open thread – August 23-24, 2019

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 2,011 comments… read them below }

  1. Sick of semi-trucks*

    My work is located in an industrial area. Therefore, there are semi-trucks driving up and down the street that I work on all day. However, my issue is that there are semis parked up and down both sides on the street all the time. It’s a narrow street, so this forces all cars going in both directions to drive right in the middle of the road (essentially straddling the yellow dotted line), and hope no one is coming from the other direction (it’s hard to see around the semis to see if another car is coming towards you). Many times, I’ve had to reverse back down the street to allow for another car to get through. I’ve also witnessed other cars doing the same thing. Also to note, when semis are driving down the street, they can barely even squeeze by the semis parked up and down the streets. I’ve witnessed semis in motion coming so close to hitting parked semis many times.

    I’m constantly concerned that I’m going to get in an accident because of this when I’m going to and from work. In fact, I know of several accidents that have occurred in the four years I’ve worked here, presumably because of the semi parking on the streets causing so many blind spots for drivers. Are semitrucks legally allowed to park on both sides of a business street? We hold a yearly trade show at our office, and our customers always comment on how dangerous our street is.

    Is there anything I can do about this, or am I just out of luck?

    1. Toodie*

      Could you ask your local law enforcement to stop by and see what’s happening? Surely they’d also want to minimize the likelihood of accidents.

    2. blink14*

      Has anyone reported this to the town or city? Parking laws can really vary from place to place, but it sounds like there is no signage on the street about parking, which leads me to think yes technically it is legal.

      I would make some calls to report this and stress the safety concerns. It may be that because it is an industrial area, this hasn’t been a problem in the past, but with increasing use of industrial zones for office space, it would make sense for the city to take a look.

      1. epi*

        This is how I would go. Just because it apparently is legal, doesn’t mean that it should be. It sounds like the parking regulations in that area need to change. How to change it depends on both who has jurisdiction over the road, and who is most responsive to you in your local government. For example, even if it is a county road, if you have a great city council person, you could try to get them to take it up since it is affecting their constituents.

        This is also the kind of thing that could get changed more quickly in response to an accident or near accident. Each time you know of one in the area, call again.

      2. pancakes*

        Agree, and that’s a good point about increasing use of industrial zones for office space. Contact city hall or the local equivalent.

    3. RavenclawShorts*

      I would suggest contacting the local sheriff or any law enforcement. It is impeding the roadway and they can be ticketed.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You’d have to go to the local government department that is responsible for parking and talk to them.

    5. Fae*

      You would need to talk to whoever handles parking enforcement in the city where your office is located. Sometimes that’s the police sometimes it’s a separate division. The legality of parking on both sides of the stree (semi or not) is really going to depend on local laws and the particular street. I know where I live, some streets you can park on both sides, some it’s restricted to one side and some have no parking allowed or parking allowed only during certain times. Even if it’s legal now, you can petition for the parking regulations for that street be changed.

    6. DivineMissL*

      Are they legally allowed to park on both sides? Apparently so, since they are doing it. Contact the police department and tell them that you have concerns for the safety of the motorists who use the street. They should be able to send a traffic officer (trained to evaluate traffic patterns and risks) to review the situation; if they determine that it’s very dangerous and the local ordinance needs to change to, say, only permit parking on one side of the street, they can then make a recommendation to the elected officials who then have the power to amend the law.

      This may take a little while (evaluation, report, response, introducing/adopting a new ordinance, changing signs, enforcement, etc.) but you have to start somewhere. Also, if it’s a state or county road, they will have to consult with that entity as well. Make sure you emphasize the safety risks to motorists (and pedestrians or cyclists, too, if that applies). Good luck!

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would check with your parking enforcement but as someone who has had this set up for years now, most likely there’s nothing that is being done wrong, or they’d have cleared it out years ago.

      This happens in residential streets as well as the industrial streets here, it’s something you just have to deal with.

    8. AVP*

      sigh, please let us know if you think of anything! There’s an area like this that starts on the next block over from where I live and it’s really scary, I see near-crashes every day.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Every city has different ordinances and they’re really relaxed in business zones.

        In cities with RV camper issues, the problem is they are exploiting the allowance for large vehicles being allowed in business zones, sine business zones are expecting tractor trailers for deliveries and pick-ups.

        Otherwise in a residential zone, they would be towed away within 3 days.

        The cities know all about these streets, they have parking enforcement that drives around every day and sees it. Some of it is that nobody files a complaint. I had to file a complaint of an RV on a residential street after being over it after a week of their parking enforcement turning a blind eye [I saw them pass the thing daily, multiple times]. Only then did they ticket it and have it removed.

        So yeah, always complain but if they don’t do anything about it, it’s because despite of the dangerous condition, it’s out of their hands.

    9. cat socks*

      I hope you’re able to get this resolved. In my residential neighborhood there are signs indicating that cars can only park on one side of the street. This sounds like a nightmare if emergency vehicles need to get through.

      1. Joie De Vivre*

        This might be the point to make when reporting the issue – that emergency vehicles can’t get through.
        If the traffic department doesn’t take any action, if you can find the local fire department & let them know – I imagine they’d be able to get the traffic department to put new parking rules into place.

        Good luck & let us know how it turns out.

    10. Kiwiii*

      I’m wondering if it can’t/shouldn’t be a conversation that you have with management, the semi-drivers, and/or the city. The parking situation isn’t’ safe, so they need to figure something else out, if even just that they can/should only have parking on one side of this road or that they need to designate an alternate space/lot for them.

    11. Tractor Trailer Office*

      FYI – the trucks are parking there because of a bunch of different reasons.
      – there is a national shortage of parking spaces and truck stops in the USA, obviously a shortage in your industrial park
      – drivers are mandated to use computer time tracking and when they run out of hours they have 20 minutes to find parking for their 10 hours of down time
      – deliveries and receiving facilities do not allow the trucks to stay on their property and send them on their way
      It stinks all around for all drivers automobile and tractor as well. If they were parking on our street it would be an issue too. OP you have my sympathies. Just wanted to give you the other side.
      Our own landlord has come into our office to complain about the trailers parked in our lot…they take up too much room…Yup, we are a trucking company. The trucks take up room in the parking lot. Good luck!

    12. Amethystmoon*

      I work for a company that has a large warehouse down the road. In the morning, it’s very busy because of the semis, so I go the back way in. It’s fine going that way in the afternoon, but the morning hours are drop-off time for the trucks. Is there another way into your building that is not advertised as much, but would take you out of the semi truck area?

    13. Ranon*

      I’d try the fire marshal as well. They tend to have opinions about being able to get their fire trucks around safely.

  2. dovahkiin*

    ooooh I’ve been waiting for this all week.

    This week a peer level colleague from another team sent me an unsolicited dick pic w/an unsolicited caption “You look tasty today”.

    I did not pass GO, replied that it was completely inappropriate and disgusting, and went straight to HR.

    HR’s response was that it IS NOT sexual harassment because it is not “tit for tat harassment.” WHAT?!. They said if it happens again, I can escalate it. I think it shouldn’t have happened even once. Is this some bullsh*t or what? What can I do?

    I work for a Fortune 500 company, so HR is theoretically, supposed to know what they’re doing.

    The dude is scared of me now – after I basically reamed him for sending that to me – and won’t make eye contact. (GOOD) But I shouldn’t have had to deal with that at all from a colleague!

    1. curious question*

      How is your relationship with your boss/ higher ups? Can you go to them since they aren’t doing anything? Bring HR’s response and let them know about inappropriate colleague.

      1. Pontoon Pirate*

        Indeed. Escalate this past whichever schmuck you first spoke with – do not let this go. Record your interactions regarding this insanity – send follow-up emails, create a record.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, this sounds like the opening salvo of coworker stole my spicy lunch, where HR was like “How dare you poison my boopsie?!!!” and then when someone higher became aware it was like ALL THE NO’S.

        2. Owl*

          YES! Record every. Little. Thing. Make sure you have some record of the HR meeting!!

          If you dont yet, you could send an emial saying “Hi Bob, wanted to confirm I understood what happened at our meeting today. Richard’s actions were not harassment, because they were not tit for tat. Please reply if im misunderstanding.”

          HR seems so stupid in this case that they’d think this was too vague to get them on later. I hope this ends up in your fabulous wealth from the law suit they are begging you for.

          1. Lissajous*

            I would add “Your position is that Richard’s actions are not…” – that way you’re not implying that you agree, you’re just stating what you understand HR’s take to be.

      2. dovahkiin*

        My former awesome boss left the company a month ago, so I dotted line report to an overseas (male, kind of a jerk) VP until her replacement arrives.

        I have do have great relationships with other higher-ups in the office here tho. I’ll seek them out ASAP.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Please do. Talk to everyone you can find who might have the ear of a person in power until you get somebody who can tell your HR rep how very badly she is handling this. And tell us how it shakes out!

    2. Peaches*

      Wait, WHAT?! Was it just one person from HR that gave you this response? Surely not everyone in your HR department is okay with this.

      1. dovahkiin*

        It’s our HR site leader, so the top HR person for our office location. That’s why i was so surprised. She’s usually really awesome, smart, and has been in the industry for years.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Who is the actual head of HR for the entire company, not just your location? You need to escalate this to that person.

          1. pancakes*


            The idea that harassment has to be quid pro quo for the company to take action is arbitrary nonsense. Maybe the site leader is conflating which things she’s supposed to escalate vs. handle directly.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              It’s more than arbitrary, it’s contrary to the company’s legal obligations. A company which will only protect its employees from demands that they exchange sexual favors for work privileges (which is what I assume they mean by “tit for tat harassment”) will find itself on the losing end of lawsuits pretty rapidly, because there are multiple other varieties of harassment which the company has a responsibility under law not to permit.

        2. M*

          I would bet this HR site leader has a relationship with (friendly or romantic) with this dick pic person or he is friends with a higher up. This is outrageous and I have never heard of this from a competent HR person unless they are friendly with the harasser or the harasser is friends with a top level staffer. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen so I would escalate to your companies head of HR. This person should be fired.

          1. JoJo*

            I’m GUESSING the HR person meant this is not quid-pro-quo workplace sexual harassment, which is promoting/demoting subordinates based on whether they provide sexual favors or not. (That does not mean this is appropriate or that it is not actionable by the employer.)

            1. Observer*

              You are probably right – but M is still correct. No competent HR person is unaware that hostile workplace is a thing. Nor that a company can act on inappropriate behavior that is legal.

              So SOMETHING is up.

            2. Faith*

              As a manager who has just completed my assigned harassment training this week, I can confirm that this is hot quid-pro-quo workplace sexual harassment because it does not involve a manager and a subordinate. However, this is most definitely hostile environment sexual harassment.

            3. HappySnoopy*

              Yeah, there are two types of sexual harrassment. HR is talking about one, when this is the a textbook case of other. Did they miss that day of training?

              I just…I can’t even…

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          She’s 100% wrong—it doesn’t have to be “tit for tat” (i.e. quid pro quo) harassment to be unlawful. She’s confusing the legal standards in a really unhelpful, and frankly irrelevant, way.

          Regardless of her legal errors, at a minimum she needs to ensure this dude is reprimanded. There’s no circumstance under which an unsolicited, non-consensual dick pic with a harassing comment is appropriate in the workplace. This is risk management 101, and it’s what a sophisticated company like a large Fortune 500 should know how to do (even if your HR site manager is really screwing the pooch on this).

          So I think you have a couple of options:
          1. Go back to HR and tell her that regardless of her understanding of quid-pro-quo harassment, someone needs to say something to your coworker to make it clear his behavior is not ok.
          2. If you hit a wall again with #1, escalate to your manager and to HR’s manager.
          3. If you hit a wall with #2, escalate to Legal. If I were counsel for your employer, I would be hired to hear that this is how HR responded.

          1. designbot*

            It also doesn’t need to be unlawful to be a really, really bad idea. It doesn’t need to be unlawful for HR to act on it.

          2. Holly*

            I can’t agree with this comment more. This HR rep is confusing the legal standard (and a misinterpretation of it, I might add ) with NOT LETTING YOUR OFFICE GET TO MEETING THAT LEGAL STANDARD BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING.

        4. Owl*

          This is absolutely shocking. This is the smellies HR poop I’ve ever smelled. Im shocked this woman is ever a functioning human.

        5. lnelson in Tysons*

          I am insulted by your HR person as an HR person. Seriously. Just because it might not be a quid pro quo does not mean that pecker pics are welcome.
          At they very least unusually there is some language in the handbook about not disturbing pornography on company property.
          Arm yourself with the handbook if there is language pertaining to this. Grab your (anti) sexual harassment statement. Every company is supposed to have one. go back to her and say “I have been placed in an uncomfortable position what are you going to do about it?” If this escalates and lawyers get involved they just love hearing how HR did nothing. Some comments could be open to interpretation. A pecker pic. Not so much

      2. irene adler*

        Yeah. I’d request that they show me where this “tit for tat harassment” policy is actually written.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Even if it is written somewhere, it is bullpucky. It does not need to be a pattern when it is this egregious.

        2. Kimmybear*

          I’m wondering if the HR person understands the meaning of “tit for tat”. If it’s unsolicited picture and comment and you’ve done nothing remotely questionable, then HR doesn’t know what they are doing.

          1. lemon*

            I think by “tit for tat” (what a terrible term), they mean quid pro quo– e.g. a manager who threatens to fire a subordinate who won’t go on a date with them. So, they’re correct that what the OP has experienced isn’t quid pro quo.

            But the other type of sexual harassment, as defined by the EEOC, is hostile work environment, wherein speech or behavior is creating a demeaning or intimidating environment. I think being sent an unsolicited wiener picture falls into that category. So, they’re terrible HR. They don’t get to decide what kinds of sexual harassment “count” as “real” harassment. That’s enraging.

            Document. Escalate to a higher up. Consult a lawyer.

            1. Holly*

              The HR rep might also be confusing the standard for a hostile work environment requiring “Severe or pervasive” conduct. May people think it is “severe AND pervasive” means that one incident is not enough. First of all, that is incorrect, second, even if it was, HR’s job is to nip it in the bud BEFORE IT GETS TO BE A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT.

              1. Reba*

                Exactly, the idea is to prevent it from reaching that point! Not totally fail to act until something really really bad happens!

                Ugh ugh ugh dovahkiin, I’m so sorry this happened. You are handling it like a boss so far.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Yeah, and if she doesn’t think it qualifies, I’d just show her the picture.
                “IS THIS SEVERE ENOUGH, KAREN?”

              3. Artemesia*

                Exactly — he winks at you suggestively and says ‘looking tasty today sugarpie’ and it is once — probably needs to be repeated to be harassment. One dick pick is sufficient. I’d be taking this to the corporate head of HR, the legal department and your own boss and boss’s boss if that doesn’t get you anywhere. This guy should be fired. Nothing subtle here or ‘well it used to be okay’ or ‘I was just being friendly and she misunderstood’. No one on the planet doesn’t know this is outrageous harassment. No one.

            2. Samwise*

              Tit for tat doesn’t have anything to do with ta-tas etc. Both tit and tat are old words meaning a hit or a touch, that is, giving back as good as you got.

              (Thank you for allowing me this pedantic tangent!)

      3. Pescadero*

        This is likely something that falls under the “Single Incident Exception” – particularly since they mentioned quid pro quo.

        “Unless the conduct is quite severe, a single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally do not create an abusive environment.

        A “hostile environment” claim generally requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct.

        In contrast, in “quid pro quo” cases a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment benefits”

        1. designbot*

          She’s not suing anyone for hostile work environment, she’s making HR aware that someone in their office needs handling. The bar is lower.

          1. Pescadero*

            Absolutely the company CAN fire someone for this behavior, and should.

            …but it probably IS unactionable in terms of a sexual harassment suit/complaint.

        2. Observer*

          Not really relevant. What he did is harassment. It may not YET rise to the level of hostile workplace, but it is DEFINITELY the kind of behavior that is a clear problem if it happens on a regular basis. Which means that HR needs to act NOW. Because if it keeps happening, the company WILL be on the hook. Deservedly!

          1. gilthoniel*

            I disagree. it’s hostile. You need a pattern to show the line has been crossed when it’s minor stuff, as in almost but not quite normal.

            When it comes to unsolicited pornography, you really don’t need a pattern.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          I would thing that emailing someone a picture of your genitals definitely falls under the “single incident exception”. Any more severe and he’d need to physically assault the OP. The pattern of incidents is for things like off colour remarks where it needs to be persistent rather than a single case of foot in mouth, or a badly timed joke.

          Brushing off unsolicited dick picks as not sexual harassment could get your employer in trouble – that’s a very clear cut case of sexual harassment that they’ve deliberately ignored.

        4. Glory Hallelujah*

          I genuinely wonder if this is a single incident! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s behaved in similar ways with other female colleagues; it’s been my experience in life that men who send dick pics usually have a history of sexual jokes, inappropriate flirting, etc etc.

    3. Watermelon M*

      *insert gif of Titus Andromedon clutching chest while staring at computer* oh my LORD. Your HR person is the worst?! And your coworker is SO gross. I am so sorry.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        LOL! I wish this site allowed gif’s because that one is one of my favorites and perfectly captures my expression when reading most of the letters published here.

    4. CM*

      You’re right and HR is wrong. There’s probably a more diplomatic response, but my advice is to show the message to all of your other coworkers and tell them what a gross, disgusting loser this guy is at every opportunity. Make it as uncomfortable for him as you possibly can.

      1. Secret Identity*

        I would think that showing coworkers a sexually explicit photo would then land the OP in trouble for sexual harassment. I may be wrong, but I – personally – would not be happy to be shown something like that no matter what the context. But, maybe I’m wrong.

        1. Quill*

          No need to *show* them but do absolutely go to his boss, HR (over bad HR’s head) and legal departments. Save this on both a personal and a work device. And feel free to tell other people he works with because my guess is that this isn’t the first.

        2. Lehigh*

          The HR person has already told her that the dick pic is A-Okay at work, so I’d think that she’d be able to rely on that. Making sure to have a paper trail, of course.

          I would prefer to know if one of my coworkers was behaving in this way. No, it’s not exciting to look at a strange dick but it’s not threatening like it is to receive it from the dick-owner.

          1. Lehigh*

            Although honestly, as the OP, I would just talk about it and only show it if someone wanted “proof.” I wouldn’t like email it out or ambush anyone with unexpected dick-pic. Although HR has said it’s okay, it’s still not.

          2. Grapey*

            A coworker going “look at what fergus just sent me” and springing a dick pic on someone is what makes it unsolicited. Doesn’t matter who it’s from.

      2. pleaset*

        Don’t show coworkers dick pictures. Really, don’t. Show HR or legal is they need proof, but don’t show those in general.

    5. Dr. Anonymous*

      An actual dick pic? Escalate to your manager and/or his manager and/or the HR persons supervisor. The HR responsecopens up the company to liability.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes. I would escalate to both your manager and his manager. You can say, “This happened, and I have reported it to HR. I wanted you both to be aware of the situation.”

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I would also include HR’s response (which is WRONG/AWFUL) and indicate that you want/need some assistance with addressing this outrageous situation. Just so they don’t think that “Oh, HR knows about it” and don’t take any further action.

          1. Quinalla*

            Wow, everyone had said what I needed to say, but ditto on escalating this and include HR’s response. So sorry you had to deal with that!

      2. Damien*

        As long as OP doing that won’t make the guy try to turn it into a revenge porn defence on his behalf…

    6. Utoh!*

      Can you escalate to someone higher up the food chain in HR? I would definitely press the issue because this type of behavior from *anyone* in your organization should not be tolerated at all and there should be consequences even for a first time offense. Glad you shut the asshat down but the company should have been behind you 100%.

    7. Joie De Vivre*

      Can you go to a different HR person? In a normal world, I would think that the picture & message would be grounds for termination.

        1. Glory Hallelujah*

          You would think, but I once had a manager send a racist & graphically pornographic memes to one of my coworker/one of her subordinates and the only thing that happened to her was that she was moved to another location.

          Sometimes Grandboss’s favorites just get to skate on through!

    8. Bee's Knees*

      Dear heavens, your HR people are out of their gourd. Since you work for a large company, you could call the corporate compliance line. Mention that HR was no help to you. That generally makes the lawyers feel some kind of way.

    9. Wearing Many Hats*

      um WHAT! That is so inappropriate! It may not be ‘harassment’ but it is inappropriate language for sure! Glad you put him in line, sorry you had to do so.

      1. Hope*

        An unsolicited dick pic from a coworker is DEFINITELY harassment. He might as well have flashed her in the office.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s definitely harassment. Whether it’s legally actionable is a separate issue, but it falls solidly in the sexual harassment bucket.

    10. Miss Fisher*

      What kind of Co-Worker would do that and not expect it to go badly? I wonder if he has done the same to others or will.

      Very odd HR didn’t do something because that is so far beyond any form of sexual harassment you would typically find in a workplace which obviously shouldn’t be.

        1. Quill*

          I don’t think they think they’ll get sex out of it, but it’s a thing they can do that upsets a woman (usually a woman, I mean) and that can be enough of a reason for some people.

        2. Grapey*

          same reasons flashers exist – wanting to feel in control of the emotions of women (e.g. shock).

        3. Autumnheart*

          For the same reason they flash people in person. They get a thrill out of forcing someone to share a sexual experience with them.

        4. Lissa*

          It’s the same kind of person who would make dirty phone calls before caller ID and the internet I think.

        5. Glory Hallelujah*

          I think it’s either a variation on the “shoot your shot” philosophy (eg “it might work, so it’s worth trying) or it’s a modern day social media spin on an exhibitionist paraphilic disorder along the lines of flashing.

          I will say, as a youngish, moderately attractive woman who has a very active twitter account focused on a particular hockey team, the sheer number of dick pics I get over the course of a season leads me to believe that whatever the root cause of it is, it’s a growing issue. I really wish that there were consequences for this kind of harassment outside of a work environment where HR *really* should be jumping all over it.

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Someone who’s done it before (or something similar) to someone else, and got away with it.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Men who heard it worked for this one guy’s cousin’s roommate’s friend.

        (This is the sort of thing where at spouse’s work, the lovely HR person who works at a different site would be getting a room at the extended stay suite hotel to scrub everything this guy has touched while wearing a company hat with the legal version of bleach.)

    11. Foreign Octopus*

      Go to your manager, go to his manager, go to anyone with more authority that your inept HR department.

      It’s good that he’s scared of you now, but this is so far removed from appropriate that he needs to feel professional repercussions so that he never, ever does it again. Also, find a way to file a complaint with the HR person you spoke to. There’s no excuse for not knowing that this is harassment in this day and age.

      I’m going to include a link below that I hope will provide you, and everyone, with a laugh because it’s absolutely poetry on unsolicited dick pics.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I saw that in a post of tumblr posts and in the comments, people were saying how the OP was humble-bragging about her accomplishments.

          Found the dick pic senders.

    12. Parenthetically*

      WHOA WTF

      Go to your boss, grandboss, head of HR, etc. Escalate escalate escalate. I’d even say lawyer up. Dick pics are practically the definition of sexual harassment and HR brushing it off is SPECTACULARLY stupid.

      1. FirstTimer*

        I would (personally, not saying this is a good idea or that I would actually do it) consider letting the office gossip find out about the picture somehow, then everyone in the office will find out what a creep this guy is and his professional reputation will be seriously dented.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Only if the office gossip can include the bit about how dovahkiin tried to get HR to address it, but they wouldn’t.

