employee constantly uses astrology to analyze coworkers, former employee published hit piece on our company, and more

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

1. Employee constantly uses astrology to analyze coworkers

This will seem like a small issue, but it’s like sand in our collective bathing suits and may actually be a problem. I supervise a small team in a very large nonprofit, and we collaborate a lot internally and externally, and frequently bring on shorter-term interns and other placements. One of our full-time team members is mid-twenties. Their responsibilities are to support an after-school program for teens, so their skills and experiences match that – some admin, some curriculum, development, some youth engagement.

This person is VERY into astrology. Most of the time it’s harmless, but they have a habit of, every time we get into conversations about team dynamics or responsibilities, analyzing it through that framework. As in, “Oh you should totally be the person who does that task, it’s such a Leo thing” or “Oh, of course that bothered you — SO very Libra to find that annoying.” Recently, in a welcome meeting for a new team member, they spent a LOT of time asking about astrological information, and they responded with an analysis of the person’s characteristics — someone they had met 10 minutes earlier! It doesn’t impact the work, exactly, but it does distract from actual conversations about role/tasks/feedback and I think it can be off-putting to people we are trying to build relationships with (especially because they use it a lot when first getting to know someone, and rely on it for forming opinions). We have tried to redirect when this happens and play along without encouraging, but 1) is this something to put the kabosh on and 2) how do I do that without sounding petty? (of course, I may just be being “super Virgo-ish” here!)

This is different from someone who just talks about a hobby an annoying amount, because they’re explicitly labeling people and making judgments about them. I think that’s the framework you can use to shut it down. For example: “I appreciate that this is a real area of interest for you, but labeling people and their personalities based on their astrological sign can alienate people who don’t share your interest and can interfere with the relationships you’re building at work. It can also be distracting when you bring it up while we’re talking about assignments or feedback. It’s fine for you to discuss your personal interests with other people if they’ve shown an interest as well, but I’m going to ask you to stop labeling people by their signs, analyzing colleague’s personalities unless they’ve explicitly requested it, and bringing astrology into conversations where we’re focused on work.”

2. Should I tell my boss a former employee published a hit piece on our company?

I have a question about whether I should share something with my boss. There was a new employee at my company who only lasted a few weeks. Our work is extremely technology-based and quite stressful, which means people aren’t always the right fit. I believe she quit. She only observed me once, but she was snippy and rude when I corrected a mistake she made, so I wasn’t really surprised she didn’t last.

Well, I learned she also observed a friend of mine and was rude to her too, which got me curious enough to Google her. I clicked to a profile on a university website and saw she had published in the past. Her most recent publication, which came out a few months before she started with us, was a long paper decrying our company and its many failures serving the public. It had a very generic title that had nothing to do with the subject, so I think it would be very easy to miss in a quick search. I only found it by chance.

Now, I work in a segment of my field that is somewhat controversial. Government money is involved, but we’re a private business. Needless to say, there’s research on whether or not we’re doing good work with public funding. Totally fine and even good in my opinion. But it seems … weird that she went looking for a job with us. I feel off knowing this and not mentioning it. Is this something I should share with my boss?

Share it with your boss. It’s probably nothing, but it’s interesting enough that it won’t be weird to share it with her, and it’s possible that it’ll provide a missing piece of information that helps a larger puzzle make sense. It’s also possible that it’ll spur your employer to realize they should be doing more thorough checks on candidates before hiring them.

3. Is it normal to get a lower hourly wage if you switch to part-time?

I was discussing a hypothetical situation with my boss. I was telling him that ideally, if I had children, I would like to work 30-35 hours a week. My boss responded that if this happened, my hourly wage might decrease, as staff would view me differently as a supervisor since I would be working less. I was shocked to hear this! I understand a job can decline an employee’s proposal to go part-time, but how common is it for them to approve the hours but decrease your hourly rate?

This came up again because one of our old workers left permanently after the birth of her child. However, she has offered to occasionally “be on call.” She was needed last week and worked a few hours. Later, my boss told me her hourly rate now was supposed to be $2.50/hour lower than what she was making before! This didn’t sit right with me because she did us a huge favor and hiring outside help would be much more expensive.

It depends on what you negotiate, but it’s not typical for your hourly wage to decrease simply because you’re working fewer hours. Also, your boss’s comment that “staff would view you differently” is bizarre. Plenty of managers work part-time hours, and they’re no less managers because of it. It’s possible there’s more to what he’s saying — like that yours is the kind of management role where you need to be constantly available for questions and problem-solving, and if you weren’t there some of the time, they’d need to put someone else in that role … but 35 hours/week is hardly a drastic enough change that it’s likely to result in major changes to the way you’re perceived. Overall it sounds like your boss has weird ideas about part-time work.

But I want to emphasize the “it depends on what you negotiate” piece of this. Your letter sounds a little like you’re assuming you’ll just be assigned a rate, and you just have to take what they assign you. If you switch to part-time, you can and should try to negotiate your rate. (That may or may not work, but if they strongly value you, you’ve got a good chance at a good outcome.)

4. Can my employer change our vacation policy and take away much of my leave?

I work for a regional financial services business in Georgia. The company is family owned. A few years ago, the family fired all of it’s management team and the daughter, who has no prior work experience, having lived a lavishly her entire life, took over the operations of the business. Since that time, benefits and staffing have been drastically cut to the point that there isn’t anyone to cover should someone take leave. To address this, HR sent an email stating no one could take more than one week of leave at a time. Within weeks, another email was sent out, this time informing us that we were no longer entitled to more than five days of leave per year. These five days include sick and vacation leave. We also get two holidays off a year, which are unpaid.

Some of the employees have been with the company for over a decade and had earned up to three weeks of leave a year and are now told they only get five days. I understand that in the state of Georgia, employers aren’t required to provide vacation or sick leave. But can they hire someone under one leave policy and then change it at any time to take away leave benefits?

Yes. They can’t change it retroactively, but they can change it going forward. However, depending on the wording of the old policy, they might be required to let you and your coworkers use vacation time that you had already accrued under the old policy (although they can also implement a use-it-or-lose-it-policy, where if you haven’t used it up by a certain date, you lose it).

I strongly encourage you to either (a) band together with your coworkers to collectively bargain (you can do that by formally unionizing, but you’ll have some of the same protections if you do it without a union as well — in particular, your employer can’t legally penalize you for pushing back on wages or working conditions as a group) or (b) leave for a company that’s willing to provide you with at least minimally acceptable time off, which this is not.

5. Contacting a conference speaker months before an event

I’m going to be attending a professional conference in June, and, like a nerd, have already been looking over the schedule to see what I want to attend. To my utter delight, there’s a scheduled presentation on an incredibly, incredibly niche topic that I’ve spent a lot of time working on. I previously worked in academia, and would have had no qualms about emailing someone then – but I’m pretty new to the non-academic professional world, and I’m not sure if it’s okay to email another industry professional basically saying ‘I’m equally interested in the topic you’re interested in and wanted to let you know!’ Is that kosher? Or should I just sit on my enthusiasm until the conference proper?

You can do that, and they’ll probably appreciate it! But I would change it from “and wanted to let you know” to something a little bit more concrete — like “I’d love to connect with you at the conference” or even just “I wanted to tell you how glad I am to see this session on the agenda and am so looking forward to attending it.”

{ 607 comments… read them below }

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      I have to admit that the astrology letter and its responses made me wonder if the people who regularly comment on this blog trend towards having particular zodiac signs. :)

      1. church lady

        no comment on post, just wanted to acknowledge your username and the smile it brought to me, thinking of my childhood spent listening to Monkees records.

        1. Kat in VA

          I just have to interject…

          “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog” is one of my all-time favorite Monkees songs.

  1. WakeUp!

    How is this helpful? it doesn’t matter if you personally think astrology is nonsense. It just matters that this guy is personally bringing it up in inappropriate work contexts.

    1. Troutwaxer

      “A girl with psychic powers asked me
      T-Bone, what’s your sign?
      I blankin’ told her Neon
      I thought I’d blow her mind!”

  2. Anon

    You will NOT have the same protections if you bargain as a group collectively than if you join a union. The conditions you negotiate as a group can still be taken away unilaterally at any time. Not so if it is on a collective agreement.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s why I said “you’ll have a lot of the same protections,” not “you’ll have all the same protections.” In particular, employers can’t penalize employees for banding together as a group to push for different wages and working conditions. Not everyone wants to unionize, and it’s important for people to know they still have some of those same protections (although, as you note, not all; if something’s not put in a contract, it can be changed).

      1. neverjaunty

        Legally employers aren’t permitted to penalize employees for collective action. But they certainly can. (Many employers in fact see far-off regulatory fines or back wages as a small price to pay for union-busting.) And the protection they won’t have is a union backing them up.

      2. Random obs

        “In particular, employers can’t penalize employees for banding together as a group to push for different wages and working conditions.”

        O RLY? What about the interns who signed the petition to change the dress code?

        1. CoveredInBees

          They probably wouldn’t be considered employees under the NLRA.

          Even if they were considered employees, just because a company does something doesn’t make it legal, as should be abundantly clear from the letters AAM publishes every day.

        2. Liane

          Those interns were penalized, rightly, because they were acting unprofessionally*, AND because their pushing back took the form of **speaking rudely about a coworker with a disability!**
          BTW, are you the same person who brought up those same poor misunderstood, mistreated (not!) Interns a few days ago?

          *even by the “interns don’t start out knowing a lot about acting professionally” standard

          1. Robot Wrangler

            Agreed. They were completely out of line and unprofessional. IIRC, the petition (CRINGE) was something along the lines of: “OMG someone gets to wear something we don’t! It’s an injustice!”
            Well, actually, children, no…it’s not. She’s disabled and that’s an accommodation that you are not required to be informed about.

          2. Random obs

            >Those interns were penalized, rightly, because they were acting unprofessionally
            LW1’s boss is going to say that her employees are acting unprofessionally. Maybe he’s wrong but that is not the point.

            >BTW, are you the same person who brought up those same poor misunderstood, mistreated (not!) Interns a few days ago?”
            No, but even if I did, so what? Is there some rule that “you can never bring up the example of the dress code interns”, like Godwin’s Law Part II or something?

            1. Observer

              LW1’s boss is going to say that her employees are acting unprofessionally. Maybe he’s wrong but that is not the point.

              It’s not in the employer’s discretion. This is the kind of thing that the NLRB would snap up in a heartbeat because it’s such a clear violation of the law that it gives them an easy hit.

              1. Random obs

                So what is the legal principle that maKES it OK to fire the interns, but not OK to fire LW1’s group? (“Acting unprofessionally” is not really a legal concept because it is so subjective.) Was it because the interns weren’t “employees,” and if so, why are we sure they weren’t?

                1. Legal Beagle

                  Because “employee” has a legal definition and those interns probably didn’t fall into it?

  3. Magenta Sky

    LW #1: If this person were at all inclined to listen to reason, you could point them at the James Randi Foundation or any of a dozen other web sites that have thoroughly debunked astrology. But if she were at all inclined to listen to reason, she wouldn’t be into astrology. I suspect, however, that as a last resort, in a “very large” organization, you could find someone who could honestly say that astrology conversations at work offend them on a religious level. At that point, your employer couldn’t really ignore it.

    LW #4: I worked for a company that went through a similar transition: very successful until the founder retired, and his son took over and started installing solid gold faucets in the corporate bathrooms. A year later, they were out of business.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It wouldn’t be appropriate for a manager to try to debunk an employee’s belief system. But she can tell her to stop labeling and alienating people at work, and distracting from work discussions.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        They’re explicitly labeling people and making judgments about them.

        This. If they were doing this based on people’s ethnic background–another thing you’re just born with and can’t change–it would be just as problematic.

        Almost as bad would be, say, neighborhoods where people lived now–they chose those, but do they really want to hear that they’re SUCH a townie every time they do the accounts?

        1. Works in IT

          As a Taurus, I would be absolutely furious if something I was digging my heels in for my job because it’s needed (person who broke the law should be fired, their continued presence here could get us sued, I really don’t care how much you like them, lawsuit is lawsuit) was dismissed as “oh, Tauruses tend to be stubborn and refuse to compromise, you’re just being a Taurus”. No, my job is to make us not be sued, and compromising on this point will definitely get us sued.

          LW 4, it’s only a matter of time before your employee does something like this. Where does it end? This is definitely something that needs to stop before a new hire is told that they can’t do a project because of their Zodiac sign, or that the problems they are reporting aren’t really problems they’re just making a big deal of it because of their zodiac sign.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            As an Aquarius I’d sigh and tell her to knock it off and then probably check my day horoscope.

      2. Czhorat

        Yes, exactly!

        If someone were inappropriately proselytizing their religion, the solution would not be to send them to a Dawkinite website explaining why all religion is trash – it would be to instruct them to behave professionally at work.

        Same here; I’ll add that “if you’ll listen to reason you’d not be into astrology” is not a useful way of thinking. All of us believe in something which isn’t objective measurable truth *and that’s OK.* The issue isn’t what the coworker believes, but how it causes them to act. The action is to adjust their actions, not their beliefs.

        1. JSPA

          This, exactly. Belief systems can guide your internal analysis. When they bubble over into everyone else’s airspace, it’s a problem. No blessings, no hexes, no personality analysis. Just, no.

      3. Dust Bunny

        Bingo. And I am the biggest, moodiest, crafting-est, baking-est, stereotype Cancerian ever, but I still don’t want people commenting on it all the time at work.

      4. Ice and Indigo

        Indeed. The problem is that no -consensually labelling people on slight acquaintance is pushy, controlling and obtuse, whatever method you use.

        Would I be right in saying that she’s also exceeding her authority? She’s young, a recent recruit, and junior to the OP, but if she’s using astrology to ‘decide’ how tasks should be divvied up … is that actually her call to make?

        Or is she only doing it with teens she’s supposed to be engaging? Because if so, that’s worse. A line to take there might be that teens are still in the process of figuring out their own identities, and being typecast by an authority figure, *even if that authority figure is correct* (I add that because she probably thinks astrology will help them understand themselves) … well, it undermines their freedom to explore their identities and come to independent conclusions. Which is what, developmentally speaking, they’re supposed to be doing right now. They’re at a life stage where they should be encouraged to take a growth mindset and feel free to step outside things they usually do, and telling them ‘You’re this kind of person’ works against that. It’s bad mentoring.

        1. Arts Akimbo

          Ice and Indigo, that is perfectly stated! Astrology leads people to presume a level of intimacy with a person’s strengths and flaws that doesn’t actually exist. As the child of a professional astrologer, it was incredibly damaging growing up with these constant “THIS is who you are, and you’re good at THIS thing” messages. Especially when I wasn’t actually that thing or good at that other thing. I get incredibly depressed to hear of people judging others based on astrology, especially in the workplace. It can do real harm.

      5. nonegiven

        Can you say the same thing about those Myers–Briggs tests people want you to take at work? Even if it’s your boss?

      1. Hermione's Twin

        Nope, you cannot get solid gold taps. Solid gold is soft enough to cut with a butter knife. Most faucets are stainless steel and the gold is really a brass electroplate

        1. polkadotbird

          Well, but I was wondering if they had gold plated taps (still a poor choice of materials, but still). Also I would still describe gold rings as being “solid gold” even if they are actually 18 karat or w/e.

    2. JS

      “But if she were at all inclined to listen to reason, she wouldn’t be into astrology.” You could literally say this about any religion or pseudoscience or belief that science hasn’t “proved” yet. OP isn’t going to get far with their employees with that mindset and thinking someone is “unreasonable” because they don’t believe the same things they do. That would be toxic to the work environment.

      1. Antidisestablishmentarianism

        This, very much. I had a lovely coworker in a previous job who was very into astrology, but I didn’t even know about that until we starting chatting some outside of work, well over a year after she started working there. She didn’t force her astrology on anyone, but it was a very solid belief system for her, and never had any issues whatsoever like this LW.

        But regardless of what the belief system is, it’s still not right to be forcing that on other people at work (or, arguably, ever), and LW gets points in my book for taking note of the issue and wanting to shut it down so brand-new coworkers aren’t feeling like they’re going to be given all of X type of work, or something, b/c this one coworker said they should handle that stuff in their first meeting on the first day.

    3. last_codon

      I kind of expect #1 to respond with “of course you’d see this as a problem, you’re a Scorpio”, or something along lines.

      1. AKchic

        I was coming here to say something similar. I worked a thrift store job back in 2000 who did something like this. She would “help” pick out clothes for people based on their auras and signs (and occasionally palm reading). Some people really enjoyed her brand of “help”. Most thought she was weird. A few actively avoided her. I think she stayed there for 5-6 years before moving out of state (I’ve heard conflicting reports of Hawaii, California and South America, so who knows, I just know she isn’t there anymore).

    4. Ms Cappuccino

      “If she were at all inclined to listen to reason, she wouldn’t be into astrology.” : As someone into astrology, I find this comment offensive. Would you say that of a religious person?
      She shouldn’t bring astrology in the workplace and needs to be told this, but it’seems not different that if she was quoting the Bible or the Coran at work.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        A lot of people would say that to a religious person. Certainly they would think it.

        But unlike Zoroastrianism, astrology is not a protected belief system that employers need to accommodate. It would be more like believing everything published in Goop.

        1. Aveline

          “Astrology is not a protected belief system”.

          That is a very overbroad statement. Whether or not it is protected depends upon the jurisdiction and whether it’s a stand-alone practice or integrated into something else that is a religion and also potentially how it is practiced.

          I can’t recall he case at the moment, but I do know California’s SC has addressed this and granted some protections to it. (I think the case was about shutting down fortune tellers and astrologers and there were both religious protection and free speech issues).

          It is not necessarily protected or unprotected.

          For that matter, stating something is a Christian belief and automoatically having it protected isn’t the law either.

          I’ve worked with several cases involving incarcerated tribal members and religious practice. It isn’t as straightforward as people think.

          I’d also caution everyone bashing Astrology. Whatever yardstick you use on this will be used doubly-so against tribal practices. I actually heard a judge compare smudging and using eagle feathers in sacred ceremonies as “no more valid than fortune telling.”

          So, please, please show respect for the right to believe things even if you think they are hooey.

          1. Aveline

            Astrology might be covered depending upon the circumstances…

            Church of Wicca is a religion. In Van Koten v. Family Health Management, 955 F. Supp. 898 (N.D. Ill. 1997), the court found that an employee’s adherence to the Wicca religion—whose religious beliefs included the beliefs that Halloween was a holy day, that astrology, psychic abilities, and reincarnation are valid, and respect for all life forms— meets Title VII’s definition of religion. Id. at 902.

            Universal Belief System is a religion. In Lorenz v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36145 (W.D. Tex. May 24, 2006), the court held that Title VII covered an employee’s practice of “Universal Belief System”—which stresses tolerance and acceptance of other people’s religious beliefs—even though the employee did not know anyone other than his mother and himself that followed this belief system. 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36145 at *29.

            Klu Klux Klan is not a religion. Courts have found that “the proclaimed racist and anti-semitic ideology” of the Klu Klux Klan takes on “a narrow, temporal and political character inconsistent with the meaning of ‘religion’ as used in [Title VII].” Bellamy v. Mason’s Stores, Inc., 368 F. Supp. 1025, 1026 (E.D. Va. 1973); see also Slater v. King Soopers, 809 F. Supp. 809, 810 (D. Colo. 1992).
            Creativity is a religion. While courts have found the Klu Klux Klan is not a religion, one court has found that “Creativity”—which has white supremacy as a central tenet—is a religion for Title VII purposes. Peterson v. Wilmur Communs., Inc., 205 F. Supp. 2d 1014, 1021-24 (E.D. Wis. 2002).

            Veganism may be a religion. One district court held in denying a motion to dismiss Title VII religious discrimination claims that plaintiff had plausibly alleged that veganism is a religion, rejecting the employer’s argument that it is a mere dietary preference or social philosophy. Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hosp. Med. Ctr., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182139, at *11 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 27, 2012). Note, however, that in McDavid v. County of Sacramento, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43711, at *15 (E.D. Cal. June 26, 2006), the court held that veganism is not a religion for purposes of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

            Also google “ Paul A. LaViolette and EEOC” or “cold fusion.”

          2. Falling Diphthong

            I think as soon as you start volunteering analysis of everything your coworkers do based on how they fit into your religious belief system, you’ve moved outside of any protected religious practice.

          3. Czhorat

            Also, whether it is legally protected or not does not affect ones duty to treat anothers’ beliefs with respect so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.

            This should not be a difficult concept.

              1. Hrovitnir

                What happened in NZ yesterday is because of racism and xenophobia, and was perpetrated against people for their religion, so how about you bloody don’t.

              2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

                I understand your point. In the USA, we do have to respect the religion unfortunately because it is the law. (And screw LGBT people and their rights). Best case–treat all religions/beliefs the same–no pushing at work, no bias in favor of Christianity, Islam, etc). The Satanic Temple is awesome at this.

              3. RUKiddingMe

                “We do not need to treat religion “with respect…”

                Agreed. I respect others’ right to believe how they will because I require the same, but “religion” as a thing deserving respect for all the reasons you outlined and so, so, so much more…nope.

              4. uranus wars

                We do not need to treat religion “with respect” – maybe not but fundamentally we do need to treat people with respect, and that includes their beliefs.

                1. Militant atheist

                  So if you’re a geographer you gotta treat flat earthers with respect, cuz that’s their belief. Or if you’re a pediatrician you gotta treat anti-vaxxers with respect, cuz that’s how they feeeeel. NOT.

