remote work bait-and-switch, changing clothes in the office bathroom, and more

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

1. My boss said I could work from anywhere — but keeps telling me to come into the office

I started a new job about six months ago. The company is based in City A, and I live far away (multi-hour flight, different time zone far) in City B. My manager, “Jane,” also lives here in City B, but we are it; everyone else is in City A or near to it. When I was hired, Jane said she didn’t care where I worked from as long as things got done, which was great as I prefer working from home. In reality, Jane has been limiting my work from home days to twice a week despite being impressed with me and all of my work. We each have an office in a co-working space, and even when we’re both in, we very rarely speak to each other (because it’s not necessary and she is very busy).

Twice now I’ve asked if there is any issue with my work. She says no, everything is fine. And there’s never been a work-related reason to ask me to come in to the office.

Do you have any insight into this? Jane has repeated her “doesn’t matter where you work from” philosophy a few times since my hiring interview, but I’m confused by the disconnect when it comes to putting it into practice. Usually what happens is I’ll say “I’ll be working from home tomorrow” and she says “Actually, I want you to come into the office.” I oblige but privately I am very annoyed. Working flexibly and remotely was a big plus in taking this job. I’m regularly contacted by recruiters and I’m getting tempted to start looking because I feel this was a bit of a bait and switch.

Talk to her more directly. Asking if there’s an issue with your work is too subtle a way to get at this; you need to explicitly say something like, “When I was hired, you said I could work from wherever I wanted as long as work got done. That was one of the reasons I accepted the job. You’ve been asking me to come in around three days a week, and I’m trying to figure out if something has changed since you hired me. Do you have concerns about my work or my productivity when I’m at home?” See what she says to that and be prepared to say, “I’d like to be able to go by that initial agreement, which was a key factor in me coming on board, and just come in when there’s a specific need for me to be here in person on a given day.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Changing into biking clothes in the office bathroom

I’m in my first job as an HR assistant. Many people in the organization are similarly young and we’re generally pretty casual. I have been wondering about the social norms around changing outfits in the bathroom.

One of the great joys I’ve found since starting my job is biking home from work. I usually put my bike on a bus in the morning (wearing my work clothes) and change to bike back. We don’t have another space I could change other than the women’s bathroom. There is a bike room in the building, but anyone can enter at any time and I normally run into a male bike commuter every time I’m there.

People definitely change sometimes in the bathroom (I notice someone doing it like once a month), but if I had my way I’d be biking 2-3 days a week. Are there any tips for what I should and should not do? Am I overthinking this?

Changing in the bathroom is fine and normal! Use a stall so that coworkers aren’t walking in on you in your underwear (don’t be these people), but it’s totally fine to change in the bathroom.

3. My manager showed me a graphic, violent video

Warning: graphic violent content below

I work as a banquet server at a large hotel and convention center. Yesterday, my manager, Fergus, approached me while I was setting up for an event and said. “Come look at this video, this wife cheated on her husband!” and proceeded to show me a real-life video on his phone of a man being brutally murdered with a machete while the wife looked on and tried to stop the attack (her husband attacking her lover). Disgusted, I said “What the f***!” and walked away. I later saw him proceed to show the video to nearly every other server working. I did hear him preface the video before showing it to other people by asking, “Are you okay with gory things?” after he showed it to me. My issue isn’t really with the gore, though that’s not really appropriate either, it’s with the violence. Lots of people are not squeamish and would probably say “yes” to that question because they don’t mind watching gory things in the context of a scene from a horror movie (which is fake) or a medical/surgery video (where someone is most likely being helped, not hurt), but wouldn’t want to watch a real person getting murdered.

How should I address it now, after the fact? Should I bring it up with him, his boss, or HR? I think what he did was really inappropriate, but I don’t want to get too involved or be the reason he loses his job.

What the hell? That’s extremely disturbing and inappropriate for work.

It’s unlikely he’s going to get fired over this; a stern talking-to and warning is far more likely. But if for some reason he did get fired, you wouldn’t be the reason for that — his own behavior would be. (But again, unlikely, unless this is part of a pattern.)

So yeah, please talk to his boss, if she’s someone who addresses problems forthrightly, or HR if she’s not. Since he’s your manager, you want someone with some authority over him to handle this.

4. I’m being demoted after resigning

I’m a director of a department and when I resigned yesterday with three weeks notice, my boss told me that they are going to combine another related department with mine and have that department’s director take over as director of the newly-combined department. They asked that I wait several days to announce my resignation to colleagues so that they have time to solidify the transition plan.

Now, my boss is saying that later this week, they will put the combined departments into effect and I will be demoted from director to a lower-level position with a pay cut — and I’ve found out through other channels that there will be a meeting tomorrow to present the reorg plan to the rest of the management team (excluding me) and that they’re positioning it as that I’ve quit in response to the impending demotion. In addition to feeling like this situation is pretty messed up and terrible for my reputation, taking the demotion will have financial consequences on my unused vacation payout (which is a fairly substantial amount).

I’m wondering what the most elegant response would be in this situation — should I announce my resignation to my colleagues now to try to get ahead of the weird spin being placed on this? Or is that going to just add fuel to the fire? And is there any professional way to combat the demotion at this point? I’ve offered to remain in place to train my successor and aid in the transition, but the demotion wasn’t part of the deal — am I better off rescinding the notice period of my resignation and quitting before it takes effect?

What on earth? Even if this was already in the works when you resigned, there’s no reason not to just let you work out your notice period with your same title and pay rate. Something is really rotten here.

If you can afford to leave right away (and not have it affect your vacation time pay-out — which it might; check your company’s policies if you don’t live in a state that mandates it regardless), I would say this: “I gave you three weeks notice because I wanted to help with the transition. But I can’t stay on if you’re cutting my pay. If you’re able to leave me at my current title and pay through my notice period, I’d be glad to do that. But I can’t agree to a pay cut, so if there’s no flexibility there, I’d need to move up my last day to before that takes effect.”

And yeah, I would ignore their request to keep it quiet for now and start letting people know so that you have more control over the narrative.

5. Should I apply through every website where a job is posted?

I’m currently job searching. In my industry, there are four major websites where jobs are posted. It’s not unusual for me to see the same job posted on two or more of those sites. If I see a job I’m interested in, I’ll just apply for it wherever I see it posted first.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about my job search, and he suggested that if I’m interested in a job, I should apply everywhere I see it posted. His reasoning was that if I apply multiple times, I’m showing that I’m really interested, and that I’m seriously searching.

I’m not sure I agree with his reasoning. I’d think submitting once would show that I’m interested and seriously searching well enough. I’d also worry that applying multiple times would reflect poorly on me. Maybe hiring managers would assume I applied multiple times on accident because I lack attention to detail, or wasn’t being thoughtful about applications. What do you think? Is it better to submit 1 solid application, or multiple applications through different websites?

Do not do that. Your friend’s advice is weird.

Applying multiple times doesn’t make you look extra interested; it makes you look like you’re applying to a zillion companies and didn’t remember you’d already applied for this job. Or if it’s clear you’re doing it intentionally, then it looks really pushy, and like you think it’s okay to clutter up their application system (and annoy them) in order to show “gumption.”

You show interest by applying, which you already did.

Don’t take job search advice from that friend.

{ 461 comments… read them below }

  1. CatCat*

    #2, you’re totally fine! I change in the bathroom at work and style my hair at the bathroom sink in the morning (5 mins tops at the sink). I felt self conscious about it at first since I’m the only person changing and doing my hair in the bathroom. Then, as with most mundane and innocuous things in life, I realized literally no one cared. Enjoy your bike commute! :-)

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      Yeah, I get changed into sports gear for softball/the gym in my office loo after work pretty regularly, and no-one bats an eyelid. Similarly, in my old job, if I was going out in the evenings sometimes I’d (re)do my makeup in the mirror over the communal sink (where I work now has two separate bathrooms with their own sinks, mirrors etc so that’s not an issue) and nobody said anything in the five years I worked there.

    2. Kuododi*

      It’s definitely NBD in the places I have worked. When I was heavily involved in martial arts I would take my duffel bag with uniform, change in the bathroom at the office and scoot right over to class. Obviously noone would appreciate a big, drawn out production of changing clothes resulting in bathroom real estate being tied up unnecessarily. IOW…go forth and have fun!!!

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Co-signed, Kuododi. I am heavily involved in martial arts, and I would change in the bathroom and scoot over to class if necessary at any day I have class….

    3. MK*

      I think the only restriction is time; unless your workplace has more bathrooms that are ever used, you need to be quick about changing (which I think shouldn’t be an issue with changing into biking gear). I remember there was a letter a while ago from someone who was going to the mum every morning and then using the only restroom in the building for 20 minutes to change, daily; unless we are talking about something like that, it should be ok.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree, you are fine. The only caveat would be to be aware of how busy the bathrooms are and make sure you are not taking up too much time at a busy period, if space is limited!

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I do ask one favor — please don’t apply hairspray & body spray in there. The chemicals linger in office buildings more than people realize — even after first burst of scent dissipates, those of us who are hypersensitive and/or prone to migraines will be in a bind.
      (Today’s adventures in perfume: I walked to the building behind someone whose perfume was so strong my head was spinning 10 feet behind her. So I took the long way to my desk — and when I went for coffee ten minutes later I could *STILL* smell it. In fact, I’m 99% sure I know her department, because it was distinctly stronger in the hallway at one particular area. It was enough of a cloud that I’m still getting whiffs off MYSELF 20 minutes later.)

      1. Lepidoptera*

        Good point. LW seems to be biking home only right now, but anyone biking to work and needing to freshen up would be kind to use wipes instead of spray products.

        (But please don’t do nothing at all. I work with someone who bikes in, and he has such eye-watering BO that I was angry to have to be the one to drive to an offsite meeting. Took a lot of doing to get the smell out of my carseat.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yes! Unscented baby wipes are super cheap in bulk and excellent for quickly freshening up.

        2. Bike commuter*

          Yeah, I had a colleague like this. She was dead set on not using deodorant, but also did not have a car so she was really, really active on a daily basis…and she wasn’t someone who could get away with this, to put it mildly.

          Now, I bike to work myself, so I’m very suportive of this lifestyle. But each person sweats and smells a different amount, and some people cannot skip deodorant, and others cannot skip deodorant + showers. My bike ride to work is mostly downhill so I can arrive minimally sweaty and save the bad stuff for my ride home; I also just don’t sweat much (it’s genetic–no one in my family does). Other people honestly need a full-on shower after any kind of exercise. Know yourself and adapt accordingly.

          1. Anonforthis*

            Yep – I sweat profusely during pretty much any physical exertion and have to shower on the reg accordingly. I would never get away with just freshening up with some wipes after a bike ride to the office.

      2. Kix*

        And I ask a second favor — don’t use the handicapped stall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into our restroom at work and someone is changing into workout gear or professional attire in the handicapped stall. Since I need the handicapped stall, I end up having to wait until people are done getting dressed.

        1. Retired Lady*

          I was going to say the same thing. After a surgery some years ago I needed to use a walker for about six months, and often had to stand and wait for someone to finish changing in the handicapped stall. Embarrassing for both of us.

      3. iglwif*

        YES THIS.

        (My building recently changed property managers and the new cleaning people are using something POWERFULLY scented to clean the floors in the common areas, and it is AWFUL.)

      4. LaDeeDa*

        OH that is awful! I am super sensitive to perfumes and scents, I start coughing and feel like my throat is closing.

      5. SamSam*

        Also please don’t blow dry or flat iron your hair in the bathroom. There was someone in the building I used to work in who would stand in the bathroom and get herself ready to go out every Friday afternoon, and the bathroom smelled like burnt hair. Yuk.

          1. pleaset*

            Yeah. It’s like, whatever.

            If you have some health issue where that smell hurts you, OK. Otherwise, let it go.

          2. Quoth the Raven*

            I mean, ideally I wouldn’t blow dry/flat iron my hair at work at all, period, not necessarily because it would smell of burnt hair, but because (hair full of lots of wavy thick hair) I’m looking at at least 20 minutes doing it decently.

        1. Janie*

          If your hair smells burnt when you flat-iron it, you’re doing it very wrong.

    6. Mel*

      Yeah, I’ve never worked anywhere that would have a problem with that. And most places actually encouraged biking to work or working out on lunch breaks by having showers and lockers in the restrooms.

    7. MissGirl*

      My only awkward part of changing in the bathroom is the walk out. It never fails when I’m wearing spandex, I run into a VP on the elevator.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I had a male coworker who would bike to work almost everyday. He would change in his office, so he would walk in and out in his bike attire, usually spandex type short shorts. That by itself wasn’t a big deal. Except when he would think of something first thing, or at the last minute and he would then come into my office to talk for 5/10 minutes in full biking outfit.

        So OP just don’t talk to anyone besides a hello/goodbye while in your bike outfit and it will be fine.

        1. Equestrian attorney*

          We had a law professor who biked to work. One day he was really late coming in so he ran into class and taught the two hour lecture in full spandex and sneakers. It was pretty hilarious, but he was already one of the most popular profs in the class so it just added to the mystique.

    8. facepalm*

      Tons of men and women change in the bathrooms where I work. It’s kind of funny sometimes to see people who were dressed in nice business or business casual clothes come out in yoga tops or gym shorts, but I think about it for about half a second, and then it’s a total non-event and they go off to their exercise. We even have people do this at lunchtime and jog around the building, then they change back to their work clothes. No one cares. I sometimes think to myself that it’s nice to see people who care about their fitness, but it’s just a passing thought and then I forget about it and keep working. Just change in a stall, but not the handicapped one

    9. RUKiddingMe*

      Yup unless it’s a single person bathroom and you’re going to be more than ~5 minutes or so, it’s totally fine to do that kind of stuff.

    10. noahwynn*

      My workplace actually has two single restrooms with showers to encourage people to bike to work AND shower before sitting down in a cubicle next to coworkers. They are in a hallway right as you come in the front door, so it is easy to duck in and out without attracting too much attention.

    11. JenJen*

      My only caution about biking to work is to be realistic about the amount you sweat if you’re not able to shower before changing. My boss used to bike in and he would get SO sweaty and then continue to sweat even after he changed into his suit.

    12. charo*

      What no one’s mentioning is, do you work up a sweat? Do you have to reapply deodorant and wash your face, etc.? Putting on work clothes after exercising is, ewwww. Biking or walking to work is great but that’s a problem for me.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, double-check that in your state your vacation pay will vest at your current compensation level if you quit before the demotion takes effect (i.e., at the higher pay rate). Then quit effective immediately.

    I don’t trust these people, and I worry that giving them a head’s up will encourage them to accelerate your demotion before you can give “effective immediately” notice that you’re leaving. Normally I assume good intent, but I can’t find a good reason to do what they’re doing (I can come up with business reasons to do it, but I don’t think those business reasons override their behind-your-back approach).

    Alison’s advice is less bridge-burney. But imo, any employer who goes to these lengths to trash your professional reputation and screw you over (esp. when you did everything properly and courteously) doesn’t deserve the courtesy of a functional bridge. Pretend you’re Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale, light that sucker on fire, and walk away with your head held high.

