someone emailed me about my employee’s behavior outside of work … and I don’t care

A reader writes:

I recently got an email from someone with screenshots concerning an employee of mine. They were of a personal nature directed to an organization outside of work using her personal time and her personal equipment. They didn’t concern work at all. They weren’t racist or hate-filled rants or anything of that nature.

It was between her and her child’s school. It was sent to me semi-anonymously. I personally wouldn’t have handled it the way she did and think it could have been handled better by both parties, but I have read through the correspondence and I could care less what happened between her and the school. I also don’t have the whole story, nor is it any of my business. There were no threats made, although she used some colorful non-hate-related swear words.

This employee is great at her job. She passionate and straightforward and some of her demeanor can read as adversarial, which is honestly what I pay her for. I have no complaints about her work or the person she is while she is here. I don’t know her personally outside of work. I am the owner and also her manager.

She also didn’t mention the company she works for at all in the correspondence I saw.

I don’t even want to mention to her that I got the email. I just want to say it is none of my business and delete the email and forget about it. Can I just not tell her I received anything and chalk it up to this doesn’t concern me?

Should I respond back to the person that this isn’t my concern (or my company’s) or is it best just to not respond at all?

In theory, yes, it would be fine for you just to ignore the email and move on.

But I actually think you should let her know about it, because it’s possible that there’s context that would make it important for her to know. For example, if the person she was corresponding with has a pattern of handling conflict inappropriately, this might indicate an escalation that she at a minimum needs to know about, but might feel she needs to take action on. (Frankly, even with no past pattern, if someone who works at her kid’s school is trying to get her in trouble with her employer, I imagine someone higher up at the school might want to know about that, because that’s pretty awful.) Or who knows, maybe her ex has her passwords, took these screenshots, and sent them on — and this is a puzzle piece that will help make sense of other unsettling things she’s been experiencing. I don’t know what the context for this might be, but that’s the point — she’s the one who’s in the best position to decide if this is a violation that she wants to act on, or even just file away in case it’s something she needs to act on later.

The fact that someone did this to her is really relevant to her, even though it’s (rightly) not relevant to you. So you should let her know about it and she can take it from there.

When you talk to her, make a point of saying this isn’t something that concerns you and you’re not looking for any kind of explanation from her, but you simply wanted to let her know in case it’s info she’d want to  have. You can say explicitly, “I want you to know this isn’t something I care about at all other than making sure that you’re okay, and I’m going to leave this with you now and wipe it from my mind, unless you ever need me to attest in the future that this was sent to me.”

That way she gets the information she may need, and you still make it clear it doesn’t affect her at work at all.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

  1. Four lights*

    Sometimes custody battles can involve people doing stuff like this, so that’s another situation where it would be good for her to know about it.

  2. Aggretsuko*

    Yeah, unfortunately I think the employee needs to be warned that someone is psychotic enough to try to do something like this. And it’d be really nice for her to hear that you aren’t going to try to persecute her for this woman’s accusations either.

    Signed, Been There, Had This Happen To Me.

    1. Annalee*

      Yeah I’ve had this happen to me, too–someone tried to get me fired for advocating for women in my industry on my own time. I’d strongly encourage the OP to tell the employee, and make it clear to them that you’re not going to penalize them for this kind of thing. The fact that my manager had my back meant the world to me.

      If possible, forward the email with full original headers attached. There’s a slim chance it’ll help them figure out who’s doing this, but if they already know who it is, the headers might help them encourage the person in question to leave them alone.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      While I get your point the way you use psychotic here is really ableist. Asshole is not a mental illness.

      1. Marvel*

        Thank you–would also like to suggest “inappropriate” as a good alternative that doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence (and in fact in closer to its actual meaning with the hyperbole).

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Definition of psychosis
        : a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions

        One would have to be mentally ill to think trying to affect someone’s employment because of a simple disagreement online is in any way appropriate, so I don’t really see why calling someone psychotic for doing this is not appropriate. They HAVE lost touch with reality.

        1. clockworkpurple*

          Unless you’re a mental health professional who knows the person in question I’m not sure how you can accurately diagnose their mental health status. Taking the definition of psychosis and pulling out one section (‘they have lost contact with reality’) to infer that the whole definition is true is a dubious tactic. By that reckoning a daisy is a tree (‘A tree is a tall plant that has a hard trunk, branches, and leaves.’), because it has leaves.

          Psychosis is a very specific mental illness, and people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it (source below). Describing someone as psychotic when you mean asshole can therefore be very stigmatising and can stop people getting the help they need.

          https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-mental-health/types-problems/psychosis

    3. Mimi Me*

      When I was in my late teens / early 20’s I volunteered to read to the blind. One of the people I was assigned to read to was married to a truly awful (also blind) woman who wanted me to be their maid while I was in their home. This was not what I signed up to do so I alerted the volunteer coordinator, explained the issue, and said I wouldn’t be going back. Well, my grandparents were blind and very involved in their community so this man and his wife knew my family. They called my grandparents – and then my mom! – to complain about me. My grandfather responded the way the OP is doing – it’s none of my business, sounds like it’s something that you need to take up with her, etc. My mom? She made the woman cry. LOL!
      What’s really sad about it? I stopped volunteering with the organization after that because too many of the people I was reading for knew my family. :( I was so scared that it would happen again.

    4. AKchic*

      I had an ex-husband who made my life miserable, and still does whenever he manages to find me online. Our son can’t even use his real last name for social media because it is too unique and easily tracked. Changing it requires parental notification, so we’re waiting until he’s 18 to do it (he’s lived “off grid” / homeless since our divorce 15 years ago to avoid child support for his children and legal issues that crop up, I can usually keep reliable tabs only when he’s in prison).

      I can’t work any public-facing position without harassment. My name has to be kept off of public directories. I have multiple email accounts and social media accounts for layered protection.

      1. shep*

        Oof, I feel for you! On a MUCH smaller scale, an ex-boyfriend made it his mission to harass me into…friendship? He was furious I didn’t want anything to do with him after we broke up (in a nutshell, he was entitled, hypocritical, pretentious, etc., all reasons why I was done with him) and would go on drunken benders and send increasingly belligerent texts, emails, and make comments on my anonymous social media accounts, the latter of which scared me the most. I have a small but somewhat successful social media channel. It’s nothing fancy or controversial, but I don’t want people to know my real name or location (I have a unique name as well that would make it VERY easy to find out where I live and where I work), and I was certain he was going to compromise my anonymity at one point, or call or email my office with…something embarrassing? I don’t know. But it was a very real fear for a while.

        I still have small panic attacks when I see someone who looks vaguely like him. I saw one of his acquaintances near my office once (this person is in no way threatening, but the social proximity to my ex freaked me out) and it rattled me so badly, I was afraid to go out to the gym on my lunch break for a good week.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      It’s also important to note that the sender most likely edited and curated the emails to cast the person in the worst light.
      People that do this sort of thing always misrepresent context. They are not honest.

  3. JokeyJules*

    I’ve had something similar to this happen to me and I can say that I wish my supervisor had used Alison’s advice to the letter. Props to OP for compartmentalizing personal from professional and not trying to pry, not everyone needs their employer involved in personal matters, but in case the employee will, you could still be a useful ally (i.e. testmony, etc).

    1. BeachMum*

      I was the President of a volunteer organization that had a few paid staff members. After our Executive Director and her boyfriend broke up, he sent me and another staff member a long email detailing how she was an abusive alcoholic, how she stole from the organization, and told several nasty stories about her. A Board member spoke with an attorney who advised us to delete the email and never speak of it again.

      I kind of wish I’d spoken to her about it so she’d know how awful he was. At the same time, there’s nothing she could have done to fix it and we, the leadership of this organization, didn’t believe any of it. She still works for the organization and is awesome. (She has terrible taste in men, but that doesn’t affect her performance very often.)

  4. DarthVelma*

    I work in education so I have a bit of relevant experience. If the information was sent by someone at the child’s school, then depending on exactly what information they included, they could well have violated FERPA. Which is something the probably deserve to get fired over.

    In the OP’s shoes, I would definitely inform the employee.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      Yes, tell the person’s boss that they are sending information about the school’s business to outside people. Their boss needs to know that the school’s information is not safe.

    2. Washi*

      Yeah, FERPA is the HIPAA of public education, and if they contained “personally identifiable information” about the student, FERPA was most likely violated. Not that the OP should contact the school herself, but by letting the employee know, the employee can raise this with the school as a very serious issue.