                  The law says I can’t discriminate against religious people but it does NOT say I have to respect their beliefs in the slightest.

              5. neeko

                What are you talking about? What happened in New Zealand was because of people not respecting the religion of others. Exactly what you are spouting on about. You don’t have to believe in a religion to respect the choices of others. Gross.

              6. Czhorat

                YES, we do.

                A person’s religion is their culture, their link to both their ancestry and posterity. It’s part of what makes us part of a community encompassing past and future generations. And, yes, it informs how we live.

                If someone uses their religion to justify bigotry, then attack that. If they use their beliefs to judge coworkers, then address that. Do not lost respect for who they are and how they see themselves until those core foundational beliefs become weaponized and dangerous.

                If this co-worker stopped making their colleagues uncomfortable with astrology-based judgements then their belief would be fine. Correct the behaviour, don’t attack the belief system.

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

                  The beliefs have to be acknowledged, not respected. And in the US, legally acknowledged. Which is a problem because those religious beliefs actively hurt many people. We protect religion–a lifestyle choice–but don’t protect LGBT people.

        2. Observer

          It actually might be a protected belief system, because employers don’t get to choose WHICH religions they protect, and it’s possible to argue that astrology is a religious belief.

          That doesn’t matter though. The law requires REASONABLE accommodation. That includes not treating others unfairly and not intruding on other’s religious beliefs. The first problem is obvious – she’s judging people based on their sign rather then their ACTUAL behavior and work. It also intrudes on the religious beliefs of many people because there are many religious beliefs that either forbid astrology or are just incompatible with it.

          1. Eukomos

            It was certainly a Greco-Roman religious belief. I don’t know if you have to be practicing the rest of the religion to get legal protections, though?

          2. Czhorat

            Yes, and it’s the behavior which needs to change – not her belief system.

            Point out that the behavior is disruptive and can be harmful to those not sharing that belief system. Don’t attack the belief itself.

    5. Jasnah

      I think the most important thing is not whether astrology is right or wrong (who cares), it’s that this person is assuming a lot of things about someone and not listening to what they’re saying. When you ascribe things to a label instead of the person, it doesn’t matter whether that label is Leo, INTJ, accountant, millennial, Red Sox fan, parent, toilet-paper-goes-over-the-top, whatever… that person is going to feel like you are more concerned with being right than about listening to them and their experiences. This person is giving the impression that they are more interested in astrology than the actual human in front of them. Even if you don’t get into categories like race/gender it is super annoying to be stereotyped based on categories they think you fall into. Maybe explaining it this way will show this person why what they’re doing is inappropriate, without getting into their actual beliefs.

      1. Aveline

        It’s not just the labeling. It’s that she’s doing her belief system AT people. She’s forcing them to participate by her constant statements about it.

        It’s akin to the people who constantly say “Bless You” or “I’ll pray for you!” You can pray FOR someone but also pray AT them. I’ve known too many Xtians in the USA who feel the need to advertise the content of their prayers or to tell people who they absolutely knew didn’t share their beliefs that they were going to pray for them. Particularly that they would pray for Jesus to come into their life.

        I don’t see this as wildly different.

        Don’t label and don’t force your religious beliefs on others, whatever they may be.

        Lest anyone be prone to misunderstanding: Telling someone you would like to pray for them is not always inappropriate in a workspace or even socially. However, when you know someone doesn’t share your beliefs and you keep saying this to them instead of just quietly praying for them, it is a problem. Often, it’s passive-aggressive evangelizing cloaked in weaponized concern. Also, I think there’s a big difference between asking someone and telling someone what you’re going to do. When in doubt, just do it for your own sake but don’t tell them about it.

        My father comes from a long line of very devout, but privately devout people. They were the most devout and kind people I’ve ever known, they bristled any time “I’ll pray for you” was uttered publicly at them. Because to them, pray we was a private sacred commune w God.

        1. Blunt Bunny

          What’s worrying is she is using astrology to explain people’s own feelings and reactions. Imagine if someone said Wakeem said that because they’re on their period! It’s like extreme mansplaining, I can’t imagine a stranger explaining and describing who they thought I was, to me. I honestly wouldn’t listen to anything else they had to say after that and it would piss me off if they were constantly saying I did something because of my birth month. It wouldn’t be long before someone gives their candid opinion of them. They are explicitly saying they have a bias based on people birth dates.

          1. Aveline

            I agree. I’m just saying that it’s both labeling and forcing others to participate in your belief system. Both are wrong.

            I don’t see how we are at all disagreeing about the issue with labeling.

            FTR, I also wasn’t disagreeing with Jasnah either.

          2. SometimesALurker

            I have nothing topical to add, but I really appreciate a gender-not-specified Wakeen who menstruates being among the staff of the Teapots and Llama Grooming universe Alison and the commentariat have going here.

        2. Jasnah

          True, but personally I’ve never seen astrology as a religious belief (while it certainly can be, I just know many astrology fans who treat it separately from their spiritual practices) so I didn’t see it as forcing one’s religious beliefs on someone… I think it’s really hard for some devout people to separate how they see the world from how others do, because that’s “just how the world is” to them. So I think asking someone not to force their beliefs on others is hard for them to self-police, because it’s not forcing someone to participate to tell them they’re such an Aries, you’re just commenting on how they act.

          That’s why I brought up the labeling aspect, because I think it’s easier to see why someone wouldn’t want to be told that they didn’t get that promotion because it’s not their destiny, or God had something else planned, or because Scorpios are too ambitious or whatever. Making assumptions and labeling people is offensive beyond just religious practices.

      2. Bostonian

        Nothing constructive to add, just… my husband is a Leo INTJ millennial Red Sox fan, so… you kinda spooked me, there!

      3. TootsNYC

        So very nicely said, Jasnah.

        I tried to say something similar below–she is doing a disservice to herself by not being open to learning about who they really are (and if you want to use her language: “how their sign expresses itself in them, personally”), and it’s going to be really off-putting to other people, which means they won’t want to interact with her.

      4. Arts Akimbo

        +1 to Jasnah’s comment! I don’t want to be stereotyped based on characteristics I have no control over, be it the color of my skin, my gender, or my time/date of birth. Most especially in the workplace.

      5. Cactus

        I so wholeheartedly agree with this. I’ve never liked being put in easy-category boxes, and it irks me to no end when others do this. For example, I am an introvert. It’s a fact of my personality, but it’s not the sole determining factor of my life. However, my mother-in-law decided, upon learning what introverts were and that I am one, to read a bunch of ridiculous online stuff about introversion and then started peppering our conversations with statements like “you don’t like talking to people in the mornings–I’ve heard that’s an introvert thing” (no, that’s an ‘I’m not a morning person’ thing) or “I’m sure getting a manicure would make you really anxious, since you’re an introvert” (no, I’ve enjoyed the manicures I’ve gotten, I just prefer to spend my money on other things most of the time). When you’re put into a box like that, it can feel REALLY pathologizing, like you’re no longer another human but someone’s research subject for a study they’re doing on introverts or Pisceans or whatever. So a giant no to this co-worker’s whole attitude.

    6. Daisy

      There’s a foundation for ‘debunking’ starsigns? And you don’t believe in it so much that you go round reading all these websites? I cannot imagine a bigger waste of anyone’s time. Live and let live mate

      1. Falling Diphthong

        There are groups that debunk all sorts of things. It’s truly nothing unique to astrology.

      2. Same.

        Yeah, live and let live – some enjoy reading about astrology, others enjoy reading about debunking it… Live and let them both live.

      3. Perse's Mom

        “Live and let live” doesn’t really apply when it’s fraudsters taking advantage of desperate or grieving people to get their money. Your average horoscope reader? Not really an issue. The ‘mediums’ who take the money of the desperate and/or grieving and prolonging the latter for personal gain? No, those people should be in jail.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

          How are they any different from priests, pastors, etc. hucking religion? ANd please don’t say they don’t take money–almost every church, temple, etc. I know of takes money!

          1. Jasnah

            Some of these “mediums”/psychics are really scummy people who chase down tragedies in order to get people’s money. There’s a big difference between offering guidance within a belief framework and promising that magic/the stars/god can give you what you want, if you only pay me exhorbitant sums of money… There are televangelists who pull this crap too but check out John Oliver’s episode on “psychics”.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

              Plenty of religions and priests/pastors do the same. If they’re not begging for donations, they’re preaching God brought earthquakes/hurricanes/etc. for punishment, etc. Mediums are no worse than priest or pastors. (BTW, all that talk of heaven, etc.–religious leaders make promises all they rime they know they’ll never be held accountable for. ‘Do X and you’ll go to this heaven which is wonderous.’ Really? Prove that.) And yes, they take money for it. I’ve know of numerous religious leaders who took advantage of the grieving. It’s done daily. Whether encouraging people to give to the church, mosque, or temple or telling people they’ll burn forever for being gay, they take advantage.

              1. Jasnah

                Sure, I agree and acknowledge that there are scams in religious groups as well. But I think there is a difference between encouraging certain religious practices and faking magic powers to scam people. Your comment kind of insinuates that anyone “hucking religion” or saying “do x and you’ll go to heaven” (which is a lot of religions…) are inherently scammy? And I’m trying to say that I draw a line between encouraging others to do things you sincerely think will benefit them, and pretending to have magic powers so that you can take advantage of them. Like the difference between an actual Tarot reader who knows the difference between major and minor arcana, and a Tarot reader who holds your attention while their assistant picks your pocket.

    7. Vish

      Astrology is very important to many of us from India my good sir. Please do not tell us about your thorough debunking lah.

    8. Decima Dewey

      Trying to debunk astrology is the wrong way to handle this. Getting into an argument with her over whether or not astrology is “true”, “real”, a science, etc. is a distraction from the main issue: that labeling and judging her coworkers using astrology is not okay in the workplace and that it has to stop.

      If Leontine is the only person on the team with X technical knowledge, then things involving X are Leontine’s bailiwick, even if, according to astrology, Leos just aren’t good at X.

    9. ZorptheSurveyor

      Humans are not particularly logical or reasonable. Logic is a useful tool we’ve created to work our way through particular problems, but it’s not really what drives us. It might be useful to be less judgmental of people who have a belief system you don’t understand. Not saying this as someone who would particularly defend astrology, but it’s just as easy to make a religion out of “LOGIC’–since we’re not math equations or computers, it’s a bit of an illusion.

    10. Queerdo

      Also, queer people are really into astrology. Really really into astrology. As a queer atheist, I don’t quite understand it, but I try to limit my judgment. If you are part of an oppressed minority and you want to take part in a larger belief system that hasn’t actively harmed your community, I can see why astrology and Wicca and other forms of neopaganism would be desirable.

      I don’t think it’s appropriate how this person is using their spiritual beliefs. BUT, I would still tread lightly on the immediate judgment of astrology as something capricious.

      1. Massmatt

        Interesting observation, I have not heard this before, and in my experience belief in astrology is no more prevalent among the LGBTQ than others. I do think there is a significant strain of LGBTQ among the neo-pagan, new age, and/or Wicca, but I don’t think that translates to astrology or horoscopes. The self-described pagan queer people I know have scoffed at horoscopes the few times the topic has come up.

        1. Bree

          My queer community is *very* into astrology right now. Maybe it’s also an age/regional thing (late 20s, early 30s, urban Canadian). I see people using it as a tool/for fun, not in terms of being true believers or as connected to pagan identity of Wicca. I rolled my eyes at first as a pretty serious skeptic (Capricorn!), but it has led to really interesting conversations and is a useful way to understand myself from a new perspective.

    11. a Taurus i guess

      Some context for this question that might be helpful to OP: astrology is VERY big among some 20somethings right now, especially women, as sort of the ne plus ultra of the Internet personality test craze. (Look at Instagram, or sites like for teen’s or women’s magazines or places lik The Cut or Refinery29 — tons of headlines about Mercury in Retrograde, “17 ways you’re such a Libra,” etc.) it’s not really treated seriously as a belief system; it’s a fun way to talk about yourself and classify/judge others, everyone’s favorite things. It’s quite possible the employee and her friends talk like this among themselves and she doesn’t realize how offputting it is outside the context of being Extremely Online.

      That doesn’t mean it belongs at work (it doesn’t!!!) but that it’s quite possible this is not a “quit proselytizing about your religion” situation and more “quit trying to make everyone else be part of your hobby while also trying to explain their personalities to them.” It’s a kind of basic professionalism — you shouldn’t treat your coworkers like your friends — that can be hard to pick up on early in your career.

    12. Parenthetically

      “If this person were at all inclined to listen to reason, you could point them at the James Randi Foundation or any of a dozen other web sites that have thoroughly debunked astrology. But if she were at all inclined to listen to reason, she wouldn’t be into astrology.”

      Ew, no. This misses the entire point. She doesn’t need to be talked out of her deeply-held beliefs, she needs to be reminded that, whatever her deeply-held beliefs (which she is entitled to have), both pigeonholing and proselytizing based on those beliefs is inappropriate in the workplace, in exactly the same way that a Christian pigeonholing or proselytizing her coworkers doesn’t need to be given God is Not Great by her boss, but instead told to knock off the stereotyping and recruiting.

    13. whingedrinking

      It reminds me a bit of the employee from a recent letter who kept showing up to work with dirty hair. In that case, it’s not the supervisor’s job to scold her for having gross hair, or tell her that her reasons for not washing it are wrong (even if they’re manifestly incorrect), or order her to wash it more often. None of those things are germane. The supervisor only gets to/has to say “You can’t show up to work with your hair like that.” The employee can wear a different hairstyle or a head covering, or use dry shampoo, or suck it up and wash it more often.
      The same is true here. It’s not okay for a manager to tell someone their personal beliefs are silly or try to correct them, no matter how weird she thinks they are. The employee has the freedom to believe whatever they want, even on the clock, and not be lectured about the contents of those beliefs. (As for me personally, I think astrology is bunk, so this isn’t coming from a place of sympathizing with the horoscope-spouting report.) The manager’s responsibility here is to make sure that the employee is doing her job fairly and properly. The concern isn’t “you believe in pseudoscience”, it’s “you’re annoying people and possibly making bad work decisions”.

    1. Czhorat

      I was going to suggest the same thing; it’s also an inappropriate and unneccesary attack on a belief system.

  4. PollyQ

    LW#1 — you absolutely need to shut this down. People with a wide range of beliefs will find this to be nonsense, or downright offensive to their religious beliefs. If I were new to a team that was tolerating this, or even worse, “playing along”, I’d be thinking I’d made a terrible mistake joining them.

    1. Colin

      To cover your ass legally, try to get her to say “it’s not a religion”.
      “Can you please not talk about your religion at work so frequently.”
      “Oh, I don’t really think of it as a religion.”
      Most people who believe in astrology wouldn’t call it a religion, so getting her to say that out loud will stop her from invoking a religious protection later.

      1. moonbeam

        I’m a Wiccan and it’s a *big* part of my religion. Why would you want to create a precedent that could have a potentially harmful on other people who may not be as vocal about their religion?

        Shutting it down is one thing — which is very important to do, full-stop — but trying someone to say something that even potentially borders on setting a precedent for any kind of Actual Paganist Religions to be invalidated seems super discriminatory to me. Shut down the pop-astrology, leave “religion” out of it.

        1. TechWorker

          Does it matter? Do you have the legal right in the US to impose your religion on other people? (Vs just the right to practice it and not be discriminated against for that at work?) In other words, would an employer actually be in trouble if this is considered religious?

          1. Karen from Finance

            It matters because creating an “it’s not a religion” precedent to deal with someone who is being inappropriate could leave without due religious protections for people for whom they would apply. Please re-read moonbeam’s comment.

            1. Aveline

              That’s a common misunderstanding of how this works. It need not be a religion to be protected.

              Front he EEOC’s website: “Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.”

              So a deeply-held ethical or moral belief system akin to a religion is sufficient in some cases.

              1. Karen from Finance

                Right.

                Colin is suggesting making OP’s employee admit it’s not like a religion to her, in order for her to not be able to claim protections. But moonbeam is concerned that it would put people of her own belief system unprotected by creating a precedent, because it IS akin to religion to her.

                But I’m not sure it would work this way, come to think about it, because what is akin to religion to one person and another varies. I would assume the law would analyse what constitutes as “akin to religion” on a case by case scenario?

              2. wittyrepartee

                Actually, if it needs to be an ethical or moral belief system- astrology might not count, depending on how they use it. If they’re using astrology strictly to infer things about people’s personalities or to prognosticate- that’s not actually about ethics or morality.

                1. Aveline

                  I’m not saying it does count in this instance. Only that we can’t blankety say it 100% doss not.

                  I don’t think any of us are in disagreement. Just unable to converse completely over the net.

                  For Karen, it’s always case by case. While I don’t think this lady would be protected based in what we know, it’s imporranr to realize that it might, in some cases, matter.

                  If OP wants protection, the issue isn’t just denouncing it as a religion, but denouncing it also as a deeply held belief system.

                  Veganism isn’t a religion, but can be equally protected in some cases.

                  So the strategy of saying “it’s not a religion” isn’t enough. You’d have to have her say “it’s a hobby” or z”I don’t take it seriously.” Something to denote it’s not a deeply held belief system.

                  However, since this is about her projecting her beliefs into others and not her ability to practice her beliefs, I think it’s a moot point.

                2. Karen from Finance

                  Agreed Aveline, I wasn’t trying to disagree with anyone, despite my initial snark, except Colin. I was trying to validate moonbeam’s concerns while at the same time, as I thought through it, wondering if it would even work that way.

                  In any case I think trying to intentionally set someone up to say something in order to legally use it against them is a crappy thing to do and I’m against Colin’s suggestion in general. I find it reprehensible. Specially when you can just follow Alison’s suggestion for better results.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever

                  @Aveline and even it was a hobby one day and not taken seriously the person could then wake up and have a sincerely held belief in astrology that would need to be accommodated.

                  For example I could say I’m not really catholic, I don’t really go to church very much one day. I could then have a come to Jesus moment and become really devout and adhere to the religion and it would need to be accommodated. The workplace could not use my previous statements against me. Many people convert to different religions.

                  But even if being Catholic was a sincerely held belief that would not give me the freedom to talk to my coworkers and say “You do x because you are a non-catholic heathen, or you are going to hell because you are not Catholic, Catholicism is the one true religion.”

                  It is one thing for an employer to say you can never mention your religion, that I think would be illegal. But it is quite another thing for an employer to say you can’t go around preaching to your coworkers and/or trying to convert them at work.

                4. LJay

                  And to add on to what CmdrShepard4ever is saying, someone else having or not having the same deeply held beliefs about the religion or practicing or not practicing the religion in the same way does not affect others’ religious protections.

                  Since I was raised Catholic, I’ll use examples from there.

                  If you have two Catholic employees, and Abby observes holy days of obligation by staying home from work and going to mass, and Betty comes to work on those days, you can’t go to Abby and say, “Well, Betty doesn’t need to go to mass on those days, so you don’t need to go either. Your absences aren’t protected and you need to come to work.”

                  Similarly, if Betty doesn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent and asks for an accommodation for a lunch meeting during that time, you can’t go, “Well, you’re not a real Catholic. You don’t observe holy days of obligation, so you don’t need to do this either. You’re just trying to use your religion to get a better meal.”

                  Each person gets to practice and express their religion in their own way and need to be accommodated in their own way, without comparing their beliefs to others or to your perceptions of how the religion is practiced as a whole.

                  So for one person, Astrology could be part of a deeply held religious belief. For another, it could just be a fun talking point. And neither of their experiences should affect the way the other person is treated by their employer.

          2. Starbuck

            Well, yes, if you’re a parent and it’s your child. But that’s a derail for another time and not relevant to the workplace.

        2. FD

          Yeah, I think it’s sort of the wrong approach. I would generally put the coworker’s behavior in the same general category as people who are trying to push people into joining their church.

          It’s not that the coworker believes in astrology that’s the problem–lots of people can believe things that other people don’t all the time! It’s that by using it as their primary strategy for describing why others behave as they do, they’re pushing their religious/philosophical belief on others.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Yep, in addition to the grilling people about things in order to categorize them. That would be super annoying and isn’t great for building relationships with coworkers, as Alison pointed out.

      2. Femme d'Afrique

        “To cover your ass legally, try to get her to say “it’s not a religion”.

        There is now way this covers anyone legally. Someone saying, “Christianity is not a religion,” doesn’t magically make it so. It certainly doesn’t remove any legal protections against religious discrimination.

        1. Aveline

          It it need not be a religion to be protected. It can be merely deeply-held ethical or moral belief akin to a religion.

          In some cases, veganism has been found to be a religion.

            1. Femme d'Afrique

              My comment was a response to Colin saying “get her to say it’s not a religion.”
              I don’t think you and I disagree?

              1. Aveline

                Oh, no we don’t.

                It’s sometimes difficult to indicate. I agree and…

                I’m sorry if I didn’t preface that so that you dind’t Think I was disagreeing with you.

          1. Lily Rowan

            And that would mean you can’t fire someone for being vegan, but you can certainly ask them to stop throwing away other people’s ham sandwiches.

      3. Observer

        To cover yourself legally,
        1. don’t play stupid word games and
        2. focus on the work impacts and other people’s rights in the workplace, not on whether she is right or wrong.

    2. snowglobe

      Yes, Astrology (whether or not it’s a religion in itself) is contradictory to many other religious beliefs. There is a very good chance that some employees feel that even just ‘playing along’ with the Astrology beliefs is a violation of their own religious beliefs, which is very problematic.

