do I have to invite a manager I hate to my wedding, my team is snarky and negative, and more

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

1. Do I have to invite a manager who I hate to my wedding?

I’m getting married in about 11 months and we are sending out save-the-dates. For a while, a big question mark about our wedding has been whether or not we should invite my manager, Jane. She’s not actually really my manager anymore — I reported to her for four years before I got a promotion and then was moved under someone else. But my new boss reports to Jane too (our structure is kind of messed up), and so she still has a big say in my work activities.

The thing is, she’s a really difficult person who made my life miserable for the four years I was directly under her. I cried at work constantly and was stressed to no end by her exacting demands and micromanaging. Although I low-key hate her, I am a very friendly and positive person at work, and she thinks we have an excellent relationship both personally and professionally and has long liked me (and I have been able to advance because of that). When I got engaged, she demanded to hear the story and see the ring and has long joked about how my fiance needs her “approval.”

The only reason I think I should invite Jane is that a coworker once told me that Jane was adamant that employees have to invite their managers to their weddings, because “that’s how it’s done.” Jane went so far as to talk crap about three of our team members who got married without inviting her.

I don’t want Jane to be at my wedding because she has hurt me so much, but I’m terrified that if I don’t invite her, she will retaliate in some way at work. I can’t say that we’re not inviting any coworkers, because some of my best friends are on the team, and I’ve already sent them save-the-dates. My coworkers have urged me to invite her, citing my out-of-town wedding as a reason she won’t come. My fiance adamantly doesn’t want to invite her. I’m torn.

Don’t invite her. You shouldn’t have someone at your wedding who you hate and who regularly made you cry. You’re absolutely not obligated to invite her, or managers in general. It’s true that you shouldn’t exclude just one person from your team if you’re inviting everyone else but (a) that doesn’t sound like the case here and (b) that doesn’t really apply to your manager anyway.

It would be interesting to know if she did anything more than just some brief complaining about those other people who didn’t invite her. If not, I think you can move forward with peace of mind here; let her complain if she wants to. But otherwise, you could either ask the coworkers you’re inviting to keep it quiet and not mention it to Jane, or you can go with the time-honored “our venue is really small and so we have really strict limits on how many people we can have there,” maybe adding on “but thank you for being so supportive of us!”

2. My team is snarky and negative

I’ve been at my company for six years, and was promoted after four to an elevated but non-management role. The team is comprised of mostly newer members; apart from one employee, they’ve all been here less than two years. It’s an entry-level role, and we often fill it with people who lack office experience. Even factoring in the office behavior learning curve, I think there’s a problem with attitude and disrespect.

There’s a lot of swearing and friendly bantering, but I feel it crosses a line. Some days it’s almost constant between two employees — i.e., “I have a question” … “Your mom has a question” / “I’m not sure what to do” … “That’s because you’re dumb” / “Can you help me with something?” … “I can help punch you in the face!” It’s just those two who go back and forth, but it’s grating to hear the play fighting. There’s a lot of swearing and discussion of drinking (I also enjoy drinking but I don’t talk about getting wasted at work, because it’s, ya know, work.) We have a pretty casual office and I appreciate the lack of formality, but I feel like they take it 10 steps too far. When a newer member IMed me to share his similar feelings, I felt it was worth raising to our manager. Two days ago he sent a group wide email “to ensure we all get the same message” about being respectful of language and volumes.

The response has been … lackluster. I heard an over-exaggerated apology yesterday along the lines of “I’m SO sorry if I’ve offended you.” One of the girls tagged two others in a meme on facebook about getting people to stop talking to you, and they responded “that’s not appropriate” and “this is an office.” I showed that posting to my manager (feeling like a tattletale) but felt he should know they were treating it like a joke and he said “nothing I can do about them outside of work.”

I’d love to take it to my grand-boss, but a friend at work has said she doesn’t think anything will change. I know my manager is not effective, I’m not blind to that. I really like the rest of the company and would like to stay here, but this environment feels toxic and draining. Am I just being petty for caring so much about how they behave? Should I continue trying to raise it, or put my headphones in and ignore it? It also concerns me that we hire new members to the workforce, and I don’t want a potentially good employee to normalize such damaging behaviors.

No, that kind of thing is toxic over time. It breeds cynicism and negativity, and it can be really unpleasant to be around it all the time. It would be one thing if people had reacted well when your manager stepped in, but their response is really indicative of a culture problem. And that’s very much your manager’s business, so it’s too bad that he doesn’t think there’s anything he can or should do. It sounds like he needs to be a much more active presence around your coworkers, and possibly that he needs to have one-on-one conversations with people about what’s happening.

If your grand-boss has good judgment and is a decent manager, you could indeed mention it to her — explicating naming it as a damaging culture problem and flagging that a new hire talked to you about it too. You can also address it in the moment yourself when it happens by saying things like “It’s really unpleasant to hear that all time time — could you stop?” and “Could you take that down a notch?” and so forth. That risks them turning their snark on you as well, but if you’re otherwise warm and friendly to them, it might actually make an impression.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My manager told me to stop saying “again…” in response to the same questions

I am the team lead working on a tough engineering problem. Management decided to hold a brainstorming session with people who are experts in the general field but not familiar with the problem. I was tasked with putting together a pre-session by teleconference where I introduce the problem, provide background, and detail previous work. This was not intended to be the brainstorming session but just informational. True brainstorming with a face-to-face meeting will happen after Christmas.

I went through the presentation. We had an interesting mix of people who asked a lot of good questions sometimes about the same thing. When a question came up that I had answered previously, apparently, I answered by saying “Again, we did x experiment and saw no effect of y.” After the meeting, my manager told me that I should be careful not to use the word “again” too often. To him, he heard me say “again (you idiot, I already told you this!)” which was totally not my intent. I don’t even realize I use “again” that much or even at all. It might be my substitute for “ummm” while I’m thinking? When I do, I really mean “as you may recall from the earlier discussion.” This way I feel I can cut down on my response time since I already provided details previously.

I am a 50ish woman PhD engineer with close to 25 years experience, and my boss is a male mid 40 engineer with 20 years experience. I think we usually get along very, very well. I was providing information to a group of 6-10 mostly male engineers with similar experience in the field. I do not know most of them.

Is this weird feedback or is it me? I asked two other people in the room that I am friends with if they noticed that I used the phrasing “again” a lot and did it bother them (one man, one woman). They said they didn’t even notice. I almost feel like this is a situation where even though I am by far the expert, as a woman, I’m expected to use softer language. What do you think?

Hmmm. It’s definitely true that women sometimes get told to soften their language when men wouldn’t get told the same thing, but I’m not sure that’s what’s happening here. In the context you describe, using “again” before your answer is indeed likely to come across as “I told you this before and I’m annoyed that you didn’t retain it.” Sometimes there’s a softer way to say that, like “Like I was explaining in response to Ryan’s question, we did X and didn’t see Y.” But just “again…” is likely to come across as either brusque or frustrated if you’re saying it a bunch of times in one conversation. (And that’s going to be true for men as well. This one isn’t especially gendered.)

When people are asking the same questions over and over, something’s going on. It could be that people aren’t paying attention, or it could be that you’re not explaining as clearly as you thought you were. Either is possible, but this sounds like a pretty engaged audience, so it’s worth reflecting on whether it could be the latter! (It could also be interesting to ask your boss about his thoughts on that.)

4. My boss asked me to take a dance class with her

My boss recently pulled me aside after a team meeting and said she wanted to talk to me. She told me that she works part-time at a dance studio, and that I should really go take a class there sometime because “it’s a really great way to meet people.” I told her I’d think about it, but that I really needed to go finish up with my work for the day.

I understand where my boss is coming from. She grew up in Europe and doesn’t have family here, and she and her husband moved to the area a few years ago when our offices merged. On top of that, her husband is currently attending medical school, so she’s lonely. She and I were friendly as colleagues before she was promoted, and she knows that I went through a difficult breakup earlier this year.

It’s easy enough to brush her off for the time being — work is crazy, holiday parties, travel, etc. — but when you get right down to it, I believe in keeping my work life and personal life separate. She’s a nice person, but not a great boss, and I don’t really want her intervening in my personal life.

Unless she’s extraordinarily pushy, it’s likely that she’s not going to bring this up over and over. But if she does bring it up again, you can say something vague like, “Maybe, we’ll see!” If she brings it up after that, though, then you’re officially in Weirdly Pushy territory and at that point you’re going to need to give her a clear no. That clear no could be “I don’t think it’s for me, but thanks!” or “I’m old-fashioned about not mixing my work and non-work life, but thank you!” Or you could jump straight here the next time if you want, but a soft no may get the job done before that.

5. Applications that want contact info for all my past managers

I know that it’s important to ask permission of potential references before providing their contact information to a potential employer. Is this also true for filling out the work history sections of online job applications with the contact information of former supervisors?

I’ve come across online job applications that require the phone number of each former supervisor listed in the work history section, where that information is considered a required field and you can’t continue without providing a phone number. I wouldn’t necessarily ask each of my former supervisors to be a reference, but is this essentially putting them in the position of becoming a potential reference because their contact information has been provided? And so, do I essentially need to ask all of my former supervisors if they are willing to be a reference for me before I complete any job applications that require their contact information in the work history section of the application? I am hesitant to do so unless I am being seriously considered for a position since I want to avoid “reference fatigue,” but maybe this is unavoidable in a job search.

You should give them all a heads-up that they might be contacted, but you don’t need to do that every time you fill out an application. You can just do it once at the start of your search and frame it as “I wanted to let you know that I’m beginning a job search and some applications are asking for the contact info of all my past supervisors. So it’s possible that you’ll get a call from a potential employer about me, and I didn’t want you to be blindsided by it.” That notification is good for a few months at least; you don’t need to renew it with each new application you submit.

{ 421 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, when this happens to me it’s nearly always because I’m a woman. The fact that no one but your manager flagged it as an issue signals, to me, that this may have been more about how he hears that word than how you said it. I’ve heard people use “again” as a gentle segue or recall tool, and I’ve heard it used to convey annoyance or frustration. It sounds like you were doing the first.

    If you were getting repeat questions, it may have been helpful to take a step back and ask a bigger picture / framing question to try to identify the communication/uptake gap. But otherwise, I suspect you were fine, although you may have to change some of your approach based on your manager’s feedback.

    1. JamieS*

      A virtual stranger repeatedly saying “again” in response to a question is likely to come across as rude to a lot of people regardless of the speaker’s gender which is most likely what OP’s manager was flagging since OP was mostly to people who didn’t know her well. OP’s coworker friends know her so know her intent better than the people on the phone and are also more used to her speech patterns so it’s not surprising they either didn’t notice or didn’t mind.

      1. Les G*

        This. The habit of answering repeat questions with “again” comes off as more than a little, well…grad-student-y, for lack of a better term. My own advisor told me to stop doing it, I complied, and it’s just one of those things I’d be surprised to hear an older, more established person of any gender do.

        1. Michio Pa*

          Agreed. I think if someone is bringing up a concern/question that’s been raised and addressed 3+ times, then it’s worth calling their attention to the fact that you’re covering the same ground. But just repeating info once or twice? That sounds kind of snooty, like you don’t realize that others might not understand your research as thoroughly as you do, or like you’re frustrated at how slow others are. I’ve found it’s almost never helpful to remind people that you’ve already told them something once before.

        2. MissGirl*

          She also mentions she has twenty-years experience and PhD. Sometimes when you know the information very well and at technical level, it can be hard to break down that information in an easier to understand way. If she’s not breaking it down simple enough, her “again” can definitely come off us as condescending.

          1. That Dude*

            It really shouldn’t be that hard though if you’re an expert. As Einstein put it, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Admittedly that advice is harder to implement then it sounds

            I do agree that it comes off as condescending, whether intentional or not. I had a similar tic when I presented using the word obviously and was given similar feed back. I had no idea I did it, but once I knew about it I was able to catch myself. Same thing could be happening here.

            1. Observer*

              It’s not hard to do in the technical sense. It is difficult to do in the sense of not realizing all of the knowledge you are bringing to the table that the others don’t necessarily have.

              To you “put the doohicky into the thingamajig” may sound like a very simple and clear statement of the first step in constructing a bookshelf. But someone who has a general knowledge of furniture but has never put together anything like a bookshelf might not understand what you mean. What’s the doohicky? What’s the thingamajig? How do you put one in the other? The difficulty for you is not that you don’t know the answers to those questions. It’s that you don’t realize that these are questions!

              1. That Dude*

                This also comes from knowing your audience. In my line of work I know that when I present the same subject to three different people then I’ll have to present it in three different ways. My technicians don’t need the base level explinations of every term, but my management might need that. Now if this was presented out of the blue I can see that, but if they had time to prepare then that’s not really an excuse.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s a valid point. But being a subject matter expert is not the same as being an expert on audiences. So it’s easy to see how someone who is not familiar with the level their audience is on might not realize that they need to prepare for this.

                  eg Someone like the OP might be thinking “Well, they are engineers and they’ve done SCADA” and therefore assumes that all of the IOT terminology she’s using is perfectly transparent to them. Except that it’s quite possible that the terminology is actually quite different – or the same but differently used. That doesn’t make the person less of an expert on their material, it just makes them not an expert on an adjacent field.

                2. That Dude*

                  I suppose though it comes down to how many times you’re expected to present, once a quarter then sure, I’ll accept that they’re not comfortable reading an audience. More often than that though and I’d say that excuse is flimsy at best. In my line of work it’d be considered a failure if I presented 201 level information if 101 was required, especially if it was for upper echelons. That’s one reason we’re taught to spell out acronyms at least once on our presentations, even if the audience should know better, so that way we’re covering down to the lowest common denominator

                  I get your engineer example, that makes sense. I’d probably be a bit bewildered in that context as well.

        3. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, in my line of work, if I’m answering a question with “again,” to repeat myself, it’s code for “you stupid motherfucker.”

          1. Ealasaid*

            Same. I say “again,” when I’m at least annoyed, even actively angry, at having to repeat myself. If I’m just trying to refer to an earlier thread/discussion, I say “like we were talking about earlier.” In the offices where I’ve worked, it’s a word used to chastise.

          2. That Would be a Good Band Name*

            Yep. I either mean “you aren’t listening” or “how are you not getting this?”. If I am answering the same question enough times to say “again” before I said my answer (I’ll repeat myself a couple of times before I say it) then I’m actually probably going to stop and address the entire room to ask if anyone is clear on the point that keeps getting questioned.

          3. Glitsy Gus*

            This was my thought. We have a running joke in my office that starting an answer with “Again…” is the verbal version of “As per my last email…” so basically ‘pay attention, nimrod.’

            I totally get how it can become a verbal tick, and not everyone will be offended, but for a lot of people that is shorthand for “I am repeating myself and I don’t like it.”

          4. Stranger than fiction*

            Speaking of mothers, I actually do this to mine. She’s always asking me to repeat the same things and I’ll begin with “Again…”

        4. KC*

          Yes! My grad advisor told us to ban the phrases “Again,” “As I mentioned previously” and “Obviously” from our vocabulary because they come across as rude and condescending. It was great advice that I’ve followed my entire professional career. The *only* time I use “Again” is as a wrist slap when I know a student hasn’t paid attention and is asking a simple question I just answered (like “”What’s going to be on the test?” never class content that might genuinely be confusing).

          1. Triplestep*

            I agree with your advisor.

            And it works both ways. Someone with whom I work well recently started a sentence with “again” and it jolted me to attention, making me realize I had been being dense!

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I agree with your advisor as well! And also “Most of you probably don’t know this, but….” for the same reason. A better phrasing with similar meaning would be “Hey, do you know this?” to get the same info about what the listener knows and then you can tailor your next statement to how they answer it.

            But I digress. The main reason I wanted to comment here, OP, is that maybe you are unaware of how often you are using the word “again” and it has become your own personal “ummmm” – that is, a sort-of nervous tic that you use to fill in silence while coming up with an answer to the question. Maybe your manager just wants you to either find a different way to fill in the silence or wants you to embrace the silence? I didn’t really get that from his comment, but it might be worth considering anyway.

            And I totally get how you might think that he’s only telling you this because he’s a man and you’re a woman, and maybe he wouldn’t say something like this to another man, but he’s also your manager so you may have to take his feedback into consideration even if it’s a bit irritating and (dare I say it?) sexist.

        5. :-)*

          I agree.

          I must admit that using “Again” in the beginning of a sentence to point something out that was said before, does sound harsh (it would definitely irk me, to be honest). You probably don’t mean it like that but perhaps it’s beneficial to try to use different synonyms / ways to refer to something you said / answered earlier?
          Or just repeat the answer again? It doesn’t always mean that the audience wasn’t paying attention, they could have misheard or not understood it completely and need more clarification.

          For context’s sake: English is not my native-tongue, but at the university I did have courses that were given in English and we had to present our work multiple times in English to both the professor(s) and our classmates.

      2. namelesscommentator*

        Eh, Asking a question that’s already been answered is ruder to me. And I’d rather a subtle redirection than a more blunt one when I am the person who didn’t pay close enough attention the first time.

        1. Michio Pa*

          Depends on who’s asking *again*. If it’s a junior person, they weren’t paying attention and need to listen better. If it’s a senior person, they’re weighing other factors in their minds and missed the details. OP can say “Again, ” to the former, not the latter; could get herself in hot water if she’s implying her coworkers need to listen better.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If it’s a junior person, they weren’t paying attention and need to listen better. If it’s a senior person, they’re weighing other factors in their minds and missed the details.

            LOL okay…

            1. Stormfeather*

              Enh I took it as a humorous pointing out that you gotta be careful with correcting more senior people, and at least pretend like you’re thinking the best of their actions.

              1. Michio Pa*

                Yes, this is how it was intended. Senior people might not appreciate the “subtle redirection” and also might be thinking about things you (OP) don’t know about… or at least that’s what you have to tell yourself as they sleep through your presentation and ask stupid questions at the end.

          2. Workerbee*

            “If it’s a junior person, they weren’t paying attention and need to listen better. If it’s a senior person, they’re weighing other factors in their minds and missed the details.”

            That’s hilarious, as I think of the office game we junior minions have where we can tell exactly when the senior persons check out of the meeting/conversation and miss the details they later ask for. YMMV, of course.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              My boss texts and looks at his phone during meetings. I don’t care how smart or advanced you are, it’s not possible to follow details while doing that.

          3. Lucy*

            Lol. Or maybe the information is complicated and both junior and senior people might not get everything right away.

        2. Just Employed Here*

          This doesn’t sound like the sort of adverserial, for example political, inquiry where one would ask an already answered question on purpose. It sounds like the topic is genuinely complex and the questions are being formulated as they speak, so they haven’t necessarily had the chance to process the previous answers properly yet.

          I agree with Alison and some of the other commenters that the repeated use of “again” comes across as annoying and annoyed regardless of the gender of the person saying it.

