my mom won’t stop bugging me with work questions, a dog in a wedding dress, and more

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

1. I worked for my mom and now she won’t stop bugging me with work questions

Five years ago, I was offered a job at the company my mom had been working at for 20+ years. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career and I needed the insurance and a higher wage, so I accepted the offer despite my knowing it was ultimately going to be a bad situation.

Unfortunately, I stayed for five years in the horrible working conditions. One of which was working directly for my mom all five years. During my five years at that company, I took it upon myself to change/update many processes and procedures to enable people work more effectively and efficiently. I also created many instructions on how to do my job so if and when I left, anyone would be able to sit down and do my job.

On my departure this past November, I made it clear I would be available to answer questions, but they would have to contract me for work if necessary. I also strongly recommended they hire at least a temp for my last two weeks so I could teach them before I left. Unfortunately, the COO decided they didn’t need to replace me and my mom could take on my job. This is not the case, but it’s their business, not mine.

Because of this, I keep getting calls from my mom. These calls are for things I left instructions for, things she used to do for 20 years, things I trained her on prior to my departure, and things you could easily Google. I would understand if it was a question about where some information was, but when she calls me on a Friday afternoon on my way home from my current job asking if I could stop by the office and help her create a PowerPoint for a big meeting, it feels like she is crossing a boundary. Sometimes, she’ll even call and text me about work-related issues while I’m at my new job until I respond.

When I tell her I cannot help her in this manner, but she could contract me, she pulls the “daughter card” and says I should do it for her as a favor. I don’t know how to react to this. I keep trying to remind her that I can’t do this as a favor because it used to be my job, she gets silent and offended and eventually hangs up. Is there some other way I could get my old boss/mom to stop calling me with work-related questions?

If your mom is generally reasonable, you could try talking to her about this at a time when she’s not calling you looking for help. Go out to lunch with her or something and say, “Mom, it’s really important to me to make a clean break from Old Company and be able to focus on my new job. It’s not healthy for me to get pulled back into Old Company, and I definitely can’t answer question while I’m at my new job. I tried to leave a lot of documentation when I left, but I can’t help beyond that and it’s important to me that you respect that.” You could even say, “One reason I left was because it wasn’t good for our relationship to be working together and I was looking forward to just being able to be mother/daughter again.”

But if she’s not generally reasonable — and I suspect she might not be, based on what you’ve described — then you’ll need to just keep repeating, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help with that.” Say it kindly but hold firm. At some point she’s likely to figure out she’s not getting anything from you and it will lessen (one hopes). But be aware that you’ll need to be consistent; if you give in and help one time in 10, you’ll train her to keep asking. If you’re really backed into a corner, though, you can also try, “Hmmm, I don’t remember — it’s been a few months now.”

Also, consider screening her calls for a while. Call her back a day or two later so that she doesn’t get the immediate gratification of reaching you instantly when she has a work question. And mute phone notifications from her while you’re at work.

2. Am I a bad employee?

I’ve been teaching for 20 years; I like this public school, my coworkers, administrators, parents, and students. It is a good school where I believe I have standing both in the building and the community and have no plans for leaving.

A problem came up recently with my three-year evaluation. It turns out that my bosses are hard graders. We are evaluated on five categories like “professionalism” and then rated on each as unsatisfactory, satisfactory or outstanding in performing our duties. I was surprised to discover that the majority of my coworkers only earn “satisfactory” on all five categories and I was even more surprised to be one of them. I was formally given many compliments and successes in my evaluation but still told that I am a satisfactory but not exceptional employee and that this is a good grade. It’s too late to go back and make changes as the evaluation cycle has ended and I didn’t think that pushing back at the time would have resulted in any changes. So I met with my boss, politely expressed my dissatisfaction, and had a professional and positive discussion, although I still disagree with her interpretation of our evaluation standards.

Here’s my dilemma. I used to do a lot of extras as a senior professional: leadership positions, volunteering for after-school duties, doing staff presentations, stepping in when our admin was otherwise occupied, attending meetings and workshops, and overall being a proactive problem-solver within the building. Since these don’t matter with my current evaluator, I’ve been taking a step back and it has been … nice. I have more time to focus on my students, my own children and my personal life. I have fewer stressors, my salary won’t be affected, and I can likely continue doing less for the foreseeable future. I am not going around badmouthing my superiors and have accepted that this grading system is the norm for my school. I feel like I’m still doing a good job during my work hours every day. But I wonder, does this make me a bad employee?

No. At worst, it makes you a satisfactory employee, per your evaluation, and satisfactory isn’t bad. (Somehow we’ve started hearing “satisfactory” as “not very good but not about to get fired” — but in an evaluation system that only uses three ratings, that’s not really right. It’s probably more accurate to interpret unsatisfactory/satisfactory/outstanding as bad/good/extraordinary.)

You’re not required to do the sorts of extras you’re talking about in order to be good at your core job. And really, there’s not much incentive if you’re not going to be recognized or rewarded for it.

That said, while those extras apparently won’t pay off with your evaluator, they can pay off in building your reputation, which can help you down the road, particularly if you’re looking for a new job at some point. That doesn’t mean you have to do as many of you’ve been doing, but it might be worth doing some to cover your bases there. (But think critically about which have the biggest payoff. It might be that you can do a fraction of your previous extras and still get the same payoff.)

3. Should I contact my old boss who fired me when I was struggling with alcohol?

A few years ago, I worked for a small (less than 10 people) company and it was a great experience professionally. I learned a lot, and while I wasn’t always challenged (I was frequently the only person working in the office) I enjoyed it.

That said, my personal life was a mess and I was struggling with alcohol. At some point this started affecting my work (I want to be clear I was never drunk or drinking at work, merely exhausted from co-existing with an addiction) and they let me go. It was sudden, in that we’d had no prior conversations about negative performance, and I had in fact received three bonuses in my time there. They gave me two months to find a new job, and were incredibly generous and kind to me. It pains me I couldn’t do what they needed of me; who knows how it would have turned out.

In my exit interview, my supervisor (an incredibly kind, high EQ person) asked what was going on. I couldn’t bear to share, so I didn’t, and that was that. It’s now been two years and this weighs heavily. Would they have treated me the same had they had all the information (ie., an employee suffering from alcoholism)?

Is there anything to be gained by my reaching out, aside from my own peace of mind? How it will seem to my past employer? This isn’t part of any 12-step program — it truly does keep me up at night sometimes. For what it is worth, we did not have an EAP or any sort of HR. As a second for what it’s worth, I have been sober and employed for 18 months now.

Write to your former manager and explain what happened. Say that you’re grateful for her kindness, and you felt you owed her an explanation for what happened. Let her know you’re doing well now and are embarrassed by what happened when you were there.

You asked if there’s anything to be gained by doing this besides peace of mind. First, don’t underestimate peace of mind; I suspect doing this will make you feel better than you realize. But also, it’s a kindness to your old manager, who may still wonder what happened, and may have her own regrets about the situation; I’d think any kind person would appreciate receiving this kind of letter. And it may pay off in other ways too, like changing the way she speaks about the situation if she’s ever asked about you. Mainly, though, I think you’ll find it’s good for your own emotional health.

4. How much info should you include in rejection emails?

How much information do you include in rejection emails? This week I interviewed six people by phone for a position, and we ultimately decided to give the job to someone who already works here. I didn’t work with this person directly and had no idea they were interested, but they approached their manager, who encouraged them to speak to me – and it turns out, they’re exactly what I’m looking for, and it makes my job a lot easier since they’re already familiar with our processes. But I feel bad since I had a couple of really great interviews, and I don’t know how much to tell them about the reason they weren’t chosen for the position.

You don’t need to include much more beyond saying that you’ve chosen someone else for the position and appreciate their time interviewing. But it sounds like you want to be encouraging, so you might want to say that you were genuinely impressed with them when you spoke and would welcome application from them in the future. The more you can say this in a way that sounds real, rather than like a form letter, the better.

If you wanted, you could also share that you ended up hiring a strong internal candidate who emerged at the last minute … but be aware that a lot of people, upon hearing an internal candidate was hired, will assume that was the plan all along and that their time was wasted (because some companies do just go through the motions of interviewing external candidates when they already know they’re going to hire someone internal).

5. Sending clients a photo of my dog in a wedding dress

I work in bridal sales, which is a weird world of its own. For 90 minutes I feel like I basically become best friends with my client and then I usually don’t see them again or maybe I’ll see them during their alterations.

I really like some of my brides and after they buy a dress we send them a thank-you card from the boutique. I had an idea of also texting them from the store phone (it’s how we book our appointments) and creating a cute digital card with a photo of my dog in a little wedding dress as a more personalized thank-you. My coworkers think it’s too much, but I think I make my sales by being sweet and actually caring about my brides. I thought it was a great idea because I usually swap dog photos with my brides during the appointments anyway; I live in a very dog-friendly town. Now my coworkers have me second guessing and thinking I’m being weird. They’ve been in sales a lot longer than I have so I don’t know if I should just defer to their opinion.

If you particularly bonded with someone and talked about your dogs, I don’t see anything wrong with sending it! However … what I do think is maybe too much is doing the thank-you card in the mail and this. As a customer, if I were getting multiple thank-you’s, I might feel that was overkill and wonder how much more contact I was going to be receiving. (But please feel free to show us your dog in that wedding dress.)

{ 389 comments… read them below }

  1. Annette*

    For me mentioning internal candidate would = TMI. The point is these candidates were strong and should be encouraged to re apply. Why risk watering down the message.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP also please make sure your HR department knows that they’re being encouraged to re-apply! I’ve heard of companies that won’t re-interview a previously turned-down job applicant.

      1. TootsNYC*

        boy, is THAT stupid!

        I mean, you have candidates good enough to get the interview, but because one person beats them out, they’re toast?

        Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

    2. Leela*

      As AAM said, I’d definitely think that internal candidate was the plan all along and the company didn’t care about wasting my time or bait and switching me.

      I’d focus on the other part of this: the company thought highly of them, unfortunately a stronger fit for the role right now came up but you would remember they were strong candidates if they applied again (or something along those lines)

    3. senior jobseeker*

      I have been in so many fake interviews with a preselected internal candidate, that I would take it granted that it was initial plan if I hear that an internal candidate was chosen. And I was very upset for those employers, never applied again and boycotted their products and services. I did not tell everyone, though, as I did not want everyone to know that I was applying there.

      Otherwise, it would be generous to send any kind of rejection letter, as that is not so common. About half of the positions where I have been interviewed have sent the letter, others just silence. Needless to say how I treat companies that do not respond after interview. I do understand if big enterprises with large volumes of applications do not reply to those not selected for interviews, as the letter is never more than BS.

    4. joriley*

      Agreed. If I hear “you should apply again next time because you were great but we hired an internal candidate” then I’m going to focus on that last part, which is the least useful part to both me and the employer.

      1. OP4*

        This is all very helpful. I am not going to include anything about our internal applicant since I see that apparently happens a lot with a ton of negative connotation to the company, even if in our case it did come out of nowhere. I actually want to recommend one of the candidates to the hiring manager of the former position, but I’ll just wait until the new job post goes up. Unrelated to my position, a friend just forwarded me a rejection email from a job she was applying for that included that (going with another candidate, but wanting to passalong her resume to other hiring managers), which seems like a positive way to handle the situation. Thanks for everyone’s insight!

  2. Annette*

    LW3 – your manager will be happy to hear from you. Carrying around guilt and shame = a burden that has weighed you down for too long. You will soar like a sparrow after you write her. And forgive yourself.

    1. Edwina*

      Also, LW3, if your manager has a high EQ, I’d be willing to bet that she knew what was going on, and that is why she asked, so she could offer emotional support as much as she could; so you shouldn’t feel hesitation on that account, and I’d also bet that she’d be really happy to hear that you conquered your demons and have been sober and productive for such a long time now.

      1. Liane*

        I wrote in the open work thread about how my late father never forgot 2 former employees who had addictions. He spoke well of them. He was happy when one visited him a few years later.
        So write, email, call today. Your former boss clearly thought highly of you and was pulling for you to get through your problems, whether she knew all of what you were dealing with or not

    2. Anonny for Now*

      Agreed, and 100% agree with Alison that peace of mind is a powerful thing. There’s a big difference between trying to excuse your behavior versus explaining it, and explaining it goes a loooong way!

  3. Aggretsuko*

    These days, as far as I know everyone gets a “satisfactory” evaluation because that way nobody has to give raises.

    I’m unclear if #2 was always getting above-average evaluations with a previous boss or whatever, but that’s probably what the issue is, not that she’s no longer going above and beyond.

    1. FTW*

      A different perspective on ‘satisfactory’. If the school districts performance is satisfactory when it is judged, wouldn’t it make sense that a majority of teachers should earn a satisfactory rating?
      If the school is exceeding expectations, then I would expect to see more teachers getting higher ratings.
      Satisfactory doesn’t mean just showing up, it means doing a good job. Just like grades, many employee evaluations are inflated.

      1. Brett*

        “If the school is exceeding expectations, then I would expect to see more teachers getting higher ratings.”

        That does not seem to be how it works. My brother, a math teacher, runs about 30 hours of extra tutoring sessions a week for his class. He is literally Kimo from Stand and Deliver, feeding students out of his own pocket at tutoring so they will show up, running drill sessions in overheated classrooms, talking directly with parents, and all at the only Title I school in the district.

        He does not teach calculus though, he teaches pre-algebra through algebra 2. His students have had crazy improvements rates: the best single classroom two years in a row in his metro area of approximately 4.5M. The past year, his school and district made progress standards purely on the basis on his classrooms, per his VP and principal.

        He still gets a “satisfactory” because no raises were approved.

        1. Brett*

          Rereading that, I did not explain one part well. His district met progress standards (the only one in the metro region) and his school met progress standards (the only one in the district, and they were so high that the whole district met standards), and his classes met progress standards, as the only classes in the whole school to meet them. So his class progress was so high that he put his school and his district over the top, but still no raises.

            1. AKchic*

              It is, but when our society refuses to acknowledge the importance of teachers, we have a continuing lack of educational funding, and a continued underpayment and overwhelming undervaluing of their contributions to society at large, and our children in particular.

        2. Shibbolet*

          THIS. Many teachers go above and beyond all the time. No workload recognition, and on top of that many people assume they know the job better than them.

        3. Gumby*

          In my experience, teacher salaries are entirely based on years in service (usually also “in that school district” – when my mother, who had taught 20+ years in district A, looked into teaching in district B instead (B being closer to where she lived) – the policy was that only 8 years of experience would transfer so her salary would take a large hit).

          A mediocre teacher who does the bare minimum but has a BA and 30 further credit hours will make as much as an outstanding teacher who has a BA and 30 further credit hours. You move up in salary with extra degrees, extra credit-hours, sometimes certain certifications (i.e. National Board Certification), and on occasion by taking on extra work. Teaching a 6/5ths = more money. Being the senior class advisor = bupkis. Mentor teacher = tiny stipend. Tutoring on a drop in basis before and/or after school = nada. Inviting your third period class over to bake cookies = your biological children will think you are insane but the students will enjoy it. Still no money though.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            This also varies by location. There’s no stipend for being a mentor teacher where I am and all teachers must have a BA or BSc plus an 18 month – 2 year Bachelors in Education (so 6 years post secondary). Salary can be increased if you take an MEd, though. There are no performance-based bonuses (and I’m okay with that although my evaluations are very strong).

          2. Brett*

            The principal was going to drop my brother an extra one thousand dollars out of Title I schoolwide funding for the formal tutoring he was doing on saturdays (of course, that was about 160+ hours of tutoring, so less than the equivalent of minimum wage). But his school was the only school in the district eligible for schoolwide Title I funding, so the district choose to not apply for _any_ Title I funding (not even targeted) to avoid Title I servicing requirements.
            (And, in my opinion, to avoid the percent that the district has a “poor” school, given the area where his district is located.)

    2. Someone Else*

      Yeah, the way this was always presented to me is Satisfactory is good; it’s what most employees should expect. Higher than that is reserved for really truly constantly going above and beyond and significantly exceeding expectations. Like, anyone who got higher, the manager would have to justify it to HR. The threshold was HIGH. Plenty of people could be what the manager would honestly describe as excellent and still get Satisfactory. Exceeds Expectations was reserved for like “we should’ve promoted you five minutes ago you’re that good”. Not literally, but that was the gist. They expected 90% of employees to be Satisfactory. But the other side of this means there’s a very very wide range of performance that all still falls into Satisfactory. So it could be a bit demoralizing for higher performers who felt like “what’s all this effort for if I get rated the same as Joe Schmoe who I know does a worse job than I do”. In theory, those on the higher end of Satisfactory should’ve still had better raises than those who were likewise Satisfactory but clearly not as good…but if it doesn’t work out that way, then this scale is a good way to disincentivize high performers.

      1. Gray Coder*

        This is what happens when you try to boil down all the complexities of a person’s employment into one of three categories and then label those categories with words which have meanings. Saying “satisfactory really means good” isn’t going to undo the morale-busting effect.

        In ExJob, I was once in a really horrible meeting where the great-grandboss called in all the line managers and told us that only 5 people in the organization (of around 120) could be given the highest performance rating. He then expected us to fight it out in the room for our direct reports, despite the fact that many of the roles were not comparable and there was no way one manager could have a meaningful understanding of performance in many of the other teams. Anything resembling objectivity was thrown out in favor of “how aggressive is your manager in a big meeting and how comfortable are they making unfounded assertions about your comparative performance”. It tainted my view of the company from that point on.

