employee quit and deleted his files, old job still contacts me daily, and more

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

1. Employee quit and deleted his computer files

One of our employees just quit without notice and left us in a bind. He is part of a team that works collaboratively, but recently took on a new project and hadn’t gotten to cross-train any of his colleagues before he left.

He came in after a vacation, turned in his badge and key, and resigned on the spot. He didn’t give any reason for quitting. Recently there were concerns of him possibly bullying a new colleague he was training, and he was skipping supervisions and making rude comments to his supervisor (which we addressed with direct feedback). It’s probably for the best that he decided to move on.

Here’s the problem — he was the lead on implementing a new company-wide data tracking system. He attended training, which we paid for, and was responsible for learning how to use all of the system’s features and problem solving issues that came up. The training was expensive, which is why we only sent one employee. We just went live with this new system a few months ago.

This employee was supposed to cross-train his colleagues on the back end features of the system in the next few weeks. After he resigned, his supervisor discovered he had taken all of his training notes and deleted all of his files on his computer. We gave the computer to our IT consultant, but nothing can be recovered.

Our CEO wants the employee to return copies of any notes or files he might still have. I’m not sure how much I can push back if he refuses, or even what to say. Obviously he doesn’t care about a reference from anyone here, and it’s not like we can hold his last paycheck or enforce any real consequences. Any advice?

Actually, you have some legal recourse here: the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it illegal for an employee to knowingly damage electronic files, which includes permanently deleting them without authorization, and your employee could face criminal and civil liability if you chose to pursue that. If you did want to pursue it, a lawyer could likely help you negotiate the return of the raining notes as a way to settle it. Of course, that assumes he still has those notes, which he may not.

That’s what you’re legally entitled to do. But it may not be worth the hassle — in particular because his notes, like many people’s may suck, or may be fairly useless without the broader knowledge from the training to go along with them. You could go through all that and end up with notes that are mostly useless. But if you do want to pursue it, I’d talk with a lawyer about exactly how to do it.

2. My old job still contacts me daily, almost a year after I left

In 2018 I left an unsavory work environment. I was a subject matter expert and office administrator for a small company of about 250. My department of 15 couldn’t function without me and I don’t mean that with pride. I worked there four years and no matter how many systems I had in place, training manuals, or step by step instructions or in-person trainings I did, I would get calls and texts all hours of the day and night, weekends, and during vacations asking how to do the most basic of our functions by industry professionals who had degrees and should have known how to do it. I would also get calls and texts like I was the office mom: “Where’s the batteries for this?” “How do I fix the coffee pot?”

I left in May of 2018 and started my own business but I am still DAILY getting calls, texts, and emails about how to do something from my former coworkers. Yesterday I got an email asking me who to call for copier repairs in an office I haven’t worked at in 10 months.

The first time they texted me asking for something, I made a joke about my hourly going rate for consultation and reminded them I no longer work there. It was met with pushback and more questions. I emailed my former boss and asked him to please quell the contact and he responded that it’s not his responsibility. I don’t respond to any of the contact but I have spent 35 hours this past year weeding their requests out of my personal email, my business email, my business social media pages, and off my home and business voicemails. I’m established with my business and I shouldn’t have to change my contact information.

Can I bill my former employer for this time? This is beyond insane.

Daily calls after nearly a year? This is indeed beyond insane.

But you can’t invoice them. You can’t send a bill for a service that someone never agreed to pay for. I mean, you can try it, and it’s possible that it’ll make your point (but it’s unlikely that they’ll pay it), but with a boss who says it’s “not his responsibility,” I’m skeptical that it’ll move him to action. (You also can’t really invoice people for contacting you if you’re not responding.)

Are you answering any of their questions when they contact you? If you are, even if it’s just a few, you’re reinforcing the behavior. I realize you said you’re not — but since they’re still contacting you this much so long after you left, I wonder if you’re doing it occasionally? If you are, effective immediately, answer nothing.

Beyond that, can you block their number(s) and set any emails from their domain to get straight to your trash so you never see them? (Or if you prefer, to a folder that you check once a month to be sure you don’t miss anything you’d want to see?) You should be able to block them on most social media too.

You can also send a formal, certified letter telling them they need to cease contact — you could even have a lawyer do that for you — but I suspect aggressive blocking will be your most effective option.

3. Janitor calls me pet names

I am a young woman in my late 20s who works at a large government agency as a scientist. One of the janitors in an older man who is very friendly and chatty, but calls me “sugar” and “baby” which I find annoying and unprofessional. At first, I have ignored it because I don’t think it’s worth my time to correct. However, it’s starting to get on my nerves, and I think I should speak up. Do you have any recommendations of what I should say when he calls me “baby” or “sugar” to make the point without coming off too cold.

“I prefer Lavinia, thank you!”

“Would you mind just calling me Lavinia?”

“Actually, it’s Lavinia.”

4. My friend’s resume says she’s a “keen walker”

My friend (who is from the UK, where your resume should be two pages long) has a resume that is four pages long and includes phrases like “I’m a keen walker” and is … not great. I’ve helped her revamp her resume, but she’s been “applying” for two years. I’m trying to assist, but she has like no skills and doesn’t seem to want to gain any. She also has a master’s in creative writing, but refuses to do non-fiction writing.

I’m guessing this is kinda a situation where I just have to let go right? “You can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink”?


5. Should my resume note I was laid off from some jobs?

I’ve got a question about resumes for which I’ve been finding conflicting advice. When you’ve been laid off from a position, should you specify that on your resume? Some columnists recommend to do that yet others advise specifying that only in the cover letter. What if the ATS won’t allow cover letters?

I’ve been laid off three times but only once from a short-term job (14 months). The others were five- or six-year jobs. Should I be explaining this or not and how?

Nope, in most cases your resume should not include reasons why you left the job. That’s definitely true in your case, where all but one of the stays are long enough that they won’t raise questions. (For the one shorter-term stay, as long as it’s not a pattern of short-term stays, it’s not going to raise the sort of red flag that would get you rejected. If anyone’s curious, they’ll ask in the interview, but it’s not the sort of thing that they’d not call you over.) In your case, you also don’t need to address it in your cover letter, for the same reason.

If you did have a pattern of short-term stays, in some cases it would help to include some context about why you moved on (moved, laid off, contract ended, etc.). But it’s not really convention to it that way, and I’d only do it if you had a really unusual looking resume that you needed to explain.

{ 513 comments… read them below }

  1. Approval is optional*

    LW3: Ick! Baby and sugar strike me as sexualised terms – though cultural differences might be in play here.
    What AAM said, but if they are ‘intimate’ terms where you live too. I’d escalate it if he doesn’t cut it out after a couple of corrections. You might want to escalate then anyway of course, but if he was calling me something like ‘dear’ I’d maybe give it more time. YMMV though.

      1. Aveline*

        I would disagree with that. Sweetie and honey, yes. But not baby and sugar said by a man.

        I get sweetied a lot. I’ve never had baby or sugar used by a man in a way that wasn’t sexual. Even in the south in places where “hon” is typical address for everyone.

        1. Aveline*

          Plus it doesn’t matter if it’s sexual, it’s overly familiar in a cloying way.

          OP should stop, look him in the eye, extend her hand and formally introduce herself and say “ You May call me Lavinia or Liv. How should I address you?”

          1. Why do I have do point out the obvious*

            That would be extremely classist, plus a great way to alienate the janitor, who is someone who can be helpful to you if you lock yourself out, need to access office equipment in a hurry or after hours, etc.

              1. Linda the Conqueror*

                Interesting mix of username and comment, there!

                If you don’t like the word “classist,” could we go with “dickish, tone-deaf, and weird”? I mean, jeezy petes, that script is going to make you sound like a duchess with frontal lobe damage.

                1. Fact & Fiction*

                  I disagree completely about it being classist. Classist would be, “You can call me Ms. Smith. I’ll call you John.” A classist power play would generally also not involve shaking hands with the other person and using polite language.

                  I do agree this script sounds a little on the formal side. So I might suggest something more like, “I don’t think we ever formally introduced ourselves! Please call me Lavinia or Liv. I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name earlier?”

                2. Linda the Conqueror*

                  @Fact & Fiction

                  Someone you have power over has been overly familiar with you. You counter this by staring them dead in the eyeballs to assert dominance. You “extend your hand” far away from your body to shake hands, to show physical distance. You speak with an insane level of formality to assert social distance. You assert your right to reframe the relationship from “honey” to Mrs. VanPenismith, firmly shutting down their attempts to make it friendly and casual.

                  Everything about that is to say “you have no right to address me as an equal, and we are not, and could never be, on terms of friendship.”

                  I don’t know what “putting the help in their place” looks like where you come from, but this sounds like a masterclass to me. Plus, dollars to donuts there is a race component here too.

                  What is wrong with Allison’s “normal decent human” scripts above? You don’t want to be called “honey”? Fine. Just deal with it like a person talking with a person and not Miss Millie training a maid. Jesus.

                3. selena81*

                  I think you may have it backwards: that it is the janitor trying to assert dominance by using belittling names for someone who technically outranks him.

                  How much he may or may not need to be ‘corrected’ depends a lot on whether this is the way he addresses everyone: does he also talk this casual to old male white staff? If they are fine with his attitude then it’s not really up to the new hire to demand more formality in the workplace.
                  If he only does it with young black women then there is way more of a ‘needs to be put in his place’ component.

              1. valentine*

                He may take her introducing herself as more, not less, personal.

                I just can’t picture a non-SO man decently addressing a grandmother as sugar/baby.

                1. JSPA*

                  I can. We had mostly older women (and occasional older men) janitors in a similar situation who would “honey baby” and “honey child” the female post docs up to age 30-something, especially if we were looking stressed and tired (the norm, by the time we overlapped), and they were doing the, “are you still here / go get some rest / be careful out there” concern – show.

                  First names can in fact be considered more, not less, familiar, too.

                  Region, race, class do in fact all intersect on this one, making it a question to ask someone (Better yet, several someones) LOCAL. Perhaps even a female janitor on the team, if you can find a non – judgemental way to put it.

                  You can (alternatively) tell him you “know he doesn’t mean anything by it” but you have a “bad associations with those terms,” and could he please find something else. (You may end up with “doc lady” though.)

                2. Mookie*

                  No, the LW does not have to consult the custodial hivemind before deciding whether to assert her preferences. People get to decide their names, their pronouns, their honorifics. Miss Jane is referred to as Miss Jane because respect matters both ways.

                3. Nita*

                  I agree, I don’t think I’d want to give my name to a near-stranger who’s already trying to be all buddy with me when I want to be left alone. Feels like an invitation for even more personal chats. I’d rather just be “miss” to him.

                  Maybe I’m just biased by the fact that I’ve had similar interactions with a janitor that always left me in a horrible mood. The only time I’d run into him is when staying late, which meant regular comments like “working late again, dear?” I’m not “dear”, and please stop rubbing it in that I’m still at work!!!

                4. WakeUp!*

                  This is a cultural thing. I don’t know why commenters need to make an extreme statement that this MUST be sexual EVERYWHERE. It’s probably not. Where the LW is, this is probably a normal way for someone like the janitor to address someone like her. And guess what? She *still* gets to decide she doesn’t like it and wants to just be called her name.

                5. Michaela Westen*

                  I don’t agree that “sugar” and “baby” to anyone other than wife, daughter or close friend/other relative is normal address. This janitor may *think* it is, but he’s wrong.
                  It seems more likely he’s trying to use this to get closer to her. Every time I’ve had a man do this it was inappropriate and gross.

                6. SnowBall*

                  I agree that providing a first name can make it seem like you’re inviting a personal/intimate relationship. I’ve had older men I didn’t directly work with (like janitors) who started out just saying “hello” and eventually stopped me to ask me questions (like my name) and suddenly things escalated to them getting clingy and inappropriate. It was like providing my first name was also giving them permission to chat with me throughout the day and make comments on my body and relationship status.

                7. ello mate*

                  Really? This is said to me from time to time. would it be condescending if it were a mid 40s diner waitress? That’s who usually says it to me, but tbh lots of older guys say things like this and if it were my CEO I’d care but its the janitor. Of course his work is valuable and important but frankly his opinion of you probably doesn’t matter much.

                8. valentine*

                  I can. We had mostly older women (and occasional older men) janitors in a similar situation who would “honey baby” and “honey child” the female post docs up to age 30-something
                  I forgot there are 30-something grandmothers. It’s assigning gender and age and picking a term they figure won’t earn them a punch in the throat. That’s sexist, gross, and infantilizing.

            1. Mookie*

              No, that attitude is classist.

              And, no, he has to do his job and his compensation for doing so does not include never being gently corrected for behavior that unnecessarily discomfits others.

              It’s weird to regard working class people as being incapable of correcting or editing themselves or that they lack the capacity to accept other people’s preferences. (I suspect this friendly man will be just fine with this, perhaps a little concerned he was inadvertently offending the LW.) Further, using irritating pet names for women is hardly limited to the blue-collar world.

            2. Not Today Satan*

              I agree with you. She can tell him she’d rather be called by her name but the whole asserting dominance act with the eye contact isn’t necessary.

              “Would you actually mind calling me Melissa? I don’t like nicknames” with a smile is all that’s needed.

              1. Aveline*

                It’s not dominance. Why in the world would you think that?
                Eye contact means she has his attention and is engaged.

                If you assume I contact can only mean dominance and always means dominance then you’re doing it wrong

                1. Sylvan*

                  It’s the obvious formality and coldness. It reads like you’re putting someone in their place. And the person is a janitor, specifically? Don’t do that.

                2. EventPlannerGal*

                  There’s a huge difference between “please just call me Melissa” and staring someone down, shaking hands and saying “you may call me Melissa”. It’s far more formal and reads like she’s giving the lowly servant permission to speak to her. There’s nothing wrong with asking not to be called things like “sugar” or “baby” – I would hate it! – but that suggested script just sounds incredibly snotty and superior to me.

                3. Not Today Satan*

                  Stopping a conversation to pointedly make eye contact, impose a handshake, and tell a janitor what to call you, all in a bizarrely formal way, seems to me like asserting dominance. I can tell you with certainty that if I did that with any of the 10 janitors who work for my company, it would not go well. They would probably just stop sharing pleasantries with me altogether.

                4. Dust Bunny*

                  If someb0dy ignores repeated requests to not call you overly-familiar names, they have earned a stare-down, no matter who they are. It doesn’t mean you consider them inferior in all other aspects of your respective lives, it just means they’re over the line in this particular instance. Nobody is demanding that he stand in her presence and not speak unless spoken to, for goodness’ sake.

                5. WakeUp!*

                  @MK, it doesn’t sound like it. It’s striking that people are so eager to assume the worst of the janitor here.

                  @EventPlannerGal, exactly. One assumes that the janitor has done something bad and needs to be fairly harshly corrected. The other sounds more neutral and friendly. Which, yes, is what the situation warrants.

                6. Parenthetically*

                  Yeah, it really, really reads as a dressing down to phrase it that way. “You may address me as”? SUPER cold and aggressive.

                7. Jules the 3rd*

                  So fascinating to watch the clash of cultures……

                  Aveline, in many cultures, eye contact is a dominance play; a lot of cultures just don’t do eye contact. From the reading I’ve done about body language, ‘eye contact = dominance’ is the most common.

                  Everybody else: Some US and European cultures put a high premium on ‘looking people in the face as a sign of respect and attention’.

                  google ‘bright hub eye contact’ for a decent primer, though they really miss that most countries have a variety of cultures and norms; I’ve been told by black friends (US South) that eye contact is aggressive.

                  This means Aveline’s script has a high chance of being very aggressive and demonstrating dominance, especially if OP and the janitor are different races. A smiling, no touch ‘aw, thanks, but I’m not sweet! call me Lavinia’ is a better path. No touch keeps it formal, first name and smile keep it friendly.

                8. Jules the 3rd*

                  Want to clarify: This culture difference means Aveline’s approach may be perceived as aggressive / dominance / dismissive (as so many here have done), when she means it as a show of RESPECT.

                  In some cultures, common in the US, Aveline’s approach would be perceived as being respectful, not aggressive. For example, if the janitor were a white 50s or older male, not looking at him would be the aggressive approach.

                  If you ever have to navigate this, start by assuming very brief eye contact then look at their ears or the elevator, but watch (kinda sideways) whether they are looking at your eyes or not as you continue your conversation; if they look steadily at your face you can switch to looking at them more directly. Let them take the lead, and don’t make assumptions about their intent – the subcultures mean that you can’t just take ‘Country X People Do This’ as your guide.

                  Oh, no, I haven’t had to learn how to interact with people through making the implicit rules explicit so that I can step through them, nope, not me…

                9. EventPlannerGal*

                  @ Dust Bunny

                  “If someb0dy ignores repeated requests to not call you overly-familiar names, they have earned a stare-down, no matter who they are.”

