ve done it weeks ago. If this intern was so bad, your managers already know. (Side note: people usually use pen ink for stick & pokes, so your gasping about permanent ink around precious art seems a bit much. It’s not like jars of ink were flying around the room. )

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Excess ball point pen ink is not something you want on the art, either, nor is it easy to remove. It’s not like we’re discussing ink that will or won’t come off your sport jersey in the laundry with some strong stain remover.

      1. Mynona*

        No museum would have unglazed art in a conference room–at least not one so large as to have multiple entitled-type interns.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          But I’m wondering how drippy (ink or other fluids) it was after they left the conference room. Normal tattoos you cover with a bandage for the oozing–I suspect that sort of long-range planning wasn’t really coming into this idea.

          1. Les G*

            Ehhhh, I think we’re pulling into speculation station with that one. More likely than not nothing bad happened to the art because of the tattoo. That’s not what this is about, feel me?

            1. OhGee*

              Exactly. I think LW was trying to justify their overwhelming desire to ensure this person didn’t get a good reference. I have several tattoos (done professionally) and have seen stick and pokes and I doubt any art was endangered. While it’s a stupid thing to do while at one’s internship (tbh I think stick and pokes are fine, and there are people out there who are really skilled at doing them), I think at this point LW should let it go – they didn’t even see it happen! If anything, management screwed up by not properly supervising the interns.

        2. Emi.*

          Where does it say it’s a museum? All I see is “arts non-profit,” which could include all sorts of things, including studios. (I shudder to think the trouble you’d be in if you smeared ballpoint ink on my old director’s lithography stones, which were stored in the hallway.)

          1. Ennigaldi*

            I thought the same thing – museums usually have prints, if anything, in conference rooms, but if it’s an art non-profit they might very well have art on the walls, like a fancy corporate conference room.

  15. nnn*

    #2: If you have kids, you could use back to school as an excuse for not being able to drive your manager. “Now that the kids are back in school, mornings are even more demanding, and I often have to deal with their stuff immediately after work – often on very short notice!”

    1. London Calling*

      Nope, don’t make excuses. OP doesn’t have to JADE – justify, argue, defend or explain – because she’s giving the manager a chance to rebut OP’s reasons and wear her down so OP says yes just to make it stop.

      1. Ata*

        OP indeed doesn’t have to JADE, but I’d like to point out that a boundary crosser who needs a JADE ban is also going to push on the non-JADE refusal in a similar manner. It’s just a more repetitive and endless “why not?” “but why not?” “but WHY NOT?” that HOPEFULLY makes the boundary crosser look like a toddler, but can also reflect badly on the person who refuses to answer a “reasonable” question, and is also meant to wear you down. Speaking from experience.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The JADE stuff is not for bosses who have power over you — or at least, it’s not where you start if you want to preserve the relationship with them. It’s similar to “no is a complete sentence” — it may be, but it’s going to be bad for the relationship if you just give your boss a flat no. A reason will make this go over better. If the boss pushes after that, then she can go to “no, I really can’t.”

  16. Cait*

    OP 1 reminds me of a Grey’s Anatomy episode but at least those interns’ self-inflicted stupidity was technically job related :)

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      Ha, a friend of mine told me, during her first year of med school, that one of her professors would quiz them every Friday on “What they got wrong on Grey’s last night.” :)

      (Just realized: this was a decade ago! Now I feel old!)

  17. Kay*

    If I were OP1 I would leave it. Yes it’s super weird, although less weird when I realised it was a stick and poke and not like they brought in their whole tattoo kit. However, your internship has finished, and I’m not sure how much weight your story will hold as your superior would by this point be hearing it third hand. I personally don’t love ‘someone told me that someone else did this’, but I’m not sure how others feel about that kind of telephone reporting so I might be off base.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      It’s telephone reporting, and also — what does LW plan to say if the follow-up question is, “Why didn’t you tell us when it was happening? Why are you telling us now?”

    2. Roscoe*

      IF I heard something 3rd hand like this, I’d be far less likely to believe it or act on it. Because some details have probably been embellished through the different parties.

    3. Lexi Kate*

      Yes, almost a month after the internship is over to tell on something you didn’t see, would scream jealous. I just think at this point Op would have more to loose than gain from telling.

  18. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Move on. If I’m reading this right, OP was an intern and it was intern 2 who decided to tattoo intern 3 (who must have been a willing participant). OP isn’t there anymore, and neither are the others. Chalk this one up to weird intern behavior and move on. UNLESS the organization contacts you specifically about ink-intern (and really, why would they?) you’re not in a position to say anything anymore. It would be kind of weird for the organization to get a phone call about it at this point.

    Also, having supervised many many interns, I can assure you the higher-ups know about her unprofessional behavior. They may even know about the tattoo.

    1. Marshmallow*

      I agree, especially with the last paragraph. In fact, I couldn’t help wondering how nobody wondered where the interns were: it was during work hours, in a conference room, and at least four interns saw what was happening (as well as the two who were directly involved in events). Did nobody question why they weren’t doing any work?

      1. Susan Sto Helit*

        That was my question as well.

        If there’s time for several of your interns to hang out in a conference room for (at least) a couple of hours whilst one of them tattoos one of the others, your interns do not have enough to do. Also, they’re probably bored.

