my coworker is my boss’s best friend

A reader writes:

I’ve been working in pretty good environment for the past two and a half years. My boss is about 10 years younger than me, married, with two teenage boys. She’s risen quickly up the ranks. She’s gracious, upbeat, and a hard worker. She’s also generally professional, with one glaring exception. Her best buddy at the office (who also reports to her) sits across from her office, and they chat loudly every morning, share all sorts of things about their lives, and then have lunch together several times a week.

Meanwhile, my boss hired another woman (someone she knew outside the office) and this woman started a few months ago. She is also married, with teenage kids. Just as I thought would happen, this woman is now invited to lunch with my boss and the other woman I mentioned.

Now the two of them have access to my boss in ways that I (and my other coworkers) do not. I also see favoritism happening quite a bit already. It’s demoralizing to work in this atmosphere, and I feel most days like I’m back in junior high. I don’t want to join this clique, but I mightily resent it and resent the fact that they’re well aware several of us are excluded from their little lunch club. I should also add that they travel together for work – or should I say, arrange their travel so that they can go out of town together, stay in the same hotel, yada yada yada.I don’t know if there’s anything that I can say or do, but it makes want to leave my job.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I let job applicants know how they’re messing up?
  • Employee is demanding I approve time off at an inconvenient time
  • Do I need to tailor my resume to each job I apply for?
  • My colleague plagiarized my work

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Mae West*

    I worked with someone who was the immediate manager to their child. It was a nightmare. The manager finally quit in a dramatic way while complaining about a toxic work environment. Yet, they were one of the contributors to the toxicity. They not only covered for their child’s mistakes/laziness, but also lunched and vacationed with the child and other direct reports. Good riddance.

    1. Jamie G*

      I worked for the same company as my mom for a while in college (same company, same department, different locations) and it was super weird the couple of times that she was working at my location to substitute for someone else (food service, and she still doesn’t think I’m capable of using a knife despite being 30 and cooking for my family 5 nights a week). I can’t even imagine how unbearable it would be to work directly under her full-time. No thank you.

    2. CatMintCat*

      I worked in the same school as my daughter for six years. One of the conditions of her being employed (I was there first) was that we never work in the same part of the school and that she NEVER work in my classroom – she was an aide, and I a teacher). WE were both happy with those rules, and it worked well – we saw each other at lunch some days is about it. Neither of us are there any more but that’s more due to the toxic ex-boss than our particular situation.

  2. Beatrice*

    I had this situation years ago. There were the obvious favoritism and unequal access issues, but the least fun time was when the best friend did something that our manager had to reprimand her for, and our manager did it much more sharply than usual. The best friend wound up crying about it and venting to me, and then our manager pulled me aside separately and emotionally asked me if the best friend had cried. Ughhhhhhhh.

    1. Busy*

      My now ex-manager (haha got moved to another department), is doing this. During the last reorg, he maneuvered himself into top of operations at our massive location. He moved a guy he used to be on the same level with and friends with into a position this guy literally has no experience in. Not even a proven track record of effective managing. So now he manages his literal best friend and another guy he was friends with prior to his new position. They go out to lunch every day. He has even canceled important meetings with others of us just to go out to lunch with this guy.

      But here is the thing. His bestie is doing a HORRIBLE job. His team are as toxic as they come, producing poorly, creating low moral throughout the rest of the teams, and constantly are producing more drama. That is not even to mention the fact that they are dropping the ball and not completing work on a regular basis. I’m not sure what my ex-boss is gonna do. C-suit has noticed and is FINALLY tracking it.

    2. Charlotte rose*

      I disagree with the prevailing wisdom against having friends at work. There is academic research showing that having workplace friends increases business productivity and staff morale. From the Harvard Business Review:

      (One interesting factoid: “more than one in four Poles and close to half of Indians have vacationed with a coworker,” whereas only 6% of Americans have done so.)

      To be sure, there are downsides — favoritism and such — but it does not follow that friendships are negative, so long as the positives outweigh the negatives.

      1. Southern Yankee*

        I have a lot of work friends. I’ve even vacationed with some (I’m American). However, I am not their boss, nor are they mine.

        The issue being addressed by AAM is being the manager of a friend. That is where the biggest problems come in, and all the examples I’ve seen so far are related to a boss/employee friendship causing issues. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone comment against having friends at work if it isn’t a boss…if you have, feel free to direct me to those the posts.

        1. many bells down*

          My spouse is managing a very close friend. He was hired after my husband, who told his bosses that this was a long-time friend of his, and they have him supervising said friend anyway. It’s weird and awkward for both of them!

      2. Person of Interest*

        I’ve gone through the Gallup management training and used their poll about employee engagement in a past job. The Gallup poll question that asks about having “a best friend at work” (I think the HBR article is referring to this as well as the Pew study, even though it’s not named) doesn’t mean a bestie in the social sense. It means having someone that you feel connected to, in way that is appropriate for the workplace – someone whose friendship and collegiality is part of what motivates you to come to work and do a good job. So its definitely a fine line about what it means to be a “friend” in this context, and they definitely don’t mean for a manager to use friendship with a direct report to show favoritism.

      3. Artemesia*

        You really miss the point here. There is nothing wrong with having friends at work; there is something horribly wrong with supervising close friends. If promoted over the bestie then that relationship needs to take a step or two back as long as you are the manager. It is toxic to a workplace for a manager to have a close relationship with favorites who have special access and who are given preferential treatment.

      4. Someone Else*

        The advice wasn’t “you cannot make friends at work”. It was “you should not be friends with your direct reports if you are a manager”. The distinction matters in this context.

    3. Brandy*

      I used to have a manager take extra long lunches with her besties who were under her and she changed the time clock to make it look like they only took hour lunches. And another manager would go over to the mall with work bestie to shop while on lunch again changing employees time.

    4. TardyTardis*

      Been there, done that, it took Grandboss to sit on both boss and New Best Friend. It wasn’t me who complained to her, but the New Best Friend presumed on her position often and loudly enough that the whole office was sick of it.

  3. Narise*

    I have had employees book airfare and then request the time off. When I make a comment like ‘Let me confirm the dates are available or check the calendar and see who else has requested the days off’ I have been told ‘I’ve already booked airfare so it’s not optional.’ It was rude and unprofessional. So much so that one former employee tried to come back and because of her handling of PTO during her time with us and when she gave notice, it was a hard no on her returning.

    I would have a big picture conversation with your employee and let him know you will try to say us but you need the opportunity to say yes. If he chooses to book airfare or reservations and you cannot give him the time off he may be out that money. Of course nothing stops him from calling off but then you have another performance issue to address. Also remember this in his annual review and rate him accordingly for team work.