                  Direct from the OP: “At first, I have ignored it because I don’t think it’s worth my time to correct. However, it’s starting to get on my nerves, and I think I should speak up.”

                  She hasn’t made repeated requests for him to stop; she hasn’t made any requests for him to stop! The entire point of the letter is that she’s asking for advice on how to phrase it when she does make the request (the one that she has not made yet).

                  Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with disliking terms like “sugar” or “baby” – I don’t like them, or nicknames or diminutives of my name either, and if I was in OP’s situation I would also want him to cut it out. Alison has provided several great suggestions for how to do that. But when coming from a generally friendly, chatty person who quite possibly doesn’t know OP’s name in the first place, I find it weird to approach this so aggressively right off the bat.

            3. Anonforthis*

              I don’t see how it’s classist, but I would also be uncomfortable giving my real name. Honestly, I would just smile and bear it while keeping a polite distance, especially if he would be offended by it.

          2. Asenath*

            I’d suspect some kind of regional variation on friendly address – I’ve been called “love” or “dear” any number of times in similar situations, and that’s all that is intended. If I didn’t like it, I’d say “Oh, do call me Lavinia, John” – and if I wasn’t already addressing him as “John”, I’d of course find out and use his preferred version of his first name before doing this.

            1. JSPA*

              First names without permission can be a touchy thing. I’m thinking African – American / USA (but really anyplace where class or race led one set of people to take the right to use first names). Also fraught (ditto, where historically someone socially upper would have been making a very personally forward suggestion, asking to be called by their first name).

              I’d very specifically clarify: “i go by Livonia at work. What do you prefer to be called at work?” But really, if he calls all women “sweetie” in every part of his life (except where it’s sister or boss) , and all men sir, governor, brother or my man– and there are people raised to do exactly this!– remembering a name for you may be a bigger ask than you’d think. Especially if he’s working two jobs, and crossing paths regularly with several dozen people.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                This is making it way more involved than it should be. Doesn’t matter how he was raised, how many people he talks to, how many jobs he has. LW can still calmly state that she prefers to be called her name and not “sugar.” If janitor forgets her name, he can ask, or he can decide to find ways not to need to use the name, but LW doesn’t have to put up with nicknames or endorsements if she doesn’t want to.

                1. Asenath*

                  Well…names do get complicated for various cultural reasons, which make the standard advice to find the preferred method of address and use it sometimes not as useful as it might be. There are times when I’d prefer to be addresses as Ms. Asenath, but I don’t argue the issue because local culture very strongly favours first names in almost every situation, and when I would prefer a more formal address – usually from some complete stranger I’m dealing with as the representative of a business or government office – I decide to let it go and focus on getting what I really want from them – more than I want to insist “don’t use the same method of address as my friends and relatives”. So I do put up with forms of address I don’t like, and name use is just part of the way I interact with others. Sure, Lavinia can insist on using her own name – but she can also decide that it’s just a minor issue. I think, if she’s going to ask to have her own name be used, she should also find out how the janitor wants to be addressed, and use that form of address.

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            Eh, if someone did that to me, I would not have a positive impression of them. But then again I don’t go around calling people sugar or baby, so YMMV. I like Alison’s scripts a lot better.

          4. iglwif*

            Ew, no.

            Alison is suggesting a cheerful, matter-of-fact, in-the-moment correction to a co-worker; this is more like the lady of the manor telling off the gardener. It’s unnecessarily formal and unnecessarily cranky.

            Unless LW is leaving out a lot of steps, she’s never suggested to this guy before that she doesn’t like how he addresses her, so it’s not yet time to go nuclear on him.

            LW, you don’t mention what (if anything) you call the janitor when y’all talk–I know it can be super awkward to ask someone’s name when you’ve been greeting them as you pass in the hall for months, but one approach that occurs to me (because I am introverted AF and have some social anxiety going on) is to ask someone else his name, and next time you run into each other, you can start with “Hi, [Name]!” and when he calls you “sugar or whatever” you can say cheerfully, “It’s Lavinia actually!” as Alison suggests, and hopefully kind of … reset the situation into one where you know each other’s names and use them.

            1. Random Obsessions*

              I find myself starting random conversations with so many people and then running into them later that I’ve had to develop a template for asking for names.
              “You know, I don’t think we’ve ever actually exchanged names. Mine’s Bernice” -extends hand-
              It works pretty well ’cause it keeps the exchange friendly and open.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          I don’t think you can say it’s not regional – those kinds of endearments can change dramatically with only a short distance. I’m not in the US, but in my area, “love” and “baby” are totally nonsexualized – both women and men use them, directed at both younger women and younger men. Travel a few hundred miles west and both would be unacceptable.

          1. anon*

            In an area I worked in the UK, calling someone ‘my lover’ (pronounced moi luvvvvverrrrrr) was standard and universal. It’s was weirdly charming.

            But yes, if you don’t like being called something I think Alison’s advice is polite.

            1. NeverNicky*

              Duck, me duck, me luv, luv from where I’m from in the UK. Applied to everyone, of any age, gender or colour from anyone.

              Mate is usually male to male, as is pal. But pal is often more … hostile…

              1. Helena*

                Oh god yes, “pal” is how you start a fight…. Definitely never used amongst actual pals.

            2. Pippa*

              I didn’t realise just how nonsexualised this usage was until I heard a big gruff male bus driver greet his big gruff male colleague with a cheerful ‘Ello moi loverrr!’ when handing over at shift change. Local context is everything!

            3. Envy Adams*

              In some parts of the UK (I’m thinking mainly Manchester, where I’m from) even calling someone ‘cock’ is a term of endearment! I remember being a teenager and my uncle saying “Ey up cock, how’s tricks?” and just being fully baffled!

            4. Loubelou*

              I love that my hometown can be identified so easily by our bizzare endearments!
              It really is a gert lush place.

        3. AnonForThisParticularOne*

          This is a weird one for me. I’m from the southeastern US and in my personal experience (of many relatives, schoolteachers, and store customers) ‘baby’ always has sexual overtones but ‘sugar’ can go either way. I know people who use it only as an endearment for children, and I have heard plenty of adult men use it to speak to younger women they are clearly hitting on.

          Of course none of that matters one bit if it’s making the other person uncomfortable! Nobody gets to decide what does or doesn’t skeeve other folks. I would advise going with ‘those terms don’t have good associations for me, Miss/Miz Lavinia is just fine though.’ (Or whatever other form of address would make sense in your workplace- I also agree strongly that some people take the offering of a first name to mean things it absolutely shouldn’t. Ymmv.)

          1. Doe-Eyed*

            Yeah I’m a deep southerner (woman) and I have to work really hard not to call everyone sugar if I don’t know their name. The way I was raised, it’s a general nickname for anyone that you feel positively about. Men, women, children, dogs, cars. But it is unprofessional and people not local do not appreciate it.

          2. ello mate*

            So its sexual when I call my dog baby? Really? I live in Chicago and to be totally frank older black men call younger women sugar, baby, sweetie, doll, all of the above all the time, especially those is less professional jobs. Sorry if that’s to honest but get a grip. Who cares what the janitor calls you?

          3. Wintermute*

            of course it matters! It may be a hill you’re willing to die on but insisting on far more formal address than others in your workplace WILL single you out, and not in a good way. It’s important to calibrate with the environment or you could find you’re holding yourself back.

            Now you are correct in that you’re entitled to be called whatever you wish, but lets not pretend that the norms for the organization and area don’t matter.

        4. Blue*

          When I was growing up in the south, plenty of women my mom’s age and older called me “sugar” (and a few preferred “baby”). That wouldn’t bother me much, but it’s different coming from a man. And in a professional environment, it’s not ok, regardless. This would give me the creeps.

          1. SnowBall*

            I live in a north eastern state and older black women used to refer to me as “honey/baby/sweetie” when I was taking public transportation to college. Never bothered me and the way they said it just sounded friendly. Everyone else just called me “miss” if they needed to address me.

            A man calling me “baby/sugar” at work would creep me out too. (I’d be annoyed by a woman calling me that at work too, though it would feel demeaning instead of creepy.)

          2. Future Homesteader*

            That’s my reaction, too. I live in the midwest, so “sugar” isn’t common, but “baby” is something that I’m used to hearing from my aunts. I think either one coming from a man would be creepy, though, and doubly so in a workplace.

          3. blackcat*

            It is one thing when my 90 year old grandma calls me sugar (which she does, often).
            It is entirely a different thing when an unrelated male does it.

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            US South here: black people of both genders have called me baby and sugar, totally non-sexual. Yes, it’s also been used as the start of a pick-up attempt, but my kid’s bus driver calls me sugar.

            I’m ok with it because I don’t expect her to remember my name. She’s *really* nice, and I know hers (only driver for several years), but she’s got 100ish kids and parents (2 routes); I think she does great remembering the kids’ names and where they live.

            I have to admit, I disagree with Alison here. I fall in the ‘just breathe and move on’ school; it’s probably not intended sexually, and requesting that the janitor remembers *your* name (out of how many 100s in the building?) is a big ask, unless you’re interested in a more cordial relationship than is normal between office and custodial staff. Now, me, I chat with everyone, and Denora, the current custodial staff for my area, is very nice, with 2 kids and a wonky car. I don’t *expect* her to know my name, but she does.

        5. Yikes Dude*

          I don’t think their jobs can be ignored either. It took me a long time to figure out that a lot of pet names are not about just not knowing someone’s name. It’s a way for men who are insecure about their jobs to feel superior to women (see: white people talking to people of color) with more prestigious titles or professions in the workplace.

        6. Ann Nonymous*

          I won’t re-hire a painter who inappropriately threw in a surprise “sweetheart” towards me in parting. I don’t pay people to demean me in a sexist way.

          1. BoredFed*

            I’m not sure I see demeaning here.
            I firmly believe that a person should be addressed as they wish to be. And, if this was coming from someone of higher or equal status, it should be clearly addressed by OP.
            But this is coming from someone of *significantly lower* status. An older (as I read it, significantly so) guy. With no indication from OP that he means to be threatening or creepy. In this context, I would say that noblesse oblige counsels in favor of leaving it be.

        7. Batman*

          I was waiting at a bus stop once and a man I didn’t know came up to me and said something something “give me some sugar.” It creeped me out. That’s sexual, right?

        8. RUKiddingMe*

          IME they are all too intimate to come from some random guy…even *if* we were to stipulate (I personally think they *are* sexualized) that they aren’t sexualized terms. Here’s the thing…does he say those things to males? Didn’t think so.

      2. Mookie*

        “Dear” is not universally popular, either, and can comminicate a variety of fairly insulting implications depending on context, culture, and tone of delivery.

        1. Sam.*

          Yeah, a 30ish man I didn’t know once called me (a woman about the same age) “dear” and it made me so uncomfortable that I pretty much left the store and didn’t come back. I just feel strongly that you shouldn’t call people by anything other than their preferred name. If you don’t know their name and don’t care to learn it, just don’t call them anything? You can have a friendly conversation with someone without addressing them by name.

      3. Perfectly Particular*

        In general, I would say “baby” and “sugar” are sexual, but there is an older gentleman who works in our cafeteria who uses these terms, and he is clearly intending to be nice/grandfatherly – still makes me wince when he does it though. On our campus of about 1000 people, there is no way he could remember all of our names, and he’s of the age/health where he falls asleep on the bench out front while waiting for his ride, so I just let it go… I would definitely not do this with anyone closer to my own age though – in that case, I would introduce myself (likely while pointing to my badge – that has my name on it)

        1. Allison*

          Yeah, I gotta be honest I understand that older people trying to be “grandfatherly/grandmotherly” to younger people is supposed to be sweet, but I’m really not comfortable with it, and I wish there was a way to politely opt out when people try to establish that kind of relationship with me.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            And…they aren’t doing anything new. Dude has been calling women “baby” since way before he was an old guy falling asleep on waiting for a ride.

      4. Allison*

        Honestly, sometimes even being called “dear” can make me feel a little icky, depending on who says it.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I’m weirdly particular in that “dear” is sometimes okay but “my dear” drives me up the wall. Buddy, I am not *your* anything.

        1. WakeUp!*

          NYC is one of the most diverse places in the world. I guarantee there are SEVERAL subcultures within New York where it is friendly and non-sexual for an older man to call a younger woman “honey” or “sugar.” You can’t generalize like that.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            ‘Friendly’ from their standpoint. I bet they don’t use those or similar words to speak to younger men. It’s sexist, plain and simple.

    1. Jasnah*

      They don’t read as sexual to me.

      LW, do you know this janitor’s name? This might be a good opportunity to learn it and use it. Then it won’t feel cold if you insist he use yours, while you just call him…”hey you janitor.” You can call it “upgrading to first name basis” :)

      1. A Woman Who was Called "Honey" by a Bus Driver*

        Jasnah, I do not agree because the media uses those tones in a flirtatious/sexual context. It’s most likely basically a microagression because OP doesn’t want it. Allison’s advice is great for this, but most who deal with this are stuck just dealing with it.

        1. Jasnah*

          Ok, that may be true in your experience but personally, I would need more information like tone and demeanor to make that call for myself. It doesn’t affect how I think OP should handle it either way.

        2. WakeUp!*

          Something’s not a microagression just because you don’t like it. And just because it *can* be used in a flirty or sexual way doesn’t mean it *is* in this case.

          The OP can speak up if she doesn’t like being called likely-gendered terms of endearment at work. But she’s not a victim of anything and the janitor isn’t doing anything wrong.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Actually calling women that one foesnt know “baby, dugar, honey, sweety, etc.” *is* wrong. What’s wrong worh “ma’am?”

      2. sacados*

        I mean, OP says the janitor is “very friendly and chatty” so I think it’s probably safe to assume that she does know his name.
        But either way that doesn’t really impact AMA’s advice which I think is still spot on. As long as OP keeps a friendly/cheerful tone of voice then it shouldn’t come across as cold or standoffish (which OP said she wanted to avoid).

        1. Jasnah*

          I wondered if that was safe to assume, because I know many people who are friendly with the janitors, cleaners, doorpeople, and other waitstaff but don’t actually know their names. I’ve seen skits on SNL poking fun at this and the janitor on Scrubs didn’t even have a name, so this is definitely a thing.

          The reason I suggested using his name is because if she insists on being called by her name without knowing his, that’s playing into this weird trope where people don’t learn the names of workers who support them. That would feel pretty demeaning to me if I were the janitor. So I think this is a great excuse to learn his name if she doesn’t know it already, and sidestep the awkward terms of endearment.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I don’t think our primary worry should be that a man might be demeaned while trying to get him to stop calling a woman ‘baby’ and ‘sugar’.

            1. WakeUp!*

              You’re reading a lot of malice into his behavior that a lot of us are not. This is not a catcaller. You might be missing some cultural context.

              1. CC*

                It doesn’t matter if he’s doing it with malice (I’m sure he’s not). Lots of people do subtly sexist/racist/homophobic things with the best of intentions. What matters is how it makes the *LW* feel.

            2. Jasnah*

              Yikes, it’s not a zero-sum game. “Why should I respect the feelings of someone being rude to me” should be saved for people you don’t care to have a relationship with, which is clearly not the case here.

          2. blackcat*

            Yeah, it really through the janitor who cleaned my classroom through a loop when I struck up conversation and asked her name (private school, contracted cleaning staff who came by after 4:30pm). It was very much Not. A Thing. to do, particularly in the case of a Spanish speaking janitor and a white lady teacher.
            Later on, I discovered that, besides the spanish teachers, I was the only one who knew the names of the women who cleaned our classrooms.

            1. valentine*

              It can come across as “What is your name so I can use it in my complaint to TPTB?”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Exactly! It’s entirely possible he feels rude not addressing people directly but has so many people that he can’t remember all the names.
        Our custodial staff just says hello directly without the name or term of endearment. Works for me!

        “Hi how are you tonight?” Is completely appropriate for all.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Even if the janitor is addressing all the employees this way (though I REALLY doubt he’s calling male employees “sugar”), OP is still absolutely entitled to not want to be called that, and to call him out on it. It’s not an appropriate way to address someone you don’t have a close relationship to, no matter how many people he’s doing it to.

          1. Sylvan*

            She’s absolutely entitled to not like it and tell him to stop, but this is a common enough thing in some cultures, including mine, that framing his behavior as intentionally inappropriate or aggressive might not be right.

            (If I got offended every time someone called me sweetie, honey, or sugar in a friendly and non-sexual manner, I would basically have to move away.)

            1. Karen from Finance*

              I agree it’s common in a lot of cultures, including mine as well. It is also inappropiate. It can be both things. And being unintentional doesn’t make it any more appropiate, as this blog often shows us.