      1. Amber T*

        Out of curiosity, what kind of information is confidential in this case? Is it simply the fact that Child attends this school, or does it need to be more personal than that? (Never heard of FERPA, but will do some reading in my free time.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          We don’t know the content of the letter, but if there was anything related to a disciplinary action (kid got in trouble, mom is objecting) or academic performance (mom is mad that teacher isn’t doing a good job teaching math so kid is struggling).

          And the “personally identifiable information” could just be “her son” or if it was an email the mom sent in which she said “my child.”

        2. Clorinda*

          Use of a child’s name (or information that would identify the child) to anyone not directly involved in the child’s care is a violation. Any kind of info regarding some issue the parent has with the school in which the child is identified by name is DEFINITELY a violation.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I would freak way the heck out if details of my discussion with a teacher or principal–about special ed accommodations, about missing homework, whatever–were being sent around to members of the community. I still remember how hard I cringed when a mom–from another grade! so it’s not like I knew the kid–was explaining the annoyances of a child in the class where she was volunteering. When I volunteered they were always really strict about not talking about the kids outside of class, and I respected that because it’s what I would want done for my own kid.

          And my children are boring (in this context).

    3. Parenthetically*

      Oh gosh, yes! I assumed it was sent by, like, a busybody/MIL/ex or something, but absolutely, OP, if you suspect it was sent by a school employee, the school needs to know immediately because an employee violating FERPA could expose them to serious liability!

    4. epi*

      Yeah, ironically, if this was sent by someone at the child’s school, then their inappropriate email to this person’s boss is something their own boss really should know about!

      It shows real disregard for this child’s best interests to mess with their mother’s livelihood. As well as just a totally unprofessional approach to handling conflict with parents. Dealing with parents’ understandable investment in their children’s well-being is just part of the job in education. Whatever happened between this person and her child’s school, only the school employees were at work when it happened.

      If it wasn’t from the person involved in the exchange, that is potentially even worse. Either the person involved shared this email thread around– again unprofessional– or someone else who wants to harm this employee has access to her email.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        It shows real disregard for this child’s best interests to mess with their mother’s livelihood. As well as just a totally unprofessional approach to handling conflict with parents.

        Seriously. The person who sent this to OP has no business being in loco parentis when OP’s employee’s child is in school, if this is the way they handle conflict with the child’s mother. It’s unnecessarily vindictive and proves that this person would stoop pretty low to “get” someone, regardless of the effect it has on the child.

        Gross.

    5. Kimmybear*

      And even if FERPA wasn’t violated, it is possible that school district policies were violated. For example, posting a photo of a student online may not necessarily be a FERPA violation unless meeting certain criteria but may violate the school’s policy regarding the use of student images.

    6. Another Anon*

      This wouldn’t apply if the comments were on a public site though, right? OP doesn’t clarify if the exchange was email or Facebook or Twitter, etc.

      Would that possibly change the advice if the altercation is on a public forum?

      1. epi*

        Is that likely? The OP describes this as a “correspondence”, so someone from the school responded to the employee. If someone from this school is responding to parent complaints via a public Facebook page or something like that, there are way bigger problems.

        The OP also says this was sent to them semi-anonymously. I would take that to mean either that the person didn’t identify themselves, but could probably be identified from the information they sent; or that it could really only have been one of a group of people, for example one of three people on a group email. If the correspondence is just screenshots from a public social media page, it would be more than semi-anonymous.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        As a parent, I’m going to say the correspondence was almost certainly back and forth through email.

        If the parent were griping on Facebook, any school employee with the smallest lick of sense would click off somewhere else rather than publicly engage.

    7. Busy*

      FERPA ain’t no joke. You need to submit paperwork much like for the freedom of information act in order to get even the smallest communications released. It is a huge deal.

    8. What the What*

      Gosh, I was thinking the same thing about FERPA. Something similar happened to someone I worked with…..the school employee sent the confidential data to a parent via Facebook Messenger WTH. And what is it with people and their poison pen letters? This is something I feel very strongly about because my family was subjected to poison pen letters for over a year. It was a horrible experience.

      1. irene adler*

        +1 again.

        Just because someone can do such things (like email people’s employers) does not mean one should do such things.
        Try thinking first.
        At least find a better hobby. Ask me for suggestions. Happy to help.

    1. Teapot analyst*

      I think this relates to Alison’s point – someone who does this likely isn’t a busybody. It is more likely that they are trying to hurt the employee, which is why it is important to inform the employee and support them.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah. This is someone who doesn’t get enough of a reaction when they busybody, so they’ve found ways to ramp it up.

  5. restingbutchface*

    Urgh, that sucks. Great advice already but OP, this is an opportunity for you to really centre what sort of manager you are. When I read Alison’s script, I hear – “I want you to know that I care about you and your well-being. I want you to know I have your back”. What an incredibly powerful statement to hear from your manager. Good luck, I hope it’s a one off.

  6. MatKnifeNinja*

    Highest of fives to you, reasonable boss!

    I’d give her a heads up just incase the email loon decides to forward stuff to her minister, and other places she frequents

    A friend went through something similar, and stuff got sent to soccer coaches, dance teachers, Cub Scout masters…awful doesn’t begin to start to describe it.

    1. Laurelma01*

      MatKnifeNinja

      That’s a horrifying thought. Stuff likes this can make the employee, or anyone having something sent to their boss like this …. paranoid, threatened, etc. You become the victim of someone else’s views / priorities thrust upon you.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      That’s been my experience with someone in my life. They went to each and every family memeber on both sides of the family. They even signed up for a national convention of one my my hobbies and spent an entire week dissing me to others. They contacted my pastor, my employer, etc.
      The goal is to annihilate that persons life.
      Please let your employee know.

    3. blackcat*

      Yes, when something similar happened to me, the person first tried my employer. Getting no response, they tried to contact orgs I volunteer with. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have a very common name and she wasn’t actually finding information about me. I had some sympathetic email exchanges with the other three blackcats I know in my area. None of them actually ran into trouble, but it was all quite a mess.

    4. What the What*

      The same thing happened to my family a few years ago. Nasty letters to us, to people in our community about us, mean-spirited “gifts” shipped to us, whisper campaign, etc. We wanted to go to the police, but only had a vague suspicion of who MIGHT have been doing this. We were pretty certain it was someone related to my spouse’s work. It was horrible, terrifying, and miserable time. Which is exactly what poison pen letter writers want you to feel. I felt like we were being watched and I was hyper-vigilant about watching my back when out in public and was terrified for my family. It made me feel like I was losing my mind. On top of it, I was going through a very serious health crisis at the time. That whole experience was a big part of us moving out of state. Some of the abuse continued after we moved but it tapered off after while because “they” found someone else to make miserable. I still haven’t fully recovered from it and still have flashbacks of that time. I’m getting to the stage where I’m not so bitter about it but it has a been a long road. I feel scared to go back and visit family in our old hometown in case it all starts up again. What is wrong with people?!

  7. Crabby PM*

    OP: You need to tell her, and you should also reply to this person that you do not care.

    This has happened to me several times, and to friends more times than this.

    It is some type of retaliation for some imagined sleight, perhaps even just for being a woman existing in the world, and they sent it to you because they thought it would get her fired.

    In the past, people (usually dudes) who didn’t like that I wasn’t “nice” or I disliked their favorite song (I am not kidding) or just that I dared to exist and speak words into the air, would find posts of mine on the internet that were posted during business hours and send them to my manager in the hopes of getting me fired, because I was “goofing off on the internet during business hours.” In all of these cases, my manager didn’t care what I did during the day because I was a good employee and got my work done and then some, and also, because it was my actual job to be on the internet (as a CTO who received one of these missives informed the complainant).

    She should know that someone is trying to disrupt her life, and the disruptor should know that they are dumb for all of the reasons you listed.

    1. JokeyJules*

      your comment raised a good question, hopefully Alison sees and will answer,
      Should OP respond at all to whomever sent her the info? If so, how?
      I’m wondering if responding would be helpful or not in the bigger picture

      1. German Girl*

        I’d say ask the employee whether they want OP to ignore it or not (but only if you’re comfortable replying, otherwise just tell the employee that you’re going to ignore it).

        1. epi*

          I agree, I would ask the employee.

          If this is a stalker or an ex, it might be preferable to deprive them of any response from anyone connected to the employee. If it’s someone with a vendetta, there is nothing stopping this person from trying to forward it to someone else who might care. It might be better in that case to let them assume the email was damaging or at least embarrassing, while the employee decides what, if anything, to do about this.

          1. valentine*

            I wouldn’t reply to the person. Let them wonder what happened or wait gleefully in vain.

            OP: There’s something endearing about how much you don’t care and don’t want to know.

      2. Laurelma01*

        I would reply & copy the school’s principle.