    1. Mimi Me*

      My company has firm black out dates for PTO every year for our team. In the last two years I’ve seen three people lose money because they thought they could book a weeks vacation and then strong arm management into approving their requests with the whole “I’ve already booked it so…” excuse. Management doesn’t care. The blackout dates are VERY specific. And it’s so understood by our team that those three people got little sympathy from us and a lot of “we told you not to book it”.

    2. Texas Recruiter*

      This is a great way to handle it proactively in the future. At my last job, we had an incredibly busy season and at the start of every year I would remind my team that they wouldn’t get any PTO approved during this time except for long weekends (a Monday and a Friday together were fine), but that after the busy period, I looked forward to approving PTO – any length – without an issue.

    3. Cows go moo*

      When someone in my team did that I shut it down quickly with “Unfortunately I still can’t approve your leave.” Then they can decide if they want to quit or accept they can’t go on that holiday.

    4. SarahKay*

      My company actually has it written into policy that all leave must be approved before making reservations / booking flights, and that if this process is not followed then the company is not responsible for any lost money if they need to deny your leave request.
      Certainly on my site all the managers are good at accommodating leave requests whenever possible but we have minimum coverage requirements; sometimes they simply have to deny a request.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is reasonable so long as the responsiveness to requests is relatively rapid. The miserable bosses are the ones who won’t approve things timely but wnt to punish people then for booking.

    5. Southern Yankee*

      It also really helps if you define what is off limits or restricted – then it’s a lot easier for people to plan around. I managed a large department with both coverage needs and specific days that were off limits. We had simple stated rules (no vacation on 1st-3rd of month and only one other immediate team member out). Pretty much if you followed those guidelines, vacation was approved. If you had a special circumstance, we’d also approve time off in the restricted days, but it couldn’t just be a “special snowflake” birthday or “that’s when we always do x!” reason. But, family birth, weddings, where you didn’t control the date and were in fact special approved even if it caused a temporary hardship to the team. You want to give employees the vacation they want it at all possible.
      But you may need to remind them to be courteous of others (and even intervene if they are being a jerk to co-workers).

    6. Tempanon*

      Just booking flights and then giving attitude about getting the time off is bad, but in many cases employers want maximum flexibility for themselves at the expense of employees being able to plan anything in advance.

      In my 3rd year (where PTO was granted by seniority’s) working at a call center (large operation, over 1oo reps in 3 locations) I was “waitlisted” for PTO in a non-holiday non-busy period. They would initially only allow 3 people per day to get the PTO. I crunched some numbers and thisaccomodated only something like 1/2 the time off requested, MAX! Leaving aside many excess requests for big holiday weeks, their policy meant most people had to wonder whether they would get approved at the last minute roughly half the time. They finally opened up more slots in the slower periods.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m kind of surprised about Alison’s answer here. She focuses on whether people are being allowed to take off a week at a time but I don’t see anything in the letter indicating that isn’t usually allowed–just that this is a particularly busy time! I’m on a team that does quarterly reporting so we are generally expected not to take vacation during the month after a quarter ends because those are our busiest times.

      And yes, managers should accommodate PTO whenever they can to keep employees happy but I don’t think the employee’s behavior here is acceptable under any circumstances and I think they should be told as much.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I do think the employee is being unreasonable in how they go about it. But I think Allison is flagging it because the letter (at least to me) gave off a vibe that this could be an issue. Something about it made me feel like maybe this company is stingy with this stuff and perhaps there’s more going on here. Sometimes managers and companies get overly rigid on this stuff without realizing that and it’s a good thing to think about.

        “In fact, he is demanding his birthday off as a Friday to Monday long weekend with a degree of “entitlement.” His attitude is all wrong and he seems to care less about the impact his extended absence will have on the workflow of the department during a very busy period.”

        He should not have booked without getting approval to extend. But the LW stresses the impact on his small team twice in the letter … but if you have a small team, people still need to be able to take vacations — long-weekends and week-long. Figuring out how to shift the load for everyone else is the manager’s job and it’s not fair to hold the team-size against him.

        Context would be helpful here — are they always in a “peak” period (my company is; they call everything a “peak time” and if I wasn’t allowed during that, I’d never take vacation under this policy). Or is it tax season at an accounting firm and they all know it? Do they generally try to grant requests, or do managers take forever to approve them and/or don’t allow for more than a few days, so no one can ever take a week?

      2. TardyTardis*

        True! At old ExJob it was said, ‘you can’t call in sick at month end, and you can’t call in dead at year end”.

  4. Jam Today*

    Ooof, terrible flashback to a horrible work situation (involving bullying and harassment) where my manager was “drinking buddies” with one of my male coworkers, and was insistent that I spend time with this coworker outside of work. Given everything that happened in that situation, I think he wanted this guy to get close to me so that my Creep Manager could get gossip and personal information about me (because he routinely asked me about my personal life and I routinely told him my personal life was off-limits at work.)

  5. Liz*

    The boss managing her friend reminds me very much of a situation where I work. Not me but a friend. She was part of a dept. which was all women, all married with kids except her. VERY cliquey, and she was the only one who actually did any work. And i’m not joking. Anyway, some shuffling around was done, and a number of jobs company wide were eliminated, including hers. the reason given was that the position ‘wasn’t needed” but considering she did the bulk of the work for her group, I’m not buying it 100%. especially since in the past my company has used that excuse to get rid of employees who weren’t doing a good job.

    1. Old European*

      I managed once a friend. We were friends from the university. The circles were small and there were not that many candidates. In the domain certain friendship among colleagues is normal, and hierarchies are very flat.

      It was terrible. He tried to exploit the friendship. He wanted all kinds of privileges, took some so granted that he did not even bother to ask beforehand. I did not grant any, but he almost came crying to me. After four months I let him go. We are no longer in contact.

      I learned my lesson. Never ever hire a friend or relative if you can avoid, and never accept a manager position where you have to manage your friends or relatives. For this reason it is generally a bad idea to promote one of the team as a manager, but better hire from outside whenever possible

    2. Res Admin*

      Ugh! I worked for a manager that hired in her BFF to be her assistant. BFF did something Very Bad. They spun it to blame me and put me on a PIP despite the fact that at least 3 other people had been specifically involved and vouched that I had followed protocol. That job was toxic for a variety of reasons…and so bad that I quit without another job lined up.

  6. Roscoe*

    As far as time off goes, I kind of agree with the employee here. Unless this is a job where there is just a time that people don’t take off ever (like tax season for CPAs) coverage is a management issue, not his issue to deal with. I think you should try to make it work, or else just tell people FAR in advance that these are the days in this year that its an all hands on deck situation. But you kind of want him to give up his vacation time to make it more convenient for you, and that isn’t right

    1. Magenta Sky*

      The devil is always in the details, and it’s easy to think up situation in which either or both parties are completely in the wrong.