    1. Sherm*

      I don’t trust these people, either. “They asked that I wait several days to announce my resignation to colleagues so that they have time to solidify the transition plan.” Because they can’t solidify the transition plan otherwise? Something is so rotten that it makes Denmark smell like flowers by comparison.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        There’s something going on with compensation, whether it be vacation pay, pensions, leaves of absence, or whatever the issue might be. You might need to consult a lawyer.

        1. Bulbasaur*

          Yeah, this is weird as hell.

          I’m not sure what the laws are in the country in question, but normally when there is a substantial change to employment contract terms (like a demotion) you have to agree to it. If you don’t agree then the company can choose to keep you on under your current contract or terminate you. Since you’ve resigned anyway there is obviously no reason why you would agree in this case, and I think Alison’s script is a good way of expressing that.

          Whether to quit immediately depends a bit on how much you trust these people to act in good faith. But “please face away from me and gaze at the beautiful sunset for a while and pay no attention to the knife-sharpening sounds I am making behind your back” is not a request that need be honored for any length of time.

          1. MK*

            Eh, from what I can tell, in the US the employer can change the terms of your employment going forward, exactly because there are usually no employment contracts.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right. They have to tell you in advance; they can’t do it retroactively. You of course can decline to work under those new terms, which will generally mean you’ll be parting ways.

              1. Lucy*

                But since LW4 has already resigned, they are doing it retroactively, surely?

                This is baffling behaviour – and totally justifies LW’s desire to jump ship!

                1. doreen*

                  It doesn’t seem to be retroactive. Let’s say LW4 resigned on Monday – and then they told her on Tuesday that effective Friday the departments will be combined and she will be demoted.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No. Retroactively means they can’t tell you on Friday, “We lowered your pay starting last Monday.” They have to tell you before the pay cut goes into effect so you have the opportunity to decline to work for that new rate.

              2. EPLawyer*

                If the vacation was earned prior to the demotion, but the pay out would be based on her pay at leaving, wouldn’t that be retroactive cut in pay? I think a good lawyer could tease this out.

                If the OP can’t get out in time, and they do this, it is well worth it to pay the fee to consult a good attorney. Or see if your state has an employment law hotline they can call with legal questions at least.

                1. JC*

                  Yes in practice, but it goes the other way all the time. I’ve left a job with a vacation payout at my current salary, when I earned most of the vacation when I was at a lower pay rate.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  It’s pretty standard IME for vacation hours to be valued based on the person’s current rate. I live in CA, where we are legally required to pay out vacation time when someone leaves – and the law specifically stipulates it be paid at their final rate of pay. I don’t see how giving someone a pay cut, them quitting right after that, and then paying out the vacation hours at the lower rate because that was their rate when they quit would be considered “retroactive”.

              3. RUKiddingMe*

                Can they change her compensation vis a vis vacation, etc. payout owed retroactively?

                That is “whelp you are now X title/pay so your payout will be only $XXXX instead of $XXXX.”

                Or do they have to pay already accrued vacation, etc. at her current title/rate and then only pay the lower rate for the last weeks’ worth of work?

                Asking for a friend.

                Does this make sense? It sounds kind of convoluted, but I’m on my first coffee and and my mind is on the fact that it’s mani/pedi day in an hour so I’m not thinking clearly yet…

                1. BRR*

                  Most states have no laws regarding paying out unused PTO so they can probably do whatever they want. Interesting question though since I believe most places pay based on your current rate of pay but it’s usually thought of in terms of your salary increasing over the years.

          2. Massmatt*

            #4 How awful—your employer is using your notice period to screw you. Weird that it is being couched in the language of needing to reorganize, but it is basically the same as the letters we see about bosses being nasty or making threats etc once someone gives notice.

            It’s terrible how often this happens, but do take every precaution to protect your finances and reputation. And make note of their behavior on Glassdoor, others should know how they treat their employees that want to move on.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              And that there’s something shady going on. I have a feeling it’s less about OP’s resignation and more about their reorganization.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Cosigning. The fact that they’re so worried about the funds that they’re demoting LW for three ‘whole’ weeks and effectively cutting down LW’s payout, AND also trying spin this as us vs them, I would be worried if I was currently working at that company, as this kind of behavior is more along the lines of a company desperate for cash and not really thinking strategically. In fact I’m surprised they even asked LW to play along at all, this was actually a huge servie that they did LW by showing their cards ahead of time.

                Consult an attorney, ASAP.

          3. OP#4*

            Bulbasaur, “please face away from me and gaze at the beautiful sunset for a while and pay no attention to the knife-sharpening sounds I am making behind your back”– YES! I love this.

      2. BeeBoo*

        This in itself isn’t odd. I’ve often been asked to wait a couple of days to publicly announce I’m leaving, so the org can ensure they have a plan in place to answer stakeholders and staffs questions over the transition plan. Everything else, including the demotion, is not ok.

        1. Mookie*

          Was the transition solely about you leaving and the future of your role, or also about a company-wide change like this one?

          1. sacados*

            I had a similar situation, and it was specifically role-related. I started talking with my bosses in early January that I wanted to work out an end date and we agreed that I would work through the end of May. But we didn’t actually announce my leaving, only the department heads/execs knew, until March.
            The main reason being that they wanted to have a solid transition plan in place so they could give more specific news to my project teams.
            Not just “Sacados will be leaving and…. we’ll figure something out,” but “Sacados is leaving so Jane will be taking over her projects, they will start transitioning the role in April…” etc.
            In addition, because I was a group leader at the time, during this period there was also a department reorg where I stepped down as GL and someone else took my place (no salary change for me though). This was because we had just finished up the yearly performance evaluations and were about to have everyone start setting their performance goals for the upcoming year — and if we knew I was leaving, it made more sense to put a new GL in place so that the group members would be able to have the goal-setting discussion with the person who would actually be handling the performance reviews next year.
            It was a bit awkward, since we hadn’t announced my leaving yet, so the company framed it as more, Sacados is overloaded and juggling multiple projects (which is true) so we want her to be able to focus more on that work and not take time with GL stuff.
            But again, the really important thing about all this was that my pay, etc. was kept the same for the remainder of my notice.
            It was admittedly kind of weird to be walking around for months with this news that nobody else knew, but I think it worked out well in the end.

        2. Anonymous Poster*

          I had a similar situation where I was asked to hold off announcing my leaving while the organization worked to fill the gap I’d be leaving in the contract. It’s not necessarily unusual, depending on the kind of work being done and the gap being left.

          Demotion and more, as you’ve said, is insanity.

      3. Mookie*

        Translation: “the plan is going to be unpopular, so we’re going to try to publicly make this the LW’s fault (but then kneecap ourselves by lying about why she’s leaving, thereby making this re-jig look even more ”

        Not only are these people evil, they’re kind of stupid and also look like terrible planners.

        1. Busy*

          Yeah exactly what I was thinking. They are using OP’s departure as a way to justify their decision to “cost cut” as opposed to replace. People are going to be ticked (otherwise, why act this way), so they decided to be underhanded, lazy, and rude about it. Definitely would be putting my petty pants and marching all over that ridiculous clown parade.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            So so lazy about this. Their leadership is so inept that I’m surprised the company is still floating (or IS it?_).

        2. Lily Rowan*

          What they are suggesting would be the opposite of that! If LW resigns and then they announce the re-org, it’s theoretically LW’s fault. But this way, they announce the re-org and then LW “quits in protest” == only the bosses look bad if the re-org is unpopular!

          1. OP#4*

            Exactly! I shared a more thorough update lower down in this thread, but I also wanted to jump back up here and mention that one of the most confusing things in all this is that they had a very reasonable, responsible narrative available… that they ignored in favor of a really weird and shady one. Luckily they returned to their senses and went with the less-weird (honest) narrative in the staff meeting, but as this situation has continued to play out, it’s become more and more clear to me that most of this weirdness wasn’t malicious–it’s what Mookie said: I think they’re just terrible planners!

    2. krysb*

      A question I have is, when applying for jobs in the future, if a potential new employer calls this company, what job title will the company state she worked under? Assuming they give this information, of course, but if she lists one job title and they claim she worked under a lesser job title, that can be very damaging.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        The way to mitigate that might be to just list both job titles on the resume and explain in the interview that when she resigned, her company decided to re-org, and then they changed her title because a new director was appointed.

        1. AMT*

          But wouldn’t that look weird? “Teapot Director, Jan. 2014 – April 2019 / Teapot Assistant, April 2019 – May 2019”? I would be so confused if I were the hiring manager.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Which to me just means it’s even more imperative that OP get out *before* this demotion takes effect. If OP quits early, before the demotion, then their title at the end of employment will still be the higher level.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Personally I would consider listing it as:
        Teapot Director, , Jan. 2014 – April 2019
        (Reclassified as Teapot Assistant during notice period, Apr-May 2019)

        So it would be really obvious what happened and that the candidate worked at the Director level for 5 years and was only demoted to a lesser title during notice period.

        Or leave off the parenthetical and as Fortitude Jones suggests, address it in the interview.

        1. Sarah N*

          I think I might phrase it as (Reclassified as Teapot Assistant after giving notice for 2 weeks in April 2019) just to make it SUPER clear what’s happening.

    3. Busy*

      I honestly do not know if I could prevent myself from being petty here. I would not outright recommend OP BE petty, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame them if they were.

      1. Ama*

        I am one of the least confrontational people ever, but I have to say if I was expected to sit quietly in a staff meeting where people were telling (or even implying) lies about me I would have no shame in just interrupting and saying — “sorry I think that isn’t quite right, I resigned *before* I was told about this plan – you asked me to keep my resignation quiet while this plan was put in place.”

        1. J.*

          I had one job where the board asked me to resign, and it had been such a nightmarish experience from top to bottom that it was almost a relief, so I did. They told me to collect everything and leave that day, and I’d get two weeks severance and they wouldn’t fight an unemployment claim after that. It was about two weeks before our big annual fundraiser. The next day, the board told my staff that I had walked out and refused to work through the event. They revolted on my behalf, “She would never do that!” And then later all of them called me to tell me what had happened.

          I like to hope that most people can sense when management is blatantly lying about people based on their own experiences.

      2. OP#4*

        Thanks Busy. Trying to keep it pinned together, but truly, preventing myself from doing petty & childish things has been SO hard during this situation. <3

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I thought about this overnight, and the conclusion I came to is this: Leave at once, then get a lawyer to send them a nasty letter making sure they understand they will be sued if they either misrepresent the OP’s title or the quality of their work.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think the letter is a great idea. I’ve had good results from writing letters threatening to bring in my lawyer .

        2. Wintermute*

          I would talk to a lawyer first, because depending on the state and exact situation this may qualify as “constructive discharge”– meaning you can quit and still receive unemployment.

          Basically the law says that cutting someone’s pay sufficiently isn’t just a demotion, it’s laying them off/firing them and trying to hire them back at a much lower rate. As a result they are not always obliged to take the “new position” (I.e. new pay rate) that is being offered to them, they may instead have the option of treating it as a layoff and taking unemployment insurance for the gap in employment. Just how severe a pay cut has to be is a matter of state law, so that’s where a lawyer comes in.

          First, this new rate might actually be lower than unemployment, second of all I would do it anyway if it’s not drastically less just to spite them if it’s an option. If they want to play games with me, I can play too, leaving them with no transition time and a hit on their unemployment insurance.

          UI is a service you pay for, through the company that has to hold it for you, same as social security or medicare or anything else. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of it when the circumstances are appropriate

          1. Kat in VA*

            Completely unrelated, but sometimes I use the username Lady3Jane elsewhere on the internet. From one Gibson fan to another, I salute you! :)

    4. Gene Parmesan*

      At my workplace, the employee handbook states that employees have to give and work 2 weeks notice to get their vacation time paid out. I assume this is legal for them to require, though I haven’t dug deeply into it. OP#4 may want to check on this.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s usually not legal/binding unless there’s a reciprocal requirement if they fire you. Additionally, state laws sometimes override what a company has put into their employee handbook (e.g., in California, your vacation pay is earned compensation, and they must pay it no matter how you left or the amount of notice given).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My understanding is it’s perfectly legal in states that don’t require vacation time pay-outs? I think you’re talking here just of states that do.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            I’m in CA and I guarantee that I could walk out and still get my PTO. Because it’s happened.

          2. AnnaBananna*

            Further, unless something has been signed by the employee (eg signing my rights away from my payout unless I give notice), wouldn’t the employee handbook just be a wishlist? I’m sure there are several handbooks out there that uphold company policy but in actuality go against state labor laws. So…yah. Consulting EDD and the like is definitely in our best interest. Or lawyer, potayto, potahto.

            1. OP#4*

              I did a ton of research on my state’s vacation payout laws, and for where I am, companies aren’t required by law to provide vacation or pay out unused leave. However, it’s worth noting for others in similar situations that they may want to check whether their state defers to an implied contract: in my state, pro rata payment of vacation pay is not required *unless* the employer has promised to do so under company policy. The company policy in this case is taken as an implied contract with the employee. It’s a small but valuable bit of protection against companies making whimsical or arbitrary changes to these kinds of otherwise-unprotected benefits. Luckily, my company has a payout policy that applies to all separations of employment, regardless of separation type or notice period.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, it can be! I just wanted to be clear that the employee handbook doesn’t override default “earned compensation” rules in all states. California is probably the most aggressive about it, but there are other states that also don’t allow an employee handbook to override certain state labor and wage/compensation laws.

    5. iglwif*

      Yeah, this is sketchy af.

      If your notice period were three months, okay. But three weeks is short enough that if you wait to start telling people, it’s gonna look like you are high-tailing it out the door for some unexplained reason.

      I STRONGLY suspect they’re trying to get away with paying out your accrued vacation at a lower rate and that is DOUCHECANOE behavior which doesn’t deserve the courtesy of a heads-up, frankly.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I would also worry that them announcing you were being demoted and had quit in response is defamation.

      Seriously, a common reason to demote someone is if they’re doing a bad job, so I’d be mad. I’d also be mad that they’re taking your generous stance (giving three weeks’ notice) and turning it into you “quitting in spite.”

      So I’d be on a major “whispering” PR campaign myself, starting immediately.

      Drag this stuff out into the sunshine.

      1. Kat in VA*

        And three weeks’ vacation is such a small amount – I’d really be wondering about the company’s financials if it’s a cost savings measure. Even if the pay cut was from, say, $100k a year to $65k year, the differential in hourly pay for the vacation payout would be relatively minimal, no? It’s not like they’re *not paying* the entire vacation payout, just the difference in hourly rate over 120 hours. Unless the OP is making somewhere in the high six figures, the difference won’t be all much.

    7. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      I agree. Bail now. I would have been gone the moment they told me they were cutting my pay, before the cut took effect. That whole thing smells fishier than a working pier at an oceanside port. Run.

    8. charo*

      I like the “lawyer” suggestion cause this sounds hinky as hell. For sure you need everything in writing. You’re lucky you’re leaving.