        State that this isn’t your business and you’re blocking their email address.

    2. Important Moi*

      They should respond via email with a succinct message such as

      “Please note I am documenting this communication. There is no reason for you to contact me again as this does not pertain to a work matter.”

      How it would be helpful to the bigger picture is that it informs the sender of the information that the desired effect did not manifest. The desired effect was to cause some sort of strife in the employee’s professional life. It doesn’t guarantee that this won’t happen again.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I really like ““Please note I am documenting this communication.”

        I was leaning toward thinking no response is necessary, but I could see something like, “Do not violate our employees’ privacy in this way again. Please note I am documenting this communication.”

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        “There is no reason for you to contact me again as this does not pertain to a work matter.”
        Per the general rules for dealing with harrassment I’ve read elsewhere, I’d tweak this to be unequivocal – “Do not contact me again.” Possibly leaving in the “…as this does not pertain…” or taking it out since it could be interpreted as an opening. Better to be 100% clear in these situations to prevent any pretext for further communication, rather than use even the minimal softening language used here that you might otherwise use in business communication.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          Alison’s script here is also good for the same reasons of course. I just wanted to add my reasoning for the similar adjustment, since hers was more focused on the “noting this communication” part. Not meaning to be redundant!

    3. irene adler*

      “several times”?

      Geez, some people need -desperately need- to find better things to do with their time. Go learn a language or how to play an instrument or take cooking lessons. There’s lots of productive things these people could do with their time. Wish I had lots of time to kill like they seem to have.

      I’m so sorry this happened even one time with you.

    4. anonreaderaam*

      I don’t agree that the manager should respond to the sender. In today’s world, any response that isn’t what the sender wants could mean that person starts posting on review sites or spreading lies about the employer. They have already tried to cause issues for the employee, what’s stopping them from doing the same to the company?

      1. LawBee*

        Either way has the risk of Vindictive Vera lashing out, so OP should choose what works for her and her employee (if she wants to even get that involved).

      2. Important Moi*

        There is push back that postings on review sites should not be taken as the end all be all to an employer’s reputation. Honestly, the internet has been around a long time, people know it’s not always accurate. My concern would be with a person who insists because they saw it on the internet it couldn’t be false.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Been there with this one too. Though uh, you can schedule posts to go up in advance these days.

    6. JSPA*

      Not sure about responding. Saying nothing is often the most effective way to quash trouble. If they know it reached you, they are emboldened to try again, or ask someone else to do so, or set up a “harass this business” campaign. If it might have been spam filtered, they…have no next step. Which is good. I strongly feel a boss in this position should let the information flow remain one-way. Them to you to employee (to whatever the employee wants to do about it).

      1. mmmmk*

        agree. and hearing that the employer isn’t going to engage might stoke their fire to seek other avenues of harassment (churches, social organizations, volunteer organizations, like people mentioned above) since they aren’t getting the desired outcome. I’d say nothing

    7. Anon for now...*

      This obviously isn’t the case here since the OP talks about being the owner, but it’s happened (knock wood, not to me) more than once where I work, which is in government. People have a weird sense of thinking that as a taxpayer, they are each the boss of every single government worker and that if they feel in any way “wronged” by that person, they have the authority to get them fired. I feel for everyone here. I work with our HR department and they’ve gotten a few of these. They’ve always been along the lines of this person; it’s never been that the employee has ever done anything egregious – or even wrong!

      And OP, you sound like the kind of manager people strive to be and to have!!

  8. Anon for ancient history*

    OP, this is so gross. Please say something to your employee.

    I had something similar happen to me back in the Clinton years, with considerable malicious intent — in addition to contacting my employer with “quotes” of things I had written online (some taken completely out of context and some totally fabricated) in an attempt to get me fired, they also contacted my parents (who had no reason at all to suspect something was amiss) to confirm my contact information and used that to doxx all of us over a decade before that was even a word. All because of an online disagreement.

    Fortunately, it didn’t affect my employment, as I had already resigned my contract, but I did lose out on some development opportunities I had previously been promised and I am sure it affected my supervisors’ recommendations down the road. If they had reached out to me instead of taking the comments at face value, I could have gotten in the way of it much sooner and possibly alerted my parents, who thought they were being genuinely helpful to an old friend.

  9. Ornery PR*

    OP, I agree with everything AAM said. But in addition, if I were you, I’d also want to make sure that you define the boundary where this could spill into your purview. If this situation escalates (and it has a good possibility of stoking a flame when you tell your employee what happened), you’ll want to make sure you and your employee knows what kind of actions that would potentially make this a work issues, or cause you concern about any her behaviors.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      But the OP has no concerns about her employee’s behavior – OP seems to feel that the employee has done nothing but behave professionally and appropriately, and, in fact, the way that OP would like her to behave in the workplace. It would be unnecessary and borderline punitive for the OP to turn this into some sort of teachable moment about potential future issues. The whole point is that OP doesn’t care, sees no need to care, and the only reason for her to bring it up to her employee is to show her that OP supports her, NOT to warn her about some hypothetical issues that OP doesn’t foresee.

      1. Ornery PR*

        But OP didn’t say that she behaved professionally and appropriately. OP said, “I personally wouldn’t have handled it the way she did and think it could have been handled better by both parties…” and she said she comes across aggressively (which OP admittedly appreciates).

        I agree that OP shouldn’t be punitive, and if she has reason to think this incident is contained and won’t escalate, then my advice is unwarranted. But personally, if I found out someone was trying to get me fired for something unrelated to my work, I’d be more upset than I was before. And we already know the employee is aggressive, and that the person reporting her likes to stir the pot. I guess I see a high likelihood of escalation. And if I was the OP, I’d start to think about where the line is and what things would warrant concern about this or any employee’s judgement.

        1. LawBee*

          Just because OP would have done something differently doesn’t mean that employee handled it wrongly. And there’s nothing wrong with being assertive, especially when it comes to one’s kids. There’s nothing in OP’s letter to indicate that she’s worried her employee will do anything that warrants a professionalism talk.
          And honestly, I’d be extremely offended if my boss decided to give me a “teaching moment” about how I handled something related to my children based on an unsubstantiated email from an anonymous vindictive rando.

    2. Future Homesteader*

      Re-read this and realized I wasn’t sure if you meant escalation on the part of the anonymous emailer or on the part of the employee. If you meant the emailer, then I misunderstood and please disregard my response! :-)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it would be helpful for OP to have a plan, formulated with their employee, about what to do if there’s escalation that threatens the employee at her workplace. But I worry that going into description about what kinds of actions (I assume on her part?) or behavior would make this a concerning work issue could have the unintended effect of making the employee feel like she’s walking on eggshells for conduct that isn’t in her control.

      1. Ornery PR*

        I can appreciate this. Maybe the OP doesn’t address it with the employee, but rather flags it for herself in case this issue continues.

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think this reply is exactly what OP is concerned about. Making the employee think that OP has any concerns about this encounter or the employees abilities. OP feels that by telling employee “I received this message” employee will feel that OP is saying, “it’s OK this time, but the line is here and but we need to have a conversation.” OP wants employee to know that there are no concerns about employee’s performance and a message like this will never cause OP to have concerns.

  10. Jennifer*

    Please tell her and then let it go. Someone is out to get her and she deserves to know that. Imagine if one day she is working for a different company with a less understanding manager and this is still going on? People have ended up losing their jobs and having their reputations damaged so much that they have difficulty finding other jobs. Hopefully, if she finds out now she can nip it in the bud.

    1. anonabot*

      Yes, definitely let her know. I had a relative do a variation on this kind of thing, and the person who received the email gave me a copy of it (and did not respond). It was disturbing to read, but later on, in a situation when I knew they were likely to do it again, I was able to warn the likely recipient ahead of time, which turned out to be really helpful to us both.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Whatever you do, don’t respond to that email even if it’s to say you don’t care. Responding implies legitimacy and may mislead the person into starting a dialogue or thinking that you care even if you said you didn’t.

    I answer the generic email address at my government agency, and we never, ever respond to anonymous emails that have nothing to do with work like this one.

    1. Arianne*

      I agree with not responding to the email at all. It makes you “involved” in a way that you specifically said you do not want to be. However, I think that saving the email for a while makes sense. If this is the first of multiple harassing emails, you’ll want to have all of them documented.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        Yes. Document it (and any others that may come later), and don’t reply. I think the *most* you could do with a reply is a flat “this account is for work-related business. Do not send anything non-work-related, there will be no further engagement on this topic” (because if it does escalate, it can be useful to be able to point to a specific point where you explicitly told someone to stop) but I wouldn’t engage at all with the content or the sender as far as possible, and I would only send the one “stop” email.