      But any employee who books a vacation before they have a formal approval for the time off has made a bad choice.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I was also thinking this when I read it – that depending on many other details/factors, I may strongly change my stance on whose I think is more ‘in the right’ for this.

        And while I agree it’s a bad idea to book travel before getting the time off, I can understand why someone might do it in certain situations. Especially if, for example, they need to act fast with a booking (a certain deal, or some form of tickets selling out etc). Some companies can be slow at approving leave but almost always approve it – I can understand someone booking first in that situation. (But it’s a terrible idea to book first as a tactic to try and ‘force’ someone to approve your leave request. If you believe there’s a reasonable chance it won’t be approved… don’t risk it unless you’re willing to lose/cancel the booking).

    2. Asenath*

      I think it’s foolish for any employee to book flights before they have confirmed that the time is available – and I’d get that confirmation in writing! I wouldn’t assume that management is trying to get the worker to give up his vacation time if they have this procedure in place and follow it. There could be any number of reasons that the time initially requested isn’t possible – it may be an extremely busy time of the year, a co-worker (or more than one co-worker) may have previously booked off the same period, and so on. And for the worker to try to force the employer to give one specific period of time as vacation by demanding it, or arguing that he already paid for the tickets (that is, he doesn’t want to pay for his mistake in booking the time off) – well, it’s like bullying, and leaves a very bad impression.

      1. Tempanon*

        This would mean never being able to travel anywhere for all too many people, unfortunately, as some employers wait to the last minute to approve vacation time so as to preserve their own flexibility vs allowing any long term planning by their employees. Unless you want to pay the triple cost last minut3 fairs. Employers need to allow employees to plan to take their PTO.

    3. KHB*

      But if (say) two other people have already asked to have those dates off, then the solution to that “management issue” might be not to approve any more vacation requests for those dates. Yes, the default should be to let people use their time off however works best for them, but there will always be situations where that’s not possible and some people’s requests have to be denied.

      It sounds like they could do with a clear policy here. As in “At X time of year, we need Y people in the office at all times. Vacation requests for more than Z consecutive days during that period will be approved on a first-come-first-served basis. I can promise to give you a quick answer to all requests, but I can’t promise to approve them if other people have already scheduled vacations for those dates. So don’t make any nonrefundable reservations before you get a reply from me, or you risk losing your money.”

    4. LJay*

      Coverage is a management issue.

      And telling people they can’t have their requested time off because others have already requested it then (or because there’s a big convention that week causing people to be out of office, or it’s going to be in the last push before a release and all hands need to be on deck, or whatever) is managing it.

      Not managing it is allowing everyone to take off whenever they want and not doing anything to ensure there is needed coverage.

      Or telling people they’re never allowed to take off unless they get someone else to cover for them.

      But in some positions you can’t just pull in temps or retask other employees. So your only option is to manage the workload by managing when people take their time off.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      Yeah me too mostly. OP says it’s a busy period. Does that mean it has a finite duration or will it always be a busy period?

      Also she says the employee has a sense of “entitlement” about using his vacation. Welllll yeah it’s part if his compensation. He’s as entitled to use it as he is to use his paycheck.

      I kinda wonder if OP is the kind of manager that doesn’t want people to use their benefits, micromanage what/how they use them, or if the employee is just an inconsiderate douche.

      Or may e a little bit of “all of the above…”

    6. Drax*

      It kinda reads like he asked for week 1 off, but extended to week 1 plus half of week 2 without clearing it. And I can see if from the manager’s perspective.
      I’ve used to work for a place that released the black out calendar (no vacation during those times) in January and usually June/July was good for vacation and August/September a no, so 7 people want vacation in an 8 week window makes it tough to be fair and still let people extend. We had to have 3 people in office at all times and none of us lived in the same area as our family so that’s a one/two week trip to fly cross country if we were going home.

      *we got 3 weeks starting vacation not including sick days which was encouraged to use in at least week increments twice a year to avoid stress burnout, and had 4 months a year in black out usually Aug+ Sep and Dec+Jan

  7. ArchitectTina*

    I have a similar situation in my office. My coworker Bob is “best friends” (his words, not mine) with our boss. Both are men in their early-mid 50s. They golf together, go out to dinner together, even go out to lunch together during the work day a few times a month. While I have no desire to interact with either of them outside of work hours, it still irks me that Bob shows up late every day, leaves early whenever he feels like it, takes 2 hour lunches, etc., with absolutely no repercussions. The rest of us are just expected to pick up his slack and cover. It doesn’t help that Bob is the only one who got the most favorable rating in performance reviews last year (he is competent at his job, but certainly not more competent than others in the group). I hope managers read Alison’s advice and recognize that this type of relationship can create seething resentment within a work group.

    1. WellRed*

      Is there no way to push back on picking up the slack? “Yes, I can take care of Bob’s report, but I will have to push back the Penske project.”

  8. YoungTen*

    Quick story, when I was 20 (late 90’s), I once worked in a setting where one the manager was friends with my coworker. At first, I thought it was the cutest thing, Like real-life “Will & Grace”. “Grace would always talk about how she had “Wills” back. And “Will” would say the same. I got along well with “Will” or so I thought. And the fact that “Will” had a key to may cash register never bothered me in the least. That was until $100 went missing from my register during our shared shift and The manager “Grace” only listen to “Will” her BFF, and I wasn’t even allowed to see any of the “incriminating” video footage that supposedly I had stolen or given out too much change. The funny thing was, I didn’t have $100 bills in my register and I only had $1, $5, $10, and $20’s. So I would have had to have given out a lot of extra bills to become $100 short. Looking back, I should have fought it but at the time, I felt that no matter what happened, I would be guilty because I wasn’t the bosses BFF, He was and that’s all that mattered. I would highly advise that you get out of that situation because if stuff hits the fan, you (not her friends ) are going to get covered in it.

  9. Old European*

    About tailoring the resume. I usually do not tailor very much. I feel excessive tailoring is like faking, but I have also thought, that an untailored resume will more likely give me a job where I am the best match. There may be a chance that I am not the best fit for the job I applied but they may need a person just like me for another task.

    Am I expecting too much? The last thing has not happened, though.

    However, I have got most of my interviews with a general resume and general cover letter with no other tailoring than names. None of the applications where I spent time fitting it to the requirement, copied the adjectives etc from the announcement have passed into interview, except one, where I was swiftly rejected.