              1. Jaz*

                You’re absolutely right that intentions don’t change how appropriate or inappropriate a behavior is, but I find them very helpful to consider when choosing the most helpful response. Depending on contexts (whether he uses the same terms for everyone, how formal local culture is, how those terms are used locally, her relationship with him, and so on) this could call for a rather cold “I do not appreciate being called Sugar or Baby,” or a smile and an, “I’ve never liked nicknames much, just call me Lavinia,” or pulling him aside and saying, “Could you do me a favor? I have this weird thing where I just don’t like being called sugar…”

                Basically, there are multiple ways to address a behavior, and things like motivation and environment are really helpful in choosing the best one.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  +1 gazillion. Culture and context really matter, and we don’t really know OP’s / OP’s Janitor’s . We’re all just projecting our cultural biases into this situation.

              2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

                Yeah–I’ve encountered plenty of terms of endearment (honey, baby, sugar, missy) that translate to “I don’t know your name, but I think you’re a nice person who won’t expect formality.”

                It should absolutely stop if she doesn’t like it, but there’s no reason to assume the guy doesn’t mean perfectly well.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  “It should absolutely stop if she doesn’t like it, but there’s no reason to assume the guy doesn’t mean perfectly well.”

                  Perfect summary.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Well, it depends on how he’s saying it.
                  When I was young I was constantly fending off men who would say things like “Hey baby, do you have a boyfriend?” or “can I have your food?” or other very inappropriate requests.
                  These encounters creeped me out even more than you would think because of the way it was done – their tone, body language, standing too close, staring at me, etc.
                  The janitor could be doing this in ways that are creepy, and maybe that’s why OP is uncomfortable. If he is, he’s probably working up to trying to get closer to her – and she needs to shut that down before it happens.

              3. Sylvan*

                It’s not inappropriate in all cultures. It isn’t in mine. I don’t actually like it, by the way, and would rather not defend it; I just want to push back against assumptions that etiquette’s universal.

                Whether it’s appropriate and normal enough where OP lives or not, like I said earlier, she’s free to not like it and ask him to stop. I’m only interested in whether it’s culturally normal because how OP asks him to stop might be different if he’s being condescendingly paternal than it might be if he’s being friendly.

          2. wittyrepartee*

            I bet the menz get called “big guy” and “sport”. Which is a little less creepy sounding to my ear, but still weird.

            1. Karen from Finance*

              You are kind of making my point for me here. Regardless of intentions, it is an unnecessarily gendered and loaded way to adress someone.

              1. C Rated*

                You DO realise you are making the worst possible assumptions then acting as if they are fact, based on ZERO evidence, right?

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Maybe zeto evidence for this guy but I’d bet real money Karen (like most women) has enough lived experiences yo make a relatively accurate educated guess.

        2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          One of security guards does this. There are 300ish people in our building, so we are all “darlin’ ” regardless of age, gender and rank (we all call him by his 1st name). For this reason it doesn’t bother me at all, but if it was only women, only young people, etc. then it would be a problem for me.

          1. Sutemi*

            There can be a familiarity or power gap between the people who have their name printed on their uniform and the people who don’t have a uniform. I know that our janitor’s name is Maria because that is what her shirt says, but she doesn’t know all of the scientists names because we wear business casual.

            1. TootsNYC*

              This is true of the janitors–I’ve realized through this whole question and thread that I need to tell Keith the kitchen-filling-things-up guy my name.

              The security guards, however, know MY name but I don’t know theirs.

              1. SnowBall*

                At my last job, we had to use an ID card to get into the building and then would pass a security guard at a desk in the lobby. One security guard always said, “Good morning, SnowBall,” to me as I passed him. Not sure if our names came up on the screen when we scanned our ID cards or what. Felt off putting that he would address me by my name when I no idea what his name was though. I considered stopping to ask him his name before, but didn’t want him to get the wrong idea and think I wanted to start chatting everyday or something.

            2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

              Definitely in a lot of situations. In my case, ours don’t have name tags, so I know it because when you call down to security to get folks let in for the meeting, they answer “Security, _______ speaking”. Our cleaning staff doesn’t have name tags either, but I picked up all of their names because everyone chats with them, especially the Spanish speakers, and we always invite them to stop by when we have a work food thing.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Exactly! It’s entirely possible he feels rude not addressing people directly but has so many people that he can’t remember all the names.

          This got me to wondering–what IS a neutral term of direct address?
          For women, and then for men.

          “Lady” is neutral, but that’s weird! It reminds me of Fezzig, “Hi, lady!”
          Its counterpart is “gentleman” or “man,” and we never use “gentleman” at someone. And “Hello, man,” is weird (“Hi, man,” can be very sixties throwback).

          “Ma’am” should be neutral, but we’ve seen that totally backfire!
          Its counterpart is “Sir,” which is more neutral.
          But both of those can be a weird term to use for the person you say hello to every day. They are very distancing–they create a space between you.

          1. Clorinda*

            If you’re not in an area where ma’am and sir are the norm, there is no noun of address. English: it’s weird.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I guess there’s “my dear,” which has a touch of old-fashioned formality to it that makes it a distancer more than an intimate-izer.

            “Good morning, my dear.”

            1. Anon for this*

              I find “my dear” or “dear” or “honey” all very icky and patronizing.

              Having just dealt with this situation from a grad student who was calling me “honey” and “dear,” I recognize the intent may be harmless, but those are loaded terms to me. I guess YMMV in certain regions, but those terms of endearment do not seem appropriate to me in the workplace at all.

          3. SnowBall*

            I don’t see anything wrong with “miss” or “sir” and I don’t see using them on a daily basis as distancing either. There’s usually going to be a lot of people at work that you aren’t on a first-name basis with but who you might see in the hallway often. It’s not necessary to say hello to everyone, and if you feel compelled to for some reason it makes sense to stick with neutral addresses unless they introduce themselves.

            1. TootsNYC*

              especially when someone is at a lower status, as janitors are often seen to be, it can feel very classist.

              Which is not an American look.

              It’s one thing to call someone “ma’am” in a store, but a janitor is often a colleague.

              1. SnowBall*

                Yeah, “ma’am” seems weirdly formal and like it has to be said with deference, which was why I thought “miss” was okay instead.

                But if you don’t want janitors calling people “miss” or “sir” because it’s classist, then how should they be addressing random people they aren’t on a first-names-basis with? The only other option I can think of is a smile and a “hello.”

                I think “my dear” is too intimate, and I can’t imagine a male janitor saying it to males.

          4. Blue*

            This is why I just don’t address people with names of any kind unless I know what they prefer to be called. I often chat with randoms in my (large) office building in passing without knowing their names and without calling them by a pet name, and they do the same to me. I don’t think being friendly requires you to venture into this minefield.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I agree; I just think that a lot of us will have to train ourselves to different sentence-structure patterns.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Yep. The way not to go amiss is to not use pronouns / names / nicknames at all.

              It is a weirdly hard habit to break, but I have never sensed anyone being put off / offended by a warm, smiling ‘Hello!’ or “Hello there, and welcome!” For some reason, I really need the ‘there’ to feel comfortable – I use it in place of sir / ma’am.

        4. Honoria Glossop*

          One very friendly security guard at my office calls everyone “Boss”, which makes me feel odd as I am not in any position over him and we are more colleagues working at different levels in different areas of business. I typically respond “How are you today, Ray?” and then we chitchat a bit, or “Have a good one!” as I breeze past. My coworker is in the office more frequently than I am and employs similar techniques. He calls her by name because she’s friendly/present enough for him to remember what it is.

          While “Boss” doesn’t have the possible sexual implications of “Sugar” or “Baby”, it’s still an honorific that is used to be friendly in a position where it would be very difficult to keep track of everyone’s names. I think that’s the intent of the OP’s janitor and it is unfair to him to assume he’s being aggressive.

    2. Karen from Finance*

      What is a good script to use when you don’t want to give out your own name, like with taxi drivers or store clerks?

      1. Nita*

        Not sure if it’s worthwhile asking them to call you something else if you’ll never see them again, but if you run into them regularly, maybe “just call me miss, please, not honey.” Or, if you’re not in the mood to be pleasant, a stare and an incredulous “did you just call me baby?”

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          There’s no way “call me miss” isn’t going to come across as “I’m better than you.”

          1. Nita*

            So what would you suggest? It doesn’t sound great to me either, but 100% better than “honey.” And “miss” is really common where I live, anyway – like, if you’re calling to someone whose name you don’t know, people will usually go: “Miss! Miss, you dropped your phone!”

            1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

              I would personally let it go, but that’s a personal choice and I would never tell someone else to do the same.

              But I don’t think there’s any way to be consequence-free shutting it down. It’s somebody trying to be friendly (and trying to be friendly in a different way with women than with men is annoying and says crappy things about out society, but it’s still trying to be friendly).

              I might try a lighthearted joking-cringe and a “yeek, not ‘baby’ please!”

              1. SnowBall*

                Yeah, if it’s a one-time thing I can’t imagine trying to shut it down going smoothly (guys who think it’s okay to call random women “sugar” or “baby” probably have issues to begin with). If it’s someone I’m going to see somewhat frequently (like a store clerk), I might say, “Please don’t call me ‘baby,’ thanks!” Then they can either figure out to call me something more appropriate on their own, or ask me what I’d prefer (to which I’d say, “miss is okay”).

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                Yeah, this.

                If it’s a cat call, I do respond differently (incredulous stare and ‘grow up’) but for people in service positions, just trying to get through the transaction, meh.

            2. Olive Hornby*

              This is common where I live, too, but I don’t think it works the other way around, unless *maybe* you’re an elderly person introducing yourself e.g. “I’m Miss Annie.” (Even still, I feel like this more likely if someone else is introducing the person.)

              If you’re in a big enough city that there are taxis, you’re probably fine to just…give your first name? Or if it’s a real concern, give your middle name or a nickname, or just pick a random very common name. I just think refusing to give a name in a context like that (especially if they’re potentially running your credit card, which has your name on it) is going to come off as high-handed.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              That type of usage is very common where I am too, but you can’t usually declare *yourself* a miss or a sir without sounding very odd.

      2. Jessica*

        A repairman once called me to set up an appointment and started the conversation with “Hi, honey, how are you?” I was taken aback and replied “I’m not your honey, but I’m good.” He immediately apologized, said it was just a bad habit of his, etc etc. It was a little awkward but not too bad. So I think a similar approach could work with taxi drivers and store clerks. “Where are we going, honey?” “I’m not your honey, but my destination is the train station.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I think your tone of voice can greatly affect this as well.

          But the tactic of “correction, and then moving forward as though it wasn’t a bid deal and nothing is wrong” is always a great one.

        2. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Being called “Honey” or “Hon” in a professional setting makes me nuts. You can say hello to someone you don’t know without calling them “Hon” “Sugar” or “Baby.” If I don’t know someone’s name and I’m just saying hello, I just say “Hi, how’s it going?”

      3. Robin Sparkles*

        I don’t have a good one but my four year old does- she very indignantly informs people that she is “not a baby”. And once told someone that she was not a “honey” either. I guess if you say it with humor it would go over a lot better.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          It’s funny, because I worked kids programs for years and people would call the kids “honey” or “sweetie” so the parents wouldn’t flip out that we forgot their kids name. “You don’t remember who my kid is, we took lessons here three years ago! *huffs at bad customer service*”

      4. wittyrepartee*

        I normally go by “peanut” actually. Just go with something that sounds ridiculous. Or give them a fake name (Abby Road is my go to).

      5. n*

        I directly tell them not to call me that.

        “Hey baby.”
        “Actually, I’m an adult and not a baby. Please don’t call me that.”

        “Hey sugar,” or “Hey honey.”
        “I’m not your honey/sugar. Please don’t call me that.”

        Caveat: I only do this if I’m in the right frame of mind to deal with the blowback or in a situation where I feel safe. It makes some men really angry and then they start arguing with you.

          1. Honoria Glossop*

            I think it’s unfair to assume bad intentions. Maybe you are interpreting embarrassment as anger? It would be very embarrassing to be called out in this way. We are all entitled to be called what we prefer, but we can do it without assuming malice.

      6. RUKiddingMe*

        Pick a fake name? Kind of like an email address you use just for sites you know are going to spam you…

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      When I was in my mid-20’s our work had a janitor who’s boyfriend would follow her to work and hang out with her there – and he would not stop trying to flirt with me and chat me up – while his fricken girlfriend cleaned in the next room. It was awful and uncomfortable and made me dread Wednesdays – but I was shy and super socialized not to cause a fuss and did not have the toolbox to push back on it at the time, so I just sat there miserably trying to politely defect him. And it never worked because he knew he was making me uncomfortable and liked it.

      Do you actually want to talk to this Janitor and just want him to call you by your name, or would you kind of rather be left alone? If you would rather not (and there is nothing wrong with that!) then I would suggest saying “Oh – please don’t call me that, my name is OP” in your politest casual tone, and then “I’m sorry – I really need to work on the TPS reports” and then re-focus on your work. Just make it another case of needing to get work done at work – I don’t have time for chatting right now.

      1. WakeUp!*

        It feels like a lot of projection is happening here. We don’t have any evidence that the OP feels cornered by this guy–just that ‘honey’ bugs her.

        1. Respect*

          I think you’re projecting. Are you the guy? Because you defend him vehemently even though the OP made it clear she doesnt like being called that. Besides, MusicwithRock just gave a suggestion.

          1. WakeUp!*

            She made it clear to us. She didn’t make it clear to him. I’m annoyed at all the commenters making bad-faith assumptions about someone who is doing something that is normal in a lot of our cultures. A lot of AAM readers like to act more enlightened than everyone else, but also assume their own norms and cultural biases are universal.

            1. valentine*

              The janitor is imposing his own norm and cultural bias on OP, instead of asking her preference or coming up with something decent he would fearlessly call anyone at work.

    4. LGC*

      So…no and yes.

      It CAN be sexualized. But my first read was that it was more infantilizing – since it was an older person addressing a younger person. (I get this myself sometimes at work! And I’m a guy!)

      These aren’t mutually exclusive, and what’s the most important thing here is that it’s not okay. But I don’t think there’s enough context from the letter to determine whether he’s being paternal or predatory (or both).

      1. Anonforthis*

        I think a lot of people – myself included – saw “baby” and “sugar” and immediately thought of cat-calling. I have been cat-called those exact terms numerous times. That being said, a lot of the comments saying that these are also typical terms of endearment + the LW’s disclosure that it was the names – not necessarily the janitor’s behavior, leads me to assume that he’s not actually being creepy.

    5. Jenny P*

      I have said to many coworkers, the only person allowed to call me sweetheart (or sugar or honey or you name it) is my father. Everyone else can call me Jenny (not a nickname, this is my real name) or Mrs. P.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I actually think this makes for a great script.

        With a smile: “Bless your heart, the only person who calls me pet names is my father! Everybody else calls me Jenny and I wish you would too!”

        1. YuliaC*

          I like this a lot. This can also work well with people we are not going to see again (like taxi drivers etc.). I’m definitely going to use it from now on with all the endless non-creepy guys calling me sugar, missy, honey, and mami. Although I’ll have to replace blessing the heart with something else to soften… “hey now” perhaps?

    6. Psyche*

      I would be tempted to create a listserv with the email of everyone doing the spamming and former boss and just forward every email to that list. Very unprofessional, but I can dream.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Idk, maybe because I’m a bit older, if this guy is that old and otherwise seems nice and not creepy, this wouldn’t bother me. In fact, I’d even say something like “right back at ya’”.
      But that’s me. I realize everyone has a different tolerance level on this type of stuff.

    8. Annie*

      The amount of hoop-jumping, straw man-ing and insistence on fictitious hypotheticals as absolute fact just defend this man’s right to make a woman feel uncomfortable is astounding.

      When did AAM turn into Red Pill?

  2. Artemesia*

    Why on earth would you announce you had been laid off from a job you worked 5 or 6 years? Don’t lie if they ask, but it isn’t your job to put your worst food forward.

    1. David*

      Being laid off is often nothing to do with the staff member being laid off. Its often / usually do do with a change of business direction or economic climate resulting in particular positions no longer being viable for the organization.
      That is if I have used the LAID OFF term correctly. Laid Off, Retrenched, Receiving a redundancy.

      Generally if you have screwed upo enough that they are going to fire you its called a dismissal or a firing. Hence, being laid off isn’t actually a bad thing so when a company asks its quite okay to simply say you were laid off. They wont dig any further.

      Having said that, Yes, why would you state it, but its not the mark of caine if you get laid off, so….

      1. ooo*

        Right. Most of my department (including me) was laid off last year. We hadn’t done anything wrong; the company was just poorly run and needed to save money.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yup…been through multiplelayoffs now on both sides, and it’s not personal but departmental & budgetary.
          One was 200 people in one day–bye bye to that product line and its support staff.

