being a picky eater at team lunches, boss accidentally texted me after firing me, and more

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

1. I’m a picky eater — how do I handle team lunches?

My team is culturally diverse and so are the restaurants around the office. My own tastes in food are admittedly narrow. If my boss organizes a team lunch at a restaurant with cuisine I don’t eat at all (as in nothing on the menu is suitable, and yes, I am ashamed that I’m that extreme/sensitive), how do I politely handle the situation? At my last job, my boss once took us all out to one such restaurant where I ordered something that I just ended up pushing around my plate and wasted.

It depends on how narrow your tastes are. If there’s only one nearby restaurant you’d ever want to eat at, you can’t reasonably ask that the whole team go there every time, especially if it’s not a place people are enthused about. But if there are a bunch of places you’d eat at, that gives you more leeway to suggest alternatives.

It also depends on the frequency. If the lunches are a regular thing, it’s worth saying to your boss, “I’m a pretty restricted eater and can’t eat anything on the menu at Restaurants A, B, or C. Nearby places I can eat are D and E. I don’t want to make the whole team adhere to my preferences every time, but I did want to mention that I can’t eat anything at some of the places we’ve been going to, and I’d be grateful if we could use some of the alternatives I mentioned or change up how we’re doing the lunches in general — like maybe doing them in-house so I can bring my own food or order something that would work for me.”

If the lunches aren’t very regular, you might be better off eating before or after and just going along to socialize (and maybe ordering something like a small green salad or ordering off-menu if that’s possible).

(To be clear, if your manager were writing in, I’d tell her to try to accommodate everyone’s preferences. And if you had allergies or religious restrictions, you could push more on this. But your options are a little narrower when it’s just about preference; you don’t have the same standing to change the plans for the whole team. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t speak up at all.)

2. My manager accidentally texted me after firing me

After being terminated, the very same day I received two texts from my employer:

– “I terminated Jane today. Her response, Okie Odokie! Now I can go home and sleep!”
– “Sorry Jane I was sending this to my husband. He had been worried about me today.”

I am not a malicious person. However, I was basically fired because I asked for assistance with my duties. They responded by putting me into a Performance Improvement Plan during the busiest times of the year. Then they found out they were doing the PIP wrong and had to extend the time frame (still during very busy moments). I completed the PIP and all the tasks within it. Then I was terminated right after the Labor Day weekend.

I am a professional. I did not respond to her text. I took a screenshot of it. What is there to be done?

It sucks that she accidentally texted you that! It’s awkward for both of you, and it no doubt felt like rubbing salt in the wound after you’d just been fired. It’s uncomfortable to know she’d been talking to her husband about you, and it’s uncomfortable to hear her take on the firing. Her message sounds like she’d been stressed about it (which is normal) and felt relieved that you took it better than she’d feared. Her wording isn’t the most sensitive, but it’s not an egregious thing to say privately to her spouse.

As for what to do … there’s not really anything to do here. She made a mistake, she apologized, it’s awkward for everyone, and all you can do is move on. (I’m not sure if you’re thinking this is something you could report to your former employer, but it doesn’t rise to that level.)

3. I’m covering for my coworker, but I’m on sabbatical

My coworker and friend, “Fergus,” is undergoing medical treatment for a serious condition, but has opted not to take a medical leave. At the same time, I have taken a partial sabbatical, reducing my work commitment by half. Whenever Fergus is feeling under the weather or delayed at the hospital, he asks me to cover for him at work, knowing that I’m likely available because of my sabbatical. I don’t mind stepping in occasionally, but I also don’t want to spend my entire sabbatical covering for Fergus. We do have other coworkers who could theoretically cover for him, but since these situations arise with only a few hours’ notice, I don’t think most people would be able to come in on such short notice.

How can I be a supportive friend while limiting my availability?

If you were taking a full sabbatical (not just half-time), Fergus would probably be less likely to ask you to cover for him — and you might find it easier to say no. Getting yourself into the mindset you’d be in then might help you here. You presumably took your sabbatical for a reason — you’re working on other projects, or decompressing from stress, or whatever it might be. If you keep working hours that you’d planned to have to yourself, you’re going to undermine those goals. What’s more, your sabbatical is probably only for a limited time, something you had to negotiate to get, and something you’re not likely to get again in the near future — so if you miss out on it now, you probably won’t get it back any time soon. It’s okay to protect it.

When Fergus asks you if you can cover for him, it’s okay to say, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.” That’s it! You don’t need to give a reason. If you want, you can add, “I’m not available then” — but that’s necessary, as long as you say the “No, I’m sorry, I can’t” in a kind tone.

It might be useful to talk to him about this more broadly as well, especially since he’s a friend. You could say, “I wanted to let you know that I’m not going to be able to cover for you anymore. I’ve realized I need to be more disciplined about keeping to my sabbatical hours before it slips away. I know you’re in a tough spot so I wanted to let you know in advance, and I’m sorry I can’t help out anymore.”

(Also, I’m assuming Fergus is using intermittent FMLA if he’s eligible for it, but if not, make sure he knows about it. It doesn’t require taking a full medical leave, but rather is specifically designed for spots here and there.)

4. My coworker cuts people off and talks over us

My manager just quit but right before leaving hired a new employee, we’ll call him Bob. Since Bob started, he’s been in limbo, with no formal manager and thus no training set up for him. My coworker and I have been doing our best to help him get up and running, but he has this rather annoying habit of talking over people.

As he’s now getting ramped up to be client-facing, how do we address this? We’re just his peers but he doesn’t seem to follow the normal pattern of conversation where you take turns and are an active listener. He will simply start talking (not in a rude manner, nor loud volume) until he’s done with his thought regardless of if he’s interrupting you. It’s like he’s trying to guess what you’re going to say and repeats what you say, all while bulldozing over you. He does have a background in a call center so perhaps this is a bad habit he’s picked up. Help!

I don’t think this is a call center thing; I think this is a rude thing. You say he’s not doing it in a rude way, but interrupting people and talking over them is rude.

The only way he’s going to stop is if people tell him to stop. So, from now on when he interrupts you and starts talking over you, say, “Please let me finish.” Say it in a slightly louder voice if that’s what it takes for him to hear you. If he keeps going anyway, stop and wait for him to finish and then say, “You interrupted me. I want to finish what I was saying.” Repeat as needed. You may need to add in body language, like holding up a hand in a “stop” motion to provide visual reinforcement.

You can do that every single time. But you might also find it useful to address it more broadly, as in: “Bob, you have a habit of interrupting and talking over people. Can you please be more conscious of waiting until I and others are done speaking before you jump in?” You could add, “Especially now that you’re about to be working with clients, it’s really important not to cut people off and talk over them.” You might be thinking that’s more appropriate for his manager to say to him, but (a) he doesn’t have a manager, (b) you have some standing to say it since you’re helping train him, and (c) even if that weren’t the case, you’d have standing simply because you’re one of the people he’s interrupting.

{ 571 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that off-topic comments may be removed without warning.

    In particular, please keep responses to letter #1 focused on advice to the letter writer (and not just accounts of what you personally don’t like to eat).

  2. jm*

    LW 1, i hear you and i feel your pain. i’ve been extremely lucky with team lunches because my supervisor is also very particular, but all-staff events where they have only two types of box lunches are the pits.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      I’m a fairly picky eater, but thankfully I can find something on most menus. However, I feel like most places, even those with more unique-to-you cuisines, can, say, broil a chicken breast or make a plain steamed vegetable (or similar; obviously I don’t know LW1’s specific preferences). Can you figure out something simple like that, which you will eat and most restaurants can make, even if it’s off-menu, and plan to order that? Call ahead to the restaurant, tell them the situation, and ask if they can make whatever your off-menu meal is.

      1. HereForKnowledge*

        This. I’m a recovering picky eater, & unless you have something that’s uniquely specific, most restaurants can serve you a non-menu item. I’ve been known to order off the kid’s menu too. Those grilled cheese/buttered noodles/chicken fingers can be a lifesaver if you like them.

        I’m not a huge fan of buffet restaurants, but they’re good for trying foods you may not be sure about if there’s one near your work. When I joined a team of people who were mostly from India, our manager took us to Indian buffet restaurants at least once a month. I’d pair up with a co-worker in line who could explain what was in any unfamiliar dish I was considering. I ended up trying (and liking!) new foods & made a few friends in the meantime.

        Good luck!

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          Good point, if part of your pickiness is about not knowing what’s in the food, maybe someone more knowledgeable, or the restaurant, can help out.

      2. valentine*

        OP1: At the very least, I would have a beverage and/or a dessert (though I once ordered dessert first and the server still waited post-meal to bring it, defeating my purpose. (Bring back bread and butter, people.)) But there’s no harm in trying something and finding it wanting. I would order something that sounds mostly okay, with one or two changes, and have a taste. Outside of work, if you know someone more adventurous, you could experiment, ordering stuff for you to taste that won’t go to waste. (In the past, I would’ve said to go and not eat, but someone here mentioned the server has to do the same amount of work for you, yet forego a tip.)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I am a picky eater and sometimes I am on a fasting diet, so there have been occasions that I go to lunch with coworkers and just have water–but still tip the wait staff. That’s definitely still an option!

          1. pleaset*

            I’m not in the OP’s situation in terms of being a picky eater, but often I don’t eat lunch with colleagues because i just don’t like eating in front of other people at a table. So in the office, at team lunches, I often just don’t eat, and then eat at my desk later (or before, depending on timing).

            I think OP should consider just having water or juice at the lunch and eat before/after at their desk.

        2. Veronica*

          You can try asking the server to bring the dessert with the meals for the others. Some of them will remember to do that.

      3. Olivia*

        OP here. Thanks for the suggestion, Jen S. I definitely think I could explore off-menu options if available!

        1. Door Guy*

          I am an extremely picky eater as well. Unfortunately for me, it’s not just a “I don’t like the taste” as it is a “mouth-feel and texture” and “instant gag reflex”. Even if I WANT to try/eat something it still happens, although that is rare as I’m practically to the point of phobic with food (my GP has referred me to a nutritionist but haven’t had any appointments yet) and I physically cannot bring myself to put them in my mouth.

          I know other people on thread have mentioned learning the ingredients, but it’s the opposite for me : if I find something I do like/can eat, I make sure not to find out what’s in it because just knowing one of the ingredients that I don’t like is in it will turn me off to it. My wife’s grandma used to make amazing mashed potatoes and I refused to see how they were made just so I didn’t learn her secret ingredient (well, secret to me).

          I will second the off-menu options. I’ve not had many occasions where they couldn’t. My best friend’s bachelor party was at a sushi restaurant and after talking to the waitress she was able to bring me some a-la-carte tempura chicken. For work events I usually pack a lunch accordingly and eat when the others eat.

          Don’t let others get you down, there is always going to be that person who thinks that you should just eat it and be quiet, or that will take offense if you don’t have some of what they cooked. At the end of the day it’s still your body vs. their ego, and your body wins every time.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            Hi, fellow “if I eat this I will gag immediately and possibly vomit all over the table” person! It’s rough, and not many people truly understand. I also don’t really want to know what’s in something I like, but that’s improved a lot for me over time. What helped me is learning to cook. Partly because I know I’ve had control of the dish start to finish and partly because I can work around my food aversions and texture issues. I always check restaurant menus ahead of time if I can and I will call ahead or ask very nicely to have an 0ff-menu item. It works out well and with experience I’m now actually okay going to many places that used to bring me out in a cold sweat while everyone else excitedly exclaimed “omg yes, I love that place!!”

            1. Door Guy*

              I’ve cooked at a number of restaurants over the years and have made some pretty awesome food that I still won’t eat. I also have certain foods that I just have to make myself, eggs for one, that even if my wife makes them I’m still iffy.

              My last true “cold sweat” moments were my 2nd week at my current job. I was sent down to the main office to train for a week and both the Vice President and President took me out to eat at restaurants they knew, but as I was an out of towner, had no idea about. First one wasn’t as bad as it was a sports bar type place so I was okay. Second one with just the President, though, he told me as he was driving me to the location, that we were going to his favorite deli. Thankfully they had something I could eat without having to customize out the wazoo.

              1. Olivia*

                Door Guy, what would you have done if you’d arrived at the Deli and realized the menu options weren’t something you’d be able to do?

                1. Door Guy*

                  Probably tried to work out a cheese sandwich of some sort, or just had a side like chips or fries. I was sweating bullets as he didn’t even tell me the name of the place so I couldn’t look it up.

                2. Olivia*

                  Glad it worked out for you, Door Guy. I can only imagine the awkwardness given that it’s the President’s favorite deli.

              2. So sleepy*

                If I get in this kind of situation, I’ll sometimes say “oh, I had a big snack earlier, but I’d be happy to join you – I’ll just grab a drink or something light”. And then order if there’s something you like, get a drink if there isn’t. When I was a kid, “I ate before I came” was my go-to – no matter how hungry I was. Even now… I’ve been known to sneak familiar snacks into my purse if I know I’ll be anywhere for a long while where I can’t control the menu and don’t know what will be available. Although one time I went on vacation, discovered that even with a rental it was extremely difficult to get to a grocery store, and basically ate nacho chips, guacamole, and granola bars I had packed for breakfast and lunch for an entire week. They were really good, though!

                1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

                  I keep granola bars in my purse for exactly this reason. Well, that and I sometimes skip lunch.

          2. WantonSeedStitch*

            @Door Guy, I was just reading about a teenager in the UK who went blind due to a B12 deficiency caused by similar issues with food that prevented him from getting a balanced diet with enough nutrients. I’m not saying this to wag a finger or try to scare you by any means–just acknowledging that some folks really do have very serious issues with being unable to stomach many kinds of food, and that with them, it’s definitely not just a case of “eh, kale tastes like dirt!” but a full on phobia-like response. I feel sympathy for you and others in your position, and hope the nutritionist helps you to find a way of making sure you’re well-nourished without judging you!

            1. Dahlia*

              That case of is not typical. He literally ate four foods. Maybe we could like not use a teenager with an eating disorder as scare-tactics?

              1. Autumnheart*

                Agreed. Vitamin supplements exist. There’s no reason a person must be vitamin-deficient even if they do have a restricted diet.

              2. WantonSeedStitch*

                Like I said, I’m not trying to scare anyone–just saying that yeah, some people have issues with food that are really serious, more than just dislike, and that I agree you can’t just “get over it” when it’s that bad. I’ve seen a lot of scorn for that kid and other people with food aversion issues recently, and I just wanted to show support for them and understanding of the difficulties they face.

          3. Oaktree*

            That sounds like ARFID. If you haven’t explored that option, maybe it would be something to read up on. Apologies if I’m telling you things you already know; if so, please just disregard.

          4. KidMin Maven*

            Door Guy — talk to your GP about ARFID (Avoidance/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) You can work with a nutritionist, but IF you have ARFID, you would be better off with a psychologist. It’s classified as an eating disorder, but the fear is not weight gain, but something else — texture, choking, etc. . . . Most people seem to lose weight or have poor nutrition. But some people don’t and just survive on a small variety of foods. Some people gain weight because all they can eat is fat, sugars, etc.

            TO BE CLEAR: I am not diagnosing you! But I had never even heard of it before I was diagnosed, so I thought I’d at least mention it. I was actually THRILLED to be diagnosed because of the embarassment at not being able to eat at meals and gatherings. Hearing things like: “This is the best seafood restaurant in town — why are you ordering chicken?” can make these events torture. It was just a relief that I wasn’t making it all up in my head and just being picky.

      4. a1*

        I was going to suggest pretty much the same thing. Order something and customize it during the order – basically making it an off-menu item. My friends and I do this often at both chain restaurants and loca restaurant. They are almost always willing to accomodate. For example, let’s take a typical taco lunch – 2 tacos served with rice and beans and a salad. We have asked to have the rice and beans replaced with steamed veg and corn cake, and instead of hard or soft shell a lettuce wrap. (We’ve also asked for fajita veg in the tacos instead of meat).

        1. So sleepy*

          @a1 – this only works in some restaurants and with certain food aversions. I can make substitutions in a lot of restaurants but there are still some where it won’t work. For instance, in asian restaurants, they rarely carry anything I will eat (unless it’s a buffet). There’s no bread, there’s often no fries, I don’t like rice and I find the food generally tastes like rubber. I’m fortunate that I can usually order spare ribs but I could see how someone wouldn’t be able to eat anything (and I often won’t). I certainly leave hungry.

          Sushi places are another example. I won’t even try. Seafood, it depends on the restaurant. I will sometimes order steak but if it were a lunch I’m not going to buy a $40 entrée (and often, if the food isn’t the restaurant’s specialty, it’s terrible – so it really depends). For me personally, there is often surprise cheese on a lot of things (or my personal favourite, when you ask them to hold the cheese, so they replace it with a different cheese for you!).

          All to say that while this is a good idea in theory, I suspect OP is already doing this or is dealing with situations where this isn’t a reasonable option.

      5. Smithy*

        Here to cheer this suggestion.

        Asking if it’s possible to just get rice and grilled chicken (provided both items are on the menu) is often fairly doable. And should the restaurant of the week/month be announced in advanced, it’s also possible to call ahead and just ask what kind of accommodations might be easiest based on your preferences.

        While there are lots of food I like to eat, I am definitely prone to being fussy. My approach is to typically read the menu ahead of time and then have one or two options where if I’m asking for modifications, I know in advanced what they are and can streamline my questions. And if I get a “no” that X has to include Y because it’s made ahead of time, I have a backup option ready to go.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          Also, one other approach I would try is to call the restaurant and describe your preferences. There might be something on the menu that suits your preferences but goes by a different name. Especially in some of the cultural cuisines, it isn’t always obvious to someone without experience with that food what something actually is.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          I do this. It helps a lot. If I can’t find a couple options I’ll call the restaurant and ask them what they would be able to do for me. If you’re polite and gracious, they’re usually happy to accommodate you.