    But anyway I got most of my recents jobs without applying, so writing applications may be waste of time altogether, better just wait and wait and have fun in the meanwhile, if you can (I cannot).

    1. MayLou*

      I don’t understand how tailoring can be faking – you’re not making stuff up, you’re highlighting the relevant areas. For instance, I recently applied for an education-adjacent role, and a family support role. Very similar skills required, both through the same organisation so the same application form, but I tweaked the past work experience and qualifications sections to put more emphasis on the education/admin parts of my previous jobs. No dishonesty, just awareness of what skills were needed and how I can demonstrate I have them.

      Your final sentence though… I do not think “stop applying for jobs and just have fun” is very helpful advice for anyone looking for work. Not applying for jobs is far, far more likely to result in not GETTING jobs than in magically being given a perfect job out of the blue.

      1. Old European*

        What about leaving all management expertise when applying for an expert job?
        Or forgetting your PhD?

        The scientific name of magic is network.

        1. MayLou*

          You’re clearly in a different field/sector than I am. I work in the public and charity sectors, and no one gets a job unless they have applied for it and gone through the same recruitment process as everyone else. Another scientific name for the magic you’re referring to is nepotism and bias.

          1. Antilles*

            I’m in private industry and every company I’ve ever worked at expects people to apply. There’s discrimination claims, there’s possible diversity issues, and there’s a set process that even for our favored candidates, we can’t shortcut.
            Also, as someone who regularly hires, I can assure you that referrals are welcome…but they don’t override my process. I might read your resume a little closer if you got a referral from someone else at the company, but you’re still just one resume in the stack of 50. The recommendation means something to me because my co-worker generally has good judgment (presumably), but at the end of the day, it’s still *my hire* and my hassle, so if your resume is “a general resume with general cover letter”, it better still be good enough to crack my top 5-10 candidates who I’m going to phone interview.

          2. Old European*

            It is not nepotism if someone knows the quality of your work.

            I got my last jobs in public sector without applying. They were not permanent positions but short time projects, grants or free-lance contracts. I just had the special skills to do the task.

            I got my last jobs in the private sector because the small enterprises urgently needed someone who can do a quick task without supervision, and some one knew that I was available. Again, they were temporary tasks.

            I am very bad in networking so I have periods of unemployment. And I have submitted hundreds of application in vain. So many times I have lost for an internal candidate in fake recruitment process.

            (I have niche skills that no one else in this universe has but they are rarely in demand and a burden for applying other jobs.)

    2. BethDH*

      If you’ve been in a position for any length of time, you will have done many things that are worthy of putting in your resume, but you don’t have room for everything. So you figure out which parts of your experience in the past are most relevant.
      This is why just using the adjectives in the announcement wouldn’t work. Your goal is not to sound like you’re copying them, but like you understand the role and know what skills would be valued in it.
      I don’t think this needs to take a long time (though a good cover letter always takes me a while). It’s more, “should my third bullet point be that project I managed that saved the company money or should it be the time I built the new website and our subscriptions went up?”

    3. Professional Merchandiser*

      I have two different sets of skills. Merchandising and office/receptionist experience. I use whichever resume is closest to what I’m applying for and tailor my cover letter accordingly.

      1. MassMatt*

        I do this, in my case I have experience as both a specialty teapot seller and a manager of specialty teapot sellers. I have resumes for both. They are two very different skill sets, but I have a great track record in both, and depending on the organization and specifics of the opportunity I could do (and be happy in) either. One resume focuses on my customer service awards and individual production achievements and the other focuses on how I managed a team and their production.

        I suspect this is especially common for folks with skills both in X (especially sales) and X management.

    4. ceiswyn*

      If you have submitted hundreds of applications in vain and rarely get jobs through that route, you may want to consider whether that says more about the quality of your applications than how things work in general.

      And that possibly you are not the best person to be giving advice on how to make a good job application.

  10. Lena Clare*

    Re the last LW about plagiarizing –
    Alison, is it true that republishing work written by someone else is ‘ok’ because it belongs to the company? This seems really egregious to me.

    1. Asenath*

      If you write something as part of your job, your employer may own the copyright. At least, that’s the case in Canada as I understand it. If I wrote a best-selling novel on my own time, I’d have the copyright, but I wouldn’t on my excellent article “Best Practices in the Llama-Raising Field” if I wrote it during work for my employer.

      1. Talia*

        I would think that if you’re bylining specific employees you want to make sure you get the ones who actually wrote the thing, though.

        1. MassMatt*

          I was going to say this. The university may own the work, but they didn’t just use it, they credited it to someone else. This seems very very wrong!

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        That’s correct. If your working for your employer the writing becomes “work for hire” and the employer owns it.

      3. Samwise*

        There’s a difference between who owns the copyright, and whose name gets listed as author. The issue here is the byline, not ownership.

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Thank you – that’s what I came here to say. Getting credit for writing it can have an impact.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          It’s certainly a professional issue, and OP should check into it, as Alison suggested, but I don’t think it’s a legal issue. I’ve produced original writing that was then published under my boss’s name. It’s all the company’s property so I have no claim to having my name on the content.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Usually you sign something giving up your copyright to the work in exchange for money. (So the time an intermediate company went bankrupt without paying me, I could appeal to the company that had contracted them, pointing out that all those contracts I signed giving up my right to the work are void since I haven’t been paid. They opted to pay all the writers directly rather than start over again.)

      Publishing it under someone else’s byline could be anything from deliberate fraud on her part to her passing it on as an email attachment–“Hey, we have this piece produced for X and never used, and it would fit well in Y”–and someone stuck her in the byline because something goes there. Alison’s advice to treat it as an accident is the right approach–it may legitimately be an accident, so start there.

      1. Charlotte rose*

        But this is an academic environment. Claiming plagiarism is an “accident” doesn’t cut it. And what is acceptable (and legal practice) in non-academic environments is different from what is acceptable at a university.

          1. minuteye*

            While it is different, the fact that it’s at a University makes it kind of sleazy.

            In one office you’ve got people who’s job it is to impart on students the seriousness of taking credit for other people’s work, and punishing them severely for transgressions… and across the hall their colleague is happily pasting their own name into a byline for something they didn’t contribute a word to?

            Perhaps it was an accident, in which case it should be fixed. Or perhaps it’s a strange policy that they have to have a particular person take the byline for things, regardless of whether they wrote them, in which case that should have been told to the LW. But it’s deeply hypocritical for a University, when a staff member of theirs brings up a potential issue of someone taking credit for work they didn’t do, to turn around and say “Nah, crediting appropriately is for nerds. Just ignore it!”

        1. Judy Johnsen*

          It is not acceptable to plagiarize anything, anywhere, anytime. No company would allow that.