          But again, this is probably terrible advice and I don’t recommend actually following it. :)

        2. pancakes*

          That would be a good way for any other creeps in the office to learn that their employer is unusually and wretchedly permissive about sexual harassment, and for the employer to convey to everyone that there won’t be any consequences besides entirely optional social opprobrium at the individual level. I think it makes much more sense to escalate this to more senior HR.

    13. Not really a waitress*

      Has any woman in the history of time looked at an unsolicitated dick pick and squealed “ OMG I HAVE TO HAVE IT. ITS SO CUTE”. It’s not like it’s a pair of shoes.

      According to the EEOC sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances. Your HR person needs to be schooled.

        1. Goldfinch*

          Just reply back with whichever unsolicited dick pic you last received prior to that one. It’s a daisy chain! Dick pics all the way down!

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          “What am I looking at here, it’s too small to see properly.”
          (I was flashed in the street when I was 14. I was more bewildered than shocked or scared – it was February, there was nothing of mention to look at)

          1. facepalm*

            I saw an amazing response once–a woman wrote back “OMG did you just send me a photo of a child’s p3nis??? I’m going to contact law enforcement and report you for child p0rnography!!”

        3. Glory Hallelujah*

          My standard reply is “Your mother would be deeply ashamed of your behavior right now” followed by a block

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        You know what porn aimed at women doesn’t feature? Dick pics.

        Porn aimed at men of all orientations, on the other hand…

        1. Grapey*

          The ‘popular with women’ category on pornhub thankfully DOES have plenty of that. It’s also solicited, and nothing to do with OP’s problem.

      2. Zennish*

        I’m appalled and sad that this is apparently a common enough thing that people have standard responses for it. I feel the need to apologize for the behavior (and possibly existence) of a large portion of my gender.

    14. No Tribble At All*

      This is bullsh*t of the smelliest caliber. That’s so obviously sexual harassment. Someone needs to Shout at your HR. And your colleague.

    15. Natalie*

      This might be a good time to use the phrase “hostile work environment” (hurray, a situation where that actually applies!) because that’s the type of sexual harassment this is. And it’s just as illegal as “quid pro quo” harassment, which is what I assume your HR department was referring to.

        1. gilthoniel*

          Which includes: “The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Hell, I’d be tempted to let HR know that they should expect to hear from the FBI Cyber Crime unit about the investigation into transmitting unwanted pornographic material over the Internet (especially if these were work phones or email, but either way…), and possibly from the local police’s sex crimes unit.

      2. Observer*

        Well, quid pro quo harassment is not the same as tit for tat, so it’s clear that HR person has no clue what she’s talking about. Either that, or she’s trying to find a way to protect the guy.

        OP, is the guy who sent you the message related to someone?

        1. Natalie*

          Quid pro quo (“something for something” in Latin)[2] is a Latin phrase used in English to mean an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other; “a favour for a favour”. Phrases with similar meanings include: “give and take”, “tit for tat”, and “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” and “one hand washes the other”.

          1. Observer*

            Wikipedia is not a really useful guide for making HR decisions. Sure, in a general sense the terms are similar, but in this kind of context they are significantly different.

            Even in a more general usage “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is far closer to the general sense of the phrase than “tit for tat” which has a much more retaliatory sense.

            1. pleaset*

              Yup. In the US, in general (not talking about HR), tit for tat is usually (not always) about a negative thing done in response to another negative thing, while quid pro quo is usually (not always) about positives. So they’re a little different, though the meaning can overlap.

              1. Triplestep*

                Exactly. “Tit for Tat” in this case would be if they were both sending each other unsolicited racy photos, which makes even less sense than HR’s lack of action here.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m with Natalie on this. It sounds like HR is confusing “tit for tat” with “quid pro quo.” Regardless, HR has the law on this issue completely wrong, and their advice is not just bad management, it opens the company up to liability.

          1. Observer*

            I’m sure that you are right and they are confusing the two. Which is total stupidity.

            And, of course, you are also totally correct that it’s illegal anyway.

    16. almost empty nester*

      Dear Lord I sincerely hope the HR person was just having a really really bad day, because she gave you a really really bad response. Engage her manager and your manager, and keep pressing the issue. Also like the suggestion of making sure everyone in his and your orbit knows what he did. Just shaking my head!!!

    17. Fortitude Jones*

      What the hell?! I’m horrified at the audacity of your coworker (seriously – who sends dick pics to coworkers a) on company time, b) on company equipment, and c) at all?!) and especially horrified that your company said this isn’t harassment – this is a straight up firing offense. Did you speak to the head of HR, or was it one of the lower level reps? I’ve noticed that at a lot of companies, the latter are usually generalists and don’t have much training in these matters. If it was the head of HR who said this, you need to go to your company’s legal department with this to tell them that HR is hand-waving a situation with another employee that could open them up to a lawsuit. Your coworker should be dealt with then. If that still doesn’t lead to results, start looking for a new job because this place is dysfunctional as hell to let something like this happen with no repercussions.

      1. pleaset*

        Not excusing him, but their is a tiny chance that he meant to send this to someone else he’s in a relationship with. Still bad, but not horrendous.

        1. Mayor of Llamatown*

          If that’s the case then he should absolutely have apologized with all mortification the minute he realized what happened. And HR should be the one to work it out.

          I know if I sent pictures like that to a coworker by accident I wouldn’t just avoid eye contact. An abject apology is needed, at minimum.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I have a friend whose first name is the same as my husband’s. One day I was feeling saucy and sent a couple of spicy texts to my husband while on the way to the gym.

            To my husband? Oops. Not my husband.

            Friend handled it in good grace and husband thought it was hilarious, but now friend’s name in my phone is Mr. SameFirstName DifferentLastName and my husband is SameFirstName *red heart emoji* MyLastName so that never, ever happens again.

            See also: screenshotting some crazy comment my boss made and then immediately sending him the screenshot when I meant to send it to my group chat with the caption, “Get a load of THIS.” /facepalm

      1. Jadelyn*

        “Quid pro quo”/tit for tat harassment is one of the two types of sexual harassment, the other being hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is expecting or demanding sexual favors in return for something given at work, like a promotion or a raise, or to prevent something negative like a demotion or being fired.

        1. Observer*

          Except that tit for tat is NOT the same as quid pro quo.

          Any HR person who doesn’t know the difference should not be in that position.

            1. Observer*

              Tit for tat would be retaliation. Quid pro Quo is “you do this and I’ll do that in return.” Which in the context of harassment would be “you sleep with me / accept my advances and I’ll not fire you / I’ll promote you.”

              1. lemon*

                Hmm. Thanks for the explanation. I might be splitting hairs, but isn’t retaliation implied in quid pro quo harassment? Like, “sleep with me and I won’t fire you” implies that if you don’t sleep with that person, they *will* fire you.. thus, retaliation.

            2. fposte*

              “Tit for tat,” colloquially, means essentially “You gave as good as you got”–if you smacked your sister and she smacks you right back, that’s tit for tat. It doesn’t have any particular legal connection to harassment, but I’ve heard people confuse it for quid pro quo in other circumstances. Quid pro quo could be translated as “this for that,” which makes confusion with “tit for tat” likelier, but quid pro quo is about conscious contingency–“I do this so you do that,” or, in sexual harassment terms, “You do this for me so I do something for you.” Tit for tat is just about the equal exchange, originally of blows/injuries.

              1. lemon*

                Thanks. I’m familiar with “tit for tat” in terms of game theory (so, the equal exchange you mention). But just wasn’t aware if it had a legal connection to harassment. I assumed that this particular HR person was using it to mean quid pro quo, but other commenters seem to think that it’s different than quid pro quo, so wanted some clarity on this third meaning of the term folks are working with here.

                1. fposte*

                  And to me the game theory usage (which dominates the wikipedia entry) seems to depend on a different meaning as well–it’s a mutual benefit thing, not a mutual injury thing.

                  I don’t think “tit for tat” does have a legal connection to harassment; it’s just that people misunderstand the “this for that” of quid pro quo as just a variant spelling/pronunciation. So some commenters were drawing on that overlap, while some were thinking about what it could possibly mean.

                2. Observer*

                  The thing here is that the HR person probably was using it instead of Quid pro quo, but it’s not correct. At least outside of game theory, which is not exactly the thing people think about in normal conversation :)

            3. Emi.*

              “Tit for tat” usually means negative retaliation, I think. You tell the boss that I was late, and next time you’re late I narc on you too so you don’t do it again.

          1. Jadelyn*

            …that is literally how SHRM defines it, I’m practically quoting their definitions, so take it up with them.

            “Quid pro quo means “this for that.” In this context, it involves expressed or implied demands for sexual favors in exchange for some benefit (e.g., a promotion, pay increase) or to avoid some detriment (e.g., termination, demotion) in the workplace. Quid pro quo harassment is perpetrated by someone who is in a position of power or authority over another (e.g., manager or supervisor over a subordinate). A clear example of quid pro quo harassment would be a supervisor threatening to fire an employee if he or she does not have sex with the supervisor.”

            1. Observer*

              Except that none of this is tit for tat – this for that is NOT the same thing at all.

              fposte made the point a lot better that I’ve been doing

            2. fposte*

              Unfortunately, despite the very similar sound, “tit for tat” doesn’t mean the same thing as “this for that.” They’re not etymologically related.

      2. Natalie*

        Presumably “quid pro quo”, as in “sleep with me or I’ll fire you”. It’s one of the two legal conceptions of sexual harassment in the US.

    18. Jadelyn*

      My jaw literally dropped. As an HR professional, I would very much like to come slap the idiot who told you it’s not harassment because it’s not “tit for tat”. That’s ONE KIND of harassment, the other being HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT, and if sending a dick pic to a coworker with that kind of gross caption doesn’t count as creating a hostile work environment I don’t know what would.

      My guess is they’re thinking about hostile environment typically being defined as a pattern of incidents, but a single *severe* incident would also meet the definition. And any HR in their right mind would want to nip this shit in the bud BEFORE it turns into a full-blown pattern – especially considering they could theoretically be held liable for failing to intervene if it escalates.

      Who in HR did you talk to? I would suggest taking this up the chain to both your own manager and whoever is above the HR person you spoke to. Ask them, “So, are we saying that in order to work here, women have to be comfortable receiving unwanted and unsolicited pictures of their coworkers’ genitalia, as long as it only happens once?”

    19. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s true, one act of inappropriate behavior isn’t usually harassment. So if someone tells one inappropriate joke, yeah that’s the tit for tat sort of thing they should be meaning.

      However this is so egregious, since it’s unlawful on another level to subject someone to your private parts like that, it’s something that should have your HR scurrying to at very least re-train this awful man.

      Go back to HR and talk to someone else. I would also run it up the “maybe in this case we should speak to the legal department since this seems like it’s above and beyond.” He needs to be scared for his job to be honest.

      This needs to be recorded so the NEXT TIME he does this to another colleague, she’s protected because it’s now a pattern that HR so desperately desires.

      1. Jadelyn*

        What kills me about this is that OP’s HR is acting like HR is bound to ONLY act on things that are legally prohibited. That just because it doesn’t rise to the level of legally-actionable sexual harassment (and tbh I’d argue that a single incident, when it’s that egregious, would still qualify, since the EEOC definition for hostile work environment conduct is “frequent OR severe” – it doesn’t have to be both), their hands are tied. We’ve got the ability to speak up before it gets to that point (at most places, anyway, and the ones where HR can’t do that are a whole other kettle of horrifyingly dysfunctional fish). To act like that’s not the case is, to me, professional negligence on the part of that HR person (not to mention just laziness).

        1. lnelson in Tysons*

          I really would like to ask the OP’s HR person “how dick pics does he have to send me before it’s considered harassment or a hostile work environment?”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Because the proper term is Quid Pro Quo and tit for tat is a mangled weird way to put it, so naturally yeah, it’s confusing.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the HR person is confused about what tit for tat means. But do we really need to derail on language interpretation when we all understand that what happened is not ok and that the HR person is wrong?

          1. Jadelyn*

            Well, you’d like to think we wouldn’t need to, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be nit-picked for responding to what the HR person in question clearly *meant* rather than correcting the wording used, but here we are.

            1. Observer*

              Oh, I’m sure you are correct about what the HR person thought. But she’s totally wrong – which is just another aspect of her stupid and incompetent response.

              1. pancakes*

                Observer, arguable misuse of a widely misunderstood phrase doesn’t rise to the level of “stupid and incompetent.” People who are neither stupid or incompetent do not become so when they make an error of this nature, and courts ruling on sexual harassment claims wouldn’t attach nearly this much significance to bungled phrasing.

                Your insistence on this point inspired me to do a bit of poking around, and as I suspected, Black’s Law has an entry for quid pro quo but nothing for tit-for-tat because the latter is not a legal term of art. I also had a quick look at Google Scholar, and found appellate courts using the two interchangeably. If you want an example, have a look at footnote 2 in Garcia v. Schwab, 967 S.W.2d 883 (1998) (“Quid pro quo harassment involves those situations in which a tit-for-tat condition is imposed; that is, sexual favor is made a condition of employment, advancement, or special favor associated with employment”).

                1. Observer*

                  The HR person is stupid and incompetent for claiming that the company can’t take action. The fact that she misused a term (and it’s not as widely misunderstood as you claim) is just an aspect of the problem, but it really is the least problematic aspect.

                  The fact that she seems to think that only quid pro quo is a problem and hostile workplace is the biggest problem – and frankly a firing offense for a supposed HR professional in my opinion. The fact that she seems to think that only legally actionable harassment is a problem is almost as bad. And those are the things that I’d for sure be focusing on.

                2. pancakes*

                  Even within these comments, among what is likely a group of people with a disproportionately high number of advanced degrees vs. average, there’s a lot of confusion and disagreement! Neither phrase is in common usage outside of HR training, or law offices that specialize in sexual harassment. I’ve seen several anti-sexual harassment training videos over the years in various workplaces—multinational law offices, and agencies that arrange contract attorney services for them—and the focus is on behavior, not terminology.

                  Yes, this HR person seems incompetent and at best, eyebrow-raisingly misinformed. I said more or less that in another comment above, and could’ve clarified I wasn’t addressing that here, just responding to your focus on the difference between those phrases, and your insistence that it’s widely understood. For me that was perfectly clear in context, but I can see how it might not be for others.

          2. Baru Cormorant*

            Honestly don’t know why people are bothering with this, as they’re two sides of the same coin. If you turn down a quid pro quo offer it will turn into tit for tat… it’s basically “do this or else.”

            I don’t see why we need to draw a bright line between whether the harassment is intended to be the carrot or the stick, when the issue is using sexual advances to motivate someone’s behavior.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think Becky is saying otherwise. They’re saying that usually one act of harassment is insufficient to be legally actionable unless it’s egregious. That’s an accurate description of the law.

      2. justcourt*

        “So if someone tells one inappropriate joke, yeah that’s the tit for tat sort of thing they should be meaning.”

        That’s not what tit-for-tat/quid pro quo means. Tit-for-tat in a sexual harassment context occurs when someone offers a work benefit in exchange for sexual favors or threatens work retaliation if sexual favors are not performed.

        What you’re thinking of is hostile work environment. Harassment does not need to be ongoing to create a hostile work environment, though in many isolated instances don’t create a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is created when the offensive conduct creates an environment that is intimidating or hostile to reasonable people.

    20. Quill*

      You would think that this would be the EASIEST case of sexual harassment to prove given that there’s an electronic paper trail…

    21. DaniCalifornia*

      WOW! Echoing the other’s sentiments of going above and beyond HR, including bosses, shared managers, etc. This is not right and should not be ignored. HR is wrong wrong wrong!

      1. kittymommy*

        I’m assuming that the HR person is meaning that the harassment needs to be of the “if you have sex with me I’ll get you something at work that you want (promotion/raise/whatever)” or “have sex with me or I’ll screw your career up here”.

        1. Clisby*

          This is confusing, though, because “tit for tat” and “quid pro quo” mean 2 very different things.

          Tit for tat means: You harassed me, so I harassed you back.

          Quid pro quo means: If you do X for me, I’ll do Y for you. (Specifically, in employment, something like “if you have sex with me, I’ll give you a raise.”

          1. Natalie*

            I really don’t think that’s a common usage for “tit for tat” harassment. Obviously google results aren’t definitive but they do tend to give a good sense of how people use phrases, and your definition doesn’t seem to show up at all.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, that IS the way most people use those phrases. This is a perfect example of why Google needs to be used with great care.

            2. fposte*

              But I can’t even find “tit for tat” harassment as a thing people say at all. So I think that Clisby’s interpretation is where my brain would first have gone with that phrase–that it’s trying to talk about times when the dick pic was in response to a sext/nude/something. However, I think in reality it’s just somebody who’s confused tit for tat with quid pro quo and has a very poor grasp on harassment generally.

            3. Akcipitrokulo*

              tit for tat is retaliation.

              Sometimes used to excuse bullying in school… oh it was tit for tat – he hit him, he punched back…

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            quid pro quo would be “I’ll give you (raise, bonus, juicy project) if you do this sexual act for me”.

            Tit for Tat would be “you turned me down! Fergus is going to hawaii instead of you and your next review will be bad…”

            But tbh I first thought it was his defense was “well, she started it”

            1. TechWorker*

              Is that an HR definition? Because in general usage (as said above) ‘tit for tat’ implies equal fault or at least equal impact of an action. Turning someone down is not the same impact as them giving you a bad review.

          3. Gaia*

            I think HR and people here are using a more colloquial definition intended to align with quid pro quo. Either way, this is ABSOLUTELY hostile environment harassment.

            1. Observer*


              The issue with the language is not THE problem – THE problem is that this is totally and completely wrong no matter what type of harassment it is, and HR person is acting in an utterly incompetent manner by not recognizing it. Using the wrong term is merely the icing on the cake of her gross incompetence.

    22. FirstTimer*

      Does this HR person possibly have a personal connection that you aren’t aware of to the dick pic sender? That is a really bizarre reaction to this kind of thing these days, particularly coming from another woman. But I’m glad he’s scared of you now, he should be.

    23. WhoKnows*

      This HR person is clearly confused between sexual harassment and retaliation – also, they should not be an HR person.

      This is absurd – go straight to your boss, or their boss, or whoever is going to make this right. This guy needs to be gone, immediately.

    24. deesse877*

      There are TWO kinds of actionable sexual harassment–quid pro quo, or an implied or explicit sexual bargain, which might be what this person means by “tit for tat,” and “hostile environment,” which means something so outrageous (either one incident, or a pattern) that it makes it impossible to work normally. Most people think an unwanted graphic image falls under the latter category. My guess is this person is either so ignorant that they don’t know about hostile environment (which is unlikely), or so desensitized that they think dick pics are normal, not outrageous….a viewpoint which is sadly common. I agree that you should escalate, and soon; if you let it lie someone is going to start saying you “wanted” or “invited” or “deserved” this @$=#, soon.

    25. Observer*

      Please get that response in writing – someone needs training BADLY! What kind of idiot says that someone is not harassment because it’s not tit for tat? Even an organization that doesn’t take harassment seriously would understand that this is stupidity.

      And, yes, I agree with everyone who said to escalate this.

    26. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Look up your corporate policy. My Fortune 100 company has it published on the website and has online-training programs to recognize sexual harassment. This is forbidden behavior. I suspect by his reaction he knows better than HR what he did.

      1. Snow globe*

        My Fortune 500 company also has an anti-harassment policy, which includes clear instructions on how to report harassment. There may well be an HR specialist that focuses exclusively on harassment type of issues. I’d look through the employee handbook and see if you can’t find something there.

        I believe Evil HR Lady recommends sending an email to HR with the words “Formal report of sexual harassment” in the subject line.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Bingo. A well-written harassment policy includes a section on using email/computer/electronics to send graphic material. This should not be a big dig to find this one, OP. Please look. You will probably find it and you can read it to her or email the section to her. You are looking for something that says, “Thou shalt not send graphic material in digital form to anyone, ever.”
        She is oh-so-wrong and could cause the company to have lawsuits if she does not get up to speed, quickly. Like YESTERDAY.

        I hope you come back here and let us know how you are doing.

      3. LJay*


        We’re not a large company, but my current company and every other company I have ever worked for have had sexual harassment policies in our handbook.

        Also, if you have a corporate employee hotline (which every publicly traded company I work for has had) I would call or email that as well and include both the initial issue and the fact that HR said that it wasn’t sexual harassment. The second part, from my understanding, was the type of thing that the hotline existed for at some of my previous jobs.

    27. ZuZu*

      I am so angry on your behalf. Go to the highest high up HR person in your company. Your coworker needs to be fired and your HR person needs some severe yelling and coaching session, at a minimum.
      Please update us.

    28. kittymommy*

      I’m also wondering of you might want to speak with your legal department (assuming you have one), even if it would need to be broached in a way where you want clarification on what HR said (ex. “I received this unsolicited picture and text and HR said it was not harassment – would you be able to confirm that for me as I was under the impression it was??”)

    29. CML*

      I work in HR. I’m so sorry this is the response you received. This is the kind of crap that gives HR a bad name. I hope you have a management chain that can help you with this. Law enforcement is maybe not a path to pursue but if this keeps up, it may be something to consider.

    30. Carrotstick21*

      Hi – senior HR person here. It sounds like your HR person gave a mealy-mouthed response on the minutiae of a harassment definition and concluded, wrongly, that therefore no action could be taken. That’s just not the case. It’s unsolicited sexual content in a professional environment and shows a shocking lack of judgment from an employee. It can and must be addressed by HR, and if HR will not, go to whoever HR works for.

    31. Lilysparrow*

      Look, nobody goes from total solid decent guy to dick pics at work in one move.

      He’s done this before, he’s doing it to other people now, and he’s going to do it to more people in the future. He may not have tried it with a peer before, so the other targets of his grossness may well be too nervous to say anything. Or they went to your useless excuse of an HR person and got shot down.

      Escalate, escalate, escalate. Once the dam breaks, there will be more.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Ever so true. There are also EEO offices independent of your company. You can file a complaint with your city state or fed office. Goodbye Dick Pick Boy. And Goodbye Utterly Useless HR Person, Please Find Another Field to Play In.

    32. Jemima Bond*

      Just popping in to yell “JESUS H CHRIST ON A BENDY BUS, WHAT THE ACTUAL F?!?” and run around flailing my arms in horror.
      No, no and thrice no.

        1. fposte*

          Those articulated double-length buses with the accordion folds in the middle. Unless Jesus is on something extra special.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s so very rural here. Every so often I get reminded of that, like right now.
            Thanks, fposte.

          2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Maybe it’s the bus ride round the bend? :)

            In the city I used to live in, a neighbor and I at different times had to ride the Bus Line Through Hell. Thank God, Lucifer, and the transit system our stop wasn’t in the hell zone.

      1. FirstTimer*

        “JESUS H CHRIST ON A BENDY BUS, WHAT THE ACTUAL F?!?” is brilliant and I’m going to start using it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve been putting Christ on various vehicles lately, but this one I forgot about hahaha.

    33. Veryanon*

      Wait, what the actual f? I work in HR, and there’s no way on this green earth that I’d let that slide. Whoever you spoke with in HR is…less than competent. Sheesh.

    34. Akcipitrokulo*



      Escalate it now. To higher up HR. To legal. To big bosses.

      If you are in a union, call them now.

      Also worth considering reporting to police.

    35. AnonymEsq.*

      If your company has one, report it the incident and HR’s response to the Whistleblower hotline. HR’s response is almost just as bad as the initial incident.

    36. Boop*

      Is it possible they are thinking this does not meet the definition of a “hostile work environment”? A single incident often doesn’t meet that threshold since it has to be pervasive and offensive. However, it was still outrageously inappropriate and seems to fall under the EEOC definition of sexual harassment (, and it certainly appears to be an unwelcome sexual advance.