        3. KimberlyR*

          Fellow picky eater here-If you can find out the restaurant ahead of time, definitely peruse the menu and call with questions! I hate being on the spot and accidentally ordering something I don’t like. I feel so much better, and less self-conscious, if I know what I want ahead of time and can confidently order instead of stumbling through what I want taken off. If there is literally nothing you like (appetizers, entrees, a la carte), even with modifications, call and ask if they can cook ____, then just order that at the time, again confidently. Either way, eat something small at your desk ahead of time and have snacks for after the lunch, just in case.

      6. Paulina*

        Yes, most restaurants will be happy to try to accommodate you and come up with something off-menu. Please don’t hesitate to ask; those running the restaurant will be motivated to help you, as they won’t want the whole group to go somewhere else instead. They might even realize they should have a couple of plainer items on their menu.

      7. Falling Diphthong*

        I was going to suggest this. I have found with child picky eaters that most places do some version of chicken fingers with a plain starch (white bread, white rice, white potatoes). And second HereFor’s kids’ menu suggestion–if they can make plain noodles for a 10 year old, they can make them for you.

        1. Door Guy*

          My parents favorite Chinese restaurant growing up had a small “American” menu, and the food on it was really good. Chicken breast dinners, hamburgers, corn dogs, and a few others that I can’t remember anymore.

      8. RunPandaRun*

        Yeah, I am vegan and have to order off menu regularly. It has almost never been an issue (sometimes really fancy places are jerky). I scan the ingredients for the other menu items, and think of something simple like pasta/veg or a burrito or whatever. It’s boring and not what I’d LIKE to eat, but it gets me through the meal.

        1. WorkingGirl*

          Another vegan here! Luckily for our last holiday dinner my boss let me choose the restaurant, but I’ve often ordered the full plate of sides – grilled vegetables, steamed rice, roast potatoes.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep – my sister can’t eat gluten or dairy, and what she does is let everyone else order (which means they’ll usually then go back to their conversations) and then when it’s her turn, she just says ‘So, I need to avoid gluten and dairy – I’m not coeliac, I just need to avoid eating gluten – and I wondered whether I could have the chicken salad, but with a balsamic dressing and no croutons?’ Or ‘Could I have the steak, but with no sauce, and can you make sure it isn’t cooked in butter?’ If she scans the menu beforehand (most restaurants have menus online nowadays, so if you know where you’re going you can look in advance) she can usually pick out a couple of things that can be customised to avoid the things she can’t eat. Even if it was more extreme, I don’t think most restaurants would have a problem with ‘I’m on a fairly restricted diet at the moment; could you make me a plain grilled chicken breast with rice?’

      9. JSPA*

        No way to know if LW #1 conceptualizes the problem as, “food I don’t like is disgusting and if I were to eat it I’d feel ill” vs “food I don’t know is strange, and strangeness makes me anxious” or “many foods have made me sick, so I’m picky by necessity” or “this is the socially-acceptable way to speak about an eating disorder” or “I come from picky eaters and am comfortable with that heritage” or “I come from a family where food was forced on me, so pickiness is my self-assertion and self-identity” or what.

        For some of these issues, “trying a bite in case it’s something that’s unexpectedly tasty” or “ordering a variant of something borderline outside of work hours, to see if there’s a functional work-around” would make sense. For others, it’s going to be way off-base / not applicable.

        Could be that OP knows exactly what the issue is, could be that OP has never actually defined it, or has actively averted their inward-focused glances, where food is concerned. If not already clearly defined, that’s probably a useful first step!

        Followed by all of the “do I want to work on redefining my self and my sense of normalcy RE food, or do I want to work on redefining my sense of what’s acceptable to order / normal to change at the table, so that I can make my food into what’s already comfortable for me, without that process also making me uncomfortable.”

        Most places are delighted to give you what you want, if it means you pay full price for something missing several of their regular ingredients. “I’d like a BLT with half the bacon, no tomatoes, on completely dry sourdough toast, no sauce or seasoning of any kind?” Done! “If I pay for a cheeseburger, can I get onions, pickles and a slice of American cheese on a toasted bun, hold the burger, no sauce?” Sure! An egg over hard on a plate, vinegar and pepper? Yup. Nothing but sushi rice in your sushi rolls? Can do!

        If you’re self-conscious–don’t be, but if you are–“this was my treat when I was a kid / was a student / was recovering from an operation / when I was pregnant / when I gave up meat for a year / when I lived above a restaurant in Puddleton and couldn’t handle the food smells.” Nobody will begrudge you eating something you like, because you like it.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          I was thinking the same thing. Does OP have a health reason for not eating certain foods? (I am aware that health reasons are not limited to food allergies or celiac disease. Not liking certain tastes/textures due to OCD or autism also count as health reasons, as do eating disorders and some of the other possibilities you mentioned.) Or does OP simply not like trying new things? If the latter, I’d say the solution is to be an adult, grin and bear it, and give it a try.
          If it’s the former, then I second the suggestions both you and Allison gave.

          1. So sleepy*

            This is not really fair to the OP, and clearly you haven’t had to deal with strong food aversions. I have actively worked on my picky eating since I was about 18 (now 34), because it is so challenging socially to manage. I can now eat some seafood, some spicy(ier) foods, sandwiches, mayo, pasta, really a ton of things I couldn’t eat until my late teens/early twenties. There are still some foods I can hardly stomach or know I will never be able to stomach (cheese, for instance. I’ve tried to force it down in situations where there was no other choice. It makes me gag – the texture, the smell, everything about it. I think there is a reasonable likelihood that I would die of starvation before becoming hungry enough to eat most kinds of it in any decent quantity. I am not exaggerating and I cannot explain why. Pizza is appealing to me in theory, but I would start gagging if I tried to eat it).

            As a practice, I will try most foods I dislike repeatedly but there are some that have nothing to do with being an adult and grinning and bearing it. I tend to have sensitivity to textures (fabric, etc.) so it’s possible it’s related to my ADHD or anxiety (or potentially mild OCD), but there is zero chance I am going to seek a medical diagnosis solely to get a food-related accommodation where it will be challenging at best to demonstrate a link, and I will basically be asking my doctor to make a leap of faith by writing me an exemption. If this situation was causing severe anxiety you might be able to get a psychologist to write some medical documentation but at the end of the day, that would only be necessary because of responses like this.

            All to say that it’s unfair to tell the OP that this only matters if they have a medical condition that you deem as valid. This is a real thing, and not generally in the control of the person experiencing it.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, and I will say that one reason to figure out a go-to explanation so that you don’t blurt “Even smelling Indian food makes me sick” or “I hate Asian cuisine.” Because that’s often intensely othering.

          I presume that OP is savvy enough to realize that’s going to offend people (understandably), and that may not even play into their issue, but lots of people aren’t aware. So if that’s the issue, having a pre-prepared reason like “health issues” or “I’m on a strict diet” or “oh I just ate” or buying something and asking for a to go box that you throw out (have in extreme cases done this) is something good to have in your back pocket.

      10. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This is going to sound ridiculous, but a lot of those places also have kids menus with more “approachable” foods and that’s sometimes an option too.

      11. Artemesia*

        I think this is a good idea. Most places can put out a green salad for example and bread. I think it is one thing if one has religious or dietary limitations. If eating at a seafood place will flare serious allergies for example, it is fine to ask that this be avoided. If you can’t eat pork then not going to a BBQ place where that is all they have is fair enough. But someone who is picky per se should not be asking for special consideration about restaurant choice. In that kind of case, where basically you don’t like most things, you either find something innocuous you can eat, you call ahead and arrange the salad or simple pasta dish (most places that have pasta will do a butter and parmesan dish) or you order something and push it around your plate. It is not fair to inflict one’s personal tastes on everyone else. I for example don’t like Thai food — I am not going to insist we never get Thai food, I will go and cope.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          “But someone who is picky per se should not be asking for special consideration about restaurant choice.”

          I didn’t get the sense from the letter that she was. When she said:

          “[…] how do I politely handle the situation? At my last job, my boss once took us all out to one such restaurant where I ordered something that I just ended up pushing around my plate and wasted.”

          I interpreted that as asking whether it was OK for her to do that (ordering something and not eating much of it), or if she should do something differently next time. My reading of the letter was that she was taking it as a given that she would be taken out to restaurants incompatible with her preferences, and asking for advice about what to do in such situations — not that she was asking for advice on how to impose her preferences on others. But Alison and others seem to have interpreted it the same way that you did, so I could just be totally off-base.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh I got the impression that OP was asking is it rude to order something and leave it behind pretty much. Not that they were imposing their preferences and needs on people but in current culture there’s a large stigma about wasting food, it ties into both ecological/earth friendly, and poverty talk.

            It’s the modern version of the “People are starving in x location,” that was parrotted at kids in the 60s when they didn’t want to “clean their plates.”

            Especially as someone else or the company were paying for the food. I think it’s fine to order something and push it around maybe try some maybe not, as long as you don’t have the kind of annoying coworkers who are going to go on a diatribe about “are you okay, why aren’t you eating, yadda yadda unnecessary and inappropriate food talk.”

          2. fhqwhgads*

            Yes, I also got the impression the question was more about whether the ordering something and barely trying it is generally OK vs if it’d be better to just order nothing, or only a drink if she’s sure she’s not really going to eat whatever she might order. Less about finding something to order or changing the outings and more about being present at these events and not rude (or if not attending might be less rude) etc.

        2. smoke tree*

          Personally I don’t think the reason why someone won’t eat a certain thing really matters (apart from details like cross-contamination). The purpose of a work lunch is generally to do something nice for employees, which isn’t compatible with making someone pretend to eat something they hate. The bigger issue to me is the potential lack of options–if there is only one restaurant the LW can go to, that’s not really fair on the rest of the team. Ideally I think Alison’s suggestion of letting everyone order in from separate places would be most accommodating.

      12. Risha*

        As per the usual, I am amused/rueful that the go to suggestion in this type of thread is chicken, the one food I will absolutely gag on the texture of. This is why so many coworkers in the past have mistakenly thought me a vegetarian. (Know that I am judging everyone for being willing to eat something that is simultaneously slimy and dry and stringy.) (Just kidding, I know I’m pretty much the only person who thinks chicken tastes/feels like that.) (But, really. Gross.)

        Anyway, that’s my suggestion, though of course it’s all dependent on what LW#1 can eat – almost all restaurants these days are prepared to handle a vegetarian (sorry, vegans), and will not blink at a request for a suitable meal for one, even if it’s not on the menu or ends up being just a crappy salad. It’s also my go-to solution for banquets and airplanes.

        1. Dahlia*

          Mine is how many suggest salads, rice, pasta, and things with cheese lol. Yeah those are not on any of my safe lists :P

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          Ha, that’s why I said “or similar.” I originally had listed several other foods, like a plain salmon fillet or a plain hamburger or plain pasta, but then I deleted it all and left it at chicken breast or veg or similar (and I actually was thinking of a steamed side of spinach as the default, and less the chicken, because a lot of people don’t eat meat).

          I actually know quite a few people who don’t like chicken, but to me it is a to-go because chicken breast on its own doesn’t have a strong (…or any…) flavor, so many people who are grossed out by strong flavors will eat broiled chicken.

          Semi-related: I honestly am surprised by how many people think making any customizations to a menu item at all is going “off-menu” or something where you have to hide it from your eating partners or apologize about it. I’m not shy about no bacon, Havarti instead of Swiss, sauce on the side, onion rings instead of fries. I wouldn’t even think twice about doing that level of request even at a work event! Off-menu to me is when you can’t even start with a menu item and edit it. If there’s a burger on the menu, they should be able to make your plain burger. If there’s a chicken sandwich on the menu, they should be able to make you a chicken breast. If there’s any dish with rice on the menu, they should be able to bring you some rice.

          “Off-menu” to me is where you don’t even see any reference to the food on the menu, but you have to ask if it’s a possibility. I was envisioning having to ask about a broiled chicken breast at a sushi restaurant (although I would just skip the sushi restaurant entirely).

          1. Risha*

            Hah! I did actually notice the “or similar,” you just happened to be the first of many comments to mention plain chicken, so I defaulted to attaching my comment to yours. On the whole I completely agree with you. (Except for the part about chicken having no flavor; you are 100% correct that it’s mild, but chicken meat in itself also tastes terrible to me, just in a much lesser way than the textural issue. I do use chicken broth and stock in cooking, however!)

      13. Spencer Hastings*

        This is kind of interesting to me, because I was raised to believe that asking for something not on the menu was (in the absence of a bona fide dietary restriction) entitled/diva-ish behavior. But if that’s not the case (or not universally the case), then that’s good to know!

        1. fhqwhgads*

          It partially depends on what you’re asking and how you ask it. If you ask “is it possible to get the X without Y?” They may say, sure no problem, or they may so “sorry it’s prepped and mixed together already”. And if you accept the answer either way, that’s generally fine. If you go in saying “I’ll have the X, but without Y” or clearly making up a dish that is partial components from three different dishes, that’s more of the entitled/diva-ish thing.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Or how far off-menu you’re going. “I see you have broiled salmon with lemon sauce, sweet potatoes and eggplant—could I get that with no sides and sub a small salad and some butter instead of the sauce?” is more likely to go over well that “I see you have mussels in tomato sauce with a side of kale, tofu with peanut dipping sauce, fried eggplant, and fried rice noodles. I want mussels with eggplant and plain rice noodles in peanut sauce.” It’s a modification versus asking them to invent you a dish.

      14. Edwina*

        Yes, I have a very iffy digestive system and have to eat very plain, grilled or broiled food, steamed vegetables, plain bread and potatoes, etc. I’ve found that you can almost always find something on the menu and ask for it unadorned: a plain grilled chicken breast or salmon filet; a turkey sandwich you can pick at. Restaurants almost always have some kind of bread that you can ask for as toast, and have toast and tea, or eggs. Or a baked potato. Plain pasta. Look ahead of time at the menus online, and see what you can order plain, that would be okay for you. Apart from that, the thing I often do will be to simply eat something at home, and then order some small side dish at the restaurant (or just the bread).

    2. ssnc*

      I agree – I hate that they put things like mustard, mayo, or other spreads on sandwiches. First, I don’t like it / don’t know what’s in it (I’m not tracking my food, but plenty of people need to know quantities), second, it gets soggy really quickly and is gross.

      Picking food at company lunches out at restaurants can be really difficult! If we are ordering from a menu, there’s the price consideration (I don’t want to order something too expensive). Also, if I want something customized, like “dressing on the side,” or “no pickles” it’s really awkward if the food doesn’t come out right because then I have the option to (very nicely) point it out and wait for my food to come back, while everyone else either waits or eats, and then I need to eat quickly or keep other people waiting, or, alternatively, look like a child picking things off.

      And, I really did need to eat in these situations because it was often the only chance I’d get between breakfast and dinner unless I took an unpaid break.

      Having standard “go-tos” has made my life a lot easier in group outings. If it’s a particular cuisine that’s commonly picked, I know a handful of foods that are common at those types of restaurants (General Tso’s chicken, chicken masala, pad Thai, Caesar salad, etc.) so that even if the restaurant changes, I know what I can look for on the menu.

        1. Door Guy*

          Pickles typically have pickle juice with them, and depending on where they put them when plating that can soak into your food and make everything soggy and taste like pickles anyways even after they have been removed. Onion is another one that can permeate into the food and still be tasted even after being removed.

          Also, speaking from experience, people can and will make comments when you do remove things.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            True, but “people will make comments” =\= “I’m not allowed to do this thing.” Sometimes people make dumb comments just to have something to say, and their impulse control leaves them at just that moment. “Ha ha, guess you don’t like pickles, huh!” “Nope, which is why I said, no pickles! Anyway, you were saying…”

              1. JSPA*

                Eh, there’s “notice enough to incorporate it into passing conversation,” and there’s “notice enough to care and make it a thing.”

                If you work with people who will make it a thing, they’re being a problem (and probably not only regarding your food). If it’s just fodder for, “show interest in the people around you by narrating their life as well as your own as it passes by,” that barely counts as noticing (and it does not count as caring).

                Unless I want your pickles, in which case…I care insofar as I’d like extra pickles, but not enough to actually order them myself. That’s still pretty low on the “caring” hierarchy. (And, bonus, if you let me in on your secret pickle hatred, next time I’ll be the person to say, “no pickles for Jane, but give me hers.” Win-win?)

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  I think we’ve established in this column that people will notice / care / comment on the smallest things. They often think they’re being funny and building relationships (see: team lead / medal and update). Just because *you* are reasonable does not mean that most people are. Door Guy is right on this one.

                  And also – I love pickles, but their taste does go through everything.

          2. DCompliance*

            This made me smile because my husband would make the exact same statement. I’m sorry you have to go through this. My husband has a similar palate.

        2. Jellybean*

          Well, except the person who is sensitive!

          I eat *everything* (seriously, I am a garbage disposal) but I have a close family member with sensory processing disorder/autism and wow, what an eye opener. Yes, people will starve themselves rather than deal with the food that bothers them.

          Always call ahead. I find that most places, even with non-American cuisine, can offer some sort of neutral bread-type appetizer that is enjoyable. For places that may not even offer that (for example, Ethiopian food where the bread is a strong-tasting injera) – call ahead and just chat. I find most places are willing to accommodate, as long as they get a head’s up. I’ve done this on many occasions for someone and it usually works.