          In fact, I would only use this if I wanted to signal that I am, in fact, annoyed by repeated questions. Sometimes that’s needed, and this is a polite way to do it.

          1. Myrin*

            In fact, I would only use this if I wanted to signal that I am, in fact, annoyed by repeated questions. Sometimes that’s needed, and this is a polite way to do it.

            Yeah, I was thinking that! I’ve used that same phrasing – mostly in writing, but verbally, too – when I did want to subtly remind someone that I’ve explained the same thing at length before and that we can only move forward if they actually read what I write/listen to what I say, so it’s likely I’d understand it that way if someone else did it, too.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yes, I agree it would come off rude in this context and the only time I use that phrasing is if I’m in an email chain and I want to make it very clear that I have responded to something before because it seems like they missed my previous email and I want to make sure they know I didn’t drop the ball.

              1. Someone Else*

                100% this is a reasonable use of “again”.
                HOWEVER, I think something in the letter is important to factor in, and it’s that the LW didn’t notice she was doing “again” until it was pointed out to her. So that’s the key, to me, to actionable advice. If she’s not conscious of using the word, it is worth putting more effort into being aware of doing it. To me, it’s not a suitable swap-out for “um” or other placeholder words. So if LW has taken to using this as that sort of interjection, it’s worth it to be more mindful about that. Still feel free to whip out an “again” when it is intentional, be it intentionally allowing frustration to show or for other reasons where it’s necessary/useful/productive for the questioner to be made aware they’re causing a repeat, but make sure it is indeed intentional.

              2. Emily K*

                Yeah, I use “again” from time to time, but never in response to a direct question. It’s more like when I’m giving a long explanation that has gone into complex digressions and segues, so when I return to the main thrust of I need to quickly hit the high points again to review them.

                eg: “With this technology upgrade project it’s very important for our total costs to remain revenue-neutral. I’ve identified a few places where we can trim costs to pay for our greater expenses in other areas this year.

                [semi-lengthy discussion of several potential cost-cutting opportunities, with merits and cons of each one]

                Between the two opportunities we’ve identified as viable, we’ll be able to save $2,500. The new equipment we were hoping to acquire is $3,000, and again, we’ve been told in no uncertain terms by management that this project has to remain revenue-neutral, so unfortunately we’re going to have to go with our second-choice option which is a bit more affordable.”

                In that context it’s more of an acknowledgment that the discussion has been long enough or complex enough that people may have lost track of some of the original points, especially if they were straight-forward enough that barely any time was spent covering them relative to the sub-discussions that followed.

          2. Loud Noises*

            “Sometimes that’s needed, and this is a polite way to do it.”

            Absolutely agree. This is a great example of what my coworkers and I like to call being professionally petty, and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that. See also: “As per my last email”.

            1. ISuckAtUserNames*

              My favorite is when someone comes to you to get a different answer than your coworker gave, so you can throw out the “As coworker addressed previously….”

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            In the political context, “again” either means “You keep repeating that, and the answer isn’t changing” (from the questionee) or “That was a total non-answer and I’m not letting it slide” (from the questioner). Both are usually about making a point to any listeners that the other party is out of line.

            Which is how it comes across at work, too–I’ll 17th on that. That someone is the first person to point out X to you doesn’t make them wrong, or prejudiced, or pursuing any agenda other than pointing out a work problem to you so you can correct it. (I’m reminded of the reporter who before each interview would sit by herself and say “You know” 20 times, so she got it out of her system, after a mentor pointed out that that’s not a great verbal tic when you’re supposed to be asking someone questions and absorbing their answers.)

            I do group phone calls about new projects, and what I immediately picture here is someone who thought “Grublestone” obviously incorporated “Stonegruble” and “Bugles,” which are not obvious to someone new to the project and its terminology. Or who didn’t register that the earlier discussion of an obscure chemistry tangent–not their field–addressed this one aspect from a different direction.

            1. the Viking Diva*

              “…someone who thought “Grublestone” obviously incorporated “Stonegruble” and “Bugles,” which are not obvious to someone new to the project and its terminology.”
              I think this is a key point. To me the example OP gives, ‘We did x experiment and saw no effect,’ is telling: For someone who’s thought a lot about it, the implications of that result might be really clear, but simply stating the evidence doesn’t necessarily make all the consequences and implications clear to others. I like to repurpose those kinds of questions: “Right, exactly: the fact that there’s no effect when we do x means that [state or restate the implication].” It’s a way to reframe the response from ‘Maybe you weren’t listening carefully and didn’t understand’ into a clarification for everyone and a way to re-up the point in a way that is positive for the asker (aren’t you clever for asking?) instead of negative.

          4. Washi*

            Yeah, if you’re senior to everyone else and getting the sense that they are asking the same question over and over because they’re not paying attention, I think it’s ok to signal that with “again.”

            But in pretty much every other context (including the one the OP describes) I think there are more productive ways to respond if you’re repeating yourself a lot. In this situation I’ve sometimes said something like “I’m glad you asked that, because I think I might not have been clear earlier, so I’m just going to pause to make sure we’re all on the same page. The big takeaway here is X and Y, which is important because of Z. Does that make sense? Any questions about that specifically? So back to Ryan’s question, this means that blah blah blah…”

            1. pleaset*

              I’d say not just senior, but also in situations where participants face a real obligation to pay attention. This includes situations where they have asked for your help/info and are not paying attention.

              There are times to signal that people should pay attention. Rare, but sometimes.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              “if you’re senior to everyone else and getting the sense that they are asking the same question over and over because they’re not paying attention, I think it’s ok to signal that with “again.””
              I don’t know if I agree with that. IMHO it comes across as antagonistic.
              It seems likely if people are asking the same question over and over it’s because there’s something that’s not clear. It’s rare IME that a work team would be deliberately not paying attention.
              So if it’s something that’s not clear, it needs to be clarified – maybe even by asking “why are you all asking this over and over? Is there something missing from my explanation?”
              Or it could be something is distracting them, and in that case the distraction needs to be addressed.

          5. Kramerica Industries*

            I agree that sometimes “again” is needed, but there are other ways to say it without using “again”, which has a negative feel to it. I prefer using “like we discussed” because the feeling is more collaborative – we were both part of the conversation and it was a two-way street. On the other hand, “again” feels like I’m talking at a person.

        3. Lobsterp0t*

          It also isn’t necessarily clear that what answered one question before also answers your question. And sometimes in live discussions you have to make logical leaps about other peoples information.

          Generally I find it frustrating to have to retread information but if it’s a problem solving discussion you’re having, it’s pretty normal to ask and revisit things that were covered already, maybe from a different angle or to ask a more granular question than the original answer seemed to apply to.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I was thinking this may be the case when reading the original question. In those instances maybe something more along the lines of, “OK, so, as with Ryan’s question where X led to Y, your situation would also be covered here as A is related to B the same way. Does that make sense?” something like that. Approaching it this way may also get to the root of the confusion faster, because if people really don’t know that A works the same way as X, that might be where the real question lies.

            Of course if it really is the exact same question in a different package due to lack of paying attention, a judicious “Again..” may be in order.

        4. Beatrice*

          I just finished a complicated technical project, and was involved in informational meetings with executives explaining what we were doing and problems we were encountering. They were very attentive, but the information I was conveying was technical and difficult, and while a great deal of effort went into making sure it was explained in a way that was accessible to them, sometimes they didn’t *quite* get it on the first pass. One of the ways that situation presented itself was when they asked questions that had already been answered. They didn’t ask again because they were being rude or not listening, they asked because they didn’t grasp what was being said well enough to realize they were asking again. I did usually refer back to the previous answer when that happened, but I did it gently and I tried to figure out what pieces of information they might have been overlooking or missing that kept them from connecting the dots before, so I could fill in any gaps.

        5. Wintermute*

          this is so context-and-audience dependent. If you’re the expert in the room but you’re speaking to a senior, non-technical audience that’s very different than presenting at a conference. When you’re reaching across competence domains someone might not REALIZE the question was asked-and-answered. You might be asked “well what protocol does X use?” and then someone asks, “and how do we connect X to Y” and they might not realize that you’d already answered that when you said what protocol was used to talk to an X.

          Also, when you’re there to impute knowledge then yeah, your time is at a premium and “again,” plus brief answer is polite to the audience’s time to get to more questions, when you’re there to make sure a group of stakeholders understands the implications of your new widget, then it would make it seem like you don’t know your role is to answer questions no matter how repetitive they seem until the stakeholders are satisfied.

          There’s also the question of whether this is due to a corporate culture of “speak to be seen” where you’re expected to ask questions to prove you are engaged to your boss, whether or not they’re particularly necessary or welcome.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes – and listen for whether you’re assuming their question is a repeat and not a rephrasing because you’re not hearing the actual information needed.
            That’s vague. A specific example from real life: I’ve had times where I’ve asked the engineer how to connect X with Y in several different ways before the engineer realizes I am asking about the physical connection not the software used to communicate. (ie wifi or cable, and if cable what type)

        6. Labradoodle Daddy*

          Agreed, although maybe this partly has to do with the volume of training someone is doing? I’m always training someone, and the quality of trainees varies widely, so I’ve definitely adopted the “again” method with success.

        7. LQ*

          That assumes that you are a perfect communicator who never says anything above anyone’s head, no one is ever unable to hear you so you speak clearly and at a volume and with an accent that is universally decipherable perfectly without any extra effort and also that every single human who is listening to you never has anything else on their minds.

          The communicator has a big big role in the communication. You explain until people understand.

        8. Kathleen_A*

          I completely disagree that it’s rude to ask a question that has been answered once. If someone doesn’t understand or missed it the first time – or the person answering the question didn’t do a great job, well…that stuff happens. A lot. How else are they supposed to get their question answered?

          1. NW Mossy*

            And if the core issue of having to restate the same point is that it’s a waste of time, it’s an even bigger waste of time for someone to spend hours doing the wrong thing because they were too afraid to ask for clarification.

        9. Sacred Ground*

          Asking a question that’s been answered because you missed the answer or it wasn’t actually clear in the first place isn’t rude. Assuming the fault always lies with others’ attention span and not your own unclear explanation is rude.

        10. Observer*

          What if they didn’t understand it the first time? What if they don’t realize that the answer given before applies here? What if they mentally blinked and missed the explanation the first time?

          The fact that it repeatedly happened with an audience that the OP describes as pretty engaged says that it was not a matter of a bunch or people zoning out and not paying attention. Which also means that the advice to step back and look at why it kept on happening is good. Because it’s highly unlikely that everyone on the call was being weirdly rude.

      3. Willis*

        I agree with this. This sounds like the type of scenario where it’s understandable that you’d have to answer the same or similar questions a couple times for it to sink in for everyone (it’s a complex problem, these people are unfamiliar with it, they need to understand it enough to contribute in the brainstorming, etc.). I could see how repeatedly saying “again,” could come off the wrong way to folks that don’t know the OP and are trying to get a handle on something complex.

        Now, if the questions were something super simple like “when is the brainstorming session?” and people just weren’t paying attention your response, I think the “again…” would be more warranted! But, it didn’t sound like that was the case.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Repeatedly saying “again,” could come off the wrong way to folks that don’t know the OP.

          This is a really good point on timing for the manager to speak up–maybe manager shrugs it off in most meetings with OP because everyone in the office knows “again” is OP’s “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm…” But in an outside group of talented experts, it suddenly stands out, along with the easy negative interpretation.

          1. Psyche*

            It can also come across differently to the person asking the question and to someone else in the audience. It can discourage future questions.

      4. Perpal*

        I think it depends a lot on how it’s said, if it’s sort of a short informative again “again we did to _____ and found ____ ” that’s just trying to communicate quickly, most people might go “oh yeah, right!” (at least I would), but if it’s an exasperated “AGAIN (Eyeroll) we did _____)”. I see “again” cited in science dialogue a bit to bring back attention to some result that was discussed previously, and ties in to the current conversation.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think that’s why it comes off as very, as Les G said, “grad student-y”, because it is a feature of academic writing. It’s also a filler word, it really doesn’t add anything to the conversation, and when you’re speaking for clarity you should be careful to avoid that kind of extraneous information.

          It’s so hard to read for tone here, I’ve spoken with experts that made sure to let you know it where “again” carried the very definite tone of “if you weren’t an ignoramus, you’d have realized I answered that in my parenthetical aside ten minutes ago” and other people it has more of a tone of “circling back to my previous answer, here’s some more information!”

          1. Myrin*

            Although I think there’s a definite difference between featuring “again” in academic writing or a speech, and using it prefacing your answer to a question you were asked. In the former case, I usually see it when it comes to a conclusion or summary or to emphasise something you’ve said before, but in the latter, I basically can’t imagine a way for you to say that without sounding at least a little annoyed or like you want to remind the asker that apparently they aren’t a good listener (I also read Perpal’s example that way, FWIW, but I might just have different experiences with that kind of thing).

        2. Blue*

          I very much agree with this. Of course there are people who say it in a short, annoyed way, but I’ve also heard people say it more matter-of-factly, using it more as a transition word or short hand for “going back to what we were talking about before.” The latter wouldn’t even make me blink, but I think there are some people who are predisposed to hearing it as the former, regardless.

        3. JamieS*

          Like basically every verbal communication how it was said matters and it’s entirely possible that if we all heard the phone call we’d all unanimously agree OP’s use of “again” made sense and wasn’t rude.

          However the crux of OP’s question was whether this feedback is plausibly genuine feedback or more likely sexism. To that end, pointing out OP should avoid repeatedly saying a word/phrase that has a strong likelihood to be interpreted as rude is reasonable feedback regardless of OP’s tone in one specific instance.

      5. Myrin*

        Yeah, I feel like this is a case where OP’s work friends might be exactly the wrong people to ask for feedback. OP describes her usage of “again” as something like a verbal tick she wasn’t even really aware of before – it’s quite likely that people who work closely with her or even just know her better know that she says “again” as a substitute for “ummm” or similar and as such don’t ascribe any meaning to it at all/have learned to ignore it, whereas it might come across as quite condescending and noticeable to someone who doesn’t know her at all.

      6. Marilyn*

        Agreed. I’m confused by posters here saying it “can” come off as rude. You can try to convince yourself that it’s a meant as a gentle reminder when you’re starting your comments with “again,” but it really can only come off as chiding your audience. Confident adults shouldn’t ever feel the need to do this.

        1. MLB*

          Sometimes it’s necessary. In the context mentioned in this letter, I don’t think it should be said. But there are times when saying “again” or something to indicate that it’s been discussed is 100% necessary. Similar to sending a second email to answer a question that was clearly answered in the original email if the person had bothered to read it. As a PM, I deal with a few people who seem to not be able to retain much information, and when I have to continually repeat myself, send multiple emails to answer questions that have already been answered, and remind them how to do their jobs, it makes my job 100 times more difficult.

          1. LQ*

            Sure, sometimes it is needed. But then you are pointing out that using it IS chiding. In which case you should only use it to chide. I’ve definitely used it as a not super gentle way to highlight that I’ve already discussed something, “again, that should be in your notes, can we take a look at them to make sure its covered?” or “again, the deadline is the 30th and it’s on the board, and a giant sign on my desk, and written across the sky if you ever aren’t sure.”

        2. Labradoodle Daddy*

          Depending on context, sometimes it’s necessary. It’s also rude (and wastes time) to repeatedly ask a question if you’re not going to absorb the answer.

        3. Mary*

          Well, it might be a situation where the speaker is genuinely happy to repeat things until they are confident everyone in the room understands it thoroughly, but they do want people to understand that, “Can’t we just Z?” and “Isn’t (something similar but not identical to Z) the usual way to do things?” and “Is there any chance of (another variation on Z)?” are all essentially the same question. I can imagine technical situations where it’s completely reasonable for all those questions to be asked but also not helpful to treat them as if they’re completely separate questions.

      7. Dubious Beak*

        I do a lot of transcription work, and everyone has a different filler word or phrase that they use in conversation. Some people say “you know,” some say “um” or “uh,” some say “I mean,” etc. I’ve heard some really weird ones, like one person’s filler phrase was “I said” – as in “I said now looking at this slide” or “I said when we did this research.”

        It sounds like OP’s filler phrase is “again,” at least in certain circumstances. Maybe a thing to do would be to try to use a different filler, such as “sure.” I.e. “Could you explain the lab setup in experiment 2?” “Sure, the lab setup blah blah.” Instead of “Again, the lab setup…”

    2. Cat Meow*

      I agree and don’t think you (OP3) meant anything by it. It’s very hard to give a presentation without using filler words and this might be your filler word, which is probably a lot better than “um”. I know a lot of people use “like I said” or “as I mentioned previously” and although this is a huge pet peeve of mine I know that I lot of people see nothing wrong with it- so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they use it.

      I don’t know if gender plays a role here but that can be extra frustrating if, in fact, your comments were perceived differently due to being a woman.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I think “again” can definitely come off as condescending, but OP being spoken to about it…I’d bet money the male manager wouldn’t have said anything if OP was a male instead of a woman.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Where I see it as something a manager might bring up with any gender–the trigger was the meeting with valued outside people that drew the manager’s attention to an off-putting habit that’s wallpaper inside the office. A male engineer whose various trouble with social cues gets shrugged at in the office might very well receive a similar “Hey, you’re doing X, which implies people are stupid, and should cut it out” from the manager.

        2. Not Until after Christmas*

          I do not agree, not everything is sexism. What’s wrong with repeating complex technical information? Maybe the presenter didn’t explain it as thoroughly as they think they did, or different people understood differently. It’s not a once and done scenario. I don’t think worrying about sexism in this instance is helpful to the OP.

        3. Michio Pa*

          I disagree. Part of the game of “is this -ism” is that we can never be fully sure as it subtly influences all our actions. But I think most managers (male or female) would correct most employees (male or female) on a verbal tic like “again” that was causing them to seem condescending.

      1. Mary*

        You can’t ever be sure. Being 99% sure but constantly questioning yourself anyway is part of the exhaustion of discrimination.

      2. Margaret*

        I’m not PCB- but in my experience, you kind of just know. Like how when you’re in an elevator and it starts going down something in your inner ear reacts even though there’s nothing in the space that cues you.

        It’s the result of a cumulative impression you gather- of how it’s normal to hear your colleagues spoken to in the settings where you operate, in hearing other women get criticized when men get a pass. In the tone of the critique you receive, the emotional undercurrent of ‘you’re disrespecting your betters, girl.’