      And if this employee is in any way part of management, there could be a concern that she would use her beliefs in Astrology to make decisions about employees, such as who gets a promotion – as demonstrated by her comment “you should totally be the person who does that task, it’s such a Leo thing”. Imagine if she was a boss and decided that a certain project should only go to a Leo, never a Capricorn.

      1. PhyllisB

        This, snowglobe!! The Bible strictly prohibits using astrology. Not derailing into a religious discussion, but for devout believers, this would be extremely offensive, and might drive away good employees or clients.
        Like the others have said, everyone is entitled to their beliefs of course, and if someone mentioned they were interested in astrology I would not wave my Bible at them and make accusations, but I would be very upset with anyone who tried to categorize me based on my astrological sign. (I guess that an Aries thing?) This should be handled like any other inappropriate work behavior and SHUT DOWN.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

          Same with people who want to encourage group prayer or discuss the Bible at people. Shut it down. Way too people are fine with religious thuggery as long as it’s their religion.

      2. 1.0

        There are lots of religious beliefs that are contradictory to other religious beliefs, and are the (stated, at least) basis for discriminating against adherents of certain religions — this is not a good road to go down.

        1. snowglobe

          There should be no preference for one over the other, but if *other* employees are basically told just to nod and go along with all the astrology talk, without objecting, then the company is potentially violating those employees’ religious rights.

      3. mark132

        Is that actually illegal to make hiring/promotions/staffing decisions based on astrology? It doesn’t strike me as terribly effective, but would it actually be discrimination? I’m genuinely curious.

        1. snowglobe

          If astrology is considered a religion, it could be. But even if it’s not illegal, it’s pretty poor management.

        2. Perse's Mom

          Not in the legal sense, probably, unless it was somehow hooked into religious or cultural belief. But a crappy move to decide that like… a Virgo would make a terrible manager because Virgos are X but not Y and you need Y to be a good manager, so you’ll never promote a Virgo into a management position.

        3. Observer

          It could lead to a legal problem if someone takes adverse action against someone based on this, though. If I don’t believe in religion X, or my religion forbids belief Y, and you take an adverse action based on X or Y then there is an argument to be made that you are infringing on my religious rights.

          So if you decide to keep a plum assignment from me because I’m the “wrong” sign, I could argue religious discrimination, just like I could argue that if you kept the assignment because I’m the wrong “caste” or religion in general.

      4. Michaela Westen

        I believe more in science than religion, and if astrology was being used to interact with me and especially to make decisions about my job, I would be offended too.
        IMHO astrology is fun to play with and it’s interesting when it seems to be accurate, but it can be taken too far.

    3. only acting normal

      I’m an atheist, autistic, astrophysicist. If a co-worker was doing astrology AT me like this person I’d probably plainly (autistic) tell them it was personally offensive to me (atheist) and scientifically nonsensical (astrophysicist).
      (I’m kinda curious which of us wins the anti-discrimination play-offs that follow?!)

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

        As long as you do the same to Christians, Hindus, adherents of Judaism, etc., that’s cool.

        1. only acting normal

          If they’re doing faith AT me then yes. Otherwise I get along extremely well with all my religious co-workers and friends, even talk about religion with some. If it’s clear we’re on very different pages we just don’t go there.
          Even people who call at my door evangelising get a cheerful “no thanks, we’re a humanist household” and a friendly chat about what that means if they’re curious. None of them have been less than delightfully polite; the biggest ‘push’ from them is usually ringing the doorbell!

        2. Jerry

          I don’t think it’s good faith to pretend that (outside of the Bible belt) any of those adherents would let it inform their daily interactions to that level. This is a specific characteristic/feature of enjoying astrology, it’s applicability to daily personal interaction.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            I understand that. But there are ethnic Jews who are not religious at all and non ethnic Jews who are religious. All Jews but there is a difference.

        3. Oaktree

          Also, why? There’s no point. The object here should be to ensure that no one is behaving inappropriately at work (proselytizing about a religion or a quasi-religious practice), and that no one is being discriminated against over their religion. That’s it.

      2. Czhorat

        Why make a fight out of it?

        Why not just plainly tell them “Thanks, but I don’t believe in that” and let it drop? As you stated this, it almost feels as if you’re using autism as an excuse for being deliberately offensive.

        There’s also no need for “anti-discrimination play-offs”. To suggest as much is to treat this as a game, which in the long term does nobody any good.

        1. only acting normal

          Probably I’d start almost exactly as you phrased it, but the LWs coworker obviously isn’t taking that as a polite exit, so they’re the one “making the fight out of it”.

          Never an excuse to be offensive! I just tend to speak directly. And apparently that’s part of what got me a positive assessment of autism (who knew?).

          The play-off remark was somewhat cynical, as I suspect religious rights tend to win (disability rights have far less political power behind them, and atheists’ right to be free from religion is well down the hierarchy if it even exists).

        2. Jules the 3rd

          ‘That is offensive to me’ is a legitimate response when something is offensive to you. You’re not required to hide or soften your emotional reaction to things.

          There may be professional reasons that you *choose* to soften the reaction, but, well, I’d be deeply offended and outraged if anyone did a ‘that’s because you’re a Libra’ at me during a conflict, almost as much as if they did a ‘because you’re a woman’. It’s dismissive of my intelligence and autonomy, undermining my argument based on an ad hominem logical fallacy. The Libra stereotype overlaps with feminine stereotypes a lot, the equivalence is earned.

          And that is why I would make a fight out of it, depending on the context. Applying stereotypes to individuals is often offensive and often worth fighting.

            1. only acting normal

              It’s offensive to me *because* it’s scientifically nonsensical. (In the situation described by the LW, I’ve no objection to people using it for themselves in their spiritual life.)
              Any better? Probably not.

      3. Lissa

        Would you also do this to a Christian saying they’ll pray for you? I don’t really think there’d be anti-discrimination playoffs at all here though – *maybe* you could argue the atheism but I don’t think that either being autistic or an astrophysicist would apply in this particular case. I think if you stopped at “offensive to me” due to your (lack of) religion would keep you really firmly on the “right” side of this if she was applying it to you directly, though. Bringing in scientifically nonsensical just makes it into a fight about the wrong thing, IMO. Even if it WAS scientifically proven she still shouldn’t be applying it to her coworkers out loud like that.

        1. only acting normal

          Do what? Say “Thanks for the thought, but I don’t believe in god.” Yes. I’ve never had anyone say more than “Oh, OK” back though, because the religious people I know are all quite nice people. (Not that vicar who told the non-congregants at a christening that non-believers will burn in hell for all eternity, but hey I didn’t know him personally).

          If the argument must be had solely on belief grounds: I’m a Humanist (i.e. a positive statement of non-belief) which means I’m a rationalist – so the scientific part is *technically* part of my (non-)religion.

          And yes, they shouldn’t be doing it, even if it were science.

    4. kittymommy

      – “People with a wide range of beliefs will find this to be nonsense, or downright offensive to their religious beliefs.”
      This and I’m a little surprised it wasn’t mentioned in the answer. There are quite a few religions/religious followers that would find this very offensive to their faith. The employee needs to understand that comments like this are absolutely not appropriate at work and she needs to stop now.

      1. Aveline

        In essence, I think it’s both a labeling and a forcing others to participate thing. How is she going to respond if a Christian takes umbrage and tells her she’s a sinning sinner and he will pray for her damned soul? Because that belief is equally valid to hers under the law. It’s just neither of them should be foisting it on the workplace.

      2. Jack Be Nimble

        That was my take, as well!

        Astrology is a spiritual practice, even if it’s not part of the employee’s faith, and bringing it up so often is not appropriate for the workplace. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally mentioning it, just like there’s nothing wrong with mentioning church attendance, scripture classes, etc. but bringing it up constantly is going to be a distraction, in addition to the problems with stereotyping your coworkers.

        But of course I’d say that, my moon is in Capricorn ;)

      3. Le Sigh

        Well, I don’t think the core issue is if someone finds it offensive to their own religious beliefs–lots of things conflict with other religions and often we just have to deal. Of course, you do risk alienating some people by offending their own religious beliefs, but I think the main problem here is she has a set of beliefs that she’s forcing on other people, and using it to make form judgments and make presumptions in the workplace — and that’s really alienating to everyone. I’m atheist, I appreciate that people feel strongly about astrology, and that’s all well and good — but I’d be super alienated if I met someone and they just unloaded all these assumptions about me in the office. I’ve had Christians do this to me in a workplace and I hated it. Not because of my own beliefs, but because it’s presumptuous, unprofessional, can harm my own standing in the office, and it’s just effing rude!

        1. kittymommy

          Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but yes it’s the actions on the part of the employee in that she is trying to force her belief on others that is offensive. I don’t give a crap if someone believes in a particular faith or not, and no one else should either, as long as nothing is being pushed on to another person, then it’s all good.

    5. fposte

      But you also need to shut it down because it would be obnoxious no matter what her belief system; while her content may offend some people, it’s her behavior that’s going to be a universal problem. You can’t do this with Myers Briggs, or Big 5, or Rogerian theory, either.

    6. Sara without an H

      We’re getting side-tracked here. The issue for LW#1 isn’t whether or not astrology qualifies for religious protection or not. The employee’s behavior is causing disruption at work. That’s the real issue and the one LW#1 needs to address.

      In general, I think managers are better advised to avoid getting lured into discussions of beliefs and feelings and concentrating on behaviors. That the employee in this case believes fervently in astrology as a guide to life is not the manager’s business. That the employee’s behavior in expressing those beliefs is causing disruption and resentment is the manager’s business and it’s the behavior, not the belief, that needs to be addressed.

      1. Aveline

        I’m not sure it’s entirely a side issue as some people seem to think “It’s hooey, so I don’t have to bother respecting it.”

      2. Observer

        In addition to what Aveline says, it’s not completely a side issue. Firstly, because on top of it being a REALLY bad practice on it’s own, it also has implications for religious accommodation and non-discrimination in the workplace. Also, because there is a very high likelyhood that the employee might come back with an argument that her beliefs need to be respected. Which is true, but they don’t need to be accommodated to the point that it’s going to have a genuine negative impact on others.

    7. Lily B

      Thanks for pointing this out, Polly. People are entitled to believe whatever they want to (including astrology), but in many faiths, astrology is not just nonsense, but pretty offensive — on par with occult stuff like Ouija boards. Personally, it makes me just as uncomfortable for someone to go around telling me “Ohh you’re such a Gemini” as it would probably make a non-religious person if I went around saying things about God’s love for them. That’s why you don’t talk about this stuff at work!

      1. Ajana

        People have blinkers on when it comes to their own beliefs, whether a superstitious one or one about a favourite sports team or whether hot dogs should have mustard put on first.

        Yes, people are going to believe in whatever they are going to believe in. What a joyous world it would be it they would actually keep those beliefs entirely to themselves (and certainly away from impressionable children).

  5. Rollergirl09

    Five days leave and two unpaid holidays? That’s horrible. I’m sorry you have to put up with those conditions, OP.

    1. Trout 'Waver

      +1. This company sounds highly dysfunctional. I know there’s a taboo about leaving a financial services company during tax season, but they deserve it.

      1. Clorinda

        It’s the BEST time to leave this particular company. Particularly if several people leave at once and explain why.

    2. Anonymous

      If it were me, I’d just get out as quickly as possible. Nothing about “We fired all the managers and let our daughter run the company” says they’re ever going to make healthy, employee-positive decisions.

      1. Narvo Flieboppen

        +1,000.

        This business sounds like it is going into the ground, and quickly. This policy is clearly going to drive most (if not all) of the employees who know their worth. And good luck hiring skilled replacements when you’re offering only 2 unpaid holidays and 5 combined sick/vacation days.

        If you want to push back, OP, you can. In your position, I think I would be finding new work as fast as possible and let the family who owns the place reap what they have sown.

        1. Oh no, not another Jennifer

          Yes, I agree. You can always try but I don’t think any amount of explaining why this policy is hurtful will help. They fired experienced people in favor of family. They are implementing small short term cost-cutting measures rather than fixing the actual problems. For me, these are major red flags. It may be a better bet to leave.

        2. Massmatt

          I agree, this company is headed for disaster and you do not want to be the last one headed for the lifeboats. Many companies enact awful policies during recessions when unemployment is high under the theory that workers will like it or lump it. With unemployment low and many places desperate for skilled employees there is no excuse for this crap. Job hunting stinks but the market is better than it’s been in years, it shouldn’t be hard to find someplace better. 5 days off combined for vacation and sick days is horrible.

      2. Natatat

        Yes, this is my thinking. Even if you succeed in having the company restore the leave to previous levels, I would not trust this employer as an employee. They’ve shown themselves to be a bad employer. I know leaving a job is much easier said than done due to a person’s particular needs and circumstances, but if it’s a viable option for you OP, I would seriously consider it.

  6. Story Nurse

    Since LW #3 mentioned that both the colleague’s pay reduction and their own threatened pay reduction were linked to having kids, wouldn’t there potentially be a discrimination issue in play?

      1. Bagpuss

        Is indirect gender discrimination a thing in the US? Here in the UK, it would be. If a policy disproportinally affects workers of one gender it can be discriminatory, even if their gender isn’t the specifc reason for the policy.

        1. PhyllisB

          Also, this employee who offered to be on call; was she informed that her pay would be cut $2.50 an hour before she offered to do this? If not, the boss is definitely acting in bad faith.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever

            It might be bad faith, but it seems to be more of an oversight issue, the boss has a policy of paying part time people $2.50 less then full time employees. The boss telling the coworker your pay should have been reduced we made a mistake that we will now correct is legal. The boss can’t go back and try to retroactively reduce the pay for hours worked, but the boss can say these are your new terms of employment, and the coworker gets to decide to take it or leave it. *This is all assuming the part time coworker does not have a binding contract for the work they do.

          2. Iris Eyes

            Especially since it would make sense that you would pay an emergency back up MORE per hour than they would regularly earn.

          3. Gumby

            Yes, when people with specific skill sets leave my company we sometimes try to retain access to their services via having a contracting agreement. The rates that go into these agreements (where they would basically be offered work when/if one of our projects needed their expertise) are negotiated but they are *all* higher than the hourly-rate equivalent of their former salaries. Sometimes more than 2 times as much. That is because by becoming contractors they are taking on some extra expenses that the company covered when they were employees (think taxes). This wouldn’t apply to going part time, but for the ‘fully quit but I’ll help out in a pinch’ employee – they should be making *more* per hour, not less.

            1. Reliant

              Exactly right. When I retired last year but stayed on part time to help the team transition, I negotiated an hourly fee that was 2x higher. My main reasoning was that I would no longer receive benefits like employer payments for health care premiums.

          1. Aveline

            In many types of injustice, the first one or two persons don’t get it directly. But they do play a role in helping person 20 or 30.

      2. Jules the 3rd

        I think I’d want to have a man ask a similar question without mentioning *why* to test whether it’s linked to having kids or gender, personally. Discrimination’s too common for this not to be a question worth investigating.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It could be, especially if the only people getting pay reductions are women. The whole set up sounds extremely sketchy to me, but maybe I’m overly sensitive about penalizing new moms who want to reduce their workload by 5 hours/week.

      I’d be curious if any men decreased their hours post-child and were also subjected to a pay cut.

      1. Wintermute

        I would attack this from a moral perspective not a legal one. Disparate impact only applies to like work, so even if the only people who ever use it are women it’s still legal to cut pay if someone goes part time (though, as you indicated, if men who made the same change were not penalized that would be baldly discriminatory, but I see no reason to assume that is the case here).

        If your wage is based on the value you bring to the business your value does drop some if you work less hours but your skills don’t disappear because you aren’t working as many hours, so I think a strong case can be made that your per-hour rate shouldn’t be reduced. But if that’s just their inflexible policy there may just be no fighting it.

        1. Iris Eyes

          Especially since in many companies you benefit eligibility is reduced or made ineligible by moving to part time. If you keep your full benefits (which are probably a static cost to your employee) then I could see that they might make a case for reducing your take home pay since they would be trying to keep their per hour expense the same.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Oh, I agree! I think the moral and business-case angle is more effective.

          I just wanted to acknowledge that, if we had a lot more information and data points, this might also be a legal issue. I appreciate everyone’s comments and discussion sussing out why the legal angle is not effective for OP at this moment!

    2. MK

      The OP only brings up one case of a new mother penalised this way, and the possibility of the same thing happenimg to her. That’s not enough to go on, given that the negative treatment is based on something objective, being part-time; you would need to show that a man/someone with no kids worked part-time without a reduction in pay.

      OP, I would advise to look elsewhere if you ever want to be part-time. Whatever else might be going on, it’s obvious your company, or at least your boss, doesn’t value part-timers. You shouldn’t be considered a second-class citizen at work because you work a few hours less.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Depending on their regional laws it may create inequality in wages. Hours aren’t legally acceptable to determine pay on. So if men are being paid 20 an hour, same duties and women are at 17.50 only because their part time and “may be perceived” as less of a manager by some people, that’s dangerous waters to wade into.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House

        I worked somewhere that had two full time, say, llama shepherds, and about 15 part-time llama shepherds. In a high cost of living region, I always wondered how anyone could afford to accept being a llama shepherd as a full time job, but hey that’s not my business right?

        Well, one day I found out that the part-time llama shepherds are paid $12.50 an hour, no benefits, and the full-time ones are paid $18.50, plus benefits and paid vacation/holiday time!

        There was no material difference in their job duties, job requirements, job knowledge (on practical tests, the part-timers usually herded circles around the full-timers): when the full-time shepherd was using their PTO we’d just swap in a part-timer, sometimes for weeks on end. The only real difference was that we only offered full-time status to people who could be trusted to turn up on time and call out sick appropriately, while the part-timers sometimes were less reliable about coming to work.

        1. Quackeen

          The only real difference was that we only offered full-time status to people who could be trusted to turn up on time and call out sick appropriately, while the part-timers sometimes were less reliable about coming to work.

          Well, that’s a pretty significant difference, in my book.

      2. Nena

        “Hours aren’t legally acceptable to determine pay on.”

        Do you have a citation for that? I’ve never known that to be true.

  7. LGC

    Okay, so…am I wrong in seeing huge red flags in the way that the boss in letter 3 reacts to his women employees asking to reduce their hours? It read to me that he seems to have an issue with women who want to spend more time with their families, and that reads as really sexist to me. (And, like, he COULD have the same issue if a man said he wanted to reduce his hours as well. But the specific instances given seem to mostly land on women.)

    Also, for what it’s worth: aren’t contractors as a rule about twice as expensive as employees? (You know, take your yearly salary, divide it by 1000, and that’s your hourly rate.) The former (ish) coworker sounds like a bargain already – and that’s without the $2.50/HR discount he applied, which is pretty significant. (Even if she was making 100k a year before she left, that’s still 5% off her original pay rate.)

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      Yeah, I was thinking the woman who did some work as a favor – she has to pay all the taxes on that work, on less per hour – that’s really a pay cut! That’s one reason contractors charge about double – to cover the taxes and insurance that the employer is not covering.

      I hope the OP knows her well enough to mention that to her. Next time she does a favor, she should make sure she’s paid appropriately.

    2. Garrett

      Yeah I was wondering why she would come back to help out at the same rate (well less than) as she was paid as a fulltime employee. I quit a job and they asked me to come back for a few hours a week to train the new person and I did at a huge markup since I was getting no benefits from them otherwise.

  8. GeoffreyB

    Side note to #1: a lot of workplaces which might frown on this kind of behavior when based in astrology don’t seem to understand that it’s just as obnoxious when based in demi-scientific theories of “personality typing”.

    1. Kitty

      Excellent point! I personally don’t think there’s much difference between classifying people by star sign or by Myers-Briggs results.

      1. Constanze

        Yes. There is as much research proving astrology is real as proving Myers-Briggs is real. Meaning : 0.

        1. Aveline

          One could say that about Buddhism, Christianity, etc.

          That validity of the belief system doesn’t matter to the question or to the moral or legal context.

          People are allowed to believe things that are unproven and even idiotic, what they do with those beliefs is another matter…..

          1. Zephy

            > People are allowed to believe things that are unproven and even idiotic, what they do with those beliefs is another matter…..

            Yeah, that’s the problem. Nobody’s going around saying “well you’re Presbyterian so you’re like this, you’re Episcopalian so you’d be better suited to that.” There are workplaces that do put some kind of stock in “personality types” and use things like the MBTI or similar personality inventories when making decisions about hiring or promoting/assigning projects to employees. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a shop out there somewhere whose owner hires and promotes based on star signs, since small private businesses can pretty much do as they like, but that doesn’t make it a good business practice.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        What a typical ASDF thing to say! Kidding, kidding, I agree (and can’t remember the Myers-Briggs types for the life of me, so had to use a placeholder).

        1. Zephy

          The four scales are introverted/extraverted (I/E), intuiting/sensing (N/S), thinking/feeling (T/F), and judging/perceiving (J/P). The main problem with the MBTI is the assumption that the traits that it measures are immutable, when they very much are not. Also, if you’re being given this or any “personality” assessment in the context of a job, the results cannot possibly be reliable – there’s no way to account for you guessing what answers/traits your employer wants to see, and thus trying to game the system. You as the applicant have more incentive to answer dishonestly in an effort to get the “right” answers than you do to be honest, which is the only way these kinds of assessments can yield a useful result. Especially if you’re doing it as part of an initial hiring process, when the people doing the hiring don’t know you and can’t put your results into any kind of context.

