my coworkers trash-talk me in a secret group chat, keeping unvaccinated kids out of our office, and more

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

1. My bosses and coworkers have a secret group chat where they trash-talk me

A few months ago, I started a new job in a very small office (only three employees, plus a few interns). I had some trouble acclimating because the environment was so different from my last job. But as far as I knew, I was doing fine.

About a month in, I walked past my coworker’s desk (we have an open office) and saw my name pop up on her Slack. It ended up being a groupchat that the entire office was in — including supervisors — except for me. One of my supervisors was recounting a disciplinary conversation he had had with me. (I was using my cellphone at my desk too much; I apologized and said it was very common at my previous job, but that I would stop. For the record, I did stop.)

After that, I started feeling like everyone in the office disliked me. I couldn’t stop getting anxious, and there were multiple times that I’d walk past someone’s computer and see my name pop up in that same groupchat. I know I should have stopped looking. I don’t have an excuse as to why I didn’t. I could say that my bosses were communicating with everyone except for me about my shortcomings, but still, I should have kept my eyes on my own paper.

Eventually, I saw my boss tell a coworker that they were planning on firing me, so I put in my two weeks’ notice, citing my poor performance in the position (which is valid, to be honest). When I did that, the two aforementioned bosses told me that I was a fine worker and I hadn’t been underperforming at all. One of them said, “Are you committed to quitting?” I said yes.

Everyone was super nice about it, to the extent that I wondered if I had imagined the past two months of gossip and plans to fire me. To be fair, I am very easy to gaslight. Not that I was being gaslit in this situation — it’s just easy to convince me I’m wrong in my perception of anything. Anyway, once again, I saw the following exchange in the groupchat while my coworker talked to me about something: “She said she’s COMMITTED to quitting” “Feels good to get a monkey off your back” “She’s so skinny”

How do I deal with the next week and a half at this job? I can’t really listen to music or podcasts or anything. I already have clinically-diagnosed anxiety and I can’t stop myself from catastrophizing everything that happens at work. I take a lot of bathroom breaks for the specific purpose of panicking. I’m so scared of seeing them say something else about me — or misrepresent something I said — but I’m even more scared of missing out on what they say. Would it be reasonable to cut my two weeks short? Should I confront someone about what I saw? This is taking a huge toll on my mental health.

Since you’ve only been there a few months, there’s no real benefit to including this job on your resume — and if you leave it off, you don’t need to worry about them being called as a reference. That means that you can walk out of there today if you want to, and as you do so, feel free to say, “I saw the group chat you’ve been having about me, and it sounds like you’d prefer that I leave today, so I’m going to pack up now. Best of luck to you.”

The reason they’re being nice to your face while trash-talking you behind your back is that they’re horrible people, but being nice to your face lets them believe they’re not being mean.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Keeping unvaccinated kids out of our office

I have a coworker who opted out of vaccinations for her three children. I live in an area currently experiencing a measles outbreak. A state of emergency has been declared by the governor over it. I am vaccinated and don’t have kids of my own. However, several of my other coworkers have kids as young as 4 weeks. Tbe antivax coworker brings their kids in from time to time, which brings me to my question. Is it even possible to ask my coworker to keep their adorable infectious disease vectors away from the office, for the sake of the kids too young to be vaccinated? I work for a state agency, for what it’s worth.

I can’t speak to how being at a state agency might impact this, but generally speaking, your employer can absolutely require that unvaccinated kids be kept out of your office. And you or your coworkers can make that request as well — it just won’t have the teeth that it’ll have coming from your employer, so if you can get it made official, that’s your better option. (Anyone want to weigh in via the comments on how being a public agency might affect things?)

Read an update to this letter

3. My office is hosting a whisky tasting, and I’m a recovering alcoholic

I’m a young professional working in the finance industry, and I’m also a recovering alcoholic with two years sober. I recently transferred to a new location for my firm. Much of my industry’s culture centers on alcohol, even more so in my new city, and for the most part this is fine. I’m confident enough in my sobriety that I have no problem attending open bars and drinking Diet Coke all night—I even went on a freaking office booze cruise and didn’t drink. Most of my coworkers don’t even notice. It’s not my favorite way to spend an evening, but I know I’m the abnormal one here and I don’t expect others to not do something they enjoy for my sake.

But at this new location, there’s a big networking event every year with people from across the industry. This event is a very big deal at the firm, and while attendance isn’t strictly mandatory, it’s expected. This year, the event is a whisky tasting with an open bar afterward. There’s a line for me, and this is it. If I just preferred not to drink (which is what I’ve told the few coworkers who have noticed my teetotaling), I could presumably still do a tasting, but I really can’t even swirl alcohol in my mouth. How can I excuse myself from this thing without raising more questions and attention?

Three basic options: have a conflict with that date, be sick that day, or let your boss know why you’re not attending. Which of those to pick depends on how much your boss would care if you’re not there, and how comfortable you’d be (or not be) letting her know you’re not up for such an alcohol-centric event.

The advantage to letting your boss know is that it’ll cover you if something similar comes up again (plus it might nudge your office into realizing this event will leave people out — not just recovering alcoholics, but people who don’t drink for other reasons too — and perhaps they’ll factor that into future plans). And being a recovering alcoholic who’s sober isn’t terribly stigmatizing, at least not around reasonably savvy adults. But if your’e not comfortable doing that, you’ve got those other two options too.

4. My boss makes working overtime sound like a favor to me

Over the last year, my boss has developed a really annoying habit and I’m not sure if I can say or do anything about it. We work in an underfunded, understaffed department, so there is always overtime hours/days available. It’s never forced on anyone, instead relying on a volunteer system.

However, whenever my boss asks me if I can work extra days, he frames it as doing me a favor! For example, last time he asked, it was something like, “Hey, you can get extra hours on (date) if you’d like! I’m asking you first so you don’t miss out.” (That isn’t true. The policy is people with part-time hours are offered extra days first. I’m full-time.) He hasn’t always done this. Before it was more “We’re short people and there’s a lot going on. Can you work?”

I luckily don’t need the overtime pay and working six-plus days in a row is more stress than it’s worth. Plus I’m already suffering from burn-out (taking some time off soon to help with that.) I wouldn’t mind helping my coworkers or department out every once in a while, if he worded it differently and was more honest. Am I being too rigid and is there any way to talk to him about this?

Well, you might be taking the wording too literally. It’s possible that other people have indicated they are grateful to be offered the hours, and so he figures everyone is. Or who knows, maybe he’s trying to manipulate you into saying yes.

I think you’re fine continuing to turn down the overtime if you want to. But if you’d rather ensure you know when the request is more dire, you could say, “No thanks — sounds like you have other people who might want to do it, but if you’re ever in a situation where you can’t get anyone and you really need people to help out, let me know.” Or even, “Just so you know, I’ll usually turn down overtime offers since I mostly prefer sticking to my regular schedule, but if you ever really need people to help out, let me know.”

{ 821 comments… read them below }

  1. FaintlyMacabre*

    #3, it sounds like you could skip the whisky tasting part and just attend the open bar/networking portion of the evening.

    And for what it’s worth, I drink, but have some intensely bad associations with whisky, so I would opt out and ask anyone who asked that I’m not a fan of whisky and leave it at that.

    1. RaccoonMama*

      Yes, I drink but the one liquor I reaaaally can’t stand is whisky. For whatever reason the specific flavor of t is just unpleasant to me! I wouldn’t be able to get through a tasting and would resent my work asking me to go to one.

      1. RUKidding*

        Agreed. I dont drink. I dont like alcohol. If I was required to participate in something like this… Well I just dont even know TBH.

        1. KHB*

          I’m one of those teetotalers who “just prefers not to drink” (2-3 times in life I’ve had the equivalent of half a drink, really didn’t like the effect it had on me) and I would nope the hell out of a mandatory whisky tasting at work. For one, I wouldn’t even know how to begin to process what whisky tastes like, having never tasted it. For another, my tolerance is so low that just swirling alcohol in my mouth (many times over the event, I guess) would probably be enough to get me drunk, which I very much prefer to avoid, especially at work.

          Plus, I’d think a mandatory alcohol event would be on shaky legal grounds (at least in the US) due to the religions that forbid their members from having any alcohol at all.

          So I don’t think you need to worry about “outing” yourself by opting out of the event (or attending the event but not doing the tasting). Plenty of people would do the same thing, for plenty of reasons.

          1. EPLawyer*

            It really bothers me this is sort of mandatory. Lots of people don’t want to participate in things like this for many reasons. Don’t like to drink at work events. Don’t drink at all. It’s against their religion. Recovering alcoholic. So to make it THE major networking event is excluding a lot of people. Short term no consequences to the job I am sure. But long term, you have missed out on connections. All because everyone thinks the event HAS to be alcohol-centric (spoiler alert — it doesn’t”)

            OP could you push back slightly on the alcohol centric nature of the event. You don’t have to reveal anything you don’t want to. But kinda point out how exclusionary it is. It’s the same as if the major networking event of the year was a zip lining course. Leaves out a lot of people.

              1. MayLou*

                I can’t see there’s much functional difference between “mandatory” and “expected by your bosses”.

                1. Amber T*

                  @WellRed I don’t think it matters, that’s the line for her. There’s a difference between being at an open bar where everyone is socializing and you can bounce between groups, play some pool or darts, order nachos, etc., but a whiskey tasting – where you’re expected to sit around and talk about Whiskey A vs. Whiskey B is very different. I don’t like whiskey but don’t have any aversion to it, so if I were to go, I’d just be sitting around doing nothing and not socializing (which is why alcohol based events aren’t a good idea). But it sounds like OP might be worried about the temptation if she goes and doesn’t want to risk it.

              2. TootsNYC*

                also, ATTENDANCE is expected. I can’t believe there are NO people who go to the event and don’t drink the whiskey. Whiskey is such an acquired taste.

            1. Alton*

              I agree. Even if it’s not literally mandatory, it’s a bad idea for an event where people are expected to attend or may miss out on important work opportunities if they’re absent.

              1. pleaset*

                I skip some such events anyway.

                Do it if you can.

                If you can’t, don’t. But if you can, skip. This will take pressure off other people in the long-run.

            2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

              You missed an exception category – pregnant ladies. If that company push alcohol so heavily that it’s considered “mandatory”, it is not a healthy place to be (same goes for zip lining! Can you imagine strapping a woman in her third trimester into a harness?!), and you might want to consider a change of career.
              Nobody should be forced to attend a work function that is unhealthy for them. Please push back OP – chances are, you won’t be the only one who doesn’t feel this is the right event for them.

              1. Not A Morning Person*

                And another exception, some medicines interact badly with alcohol of any kind, so are forbidden for people using the medicine. If OP wants to go with a “white lie” then previous suggestions to say “I don’t care for whiskey”, or perhaps “My allergy meds don’t react well to alcohol,” might be useful.

              2. JessaB*

                And people with medical reasons, I not only take medications that have big giant “do not drink” warnings, but I’ve just had a medication induced kidney scare, so there’s no way on earth I can drink at this point even if I liked booze.

            3. sfigato*

              not to mention that whiskey, in my experience, is more associated with males (although I know many women who are whiskey afficianados). so it is also kind of gendered in the same way a chardonnay tasting at a female-majority organization might feel gendered and subtly exclusionary.

              You aren’t abnormal, btw. tons of people are in recovery, and tons more are alcoholics or problem drinkers who haven’t quite got to recovery yet. if you feel safe doing so, you’d be doing a service pointing out that not everyone drinks and many people who don’t drink have pretty strong reasons for it. This is one of my bugaboos, as someone who drinks but knows tons of people in recovery. not to mention the problem drinkers I have worked with where the office booze culture exacerbated their proclivity to alcohol and substance abuse.

            4. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              I’m an adult child of an alcoholic. While I do occasionally have a drink with dinner if I’m out with company, and I keep cooking wine in the house, I have always been very rigid about what I will or won’t imbibe. The idea of being in a public setting and expected to watch others drink, if not drink myself, would probably be very stressful. It’s not a stretch to say this would be a sign of a major culture misfit to me.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I have figured out that I lack the warm-glow-alcohol gene. I can enjoy it in a culinary sense when paired with food, and used to be an extremely light social drinker–but as soon as I feel any effect I stop, and that’s now at a small fraction of a drink so I just don’t bother.

            For me it’s like strong cold medicine–I feel tired and out of it and like I want to curl into a ball in a corner and be left alone, which is okay if I have a horrible cold and at least can now breath as a tradeoff, but there’s no entertainment value in it. (Offered as a perspective for those who have that gene and find the “just prefer” folk perplexing.)

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Same. I drink, but I only like the taste of a few forms of alcohol, and I hate feeling tipsy, and I often just don’t feel like drinking. More than maybe two drinks makes me giggly and stupid (not in a cute way) first, and then I just want to go to sleep. Whiskey tastes like wood shavings and I don’t think I will ever understand how anyone enjoys drinking it. Plus, I think alcohol-centered events are a *terrible* idea in any workplace, period.

            2. AnonEmu*

              The cold medicine comparison is particularly apt – a lot of the stronger alcohols remind me of cough syrup, and I just can’t get over the taste. I have both a low alcohol tolerance and a fast alcohol clearance rate, so I get tipsy fast and then get over it fast, and I find being more than tipsy highly annoying. I’m with you re not finding entertainment value in it except for rare occasions (mostly when I want to feel a bit giggly and I am around friends I trust 100% – conditions I don’t tend to experience at work events).

              Plus a lot of alcohol has gluten in it either from materials or flavorings, so what I can have is pretty limited – I’d be bowing out of the whiskey tasting because whiskey isn’t safe for me as a celiac. (Which is another reason OP could point out whiskey/beer-centric events are exclusionary – besides religious reasons, plenty of people have medical reasons to not drink alcohol).

            3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              Ditto. I found I went from sober to hungover very easily, with a short period of happy buzz in the middle that really didn’t compensate for how miserable I felt after drinking. After a few years of being made horribly ill by alcohol for no apparent reason other than being a lightweight, I realized I wasn’t getting fast hangovers, I was triggering a migraine. I tested it a few times with small amounts of alcohol and rescue meds after, and yup that was it. No more alcohol for me.

      2. Blueberrie*

        I love drinking whiskey straight (if I’m drinking whiskey, I want the good stuff and I do not want it diluted with a mixer or ice). I’ve noticed that it can intimidate men and younger coworkers for sure. I’d be all over this event, but I still think it’s a poor choice for a big networking thing. Beyond excluding people who don’t drink, you’re also asking for people who can’t handle whiskey to go all-in and get terribly drunk at a work event.

    2. JKP*

      I’m not an alcoholic, but I don’t like the taste of alcohol. If I were in your position, I would go and they couldn’t pay me enough money to taste the whiskey. I imagine even for people who like alcohol, there are plenty who don’t like whiskey.

      1. Lynca*

        My mother compared Scotch to drinking concentrated pine needles. Honestly the only hard liquor I can stand is vodka. Even then it needs to be mixed with something.

        1. Ellex*

          As someone who is allergic to pine and some other evergreens and has had allergic reactions to juniper scented items, drinking concentrated pine needles sounds like a nightmare.

        2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

          I really hate whiskey and my favorite phrase to describe the taste is “old horse blankets soaked in urine.” Somehow, for me, that is perfect. I don’t know who originally said that, I should google and find out, but not at work :-)

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Wood shavings. It literally makes me think of being in elementary school and having to empty the wall-mounted pencil sharpener. Yum?

        3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I thought gin was the one that tasted like pine needles… is that wrong?

          I like to drink socially every once in a while and will even take whiskey when mixed with diet coke, but jeez, if they wanted to do a tasting of something alcoholic they couldn’t do beer or wine? Hard liquor is a tough sell to everyone but a very select group of people

          1. Anna*

            Gin is definitely more pine needles than scotch. I love scotch and depending on where it’s made, it can taste smoky or peaty or sweet or any number of flavors, but pine needles I’ve never experienced.

      2. pentamom*

        I’m a light drinker (one drink limit, a couple of times a week) and I even like some styles of whisky with mixers, and I could NOT stand “tasting” it straight like that. Ugh. One would think there are enough people in the world who just plain don’t like whisky, in addition to all the people who don’t drink for various reasons, to make this a poor choice for an “expected” work function.

      3. Karen from Finance*

        I feel like this is missing the point. Undoubtedly, it would be much harder for a recovering alcoholic to reject the whiskey than for someone who just doesn’t like it. And it puts a lot of more strain on you having to keep rejecting it.

    3. Ed*

      Yeah I drink, and have a high tolerance for most things but whiskey instantly makes me throw up. My stomach just rejects it. Id be opting out too.
      Whiskey is such an acquired taste though I’d be surprised if OP was the only one who didn’t/couldn’t take part in that.

    4. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      Also not a whiskey drinker, and wouldn’t feel super happy about the tasting room and being there. Maybe check with your boss and see if you could just come to the after part of the event and skip the tasting?

      1. Willis*

        I like this idea. I’d probably just say I don’t really drink or don’t drink whiskey and say I’ll meet up with everyone does Part II of the event. (And I do drink, but would not be excited about whiskey tasting with coworkers.)

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree re: skipping the whiskey tasting part of the evening. I think it’s also ok to completely opt out without disclosing that there are medical reasons for doing so (although I do think it’s ok to say you have a health condition that precludes alcohol consumption). There are all sorts of folks who don’t drink for all sorts of reasons, and it would be more inclusive and a lesser liability if OP’s office/industry dialed back the booze-centric events.

      1. Mr Kiasu*

        Removed for being a jerk and violating the commenting rules, which is too bad because you’re making a point here that would be interesting to discuss if you made it in a more polite way. – Alison

        1. Sunshine*

          There’s a difference between having booze at an event and having a semi-mandatory boozed *focused* event. The latter could potentially exclude people on the basis of religion, health, nursing, pregnancy, taking certain medications, having to drive, alcohol problems etc, etc. It’s not a temperance thing, it’s a ‘hey let’s make it so that there *is* a non alcoholic alternative, which there probably won’t be at a whisky tasting.

          1. Bow Ties Are Cool*


            I drink. I love whiskey. I would love to attend a whiskey tasting. But if it was an “expected” event at my work, I’d be among the first heading into the boss’s office to say hey, we should rethink this because people really shouldn’t have to disclose their religion/medication/pregnancy status/sobriety at work because something like this is just shy of mandatory.

            1. Psyche*

              Exactly. Having alcohol available and having drinking alcohol be the entire point are very very different. I love whiskey. I enjoy whiskey tasting. Whiskey tasting seems like a very bad choice for a work event where participation is expected. Too many people can’t or don’t drink. Too many people hate the taste of whiskey.

          2. aebhel*

            This. LW already said that they’re fine at events where booze is served, but it’s disingenuous as hell to act like ‘event where alcohol is served’ is functionally the same as ‘whisky tasting event where attendance is expected’.

          3. Works in IT*

            Yeah, if I were to attend a go kart night, even as someone who doesn’t care for go karting I could hang out and talk with people. But for a mandatory alcohol tasting event, where the conversation is shaped around talking about the alcohol… there wouldn’t be anything for me to talk about.

          4. Gumby*

            In college, parties were required to serve what we called EANABs – Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages so that you not only had alternatives to drinking alcohol, but appealing ones. For the one dorm party I helped to plan the EANABs were ice cream floats and milkshakes in addition to soda, etc. I feel like adopting a similar policy for work events wouldn’t be a bad idea.

            1. Nic*

              Oh I like that idea! “Come to our tasting evening: whisky-tasting people to the right, ice cream float-experimenting people to the left!”

        2. stump*

          “I just knew some neo-temperance killjoy based in the US was going to make a comment like this.”


          “No reasonable person is going to criticize anyone for declining to drink at a corporate event.”

          The level of vehemence and bizarre extrapolation your comment shows at the idea at just the idea of a company doing less quasi-mandatory work events focused on alcohol so it doesn’t alienate its employees (for the reasons Sunshine mentioned above) because it somehow ruins your personal fun that not everybody is a 100% reasonable when it comes to alcohol.

          1. Aveline*

            How is this guy’s comment not a violation of the commenting rules?

            Really mean-spirited and no advice to op. All it is doing is attacking a poster for something nit even stated in their post.


            1. Slartibartfast*

              Right? Thankfully the majority of posters are reasonable people who will see that immediately.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I think Stump has perfectly called out the contradiction between the plot of the unreasonable killjoys and how no one would ever dream of saying anything bad about someone who turned down a drink.

              And to PCBH’s point, if you might have some influence on the type of corporate team-bonding events planned in future, it’s worth pointing out when everything is centered on (alcohol/extreme sports/group acappella performances/taking the entire weekend away/golf tournaments) and that maybe a mix of events would be a good idea.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I do not read and approve every single comment. The volume is far too high. I also sleep and work and do things that are not near a computer.

              If you see a comment that seems problematic to you, please don’t assume I’ve seen it and decided it’s fine. Assume I haven’t seen it, and feel free to flag it.

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Ding ding! I think having company events that center around alcohol are incredibly risky, especially if someone makes an ass out of themselves or gets a DUI. Why not just find things to do that don’t focus on alcohol so that they’re inclusive to everyone? I drink socially, but I have no problem being able to have fun with co-workers for an hour or two when it’s not around, especially if it means that everyone feels welcomed.

        3. J*

          Alcohol is fine.
          Having nearly every work-related event be centered around alcohol seems excessive to me. I agree with her.
          I DO drink…quite a bit… But I don’t want to be drunk with my colleagues.

          1. Sunshine*

            It can also just be a bit irritating. Same as if all events were centred around baseball, or puppies, or meditation. Mixing it up means people are less likely to be bored or left out.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, 100% this. Someone writing that all of the work “social” events they needed to go to for their career were ANYTHING would get a similar response from at least a bunch of us.

            2. Works in IT*

              I love kittens and am currently in overjoyed spending my evenings looking for kittens for adoption because I’m finally moving into a place that will allow me to get kittens, and generally my brain is going “KITTENS KITTENS KITTENS” right now…. and I would still get irritated if every single work event was “let’s help foster groups socialize kittens”.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                “and I would still get irritated if every single work event was “let’s help foster groups socialize kittens”.”

                Monster ;-)

                1. Works in IT*

                  Given that networking events generally require conversing, there’s a limit to the number of funny cat stories I can tell without getting old, especially since my coworkers know them already. Other topics every once in a while would give me greater depth of Things to Talk About

            3. MassMatt*

              Yes, there is a lot to be said for variety at work events. A former employer of mine was actually really baseball centered. All the informal days were “wear your team jerseys “, Events were going to see games, a team building exercise was playing catch, etc. and we were not a baseball related industry, at all.

              Beyond the many pitfalls of having events centered around alcohol, it does seem odd that your company focuses on them so much.

              1. twig*

                I’ve been asked to look into corporate pricing at our local minor league baseball park — so that we can do something more “inclusive” than the annual golf tournament.

                I don’t golf or enjoy baseball. I’m sure I’m not the only one in my department.

                Guess why this keeps falling to the bottom of my to-do list.

        4. Lynca*

          “No reasonable person is going to criticize anyone for declining to drink at a corporate event.”

          I would suspect the venn diagram of people that would make the argument that you are spoiling the fun for others by suggesting that you not have the main event be alcohol tasting and be unreasonable about people not drinking is a perfect circle.

        5. JSPA*

          That’s a mighty long and passionate straw man argument in favor of job boozing… Can’t quite see the motivation unless you happen to work in whiskey production, distribution or marketing. I mean, it’s not like life doesn’t provide enough drinking hours outside of work. The idea that drinking with co-workers is some sort of grand benefit makes me wonder about work – life balance, more than anything!

        6. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          Pretty much all of the greatest horrible Christmas work party stories are fueled by alcohol. So tell me again how innocent this, and how it should not be a problem as a work social event?

          1. wittyrepartee*

            One of my most recent embarrassing memories involved showing up at an event that I thought would include dinner, and being served wine and tiny appetizers at a Christmas party. This has cemented a hatred of work events where the intention is to get sloshed.

            1. Krabby*

              Yes! I help plan our holiday/social events at work and we always try to include alcohol, but it is never the main event. We lose half of our attendees the second that alcohol is off the menu, so it’s not very realistic to exclude it, but you can make other things the focus — video game tournaments, movie nights, fancy food tastings — to limit peer pressure.

              All that said, a few years ago we booked our holiday party at a video game bar and they kept saying things about the number of guests that made me a little nervous, like, “Okay, so you have 70 people on the list, so about 40 will show up.” I kept reiterating that no, 70 was our confirmed list and I thought I’d got through to him. We ended up having to order pizzas from a place across the street because there wasn’t enough food and people were getting absolutely sozzled. Should have listened to my gut!

        7. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Well, Princess suggested merely dialing back the focus on booze so that its not always the main aspect of the mostly mandatory events, not eliminating alcohol at events, so you got awfully worked up and upset really quickly over something that hasn’t been suggested. You must have worked hard to misconstrue the comment and context as much as you did.

        8. kittymommy*

          Wow, hyperbolic much? This “It would be more inclusive and a lesser liability if OP’s office/industry dialed back the booze-centric events.” does not equal this “I just knew some neo-temperance killjoy based in the US was going to make a comment like this.” In fact it sounds like, based on what the LW wrote there are very few, if any, events that are not alcohol-centric and they have been quite accommodating to them by attendance and networking/mingling. Princess Conseula is suggesting that maybe the office/industry show the same consideration and accommodation to non-drinkers as they have shown to the drinkers. (Princess, I hope I interpreted your comment correctly!)

        9. the9thchevron*

          It’s easy to say that if you’re not the one with the “special circumstances.” I’m disabled (and can’t drink because of meds) and I know that nothing is ever 100 per cent accessible and inclusive. But I wish I didn’t have to opt out of everything, or go but not be able to do the activity and have to pretend that watching is just as much fun. You’ve obviously never been in that position. I hope you are someday, though. Inclusion doesn’t seem so laughable when you only know its opposite.

          Seriously, though, how hard is it to plan events that don’t involve liquor, strobe lights, and/or loud music?

          1. RUKidding*


            Yep we have a shitty incumbent government for the most part. Americans though, and the country as a whole is not “bad.” And we dont like being derided any more than any other group of people.

            Oh snd before snyone decides ti thtiw out dimething like “impetislidm” (because there’s akways ine) I suggest they break out a history book.


        10. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Wow, you must be new here.

          First, any use of “No reasonable person” makes it obvious that you either are new here or haven’t been paying attention, because if everyone was perfectly reasonable about other peoples’ preferences, Alison wouldn’t have much to write about.

          Second, I’ve gone to many whisky tasting events, and even taken a coworker to a craft beer tasting event, and I would find a whisky tasting work event highly inappropriate. I know and like coworkers who either don’t drink at all for various reasons or don’t appreciate whisky the way I do, and would find it weird to expect everyone to attend this kind of very limited-appeal event. I do have a handful of coworkers with whom I discuss whisky, but they are a small minority.

        11. aebhel*

          Oh, grow up. I drink, and I even like whiskey, and a tasting event sounds right up my alley, and I still think it’s wildly inappropriate as a work event, especially one that people are expected to attend. Work events that people are expected to attend should be accessible to everyone; people can drink, or go go-carting, for that matter, on their own time.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            I’m with you, aebhel. I drink, I like whiskey, and a tasting event not only sounds right up my alley, I’ve attended several. I’ve attended them, however, with Brothers of my Lodge, not with co-workers.

            Work events should not be centered around drinking alcoholic beverages, and I say this as someone who likes to drink…a lot.

            1. Sabina*

              Yep, spouse and I frequently attend beer tastings, brewery openings, beer related social events of all kinds. But never sponsored/mandated by an employer. That would be weird and off-putting.

          1. Parenthetically*

            That’s not self-righteous fury pouring off the screen, his outrage is LOGICAL and REASONABLE.

        12. Pomona Sprout*

          “I just knew some neo-temperance killjoy based in the US was going to make a comment like this.”

          Dude! Hostile much? I actually agree with a lot of what you said, but it was hard to even read past that point, because of the ill will that radiated from it.

          I don’t think anyone here is necessarily saying there should never be such a thing as a corporate event that includes alcohol. Even those of us who prefer to abstain know that’s not realistic. But as some here have pointed out, there ARE a lot of people who abstain, for many different reasons, and we Americans are learning to value inclusiveness. I don’t think one has to be “neo-temperance killjoy” to understand that!

          To use your analogy, being inclusive doesn’t have to mean doing away with go-kart night entirely just because a lot of people don’t enjoy it. What we’re saying is, if a lot of people really dislike go-karts or don’t find them enjoyable, then maybe–just maybe–it might be a good idea to have some non go-kart centric events as well, instead of having EVERY event centered around them.

          And yes, we non-drinkers can and do attend events where there is alcohol and simply not drink it ourselves. But there comes a point when that can get REALLY boring. I can think of few things that are more mind-numbingly boring than being stone cold sober and surrounded by people who aren’t. So you go, you have a couple of sodas, and when people start getting buzzed, you leave. No big deal. UNLESS every corporate event, at least some of which are nandatory (or virtually so) is like this, at which point you are very grateful when someone realizes it might be a good idea to offer at least an occasional event that isn’t alcohol-centered, so non-drinkers can feel a little more included in wharever fun is taking place.

          Inclusion! It’s not just for neo-temperance killjoys!

          1. Works in IT*

            For me, that isn’t even the sticking point. My coworkers occasionally all go out to a nearby bar, and I attend with them. I don’t drink, and the bar they all prefer is my least favorite place to get food around here… but I’m still able to make conversation because we talk about work, or the musician who is playing, and it works as a networking event.

            Any kind of tasting event, on the other hand, automatically excludes anyone who doesn’t like whatever is being tasted, because a large part of the networking at a tasting event involves talking about shared (or not) opinions on what is being tasted. Someone with no opinions on what is being tasted because they haven’t tried any of it will be automatically locked out of the networking opportunities this event is supposed to offer. My coworker hates cheese. If this was a cheese tasting, she would be having similar reservations, and alcohol or not alcohol wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

            1. RUKidding*

              Something like a whisjey tasting… I find it difficult to reconcile it as even one of those pseudosocial work event things because it is such s specific thing.