      2. TootsNYC*

        yeah, I get really, really fierce about the difference between being laid off and being fired.

        I do not let anybody get away with using the word “fired” for people who lost their jobs because of a business contraction or reorganization.

        It matters!

        I’m in publishing, so we all just assume you got laid off anyway. (If we recognize the publication name, we may KNOW you did.)

        I would say the reason to not put it on your resumé is precisely BECAUSE it’s not about you.
        Your resumé is only about you and how good you will be at your new job.

        Any other issues (like, your company mismanaged its finances; the advertising market dried up; your company was merged with another and your job was redundant) don’t belong there.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Exactly. I’ve been laid off twice in my career. In a job interview I’m usually asked why there’s a gap on my resume. I tell them I was laid off for down sizing and they move on. It’s not a big deal.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I don’t think it needs to be announced (reasons for leaving basically never do) but it’s not something to be embarrassed by. I’ve been fired and laid off, the laid off is much easier to explain because it wasn’t about anything I’d done wrong.

    4. Psyche*

      I think the idea is to make it clear that they were not fired for cause. It is unnecessary but when you know that someone is judging you based on this one piece of paper, it can make you want to over-explain so that they don’t assume incorrectly.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Right, because both times I was laid off, it was then followed by a period of unemployment. So it was pretty obvious that I was either laid off or fired. But, like TheColumn says above, if I get an interview, I can explain it then. If I get an interview, after they judge me based on that piece of paper.

    5. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I’ve wanted to communicate that a job ended unexpectedly and without much notice, and my current job was one I accepted because I needed something in a hurry.

      This to try and delicately explain why I was leaving after a relatively short tenure, because it wasn’t something I would have taken if I’d had a chance for a more thorough job hunt. There isn’t a great way to put it, but I wish there was.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        “I was let go from job 1 for downsizing/reorg/etc. I accepted job 2 due to the unexpected layoff, but have since discovered that I’m not being challenged/there’s no room for growth/it’s not what I want to be doing long term/etc.” Just be honest. Any reasonable person would get this (and if you’re interviewing with an unreasonable person and they count this against you, you don’t want to work for them anyway). I’ve been laid off twice, so I get it. But there’s really no need to make up stuff or embellish the reasons you’re in your current position when interviewing for a new job.

    6. Mockingjay*

      It’s really common in government contracting. The project is complete, is no longer funded, or the company does not win the follow-on contract, so the work stops. Larger companies can usually place staff in other roles, but medium and small companies usually lay off those employees.

      I know from experience. I don’t put the layoff in my resume, but will put it in an online application if it asks why did you leave this position.

    7. Polymer Phil*

      When there’s a gap in someone’s resume, “laid off” is a much better explanation than the other two likely ones – the person either was fired for cause, or quit in a fit of anger with no new job lined up.

  3. David*

    LW5: I’ve been laid off 3 times as well, all from jobs I had been in for over 5 years. The two HR people who laid me off the third time got freaked out when I walked in to the room looked around, saw the paperwork on the table face down and said “You about to lay me off, aren’t you!” They wanted to know how I knew and they wanted to know why I was not upset and in fact smiling(It wasn’t the most brilliant of pay outs). I swear they were about to start an internal investigation into how I must have hacked their emails to find out. I had to explain in quite a lot of detail how once its happened a few times you get to know the signs, and those signs are generally really obvious from people who have never done the process before. I almost want to get another job where I get laid off from so I can be blaise about it again.

    But I digress: After the third time I took a few months off and then took a number of short term contracts. Those jobs are clearly listed as short term contracts in my resume. This allows me to have several week gaps between them and not have to explain why I was job skipping.

    1. T3k*

      Ouch, I went through one layoff (first job out of college) and that was bad enough, can’t imagine 3.
      That said, my job record isn’t the greatest. 4 jobs in the last 5 years, all lasting 6 months to a year (laid off, quit, short contract, still at) so I make sure to note being laid off or contract work and it’s helped me land more interviews doing that. Thankfully (or not?) the field I’m trying to get into, short stays are pretty common so most of them don’t even bat an eye at my job history.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ve been laid off something like 7 times. You know, consumer publishing. If the magazine isn’t folding, they’re cost-cutting.

        I had to pull together a brief summary of my career for an information session with some college kids (my friend is their professor), and I had a lot of fun ending every paragraph with, “the magazine folded and she was laid off.”

    2. OP5*

      OP5 here. Thanks, David. My situation is very similar to yours. I, too, worked several short contract gigs after my second and third layoffs. (If there’s ever a fourth, I plan to follow your lead, “You’re going to lay me off, aren’t you?”)

      1. David*

        Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and accept it. There’s no point getting upset or angry IN THE Lay Off meeting. Take the paperwork, smile like you don’t need to be there and leave when everything has been covered. It either 1) makes it easier for HR or 2) makes them feel really uncomfortable and powerless.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      It’s the flip side of when an employee who is usually relaxed shows up in my doorway nervous, says, “Do you have a minute?” and shuts the door. 90% of the time, they are giving notice.

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        Last time my partner and I moved, I went in to my boss’s office to basically ask to list him as a reference, but as soon as I said “we’re moving, and” he cut in “Out of state?” I was like . . . “What? No, just down the street, but they need references and they might call to ask about salary, etc.”

        Maybe he’s getting a restless vibe from me. ;)

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re ridiculous to overreact like that.

      I had one layoff and the guy knew what being randomly summoned to the office meant. Casual stuff was done with much less formality needless to say.

      This is also why when I ask someone to come see me in my office I give them details of “I have questions about your forms you handed in, no biggie.” It’s normal for people to assume the worst when HR or all the Big Bosses are involved etc. Jeez.

      1. Colin*

        See also meeting names. Some months back I had a meeting invitation from legal entitled ” decommissioning”. I knew from other conversations that it was about decommissioning a small part of the project, not the whole thing; didn’t stop the fifteen seconds of fight-or-flight heart rate response though.

    5. ThatGirl*

      The time I got laid off, I didn’t want to believe it was happening, but the signs were blindingly obvious – my manager wouldn’t tell me what the mysterious meeting was about and said we’d just meet right before I left for the day. (I got let go a day before everyone else due to having a planned vacation for that Friday.) When I walked into the room right next to the entrance and HR was there and the dept head was on the phone THAT was when it really should have sunk in. But yeah, once you’ve been through it, it’s not so hard to figure out.

    6. TootsNYC*

      yeah, when the HR folks call and say, “Could you come to my office,” you know. Especially because I’ve never worked anywhere that the possibility of layoffs wasn’t obvious well before.

      A friend called me once to say she had to escort some of her subordinates to the conference room to get laid off by the VP tasked with the actual task. She wanted advice for how to handle the whole time period, but she was particularly worried by the fact that she couldn’t warn them so that the VP’s news wouldn’t hit quite so hard.

      “By telling them you need them to come with you to the conference room to meet with the VP, you ARE giving them just a little bit of advance warning,” I said.

    7. JustaTech*

      My company used to do layoffs like clockwork, so people who’d been around a while knew the signs (and told the new folks).
      One of my coworkers read the signs, knew her job was basically over (her department had kind of dried up) so she started job hunting before the layoff. The day of the layoff she got an offer at another company (more money!), so she went into the HR meeting with a smile on her face and giggled all the way back.
      I’ve never seen anyone so pleased to get laid off.
      (She used her severance as a down payment on a house.)

    8. KayEss*

      My last layoff we all knew immediately what was happening because they called in an armed security guard to hang out in the office while the meetings were going on.

    9. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I was laid off from a online tech news company. We had already lost our developers, so we knew the writing was on the wall.
      HR walks in with the Big Boss with a HUGE stack of folders. I leaned over to my boss and said “My God, [boss], it’s all of us”
      She said “no…” in a disbelieving tone.
      Then our whole group was laid off.
      The End.
      It was long enough ago that it’s not even a blip on my resume, but for the short term after my reason was
      “Tech company. 2002.” Instantly understood.

  4. Not A Manager*

    LW2 – I’d send them a lawyer letter. Don’t bother to pay big firm prices. All you need is something legal-sounding on letterhead. Have it sent by any fancy method that requires a signed receipt.

    Try doing that before you even take the time to block them.

    1. Conrr*

      Can you not ask a lawyer whether it is possible to send an engagement letter that states “continued use of services constitutes acceptance of these terms”?

      1. Aveline*

        That wint work in the USA. Such contracts are really hard to make stick and only are allowed in certain circumstances. The lawyer could potentially say is that what the employees are doing is harassment.

        In some states, constant unwanted contact is sufficient even where there’s no aggression or danger.

        Even if there’s no legal recourse, often a letter on a lawyers letterhead will get people to knock it off. Well, decent people at least.

      2. Not A Manager*

        Pretty sure you can’t force people to opt out of a contract. Like, I can’t send you a bunch of “personalized notepads” with my non-profit’s logo on them, and tell you that if you don’t send them back to me in this postage-paid envelope, then you have to pay me for them.

        And she’s not providing any services to them, anyway. The time she wants to be compensated is her time cleaning up their messages from all of her media and devices.

        Frankly, I’m not even sure what legal theory would underlie a lawyer letter, but I’m also not sure it matters. The point would just be to sternly and officially call this to someone’s attention. If I were guessing at some possible terms, they would be “nuisance” “harassment” “tortious interference” “infliction of emotional distress” “stalking” and possibly breach of contract (because surely when the employment ended, there was an implied agreement that they wouldn’t call on her to do additional work?). I’m just spattering paint here, but I’ll bet a lawyer could work a few of those terms in.

        1. Dagny*

          You cannot force people to “opt out” of a contract, because that requires action on their part. Passivity is enough to not be contractually bound.

          This is not the same situation. They are continuing to contact the OP and doing so in a way that is time-consuming and problematic for her.

          That is a moot point, because the company wouldn’t agree to it and it would only cause the OP more headaches with these clowns. Her best bet is to have an attorney send a sternly-worded letter about harassment and nuisance. It is the boss’ job to manage what his employees do on company time, and to manage how they appropriately find answers in the workplace, so that could be worked in there, too.

        1. Aveline*

          And this isn’t even adhesion because it’s one party trying to force a contract on another. Can’t do that.

          She could, however, send them a statement of her rates for support and quote something ridiculously high.

          I know attorneys who have done something similar to former clients who won’t stop calling with tiny tacky irrelevant questions after engagement is finished. (Some clients are like Velcro).

      3. sacados*

        Also they’re not really using OP’s services. Just requesting them. At length. Via multiple channels. Continuously.

        1. Capitalist pig*

          The way to charge would be:

          Reply to every request with a standard quotation of 200$ per hour, minimum charge 1 hour.
          Reply to any responses to that with a request for a purchase order.

          1. Lucy*

            Yes, I think this is it. Equivalent to “I can answer this once I know I’m being paid for it.”

            Boss won’t approve the PO/invoice, so the question doesn’t get answered. It also pushes the work from LW to the lazy boss, which might push him to Do Something About It (even if it’s an internal mail saying “LW doesn’t work here any more – stop asking her stuff!”).

            1. EPLawyer*

              1. This takes time away from LW’s own business to respond.
              2. She already mentioned fees and got ignored. Any engagement will encourage the behavior.

              Send a certified letter stating no further contact and if there is you will seek legal recourse. No need to be specific. Then if they continue to harass you, consult a lawyer about your options. You may even be eligible for a peace order (restraining order) which is for those non-intimate situations of harassment.

              1. Capitalist pig*

                See this is what is wrong with America today! Instead of hustling to earn a buck, you go running to the lawyers!

          2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Oh – could you set up an out of office reply to respond whenever someone with old business email sends you something? Something like “OP no longer works for OldBusiness and has not for over a year. Please cease and desist any contact related to OldWork.”

      4. Someone Else*

        It sounds like she doesn’t actually want that anyway. It seems like she’d prefer they just leave her alone.

    2. Asenath*

      I wouldn’t bother with the lawyer, I’d just block them. I’d have blocked them a week after leaving – or immediately after getting my final cheque and paperwork, whichever comes first. Maybe I’d set up an automatic reply along the lines of “I am no longer employed with X Company so please address your enquiry to someone on staff”. I don’t block people often, but every now and again it is a really useful tactic. I used it when many of my co-workers continued to send work emails to my personal email address instead of my work one – requests, increasing to nagging, didn’t work. Setting up automatic responses and deleting the offending emails did.

      1. Kat*

        I know! When I read this I was like “um nowhere does LW say they want to keep in touch, or that they need to remain friendly, etc. AND they say they haven’t responded to any questions…so why not just block them?!”
        I get that when people act incredibly stupid we can want to find ways to make them stop because they SHOULD stop because what they’re doing just defies reason. BUT when blocking them is so easy and effective I can’t think of a reason why LW hasn’t done this so they can move on and stop giving any thought or attention to the situation.

    3. MK*

      Bad idea. Will this letter be sent from a fictitious lawyer or is the OP going to use the name of someone real? In my jurisdiction, impersonating a lawyer (they are considered court officials) is an offence, though admittedly doing so in this way is unlikely to land you in real trouble. If the OP doesn’t want to pay big firm prices, she can go to a small firm or a solo practictioner. If she doesn’t want to/can’t pay any money, she can block them or maybe, assuming the “it’s not my responsibility” manager isn’t the owner, escalate by complaining higher-up about the annoyance. Also, like in the story of Picasso and the sketch, the OP is very unlikely to be able to write a halfway convincing legal letter. Sending a fake lawyer letter is more likely to make the OP look like a fool, if the former employer pursues it (which they might, considering their track record).

      1. Just Employed Here*

        At this point, looking like a fool would be preferable to looking like the only person who can handle stuff at their ex-office, no? You’d think they’d stop asking if the OP starts giving
        them nonsensical, wild-goose-chasy answers…

        On a more serious note, I’d first reply, really clearly, that I haven’t worked there since [date]. I’m not the kind of person who could just see and hear all these messages without replying sternly. (Although, maybe I’d become one in 10 months…) After that, an equally sternly worded letter from an actual lawyer. After that, looking into possible actual legal recourse.

      2. legalchef*

        I don’t think anyone was suggesting she impersonate a lawyer. I think the OP was suggesting that she have a lawyer write a letter, but it doesn’t need to be a big fancy firm (at big fancy firm prices).

        1. Natalie*

          “All you need is something legal-sounding on letterhead. Have it sent by any fancy method that requires a signed receipt.“ sounds an awful lot like “write it yourself”.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Hahahaha, come on, Not A Manager was pretty clearly saying, “Find a lawyer with the cheapest hourly rate you can/get your second cousin who just passed the bar to make some letterhead/call in a favor” not “Impersonate an officer of the court.”

          1. BatmansRobyn*

            She can totally write it herself, and send it on her company’s official letterhead, and finish up by saying that continued contact will require her to take legal action up to and including filing suit. What she can’t do is tell people she’s a lawyer, or make up a fake lawyer/fake law firm.

            You don’t need to be an attorney to send a letter on behalf of yourself or your own business. You do need to be a lawyer to send one on behalf of someone else.

      3. Not A Manager*

        OMG. No, I meant don’t hire a fancy law firm, hire a solo practitioner who has an ACTUAL letterhead. Goodness.

        1. Office Princess*

          Don’t worry, I followed where you were going to mean “your hairdresser’s cousin’s neighbor’s kid who passed the bar last week can handle this”.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      The problem with that (in addition to what others said) is that it sounds like the requests are coming from multiple people, not from one particular former coworker. If OP sends this letter and one person agrees to stop sending things, signs it, sends it back, but doesn’t show it to or have anyone else sign it, someone else is going to send her things. The Company isn’t a monolith, it’s made up of a bunch of needy people. Now, it could be that one particular person is directing others to send things to OP and telling that person to stop and also tell others to stop will nip this in the bud, but it’s also likely people are doing this of their own accord.

      I think the best thing to do is to block all texts or calls from anyone who messages with anything from that company and send all such emails into the delete file. Sadly, OP is probably not going to be able to convince them to leave her alone, but if they get zero response (not even a “stop asking me things” reply), they may give up eventually.

    5. Symplicite*

      OP – have you documented how frequently the emails etc are coming in? I would do that, first.

      If you don’t care about burning a bridge so to speak, take the list with their contact dates, and email it up the chain of command. I.E. if you know the boss won’t do anything, go higher up to someone who will.

      I had moved internally to a new division and had the exact circumstance. I documented the 3 months of contact, then emailed up the chain of with a “this is outside of the ask”. A new arrangement was put in place that ceased the constant emails, IMs, and other communications, and only addressed the seemingly urgent ones.

      Yes, it smoldered the bridge, but it ended the barrage, because even putting them on ignore (via IM) didn’t stop it.