    9. TardyTardis*

      I recall Hatsumomo torching the akiya in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. Now, she had certain personality flaws (*see* Bellatrix Lestrange) but yeah, there are times when that bridge just needs to be burned.

  3. Elizabeth West*

    I wondered at first if Jane told the OP #1 that she could work remotely and then found out or was told they couldn’t do that. But it seems weird that they can’t, given they’re in another city entirely anyway, in a co-working space and not even a satellite office.

    1. misspiggy*

      Maybe Jane is worried that the employer will make her drop the co-working space and work at home if the space is only used by one person?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Quite possible.

        I kept thinking of the advice letters from people who open with “When we opted for a destination wedding six time zones away, we knew that some people wouldn’t be able to make it and were totally fine with that. Completely understand” and then the next three paragraphs are about how angry they are that most of their guests are letting mere money enter into considerations of attending. Like they knew the correct line to say, and got it out up front, and they imagine that their practical deviations from this position are obviously rare one-offs fully justified by the unique circumstances in play. I think this often comes up with things employers know sound desirable, but they haven’t thought about beyond “We should say we let people work from home.”

        1. boo bot*

          Ha, yes. I think there can also be a mentality that goes, “Obviously any reasonable person knows that ‘work from home whenever you want’ means no more than twice a week,” or whatever arbitrary limit exists in their mind.

          Then, when someone comes in and doesn’t intuit the “obvious” rule, they’re perceived as not only violating the rule, but showing that they don’t care enough about the job, or not having good professional judgment. When what they actually did was fail to read the right person’s mind.

          I hate this.

          1. OP #1*

            I have landed on the home:office ration of 2:3 by guessing! She definitely had the “correct” amount of remote work in her head and I’ve managed to figure it out by reading her tone and mentally tracking the days she says no. It’s been a lot of work to even hit on this “correct” ratio.

        2. Cascadian*

          This happened to my partner regarding ‘flexible schedule’. She got so much side eye and created crises whenever she flexed her schedule that she had a talk with the owner. Turns out they meant flexible as in they won’t fire you if you have to leave early for an emergency and expect you to be flexible in working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, with no breaks, vacation, sick leave, paid holidays or even a clean bathroom.
          But they thought it sounded good to include in their employment ad.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I was thinking this. Or possibly Jane doesn’t like to work alone and wants someone else in the office with her even if they have separate, private offices?

        As much as I like to be alone and am fine with only my own companionship…prefer it actually, I had a job once that was only me, all day, every single day and after a few months of that even misanthrope me wanted another person around once in a while. ‍♀️

    2. OP #1*

      I finally sat down and brought this up as an issue to my boss. She pretty much said she thinks this is the right amount of home/office time split. Nothing to do with me, but because *she* prefers working from an office. Not the response I wanted, but at least it was out in the open and I could look for another job with clear conscience.

      Then, two hours later, an email! She mentioned the discussion to her boss (the CEO, over in City A), and he is all for me working remotely! The three of us are going to have a meeting this week and figure out the specifics. Maybe I can get rid of the office entirely!

        1. OP #1*

          I didn’t expect the CEO to be the one to champion this, but he kind of came out of nowhere to talk sense. I’m surprised but excited to meet this week to discuss. Thanks Alison!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Same – that’s fantastic news, OP! Was the remote work option mentioned in your offer letter? If it was, this may be the reason why the CEO went to bat for you. It’s really crappy to promise something to someone to get them in the door, then turn around and snatch it away once hired. That’s a surefire way to make sure your new hire quits, which is probably something your CEO doesn’t want.

      1. CM*

        That’s great!

        My interpretation of this situation is different than the majority. To me, “doesn’t matter where you work” could reasonably mean either OP’s interpretation (I can work from home full-time), or boss’ interpretation (if you want to be out of the office part of the time, up to 40% of the time, that’s fine). Clearly there was a mismatch of expectations, but I don’t think boss was being unreasonable here. OP and boss just didn’t communicate clearly about what they both wanted.

        Anyway, always a good thing when a civil conversation leads to the outcome that you wanted. And I think it speaks well of the boss that she was willing to bring it up with the CEO, then come back to OP with a different decision.

        1. Lance*

          To me, if you’re saying something like ‘it doesn’t matter where you work’, then you should either insert a caveat right then and there, or you should mean what you say. Giving a blanket statement like that then letting your preferences be known sometime after the fact (for no practical reason, at that), sounds fairly unreasonable.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          To me “doesn’t matter where you work” means what OP took it to mean, if they were both speaking the same language and all. Not a lot of grey area in that statement.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            “You can work at home whenever you like. The days you like will be Tuesday and Thursday.”

        3. Observer*

          Sorry, this is totally on the boss. Words have meaning. “work where you want” means work where you want not where “I” want.

        4. STEPHEN D DUPREE*

          I’m with CM. Admittedly, “it doesn’t matter where you work” is pretty clear. But when someone says “you can work from home whenever you want” it’s ambiguous. It could be interpreted to mean whenever you need to do so for a specific reason, like waiting for a package or plumber. I wouldn’t expect it to mean the same thing as OP did: work primarily from home and only come in to the office when there is a specific reason to do so. If that’s what someone wants, they have to be very clear about it during the interview process.

          1. STEPHEN D DUPREE*

            Lol that was a parody phrase from one of the comments, and not in ops question at all. Reading comprehension failure!

          2. Lance*

            I’d personally argue that there’s nothing ambiguous about a blanket statement like that with no caveats attached at the time of saying it. People aren’t mind-readers; if the boss wanted OP to come into the office a few days a week, they should’ve been clear about that from the start (and I mean actually clear about it; not to the point we have here where OP had to ask about their actual expectations).

            You suggest interviewees should be clear and up-front about what they want, but so too should interviewers.

        5. Beth*

          It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting your employee to work in the office some percentage of the time instead of always being remote. But you have to tell them that–especially when your main message has been that they can be remote! You can’t expect people to magically intuit that the “You can work remotely” message comes with the fine text “…up to 40% of the time, with the remaining 60% being in the office”. When you don’t say that part out loud, people will take you at your word and believe they’re good to work remotely as much as they want.

        6. charo*

          If boss has a rule that you can’t work from home more than certain % of the time, then it’s up to boss to say it and in writing. These are words, they have meaning. Why would you think they don’t?

      2. Lance*

        Sounds like one of the many bosses who need to figure out that ‘preferences’ are just that: preferences. Barring issues with work quality, it’s ridiculous to say ‘work from home whenever’, then in practically the same breath, ‘but this is how it should be’. Glad the CEO seems to be on board, and good luck with getting out of the office completely; it sounds tiresome to be there just because.

      3. The Tin Man*

        Hoo boy that was a roller coaster of an update, but good news (pending the discussion)!

        I have the opposite problem that my direct manager doesn’t care if I work from home but his boss is tentative about it “setting a precedent”. I’ll win him over but still ugh.

          1. Lance*

            I’d tend to agree there. Worried about setting a precedent? Forget that; let that precedent be set, then just hold people to the same quality of work you were holding them at before.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Exactly. I’m kinda old so workplace norms of 8-5 in the office M-F were default for most of my life.

              That said, as old as I an I can see that the world, and work norms are evolving and that employers, me included need to adjust.

              Plus, if they do the math…less office space/equipment/etc. needed…less money spent.

              1. charo*

                I’d be sure to send a few emails after the “normal workday end” just to show I’m focused. “It just occurred to me that if we [blah blah] we could save money. Would you want to talk about this tomorrow?”

                Shows you’re dedicated — it’s “time-stamped.” Only prob. is if boss replies and wants to spend a lotta time now, after hours.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I feel like that happens sometimes for sure, but it sounds like Jane is still occasionally talking up the ability to work from home which is what makes this very odd.

    4. MtnLaurel*

      Yes, that happened to me. I was told that W@H half time was possible, but my supervisor didn’t have the authority to do that , and her 2 superiors were deeply opposed to it. So I ended up only only working at home in emergencies, like weather and power outages.

      1. charo*

        The video-showing guy is a creep. If he’d do that he might insist on showing other ones, like porn. I’d point that out to HR; what else is he capable of? Sometimes guys like that soften people up and then get worse.

  4. TexasThunder*

    Regarding letter #1, so people just like the feeling of control. I had a client who in the face of an impending deadline insisted I come to her office more often, despite this actually adding more risk to the project (everything was set in terms of scope, I just needed to do solo work). She was a manager without any technical knowledge… her solution to every issue was to have a meeting, whereas often then the best way forward was for me to think the problem through.
    But it is an awkward thing to tell a project sponsor that their intervention would never add anything

    1. EPLawyer*

      Aaah yes, the old “We have a deadline, let’s have a meeting to talk about how we are going to meet the deadline” instead of you know — working so you can meet the deadline gambit. Then they wonder why nothing gets done.

      Let people work. Status updates can be done through email. If a real problem crops up — then meet.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Ugh. I’ve had that meeting several times. I was in purchasing, and we were given additional funds and told they all had to be spent by a certain date, which amounted to about 3x our usual spending rate. My boss and her boss both wanted regular meetings and emails about our progress, but what our team actually needed was to be sitting at our desks by ourselves plugging away at the work.

    2. OP #1*

      We talked and it turns out that control is a big part of it. I updated elsewhere in the comments, but the short version is that she is against more WFH days, but the CEO is all for it and the three of us are going to meet this week to discuss the logistics!

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        It would be awesome to see an update after the meeting and I hope it goes in your favor!

      2. Slightly Unhinged Sonneteer*

        “Do as I say, not as I do. No, wait:
        Do as I meant, not what I said.” And yet
        That phrasing serves to overcomplicate —
        Lower the chance that what I want, I get.

        New rules I need so that I don’t confuse
        My sole direct report with needless thought
        Of self-determination. Else I’d lose
        Control – I mean, it’s obvious she fought

        My iron fist – great leadership, I mean.
        (I must maintain this fiction she has no
        More opportunities than she sees here.)

        But wait! Why is her desk emptied and clean
        Save for an envelope? The status quo
        Has changed: this resignation makes it clear.

        1. DKFM*

          Amazing first line!! And I’m not sure if this is a Petrarchan sonnet (?) or something else, but it’s not the Shakespearean 3×4+2 that one typically encounters in the wild. Love it.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Oh this.

      The other day deep into conversation I realized I was being mansplained to. Bad enough but dude has zero education, knowledge, experience…and I knew it.

      I said something like “you do realize I’m an a actual expert in this area right? In fact *the* expert currently present?” Everyone else nodded in agreement.

      He miumblesplained some more crap. I said “give me/us a basic, bio 101 definition of “independent inheritance and random assortment…citing who posited the theory originally and then we can discuss your qualifications to offer a scientific* opinion.” He just sat there blinking.

      *He is not a s scientist in any way, shape, or form. I think his major was something like dance. He just wanted me, the woman, to look bad. ‍♀️

  5. Airy*

    Fergus is a vile ghoul and I hope he does lose that job. What next, the Christchurch mosque shooting video?

    1. Anna*

      I had a co-worker show me the Christchurch video even though I was vocally saying how much it angered me that it was being shared. I was cornered at an awkward spot in my pod and couldn’t get away. I had to go to bathroom to cry afterwards and I can’t shake the footage even now. I’m Australian and visited Christchurch a few months prior. The people who show these videos need a stern HR talking to! It scared me that my coworker didn’t even look sad or pick up on my uncomfortable body language. I’m just not sure how to report it, I let it go when I shouldn’t have.

      1. cookiemonster*

        Australia has pretty strict anti-workplace bullying laws and workplace health and safety laws and I think this would likely fall under the umbrella of that. If you’re not comfortable speaking to your manager/HR you can call your State’s work safety hotline and get advice. I think that’s really disturbing behavior, & seeing something like that stays with you – I’d argue it’s assault.

        1. Anna*

          Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it. I’ll see what I can do because I’d hate for this to happen to others in my office but must say our HR isn’t quite competent.

        2. TootsNYC*

          and there’s been a HUGE push in Australia against that very video. I can’t imagine an HR person hearing your story and NOT being, “Fergus, get in here–this was awful.”

          Honestly, if I were an Australian HR person, I’d be all for firing him immediately.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            So would I. Being an American HE person I don’t think it’s be off the table. Being “the boss” I know it would be on the table…along with his final check immediately.

            Caveat: Providing I felt that I/everyone else would be safe because males who “get off” on that kind if stuff, —and forcing others to watch it (dominance move) are potentially *very* dangerous.

            Not to say I’d keep him on, I’d just find the best possible way to do it without (hopefully) inciting a victim/revenge/must kill females reaction.

      2. Airy*

        I’m so sorry you were exposed to something so horrible. Look, I don’t know what the legal position is in Australia but here in New Zealand that video has been declared an objectionable publication (the same category we put things like child sexual abuse images in) and sharing it is against the law. You could report him to the police and they’d be down on him like a ton of bricks. It would be worth checking whether the same is true in Australia. As far as I know this can’t be called assault because that involves the intentional application of force to your person, but it may be covered by some other law about offensive or threatening behaviour. You have the right to be safe from that sort of ambush in your workplace and he shouldn’t get away with spreading terrorist media.

          1. Airy*

            That’s why I suggested checking what the law is in Australia rather than just saying “You can report him to the police for this.” In New Zealand, “It is an offence to share this material as soon as it is produced, and the timing of the official classification does not affect the ability for police and enforcement agencies to prosecute offences under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993,” source, NZ Chief Censor David Shanks in the NZ Herald.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I want to live in NZ.

              I mean I object to censorship on principle, but being able to force crap on someone —without consent— is so wrong.

              And not everything needs to be viewed by all and sundry…e.g. child porn.

              Oh you can watch it? Why? To what end? Are you a cop? No? Then don’t do that to yourself. You get off on it? Ok then, time to lock you away from society…

              /rant… sorry.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Nah, I feel you. Don’t apologize. People who get off on actual gore? Absolute cuckoo birds.

            2. Gumby*

              Does it have to fall into an already identified category of illegal film-types? And do so kind of clearly? Because if there is not already a law saying “films that show people dying in tragic circumstances are illegal” then it seems *extremely* iffy if any piece of video could be randomly classified at some point in the future making something you did illegal after the fact.

              I am absolutely NOT defending the sharing of these videos, particularly against the viewer’s will (?!?!?!?!). But civil rights are important too. And if, for some reason, the government decides next month to classify GoT as an objectionable publication – then rounding up everyone who has been to a viewing party and charging them with breaking the law would be a gross violation of human rights.

              1. Airy*

                The comment I quoted above referred to this particular video being banned – not randomly but in response to the specific content and context of it (the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history). The law doesn’t automatically apply to any or every video of a tragic event, violent crime or terrorist attack. For example, I believe the Chief Censor would take a different view of a video made by a witness trying to document what was happening in the interests of justice – an American example would be the video of Philando Castile being shot by a police officer, which was filmed by his girlfriend and also streamed to Facebook live. In the Christchurch case the video was produced by a terrorist in order to celebrate and encourage violent attacks on Muslims – the interests of justice didn’t come into it, so that justification for publicising the video doesn’t apply. Classification of works of fiction like Game of Thrones works differently because they’re not recordings of actual events where a crime with real victims whose privacy or dignity should be protected can be seen happening. IANAL but this is my general understanding of the logic.

