I’ll destroy the company if I resign, my boss thinks we agree politically but we don’t, and more

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

1. How do I resign without destroying my boss’s company and breaking her heart?

For the last year, I have been slowly building a company while continuing to work in a senior management position with my firm. I have been with my current employer for over 10 years and have a close relationship with my boss. We are a very small and close-knit office, but I’m excited about starting something new and moving on. My master plan was to leave once it became clear that I had business to carry me into next year, which I now do.

Simple enough, right? Over the last six months, our business has suffered from a lack of new clients. Two of my former coworkers who I worked closely with recently left because of this. Unfortunately, they both gave notice the week my boss’s spouse died. After this happened, she pulled me aside begging me not to leave and said she’d close the office if I quit. She also told me this is all she has left to look forward to. She gave me a raise because I will be “assuming more responsibility” with my coworkers gone (responsibility I don’t particularly want). She’s offered to pass the business along to me when she retires, which seems generous at face value, but I’m almost certain we have been operating at a loss for years. I’m at the height of my career and I’ve suddenly found myself in a failing company, with a staff entirely over 55. Mostly, I just don’t want this anymore. I want to focus on my own company and move on.

I’m really at a loss on how to quit with the threat of her losing the “only thing she has left” when I go? How do I quit without hurting her deeply in an already fragile time? It feels like I’m crushing someone who’s counting on me and sees me as the future of their company. I don’t want to hurt her, but this isn’t what I want.

Oh no! This is hard. But you definitely don’t need to stay. And even your boss probably wouldn’t want you to stay and be miserable if she had the full context of what you’ve been planning, but since she doesn’t know all that, the comments she’s making are all based on the assumption that you’re reasonably happy there. So yeah, you need to talk to her and let her know what your plans are.

You didn’t say how long it’s been since her spouse died. If it just happened, I’d give it a few weeks before you talk to her. One advantage of your situation is that you’re not leaving for a job with another employer, with a definite start date; you have the flexibility to wait a few weeks. It’s not that a few weeks will be enough time for her to adjust to the death of her spouse; obviously it’s not. This is just about not hitting her with yet another piece of bad news while she’s still reeling in the immediate aftermath of tragedy. But it’s not a really long time (like six months), because you don’t want her making long-term plans that center around you.

I totally get that you don’t want to be responsible for her deciding to the close the office if you leave. But that might in fact be the best decision for her, and that’s okay. Or she might change her mind; it’s possible that her comments to you were made in the initial stages of grief (and perhaps panic about the business) and she’ll decide to handle it differently later. But the best thing you can do is to give her the information about the situation that she currently lacks (i.e., that you are going to be moving on relatively soon), after waiting a respectful amount of time, so that she’s able to make the right decisions for her and for her business.

2. My boss thinks we agree politically, but we don’t

I’ve been working for my current boss for several years, and we work very closely together. For the most part, we have a great working relationship. I’m his only direct report (I used to be his intern and was promoted to a coordinator-level position a couple years ago) and we speak often about our families, life outside the office, etc.

For our work, we often communicate with local/state elected officials, and he’s very professional in that regard. He doesn’t openly let his political opinions get in the way of those connections that I know of. But he is a fairly enthusiastic Republican, and I am decidedly … not. At various points during the time I’ve worked with my boss, politics has come up, but I’ve refrained from sharing my opinions or encouraging the conversation since I don’t want to openly disagree with him. He is my boss, after all. But at some point during our working relationship, my lack of engagement in political conversations with him has somehow led my boss to believe that I agree with him! He’s made comments recently to the effect of “We Republicans need to keep our heads up” following the midterms, and he’s made comments about politics that I know he wouldn’t make in the same way if he understood my opinions. It doesn’t totally bother me, but when certain topics I’m more passionate about come up, it feels a bit like lying by omission. Is this something I should address with him before it gets worse? Or is it okay to keep my political leanings to myself, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of working with my boss?

You have zero obligation to share your political views with your boss. It is absolutely fine to go on not engaging, just has you have been.

That said, if you want, it’s also okay to say something! For example, the next time he makes a “we Republicans” comment, you could say, “Oh, I’m actually not a Republican! I just avoid talking about politics at work.” Or in response to pretty much any of it, you could say, “Well, we disagree! But that’s okay. I tend to avoid talking about politics at work anyway.” And then if he tries to get into it with you, stay firm on that last point: “There’s no way I’m going to debate politics with my boss! But I wanted to ask you about (work-related topic)…”

3. Manager wants to buy anonymous gifts for employees she thinks are struggling

My new manager has decided that our supervisory team of three should buy anonymous gifts for folks on our team who are “struggling” financially. Frankly I think this is a bad idea, for several reasons:

1. I don’t think it’s right to single people out because YOU think they might be struggling. Most folks don’t share their money issues at work so how do we really know?

2. Her criteria is very discriminatory. For instance, only people with kids qualify, but an employee with three kids doesn’t because his wife is a nurse so, “there’s no way they are struggling.”

3. I don’t make that much more than my employees and I’m “struggling” myself. My family isn’t exchanging gifts this year because we can’t afford it. I don’t want to feel pressured to give money I can’t spare so someone else can have more for Christmas.

I’m fully prepared to tell her that I am not in agreement with her plan and I’m not in a position to participate, but I’d like some suggestions on how to say it nicely.

Yeah, that’s a terrible plan, for all the reasons you list and more. Say this: “I can’t afford to participate this year, but beyond that, I think our team would be very uncomfortable knowing we were singling people out this way and the basis we’re using for doing it. At a minimum, giving gifts to some people but not others is going to make people uncomfortable, but it also risks causing discontent or drama.” Ideally you’d also add, “The best thing we can do for our employees, struggling and otherwise, is to make sure they’re paid fairly and treated well, and I think they’d agree with that.”

And if she blows that off, then stick with, “It’s not something I can afford to contribute to.”

4. Applying for jobs during Thanksgiving week

I have found myself out of work after a company strategy change and the timing is such that I am ready to submit my first new job application this week… aka, Thanksgiving week. Is that a terrible idea? Or will it automatically go to a trash bin or the bottom of an unread or unchecked inbox while someone is out eating turkey? I have read a number of your archived posts on applying for jobs during the holiday season so I know enough not to stop the pursuit of new employment entirely, but do I pause for peak holiday time when it’s almost guaranteed people are so busy trying to get out of the office my application might not be taken seriously or they’re already out of the office, etc.?

It’s fine to apply this week. There might be more of a delay before you hear back but applications wait for when people are back and ready to deal with them; they don’t get automatically trashed or ignored, and they don’t expire after sitting for a week. Go ahead and apply.

5. My manager took a bullet out of his pocket

I have an issue with my manager. He likes to micromanage and is all about authority. I know he plays the game and is nice when he has to be and manipulates situations when he wants to. I do not have to see him in person so it’s tolerable. However, there was a bizzare incident last week that has me puzzled. While talking in person to me and a coworker, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a bullet, looked at it, and then put it back in his pocket. It was a pleasant tone of conversation that we were having. But me and my coworker are puzzled. Boss is a hunter so maybe he was wondering what was in his pocket, pulled it out to take a look, realized what it was and put it back? Or was this some power play that has gone completely over my head?? To put things in context, I live where there is strict gun control, and you cannot open carry. To see a gun is a big deal in my town.

The most likely explanation is that he felt something in his pocket, didn’t know what it was, and took it out to see. He’s a hunter, so there’s your reason that he had it. The only other explanation is … what, that he did it to intimidate you? I suppose that’s possible, but that would be an incredibly odd move and is highly unlikely compared to the other explanation. (Unless he is this guy.) I wouldn’t spend any more time thinking about it.

{ 474 comments… read them below }

  1. tra la la*

    Re #4: I just did a phone interview last week and was told that they hoped to notify people this week about second-round interviews, so you never know….

    1. harmeg*

      As the author of the timing question (#4), that’s very encouraging to hear! I certainly remember some people doing work during Thanksgiving/year-end holiday weeks but some people not. Glad to hear HR is.

      1. Woodswoman*

        I submitted an application for a job the Friday before Thanksgiving week, and got an email the day before the holiday asking if I could do a phone interview that same day. Because I was traveling, I didn’t see the message for a couple days. They understood the delay in my response, and it was no big deal. I eventually got the job. The process took longer than it would have at a different time of year with the interviewers trying to coordinate their schedules around the winter holidays, but it all worked out. It’s normal for things to move slowly this time of year. Good luck!

        1. harmeg*

          Thank you! Yes, I am planning to submit this week and everything I have read, been told, and can sense leads me to be building timing flexibility/patience into my plan.

          1. You Go Glen Coco*

            Being patient and flexible is always a good idea in a job search! I’ve had companies reach out asking me for an interview on incredibly short notice (as in, the next day), then take weeks and weeks to follow up after that. It can be very frustrating, but unfortunately you’re usually at the mercy of their HR process. Good luck from a fellow job-hunter! I hope you find something new quickly.

      2. Bookworm*

        Go ahead and and apply! Other people are also looking for work (for example, people who were temporary workers relating to the election) and will also be applying.

        Scheduling might be tricky and it might take longer to hear from them but you never know! Good luck!

      3. PB*

        Like Tra La La said, these things vary. Lots of people are working this week. I admit that I’m taking this week off, and I’m currently hiring for an open spot on my team. If any applications come in this week, I won’t see them until next Monday, but I will definitely see them, and anyone who looks promising will be contacted, just a little bit later than usual. Most hiring managers won’t delete an email, just because it came in while they’re on vacation.

        Good luck!

        1. harmeg*

          I certainly didn’t think it would be outright deleted ;) (hope not at least), more kind of lost in the shuffle and pushed to the bottom of an expanding inbox. Again, this is an encouraging perspective to hear, thanks!

      4. Samesies*

        I had the same question! I’m working, but plenty of people take this whole week off, so it does seem like a weird time to submit an application. I’m planning to work on job hunting stuff over the long weekend and submit on Monday…then it’s a race to make things happen before people disappear for Christmas travel/vacation. It’s a tough time of year to be a job seeker.

        1. Colette*

          I’m not in the US but I’ve had good results job hunting in December. Things at work slow down, so hiring managers may have more time to think about things like hiring.

          1. Teapot Tester*

            I had the exact opposite experience (I am in the US). I was laid off in October a few years ago, and after Thanksgiving, the job postings completely dried up. Once January hit there was an avalanche of postings. But in December there was very little available.

            1. Colette*

              Now that I think of it, it wasn’t so much that there were lots of postings, but that I heard back from postings I’d applied to earlier. But if there’s a posting, I’d guess you might see a faster response.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        We’re doing a bunch of hiring, posting and screening this week. Don’t worry about timing, OP—as Alison notes, just realize the turnaround time may be slower. :)

      6. CoveredInBees*

        Some businesses are super quiet the week of Thanksgiving, so they focus on internal things that otherwise might move slowly. Best of luck!

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Sometimes people forget that there is a holiday coming up. Yesterday I was on a conference call and someone said “I’ll get the data sent out on Thursday and you can call me by the end of the day if there are any problems” and there was a longggg awkward pause before someone finally said “No – no one will do that. It’s Thanksgiving”. The guy kinda went ‘oh yeaaaaa’ and said he would get it out on Wednesday instead.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yes, I had an interview last week and the interviewer said something similar “hoping to start scheduling interviews next week” and I thought “she does know a lot of people will really have issues if they have vacation plans next week” and I haven’t heard from her..which could be because I won’t get a 2nd interview, but also because she realized “oh, it’s Thanksgiving this week”….

        1. BetsyTacy*

          I’ve hired/held interviews during Thanksgiving/Holiday weeks.
          We generally give a little more leeway in understanding that people might not respond to our calls/emails because they’re otherwise occupied. We also tend to make sure we’re giving a good range of dates for interview availability because again – we don’t want to lose out on good candidates because we’re inflexible.

          Likewise, I would ask a candidate to understand that we might have delays on our end for the same reasons.

          1. Washi*

            Same! There may be delays with getting back to people, but I’d look pretty askance at a company where an application during Thanksgiving week completely fell into a black hole and was never looked at.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, we’re really pretty much business as usual yesterday and today — most of the regular meetings, holding interviews, etc. Tomorrow is a different story, but like Alison said, the application will still be there on Monday when someone gets to it!

      2. Dragoning*

        My boss tried to schedule a meeting for Thursday a couple weeks back and when I rejected the Outlook invite, he asked if I had schedule conflicts.

        Yeah, Boss, with my family’s dinner table…

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          I think I love you, Dragoning! That’s classic!!!!!! Hey Alison, can we have a thread on snappy comebacks that we get away with at work????

      3. Emily K*

        Yep, early last week I was setting up some training sessions for my team and had initially told the training company we’d like to complete everything “this week or next week to keep things moving.” Then when several of my team mentioned being out for Thanksgiving, I had to go back to the trainer and say, “Whoops, completely forgot next week was Thanksgiving so it’s a short week for my team – we’ll have to spill into the following week to get all these done after all.”

        1. Lance*

          Yeah, it’s a bit hard for a holiday like Thanksgiving because it’s not on a set, numbered day, but rather just ‘third(?) Thursday of November’. I honestly couldn’t blame people for not immediately catching it.

          1. Botanist*

            Fourth Thursday, actually :-) Which just goes to prove you right, it is hard to remember and pin it down.

            1. Teapot Tester*

              It’s also super early this year, the 22nd being the earliest it can be since the 1st was a Thursday. There’s full week left in November after Thanksgiving and that keeps throwing me off.

    3. SansaStark*

      A couple of years ago, I had a second-round interview with the CEO on the Friday after Thanksgiving specifically because no one else was in the office and he had some free time that day. He was very clear that no one else worked that day except him, which I appreciated. They just really needed to fill this position and he didn’t want to be the reason that they had to wait longer.

    4. Ophelia*

      Also, I find that this week tends to be a lot of “catch up on administrative and HR things” for a lot of people, since we tend not to have deadlines right around Thanksgiving – so it might be that someone FINALLY has the time to go through a stack of resumes they’ve been looking at for a week.

  2. rarer & rarer*

    I don’t mean to sound unkind, because you clearly care for your boss and her business, but…any company that is reliant on a single employee that doesn’t plan for an eventuality where the employee is no longer available (e.g. an accident, long illness, change in family circumstances, relocation) is short-sighted at best.

    If the company will fail if you quit, then someone else isn’t doing their job properly, and that’s not your fault. Focus on doing what you want, which is clearly leaving and building your own business. Good luck!

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I was trying to phrase the same thoughts. No business should rest on 1 employee for those exact reasons. Family matter arises, that person has an extended illness, etc.

      Zero obligation to stay. Do what’s right for you. Good luck!

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, and if you’re all that’s holding the business (barely) together, then maybe closing the business is the right thing to do. If your boss is thinking of retiring and not running things anymore, people are leaving, clients are leaving, and you also aren’t interested in running things…maybe it’s time to end things?

      1. polkadotbird*

        I was thinking the same. Businesses have a lifespan that can come to an end, particularly small businesses. You’re better to end things on a high note rather than going until the bitter end.

        1. Psyche*

          Yes. If the business has been operating at a loss for years and has been rapidly losing clients this past year, maybe it is time to close.

    3. Artemesia*

      And a failing company SHOULD close; this sure beats the owner putting more and more purchases on her credit card or cashing out her IRA to keep it afloat.

      And if the business were doing well, the OP would be a fool to feel she had to stay, but to cripple her own career in a failing company is a disastrous idea. Give her a heads up and make your plans to move on. And while you can give her transition time, don’t make that open ended.

      1. Lilo*

        I remember there was a local restaurant that ended up on one of those tv shows, which is how I learned the owner was over $500,000 in debt and her family had lost their home and moved in with her mom. The thing was, the place simply was terrible. Like then one time I went there they served me a still- totally raw hamburger bad.

        There was some media after the show aired but the restaurant closed afterwards with the owner in another 100k of debt on top of all of it.

        It would have been far, far better for the owner to have given up a lot earlier.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Sheri S Tepper had a line that resonated with me about the terrible cruelty of hope. I suspect most of us have found ourselves cringing through a conversation in which someone asserts that things are pretty tough, but they’re just going to keep plugging away at the same thing and figure eventually their faith and gumption and sticktoitiveness will be rewarded.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Well, and there is so much shaming around giving up. People act like quitting is one of the worst things you can do.

            Giving up is way underrated–sometimes it’s a lot braver to admit that this isn’t a viable path, bail, and go on to something else than it is to keep chugging along a dead-end road.

            1. Lissa*

              That, and often people had naysayers at the beginning – or just people being cautious who they heard as telling them they’d fail. So now they need to prove all those people wrong darnit! I think the fact that this is an absolutely endemic media narrative doesn’t really help people feel OK about walking away from something. I understand it’s not as good a narrative but if all we see is Plucky Protagonist has a dream, others tell them it’ll never succeed, they work hard and then are the next Bill Gates/Simone Biles etc.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Follow Your Dreams! Never Give Up! etc. are, when taken to the level of cultural extreme we’ve taken it to, outright toxic notions. Combined with human vulnerability to the sunk cost fallacy, and you wind up with a lot of people throwing good money/time/effort after bad, well past the point when they should have gracefully bowed out.