          1. Close Bracket

            The main problem with MBTI is that it was developed by two people who were neither psychologists nor statisticians based on psychological theorems that are not aligned with current understanding of personality traits.

          2. whingedrinking

            Even an honest assessment might not give an accurate picture of how someone is as a worker. In language learning there’s a lot of work done with identity theory, which is that people respond to situations by becoming invested or uninvested based on how those situations align with their values and self-perceptions. This means that, for example, people become anxious in situations where it makes sense to them to be anxious, not because they’re just generally anxious people. For learners, this means it’s important to instructors not to just stick someone in a bin labelled “quiet” or “shy” or “lazy” or “smart” because “that’s just how they are”.
            So someone might be a Myers-Briggs-style introvert, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of extroverted behaviors in a situation where they feel that response is called for.

    2. LQ

      I push back on those things by pointing out that they are just as scientifically valid as Harry Potter houses and if they want to use it as a way to have a conversation, I’ll just respond to “You’re so red” with “Slytherin, continue…”

      I’d use a pretty similar tactic here, though depending on how adamant I might push toward it’s as inappropriate for work to assign people tasks and jobs based on if they are a Hufflepuff or not as it is to assign them if they are a Virgo or not. It lets it be about professionalism rather than how hard you wish in your heart to group people into small, easily understandable groups that prevent you from having to have genuine empathy.

        1. AKchic

          As a Slytherclaw, I am intrigued and amused by this classification system and will use it in my everyday life.

      1. TootsNYC

        I just want to say–if “ambition” is the core of Slytherin’s personality, there are ways to be Slytherin and not be evil!

        Alexander Hamilton would absolutely have been Slytherin–and Washington said A.Ham’s ambition was to be excellent, not to amass personal power.

        1. boo bot

          I’ve always said I’d be Slytherin, and my friends would say, “Oh, no! Don’t say that about yourself!” Drove me nuts…

      2. Caramel & Cheddar

        They’re not just as scientifically valid as Harry Potter houses, they often usually break down groups in the exact same way, which is hilarious to me. We had to do one of these at work once and me and another coworker were like “Oh, we’re in the Hufflepuff group!”

      3. Michaela Westen

        Not just empathy – any real understanding of or connection with other people.
        So much easier to just label everyone, right?

      4. Mouse

        When asked for my birth date, I will tell followers of astrology that I was born during the hour of the horse on the 19th day of the 5th moon in the year of the dragon. It’s fun to find out how ethnocentric folks can be!

      5. Elizabeth West

        I actually wrote that on a job application questionnaire. The question was, “Did you ever take any kind of personality assessment, and if so, what was the result?” I wrote, “Sorted into Gryffindor.” :D

        Didn’t get an interview, but it was a stupid test with other stupid questions, so I didn’t much care.

        1. Michaela Westen

          That’s a good example of an obvious way to game the result – do they think anyone will put a result that would make them undesirable?

          1. Anonymeece

            Actually, I’ve seen advice that if you’re ever asked in a job interview what words describe you, use your HP House:

            Slytherin: Ambitious/driven
            Hufflepuff: Hard worker/loyal
            Ravenclaw: Analytical/strategic
            etc.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I would not give your Harry Potter house in response to that question! Many interviewers won’t get it, some will think it’s juvenile, etc.

    3. Bree

      This!

      Astrology is a big trend in my social circle right now – I have theories that it’s related to our cultural/political moment, but that’s beside the point – and it’s about as accurate as those work-sanctioned and delivered personality workshops, but more fun.

      Neither should be used in the workplace to label people or assign work.

      1. seller of teapots

        I’m very interested in your theory! If you felt inclined to elaborate, I’d love to hear more. (I practice yoga and meditation, and I’ve noticed that astrology is definitely having A Moment right now. Depending on the treatment, I don’t always mind. But I’m really curious about the connection you see between our current cultural/political moment!)

          1. Jules the 3rd

            I could see it as ‘seeking some reason for the chaos the US is right now, religion’s not specific enough / has other baggage, and economics / social theory is too big and scary.’ Also, other explanations (religion / social theory) may have a bit of ‘if you work hard you can change things because the root cause is a human system’ while astrology has a slightly more fatalistic view – you can change your actions to help you get through the chaos, but you can’t address the root cause, which is a non-human system.

        1. Bree

          Don’t want to derail too much, but yes – it’s basically as people have described below in terms of using it as a way to understand yourself and others during uncertain and hostile times. My peer group is 20-30 something queer women, mostly, so we’re also kind of alienated from many other traditional systems. I think of it as a lens to look at the world, and it leads to really interesting and often empowering conversations about identity, and is a fun way to get to know people. It’s also been surprisingly helpful in terms of understanding my relationship dynamics with my wife (Capricorn and Aquarius). But I would never apply it to a professional setting!

      2. Dankar

        Actually, there have been a lot of articles written in the past two years or so exploring why astrology seems to be having another “it” moment. The general consensus seems to be that we crave an illusion of certainty in unstable times, and that it appeals to millenials’ affinity for list-icles and sorting (which is why I find it fun!)

        Links to follow:

      3. Oaktree

        I agree; my personal theory is that it has to do with organized religion being supremely unpopular among those on the left (for reasons which should be obvious and are often warranted); the majority of Americans and Canadians are ex- or post-Christians coming from a Christian hegemonic culture, and some people have actual abuse informed by certain strains of Christianity in their personal histories. We’re living in a moment of extreme political. economic and social upheaval, and where organized religion might have been a way to make sense of the world and find solace in eras past, it’s not en vogue now, so a lot of people who need that succor are instead reaching for New Age practices like astrology and crystals.

    4. Not All

      OMG YES!!!

      All I could think of was the awful personality/emotional-typing class we’re supposed to be taking in a few weeks here that will then be used to pigeonhole people for all eternity. (…but dang it! That was just the only day I could get into my doctor so I’m going to have to miss it. Erm, might have requested that date from my doctor.)

    5. an infinite number of monkeys

      Oh goodness gracious me yes. I came here looking for this comment! In previous workplaces it’s been Myers-Briggs; where I am now, it’s “colors” – “Oh, well, you have to understand that’s just how I handle these issues, because I’m a Gold.” “Well, you’re Blue, so naturally you’d react that way.”

      Drives my Green hiney straight up the wall.

      1. Elise

        We have two different color systems that one might be classified into here, which is hilarious. You can go to organization-wide trainings on what color you are, but you might confuse people who went to the training for the other one because it’s completely different. So I’m green in one (which I think makes me close to an INTJ in Myers-Briggs) and equally distributed between red, green and blue in the other. People use these as a shorthand and an excuse. “Oh, I’m blue so I’m not great with details.” OK so how are you going to improve that because it’s still part of being an adult and working…

        Too add insult to injury, our training department places so much weight in this that if you express (while in one of the trainings) a reaction that is not in line with the color to which you’re assigned, they correct you. Like I can’t tell you what I’d do in a situation because I’d be helpless again the color I’ve been assigned. As you can see, I could go on and on about this.

        Oh and I completely forgot about the test we took to determine our Enneagram categories.

        1. an infinite number of monkeys

          I absolutely love that you have multiple different color systems. It’s kind of like an English vs. metric thing!

        2. LJay

          This. We had a management training class that was based on the DiSC profile.

          The majority of us were “Ds”. And a lot of the class basically devolved into, “Well, I can’t possibly care about that because I’m a ‘D’ and we’re not details or emotions people.”

          Like, if you’re going to be managing people you need to learn to deal with people and their emotions. Just going, “I’m not mentally set up that way,” isn’t really an option if you want to be a decent manager and not an asshole.

          1. anon for this

            DISC always makes me chuckle because its origins are distinctly NSFW. It started out as part of William Marston’s BDSM-based theory of human relations (roughly “the world will be at peace when men learn to enjoy being tied up by strong women”), and then over the years it morphed into vanilla corporate psych.

        3. boo bot

          This is the setup for, like, a super cute picture book for kids to teach them about totalitarianism.

          1. boo bot

            I’m referring to the “No, you can’t react that way, that’s not blue!” thing, not the comments above!

            1. Elise

              Yes, that’s the part that irritates me the most. I was told I was wrong when I responded that my “type” would be good at problem solving. Trainer: “Oh, but don’t you think greens would just research it and never come to a conclusion?” Me: “Not if they want to keep their jobs…”

              And I’ve been in so many meetings where “blues” from the RGB work types are explaining away the fact that they come up with lots of ideas and dump them on others to take care of and it’s acceptable because of their type.

              It would be a great dystopian novel. Personality types gone awry. (In fact the Divergent series of teen books is almost exactly about that!)

      2. just a random teacher

        I haven’t encountered that one yet, and I think I’d be unable to see it as anything other than the D&D dragon colors, so that’s probably for the best.

        1. knitcrazybooknut

          Just start whipping out a d20 and a decision chart at the next meeting so you can make your decisions based on your rolls.

        2. L. S. Cooper

          I think I’m going to start telling people I can’t do a specific task because I’m too Chaotic Good, and they’re asking me to violate my alignment.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            That’s awesome. I lean CG myself but CE has its points.

      3. Earthwalker

        It’s so lovely when the instructor organizes everyone by color in different corners of the room, psychoanalyzes the group in each corner, and when she gets to the last corner says, “Now, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! We need people in this group too!” Surely astrology isn’t nearly as humiliating. How can anyone ban astrology where personality profiles are exalted?

    6. Bostonian

      Ah, I was wondering how long it would take for a commenter to make a completely irrelevant dig at Myers-Briggs. Y’all just can’t help yourselves, huh?

      1. AMT

        What’s irrelevant about it? The letter was about assigning people work tasks based on a method of assessment that is not scientifically supported, which is also true of Myers-Briggs.

      2. Iris Eyes

        I personally like Myers-Briggs and other personality typing systems because it gives people a common language and a starting point to see that their inner lives and workings are different from other people. The best ones also show you not just your tendencies and patterns but can help you find ways forward, not to excuse weaknesses but to find ways to grow and compensate for them. Humans really are different but one thing we have in common is our compulsion to categorize things.

        I do find it very interesting that a LOT of the blog posts I’ve found on MBTI or Jungian types have also had a lot of Astrological blogs. Same with the Enneagram. People are searching for answers and frameworks to understand themselves and the people around them. They will latch on to things that promise to provide those answers.

        1. Jules the 3rd

          The problem is that applying stereotypes to individuals often leads to errors if people trust the belief system (astrology, MB, Jungian, Potter houses, race, gender, geographical region, fandom, toilet roll hanging orientation, etc) over the specific reality in front of them. People are complex, and somewhat mutable – moods change, situations are different – and to deal with a huge variety of people effectively and fairly, you need to be able to see the reality in front of you, not the filter.

          People really like the filters as sorting tools, because we want to put everyone in boxes – evolutionarily, that made sense, someone outside your tribe was a likely threat. But tech and society have changed so much in the last 200 years, we now interact with people outside ‘our tribes’ much more regularly, and we still hold onto the tribal sorting tools instinctively, not thoughtfully.

          We’ll be a lot better able to live / work in peace if we train ourselves to examine the output of the sorting tools critically, and remind ourselves that if data (a reaction, a statement, a mood, a person) doesn’t fit the sort, we need to update or discard the sorting criteria, not the data.

          1. Iris Eyes

            After much pondering, I have decided that you are on to something. Because the human brain categorizes everything and because generalities only work generally; instead of focusing (funding, raising awareness et al.) on any one particular stereotype we should instead focus on training people to think critically and examine all of their categories as new information presents itself. Otherwise we are just playing Wac-a-mole with people’s categories without giving people the cognitive tools to use stereotypes responsibly.

          2. AMT

            Yep, I think the lesson is that no matter how well you think you can fit someone at work to a psychological type, it’s almost never more effective than just stating their skills and traits in plain English. “Susan has strong technical skills, but needs to work on her abruptness to her coworkers” is never going to be less understandable than “Susan is an MXQUBSILJ,” especially since “MXQUBSILJ” probably contains at least one trait or tendency that *doesn’t* fit Susan. Plus, there’s no evidence that different types of people need drastically different styles of management, and it seems exhausting for managers to have to twist themselves into knots catering to everyone’s supposedly unique management needs.

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House

        Given that a lot of people use these personality tests to persecute certain personality types, yes they are a relevant dig.

        “Oh we only want ABCDs here and you’re a EFGH, see you don’t belong.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          +100
          An OldJob gave me a Myers-Briggs-like test as part of my hiring process… “sign off to let us do your background check, take your drug test, oh and here’s a personality test for you too”. That really should not be happening.

        2. Quackeen

          That’s an unethical workplace, not a Myers-Briggs thing. Whether or not I particularly believe in Myers-Briggs, the creators of it and the people who now own the rights to it are very explicit that it should not be used in hiring or promoting decisions.

          1. Zephy

            That doesn’t stop other companies with their own personality inventories from swooping in to offer their services to hiring managers. For CurrentJob I had to take one that *somehow* yielded a personality profile based on me picking adjectives from a list. (I asked about my results a few months after I was hired, just out of curiosity – it read similarly to a horoscope, just specific enough that it felt truthy while also being generic enough to apply to most people.)

          2. Heynonniemouse

            That sounds an awful lot like those psychic hotlines that have ‘for entertainment purposes only’ disclaimers in tiny font.

      4. Typhoid Mary

        I mean, it’s been repeatedly demonstrated to be invalid and unreliable (and I’m using those terms in the statistical sense), was developed by somebody with no background in psychology or any social science, and is often used to exclude and degrade people (I went to a workshop where they put a specific MB personality type in a group and told the rest of us, “Y’all need to learn to be movers and shakers like these people.”)

        Meyers Briggs is literally, statistically as relevant as a tarot reading.* This is not my opinion. This is quantifiable scientific research. And even worse, it has a veneer of respectability because it uses fancy words instead of star signs. So yeah, it’s kind of relevant.

        *I say this as somebody who enthusiastically reads tarot for fun.

        1. Researchalator Lady

          It’s been demonstrated to measure four of the Big Five personality characteristics as reliably as other personality inventories of the same characteristics. It seems you have an axe to grind…

      5. GeoffreyB

        If you read “demi-scientific theories of personality typing” (note the plural) and chose to assume that I was referring to MBTI, that’s on you, not me.

        There are literally dozens of personality typing systems used in corporate settings. At least four have been mentioned just in this thread, and I’ve been subjected to several of them in my working life.

        And, yeah, it is relevant. The urge to pigeonhole people in four-to-sixteen personality categories and then generalise from those stereotypes is a common driver in both astrology and personality typing, and it goes wrong in exactly the same ways: “you have x trait therefore you’re a Purple which means you must also have y trait”.

    7. MoopySwarpet

      This exactly. I don’t want people saying “Oh, you’re an introvert so we’re not going to ask you to participate in (or lead) big important meetings.” Are meetings my favorite thing? No. Do I want to be excluded based just on whether or not I enjoy being around a lot of people? Of course not!

      Just because a Leo may be more naturally inclined to thrive at (or enjoy) certain tasks doesn’t mean that a Capricorn isn’t capable of performing them equally well.

      One of my biggest pet peeves about any of the boxing people theories . . . just because my resting/relaxing/recharging state is calm and quiet doesn’t mean I can’t get rowdy if needed. The same as an extrovert is more than capable of sitting quietly when necessary.

      I also agree with Iris Eyes . . . I do find astrology, Meyer-Briggs, Harry Potter Houses, and other such personality classifications fascinating. I do think it helps a lot to know that being more or less strong in certain areas is a personality trait and can be overcome. It’s not an excuse or a criteria for assigning work. It’s an understanding similar to knowing that your ADD employee is going to need short conversations with plenty of breaks for their own speaking so they can get their response to the first piece out of their head and can listen to the second piece. Not all people with ADD need/want that, but knowing they have ADD can help you (and them) make adjustments to communication styles.

      Any and all of them should be a general guide, not a black and white rule book.

      1. Iris Eyes

        Some of the best presenters are introverts. I have 0 issues presenting to a group and am definitely on the introverted side of the spectrum. Being a presenter is just a different way of being alone in the crowd.

      2. Jules the 3rd

        yep – general guide, to be overruled by specifics if they don’t match. You should regularly check for data that does not match the guide, because confirmation bias will highlight all the specifics that match.

      3. Michaela Westen

        “resting/relaxing/recharging state is calm and quiet doesn’t mean I can’t get rowdy if needed. The same as an extrovert is more than capable of sitting quietly when necessary.”
        These are indications of maturity. So what a manager should be looking at is, is the employee mature enough to have developed the skills that aren’t in their basic personality?

    8. Anonybus

      I was about to comment on this as well- i have a few coworkers who are into personality-behavioral-pop psychology, etc. which is fine, but a couple of them seem to feel the need to a) observe people a bit more closely than necessary and b) share their entirely unsolicited “analyses” with you and c) get hung up and obnoxiously persistent when told that said analyses are inaccurate

      This makes interacting with them extremely exhausting, and distracts from actual work getting done.

      These are the problematic behaviors. The underlying belief or theory could be anything.

    9. Armchair Analyst

      Ha! I haven’t read the other 54 comments in this thread but… GeoffreyB you don’t lie

  9. AZR

    OMG, my previous employer, and the rest of the team were so into astrology. It was a company in my home country where astrology is huge there. It’s even asked on the job application for some companies. Long story short, the CEO and the rest of the team soon start analyzing me with that lens, and things got Mean Girl real fast. Of course, there was also the layer of misogyny, sexism, and other things. On the astrology aspect, the CEO giving excuses and allowing one of the guys on the team to be vengeful because he’s a Scorpio. My experience in America made me more direct and it never been a problem even with other companies whose leadership share the same cultural background with me. But not this one, so my directness became “that’s so Aries” despite I’ve been brushing off their aggression. When I finally decided to quit, they threatened to sue and cut my legs.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      When I finally decided to quit, they threatened to sue and cut my legs.

      Did you work for a white collar criminal masquerading as a mobster??

    2. Antidisestablishmentarianism

      Um….any chance you’re willing to share which country is your specified home country? Because this sounds like a scary place to be!

    3. Foreign Octopus

      I think we all need a little more information about the cutting of the legs.

      What?

    4. CoveredInBees

      Sounds like they wanted to give you extra reasons to run (apparently, like a ram) screaming from that place.

    5. knitcrazybooknut

      I’m thinking “bens”, perhaps? I may have just spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the type or autocorrect on this one.

  10. TL -

    Wouldn’t the telling the woman she was getting paid less *after* she’d worked fall under retroactive pay change? If there had been no notifications previously, I can’t see how that’s actually legal.

    1. Just Employed Here

      I think the person coming back to work was aware of their pay, it was just news to the OP at that point.

    2. Antidisestablishmentarianism

      I thought the exact same thing, but about the former coworker “contractor” having her rate reduced.

  11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I think there are three core problems. Your employee is (1) stereotyping others based on an astrological profile (sidenote: how can the employee even do this without a complete chart?), and (2) directing others to take on tasks when that’s not their responsibility or role to do so, and (3) attributing motives and belief systems based on the other person’s astrological sun sign.

    Issue #1: In addition to Alison’s scripts, it might be worth pointing out that, as a workplace, you prefer not to approach one another using reductionist typologies. Your employee is allowed to think whatever they want in their head—even if I think this is an absolutely wrong-headed approach—, but they should refrain from sharing those assumptions out loud with others.

    Issue #2: I would suggest telling the employee not to volunteer others for tasks. It sounds like it’s not even their job to make assignments, so chiming in on why a Leo should undertake a task is derailing and beyond the scope of your employee’s role/responsibilities.

    Issue #3: This may be an opportunity to talk about empathetic listening. If someone is frustrated, telling them that their reaction is logical because of their astrological sign is only going to make that person feel even more frustrated. It’s important for your employee to be able to actually hear other people’s feelings without making that person feel dismissed or marginalized. In order to effectively listen and respond, the employee has to focus on what’s being said and reflecting back those feelings—not explaining to the feeler why they are having feelings in the first place.

    1. JS

      This is a good point. I was under the impression that OP’s employee was in a position to be volunteering others for tasks and giving feedback and the astrology aspect was more of the issue. But if they aren’t in that position then they shouldn’t even be doing it in the first place whether or not an astrological sign is attached to the comment.

      1. Liane

        I don’t think you should assign tasks–even when that is your job–based on “This is what Taurus people do best” OR “Methodists are best suited for That.” (I am Methodist).
        Tasks should be assigned based on work related criteria, like, “Uhura is cross-trained on Transporter, she can cover for Chief O’Brien today. Helm and Nav can take turns on Hailing Frequencies, since they don’t have much to do when we’re in dry dock.”

    2. Akcipitrokulo

      Agreed – also it may be an issue for other’s religious beliefs to have astrology so much a part of their daily work.

      1. KP

        Well my workplace just had me take a personality test and spent who knows how much money having every single employee take it and receive a one-on-one half hour review of our personality type and how it meshes or not with our manager’s etc.

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          but astrology is specifically against some religious beliefs which could cause legal issues.

    3. Où est la bibliothèque?

      Your point about not using a chart is a good one.

      I suspect that the coworker is, at least in part, just trying to be cute. Nobody has told her to stop, so she’ll assume people find it fun and endearing. Which is actually way more maddening than someone sincerely trying to be helpful/productive in a misguided way IMO.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        This is a good point about being cute. I think some people can get wrapped up in their vision of their Adorable Quirkiness, and dismiss all criticism as people who are Just No Fun.