    2. HannahS*

      Yep. If OP1 is worried about her reputation, she can always say things like, “I didn’t know about it until afterwards” if anyone asks about it.

    3. Bananarama*

      We had a small group of interns in 2014 who decided that it would be a good idea to book conference rooms to watch World Cup matches on the big video screens. They thought they were being slick about it, but we all figured out pretty quickly what was up. Some interns only joined in once or twice and either stopped on their own or heeded warnings from mentors that the optics were Very Bad, others were warned quietly and decided to continue their little on-the-clock viewing parties anyways.

      There were no disciplinary measures from managers during the internship period, but the core group of interns who did this several times a week for the duration of the tournament were later blacklisted in our HR system.

  19. Narise*

    I think we all need to learn the phrase ‘I don’t do carpools, I had a bad experience and don’t want to repeat it.’

      1. memyselfandi*

        Thanks. I was thinking about THIS summer’s crazy interns. I have one but didn’t want to go off topic. Maybe it should be an annual thread!

        1. Aphrodite*

          Alison, what about a crazy carpool thread as well? I’m pretty sure there will be more than sufficient material around that subject.

  20. LadyPhoenix*

    #2: Mark Twain said that you only have to remember one story if it is true.

    I would not make up multiple stories because you have to remember them all, and your manager will notice and eventually realize it.

    So the choice is to either say, “No.” or to make a very vague lie, “Sorry. I have a lot of errands before and after work.”

  21. LadyPhoenix*

    #1: You might be able to talk to your manager about it and they can call the school shortly after. It does take time to put grades and such in.

    I would still inform the manager because you don’t know if the office needs to be sanitized. They might have been using conpany pens to make that tattoo, and who knows if there is any blood on the table and chairs. So rven if the students don’t get penished, you can still prevent a rando from being infected with a blood bourne disease.

    1. Yojo*

      I think any time you report something using a really thin excuse–like the risk of blood-bourne disease, probably weeks after the fact, when people obviously don’t need to officially report papercuts and nosebleeds–it makes you look kind of cowardly. If you object to rule-breaking, report rule-breaking.

  22. Violette*

    Just stopping by to say WHAT?! There are people out there who pressure their employees to drive them to and from work every day? This is an absolute violation of that relationship, your personal space, your resources, and I don’t know, your work-life balance, I guess. Holy cannoli. If it were me, I’d start looking for another job. And I’d have a frank convo with my boss about the fact that I will not be driving her to work anymore because I do not feel comfortable doing so. End of story. And if there is any retaliation because of that, talk to her boss immediately. People should not be allowed to act like this, and you shouldn’t be required to give her a week’s notice. That’s ridiculous.

  23. Icontroltherobots*

    op #1 – Don’t be a tattle tale. You didn’t actually see the tattoo happen and honestly you’ll come across as petty. I would have fully advocated for being the “voice of reason” if you were there, but you weren’t.

    I’m going to focus on the “and I don’t want someone who would knowingly endanger their coworker (no sanitation!) and the art in the building (permanent ink!) to continue working in my field.”

    That’s a very heavy judgement for you to place on someone who is still in college, and still very young. Sure they need to grow up and learn some professional norms but that’s a very heavy sentence you want to dole out.

    Not everyone is raised in an environment where they can learn these skills before working.

    1. What's the big deal?*

      Just what about this tattoo incident is so outrageous? If LW1 had seen a group of interns get together for lunch, rather than a stick-and-poke tattoo, in a conference room, what would be the objection?

      That is occurred during working hours? Almost every office job has a lull here and there where employees get a cup of coffee, have lunch, etc. Would LW1 complain if someone took a few minutes during the working day to put a box of donuts for the office in a conference room? Is everyone posting to this blog doing it strictly during non-working hours?

      That it occurred in an museum? C’mon; a conference room is unlikely to be where the priceless art is hung. Sanitation? Perhaps, but the person getting the tattoo was a willing participant, and even the WaPo acknowledges that stick-and-poke art is a thing.

      I would have advised the interns to do this after work, because some busybody inevitably gets weirded-out by it, but without more, I do not see this as something anyone needs to be fired over.

      1. Temperance*

        The liability issue for the workplace is what bothered me about it, TBH. Just thinking about the potential for blood-borne disease or infection from lack of sanitation during the process is making my skin crawl.

        1. Icontroltherobots*

          I agree – but as someone who works with paper files, has gotten a bad papercut and unknowingly BLEED on workpapers… it happens.

      2. Icontroltherobots*

        I personally don’t think the tattoo is outrageous. I’d but it in the category of taking over a conference room’s projector to broadcast march madness all day (happens every year). Not the best use of company time/resources but what ever.

        That’s why I wanted to bring up the whole “you can’t work in MY field angle”. It just seems very harsh, and it’s an attitude that’s not going to help OP long term.

        1. Yojo*

          I’d make it an equivalent of secretly drinking together at work when it’s slow (which I have seen happen. Youngsters in a group can be really good at encouraging other to be…bold).

          Definitely a Do Not Do This What Were You Thinking, but not something I would go to a manager about unless I was preventing something dangerous or blatant enough to be career or education-threatening.