        1. Antilles*

          Your Ex-Job sounds like Microsoft’s stack ranking process. It was described in detail in a fantastic article by Vanity Fair a few years back basically describing how Microsoft wasted the entire first decade of the 2000’s.
          Essentially the stack ranking gave each department only a limited number of great ratings available AND required managers to give out a certain number of bad ratings. No matter how the department was doing overall, there was always 10% of good employees, 80% average employees, and 10% bad employees (or whatever percentages). Then once the percentages were figured out, each employee’s raise was determined in a battle royal of managers duking it out in the conference room and defending their staff.
          It was just as self-destructive and terrible as it sounds – to the point that everybody interviewed for the article cited it as one of the reasons Microsoft stagnated for years on end.

          1. Certified Llama Midwife*

            As the wife of a former Microsoftie, yep. My husband was on an excellent team with a great manager who was able to block them from the negatives of this system by and large. They got a new manager who, among numerous other faults, was so busy trying to work the ranking system for herself that she completed botched it for everyone else. Within two years, nine people on a ten person team quit. The woman who left right before my husband did was EXCEPTIONAL, had been there for years, and left for a “step down” position because she couldn’t handle the culture anymore.

          2. alannaofdoom*

            Sounds like the infamous “rank and yank” at Enron in the 90s. (And we all know how well that worked out…)

          3. Gray Coder*

            I expect that’s where my old great-grandboss got the idea from then. Fortunately the battle royal meeting didn’t happen again — I think the instigator had left or moved into a different role by the next performance review season.

        2. nonymous*

          My boss has told us that is the system used to identify “exceeds” in my org. While we don’t have the issue of a mandatory % designated unsatisfactory, after describing the battle royale environment, he basically said that he refuses to participate in such a disgusting process (apparently our team is the original Lake Woebegone).

      2. doreen*

        Evaluations have little to do with raises at my job – I’m public servant so everyone gets the same raises. We have the same few categories and I want to point to two things

        1) I think school experience has an effect on feelings about ratings, perhaps especially for teachers. For most classes I took throughout my schooling, grades were somewhat absolute. This assignment was weighted this much etc and if you ended up with a 90 at the end of the term, you got an A. Theoretically, everyone in the class could get an A. But job evaluations are more relative and most people are going to get the middle rating in a three choice system . It’s not so easy to see with “unsatisfactory” “satisfactory” and “outstanding” , but it’s very easy to see with “below average”,”average”, and “above average” .

        2) If the evaluations are done well, there will be a narrative section in addition to the overall rating. That’s where you distinguish between someone who minimally meets the requirements and someone who is very good but not quite extraordinary

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think that the difference you describe in #1 is a problem, though. Just like there is a grading rubric for class, the criteria on which people are evaluated for their jobs should be clear, and managers (in an effective system) shouldn’t be required to downgrade certain employees to fit an evaluation rating quota system. We evaluate people against their job descriptions, not through stacked rankings. I had the good fortune, for a few years, of running an exceptional team, and having to grade them on a curve would have been a real morale killer when all of them were above-and-beyond type people. I have had people come back after their reviews and object to a particular point of their review, but, because we have well-established criteria on what is expected from the jobs, it’s easy to say “things that look like [next rating up] are X, Y, and Z”.

          I also think that a five-point system is more helpful because when a narrative rating does not square with the numeric/Likert scale ranking, it really pisses employees off. Nearly everywhere I’ve worked has had five options (usually some variety of: unsatisfactory, needs improvement, satisfactory, exceeds expectations, and exceptional). If I wrote a narrative saying what a great job employee did at X but only rated them as satisfactory on that point, it would invite argument.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Agreed. My organization has ratings of unacceptable, below expectations, meets expectations, and exceeds expectations.

            My boss is very upfront that in some categories you will never exceed her expectations. Attendance, for example: you can’t possibly exceed her expectation that you will show up to work if you’re not sick… either you do it or you don’t. Having a clear understanding of what the expectations are is critical.

            1. Natalie*

              One of my former employers just removed “exceeds expectations” for those questions that are pure binary – attendance, dress code, etc. The only options on the form were “meets” and “does not meet”.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          I’m in the same situation. If it’s time for a bump in compensation, as long as my overall rating is Satisfactory or better, I get the raise.

          One year I got Satisfactory in everything except Reliability, in which I got Above Average. I interpreted that as meaning I was okay overall, but great at showing up.

      3. Anonymeece*

        We were told that it’s basically a “C/D”, “B”, or “A” letter grade and we should be happy with a “B” because that’s above average! (Tell this to a bunch of over-achievers who thought anything less than an A was failing). But I’m with Alison – backing off of extra stuff seems to have made this person happier, so why not go with that?

    3. Wendy Darling*

      My current employer’s bonus structure is based on company performance and employee evaluations. How much bonus exists for you to get depends on whether the company hit its financial targets. How much of that pool you ACTUALLY get depends on your performance evaluation, and if you don’t get “exceeds expectations” on everything your bonus shrinks.

      It kind of sucks but either my boss is an easy grader or I’m amazing at my job, which is nice. At my last job where I got evaluated we stack ranked and I was on a team of high performers so I got a mediocre evaluation because I was a high performer but had a few teammates who were AMAZING (and willing to work longer hours than me) and they were only allowed to give the top ratings to the top few people.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, I was once in the same department with two guys who literally wrote the book on our field. I could never compete with that, and I just needed to stay out of the bottom 5% to avoid the dreaded Unsatisfactory. It was unmotivating.

    4. alienor*

      My company does Exceeds, Meets, and Does Not Meet Expectations, and pretty much everyone is expected to get Meets. The slightly odd thing is that as part of the review process, you’re required to rank yourself in a variety of categories, and if you choose Exceeds for any of them, your boss will almost always downgrade you and tell you so during the actual review. (I had a review not long ago and rated myself Exceeds in 2/5 categories and Meets in the other 3, and my boss made a big deal out of telling me that she’d let me keep one Exceeds.) I don’t really see the point of asking people to rank themselves if Meets is the only real option–I suppose you could choose Does Not Meet, but who’s going to do that?–but I guess it’s some sort of lip service to letting the employee have input.

      1. Sara*

        We had similar categories at my last job, and basically my boss’ view was that if you’re getting Exceeds Expectations, the expectations would have been shifted so you have higher expectations, so now you’re only meeting them. Basically, it was exceptionally rare for someone to get a 4 (occasionally exceeds expectations), and would kind of depend on the timing of your review and how much he’d noticed you doing. And I don’t think anyone got a 5 on our team (frequently exceeds).

      2. Kiwi*

        We’ve stopped doing rankings like that in our performance reviews and this kind of thing is why. Now, we can do performance reviews and have nuanced discussions about what’s going well and what isn’t, with so much less defensiveness. Huge improvement.

        1. stump*

          Same with our company. We get quarterly audits in our records system to make sure we’re doing everything right (and since that’s all on a factual level based on whether we did X, Y, or Z tasks correctly according to company policy, it’s 98% unbiased) and a yearly performance review with your supervisor. Everything at our company is about how much money we save for our clients which definitely does have its drawbacks, but on the other hand, you know exactly where you stand and don’t have to do the mental math of, “Is Satisfactory REALLY good or not?” (Not to mention the whole ranking yourself thing. I mean, your numbers are Right There!)

    5. Maggie*

      LW, I am also a public school teacher and I’ve also felt a bit crushed by earning ‘meets’ evaluations instead of ‘exceeds’ when I feel like I’m working my ass off. But like you, over time, I’ve come to value work-life balance and time with my own daughter and it IS nice. Know that you probably are exceeding in all kinds of areas that aren’t on their performance evaluation rubric, and sleep well knowing your own kids would rather you be exceptional as their parent and satisfactory as an employee.

      1. Bears Beets Battlestar*

        I’m also a public school teacher and this is 100% correct. My boss told me no one ever gets the highest ranking unless they are working 24/7, so I don’t worry about it anymore.

        1. GreenDoor*

          I’m not a teacher but I work for a public school system and my old boss used to be a teacher. She was one of those “no one in this class will earn an A” and “we ALLLLLLL have something to learn” kind of teachers. So, no one ever got “exceeds expectations” on performance evaluations. So f-ing annoying and insulting. I can meet or exceed an expectation on a pre-written evaluation document and still have things to learn in areas not covered by the eval. But nope, she had to find some area to mark you down in. It was very bad for morale because you felt like no matter how hard you work, you’d never wow her in anything. And of course, no one wanted to go above and beyond, much like the OP sounds.

          Thankfully I work for a *public* school system so raises are set by the Board, not by former teachers that have no business being office administrators.

    6. Ginger ale for all*

      I don’t put much stock into staff evaluations ever since I got a three out of five for committee work and found out that everyone else in the office also got the exact same score. I was the ONLY person in the office to even be on a committee and received the same score as people who refused to do so. I was then rewarded with two other committee assignments because my boss said everyone else had already said no.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The first part of your comment makes me bitter on your behalf.

        The last sentene is utterly foreshadowed by everything preceding it, depressingly enough.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Ah, but the person who says no after having said yes is now a slacker, didn’t you know?

    7. JustAThought*

      One thing I noticed in your letter is that in dropping some activities is you mention that you now have more time to focus on your students. Is it possible that this is a good thing for you professionally at this school rather than maybe stretching thin?

      1. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

        Probably not. It sounds like OP was already doing good work with their students, and sadly, in most schools at every level (K-12 and college/university), excellence in teaching and service to students does not get you the ratings and $$ that goes with them. You have to do extras.

    8. Perpal*

      Yeah, in medical school we get something like unsatisfactory/satisfactory/outstanding, and they are VERY CLEAR that only 5% of grades should be “outstanding”. So as much as I think everyone is awesome and want to give almost everyone outstandings, I’m not supposed to. I suspect the district has some similar rubric where it’s /very hard/ to get an outstanding, and being satisfactory is considered normal.
      It’s not my favorite grading system because somehow satisfactory always feels sort of inadequate even though it’s not supposed to be.
      Beyond medical school is nice in that the evals change to something like “needs supervision” to “ready for independent practice” and they make it clear you’re supposed to start at one end, and then end at the other after.

    9. Ladylike*

      I agree – this has been the case in at least the last 3 companies I’ve worked for. Management can rave about me all year long, but at review time, I’m going to get whatever middle-of-the-road score means I get to keep my job and a modest raise. I think the LW is a perfect example of how this can backfire, though – LW has essentially been demotivated and from now on, will do the amount of work that is commensurate with the value her company has placed on her. As she should.

      1. miss_chevious*

        Yes, this is what I ended up doing when I was in a similar situation. I had a big opportunity, and went above and beyond for it, with outstanding results, and got…meets expectations. So I downshifted my effort. I still do a good job, and I still work hard when I’m at work, and I’m still a pleasant colleague, but I only do the extras that I enjoy. Result this year? Meets expectations.

        Ratings are a big motivator to me, so if there’s little I can do to move the needle on the rating, it’s better for all involved if I stop trying. That way I’m not disappointed, and can be a productive employee.

    10. Lauren*

      I think one of the issues with these types of systems is that often the evaluators don’t have any real suggestions for how to get to the highest level, other than doing things would require you working 14 hour days. At that point, you wonder, why bother? So you do less and less.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this is exactly my feeling on them. Any time I’ve had a boss tell me that it’s almost impossible to get the highest ranking on an evaluation, my motivation to try for it has immediately vanished.

        1. Dragoning*

          Reminds me of the customer service survey we got when I was in retail that gave us 9/10s on everything saying “I think everyone needs something to strive for” but what we were striving for was 10s that she…apparently doesn’t give out? So I disregarded it as best I could, considering that a 9/10 on retail surveys might as well be a 0.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            Any kind of customer service surveys, I always treat as a binary, no matter how many “choices” they give. 5 choices? That’s actually
            Fail | Fail | Fail | Fail | Pass
            That’s how every single one I’ve heard of treats them, so that’s how I use them even though I disagree with that philosophy. I’m not going to screw over a store or cashier because in a reasonable world, a 4/5 or 8/10 should be considered a success.

            1. Someone Else*

              I agree that this sucks, but the justification I’ve heard for that in the satisfaction survey context is generally you start with the assumption of 5s and must have done something wrong to have lost any.
              Whereas with an employee performance review, the assumption is everyone should be a 3, and you need to do something special to go higher or something worse to go lower.

              In practice I think both scales are probably applied in completely illogical ways, but in theory, if everyone were on the same page about how the scale were intended to work (start full and only get docked for actual wrong doing VS start in the middle and adjust down or up based on exceptional failure or success), it could make a lot of sense. The problem is it seems like a lot of recipients of satisfaction surveys treat it like the performance review scale “this is fine! it was nothing special, but nothing wrong either! why would I go up to a 5? there’s nothing amazing here.” And that’s hurting the employee because the assumption was not that they need to do something extra to get to 5 but that failed to do something normal to go down from 5. But then on employee reviews the scale is the other way. So there’s no winning because the expectations are backwards.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree – pretty much every workplace I’ve been at had some variation of a 1 to 5 scale. Most years at each of my jobs, I’ve received some 5s/outstanding/whatever the company’s interpretation of it is; that factored into my overall grade. Then last year we were all told that no one ever deserves a 5 – that you have to basically walk on water and perform miracles to earn a 5. This was a first one in my career, and oddly coincided with everyone getting a COL increase across the board, for the second year in a row. I think we are being primed for no more raises at all. Will see what happens this year. I’m not taking any of it personally, unless and until I’m being told that I will lose my job if I don’t improve – they are arbitrary grades.

    12. Anon for this, colleagues read here*


      After many years of “excellent” in virtually every category, we had a new supervisor, who didn’t like grade inflation and made it extremely hard to earn “excellent.” Five years of “satisfactory” despite truly excellent work and above and beyond contributions and no way to get to “excellent” and a merit raise = I cut way back on all those extras except for one that gives me real pleasure and another that can have a big payoff (everything else continues to be excellent). Interestingly, I won a university award for excellence in my area after I had cut back. So apparently everyone else at the university thinks I’m excellent, except my supervisor. (Yep, feeling bitter about that!)

      Pick the one or at most two extras that will help you get exposure and/or stretch you professionally. And enjoy the time you have given yourself to do things that keep you happy.

    13. Rebecca*

      And because of evaluations like this, I don’t do anything extra any longer. Why should I? There are no self evaluations. I’m a CSR, and learned that our sales team evaluated us without our knowledge. Scale on evaluation was 1-5, worst to best, but they were instructed that no one could get a 5, if you ranked someone a 4 you needed written backup, and that most people would be a 1, 2, or 3. Then there was the 1-2-3 “big search engine that begins with a G” ranking system, and how to be world class, and then – plans to have meetings and training to move up on the scales. Does this mean any more money or benefits? Answer, no. Do the people ranked lower lose their jobs? No. So, bottom line, this was a huge morale killer, made everyone angry and unmotivated. And once again, it appears that a few people were causing angst for upper management, but not one person sat down with the individual people to address the issues, so as not to single people out, they did this cart blanch deal. This year’s management push is for us to read the Seven Habits book and do online courses, all in the name of “improvement” but again, no incentive to improve, as in higher pay, additional benefits, or anything tangible. Sorry, but I can’t pay my bills with “oh hey, I’m ranked #1!!” Basically, I do what I have to do, since going over and above won’t result in any benefit to me, so whatever. Yes, this made me really grumpy, especially when one of the people who evaluated me said his form was returned to him and he was told to lower my ratings to match what management expected to see.

      OP, I don’t blame you for backing off.

    14. Vemasi*

      Your first statement is probably exactly the case. I dare say, with all the extras the LW was doing, they would probably merit an outstanding evaluation. However, in some public schools, there are unwritten rules against this. For instance, I know an elementary school principal in my district who wanted to give several of her staff the rating “exceeds expectations” (she is a good principal and good at managing and hiring, commands a lot of loyalty and as a result has a very good faculty). But her bosses at the district level, without witnessing the teachers’ work or looking at their evaluations, tried to pressure her to reduce all or most of them to “meets expectations,” so they would get a smaller raise.

      So it may be the case that the LW’s school is not allowed to give out the highest rating, or is supposed to limit the number of people who receive it, for budget reasons.

    15. Aekiki*

      Any ranking system is inherently flawed because ratings have as much to do with the rater as the person being rated. See any writing in the “idiosyncratic rather effect”. We use them anyway because people are always eating others even if you don’t make it official so at least this makes it transparent and forces a discussion about it. It’s the best of two flawed options.

      But withholding raises isnt Always a factor. That’s definitely not the case with our reviews. Ours are “not meeting expectations”, “meeting expectations”, “exceeding expectations.” I give a fair amount of exceeding expectations in individual categories but explain that we have a high performance expectation so high performance is meeting expectations. It’s like an A/B. Ours explicitly says getting an overall rating of exceeds is rare. For me exceeding uaually means you are ready to move up. I tend to give it out most frequently to more entry level employees because the higher up the chain you go the higher the expectations get. If you are regularly exceeding expectations in your current role you probably need some more challenges because my expectations are high overall and I make sure people understand that. we do account for hard grader/easy graders too. Some people are easy graders (everyone know who those people are frankly) but some are really good at hiring great people and getting them to perform at a high level and I’m sure not going to penalize them for it and tell them they need to down rank their teams. We make everyone talk about their rankings to level them a bit.

      And every review should have room for nuanced discussion and a way to recognize above and beyond efforts. We give spot bonuses for exceptional collaboration and exceptional customer service etc. And it’s really nice as a manager to have that to offer. But doing lots of “extras” doesn’t always mean you re exceeding expectations in the core aspects of your job.

      All that said —I can see where that’s tough for a job like teaching where you stay in the same role for long periods and are expected to get better and better at it. That sounds like an attempt to push a corporate framework on a system that doesn’t fit that framework. It’s a very different job and should have an approach that accounts for a long trajectory of slower growth. And with teaching recognition is often not monitory so if you want to recognize people you need to find other ways to make sure people feel valued and like exceptional efforts are recognized.