      I’d try to find someone else in HR (possibly higher up) or a manager you can trust to report this to. Regardless of whether it constitutes a hostile work environment, I think it would be astonishing for any employer to think this type of behavior was acceptable in the work place.

      If pointing out the inappropriateness and possible illegality of the action doesn’t work, try asking why they wouldn’t consider the use of (probably) company resources and company time for this type of activity to be at least worthy of discipline.

    37. Aquawoman*

      I think she is confused because the 2 most common types are the quid pro quo, which this is not, and hostile work environment which CAN be caused by pervasive behavior but (1) can also be caused by one incident if it’s severe enough (such as sending a DICK PIC to a co-worker, FFS) and even if not, it becomes pervasive because management knew about it and didn’t do anything. They are actually setting themselves up for a claim. I think legal would want to know about this, though I’d talk to the other people you mentioned first.

    38. carrie heffernan*

      please send us an update and hopefully that update is that Skeezy McDickPic has been fired.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I wouldn’t mind seeing the HR person fired as well. This is basic level “not ok ever” stuff and I’d have a hard time trusting someone in HR that mishandled it this badly. That guy should have been fired the day OP reported it.

          1. carrie heffernan*

            yes I should have added that in – the HR person needs to absolutely go an never work in HR again

    39. ...*

      Continue to professionally escalate as high as you have to go. Personally, this is a HILL I WOULD DIE ON, and after escalating multiple times nothing was done, I would go straight to social media and blast them.

    40. Owl*

      Not… tit for tat????? So what HR is saying is, you need to send him back a pic of your privates, and THEN its harassment??

      I have never felt more angry-confused.

      1. Owl*

        unless anyone else was going to look this up:

        tit for tat noun phrase
        \ ˌtit-fər-ˈtat \
        Definition of tit for tat
        : an equivalent given in return (as for an injury) : retaliation in kind

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          So basicly an eye for an eye? You poke out my eye, and I retaliate by poking your eye out?

    41. Reluctant HR Perspective*

      Ugh, first of all, that sounds horrible. I’m sorry.

      Depending on the state you’re in, this is not TECHNICALLY sexual harassment. Sexual harassment refers to a series of pervasive behaviors that continue after the target indicates that they are not interested. Alternatively, it is quid pro quo (“this for that”), wherein job benefits are exchanged for sexual acts. A one-time incident does not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment in most states unless the incident is egregious. While I would argue that seeing someone’s dick in your inbox is pretty egregious, unfortunately, most courts will not see it that way. This is typically used in cases of assault or rape.


      This is still wildly inappropriate behavior in the workplace and should absolutely be addressed by Human Resources. I would comb your handbook or policy library for written company policies referring to respect, professionalism in the workplace, and other statements on ethics. Take this back to your HR team and state your case for how his behavior violates company policy.

      Also, as others have already suggested, save any correspondences with him and create a timeline. If any similar behavior occurs OR if you suffer retaliation from HR or your superiors for reporting the incident, this could escalate to the level of illegal sexual harassment.

      Hope this helps. Best of luck.

      1. Observer*

        Your first paragraph is not necessarily correct. Harassment does not have to be multiple acts. And it does not always require being warned in advance. Now, not all harassment rises to the level of legally raising a winning lawsuit is a different question. But, just as no one needs to be told that it’s not ok to grope someone for groping to be considered harassment, no one needs to be told not to send these pictures for them to be considered harassment.

        Which means that HR really DOES have a legal obligation to deal with this. Because even if this one situation does not rise to the level of legal liability, if this guy develops a pattern of this behavior, they WILL be liable. And given that they have been warned about it, they will DEFINITELY not have the defense that they did not know about it or that people did not report it – They know that he’s done it once but they have demonstrated that they won’t do anything about it.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          Yeah I’m confused… even if this is not lawsuit-winnable, surely HR would be motivated to shut down anything this close. It’s a textbook HR101 sexual harassment situation.

      2. Observer*

        Also, if anyone retaliates because she complained, it no longer matters of this is illegal harassment – it becomes retaliation which is an issue on its own regardless of the legal merits of the original complaint.

    42. Donna*

      I honestly would have said I thought things like this didn’t actually happen, except that a female colleague told me several years ago that while talking to the IT person for our building, she looked over his shoulder and saw that the window open on the desktop behind him was a picture of essential a porn shot that someone (a friend?) must have sent him (she has seen similar things in the past on his pc). THE IT GUY. And I didn’t work for a crappy place…it was an accredited business school at a high-ranking technology institute.

      1. Owl*

        THis makes some twisted sense to me. Everyone knows IT can catch you on this stuff so it’s a no no. But if YOURE IT…

    43. Anon Librarian*

      But this isn’t just sexual harassment. I believe it’s illegal – in most places – to send someone an unsolicited picture of your private parts outside of an understandable context for that (relationship or maybe if they were your doctor). I would look into what other laws apply, not just workplace laws. Reporting this to the police is an option. You could show them the email from HR too; that person is being complicit. You could also find a lawyer to advise you.

      If it were me, I would not communicate with the company about this anymore unless I had reason to believe that I’d get a better response from someone else. I would just go to the police or find a lawyer or something along those lines. I’d let them advise me about how to handle it at work.

      Whatever you do, PLEASE keep a safe distance from Sender and HR Person. Those people sound sketchy. Just disengage and pursue legal ways to hold them accountable.

      1. Koala dreams*

        It would be illegal where I live too, and I agree with the suggestion to find a lawyer.

    44. Wandering*

      I’m sorry anyone would do this to you (or anyone). Good for you for shutting him down.

      Since HR was no help this time, in addition to the other suggestions you’ve received here, you could contact your legal dept & ask their guidance. Sending porn on work systems should bring on consequences. Does Legal handle it? IT? I’m sure Legal will want to know about it – & know what your HR person said.

      And, you have good things to say about your HR person aside from this. You could go back to her with the same question – should you be reporting this to IT or to Legal, as you are positive that sending porn around at work is at least against company policy? Give her a second chance at it, & if she doesn’t take it at least she won’t be surprised when she hears from someone above her about this mistake.

    45. Report HR too*

      I just took a sexual harassment training and this definitely qualifies (at least in my state in the US). Your hr person is wrong or complicit.

    46. gsa*

      I did NOT all 226 replies. My first thought is attorney, based on HR’s response.

      Just don’t be all Lorena Bobbitt on him!!!

      1. Quandong*

        I think dovahkiin probably wants neverto see that person’s dick again, and they are unlikely to enact gruesome revenge in a physical sense.

    47. ArtK*

      Late contribution: I’m just now finishing the corporate (top 10 in the F500) harassment training. From that, this has all of the hallmarks of “hostile workplace.” Somebody at your corporate HR needs retraining, badly.

  3. curious question*

    I volunteer for a local county wide charity. We have our annual fundraiser coming up in the spring of next year (May 2020). It’s my first time serving on a charity committee. In your opinion, how far in advance can we start soliciting donations from companies?

    I feel like doing it now (fall 2019), things will get lost in the shuffle. If we do it six months ahead of time we’re looking at the Thanksgiving/ Christmas season. I worry if we do it at the end of the year we will not be considered for 2020 if company donation quoatas have been met. On other hands I want companies to have enough time to review our file.

    1. YourFriendlyNeighborhoodSocialMediaGuru*

      Honestly start looking as far in advance as possible. Especially if you publicize the information about who donates on social media or on your website. The more donors you have, the easier it is to get others to donate.

        1. Juniper*

          No. I ran a fundraiser for a charity in my sport, and we started looking for donations about six months out. Even with that kind of time, many of the larger companies we asked turned us down, citing the need for more time. You’ll need to have your information and flyer drafts set up already to give to them.

        2. Emi*

          I work in the printing industry, so I see a lot of other companies’ materials. Fundraising appeals start *really* early, especially for some of the big names. But, I think the size of the contributors matters more than the size of the charity. Bigger companies plan further in advance, in a way that mom-n-pop places just can’t.

        3. Clisby*

          Good heavens, no. I volunteer in a small way for my son’s public school’s annual fundraising auction. The people running it already have the venue and the caterer nailed down, and are gathering the committee of fundraisers (this also will be a spring 2020 auction.) This is not a huge school, by the way – about 600 students.

          1. Mimi Me*

            Agreed. My husband was the chair for our kids annual school fundraiser and started gathering donations for the following year the literal day after the event took place. Big donors (theme parks, sports teams, etc) usually need a lot of time for the request. The theme parks in Florida had applications and deadlines. Smaller donors (individuals, local businesses, etc) can usually be requested about 6 months ahead of time. But pay attention to the area you’re soliciting: our town has 4 schools that do similar fundraisers and two of them coincide with two big events that the town runs so if you’re not first with your request, you get nothing.

        4. Venus*

          Some companies sort out all their fundraising in advance, so when you talk with them (or email) then you might find a way of asking if there is a specific time of year that you might submit a more detailed request. I don’t do big fundraising, so don’t quote me on language, but I have had big companies respond with “We have already donated for the year” and I have essentially asked “When would be a good time to get in touch for next year?”

        5. Doug Judy*

          It’s not too early. I’m on the charitable giving committee at my job and we’ll be setting our 2020 budget here very soon. If there was a request we really were interested in we’d be able to fit it in before the budget was set. We got some later on in the year that while we would have liked to, our budget for the year was mostly spoken for by that point.

      1. Rina Beana*

        Starting now is totally fine. That gives you plenty of time to follow up so you can make sure things don’t get lost in the shuffle. Some companies plan their giving quite far in advance.

    2. MissBliss*

      It kind of depends on how big the fundraiser is. What are you soliciting? In-kind donations or cash?

      I would start now. You don’t know the company’s operating calendar, so it’s possible that they’re getting close to running out of their allocated budget (for items or cash), or it’s possible their fiscal year is just about to start and it’s the perfect time. Also, it frequently takes a while to get these things processed. Just be prepared that some people might process it right away and then send it to you right away– if it’s an item, you’ll need somewhere to put it, and if it’s cash, then they’ll need to know to carry it over to the next fiscal year (assuming May 2020 is the next fiscal year for your org).

      Good luck!

      1. Auntie Social*

        And you give the company the option of putting it in this year’s budget or next. Just put you somewhere!

    3. Deloris Van Cartier*

      What are you soliciting for? If it’s money, the earlier you can do it the better. Most companies have a budget set aside and if they are running on a FY that is the same as the calendar yer, budget talks are happening now. If there FY isn’t like that, they may be able to provide a guideline for when you can ask. If it’s in-kind donations, that’s a little more challenging but even then, I’d say earlier the better. It can take awhile for items to be sent or you may need to follow up a few times to get an item.

      The only caveat I would have is I would check with the organization about their funding cycle as you don’t want to interfere with any other events they may have coming up. It’s always a good thing to make sure that everyone is on the same page as you don’t want your fundraising to eclipse any other fundraising that they already have planned.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Start now. Companies often set their budgets before the new year starts so you want to ask while they are still deciding and not after they’ve already determined. They don’t have to cut the check right now. Also, I assume a charity is soliciting year-round and not just at one particular time of year. In fundraising you don’t just ask once and then go away, so ask now and follow up closer to the end of the year, and follow up again in March, etc.

    5. FirstTimer*

      I would start out now, but keep it kind of low-key until after the beginning of the New Year, then really start ramping up.

    6. Meg Danger*

      If you looking for in-kind donations you may have good luck in January… many companies (like restaurants, retailers, etc.) have x value ($) donations they can make in a calendar year and that amount resets in January. A lot of places treat in-kind requests as first come-first served.

    7. MoopySwarpet*

      Now is appropriate. If companies are on a calendar fiscal year, budgets for 2020 are getting started soon. I’d also reach out again January/February if your timeline allows for those who don’t stick to a strict budget procedure or have more flexibility.

    8. Parenthetically*

      What kinds of things are you having donated? The school where I used to teach does a huge annual silent auction fundraiser and the fundraising committee solicits donations year-round, really ramping up 6 months in advance. You want to have pretty much everything in the bag as early as possible, especially for big donations, so it can go in the advertising and marketing material/invitations.

    9. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I’ve worked at nonprofits, and one thing that helps with prepping big events is a universal timeline, ex: a to-do list breaking tasks out over the course of the year, based on how many months are left. Tasks you do 12 months, 6 months, 90 days, 60 days, 30 days, 2 weeks, etc., prior to the event. If there isn’t one, I recommend creating one, and taking notes as you go along as to what went well (donation drive got extras from after-Christmas clearance sales!) and what didn’t go so well (volunteer attrition at 30 days was high because we did the volunteer drive 90 days in advance.)

      That way, for next year, you or whoever else is on the committee isn’t starting from scratch, and the event will go smoother.

    10. Sue*

      I agree with all the advice to start right away. My only issue with it is making sure any gift certificates you get don’t have a too-early expiration date. I’ve seen businesses do a 6 month date and that doesn’t work if the event is way off. Also, have a good space for storage of items and make your solicitation lists solid. Local business people really get annoyed if they are hit up by more than one person for an event. Good luck.

  4. The Clash*

    What salary increase, either percentage or dollar amount, would it take for you to leave a job that were otherwise happy with and were not looking to leave, assuming benefits and job responsibilities were comparable between the two? If you have made this kind of change, how did it work out for you?

    For a bit of background, I have been at my current company for almost 20 years, have steadily worked my way up over the years, am well respected at my company, and am now a lower level manager. Overall I enjoy my work, make a good living, and have good benefits, so I’m not actively looking for new opportunities. That being said, the market in my area is pretty hot for people with my background and there has been a lot of turnover as people seek new opportunities. My company is trying to remain competitive with salary and benefits, but is probably a little behind on salary relative to what others ore offering. I have been approached by a recruiter to see if I am interested in a new opportunity at another company and it seems like a good opportunity, although largely a lateral move in terms of seniority, so money would be the primary reason to make a change. I am struggling to come up with what increase it would take for me to leave, obviously there are points where there would be an easy ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but determining that middle ground is difficult. I realize this is a good position to be in but if anyone has any thoughts on the topic I would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

    1. Auntie Social*

      What would your company say if you told them about your new offer? Would they beat or match it, and throw in a title increase as well? Meet the salary but give you an extra week of vacation? Think about money, but other compensation as well.

      1. The Clash*

        I think they would try to match up to a point, I am probably already on the upper end of compensation within my company relative to others with similar experience, so there would be limits to what they would be willing to do. I am looking at the total package between both positions, they are fairly close in terms of benefits and I am adjusting things where they are different, so I was just focusing on salary here.

    2. Herding Butterflies*

      I think this is really a question you ask yourself. I know not the best advice, but when you pose your question to yourself, what is your instant, gut reply? Mine, FWIW, is 10%.

      But life is not all about salary. How are the benefits at the other company? Would you get the same vacation / holiday / sick time package? How is their insurance? Do they cover all of your premium or would some / all of it come out of your paycheck? How high is the deductible? Basically, how much out-of-pocket stuff would eat into your new pay raise?

      You also say that you are well respected where you are at. If you switch jobs, you lose all of that and, despite 20 years of experience, you have to re-build your reputation. Every time I have switched jobs, it’s felt like a two year set back.

      How is the new place managed? Do they have good reviews on Glassdoor? You may be switching from a good environment to a toxic one. Or you may be switching to a great environment? Do you know which it will be?

      So, circling back to your original question, considering if you have considered all of the above, what would make you switch? Again, for me, 10% is the minimum to be willing to overcome the risks that come with changing.

      1. The Clash*

        Benefits seem fairly close, but I don’t have all the details on the new location, so I am doing my best to adjust the total compensation to compare the two. The new company looks good on Glassdoor, a little better than my current company. I haven’t engaged too much with the new company yet, so don’t have a lot of direct evidence on how they are managed, I do know someone who works there and he seems to like it, but I haven’t talked too much with him yet since he knows people at my current company and I don’t want word to get back here that I am looking.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, looking at compensation isn’t enough – you have to take into consideration work environment, benefits, flexibility, levels of autonomy, etc. My current setup is fantastic (despite my direct manager, but I don’t deal with her that often), so it would take way more than matching what I currently have to make me leave. The offer would need to exceed what I have, which will be hard to do (I work from home full-time, only have occasional work travel, I set my own work schedule, and because of this, if I’m ever ill, I don’t have to use my sick time [which rolls over from year to year and is never capped], which will allow me to use it for maternity leave should I ever need to take it before my four weeks paid parental leave kicks in).

        I’d also need to make $20,000 more a year in base compensation (I’m currently at $70k base) and I’d need guaranteed quarterly bonuses (my current job offers them as did my previous one).


      For me, the minimum would be 10% increase in salary + signing bonus to cover my loss of 401K match. If their PTO was low for new employees, I’d negotiate to the 5 year mark and if they didn’t allow that, I’d need 15-20% salary increase. If you’ve steadily risen in your company, and are not blocked from moving up, what would the next rung (or couple of rungs) in the ladder bring you?

      1. The Clash*

        I’m probably as far up in terms of management as I would like to go, there were recent openings at a higher level that I considered pursuing but ultimately decided it was not something I would like to do. I am in a technical field, so there are lateral moves I could make back into the more technical side of things, which is common for people who have left management roles, but those would be near the top rungs already, so not much more room for advancement. I don’t know how much room there would be at the new company for advancement either, but that would be something I’d need to consider.

    4. PantaloonsOnFire*

      If I was perfectly content, it would probably take a 20-30% increase, minimum. If was was casually looking and beginning to get the itch to move, maybe a 10% increase.

      The great thing about being very content with your current employment is that you can ask for way more from a would-be-recruiter without feeling like you are risking your future. Think of/research a number that seems incredibly well paid for the position in question and add 5-10%—who knows, maybe you’ll get it!

      1. The Clash*

        I’m definitely content with my current role, and have let the recruiter know so there shouldn’t be surprises if the offer is not a significant enough increase that I would not be interested. I’m kind of torn though because I do have a bit of an itch to try something new, but I also like my company and know that there would be a hole if I leave, especially considering all the other recent departures. Obviously they will survive and fill the gap if I leave, but I have a lot of institutional knowledge that will be difficult to replace, and I want this company to do well.

    5. SarcastiCarrie*

      15%, for no particular reason but that seems like it would be enough to get me to leave (assuming 15% wouldn’t still be less-competitive in your market for your skills).

    6. GGNJ*

      If benefits, commute, and hours were relatively the same, I’d want at least a 10 – 12% pay increase to make a lateral move. But, in my situation, if the commute were significantly improved, I’d even consider taking a small pay cut.

    7. Bananatiel*

      I think it’d take at least 30% for me. That’s a little bit based on feeling– what I feel like would be worth all the hassle of adjusting to a new company culture and workflow. It’s based on the fact that I do really love my current position. Also financially it would put me in a better position to buy a home so there’s a personal goals element to that reasoning, too. Just my two cents!

      1. Former Usher*

        All else being equal (and it rarely is), 30% sounds right for me, too. I think it’s important to be compensated for the risk in switching employers mid or late career.

    8. Construction Safety*

      All other things being equal?
      If your company is behind, say 10 %, then that would bring level to other companies. Add another 10% to make it a little attractive and 5% to tip it over the edge.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wouldn’t be bothered to start over after almost 20 years, in a company and position I enjoyed, for less than 20%.

      This is because you are going to have the stress of reestablishing yourself. This shouldn’t be hard, I’ve always settled in within 6 months at least but it’s still stressful those six months!

      I also wonder about your retirement accounts. When will you start being eligible for your new company’s retirement account? I need to have a nice salary bump so that I can make up for the six-twelve months that may be required to work there before you’re put on their retirement program. Also when will the insurance benefits be available to you, I would need enough to comfortably cover my additional costs to continue to carry all my insurances out of pocket for 60-90-120 days whatever the waiting period may be.

      Also would you have to wait to get your same level of PTO benefits or would the new place let you negotiate that as well? Going from The Most [since you’ve been there almost two decades, I’m assuming your capped out on time off], to The Least for quite a few years would be a huge setback. Again it could be something to negotiate but it’s one of those things that after being somewhere for 20 years you don’t always think about re-setting at any time since you’re used to your X weeks vacation, etc.

      1. The Clash*

        I think vesting in retirement is immediate, not sure about insurance which is a good point since my family has a few medical issues that we would not want a gap in coverage, and want to make sure our doctors are covered. PTO looks close, but I don’t know how it is broken down since I don’t have full details yet. I will get another week of PTO when I hit my 20th year (not quite there yet), so that is something I am factoring in and need more details at the new company to compare.

      2. I edit everything*

        Good point about retirement accounts. It can take a long time to vest–presumably you’re fully vested in your current place, so you’d be risking additional retirement savings with this move. If it’s a long vesting period, that could be a substantial loss, given where you are in your career (I’m presuming you weren’t a child prodigy in your field, maybe this company wasn’t your first employer out of college, and are probably in your 40s).

      3. Windchime*

        The time off has been a dealbreaker for me recently. I’m really happy where I’m at; salary is pretty good (not amazing), but the benefits ARE amazing and I’m pretty happy with the time off. The commute is the only thing that’s bad, but now I have two Remote Work days per week and my employer’s flexibility over a recent family issue has made me decide that, for now, I’m staying put. I think that the place I recently interviewed with could probably pay me a lot more money, but my employer really values work/life balance so I’m going to stay put. For now.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Are you me? I’ve been at my company for a little over 20 years, I’m now a junior manager, and it’s a great place to work with much better benefits and work-life balance than the rest of our industry. It would probably take at least a 20% increase in total compensation for me to consider an offer, and then I would have to look into the difference in commute, flexible schedule/telework, and just whether the type of work would feel as rewarding.

      1. cat socks*

        Same here. My work/life balance is pretty great. I can WFH as needed and have unlimited time off. I rarely have to travel and the commute is good. It would have to be 20-30% for me and I would really want to know about the company culture.

      2. The Clash*

        I’m definitely looking at all aspects, commute is a little shorter by ~10 minutes out of 30-40 minutes currently (I almost pass the new company on my way to work right now) but flexibility of schedule, work satisfaction and company culture are all going to be key factors along with salary. I just hope I can get an honest representation of those aspects and not end up somewhere that is different than advertised.

    11. T. Boone Pickens*

      Assuming all other benefits are even, I’d be looking to ask for 30% above market rate, meaning if your company is say 10% below market rate, I’d ask for a 40% bump. For me to make a move if would need to be for an amount of money that would make a hugely meaningful difference in my life like I can pay my house 5 years earlier or take that entire raise and put it towards retirement which will allow me to retire 7 years earlier or something to that effect. 10-15% to me ain’t worth shit if I’m overall very happy with my job. I need to be blown out of the water so that my current employer can’t even remotely entertain a counter offer (which would be a disaster by the way, never accept a counter offer.)

    12. Existentialista*

      I’ve never faced this choice in real life, but my feeling is that it would take something like 50-100% increase.

      You’re always taking on risk of the unknown, and you might not be as happy in the new role for all sorts of reasons, so I think it would take a big jump for me to consider it.

      1. CMart*

        Agreed. Especially at a medium-high level I would hope your current salary is one that is quite comfortable. Extra salary on top of that would be nice-but-superfluous.

        So to really shake things up, have to start from scratch and dealing with learning a whole new company, systems, culture etc… losing the built up social capital and nuanced expertise, and the unknown of whether or not I’d even be happy? the salary increase would need to be “launching me into a different standard of living/savings so great I could retire 5 years early” kind of money.

        An extra $15k/year on top of a $150k salary (seeing lots of people citing 10%, just spitballing a number here) would really not be enough to take on all of that uncertainty. Not if I was happy and still challenged at my current job.