              Ex: Bowling? Ok you can do something other than bowling (drinking whiskey at the bar?!) while others bowl, play video games, etc.

              It’s not some “boring AF for non whiskey drinkers” mandatory “fun” time thing like this is.

              I can see a percent of all the office people just sitting around on their phones waiting for the “fun” to get over with while everyone else gets plastered. No bueno IMO.

        13. Mockingjay*

          neo-temperance killjoy? Really?

          I can’t drink for medical reasons. When I attend company functions after hours, I am usually offered soda (which I don’t like and seldom drink), water, or horrible iced tea. I’ve tried requesting nonalcoholic mixers, but most bartenders don’t mix these very well and many bars charge a premium for them.

          And as far as the networking that is supposed to occur during these events, the next day I’ve seen many execs and managers not remember the ‘fantastic’ deal they put together in a haze of alcohol-induced camaraderie.

          There are many other ways and places to conduct business other than bars and brewhouses.

        14. Observer*

          Also, you want to condescend when someone is acting like a jerk. OK. It’s painting with a broad brush but it makes some sense. But this winner is getting on his high horse over some “terrible American” making a highly sensible suggestion.

        15. NerdyKris*

          No we don’t. Don’t do that thing where only America ever does wrong, and Europe is this bastion of perfect unity. Just because our president is a problem doesn’t mean it’s open season on America while pretending Europe’s s*** doesn’t stink.

          Nazis and imperialism didn’t start in America, after all.

          1. spek*

            I remember traveling through Europe years ago and having to put a Canadian maple leaf pin on my bag so I wouldn’t have to face the daily barrage of insufferable Euro Know-It-Alls-Lecturing me on my government and president (who I didn’t vote for anyway). Every country has it’s ups and downs and it affects non-residents to mostly minimal degrees, or sometimes it’s a big deal. I’m worried at this time that British Xenophobia is about to tank the world economy this spring….

            1. SarahKay*

              I’m British, and oh, so am I worried! Also, horrified, and very disappointed in a large portion of my fellow Brits :(

        16. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

          There are a ton of “unreasonable” people then, because my experience with trying to either not drink or decline further drinks at work events is that plenty of people do take it upon themselves to pressure others “Oh come on! Just one/just one more, don’t be a spoilsport, blah blah.” Also IME, the people who do this are well-intentioned, just completely oblivious of the concept that the person may have a personal or medical reason why they are declining that they may not want to share in a crowded bar/party.

          1. AnonEmu*

            This. I have a low tolerance and I don’t like to drink more than a small amount unless I am around people I trust 100%, plus I’ve had coworkers where their behavior when alcohol was involved made me resolve never to drink around them. I have been pressured to drink more at many such events, even when I say I’m fine with my soda/bottle of cider/etc. There’s a lot of people out there who seem to feel like they’re being judged if they’re drinking and others aren’t, and they respond by pressuring others to drink.

            1. No Green No Haze*

              Comedian John Mulaney has a short bit about being a non-drinker at a party, as follows:

              [W]hen you stop drinking and you still go to parties where people are drinking, they will have no idea what to offer you. Like once people start drinking for the night, they forget everything that isn’t alcohol.

              It’s a weird social pressure that absolutely happens, and at a work event especially, just a terrible idea.

        17. AdAgencyChick*

          “No reasonable person is going to criticize anyone for declining to drink at a corporate event.”

          You clearly don’t work in advertising.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            -Reasonable- people won’t criticize… the ones you work with aren’t reasonable.

        18. JB*

          We deserve criticism for a lot of things we have done and still do, but not this particular kind of smug condescension.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      In a reasonable workplace, simply saying “I don’t drink” would be accepted without question, and anyone who responded with “but you don’t have to swallow” would be looked at like they had two heads.

      I went to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, and they had non-alcoholic options for the tasting portion (along with a whisky based liqueur for those who drank but didn’t like whisky).

        1. Gyratory Circus*

          When I was there, the non-alcoholic option was just Irn Bru , which is basically a really strong cream soda.
          The one thing I learned there was that there are varieties of non-peaty whisky, in contrast to what my husband always drinks. We ended up buying half a dozen tiny bottles of different types and bringing it home in our toiletry bags and ditching our actual toiletries lol.

          1. Magenta*

            Irn Bru is the post popular and top selling fizzy drink in Scotland, it is a national institution.Scotland is reportedly the only place in the world where Coke is available but not the most sold fizzy drink.

            It is made in Scotland (from girders) and is Irn Bru flavoured in the same way that cola is cola flavoured. To describe it as in any way similar to cream soda is to pretty much insult the whole of Scotland!

            You should check out their Snowman advert.

            1. Typhon Worker Bee*

              When I first moved to Glasgow, I met someone who was doing a PhD in dental microbiology. He said Scotland has dental diseases that don’t exist anywhere else, making it a super interesting place to work. There was one species of bacteria that they were trying to culture in the lab so they could study it, but it wouldn’t grow in any of the standard commercial culture media, so they started experimenting with all kinds of combinations of chemicals to try and make their own. They finally got the damn thing to grow, in a custom medium they jokingly called Irn Bru because it was the same colour. Then a chemist actually ran a comparative analysis on a slow day, and found that the medium was chemically pretty much exactly the same as uncarbonated Irn Bru. A wonderful example of how bacteria will quickly evolve to fill any ecological niche available to them.

              Also: best hangover cure known to man.

      1. Someone On-Line*

        I live in Kentucky which has a lot of tours of bourbon distilleries. Every one I have been too offers mock tails, root beer, or other non-alcoholic options at the end and there are usually people who decline to taste. But for a distillery tour, the bourbon tasting is 10 minutes at the end of an hour of walking around pretty buildings, looking at machinery, learning local history, etc. It’s like the cap on the experience, not the whole experience.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          These are really interesting anecdotes for me, as someone who doesn’t drink alcohol and almost never drinks soda–but the small batch root beer at the brew-pub is exactly when I do.

          Also spouse and one child would like the alcohol sampling portion, while second child may have inherited my no-glow gene.

      2. Anonygoose*

        I used to work at the Scotch Whisky Experience when I lived in Scotland! We served Irn Bru (Scottish pop/soda) to kids and anyone else who didn’t want to drink, and usually Drambuie or a similar liqueur for those who wanted to try something whisky-esque that wasn’t actually whisky. One of the best jobs I ever had! And we definitely didn’t judge the non-drinkers at all (although the idea of ‘tasting’ whisky and then spitting it out would be looked at weirdly – it’s not the same as wine; tasting whisky involves actually drinking it).

        1. Nessun*

          What a terrible choice to have to make…Irn Bru or whiskey! (I am a fan of both – and Drambuie, in fact.) It is wonderful that there were other options though – that’s a well-thought-out tour.

          1. Magenta*

            I would go with the whiskey, but only because I have access to a constantly re-stocked fridge full of Irn Bru at work.
            We used to just stock cola and sprite but Irn Bru was the most requested drink and is by far the most popular.
            We are not even in Scotland.

      3. TC*

        I went to a fancy degustation dinner just outside of Manchester once which included either a traditional wine paring or a juice paring. I wasn’t drinking a lot at the time due to new meds, so I opted for one glass of wine, then the juice pairing. It was super interesting — it wasn’t like here’s some Tropicana or something, the chef had gone to great length to come up with some super unusual juices that complimented his food, and it was just as engaging as a wine pairing.

    7. Obelia*

      Yes, I didn’t really understand the assumption that the company would expect a non-drinker (or even just someone who doesn’t like whisky) to participate in a whisky tasting, on the basis that they can spit it out. That would seem bizarrely invasive.

      Would a company really make whisky tasting mandatory?? Not sure what purpose it would serve if the individual would just conclude “they all taste disgusting”!

      1. OhNo*

        There are some companies that would indeed make a whiskey tasting mandatory, on the basis of shared experiences = team bonding = good for business.

        Those companies would be wrong, but businesses and bosses have been wrong about even weirder things than that without seeming to notice. Hopefully the OP’s company isn’t one that takes this view, but I wouldn’t be surprised since it sounds like they already have a strong alcohol-centric culture.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “Our team bonding shall involve an army of screaming flying monkey toys, and strawberry jam…”

    8. LKW*

      But depending on the people involved, there could be a tremendous amount of peer pressure to just “take a taste” “just a sip” “a drop!”. People who aren’t on the sober-side of alcoholism, especially after they’ve had a few, don’t always take “no thanks” well.

      1. Sunshine*

        Even some non-alcoholic drinkers can take a ‘no thanks’ a a judgement on their life choices.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Yep, as an almost life long non-drinker, I have SO been there! Not frequently, but certain things tend to stick in a person’s memory, lol.

          Like the party my husband and I went to years ago, where this one guy who we had never even met before just couldn’t STAND it that we were drinking soft drinks instead of alcoholic ones. He was downright hostile, made snide remarks every chance he got, and just generally acted like a complete ass of himself over our teetotalling, which was none of his business and had nothing to do with him.

          If something like that happened to me now, I wouldn’t stand for it. I’d be like, “DUDE! Wtf is your problen? Why does it even matter to you if we drink or not?” And then I’d stare at him intently, like “Well…..?” untl he either came up with a reason or stfu. I’m so old now that I have no f***s left to give about crap like this. But I was a lot younger then, with a lot less life experience, and I hadn’t yet learned how to not let glass bowls like him get under my skin, so we just left early. (It wasn’t that great of a party anyway!)

          Now that I think about it, he may well have been an alcoholic, for all I know. But I’ve been around alcoholics who were a lot more live and let live than that guy, so who even knows, lol? The point is, he was VERY offended by our choice to abstain, and he made me so uncomfortable that I still remember it vividly over 40 years later. And yeah, there are people–not many in my experience, but some–who are going to take one’s choice to not drunk personally no matter what.

          1. RUKidding*

            Dont you love that you’ve reached the age where the fu*ks you have left are limited and you get to use them sparingly?

            I still dont and likely never will condone old people thinking they can be assholes becsuse they are old and think they get a pass, that’s just…nope.

            Not worrying about offending the offending party…yep no time, no spoons, no fucks…drive through.

    9. Sara*

      I was also going to comment, I feel like the whiskey tasting portion would be easy to get out of. I personally love whiskey, but if this were like a tequila tasting or some sort gin tasting, I would be out of there so fast. I think if you just stick with ‘I’ll attend but I just can’t do whiskey’ and push back if anyone tries to pressure you.
      I suspect that this seems more intense than the booze cruise because it’s a tasting and probably more formal, but I think it’s easier to get out of! You can just not like that liquor and have a bad memory or taste or reaction to it.

    10. Ellex*

      I drink, but sparingly and not usually socially, because I’m an incredible lightweight. Half a glass of wine is enough to make me long for my bed. And I dislike whisky intensely.

      And while that’s not really my boss or coworker’s business, it might be no bad thing to waft the notion in the direction of the boss that this kind of work event has the potential to exclude a lot more people than just recovering alcoholics.

    11. kittymommy*

      Hey, I’d be the first person in line for a whiskey tasting (in fact I may have been the first person in line for a whiskey tasting) but that’s in my personal life. This is definitely not appropriate for work. There’s upteen reasons why someone doesn’t drink: they don’t like it, religious reasons, it makes them sick, alcoholism in family or self and putting them in a situation where even the option of having a soda or coffee while mingling is removed is unprofessional, exclusionary, and rather narrow-minded. I quite like the idea of having a private conversation with the boss, if the LW feels comfortable with that and feels like the information will be kept private. Perhaps the office never thought that other might feel uncomfortable? It constantly amazes me how people do not think outside their own viewpoint.

    12. BTDT*

      The LW said the whiskey event crosses the line and we should believe them. Not try to find ways to still attend. Since the LW has been successfully attending other boozy events I think they know how to make it work. But this particular event goes too far, and it’s perfectly ok to nope right on out of it. I would go with the “too sick” excuse unless I knew there wouldn’t be any repercussions. A company that into drinking may think of not drinking as a culture fit problem. I think it’s best to play it safe unless/until LW knows explaining fully is in their best interest.

      1. Another Anon*

        Thank you! I feel like it’s kind of useless for all these people who drink but don’t like whiskey to try to tell OP that they can go and just not drink. That’s not really how alcoholism works.

      2. Nancie*

        Since they said that attending the booze cruise (without drinking) was ok, I think people have taken that to mean that attending the whiskey tasting might be ok, provided they didn’t have to taste anything. If that’s the case, then this additional information may be helpful to them.

        1. Observer*

          Except that this is not really useful “additional information.”

          The OP knows that it’s physically possible to not drink or taste the whiskey. They clearly believe that there is going to be too much pressure on them to actually taste, though, and I think it’s not helpful to ignore that.

      3. Quackeen*

        The LW said the whiskey event crosses the line and we should believe them. Not try to find ways to still attend.

        Yes! The suggestions to “just go and have a mocktail/stand on the edges/say whiskey makes you vomit” are almost as bad as the people who allegedly peer-pressure non-drinkers into drinking. (I say allegedly because I’ve never experienced it myself, so I can’t say with certainty what the experience is like but I do hear it happens). LW does not want to be there. LW should not go.

        It’s like the letters from women who want to know if it’s mandatory to wear makeup to work because they really don’t want to wear makeup and people come in with suggestions of CC cream and light lip colors.

        1. Jaz*

          For me, the taste of alcohol is a powerful panic trigger (and that’s definitely not an unheard-of thing within my SA survivor group). I don’t mind in the slightest going to events where alcohol is served. However, at events like this, that are totally focused on tasting and discussing the alcohol, it’s a different story. The pressure to participate is very apparent and very upsetting, and people without context beyond “I don’t drink, thanks!” can be bizarrely pushy about the issue.

          In the same vein, OP knows better than anyone else what will and will not give her problems, and I agree that it’s important to take that at face value.

      4. AKchic*

        All of this.

        Really, the LW can tell the bosses “I’m sorry, but attending this function won’t be possible for me” and if the bosses push the issue, then LW can tell them that they are an alcoholic (which they do not have to disclose, as it is confidential information, protected under 42 CFR Part 2), or that they have a medical reason for not participating and see no value in being there when they will not be able to imbibe and refuse to pretend and make others uncomfortable by openly not participating. If the function is truly not mandatory, then the bosses won’t complain. If it’s only optional in name only, then they’ll squawk and then the “not mandatory” line can be challenged.

    13. NotDrinking*

      One of the things that I’ve realized as I’ve…uh, matured (that sounds better than gotten old) is that I really don’t owe anyone an explanation for my choices. As Miss Manners once said, “No” is actually a complete sentence. It’s sometimes nice to pad that sentence with social fluff, but it’s just that – fluff, not required.

      I don’t drink. Period. Ever. And it doesn’t matter why – religion, alcoholism, pregnancy, medications, violent hatred of the taste of alcohol, strong aversion to anything liquid – IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s my choice, I make it, the end.

      “No thanks, I don’t drink.” is literally ALL I ever say about it, and I work in an often highly alcohol-centric industry. I will drink water or another non-alcoholic option (if there’s one available, which there sometimes is not, which is frankly FUBAR, but…) but I do not drink. On the (increasingly rare) occasion that anyone pushes the issue, my standard response is (with a curious face and slightly cocked head, not confrontational), “You are oddly invested in my personal decision not to drink. Why is that?” It puts the onus on them to explain themselves and their pushy, nosy nosiness. I have literally never had the same person push twice.

    14. mcr-red*

      I don’t drink – I was raised by teetotalers, but I’ve tasted different drinks and use wine in cooking sometimes – and wine or super fruity cocktail drinks are the only ones I can stand to take a sip of. Everything else grosses me out and makes me honestly sick to my stomach. Whiskey would be an absolute no-go for me. I’d be attending the open bar part with a non-alcoholic something in my hand and skip the whisky part. Honestly, if someone asks, just say, “I don’t drink,” and leave it at that. I’ve never had people ask me why I don’t drink.

    15. Zennish*

      This. You don’t owe anyone a summary of your medical history. If it were me, I’d just say, “Sorry, I can’t do whisky, jeven the thought makes me ill”. and leave it at that.

    16. Award winning llama wrangler*

      My secret superpower is knowing the absolutely meanest most cutting thing to say at any given time that would utterly destroy whomever I was saying it to, my second secret superpower is the ability to not say it. I’ve been drunk before and not come anywhere close to letting my inner monster out, but the benefits of drinking for me do not outweigh the risk of being cruel. When I’m out in work settings where alcohol is available, I either don’t tell anyone I’m not drinking (and very rarely does anyone actually notice) or I’ll just say “Not my thing today”. I can’t think of a time where anyone has been rude about it or even cared all that much. I did have a work whiskey tasting once, but it was a big enough event with a lot of mingling where I think everyone just assumed I’d already tasted somewhere else.

    17. Sue*

      Just say you hate the taste! I drink other liquor, but whiskey just gives me the shivers & makes me want to gag. You can also use an allergy as an excuse.

    18. molly*

      I’m in recovery and have attended MANY drinking centric functions, with a diet coke in my hand, and just said that I don’t drink. Unless your coworkers are jerks they won’t pry

    19. Earthwalker*

      As a non-drinker I don’t like the social vibe of a drink-focused party and resent being forced to such optional-but-really-mandatory work events. I can go and nurse a soda if I must, though. But for an alcoholic I imagine it would be rather more difficult to be immersed in the sort of familiar situation where they have to not do what they used to do while having to schmooze professionally and gracefully evade social pressure to have just one. Awkward and uncomfortable as these things are for a non-drinker, I imagine they must be really awful and perhaps dangerous for a recovering alcoholic.

    20. Hey Nonnie*

      If you’d like to maintain more privacy, another option is to say to your boss “I’m being treated for a medical condition which means I can’t drink alcohol.” This is both true and vague enough that no one is likely to guess what your medical condition is, even if they were inclined to try. From there you and your boss can work out whether it makes sense for you to hang out at the tasting with your glass of soda, or just come by for the mingling part afterward.

    21. Whyblue*

      How about “I am on antibiotics (or some other medication that does not mix well with alcohol) so I’d just be bored out of my mind during the tasting, but I’d love to join later and mingle”. Or “unfortunately I have a prior commitment during the first part of the event but I’d love to join later”. Or even “I really don’t like alcohol, but I’d love to join you guys later”. I’ve had a number of coworkers who did not like alcohol and openly said so and I never thought of any of them as recovering alcoholics. There is no accounting for taste…

  2. HRJ*

    I would go further than Alison and say it’s likely that people have given him the impression they want overtime, even if you haven’t specifically. There are lots of people who want all the overtime they can get.

    1. Bagpuss*

      It’s also possible that he is concerned that saying he needs someone puts pressure on people to stay, so phrasing it as an offer is intended to avoid you, or others, feeling that they *have* to do it.

      It’s also possible that he would rather have you than others, if you are a more efficient worker, or better at your job, or that he wants you to have first refusal because he knows a lot of people would like the extra hours and money, and does want to give you that opportunity on the assumption that you would welcome it.

      I think you are still fine to tell him you aren’t likely to want any extra hours in the foreseeable future, but there may well be good or well-meaning reasons why he is doing it the way he is.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s a good point–while I dislike the yay aspect, he says he’s offering to OP first, which is the opposite of “Help help we need YOU, Reliable Sally, to step in yet again or the whole company goes over the waterfall in a barrel.”

        I’d advise just telling him that OP has all the hours she wants and he should start with the part-time people. I imagine she IS reliable in the good-at-job, no hand-holding, sense, and if boss can fill open shifts with those people he’ll start there.

        1. Psyche*

          Yep. Take him at his word and say that you don’t want the extra hours but will work overtime when actually needed. Make it clear who is doing the favor for whom. If he meant what he said, he will start offering overtime to everyone else first. If he specifically wants you, he can come out and say it.

    2. Zip Silver*

      Yeah I try and rotate around who gets overtime. Must of my staff jumps at the chance for OT, and I’ve got one who would take everything available if I didn’t offer it to others first.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yep. I’ve worked 50-60 hour weeks for the majority of the last five years because I am very carrot driven and if they will pay me extra, I will work extra. (I also work from home, the OT is optional, and I go on vacation 4 times a year, so I’m not burning out.)

    4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      To me it sounds like he’s trying to pull a Tom Sawyer whitewashing a fence – Overtime is so much fun! I’m so glad I get to do it! Man you would owe me such a big favor if I let you have overtime!

      1. rear mech*

        I mean, working 8 extra hours and getting paid for 12 is pretty motivating, no need to whitewash anything. Of course it won’t work for everyone’s life or schedule, but it’s not like there’s no upside.

      2. AKchic*

        It’s something my grandma does. A passive-aggressive hint/tell rather than ask.
        “Oh look, you get to do *this*, aren’t you so lucky? Aren’t I so kind to let you do *this* thing I need you to do but won’t actually come out and ask you to do for me even though I need you to do it and you don’t have to do it and by phrasing it this way, I’m making you feel more obligated to do it and less able to say no?” Rather than “hey, can you do this for me, please?”

        Example: “If you’re hot, you can open that window if you’d like”
        Translation: “I’m hot and I want you to open that window for me and I don’t care about your comfort at all. In 2 minutes I will feel a slight breeze and tell you that it’s chilly in here and tell you that if you’re cold, you can close the window now and expect you to jump up immediately and do so”
        If you do not do it, she will make passive-aggressive, veiled comments about how hot the weather is, how she loves iced drinks, how she wishes the weather would be cooler, is the thermostat too hot, maybe her furnace is working too well, etc. She never comes right out and ASKS anyone to open the damned window for her. Why? Because she doesn’t want to be a “burden”, in her words. Instead, she uses manipulation, guilt, pity, passive-aggressive remarks and gaslighting. Everything you do is considered her conferring a favor upon you for allowing you to do the task *for* her.

        I absolutely loathe these roundabout tactics. Be plain in your speech and your requests. Don’t act like you’re doing me a favor when you want me to do something. Ask outright.

      3. myswtghst*

        Not going to lie, I kind of wonder if he read some article on LinkedIn about using positive language and decided to start rephrasing how he offers overtime. As such, I think Alison is dead on that OP might be reading into this a bit too deeply, and should feel totally comfortable saying “no thanks!”

    5. Nyltiak*

      I mean, maybe. But some jobs are like this. At my old, toxic, horrible job, management used to tout the amount of overtime we got as a perk. The last year I worked there, I made half of my yearly salary again in OT. I had a job offer to do a similar job at another location within the University, and when the potential new manager called my manager to tell her (ugh), my manager had a meeting with me. In which she pointed out that the raise wasn’t *really* a raise because I wouldn’t get much OT. She didn’t appreciate my response of “I’m not really seeing how working less for the same money is a bad thing.” I stayed in the job with too much OT for personal reasons (I was able to work nights and take classes during the day, and am now in a PhD program I couldn’t have gotten into without that coursework and the connections I made doing it), but that convo was definitely eye opening for me.

    6. Trout 'Waver*

      I agree. I think most people view payed overtime as a perk. To OP#4, I’d say take your boss at his word and politely decline.

    7. CatCow*

      It obviously depends on the industry, what the regular hours are, how much you get paid, and what else people have going on in their lives but in my (albeit fairly limited, <5 years) experience, the vast, vast majority of my coworkers were in the "take as much overtime as I possibly can because I need the money" boat. Personally I would just take OP's boss's phrasing as though he genuinely thinks this is a perk you might actually really want, but one that it's still okay to turn down. In the same way someone might offer to get you a coffee, lot's/maybe even most people would love that, but it's totally reasonable to turn down. I'd definitely make it clear you're available to be there if they're in a bind (if you are) but I don't think there's anything wrong with turning it down and I suspect the boss genuinely thinks this is something you'd like. I mean, personally I would love it.

      1. doreen*

        I know lots of people who take as much overtime as they can who don’t actually need the money. They want the extra money to go on more better/vacations, not to pay the rent and don’t have any other commitments that prevent them from working the extra hours.

    8. Jadelyn*

      Plus, if the policy is that part-timers are offered extra hours first, that’s a group of people who may well want the hours very much. I know I did when I was working part-time, it wasn’t by choice, so anything I could take to get me closer to FT was a blessing.

  3. SS Express*

    OP3, you also have option 3b: let your boss know that you can’t participate for medical reasons, but don’t specify what those are.

      1. SS Express*

        Exactly. I’ve also known people who get severe migraines, break out in hives or become violently ill from even a small amount of alcohol. Personally I get a runny nose, watery eyes and joint inflammation if I drink wine. I’m sure there are a bunch of other medical reasons that people might need to avoid alcohol too!

        1. AMT*

          I have a friend with liver problems and celiac disease, so while he can have alcohol, he can’t have a lot, and some kinds (beer, certain flavored liquors) are off limits. He was also recently diagnosed with diabetes, so all alcohol is off the table for now. Really, this just illustrates how careful companies need to be when they choose team-building events that revolve around alcohol! There are scores of medical, social, and religious reasons someone might not be able to participate. This is so easily solvable, too. Just have it in a place that also serves food and/or where non-drinking activities are available. Have an alternative tasting or fun thing for the non-drinkers to do.

      2. Just following along*

        Plus, and some of those medications are for conditions some people might not want to disclose! This whisky tasting is just a bad idea all around.

      3. Moo*

        I had to do this at our work holiday party. We always do a white elephant exchange, and most of it ends up being booze. When I went up to pick off the table, everyone was telling me to grab stuff that looked like alcohol. I laughed and said, “I can’t drink! Looking for something else.” A bunch of them shouted “OMG ARE YOU PREGNANT?!” Knowing them I was able to laugh it off and say I was on a new medication and couldn’t drink with it. It ended up being a big joke the rest of the day. Although, the nice thing about the whole exchange is, one of my coworkers who usually gives us wine as Christmas gifts heard me say that and went out and got me a giant (and I mean GIANT) box of chocolates instead :)

        Soooo to be OT with OP – being vague about your reasons is totally OK, and if your coworkers are anything like mine, it won’t be an issue. Good luck!

    1. Good luck!*

      I would do something like that as well. There are certain medications that interact with alcohol very severely, I had an antibiotic prescribed and was SEVERELY warned that even a drop could cause vomiting.

      1. WS*

        Metronidazole is a very, very common antibiotic used for a number of conditions including giardia, and if you consume alcohol with it you will most likely have uncontrollable vomiting and severe diarrhea. Many other medications interact with alcohol, but if you being pressured to disclose a private medical condition, tell them you’re taking this for stomach flu.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          I wouldn’t bother getting specific. You don’t need to lie, just be vague. It’s no one’s business which specific medical condition you have. All anyone at work needs to know is that you won’t be drinking, due to a medical condition.

      2. Mongrel*

        Using short term medication as an excuse is probably a bad idea, it leaves the door open for next time.

        As for “I don’t like whiskey”, as mentioned below, I’d probably avoid that as well. Knowing my luck I’d run into the evangelical drinker who can’t believe that someone couldn’t like whiskey and that you’ve only tried the crap ones, here try this expensive single malt…

        1. BookishMiss*

          I’m on a long term medication that interacts badly with alcohol, so it’s not necessarily just a short term excuse.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          You don’t have to say it’s short term. Just “I am on a medication, can’t have alcohol with it”. There are plenty of long term things that you can’t mix with alcohol.

        3. boop the first*

          Aaah!! This sounds really problematic if you replaced alcohol with literally any other recreational drug. Why is this okay at work gatherings? (hypothetical question not really directed at you specifically)

        4. Bagpuss*

          I don’t think you need to be as specific as that . “I can’t drink for medical reasons” covers all the bases.
          – recovering alcoholic (addiction is an illness)
          – medical condition such as liver problems / migraines which may be caused or exacerbated by alcohol
          – long or short term medications which don’t mix with alcohol
          You don’t need to explain which it is.

        5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Medication also opens the door to, “What do you take? Oh I take that too, I still drink it’s fine!” if it’s something common.

          1. Alice*

            ‘Good for you, but my doctor SPECIFICALLY told me not to drink and I trust them’ should kill this line of enquiry (still technically true, I cannot imagine a doctor telling a recovering alcoholic that they are okay to drink). People respond to both alcohol and medication in vastly different ways so this is believable and blaming a faceless doctor means that they can no longer pressure you.

            1. Alice*

              Also to clarify, I only recommend the above as a way to get any busybodies to stop annoying you. Alcoholism is absolutely a medical condition, and “I have a medical condition that precludes me from consuming any amount of alcohol” should be enough for reasonable people.

    2. ..Kat..*

      I recommend thinking about what you want long term at this job. How often are you willing to be around booze for the sake of networking with your colleagues? If you are like me, after awhile, you might come to see this as wasted time – time you would prefer to spend elsewhere. Doing something more pleasant, like getting a root canal.

      That said, can you suggest activities that aren’t just drinking? Something like bowling, where people who want to drink can drink, but another activity is happening as well.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Or in this case where the idea is corporate networking (presumably not casual clothing) a museum evening or art gallery.
        (But I’m now imagining Wall Street execs bowling in their Brooks Brothers and Ann Taylor and loving the image.)

    3. Harper the Other One*

      That’s what I was going to suggest too – there are so many medical reasons a person might not be able to drink, and I consider maintaining sobriety for an alcoholic to be one of them.

    4. Lupin Lady*

      Suggestion: one of those medical reasons could be that you’re allergic to alcohol. The only caveat would be many people ask about what happens, so OP would need to be prepared to lie about symptoms (face, chest and back flushed accompanied by a burning feeling as soon as you have ONE SIP of hard liquor). Any kind of medical reason to not drink could give you a good “out” for these booze-centric events, where it would be more acceptable for you to leave early.

      1. Psyche*

        I wouldn’t like about an allergy. It seems like a lot more work than it is worth to keep up a facade and the OP shouldn’t need one. If they do want a white lie, it might be better to go with “I can’t stand the taste of whiskey” since that is much less likely to provoke questions and isn’t that uncommon.

    5. MLB*

      I wouldn’t lie about it. That sets up more lies needing to be told in the future. OP doesn’t owe anyone details. If they want to elaborate to the boss, that’s fine, but it’s nobody’s business. And honestly, unless the business is associated with alcohol in some way, any type of booze tasting is highly inappropriate for a work event. It’s one thing to sponsor a happy hour, or have drinks at an event, but this really isn’t okay IMO. And I say this as someone who would enjoy it. There are many reasons people don’t drink, and those people shouldn’t be left out of a big deal work event.