        1. Aekiki*

          Haha I’m rereading and there are more of these. People are always “eating other”…should be “rating others”. I give up. No more phone posting for me!

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            I actually thought that “eating each other” made perfect sense! Ranking systems result in a dog-eat-dog environment, so….

    16. Eesh*

      My take on the “satisfactory” also = more of a negative is because in my experience, it always comes paired with a statement such as:

      “I rarely / never give outstandings.”

      I’ve also been told that to get an outstanding, that would mean I was ready for promotion, and coincidentally there was no opportunity for promotion, so therefore I can’t be given an outstanding.

      I don’t know if there is a good system. Current company does the cost-of-living increase plus whatever your manager decides (if indeed they do) they want to take from the percentage pool; it’s always carefully explained that “to give someone more, we have to give someone less.” Nothing like a touch of guilt with your % point!

    17. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      One old office rated workers as: poor, average, good, excellent. No one got excellent because it was so vague. Everyone was “good” because “average” really meant “average” and “poor” meant you were on notice to be fired. It was confusing as heck.

    18. Jaime*

      Yeah, that’s the situation at my job as well. Everyone gets “meets expectations”, and almost never gets “exceeds expectations,” because that’s how HR has built the raise structure. It’s ridiculous, but apparently very common. When an old boss turned in our evaluations with multiple “exceeds expectations” for a variety of people one year, HR returned them to her and told her she couldn’t do that without a lot of evidence that higher raises were warranted for everyone.

    19. Anonforthis*

      In my last performance review, this happened to me even though I was outperforming most of my coworkers by standard performance metrics, plus training people. I ended up getting an off cycle raise when I asked for one after half the team quit. My managers are stupid, but not THAT stupid.

  4. Annette*

    LW 1 – I have a lot of sympathy for you. I recommend reading the blog Captain Awkward for advice on dealing with boundary challenged family. Take charge and don’t wait for her to change.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, I read #1 and immediately thought, “This is a question for the Captain!”

      OP: I’m not CA, but I think she would say, in whatever boundary-enforcing advice she gives, that you have to be okay with your mom not being happy with whatever boundary you enforce. You might not be able to get to an outcome of “I set a boundary that makes me happy, and my mom is also happy” — you might get to “I set a boundary, and my mom is butt-hurt about it, but I don’t cave in and she eventually respects the boundary even though she doesn’t like it.” And that is FINE.

  5. Lin*

    OP 2– Are you me? I could have written the exact same letter. School evaluation systems are such BS. And yes I did all the extra things like you did. Definitely pull back. I agree that usually keeping up some of them so that down the road they’ll be good for your resume, teachers moving to another district is incredibly rare.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      I honestly don’t know how school evaluations go, but I did work at a company that did this type of evaluation. The bosses doing the evaluations were only allowed to give X amount of “Outstanding” ratings. I think it’s stupid to say that you’re only allowed to give, say, 3 Outstanding ratings of a 20-something (or however many you have) group of employees because all may have fit that description. However, the bosses may be bound by something like that from their bosses.

      Personally, I think the fact that you choose to teach at all means you should get Outstanding. It’s not an easy job by any standard. I can’t give you a raise, but I can tell you that I appreciate your hard work and respect the hell out of your profession.

      1. PlainJane*

        My previous employer had a system like this, only worse. For any rating above 3 (out of 5) you had to rank others lower than 3, because the average across your department couldn’t be more than 3. And I had a whole 8 people in my department, most of whom were excellent, so basically everyone got 3s. And rating was tied to annual raises. It sucked, and that approach is one reason I left. So demoralizing.

    2. Lauren*

      I think the issue with teacher evaluations is that they are usually mainly based on a few observed lessons a year. If you are lucky they are in part based on Student Learning Outcomes, which are ridiculously easy to manipulate.

      Any other work you do simple does not matter in the evaluation system in any meaningful way. Sure, you might have to submit a portfolio of all you do, but that doesn’t count towards much.

      It doesn’t matter how many hours you spend at home preparing, how many afternoons you spend tutoring, how much you contact parents. Nope, those observations are the be all and end all of your evaluation.

      It’s demoralizing, especially since you are constantly being encouraged to do more and more and more outside of the classroom.

      1. Hold My Cosmo*

        The special ed and honors teachers are being hard-hit by SLO/test result metrics. Kids who have cognitive impairments can only improve so much, and kids already getting 102% in AP classes also have nowhere to go. The only kids who have room for improvement are the average students.

      2. TardyTardis*

        My husband wasn’t evaluated for two years after the Flaming Ball of Paper Towel Incident (to be fair, it was a chemistry class and nobody expected the door to be open at the time). But they renewed his contract anyway (no tenure, but rolling contracts you have to work hard to have not happen).

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I am not a teacher, but know several. They experience your same frustration. I feel for anyone teaching in public schools today. The only thing I’d add is that while the extra duties you’re continuing to do might help you get another job, it doesn’t sound like you’re interested/planning to leave your current school/district. Also, where I live, (Texas), teachers salaries within certain metro areas are pretty comparable among districts of the same size, so while the extra duties might look good on your resume and get you hired, they won’t get you a higher salary. That is all very set in stone and seems to remain relatively flat year to year. So….if you don’t plan on leaving and the extras you’re doing won’t get you a higher salary, I personally might be tempted to pull back even further on things you don’t love doing/have time for.

      And as so many others have said, that rating system is BS.

    4. Michelle*

      Just want to chime in on the BS evaluation systems. We do yearly evaluations. They are 9 (yes, 9) pages long. We do not get merit raises or even COL raises. They want department goals and personal goals. On personal goals, they want us to “set a minimum of 2 but no more than 5”. I feel like our system is BS because it takes forever and I feel like it is such a colossal waste of time. Our part-time employees, many who are retired and are working here just to keep busy or for a little extra cash to supplement retirement, were having to do these as well. We managed to convince they to change the part time evals to 3 pages.

      No one where I work likes our system and they all feel like it’s a waste of time, too, even my direct boss, but our corporate office and C-level execs still require us to complete them. My boss told me I can “copy & paste”. I have done that for the last 3 years and no one at corporate or any of the C-level execs have said anything so I feel like they don’t even read these evals they require us to do.

    5. Sled dog mama*

      Ugh, yes this is one of the things that drove me out of teaching. An evaluation system that gives little to no feedback during the evaluation period and a a scale of bad, acceptable, outstanding without any concrete way to go from acceptable to outstanding.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        To be clear: I just want to see cute dog pics here. I don’t think it’s something that OP5 should do – not the tone most people want from a bridal salon.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I agree. I think the bridal salon, not the OP, gets to set the marketing strategy for their business, and the OP’s dog in a dress is not their marketing campaign. I would say that about any sort of follow-up that is not part of their official process guidelines.

    1. henrietta*

      I am willing to bet that there is a non-zero chance that a bride who receives the dog-in-a-dress photo will think “Is she suggesting I look no better than a DOG in MY dress?”

      Best to avoid, imo.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        yeah – and even if it’s just *one* – you don’t want the word of mouth about your shop to be “the assistant said I looked like a dog!!!”

      2. BadWolf*

        Yes, I’d be worried about the same. And the people likely to take offense are likely to be vocal about it. “Bridal Store made a mockery of my pretty dress. If I could give negative stars, I would!11!!!”

        Funny among friends, not worth the risk for a business.

      3. Anonymeece*

        I had the same thought. It’s a cute gesture and OP surely doesn’t mean anything like that from it, but the potential for it to be taken the wrong way is… pretty high.

      1. the corner ficus*

        Yep, same. I generally am warm to people helping me, but it’s because I’m grateful for the service. I don’t want to be contacted multiple ways afterward by someone I wouldn’t have sought out otherwise.

    2. Serenata*

      I would be weirded out by it. I’m not a dog person, and I would be really concerned about boundary crossing if some salesperson texted me a picture of their dog in a dress. Yeah, we were polite and friendly during the sale, but texting me pics of your dog would make me think you were trying to continue a friendship… and I’m not there for that. Help me find the dress, set up alterations, whatever. Then … bye. Don’t text me pics of your dog. We’re done here.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I *am* a dog person, but also an introvert and this would cause me some anxiety. I would probably find it cute, but then there would be pressure. I would wonder if I have to respond to this? I don’t want to chat indefinably with that girl from the bridal salon. I would ignore it, but also feel guilt about ignoring it, and it would become this weight in my text message cue.

    3. DaffyDuck*

      I am a huge dog fan. I bet your photo is really cute, but I would NOT send a photo of my dog in a wedding dress to a bride unless she specifically asked me to send it to her while we were talking in person.
      Someone, mother of the bride, bridesmaid, etc. will be sure to be offended (suggesting you are calling the bride a dog) and mention it to the bride.

      1. n*

        Agreed. I managed high-end bridal registries for a while and the number of things that brides/families of the bride get offended by… my goodness! You do not want to give them an opening if you don’t have to.

  6. Flash Bristow*

    OP2, my sympathies. I used to get As in my report card, but a B in the head’s pet subject. Despite a 1 for effort, I was hauled up before her for anything less than an A, on account of being a scholarship child.

    When this happened and I came home crying, my dad was livid and intervened, pointing out that not only had I given max effort, but I’d been rated B which correlated to Good, so why were they telling me off for a Good achievement? Either it was poor and I deserved a D, or it was good and they should lay off.

    Suffice to say, they laid off thereafter.

    My point is that these rankings are pretty arbitrary. As long as you’re getting recognised for high effort levels, and there isn’t actually any problem with your work, don’t let it get you down. You say others are also being marked as satisfactory when they’re doing well, so it’s not like you’re way behind everyone else and at risk of a PIP. Perhaps nobody ever gets a top rating in a misguided attempt to encourage you all that there’s always something higher to reach for – but so long as you’re matching your peers I wouldn’t worry, just adjust your expectations. After all, satisfactory isn’t a great word, but it does mean that people are content with your work level. Good luck!

    Oh and by the way, that subject for which I was chastised for ONLY achieving a B, while expected to excel as a supposedly academic scholarship girl? Needlework.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Oh for heaven’s sake.
      That’s as illogical as my grade-school PE department giving me “improvement needed” the year I started race-walking daily. It was an an Olympics year, and I got fascinated by a “physics of it” TV show about a race-walker with a controversial hip-rolling technique. I started doing g.d. laps of the school field, won a race, and got disqualified because THEY didn’t get it either.
      To this day I believe they should have at least given me “improvement shown” for the daily walking even if they had thought I was breaking a rule and jogging. They didn’t agree — and I gave up. YEARS before I learned to love exercise again.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        You are my soul mate. I thought I was the only elementary school kid obsessed with being a race-walker after seeing it on TV! It was fascinating how you could walk like that in PE! My PE teacher LOVED it! That demonstrates how arbitrary so much of educational grading can be.

    2. Pilcrow*

      This is giving me flashbacks to my Catholic elementary school. In their thinking, getting 100% was something everyone could achieve and was therefore “satisfactory.” To get above satisfactory you needed to do extra credit.

      I got thrown for a loop when I went to public middle school and got an A for 95%.

    3. pleaset*

      This reminds me of a professor in grad school who said, pretty much everyone should get an A or fail. It’s binary in his view.

      1. Artemesia*

        Really odd. That would only be true in a simplistic class where mastering the material was memorization. There are obviously huge differences in quality of understanding of complex material; there are obviously huge differences in say a nuanced understanding of literature or an analysis of a complex social problem etc etc.

        1. nonymous*

          I’ve come across this phenomenon as well. The way they presented it was not so much that students achieved in some odd binary space, but that the threshold of an “A” was the minimum they were willing to entertain. With the brutal expectation that people who couldn’t meet that threshold shouldn’t be in the program in the first place. From my own experience, a gpa below 3.o means you’re no longer eligible for most funding, which may be a motivating factor.

        2. Emily Spinach*

          I don’t think this is super uncommon in grad school, or variations on it. I had a teacher who said everyone would get an A, and they’d trust us to work hard enough to earn it, and I think the total grading scale in my (humanities PhD) program was only A through B and then no pass.

          1. Foila*

            Yeah, grad school is kind of a different story, where and A means “everything is fine”, a B means “ok, but some big problems you must address” and everything else really is a failing grade.

            1. Blue*

              Yep, this is how it was in my grad program. And then a new assistant professor came in, fresh out of grad school, and apparently his grad program did things differently because he graded on a “normal” scale. Needless to say, that did not go over well.

      2. Anonymeece*

        Meanwhile I had several professors who started the class saying, “I don’t give A’s.” Welp, that’s an incentive for me to not take your class, or not take it seriously!

    4. boop the first*

      Ah, a school I went to was pretty generous in its grading until I entered an english (writing) class and got a teacher who marked everything out of 5 points because he thought it was easier for him and less pressure on the students. The only problem was, 5/5 was out of the question, and 4/5 was pretty rare. If something was good, he gave it a 3/5 out of habit. It would have to be pretty outstanding to get a 4/5.

      I guess he didn’t realize that 3/5 is only 60%?? Halfway through the school year we all realized that his small and attentive class of students were borderline failing this subject where we were hardly studying anything (just reading novels and talking about them, writing journals, ‘expressing feelings’, etc). I think there was some minor panic and fixed the issue with some floofy extra credit here and there. Performances. Philosophical walks. It was a weird semester.

    5. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I tend to see “satisfactory” as “not very good” also, thanks largely to my otherwise good parents. In what I believe was an attempt to make sure my sister and I wouldn’t turn out like our underachieving brothers, the parentals instilled in us the belief that a C was one step up from a D, which was the same as an F, so a C was almost failing. I remember explaining the concept to a college teacher, who looked at me like I was nuts. I’m trying very hard to make sure I encourage my kid to get As and Bs without going overboard like this.

      1. Retail*

        Oh man I ran into that as a TA. “So many Cs! What’s going on here?” “Cs are average…” “Cs are Fs!!!”

        Of course the grade expectations of the kind of person who goes to graduate school are not the same as the average undergrad in a 100 person class so very few students ever fussed. (And final grad school grades could be A, A-, B+, or B or you’re retaking it and adding years and expense to your degree)

        1. TardyTardis*

          This is why I took PE pass/fail as soon as I was allowed to–I was ok with showing up and participating, but only the star athletes ever got As, and I knew I wasn’t one.

      2. Janie*

        Encourage them to do their best, not to get an arbitrary letter that the meaning of can be changed by the whim of the person giving it. If their best work is C-work, that’s fine.

  7. Ally Yohn*

    Op #5: I think sending a photo of a dog wearing a wedding dress might send a different message than you’re intending- even if you talked about dogs during their appointment. You send this picture and think “oh I’m so happy I got to help you pick out a dress, see this cute picture of my happy dog in a dress!” Some brides might see the same thing and think it’s cute. Others could see that same message and think “the person who sold me my wedding dress just sent me a picture of a dog in a wedding dress… are they making fun of the way I look in my dress by comparing me to a dog?” If i were on the receiving end of this photo, I can see myself becoming confused and upset because intent doesn’t always clearly convey over text. I’m sure you’re a sweet, thoughtful person but I’d stick with sending the standard thank you cards with a heartfelt message inside instead.

      1. valentine*

        Same. And I just can’t think of a way to do it unambiguously. All-dog wedding? Worse. If you dress the dog up as the ring bearer, maybe they think you’re insulting their ring-bearer nibling.

        If the boutique thank-you cards are hardcopies, though, I’d expect the brides to ditch them. Instead, send an email with a personal message so that’s what comes up when they’re looking to recommend you.

        1. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

          Internet high five for using “nibling”. I love that word (and am sad my brother and in-laws have no kids for me to use it on).

    1. Close Bracket*

      Yes, I also wondered if someone with heightened emotions, as the result of planning a wedding, say, might interpret levity as a mockery. I think I would look at is as, whoa, lady, you have really let your job take over your brain, haven’t you? I guess it’s something you have to execute carefully, and different people put their levity/mockery/back away from the wedding dresses lines in different places.

      Maybe a dog dressed as a flower dog or ring bearer would be better.

      1. Yvette*

        I have seen cards with two cute dogs dressed as a bride and a groom which would also be cute as a thank you, but this all started because she wanted to send a picture of HER dog in a wedding dress. So I think it might just be best to skip it all together. Perhaps if the photo is on her phone she could share it if and when dogs were discussed. Which might be better. Bridal shops usually don’t count on repeat business (“I get all my wedding dresses there” is not something you hear often) but they do count on referrals and anything she can do to make herself memorable and personable in addition to being good at her job would be a plus.

    2. zaracat*

      That’s where my mind was going. It’s the kind of thing that might seem funny *during* the wedding dress selection period, when a bit of humour could help offset the intensity of the wedding prep process, but not so much afterwards.

      Also, I don’t mean to be cruel to the LW, but it seems as if the intensity of those 90 minutes or so she spends with the bride-to-be feels to her like the sort of bonding session friends have – but it’s really not. It’s a business relationship. While the bride might be very grateful for LW’s professional skills as a salesperson and for their part in making the big day come together, she almost certainly doesn’t think of LW as a “friend”. To me it would feel a bit odd and boundary crossing to receive a text like this. I’d suggest just sticking to the boutique’s card. If the bride wants to pursue friendhsip or sharing text message jokes, let her make the first move.

      1. zaracat*

        On further thought, I think what makes it feel to me like it’s a bit boundary-crossing is the use of LW’s phone contact details, because it would have been implicit (or possibly even explicit) that any personal information provided by the client to the business would only be used for messages directly relating to the sale, and LW is treating them as if the number was given to her in a personal context.

        1. Daisy*

          Yes, I think texts from a business come across as quite spammy, unless it’s something like an appointment reminder. I think more people will be annoyed than like it.

          I also agree that there’s a bit of a mismatch in importance placed on this interaction. OP thinks about the brides in general a lot because it’s her job. While I’m sure the brides appreciate a nice saleswoman at the time, during one of the busiest times in their life, when they’re buying loads of stuff from loads of vendors, they’re probably not thinking as much about the woman who sold them the dress.