                1. Gumby*

                  My comment was meant to be more about process than content. The point being that due process of law requires that something be illegal at the time you do it in order to prosecute you for it. So “we can classify something as illegal and arrest you even if you watched it before classification” seems problematic unless there are clear guidelines regarding what is considered illegal. Child sexual exploitation, for example, falls into a clearly defined category. So every video, image, etc. of that sort can be considered illegal to own or view (except for LEOs or a small subset of other workers in the execution of their duties to combat such). There need not be a classification of each and every video or image to make it illegal. But the excerpt, as posted, didn’t make it clear that there were any limits on the whole ex post facto law angle and I find that concerning from a human rights angle independent of the content of the media involved. (IANAL either, but this concept is fairly important to prevent abuses of power in my understanding.)

                  Though I do want to clarify that I am not in any way defending the reprehensible video that you referenced. I have not seen it and have no desire to do so and the fact that people do kind of sickens me.

                2. ThatAspie*

                  IANAL, nor do I live in NZ, but I think that Gumby might still be misunderstanding something here. It seems like it has to be something really bad (like the Christchurch terrorist video) to fall into this category. Maybe terrorist videos in general are considered a subcategory of objectionable publications. I hate almost every application of the slippery slope fallacy.

      3. JessB*

        That’s really awful, I’m sorry that happened to you.
        I wonder if you could talk to your co-worker first, and explain that this was really awful, and it really affected you?
        I would never show anyone that video, and do not want to see it myself, but if I had shown someone something that really upset them, I’d want to know so I could apologise to them, and also reflect on how I’d done that, and what decisions I could make differently in the future.
        I do think it’s worth letting someone else know about it, as it shows terribly poor judgement on your co-worker’s part to be sharing something like that, but I think it’s also worth trying to talk to your co-worker yourself as well.
        Also, you know the situation best. If you don’t feel safe talking about this to your co-worker, don’t!
        You may also want to look into your workplace EAP (Employee Assistance Program) if you have one, as you might be able to get some support there to help you.
        All the best, Anna, from a fellow Aussie.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I think cornering her so that she was forced to watch it takes away and consideration towards him being told it was upsetting. He knew what he was doing.

        2. Observer*

          Why do you think that someone who thinks this is a cool thing to watch, and it fine with ambushing people with it, is going to react appropriately to a conversation like this? Especially since the OP seems to have already made it clear how upsetting it was.

          Judging people favorably etc. is a good idea most of the time. But like with everything else, this has limits. And situations like this are outside of those limits.

      4. The Tin Man*

        I am a pretty level-headed person. I barely swear. I speak fairly quietly. My default, to a fault, is to see the best in people.

        If someone cornered me and showed me that video I would unleash a screaming tirade of swears with the essential message of “What is wrong with you, get out of my office right now”

        1. LaDeeDa*

          OMG! I got sick to my stomach reading your post, I can’t imagine how I would feel if someone showed that to me. That is awful!

          I got mad when people were throwing cheese on their baby’s face and was horrified at all the people who found that funny… but to seek out and watch violence like everyone is describing pains me so deeply.

          1. Drax*

            Exactly. I have no qualms shaming them harshly either because there is something wrong with people watching violence on the internet and not seeming to understand that is real life with real people not just a video on the internet.

        2. Flossie Bobbsey*

          Drax, do you realize you just did in writing to those of us reading what this person did you in video format? The latter is more disturbing, of course. But by the time I knew I really, really didn’t want to read what you had written, it was too late.

            1. Flossie Bobbsey*

              Thank you for this response. I assumed it was more unthinking than purposeful. But it was still very disturbing to read.

            1. Flossie Bobbsey*

              I appreciate that. Telling your story and mentioning that it was a video of child abuse (or any other event) is one thing, and your story still would have made sense. But in my opinion describing the actual contents as you did is what went way, way over the line .

      5. RUKiddingMe*

        So he actively —terrorized— you? I’d use that word. You are in Oz so you have way more protections than we do here (US) and even here I’d present it that way.

      6. Michaela Westen*

        If something like this happens again, do whatever is necessary to get away. Run, push them away, yell, whatever is necessary to prevent this being forced on you. You have to protect yourself against abuse like this.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know about NZ law and protocol, but in the US I would strongly advise against pushing in such a situation. Being the first person to lay hands on the other is a risky and escalating move.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            She said he had her cornered in an awkward spot. In such a situation she could maybe duck and nudge/push/ brush against him to get out. I would, even if I’d get in trouble for it. Protecting myself from abuse is first priority above everything else.
            Since he cornered her and made her feel threatened, I expect and hope the law would be on her side, not his.

            1. fposte*

              She didn’t say it made her feel threatened, though, just that she was cornered, and the word she uses elsewhere is “uncomfortable.”

              I understand that it feels justified because of how wrong this guy would be in doing what he’s doing, but that’s not enough to justify shoving somebody. She’s under no credible threat and she has other options. It’s also not just a question of the law–it’s what her workplace thinks and what the co-worker might do to defend himself when somebody initiates a physical altercation.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                What other options would prevent him from showing her the video? She said she didn’t want to see it and he ignored that. The only other option I see is run, if necessary moving him out of the way so she can run.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Yeah why is he getting *any* kind if pass for cornering her. That is a hostile, violent, and dominant act.

                2. fposte*

                  @RU–I’m not giving him a pass, and I think his ass should be fired pronto. I’m saying in the U.S., it’s nonetheless a bad idea on several fronts to shove him.

                  She can close her eyes, turn her head, cover her ears, ask somebody nearby for help, call somebody on the phone, call security on the phone, sit down on the floor, sing “Old MacDonald” at the top of her lungs, whatever. But laying forceful hands on somebody when you’re not in physical danger from them is crossing a big workplace line, and I disagree strongly with recommending it.

              2. ChimericalOne*

                If someone is trapping you in such a way that you can’t escape without touching them (whether pushing or brushing past them), and they have no legal authority to do so (e.g., a police officer, a shopkeeper who has reason to suspect you of stealing), U.S. law recognizes this as false imprisonment. In that case, touching the other person to escape is self-defense.

                *I’m not a lawyer & this isn’t legal advice, but I’ve studied some law & the letter of the law is pretty clear that you can’t just randomly detain people against their will, even if it only makes them “uncomfortable” or “distressed.”

                1. Yorick*

                  I work in the criminal justice system, and I seriously doubt standing in a coworker’s path while showing them a video would be considered false imprisonment.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Yorick, even if they’re showing a violent video with the intent of traumatizing the person?

                3. RUKiddingMe*

                  Yorick if he had her cornered (i.e. trapped) then it’s much more than standing in her way. Why are you defending this guy?

                4. fposte*

                  @RU–there’s not a single post here defending the guy. There’s not a single post here saying it’s cool for Anna or the OP to be exposed to this with no consequences for the people showing such videos.

                  But somebody suggested physical force as a response, and what some of us *are* saying is that physical force is a high risk response to a situation that doesn’t involve a threat to your safety. There’s a big difference between “I don’t recommend you assault this person” and “This person is just fine.”

                5. Yorick*

                  There is no indication that she was physically prevented from leaving, OP3 says he approached her and showed her a video.

                  I’m not defending him at all. He’s an ass. I’m just saying he didn’t commit false imprisonment and it wouldn’t be considered self-defense to physically confront him in this situation.

                6. Michaela Westen*

                  She said ” I was cornered at an awkward spot in my pod and couldn’t get away.”
                  It sounds like she was physically cornered.

                7. Michaela Westen*

                  Calling security, if she could reach a phone, would be a good option too. The times I’ve called the police on harassers (on the street, not at work), they got scared and left.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t say they should definitely for 100% be fired but I definitely feel like it should at least be on the table. That seems like a pretty reasonable consequence to me.

    3. Lars*

      Seriously, I was trying to think of something I’ve read on this site that’s WORSE than “my manager showed me a snuff film” and came up blank. I would genuinely be concerned for my safety if I worked under him and I can’t imagine I have an unpopular opinion there.

      1. alphabet soup*

        Seriously. Someone who not only enjoys watching a snuff film but then has the gall to enjoy *showing it to others* is a sociopath.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, that’s on the level of the “poop in the lunchbox and homemade bombs” manager.

      3. Anonforthis*

        Agreed, that was extremely concerning. WTF is wrong with some people? What reasonable person would ever think that was an okay thing to do?

      4. Anonymeece*

        This is not the first I’ve heard of this unfortunately? I actually had a friend who worked in law, and a colleague one time was laughing at a video and waved him over and asked if he wanted to see something funny. Friend walked over, expecting a dumb cat video, and the colleague was watching a video of a man being burned alive. Colleague did not understand why friend did not find that in the least way amusing.

        Friend steered clear of that colleague ever since.

      5. NotTheSameAaron*

        I don’t think that was a snuff film. More like a shock or gore film, especially since the description by the OP doesn’t mention anything sexual.

        1. NotTheSameAaron*

          Possibly a clip from “Murder Collection V.1”, judging from what the description on Wikipedia says.

          1. Lars*

            I’m gonna be honest, I would absolutely not care if this technically was real or not. Fergus also didn’t seem to care. Equivocating over it doesn’t change him behaving in a truly vile manner and doesn’t change that most people would be terrified of this in a work setting. “Snuff film” is much easier to say than “film that purports to depict accurately observed murder but is not actually real or maybe is I don’t know”.

        2. Kat in VA*

          Snuff, shock, gore – that’s shit I don’t want in my head. Once you see it, you can’t ever unsee it. I’ve seen some horrid stuff online thinking it was something else and I can never, ever scrub those images from my brain. I didn’t need to see *insert awful thing here* and now I can’t ever unsee it.

          I had a (now ex) friend who used to occasionally send me clips the most obnoxious porn you could think of just to be a jerk, along the lines of “Well, I suffered through it and now you’re gonna suffer too”.

          I told him that there wasn’t enough bleach in the world to scrub those images out of my head and if he kept it up, I’d block him so he couldn’t send that stuff to me any more. I ditched him as a friend years later, partly because he was a boundary-pushing asshole who never knew when to stop.

    4. ChemPlantPrincess*

      Many years back when this video was popular, the HR manager tried to trick me into watching “Two Girls, One Cup” on his computer. Mercifully, he was about a month behind on the trend and when he asked if I had watched the “TGOC training video” yet, his stupid little smirk clued me in.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        The HR MANAGER tried to show you that?!

        If I’ve ever heard about someone grossly unsuited for his job….

      2. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        HR manager? Male HR manager? With a poop porn video? WTF?

        That is so wrong on so many levels, it’s worth finding out if you have legal recourse for that kind of behavior on his part.

    5. Emily K*

      Seriously, let’s add, “Snuff videos are not appropriate for the workplace,” to this list of things I never thought would have to be explicitly stated.

    6. bluephone*

      So Fergus is admitting that he was the murderer, right? Like, why else would you share a horrible video like that to your employees unless it was a compulsion spurred on by your homicidal, sociopathic tendencies? So Fergus just admitted to committing murder and I bet the police would love to hear about that.

      (Yes I am being somewhat facetious. But frankly, anyone who shares these horrific videos deserves a surprise visit from the authorities, of the “better call a lawyer” variety–because that’s probably the only way they’ll learn how very messed up it is to treat a massacre video with the same “oh wow check this out!!!” attitude as Shea Lebeouf’s latest viral stunt.
      TLDR; If you’re the type of person that insists on being a Fergus, I’m going to assume that you’re a homicidal maniac and I’ll be giving you a wide berth and/or dropping a dime to the authorities).

    7. Hey Nonnie*

      Frankly, I would be approaching HR with very serious concerns about my safety at work, because how violent is Fergus that he found that video entertaining, not to mention thought it was appropriate at work? I’m legit scared of Fergus reading this, and I don’t have to see him every day. He has very poor boundaries, he’s into gruesomely violent content, he has highly questionable judgment, he abused his position of authority to make multiple employees uncomfortable at work. I hope he gets fired because I don’t think he’s a safe person to be around. I sure wouldn’t be comfortable working near him anymore.

  6. Awesome Possum*

    Alison, for OP#4: would this be an exception to your “no anonymous notes” rule? I find this behavior (joy at seeing and showing off REAL violence) scary and possibly indicative of dangerous tendencies. Since he showed it to everybody, the OP is safe, and his bad behavior still gets flagged/dealt with.

    1. Awesome Possum*

      Whoops, OP#3, not OP#4.

      I personally would anonymously email both his boss and HR. I feel like this behavior is so vile that he’s lost all benefit of a face-to-face disagreement / ability to confront his accuser.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no reason the OP needs to be anonymous when she speaks to someone about this, and the complaint will have more weight if it’s not anonymous.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh I read the comment as “not anonymous here online”, apologises to awesome possum!

        1. Awesome Possum*

          LOL, now I understand why you were so concerned! No worries! Rest assured that I have no desire to remove anyone’s anonymity here ;-) :-D

      2. Awesome Possum*

        Ok. To me it’s more important to report the behavior and get this guy reprimanded, no matter what. I was trying to provide the OP with an easy out, since she doesn’t want to get too involved. But I could be biased from my own experiences with workplace harrassment/abuse. This kind of behavior is seriously twisted and traumatizing, and I really really want someone to straighten Fergus out.

        1. Colette*

          If you come to me and tell me X happened, I can judge your tone, the words you use, and my opinion of your credibility and use that information to decide what action to take. If I get an anonymous note, I don’t know if it’s a serious complaint or a joke, I don’t know who wrote it (or how credible they usually are), and it’s much harder to take action.

          Anonymous notes make taking action easier on the person writing them, but they are less likely to get them the result they want.

        2. WellRed*

          Yes, she’s already involved, she’s been involved since the moment he showed her the video.

    3. epi*

      The OP doesn’t need to anonymously contact HR or their boss’s boss, in order to ask them to keep OP’s name out of it. I don’t think there is any particular reason to think someone would make the OP confront their own boss, or identify them to the person who supervises them if they don’t want that.

      This person showed the video to everyone working that day so it won’t be obvious who complained. But whoever the OP decides to complain to probably does need to talk to a real person about what happened to judge how serious this is. There is no clear benefit to the OP of contacting someone in authority anonymously.

  7. Ry*

    Is the bait and switch maybe about the company wanting to get it’s money worth for the desk space they are hiring? Since it’s a co working space that presumably costs money and they need to have somewhere for you to work from that’s not home?

    1. MassMatt*

      You may be on to something, perhaps the supervisor prefers the coworking space to working from home and is afraid the company won’t pay for it for just one employee? But regardless of the reason, it stinks that what was sold as a work from home position is now a work 3 days per week in this sort-of office.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, or feels like she (boss) gets more done at the co-working space than at home so assumes the OP would too.