                There *shouldn’t* be any shame in quitting when you realize something isn’t working and isn’t likely to work. And yet…

                1. Decima Dewey*

                  As W. C. Fields supposedly said: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a dang fool about it.”

                2. Dr. Pepper*

                  I think there’s a supreme elegance in knowing when to walk away, and *how* to walk away. It’s not taught, it’s not encouraged, but it is essential to a healthy outlook on life.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  I once had an opportunity to work as an independent sales consultant. I had never done anything like that before and didn’t know if I could.
                  I promised myself if it wasn’t working I would stop. I wouldn’t be one of those people who keeps trying beyond reason and gets into financial and emotional trouble.
                  I did stop after 11 months when I hadn’t gotten enough clients to make a living.
                  It was an excellent learning experience! It gave me a foothold in my industry. Interviewers were impressed that I had the guts to try it. It helped me get the job I have now. :)

                4. Former Employee*

                  Hey, there’s even a song about it. “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run.” I believe this is applicable to a lot of things in life, not just cards.

          2. MsSolo*

            A lot of it is the sunk cost fallacy – once you’re $500k in debt, it’s easier to throw another $10k on the pile and plow on than to admit you have to walk away from the $500k with nothing to show for it. It’s almost easier to understand with money, but people do the same in relationships, jobs, and all sorts – “I’ve spent x years plugging away at this, therefore I have to keep going because otherwise they’re wasted years “(instead of “so why waste another minute on it?”)

          3. AnnaBananna*

            Wel…there’s hope, and then there’s denial. The restraunteur above was clearly in the latter category, and it sounds like OP’s boss is quickly headed there. Either way, OP should not be trying to alight her future from the ashes of her past.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          Ooooh, yeah I’ve watched those type of shows and it blows my mind how much debt the business owners get into throwing good money after bad. If the business is that shaky, it really does make sense to simply close.

      2. boop the first*

        On this thought, the boss might be motivated to keep the business open so that she doesn’t have to lay off people.

      3. Jaid_Diah*

        I’m thinking about taxes. A friend worked in IRS collections and said that businesses would do badly and decided that their payroll taxes weren’t as important as keeping a failing business afloat. Of course, that resulted in them losing their business AND owing taxes.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      There’s really two components to the question.

      One is feeling bad because your boss has told you that you’re the only thing keeping the business alive. Because yeah, if the business has been in a downward slide and losing business, is running at a loss, is losing employees, and the owner is dependent on a single employee to keep it going (and by the sounds of it, is just planning on hanging on until retirement), then the OP is under no obligation to stay. The business is likely going to fail anyways, and the OP doesn’t need to go down with the ship out of loyalty.

      The second part is the tricky part. The boss just lost their spouse, is at an emotionally vulnerable time, *and* is panicking because she just lost two key employees. The OP can be fully committed to their new business venture, but at the same time not want to add more misery to the life of someone they care about. But they can’t stay forever.

      So I think the balance between doing what’s right for the OP, and being compassionate towards the boss, is to wait a few weeks if the death has just happened (at least until their finished with the funeral stuff!), then tell the boss what is going to happen, but give a longer than normal notice time, or a period of part time work to help the transition.

    5. Nita*

      Maybe they weren’t that over-reliant on OP until the two other key employees quit. Depending on the size of the business, it may not be surprising that they would struggle with losing three senior people in months. It does sound like there are no plans for any major new hiring, though, and the business may close anyway in a few years once enough staff retire.

      Even so, if I was in OP’s shoes, I’d talk to the boss about my long-term plans, but stay a few more months at least. It sounds like all the bad things, including the boss losing her husband, happened within the last half year. She probably needs some time to figure out what she is planning for the future, personally and at work. Once she’s thinking more clearly, and once she knows OP has no interest in taking over her business, she may decide to hire a replacement, or promote someone else from the current staff. Or she may decide to close up shop, but hopefully it would be done with plenty of warning to staff – not as a panic move.

    6. Llama Lawyer*

      Definitely this. Also, if you were so essential to the company they should have locked you down with an employment contract and give you enough incentive ($$$) to sign it.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. This is not a problem that just happened in one day. It’s been building over time. Additionally to throw the success/failure of her biz on your shoulders is wildly unfair. It’s not your company for one thing. And if only one person is holding the company together then the company is on shaky ground to begin with.

      It’s easy to think of worst case scenario where she does not want to close the company and drama follows. However, you may find out that she is actually tired of fighting the fight and would prefer to move on. Losing a spouse does cause one to think about big picture stuff. Perhaps she can take a respite and then decide what her next thing will be.

      I am not sure if this would make sense, but maybe she could come to work for you. Just a random thought, I hope you do not read pressure-on-you into that thought. The general idea I aiming for is that these stories can turn around in odd ways.

      You can talk about this being a new chapter in her life where she can consider many other options. Unfortunately, with her being in grief you might find that the conversation is more about her than about you. Grieve just takes over a person’s thinking like that.

      When I lost my husband, I had very little mental clarity for about 3 months after. I questioned myself constantly, “Do my sentences make sense to other people?” People seemed to be responding to me so I guess that my sentences made sense? At the six month mark, I was still pretty shaky but functioning. I have to say, the second year was different but in a lot of ways it was worse than the first year. If you are going to wait for a “good” time please understand that there probably is not a good time in the near future. If you know her friends and family perhaps you can steer her to a reliable person that she can talk with regarding her business.

      Good mental health comes from more than one source. If her biz is the only thing holding her together then she is on a slippery slope. We need friends, family, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of continuity, a sense of support and so on. When she tells you the biz is the only thing holding her together you can reply that she should build herself a small support group, because what she is going through is serious and no one person or one thing is going to help her through it. It’s important to acknowledge that you see her situation as serious and she should not walk alone through all the various aspects. Validation is a powerful tool for gaining ground in a conversation, don’t be afraid to use it.

      When my mother died, her doc wrote my father a letter. In that letter the doc talked about “reweaving his [my father’s] life”. I have held on to that phrasing because it is so useful. You can talk about this is a time for her to reweave her life. No, it won’t be the same, nor should it be. It’s all a part of a long journey.

      Last. Please understand that this is only a concern for you because you are quality person. A lesser person would walk away without giving it a second thought. Just because you are a quality person DOES NOT automatically mean you are responsible for what happens to her. Try not to conflate the two. Decide what your outer limits are. Are you willing to help her close the biz? Are you willing to help her hire one more person? Are you able to write her a resource list to draw from to help her with her many business issues? Are you willing to work part time for a few months? Before you go into the conversation, figure out what you are willing to do so you do not get roped into over-doing. It is fine to stress with her that she will need several people to help her with all the aspects of her setting.

      You have a very difficult situation. I wish you the best. I think because you are a caring person that will carry you through the situation in ways the will surprise even you.

    8. LGC*

      This so hard.

      Basically, if the company is going to go under without you, it’ll probably go under even if LW1 stays. There are few organizations where one person’s presence or absence can make that much of a difference, and I don’t think that LW1 is in that position.

      That said: I think that when LW1 leaves, they really owe it to her to make the transition as smooth as possible. (Which…should always be the case, but it’s especially important here.)

    9. Eliza Jane*

      Exactly this. If the company will die without you, it is already on life support. You cannot save it, and your boss is not currently able to. The company is already gone. Move on without guilt.

    10. Recent Anon Lurker*

      I think the only exception to the thought of no business should be reliant on one employee is if that employee is the owner/founder and it’s a fairly recent startup (under five years or so).

    11. Anon Anon Anon*

      Exactly. The decline in clients and employees leaving – that’s the result of how the business is being run. It could be bad luck. It could be beyond the owner’s control. But it’s not OP’s responsibility, and the boss is being really inappropriate and manipulative. Maybe it’s understandable because times are tough, but she’s doing something wrong by making those kinds of threats (“If you leave, I’ll close the business,” “You’re all I have to look forward to.”). That’s not ok. That’s emotionally / psychologically abusive behavior. It should be taken as a sign to move on, not a reason to stay, or to feel bad about leaving.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I feel like this is an unnecessarily uncharitable read of the boss’s statements to OP. Could it be “making threats” and abusive behavior? Possibly. But it seems to me more likely that the boss is saying things like this out of grief, without really thinking it through, not because she’s trying to manipulate OP.

        I mean, it’s very much possible for someone to inadvertently commit emotional abuse, without it being malicious. I just don’t think it’s necessary to characterize the boss, speaking out of grief and probably a fair dose of panic as she feels like she’s watching her life fall apart around her, saying “I’ll have to close the business if you leave” as a *threat* per se. Ill-chosen words, yes. Not well thought out, yes. But a threat, to me, implies a level of deliberate intent to manipulate, and I just don’t see that here.

        1. AKchic*

          At the same time, can the OP afford to be charitable when they have another business that is on the line if they are allowing themselves to be emotionally held hostage by someone who may not mean to be emotionally manipulative/abusive?

          Bad luck can happen to anyone. How you deal with it an individual issue, and ultimately, you still have to be accountable for your own actions during your mourning. You still are responsible for yourself during your time of grief. Accountability doesn’t take a holiday because of personal trauma. Yes, the people around you can make concessions and allow leeway for things, but your subordinates aren’t your friends/family and are in no way beholden to that *social* nicety (though most are compassionate enough to give leeway).

          For the LW, I say: You do not owe this person your own happiness or financial future. If there has been a decent amount of time (3-4 months) since the death and confiding of plans to you, it’s time to tell her of your plans. You could be extremely kind and ask if she’d like help with going over the books to see if it is feasible to hire new staff to continue the business, restructure, or if there is a way to close efficiently while giving the rest of the staff time to adequately search for new work (or retire). Otherwise, give a firm leave date.

            1. Anon Anon Anon*

              I didn’t mean it was actual abuse. Just stuff that’s manipulative and not cool. Maybe I went to far in my post, but it reminded me of that unhealthy relationship situation where the person says, “If you ever leave me, I’ll [some horrible thing].” Regardless of the intentions, it has the effect of creating a guilt trip where one person feels overly responsible for another person’s well being.

    12. Someone Else*

      That was my first thought when I read the headline, but after reading the letter, I’m not sure it’s actually the case with this company. It sounds more like the boss has decided she doesn’t want to continue if she loses OP (after already losing two others, and why isn’t she replacing those two I didn’t understand). They do seem to have been operating at a loss but that doesn’t necessarily mean OP is so crucial it’ll crumble. Just that the boss will crumble, and seems near-ready to throw in the towel. Which may actually be best for all of them at this point.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This was my read, too – the boss is at a point where she doesn’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to do heavy lifting around running the company and/or getting it back to a strong position, and her statement about closing the business if OP leaves is less about the OP in particular being too crucial to lose, and more about the boss having reached her own “last straw” point where one more blow is going to be more than she’s willing or able to deal with.

    13. Comment*

      “I don’t mean to sound unkind, because you clearly care for your boss and her business, but…any company that is reliant on a single employee that doesn’t plan for an eventuality where the employee is no longer available (e.g. an accident, long illness, change in family circumstances, relocation) is short-sighted at best.”

      In principle, yes — but in practice, plenty of businesses rely on the know-how of a single founder. (Elon Musk and Tesla, for example.) This is why you purchase “key person” insurance.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        But OP isn’t the founder, she’s a key employee. Not to get off track, but most CEOs have plenty of people supporting them – Tesla has many, many employees and although Musk oversees it all and probably has his hands in much of it, he’s not doing it all. If several of his key designers left, for example, the company is in a place that he could hire new designers and move on. And at this point the company is big enough that he himself could leave and it would carry on.

        That doesn’t seem to be the case with OP’s boss’s company at all. They’re small enough that they don’t have a lot of backups, and maybe don’t have the budget to hire new people. This is more the equivalent to Apple after Steve Jobs got sick (and eventually passed away), but if they had far fewer employees and no one was willing to take over and also they were losing money and instead of Tim Cook stepping up, the #2 said “I don’t want to do this.”

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I don’t know if OP’s boss is dazed by grief, or emotionally blackmailing OP, but if the business fails if OP leaves, I don’t think that’s on OP. If OP is the only thing keeping this business afloat, what would happen if OP got pregnant, had a catastrophic illness, etc.?

    14. TootsNYC*

      I would say that perhaps something the OP could do is to start conveying that message to the boss–to get her started talking about contingency plans, other employees, and maybe even encourage her to find a “small business mentor” somewhere, so assess the viability of the business.

      It’s not our OP’s responsibility, but it might be a thing that makes it much easier to leave.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Not So New Reader has a great list of other things to suggest to the boss, above.

        And Not So New also has other great advice above.

  3. ENFP in Texas*

    OP1 – while it is understandable that you feel a certain amount of responsibility towards your boss to keep her afloat, to quote an old meme, “you are not obligated to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.”

    I agree with the thought that if her spouse has recently passed, and you can afford to stick it out for a few months, it would be kinder to do so. But let her know that you are not in it for the long haul, and that she should not pin her future or the future of her company on you.

    1. Redhead*

      To the OP, can you suggest that your boss get grief counseling, if she’s not already? You’re kind to want to help, but this isn’t something that you are responsible for and you might feel better about the situation if you know she’s getting care.

      1. Karyn*

        Ooh, I wouldn’t do this. There’s nothing really to suggest she needs it, and it’s probably not LW’s place to suggest it to their boss.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I wouldn’t do it, either, but I do think there’s quite a bit to suggest she needs it – she’s obviously in distress, and she just had a major loss, at which point pretty much anyone would benefit from grief counseling. It’s just that it’s really not OP’s place to get that level of involved.

        2. Important Moi*

          Maybe not, but boss has already asked employee to say. So I think some lines have already been blurred here. I think it would be appropriate given the relationship that has been presented in the letter.

    2. Lilo*

      I thought 9f this exact quote.

      Staying a few months would be kind, but OP has 100% no obligation to do so, especially of doing so would cost her money in opportunity cost and extreme stress/time loss from taking on the additional jobs. OP, it may actually be kinder to just rip the bandaid off now. If the business is dying, drawing it out will cost your boss money and more pain as she struggles to keep it afloat.

    3. Nico M*

      I’m not sure delay is kinder, won’t that just prolong the misery ? Especially if the business is running at a loss.
      Also I think in this unusual situation, OP actually has a right to see The Books if they are going to stay a while.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I don’t think of it as a delay. I think they mean create a plan that boss can feel a part of and take responsibility for because if OP is leaving in one month, I must do the following: maintain day to day; I must notify suppliers, end contracts; etc.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      I also got shades of the old “romantic” cliche of “if you leave, I will kill myself”. It’s an emotional grab, whether on purpose or because the person really does feel (in that moment, at least) that they cannot actually go on without you. The idea is to make *you* responsible for their actions, which in fact is never the case. People are always responsible for their own actions, much as some would like to foist the blame on others. So whatever happens to your boss after you leave is on her, not on you. One must paddle one’s own canoe, to use another cliche. Be as kind to her as you can, this is after all an incredibly difficult time for your boss and she likely feels like the bottom has dropped out of her life. It sounds like she doesn’t yet have a “new plan” going forward, and thus is clutching at the little of her “old life” that remains, namely her business.

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        Yup, an ex said that he would die if I left him. Spoiler alert: he’s not dead.

        Whether or not she means to be manipulative, the road forward is the same- be kind, but firm. Give the boss notice, help her plan, but don’t let her guilt you into staying too long.

    5. TheBeetsMotel*

      If OP has already made the decision to leave and is just trying to do so in such a way as to be kind to the boss, that’s admirable, but the greatest kindness will come from setting a firm leave date and sticking to it. “While I’m able to give longer than the standard 2 weeks given my circumstances, I will still need to make [date a month/few months from now] my leave date. With that in mind, let’s look and see what can realistically be done to keep things running after I’m gone”.

      If the answer really is “it would still all fall apart”, then as upsetting as that will no doubt be for Boss, it’s better to be realistic about that and wind things down calmly and in as fanancially sensible a manner as possible.

  4. Mike C.*

    OP3: Suggest to your manager that if it appears that people are struggling then maybe it’s time to give everyone raises.

    After all, it would be terrible if you lost people to jobs that paid more, right?

    1. Nita*

      Indeed. The obvious reasonable thing to do. Not sure if it’s doable – sounds like OP’s boss is not the head of the company and may not have control over salary decisions – but it’s worth asking. Definitely better than making someone who’s struggling pay out of pocket for a gift to boss’s cherry-picked favorite employees.

    2. OP#3*

      OP #3 here: We have actually been advocating for raises for years and did manage to get a higher starting rate this year. We’ve been in communication with HR regarding this and they’ve been listening to our concerns. Unfortunately, this is a new manager to the company and she’s come in like a steam roller, trying to take over. On a good note, my peer in the group also decided he wasn’t comfortable with this plan so, after more discussion, I believe we have decided against it.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Good because this had more potential for causing problems than no raises for everyone. Oh you got no raise, but you have to take some of your already minimal salary and give it to someone that I THE BOSS deem worthy? Good way to get good people running for the door. If they aren’t already due to lack of raises.