          1. Triplestep*

            This best describes the way I feel, too.

            Also, as a customer receiving that photo, I would wonder why the person who sold me my wedding dress assigns so little importance to this item that she’s showing one on a dog. Honestly, even if I’d had a good experience in the store, I might look back and remember it differently.

            Lastly, my experience is that people overestimate how much strangers and acquaintances want to see pet photos. This may be part of what your staff is trying to tell you, LW#5.

        2. TaterPudge*

          Per the LW, the clients have already been texted via this number to book appointments and such. It’s not like they are getting texted out of the blue by some random number.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I love getting texted to confirm appointments because it means I don’t have to talk to someone on the phone – but then that delight is going to go away fast if they are trying to use it for some kind of social contact.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Yeah. One text on the wedding day from dress shop “I hope you have a wonderful day!” would be sweet and appreciated. More than that is uncomfortable.

          2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            But she’s pointing out that getting texts beyond the intended business reason is crossing a line. I gets texts for appointments from different places all the time, but I don’t want personal messages from those same people. I’m not your friend, I’m your client.

      2. Maggie*

        Zaracat, I agree that a physical card is preferable to the phone text message. Wedding dresses in America are a huge psychological symbol of letting go of individuality, of your previous life… they’re a huge rite of passage, and some women don’t have a mother or sister there with them. If LW is making real connections, the brides will value a physical memento. I wrote Yelp reviews for over a dozen bridal shops after buying my wedding dress, and I was darn sure to include whether I felt like the staff of the shop made it a place to go and just try on or a place to go last and be ready to buy. LW is right that how she interacts with clients matters, especially for word of mouth for future sales. The card and card only feels best. Don’t cheapen a great experience with the text message.

        1. Psyche*

          Yes. I HATE receiving any texts from businesses that are not appointment reminders. Don’t do it, especially if they did not explicitly give permission for their cell number to be used for that. Just because they made an appointment that way does not mean they want additional texts and it could feel invasive.

      3. Same.*

        I would probably feel the same way, but some of my friends who’ve gotten married really do seem to feel like the photographer, caterer, etc. become friends.

        1. nonymous*

          I still keep in touch with one vendor that we considered for our catering, but it’s because she has a little cafe and does a nice job of showing off her food creations on IG. And the relationship is basically “I’ve been a fan of your business for X years.” I have a similar relationship with the guy who owns my favorite food truck business and the woman who runs my local yoga studio. Friendly but not friends.

          I did run across one couple who kept talking about their wedding vendors as friends of the BFF variety. What I discovered is that (at the time) they placed a high value on friendship reciprocity including the exchange of goods and services. For example, they prefer to host friends to stay at their home who are professional photographers. And then the friend gives them a free mini photo shoot as a thank-you, which positions their home life beautifully to share with the parents who are heavily subsidizing that lifestyle.

      4. Flower*

        I recently went through this process (still have a final fitting post-alterations coming up) and agree. They were friendly and I liked them, but the sales people and the seamstress were the salespeople and the seamstress, not my friends, and I didn’t get the impression they thought of me as a friend rather than/in addition to a customer either.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I agree. I tried on a *LOT* of wedding dresses. Some of the sales people were super nice and easy to get along with, some of them were less nice and bossy. Some of them pressured me into trying on floofy gowns I was polite about but resented them for. And then there was that poor lady that I almost gave a heart attack to (sorry about that! I did not know I had a bladder infection when I said it was ok to put me in a corset, I did not mean to pass out in your dressing room! You were very nice about it) but not a single one that I would have wanted to have social contact with after I had my dress.

      5. Ruthie*

        I agree. My wedding was a few months ago and I was really put off by a vendor whose emails were full of aphorisms and cute language “You got this, girlfriend!” And those were just form emails. I actually gave them feedback that as someone dropping a lot of money on their services, I would have preferred that it was treated like the professional business transaction I intended it to be. I’m sure the LW would use her judgment as to who would be receptive to that kind of marketing, but I’m someone who would feel like a boundary had been crossed.

      6. Pilcrow*

        This is where I land. I’d regard any followup notes as marketing material from the business, not a personal connection.

        For 99% of people, the sales person that helped them is just that, a sales person. They may have been a very good sales person and been very helpful and got me out of a bind or found me the perfect thing, but still someone who is paid by the establishment to do this job.

    3. VictorianCowgirl*

      I can’t think of any reasonable person coming to that conclusion. It’s just a silly picture, and anyone that sensitive or paranoid is in no shape to legally tie their life to someone.

      1. Liza*

        This seems a little harsh. A great many people can be anxious or sensitive for whatever reason, or might misinterpret a photograph such as this, especially at a time like a wedding when emotions are running high. That doesn’t make us incapable of leading normal lives and entering into marriage.

      2. Asenath*

        I think it’s a fairly normal human reaction – people do sometimes tend to see friendship in professional relationships, particularly when the situation is stressful – think of the people who think of their therapist or doctor as a friend! For some people, the boundary between friend and kindly professional is shaky. And some people find weddings very stressful, and so turn to the organizers as “friends” when they aren’t. Personally, in the unlikely event I ever marry, I’m going to have the celebrant, the spouse and two witnesses present since I really hate big formal affairs, but I know I’m in the tiny minority.

        I rather like dogs, but if I did go with the formal wedding dress etc etc, I’m not sure a thank-you photo of someone’s dog in a wedding dress would strike quite the right note. It’s not quite the same thing as sharing dog photos with those customers who also have dog photos to share.

      3. Lehigh*

        Did you really mean to say, “If you have anxiety, die alone”?

        It’s the first thing that came to my head, too. And AFAIK my husband is reasonably happy.

        1. Mrs. Spintown*

          This is such an inflammatory response. Is it really necessary? Yes, VictorianCowgirl’s comment came out somewhat insensitively, buy this is obviously not what they meant. No need to escalate with hyperbolic responses.

          1. WakeUp!*

            Seriously. No need to choose the worst possible interpretation of what someone said so you can criticize them for it.

        2. Anonomouse*

          I have an anxiety disorder and that didn’t cross my mind at all. Maybe VictorianCowgirl shouldn’t have been so harsh, but I agree with her point. It’s just a picture. If I were one of the brides OP works with, I would probably be too busy obsessing over other things to obsess about that picture.

      4. Pip*

        Fwiw I agree with you. A sane person might think that OP has odd taste and/or sense of boundaries, but not, “She texted me a picture of a dog – omg is she calling me a b!tch??”

      5. Ruthie*

        My wedding was a few weeks ago and as someone who had recently spent a lot of time on wedding boards, I can promise you that it would take you less than 5 minutes to find dozens of people under a lot of pressure, experiencing one of the most stressful times of their lives, and who are unusually sensitive to perceived slights as a result. I am generally a very pragmatic and level-headed person and broke down at least once over something even more minor than that.

      6. Susie Q*

        I can think of plenty of reasonable people who would think this way.

        A common slur beyond the female dog one is saying a woman looks like a dog. You are also under a lot of pressure and stress during wedding planning and dealing with crazy relatives. No one wants anything unsolicited from the woman who sold them their wedding dress.

      7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah. I see you may never have experienced extreme bullying as a child.

        I’m scarred deeply by literally being compared to dogs and given dog treats as “presents” during a holiday gift exchange.

        In my worst state, yes that may have triggered me.

        Granted now I’m able to see most people aren’t malicious, thank God. Others aren’t so lucky I’ve learned.

        And I like dogs. More than people.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          Heh – my response was “Ah, you’ve never experienced passive-aggressive Mean Girls, eh?”

          And I see your comment. I’m so sorry :(

      8. feministbookworm*

        Otherwise reasonable people can get sensitive about weird things. My grandmother was immensely offended one year when her son sent her a “Weird [State]” book for Christmas– son had moved out of state and she interpreted it as him insulting the state he was born in (and that grandmother still lived in). In fact, he’d bought himself the equivalent book for his state, and just meant it as “hey, here are all these cool things in your state you might not already know about!”

    4. Liza*

      Likewise. Out of context, long after the shopping trip has taken place, I can see people getting the wrong end of the stick. And even more people just… not quite getting the connection and having a “huh??” moment, trying to work out if this is an insult or a joke. This seems a little too personal and niche to use in a digital business card, and liable to backfire.

    5. Tiny Soprano*

      100% put your dog in a wedding dress on instagram though. That way the cuteness gets shared around but you don’t have to worry about anyone personally getting weirded out by it.

      1. Triplestep*

        Or she could drive away business from people who don’t think it’s cute, and actually a bit tone deaf.

        1. Psyche*

          I don’t think that would really drive people away. It is less off putting if someone puts a picture up on social media vs sends it to you directly.

      2. hermit crab*

        Yes, I agree that texting the photo as a follow-up is overkill, but sharing it during the appointment (especially if you are already swapping dog pictures) or putting it on social media would be great all around.

        Semi-related anecdote: My husband and I are buying a house and I feel like the “instant temporary best friend” relationship is similar to what we have going on with our realtor. And when I found the amazingly cute Valentine’s Day photo of her and her dog on instagram, I knew we had chosen the right person.

    6. JSPA*

      Yup. You love your dog, your kid, etc. But a business card should not be chosen based on, “here’s something i love more than anyone else in the world does, and I’m therefore assuming you’ll love it too.” Some people don’t find dogs cute. or even pleasant. Some people feel bad for pets in costumes. Some people will object to the comparison of their perfect day vs an animal in a costume. It DEFINITELY won’t boost your appearance of professionalism. You absolutely don’t want to send the message that a bride in a dress is comical. It’s going to carry a “we can fit anyone” subtext which is (likely as not) going to backfire: people often fear they are hard to fit, but don’t want to be compared to dogs.

      If you design for dogs, and run pet weddings, and want to transition to much more of that, go wild! Otherwise, your staff is right.

    7. Perpal*

      Agreed; the picture sounds cute in general but considering one of the common slurs for women is to call them a female dog, and brides have a reputation for being difficult, may be best not to include in an individual thank-you card. Some might wonder if there was some kind of subtle dig.
      And yes it seems “oversensitive” but one has to be careful with advertising/public relations.
      Now, that photo might look cute at LW5s personal desk, or behind the counter, or something.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        It’s an oversensitive response, but then again- they’re spending a lot of time worrying about how they look and how the dress looks. Wedding industrial complex and all.

      2. Vicky Austin*

        I agree that displaying the photo on the desk or on the wall is a cute idea. But there seems to be no good reason that I can think of for texting it to someone when your business with her is finished.

    8. Squid*

      Agreed. OP#5, there are several layers of issues here:

      1. I don’t want a text AND a card from a bridal shop–too much spam at a time when the couple is likely interacting with many other vendors.

      2. I don’t actually want a text at all. It’s just too much intimacy for a business transaction.

      3. I DEFINITELY don’t want a text making light of an expensive purchase I just made, possibly after months of consideration. For a boutique that’s been trying to create a luxury experience, the dog photo is off-message.

      4. I don’t want a text that makes me wonder, even for a moment, if it could be a dig at me. The comments are mixed here, but at this point it’s clear that at least some recipients would interpret the photo as backhandedly implying that they were ugly, unpleasant, etc. The possibility of misunderstanding is heightened by the fact that many customers will already be stressed out and sensitive about wedding planning on general and this deeply personal purchase in particular. (As pointed out, they’re primed by stereotypes about “female dog” Bridezillas, and may also be worrying about their physical appearance.)

      If you’re swapping pet pics during the session with a customer and want to show that one informally at a time when you can easily explain it if needed, that would be okay. But if you send a text, customers won’t perceive it as coming from you, their best dress-shopping bud; they’re more likely to see it as a formal marketing communication from your store. So I think you’re better off staying away from anything that’s potentially off-putting, even if the reactions in these comments only represent a small minority of people.

    9. Susie Q*

      Also as a bride, IDGAF about your dog in a wedding dress. I would also think OP is weird and lacks professional boundaries.

      1. Aveline*


        There are a small minority of people who are always thrilled at pictures of animals in human attire. That’s cool. Most people won’t care one way or the other about the content. Some might be offended.

        Nevertheless, the number of people who would find this professionally appropriate would be small.

        I think OP has the issue a lot of people have where their job gives them emotionally intimate moments with strangers. They confuse the customer’s vulnerability and the momentary intimacy with a connection.

        Lord knows, if you are a kind, sweet person, it’s easy to do. It’s not bad that OP is leaning that way, but she does need to check that impulse.

    10. Aveline*

      While I wouldn’t be offended, I might think the LW was juvenile, irreverent, or not simply not professional. Both for the boundary crossing in sending the photo and for the fact it was overly personal and twee.

      Is the LW really, really sure this will land as she expects?

      I should also point out that not everyone loves pets the same was LW does and I do. A lot of people and some cultures and subcultures don’t think animals belong in the house, much less dressed up in people clothes.

      I’m in the camp of having them in the house, but I don’t dress dogs in clothes. I wouldn’t judge LW for it, but being sent a photo of her dog in a dress wouldn’t elicit a positive response. At best, it would be a neutral one.

      Finally, I have some very hardcore animal rights activists who would not love a photo like that.

      This is one of those things where far, far more people would either be neutral or negative than those who would absolutely love it. And the consequences of having it land poorly are too great.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, that was where my mind went. In addition to that connotation, a lot of people just do not like dogs (I’m not one of them, but am aware that a lot of them exist). Some people come from the cultures where a dog is considered a dirty animal, and will react to the dog photo as if it were a picture of a pig or a rat in a dress. I would not take any chances. Maybe a unicorn in a dress?

    12. Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Bouquet!)*

      Weddings bring out the weirdness in people.

      I’m six months into wedding planning and I’m going to embroider this on a pillow. I cannot tell you how much strange behavior I’ve seen from my friends and family, and even my own behavior that startled me. I started crying over how my parents wanted to word the invitation. Seriously. I am a professional woman who prides myself on being level-headed and I had a full on sobbing fit over wording.

      I can also say from my dress shopping that OP #5 may be kind and friendly, but not every bridal shop is. On my first dress appointment, the shop owner told me that I needed a full skirt to balance my “masculine” shoulders. That one experience really soured dress shopping for me for a while, and I would have totally misinterpreted an out-of-the-blue picture of your dog in a wedding dress. But if we were hitting it off in the fitting and you asked if I had any pets, that would totally be a great opportunity to show me a cute picture.

      1. Namast'ay in Bed*

        100% to the “not every dress shopping experience is kind and friendly” – A Practical Wedding just answered a question about how to go dress shopping when the mother of the bride is going to trash talk the bride’s body, I can imagine that bride not responding well to a picture of a dog in a dress.

        Granted, the OP probably knows how to read the room, this is more for the “I don’t believe anyone could interpret the photo wrong” crowd.

        I’ll also add my vote to have the photo posted here.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Hey! Someone part of the “not tiny shoulders” crowd! My friend who weight lifts calls us “Viking Shield-maidens”. Don’t listen to the dude who thinks women need to be tiny to feel good about themselves.

    13. Archaeopteryx*

      My mind went there too… While most might find it a cute idea, there’s a good chance that at least one might misinterpret, and you definitely want to avoid that.

    14. Name of Requirement*

      Also- I don’t want to receive a “digital card” by text. Spam! Email if you have to, but a thank you card plus thank-you email seems overkill.

    15. No Tribble At All*

      +1 especially if the bride has body image issues. I was so nervous trying on dresses because I’m plus-size. I actually had a great experience, but if the salesperson had afterwards texted me “Thanks for the sale!!” with a picture of a dog in dress, I would’ve freaked out. Especially if the cut of the dress was similar and/or the dog is a round chubby dog. I don’t want to be compared to a bulldog or pug in tulle.

      In a more generic sense, I wouldn’t want a salesperson to text me afterwards. I wouldn’t know that it was from a business phone. I’d think they got my number from the sales information and put it into their personal phone, and I’d start to wonder if I’d need to block their number. The store has my address and credit card information; I don’t want any reasons to doubt their professionalism and boundaries.

    16. MommyMD*

      I would not send the dog in the wedding dress, period. To anyone. You don’t know how people are going to react. There is really no upside. And could be a downside. Just send a short thank you note. Also, what if their dog just died? All kinds of factors.

    1. PollyQ*

      I’m going to bed, but you know I’ll be checking first thing tomorrow to see The Wedding Dog (coming this spring to the Hallmark channel!)

      1. b*

        I met and adopted my pug at a dog wedding put on as a fund raiser / adoption event for a Pug rescue organization many years ago. Held in a public park with an “officiant ” and wedding cakes; many of the dog guests and couples (some triples) wore tiny dresses and tuxedos, simple to resplendent. Hilarious and endearing.

  8. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    I need to see the picture of the dog in the wedding dress, please! (And I would love it if someone sent me one.)

  9. Naomi*

    If last Thursday’s letter writer who wanted advice on turning down work with friends and family is reading this, take #1 as a cautionary tale. If you agree to work with family and it goes bad, you might not be able to escape the job even after you quit!

  10. Flash Bristow*

    OP5, can you make your physical thank you card include the dog photo? Receiving something physical is more meaningful than an email but, as Alison says, both online and off is overkill. Perhaps print out the pic of your dog and then, for people with whom you discussed your dog, you can enclose it in the card, with a handwritten “I remember we discussed our dogs – thought you’d like this photo of Flossy!”

    Remember that while many (most?) people love cute dog photos, a few are actively scared by dogs, hence having this photo as an extra, not the whole card. You can always put a tick or cross in the contacts book, just after each appointment.