        1. Jen2*

          Yeah, at that point, more money probably wouldn’t be enough of a reason to start a new job. It would probably take a shorter commute, more vacation time, or some other perks.

        2. NewNameTemporarily*

          I turned down 33% because
          * switch from my comfortable, work-from-home-if-I-want-to job, to driving 2 hours each way in heavy traffic
          * Not really wanting to move from trusted SME with inclusion in the great projects, to having to prove self every single time (in a startup culture)
          * researched the realities of my PTO & retirement benefits – I’m at the same time at company as you are, and it turns out…we have a really good deal that adds up a lot.
          And I am happy and high energy at my current job, with opportunities to keep moving up if I want them. So… money wasn’t the point. It wasn’t going to make me happier, and it was going to make me a lot more stressed.

    13. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If I had been with a company for that long and was perfectly content, it would take a large increase to make me consider moving (20% or more). I’ve also always been of the mind that salary isn’t always the most important thing about a job. While it doesn’t hurt to have a conversation (but be up front with the recruiter about what it would take for you to leave), it sounds like you’re happy and being with a company for that long comes with perks (outside of financial benefits). The grass isn’t always greener…

    14. Goldfinch*

      I have a great boss and decent benefits, so that number would be pretty high for me–I’d say at least 25%.

      Second criterion: Benefits vesting. I’m mid-career, and there’s no way I’m starting back at the bottom with crap PTO or a waiting period for 401k matching. Some places around here are rigid about “all new employees start at 10 days vacation, no matter how much experience” and I’d nope right out of that.

      Third criterion: I’m at the upper limit of how far I’m willing to commute, so the new company would need to be inside the ‘home to current job’ circumference.

    15. Clementine*

      I probably have a weird perspective, but my feeling is that you can stay too long at a job, particularly if you haven’t had massive advancements. It’s worth trying something new to keep your resume “fresh”.

      Still, I think they need you more than you need them, so I’d probably suggest to try for a 25% salary increase.

    16. MoopySwarpet*

      For me, it would be have to be a whole lot. Although, the percentage/dollar would probably matter less than the ability to live where/how I want. To stay in the same area, I would need a 25% increase to even glance at the job. A 50+% increase and I’d be tempted to bail even if I had reservations about the job or company.

      To live in the area I want to (lower cost of living, but fewer jobs), I would take a job at the same or even slightly lower salary/benefits package. Especially if they offered a relocation package and some WFH days.

      My circumstances are a little different than average, though, because I have a solid backup plan if something happens to my current job. (Something I think anyone who works for a small business/entrepreneur needs.)

    17. Not So NewReader*

      Twenty years at one place is asking you to leave a LOT behind. Your compensation for doing this should be more than just a good pay raise. I see the job is a lateral move pretty much. I am kind of yawning here.

      If you are happy at your place it is impossible to put a dollar value on that happiness. Job security is another thing that is priceless. Knowing your workplace and the personalities involved is another thing you cannot put a definitive value on.

      Maybe I would take a look at the new position just to satisfy myself, but I’d keep at the forefront of my thinking just how much I would be leaving behind.

      I am a conservative person. A good many people are willing to take more risks than I do. You know you best, how do you do when it comes to taking a chance? For me, I have to decide to commit to the change no matter what happens. If I cannot commit in that way, then I do not take the risk.

    18. A Non E. Mouse*

      25% in salary, benefits, or a combination of the two things together (our benefits here are fine, they are just expensive – if I got the same elsewhere for less money OR made more in salary to cover it, that would be fine).

      I’d take less (15 to 20% increase) if it was closer to home, and even less (10 to 15%) for the right job if it was work-from-home, as both things would greatly increase the quality of life for my family.

      So not only is money a factor, but benefits and commute.

    19. Owl*

      Mine is about 13%, but I’m new at my job so I’d risk job hopper status and that effects things.

    20. epi*

      My husband makes most of our money because I am a grad student, but I’m probably about 2 years out from making real money again myself. Lucky for us, my husband has a lot of institutional knowledge at his current company and is a bit overpaid compared to the market, basically so he won’t leave– which he would have by now. So my target salary would really be whatever would take the golden handcuffs off my husband and give him a turn doing whatever he wants. $10K would probably do it.

      In your situation, I’d definitely be responding to recruiters– why not really?– and possibly applying on my own to anything that looked particularly interesting. This is a great context for job searching, when you are feeling good, not desperate, and have no reason to settle. When you have an offer in front of you, with specifics about the money and the work and the changes to your day to day life that would be involved, it will be a lot clearer if you should take it. Since you’ve been off the market for a long time, you might also just benefit from the practice going through this process. That way you’ll be prepared if something you really want comes along.

    21. pinfu dora*

      For me this was 35% (slightly over $20k). I was very happy at my former employer, especially with the work I was doing.

      I finished my Master’s degree and at review time got a promotion with a paltry 8% raise. I pushed back on this and tried to renegotiate my salary. Manager and director both went to bat for me but any additional adjustment was blocked by HR and the owner. I was deflated, stopped rebuffing recruiters, and landed a new position with large increase inside of 6 weeks of my attempts to negotiate something closer to market. Didn’t even bother entertaining a counter-offer.

      Fast forward and my current employer moved locations and my commute is way too long for my taste. I’m living much more comfortably and I have more disposable income for travel and hobbies. The commute is wearing me down and after about 3 years I’m looking to move again because bonuses shrunk, salaries have been stagnant, and the market is just much better (easily could land another 20-30% increase) by moving to a neighboring state.

      Was it worth it? Maybe not for job satisfaction, but the stage is set now for the next move to be double the salary of the job I left less than 3 years back. If you started career in the Great Recession, it’s about the only way to catch up.

    22. Quinalla*

      If there is really no difference otherwise, then for me I would want 10% minimum and also solidly where you should be for the market rate if that is more than 10%. In my last job move, I raised it to 15% minimum because my commute went from 5-10 minutes to 30-45 minutes. But honestly for me, the take home pay difference was what I looked at more than the % increase, how much $$ per month was it worth it to uproot from somewhere I was fairly comfortable. I ended up getting a lot more than that (~25%), but I was very underpaid in my last position.

      At my current place, I’d probably need 15% to consider moving as I have so much advancement potential where I am right now.

    23. Nom de plume*

      I really value a good work culture and I would prefer to work at a good company than make extra money but (potentially) be miserable. So another way to frame it would be, what salary would i need to make to last a a job with a bad work culture for a year without regretting my decision? For me, that’s probably a 30% raise as others have suggested.
      One way to calculate this is come up with a starting point, say 5%, and calculate the salary that would be and take a look at that number written down. Then your gut will tell you if it’s enough to accept the job. If it’s not, then look at what 10% is, and on until you come up with a number that attracts you.

      I did this for my last job which required me to move to a new city – I said, they need to pay me $X amount more to incentivise me to move, and that’s what they ended up offering me. I don’t regret it at all – when i eventually move back to my original city, i’ll have a much better salary history because of this job.

      Good luck!

    24. Master Bean Counter*

      Honestly my history is moving from one job to the next comes with at least a 12.5% increase. To get me away from where I was happy took at least 50%. Once I double my salary with a move. I’m at the point now that I can’t count on the big increases. The next move will be for a title change more than anything. If I move at all.

  5. heckofabecca*

    I’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a professor who’s being evaluated for a tenured position at my university. (I’m an undergrad student there.) Does anyone (esp. folks in academia) have any suggestions for specific things for me to mention/focus on to impress the committee with how great this professor is? Thanks in advance!

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      How has this person affected your life or education? Do you have any examples for how they went above and beyond for you (or other students)? Have they done anything unique or noteworthy while teaching?

      Any specific examples you can come up with for how this professor has furthered your education or career goals would be great.

    2. deesse877*

      I agree that you should be as detailed as possible, ideally by discussing a specific piece of your own work, and how it fits into your education as a whole. If you go to a small school where close mentoring relationships are valued, say a bit about that too. If you go to a large school where research is valued, try to say something about the prof’s own research if you can–it will be impressive if they can see that they made it accessible to undergrads. If there are any student clubs or activities they’re involved in, mention those in all cases.

    3. Nesprin*

      So the tenure board is looking for: can teach, can mentor research/independent work, can serve community, can manage diversity/inclusion issues with grace and aplomb.
      One note: letters for women tend to focus more on emotional issues and less on talent: i.e. Female is described as caring and nuturing, whereas Male is described as brilliant and a leader. The latter is much more interesting to hiring committees

      If it helps, letters should be 1-3 pages and my standard letter format is:
      Paragraph 1: am writing to recommend A for job B. I’ve known A in C capacity for D Yrs, and can speak to their ability to do E,F, and G. I am particularly impressed by their personal characteristics H, I, J.
      Paragraph 2-5: Anecdotes, data and experiences that person has with E, F, G, H, I, J. More specific== more better.
      Closing Paragraph: In summary, A will be an outstanding B. I am happy to discuss further, my email and phone are.

      1. Mellow*

        Respectfully, I disagree. This pattern sounds like it would come from a colleague. I do agree with Elizabeth Proctor’s 1-page-only recommendation.

        I suggest writing about the ways in which this professor has helped you grow and to see beyond yourself. Seems like a good candidate for defining “great…professor.”

      2. Mellow*

        “…can mentor research/independent work, can serve community, can manage diversity/inclusion issues with grace and aplomb.”

        The question is from an undergraduate student. How would she or he be able to evaluate the professor on those things? Curious.

        “…letters for women tend to focus more on emotional issues and less on talent: i.e. Female is described as caring and nuturing, whereas Male is described as brilliant and a leader. The latter is much more interesting to hiring committees…”

        Is this really a generalizable fact?

        1. Ali*

          “Is this really a generalizable fact?”

          There is research evidence for gender bias in student evaluations. Speaking as a female academic, it is also absolutely my personal experience that I am described as “warm and nurturing” far more often in recommendations and evaluations, and the men in my profession are described as “brilliant leaders.” It is indeed a generalizable fact and it sucks.

        2. AshK434*

          It actually is. I just read a research paper on this. I feel like the vibes of your comments are overly nit picky.

        3. Triumphant Fox*

          It actually is. There have been studies on performance evaluations over time and in particular in academia – especially around the teacher evaluation system and tenure process.

        4. OrigCassandra*

          Yep. Plenty of research on it, and if you look you can find encapsulated guidelines for avoiding it.

        5. Alice*

          Yes. I will post links in a reply. For now, here is a title — look for it in PubMed or Google Scholar

          A Linguistic Comparison of Letters of Recommendation for Male and Female Chemistry and Biochemistry Job Applicants

        6. Not that kind of doctor*

          To point #1:
          A student can speak to the professor’s inclusion/community efforts in a number of ways. Did they include diverse material in their syllabus (for example, a broader selection of authors than the traditional canon of Dead White Men)? If applicable, did they tie their subject to issues that might be affecting or be of particular interest to the student population — especially if the student body is diverse and/or has lots of first-generation college students? If a student asked a difficult/awkward/probing question, how did they respond? Brush it off or engage with the issue head-on? Has the professor supervised any honors theses or independent studies? Supported the student’s application to a summer research program or internship? For that matter, did they advertise to students the opportunities available to them from the university or industry? Act as a faculty advisor to any student groups?

          To point #2:
          I’m always leery of generalizations, too, but there have been a lot of studies showing how gender bias plays out in student evaluations. To pick only a couple reports:

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s well-documented and widespread, which is usually the standard for a generalizable fact.

          And undergrads are often excellent at being able to weigh in on diversity and inclusion, as well as mentorship. They’re not required to talk about what the professor does at the university-level, but they can easily talk about the methods their professor uses in the classroom or in office hours to create an inclusive learning environment.

        8. tamarack and fireweed*

          “Is this a generalizable fact?” – What was not really clear to me in the above response and that the requester should consider is: This is not something you should do, but something you shouldn’t do.

          (And I don’t know what a generalizable fact is, but it is a fact established by research. Statistically.)

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Be very detailed and use specific examples. I’ve had to write two of these recommendations as a student, and I talked about the following:

      1. The professor’s teaching effectiveness (e.g., ability to break down complex issues, ability to draw themes between issues, respect for students in the classroom, ability to ignite thoughtful conversations).
      2. Mentorship, accessibility in office hours, and general ability to be supportive of students. (this can include serving on your senior thesis committee, generally being supportive when you come with questions and taking time to give you feedback, finding funding opportunities for you, referring you for programs or competitive academic opportunities, hiring you as an RA, etc.).
      3. Service—does your professor serve as a faculty advisor to student orgs? Do they engage in other service to the University/community that you know about or interact with? [Ok to leave this out of your letter if you have no experience/knowledge of it or strong examples/experiences to cite]

      Be very careful when it comes to the professor’s gender/race. Oftentimes women and POC are described in less “academically rigorous” terms (i.e., overemphasis on emotional support and mentorship, with less focus on their scholarship and teaching excellence or leadership). You want to ensure that your letter hits all the criteria that the tenure committee is looking for.

    5. Betty*

      In addition to everything Kimmy said, I’d add– What were the aspects of the class that made them a particularly effective teacher? Did they have great examples that brought the concepts to life in a new way? Handled class discussions really well? Gave great feedback on your writing? Paired readings together in an interesting way? (Etc.)

    6. Existentialista*

      It depends on your discipline, but in my experience being on a search committee for a faculty position, the highest praise was, “X has a frightening intellect,” so you could see if you could work that phrase in, and the lowest insult was “X is a hard worker,” so, avoid saying that.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      As an undergrad, I would first emphasize how the professor has helped you grow in your research – if you had her as a supervisor for a summer project or school project, if she stoked your interest in the field to encourage you to major in it/go on for further education/work in the field, facilitated connections with other researchers. Then teaching ability – good lecturer, organized with clear expectations.

      When it comes to tenure, what most universities care about is mostly research and publication – are they publishing first author papers, leading research groups and projects and supervising students who go on to do well. Teaching ability and admin work must be done without screwing up too badly, but aren’t that important, and quite frankly, being too invested in teaching can be a liability at a research university. If you’re at a primarily undergraduate school with a reputation for good teaching the balance is different, however.

    8. Owl*

      Has she told you what would be helpful? I’m sure she knows exactly what they will want to know and hear. If i were in her shoes I would feel uncomfortable asking you something like “hey can you mention how great I am at keeping attention in long lectures” knowing there is a power imbalance and you might not feel comfortable saying no. I bet if you told her you were really invested in her getting tenure and asked for advice, she might have several things she’d want you to discuss and tips on how to be helpful.

    9. Deirdre*

      I would interested in knowing who asked you to write the letter.

      If it’s the review committee, normally those being asked will be provided with a general outline of what the committee would like the letter to address: teaching, scholarship, community service, and sometime other topics (diversity/inclusion, mentorship, etc).

      If the professor asked you to write the letter, it might be worthwhile asking her/him if there are areas they would like you to focus on in your letter. I imagine it would your classroom experience (teaching/mentoring/availability); if you worked for them doing research, speaking to their leadership style, etc.

    10. LibbyG*

      What a kind thing you’re doing!

      Your letter will be part of a huge dossier that details the professor’s teaching, research, and professional service. So your part is just to tell your story. Don’t feel like you have to cover all the bases. There will be all sorts of evidence of their teaching effectiveness in the dossier; your letter brings that kind of data to life by describing the professor’s genuine commitment to teaching well and the impact it has. So a few general statements and some good, vivid specifics will be gold.

  6. Fortitude Jones*

    This is just a vent; not seeking advice: My manager is still petty as hell and isn’t going to change.

    I work in the tech industry dealing with niche products that I have to help sell. My coworkers lead the proposal process (I’m a writer – they aren’t), and some of them have told her in the past that they’d like more training on the products we offer because when they’re reading and editing the proposals they receive from our SMEs and sales team, they don’t understand the mechanics of how the products are supposed to work (and a lot of our sales team doesn’t either, but that’s a whole other story). Well, apparently, she hand-waved their concerns and kept it moving.

    Grandboss started with the company early this year, and apparently several of my coworkers told him that they’d like additional training on the products so they can know what the sales team is talking about on proposal calls and can quickly flag inaccuracies in the way we’re positioning our products to customers (like I said above, many of our sales folks don’t even know exactly what these products do).

    I also expressed an interest in receiving some kind of formal training because we have over 200 products, with six that we regularly submit proposals for, and I’d like to know what the hell these products do as well because I’m often tasked with editing their solution overviews, and I can’t do a thorough copy edit if I don’t know what is or isn’t an inconsistency/inaccuracy. I’m also a content manager, but again – can’t really do a thorough job at it if I can’t sit and talk to the people who actually developed the product to know how it works.

    Well, grandboss said he was going to run the idea of us attending a three day conference that’s coming up next year where our engineers will be doing workshops and demonstrations of a few of our major products. We then get an email this afternoon from her with links to online resources she says we should use to learn about products along with a condescending quote from one of her friend’s books that basically says that PMs don’t need to be subject matter experts, they just need to know enough to get proposals out the door. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if my coworkers hadn’t already seen most of the videos she linked to and still don’t understand the product specs – she’s completely ignoring the fact that some people don’t learn from watching webinars or reading dry user manuals.

    I just don’t understand why she’s so resistant to her employees wanting to learn about what it is we’re selling. Most managers would be happy to have inquisitive employees who want to get a deeper understanding of their work so they can properly edit what’s being sent to them, but she’s acting like this is a nonsensical request – it’s the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen. She’s reminding me of a former manager I had years ago who hoarded knowledge like her life depended on it. I genuinely think my new manager, like the old one, just does not want anyone to have the same level of product understanding that she has because she gets off on being the only one who knows things. It’s annoying and incredibly unbecoming – her massive ego is getting in the way of her team’s growth.

    And what annoys me more is that grandboss sees that she’s like this (he’s hinted around to it by saying things like, “Well, you know how she can get”) and is deferring to her anyway. Like, dude – she reports to you, not the other way around. Grandboss was all for our team getting product training, and now he’s mysteriously silent on this matter. I just can’t with people kowtowing to ridiculous behavior.

    1. juliebulie*

      I know you’re just venting, but yeah, that’s weird shit that I don’t understand.

      I have a similar problem where theoretically, I can do my job without knowing much about the products… but I can do an infinitely better job if I understand the products, how they are used, and the industries who use them.

      Shame on us for wanting to do an infinitely better job.

      Since this is typical for my line of work, I don’t expect this to be improved by changing employers.

      1. jarofbluefire*

        From a customer perspective, might I point out that this kind of culture is, sadly, common, and is incredibly frustrating for those of us who buy, use, and should-be-able-to-but-can’t-especially recommend products with bad support?

        Feel free to mention this if you think it would help your case. I instinctively start to mistrust a company where it’s clear the salespeople do *not* know the product, and when in a sales call there’s either no tech consultant, or the tech consultant that is in on the call is clearly in over their head. It makes me wary of upgrading or buying additional products, and I’m certainly disinclined to purchase training packages or support warranties.

        Just some backup that might help.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Agreeing with jarofbluefire’s comment.
          I just spent some months off and on trying to get on board with a new product our customer wants us to use. No one in customer service can answer my basic questions about how certain situations work. As soon as I find one person I can interface with and begin to understand the details, they quit! I am on my third good person in 6 months.
          SMH is all I can do at this point. When my boss asks me why it isn’t working, I tell them I call but the don’t know why either.

        2. juliebulie*

          I agree with you. The problem is, the people who make the purchasing decisions about our projects are not the same people who actually use them, so they don’t feel your pain – especially if their corporate culture is as broken as ours is.

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      Not giving advice, she just appears to be a fear based manager. She sees her product knowledge as the Hope Diamond and her squirrel brain is telling her that if other employees have the same level of knowledge as her that she’ll immediately get tossed out on her ass. Best of luck going forward, I doubt anything changes with your manager unless it comes from several levels above your grandboss or your company loses a huge sale due to lack of product knowledge.

    3. lemon*

      The only semi-rational reasons I can think for not wanting to share product knowledge: 1. concerns about confidentiality and intentional/unintentionally leaking the wrong info to competitors; or 2. The product isn’t that great and only kind of does what sales promises it does, and she wants to keep this on the DL as much as possible.

      Those are still crummy reasons, though. If you’ve got good products, you should want to share as much info as you can about them.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I once worked for someone who considered *himself* the subject matter expert, not our engineers.
      It was perplexing and I didn’t find a good way around it…so I really understand the venting.

    5. Kimmybear*

      What jumped out to me is that you say you’re an editor and Grandboss says you’re a PM? Could that be the source of the problem? I say that as a it training/communications person in a PM department

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        No, everyone is very clear that my official title is one thing, but I mainly perform technical editing and content management duties. The proposal managers here are basically being used as highly paid admins in a lot of cases because they don’t have enough product understanding to do thorough technical edits on proposals I’m too busy to handle. A lot of us want training because the core of both jobs regardless of titles is ensuring our proposal documents are clear, accurate, readable, persuasive, and consistent – if we have limited knowledge of what we’re selling, how can we tell whether or not our proposals are accurate? We can’t.

    6. ThatMarketingChick*

      The joys of proposal writing and management. I fall firmly into the camp of those who think not enough Proposal Managers or Writers understand what their company actually does. I regularly have my staff visit our project sites (we’re a construction firm) so they can see what we actually do. It makes them better writers and they develop their ability to ask the right questions during reviews to prod the SMEs. It also makes them more valuable, more efficient, and more passionate about what we do! It’s an investment in our proposal process and their happiness.
      In your case, I think this needs to be re-addressed with your boss. This really is more of an issue of a manager not supporting the development of her team. I’d format it something like this: “hey boss, I’d like to attend the [conference] since it seems like a great way for us to learn about ABC Company’s solutions. I think we, as a proposal department, could add a lot of value to the sales cycle if we could more critically review the proposals we’re sending out the door.” Talk about how it would improve interaction with SMEs (you’ll be speaking the same language), your efficiency, and your team’s value to the company. And ask why the idea seemed to die – was it budget? Did someone else nix it? There could be circumstances that you don’t see (giving her the benefit of the doubt here).
      IMHO, proposal teams are sometimes disregarded as those who only edit or make pretty layouts. Yes, we do that, but we also advocate for the customer’s desired solution. Sales teams like to “we-we” all over the proposals. You have the opportunity to influence how your company responds to RFPs and set yourselves apart from others. I highly recommend checking out the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. I’ve attended their conferences and webinars for years, and constantly visit the site for resources. Good luck.

  7. LilacLily*

    So here’s the deal: I’ve been job searching since mid-May; I live in South America and have European citizenship, and I’ve been looking for a job in the UK (my old nickname here was Leah so some of you might remember me! I’ve posted quite a few of my woes throughout this job search saga in the Friday open threads, and you all have been super helpful and supportive throughout this whole process ♡)

    Guys, I am delighted to inform that after three months of job searching I finally got an interview!!! It was all super quick: the job was posted last Thursday, I spent the weekend writing a cover letter, applied on Monday, and Tuesday I got an e-mail to schedule a Zoom call! I had the interview yesterday and I think it went really well. I wrote a really thoughtful and personalized thank-you note, which I sent this morning to the recruiter who spoke to me. I have a feeling they need someone asap, which is why the whole thing was so quick – the recruiter even apologized for how short-notice the interview was, which tbh I didn’t mind at all – and considering I’m on a short timeline because of Brexit I’m really happy. To make matters even better, the job is at a company/industry that is really hard to break into and the office is in the city I was hoping to relocate to! The salary isn’t exactly what I was hoping for but it’s not under the market value at all and I’d be able to get by and have money left for myself. Honestly it all sounds perfect and I’m super excited.

    Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll post again next week to let you all know if they’re calling me back for the second interview with the hiring manager :D

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      Yay! I really hope you get a second interview and the job! I understand the waiting game as I’m job searching/interviewing myself.