        Not to say that you’re perfectly calibrated to correctly identify every single instance, and not to say oversensitivity to a persistent sleight can’t develop overtime, but I think it’s pretty widely accepted that women are called misogynistic words like ‘bitchy’ or ‘nagging’ for behaviours that would be described as ‘assertive’ and ‘in control’ in men, and that this can complicate your relationship with authority in the workplace. It’s a universal enough experience that it doesn’t surprise me that the author and some of the commenters are wondering if that’s what’s going on.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Re the last paragraph, it’s why I get frustrated on here when people say “gosh I wish we knew the gender/ethnicity/sportsball affiliation of everyone in the story so we could decide if it’s an ism.” It’s possible for isms to be real AND not the explanation for everything that happens to someone. If someone says “Grace treats the two young female engineers this way but not the three older men” then there could be ageism or sexism in play. (Or, given the small numbers, could be that they’re the two insulting people from OP 1’s office and actually are different from the other three in a relevant work sense.) But more often the writer is just reporting on the way Grace treats THEM, and doesn’t have information about how Grace treats various other groups of people. And it’s probably good to default to “Grace, your manager, might have a good reason for this feedback. So start from the position that it might be that your use of ‘again’ comes across as snarky and dismissive to outsiders.”

          1. Margaret*

            I definitely see where you’re coming from… but I’m sympathetic to the other side of it too, especially when you get people working in industries, areas, or even just companies where these problems are super pronounced. When you live with a problem like that every day you’re probably more inclined to jump to ‘this letter sounds JUST like how my sexist boss is treating me right now, I wonder if what’s happening to me is happening to you.’ All these letters have just enough details in them to serve as rorschach tests for our own preoccupations.

          2. ket*

            This is *often* a useful way to look at things (“It’s probably my problem, not their problem”) but it can really drive you out of a field by being simply exhausting. I’m (a woman) in math, and the feeling sometimes that nothing I say ever is said right is draining and discouraging, and can waste an awful lot of time. Some people don’t have to spend all this time thinking about how their talk title indicates they aren’t serious about math (me), the fact that they don’t cover teapot glaze manufacturing specifics in a tea ceremony talk shows that they’re not knowledgeable about teapots (me, though the specific criticism was not discussing branched covers of Riemann surfaces in an introduction to elliptic curve cryptography), they need to smile when people interrupt in the middle of the talk (me), they need to be patient when some commenter at the end decides to perform a monologue on their own research (me), they need to take control of the room and not allow people to interrupt or perform monologues (me)…. right I get it already.

            Isms pervade our conduct, regardless of our demographic characteristics, because they’re mostly unconscious and generally unintended. One can never disentangle events from their context. This letter writer can only take a Bayesian approach and look at the behavior of her manager in other situations. Those other signals will help her decide whether it’s more or less likely that this manager is sexist, and may help her decide how to respond (or not).

            It may not be worth her time to think about her use of the word “Again.” Give it 10 minutes, and then either change or decide you have no flips to give. Worrying about how you say “again”, worrying about worrying about it — these are part of the ton of feathers.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          What do you mean by the abbreviation PCB?

          I’m pretty sure you don’t mean printed circuit board which is what it means in my industry…and what shows up on a preview of urban dictionary. (But I can only see the preview due to corporate firewall.)

            1. Oh good. Acronyms.*

              That would be PCBH then. So it would be more like calling Falling Diphthong “F” and Seeking Second Child “SS” or “SC”, just to make it nice and cryptic and weird and much more coded and difficult than it needs to be.

              1. Margaret*

                I missed a keystroke on a fiddly keyboard. I was indeed abbreviating Princess Consuela Banana Hammock down to PCBH.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Warming up the Frozen soundtrack… There is no edit button. People can’t go back and fix their typos.

      3. beth*

        You can’t be 100% sure–it’s not like people say “I’m telling you this because you’re a woman”. The person giving the feedback may not even realize that their perspective is being skewed by their internal expectations for how men vs women ‘should’ behave.

        But after living in a society influenced by sexism for our entire lives, many women do develop an instinct for when feedback is likely tied to our gender–the same way we develop an instinct for when a ‘let’s get coffee’ is a straightforward networking request vs maybe hitting on us. People who experience some kind of discrimination often develop an instinct over time for recognizing when that’s happening, even when it’s not possible to prove. If Princess Consuela Banana Hammock says that she believes such feedback is often tied to her gender, I’m inclined to believe her.

        1. Marilyn*

          I realize that, and it may not have been obvious but my question was rhetorical.

          Accusing someone of being biased toward gender, even subconsciously biased, is a big deal. Big enough that I wouldn’t ever assume just because someone feels the criticism or actions are happening primarily because of their gender, with no real evidence for this (and yes, I know evidence is rare in something like this), I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

          We go through our lives as women and that makes it too easy to convince ourselves that everything negative that happens to us happens because we’re women. And yet with no solid reason to believe that something is happening to us specifically because of our gender, we make ourselves into the perpetual victim. Clearly, men get criticism as well but they can’t just blame it on their gender, so they have to deal with it.

          I see far too much “I didn’t do anything wrong – they’re only saying that to me because I’m a woman!” on this thread. That’s not always the case. And even if it was, that could *still mean* that your actions need correcting.

      4. Observer*

        Maybe she can’t be sure, maybe she has 100% evidence. But what difference does it make? That’s her lived experience. It’s also just one data point. And even if it is different than what others have experienced, it’s a useful data point, if for no other reason than to remind people to take a step back and REALLY think about whether their feedback is gendered or in some other way *ist. Hopefully it isn’t. But being mindful is a really good idea.

    3. Mary*

      This reminds me of a regional information meeting I was at, where the regional llama trainer shared the news that the Llama Recertification Programme no longer focussed on length of llama wool and now was more concerned with the shape of the llama’s hoof. We were all so indoctrinated with the length of llama wool being the most important criterion that literally 15/25 people put their hands up to confirm what she was saying. The discussion went:

      Audience question: “Wait, I’m sorry, it sounds like you’re saying the length of the llama’s wool is no longer the most important criterion?”
      Trainer: “Yes, that’s right, the focus is now on the shape of the llama’s hoof.”
      Next audience question: “Sorry, just to clarify, have I got this right – it’s the shape of the llama’s HOOF that matter, not the length of its wool??!”
      Trainer: “Yes, traditionally it’s been the length of its wool, but now it’s the shape of its hoof.”
      Next audience question: “I just want to make sure I’ve got this right, because I’m going to have to take this back to my colleagues–you’re saying it’s the shape of the llama’s hoof that matters now? So that’s a pretty significant change?”
      Trainer: “Well, technically, we’ve always had a minor focus on the shape of the llama’s hoof–but yes, the key message is that that’s now the MOST important thing.”
      Next question: “It’s — it’s NOT the length of the llama’s wool?”

      Seriously, twenty whole minutes whilst the poor woman repeated it and we all got our heads around it. Anyway, we will never forget it now.

      1. Myrin*

        That’s the best analogy I’ve read here in a long time (and also perfectly encapsulates how these things really tend to go)! :D

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Making you all repeat it for 20 minutes was probably a good way to reset everyone.

            Just this week I ran across a failure analysis that hinged on “A always fails before B” being so thoroughly indoctrinated that “unless B it too thin–then your bridge can fall down” didn’t occur to anyone until after the bridge was in pieces. At which point they went and inspected a ton of other bridges for that part that is never the first to fail, until it is, and found the same problem on four other bridges.

    4. Lexi Kate*

      Whether you are a man or a woman it is always very rude and condescending to answer a question with again. I think you may want to think about if you know other men are being corrected as well, and you are not aware of their corrections. In my field across the board Men are the ones being reprimanded for being condescending in meetings and its almost always for these rude remarks of “again”,”If you will remember”, “this has already been addressed in this meeting” even when the audience is not idea it is still very condescending.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Based on my experiences, I disagree. I use “again” very rarely, and I agree that it is often delivered in a rude or chastising manner. But I don’t think it’s inherently rude or condescending, and I don’t think it’s always rude to use it.

        I’m very aware of when men are corrected for the use of “again” or “as I said before” or “If you will remember.” My experience may not correspond with the experiences of other commenters, but I don’t think this is a situation where I’m overlooking gender dynamics in my own work life.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I totally agree. i have seen people answer a question with “again” that did not come across as rude or condescending. The way you say it, and what comes after it, makes a big difference. And I have also seen the difference in the reaction of the listeners between when a woman, by any wording choice, indicates that this is a question that has been answered before, and when a man had done it. It’s not always the case, but I’ve seen it enough to wish female presents would not do this unless the question has been answered so often that even the audience is getting tired of it, because there is a chance that she’ll get blowback from it, even if I am confident a man who said the same thing in the same way wouldn’t.

          I totally agree that you have to be careful how you say it, because it can certainly come across as “try to keep up, Walter.” But I disagree it has to sound that way no matter what.

    5. LQ*

      I had this conversation with a male coworker last week. He’s horrible HORRIBLE at explaining things. So people have to ask him over and over and freaking over again. And no one wants to listen to him the first time because his explanations are hyper technical 15 minutes long soliloquies when what someone needs is a yes or no. I said every time he’s tempted to say yes or no he needs to stop and ask them to repeat the question so he actually knows what they want.

      I only had this conversation with a coworker because at this point I’m entirely directing his work. I would have never said it to him otherwise, telling my coworkers how to speak isn’t generally something I’m going to do. But “again” always comes off as “you stupid idiot”.

    6. PM Punk*

      I totally get where OP#3 is coming from in that women are frequently being asked to soften their language unfairly. I believe in this case some concern might be warranted, though. My husband, also an engineer, frequently starts sentences with “Again,” and 99.9% of the time it comes off as condescending. We work together, so I hear it a lot.

      1. Old Biddy*

        Does he ever get pushback from his boss about it? Many people have filler words and verbal bad habits, but in my experience women get called out on it a lot more.

        1. PM Punk*

          He does not, and I think it’s because it’s known that he does tend to use a lot of filler words in his speech. I tend to agree that women get called out a lot more – I certainly get called out more than my husband does. It still sticks in my craw when anyone starts a sentence with “Again,” though. I notice some of the other engineers in my group do it almost as much as my husband.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          He might not get push-back from his boss, but he should – because the people he’s talking to almost certainly find it condescending and that’s something that he should know. So whether his boss talks to him or not, it’s something that affects how well he does his job, and that effect is not gendered.

          This is a case where the person – male or female – who gets the feedback is actually being better served by his manager than the person whose boss doesn’t say anything because “Techie Guy is socially awkward.”

          Unless there are some circumstances that we’re not aware of, I truly think the OP is better off judging the feedback on its own merits rather than trying to calculate the gender component. Does “Again…” sound kind of condescending? Yes, it does, to many people. Will changing this habit make the OP find a better presenter? Probably so. So why not just examine the merits of the feedback and move on from there?

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Oops, sorry – I left an unnecessary word in there – that “find” the 3rd-to-last sentence. I meant to say “Will changing this make the OP a better presenter?”

    7. CheeryO*

      OP’s friends might not have been focused on the Q&A portion in the same way that her manager was, or maybe they were just being nice. The feedback is solid, so I don’t think it’s helpful to tell her to ignore it because sexism. “Again” is going to come off as vaguely condescending, especially when you’re presenting to other experts in the field. I can see it being sort of a nervous tic or a filler word that just comes out, but it’s absolutely worth trying to re-phrase the sentiment or eliminate it entirely.

    8. Arctic*

      Maybe they wouldn’t call out a man for being rude but it doesn’t change the fact that it absolutely is rude.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I disagree that it is always and absolutely rude to use “again” when prefacing a response to a question or when recapping/summarizing main points.

    9. HLK1219HLK*

      I agree on the “woman, tone down thy negative tone” comments. However, I find few things peeve me more than a woman OR man who decides a question being asked means the questioner failed to ingest the precious milk of knowledge being supplied by the presenter’s generous bounty. If it’s the 3rd or 4th time MAYBE then the “Again” is warranted. Otherwise, the presenter should shove that word where the sun don’t shine and come off their high horse because they probably aren’t being the model of clarity and wisdom they seem to believe they are.

    10. Forrest*

      “The fact that no one but your manager flagged it as an issue signals, to me, that this may have been more about how he hears that word than how you said it.”

      Or maybe he’s the only one who’s flagged it because he’s her manager and it’s his job to flag things like that?

    11. Observer*

      I obviously can’t disagree with your specific experience. But, in general, I have to disagree. The repeated use of the word “again” tends to be grating and definitely comes off as impatient. And, yes I’ve seen that with both men and women.

      I do agree that if someone was getting a lot of repeat questions, especially from a reasonably engaged audience, it’s worth stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.

    12. Noah*

      I have never heard somebody use “again” in place of “um.” The way OP#3 uses it ALWAYS means: “you are asking me that AGAIN???” even if that’s not the speakers intent.

      Look, imagine this scenario:
      You’re talking to a friend at a party:
      Friend (having never before asked you this question): “What are you doing two Saturdays from now?”
      You: “Again [holding to think about what you’re doing next Saturday), I’m going to the baseball game.”
      Friend: Again? I’ve never asked you about next Saturday before. Never mind. Bye.

      In that scenario, you sound insane. If that’s what were happening in OP#3’s story, then boss STILL would have had to talk to her, but it would have been about how she sounded insane.

      This IS a verbal tick, it’s just not the one OP#3 thinks it is. And it should be corrected. While I completely agree that women are more often criticized for verbal ticks, that doesn’t mean that every time a woman is criticized for a verbal ticks, that criticism is wrong. For what it’s worth, the “again” tick is, in my experience, far more common in men. I think that’s because it’s a kind of put downy tick, and that sort of behavior is far more common in men than women. It it’s super-rude and should be corrected when men do it, too.

    13. nodramalama*

      Really? I find ‘again’ before replying pretty brusque no matter the gender. It would almost feel like I should apologise for raising the question.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, please don’t invite her! Your wedding day is a one-time event that means a lot to you and your partner. You deserve to enjoy the day instead of dealing with the stress of inviting an unwanted guest (especially one who isn’t related to you) and hoping she doesn’t attend. And I think it’s reasonable, in this case, for your fiancé to say no.

    Jane sounds unreasonable, but it’s unclear whether she’d actually retaliate against you (it sounds like she didn’t against your coworkers?). She sounds like she has no sense of workplace norms in the contexts you’ve described, so I think you’ll be able to get out of this without much more than her grumbling. Also, she makes you cry. You don’t need that in your life.

    1. Sue*

      I agree but I would weigh the stress of 11 months of worrying about it against the annoyance of having her at the wedding.
      I don’t even remember most of the people at mine (large, many family friends) so it wouldn’t have been a big deal to me to have someone like that attending. But a smaller group or close friends/family event might be very different. I totally agree it’s your call and she should be polite about your choice, I’m only saying this because you don’t want to put a damper on your wedding by long-term worry about her!

      1. Mommy MD*

        I’d probably just invite her. She’s a grand boss and think they have a good relationship. She will almost certainly be polite at the wedding and may not even go.

        1. Socks*

          Yeah, I think it’s certainly worth considering how likely it is that she won’t go to your out-of-town wedding, like others have speculated.

          Part of me, the part of me that does not make great decisions, thinks that maybe Boss should get a special, personalized invitation specifying that the dress code is something hideous, impractical, extremely expensive, and possibly insulting, to help tip the scale in favor of her not attending. Or mention, like, that everyone is expected to do a choreographed dance on the beach. OP should, uh, probably not do that, just in case Boss does show up and is the only person wearing something ridiculous, but… it’s still, you know, technically an option.

        2. Les G*

          On the one hand, yes. On the other hand…sounds like OP is basing this whole preemptive freak-out on something she heard secondhand from a coworker once? Jane sounds like she suuuuuuucks but also, she maybe probably likely kinda doesn’t care? Just a thought.

        3. Totally Minnie*

          I’ve had a boss like Jane. I would 100% NOT allow her to be part of a milestone life event. Having a boss that makes you cry on a regular basis does something to your brain, and I would not want that to pop up in the middle of what’s supposed to be an incredibly happy day. I’m voting for don’t invite her, and swear the people you do invite to secrecy about it.

        4. Trout 'Waver*

          I agree here. I invited my terrible boss to my wedding because I knew it would help my relationship with him at work. Thankfully he didn’t attend. He certainly would have held it against me if he didn’t get invited.

      2. valentine*

        OP1, let this be your hill to live on. If you can’t say no to Jane or to the spectre of Jane now, the wedding will be a unique pressure cooker. You might tell your colleagues to stop the Chicken Little routine and I wonder if the Jane Effect is worth transferring out from under her.

      3. snowglobe*

        This is where I come down. My own wedding had around 100 guests, and there were many people that I was genuinely happy to see, but I didn’t have time to say more than “hey, how are you? I’m so glad you could come!” There is a very, very good chance that OP wouldn’t even really notice the boss at the wedding (unless the Boss got drunk and behaved badly, but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that is the concern). Weighing that against months of worry about it, I’d probably opt to invite her and if she shows up, you’re just too busy to talk that day.

      4. Mary*

        I think the key thing here, OP#1, is to pick the option that’s least stress *to you*. That’s all that matters! If you’ll be more stressed out inviting her and worrying about it for 11 months, don’t invite her. If you’ll be more stressed out not inviting her and worrying about it for 11 months, invite her. But it’s literally your choice, and what matters is what’s the least hassle for you: there is no rule or etiquette that says you *have* to invite her.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Yes. I personally vote for NOT inviting her, but you need to choose what is best for you and your fiance. He gets a say. It’s his wedding too and it doesn’t sound like he is at all keen on having someone there who has such a negative effect on you. It’s not just *your* stress, it’s his stress as well. He, very sensibly, does not want to invite someone who has repeatedly made his future spouse cry. Have you discussed your ambivalence with him in detail? Does he really know why you’re waffling on this or has this only been mentioned in passing? It’s worth working through if you haven’t already.

          There is no rule you are breaking by not inviting her. Her being an unreasonable person doesn’t mean there’s different rules about these things. Make your decision with your fiance and stick to it.

        2. Observer*

          This, 100%

          Do what works best for you. You owe her NOTHING. Also, if you decide that the workplace consequences of not inviting her are worth it, that’s perfectly reasonable. Not that there SHOULD be any – there should most definitely NOT be any consequences. But when you are dealing with unreasonable people you need to do your best to figure out how they tick and make your best judgement. But, ultimately, you can decide “If she starts making my life miserable over this, I’m going to find another job” and that is 100% reasonable.

    2. Lobsterp0t*

      Not to mention you’re paying whatever for her to potentially attend and ruin your day.

      No thanks!

      1. zaracat*

        Even if she doesn’t ruin the day, it’s money that I’m sure you’d rather spend elsewhere. I really resented being pressured by my mother into inviting friends of hers whom I didn’t even like to my wedding, when I was the one paying. But as in some work scenarios, you do what you have to do, for the sake of longer term peace.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Yep, I invited someone I loathe to my wedding as a concession to get my mother.

          I definitely still remember it, and remember avoiding that table for the entire night. Ugh. If there is any possible way to avoid it, OP, don’t invite your boss.

          1. Mockingjay*

            My mother wanted me to invite my brother’s ex-girlfriend and the girlfriend’s new husband. While my brother, his wife, and new infant daughter would also be attending. Mom’s way of underlining how much she did not like her daughter-in-law.