          1. JessaB*

            That’s why that one comment about the person who wouldn’t say where they were taking someone for food made me annoyed. Let me know where we’re going, I can always figure something out. The internet and the phone are my friends.

      1. Allison*

        I feel you on the sandwich spreads, they make those catered lunches with pre-made sandwiches a nightmare! “Hmm, which of these is least likely to make me gag?” Sometimes we do a make-your-own sandwich buffet which I love, and I’m always down for pizza, but I get that they need to mix things up, and price and timing are always factors in what they can order for the group.

        1. Door Guy*

          Honestly, Pizza got to be a nightmare for me. I really only eat cheese and if its a smaller group (like our manager meetings at my last job) they won’t order one as they all want a meat lovers or taco or veggie and “we’re only ordering 2”. Larger groups will order 1 because “no one wants just cheese” but then it’s gone first because everyone seems to grab a slice anyways.

          1. Artemesia*

            The truth of large pizza orders. Order a cheese for someone who doesn’t eat meat and they better be first in line because it turns out everyone likes cheese and will take at least a slice.
            I am sensitive to onion; raw onion — might as well kill me now; cooked onion I feel like dirt for days. And it is in everything. Catered lunches were always a nightmare, but most restaurants can produce an order without the onion (except for those places that put chopped red onion in every dang thing –)

    3. Chaordic One*

      While I’m not really a picky eater, I have several food allergies and that makes going to some restaurants a bit tricky. Still, I can usually find something to order, and if not, I’ll have a consult with the waitperson and explain my dilemma to them and we can usually find something to order. Sometimes it means making sure that I get a plain sandwich with no spreads in it, no ketchup, no tomatoes, no mayo, no cheese. Other times it means a salad with no cheese, no tomatoes and no dressing. It’s not always great, but it almost always works out.

      1. Snuck*

        I’m a coeliac with a sesame anaphylaxis… and have a kid that is anaphylactic to half the menu… It’s hell!

        We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do… I pack for the kid his own safe lunchbox, and ring ahead for me.

        Is that an option? I know it’s nice to have a meal prepared for you.. but sometimes the experience of dealing with unknown kitchens means that it’s so stressful, but having your own packed lunch might mean you can enjoy the social and interaction aspects, without the kitchen worry? (Not saying you should choose this! But on the scales of pain we’ve gone this path.) We just explain there’s allergies and staff are actually happy (especially when they hear it’s contact anaphylaxis to egg! They let us wipe tables down pretty quick after that!)

        Another option is as other say “get the gastro recovery diet of bland chicken and no fat veg” or whatever else you can stomach.

  3. voyager1*

    LW2: I think you want to believe that you have been wronged here and that text from your manager is a way of getting back at them. Sure you could email it to your manager’s boss and what do you think they would do?

    Oh look the person who we fired with performance issues can’t let it go.

    If you are lucky they might tell your former manager to be more careful with texts. Worse case they are probably going to be reaffirmed in letting you go since sending that screenshot is so transparently revengeful and petty.

    1. valentine*

      sending that screenshot is so transparently revengeful and petty.
      It’s understandable OP2 feels someone should address the unmitigated gall of the manager doubling down by: (1) being sarcastic and lying about OP2’s reaction and (2) sharing that her husband thinks she’s the injured party.

      (And what was the manager expecting, tears, an apology?)

      1. RUKiddingMeTheSystemWontLetMePost...Again!*

        But if the manager hadn’t sent it to her by mistake OP2 would never even know about it.

        1. valentine*

          What’s the beef, then?

          It’s possible OP2 asked for help they shouldn’t have needed, was rightfully put on a PIP and, since they didn’t say they completed it successfully, rightfully fired, and now thinks texting the husband constitutes a breach of confidentiality. (But that’s the worst take and I would’ve thought you’d object to it.)

            1. Marthooh*

              The text adds insult to injury. The boss is literally saying “Well, I won’t lose any sleep over firing the OP!”

              1. MsM*

                Yes, but that might have been Boss’s reaction regardless of what OP actually did in response, because ultimately Boss needs to be able to live with it and move on. All OP can really do is add this to the list of things they don’t want in future managers and get (back to) searching.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                It *could* be read that way. Or it could be read as “this thing I’ve been dreading so much it’s been causing me to lose sleep is finally over, and now I need to recharge.”

                1. sunny-dee*

                  This is actually how I read it. Firing people can be stressful, especially since this sounds like it was a painfully drawn out process. It sounds like the manager was really stressing about Jane / OP’s reaction (would she cry, be hurt, be angry, blame the manager?) and this could be doubly true if the manager likes Jane as a person.

              3. Marthooh*

                Wow, everybody. That was an answer to MommyMD’s comment wondering what the OP was complaining about. I’m not saying the boss did it on purpose to be mean, just that the OP does have grounds for thinking this is an extra-sucky message to get, even though it was sent by mistake. I’m also not saying the OP should do anything about it, other than be happy this is an EX-boss.

              4. bonkerballs*

                I read the “I can go home and sleep” as part of the OPs response to the firing. As in, boss sent a message to her husband saying: I had to terminate OP today and her response was “Okie dokie, now I can go home and sleep.” Not that the boss isn’t losing any sleep over the firing.

          1. Ariaflame*

            Well they did say that they completed the PIP, though that could have been a miscommunication, but if OP2 really was shafted, is this a workplace they want to work for?

            1. pleaset*

              The heart of the beef is OP2 being fired. That’s the real issue. The text is so minor relative to that. At most it’s a symptom of the manager being problematic, and it might not even be that.

              The text is annoying for sure, but not appropriate or worth the OP reacting to in any way.

            2. sunny-dee*

              And, honestly, “completed” may mean a lot of things. She could have simply reached the end of the time period, or it could be that she technically hit the targets but it required so much coaching or took so long that it didn’t signal enough improvement (or a long-term sustainable process) for the company to keep her on. Or she could have nailed it all and they still just wanted to let her go.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I assume the beef is that receiving that text felt really uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean the manager did anything egregious in trying to send that text to her husband though; it’s just an unfortunate situation. I don’t know what transpired with the PIP but ultimately it doesn’t change the answer to the OP’s question.

          3. Mookie*

            I would guess that what smarts here is a recognition that her termination was a long time coming and inevitable (husband has heard enough about Jane for him to understand what the text meant) and that the PIP itself was always meant to be the justification for that termination.

            The thing is, that’s often what PIPs are and why they’re used. It’s understandably frustrating to complete one and then still be let go, but it’s by no means uncommon and there’s no recourse for it. It would have been nice for the LW to not have wasted her time on one. I do think being PIPed after requesting assistance and receiving none should have raised a red flag for the LW, but a kinder manager could have better articulated how high a bar, perhaps impossibly high, she needed to meet.

            That sucks but, LW, there is no next move here except moving on.

            1. Mookie*

              Also, there may be some resentment on the part of the LW that her manager framed the termination as a burden the manager herself had to bear. But, again, while being fired is never really pleasant, doing the firing generally isn’t, either.

              There’s a lot of angry baggage here and, again, very understandable. I’d recommend the LW view this situation through a more forgiving lens (forgiving to herself) and leave the personal stuff here behind while seeking mellower, more supportive and collegial professional climes. Getting fired happens. It is not a permanent mark against you and no one, including you, has been wronged. It’s hard to recognize that at first, and I wish you speedy luck in doing so.

              1. Magenta*

                I have experience of both, I’ve fired people and I’ve been fired myself. Obviously getting fired is horrible, but you have practical stuff you need to focus on and so that takes priority, you might feel angry/sad/resentful, but don’t have time to wallow in that. When you fire someone you know it is coming, you have to build up to it, you think about it before, you feel guilty about it after, you have to look someone in the face and know you will be causing them hardship and pain. The first time I fired someone I cried on my way home, I would absolutely text/call my partner about it.

                1. Librarian1*

                  I’ve never fired someone, but I’ve been fired and I spent plenty of time crying. I also had plenty of time to wallow in it. I don’t like this idea that firing someone is somehow worse than being fired. I get that it’s not easy, but the person doing the firing still has a job.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @Librarian1 – I don’t think anybody’s argued that firing someone is worse than being fired, just that it’s a really difficult thing to do. The vast majority of the people who have firing responsibilities aren’t doing it because they’re heartless jerks who want to take away people’s livelihoods. I’ve known exactly one person in my entire career whose job duties included firing people who didn’t hate that aspect of the job, and that guy was a jerk in several other ways as well.

              2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

                “while being fired is never really pleasant, doing the firing generally isn’t, either.”

                No sympathy here. The person doing the firing still has a job in the morning.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  True, of course, but do remember that the OP’s boss didn’t intend to convey any of her stress to the OP. That was all an accident. I have no sympathy for a firing supervisor expecting a fired employee to feel her pain – the supervisor absolutely shouldn’t cry or talk about her stress or what a bad day she’s having or anything like that because obviously the one who really has reason to cry or feel stressed and who is really having a bad day is the person getting fired.

                  But the OP’s supervisor didn’t do that, at least not on purpose. All she intended to do was vent a bit to her spouse, which is only natural. Without knowing more about the OP’s situation, the only thing that we can conclude conclusively is that the supervisor needs to be more careful in her texting.

                2. fired*

                  So? The person doing the firing may not be the one in charge of deciding the person is getting fired. It sucks getting fired but taking it out on someone who likely had little say in it also sucks

                3. Librarian1*

                  Eh, we don’t know how much say the manager had over the firing. Let’s not assume that she had no say over it.

              3. Micklak*

                I want to congratulate the LW on being more professional than I could have been. I would have responded to the text.

            2. staceyizme*

              I think that you’ve hit the nail squarely on its head, here.
              A PIP should not be used as a means of firing someone for one reason when another one is the ACTUAL reason in play. But it happens. Often, work is seasonal, contracts aren’t renewed or financially, it doesn’t make sense to keep one or more employees in a role because a cheaper option (such as a younger, less expensive employee) is available. All of these types of attrition are stressful on both sides. But the manager in this case is notable both for discussing her direct report with her spouse, which is less than ideal, and for texting about it to the object of her gossip. (Can you talk about work outside of work? Sure. Should you be conscious about maintaining the privacy due your co-workers and subordinates? Yes.)

              1. Mookie*

                Very much agreed about the mis-posted text message; were it the manager writing to Alison, I’d chastise them. That can’t and shouldn’t happen. This manager is already overly invested in the LW’s emotional reactions; to feed into that, if only inadvertently, is sloppy at best. If the goal is to rid yourself of someone you perceive to be prone to melodrama, or if you’re anticipating a visceral response to letting that person go, why let yourself make that kind of unnecessary error?

              2. Tedious Cat*

                Bosses aren’t robots. She was talking to her life partner, not one of OP’s peers — now that would be inappropriate.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Except she was actually talking to OP. I speak frankly to my husband about the occasional irritations with the neighbor (a good person, who is sometimes irritating) and I would be mortified if I sent one of those to her. e.g. “2 hours out of my day, to decide that you and her spouse should go look at the same plants we just looked at on Saturday. I told her we were busy then.”

                  Context matters. Something that’s fine in context A (talk frankly to your venting person) is not fine in context B (directed at the person you vent about, oops). I don’t think there’s anything for LW to do besides ignore it, but the boss did really screw up here by not triple checking the “to” field of any gripes.

                2. Anon Librarian*

                  I agree with Falling. She’s responsible for having sent the text to OP. And we don’t know who she intended to send it to. We only know what she wrote as a follow-up.

              3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I’m not sure why you’d say it’s a bad thing that the manager discussed a sticky work situation with her spouse. We all vent about difficult work situations and as long as the person we’re venting to is someone outside the situation, I think it’s usually fine. Especially when we’re talking about managers, who tend to have fewer peers in the workplace who they can bounce ideas off of. I do understand that it stings for the OP to realize they’ve been vented about, that has to really hurt.

                OP, can you mentally reframe the incident? If your boss’s husband knew firing you was going to be hard for her, that looks like firing you is not actually something she WANTED to do. She was dreading it, because the thought of firing you did not make her happy. The text you saw was her relief that a task she really didn’t want to do was over now. It wasn’t a reflection of who you are as a person or as an employee.

                1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

                  ” . . . firing you is not actually something she WANTED to do. She was dreading it, because the thought of firing you did not make her happy.”

                  I’m sure the thought of being fired didn’t make OP happy.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  You’re right, it didn’t make the OP happy, and I’m not arguing that they have to be happy or okay with it. I’m just saying that it might make it easier to move on from this bad experience to think about this text message as the accident that it was and not an indication that the boss didn’t care about OP at all.

              4. Observer*

                Given what the text says it’s not clear that what the boss said was a major breach of confidentiality. Sure, it could be, but it’s also quite possible that it’s not more than some fairly generic venting.

                Texting to the wrong person IS icky. And if the supervisor had written in I would have said that it’s good that they apologized but they really should have been more careful and it doesn’t just undo what had been done. But still. It clearly wasn’t malicious.

                What DOES come off as malicious is the OP’s reaction. I’ll take her word for it that she’s not a malicious person. But the immediate reaction to grab a screen capture to get the supervisor in trouble really does come off that way, as well as being vengeful. It’s also childish enough that it’s not clear to me what else the OP misunderstood. Did they ask for assistance that they genuinely should not have needed? Did they finish the PIP and then go back to the “old ways”? (It’s not clear from the time line how much time there was from the end of the PIP to the firing.)

                I’m not saying that that’s what happened, but we do know that these things happen. And the response to use these texts as a way to get back at the manager show enough of a lack of understanding of norms that I have to wonder about this.

                1. Veronica*

                  To me it’s completely understandable, and as far as I can tell I’m not a malicious person.

                  The manager’s text sounded like OP didn’t care about being fired or the job. It sounded like a continuation of complaints that OP didn’t care, wasn’t making an effort, etc., etc.
                  Basically, it sounded like manager has a negative attitude toward OP.

                  I would probably have the same reaction as OP right after being fired. The manager was badmouthing OP to another person, which is unprofessional and hurtful. I would also be tempted to let manager’s boss know about this. I don’t know if I would do it, but I would think about it.

                2. sunny-dee*

                  I’m with Observer on this one, Veronica. It was, frankly, a totally innocuous text to send her spouse. It didn’t make the OP sound like she didn’t care about being fired — it made it sound like she took it well and / or wasn’t unduly surprised by it, so the meeting went uneventfully and the boss was relieved.

                  What on earth does the OP (or you) possibly expect to happen here? Complain to some VP that the boss … told her husband a stressful meeting went better than she thought and she was relieved? It’s weird, juvenile tattling over nothing, and it would not make the OP look good. It would make the OP look malicious.

                3. Veronica*

                  Well, there seems to be a difference in the way the manager’s text is being read. I thought the manager said “Jane said ‘ok dokie, now I can go home and sleep!'”, which would be implying Jane is lazy and didn’t care about the job. I would want manager’s boss to know if she was saying such things about me.
                  But some are reading it as Jane said “ok dokie” and the manager is saying she wants to go home and sleep herself. That’s not as bad, unless she was greatly minimizing Jane’s response.

                4. Librarian1*

                  Yeah, I read it the way you did, Veronica, and I completely understand why she’d be angry about that.

                5. Observer*

                  I understand why she would have been upset, but that doesn’t change the fact that the idea of grabbing a screen shot to “report” her is juvenile at best and malicious or vindictive at worst.

                6. Veronica*

                  You say juvenile, I say standing up for myself… also if a manager was routinely saying such things about her reports, she needs to be stopped…

                7. bonkerballs*

                  I read the text the same way as Veronica, but don’t see how it’s implying that OP is lazy or doesn’t care, If those are the actual words OP said upon being fired, the boss isn’t implying anything, just repeating what OP said.

                8. Observer*

                  @Veronica, I can’t for the life of me see how something like this is “standing up for yourself.” She made a mistake and apologized. Making a to-do about a not terribly nice but also not terrible gaffe doesn’t accomplish anything, especially when you’re not going to be working with that person again.

                  Also, I don’t see what “kind of things” you are talking about that “needs to be stopped.” Beyond that there is nothing here to indicate that she’s saying much about her reports “routinely”.

                  There is WAAAY too much being placed on ONE unpleasant mistaken text.

                9. Michael*

                  “You say juvenile, I say standing up for myself… also if a manager was routinely saying such things about her reports, she needs to be stopped…”

                  That’s frankly nuts. People are allowed to complain about their co-workers to their spouses. That’s not unprofessional, it’s human.

                10. Veronica*

                  Yes to a spouse in private – if I was that coworker and knew about it, I would still be uncomfortable with it.
                  I was saying if the manager says such things to others at work – that would need to be stopped. I went there because IME people who say such things to one person, will say them to most people.

            3. SheLooksFamiliar*

              ‘I do think being PIPed after requesting assistance and receiving none should have raised a red flag for the LW, but a kinder manager could have better articulated how high a bar, perhaps impossibly high, she needed to meet.’

              That caught my eye, too. It seems clear the OP and her boss were not in agreement about what it took to handle the workload. To me a PIP would be an extreme last resort to repeated poor performance, or a response to a very serious offense. But yes, they are used when maybe a clear conversation between boss and associate would do the job.

              OP, I’m sorry you got a text like this but, except for sending the message to you, she really didn’t do anything wrong. She can talk to her spouse about work, and she can do it from her perspective. As hard as will be, and for your own peace of mind, don’t do anything with the screenshot. Look forward instead of backward, and focus on your next role.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                This last part +1.

                The whole PIP whether or not the OP successfully completed the “Improvement” part of the plan we can’t really debate, and whether the OP likes it or not, they employer obviously didn’t think that was the case.