    And yes, we all do need to see this dog photo. For what it’s worth, I sent “thank you” cards after Christmas which featured my goldendoodle by a festive fireplace. Show you mine if you show me yours? ;)

      1. Triplestep*

        That said, even people like me who like dogs would not have the desired response. I enjoy photos of my friends’ dogs, but seeing random dog photos makes me think “oh, your one of those people.” And if the dog is dressed in clothing, it’s the opposite of a bonding experience.

        Yes, the LW said she will often share dog photos with her customers when they are in the shop, but I don’t get the impression the “dog in a wedding dress” photo would just go to those people. My point is you don’t have to fear or dislike dogs to find this a bit off.

        1. Miss Astoria Platenclear (formerly Waiting for the Sun)*

          “The opposite of a bonding experience “ – Love that! Yes to everything you said.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a good example of one of those work things that will be charming to some people and off-putting to others. Within an office, it might sort for people who mesh; with customers, you want a bigger net.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I like this better — include it for times when the BRIDE participated in the dog discussion as well as the seamstress. If she tried to change the subject every time pets came up, leave it out.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Hoping that when Allison gets the photo (soon???) she sets it up as a new post so it’ll be easy to find.

  11. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Having said that though I don’t think you should send brides a pic of a dog in a wedding dress. It doesn’t send the right message. Weddings are expensive, upscale, formal events and I think wedding vendors should stick with dignified, professional responses not personalised cutsey ones.

    1. GermanGirl*

      Plus some people (like me) just aren’t dog persons. I’d be annoyed if I got the dog picture. And yes, I’d also think of them as less dignified than without the dog picture.

      1. Sam Sepiol*

        I am a dog person, but I hate pictures of dogs in human clothes. It would bug me, but I’d feel bad about throwing away a picture of a dog. Don’t do it!

      2. Viva*

        Came to say the same thing. I don’t like dogs. I know the majority of people does, but for me receiving such a picture would be seriously offputting and I would question my purchase there. Additionally I am allergic.
        Other questions/conclusions my mind immediately jumped to: Do they love dogs so much they let it run around in the shop? Or in the back space where all the dresses hang? Then there is surely dog hair EVERYWHERE. I should cancel my dress. I can’t have my dress close to a dog. I would have allergic reactions ALL DAY on my WEDDING DAY!! -> boom, called and cancelled.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          My dry cleaner used to have a dog that chilled in the waiting room. It didn’t bother me as I am a dog person, but I did sometimes wonder how much business they drove away from people with allergies who come to pick up their nice clean clothes only to find out that a dog has been hanging out with them.

          1. Viva*

            Haha – yes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking for another store/cleaner/cafe because the owner had their dogs running around.

      3. stump*

        At this point in my life, I’m not so much Not a Dog Person, but Not a Dog People Person. I am totally neutral to dogs themselves, but I have been metaphorically trampled too many times by That Kind of Dog Owner (like, possibly a doting but ultimately Not Very Good dog owner) to take a “HEY BUDDY HERE’S MY DOG IZZNTEE SO KYOOOOT” type greeting too positively after dropping a bunch of money on a large purchase like a wedding dress. It’s overly personal, unprofessional, and just kind of weird for a business owner to do, even if you know the customer Hecking Loves Dogs. Take it to Instagram or another appropriate venue.

        1. Anoncorporate*

          Same here! I don’t so much dislike dogs as their crazy owners with superiority complexes, and the double standard where it’s okay to not be a cat person, but not being a dog person must mean you’re broken, and if you like cats you are crazy in some way. I feel this is the attitude that extends into some people’s insistence that they bring their dog everywhere with them, because if you have a problem with it, the problem is you not them.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Wouldn’t that depend on the style of the wedding vendor? People have low-key fun weddings, too, and might appreciate a vendor who doesn’t treat it as The Most Important Day In Your Life.

      1. MsM*

        Like Allison says, though, that’s something that’s best gauged based on conversations with the customer and followed up on accordingly. I wore a white suit and made Lego centerpieces for my wedding, and I’d still be kinda weirded out by an unsolicited dog in a wedding dress photo.

      2. CheeryO*

        Yes, and you can still treat it as an important day while having fun! To each his own, but I think the dog photo would be a really cute touch for people who bonded with the LW over dogs. I know I would like it a lot, although I agree with some other commenters that a card and a text is overkill.

        1. Artemesia*

          But is she going to send a different picture or card based on those interactions? Odds are that this goes to everyone. I would not care one way or the other but I would feel it was unprofessional for this type business. And I can easily imagine people being offended by it whether wondering if they were being called a ‘dog’ or were offended by animals being anthropomorphised because they were animal lovers. It doesn’t project the classy brand imagine I would think a wedding dress consultant would want to establish. It seems jarring for a place with expensive sophisticated dresses.

          1. stump*

            That’s kind of my thought, too. Kind of like this OP decided to send out Thank Yous with their hypothetical toddler dressed up in a tiny wedding dress. Probably cute to the right audience (like Instagram, Facebook, your family/friends, etc.), but weird, overly personal, and unprofessional to blast to all your customers just because YOU personally think the photo’s model is cute and fab. They probably are! But other people, especially virtual strangers like customers, don’t have that personal relationship with them and Just Won’t Care as much!

            1. stump*

              Or another example I just thought of:

              If I was on Instagram or Tumblr or whatever and saw a photo of a cat dressed up in a blue work shirt perched on a repair person’s shoulder with the caption, “Apprentice HVAC repair cat ;)” or whatever, I’d think it was cute and like and reblog it. If I got the same photo texted to my personal cell phone after I got my air condition repaired by the HVAC repair company, I’d be really weirded out because it’s just Not Professional. I chat with repair people about pets and movies and stuff while they’re in my home working, but they’re not my friends and I don’t want them to try to pretend like there’s a friendly relationship after the fact. It’s just too overly personal to the point of verging on squicky.

              1. F.M.*

                Given the time our air conditioning was taken out by a giant rat chewing through an important wire, now I really, really want an Apprentice HVAC Repair Cat.

                And that photo. I definitely want that photo.

                But it would be weird to get it from an actual repair person after the encounter, yeah. The only business I expect to send me cute dog pictures is BarkBox.

  12. Job Hopper*

    LW1, I am glad you are out of there. Old Boss sounds like they saved $$$ on a position and stuck it all on one person…just happens to be your mom. It’s got to be overload city for you both (Kudos for making the job change!!).

    No one can be two people! I bet Old Boss keeps switching priorities for with the two-jobs-in-one position. (I’d probably get swamped and forget my own name).

    Echoing Alison here…screen the calls and texts (If you have a receptionist, you may want to give some guidance–if mom calls with an “emergency”, having a plan will head off a lot of stress.)

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d let one ’emergency’ get through and then tell Mom that ‘I can’t do your job and it is getting in the way of us having a good relationship; I won’t be taking any more emergency calls.’

  13. RabbitGal*

    OP 1, I can sort of sympathize. I work for a company that sells teapots and has frequent commercials and shows for different teapots. My mom started asking me a ton of questions during phone conversations about different varieties of teapots she saw we sold and if I’d buy her some. She has boundary issues anyway, but she did finally get the point that I didn’t want to hear about teapots unless I was getting paid for it. I started warning her and then hanging up on her if she kept going.

    1. valentine*

      I didn’t want to hear about teapots unless I was getting paid for it. I started warning her and then hanging up on her if she kept going.
      This is excellent.

  14. silvamord*

    LW5: I also work in the bridal industry, and what we do is send a quick text from the work number on the day of their wedding – nothing flash, just well wishes and lots of happiness and congratulations for their big day. I’d hold off on the pup photo, personally – as much as I love anything furry or feathery (total animal lover – own 2 cats, 2 dogs and a parrot), it may come off a bit too intimate and personal, and you never know if a client has a trigger regarding animals or not. And as previous commenters have said, it can be taken really, really differently to what you intend!

    Keep pup out of the dress and just send a simple text message wishing them well/congrats. From what we’ve experienced, it makes our couple’s day – we usually get a quick text a few days later with a huge thank you – it tells our clients that they’re more than dollar signs to us, that they’re more than just revenue and it’s an admittedly small way of us saying, we see you, you’re not just a number, and we’re so happy for you.

    Good luck!

    1. FallingSlowly*

      This seems a lovely and gracious thing to do! I’m sure your company gets extra word of mouth referrals because your clients feel the warmth.

      1. silvamord*

        Thank you! We do indeed get a lot of our business via word of mouth – we’ve also got a legion of families who won’t go anywhere else for what we do, no matter the event type. And what I do is rather niche in the industry, so I’m always surprised at the lack of client appreciation from other businesses! They’re the reason we get to do what we love, and honestly, as awesome as my job is, the clients make it so much better.

  15. Scott*

    I think the dog in a wedding dress is too much of a wild card — some recipients would like it, some would find it confusing, and some would be insulted.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      I agree. There is a certain subset of people who would find the picture of the dog in a wedding dress adorable but it has far too much potential to damage the way a bride views the business and could affect any recommendations she might give.

  16. Coffeelover*

    5. I don’t think it’s too much to get two thank yous if you had great rapport with the bride. The letter thank you is coming from the company and the text is a personal thank you from you. In my opinion, yours would be more meaningful.

    1. Coffeelover*

      I wanted to add if you do decide to send It, I think it should come off as an “in the moment” message from you and not a pre-made card.

    2. Susie Q*

      I don’t get why they would send a thank you note. I don’t want a thank you note from a merchant/vendor. I wanted something and I decided to purchase it from you for a variety of reasons. It’s not a favor or a gift that would require thanks. It’s a business agreement.

      1. Reba*

        Perhaps so for you, but a lot of businesses do this. I am totally No Fun, and even I appreciate a handwritten note in a package once in a while–even though I know I’m not really friends with the vendor, it’s a nice touch. And business vs. personal communication kind of makes sense to me here. For example, I get emails from the hair salon with specials and messages of thanks, but I also get a personal note once a year from my actual hairdresser.

        Wedding dresses are a particularly emotional purchase. And they can also be a pretty big spend! Presumably wedding boutiques don’t count on clients become repeat customers, but word of mouth is hugely important in this area, too.

        That said, I’d only send the text if you’ve previously used text to communicate with the client. I wouldn’t make it a regular thing necessarily, but go with your gut about who would appreciate it or a client with whom you had a special rapport.

  17. Not Australian*

    My mother quite literally pestered me into a nervous breakdown with phone calls at work. She rang every day, and would shout and scream when asked not to do it. Unfortunately as I had a direct line and had to deal with customers there was no way to avoid her calls, and if I was out of the office she’d just leave messages with my colleagues demanding to be called back. I was in a new role which needed all my attention and my best efforts, and she sabotaged me. The day came when I just couldn’t face going in to work any more; I ended up having to quit due to stress, and never worked full-time again.

    Looking back on it now, the unreasonable behaviour was one of the first manifestations of what – in my mother – turned out to be dementia. I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that the same is true of OP1’s mother, but I do feel this is a good moment for them to get a set of rules established so that work and their relationship can be kept very firmly in separate compartments. I know to my cost what happens if you don’t, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

    [BTW I wonder now why I didn’t tell my bosses I was struggling, but I was so grateful for the opportunity that I was afraid to show any weakness. Besides, it was embarrassing.]

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “I wonder now why I didn’t tell my bosses I was struggling”

      Sounds to me like you answered your own question: “I was afraid to show any weakness.”

    2. PollyQ*

      I also wondered if the mother was starting to have memory issues, so that she truly didn’t remember how to do things she’d previously known how to do.

    3. Meg*

      Hi, this is the writer in OP1. I don’t see any signs of mental issues other than co-dependency. Though, she is 70. I’m glad my situation doesn’t seem as bad as yours was. I have never been afraid to share what is going on (within reason of course) with my colleagues or bosses mostly because I do like having a little bit of the emotional labor. This is probably why things have been difficult for me in my situation because it is in my nature to want to help, but I know I shouldn’t. Part of me also wants to encourage her to get out because the management of the whole company isn’t the greatest. From my time there, I could tell she is the way she is due to the things they put her through. And, yes, I am still suffering from the things that happened to me there as well. As far as setting the boundaries and compartmentalize with her, i’ve Been trying to do that since I left for college out if high school 10 years ago. At times it almost feels like she resents the fact that I’m an adult.

      I do like how Allison recommended that I just don’t reply for a while. Once upon a time, I tried doing that, but that’s when my family and I were living with them and then we were living with them AND I was working for her then we weren’t living with them but still I was working for her and much more involved in the company (much more responsibility), so just ignoring calls was not an option. It will be difficult because she will say, “I know you read your text messages, why are you ignoring me? Do you hate me?” As she always does. But, I guess I need to weigh whether or not I need to ignore her and stress about her feelings or answer her and stress about boundaries and her feelings. Well….. think I just answered that one. Haha. I suppose I will attempt to only stress about her feelings and make that boundary quite clear.

  18. Cunning Linguist*

    OP5 — Adding my voice to those concerned some clients would be offended. A female dog is properly called a b***h, and a sensitive or over-frazzled bride could *easily* look at a photo of a dog in a wedding dress and go, “Is she saying I’m a b***h?!?”

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      No, actually, it’s plausible. And the 10% who jump to this conclusion outweigh the 90%’s amusement, to me.

    2. Phx Acct, now with dragons*

      Having worked in the wedding industry during college, this is EXACTLY how I think it would go down.

      Now put that dog in a mother-of-the-bride outfit…

    3. Anoncorporate*

      Even if she didn’t jump to the b**** conclusion, she might still feel insulted by it if she wasn’t already confirmed to be in the “dogs are cute” circle. Some people find being compared to an animal derogatory, especially in the context of their wedding.

    4. not a dog person*

      I definitely think this is a realistic, if not common, reaction.

      My two cents.. as a “not a dog person,” but not a dog hater either: if I just spent $$$ thousands at a bridal salon and got a cute dog text as a thank you, I’d be pretty annoyed at the cutesy-ness. Unless the salon is only carrying dresses <$1000, I'd stick to a more formal thank you.

  19. Anonandon*

    @ OP2 – Have you asked what, exactly, are the criteria they are using? At the beginning of your ‘rating period’ the leader should give you a written memo explaining, ‘This is what I consider the criteria for a superior performance.’ And then when you get to the performance review, they should be telling you ‘You did X during this rating period, and to improve you can do Y.’ And you need to push for this. You need to be able to say, “What exactly should I do next time to earn a superior evaluation?”

    If they can’t / won’t explain their grading rubric, and can’t / won’t tell you what to improve, then just accept that your evaluation is a work of fiction and your leadership is worthless.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly. Give concrete goals and understanding of how the grading system works.

      Course, that would make sense. Can’t have that.

    2. Project Manager*

      Our management (not our direct management, who would be happy to give us more info, but several layers up) explicitly refuses to give us that information because “well then people would just do everything on the checklist so they can get the highest rating”. Isn’t that…what you want, as a boss? People who go above and beyond to fulfill all the expectations of the position?

      But we’re also limited to only a handful of top ratings. I’ve gotten the top rating a few times myself, but I don’t worry too much about getting it because it measures not my performance but how visible that performance is and how much my boss is willing to go to bat to get me the top rating (quite a lot, it turns out). Just as long as I get a time off award, I’m happy.

      1. LQ*

        This sounds like people who get mad when students learn the information that’s going to be on the test because then they…know the information they are suppose to learn…

        1. Artemesia*

          A test samples the information they are supposed to learn so knowing ahead of time what is on the test means they learn like 20% of what they should know and not the 80% that isn’t sampled.

      2. Anonandon*

        “Then people would just do everything on the checklist….” Um…. Duh? You tell me what you want, and I do it. That’s how this relationship works. I don’t understand what is wrong with these people.

        And I’ve worked in jobs that limited the ‘top ratings.’ I see the logic of that, but it also has its own disadvantages. I’ve been told so many times, “You deserved the top block but my numbers couldn’t support it.” It also encourages people to play games, like reserving the top blocks for their buddies or the people they know have an upcoming promotion opportunity.

  20. Daisy*

    Yes, I think texts from a business come across as quite spammy, unless it’s something like an appointment reminder. I think more people will be annoyed than like it.

    I also agree that there’s a bit of a mismatch in importance placed on this interaction. OP thinks about the brides in general a lot because it’s her job. While I’m sure the brides appreciate a nice saleswoman at the time, during one of the busiest times in their life, when they’re buying loads of stuff from loads of vendors, they’re probably not thinking as much about the woman who sold them the dress.

  21. cncx*

    Re 0p4, i agree with everyone else that mentioning the internal candidate is too much info, and will also make the rejectees think there was an internal candidate all along, which will hurt the company’s reputation in the long run- where i come from word gets around when employers just do interviews to box tick before hiring internal candidates. So for that reason too i wouldn’t mention an internal candidate. Just say they’re strong, were shortlisted, and encourage them to reapply if a similar position comes up so they don’t think they’re blacklisted.

  22. Bagpuss*

    LW5, my immediate reaction when I read your letter was to think “Heck NO, don’t do that!” and then had to stop t think why that was m instant response.

    I think it is because for most people, their wedding is going to be a Really Big Deal, and the sorts of associations they will have / want with their dress are things like style, glamour, elegance, class, sophistication… not cutsey, slightly twee humour. I think you risk alienating people if you send a message that implies you see helping them find the perfect dress for their big day as on a par with playing dress-up with your dog.

    I think sending a thankyou card could be a nice touch, but pick something classic and elegant.

  23. Mary*

    >>she pulls the “daughter card” and says I should do it for her as a favor

    “Mom, I need to concentrate on my new job and set boundaries around my old job. Please can you do me a favour and support me?”

    1. Meg*

      Hi, i’m the writer for OP1. I think this is brilliant. I had to do this when I was quitting. At the time, I didn’t consider doing it for after because it was something I found in my research for getting a boss to stop asking you to not leave. I will have to carefully plant this one. Thanks.