        You say your boss is like a steam roller trying to take over. Well, in one way that is her job. She is in charge. On the other hand, this issue might be a symptom of a larger problem. Keep an eye out for other signs of favoritism like people with young kids get to take off early a lot and the work gets stuck on those without kids, with no reciprocity. Like Johnny has a school play, but someone with no kids can’t take time off to the doctor without a problem. Or you know similar issues.

        1. SarahKay*

          The things is, I agree the boss should be steering, but my feeling is that (absent a new manager in a truly messed-up company) this should be more akin to riding a bicycle than a steam-roller. I.e. a certain amount of balancing required but still heading steadily in the correct direction, rather than rolling over everyone and everything in your path leaving a flattened trail behind you.

      2. TootsNYC*

        a higher starting rate isn’t that helpful to the folks who’ve been there a while; it may not do as much to help retention (even if it does help to replace people).

        1. OP#3*

          TootsNYC, I totally agree and we’ve been arguing this point as well. HR wants to do a “study” to determine our best course of action. Will be slow going but at least they are listening now.

  5. Tipcat*

    Did we ever get an update to ‘after an employee died, her team has driven off anyone we hire to replace her’ from March 1, 2017? That one just amazed me. (This isn’t random; that’s from ‘YOU MAY ALSO LIKE’ above.)

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I don’t think we did. I know that was one I asked for when the call for 2017 updates went out.

    1. HS Teacher*

      Agreed. We all make oversights, but it’s how we react when corrected. Thanks, Alison, for handling this appropriately.

  6. Calmeye*

    OP1: I really feel for your boss. But if she is a reasonable person she would not expect you to stay just for the sake of making her happy, at the cost of making you unhappy.

    The best thing you can do here is to do what anyone can do to minimise the inconvenience of leaving. Give extra notice; train others well; leave detailed notes about your work to help the next person; and be available afterwards to answer a few urgent questions (within reason).

    Given the unfortunate timing, yes, your boss may take it personally. She may be upset and stressed. But it’s not your responsibility to manage her emotions.

  7. Nicole*

    While the relationship is a tad different, I worked with an outspoken athiest (she was a tad higher up the corporate food chain than me and we worked together a lot) and well, I’m not athiest, I’m Christian. I stayed silent mostly because I have noooooooo interest debating or discussing religion at work. Finally it got to the point where I had to tell her and I was relieved I did. I figure once someone crosses the line of bringing up religion or politics up at work, I feel like it’s okay to share my own thoughts, even if I disagree (respectfully, of course).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t want to talk about politics with workmates either, so I try to nip it in the bud at the very start, ideally without giving away my position. But that isn’t always possible.

      1. Nicole*

        Yeah totally. My openness came about as a result of our political discussions (despite our religious differences, me and this (now, former) coworker are liberal), and finally I told her. But in reality, I hope never work anywhere that talks about religion and politics so openly again (if possible)!

    2. Sara without an H*

      I, too, avoid discussions of politics, religion, or nutrition at work. But when it gets to the point where somebody is making false assumptions about you, it’s probably necessary to find a tactful way to correct the impression, while still indicating that you’re not open to a lot of discussion of the topic. Your atheist coworker may have been a little embarrassed, but was probably glad you spoke up. (At least, I hope so.)

      1. Nicole Pyles*

        Yeah! She seemed to temper her mood (she went away from ranting about things like ‘raging Christians’ and all that lol). And actually I think it made her feel better about Christians in general (at least, I hope) and went away from saying to me that it was all BS to saying to me that she’s open.

    3. Undercover Dem*

      I’m an atheist, and I have definitely been in the opposite situation. I would never bring up religion, or lack there of, at work. When asked about religion at work (which happens A LOT), I usually just say I don’t go to church & that’s usually enough to redirect conversation. I have never understood the urge to talk religion or politics at work – someone is always uncomfortable, and when there are issues of power dynamics it can be hard to address.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Same here. I am atheist – but not prostelyzing – everyone here brings up religion all the time! I am out at work for the most part.

        Here are some conversations I have had with Catholics and Christians:

        C1: You will have that major event in your life that turns you to God.

        Me: well I literally just lost my mother to cancer. Still don’t believe in any God’s.

        C1: I’ll pray for you.

        C2: Really you!? But you are so nice! You are like the nicest person I know! You literally just spent yesterday standing on the freezing wind and snow to pass out food for the needy!??

        Me: Is this the first time you are realizing that under the Judeo-Christian world view you subscribe to many kind, loving, charitable people are going to hell?

        C3: But, but you have morals! Wait you do have morals don’t you? How!

        Me: You know that’s a very insulting question. Of course I have morals. I do good because it’s the right thing to do – not because I expect a reward or punishment.

        Also interestingly our local hospital sent out a community health survey. They listed faith/religion as a strength you could select as the greatest strength of the community. But it was not listed as a weakness to choose. It never even occurred to them that faith actually inserts itself into health a ton harming the community (women’s health, vaccines, blood transfusions to name a few).

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Clarifying these were conversations from coworkers who brought the subject up then reacted to me saying – I’m atheist.

          1. Theo*

            Just so you know, Catholics are also Christians! They/we are just. A little peculiar.

            I periodically bring up my church because I sing in the choir, but I’m a UU these days and we’re taught to be Extremely laid-back about other people’s practices, so I stick to talking about the choir (as opposed to the services, the minister, etc). Other than that what I do with my personal day of rest is no one’s business but mine, and I desperately don’t want to know anyone else’s details either. If I had the kind of interactions you’ve had, I would be taking it straight to HR; it’s wildly inappropriate to evangelize or act shocked that people not in your tradition can be good people!

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              I have met cathlolics who get uppity about being lumped in with Christians here in the US which is almost getting feluted to mean Protestants so I always specify both. I get nomenclature wise all cathlics are christians just as Protestants are but not all christians are Catholics. Still folks have feels around this so I keep them separate.

              1. Marthooh*

                I’ve met Protestants (fundamentalists mostly) who think Catholics aren’t Christians, but I’ve never known a Catholic to resent being called a Christian.

                1. JR*

                  I’d caveat that by saying that, in my experience, a Catholic would never reply “Christian” when asked what religion they are because, while that’s true, they’re more specifically Catholic, while I’ve known Protestants who would reply “Christian” as opposed to “Methodist” or whatever. That always confused me, but I think it’s a function of belonging more to a specific church than the denomination as a whole, and also a greater comfort moving between Protestant denominations. But I would still absolutely say that all Catholics I’ve met/been related to consider themselves Christian.

            2. Phoenix Programmer*

              I am not going to amke waves about this. Catholics are the majority here and complaining to HR about one off thoughtless comments is probably going to get me labeled as difficult/anti-religious which is just not worth it.

            3. A Tax NERD*

              I, a non-Christian, went to Catholic school and most of my family are Southern Baptists. I never understood it, but Southern Baptists strongly contend that Catholics are not Christians

              1. Hey Nonny Anon*

                As a Catholic girl meeting fundamentalist Christians in my college years, I was told that I was not truly Christian because I did not have a certain time I could point to as the moment when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Having believed in Jesus and following his teachings since before I could remember, then confirming that belief through a Sacrament of the Catholic Church apparently wasn’t enough. Whatever. My faith is between me and my God, and no one else’s religious faith (or lack thereof) changes that.

                Most of my coworkers, all across the faith spectra, seem OK with whatever my faith is; mostly people don’t know for sure or care much what kind of church I go to.

              2. Stinky Socks*

                Yup. It’s largely the more fundamentalist flavors of Baptist that insist Catholics aren’t Christians. The majority of Protestants I’ve met view Catholics as fellow Christians.

        2. Amber T*

          “C3: But, but you have morals! Wait you do have morals don’t you? How!”

          That’s… incredibly insulting. Good on you for calling that out.

          1. Undercover Dem*

            I get the morals comment a lot. I have no problem with people mentioning their religion, just as I would hope no one would have a problem with me mentioning I’m an atheist (which of course, I usually don’t because of all the types of comments Phoenix listed) … it’s really just the proselytizing of religion/lack of and the condescension of differing opionions that is obnoxious.

            1. Oranges*

              I think talking about religion should be like talking about your favorite restaurant.

              Then the above would go:
              C1: You will have that major event in your life that turns you to Thai
              Me: well I literally just lost my mother to cancer and I still can’t stand it.
              C1: I’ll eat Thai for you.

              C2: Really you!? But you are so healthy! You are like the healthiest person I know! You literally just spent yesterday eating healthy!??

              C3: “But, but you eat food! Wait you do eat food don’t you? How!”

  8. WS*

    OP5: I also live in a country with strict gun control etc. but it’s really common for farmers and hunters to have bullets in their pockets and just forget to take them out. Sometimes we’ve found them on the floor where a person has reached into their pocket and a bullet has fallen out accidentally! Unless he was waving it around it’s not a big deal.

    1. ElspethGC*

      I’m in the UK (no, guns aren’t banned here! you can have one if you have a reason for wanting one!) and I know-by-proxy a couple of farmers who have had situations like that. The police are generally pretty strict on you keeping track of all your paraphernalia, so I think most people try very hard to avoid it, but it happens.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yeah. I’m half Swedish and half American, and people are often to surprised to learn that the Swedish half of my family are gun owners (well, some of them) the American side is not.

    2. Aveline*

      Conversely, I have lived in both strict gun control states and countries and in areas where people keep varmit guns in their truck and open carry is legal. Even in open carry areas it would still be both illegal and cultural shocking to brandish a gun at work or to take out a bullet with the intent to intimidate. Even the gun toting NRA hat wearing types I know would disapprove of using the bullet to intimidate.

      Merely finding a bullet in a pocket is ok in any circumstance. Using it as an intimidation tactic is never ok.

      It doesn’t sound like there was intimidating behavior.

      Also, you have no idea how the bullet got in the pocket. I once ended up with one in a cardigan pocket because I loaned it to a cousin for a weekend. She wasn’t a shooter. Found it when she was out walking.

      Given the non-reaction on his part, it’s most likely forgotten Or accidentally left in the pocket.

      Bullets alone are not dangerous. Had he showed a gun or knife or any other weapon or had he waved the bullet around while saying something threatening, that would be another story.

      He didn’t brandish a weapon. He didn’t say anything intimidating or act aggressively.

      I think the core is your discomfort. That’s ok. But you can let it go in this particular instance without letting it go generally or in other cases.

      1. Aveline*

        Addendum: To be clear, it’s ok to be anti-gun and not be freaked out by a gun or a bullet in a given instance.

        It’s ok to be uncertain if you aren’t familiar w hunting.

        As someone who knows a lot of hunters and knows how to shoot, I can assure you he didn’t mean anything sinister.

        He should have made a diffusing comment or joke, but he might have been afraid to do so in an area where guns are strictly controlled.

        So let it pass unless it happens again. Then simply tell him that it makes some people uneasy, so he should address it and diffuse it when it happens. That, and keep better track of his ammo.

        Had it been me, I would have said something diffusing and humorous. But not everyone is comfortable with that tactic or quick enough to be witty.

      2. Psyche*

        I agree. A bullet with no gun is not very threatening. And if he just looked at it and put it back it does not sound like he was trying to appear intimidating.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Boss may have been thinking “Crud. A bullet. I was hoping it was a caramel or a dark chocolate almond.”

        2. Anon Anon Anon*

          I think it depends on how it was done. I think it’s very much a, “Trust your gut” / “You had to be there,” kind of thing.

    3. ForestGirlAnnon*

      Yeah, with the fact he’s a hunter, that he just noticed it is probably the most reasonable argument. Honestly sounds like something my husband would do by accident after cleaning them over the weekend. Maybe it could have even been an empty round he picked up to recycle and forgot? (Brass is expensive and some hand reload to save money.) And I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but most gun owners would be confused if that were a threat. It would just be… weird?

    4. Mbarr*

      Story time! My uncle (a Canadian who lives in an area where they rely on hunting) flew to Toronto on a trip. On his way back to his hometown, Security discovered bullets in his jacket. Security went INSANE. He missed his flight back. Got searched and questioned over everything. It was an innocent mistake – he forgot the bullets were there, and Security on the flight TO Toronto didn’t catch them… We tease him about it all the time now.

      1. Chinookwind*

        DH had that happen to him when we went on vacation. He had forgotten that he had used his carry-on bag to transport his weapon to a course previously and he got stopped at security when the swab thingy went wild and then they found a single bullet that had fallen out of thingy that holds spare bullets. Luckily, he was able to flash his badge, explain what happened and let them confiscate the bullet so we could travel.

        We have taken to checking ourselves for weapons like swiss army knives and anything that touched his weapon before travelling but sometimes things hide in corners.

    5. Kali*

      Yup. Boxes of ammo and rifle/pistol magazines are like hot dogs and hot dog buns at the store – the numbers never match up. There are always a few extra rolling around, and instead of carrying a whole box for 3 bullets, you stick them in your pocket. Depending on what the boss hunts with (bolt-action rifle, for instance), it’s even more likely to stick them in your pocket, because you want them on hand for reload instead of fumbling with a box.

    6. NotReallyKarenWalker*

      Yep, came here to say that too. Hubby is a LEO and we own a few guns in a pretty gun-restrictive state where seeing one is a big deal. We went to a range just this past weekend and a spent casing fell out of my hoodie while shopping afterwards. If you’re around guns often enough, you’ll occasionally come up with related paraphernalia in your pockets, etc. It’s definitely a thing that happens!

      1. Aveline*

        We could do a thread this weekend on “odd places you have found spent casings.” Because they do end up in the strangest places.

        They are like those missing socks you never find..until you do and can’t figure out hock the heck they ended up where they did

        1. AKchic*

          I go to the range and end up with casings everywhere. I’ve had to dig them out of my bra before. I try to wear a hoodie, but it was hot and I was wearing a tank top. Whoops.

          Most common places – sleeves, pockets, purses/bags, and boots.

        2. NotReallyKarenWalker*

          I support this thread suggestion! Then when other non-gun folks come across them at work, us sheepish gun owners can be “like… well… umm… This one time, in my boot..”

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        When you’re around anything with small pieces a lot, you end up with bits and bobs your pockets. For a hunter, a bullet in the pocket is pretty normal.

      3. Chinookwind*

        Canadian military knows this happens to the point that there are amnesty boxes that you can drop loose casings and bullets that wander home with you.

    7. General Ginger*

      It’s possible it’s a casing rather than a bullet, too. They can easily end up in a pocket.

    8. Fibchopkin*

      Agree- I also think it’s quite likely it was just a casing, as someone else further down mentioned. For those who don’t know much about firearms, the casing (also commonly called “brass”) is the part of the bullet which is left behind after you actually fire the weapon. Think of Rambo or any action flick where you see bandoliers of ammo being fed into a machine gun- the bits that get spit out are the casings. They are cylindrical and generally bullet shaped, even pinched at the top- visually they are only lacking the point at the tip; so if you aren’t familiar with weapons, it might look like a bullet to you. I am ex-military and I always had a leftover brass or two jingling around in a BDU or ACU pocket for a few days after a live fire exercise. I don’t much care to be around weapons anymore, but a fair number of my friends and family who are veterans or active still maintain personal firearms, and it seems like there’s always some loose brass somewhere.

    9. J Kate*

      I also don’t really see the big deal on this one as long as he wasn’t being threatening. Personally I’m not big on guns, but even I have a bullet keychain I carry on my keys (a graduation present from my brother in the Marine Corps). Everyone who sees my keys always asks if it’s a “real bullet,” but no one has ever seemed to feel threatened by it.

    10. Jadelyn*

      I’ve found spent casings in my purse before after a trip to the range. I had set my purse down far enough back from where I was shooting that I figured it wouldn’t “catch” anything, but a couple weeks later I found brass rattling around the bottom of my purse. If you have guns and actively spend time shooting, like if you’re a hunter, odds are you’ll have bits and pieces you find in odd places now and then, like finding a bullet in your pocket. So I’m with Alison, he probably felt it in his pocket, went “wait what?”, pulled it out to see if it was what he thought it was, then went “huh, ok” and put it back. I doubt there was any kind of malicious or threatening intent.

    11. Gumby*

      Yep. I have shot a gun once in my entire life – at a gun range in Las Vegas at my sister’s bachelorette party. I have one of the casings(?) from that which is currently serving as s fiddle toy next to my home computer. Its nothing. I can’t even see how a bullet by itself *could* be threatening absent some super-villian speechifying.

    12. LadyCop*

      Yeah it happens all the time…and I don’t see what it has to do with local gun control…I know a lot of people are so strangely averse to firearms they think they jump out of holsters all on their own…but really this is Occums Razor.

      1. WS*

        I think the “local gun control” is just there to indicate that this is not something the letter writer would expect to see.