          1. Icontroltherobots*

            that’s a great one too – and it really comes down to culture. I know people who regularly drink with their boss/co-workers. They work 80+ hours and it’s not uncommon to have a drink at 7pm and then go back to work.

      3. Amber Rose*

        Speaking as a safety officer, deliberately putting a coworker in a dangerous situation is a fireable offense. And if you don’t think a jailhouse tattoo is dangerous, I’d like to refer you to the Darwin Awards that have been issued to people who died or were hospitalized because of infection. Completely aside from that, tattoos are basically wounds, and wounding another worker is not acceptable under any circumstances.

        The liability if something goes wrong from an OH&S and legal perspective is phenomenal. The company could be fined huge amounts of money and receive all kinds of sanctions and punishments.

        Nobody ever risked that much by having lunch. :|

        1. Anon From Here*

          How would this employer be legally liable for an intern getting an infection from getting a consented-to tattoo secretly in a conference room?

          1. Amber Rose*

            It happened at work, during work hours, at a time when the interns were not being supervised properly. Companies have been held liable for less. The course I took on this stuff was funded by one such company, who was forced to pay for the development and facility for the course as a result of one of their new workers disobeying instructions and getting themselves killed. Part of the course was a detailed explanation of how that all played out. It was a hell of a thing.

            Consent has nothing to do with it. If you ask a coworker to punch you in the face and they do, I fire both of you for violence and horseplay.

            1. Anon From Here*

              What’s a reasonable standard for supervising these interns, though? I mean, I don’t think that it’s reasonable to hold this employer to a standard that requires them to keep in mind, “Well, we’d better watch these interns every minute, because they may start tattooing themselves if their boss isn’t always directly supervising them.” And these interns weren’t disobeying workplace instructions, unless they had some kind of instruction in the proper use of a conference room. And what’s a reasonable level of specificity for that? “Conference room rule #n: no tattooing in the conference room.”

              Consent does have something to do with it, though, depending on what legal theory a plaintiff wants to try to pursue. If they want to pin liability on the employer via some respondeat superior theory (“the tattooer negligently or intentionally injured the tattooee under the tattooer’s scope of employment, completely omitting a discussion of assumption of risk because this theory is ridiculous as it is already”), then there’s no liability if the tattooed intern consented to the tattoo that led to the infection.

              I’d be interested to see the course you’re talking about to hear how they approached the issue of workplace liability.

            2. Yojo*

              I find this really unlikely. If these were underage students in a school who were legally supposed to be being supervised, I maybe could see some liability.

              Adults don’t need constant supervision, and workplace safety training is about safety concerns relevant to the work. Workplaces aren’t going to be at risk for lawsuit if they fail to include “no consensual minor injuries” in the training.

            3. Bananarama*

              The interns are young adults, not minors in need of constant supervision. You’re really stretching on this one.

        2. What's the Big Deal*

          Pity the poor coworkers who take a smoking break when Safety Officer Amber is on the prowl!

          Why? Because by your own standards, a smoking break ought to be a fireable offense. People have commonly died and been hospitalized from emphysema and other smoking-related disorders. The person who initiated the smoking break deliberately put her coworker in danger of inhaling second-hand smoke. And what is inhaling nicotine but a self-inflicted wound?

          I mean, seriously. “Deliberately putting a co-worker in danger” isn’t at all what happened here. This isn’t “hey, you need to operate this lathe without a helmet because it saves the company money and makes me look good.” The tattoo recipient consented to receiving the tattoo. People who get tattoos, particularly from dodgy tattoo artists, know that there is an element of risk involved (And no, tattoos aren’t “wounds” in any reasonable sense of the word; your anti-tattoo bias is showing. )

          Finally, you write, downthread, that you think the company would be liable because you are familiar with a company that was liable when “one of their new workers disobeyed instructions and got themselves killed.” Again, though, that is a completely different scenario. Of course someone who (for examples) uses equipment other than as instructed is negligent, and because the use occurred within the scope of employment, the employer is liable for the employee’s negligence.

          This is also why consent, far from being irrelevant, cuts to the heart of the matter. In the world of torts, consent is a defense to the tort of assault. (And assault it an intentional tort, unlike negligence.) Perhaps you could argue that the employer is liable for something like “negligent supervision of employees,” but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that an employer as a duty to supervise employees 24/7 in the context of an office environment. Again, employees grab coffee during workplace lulls all the time. No one suggests that Big Brother ought to monitor them 24/74.

    2. Les G*

      Just so I’m sure I’ve got this right…you’re attempting a social-justice-y, “but privilege!” kind of argument…about the *OP*? Really? My response to that would be: not everyone is raised in an environment where they can potentially blow a once-in-a-lifetime internship over some dumb skin scribbles.

      1. Nonny*

        I think the broader point is that it’s not really LW1’s place to be deciding their fellow intern isn’t fit to work in the industry.

      2. Icontroltherobots*

        I’m giving “tattoo intern” some latitude here because they are ART interns. And honestly, I could 100% see this happening at 2 am in an audit conference room at some client site by interns in my stuffy-button-up-business-type-profession.

        It’s more of a very judgy attitude that will not serve OP well in the future.

        and I wasn’t going full on “but privileged” in the traditional sense. More of a different people are raised different ways and this could be a normal thing “tattoo intern” has done in the past and has gained social capital by giving out tattoos.