                I agree that it sucks that the OP got the text message from the manager, and I’m reading that the OP’s attitude that the manager put in the text wasn’t a misrepresentation; but either way, it was unintentionally sent to the OP and it is pretty harmless overall. It could’ve been a lot worse, quite honestly.

                In any case, I think the OP needs to move on.

            4. Artemesia*

              Time on a PIP should always be used to find a new job while one still has one, because rarely do you get to a PIP when the goal is not firing the person. When one has one small issue that if dealt with would make them a good employee, usually a PIP is not employed — they get coaching or are sent for training or whatever. A PIP is usually a last resort and viewed by management as the final step before firing. So take that time to find a better fit.

              1. BananaPants*

                PIPs are extremely rare around here, and no one has ever *not* been fired after going on one.

                The two employees who I know were on PIPs both did even less work during their PIP than they had been doing prior. The PIP was effectively 3-6 months of formal documentation for HR to justify the firing while minimizing the risk of the fired employee suing the company.

          4. BRR*

            I imagine it’s that the manager was sharing the information with a non-work person in addition to receiving a text from their manager after just being fired. (I’m not saying this to agree or disagree whether it’s appropriate for the manager to share.)

            1. Snuck*

              I feel it’s appropriate for the manager to reach out to her support person after sleepless nights when the task is done… not to have a massive ranting spray, but to say “did it, seemed to take the news well, now I can rest easy”… to put the LW quoted words in isn’t really a breach because effectively that’s all the text said. Her husband hasn’t got a lot of personal information out of that… and before we assume they were downing bottles of wine and discussing this for an extended period of time… let’s assume… there was a reasonable level of privacy before we assume otherwise. She could have been going home and saying “I have a staff member that’s not performing, and it’s driving me crazy trying to get x and y done” and that’s not breaching confidentiality.

              1. Aquawoman*

                +1. This is how I read the exchange between the boss and Jane also. Boss was sweating firing her, husband knew it (because: spouses), she was reporting to husband that it went ok.

              2. Oh No She Di'int*

                I agree that confidentiality doesn’t come into play here. Most likely OP was just another character in the ongoing saga of the manager’s daily narrative about her day at work. Sounds pretty typical for how partners interact.

            2. Emmie*

              I am not a fan of the manager’s disclosure to her husband. She gave Jane’s name, and summarized the conversation. This is confidential work-related information that shouldn’t be shared outside of specific people in the workplace (HR, Manager’s boss.) I wonder what other information she disclosed to her husband. As a manager, there’s workplace info you cannot disclose to your boss. There are limited people you can vent to about this kind of thing. I could understand “I have to fire someone and it’s stressful.” That’s not what she did.
              Whether Jane can raise this to others depends upon her workplace reputation, and how she raises it. If she can, I’d screenshot and send it to HR or the manager’s boss with something like this: I received this text from manager. I realize it was intended for her husband. It feels inappropriate to share personnel actions, and my performance issues with someone who doesn’t work here, and isn’t in the chain of command or HR. I wanted to raise this to you in case you had a concern with this.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I think the text the OP shared with us doesn’t have enough detail to indicate that the boss breached any sort of confidentiality. It includes the employee’s first name and no other identifying information, and says nothing about the reason the termination was taking place. Could the boss possibly have given her spouse more detail than this in private conversation? Maybe, maybe not. But with the information we have, we can’t know for sure.

              2. fired*

                I think it’s pretty unreasonable to expect everyone to live their life never discussing problems at work (or even names of coworkers!) with the people they are married to and share homes and lives with and OP would come off as out of touch if they complained to HR about it. And HR would most likely send back a canned response of “Thanks for bringing this to our attention, we’ll look into the matter” and then do exactly nothing, because while tacky, the manager did not break any rules.

                1. Quake Johnson*

                  Of course everyone should be able to discuss work problems with their spouse, while they’re at home in private, but texting about it is kinda tacky imo.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @Quake – Why do you think texting about this is inherently more tacky than waiting and talking about it at home?

                  If OP’s former boss had sent the text to the correct person, I don’t see anything else that’s majorly tacky about it. Presumably, the boss’s husband was concerned about her. Should she have left him to wait and worry until they got home for the evening?

              3. neeko*

                That seems so extreme. Venting about a stressful situation that was literally keeping you up at night to your partner that probably was concerned is not an indication of her being loose-lipped all of the time. This is so normal.

              4. sunny-dee*

                The NAME of a coworker is something she can’t disclose to her spouse? That’s highly unreasonable. My husband knows by boss is named Annie. It’s because “my boss is named Annie” is not protected under an NDA.

                This isn’t highly classified stuff. There are things (like ADA requirements) that would be inappropriate. But “I have an employee named Jane and I’m stressed because I have to fire her” is not one of those things. There’s … literally nothing confidential in that.

              5. Emmie*

                I am concerned about the name + performance / personnel action + a summary of the conversation.

                We all discuss work issues with our spouse, or closest friends. I did not state, as fired suggests, that a person never discusses work issues at home. It’s not okay to explain that you’re firing Jane, and how the conversation ended. It would be okay, in my opinion, to explain that you have to fire someone and are concerned about that person’s reaction.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  I’m not in HR, but it seems perfectly normal and reasonable that a manager would discuss that with her SO. As someone said, as long as no ADA or other confidential information is shared, I think that’s pretty standard.

                2. Michael*

                  Honestly that’s not how workplaces *or* most marriages work. It is totally, 100% normal and acceptable to talk to your spouse about your co-workers to whatever degree you personally feel comfortable with, except in very rare and specific cases involving security clearances or well-defined agreements of confidentiality (i.e. psychologists, pastors, and so on).

              6. smoke tree*

                Eh, I think it’s okay that she discussed this with her husband, but I do think it’s a sound policy not to put anything in writing that you would hate to have read by the wrong person, particularly as a manager. Things like this do happen, and it’s pretty bad for everyone involved.

                1. EG*

                  Right. I wonder if this is generational? As a millennial, I grew up with online chats and such. I have sent the email and the text to the person I was talking about — instead of the person I meant to send it to — in high school and college. I have also had a message forwarded to the person later on in the chain. Having made these mistakes, I really don’t text or email negative sentiments. It is too easy to make this exact mistake (you are thinking about the person and so you send it to them) or to have it passed along (intentionally or unintentionally).

                  But I find older colleagues are less careful? Or maybe it is just me…

                2. Wisk*

                  I feel like there have been other posts on this site where someone accidentally IM’ed/chatted gossip or something not-so-nice to the wrong person, and it’s been chastised pretty heavily (re: not putting things in writing, people can pull your phone records etc. even if it’s person, and so on) so I was surprised to hear that people are feeling pretty low-key about this. Not sure if it’s because of the content of the text, or the fact that it’s a spouse, or the feeling like “we all do this so we wouldn’t want to believe that we would do something that would be inappropriate” vs. the other examples where they might not happen as much? genuinely curious here.

                3. Snuck*

                  For me it’s the content…

                  This wasn’t stirring drama or gossip… it doesn’t come across as that. It is a suitably short touch base with support network. If she’d sent it to her manager above would that have been ok?

          5. Marthooh*

            The text seems to minimize OP’s pain at being fired. In essence, the boss is saying “They didn’t make a fuss, so there’s no problem, yay!” It’s completely understandable to say that privately to a friend, but it really sucks to say it to the OP. There’s nothing to be done about it, though.

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              Exactly. Of course it was painful for the OP to read someone saying her firing was “Okie Odokie” and that the boss can sleep easily once it’s done! That doesn’t mean the boss was wrong to say it privately (she thought) to her husband. But the OP isn’t wrong to be stung by it either. Nothing to be done about it, but the OP for sure has my sympathy.

              1. valentine*

                the boss can sleep easily
                I read the sleeping part as part of OP2’s alleged reaction because OP2, not the manager, was the one going home.

                1. Zephy*

                  That was also my read. I interpreted “okie dokie, now I can go back to sleep” as OP’s alleged reaction. Not only is OP’s ex-manager texting a third party about her, she’s also misrepresenting her to that third party. It probably won’t affect OP directly ever again (maybe there’s a chance she interviews for a job with ex-manager’s husband at some point in the future), but it still doesn’t feel good to see untrue rumors spread about yourself.

                2. sunny-dee*

                  I read it as the boss’s reaction, and I honestly don’t see how it’s possible to read it as a summary of *Jane’s* reaction.

                3. Risha*

                  That’s how I read it as well. I was legit surprised to get to the comments section and find out that anyone had interpreted it (or the Okie Dokie) as anything other than LW#2’s alleged reaction.

                4. Delphine*

                  This is how I read it too. The manager is misrepresenting OP’s reaction to the firing. I don’t think it makes sense any other way. “Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep,” makes the OP come across as blase and lazy.

                5. Mr. Shark*

                  That was definitely the reaction of OP2, not the manager.

                  OP2 said “Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!”

                  And there’s nothing to indicate that the manager misrepresented what the OP said.

                6. bonkerballs*

                  How are you saying this is a misrepresentation of OPs reaction to being fired? OP doesn’t say what her reaction to being fired was, so saying it was a misrepresentation is a complete fantasy of yours.

            2. Managed Chaos*

              I agree. It absolutely sucks to see that text, but mistakes happen and trying to do anything further will just make LW look petty.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                Mistakes do happen. But if you’re texting someone about firing Jane, it would be a good idea to make sure you aren’t texting Jane by mistake.

                1. neeko*

                  Right. It’s a good idea to make sure your shoelaces are tied properly, that you didn’t spill coffee on your pants, that you got everything in your takeout order, that you remembered to put your wallet in your backpack, etc. There are a lot of good ideas that we forget to do. It was a mistake!

            3. MsClaw*

              The entire thing is just…. unfortunate. I’m sure the manager would love that have that 30 seconds back to triple-check who she was texting. But there isn’t anything actionable here. Firing people is not fun; it’s understandable the boss needed to vent.

              I think it’s pretty clear from the letter that this wasn’t a good fit — it’s not clear whether the OP was actually an under-performing employee or whether the workplace is terrible and dealing with employees, but this obviously just wasn’t working for either the OP or management. Honestly, that text was pretty mild. I’m sure I’ve said much less pleasant things about people I’ve let go to my spouse.

        2. Ethyl*

          I think the issue is that the manager said that the LW’s reaction was “okie dokie, now I can go home and sleep.” The manager wasn’t saying THEY wanted to go home and sleep.

          So either LW actually said that, or the manager is exaggerating what was said to paint the LW in the worst light, or the manager is just flat out lying about LW’s reaction. In any case, following that up with “my husband was worried about me today” is not really an explanation.

          1. JSPA*

            Manager’s text is saying either that LW’s reaction was “okie dokie,” and now manager can go home and sleep, or that LW’s reaction was “okie dokie, now I can go home and sleep.” No way to tell, unless you have the context of being the manager, or being manager’s husband.

            I’d guess that the short version is approx. correct (or at least, perfectly reasonable personal shorthand for, “OP was accepting and didn’t blow up at me or sob, I was dreading much worse”) and that the long version is how LW read it, leading LW to feel mischaracterized.

            Regardless, as it’s to the husband, neither one would be relevant in a work context.

            I can think of one exception, and it’s along the same lines as if the message had included a racial or other slur that would have put the dismissal in a different light.

            That’s based on this possible reading: OP presumes that the manager thinks needing assistance as an accommodation = laziness. OP presumes that the manager also thinks that going home to sleep = laziness. Thus, commenting on going home to sleep is code for, “OP admitted to being lazy.” However, this is a text to a SPOUSE. There’s literally nothing for the manager to gain by making up stories to their spouse.

            Even if it had said, “thank god, that nightmare is over” or “next time someone says [OP’s catch phrase] in a hiring interview, I’m going to have apoplexy” or for that matter, “remember to pick up a gallon of milk,” it’s a mis-sent personal text. One containing exactly zero smoking guns.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah. If she lied about it, I might be concerned that boss was lying about having sent it to her husband, and that actually this was a pattern of Boss lying about OP – which might have led to the firing. But if it’s the truth, well… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. M*

        Given how the OP describes the grounds of and lead-up to the firing, it’s pretty likely the manager was expecting her to contest it in some way – to argue about it, to get angry, to in some other way make a fuss. That’s true whether or not the OP is being 100% objective in describing the terms and lead-up – either OP is accurately describing a manager who unreasonably put her on a PIP in response to her being overloaded and then fired her even though she passed it, or OP is inaccurately describing a manager who put her on a PIP because she was underperforming and then fired her because she didn’t see sufficient improvement.

        Read in either light, the manager’s text message is pretty innocuous. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve said to my partner after having to let someone go when he knew I was stressed about it, and particularly the kind of thing that’s reasonable to say about letting someone go after an extended process that by the OP’s own description dragged on for a lot longer than was policy. It doesn’t even really carry any judgement about the OP: to the extent to which there’s any connotations to be read in, they’re that the OP took it well – and I think it’s fair for us all to assume that if the OP *hadn’t* taken it well at the time, they’d have mentioned that, given they go on to highlight their own professionalism in handling the situation.

        1. Charamei*

          I read it (and I think maybe OP did too) as the manager effectively calling OP lazy. Considering the circumstances leading up to OP’s firing seems to have involved her claiming she was overworked, having her response quoted as basically ‘Oh good, I don’t have to work any more’ is not a good look.

          Seems like from OP’s perspective, what’s going on here is overwhelmed – asked for help – put on PIP during very busy time at work – passed PIP despite still being overwhelmed – fired – finds out (or comes to believe) manager thinks she’s lazy.

          Whether that’s what happened from the manager’s perspective is, of course, awhole other question.

          1. Magenta*

            It took me a while to work out why you would think this, I couldn’t understand how anyone would get the impression the OP was lazy from her accepting she was fired.

            I would think the “Now I can go home and sleep!” was from the manager, she had been having sleepless nights in the build up to the firing (I know I have been in that position) and was glad that the OP took it relatively well and so the manager would now be able to stop worrying about it.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I agree with you and with M above. I don’t see anything malicious about the manager’s text. It sounds to me like she’s relieved there wasn’t a scene and OP took the firing better than she thought OP would.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Fwiw, I read it the way Charamei did–OP’s response to being fired was to say “Okie dokie, now I can go home and sleep!”

              Which is a pretty normal snarky comeback if you feel you’ve been worked to the bone with no support and following the rules is getting you nowhere, but the manager focusing there makes it seem like she read OP’s exhaustion as being a lazy person who wants to nap through projects. (Which wouldn’t matter if she’d managed to send the text the correct direction. But she didn’t, and I get why OP feels like this was an “oopsie, OP is at home, how can I rub some salt in the wound?” on an emotional level, even if the top part of her brain gets that it was a normal spouse text.)

              1. M*

                The thing is, it’s not a comma between those two clauses, it’s an exclamation mark. They’re two sentences, not in quotation marks, and the first bit “Okie Odokie!” follows a colon. Standard reading makes the “Okie Odokie!” the sum total of the response being quoted in the text.

                I totally get how someone could read that message and assume the latter part was part of the quote, but that doesn’t match any of the other information we have – OP presumably *didn’t* say that when she was let go, and there’s no particular reason to assume that the manager is lying about the OP’s response to her husband when there’s a reading that matches the grammar and the context far better.

                1. Delphine*

                  I don’t know if we can expect perfect grammar from the text. Even okie dokie is misspelled. It’s perfectly possible that “Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!” was intended to represent Jane’s complete response.

          2. Skywriter*

            Oof. OP2, I feel for you, and I wish you all the best in finding a better job situation in the future. <3

            While we’ll will ultimately never know the answer, language-wise that text…really only /scans properly/ to me at all when interpreted as "Her response was 'Okie Dokie, now I can go home and sleep!'" Along with several grammar reasons others have mentioned, at least where I live in the U.S., characterizing someone who has just gotten extremely bad news as responding by saying "Okie Dokie!" is already setting a sarcastic tone for the text. And, assuming that the manager lives with her husband, the person she was texting to, most speakers of American English in my region would have used "come home" rather than "go home" if she had been talking about herself rather than the OP. It's at least /probable/ that the meaning of the text was to call OP lazy, in a context where, as Charamei noted, that's going to feel particularly painful.

            OP's letter to Alison comes across to me as someone who is feeling shell-shocked after a humiliating interaction. I work in an industry with a lot of harassment, consider myself pretty "tough," and frankly, I would have been in shock after this sequence of texts, too. OP, I’m offering you a virtual cup of tea and hug if you want–I’m sorry this happened to you!

            I think a key part of the situation that is being overlooked is the inappropriateness of the /second/text, the one /meant/ to go to OP. It's an extremely half-hearted apology. If someone wrote in to Alison saying "I accidentally sent someone I just fired a sarcastic text that implied they were lazy; what should I do?" I think most of us would agree that a genuine apology was needed–e.g. “I'm so sorry, I was blowing off steam and never meant for you to see this; I understand that being let go is never easy and I wish you all the best in the future.” The fact that the manager accidentally sent someone they had just fired a text that insulted them and /then/ didn't take the time to write a thoughtful apology comes across as them letting their employee know how little accidentally insulting OP matters to them. While, as Alison says, there isn't anything OP can or should do except move on, I would have been left feeling shell-shocked, too.

            On that note, it disturbs me that people are casting aspersions on OP's character for screenshotting the text. Again, I work in an industry with wide-ranging harassment problems, and screenshotting/documenting shocking or inappropriate-feeling interactions is a very common piece of advice given about navigating such an environment, just in case the interaction /is/ something that it makes sense to escalate appropriately later on. To be clear, I don't think there's anything OP can or should do in this situation! They're no longer part of the company; escalating it is unfeasible and would make them look bad. But screenshotting an inappropriate-feeling interaction is a very neutral action that is second nature to a lot of us.