    3. Sam.*

      This is my understanding, even though I agree that it can be rather sketchy. In this case, I don’t think the article was previously published. My read was that OP wrote it and then switched to a new role. If someone in the original office later published the draft OP produced, that suggests it was left with them, which kind of strengthens the idea that it belonged to the organization. (Again, I personally think it’s uncool. If they were going to use it without crediting her, I think they should’ve used a general “staff” byline and not inaccurately give credit to a specific person.)

      1. Paige*

        If they were going to use it without crediting her, I think they should’ve used a general “staff” byline and not inaccurately give credit to a specific person.

        Yes, legal it may be, but there’s really no excuse for explicitly crediting the wrong person. Do you let the person with the byline put it on her resume or add it to her portfolio?

    4. Kathleen_A*

      It’s really common to reuse work, of course – the company owns it, so they can do whatever they want with it. But it’s not common to take someone else’s work, plop your own byline at the top and call it yours.

      The exception is if you write something for somebody else. I frequently write things for our president, and in those cases, it doesn’t matter if every word is mine or not – his name goes at the top.

      1. Samwise*

        Right, that’s a different situation. You are essentially ghost-writing for the pres. In the OP’s case, a co-worker’s name has gone on OP’s work. May be an accident, in which case, it needs to be fixed (especially if it’s living online). May not be, in which case it needs to be fixed and somebody needs to feel a consequence.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. I have often drafted material for the boss and it has his byline (although in academic publishing, usually those who materially assist are given authorship credit which is how graduate students build their resume and scholars keep inflating theirs). Writing for someone is legitimate. Writing something that someone else puts their byline on outside of this kind of explicit ‘I write material for you’ relationship is different. I like Alison’s suggestion of the way to approach this.

    5. kittymommy*

      I think it’s more that the product was used with an incorrect byline. They should have either removed the by-line totally or credited it correctly. Where I work the work product belongs to the company and most time it’s just not credited to anyone except the company.

      1. Cobol*

        Byline could be misleading too. OP sounded like they came from a journalism background, but if the content was repurposed from a blog the “author’s” name is often automatically populated by the software with the poster’s name, with no way to change.

        It obviously could be something else too.

    6. I was never given a name*

      There are also some content management systems, like WordPress, that by default include a byline that’s based on the user logged in when the article is uploaded and published. There may be no way to easily configure this, meaning that a former employee’s work can’t be credited, or at least not in the byline.

    7. iglwif*

      In some jurisdictions (including Canada and, I believe, the US as well) that’s “work for hire” — so a blog post I wrote as part of my comms job is “work for hire” and my employer owns the copyright, whereas if I write something and put it on my own (currently nonexistent) blog, I own the copyright, and I can do whatever I want with it. In this case, it sounds like whoever wrote it, it’s WFH and the company owns the copyright.

      That’s a separate issue from the byline, though! If this company normally include a byline indicating who wrote a piece of content, then they would presumably want those byline to … actually indicate who wrote which content. So it’s not copyright infringement (the publisher is the company and the copyright belongs to them because it’s WFH) but it can still be plagiarism (if the other employee pretended she wrote something actually written by the LW).

      1. Charlotte rose*

        I fully agree this practice may be legal from a copyright perspective. That does not mean it is acceptable from a plagiarism and academic ethics perspective. LW is from a university. Academic integrity is supposed to matter there.

    8. Lauren19*

      The OP used the word ‘release’, “I am credited nowhere in the release”, which makes me think the PR person used her work in a press release. Press releases don’t have bylines, but they do have contact names and information. The contact person isn’t being ‘credited’ for the work, they’re the person media and other external audiences can call to arrange interviews, get supplemental studies and fact sheets, etc. It’s not clear here that a press release is where OP’s work ended up, but if it is that’s very different than say a literature review or magazine publication.

      1. Cobol*

        I missed that word. Being as she also said PR I’m pretty sure you’re correct. There’s really no byline in that case, and it would be weird to cite an internal person.

    9. Lsly*

      Yeah this one’s a tough one, just because it’s unclear what capacity OP works in now, or what their employment contract actually reads like. They state they work in comms, but was hired on as a writer for a publication that’s since been folded. That makes things so much murkier.

      If they were hired on to write an article for a publication, and they’ve stated they spent lots of time on it, it’s possible they were hired on as a staff writer – in which case, the freelance writer’s final article SHOULD have their byline on it, or the very least a “Staff” byline attributing it to no one in particular.

      The OP mentions a release – I’m understanding this as a press release to direct attention to the article that was published somewhere (likely online?). OP should be credited for the work they did, not this other person.

      That said, I do like Allison’s response. It’s measured and it’s not a knee-jerk reaction, which is what I’d have if I were in OP’s shoes.

      I’m siding with OP on this one.

      1. Cobol*

        It depends some on the type of article it was intended to be, but if it wasn’t peer reviewed research it would go against norms to cite somebody.

        Think along the lines of “Llama wranglers are positioned to take over the world of teapot makers.” A lot of work would have been spent coming up with examples, but there wouldn’t be the expectation of a byline.

    10. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

      When it comes to articles requiring research, I’m not sure. But I’m currently building slides at work on a procedure, and I am verbatim copying slides from a presentation released in 2011. There is no reason for me to recreate the material when it already exists.

      1. Lena Clare*

        When it comes to articles requiring research the rules around plagiarism are strictly enforced. Work MUST be credited. I’m asking is that not the case in the corporate world too?

        I’m also not saying the work needs to be recreated, I am saying that the author AS THE CREATOR should be properly credited. It just seems extremely weird to me that they wouldn’t be credited. My take is, if it is the company’s property (I get that) then the author isn’t named, the content is just ‘published’ under the company’s name. If they are crediting the author then they put the name of the author in the piece of writing, as a piece that they have copyright control over. They don’t just change the name of the author!

        1. Cobol*

          The issue is, this may not have been published in the traditional sense. If it’s a press release there’s no author, just a contact for press. That person is often not the person who wrote the release.

          If it’s a blog on a WordPress blog, it’s automatically the person who posted the blog with no way to change it. You could put some verbiage at top crediting the person who did the work, but it’s not common (I’ve never seen it done, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get done).

          More importantly plagiarism isn’t really a thing if a corporation is taking something from itself, even if there’s a name attached. There are instances when it can be frowned on interally.

          1. Lena Clare*

            “plagiarism isn’t really a thing if a corporation is taking something from itself”

            This makes sense when you put it like that.

            I suppose I’m seeing it from the point of view of the author *as* an author myself.

            I guess I’ve always thought that plagiarism is highly frowned upon and punished as A Bad Thing too, which isn’t the case.