            I did not invite the ex-girlfriend.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Ugh. My dad was calling me four days before my wedding going “Oh – I ran in to cousin Teddy at the golf course yesterday and invited him to the wedding, can you put him on the guest list?” At which point the entire seating chart had been completed and printed off.
          I was super lucky in that the manager I was at a b*tch eating crackers place with (who thought we got along great) had already told me she had plans that day, so I could give her an invitation without worry. I did have a super awkward encounter with the abusive husband of another coworker I liked though. But when you are the bride you can bustle off somewhere pretty easily. There were plenty of people at my wedding I only really knew where there when I saw pictures later.

    3. Bulbasaur*

      I feel very strongly about this kind of thing. Work is work, friends and family are something else. Nobody from work would get invited to my personal stuff (weddings most especially) unless they are also a friend. Managers in particular don’t get invited, and managers who make a big deal about it and claim that that’s how it’s done… (deep breath) …are at the very top of the Do Not Invite list.

      What I would do: Get angry, express the above sentiments to the manager in question quite bluntly, and probably ruin my relationship with her and limit my career.

      What you should do: Not that. But Alison’s suggestion sounds pretty good. Apparently three of your other coworkers have already done it, and they presumably still have careers there, so what’s one more?

    4. Rebecca*

      I’d like to say as a coworker, I don’t expect to be invited to weddings. Maybe I have the odd man out opinion on this, but I just don’t expect it. Recently a coworker got married, we had a nice lunch for her, cake, decorations, etc., signed a card, wished her well, then covered her work while she was off for the wedding. It didn’t even cross my mind that I should be invited.

      1. On Fire*

        I *am* invited to a coworker’s wedding soon, and I reallllllly don’t want to go. She thinks we’re besties, but I don’t particularly care for her … but she’s the kind who’ll be very dramatic at work if I don’t go. So here’s another vote for only inviting who you really want there, and letting the chips fall.

        1. The Original K.*

          At a previous job, our team was about 80% women in our 20s and 30s so there were a number of weddings (and a bunch of babies) in the three years I worked there. It was an international team so when folks on another continent got married it wasn’t a worry, but there was a person on the US side of the team whose wedding was approaching and it was huge, and I was actually worried about being invited because I really didn’t want to go. We didn’t socialize outside of work so for me it would have been a work event – I’d only have known whatever coworkers were invited and that place was a bad fit, so I would have been miserable. Thankfully she didn’t invite me (though she did invite a couple of people from work).

      2. babblemouth*

        Yes, this seems odd to me. Plenty of people prefer to have their wedding family-only, or friends-only, and it’s really not far out of the norm to choose to restrict an invite list. The manager is way off base to expect an invitation, and giving her one is just one more opportunity for her to be a tyrant.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, at my wedding my husband and I wrote our own vows and said a bunch of mushy stuff about each other, then danced terribly and very enthusiastically all night while getting tipsy. Plenty of my former coworkers who had become friends came, but I would have felt so awkward having my current manager there for all that!

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        Me either. Unless I’m super close to a coworker and we have a good relationship and mutual interests outside of work, I think it would be weird to be invited to their wedding. I’ll sign the office card and help pick up the slack while they’re gone, but that’s as much as I’m interested in doing. Along those lines, I find anyone who complains about not being invited to a coworker’s wedding very strange indeed.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I am an old, and IDGAF, but man, you do not have to invite anybody you don’t want to your own damn wedding, period, end of.

      Someone talks crap about you at work for not inviting them to your wedding? The other people at the office know who’s being bananas about the wedding invitation situation, and it’s not the bride.

      Someone in a supervisory position to you effects some kind of adverse work action in retaliation for your not inviting them to your wedding? Go to HR, go directly to HR, do not pass “go,” do not collect $200.

      1. Observer*

        That assumes competent and smart HR. Given what the OP describes, it’s a real possibility that HR is not competent and smart.

    6. MCL*

      Yeah, there are plenty of excuses to not invite someone that Allison gives. You could avoid much of the whole issue by not discussing the wedding at work. Are you inviting other work people? You may consider asking them not to discuss the wedding at work, and consider maybe not inviting any work people. Boss will probably find out after you get married if she pays attention to your benefits or it comes up in conversation or whatever, but you can go back to the “we had a really tiny wedding” excuse. (That only really works if you didn’t invite multiple work people, since it sounds like she does complain to coworkers about this and may find out that she was excluded.) Weddings are stressful in a particular way, do not make it more so by inviting a stressful person.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Plus—there’s always “I didn’t want it to look like I was trolling for a gift from my boss”. That makes you look humble and like you’re looking out for the boss.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          Yeah- “It was out of town and I didn’t want you to feel obligated to get me a gift” would probably work really well.

        2. Observer*

          That’s the excuse I would go with – the “tiny wedding” one might not go over. Because unreasonable people are unreasonable.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Sounds like Jane is now your manager’s manager, right? What’s the chance you’re not inviting your _current_ manager? If that intermediate is not coming, you can use that as a defense if Jane is crankyrude enough to say anything to you about it.

    8. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed, and I believe you should take a hard line with this. This is your event that you (presumably) are paying for and thus you get to control who is invited. I know that everyone has Opinions surrounding weddings, most of them incredibly unhelpful, but at the end of everything, it’s *your* wedding and *your* memories of your own wedding. Do you want to see her in the pictures afterwards? Because you will. Think about that.

      So she might bitch about it. Let her bitch. Other people are very likely to see it as her being unreasonable. Tell her the venue is small. Tell her your family is huge and you have to invite alllll of them. But don’t cave in to what you think *might* happen if you don’t invite her.

  3. It's mce*

    OP #1: Don’t invite her. Your wedding day is all about you and your fiance. You don’t owe any invites to people who disrespect you. Jane does not have a major role in your life. Focus on those who do.

    1. Kbell*

      This so much. What is it about weddings (and pregnancies, but that’s a whole other can of worms) that makes everyone think they have a say?

      This is about YOU and if Jane is trying to make it about her, she’s the one who is going to come across as a nutter.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – I am going to respond as a 60 ish woman engineer with over 35 years experience.
    As written, the “again” phrase does sound a little antagonistic.

    I’d use words like “reiterating”, “remember”, “if you recall” etc.

    As women engineers, we do need to soften our language AND socialize our ideas more. It’s annoying as all get out. But the end game is to get things done. And there is nothing better than another engineering success.

    On the scale of things wordsmithing is a slight annoyance. It’s not like some manager is mansplaining to you how your designs work. Or arguing with you that you don’t know how it works (and ridiculing you in front of the customer). And yes, this happens even when you are introduced as the expert.

    Right now you have a bunch of new potential coworkers. Better to build good relationships with them for future interactions. Because at some point you’re going to need those relationships to get some of your designs through. Build those allies.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed on different terms where needed – I’d also consider whether they add anything to the conversation in the first place, and use only if they do.

      Basically… is it necessary or useful to draw attention to the previous answer?

      If no, then leave it and just go straight to answer with no (or neutral) filler.

      If yes, use substitutions like above, or bring it more directly into context “Yes… that’s similar to when Jane mentioned X… “

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I like the idea of bringing things directly into more context and if OP is getting a lot of questions about one thing in particular, she can call that out, noting that it sounds like people aren’t satisfied with her answer of X and is there any info in particular that would help?

    2. Tau*

      It’s also worth pointing out that sometimes, a thing being called out in women and not men may indicate that the men should be called out for it as well but are getting an unearned pass. “Again” definitely comes across with a brusque implication of “you’re asking me to repeat myself and I’m annoyed by it” to my ears, and it’s fair to think that’s problematic in a workplace.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think I’d react the same regardless of who said it. You are telling me that I have annoyed you by making you repeat yourself.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Which, by colleague in meeting is rude. By my manager means I need to look at why I’m causing my manager to have to repeat instructions to me. By someone I’m supervising means we probably need a little chat about appropriate business language…

          (Oh, and Tau, I’m saying I agree with you! Realised may not have been clear!)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s not like we’re describing a situation where 9 men and 1 women in the meeting used “again” and afterward the boss said “Mary, you need to not say ‘again’. Dudes, great use of ‘again.'” If the correction to her was in private with her manager afterward, assume corrections to any dudes also were in private after?

    3. Wintermute*

      As a male in an engineering-adjacent field, I do the same and am very careful to watch out for things like “as I said” because they can come off as boorish and even the dreaded “mansplaining”. It’s a tick I had to work hard to eliminate because I like to circle back on ideas to add more information sometimes. I realize I don’t have to soften as much as I might in the OPs shoes, unfortunately, but I would say it’s something everyone in a technical field should be aware of. Especially because if you’re in a more junior role you need to do more softening as well, as any gender.

      Of course the fact that women SMEs and high-level experts have to soften more like I do as a more junior person in the field is a serious issue, don’t get me wrong.

      1. Susie Q*

        I think both men and women benefit from speaking in polite tones in ways that help the audience not hinder the audience. This might mean dropping the word “again” or other such language.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      I think a variety of phrases can really help here. If someone only uses ‘again’ once or twice, I’d hardly notice, so I wonder if what’s happening is that it’s being used over and over.

      It also might be that there’s some misunderstandings. I recently witnesses something like this at a conference; the person giving the talk misunderstood questions that were asking for more detail, or more background, and answered them by just re-hashing what had been said in the talk, when really the questioners were trying to express that they weren’t fully satisfied by the initial explinations.

      It felt like he might have been a little tired, but it can come off as defensive. So it’s something to watch out for. (And that was a man, for the record; although I agree with others that these things don’t happen in a gender vacuum.)

    5. Mary*

      You could also try affirming the question before reiterating that it’s the same problem:

      “Yes, we looked at that – again, it comes back to X experiment, where we found no effect on Y”

      I think you probably need to emphasise that it’s the same basic problem, because I would guess that’s part of the analysis — if everything comes down to Y, then you need to get that across. But you can sort of suggest that their question is coming from a different angle, and that’s a legitimate enquiry, but ultimately, not fruitful because Y.

      1. Mary*

        Actually, I think it can also be about your tone and body language and how much you emphasise “all questions welcome” and so on. If you’re dealing with a tricky engineering problem then it’s absolutely legitimate to expect people to ask the same thing in multiple different ways whilst they get their heads around it, and basically repeat all the initial groundwork that you’ve already covered. Maybe it might be easier to make a statement about this upfront and say that you welcome questions and if it sounds like you’re saying, “I’ve already covered that”, what you mean is, “Y is a really big barrier which affects the problem from multiple angles, so if it sounds like I’m repeating myself, what I’m really doing is making sure you all understand how and why Y is such an important consideration!”

    6. Totally Minnie*

      I’m not an engineer, but I tend to go with things like “We touched on that earlier when Belinda asked about X,” and then talk about the specifics of the new question.

    7. Lora*

      Yeah, I must agree with this.

      My technique is usually to go back to the slide with the actual data and then go into painful detail about that particular data set/experiment/simulation/prototype and all the things we can conclude from it until the questioner’s eyes start to glaze over and then chirp, “any other questions about this?” This has the also-useful effect of making the questioner’s peers despise him for asking stupid questions that cause the meeting to run long, which will partially inhibit people from asking stupid questions in the future.

      Peer pressure is more effective at getting people to comply than gentle rebukes.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        That’s really antagonistic. Unless this person is repeatedly pulling this kind of thing it’s over the top.

        You really need allies on engineering projects. You may need someone to do a task for you that isn’t explicitly in the contract. If they are your friend they may do it. If you’ve embarrassed them they can legitimately refuse. And then you are in trouble.

        Don’t alienate unless they’re super jerk. Even then, choose wisely.

        1. Lora*

          Hmm, wondering why you interpret that as antagonistic? The usual reaction I get is, “wow, you are a super nerd and really into this stuff – is it your hobby too?” Maybe it’s a tone thing?

          1. Engineer Girl*

            This has the also-useful effect of making the questioner’s peers despise him for asking stupid questions that cause the meeting to run long,

      2. SS Express*

        Getting people to comply? When I present technical information to colleagues or clients I’m usually doing it with the goal of making sure people actually understand it.

      3. nodramalama*

        Couldn’t you just make sure they understand what you’re saying instead of making your coworkers feel stupid?

    1. Lexicat*

      Yeah, “again” comes across to me as “I already told you that, pay attention the first time.” It feels impatient, like I shouldn’t have needed to ask the question and I’m wasting everyone’s time because I’m stupid or inattentive. “Again” sounds like “I’m just repeating myself here, weren’t you listening?”

      “As you may recall” comes across as more collaborative, like the speaker doesn’t necessarily expect me to have perfect recall, especially if there’s a lot of information, or make all the connections they have right off the bat.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        It comes off as that to me, also. I’ve been in meetings where someone answers questions using that phrasing, with “again”, and even as a neutral third-party observer I tend to find it a bit antagonistic. I think there are softer ways of conveying the same point, if need be.

      2. Rachael*

        I’ve had it happen to me and I’m so busy being embarrassed that I wasn’t able to focus on the retelling of the answer and the outcome was that I still didn’t know that answer. So….lol…

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      And in a different context, we might welcome the professor who prefaces her response to Joe’s annoying questions with “again” because, look, Joe, if you were paying attention to anything other than your beloved hobby horse then you’d know the answer to that, like the rest of us who were paying attention and want to move on.

  5. Not saying*

    About the previous jobs in #5: What do you do if you have to put a name but you can’t contact your former supervisor because you left on terrible terms? I was fired (company said “laid off”, but it was a firing) right after I made a sexual harassment complaint. I can’t contact my former supervisor or HR. Should I just hope they don’t say anything false or defamatory?

    1. Michio Pa*

      Why can’t you contact HR? For your own sake you and the company should get clarity on what you agree to tell companies calling for references. Are they just going to confirm dates of employment, are they going to say you were “laid off”, are they going to say you were “laid off relating to a sexual harassment complaint”? I’ve read on AAM that there are actions you can take if you find they are saying false/defamatory things about you (perhaps others can chime in) but you should be able to agree on a neutral statement..

      1. Not saying*

        Short answer: for legal reasons, I can’t really contact them. I have a lawyer, but he has completely dropped the ball on my complaint and I’d rather not go through him either. I suppose I could hire a reference checker to call and document what they say.

    2. Anonomo*

      You can give corporates number, or put an obviously fake number in (555-555-5555) with a note stating you can provide that info if necessary.
      If you can’t contact the company directly, ask a trusted friend to call them looking for a reference. Bonus points if friend can be smarmy, this way you can find out what the company will say to future employers when called and plan accordingly.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          But what if its one of those forms that require a phone number to submit? It sounds like Not Saying really doesn’t want to risk having someone call their former company.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            If the company is still in business, they can probably find the main number themselves, so there’s not much risk in putting the main number down. I’ve done it in much less fraught situations, but where I’m not in touch with my old manager, they don’t even work there anymore anyway, and I wouldn’t ever list them as a reference for neutral reasons. If it’s not a background-check kind of situation, the place you’re interviewing really won’t spend the time tracking down all of your former managers.

      1. Brett*

        Don’t put a fake number. If the number is used for a background check, that is going to make for a really uncomfortable interview with the background investigator. It won’t disqualify you outright, but it is going to put you on shaky ground that could lead to a failure.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I’ve worked for a few different places that have since closed and I always put an obviously fake number (when required to submit the app) and put “out of business” in parenthesis after the business name. These jobs were from more than 5 years ago and I didn’t keep in touch with anyone so I can’t list current contact info for my previous managers. This is the only scenario where I would tell someone to put a fake number.

    3. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I had this happen recently. I had to fill out one of those forms after I’d been offered the job, and I’d left off the numbers for that one employer I’d left on bad terms and my current one. They insisted on getting those contact numbers and explained they wanted to speak to my former direct manager (who didn’t work there anymore, but then they’d get my grand boss from hell). Long story short, they pulled my offer.

      I agree with Michio that you should try to suss out what they’re looking for exactly (in my case, it was a reference rather than dates of employment). I’d like to think that a reasonable employer would understand if you gently explain the situation. Otherwise, realise they’re going to be by the books with everything, and make a decision about whether you want to work for that kind of place.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          It sounds like a bullet dodged. The only place I’ve been that pulled offers if they couldn’t verify employment was Call Center Hell and the company they paid to do background checks sucked.

          How do I know this? Because my trainer sent me over to the IRS office on my lunch break to get copies of previous tax returns proving my employment for the 4 previous employers I’d listed on my application, all of which where in town and one of which was Call Center Hell—yes, they made me get proof that I had previously worked in the same building 2 years prior instead of checking their own employment records (and the only employer I’d listed that the background company could verify was the company that had closed).

    4. MLB*

      I’ve been working professionally for 20+ years and most of the companies I’ve worked for have either gone out of business, or been bought out (3 of them were banks) and I have no idea how to get my previous supervisors names. I find the main number for the company (if it exists), list their name and add a note that explains the situation. I’ve been laid off twice, and both times the company was bought out shortly thereafter and I never keep in touch with any of my previous supervisors.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Same here. And… I was a temp. If they actually want every supervisor I’ve ever had, they’d better be prepared for a long list! And no, I don’t have all the numbers today, some of those supervisors have moved onto other positions or have retired. I’ve been laid off twice when companies went out of business and I don’t have contacts at all for those supervisors. There’s a reason it’s “references available upon request!” I know who is best to contact.

      2. DaniCalifornia*

        Yeah I worked in a dental office that was owned by a corporate company and there are hundreds of offices. Don’t know if my former manager still works there, not even sure of her last name as it was 10 years ago and was my first office job. I give the corporate number because if I gave the office number no one there would know who I was.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I have former supervisors that I left on great terms with, that I have absolutely no idea how to contact. I left the first business I worked for out of collage because they went out of business. There is no longer any corporate number for the business, the owners retired and moved to Florida, one of my mangers moved out of state and the other one out of the country. I don’t have anyone’s number anymore, because they have all changed. No one is on linked-in. Plus, at this point it’s not really relevant experience anymore. You might as well ask for the number of my supervisor for my collage life guarding job – I don’t even remember her name. Businesses need to realize that sometimes you just can’t keep in contact with everyone.

      1. foolofgrace*

        This is me. I’ve been in the workforce for 40 years and even if that weren’t the case, many of my supervisors just aren’t available for me to give their number — they’ve retired; with two the company went out of business and there just isn’t any contact information; with others I just have no info to pass along because I erroneously forgot it. But since a phone number is a required field, I put in 123-456-7890. If there’s a place to explain, I do; and if there isn’t, I figure they’re just going to have to ask me about it. If the app goes no further because of this, oh well. But it’s so frustrating to be ignored when you’ve put in sometimes half an hour filling out those online job applications. Hate hate hate that.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Totally frustrating! I also hate those online applications, especially the ones that ask for your “full employment history—keep adding until you’re listing that babysitting job you had back in middle school.” I wonder if it’s a way to get people who have a lot of previous employers (read: older people, who are more likely to have enough real world experience to balk at being asked to suffer the day to day bullshit of food service, retail and call center work) to self-select out instead of going through the long application process?