      1. LilacLily*

        good luck to you!

        and yeah the waiting game is by far the worse part! when the recruiter apologized for the short notice deep down I was like DUDE DONT APOLOGIZE THIS WAS AWSOME (I understand now that I’ve read Alison’s book that more time to prepare never hurts, but god I really hate when the hiring process drags on for months)

  8. TrainingQuandary*

    I’m actively looking for a new job. My current job wants to send me to a 2 week industry training course in late October. This is training I’d ordinarily jump at the chance to attend. I’m the only one in my work group who wants to go and I’d enthusiastically mentioned interest in the course topic to my manager about a year ago.
    It feels a little shady if I say I can attend the training and have my current employer pay the (rather pricey) course fees and buy my plane ticket when I am hoping to work elsewhere by then. However, I also know I can’t predict the future and might not have found/started a new job by then. Advice? Should I just say I have a scheduling conflict? Or schedule the training course and potentially cause my current employer to have to eat those costs if I’m no longer working there in October? I think I’d also feel guilty if I went to the training and then left the company shortly after.

    1. valentine*

      Proceed as though you’re not leaving and get your training. You needn’t feel guilty, but, guilt-wise, leaving shortly after the training, if you’re going to document it for your team who don’t want to go, is the best-case scenario.

      1. TrainingQuandary*

        Oh, that is a really good idea about documenting the training. It would for sure ease the guilt factor a bit. Thanks!

    2. AccountantWendy*

      Schedule the training! You never know what will happen. It’s the cost of doing business. They will send someone else to the training or just suck up the cancellations fees. Don’t feel guilty: don’t give them that power. You cannot predict the future, you make the best decision you can based on what you know now. And what you know now is that you work for this company, which wants to send you on this training, which you want to attend. Stop there. And good luck with your search!

    3. Nanc*

      To be really macabre: You could also drop dead the day before you leave for the training and they’d still have to eat the cost and cover your job.

      I would guess professional training courses see this sort of thing all the time. They may be able to send someone else or at the very least get a credit towards a later training date.

      Do what’s best for you. If you get another job, be professional in acknowledging the issue/cost and if you can, research the options available for cancellations, etc. and pass them along.

      Good luck with everything and let us know how it goes.

    4. Shannon*

      Do NOT feel guilty. Schedule this training. It took me seven months to find a new opportunity. I’m not suggesting it will take you that long, but October is not far away!

      There’s also the chance that the training may open up a better opportunity at your current employer, as well (if you’ve any interest in staying).

      Good luck with the hunt!

    5. T. Boone Pickens*

      If you were in final interview stages presently than yeah, I’d say it’s a little shady. However, you don’t mention anything of that sort so I’d say proceed with the training as normal. I like the suggestion valentine mentioned about documenting if need be as a peace offering if need be.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Nothing is a guarantee, so go to the training. But I’d also check your employee handbook to see if you’re obligated to stay for a certain length of time after they pay for your training. This is usually only something I’ve seen at previous companies concerning paying for employees to go to school, but every place is different so it’s better to CYA.

    7. Mel*

      I’m pretty sure this (or a similar question) has been answered by Allison before. I believe that the advice was to book as if you weren’t leaving, because such training of staff is simply the cost of doing business.

    8. Observer*

      Go to the training. Unless you actually have something in motion already, the chance that you will be elsewhere by late October is actually not all that high.

  9. Trying to Manage Volunteers*

    Do any of you manage volunteers in your job? Looking for some advice. I’m not a volunteer manager specifically, but I do oversee our advisory board to a government agency which has over 60 volunteer members (as well as a few government employees). Supervising the volunteers is a real challenge for me. The majority of them are polite and helpful, give good input, etc. But we also have a few are incredibly difficult to work with. 1. Calls me nearly daily with absurd requests (can I send her an IT person to her house to fix her personal computer at the government’s expense) or requesting I do menial tasks for her (like google the phone numbers for them that are very much publicly available). And she’s pretty nasty about it. 2. Another member sent me over 60 emails about a single meeting, including 22 in a single day, many requesting the same information multiple times that had already been provided. She’s at least kind about it.

    This advisory board is only supposed to be about 25% of my job and between the two of these members and a few others, I feel like it’s taking over my role so much that I’m can’t keep up on other stuff. I’ve raised the concern with my bosses, but don’t seem to be getting much support. The political appointees I manage the board for don’t seem to care too much about how I’m treated, they just don’t want to make a member mad at any cost basically.

    For my personal sanity, I obviously need to set some bounds of reason here, but know I can’t just treat them exactly like I would a direct report employee. And I have to do it super carefully so there isn’t blow back to the higher ups that I’ve outraged these people who are pretty easily outraged. Any ideas from more specialized volunteer management people or folks with experience on volunteer boards?

    1. Squeakrad*

      Why can’t you go to the higher ups and say exactly what you said here? Maybe with a bit more politesse but I can’t imagine they would want volunteers who were just respectful of your time and to you personally.

      1. Trying to Manage Volunteers*

        Unfortunately they are very much aware. There is pretty appalling pattern of ignoring concerns about the group. My predessor in the role told me that a volunteer physically kicked her and was allowed to stay.

        In my immediate boss’ defense, he just found out about 60 email lady, because it just happened, but they all are fully familiar with the daily nasty caller. I’m going to meet with my immediate boss about it next week. I was mostly hoping I might get some ideas to take to the meeting from people with more experience in volunteer management.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Why aren’t you given the authority to release volunteers who are not working out?

          Is there an introductory handbook with written rules for volunteers? If not there needs to be.

          1. Trying to Manage Volunteers*

            They are appointed to the board by the head of our department. I can recommend that people be removed, but it is ultimately the up to the department head. We have some loose guidelines in our policy, but I do think I’ll recommend to my boss that we strengthen that.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              My second suggestion is that you implement annual renewals. Each year the volunteer re-ups for the up coming year. This doesn’t have to mean redoing their application to volunteer, it can just mean that everyone’s status is confirmed or denied each year.

    2. PantaloonsOnFire*

      Volunteers are so tricky. But there are also reasonable limits that can be set, even if you can’t “fire” them.

      Given that this is only 25% of your job, start treating it that way. Spend two hours a day on volunteer stuff and leave the rest until tomorrow. This means not picking up the phone every time Annoying Volunteer calls (or even listening to every voicemail as it comes it) or responding to all 22 (gag) clueless emails. Start being less responsive. Answer your phone only between 10 and 12 (take it off the hook the rest of the time if you can). Check vms only once a day. Respond to emails within X hours, but not more frequently than that. Also, if someone has sent you multiple emails within that designated time period, respond to all their emails with ONE of your own (you don’t want to reply to 22 emails and get 22 additional replies!) However, continue to be perfectly professional and polite (it’s more difficult for people to justify their outrage if you still a lovely person when you do interact with them, plus you’ll have a wonderfully polite email trail to back you up). This is part of your job, but it’s definitely not ALL of your job and you shouldn’t have to act like it is.

      If volunteers complain to your higher-ups that they can’t reach you at all hours of the day or night, explain that the volunteer management portion of your job was preventing you from getting other work done, so you’ll had to set personal limits on the time you devote to responding to their calls and emails. However you’re still committed to responding to all urgent communications ASAP and non-urgent communications within 48 hours (or whatever is reasonable).

      I work with volunteers constantly, and even manage them on occasion, but it’s only a small part of my work and I am deliberate about not being always available. Unless something is urgent, I respond to emails within 48 hours and make it a point to only check my volunteer-related email account once a day. Luckily almost no one has my phone number, so luckily I don’t have to put up with that insanity.

      Best of luck!

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Actually, you can “fire” them. It happens all the time. They get told their services are not required, or that a different person will be handling their tasks.

        I’ve fired a volunteer for being impossible for some of our critical people to work with – it was fire one (for good reason) or lose six talented and loyal people.

    3. FirstTimer*

      Oooh, this is an interesting topic for me as well! I don’t currently do a lot of volunteer managing, but we are reorganizing and I will eventually be running a few committees.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t manage volunteers but my close coworker does.

      Coworker would fire them. Because, seriously, this is bonkers.

      At the very least, Coworker would tell that difficult one that this wasn’t our job and that Volunteer needed to handle that kind of thing herself, and then would not respond to further requests/demands. Coworker would probably tell Sixty Emails that this information had been provided and that, in the future, she needed to take better notes.

      1. Lilith*

        Can you designate a volunteer supervisor who everyone reports to and asks questions of? That person could be the one who gets all the emails & phone calls. But you just spend the bulk of your 25% with this one person going over details.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        I’m laughing so hard right now b/c “Sixty Emails” gave me an idea for a nickname for my former boss. He moved over to our sister company last year, so he’s no longer my direct boss, but he’s still *a* boss in the company, so he does have authority over me. I’m gonna start calling him “500 Emails.”

        I’ll post the story in a separate comment so it doesn’t derail this thread.

    5. Ashley*

      Can you be a little less responsive and screen calls a little more? If you aren’t there to jump it might help slow down some of the calls.

    6. Interplanet Janet*

      I don’t do it professionally, but I have run a couple of volunteer orgs for many years.

      +100 to PantaloonsOnFire’s advice. You may not be able to “fire” volunteers, but you can set boundaries and the worst ones will sometimes go away on their own. Your hire-ups can’t exactly complain if someone quits because you won’t set an IT person to their house to fix their personal computer, right?

      Is there a special email for volunteers? If not, can you have one set up? That way you can corral (slash ignore-at-times) all that work in one spot.

      In my experience, polite, kind, but extremely firm boundaries work well with toddlers, unbroke horses, AND volunteers.

    7. Deloris Van Cartier*

      Like some others said here, letting them go or firing them would by ideal but sometimes that’s not an option. Usually when I’ve had these types of volunteers, I try and model behavior that I want. This both helps my sanity by setting some boundaries as I tend to be more positive and responsive in the way they want when they follow my model than theirs. For the first volunteer, I would talk to your supervisors about what is a reasonable request in their minds. They may say yes, we do want you to google for her or they may say no, that’s an unreasonable request and then you can talk through how you can handle that with her. I’d also track how much time your spending on just this individual. Sometimes showing how much it’s impacting your ability to do other work can change the internal narrative. Unfortunately the nastiness is not something that you can probably fix, unless you got rid of her, so it’s just figuring how how to not let it impact you. Generally I’m firm but very nice with those people and they just get tired of it.

      For the 60 email person, I wouldn’t respond to each email one by one. Wait until the end of the day and respond in one email and say you thought it would be more concise to have all the answers in one place. I also tend to reply to emails that I’ve already sent and ask people to review them and if that didn’t answer their question, to please let me know how I can help with any additional information. Most times people want to take the easy way out so it’s redirecting them to show them they can find the information. Also I’d look at the questions shes asking. Is it something that other people may find helpful and could you post it on a community site or an internal group. You could then refer her back there to find the resources she needs.

      I also wonder if there is an internal member who could help out with some of these tasks. Could you have a communication chair or someone who helps fields some of the requests. You can set up some firm guidelines for them and they may be more reasonable to someone who is also a volunteer. If you do go this path, just make sure you give that person guidelines so they can put them into action with the more challenging folks.

    8. Gumby*

      I wouldn’t do it because you said 60emails is nice, but it’s so *so* tempting to tell 60emails that DailyCaller is now volunteering to handle your correspondence from other volunteers. They can bother each other and leave you alone…

    9. CM*

      Wait, why does the advisory board need 60 members? That’s the first thing I would try to figure out, since, if there are fewer board members, it might be easier to corral them and make sure they all understand what’s happening or have a chance to discuss it at an appropriate time (like during their meetings).

      In any event, it doesn’t sound like your role is managing the advisory board members — it sounds like it might be supporting the advisory board or maybe organizing the advisory board. That means pushing back on them is happening in a different framework — less “how to manage volunteers” and more “how to stop stakeholders from making unreasonable demands of you when your boss won’t back you up.”

      That second thing is really difficult to do, and the reality might be that, if your boss won’t back you up when you try to set boundaries, you’re eventually going to have to find another job.

      With that in mind, my advice would be to enforce reasonable boundaries on what you are and aren’t willing to do without drawing attention to the fact that you’re doing it. If you decide that you’re only going to deal with emails from your spammer once every three days, don’t make a big announcement about it. Just silently let the emails collect in a filter until the time you’ve set aside to deal with them. If the spammer questions you about it, don’t explain or justify — just say something like, “I’m sorry I can’t be as responsive as you’d like,” and redirect to whatever their actual question was.

      Basically, the strategy is to do what you need to do (set boundaries) but forestall the point where this becomes a confrontation, because the confrontation might end with you losing your job over someone else’s unreasonable expectations.

    10. June First*

      I have some very high maintenance volunteers. Agree with the comments about boundaries. I had one who would call me every day and talk for half an hour. Sometimes multiple times a day. I finally explained that it was taking time away from the project.
      Can you find/create a project for them? Sometimes their energy just needs to be focused. If it’s something where they can update you weekly, that might be best.
      Good luck!

    11. Brrr*

      Another idea is to have an annual “training” for the members. Review their position descriptions about what their responsibilities are and what your role is. Create a FAQ list of the most common questions you receive that you can hand out, go over the mandate of the group. You can also provide other training that would be enriching to the group and focus them on your mission. I would also create an on boarding process for new Dolan that sets the stage about what their and your role is. This last is a long term fix but you have to start somewhere.

  10. Eillah*

    Our office move (happening today) has made me keenly aware of just how useless our Facilities team is. No boxes for files! UuuUUuugugughghghh.

    1. Admin of Sys*

      Is that something they usually provide w/out being asked for it? In every company I’ve ever been in, it was the responsibility of the manager to ask for the boxes from facilities, because usually it’s the managers that are approving the move timeline / schedule.

    2. Kittymommy*

      Yeah our facilities department would not provide boxes either. It would be expected that everything is packed up and ready to go and then they would physically move the stuff. The office personnel would do everything prior, including getting their own boxes.

    3. SamSoo*

      I’ve always been provided with boxes. And if they aren’t going to, they should let you know so you can sort it ahead of time!

    4. JanetM*

      The last time we did a major office move, we had to buy boxes in advance from our Facilities department. We packed everything; they just put it on and off the truck (and drove it, of course!).

    5. OhBehave*

      Did you ask for boxes? Do they automatically provide boxes without requests? I’m not sure they would know how many are needed for each person. I think managers dropped the ball on this one.
      I hope the move goes smoothly.

  11. Not how you want to become a manager*

    I need some advice about handling an employee that wants to be fired!

    I’ve been put in an tough position. I was recently made the supervisor of a remote employee who, while a good person with great interpersonal skills, has never really thrived in his role since he was hired a year ago. Our boss has come close to firing him at times and put him on probation. The employee never got the guidance he should have received but also appears mostly checked out, and since he is remote, it’s been easy for him to do very little work. Now he is very stressed out as I presented a plan to get him on track and he feels like it’s a lot and too late.

    Yesterday he told me he wouldn’t quit (I’m assuming he meant without something else lined up- he has a large family to support), but that he was done trying to please our boss and wanted to be let go. The tasks and plan I gave him weren’t busy work, they were things I need to have happen for our small organization to run smoothly and we are in our peak season currently. I don’t have the power to hire and fire. Do I tell my boss what the employee told me? Try to get some work out of this employee as he figures out his next move? Convince my boss that he ought to be fired without telling him that’s what the employee explicitly said he wanted?

    1. Middle Manager*

      If the employee is outright refusing to work on the plan, I can’t see how you wouldn’t fire them. They are forfeiting their right to participate in the improvement plan. I would definitely tell your boss what they said and recommend immediate termination.

      1. irene adler*

        Exactly. Isn’t this a case of insubordination? In which case, termination is the response.

      2. valentine*

        You’ve gotta tell your boss. Tell him how things will fall apart if you don’t replace the guy or otherwise get someone in to do the work you need. I guess this guy wants unemployment and maybe your boss wouldn’t care to fight it, but it seems that would be an easy case for the company to win, especially if he put his wish in writing.

    2. TCO*

      It sounds like you’re clear that you’d like him to leave and that he doesn’t plan to do that voluntarily, so firing him is the right way to go. You can’t sit around forever hoping he’ll leave. I think it’s good to be candid with your boss about what he told you–that he’s very unhappy and not willing to try to improve, that he also has no immediate plans to leave voluntarily, and that he anticipates that this attitude will result in being fired.

      My guess is that he wants to be fired rather than quitting so that he can collect unemployment. If this route works out for him (in his perspective) and it kind of works as a quasi-severance, good for him. He got what he needed in order to leave the job one way or another. That’s not really your business to worry about. Your only concern should be whether you still want him working for you with his performance and attitude problems.

      1. Not how you want to become a manager*

        Thanks, this language and mindset are helpful. I think I’ve been overly focused on my concern for him as a person and that’s really not my role.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Not your role at all, but it’s nice that you were trying.

          I just never understand why employees like this don’t just go to their managers and say something like, “We both know this isn’t working, I’ve done X/Y/Z to try to fix it, and I’m still not cut out for this role. Would you give me X amount of months to job search and I’ll help document the role so that I can transition out and someone new can take over?” Reasonable managers would be sympathetic to that versus someone who’s just blatantly not trying and doesn’t care at all.

          1. Not how you want to become a manager*

            Such an act would display a level of competency this person does not possess!

            I’m kicking myself that I ignored a red flag in the hiring process doing the same thing- being accommodating to his circumstances at the time- that, looking back, was indicative of many problems since.

            1. OhBehave*

              Tell your boss!
              Boss is probably hoping employee will quit to avoid unemployment. Hopefully you can be rid of this person soon.

      2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        In our state, anyway, it doesn’t matter if it’s “fired” or “quit”. UI is determined based on what was going on at the time. Not being capable of performing a job to expectations might be “oops, they hired the wrong guy” or “the job has changed and oops, he wasn’t right for it any more” which would be eligible. Or this could be a “guy didn’t feel like doing the work being asked of him” which is less eligible.

        Either way, he’s out of the way so someone better can be hired.

      3. MoopySwarpet*

        Also, in some states, if you’re fired for cause, you might still receive UI, but it might not come out of the company’s UI account. I only have one data point in one state, but we terminated an employee for cause and they received UI. However, it doesn’t show in our history of claims. I think some states treat being fired for cause similarly to quitting depending on circumstances. I think in his case, they would look at the not working as basically quitting. Especially if you have his statement in writing.

    3. karou*

      Yes, tell your boss what he said. He’s not going to improve, so trying to get him back on track is a waste of your time and his continued poor performance might reflect badly on you as his manager. It’s time to cut your losses with this employee and find a better replacement.

    4. CM*

      It would be easy to ger him fired for cause, but if the idea is that you want it to be a lay-off, that’s more complicated, and he’s going about it wrong if he’s refusing to work. (FWIW, if you want to force your job to terminate you, you should keep doing your work but be super unpleasant and difficult about it).

      Anyway, you could try saying it sounds like it’s time for him to move on and you’d like to see if there’s a deal you can work out for him. But if you’re not his manager and can’t fire him, it might be out of your hands.

      1. Natalie*

        In plenty of states, getting fired for being a bad fit and kind of crap at your job will qualify you for unemployment just fine, so I wouldn’t necessarily rely on this to avoid a UI claim.

    5. hbc*

      I would definitely tell your boss, but I would also try to let this guy know that he’s shooting himself in the foot. Depending on your company benefits and local unemployment practices, it might be something like, “If you’re asking us to let you go, it sounds like you’re done here. I think it would be best if we could work out a timeline and an agreement that includes doing the work that we talked about. If you won’t do that work, yes, you’ll be fired, and we’ll tell future reference checkers that. We also won’t give the standard severance, and there’s a good chance you won’t get unemployment benefits when we have documentation that you simply stopped working. I think it’s in both of our interests to push through until you can find another job or we train up your replacement.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      It sounds like he wants to be able to collect unemployment insurance and thinks if he quits he won’t get it but if he’s fired he will. By refusing to work, he is in effect quitting. If you want to help him out, you can (with permission from the boss) say that the company won’t contest his unemployment claim, but I would process this as he quit.

    7. OperaArt*

      Would it cost your company less to fire him and let him collect unemployment than it would to keep paying him to do nothing? Include in that cost the work others have to do to pick up his slack, and the amount of time and energy spent on managing him.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I think I would go the painful route for this one. Painful for me and painful for him.

      Tell the boss exactly what he said. Do not mince words, don’t cover for him.
      Let him know that you have informed the boss of what he said to you. (This may help to cut back on the babble coming out of his mouth if he knows you will repeat it. Simply say, “It’s a rock and a hard place. I am accountable for getting this work done. If it’s not done, I have to explain why.”)
      Then let him know that since he has informed you that he will not be quitting any time soon, you have decided to implement timelines and routine check-ins as his outputs must be brought up to standards. I might even exaggerate a little and tell him that I have to do reports to the big boss about my check-ins with him. You can keep notes of your own and when you have a few missed meetings or whatever, you can go back to your boss with the results you are seeing.

      Tell him that his concern over caring for his large family is relevant. The company has a parallel issue, in that the company is trying to take care of all its employees with pay, insurance, PTO, etc. But if an employee is not productive it is not fair to ask the other employees to pick up the load. Since he is concerned about his large family, then surely he can understand why a big boss would be concerned about his group of people.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I’d advise recording all interactions with him if it can be done in a legal, and company approved manner. Just in case anyone ever needs proof of what he said.

        He might be trying some “clever” plan that is blown apart by documenting exactly what happened. In which case, telling him about the recording will help.

    9. AnneNonyMouse*

      I inherited one of these when I was promoted at the same time we gained a new director (he was previously a peer slightly lower on the org chart). I explained the situation to the director, who does have that power, and we let him go with severance.

      I would not convince your boss that he needs to be fired unless his work product and attitude are (or become) such that with another employee you would want to let them go or put them on a PIP, but I do think you should talk to your boss about the situation and see what they say.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well he straight up said he wasn’t leaving on his own and he’s also not going to actively try to do his job.

      So the only option is to tell your boss and let him get fired. Otherwise you’re paying this guy for the nothing he brings to your organization, nobody should be kept on who is responding in that way to your request for improvement.

      He wants to be fired because honestly in this situation, he will probably be granted unemployment benefits since he’s done nothing egregious and a lot of places will allow you to collect if you are let go for performance standard issues.

      He’s not going to look for a new job, he’s fine not working and phoning it [barely!] and getting a paycheck. He’s in a great position personally, so cut that dead weight loose. Tell your boss everything. Be loyal to the boss and the company, this person isn’t a friend or even a person you really want in your network, take care of your own interests over his, he’s a grown person who can go find himself a new job since this one isn’t what he’s good at.

    11. tiasp*

      What does “trying to please our boss” mean? He’s doing NOTHING or he’s still doing his usual amount of work, but it’s just sub par?

  12. Bee's Knees*

    TLDR: as requested last week, the story of how I got proposed to at work, by someone who should not have proposed to me.

    The last couple of weeks have been so, so crazy friends. This actually happened a couple of days after the events that led me to talk to myself in food city, but I’m just now getting a chance to tell y’all about it. Strap in.

    Let me start at the beginning. My boss, Marvin, was out of town that week. So I was handling the cookout all on my own, which was fine. We’d planned for it. At several points in the week, I did get a profound sense that oh, this must be what it feels like to have children. I about told several people to go outside and get me a switch. (For those not from the South, that means a small branch to spank with.)

    I wanted to do something nice for Department B, because by that time they’d been working almost a month without a day off. They’d cycled through the local restaurant offerings, and I thought about what is easily scale-able for a bunch of people, and volunteered myself to make bacon and pancakes. I’ve done it for a crowd before, but never by myself. How hard could it be?