      2. EventPlannerGal

        Yeah, I agree. Certainly this all might be a deeply-held belief system on her part, but it could also just be one of these things that people get really into and talk about a lot *because* they know it’s kind of silly and think that it’s cute/fun and that nobody could object to something so obviously not serious. I have friends who have gone through phases like that with a number of New Age-y things (crystals, aura readings etc) and they talked about them very freely because they thought of them as fun activities they were trying out and wanted to tell people about.

    4. Sara without an H

      This advice is spot on. I like that you’ve focused on the employee’s behaviors and give specific examples about how to do it differently.

  12. Engineer Girl

    #2 Is it possible the ex employee was digging for dirt within your company?
    I’d definitely contact your boss and also contact legal. They might want a heads up in case ex employee decides to publish another article. Especially if ex employee signed any sort of NDA.
    Maybe future articles will be fine, maybe not. But it’s worth watching.

    1. Artemesia

      I became aware of a publication attacking our operation and called the CEO whom I knew was heading for a conference where they would be seeing many people who were likely to have read this. I didn’t want them to get caught flat footed. They were happy to be prepared to just laugh it off — rather than get flustered by an unexpected query.

    2. Ha2

      Yeah, I think op#2’s organization should definitely do some sort of security sweep or breach check or something. If the employee published a hateful letter account the company, then applied there and got a job, and then left after a few weeks, it is quite possible they only took the job to get inappropriate access and dig for dirt. Definitely ask IT to see if there are any signs of data theft or anything… …or at least tell your boss and let him decide what to do.

      1. EPLawyer

        Didn’t think of data theft. But definitely thought the person only took the job for part 2 of her daring expose of this company. Hopefully since the company does research she signed an NDA. Enforce it.

        Also suggest your boss check with legal. Getting a job under false pretenses might also be actionable. Trust me the legal department knows the case I am talking about.

  13. Grand Mouse

    The boss in #3 makes me mad because working less hours gets you less pay anyway! And the salary budget would stay the same. It just feels really punitive to reduce someone’s hourly wage. Especially if it no longer qualifies them for benefits.

    1. Wintermute

      I really think it depends on the business case. If it’s a case where there’s 40 hours of work to do and you have to make alternate arrangements to cover the work left undone (overtime for another employee, hiring another part-timer, promoting someone and the pay that comes with it), then it’s only fair to expect some of that financial burden to fall onto the person that’s requiring the changes made.

      If it’s not then the utility the employee isn’t reduced by an hourly reduction and ultimately in an ideal world utility is what determines pay (note, in an ideal world, in the real world it’s more like “how little can I get away with paying for this crucial role without getting only unskilled or unmotivated workers?”)

      1. hbc

        I agree, it really depends. Especially when a business or role is set up expecting 40 hours of work, there can be a lot of hassle dealing with part-timers.

      2. Fae

        If the role needs someone there for forty hours, then you don’t allow people to do it part-time. It’s that simple. What you don’t do is say “sure it’s okay for you to go part-time, but we’re going to have to cut your (already reduced) pay to make up for having those other hours covered.”

        1. TootsNYC

          right! The way you have money to cover those other 20 hours is by using the money you aren’t paying to cover those other 20 hours.

          1. LJay

            But it doesn’t just work like that.

            It costs a lot of money to onboard and maintain an employee in addition to salary.

            If the job has any sort of benefits for part-timers whatsoever, then it’s very highly likely that paying two people $20 an hour for 20 hours of work costs the company way more than paying one person $20 an hour for 40 hours of work.

            1. Oaktree

              Given that, it sure is interesting how many employers would rather hire multiple part-time shift employees instead of creating FT positions. (It’s because a full-timer is more expensive, being that they are entitled to benefits.)

    2. So long and thanks for all the fish

      My roommate used to work at Dollar Tree. She had a coworker who was promoted to manager, then asked to work 40 hours/week, but they would not call her a “full time manager” because if they called her that they’d have to give her an extra $1/hour, so that store was constantly “looking to hire” a full-time manager, because they were required to have one. They were written up if they worked overtime, so everyone often worked an extra 5-15 minutes per shift without pay, because the ends of shifts tended to be busy, and they could also be written up for leaving while the store was busy. We really need better enforcement of our labor laws.

    3. Temperance

      OP#3 has management responsibilities. Someone is going to have to cover those hours she’s not working, and if I was on her staff, I would feel salty about doing the manager’s work for no additional money/title bump. I’ve been in that situation, and it sucked.

      1. TootsNYC

        I’m a manager. Nobody has to cover for me when I’m not working–I just get all my work done in the shorter amount of time.

        In fact, it’s EASIER for me, as a manager, to work fewer hours. My staff is doing the hands-on stuff; I’m doing the planning, training, scheduling, budgeting.
        Sure, I have to be there to observe so I can be effective, but I could absolute work 3/5 time and get the same amount done.

  14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, I love when folks do this (truly!), and I’ve certainly done it. And I agree with Alison that the best way to frame it is to say you’re looking forward to meeting the person at the conference and/or to invite them to coffee (not drinks or dinner) during the conference.

    1. Antidisestablishmentarianism

      Curious, PCBH (love your username, btw, and I find your comments to be very insightful): why not drinks? I ask this primarily because I’ve attended conferences where speakers and attendees often have dinner/drinks together, and/or coffee, and I’m just not sure why offering dinner or drinks is worse than asking to meet for coffee.

      1. Prince Carlos Itty Bitty Bikini

        Of course because she is female she gets a pass on her sexism (“banana hammock” is slang for speeedos) but even if it is memorable it is highly offenesive.

        1. PB

          It’s a reference to Friends, and Speedos aren’t inherently sexist. I find this comment very odd.

          1. Prince Carlos Itty Bitty Bikini

            Didn’t know it was from Friends but so what? So if I turn my username to Tom Cruise in his Risky Business Tighty Whities you are okay with that on a work blog?

            1. Falling Diphthong

              People are okay with references to popular TV shows being used as user names here, yes.

            2. Myrin

              I mean, I’d personally find that quite funny, and I suspect many others would feel that way also.

              That’s like objecting to that time regular commenter Katie the Fed changed her name to “Katie the Sensual-Wristed Fed” – technically, sensual stuff doesn’t really belong on a work blog (although I’d say that this is the kind of blog where people wouldn’t think ill of it regardless) but it was a reference to a letter published here and everyone got a good chuckle out of it.

              But quite apart from that, like PB said, speedos aren’t in themselves sexist.

                1. Myrin

                  Me too! (Same with LBK and Jamie, btw.)
                  I know she’s popped in a couple of times after having her baby so at least we know she’s alright but busy with real life, which is always good to hear.

            3. Hold My Cosmo

              Context matters, which you are sorely lacking.

              The name comes from an episode in which the character decides to change her name to this because she thinks it sounds fancy, and she doesn’t actually know the Speedo reference. Her husband proves that this is a terrible idea by introducing himself to her friends and a former colleague as “Crap Bag” and embarrassing her. When she finds out what a ‘banana hammock’ is, she’s even more embarrassed.

              The issue you are arguing (that words matter, and particularly in certain environments) IS, in fact, the plot point that the name was making.

            4. PB

              Sitcom reference or not, jokes about Speedos aren’t sexist. Similarly, I don’t find “itty bitty bikini” in your name offensive. It’s just an article of clothing.

            5. Antidisestablishmentarianism

              Why yes, actually, I am. Not a Tom Cruise fan myself, but live and let live. I’m not sure why speedos are sexist exactly…? If the name was Prince Carlos Banana Hammock, does that make it OK for you? That’s a sincere question.

            6. Risha

              I’m always amused when people try the “Gotcha!” hypothetical about something that’s not actually objectionable. I’m hearing sad trombones representing you right now in my head as we speak.

              And for the record, Risky Business Tighty Whities is a good name, someone should use it if you’re not going to!

          2. knitcrazybooknut

            I really thought it was the Animaniacs, but apparently Dot’s true legal name is Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fanna Bo Besca the Third. Somehow I conflated those two names!

        2. Piper

          Just when I thought I wouldn’t have something to be offended about today you come to the rescue.

        3. Crivens!

          The use of “female” makes you sound like an MRA, dude. Well, that and the rest of your comment.

        4. Drax

          Question – how is a speedo sexist?

          I’m actually quite curious about this and not trying to be a jerk about it, this is real curiosity.

          1. Antidisestablishmentarianism

            Me too! And if the name is changed to be masculine instead of feminine, does that make it OK?

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I had no idea my username would create such angst. Alison, I’m very sorry for the derail.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            You aren’t at fault for the derail. And really, I would have normally deleted the derail but I found the fact that it happened at all fascinating, and the responses likely useful for the derail-causer to read.

            1. Antidisestablishmentarianism

              Um…am I the derail-causer b/c I complimented the Princess, or is Tom Cruise in his Risky Business Tighty Whities the derail-causer? I did have a legitimate question pertaining to the post!

              1. Quackeen

                I can’t speak for Allison, but to this innocent bystander, you are most certainly not the derailer!

      2. Natalie

        Not everyone drinks alcohol, for a variety of reasons. And dinner can be a significant time commitment with someone you don’t have a previously established relationship with. Coffee isn’t a big time commitment and if someone doesn’t drink coffee they can usually get another type of beverage at a coffee establishment without it being a big deal.

        1. Indigo a la mode

          Good points. Also, in terms of *actual* sexism (as opposed to PCBH’s handle), if the presenter is a woman, she might be uncomfortable at the proposition of drinks or dinner, which sounds much more like a date than professional networking–and that is a common awkward minefield for professional women.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        I realize I’m not PCBH, but coffee during a conference is a much more accessible thing. “Would love to grab a coffee and chat!” is simply making something that usually happens at a conference anyway more… formalized. The coffee is there, people often chat near it, you’re encouraged to network by the coffee, and also, it’s free so no question about who buys. If you hit it off with the person you meet for coffee (and not necessarily in a romantic way), then you can move on to drinks.

        1. Antidisestablishmentarianism

          This makes sense. Thank you AvonLady Barksdale, and Natalie, for answering!

      4. Someone Else

        When I go to conferences, all my dinners are generally spoken for well before the conference happens. Either there are dinner events I’m obligated to go to that are part of the conference, or my company has its own dinner thing. So a dinner invite, for me at least, is generally pointless.
        Drinks is equally pointless in my case, although not everyone’s, because I do not drink for medical reasons. My colleague does not drink for religious reasons. Still, we constantly have people saying “I need to buy you a drink at Conference!” and it’s very annoying when we either decline or mention not drinking because 90% of people who want to buy us drinks also don’t accept “I don’t drink, but I’d be glad to see you there and chat a bit” without a stream of pushy questions about WHY we don’t drink. Now you might be thinking “well I wouldn’t do that, I’m a reasonable person” but in my experience, on this particular subject, most are not. Likewise, with all the dinner events and whatnot, my evenings are generally spoken for so even if I did drink, I wouldn’t be available until very late at night, and wouldn’t want to meet up with random-conference-aquaintance at that hour.
        We both happen to hate coffee also…but if the coffee in question is really “morning beverages in the conference area provided by the conference” it’s a much easier thing to say yes to, chatting in that context, than any kind of evening activity.

        1. TootsNYC

          when they say, “I need to buy you a drink,” can’t you just say, “coffee would be great”?

          Or, go for the drink and get a ginger ale? “buy you a drink” is so often much more metaphorical than literal.

          And if they meant it literally, you’re totally entitled to interpret it metaphorically–I’m sure they won’t mind.

          1. Someone Else

            Well generally what happens at this point is if someone wants to buy me a drink (and mentions it in advance) we just say no thanks or otherwise decline the invitation entirely. Personally, I have very little interest in ever taking up all the people who want to buy me a drink at a conference because I’d never do anything else if I started agreeing to this. Even if I went and got ginger ale. If I’m already at an event and someone is trying to buy me a drink, it’s the ordering of ginger ale that sets them on the string of conversation-I-don’t-want-to-have insisting on something other than ginger ale.
            But from an advice to OP perspective: the reason to recommend suggesting coffee/tea/ something that is not dinner or drinks is:
            As a frequent presenter who gets a TON of people wanting to meet up with me at a conference, for reasons indicated above if you suggest dinner or drinks, you’re probably going to just get a “no thanks” or a “otherwise obligated but thanks” and I may or may not elaborate at all on why.
            If you suggest meeting up during coffee hour or conference breakfast or other built-in-conference-thing I’m going to be at anyway that might involve beverages, you might get a “sure, come say hi”.
            Obviously I don’t speak for everyone in this position, but it’s true with many of my colleagues also, so I think it’s potentially useful enough advice.
            I’m not the original person who mentioned “suggest coffee, not dinner or drinks” but these are my reasons agree that was a good recommendation.

            1. Michaela Westen

              I also can’t drink because alcohol makes me sick. I go to music clubs (bars) a lot and I’ve never had anyone give me trouble when I say, “I can’t drink alcohol because it makes me sick”. In fact, my stomach is so sensitive the only thing I can drink in a bar is water.
              Maybe I’m lucky there aren’t pushy people in my social group – but I can’t imagine staying long around anyone who tries to push me to drink alcohol after I’ve declined. All my sympathies on that.

            2. Random obs

              Someone else, you are taking this WAY too literally. If you want to meet up with someone and dinner or evening drinks (soft or hard) are out, you can always say “how about coffee at 10am”?

      5. R

        I think drinks or dinner can be more read as date-ish, especially one-on-one. I’m a woman in a sales role where I frequently take clients out and if it’s just me and one client, I feel like keeping it to coffee feels more professional. If it’s multiple people on my side or their side, then drinks or dinner is fine (which is why this is typically okay at a conference).

        To be clear, it’s probably not an issue for most people but there are occasional folks who might feel uncomfortable or overly excited about a more date-like meeting. Keeping it coffee avoids that.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        There are three issues that I think can weigh against suggesting drinks:

        1. Drinks/dinner are often spoken for in advance—at big national conferences, folks have often scheduled out all their “long” free time. So if the suggestion is dinner/drinks, you’re more likely to be turned down.

        2. It may be a bigger commitment of time than coffee. This is similar to going to dinner on a first date—you’re stuck with someone, when you may have wanted a chance to graciously bow out early. And because it’s a bigger commitment, again, you’re more likely to be turned down.

        3. Depending on a number of demographic factors between the parties, dinner/drinks can come across as date-y in a way that coffee/lunch does not. And that dynamic can create an incredibly uncomfortable space, especially if there are any power asymmetries between the invitee and inviter.

        1. UnderWhere (formerly Antidisestablishmentarianism)

          Thanks so much for all the replies, everyone! I really appreciate the help. I’ve only gone to the same conference (multiple years), where most of the speakers (save a handful) used to work together, do work together, or have colleagues/friends who used to or do work together, so it’s normal for the speakers to also have dinner and drinks with the attendees. It didn’t occur to me about the date-y aspect at all. In my head, I was envisioning the request as a “if you have any free time where we could meet up, I’d be happy to buy you coffee/lunch/drinks/dinner and discuss X”, or something like that, to allow the speaker to choose the poison, so to speak. However, I’m really glad I did ask, so now I don’t accidentally ask someone out on a date :)

          1. UnderWhere (formerly Antidisestablishmentarianism)

            That is most of the speakers used to, or do, work *with attendees.

      7. Hillary

        In addition to everyone’s great comments about why coffee, logistics can also play a role. If it’s a big conference center the Starbucks is an easier place to meet up with a stranger.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood

      OP5 perhaps also ask if there’s any recommended background material that would help you be current with the presenter. ie If the presenter is likely to discuss specifics of a development you aren’t yet aware of, can you do some basic reading ahead of time.

  15. pcake

    OP 1, not only does that sound like a pain in the patoot, but I’m concerned that your coworker is applying her astrological theories to the teens she works with, as well.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      Oh… oh! Missed that the first time.

      Oh no. This needs shut down now.

      If someone tried to push that onto one of my kids there would be all kinds of hell to pay. Starting with the management, but quite happy to make complaints to whoever certified the facility/company/organisation to work with children.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      That really drew my attention, as a parent.

      Often after-school programs are the only locally available choice–for care on the school premises, for local theater, etc–so I’d be particularly irate if everything my son did at one were filtered through “Well as a Leo you obviously can’t help it…”

    3. TootsNYC

      my thought as well.

      That would be really really bad–and I totally bet she is doing it. Totally.

      The worst thing in what she’s doing, to me, is that she is refusing to truly see the person in front of her (as Jasnah said above:

      that person is going to feel like you are more concerned with being right than about listening to them and their experiences. This person is giving the impression that they are more interested in astrology than the actual human in front of them.

      And I think this would be especially hurtful (at the very least, suboptimal) for the teens you’re working with.

    4. Michaela Westen

      Me too, I mentioned that below.
      I noticed it because my teen years were not great, and the last thing I needed was another pushy, oblivious adult projecting on me. :p

  16. Lobsterp0t

    Discrimination against part time workers is illegal in the U.K. so I guess it depends on where that LW lives.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      But is it actually discrimination to just say part-timers make less per hour, as long as it’s across the board? How is it significantly different from deciding part-timers don’t get benefits?

      1. only acting normal

        UK part-timers get pro-rata benefits on legally protected things like holiday, maternity/parental benefits, sick leave. And you can’t pay them less per hour than full timers for the same job. (Inherently if the job *has* to be full time you don’t have any part timers doing it, but the bar for “has” is quite high.)

        1. TootsNYC

          you can’t pay them less per hour than full timers for the same job.

          There may be state labor laws that govern this–I’d certainly investigate it, if I were the OP.

      2. Akcipitrokulo

        It’s indirect discrimination if all of your part-timers are women because of childcare. You’d probably want to be a union member to get legal fees paid to argue that … but it’s a moot point as it’s illegal to pay part-timers a different rate anyway.

      3. Autumnheart

        Because in the letter, it’s based at least partly on “We will pay you less because you will be perceived by others as having fewer leadership qualities”.

        ….why would a woman going part-time, but with the same title and responsibilities, be perceived that way, exactly?

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I agree that this particular reason is ridiculous. I was thinking about the general statement from Lobsterpot calling it discrimination to pay part-timers less per hour.

  17. MommyMD

    Collective bargaining behind a Union is vastly different than banding together and reaching an agreement. Union collective bargaining is a legal contract, sometimes filed in court. I used to be a union representative early on. It’s a precise documented labor management agreement good for a period of time that cannot be broken without a lengthy legal process. It’s good to band together to get benefits at work, but nothing is close to the power of a union ratified agreement.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes. They are two different things. And since not everyone wants to unionize, it is useful for people to know that some of the same protections are still available to them. The answer is everything here is not going to be “unionize” but it is often going to be “tackle it as a group” and I’d like people to know there are legal prohibitions on penalizing them for that.

      1. Chriama

        Just an FYI Alison, when you mentioned banding together having some of the same protections as unions up in the post, I didn’t understand that you were referring to protection from employer retaliation for the *act of banding together*. I thought you meant that if you band together you can get some concessions from your employer that are similar to what you could get if you unionized. I honestly thought employers could retaliate if you get a group of coworkers together, which is why I always thought your suggestion to do just that was pretty risky. It’s good to know that they can’t punish you for organizing together to ask for better working conditions (even if they don’t give them to you). So that might be something to clarify in your post for other readers.

      2. Sue Wilson

        It’s not really “some” or “a lot” which is what you wrote. It’s really just the one protection against retaliation in response to employees engaging in concerted activities, and practically that’s not nearly as easy to prove in court than a violation of a CBA or something. I think that’s why you’re getting some push back against what you wrote.

  18. JS

    OP#1, There is a really good way you can skirt this issue that IS helpful to the workplace and keep everyone, even the astrology loving employee happy. Although it is at a cost, it would be to give everyone a DISC workplace assessment and have a team building exercise where you share and go over everyone’s strengths and weakness.

    DISC has four main categories (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) with various subcategories (Developer, Results Orientated, Inspirational, etc) and does a really good job with evaluating people’s work personalities and dynamics. It lets them know what type of tasks, environment, contributions they like to make and which they don’t. Same as which situations they shy away from and which they don’t. I took the test with my old team and the consensus was it was 85-90% accurate.

    The astrology loving coworker is probably using astrology as a way to relate and understand coworkers especially since you seem to be having a lot of framework discussions about the team. However since astrology is a pseudoscience it isn’t always welcomed or embraced by everyone, this way your coworker has a tangible more grounded way of expressing those concerns that will resonate with others on your team (and in the bigger picture help your team as a whole work with each other!) It’s easier then when they go off on an astrology tangent to say “Jane, since astrology can go a bit over some of our heads lets use the terms in the DISC assessment to evaluate our team.”

    Of course you will probably get some initial comments as “of course Jack would be Dominate, he’s a Virgo” but once the initial evaluation is over it will be easier to change their reference to refer to Jack by his DISC assessment profile of being a “Dominate Developer” rather than being a Virgo, Pieces rising.

    This is coming from someone super into astrology too. I suspect this will work as I am REALLY under the impression your coworker is doing this to relate and understand others. Once you really start getting into astrology and natal charts you realize you can’t say “Oh you do this because you are a Virgo” casually because someone’s natal chart could completely blow traditional Virgo stereotypes out of the water (Me for example because I am the most emotionally balanced Cancer you will ever meet :P)

    Of course, totally understand you work at a non-profit and this might not be realistic as far as budget. However, since it does seem as you are having these team discussions often, this would be beneficial to the problem and to your team as a whole.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s a pretty massive undertaking just to avoid telling her to stop, which would be the much more direct solution! And I think people are going to be just as annoyed by being referred to as their DISC profile as they are by the current stage of affairs. There’s really no need to label people at all.