        1. Arianne*

          I would be a little worried that the sender is the type of person who regards any response as an invitation to argue and send further emails. In the best possible scenario, the sender may realize that what they did was inappropriate and desist, but I’m not sure the type of person who goes to the effort of sending anonymous emails will take the reasonable course of action.

          1. LJay*

            But then if they send further emails you can just ignore it without responding.

            (Unless you mean they might send more emails to different people since they see they’re not getting the response they want from the OP?)

    2. PB*

      I agree. I could also see a situation where OP responds with something like “I don’t care about this,” and it causes the person to escalate. Right now, they may be feeling like they’ve accomplished something by alerting OP. If they know that their original message to OP didn’t have the effect they’d intended, then they might try again with some other aspect of OP’s employee’s life.

      I absolutely agree with documenting it and talking to the employee.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Yes. Oh, her boss didn’t care about “this” not that her boss doesn’t care how she lives her life outside the office.

    4. Anonymeece*

      I’m leaning heavily on the side of document and don’t respond, too.

      Honestly, people who send these things are trying to provoke a reaction and in my experience, thrive on drama. Anything you say will be twisted.

      “This isn’t a work matter. Please don’t contact me again” seems fine, until they start saying, “So [Your Company] has no problem with their employees swearing at school officials?!” (or whatever). It’s a no-win scenario. The best you can do is just not play.

  12. Roscoe*

    OP, let me just say you sound like a good boss to work for. I hate when I see threads on here about people reporting what is, in their mind, inappropriate behavior outside of work, and that has nothing to do with work, but wanting to get them in trouble with their boss. Then I feel like there are always a lot of people defending that behavior.

    But back to advice, yes, let her know. I would want to know this information so I can decide how to handle it

    1. SOAS (NA)*

      I think it really depends on the circumstances. This situation doesn’t call for it, but where there’s straight up hate speech, threats of violence etc. I am a bit torn on doxxing, so Idk. I’m always more surprised that someon e can 1. figure out where I work and 2. Find my boss’s contact information. It’s just so so bizzarre to me.

      1. Roscoe*

        I can think of VERY few circumstances where, to me, it would rise to the level of informing a manager. In fact, the actions would have to be incredibly bad AND they would need to work someplace where I thought they could cause serious harm

      2. jcarnall*

        The only time I have ever contacted someone’s boss was when we’d been having an online conversation, and then he started sending me emails. He used his online handle to sign the emails. The emails were pretty abusive. Not threatening, just verbally abusive, calling me names, using denigrating language. He’d been saying similiar stuff on the online discussion, but the emails were worse.

        The email address they were sent from wasn’t a standard format. I looked it up and discovered it was a work email and he worked for a large-ish company: he was listed on the website as one of the employees, and I could find out easily who his manager and his manager’s manager was and – since I knew this guy’s work email and full name – what their work emails were.

        Furthermore, because of time differences between where he and I lived, I knew he was hanging out in the online discussion board and sending me these emails in working hours.

        So, in response to the last tirade he’d sent me in which he informed me I was a $%&£* £&$^ who didn’t deserve to hang out with decent people and I should learn to keep my mouth shut except when it was wanted to $&%* £$%* because no one wanted to hear anything from a £$&%&%£ “($_”%”£ like me (I’m paraphrasing) I, um, forwarded the entire email thread to his manager and his manager’s manager and asked if this was the kind of message this company endorsed their employees sending to people outside the company.

        (We were discussing a television series, if you wondered. Seriously. And I had remained civil, if sarcastic, throughout the discussion.)

        Then I quit that discussion board forever, aside from a short exchange the next day where he howled with rage that SOMEONE and he thought it had to be me, had got him in trouble at work by forwarding emails to his boss. (This was still in working hours.)

        I logged in for the very last time to ask him “How would I even know where you work?” … which he never replied to, but multiple other people in the discussion were all “That’s right, it has to be someone else, none of us know where you work, how could we?”

        Of course since he was using a work email technically this was in-work behaviour I was reporting to his boss. And in principle he could have got in trouble for this any time someone searched through the email servers or put a filter on for any use of foul language. But still. … I hope it was a teaching moment for him.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      Yes, a lot of reddit revenge threads involve contacting a person’s boss. Those are icky. You as a person have to cross a major line to merit that and most of those threads, the person doesn’t or it goes to a level where you need to involve the law.

  13. Heidi*

    While it might be tempting, I would advise against responding back to this email, even to defend your employee or say that it’s none of your business. It would make you “involved” and this isn’t a situation where you want to be involved. That being said, maybe don’t delete it either. This might be the first of multiple harassing emails, and your employee might need it for documentation.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If you think there might be a need for documentation, PRINT IT OUT.
      And sign it, along with a note that says “received X date, printed on Y date.”

      Because the electronic copy is probably not going to be that admissible, and it can get deleted. But the paper copy, with your validating signature, will be admissible in court.

      1. TechWorker*

        Are emails generally not admissible? That seems really bizarre to me (especially as doctoring a print out to say whatever you like is easily done anyway)

        1. Rachael*

          Yeah. I’ve pulled harmless pranks on friends by doctoring an email and making it say that they were going to buy me stuff (with “It’s a valid contract!” written on it). Or doctored a newsletter title and article about how cool I am. Yes, I know I’m a dork. But, my point is clear that you have to be careful how seriously you look at emails.

          1. TootsNYC*

            and that’s why the email, and the printout itself even, is not sufficient evidence. That’s why I said they should sign and date it, so that if they are ever asked about it, they know it’s the printout they made, and they can say so.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Electronic copies can be altered. The courts are going to want a piece of paper that cannot be easily altered, and they are going to want it attested to by someone who can be cross-examined about it. Hence the signature with your name and date.

          Then you can say, “yes, this is the email I got.”

          A friend had a bike stolen and found the ad on Craigslist; the detectives wouldn’t act on the link she forwarded to them; they asked her to print out the page and bring it down and sign the printed copy saying, “This is my bike, I printed this piece of paper.”

          I was just on a grand jury, and every piece of electronic evidence was attested to by a person who showed up in the courtroom to testify to that, and it was signed.

        3. RNL*

          Oh, emails are admissable, as is their meta-data. That’s how you really prove electronic correspondence.

          Save the email, along with its meta-data. A printed email without its meta-data might not be very probative. Doesn’t hurt to print it out, but the best thing to do is make sure that it is stored electronically in as close to its original form as possible.

          1. RNL*

            Also the idea that emails are not admissable in court in today’s business and legal context is almost laughable. I don’t mean to be a jerk! But honestly, sending something by email does not keep it out of court! In big cases we process and review literal terabytes of email correspondence, including their meta-data. We have software that can extract and analyze meta-data instantaneously – you know when, to whom, with what attachments an email was sent, and who opened it and when – that kind of thing.

            1. TootsNYC*

              And you will need a person to attest to that meta data, what it says, how it was accessed, how the jury can trust that it’s accurate.

              Instagram posts were printed out, signed, and testified to by detectives. “This is indeed what it looked like when I saw it on the computer screen.”

              Cell phone tower data was printed out, clipped together, signed, and testified to by detectives or technicians.

              Security-camera footage was placed on a disk, which was signed by a witness, who then also watched the images on the screen, described them verbally and answered yes to questions like, “Is this a fair and accurate representation of what happened?” and “is this a fair and accurate representation of what was on that security footage when you watched it after the events we’re talking about?”

              So provide that now.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I didn’t say they weren’t admissable. I said, you need to prepare them for court. You need a printout and a signature.

              Something that can be entered into a legal record. And “an email that is still in bits and bytes on your server is not something that can be entered into a legal record.”

              My friend’s police detectives absolutely acted to arrest that guy once they had those printouts of the Craigslist ad. But they were not allowed to just click on the link and believe her phone call, or even her email, that it was her bike. They believed her–but they were laying down the groundwork for court. They needed “testimony” from her. The material at the link in her email could have been altered in the meantime, and that would leave a defense attorney “reasonable doubt.”

          2. TootsNYC*

            print it out–and SIGN IT.
            and date it.
            Add a note that says what it was, how you made the printout, etc.

            Set up the evidence trail.

  14. Amber Rose*

    I don’t know about responding that you don’t care, but if I were in your shoes I would respond that I would prefer to never be contacted again.

    I feel like a variation of “Please don’t contact me about my employee’s behavior on their personal time again” is a better shut down than just saying you don’t care, and it will also ideally discourage people from sending you more emails about crap you don’t care about.