            Then again, I get stressed out when people copy tweets from others without crediting them… >.<

            1. Cobol*

              And if you work for a corporation stealing a tweet would be super bad.

              And coming to terms with your words not being yours takes a year or so.

  11. Miss Fisher*

    Not quite as severe, but my 1st retail job was similar. The supervisor was a teen and her friend from school worked there, so when we all had shifts together, I was stuck up front doing all the work while they stayed in the back room chatting away. On one particular occasion, I had been calling back for help because the line was so long to no avail. Regional manager showed up shocked to see a line to the back of the store. Of course, I was the one who ended up thrown under the bus on that one. They had said I wasn’t calling for any help.

    1. sunshyne84*

      How could you call when you’re clearly busy anyway? I’m having flashbacks, let me move on lol

      1. Miss Fisher*

        It was just an intercom to the backroom set up on the back counter. There was me, calling for help (think that scene from Empire Records) while trying to blow up balloons and create balloon bouquets while ringing people up. Mylar balloons are still a trigger for me.

  12. David*

    Is there a reason why when organizations promote employee referrals for job openings that a lot employees tend to take this as ‘Hey, my friend is looking for a job, but I only know them based on friendship, but never worked with them before, but I’ll submit them anyway?’ doesn’t it make the situation in the OP where bias will occur in the hiring process more likely (i.e. I’ll hire people who are like me in demographics, socioeconomic status, etc.) because people tend to be friends who are like them. Why would organizations encourage this if this is a likely result?

    1. Rainy days*

      I agree with the gist of your comment, and I think the answer is probably that a lot of companies do not truly care about increasing diversity, at least not to the extent that they would inconvenience themselves to do so. Hiring is time-consuming and to the extent that you can cut out some part of the process by using your employees to recruit and substituting their judgment for your own, it benefits companies to do so. (Long-term you will obviously create more problems by hiring bad people, but short-term thinking abounds.)

      I work at a small non-profit which is supposedly explicitly committed to social justice, yet we hire extensively from the ranks of our unpaid interns. This means that our employees definitely tend to come from a class of people who can afford to work for free for 4-12 months. They are all great people and great workers, but the inequity bothers me. I even brought it up to my boss. She acknowledged that I had a point but did not say she would change anything, and again this is at a social-justice-oriented org so I would be even more surprised to find people at large for-profit companies who truly care about this.

    2. MK*

      Organizations do not encourage this by asking for referrals, because they expect their employees to act like professional adults, not highschoolers. You are not supposed to refer your pals, but people you have worked with and think will be a good fit for the position. You are also supposed to be honest about how you know the person you refer and how much you are willing to vouch for them.

      Also, I would expect the hiring manager to a) ask questions about how well the refering employee knows the candidate and b) use the referal as a consideration on the hiring decision, not as a guarantee. It’s not as if a referal has to mean automatic hiring, and who does the referring plays a part too; a person with a track record for referring their unqualified friends has zero influence.

      1. Southern Yankee*

        Definitely this! I had a lot of employees refer friends, relatives, and previous co-workers as potential hires. I may have been more likely to interview them if otherwise qualified and I trusted the employees opinion (not the teenage daughter of a current employee, nope!). I would generally ask a questions – how do you know them, do they have a good work ethic, etc. However, it had little to do with who was actually hired. The referred candidate went through the interview process like anyone else.

        In my experience, it’s more about identifying good candidates, which can be surprisingly difficult, than any kind of anti-diversity practice.

      2. David*

        That is my understanding of how ideally it should work, but I think I’m not the only one to notice that it also occurs a lot in reality where people refer friends who they have no professional experience working alongside of.

        1. Shad*

          So I’ve had friends “refer” me to jobs in the sense of pointing out job openings to me and suggesting I apply. I’ve never expected that they would vouch for anything other than general personality (they can’t; as has been said, they don’t know my work quality). But I would expect that any internal metrics around recruiting would give them credit if I did get hired, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they mentioned in passing to keep an eye out for my application, and that maybe that’d get me a slightly longer first scan.

  13. Manchmal*

    Re: OP #5: The fact that this plagiarism has taken place in a university setting is relevant. While it may be true that the OP doesn’t “own the rights” to the work, i.e. can’t get paid for it, the attribution should still be correct. If attribution didn’t matter, why publish with a by-line at all? In addition to contacting the relevant manager, I would also take it up with the school’s academic integrity office. Plagiarism is serious business in the university context. While the OP is not an academic, and it sounds like the work is not scholarly in nature, I would still imagine that passing one’s work off as your own could have consequences for employees/staff aside from professors and students. The OP could open an email inquiry to the academic integrity officer by asking whether the school’s honor code also applies to staff.

    1. Cobol*

      Copying from a reply above. I know this is speculation, but I work in a similar situation, and believe it to be quite possible.

      Byline could be misleading too. OP sounded like they came from a journalism background, but if the content was repurposed from a blog the “author’s” name is often automatically populated by the software with the poster’s name, with no way to change.

      It obviously could be something else too.

      1. pleaset*

        I was going to say it might be a feature (actually a flaw) in the posting software, where it just shows the user wh posted the material. Which is bad, but quite common.

  14. Justin*

    re #1: I once worked with a group of four people who were all at the same level, superior to me, and such close friends that one had a baby and the others all were godmothers and named the child. And this was the entire team, them, and then me.

    They… they did not include me in much.

    Eventually they (and I) got a new boss who was like, no, you are all acting ridic. But as I suspect was the case with OP here, nothing changed for me until they gradually all moved on professionally.

    1. sammy_two*

      My husband works for a company where several people who started off as peers/friends/best friends (god parent to their friend’s/co-workers child, vacation together, go out to lunch on Fridays and drink, etc.). But now some of them have moved up one or two levels and even supervise one or two in the original group. Annnddd…they still go on vacations together, go out for drinking lunches every week, etc. Guess who has received promotions, projects, etc.? It’s definitely the good ol’ boys club culture for sure.

      1. Justin*


        It happens a little here, too (some people spend all day talking and I don’t see how they get work done) but the managers seem not to do so because they’re more professional than this.

      2. Stone Cold Bitch*

        I’ve been in a similar situation. Our manager (for a team of 3) was close friends with one member of our team, let’s call her Cersei. Manager invited Cersei to dinners and lunches with other managers, manager’s husband helped her move etc.

        When our manager was going on parental leave we were told that Cersei would be the interrim manager, “because she’d previously expressed interest in applying for the management training program”.
        Tyrion, who is also on our team, has experience as a manager and is more skilled than Cersei but wasn’t even asked if he was interested.

        This whole situation made me happy that I’d already resigned and would be leaving the company within days.