    Well. So I call up the grocery store the day before and warn them that I’m coming. I then proceed to purchase 100 lbs. of bacon. (That’s 45.3 kg for my non American friends.) Its a lot. The checkout guy’s face when I showed up with an entire buggy of bacon was something.

    So anyway, I get everything back to work, go to dinner, and decide that I don’t have enough time between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. to take a nap. I head into work at one and get started.

    This is the part where you will know if you know me in real life, because I have told this part of the story to many people. Everything on the internet said you could cook a pan of bacon for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees (204 C) and it would be done. Well. The oven in the breakroom doesn’t work that way. I had to crank it up to 550 degrees, and it still took 45 minutes to get one pan of bacon done. That’s not a lot, especially when you’re feeding about 20 people a round. I also had trouble getting the griddles for the pancakes to stay on, because I kept tripping the power strip. I finally just pushed the meal back by an hour and a half, because I wanted it to be ready. I will not do that by myself again.

    Anyway, at this point it’s like 4 a.m. I do not have makeup on, and I have been awake for about 20 hours. One of the supervisors asked me, completely serious, if I had been out in the sun. No, sir, that’s just what my face looks like. Also, I’ve been running around for three hours like a chicken with my head cut off.

    That meal went more or less ok, as did the others that followed. After the somewhat disastrous first attempt, I took the rest of the bacon home to cook. It worked much better, even if the house did smell like bacon grease for two solid weeks.

    However. I do have some complaints about the way in which these men complimented me. Did they say, “Hey Bees, this is good, thank you.” Well, some of them did. But I had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR SEPARATE PEOPLE over the three meals tell me that my cooking would make me good wife material. Thank you? If they thought I was offended by this, they would be horrified, but it’s offensive. Why can’t they just say thank you? If I was a man, nothing would be said about my marriageability based on cooking. It would just be, hey man, this is good. Sometimes, working in a male dominated industry is terrible.

    And now, what everyone really wanted to hear about. One of the supervisors (!!!) told me that if the food was any good, he’d have to hurry his divorce along so he could marry me instead. He is easily twice my age, and a very, very strange man. Not sure on what world he thought it would be ok to say that to someone, especially someone my age. I think at that point (when I had also been awake for probably 30 hours) my brain just shorted out.

    No thank you. I shudder just thinking about it. No. Just no.

    *Walks out of the room, then comes back wagging finger*
    And another thing!

    I have been proposed to over food before, but it was for my triple chocolate cupcakes, from someone roughly my age, and those deserved it. Bacon and pancake mix (from a box) most certainly did not rise to that level.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      well, all I can say is OMG, pancakes and bacon for one million colleagues! you are a hero.

      And I hope you never attempt THAT again. :)

      1. Emily S.*

        I’m amazed that you even tried to pull that meal off.

        But also, yes, I truly hope you don’t do anything like that again. Because no, it isn’t worth it.

        But if you wanted to do something similar, have you seen the recipes for the baked French toast casseroles that you can batch and do in big trays? Something like that that could be made well in advance, and kept on warmer plate trays (got any of those? They’re a lifesaver for work parties! My office has two). Or something like a strata could be an option, those are often served at room temperature and can be delicious, with fun fillings like chopped bacon, veggies, whatever.

        1. Bee's Knees*

          Normally I just order, and there are a couple of local restaurants who are sweet enough to bring us stuff in the middle of the night. We had run out of options though, and this didn’t seem like it was going to be that hard.

      2. Hamburke*

        I think your oven temp was off bc I cook bacon like this every weekend – usually 2#s so I can have bacon on my sandwiches for the week. It takes about 14 minutes for us to get it done how we like it.

        That said, nice job on a meal for 20 people and why do people think that every woman aspires to be a wife?

    2. Clisby*

      ” If I was a man, nothing would be said about my marriageability based on cooking. ”

      Oh, I can easily imagine the “How come no woman has snapped you up yet?” comments.

      1. Sophie Hatter*

        This is true. I think, however, people who make comments like this are sort of in awe of men cooking, like it is a rare thing, where comments about a woman being a good cook are more like “You’re good at this thing women are supposed to be good at/necessary for wives to be good at, I deem you acceptable for a potential wife.” For wives it’s necessary to learn to cook; for husbands it’s a surprise bonus if they do.

      2. Bee's Knees*

        If it had been a social setting, it wouldn’t have irked me nearly so much. I’m twenty years younger (or more) than most of my coworkers, and a girl to boot. It’s hard for them to take me seriously on the best days, and I want them to value me for my actual job, not because I can or can’t cook.

    3. 867-5309*

      Next time someone says, “You’d make good wife material,” I’m replying with: “Ah yes, my cooking is fabulous but my habit of cutting off penises makes me a less than ideal partner.”

      1. Camellia*

        Best said when you are holding a knife! You are cooking, so of course you would have a PERFECTLY good reason for having a knife handy, right? [cue innocent look on face]

      2. KAG*

        Dexterous and edgy knife work. Conclusively resolving interpersonal conflicts.

        Specializing in domestic affairs

        1. Auntie Social*

          “You HAVE to cut it off an inch at a time—-otherwise, how will they learn??” would be a perfect motto.

    4. Mrs_helm*

      His cooking (perfect stuffed shells from scratch, no recipe) is one of the reasons I married my husband. And I tell people that all the time. He seems proud of it. Should I stop? (Some of the other reasons are NSFW or, 25 yrs later, no longer valid…for either of us.)

      1. 867-5309*

        I think it’s that women often get regulated to compliments for our domestic skills and it’s annoying, especially from coworkers. :) But in this case, if you wanted to share your husband’s recipe that would be okay.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        If I ever got divorced I’d definitely be searching out a guy who cooks and wouldn’t be ashamed of it at all. (Obviously there would need to be other factors involved, but yeah, if anything even happened to my husband, I want the next guy to be someone who’s willing to cook more than hot dogs just because I’m so lazy about cooking.)

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For what it’s worth, I prefer bacon to chocolate, *AND* I frequently ask my husband if he’ll marry me after he makes me a particularly tasty dinner. (He works in tech now, but he grew up in a restaurant family and worked as a chef to pay for his engineering degree.)
      But I wouldn’t ask anyone at the office that!

    6. Aquawoman*

      I personally HATE the presumptive “I’d date/marry you ….” comments because, hi, autonomous being here with complete veto power over whom I date/marry.

    7. Hermione Stranger*

      “It’s sure a relief to hear that! I was worried the arsenic would put men off.”

    8. Hmm*

      This is a fun story, but I wouldn’t call it getting proposed to.
      He did not actually ask you to marry him.

    9. rainbow*

      Ahh I think I can clarify things here. Saying something like “he’d have to hurry his divorce along so he could marry me instead” is a joke. He wasn’t actually proposing. It’s sort of just like a folksy way of expressing how much he liked your cooking.

      No worries, there are lots of common sayings I hadn’t heard of too!

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Yeah I’m a little confused by this story. I came in expecting sexual harassment, and instead read about a poorly-planned meal that ended up going well despite the chaos, with some awkward but well-meant compliments at the end.

        It’s definitely awkward, but it’s not a real marriage proposal, and a man would definitely have been told the same comments (if not more patronizing, like “good for you! wow I’m impressed with your basic life skills!”).

        Maybe next time just buy and bring in food for everyone!

  13. curious question*

    I need to know how to shut down snarky remarks about another coworker. This all sounds so high school when describing the situation.

    I work for a company that is truly like a family. Turn over is few and far as the owners treat everyone with respect and understands there is life outside the office. There are 10 of us in total including the owner.

    Every quarter during the work day we take a “fun day” at work. Everyone is given a +4 to invite friends and family. We usually do something on a Thursday. It’s a fun activity like go bowling, head out to eat a mid afternoon lunch, head home and getting a long weekend with Thursday and Friday being a paid as normal work days.

    Side note to my story…. My coworker Sue is one the most amazing team players there is. Without getting into the “mombie at work/ working parents” debate, Sue does need flexablity sometimes (not all the time) for her family needs but never expects anyone to cover for her. Sue is the first to volunteer, puts in extra hours for when she does need to adjust her schedule, comes in early/ stays late etc. Sue has said she appreciates that Owner understands her situation but wants to hold her own, and she does.

    Over the summer on our fun day we went to a local amusement park. We had early access passes and were able to get in around 8 and met up for lunch at 3. Sue brought her husband and 5 year old daughter. Daughter started getting a bit antsy half way through the meal. Sue’s daughter has always been well behaved so we knew she must have been exhausted to act out. First peep out of daughter, Sue took her outside to calm down… on the way outside full meltdown occurred. Getting from the table to outside was literally 15 seconds.

    Daughter calmed down a few minutes later. Husband went to check on them. Sue came back and spoke to the boss that they were going to call it a day. Sue was clearly embarrassed but the owner was more concerned that everyone was ok. Sue tried to pay for a round of drinks and wanted to leave additional tip for the service staff as an apology but owner wouldn’t have it; the day was on him. A now calm but very tired Daughter came in with Husband to apologize and thank Owner for a fun day. Owner even had their food boxed up so they could enjoy it at home. Daughter got a hi-five-goodbye from Owner.

    Ever since then our coworker Rachel keeps making these snarky comments about Sue/ Sue’s family. Rachel is in her early 30s; childfree by choice (no judgement, kids are not for everyone). She is the newest member of the team having been here about 4 months. Rachel is likeable and has a very bubbly personality so her behavior is a bit shocking. Rachel keeps going on and on about how such a young child should never come to these events; none of the other children misbehaved; how Sue needs to rearrange her hours; Sue can’t control her child, etc.

    I’m a little dumbfounded by Rachel’s actions. What was Sue supposed to do? This was a family/ work fun day. I thought as a parent Sue handled things properly. Rachel is going on and on complaining, looking for sympathy or someone to agree with her…. no one is budging. This was literally a 15 second issue that Sue promptly took care of. The managers and Owner don’t see Rachel on a day to day basis to see that this is happening. I’m not even sure if anyone else is on the receiving end of the complaints. I tried being indirect… Gee we were all tuckered out at the end of the day. What can I say the next time she comes to me? How do I handle this?

    1. ThatGirl*

      “Rachel, it was no big deal, Sue handled it as well as she could have, please stop complaining.”

      Just be direct. There’s no use hinting around.

      1. valentine*

        I would sing Sue’s praises, doubling down every time Rachel brings it up. I might go as far as to call her a living saint or to say she should run for queen of the planet. Rachel would get my best hyperbole because she is apparently unable to see: Sue sounds like a dream, as does her kid, who was perfectly polite, and amusement parks target families, so, if anything, people who think kids should be cloistered away or “controlled” are the ones who are massively out of step there. The company invited families. If they wanted to set an age limit, they could, and I bet you have at least one colleague who pitches bigger fits over smaller stuff than this five-year-old did, yet Rachel doesn’t think they need controlling or other quarantining.

        1. Armchair Expert*

          Right? I think I’m a good parent and my kids are often complimented on their behaviour, but when I got to the tired, over-stimulated five year old coming back in to apologise to the owner and thank them for the day I was like – this woman is a literal saint among parents.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, Rachel is being obnoxious about a pretty mundane issue. Do you think a simple “I think Sue handled it really well/perfectly/calmly/professionally, but I also don’t think it was a big deal in general.” would be enough to shut her up?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That would be my script. I’d also be tempted to tell Rachel to stop being a shit-stirer at a job she’s been in for less than five minutes. People like her really irk my soul.

      2. Triumphant Fox*

        She might also just want something to talk about and this incident is something everyone can reference. I know that I’ve been around people who will just not let something go, not because it’s particularly interesting or because they really care about Sue’s parenting strategies but because it’s something they can gossip about and feel powerful.
        “We’ve heard your opinion on Sue and her parenting from the one incident. I didn’t see anything wrong with how she handled it and children that young are welcome for family fun days. Let’s move on.”

    3. Peaches*

      If she brings in up again, I would say something along the lines of, “It was a family fun day. Why WOULDN’T Sue bring her daughter?” That way, she’ll know how ridiculous her complaints are. Also, if you’re comfortable saying so, you could add, “I don’t think it’s fair to judge Sue’s child’s behavior as a non-parent.”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Leave the non-parent part off – I don’t have kids either, but I can tell when they’re acting a plum fool in public. That being said, it doesn’t sound like Sue’s daughter’s behavior was over the top or any way out of the norm for a five-year-old (my niece is the same age and she too has these occasional meltdowns), so you could say, “Sue’s daughter was being five – don’t badmouth her or Sue’s parenting when you know nothing about either.”

      2. MoopySwarpet*

        I think the first sentence is perfect, but please don’t say that last line! Just being a non-parent doesn’t make you completely clueless about all things kids. I think to say “I don’t think it’s fair to judge Sue’s child’s behavior.” would be fine, but being a parent does not give a person special judging powers.

        I am childfree and prefer kids in small doses. I think Sue handled the situation perfectly and probably even better/quicker than I would feel necessary. Rachel needs to get over it.

        1. Holly*

          I agree – it also gives license to Rachel complain that she is the victim here as the non-parent, when it really has nothing to do with that.

    4. Pontoon Pirate*

      “Wow. Well, I don’t agree with that perspective at all. You’ve brought it up multiple times so it must be weighing on you; I hope you can find a way to make peace with it. Now, about those reports…”

    5. Parenthetically*

      Wow. My first thought is the Mean Girls, “Why are you so obsessed with (this five-year-old)?” Lol. But I might try something along those lines, like, “Huh, are you still thinking about a fifteen-second event that happened X number of days ago? For such a little thing, it’s sure taking up a lot of your mental bandwidth.”

      But it’s super crappy of her to keep bringing it up, especially given how absolutely normal it is for kids to melt down after many, many hours of overstimulation — and a 3pm lunch, too? Even considering snacks, she was probably incredibly hungry! And it seems like Sue handled it exactly as she should have. If Rachel keeps pushing back, I’d just say as firmly and factually as possible, “It’s normal for small children to have times like that, and Sue handled it perfectly. It should not have an effect on her professional relationships. I’m not up for hearing any more of this kind of disparaging commentary about her. It’s unprofessional.”

    6. MOAS*

      eww Rachel is mean.
      How are the other people around Rachel’s comments?
      Does Sue hear these comments?
      Are you in a position to tell her to (nicely) stfu?

      We joke around a LOT in my office, and some of our jokes can be mean, inappropriate etc. But no one would EVER say “wow your child is bad/uncontrollable”. That’s a level of nasty that’s…whoa.

      1. curious question*

        My office is in somewhat of a quieter area of the building so I don’t see Rachel interacting with others unless it’s in the breakroom. I think the semi privacy of my office is why Rachel “complained” to me. I’m friendly with Sue but outside of company happy hours or the occassional Saturday coffee, we’re not close friends. I would think though that we are close enough that if Sue was upset she would have come to me. Rachel and I are on the same level so I have no authority to tell her she is overstepping.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Even if you’re at the same level, you CAN say you don’t want to hear it anymore, and that you think Sue & husband are doing a good job of consistent parenting.

        2. Observer*

          You can still say something to her. Not as an authority figure, just as another person who just doesn’t understand why she would be so bent out of shape over a really, really minor incident.

        3. Lilysparrow*

          You absolutely can tell a peer that they are being rude. This isn’t Rachel’s work, where you don’t have standing to correct the way she does it. It’s personal gossip, and you don’t have to sit there and enable or validate her by listening to it.

    7. mf*

      Yikes. I get why Rachel feels the way she does about Sue’s kid at a work event, but considering family/children were explicitly invited, she needs to keep those feelings to herself.

      Next time Rachel brings it up, I would look her in the eye and say point blank, “You’ve made your feelings about Sue and her kid abundantly clear. None of us agree with you. Let’s not talk about this again.”

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Perfect! This is a great formula for handling so many office conflicts.

        1) Acknowledge their feelings.
        2) Give them the current status.
        3) Tell them what they need to do going forward.

    8. Professional Pup*

      Well, for starters, it’s a really good indication that when Rachel was looking around trying to get people to join her in complaining, nobody took the bait.

      My go-to any time someone says something I don’t want to engage with at work or in a professional context is “Huh.” — completely disinterested and disengaged, and doesn’t give the offender any positive or negative feedback (because they’ll feed on both). Then I bring up something completely unrelated and steer the conversation elsewhere. I’ve also seen it recommended here to just say “Wow,” with a completely neutral tone and move on.

      When it becomes repeated behavior is where it gets tricky. Since you say it’s a small family company, I’m guessing the lines of hierarchy between employees are somewhat blurry, but I assume Rachel isn’t your superior in any way? If you start hearing more frequent complaints from her, trying to lure you in to complain with her, you could say something like “I thought Susan handled it well,” and like before, redirect the conversation. Then “I don’t think this merits any more discussion, let’s drop it” if she persists. Past that point, I’d start to get someone else higher up involved and make it clear that Rachel’s complaining is distracting you from work (of course, it’s likely bothering you in many other ways, but tying it to productivity first can be helpful).

      1. Auntie Social*

        “Rachel, I have listened to your many complaints and unkind remarks about Sue. And I disagree, I think Sue handled things quite well. But what I will not tolerate is your obvious gender bias. You don’t have to be a man to discriminate against women. So either shut your comments down or I go to HR and to your boss. We don’t snipe at other women here at Acme Drains, we support them.”

        You ever notice how everyone is an expert until they have kids of their own??

    9. ContentWrangler*

      Indirect isn’t working and a complainer can often hear that as subtle agreement. You have to be direct and shut it down. Focus on how much you like and appreciate Sue if you get nervous about confrontation. You don’t have to be rude to Rachel, just the next time she starts up about Sue’s “bad parenting and child” just say – “I don’t see it that way at all. This was not a big deal and it’s strange that you keep bringing it up.”

    10. hbc*

      Rachel is kind of begging for over the top agreement. “I KNOW, RIGHT?! I’ve never heard anything as crazy as a five year old not keeping completely calm after seven hours running around a park in the hot sun. I bet that little demon doesn’t always eat her vegetables too.”

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Seven hours runner ng around in hot sun, and not getting lunch until 3 pm.

        You better believe I’d have a meltdown myself if I didn’t get lunch until 3.

    11. curious question*

      Hey everyone thanks for your replies. To answer some questions/ statements people have made. Yes Lines are blurry but in a professional way. You know the who’s boss but it’s not uncommon for the boss to go out of the way to make this a family like atmosphere. The bosses realize they can’t compete in certain ways with large corporations and definitely do all they can to compensate in other ways, such as our family fun day.

      I am equal to Rachel job wise .

      Sue’s daughter is the type of child that could sit in a 5 star resturaunt and whose table manners would put any adult to shame; she is just adorable, polite, charming, well behaved little girl. I just think the day was a lot for her.

      Someone mentioned 3pm was a late lunch – the boss pays for park admission and the late lunch – anything inbetween for souvenirs and extra food are up to each person individually.

      I guess I was just surprised by the whole situation. Sue’s child will not be the first or last to have a rough day at Company Fun Day. No one has ever complained before. I’ve never encountered Rachel’s opinion before; the first time this happened I honestly thought this was a practical joke or something. I honestly didn’t think the situation was a big deal. To each their own.

      Everyone has given me some great ideas on how to reply to Rachel, not challenge or “stick it to Rachel”, keep the work environment fun, etc. I am hoping this is just a case of Rachel complaining in an attempt to “be popluar”, in other words maybe a rookie mistake not understanding the office culture.

      1. Michelle*

        I think you can politely respond to any other comments from Rachel with the examples in the replies. I think if you are clear that you don’t agree and won’t engage in gossiping about it, she’ll either stop or find another audience. If she keeps on with the comments, Sue will find out. Sue sounds like a lovely person, but when you start talking smack about someone’s child, Momma Bear might make an appearance and Rachel definitely doesn’t want to deal with that.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ahh. This is good context here.

        “Rachel, kids have meltdowns from time to time, that is what they do. Once in a while we have this happen on our family fun day. I hope you can be okay with it as it really is not that big a deal, no one cares and we all like working here. I hope you like it here also.”

        What I really want to say:
        “Rachel, the kid’s meltdown was a few minutes. Your meltdown has be DAYS. I will take the kid’s meltdown over yours anytime.”

      3. OhBehave*

        I’m glad to know other coworkers are not joining in on bashing Sue! If Rachel is still harping on thus she must not get that no one sides with her. Duh
        You can absolutely derail her without being her boss. You are her peer. This needs to stop now.

      4. Crackles*

        “Sue’s daughter is the type of child that could sit in a 5 star restaurant and whose table manners would put any adult to shame; she is just adorable, polite, charming, well behaved little girl. I just think the day was a lot for her.” <<<< This is exactly what you should say next time Rachel complains.

    12. PantaloonsOnFire*

      “This company has a culture that is very supportive of working parents and their families. If you can’t put up with kids acting like kids on family day, this might not be the company for you.”

    13. Ginger Baker*

      If Rachel is new, does that mean this is her first Quarterly Fun Day? That’s what it sounds like to me – that she thinks she can get traction on her views because she does not realize that she is completely out of step with the work culture on these outings. I agree with suggestions of others to something like “Wow, the rest of us have already moved on from this and you seem to be unable to let go. Let’s drop this topic now, thanks. [subject change].” You definitely want to shut this down, especially as if you don’t it will only likely be worse at the next Quarterly Fun Day – or worse, change the tone so much that Sue will not feel comfortable attending. (And personally, I think if you’re Shut This Down comments don’t do the trick, at the small size company you are at, it’s is absolutely worth flagging this to the owner.)

      1. curious question*

        Yes this was Rachel’s First Quarterly Fun Day. Sue and I are meeting for coffee this weekend so I think I will take the opportunity to casually give her a heads up. When Rachel brings it up again, I will defitely use some of the scripts mentioned above. I’m not good with this type of confrontation but having everyone already spelt out what I am thinking I think I have some good ways to respond with out overstepping any bounds. While I think Rachel was annoyed with the meltdown, I do think this was just her way of trying to fit in.

        1. Parenthetically*

          “I think I will take the opportunity to casually give her a heads up”

          Ooh, no, don’t do this. If Rachel and Sue’s professional relationship is currently fine, don’t poison the well. Tell Rachel what needs to be said, but don’t pass on office gossip to the person being gossiped about by one annoying person.

          1. curious question*

            I see your point, but don’t you think Sue should know someone is gossiping about her?

            1. Parenthetically*

              No. It’s still gossip. What purpose would telling Sue serve, except to poison their relationship?

              Rachel can learn from this, both to shut up about parenting when she isn’t a parent herself, and to knock off gossip. That’s a good outcome; in fact, it’s the best possible outcome. What good, positive, professional-relationship-conducive outcome comes from petty gossip being passed on to her?

            2. Parcae*

              Nope, nope, absolutely not. That’s not actionable for Sue, and only serves to make her feel bad. Don’t feed the gossip; let it die a well-deserved death.

            3. curious question*

              point taken. I was trying to do the right thing by Sue but it sounds like telling her would just complicate things unnecessarily.

            4. Ann Perkins*

              Speaking as somebody whose toddler had a full-on meltdown at our last office family event… please don’t say anything to her about it. No good would come of that.

            5. ECHM*

              A longtime friend was complaining to me about her mother-in-law. Then, just so I could feel how she felt, she told me a complaint she’d heard her mother-in-law had made about me. That pretty much ended our friendship.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Oof. Yeah, my father-in-law “reported” to me (venting) something that my sister-in-law said that was SUPER hurtful, and it’s taken a ton of effort for me to get over it. There was absolutely nothing positive to be gotten from doing that.