  5. Armchair Expert*

    Can I just – your former colleagues aren’t just emailing you with the odd question (which would be bad enough) – they’re commenting on your business’s social media pages? With questions about how to do their own jobs, in an office you left a year ago?

    That is absolutely, completely ludicrous. I can’t fathom what’s going through their minds. I don’t have any advice past Alison’s suggestion, but – what a huge nuisance. People. What’s with them.

    1. ooo*

      It makes me so angry on LW2’s behalf! What the hell are these people thinking? But agreed with Alison — I would block them so hard. Although it sounds like there’s an even chance they start showing up in person at that point.

    2. Jasnah*

      I thought OP could reply to say she has changed her email address, please forward all contacts here: dumpster@gmail.com

      Doesn’t help social media unless you lie and say you’ve moved on, and I somehow doubt they’ll stop emailing the old address. This is really ridiculous.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think it’s possible to block people from a business Facebook page – it would be a bit of work for the OP, but I’m hoping they wouldn’t go through the effort of creating second dummy Facebook accounts to harass her further.

        I think I’d go with a final email, sent to all the applicable employees, plus her old boss, plus the boss’s boss, HR department and owner (as applicable) saying very clearly that they are not to ever contact you again, then block their emails, phone numbers, and social media accounts. If they try to get around *that*, then a consultation with a lawyer would be the next step.

        1. 2 Cents*

          It is possible to block those people and not too difficult in the FB settings. If that were me, I’d start immediately. These people don’t sound like the kind I’d want to be friends with or have business contacts with.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Agreed. I also like Alison’s advice. Your former colleagues are too lazy to look up the information, yet they exert more energy trying to contact you than it would take to just find it themselves. Sometimes it’s just too much work to look up a file (poor things) so they’d rather bother their colleague after hours, on vacation, or after they’ve left the company. Absolutely do not answer anything at all, and block them, even if you have to block each of these people individually. It is one thing to contact you once or twice right after you’ve left for something only you could answer (that they have already looked for, that isn’t there). But ridiculously unreasonable to keep contacting you about things they should really look up themselves, especially after all this time. And shame on your former boss for saying it’s not his responsibility to put a stop to it.

      1. nonegiven*

        Yeah, do the cease and desist contact, block the domain from email, and then the only response any of them get from social media is ridicule for continuing contact rather than using google.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I feel like a horrible person…but in this case (a YEAR of nagging for something you ain’t nohow entitled to anymore???!), I’d be tempted, not saying I’d actually DO it, mind you, but I’d be tempted to give them way-out wrong information, or blow a police whistle into the phone, or reply to their emails with a bunch of questionable links…

      3. ooo*

        It’s very weird that the former boss doesn’t seem to care whether his employees know how to do their jobs.

      4. Tysons in NE*

        Had something similar happen at a job. Same theme, different circumstances and the other employee just not listening to what they were being told.
        First time gave the other employee the requested information
        Second time instructed employee where to find information herself
        Third time instructed employee where to find information herself
        Fourth time and there after lasting until I left the company, told employee that I no longer worked for that manger and she would have to find the answer herself.
        Just laziness on the other person’s part.

    4. Tom*

      I am tempted to say “what minds” – especially since LW indicates these are questions for the most basic things.
      It would be like someone continuously asking how to breathe.. that level of stupid.

      Why not set up something like “Janes Answer Service” – and then create a reasonable pricing level.
      For basic things you should know – $150 / question & answer
      Follow up on basic things – $100 per item
      Repeat Basic things – incremental charge of an additional $20 per repeat.
      Any question outside of the regular channel will incur an extra $500 charge.

      To engage Janes Answer Service – please point your questions to JAS@jane.com .
      * you indicate agreement with terms & conditions upon sending a question and payment will be due 10 days after receiving your answer.

      Ah yes.. i can dream :)

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Part of the problem is that LW was enabling them to rely on her when she did work there. I had a similar problem at my last job. I created all kinds of materials and documentation, but some people would still come to me directly with questions. I would always point them in the direction of the documentation and eventually it stopped. I’m not saying LW deserves this insanity, but if she has ever engaged with them since she left, even to tell them to stop contacting her, she’s still enabling them. She needs to do what Alison said – block the phone numbers, block the emails and block them from her company page – and wash her hands of the whole situation.

    6. AdAgencyChick*


      I hope it isn’t too onerous to block the everliving daylights out of these people everywhere! Email is easy, but it sounds like social media for OP’s business could be a bit more of a pain. I can picture these clowns setting up dummy accounts to leave negative feedback for OP’s business :(

    7. Sylvan*

      Yeah, that’s nuts, and I wonder how it’s making their company look.

      I don’t think I have much to add to Alison’s advice. You could set up an automated response to emails from the most frequent offenders that tells them something to the effect of “This is an automatic reply to let you know that I haven’t worked for Company since Date. Please remove me from your email contact lists.” But they sound so incredibly persistent that this might not have any effect.

    8. thankful for AAM.*

      “I can’t fathom what’s going through their minds.”

      I think what is going on in their minds is that they are purposefully harassing her. The boss said he cannot control this? It sounds like a very dysfunctional workplace.

      1. Zweisatz*

        The thought crossed my mind. If LW never answered and they are still doing this, knowing full well there will not be a helpful reply, it’s… weird, to say the least.

    9. Michaela Westen*

      It reminds me of our discussion yesterday about learned helplessness with domestic chores.
      This sounds like a whole office of learned helplessness!

  6. Anonandon*

    LW2: Sometimes you have to be direct. Like, “Hey, *********, stop ****ing calling me because I’m not going help you with your ****** ********.” I’ll let you fill in the blanks as you like.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      “Hey, penguin wrestler, stop sneezing calling me because I’m not going to help you with your leveraged dromedary.”

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Ask A Manager Mad Libs! Yes!

        “Your boss is a ******** and never going to ********!”

        1. sacados*

          I just went online to a random word generator, and it gave me
          “Your boss is a significance and never going to resume!”
          I like it.

    2. CatCat*

      Yeah, this. I’m not clear OP has directly told the people making the contact to stop. Their boss clearly isn’t going to do it and they sound clueless enough to require a fairly blunt message on the topic.

      1. Anonandon*

        And next week on AskaManager: “Dear Allison, a co-worker resigned some time ago, but we still need his help on certain things. I tried calling with a question, and he started cursing at me. I’m sad because this was abusive and disrespectful…”

        1. The Doctor*

          “And now he wants to charge us $200/hour (2-hour minimum) to help us. He should just do it for free because he owes us.”

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      The only problem with responding like this is she’s allowing contact to continue. I liken it to when you break up with someone, and that someone doesn’t want to let you go. If you keep answering their calls or seeing them to explain over and over that you don’t want to date them anymore, you’re giving them hope that they can get you to change your mind at some point. LW needs to stop all contact, and block every form of communication from even getting to her as it comes in.

      1. NerdyKris*

        Sure, but you still have to do step one of “Stop contacting me”. If you never do step one, it’s not really “explaining over and over”.

        1. Zweisatz*

          In this case? Not really. LW does no longer work there and they’re asking work questions. Blocking them will solve the problem without giving them any attention.

          I would kind of hate for the LW to create a 15-person spreadsheet instead to track who already got the “Don’t contact me” message.

    4. Edwina*

      More obviously, LW2: STOP RESPONDING! You probably have some vestigial sense of “I have to be polite” or a sense of some kind of responsibility and are responding to them. Even ONE response, even just to say “Stop calling me,” simply teaches them “Oh we can write to Arabella because she will always respond to us.” Think of them like stalkers, which they basically are at this point, and go absolutely NO CONTACT with them. As Alison suggests, send a certified letter asking them to cease and desist, then literally block every email from that domain–as she says, set them to go directly to trash. If an email comes through on a personal account, immediately delete it. Do not in any way respond to them. That is the only message that will eventually get through.

  7. IrishMASMS*

    LW1: you may have your leadership talk to a different IT professional, more to the point a digital forensics professional. Just because the files are deleted does not mean they are not recoverable by someone with the experience and toolsets to conduct a data recovery. They could also provide your leadership a report of what was on the storage media, when they were moved/deleted, and perhaps how the data was moved on or off the computer.

    Disclaimer: I run an information security team that does digital forensics, data recovery, and data destruction services as well as other information security services for clients.
    (first time poster, long time lurker. Thanks for the help & insight, finally able to pay it forward)

      1. Not Australian*

        OTOH those services can be quite expensive, and trying to ‘persuade’ the co-worker to hand over the information may be the cheaper option.

        1. Tom*

          Get a quote for recovery cost – contact the ex worker with ‘it will cost us $XXX – please return our data (quote relevant laws) or you will be held liable for the amount of $XXX plus any additional cost that might be incurred’.

        2. Psyche*

          It may even be less expensive to send someone else to the training (and have a higher chance of success).

          1. sunny-dee*

            Yeah, this is what I’m thinking. The cost of the recovery (even just his notes) is in no way going to be offset by the value of what they recover — they still won’t have anyone who can use the system and the notes won’t mean much.

            If they would be much better off simply sending someone else to the training.

            (I’m assuming, of course, that the deleted files relate to USING the product, as opposed to actual data analysis or work product. That’s a totally different thing.)

            1. your mama don't dance*

              i second this. If the goal is to be able to move forward with the work, it’s probably the easiest shot of just sending someone for training.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            It’s possible the guy doesn’t have the notes saved anywhere else, and it’s also possible that his notes aren’t useful to anyone else who didn’t sit through the training. I take terrible notes. I kind of jot down a few things during a class or learning session because writing them down helps me remember, but overall I’m not a note taker and I may never look at those notes again. It’s unlikely someone else would be able to learn how to do something brand new from reading notes I took on the topic. If they’d been trained, maaaaayybe, but if they had no idea where to even start or what to do, nope.

            It’s probably easier to designate a new person to be trained, and then, just about immediately after completion, have them train everyone else who might need to know it. One person knowing anything is bad policy.

        3. personalshopper*

          Umm… A company that didn’t want to pay for more than one employee to take essential training is unlikely to spend money on a digital forensics professional. I’m sure others reading this would be able to use this advice, though.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Forensics costs have come down a lot. I expect that an assessment, image, and initial investigation would be less than a thousand dollars, and, if something is pursued against the employee, it may be possible to make him repay for the cost of the recover. We’re not talking about a physically disabled drive that would require taking the machine into a clean room and disassembling the parts – that’s insanely expensive; they’re looking for deleted files that haven’t been overwritten yet. (But it’s assuming their IT consultant didn’t already take some of these steps and that they don’t have factors like solid-state drives or super-secret-double-probation drive encryption.)

    1. Emma*

      I’m gobsmacked by this one! LW, doesn’t your disaster recovery policy include having backups of your files? What would you have done if the employer hadn’t quit, but his computer was accidentally damaged and her couldn’t remember all the finer points of the training?

      I know this isn’t a constructive comment at this stage, but it sounds like your company needs to seriously reassess its IT and information assurance practises going forward. Coming from the financial services sector, my immediate reaction to this letter was “the regulator is gonna eat you for breakfast!”

      1. Glengarry*

        Our HR Coordinator/Accountant walked out one afternoon with no warning. We discovered after she left that she had deleted every single file on her computer – all HR records, financial reports going back years, everything. We simply restored the backup that had been made earlier that morning, and as no document had been amended during the day it didn’t have any impact on us at all, apart from the 30 or seconds it took to restore the backup.

        Apparently she was incredibly pleased with herself and was gloating about how much she had f***ed us up, until she was told yeah, no – you did absolutely no damage at all. Would have loved to see her expression when she found out.

        1. Tom*

          And this, dear readers and computer users, is why you HAVE TO backup.
          For IT people – yes, we can recover a lot – but if you have personal or work stuff only on a laptop .. that is your responsibility – not that of IT.

          1. stump*

            Definitely, yes. Our company servers back up FREQUENTLY and I heard we recently moved the Backup backup servers offsite to the nearby big city in case something absolutely disastrous happens to the main office. Granted, we also have a lot of patient PHI on our severe and that would be Extremely Bad if something happened to that data, but even stuff like in LW1 is important data to make sure is securely backed up!

            Obviously this doesn’t help the LW now, but this is definitely implement going forward. Even if the guy in LW1 is the absolute last disgruntled coworker that ever passes through that company Shit Still Happens sometimes and it’s good to be prepared!

          2. Magenta Sky*

            While it’s always possible to save stuff locally, it’s also always possible to have everything default to saving on the server, or synchronize to a server whenever possible. It can get pricey, but if the data is that important, it’s less expensive than losing stuff.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Where I work each employee has their own “drive” on a server. We save our work there and if something happens to the computer, the work is still on the server. I assume the servers are backed up regularly.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            This is why I do all my writing on a flash drive, save that folder to the cloud, and back up my writing software files to both regularly. If my laptop decides to ass itself (like it did recently), I don’t lose anything.

        2. Asenath*

          I am an enormous fan of saving EVERYTHING on the server and not on my personal hard drive, and this is why (er…getting the stuff back if deleted, not the spoiling of my revenge since I’m not vengeful and wouldn’t have deleted all my files deliberately). I strongly suspect many of my co-workers don’t put everything on the servers. Fortunately, some of our more essential software is set up so all the records are automatically on a server and backed up.

          Computer peeve 2 – people who save everything in a single directory with apparently random file names and when they need to retrieve an old file spend ages trying to figure out what search term(s) won’t bring up most of the files and will narrow down the search a bit. “Ummm, not “John Smith”, because he’s involved in most of our projects. Not “Hummingbird” because Project Hummingbird was our big job this year and there are hundreds of files on that. Not by date, I can’t narrow it down enough, but I think it was October. Or maybe November. Give me a minute, I’ll find it.”

          1. Lighthearted Musical Numbers*

            I wholeheartedly agree with your #2 peeve… coming from a digital creative background, people who save things like that drive me absolutely batty.
            There was a colleague I had to assist once, and opening his creative file revealed his “layers” or various levels of creative work in a flat space (Like Photoshop) – each of his 32 Layers were named “Layer01”, “Layer02” etc. I almost screamed.

            1. aeldest*

              My boyfriend was doing his taxes and I saw him save the electronic copy of his W2 to his “documents” folder as “taxes”.

              Because “tax” was already taken by last year’s W2.

              I nearly screamed.

            2. Lily*

              My roommate does this. Drives me crazy. They save 15 minutes of creating a working folder structure and instead search forever for a file.

              Even better are people who do this with their desktop.

          2. Admin of Sys*

            Mind you, the other extreme is not necessarily always better, since I’ve had to deal with too long file path issues multiple times in the past. I get that it’s useful to organize things, and please(!) name things in ways you can remember and find! But having the folder structure be : project llama groomers and you -> 2018 meetings -> june 2018 meetings -> Friday june meetings with bob and jane -> bob and jane meeting june 7 2018 about llama grooming.docx is overkill.
            (folder structure was reduced 3 or 4 levels for the above example. The file path limit kicks in at 255 characters, and we’d regularly have to trim folks down five or six folder levels to get to that point.)

            1. Asenath*

              Oh, even I, as overly particular as some of my co-workers undoubtedly think I am, don’t go to that extreme with my folder structures! I do (a) have folders and subfolders, neatly (to my mind anyway) sorted out by group and activity and (b) don’t name my files things like “Asenath”, “Asenath1”, “Magazines”, or “Dr. X” (where you have worked with Dr. X on a wide range of activities).

              And I don’t keep personal files on shared servers at work – I asked someone about one mysterious folder that had suddenly popped up – “Oh, that’s where I put some personal stuff”.

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yep. We aren’t in anything sensitive like that… but we get daily backups. It’s such a reassurance!

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          We had something similar to this happen as well. We had a department folder on the share drive that just…disappeared one day. I checked with some other people to make sure it wasn’t a problem with my permissions and nope, it was Gone. There was a lot of old junk in it and I have my suspicions that the New Idiot Boss of that department decided that nothing in it was worthwhile and deleted it.

          It took IT a good month to dig through the various backups to find out what happened to it, but they were able to restore it.

      2. Clisby*

        I worked almost 30 years in IT before retiring, and I also found this shocking. LW1 – if your company doesn’t do routine backups, this should be a giant heads-up that they need to start. Where I worked, servers were backed up daily, and data stored locally on individual PCs was backed up weekly.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          30 years? I bet you have some stories about the early days. Mainframes… DOS… big clunky old-time computers… early text-based internet… :)
          I started working with PCs in the mid-90’s and I remember some of it…

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Yes to this. I’m in banking and, holy cow, the regulators would have a field day if we didn’t go regular backups. Aside from that, it’s just good business practice to go backups. Computers get damaged, the blue screen of death appears, employees decide to f*** the company before they resign on the spot, etc.