      (Also, a lot of people are really turned off by personality assessments, even DISC, and don’t find them terribly useful, so I’d hate to point the OP in that direction.)

      1. JS

        Honestly I am thinking a bit past this particular issue and to the bigger picture as well. The assessment would be helpful for them since team work dynamics and responsibilities seem to be coming up a lot since OP mentioned that that’s when their employee brings it up and its problematic. I don’t think its very helpful just to say “stop”. If they ARE having a lot of conversations about work dynamics, especially involving feedback, and OP’s employees point of reference is only astrology to really understand personality/habit types. Shes going to have a hard time contributing, if at all, which doesn’t help the team especially if she is in a relationship building/feedback role. I’m sure not just with OP, but others as well this is an issue of team dynamics/feedback if the framework is being discussed often.

        DISC assessment could help not only OP but with their team dynamic issue as well as it does say how to give feedback and what type of relationships people like to build. I understand people don’t find labels helpful all the time but a Job Title is a type of label too so people can’t get so hung up on the actual “label” itself but what traits behind it they can relate to. It’s almost like a job title in the fact of you might be a “Project Manager” but that doesn’t mean you love or enjoy everything that a PM does to the point it defines you entirely but you enjoy it enough to continue to be a PM. Same if you were a “Dominate Developer” as I mentioned people only found them to be 85-90% correct but help them evaluate their own role as well as how they interacted with others. Thats just my take.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I suspect that the employee brings this up all the time because she likes to. Not because it naturally arises all the time yet only the astrologer has answers to the questions that vex everyone on the team.

    2. Just Employed Here

      Please, OP, don’t do this.

      It’s one thing having *one* colleague doing this (and she should indeed be told to stop!), it’s way worse having *the company* organize something equally silly instead.

      1. JS

        DISCs aren’t silly and the team appears to be having issues otherwise all these convos about structure and framework wouldn’t be happening enough for OP’s employee input to be problematic. Should they just keep having conversations that go nowhere? Or learn more about their team members to see how they can create an environment that everyone can work well in based on their own strengths? It would be truly silly not to get to the root of the issue.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          There’s one person who needs to be told to stop bringing up a topic incessantly. That’s it. That will solve the problem. There’s no indication that there’s any need to get to any root of an issue beyond that.

          1. JS

            OP said the issue was only problematic when it was about team dynamics structure so either #1 (as someone mentioned above) the employee is not supposed to be giving this feedback to begin with. Or #2 in a role where this is her responsibility as a manager or on a collaborative team where this topic is brought up often.

            If #2 and the topic is brought up often I don’t see how you can say the topic will be solved if she stops bringing up astrology because there still is the issue on how to structure team dynamics/feedback/roles, etc. which the team seems to be struggling with. Also she is still liable to be using her astrology methods to assess people instead of actual concrete results that they have filled out themselves. The only difference is instead of saying “Oh you are a Virgo, of course you feel that way” she will probably just leave out the Virgo bit but still equally annoy people by continuing to assume someone’s personality based on pseudoscience. My method was just to get her away from astrology, if it was truly her job to analyze the team and give feedback. Then the issue isn’t her labeling its her labeling by use of astrology.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It really doesn’t say that. It says they have conversations about team dynamics and responsibilities, and role/tasks/feedback … all of which is very normal in healthy, well-functioning offices and isn’t indicative of problems that need to be addressed.

              1. JS

                Sure but then 95% what I said above still applies. If she is supposed to be giving feedback and analyzing the team then this was just one way to do so without astrology since OP didn’t mention her giving feedback was an issue just doing it based on astrology was.

                1. Czhorat

                  If my workplace started doing personality-assessment games such as DISC I’d be somewhere between annoyed/bemused and searching for a new job. This wouldn’t push me out itself (unless it became a huge deal) but would cost a measure of my respect for the organization and those who implemented it.

                  Many, many people find these either intrusive or a waste of time.

                2. EddieSherbert

                  I agree with Czhorat.

                  Quite frankly, I would probably tell my friends about the astrology thing at work and we’d have a good laugh.. and then I’d tell them about the DISC thing at work and we’d still have a good laugh.

                  Eventually, if it became a HUGE focus and I was only “allowed” to do projects/tasks that fit my “DISC profile,” I’d probably start job-hunting.

            2. Quandong

              JS I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. Please would you stop justifying your own suggestions now instead of continuing to make your case.

              1. JS

                I disagree because at the end of the day, with Alison’s advice OP’s employee will still make assumptions and label based on astrology, she just likely wont mention the actual signs. This just brushes over the problem and doesn’t give OP’s employee or anyone else effective workplace tools for feedback/processes/etc. If you just want her to shutup then, OK I agree. If you want her to be able to give effective feedback based on another framework than astrology, then I’d like to hear your solutions on how you would go about that.

                1. Quandong

                  LW1 asked whether this employee’s behaviour was something that needed to be stopped, and if so, how to do that without sounding petty. So I think Alison has answered LW1’s questions well.

                  It seems we disagree, let’s leave it at that.

                2. JS

                  Quandong, I said from the beginning that my advice was going beyond just to how to make her be quiet about astrology but make her feedback helpful and not based on astrology. If you disagree with my solutions, that’s fine but its unhelpful for you to come in to tell me not to stop justifying. I only implored further with Alison to see why she didn’t think it helpful to try to find new ways for this employee to give feedback since that seems to be apart of her job. I’ll leave it at that.

                3. SusanIvanova

                  If I were her co-worker, whether she said “oh, you’re just like that because of your stars” or “you’re just like that because you’re a ___”, I’d be equally annoyed.

                  I want her to give effective feedback based on the actual situation and people involved, not their test results.

                4. Typhoid Mary

                  I think you are overestimating the difference between “Oh, you’re such a Dominant!” and “Oh, you’re such a Virgo!”

                5. Michaela Westen

                  Both astrology and this other system you’re suggesting are ways to label people instead of relating to them as individuals.
                  Personality assessments can be useful for some thing, and as many here have pointed out, they can also be used to label people and prevent real interactions with the actual person.

        2. Close Bracket

          > DISCs aren’t silly

          OK, and they aren’t valid, either.

          > It would be truly silly not to get to the root of the issue.

          DISC won’t help with that, nor will other personality assessments.

      2. AcademiaNut

        Yeah, I’d be pretty annoyed if a situation went from one coworker applying inappropriate personality analyses to people to my employer demanding that I take time and energy away from my work so that my entire workplace could apply inappropriate personality analyses to people.

        FWIW, I think that many personality assessment thingies can be useful for personal reflection, and for getting across the idea that other people can have very different ways of learning and interacting that you do. But they’re not useful for much more than that, and certainly shouldn’t be used as a workplace management tool for individual employees, particularly against their will.

        1. Kitryan

          + 1,000,000
          That would be super irritating and count me as another person who doesn’t want to be managed or referred to based on the results of any one test/system of reductive personal analysis.
          I worked for someone into astrology but all that meant in the workplace was that an astrology column was distributed to everyone each month. That’s it. As the workplace impact was minimal, I considered it a harmless quirk. The same boss did make a coworker get rid of the peacock feathers they’d brought to work because of a different superstition though.

    3. Chriama

      Oof, I don’t like this idea. It’s legitimizing the employee’s behaviour, which is objectively inappropriate. Employee needs to be told that she can hold her beliefs without ascribing them to everyone and telling them about it in great detail.

      1. JS

        How is it legitimizing when the purpose of DISC is to use behavior traits to find out the best working environment/process for everyone? It’s taking her away from the astrology labels and giving her concrete info based on everyone’s test results. That is IF her job is truly to give feedback and is more of a team manager then just a busy body team member.

        1. Sue Wilson

          Well, I would object to believing an assessment like DISC could give me objective information. The premise that there is any test that is based on objective measures of behavior and not socially construed, and therefore highly dependent upon culture and circumstance, measures of behavior isn’t one I subscribe to. I would be upset if a company I worked for asked me to believe that.

          1. Feotakahari

            “highly dependent upon culture and circumstance”

            I’m spitballing here, but is it possible that different cultural backgrounds could get interpreted as different “personalities” in ways that become discriminatory? Say, a particular culture emphasizes traits that read as “steady” on the test, and the higher-ups decide that a particularly boring and tedious task is best performed by those with a “steady” personality?

            1. Wintermute

              ” different cultural backgrounds could get interpreted as different “personalities” in ways that become discriminatory”

              I have very high hopes that eventually disparate impact suits will force companies to abandon useless “personality assessments” because you’re right. If they can’t make a scientific IQ test that doesn’t have massive cultural bias issues some pseudo-scientific personality assessment quiz has absolutely no hope.

            2. ElspethGC

              This reminds me of a letter we got on here at one point (just checked – 28 July 2014 – the comments are very interesting) about how Maori in NZ can have different interview processes because there’s such a strong cultural bias against promoting yourself or speaking highly of your skills – you can bring family members etc who will offer more detailed insights on achievements and things that the candidate would never offer on their own.

              Doing a personality test when some people are from a culture that is reticent when it comes to self-promotion but others are happy to boast about or exaggerate their achievements until the cows come home? That would definitely skew the results.

              (Speaking of NZ – my thoughts with everyone in Christchurch today.)

            3. Falling Diphthong

              On a previous discussion of such tests here, it was noted that many people who were stuck in workplaces using them knew how to game them to get the designation they wanted. Like if you want to be in Ravenclaw, it’s not hard to choose the answers on the quiz that will land you there.

              1. SusanIvanova

                When I was 16 and computers were rare, a friend of mine computerized the MMPI for a client and used me as the test subject – testing the computer, not me ;)

                My friend said the client was astonished that a 16 year old came in so “normal”, because teenagers are at a time of upheaval in their lives so it’s expected they won’t match “adult normal”.

                It’s *multiple choice*. It doesn’t take much effort to spot the answer that wouldn’t make people look at you strangely.

                1. Michaela Westen

                  Yes, I’ve noticed since I was a teenager, those personality assessments given to applicants are so obvious! You’d really have to be either unusually dense or not paying attention to miss the obvious “right” answers.

            4. Close Bracket

              > is it possible that different cultural backgrounds could get interpreted as different “personalities” in ways that become discriminatory?

              Let’s talk about neuroatypical people, specifically, people with autism spectrum conditions.

          2. JS

            True, no one said it was 100% accurate or true to your being and it is skewed towards Corporate America. Like I said when my team took the test we only found it to be 80-90% accurate. The idea isn’t to take the test, pass out the results and be done. You are supposed to use it as a guide to give people a way to articulate processes and methods they enjoy in a team that they may not have been able to put in words before. I wouldn’t be happy if a company made me take the test and completely defined me within those bounds. We used it as a guide for conversation and people could discuss things they agreed or disagreed with about their own assessment.

            The most important piece of it isn’t the label itself but to give people more of a concrete way to discuss their work habits/ideal environments in relation to others. To be honest in my test I scored perfectly between 2 of the 4 categories so I didn’t have a dominate category or label in the “DISC” at all which can speak to its lack of true accuracy but from the detailed assessment still found value out of some of the habits and situations they described.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              The fact remains, lots of people hate this stuff, and it’s a massive undertaking when the problem can be solved much more easily.

              This is getting off-topic and becoming derailing so let’s leave it here.

    4. London_Engineer

      If anyone tried to run this I would have the exact same thoughts as if they tried Myers Briggs or the stupid colour system I had to sit in a work shop for, or whatever the trendiest labelling system is. Basically that these ideas are all just Hogwarts sorting for grownups, more power to you if it helps you, but don’t expect me to take it or you seriously for trying to fit every person and interaction into it.

      1. TechWorker

        +1 – This kind of stuff may help some people but it absolutely does not help everyone and some of out about as much stock in it as we do in astrology. Viewing everything through the lens of a personality quiz vs a star sign is really not much of an improvement!

        1. London Engineer

          I mean, I get it. There is a reason this stuff is popular, and that almost every YA series has an an equivalent categorisation gimmick, and that people argue over the DnD alignment of fictional characters, or which power ranger/baby sitters club/spice girl/greek god they resemble.

          But just as house sorting doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny and would be a terrible way to set up a real school these systems all have very limited use – and it is very easy to box yourself in an internalise the category as a limitation, or assume that it is a permanent descriptor

          1. Falling Diphthong

            I loved “chaos muppets and order muppets” as an analogy here.

            But being told that everything I did related to my being an order muppet, rather than how you need to give me the damn medical forms because we can’t play in a tournament until they’re all in, would grow old in about 5 minutes.

      2. Septic

        In a way worse than astrology.

        Astrology is obviously woo. And birthdate is at least neutral.

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt

        Now you’ve made me want to spend the day going ” Xander isn’t going to like that plan of action, he’s such a Sytherlyn!”

        1. LQ

          I’ve absolutely done this. It’s delightfully fun and does generally get people to stop going on about how blue it is of me to want actual data. Ok you’re going to use this against my actual point? I’m going to use this against you. And I’m funnier.

          1. CDM

            I had a manager send out an all staff email after people asked for actual data collected on the reasons members cancelled, telling us that we needed to be elephants, not riders. (that’s a reference to a stupid book that I refused to read because they refused to pay me for the time spent reading it) So the staff that had been instructed to investigate why members cancelled, but were refused access to the actual data, presented little fictional skits about why they thought members were cancelling.

            It was a workplace that combined the worst of Hufflepuff with a generous portion of Slytherin.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

      why on earth would you replace one arbitrary method of pigeonholing people with another instead of just telling the one pigeonholer to stop.

    6. Falling Diphthong

      There’s a certain glory to the solution of finding a completely different way to relentlessly categorize people.

  19. Anonandon

    OP #1:

    “Dear Monica, thanks for reaching out to me! I’ve missed you so much. I did some brainstorming and came up with some ideas that I think will definitely make a difference.

    (1) Our hiring manager is huge helping the disadvantaged. Try telling him you were raised by wolves, and as a result you are only semi-literate and have not mastered human social skills. I recommend not bathing for two weeks to help sell it. Also, occasionally stop and sniff and sniff the air as though you are search for prey.

    (2) Interviewers like feedback. Every time he ends a sentence, you should shout, “I KNOW!” Because that’s what Monica did on that show, get it? They will think it is hilarious.

    (3) I know everyone gives Comic Sans a hard time, but it gets so much criticism that it’s now okay to use it ironically. Put it on your resume to show you are hip and have a sense of humor. Also: Colors.

    (4) Our CEO wants us to recruit motivated and independent people. You can prove that you are a self-starting entrepreneur by pitching Cutco knives to his secretary.

    That’s all I can think of for now, so good luck! I look forward to working with you again!”

    1. Miss Astoria Platenclear

      This comment is probably meant for yesterday’s letter about the obnoxious family friend who wanted help with getting a position.

    1. MayLou

      I was thinking exactly the same! Seems full time in the USA is a minimum of 40 hours. For our cross-pond friends, here in the UK full time is usually either 35 or 37.5 hours.

      1. doreen

        37.5 or 35 hours are usually considered full time in the US as well – I’ve never had a 40 hour a week job.

        1. Never

          That’s hilarious because once upon a time I posted in the open thread asking about full time jobs that were 37.5 or 35 hours a week and every single response was “WTF are you talking about? All full time jobs are at least 40 hours.”

          1. Liane

            My old employer, Infamous Retailer, (in US) classified FT as something like 35+ hours/week & fulltimers were generally only scheduled for 37.5 hours max because Corporate’s worst nightmare was “random hourly peon did 1 minute overtime!”

          2. Jen

            Maybe people are just disagreeing about whether they count lunch as hours worked. I think most full time workers in the US are in the office for 40 hours per week, but if they have an hour lunch break each day that would leave them with only 35 working hours.

            1. Potato Girl

              Nah, IME it’s normal to have 45-hour weeks because lunch is unpaid. 8 hours a day with a free hour for lunch sounds like unbelievable luxury!

              1. Tin Cormorant

                Agreed. “9 to 5” sounds like coming home really early to me. 40 hours/week of work means I’m doing 9 to 6 with an hour in there for lunch. If you’ve got a really cool boss, sometimes they’ll let you have a 30-minute lunch and go home a half hour early.

                1. TootsNYC

                  when the movie “9 to 5” came out, people in my hometown were saying, “Nobody works those hours! It’s 8:30 to 5:30, with a half-hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks!”

            2. Cordelia Vorkosigan

              Disagree. Working 40 hours a week means actually being physically present at work for 9 hours a day if you get an hour for lunch, 8.5 hours a day if you get 30 minutes for lunch. So a 40 hour work week is actually 45 hours long (or 42.5 hours, depending on the length of your lunch break).

          3. nonymous

            BLS uses the definition 35+ hrs/week as FT status. Assuming a company gives 8 paid holidays, you can hit the 37.5 hr/week level with ~2.5hrs PTO/vacation earnings per pay period (8.25 days per year) [[Math: (2080- (37.5*52 + 64))/8]]. I earn 160hrs vacation + 80hrs holiday per year, so my weekly hours work out to 35.4.

            And some jobs that historically have depended on a seasoned workforce, but with varying hours – like a cashier at the grocery store – will kick in FT benefits when employees hit 32hrs per week.

          4. Oaktree

            That’s really odd. Here (Ontario), 40 hours per week is colloquially considered full time, since that’s the total number of hours per week you’re at work (9-5, Mon-Fri). However, if you’re entitled to a half hour or a full hour lunch break each day, that comes out to 35-37.5 hours per week in actual hours worked. In my case, I’m at work 8:30-4:30 every weekday, but my contract stipulates that I work 35 hours per week. And I do in fact take a one-hour lunch break every day.

    2. SarahTheEntwife

      Yeah, that’s considered full-time at my workplace. A line needs to be drawn somewhere for HR purposes and if there’s 40 hours a week of work there’s 40 hours of work, but I can’t imagine that the extra 5 hours of work is so vitally important that not being there taints the other 35 to the point that they’re worth less wages.

    3. Cindy Featherbottom

      One of the companies I work for caps off part timers at 35 hours and full timers get 40. Part timers can get less, of course, but they dont let them get more than 35. A lot of our part timers try very hard to get close to that max so we have a decent number of folks who are classified as part time but hit 35 hours.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood

      At my US-based, international corporate employer, the difference between PT and FT pay rates is that below a certain threshhold employees have less access to health benefits.

    5. CDM

      I was PT 35 hours a week, no benefits, for a long time at OldJob. (a non profit) Any year-round person who went above that threshold was required to be added to the health insurance, so PT staff were never allowed to work over that limit. Seasonal employees, like the camp counselors, could work 40 hours without benefits. No overtime was paid, ever. FT salaried staff were all classified as exempt and expected to work a minimum of 45 hours a week.

      During our busy times, I was making more per hour than my salaried boss.

    6. BlueWolf

      Seriously. At my job full-time is 37.5 hours (and it’s actually 35 hours in our New York office due to different laws, I guess). My guess is that they have it that way so if you end up working a little more than your scheduled hours, you’re not automatically getting time-and-a-half, since it doesn’t kick in until 40 hours.

    7. Someone Else

      In the US at least, it depends on the state and in some cases depends on the company. In my state I believe the threshold for full time is at least 30 hours a week for at least 40 weeks a year. But in others where I’ve worked previously, it wasn’t defined like that and basically the company got to say “full time for us is 40 hours, anyone who is regularly scheduled for less is part time”.

      1. Liane

        I forgot to mention above that US companies can define Fulltime Hours however they want for purposes of things like when you’re eligible for XYZ benefits–as long as they pay OT to non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours/week.

  20. Amy

    I work a fairly demanding job and have 3 children under 3.5.

    My advice is to not engage in pregnancy / child-raising theoreticals at work, especially if no child is imminent within the next year.

    Definitely observe what happens with other parents and find out the pertinent details from HR about leave etc. But this is a time to be building up your credits with work. Tackle big projects, get stuff done. Don’t give the idea that this is a placeholder for things in the future or step off the gas long in advance.

    Last year, I ended up getting pregnant with twins, needing 10 weeks of bedrest + 12 weeks of semi unpaid maternity. And now I really need to kill it at work because I need money. In an ideal world, I’d probably also work 30 hours per week but nothing has unfolded ideally. I never could have anticipated this 2-3 years ago.

    So I don’t see a huge benefit to very early conversations like this with a boss, unless it’s something where you plan on quitting over the answer (but do it one year in advance for FMLA)

    I’d play my cards a little closer to the vest.

    1. seller of teapots

      Currently about 800 months pregnant, haha, and I couldn’t agree more. You just don’t know what you’ll need, what your family will need, and what your work situation will be once the baby arrives, so better to take a wait-and-see approach. Especially when there are too many people out there who make all sorts of unfair assumptions about the priorities and abilities of new mothers.

      With my first, I wound up with post-partum anxiety, and my beloved I’m-so-supported-I’ll-stay-here-for-years job drastically changed while I was on maternity leave. It soon became clear that finding a new job was the best course of action for me, something I would have sworn up and down I didn’t want to do while I was still pregnant.

      I’m going to pop out baby #2 any day now, and I have a pretty demanding, albeit flexible, job. I have some ideas about how that will go, but I won’t know until after my maternity leave.

    2. Jen

      I think it’s valuable that the OP had this conversation in advance and learned that going to part-time wouldn’t work the way she thought it would. That’s useful information, which might lead her to find a new job, save more money in advance to make up for the shortfall or plan on remaining full-time after having children. Although you’re right that there is a risk her boss will treat her differently after the conversation.