      1. Colette*

        “Medical reasons” isn’t a lie (but talking about medication or allergies would be) – there’s no reason she’d have to disclose the specifics, but if asked she could say something to deflect (“oh, it’s a long and boring story”, for example).

        1. MLB*

          Then why not just say “I don’t drink” and not disclose the specifics? Just because some people can’t accept the fact that there are people in this world that don’t drink doesn’t give them the right to pry into your personal business. People need boundaries, and providing any type of detail to boundary pushers will only fuel their fire to be nosy.

          “I don’t drink.”
          “Why not?”
          “Because I choose not to.” Exit stage left, end of story.

          1. Colette*

            Sure, she could do that, but saying “I can’t have alcohol for medical reasons” is less likely to get pushback

            1. Hey Nonnie*

              Yes, unfortunately a lot of people view preferences and personal choices as optional (and something to challenge or talk someone out of), while medical stuff is regarded as more immutable.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          If someone is so gauche as to ask for details about your medical history, a “WTF” stare along with a chilly “That’s private” will do just nicely.

          I’m all for smoothing things along at work, but that kind of prying is pretty egregious, and it’s okay to react with shock to something that shocking. Hopefully such a person will have the courtesy to be mildly embarrassed at their misstep, and mild embarrassment won’t kill them (but might serve to remind them how to behave in the future).

      2. RUKidding*

        “ And honestly, unless the business is associated with alcohol in some way, any type of booze tasting is highly inappropriate for a work event.”

        SO much this!!!

      3. AKchic*

        Addiction isn’t a lie. And it is also covered under 42 CFR Part 2 and HIPAA if the bosses try to dig for information. 42 CFR Part 2 is the more stringent of the two.

      4. JessaB*

        The funny thing is at least in my experience the people in the actual booze industries (distilleries, beer breweries, vintners, delivery agents,) all tend to be pretty nice about people who don’t drink. I have friends that work for distilleries that do not drink. Nobody gives them any headaches about it, if you’re not the Master, responsible for the taste of the final product, nobody seems to care if you drink or not.

        1. ket*

          Yeah — because in the booze industry, people are in it because they like the beverage or the job.

          To me it seems like alcohol in finance is more about hazing, or prompting shared indiscretions to build trust and obligation. I know that is a bit cynical, but it’s what I see — and that’s why almost none of the advice in the comments here is that useful. The OP needs to figure out how to show she can be trusted, she’s ‘one of the guys’, without going through the hazing. (And that might set off another thread about how that’s not necessary and it’s wrong and blah blah blah, but on an anthropological or even primate level this is what’s going on.)

      5. Screaming Flying Monkey Toy*

        Actually, I work for a major brewing company and there is ALWAYS zero alcohol options available at whatever event we hosted.

        Additionally we’re being spammed to death with responsible drinking policies, how to deal with alcohol problems, how to get help (company provided), etc. And pressuring people into drinking = serious write-up.

    6. Even Steven*

      Or even just say, “Thanks, I don’t drink,” and leave it at that. The reason for that is nobody’s business. Could be a faith reason, medical reason, personal choice – whatever – still private. If they probe, deflect them. It bothers me that so often on this site we think we have to come up with responses that earnestly explain our responses at length. We’re adults and can have boundaries and can certainly keep very private aspects of our lives to ourselves. Attend the networking portion of the evening, grab a club soda, and stay as long as the networking feels worth it. Networking with tipsy colleagues might be a short event.

      1. Need a Beach*

        While I whole-heartedly agree with everything you’re saying, one caveat: as a woman, I would give just enough info to avoid starting rumors about whether or not I’m abstaining due to pregnancy. I just don’t want to deal with that nonsense, either.

      2. Mimi Me*

        I agree that “Thanks, I don’t drink” should be reason enough, but as someone who doesn’t drink and who has said just that I can tell you that there’s almost always a lot of push back on that. I have encountered people who range from the mildly curious (oh, specific reason or just not like the taste?) to the alcohol pusher (oh, come on! Here take this drink…you’ll love it!) and everything in between. The LW might also be thinking the same thing. It really tends to be obvious when one person isn’t drinking when others are…and given that the sole focus of this event is alcohol, it’s going to be really obvious.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          This really depends on how many spoons you have for dealing with the whiskey evangelist who will follow you around the event repeating the question until he gets an answer (that he’s planning to argue you out of), or you leave the event. I’m not gonna fight anyone on deciding they don’t want to expend that many spoons on that guy.

          The advantage of offering the vague “medical reasons” explanation is that it’s not something that anyone can argue with — at least not if they want to come out still looking like a decent human being.

      3. neeko*

        While I agree with you that it should be, “Thanks, I don’t drink.” and it’s over (and often it is), it’s never a bad idea to be prepared for a question or something about it. I’m speaking from experience!

    7. JSPA*

      “I don’t drink. A strong smell of scotch triggers health problems” could mean nausea, hives, migraines, or whatever. That’s if you really don’t want to be around heavy alcohol fumes (which do put alcohol in your system, after all!), so being present but not tasting isn’t an option.

      If you feel it’s career – ending to skip, show up with sucking on strong menthol – eucalyptus cough drops, stand way back or go outside out of courtesy, and leave early to fight off the presumed incipient cold.

    8. CoffeeLover*

      There are a lot of conditions that are worsened by alcohol… things like Crohns. I mean alcohol is bad for you even without a condition, so I don’t see the need to blame medication.

      I think you could be very vague OP and say something like, “I don’t drink alcohol for health reasons.” “What health reasons?” “I’d rather not discuss them, but I can still attend the event if you don’t mind me skipping the Whiskey tasting portion of the evening.”

      For what it’s worth… Whiskey is awful – I would skip that portion of the evening too.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problem with just citing medical reasons is that then you might get encouraged to show up and just not drink. The OP doesn’t want to go at all.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (not wanting to go at all). I find it bizarre in the extreme that attendance at a whisky tasting could be anything approaching mandatory.

        I drink. I like to drink. I like whisky. I don’t want to be the slightest bit tipsy around coworkers. Alcohol loosens tongues, and if you’ve had a conflict with a coworker, mean things could slip out.

  4. Lioness*

    #4 ooh. I actually prefer the the way he’s asking you now than the way he asked previously. The previous way he asked, I, being me, would feel guilty saying no, but the newer way makes it much easier to say I wouldn’t need the overtime.

    1. Willis*

      This. From the headline, I thought it was going to be mandatory overtime that was being phrased as a favor. But I’d feel pretty comfortable saying no in the actual scenario…and it sounds like OP doesn’t really want to do overtime so the new phrasing seems to give her an easy out.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with this. I’d likely feel the same way.

      Also, I feel like the OP is reading too much into this. Lots of people love getting overtime because they need or want the money, or maybe they want to not be home for whatever reason.

    3. Fainting Goats*

      I like the way the boss is doing this too. Pretending like I am special, and the boss is looking out for me would boost my ego. I bet your boss gets a lot more yes’s than no’s this way.

  5. Amber Rose*

    LW1, get the eff out of there. These people are such ridiculous scumbags, they are not remotely worth your time, your fear or your stress. Right now your anxiety is telling you to fear and catastrophize. But you should be listening to your inner righteous fury. This is BULLSHIT. You don’t deserve this. Nobody does. If I were your friend I’d storm in there and tell them where to go and what to do when they get there.

    But since I’m an internet stranger, I can only say that I’ve been there and done that and my anxiety over the situation sent me to the hospital because I couldn’t tell if I was having a heart attack or what. Learn from my error. Get out now, before you suffer more harm. And then think about them no more. They do not deserve any power over you.

    And come back in a while and tell us about your awesome new job that is not somehow in the movie Mean Girls.

    1. Elspeth*

      I know, right? I actually said What. The. Eff. when I saw the first letter!

      OP1 – this is NOT normal and Amber Rose is right – your coworkers (and managers!) are absolutely vile scumbags! Get out and don’t even bother listing this job on your resume.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I usually try to find the good in a situation, but there is no good here. These people are behaving abominably, and I am so sorry that OP was subjected to this kind of bullshit abuse.

      OP, you can shorten the notice period and quit effective immediately. I would mention the group chat as a factor, but if that would be harmful to your mental health, I think it’s ok to leave without saying anything about why. They already burned a bridge with you, and leaving early allows you to walk away without feeling like you have to ford a river or some nonsense.

      If you do confront them, if they have any humanity or decency, they should be ridiculously ashamed of themselves if confronted. And honestly, I want them to feel a tiny fraction of the anxiety they’ve given you by being confronted with their bullshit. But again, it’s ok not to do this if it would make things worse for your mental health. If you’re seeing a therapist, I think this is worth discussing (but I do not at all mean to advise you or affect your preexisting treatment plan). Again, these people are walking dumpster fires.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The one good I can think of is that the next job is extremely unlikely to be entirely populated by such horrible people.

        In the OP’s place I would have no hesitation about quitting immediately. I’d also have no guilt if I decided to make the quitting really uncomfortable for my soon-to-be-former coworkers.

        1. Gen*

          Personally next time I saw it pop up on someone’s screen is lean in and ask that person to tell the chat I’m leaving right now thanks. Not terribly professional but eff them it’s not going on your resume anyway

          1. JSPA*

            “If that’s the ongoing chat about me, could you pass along that I’m done pretending it doesn’t exist, and that they can all get stuffed?” (Said in the same sweet tone they used when they lied to you.)

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This. This would be the ideal line to deliver.

              These people are jerks. And I’m all for the ability to speak candidly at work without carefully filtering everything, but you sacrifice that option when you go with the open office plan. “I like to think a magic invisibility hat plops on my head whenever I open up Slack” is not a delusion other people are required to preserve for you.

            2. R.D.*

              Or when you see it pop up, kindly say excuse me, before stepping directly into their personal space taking their keyboard out of their hands and typing a reply of “OP here. Don’t worry, I am leaving right now. FYI – you all are not exactly ninjas or super spies with your hidden bullying scheme.” And then grab your stuff and leave.

        2. T3k*

          Same, this letter has me seeing red (a lot of awful childhood memories come to mind from this letter) and I wish I could tell off that office for the LW, if only to make the two-faced jerks feel awkward and sqirm (a specialty of mine really).
          But OP, it doesn’t matter if you tell them off or not (or be nice… or not) all that matters is getting yourself out of that cesspool and taking care of yourself.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yes! OP, do what you want, but feel free to channel our collective outrage on your behalf and let ’em have it if you feel like it would be cathartic.

            Or spend the next week and a half coming up with a really cutting remark to make on your way out the door. ;)

        1. snowglobe*

          I had the same thought. This wasn’t just one time seeing it by accident, it has apparently happened quite frequently. If they didn’t want OP to see, they’d do a better job of hiding it.

        2. Marthooh*

          That seems like a high level of subtlety for this bunch. Lots of people just assume that what’s on their screen is private, since they’re usually the only ones looking at it. Arrogant carelessness is a more likely explanation.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            Yup. They probably though the OP wouldn’t be able to see because, well, magic. It’s amazing what I’ve seen open on other people’s screens, and them yammering away like there isn’t a tab that’s obviously porn or private banking information sitting there large as life. Maybe they thought the font was too small to be read, or that you wouldn’t look at their screen. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. They suck and you never have to deal with them again.

        3. Kes*

          I wondered about that too, if they weren’t bothering to hide it since they wanted to drive her out anyway.

          The whole situation is just so bizarrely needlessly cruel and two-faced.

        4. foolofgrace*

          It’s possible that the chat window opened up while the person was away from their desk or absorbed in something non-computer

      2. SamKD*

        + infinity to all PCBH wrote. Well-put.

        If you do decide to mention the group chat, know that you have the righteous fury of many internet strangers lifting you up.

      3. triplehiccup*

        PCBH’s point about them burning a bridge with you is good for framing the situation. You have power and value, and they have squandered their connection with you.

      4. Busy*

        Agreed. If you can’t, do feel you have to.

        But if you have to, burn the bridge. Burn it to the ground. But in all honesty? The managers will probably feel so disgusted with themselves once they find out that you know, that they probably couldn’t bring themselves to even give a bad reference if you had to list them anyway. Lots of times, once confronted with the humanity (or lack there of) of what they are doing, shame is common.

        But to give you some frame of reference that may help? Look at it this way. Even if you were the worst most incompetent employee to ever live. Even if you came in every day and played a trumpet for the first half hour of the day. Even if they were giving you the remotest idea To YOUR FACE that they hate you and you were oblivious to it? How in the hell can they literally go on every single day with what sounds like all day (every time you talk to a coworker, there is your name pinging wtf) talking about one topic?!!? They would literally have to be repeated the same stories over and over and over again. And how is NOT ONE of them showing to your face their displeasure? Every messed up, dysfunctional, toxic job I ever worked had plenty of people who did not hide their displeasure of the problem employees. But this is an office full of mean-girls? Smiling in your face and tanking you behind your back every single other time of the day? That is extremely abnormal. I just want you to know that the likely reason why you ended up in an office where EVERYONE behaves this way is because their behavior from the boss down pushes out anyone else who would never dream of doing it. This is extreme toxicity happens. It is how bullying flourishes. This is a bridge worth burning. And if it makes you feel any better, none of these people are employable outside of this company. It is why they stay.

        1. Mine Own Telemachus*

          This is what’s driving me mad about this: OP has only been there a few months, and they hopped on it that quickly and vociferously? That says so much more about them than it does about you, OP! Like, seriously, wtf.

        2. Scaramouche Scaramouche*

          Having managed a team of mean girls, it doesn’t seem abnormal to me that people would waste their entire work days group chatting about the person they don’t like. Finding out that coworkers have been trash talking you has been a common theme on the blog lately, and at a good time for me because I’m a month or two past a bad mean girls sitch here….. solidarity to any of you who have been through it or are going through it. Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to actually receive helpful constructive feedback rather than smiles and fake niceness? Sigh.

      5. Amber Rose*

        Back when my anxiety was super bad, confronting anyone about anything was impossible. But I am hoping LW1 is able to tap into that inner anger and let it override the anxiety long enough to make a badass last stand.

        1. Jaz*

          I’d be so tempted to print out the question, response, and relevant comment threads, and post them somewhere in the office on my way out. Or better yet, send everyone the link on Slack.

    3. Comms Girl*

      Everything Amber Rose said. LW1, this is not gaslighting in any way, shape or form, this is a good example of people being total unprofessional jerks in every possible way.

      It’s bad enough that they have a private Slack channel where they trashtalk you, but the fact that your bosses/supervisors shared performance-related talks/reviews with your colleagues (either there or in person) is absolutely appalling. It’s a huge red flag and another reason why you should quit this instant and never look back. Like Alison said, you’ve been there for such a short time that you don’t need to include it in your CV.

      As someone who is also coping with anxiety, I 100% sympathise with the way you are feeling about this. I would probably love to confront them about this before I left, but I totally get that it might do you worse than better. You need to do what’s best for your own mental health. Please know this, though: YOU deserve better than what this workplace and these horrible people have to offer. We will eagerly wait for an update on how you are much happier in a new job with respectful co-workers and bosses :)

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        The fact that the bosses are sharing performance complaints with the team is also a good reason why you don’t have to take this personally, OP.

        The bosses are creating a bullying environment. When that happens, you get two effects:

        1. Nice people don’t stick around. The people who haven’t quit are pre-selected to be unusually nasty.

        2. On some level, people sense that bullies like to have victims, and that there’s always going to be a need for a scapegoat. If they don’t pile in on the current victim, there’s a chance that the next victim will be themselves. Playing the bully game is taking a tiger by the tail; you can’t afford to let go or it’ll turn on you.

        So this really isn’t a referendum on you, OP. This is you being unlucky enough to find yourself in an environment where people either have to leave, or become worse in order to thrive. Says a lot more about them than it does about you.

        1. LKW*

          Bullies love having a victim and everyone needs to protect their own back – so they help put the target on someone else’s back, in this case yours.

          Definitely consider putting all of this in Glassdoor. Screw them -they are garbage.

        2. AdmininTraining*

          So much this.
          In a way, the group probably doesn’t really WANT you to leave- because right now, their primary bonding activity is trash talking you. (Not that there should really be a super close friend group made out of bosses and employees, but that’s not the issue at hand)
          Once their favorite scapegoat is gone, there’s a limited amount of merriment to squeeze out of the situation. They’ll be stuck on reruns of that time when you replaced a mousepad instead of being able to pick on some new innocuous action. Now, the group dynamic will be in flux until a new victim is chosen, and everyone in the group is at risk.
          I think that on some level, your bosses probably wanted to fire you rather than have you quit, just to see your reaction.
          Leave as soon as possible. Let them flail around and implode one you’re no longer there. They’ve forfeited all rights to any courtesy from you.
          Take heart- once they decided that you were their scapegoat, no amount of niceness or work performance on your part could have convinced them otherwise. You are not the problem here.

          1. sofar*

            You are 100% right.

            I had an eerily similar situation at a job, where there was a private Slack channel used to trash-talk an employee. Mostly, it was used during meetings said employee was running to make fun of how he talked/dressed/etc (I could clearly see the screens of whichever coworker’s were next to me during the meetings at the cramped conference table).

            I still regret not taking more of a stand on this issue, but our office manager (known for being vindictive of anyone who crossed her) was in the chat and, not being a member myself, I had no “evidence” to present to HR (who was probably also in the channel). The scapegoat employee quit after a little under a year, but the joke was on his bullies. After he quit (he was a project manager and the only one dedicated to one department), the company announced a hiring freeze, meaning his bullies would have to share project management resources with other departments. So all those bug fixes, projects, improvements, etc. that this team was relying on getting done just … didn’t. So, not only did they lose the only amusement in their obviously dull lives, they lost their ability to accomplish a lot of their goals for the year.

          2. Margery*

            So much this – what’ll happen when OP leaves – who will they target then.

            A bunch of absolute bullies.

            I would just suck it up and thank God I got out of there. Keep your dignity intact and ignore the absolute idiots.

            I’ve seen something similar where I used to work and the girl left and got a much better job – I always thought the bullies were a bunch of jerks. Their group soon ended up disintegrating when they didn’t have anyone to focus on.

            Good good good and I mean good luck

        3. Pippa*

          Oh, item 1 is an especially good point! And it underscores that you’re absolutely right to walk away. Workplaces and social groups like this don’t change, because they’re self-reinforcing by driving off kind or ethical people and socialising the others to think this is acceptable.

          Your quitting was a positive act of self-assertion and self-protection. Well done you!

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          The people who haven’t quit are pre-selected to be unusually nasty.

          This is an excellent point about the office dynamics.

          Also about the scapegoating–the people most vicious about maintaining the social hierarchy aren’t the ones at the very top, comfortable in their position, but the ones who fear sliding into the scapegoat role if they don’t shove someone else in there first. That’s what’s happening to you, OP, and no amount of good behavior on your part is going to change them.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yep! Worked in a place like this. Everyone was really, really mean … because all the nice people left as soon as they could.

            OP1, you are enough, you are not imagining things, your coworkers’ (and supervisors'(!)) behavior is appalling, and you can get out now.

        5. Dr. Pepper*

          Yes, so much this. You were doomed before you even started, which means it’s NOT personal and has nothing to do with who you are as a person. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. That sucks, but it also means that there’s nothing to be done but leave and wash your hands of the place. No need for agonizing or wondering what you did wrong because it was never about you and you did nothing wrong. You could have been perfect and they still would have been horrible because they are horrible people and needed a victim.

      2. Jan*

        This is what I noticed straightaway. The bosses are horribly unprofessional to share your performance issues with other people. Bastards! I’m sorry to hear about it, OP. You don’t deserve that. If it was me, I wouldn’t bother putting the job on the CV either. They might not like you, but that cuts both ways. You understandably don’t like them either, and you can leave guilt free. Good luck with your jobhunt and let us know when you’ve landed somewhere normal, because this ain’t normal.

    4. SigneL*

      OMG, OP 1, I’m so sorry. These are really horrible people. I’m glad you’re getting out. But, really, who does this?

      Yes, here’s hoping your next job is amazing!

    5. ..Kat..*

      Please be glad you found out quickly what jerks these people are. You deserve better. I hope you write back with good news about a new, normal, good job.

      Good luck.

      1. Marthooh*

        Yep! The proverbial silver lining is that you’ve only had to put up with these people for three months. Of course that’s still much too long, but a quick look through the archives will turn up letters from people who stayed in toxic jobs for years or even decades.

        And I, too, would love to read an update when you’re settled somewhere else.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, so often the letter comes three years later when an OP is convinced They All Do This. No! No they don’t! This one is a weird freaky outlier!

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP1 if this is a big enough company that your local office reports up to someone, GO TELL HR & your grandboss.
      This is completely unacceptable.
      It’s so egregious that if I saw one of the participants leave the room and leave hisorher PC up&running, I’d snap a picture of the group chat and send it to HR&grandboss.

      1. MI Dawn*

        Yes, after the FIRST time I saw something like this, I’d have snuck a picture of the screen. It’s totally unprofessional and that the bosses are in on this? Despicable. They are horrible, disgusting people and if it’s an industry I would love to never purchase their items again.

        1. Llellayena*

          I wouldn’t bother with “sneak.” Pull out phone while chatting, say excuse me, lean over and take closeup shot of coworker’s screen and say “my next meeting is with HR”.

      2. Qwerty123*

        I was also thinking you may want a picture if the chat. If you plan to mention it at all when you do quit immediately, they’re going to lie and say it doesn’t exist. Even if you don’t show it to them, you’ll have it in your hands so you’ll know they’re liars and you’re not crazy.

      3. boop the first*

        Back in the 90s (LOL), chat programs would discreetly save hard copies of all conversations somewhere on the hard drive, deep in the program files. Do they still do that or is it all cloud/remote server stuff now? Although it would be a bad idea to go looking for it to read it, there might be something just laying around on the network for HR to discover…

        1. Namast'ay in Bed*

          I know the business version of Slack backs up all conversations, I’m not sure if the free version does after a certain point. But in general Slack doesn’t really just let you delete stuff, deleted channels at least get archived.

          1. Brett*

            Slack backs of all conversations ever. Search is limited to the last 10k messages on the free plan, but if you do a data export you get everything ever (including deleted messages and channels).

            There is absolutely an evidence trail that they will not be able to erase.

            1. Quandong*

              Correct. These appalling people have no ability to erase the evidence of their Slack conversations and most likely have not thought about the consequences of this.

      4. Jadelyn*

        It sounds like it’s not a big enough company – OP said it was 3 employees plus some interns. I doubt there’s any formal HR there.

    7. Just following along*

      OP, you SO DON’T DESERVE THIS. They are just awful, awful people. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I’m with the other commenters…get out now, and don’t look back. This is not normal! What a bunch of idiots.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      This is bullying and considered grounds for instant dismissal at my company. That’s how bad THEIR behavior is.

      I doubt you were really a bad performer. Most likely you picked up on the animosity and instinctively shied away from it.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Also not sure if it will bring comfort or not but your coworkers may not even dislike you. In both examples it was a boss messaging the group in slack.

        It reminds me of my horrible boss ™ who would hold secrete pre-team meetings with everyone but me so that they could present a united front against me.

        I found out after a team member left because they called me sobbing and confessed the whole thing. Turns out she felt pressured to say bad things about me and was afraid if she did not play along our horrible boss would single her out next.

        It’s still awful but to me it was a relief that the whole team did not feel the way they said they did.

        1. Jadelyn*

          …now there’s a manager who shouldn’t be in charge of a bowl of fruit, much less other human beings.

    9. kittymommy*

      I would be EXTREMELY tempted to state exactly why I’m leaving in the exit interview (assuming they have that) or when asked in basic conversation – I’m leaving because I’ve seen disciplinary action I have had shared with colleagues by my boss, I’ve been talked about and gossiped about via Slack more than once and at the end of the day you all are not nice people and I don’t want to be around you.- Leaving the entire job off the resume might tip me over the edge in doing this.

      LW this is in no way on you and you are not over reacting. You should be offended my these people. They are crappy human beings who somehow think they are 12 year olds living in “Mean Girls: Junior High”.

    10. Lizzy May*

      Getting out of there is really the smartest thing you can do. They are awful people and if you’d stayed, that awfulness would impact you more and more until you broke down or became awful too. Toxic workplaces like this can’t be saved. You quit early and can leave this off your resume so you never have to think about the place again. Move up your end date and those “work days” to tend to yourself.

    11. ANon.*

      Given that you’re not going to be putting them on your resume and won’t need a reference from them, I can’t help but think of spectacularly vengeful ways of leaving:

      -Create a slack thread with everyone but your boss to announce that you’re leaving ASAP.
      -Recount in great detail your experience with the company on Glassdoor. Once it posts, leave it up on your computer. Leave without a word to anyone. (Alternatively: leave a link to AAM.)
      -Slack message everyone “bashing” yourself. End it with, “This is how the office bonds, right? Just trying to fit in!”
      -Acquire cod, haddock and tilapia. Spell out “I QUIT” with them.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Oh. Oh I like the self-bashing one.

        I mean, I kinda doubt it would have the appropriate effect of shaming the hell out of these folks, it sounds like they have no capacity for shame at all, but still.

      2. TeapotDetective*

        For style points – leave the I QUIT fish somewhere that won’t be found until it starts to stink up the place. Just a little parting gift. :3

        1. Camellia*

          One of the worst practical jokes I ever heard was that someone dismantled the curtain rods, stuffed raw shrimp into them, then reassembled them. Can you imagine how that smelled until they finally figured out what it was? Bwaaahhhahahahhahah!!!!!

          Also, the one time I quit under similar circumstances (but not nearly this egregious), the assistant manager was detailed to come to me and ask me why I was quitting. I just shrugged and said, “Because you’re all a bunch of @ssh0les and I’m tired of putting up with you.” I don’t think he ever got his jaw up from off the floor.

          1. Jaid*

            I remember that one! It was an ex-wife getting revenge on her husband and his new sweet thang. He got the house in the divorce, couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from and ended it up selling it cheap…to the ex-wife. All she had to do was replace the curtain rods!

      3. MJ*

        I might whisper in the nastiest nasty girl’s ear that I saw the Slack chat about myself, but it’s not the only one. And, in a kind, caring way, tell the nastiest nasty girl to watch her back.

        Exit right.


    12. Jadelyn*

      Honestly, my first thought while reading this letter was “Wow, how are they getting around the labor laws so they can employ a bunch of 12-year-olds?” Because that is literally the level of petty cruelty going on here. And I actually do mean literally in its original sense here – I was bullied, very badly, at that age by a group of girls who it sounds like have all grown up and now work at OP’s soon-to-be-former workplace.

      Just…what has to go wrong in someone’s head that they find this acceptable? And the fucking MANAGER?? Sharing disciplinary conversations????? I very much would like to personally go over there and give every one of those assholes a slap upside the head, and give the manager a kick in the nethers for good measure.

      OP, please hear me when I tell you: this is not normal, this is not okay, and this is not your fault. Even if they were all frustrated with your work, there are adult, professional ways to handle that. Secretly passing notes about you in class is not one of those ways. Get out, don’t work the rest of your notice period, just get gone and I wish you the best in finding a new job staffed with actual adults.

    13. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Totally 100% agree with Amber Rose. Get out today, and make sure they know you saw their mean girl BS. What a bunch of a**holes. Go home and take care of yourself, call a friend and tell them all about it, and treat yourself tonight. You don’t deserve to be treated like this.

    14. Decima Dewey*

      Why on earth was OP 1’s supervisor sharing disciplinary information on snapchat?

      You’re well rid of these awful people.

  6. Drew*

    OP#1, your co-workers are confusing their office with middle school. They are vile people and you are lucky to have found out so early. Get out now, don’t list this on your resume, and when you do land another position, Glassdoor the crap out of them.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        But add the Glassdoor review: “bosses like to include some (but not all) employees on a private slack group where they bash the other people in the office.”

          1. Snickerdoodle*

            No, super small companies are absolutely on there. My last job, a company of twenty people and only ten at our location, is on Glassdoor because the boss created an account and left a five-star review for the place. That of course backfired when former employees, myself included, flagged the review as left by management, and then we all left one star reviews complaining about bad management, rampant disorganization, constant drama in the office, etc.

          2. thestik*

            I’ve seen companies with fewer than 500 employees on Glassdoor, so it’s possible for smaller firms to be on there.

          3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            I recently added a Glassdoor for a small company I had issues with. Glassdoor uses the Google Maps directory, so as you type in the name and address of the company, similar ones will populate and you can click on the one that’s correct, just like when you’re ordering something online and the address data starts to populate before you’re done typing.

        1. Isabelle*

          Yes absolutely leave a Glassdoor review, potential applicants will be very thankful!
          This sounds like the kind of workplace where decent people don’t last long and the ones that stay are either sycophants or bullies themselves.

    1. Mookie*

      Yes. Not only is it unnecessarily cruel (and conflict-avoidant to a catastrophic extent) to mislead an employee about her performance, it’s also just really bad and unprofessional and lazy and amateurish. Future candidates need to know there’s less than no support in this office, just a lot of bad faith and undermining. So do potential clients. Shove these people facefirst through Glassdoor and warn your peers to stay away.

      1. EPLawyer*

        The bosses are leading the office culture. These people should not be managing people (or really anything for that matter, not even blades of grass). Discussing private employee matters like discipline with other employees is a the hallmark of a bad boss.

        Run do not walk out the door. Take care of yourself. But if you want to scorch some earth on the way out, please do so.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          I like the idea of demoting them to managing little grains of scorched earth. Living soil bacteria would be too good for them, I think.

        2. animaniactoo*

          It can be one thing to say “We discussed her phone usage, she explained it was more common at her previous job and it shouldn’t be an issue going forward.”, particularly when discussing a new employee and manage the perception of them. One can argue that there are good and bad reasons for it.

          It is an entirely DIFFERENT thing that they are all in this channel seeing her get bashed 6 ways to Sunday (even if they are not participating in that portion of it themselves) and they have not Shut That Shit Down. There is not a single good reason for that and only a whole lot of bad ones.