  9. Zona the Great*

    #5–I’m pretty anti-gun in general yet pro-hunting. This seems more like, “boys with all the junk in their pockets” kind of thing. I wouldn’t give it another thought.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      Reminds me of the time my parents took me on a trip by plane, and we got held up in security because my father loves those fishing-style vests with bazillion pockets – in one of which he’d at some point stored a broken off two inch piece of a massive, industrial sized drill bit. I’m glad that was back in the 90s…

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        It happened to me two years ago before going on Easter holidays, but in my case it was part of a bike repair kit. I was lucky it was a domestic flight and Security staff was on a good mood.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I actually got through airport security with spent brass in my purse, once – without even realizing it. I had gone to the range a couple days before my trip, and a few pieces of brass wound up falling into my purse even though it was like, six feet behind me where I figured nothing would reach. I didn’t realize until I found them there, AFTER getting off the plane at my destination! Really gives you faith in the TSA, dunnit?

    2. Doctor Schmoctor*

      One time I was standing in line at an airport, waiting to go through security, when I suddenly realised I had a screwdriver in my jacket pocket.

      1. Eliza Jane*

        This happened to me at Planned Parenthood! With a screwdriver, too. I got a real hard side-eye from the security officer.

        1. Nita*

          I’ve had a pair of pocket scissors flagged at security in a government building. Very odd, because I doubt they’re more dangerous than a very sharp pencil. At least security was kind enough to hold the scissors for me until I got out of my meeting – they’re my favorite pair and I hadn’t even realized they were in my bag.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I’ve had 1.5″ folding craft scissors confiscated at a gov’t building. They refused to hold them for me or let me take them back to my car, since I forgot they were in my bag. I was quite peeved at losing a $30 pair of nice yarn scissors. The desk guard at the reception desk was however quite amused at me coming up to him a couple times to borrow his desk scissors to cut the yarn on the mittens I was knitting.

            (This was at a conference with a ton of break times, and I generally knit so I can pay attention and not fall asleep. Also, it had just started snowing, so he was joking that I must be a very prepared person to knit myself a pair of mittens on the fly just ’cause I got cold.)

      2. LizB*

        Once I managed to fly from home to a vacation with no problems. It wasn’t until my return flight that the scanners found the tiny pocket knife I forgot I had in a tucked-away pocket of my backpack.

        1. Ophelia*

          This has happened to me! I was on the last leg of a round-trip flight when my backpack got pulled aside, and a small knife I take hiking was buried in a pocket. I had no idea, and no one on the first THREE flights noticed it. Whoops.

    3. Hobbert*

      Yeah, if this was a recent letter, deer season has opened/ begun to open most places. Ours opened this week and I live in a rural area so there are random gunshots here and there. It sounds like it was just odds and ends in his pocket.

    4. Kat in VA*

      I actually made it through security twice with a .45ACP round in my wallet. (By way of explanation, .45ACP is a large round, not a little one like a 9mm or a .22)

      I’d gone target shooting the week before and it somehow ended up in the zippered change part of my wallet (it was open a tiny bit). Made it through security at Spokane airport, then on the way back through LAX.

      After I got home from the trip, I was cleaning out my purse and putting the extra change in the “change jar” and whoops, there it was. This wasn’t just the spent bullet part – this was the entire live round!

      I chalked it up to getting lucky, and have been very careful about clearing my purse after shooting from then on.

      (This was most decidedly after 9/11 when security was ramped way, way up. I can’t fathom how they missed it.)

      1. blackcat*

        I once made it through THREE security checkpoints with a large (6in) knife in my bag before I realized it.

        And that was when I lost all faith in airport security.

        But yeah, these things happen!

          1. Anonny*

            I’ve heard multiple stories of the TSA failing to detect live cats in people’s suitcases. (Generally what happens is the cat sneaks into the suitcase, the owner fails to check before zipping up and leaving, and the cat goes with them to the airport.)

            1. automaticdoor*

              As a cat owner, I laughed at this one. I can so easily see how that could happen. The only reason it would probably never happen to me is because my bags are always crammed so full there’s no way my cat could fit!

              1. Jadelyn*

                And this is why I always make sure I know where the cat is before I close anything she could have conceivably managed to get into. Sneaky little critters.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I have a coworker who brings a sacrificial pocket knife with him to see if it is ever caught. It’s been confiscated something like 1 of “n” times.

          But, the time my son brought weighted baseballs on vacation, lord knows they took those out and examined them with great care.

          1. wafflesfriendswork*

            I work in the coffee industry and when I pretty much always travel with coffee beans–either souvenir coffee from vacation or bringing my company’s beans to my family as a gift–and I am always ALWAYS pulled off at airport security so they can dig through my bag. Anymore I try to remember to put it in my checked luggage if I have it, but otherwise I just put it at the top of my bag if I can.

            1. Twig*

              I seem to have heard that coffee is a good way to smuggle drugs— the scent of coffee can throw dogs off. But maybe I heard that from a TV show or some other piece of fiction so take that with a grain of salt.

              1. Chinookwind*

                The TV show may have been Border Security. It is reality TV and there are versions that include Australian border security, Canadian border patrol and American TSA. They are factual and quite useful to see how to NOT act when going through a border, what can trigger a search as and why it is best to be truthful and claiming the border taxes vs. not doing so, getting caught and paying both that and the fines.

            2. LizB*

              In the early 2000s we went on a family vacation overseas that was going to involve a lot of driving when we got to our destination, so we brought along a big pack of AA batteries to power a couple of gameboys to keep me and my siblings occupied in the car. Apparently on the xray, the pack looked like a magazine of bullets! They made my parents open the pack and spread the batteries throughout our luggage so it wouldn’t cause alarm on connecting flights.

          2. Ophelia*

            I once had a VERY intense search of my bag due to package of…wait for it…baby wipes. (apparently they read as dense and wet, which makes sense, but oy.)

            1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

              My great-uncle caused quite a stir with the foil-wrapped kielbasas he was bringing from Boston to DC back in the day. This was even before our current level of security, so I can only imagine what would happen if someone tried the same thing today.

        2. Joielle*

          Me too! I was accidentally carrying around a folding fishing knife in a lesser-used pocket of my travel carryon for AGES before I found it. Probably went through airport security a dozen times and nobody ever noticed it. That thing is big and serrated and could do some serious damage! Airport security – such a waste.

        3. Recent Anon Lurker*

          Yup, they do the best they can, and tech is improving, but the TSA folks are human just like the rest of us.
          Some are good and dedicated, some just take it because it’s a job and they need to pay bills. Then you get a few “tin hat admarils” who think they run the airport. My hubby has run into a few of the last sort, experience has never been friendly to those guys.

          1. Newmom*

            The tin hat admirals are the worst. The worst. One of them held me for 45 minutes claiming I needed a doctor’s note to bring a breastpump and said my *frozen solid ice packs* (you know, for the milk I was going to pump but hadn’t yet) were not allowed. Dude, frozen solid means they’re not liquid and therefore not subject to the rules for liquids. And even then, slushy ice packs are okay for medical purposes. No, you do not need doctors notes for medical devices. The rules are clear. I had a copy of these rules printed in my bag. My bag he wouldn’t let me touch, nor would he open to get the rules out. Magically, when a supervisor became available, he gave me my stuff back, but not before telling me to “be more respectful.”

            Meanwhile, the same dude was all chummy with a guy he *confiscated a giant hunting knife from* while claiming my pump and “suspicious attitude” meant I needed additional screening. And couldn’t I just agree to a pat down from a man given that no woman was available? Hard pass, asshat.

          2. JustaTech*

            If you ever want to know if you’re allowed to take something as carry-on to checked luggage, the TSA has an Instagram account where you can take a picture of the thing and ask them “OK or not?”.

            They also share pictures of all the stuff they’ve confiscated, and it’s pretty amazing.

        4. AKchic*

          Yep… I’ve brought bullets and a knife through, but damn – they get real nosy when I bring vibrators, dildos, knitting needles, a broken pocket watch, or .5 ounces of hand sanitizer.

        1. Shark Whisperer*

          I had a TSA agent confiscate an unopened jar of nutella from my luggage. I am convince they just wanted to eat it themselves.

          1. Alex the Alchemist*

            Tangentially, I remember a few police officers came into my school my senior year of high school looking for contraband. They had the dogs sniff us during class and everything. They didn’t find anything illegal in our classroom, but they definitely took someone’s PB&J sandwich.

        2. JustaTech*

          I once talked my way through with a jar of chocolate ganache by taking the lid off and turning it upside-down to show it wasn’t a liquid. Apparently some airports define “liquids” all the way up to toothpaste consistency.

      2. Aveline*

        I’ve known off duty LEOs get through airport security with their guns in their carry ons. Within the past few years!

        1. Chinookwind*

          “I’ve known off duty LEOs get through airport security with their guns in their carry ons.”

          That is by design as they should be in full control of their weapons at all time. Could you imagine what would happen if they checked them and then the luggage gets lost? When he travels for work, DH has to either carry his with him on to the plane or leave his weapon behind and have one issued to him by whichever detachment he working with.

          1. Aveline*

            No, you misunderstood.

            These weren’t service weapons that they were taking through his law enforcement officers. The TSA did not know that they were There.

            It wasn’t that they had them on purpose or by design and TSA waiver them through.

            My point is they forgot they had them but got through security anyway.

            I get your point, but that’s not what I’m addressing at all.

            I’m saying TSA failed to detect guns in carry ons when they were not given a “heads up, LEO” warning

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        I will admit that at the age of 16 I went to Germany and bought specialty wine for my parents as a surprise, and brought it back in my suitcase. Being concerned about the wine bottles, I wrapped them in sweatshirts and then put all my underwear & bras (it was a 2 month long trip) on top.

        I got back, got my suitcase, and it had a nice note on top of the undies saying TSA checked my luggage FYI. But none of the undies or anything else looked like it had been moved in the slightest.

      4. Anonnie*

        My grandfather has made it through post-9/11 airport security multiple times with his small pocket knife because he always forgets to put it in his checked bag. One time he even held it up triumphantly before we fully got out of the checkpoint area and nobody noticed! Swarms of TSA agents all around and nobody sees this gleeful old man holding a pocketknife aloft and laughing. I sure feel safe now.

      5. Jadelyn*

        WOW. That beats my spent brass story (flew a couple days after a range trip in which some brass managed to find my purse, which had been sitting on the floor six feet behind me, how it got there I genuinely don’t know, didn’t realize it was in there until after I was on the ground at my destination) – a live .45 round, and they missed that? Good lord. Glad to know we’re so well-protected and all that invasive scanning is doing so much good for our safety! /sarcasm

    5. Arya Snark*

      I am very much for gun control but I do own a gun. As part of being a responsible gun owner, I practice at a range and can say that rounds – live and spent – do sometimes make it into pockets, purses, etc. I went through security at a courthouse when I went for jury duty and got pulled aside because they found a roundin my jacket pocket on the scan. The deputy was ok after my explanation and we chatted about different ranges in the area but she was quite concerned initially and told me to be more vigilant about checking my pockets after shooting.

      1. Aveline*

        And spent casings fly everywhere.

        I’ve had a few end up nestled in my cleavage, in jacket pockets, in the ammo bag…

          1. SarahKay*

            Just curious (as a resident of the UK who’s never touched a real gun) – am I right in thinking the spent casings would be hot? In which case, OUCH!

            1. Pippa*

              Indeed – I’ve had a couple of small burns from spent casings landing in my cleavage, and it hurts and leaves a mark for a while. Would probably sound weird to explain at a medical exam or something, but on the other hand I live in an area where a standard hospital emergency room intake question is “do you have any firearms on you right now?” so maybe not.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Ohhh god, cleavage burns from hot brass are the woooooorst. And somehow it doesn’t seem to matter how high your neckline is, short of a turtleneck, at least one round will mange to find its way there.

    6. LurkieLoo*

      Can not count the number of times I’ve found ammunition (live or spent) in a random place it had no business being. They are slippery suckers. Pockets are super handy for storing them while shooting, but they can get stuck along seams or in corners and get missed during cleaning.

      I wouldn’t think any more of it than someone pulling a stray condom out of their pocket. Maybe not quite appropriate for work, but one of those things you might find in your pocket and pull out not realizing what it is until it’s out.

  10. beth*

    #2: You absolutely don’t have to disclose everything about yourself at work. Some things might not be safe to disclose; others are just private; either way, you get to decide what you do and don’t share about yourself. People making assumptions is not the same as you lying, even if you actively decide not to tell them they’re wrong.

    If the topic is making you uncomfortable but you don’t want to outright say that you disagree, responding with something like “I prefer not to talk politics at work” might be a good option. That’s a common enough principle that even if your boss doesn’t agree with it, he’d be hard-pressed to really object. Even if it doesn’t work the first time, if you keep it up every time he brings the topic up, I bet he’ll eventually stop–there’s nothing like refusing to validate or engage to make people decide they don’t want to talk about given topic with you anymore.

    1. Undercover Dem*

      I find deflection to be the best strategy when dealing with unwanted political discussion. I work in a small office that is staunchly Republican (there is a life sized cardboard cutout of Trump in the break room). As a queer, left-leaning atheist, I tend to be pretty close-mouthed to avoid unwanted discussions at work – but eventually I had to speak up to the extent of “hey, we’re not all on the same page politically here … let’s talk about the TPS reports” to stem the unwanted political monologues and redirect conversation. For the most part, that has worked (with the exception of election time at least).

      1. Jadelyn*

        I commend your restraint in not vandalizing the cutout. I’m not sure I’d be able to resist some googly eyes, at the very least.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      My go-to is always “Ugh, I’m sorry, politics are really stressing me out right now. But did you hear about ____” blank being supper fluffy piece of news – usually about movies or tv. Or I ask them about something to do with their life that they always like to talk about. I feel like both sides can say that politics are stressful right now, so it always works. It does result in people thinking you are on their political side, but they slowly learn you don’t want to talk about it ever.

  11. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: So, your boss is emotionally blackmailing you into staying?

    And you feel sorry for her?!

    I have plenty of sympathy for people in difficult situations. But it all evaporates once they start the emotional blackmail. Because that is just shitty behaviour.

    1. Vincent*

      Having empathy for other people is normal. Feeling bad for people in bad situations is human. Having your spouse die is one of the worst things someone can go through and many people never get over it.

    2. Tin Cormorant*

      Seriously. This letter was reminding me a lot of relationship articles where someone is saying they’ll kill themselves if you break up with them even though you’re completely miserable. The answer is pretty much always to focus on your own happiness first.

    3. Neptune*

      That’s a really, really unkind view of the situation. She’s just had a terrible personal tragedy, one of the worst. She also doesn’t actually know the OP plans to quit so it’s unlikely this is some kind of conscious blackmail attempt – she’s probably just well aware that her business is in trouble and is doing things like the raise, expressing appreciation of OP etc to try to keep things together. If she continues to do this stuff AFTER OP quits, that would be when it starts to get dodgy for me, but as is calling it “shitty behaviour” and “emotional blackmail” seems unnecessary.

    4. Psyche*

      To be fair, she is probably so deep in grief that she doesn’t even realize that is what she is doing. Her husband died, her business is failing and her employees are quitting. She probably feels like her life is falling apart and she sees the OP as a constant in her life right now and wants the OP to feel appreciated. It doesn’t make it ok, but it also doesn’t make her a terrible person. “Emotional blackmail” makes her sound intentionally manipulative and it is very possible that it was unintentional.

    5. epi*

      This is such a harsh, unfounded view of the situation. This is someone who just lost her husband and may lose her business, speaking emotionally to someone she trusts. It you think most people are capable of being deliberately manipulative at a time like that– rather than engaged in a normal human interaction where one person feels empathy for another’s pain– then I’m glad I don’t know who you know.

      And this advice adds nothing. The advice to this letter writer was already that they don’t need to stay. There is no need to be paranoid and cruel.

    6. General Ginger*

      That’s really harsh. Two employees just quit. Boss’s spouse just died. Being emotional about it doesn’t automatically equal emotional blackmail.

    7. Observer*

      Wow! What the OP is describing is a long way from emotional blackmail. This kind of overwrought description is not going to be very useful to the OP.

    8. Jule*

      Jumping to assumptions about malicious “emotional blackmail” doesn’t sound like a hallmark of having sympathy for people in difficult situations, actually.

    9. ExcelJedi*

      This is exactly what I was thinking.

      Emotional blackmail doesn’t need to be intentional or malicious….but even unintentional manipulation has an impact on the target. OP’s boss is weaponizing her empathy/compassion in order to get her to do what’s right for the boss, not what’s right for OP. That’s not ok in a business environment (or any environment).

  12. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    Does anyone else find this odd: OP1 is in senior management but doesn’t know for certain how the company is doing financially? They’re only “almost certain” so it seems that their boss hasn’t shared any financial info with them, they’re deducing this from other clues. In my experience, many companies tell all the employees about these things, and I’m surprised that someone so high up doesn’t seem to have access to those.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      I’ve never had experience, and from the people around me it’s something employees are rarely made aware of, even in higher positions, unless it’s something they are directly connected to (accounting, etc.)