            All that being said–no, there’s nothing OP should do aside from set this aside and move on. OP, remind yourself that your shock at this interaction is because /you’re/ a kinder and more professional person than your boss, and that you will conduct yourself more professionally toward your employees if you’re ever in her shoes! I hope that you're able to share what happened with a loved one or therapist, if you think having a chance to talk about it would be helpful, and I wish you all the best on your job search.

      3. MK*

        There is nothing in the letter to indicate that the manager lied about the OP’s reaction or that she was sarcastic or she or her husband think she was the injured party. I read the text to the husband as expressing relief the OP took the firing calmly and the second text as explaining that the husband knew the manager was stressing about firing someone and she send him a “phew, everything went ok” text. And while reading tone in a text is difficult, I don’t see how this could read as sarcastic, even assuming the worst of the manager.

        If, against the evidence of the letter, the manager did lie about the OP’s reaction (which would be a weird thing to lie about to her own spouse), the OP would be reasonable in asking the employer to make sure the manager isn’t presenting others with an inaccurate version of the firing. But asking them to address the fact that the manager’s husband thinks his wife is the injured party isn’t understandable, it’s ludicrous.

        Sounds to me, the OP is upset at the unfair (in her estimation) firing and took offense in these pretty neutral texts.

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too. There is nothing wrong with the email. She had stressed over having to fire someone and was relieved it was over and she could sleep again. The only sin here is the horrible carelessness of sending it to the fired employee. This was a mistake no one should make — but I’ll bet most of us have made this or a similar email mistake at least once in our professional lives.

      4. Feline*

        OP2, you aren’t going to get anything out sharing that text with anyone in the company. Take it from someone who shared the email from company president I was copied on that said “Of all of the misfits and loons who have worked in [department], [person other than me] was the most sane.” I remember the exact wording of that email 15 years later. The guy literally didn’t know who I was when my upset hit the fan. Being mischaracterized by your seniors at work sucks, but you can’t fix it now. Instead of letting is stew in you, put that frustrated energy into your job search.

    2. MommyMD*

      Nothing is gained by making any complaints over the text. The text sounded matter of fact to me. Not malicious.

    3. Pony tailed wonder*

      I think another consequence is possible if the letter writer took action on it. The people she would be reporting it to are most likely going to be a reference on their next job search and might remember the response to your bosses mistake rather than all the good that you had done in your job before that. Let it go. Be a bigger person and go on to the next chapter in your life.

    4. Elizabethll*

      This thread is confused because the manager’s text is ambiguous. Some read the last sentence as referring to the manager’s own relief and plans for sleep, and others (including my first read) as elaborating on the OP’s reaction (i.e., saying the OP reacted by saying now she can go home and sleep).

      The text reads *very* differently depending on which you assume. I think the manager’s follow-up implies the first read, but I wonder if OP herself assumed the second?

      1. Mookie*

        There are definitely a lot of priors operating here, below and abovethread.

        My read was similar to yours, where the manager can now rest easy because letting someone go is always nerve-wracking. I suspect the LW is operating under the second interpretation, where the manager is literally suggesting she’s lazy, happy now to have no job to bother with or pretending to be so.

        The “okie dokie” has gone mostly unremarked upon; I didn’t interpret that as verbatim, but as the manager suggesting the LW seemed unconcerned about losing her job or trying to appear unconcerned and that the manager felt that that reaction was both expected and disappointing, this response being illustrative of the LW as a whole, which ties into the PIP. I do think it’s possible the PIP was a smokescreen here, but I also know not all managers are fully aware that they’re setting up their employees to fail when they use them. This sounds like a fairly benign workplace, as toxic ones go, where management needs to reassure themselves it’s the employees who are wrong, not themselves.

        “Okie dokie” is not the way most conscientious employees might respond to being let go; if this isn’t actually what the LW said, then it’s the manager reading more than they ought to in a response to being abruptly fired. I’ve been let go before and when I was I tried to take it like a champ. That could be interpreted as indifference, rather than as an attempt to minimize what is, temporarily anyway, a real blow. Like it or not, when an employee’s future bread and butter is dictated by their boss, there’s a lot of motivation to act stoic when you’ve lost your income. Some people, quite expectedly, don’t want to give the person who’s fired them the satisfaction of appearing shocked, angered, or in despair.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Any calm, low-key, keep-it-professional response to being fired could be rendered in text message as “Okie dokey!”

          And I get why it would sting, if you had fought to not cry and keep things calm and professional, for someone to summarize that as “Okie dokey!”

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I agree with this. I was at a dinner table at a conference once with several managers who were sharing their worst stories of letting people go, and there were some harrowing ones with things being thrown across offices and people shouting loud enough to be heard down the hall through closed doors. If the boss had built up a level of dread about this being one of those nightmare experiences, her “okie dokie” comment may have just meant “everybody acted calm and reasonable.”

        2. Kathleen_A*

          Even if the remark was in reference to the OP (which is how I first read it), I didn’t interpret it as a reference to laziness. I figured the OP was feeling pretty stressed, too, in the run-up to getting fired, and this would just be the OP saying, “OK, at least that’s over. I can quit worrying about it now and get some rest.”

          I think reading it as the supervisor talking about herself is more likely, though. That makes more sense than my initial reading.

      2. Myrin*

        I posted something similar below – my first read also differed from my second one – but the crucial thing to me is that OP doesn’t mention in her letter at all that she’s upset by how flippant her manager’s text makes her sound or that she’s horrified someone would present her interactions with manager to their spouse like that or something similar. As such, I find it pretty unlikely that OP assumed your second scenario.

      3. Antilles*

        Sure, but it’s worth noting that no matter what spirit it was intended, the advice for OP is the same: Don’t bother mentioning it, because there’s nothing to be gained from complaining.
        Even if it’s taken as a slam on OP’s work ethic, the absolute most that’ll happen is the grandboss giving a quiet admonishment to the manager about being careful about what you say in text messages…possibly phrased as a “I’m not saying you’re wrong about OP, but you really shouldn’t have put it in writing.”

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Well put. If the remark was intended as a slam, it’s not an egregiously bad one, but it probably isn’t – and in any case, there’s absolutely no earthly reason to send that screenshot along to anyone in the OP’s former company. The probability is that nothing would happen, and if something does happen, it won’t be anything to the OP’s advantage.

      4. Observer*

        Even reading it that “I can go sleep” is referring to the OP, there is still nothing that the OP can or should do. And there really isn’t all that much meat there. Maybe the manager thinks she’s snarky or even just unduly lazy. That’s not something that’s a “Must do something about it” opinion.

        I mean, she could be a lousy manager, but you can’t really tell from the contents of this text. Think of it this way – if someone dug this up 10 years from now during a confirmation for some high position, what would happen. Unless the OP turns out to be one of greatest hidden talents of the decade, it would be a total nothing-burger.

    5. Aphrodite*

      Really, the only problem here is that the manager did not follow the best rule one can follow about work situations: Never put anything in writing (email/text/letter) that you would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times. It was fine to vent to her spouse about the OP, though in my opinion, it should be without a name of the person fired, but she should have waited until she got home where the conversation would be private..

    6. Anita Brayke*

      LW #2, I’m sorry this happened to you. It was a tacky message in the first place, to then send to you by mistake, and doesn’t speak well of your ex-manager or her capabilities as a manager.

      Chin up, take what you can from this experience and learn from it, then move forward. I’ve been fired! Paint your nails red, be the professional that you are, and take the world by storm! You got this!

  4. Dan*

    These are tough. I happen to be an “unrestricted” eater, so to speak, and would really enjoy going out to eat with my culturally diverse coworkers. Except I work in suburban hell and the campus has a cafeteria so pretty much everybody only eats there. Don’t get me wrong, we can go off campus without any problem from management, except it’s a huge time sink and lunches are unpaid unless work is getting done.

    That said… I realize that you wrote in about lunches your boss organizes, making them somewhat more “official”. My hunch if the boss stopped organizing them, then your coworkers may very well continue to get together “unofficially”, leaving you out. Which probably sucks worse.

    I think your best bet is to get your boss to add places you can eat (including the “in-house” suggestion) into the rotations, and then when your place comes up, make sure you go. (It’s really tough making accommodations for people and then getting a “pass” from them anyway.) I’d be happy to do “Jane’s thing” when her place is in the rotation so that she can be included. However, if we had to stop going to places the rest of us enjoy, that could cause resentment.

    Best bet: Get some things you can do in the rotation, and try to attend if at all possible.

    1. RUKiddingMeTheSystemWontLetMePost...Again!*

      Also like Jen S pointed out most restaurants can do dome kind of “off menu” accommodation. Will they? Who can say…but with the whole team eating there ($$$) maybe even often, I’d bet they would.

    2. Baru Cormorant*

      As an “unrestricted” eater I agree that I would appreciate a balance with OP’s preferences as well. It was frustrating when we had to find hamburgers and chicken all week for a picky relative. Or when my vegetarian coworkers didn’t want to try Indian food because it was “too heavy” (uhh you know Indians eat more than butter chicken curry right??)

      For me it would have been helpful to get a sense that it was truly about the food taste or texture. Some picky eaters have some weird discomfort with “weird food” (aka weird to THEM) or “foreign stuff” or some other adjective that basically means it’s different and therefore yucky. And it’s uncomfortable to have to encourage people to try things you know they’ll like, if they can just get past their biases and expectations. I hate hearing, “Oh it’s not as weird as I thought!” So OP not saying you need to lead with “I’m not racist just picky,” but if you could demonstrate comfort with the cuisine and culture of the place you’re eating, I think it would go a long way with your diverse coworkers who are excited to eat there!

      1. Door Guy*

        And I’m willing to bet that your picky relative felt bad that they were frustrating you (and likely even worse if you were obvious/vocal about your frustrations), but as I said in a different comment, their body trumps your ego on food choices. You had to narrow your possible restaurants for a few days, while that narrowed list is their only list.

        I also believe I speak for the majority of picky eaters when I say STOP “encouraging” people to try places you “know” they’ll like. Every now and then it works, but it’s incredibly awkward and off-putting when people try and force the issue unless they are very close to you.

        Let’s suppose I did agree to go to somewhere new with you that you’re just positive I’ll love. What happens when I don’t love it? When I try it and NOPE!. Then I get to sit there and pay for a meal I can’t eat, watching you eat, and I’m still hungry when we leave and still need to get food.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          Um. No. I’m sorry. If you have a “preference” for some food vs. a bodily NEED ie an allergy, then how is that different than my preference to eat diverse and delicious food?

          If someone chooses to narrow their food list then that’s their choice, but most people in my experience base this choice on “I’ve never had that before” or “that culture’s food is weird.” Those are silly reasons to reject a food and comes across as childish. I try to encourage people I otherwise care about to try it anyway, but it’s really hard to be charitable when it’s clear the discomfort comes from ethnocentrism.

          And that’s why I’m not friends with many picky eaters.

          1. Door Guy*

            Part of being friends with someone is respecting their preferences as well, especially when your argument against is “I could eat anything there I wanted, but today I don’t feel like it ’cause ‘Diversity”.” I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who badgers me out of some belief that I’m silly and childish. If I need a full blown allergy for you to respect what I do and don’t want to ingest, why would I want to do anything with you. Do you badger your vegan/vegetarian friends to eat meat because that’s just a preference?

      2. Quill*

        Indian restaurants were a godsend when my family started going vegetarian, because it can be pretty hard to find a sufficiently interesting place to eat that has a variety of vegetarian options. (That and Ethiopian restaurants, where we routinely worry the servers by ordering something described as “spicy”, but we know what we’re getting into.)

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        Thing is, food preferences are highly personal and I do not enjoy discussing WHY I don’t like a certain food or cuisine. Sometimes it’s the flavor, sometimes it’s the texture, sometimes it’s the spice level, sometimes I’m allergic to a key ingredient… I could go on and on. Such discussions also open the door to many unwelcome “no, seriously, just try it!” conversations where I am more or less badgered into making a performance of trying the thing. Or I have to describe in detail just how certain foods affect me, i.e. “no I cannot eat that because based on past experience I will vomit immediately”. I understand that you are trying to be friendly and you’re coming from a good place, but to someone with very strong food preferences/aversions it’s extremely uncomfortable and sometimes infantilizing.

        I have made it a point to get to know certain cuisines and I never broadcast my food opinions. Calling someone else’s food weird or yucky is just rude and uncalled for even if you personally don’t want to eat it. Some people (me) are just weird about food and would like to be able to say “no, thank you” and not be hassled about it.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I find Indian food heavy despite it being largely vegetarian, yes. I am definitely not a picky eater but I have to be “in the mood” for Indian because even the vegetarian dishes, at least here, tend to be heavy on ghee and cream sauces. And salty.

      5. Parenthetically*

        “vegetarian coworkers didn’t want to try Indian food” o.O Good LORD, Indian restaurants are a flavor paradise compared to most work-related veg options. Can’t imagine preferring a sad pile of veggies on soggy bread to dal makhani, saag paneer, aloo gobi, navrataan korma, chana masala, infinite varieties of veg pakoras, piles of stuffed parathas…

        I really agree with the rest of this. There’s so much really unpleasant closed-mindedness around (giant air quotes) “ethnic” food and there’s a lot that can be done demeanor and attitude-wise to ensure colleagues don’t feel like your objection is to the “exoticism” of their cuisines.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m wondering how it works if a picky eater doesn’t eat spicy foods, eg, so that discounts any curry houses – if it’s a team with a lot of S Asian colleagues who like specific places, is it ok to say they’ll never get their preference met because a colleague prefers it?

      (I’m still frustrated about a similar situation where 10 yrs ago, before food allergies were more understood, a colleague asked if we could do department Xmas lunch at an Asian
      place, as she knew it could cater to her, and a picky colleague absolutely refused to do anything that wasn’t turkey dinner + Xmas Pud, on one of those Xmas special menus, with only 3 options. Colleague sat with empty plate, management thought it was fair as Picky Colleague had been so loud about it. Not saying OP is like this, but it surprised me)

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        I think this is a workable situation though, because not only are there South/Asian cuisines that aren’t spicy (Vietnamese is not usually spicy for example, not south but Japanese food is never spicy either), there are many many non-spicy foods and non-spicy versions of foods that can be made. I think sometimes there’s a false dichotomy of “only this place” or “only this cuisine” when most restaurants cater to a variety of people.

        And also as you say, OP should be (and seems to be!) prepared to be flexible if other coworkers have allergies or preferences of their own. It’s not just the loudest squeaky wheel gets the grease.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          FYI Sometimes a problem with ‘spicy’ food isn’t code for capsicum pepper.
          Ginger, garlic, turmeric, horseradish, black pepper, clove… all are spices that can be an individual’s problem. If a person wants, sometimes they can narrow down to one spice: He strongly dislikes cumin. She gets canker sores from black pepper. He is allergic to turmeric. She is on a medication that interacts with ginger. She hasn’t been able to eat smoked meats since getting a coincidental stomach flu after sharing a sample platter.
          Sounds like OP has tried to expand her eating habits and not made it yet.
          So I really like the idea of the office sometimes doing in-house catering where she can bring her standard lunch and try one new taste alongside it. The ‘toddler taste’ really does work to convince our bodies that something is healthy to eat. (That smoked meat thing? That was me. Note the past tense. But still not smoked poultry, that’s where my hindbrain remains unconvinced. )

        2. SaeniaKite*

          I am ok with spicy food but dislike a lot of spices (ginger, cloves, star anise etc). As such I have never found an Indian main dish I can eat happily (although I have eaten a lot unhappily). I tried ordering off menu once, a simple fish and chips (UK based) and the chips came out slightly green and had either been cooked in the same pan as another meal or this was just their version and included a spice element anyway. So now if a work meal involves an Indian (which in England they so often do) I eat beforehand if possible and stick to poppadoms and chutney while there. OP is it possible there is a side dish/starter at these places you can request comes out at the same time as the mains? Not the most filling of meal options but less wasteful than just pushing something round the plate

          1. Parenthetically*

            Our local has chicken pakoras which, as far as I can tell, have no spice at all in the breading. They’re nice crispy chicken fingers, essentially, and would please anyone who enjoys such things.

            It makes me wonder if OP has a friend in the group who is an adventurous eater (and thus would have tried lots of things on these menus) and whom she can entrust with her “help, I have a very simple palate, what is the absolute least spiced thing on the menu that fits parameters XYZ” question?

          2. Olivia*

            SaeniaKite, you’ve hit on a very poignant point. Although I’m open to ordering off menu, a concern I definitely have is the “cross contamination” of food cooked in the same pan or which was marinated using their usual kitchen spices (spice is also something I’m particular about, as many on this thread have also thought about). Still appreciate all the suggestions being given!

          3. Risha*

            I always feel terrible (and also worry that I look racist) when I veto Indian when everyone else wants it, but virtually all main dishes and a good sized percentage of desserts and side dishes have an unidentified spice in it I just can’t tolerate. Only the naan is reliably safe. The last time I went to a 5 star restaurant and ended up throwing up in the parking lot, I said “never again”. I will enthusiastically accompany you to literally any other asian cuisine, though!

            1. SaeniaKite*

              Agreed! Give me Thai, Chinese, Japanese etc. Just not Indian. It’s never made me sick but I have had bad stomach cramps after the few curries I have forced myself to eat out of politeness. It just does not agree with me

        3. Yogurt pants*

          I’m not a picky eater but I would never say Japanese food isn’t spicy. Wasabi isn’t the same spiciness as red chilli but it’s still pretty spicy.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            Wasabi is almost universally served on the side of Japanese dishes.