  15. Anon for ghostwriting*

    I have seen ghostwriting from both sides. My manager wanted me to post a blog post and I didn’t have time, so he got a ghostwriter to do most of it. I feel weird about it being under my name, but so it is.

    I have also written blog posts that are out there under other people’s names. So you can ask the other team about it, but most likely they just see it as par for the course with writing for the company while employed.

    1. Cobol*

      This is my thought. A blog and an article in a organization’s publication have many similarities, but there are some differences.

  16. Anontoday*

    LW who wants to help applicants with interviewing mistakes – I totally get where you’re coming from, but trust me, do not open that Pandora’s box. You will get someone who gloms onto you, won’t take “no” for an answer, and will keep on applying and applying for jobs. You might get someone who sues you because you told them they shouldn’t bring their kids/mother/husband/partner to an interview. You might get someone who sues you because you tried to mentor them on their interview attire, or their cover letter, or whatever.
    If you really want to help job seekers, volunteer at a college career center, or a community agency that helps place job seekers, or something along those lines.

    1. Rainy days*

      If the job asks for a hard skill and the person fails a skills test, I do let them know that when I reject them, especially because I hire a lot of people who are students or recent college graduates. I don’t want them to waste their time applying for jobs that require that skill. I know that there’s a lot of grade inflation in college now and they may genuinely think they have acquired a skill because they got an A in a particular class. I doubt they appreciate it, but when it comes to a skill that you either have or don’t have, I’ve never had anyone argue back.

  17. Samwise*

    #5 / Plagiarism. Because the OP works at a university, even if the work is thru the PR department, plagiarism is a pretty big deal. I would follow AAM’s script; if Jane’s manager gets back to you with, No, Jane said this is her work, then you could follow up with your manager from when you wrote it, and have them follow up with Jane’s manager. You can also respond to Jane’s manager that you have the notes, drafts, sign-off from your manager from when you wrote it, if you have those things. Also, if you need to have a portfolio or work samples for job-hunting, and you need that one in it, having this follow up could be helpful for you.

  18. pleaset*

    A volunteer group once plagiarized an article I wrote about a hobby from my website and put it on their with another byline (and some original content, such as an introduction and a few other bits).

    I wrote back saying I was both annoyed and flattered, and would be fine with them adding me to the byline with the other person. They took the whole thing down instead. Annoying.

  19. Lane*

    LW#1, I would agree, your boss has some favoritism issues, but this: ” I feel most days like I’m back in junior high. I don’t want to join this clique, but I mightily resent it and resent the fact that they’re well aware several of us are excluded from their little lunch club” is not a good look for you.

    Focus on the practical/tangible less than the middle school feels if you’re going to speak up about this: missed opportunities/projects that were given out over lunch instead of at work/missed networking opportunities at conferences (maybe – couldn’t really tell what was going on in the vacation section), promotions you weren’t considered for etc.

  20. T*

    I was in this situation with my boss bringing on someone she was good friends with and it sucks. There’s really no good way out of it other than finding another job. Basically this person will get better access and special benefits you won’t, and it’s completely unprofessional. It’s a total morale killer when you work hard but see a coworker who slacks off but goes to concerts with your boss getting special treatment. If you point this out to your boss you will end up looking negative. Overall it stinks and the best thing to do is accept your boss is totally unprofessional and move on to another job, there’s no winning here.

  21. Poppy*

    In one of my first jobs, long ago, not only was my co-worker best bffs with my manager, they were both bosom buddies with the next up in line. They’d have lunches together, and dinners at each others’ homes, and bring the photos in afterwards to show around. I was too much of a noob to know for sure that this was terrible behaviour. When it got busy, their lunches would last longer. And I, the new person, was left alone to cope with the lunchtime rushes. I knew for sure that was bad, and took it higher – and was then slapped down by the bosom pals in question.

    There was no way of dealing with it. In the end I was moved to another location, where things weren’t quite as bad. OP, you’re right, getting out is often the only solution to cliques.

  22. AngryOwl*

    I’ve managed a friend, been managed by a friend, and been on a team where the manager was friends with others. It was never a problem. I think, like anything, it depends on the people involved.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, it’s all subjective and depends on the people.

      One of my jobs, the owner and the foreman were best friends. It worked out great. I was third in command and never had any issues with their personal relationship. They actually worked well together because they both could just cut the sh*t and say things to one another without worrying about tiptoeing around the subject.

      But I also managed my partner for awhile and years afterwards now, our old coworkers are still like “We weren’t sure what to expect but man, you guys really did well.”

      The thing is that my friends or family will never ever work for me or with me if they are not good at their jobs and hard workers. I don’t keep that kind of company anyways, I’ll fire my own mom, I don’t even care, try me! [I wouldn’t have to, I got my work ethic from her and my dad, they’re incredible.]

      But yes, if you’re a pushover who gives your friends jobs because you just want to hangout and have long lunches together to make work into some kind of deranged social event every day, then that’s not going to work out well!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It can be really difficult to tell what the perception of the situation is from the inside, though. You may be 100% sure that there’s no favouritism, and that you’re being completely fair and considering work performance, not friendship. But your coworkers/other reports may see it very differently when you are socializing with your boss or report. They may well not speak up, because challenging the boss’s favourite often ends really badly, and they may assume that promotions and other good things are due to friendship, not performance. Then they’ll keep their heads down, emotionally disconnect from the job, maybe start looking elsewhere, and not bother to put in top effort.

        Short version – it’s not just the reality of the management that matters, it’s the perception, and it’s really, really hard to appear fair when you’re noticeably treating people differently.

  23. SeluciaMD*

    Alison, if OP#1 doesn’t feel like she can bring this up to her boss do you think there’s any value in this situation for her to take it to HR or somewhere up the food chain? As you mentioned, there is a whole field worth of landmines in this situation that really should be addressed. Depending on the size of the organization (and it sounds like perhaps they are a department in a larger organization) it’s entirely possible that others in HR/management (like the C-suite) wouldn’t have any idea that this department or project manager was so close to two people she supervises – and would want to know that so that it could be addressed. I know for a lot of things you don’t advise going to HR or going over someone’s head but this feels egregious enough to potentially warrant alerting someone at that level.

    What do you think?

  24. Just...*

    I had a situation like #1 and I eventually got fired. In my case there was an organizational shuffle that replaced my grandboss while my my direct manager was on maternity leave with someone filling her role (supposed to be temporary). My new boss and grandboss were friendly with one coworker. Going up another level would have meant talking to someone I had literally no communication or relationship with. I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently other than find a new job faster. Sometimes the situation isn’t salvageable.