    1. Drax*

      See, I’d be rather tempted to call the school and ask why on earth this came to you and what do they expect you do to about it. I’d be betting on the fact their boss didn’t know that this was sent and would investigate and deal with it on their end.

      But I am a mildly petty person, which always gets Petty (yes with a capital P) when someone tries to pull petty BS on me… which isn’t the best trait.

      I do like your response, it’ s a direct shut down without being rude and would take someone rather clueless on behavior to ever email you something like that again.

  15. LaDeeDa*

    If it was an employee or volunteer at the school, wouldn’t that be in violation of FERPA? I would let the employee know and forward the email to her. I would also reply to the person and let them know it isn’t any of your business/concern and that you will be forwarding the email to the principal/administrator of the school.

    1. Aline*

      I agree with talking with the employee, forward the email to her and archive it. I don’t think the OP should reply to the sender. Why cut off the sender when she is providing valuable information for your employee? Also why tip off the sender? If the sender is too stupid to send more emails that adds to your employee’s case. The OP only has to forward and archive like before.

      1. Drax*

        I think it’s because it’s not really LW’s place to be in the middle or used as ‘bait’ in this situation. It’s a level of dramatics she’s not interested in (which I assumed from the letter, but could be wrong)

        1. Aline*

          The assumption from OP that she doesn’t care, to me is false, due to writing into AAM. I assumed she cares and is concerned for the employee and wanted to know the appropriate steps to handle the situation BUT didn’t want to spend too much time dealing with the steps. So like many have said before, initially the OP talk to the employee, electronically save/archive the email and forward the email to employee. My additional recommendation was to not respond back to sender, forward additional emails and save/archive as before. The extra steps won’t take long, 2 minutes max? and OP wouldn’t even have to read the emails. The employee would also know that the OP was continuing to support her.

          Maybe I’m in the minority but as the employee I would want as much information as I could gather to figure out how to plan my response and identify the sender. If you already have a narrow pool of suspects then the first email IP address/metadata would narrow the identity further. Any subsequent emails most likely will prove the identity as well as give clues to what is the sender’s goals or motivation.
          Above RNL talked more about processing huge quantities of metadata but anyone can find an email’s IP address even if you are not tech savvy, as always a quick Google search will show you.

  16. Hey girl hey*

    I’m surprised the person at the school forwarded the email correspondence to OP, but can’t say I don’t understand the impulse.

    I work at a school in the front office (so not a teacher). Earlier this year we had an issue with a student who was caught cheating and got in-school suspension for a day as a result. My boss, the principal, had me send an email to the mother notifying her of the suspension. This mother came into the office and cornered me and got right up in my face. She shouted all sorts of curses and threats about what she’d do to me if we went through with the suspension, including threatening my job and unborn baby (I was very obviously pregnant at the time). It got so bad that my coworker recorded some of it in case she actually hit me.

    This mother owns a prominent business in town and it took all of my willpower not to post my coworker’s recording on all their social media pages. That would have been a bad idea for many reasons and probably would have cost me my job but dealing with these kinds of people is exhausting and it makes me wonder if the person who sent OP the email just snapped.

    1. Waterfire*

      I wouldn’t be sending the recording to the business, but I sure as hell would send it to the police! That woman sounds unhinged, I’m sorry that happened to you.

    2. Observer*

      What the OP describes is totally different from what you experienced. In fact, the OP was quite clear that the employee made no threats, did not say anything violent or *ist, etc.

      How can you even compare that to a situation like yours, where police should probably have been called?

  17. I want that job!!!!*

    Just like the employee in question, I’ve also been called out on my “adversarial demeanor” pretty much my whole life. I would like very much to work for OP’s company. Other than my being considered “adversarial” (but of course I make sure I’m never considered as such by those who have authority to terminate my employment, obviously!), I’m a hard-working, productive, loyal employee, I work quickly & efficiently, impeccable work ethic, I don’t call in “sick” unless I’m vomiting blood, I don’t take part in “hobby” / “extra-curricular” activities etc. So again, any other companies out there who appreciate & value hard-working, efficient, loyal, productive “adversarial” employees over “good-natured” unproductive slackers, here I am!!

    1. Kelly L.*

      This seems…a little random and overly critical of people who occasionally get sick or have a hobby? And doesn’t seem to have a ton to do with the letter.

      1. I want that job!!!!*

        OP wrote about the employee in question “…some of her demeanor can read as adversarial, which is honestly what I pay her for…” and so, an employer who appreciates & values employees who are “adversarial” but are actually productive and who DO THEIR JOBS WELL, and NOT employees who are “endearing unproductive slackers” is an employer I’ve been wanting to work for MY WHOLE LIFE. Any other companies / workplaces like that??

        1. Lily in NYC*

          What the heck? It’s not an “either/or” thing. One can have a fulfilling life outside work and still be a fantastic employee. And sorry, but being known as “adversarial’ in a work environment is not something to be proud of.

          1. MayLou*

            With a possible exception for litigating lawyers, but even then that’s only in specific circumstances. Someone who litigates whether or not now is an acceptable time to make a cup of coffee would be exhausting to work with.

        2. Jadelyn*

          So people with hobbies, and who use their sick time appropriately to avoid spreading illness to their coworkers/take needed rest and recovery time, are “endearing unproductive slackers”? Because that’s what I’m getting from you here: you’re setting yourself up as “adversarial and productive” based on that laundry list of traits including no hobbies and never using sick time, and then positioning that in contrast to everyone else.

          There’s “adversarial”, and then there’s just rude.

    2. VictorianCowgirl*

      I’ll take a slightly less productive good natured employee who understands work-life balance and doesn’t judge people for having hobbies or not bringing sickness into the office over a slightly more productive adversarial employee who only makes sure they behave around management ANY DAY.

    3. Autumnheart*

      Having hobbies and extra-curricular activities, and calling in sick when sick, are both normal things that productive, well-rounded employees do. And demanding that someone work while sick, or not have a life outside of work, are toxic things that toxic workplaces do.

    4. Parenthetically*

      This is not a good ad for you as a worker. Workaholism is bad for productivity. Also, the fact that you freely admit that you’re adversarial with peers but not managers… is problematic.

      1. I want that job!!!!*

        Slackeroholism is an even worse ad and even worse for productivity and even more problematic…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I told you to move on and you ignored me (and this is the second time that’s happened in the last week), so I’m putting you on moderation.

        2. Parenthetically*

          “I’m better than everyone else and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.”

          OK.

        3. Sylvan*

          Do you ever think about the effects of a kiss up/kick down attitude? It catches up with you sooner or later.

    5. I also want that job!!!!!!1!*

      WELL I have gotten into actual fistfights over my supposedly “adversarial” nature — even with those who have authority to terminate my employment! And after defeating them I took their jobs! And when I ended up going to trial over that, I represented myself, because ours is an “adversarial” legal system. I did not win. Then it took me a while to get hired again, but when I did, I NEVER called in sick, even the time I was vomiting blood! I lost that job too that day, but I attribute it to the high churn that’s just part and parcel of the retail sector. Finally, not only do I also not take part in any “hobby” / “extra-curricular” / “court-ordered group therapy” activities etc, I also prevent my co-workers from participating in them too, which has had the effect of making them much less “good-natured” and more “adversarial” themselves, and consequently I believe I would be a tremendous asset to your company. If you have further questions for me, my contact information is above. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to meeting with you at the soonest opportunity!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I made it as far as ” “hobby” / “extra-curricular” / “court-ordered group therapy” ” before I couldn’t hold back the laughter. Bravo!

      2. PB*

        I have to ask… was the blood vomiting a result of another fistfight? Since one-on-one combat seems to be your preferred method of job hunting and all.

        1. I also want that job!!!!!!1!*

          I suspect I was poisoned by a co-worker who was jealous of my success.

    6. Argh!*

      I’ll fight you for that job!

      Seriously, part of my job is being an advocate for a customer group, and I have to be the squeaky wheel sometimes to get the behind-the-scenes people to do their job. Customer service needs people like us!

    7. Janie*

      This complete lack of work-life balance is going to burn you out.

      Also you coming in with various bugs is infecting your coworkers and your productivity is not good when you’re sick. Or do you believe that your coworkers aren’t really sick, and that they’re “sick”, unless they’re vomitting blood?

    8. Oh So Anon*

      What’s wrong with people having lives outside of work or, god forbid, being human and sometimes getting sick so long as they’re committed to the job and get stuff done?

      I’ll give you a hint: most people don’t actually like working with people they know don’t take part in “hobby” / “extra-curricular” activities – it makes someone unrelatable at best and at worst makes them come across as though they have a martyr complex and are attention seeking. It doesn’t win you any brownie points even with your management, it just makes them think you’re not human and if you ever need them to cut you slack, they won’t.