  24. Birch*

    OP #5, your heart is really in the right place, but consider a few things: your brides are waaaay less invested in you than you are in them, which is appropriate because you’re providing a service they are paying for. Connecting with them on a personal level is a great bonus, but 90 minutes of great customer service is not a friendship. Second, sending texts for no reason from a business account is super spammy! I don’t give businesses my contact info unless absolutely necessary because I don’t want that kind of contact. Sure, text them appointment reminders and as someone said above, well wishes on the big day would be really nice, but anything else is spam. Third, I love dogs, I think dogs in dresses are adorable, I’m not a huge wedding person, and even I would look sideways at this–you being a professional in the fashion field, I’d want to feel like your attention is on the quality of the product you’re selling me, and the juxtaposition between the salon environment and what I’m assuming is not a professional photo of your own personal dog in a costume of the thing I’d be paying you out the nose for is… not the best feeling. Also, are you only offering this extra attention to brides who like dogs? The only way I could see this working well was if you owned your own business, had a reputation for being quirky, and used *professionally taken* dog photos on external marketing material as part of your business. Otherwise it comes across as a bit boundary-crossing. But showing photos on your phone during the appointment, as long as it doesn’t take up too much time, would be nice!

  25. Asenath*

    OP 1 – It sounds like you sometimes answer your mother, even when she calls you at work. That’s probably only encouraging her to call. And there’s no rule that daughter have to ask “how high?” when their mothers say “jump” – it’s perfectly acceptable not to have time to help her with her job, particularly when she’s been working there and handling her job for decades.

    OP 2 – Doing teacher evaluations properly is very difficult – and I would suspect that the ones you’re getting may not be well thought out. Some of the evaluations in the comments sound even worse. I’d cut back a bit on the extra work – keep some, but not enough to affect your life, especially if they aren’t things that you are being evaluated on.

    OP 4 – The interviewing I’m most familiar with is a bit different in some ways than most but we ALWAYS email a note to people who are not going to get an interview – and those who do interview but aren’t accepted are notified through a computerized process. But we do not provide information on why the applicant wasn’t accepted or interviewed or who was accepted (although that last bit will become obvious when the accepted applicant begins, it’s a small world in some ways). All we say is that there were a great many strong applicants, and unfortunately we are not able to offer them an interview. That is generally true – we do get many strong applicants and the competition is fierce, with many good ones not getting through the process. We also get a few who have “red flags” in their applications – but they still get the routine letter.

  26. LGC*

    So to build on Alison’s reply to LW2: I can see this both ways.

    My job uses a five point scale, but otherwise is similar. A 1 is “your job is in danger right now,” a 5 is “you are the best we’ve ever seen,” and a 3 is…”you’re good at your job.” The categories are poor/fair/satisfactory/good/outstanding, but we’ll very rarely give 5s. I’ve explained this a couple of times at annual review season but I still get a couple of employees who get upset about not getting 5s.

    I don’t like this review system anymore.

    On the flip side, I’ve asked questions when I’ve gotten 3s (and my last averaged 3.5)! So it goes both ways.

    I just realized our performance reviews are REALLY bad.

      1. LGC*


        IIRC – and I’m doing this from memory – it’s officially:

        1 – poor
        2 – fair
        3 – satisfactory
        4 – good
        5 – excellent

        In practice, I’ve been told that 5s are rarely to be given out, if ever. So…yeah, I don’t like that aspect.

        I’d like it better if there was more nuance allowed.

    1. A Non E. Mouse*

      The last few years we’ve gone to this type of scale, and where it’s grating on myself and a coworker:

      We were in the 3 range. Which was basically “meets expectations”, while lots of lip service was given as to how we are great at what we do, go above and beyond, etc. So our *rating* doesn’t match what we are hearing about our work.

      So when we asked for clarification, we were told that our department’s expectations were high, so that’s why we met them (instead of exceeding them).

      Ooookay, but if it’s a scale that’s in use across the company, wouldn’t that mean a 3 in a department without high expectations is viewed the same way we are for raises?


      Yeah, OK, shove your meets expectations then.

  27. LGC*

    With letter 5: I’m not sure whether you guys are a chain (possibly named after a male) or independent, but…why not make the card you guys send the dog picture? I mean, I’d get a wedding dress from the place that sent a thank-you-note like that. (I don’t know when I’d wear it since I’m 1) not currently engaged and 2) a guy, but I’d totally buy one.

    (And yeah, I’m anticipating some pushback. My feeling is that it’s a bit less “professional,” but given the field it’s probably acceptable. And I’m aware that some people just don’t like dogs, but I don’t think you’ll be able to please everyone.)

    1. Sarah*

      Oh boy. You uh…you haven’t spent time near wedding message boards, have you? There is a time for cutesy, but that time is not around a majorly emotional, hugely expensive, presumably once-in-a-lifetime event. Anything that risks a portion of customers feeling insulted or trivialized is really not worth it in an industry where you’re already meeting people in one of the most stressful periods of their life.

      LW5, I honestly gasped and said, “Oh noooo” out loud at the thought of getting a text (!) from a business number (!!) with a photo of a dog in a dress (?!?!). The reasons why have been covered, but just imagine the wedding chat boards lighting up because somebody misinterpreted this or thought it was an inappropriate way to share the photo. I suspect sharing this photo is not worth losing potential business.

      1. London Calling*

        I have to agree, the potential for taking offence is huge here. ‘You think I look like a dog in my dress??’ (and does calling a woman a dog mean the same where you live as it does in the UK? because if it does, don’t go near it).

    2. nonymous*

      I think the only way this would work is if the dogs were part of the company’s or boutique location’s overall branding. It sounds like a great image for an IG/FB account if there was some other media that was catering to the quirky pet-owner category (a lot of people have dogs at their wedding). But it would have to be part of a solid media campaign. And it could be tricky to design a cohesive marketing strategy that has segmented appeal, yet ties into a single brand.

    3. pentamom*

      You can’t please everyone but why do something that will be offensive, or at least (to people like me) not the least bit charming, when you could just not do it at all, or do something more universally understood to be appropriate and attractive?

  28. The Doctor*


    I have seen bosses deliberately “downgrade” their best workers to make them appear less attractive to outside employers, or even to other departments in the same company. The main thing it accomplishes is reducing morale to rubble.

    Maybe that’s what is happening to you.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      My office does in order to pay less for raises. It’s so annoying – I always get “outstanding” in the years where we have money for merit increases. I get “satisfactory” the years that we don’t have a lot of money to give out (our raises are tied to the rank). It has NOTHING to do with my performance and everything to do with that year’s budget. I was upset the first time it happened, because I busted my butt that year and expected to be recognized for it. I did what OP is doing, which is to stop going above and beyond in my duties. I was shocked – I actually get treated better and get higher raises now that I don’t go the extra mile. I don’t really understand it, but it sure makes my work life easier.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I say this with the following gloss: I found wedding dress shopping to be incredibly stressful and humiliating. Also, wedding dresses are very expensive. It’s a huge purchase with a lot of emotional weight attached to it.

    Had I bought my dress in a shop, I would have loved a handwritten thank you card. I think it would come across as very classy. A text is fine for an appointment reminder or a check-in in the week prior to the wedding to make sure the dress fits, etc. A text of the dog photo is probably cute but strikes me as too chummy for the situation.

    This said, if others at the store also generally like the dog photo, maybe post it once on the shop’s socials with a cute blurb and leave it at that.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Or have it made into postcards with your store contact info and leave them at the front desk for people to take *IF* they are interested. This might just be for people who know their littler family members will be interested.
      Seeing how many people are strong-pro and strong-against in this list, I’d have to suggest two postcards though — one the whimsical dog photo, and the other a serious human-elegance photo.

  30. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


    So, being successful in sales doesn’t come from being generic. Beware crowd sourcing every idea you have because there is always someone who is going to tell you something is a bad idea and if you take everyone’s opinion into account, you’ll end up being generic. IME, the highest sales earners are extraordinarily competent, efficient, attuned to their customers’ need, and personable. They attract loyal clientele that suited to them.

    What you want from these brides is referrals, which means you do want to stick in their minds. “OMG, you have to go to Wilma to get your dress. She was amazing and just the nicest person.”

    Is a dog in a wedding dress a bad idea? Not at all. It’s a great idea! Stand out! Do you want to send a dog in a wedding dress to every client? Prolly not. Test your idea out with clients where you think wedding doggie will be well received and see what happens next.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yes! My mom does alterations for formal dresses, and she is a bit quirky – she has zero internet presence, runs her business out of her 200+ year-old house, and has a gigantic Bernese mountain dog who is available for petting upon request. She gets some one-off customers who probably aren’t into her style, but she’s also amassed a huge amount of repeat customers who like her work and really seem to value the personal connection. I could easily see the dog card working for her, at least for her dog-loving customers.

    2. Important Moi*

      Look at you with your well phrased reasonable response. I wonder if your comment will even get any traction.

      For what it’s worth I agree with you.

    3. pentamom*

      This makes sense. A dog in a wedding dress is going to do zilch for some people as far as improving the impression of the business, and may be a slight negative even for the not easily offended. But for some people, it will be just the thing to create the good feelings. So don’t make it a blanket thing, but do it for the customers you think it will click with.

  31. Retail*

    #2 reminds me of customer satisfaction surveys and the way companies lose their minds over the equivalent of “satisfactory”

    At my grocery store they would print off survey comments and someone did not give us 5 stars because while nothing bad happened and they were satisfied, nobody’s perfect.

    I wonder if people have internalized that message about their own rating. If my company freaks out over 7/10 then obviously “satisfactory” means I’m getting fired.

    (One time I did a reciept survey for w-m and it wouldn’t let me give 5s all the way down!)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This really grates on me. I expected to find a box of Cheerios, and I did. There was no way the store could exceed my expectations in that department.

      I’m very loyal to my regular grocery store because they HAVE managed to exceed expectations a few times in the past*–but the opportunities to blow me away as a grocery store providing groceries are scattered.

      *Like the time we couldn’t find my kindergartener’s Hallowe’en pumpkin that she needed to take into school, on Hallowe’en so they had taken down the display, and they hunted through the store and eventually gave her one from the festive fall display around the fish counter.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        My cashier yesterday noticed that the bunch of bananas I had picked out had bruising on one side, and made sure I got a replacement. I wouldn’t say I was blown away, precisely, but I really appreciated it. There’s definitely a range on the customer service side in even pretty mundane transactions.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The thing is, for most businesses things have to go wrong for the above and beyond customer service to kick in and become visible. Whether that’s pointing out a bruise on the bananas, or spending 45 minutes trying to figure out why your debit card works everywhere but there.

          If things always go wrong in every interaction with a business, then they are not an exceeds expectations business even if their attempts to fix the problem are grand. A great business delivers what you expect with no fuss and no muss 98% of the time, and then really shines at fixing problems the 2% of the time things go wrong. Usually you need an ongoing relationship with the business for this pattern to emerge.

        2. Antilles*

          Right, but how often does that happen?
          On a day to day basis, your interaction should basically be “they had the food I wanted, at a reasonable price, with acceptable length of lines”. There are tons of ways for that to go wrong, but not really much in the way for them to shine.
          After all, if you’d noticed the bananas were bruised when you picked them up, you would have just grabbed another batch immediately. The cashier would have never had even the opportunity to shine.

      2. LQ*

        Yes, I have a phenomenal exceeds expectations grocery store story, but basically everything else is mediocre compared to that.

        The only finding top ranks acceptable is almost setting yourself up to never be phenomenal because why would you want to be phenomenal if you’re going to be judged against that in the future? (That’s the same for companies and humans. Acceptable is acceptable because sometimes you can pull out magic. I can’t magic all the time, and I shouldn’t expect it, and my boss shouldn’t expect it. But that doesn’t mean I did bad, it just means today I wasn’t magic because magic has a cost.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I just had a work project where they tried to follow up “Wow, everyone dug down and worked through the weekend and met this ridiculous deadline! Client is happy!!!!” With “So how bout the next deadline is EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS?!!! Right? Team? Where is everyone going?”

          No, I can’t do magic all the time.

      3. General Ginger*

        Unfortunately, with those surveys, anything less than a perfect score, 10/10 or whatever scale they choose, causes crappy things for retail employees (and more often than not, the immediate managers of those employees). I hate that companies do this, because what you are saying makes perfect sense — there is no way the store can exceed expectations if you’re there for a box of cereal and you buy that box of cereal — but as someone who’s worked retail and has less than fond memories of being chewed out on weekly district calls for our store’s one or two less than perfect scores, I want you to rank that box of Cheerios the best you’ve ever had.

        1. pentamom*

          I just had a situation where I was helped by a phone tech to resolve a terrible, stupid situation caused by the general incompetence of the company and the likely incompetence of a previous tech I had dealt with. The tech who helped me resolve the problem was fantastic, though.

          So I get a two question survey to answer: how likely would you be to recommend International Cat Petting to others?

          Well, that was a three (hey, if you can’t afford anything else, it gets your cat petted for you, at least) because the company itself stinks and I’m going to get out from under it as soon as feasible for me.

          Then, was the problem resolved to your satisfaction, yes or no? Well, that was yes, but I wanted to tell you that I shouldn’t have had the problem in the first place.

          So no opportunity to up-rate the employee who did a good job, or give feedback on why I think your services stink on the whole. Most worthless survey ever.

    2. Yorick*

      Starbucks asks if the employees tried to get to know you. Uh, no, not at all, but I didn’t want them to either. Is that a 1 or a 10?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        On rare occasions, when there’s no line and somehow a topic naturally arose, it’s a nice thing. But most of the time it would just be odd–I want a coffee, delivered in a pleasant and efficient manner, but no one needs to know my backstory. (Right now I’m frazzled and stressed, with excellent reason, so I’m probably most grateful to cashiers who go off script and don’t ask me how I am today.)

    3. it's me*

      I think many people don’t understand that companies will literally accept nothing less than a perfect score for these surveys. I’m sure some would say “But I’m going to answer honestly no matter what,” but knowing how it’s actually going to be used, if nothing went egregiously wrong I’m pretty much going to answer perfect for everything. No, it’s not a great system, but otherwise people are being penalized when they don’t need to be.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I always give Lyft drivers 5 stars because apparently anything less and they get penalized. If I had a terrible one I wouldn’t but most are adequate; the car is okay, they pick me up, they drive me somewhere. Obviously a 3 — meets expectations, but given the consequences, they get a 5 anyway.

        1. Aekiki*

          Yup. Only time I will down rate a driver is if they make me feel unsafe. I shared a ride with a colleague once who gave the driver one star because the driver’s car had a (not even strong) smell. I chewed him out for it. Of course he was a super privileged guy who had never worked a service job a day in his life.

        2. boo bot*

          Same. I give 5s (or 10s, or whatever) on all customer service reviews unless something truly egregious has occurred, and I think of it as, 5 = you did the thing I needed, at the time I needed it, and that is the most I have the right to reasonably expect from this service!

          Like, I get people’s on-principle, “exceeds expectations should be for truly above and beyond” thing, but (a) you have to take the real-world impact into account, which means that if everything was pretty much fine, it’s not quite fair to rate somebody negatively because they didn’t make your heart sing.

          And (b) I don’t really want my expectations to be exceeded in most circumstances. Maybe I’m just a grouch, but, I don’t want the drugstore or the taxi to be my place of spiritual renewal, I want to get what I need and be rung up by cashiers who are paid a living wage, or driven wherever I’m going without getting murdered. Good enough is usually good enough.

          1. boo bot*

            Last thought – this reminds me a bit of tipping, in the sense that the customers’ individual choices are having a major impact on the workers, in a way that the customers themselves don’t always fully understand. I remember being the one to explain to friends* in college that tips weren’t “extra” rewards for being awesome, but actually the vast majority of the servers’ wages (and therefore you HAVE TO LEAVE A TIP, DUDE).

            Forcing workers to rely on the caprice of their customers to this extent is one of the many cruel quirks of capitalism.

            *Several friends didn’t believe me (even though I was, at the time, a waitress!) I hope they learned!

            1. Anoncorporate*

              Were these international friends?

              The way the U.S. business culture treats service workers is downright inhumane. Someone’s livelihood shouldn’t be put on the line because an asshole customer thought it was worth throwing a tantrum over room temperature milk, or something.

        3. Anoncorporate*

          Yeah – I’ve even given 5s to drivers who have been rude/snippy with me or didn’t have the best sense of direction. My dealbreakers are unsafe driving and/or sexual harassment.

      2. General Ginger*

        This. Employees get penalized for less than perfect scores, even if those scores are absolutely reasonable. Satisfactory might be accurate and, you know, satisfactory — but for the employees getting that satisfactory, they might as well have gotten a poor.

    4. Concepta*


      I’ve been on the receiving end of five-point customer satisfaction surveys and it was made very clear to me by management at one point that satisfactory didn’t really mean satisfactory. It had better be mostly 5s or you’re in trouble. What’s worse is that I worked with an international group of customers, and it was not taken into account that, say, Germans (to give an example), tended to take the description at face value and would give threes and fours when they were perfectly happy, whereas Italians (also for example) tended to understand how the game was played and gave fives unless there was actually a real problem.

      So the system was useless and if you happened to have a lot of customers from certain regions in a given time period you could get in trouble.

      And that’s why I always give full marks on those customer satisfaction surveys, unless of course there’s an actual problem that is clearly the fault of the employee. People who have the type of jobs where they’re being evaluated by the idiot public tend not to be paid enough to deal with that shit, and who knows if their manager/company is reasonable or not?

    5. Anoncorporate*

      It took me a while to learn that for Uber/Lyft drivers, getting anything less than a 5-star average could derail a driver’s job. Until then, I had been giving people 4s as a base rating, and I felt like the equivalent of a puppy murderer.

  32. Smithy*

    OP 4, I agree with AAM that candidates likely will assume that it was always the plan. And for a more senior position where candidates are just a bit more savvy, feeling like their time may have been wasted isn’t great.