      Sometimes I’ve known if the company was operating with a loss for a certain term, but not how deep in the red it was, or if it has recovered (I’ve been in charge of a department, so I would consider myself high in the ladder).

    2. Friday afternoon fever*

      Nope! It’s an odd company. It’s a small company. Chances are good they’re run a little weirdly, especially because the typical corporate structure is, for lack of a better word, condensed into just one or two people. I am not surprised.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, I’ve worked for very small companies and nobody had a full view of the finances except for the owner and the tax preparer.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Which companies are those? In my experience, almost nobody knows how the company is doing at a deeper financial level. People might have suspicions, but they’re based on life experience, not on actual information that they get as a part of their job.

      Also, “senior management” can mean so many different things. Sometimes it just means people who have been there longer, not people who have more knowledge.

    4. Anon From Here*

      You’re not completely alone in this. When I see “senior management,” I think, “people who see quarterly financial statements.” If LW#1 doesn’t know how the company is doing financially, then maybe we have a different definition of senior management than LW#1 does.

    5. Silvergirl*

      It’s only odd that I’m not “in the know” because of the offer to run to the business after her retirement. If you’re offering someone the keys to your company they should have a full understanding of what they’re getting themselves into!

  13. Elizabeth West*

    Maybe because it’s late, but I read the title “I’ll destroy my company if I resign” and thought it was a letter where somebody was literally Milton Waddams.

  14. polkadotbird*

    Re #5 – at least no-one has left a bullet on your desk. I still think about that letter sometimes and I hope the OP found a new job where they felt more comfortable.

  15. Greg M.*

    obviously not the same situation or severity but letter one can’t help but remind me of all the captain awkward letters about partners threatening self harm should the letter writer leave them. The advice is always the same, at a certain point you need to look out for you, you’re not responsible for what they decide to do if you leave. You are not required to be bound to this for the rest of your life.

    1. Marthooh*

      I don’t think it is the same, though. OP#1’s boss seems to be talking about a matter of fact, not a threat. Two employees left recently, the boss is deep in grief, they’ve lost clients, and if OP leaves, there may not be any point in continuing the struggle to keep the company afloat.

      The boss may be wrong about this; there may be a way to keep the company going. Either way, it’s not OP’s responsibility, and it’s not necessary to say the boss is being abusive before OP is allowed to leave.

      1. Greg M.*

        yes, I’m aware it’s not the same, that’s why I literally started my comment with “obviously not the same”

  16. bananaboat*

    5 unless you have evidence to the contrary i’d say its just a case of “oooh whats in my pocket”. I used tohave sheep and one time I went into my pocket on a date and found a castration band. and burst out laughing to myself. basically wierd stuff ends up in pockets it was probably just one of those.

    1. ElspethGC*

      Please tell me you were on a date with a guy and had to tell him what it was. And if you were, *please* tell me the reaction. (I have seen some very odd reactions from men when the topic of castrating/neutering animals comes up…)

      1. bananaboat*

        I was on a date with a dude and he was well alarmed i think. although slightly relieved when i told him i didn’t have the special pliers needed to open the band up for use!!!

    2. Cacwgrl*

      Oh do I feel the livestock embarrassment. I recently pulled my phone out of my jacket pocket and it was covered in dry green leaves. I was speaking to a captain in a facility where it is still 100% illegal to use or possess pot. Thank goodness he knows I have horses, goats and lambs and it was in fact the loose alfalfa that manages to find it’s way into all of the things, because otherwise, it would have been so, so awkward.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I used to live in a house with a Japanese Maple out front. The number of times people awkwardly asked us about “this leaf they found on the porch”… very amusing, every time.

  17. Mystery Bookworm*

    Isn’t it interesting how, absent other information, we tend to assume that people we like agree with us politically?

    OP#2, you’re under no obligation to disclose your political believes to your boss, and I don’t think you should do so unless you have a sense that he would respond well. That said – if there’s any chance of him finding out in other ways (maybe through another coworker you’re friendly with, etc.) then there may be an advantage to controlling the messaging by telling him yourself.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Yes,it is interesting. My mom was just complaining to me about this the other day (a neighbor assumed they agreed politically because they walk together and have similar tastes) and I said that seems to be common phenomenon – if we like someone, we assume they are like us in (most) aspects (but especially often in politics/religion).

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a standard feature of discussions about polls. Polls find the country divided 1:1, or 1:2, or 1:3 on some issue; commenter can’t believe it because every time they talk about politics everyone around them completely agrees with them about everything.

      Some of that is grouping with people like ourselves; some of that is interpreting “Mmm. Mmm hmm. Uh huh. Tsk” in the most flattering light possible. Lots of people out there fancy they polled their entire bus stop about some issue and everyone said that the poller was right.

    3. pleaset*

      “Isn’t it interesting how, absent other information, we tend to assume that people we like agree with us politically?”

      I don’t do this – or at least it depends what they look like and how they dress. I certainly make assumptions – and am certainly wrong sometimes.

      But by default, in the US, I assume most people disagree with me.

      “every time they talk about politics everyone around them completely agrees with them about everything. ”
      I have this experience. But I also look at the news and am aware of my bubble.

      1. LQ*

        The way they dress is interesting. I think that I end up dressing way more conservatively than I am. I am in no way conservative, but you could put my wardrobe on someone who was a fairly conservative woman and it would not be the least bit out of place. It’s just my style for what I’m comfortable with on my body. It has no bearing on my political stance, but I am aware that it very well could make some people think something of me that I do not want them thinking. (I’m not talking red hats here, just the hemlines, necklines, styles, fabrics, etc.)

    4. General Ginger*

      It’s interesting you assume people tend to do that :)
      I tend to assume people disagree with me. It’s safer.

      I agree with you re: OP having no obligation to disclose, though.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        This isn’t just my belief – there’s actually research (and replicated studies, even) to support it. It’s sometimes called the False Consensus Effect.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, I’ve also found this to be true, especially since people tend to mostly associate with similar people. Though we also often expect things to go together that really only do because of expectation. There’s no reason certain clothing or styles or music are inherently more appealing to a particular political group except that the association becomes ingrained.

          Also, any effect that explains some aspect of human behaviour is not going to fit every single person alive :) Just because something doesn’t apply to me doesn’t mean it’s overall untrue…

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Yeah, it’s just a general trend. I have noticed in my work as well – I have to be apolitical, but clients don’t and our relm of work overlaps a bit with some political issues. Most people just tend to bring up topics with a clear assumption that their position is the reasonable one, so of course I’d agree! There are people who make it clear they don’t hold those assumptions – but they’re the exception.

            I think most people do it without thinking, which makes me assume that I’ve been a perpetrator as well, but you rarely notice something you do without thinking!

    1. SarahKay*

      I’ve worked with people who delete all mail that arrived over a holiday, on the grounds that if it was important someone will resend it, or chase it. I think they’re utterly wrong to do so, and for sure you’d hope that someone dealing with job applicants wouldn’t do such a thing, but I can certainly see why OP4 is concerned, if they’ve ever worked with anyone similar.

      1. Cat Fan*

        Would they do that if they’re expecting job applications? Isn’t it usually suggested that you don’t keep reapplying to the same job? I’m not trying to contradict you, I’m just saying I think that practice is ridiculous.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It’s ridiculous! But worried people worry, especially about things they truly can’t control. And OP is looking for work at the holidays, which is way up there in terms of stress-levels.

      2. harmeg (OP4)*

        Thank you, SarahKay, this is exactly the reason I was nervous about the trash bin, because I do know people whose inbox management techniques are just as you mentioned: delete what arrive while they were away and assume important things will be resent. It’s terrifying and makes you wonder.

  18. cncx*

    re OP2, i work with someone who has radically different politics from mine and i find that not engaging is the best route. The thing is, i think my coworker knows we have different politics and just brings it up anyway. It’s very tiring and i feel low-key trolled, but i just do my job you know? Keeping politics off the table isn’t lying by omission, it’s being professional.

  19. Screenwriter*

    It’s always “nitpicking” when it doesn’t affect someone directly.
    My bank always put my husband’s name first on all our accounts, even though I am the sole breadwinner (by mutual agreement) and it wasn’t even alphabetical; they just put the man’s name first. When I asked them to change it, I got a full round of shrugs and dismissiveness and absolutely the response that I was being unreasonable. But it was demeaning and disrespectful to assume I, the wife, was in the lesser position, that the man always comes first. It was part of a whole structure that denied me opportunities, that acted on the belief that men need jobs/women are just taking jobs away from men/etc etc. I’ve been fighting for women’s equality since the 1970s, and the only way we change the endlessly corrosive, sexist view that “men are always in charge” or “men are always breadwinners” is to point out when those false and demeaning assumptions occur, every time.
    If I were a lesbian, I would certainly notice every time the default assumption was that a woman’s spouse was a man. It would be very hurtful and exclusionary. And I would speak up about it. And it wouldn’t be nitpicking.

    1. NotThatCompany*

      Yes. My CPA, despite never having spoken with my husband, puts him first on all the tax paperwork. I finally spoke up and it resolved that year. The next… back to him being first.

      1. Library Ethics 101*

        It’s annoying, but if the taxes are filled with one spouse’s name first orginally, the IRS instructs that it continue to be done that way on subsequent tax returns. No one goes to tax jail for switching it up, it can just delay processing.

        So if you want Jane Doe then John Doe that’s best established year one.

    2. NotOffended*

      I don’t understand why folks let the order of names on a check or gender pronouns effect them so much. It’s a word, and not one said in a derogatory or mean way. We need to learn that people speak differently and stop expecting people to act how we think they should. Was anyone physically harmed by these actions? We need to stop making victims of ourselves by letting these things “control” us.

      1. NotThatCompany*

        Wow. You really felt the need to explain how unimportant this was?

        But, I won’t derail the comment thread any further.

      2. Czhorat*

        Because words and words have power.

        If someone used a racial slur, would you say “they just have a different way of speaking” or would you call them out for perpetuating bigotry? Same here.

        Using impropeely gendered pronouns sends a message. If that message is harmful then we all have a responsibility to tailor our language accordingly.

      3. Mary*

        Yep, it’s just a word, so it’s easy to get it right. I appreciate reminders on stuff like this when I get it wrong, and I’ll never understand people who’d rather put effort into explaining why it doesn’t matter rather than putting effort into just being kind. :-)

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Emotional harm usually takes much longer to heal from than physical harm. And ‘little things’ like this build up and can cause a tremendous amount of emotional harm to marginalized people.

      5. restingbutchface*

        Bummed made a point about the usual use of gender neutral language here, Allison corrected it and said thanks.

        Regardless of your screen name, you seem to be the one finding this simple catch really, really important.

        Surely you’re not saying people can only ask for kindness or respect if someone hurts them physically? And you can’t think of any words with power and meaning and hate behind them, enough to upset someone? Really? Not one word? I’m assuming that you left out the caveat for hate speech and threats.

        Example – the guy who called me a f*g last night and screamed in my face didn’t physically hurt me (although I thought he might) so I should just… get over it? Huh.

      6. NotOffendedJustTiredOfThisBS*

        Physical harm is not the only kind of harm that matters, and claiming that it is is a pretty ugly thing to do.

        Learn some empathy!

      7. t.i.a.s.p.*

        I get the same thing – husband’s name always before mine, but 99% of the time I’m the person who has to deal with the whatever it is. I’ve had a company not talk to me about our joint account without his permission because his name was first. So yes, it affects me if I am not allowed to deal with my business because of the order of the names.

      8. Artemesia*

        And then you discover that although you are the primary breadwinner and paid the bills all those years when your husband dies you. have no credit and that the accounts you thought were yours e.g. you have a credit card with your name on it, were actually his and you don’t have any credit yourself. I was not fully aware of this till two husbands of two friends died and they found they couldn’t transact business on what they thought were their accounts. And when I have a fraud alert on my credit card with my name on it, they will not release the purchase until they talk to my husband although I do 95% of the buying and half the earning. I am in the process of getting an entirely separate account in my name now, but it would be unnecessary if they just gave the dual card actually to both of us.

        1. iglwif*

          WOW.

          Suddenly my and spouse’s 20+ years of separate bank accounts and credit cards don’t look so crazy, eh?

          (I don’t see anything crazy about having separate bank accounts, but I’ve been having some conversations recently with people who are gobsmacked that my [male] spouse and I [female] don’t share all our financial stuff. Your stories are a really good illustration of why separate accounts might be a pretty valid option.)

      9. pleaset*

        I don’t understand why when someone points out something that can reasonably be viewed as offensive (not very offensive perhaps, put possibly a little offensive) someone has to jump up and suggest it’s not big deal.

        “Was anyone physically harmed by these actions? ”
        This is a very poor standard. Oh, and BTW, microaggressions probably do take a cumulatative toll on health.

    3. JamieS*

      Yes it is nitpicking. What your bank does or doesn’t do, although agreed that’s odd, isn’t relevant to what Alison wrote. The majority of people in relationships are in heterosexual relationships and the vast majority of married couples are husband and wife. Unless told otherwise it’s not out of line to default to the option that’s significantly more likely.

      Also Alison makes worst and more blatant mistakes in her answers all the time that nobody points out. She’s especially guilty of using “she” when the OP specifically says “he”. I refrain from pointing it out more often than not because it’s nitpicking and so is this.

      1. Czhorat*

        Assuming that someone is in the majority is essentially saying that there are M-M couples, F-F couples, and “normal” couples. That’s NOT a good thing to do, and fuels prejudice by reaffirming the status of a minority as an “other”.

        The many ways in which happens are absolutely relevant to the discussion – a discussion which ONLY went more than one comment because of all the oh-so-concerned people who don’t think it’s worth discussing.

  20. Grand Mouse*

    #3- I’m just really agape at the idea that a nurse earns enough to easily cover for 3 kids. Nurses get paid poorly as is, and 3 kids is just way more than 1 kid? Also double agreed that you don’t know who’s struggling. I keep my money situation private at work. I don’t have kids, but I am disabled. There’s a lot wrong there but I’m mostly struggling with the fact she thinks being a nurse is a high paid gig.

    1. OP#3*

      OP#3 here: yes, I was dumbfounded at her logic of who was struggling. I wanted to say “did you even think this through before you decided we should do this?”. Also off-putting was that we weren’t asked if we’d like to do something. It was a “I think we should do this. It wouldn’t cost that much.”

      1. Czhorat*

        In addition to very likely being wrong, this can be terrible for the professional reputation of those labeled as “struggling”. That isn’t how I’d want to be seen, even during the times it might have been true.

        What’s impressive about this is that it’s bad in so, so very many ways.

        1. Gabriela*

          I was second-hand mortified just reading, thinking about the times in my life I would have qualified as “struggling”

    2. blackcat*

      Depends on where and what type of nurse. RNs in a lot of (generally union, HCOL) places can make 100k+ with overtime. Nurse practitioners can make that much (and more, depending on specialty. An anesthesiology nurse I know makes a a very comfortable living) without overtime. An LPN or CNA, though, will not make much at all. And so there’s a really wide disparity of who is sometimes called a “nurse.”

      That’s beside the point, though. Even if someone has a lot of money coming in, they might still be struggling for other reasons! Best not to judge, as Alison says.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My sister was making $55,000 as an RN on a day shift at a major metropolitan research university hospital. So, not exactly a high rolling salary if she had 3 kids. Nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists have advanced degrees beyond the BSN/RN. Definitely apples and oranges.

        1. blackcat*

          Similarly comparing her to a CNA who makes $9/hr is apples to oranges.

          All of these folks are called “nurses” by aomw and there’s like an order of magnitude difference between the best paid and least paid.

      2. LQ*

        I think the wide variety of jobs that are thrown into “nursing” is what throws people off. I was thinking of a low cost of living (but also few jobs) area where being an RN is one of the higher paid jobs in the county. But on the other hand the CNAs are not.

      3. MattKnifeNinja*

        A registered nurse around here makes really sweet money with a BSN. (Midwest, non union Level I trauma center hospital)

        My nurse anesthetist cousin pulls in well over $100K, that’s not including shift differentials, overtime and who knows what else.

        Even an adult med/surg floor RNs can enough money (kids/husband going back to school) to cover all the basics.

        RNs can make decent money depending on degree and where they work. The RN at my GP’s office is not making the same jack as my ER nurse practitioner friend, who works straight midnights.

        All you are RNs lurking here…your crown in heaven will have many stars. You get dumped on by the higher ups, and deal with some of the most obnoxious humans on the planet. You earn your money, and should make more.

        Anyway my cousin was struggling, putting his wife through med school on his $100K+ job. You can make decent cash, and still hurt depending on choices.

    3. Cordoba*

      I thought nursing paid fairly well?

      The most recent statistics I can find say that the median salary for RNs is ~$68k, which would put an individual in the top 24% of incomes in the US.

      $68k is more than double the average individual income, and even exceeds the average *household* income by about $10k. Nobody is getting rich doing it, but it appears to be one of the better-paying fields out there.

      Are these numbers inaccurate or do we define poorly/high differently?