    9. TG*

      Honestly, you sound like some of the coworkers I’ve had over the years who are so adversarial and unpleasant that they exhaust everyone around them. We are always glad to see those folks go. Adversarial demeanor has to be balanced with the wisdom to know when it’s appropriate.

  18. Mimi Me*

    I have a relative who likes to email the people who her “enemy” directly deals with on a daily basis for slights that only she has an issue with. This kind of stuff is harassment and it’s nice to know that there are some level-headed people out there on the receiving side of this info. OP, Allison’s advice is spot-on. The employee deserves to know that someone is trying to meddle in other aspects of her life.

  19. ooo*

    If the employee isn’t sure who sent the email, a pretty cool and fun way to show your support would be to participate in a sting operation to ID the perp. Like you write back: “As [Employee’s] boss, of course I’m very concerned about this. Do you have any more information I should know about? If so, let’s find a time to meet, perhaps at a shady bar on the outskirts of town, or on a rarely frequented bridge on the outskirts of town, or at Starbucks if that’s more convenient for both of us.” Wear a trenchcoat and a wire, and don’t forget to bring your trusty revolver.

    1. Parenthetically*

      If you can fake a Humphrey Bogart, cigarette-in-the-corner-of-your-mouth drawl, so much the better.

  20. Everdene*

    This is really timely for me. Last week someone who works with a group of vulnerable adults called me to complain that one of my reports (who works with a different group of vulnerable adults) had made a complaint about him. I asked my report and he had made the complaint in his own time about how a family member had been treated by the worker. He (voluntarily) showed me the correspondence at it is clearly a personal complaint. The worker told me my report had maliciously misrepresented himself. I’m now in the position where I know more about my reports family difficulties than I want to. I will now be telling the worker there is no complaint to answer, this is a private matter but also suggesting my report makes another complaint as the worker is out of line (I think) turning this personal issue into a work one. Don’t cross the streams!

    1. JSPA*

      Family can really lean on family to do this sort of thing. Or an employee can get inappropriately invested int the job, to where they feel obliged to speak up every time someone in a vaguely parallel position does something that they’d never do.

      Might be empowering and educational to explicitly address why this is not a good idea, and how essential it is to separate “I would never do that” is really not the same as “I must speak out against them for the public good.”

  21. Phony Genius*

    A passive-aggressive response could be to inform the e-mailer that you are forwarding this e-mail to THEIR employer, since that person believes that people should be held accountable by their employer for everything they do outside the workplace. If they practice what they preach, they won’t mind. Of course, I don’t recommend actually doing this.

    But I am growing concerned with this trend where people do want to hold employers accountable for everything their employees do, regardless of whether they’re at work. There have been some boycotts for this (professional sports/domestic violence), which may soon be creeping into much less serious transgressions and much smaller businesses. If a video of the OP’s employee’s incident were posted to a popular local website, could there be a similar reaction from the community? And if so, what could they do?

  22. StaceyIzMe*

    I think that any time that someone presumes to step into someone else’s life in the way that happened to OP’s employee, the person in receipt of the message(s) needs to communicate this to the target. Sometimes people make a difficult decision to get involved in another person’s life because something so egregiously immoral or illegal has transpired that a compelling case for “I had to” can be made. Here, though, is an intrusion with no such basis in evidence. This is kind of like the idiot posts on social media that want to “make it go viral” because of some self-satisfied and misplaced sense of moral superiority that makes the poster feel that the weight of the social sphere’s disdain can be brought to bear. Adults who have a conflict with another person settle the matter to the best of their ability through direct communication, if possible. Otherwise, they may selectively inform people in authority who are actually charged with remedying the problem, as in “may I speak with a manager”. In the absence of real harm or threat of harm, reasonable people don’t tattle to an adversary’s employer, family members, school, church or social club for the sake of gaining leverage in or revenge after a private dispute, and especially not as a means of revenging themselves upon someone who merely disagrees with them. (Real harm or threat of harm cannot reasonably be defined as the mere presence of an idea with which you happen to disagree, unless said idea is directly and unjustly targeting your demographic.)

  23. Susana*

    It always amazes me when people think thy can get you fired – as though anyone’s employer will get rid of someone because someone – ANYONE – in the public makes some sort of accusation or stink. Great line in a David Sedaris essay – it’s in Holidays on Ice and another book – where he’s working as a Macy’s Elf. And aside from the indignity and lack of comfort of the velvet attire, he’s interrupted by an irritated woman asking where the ladies room is. And he says, well, ma’am, I expect it’s at the end of that long line of women waiting to get in. And she says, “I’m going to have you fired.” At which point he says (or wants to say): “I’m going to have you killed.”
    I’ve had random complainers say to me, “I’ll have your press credentials” (which I found especially hilarious since at one point, I was chair of the committee that OK’d press credentials in my beat). And I would just say, “Oh, you don’t want them, I assure you.”

    1. CMart*

      I worked a very long time in the restaurant industry where it’s actually quite easy to get fired – and not a single time was a firing due to a customer wailing “I’ll have your job!!!” The few firings that came about because of a customer issue began with actual mis/malfeasance on the part of an employee and not simply because Mr. Dad Jeans thought it was outrageous that he wasn’t informed that adding shrimp to a dish was an extra charge.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        *snickers* Mr. Dad Jeans, it is always that guy or the “let me speak to your manager” haircut lady.

      2. Anonymeece*

        I used to work fast food and that whole “customer claims he will get you fired for enforcing restaurant policies” thing kind of amused me. Like, I would get fired if I gave you free food… but you’re going to get me fired because I didn’t give you free food?

        Sure, Jan.

    2. Le Sigh*

      I worked at big box retailers and I loved when people would say something like, “I’m never shopping here again!” or “I’m going to have you fired!” Because, you very clearly wore these shoes already and I won’t return them?

      But sure, I’m making $7/hr before taxes. I’m deeply invested in whether you shop here again (spoiler, they will).

    3. Batgirl*

      Like press editors could give a fuck that someone was offended or unhappy with you. Managers in general too, but particularly professional trouble makers!

    4. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve had someone (this situation, approximately) try to get me fired, I’ve had someone threaten to sue me. Right now another coworker of mine got called a bitch last week and that guy continues to call our office to complain on and on about how he wants to get her fired. And at some point I’m going to have to deal with him and he’ll call me a bitch and try to get me fired too, hooray!

      (Also, the reason why he’s so upset? I gave him permission to do something and he realized 3 weeks later he’d missed the deadline.)

      Service and helping people is such a joy. I wish I had any hope at all of finding some other line of work that doesn’t involve this.

  24. iglwif*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on here: tell your employee about the email, be very explicit that you are concerned FOR her and not ABOUT her, document the correspondence, and then leave it to her to deal with.

  25. Common Welsh Green*

    What I find particularly disturbing is that, since the Semi-Anonymous Tattletale is obviously trying to cause trouble for the employee, presumably they’re close enough to know if trouble is caused. So, not a stranger, and possibly someone the employee trusts.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I don’t know on “trusts,” but I bet the employee would be able to guess right off who her enemy is.

  26. Argh!*

    This is harassment, and the victim/target needs to know! This one email could be just one data point in the larger picture of the employee’s reputation being smeared by the tattletale. As Alison said, it’s the employee’s right to know about it, but it’s the employee’s problem, too, not the manager’s. It’s probably good to know that a smear campaign is going on, though, because the bully could escalate to in-person harassment at or near the workplace.

  27. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP: First off, it’s great to hear from a good manager, for a change.

    I, too, would share the information with the employee, along with assurances that it won’t affect her professionally and that you have her back. Please give her the original email, with complete header information, so that she can try to trace it back to the sender.

    If I were in your position, I wouldn’t respond to the email, just on the general principle that it’s unwise to feed trolls (either before or after midnight).

    Hopefully this will blow over quickly, and your employee can go back to doing her usual fine job, secure in the knowledge that she reports to a sane adult.

  28. Tell your employee!*

    I agree with Alison, even if you don’t personally care, it’s really important to let your employee know this.

    A friend of mine went through something similar, her MIL was a very abusive and quite frankly, terrible woman, and as such my friend and her husband decided to limit time spent with her, and allowed zero unsupervised time with her child after a near drowning incident under MIL’s supervision was written off as “no big deal”. The MIL cracked, she waged an all-out war against my friend (not my friend’s husband, because he couldn’t possibly be the one putting limits on his darling mother, spoiler alert: he was the one instigating all of the barriers because he knew how bad his mother could be from his own childhood).