      3. Tisme*

        As someone who was raised in a poor, working class home, I second this. We knew not to screw up when we had golden opportunities handed to us, because they were such a rare occurrence, they were a huge deal to our family and peers. So that anyone who got such a chance, always tried to not screw up and be on their best behavior. Otherwise it might not just impact their moving up, but also others, because people tend to box those of other classes etc, together.

        1. Icontroltherobots*

          I was actually thinking more along the lines of someone with “all of the privileged” who’s parent never taught their kids how to conform to normal societal rules. Considering that “affluenza teen” is an actual thing in society.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Can we just not with the “don’t be a tattletale” stuff?

      Looping in a manager about problems and issues at work is not snitching or being a tattletale. I find that word and the attitude behind it so tedious.

      At this point, it doesn’t seem to make sense to tell the manager, because it has been weeks and the interns are no longer there, so there’s no ongoing risk of problematic behavior by those interns on the job. That’s why she doesn’t need to tell – not because “no tattletales.”

      1. Icontroltherobots*

        Op used the work “tattletale” in their letter. They asked Allison – should I be a tattletale.

        Reasons they should not tell:
        1) it’s been weeks, that seems odd and petty at this point
        2) They didn’t see it happen

        looping a manger in about seeing blood in a conference room is A+ behavior.

      2. M. Albertine*

        I tell my kids that being a “tattletale” is to get other people in trouble, “telling” is protecting yourself. This situation is definitely the former.

        1. Myrin*

          I hope this isn’t too derailing, but I don’t think “protecting yourself” should be the deciding factor in this – just as a real-life example, I work part-time at a drugstore and I’m obligated to report if I saw one of my coworkers steal something from the store. I can’t think of any way in which their stealing something could endanger me, so I wouldn’t be protecting myself by informing my boss, but it still wouldn’t mean I tattled.

          1. M. Albertine*

            It’s absolutely legitimate to think about “protecting yourself” as “would I be in trouble if management found out I knew this and didn’t report it?” as you would be if you knew coworkers were stealing and said nothing.

      3. Myrin*

        This whole comment is basically a summation of everything I immediately thought when I read this letter – I 100% agree!

      4. Roscoe*

        Oh come on. Even kindergartners are able to figure out the difference between tattling and reporting. If you are telling for the sole purpose of getting someone in trouble, its tattling. That is exactly what this is. Her whole purpose, as she states it, is to make sure that this intern isn’t getting great reviews from the manager. Its totally tattling.

        Just because you may think management has a right to know EVERYTHING that goes on, doesn’t make it so. This isn’t a “work issue that needs to be resolved”. Its something that she found out second hand that happened months ago. Even if the concern was that they are tattooing people every day at lunch and I don’t think its sanitary, there is NOTHING TO BE DONE at this point.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Roscoe, did you actually read my comment, or just get mad after the first sentence? Because you are raging about a point I didn’t make – I did not say she should tell, and I didn’t say management needs to know every little thing. Seriously, dude, don’t argue points people don’t make. I said we should step away from the tattletale attitude and wording (we can agree to disagree there on both its appropriateness in a work context, and what might be motivating the OP). Then I said she *shouldn’t tell now,* just for different reasons than “Oh Noes! Tattletale!”

          1. Roscoe*

            I read all of it. But I disagree with a lot of the substance. Yes, you don’t think she should tell in this case, but I disagree that there is never a case where its tattling or snitching

      5. Nervous Nellie*

        Seconded, thirded and fourthed! Wow, I am so tired of reading the word “tattletale” on this site. We’re here to talk about behavior of adults in a workplace, plain and simple. They’re not in middle school! Reporting improper behavior is not “tattling”. It’s about keeping the adult environment going so that work can be done.

      6. Addie Bundren*

        It may be a childish word, but it’s the reality here: telling serves no serious purpose beyond attempting to harm the tattoo intern’s reputation and getting to be The Person Who Told.

        I didn’t use the word myself in my earlier comment, but I think it’s kind of effective for people to see it being used here because it communicates accurately that if one does this–“this” being reporting behavior with a shady endgame–it will reflect on one’s character. It’s not something you do and then walk away from whistling and dusting off your hands.

      7. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Tattling” really isn’t a concept that exists at work. This isn’t kindergarten; this is an adult workplace. Tattling is not a thing.

        The OP is concerned that this is something her manager would want to know. The answer is that it doesn’t make sense to tell her now, but it would have made sense to tell her while it was happening. The OP is a college student,not an experienced worker, and she’s asking a question that she’s not sure about the answer to.

        1. Roscoe*

          Do you honestly believe there is never a situation in a workplace that would be considered tattling? I mean, I’m happy to hear arguments about this particular case, but I definitely think there are some things that I would call tattling. For example, going to a manager saying John took 10 extra minutes for lunch twice last week or something, when it didn’t affect anyone else. I’d consider that tattling.

          Again, I’m happy to debate whether in this particular case it would be (I think it would), but I don’t know that we can say a blanket “its not a concept that exists at work”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I wrote about this here:


            In this case, I assume the OP wouldn’t be telling just to get someone in trouble but because — taking her at her word — she thinks her manager would want to know what happened because it would impact the kind of vouching she might be doing for these interns. (I do think, though, that the “I don’t want someone who would do this working in my field” part is too much, but not because it’s “tattling.” It’s just more than is warranted by the situation.)