  25. Thankful for AAM*

    My supervisor first pointed out to me that her supervisor cautioned her about the problem of being close friends with someone she supervises. She continued to be friends with her anyway.

    Supervisor has pointed out to me that this could be an issue several times and I agreed it does seem like an issue each time she raised it. I even spelled out how it could seem like they are closer than they are and that it can create a trust issue for the rest of the staff re the supervisor. I used a lot of AAM language (thank you!).

    1 year later, still friends and guess who is now head of a major new project?

    Sometimes you have to decide if you can live with things or if you cannot and need to find a new job.

  26. Liz*

    I just became aware of something the other day relating to being friendly with your direct reports. BG: My company recently changed its sick policy to mirror a new state law. Which is good and bad. Prior to that, we didn’t get a specific number of days, but if you called out sick, it was an “occurrence” no matter how many days you were actually out. And we were allowed 3 occurrences for x number of days total, within a 12 month rolling period. generally it worked well. and if you were out more than the allotted number of days, yes, company policy was you were on “attendance control” and your boss had to have a conversation with you, BUT, in many cases, if it was clear you were out sick, hospitalized etc. no issue at all.

    the new policy is we get x hours per year. Companies can opt to front load all sick time, as mine does, or have it accrue over time. My company also has a history of “allowing” people who maybe should have been out on STD to simply work from home, or just work from home for “medical” related issues. end BG

    such is the case with someone under my VP although not in my dept. for the last 6 months, she’s been working from home 5 days a week. While we’re allowed to do that, generally one day is the norm. But she’s a pet of our VP.

    someone else used their sick time already with a nasty case of the flu, and now needs surgery for an injury. And was told, as is policy, they need to take PTO until STD kicks in since they have exhausted their sick time. This person had a fit, and refused to do so, stating the above example, and others, and i can’t say I blame them. Simply because the one employee is a buddy of our VP, they get to do whatever they want, while someone else is made to adhere to policy. and by letter this one and others work from home where technically maybe not supposed to sets a precedent and you can’t let some do one thing, and not everyone. Not sure where its going to go but it will be interesting to see it play out.

  27. Works in IT*

    As someone whose mother DID try to bully her way into accompanying me to interviews (I’ll kick you out of the house with nowhere to go is a threat that brand new to the workforce people with no savings to rely on are particularly vulnerable to) I would have been overjoyed to have an interviewer give me, in writing, something that said “I’m not hiring you because your mother is being completely unprofessional in accompanying you”. “Mom, this is absolutely not professional and it is sabotaging my chances” is me showing my lack of initiative and worthlessness which has led to me not having a job yet and something to be ignored when I say it, but when an interviewer says it, it’s believable.

    So glad I have a source of income and am not dependent on my parents anymore, but that would have been so useful several years ago. Wealthy parents have all the power in the relationship dynamic between themselves and their kids, and the kids don’t always have control over everything in their life.

    1. Judy Johnsen*

      I am glad you are in a better place. I cannot understand why a parent would think it would help to accompany their grown child to an interview.

  28. yet another library anon*

    ” It’s one of the many reasons why managers need to have professional boundaries with people who report to them. They can be friendly, but not friends. Even if they handle all the other potential land mines perfectly (like impartially assessing the friend’s work, giving critical feedback when needed, and not favoring a friend when it comes to doling out assignments or perks), there’s still the issue of imbalanced access, as well as the way it makes other people feel.

    Your manager is allowing her interest in being friends with these two employees to trump her ability to be an effective manager. ”

    Oof, I wish I could somehow discretely forward this around the office.

    I’ve got a situation not unlike that, only there are only three of us working under our supervisor, and she goes to lunch/breaks with the other two all the time (I finally did get an invite to A Thing. It’s been literally a year that she’s been doing this). It REALLY doesn’t help because she’s well aware of bad blood between two of us, so, like…actually inviting the *whole* department instead of the “whole department minus you” seems like a good way to go about helping that?

    But what’s really frustrating is the one she’s become Good Friends with (always in her office, laughing about stuff) is kind of known around the office for being poisonous. Back before I was on her bad side, I got to go on breaks/lunch with her as well, and I know from experience that she talks badly about people she doesn’t like, usually in pleasant-let’s-laugh-about-this-(but-also-you-ever-notice…) ways, and I feel like it DEFINITELY informs our supervisor’s attitude towards us (eg: today was really brusque and frustrated with me asking questions, when the questions were prompted by incorrect information she gave me. Talking to other two earlier? Pleasant and laughing.)

    I know there’s really not much I can do but hold on and try my best to do better work, but it’s really nervewracking, because I know that just about anything I do or don’t do can be spun into a Personal Failing And Lack Of Improvement, and sometimes it gets me paralyzed when I know I need to ask question of either her or my coworker, but don’t want to set the trap off.

    The heck of it all is that I actually really like my job aside from that.

    1. OhBehave*

      And people think that cliques are left behind after school! It doesn’t change; the players just get older and may have more power.
      I had teachers who had obvious favs too.

  29. MCMonkeyBean*

    For #2, I think feedback can be really helpful–for candidates who are mostly great and just have one or two small things they should be doing differently. All of these examples are so wildly terrible that a little feedback from you probably isn’t going to help much anyway!

  30. Hi*

    To LW1: I went through the exact same situation. It was only four of us in the office and my boss was best friends with two of my coworkers, so I was the only one left out. They would go out for lunch every day together and then sit in the back office with the door shut leaving me by myself. My coworker, Jane, would lie about things that I was purportedly doing, like accusing me of violating the law, forging a signature, etc. and would always take credit for my work and would get the best projects at work.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it sucks, it really really sucks, and I hope that it gets better.

  31. Luna*

    I would hope that any non-bestie employee just walks to the boss and those coworkers about work-related things. If they are discussing work-related things, sure, ask if you can distract them for a second for a different matter, but if it’s just whatever’s been going on in the personal life, I think you could be a bit blunter in disrupting the conversation. I mean, you guys are here to work. No need to ask if you could possibly, maybe, for a teensy second get them to stop talking about Shania’s latest highschool troubles or about how Tracy is grounded because what-so-ever.
    But I generally do not like it when people end up mixing personal and work life together. During lunch, sure. But preferably keep the personal talk out during work hours.

    And please, yes! Tell job candidates what they are doing wrong and maybe offer a suggestion on what to change. How else is a person supposed to learn that they are making a mistake, and attempt to change it, if they are never informed of there being a mistake to begin with? I got so many rejections, I was wondering what the heck was *I* doing wrong that I wasn’t getting even a basic job that requires little-to-no experience in the field to perform. But nobody ever told me if there really was a problem with me or with my skills or what.

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