              2. Ewpp*

                My friend in your position was and still is friends with my ex mother in law. Mil completely sought to ruin me and apparently my “friend” didn’t think she talked trash about her. Ha ha ha
                When a mother in law is disparaging you, a person can feel completely isolated from people they know, as mother in law knows many if not most of the same people, horrible people take any measures they determine necessary, and your ‘friends’ cant relate at all . or they dismiss the severeness of your mother in laws actions because maybe she’s looking out for her son. Even though he is an adult?
                Long rant, but I am sadly not friends with above friend. But I don’t only blame her. Maybe in an effort to get someone on her side, your friend, who saw herself being dragged into a psych. Battle her mother in law had started waging became desperate.
                Many people who had a mother in law figure despise them, years later after leaving the ‘ man child’s struggle for people to truly understand them. People have the training to take on a person who lost a spouse but not ones who battled a mean mother in law and gave up.

            6. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Honesty? At this point, telling Sue is kind of the equivalent of middle school kids saying “Rachel totally hates you” at the lunch table. Sue’s probably not going to go to Rachel and say “How come you’re being such a jerk to me behind my back?” She’s just going to be hurt and sad, and it’s going to make things really uncomfortable anytime she has to ask Rachel for help with something.

              If you want to be truly kind and helpful and compassionate in this situation, you talk to Rachel, not Sue. Very kindly pull her into your office and say you’re uncomfortable with how she’s been talking about Sue and Sue’s family, and that if Rachel wants to form strong working relationships, she needs to speak respectfully both to and about her coworkers. All of the negativity she’s been expressing needs to be saved for conversations with her non-work friends.

              I know that’s hard and I know you said you don’t like conflict, but it’s truly the kindest thing you could do for both Rachel and Sue.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                Very kindly pull her into your office and say you’re uncomfortable with how she’s been talking about Sue and Sue’s family, and that if Rachel wants to form strong working relationships, she needs to speak respectfully both to and about her coworkers. All of the negativity she’s been expressing needs to be saved for conversations with her non-work friends.

                This is very good advice.

                1. tamarack and fireweed*

                  Yes. And it can be integrated with some of the other scripts. The “5 year olds sometimes have meltdowns. It was was no-big-deal and all of 15 seconds” and “Frankly, at this point your repeated harping reflects badly mostly on you.”

            7. Mel*

              As someone who has apologized for airing grievances around the regular presence of a fellow grad student’s children, I’d recommend holding off unless Rachel continues to complain. I was called out on my complaint, and brought in some cupcakes for the student and her kids. She had no idea I had even said anything (even though there was a department-wide email about not posting about our colleagues online). I think it worked out best that I was the one to bring it to her attention, as I can easily see someone else telling her would have really harmed our office relationship.

            8. Observer*

              I don’t think there is any use in letting her know. It’s not like there is anything Sue can do about this.

            9. Not So NewReader*

              Absolutely not.
              What is Sue going to do? Clearly Rachel makes sure Sue does not hear it.

              No, it’s up to the person hearing the gossip to stop the gossip. This is more like trouble making, trying to rally the troops against Sue.

        2. Jedi Squirrel*

          Don’t say anything to Sue. Why? Because this is not Sue’s problem. Sue handled everything in a perfectly acceptable manner. This is entirely Rachel’s problem. Don’t put this on Sue’s shoulders.

    14. Lilysparrow*

      Just tell her she’s being really rude, doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and you don’t want to hear it anymore.

      You don’t have to spare her poor widdy feelings when she is working so hard to be nasty about this. I wouldn’t lead with being this direct, but you already tried deflection and indirection.

      It’s not working. Tell her to knock it off or take it elsewhere.

    15. smoke tree*

      I feel like Rachel must have very little exposure to children if she was this taken aback. I don’t spend a lot of time with kids myself, but I would not be surprised to see a five year old get overwhelmed and exhausted at an amusement park, and I really don’t see how Sue could have handled the situation any better. I wonder if Rachel has a bit of a Thing about kids generally because her reaction is so over the top.

      1. curious question*

        As I said Rachel is childfree by choice (again no judgement). She has mentioned nieces and nephews but I’m not sure geographically or emotionally how close they are. I think Sue definitely enjoys the childfree lifestyle and standard of living she has; she comes back with envious tales of taking off for the weekend to an exotic location or some incredible adventure mountain climbing. Common sense though that everyone, adults included, are going to be tired after a day at an amusement park. No one lifestyle is correct. I guess in this case it’s a combination of Rachel possible not being around kids often and trying to fit in.

        I do want to emphasize to everyone that Rachel isn’t a mean person, her personality fits in great with everyone… this is just one scenario that seems a bit off.

        1. as a mom and a coworker*

          wrong. Rachel isn’t a mean person TO YOU. But given the opportunity to be mean about a 5 year old, she is taking it and running with it. Maybe she doesn’t realize that this is how she’s coming across, but that’s what’s happening.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            + 1

            She’s trash talking both a kid and a good coworker behind their backs – she’s a snake in the grass, and I’d personally be wary of her. If she’s doing this to one person, believe me, she’s shit talking all of you to each other. (And who comes into a new office and does this?)

            1. Ewpp*

              That seems to take the situation so far. Adults can have bad moments also, obviously. A long day at a hot crowded park can affect everyone. Childless doesn’t mean evil. Maybe she doesnt want to be around children the whole day. That’s why company get togethers like this can be inconvenient. Bring your kid to a hot, crowded park for the day they said. Some people would not. Responding to the co worker could be done thoughtfully.

        2. Parenthetically*

          “Rachel isn’t a mean person, her personality fits in great with everyone”

          Ehhhh… nice people who are trying to fit in generally don’t sh*t-talk coworkers and their children in a single breath. I’m hopeful that this is just a newbie misstep where she’s badly misreading the room, and a firm insistence that she course-correct is all it takes for her to sort herself out, but I’d honestly be a bit wary of her going forward.

      2. OhBehave*

        Heck, I get overwhelmed and exhausted at amusement parks! This sounded like a very long day for all.

    16. Interplanet Janet*

      Next time she brings it up: “You know, Sue has been a valuable contributor here longer than you’ve even been around. Obviously you’re entitled to your feelings about her, but I don’t share them. Let’s agree to disagree and not discuss it any more.”

      And then every single time after that: “I disagree. Please stop bringing it up.”

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          If it’s not too much bother, could you drop us an update after you handle this? I’m interested in seeing how Rachel reacts. I get the feeling that she’s trying to find a way to bond with people, you know the way people will latch onto one particular topic that they know you share and then bludgeon it to death, so I’d enjoy an update if you have the time.

    17. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      “Rachel, do us all a favor: Call up your Mom and ask her about the most embarrassing you did in public as a child. Cause I bet it was way worse than 15 seconds of meltdown.”

      Or, “Rachel, the child’s meltdown bothered me for 15 seconds. You, on the other hand, have been getting on my nerves about it for a month. Shut up already. And have a little compassion.”

      Or, “Rachel, nobody else even cares. Sue does an awesome job, so mind your own business.”

      Ok, maybe don’t say those. But a little stinkeye might be appropriate.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I said the equivalent of the “you’ve been getting on my nerves for a month” thing once when a co-worker complained in ugly terms about a baby as we were boarding a plane. I told him that so far, the baby was behaving better than he was.

      2. Parenthetically*

        I am cracking up about that first one. It’s so good. (And honestly it’s practical as well — said in a lighthearted way rather than a pointed way, “Lol, girl, come on. Go home tonight and call your mom and ask her if you ever had public meltdowns after long day. Now about those TPS reports…”)

    18. as a mom and a coworker*

      Rachel is an asshole, and has officially earned a “you are doing a worse job controlling your mouth than Sue’s kid did controlling her meltdown and she is literally a child so what is your excuse” at this point. Not saying that’s a good option at work but…

    19. KR*

      I think you can say, “I think Daughter had a long day and Sue handled things wonderfully. This isn’t a big issue Rachel.” And then refuse to engage. Let Rachel dig her own grave imo

    20. curious question*

      Hey everyone, it’s me again OP for this open thread post. I said this as an answer to someone’s statement but wanted to put it where it was not burried in all the responses…

      I do want to emphasize to everyone that Rachel isn’t a mean person, her personality fits in great with everyone… this is just one scenario that seems a bit off.

      1. Observer*

        It’s more than a bit off. Rachel may not be a mean person, but she IS being very mean. If she really is a nice person, it would be a good thing to tell her that what she is doing IS in fact very mean and she needs to cut it out.

        1. curious question*

          point taken. I have never seen this side of Rachel so I am trying to giver her the benefit of the doubt

          1. Mellow*

            Respectfully, it seems you are focused on this way too much (tell Sue? No WAY), and perhaps overthinking things a bit.

            Rachel: “Can you believe Sue’s daughter…?!”

            You: “I’m not sure what you mean. Sue’s daughter is only 5 years old; yes, she got a bit fussy, but Sue took care of things very quickly, and she and her husband took their daughter home so she could take a nap. That’s all there is to it, so I’m not sure why you keep bringing up this topic.”

            Rachel: “Well, okay, but can you believe how Sue [whine whine whine]…”

            You: “We will will have to agree to disagree, and I’d rather not discuss this anymore.”

            Rachel: “But Sue [yadda yadda yadda ad nauseum…]”

            You: Walk away without a word.

            Not easy, and awkward, but it gets the message across. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to play cruise director. Quickly and quietly defend Sue and move on.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If you do talk to Rachel, point that out. “You’re not a mean person, Rachel, that’s why this gossiping you keep doing seems so out of character.”

        1. CMart*

          Rachel may very well not realize how mean she’s being by making this commentary/harping on this. If most/all of her friends don’t have kids and especially if her social circles (whether in person or online) tend to be of the “lol kids are the wooooooorst” Childfree (TM) types then she really might not consider that sniping about children can be/is really hurtful.

          “Wow what a meltdown, kids can suck, Sue should control her spawn amirite?” is a very common kind of situational chitchat for some people the same way “God, traffic was awful why do all these douches refuse to use turn signals? People in this town are idiots” can be.

          So, to give her the benefit of the doubt that she is in fact a nice person who probably wouldn’t mean to say hurtful things, you give her the out. “You’re usually so nice and this line of snark is actually really mean, what’s up?”

          It’ll give her a chance to backpedal (“oh I’m just joking, 5 Year Old was really cute and I liked her, of course Sue is a great colleague/mom”) and hopefully never speak of it again.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            This is a really good point. I think Rachel was seeking to commiserate the way she does with other Proudly Child-free people, not realizing how rude she is being. I think calling out the behavior as mean and saying it’s out of character for her is a great way to make her think but also let her save face and backpedal.

      3. Lilysparrow*

        Yes, she is a mean person. She is a gossip, and she’s going around the office trying to recruit people to join her in trash talking a coworker based on a personal, irrational grudge.

        She may be friendly or even charming in many other ways, but don’t confuse personality with character.

        Personality is the impression you give other people. Character is the choices you make over time.

        Rachel is putting concerted, sustained effort into her choice to be mean about a coworker and a little kid.

        This is her character. Ignore this knowledge at your own risk.

    21. Curmudgeon in California*

      Rachel needs to grow up.

      I am childfree. I hate it when kids misbehave and the parents don’t do anything.

      But that’s not what happened here. Kid started acting out because of being tired. Susan, the parent, appropriately took the kid out of the area, kid went full meltdown in the process, but still got taken out.

      I would have thanked Susan for managing her daughter’s behavior appropriately, including letting the kid come in and apologize.

      Rachel needs to realize that part of being childfree is encouraging and supporting parents who raise their children well. If she can’t do that, she needs to just shut up.

      1. Mellow*

        I’m childfree, by choice, but I have to say, I don’t feel particularly responsible to parents to encourage and support them.

        What I do feel responsible to is to not judge them.

    22. OrigCassandra*

      Hi hi hello, also a childfree person, here to say that being childfree excuses Rachel’s treatment of Sue in exactly no way at all.

      Plenty of good ideas here; I’d be inclined to grey-rock it with “So you said, Rachel,” but honestly one of the more direct approaches already recommended probably should happen first.

    23. Anon Librarian*

      She might just be inexperienced with young children. I have met people – adults – who are unaware of how young children often act because they don’t have any of their own, haven’t worked with kids, didn’t have younger family members . . . or the kids they do have experience with were different from most kids. Or they have experience, but they’ve forgotten a lot of it. It can happen.

      I would just point out that this is totally normal. “Five-year-olds are like that. I thought Sue was great, and her daughter was adorable.” I’m sure there’s info out there about how kids have these kinds of meltdowns. You could find something that you could send her if she keeps bringing it up. “No, like I told you, this is normal. Here’s an article about it. It’s a part of growing up.”

    24. KoiFeeder*

      Having been an autistic kid, my immediate first instinct is that Rachel is upset that Sue’s daughter wasn’t punished. There are people out there, and maybe I met an abnormally high amount of them, who get really bent out of shape if they don’t believe that a child that was inconvenient to them has been punished. Of course, since I’m the only one who immediately thought of this (unless I missed someone), hopefully that’s not a usual occurrence nowadays.

  14. Wearing Many Hats*

    Hello, I asked about this in the LGBT open thread a few months ago, but still haven’t come to a good solution. My wife, who came out to me as a trans woman back in January, has come out to all our friends and family (who have been very supportive!) but is not out at work just yet. She has a plan with her HR team, but I am trying to figure out how to bring it up in my workplace! She is a director at a large company while I am HR/IT/Finance at a tiny tech startup. I’ve been referring to her as my partner all year, but my co-workers met her last year at a holiday party as my ‘husband’ (and I’m tired of deadnaming her!) A company wide email or announcement at our meeting is too formal–should I just tell folks as it comes up? Any advice or experiences very welcome!

    1. Anax*

      Trans dude here – Yes, just tell folks as it comes up. Be explicit, assuming your startup is pretty queer-friendly – “So, my wife has this awesome cookie recipe – oh, you met her as Daniel last year, she’s in the process of transitioning and is going by Danielle now…”

      (Otherwise, it can get confusing, with folks wondering if they misremembered your marital status, if this is a different person, if you’re poly, etc. And explicitly lampshading the trans thing can help the name and pronouns stick in folks’ heads. With new people who don’t know her from before, avoid deadnaming – for a lot of folks, that deadname gets stuck in their head as the “””real name”””, and it’s easier to short-circuit that reaction by just not using it.)

      They will probably forget a few times, since they don’t see your wife often – probably not a big deal, unless it’s done with malice or by someone who really SHOULD have it down by now.

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Ahh good points to keep in mind! We’re in a very liberal state and my co-workers are very nice and accepting, but quite sheltered somehow (I introduced them to pad thai yesterday). Thank you!

        1. hermit crab*

          Ha! At my current workplace, I think people would be WAY more surprised that someone hadn’t ever heard of pad thai vs. that someone’s spouse was transitioning.

      2. Earthwalker*

        Yes please! As someone who tends to be socially clueless, I’d rather hear this about someone I know right up front before I blurt out something stupid and thoughtless. Such a plain statement of fact would do favor not just for your spouse but for your friends and coworkers too.

    2. Bananatiel*

      I have very little experience with this beyond how I’d personally want to hear the news. But I think a very straightforward aside that she’s using she/her/hers pronouns now would be helpful to me, especially if I were still referring to your wife as “husband” in conversation! I work in an office environment that’s culturally very liberal so I think everyone would understand without you having to divulge more personal details than you want to. But YMMV depending on your office culture, of course.

        1. CMart*

          Agreed with Bananatiel. Being straightforward (like with Anax’s scripts above) would be more than enough for me, personally.

          I would hope most people, even if the news comes as a big shock and they have some level of surprise/needing time to think about it, would do that in the privacy of their own heads and simply react to you with “oh gosh, I’m sorry [implied: for calling her your husband/referring to her as “him”]! Thanks for telling me.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Agreed with speaking clearly and directly. Don’t leave me guessing what you want me to do. I am fine with clear instructions. I am not fine with hints, I usually don’t get it. If I write it down somewhere, such as a contact list or a roledex, don’t be offended. This is my way of making sure I get it right each time.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Another voice for “straightforward” (pun not intended – I’m queer/LGBT myself). “Oh, one thing, my partner goes by she/her pronouns now, and I refer to her as my wife, Danielle.”

          No hint of a suggestion that they were doing it wrong — after all, they were following what they knew. But also a clear expression of what you want them to do, said in a friendly tone.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Tell folks as it comes up. But maybe start by bringing it up to an ally in the gossip circles who can field the questions that folks are too embarrassed to ask you directly. Prep the ally with all the phrases you’d want used (including solutions to all those invasive questions about genitals and what will happen to them).

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Thank you! As HR I don’t really circulate in gossip circles, but will tell the senior team so they can address with their direct reports as needed. Good idea!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        There is a thing about gossip circles that can help you. Take the preemptive strike. You know your people. If you think they are going to say X, then give that reply to X before they even say it— if at all possible. If you get out ahead of it, you can nip it sometimes. Of course, you can’t cover every stupid thing they come up with to say but you can hit one or two of the most common stupid things.

    4. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      My spouse also recently transitioned, and I think you’re on the right track to just start mentioning it whenever she comes up. When someone asked “How’s Peter?” I’d just say something like “Oh, she recently transitioned and it’s actually Abigail now, but she’s great!” and it was always well received. If you don’t make it seem like A Big Thing people will mostly follow your lead. A few people had some trouble making the switch (linguistically, not ideologically), so be prepared to graciously remind/forgive folks for a while.

      If there’s any chance that anyone in your coworkers’ circles overlaps with her’s though, I’d probably wait until she’s out at work.

      1. SecretGay*

        I think you could (if you felt comfortable) also use that as an opportunity to talk about some of transition (esp. the non-bottom surgery parts). So like, “How’s Peter” – “Oh, she recently transitioned and it’s actually Abigail now. She’s doing great – very excited, but meanwhile, we dropped quite a bit of dough this weekend on the finest anti-acne skincare Sephora can provide us. We just figured, if she has to go through puberty a second time, why restrict her to the drugstore the way she was as a teenager?” It gives them something to think about and respond to and helps keep the conversation going.

        1. smoke tree*

          Oh my goodness, I would not recommend doing this! Just talk about your spouse as you normally would, don’t invite coworkers to scrutinize her transition!!

          1. Wearing Many Hats*

            yeah, that will not be happening. I am HR and have laid down the law about appropriate conversations, so folks here know that talking about sex or asking too many questions about surgeries is off the table, at least around me. We have a very respectful crew and while I’m sure there will be some bewildered googling, they’ll keep it professional (or face a warning conversation with me and their manager haha)

            1. smoke tree*

              Yes, from your above comments, I didn’t think you were likely to actually do this! You sound like a very considerate partner.

          2. SecretGay*

            I mean, again, it’s if you felt comfortable based on how much you normally share. But I don’t think talking about various aspects of transition is inherently inviting people to scrutinize that transition. There’s a lot more that goes on in transition than many people tend to think about, and those things take up a lot of time, money, and energy. Other people talk about how their lifestyle has changed after a spouse’s health issues limited mobility, or their infant is keeping them up at all hours of the night… why can’t we share anything about what all this involves, especially when it isn’t about their genitals?

            1. Wearing Many Hats*

              I am not a sharing type of person I guess–I wouldn’t go into much detail about any type of surgery or health issue. I frankly just give overviews to my co-workers of most things, vacations, house repairs, hobbies, and other benign things!

            2. smoke tree*

              It would be great to live in a world where transitioning is seen as an utterly benign activity, but unfortunately there are still a great many people who think that trans people’s bodies, identities and transitions are up for discussion/debate/consumption. Although I’m sure WMH’s colleagues are nice people, I would be very hesitant to encourage anyone to feel entitled to intimate details about a distant acquaintance’s transition. In addition to which, many of those details are just going to be inappropriate for a work conversation (and quite likely too personal for many people to want their partner’s coworkers to know about).

              1. SecretGay*

                It depends upon your workplace, but I’ve actually had pretty decent luck with this. No one has taken it as an opportunity to ask her genitals, but many have seemed relieved to have *some* way to discuss it and connect with me over it. I think the key is definitely that I purposefully keep it to the superficial, non-intimate stuff that’s easy for people to relate to – acne, clothes shopping, how her transition affects our summer vacation plans, etc.

                Again, if someone (like WMH) doesn’t feel comfortable with doing this, then don’t do it. But don’t discourage those of us who do feel comfortable doing some educating and expanding of the conversation away from doing it, either. People will never react like transition is an utterly benign activity if you don’t give them the chance.

                1. Baru Cormorant*

                  I think this would be a good idea to do with friends, especially people who mean well/are supportive but don’t have much experience with what transitioning looks like.

        2. Marvel*

          WHAT. No! This is no one’s to share except the person who is actually transitioning, and even then discussing medical details at work can be iffy for all the same reasons as when a cis person does it.

      2. Wearing Many Hats*

        This was my plan–thank you for the feedback and encouragement! I talked about it with her (of course) and she is supportive of me ‘coming out’ at work as it were. Our industries are very different and I would be surprised if there was any overlap.

      3. Lilysparrow*

        Okay, I know this sounds pretty stupid in context of this discussion. But without that context, this script would be totally bewildering to me.

        I guess it’s because I’ve personally known/worked with more people who practiced non-mainstream religions and used many alternative terms for death, than with people who have come out as trans.

        But my immediate read on the phrase, “She recently transitioned and it’s Abigail now,” would be that your former spouse literally died, and you re-married an entirely separate person I had never met, named Abigail. That “she” would just fly by unnoticed.

        I’d catch up eventually, but it is possible to be so casual about a significant life event, that you aren’t communicating clearly.

        I think clearly saying that your partner is using she/her pronouns now and has a new name, which is Abigail, is a lot clearer and easier to process. If you’re telling people things that they can’t possibly know from another source, then you have to actually *tell* them.

    5. SecretGay*

      I am in the same boat – my trans wife is out to her friends and a handful of coworkers, but not yet her whole workplace, and I’m trying to tell more of my colleagues. I’m definitely going with just telling people as it comes up, because it’s a large place with a lot of people – you might be able to make a formal announcement work if your workplace is teeny and absolutely everyone knows her as your husband, Daniel.

      There are really two ways I’ve gone about doing this: 1) just starting to say her new name and call her my wife and see if I need to say more, and 2) explicitly explaining that she’s trans. So like with 1: “I’m so glad this place has flexible schedules, because it allows me to drop off and pick up my wife from work so that we can be a 1-car family and get that much closer to buying a home.” Or, “Michelle and I tried out that new hiking trail you suggested – how gorgeous!” This has largely worked – people mostly seem to pick up what’s happened, or think they misremembered my personal life. Occasionally, someone will say, “who’s Michelle?” and I’ll respond, “my wife” and we can take it from there.

      1 is honestly my preference, because 2 tends to lead to a lot of questions (how am I doing? did I know when we got married? are we going to stay together? etc.) that is much more personal than I’d rather get into at work. However, I have used 2 on occasion with those I talk about my personal life more than average. Even then, I tried to slip it in – “We watched Mari Kondo on Netflix this weekend, and Michael, who – by the way – has come out as a woman and is now going by Michelle, anyway, she is now KonMari-ing the entire place and it’s kind of a wreck right now. Have you KonMaried your place?” This has varied success at diverting questions about The State Of My Marriage (though, it does tend to come with more assurances that if there is anything the coworker can do to be supportive they’d love to help).

      It’s tough tho. I have one coworker who saw the wedding pic I had of my wife (pre-transition) on my desk, and now inquires about how my “hubby” (blech) is doing all the time, and I d.r.e.a.d. telling her. So I took the wedding pics home to prevent more of that happening, but now I have no pics of my spouse at work and that makes me sad :'(.