            Which sort of gives the lie to the “I’m just so picky that I cannot possibly eat anything on the menu at all.” Like… you won’t set foot in an entire cuisine’s worth of restaurants because they carry wasabi on the premises?

          2. Baru Cormorant*

            Fair point but wasabi is certainly not “almost universally served on the side of Japanese dishes” and it’s actually pretty easy to avoid.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Many Asian food places will offer something like plain steamed vegetables with rice, no sauce, as an option. (You may have to reassure them that yes, you really want something that boring and no, you do not want any sauce with it several times, but sometimes it’s something you can build off of side orders listed on the actual menu, or even listed somewhere in the vegetarian section of the menu as an entree, and any place that has both steamed veggies and rice as options will probably be able to serve them to you plain even if it’s off-menu.)

        I’ve done this at both Chinese restaurants and Thai restaurants since I have entirely too many dietary restrictions, and I’ve never had it not be an option at either. I can’t speak to other Asian cuisines, since those are the main ones that friends of mine suggest regularly these days, but it seems like the concepts of both steamed veggies and rice are found fairly often in that general area.

        Of course, this doesn’t work as well if you need to avoid certain vegetables. (I do, but I’ve been lucky so far in terms of which veggies they offer.) It’s possible that you could also get plain meat and rice, but that doesn’t fit my needs so I’ve never asked.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think meat is likely to have been marinated, so someone who likes their food truly plain and simple when they’re eating out (there’s someone in my family who would fall into this category) would not consider that to be truly plain and simple.

          I think these suggestions to ask the restaurant ahead of time about off-menu options that can be served from ready-prepped ingredients are kind and inclusive to all parties involved. Speaking as someone with food intolerance/allergy issues, I have found it is always always best to be upfront (though preferably discreetly and/or in advance because I don’t want to have the conversation with the entire table) as most restaurant staff chiefly want you to enjoy what you’re eating!

          1. Flash Bristow*

            That’s true – the attention can be really awkward. If I’m eating somewhere that also does takeaway (ie has a bar / till area) then I’ll get a quick squizz at the menu, pop to the loo… and on the way, I’ll stop at the counter and explain “I can’t eat much, is it possible to get x please? Just x – no fuss or extras? Thanks!” so when they come to take your orders, you can just say “I’ll have my x, which I just discussed with the young man at the bar” so they can go “oh, fine” and move on with the minimum of fuss / time / attention paid to me.

            I’m also very happy to eat something like plain noodles, or a baked potato with just butter, etc. It’s one meal – as long as you don’t go hungry, it doesn’t have to be nutritionally balanced! OP if you can find a carb or two that you’re happy to eat plain, and maybe a veg or two for the side, that should do, right?

            The other tactic to avoid awkwardness – although it initially sounds like it’s actually drawing attention to you – is instead of pushing something round your plate and staff pestering about what’s wrong with it, you can say “it’s fine! I’m just suddenly not very hungry, could you please box it to go for me?” That avoids offense – I’ve used it a few times (including when I truly did like the food but couldn’t eat in the moment). You can always bin it later (or preferably offer it to someone hungry, or take home for your dog, or whatever).

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              “To go” could be a good tactic if you have an unpicky roommate/partner – you order something off the main menu, then eat the plain side yourself while it’s hot, and partner gets the main part of the dish reheated later. Everyone wins!

              You’d need to choose carefully so that things were not mixed together too much, but if you’re in the kind of place where fries come in a little metal pail or the new potatoes come on a separate dish then you could safely order almost anything.

      3. nonymous*

        A lot of SE asian restaurants will have iceberg lettuce salad and orange slices available (latter as a dessert or off-menu option). Smoothies/yogurt drinks and naan are common as well.

        I mean OP will still have to cheerfully deflect for skipping a main, but most of the ethnic food restaurants in my large American city have a couple items that cater to limited western palettes (or their kids!).

    4. Kathleen_A*

      One of my coworkers – an otherwise really great guy – has the food preferences of a really picky 5-year-old. No salads, very few vegetables of any kind, nothing spicy, etc. I’m talking plain cheeseburgers, french fries, mac-and-cheese, pepperoni pizza…a reuben sandwich is about as exotic as he gets (and even there, he may ask for it without the sauerkraut).

      So we just kind of work around him. We almost always go places where we know he can find something he likes, and when we go somewhere more “exotic” (using “exotic” in a very broad way :-) ), sometimes he goes and manages to get something he likes by asking for a lot of changes to a standard menu item (e.g., “I’d like three tacos with cheese – no tomato or lettuce or pico or anything”), and sometimes he says, “Thanks, but I’m going to sit this one out.”

      When we go somewhere new, we almost always include a link to the menu so people can scope it out ahead of time. That seems to work pretty well.

  5. Rich*

    OP#1, I am a very picky eater and have found myself in this situation more than once. I take two different approaches, depending on the type of place.

    If it’s the sort of food that is either deeply loved or entirely avoided (e.g. sushi), I hang a lantern on it. I’ll point out to the organizer ahead of time that A) there is nothing there I can eat, and B) I’m happy to go along anyway. But I’m really clear that it’s not going to be food for me. Once or twice I’ve made a show of trying for the good of the other diners, but generally I make it clear that I’m glad they enjoy it, and that I have no intention of doing so. This is the sort of food that people are “certain you’ll love if you just give it a chance”. Nope, nope, and nope, so the show is important to maintaining my food preferences.

    If it’s something that’s not an “evangelical food”, but not palatable to me, I’ll go along, ‘not be hungry’ and have a glass of water or a soda. If anyone asks, I just say “sorry, I can’t eat until later”, put my hand on my stomach, and move on from the question. It works for anyone who isn’t rude, and if they are rude, I just repeat it.

    “I can’t eat until later” is kind of magic — it hints and the specter of dietary _need_ rather than preference, and tends to discourage followup questions.

    In both cases, I keep a couple of snacks in my bag, particularly if I know it’s coming ahead of time. Usually pretty durable ones, like a good sized apple and some sort bar-shaped convenience food. Not ideal, but being able to much on one before and one after gets me through the non-meal until I can eat something acceptable at my desk.

    It’s not a perfect situation, but it makes it manageable and generally keeps my food needs from getting unwanted attention.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      “I can’t eat until later” is kind of magic — it hints and the specter of dietary _need_ rather than preference, and tends to discourage followup questions.

      This isn’t a bad idea! Or you could use the popular Intermittent Fasting excuse.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yep. I like it too. There are myriad reasons a person cant eat until “later,” even if it’s only because “the food here makes me gag.”

        Don’t say that of course…unless it’s liver and lima beans with a side if creamed peas. Yeah that’s actually a meal my mom used to make. I preferred, even as a small child to just skip dinner.

    2. Dan*

      I need to edit my second sentence: It should read: “But I won’t touch one thing with a ten foot pole.”

    3. Olivia*

      OP here. Thanks for the suggestions, Rich. I really think I can use your advice well, especially the part about giving a heads up to my manager first, and still going along to join in the festivities (minus the food, maybe).

      1. HannahS*

        Good on you! Food can be really tricky. The function of team meals is to bring people together, and I think showing up with a positive attitude is the way to go. I’ve definitely shown up for all kinds of team parties and meetings where it was like, well, I’m mostly-kosher and no, I won’t be holding hands and participating in the prayer, but I showed up with something I could eat and a cheerful smile, and asked people about their plans for the holidays. It’s not the same situation, exactly, but my point is to continue to keep your eye on the prize, which is team harmony and community building. It doesn’t mean never stand up for yourself, because I think something you like should be included in the rotation, but I think it’s easy to get bogged down in the details of food, when it’s not entirely about food to begin with.

    4. Will Hunting Fan Club*

      Apples…did you say APPLES!?! Don’t you know that if you eat apples you’re likely to be branded an awful human being?!

      Ok, sarcasm over.

      With that out of the way, really good suggestions and I like the framing of your answers.

        1. Goldfinch*

          Somebody in Friday’s morning thread opined that apples are only for small children, not grown adults.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      Another picky eater here. I’ve gotten better with age but there’s still plenty of food that other people love that is a hard no for me. What you suggest is pretty much along the lines of what I do. I try to coordinate with the organizer ahead of time, and I am happy to go along anyway even if there’s nothing I can eat. I’ve made plenty of shows of “trying” something I know I hate just to shut people up. For some reason nobody believes you when you say you have tried something and didn’t like it. Yup, still hate it, just like the last 18 times I tried it. I’ve also made it a point to figure out what I can eat, no matter how simple, from certain popular cuisines. Many places will do you some plain rice or noodles even if it’s not on the menu. I will call ahead and ask. If I can’t eat anything, I just don’t. You have to be a little extra warm and friendly to put people at their ease, and I love your “I can’t eat until later” suggestion.

    6. M*

      So you can’t eat plain rice? Noodles of any kind? Vegetables? Salad? Do you know that sushi places serve things other than raw fish (including sushi rolls that don’t have any fish at all)?

      You may have an allergy, in which case, better safe than sorry. But as someone who gets sick when he eats certain things I get so annoyed when people say “can’t” when they really mean “won’t” (including “won’t try to see if there’s anything there for me”). I can’t eat dairy (really can’t), and yet I can always eat something, even at pizzerias or French restaurants or whatever.

      1. M*

        To be clear, not saying that your can’t is a won’t, just venting in general and pointing out there are always options if severe allergies aren’t in play, like other commenters have noted.

      2. Observer*

        So, not all sushi places serve things that everyone can eat, though. Of course the OP should try to find out if any given place serves something she can eat, or if they will go off menu. But don’t assume that just because the places YOU go to are able to provide you with something you can eat, everyone is in the same boat. A sushi place WILL have rice, but if plain rice is not on their menu and they won’t go off menu, that won’t help someone who is willing to eat plain rice. etc.

      3. Dahlia*

        Personally I don’t eat rice, noodles can work but not alway, and most green salads taste like eating grass for me. Grass is not food. And trying to force myself to eat these foods will probably end in gagging them back up.

        Also fyi as a picky eater THIS GAME IS NOT FUN. Can you just take our words that we can’t eat this stuf???

        1. Door Guy*

          Right? They get put out from the irregular (how often are you going out with them to eat), but for us it’s the daily struggle. It’s NOT fun, and if I could change it I would in a HEARTBEAT. Do they think I like being like this? To hear them whine about having to go to a restaurant that they’d go to on their own if it was their idea, but they just don’t want to that day and want to go somewhere I CAN’T eat?

          1. Dahlia*

            I think the thing that’s annoying me the most is people saying how it’s “unfair” to the rest of the team that OP can’t eat at other places. They aren’t even saying they won’t step foot in the building! All they’re saying is that they won’t eat anything there, and asking how to manage that. How does it put you out to have someone NOT eating next to you???

            Seriously this isn’t EASY. Nobody chooses to eat like this.

      4. fposte*

        I don’t think it really matters, though. Rich doesn’t owe people a blow by blow on why he’s not eating, and it doesn’t cheapen your experience to have somebody use “can’t” differently than you do. I would share your frustration more if he drew on “allergies” (though I think the medical use of that term may be a lost cause), but he’s not. He’s just saying he can’t eat the food. I mean, technically you *can* eat dairy too, but like Rich, the results are a problem for you.

      5. Fikly*

        Look, I have food allergies. I also have a sensory processing disorder. There are foods that if I put them in my mouth, I will gag and vomit. Can I eat them without having an allergic reaction? Yes. But I can’t eat them. It’s not a won’t, when eating them subjects me to physical pain, just like an allergic reaction.

      6. KimberlyR*

        I am a picky eater. I can’t eat tomatoes-not due to allergies but because I will audibly gag if I bite into one. (This is not due to just seeing it. If tomatoes are hidden under something else and I bite into one, I will be hard-pressed not to throw up.) So I will use the word “can’t” in this instance. I may not be allergic but I cannot have it in my food at all.

      7. Autumnheart*

        I have a pretty varied palate, but I have texture/taste issues with several very common foods that I won’t eat, because they make me gag/sick to my stomach. I can’t stomach asparagus, or peas, or refried beans, but I love shellfish. If someone tries to give me grief about my bean boycott, I offer to split a dish of, say, steamed mussels or escargot with them. Funnily enough, the people who act like it’s weird to not eat asparagus have no trouble turning down a snail for exactly the same reasons!

      8. DaniCalifornia*

        Can’t includes preferences. I was forced to eat so many things as a child (and I do mean physically forced) that I can sometimes gag at the thought or smell of particular foods. I’ve been personally working on this and the psychology behind it is incredible, but it’s people like you who say things like these that make me feel terrible about myself. If I could eat whatever I wanted I would be so happy. It’s not fun being an adult and people constantly commenting on your food choices. I never comment on others food except for “Smells great!” or “Looks yummy!” You should take people at their word and not question them. I’m sure you get annoyed when people question what you can’t eat due to illness.

        Also I’d rather just say “I can’t eat right now” with my hand on my stomach and change the subject than order a bowl of plain white rice at a lunch with my boss and coworkers. That will just invite even more comments/observations!

    7. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’ve also had pretty good luck with finding the ONE thing on the menu that I can tolerate. For example, most sushi places also have teriyaki, and that I can eat. There’s a dish that every Thai place I’ve been to has some version of that I’m pretty happy with. Lots of places have chicken Ceaser salad, which while it’s not my favorite I’ll eat it. If I don’t mind the jokes, chicken strips are a pretty common appetizer. YMMV obviously.

  6. Orange You Glad*

    #4 – Talking over people is a bad habit…and it’s a habit that can be changed!

    One technique I saw my boss do with a coworker who would always start-talking-over-the-already-speaking-person is physically reach up & grab the air at eye level in a quick gesture. The same you would use to catch a fruit fly in your hand – like my boss was physically grabbing the words coming out of my coworker’s mouth.

    It was…very strange. And EFFECTIVE.

    I think because it was so strange it would startle my coworker into silence each time and then my boss would resume talking as if nothing had occurred.

    So if using Alison’s suggestions don’t work, you could try physically grabbing the conversation back!

    1. only acting normal*

      It’s the gesture my school choir conductor used to stop a sustained end note. Her’s had a sort of little side-swoop to it, not just a forward grab.
      NB anyone trying it, please don’t do it close to someone’s face; you’re not actually grabbing the words *from their mouth*. Think of it like a conducting gesture – you do it in your own space to communicate to the other person.

    2. Marni*

      I wouldn’t recommend that one, in my experience it mimics the act of forcibly shutting the other person’s mouth and is most commonly translated as a very emphatic “Shut up!” I think I’ve mostly seen it from borderline-abusive adults to cowed children. It’s pretty hostile, and could draw a negative reaction.

      1. Snuck*

        Like Marin I too feel it’s a very overt/aggressive act…. it would be a last resort, and is very disrespectful in my mind. Up there with “I don’t care what you think anymore, and while I can’t slap you because that would be assault I am going to do something super grossly overpowered anyway and it will just shut you up”… abusive.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Yep. It’s like someone suddenly pointing their finger at your face, it sort of surprises me so it makes me jump – in the kind of way when you instinctively go to hit back or push them away before you get the chance to think.

          It’s an interesting idea but I think you’d *really* need to know the recipient before trying that tactic.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah I wouldn’t do something like this. I was going to write that maybe at the most you could hold up a finger as in “one moment” but even that felt too hostile. Especially at a peer level.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        Hmm, apparently this is cultural. I (an American) have done this conductor’s end-note gesture (which is not “zip-it!” or a finger/hand in the face) to my kids to get them to stop talking if I need them to listen at that moment and they haven’t responded to other cues, and I am not “borderline-abusive” nor are my children cowed. They know what the gesture is because I explained what it is. I’ve seen their teachers do it as well as the hands-patting-the-air-downward “settle down” gesture. Children can be chatty and this can be effective rather than continuing to verbally ask them to hush.

        However, I wouldn’t do it to an adult because it’s very parental or instructor-like, which is not a relationship I have with many (any?) adults.

    3. londonedit*

      Ooh no, in my culture (UK) this would come across as very rude indeed. Yes, someone interrupting is rude, but doing a ‘zip it’ sort of gesture when they’re speaking would possibly be even more rude!

      Maybe the best solution would be to say something at the beginning of the meeting/conversation – ‘It’s really important for everyone’s opinions to be heard on this, so I’d like to ask that we all let each other finish speaking before jumping in’. And then if Bob interrupts, you can do the whole ‘Bob, this is what I was just talking about – please let Jane finish and we’ll come to your thoughts in a minute’.

      1. Argh!*

        Also, the leader has to have the kahones to interrupt someone who’s taking advantage of that rule. There’s always that one person who can’t put a period on the end of a sentence.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        Yeah… there are many cultures where making that gesture at someone would be unbelievably rude – as in “them’s fighting words” rude – and would have the potential to actually escalate the situation. I come from a culture that generally gesticulates wildly while speaking, but this would still go over like the proverbial lead balloon.

  7. chersy*

    LW4: I get the impression that it might be a “call center thing,” because in call centers one must keep a limited number of minutes in a call—but talking over the client actually does make the call/discussion longer! I’d say Bob is just rude or also unconscious of the fact that his too-fast thinking (I imagine he wants to get his thoughts out before he forgets). Agree with Alison’s advice—just tell him politely, but with authority to let people finish. (Or when I used to have a pushy client that would talk over me while I was explaining during my call center days, I’d stop speaking altogether and let the silence go on and on until client would also stop and wonder where I was.)