          1. MassMatt*

            Am I the only one that finds it odd that the OP was disciplined for using her personal phone too much yet everyone in the office seems to be on Slack gossiping more or less constantly? Including her supervisor?

            1. Anonymous Celebrity*

              Sure it’s odd. But at least they’re consistent: consistently irrational, sadistic, unprofessional and incompetent (the boss, certainly, is 100% incompetent as a manager).

              If I were the OP, I’d simply leave. Period. Collect my pay and walk. These people are not worth the time it would take to tell them to go fuck themselves. Put them in the rear-view and find a saner work environment.

              It won’t be hard…most of us don’t expect – nor do we get – perfection OTJ, but this bunch is beyond the pale. I say this as someone who’s spent the past 40 years working in a variety of office settings. The behavior described in this letter is totally bizarre. And it comes from the top.

    2. Sarah M*

      +1,000, especially on the Glassdoor review.

      I really like Allison’s idea of cutting your notice short and telling them why. The only thing I would change re: her phrasing is to pluralize it, so they know you’ve seen a whole bunch of them, versus just one. e.g., “I’ve seen the group chats you’ve been having about me.” a.k.a. it wasn’t a single conversation, and you are fully aware of the extent of their bad behavior. I rather like another commenter’s suggestion that you do it via the Slack thread in question, but please do it in whichever way feels right to you.

      I am so sorry that you are going through this. These people are horrible.

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        I agree with cutting the notice short. I’d be gone TODAY.

        But I’d frame it as “I’m choosing to leave now because I don’t want to deal with this cr*p anymore” and not “I’m leaving now because you want me gone.”

        You’re making a choice that is best for YOU, not as a favor to THEM.

        1. Syfygeek*

          I think the OP should leave Friday, maybe a few minutes after everyone else. Stay long enough to clean out your desk and write out a note saying Friday was your last day, and aren’t they glad the monkey on their collective backs has committed to quitting. And I’d make enough copies to leave one on every desk.

  7. Crivens!*

    I’d have a hard time with the antivax co-worker in general because not vaccinating your kids (except for medical reasons) is abuse. Those poor children.

    For LW #3, I’m another recovering alcoholic and my way of explaining it to people if I’m not comfortable being out to them about it is to say I’m allergic to alcohol.

    1. Shannon*

      Allergic to alcohol, yes! Or as others have said, you don’t like whiskey. There are ways around this OP, and I hope you feel comfortable to do one of them!

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I agree, saying you’re allergic to alcohol or that you simply don’t like whiskey are good options. Only thing about saying you don’t like something is that you might get the pushy “we’ll have you triiiiiiied it?” response. (Hate when people do that.)

    2. Quackeen*

      Crivens, there have been many, many threads on the legal advice sub on Reddit written by teenagers who want to get vaccinated against their parents’ wishes. Many but not all of those kids have some anger towards their parents over it.

      1. Crivens!*

        And rightfully so, regarding the anger!

        I was raised Jehovah’s Witness. Because of that, as a child I was made to write a living will for myself that specified I didn’t want to receive blood. I realized over time that since I was writing these as a minor it absolutely wouldn’t be binding, but I had a lot of anger when I also realized how messed up that was.

        1. Crivens!*

          I should clarify I mean being made to write them is what was messed up, not the fact that they weren’t binding.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’m sorry you grew up with that fear & pressure….and may I add that your username makes me smile Every*Darned*Time I see it.
            Totally sparks joy. ;)

      2. SusanIvanova*

        There was one on notalwaysright (dot com) today under the “healthy” subgroup! The teenager was old enough under Australian laws to make her own medical appointment and did so, despite her mother trailing after her and making a scene.

          1. Liane*

            I hope the girl is okay too. It said the doctor’s office called the girl’s father, so guessing the parents were not/never married. Probably because dad couldn’t figure out whether “mom’s” lack of judgement or lack of self control was scarier.

        1. kittymommy*

          That’s where I read that!! That was fascinating and good for the girl asserting her health rights.

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        That is just heartbreaking. We need to lower the age where kids can opt-in to vaccines against their parents wishes. It’s not gonna happen right now, but it is a thing we should do.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Problem with doing that is that should give parents an excuse not to get health care for their kids–as in, if he/she is old enough t make health decisions on their own without my input, they are old enough to pay their own way and bills.” I mean, it;s hard to say X is adult enough for this but not adult enough to get a job.”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            As someone who started offering to wait in the lobby during my kids’ doc visits in middle school, and defaulted to that in high school, this is heartbreaking to me.

            (Occasional exception if we were going in for a specific set of symptoms and I wanted to be sure they remembered to list all of them, but the general checkup was them on their own, and the nurse would come get me for the last few minutes.)

          2. She's One Crazy Diamond*

            Definitely! In my family, as soon as we turned 18 our parents stopped helping us so those types of parents are definitely out there. I thought it was normal until I talked to my fiance’s parents about it and they were horrified because even though their oldest is 45 they would still always help their children.

        2. Bagpuss*

          In the UK they can. There is a competence called ‘Gillick Competence’ which lets a doctor give medical treatment to a child who consents, without the consent (or knowledge) of a parent if the child is able to understand the treatment, and the parent cannot veto the child’s choice. So here, a child could get vaccinated without their parents knowledge or consent, provided that the doctor was satisfied that the child understood the vaccine, and the parent would not be entitled to see their child’s medical records without the child’s consent.

          The court case which gave rise to the term related to a mother who did not want her child to be able to be prescribed the contraceptive pill without her knowledge

          I imagine it would be more difficult in the USA as I assume children don’t normally have their own health insurance, so there would be the complicating factor of how any treatment was paid for.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Children in the US don’t always have their own health insurance, but the child is authorized to get care from whoever their insurance provider is, regardless of how they came to have the insurance, without parental permission. There are some built-in privacy divisions. For example, we have health insurance through my husband’s work, and it’s “his” insurance. But I have my own private log-in to the benefits site, all paper mailings regarding my coverage are sent to my name not his, I can opt to get all mailings via my email if I’d like privacy, and if there’s a question regarding my account I have to call, he cannot. It would be similar for a child, though a parent may maintain access to the child’s login or email account and open the child’s mail.

            Also in the US, it is much easier for a child to qualify for free public health insurance than an adult, and the plan is different from free public health insurance for adults. So if the whole family qualifies, the kids would be on CHIP but the parents would be on Medicaid. Or the kids might qualify for CHIP but the parents don’t, and the parents would have to go get insurance elsewhere or do without.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              I don’t know if this is optional and I’d have the right to tell the insurance company to knock it off, but when I was on my parents’ insurance as a 24-year-old adult, everything the insurance company had ever paid for was listed in our insurance account online (one family login). I could see the details of my sister’s psychiatric medication, and how much they paid for my IUD. While generally my family is chill about all of those things, I was kind of shocked that this was the default!

              1. Jaz*

                This is why I wasn’t able to get trauma therapy until I had insurance separate from my parents, and it’s hard to qualify for things like CHIP if you’re still being claimed by a family firmly in the middle class. Health insurance causes a lot of complications for kids.

              2. theguvnah*

                there are some states that allow for confidentiality for sensitive services on EOBs (explanation of benefits) like sexual/repro health and mental health services. It’s incredibly important. Also for people in violent intimate relationships.

      4. Jadelyn*

        …gods, that’s depressing. In the year of our unspecified deity two thousand and nineteen, kids are having to try to go around their parents for one of the basic, core mainstays of modern medical care.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      For #2, I also work for a division of the state (not health or healthcare delivery related), and I had to provide documentation of appropriate vaccinations as a condition of employment. I think it’s entirely reasonable to require people in the office (children or otherwise) be vaccinated for MMR or provide proof of a state-sanctioned exception to compulsory vaccination.

      Our state recently tightened up the exceptions to primary vaccinations, but I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask someone to refrain from bringing their unvaccinated children to the office. Frankly, the coworker shouldn’t be in the office, either, since their exposure to their children risks contaminating your office’s herd immunity.

      1. TL -*

        Uh, there is no such thing as compulsory vaccination in the USA – you can require it for school admission, but that’s not the same as compulsory.

        And without a work based reason (like hospitals, nursing homes, ect…) requiring people to have had vaccines to get a job is way out of line for employers. (I’m hugely pro-vax but I do think people still need medical autonomy.)

        That being said, there is an outbreak going on and it’s totally reasonable to request that your employer take steps to minimize risk. And it’s worth mentioning that most likely, at least one employee is in regular contact with an immunocompromised person. I would talk to your manager about it.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          PrincessCBH isn’t saying US requires compulsory vaccinations – she’s saying the *office* could require vaccination for its own employees & visitors.

          I’ll presume medically-necessary exceptions like transplant recipients who have to avoid live-virus vaccines. (And yes, there are infants who receive transplants who would have been too young for a full virus schedule.) Having heard first-hand from WWI-era grandparents about epidemics they survived, as soon as my area had a measles outbreak I’d be requiring any unvaccinated-by-choice individuals to work from home.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Bring a group to the manager, try to get all of the people who are for vaccinations and with little kids. You will all appear stronger as a group.

          1. Nita*

            Agreed, would definitely recommend pushing back as a group. I don’t know the legalities of making this a permanent blanket policy, but since there’s an outbreak going on, I think the boss could make a rule that unvaccinated kids can’t come. It’s just like HR sending around a reminder for sick people to stay home if the flu starts going around the office.

            Or, simpler yet, the office could ban having kids over altogether. That way there’s no question of whether they have the right to check who’s vaccinated, and how. I suppose the kids’ mom could still bring the infection in (I hope that won’t happen!!!) but it does lower the risk. Kids are so good at spreading germs. They don’t always remember to wash their hands, cover their sneeze, not touch every random surface before washing… adults are usually a little better about that.

            1. Psyche*

              I agree that it might be simpler to say no kids in the office, at least during the outbreak. There isn’t really a reasonable way to ensure every kid who comes in has been vaccinated. It isn’t like the office can require all parents to show proof of vaccination before bringing in their kids. The only reason the OP knows this coworker didn’t vaccinate her kids is that she said something about it.

              1. Tequila Mockingbird*

                Agreed – you can’t really know which coworkers’ kids are vaccinated and which are not. You’re just relying on the parents to be open (and honest) about such things.

                Anti-vaxxers are very loud on the internet but in my personal experience, most are really discrete and down-low about it in person. (There are a sprinkling of anti-vaxxers in my New Parent Support Group – I only found out because I overheard a whispered conversation between two of them.)

        3. Jadelyn*

          If employers are allowed to push weight loss on their employees, make people get health screenings in exchange for premium discounts, then how is requiring that people have their vaccinations up to date out of line?

          And even if we agree that companies shouldn’t do the former, I’m still in support of the latter, because it’s not just a medical autonomy question: it’s a health and safety question. The employer has a legitimate interest in not wanting people to be able to come in and spread disease among their staff, especially since they don’t necessarily know if they have a vulnerable employee, or if an employee has a vulnerable person in their care outside of work that they could carry the illness to, even if the employee themselves doesn’t get sick.

        4. Nat*

          Pr0-science, pro-vaxxer here, and I do agree with the concept of medical autonomy, as long as everyone accepts the consequences of not following sound medical science (like being left out of things, not being allowed to be places,etc). Agreed – totally reasonable to reduce employee risk during this outbreak experience.

          After/if the outbreak is contained, I am not sure it is enforceable. Do we all know the vaccination status of all our coworkers? Of our coworkers children? I guess we assume all children are vaccinated (when they can be) so his/her kids are a known outlier.

          As far as public sector office goes, I think it all depends on the interaction with the public. Do people come on for services in any form (DMV,etc)? If that is the case, then I think there is a way to require up to date vaccinations for all employees (who can get them) to protect the public.

        5. JM60*

          Protecting your employees by making vaccinations required – absent medical exemptions – is not out of line. People are needlessly jeopardizeingthe health of others by not vaccinating (absent medical reasons), and it’s reasonable to require prospective employees to not needlessly jeopardize the health of your employees.

          Do you think that colleges are out of line for requiring vaccinations as a condition for attendance (whether you’re living on campus or not)? If not, then why should it be different for employers to do the same thing?

      2. Mk*

        Unfortunately I just read an article saying in California many anti vaccine people are paying doctors or online sources to give them “medical exceptions” and it is difficult for the state to go after these doctors bc of course these parents aren’t complaining. I have seen first hand what not having vaccines can do. It can impact children with cancer and those who have had transplants that actually cannot get vaccines bc their immune system won’t allow it. When the herd community becomes less bc of all this anti vaxxer stuff it hurts the community as a whole. For the record I had all my vaccines (and many more as I have lived and travelled all over) and I’m fit as a fiddle and went to great schools and have a great job.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Okay, so the solution to this would be to require significant medical documentation for medical exceptions, and no longer to accept anything not from an MD. Children with cancer will easily be able to provide that.

          1. CDM*

            Requiring kids with chronic serious health conditions and disabilities to provide a higher level of medical documentation than their healthy peers in order to access the basic public education they are entitled to is highly problematic.

            My transplant kid was fully vaccinated except for the MMR and the chicken pox vaccines (once that was approved). Figure out how to target the kids with significant missing vaccinations in a way that isn’t discriminatory and I’m all in. But don’t put a extra burden on me (that’s going to cost me time and money) to solve a problem I’m not contributing to.

            1. JM60*

              Not the person you’re responding to but…

              I’m guessing that there is a solution to this problem that wouldn’t require a lot of medical documentation from those who are medically unable to be vaccinate (or their parents). But if there isn’t, I think the health of children should trump the need to avoid inconveniencing those with medical restrictions. I think this is especially true when you consider that the ones who would be inconvenienced are the same ones who would have their health jeopardized by others not being vaccinated.

              1. CDM*

                In the US, children have a Constitutional right to equal access to public education regardless of disability or health status.

                So, no matter how public-minded the imposed additional barrier to school entrance for immunocompromised kids might be, it’s still going to get overturned in court.

                In my state, the primary care practitioner signs off on a medical exemption for vaccines on the same medical form every child is required to provide to the schools four times over the 13 years of public school education.

                Yes, that’s open to abuse by parents who have their chiropractor sign off on their kid’s medical exemptions for woo reasons. But, imposing a discriminatory additional barrier on certain kids based on their medical status is not the correct answer.

                Plus, in my state, philosophical and religious exemptions outnumber medical exemptions four to one. So, cracking down on the 0.6% of students with medical exemptions (most of whom are partially vaccinated) isn’t going to have a significant impact on overall vaccination rates.

                1. JM60*

                  The equal protection rights of the Constitution aren’t “The government can never impose any restrictions that inconvenience a demographic” but rather something closer to “The government must have a legitimate reason, and if there is a less discriminary approach that achieves this goal, they must use that instead”. I’m not convinced that requiring extra documentation for vaccine exemptions fails to reach this standard (although that would depend on the specifics, like in most cases regarding constitutional questions of equal protection).

                  The philosophical and religious exemptions are complete BS and need to die. People have the right to believe whatever they want, but they don’t have a right to behave however they want, such as by needlessly exposing others to disease.

          2. Observer*

            Really? How?

            I’m not trying to be snarky here, but I really don’t see it. Any “significant medical documentation” would require either disclosure of sensitive information or significant time and effort or both.

            1. Robin Bobbin*

              I had a kid who was seriously allergic to eggs, which at the time were used as a base for some vaccines. The exemption forms (CA) were a pain in the butt, but really all it took was a trip to the allergist when he was going anyway. Any kid with serious med issues sees his/her doctor fairly regularly. Being allergic to eggs or undergoing cancer treatments aren’t particularly sensitive issues, and likely something the school knows about anyway – my kid couldn’t have birthday cupcakes because they have eggs in them, so yes, I reminded the school, his teachers, parents, whoever. He outgrew his allergy eventually and we happily caught up on the problem vaccines. My older brother got encephalitis following measles. There were several days when no one knew if he was going to live or die. My MIL got polio as a pregnant adult. She lived through the iron lung, but her arm was paralyzed, her diaphragm was compromised, and her spine was fused. I have no sympathy for anti-vaxxers. None.

        2. Observer*

          It’s actually a lot easier to go after this than state officials claim. They just haven’t wanted to till now. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be the patient that complains to have the doctor investigated.

          I remember a few years ago, I was at a meeting primarily geared to school administrators to talk about vaccination and getting kinds vaccinated in the context of the NYC ad NYS regulations around medical exemptions and anti-vax sentiment in the community. One principal described how the school had changed their policy to prohibit the religious exemption (private schools can do that), when one family brought in a doctors note with a medical exemption. The principle knew it was phony and she called the doctor who shockingly told her that he doesn’t believe that vaccinations are important. She told him that if he doesn’t rescind that note, or if a single other parent came into her school with a note from him, she was calling the authorities. He backed off.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m in California, and the medical board has been revoking the medical licenses of doctors who provide false medical exception letters. They’re treating it similarly to how they treat pill mill doctors, which is to say that it’s a very slow process, but the end result usually results in the doctor stopping the practice or losing their license. That’s seemed to be a more effective enforcement route than other state agencies.

    4. RUKidding*

      I really loathe the anti vax, anti science thing.

      I dont know where OP is but here in Washington state there’s a measels outbreak.

      Some bright bukb with zero science or medical training is all ober the Portland papers (it’s closer to Portland thsn Seattle) saying how “natural” it is, how much better their immunity will be compared to a vaccination (patently false), and that they would be “lucky” to get what is arguably the single most contagious disease on the planet.


        1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          It also leaves your system slightly immunocompromised for 18 months after you recover from measles.

        2. Liane*

          Paralysis and death are also natural side effects of naturally catching diseases we can vaccines against.

          Since it is a state agency and the governor has declared a state of emergency, I think, “No unvaccinated children or adults in the office” should be reasonable. Too bad so many aren’t.

          That fool RUKidding mentioned above is probably Patient Zero for the local anti-vax crowd.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            TO be factual, death is coming for everyone no matter what. Death is a part/side effect of life.

            1. virago*

              That goes without saying.

              Nevertheless, “We’re all going to die anyway” is not a valid argument against taking steps to stop the spread of preventable diseases that can make people seriously ill or kill them.

          2. Observer*

            Probably not – that’s actually one of the few things that often gets idiots like this to change their minds. Not seeing OTHER kids get sick, but getting sick themselves or MAYBE their kids getting sick.

        3. Ali G*

          It’s 100% natural. It’s called Darwinism (except for the kids who didn’t choose this – that’s just wrong).

        4. Kix*

          Not to mention if a woman is in her first trimester of pregnancy and is unvaccinated herself, it causes harm to the unborn baby. I had to investigate cases of congenital measles when I was a disease investigator.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Or if she didn’t realize, but her MMR vaccinations weren’t done correctly. Or if for some reason her titers went down (it can happen spontaneously to people for unknown reasons- bodies are weird).

            1. AnonEmu*

              Celiac can randomly wipe out your immunity too – I lost immunity to chicken pox despite having had it because celiac both messes with your immunity and makes you more susceptible. My sister has celiac and the R part of the MMR never sticks for her, so she has to get the MMR shot every other year or so so she’s protected. Autoimmune issues can really mess with your ability to fight off other stuff, and there’s a lot of us out there at risk because of it.

            2. blackcat*

              I got the mumps during a mumps outbreak. I am fully vaxxed.

              Turns out, the mumps vaccine only has like an 85% effective rate. It’s the least effective part of MMR. You need a vaccination rate of >95% to get herd immunity for the mumps because it’s super contagious and the vaccine just isn’t that effective.

      1. Lynca*

        We had 3 confirmed cases pop up in Georgia. While not at the level in Washington St. /Portland, I immediately had an anxiety attack because I have a child still too young to get the MMR vaccine.

        We have people in my office express anti-vax ideas sometimes. My mom only got the polio and smallpox vaccine as a kid because that’s all they had. I generally go into graphic detail about what it’s like to actually have measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough and what it does to your long term health. And that “natural immunity” BS? My mom had measles and rubella TWICE as a kid.

        1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I “love” the ones who go on about lifetime immunity after Chicken Pox. Shingles, my friends, will happily wait for you long after you get chicken pox…

          1. Hallowflame*

            Shingles is NO JOKE, either! It’s super painful, and can cause permanent nerve and tissue damage. I worked with a woman who was blinded in one eye from a particularly unfortunately placed bout of shingles. My dad also gets it every couple of years along his side and back, and the pain gets so bad that he can barely move one of his arms for several days.

          2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

            And there are long waiting lists for the shingles vaccine in the Boston area–one pharmacy told me a month ago that it was out of stock in all of New England.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I’m pregnant and coming to realize how terrifying it is to have little un-vaccinated children running around waiting to contaminate my baby. I mean I’ve always been super pro-vaccination and known those people were massive idiots who were selfishly endangering society and it’s always made me so angry, but now it’s making me scared.

          1. RMNPgirl*

            I’m in the healthcare field and the good thing about pregnancy is if you’re vaccinated your immunity will be passed to your baby, it’s called passive immunity. It usually lasts long enough for the baby to get the first shots, however, if you’re able to breast feed you will continue to give the baby your antibodies to these diseases to protect them.

            1. Psyche*

              It is important to remember though that antibodies in breast milk will only protect against infection though the GI tract. They don’t enter the blood stream and so will not provide the same protection as a vaccine.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              I’m an epidemiologist. While this is true, babies are still more vulnerable to measles- even with the passive immunity. The reason they’re not able to have vaccinations until they’re older is that their immune system isn’t up to speed for a while, and vaccinations are ineffective before that time. So… don’t die of worry, but it’s also worth limiting the baby’s exposure by asking parents if their kids are vaccinated.

            3. Ophelia*

              There are also some vaccines (TDAP at least, IIRC) that are now recommended during pregnancy, because they increase the immunity passed to the baby – check with your OB/midwife about what’s available if they don’t directly offer it to you (they almost certainly will).

          2. Zorro*

            I have a Primary Immune Deficiency and do not make titers to measles or mumps. Anti vaxxers terrify me and anger me.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          FWIW Even adults get the occasional MMR booster. A few people from my hometown school class got measles so we learned there’d been a bad batch of vaccine in “our year”. We all tromped off to our doctors to get our immune responses checked. I got the feeling that my doctor was internally rolling his eyes at me getting worried for nothing — but that changed when the results came in. I was called in for an immediate booster because I had indeed won the bad-batch lottery. No immunity to rubella.
          Sure, I would have had weathered it well because I’m generally in good health, but I’d have been a vector and blown the herd immunity….and my motherinlaw is a transplant recipient.

          1. lindsay*

            You can also have your immunity wear off over time. I was required to prove that I had the tetanus and MMR vaccines before starting my current job and since I had no clue when or where I last had them the doctor tested for the titers (or whatever they are called) to show that I was immune. I wasn’t. Had to get them again.

            1. Ophelia*

              Yep – I needed to prove MMR vaccination for grad school, and I’m old enough that my pediatrician no longer has my childhood records. The nurse recommended I just go ahead and get a booster rather than doing the titers, since there was a decent likelihood I’d need to get the booster anyway.

        4. Nea*

          My mom only got the polio and smallpox vaccine as a kid because that’s all they had.

          Yeah, I predate a lot of vaccines and according to the CDC I was one of the group that got a measles vax which doesn’t confer lifetime immunity. (Even if you were vaccinated, check the CDC, y’all!)

          I finally had to go to a travel doctor (because they have shots for adults that most general practitioners don’t have lying around) and got the adult MMR.

          1. Else*

            Me, too. I was travelling to SSA for the first time, and I ended up having to get new or repeat DTAP, MMR, typhoid, yellow fever, Hep A, cholera, and something else vaccines all for the same trip.

        5. Nita*

          This is seriously so scary. Measles is airborne so it’s pretty easy to spread, and so many vulnerable people out there – kids under one, those who are immunocompromised…

          It’s so easy to second-guess vaccinating when you haven’t seen what the disease does, but anti-vaxxers should stop and think about diseases that currently don’t have a vaccine. Like Zika and (until recently) Ebola. Scary? Wouldn’t they like there to be a vaccine for that? Guess what, measles is pretty scary too, they have just been privileged enough to not witness that in their lifetime.

          1. Busy*

            A little girl who was vaccinated picked up the measles last year at my kid’s babysitter’s house. It was very mild because she was vaccinated, but my kids’ sitter also watches babies. It was a very stressful time for sure, but luckily that week, the young girl was only there one day and not around any babies. I feel like not a lot of people understand how communicable diseases work. It isn’t just your kid. It is the entire population. It is even kids ad adults who do choose to get vaccinated but may be the 99% where vaccines aren’t as effective.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I honestly don’t understand. Those diseases aren’t dead everywhere, and with how much people travel these days… It’s a huge risk! I’m personally scared that there aren’t smallpox vaccines ready to go now that climate change is thawing the arctic and potentially unearthing mass graves. I should probably stop reading about it with my anxiety, though…

        6. MatKnifeNinja*

          Asking anyone who had whooping cough as an adult (I did 5 years ago, and was vaccinated), how much fun it is. I was wishing for the sweet release of death. Also got a glorious unpaid month off of work (no sick days/no pay.

          Remind the higher ups that taking time off to take care of critical ill infant is more than two days and dosing the kid with DayQuil.

          If I was the mom of that 4 week old, it would take everything in my power not to tell Ms Natural Mama, if if my kid comes down with measles, she’s paying my medical bills.

          Growing up, there were two kids that got the mumps and became deaf. I know this because they had to leave my school and go to the special education one across town. This was in the 1970s. People who don’t vaccinated have no clue. My family lost lots of relatives to diphtheria, whooping cough and polio during 1930-1962. It isn’t fun or trendy to watch your two year old lowered into a hole and have dirt shoveled on the casket. I don’t think there is an IG filter that can spin it into a positive. My aunt had two toddlers die from polio during the early 50s.

          OP, I spin it as productivity days lost if nothing else. It seems that’s the only thing work really takes notice. We all know how US companies just love sick days and FMLA.

        7. Fact & Fiction*

          Shoot, I was vaccinated against whooping cough and STILL got it as a child. It was THE MOST MISERABLE six weeks of my life. I would have FAR RATHER been in school that entire time than coughing up my lungs on the bathroom floor. That doesn’t mean I believe we should do LESS vaccinating. It means that I understand how completely awful diseases like that are and that we sure as heck should continue vaccinating everyone who can safely receive vaccines because decreasing herd immunity is awful. There is a REASON people used to die so often of sicknesses like what I had. Whooping cough is NO JOKE!

        8. RUKidding*

          Can I ask how old your mom is? I’ll be 56 next week and I got allll the shots including MMR, DtP, Smallpox, and Polio. I caught chicken pox when I was 10 and the vaccine was still a couple decades away… I just wondered because I’m kinda old and still got them.

      2. LKW*

        Over on The Poke, they have the letter that Roald Dahl wrote decades ago after the death of his 8 year old from measles about people who were afraid of the new vaccine. People die from measles.

      3. Marty*

        I teach immigrants and refugees from places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, rural India, and so on. Some of my female students only have half their live-born children.

        If there’s anyone on this planet who is aghast at the anti-vax movement, it’s them. Imagine the ultimate developed nation (“first world”) privilege, to live in a world where you don’t have to hitchhike or walk for days to find the one vaccine clinic that may or may not be out of supplies. Imagine living in a world where you expect all your children to survive.

        I can’t even describe the look in the eyes of this woman. Few of them can read or write in any language, many of them have never been to school, yet they are the ones who have seen first-hand what happens when you have no access to vaccines.

        1. Ginger*

          Thank you for sharing this.

          People don’t seem to realize how deadly these diseases are because we have been fortunate to be raised in a society that doesn’t have massive outbreaks (US-based). I didn’t grow up with a kid down the street with polio like my dad did. I haven’t seen first hand my peers lose babies to these diseases like my grandparents did.

          People who choose to not vaccinate based on bogus internet articles make me see RED. I don’t think I could ever be friendly with someone so selfish and stupid (sorry, getting heated over here just thinking about it).

          As for the letter-writer, I would push back hard on this. It’s their choice to not vaccinate but you and others shouldn’t be subjected to their stupidity and the risk of bringing disease home to your loved ones (or even strangers that you are in close proximity to like on a train or bus).

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        OP’s in Washington – ‘state of emergency’ is the clue. The current outbreak is mostly in Clark Co (Vancouver), down near Portland, but 1 in Seattle now. King Co (Seattle) and Thurston Co (Olympia) are below 90% vaccination, but of course public offices could be anywhere in the state.

        I’d think the ‘state of emergency’ could give the office leverage, but be kind. Also, it might be worth printing out some facts and hanging them in your cube, though that’s totally going to out you as the instigator of the unvaccinated children ban:

        MMR vaccine reduces the severity of measles even if given after exposure.
        Deaths from MMR: None reliably associated.
        Deaths from Measles: 2 per 1,000.
        Encephalitis from Measles: 2 per 1,000.
        Pneumonia from Measles: 1 in 20.
        Hospitalizations from Measles: 1 in 4

        Src: CDC

        1. East Coast Girl*

          If it is in Washington State OP should beware that management may be anti-vax too. My husband interviewed for a higher management position at the largest tech company there and they brought us as a family in for a week to woo us with a tour of the facilities and visit the area. While there our son got hurt and needed stitches and when me and my son got back from the hospital the wooing had stopped, my husband said it was brought up that he doesn’t have to worry the hospital wont’t push for shots like they will on the east coast. My husband told them our kids were up to date on shots so we were good and he said they all acted like we beat our children. The next day they took us to hear a lecture on the problem with vaccines. So the company may not be as on board as they should be. We could not get back to the east coast soon enough.

          1. Jersey's mom*

            Holy crap. Wooing a possible employee and showing them/spouse a lecture on anti-vacc? My mind is boggling. I hope your husband is considering putting a comment on glassdoor. This is certainly something I’d like to know prior to applying, as it provides a very clear look into internal company politics and healthcare.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              The two largest tech companies in Washington are Microsoft and Amazon, which makes this statement uniquely horrifying. They are multi-national companies. They should know better, both from an infectious disease perspective and an HR perspective.

      5. Falling Diphthong*


        I think the worst lingering effect of our current cultural state will be the idea that you can just make up your own facts, and those should be just as valid as someone else’s reality-based facts.