      4. Sharon*

        I’m not saying I’m a fan of this, but I’ve worked for several companies – large and small – that only backed up servers and not employee’s computers. We were encouraged to store our files on a network share drive, but it was not mandatory. So… it happens.

        I’m no help to the OP, but another thing caught my attention:

        Now you see the flaw in the “train one guy and have him come back and train his coworkers” plan. Many of the places I’ve worked at did that too, and it never actually works. Even if the trained person doesn’t leave, they just are not experienced trainers so they tend to suck at passing on everything they learned. And even if they wanted to, usually what happens is once they’re back at work they never have time to do it.

        1. WellRed*

          A classic case where trying to save $$ comes back to bite you. There is always a chance of something going wrong (what if he got hit by a bus) when you only have one person doing something. Also, am I the only one wondering what they hell happened that he quit like this?
          I like the idea of sending a lawyer letter, if only to make him nervous, but otherwise, bite the bullet and pony up $$ for more training. As Alison said, his notes might suck.

    2. Approval is optional*

      I saw a true crime program about someone who deleted a key program on his former employer’s system (he programmed the sabotage to run after he’d left their employ), and the program said he had to do something extra to make them unrecoverable by forensic IT folk, as a simple delete wouldn’t have removed them from the computer (until they were overwritten over time(?) – I might not have fully grasped that bit). He went to gaol for the sabotage, but deleting training notes probably wouldn’t be considered as serious as virtually bankrupting a company the way the man in the program did.

      1. Cassandra*

        Likeliest thing the “something extra” was is intentionally overwriting the spaces on disk that used to hold the files in question.

        Back in the day, when you deleted a file, the computer did nothing except make a note in a little database of “where stuff is on disk” that the spaces where the file was could be recycled. If those spaces were not actually overwritten by something new, forensic software could dive in and find the old file (I am omitting a long excursus about how file storage works, but it’s like a daisy chain — each piece points to the next piece).

        It’s… less simple today. Filesystems have evolved, and so has drive technology! Drive encryption also makes everything forensic harder (as it is indeed supposed to do).

        There’s also a phenomenon on some hard drives that’s a bit similar to screen burn-in — spaces on the drive kind of “remember” what they were set to. Dicey, hard to recover, and not totally reliable, but sometimes helpful for forensics folks. Repeated overwriting usually does away with this.

    3. Cassandra*

      The recoverability of the data may depend on the storage medium and the operating system. Solid-state drives (SSDs) aren’t easy or sometimes even possible to recover forensically, and OS X at least has “secure delete” functionality that while not wholly perfect could take truly heroic measures to overcome.

      It’s still worth calling someplace, especially if the hard drive involved was an old-school magneto-optical drive — that’s easy enough to recover that even I can do it (and I am only an egg, as the book said). But the answer may be “no.”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        And if a drive (regardless of whether it’s SSD or traditional hard drive) is encrypted, and then you throw out the recovery key, then the data is essentially unrecoverable.

    4. Cat Wrangler*

      A manager was dismissed by my company once but he deleted his work files before he went. Had he not done this, then he might have been reinstated to another site upon appeal. The General Manager was perp walked out (he had done nothing wrong but client politics). He started over at another site, no bother. My colleague told me that one of my predecessors had had a job offer withdrawn when they had deleted their files upon leaving as the company informed the new employer that they’d acted unprofessionally when they called for references. I never delete anything when I leave a job unless it’s emails saying ‘cakes in the kitchen!’

    5. GrayHat*

      Came here to say this. If you have in-house counsel with the expertise and time, I would also consider pursuing legal action against the guy too. It’s probably not cost-effective to hire outside counsel to do that – my guess is the cost of legal fees would exceed the cost of the forensic imaging, and unless the former employee is rich, you won’t be able to recover ALL of those fees from him.

    6. Ama*

      Yes — I had a boss at a former employer attempt to wipe her hard drive on the way out the door (she was trying to quit before it was discovered that she had charged some questionable things to the company budget) and our IT was able to get quite a bit of it back. Not everything, unfortunately — I had to rebuild several desktop publishing templates that lived on her computer from scratch, and three years later we still had an occasional vendor pop out of the woodwork asking for payment for things no one knew she had contracted for (part of the questionable expenses were her paying outside designers to do work that she then claimed as her own), but we did find most of the financial files and her emails, which helped us identify and contact a good percentage of the people who were owed money.

  8. K.*

    LW1: Your company made a mistake by only sending one employee to the training and making them solely responsible for cross-training. A problematic employee at that. That aside, it should have been two at minimum to ensure best results and have a backup in case one gets sick or quits.

    1. Mookie*

      Yeah, I worked for a place that had very strict policies about paying for substantive off-site training intended to benefit a team. The employees selected had to provide copies of all their notes and relevant materials within a week of returning, had to submit a training plan by the end of the following weekend, and had to start debriefing/training others by the beginning of the next week. We also held quarterly in-house workshops on how to attend and participate for maximum value (guidance on how to set realistic goals for attending the training, how to identify in advance what lessons to be gleaned will benefit a team’s specific deficiencies, how to take notes that will be legible to others, how to handle practicums, how to test yourself for comprehension in real-time, et al.). It was very thorough.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would venture to say that most companies don’t think that by only sending one person to training, they have to take precautions to make sure that person isn’t going to screw them over and leave them in the lurch after the training is completed.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        But… anything can happen. Even if the employee is 5 star amazing, they could be hit by a bus the day after training. They could not be great at taking notes that make sense to others. They could not be very good at training others. They could find a better job prior to cross-training being finished. It makes no sense to only train one employee on Very Very Important Information regardless of the situation.

        1. Not So Super-visor*

          Funny tangent: I used to use the “you might get hit by a bus tomorrow” as an example when trying to persuade direct reports to document processes and process updates. Then I had an employee who was really into the belief of manifesting things into being. She reported to HR that she felt that by using that as an example that I was threatening her well-being. I apologized and promised to be less hyperbolic in the future.

          1. MsSolo*

            We don’t quite have this rationale, but there’s a real emphasis where I work to switch it to “won the lottery”, even though you’d hope a colleague who won the lottery would still come back long enough to wrap up.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Right, I think that’s a crucial difference. If someone is ill or injured badly enough, it might be literally impossible for them to come to work to train other people or transfer documents or whatever, which isn’t the case if they won the lottery.

            2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

              I usually say “if you retire to Tahiti” – not so much in the context of broad strokes that can be passed on during a two-week notice period, but more like, after you retire to Tahiti, and someone else picks up this work you did in 2014, will they understand the decisions you made about it?

              1. Evan Þ.*

                I heard a story about someone who wanted to retire early to Hawaii, but he was so great at his job that his employer struck a deal with him, paid him a lot of money, and opened a new branch office in Hawaii (!) to keep him on part-time.

          2. WellRed*

            Oh for pete’s sake! I guess winning the lottery is more positive sounding, but it isn’t quite the same thing either. If I get hit by the bus, you’re on your own. If I win the lottery, I will stick around long enough to transition over duties. (Unless you are toxic).

              1. MJ*

                The whole “manifesting” stuff would have me facepalming and eyerolling, not apologising. Where would it end?

            1. Lora*

              Most big companies I’ve worked for make it explicit that they are doing these things in case, heaven forfend, you DO get hit by a bus or die in a plane crash. If you are Essential Personnel or at some high up level of management, you have to make your travel arrangements specifically different from other people on your team because they can’t afford to lose the only two people who knew / could approve X.

              Didn’t this literally just happen at one of the cryptocurrency companies, where the company founder was the only person with access to a certain part of the system, and he died without ever telling anyone else, and the company value plummeted?

              1. Emma*

                Ha! That was the story, but as I recall, it turned out that he’s not dead, his wife also had access to the critical systems, and they’re all a bunch of fraudy fraudsters.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                People at the level of my boss and above are required to do succession planning.
                Just in case, and also they’ll retire eventually!

          3. Slow Gin Lizz*

            My mom was a VP at her last company before retiring and because she doesn’t like to think about unpleasant things happening, she used the phrase “you might win a trip to Hawaii.” Much nicer.

            1. MJ*

              Let’s face it. Someone would also be upset by that. Scared of flying… ex lives in Hawaii… phobia of palm trees… volcanoes… Offence will be found even when no one else sees it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, sometimes the calculation is that the cost (including lost time) of sending two people isn’t justified, compared to the relatively low risk of something happening. There’s still a risk, but companies make judgments about risk vs. reward all the time. If it’s a smaller team, it really might have been a reasonable call.

        3. Psyche*

          Well, how often does the training occur? If Expensive Training is a one time only thing, then yes you probably want to send two people. But if it is offered once a month, then should something terrible happen, you send someone the following month.

        4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I agree, but other than filing this under lessons learned and “what not to do next time”, it’s not really a helpful tangent for LW on what to do now.

      2. Grapey*

        And I would venture to say that’s why most companies flail wildly when someone with expertise leaves. Look how many letters we get about maternity leave.

        I just don’t know how employers could begin to mitigate the problem of not having enough workers with skills! /s

    3. Colette*

      Not really. Presumably this wasn’t the only training course in the world. The company will probably have to send another person now – but if the employee who went the first time had stayed, that would have been sufficient. This way they only have to pay for 2 people because the first one left, instead of paying for 2 people regardless.

    4. Antilles*

      I don’t think that’s a fair criticism. OP mentioned it was expensive and I have no doubt she’s right; specialized trainings can be ludicriously expensive. I’ve personally attended training which was $5k and is several states away, so include costs for airfare, hotel, per diem, etc. And our industry works on “billable hours”, so if you add in the time I wasn’t spending billing clients, the total cost to the company was easily in the five digits. That’s not a trivial sum that you can easily just go “oh well, Ant’s company should always send two people to training in case he resigns or gets the plague or is run over in the parking lot”. Yes, it would be better to have multiple people get the training, but there’s fiscal realities that often apply.
      The *real* blame to the company here is two-fold:
      1.) Allowing the employee get away with not doing the cross-training. OP said the system went live “a few months ago”. Presuming that he went to training before it went live, that means that they’ve let him skate for a few months without putting the training together. No, he won’t be as good as the paid experience trainer, but he should have been at least running a seminar for the rest of his team, providing copies of his notes, etc within a couple weeks after getting back.
      2.) No backups to his data. The idea that his laptop wasn’t backed up regularly is absurd. Even setting aside the potential for sabotage, you’re literally one spilled coffee, one “someone broke into my car”, or one power surge from losing everything on there. It’s ridiculous to not have backups.

    5. iglwif*

      I mean, it seems to me like a reasonable risk to take, especially if the team is small and the training is expensive. Unless there had been clear signs that this guy was not just “a bit problematic” but actually the kind of person who quits suddenly AND deletes all his work files, in which case they of course should’ve sent someone else.

      I’d argue that the less reasonable risk was not having daily backups … but that, like riding in cars, is unfortunately a risk that a lot of businesses and individuals take and don’t realize how risky it was until it’s too late.

    6. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Small companies in particular are guilty of creating “the single point of failure” too often. Of course that is a risk assessment and risk acceptance. I hope this organization learns from the mistakes: having only one person know how to use a key company-wide system is a mistake–it’s always a mistake. This employee’s manager failed to make sure the cross-training happened. Focusing on the deleted files may be a red herring–it may not solve the immediate problem. The company should consider hiring a consultant who is expert with this software and have the consultant conduct some training and bridge the gap.

  9. Cristina in England*

    4. ‘Walker’ is a U.K. term for ‘hiker’ or even ‘mountaineer’. “Keen walker” just means ‘really into hiking’. Doesn’t make it any more relevant on a resume, but if you don’t know the translation it just sounds ridiculous

    1. Electric Sheep*

      That was my first thought, but then I thought… maybe it’s a typo and in context she actually means “keen worker”? :/Maybe OP can clarify.

      1. TechWorker*

        It would be a few letters typo and as Cristina says is a totally reasonable way to say ‘I do a lot of hiking’ if you’re English. In a hobbies section not a massive deal (though obviously some people don’t think those are worth it in the first place).

      2. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        If you have to tell a prospective employer that you are a keen worker…you’re probably not.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      I think it’s fine in a short, one paragraph “interests and hobbies” ssection at the end of a *two page* CV… 4 pages!?

      But for OP… you did what you could. Not your circus.

    3. Former call centre worker*

      I’m not really seeing what’s wrong with that bit, assuming it’s in a brief hobbies/interests section and not a typo. I find it hard to imagine any employer being put off by it and it’s a fairly normal thing to include here. The fact that the CV is twice as long as it should be, however…

      1. sacados*

        Well, maybe conventions are different in the UK but in the US at least having a hobbies/interests section to begin with is not really something that you want to include on a professional resume.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Conventions are different. It is standard to have a brief section at the end of your CV with something about your interests / leisure activities.

          But typically you wouldn’t have a CV which was more than 2 pages, and the interests section would normally be a few lines at the end.

        2. Weegie*

          UK application conventions do seem to differ widely from those in the US. As other fellow Brits have commented, it’s not completely unusual to include a hobbies/interests section at the end of your CV (a couple of bullet points, usually). It’s rather old-fashioned now, though, and has been largely overtaken by online application systems which would be unlikely to request such info. It might be included when someone is new to the work world and needs something to fill up the 2 pages, or if an employer requests it (and some do – they want to see evidence of a rounded prospective employee). But when I see it on a friend’s or colleague’s CV (increasingly rarely) I always advise them to take it out.

          And to confirm, ‘walker’ means ‘hiker’ here, and ‘keen walker’ means they’re really, really into the outdoors! (Typical British understatement…)

          1. Not Australian*

            I think including a hobbies section is a bit outdated these days but it always used to be part of application forms etc. and very often came up at the interview stage. I always referenced handicrafts such as knitting and sewing, but I guess it’s also useful for employers to know if people have (a) dangerous hobbies or (b) massive spare time commitments. Whether they have any right to that information is of course another matter.

          2. londonedit*

            In my industry the vast majority of applications are still done with a standard CV and cover letter, rather than via online applications. And it’s pretty normal to have a hobbies/interests section on your CV, and for it to come up in the interview. We’re not a hugely progressive sort of industry, though!

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          Certainly in past was pretty standard and was in most CV templates you got in any employment training course. Personal details, education, skills, work experience (these can be put in different orders) and at the end “interests & hobbies” as its own section.

          I don’t know if it’s that I’m now used to more CVs from people further on in careers, and entry-level still has it as standard, or if it’s fallen out of fashion – but it’s still a common enough thing that no-one would bat an eyelid.

          1. Jam*

            I (American) started getting call backs when I amended my CV for the British market to include those two lines of “hobbies and interests”. Now, I made some other tweaks and changes to my approach so I wouldn’t say it was the only thing holding me back but it certainly didn’t hurt to add it. And some of the interviewers were clearly quite interested; it was not uncommon to spend five minutes at the beginning or end of the interview talking about how I had learned upholstery and improved my skills. My husband has had similar experiences with the mention on his CV of doing the Inca Trail. It gives people something to humanize you and ideally you can turn it into something to illustrate your character traits. Obviously no two employers are the same, but I don’t think it’s a totally clueless thing to include.

            That said — the fact of cultural differences might be an “out” for the LW in more ways than one. Tell your friend you don’t know UK standards and therefore can’t help, and tell yourself the same thing.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Yeah – I think employers like a couple of lines so they can use it as an ice-breaker and get to know you a bit more in the interview. When they’ve referenced it when I’ve included it, it’s always been “oh, I see you like X … I’ve done that/can you tell me about it/that’s interesting” and I respond with a couple of lines and then we move on.

        4. WakeUp!*

          Honestly, if it didn’t occur to this friend that norms are probably different in whatever country she and OP are in so she should look up what a resume should look like…I don’t have much hope that OP can get through to her.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Thank you! I was hoping someone would explain exactly what that meant because I had no effing clue.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Thank you – I knew from reading this site that having hobbies or interests on a CV isn’t usual in the US but (despite usually being fairly good and trnaslationsbetween English and US English, I wasn’t aware that ‘walking’ wouldn’t translate!

      Here (UK)the term Hiking would normally imply something much more vigourous and hardcore than the term walking

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        Yes it definitely does not translate well! I am from Canada but did my Masters in the UK, and wrote my dissertation about a famous British long-distance walking path. Let me tell you, that path was absolutely what I would consider a hiking trail in North America. My advisor had me go back and adjust my language after I wrote my first draft of the dissertation, because I realized I had used the term ‘hiking’ throughout without thinking about it.

    6. Epsilon Delta*

      I am from the US, and “keen walker” didn’t sound at all odd to me. Granted, my mind went to walking in the neighborhood/at a park rather than hiking, but that is such a common hobby (at least in my social group/geographic area) that it didn’t strike me as weird.