    1. Tisiphone*

      Former tech support person here. My experience is that if you interrupt someone mid-rant, they start over and add more.

      We were not allowed to respond to verbal abuse, or to hang up on people. I found that allowing people to get it out of their system before chiming in with a solution worked best.

    2. Former call centre worker*

      I don’t know about sales roles, but in a customer service role talking over people would not be good and would get you low scores on both your customer satisfaction surveys and any quality monitoring (where a supervisor listens in on a call and scores you). Perhaps this habit is why he no longer works in a call centre!

    3. Daisy*

      I think it is very likely to be a call centre bad habit, I’m not sure why Alison dismissed that so sweepingly. Angry customers or whoever can go on forever, many people do get in the habit of leaping in (although obviously completely talking over them doesn’t go down well there either). And if it’s cold calling, you’re often explicitly told to keep saying your spiel until the person hangs up.

      1. OP #4*

        OP #4 here – To expand further, Bob has 10 years experiences in the call center and has shared many stories with us about how poorly he was treated by angry/unreasonable customers and prospects. Surprisingly though, he recently mentioned that his wife does this exact thing to him (ironic).

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      100% disagree. Being in a call center is about listening to the issue, so if you’re constantly interrupting the customer, you would accomplish nothing. It’s just rude. When someone is constantly interrupting others, they’re not listening to them, they’re only thinking about what they need to say and when they need to say it. It’s bad enough when it happens during a personal conversation, but at work you need to listen to each other to work together towards a common goal.

      1. Olivia*

        Agreed! And I second Alison’s advice on asking the person to “please let me finish” and also pointing out that they’ve interrupted/calmly waiting for them to finish and then stating that you’d like to complete your thought! I think this can definitely be done in a polite but firm manner.

      2. Jadelyn*

        “Being in a call center is about listening to the issue” – Depends on the type of call center. Inbound, yes. Outbound/sales call centers, not so much.

    5. LQ*

      I work in a call center and it is very actively trained out of people around here. It is very poor customer service. I would be really surprised if the call center trained him to do that. I’d say this was a Bob thing.

      1. PizzaPop*

        I can admit to having Bob’s habit at times and I work in a call center. This is absolutely not a good quality for someone in a call center and I have to constantly work on not doing that. I didn’t even realize I did it until I worked in a call center and it was pointed out to me. Call centers train you not to do this.

        And speaking as a Bob, I don’t mean to be rude when I interupt. Sometimes I’m excited about an idea, thought or hilarious observation and words come out!

        I find it interesting that a terrible habit is considered a call center thing. I know call center workers are not respected but really? Really? This?

    6. OP #4*

      OP #4: I think you may have a very valid point with the “too-fast thinking”, he is very smart and detail oriented. Not sure how this will transition to working with customers though, this is his first “proactive” role versus “reactive” in a call center type environment

  8. AnotherLibrarian*

    LW4: I wonder if Bob is also “thinking out loud.” I had someone who used to do that. They didn’t mean to interrupt, they were just thinking out loud and no really realizing they were interrupting. I found if I could reframe it in my head as unintentional rather than dismissive (which was how it felt to me at the time), I was better able to address it without being angry or annoyed in my tone. I really like Alison’s scripts as I can’t remember what I said to them, but they did get better once they were called out on it.

    1. Doodle*

      Any suggestions when it is your supervisor who speaks over you and interrupts? Then she repeats herself. It is maddening. Others in my office interrupt her and talk over each other, too. I believe this is rude behavior and I do not want to raise my voice or interrupt.

  9. Tisiphone*

    #1 – Picky eater here. As in I can’t stand anything with cheese or garlic and red meat is right out. I am not ashamed to order sandwiches with bread and chicken, that’s it, and ordering dessert only or somehow requesting “Hey! We broke all the records, let’s have pizza!” day off.

    I really hate organized lunches and thankfully my job doesn’t require it and I can decide to avoid the pizza parties by deciding that it’s a good time to go work from home when the pizza arrives.

    If I have advance warning and a specific restaurant, I look at the menu, see if there’s anything at all I’ll eat or something that if they take out the cheese or leave off the bacon or ditch the mayonnaise, I could live with. Maybe a side dish or dessert only if the restaurant is Garlic Heaven or Cheese Castle or Pizza Palace. Desserts tend to be universal. I love love LOVE Mediterranean and Indian because the cheese and garlic is at a minimum.

    1. LaurelBee*

      This *might* be off-topic, but I’m so curious what Tisiphone might have to say so I’m going to risk it! Finding non-garlic people is SO rare for me. I have a garlic sensitivity and my stomach hurts if I have it. Mediterranean food is the worst for this stomach paint (like Greek food) – I thought it meant Mediterranean food had a lot of garlic? Is this not the case, am I allergic to something else, too? Agree with you on Indian food – so great they don’t use garlic. I’ve found Thai also usually doesn’t have much garlic.

      1. Tisiphone*

        For me, it’s the smell. I have a Daredevil level of smell and garlic is overpowering to the point I find it hard to breathe the same way walking into an uncleaned privy on a hot day would be overpowering — and about as pleasant.

        Thai food is spicy but not so garlicky. I like to ask for mild. Some of my friends are into proving how tough they are by how much spicy-hot they can endure. (They can barely taste food without a ton of super spice, I can tell what color a SmarTee is by taste while blindfolded and it’s just food coloring and sugar. Girl Scout parlor trick!) I find Mediterranean OK because gyros is fine even though red meat is right out otherwise. (we’re talking 30 seconds before I vomit up everything I just ate – sorry about the TMI) Italian is out of the question as it’s cheese and garlic and more cheese and more garlic and did I mention the cheese? And garlic? And here! Have some more cheese. And garlic.

        Some of my faves are Middle Eastern, but read the menu carefully. Some things have garlic, but not everything. I love some of the stir fries my local restaurant offers. The places near me are all family-owned, not chains or franchises, and they’ll happily answer questions and customize.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          You sound like a supertaster (which sounds like a compliment but is more of a curse) – if you haven’t looked into that before, I’d give it a Google. Do you find coriander tastes of soap? Might be interesting and/or helpful.

      2. Agnodike*

        Many Indian dishes are cooked with garlic; every time I make curry, I fry the spices and a garlic-ginger paste together as the base of the sauce. Some styles of Indian cooking use asafoetida instead, but garlic is a pretty common ingredient.

        1. Kat*

          My husband had a coworker with an allium allergy (onions, garlic, etc) and he found that Indian restaurants were some of the besy at accomodating him because he could request a meal that was “Jain” (as in, in accordance with the dietary rules of Jain), which happen to eliminate alliums. He was usually able to be accomodated at other restaurants as well, but he found that because the Indian restaurants already had a set idea of “allium free meal” it would be the simplest experience.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I find that fascinating, because like Agnodike my experience of Indian food is heavy on garlic and onions, but FIL dislikes both.

            It occurs to me that as there is a big range of “Indian” food in the UK it may depend whether the restaurant is actually heavily Anglo-Indian or Bengali or Punjabi (etc) and a restaurant specialising in dishes from western India might be more likely to have Jain-friendly dishes. This is worth my looking into, so thanks!

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              India is huge. Sooo many different types of Indian food, including Jain. One of my favorite jobs (and I should say, in case it’s not obvious, that I’m middle-aged white lady born & raised in coastal California) had me working with about a dozen Indian women who had mostly come to the US as teens or young adults, who had grown up in all different parts of the sub-continent. They *loved* comparing their different foods and traditions and I *loved* listening to it all and sometimes going out for meals with them.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              I think that what’s being said is that you can ask the restaurant about a Jain friendly dish, and most indian restaurants will have experience making something off-menu that will suit.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                I agree – I’m thinking more widely about going out for dinner with my spouse’s family, and whether we could pick a restaurant specialising in the right region’s cuisine so that FIL has more options on the menu, let alone off it. Being able to pick from the menu (even from a very limited list) is far more comfortable for the picky eater than having to ask for something special. Before this thread I had no idea that Jain friendly would mean FIL friendly!

          2. Agnodike*

            Yes, those are the styles that use asafoetida instead of alliums. In regions where there’s a larger Jain population, it’s more likely to be part of the standard recipe, and otherwise you can usually request it.

        2. Clisby*

          Yeah, I was surprised to see comments about Indian food not including garlic. Garlic is very common in Indian food. In one of my Indian cookbooks, the author says Kashmiri Hindus don’t eat onions or garlic, so I suppose it’s possible there are other groups in India who don’t.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Yeah, a friend of mine’s family is from Gujarat. They are neither Jain nor Kashmiri, but they don’t eat onions or garlic.

      3. Quill*

        We thought for a long time that my mom had a problem with garlic (but weirdly not onions?) but it turned out to be a garlic powder problem. We live in a town that was heavily italian the entire time I was growing up, so that… didn’t work great.

        Personally I prefer pre-diced, jarred garlic, since the oil removes the sulfury smell and can make it a little gentler on the stomach… if the sulfury bits are the actual problem, which is not always the case. Thai and indian food, if you know what you’re getting into about spice levels and your curry tolerance, can be excellent for avoiding garlic. (Depending on the region, IIrc there are some very garlic heavy regions of India.)

      4. Mountainly*

        Oooh me too! I’ll be up hours later, dry heaving. Love the taste, but I can’t digest it anymore. If it’s a trace, it’s usually fine, but if it’s listed as an ingredient in the menu or in the top 5-8 things on a package, I can’t. That and raw onions. I’ll have a delayed reaction of a few hours and then be so sick. Didn’t start until I was well into my 30s, oddly enough.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Following you slightly off topic. I knew someone with an actual garlic allergy. So it’s worth mentioning to your doctor if allergy testing is covered by your health insurance.
        Mediterranean food also uses sumac to make zatar powder, so that’s another ingredient to test.

      6. Manders*

        Greek food served as entrees in restaurants has a lot of garlic, but a lot of Mediterranean foods can be finger foods where every item’s in a separate small dish. It’s not great for people with allergies severe enough that cross-contamination is a problem, but for people with sensitivities, it can be possible to just avoid the dishes with the ingredient you can’t eat.

        OP, that might be an option for you–some types of cuisine are great for ordering small dishes really selectively or passing the bits you don’t want to eat to someone else.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes, advance notice is key. I always do thorough menu checks and figure out ahead of time what I can/will order. It takes a lot of the anxiety out if I can plan ahead and know what I’m in for. I don’t mind ordering something super plain, and I too have ordered a dessert instead of an entree because there was nothing else on the menu I could eat.

    3. WorkingGirl*

      I’m vegan and I often end up modifying dishes- a veggie sandwich without aioli, veggie burger without cheese. I always worry about “box lunches” though.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I’m not vegan but I’m dairy and egg free, so I tend to eat vegan dishes. What kinds of bread are you getting with your sandwiches and burgers? I avoid breads since all my recipes for bread call for milk or butter. I’ve been asking for things on tortillas or lettuce to turn them into wraps and it gets messy sometimes.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Try looking for Jewish rye bread. Pepperidge Farm’s “Dark Pump” bread is a dairy-free bread that a lot of supermarkets have.

          That said, this is more advice for grocery shopping than for going out to eat, since a lot of commercial rye bread does contain dairy.

        2. is it friday yet?*

          If you’re making bread from home (guessing from the “my recipes” phrase) try rustic bread recipes. Many European bread recipes are: flour, water, yeast, salt. Sourdoughs omit the yeast.
          But, only a small number of breads use milk & butter.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I make quick bread from time to time, mainly Irish soda bread. I sub almond milk mixed with a bit of apple cider vinegar for buttermilk. I used to make yeasted breads all the time but not so much since going dairy free. I did find a beautiful vegan French bread at a farmer’s market last month; I think I might try my hand at making that!

            1. Dahlia*

              Look up “my mundane and miraculous life french bread”. It’s flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar, and that’s my go-to homemade bread recipe as not a vegan. I do recommend adding a bit of a knead if you can, and proofing the dough for an hour which isn’t in the recipe originally, but it’s rather easy.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          Kosher breads are a lifesaver for a dairy-allergic friend of mine. They are usually dairy-free so they can be served with meat meals or dairy meals equally. (Eggs are still an issue, but while e.g. egg-based challah exists, it’s less of a minefield than powdered milk as a dough conditioner.)

  10. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#2: Sounds like an awful place to have worked. Sorry you dealt with that. I also wouldn’t respond but I would leave a Glassdoor review about my experience there.

    Would this text/response from the manager affect your ability to get a reference from the company? When I read your reply, I assumed the manager lied about your response (or at least, misrepresented you – I can see a person saying ‘Great, I can go and get some sleep’ to mean they’re frustrated by the situation, not that they don’t care). If it would affect your reference, it might be worth following up with something polite, e.g., ‘Thanks for clarifying. On my end, I was simply disappointed with how things worked out, not really wanting to go home and sleep. At any rate, I am moving on and applying for new jobs. Good luck with the hiring process.’

    If it wouldn’t, then you can reply with ‘Yay, free of that nightmare boss!’ and then ‘Oh sorry, meant to text my husband, he was worried about me.’

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I read “now I can go home and sleep” as coming from the manager — as in, she was stressed out by having to fire someone and now she can go home and get some sleep.

      If the OP said it during the firing, it’s such an odd thing to have said that I’d lean toward just leaving it be. If the manager lied to her husband about what the OP said … there’s still really nothing to be done about it, other than being glad to be free of her.

      1. voyager1*

        The LW made the sleeping comment.
        “I terminated Jane today. Her response, Okie Odokie! Now I can go home and sleep!”
        It isn’t that odd though. The LW could honestly been so stressed about her performance (keeping the job) that she was having issues sleeping.

        1. Approval is optional*

          I read it the same way as Alison: the manager relayed the OP’s response – ‘Okie Dokie! – then told her husband that she, the manager, would now be able to sleep so he could stop worrying. Either way I think the OP should just let it go.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          The boss pretty clearly intends to say, I terminated Jane & her response was “Okie Dokie!” (I.e., she didn’t make a fuss.) The ‘Now I can go home and sleep!’ is the boss’s own words. (I.e., now I can finally relax about this.)

          If you look, you’ll notice that OP used quotes. Boss didn’t. So the end quote is for the whole text, not delineating the OP’s words. (If that was what was causing the confusion.)

          1. pleaset*

            Do people commonly put quotation marks in text messages? I don’t text much so don’t know – is it expected or common?

            1. Oxford Comma*

              There’s no standard for texts, at least not in my experience. Some people capitalize and use appropriate punctuation. Some don’t. There’s also the fun of autocorrect…

          2. WellRed*

            Not necessarily. I read it as the boss saying that Jane’s response was, “now I can go home and sleep”

            It really could be read either way. This is a retyping of a text sent by a third party, so I take any punctuation, missing or otherwise, with a grain of salt.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              I’m not saying the punctuation proves this — just addressing the punctuation in case it was confusing anyone who saw it at the end of the line & thought that the boss had written it (i.e., Jane said, “Okie Dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!”)

              Seeing an end quote can make us think we saw a beginning quote where we didn’t, esp. when a sentence begins with “she said” or “her response was.”

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            I don’t think that’s the clear intent at all. I agree that the boss’s meaning is ambiguous. (To us; possibly clear to her spouse, possibly clear to OP who knows what she said.)

            But rereading knowing that a lot of people took the boss-sleeping interpretation, I still see it as OP sleeping.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              The “he was worried about me” really only makes sense in the context of the manager trying to explain “Now I can go home and sleep!” If it was something the OP said, then the manager’s text is just gossip. If it wasn’t something OP said (or that the manager is attributing to OP), then the text is referencing the manager’s stress and “he was worried about me” makes sense (giving context to that).

              1. bonkerballs*

                I disagree – I think it makes just as much sense to say “he was worried about me” to explain texting him at all.

                The boss’s text is ambiguous. There’s no point in any of us arguing that we know what is correct because we don’t.

          4. Spencer Hastings*

            No, the boss’s text is ambiguous between “I terminated Jane and her response was ‘Okie dokie!’ Now I can go home and sleep!” and “I terminated Jane and her response was ‘Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!'” Since the boss doesn’t use quotation marks at all, as you point out, the scope of the quotation could be either of those. (I first read it as the second one, FWIW.)

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Oh, I see what you mean! So the ‘Okie dokie’ was the comment from Jane, and the manager was saying she can go home and sleep now that the whole thing is over? If that’s the case, could it be the OP didn’t realise that’s what the manager meant? It’s still an unpleasant text to receive, but at least OP would know the manager wasn’t gossiping about her.

        1. Myrin*

          OP would know whether she made the sleeping comment, though, wouldn’t she? That’s actually where my mind went when I’d first read that sentence – I thought OP would be angry that her former manager would falsely claim she’d say something so blasé in response to a firing. But since she didn’t write anything of that kind, I figured she either had indeed said that and felt nothing wrong with it or she understood that the “go home and sleep” thing was a comment from her manager to her husband.

        2. boop the first*

          I eventually read it as the OP saying they can go home to sleep, because when you are fired, you can leave. That’s kind of the thing that drives unsatisfied workers to fantasize about quitting/being fired in the first place.
          Boss isn’t going anywhere, they have to work. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for management to come in just to fire somebody and then go home.

      3. PB*

        Oh, interesting. I’d read that as the manager said that Jane’s reaction was “Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!” I’d thought the letter writer was upset that the manger reported her reaction as being so blase and flippant, which presumably isn’t accurate. It didn’t strike me until now that there was another way to read that.

        But regardless, I think the advice remains the same. There isn’t really anything the OP can do now.

        1. Jamie*

          I didn’t think there was another way to read it, either. I read it as the OP made the comment about going to sleep.