        It does stink. I’d be annoyed by the bait and switch either way, but especially so if I was being asked to go to a co-working space, not even a real office. I work from home and most co-working space I’ve been to are less comfortable to work in than my space at home which is already set up with all the stuff I need.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, or feels like she (boss) gets more done at the co-working space than at home so assumes the OP would too.
          That was my thought too. If the boss feels this way, she probably said “I don’t care where you work” with an automatic (possibly even unconscious) assumption that it really meant to deal with one-off circumstances where you logistically can’t come into the office. So it’s not an every day or every week thing, but more to handle stuff like working from home while a contractor replaces the furnace, working from a car dealership waiting room while your car is in for service, etc.

          1. OP #1*

            You nailed it; we had a chat, and she herself prefers working from an office and gets more done, so assumes the same is true for everyone. She wasn’t willing to “let” me work from home any more often, which is not the response I wanted, but at least it was out in the open and I could look for another job with clear conscience.

            Then, two hours later, an email! She mentioned the discussion to her boss (the CEO, over in City A), and he is all for me working remotely! The three of us are going to have a meeting this week and figure out the specifics. Maybe I can get rid of the office entirely!

            1. BadWolf*

              Ooh, interesting. I don’t know about the space that you work at, but the one local to me has several pay options. Assuming they are paying for an everyday membership, they might be able to swap you to a once a week or something (saving money, work from home mostly, but still getting some facetime in). My local one even has a once a month option. Then you couldn’t come in a work more because the company is only paying minimum days.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I do give your boss credit for the whole second paragraph here. That she asked the CEO for his thoughts rather than consider the matter done, and that she was willing to come back to you with “Hold up, I may have been wrong, looking at your request again.” A lot of managers don’t want to send that email.

              1. EPLawyer*

                You are much kinder to boss than I am. Given her ASSumptions about how everyone works I see it more as letting the CEO know that she scotched any thoughts of a free for all work from home situation in the bud. See how well she handled that rogue employee. Only get surprised by a CEO going wait a minute, work from home whenever means whenever, not only twice a week.

              2. OP #1*

                I do as well! I was impressed and surprised that 1) she contacted him to check her take on the arrangement 2) he was on my side and 3) she came back to me with a willingness to change the setup she liked. Credit where it’s due! :)

            3. Utoh!*

              Glad to hear they think of you enough to want to work this out, I agree that you should get what was offered, and not have to change due to what your manager *prefers*. Sounds like CEO knows what happens when you assume… ;)

            4. WellRed*

              Let’s hope the specifics are, you work from home. Please update us on the how the mtg goes.

      2. Triplestep*

        this was my thought. Or she sold her own management on the need to spend that money for both offices, and now has to justify it even though only one is needed. (Her own.) Actually, she may need to convince herself it wasn’t an unneeded expense.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah. OP was told it was a WFH job basically and it was switched to something else.

        The manager’s lie denied OP the opportunity to choose to continue or to select out.

        Informed consent applies to situations other than just sex. I would argue that it applies pretty strongly to choosing a job to accept…jobs being a major life thing and all.

    2. Yvette*

      “Is the bait and switch maybe about the company wanting to get it’s money worth for the desk space they are hiring?” This could be it. I was working for a company in one location. The location space lease was up and they moved everyone to an existing, much farther away location. We all then telecommuted full time. Then the company bought a chunk of a business that came with a lease on large amount of mostly empty office space in a very, very pricey location (think Mayfair / Kensington in the UK or Wall Street in the US) and suddenly we all had to come into the office 4 out of 5 days. I am pretty much convinced it was to justify the pricey real estate.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s my guess. I once worked in a co-working office in NYC for a company based in LA. It was a Regus office and therefore more “traditional” than, say, a WeWork, and presumably more expensive. There was absolutely no reason I had to go into that office; my department was all LA-based, the one other person in the NY office was always out on sales calls, and many days I had absolutely nothing to do. Yet they still preferred that I come in and I had to ask permission to work from home.

      What gets me is Jane’s insistence the OP can “work from anywhere.” Most of the time I wish people would be a lot more clear.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          They could see how I logged into the VPN. They were a bit strange. When I moved to a different state, they allowed me to work remotely but they continued to monitor my IM activity and there was all kinds of weirdness. I stayed there for 13 months. People were nice, but the company was a mess.

        2. Emily K*

          My company also has offices all over the place, which means it’s a rare day that I don’t have at least one v-con. Everyone knows what my home office looks like when they see it behind me on a call, so for me the only way to conceal where I’m working from would be to shut off my camera. And culturally, the importance of video meetings for the smooth functioning of geographically spread out teams is kind of A Thing here so it’s not really acceptable to just decide you won’t appear on video except on the rare temporary occasion when you’re rather sick and rather look it.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Could be, but in my experience it’s more about a manager trusting that the work will get done. People think that because you’re at home, you’re lounging around, sitting on the couch eating bon bons. My manager at my last company was like this. A few of us already had a few days to WFH worked out before she started, and she made us fill out sheets justifying our work for the day when we were home. It was ridiculous. And honestly I was MORE productive at home, because I didn’t have people coming to my desk every 5 minutes, or my super chatty boss running her mouth 24/7.

      1. OP #1*

        I definitely get more done from home. My work lately has been reviewing video and audio, so trying to do it with cranked-up headphones is very annoying. From home, I can comfortably have it play through speakers and no sudden loud conversations drown out parts I then need to rewind.

  8. Flash Bristow*

    “I can’t agree to a pay cut, so if there’s no flexibility there, I’d need to move up my last day to before that takes effect.”

    Oh, nicely done!

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I was thinking more along the lines of “Peace out”, but Alison’s wording is much more professional :-)

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. “Actually, my resignation is effective immediately.” And then proceed to tell everyone I can find who still works there what happened so they know what kind of shady bstrds they’re working for.

        1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

          Yeah, this. Since they have a replacement already lined up, and want to demote the OP to make it happen, then there doesn’t need to be a transition period, so I would leave immediately without guilt. They made their bed, let them lie in it.

  9. Lena Clare*

    God, what is wrong with people?
    I’d be unbelievably traumatised if I’d seen that. I’m so sorry OP. It’s really horrible just reading it.

    I thoroughly believe that people’s boundary issues in personal relationships play out in work spaces. They just don’t…know how to be with other people? Or what’s appropriate in different situations?

    And I think what is interesting is that the manager is capable of learning from his mistakes because he modified the things that he said to other servers before showing the video again, however he didn’t modify it in the correct way!

    1. KP*

      Isn’t this close to a snuff film? It’s an actual murder in any case. This is an aside, but it is disturbing how often even news sites now will post footage of actual deaths — often for no real news purpose, but just for clicks and because they have footage — that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.

      1. Nea*

        I call it a snuff film down thread. And I’m not sure the manager was learning much, considering that he still kept ambushing people with it on company time. Considering his status as a manager, would they even feel free to say “No” when he asked if they wanted to see something violent?

      2. Busy*

        I agree. I have researched some really *bad things* for both professional and personal research projects – and done completely for academic reasons. The worst of the worst really – and it is ALWAYS traumatizing.

        I will tell you what was traumatizing most recently: when CNN kept playing the video of the dude walking into St Sebastian’s and they stop the video right before he blows everyone up. And its not even showing the murder!!! Its just knowing what is coming next. I don’t feel like they even needed to show that, and it was still traumatizing to watch! And then this guy, OP’s manager, is coming to work showing the actual BRUTAL murder or someone? I don’t get these people – it is like they lack humanity. As a manager, I would want to know.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Yup. Person being killed in a video…kind of the definition of a snuff film I think.

    2. blackcat*

      This so, so awful.
      Since 9/11, it’s pretty well documented that people can get PTSD through watching video of real-life events.
      It’s also well-documented that someone with PTSD can have it triggered or worsened by seeing something like this, even if it’s entirely different from their trauma.
      Frankly, unless I needed that job to survive, I’d probably quit. Someone who ENJOYS WATCHING REAL VIDEO OF TORTURE AND MURDER is so messed up, I couldn’t work with them. For me, that level of cruelty, of disregard for human life is incompatible with any degree of respect.

      1. Massmatt*

        TV networks showed video of people jumping from the burning towers on 9/11 endlessly, on a near-continuous loop, until viewer backlash finally got them to stop. This greatly amplified the climate of fear in the country, which is exactly what the terrorists wanted.

        I am generally skeptical of “if we don’t do x (controversial or partisan thing completely disconnected from the issue of terrorism) then the terrorists WIN” type of argument but someone cornering people at work and thrusting video of terrorist acts in their faces is doing the terrorists’ work for them.

        A manager taking time at work to show employees scenes of murder has got a screw loose. Has he shown himself otherwise to lack judgment or maturity? IMO this should put his job in jeopardy.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Omg just reading your first paragraph transported me back. I just sat there watching because I couldn’t escape for some reason. I can…well we all know what we saw/heard. I try to push stuff like that waaaaaayyyyyyy down.

      2. JustaTech*

        Academic researchers needed serious therapy after interviewing 9/11 survivors.

        Terrible events are *terrible* and create lasting harm. Why on earth people want to share video of something terrible (unless you have to analyze it to prevent it from happening again) is beyond me.

        1. RUKiddingMe*


          Some people have to do it as a job. Some people do body recovery, some do autopsies, some do all kinds of stuff I cant make myself do.

          Those people are heroes AFAIC because society needs them and they are willing to do it. I thank all the deities I don’t believe in for people willing to fo the hard jobs.

          **Everyone else has no need to watch snuff films, hang out at a murder scene, etc.

          ** Unless they are in training for said jobs.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I was taking a course on crisis communication in, I think 2003. My professor showed 9/11 footage twice a week. I lasted a month, and when I finally decided I couldn’t take it anymore I had to get her signature for permission to drop the class. Then she had the gall to tell me maybe I should see a counselor, like not wanting to watch thousands of people die two mornings a week was totally weird.

      4. Bulbasaur*

        In some countries (mine, for example) this would be illegal, and would probably result in liability for the company if somebody was harmed in consequence. I would report to both manager’s manager and HR. This is serious stuff. Treat it like he pulled out a knife at work and started poking people with it hard enough to draw blood.

        Even more worrying is that (a) he is the kind of person who finds videos like this entertaining and (b) he thinks this fact is of so little consequence that he is happy revealing it to coworkers, and even invites them to participate. These are also sufficiently egregious to merit instant dismissal in a lot of workplaces. I’ve seen people fired on the spot for less.

        If he gets fired because of this it’s not your fault. If you don’t report it and he does something else like this to someone who suffers harm from it…. well, it’s still not your fault, but it’s something you could possibly have prevented if you spoke up.

      5. Quoth the Raven*

        I live in Mexico City, and following September 2017 (when we were hit by a massive earthquake that killed hundreds) the earthquake alert in place in the city is enough to send many of us into panic. So near the first year anniversary the History Channel decided they’d air a “documentary” on it — and decided to air ads for it, without any kind of trigger warning, blaring the damn earthquake alert at full volume, because why the hell not? The first time I saw the ad (sound and image) I literally ended up sitting in bed and broke down crying desperately, and it took me a long time to calm down from the sheer panic (you can imagine the kind of hatred they got on their social media accounts). And there’s people known to drive around with the alert sound blaring through their car speakers because it amuses them, and because some people are rotten.

        You don’t force others to see or listen to things that can traumatise them, especially if you spring it on them. Even if you know the person in question can handle it; even if you can’t see what the big deal is. I mean hell, being OP’s coworker I’d report this person in an instant too.

    3. Tafadhali*

      I’m so upset hearing the video described and imagining someone finding it entertaining that I can’t imagine how it would feel to actually be shown it! So sorry, OP — that’s really messed up.

    4. Kate R*

      Completely agree. I was actually surprised Alison didn’t think he’d be fired over this. I’d want to fire him in a heartbeat. I find it disturbing he finds something like that so entertaining in the first place, but then to show it to coworkers (subordinates even) shows some seriously messed up judgement. What the hell?

  10. Engineer Woman*

    Op#5: Don’t listen to your friend – trust your instincts. Applying multiple times through different avenues/websites for the same job is a horrible thing to do. You’re either qualified to the next round (phone screen or interview) or you’re not.

    1. Tortoise*

      I would be really reluctant to move someone forward if they did this, as I’d worry about how they would conduct themselves in a team. Do not do it.

      1. Reed*

        As the person who has to read through dozens and sometimes hundreds of job applications to choose people to interview, if I found multiple applications from the same person I’d be so annoyed at having my time wasted. SO annoyed.

        1. Lucy*

          I’ve had some issues in the distant past with recruiters putting me forward for jobs without getting my explicit say-so, and I can see a situation where a person using multiple agencies might be put forward twice for the same job without realising.

          (Once a recruiter sent my details TO MY CURRENT BOSS without my permission – I only dodged that bullet because it was part of my job at that time to screen his mail. Recruiter couldn’t see the problem, as “the details were anonymised” but they included my unrelated qualifications which are very rare in that field. Fired that recruiter immediately…)

          But yes, sending multiple real applications through different agencies is spam!

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, if I got details of the same candidate through more than one agency I wouldn’t normally blame the candidate, as they may not have been told enough details to identify that it was the same job, and becaue agencies don’t always communicate well so they may not even know.

            Like you, I once had an agency send my details to my (then) place of work. Fortunately they knew I was looking for a job, as I was coming to the end of a fixed term contract, but the agency didn’t know that! They were also really blase about it when I contacted them, and didn’t seem to grasp why it might be a problem. In my case, the details they sent showed my name and current place of work, so it wasn’t exactly subtle!

      2. BRR*

        Me too. It would likely be a deal breaker even if I would have otherwise moved them forward.

      3. Mike C.*

        This doesn’t make sense. How does hitting a specific job ad more than once mean that someone won’t be able to act well on a team?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Either a) They don’t pay attention to things–rather large things, or b) They do pay attention to things, but figure pesky details like a possible “no” are to be worked around.

        2. Beehoppy*

          It might signal that they found their needs more important than others i.e. the hiring manager who has to sort through all those applications and the others who apply by using the preferred protocol.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Do you want to work with someone who sends you their report draft three different times to make sure that it stands out from the other email your staff is sending you? It shows a weird misunderstanding of how correspondence and communication works, and it shows pushiness/a willingness to disregard other people’s time/systems because you care more about getting a (false) advantage for yourself. I wouldn’t reject an otherwise great candidate over it, but it would absolutely be a data point in the “weird/worrisome” column (and based on seeing which candidates do stuff like this over time, I am deeply skeptical a strong candidate would ever do this).

    2. Massmatt*

      At this point there is at least a book’s worth of such terrible “gumption” advice!

      If I saw 3 applications from the same person for a job I would most certainly NOT be thinking “oh, what a go-getter”, I would definitely be thinking either “this person has lost track of how many jobs they are applying to“ or “this person is NUTS and doesn’t understand how this works”. Or both!

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        This would be my thought process, too. Twice, I might “forgive” as being partly my fault for posting on multiple sites. By the 3rd time, if they don’t recognize the ad, I’m going to assume they are just tossing resumes at every listing they are remotely qualified for without any research or thought, at best. At worst, I’m going to assume they aren’t smart enough to remember the exact same ad or are too lazy to double check when they think “this looks familiar.” Unless they are an exceedingly great candidate, they aren’t likely to be moved forward either way.