      Now, including it on a resume, let alone a four page resume…

      1. Dragoning*

        I agree, from the US and went “oh, she likes to go for walks, w/e” and one of the posts just the other day (or maybe I was reading in the archives?) mentioned that UK CVs include hobby sections, so I wasn’t sure what the issue with this–or why this phrase in particular was called out in the headline.

        But I didn’t realize it meant hiking!

      2. Autumnheart*

        I figured it meant speed-walking or some other form of athletic walking. I didn’t know it meant “hiking”, but it didn’t read as odd phrasing, just not something you’d include on a resume!

    7. Ceiswyn*

      Thankyou, I (UK bod) was wondering what was so odd about someone putting ‘keen walker’ on their CV!

      A CV four pages long is a problem. A CV with a few lines of hobbies and interests that tell me that this is an active, outdoorsy, probably self-reliant, type of person? Perfectly normal, if a little old-fashioned

    8. Yikes*

      “Accomplished walker” is used as an insult in a Jane Austen book, and I definitely thought it was a reference to that.

  10. MommyMD*

    Just block as many calls and emails as you can and go completely radio silent. Answer nothing. Delete emails and texts without reading them.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      And if you find yourself answering a call from one of them:

      ‘Hey, OP, can you talk me through how to find the photocopier/use the phone/tie my shoelace?’
      ‘Stop calling me.’ *click*
      Those are the only three words they hear out of you ever again.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d go with “Ask (former manager)”….but yes we’re otherwise on the same page.

  11. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #2 Send an email to all of them, saying “I don’t work for Funky Llama Inc. anymore. If you have a problem with the coffee machine, copier, etc., figure it out yourself. I’m not your mommy.”

    Be rude. No please or thank-you. These people suck

    1. [A Cool Name Here]*

      This is one instance where I love using YouMail. There’s a feature called Ditch Mail, where assign those phone numbers to a Ditch greeting, you record your own greeting or choose from a pre-recorded one and then IT HANGS UP ON THEM. Glorious. I’ve never had a second call from anyone who gets one.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I was going to suggest this too: set up an auto reply on email, get a Blacklist app for voice messages on the phone and texts. If a nasty message is not the OPs style, or she worries about her reputation, then at least a professional “Your email/message is being routed to an automatic blacklist and this is an auto reply. Cease and desist contacting me for any reason.” I can only assume that old coworkers are doing it on purpose just to harass the OP at this point and not because they actually need/want/expect her help.

  12. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 One of my colleagues resigned a while ago, and just disappeared. (We have to give one month notice) Our IT people then discovered that he copied all of our project files from the server. That’s a couple of thousand Gigs of confidential information. Deep shit

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Don’t know in US – in UK, oh so much legal issues. Potentially for company as well as ex-employee.

      2. Doctor Schmoctor*

        Nobody ever talks about it. I just found out by accident. I do know that senior management put our tame lawyer on the case, but I have no idea what actually happened in the end. I think they tend to sweep things under the carpet. A few years ago we had a series of thefts at the office (computers, headphones, even cash that was collected for charity). They made a big show of investigating it, and “people will be fired” etc. but nothing. We have all these security cameras all over the place, but they can’t catch a thief? Something’s fishy..

    1. Cat Wrangler*

      I had to sign all kinds of docs when I had access to company-wide framework agreements for purchasing in a large organisations. At the very least, I could have been sued and worse still, wreck my future career if I’d disseminated this stuff.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        One of ours went to prison when he stole trade secrets and sold them to someone he thought was a foreign agent but was in fact a US intelligence officer.

  13. Ta*

    It sucks that your employee permanently deleted the files but you really need a system that means this isn’t possible.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Right. Why wasn’t there a system backup? It’s so easy to just set up an auto backup. The business sounds so chaotic and incompetent, are they even sure that the training notes and whatever files they’re looking for were ever on his computer?

  14. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW 4: Oh how stories like yours get to me. I’ve been trying for years to convince employers that education and degrees in the arts, English, and writing provide solid transferable skills. IF the person wants to apply those transferable skills to the business world and augment them with any other necessary hard or soft skills. But if they’re into “I’m an artist/writer/musician, and I won’t compromise for the sake of money,” well, there’s no use beating your head against a brick wall. Maybe your friend could start a dog-walking business…

  15. pleaset*

    Letter 2 – Wow, that company is sending messages every day for nothing? That’s crazy. 200+ messages without getting useful info? What a waste of time.

    Oh, wait, are they actually getting info from the OP? If that’s the case, the OP2 has to stop. Tell them firmly to not contact them. And then ignore or delete or block the messages.

    1. Blue*

      If she’s actually ignored all their inquiries and they’re continuing to contact her anyway, I’m a little impressed by their perseverance. Either way, I think Alison’s advice is the best option here.

    2. Trek*

      After a year of people contacting her and using multiple forms of communication, all personal to the OP, this has now crossed into harassment. Think of one person contacting you for a year and asking questions that you will not or cannot answer. They are not threatening you but won’t stop. OP has several people if not more than a dozen people contacting her in various forms, all related to company items. I think I would talk to a lawyer but also bring up that because it’s now involved social media and other forms and the hours and stress its caused to delete their messages I would feel as though I am being stalked.

      The letter I would have the lawyer right would include notification of intent to file police report and restraining orders if needed. This would probably get their attention even more than just a bill.

    3. Trek*

      After a year of being contacted regarding questions through email, phone, and social media I would feel harassed. Imagine one person contacting you for a year and they are not threatening you but won’t stop asking you questions even after you have told them not to and stopped responding. OP has several people doing this to her and it’s taking hours of her time to delete their messages and causing her stress. I would discuss with a lawyer and the letter sent to the company would include a statement of intent to file a police report and restraining orders against company and specific individuals i.e. worst offenders. I think this will get their attention more than just a bill. Also the employees will not want restraining orders coming up against them in background checks for future jobs.

  16. londonedit*

    LW4: it really sounds like this CV would be poorly received in the UK, too. It’s not true that ‘your resume should be two pages long’ in the UK – the standard ‘one page’ CV applies here too, though it’s not a disaster to stretch it to two pages if you have a lot of relevant work experience.

    It is true that it’s more usual for a UK CV to include an ‘other interests’ section, but as I mentioned in one of yesterday’s threads, it shouldn’t just be ‘I like walking and baking and going to the theatre’. UK employers, in general, like to get a sense of people’s personalities and outside interests that might make them a good fit for the job they’re applying to, and standard advice here is that it’s not worth putting hobbies or interests on your CV unless they showcase transferrable skills that would be beneficial to the job. So ‘I’m a keen walker’ is pointless as it tells employers nothing other than the fact that the person likes hiking (I’m also surprised to learn that ‘walking’ is an unusual turn of phrase in the US – I thought I was reasonably good at US/UK language differences!) Whereas something like ‘Keen walker and member of a local rambling group, including three years’ service on the committee and involvement in organising fundraising efforts to repair local footpaths’ shows that this person is active in their local community, is used to being involved with meetings and decision-making, and has experience organising other people and making things happen.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yeah we Americans really only use “walking” for regular walking. Saying you’re a keen walker is like bragging that you successfully learned to walk. :-)

      1. JSPA*

        US: In terms of exercise, walking is what you do around work or home, generally on the pavement, for a bit of exercise, but lower impact than jogging/running. (There’s also race – walking, but that’s it’s own thing, and not common.) If you’re heading to the countryside for a couple- plus hours on a trail, that’s hiking.

        And “keen” is British.

      2. Mookie*

        Then again, to the rest of the world, our “hiking” is their “casual stroll uphill in nature.”

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          To me, “walking” as a hobby is a couple of hours to a couple of days along some nice tracks. “Hiking” involves specialist equipment like boots, rucksacks, woolly hats to guard against exposure and has at least a couple of rocks to scramble over :)

          (Not done hiking. Too lazy.)

      3. londonedit*

        That’s hilarious – I can totally picture myself in the USA, telling people all about how I absolutely *love* walking, and people smiling and nodding politely but actually thinking ‘What is wrong with this woman? Why does she think walking around is such a big deal??’

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Interesting! In my part of Canada, we make a similar distinction between walking and hiking but naming walking in parks or your neighbourhood as an enjoyable activity wouldn’t be odd at all (in general conversation, it would be a little weird on a c.v.).

        2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Yeah, I walk to get places and walk for exercise around my neighborhood or in urban or small suburban parks and it wouldn’t be weird to mention that in conversation, but it would be weird to talk about it at length or declare it as something notable. Walking clubs that do longer urban/suburban walks are also a thing though.
          And last year I participated in The Great Saunter, which is a 32 mile, 12+hour “walk” around the perimeter of Manhattan. Calling it a “walk” always feels weird because walking doesn’t indicate that level of intensity, but it’s not a “hike” cause it was urban and on pavement. (and let me tell you, I was not prepared for 32 miles)

      4. Doctor Schmoctor*

        Back in the day “keen” also meant cool or groovy.
        So a “keen walker” is one who perambulates groovily.

        1. Part Time Poet*

          I reviewed a friend’s resume and she had added a hobbies line with “culinary expressions”. I couldn’t believe it!! I told her no, no, no. NO HOBBIES line. She took it off, thankfully, but I have been teasing her about what culinary expressions she is working on over the weekend. I refer EVERYBODY to this website, but some people would rather not listen. So I do give up and let them keen walk wherever their merry feet might take them.

          1. Lora*

            I swear I have seen this phrase on a resume. The lady in question had given up on about three different career paths because she didn’t get along with other humans and couldn’t manage a budget but was a really good cook and figured she could try to do something with that.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d never heard of a 1-page standard until I came on this site – and had been in workforce in UK for 2 decades at that point :) It’s always been 2-page I’ve heard being advised.

      1. MostlyHarmless*

        Yes – same here. Always 2 pages and possibly a couple of lines on hobbies/interests (but not just “reading” or “watching TV”). Hobbies naturally fall off as you need to cram in more actual work experience. As to hiking, I would associate that term with an ambitious trek, perhaps up an Alp or two, carrying serious level equipment. You certainly wouldn’t go hiking in Oxfordshire or Snowdonia even if in the latter case you’d take a whistle and survival blanket. I would however qualify walking over rougher terrain such as the Lake District or Welsh mountains as “fell walking”, fell being a Northern English term for hillside. There is also fell running for the more competitive person.

  17. Mother of Cats*

    LW 1 – It might be worth asking the training provider for a replacement set of materials. If they were in an electric format (e.g. slides or e-books) and your employer can confirm they paid for the training, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to do that.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I’ve had to do that in a previous job, because the materials were lost. They happily sent another copy.

      I don’t think OP’s company should waste any time on trying to get the former employee’s notes. Most times, the notes are only meaningful to the person taking the notes, since everyone has a different style. I might think my notes are great and are useful to me, whereas they’re completely useless or hard to understand to a coworker. Plus, I just don’t see the issue with him taking his notes. My job just ended due to company acquisition and I took all my notes with me since I’m going into exactly the same job at another company that uses the same systems I was using.

    2. LQ*

      Entirely agree with this! I know we’ve done this for lost materials or people who paid but couldn’t go to trainings.

      Also if the training is offered by the company that you bought the software from, talk to them and see if they’ll let you send someone else without cost. It’s worth asking at least. I can think of a handful of trainings where that wouldn’t have been an issue and at least 2 where we’ve sent someone to training at another location after they missed our on-site training. It might be a harder sell if it’s not training offered by the company that sells the software, but I’d still explain the situation and ask.

    3. iglwif*

      Yeah, that’s an excellent idea. (And once you have them, MAKE BACKUPS.)

      Unless the accounting departments at both companies are staffed by squirrels, there will be records of the training being attended and paid for.

  18. Anon Accountant*

    I dealt with this somewhat with several old coworkers. They’d call or text for client info (reasonable at first) and then kept bringing up some of the office drama and keeping me in the loop of what Fergus (a firm partner) kept doing.

    After asking them repeatedly to limit context to only client specific matters I blocked their phone numbers and email addresses. I think blocking is the LW’s best recourse.

    1. This Space For Rent*

      I left a Fukushima-level toxic workplace and left detailed information for the folks who would inherit my work. I gave 2-week’s notice and no one ever was assigned for me to off-load tasks. I developed a handbook on tasks for my role, left lists of all professional and journal passwords, charge accounts, etc. I received calls in my new job, and being helpful garnered me a text string with my old boss berating me via text and being blocked. After blocking my old boss, a former co-worked called me for some information, and I advised her I had left all the information in a document that the business manager would have. She went on to tell another colleague (who is my dear friend) that I was unhelpful. To which my friend retorted, “She doesn’t WORK here anymore. She doesn’t HAVE to be!”

      Block, block, block. You owe nothing.

  19. legalchef*

    For LW2 – I would block as many phone numbers as possible and m block people on social media (even though it is a pain to do that individually). I’d also set up an email rule (on both your personal and business email) where an auto response is sent that says something like “I no longer work at Company. Do not contact me further with questions.” and then the email is automatically deleted.

    This is absurd.

    1. Marthooh*

      If you do the auto-response make it impersonal: “Owner has blocked this contact. Messages from this address will be automatically deleted.”

  20. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW#5 For a lay-off instead of saying “I was laid off”, go with “There was a company wide lay-off of 50 people” or “my department was eliminated”. It makes it clear the lay-off wasn’t personal.

    1. Lucy*

      I think it’s roughly equivalent to “redundancy” in the UK, which is a legally defined no-fault headcount reduction situation … but an interviewer will generally want to work out if your entire location was outsourced/eliminated or if on the other hand they wanted to reduce your department by 10% and you were in the bottom 10%.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Also it’s always that the *position* was redundant (which means the person loses job, but with the appropriate level of redundancy pay) … if you make someone redundant, and immediately back fill the position, you’re opening yourself up for an unfair dismissal case!

    2. LW5*

      LW5 here. I don’t actually know how many people were laid off in each instance. My 14 month stint is the one that concerns me now as it was the shortest employment and very recent. That layoff was the first of at least three stages and I went in stage two. I can only guess how many others were let go after I was.

      1. Peridot*

        “Reorganization” might be a good way to express the same thing. You don’t have to be specific if you don’t have the information, but the implication is there that it affected multiple people and wasn’t a performance issue.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          I’d indicate company reorganization rather than team reorganization. At an old job an entire department was “reorganized” because they were a toxic sh*tshow, and it was easier to empty the department out and build it again from scratch than to only fire the manager and try to rehabilitate the rest of the team.

      2. Pilcrow*

        I feel you. I was laid off 11 months after my division was bought out and spun off into a different company. However, your situation this is fairly easy to explain. It’s pretty common to lay off the recently-hired first.

        “X months after I started, the company began rounds of layoffs due to [reasons]. You know how it goes that the newer hires tend to get laid off early and I got caught in the second round.”

      3. KayEss*

        14 months isn’t terrible, either! I was laid off from two jobs in a row after 12 months each, and didn’t really get asked about it unless they were asking why I left every position on my resume. I did develop a spiel for each of them (first job I was hired into a position that relied on a lot of ongoing company-wide business development being successful and it wasn’t so a year in there was no work for me to do, second job I was looking forward to staying for at least several years and doing some great work but a high-level reorg eliminated my entire department) that I could deliver without sounding disgruntled or bitter, and everyone I interviewed with was understanding and sympathetic. Layoffs are sometimes just a fact of work life, and reasonable hiring managers won’t judge you for them.

    1. boo bot*

      I am adept at coordinating multiple systems simultaneously, and I have been responsible for maintaining the continuous function of five vital organs for the past 36 years. I currently manage upkeep and sustenance of trillions of bacteria, as well as my own personal cells.

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      There was that one unfortunate applicant who listed a strong interest in “pooping”, but that turned out to be a prank by his child.

  21. Roscoe*

    For #1, I’m not sure how your company handles firing people, so take this how you will. But there is a good chance that going the legal route will make you look MUCH worse to the rest of your employees. Here is the thing, him quitting like that was unprofessional, and bridge burning. Taking his notes are, in my opinion, totally fine since they are HIS notes and it likely wasn’t intellectual property of your company (but maybe that is debatable). The deleting the files is bad, I agree. However, to expect him to worry about what you guys do after he left is like a fired employee expecting a company to worry about what happens to that person when they leave. I’m guessing your company has fired people on the spot before, and likely (but possibly not) not given any type of severance. If you have, it is kind of hypocritical to then want to sue someone because you guys may be in a lurch after he left. I know if I found out my company tried to get the legal system involved when someone quit when it wasn’t really theft, I would think less of them. I’m sure if you sent him to a training, there is a consultant who you can fly out for a short period of time to help get the other up and running. It may cost money, but I question if it will cost more than taking a guy to court. And you will likely not lose good will of your current employees.