    3. TootsNYC

      though…by having this convo, she has learned that her boss thinks part-time workers should be paid less per hour (instead of being paid less because they work fewer hours)

    4. Urban Chic

      It’s hard to know if a salary decrease from going from full-time to part-time is acceptable. There are some jobs where having a person handling certain responsibilities full-time is more valuable than a person handling them only part of the time. It’s hard to know why your manager said what he said without knowing your profession and the full context of the conversation.

      And I could not agree more with Amy’s comment. You don’t really know what you need and what you’ll feel like until baby is here, and no need to talk about any of this with your employer until you’re expecting. The best strategy for gaining flexibility and a fit that is good for you and your family post-baby ahead of time is to be a high-performer at work, and when it comes time (post parental leave) to re-negotiate a schedule, to have a record of success and make a business case for how the job can be done in 30 hours vs. whatever hours are being worked now. I’m an American woman in an executive position and had a baby last year. I haven’t been penalized, but I unfortunately see that there are a lot of women that are, and because of that I am very careful about how I discuss any of my personal life and accommodations’ requests at work. I treat it like a medical and work life balance issue (which people of both genders have, whether or not they have kids) and keep all conversations with my boss focused on work. In your case, your challenge would be to make sure your boss is evaluating whether or not a reduced schedule would work for the company based on your professional merits, and is not focused on the personal circumstances that may be driving you to request it.

  21. Ashley

    FIVE DAYS!! For vacation AND sick? So basically this means that no one can actually take a real vacation at all. I would be dusting off the old resume pretty darn quick, because there’s no way I would willingly work for such a stingy employer.

    1. Rebecca

      I wonder what this employer would do if someone just called off, and took the day unpaid? I know some people can’t afford to do that, but if an employee could, what would they do? Fire them? I’d love to see that hiring process. “We provide 5 paid days off per year, plus 2 unpaid holidays.” That’s laughable.

      1. Trek

        I think it would be great if everyone called off on the same day. It’s a small company and they would feel the impact. If the company won’t give more than 5 days a year I would be less likely to care if I am leaving them short handed. And I would be job searching like crazy.

        1. Rebecca

          I would be job searching, and not afraid to call off “sick” when I wanted a day off. I suspect the daughter in charge takes her share of time off.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        They would get what they deserve — someone desperate enough to take it, who will jump ship as soon as they receive a better offer, which would probably be fairly darned quick, as it’s hard to think of a non-retail, non-food-service job with terms worse than that!

      3. fposte

        Can’t say for this employer, but employers fire employees for exceeding their PTO all the time. I doubt that would stop just because the PTO is absurd.

        (And around 40% of part-timers and 10% of full-time employees have no paid vacation time at all.)

        1. TootsNYC

          and that might be the type of firing that would mean you couldn’t get unemployment.

          That said—“constructive dismissal” is when the employer changes the terms so much that “of course you would quit!” That might be something to investigate.

          1. Wintermute

            That’s really highly fact-dependent and state-dependent but I would absolutely be talking to an employment lawyer and seeing if they went through with the change I’d be elligible… and I would share that knowledge with all my co-workers immediately if they were.

            Honestly this is the kind of thing collective action was MADE for, egregious abuses, I’d organize a walkout or a strike if I could, or at least a work slowdown, and if they stuck to their guns try to coordinate a mass walk-out.

    2. EPLawyer

      Run away. Run away. Run away.

      If the company put the daughter with no business experience in charge and things are so bad you can only take 5 days vacation, it’s not going to get better. Even if you push for more vacation time, what else will happen? This business is not long for this world, get out while the gettin’ is good.

      1. Antilles

        +100
        OP, you need to sit down and take a long hard look at the implications of this situation here. The short-staffing has a huge long term ramifications.
        1.) The business itself won’t succeed. You’re not hiring top employees with a policy that stingy and you’re not keeping your best employees with a policy that stingy.
        2.) For salaried employees, a few extra days of PTO is an indirect cost, whereas raises/bonuses/etc are literally a straight cash money hit that shows up explicitly in the books. If they’re too cheap to pay PTO, there’s no way they’re paying competitive salaries. Another reason they’re not hiring/retaining talent.
        3.) Discipline will suffer, as employees realize that if the company is really so short-staffed they can’t survive even one day with someone getting a cold, they’re certainly not going to fire someone.
        4.) This isn’t sustainable. At some point, someone is going to leave for another job, get burnt out, or get sick for a few days. Then what? You’re already operating at an unsustainable 100% crunch pace, so when Murphy’s Law hits, there’s no extra float room to give.
        5.) Most worryingly, the first couple sentences indicate that the daughter running the business almost certainly isn’t thinking of any of the above. She has no work experience and no business knowledge, and nobody to advise/counsel her since the previous management team was all fired.

        1. TootsNYC

          also, this company cannot provide value to its customers or clients with a staff that thin.

          They’ll lose business very rapidly.

        2. Wintermute

          it’s a recipe for “grease trap syndrome” you’re absolutely right.

          The long and short of Grease Trap Syndrome is when you make the working conditions so intolerable that anyone who can find another job does, rapidly. The only people that stay are those that can’t get hired elsewhere. You put out calls for resumes and get new employees in. The ones who have other options refuse, or quit once they realize it’s a terrible working environment, leaving only the worst employees left.

          Through iterations of this process you end up like a grease trap, settling out the worst of the worst of the labor pool and concentrating it in your business, while the good employees move on to positions that treat them with more respect. The end result, especially when morale is low and employees are mistreated, stinks about as much as a neglected grease trap.

    3. Falling Diphthong

      This is where I’d go with Alison’s last piece of advice. The natural conclusion to such stories is always, ALWAYS “… and so all the competent employees left for jobs that were not ludicrous.”

      Finding a similar job with less crazy is the answer, LW. This is a frog-boiling scenario where you all hang around sure that management will see how crazy this is and return to being sane any minute if you’re just patient, and that isn’t going to happen unless they fire their daughter and replace her with a completely new staff dedicated to employee retention… which my intuitive Cancer background tells me is going to not be on their list of things to do this spring.

    4. Jaybeetee

      That’s not the first time something like that has come up in this blog, and each time I cringe. I’m still considered *entry-level* in my field, and I get three weeks of vacation a year, and sick leave as a separate pot. I certainly don’t use all my leave, but the idea of only having 5 days for everything is so stressful! How can you sign off on a policy like that and *not* feel like an Evil Capitalist?

      1. ElspethGC

        I have no idea how someone can sit in a meeting and say these sorts of things and not realise that they sound like a James Bond villain or something.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I always wonder if they view that as a negative, or as reaching a desirable goal. Like they came this close to trying to adopt a large Persian cat to stroke throughout the meeting.

          1. Tiny Soprano

            Would someone so stingy also expense the cat food and litter costs to the business, I wonder?

      2. Antilles

        How can you sign off on a policy like that and *not* feel like an Evil Capitalist?
        Not to get into a classism debate, but if the daughter really has “no work experience” and “lavish lifestyle”, I’d guess she doesn’t even *think* about things in that manner – she probably has no idea of how hard the employees work, how valuable good employees are, how such a policy impacts her employees, or the fact such a policy is patently absurd.
        Effectively, I don’t think she’s “Evil Capitalist” as much as “Clueless About Life”. (No, that isn’t any better)

        1. Paige

          Seconding this. I have a SIL who is lovely, except she is almost criminally ignorant of how people who don’t have the $$ she has are impacted by the lack of said $$. And she was NOT raised with money–she’s just become accustomed to having it and is generally surrounded by peers who do. She’s not making it rain or anything, but every so often my spouse has to give her a dose of realism when she wants us to join her on a last minute vacation or advises us to buy something that normal people have to budget time and $$ for (why yes, we would love to have an updated kitchen or the newest iPhone, but what we have works fine and doesn’t cost us anything).

          Someone raised with money is even more likely to be clueless, especially if they’ve never worked.

          1. Wintermute

            A great analogy I’ve read is that once you hit a certain point money is like water to most Americans. We know that water scarcity exists in the world. We’re aware people suffer and even die for lack of water. But our entire life any time we’ve needed water we can turn a faucet and it’s there.

            IF we’re going someplace way off the beaten path or preparing for an emergency we might devote a little time to ensuring we have water around, but it’s not something we worry about on a daily basis, we just rely on always having as much as we could ever want right there for the taking.

            1. Hope

              I would agree with this analogy, except for the part where “we’re aware people suffer and even die for lack of water”, because that’s really the issue–people with that kind of money who are completely unaware that others suffer for a lack of it (or realize that the lack of it is outside of those people’s control). They just never even think about the people who don’t have it or how not having it affects people.

        2. The New Wanderer

          The third option is the daughter has the opinion that because the company’s success has funded her lavish lifestyle, she doesn’t want anyone jeopardizing that by using company money for their own personal gain (vacation, paid holidays, sufficient sick leave) and is offended that the company is offering any benefits at all.

          See also the recent news stories about Ivanka saying how people don’t want to be “given” things (as in a living wage and benefits) when they could be working instead, presumably for whatever pittance they’re offered.

          1. OP #4

            I’m the OP that wrote question 4. Your comment hits it on the head exactly! She has taken great offense whenever I’ve taken leave in the past. She has even gone as far as trying to sabotage my leave by calling me and emailing me with fake crises constantly so I couldn’t enjoy my time off. She’s been offended when people have quit. I’ve gotten the impression that she thinks every employee “owes” her something – beyond just their 40+ hours a week. She comes into the office about once a week to pick up the mail. Any other work she does is directing phone calls / emails that come to her to other people in unrelated departments to deal with. She complains about how that is taking her away from her children. Fortunately I have an exit strategy but some of my coworkers have worked there for their entire adult lives and I don’t think they are brave enough to venture on to something else.

            1. Oaktree

              Oh my god, LW 4. Get out as soon as you can. There’s no way this company can be salvaged; either life there becomes completely untenable, or the company folds. Probably both, but how long do you want to stick around during that miserable process?

            2. Michaela Westen

              If you get an opportunity, encourage your colleagues to venture out and get new jobs. The alternative is much worse.

      3. TootsNYC

        How can you sign off on a policy like that and *not* feel like an Evil Capitalist?
        The end result of unfettered capitalism is slavery.

  22. staceyizme

    About the astrological analysis- the same excess could occur with DISC, MBTI, Enneagram, really any system that sorts people by one means or another. The value of typology is that it can help us to see ourselves. Applied to others without their consent, it can create prejudice and distraction. It’s the equivalent of saying “do you know what your problem is? Here, I’ll tell you…” It’s aggravating and inappropriate in a work context.

  23. JRay

    #3 – I can think of two situations in which what your manager is telling you makes sense:

    1. If you are currently salaried, you Manager May be trying to say that the hourly equivalent isn’t you full salary divided into a 40 hour a week equivalent.

    2. If you are currently hourly, the way you Manager thinks work will need to be reorganized to accommodate a schedule under 40 hours includes shifting some major job responsibilities to other workers.

    For changing from salaried, part of what may have gone into figuring your salary was the times you are going to be expected to exceed 40 hours. For both statuses, if there is a major job responsibility that you would no longer be doing, it is reasonable for your salary to change to reflect that.

    Obviously, I can’t dismiss that it’s also possible that you boss may just be an ass.

    1. MoopySwarpet

      I would say 1 is even more accurate if the position is exempt because the salary may have been calculated based on knowing an average of 45 hours per week is worked by exempt employees. Or if they are not paying overtime for non-exempt employees.

  24. Alfonzo Mango

    1. Armchair psychology is always inappropriate, we can’t claim to know *why* people do thins on a mental and emotional level. Let the astrology obsessed know they need to mind their own business.

    1. fposte

      I think this is an really interesting approach that couches the problem in a way that she might grasp faster than others, since it’s a pretty common internet term these days.

    2. Boop

      100% agree. I have a friend who went through a psychology phase in middle and high school and was constantly trying to tell me why I felt certain ways/did certain things. I KNOW why I feel x or do y, and it’s none of your effing business!!!! Telling people who they are makes you no friends.

      I also always tried to avoid the phrase “I’m the kind of person that…”. Besides being a grammatical nightmare, I don’t have the inclination to engage in self-indulgent navel-gazing. BE who you are, don’t tell me.

      1. TootsNYC

        I also always tried to avoid the phrase “I’m the kind of person that…”. Besides being a grammatical nightmare, I don’t have the inclination to engage in self-indulgent navel-gazing. BE who you are, don’t tell me.

        Bravo!

        I also hate when people use “You” when they mean “I.”

  25. Hold My Cosmo

    #1 I have a colleague who lectures us to avoid scheduling certain works tasks based on the fact that Mercury is in retrograde, because apparently that makes technology not work. I can just imagine telling my department head that we can’t do our jobs for 9-10 weeks out of the year.

    In a fact-based job like mine, espousing that sort of belief hurts your credibility. If for no other reason, LW #1’s colleague should reconsider this behavior in the interest of preserving her reputation.

    1. irene adler

      I’ll believe in anything you like if it garners me significantly more PTO.
      Otherwise, Mercury can retrograde all it wants. I’m going to do my job.

      1. Hold My Cosmo

        Based on your user name, I’m betting that your reaction is similar to mine. “Can’t batch test until April, that damned planet is catching up to us again!”

        1. Database Developer Dude

          No, my reaction would be ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??? (If I were in my civilian job. Substitute the appropriate emphasis word if I were in my Army Reserve position).

  26. LW5

    Thank you for the advice, Allison (and to the advice from the commenters about coffee vs. drinks, etc.) – I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes!

    1. winecrawler

      As someone who has spoken at many conferences, I’m always very happy to get those emails and meet the senders. The simplest thing to do is express your interest and enthusiasm for the subject, and suggest that maybe during a break you could have a chat about the subject. Then coffee or drinks will follow from there naturally, if at all. Have fun!

  27. boredatwork

    Hey LW #5 – You can absolutely email the person you’re most excited to see at the conference. Depending on who it is you may even get a response. My FIL is a leading authority in his field, he gets lots of “I am excited to see you”, he’s a nice guy, rarely responds but doesn’t get annoyed.

    I would beef up Alison’s advice, do you have something specific to say? I’d avoid just fangirling and try to ask a question. “I have been spending a lot of time analyzing the glace patterns of teapot kettles after they have fired at 855 degrees, will you touch on this during your presentation?” or “I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the glaze patterns of teapot kettles fired at 855 degrees”.

    1. fposte

      I’m a maybe on that. When I get those, they often look like posturing or somebody with a hobby horse, neither of which makes me enthused about a meeting. If you know they’ve been working on the glaze pattern research and it genuinely is an interest of yours, that’s when I’d mention it.

    2. Nesprin

      There needs to be a balance here- 1st contact email should be friendly, excited, involve minimal, concrete demands, and above all be short. Asking for a dissertation in email form is an ask.
      i.e. do this:
      I really enjoyed reading your recent work and I’m excited to see that you’re on the schedule for – any chance we could get coffee and talk about glazing? I’ve got and free if that works for you.
      not:
      I really enjoyed reading your recent work and please explain it all to me or digest it or give me what you’re working on now in email form, and also do you want to meet up at ?

    3. CM

      In this case, where it’s a niche area and LW#5 is an expert too, I think it would be good to point that out. LW#5 could say, “Hey, I saw you’re scheduled to speak on X. I’m looking forward to your talk. I’m interested in X too, and have published papers on [topic] and [other topic]. I’d love to meet up at the conference if you have some free time to talk.”

  28. TexasThunder

    I once had a new team member join our group.
    We went out to lunch, and she asked me what my star sign was.
    I said (unenthusiastically) that I thought I was Libra.
    She looked at me for a few seconds and and then said in an aggrieved manner “Aren’t you going to ask me what star sign *I* am?”
    I responded, astonished, “But I don’t care!”

    1. fposte

      I liked this very much. A moment of core honesty from which she might have learned something important.

  29. Beth

    LW #4: LEAVE. All of you. Any employer who will “reward” a decade of service by dumping this kind of cr*p on skilled and experienced employees deserves to go down in flames.

    Take your deep professional expertise and experience, your handsome resume, and your proven track record of consistency, and find another employer who will treasure you. Financial services is not an industry that’s imploding and shedding jobs right now; there will be openings elsewhere for really good employees, which you are.

    1. TootsNYC

      even if someone was, oh, working retail and feels that they don’t have “deep professional expertise” or “handsome resume,” leave.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      Regarding OP#4: I completely agree. OP needs to start looking for a new job immediately, and leave as soon as possible. I wouldn’t even bother with trying to work it out. Just leave. Employers that have ridiculous time-off policies are not worth it. I have no doubt that more unacceptable practices/actions are in the works. Employers don’t take a huge dump in just one area, and shine like a star everywhere else– expect things to get worse.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw

        Oh absolutely. And once the cuts have made the company fake-profitable, expect it to be sold for parts. Someone like that is not interested in the hard slog of running a company for five decades. They are interested in patting themselves on the back for changing a couple of lines on the income statement and then cashing out the second their pops is in the ground.

  30. Beth

    LW #5: if the presenter is one of the keynote speakers, you might not get a response; but if the presenter is anyone else, they’ll probably be delighted to know their audience will include someone with that level of interest. (Speaking as someone who got roundly snubbed by a keynote speaker once . . . )

    Many conferences in my industry have an option in the registration to “share my contact information with other attendees”, which can mean networking and professional connections, although it also means getting on a lot of niche email marketing lists. If this was an option for you, I personally recommend agreeing to it, even though you may spend the next three months unsubscribing from bulk emails!

    In addition, many conferences (at least in my industry) will release an app that includes contact information as well as agenda tools, presenter information, sometimes social media tools. The big conferences also have hashtags and live streaming of Twitter.

    If the presenter you’re interested in is on Twitter in their professional capacity, you may want to follow them there. You can also try looking them up on LinkedIn. However, I recommend that you do NOT send them a LinkedIn connection request until after the conference, and then only if you actually did attend their presentation and enjoy it.

  31. I See Real People

    If someone tells me “Mercury is in retrograde” one more time…It’s beyond annoying!

        1. Antennapedia

          Technically it still IS going forward, we just passed it in orbit and now it looks, from Earth’s point of view, like it’s going backwards.

          I’ll see myself out.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Oh, I know. I get so annoyed when Mercury is in retrograde.

      ;-)

      I would find the Zodiac more annoying than colors/Myers Briggs/Hogwarts house/etc. because I am, at least, aware of what my zodiac sign is. All of the others, I can blithely say “I don’t know” when asked, and no one can offer to categorize me by asking one simple question.

      1. Database Developer Dude

        Why answer that question?

        Annoying coworker (AC) and me (ME)

        AC: What’s your sign?
        ME: I don’t know, I don’t follow astrology because I think it’s bullshit
        AC: Ok, when’s your birthday and I’ll tell you your sign
        ME: I choose not to share that information, is that a problem?
        AC: Oh come on, it’s all in fun?
        ME: So is me kicking you in the head, but I’d get fired and arrested if I did it, so let’s just let this drop.
        AC:

          1. Jules the 3rd

            Because he gets a lot of bull from a lot of angles and is tired of it…

            I’d probably go with something that’s not physical violence, sure, but on AC coming back a second time (it’s all in fun), I would definitely get a lot less nice.

            1. Database Developer Dude

              Psychological violence tends to prevent the need for physical violence.

              Case in point: One blustery January, I was on the DC Metro, soon after I’d gotten my first degree black belt. I had an abundance of confidence, and not too much common sense.

              I was standing still in front of a wall map to figure out where I was going, and a train let out. A crush of people went by me, and someone bumped me. I paid it no mind, ish happens. Dude decided to turn around and start loudly cursing me out, including the n-word. Everyone around us got quiet.

              If you’ve seen the new Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, you’ll know what I’m talking about: the crazy eyes look he gives him at the last tournament……when he’s in that snake pose… I gave that guy this look and said “Tell me something?” He said “WHAT, N-word?”

              I said “Why would you want to piss off a taekwondo black belt with an anger management problem?”. Dude turned whiter than a girl named Becky in a turtleneck sweater, leggings, a scarf, and Ugg boots in September drinking a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte…. and then turned around and ran……………………and I had then no need to get into a fight.

          2. Czhorat

            Yeah, I agree. There’s really no need to escalate to combativeness. That’s a very, VERY steep and harsh escalation, far out of proportion with the offense.

            1. Database Developer Dude

              The offender doesn’t get to determine what is and is not in proportion to the offense.

        1. nonegiven

          >AC: Ok, when’s your birthday and I’ll tell you your sign
          ME: I choose not to share that information, is that a problem?
          AC: Oh come on, it’s all in fun?
          ME: So is me kicking you in the head, but I’d get fired and arrested if I did it, so let’s just let this drop.

          AC: Ok, when’s your birthday and I’ll tell you your sign
          ME: No
          AC: Oh come on, it’s all in fun?
          ME: No, it’s really not.
          AC: …

  32. MissDisplaced

    Hit Piece: You absolutely need to bring this to your managers (and HR’s) attention. While they may not do anything about it, they still need to be aware it’s out there. I manage the social media for my company and it’s part of my job to monitor and discover things like this. Let them know.

    Vacation: I’m sorry your employer is doing this, it’s really sucky and ill-advised unless the company is in dire financial straits. They won’t be able to attract or keep good employees as a result. If I were you, I’d begin looking.

    1. RC Rascal

      It is also possible this was a corporate espionage attempt. Your manager needs to know.