        Although, it also depends on the position. I’d give a lot more leeway to an entry level position than one that requires any level of experience.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I have a nephew who applied for some job about ten years ago.

        He proceeded to call them…because gumption. I told him not to.

        After two weeks the guy told him, and I quote, “fuck off and stop calling me, I wont be hiring you, ever.”

        Unfortunately Nephew didn’t learn and took his gumption with him to the next job he applied to.

    3. Willis*

      I agree! We just did a round of hiring and had someone apply 3 different ways. It wasn’t a huge deal but adds a little time in organizing with other responses. We definitely had no need for multiple copies of her materials so it didn’t add anything at all to her application and if anything made her seem kind of pushy or out of touch.

      1. Heidi*

        Yep. To me, it would be like receiving the same email from someone 3 times. It doesn’t convey the urgency or enthusiasm the sender thinks it does. It also plays into this idea that any additional attention is good attention. But it ends up being just one more thing the recipient has to deal with.

      2. iglwif*

        Yeah, it’s not a huge deal but it is certainly not a positive for that candidate! If I got the same application from the same person three or four times I would be thinking
        – they are applying to so many jobs at once that they can’t remember which ones they already applied to
        – they are so bad at keeping track of stuff that they can’t remember which jobs they already applied to
        – they got weird-ass advice from someone and were clueless enough about work norms to follow that advice

        none of these is necessarily a deal-breaker, but if I decided to interview that person it would be despite their annoying multiple applications, not because of them!

    4. Karaka*

      We just had this happen. Advertised the job in multiple places, with a unique reference number on each to let us track where the aplicants were finding the ads. Straightforward resume and cover letter by email application process.

      I handled screening the applications as they came into the dedicated email, and one day I got two from the same email address within half an hour. Weird, I thought, but assumed a tech glitch. An hour or so later, another one. Later in the day, a fourth. Identical email phrasing, same attachments. At this point I was confused and annoyed enough to open all four emails side by side, at which point I realised they wre identical except for the reference number, which was different in each one. Yup, he had found the exact same ad in four different places on the same day, and had sent four separate emails applying.

      He wasn’t a strong candidate so got a form rejection. I was very tempted to send it four times, but I refrained.

      1. irene adler*

        He’s probably thinking his strategy worked – “I’m still in the running because I was only rejected once out of the four times I applied.”

      2. Someone Else*

        One thing that sticks out about this, if I wanted to give someone the benefit of the doubt, the different reference numbers *might* have inadvertently given that person the impression you had multiple openings and they just happened to be posted on different sites. Not likely, and I’d think most people would recognize it as an identical posting and thus same job and since the only difference on the different job sites were the number, that’s pretty clearly about tracking the source…but to some, I can see the reference number for the job = the position #. Hence they assume you had four Whatever Title openings and might have thought they were applying to each.

    5. Washi*

      I’m surprised by the intensity of some of these responses! Applying multiple times definitely comes across as clueless, and it’s kind of annoying, but I don’t think it is horrible, or would make me wonder how they would conduct themselves on a team.

      I would be pretty skeptical of someone at a senior level doing that, but for an entry level job, it wouldn’t disqualify an otherwise strong candidate with a tailored cover letter that shows that they did intentionally apply for this job.

        1. Massmatt*

          Alison and the commentariat seem to be unanimous that strong candidates are never the ones resorting to these sort of attention-grabbing antics.

      1. CM*

        True, for an entry level job, I’d be more likely to give the person the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just clueless and not pushy and entitled.

        That said, when I’ve had a lot of candidates to choose from, the ones who need lots of attention drop off the list. (Apply multiple times, send lots of emails with inane questions, call asking for feedback, etc. — often before we’ve even had a chance to schedule interviews.)

      2. Reed*

        When you’ve been given a pile of 127 applications to read and select from in two days, with a complicated scoring sheet to make sure you are being scrupulously fair, only to find you’ve done the exact same application twice on several occasions, and having then to spend the time working out if YOU’VE got the applications in a muddle or if several candidates have applied several times, you do feel a little… frazzled.

        Look, at best, at BEST, it shows a candidate who can’t keep track of their applications, which is not a good sign for the sorts of roles I manage and supervise (and therefore hire for). Mostly it shows a pushy disrespect for other people’s time and effort, which I don’t care for. An applicant can’t know and therefore should not assume that I have nothing else to do with my time. It’s rude to try to monopolize my attention and demand I spend at least twice the amount of time on them than I’m spending on everyone else. And it seriously makes me wonder if I want to manage someone like that.

        (Spoiler – no I don’t want to manage someone like that).

      3. LW #5*

        Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! It’s good to know my initial instinct was on track.

        I’m actually not entry-level, but my conversation with my friend was the first time I’d ever heard this bit of advice. I was worried I was missing out on some good job-finding tricks, but it’s encouraging to know I can keep doing what I’ve been doing.

      4. The Hamster's Revenge*

        In this area, some employers have such bad reputations that they will not use the company name on a job opening. You have to get very good at recognizing cut and paste descriptions or certain giveaways (such as tobacco free) in order to have a clue *where* you’re applying.

        1. LW #5*

          Same in my field! I’d say 90% of the postings I see don’t say who the employer is, but when they’re posted multiple places, it’s obvious because the posting will be word-for-word identical.

    6. Ginger*

      I agree, we recently had two positions, different jobs but same department, posted on two websites with our company name and logo prominently displayed. I received a few applicants’ resumes four times. I can see applying twice, one for each position because someone could be qualified for and interested in both jobs, but four times was just overkill and annoying.

  11. Batgirl*

    “they’re positioning it as that I’ve quit in response to the impending demotion”

    That is unbelievably hinky. After tendering an ‘effective immediately’ resignation I’d be tempted to email everyone a correct version of events explaining you were initially going to stay on for a transition period
    ‘I would have spoken to many of you about this but was asked to wait while a plan to replace me was worked out; which has now been done.
    ‘I was hoping to remain for x more weeks however the reorganisation following my resignation has significantly demoted me, which has affected my ability to do that.
    I wanted to explain my departure is not as sudden as it appears and have enjoyed working with you all’

    I’d be way more concerned with my network than with these wankers.

    1. AnonNurse*

      I’d send that email and then walk in to the bosses office and give them the effective immediately talk. That way they can’t lock you out of the system and walk you off the premises and prevent it from being sent after you give your immediate resignation.

    2. Psyche*

      I would want to warn my coworkers that it is not a safe place to give ample notice. Be prepared for a demotion if you resign.

    3. CM*

      This email script sounds to me like the OP quit due to being demoted, and is bitter about it.

      If the OP wants to justify herself, I think this would work: “Hello all, this is my last day and I’ve enjoyed working with all of you. I apologize for the lack of notice; I was asked to delay notifying people until transition plans were worked out, which I expect you’ll be hearing about soon. [and then the usual keep in touch, best of luck stuff]”

      Otherwise, I think OP could basically say this to people in person. But I don’t think the OP should mention the demotion or reorg — she should just leave as if she didn’t know anything about it. I also agree with those suggesting that she give notice immediately, if possible, without having the conversation with the bosses about the demotion or reorg.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I’d agree. Tempting as it might be to try to go into issues in such an email, that’s not the place for it, and succumbing to the impulse will counterproductively bring her judgment into question.

      2. Batgirl*

        Yeah that’s truly a legitimate concern and I was on the fence myself about in person/email?
        I think it boils down to the strength of relationships and reputation. Some people could pull this email off.
        I think I would risk it anyway because I loathe this kind of cloak and dagger and love to be pointedly open in response. That’s because I’m a PITA though.

  12. Observer*

    #4 You can’t quite – your fired!

    Yeah, start telling everyone you are leaving. These guys are not acting in good faith, and you have no reason to honor their request to keep this quiet.

  13. German Girl*

    #5 definitely don’t apply multiple times.

    I don’t know how common this is in your country but in Germany it’s quite common to start your cover letter with where/how you found the job ad – and we’ll ask candidates if they don’t say it in their cover letter, because we want to know which recruiting method is most effective for which type of position.

    So, if you saw a job ad on multiple platforms, you could in theory mention that in your cover letter, but … I’m trying to think of a way to write this so it doesn’t sound awkward and not coming up with anything good, so on second thought, don’t do that either.

    1. German Girl*

      Oh, and some job sites just parse other job sites and link or repeat the info, so the company might not even be aware that the job they posted on stepstone also shows up on jobvector (just an example, I don’t know who copies from whom these days as I’m not actively job searching at the moment).

    2. Airy*

      Here (NZ) we also tend to start with something like “I was excited to see your ad in Llamas Quarterly.” It’s a nice clear opening line that saves you having to think of something “unique.”

    3. JM in England*

      In one of the major journals for my field, the job adverts section say clearly to state the journal’s name when applying.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I would suggest that, whenever possible, even if you find a posting on a job board, you apply directly to the company’s site. That way you know that it got there and you’re not affected by whatever delay or dropped information that might have come by involving a third party.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, it’s been a while, but I remember when my job posted positions on Indeed, there was some kind of button where Indeed theoretically applies for you. Except that the applications we got through Indeed were really wonky looking and missing information. (Maybe that’s our HR rep’s fault for allowing that option? I can’t remember if Indeed did that independently or if we opted in.)

        So yes, whenever possible, going through the company’s official page is the best option.

        1. KRM*

          Yes, I was told that by a couple of recruiters who got my applications through Indeed–they reformat what you post (without asking you or showing you), so my resume was very messed up. Luckily the recruiters know that Indeed is terrible with that and they just asked for good copy of my resume. My friend in a different field had the same issue, so it’s definitely something Indeed does ‘on it’s own’, if you will.
          If you saw the job on multiple sites, you can reference that in a cover letter if you like (it may help them know where their potential candidates are looking), but only one application, and preferably through their own website.

          1. LW #5*

            Some of the job websites I use have long and cumbersome application processes. If I’ve applied somewhere else that has a 1-click application, it’s nice to say to myself “there’s that job I wanted, but I already applied, so I don’t have to deal with it on this website.” It’s nice to have confirmation that in this case, being lazy is actually the right move. :)

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        This is what I do (my younger brother hipped me to this strategy). I see a job I’m interested in on Indeed or Glassdoor, then go to the company’s website to submit my application materials. It also helps to do this because sometimes job postings expire on the company site long before they’re taken down off the external recruiting site, so it pays to just double check to see if the position is even still available.

    5. Anax*

      From recent experience, it’s very common for online applications to ask this automatically in the US. “Where did you learn about this position? (Required)”.

  14. Tau*

    #1 – It might also help to push back in the moment. When your boss says she wants you in the office tomorrow, ask something like “oh? Why is that, do we have a meeting scheduled?” You shouldn’t push too hard, and you’ll probably still have to have the big picture conversation Alison talks about, but it may help her consciously realise that her actions are not aligning with her words re: “work from wherever”, and may help you make your case if you can get her to give a reason why she wants you in the office so often.

    1. OP #1*

      I’ve asked why when she says “Actually, come in tomorrow” and the reply is a vague statement that “people work better from the office without all the distractions of home.” That leads me into “Oh, do you have concerns about my work?” and then her assurance that everything is fine and I’m doing great work. It’s very weird.

        1. OP #1*

          Absolutely. The weird part is that it doesn’t seem to be about me (my work is great but “people” don’t work well from home). The only ‘people’ impacted is me!

          1. smoke tree*

            Sounds like either she has some reason to want you in the office that she doesn’t want to admit, or she has nebulous negative feelings about working from home that she can’t articulate very well. I think the second of these possibilities is actually pretty common.

      1. Batgirl*

        How about a response of “Not everyone no, but I work better from home. Long term that’s how I get the best out of myself”

        I think you need to have the conversation about ‘home’ working. I’m pretty sure when she says it doesn’t matter ‘where’ things get done, she’s talking about region/town. I feel like there’s a silent (but of course from a dedicated office environment!) attached to that.

        1. Introvert girl*

          yeah, extroverts work better from the office, introverts get more done at home. Extroverts get energy from the people around them, introverts get drained by them. The problem is that most bosses are extroverts and don’t understand this.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I mean that’s pretty broad. A lot of people are less productive working from home because it’s just harder to coordinate or they get distracted, or they don’t communicate as well. I don’t think its as simple as most bosses are extroverts

  15. Jam*

    One of my least favorite retail bosses used to come moseying around to share stupid, offensive memes and videos with the staff. Man, I hated seeing him stroll up with his phone, but at least he didn’t go showing violent murder videos, jeez!

  16. Bluesboy*

    #OP4, if you can, it might be worth getting them to confirm in writing the job title that will be given out in future if they are ever called for references.

    Technically, when you leave, you will be at the lower title, even if only for a day or two. I would want to make sure that they don’t give a reference like “OP worked here for 5 years, and left in May 2019 from the position of lower level”.

    Even if it isn’t meant maliciously (and the whole thing is weird anyway), a reference could easily be given by an HR person who arrives after you leave and doesn’t know the whole story. They would presumably just use the job title in their records, so I would want to make sure that everything is recorded very clearly.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*


      Without even going into, like, calling references, and only verifying employment history, it’s very common that the only information that is shared is start date, end date, and job title that they left with. If you’re in the US, there’s also a commonly-used employment verification database that many employers use, which will give only that information. So if your resume states your job title was XXX, and they check this database, it will look like your title was actually YYY and that you were lying.

      I’d want to leave before the demotion took place, so that your final job title reflects your *actual* work.

    2. RAM*

      Didn’t even think of this. Just quit effective immediately from your higher title and don’t give them the chance to demote you. They gave up their rights to a 2 week notice period by pulling this on you.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. When you inform someone that they will be getting a demotion and their pay slashed before their notice period plays out, you don’t get to clutch your pearls and hunt for the fainting couch when they tell you their resignation is effective immediately.

    3. krysb*

      I posted similarly above. This is the first thing that came to my mind. A pay cut during my notice period? F that, I’ll just leave; but the lesser title could have repercussions if the company is more forthcoming with information, especially job title information.

  17. Bagpuss*

    #5 – Your friend’s advice is terrible. If I got multiple applications from the same person it would make it less likly that they would get an interview. It suggests that they are not paying much attention to the application process and haven’t realised they have already applied for the job, so it makes them look sloppy and poorly prepared, as if they had done any research at all before applying, they would have realised they’ve already applied!
    Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by following your friend’s advice.
    Also, if any of the applications are via agencies it could also put the employer in a position of having multiple agencies trying to calim fees if you were hired, which is a headache most businesses could do without.

  18. nutella fitzgerald*

    I feel like I’ve been fired for way less than the coworker in letter #3. Is that really not a fireable offense in most places?!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      With all these sorts of things, there are companies where the most egregious, ridiculous behavior gets tolerated because they have this idea that firing people is too hard, and companies where you can be fired for the smallest whims.