    She filed for grandparent’s rights, visitations, and started trying to get them evicted, fired, called Child protective services, complained to the kid’s daycare that my friend was abusive etc. Throughout all of this my friend was TERRIFIED that she would get fired or worse lose her child because of these false accusations. Happily, her supervisor finally told her that he was receiving a lot of weird mail and complaints directed to her outside of office behavior but hadn’t thought anything of it until the MIL showed up in person to make a complaint. only then did he mention it. My friend was extremely relieved to hear her boss had her back, and it could have saved her a lot of stress to know there was harassment happening at her workplace as that had some legal repercussions and allowed her to file a restraining order.

    In the end, because I know readers like endings, she and her husband ended up changing jobs and moving to a different country with no grandparent rights legislation, and are pretty much off the grid because the situation escalated so badly to the point where my friend was afraid for her life, but the local small town police just shrugged and went “but it’s FAMILY!”.

    1. straws*

      Ugh. This is my biggest fear right now. My MIL has threatened many of these same actions, although hasn’t (thankfully) followed through to date. I don’t understand how these MILs start equating threatening and irrational behavior with model grandparent behavior…

      1. Oranges*

        I never thought about that part of it because of all the other “Nope!” that’s in the situation. But you are totally correct, trust me with your child because I will destroy you isn’t the best argument….

    2. MayLou*

      What are grandparents’ rights? That… sounds deeply dubious. I really hope they find better support in their new town.

      1. TheOperaGhost*

        There’s what they actually are, and what people think they are. (At least in 49/50 of the United States)

        What they are is, if one of the parents dies, and the grandparents have a preexisting relationship with the child, the living parent cannot completely cut the grandparents out of the child’s life. There is an obligation to continue with some level of relationship between grandparent and child. Now this is somewhat limited. Generally speaking, the grandparents cannot prevent the parent and child from moving to a new state, but the living parent needs to make some arrangements to keep the relationship between the grandparents and child.

        Unfortunately, what a lot of the people who exclaim Grandparents Rights! think it means is that they can force themselves to have a relationship with the child even if the parents don’t want them. If a dad cuts his parents out of his life, does not want his parents to have a relationship with his child, then the grandparents have no legal right to a relationship with the child.

        1. blackcat*

          “then the grandparents have no legal right to a relationship with the child.”
          As with all family law things, this depends on the state. The vast majority do not allow for grandparents rights in the case of “intact” families, but a couple do.

      2. NACSACJACK*

        Grandparent rights are the right to visitation for the grandparents. About 20 years ago, maybe 30, in the height of the divorce crisis (when 1950s laws were applied to 1980s marriages), an advocacy group was created to advocate for legislation ro allow grandparents the right to ask to see their grandchildren. Otherwise, the former DIL or SIL was not allowing them to see their grandchildren. Also note once in the hands of the grandparents, if they so desire, they can or were skipping town with their grandchildren or allowing the former spouse to see the children even if they had a OFP against the former partner.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        This is reminding me of how Oliver’s son William’s grandparents on his mom’s side somehow managed to get custody of the kid and cut him off from his dad on Arrow.

        (Though it’s Arrow, so…I can’t argue the point.)

      4. BelleMorte*

        Grandparents rights are ridiculous these days, some states like NY are extremely pro-grandparents, regardless of the relationship and whether the parents are actively involved. This seems to be being used as a tool to control the “children” by overbearing parents more than the original purpose, to ensure an existing relationship continues with divorce or death. Narcissism is a real thing these days, its all about playing the happy grandparents on facebook.

        There are tons of groups out there that support grandparent rights and unfortunately a lot of family court judges who are grandparents themselves see it as “I’d die if I couldn’t see my grandchildren, poor thing!” and not “this wo/man is abusive and a negative influence on the children regardless of familal ties”.

        There was an interesting case a few years ago, where the grandparents whose son died claimed and won grandparent rights equal to a non-custodial parent i.e. every other week, several weeks over holidays and the summer etc. The mother, frustrated with her rights being taken away after her spouse died, turned around and sued the grandparents for child support. I think that’s more than fair, if you want to play custody battle games, you get the negative aspect of it as well. Ultimately, the relationship is destroyed, tons of money was spent on lawyers and the stupid thing is the mother was never keeping her kid from the grandparents to begin with, they just wanted more say in how it was raised.

        Although I have to say I am extremely biased against these laws after seeing what my friend went through. Her little family is extremely happy now and have added another child, whom the grandparents have never, and likely will never know about or meet. Overall though, they lost several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees and the loss they took when they moved, but she says it was worth every penny.

      5. Anonymeece*

        Just to add on because most people here are talking about the bad side of grandparents’ rights… they can also be a good thing. I had a friend who divorced and, due to financial reasons, had to move to another state to find work. His kids remained with his ex-wife, in the same state with friend’s mom. Ex-wife remarries a new guy who then wants Friend and Friend’s Mom to have zero contact with kiddos. Friend’s Mom sues for grandparent’s rights, and during one of her visits, finds out that Stepdad is abusing the kids. He basically was trying to isolate the kids from anyone who cared about them, and Mom was going along with it because she wasn’t a very good mom.

        So grandparent’s rights can be a really good thing! I just wanted to point it out that in every scenario, it’s different, and just as they can be abused, they can also end up protecting the kids in the situation.

  29. DCGirl*

    I’m glad the OP has her employee’s back. I kind of feel that if there is a real problem with an employee’s behavior outside of work, it’s going to eventually rear its ugly little head at work at some point.

    Case in point: I’m in a Facebook group for the history of the area (Northern Virginia) in which I live. Someone went off on a major tirade because her post, advertising an event at an historic site where she works, was deleted because advertising is not part of the group’s charter. She called people names, used curse words, you name it, until the group owner dropped the ban hammer on her. Screen shots of her posts would not paint her in a good light, and her behavior definitely does not reflect well on her employer. You can just tell that that behavior is going to come out at work some day; no one needs to accelerate the process. People like her can’t help darwinizing themselves.

  30. Long Time Lurker*

    I know someone who had something like this happen to her — it was similar in the sense that it was a dispute about something at their children’s school, and another mom, upset about the disagreement, contacted the other parent’s employer. The employer felt the same way you do — this is not my concern — but did share the correspondence. It turned out that the person who emailed was technically a friend of the employee, effectively faking friendship, but then doing this. It was really important that the employee know that someone who was being nice to her face tried this kind of thing, because she had been in the dark about this other woman’s feelings and motives (the employee knew they disagreed, but not how far her so-called friend would go). I agree with Alison. You need to be clear that you are NOT concerned about the content of the email but you do want your employee to know that someone in her circle outside work contacted you in this way.

    1. Long Time Lurker*

      I should add: my friend, the employee, was absolutely devastated and embarrassed that this happened, but ultimately she felt like it was good that she knew and that it strengthened her relationship with her boss. She felt supported at work, even though the situation was messy and awkward.

  31. Working4theWeekend*

    Love Allison’s advice – but here’s a question: I was attacked out of nowhere in a public space by a woman who told me “foreigners don’t belong here, get out of my country.” There was a police report, etc., where I got her name. I definitely wished I’d had the whole thing on video (I didn’t – luckily bystanders could vouch) so I could send it to her employer. She’s a real estate agent (public facing). Would I have been wrong to do so in that case, or is that acceptable?

    1. Long Time Lurker*

      There is a police report? While I personally don’t recommend going to someone’s boss unless you work with them, this situation feels very different to me, mainly because you were attacked for your nationality and there is a public record. I can see if you don’t want to, and I don’t think there’s a clear answer as to what you should do, but I don’t think you would be wrong to send the police report. In particular, realtors are held to ethical standards and someone who is documented as acting in a racist manner (by the police! and witnesses!) is in a whole different category than someone who gets a little salty about the parent-teacher committee (or whatever this situation was)

      1. Phony Genius*

        Agree. Somebody who believes those things, and is a real estate agent, could potentially be someone who violates the Fair Housing Act if they brought those beliefs to the workplace. This could get the employer in a lot of trouble.

    2. Oranges*

      That is under the “hate-filled rants” clause. Hate speech is different and should be treated differently.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      That’s discriminatory, which is concerning when the person deals with housing. That’s protected under federal law.
      That said, people like this always sink themselves. It may take time, but they always get it in the end.
      I prefer to back away so my hands stay clean. Let life do the work for you.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Note: I walk away when the offense is against me. The claws come out of the offense is against others.