        1. Else*

          A huge percentage of our population already does go with that – look at people who say that their “beliefs” are some kind of valid argument against facts and truths. “I don’t believe in x” – whether it’s gay people, chiropractors, or herd immunity, I guarantee whatever they are talking about exists even if they don’t like it.

      6. Oranges*

        In MN the antivaxxers went after the Somali population because they were vulnerable. Their vax rates have dropped off and now we have taxes going into an outreach program (which is needed!) to educate them.

        I’m so PISSED at the antivaxxers for this. Not only because they preyed on a vulnerable population but because they added fuel to the “immigration is an issue” crap. So they hurt the Somali community twice over. Seeeethe.

      7. Tequila Mockingbird*

        See, this is why I don’t let my child wear a seatbelt – it’s much more “natural” to be thrown clear.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes. I’ve stated here before that people who plan to medically neglect their children (including antivaxers) shouldn’t have children. I was chastised for this view, but I stand by it 100%. Parenthood is near-absolute power over a small and helpless person, and there are plenty of people who should not have that power.

  8. Mike C.*

    Frankly you have every right to bring up unvaccinated kids as a massive workplace safety issue, given that unvaccinated children are the majority of people who are coming down with the illness and spreading it to others.

    Talk to your boss tomorrow, no one should have to tolerate this sort of ignorance putting other people at risk. Measles is nothing to fools around with.

    1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      I know at the new job I start in two and a half weeks there would be no bringing in someone who is not vaccinated for measles right now (unless there was a medical reason for not vaccinating). I actually had to have a blood test to check for immunity to measles (as well as mumps, rubella, and varicella) as a requirement of employment. I’m old enough that I predate the varicella shots, and my MMR shot was a two dose instead of the three now common. I think some people just haven’t lived through the sorts of epidemics that we now vaccinate against (and thus no experience with the deaths and survived with side effects that used to be really common). Herd immunity protects those who can’t be immunized for medical reasons, but the herd is weaker when people don’t vaccinate.
      Off my soap box, I know schools are legally allowed to require all non-immunized students to stay home in some disease situations. You may want to check and see if your state agency has any similar rules. Those are sometimes called preventative quarantine rules.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I am 27. I got tge chicken pox as a kid.

        I still had to get the vaccine as a young 20 when I attempted medical training.

        I much prefer my “autism” (which oddly enough I am on the spectrum) than being paralyzed by polio or covered head to toe with itchy red spots that are not acne.

        (PS: I know autism is not cause by vaccines. I’m just saying that if it did, I choose that over… dead or worse)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My husband got chicken pox as an adult–the pox covered the inside of his body, too. And even that impressed the doctor only in the sense that he wasn’t so sick he needed to be hospitalized.

          His mom got shingles as a senior citizen. Would not recommend.

        2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

          I’m 38 and the vaccine for varicella (better known as chicken pox) didn’t get common till I was 23. My insurance at that time wouldn’t cover the shot as my pediatrician was more than willing to sign off that I had a three week long case of varicella in third grade (that was a really miserable spring break………). I still test positive for the antibodies, but if it ever changes I know the clinic at my new job has the vaccines for those diseases for adults, and would be glad to let me have one.

    2. JustaTech*

      Firmly, 1000% agree.
      OP, if you think your non-vax co-worker will put up a huge stink, there are a couple of avenues you can use to make your argument. 1) Other people have kids too young to vaccinate and measles stays in the air for hours (one person in the Brooklyn outbreak a few years ago got it from riding alone in an elevator that someone with measles had ridden in 2 hours before), so there is real risk even if the kids are not there at the same time.
      2) A person with measles is contagious 4 days *before* they have a rash, so it’s not just a case of keeping sick kids home.
      3) You work at a state agency, therefore you have an obligation to the public to do the work of your agency. Even if you’re not public-facing, if half the office is out sick or out taking care of sick kids (who would need to be home for at least another 4 days after the rash starts), then you’re not doing your best work for the public.

  9. Shannon*

    #1 – first, I am sorry. Second, so you never told the boss you saw they were going to fire you? If you’re leaving and not putting it on your resume I know I’d want to know WTF and ask a variation of “there’s a group chat that I’m not in, what did you expect, etc?” It would bug me for a really long time if I didn’t say anything, but that’s just me.

    1. Jasnah*

      Allow me to be the devil on OP’s shoulder: subtly let them know you know about the group chat.

      To the person who said it in the chat, bring up how you finally got x done, then say, “Feels good to get a monkey off your back.” Stare pointedly. Walk away.

      To the person who said it in the chat, offer them a snack, then take it away and say, “Oh actually, I think I should eat it, because I’m so skinny.” Stare pointedly. Shove the snack in your mouth and walk away.

      To your supervisor: take your phone out, then put it away and say breezily, “Oh woops, I forgot about no phones. Oh, make sure you let everyone know.”

      To your boss: say you’ll get X done by the end of the day, then say, “I’m COMMITTED to getting it done. Spread the word.”

      In your exit interview, dead serious: “I just want to make sure that everything I say will be on the record? I wouldn’t want to have you misquote me in the group chat later.”

      To whoever sits next to you, in earshot of others: “Hey, can I ask your advice? I have a friend whose coworkers all trash talk her in this secret group chat, what do you think she should do?” or even better, “she found out because one person secretly let her into the group. Could they get in trouble?”

      On your last day with a big smile: “Looks like the group chat will be hoppin’ today! Hope y’all get some work done in between insulting me behind my back! “Have a blessed day~”

      1. Shannon*

        Yeah, I absolutely would have to do something like this for my own sanity. This one at the very least: To whoever sits next to you, in earshot of others: “Hey, can I ask your advice? I have a friend whose coworkers all trash talk her in this secret group chat, what do you think she should do?” or even better, “she found out because one person secretly let her into the group. Could they get in trouble?”

      2. Hekko*

        “she found out because one person secretly let her into the group. Could they get in trouble?”

        Brilliant! Let the monkeys eat each other over this! :)

        1. New commenter*

          Oooh. This is so brilliant I just had to comment for the first time. Making explicitly clear that one of the people has been letting you know all about the chat. Let them all turn on one another trying to figure out who the mole is!!

      3. Blunt Bunny*

        I’m wondering if the monkey comment was racial in some way which may explain the alienation from the whole group through no fault of your own.

        1. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

          I’m actually white, so at least I haven’t been a victim of racism! I googled “get the monkey of your back” and it means to get rid of a persistent problem, but usually it’s used in reference to drug addiction.


          1. Moo*

            Since you’re here, I’ll reply directly to you! I’ve been through similar, although it wasn’t done through group chat. After I managed to leave the toxic job and mostly get away from the person doing the gossiping, I eventually found the strength to cut her out of my life forever (she was *incredibly* manipulative and I was very timid and did not like to stand up for myself). It took a lot of self-work and the support of my fantastic husband, but I did it. Getting out of there is the best thing you could have done for yourself (and seriously, go! Now! Today!). Thankfully this kind of environment is not the norm, so you should have better luck in the next job! Good luck!

            1. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

              Thank you, Moo! I’ve been timid for most of my life, so I totally relate. Every time I feel the urge to self-preserve, I have to hop on it immediately. So glad you’re in a better place now!

      4. Bostonian*

        Or insinuate that you have a copy of the chats so that after you leave, they’re all squirming wondering when they’re going to get in trouble.

        1. Jasnah*

          Ooh this is good! “Hey boss, I have a copy of the group chats, since you all were mentioning me so much. Should make a copy for company records, you know, just in case?”

      5. Courageous cat*

        Yep. I’m sorry, but please do this. No bridges left to burn. They need to know you can see this and that you know they’re assholes! Especially “‘In your exit interview, dead serious: “I just want to make sure that everything I say will be on the record? I wouldn’t want to have you misquote me in the group chat later.””

    2. Black Targaryen*

      100%… and I don’t get them saying “she’s COMMITTED to quitting” in the group chat when they were already planning on firing her. These are clearly people she cannot and could never win with.

        1. Yvette*

          You know what, even if they weren’t really planning to fire her, even if they really did not think/believe all the horrible things they were saying and that she really was doing a good job, and the whole chat was just some sort of twisted fun and games on their part, the fact that it existed is reason enough to leave.
          LW1, you don’t deserve that place and those people. And I love what Jasnah had to say, even if you don’t think you could do it, it will be fun to think about.

          1. Genny*

            I think Shannon’s point was LW’s supervisor has shown such spectacular inability to be a manager that it wouldn’t be surprising if the supervisor were talking big in the chats but not planning on actually following through in real life, which I think adds even more to the rottenness of the situation. What kind of person strings someone along like that? You’re valuable enough to have on the team, so we’re not going to go through the hassle of firing and replacing you, but we’re also not going to be bothered to treat you decently.

            1. Shannon*

              Exactly. People can talk a big game and be as*clowns in a chat and not have the stones at all to fire someone IRL. This place does not sound like it has its act together to do it. Yes, she should still leave but like I said above I’d have to say something. Take care, OP!

    3. happened to me too*

      Everyone is right about this being a horrible place to work and that the OP should leave. This is not how normal bosses and co-workers behave if someone is not performing well.

      However, I would like to address why she should not have quit before she found another job:
      1 If you leave a job before you have another one, most places will assume you were fired or asked to leave. Yes, you may get fired but most likely you can collect unemployment and you probably will have a little more time to find other job.
      2They fact they were all in a chat without her makes me believe this job was a set-up and from the very start they wanted her to leave. Maybe some relative wanted the job or another employee wanted the job. I don’t believe leaving the chat up was an accident.

      If there is someone above the managers involved in the chat, I would for sure let them know. I think she should say something directly to the people involved but be prepared for a mean spirited response.

  10. CastIrony*

    I think OP#1 should consider looking for help in navigating the emotional fallout from this horrid place before it completely distorts their views of work in general.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Yes! There’s low cost or even sliding scale therapists if cost is an issue.

      OP it WILL get better. Talk to a trained therapist.

      1. Loubelou*

        Agreed, please go and talk to someone about this. It’s not a sign of weakness to get professional help in a situation nobody should be asked to bear.
        I had a horrendous, toxic work environment with a 6 week notice period. I saw a CBT therapist for that six weeks and the first few weeks of my new job, to make sure I let go of all the crap I had absorbed in that toxic environment.

        Also, I took my last two weeks off sick because of anxiety and knowing I needed to heal before starting a new job. If you’re not feeling brave enough to just walk out early (totally understandable) then take it as sick leave/mental health leave.

  11. Anon Accountant*

    My last job did crap like this. 1 of the partners would be friendly and nice to you then gossip about you with 3 coworkers she was friends with. They made fun of people in very rude ways.

    Do as Alison says and move up your last day to today. They’re horrible people and don’t deserve any more of your time. Leave and don’t second guess yourself. They’re immature and unprofessional.

    1. Doug Judy*

      I’ve been in this situation too. It’s demoralizing. I even confronted them about it and they acted like I was crazy. For whatever reason they didn’t like me, and I’m generally a very likeable person.

      OP, they are terrible, miserable people. Don’t let how they treated you make you feel like there’s anything wrong with you. They are the ones who suck.

    2. Jen*

      Yes, these situations can make you feel like you are going crazy. At a past job, a co-worker and my boss were friends and they frequently made me feel like an odd girl out. I would catch them whispering about me and rolling their eyes when I talked. I felt right back in 7th grade.

      In another job I was at grad school with two co-workers, one of whom just didn’t like me to begin with. They’d sit behind me and any time I talked in class or answered a question I’d hear the little noise associated with their phone texts. Blip, blip. At first It thought I was being paranoid but it never failed, I’d raise my hand to say something in class and then “blip, blip, blip” for the next 10 minutes. People are assholes sometimes.

    3. StellaBella*

      Yep. am interviewing now and am trying to think of ways to address toxic work place if ref check happens … Good luck OP and walk out … You will do better with normal people.

  12. Leela*

    #2 – not just for the kids! I’m on chemo but am still able to work, and these measles outbreaks cause me nightmares and literal visions of my death constantly. I’m immunocompromised because of the chemo and coming into contact with an infected person could literally kill me, make me unable to work for the rest of my life, or require isolation for a long period of time if I’ve been exposed. The anti-vax movement could kill me long before my cancer gets a chance to, push to keep your office anti-vax free. It’s far beyond respecting people’s choices at this point, lives are at stake, and not everyone who’s in danger would necessarily come forward (I’m definitely not going to bring it up at the new job I’m starting next week because it’s a contract and I want to stick around, for example). You’re totally justified in what you’re trying to do, and good on you!

    1. Tanya*

      “The anti-vax movement could kill me long before my cancer gets a chance to.”

      This needs to go on a billboard. What antivaxxers don’t get (or maybe they don’t care) is that they’re putting innocent people at risk, from their children to immunocompromised people.

    2. WS*

      +1. I was in the same position, but have a relative who can’t be vaccinated for whooping cough because of a rare and serious reaction to the vaccine (she had seizures from it as a child and so cannot be re-vaccinated and it does wear off). She stayed away from me while I was vulnerable because she is a reasonable person! But it’s hard to bring up at work when people immediately want to know all the details.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes! While I’m sure anti-vaxxers are well-intentioned (if ill-informed), their decision not to vaccinate affects many circles of people outside their own families.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I’m going to push back and say that they are not well-intentioned, they are selfish. They are letting their fear of having an autistic child endanger everyone else in society. We can’t give a pass to people who are too pig headed and stubborn to consider looking past their own ignorance to acknowledge basic facts. That path leads to destruction.

        1. LQ*

          Their fear over lies that a liar who is no longer legally allowed to call himself a doctor because of the lies he told said.

          1. Observer*

            Unfortunately, plenty of people think that Wakefiled’s “disbarment” (for lack of a better word) is suspicious and wasn’t REALLY because he lied. Also, he is NOT the only one by far peddling this garbage.

            Did you see the last Nova documentary on this? It was horrifying – they actually presented the anti-vax side as a legitimate “alternative” point of view, which would have been bad enough has they at least done their interviews properly – eg when someone says something flamingly stupid ASK THEM WHAT THEY MEAN. Nope, not even that.

        2. Alton*

          Fear of autism and fear of potential health complications that aren’t very likely. A small number of people have averse reactions to some vaccines (like if they’re allergic to an ingredient), but opting not to vaccinate when you don’t have any reason to think your child is part of that group is dangerous and makes about as much logical sense as something like never allowing your healthy child to eat anything that contains nuts due to the unknown possibility that they could be allergic.

          1. Observer*

            People who are afraid of vaccinations generally aren’t being logical, so appeals to reason don’t work. Neither does name calling.

            If you’ve paid any attention to the whole “helicopter parenting” phenomenon, where parents try to eliminate every single possible risk to their kids – in the process creating other risks that they don’t recognize – you would realize that your example is pretty much EXACTLY what is going on with part of the anti-vax movement.

            1. ClumsyCharisma*

              You are absolutely correct that they don’t think logically. I have a friend whose argument is it’s not that bad. Not one in the US has died from X disease since 19xx. Right, so about the time the vaccine became available???

        3. Lady Phoenix*

          Aas an autistic person, antivaxxers can eff off straight to h3ll.

          They are stupid, ablest, selfish scumbags.

        4. CG*

          There are also a lot of people who don’t believe the autism bit and understand the benefits of many childhood vaccines but still won’t get the flu shot, and as a person who is particularly vulnerable to that, I consider them anti-vax as well. I’ve heard people who are reasonable about measles say that they won’t get the flu shot because it will just give them the flu, or that they never get the flu so they don’t need it, or that not being 100% effective means there’s no point. I don’t get how you can understand the potential issues with unvaccinated kids for the immunocompromized but not get how that applies to the flu. Or that there are other benefits to the flu shot even if it’s not 100% effective against all strains. Yargh.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Just because people believe that a likely to be permanently deadly/disfiguring disease is worth vaccinating against doesn’t mean that things they will want to vaccinate against every possible thing. Granted some of the reasons given are objectively questionable. Hopefully once they get that 3 year, no needle vaccine ready to go more people will be willing.

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            I have actually gotten in trouble, while in the Army both during the time I was active duty, and having been in the Army Reserve, because my response to having to sit through a lecture about the consequences of refusing the flu shot was “Hey, do I have to listen to this, ’cause you know in the time it takes for you to give this lecture, I could have already gotten the shot. You know, because I’m not stupid enough to refuse it. Have you had the flu? I have. 0/10, would not recommend. I would rather nail my own genitalia to a table than get the flu again.”

    4. Fainting Goats*

      The anti-vax people really don’t get it. My dad finished his last round of chemo in November, and him and my mom have been living with me since he started Chemo (we have a ranch house and live 1 street over from my nurse sister and her doctor husband). Over Christmas my new husband’s Niece (respiratory something at a hospital) was in town from Measles outbreak area with her 4 unvaccinated children. I thought we were going to be getting divorced in the new year because him and his family had a fit since his niece and her kids were not allowed to come to our home while she was in town. I hold a Christmas party every year and this year it was just for close family (dad still wanted the party and was feeling better) but when I found out she had unvaccinated kids I told them they couldn’t come. They attempted to come anyway because their kids were not sick, police were called and my husband spent a week at his moms. Nieces mom now wants to have the easter get together and not invite me and my kids, just my husband to put me in my place maybe the divorce is coming.

        1. Fainting Goats*

          It hasn’t happened yet. I told him it was his choice, I haven’t told him if he goes it will be my choice to let my Easter get together pack his stuff and leave it at his moms.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I guess he just doesn’t understand that it’s your dad’s *life* he’s risking? He thinks you’re just ‘being dramatic’?

            Because ‘not understanding the real consequences’ is the only explanation I can come up with for this behavior. Holy Immunoglobin, Batman.

          2. Lady Phoenix*

            Talk to a lawyer. In th meantime, sit with your husband and discuss how these kids could have potentially killed your father and why you have to keep your family safe.

            If he does not understand, than he has made his choice. Divorce him.

            1. Fainting Goats*

              Thats where we are. I have a lawyer my BIL (Oncologist)put one on retainer for me after Christmas, when he tried to explain that that having them near my father is dangerous and they didn’t accept it. FWIW he really doesn’t believe that non vaccinated children can cause that much harm, I do believe if he thought it would he would have put his foot down to his family. This however is something I can’t/won’t give in on and quite frankly think less of him for being so ignorant.

              1. Observer*

                If it comes down to it and they go ahead with the nonsense over the easter party, please do tell him what your plans are. Yes, he’s being incredibly ignorant, but he should get the chance to make his choice about how to go forward with full understanding of the consequences TO HIM.

                1. Observer*

                  I just wanted to add that if you decide that you are done, regardless of what happens with the party, I totally sympathize with you.

                  *IF* you do want to stay in the marriage, your husband needs to have the price spelled out, ie “Either you have my back or we’re done.”

              2. Lady Phoenix*

                In other words, you don’t have an in laws problem, you have a husband problem.

                That is sad, but this is the time for ultimatums… and sticking to them if they don’t fall in your favor.

              3. Engineer Girl*

                He didn’t back his spouse. That’s the core issue.

                He’s supposed to leave his family and make a new one with you. Clearly he hasn’t done this. And the fact that he’s willing to take part in retaliation says it all.

                Retaliation is for dysfunctional people. Normal people get hurt and merely walk away.

              4. Hrovitnir*

                Wow. That sounds so awful, I’m really impressed by how you’re dealing with this. I’m sorry your husband is acting so abominably.

      1. None the Wiser*

        Ohmigod, that’s outrageous!

        I’m sorry that someone’s poor and misguided choices are upending your life in such a fashion, but commend you for holding firm and doing right by your dad.

      2. Nea*

        I’ll be honest – I would have been filing for the divorce myself if my husband had a snitfit that I prioritized my father’s health over him seeing his family for one vacation.

        1. Light37*

          Not even one vacation- one PARTY!

          That’s the point where I’d really hit the silk. He got mad they couldn’t come to a party knowing that his FIL is immunocompromised and could die. I couldn’t trust him to have my back.

      3. BethRA*

        Wow. Not normal, not ok. I’m glad you stood your ground on this, and hope the hubs gets his head out of his nether end soon.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Your husband’s niece is a “respiratory something in a hospital” and she is an antivaxer? Good God. She should be fired and barred from healthcare work. Also, she shouldn’t be a mother.

        And good luck with divorcing your scummy husband. Wow.

    5. sam*

      Let me also put in a plug for adult vaccine boosters. I didn’t know these were a thing (or that childhood vaccines WEAR OFF) until I was planning a trip to India about 12 years ago, and my GP insisted I get re-upped on all the big ones (MMR, pertussis, tetantus (which is only good for ten years), polio, etc.). He also checked to confirm that I had the hepatitis vaccine markers in my system (I had remembered vaguely getting vaccinated before law school, because it was brand new then, but couldn’t remember).

      In the “old” days, people didn’t have to worry so much about these things unless traveling to riskier places, because as adults we were actually protected by herd immunity, but with more children becoming risk vectors, it’s better to re-protect yourself as an adult.

      other fun vaccine facts for people traveling
      – the typhoid vaccine only lasts 2 years. My brother learned that the ‘hard way’
      – there is a massive global shortage for the yellow fever vaccine. if you’re planning to travel somewhere that might require it, check on the CDC website for a special “travel vaccine” doctor that will have a limited supply of the european vaccine (I had to do this when going to the amazon in 2017).

    6. Old Biddy*

      This. I caught chickenpox from a coworker whose kids had it. Adding insult to injury, it was a year or so after the chickpox vaccine came out and I actually had an appointment for a physical coming up and was going to ask about it then.

    7. AbbeyRoad*

      Leela, just wanted to say I’m rooting for you. I finished chemo four years ago last November. I was working in a preschool at the time (I went to work as much as I could during the months of treatment) and a child who actually had been vaccinated got sick anyway. Luckily she was okay and so was I. Such a scary time, though. I hope those around you are empowering you to do everything you can to care for yourself and stay safe.

  13. RG*

    OP #1 – what they did is not ok. I know it’s tempting to feel like maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal if you were a better employee, but that’s not true. It would still be unacceptable. Good performance, or lack thereof, is completely independent of having basic respect for others.

    1. Fergus*

      I don’t think it would matter if she was a great employee, sounds like they would make up reasons, they are still in 8th grade.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If OP isn’t the office scapegoat, one of them is going to have to move into that role…

    2. DustyJ*

      Yes, this. You don’t have to be a bad employee for horrible people to be horrible! In fact, the better you are at your job, the more likely their knives will come out.

    3. Mean Girls*

      OP hasn’t been there long enough to be a bad employee, these people are just awful. Truly disliking a co-worker takes time for them to grate on your nerves and your other co-workers and to see that they are doing a terrible job because they are terrible not because they are new. I feel like I am the mean girl at work but would never use the morons real names. I have 3 work friends and we have a group phone chat about the morons in our office but they all have code names, Big bird (tall idiot that wears yellow suits in the spring and summer, hands off her work that she cant get done even though she come in late, spends 1.5 hours at the gym for lunch and has to leave by 3 to pick the kids up), Cookie Monster (idiot that eats chips at a decibel you can hear on another floor, hasn’t done work correctly in years), and Peppermint Patty (freckles and light brown Dora hair, brings the boss a gift every day and magically when she gets a coke or chips the boss’s favorite pops out for free. Poops 2-3 times a day at work doesn’t courtesy flush and should be tested by the EPA for the amount of methane she is releasing).

    4. DaisyGrrl*

      It’s also really hard to perform well when you know your colleagues are talking about you behind your back and you’re understandably miserable as a result.

      1. Light37*

        Yeah, who can you go to with work-related questions in this scenario? You know they’ll pretend to be nice and then trash you on Slack, so why would you ask anyone?

    5. Nita*

      Whatever performance “problems” OP had, if they were even real, could have been caused by poor management. In a normal office, new hires who have problems are given support and guidance. Even if the manager did offer some kind of advice to OP’s face, they were really hoping OP would fail even more spectacularly and feed the office drama. Well, too bad, those vipers can go bite each other now, OP’s leaving.

      OP1 – sorry about that awful experience, you made the right call getting out of there, and good luck!

      1. Honeygrim*

        I’m pretty certain there’s some MAJORLY poor management there. A boss who runs to the group chat to tell their other employees about private disciplinary conversations?!? If there were any sort of functional HR at that company, I’d suggest the OP report that. That’s beyond unethical.

        OP1, I’m so sorry you were trapped in that madhouse. None of that is your fault, and none of it was deserved. Get out of there ASAP and find some place where you can work with humans instead of rabid hyenas.

  14. Anancy*

    OP #1 Those are awful people. You are not gaslighting yourself, or wrong for looking at your name on a screen, and you don’t owe them anything. They have treated you horribly. This is an awful situation for anyone to be in, and they are terrible people. Even if someone was rubbish at their job, this behavior by co-workers and *Supervisors* is ridiculous. They do not deserve another second from you. If you can afford it, just pack up at the end of the day tomorrow and don’t go back. If you can’t afford it, then go to work do whatever you need to do to get through the day. Literally. Put in earphones. Spend the day on your phone. (OK, use your judgement but they do not deserve you.)
    If you have a therapist, get in to see them asap. Not because your anxiety is a part of this or because you caused any of this, but because when people are royally awful to you, you need to have your team on your side. I’m livid on your behalf–they did not treat you professionally nor with common decency.
    One more time They are awful awful people.

    1. Fergus*

      those people are the same people in grade school who pass notes around, now they are just older using tech…they are by no means any more mature. Be grateful you are not their parents, their spouse, or their children, because if they are trash talking you as an employee, I couldn’t even imagine what the person who lives with them is going through, because the trash talk just doesn’t stop with you

    2. Anonny*

      It is really, really hard to not pay attention to people s***-talking you. Humans tend to pay attention when their name is said anyway, and curiosity can be the absolute devil.

    3. Bee*

      Weird thing about being a somewhat anxious/depressed person is that you’re so worried about being pro-social and agreeable, there’s a lot of people who will notice you’re vulnerable and take advantage of it. Which can make things worse!

  15. Bilateralrope*

    For #3 there is another option: Offer to be the designated driver to take people home afterwards. That way they can drink as much as they want without worrying about being pulled over for drunk driving.

    For #4, I work for a place that offers a lot of extra shifts. But they like to offer to people who are more likely to accept first, just to save time. Since I keep saying yes, a few managers assumed I needed the money. Thus offering me the work was a favor. Gradually that changed to most of them just asking if I want the shift and one manager occasionally asking me to do him a favor when he has a extra shift open.
    But that required me to be more open about my finances than you might want to be.

    1. Essie*

      I wouldn’t volunteer to drive a bunch of drunk people home. And they can all do that anyway by getting a taxi.

      1. Story Nurse*

        Yes, you shouldn’t have to “earn” not drinking by doing an extra task that you don’t necessarily want to do.

        1. RUKidding*

          Exactly. OP is entitled to not drink for any reason at all and not to to drive many different people to many different locations. Taxis, Uber, Lyft all exist for a reason.

      2. RUKidding*

        Yeah me either. I wouldn’t even do this for a bunch of friends all going separate ways much less just the people I work with.

        1. Kit-Kat*

          Yep. I don’t like drinking, it is not fun for me. I haaaaaaate when people are like “but just be the designated driver!” No. I’ll go and hang out with friends until they get too drunk that it’s no longer fun for me. (As the sober person, there’s a limit to how amusing it can get for me, I don’t want people vomiting in my car, etc etc) I imagine being in recovery, this could have similar effects in that you may not want to even be around heavy drinking. I will occasionally be DD for friends I trust. Not a value judgment just a limit to what me (and my car) can tolerate.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        I would so volunteer to be the DD, as long as I got reimbursed for gas money. Let the drunks come out of pocket for it. As long as no one puked in my car, it would be high entertainment, and well worth it!. Agree that the OP should not have to do this in order not to drink, though.

    2. Language Lover*

      For LW3, Unfortunately, “I’m driving” or “I’m a designated driver” still leaves the door open for pushback from people who won’t see small amounts as a problem. As someone who doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, I’ve had better luck just saying that than trying to say I’m the Designated Driver (plus, I don’t have to drive anyone home and can leave when I want.) There are people who will think one won’t hurt over the course of a full evening. Or, if whiskey tastings have a swish and spit option like wine tastings do, they’ll encourage the LW to engage in that.

      So I think skipping it or saying it’s a medical reason (and won’t even put alcohol in their mouth out of fear of accidentally swallowing) are still the better options.

    3. Antilles*

      I understand the thought behind offering to be the DD and it often works fine as an excuse, but not for a tasting. The way that whiskey tastings generally work is like this:
      1.) You are given a platter with several different types of whiskey at once. Worth noting that each of these is typically less than a full shot.
      2.) Someone gives a talk or presentation about what’s special about each type of whiskey and at set intervals goes “okay, so that’s what’s unique about Glenlivet, let’s all give this a try”. Each of these is typically less volume than a normal shot. And it’s not even expected for you to finish each of the drinks either.
      3.) Then afterwards, you’re provided with an opportunity to follow up by drinking more of whichever type you liked best.
      So if OP went and tried to beg out on basis of being the DD, the likely response would be something along the lines of “oh yeah, that makes sense, but why not just take a very tiny sip of each? it’ll be well out of your system by the time we’re ready to leave two hours from now”.
      Besides, if this is really as important as the company seems to think, there’s a good change someone responds with a breezy “no worries! company is paying for taxis tonight!”.

    4. nonymous*

      Before saying anything to coworkers/boss, it might be worth reaching out to the distillery that runs the tasting room. They might actually have a alternative already planned (or will advertise it once OP expresses interest).

      If OP was able to go on a booze cruise without coworkers taking offense, they probably won’t make a big deal that they are drinking Irn Bru or mocktails or small batch root beer.

      Honestly if the last one was offered, now might be the time to vocally profess a love for craft root beer or craft sodas in general.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I am beyond tired of being the designated driver just because I don’t drink. I want to enjoy my evening. Why in the hell should my beverage choice dictate that I be the babysitter for a bunch of drunks?

  16. AnonyNurse*

    I work in public health. Measles is phenomenally contagious. A non-immune person can acquire it from being in a room an infected person was in hours before, even if the infected person does not yet feel ill. The public health declaration will actually give your agency more leeway to restrict access to unvaccinated people to protect those who cannot be completely vaccinated.