    2. Psyche*

      It really depends. The food service industry puts up with a lot of unprofessional behavior.

  19. RUKiddingMe*

    Back in 2002 I had a side gig working for some douchebag in an answering service. He was seriously a jerk. He’s the one I quit on via text (the first time I worked there). One day his business partner, who was somehow worse, was in the office and he put the Daniel Pearl being beheaded video on the overhead monitor…so that no one could miss it, at full volume (LOUD!!!) with no warning whatsoever. After it was done, he played it again. That was the day I quit the second time. Right then, right there.

    1. acmx*

      I was thinking about this! Someone at my work was watching it/sharing it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to witness it.
      I don’t understand why people watch that. How would they feel if that was their loved one and people were watching their death for entertainment?

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? I mean how did that guy know that no one working at HellHole(TM) wasn’t connected to him? How did he know that no one …including one of the “girls” who was an 8 year army vet… didn’t have PTSD? Or…or…or…?

        Dude was horrible in general. I called him “the shit that pigs (actual pigs) refuse to eat.”

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Someone tried to trick me into seeing the Saddam Hussein (sp?) being hanged video.

        IDK why people think it’s amusing to do shit they *know* will traumatize someone. Fortunately I didn’t quite trust him so I was able to turn away and *not* see it, but still…

        And, why does it seem that it’s almost always males that pull this crap? Oh wait…dominance move. NM, I knew that…my bad.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think it’s probably the same as physically abusing someone. They know they’re causing pain and they still do it.
          I suspect there’s also a macho thing here that they can handle seeing it and you can’t, so they think that means they’re strong or something.

        2. EH*

          Yep, totally a dominance move. “Oh look, you’re upset by a thing I find funny, you’re weak and sheltered while I am worldly and unflappable.”

          Traumatizing people to prop up their fragile self-worth is monstrous.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yep. It’s the whole channer/troll mentality which has caused so much social and political harm for the last few years. I bet this guy is one of those “ironic Nazis” who rapidly progress to believing that shit for real.

        3. Foila*

          Right, it’s an announcement that they enjoy violence. Maybe not personally inflicting it, but definitely planting the idea that they play by the rules of dominance, disrespect, discomfort (yours), and physical and emotional domination. Yuck.

  20. Akcipitrokulo*

    If I got the same application from two agencies/websites, I’d write it off as a momentary lapse in concentration. Any more than that, and it’s a negative point that our vacancy is so unmemorable they forget they’d already applied.

    It would never be a positive.

  21. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

    Letter 1:

    Jane lied to you, plain and simple. Keep that in mind the next time she promises anything.

    1. OP #1*

      Two other red flags have come up with this company since I’ve been here, so I already have a general feeling of unease with some of their practices. This may just be a third!

      1. Utoh!*

        Hi OP, you may want to keep your options open if you are seeing other red flags. You are in a good position so keep speaking up if you see things that are not on par with what you had expected when accepting the job.

        1. OP #1*

          The big one is that they asked me to hold my last paycheque for two weeks before cashing it. The second is promising access to a medical fund in lieu of benefits, but never sharing any information about how to use said fund (I ask for the info frequently and everyone keeps “forgetting” to send it).

          1. alphabet soup*

            Both of those things are super shady. If you’re getting approached by recruiters already, you should definitely be exploring your other options right now.

          2. Janey-Jane*

            Those (particularly the paycheck) are way more red-flagy than the work from home! You buried the lede!

          3. Observer*

            I see that you are probably not from the US. Here the paycheck thing would be flatly illegal.

            In any case, both are MAJOR red flags. I think you can continue to look with a clear conscience. You also have a perfectly good reason for leaving – “My company seemed to be having trouble meeting payroll” is something even bosses who want “passion” understand.

            1. OP #1*

              I’m not in the US, but it’s illegal here too! Thanks for that phrasing; I was struggling with how I’d say that if an interviewer were to ask.

          4. AKchic*

            Oof. Get that resume out and start looking. Just go. Go now. Yes, enjoy that remote work if you can get the CEO to approve it, but don’t even bother with sticking around. Use the remote work to your benefit by job searching as much as possible. You need to be gone from this place ASAP.

          5. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Holy crap, OP, those are big freaking deals. Even if you get 100% work from home, I’d keep looking for something else. This company is not on the level.

  22. Kendra*

    #4 — Your question says “tomorrow” so I hope you got your answer in time for whenever you wrote this.

    If it already happened, can you give an update? That’s so crazy! I think people are right about consulting a lawyer.

      1. Save One Day at a Time*

        That is very thoughtful and considerate of you. I hope she was able to take your advice

      2. Another Anon*

        I always wondered how you handle time sensitive requests, and it’s awesome that you answer them so promptly when you can! People, including just us readers, are so lucky to have your advice!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t want to take too much credit for that — there are lots of times when I’m not able to do it, although I’m always really happy when I can!

    1. OP#4*

      I was SO impressed to hear from Alison almost immediately–thank you Alison!!!

      Since things were moving so fast, I’d had to make some decisions before I received the response. I decided to start telling colleagues about my resignation and spent nearly 10 hours making individual phone calls so as to avoid anything in writing–and to have the chance to talk with people one-on-one to maybe do some preemptive damage control against any possible spin. I later heard that the staff meeting was very respectful and they decided to just describe it as “this person resigned, so we’re going to do xyz to reorg it.” So I appreciated having my decision validated by Alison’s recommendation, and I think this approach worked out well.

      I was most eager to get Alison’s input on whether to make my resignation effective immediately or not. This has been such an emotional situation that I was worried about being unreasonably reactive. Her response helped me feel confident that this situation truly is as egregious as I felt it was, and that cutting my losses and resigning immediately would be an appropriate response. I sent an email following the suggested wording, and when my boss couldn’t give me written confirmation that my position/pay would remain unchanged through the remainder of my notice period, I told them my resignation was effective immediately.

      Needless to say, I’m *really* looking forward to a fresh start.

      1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        OP#4: I think you did the right thing! Your employer was pulling an incredibly slimy move. I can’t even think of the right adjectives to describe how low that is. So many problems with this, and it’s not just vacation payout. It’s the lower title you would have had upon your departure-your last official title with that employer. It’s the lower salary that would have been your last official salary at that employer. It’s the proposed outright lie about the nature of your departure. It’s that your employer was going to demote you in *direct* response to your resignation. It’s the air of punishment that the whole proposed thing had. Everything about that situation was totally unacceptable.

  23. Archangels girl*

    #1 – Could Jane be wanting the co-work space for herself, but be selling the idea and the cost to her managers by saying that both she and OP#1 *need* it. If OP#1 doesn’t use it too, bosses on other city will refuse to fund and Jane loses her workspace?

    1. OP #1*

      I wondered this as well, but she’s had this office space for a few years even though it’s been just her.

  24. Lynca*

    #4- If I were in your position I would inform my colleagues the whole story today and I would leave if financially viable. Your boss burnt the goodwill bridge. It’s up to them to pick up any pieces.

    I would keep it completely factual- That you had provided notice on X date with 3 weeks notice. You were asked to keep quiet about the resignation until a transition plan was in place, which you were willing to comply with and planned to work with them on. However Boss decided to demote you as part of the transition (i.e.- not performance related) plan. Obviously this is not something you’d agreed to or expected as a transition plan and as a result we are parting ways effective immediately.

    Even if they spin it as OP left because we demoted them, I have a hard time seeing how you’re the “bad guy” in that situation. Yeah I’d leave too because that’s ridiculous.

    I’d also get a lawyer. At minimum you don’t want them spinning the demotion as something your performance caused, which is something I could see an employer like this doing. I’d want what they would say as a reference in writing.

  25. Nea*

    #3 – Why wouldn’t Fergus be fired, though? He’s showing snuff films to unwilling co-workers on company time. Personally, that’s exactly how I’d phrase it to both HR and his boss; even the most callous of companies may handwave the first two problems but still stick on the last one.

    And if he’s not fired, is there any way you can ask for a transfer to another manager? Because Fergus either thought you’d be entertained by, I repeat, a snuff film, or he planned on amusing himself with your offended or traumatized reaction. Either way, I wouldn’t trust his leadership choices to say the least.

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      Yeah, I tend to agree with you here. It is SO unbelievably disturbing that Fergus thinks this is A) entertaining and B) something to be shared around for the “amusement” of others. I’m seriously, seriously disturbed by this. It’s 100% not okay to be showing this around at work. A porno would get him fired for sexual harassment. And while this isn’t SH, I think a snuff film should be a firing offense as well.

      The only way I would not fire him would be if it was actually fake, and he was just saying it was real as a prank. But even then, I would feel like his judgement was SO BAD, I’d have serious concerns about keeping him on. Is there any chance it was a fake and he’s just a different kind of enormous jerk?

      1. Malty*

        It honestly depends if the managers involved are hotel managers or food managers – I know that sounds awful but food and retail are 2 areas where totally different standards of behaviour are allowed and it skews everyone’s judgement. (I work retail myself.) It absolutely shouldn’t be this way and of course there are managers who are the exception, it just makes the odds of firing lower IMO

        1. Lissa*

          Yup, I have to agree. Worked in the industry for a decade and it is so dependent on the people you get. I know I had to really recalibrate my standard for weird, as stuff like “my coworker tickled my other coworker” or “my coworked kicked me under the desk” getting the reaction it did here honestly kinda threw me off at first, esp. when people suggested things like getting the authorities involved.

          That’s not to say there aren’t great people in those environments, and those who would absolutely fire for this. But it’s a different situation than an environment where this would be an immediate fire/blacklist and so far out of the norm that everyone is absolutely horrified as well as shocked.

  26. Seeking Second Childhood*

    There are some truly vile people in the world. Murder-video boss is awful in a different way than “demote you so we don’t have to pay you as much retirement money” boss — but they’re both vile. And “telecommute what telecommute” boss isn’t not so hot herself.

    Thank god for the “changing bike clothes in the bathroom” question to help me remember that there are also some nice ones.

  27. Lepidoptera*

    LW #5 my field is heavily slanted towards recruiting and temp-to-hire, so I’ve ended up accidentally applying to the same job multiple times on several occasions. Sometimes the different agencies change the job description just enough that you can’t quite be certain. If you ARE certain that it’s the same position, though, you’re going to look disorganized and forgetful rather than gumption-y.

  28. A tester, not a developer*

    #2, changing in the bathroom is fine – just don’t be the person who uses the handicapped stall, please.

    Signed – a person who once had to wait for the stall for over 10 minutes because my department thinks its a combo change room/salon.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      10 minutes? What were they doing? Changing into full 18th century court dress? Bathing themselves from the toilet?

      I guess they could have mobility issues or be a toddler. I can’t think of a single getup in my closet that would take more than 2 minutes to get out of a bag and on my body including hose.

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        Able bodied adult women. This particular one was changing and doing hair and makeup too. The handicapped stall has a plug, so it gets used for curling irons and blowdriers…

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Did your company or the designers of the bathroom think of putting a plug by the sink or counter for that?

        2. Iris Eyes*

          Ugh just because toilet and toilette sound the same doesn’t mean they should be done in the same place.

      2. AKchic*

        18th century court dresses take longer than 10 minutes to get into depending on the outfit. So sayeth the woman who wears a 16th century outfit with three layers, including steel-boned corset and all accessories yearly, plus a full Victorian outfit for caroling, and pirate garb for other shenanigans.

    2. Janie*

      Do bear in mind that some of us don’t fit in the non-accessible stalls to use the bathroom, let alone change.

  29. JayJay*

    Re: #5, I find it really strange that people think showing you are “really interested” or that you “want” the job more than other candidates would work in your favor. Really really wanting a particular job has no bearing on your ability to perform the job. It reminds me of reality tv contest shows where people tell the judges, “I want this more than anyone.” So? Can you do the skill that’s being assessed better than the other contestants?

    Maybe if an employer had several equally well-qualified candidates they might go with the one who is the most enthusiastic, but that’s not a determination they would make based on a first impression.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a good point. I want to hire people who want to do the job, but it’s not a “who wants it most” contest–once you hit a basic level of enthusiasm, that’s all I need.

    2. Malty*

      If only all hiring managers were like you guys! Honestly I think a lot of bad ‘gumption’ related action comes from the fact that so much of the power appears to be in the employers hands and there are absolutely managers out there who will make you play that game of who wants it most, so it’s good to know there are reasonable hiring managers out there

      1. fposte*

        Lots of people really want jobs without becoming doormats for them, though. It’s okay to really want the job.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah, hopefully! I really wanted my job.
          I was actually talking about gumption-hungry managers and where they fall in the Venn diagram of ‘managers who also suck.’.

    3. smoke tree*

      The kind of employers who actually do value enthusiasm (read: desperation) more than anything else are probably ones that you don’t want to work for anyway. I’m thinking of the kind of employers who pull out weird power plays during the interview to test how much you’ll be willing to put up with. Good employers want to hire employees who have thoughtfully considered whether the position will be a good match for them.

    4. Michaela Westen*

      In politics, also. My city has lots of would-be mayors and councilmen who say “I want to make everything all better.”
      But can they do that? Do they have the experience? Do they have the skills? Do they have a plan that makes sense and might actually work?
      Often not…

  30. mlem*

    For letter #2: Some companies don’t want their staff walking from the door to the bathroom before their shift, or from the bathroom to the door after their shift, in exercise clothes. That’s usually because there are clients along that path and they don’t want the clients to see anyone dressed “unprofessionally”. That’s the only thing I could think of that might be a complication.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yeah, but that’s not an issue in most reasonable workplaces. I had a boss who had that rule, and I worked…at a gym…in a fitness capacity. She wanted people to dress in business attire between the front door and the locker room, then change into their fitness clothes for their workday, then change back into business attire for the walk between the locker room and front door again.

      Incidentally, she had a car and the facility’s only parking space right next to the front door while the rest of us had to hike a half mile to the subway stop in all kinds of winter weather, and also incidentally she saw no problem leaning into people’s faces and screaming profanities at them and mocking them over the tiniest of infractions. So I felt I did not need to listen to her ridiculous rule about business attire…and oddly she never held it against me.

      1. mlem*

        Ha, yeah, I was thinking of something like Big Law or, idk, a funeral home or something, not … that.

  31. The Tin Man*

    My one sentence responses:

    OP1: Definitely talk to Jane about this directly, it sounds like she had a very different idea of what she meant when she said she doesn’t care where you work as long as you get things done.

    OP2: I agree, changing in the bathroom a couple times per week should be fine.


    OP4: What the ever-loving hell.

    OP5: Applying four times would be seen as either an oversight or a weird, “gumption”-y move, both of which are negatives for you.

    1. Anon for This*

      Yeah my group of friends are all extreme horror fans and on occasion I have been sent videos of what I’ve been told are real life murders. A lot of times I don’t really believe they’re real but that doesn’t have any weight on this topic. And even I raised my eye brows sky high at Number #3. Like what the hell dude. Just like I would never, ever in my life show an unsuspecting (and 100% willing) person an example of extreme horror or even anything true crime related. Ever. I don’t know what they’ve been through or what bothers them. And I keep those interests as far away from my work life as possible. That’s not appropriate in any way, shape, or form.