    4. Working4theWeekend*

      Thanks all – I wish the police report had more specific information (it basically just says there was an altercation / disturbance) so I don’t think sending it would really be all that valuable. The police were nice, but clearly didn’t want to be dealing with this whole thing and since I wasn’t physically attacked they just wanted it to go away (she was throwing (soft) things at me and screaming / blocking me so I couldn’t leave). That’s why I (or someone else) had gotten video. Thanks for validating that I’m not a terrible person for wishing I’d been able to let her employer know / get her fired. She had effectively no consequences from the whole situation.

        1. Perpal*

          Probably overly expensive and time consuming. But if Working knows the employer, it wouldn’t be out of line to call them and just personally explain what happened to them. I guess the main question is if they’d want to give the employer their name/contact information to follow up or not… tends to carry more weight but might get back to a person who has already behaved in a threatening manner. An anony complaint against the person would be OK too. Heck, leave a google review!

    5. Ladysplainer*

      So if it’s TRUE it’s not slander or libel. Even if it’s damaging.

      Also as a US-born person married to a naturalized citizen, yeah, I’d want to know I wasn’t buying my house from a xenophobic creep.

      Source: had some douchebag try to sue me for slander, for calling him a douchebag & explaining what he did to make me think that. My usually uptight attorney literally rebutted with that first line verbatim.

  32. RUKiddingMe*

    There should be some kind of law about deliberately trying to fuck with someone’s job just because they pissed you off…

    1. anonymous 5*

      I realize that the threshold for libel/slander is high, but I think there at least is some legal protection; and I was under the impression that the attempt to undermine someone’s professional pursuits actually is one of the few things that can actually clear the threshold. Lawyers, please correct me if I’m wrong here! Not sure whether that would apply in the OP’s (and OP’s report’s) case either way.

      1. Batgirl*

        It’s expensive and stressful. I remember being shocked when one of the things they taught us in journalism school was to double check your defence before taking a swing at rich people because they can actually afford to sue.
        Still I’ve always thought a cheap legal bluff done through a lawyer would be worth doing. These people don’t seem to be too bright and if they get legal advice themselves they’d be told to knock it off.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        yeah, if you’re trying to make life miserable – there’s also anti-stalking legislation.

    2. Perpal*

      It depends a lot on the details, and also local laws but essentially, there are now some cyberstalking laws though they can be hard to enforce unless the person does something else nasty enough to get the attention of authorities. But then sometimes they can nail ’em on cyberstalking, or threats, or whatever.

  33. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Once when I was on an upward career climb, someone was writing crank letters to the management about me.

    I was told to watch my back. My wife also started receiving crank phone calls during the day – so, that might have restricted the suspects to someone on the off-shift (where I worked for awhile) — I reported it initially – to the phone company – who advised if I were to file a formal complaint, I would have to proceed and cooperate with prosecution.

    So – I went into work – spread the rumor around that I had to file a complaint with New England Telephone – and had to leave early – all off-shift people became aware of it. I didn’t file a formal report but the people in my workplace didn’t know that.

    And lawdy, lawdy – the calls and the crank letters stopped…!!!!

  34. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    But speaking of letting the employee know – YES, you have somewhat of an obligation, if the employee is being “cranked” – they may need to know that, for their protection.

    I don’t think I could live with myself if someone was doing that to someone I worked with, I chose to ignore it, and then mr./ms./mrs. cuckoo actually causes that person some other harm.

    It’s also important – if someone’s acting irrationally – that person may need professional help. Not good to sluff this off.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    This same thing happened to me OP. About ten years ago I was running a team and one morning got a call from a woman who said she knew one of the guys on the team and he was doing all sorts of illegal things, both work and non-work related. She told me she just wanted to bring this all to my attention, as his boss.

    I was pretty sure none of the things were true, having worked with this guy for a while it seemed unlikely. Anyway, I called him into the office to tell him about this and before I could say anything he said..”oh no, did she call you too?” Turns out it was a disgruntled ex looking to cause trouble and had been doing the same thing to various people in this guy’s life. I think you have to tell the person so they know what’s going on

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      Many years ago, I got fired from a job I loved because a disgruntled & abusive ex called my manager and told her I was “stealing”. (He flat out told me he did it, and he also made other calls intended to harm people I cared about in similar ways.)
      I was livid over it and read them the riot act for taking it seriously. And they realized they had fucked up, too- I got called back to work there again about 6 months later.

  36. So so anon for this*

    A few years ago “Sansa,” an online friend of mine got pulled into a meeting with her boss, Stannis. The boss wanted to let Sansa know that the company had received an anonymous message that linked Sansa to all her explicit fanfic on AO3. Stannis didn’t care especially since Sansa was writing under a pseudonym, but thought Sansa should know.

    Sansa pulled all her fanfic, closed out all her fandom accounts, and after some investigation worked out that Cersei, a fellow fan who she didn’t know at all, but who was jealous of the attention Sansa’s fics had received, had figured out who Sansa was in real life and had decided that she must pay. It got a lot weird and IIRC, Sansa had to change phone numbers and do some more damage control.

    OP: I think it’s good to let your employee know what’s going on. Just in case.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      This is why I limit all my fanfic writing to angst and character introspection.

    2. pamela voorhees*

      ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh my god. stuff like this makes me want to leave the internet forever.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      Hell hath no fury like someone who had their fanfic scorned in favor of someone else’s better-written fanfic.

      1. So so anon for this*

        I don’t think she ever totally figured out Cersei’s motivations, but theorized it was a combination of being jealous that Sansa’s fics were quite popular in comparison to hers and also that Sansa’s fics often featured NOTPs of Cersei’s.

        Fandom is often a crazy place.

        1. Perpal*

          It can bring out the people with a lot of time and energy on their hands, and sometimes those people don’t have a lot of accompanying sense…

  37. mourning mammoths*

    >She passionate and straightforward and some of her demeanor can read as adversarial, which is honestly what I pay her for.

    I hope I can find a boss like you someday.

  38. Story Nurse*

    This happened to me. My first day at a job, the manager training me said, “By the way, you should know that someone doesn’t like you. We got an anonymous email with a link to your personal blog. I don’t see anything there that would make me not want to hire you, and we really don’t care what you do on your own time as long as you’re not misrepresenting the company, but I want you to be aware that this happened.”

    That was 14 years ago and I still have no idea who it was. I’m very grateful that the manager told me, though, as it’s made me more cautious about what I share and who gets access to it. For example, I’d made a public post with the name of the company, saying how excited I was to work there; that’s how the anonymous person knew where to send the link. So now I’m careful about sharing information like that.

    LW, I encourage you to tell your employee very straightforwardly that someone a) has access to those private messages and b) shared them with you. She needs to know that. Then c) emphasize that you don’t care and what matters to you is that she’s a great employee and you want to keep her around. And don’t reply to the email; any attention will just encourage the person who sent it. But do keep it in case she needs it as evidence, e.g. in a stalking or custody case.

  39. Nacho*

    As long as the employee isn’t a Nazi, or anything else that might indicate they would have a problem working with a specific group of people during the course of their job, it’s none of your business what they do outside of work.

    1. Observer*

      That’s something the OP clearly agrees with. Their question was not about how they should feel about it, but what they should do – specifically whether to let the employee know (yes) and whether to respond to the email (probably not.)

  40. Richard*

    Ugh, there’s such a toxic world of attempted public shaming out there. I was at a baseball game a couple years ago and the family in front of me had a little girl who was kicking the seat in front of her. The woman in that seat turned around and asked her bluntly to stop. The parents were furious (though I’m not sure why, it seemed reasonable), but, instead of saying anything to her, the mom dragged the girl away and the dad spent the next half hour taking pictures of this woman and posting on Facebook about this psycho b**** that screamed at her kid (she didn’t) and how we need to find out her name and employer and get her in trouble. I couldn’t even watch the game I was so rapt reading this over his shoulder.

  41. cactus lady*

    I had a crazy roommate once who would do this kind of thing to anyone she felt had “wronged” her. Once it was me – because, get this, I had wanted to go to sleep at 11pm on a Wednesday instead of hang out with her. I had to let my boss know the situation in case she tried to contact my office. To my knowledge she didn’t, but she contacted basically EVERYONE else she could get ahold of. Sometimes people are just nuts and tiny things set them off. I definitely agree that you should let your employee know, because this probably is part of a pattern.

  42. Jake*

    What a relief to find out the OP’s first reaction was to stay out of it. I think too many bosses would want to engage with this some how.

  43. That_guy*

    I haven’t read the comments yet, so I apologize if someone else already said it, but kudos to the OP. I love how you’re keeping your employee’s personal life separate from work life. I would be very tempted to reply to the sender of this info that you don’t care to receive such information in the future. I don’t know where you are located, but some areas have anti-doxing legislation that might apply here.

Comments are closed.