    As general information, and not medical advice:
    – an infant as young as six months can get the MMR, although the early dose won’t replace the regular two dose series.
    – when a disaster is declared, most anyone is eligible to receive a vaccine, typically at no cost
    – Immunity wanes over time, so if you are in a high risk group because of likelihood of exposure (ie you work in healthcare or a school) or because of your health, a booster can be worth it even if you have been vaccinated
    – generally, everyone over age 4 should have had two doses of MMR (exceptions apply, obviously)

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      Yes to all of this!

      I have several 60+ year old extended family members and friends who have extreme consequences from having the measles, complete loss of vision in an eye being the most severe after- effect. Another also has permanent hearing loss from the mumps. Another caught rubella while pregnant, and her son was born with partial vision and hearing loss. If the MMR had existed when they were children, they would never have had to overcome any of those life-altering conditions. The measles will cause severe side effects in 1 out of every 1000 cases. (source: CDC and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website)

      OP, thank you for taking the health of your coworkers and their children seriously!

      1. Nita*

        Yeah. I can’t remember the specific books offhand (other than Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs) but I’ve read so many books where one of the main characters was born deaf and/or blind, or lost a sense in early childhood after illness. This was really not uncommon a couple of hundred years ago. Some people don’t appreciate nearly enough that most babies born in the developed world today don’t have to fear the same fate, thanks to vaccines and antibiotics.

        1. Oranges*

          In Agatha Christie’s “The Mirror crack’d side to side” a woman had a severely mentally handicapped (not sure if correct jargon, apologies if not) child because Rubella.

          It’s frustrating that antivaxxers don’t realize that their crusade is capable of causing mental developmental issues when that’s the “reason” they’re antivaxx in the first place. Gar!

    2. Annoyedparent*

      I think all of this so important to share – thank you! I live in an area where not vaccinating is very common, and my completely vaccinated, healthy children contracted pertussis in their public school last year. Public health is no joke.

      1. OyHiOh*

        This happened to me and my children a few years ago. Children were up to date, I’d recently had a booster. We got fevers, coughed for a week or 10 days, and were over it. Felt pretty mild compared to experiences I’ve read about. It could have been much, much worse for us!

        1. Oranges*

          Fun fact: Whooping cough can cause you to cough so hard your ribs actually crack!

          Wait… maybe un-fun fact?

      2. Get your ding dang vaccines*

        Holy cow! I’m so sorry that happened to you and your family. I had meningitis when I was a year old. I lost hearing in one ear because of it. In order to live in the dorms and use tbe school gym in college we were required to get a meningitis vaccine. I made the appointment for that shot immediately upon receiving the letter telling me it needed it.

  17. Zona the Great*

    Am I a mean girl from #1? I work with Nicola. A very kind person. Odd but kind. She’s not good at her job. Her work supports mine and Cha’s so it impacts us directly. I say things to Cha like, “I’m concerned with Nicola’s work. It’s getting frustrating.” Occasionally one of us silently rolls our eyes when we realize another file is missing. I assure you we don’t roll our eyes, then giggle and talk trash. We roll our eyes then talk about what to do about it.

    I’m still very nice to Nicola. I’m not her boss or supervisor. We share a boss. She likely has no idea I’m frustrated by her or think her work is bad though I don’t say it’s good or anything to humor her.

    Am I? Is this the same as #1?

    1. Black Targaryen*

      Critiquing is fine, and expecting good/improving work is fine. You say you’re kind and not trash talking and rolling eyes behind her back, so you’re already lightyears ahead of LA1’s colleagues.

    2. Jasnah*

      I think expressing frustration to someone else bearing the brunt of the problem is natural and can even build camaraderie in some instances (you ever make a friend because you shared a bad teacher?) That said, I think it’s very good to check these impulses every so often as you are doing. I don’t always find it helpful to think “what would happen if they heard me” because that can stop me from addressing problems for fear of blowback, but that litmus test might work for others. Here’s what I consider for myself:

      1. Am I focusing on what the real issue is? (ie Nicola is getting mixed directions and swamped with work which affects the quality, or the problem is Nicola’s work and I’m insulting her appearance)

      2. What is the scale of my complaining? (ie am I privately venting to a partner, friend, or close coworker, or am I spreading rumors in a group chat that includes everyone except that person?)

      3. How helpful is it to me? (ie do I feel like a weight has lifted and now I can focus, or do I feel negative and helpless afterwards?)

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Number 3 is so vital. Comiserating over a shared dislike of someone is one of those things (like eating a whole sleeve of cookies or binge-watching a show) that can make you feel better in small doses and MUCH worse in larger ones.

        If you find that you’re bringing up Nicola and how annoyed you are with her on a regular basis (like, daily) then yes, you’re probably focusing too much on it. Move your focus to what you can control.

        1. KHB*

          Thank you for articulating this. I get frustrated by conversations about how talking about people “behind their backs” is such a terrible thing to do, and if you have a complaint about someone, you should say it to their face. In my experience, that’s not a reasonable thing to expect. People vent to each other about people they don’t like, it’s just a thing that happens – and I think part of being a mature adult is realizing that someone, somewhere is probably venting to someone about you, and making peace with that fact. Not everyone has to like you, and that’s not necessarily a problem to be solved.

          But it hadn’t occurred to me to frame this as one of those things where there’s a qualitative difference between a little and a lot. It makes so much sense that way.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            People who tell you the mean things they think about you, and then brag to everyone about how ‘honest’ they are and they just ‘tell it like it is’ are the worst. They just don’t want to have to check their behavior or follow the social contract. Sometimes people are annoying and sometimes you have to vent to someone else about it. Just don’t let it consume you.

            1. KHB*

              Exactly. I actually do prefer for people to be nice to me to my face – or at least professional and polite – even if they dislike me and think I’m annoying. Which some of them probably do, and they’re allowed to feel that way.

              1. Jennifer*


                Everyone isn’t going to like everyone. It’s just the reality of throwing a bunch of people with wildly different backgrounds into the same space. I expect professionalism and courtesy to my face, but what they truly think of me is none of my business.

                Even people who don’t vent at work are likely going home and venting to friends or their spouses. That’s still talking behind someone’s back.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I often think of Robert Sapolsky’s observation that no other ape has figured out how to live in such large groups. If you tried to put a few thousand orangutans or chimps in an office building, the results would not be pretty. A lot of our social rituals are around making this dense level of interaction with vast numbers of people tolerable.

                  Including being nice to people’s face even if your sincere feeling about them is irritation.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Nice analogy with the effect of small doses versus large ones.

          I was so–validated?–to get an email from another writer on a project saying “Cersei really doesn’t seem to understand the assignment she gave me; have you worked with her?” and agree that, yes, Cersei didn’t seem to understand the topic and it was frustrating and this was how I had worked around it. After a couple more practical back-and-forths we went back to our usual lives–we didn’t start a weeks; long email string about her.

      2. Alton*

        I would also add “Is talking about the problem productive?”

        Will bringing up concerns about Nicola’s work help you get or provide helpful context about challenges you’re experiencing (ie “I’m concerned about meeting our deadline because Nicola isn’t responding to my messages”)? Or is it just venting? Venting isn’t always bad, but it can turn into gossip or trash talk if you’re not careful, and that isn’t helpful.

      3. Clay on my apron*

        I really think #2 is a biggy. Did you set up a Slack channel with everyone except her, for the purpose of gossiping about her? Do you vent to everyone else in the office or just your closest workmate? Do you look for opportunities to criticise her, or does it only happen occasionally?

        I do think though @Zona that you are heading into mean girl territory – and it’s a slippery slope. Rolling your eyes and complaining to your colleague is a natural way to express frustration but not especially professional or productive. Rather talk to Nicola, or her boss, or your boss – whatever would be appropriate in your workplace.

    3. Argh!*

      Sort of, yeah, but not as bad.

      Have you told Nicola that it impacted your work when she did xyz? And have you told your boss? Telling each other may feel good in the moment, but along with the validation comes some demoralization, plus you aren’t solving anything.

      I really understand the frustration of having incompetent people holding you back, but you & Cha would do everyone a favor by spending that time trying to find a solution.

    4. NadiaCA*

      Yes, you are possibly a mean girl. My coworkers didn’t think I saw them exchanging looks and rolling their eyes. They thought I didn’t see it, but I am perceptive and I have peripheral vision, so I noticed it a lot and it bothered me greatly. Most of their criticisms were completely unwarranted and they couldn’t see beyond their own narrow ideas, perceptions and incorrect assumptions.

      1. Nonny*

        Don’t we have a rule about taking people’s descriptions of circumstances at their word? If they say that Nicola’s work falls short, let’s assume it’s true.

    5. Cat wrangler*

      I’m going to ask this…. have you told Nicola what she needs to do to support you and Cha and what that looks like? If she has previously worked somewhere where you organise your own work then changed companies where it’s a more rigid system, she may not know what the problem is. Or she might know it’s a problem but not care (which is another issue).

    6. restingbutchface*

      No shade here, but if your inner voice is piping up and seeing something in this letter you recognise about yourself, that’s all the input you need. I’d see this as a really healthy self awareness moment.

    7. Sunshine*

      You aren’t #1, but maybe bring your concerns to your boss rather than rolling your eyes? I feel like this is how #1’s colleagues got started.

    8. Grace*

      It’s not as bad as the situation in OP1 but it’s getting there. You’re certainly a mean girl for talking about her with another coworker behind her back and being nice to her face. Discussing it with your coworker is not going to solve the problem. Let Nicola know what she did wrong when she does and keep it between you and her, maybe vent to your SO or a friend outside of work. What you’re doing now is certainly not OK.

    9. MLB*

      It’s not to the level of the letter here, but if you’re talking behind her back about the work she’s doing and not talking to her directly that’s an issue. How can she know she’s not doing a good job if nobody tells her?

      1. Nita*

        Yes, you need to talk either to Nicola or to her boss, otherwise it’s just talk behind her back. Definitely not the same level as OP’s case, but not helpful to anyone either.

    10. Fainting Goats*

      If she is new (less than 6 months in the job) or if she try’s to fix the things that are wrong or isn’t told they are wrong then yes your mean give her a break. However, if she doesn’t mind that things are wrong and you are having to fix them and she has been there for a while then not so much. Its not nice or friendly behavior, but there is a reasonable expectation to be able to do your job correctly 80% of the time and if consistently that doesn’t happen rolling your eyes with your work BFF, and letting your frustration out to each other at lunch or online (not public) is most likely therapeutic for you.

    11. Doodle*

      You are sort of a mean girl. Why are you griping to Cha? Why aren’t you talking to your boss?

      Silently rolling your eyes and talking about what to do about it — there’s a non-zero chance that Nicola knows you’re doing this

      TBH, I don’t think you get to gripe about Nicola if you’re not doing anything to resolve the problem. If your boss doesn’t know and you aren’t saying anything, that’s on you.

      1. aebhel*

        There’s a really good chance she knows. People are never as subtle about this sort of thing as they think they are.

    12. Jennifer*

      I have had venting sessions about employees that were on my last nerve as well. There was a woman at my last job whose work had to constantly be corrected. She didn’t know basic things like how to add an attachment to an email, the proper use of certain words, how to copy/paste. She asked the same questions over and over and over. She was friendly with one of the supervisors which was the only reason she was hired. If I didn’t vent to someone, I would have lost my mind.

      It’s just one of those things. I would feel like the OP if I found out a bunch of people at work were talking about me behind my back, and I probably would feel super anxious about it, but I’ve talked about people behind theirs. I hope the OP confronts them about their trash talk before her last day, but would have been horrified if someone overheard me and confronted me about what I’d said in the past. It’s the height of hypocrisy but a lot of people do it.

      1. Grace*

        Just because you’ve done it doesn’t make it OK. Many people participate in corruption as well but it’s still wrong to do so. Talking about someone behind their back with their peers is never OK.

        And of course you’d be horrified if someone confronted you, that’s the point of bringing it up actually.

        If you need to vent to someone, either confide in an outside person or use a diary. Don’t trash talk people in your immediate environment. It’s the decent thing to and it doesn’t matter how tempting it is to trash talk someone.

        1. Jennifer*

          I didn’t say it was right. But most people vent when they are frustrated. Even if you go home and vent to your spouse you are still talking behind people’s backs.

          For the record, we went to lunch and vented off company property a couple times. It wasn’t constant or a daily thing.

      2. NotMyRealName*

        This. Our receptionist has been here forever, but is incredibly inconsiderate to the people who have to cover. She takes extra long breaks, calls in at the absolute last minute, and then bitches at us about things not being done the way she wants them done. It’s been made clear that she will never face any consequence for making our work lives harder, so all we can do is bitch about it to each other.

        1. Jennifer*

          I understand. It’s life sometimes.

          I don’t think that’s the same as what is described in the OP at all. That’s just plain mean. There is no problem with her work and they are making comments about her appearance and other things beyond her control.

          1. NotMyRealName*

            Absolutely. I’m just pushing back on the idea that you can never say anything bad about a coworker.

      3. Bee*

        Occasional venting is fine, if not great. Still, it sounds like for LW1’s office it’s become this sort of ritualistic, obsessive behaviour and they don’t even go through the trouble of hiding it.

    13. AbbeyRoad*

      Zona, I have been on the receiving end and been really hurt and I have also been the one doing it–even if you know better, it can be so tempting to vent when someone just isn’t doing their job.

      I think there’s a difference between venting something along the lines of “…this happened AGAIN and we have been over this, I’m so frustrated” and taking it to a place where you’re being cruel, and where you’re having fun being cruel. There are a lot of factors that could contribute to that escalation and the fact that you’re thinking about this and accepting the feedback gracefully suggests that you’re not contributing to a toxic environment like the LW was experiencing — and if you find out you are, it sounds like you’re going to put a stop to it.

      I had a really rough time in school when I was younger and like I said, I had a work situation where I really wish the people had just told me directly so I didn’t have to hear about it from someone else and feel worse. Because of that, I absolutely thought I’d never be a person who would do the kinds of things I had found so hurtful when I was on the receiving end. And then I found myself with a co-worker who was just…not good at her job for a lot of reasons and I was pulling consistent 13 hour days because of it and when all the dust had cleared and I looked back at things I had vented to friends–not even co-workers–I was really shocked and ashamed by the level of vitriol and cruelty I had reached. I truly didn’t realize I could say things that were as unkind as what was right there in front of me. And then it turned out I did. So…you never know.

  18. Black Targaryen*

    LW1, I’m really sorry that happened to you. If you’re not already in therapy, perhaps a few sessions to talk this toxic workplace out of your system will help. This has clearly demoralized you (“everyone dislikes me…bosses are communicating with everyone about my shortcomings…I put in my two weeks notice, citing my poor performance, which is valid, to be honest…I am very easily gaslit…I take a lot of bathroom breaks for the purpose of panicking”). I wonder if your performance really is as week as you think/or, if it was weak, whether you could’ve improved if you’d actually had managers in your corner. Sending you kind thoughts and e-vibes. I would quit today if I were you, and I’d let them know that I’ve seen their group chat.

    1. Rose*

      Yeah, there are some other issues going on here, I think therapy would be good. I’d be curious from OP as to how you “know that you’re easily gaslit” – that’s an odd thing to say to me. Do you mean you’re gullible? Or naive? I’m also trying to figure out if anyone ever actually told her she had poor performance and it sounds like…no? Maybe just knowing about the chat was enough (understandably)?

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I have a friend who is ‘easy to gaslight’. He says, regularly, his memory for personal interactions and conversations is not good, so if you tell him he said something, he’ll believe you. I’ve actually seen him make a comment and not realize that he’d said / thought it 10 seconds later. He’s reasonably intelligent, decent job, but he has had to develop tools / methods to compensate for this.

        1. Rose*

          I would describe that as someone who is forgetful. Someone who is easy to gaslight means they’re forgetful AND around people willing to manipulate them. I don’t know about you but I’m not hanging around people often who are psychologically manipulating me on purpose.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          I’m somewhat similar – I wouldn’t forget after 10 seconds, but I do sometimes have trouble relaying conversations to third parties after the fact, especially if they were at all contentious. Then, if someone asks for my side of the story, it comes out garbled and out of chronological order and “oh-this-also-happened-and-it-was-super-important-but-I-forgot-to-mention”. Once I came to know this about myself, I started documenting important conversations in my personal email so that I wouldn’t forget them (like the time when I was in grad school and I tried to reserve a room on campus for a student group, and the admin person I talked to was kind of nasty to me for no reason, and I was afraid he’d complain about me to his superiors or to my faculty advisor – he never did, but I wanted to make sure I could justify myself).

          Also, in factual disputes, I’m probably too quick to suggest that it must be me who’s wrong, because that’s where my mind goes first: “Oh, she says that the widget weighs four pounds, not five? Maybe my information is out of date and she knows better!”

      2. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

        Being easily gaslit is part of my BPD, unfortunately! Admittedly, I do use that phrase with a bit of irreverence. But it is alarmingly easy to convince me I didn’t see something I definitely saw. Like, if I were to bring this up to my boss and he said “Oh, we weren’t talking about you,” my first thought wouldn’t be “But you said my name in the groupchat so you’re clearly lying,” it would be “Wow I guess I’m crazy and hallucinating.” In many situations, the nature of my mental illness is that i DO rush to conclusions or overreact, so I tend to default toward assuming that that’s the case 90% of the time.

        It’s something that has given me a lot of grief in my life, but I’m happy to say I’m learning to recognize it. I have a great support system who will let me know when I’m being too permissive in letting others rewrite history, so to speak.

    2. londonedit*

      I agree. I know hindsight is infallible, but I feel like the reason OP gave for quitting should have been ‘Well, I’m aware that my performance is regularly discussed in a group chat that I am excluded from, and I’m not prepared to work in an environment where that sort of behaviour is acceptable’, rather than ‘I know I’ve been a poor performer’.

      It is easy, especially if you’ve been in toxic workplaces before or you’ve had other experiences where your work and your feelings have been invalidated, to immediately assume that anything that goes wrong must be your fault. It’s easy to convince yourself that yes, the bosses are right, I’m a terrible employee, it must be true if they’re all saying it, I have no option but to quit and say I know I was awful and apologise for being such a terrible person. But – judging by this letter – it’s everyone else in the company who’s terrible. People who trash talk colleagues over a ‘secret’ group chat – never mind bosses who do it – are not nice people to work for!

    1. DinoGirl*

      The irony of the anti-vaxxers is they must be fully vaccinated…I don’t think opting out became common until more recently…

      1. Ananas*

        There are some second-generation anti-vaxxers out there, but they are definitely the minority of AVers.

  19. Suzanne*

    I don’t drink alcohol because both of my parents were alcoholics and my mom actually died from drinking – literally. Details are icky so I’ll spare you. When I’m in situations with alcohol I just get a soda like you. But no one, not even my boss has the right to make me feel uncomfortable about my choice. If I thought there was any value in going I would. If you think it’s going to be too tempting of an environmet for you, just tell them you can’t go. People are quick to understand me when I explain why and I am quick to assure them that it doesn’t mean I don’t think anyone else should drink, I just choose not to.

  20. Lena Clare*

    Ugh not getting your children vaccinated should be a crime.

    The government fines people here in the UK for taking their children out of school during term time, but there are no repercussions for not getting your child vaccinated :/

    1. Buzzbattlecat*

      They changed the laws here in Australia, and stopped Parenting Payments (welfare/ pension) to parents who didn’t vaccinate. AMAZINGLY (/sarcasm) vaccination rates shot up!
      The vaccines have always been free here, btw.

      1. Mongrel*

        “The vaccines have always been free here, btw.”

        Same in UK, and they used to (’80s, couldn’t say now) be done at school. So no excuses

        1. Lucy*

          I have children in school in the UK now. Most of the relevant vaccinations are offered before children are of school age, but there are some programmes for school-age children which are indeed delivered in school (e.g. flu, HPV).

          When my eldest was a baby he would be “called” for vaccinations at the appropriate times. By my youngest the parents had to request them more proactively. (YMMV by Trust)

          1. media monkey*

            mine is 10 and we were called for all vaccinations including pre-school boosters. when she was a baby, your health visitor would be notified if you weren’t vaccinating and would come and see you to talk you round.

      2. LawBee*

        It is very possible to get cheap vaccines, or even free ones here in the US, even with zero insurance. FWIW.

    2. Sunshine*

      Yes. At present we are saying that the right to be ignorant is more important that the right to not be killed by someone else’s ignorance.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Precisely. People’s lives are more important than any “philosophical objections” or similar BS.

        1. Sunshine*

          And this ‘personal choice’ thing is BS too. If your ‘personal choices’ kill other people they stop being ‘personal’.

    3. RUKidding*

      I agree. Barring medical issues it should be mandatory. Yes, I know that’s just bringing us closer to a police state but really aren’t we pretty much thete anyway?

      I used to feel kinda uncomfortable in England, particularly London with all the cameras everywhere. Then I looked around here…

      No privacy of any kind but it’s ok for people who dont understand how disease works to threaten *everyone else* via neglecting and potentially actively harming their children?

      Ok then…

      1. Sunshine*

        Is it police state though? I feel like it’s akin to asking people to wear seatbelts, and making it mandatory when people decided their ‘freedom’ to endanger others was more important than other people’s safety. It is really important to respect people’s individual beliefs. But – for good reason – we have widespread precedent of curtailing them when their sincerely held beliefs endanger other people’s lives.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          It’s more like requiring people not to drive drunk than asking them to wear seatbelts. Other than that, I agree with you completely.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I think it’s akin to having traffic rules that everyone follows, because that makes it possible for us to live in large dense groups and not carelessly kill each other.

          2. Sunshine*

            Sure, drunk driving is a really good analogy! I thought of seatbelts because they only became mandatory in the UK in 1983 (later than drunk driving), and while most people complied there was a huge amount of fuss. Bizarrely, there are still groups trying to get the law overturned on the basis of ‘personal freedom’.

        2. RUKidding*

          I said “police state” because I know some people “go there” particularly with the idea of the government mandating a medical thing, putting something in your body. It is different than requiring a seat belt. I do however stand firmly on vaccines being mandatory regardless so…

          1. Sunshine*

            *shrug* not wearing a seatbelt can kill yourself and others though. There was a rather gruesome public health campaign in the UK raising awareness around how unbelted rear seat passengers could kill those in the front.

      2. ElspethGC*

        Ugh, the CCTV misconceptions abound. No, we’re not a police state. Most cameras are privately owned. Most businesses have at least two or three CCTV cameras to discourage theft. Hell, my neighbour has three on their house alone, all pointing at their car. Does that mean that my street is a police state because we’re caught on camera every time we walk past their driveway? Do people really think that there’s a little room somewhere with all the CCTV in the country being beamed onto screens so that we can be monitored 24/7 by the government?

      1. media monkey*

        exactly this but i couldn’t think of a way to say it. if abortions are legal, then the tissue is legally obtained and with consent, what is the problem? at least it is of some use.

      2. Nea*

        I think that what they’re talking about was research done on a fetus that died in utero of the disease that is now vaccinated against. Because we all know that there was no “willfully killed unborn child” anywhere in any vaccination formula.

      3. irene adler*

        I had a cousin who died from a vaccine- back in the late 1950’s. This was verified by the pediatrician.

        After this unfortunate event occurred, all the cousins were fully vaccinated. Nothing was omitted. No one thought that what happened to the one cousin might happen to another. And nothing bad happened. Today I might have given this some hesitation. But it would take an awful lot to discourage me from vaccines.

        I see very little excuse to omit vaccinations. I do see barring not vaccinated children from school and other group venues. Their parents too.

  21. 1.0*

    Oh, OP 1 :c I’m so sorry, that’s awful

    I’m a stranger on the internet, so it’s easy for me to prescribe showing up in a righteous fury and rubbing your coworkers’ faces in what complete asses they’ve been, and I have some major anxiety issues and absolutely get feeling like you’re morally obligated to stick out your two weeks notice, but ultimately: what would be best and kindest for you? What is the best way you can take care of yourself?

    That being said, I DO think you should leave sooner rather than later — from the examples you included, it sounds like no matter what you do, they’ve decided you’re Just Plain Bad, which really sucks, but also means you’re completely off the hook for managing their perception of you. Sticking around sounds like it’s really stressing you out, and there’s no real benefit in staying; it’s up to you how you want to bail out, though.

    1. RUKidding*

      Honestly with a place like that unless I had personal stuff there to take home, I’d just never go back. Even if I did have stuff, I’d go in, pack up, and walk out.

    2. MLB*

      Agreed. They don’t deserve 2 weeks notice. I’d gather my personal stuff, walk into my manager’s office and let them know that I’m leaving now. If they ask why, tell them the truth.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s got to be a business model in there–I will march into your soon-to-be-ex-office, dressed as you, and deliver the zingers.

  22. in a fog*

    OP #1: Sending you so many hugs and happy thoughts. This is NOT on you. Get out, and if I were you, I’d tell them why just to watch them squirm.

  23. Where’s my coffee?*

    You have every reason to shy away from those who willingly spread disease. I had measles and it was terrible. I think a glass of whiskey would help me forget the terror. (But seriously, I hope that writer can feel ok just saying she doesn’t drink for medical reasons—no one should feel bad about not drinking.)

  24. Language Lover*

    LW 1, because I’m kind of petty, I’m about to offer advice that is not real advice. Please follow the much better advice and take care of yourself.

    But I would be so tempted to drop a little trust bomb on my way out the door.

    I would tell the boss that I made the decision to quit when I was shown private unflattering conversations between everyone in the company about me. Essentially implying that someone broke the circle of trust even though you were the one to show the convos to yourself.

    And if they ask who showed you the private chats–why you couldn’t possibly say. Plant that paranoia. (Going around quoting parts of the chats to the people who sent them would also be a good way of doing this when they wonder how you read them.)

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This is genius. And if she doesn’t feel safe saying that in person (I certainly wouldn’t), leave a Glassdoor review saying the same thing. As you said, it’s not a lie to say someone in the office showed her – she was someone in the office and her own eyes showed her, so.

    2. DustyJ*

      It’s a nice idea – but it pre-supposes that these disgusting people are even *capable* of feeling shame.

      1. irene adler*

        But it might make the “sharks” attack each other over who told the OP. Going forward they might do some nasty things to each other in the name of punishing the person who supposedly squealed.

        I like the idea. What does the OP have to lose here?

  25. Indie*

    OP1, your coworkers are a trash fire! Say or do whatever you want on the way out. No one would judge you and you won’t need them (or trust them) for references anyway.

    Dont give yourself a hard time for looking at screens. They are work screens! You clearly have a naturally delicate sense of privacy but your instincts overrode this because they sensed something was up and they wanted to get you outta there. Your instincts are clearly in fine working order.

  26. Kai*

    Op #2 Something else to take into consideration is that some of your coworkers could have autoimmune disorders. My bf has one and if he got measles it could kill him becuase he can’t fight off diease like someone with a regular immune system. You would bring this up as well even if you don’t know if someone has one as it is possible someone has disclosed this to your employer so they know or has choosen not to and could be in danger.

  27. WS*

    PSA: If you are not sure about your vaccination history, or if you were born between 1969 and 1994 and thus may not be fully immunised against measles (the dates vary slightly by country), you can find out with a blood test. Don’t find out by catching measles!

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes I was contacted by my Doctor last year – the NHS is checking people’s records and inviting those of us who were not vaccinated as children to be done. I had apparently not had the measles one – I asked my parents about it, and they told me the doctor we had at the time advised against it . So I had an MMR last year.

      Because I know my parents are conscientious about such things it had never occurred to me that I might not have had it.

      1. RUKidding*

        I’ve had an MMR (the whole series) multiple times. The blood tests always show that I haven’t had it. IDK why… So, I get it again! I think 2012 was the last time. Sigh…

        1. Science Enthusiast*

          Not a doctor. Not your doctor. Not medical advice. You might consider having your IGG levels checked. And your other vaccine levels. There are some disorders that can cause you to lose immunity over time or not maintain immunity at all. It’s worth knowing.

          1. Oranges*

            Basically vaccines don’t work for some people and we don’t know why? So those lucky people get to rely on herd immunity?

      2. ElspethGC*

        We got the MMR booster at school, and we all had to bring our vaccine records to be checked before we got it done. There were a startling number of people who didn’t get the *first* MMR jab – but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re all born 1997/8 and Wakefield’s paper was published in 1998.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I’m a lot older than that – pre-MMR, even, as it wasn’t introduced until the 80s. so they would have been separate vaccines. I had quite a lot of health issues as a child so our G may have felt it would have done me more harm than good. I did have mumps as a child despite having been vaccinated, but fairly mildly.

          I’m glad to know I am all topped up, now, though.

    2. Marlene*

      Thank you for that. I think I actually had the measles as a child, but I’m not positive and my mom is gone now, and my dad wouldn’t know (4 kids, lol.). I work in a school and the last thing I want is to come down with measles.

      1. Katie*

        There’s a blood test you can get called a titer that will test for immunity for diseases. I had to get a titer done for chickenpox, because I needed to prove immunity for school (I am in grad school in a medical field) and I’m old enough to have gotten chickenpox instead of being vaccinated for it. If you have insurance, they might cover it, but if they don’t, it’s not a pricy test to have done.

    3. OyHiOh*

      Thank you for this information! My spouse is in the hospital (posted in the open thread a couple of times now) and I’m starting to go down the list of things we can do to keep this person healthy when they come home – which is not yet a given but a lot less scary than thinking about what if’s. Will be checking mine and our children’s immunizations shortly.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      Oh wow thank you. I was starting to wonder about my own history and how I would know but was worried it’d be derailing or OT. I have no reason to assume I’m not (I was born in the 1980s in NYC and my parents weren’t anti. Vax from what I know), other than just paranoia.

    5. Sleepless*

      Yes…I was born in 1967. When I was in graduate school, there was a measles outbreak at a university in a neighboring state, among people who had been vaccinated. They had every student at that university *and ours* get vaccinated. So I have a record of getting the MMR at age 22. :-)

  28. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW3 – you can also just say “I don’t drink.” No explanation is necessary. So for this one “that sounds like a good chance to network; I don’t drink though, so I’ll be skipping that part.”