            1. Roscoe*

              Fair enough. It just seems like its semantics at that point. Like you think the word “tattling” is juvenile, but saying “being petty” is a better way to say it. To me its 6 in one hand, half a dozen in the other. It means the exact same thing, its just kind of preferences on what words are used.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think it’s being petty either. I think she’s thinking this is something that her manager would want to know, and she’s right about that. The time has just passed for her to relay it.

                1. Caroline*

                  I didn’t think it was tattling in the original letter but after her follow up comment it seems the op is out to get the amateur tattoo artists

    4. Observer*

      Can we stop with the “tattle tale” nonsense?

      As for ignoring the violation because the intern may have had a poor upbringing? The upbringing means that they are not a terrible person. But it still doesn’t change the fact that they have TERRIBLE judgement. If someone actually asks the OP for a reference within the next year or two, it absolutely makes sense to share this. Because an employer has a right to know that a potential employee has outlandish judgement before making a hiring decision. It doesn’t really matter why the person has such bad judgement.

      On the other hand, I don’t see any real risk that the OP’s supervisor is going to be giving a glowing reference, so I don’t see anything to be gained at this point.

  24. benny c*

    RE: #2
    What’s the legality of this? I don’t mean “is it legal for your manager to ask”, I mean “is it legal for this to be off the clock.”

    If it’s a ‘job duty’ to drive your manager to work, don’t you have to be paid for it?

      1. Perse's Mom*

        I wonder if OP could play dumb on this and present it as ‘if you, as my manager, are requiring me to drive you to and from work every day, of course I will be paid for that time, right?’ But that only works if OP is willing to drive if she’s getting paid for it, and I know MY employer couldn’t pay me enough to do that and I LIKE my boss!

    1. Kate R*

      If the OP is exempt and salaried, I don’t think it would matter if it was a job duty or not. She’d still make the same salary. But even if she is not, the manager is probably framing this (at least in her mind) as carpooling. You wouldn’t expect your employer to pay you for your commute to a nonexempt job just because you choose to carpool with a coworker. What’s not cool is that the manager is not recognizing or not caring that there is a power differential making it awkward for the OP to decline.

      1. OP #2*

        Kate, thank you for getting at my real issue here “What’s not cool is that the manager is not recognizing or not caring that there is a power differential making it awkward for the OP to decline.” Hit the nail on the head. I think you’re right that she sees this as “carpooling” … though she doesn’t have a car, so has no plans to ever drive. I think the real issue is her neglecting/refusing to acknowledge the power difference which makes it uncomfortable for me to decline.

  25. Addie Bundren*

    LW1: I’m thinking of the summer interns who just left my office to return to school, and honestly, if there were an issue with someone’s professional norms that would make me think “well, that matches up” re: the stick-and-poke tattoo, then the actual tattoo would be the least of my worries–and if they’d been a stellar intern, I would probably roll my eyes and, if we ever got coffee, tell them to make better use of their work time in the future. The person who reported that to me, however…I would have a LOT of questions about why they had been ruminating on the incident for weeks and what they hoped the outcome of the report would be. In fact, at BEST the report would only be using the other intern as an example to say, “We didn’t have enough to do in this internship program, to the point that it became a free-for-all atmosphere.” At least that would be actionable. (Maybe don’t do this, because I’m guessing not everyone would take the constructive criticism that well.) Because if I got the whiff that the goal actually WAS to harm the other person’s reputation, I would be much more disturbed by that, in a business context, than the stick-and-poke

  26. OP #1*

    Hi guys, thanks for the comments. I suppose this will just stay a ridiculous cocktail party story.

    You all are right that the interns involved exhibited unprofessional behavior in other ways, so I’m sure the intern supervisor isn’t giving them glowing reviews. However, I didn’t know if this incident rose to the occasion of revoking school credit/refusing to be a reference. I should also clarify that I am a graduate student, so when I said these interns were slightly younger, I meant early twenties, not just out of high school. I’m not sure if there was confusion around that.

    I do second the “tell us your ridiculous summer intern stories” idea!

    1. Lexi Kate*

      It’s one thing to tell to help your employer that is good telling, but telling to get someone to loose their school credit is just wrong and petty.

      1. OP #1*

        Obviously, revoking school credit is up to the internship coordinators and the school, not me. I was just pointing out that, personally, I thought this kind of behavior rose to that level of punishment. I think its similar to reporting someone else cheating on a final exam – the only reason you would report them is so the school could punish them, because its not fair to all the other students who studied and worked hard for someone who cheated to get the same grade! The metaphor isn’t perfect, but I felt like their behavior was just as unethical. I am going to follow Alison’s advice, though, so the point is moot.

          1. do the other things*

            I’m also confused by that comparison, too. Unless, of course they were stick-and-poking test answers on their bodies!

            1. OP #1*

              I was trying to say that its not fair to the other interns who exhibited professional behavior and worked hard to get the same resume line, school credit, and/or recommendation letter as someone who was so blatantly unprofessional. Judging from the wide range of reactions in the comments, people are not in agreement about whether this was such a serious offence. I thought it was certainly a fire-able offence at the time, but I have never supervised anyone or had hiring/firing responsibilities.