          For those ones, I usually only go back about 5 years anyway, because that’s enough of my time to waste on an unreasonable request, and there’s usually one of those idiotic personality tests to see if you’re potentially violent and/or a thief and those eat up like 45 minutes on top of everything else too.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I think it’s amazing you know that much about the people in your first job!
            It’s so annoying when a form insists on a phone number! In this case, do they really want all my supervisors for the last 40 years? Even if I had that info, I’d be very surprised if they did anything with it. Of course, I’m talking about routine hiring checks, not an exhaustive background investigation.
            In this case, I would put the main number for the company. If the company went out of business, put (area code) 000-0000 and a note. If they give you grief for that, don’t work there.
            Once in the early or mid-2000’s, I tried to apply for a job at a big bank. They insisted I apply online, and their web site didn’t work. The fields wouldn’t take entries, the form wouldn’t advance, it was a mess.
            I did the research to find the names and addresses of their managers and sent them nice cover letters and resumes by mail. Surely they’d be impressed by my research skills and initiative, right?
            Wrong. I got a rude reply instructing me to apply on their web site.
            Bullet dodged. Now I don’t even bank there.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I think it’s amazing you know that much about the people in your first job!
        It’s so annoying when a form insists on a phone number! In this case, do they really want all my supervisors for the last 40 years? Even if I had that info, do they really want it? Are they going to do anything with it? Of course not. They’re just being controlling jerks about it.
        In this case, I would put the main number for the company. If the company went out of business, put (area code) 000-0000 and a note. If they give you grief for that, don’t work there.
        Once in the early or mid-2000’s, I tried to apply for a job at a big bank. They insisted I apply online, and their web site didn’t work. The fields wouldn’t take entries, the form wouldn’t advance, it was a mess.
        I did the research to find the names and addresses of their managers and sent them nice cover letters and resumes by mail. Surely they’d be impressed by my research skills and initiative, right?
        Wrong. I got a rude reply instructing me to apply on their web site.
        Bullet dodged. Now I don’t even bank there.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I certainly hope I don’t get asked for contact info as done for #5… the manager who hired me at this company 20 years ago is deceased. And it’s still rather raw.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Come to think of it, the manager from the company before that had a stroke. Yes, that question is definitely problematic.

    7. That girl from Quinn's house*

      This is a huge problem for me, too, because a lot of the places I’ve worked previously had high turnover. I might be able to give you a contact for each place, but I can’t give you every supervisor I’ve had, because I don’t know where they are. Out of 10 former supervisors in one field- I was there for 10 years- I only have current contact information for 3 of them.

      Those three, obviously, are the ones I worked with the longest, had the best relationship, and am still in touch with, and can provide an excellent reference for me. But they’re all retirement age, and I fear they won’t be so easy to contact going forward.

  6. Les G*

    #2, is this a startup? It sounds like a startup.

    Jokes aside, these people sound like children. My grad school buddies will be very sorry to hear that the title of “most unprofessional and immature ‘workplace'” has been wrested from them by this cast of Judd Apatow wannabes. I’m guessing you’re pretty young, so in the spirit of someone who’s Been There let me say this: folks like this drag you down. You don’t grow around them. Do what you can and then leave them behind to blow raspberries and hold office farting contests with a clean conscience.

    1. Dutchie*

      I swear, this website is always too much when faced with the possibility of somebody being even slightly more negative at work, even jokingly negative. Is this an American thing? Also the jump from “saying dumb things” to “farting contests” is ridiculous.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Hmm… I don’t think you quite understood my comment.

            The OP (who I suppose is American) is annoyed by their colleagues. So would I be. So it’s not about it being an American thing, as opposed to what Dutchie is writing above.

            In fact, I was first going to write about how I’ve experienced that many Dutch people I’ve worked with in the past have indeed had a higher treshold for what is considered annoying and rude behaviour at work than the people around them (leading to people from other countries finding them rude, whereas they meant to be joking/direct), but I didn’t want to start an off-topic pissing context.

            1. valentine*

              OP2, if the sample dialogue is Annatrude and Glenjamin, versus them switching places with the irritating response, I wouldn’t be sure she’s into it and she might be someone to get onside. It reminds me of the extreme “Your mom” employee.

            2. Mystery Bookworm*

              I don’t think Mommy MD is accusing you of American bashing; on the contrary, I read it as her thanking you for stepping up in the face of American bashing.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                Ah, then I was the one to misunderstand. I read the “more” in this instance as “American basher 1” (Dutchie) and “American basher 2” (me).

          2. Joielle*

            Uh… I’m American and I agree with Just Employed here. This behavior is unbelievably juvenile and would be exhausting. Maybe reread their comment…?

        1. Tau*

          +1 – I’m German and was in a relentlessly negative workplace in the UK. I hated it and I’m pretty sure it did damage to my ability to stay constructive and professional. I would be climbing the walls in OP’s place.

          I know there’s cultural differences in terms of how outwardly positive people are expected to be, but toxic negativity is a thing beyond that.

          1. Afish*

            I don’t really read this stuff as ‘toxic negativity’, more ‘slightly annoying immaturity’.

            Personally, witty negativity is what gets me through my day (at a job I quite like). Couldn’t deal with regular positivity or slightly annoying immaturity.

            1. Observer*

              Jokes threatening to punch people or “your mom” jokes hardly rise to the level of “witty”. Also, if it were OCCASIONAL, that would be one thing. hearing “your mom”, “you’re stupid / ugly / nuts / stinky / other insult” and “I’ll hit / smack / kick / other form of attack you” multiple times a day goes waaay beyond “slightly annoying immaturity”.

              Framing it that way is evidence of a toxic workplace.

              1. Afish*

                Hi, you seem to be confused. I said I like witty negativity. I did not say this was an example of witty negativity. I said this is an example of ‘slightly annoying inmaturity’ and that I couldn’t deal with it on a regular basis either. On the other hand, I couldn’t deal with people being positive regularly either (because I prefer a bit of smart negativity, which isn’t what’s happening in the OP’s case).

          2. misspiggy*

            Oh dear, sounds like you were in a fairly typical UK workplace. It starts from our understated humour, but it often ends up with a very toxic culture.

      1. Airy*

        Americans do overall have a higher cultural expectation of “positivity” in the workplace, sometimes to an extent that’s grating or seems insincere and gushy to people from cultures that expect less in terms of displaying good cheer. As a New Zealander I often notice it. However, I would find that “I have a question” … “Your mom has a question” routine (which is actually quoted by OP, not a jump by anyone else) pretty puerile and tiresome.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Yeah, it doesn’t really sound like the OP is upset because her colleagues are too negative, it sounds like she’s annoyed because their incessent back and forth is distracting and exhausting.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Came here to say this, Mystery Bookworm. I don’t care if my team is so positive they wave pom-poms and turn cartwheels, or if they do the occasional Sturm und Drang. However, I would quickly get tired of the constant adolescent behavior the OP described.

            Side note: A former colleague overdid the ‘That’s what SHE said…’ and our team signed what we hoped was a humorous petition to ask him to stop. He did and also kept talking to us, so I guess no harm was done.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              He loses some points for missing the opportunity to hand it back to you saying, “That’s what SHE signed…!”

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          I’m American and I find the forced cheerfulness and spurious enthusiasm that is prevalent here to be grating and insincere. We’re at work, let’s be moderately pleasant to each other and get the work done, no need to pretend that we’re all *so excited* to be here. However, there is a very long leap between being overly positive and responding to everything with “your mom” jokes. The workplace the OP described sounds more like a frat house than a place of business. That environment would drive me bonkers and if management just shrugged over it, I’d be looking for a job with fellow adults, not these apparent adolescents.

      2. Myrin*

        For what it’s worth, I actually think Les has hit the nail on the head with his summation of what seems to be the spirit of OP’s workplace. In fact, I think the “negative” in the title is slightly misleading (although not incorrect), since the core of the issue seems to be that these people are childish in a very unprosseional and irritating way (I have a quirky sense of humour but I can assure you that I wouldn’t find someone’s answer to my asking for help being “I can help you punch in the face!” a funny way of playful team-bonoding even once!). So, the farting contest seems totally in line with what we know of these colleagues, and I also don’t think that their issue is being “jokingly negative” but rather “strangely juvenile”.
        (And I’m German, FWIW, a nation which I don’t think is known for being very upbeat in the workplace generally.)

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        I think an endless stream of ‘yer mum’ jokes would be just as annoying as a stream of ‘your mom’ ones. Funny snark is one thing, but stupid snark is tiresome in any situation in any country.

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        Yes it’s an American thing. By and large we expect adult professionals to not behave like 12 year olds. Thanks for the America bashing though.

      5. Neptune*

        Not wanting an office that’s constantly full of “your mom” jokes or stories about getting wasted is definitely not just an American thing. /UK poster

        That said, I do think the OPs manager is correct that he can’t (and IMO shouldn’t) control what memes they tag each other in on Facebook.

        1. EPLawyer*

          If they circulate it at work. or bring the attitude into work, he sure can. He can say you can do what you want on your own time, but it stays out of the office. this includes bragging about how wasted you were last night.

          This would be sooooo tiresome to be around. Plus, putting a stop to it would be doing these folks a favor. They are going to leave these jobs someday, either through promotion or going to another company. If they have not learned this is not appropriate behavior, they are going to have a very rude awakening when they get a manager who manages.

          1. Neptune*

            I’m not sure where you’re getting that I think the bragging about being wasted is okay? Because I don’t. I agree that they shouldn’t be bringing that stuff to work.

            It’s specifically the meme-tagging that I don’t think the manager has much right to control, unless it’s very obviously linkable to the company or they have specific policies about social media use (which it sounds like they don’t).

            1. Ego Chamber*

              He absolutely does have the right to put that nonsense down (assuming the US, and assuming typical worker protections (read: almost none)). There’s no legal protections for any of what the employees are doing, and letting them turn a disciplinary mandate into a joke outside of work negates the halfhearted attempt he made at curbing the behavior. If he’s not going to handle the situation at all, he should have just said so in the first place instead of undermining himself.

              (Whether employers should have the ability to dictate how employees behave outside of work is a whole different situation, but I’ve signed way too many agreements to “represent the company in a positive manner, both in and outside of the workplace” to be so naive as to think he can’t.)

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I really dislike workplace positivity, gratitude, “be thankful that you have a job”, “see the brighter side in this new round of layoffs” and so on, that is being shoved down our throats in corporate America lately. But what OP describes does not in any way go against this positivity trend. Neither is “your mom has a question” negative. It’s just dumb, counterproductive, and, as others said, exhausting. Or are you saying that OP should be thankful to be surrounded by a bunch of immature idiots making idiotic non-jokes all day, because, ya know, the spirit of gratitude?

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          I think that in a way, calling it ‘negative’ makes it easy for people to misinterpret. These guys actually sound like they’re pretty chipper. It’s more that it’s the kind of humour that edges very easily into *nasty* – especially as they’ve made it clear you can expect to be mocked if you ask them to cool it.

          So yeah, I wouldn’t say that they’re committing offences against office positivity, so much as they’re constantly mock-aggressive, with an edge of actual aggression for anyone who doesn’t laugh along with them.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            That’s exactly the problem. They’re using humor to make their own work experience better for them, ok and fine so far BUT, they are doing so at the expense of everyone else’s experience. They don’t have to make everyone else’s day worse just to make their own day a bit more tolerable.

            They’re acting like selfish children and need to stop.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I would find this environment negative because it sounds like there’s an undercurrent of “you have to go along with my ‘humor’ or else” attitude.
            It seems familiar – I’ve known several people like this – they’re the cool ones, and they look down on anyone who doesn’t agree or go along with their behavior and opinions… Blech.

            1. Ice and Indigo*

              In the sense of ‘negative’ meaning ‘not good’, I definitely agree with you. What I was talking about was ‘negative’ in the sense of being defeatist, complaining, looking on the bad side of things, treating problems as insoluble, and generally being a downer, which I think is the sense I Wrote This In The Bathroom was using.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              Also this environment would make me feel bad, and that’s negative.
              I’d be anxious they’re going to turn on me.
              I’d be sad/depressed I have to be around these people.

        2. That girl from Quinn's house*

          “Your mom has a question” isn’t negative on its face, but if you are asking a legitimate question about business, it turns the interaction into a negative interaction because it is disrespectful to the speaker.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            I think prefacing a reply to a question with an childish insult towards ones mother is absolutely negative on its face.

            I’ve worked in more than a few places where that sort of comment (a casual and unprovoked insult against one’s mother) will instantly end a conversation and start a fight. They’d get one chance to back down and apologize with an angry “Say that again!” and if they didn’t immediately apologize, there would be punching. I’ve seen this exact sort of thing play out that way a dozen times. At times in my younger life, my own immediate response would have been violent.

            Of course, good friends can rib each other however they want in private, but even that has to be reined in at work or around others. Because to the rest of us it is exactly the sort of talk that leads to violence and we don’t want to be around that bull crap at work.

            I know it’s wrong but I swear it seems to me at times like some dudebros have had an unfortunate shortage of violence in their lives. If these manchildren had ever had a legit worry about getting punched in the throat for this sort of crap, they would have long ago broken the habit of saying this sort of crap.

            1. Dr. Pepper*

              There’s a reason young men tend to enjoy rough sports and a reason children appear to be attracted to potentially dangerous play like tree climbing and feats of balance. I know there are a lot of safety concerns, but I believe experiencing real physical danger in a controlled setting is vital to proper development and emotional maturity.

              While I don’t go as far as you in my opinion of dudebros, I agree that if they ever had to face meaningful consequences for speaking in that manner, they would not be nearly so quick to dish it out. It is disrespectful, and can very easily be taken the wrong way.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              But the offenders are women though, so I don’t think anyone is going to punch them?

              From the OP: One of the girls tagged two others in a meme on facebook …” (emphasis mine).

              It sounds a lot like the call center I worked at, where most of the employees were either actual children (16+) or adults who behaved like children. Everyone said it was just like going back to high school, with the clique mentality and the populars getting special treatment (god I hated high school).

              1. Michaela Westen*

                When I was younger I worked at a place where there was more than one gray-haired high-school kid.
                They hadn’t grown as people since their teens. They were still behaving like teenagers at 50+.

      7. Justin*

        I used to work at a place like this and it was obnoxious. Meetings wouldn’t even start because there’d be too much clowning around.

    2. Susie Q*

      I think this is personality not nationality based. I’m an American who has high tolerance for negativity and immature work places. I’m good at ignoring people around me and get on my work. However not everyone is like that.

    3. Snow Drift*

      They are either very young or they all come from amazing gene pools, because all it takes to stop the “your mom” jokes is one frosty “My mother is dead.”

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Not as effective as you’d think, ’cause someone will eventually respond with “Explains why she didn’t move around much last night!”

        Proto-edgelords have been doing that one since the early 90s, at least. The only way to stop it is the same as any behavior you want curbed in the workplace: fuck with their cash (cut their hours/threaten to fire, but only if management means it).

  7. Dan*


    Communication is tricky. As an undergrad, I got so used to professors who got ticked if they had to explain the material twice to somebody. Yeah, I get it. The stuff isn’t complicated *to you* because you’ve been doing it for decades and its entry level. But you have to keep explaining it over and over to undergrads and you’re bored. Gotcha.

    Then you get into the real world and your bosses ask you the same thing 5 times because they don’t get it.

    I have to deal with a lot of complex, nuanced information and communicate stuff to a variety of stakeholders with varied backgrounds. Some folks are more operational, and some are more academic. I sorta have to be ready for everybody. Additionally, I work in a niche domain, where lots of terminology and concepts are going to be obvious to some audience members and not others. Leveling a presentation takes skill.

    So it’s tough. As others have mentioned, “Again” comes across rude and terse. I’d say this to a man or woman. You’re better off with softer language, such as “as we previously discussed”. I use that language a lot and have never had pushback. This language works if you’re referring to conversations in different meetings/different days. If you’re having to repeat yourself in the same meeting, I’d try and stay away from that language altogether, and try and figure out what it is with the presentation that the audience is struggle with.

    FWIW, some people are not auditory learners. I’m visual — there’s a vast difference between *telling* me something, and *showing* me something. If you give a lecture with no visual aides, or you’re answering a question someone else asked, odds are I haven’t been paying complete attention to your prior explanation.

    1. Margaery Moth*

      This exactly. I do have ADHD but I’m a terrible auditory learner, to the point where I ended up in the wrong career due to it! Now that I’ve had hands-on experience in another field, I’ve realized I’m far more capable. I hate when people say “again” to me, because it’s basically just a reminder that I’m not neurotypical. Why is it necessary at all to remind someone that they didn’t “get it” the first time?

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Regarding why it may be necessary or at least helpful: Sometimes pointing out that “thing B, which I thought was a separate thing from thing A, which was discussed 10 minutes ago, is actually exactly the same thing” can be helpful for getting the overall picture right.

        But it can be done much more clearly and explicitly (this discussion already has some good examples) and without the hint of “duh, B = A” that an “again” can be understood as.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think you hit it on the head here, when you’re dealing across competence domains someone might not realize you’d answered your question. I used the example of if you’ve already been asked “so what communication protocol does this widget use?” and then later on someone asks “well how do we get the widget to talk to the sprocket?” and it might seem really obvious if you understand the entire system that you already answered that, if widgets use a blinky light to communicate then you need to put a camera on the sprocket interface and use mirrors, unless it’s a bright room then you need fiber optics. If you don’t know a lot about blinky lights you might not realize that this question should be obvious from the information you have.

    2. MissGirl*

      I agree with you. Tone also matters very much. If she’s inwardly rolling her eyes, while she repeats the information that’s coming off. Also unless people are obviously not listening or messing around, repeating what she said before isn’t going to help. They didn’t get it. Try to break it down differently.

    3. peachie*

      This is a good point, too. Context is important, and I think that giving talks/leading a sort-of-training like this is a situation in which softening language is appropriate and helpful. (Regardless of gender — I’m aware of the double standards for speech for men and women generally.) If what you really mean to say with “again” is “we talked about this,” you can try phrasing it like “this ties into [topic from four slides ago].”

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Heh. My daughter went to explaining what her research was on to people with unknown backgrounds with “Here is the title of my thesis. How much of that made sense?” and then adjusting accordingly.

    5. Snow Drift*

      I’ve also found it helpful to reference somebody’s else expertise in re-explaining. That shows that you’ve already considered the idea, thanks; gives credit to your team when due; and if the referenced person is chosen carefully, can shut down any inappropriate (sexist/ageist/etc.) pushback. So:

      You: We’re shearing sheep using a 6-point harness and a 750-lb overhead crane.
      Repeat Roger: Why aren’t we using a 1000-lb crane?
      You: We determined 750 pounds to be sufficient based on the USDA livestock grading system.
      Repeat Roger: You need a bigger crane for the fat sheep.
      You: Manly-Man Marty has clarified with Government Expert Gary that we are only qualified up to 750 pounds. Larger sheep are diverted to our Chicago branch due to zoning issues.