      1. poolgirl*

        It depends on where you work, and if you are an RN or LPN. RNs make more than LPNs, hospitals pay more, doctors offices, clinics, and nursing homes pay much less.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        Also, you could earn a high salary relative to the average and still be poorly paid relative to the amount of hours you’re working (and the skills you’re bringing), which I think is not uncommon in medical fields.

      3. she was a fast machine*

        I think the real disparity is that RNs are some of the top-level nurses and require a lot of experience and a degree. Most nurses are not RNs; they’re LVNs/LPNs or CNAs(which get called nurses or people assume are LVNs without knowing). And they decidedly do not make very great money; because they’re certification jobs usually supply outpaces demand and the wages are only marginally competitive. The fact of the matter is that nurses are in high demand and the salary is usually better than minimum wage, nobody is getting rich on it, and most of the time they’re working horrible conditions(overtime, long shifts, poor facilities etc.) to make ends meet because regardless.

        Saying because the RN salary is high nurses aren’t struggling is like saying because brain surgeons make a lot of money all doctors must make a lot of money

    4. Emily K*

      I did a double-take at that too, then decided it must have been in the context of, “and his wife is a nurse, whereas all the other employees are the sole breadwinner whose spouse doesn’t work, so the two-income family is obviously doing better than everyone else.”

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        But then how much does child care cost…
        —- signed, 2 incomes, 3 kids, grateful AND struggling…

        1. Emily K*

          Oh, definitely not saying her perception is accurate! Just that was how I figured her thought process went.

  21. Czhorat*

    Op2, the fact that the disagreement is with your boss adds a power dynamic that makes it hard, I always err on the side of standing up for the things in which I believe – and I’d be especially uncomfortable being assumed to be a Republican after a midterm election was which the main Republican strategy was appeals to racism. Silence can feel like concurrence, and I wouldn’t want to even appear to agree with some things from the Republican party, especially on this day. The “no politics at work” rule too often rules out important topics and leaves us appearing to agree with positions we find odious and which cause legitimate harm.

    When the how says “we Republicans”, I’d feel comfortable countering with “what do you mean ‘we’?” A reasonable boss won’t hold it against you.

    1. beth*

      The downside of this is, a reasonable boss probably wouldn’t be bringing their political beliefs into the office and imposing them on their team members in the first place. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that OP’s boss wouldn’t hold their political beliefs against them.

      1. Ann*

        OP #2 here. The power dynamic thing is part of what made me want to ask this question in the first place. I don’t think my boss would ever hold it against me on purpose, but it could change his opinion about me subconsciously, which is why I’ve tried to not engage thus far. I’m very aware of the fact that once I’ve burst his bubble that we don’t agree on many of these key beliefs, we can’t go back to the way it was before.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Unfortunately, this is very much A Thing, especially in such a divisive political climate. I work on a 6-person team: a gay Latino man; a Latina woman; an older Black woman; a Filipina woman; myself, a queer white NB; and a white cis straight woman. The latter of whom voted for Trump and was very open about it, even though we work at an explicitly social justice/economic justice nonprofit and the rest of us were equally open and vocal about our fear and anger at the rhetoric of his campaign.

          And it legit has damaged her relationship with the rest of the team. None of us can quite forget that she voted for someone who is out to destroy the rest of us, or at least is perfectly happy to step over our corpses on the way to the power he wants, and sees nothing wrong with it. It’s a hard realization to have about someone you work closely with and it calls a lot of your trust for that person into question, no matter how hard you try to keep it out of the working relationship.

          So if you’re not comfortable taking that risk, please understand it’s not lying to keep your beliefs to yourself in that kind of situation. His assumptions are his problem, not yours – you’re not obligated to clarify if you don’t feel safe doing so.

          1. voyager1*

            Jadelyn,
            Okay I will bite. Why does this person work for a organization that appears to be at odds with her political beliefs? Is she one of those people who thinks that she is helping those who need it but everyone else is just like a mooch or something.

            I have a family member who is like that, when they needed assistance from the government then they were deserving, but now that they don’t all welfare is just for mooches. It is very frustrating.

      2. voyager1*

        I live in a place that the majority opinion politically that most hold is the opposite of my views. I am not about to risk career over something as silly as a political conversation at work.

    2. Jadelyn*

      This is where I come down. Like hell will you assume I’m Like That without me saying something, even gently, to disabuse you of the notion. I’m not going to passively help you prop up your idea that all Reasonable People are on your (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.) side and therefore your bigoted views are totes okay.

      Which is not to say OP is obligated to say anything, because of the power dynamic involved. Just, I don’t think I could cope with someone saying “We Republicans” to me without a literal out-loud record-screech sound and “I’m sorry, WHAT???” being my response.

  22. Asenath*

    OP3: Bad, bad idea. My family ran into this sort of thing because one of my siblings was obviously disabled – a couple of times, strangers in public places gave him money, one saying he wanted to be sure his money went where it was needed! My parents were astonished, and then amused (although they said “thank you” politely), but the truth was that although we were never rich, we weren’t poor, and met many families – and children with no family at all, who were in government care – in the hospital and rehab who were far worse off. Poor enough in some cases that one of those places kept a supply of lost and discarded clothing for children who needed it. There are better ways to find people who need help than picking out people who appear to do so.

    One thing that has been done in some workplaces I’ve been connected with is to find a family that does need extra support, sometimes by word of mouth (in smaller communities, people know) or through groups that work with people in need, and collect money or put together gifts (or both) for that specific family. If giving to a specified person or people isn’t important, there are any number of reputable groups that provide assistance to people in need and appreciate donations. One of the (few) things I remember fondly about one former workplace is that us workers decided among ourselves to do away with the gift-giving among ourselves that had been a tradition, and instead donate the money we would have spent to a local children’s charity. Maybe it didn’t have the personal touch of giving to an individual or single family, but we were tired of spending time and money on trivial gifts for work acquaintances who didn’t need them anyway, and still wanted to give something.

    1. Xarcady*

      My company connects with the local high school to get the info on families in need. There are two yearly events where money, food, clothing, and, for the winter one, holiday gifts are collected.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        This is why those angel trees and similar efforts are so popular, and why international aid groups have had success getting people to support a specific child or send a particular family livestock or whatever. People like to feel a connection to the person they’re giving to. I remember going to the grocery store with my mother before Thanksgiving when I was younger to buy the stuff for a Thanksgiving dinner for a family. We had a little card from the place coordinating the donations with information about number of people, ages, etc.

        On the flip side, I’ve reached a point of financial stability where I’m trying to thoughtfully choose some organizations to support and to do it consistently every year. I feel good about sending money to a couple of international aid places I’ve researched, but it does feel really abstract – I have no idea if the money is going to food aid or mosquito nets or to buy printer paper for the office staff. I know that unrestricted funds to an organization doing good work are usually more efficient than something with a personal connection, but it does feel a little… impersonal, I guess.

        1. KTB*

          If I may put in a plug for unrestricted funds, they are the lifeblood of a nonprofit. While mosquito nets and food aid feels personal, printer paper is critical to submitting grants, since not all funders are totally online (I KNOW). You’re doing just as much good (if not more!) by giving unrestricted funds to an org that you support as giving earmarked program funds. They’ll be able to accomplish more from a program standpoint if they have the funds to keep the lights on and fairly pay their staff.

    2. WillyNilly*

      Yes! One of my favorite work-gift memories was the year I was on a team (of about 6 or 7) and we decided no gifts amongst us, but rather we got info on a family from the local Boys & Girls Club. We bought new winter coats for the kids and a new purse for mom, and toys, and books, and nice toiletries, etc. It was fun and uplifting. And coordinated through a vetted charitable group.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Or, the supervisor who thinks this is a good idea can do her own charitable giving outside of work. The OP said she can’t afford this, and there could be other “struggling” employees who don’t want to be forced into giving to others when they may not have that much themselves this year.

        I know you mean well, but your comment really rubs me the wrong way. I don’t think the purpose of giving is for your own fun. I have done many angel trees through my employer, and while I feel positive about it, I always think how I liked to buy gifts for my own kids when they were small, and it must not feel very good as a parent to not be able to buy your child their first bike yourself.

        1. Emily K*

          Giving can have dual purposes! It’s lovely that people are able to find joy in giving. I work in nonprofit fundraising, and the work my organization does wouldn’t be possible if we tried to motivate people purely through feelings of guilt and responsibility. We try to show people that giving feels good. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a wonderful thing! And people can even have both motivating factors: a sad thought inspired them to give, and then following through on giving made them feel warm, made them like themselves a little bit more, made them feel that the world just got a tiny bit brighter.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Gods forbid people get any pleasure out of doing nice things, I guess?

          I really think you’re being extraordinarily uncharitable in your read of WillyNilly’s comment – they’re not saying that the only reason to give is because it’s fun, so much as that they were able to both do a good thing *and* enjoy doing so, because it was done in a particular way that was well-managed, as a point of contrast to the OP’s supervisor’s proposal.

        3. Observer*

          Wait, it must not feel good to be able to get your kids gifts yourself. So your solution is what? Don’t give the gift yourself? Give it with a sour face? Make it unpleasant for yourself to give so you wind up giving less?

        4. WillyNilly*

          I honestly am floored that I am getting criticized for enjoying being a part of a team that gave gifts to a family *that signed up through a community organization to receive gifts*. And hpere I thought the spirit was supposed to be about spreading joy – that both giver and recipient found the experience positive.

          For the record, at the time I was the lowest ranking person on the team, with by far the lowest income, I didn’t have much to financially contribute. But I was able to shop around for sales and deals, to make our pooled team money go further. Because we were going through organized channels we knew what what requested/needed and we were able to truly target our giving.

        5. Alienor*

          What’s wrong with enjoying the act of giving? I do an angel tree tag every year at my workplace because I want to give a child a good Christmas, but also because it’s fun to shop for toys and little outfits. Plus, I’m a parent myself, and if I’d ever been in a situation where my child was the recipient of angel tree gifts, I would have wanted to think the donor had enjoyed buying them, not approached it with a grim Victorian attitude of doing their duty by the disadvantaged, you know?

          1. Observer*

            I would have wanted to think the donor had enjoyed buying them, not approached it with a grim Victorian attitude of doing their duty by the disadvantaged, you know?

            I’m trying to figure out it AA thinks that parents would actually feel better about it if that were the attitude of the givers or thinks that the parents should Duly Grateful to people Doing Their Duty By The Poor, rather than feeling sorry for themselves.

    3. OP#3*

      Asenath, we are “adopting” a bunch of foster kids for Christmas so the team can donate, which they all love to do. I’m not sure where this idea came from to give anonymous gifts to those that are “struggling” but I knew it didn’t feel right to me.

  23. Breton Girl*

    For OP1, I was in this situation, complete with the emotional manipulation of “we’ll have to close when you leave.” I ended up leaving anyway (took years to get there), cue guilt-tripping about being let down and a lot of “we’ll have to wind up the company then” and a horrible last day full of anger and nasty comments that has left me with lingering anxiety. And for all that – I’ve left – and they haven’t wound up the company. They are still trading and have found someone else to take on their burdens.

    Really I just wanted to say, from experience, don’t take on this emotional support role. It should never be your job to do that, and it can end up taking huge chunks out of you.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Come on, this comment is uncalled for. The LW is rightly dismayed by the lack of folks in their age group at work, as many others would be. They weren’t making disparaging remarks about the “older” people in the workforce.

    2. Almond oil*

      This is unkind. Having a entire staff is one age group is not a good thing. Advanced Age does not equate to good work, good workers can be of any age.

      1. Asenath*

        The point was that they were all over 55, not that they were all of one age. Workers older – or younger – than a particular age should not be treated dismissively on that basis alone.

        1. Carlie*

          It didn’t read to me as a comment on their skills, but of the long-term prospects of the company. OP is worried about staffing levels and the whole company is approaching retirement age, making for a high probability of more departures in the near future.

            1. Asenath*

              And I’ve noted that there is a valid reason to be concerned about an aging workforce with no younger workers coming up through the ranks!

          1. Mockingjay*

            I agree with Carlie. I am 55 and am counting down to retirement. My company is fully aware of my intent not to linger. It’s actually worked out quite well. Roles that ordinarily I would be considered for due to seniority and experience are being offered to younger colleagues; I am mentoring and assisting them while I am (still) here.

            1. Not Today*

              Bless you. Many cannot afford to retire and face 20 or possibly 30 years without working. Each situation is different.

      2. Not Today*

        That’s right, good workers can be of any age. Please, no ageism in any direcion. And I do not agree that the comment was unkind. We older workers have to fend off microaggressions daily, including right here on this blog.

    3. Mrs. Badcrumble*

      Or she might not be referencing age in relation to their ability, but rather the future of the company. If everyone is within 10 years of retirement, I think it’s reasonable to take that into consideration when you’re making decisions about your career. For example, I have a friend who does the books at a law firm where the partners are all around that 55-60 age range, and they’re not adding on any new partners to keep the firm going. It’s a great place, she loves the work and the people, but she knows it won’t last and needs to plan accordingly.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        This. My spouse is an attorney a small law firm and she definitely thinks about the relative ages of the attorneys – who’s going to be senior after these three partners retire and what will that mean, who’s coming up to handle things at more junior levels, etc. They’ve had a large number of retirements over a short period – they were expected and planned for, and they have younger attorneys coming up to take over the clients and such, but it still shifts the dynamics of the firm over time.

        Succession planning is a thing.

      2. CheeryO*

        +1, I am in this situation at work, and it’s vaguely demoralizing. I mentally have half a foot out the door since I’m pretty sure shit is going to hit the fan in a couple years when 3/4 of our staff retires.

      3. Cat Fan*

        Anyone who took a split-second to consider the post in its entirety would have come to this conclusion, too.

    4. Lynca*

      Honestly it is a problem. If they’re all about the same age, they’ll all retire out around the same time. Not guaranteed but extremely likely. Which can lead to a huge knowledge gap for whoever comes in afterwards. It’s also very difficult on management because you go from a high functioning, experienced team to people that need training and development to get to that level. We’re currently dealing with that where I work. Succession planning can only do so much.

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s an interesting question – what does a healthy workforce look like?

        If a company has rapid churn with people coming and going that’s obviously bad. Having a staff solely of aging “lifers” with no fresh blood is ALSO not good. You don’t want to be the place everyone flees, yet you do want to have solid enough people that they can move on and prosper elsewhere if the opportunity or circumstance is better for them.

        “all over 55” can be a warning-flag that you aren’t attracting new talent, are not able to integrate people new to the industry, and are not growing a balanced workforce. I DO understand the implicit ageism, but I also see how it can be shorthand for things which are signs of concern.

          1. irene adler*

            Why does spending 30 years at the same role at the same company look bad?
            I ask because this is my situation. I’d like to understand the “looks bad” part. Might help my 3+ years of job hunting w/o a single offer.
            TIA.

            1. Czhorat*

              To some it can connote a lack of ambition if the role has remained the same, as well as the company.

              It also means that you’ve only been exposed to one culture, one way of doing things, one set of expectations. A candidate with 8 years each with four employers has broader experience than one with 32 years with one.

            2. The Original K.*

              There can be concern that you’ll have a hard time adjusting to a new way of doing things if and when you change companies and/or roles. Even if you end up making a lateral move to a different company, all company cultures are different.

                1. Genny*

                  Has the job title changed at all, especially as responsibilities have increased? I think that’d be a major thing to highlight. Maybe volunteer roles or other things that demonstrate experience in different environments/taking on new challenges?

                2. Lexi Kate*

                  Can you be creative and maneuver role titles based on what you have done, you most likely have not done the exact same things for 30 years.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I don’t think OP was commenting on their ages in terms of, “This is horrible that I have to work with older people!” Their ages are relevant to the future of the company since they’re approaching retirement age. Our company was facing this also, in that every single executive was near (within five years) or at retirement age, which lit a fire under them to get a leadership program going, do better succession planning, and bring in more people to fill the potential gaps. (Of course, it doesn’t matter now since the company was sold!)

    5. fposte*

      I’m over 55, and I would seriously worry about the health of a company that had only workers of that age. Nothing to do with the capacity of an individual and everything to do with the possibility of dangerous stasis and a big retirement liability coming up fast.

      1. Psyche*

        It also makes the idea of taking over the business later less appealing if there will be few experienced staff members left.

    6. Annie Moose*

      In addition to what others have said, I read the letter as LW1 saying she was herself also over 55.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, no, I’m 51 and I would not want to work at a place where everyone but me is nearing retirement.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        ETA: or just, everyone. Not “everyone but me”.
        I’m not nearing retirement for personal reasons.

    8. Dankar*

      I assumed OP was thinking about what would happen to near-retirement workers if the company shutters before they’re ready to permanently leave the workforce. Which is very generous of her!