    However if the roll is more junior, I would be more inclined to feature that. For recent grads, I think that not getting a job can still feel a bit more personal. After competitive processes largely being around school admissions, for some the transition to job seeking can take a bit more time to mentally click. Because of that, I think sharing that you went with an internal candidate can be helpful in changing that mindset.

  33. Similar to LW3 but PTSD*

    My story is somewhat similar to LW3, but instead of alcoholism I had undiagnosed PTSD that, between #metoo, the election, and other factors had reached a fever pitch. I was a fairly strong performer but acted inappropriately at times and picked some unnecessary fights with my boss. My boss ended up resigning, and shortly after that I was diagnosed and received treatment.

    I still struggle with shame over some of the ways I acted, so sometimes I want to reach out, but I’ve decided not to–because I know that something I do when I’m anxious is seek reassurance, which is what I’d be doing by emailing her–asking for “reassurance” that she doesn’t hate me, understands me, etc. But for me, doing that never actually eases my anxiety, it just starts the cycle over again. I’m not sure if this applies to the LW, but the “it keeps me up at night” part does ring some alarms.

    It was just a job, and it doesn’t sound like you did anything cruel. People get fired all the time. Just my two cents.

    1. JPlummer*

      Very insightful comments. I agree. I am not sure what LW3 hopes to gain here. It is likely the former employer, who might not remember LW3, will fall short of providing the peace of mind or reassurance LW seeks. And former employer might feel manipulated or put on the spot by an out-of-the-blue contact from a terminated employee from yrs ago.

      When LW3 asks ,”Would they have treated me the same had they had all the information (ie., an employee suffering from alcoholism)?” I wonder why that is weighing so heavily on LW’s mind. As Similar to LW3 said, it’s just a job.

      But 18 months of sobriety, that’s huge! And could be, if you let it, a springboard to a bright future.

  34. WellRed*

    OP 1, quit saying they can contract you. It’s already been shown not to work with mom, you say you don’t have time to do it, I think, and you are muddying already muddled waters. Take a break from the job and mom.

    1. Meg*

      Yea. I started considering that I should formally take that suggestion from her so that she feels less like she can ask. Originally l, I offered because there was something I messed up on and would have to go back to the office to fix At year end. I am also working on developing a program to offer to them for purchase once it is completed, so I wanted to be able to keep the door cracked as it were.

  35. Wednesday's Child*

    LW2– Does your evaluation model include a rubric? Is it observation-evaluation based? I’m in school administration and we use Charlotte Danielson’s model for observations and evaluations. Each observation area has a rubric with descriptors for each rating level. In our post-observation, teachers can present evidence to justify their self-evaluation rating before getting their final/admin rating.

    However, my state was quite clear that a good or very good teacher is still “proficient” unless they have evidence that they are “distinguished.” This came about because many schools were reporting a majority of distinguished educators while the student scores were poor. (I realize this is opening a can of worms about standardized testing, teaching to the test, the scope of education, etc., and I expect conversation about it will get a derail warning from Alison.)

    The extracurricular activities you mention will be a benefit if you plan to change schools or move into administration. Are some of these things that most teachers do? I wouldn’t think badly of a teacher who couldn’t come to the basketball game because of family obligations, but I would probably say something to a teacher who said they weren’t attending a department or faculty meeting, or who didn’t want to attend an off-site single day conference (unless they had something particularly special planned for class that day.)

  36. Hold My Cosmo*

    LW #2 based on the experiences of my family and friends, teacher evaluations are often used to push out senior employees who are higher up on the pay scale, so they can replace them with fresh grads at the lowest salary step. It’s a workaround to avoid union backlash.

    One of the last straws before my husband quit teaching was when his vice principal gave him a bad score on his walk-through observation based on the fact that he took a sip of water during a 45-minute lecture. He was told that consuming food or drink, when the students couldn’t, wasn’t “fair” to them. (The absolute last straw was when repeated requests for coverage so he could use the bathroom were denied, and he soiled himself. Teachers are expected to be robots, with nothing going in or coming out.)

    Dial back your efforts, and sleep soundly at night knowing that you deserve a life of your own. You do not get paid enough to put up with this BS.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      My teacher friend, who is doing early retirement, got a 1 for having a two cup coffee machine in her room, and a coffee mug on her desk.

      She had that set up until last year. Did the new principal say, “Hey, Charmander! Lose the coffee machine and mug.” Nope gave her 1s for that, 1s for copyrighted characters on her bulletin board, 1s for not using email for “Week in Review” updates. Her school is in a very low socioeconomic area. In her current class, 4 families have internet access.

      Anyhoo, she scored a better job in the private sector. Will miss the Littles, but not the BS.

  37. blackcat*

    #1, I think you need to set a firm boundary with your mom, and maybe just don’t take any calls from her for a week or two. You need to reset the dynamic.

    It sounds like she didn’t fully view you as an employee while you were there–her idea is that you “owe” her help because you’re her daughter. That doesn’t like up with someone who was viewing you as a professional in your old job.

    As some others have said, I’d stop offering to contract and just say, “I need a clean break from Old Job so that I can focus on New Job.” And then use the great phrase “That won’t be possible.”

    If you’re spending time with your mom and she tries to rope you into work things, give her one warning (“I’m here to spend time with you, not work.”) and then leave if she persists. This is going to feel super rude the first time you do it, but it’s not! She’s the one being rude by continuing to push after you said no. To make this strategy work, I’d avoid spending time with her in your home for a while, just so you can always leave.

    If she’s even vaguely reasonable, she’ll stop pestering you after you enforce boundaries for a while. If you can teach her that requesting work from you means she doesn’t see/hear from you for a week or more, she’ll likely stop.

  38. LQ*

    I have a coworker who has been asked for advise she cannot give a few times lately by a mutual friend. She’s taken to just responding to those questions with adorable child photos. I think it’s a brilliant strategy and would work really well for mom.

    I also think you should stop saying that they can contract with you. Assume you’re not going to get the contract for extra money and go right for “I forgot here’s a baby/dog/cat/home project/craft/food/bike/houseplant photo”.

  39. Quackeen*

    Not here for a dog in a wedding dress…am here for LW #3.

    I’ve been on both sides of this (although with mental health issues and not alcoholism). I’ve sent the letter to a former manager, thanking her for her kindness at a time when I didn’t know what to do with it, and I’ve received such a letter. Both are extremely valuable, in related but very different ways.

    Congratulations on your sobriety, your emotional growth, and your ability to look clearly at what was likely a devastating and precarious time in your life. I wish you all the best.

  40. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – if your former boss wasn’t your mom, would you continue to help them? Follow Alison’s advice…set clear boundaries with your mother. Have ONE conversation with her, outside of her asking for your help. Explain what you said in your letter – you trained her before you left and created documentation for her to follow. And tell her that you can’t help her anymore. I would stop bringing up the part about setting up a contract for you to get paid for helping, because clearly that’s not an option. Then after that conversation, screen the calls and keep saying no. If she decides to give you the silent treatment because of it, that’s on her. I realize she’s your mother, but you need to draw clear boundaries, and stop allowing her to guilt you into helping her.

  41. MatKnifeNinja*

    I’ve worked in two school districts. I did not have the 1-4 evaluation, but word on the street is district told the school administrators the total score should not equal 4.

    So… you can get a few 4s on a category, but you’ll never be exceptional EVER.

    Part of this for those schools, is there is a strong teachers’ union. Exceptional teachers can ask for more money. My teacher friends in states with weak or no unions, it’s to keep costs down for the same reason. It also makes it easier to let go older, more expensive teachers. Teacher with 20 years experience getting dinged with a whole bunch of two. Few crud reviews, and it’s easier to replace you with a fairly new just hatch teacher who thrilled to have a job.

    First year the review system kicked in, and handful of teachers retired. The next year anyone that could left. District didn’t care because you can make a new teacher work long hours and the pay is almost half.

    I wouldn’t dump all the extras. That happened at my school. The teachers did *forget this*, and stop all the goodies. The next year the administration mandated all teachers had to do something. The union contract had wiggle room to let that go forward. You were paid for hosting Spanish Club, but you still had to do it. It wasn’t optional anymore.

    My advice is…if you have 5 years to retire, keep your head down low and do just enough to get the 3s, and count down the days. Realize the bulk of the stupidity is payroll. If you are anything like my friends, you truly deserve all 4s. Teaching has changed so much. Do enough not to be a target, close your door and teach your kids.

    My one friend has 26 years in teaching, and is taking early retirement. When from Teacher of the Year, and now is seeing 2s on her evaluations. It’s awful.

    Good luck. There are teacher forum boards which have discussed this cruddy, new evaluation systems. No one gets 4s, because that means you don’t have room to grow. (eye roll)

  42. Maya Elena*

    LW2, I would also not take the evaluation personally and also only so the extras out of personal motivation, and not for pats on the head.

    The evaluation system in a relative’s school is bonkers and gives the same ratings to the people’s with PhDs in their subjects and those who can barely copy the textbook onto the board or PowerPoint.

    1. Mary*

      As someone with a PhD, I would just point out that having a PhD in your subject BY NO MEANS means that you can effectively communicate it to 15 year olds! :)

    1. Birch*

      Weddings are really important/significant/serious/religious/expensive events for a lot of people and it’s not wild to consider that those people might not feel great about someone involved in the process seeming to make a joke about it.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I agree. If I received something like that, I’d probably roll my eyes over it, but I wouldn’t get my panties in a twist about it.

  43. Boredatwork*

    op #5 – I would think it’s weirdly invasive to receive a text message from a bridal shop. Full disclosure I’m on the other end of data privacy, I would be PISSED.

    I do think if you want to compose a generic but specific, thank you email to your brides with your dog, and some nice things about your experience with them, that would be totally fine. I would absolutely be in the picture with your dog.

    That way it cuts down on the – do you think I’m a dog? – to oh, OP loves HER dog, and is being cute. It can also be a “signature” thing you do.

    1. Genny*

      If you absolutely must include the dog picture (which I’d recommend not doing), I think including yourself in the picture is one of the better ways of doing it.

  44. T*

    #2 I have worked at more than one company that played this game with reviews. I would verbally get a great review, with my boss noting I was doing an excellent job and doing well above my required performance index. I would then get a satisfactory rating on my written review that went to HR. Yes this is BS, but neither company was doing that well financially and they had only so much bonus money and raises to distribute to the entire company. Giving you a satisfactory on your review can be a way to justify to crappy bonuses and raises that may be headed your way. I should also note we all got the same rating unless someone was about to be fired.

  45. Matilda Jefferies*

    #3, congratulations on 18 months of sobriety! That’s an incredible amount of hard work, and you should be very proud of yourself.

    I just want to share my experience as someone who has received the kind of letter you’re talking about. The person who wrote to me has done a lot of harm to my family through alcohol and drug use, and I’m sure it was incredibly difficult for her to write that letter. She identified the impact her actions had on me and my children, and took responsibility and apologized without making excuses. It doesn’t “fix” anything, because our relationship was pretty irretrievably broken by that point. But even so I really appreciated the time and effort she put into that letter – it meant a lot to me that she recognized that I was one of the people she had harmed, and the courage it must have taken to reach out like that.

    So I would say yes, write to your former boss. As Alison says, peace of mind for you is a worthwhile goal in itself. And it sounds like your boss is an empathetic person who cares about your well-being – my guess is she would be happy to hear from you. Best of luck.

  46. Log Lady*

    Re: the dog in the wedding dress.. I absolutely love dogs, but seeing photos of animals in human clothing really bothers me for some unknown reason (I compare it to those posters of babies doing adult things like playing instruments, etc. – the Office anyone?). Plus, I would consider it overbearing at best to receive a text message that isn’t business related from a place I’m doing business with, especially wedding-related. If you’re trying to create an upscale or luxurious environment for your clients, that picture will negate that. It just seems like there’s way too much room for negative reactions to risk sending the picture, unless you meet a client with a specific enthusiasm for dogs-in-clothes pictures…

    1. Elle Poppet*

      Seeing photos of animals in human clothes bothers me too. They never look comfortable and I find it disturbing rather than cute. I also find it a little exploitative, especially if you’re going to use your own pet to promote a business that isn’t related to pets or pet clothing – animals can’t consent to being squished into a wedding dress. I would definitely find it very offputting and distasteful if a business I’d used sent me a picture of their dog dressed up.

      1. costume teapot*

        I’m really curious about this anti-pooch-in-clothing sentiment I’m seeing here. I don’t mean to single you out specifically and would be glad to hear from anyone on it. Why is it that human-clothing bothers? What is human-clothing vs dog-clothing? Or is clothing at all on an animal unacceptable?
        I ask because part of me wonders how much people are bothered by the sweaters, coats, and shirts we put on our dog. He has very little body fat and literally the shortest coat I’ve seen on a dog before. To not bundle him up in freezing cold weather would be, in my opinion, akin to abuse for him. Watching him tremble in frigid temperatures is awful…and he’s always *so* excited to get dressed when we pull out his winter clothing.

        1. Log Lady*

          In my experience, I’m able to differentiate between animals wearing clothes for the explicit benefit of the human, versus animals wearing clothes for their own comfort/safety/etc. In your case, it makes sense to put your dog in a sweater for his own comfort and wellbeing. A friend of mine puts rain vests on her Rottweilers when she takes them out in rainy weather – same deal. In the case of the LW, it’s putting an animal in a potentially uncomfortable situation explicitly for the amusement or entertainment of humans. You know?

        2. Elle Poppet*

          Dog sweaters and jackets I have absolutely no issue with, because there’s a practical reason for it!

          It’s things like wedding dresses, Christmas elf costumes, reindeer antlers, Halloween costumes that bother me – costumes that have no practical use whatsoever. Like Log Lady says, the aspect that bothers me is making the animal uncomfortable solely for the benefit of humans. But jackets to keep your dog warm and dry on a long walk – absolutely fine and reasonable, and does not bother me at all, because it’s for the dogs benefit and well-being!

      2. Log Lady*

        Completely agree, and that’s a great explanation to frame it with – minor league exploitation of animals for the benefit of humans, and in a business transaction to boot. Definitely offputting, and it would make me question going forward with a vendor if I was a customer.

  47. Jessen*

    LW1, sometimes poor reception is magic. Or being busy and forgetting your phone. Or something. If you think a reasonable conversation would work, go for it – but if it doesn’t, sometimes just becoming unreliable enough to not be worth it is the way to go.

      1. Jessen*

        Yup. With some parents it’s just smarter to have something that’s totally out of your control as a reason why you can’t possibly answer them. Even if it’s…stretching the truth a bit.

  48. LaDeeDa*

    Most employees are good solid employees- they are Satisfactory. There is nothing wrong with being a good, solid employee. About 60-70% of the workforce falls into that category. Not everyone can be an awesome, outstanding, high-potential employee. It just isn’t possible.
    It usually isn’t the extras that make a person outstanding, it is how they transform their role or their organization, it is being innovative and going above and beyond in their role- not in taking on extra activities that aren’t related to their job. An employee is being evaluated on their job description, not the extra things they sign up for. For example; I am on the leadership committee for an employee resource group at my company- that is not part of my job and doesn’t come up in my evaluations. The benefits I get from that are personal/professional- not in performance measures.

  49. Rey*

    OP #5: I assume your bridal salon has a manager or store owner. I would ask them if this is okay or not–as it’s their salon and you’re sending it from the salon’s number.

  50. CupcakeCounter*

    That sucks and pulling back on those “extras” is completely appropriate and warranted. I will say that if there is an activity that you truly enjoy doing, keep doing it because YOU like it and if you take Alison’s advice and keep a few items, I would prioritize activities that have direct impact on the students (vs the administration).

  51. Coughy McCougherson*

    LW 2 – I was in a similar situation, with a twist. I worked for a state university, so bonuses and off cycle raises are just not a thing below senior university administration. I would consistently get, on a scale of Exceeds/Meets/Does Not Meet, Exceeds on 90% of the categories, with glowing reviews and numerous compliments from all levels of my department. The pool of money available to give raises was limited, so to give one person more than the “average” meant that you HAD to give someone else less. My department refused to do this, so, no matter how you performed, everyone got the same. That meant that I got the same as the person who replaced me in a previous position, who his manager and others recognized could not fully perform the position, even after three years, and gave me a chunk of his work to do, since I used to do it!

    What that long-winded explanation boils down to is this: I was completely demoralized. Why should I bother doing my work at all, if I could fail, repeatedly, and still get the same reward? I care about my personal reputation, so for work that involved people outside of my department I still went above and beyond, but for work within my department I started slacking off. A good co-worker friend pointed out that my slacking off was still miles above most of our co-workers’ working hard, but still, psychologically, it made me feel so much better. I wish employers/managers did a better job at making people feel valued.

  52. Trek*

    Your mom isn’t listening to you say no because she believes she has all the power in this situation as your mom and former boss. She doesn’t. When she plays the daughter card state: ‘I’m sorry I thought this was work related. Please have someone from XYZ company call me to discuss my continued assistance.’

    To create a paper trail I recommend sending an email to your mom explaining why you cannot continue to assist her and that you left all documents and information behind for her. Make sure you write it as though you were talking to your boss not your mom and include your hourly rate for continued assistance, at least 3x your prior rate of pay. Take her very next call and then send the bill with the request that it is paid within 30 days. She will probably lose it but tell her you will cancel this one invoice but if she reaches out again you will bill the last month of time directly to her boss.

  53. BatmansRobyn*

    OP5- I’m a Dog Person and I’d be pretty put off by receiving a text from any store that consisted of anything other than a specifically-requested status update on my dress. It’d be one thing if you clicked enough with your brides that they gave you their number to hang out after hours, but it would feel like a pretty big invasion of privacy to get unsolicited picture messages from the store’s booking system.