  8. Michio Pa*

    #2 I heard a boss call out her bickering team with, “Hey! Let’s keep it business.” said in a severe tone. There’s a limit to what you can do if management won’t back you up, but I think you can definitely set the tone for what kind of humor/behavior is acceptable for your team.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      With these guys, I’d be worried that I’d be hearing ‘Let’s keep it business!’ as the catchphrase capper to every bad joke they make in the future. They’ve made it clear that they think they’re HILARIOUS and CHARMING and BRILLIANT with all their DEFYING THE MAN HUMOUR, and that they respond to criticism by doubling down and making fun of the critic.

      People who think they’re funny are among the most resistant to feedback. They’re having a good time, they clearly think anyone who doesn’t enjoy them is just a boring old no-funster who doesn’t get it, and they’re able to reinforce each other in this (completely incorrect) opinion. This kind of thing can tip over into bullying with a fairly small push.

      Honestly, I’d expect them to do their act unless and until someone can produce actual consequences for them. Pending then, I’d get headphones – and if, you can do it without blowback, tell your manager that if they can’t be stopped you’d like to ask about being transferred to another department.

      1. valentine*

        This could circle around to working if they pretend to button down and end up faking it ’til they make it.

      2. OP#2*

        You’ve highlighted my fears- addressing it will ‘other’ me even further on the team. I do think it needs to come from management and there should be consequences, but I won’t hold my breath.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          Hi OP2! You have my sympathies, because it sounds like a nightmare, but if you have the sense that saying anything about it will just get you ‘playfully’ insulted, you’re probably best to steer clear.

          If your manager isn’t able to come down on them hard enough to make the point, would she be willing to separate the worst two? I know it sounds a bit schoolroom, but that’s the level of their behaviour, and it might at least slow things down a bit. Or at least, force them to keep it to messaging and such, where you don’t have to listen to it and they might eventually get caught out for lollygagging.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Maybe if you like the company but not the team, be looking for opportunities to transfer to different work within the company.

          Offices, classrooms, etc absolutely do have cultures that rest heavily on the specific mix of people.

        3. Bad Wolf*

          I wonder if, as a team member and someone senior to these ‘joksters,’ if you could mention something privately to one or two of them – even brought up somewhat conversationally. It could be phrased as, “I’ve been impressed with your work since I joined the team and imagine you have a great future ahead. I wonder if you’d be open to some career advice – sometimes the jokes and riffing I see happening on our team cross the line into an area thay could seriously impact a more senior person’s impression of your maturity and professionalism. I would hate for that to ever hurt you, so I’d suggest toning down the jokes.”

          If you handle these convos privately, rather than engaging in the nonsense itself, then you are much less likely to become the ‘other.’ What’s more, if you can mentor any of these team members into more professional behavior, I suspect it would be appreciated by your ineffective manager and become another boost to your own career.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I think this is very good advice- in situations like these there are usually ringleaders and followers, and chipping away at followers by talking to them privately can encourage the ringleaders to stop or at least tone it down.

        4. Totally Minnie*

          Instead of trying an appeal to authority, could you try “joking” about the quality of the jokes? Something like “Oh wow, a ‘your mom’ joke. I didn’t think people used those after middle school.” I don’t know your coworkers so I can’t say whether that tactic would hurt or help, but it may be something to consider.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        Agreed 100%. I have seen “aren’t we just the most adorable jokesters?” tip over into cliquishness and an “it’s us against all those stick in the muds, let’s double down on joking and pranking” attitude which wound up poisoning a whole workplace atmosphere.

        That doesn’t mean that all workplaces should be buttoned-up no-fun sweatshops! It does mean that sophomoric horseplay and behavior more suited to a middle school cafeteria is ideally nipped in the bud.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Yeahhhhhh. Unless they come up against meaningful consequences, they’re not going to stop. If you do not have to power to deliver such consequences and your boss is loath to make the attempt, they’re going to carry on as usual. It’s ridiculous and stupid, and if they think they are oh so effing funny, they’re just going to turn on you if you object. The best approach is to ignore it as much as possible, and when you can’t ignore it to be incredibly bored by it. If they call you a boring stick in the mud (or any such colorful phrase), own it with a shrug and a “you’re right, I am,” in the most blase manner you can muster. It’s hard to make fun of someone who doesn’t care and just says “yeah, and?” to all of your “hilarious” and “witty” insults. Doesn’t solve the problem, but allows you to survive the junior high environment.

  9. Lost contact with former supervisors*

    How many people keep in contact with their former supervisors? All of them?

    I have contact information for maybe half of them, assuming they didn’t change their email address or phone number, the other half…if they changed jobs, or the company I was working folded, I wouldn’t have any way of contacting them at all. I would have quite a bit of trouble filling the job application OP5 is referring to.

    1. Michio Pa*

      Agreed, I’m not keeping in contact with people I don’t want to use as a reference. I think “being in contact with people forever” is an unrealistic expectation encouraged by Linked In and social media; people are forgetting the days when you had to update hand-written address books if you wanted to keep in touch. It’s more natural to let former employers, old acquaintances and classmates, etc. drift in and out of your life.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Companies that make you fill out applications that ask for that info for every past job aren’t usually going to require you to hunt down the personal contact info for each past manager; you can just give the contact info for the business itself. (It’s different for the actual references you’re offering; in that case, you need people’s direct contact info.)

        1. Brett*

          There is normally a section where you can explain any answers, explain there that the company went out of business (sometimes there is even a checkbox to just checkoff that the company went out of business). If the office branch closed instead, then put that in the explanation and include the main corporate contact number.
          For a background check, the background investigator will sometimes try to check if their is a custodian of records for the defunct company so they can pull your work records from there. But that’s the job of the investigator, not you, so don’t worry about finding that information.

        2. Admin of Sys*

          For anything other than a job I had in the last 2 or so years, I usually put in the contact information I had from when I left the company. I generally don’t check if Todd’s Llama Groomers, Inc went bankrupt 5 years after I quit.
          The only caveat for me is if it’s a big enough company closure that everyone in my industry would know about. In that case, if the main company still exists, I’d put in their main contact information, with a note saying I worked at the now closed Llama Groomer Albuquerque Campus. If the entire company went under in an obvious way, I may note that as well, but I actually think it’d be kind of inappropriate to track down where my previous supervisor currently works, unless I’m using them as a direct reference.

      1. pomme de terre*

        Ugh, I’m going through this right now. I’d rather not give out managers’ info specifically, and it seems so unnecessary for step 1 in the application process. On resumes I’ve gone with “references available upon request” but it seems rude or thickheaded to say “available upon request” when the form is requesting it.

    3. Airy*

      Yes, increasingly so as that job recedes into the mists of time. At least one company I used to work for doesn’t exist any more (and another I hope doesn’t because the guy in charge was a total skeeze and was last heard of in prison in South Africa). A company that will consider it a mark against you if you can’t provide a phone number for someone who supervised you in 1998 is probably off-kilter in other ways too.
      Plus, sometimes old supervisors die. They are but mortal. “If you wish to contact my supervisor from the Cambridge Teapot Foundry, I can recommend a good spirit medium.”

      1. can'tremembermyusername*

        I mentioned this further down when I commented without reading previous comments. I once used a similar line when asked for contact details of all my old supervisors, luckily I was asked in person and the interviewer took my point when my response was a more diplomatic version of “you’ll need a ouija board and a Japanese translator” one of my bosses is dead another was from when I lived in Japan and spoke no English.

        In an age of social media I can even understand the expectation to have bosses contact details but this only applies to people who have always had access to social media during their working life (like me). This could cause possible discrimination against older people (more likely to have deceased bosses and less likely to have their contact details if they are still alive).

        1. Michaela Westen*

          The thing that bugs me about a company insisting on this is, they probably don’t actually need the supervisor from a job I was at for one year, 23 years ago. Seriously. I’d be very surprised if they called that job or supervisor. If I could even remember the job, the name of the company, and the supervisor’s name!

          It seems disrespectful as well as annoying for companies to expect applicants to jump through these unnecessary hoops. If there’s some particular reason they need this, they should ask the candidate when they’re farther along in the process.

      2. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Company doens’t exist anymore, the company burned down (true – the restaurant burned down after my last day, I swear I didn’t do it, I was camping!) company changed names, company was acquired by another company, the department was dissolved and the staff scattered everywhere and if I go back far enough, there might be a supervisor or two who have passed away.

    4. MLB*

      I mentioned above that I don’t keep in touch with any of my past supervisors (except one of them who I’m now working for again). My 1st company is no longer in business, and the next 2 companies that I was laid off from were bought out shortly after I lost my job. And my last company still exists, but my department no longer does. So I do the best I can. I usually just put the supervisor’s name, company’s main number and a note explaining the situation. If a job is going to hold any of that against me, I don’t want to work for them because they’re living in la la land if they think everyone has the contact information for all of their former supervisors after working for 20+ years.

    5. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I usually give the number for HR, instead of the main company line. If they just want to verify employment, that’s the quickest way to get them there. And if they want to talk to a former supervisor who I didn’t want to be a reference, I don’t mind throwing up a little bit of a roadblock.

      1. Someone Else*

        I find it confusing/frustrating when they’re asking for ALL but don’t specify why and there’s no way in the system to add useful info. If they really just want the history of everywhere ever worked, then there’s no real need for the supervisor’s name, and the company+main number makes total sense to put there. If they want the supervisor’s name it implies there’s some reason they intend to check about that supervisory relationship. If there’s no way in the form to indicate that person is no longer there, or that person is dead or whatever…it just highlights how pointless the question was. It feels sort of like a trick question: are you trying to catch me in a lie? Are you going to call people in a referencey fashion despite my not wanting to use them as one? What?
        If it’s a legally regulated job where that complete history is required for other reasons, OK, but that should be clear. But any old job asking for a complete history…are they cross-referencing it with a background check to confirm you are who you say you are/the check isn’t mixing you up with someone else? What are we after here?


        1. Brett*

          “are you trying to catch me in a lie? ”
          That’s pretty much the number one reason people fail background checks.

          “Are you going to call people in a referencey fashion despite my not wanting to use them as one?”
          Yes. The last question background investigators ask in a background reference interview is often, “can you provide the names and contact information of two more people who know the applicant”. This is why companies should really spell out when references are for professional references versus when they are for background checks. (The top of form OP #5 is asking about is usually for background checks.) Background references are used in a completely different way than professional references.

    6. Risha*

      This sounds like a nightmare application to me. I have very little autobiographical memory. I might be able to summon up one of my first two manager’s names from my first post-college job, but I was quite (clinically) depressed during a lot of my time with the last guy and, while I remember how abusive he was, I don’t have a freaking clue what his name is. I can’t even check the company website in case he’s still there, since I don’t remember what he looks like.

      1. Brett*

        This type of application is common in state and local government. As soon as I realized that, I started keeping my old applications and keeping a running file of this information so each time I applied for a public sector job I had the information on hand.
        (It was really awful back in the old days of 2008 when many places still required typed/hand printed forms.)

  10. Akcipitrokulo*

    Yeah, “again” does indicate annoyance at having had to repeat yourself and/or feeling that others are incompetent or rude.

    I get it’s hard to break a habit and you don’t mean it that way! but from the recieving side… I can’t see a reason to use it other than to emphasise “we already answered this… why (the hell) are you asking again?”

    Which may have its place… but it’s more suited to a manager addressing performance issues (“Again, I noticed that you… “) than having a meeting.

    TBH depending on how confident I felt at the time, I might decide to take one for the team, but would be more likely to decide asking questions wasn’t worth the risk of being snarked at, and not ask anything for the rest of the meeting. Or afterwards.

    It is possible you have co-workers who have attached a “do not approach for help” internal label to you… which I know isn’t your intention! But it may be worth finding a new filler word :)

    1. foolofgrace*

      I might decide to take one for the team, but would be more likely to decide asking questions wasn’t worth the risk of being snarked at, and not ask anything for the rest of the meeting. Or afterwards.

      This. It didn’t occur to me initially but this would totally be me — I’d just not ask any questions at all after hearing “Again…”

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep. I’m more confident now, but 5 years ago? I’d never ask a question in a meeting where they were speaking again. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

  11. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – I’d invite some of my ex manager(s)… because I *LIKE* them and would want them there and feel that their presence would make my day better.

    You don’t. So don’t invite :)

    If you fear retaliation, it may be worth doing a little prep work in advance, whether soothing her over-inflated ego or talking to someone higher that you trust… but you don’t need to feel strongarmed into having have a negative feeling at your wedding.

  12. Daria Grace*

    Re: #5, I’m not sure how to apply that in my circumstances. My last manager disappeared VERY abruptly and decisively (left with less that two business days notice, now not responding to attempts at contact). I don’t even remember the names of managers at some shorter temp jobs I’ve had. What should I do in those circumstances?

    1. Artemesia*

      And sooner rather than later. If she doesn’t drop it after you deflect, then draw the line so it doesn’t get awkward.

  13. Wintermute*

    #2– that sounds absolutely exhausting, and it’s a shortcut to a toxic workplace in no time, for sure. In your shoes I would be willing to burn some capital on this, if your boss isn’t aware that it’s affecting new employees then that’s a piece of context they should have. If he doubles down on “nothing we can do, it’s outside work” then I’d have some very-work-related examples at hand to give, and say “well, we’ve noticed this is affecting how they interact at work, and frankly, it’s starting to hurt morale, mine included! I don’t want to feel like I’m at the friar’s club when I’m trying to get some work-related information I need from a coworker!”

    A good boss will also want to know their response to his e-mail was to hassle you further, they’d want to put a stop to that immediately!

    If you’re not getting anywhere with your boss, a morale problem that’s becoming acidic to the culture as a whole in the department is absolutely grandboss territory if you feel you have the political capital to burn, and to be honest I don’t think it would take much of it because a good grandboss will be horrified. Your immediate boss might be a little put out that you had to go over him but a good grandboss will have a serious conversation with HIM about culture and supporting his team and his responsibilities as a manaager.

  14. Traffic_Spiral*

    I’m going to break with the herd for LW#2 and say this really isn’t something you have much capital on. You don’t have a lot of what lawyers would call “privity.” Basically, you’re not their manager so you don’t have direct authority over them, and you aren’t the one the cussing is aimed at so you don’t really have a direct complaint. If it was aimed at you, you could say “don’t talk to me like that,” but it’s not aimed at you. You only have 2nd degree privity to this: you don’t like overhearing it.
    The conversation will basically go like this:

    You: “I don’t like how Joe talks to Bob.”
    Bob: “I don’t have a problem with it.”
    You: “Yes, well whether or not you dislike how Joe talks to you doesn’t matter – I dislike it.”
    Bob: “Seems to me that how Joe talks to ME is really more my call than yours, friendo.”

    And you’re not their manager. It would be an awkward conversation even if you had authority over them. Since you don’t, you’ve basically got to convince their boss that your 2nd-degree discomfort warrants him using up “boss” capital to have the above conversation – and it looks like he doesn’t want to do that. If you take it to the grandboss, you risk making underboss look bad, so what’s he going to say: “yes, I can’t control my team,” or “look, LW keeps getting their undies in a knot over it, but it’s really not a problem that the other guys like to banter – everyone’s perfectly polite to LW.”

    I get where you’re coming from – it can be exhausting to feel like you’re working in a frathouse – but I wouldn’t spend capital on this. The risk/reward ratios are bad.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      If OP’s work environment is such that she is forced to be exposed to it then it definitely affects her.

      1. hbc*

        Well, it affects her, but in the same way that a lot of things might affect us in an office that we don’t really have the right to change. It would bug me to be in an office where people were indirect and softened excessively, or with elaborately expressed gratitude for doing simple tasks, or where the main topic of non-work chat was something I consider tedious. But that’s for me to handle.

        Except for the punching comment, there’s nothing really to object to besides relative taste.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            “Your mom” are definitely not misogynistic. “Your mom” is a stand-in for a generic person you care about. “Someone you care about is so fat, they have their own zip code.” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Nor does, “Your mom, whom you probably care about deeply, is so dumb, she bought an in-door kite.”

            1. bookartist*

              Were that true, there would be just as many “your dad” jokes, since you can say even more funny things by adding a father figure to the joke line. What people find funny is ‘your mom,’ not ‘your person you care about.’

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Hmm there is a difference in the level of what’s considered appropriate to a work environment. The examples you listed are annoying but appropriate. The examples OP gave (“I have a question” / “your mom has a question”) are both fabulously annoying and inappropriate to a typical work environment.

          Whether it is something OP has to just learn to deal with is certainly dependent on their own workplace’s norms, but by general standards there is enough to reasonably object to.

    2. Wintermute*

      If the OP were complaining about something else I think you might have a point, if it was someone asking prying questions, for instance, you wouldn’t really have standing to say “I don’t like how fergus asks about Jane’s medical appointments”.

      But this is a matter of overall tone and professionalism, also the OP is involved, they sent a sarcastic apology, and a junior co-worker was tagged on a post by them and complained. All of that taken together means that this is a larger matter.

      Also, as an aside, it doesn’t sound like anything they’re saying is legally problematic, but I’d like to bring that up as a blanket exception to this as well– you don’t have to be the target of a comment for it to contribute to a hostile workplace. Again, I don’t read this as a legally hostile workplace, but it’s a very common misconception that you have to be targeted or involved in some way to have standing to make a complaint. Nope! The statements themselves, if pervasive enough, affect everyone.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        I agree that she’s legitimately affected, I just think it’s going to be a real uphill battle because, as you said, it’s not exactly legally problematic and the general assumption is (wrongly, maybe) that it has to be said to you to count, and also that the direct boss doesn’t want to do anything about it.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          I agree. It is both (a) annoying and inappropriate to a workplace in general and (b) an uphill battle in this particular workplace that may or may not be worth fighting.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This. If the grandboss was interested in changing the culture of OP’s team, they would be in there doing that. Hearing from OP isn’t going to cause them to suddenly manage in a much more over-your-shoulder style.

            OP, the options are to wait for some of these people to move out, or to move out yourself. Then the culture will change.

    3. MLB*

      I’ve worked with obnoxious people like this, and that’s when I bust out my headphones so I just don’t have to listen to it. I liken this to someone who chews gum like a cow, or any other annoying habit a co-worker may have. I don’t think this is something to escalate. I would feel differently if the things said were aimed AT the OP, but I don’t see this as a hill to die on.

      1. OP#2*

        That helps put things in perspective- I do think it’s a toxic culture here, but maybe my best recourse is to just….leave. I’m not the manager and the manager doesn’t care, so maybe the consequence of losing a decent employee will help improve things. It’s tough when you have a team of ~9 youngish folks, and 4 of them have bonded together in a cliquey way. We’re not fostering the best team environment here, but if I’m the only one who cares then.. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Well, how much does it really bother you? Is it just annoying, or does it really make you unable to work there?