    And if you want to suggest other events for future, that’s optional!

    1. scmill*

      That’s what I say if I am offered alcohol. Just a simple “I don’t drink” with no explanation. If asked about it, I shrug and say “I just don’t.” I don’t let it stop me from going to events where there’s alcohol, though, if it looks like fun.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Me too! My reason is I don’t like it. I don’t need to explain or expand though – a simple “just don’t” is enough.

    2. Nea*

      A better line is “I’m not drinking tonight.” Far too many people hear “I don’t drink” and then insist that you justify or explain why. “I’m not drinking tonight” doesn’t give them wriggle room to try to judge your life choices.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        On the other hand, if there are other drinking events in future, ‘tonight’ implies OP will partake. ‘I don’t drink’ covers the future too.

        1. Nea*

          I don’t know – I’ve been “not drinking tonight” for three years of booze-heavy office holiday parties. People don’t pay *that* much attention from party to party what I am or am not doing.

    3. TeacherNerd*

      My answer for that would be similar to the answer I give when asked why I don’t have children: “Some people just don’t [drink/have children/whatever].” My reasons for not drinking or not having children or refusing to jump off a bridge are not your business unless I choose to share that information with you, which is not going to be someone I’m not married to (in the case of the kiddo thing) or are otherwise very comfortable with.

  29. DiscoCat*

    OP1, as others already said, it’s your coworkers and bosses who are horrible and disgusting enough to behave in such a glaringly unprofessional, immature and bullying manner. You berate yourself for getting a peek at their Slack screen and not “keeping your eyes on your paper”- no, this is not on you, you have every right to be livid and maybe even seek some kind of justice. They created a hostile work environment, the bosses actively allowed and participated in bullying, name calling and discrediting you as a professional and also as a human being. I also deal with anxiety issues which, at their worst, make me prone to gaslighting by others and myself. Please seek professional help in dealing with the fallout, what happened is not normal and it’s definitely not your fault for reading something about you when it is openly displayed on a screen.

  30. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#1 – THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Please forgive the all caps but I wanted to make this clear because none of this is your fault. What you describe is not in any way normal or healthy behaviour. What these people did you to is unacceptable. You did not invite it in any way, you did not do anything wrong by reading their screens. In fact, you did the right thing. You weren’t spying on their private lives, you were protecting yourself. You saw a threat and you gathered information to keep yourself safe.

    Prioritise your mental and physical health. If you can at this stage, be proud of yourself for taking action and walking away. These are awful, dangerous people and you’re right to keep away. If you have a chance to take a screenshot of what they’re saying about you, do so, but only if there’s no risk to you.

    I will also tell you something about people like this: they will start turning on each other. I promise. These kinds of people need drama and cruelty to survive. I would not be surprised to find out that interns were targeted as well.

    Good luck with your job search and please let us know how you’re getting on. Sending you all the good thoughts, you deserve far, far better than this.

    1. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

      “You weren’t spying on their private lives, you were protecting yourself. You saw a threat and you gathered information to keep yourself safe.”

      Thank you SO MUCH for this. Truly. In retrospect, I was absolutely using that groupchat as a barometer for how I was doing as a worker.

      1. Oranges*

        As a person who also is easily swayed by the opinions of others: This is just something about us. It doesn’t make us bad. The flip side is that we’re flexible and will self-correct easier than other people (trust me that we will never double down on denying climate change or become antivaxxers). We also tend to find empathy easier.

        This just means that we need reality checks from trusted people when we’re being abused or in a toxic environs. I’ve researched all the red flags of scams, abuse and toxicity because I have this vulnerability. You are NOT to blame, this IS NOT a “weakness”. It is a strength that comes with a side effect!!!!

  31. Snow Fish*

    #2: Having unvaccinated kids in an office would make me VERY anxious. Please make as big a fuss about this as you’re able to! It might save someone’s life.

    Your coworker has the right not to vaccinate her children, but she doesn’t have the right to expose innocent people to diseases that might kill or impair them.

    1. Sunshine*

      “Your coworker has the right not to vaccinate her children, but she doesn’t have the right to expose innocent people to diseases that might kill or impair them.”

      I mean… those are mutually exclusive statements. Unless she locks her children in her house at all times, chances are she will be exposing innocent people to diseases.

        1. Sunshine*

          Yes. There was a very public case a few years ago of an ardent anti-vaxxer changing her mind after her children got whooping cough. Vaccines aren’t for funzies.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*


          No one has the right to endanger others because of their beliefs, including their own children. This is one of those many depressing situations in which people tend to regard children as their parents’ property rather than vulnerable human beings with their own needs and rights and lives.

    2. Clay on my apron*

      The un-vaccinated children are also innocent people who are going to be exposed to dangerous or fatal illnesses.

  32. restingbutchface*

    OP1… oh my actual God. Leave, fast, before these people bully you into a breakdown. And please seek some help before your next job. I am reading a lot of apologies and self-criticism in your letter and no anger or self-protection. Who cares if you were looking at a WORK screen? Don’t take responsibility for these trash people’s cruelty.

    Even if you had been the worst employee ever, even if you were failing every day, this behaviour would still be wrong. Nothing you can do or did deserves it. I am so sorry. You deserve better. Please leave.

  33. Flash Bristow*

    OP1, I don’t think there being a ‘secret group’ is actually that unusual. It’s the way it’s being used that is abysmal.

    I work(ed) in Internet service providers and other similar companies. Each company had informal, “anything goes” chat groups – for example, at one, there was a mailing list called “noise”; at another it was a discussion forum which was mainly used for bad jokes. In general, you had to be at the company a few months, have a rapport with the team (or at least prove you’re not a dick) and then one day, a longer-standing teammate will say “by the way, you’ve been here a while, so… We have a kind of irreverent non-work chat group,would you like to join us?” (Always say yes even if you don’t intend on contributing often – you’ll pick up a lot of gossip and nuance that you’d otherwise miss – plus being in the group means that you’re unlikely to be a discussion topic yourself…)

    So if you’ve noticed a group chat, ask I’d you can be in on it! The best way is to find someone who is popular (but also warm and friendly) and ask them to approach the admin of the group so you can be added, and “join in with the fun”. If someone offers to vouch for you without being asked, even better!I

    So that’s office “letting off steam” chat groups.

    But! Oh my, OP1, the way the group is running – as a space for a bitch fest against you – is just awful. In future, if you notice similar I’d suggest you find the most seemingly friendly coworker and ask them directly to get you an in; once everyone realises you know about their chats, they might decide that they’ve gone too far. Or who knows. But since some genres of company/ business tend to have a group like this, being in on it should cut back on any offensive remarks.

    For the record I think that kind of gossip is despicable. Rise above it, and if necessary complain. I’m so sorry that in this case, management were in on it and part of the problem.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      “ask I’d you can be in on it!” – should be “ask if…”, obviously.
      And “even better!I” – “even better!”

      Damn, I try to catch typos / bad guesses from my grumpy kindle’s dodgy dictionary, but we don’t understand each other very well yet; apols for missing these.

      If anyone can suggest a better dictionary – and ideally a better keyboard – for kindle fire, please let me know. I tried swiftkey, which I love, via Google Play, but nothing doing, it won’t install fully. Argh!

    2. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

      Thank you for this! I’m relatively new to the work force (I just graduated from college in 2017) so I really don’t know what’s normal or not. This blog helped me sort some stuff out and your comment has helped as well! <3

      1. Quandong*

        My advice (which I haven’t seen from others but may have missed) is to take some time to document what you recall seeing on the Slack channel. Keeping a trail of documentation may be useful to you in future if you find yourself more affected by the experience than you had anticipated.

        Best wishes. I’m so sorry you had the bad luck to encounter this in one of your first jobs.

  34. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: I’m so glad children are not allowed in my office.

    The most terrifying thing about measles? The younger you are when you catch it, the higher the risk for SSPE. SSPE is always fatal.

    I got my MMR shots 10ish years ago. My vaccination card was completely unreadable, my mum couldn’t remember if I got it, and I sure as hell couldn’t either. My GP offered to do a titre, but I said screw it, just give me the shot.

    My cousin’s husband’s reproductive system got fucked up by measles. He grew boobs in puberty and has no viable sperm. Conceiving their first kid the normal way was compared to winning the lottery five times in a row.

    So please, people, if you’re not sure about your vaccination status, get the MMR.

    Even if the measles don’t kill you, they can have very bad consequences.

    1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      Seconded. I remember reading somewhere in a history book that the fact that George Washington had smallpox as a teenager may have been part of why he had no children (some smallpox survivors are rendered sterile as a side-effect of that disease).
      You don’t always die from these diseases, but you can be left with permanent side-effects, some debilitating.

  35. Lucy*

    LW3 – you’ve had some great advice from Alison and other commenters, but I just wanted to take the time to say:

    Congratulations on two years sober. That’s a great achievement and one I hope you will be able to build on. You can do it!

  36. Anon for this*

    #1 – Woah, this brings back memories of a job I had years ago. When you see or hear your name, it’s hard to ignore. When you realize that people are talking about you, it’s natural to want to know what they’re saying, and once you become aware that it’s an ongoing thing, you keep your eyes and ears open. For me, it came to a head when three young ladies I had been charged with training came into the bathroom trash-talking me, complaining about me spoiling their fun because I expected them to work and learn their job instead of socializing and playing with their phones all day. They talked about a plan to work together and get me in trouble since management would believe them over me if they all stuck to the same story. They knew I heard them because I walked right past them when I left and all they did was start giggling. I had already been thinking about leaving, but at that point, I stepped up my job search big time, found another job, and quit.

    When I announced that I was leaving, two of the women who had been particularly mean to me (one of the ladies who had trash-talked me in the bathroom and another who had done something else to get me in trouble) actually cried. I was like, WTF… You were total jerks to me and now you’re surprised that I’m leaving, and so sad about it?! I didn’t need that crap or those crappy people in my life and you don’t either. Run away and never look back.

    1. London Calling*

      *two of the women who had been particularly mean to me (one of the ladies who had trash-talked me in the bathroom and another who had done something else to get me in trouble) actually cried*

      You are making the very generous assumption that these people in OP1’s office have a shred of self-awareness about their behaviour. I had a colleague years ago whose life was made hell by another woman. When colleague 1 came to send out her wedding invitations, hell-colleague was mortally, and I mean mortally, offended when she realised she wasn’t going to be a guest at the wedding of the woman she’d been trashing for months.

      1. Ellex*

        This transports me all the way back to middle school graduation (grades 6-8, we probably wouldn’t be attending the same high school), when a girl who had bullied me for the last 3 years came up to me, tried to shake my hand, and said, “Hey, I know we haven’t gotten along, but no hard feelings?”

        There are so many things I would have loved to say, but the sheer gall of her attitude left me utterly speechless and I just turned and walked away.

        Some people are truly clueless about how their behaviors affect others.

    2. SigneL*

      It sounds like a group that needs a scapegoat. Who will be next? The person they hire to replace OP 1?

  37. pcake*

    OP3, I don’t drink alcohol because I dislike it intensely, and whiskey tastes worse to me than most – bad enough to make me immediately gag or vomit from the taste. If you don’t want to tell your boss you’re in recovery or that you have medical reasons, I would think he/she wouldn’t want you tasting if vomiting right there might be the result.

  38. LGC*

    These letters are mostly full of bees to varying degrees.

    Starting with the least bee-filled one (there might be one buzzing around): LW4, I’m sorry that I’m so bad at my job you felt the need to write in to AAM!

    Okay, but seriously. I’ve actually said this, and it’s because…for some people it is! Some people just don’t have the spoons to work OT (which is something I’ve had to ram into my head repeatedly), but others really do appreciate getting extra pay. (In fact, I had to tell one of the guys to leave because we had to cancel OT yesterday. There’s…a lot going on with that.) I don’t think he means harm by it, but…you know, if he’s a Logical Boss Person like I am (or if you are actually my employee), you can just tell him that you can’t regularly work OT. (Usually, I’ll avoid asking people who don’t want to work OT due to various reasons.)

    So yeah, you’re probably reading too much into it, but you shouldn’t feel bad about turning down the OT.

    LW3: I’d lean towards scheduling the flu for that day, if you get my drift. (Or a doctor’s appointment that requires you to be out all day.) I personally feel it’s a little red-flaggy that your company and industry is so alcohol-centric (and I like alcohol!), though – which is why I don’t know if you can be honest with them. (I hope I’m wrong! But it seems like all the events are “YAY BOOZE.”)

    LW2: You didn’t specify what agency (although that would be identifying) – I feel like if it’s something like family services or the like, then absolutely. Heck, I don’t know if your employer would affect this, since she’s an employee and not a recipient of services. (At any rate, I’d ban the kids because there’s a measles outbreak and measles is insanely contagious, and deal with the consequences later.)

    LW1: All I’m going to say is congratulations for getting out, and I really hope that company goes under without you.

  39. MistOrMister*

    OP#3 my advice would be to say you can’t drink for health reasons. (Using can’t specifically in place of don’t) it’s the truth…you CAN’T drink or you risk sliding back into alcohol addiction which is ruinous for one’s health. No one but an absoute boor is going to ask specifically what the health condition is. And if someone was so rude as to ask such an invasive quesrion you are well within your rights to say you’re not interested in sharing that with them. If you told your boss you can’t participate in the tasting but cpuld come afterwards for the open bar (if you would be comfortable with that) I can’t imagine that would cause any feeling that you weren’t part of the team. I really don’t imagine that most people who don’t drink would get any enjoyment out of attending a whiskey tasting that they wouldn’t be able to participate in. (And does this company forget that there are a lot of people out there who legitimately don’t drink?? How are those people supposed to feel included?)

    I rarely drink because I don’t care for it. I also have a stomach issue that forbids regular drinking, although a drink here or there won’t cause me any issues. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will still push if you just say that you don’t drink but say it’s for religious or health reasons and they back right off. I find it very annoying to have to keep pushing back against the “well just have ONE drink!” or my favorite “You drank with us that night 6 years ago so you should be happy to get plastered today!” Ugh. I find myself just defaulting more and more to saying I can’t because my doctor said so….which is technically true but shouldn’t be necessary.

  40. NYWeasel*

    OP#1: I have been in a similar situation where my horrid coworkers would whisper about me directly behind my back, saying nasty things about how I was dressed, etc. I was more fortunate in that these coworkers were at a different branch, so I only saw them once a week or so, but it still made me dread every time I had to interact with them.

    It’s now been almost a decade since I last dealt with them and the memory of the things they said are still upsetting. But there are some critical things to keep in mind. First of all, even if they have legitimate complaints, the lack of direct feedback and smarminess to your face is as bad as any performance issue you might have. Secondly, “success” in an environment like that would not be success at all. Since you read AAM, you know the value of being upfront and direct, and facing issues head on. The type of personality that succeeds in a nasty, back-biting environment is not someone who demonstrates those skills. It’s far healthier to get out of there ASAP than to put any more emotional energy into trying to make it work.

    So the key is how to move on from the hurt you feel right now so that it doesn’t impact your next job. People above have mentioned therapy, and given how physically this has affected you, I think it could definitely be helpful, but beyond that, here are a few things I did that have worked for me:

    1. Look for red flags at future workplaces. It should have been obvious to me when I was interviewing bc there was a parade of people stopping and whispering with the receptionist during my interview.
    2. Work at remaining open to feedback, but also avoid becoming too anxious to please. I found myself freaking out and being “too much” in a misguided attempt to change my behavior from the last job. *Reasonable* workspaces will want you to succeed, and while this job has been a cesspool of nastiness, it doesn’t follow that the next one will be the same.
    3. Realize that at even good jobs there will still be some venting and gossip. Knowing that people will occasionally be bitching about you can cause all those feelings of hurt and anxiety to re-appear. At Current Job, most of the venting follows up with statements like “…but I know Jane has dumped a lot of work on her this week so she probably doesn’t have time to even think about that” or “…I wonder if it would help if I pull all my requests into one spreadsheet for Sansa”. In other words, we might complain but we also take time to think about why it’s a problem or what we could do to improve the situation.

    People above have suggested therapy and I think you might find it helpful. I struggled through my feelings privately and I think I would have gotten to a healthier place much faster if I’d had support. But in any case, you are doing the right thing by getting yourself away from this miserable situation, and realize that it says more about those people being petty and awful than it does about you or your self worth.

    1. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

      This is such a thoughtful comment! Thank you for your nuanced and kind input — especially the bit about how any office will have a certain level of gossip. In the future, I do need to look out for any catastrophizing on my part. I’ve had friends tell me that my current job was a worst-case scenario, so I don’t want to treat any future bumps like they’re indicative of disaster.

      Once again, thank you!!

  41. jk*

    OP1: Sorry you had to go through that bullying.

    I find it interesting that they told you to stop using your cell so much while they’re sitting there pathetically gossiping together on Slack wasting company time.

    Good riddance to them and I hope you find a better workplace.

  42. Bookworm*

    #1: I’m so sorry. I haven’t had that exactly experience but know what it’s like when it feels like the office has turned against you. Would also echo Alison’s advice/hint and just leave. Forget the two weeks. There is often no point in these awkward last few days and I’ve never found (even in better situations) that being nice to people/around who really don’t care about you just because of a tradition/convention helps me at all. Good luck!! If you’re able/willing, would love an update when you’re in a better place.

    #2: Not my situation, but I wonder what your employer might say about the parent still coming in. I recognize this can very VERY dicey, but theoretically the parent could still be a carrier themselves and pass it along to another parent working there who has the very young children at home. I have no solutions or suggestions but this may be beyond just keeping the kids out of the office.

  43. NJ Anon*

    #3 I haven’t read the comments but another option is to say you are on a medication so you cant drink but honestly I would just say you either dont drink. Full stop. I rarely drink for no other reason than its just not my thing. Especially whiskey.

  44. DustyJ*

    LW #1 There is a word for this kind of behavior – ‘workplace mobbing.’ It’s a specific kind of workplace bullying, designed to push the victim out. The harder the victim tries to hang on, the worse the abuse will get.

    It’s natural to try to fight to fit in, and to try to do the right thing, and prove yourself the right person for the job – but you can’t. I second the commenters above, ghost the bullies and don’t go back tomorrow. Don’t even tell them you saw the group chat – they may even have wanted you to see it.

    1. The Original K.*

      It reminds me of the manager who wrote in wondering if the workplace environment she’d created was too exclusive, and it turned out she was deliberately trying to get a top performer to quit because she didn’t fit in. The top performer did indeed quit, dimed her out in the exit interview, and the manager and her entire team were fired.

      OP, how you leave is up to you – you should do so in a way that will protect your mental health – but you should leave. There’s no benefit to you staying. It’s actively harmful for you to stay. What these people think of you is not relevant to your life; excise them immediately.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow*

          The post was titled “is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?”.
          There were two updates to the post. The letter writer added some details in a comment of the original as well.

          I’ll post links in another comment.

        2. Solidus Pilcrow*

          Here are the links:

          July 25, 2017 – original post:

          additional details in comments:

          August 2, 2017 – update 1:

          October 12, 2017 – update 2:

  45. SigneL*

    Alison: should OP 1 try to warn others about that toxic workplace? And how could she do it effectively? Their actions were so far beyond what is acceptable that if I were applying for a job there, I’d want to know.

    1. KHB*

      She can post about it on Glassdoor or social media if she wants, but I’d really encourage her not to start down the road of feeling like she’s personally responsible for the potential suffering of anyone the company might potentially employ in the future, because only madness that way lies. It sounds like she’s got enough anxiety going on (and very understandably so) without shouldering that additional burden. Her first priority should be taking care of herself.

  46. MuseumChick*

    #2 This upsets me so much. I work with several immune compromised people and would be furious if I found out someone was bringing in their unvaccinated children. Could you office just make a blanket policy that unvaccinated are no permitted in the office period?

  47. OtterB*

    #3 Lots of good advice already about ways to say that you don’t drink. Since you said your organization is hosting the event, is there some task you could take on that would let you be present but away from the tasting itself? I’m thinking something like volunteering to staff the registration table

  48. SigneL*

    #3, I’m on medication and can’t drink. This rarely stops people from trying to get me to drink, however! I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said “just a taste” or “just ONE glass…” nope, no can do. I have no idea why people can’t/won’t accept “I CAN’T drink!” But, really, just repeat that you can’t, and at some point people will leave you with your soda.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Me too. I don’t drink because alcohol interacts with my seizure meds and has been a seizure trigger for me. I’ve heard “but my grandparents 5 generations back had seizures and drank a case a day and lived to be 100”. Or some other variation of I’m being a “party pooper” for not drinking. I’ll happily enjoy my soda and socialize.
      Just people being obnoxious to those not drinking gets annoying.

  49. StressedButOkay*

    OP1, burn the heck out of that bridge! I know it’s hard – I’ve got anxiety too, so if you can, you’ll feel better for it and, like it’s been said, you don’t have to put this job down on your resume since it’s been such a short time.

    Try not to worry about “you did” – I’d be willing to put money down on this entire office being a toxic environment for ANYONE who doesn’t fit in their particular box. I’m so sorry you’ve been through this.

    OP3, I like the advice of telling your boss it’s a medical condition. I think it’ll still drive home the fact that not everyone CAN drink without going into your exact reason if that’s not something you want to talk to your boss about.

  50. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*


    Just wanna issue a blanket Oh My God Oh My God Thank You So Much to everyone who has been kind in the comments section. Truthfully, I expected a lot of “Well stop looking at other people’s screens” and I’m glad to know I’m not that creepy.

    For the record, I don’t think my coworkers are horrible people. It’s a VERY close-knit office (only like 4 people are there at any given time) and when one person is underperforming, it affects everyone. So it’s def reasonable that people would have been frustrated with me. That being said, to deny that I’d been problematic when I quit, only to call me the monkey on your back in the groupchat an hour later? Coolcoolcoolcool.

    For everyone who suggested I go to therapy: I have an extensive history of attending therapy due to my borderline personality disorder (woohoo!) and tbh it’s not a bad idea to go back.

    Once again, thank you so much to everyone for being SO SO kind and helpful. It truly means the world.

    1. SigneL*

      They may not be horrible people, but what they did was definitely NOT normal. Really, seriously, not normal. Best of luck finding a new, great job!

      1. SigneL*

        Also: there are nice people out there who will help you succeed. There are lots of people who WANT you to do well – they’re the ones you want to work for. (I’m not sure how. you can tell in an interview, however – that might be a question for Alison.)

    2. Four lights*

      Glad this has made you feel better!

      I don’t think it matters how close-knit the office is, or the fact that under performing affects everyone. If there’s an issue it’s your manager’s job to handle it, and to tell the other people that they have addressed the issue with you and to let them know if they think it’s still a problem. I do not think it’s acceptable to have a regular group chat bashing a coworker. It also leads to a toxic atmosphere at work. Regardless of what truth there may be, gossiping like that just becomes a pile-on that doesn’t solve any real problems in the office.

      I don’t know every comment you may have seen, but that fact that you saw one comment saying “She’s so skinny” would seem to indicate that they were gossiping about you generally, and not just about your performance at work. Again, this is unacceptable, especially from a manager.

    3. Sunshine*

      Even if you were literally smashing equipment on a daily basis, the correct response is neutrally escalated discipline, not supervisors engaging in group bullying.

    4. StressedButOkay*

      Nonono, OP1, they are ABSOLUTELY horrible people! It’s one thing to be frustrated and vent about another coworker, it’s entirely different when upper management is involved and when they’re making personal remarks, regardless of the performance of the individual.

      They are terrible and gossipy and honestly, I trust anyone in management there as far as I could throw them.

      1. fposte*

        But this is also why a one-time vent is one thing, but regular “venting” about a co-worker who bugs you is a bad plan psychologically as well as practically. At that point, it reinforces your resentment rather than getting the load off your chest; it’s indistinguishable from trash talking.

    5. Mean Girls*

      You were only there a few months, they are horrible people. You were still in the training phase and should be expected to under perform during this time frame, because you are learning. I am mean to my co-workers that don’t do their job well and are not working to fix their issues, but would never be mean to someone in their first 6 months on the job, honestly not until they were there a year and were consistently doing a bad job and being annoying. Calling you out by your name on their work screen is so wrong, these are not good people bigger offices will not be like this.

    6. ElspethGC*

      “I don’t think my coworkers are horrible people … when one person is underperforming, it affects everyone. So it’s def reasonable that people would have been frustrated with me.”

      Frustration is reasonable, yes, but acting like a group of bratty kids is very far from reasonable. If the messages you saw were between two coworkers on their own private chat and saying things like we get in AAM letters (“When OP1 does this thing it does XYZ to my work and it’s really stressful”, sort of thing), fine, that’s frustration.

      But a chat involving everyone except you? That your bosses are getting involved in? Your bosses recounting private conversations? Making comments about your body and appearance? Celebrating you leaving? No. Nonono. Your coworkers *are* horrible, OP. They’re acting like children – and that’s an insult to children everywhere – and their actions are coming from a place of malice, not a place of frustration.

      If you go read the 25th July 2017 letter and its 2nd August update, the one about the manager who had deliberately driven away an employee because he felt she wasn’t a ‘good fit’ (and especially read the details the OP added in the comments of the first letter) – that’s the mindset your coworkers and bosses have. That sheer, unbridled arrogance and the feeling that they should be able to talk shít about whoever they want with no consequences. The OP from that letter got fired for being such a bad manager. I hope the same happens with your bosses.

      1. Kes*

        Agreed with all of the above – being frustrated with you and occasionally venting to another might be one thing, but a group chat behind your back which your superiors participate in and share information about how they’re managing you and in which they mock you and your appearance, while they’re nice to your face, is totally uncalled for and unjustifiable, in any case.

    7. Rezia*

      OP, you are a kind person to be so sympathetic to your coworkers. But I disagree. I’m adding myself to the chorus of people here saying that what they did was mean and wrong. Yes, they could’ve been frustrated, but a private group chat to complain about you is not okay and not normal.

      Take good care of yourself. There are other workplaces that are far healthier, I hope you find your way to one of those. This internet stranger is rooting for you!

    8. Sarah M*

      OP, I am so glad you’re reading the comments here. Please know that their behavior is totally their responsibility, not yours! Please don’t blame yourself for any part of what they are doing. It’s *not* okay, regardless of any performance issues you may or may not have.
      Best of luck to you!

    9. Lady Phoenix*

      Please read Ask A Manager’s letters on the series “Is my Office Too Exclusive”. It is about the manager who IS doing the bullying.

      And see how terrible and batsh1t her management was. They also had their own private chatroom to belittle the employee, just like you.

      These people are assholes and cowards. They just want to make their little clique special and exile any and all outsiders.

      Even if you were a star performer, they would have still bullied you for any or every multitude of reasons:
      1) You’re new
      2) Turns out you are not into cliques
      3) You slighted office pet/manager
      4) You refuse to bully victim of rhe day
      5) You might be a specific minority they hate and they are also bigoted scumbags
      6) Because it’s “Kick LW1” Day

      Bullies are rational people. They are insecure dirtbags who need to hurt others to make up for their pathetic shortcomings. And their posse are either bullies themselves, or cowards who join in because they don’t want to be bullied themselves.

      That is why it is best to burn this bridge and get yourself to a therapist: so that you can rewiring what a “healthy” interaction should look like and how to deal with toxicity.

    10. Myrin*

      I mean, you know your coworkers better than I, a random internet stranger, do, but let me just say that from everything in your letter, well, they do sound like people who were behaving pretty horribly towards you! You don’t have to justify their behaviour, even to yourself, and certainly not to anonymous people on the internet! If it helps you feel better: They aren’t going to be affected whatsoever because of a few dozen readers of an online advice column thinking they’re horrible jerks, so you might as well let yourself be free to consider them horrible (you don’t have to, of course, but you don’t have to hold yourself back, either).

      I’m so sorry you experienced that and I’m wishing you a speedy journey to greener pastures!

    11. 653-CXK*

      OP#1: Thank you for responding.

      I’m sitting here reading the comments regarding your coworkers and it boggles the mind how mean people can actually be and how they’re still thinking they’re in high school. It’s an immature and bad place to be – not only would I take Alison’s advice and walk out immediately, I’d also Glassdoor the living bejesus out the company.

      As for therapy: if it’s worked out for you before, there’s no harm in going back again and filling in your therapist about what happened.

      The problem isn’t you. It’s THEM.

    12. mcr-red*

      OP, seriously, get out of there today. Don’t bother with the two-week notice, just leave. I had a situation in my first job where one supervisor was bullying and honestly sexually harassing me, and I went and told my head boss that I was leaving at the end of the week – didn’t give a reason – head boss announced it to everyone, kind of like your situation, and my harasser started in on me again in front of everyone, acting like I was terrible employee, etc. I ended up telling my head boss that I was quitting because of my harasser, and they basically told me I was being immature, my harasser wasn’t bothering me, etc. AND I STILL STAYED UNTIL THE END OF THE WEEK. And was bullied and harassed until the end and even called at home and harassed! Now, I desperately wish I had left at the moment I quit.

      Confronting them won’t help. Don’t stay one moment longer. For your mental health, please leave now.

    13. LQ*

      Things that you might see pop up in a restricted slack channel on an actually nice but tight knit group coworker’s screen:
      1. Hey, have we invited OP to this channel?
      You don’t need to it’s all public.
      No, I don’t see her name here, I don’t think she’s invited.
      Who has access to add her.
      OMG you people.
      PING (OP gets invite)

      2. Not really that funny meme
      Slightly more funny meme
      That meme everyone always posts

      3. Slightly incomprehensible in joke about the day the power went out 3 years ago.
      Reminiscence about the old building at 340.
      Question about something that happened 6 years ago and if that matters today to this new thing.

    14. Marthooh*

      Well, I’ll trust you that your coworkers are not horrible people. Your lying, backbiting, smug-faced supervisors are horrible managers, though — not just for trash-talking you but even more for encouraging your coworkers to do the same. They’re setting the tone for this office, and it’s a bad, ugly tone for sure.