      I might try to appeal to your manager first if you’re comfortable. Just say, Hey you know it’s really not okay to show those kinds of videos to unsuspecting people.

  32. boop the first*

    3. I know this is a small potato detail, but I’m really disturbed that fergus introduced the video with the description “OMG she CHEATED on her husband!”. So… the murder was her fault and justified??? Is that why he’s showing the video, he thinks it’s funny? Not even the murderer in the video agrees with you, fergus dude.

    1. Massmatt*

      Good catch. This makes the manager’s (!) behavior even creepier, and I wouldn’t have thought that were possible.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      Yeah if I was his wife/girlfriend I’d be REALLY concerned. It does not matter how terribly anyone has hurt you or someone you love, vengeance is never ever the correct response. I really need to start pushing back on people who make the whole “if you hurt X I’ll shoot you/hurt you/get you.” It doesn’t matter if you “of course wouln’t do that, its just a figure of speech.”

    3. Batgirl*

      Yeah that part of the narrative is not even featured in the video; so why mention it?
      It just emphasises that he’s definitely not just a gore fan who can’t distinguish between fiction and reality – he’s actually really into someone vengefully traumatizing their wife.

    4. Kyle*

      Yeah, it’s really weird. If someone tried to show me a video and led with “she cheated on her husband!” I’d expect something sexual (not that I want to see that either). So the double switch to graphic violence is also like… bizarre.

    5. CM*

      It’s a big detail, because you’re right: it seems to indicate that he approves of murder.

    6. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, that part stood out to me as particularly f-d up. He clearly approves of actual murder, not just a figure of speech. Dude needs help – after he gets fired.

      The optimist in me hopes he’s fired and advised to see a therapist/doctor to prevent this behavior in future, and the shock of being fired wakes him up so he actually seeks therapy to address why he would do this, hopefully making the world a safer place. It’s not likely but I can hope.

  33. stitchinthyme*

    Tangentially related to #2: my workplace also has a bike room, which has two private bathrooms with showers. They still had to put signs on the bike room door asking people to please change in the restrooms, because some of the guys were changing in the main bike room and occasionally female employees would walk in on them. Not sure the guys cared, but the women did, needless to say. It’s like, geez, there are two bathrooms right there; how hard is it to go into one of them?

  34. stitchinthyme*

    #5: I have to wonder where people get such crazy advice from. I mean, think about it from the perspective of a hiring manager: if I were to receive applications from the same person from four different websites, I would think, “Okay, this person is either desperate or nuts, and I don’t think I want to hire them in either case.”

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    On #5, while it might be a little annoying to receive more than one application from the same person, to me it’s not that big of a deal, certainly not a deal breaker. I’m slightly confused why people think multiple applications means can’t work well on team, etc.. I don’t think it correlates

    1. Massmatt*

      It shows bad judgment and/or disorganization. When someone applies for a job they should be on their best behavior, an employer only has their application materials to use to judge them.

      If an applicant applies for this job multiple times it suggests they will behave the same way in the job, if not worse. Are they going to send 3-4 emails every time they ask for vacation time? Or worse, not RESPOND to an issue unless they are told 3-4 times? Most employers don’t want to take that chance.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I mean sure, you can extrapolate any behavior that way if you want… If the candidate gives me a limp handshake does that mean something? If the candidate accepts a coffee if offered does that mean he’s only thinking for himself? Personally, as someone who interviews, hires, etc. if an otherwise good candidate submitted an application more than once it wouldn’t even make my radar.. But seems I may be in the minority here

  36. Allison*

    #5, as someone who works in talent acquisition (internal recruiting), I’ll second the advice, please don’t spam the ATS! I know, I know, people believe online applications suck your information into a digital black hole and no one will ever see it, this isn’t universally true, and even this particular job or company does get so many applications that only some are seen by human eyes, they’re either going to see all of your applications or none of them, it’s not a lottery! And spamming up the ATS won’t necessarily disqualify you, if you have the background they’re looking for they’ll contact you, but if you don’t have the background you’re looking for, it’s not going to help your case.

    Sending multiple applications is like contacting someone you like on multiple platforms, hoping it’ll increase your chances of them responding to you. It’s annoying, and only kind of okay if they like you.

  37. Sara*

    I initially read #2’s headline as ‘Changing into a bikini at work” and I had so many questions. A little disappointed now.

    1. That One Person*

      Glad I’m not the only one that misread that way XD I was seriously curious if they were close to the beach or something.

  38. Faith*

    My office actually has shower stalls in some of the bathrooms (we are a manufacturing site), so there is no weirdness about changing there. However, I do feel weird walking down the hall in my athletic clothes. I usually change at the end of the work day into my running clothes because I’m heading to the trails straight from the office, so people see me walk out of the building in shorts or running skirt and a tank top. That’s the part that I feel weird about, although no one has ever said anything, and we actually do have workout facilities on campus.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      This is really common in both my office locations. One is near a hiking trail and the other is near a running path– in the mornings you will see people coming in and heading towards the gym with the showers after running, and at the end of the day you see people walking out with their workout gear on.
      I don’t think you need to feel weird!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This plant also has showers…. when power goes out for blizzards & storms, we are encouraged to shower here. Even if there’s no exercise involved. I also took advantage of it when I discovered a bad leak under the bathtub shower….that whole “24 hour curing time” would have felt dire otherwise.

  39. LaDeeDa*

    #4 – I am trying to see what the benefit is to the company to do this? I have seen re-orgs happen when someone resigns; the company decided to fill the position with a lower level or not fill it at all. But what are they getting out of this? 3 weeks of lower pay, it can’t make that big of a difference to them. I don’t trust them, I wouldn’t accept the new terms, and would leave. If it is financially possible, of course.

    1. Batgirl*

      Same. The only thing I can come up with is that they feel butt-hurt or have lost too many people recently and want to cover up the fact that anyone would willingly leave. The fact they’re trying to spin it to the manager team as ‘aha obviously no one ever leaves without REASONZ’ suggests that -which is super creepy.

      The less satisfying explanation is that they’re just not considerate. They saw a reorg strategy, and implementing it now is slightly more convenenient/ a tiny bit more inexpensive than waiting. They simply do not care that i’ts putting OP to disproportionate expense and inconvenience. “Hell, why not wreck his reputation at the same time? That makes life mildly easier for us too.”

      1. OP#4*

        Batgirl, I think you’re spot on regarding the unsatisfying explanation of them being inconsiderate. As things have unfolded, I’ve started suspecting they had some kind of reorg plan in the works and I just beat them to the punch with my resignation–so when that happened, they were like, well, I guess we’ll just inflexibly continue along our halfbaked reorg plan and see what happens… which was this mess.

        1. Batgirl*

          Do you think kicking up a fuss is enough to make them go ‘Oh Yeah, that’s a person we are messing with’ or is that too optimistic?

  40. Two Tin Cans and a String*

    #3 Oh please do speak up! I know the word “trigger” has been heavily politicized, but no matter where you stand, you can’t possibly know if any of your coworkers suffers from PTSD. I can easily see a veteran/abuse survivor experiencing a PTSD episode after being exposed to that sort of content when they least expect it. It’s not your obligation to protect people from that, you’re not the offender here, but if you have any standing to do this at all, please seriously consider it. Experiencing a PTSD episode is incredibly draining, it can (completely unfairly) ruin a person’s professional reputation if it happens at work (ask me how I know) and the recovery period can be very long, requiring people to take sick days and possibly restart expensive treatment. Again, this is not political, it’s not about snowflakes being triggered, it’s about documented mental health concerns a lot of people live with, and a video of a graphic murder is ludicrously likely to do it.

    Again, you are not the offender and you don’t have an obligation, but please do consider flagging this to someone who will take it seriously if you can. I am so worried for you and your coworkers if you work under someone who thinks this sort of thing is okay.

  41. Lalitah28*

    #4 – It sounds like basic retaliation.

    I would go at least go to the local bar association free lawyer night (they have one in my town) to consult on this if you can’t afford an attorney.

    You also have the recourse of calling on your state labor department to see if they have an advice line for employees.

    But these people suck. And document everything.

    1. fposte*

      Retaliation isn’t illegal per se, though. It’s only illegal when it’s retaliating against an employee for performing a legally protected action, which quitting isn’t.

  42. K.K.*

    Re #2: is the concern the changing or the subsequently walking through the office in your bike gear? If you’re at a really image conscious place I can see that being eyebrow raising or even unacceptable – I once worked at a place I got comments about walking through the office in athletic commute shoes.

  43. Wantonseedstitch*

    OP#3: Fergus sounds like a dangerous human being. Anyone who gets that much of a thrill out of watching a person getting viciously murdered OVER AND OVER AGAIN, and feels like they have to share the experience with everyone…that person is a sick puppy. VERY sick. Sounds like someone starting to push the boundaries of the acceptable to see how much terrible behavior they can get away with. And, if this is the kind of thing they’re using to push the envelope, it would not surprise me at all to find out that someone doing this could later graduate to physical violence against people.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. I think he’s getting a thrill out of traumatizing his employees. The weird mention of the wife cheating makes me wonder if he’s an abuser.

      It would serve him right if the next person he showed a snuff video to threw his phone or barfed on him.

  44. league.*

    OP3, how horrible and I have no words. I can’t handle any kind of on-screen violence or gore, so I feel for you. Fergus needs to be disciplined.

    It might make you feel a tiny bit better to know that the video was most likely not real, regardless of how it was billed by either Fergus or the website he saw it on. Snuff films are generally not real (link to come in a moment), and even if this wasn’t technically a snuff film (which means the filming was the whole point of the murder), it’s unlikely to be anything but staged. This doesn’t make Fergus’s actions any better, but it might help your brain a bit.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I was also thinking this. A lot of snuff films, especially the ones out for circulation being shared around, are not real. Especially in this situation. Normally someone who commits what would be a spur of the moment crime wouldn’t have a video camera set up.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Thank you – that’s good to remember! I’d still fire Fergus on the spot; even if the video is fake, the people seeing it didn’t know that (and maybe Fergus didn’t know that either).

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    I mean sure, you can extrapolate any behavior that way if you want… If the candidate gives me a limp handshake does that mean something? If the candidate accepts a coffee if offered does that mean he’s only thinking for himself? Personally, as someone who interviews, hires, etc. if an otherwise good candidate submitted an application more than once it wouldn’t even make my radar.. But seems I may be in the minority here

  46. Melisandre*

    #4, definitely start telling people. I was told not to tell a lot of people I was resigning from my last position due to poor timing–my boss even got upset when I told my own teammates (?!). I still suspect that some people now think I was fired. This situation is even more shady. You have to protect your reputation.

  47. Myrin*

    Yo Alison, I just wanted to thank you for posting that warning before #3 – I do not deal well with descriptions of violence at all and basically have my whole day ruined whenever I happen upon one, so thanks for making it possible for me to not read this letter!

  48. tinyhipsterboy*

    Tangentially related to #3, but you mention going to HR or Fergus’s boss–what do you do when HR or the grandboss asks you if you’ve tried addressing things with Fergus? In this situation, I feel like it’s obvious why you’d need to go above their heads, but for instance, I once had a boss that was making racist comments about customers and enforcing policies more harshly on non-white workers and customers (along with a whole host of other problems). When I brought it up to HR/Ethics, their response was along the lines of “ok, well, we have an open door policy, so have you talked to him about it at all?”.

    It’s one thing if your manager is being harsh or doing something that’s frustrating but discussable, but how are people supposed to respond to this question when it’s so obviously asking why you’re bothering higher-ups?

    1. fposte*

      “Because this was a concern for the business as a whole and not just for me personally, I wanted to make sure the relevant people were informed.”

  49. Rainy days*

    Yay for bike commuting! I commute by bike and it’s amazing to have my commute be the best part of my day sometimes–how many people can say that?

    There’s nothing weird about changing in the bathroom. It may be weird for your colleagues to see you in your bike clothes depending on your office culture–my office is super casual (West Coast city) and absolutely no one cares, I sometimes even check email in my bike clothes before changing in the morning because I like to identify anything pressing that came in overnight right away. I wouldn’t do this in certain offices or if there were clients around, of course.

    1. Claire*


      My spouse loves to bike to work (apart from that last mile with trucks), and he changes once he gets there. That said, his company culture is very much into biking and exercise.

  50. Project Manager*

    My company had a situation similar to #3. Boss (our Director) leads in with “Look at what XX Client sent me” and shows a video of a homeless man openly masturbating on the street. No NSFW warning, didn’t really even ask if we wanted to see what Client had sent before shoving the phone in our faces. One of my coworkers was incredibly upset and Director tried to pin the blame on her for it, saying “Well you know this client is crazy you should have said you didn’t want to know or walked away.”

    Coworker ended up quitting over it and complaining to the VP of HR. We heard some rumors that the Director was reprimanded but never really saw any consequences. I was upset because a) no one needs to see that, b) as a director, you should know better than showing anyone, let alone female subordinates that type of content at work, and c) why would we allow/encourage that type of communication from a client?! One example of many of questionable ethics/client relationships/management practices.

    And this was a (supposedly) professional office environment, not retail/food services/hourly (where I gather from the comments that this might be more commonplace).

  51. Coverage Associate*

    Re 5. Have the job application sites (eg Indeed) improved in the 4 years since I used them? 4 years ago some would change the formatting on my resume, or they had pop ups for school breaks, because the software told them it was a break in employment.

    I would totally apply through different sites in those days because I couldn’t be sure my best application was getting through any one of them.

    1. LW #5*

      My industry doesn’t really use Indeed at all, so I almost never look at it. 3 out of the 4 sites I use just post the job description and an email address (so applying multiple times would mean sending multiple emails that are identical except I’d rewrite the opening paragraph to say “I found his posting on [NAME OF WEBSITE.]”) The fourth website has its own application interface, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of that site, so I can’t speak to how accurate information looks once it’s submitted through them.

  52. Kyle*

    OP3, I worked at a startup around 2007-2009 with a casual male-dominated environment. “LiveLeak” (a video sharing site like YouTube but largely unmoderated so there was lots of graphic content) became popular around the office. I remember people watching and commenting on videos like Saddam’s hanging and terrorist beheadings from the Middle East. Really weird stuff, I don’t know why you’d want to seek this stuff out or desensitize yourself to it.

  53. CM*

    3– maybe this is a cultural thing, but I’m weirded out that so many people find it normal for some dude to have video footage of a violent crime. The correct thing to do when you see something like that is report it to the police — or is this somehow being posted by legitimate news outlets? I don’t get it.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      They were saying upthread that it probably wasn’t a real crime, that it was staged and marketed as real but wasn’t.
      There was a little bell in the back of my mind, wondering why anyone would film that.
      I would report it anyway in case it was real – Also there may be laws against distributing such things even if they’re staged.
      In this case though, the OP wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do that. I doubt if she made note of the credits or site it was on, and of course she’s not going to go back and look.
      She could report her colleague to the police though. Hmmm….

Comments are closed.