          1. OP#2*

            Both, I think. I’m concerned that a long term association with this team may negatively affect both my behavior and my reputation within the company. I don’t think this team has a reputation for being staffed with professional effective adults, and ultimately I’d like to distance myself from it. There’s a chance that the reporting structure of my role may change in the near future to report to my grandboss instead, so I guess this week would be a good chat with him to see what the timeline looks like for that.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              If working with this team is going to affect your reputation, then it’s time to skedaddle. Definitely check in with grandboss to see if you will report to them in the near future. If not, or if grandboss is vague, start looking around for a new department or job.

              This team sounds like bad news. For one thing, constantly responding to “I have a question” with “Your mom…” is exhausting. I’d feel like saying, “Oh for Pete’s sake, Fergus, just please answer my question without joking around!” These people are ruining their reputations with the current company and developing some *very* bad work habits – not just the endless juvenile jokes, but the cliquishness and oppositional attitude. This will not serve the jokesters well in future workplaces where managers actually *manage.*

  15. can'tremembermyusername*

    QU 5 is bizarre. I’ve seen it myself but what if a manager has died/retired/moved to outer Mongolia? Especially an older candidate with a long work history is likely to have at least one boss who has retired/died. I

    ‘m mid twenties and have had five bosses. I know exactly where they are but it would still be impossible to include all five. My first boss died of lung cancer in his early 60’s and his business shut down (it was a sole practitioner legal practice that couldn’t run without the lawyer). My second boss was my father so easily contactable but not great for getting an unbiased view of my work life, my third was in a foreign country I lived in for a year, time zones mean business hours do not line up with ours and he doesn’t speak English anyway I’m in contact with his daughter (who got me the job) so I could find his number but it would be pointless. My fourth is retired and often travels I do know his number but its likely he wouldn’t be in the country to answer the phone, my fifth is my current boss in my industry in my country it wouldn’t matter if she knew I was job searching and it is very normal for the hiring manager to talk to your current boss but in many many industries including her could be disastrous.

    My work history isn’t too bizarre there will be a lot of people who can’t include all their bosses for various reasons. Some which have nothing to do with their work being bad. I obviously can’t include the dead boss or the boss who doesn’t speak English. I could only include my father, my retired boss (with planning) and my current boss. And I often leave out my father because many hiring managers obviously don’t want to hear from him because he can’t give a unbiased review of me by nature of being my father.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      My work history likewise includes (in no particular order) retired bosses, deceased bosses, no bosses (i.e., stints of self-employment), companies that no longer exist, and employment across several U.S. states and one Canadian province. A job application that requires me to recreate an honestly complete job history is frankly impossible — and also makes me wonder about age discrimination in that workplace.

    2. Winterfire*

      You can just put the contact info for the company – you don’t have to track down each person individually.

      1. GhostWriter*

        +1 That’s what I do for anyone that I’m not using as a reference (those who are retired, deceased or didn’t interact with me enough to be a useful reference).

  16. RUKiddingMe*

    Am I the only one who thinks that Jane (OP#1) joking about the fiance needing her approval…icky?

    1. Red Reader*

      No, but it sounds like Jane is a knob with no sense of appropriate behavior or boundaries anyway, so icky is about par for the course.

    2. Wintermute*

      Not at all, and it’s another reason I really would avoid having her there… both to avoid dealing with that dynamic, and in case she “doesn’t approve” somehow and holds it against me.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      Not the only one at all. Having said that, anyone remember that letter here from a boss who got asked by someone’s fiancé for his blessing and he was a bit taken aback because he didn’t think he had that kind of relationship with his employee?

    4. Snow Drift*

      My gut response to that would have been something like “Good thing it doesn’t go the other way, or [fiancé] would have made me quit.”

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      Highly icky. But alas a common joke made by people who have trouble respecting boundaries. On that alone, I would be even less inclined to invite her.

  17. Carlie*

    And what about a situation in which the managers were terrible employees who themselves got fired? Some people would be awful, biased references even if they could be tracked down. That kind of application puts a lot of blind faith in supervisory positions without considering the judgment abilities of the people in them.

    1. Rebecca*

      Exactly! I was just thinking of the bad manager I suffered under for 14 years. I left, gave an honest exit interview, and she was told to retire. I went back to my old job after that, but I would never want to put her name on a job application!

    2. That girl from Quinn's house*

      Yes, I’ve had this problem, dating back even to high school when I needed reference letters for college. I’ve been taught/coached/managed by a good number of people who could speak well to my abilities, but many of them are, let’s say, lacking in professionalism and I don’t think they present an image that I’m comfortable being associated with.

    3. Lora*

      I’ve had a couple of bosses who ended up on the FDA debar list. I hope nobody thinks they’re valid references for anything on this earth, they couldn’t even be trusted to state that 2+2=4.

      Now that I think about it, many of my ex-bosses are at least part-time retired, and one of my grad school advisers passed away last year. Many were laid off in the Great Recession, got out of STEM entirely and nobody’s seen hide nor hair of them since.

      A handful of people who used to report to me have really risen in the world and are doing well for themselves. I’d hope their word would count more towards my competence than Permanently Unemployed Debar Guys.

  18. Rebecca*

    #4 – thank you so much for inviting me, but I don’t want to aggravate [insert real or imagined foot/ankle/knee injury here] from high school [sports or other activity], I’m sure you understand.

      1. Not A Morning Person*

        Bingo! That’s what I was thinking. It can be a pretty hard-sell kind of environment, and dance instructors in many places have expectations that they will bring in clients. They even have their students trolling for clients. That’s how I ended up at a dance studio with a friend who invited me to dinner and then picked me up, but first she had to stop for an errand at her dance studio. Then her instructor came by and they suckered me into dancing with her instructor. It was weird. What helped me was that when we were dancing, another couple bumped into us and that’s how I was able to extricate myself. Funny looking back at it, and I was not happy with her subterfuge.

  19. SigneL*

    #1: I wouldn’t invite Jane. I’d casually mention that it’s a small wedding and then not talk about the wedding at work. The less you talk about it, the less important it will be to co-workers, many of whom won’t be invited anyway. People can be glad for you without wanting to hear a lot of details.

  20. Luisa*

    Related to #5, I’m wondering what language one might use (with either the prospective employer or former employers) when the candidate either doesn’t expect a former supervisor/boss to provide a reference (ex. because significant time has passed, or because it was markedly different work than the candidate does now), or when the candidate thinks that the former supervisor/boss would be less than enthusiastic about speaking on their behalf. (In my case that’s because a previous boss felt personally insulted when employees left; I followed workplace policies and professional norms around departure. So she has no grounds to say negative things, but I doubt she’d be highly positive.)

  21. MLB*

    #1 – you do not have to invite anyone to your wedding that you don’t want there. Period. End of story.

  22. Friday afternoon fever*

    OP1 — i don’t remember which advice columnist said this, but — you are having a small wedding. A small wedding is anything where the guest list does not include the person you’re talking to.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Miss Manners brings that one out a lot! “Oh, I’m sorry – we’re only having a small wedding.”

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Your wedding can be literally 600 people and if Jane is not one of them and pesters you for an invite: you’re so sorry, you’re keeping it small.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            And if you need more backup, you’re keeping it small, and your Mom/Dad/MiL/DiL wants to invite AAAAALLLLLLLL the cousins. And their cousins’ cousins. And their cousins’ cousins’ dog. And their cousins’ cousins’ dogwalker. And their cousins’ cousins’ dogwalker’s cousin.

            TL;DR – you can always blame the cousins. Unless it is a cousin you’re trying to ditch, of course, in which case you blame your pushy boss.

  23. Micromanagered*

    OP1 I think there’s a difference between a wedding where “you’re inviting your coworkers” a la The Office where Dunder Mifflin shuts down for 2 days for *everyone* to go to Jim & Pam’s wedding, and a wedding where you are inviting “friends and family” and like, 2 or 3 of them are also coworkers. It sounds like you’re doing the second one and that’s how to frame it when/if your old manager gets salty about not being invited. (Because do not invite her…. please?)

    1. Agent Diane*

      Also, would the handful of co-workers you do want to come be happy attending with Jane there? Or would they be worried that she was watching them for excuses to make them cry at work? If you like them, don’t invite Jane.

      Also, don’t invite Jane. She made you cry. Crying at weddings should only ever be happy crying.

  24. Birch*

    OP#3, Verbal tics are so hard to train yourself out of! But you should trust Alison and the commenters when we say this comes across as really argumentative and frustrated even when you didn’t mean it that way. It’s one thing if you have explained the same thing clearly 5x and one person in the room still isn’t getting it, but at that point you need to say “why don’t you come talk to me after the meeting and we can discuss this more?”

    In this situation (which comes up a lot in academic talks, since we’re all the experts on our own niche topics and trying to understand and learn from others), I like to say “Yes, I like I was mentioning earlier, when we did x experiment, we didn’t find any effect of y. We think this is because z, and we are looking into solutions. Does that answer your question?” And while you’re doing this, flip back to the slide where you discussed it. You can usually tell from the question why they’re asking–do they not understand why you did the experiment? Do they not understand which x you used when studying y? Do they not remember what you said the results were? Add the information they need when you answer their question–clearly if they didn’t remember it the first time around, they needed something else to tie it to their recall–don’t just repeat yourself verbatim! And when multiple people ask about the same topic, it’s probably because they are trying to relate the information to their own knowledge. You can answer those e.g. “Yes, like Sansa was asking earlier, we looked into the parameters of y and think the issue lies there.” That way, they can relate their understanding of the information to each other’s. It’s nearly impossible to present the best structure for everyone in the room to learn the information at their best, so you’re inevitably going to have to clarify some things that seem very basic to you. But you are the only one who knows this information inside and out–you have to recognize that others are hearing it for the first time and trying to wrap their minds around it. If you frame your answer to these questions as an opportunity to add more detail in the information, it will stick with people better and not come off like you’re just repeating yourself because the audience is too stupid to have listened the first time. And I definitely agree with
    Alison, ask your boss (and maybe others you’ve given presentations to) if your presentations are clear or if there are ways you could improve them. Giving good presentations is a whole different skill than knowing the stuff you’re presenting on, and not enough people are actually trained to do it.

  25. hbc*

    OP3: “Again” means “I said this before,” so it really needs to be saved for cases where you need to bring attention to the fact that the person hasn’t caught on or is ignoring what you said. For example, if you said “All animals have to go through a lice check before grooming by law” and someone asks “But can’t you just skip it?,” it’s okay to say, “Again, it’s a legal requirement, so you can’t without risking your license.” (Though note that I added explanation out of habit, which helps if they weren’t quite grasping the original point and not just distracted or obstinate.)

    Also, I would keep in mind that even if you were 100% clear in what you said, not every speaker/expert is, so sometimes people ask questions to understand what you really mean. “Do we still need to do it if the animal is brought in specifically for lice treatment?” You might think it’s already been answered (“All animals”), but someone else might be a bit sloppier and have meant “No animal can go to regular grooming unless it’s been declared clear of lice, which is either by exam or by getting lice treatment.” Engineers are very likely to be the type to do this kind of probing to make sure they have the whole picture.

    1. Micromanagered*

      I agree with you, and I’d add that I think it’s becoming more common in “office speak” to begin sentences with “again” when it’s not even a reiteration of anything that was previously stated. Again*, I’m not saying OP is doing that, but I wonder if it’s a factor here.

      (*See what I did there? Like that.)

    2. Labradoodle Daddy*

      “Again” means “I said this before,” so it really needs to be saved for cases where you need to bring attention to the fact that the person hasn’t caught on or is ignoring what you said.

      !!! I think this is the best response to OP3 I’ve seen yet. Perfectly stated.

  26. peachie*

    #3: I don’t think this means you are actually being rude/condescending, but I do think the “again” thing can come off the wrong way and/or annoy some people. You certainly don’t have to change your speech, and I do agree that women are generally expected to use softer language, but I’m not sure this is the case here. I would just chalk it up to a verbal habit you weren’t aware of and do with that information what you will.

    1. peachie*

      That all said, I may be biased here. I have a very frustrating, very negative (male) coworker who begins most sentences with “again.” If that were the only thing I’d be mildly annoyed at most, but given the context of personality and attitude, it’s infuriating. I now bristle whenever I hear a sentence that starts that way, which is probably not fair in most circumstances.

    2. Allison*

      My dad gets irritated when he repeats himself, and will often start by heaving a sigh and saying “again” in this agitated way, and it doesn’t really feel great. It’s entirely possible men get away with that tone more often than women do, because we’re expected to always be patient and gentle with people whereas men tend to get a pass on how they talk when they’re annoyed.

      1. peachie*

        That’s a good point. I’m not sure I’d still have a job if I had the attitude he had, and that’s frustrating (though I think the ideal solution is move away from that language, not make it acceptable for everyone).

  27. BRR*

    #3 One thing keep in mind when dealing with people who ask questions that have already been answered is sometimes you have to play the fool. It stinks and I hate doing it but that can be the working world. It may not apply to this situation but sometimes it’s easier to just pretend that you’re saying something for the first time and move on because it’s easier.

    I try and remember this will speak more about them than about me.

    1. foolofgrace*

      pretend that you’re saying something for the first time

      But maybe rephrase it a little so as not to bore the other participants who probably “got” it the first time, and also because obviously the questioner didn’t get it the first time, so repeating it exactly isn’t going to be helpful.

  28. stitchinthyme*

    My husband once worked in a place a lot like #2. He’s not very confrontational, so he never brought it up to management, but he also didn’t stay very long. It was something like a 6-month contract position; they offered to make him permanent at the end of that time, and he declined. My point being, it’s very possible that this company is going to lose a lot of good people if they allow that atmosphere to continue.

  29. Allison*

    OP4, I have so many questions about this, because a boss inviting a direct report to take a dance class with them is a little odd. Is she hoping to take the class to make friends, or is she urging you to come along because she thinks you need to meet people? Is this a partner dancing class? If so, do they actually require or encourage people to bring partners? Some do, even if they rotate partners during class, in order to keep the lead:follow ratios relatively even, but a lot of places stress that you don’t need to bring someone, and people either don’t believe that claim and think they’ll be a burden if they go alone, or they’re too shy to take the class by themselves. Or maybe she gets a reward for referring someone to the studio. But regardless of why, it’s not great to use your power to twist your direct reports’ arm into going with you.

    If she does persist, keep saying “no thanks, that doesn’t really sound like my thing”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Allison I read it that OP4’s manager is trying to drum up customers for her second job. And that’s really not cool.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        That’s how I read it too. “Hi, employee, I have this side hustle that I’d like you to pay me money for.”

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      Interesting, I don’t read it like that at all. To me it was more “OP, you should come check out a class at my studio some time,” not “Sign up for this thing with me.” I think OP 4 is reading a bit too much into this.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I read it as OP thinks the manager is looking for friends, rather than pushing her side hustle.

      2. LowerLevelLawyer*

        Same. I read it more as “Come check it out – you could meet someone” and not at all “you should come dance with ME”

    3. foolofgrace*

      I took a partner-type dance class once and I was a singleton. Most of the students were couples learning to dance for their wedding. At first I felt strange but it ended up I got to dance with the teacher more than anyone else and I learned a lot.

  30. Snow Drift*

    #5 I have no former managers’ phone numbers. Either they were part of the massive layoff that took me with it, or they are retired. If I’m required to give a phone number on an auto-form, as you mention, I just include the general line for the company, and let the reference-seeker go to the trouble of asking for someone who no longer works there. (If they call before speaking to me and learning the situation, that’s on them, because contacting references at that stage is inappropriately premature.)

    Considering how prevalent downsizing is, and considering how many industries require you to jump companies to earn a decent raise, I find this expectation that one’s manager will stay put forever to be incredibly naive and outdated. At this point it would make more sense to request a former manager’s LinkedIn information, though I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  31. I can't even*

    I’m going to dissent for OP #1 and say that if you’ve spent a lot of time cultivating a work persona who is go with the flow and you get along swimmingly with your boss (as far as your boss is concerned), you do unfortunately risk undoing all of that – or at least put yourself at risk for several awkward conversations if you choose not to invite her. It’s entirely your prerogative (and like others have mentioned, context-dependent – if it’s a 30-person wedding versus a 300-person wedding).

    For me, there were a lot of people that I didn’t know well, extremely distant family, friends of my sisters, parents, etc. that came, and it didn’t really bug me because they were there for the party and the special occasion and I didn’t see them at all (one even was a business colleague of my dad’s whom he later had a nasty falling-out with). Ten years out, I can tell you it didn’t/doesn’t matter to me that they came.

    My personal recommendation would be to invite her; it seems like the path of least resistance and you have plenty to worry about with planning your wedding (and one extra gift, if that matters). Just one person’s opinion though!

    1. Aleta*

      While I’m firmly on the side of “hell no, don’t invite her,” that IS very much a concern for OP1. I have very, shall we say, casually selfish and not good at the whole “people are different from me and have different wants, needs, and priorities” theory of mind thing parents, who are also very charming to outsiders. I was a pliable and obedient child when I could be because I had a sense of self-preservation and no faith in other adults ever siding with me over people who were kind to them. When they no longer had a legal stranglehold on my life, that stopped, and they took it VERY VERY VERY BADLY. They backed down only when it became clear it was that or never speak to me again.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        You can’t well extrapolate from “people I don’t know” to “person I hate.” If there are professional consequences to not inviting her, address as they arise.

    2. Snow Drift*

      I had a much more negative experience, and if given the chance to re-do I would not invite colleagues to my wedding. They acted inappropriately in exactly the ways I expected them to (one guy brought his not-invited children, who were obnoxious hell beasts that tore wallpaper off the venue walls; one pushy guy turned my wedding cake table into a display for his side business selling candles). It wasn’t worth the good will it engendered. I left the job not long after, but years later I still stew about the ways they messed up my wedding.

      1. anonymous 5*

        Yeah…very few jobs are the kind of commitment that a wedding celebrates. So it’s one thing to invite distant relatives who would still be family (or friends who live far away) even if you don’t see them very often, and another entirely to invite coworkers with whom you wouldn’t spend much/any time if it weren’t for work. OP#1 and fiance are both on the same page about not wanting Jane there, and that’s all that actually matters. As for “undoing” a carefully-cultivated work persona, if you’ve spent years on it, then your colleagues have a good read on your level of reasonable-ness. Jane, not the OP, is going to come off looking bad here. And OP#1: lots of good wishes to you and your soon-to-be spouse on a happy (minimally-stressful!!!) wedding and a happy marriage!

        1. I can't even*

          I agree that it shouldn’t be expected in this situation that the boss is invited; however, the colleagues are the ones that are pushing her to invite Jane. If professional doors have been opened for OP based on her good relationship with Jane, it’s worth evaluating if closing that door based on a wedding invitation is worthwhile – I suppose I’m reading it less as a “social norm” and more of a “this is in/out of keeping with the professional persona this person has built.” While socially it makes sense, it also makes sense to consider the professional ramifications of a drastic change in the relationship that this will make for Jane and OP.