              1. Kate R*

                I actually agree that it seems like a fire-able offense if the intern were still working there. I’d also wonder why the interns have enough free time to give and receive tattoos during the day. In terms of the cheating analogy, cheating is falsely representing your expertise, so unless the intern was having other people complete his internship work for him, it sounds like he sounds like he wasn’t being dishonest in the same way cheating is. And just like in a regular class, you’ll have poor performers and stellar performers. Everyone gets the same credit in the end whether they get a C or an A. In this case, you’re thinking everyone will get the same recommendation, which I guess could be true as some people are lazy about giving recommendations, but the rec should be treated like the grade. High performers get good recs, and poor performers get poor or no recs. Someone who behaves so wildly inappropriate at work probably isn’t a stellar performer in other ways (as you mentioned above), so he’s probably not getting a great recommendation anyway.

              2. Observer*

                There is a difference between a firing offense and something that is so morally reprehensible and / or damaging by itself that there is a moral obligation to specifically stop that person from getting whatever accreditation (eg their degree.)

                This would be a firing a offense in most places that I can think of. But, I can’t see any way that this rises to the level of moral reprehensibleness or danger to others that requires stopping them from being able to graduate.

                From what you say, your former manager is at no risk to their reputation either.

                I really don’t understand what you are after and why? It seems like a massive over-reaction. And I say this as someone who despises tatoos in general, and who thinks that in any case these interns were being WILDLY unprofessional.

              3. Bea*

                Really it boils down to you need to lower your expectations of people. Once you’re fully engrossed in the working world, you’re going to learn fast that a huge variety of people, with skills and personalities are out there holding down jobs you may or may not think they deserve. Gunning for people’s jobs, unless they are absolutely outrageous is not a good trait to carry long term.

                This is a great lesson between the differences between school, where you have clear expectations and a grading system and the working world where everyone grades on their own curve so to speak. And that curve can go any which way, depending on the person in charge.

                I would have rolled my eyes so hard at this whole thing and fired nobody. Only one of my places of employment over the last fifteen plus years would have done anything as well. Mostly because it’s gross and not because it matters in the end. We just had a post about an entire office wasting time with nerf gun wars. There’s a lot of downtime in a lot of offices, especially for someone like an intern.

                1. Lucille2*

                  I totally agree. Chalk this one up as not-your-problem. OP will not be doing him/herself any favors by getting on a moral high horse when coworkers behave unprofessionally, even if it seems egregious. There are bad managers who will not handle unprofessional conduct appropriately, or there will be times when second chances are given to the offender and things work out fine in the end. It isn’t up to a peer to make that determination – that’s a manager’s job. And if the manager is not handling those issues, it’s not always an option to just find another job.

                  Honestly, I wouldn’t even put this incident at the top of the list of worst offenders that have graced this site. It is pretty poor judgement, but not career ending.

                2. Machiavelli*

                  “Gunning for people’s jobs, unless they are absolutely outrageous is not a good trait to carry long term.”

                  On the contrary, gunning for people’s jobs can be a very effective way of career enhancement. I have worked with some very effective managers who replaced the people who hired them.

                  The trick, of course, is to disguise your intentions and make it look like you’re not gunning. That is where LW’s proposal to tattle on the tattoo artists fails — it will look like she’s trying to sabotage them and will backfire.

              4. Close Bracket*

                not fair to the other interns who exhibited professional behavior and worked hard to get the same resume line, school credit, and/or recommendation letter as someone who was so blatantly unprofessional

                *long hollow laugh*

                You’re a graduate student. Once you have been in the working world for several years, you will many, many degreed, credentialed professionals exhibiting blatantly unprofessional behavior. Let go of this need to see them punished. It’s not fair to those who do act professionally to be stuck with these bozos, but you know, life is not fair.

                1. OP #1*

                  I have been working in my field for several years.

                  Just because the world is not fair and academia is rife with unprofessional behavior, doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to try to make our respective academic fields better and hold ourselves and our colleagues to higher standards.

        1. Oof*

          I’m glad you will follow her advice. To be honest, since I read this early this morning, I haven’t thought much about a home-grown tattoo – but instead your reaction. If it does ever come back, I would tone down the shock. There are so many things in art organizations that can damage art (people, haha!) that using that point comes off as a touch naive.

          But cheating? Did the alleged tattoos result in better grades or assessment? This is just poor judgment, which most of us will display at some point, but not an ethical conundrum.

        2. Roscoe*

          I mean, I probably wouldn’t report someone for cheating either. Maybe I just am better at worrying about myself than others. But if I saw that someone cheated, why do I care. Unless it is blatantly a thing where only 5 people can pass. But if I get a B and they get an A, why do I care. I still would’ve gotten a B whether they got an A or an F

      1. What's the Big Deal*

        There was a great blog called DC Interns that had all sorts of intern horror stories. Sadly, it appears to have been taken down, but if you google “DC interns” you can still see plenty of quotes from the now-defunct blog.

    2. J.B.*

      I have a major bad story, but fortunately I wasn’t one of the people who was officially told about it. So it will be a future story not while I am still at current employer.