      Your comment, on the other hand, not so much…

    9. Silvergirl*

      Luckily I didn’t see the comment… BUT, to clarify, this was not meant as a complaint about the ages of my coworkers in the slightest! They are all wonderfully talented, valuable contributors that I enjoy an exchange of ideas with daily. That said, I wouldn’t want to be the only 40 year old in all 20 something office either! I want to be exposed to a range of ages, experiences and qualifications. The nature of my business demands experience, expertise and innovation – it’s constantly changing and new developments and technologies are being introduced. The best way to be successful and current is to surround yourself with a diverse group of ages, cultures, experiences, etc.

  24. HR Witch*

    #4 I’m conducting interviews this week (and scheduling in-person interviews with hiring managers). There may be a delay in response, but you’re good applying.

    #5 My boyfriend, brother, and nearly all of the members of my executive at work are hunters (before anyone asks, why yes, I DO live in Texas). I could see everyone of them doing this. They put a bullet in their pocket while they’re hunting (or while they’re organizing their ammo), forget about it, and randomly find it later. Think of it as being surprised to find a $5 bill in your pocket. Now, had your boss NOT been a hunter, I’d probably call the police. Being a hunter, it’s completely normal.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      …but, like, has the bullet gone through the washer/dryer, is what I want to know…

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Mr Gumption is a LEO and we have ammo in the washer and dryer not infrequently. It isn’t dangerous or anything because you need to strike the firing pin for the bullet to leave the casing.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          How/why does this have anything to do with his astrological sign? I am very curious.
          Would knowing the astrological sign of the manager in the letter help determine advice?

            1. Armchair Analyst*

              Ha! I will stand down now.
              My more thoughtful Gemini side is laughing at the side of me too quick to respond.
              Thank you!!

              1. tangerineRose*

                The show NCIS had a joke based on this. They were at the airport and mentioned they were LEOs, and … you can guess the rest :)

        2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          I know, as I’ve been a gun owner in the past, I’m just thinking of the racket it would have made…

      2. Juniper*

        I don’t keep mine that have gone through the washer and dryer, just because I won’t be able to rely on them when it’s time to use them. They may work; they may not. Easier just to get a new shell and disassemble the old one. I’m a hunter and a competitive shooter, and I find things like live shells and empty casings in my pockets all the time. Looking at it to see what exactly I have in my pocket would be in no way a threat.

    2. Psyche*

      Calling the police because someone has a bullet in their pocket would be an over reaction. First, you don’t necessarily know if they hunt or go to a shooting range. Second, it is generally not illegal to have a bullet. And third, there was no evidence of a gun or threatening behavior (beyond checking his pocket).

      1. HR Witch*

        It was more of a joke/hyperbole, basically just saying I would really start to question. It was, however, 5:00 am when I wrote said comment, so I missed adding the part designating it as hyperbole. It was, however, in my head.

        I’ve been so discombobulated this week…

    3. Yorick*

      You cannot call the police for someone having a bullet in their pocket, unless their behavior were problematic.

    4. Jadelyn*

      I wasn’t aware that hunters are the only people who are allowed to have guns and ammo around? There are hobbyists, sport shooters, etc. out there, too, who have very similar experiences re tossing a round in a pocket and forgetting it was there until they find it later. Calling the police because someone found a bullet in their pocket is a WILD overreaction, just because they’re not a hunter.

  25. restingbutchface*

    OP #1, that’s a really unfair pressure to put on you (although I understand her grief may be clouding her judgement). Wierdly reminds me of a friend’s mum who was devastated when she moved into her own place (at 27!) for “destroying the family”. Comments like that kept my friend trapped and resentful for years. I guess like good parents, good managers want their team to succeed and grow, even if that means going elsewhere. Or maybe it’s a terrible analogy :)

    1. Silvergirl*

      No, you are 100% correct. I have had the joy of training and mentoring throughout the course of my career and have never been anything but happy when my juniors move on to advance themselves!

  26. restingbutchface*

    OP #5 – wow, the differences between the US and the UK. If someone had a bullet in their pocket in my office I would freak out and that’s even having gun owners in my family (farmers). Bullets don’t go in pockets, they get locked away and it would be incredibly shocking for someone to just casually have one to hand.

    1. ElspethGC*

      I do know (second-hand) a farmer (again, here in the UK) who had something similar happen, but I don’t think it was a live round. Should have been thrown away or whatever they do with them after shooting but he’d missed it. (Can you tell I don’t care about guns?) If it was an actual live round, it should definitely have been locked up – the police don’t mess around when it comes to you having all your gun paraphernalia secure.

  27. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I have a question for #1 – is the business you’re building doing the same work as your current company? Is there any way that the client base you’ve built up for yourself is part of the reason your company is having trouble bringing in clients?

    If so, I think this whole thing gets murkier and I would suggest that you consult a lawyer before doing anything else.

    1. 8DaysAWeek*

      I was wondering this too.
      If it is the same industry and you have such a great relationship with her, is there an opportunity to offer her a job at your new company?

    2. Silvergirl*

      The business is the same, but we have a very different client base. I’ve never signed a non-compete and have never been responsible for bringing in new business. My employer may resent me for having new clients that I didn’t bring to her, but there is no legal issue. Furthermore, I have NO interest in burning bridges and would never consider poaching clients or becoming direct competition.

  28. Sandwich*

    #3–It’s also mind-boggling to me that giving gifts/support to employees is the solution to people struggling instead of, you know, paying them more. It’s the same way I feel when people talk about donating time off to coworkers…and it’s sad that this is seen as a heartwarming gesture rather than putting a bandaid on a structural inequity.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Doesn’t boggle my mind at all. The raises would come out of the company’s budget, whereas the gifts and material support would come out of other employer’s take-home pay. What a win for the company! /s

      1. fposte*

        Though to be fair, a random manager doesn’t have the power to substantially change her reports’ wages; that’s done at a higher level.

    2. LurkieLoo*

      I agree to a certain point on the fair wages. Although, there are plenty of people who are being paid a fair wage for the job they are doing and will still struggle. So many factors. Poor financial handling, unexpected medical bills, car repair, house maintenance, taking in aging family members, layoffs of spouses, etc.

      The donated time, when I’ve seen it, is for extreme crisis situations where a person needs to be out for way longer than they have PTO for and donating time off can help them stay financially afloat while they get sorted out.

      1. Eliza Jane*

        I have used donated time off. In my case, it was because my daughter had just been diagnosed with a serious illness, and I needed to take several weeks total time off over a period of 3 months. I had 22 days combined sick and vacation time, and could probably have managed with that, but the donated 2 weeks I had let me not worry about going into the office before and after a 10AM appointment, or around spending 4 hours on the phone with insurance, or what have you.

        The bulk of the people who donated time off in my experience were young people determined not to take time off despite being pushed to, or else people who traveled really heavily and got time off already as comp time (work a 64 hour week including travel time, take 3 days off next week).

      2. JustaTech*

        When I worked for Big State U there was a program for you to donate sick time. In most cases it was people who were no longer able to work, but if they had at least 8 hours of sick time a month they were “employed” enough to stay on the University health insurance.

    3. restingbutchface*

      Ding ding ding. I keep seeing “heartwarming” stories about co-workers donating leave so someone can be with their dying child, or have chemo and my reaction is always THAT IS NOT A FEEL GOOD STORY.

  29. Labradoodle Daddy*

    I’ve been struggling to think of a way to say “my experience with religion has not been a good one and I don’t wish to discuss religion at work” without seeming aggressive.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      I think you start with “I don’t wish to discuss religion at work” and only trot out the big dogs (“this is a difficult topic for personal reasons and I’m asking you to respect that by not discussing religion with me at work”) if someone is rude enough to keep pushing it.

      Apologies if this was not asking for advice, but rather responding to Alison’s very good advice

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        More specifically I would word it as “I don’t like talking about religion at work” because that’s a little more casual. If you like you can lump religion in with a few other things like politics that you would also rather avoid

        1. Sara without an H*

          Yes, politics and religion are common enough topics to avoid that I don’t think you’ll seem weird if you just say something like this.

          I added nutrition to my list of non-discussables after living for five years in a deeply counter-cultural community, where the choice to consume non-organic produce was considered evidence of moral depravity.

        2. General Ginger*

          Lumping it in with the other stuff is a good call, that way you’re not explicitly singling anything out.

      2. Recent Anon Lurker*

        I’ve used “I feel that religion is a bit too personal to discuss at work” in the past fairly well. But that has always been at large employers where everything was fairly impersonal in the work culture.

      3. Lexi Kate*

        I feel like when I give people who already cant take social ques more information(this is difficult for me or I would rather not discuss this) it causes those people to take that as free reign to begin their new side job as a private investigator on my life. I have found it easier to smile and nod, feign a headache, or excuse myself to the bathroom. I know these aren’t the right answers and I should be willing to stand up and fight for my rights not to have to disclose anything. If I was with friends or people who I care what they think, I would argue and put up the effort. Maybe its my age hovering months away from 40 that it just doesn’t seem worth it to argue my point to the office busybodies when it will do no good and is so much easier to smile and nod.

    2. Swordspoint*

      Just flat-out say “Oh, I’ve found it best not to discuss religion at work!” in a breezy, cheery tone.

    3. Holly*

      “Religion is deeply private to me and I don’t wish to discuss it at work.” That could mean anything including someone who was deeply religious. Your personal opinions are no one’s business.

    4. Temperance*

      So this depends on a lot of factors, but what I always say is “I’m not religious”. If people press the issue, I explain that my parents are evangelical Christians, and that it’s not for me.

  30. Dance-y Reagan*

    #3 Even beyond the fact that you’ve mentioned how random your boss’ criteria is, I’m trying and failing to figure out an actually viable way to determine how to enact such a policy. The wealthiest people I know look like absolute hobos. Of course, that’s “own buildings” wealthy rather than “working in an office” wealthy, but still…

    (Not that you should ever actually do this, of course, but my practical side is wondering if your boss truly believes she’s being scientific about this, or if she’s just trying to find an excuse to spoil her favorite employees.)

    1. Antilles*

      The wealthiest people I know look like absolute hobos.
      There’s a lot of interesting academic research on this phenomenon actually. ‘First generation’ wealth where someone grew up without money and built the business often tends to be extremely conservative and frugal with their money. Plus remnants of the mindset of “I didn’t get where I am by spending frivolously, no I had to watch every dime like a hawk!”

      1. Naomi*

        I remember a passage in one of the Discworld books about this: people who are a little bit rich take care to impress people with their wealth through appearances, but people who are very rich can afford to not care.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is so true. My home country, it was considered normal for a person to spend multiple paychecks on a coat or a pair of shoes, because it was the only way to show people that you have arrived. There was nothing else to spend the money on.

          Even here in the US, when I visited LA a few years ago, my host told me not to be surprised at the ridiculous number of new high-end cars in the streets. “The salaries here are high, but still not high enough for anyone to afford the LA real estate. So people spend their extra money on luxury cars”.

        2. KTB*

          A million times this. I live in Seattle, where the dress code is casual on a good day. I’ve heard (and one time saw for myself) anecdotes about someone going to a nicer restaurant or bar with wild hair and grungy clothes and having that person turn out to be, like, Eddie Vedder.

    2. OP#3*

      Dance-y Reagan, I don’t think it’s favoritism as the manager has only been with us a few months. I think she had good intentions but poor planning and execution.

  31. Harvey P. Carr*

    Bummed: “I’m dismayed that Alison assumes that OP #1’s boss’s spouse is her “husband”, when OP specifically chose the gender-neutral term “spouse” and didn’t use giveaway pronouns.”

    Calmeye: “Can we not nitpick about this please?”

    I have to side with Calmeye on this one, only because it doesn’t have anything to do with the OP’s issue.

    Which is not meant to dismiss Bummed’s concern. It’s a valid point, worthy of legitimate discussion. But not in this thread, where the OP wants to know how to resign from a job without destroying the company and breaking the boss’ heart; presumably that’s of greater concern to her right now than the matter of people presuming her spouse is a male.

    1. Elemental Block*

      Amazingly, it appears that adding a comment on this does not prohibit others from commenting on that. It’s almost like there is room for comments on more than one thing, here on this Five Questions post!

    2. Czhorat*

      And your comment addresses the OP’s issue how?

      Two reasons you are wrong: first, inclusive language is always important. We all need to strive not to cause harm.

      Second, it’s Alison’s blog. She agreed that the comment is appropriate, and hers is the opinion that matters.

    3. Marthooh*

      “It’s a valid point, worthy of legitimate discussion. But not in this thread…”

      If not in this thread, then where, though? This is all we have for metacomments as well as comments. I’ve learned quite a bit from “proper language” discussions and other side threads on this blog.

      1. Harvey P. Carr*

        “If not in this thread, then where, though?

        In a thread where gender presumption is more relevant to the specific question posed by the questioner.

        In this case, the OP wanted to know how to resign from a job without destroying the company and breaking the boss’ heart. IN THAT CONTEXT, the issue of gender presumption is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because if/when the OP resigns, the boss’ heart will still be broken. If the boss’ spouse is a man, she will cry on his shoulder. If the boss’ spouse is a woman, she will cry on her shoulder.

        Either way, the boss will still cry, and that’s what the OP is trying to avoid.

        1. Czhorat*

          The whining about “ooh, this is derailing from our laser-fine focus on the topic” is so, SO much bigger a derail than the initial comment would have been. One comment, one reasonable reaction from Alison.

          Again, today is NOT. THE. DAY. to complain about “sensitivity” in pronouns; November 20th is the Trans Day of Remembrance, when we mourn those lost to transphobic violence. It is exactly the wrong time to complain about someone being oversensitive regarding pronouns (every day is the wrong day for that, but today doubly so).

        2. Dasein9*

          Gender is relevant to pretty much everything we do. And it is in the ordinary, everyday moments that we make assumptions that our understanding of gender is built and reinscribed. So yes, this is an appropriate thing to point out whenever necessary.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      If there were a typo, people would bring it to AAM’s attention (they have before). If she missed or misread a detail in a post, people would bring it to AAM’s attention (they have before).

      When these things happen, I don’t generally see a wave of comments saying “Hey, it doesn’t matter, why did you correct AAM, it’s just words, it doesn’t matter to the question.”

      But there are comments here today exclaiming that *this* detail – that we don’t know the gender of the spouse so why add a gender when none was specified – isn’t important/shouldn’t be mentioned.

      It’s not a big deal to mention “oh hey, you made an assumption but it actually isn’t in the letter.”

      It hurts no one to remember to not assume more than we know. It hurts no one to choose not to default to “husband” and just stick with the widely understood word “spouse.” It hurts no one to take a second to use words that include. If it bothers you, maybe take a few minutes to think on why.

      1. Emily K*

        Yes, this is really not much different than any other time that commenters have pointed out to Alison something she misread or misinterpreted that affected her answer.

        I think the use of “dismayed” may have triggered some commenters’ defensiveness on Alison’s behalf, since it made it less of a value-neutral fact correction and feel more like an emotional criticism, but also, misgendering is a perfectly reasonable thing to have an emotional response to, and it was expressed politely. It’s not rude to express a negative emotion.

    5. Crivens! (Formerly Katniss)*

      This is Ask a Manager, where I know to avoid any topic having to do with names because there will be 50 thousand comments about how everyone has a unique name that’s hard for other people to get. This is Ask a Manager, where in another post there is a 200 comment thread about how people flush toilets. This place gets off topic all the time. Language is important, so picking THIS particular instance of going off-topic makes it look like you’re less concerned about straying from topic and more concerned about silencing people with valid points to make about gendered language.

  32. Kdt*

    I’m usually very mercenary about jobs. It’s just a paycheck. But, wow. Even I would feel bad about leaving a company and leaving her in a lurch that quickly after her husband died and knowing that the business is what keeps her going.

    But if the company is losing money,maybe it is the best thing not just for the letter writer, but also for her manager to help her see the writing on the wall and for her to close the company.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. The timing may put her in a position where she can *sell* the company versus just shutting down.

  33. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#1: I’ll repeat what earlier commenters have already said: you cannot take on the role of emotional-support person for your boss. You’re not qualified, and you’ll eventually come to resent her.

    That said, my suggestion would be that you make a personal timeline for exiting from your current role. Assuming your boss’s partner hadn’t died, how much notice would you give? Since you’re in a senior position, you’d probably want to give more than the standard two weeks. But plan your exit strategy and give your boss notice based on that. It will help you stand firm in discussions with her.

    You don’t say how long it’s been since your boss’s spouse died, but she may not be thinking long-term yet. Have you considered drafting some succession plans? For example, revise your own job description and offer to hire and train someone to fill your role. Maybe a five-year plan for growing the business? You said that most of your staff is over 55, so they’re probably thinking about retirement — maybe a plan for filling those roles as the staff leave? And, possibly, a plan for winding down the business, if she does decide to close it down. (You don’t say whether the spouse was involved in the business, but now that he/she/ze is gone, your boss’s interests may shift.) Don’t go into a lot of detail for any of them, except the plan for filling your own role. If she seems attracted to any one of them, you might offer to add some detail for her.

    My point here is that you’re showing that you’re not abandoning her, but you are being clear (and firm) that you will be leaving the firm by X date.