    A dog in a wedding dress is a bold choice for the picture to send, too. Wedding dresses are expensive, and the shopping process is super personal and fraught. I’d probably think it was inoffensively weird, but I could absolutely see someone seeing that and feeling put out that someone is comparing something as big and important as a wedding dress to….clothes for dogs. Those are things that might be okay to receive from a friend, but inappropriate coming from a sales person I worked with once for a 90min consult.

    1. Jennifer*

      It sounds just like a simple “thanks for your business” text. I get those from my dentist and eye doctor as well.

      1. BatmansRobyn*

        That’s weird to me too! But it’s especially weird to think that an individual salesperson would use the business phone to get my contact info and then text me what they think is a cute/funny picture of their own pet after showing me a bunch of dog pictures during my wedding dress fitting.

        Maybe I’m just old fashioned but that seems like an inappropriate level of comfort based on one interaction. It’d be like if your hygienist started texting you pictures of dancing molars.

  54. Jennifer*

    #5 I would have adored receiving a photo of a dog in a wedding dress back when I was wedding planning. I’m confused as fo how it would up sales if you are only sending it to those who have already bought dresses? Maybe you’re hoping they will send in future brides or buy bridesmaids dresses there? Either way, adorable.

  55. Yorick*

    I say don’t send brides a text with a dog photo, but a dog in a wedding dress might be a good ad for the store.

    1. Ginger*

      That reminds me of some grad school professors who capped how many As were earned in each class. It was like, OK cool, tank my GPA compared to other schools?

  56. Ginger*

    OP5 – after I purchased my wedding gown, I received a handwritten thank you card from my salesperson with personal notes (ie, you will look gorgeous at *venue name*) and well written thank you for the business. She also included an email address to send picture to and encouraged social media tags which is all good for their business but it was worded gently, not pushy. The card was from the store I purchased the gown, it was written by my salesperson. I liked my salesperson, she made the experience really nice but I bought the gown because I liked the gown. Any other personal contact outside the store’s channel would feel really weird.

    I like to keep mementos of big events and this card is tucked into my wedding album along with a ribbon from my bouquet and dinner menu.

    My advice to you is to keep your communications in the professional lane.

  57. TootsNYC*

    #1: mom calls with questions

    I have a mom-type script for you.

    I am a mom who has been bad at this.
    And I had a mom who was GOOD at this.

    My mother said to us, when we asked her for help with something she thought we could do ourselves: “If I wasn’t here, what would you do?”
    And she said, “I’m not going to do something for you that you can do for yourself. How will you learn, if I do things for you?”
    As a result, I have developed a great sense of initiative. It’s one of my most valuable traits, and one I wanted to develop in my own kids.

    But as a mom, I totally blew it. (I had help in “blowing it” from my husband, who actually spent more time with them.) When my kid was trying to plug in a powerstrip at Grandpa’s, he came back out and said, “There isn’t an outlet” (there had to be–a lamp cord went to that corner). And then, “I can’t get the plug in,” and when I went in, I realized that all he had to do was move something out of the way, or rearrange what was plugged in where. And yet he came to me to fix it.

    So maybe say to your mom: “I’m not going to answer these anymore. I can’t be stepping in to do everything for you, or you won’t be able to do it yourself. And I don’t have time to life your life AND mine. Remember–at a certain point, you stopped tying my shoes for me, and I had to learn on my own. That’s what’s going on here, it’s just that the roles are reversed.”

    As for the “daughter card,” try: “Daughters help with cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and they go shopping for a new couch with you. They don’t do your job for you. I don’t work there anymore, Mom.”

  58. TootsNYC*

    #3, if I cared enough about you to ask what was going on, and to give you room to tell me, it would gladden my heart SO VERY MUCH to hear that you had faced an addiction and were dealing with it, and even more if you were having success.

    So think not only of your own peace of mind, but of the peace you might bring to that boss.

    It would also make me think of my experience with you as being in two categories: The real you, and the you afflicted by the addiction. And that might mean all the difference in what kind of reference I could give you.

  59. Jennifer*

    #1 Screen her calls and then call her back a few days later and don’t even bring it up. Start talking about things you would normally discuss. If she brings it up, tell her you can’t help her and continue with the conversation. Rinse and repeat as needed. Don’t give any excuses or give a prolonged explanation as to why because that just gives her more reason to argue with you.

    Standing up to a parent even as an adult can be scary, so I understand the hesitation. It seems your mom cares about you and you wouldn’t lose your relationship with her entirely over this. It’s just a bump in the road. Best wishes.

  60. Lisa Babs*

    To OP # 5. Instead of putting the dog picture in the thank you note I would suggest maybe having an instagram account where that picture (and fun pictures like it) can be. Because some people will love it, others won’t. And instagram is much more appropriate for pictures like that.

    Also I’m team send real thank you note instead of text message. That is not the best use for a text message. Sending a thank you note in the mail (or email) mentioning the bride-to-be is welcome to send a picture of them in their wedding dress that your boutique can share on social media and then include your social media info. Some will check it out and then see your doggy picture that way.

  61. nnn*

    I was in a situation like #2 when, unbeknownst to me, my employer moved to an evaluation system where managers were limited in the number of Outstanding ratings they could give, at the same time as it restructured the team. I had previously gotten all outstanding all the time, and then suddenly I was getting a combination of Satisfactory and Exceeds Expectations.

    It turns out that, given the size of my new team, my manager was only allowed to give one Outstanding. And since I’m clearly not the single best person on my new team, I can’t get that rating.

  62. Wew laddie*

    TIL that despite this commentariat positing itself as the most logical, rational, and professional group anywhere ever, it turns out a significant amount of people think that receiving a cute picture of a dog means the sender thinks you’re a dog??? And evidently the “know your field” advice doesn’t apply to that OP???

    1. AnotherKate*

      Yeah, I’m finding it all pretty ridiculous.

      There are good enough reasons not to send that particular photo that don’t have to be “Because wimminz are so irrational about their weddings!”

    2. Jadelyn*

      Yeah I gotta say I’m pretty baffled by the level of taking offense that seems to be happening, and “the bride might think you’re calling her a b****!” seems to me to be, shall we say, a bit of a reach?

      A pic of a dog in a wedding dress falls into the same category as any other cheesy but innocuous cute-animal photo that businesses use in their marketing materials. Really not the end of the world, I wouldn’t think.

  63. MissDisplaced*

    Maybe save the cute dog in the bridal dress photo for sharing on your social media?
    You could even make a thing of it, asking for people to show or share their own wedding dress photos for a small prize or something.

  64. Essess*

    If you are going to send out pictures of a dog in a wedding dress, be sure that the dress doesn’t look just like the one that your client purchased. I would have been insulted to get a picture of a dog in my wedding dress.

  65. agnes*

    I wouldn’t send a picture of your dog in a wedding dress. It’s cute, but easily misinterpreted. Keep it simple.

  66. I coulda been a lawyer*

    About the internal candidate thing … while it’s true that generally speaking headquarters wants us to promote from within, there are many, many times we are begging to hire externally but we have no applicants. Yes we have 10 people who can fill in the lines while painting the teapot, but 8 struggle to follow the template and the other 2 don’t know what the words “original design” mean. Or even “come to work sober”. Please apply!

  67. designbot*

    OP #2, I know this isn’t exactly what you asked, but I wanted to share a way I’ve successfully pushed back against this sort of evaluation in the past in case it might be helpful in the future. I did one evaluation where the whole conversation was great, they said lovely things about me, etc. etc. but then I looked at the numbers and they were… middling. They could tell immediately that I was not happy with this (I have a very transparent face), gave me the whole speel about how they needed to leave me room to grow, etc. We talked but in the end I held firm and said, “look, the thing it comes down to for me is this, that these numbers do not reflect the tenor of the conversation we just had. You sounded extremely pleased with my performance, and these numbers, and the descriptions attached to them, just don’t reflect that same outlook.” A few weeks later, my boss came back to me and said he got my ratings changed. So it can be done!

  68. Jasper Perkins*

    To OP #3: As a recovering alcoholic who went through a similar journey at work, I can tell you that you will feel much better sending that note, even if you never hear anything back. Whether the people you worked with knew what was going on with you or not (and in my experience they usually do, much more readily than we in active addiction might think at the time), they saw you were in rough shape, cared deeply but realized there was nothing they could do to help. But knowing that you’ve faced your addiction and emerged into sobriety will likely mean a lot to them. Dealing with addiction is hard; so is watching someone near you go through it. Letting them know will be a great kindness to them. Congratulations on 18 months!

  69. Liz*

    OP3, I’ve let a number of employees go over the years and I always wonder about them. I often wonder, did I do everything I could do to help that person be successful? What was really going on with them? Why did all of the things I tried to do not work with that person? It has kept me up at night, too.

    With very few exceptions, I would love to hear an update from folks explaining what the heck was going on and how they’re doing now. Send the update to your former manager. What’s the worst that could happen?

  70. No Longer Indefinite Contract Attorney*

    I’m getting married this year and am part of a bridal community online. I posed LW#5’s question to the group. No one had any issue with the “dog in a wedding dress part,”…everyone was kicking up because they didn’t want to be contacted that many times.
    Hope that helps give a little perspective!

    1. Jadelyn*

      Yes, this – that’s where I’d have the issue. You’ve already thanked me, we have concluded our transaction, why are you texting me? Am I supposed to reply? Does replying invite even further contact? Why would we stay in touch, I’m not exactly intending to have to do this whole wedding thing over again anytime soon.

  71. planetmort*

    I feel like I need to be the dissenting opinion on OP #3, with a caveat. That caveat is if you will never be going back there looking for work, and if you have no professional or personal overlaps with your former boss, then if you think it will significantly help you emotionally to unburden yourself to your former boss, then okay. But otherwise, I would be *very* cautious about coming clean regarding an addiction with someone in a professional context.

    I’ve got many recovering alcoholics in my family, many with long-term sobriety, and have seen that kind of honesty really bite people. Frankly, the folks who’ve kept their addiction on a need-to-know basis (12 step programs are anonymous for a reason) fare better in the working world for sure. It’d be great if we lived in a world where everyone treated addiction like a chronic illness (like, say, diabetes) and it wasn’t something they got judgmental or fearful about, but we don’t. Many people, even high-EQ compassionate people view addiction through a different lens than they do other chronic illnesses, and will treat you as broken at best, or as a straight up bad person at worst.

    Again, if you don’t think this person will be able to affect your future working life and it will help you emotionally to come clean, then it’s probably not bad to do so. But if you’re in an industry where your addiction might become common knowledge (due to it being a small community, or similar), it could indeed be a problem.

  72. hate being late*

    My mom does not respect boundaries and used to call me at work all the time. I told her my work number was for emergencies only, but her idea of what constitutes as an emergency was vastly different than mine. I finally got results by not answering her calls during the day – but what helped was that she only had my cell phone number so I could set my ring tone (from her only) to silent so that others in the office wouldn’t wonder about me ignoring a ringing phone.

  73. sequined histories*

    Letter Writer #2:
    The situation you describe is typical for public school teachers. I’ve spent 12 and a half years teaching. I was satisfactory for awhile, then excellent for awhile, then satisfactory for awhile again, and now I’m going through a second excellent phase. Has my job performance actually been seesawing? No. Absolutely not.

    If they want to keep you there, they have to say that you are either satisfactory or excellent. If they want to get rid of you, they have to say you are less than satisfactory. That’s it–end of story. They know it, and now you know it, too.

    Ask yourself:
    1. Is teaching in a public school what I want to do for a living?
    2. Is my school a decent place for the staff and students, such that I want to continue working here?
    3. Do I do the best that I can as a teacher, while also honorably fulfilling my other obligations in life and taking care of myself well enough that I can come back to this year after year feeling healthy, hopeful, and not suffering from burn out?
    4. Do I have and pursue my own goals for improving as a teacher, irrespective of my evaluation and without regard to whatever edu-blather is on the latest rubric?

    If you can answer “yes” to these 4 questions, you are 100% in clear, at least in my humble opinion. Running yourself ragged to satisfy . . . what? . . . an observation tool? . . . a particular supervisor? would actually be detrimental, especially in the long-run. Any “extras” should be undertaken based on your own sense of what is personally fulfilling, helps you improve as a teacher, and/or fulfills an unmet need at your school but doesn’t detract so much from your own quality of life that your answer to #3 changes from “yes” to “no.”

    Those of us who end up as teachers are often the sort of people who would strive for all A’s when we were students, but to teach long term, we really have to put that compulsion aside. It might help to think about the fact that you are not really the “employee” of your direct supervisor or of your school. Ultimately, your purpose is to serve the larger public good. I believe students benefit a lot from having healthy and experienced teachers. Exhausting yourself in a futile attempt to achieve a meaningless distinction does not keep you healthy enough to give future students the benefit of your experience.

    Having a strong work ethic is good. Striving for excellence is good. But putting aside an emotional investment in being declared “Excellent” instead of “Satisfactory” isn’t just acceptable, it is the best thing for you, your family, and your students.

  74. Observer*

    #5 All of the people who have told you about how someone could perceive this negatively are just scratching the surface. The bottom line is that stuff like this just doesn’t work on a routine scale.

  75. Just Stoppin' By To Chat*

    Re: #1 – This might just be my personal experience talking, but I’m wondering if the mom is insecure about her job/feels like she’s about to be fired, etc., and is looking to daughter to help save her job. Hopefully she would spell that out, but I worked with (not for…can’t believe a company allowed that) my very insecure, passive-aggressive mom for a while early on in my career, and I could hear her voice coming through as I read #1. My mom’s MO (both at home and at work), was to freak out about not knowing how to do something, and then my family would feel like we had to jump in and help/fix it for her. Wondering if that’s the same dynamic in #1. And yes, I know we are a family of enablers!

  76. OP #2 - The Teacher*

    OP #2 Here-
    Thanks for all of the valuable feedback from Alison and you wonderful commentators.
    Just to answer a few questions:
    -My supervisor/principal isn’t giving me a low grade to keep me from transferring.
    – We do send in evidence via email to help our supervisors in their evaluation. I sent in a lot. In the future I won’t spend any time on it.
    -Yes, there was a long written section (glowing) that goes along with the categories and for me they truly didn’t add up until I realized our school’s norms.
    -I know people at HQ who say that principals are not judged negatively based on how many high grades they give out. My friends at other schools get much higher scores than at my location.
    -Sequined histories posted four marvelous questions and I can answer yes to them all.
    – I followed Allison’s advice (concerning payroll) and asked a lot of the teachers who were evaluated the past year or two. I couldn’t believe some of the fantastic workers who were given a satisfactory in all categories.
    – Yes, I have gotten higher grades many times in the past. Ironically I have done more here this cycle and got my lowest scores.
    – I stay involved in projects with our superintendent’s offices (they usually pay extra anyway) where I interact with other schools/staff so I think I would be a good candidate should I ever decide to transfer.
    So thanks again. The bitterness is mostly gone and I am NOT going to take it personally. I basically don’t raise my hand for anything anymore when volunteers are asked for. Like I say, less responsibility has been great. Eventually one of our administrators will come to me personally and ask me to take on some sort of leadership thing and hear me tell them no. They will likely be very surprised.

    1. Indie*

      I was talking to my boss (in education) today and she’s leaving because the productive people get work piled on because they know they’ll handle it, while less productive get the promotions and praise….

      When the productive people start saying no it is quite the double take from senior leaders.

    2. cheluzal*

      I stopped reading my evaluations! Conferencing with the prin after is optional and our evals are online so I quit opening them…..couldn’t even tell you what I got. Why?? Listen carefully: it has nothing to do with us!

      Evals are manipulated by what downtown preps prins with. You’re seeing this, but it’s nothing to take personally. I have been made resource teachers and heads but I will not take on too much, since my own child is worth all my time.

      I figure if I’m too terrible, someone will say something. But look around at the horrible teacher still working with you—you will be just fine.

  77. Indie*

    Op1 you need to become really useless and forgetful fast. “I don’t know”, “Um have you tried not doing a PowerPoint at all? Here at new job I only use them for New client or New product and this one time, at bandcamp …(boring treebeard story here)” or “I usually talk about (new job stuff) in my Powerpoints. Oh silly me! I’ve forgotten (old job stuff) entirely in training” or “I would ask Ned? Oh yeah, Ned is my new colleague not my old one. Silly me! Who is the guy who does the thing? You know…the thing?”
    If she gets silent and offended….win? People who weaponise silence forget how nice it is for people on the receiving end. I’d also put her on a phone diet. Don’t let her contact you whenever, just dont pick up and text that you’re soooo busy but will call her or see her weekly for a special mum date (when you specifically want to). Captain Awkward has some good tips for training parents out of the ‘pick up now’ habit.

  78. Bookworm*

    #4: I realize there’s only so much information you can share but as a candidate I always appreciated hearing any more details that could have made my application stronger or if it was just not in the cards (internal candidate hire). If you really do want them to reapply in the future or for another position, that’s always helpful. I never had anything come out of those types of letters but they were nice to hear if I really liked the position/place/people, etc.

  79. Mike B.*

    Am I the only one who doesn’t feel like OP3’s former boss deserves the courtesy of an explanation? Firing someone without giving her any warning about substandard performance is not “kind.” An extended notice period is great for what it is, but also indicates that OP’s performance wasn’t so poor that they needed to remove her posthaste for damage control.

  80. Anon Anon Anon*

    #5 – A dog in a dress would make some people think, “Female dog,” and the word for that might come to mind, and they might wonder what you were trying to communicate. So I wouldn’t do it unless the accompanying text or your conversations with the client made it obvious that it shouldn’t be taken that way.

  81. Mellow*

    If you want to see photos of dogs in wedding dresses (and tuxedos), Google image is your friend.

    *holds forefinger knuckle between teeth*

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