  27. Bea*

    As someone who’s only ever seen middle school/high schoolers with stick and pokes, part of me is in awe that anyone made it as for as an internship and still does that kind of nonsensical stuff. I come from a different background though and most college age people I’ve been around drop money on bad tattoos instead of bootlegging it in a guest office somewhere. Just stick with your springbreak tattoos, man.

    I wouldn’t worry about it, the internship is done. But yeah, at the time would have been the only time to bring it up.

    1. Maeve*

      I’m in my 30s and my friends are still giving each other stick and pokes, never thought of it as unusual.

  28. Goya de la Mancha*

    #2 – I would make those commitments more singular like dr. appts rather then the gym which can turn into “Oh I really need to get to a gym again myself, we can go together!”

  29. Lupin Lady*

    #4 – Scripts are amazing and will really help you! I felt really weird about using them at first, then realized how smoothly conversations went when I had a script handy. I still like to have them now as a security system, because you never know when your brain will spontaneously stop working.

  30. Not All*


    I’ve never worked anyplace where HR would be the ones providing that type information…it would always come from your new supervisor. Yes, HR *should* be replying to your emails/calls to let you know that if it’s the case, but I could absolutely see our completely-swamped HR people meaning to reply to your messages and then forgetting as the urgent things they ARE responsible for consumed each day. Especially if they assumed that your supervisor would be reaching out to you before your start date anyway.

    1. GermanCoffeeGirl*

      I’ve worked in quite a few large international law firms, and HR always takes care of that type of information and the details regarding on-boarding, induction rogrammes, etc. So it’s not as out of the ordinary as you may think.

  31. Angelinha*

    I had a boss who made my coworker drive him to every day!! They lived about 50 miles from the office on a route with a lot of traffic which meant it was often 90 minutes to 2 hours each way. I had recently moved from their city and was SO SO glad that the boss had never asked me to drive him because it’s so awkward to turn down a supervisor like that. She seemed ok with it and said he usually slept in the mornings (which made it even weirder to me).

  32. The Doctor*


    I know that you just moved into that neighborhood, but… would it be feasible to hint that you might move again (even if you don’t actually plan to) to a different neighborhood in a different direction relative to the office? If your manager then himts at another move, you’ll know for sure that she is motivated only by having you to drive her.

    Meanwhile, keep job-hunting. After you find a new job and give notice, make sure your exit interview is after lunch on your last day; then and only then, mention the unpaid chauffeur duty as one of your reasons for leaving.

  33. Enforcer XIII*

    I’m going to disagree on the “give an excuse.” Excuses give someone making a request a place to go. “Oh, well, if you’re going to the gym, I’ll just go with you!”

    An effective way to say no, whether to someone asking a favor or a sleazy used car salesman, is just,
    “No, I can’t.”

    Repeat as needed. When boss presses, “No, I can’t.” Giving her a reason gives her ammunition.

    1. betty (the other betty)*

      Yes, this. Excuses just give the person something to argue against.

      If boss really pushes, you can say something vague but true like “I often have other plans before and after work, and I don’t always know soon enough to give you advance notice. So it just won’t be possible for me to be your driver.”

      Your other plans might be driving to and from work alone, but you don’t need to tell boss that level of detail!

  34. NW Mossy*

    The advisability of using any of the following depends on whether or not driving safely is an expectation of the job, but if it’s not relevant, painting yourself as an oblivious road menace (think Clueless’s Cher during her driving test) might cause your boss to voluntarily back away:

    “Oh, I can’t – the passenger side door doesn’t work anymore after I clipped a telephone pole, and I haven’t gotten around to getting it fixed.”
    “You would not BELIEVE how rude people are! Everyone was honking at me! Geez, haven’t THEY ever texted at a stoplight?!”
    “Let me tell you the story about how I once talked my way out of a ticket for going 55 in a 25 zone!”
    “OMG, my weekend was crazy! I took my car onto the beach and got it stuck in the sand, and it took three hours to get it out!”
    “My friend Jeanine won’t ride with me anymore. She says I’m “dangerous” and that my driving “made her life flash before her eyes,” which is ridiculous and she’s just being dramatic.”

  35. Geneva*

    OP #2 – NO is a complete sentence. Or, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me.” END OF DISCUSSION. Just because the person making the ridiculous request is your boss, doesn’t mean you can’t clearly push back. I’d probably give them a blank stare and ask them, “Are you serious?”

  36. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Regarding the tattoo thing.

    One day on my way home from university I watched a teenage boy give another teenage boy a piercing in the ear lobe.

    He just pushed the stud through. No needle or anything.

    And they did that in a MOVING TRAMWAY!

    I think people younger than 25 need to come with a label on the forehead:

    ‘Closed for construction’

  37. Fluffy*

    #1: I agree that in the moment would have been the best time to say something. I’m torn about whether you still should now. In some states tattooing without a license and outside a licensed establishment is not just unsanitary, bad judgment, and dangerous — it’s also illegal.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I wouldn’t. If I’ve read the letter right, #1 didn’t witness it – just heard about it from someone who did. That could still have been relayed to management at the time, but by now I think it’s not actionable. If the other interns also completed their internship, the company will have no avenue to follow up and confirm / deny / corroborate it.

    2. McWhadden*

      Honestly, at this point the company isn’t thinking about these interns. And if the tattoo artist was unprofessional, generally, which the letter states is the case and plain deduction backs up, then he isn’t likely to return anyway.