      1. Drax

        I was thinking this too, but with no follow up piece I wonder if she was like “COMPANY A IS THE DEVIL” worked there to try and prove it, and learned “oh, maybe not so Evil. BUT HILL I WILL DIE ON” which made me laugh

  33. RC Rascal

    LW#4– The big picture here is that it is highly likely your employer is struggling financially. Cutting the management team to replace with a family member combined with drastic benefit cuts smacks of a desperate attempt to drastically cut expenses. They probably don’t care about the short staffing or inexperience of the new managing family member because they are struggling to keep the doors open.

  34. Yvette

    Re #1, it doesn’t matter if astrology is fact or fiction, religion or pseudo science, valid or invalid. The point is this person is passing judgement on people based on a fact of their existence (couldn’t think of a better way to put it). Substitute almost anything else in the comments ““Oh you should totally be the person who does that task, it’s such an Asian thing” or “Oh, of course that bothered you — SO very Catholic to find that annoying.” “Next week’s fashion show should be assigned to Tom because he is gay and we all know those people have a fabulous fashion sense.”

    None of that would fly, and it shouldn’t. It really isn’t a matter of alienating people by labeling them and their personalities based astrology, it is stereotyping and discriminating, and as such has no business in the workplace.

    1. Database Developer Dude

      COSIGNED!!!! I’m 6’2″, male, and black. In a previous gig, the client actually asked me “J.D., why don’t you go play basketball with Jim and Dave?” . Jim and Dave are white guys, and each is about a head shorter than me. They play…every other day (where I used to work). I suck at basketball worse than Mariah Carey sucks at acting.

    2. Jules the 3rd

      I have been so carefully not equating astrology with racism, but yeah. Applying stereotypes to individuals is a big problem, no matter what source the stereotypes come from.

      1. Jules the 3rd

        And this is why I’ve mentioned – I think LW1 really needs to take a look at her employee’s curriculum and work output, because she’s applying stereotypes to individuals. What other stereotypes does she have stuck in her head?

      2. Tiny Soprano

        It’s sort of a step below stereotyping, but with all the same characteristics. Pigeonholing, perhaps?

        In every non-opera-related job I’ve ever had, when colleagues have got a box of cakes and slices, they always get me the opera cake. Because I’m an opera singer! Haha so funny!

        I HATE opera cake.

    3. MyersBriggsBirthOrderStarSignsEthnicityGenderArchetype

      THIS! yes to yvette’s comment. #1’s coworker is doing what we call PROFILING. not cool.

  35. Myrin

    In #3, I find the direction of causation especially bizarre.
    OP says “My boss responded that if this happened, my hourly wage might decrease, as staff would view me differently as a supervisor since I would be working less.”, meaning the hourly wage would only decrease because of the staff’s presumed changing view, essentially setting the whole change up as a punishment.

  36. Drax

    #1 – a huge problem I see with the astrology thing is her making assumptions about people based on their star signs. That is putting people into boxes and could block them or her from a beneficial professional relationship or career growth spots. This really does need to be stopped.
    I’m a Scorpio so maybe I’m a little bitter about this, but it sucks when people hear Scorpio and immediately think ruthless and demanding. That’s not who I am as a person but that’s what a lot of people focus on, not the other side where Scorpios are apparently loyal to a fault. It’s a crappy way of judging people because there is always exceptions to the rule and not only that, but professional folks all behave the same way star sign or not, because there is a professional code of conduct that everyone follows. (Or should, if they all did this site wouldn’t be nearly as interesting)

    #4 – I would be looking for a new job. I personally see time off as part of my compensation and I’d be heavily expecting a raise if that got taken away from me.

    1. RC Rascal

      Drax— you are correct about #4; if they lay off staff with generous vacation time they are required to pay the time out. Cut the benefit & the liability goes away.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Painful but probably dead-accurate point about part of the rationale for cutting everyone’s paid vacation to the bone.

        1. Drax

          yep. We get paid out our vacation monthly at my current job with no paid vacation (beyond STAT holidays) but that is 110% because this company is on the cusp of going into receivership again. At least I knew from the get go that getting paid out monthly was the deal.

      2. Liane

        In the US only a few states require unused leave to be paid out, so it probably depends on company policy. And even if this company has a payout policy, do you really expect them to be decent & pay out several weeks of leave? No, DaughterCo is going to, at best, give them a check for 5 days and say, “New rule, remember? Only 5 days vacay, no way we’re paying out that ridiculous leave time Dear Ol’ Mom, the fool, offered. Sorry, not sorry, kthxbye.”

        1. TootsNYC

          This is Georgia, so I don’t expect any state law to favor the worker.

          Whether an employer pays an employee for accrued, unused vacation time at the time of termination is strictly a matter of company policy.Pro rata payment of vacation pay is not required unless the employer has promised to do so under company policy. (Refer to Superior Insurance Co.v. Browne, 395 S.E.2d 611 (Ga. Ct. App. 1990).)
          Accrual Method
          Employers are free to devise their own system for vacation accrual. There are several different commonly used options:
          • On a monthly basis
          • On a pay-period basis
          • Upon completion of a 6-month or 12-month period
          If the policy is intended to ensure that employees work the entire accrual period to earn their vacation days, it should state clearly that employees will not be entitled to pro rata payment if they leave partway through the period. Remember that any vagueness in the policy is likely to be construed against the employer.

          per BLR dot com

    2. Jules the 3rd

      Sympathy to you, Drax. My kid discovered astrology, he’s a Scorpio. He’s *nothing* like the sign, he’s way more like his dad, who sorta kinda fits his Capricorn sign.

      And yes, the problem with every belief system is when someone makes predictions and behaves towards people based on the system without doing reality checks. Selection bias is a drug that humans love.

    3. MoopySwarpet

      We coincidentally had 5 (out of 7!) people working with us who were born in different years, but on August 2nd (3) and August 9th (2). They could not have been more different from each other. They also ranged in their astrological beliefs from “Of course I know my full chart” to “what a load of bunk,” but even the most excited about astrology didn’t talk about it beyond “what are the chances?”.

      I did joke that we were going to write it as a requirement in our next job listing. Bachelor’s degree, 3 years of applicable experience, Knowledge of Adobe Suite, Leo.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

        (sarcasm) Ah but that’s because you need to cross reference their Western Zodiac sign to their Chinese Zodiac year and… totally kidding

        As a Taurus born in the year of the Ox I love that my sign is double bull …sh*t

    4. TootsNYC

      it sucks when people hear Scorpio and immediately think ruthless and demanding. That’s not who I am as a person but that’s what a lot of people focus on, not the other side where Scorpios are apparently loyal to a fault.

      Just as Slytherins can be ambitious–which is not automatically bad (I’ve spent too much time thinking about this in the shower).)

  37. Dan

    LW#5: I’m so happy I can finally contribute to a question on here! I am a conference producer who organizes speakers for large scale (2,000+ attendee) events. I would highly encourage you to reach out to the organizers of the event themselves and ask for an introduction to the speaker. Many speakers, mine included, participate in events for the purpose of sharing information amongst their peers and having the opportunity to network with them. For example, my company has a hard rule on no speakers for pay; with the exception of basic travel expenses on the rare occasion. This ensures our speakers actually want to be a part of the industry rather than just coming to present and play golf. I’d reach out to the organizer, explain why you’d like to connect with the speaker, and; if you’re not a vendor trying to sell them a product then I’m sure they’d be happy to make a warm introduction prior to the show.

    1. MoopySwarpet

      That’s an excellent point! Or they may point you towards a meet and greet or mingle event that they know the speaker will be attending.

    2. mrs__peel

      “my company has a hard rule on no speakers for pay; with the exception of basic travel expenses on the rare occasion. This ensures our speakers actually want to be a part of the industry rather than just coming to present and play golf. ”

      To me, that just ensures that qualified-but-lower-income people are excluded from participating. Even if you’re paying for their flight, they’ll probably still have to eat other costs and also use up time that they might have otherwise spent on paying work.

      My general philosophy is that, if you respect people’s time as professionals, you should pay them accordingly.

      1. Dan

        I respect where you’re coming from but it can also depend on the context of the event/conference itself and the industry you’re targeting. The people who attend/speak at my event are also coming to meet service providers to on-board new solutions for their respective businesses so their employers pay for that travel. I work in the eCommerce, Logistics & Supply Chain verticals so my speakers are mainly VP, SVP, EVP and the occasional C-suite as they are the decision makers for new technology. We normally don’t go after CEO’s as speakers as they tend to be too macro and we want a more technical, deep-dive presenter and they also all have conference travel budgets. We aren’t inviting them to come speaker for an hour then go to the beach rather present amongst their peers then go meet with vendors who they have an interest in meeting with. We’ve been very successful with that model and in 7 years have had only a handful decline due to wanting a paid speaker fee.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      Yeah, that’s really intrusive and offputting, especially in this age of identity theft. At work, no one but HR knows my birth day, much less year / hour.

    2. Thathat

      Misgendering people, even annoying and inappropriate people, isn’t cute, and it’s certainly not appropriate for the workplace.

      And to “trigger” someone means to cause them to have a PTSD-related flashback or breakdown, so that’s also not appropriate for the workplace (and its currently colloquial use to mean “upset someone who is oversensitive” is ableist af).

    3. Typhoid Mary

      misgendering people is homophobic and transphobic. Trying to “trigger” a homophobe by calling him gay or misgendering him is replicating those same systems.

      Alison, this was a pretty upsetting comment for me to read as a trans person. Would you be willing to let us know if you think misgendering–or encouraging people to misgender in order to “trigger” others– goes against your commenting policy? Thanks.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, it’s not okay. I removed the comment.

        This is a good time to remind people that I don’t read every comment here and so if you want to flag a comment for me to see, please reply to it and include a link in your reply, so it goes to moderation. Otherwise I may not see it (although I happened to see this one).

        1. Myrin

          I did that (quite some time before the first reply, even) but when I came back later, my comment (in moderation) had disappeared, so I thought you’d okayed the original comment – is it possible for comments to just disappear while in moderation?

          1. Close Bracket

            > is it possible for comments to just disappear while in moderation?

            That’s exactly what moderation does. The comment has to be moderated and approved *before* showing up on the page. Sticking a link in it ensures that it goes into moderation, thus also ensuring that it won’t appear until Alison reads it.

            1. Myrin

              I’ve actually done this I’d guess at least fifty times over the years so I know how the process works, it’s just that usually I am still able to see my comment (with a bold line above it saying “Your comment is awaiting moderation”). If the comment then disappears completely (even from my own view), that’s normally because Alison has deleted it, which usually happens because it was just a comment with a random link to get her attention with no need for publication.
              However, in this case it sounds like she hadn’t seen my comment at all and as such hasn’t deleted it while in moderation, either, so I was wondering if it’s possible for comments to just disappear without Alison’s input.

              1. licoricepencil

                I’ve noticed that if you’re commenting on phone, sometimes the comment system eats the whole comment and it doesn’t post at all. That might have been what happened for you?

  38. Cheeky Librarian

    So I have a secret love of astrology but no one knows about it because you keep your loves to your own damn self! I mentally take note of my co-workers astrological signs but it’s more to mentally say “Hm, you’re a Gemini. That explains a lot.” and move on. Notice I said MENTALLY! IN YOUR HEAD! KEEPING IT TO YOURSELF!!! I know that’s a real Cancer move on my part.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?

      I like how you’re using it–if nothing else, you’re paying more attention to the nuances of your coworkers’ personalities than most people do, and that can only be a good thing.

      1. Jules the 3rd

        Meh, it’s ok until you try to use it to predict behavior. It’s really important that you regularly check for data that doesn’t match the belief system, be it astrology, meyers-briggs, whatever, and when you find it, that you don’t continue to apply the belief system to that individual, even in your head. It will distort how you treat them. I have a hobby of epistimology, from religion to spirituality to management to less benign. Many have useful bits (eg, looking at nuances of coworkers’ personalities) but their predictive powers are pretty universally problematic – they bake in the bias and stop you from looking.

        Selection bias is a powerful drug that requires active searching to counteract.

        1. Cheeky Librarian

          Oh no, never use it to predict. Never. It’s more like a joke than anything. But once again, You keep it TO YOURSELF. Or if you do say anything it’s because it’s part of the conversation that other people are having. “Oh hey, you’re August 13th? Man, I knew you were a Leo! lol.”
          “Oh, you’re October 1st? Cool, I’m _____”

      2. mrs__peel

        “if nothing else, you’re paying more attention to the nuances of your coworkers’ personalities than most people do”

        Mmmm, I don’t think I agree with that. It’s more likely that you’re *missing* nuances because you’re trying to force them into a particular box.

  39. Michaela Westen

    #1, I’m concerned about your colleague working with teens. If she brings astrology into everything the way she does at your office, it could have a disproportionate influence on them. IMHO it’s not appropriate for a youth leader because it’s not based in science. Teens who are interested in astrology or think it’s fun can learn it without someone bringing it to everything they do.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      I’m more concerned that she shows a willingness to apply stereotypes to individuals, a huge professional problem, especially in that field. Astrology is one of the more benign stereotyping tools, there’s a lot of ambiguity in most signs, but what other stereotypes does this person have that may be getting into their curriculum?

      I think Alison lets this employee off too easily – the category of lapse in professionalism that this shows is something that’s not just applicable in the interpersonal relationships with coworkers, but also in the work output, and LW1 should review that work output pretty carefully.

    2. TootsNYC

      I think it’s far more likely to make them feel alienated and unseen. Which will undo a lot of the work the OP’s organization is trying to do.

      Kids aren’t stupid, and teens especially are beginning to be exposed to a much broader view of the world. This is itself a generalization, but I have found a heightened sensitivity to unfairness in the teens I’ve had exposure to, and I predict most of those kids will think of her stereotyping as greatly unfair.

    3. Michaela Westen

      My teen years were some of the worst and the *last* thing I needed was another oblivious adult projecting on me. Yes, it would have alienated me even more.

  40. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw

    #1: I have nothing to add to the advice given, except that I find all kinds of arbitrary classifications annoying and I don’t envy your situation at all.

    #3: I cannot fathom why your boss would cut your pay ON TOP OF cutting your hours, when by definition, cutting your hours means you take a pay cut anyway. That just sounds vindictive.

  41. East of Nowhere South of Lost

    Adding Astrology to the ‘black magic’ category of things to avoid at work.

  42. Wing Leader

    Okay, no joke, I once had a coworker that was into astrology that told me “even though I seemed nice, I was inherently evil due to being a Taurus.” Um…okay. My boss was nearby and busted out laughing.

    She was a bit crazy and ended up getting fired not too long after (though not for that reason).

    1. Jules the 3rd

      My kid got into astrology one weekend. Kid’s a Scorpio, and pretty much the opposite of what’s expected under that sign. He is *just* like his father, who is not too far off his Capricorn sign. I spent the weekend enjoying a long, southern-accented ‘because that is bullsh*t’ (and trying to persuade him to say it – kid is Lawful Lawful), while he spent the weekend asking me things whose answer would be ‘No’ so that he could pretend to be upset about it.

      Using this for work would be horrific – for acting on stereotypes/behaviors assigned to certain signs, for distracting people with intrusive questions about their birth date / time, for making assumptions without checking how well they match to reality. I would have deep problems with trusting this person’s professional judgement – if they’re making these assumptions based on stereotypes, what other stereotypes are they working with? If there’s any economic disadvantage / racial minority components to the client population, I would be checking this person’s curriculum closely.

      1. Michaela Westen

        It’s not just disadvantaged or racial minorities who are stereotyped, either. Some examples:
        White women are cold/easy/rich bitches
        All rich people are evil
        All men are…
        All women are…
        Etc.

  43. Jules the 3rd

    OP3: I’m concerned that both people who discussed shorter hours did it in context of having kids. If you are female, what’s the chance you could get a male manager to ask the same question, without kids in the picture, just ‘I may need to drop to 30 hours, how would that work? What would be the impact to advancement opportunities and pay rate?’

    Because I’m betting that the manager is dropping the rate because of preconceptions around your gender, which is so not cool.

  44. Broomhilde

    I once had an acquaintance with a similar passion for astrology, and their comments came with a little bit of sexual awkwardness on the side (“Tauruses are soooo sensual!” That’s an information I’ve been waiting for all my life.). One day, I have had enough and growled that Tauruses were also stubborn and prone to righteous fury and that this Taurus would stay in righteous fury mode FOREVER if they heard about their sign one more bloody time. I should note that this was out of character for me. You see, Tauruses are incredibly chill and patient (or so I’ve been told).

    Needless to say, I wasn’t bothered in any meaningful way again. In hindsight, I kind of wished that I had used a Hulk reference.

    Of course, this is rubbish advice for a professional setting, but if you either don’t care about strong ties with the astrology-offender or are certain that grandma/grandpa/insert family member with this obsession will love you despite that, the art of losing your shit(tm) comes highly recommended.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      Unless you’re a Scorpio, in which case they dismiss you because Scorpios are sooooo touchy.

  45. TootsNYC

    One of my worries w/ the astrology lady is that by leaping to these labels, she risks not leaving open the idea of seeing them as they really are.

    It’s my understanding that even in astrology, people are far more nuanced than the general description. If the exact hour and minute your were born can be so important in drawing up your chart, etc., then surely not every Leo is the same.

    I don’t know if that’s something it would be OK to say, though. But I might say it anyway: “In addition to simply derailing the conversation, these sorts of generalizations run the risk of closing you off to truly seeing and understand the real people you work with. Which is going to make you less effective.”

  46. Scion

    #1 is just as annoying as people who are super in to all those Meyers-Briggs things.

    Judge people by their actual performance – is it really that difficult?

  47. foolofgrace

    I remember a time when Nancy Reagan came under fire for her astrological beliefs because there was a fear that she was advising her husband, President Reagan, on policy by using astrology. Apropos of nothing other than just how old I am. ;)

    1. Ajana

      Going further back, an astrologer persuaded MI5 that Hitler’s decisions were influenced by his horoscope, so MI5 hired him to guess the Furher’s next moves. Someone was conned here…

  48. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#1: Yes, to the kibosh. There is a common thread in a lot of AAM’s advice to managers, which is: when you want inappropriate behavior to stop, be direct. Good luck, Virgo!

  49. Kms1025

    Op #1 Very Scorpio of me but SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN! That’s no better than any other stereotype that has no place in the workplace…probably no place anywhere but we’re talking about work. It’s not open minded and new age…it’s labelling and profiling and it’s just wrong.

  50. KitKat100000

    LW 4:

    Get out (leave) right now
    It’s the end of you (your boss) and me
    It’s too late (now) and I can’t wait … to be gone
    ‘Cause I know about her (who) (your terrible boss)
    And I wonder (why) how I bought all the lies (about how it was ok to have so little vacation)
    You said that you would treat me right (but now they aren’t)
    But you were just a waste of time (waste of time)

    As JoJo says, leave! Get out! It’s the end of you and your terrible boss!

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

      LW 4 might want to get their employment records and paystubs together (w2s, offer letter, etc.) to prove they are a full-time employee, in case this employer decides to start cutting staff and tries to withhold unemployment benefits too. Look up your state’s labor board now in case you need to file a claim. Ideally you’ll waste half an hour or less on this and then get to job searching, but it’s preferable to be prepared so you’re not scrambling in the moment if things turn to layoffs they mislabel as firing for cause. The PTO is the canary in the coal mine.

  51. Batgirl

    Small issue! *falls over*. No OP1 you’re cleared to internally raise eyebrows and say WTH.

  52. Anonandon

    I get that investigative journalism has a purpose, but it also angers me that these assholes take away jobs that could be filled by people who don’t have ulterior motives.

  53. Kat in VA

    As far as the astrology goes, I would just tell her to knock it off, point-blank.

    But I’m an Aries, so that’s how we roll. ;)

  54. RB

    #4 gets a huge Oh Hell No from me. That is a definite dealbreaker. I turned down a job once because it only had one week of paid vacation but it still had a reasonable number of sick days and holidays. What are they thinking you’re supposed to do if your kid gets sick or you have to meet with a contractor or you want to go on a trip that lasts more than three hours.

  55. A Leo

    I’ll admit I haven’t read all 591 comments so apologies if this was addressed! I had a similar employee issue with astrology and it got to a point “I can’t work with Leos”—where I consulted our employment lawyer. At that time, 2014, and according to our lawyer, it didn’t meet “protected class” status under creed. Curious if anyone else has experienced this through a compliance lens and how you were advised!

  56. Collective action

    I can’t get past the fourth letter. Five days leave a year INCLUDING sick leave? That’s Dickensian. Is this usual in the USA? You poor buggers.
    Unionise. Do it now, do it yesterday. It’s the only way working people have ever been able to stand up to the bosses.

  57. FireSignsRule

    OP here. THANK YOU to all of the commentariat. A few things that really resonated with me from the comments – the Astrologer strives to be a great youth worker, so the idea that using astrology diminishes youths’ autonomy and power to define themselves is spot on. Also, the Astrologer is a POC and a member of the LGBTQI community – which is why, I think, I was being timid in addressing this initially. But, the framing of astrology “typing” people based on things they have no control over really hit home, and provides an analogy that I can work with. Also, this person would definitely recognize the problems of religious beliefs crossing boundaries in the workplace, so that’s another in. (The reason I find these “ins” helpful is that I want this to be a learning experience for them, and I want to be clear that the “whys” are not at all specific to astrology or at all an exertion of power based on the Astrologer’s identities.) Thank you all!

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