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Uggggh on that hubby front. I’m not much of a sharing person at work anyway–I’m a bit older than most of my co-workers and they aren’t too interested in our gardening and cat shenanigans. And I guess the silver lining to moving to a totally open office back in April is that there is no place to put a picture, so it’s been down for a while.

        1. M*

          I think I posted in your last question as well- partner recently transitioned. I work in a boarding school so this was a big deal for us since we live at my job, along with all of my coworkers.

          In early days, I just told a few people. It was actually our kids who did the most telling; when they started talking about their dad, all of their 6-year-old friends were like- wait, when did you get a dad?

          After a bit we did a whole email just because it was easier. The one advice I have if you choose this route is to subtly indicate to people how they should respond. So in our case the email said just letting you know partner is going by new name now. We appreciate all of your support for this exciting change for our family. (Or something along those lines). Every person who responded used the word exciting in their response. I think it was helpful for people who wanted to be supportive to have the language that I had used. A few people had dumb questions but even those were well-meaning.

    6. Mellow*

      May I say, if I were your coworker, I would like to be told straight up. It’s instructive for me and respecful to the reality of one’s spouse.

      Also, may I say, good for her for having the courage to be who she knows she is, and bless you for loving her as she is. We sure could use more of both in this country.

    7. Skeeder Jones*

      Hi, disclaimer, not trans and no spouse that is trans but I have spent the past 3 months creating an eLearning module on caring for transgender and gender non-conforming members (I work at a healthcare company) and it has really transformed my thinking around gender.

      I agree completely with all the support you’ve received from people who actually have experience with this, especially about not sharing the medical transition part because one of the things I learned is that each person is unique and has different opinions about what they want to do to their body so staying out of that conversation helps to support the fact that people transition differently but what matters is that they are in charge of making those decisions.

      I think that just being casual about it is great because treating it like it is normal is what helps normalize it. It just becomes part of the normal conversations of life: Hey, I graduated from my Master’s, we’re adopting a kitten, our daughter won an award at school, my spouse is trans and transitioned, her name is Mary, etc.

      Also, I think you two need to go out and do something fun, and take a picture together! That’s an easy enough problem to fix! Congratulations!

  15. Neosmom*

    Other duties as assigned: Finding and purchasing tiny glass vials, labeling them, and filling them with sand from last month’s groundbreaking ceremonies for our newest distribution center. For board members. For the next day’s quarterly board meeting.

    My desk became a sand box (still finding the grains).

    My successful completion of this project will not go on my resume or my LinkedIn profile. But, I do have a happy boss.

    1. Havarti*

      Man, the things we do to make our bosses happy. Sand is like one teeny tiny step above glitter in its insidious inability to ever be completely cleaned up.

    2. juliebulie*

      Congrats on making your boss happy. Now you’ve got me wishing for an actual drawer full of sand to play with.

    3. DCGirl*

      Back in work-study days in the my alma mater’s development office, my boss decided to send a magnolia leaf from the stately old magnolia trees that graced the campus. Guess who had to go out on the lawn in July with a heft bag and gather fallen leaves?

    4. Mockingjay*

      Can you use the leftover sand for one of those miniature meditation gardens? With one of those cute tiny rakes?

      1. Quill*

        My family has a joke about desk zen gardens after my mom’s boss picked a bunch of dollar store zen garden kits up for the “holiday present” and made a big deal about how stress busting they were.

        The Zen Garden ended up in the gag round of that year’s white elephant christmas exchange.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          LOL I have one and I like it.

          One year in my family, several different people gave/received hot stone massage kits. After the second one, there was much hilarity as people opened theirs.

        2. Chaordic One*

          Many years ago a coworker had a small zen garden sitting on their desk and one day someone added a tiny little toy tractor pulling a plow behind it.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I have a beach-in-a-box on my desk. It’s a small origami box with some sand and shells. Occasionally I stick my fingers in there and imagine.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Ya know, once in a while, I really don’t mind days like this.

      But if you have a steady flow of this type of stuff, I am sorry.

    6. Cinderella in the West*

      Can I push back against the “other duties as assigned?” Should this include a “within reason” clause?

      What if the new assignment changes the work hours, environment, and/or availability in the normal work day? Is it something that an employee can outright say, this is not in my job description?

      I’ve been the envelope stuffer, snack shopper, equipment cleaner, photo journalist, laundry folder, event planner, Vanna White, and memo sending person at my company. I am not the admin assistant, but I have a hard time saying, No, to the admins. Clearly I adhere to other duties as assigned.

      I’ve temporarily been assigned someone else’s job, hours, & desk. I have communicated my frustration, and I’m not sure how much longer this will continue. They gave me no window for the temp job. I am not insubordinate. I’m always willing to help out and go above and beyond. Can the duties assigned to me change my hours from 9-5 to 7-2am?

  16. Odetta*

    OMG. New levels of ridiculousness. I went to get a glass of water and there weren’t any glasses in the cupboard. I noticed that the dishwasher hadn’t been emptied, so I emptied it. The office manager poked her head in and asked me not to do it in the future because people saw me doing it last week and thought I had to do it even though it is her job and she was getting in trouble (today isn’t really an issue since there are normally only about 4 of us in the office on Fridays and we’re all normal). But she was out sick last week! Well when she’s out, A is supposed to do it and if she can’t, B is supposed to. FFS!

      1. valentine*

        not even a ‘thank you’ for your actions/thoughtfulness?
        No, because it brought blowback on the office manager. I would love leave to get a glass for myself and not empty the dishwasher. It’s her domain. I’d leave it to her.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t really blame her. She doesn’t seem to have been too snarky about it. I may be misreading, but Odetta doesn’t sound like they are upset at the office manager but the people who are making a fuss about it.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Not a dishwasher, but I threw a tiny tantrum in our kitchen this morning.

      I swear it’s me and one other person who changes the water bottle on the water cooler. I kept track one week, 3 separate times. I came into work this morning and the coffee maker was empty (not plumbed in) and when I went to fill the coffee maker, the %#*$&% water cooler was empty.

      I ran into the big boss for the site that I office out of (I’m in a different group), I told him he needs to have a water cooler test as part of his interview process.

      1. irene adler*

        Been there!

        Folks would remove the empty water bottle and walk away.

        When I asked why, they explained that it was their way of communicating that there needs to be a new water bottle installed. Never mind that leaving the water cooler open like that leaves it exposed to whatever is in the air.
        So I suggested that they install a new water bottle. “Can’t,” they said. “Too heavy to lift.”
        I had the vendor deliver small 3 gallon bottles. Folks can lift these. No more excuses.

        So now the water cooler is just left empty.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh FFS when I tore my rotator cuff I would track down someone who IS able to lift water bottles every time I used the last of the water.
          Feel free to warn them if they do that often enough, facilities is likely to install water filters on your crappy well…that’s what happened here. Not fun when the filter goes into sulfur-production mode!

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          If the bottles are too heavy, that’s when you catch a passing coworker and say “Hey, would you help me lift this water bottle?” It takes about four seconds. Ugh.

        3. SomebodyElse*

          Ours is the new fancy kind that has the bottle/jug on the bottom with a pump. The water is stored 1 foot from the cooler. So all someone has to do is to slide a bottle from the bottom of the rack 1 foot and then tip and lean it into the cooler!!!! Zero excuse for not doing it.

          Thank you all for commiserating with me.

        4. Kuododi*

          GACK!!! That’s similar to the logic used by the miscreants who cut bites out of the last donut in the box. Then they leave this small, sad looking scrap of donut to turn green and petrified. Only then will someone break down and dispose of the trash. Never ceases to amaze me!!!

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Or the people who collectively leave seven half bagels in the box to go stale. Or the real jerk who cuts 1/4 out of one, and expects “someone” to miraculously want the mangled other 3/4. I hate when I have a meeting and get there to only ratty halves and cut up quarters of the diet people’s rejects. It’s maddening.

            I get it, you are “on a Diet™”, but you shouldn’t expect the rest of us to be your garbage disposal. If you can only “have a little bit”, how about finding a “diet buddy” to share with, or really sticking to your diet and not cheating with any?

            1. Mellow*

              Also, the jerk who brings back the company car with less than half a tank of gas and a windshield lathered in dead bugs.

              *****head explodes*****

    2. CatMintCat*

      Toilet rolls. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve changed the toilet roll at work because somebody has walked away and left it empty, I could retire a very wealthy woman.

      Seriously, the basket beside the toilet is always full (our cleaner tops it up daily) and you don’t even have to stand up to do it!

  17. aphorisn't*

    I attended a conference yesterday – my first work conference ever. I came away with a lot of ideas and energized, which I think might be the primary purpose of these things, but also demoralized with regards to my current workplace.

    There were a lot of interesting ideas and information that I gathered, but – as one of the people who I talked to said – I feel like my team is “functionally isolated.” The door is open to talk to whoever we want to, like people on other teams and the president of the company, but it feels like even though some things have changed (like the products we produce), other things will never change (like the struggle to get people to think about the customer’s needs and experience instead of doing whatever they want to do).

    The leader of the company may have a vision, but he’s a “big thinker” and can’t/doesn’t distill that vision into actionable parts, and everyone on the level below him has their own ideas, are “lifers” at the company, and fight to implement their own personal idea of what’s best instead of being united under any idea at all.

    The leader can spout aphorisms like “Disagree But Commit” and “Company Comes First” but they don’t MEAN anything, and without any guidance on interpreting them in a meaningful way, they really chafe me because I feel like what they really say are “Your opinion doesn’t matter” and “Throw work/life balance out the window.”

    All that to say, does this mean I need to move on and find a different place to work? I enjoy the day-to-day tasks of my job but I can’t effect any higher-level change at my level (and, honestly, I could talk until I’m blue in the face and people don’t respect me enough to even acknowledge I have a point) and the more I see of the “strategy” of this place, the more frustrated I feel.

    1. juliebulie*

      I hope you had a chance to do some networking at that conference, because yes.

      I mean, you can stay where you are, not worry about it, and have a stable job for years if whatever they’re doing is still making money. But I have a feeling that’s not what you want.

      If it’s still early in your career, and if you can stand it, you could stay there a year or two longer just to make it look better on your resume. But I think you should start looking now.

    2. 867-5309*

      One thing to keep in mind is that at conferences people – especially if someone is speaking or connected to the speaker, or a sponsor – are more apt about talking about how cool or great things are. This helps THEM look good also.

      It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for new opportunities, but rather that conference-going and networking can be a bit like social media: The public face is much prettier than real life.

      If you were happy BEFORE the event, just keep this in mind.

    3. LadyTesla*

      You should potentially read the book “Culture by Design” by Friedman. It talks a lot about this problem. That there are these executive level people with grand, vague ideas. But they don’t have *actionable* things or items that come out of these values. He talks about how to measure and change that. I would suggest reading that, seeing if your work would be willing to change towards these types of plans.

  18. Starting again*

    I am attempting to restart over alone at almost 40, any advice on a career change or movement when going to a large city at this stage of life? Things that may help make me more marketable in a large city vs the small area I have been in. I am turning 38 in a month and I am either having a mid-life crisis or I’m just having an epiphany on my life. I have a good work from home job (Health Insurance Project Management, MBA degree)but this year had hit me like a ton of bricks (marriage betrayal, parents bad judgement, and the realization that the life I was working for isn’t going to happen) and I want to change my life. I want to pursue the dreams I let go of to be a “responsible”, help my struggling parents, and create my own family in my 20’s. I realize that I need to pursue these as hobbies and not as a career change, so I am not expecting these hobbies to create an income just to fulfill a need. To do this reasonably I need to move to a larger city the dream was New York, but realistically just a larger metropolitan city with an active Arts community (we are currently in the county). However, my good income (95K) is realistically only a good income in small town Indiana not a large metropolitan city and I am looking for advice to change that.

    1. DisappointedinDC*

      That’s a great income in NYC (if you are by yourself)! (I lived in NYC on significantly less than that, and I live in DC now, still making less than that). But don’t forget – Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul both have very vibrant arts communities and they are relatively affordable and are not as expensive as NYC.

      1. LimeRoos*

        I second Minneapolis/St. Paul. There is a very active arts community, I have a few friends from high school I reconnected with when I moved here and I’m always amazed at everything they’re involved in that I see on Facebook – so much theater and music. And there’s quite a few art fairs & galleries as well. And it’s definitely affordable on that income, combined our income has been well under that until this year and we’ve been pretty comfy, even with student loans, mortgage, and car payment. Plus, with your job, experience, & degree, you may be able to find another fantastic job up here – there is a very large healthcare field (I’m in it, but much lower down the food chain lol).

      2. Natalie*

        One thing I would just be aware of in the Twin Cities is that we have a (deserved) reputation of being a hard place to make friends. The standoffishness that can be standard in the Midwest is turned up to 11 here. It’s not impossible or anything, getting involved in the arts community will totally help, and there are also tons of Meetups and other groups for transplants. It’s just good to know ahead of time so you can decide if you’re okay with that and be assured that it’s not you, it’s us.

        1. Transplant*

          THIS. Thank god I had a built in friend group before I moved or else I would be so lonely. Also is it just me or does it seem like half the population just disappears in winter? The first warm day is so funny because it feels like the population just doubles overnight and there are so many people on the roads/ in target/ at the bars.

          1. Natalie*

            It’s pretty crazy. I suspect a lot of people just stay at home and socialize at people’s homes. I grew up here aside from college and I never got used to the winters. The darkness makes me sleepy, and every single activity takes 3x as long (I will never understand winter biking, why do you want to spend 25 minutes gearing up for the 20 minute bike ride to work you lunatics). You really have to like winter sports to do them in 20 below windchill. It sucks.

            It seems like there’s been a big uptick in transplants so I’m eagerly anticipating you guys infecting our culture with more friend-making skills. :)

            1. Transplant*

              Yes! The winters are so bad. Thank god for the sky way/ a building that has a heated garage. I got one of those special lamps for people with Seasonal Depression to help and it made a huge difference this January (Also why does everyone compare winters to the winter of 91-92? “this is mild compared to 92!!!!!” Dude I wasn’t alive yet calm down I’m freezing).
              The summers are what lured me here. The summers are perfect.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          Chicago, OTOH, is pretty good for musing new friends, if Starting Again is looking for a big Midwestern city with an active arts community and a friendly vibe. I lived there for ten years, and would go back willingly if family circumstances permitted.

    2. ThatGirl*

      95K is plenty in most metro areas. My husband and I make a bit under that combined and we’re doing fine in Chicagoland. It may not go quite as far in NYC but it’s definitely liveable there.

      1. Mazzy*

        I agree totally, and I’ve lived in quite a few places, and how much taxes they’re paying will play a role. If they’re maxing their 401k and filing taxes as a single person, with the high state taxes and local tax (nyc tax will be getting close to 3k for them) they’re “only” taking home a bit under 4K a month. Which is great money, but I just wanted to mention this because most people don’t realize how much the taxes are in the tri state area

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, god, I wish I could find a remote job that made that much. I’d move to Los Angeles in two seconds.

    3. Miss Fisher*

      You might want to check out Cincinnati/NKY. Your income would be fine here and the arts community is pretty fairly active. I live here and don’t make nearly that much. I just bought my own place.

      Could you continue your WFM job until you find something else if needed?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I was just coming here to say Cincinnati. The arts scene here isn’t as big or vibrant as NYC/Philly/Chicago/Minneapolis, etc., but it’s growing, and downtown is also changing rapidly (in a good way) with more restaurants and sporting activities if you’re into that sort of thing. $95k a year will certainly go far here.

    4. AccountantWendy*

      I mean, my spouse and I live in greater Boston and make just about that between the two of us so yeah, 95K is actually pretty solid even in a high cost of living city, especially since you only have to pay for yourself. I’m also your age, to help put it in perspective. If you can move without losing your salary, I think you have a lot options!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The main thing is that living on $95 K in a small town and in a metropolitan area will get you very different styles of living, particularly when it comes to accommodation and transportation. If you’re used to living in a 4 bedroom house with a big yard, pool and double garage and having a 10 minute commute to work (and driving everywhere), doing that in a high COL setting is going to cost major money. If you adapt to living in a small apartment, and dealing with public transportation, and figure out how to balance convenience vs price, the money will go a lot farther.

        Some places, like NYC and the San Francisco bay area will be notable exceptions to this, but even there, there are a lot of people living on much less than 95K. They just tend to have some combination of small apartment/roommates/long commute/dodgy neighbourhood.

    5. Kiki*

      Honestly $95k goes very far in some cities. Look into Philadelphia, maybe? Thriving arts scene and close to NYC too (lots of NYC expats).

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Philly’s another wonderful option. I used to live in Center City during college, and I had a blast running through that city and going to gallery exhibits and indie music shows.

      2. Jaid*

        I make about 60K and live in Philly. Mind you, I get a transportation subsidy from my employer and live outside of Center City, but no complaints.

    6. Hope*

      95K is a pretty good income in medium metro areas, or even the large ones in the south. You might want to look into COL in a variety of cities.

    7. TCO*

      Hello from Minneapolis! Yes, we have a vibrant arts scene and a great job market for a diverse range of professions, along with a lot of other good qualities. You mentioned working in health insurance; we’re home to United Healthcare as well as several other Fortune 500s. What I like about the Twin Cities is that it has big-city opportunities, but it’s actually not that big of a place. People who run in similar circles tend to overlap a lot. You could get involved in the arts scene and come to feel pretty connected to that network.

      And $95k salary is plenty to live very comfortably here. People live very comfortably on much less than that, though everyone’s finances and needs are different. If you’re coming with solid experience into our job market, and especially with experience in a field that’s one of our key industries here, I don’t think you need to worry about being less competitive because you’re from a small town in a different state.

      1. Transplant*

        I second this. When I first moved to Minnesota 2 years ago I was able to get an apartment in a nice area of town for $950 WITH NO ROOMMATE. I lived on a 23k salary for about a year quite comfortably before I switched jobs and make way more. The job market is the best I have been in.

      2. Joielle*

        Yes, come to Minneapolis! I didn’t realize there are so many of us here. We should hang out :)

    8. Parenthetically*

      “my good income (95K) is realistically only a good income in small town Indiana”

      This… may be hyperbole (?) but it’s not accurate unless you have what I’d consider a very lavish lifestyle. You make over 2.5x my household income and we live in a city of 1 million. We are doing fine.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I made less than that in NYC and lived with my partner and dog in a fairly pricey (though small) apartment in Manhattan, and my partner made very, very little money (point being that I paid the rent without his help). If you’re on your own, $95k is a pretty good salary in New York; in fact, once I hit $85k I finally felt I could exhale a bit. Your approach to things will be different– your living space will be smaller and likely not in the center of everything, you won’t necessarily be able to save as much– but it’s more than do-able.

      If you can hang on to that WFH job and take it with you, you can absolutely make that move work.

    10. Sharkie*

      Dude- 95k in Minneapolis/ Chicago/ DC is more than enough for you to live comfortably! Chase your dreams. You got this.

    11. Sophie Hatter*

      I just want to say good for you for starting again and changing your own life! Another plug for Minneapolis. Very active arts community! Chicago has that as well, but if you like the feel of a smaller city you might like it here. 95K sounds like a crapton of money to me, but I’ve never made more than 1/3 of that since I’m early in my career in human services. I think you could live comfortably in many cities on that especially if you’re by yourself.

    12. M*

      Hey! Congrats! That income is great in lots of cities. I will also recommend Philadelphia! I don’t live there but recently visited and it is a vibrant city, pretty inexpensive to live and even buy a place. A close friend lives in Boston and is getting priced out of neighborhoods where she wants to live. She is looking to move to Philadelphia. She works in higher ed so there are lots of colleges there, but also great eats, museums, and so much to do. I really liked it when I visited with her. She was so excited to be able to move and buy a townhome/ condo in a great neighborhood where she could walk everywhere. She also makes less money than you and she would be able to purchase, just so you know. And you can easily get to DC and NYC by car, train, or plane. And having the international airport is great if you want to travel.

      1. Sharkie*

        I second Philly. My cousin and his wife were able to afford a house basically right out of college in Philly. Just watch out for the sports fans, they throw lots of snowballs ;)

          1. Sharkie*

            FYI I am obsessed with Gritty. He is my favorite and it makes me feel yucky as a Caps fan lol.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Hey, hey, hold on! That’s….actually totally fair. As you were. Put me down for recommending Philly as a place to consider. I’d also throw in Colorado Springs because it’s still got a vibrant arts scene, including repertory theater, and you’re close to Denver and Boulder, which are both fun (although significantly pricier cities as far as housing costs).

    13. Rainy*

      95k sounds fucking fantastic to me; I live in a very expensive smaller town (I love it here, but damn).

      There are a lot of smaller cities, and even bigger cities, where you will do just fine by yourself on 95k.

      I want to address some of the identity crisis/shift stuff you are currently experiencing. That’s normal. I recommend counseling if you aren’t already working with someone, but know that the things you are feeling are normal and valid. My first husband died when I was in my early 30s, and I ended up pretty much remaking my life in the most amazing ways possible. Remember that hope is always scary, and the bigger the hoped-for change, the more likely you are to be scared as well as excited. You are daring to dream of another you, living another life, and that is incredibly brave and amazing. Good luck. :)

    14. Roja*

      What about Cleveland? It’s 2 million metro and has a VERY active arts community, tons and tons of theater and also plenty of dance and music. The symphony is fantastic and the art museum is top notch as well. The city flies under the radar but it’s really got a lot going for it, and your money will go super far here.

    15. cmcinnyc*

      You can totally live on that in NYC. You can absolutely start over in NYC. What you can’t do in NYC is walk around moaning that you’re 38, so old so old. While there are millions of people here who marry young, have kids young, care for their parents–all the things you’ve done–it’s not the universal pattern. That’s what’s great about NYC: There Is No Universal Pattern. You don’t need to apologize for “your stage of life” or any of that. Just show up and rock it.

    16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It will depend on your dreams and how much space you want though, that’s the only catch. You wouldn’t be buying a house here but you’d get all the best rentals easily if you’re happy with a 1 or 2 bedroom setup.

      In Indiana it’s going to buy more space but not price you out of life by any means at 95k.

      You’ll also be worth more in NYC or another metropolis, so if you’re making 95k in a lower cost of living area, you’d be looking at a higher amount in a high cost of living area.

      If you want to come out west, Seattle is thirsty for employees.

    17. 867-5309*

      There are a number of excellent mid-size cities that would offer a FANTASTIC living on $95k and an active arts community: Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Petersburg, Louisville, Kansas City, Detroit… I’ve lived in four of these six alone and can attest to their art scenes, particularly Columbus.

      And, good luck. I turn 40 in January and am repatriating to the U.S. after moving abroad to be with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I most recently lived in NYC before this and while you can def live on $95k, my minimum to live there is $150k. It depends on the lifestyle you want, how close to a specific area you want to be, etc.

    18. ...*

      I live in downtown Chicago and I think that’s a great income. It sounds like you didn’t end up having kids? If you’re single thats plenty! More than enough! I lived on 30k a year in Chicago in my own apartment although things were TIGHT and there wasn’t $$ for hobbies. Not every housing market is as insane as the news networks make it out to be (ok except SF maybe). You can DEFINITELY live WELL on 95k in a big city. Although to me, living well is a nice 1 bedroom, good food to cook at home, and money to get my nails done. I don’t have a car. You can DEFINITELY do it!!! I’m about 10 years younger than you but having similar thoughts (just turned 29). I wasted my 20’s partying and I want to pursue some meaty hobbies and interests for a few years right now. Still gotta put in my 45 a week to get by but let’s go do this!!