    15. Sandy*

      Okay, so we don’t know your coworkers and you do. BUT, I am absolutely comfortable with saying, maybe they aren’t horrible people, but they did a horrible thing. At some point, what’s the difference? None of this is normal. None of this is okay. Even if you were the most incompetent coworker ever, there’s a way to handle that and normal office culture knows that it is emphatically not to create a private slack channel to shit-talk the person’s appearance, character, personality, whatever, especially not with the boss on board. Pack up and leave. Don’t forget to let them know YOU know on the way out. In a gentle, heaping coals of fire kind of way.

    16. Jenn G*

      Hey OP#1, I have had to let underperforming staff go, and I am here to tell you that this group chat is in NO WAY ACCEPTABLE whether you have been performing well or not. The two things do not equate. In a healthy workplace, staff get 1. training, 2. regular, direct, kind-but-true feedback, 3. frank discussions if it is not working out, 4. an exit that retains the dignity of the staff member being let go.

      This shouldn’t have happened to you. Keep up the good work in therapy and good luck finding a new job.

    17. Lady Phoenix*

      Nope. Horrid people.

      Even you were the star worker, younprobably would still be treated this way because you are new and/or you decide not to partake in the Mean Girl shenanigans.

      Check out “Did I Take My Team Too Exclusive” letters to see it unfold. OP allowed her newest enployee to be bullied and shut off because she did not fit in her little clique, so the employee left… along with many of their clients.

      Not to mention Op allowed a lot of other crap to happen: on clock drinking, a junior and a supervisor to sleep together, potentially bullying another employee whoinformed the conpany about the Snapchat bullying, etc.

      Trust me, you dodged a bullet. These people are scumbags and their treatment of you was not ok. If they truly had an issue with your performance, they could have been mature about this and not tattle to the entire conpany behind your back.

      Nothing you did warranted this bullying and two faceness. It is entirely their fault.

      Please seek therapy.

    18. Alton*

      I think that the level of organization and cliquishness involved, and the fact that your *manager* is involved, suggests that it’s a very toxic woke environment.

      If this were something like a couple co-workers venting about you in a one-on-one IM, that could still be mean and inappropriate, but I can see how it might happen without them planning it that way or seeing it as mean.

      These people chose to exclude you from an office-wide chat. That was probably intentional, not an oversight. Your manager gossiping with your peers about your performance and conversations that she’s had with you as your boss is extremely unprofessional. Her thoughts about your phone use or your resignation are none of their business. They’re very two-faced and exclusionary.

      I don’t think that paying attention to this was wrong of you. It was wrong of them to assume it’d remain a secret.

    19. ENFP in Texas*

      Bosses and supervisors who trash-talk their employees to other employees are horrible people. Supervisors who discuss disciplinary actions to other employees are horrible people.

      Do NOT minimalize or normalize what they did. It is NOT normal, it is NOT acceptable, and you DO NOT have to put up with it or make excuses for their behavior.

    20. Indie*

      Sometimes people who arent horrible do horrible things. They’ve cooked up a very toxic, two-faced clique even if they behave better as individuals.

      Celebrate getting out.

    21. bluephone*

      Good luck with your new job! Also, those coworkers are absolutely horrible people, don’t let them try to convince you otherwise. Even if you were the worst employee ever, *they* would be horrible because of the way they’re behaving. Shake the dust from that office and never look back.

      And then maybe let the company name slip one day on twitter so we all know to never apply for a job there ;-)

    22. Parenthetically*

      “when one person is underperforming, it affects everyone. So it’s def reasonable that people would have been frustrated with me.”

      This is absolutely true.

      But I need you to hear this: frustration, if you are a non-horrible person, will never, EVER lead you in the direction of ongoing gossip, name-calling, pettiness, two-facedness, and insults.

      Appropriate responses to being frustrated with an underperforming direct report:
      – speaking to them directly about how their underperformance affects their coworkers
      – retraining on procedures or tasks they’re struggling with
      – putting them on a PIP
      – letting them go, preferably only after all the above steps have been taken.

      Inappropriate responses to being frustrated with an underperforming direct report:
      – everything your managers and coworkers have been doing

      1. Parenthetically*

        (Although I will say, ideally they don’t let emotions factor into those decisions at all! Ideally your manager notices performance issues and corrects/addresses them quickly and without bringing emotion into it, because that’s part of her job as a manager.)

    23. Johanna*

      Have you done the DBT skills group? I’ve found it’s more helpful for me than individual therapy, my groupmates give me a reality check when I’m being gaslit.

  51. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP #2 – Sorry, I do work at a public agency but it’s child welfare. We have foster parents occasionally who don’t want to get vaccines for foster kids, but then we can fall back on state law that requires AAP standard vaxxes. If we have anti vaxxers in the office, they’ve never said so, probably because of the reaction they would get.

  52. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: Get thee to therapy and burn this place to the ground on glass door (after some time has passed).

    #2: What Allison said, because otherwise I have a whole rant in your stupid coworker just waiting in the fire.

    #3: Let your boss know that for medical reasons, you can’t drink. Howver, you still want to participate in the networking.
    (Does anyone else think an booze tasting event is an odd place to network, or just me?)

    1. StressedButOkay*

      We can’t even have wine or beer at our holiday parties, so yeah, booze tasting event is mind-boggling to me.

    2. Diet Coke*

      I don’t drink (alcoholic father so I don’t see the appeal). However I really don’t think I have been to a work event in the past 15 years that wasn’t centered around alcohol wine tastings, bourbon trail tours, meet and greet happy hours, in fact at work we have a better stocked liquor refrigerator than small liquor stores. Maybe its my field (Analytics Consulting), but I don’t think there has been a week where as a company we have not went somewhere with alcohol or been planning an alcohol centered event.

  53. Contracts Killer*

    OP #2, I work at a state agency. I think that would actually get you MORE ability to push back on having unvaccinated people in your office. In the agencies I have worked, we take our responsibility to the public very seriously. I can’t imagine a scenario where we want people taking tax dollar funded sick time (and then being understaffed) over a measles outbreak. We also collaborate closely with other state agencies and I bet our Department of Health would get involved and possibly prohibit nonessential non-vaccinated individuals from all state agencies during a public health crisis such as a measles outbreak.

  54. Clawfoot*

    No advice, OP#3, but commiseration. I don’t drink either (not for any reason other than “I don’t like it”), but constantly having to explain/justify/navigate social and work situations in which there is drinking can be both baffling and exhausting. Many people are indeed satisfied with an “I don’t drink” statement and leave it at that, but too many others ask probing (not malicious, just curious) questions and seem to need to know WHY? and EVEN BEER? and HOW ABOUT [X], IT’S NOT LIKE THE OTHER ALCOHOLS.

    Ugh. I feel like I spend more time explaining why I don’t drink than why I don’t have/want kids.

    1. Anonymous75*

      I’m with you (I don’t like the taste of alcohol either) and I don’t understand the badgering that people do to get others to drink. If I said I didn’t like onions, I don’t think they’d try so hard to get me to eat onions. But you say you don’t drink and they start bullying behavior. People, please don’t do that. It’s tiring, boring and none of your business. And I can hold my ground really well, so you’re unlikely to get me to drink, so just give it up already. Learn to accept a “no”.

  55. Need a Beach*

    #3 I used to have a grandboss who considered himself a whisky connoisseur, and every work party took place at a swanky tasting bar. I mentally rehearsed ways to explain that I don’t drink due to migraines (which is true), and had myself all prepped and ready to go for the Christmas party.

    At the party, one middle manager was lounging on the sidelines with a canned soda. When grandboss sidled up to him and asked why he wasn’t trying the great selection of whiskeys, the guy looked down his nose and said “I drove here. Didn’t you?” That shut him down instantly.

    Note that this was in a small city/sprawling suburban area, with almost no public transportation. YMMV.

  56. Anti-anti-vax*

    Anti-vaxxers should be sent to their own island and made to die of measles, polio, and pertussis.

    These children should not be in your office, period.

    1. ElspethGC*

      Unfortunately, the anti-vax parents themselves tend to be vaccinated, because their own parents didn’t refuse the vaccines. It’s their children that will suffer, which just doesn’t feel fair.

  57. neeko*

    #3 Alison is right that being a recovering alcoholic who’s sober isn’t stigmatizing around reasonable adults but unfortunately, not everyone falls into that category. There really is still a lot of stigma around being a recovering alcoholic. Morality garbage that people unfairly put on it. OP3, I hope you work with good folks that are understanding and supportive of your recovery. Congratulations and good luck to you.

  58. Delta Delta*

    #3 – adding – a whisky tasting/open bar networking event also isn’t possible for pregnant women. Tone deaf on a lot of levels.

  59. Rezia*

    #3 – I drink occasionally but 1) I don’t like the taste of hard liquor and 2) I’m a complete light weight so I don’t drink around coworkers, even a tasting would make me uncomfortable. You don’t need to say more than, “no thanks, I don’t like whiskey” or “no thanks, I don’t like the taste of alcohol” and leave it at that. I’ve found that if I have a nice full (non alcoholic) drink in my hand that I can wave and say, “I’ve got my own drink here!” people leave me alone more than if I have empty hands.

  60. boop the first*

    3. Alcohol is such a weird thing. Pot was usually something “losers” did (not anymore?), street drug addicts are severely looked down upon in society, and even opiates get the side-eye although they have medicinal properties. Yet alcohol gets to be a friendly, stand-alone social “activity”, even though it’s currently more socially harmful than any other drug! I assume most companies don’t have cocaine parties.

    I like having a glass of wine, yet I will never put a cigarette to my mouth. Humans are so complicated.

    1. Runaway Shinobi*

      Probably because alcohol tastes nice, isn’t always drunk purely for the effects, and can be enjoyed responsibly by many people. And historically, it was far better for you than water. But I agree that in the context of a networking event, it can be exclusive.

      1. Sunshine*

        Statistically, drugs can be enjoyed far more responsibly than alcohol.

        According to the British government, in 2017, ALL drug specific deaths, including those from anti-depressants and paracetamol, totaled 3,756.

        Conversely, alcohol specific deaths totaled 7,697.

        Public Health England say that there were 24,202 alcohol related deaths.

        1. Runaway Shinobi*

          Calculated as percentages of people who consume them regularly, I suspect you’d get different results!

          1. Sunshine*

            Possibly. To be clear, I do drink. But I still think it’s insane that alcohol is actually more addictive and toxic than many street drugs, but remains legal.

          2. Parenthetically*

            Dramatically. Just a quick search tells me that almost 60% of UK adults are drinkers, or around 29 million people, as opposed to 9% with drug use. I’m not great at math, but even using the larger number, that’s a tiny, tiny fraction of alcohol users.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Generally historically Europeans have drunk alcohol for longer than they’ve had access to marijuana and other recreational drug. That is the main reason alcohol is legal when marijuana is only on the road to legalization. History.

        Also alcohol doesn’t taste good to me. Aren’t most alcohols at least an acquired taste. Does anyone drink a beer for the first time and think “this is good”? Or do they think “I look cool and mature; I’m going to keep drinking despite the awful taste”?

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I mean, anything bitter is an acquired taste. I think the same is true of coffee and tea.

    2. Sunshine*

      There’s a blogger called Holly Whittaker who got sober from alcohol and cocaine. She talks a lot about the weirdness of how we approach different drugs. In her words, “You don’t get coke at weddings, or work functions, and no-one expects you to identify as a ‘cocaineaholic’ long after you’ve stopped.”

  61. Nervous Accountant*

    #1 ayeeee that brought back memories of my first year here where someone sent me a chat dissing me. There were so many things wrong w/ that whole situation and I wish I could have handled it differently looking back. The person eventually did get fired for performance & attitude issues but it was rough.

  62. PersonCommentingonthis*

    #1 — Yikes. What a horrible bunch of people. I would get out of there same day I found out about the chat group.
    What are their business practices like? If their business sucks as much as they do, maybe report them to the Better Business Bureau? Idk, you can definitely leave a review on Glassdoor and you don’t have to mention them on your resume.

  63. Hiring Mgr*

    Just a note on AAM’s answer to #1. With treatment like this, even if you were trying to use this job as reference I would get out of dodge ASAP. Would this place and its people really give a good reference anyway if they are so brazenly hostile to the OP? The slim potential of a good or even neutral reference would in no way be worth sticking it out longer than necessary.

  64. T*

    LW#1 I worked in an office like this, and you are so much better off getting away from these toxic, asinine people. The women I worked with were very clannish and a friend told me they were talking crap about me openly at the office on my vacation days. They did this to everyone. They invited people to join in their conversation and rip on people that were not there that day, and were just toxic jerks who believed dragging other people down made them look better. No one liked these women, but their behavior was tolerated because of very bad management. I ended up leaving and I can’t believe I stayed at this job as like my as I did, toxic people and jobs really have a way of skewing your sense of what’s normal when you deal with it every day. Don’t take it personally and consider it a bullet dodged. Good for you for having the common sense to get the hell out.

  65. AMH*

    I’m kind of uncomfortable with a lot of the comments made here re: number 3, although I know people were trying to find the OP a way to attend a presumably important work event. As someone with a family history of deadly alcoholism: when a recovering alcoholic tells you “There’s a line for me, and this is it,” please respect it — it’s not a great time to try and find solutions other then OP not attending the event.

    OP3, you’re amazing. Thank you for fighting so hard, both for your own sake and for the sake of the people who love you. You’ve given them all an amazing gift.

    1. Kailia*

      I absolutely agree.

      I did an abstinence experience for a substance abuse class. I gave up shopping for clothes, which is in no way comparable to giving up an addiction like alcohol. The minute I saw an ad for a clothing store I liked, or the minute I sat in a Panera with a view of TJ Maxx, or the minute I stepped into a clothing store “just to look,” I was done: buying, shopping, trying on, the whole shebang, here’s my card take my money. Until people give themselves a like experience, they don’t understand that going near the addiction-seeing it, smelling it, being able to taste it, remembering it, re-experiencing the emotions-can easily, easily lead to a relapse. In addictions, there is no “I’m recovered” or “I used to be a…” – it is “I am recovering” and “I am a…” Trying to give OP ways to go to the event without drinking is a form of rationalizing and a form of minimizing.

      (My mom is an alcoholic who is recovering, and only “recovering” because she fell flat backwards and nearly seized to death in the kitchen on two occasions. She experienced brain damage not from the fall but from years of alcohol abuse. I don’t drink. I don’t go near it. And it pisses me off how steeped our culture is in it.)

      An important work event that must be attended by all should not include alcohol. Period. I know our culture is happily blind and ignorant to that, but I’m saying it anyway.

      1. AMH*

        Yes, exactly. Until you are familiar with addiction recovery and the process, it’s easy to be a little thoughtless about how difficult normal things can become for someone in recovery. I don’t blame anyone for that. It was only through watching my family suffer that I learned more about addiction and rewrote some of my bad opinions on it. I hope people who see this take a moment to be a little bit more thoughtful, is all, especially in real life.

        1. Kailia*

          It’s hard not to scream to high heavens about the addiction and recovery process – and how much for granted many people take not having an addiction or being in a lifelong recovery process (recovery is lifelong, not something you do and you’re done with). The moral model is permeating, as in “if you have enough willpower, you won’t have an issue.” It’s so messed up.

          The more I think about this one, if OP’s boss had told OP to go browse the liquor store and see what looks good for an office party, would the advice still be, “Oh, as a recovering alcoholic, I’m sure you can go browse the liquor store aisles without having an issue. Just don’t drink any of it!”? No. That’s horrible. When being invited to attend a work event that is 100% built around drinking and tasting alcohol (THAT’s the event!), the only advice to a recovering alcoholic is, “No. Skip it.” OP is two years sober: that is amazing, fantastic, incredible, and incredibly difficult.

  66. Whiskey Lover*

    It would be completely normal for a non-drinker to opt out of tasting whiskey! Whiskey can be pretty harsh to people who aren’t a fan and I doubt anyone would question that. Additionally, I’ve participated in probably more than my fair share of whiskey/alcohol tastings and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even seen a place to spit out the sample.

    1. Observer*

      I think you are in fairly deep denial if you think that no one would question the OP. I mean look at the comments – and this is a place that tends to be very sympathetic to people who don’t like / can’t have alcohol. Look at all of the people trying to tell the OP how they actually CAN attend the event (even though they said they CANNOT). That speaks volumes. All of the descriptions by people of the pressure and questions they have gotten in the past can’t be waved away. And then we get the person who claims that no one will give the OP a hard time, while going ona rant about the evils of even SUGGESTING that not all work events be alcohol based and how DARE anyone deprive people – who generally go into this field specifically to be invited to these booze filled events– of their reason for being in the field!

      Bottom line? The OP has reason to worry.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I am in favor of attending and not drinking if this is a networking event.

        We do pub crawls at our business and I go to them not to drink (I only drink 1 thing) but for food and networking.

        If this is just a deinking thing, don’t go. But if it is a party… go, but don’t drink.

        1. AMH*

          But OP called it their line, so I really think we should be focusing on ways they can avoid the event with minimal consequences, not trying to find ways for them to go.

      2. Whiskey Lover*

        What I mean is she says she normally attends open bars and doesn’t drink. So I don’t think the fact that it’s a whiskey tasting will make her any more expected to drink.

        1. KD*

          I’m sure you didn’t intend it this way, but your comment makes it sound like you know the OP’s situation better than they do. OP knows her co-workers, knows the scope of the event and she has said that she cannot go. Their letter strongly implies that their perception is that they would end up drinking. Even if we could imagine scripts to say or that there would be no outside pressure, we have no idea what OP’s triggers to relapse are. We need to believe them when they say they can’t go.

          OP did not ask for advice on how to attend without drinking. They asked for advice on how to get out of going and we need to focus on that.

  67. Jessie*

    Someday this will be an entertaining story about the worst job ever. I worked in a professional office where a fistfight broke out and was written up for a document saved on a shared system that was last updated a year before I was hired. Alison, best answer ever. Yes, they are horrible. Get out.

  68. AdAgencyChick*

    OP3, I completely sympathize with you. There’s a huge drinking culture in NYC advertising — it’s not quite to Mad Men levels any more where people are slinging back cocktails in the middle of the day every day, but there is occasional drinking while on the clock and a TON of drinking-centric events after hours. Those who do not participate are definitely looked at a little askance. I used to feel like every time I skipped alcohol at a company party, that the pregnancy rumor mill would get started the next day.

    One thing that seems to have worked for me is to establish my reputation as a fitness freak. Everybody I work with knows I do CrossFit and that I’m married to my early-morning classes. “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly have a drink, I’m going to the gym tomorrow morning.” So maybe I’m no fun, but I’m hardcore and people respect that, I guess?

  69. Caryn Z*

    Re: #1, I’m so sorry. What a sucky situation. And what sucky people in your office. That’s just awful. I’m glad you are out of there.

  70. Jenn G*

    OP#3: I had my liver damaged by a bout of mismanaged mononucleosis while I was in university, and I don’t drink as a result – I need to keep my liver healthy! Feel free to pretend you are me and give that reason.

  71. stitchinthyme*

    I just don’t get why there’s such a huge societal expectation around drinking. I don’t drink because I such a strong aversion to the taste of any alcohol that it makes me gag — I’ve always been this way, and trying to acquire a taste for it never seemed worth the suffering I’d have to go through to get there. Plus, there’s a history of alcoholism on both sides of my family, so trying to like something that could end up being a serious problem didn’t seem like the best use of my time and energy.

    But no one has ever pressured me to drink or had a problem when I declined, not even when I was in college. Drinking-related events have rarely come up in my work life, but when they do, I just don’t attend. Simple. I would never do the “hold a glass of ginger ale and pretend it’s alcohol” thing — why should I be ashamed of not drinking? I don’t judge people who drink, and I expect the same courtesy in return. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have people in my life (both at work and outside it) who are fine with this.

  72. ENFP in Texas*

    OP#1 – I would use a different script. “I have seen the group chats you have been having about me, and since I choose not to associate with a bunch of backstabbing, immature unprofessionals, today is my last day.”

    In an email. To everyone.

    They are horrible people, and it is nothing to do with you. It is all them. Do not carry this over to your next job.

    1. Jan*

      That’s exactly what I’d do, but then I’ve got what managers call a “bad attitude” and what I call a “no-bullshit threshold”.

  73. AnonymousAnalyst*

    For OP#1,
    No advice but just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I’m in a very similar situation in a role that I started not quite 4 months ago. In addition to being openly laughed at and whispered about when I’m clearly sitting in the adjacent cubicle, they also use Slack to make disparaging remarks about my appearance, my age (I’m 51), and my “stupid” questions. I saw messages the first time when leaving some misrouted mail on my colleague’s desk – she had left her Slack screen up when she was away from her desk. I’ve seen several more conversations over the course this time – I DO feel like they want me to see these remarks, otherwise they would be more careful about it. However, at least to my knowledge, my managers are not also trashing me on Slack – I believe that it’s restricted to just those two. I have been so stressed and anxious – and I don’t usually have issues with anxiety. I finally understand that I cannot succeed in this role, they are both making efforts to set me up for failure. (Lack of training, passive aggressive remarks when I ask questions, withholding information and access to files, etc.). For awhile, it motivated me to work harder and contribute more but now I feel so demoralized that I can barely concentrate on even the most basic tasks while I’m in the office. Good on you for getting out of there, don’t let it wreck you. I’m actively and aggressively looking for a new role – I would certainly walk straight out the door if I could but was unemployed last year for about 6 months before landing this role and I have a daughter in college. I have to just hold my head high and suck it up until I’ve landed a new role. I do plan to let HR know all this on my way out, FWIW. (Not bothering with management – these 2 toxic peeps are favorites of the former (and still active) manager and our newest manager has only been onboard for 3 weeks and still has the deer in the headlights look on her face. Once I land on my feet, I fully intend to totally light them on fire on Glassdoor. The previous 3 people in my position did not work out, either (I was flatout lied to about why the position was open during the interview process) and I’m certain that has a lot to do with these 2 individuals. There are other good jobs out there, I know this because I’ve had them. But all it takes is one rotten individual (or several) to ruin what could otherwise be a decent group. Best wishes to you.

    1. Working with professionals*

      Oh hell no! You need to rise up and ask these skanktastic heifers if they plan on tanking the company by creating a hostile workplace with their ageist bigotry! Notify your manager and HR right now and if they are any good at all you’ll have some relief from this crap while continue to work there and complete a successful job hunt. Get good and angry and let it rip!

      1. AnonymousAnalyst*

        Oh, I’m angry for sure!! Would go to HR if I thought it would be remotely effective. I’m not convinced that it’s a good idea in this scenario, based on what others outside my immediate group have told me about others before me and would like to not add to my stress level. On a positive note, I have a phone interview first thing tomorrow morning and an in person one later tomorrow afternoon with a different firm. Something will pop soon. Meantime, I’m visualizing myself walking out of current job for the last time with a huge smile on my face!

    2. OP1: She Who Gaslit Herself*

      Oh my god, AnonymousAnalyst, that gave me hives. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that. I’m so upset that your coworkers are actively making your job harder for you! Restricting access to files? What??? Even if we go full Bezos and completely disregard ethics, they are taking deliberate steps to damage the company’s production. I’m rooting for you to find a new job immediately. I am so, so sorry.

      1. AnonymousAnalyst*

        Funny you should mention hives! I literally had stress hives a couple of weeks ago when I was still slowly figuring out just what I was up against. (I gave them the benefit of the doubt for far too long). Once I realized that I wasn’t imagining things and stopped questioning my own sanity, I did reach a certain peace. I believe they feel they “look good” by “saving the day” when it turns out that I can’t do something properly or on time. As an example, I was working on a project that I had gotten off to a slow start on. Not for lack of skills, I have those and am confident in them. But the project was poorly defined, I didn’t have login credentials to some of the stuff I needed, and files that were on one drive, were suddenly on another drive and no one thought to tell me. When I finally got it sorted, I was making good progress when one of them broadsided me in our daily team meeting with new manager, to point out that she was going to go ahead and take the project back off my plate since I probably wasn’t going to make the deadline and it would make “the whole team look bad”. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced actual, workplace bullying in my career and it was so hard to figure it out at first – but reading AAM and all the comments on various posts, etc. has helped me recognize it for what it is. And I feel so much better simply by understanding that *they* are the a-holes – not me.

  74. Namey McNameface*

    LW1: This is appalling and so far from basic decent human behaviour; for your own mental health you’d be completely justified in simply not turning up to work tomorrow as Alison suggested.

    Even if you were a terrible employee/coworker (you aren’t, but let’s just say hypothetically) this is NOT okay. Creating a special group chat that excludes you to regularly complain about you is toxic and unproductive. We all have the occasional vent about work but this is Mean Girls stuff. It’s especially alarming that supervisors are in on this as well and disclosing private employment matters such as your performance to the rest of the team.

    You have done nothing to warrant this kind of bullying behaviour. I’m so sorry you have to deal with it now and I hope you realise this reflects much more poorly on all of them than it says anything about you as a person.

  75. Celaena Sardothien*

    OP#3: You could also explain to your boss that one of your family members was an alcoholic and you make an effort not to be around it to avoid painful memories. That way you don’t have to reveal yourself, but your boss should understand and respect that alcohol is sensitive for you.

  76. Northern Lady*

    LW 1: I can relate and just went through a similar situation. I showed up to my new job beginning of January ready to go and excited to start my new role. I discovered on my first day that pretty much the entire department consisted of the managers family – including wife and daughter, friends of said family, friends of daughter. So you can imagine what that environment was like. And the manager supervised his family. No – this wasn’t a family run business either. The wife and daughter were jerks to me from day 1, and were very chilly towards me. They were rude and I was questioning myself if I was imagining things, or if this was actually a terrible environment. Long story short – I got the frick out of there after three weeks, and feel soooo much happier. I am determined to find a great job with a better environment (those jobs are out there)! You were not imagining things, and try to be kind to yourself. You have value, and will find something much better! And I hope your anxiety gets better once you are away from those dirtbags.

  77. Retired but Read Religiously*

    In the U.S. employer-provided alcohol may result in a workers’ compensation claim if an intoxicated employee is injured. If attendance at such an event is mandatory or expected, this puts the employee even more definitively as being within the scope of work while drinking. The employer might be liable for harm to non-employees. There are additional steps that an employer needs to put in place to avoid risk. One such is having a transportation plan for intoxicated employees.

    1. Observer*

      What a lot of employers don’t realize is that it’s not enough to say that the event is not required. If it’s expected to such a level that someone has reason to fear repercussions from their employer (eg being considered a “poor cultural fit” or “not a team player” etc) that creates problems for the company.

  78. Kristine*

    OP #1 – Hold on to your trust in yourself. Yes, they were gossiping about you, and yes, they were nice to your face, because they are two-faced. Do NOT let manipulative people gaslight you and make you crazy or second-guess yourself.
    How incredibly unprofessional, not to mention immature and nasty, for them to discuss you on Slack! All I can say is, take it as a complement. You were obviously more interesting than their own business. The best revenge is to be a better person than they are and to live a happy and fulfilling life apart from toxic personalities. Unfortunately, that also involves not minimizing or explaining away others’ meanness and pettiness, but accepting it and taking the higher road, as you have done.

  79. Kailia*

    OP #1 – I am horrified. I agree that you are 100% justified in rescinding your notice period and walking out that door. I have walked out of a job before, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself, hands down. It’s a little empowering.

    *I* want you to either make a new group chat where you at least let them know that you saw all the other group chats about you, or make sure that you know you saw it, but that’s what *I* want. Objectively, it sounds like what you really need is to get out of there now and never go back, whether they know why or not.

    What I really wanted to say here, though, is this: anxiety tells you bad things all day long. I can see it in your letter. You are down on yourself. Please work on not letting this experience redefine yourself in your own eyes. You don’t need to change yourself, or pick yourself apart, to explain atrocious behavior on the part of not only your coworkers but your bosses. How they treated you is not a reflection of you but them, which sounds trite, but it’s absolutely, 100% true.

    Go forward, head held high, and kick ass out there. It’s the best revenge.

    1. Anonandon*

      That was pretty terrible and so unprofessional, especially the fact that the supervisors were joining in!!! LW definitely dodged a bullet in realizing so quickly that that job was not for them. I’d just leave and let the chips fall where they may, since this is not a bridge LW needs to keep.

  80. TootsNYC*

    If I just preferred not to drink (which is what I’ve told the few coworkers who have noticed my teetotaling), I could presumably still do a tasting,

    This is wrong.

    I don’t like whiskey, and in general I prefer not to drink.

    So why would I want to taste whiskey? Or wine?
    It’s not something I’m interested in drinking later, so why participate in a tasting?

    I would absolutely NOT tell my boss that I am a recovering alcoholic.
    I might go along and say, “Oh, no, I just came for the camaraderie–I don’t like whiskey, and since I don’t drink generally, it seems a waste. You have some, though!”

    1. Person from the Resume*

      True. I don’t like the taste of alcohol. And when people give me drinks where they can’t taste the alcohol, I still can!!! It’s very obvious unpleasant taste to me. I can’t understand what there is to like about whiskey so why would anyone want to taste a bunch of different ones.

      Stick with the “I prefer not to drink” or “don’t like to drink” story and don’t imagine the only person who wouldn’t participate in a tasting would be someone who can’t handle drinking.

  81. LCL*

    #4, I have asked people to fill overtime shifts, in person or by phone or by email, literally at least 2000 times. Your manager changed his language because someone had issue with it. We don’t know if it was one of the workers, or his boss, or both. But his old way SOUNDS like he’s telling you do it, even though it was optional. The way he is doing it now is making it explicitly clear that he is asking you and the choice is yours.

  82. knitcrazybooknut*

    #2 – I work at a university in a state possibly adjacent to yours. The policy of the university is that all students, faculty, and staff must have proof of measles vaccination in order to work or attend. This probably stems from a bad bunch of cases here on campus in the 90s, but it’s been policy ever since.

  83. GlassAlwaysEmpty*

    OP# 1, bonus of a vague statement about how you “know about their thoughts about you or the group chat”–they might then get the feeling that people are trash talking them behind THEIR back, as “people” like that usually do

  84. LaDeeDa*

    OP#1 – This is so awful and I am so sorry you have had to experience this. I know it is hard, but try to remember this says everything about them, and nothing about you. Please use Allison’s script and walk out.