    1. Asenath*

      I would very much doubt if the company didn’t have a claim on the work notes (and any other materials) produced from a training session they paid for, and deleting work files was damaging or destroying company property. The company may or may not decide that it’s worth trying to get what they can (maybe the notes, if they still exist) back from the ex-employee through a legal route, but I don’t think they’re trying to make him worry. They just want their property – or as much of it as they can find – back, which is their right, and their present employees should know that. I am not a lawyer, but to me, the behaviour of the ex-employee was essentially the same as theft and vandalism, and the company is justified in trying to get their own property back. Their main issues are probably whether or not it is cheaper to re-build everything, and whether the cost of legal action can be justified by the likelihood of the ex-employee even being able to make things right.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      It seems a bit more serious than just deleting his personal files. More akin to sabotage is how I interpreted it.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      While can see that point if it were just taking the handwritten notes that no-one else would understand, I would disagree strongly that it would reflect badly on the way the company treats leaving employees when he illegally destroyed their resources.

      It’s very clearly against the law.

      It’s left everyone in the lurch.

      So isn’t anything like reacting vindictively because someone has quit and it’s hard to cope without them. He deliberately broke the law to screw the company. I wouldn’t feel in the slightest bit insecure if my company pursued him.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve seen employees who never side with a company’s decision to take legal recourse despite the company having darn good reason to. It’s the “them vs us” mentality you see pop up regularly.

        Whereas I’m usually in on the knowledge and details of a decision so I’m well aware that in this kind of case the company should protect themselves. Other employees who know the guy or the myth of the gut will see the company as ruthless rich suits trying to destroy their hero who rode off into the sunset.

    4. MsSolo*

      I was about to ask if US contracts didn’t include the fairly standard IP line that UK contracts do, then I remembered you don’t usually have them. It’s probably still worth checking the staff handbook / policies / whatever it is that says what the business has legal control over, because it’s pretty standard for businesses to have intellectual property rights over anything created by their employees using their equipment during working hours, or some combination thereof, precisely to stop people taking all their notes (or blueprints, or designs, or contracts) with them when they leave.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I’d agree with you if all he had donwe was leave without notice. But the deleting files takes it to a different level and I would expect other employees to be able to understand the difference.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      I would think there is at least a possibility that the notes could be considered work done on the company’s behalf and thus not his (the way a website one builds for an employer belongs to the employer).

      1. Roscoe*

        I think notes are a bit different than a website built for an employer. I guess for me it depends if they are your “personal” notes so you can remember how to do things, or if they are “official” notes that were supposed to be for everyone to access.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, can’t you contact the data tracking system vendor, or whoever implemented it and ask them for training/support material? Or whoever it was that gave the training–typically if you’ve paid to go, they can simply give you copies of whatever was presented there. Taking a legal route seems way overboard and unlikely to get the results you’re looking for

  23. LQ*

    This might be silly but does the janitor know your name?
    Mine didn’t until recently when I finally introduced myself. (She only speaks Spanish so there’s a bit of a language barrier, but I’ve picked up a little bit.) I think not knowing names (and yes my name is on my door, but just seeing someone’s name on a door (or nametag) and using it feels weird to me so I imagine there are other people who do as well) is pretty common so step 1, make sure that your janitor knows your name and then you can worry about redirecting. It absolutely felt weird to introduce myself to someone I speak (briefly) with every day for over a year, but start with that.

    1. OtterB*

      I was thinking this, too. The garage attendant on the floor where I usually park at work knows my face, knows which set of keys are mine (we leave keys on a board if we’re parked blocking another car), and probably thinks of me as “the red Prius.” I know his name, but there’s no particular reason why he should know me or the hundred other regulars by name. He calls me “hon” and I’m okay with that.

      But since LW#3 doesn’t like it, introducing herself and reinforcing that as Alison suggested seems the way to go.

  24. Anon21*

    “Actually, you have some legal recourse here: the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it illegal for an employee to knowingly damage electronic files, which includes permanently deleting them without authorization, and your employee could face criminal and civil liability if you chose to pursue that.”

    Did not expect an Ask a Manager/Volokh Conspiracy crossover so early in the morning. For what it’s worth, this is contested on both statutory and constitutional grounds, and may depend on where in the country you are.

  25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Let this be a lesson to your company #1, training 2 would be expensive but recovering the data is much more so. You gave that guy so much power, then you knew he was a bully and didn’t see this was his nature as well!

    I won’t lie, I didn’t keep my notes digitally for a few small side jobs. Just in my personal notebook during my self-training. I left one place due to them not having any respect for me during a rather short medical leave. They did ask if I could at least leave my notes and my response was “lol no”, I wasn’t going make their lives easier when they had no respect for mine. But woah actually deleting created files, that’s ridiculous and I’m worried that you don’t have backups. But I’m an accountant by trade so I’m well aware that there are multiple sites that store our backups and deleting from my space would be futile.


    Gosh, that first store cut to my core – this is why you backup all the computers – so you avoid these things. It’s not that costly, and there are some fine upstanding vendors out there who will keep them safe, so even if an employee deletes the files maliciously (or accidentally), nothing is lost.

  27. LaDeeDa*

    “Keen walker” gave me a good chuckle. Putting hobbies on a resume is really outdated, we discussed it a lot yesterday- re: Dungeons & Dragons.

    The friend must not be that desperate if she has been out of work for 2 years and isn’t willing to do non-fiction writing. I redid a friend’s resume a few years ago, she has a Ph.D. in something similar, but even less practical than creative writing, I spoke to her about a few potential jobs that would leverage her writing skills; internal communications, speech writing, possibly even technical writing… she doesn’t want to do non-creative writing, and she discovered she hated teaching while getting her PhD. So…. ??? I guess I have never been in a position where I didn’t have to work- even if I didn’t like the job.

    1. WellRed*

      Not sure how many companies out there are looking to hire fiction writers. I don’t understand what people are thinking sometimes.

      1. Antilles*

        Not only that, I’d expect if a company DID want to hire a fiction writer, they’d probably want you to be published widely enough for them to verify that your writing really resonates with people.
        If I had to guess what she’s thinking, I’d just guess that she’s just hoping to find a job that will pay her to launch her writing career. Which isn’t really how it works – pretty much all authors have some sort of side gig while they get going…and frankly, plenty of published authors *still* have a side gig even when they’re cranking out NYT bestsellers.

      2. boo bot*

        There are publishers who hire ghostwriters (or credited writers) for long-running series (Goosebumps; the V.C. Andrews books if that’s still happening, some romance publishers) or for novelizations of movies or TV series, etc., and some other things to, so yes, there are companies that hire writers for fiction.

        That said, I think you usually need to be published already to get hired for those things; from the outside it seems like it could be a stepping-stone job to publishing your own stuff, which is not to say it can’t be, but in that kind of work what you most need is a track record of producing books to deadline at whatever quality level they need, which is a skill set that somewhat overlaps with working on your passion-project novel, but the Venn diagram on that one is definitely not a circle.

        I think, though, that what the OP’s friend might actually mean is not that she’s looking for a company to hire her to write fiction, but that she doesn’t want to have her day-job be writing, because she writes fiction and wants to put her creative energy into that. I think that’s a super valid way to feel – the old, “when your hobby is your job it’s not fun anymore” thing can be totally true. BUT, if you want to write full-time in the future, there is a lot to be said for putting yourself in a position where you have to write every single day: you will get better, even if you’re not doing exactly what you want to do. So, here ends my unsolicited advice to the OP’s keen-walking friend.

  28. LaDeeDa*

    OP#2 – my first thought was “don’t engage with crazy!” Just like a stalker if you give them ANY response, even “no.” they got something from you, and encourages them to keep trying. Do not reply ever! BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK. If they still find a way I would consider sending a cease and desist letter. I can’t imagine contacting someone so long after they left, it is just weird! I did think about it once when I couldn’t figure something out, but I stopped myself because I knew it was ridiculous.

  29. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    • Avid walker
    • Active member of precipitation appreciation society
    • Piña colada enthusiast

  30. Justin*

    How dumb am I than I thought she was saying she walks something called a keen? I was like, “Well, that’s a breed I do not know.”

    My resume has some stuff about marathons and BQs at the very, very bottom. I only include it in case it sparks interview questions, and it doesn’t hurt because of the other skills and experience listed. It’s definitely not something I expect to get me in the door.

    1. Justin*

      (I know it’s outdated, I’m going to remove it next time I get to applying because once I add my current job the bottom of the second page won’t have room.)

    1. Hibiscus*

      You laugh, but my sister volunteered with a local org that bred and trained potential service dogs. Yes, you came to do regular dog care chores, but you could also volunteer to be trained as an overnight caretaker and sleep over with the mom and her litter.

  31. Marty*

    “Keen walker”

    I’m picturing those super-smiley, fit seniors that power walk in the mall prior to opening. Ah, they make me so happy. Is that the kind of emotion intended from the MFA in creative writing?

    1. ElspethGC*

      Except that in the UK, “walking” is used interchangeably with “hiking”. Combine that with typical British understatement, and she means that she regularly goes hiking and has probably hiked more than one route that takes multiple days.

      I tell people that I used to go walking in Snowdonia (in Wales) on family holidays; what I actually mean is that I hiked Snowdon (aka the highest mountain in England and Wales combined) every year between the ages of 7-10.

      1. Marty*

        Ah, that’s neat to know. Fair to say that I had no idea that also meant hiking which is rather embarrassing as an ESL instructor for the last 10 years (Canadian English though). I learned something new today, thanks!

  32. Allison*

    #5 I agree with AAM, you don’t generally put the reason why you left your jobs on your resume. They will probably ask in the interviews, but “I was laid off” sounds a lot better than “I was let go.” Layoffs usually happen due to budget cuts, and it’s not uncommon for a company to have to lay off really good, hardworking people. Also, one brief 14 month stint is not the end of the world, I mean that’s over a year. Multiple short-term jobs could be a red flag, but you have one, so I wouldn’t worry about it. My first two jobs lasted less than a year and everything turned out okay.

  33. Robin Sparkles*

    #2 – In addition to moving the emails to trash/separate folder -you can also set-up a filter (at least I know that you can for gmail and outlook – I imagine most email programs allow for this) where any email from that organization can get an auto-response. Frankly -I think blocking emails from that organization is the better option. No response is louder than even an auto-response in my opinion.

    1. iglwif*

      And those programs also allow you to write a rule that sends any message from a particular domain directly to the Trash/Deleted folder :)

  34. Goya de la Mancha*

    1) When one of my old co-workers was on her way out, we noticed certain files were missing. In the span of her not giving any fucks that she wasn’t working and our boss not doing anything – several co-workers took it upon ourselves to copy/save files elsewhere. Our boss would never believe that she would ever do something like that, and we have no proof…but it will be a practice from now on.

    2) Filters & Blocks. I’d like to think that an invoice or a letter would stop things, but these people just don’t seem to get it – especially if they’re going to your business pages to contact you!

    3) A deadpan stare seems to work for me, especially if they’re laughing/smiling.

    4) Keen walker makes me thing of the Prancercise lady – Joanna Rohrback.

  35. CleverName*

    LW2 – Maybe someone has suggested this. I couldn’t get through all the comments (hopefully you will!). You could set up a rule so that all emails from your former company are automatically forwarded to your former boss. Here’s how to do it in gmail: https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-forward-gmail-email-using-filters-1171934
    Here’s a guide for almost any email client: https://parseur.com/how-to/automatically-forward-emails/

    If those don’t work, I’d set up a rule to send all messages to a specific folder and then forward them to him monthly or weekly. Never respond to anyone, ever, just forward their emails to the boss.

    You could also try writing a letter to the President or CEO and explain what’s happening, that you’ve asked Joe to get it to stop and he responded that he won’t. I would end with “This is starting to feel like harassment. I left detailed instructions, and the questions still haven’t stopped and it’s starting to effect my business. I’m considering filing for a restraining order. Can you please speak with the team?”

  36. Argh!*

    Re: #3 — he probably doesn’t remember names, so he uses those pet terms. I would let it go, since he’s in a tangential relationship and it’s not followed up with sexist behaviors. If you tell him not to do it, he may not even remember that you’ve said that. You could suggest a friendly but less demeaning generic nickname.

  37. BradC*

    Regarding #1, it doesn’t sound to me like this would be worth pursuing, at least in this specific case.

    There is no telling the quality of the physical notes he took at this training (if he hasn’t already trashed them), and it doesn’t sound like any of the deleted files were crucial to the working of the system. It might be different if he had deleted system passwords or key financial data that existed only on his PC or something.

    Sounds like your main concern is the fact that he failed to cross-train on this software; and if he didn’t do it while employed, I can’t imagine trusting him to do so now, even if you were able to get him (or force him) to agree.

    My recommendations:

    1. Contact the software or training vendor for documentation or for help in figuring out how your system was set up. This might cost you some consulting rates, or it might be covered by your existing software support agreement.

    2. Have a conversation with IT about your data storage and backup policies. There are methods to require people to save documents in specific server locations that are backed up, or to backup or track changes/deletions on individual workstations.

    1. Rick T*

      I disagree about pursing Mr. RageQuit. He was sent to training on the company’s dime so his notes, files, etc. are work products so he has destroyed company property by scrubbing the computer assigned to him. IANAL but I’d want to go after him for the costs of any recovery efforts and external consultants required to reproduce the documentation he was paid to create.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I tend to agree, Brad C. I have seen this single-point-of-failure situation occur a few times, and the ex-employees’ files were irrelevant, and a specialist consultant was hired to bridge the knowledge gap and train others. I think the question of what to do about the deleted files should be viewed and assessed as a separate security matter.

  38. Orange You Glad*

    RE #2: At this point, especially with the contact through the business instead of just LW’s personal email, wouldn’t this be harassment? LW has asked them to stop (despite old boss’ deflection) and they continue, potentially harming the current business. I would reach out to someone at the company higher up (old boss’ boss?, HR?) one last time explaining what is happening, that you’ve asked it to stop and its continued, and it needs to stop now. After that, I would block their messages as others have suggested. This obviously doesn’t help with the business social media contact, but maybe block a few repeat offenders from social media as well?

  39. Essess*

    For letter number 2, I would set up an email auto-reply ( that sends a response back to anyone who emails from the old company domain) that says that you left the company over a year ago and that any questions must be directed to … fill in someone. Personally, I’d put in the email/phone of the manager who said it wasn’t their problem. I verified that you can do auto-replies even in gmail. https://www.flashissue.com/blog/create-auto-reply-gmail/

    For calls and texts…. either ignore, put a block on the phone numbers of the egregious callers, or send back a response that again says you have not worked there for a year so all questions need to go to…. fill in the same person again … and that you will not be responding to any further questions from this number.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I don’t think the OP should tell them who to contact. It’s not her problem to figure that out. I wouldn’t bother with a reply at all, just block and ignore. The former colleagues can figure their own stuff out.

      1. Essess*

        There’s no actual “figuring out” the contact person. It’s one person for all the emails…. and it’s best to be the person who refused to step in and stop this in the first place (the former boss). They refused to stop the contacts because it wasn’t bothering them. This way it does become the boss’s problem.

  40. Noah*

    OP1 says: “We gave the computer to our IT consultant, but nothing can be recovered.”

    Really? Unless the employee has pretty high-level technical skills, this doesn’t seem right. Maybe try a different consultant who specializes in computer forensics.

  41. BadWolf*

    I don’t respond to any of the contact but I have spent 35 hours this past year weeding their requests out of my personal email, my business email, my business social media pages, and off my home and business voicemails.

    At this point, it feels like stalking/harassment. When are they going to be knocking on your door?! Is it the same handful of people? Or do they tell new people to contact you after the previous ones give up. I’m baffled at their persistence. It would be pretty tempting to start giving them bad information (those files are most definitely in cabinet 3, just keep looking!!), but I’m concerned that would lead to angry rants on your business social media page.

  42. Elizabeth West*

    Every company should have regular backups of computers and not just servers! This is a big reason for perp walks when someone is let go. You walk them back to their computer and they aren’t allowed to touch it while packing up their things. It’s humiliating, but people who delete files is why we can’t have nice things.

    Of course, you can’t stop them if they set it up to delete after they leave for the day and don’t come back, or do it when you’re not looking. But with the backup at least you don’t lose most or all the data.

  43. Burned Out Supervisor*

    Letter #3 – my biggest pet peeve is adult women who address me as “Hon,” especially at work. It’s always women a little bit older than me and it’s super infantilizing. I have a first name, please use it. At work you should address people in a professional manner and this is a hill I would die on.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    So #2 if you’re not answering their questions about copier repair and the coffee maker, how ARE they keeping on keeping on? Do they eventually figure it out? Do they actually do any work?

  45. Brazilian in Poland*

    OP 1, maybe there is something I could help? Depending on the system I can give the training for free.

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