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            The nice thing here is that they should have had years of building up their work persona so that maintaining it does not depend solely on ‘invited manager to my wedding’. Shut the damn door.

    3. Michio Pa*

      Personally, I would want know every single person at my wedding. Maybe a few exceptions for a few members of spouse’s family I hadn’t met yet. I wouldn’t invite extremely distant family, family’s coworkers and friends, friends I was not dearly close to, etc. so I wouldn’t invite coworkers and bosses by the same token. So I’m a little surprised by “there will be so many people at your wedding that you don’t even know, so you won’t even notice.” For me, I would want to notice. So OP, if you are like me, don’t invite your boss, say it’s a small wedding only with your very closest family, and have your invited coworkers keep mum at the office.

  32. Lynca*

    OP #3- Instead of saying “Again, we did x experiment and saw no effect of y.” I would have said “We did x experiment and saw no effect of y.” I’ve found much better outcomes with just being direct when answering repeating questions rather than point out that it’s something already answered.

  33. Sidekick*

    #5 What if one of the companies you worked at has a policy against giving references and you were told to provide a phone number for another company that confirms dates of hire when asked for references? I’ve been adding a note to explain this, but I’m not sure if it looks bad and if I should skip adding the note or if I should just provide the company’s customer service number that you can find online instead. (I’m not even sure my supervisor would speak well of me. I only got positive feedback until the week before I was laid off. Then it changed to a bunch of problems my teammates supposedly had with my work, but when I asked them about it they said I was doing great and that they hadn’t given any negative feedback.)

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I would skip the note and just give the direct line for HR if you can. They’ll usually confirm dates of hire and departure, even when the policy is against giving references (and, if you’re worried about a prospective job talking to somebody who won’t be very flattering, they’re the ones who are most likely to actually follow a no-references policy).

    2. Brett*

      Use the company contact number.
      These forms are more likely to be used for background checking than professional references. The background checker/interviewer has dealt with this more than you ever will and will handle the situation.

  34. WillyNilly*

    Like many others, the word “again” comes across terse and rude to me.
    I think too, if it was happening several times among a group of engaged, well versed professionals, it signals that its a “you explaining” problem. Its not always clear that that different angles, approaches, etc all come back to the same issue previously discussed. If you haven’t connected those dots initially, its pretty demeaning for you to get huffy (which what “again” sounds like) that others are asking how the dots connect.

  35. OP #3*

    OP #3 here. Thanks for all your comments. I have already committed to taking my boss’s feedback seriously and try to eliminate extra “again’s”. It will be a challenge since I don’t even realize I’m saying it so much. :)
    To be clear my “again’s” are not related to frustration or annoyance at all. It really was an attempt to save time given that we had a hard stop for this initial meeting. I have already committed to preparing a FAQ document to provide additional experimental details and encouraged people to reach out to me, one on one for specific questions. With respect to presentations, I have given many, many presentations across the company and industry with very positive feedback. In fact, I actually won an industry award for a presentation that I gave at a national meeting in 2017 so I’m comfortable that in general, my presentation skills are solid.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      To be fair, this isn’t about your presentation skills. It’s about you giving feedback to others, building profesional relationships, communicating. This is a slightly different skill set from the actual presentation. You really can’t use excellence in one to say there is no problem (no matter how small) with the other.

  36. What's with Today, today?*

    #3) I employee the use of the word again when I notice someone is not paying attention, or goofing off and then asks me the same question that’s already been answered. It’s actually one of my favorite words in that context.

  37. LaDeeDa*

    I get really irritated when they want all that information about former managers. Of my former managers 2 are retired, 1 is dead, 1 is now a SAHM, 1 was a psycho and I have no idea where she is now, I have like 3 that I have kept in some kind of contact with. 2 of them I haven’t worked with since the very beginning of my career (16 yrs ago) and wouldn’t be able to say anything about where I am now in my career- I have surpassed the highest level they ever reached. I have 1 former manager who I worked with 5 years ago, and again I am now at a higher level than she was then and even where she is now.

  38. CommanderBanana*

    Re: OP#3, we had a lower-level admin who had a habit of putting “as I said before” or “as I said in my previous emails” in correspondence, it made her come across as a major ass, whether that was her intention or not.

  39. Me*

    If I asked a question and someone answered beginning with “Again” it certainly would come across condescending. Like many have stated, if it’s the same question over and over, maybe its ok. I don’t think it’s a woman things (I am female) i think it just comes across rude and brusque. Remember you know the topic backwards and forwards but your audience does not (usually). Google the “curse of knowledge” cognitive bias.

    Honestly, when I am talking and I find people asking things that have been covered, I take that as my cue that I am not explaining things in a way everyone can understand. To the extent that I’ve even said something along the lines of “Question on this have come up a few times, so it seems like there may be some confusion. Is there something in particular about this topic that I can give more context too?

    Sometimes it’s people not paying attention, but more often it’s a difference in understanding and communication styles.

  40. lemon*drop*

    OP3, I’m going to echo the other commenters, I think using the word “again” before answering a repeated question is incredibly rude and condescending. I would be both annoyed and embarrassed if a co-worker continually answered my questions with “again” (even if those questions were repeated) and would go out of my way to avoid interacting with them in the future. Here are some things to consider:

    1. You have no way of knowing *why* a person is asking you something that was already answered. Maybe they weren’t paying attention. Maybe they take longer to process information. Maybe they’re a visual learner. Or maybe your previous explanation was unclear, too technical or lengthy, which caused their mind to wander. Whatever the reason, your use of the word “again” comes across as annoyed, exasperated, aggravated, condescending and extremely unpleasant, almost like you’re scolding someone for daring to ask a question which you have already answered.

    2. Style points aside, your bluntness may have negative consequences for your team, which some other commenters have mentioned, and which I am going to address as well, because I have experienced this firsthand. At a previous job, I was reprimanded by a horrendous boss for repeating a question (because her initial explanation was incredibly detailed, and I just needed a simple re-cap) and I felt so humiliated that I completely shut down and stopped asking her questions altogether. This was particularly bad because I was brand new at the job and still learning the ropes. Afterwards, I would go out of my way to avoid asking her questions and bring them to my co-workers instead.

    I think your boss was absolutely correct in bringing this to your attention. Your speculation over whether or not he did so because you are a woman is irrelevant because this is something you need to fix if you’re going to be working with other people.

  41. Cerridwen*

    Gah, OP#2 I’m in that same position now. The issue is the “funny guy” is also a supervisor and always tells his direct reports/interns they have a stupid face, no brain, etc. as an attempt at humor. One of them banters back and it gets really distracting. The supervisor is immature and everyone cringes at him.

  42. Shoes on My Cat*

    OP#5 If in doubt, you can enter the company’s HR number, corporate HR number or corporate number for any largish company. They will do the minimum “damage” if that’s a concern. I’ve lost track of so many supervisors I finally started this huge master resume that is everything Alison hates! LOL! It’s really for ease of completing the applications, the resume is a different beastie. Job start/end dates, start/end title, start/end duties, supervisors, company address and hr phone number. And I’ve also learned to ask bosses (I was on great terms with) on their promotions/transfers/etc for a written reference if they had time on company letterhead. Most did and it gave me something to present when companies complained about not being able to reach past supervisors. Isn’t always applicable but -sometimes it is. And sometimes I could fax a copy back to great boss for them to use on reference checks :-). Key is to do it right after/during a job and keep adding-and record the old ones you barely remember NOW!

    1. That girl from Quinn's house*

      I have two supporting reference documents for my resume that I keep for myself. One is a list of every job and job title I’ve had, and every pay rate I’ve had at that title. The other is a list of the main address and phone number of every school I’ve attended (including high school) as well as the main address and phone number of every employer I’ve worked for.

      I have found it necessary to keep this information readily in hand in order to fill out online applications in a timely fashion. Even though I graduated high school 15+ years ago, I’ve still been asked to provide the high school’s address and phone number on applications.

  43. CastIrony*

    For OP#5, how would you handle it if you didn’t want your supervisors or anyone else to know you’re job searching?

  44. Kristine*

    OP #1, I had a boss just like yours – abrasive and entitled and made me miserable. I cried too until one day I decided I was sick of it.
    Learn to say no, accept you cannot control controlling people, and use these 5 phrases:
    1. I’m sorry you feel that way.
    2. I can accept your faulty perception of me.
    3. I have no right to control how you see me.
    4. I guess I have to accept that’s how you feel.
    5. Your anger is not my responsibility.
    Learn to not respond emotionally. Try not to take anything personally. Keep it professional and keep her at a distance. It’s her, not you, and there is no fixing her.

  45. Observer*

    #1 – From personal experience, I’m going to have to disagree with Allison a bit. Jane does not sound like a reasonable person, which means that “We’re having a really small venue” quite likely won’t work with her. So, although I TOTALLY agree with Allison that Jane is flat out wrong about any obligation to invite her, your and fiance need to decide how much of a risk she poses and whether it’s worth it to you. If you have a good relationship with your current boss, and that Boss is a reasonably good manager, I doubt that Jane will have too much power to harm you.

    Here’s what I mean about unreasonable people. Many years ago, I made an event. It was a truly small venue and I literally invited FAMILY ONLY. I did not invite a single guest – not even my closest childhood friend. Yet one family friend complained to a family member how I invited Relative X, rather than *him*, and he’s closer to us than relative X (no, he wasn’t) and he’s so much more important than Relative X (only in your own mind, buster.) And, this is coming from someone who actually was a good friend to some family members and mostly a decent person.

  46. mf*

    #OP 1: *Please* do not invite your terrible boss. You deserve to be surrounded by people you love (and who love you back) on your wedding day.

    If Awful Boss Lady says anything to you about getting an invitation, you could pretend to be regretful. “Yeah, we’re a little sad we couldn’t have a bigger wedding. We really wanted to invite more people from work, but unfortunately our budget/venue size wouldn’t allow it.”

    But unless/until she mentions it to you, I would make a point of avoiding wedding talk at work so as not to call her attention to her, um, missing invitation.. All the better if she somehow forgets about your upcoming wedding!

  47. Anon for this*

    #1 – I’d play it safe and invite her, but seat her at the worst table, far far away from you, preferably out of your line of sight and right next to your or your fiance’s most annoying invited guest! Let her listen to Great Aunt Mildred complaining about her bunions for 2 hours and thinking about that hopefully will bring a smile to your face. Though you will be too busy and happy to think about her at all! You interact so little with each individual guest at your wedding, I guarantee it. Though you no longer report to her as your grandboss she still has a ton of sway over your career. If you’re going to continue working there do you really want to piss her off?

    #3 – I absolutely agree that the use of “Again” when answering a repeated question comes off as conveying annoyance. In an information session, which is designed to familiarize people with material so that the next session can be devoted to higher-level thinking, annoyance at going over details doesn’t seem at all appropriate. In a different context, maybe that would be appropriate (ie- “Pay better attention please”) but in this case… no. I don’t think this has much if anything to do with your presentation skills, and I think in this case gender is irrelevant, though I understand why you would consider that.

  48. adk*

    OP#1 – Don’t send her a Save The Date! This gives you 9 months to decide if you want to invite her. Save The Dates are only for the MUST invites! What if your money falls through and you have to downsize your plans? If you’ve sent out STDates to everyone, you have to invite everyone. If you’ve been choosy with your STDates, you still have leeway. You can always add people, but you should NEVER remove invitees especially if they’re already holding that date for your event. Who knows what could happen in 9 months. Save yourself and send out fewer STDates than you ordered.

  49. Gently Screaming into the Void*

    #1, if you’re absolutely socially obligated to invite your manager, a terrible part of me wants you to create a special registry, just for her. Those expensive, splurgy items you didn’t know you needed.
    Think of it like a jerk tax. A jerk tax I hope you don’t have to levy.

  50. Elizabeth West*

    Forthcoming rant!

    This is obviously just my perspective, but why? Why do so many people think that coworkers and managers have any business being involved closely in their personal life / milestones? Where is this nonsense coming from?

    I get it if you’ve become really close friends with someone based on mutual interests outside the workplace, etc. But in reality, most work friendships revolve around work, that’s all you have in common, and you aren’t obligated to invite them into your off-hours life at all. I’m baffled why anyone would even think this unless they’re fresh out of college with no experience. And a person who’s DEMANDING entry to your personal life? Hell no. Manager or not. They have no right to access anything in your life outside the job.

    They are f*cking coworkers. They are NOT FAMILY. You literally would not ever know or see them but for the job. Managers especially don’t belong in your friends list for reasons we’ve discussed at length here on AAM.

    When you leave the job, most work friendships end. It’s nice when they don’t, but seriously, are you going to make time to see people with whom you had nothing else in common? Keep them as part of your professional network if you mutually want to, but they don’t need to come to your wedding. Work socializing is not the same thing as personal socializing.

    Disclaimer: This is probably just me, but I have only maintained a couple of friendships outside work and we never even see each other outside Facebook. And nobody friended anybody until we were both gone from those jobs. It may be where I am, but there hasn’t been anyone I’d hang out with because almost no one I’ve worked with had the same interests as me.

    /Rant over.

    1. GhostWriter*

      I agree. All my friends from work have always been “friends of circumstance”– we met at work and the only thing we had in common was working at the same place. They were supportive, helpful and kind, so they were great people, and I genuinely enjoyed their company and having chats with them, but my underlying motivation for being friendly is to make my work life easier (even if the company or your boss sucks, being on friendly terms with coworkers can make your work life much more bearable). Once I leave my job, there isn’t really any motivation to keep in touch. That level of friendship doesn’t warrant involvement in my personal life.

      Interestingly, I’ve only ever had non-friends at work ask me inappropriate/personal things before, so the people I knew the least were the ones with weird expectations.

    2. Justin*

      I blame sitcoms about workplaces where everyone is best friends. The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, etc. Those shows always have a wedding (between two coworkers of course!) and every single character is invited.

    3. Rebeck*

      Because we spend more waking hours with them than anyone else in our lives? Because if you are in a smaller community there isn’t the bright line than so many AAM commenters seem to think MUST exist between work and personal life?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I grew up in a tiny town and lived there as an adult and only very rarely hung out with coworkers. I had my own friends.
        Just because I see them all day doesn’t mean I want to see them 24/7. Plus, I’ve had two sets of bosses who were married couples and I really don’t get how they manage that.

    4. Free Meerkats*

      There are a few with whom I stay in touch. I just had lunch with retired ex-boss Friday. And I’ve been in two of another’s weddings. A couple have died, but the rest? No idea where they are except for a couple of Navy shipmates I see on the Book of Face.

    5. Lucille2*

      I didn’t invite any coworkers to my wedding, but between my husband and I, we only invited about 30 people. We even cut some extended family members from the list. Some of my coworkers were hurt and upset with me for sometime after that. I would do the same thing if I were to do it over again.

      No matter where the line is drawn, someone will be offended. Offending a terrible ex-manager should be low-stakes. If it’s not, then OP needs to re-evaluate that workplace as a whole.

  51. Mia_Mia*

    OP4: She isn’t asking you to take a class with her. She works there and most likely gets a commission for bringing new people in. I would not be surprised if other people also got pulled aside. I dance and some studios really push the importance of sales among their employees.

    Just say thank you but you aren’t interested.

  52. Free Meerkats*

    You want info from all my past managers? That’s easy, except for the current one, one is retired and the rest are dead. Let me know how that works for you…

  53. ambivalent*

    About OP#3’s question. So h0w rude is it exactly, to point out something has been said in other work contexts? A common form of email exchanges I’ve had:
    me: can we please do X, Y and Z.
    them: So Z will take this much time…. We recommend you do X first.
    me: we want to do X, Y Z.
    It’s difficult for me to write the last part without adding “like I said… “. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t (depending on how irritated I am that they didn’t read my email). I’m always talking peer-peer or client-vendor (I’m the client) contexts, not people senior to me. I’ve sometimes been the recipient of this kind of thing (“I’ve actually told you this before…”) and normally I don’t take it badly, unless there’s something else to suggest hostility or condescension.
    Is this really a rude thing to say?

    1. Michio Pa*

      I think if you are the client/senior to them, you can get away with saying “again.” But, again ;) if they didn’t get it the first time, they’re probably not going to notice they missed it. I’d say, “OK thanks/yes, we want to do XYZ.” Or “Great, we’re on the same page then.”

  54. Lucille2*

    #3 – As a woman, I agree with your boss’s feedback based on your description of the situation. It can come across a bit brusque, and you don’t want to discourage participants from asking questions. If you’re coming across as annoyed, or sound as if you’re calling someone out for asking a question previously answered, people are going to feel discouraged from asking. There are times when it is appropriate like when participants are not actively engaged in the meeting and risk wasting others’ time.

    However, as Alison suggested, I think the more important point is why you’re having to answer repeat questions. Conference calls are tough. You can’t read your audience to gauge where you might be losing them, and it’s possible that may be happening. It could be how the info session is conducted, the level of work your colleagues have at the moment, or some issue with the technology you’re using that makes it difficult to hear. I’ve had challenges working with global teams where sound quality is problematic, language differences/accents can be difficult, or working with various time zones.

  55. cheluzal*

    “Again” is used to signal [I already told you but you didn’t listen] but I have no problem with it! In fact, every time one of my bosses uses it, it’s justified. I hate people who don’t listen, then ask the already-answered question and muck up my time. I think “again” needs to be used more…there, I said it.

  56. Rox*

    #3: I’d just add that I’ve anecdotally noticed that certain phrases stick out more to some people than to others. It could be that saying “again” in front of your statements really sticks out to him, but not to most other people. It might be a stretch, but it couldn’t hurt to ask a few more people who have heard you do presentations for their thoughts!

  57. c-*

    LW #1, Captain Awkward has some truly useful advice about pushing against pressure to invite problem people to your wedding (for example: and about weddings and boundaries in general ( I agree that you don’t have to invite her, and your coworkers are behaving quite badly by pressuring you to do so.

  58. whimbrel*

    OP1, don’t invite her! I was basically you five years ago, hemming and hawing about inviting my manager/director to my wedding. I did eventually give her an invite but thank god she didn’t come – it was an out of town wedding which would have involved significant travel costs. (One of my coworkers did come but our families are close friends outside of work.)

    She was very much like your manager, micromanage-y and all up in my personal business, with occasional bonus career derailment including what felt like repeated attempts at keeping me from getting promoted. I lett her get me pretty enmeshed because I was had moved a significant distance for the job and was in an LDR.

    Anyway, I regretted inviting her after I did it and remain glad she didn’t attend. Keep in mind as well that if she does attend she will probably end up in the non-formal photos, too, and if things eventually go (more) sour with her, you may not want the reminder.

    Anyway good luck with all the wedding planning and I hope it’s lovely! :D

  59. Jennifer*

    OP 3 Sometimes I may ask a question a second time because I didn’t think the information was explained very well the first time, but I don’t want to be rude and put it that bluntly. Other times, I may understand but may be asking for clarification for people in the room who aren’t familiar with the subject matter.

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