  38. AMT27*

    #1 – This story caused me to think about that time I dyed a co-worker/friends hair at work, during our senior year of high school. Her shift was over, I was on the clock, we did it in the bathroom of the *restaurant* we worked at. Good times lol

  39. Duffman*

    OP4 – At many places, all of that information is in your offer letter. I’m not saying that’s happened to you, but in my HR days I can’t count how many times I would get questions about when and where to report and what to bring and I would copy and paste that section of the offer letter back to the person with “as per your offer letter.”

  40. soon 2be former fed*

    Tattoo OP: I think you should tell. If your former supervisor does find out, they may wonder if you knew and didn’t tell. It may also affect any references/future internships for the unlicensed “artist”.

    This was so bad, I don’t understand those of you that are downplaying it. The risk of contamination by blood-born pathogens, liability accruing to the employer if the tattoo receiver developed complications, not to mention that this is just a big ole’ NOPE. Absolutely no body modifications should be done in the office. Was the person able to do the tattoo during a lunch period, or did it infringe on official time? How well was the area cleaned up afterwards?

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Is the risk of contamination that much worse than from a nosebleed? If there was a lot of obvious blood, I assume there would have been an investigation and thorough cleanup. If it’s just maybe a smear somewhere, that seems no worse than someone getting a papercut or nosebleed.

      To be clear, I think this was foolish and probably fire-worthy on the part of the interns, but it doesn’t seem likely to cause any collateral damage so long as the conference room is cleaned ever.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Wait, sorry, I misread that — you’re talking about the risk to the person being tattooed. That’s much more significant but also I would think not the sort of thing that the intern is likely to come back and blame their workplace for.

    2. Observer*

      Eh, the boss already knows that the intern was not a shining light, so it’s not like they are going to give an unreasonably good referral anyway. As for the rest, this is far enough in the past that none of the other dangers is relevant anymore. “But it MIGHT have been” is not a really good explanation for coming back now with something that you’ve been sitting on for so long.

      As for liability to the organization, I understand that there might be liability, but I can’t imagine any lawyer taking a case suing the employer for the damage done to the intern that had the tattoo done – everyone involved knew that it was against the rules and that the person getting the tattoo knew it as well.

  41. Attractive Nuisance*

    I was surprised to misread this as “My chauffeur gave someone a tattoo at work.” I had even more questions than I have now!

  42. Lucille2*

    #4 – I’ve been in your shoes, though I was employed by a vendor and not freelancing. Alison’s advice is fantastic – scripts are very helpful until you find your rhythm. But you will need to hone some skills in thinking on your feet. You will always get unexpected questions, and it’s not going to kill your credibility not to know all the answers. Here are some things that have helped me…

    – Organization: Maintain some method of organizing your clients needs, especially if you have several. They will love you if you are on the ball about everything.

    – Keep a list of follow up items: You won’t always know the answer on the fly, but put it down as a follow up. And follow up in a timely manner or if you need some extra time, let them know you’re still working on it. I like to send meeting notes over email and include the follow up items to keep everything documented and organized.

    – Ask questions: get to know your clients’ needs by asking questions. Sometimes getting to know your clients a little on a personal level helps break the ice too. For example, if your client is in a different city than you, make a point to mention a big win by their local pro or college sports team, or a place you’ve visited in their area, or even the weather! It can help you be more at ease so the conversation will be more natural.

    – Meet with a colleague you trust will give you constructive feedback: I hate doing this myself, but it is helpful. Practice going over some of your scripts with a colleague who will be candid about what you need to improve.

    – Practice makes perfect: In time this will be natural for you. Just keep your chin up during the learning curve.

    – Confidence: fake it til you make it. You know your stuff. You just need to convince yourself, and when you do, your clients will naturally respect you more.

  43. Rana*

    This is coming in late, I know, but OP#4 –

    Something else to consider is how much of your communication needs to be over the phone. I don’t know your area, or the types of clients you work with, but it might be worth seeing if there are other modes that might work fine for your clients and better for you.

    (I say this as someone who’s been freelancing for over a decade now, and I’ve talked with clients on the phone maybe three or four times? All of my other communication has either been through email or in person, and it has worked fine for me and for my clients. But that may be industry-specific.)

  44. anon for this*

    #2 I’ve been in your shoes (and said boss wanted me to drive him to a city that I go out of my way to avoid driving in). He consistently told me that I had an attitude problem. Eventually the compromise was me driving him to a train station (when he was too cheap to use Uber). I got the hell out of dodge.

    He also expected for me to hit the drive through and eat McDonald’s in my car. My rules for my car is no eating in the car from anyone. I told him I’d get carsick from the smell of the food if anyone ate in the car.

  45. mrs whosit*

    This may be my first comment here ever, but I immediately thought of this post today when one of my students was giving themselves a stick-and-poke tattoo… in the middle of class. (And when I asked the student to stop, instead they just hid the scissors inside their sweatshirt sleeve so it wouldn’t be as obvious.) This is a high school class. I was floored.

  46. Noah*

    OP #1: Please consider your motives. The fact that you intend to report that tattoo artist but not the person who got that tattoo suggests you may have unintentionally misguided motives related to the tattoo artist.

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