    And, btw — you’ve been there ten years in what sounds like a senior role, but your boss is being cagey about the firm’s financials and the deteriorating client base. That’s not good, and would in itself be ample reason to move on.

    1. Bulbasaur*

      Yes. It differs in degree but not in kind from the classic scenario of somebody threatening to commit suicide if you leave a relationship with them. The underlying problem might be very real, but the solution is not what they think it is.

      I agree with the general tenor of the advice so far. Talk to her, make it a shared problem, look for solutions together, but set clear boundaries and don’t compromise your own interests in order to do it.

  34. Kay*

    Regarding #2: I’ve been in very similar situations a couple of times and I’ve tried handling it both ways suggested (ignore it or politely confront it). From personal experience, I have found it easier to ignore it. In the instance when I clarified to a manager that my views did not match theirs, it became its own conversation piece. There were mild but annoying jokes at my expense and certain moments where it became clear that my boss wanted to debate me. I avoided the debates with the “I don’t talk about politics at work” line but I found the jokes to be distracting and increasingly unprofessional. It was a bit too much for me but that may not bother you. So know your own sensitivities here and understand that your boss may not stop talking about his politics (or he may want to talk about them even more)

  35. TurkeyLurkey*

    #4 In my line of work, Thanksgiving is a great time to apply. I specifically worked with our talent acquisition person to make sure that we got a new posting up before the holiday. We want to be ready for any great candidates who might have extra time to look at job boards.

    Between Thanksgiving and New Year is always a lull in my department, since many of our clients are taking time off. I won’t be reading applications until Monday, but I’ll have a good amount of time to devote to hiring since it’s post-Thanksgiving.

    1. harmeg (OP4)*

      +1 “We want to be ready for any great candidates who might have extra time to look at job boards.”

  36. Dr. Pepper*

    #2: I have been in this exact position, and I decided to not engage. I think it was for the best. My boss was an ardent supporter of his party and enjoyed going on political rants. There were only three of us, and the other employee openly disagreed with the boss and they’d get into political huffing matches, something I wanted no part of. While I often agreed with my coworker, it wasn’t like both of us arguing together would have changed the boss’s mind, and then I would be dragged into even more political rants. Whenever he would go off on something I disagreed with, I’d just stare at him in silence until he was done, make some kind of non-committal noise, and then change the subject. Or I’d shrug my shoulders and give him a bored “oh well” or something like that. He didn’t like that much, but it wasn’t anything he could argue against, so it was dropped. He was sharp enough to figure out that I probably didn’t agree with him, but it profited me nothing to confirm that, and fortunately he never pressed me on the subject. If he had, I’d probably have given him the “I don’t care much for politics” line.

  37. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #3 reminds me of a Malcolm in the Middle episode where a classmate that he liked, overheard (iirc) him talking about how money was tight in his home, and started a food collection for him. Not only was poor Malcolm severely humiliated when he found out, but a lot of people donated expired food and Malcolm’s dad ended up in the hospital, causing huge medical bills for the family, after eating it.

    This kind of levity aside, a bad idea on so many levels. Talk about a guaranteed way to make everyone on the team feel awkward to be around one another for years to come.

  38. Marthooh*

    OP#5 — I don’t think your boss looking at a bullet or a casing or whatever means much; but the fact that you think your boss might threaten you means that you should start looking for a job in a less fraught environment.

    1. Book Badger*

      Exactly what I was thinking – that the possibility that it was an intimidation tactic speaks volumes about him as a manager and the job as a whole.

      1. Observer*

        Either about his or about the OP. Most people who would resort to that kind of intimidation tactic are NOT subtle!

    2. Rectilinear Propagation*

      From the letter, this sounds like more like they were looking for confirmation that this isn’t an issue. It sounded more like, “I don’t think this is a problem but maybe I’m missing something” not “I’m concerned and looking for someone to confirm I’m right to be worried”.

      They said they’re both confused on this one so I think they’re mostly weirded out. I think the problem is that they can’t figure out how he’d end up with the bullet in his pocket at work. If he wasn’t wearing jeans or pants you might wear hunting at work, it makes sense that they’d think it odd that the bullet was there.

  39. SigneL*

    A thought: I have known many people who have small businesses talk about how their business is their baby. Buy when there’s a crunch, they aren’t willing to do the work to make the business viable. Having a business is not the same as having a hobby. For example, if you are “no good” with paperwork, you have to hire someone to do it – you can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away. Be businesslike.

  40. Environmental Compliance*

    #2 – Had that in spades at my last job, except Previous Crazy Boss was very, very, very far left, and also very, very, very much a strong proponent of “all men are evil assholes who just shouldn’t exist”. She would sing songs and wax philosophical about her very strong political beliefs constantly, and thought I agreed with all of it….which meant she then liked to sit in my office and spout about it at me. It started to be almost painful to just sit there and be nonreactive to it. But I felt that I didn’t have much ability to do anything about it, other than say “Hmm, okay. Well I need to make this phone call if you don’t mind?” just to get her to leave for a few minutes of peace. I tried the “I don’t discuss this sort of thing at work” and she just got more vocal about how it’s important to have Beliefs and Opinions and Let Everyone Know.

    I don’t know if there was a better way to handle that particular person. I will agree that it puts you in a tremendously awkward feeling position.

    #5 – I am a hunter as well, and an avid horse person. Also an avid crafter. The amount of times I’ve managed to find an empty casing, horse treats, and loose knitting needles/random scraps of yarn in one pocket is an absurd amount for how often I really do check my pockets. The little buggers are ninjas.

      1. Pippa*

        Another horse person, and I’d like to know how you got away with giving your horse only half the carrot :-)

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Me too! Seems like they always know when there’s more carrot to be had. Or maybe mine just likes to chew on pockets….

          I’ve pulled hoof picks, random bits of hay, a curry comb, previously mentioned peppermint treats,and a used dewormer dispenser out of my purse before in an assortment of public places. Oddly enough the hoof pick got the most WTF looks and not the dewormer.

      2. Mrs. Fenris*

        I keep dog treats on my person a lot. I have them in my pockets at home for when I walk the dog so we can work on her leash reactivity, and I keep them in my lab coat pockets at work for patients. I also eat a lot of trail mix. I have almost eaten a few dog treats when I got mixed up about what I had in what pouch or pocket…

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I want to know just how big your pockets are! that you can find loose knitting needles in them.

      Me, I used to hang unused 16″ circulars around my neck (especially if I was swatching and trying out lots of different sizes) and then I’d amuse my wife by forgetting them completely. Yup, found them more than once while out in public. Yup, found one around my neck at least once while falling asleep in bed.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I tend to use very small circulars, but my jacket pockets are ginormous. Technically, it’s a men’s coat, to be fair.

        When I had long hair I would forget I put a spare needle in it all the time and go crazy trying to find it later.

  41. Labradoodle Daddy*

    I’m torn about politics at work after the 2016 election; I’d like to know if someone I’m working with is a bigot so I can avoid them at all costs.

    1. Just Saying...*

      Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them a bigot. It’s called a “difference of opinion.”

      1. Someone Else*

        I think the post you’re responding to was referring to a very specific aspect of a very specific election, which involved a lot of very public open racism, homophobia and xenophobia. The implication being a vote for a particular candidate is at best implicit support of those things and at worst explicit support of those things.

        Sure yes, in general, difference sides of the political aisle does not = bigotry, but you’re overlooking the context in which the comment was made.

    2. Lissa*

      I think the only option is to wait till they something bigoted, cause otherwise you’d have to go around interrogating people about their views which probably wouldn’t go well! Something like this recently happened/is happening at my work where someone believes a coworker may have a view they find unacceptable and wants to figure out if it’s true, but… it’s all just speculation and trying to figure out what someone “truly” thinks at this point. Unless said person does something to show their bigotry I think one has to pretend all coworkers have no political views much like they don’t have sex lives….

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        The good(?) part is, if they have that kind of views, they will tell you. Or will tell someone else where you can hear. They are proud to share that stuff.

        Personal anecdote, a few weeks after the Tamir Rice killing (which happened in the city where I live), I was in the breakroom and, as I was heating up my lunch, I overheard someone behind a wall saying “well, he shouldn’t have sawed the orange tip off!” You better believe I peeked around the wall to see who said this. And you better believe this factored to a huge degree to my opinion of this coworker until he, thankfully, left, hopefully never to be seen by me again.

  42. TooTiredToThink*

    OP#1 – I’ve not seen this suggestion but if its been more than 3 months since the spouse died, could you gently tell her you think its a good idea to bring on another person? Then once she feels comfortable with the person start your transition plan? I am not saying you should stay out of pity; etc… for her – but right now the thought of training someone new and her life completely changing again is probably so far outside of her mental capacity at the moment her brain patterns may be freezing into place and she can’t think of a way out.

  43. LALAs*

    #4 – We posted an assistant position last Friday. I am setting up phone interviews for today and tomorrow and in-person interviews for next week. The timing isn’t ideal, but we need someone. So by all means – keep applying!

  44. Thor*

    #4, you should absolutely apply this week especially because December is coming up, which is not always the time when offices are great at moving things forward. This is the season where sooner is better.

    1. harmeg (OP4)*

      I’m actually very convinced now that you bring up the aspect of “better than December” ha. Thank you.

  45. Dasein9*

    Not to quibble too much, but I would have called it “heteronormative,” which is exactly what you describe: forgetting to make the effort that hetero isn’t the default. That has heterosexism built in, as having the default is a presumption of “normality” or even “superiority.” Failing to disrupt heteronormative language fosters background, un-reflected-upon, systemic heterosexism.

  46. VC*

    A thought: Many heterosexual people find themselves surrounded by other heterosexual people because they do things like always assuming a couple is / will be a different-sex one until explicitly told otherwise, and queer people (including bisexual people in different-sex relationships) find it frustrating and exhausting and prefer the company of people that don’t make them do that.

    Always defaulting to “the majority” and assuming that majority is/will be heterosexual is literally what heterosexism is. One slip is not that big a deal, but it is still a heterosexist slip and you should fix it so it doesn’t become a pattern.

    Want to be an ally? Keep making the effort, and don’t make being corrected for your mistakes about your feelings about being corrected.

    1. Aveline*

      Yes. Don’t prioritize your discomfort at making a slip up over doing the right thing by traditionally othered persons

  47. Aveline*

    Defaulting to the majority is erasing those whonare not. It doesn’t matter if it’s the definition of spouse or if it is about viewing white and male as the default human.

    It’s erasing! Erasure matters to the people erased and to our social discourse. If we want a truly inclusive society, then our choice of terms matters.

    It also deligitimizes dame sex unions to treat hetero unions as the default. Just because they aren’t as many same sex unions doesn’t make them any less legitimate.

    Why does “more” = default? Why?

    More does not equal all. Something that isn’t universal should not automatically be the default. Especially not if the reasons for setting it as default haven’t been examined for bias.

    Spouse is also MORE ACCURATE when we don’t know the gender of one or both (or all) parties. Because we don’t know either way.

    Spouse takes care of both types of relationships. Or even poly relationships. Husband or wife does not.

    Finally, it’s the term LW used. We should respect LWs terms and use them unless they are somehow offensive.

    This isn’t that difficult.

    I could easily turn this on you and ask why you care so much about upholding a status quo rooted in sexism and homophobia, one that hurts and erases people, and one that is also inaccurate.

    1. Aveline*

      To the poly folks: wish I could go back and edit this so it was clear I don’t view poly as an other type of relationship. I was writing about same sex v opposite sex marriage and then realized that one can have marriages with more than two people.

      Sorry for the word salad sloppy way of writing it

  48. Radical Independent Aaron Burr style*

    For #2, one of my favorite work stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear was from a male friend in a very conservative industry, who worked for a client in a very conservative industry in a very conservative place.
    And the client said to him, “Oh, Neddard, you’re such a great guy, I can tell you’re a Republican!”
    And Ned said, very diplomatically, “oh, thanks, but I don’t choose sides.”
    And Client said, “Oh, that’s ok, you can be honest! We’re all Republicans around here!”

    This is pretty much the story, I’m not sure what happened next but Nedd still has his head in my version for sure.

  49. Armchair Analyst*

    I thought there was a previous column here where someone found bullet casings on his or her desk in the cubicle?
    I’m going to go look for it now….

  50. Ralkana*

    Ha, #2 reminds me of the time in my mid-twenties when an older, female coworker mentioned an election in which she assumed we both voted for the same candidate, and when I said, cheerfully, “oh, no, I voted for [opponent]!”

    She laughed a little uncomfortably, and said, “Oh, I thought you were a good little Republican.”

    “Oh, no, I’m a good little Democrat.” Cheerful smile, and I wandered back to my desk. She never mentioned politics to me again.

    1. Faith*

      That’s way better than a response my coworker got from someone at the office when they tried to give him advice on who to vote for in the primaries on the Republican ballot. He politely responded “Thank you, but I vote in the Democratic primaries” only to have the “Oh, so you are one of those baby killers” thrown in his face.

  51. Spelled With a C*

    I don’t understand why kids get factored into business decisions. Whether it’s more time off during the holidays or more money, having kids is a personal decision not relevant to treatment at work. Of course I’m all for understanding of emergencies and flexible scheduling, but those are things that could be offered to all employees. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t have pets that get sick or aging relatives I have to care for. It also doesn’t mean I have loads of disposable income; I could have student loan debt or medical bills. And finally, I too would like to spend the holidays with my family, whether or not it involves my own offspring.

  52. voyager1*

    LW2: Considering how enthusiastic your boss is about his political leanings, I would just start looking for a new job honestly. I live in a very red state so being outed as a Dem could have consequences professionally. I would not engage him.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      Yes, I’m afraid if OP tells boss she’s not a Republican, boss might change the way he sees her and maybe even push her out.
      I had experiences like that when I was younger. It wasn’t always politics, but I could see when they changed their opinion of me, and then they stopped wanting to work with me.
      So only tell him if you’re sure he’ll respond well and won’t mind working closely with a Democrat.

  53. ThankYouRoman*

    #1 I am here to support you leaving.

    We’re similar. I worked for a decade to keep a dying business alive by pulling it through the years despite crippling losses. It was so bad my beloved boss stopped taking a salary so that we didn’t shutter the place.

    When it came time to leave, it gutted us all. I needed more hours and was moving to another city. I stayed part time for a year while working 2 other jobs (I liked that year, it was a great professional growth year).

    This isn’t about your boss or her failing business. It’s about you. You will get through this muddy departure.

    I’m still close to my old boss’s family, sadly his health means I no longer see him.

    They sold the business after I left.

    She doesn’t get to emotionally manipulate you into this. She’s desperate and I pray she finds her peace. I’m not saying she’s malicious, it’s stressful and devastating to hit the skids at her age.

    Run into the sunset singing and dancing. You’re young and career is going to thrive. This isn’t where you stay forever.

  54. mf*

    #2: I would go with “I don’t consider myself a Republican.” (He might interpret this to mean you are an independent.)

    If you are comfortable doing so, you should also feel free to offer a white lie: “I’m more of an independent.” Or “Politics is so confusing these days. I don’t even know what to think” + subject change.

    Most people have Political Fatigue these days, so you could also go with “Gosh, I’m so tired of hearing about politics. It’s been pretty overwhelming this year. Let’s talk about something else.”

  55. Oaktree*

    Yet another commenter here who thinks the bullet thing is, well, nothing. I’m not a gun owner, but my partner is and we live together, so I know more than a bit about how bullets and bullet casings work. The casings get everywhere. I’ve found them under the bed, on my partner’s workbench (which is not surprising because that’s where he hand reloads them), and I even have one that I kept from the time I got to fire a .50 calibre rifle at a charity shoot (that calibre is terrifyingly huge, and the recoil was intense).

    In any event, the casings (which are not bullets, just the byproduct after the bullet has been fired into the target) are like odd socks.

    (For anyone curious- we’re Canadian and my partner keeps all the firearms in a locked safe, with the ammunition in a separate locked box, as the law here requires.)

  56. Needs Further Review*

    OP1: I had a similar experience in my last job. My advice is to make sure you have a clear exit strategy before you go to your boss. Your sense of loyalty may lead you to want to give a longer notice period that you otherwise would. Based on my experience, once you give your notice you should be prepared to go from being “the one who will save this company” to “the one who is killing this company.” If that’s the case, it’s better for both you and your boss if you can make a quick exit.

  57. Liz*

    Re: #5, I’d echo what other people have said about the possibility that it was a casing rather than a bullet, and add that most gun owners I know make a point to collect their spent casings for recycling. Brass is valuable and the casings can add up quickly. Add that to a general desire to reduce litter, and it would be very normal for a hunter to pick up his spent casings and pocket them after firing.

  58. Wintermute*

    Employment is for MUTUAL gain, you’re perfectly within your rights to have your own goals and it doesn’t sound like this job is serving yours– I mean, ideally you want a position where raises, promotions and a higher standard of living are in the cards at your age, right?

    I’d sum it up pithily by saying this: A job is not a marriage, you don’t need a good reason to go, you have to be loyal to yourself first.

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