          It’s really interesting how people can read it differently.

          1. Heidi*

            I did this too. I thought it went like this:
            Boss: You’re fired.
            OP: Okie dokie! Now I can go home and sleep!

            But I can also see that it might have gone like this:
            Boss: You’re fired.
            OP: Okie dokie!
            Boss: (aside) Now I can go home and sleep!

            I worry that the lack of punctuation that often characterizes the texting medium makes it hard to know which one is the right one.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          And if your attempt to keep calm while noting all the long hours you’d put in for nothing landed as blase and flippant and a person who just likes to nap, that stings.

        3. CM*

          I read it the same way and thought it was pretty mean — basically, “she was such a lazy asshole that she didn’t even care because now she can go home and sleep.” Didn’t even occur to me there was another interpretation.

      4. JD*

        This is how I read it:
        The boss told her husband LW was fired, and sarcastically added that LW replied “now I can sleep” because the boss thinks LW is lazy and would rather sleep than work. It’s a nasty, petty, “mean girl” type of message.

    2. Snuck*

      I read it as the manager talking to her husband, about something that has been keeping her awake (and I presume thus.. him)… “now I can sleep” refers to the manager having sleepless nights about this.

      I might have sent similar to my husband about this situation in the manager’s situation… a sort of “you knew I was going through this, and I’m going to tell you it’s done” text… closing the loop.

      I don’t feel it’s unreasonable to send that to your significant other, when they are the one who has been putting up with you tossing and turning (or ranting) about things. How much they should disclose? Look, that’s complicated I’d say… We don’t know how much was disclosed and whether it breached reasonable confidentiality so let’s not assume it did… instead… I’d be taking this as a person reaching out to their support network, after a bad moment in the office… no one wants to fire people, especially not people who have been trying but still haven’t quite made the grade. Very few people have joy from that (and there’s zero indication the manager has enjoyed this).

      Not glassdoor worthy in my mind. We are all human and can make errors. Possibly the OP has a name that is one letter different to the husband (Jane vs Jack) and thus it was an accident, possibly there was a text exchange we aren’t aware of where this text was top one in the phone… and thus replied to in error. Who knows… but it wasn’t malicious. What would you say on glassdoor? “Manager made the error of texting her support network but it went to me instead, text wasn’t nasty, but I didn’t like getting it”???

      1. londonedit*

        This is how I read it. The manager and her husband had obviously been talking about her having to fire Jane, so once she’d done it, she sent him (or so she thought) a message saying in effect ‘well, I fired Jane – luckily she wasn’t horrendously upset, and now I feel like I can sleep properly again!’

        Text isn’t exactly the greatest medium for communication, and it’s understandable that the manager would have used a shorthand (‘Terminated Jane, her response was ‘Okie dokie’, now I can sleep again’) because her husband would have understood the context of what they’d talked about before. It’s absolutely unfortunate that she sent the message to Jane and not to her husband, and if I was in Jane’s shoes I’d have felt aggrieved, because it would probably feel like rubbing salt into the wound when you’re still feeling raw about it (‘Oh great, not only have I been fired but my manager has been discussing my firing with her husband’). But I think it’s an unfortunate mistake (a bit like when you think you’re forwarding an email to a colleague saying ‘Ugh, annoying Fergus wants his reports early again, he’s such a pain in the arse’ and you then discover you actually replied to Fergus). I don’t think the manager did anything malicious.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I also think the manager cringed herself inside-out when she realised what she’d done, and will wake up in a cold sweat about it for weeks to come.

          Hopefully for LW it will be a funny story eventually. It sounds like she will be happier out of that disorganised environment.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      I also read it as the boss relating OP saying they could go home and sleep, which may be why OP is upset – she feels it presents her as lazy/uncaring. It didn’t occur to me until others mentioned it that it could be the boss talking about resting easy.

      Either way, though, the advice to the OP is the same – awful to read, but nothing you can do will improve the situation. Try to put it out of your head and go forth and find an awesome new position instead.

      1. Paulina*

        Even if it was the OP, I see it as a reaction to how overworked she’d been. The boss seems not to have understood that anyway, so may have misinterpreted things — but the OP still needs to let this go.

    4. Susan A*

      ‘Yay, free of that nightmare boss!’ and then ‘Oh sorry, meant to text my husband, he was worried about me.’
      Lady Ariel Ponyweather, my sensible head tells me that the OP shouldn’t send that response because of burning bridges etc. but I do want to say that I LOVE it! Because the OP has been treated shabbily after completing the PIP and then the boss’s text is another little (albeit unintentional) hurt, and your suggestion is AWESOME. But don’t send it OP!

  11. Alisonofagun*

    Actually I am confused about who said “now I can go home and sleep” in the second question. I took it to be a direct quote from the letter-writer, either sassy/sarcastic or completely oblivious to how bad it sounded. If it was indeed the employee who said it then I thought they were objecting to their being quoted because in hindsight it sounds so embarrassingly immature. If it was just the boss saying they could finally get some sleep, I’m not sure why the letter would have even been written (concern about the boss’s stress levels?! Doubtful!). I think we all understand our bosses talk about us in general terms, it’s the relaying of the response to being terminated that I think the LW is upset by.

    1. Baru Cormorant*

      I read it this way, first as coming from LW. Then reread it as coming from the manager. Either way I don’t see this as something actionable. Awkward, but not that offensive.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      I think the LW is either upset about the characterization of her response as “Okie Dokie!” (which suggests that she was totally cool with the firing, while she clearly was not, however calm she may have appeared) or is thinking that it’s unprofessional to discuss a personnel issue with one’s spouse & so is taking issue with being talked about at all.

      It doesn’t seem likely that this was a direct quote from LW. It’s possible, but it makes more sense coming from the boss. (Maybe the LW misinterpreted it as being attributed to her, too??)

      1. MK*

        But the purpose of appearing calm is for everyone else to think you were calm about it; no one is going to assume you loved being fired or agreed that it was justified because the manager told them you didn’t make a fuss. As for discussing personnel issues with a spouse, on one level I get it, I would feel awkward knowing my supervisor talks about me too. But to be frank I sort of do it myself with non-confidential issues. I don’t think it’s reallistic to ask all employees to never discuss anything that happened at work with their relatives or friends, as long as these are public facts.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Yeah, I don’t think LW is particularly right to be upset about this — I’m just explaining their rationale. They’re probably also just worked up because this just happened, and the text was adding insult to injury.

      2. nonymous*

        If I were a manager sweating over a firing and venting to hubs, I could totally see him using the phrase “okie dokie” as a way of reframing the situation and calming me down. Manager’s husband could have said “It will all work out, honey! You’ll read that prepared statement and she’ll say okie-dokie and then both of you will go about your lives. I’m looking forward to you not stressing so much and being able to sleep again.”

  12. Myrin*

    #3, Alison is spot-on. I think a big part of the solution to this is that you have to make it really clear in your own head, for yourself, why you took this sabbatical. Like Alison says, there must have been some reason for it, right? So really, inside of yourself, focus on that reason and remind yourself that whatever it is, it’s worthwhile and, to you, more important than someone else’s health issues, even if that someone else is a dear friend. I know all too well the feeling of “Well, technically, I have the time, so I might as well do this request” but that way lies madness; you might as well not have taken a sabbatical at all, then.

    Relatedly and more practically, how does Fergus get in contact with you? You say that these requests often come with only a few hours of notice, so I assume he’s either calling or texting you and not, say, seeing you in person and asking for a favour two days in advance? And if that’s the case, can you interfere with his getting in contact with you at all? What I mean by that is, can you reasonably turn off your phone or close your email program or whatever so that you don’t even see that he’s trying to contact you?

    And I don’t mean that in a “take evasive manoeuvres now!!” kind of way where you just dodge his calls (or whatever) and hope that he takes the hint; I really think that a direct approach – I’d personally prefer a more big-picture talk but Alison’s firm refusal every time is just as valid – is the best solution when it comes to him and you and you guys’s relationship, but for you yourself and your own peace of mind, it might be helpful to literally unplug if at all possible.

    1. Mockingjay*

      OP 3 might want to loop in their manager. Why isn’t Fergus coordinating coverage with the boss?

      Say, “Boss, I won’t be filling in for Fergus. I took this sabbatical to accomplish X and I need to stay focused on that. I understand that this is a difficult time for him and I’ll be happy to help when I return full time.”

      The OP’s boss should have a plan to manage Fergus’s intermittent duties that spread the load among several employees while prioritizing tasks to balance the work.

      1. valentine*

        Why isn’t Fergus coordinating coverage with the boss?
        So there’s no fuss and the boss won’t tell him to take leave. As long as someone covers the shift, Fergus doesn’t have to involve the boss.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        Sometimes coverage is unofficial. In my library system, the Cathedral Road Branch Manager was married to the Midvale Avenue Branch Manager. When I worked at the Cathedral Road Branch, I would be asked by my boss to cover the Midvale Avenue Branch for Yom Kippur so that his wife and her children’s librarian would be able to take Yom Kippur off. Grandboss of the Northwest area was not involved at all.

        1. Mockingjay*

          You are correct, arranging coverage for infrequent events doesn’t need to involve the boss. In this case, though, the frequency of Fergus’s call-outs is causing a schedule and resource issue that management needs to address. I’m not bashing Fergus; he has a legitimate need to take off, but management needs to provide a coverage plan.

      3. OP #3*

        Fergus hasn’t needed to coordinate coverage with the boss, well, because I’ve been a huge band-aid for the situation. I was concerned that by withdrawing my help, I would contribute to Fergus’s stress while he is in poor health, but you are right, the burden of planning coverage should go to our boss.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      OP#3: That’s great that you’ve been covering to help out your colleague. But keep in mind that your sabbatical is important too. We sometimes tend to be guilted into thinking our colleagues’ needs (whatever they may be) are more important than our own. I’m not discounting the importance of someone’s medical needs, but that should be on the boss, not the employee who is on sabbatical. “Sabbatical” is not a synonym for “on-call.”

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, I don’t understand how this even came about, that she’s available at all, let alone on short notice. If you’re on sabbatical, you’re not available.

        1. valentine*

          I don’t understand how this even came about, that she’s available at all
          It’s like ye olde “You’re (working from) home, so you can let in the plumber/tend to my pets/accept my deliveries/run my errands.” OP3 isn’t working during work hours, so Fergus considers them available and OP3 has made themselves so and not said otherwise.

        2. OP #3*

          I made myself available to help out a friend with a life-threatening condition because it seemed like the right thing to do. I realized I may have made a poor decision, hence writing in to AAM.

    3. Protect your time*

      All of this. Imagine if Fergus had decided to take medical leave – would your sabbatical have been revoked? Most likely, no, since you say there are other coworkers who can cover for him. The department decided you have a valid purpose, and in constantly covering for Fergus you are, in fact, using your sabbatical leave for something they did not approve. You are taking advantage of a benefit your employer offers that gives you time away from regular work. Fergus has decided not to take advantage of a (different) way to take time off from work and is expecting you to bear the burden. You don’t bring up compensation at all, but if this is a paid sabbatical, again, you are using this time for a different purpose than intended, and if it’s unpaid, then you are doing unpaid labor for Fergus. Sorry to be so harsh, but from the outside this looks very exploitative.

      1. OP #3*

        My sabbatical is unpaid, but my time spent covering for Fergus is compensated. You raise a good point though: I’m not using my sabbatical leave for its pre-approved and intended purpose.

        1. Protect your time*

          I’m glad to hear that you are at least getting paid. I feel for Fergus and understand your impulse to help, but there is no shame in admitting that it isn’t working and he needs to find other sources of coverage. Work/friend boundaries are so tough to negotiate! Best of luck.

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Given that it sounds like OP and Fergus work shiftwork, and that Fergus is calling in sick a few hours prior to each shift, I am thinking that the type of medical accommodations Fergus is currently receiving is only working because OP is breaking their sabbatical to cover for Fergus.

      I’ve supervised shiftworkers, and it really isn’t feasible to have someone calling out at the very last minute on a regular basis, even if they have a really valid reason to do so, because that means the boss spends hours frantically calling around while other workers have to drop everything to come in on their day off/come in much earlier than planned/stay much later than planned.

      Fergus likely needs to go on full medical leave, and not work until his health is more consistent. That’s likely what HR is going to require.

    5. OP #3*

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

      I know all too well the feeling of “Well, technically, I have the time, so I might as well do this request” but that way lies madness; you might as well not have taken a sabbatical at all, then.
      I need to print this and frame it on my desk!

      How does Fergus get in contact with you?
      Yes, call/text. I realize by replying immediately (even to say “no”) I signal my availability. I will stop.

      Ironically, part of the reason I’m taking the sabbatical is for my own physical and mental health. But since my condition is non life-threatening and Fergus’s is, I placed his needs above my own. What I’m hearing from you and Alison is I should “put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.”

      1. banzo_bean*

        You can silence texts in messages. I do this with my sister sometimes because she drives me nuts. I can still go into my messages and read her texts whenever I want to, so they don’t derail my day entirely. So I make a point to read my silenced messages once or sometimes twice a day, and I reply at those times. She can always reach me via phone call if something is truly urgent.
        It’s an easy way for me to break the cycle of constantly being at someones beck and call. I like to answer messages as a I receive them- but that sort means that I’m always available. This has made it easier to baby step out of that behavior.

    6. Jadelyn*

      “I know all too well the feeling of “Well, technically, I have the time, so I might as well do this request” but that way lies madness”

      Not sabbatical-related, but this reminded me of a comic I once saw depicting two coworkers in the break room. One asked the other what they were doing this weekend, and the second coworker said “Nothing.” The first coworker said “Oh, great, then you’re available! Can you come to -” and the second coworker cut them off. “No, you don’t understand. I am busy. I will be busy doing nothing. I am planning to do nothing. I’m not available, because I am doing nothing.”

      Ever since seeing that, that’s become my mantra. Just because I’m doing nothing, doesn’t mean I’m available. I am busy doing nothing.

  13. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – if you have a large group going to a restaurant, they will often agree to serve one member of group with a restricted diet their own food. Basic idea – you call in advance, let them knwo there is an issue with a highly restricted diet, take in your food in tupperware and they serve it up along with everyone else.

    There is the thing that you don’t eat your own food in a restaurant – but to get a large group booking, most will happily accomodate this if yoy pre-arrange it.

    1. WS*

      +1. My cousin (now in his late 30s) has had two severe food allergies since early childhood. This is better understood these days but it really wasn’t back then. Every time our families went out, we’d either call first and work something out with the kitchen, or take his own food. And part of the reason why we’d tend to go out as a several-family group (12-16 people) was that restaurants were completely fine with one person in a big group doing this, but often balked if it was just his immediate family (4 people).

      Restaurants are more understanding of allergies these days but not always, so the large group thing still works now.

    2. Fikly*

      Oh, yeah, I did this on my company retreat this summer. I have Celiac, and the retreat was not in an area where there were any safe restaurants. Most places the only thing I could consume was the water. No one said a word, but I also assume the company paid by the head in advance, so that may be why they didn’t mind?

  14. cncx*

    For OP1, I have a coworker with some restricted eating habits that aren’t an allergy but are due to some childhood trauma. Since in our country it doesn’t meet the threshold of accomodation, she has had a lot of luck with stating her preferred restaurants, reserving those restaurants if she is the one doing the reserving, and if it isn’t one of her restaurants, making sure the restaurant and the coworkers are ok with her just getting a drink or bringing her own food. Because she’s so flexible about it, we’re pretty flexible when it comes to our catered lunches and christmas party (making sure she definitely gets something she can eat etc).

    Her main pushback has been from colleagues who force her to order something she won’t eat, actually. But she makes it work, and our coworkers are supportive after a while.

  15. Four lights*

    Picky eater (recovering) here. I second the advice to eat before or after the work meal. Sometimes I’ll just have yogurt or fruit as a quick thing and then do a bigger dinner. I think asking for something simple off menu is also a good idea.

    I’ll usually say that I’m not that hungry, or that I’m kind of a picky eater. The latter invites people to comment–they always think they will be the one to get me to eat veggies!

    At the same time if someone offers you to try their food, I would take them up on it occasionally. I did this with my husband and am finally eating new foods, which is a relief for me for social and health reasons.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      “…they always think they will be the one to get me to eat veggies!”

      What is with people who are willing to die on the hill of trying to get you to eat something you don’t want? Do they realize how obnoxious they are? In that case a smile and broken record response of “no thanks” in a calm bored tone is in order.

      1. Shannon*

        THIS! I eat plant-based by choice and also because dairy upsets my stomach. It is an endless discussion. “Why don’t you just splurge ONE day a year?” or “It’s just butter! You can eat it this time!” etc. While following a vegan lifestyle is important to me, I don’t try pushing it on anyone else, and I find it frustrating (and frankly, a bit odd) that people care SO MUCH about what others eat. A smile and a broken record “no thanks” is my go-to in these situations.

        To the OP, calling ahead and ordering off-menu are options, but I LOVE the suggestion of simply “I can’t eat until later.”

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Agree on all counts!

      I can usually find at least one basic chicken dish at most restaurants but have on occasion gone to be social and just had water or a soda or maybe a side dish. Then I get myself some more food later. This case wasn’t as much about pickiness, but one time I went out to dinner with my husband’s family at a restaurant that was way more expensive than I was comfortable with so I ordered a small house salad with a plan to go to McDonald’s after… and was surprised to find I actually liked the salad okay and it turned into the base for any salad I made in the future (which happens pretty rarely, but more than it used to!).

      And I also have been growing what I eat with the help of my husband. I sometimes put toppings on my pizza now! That may not sound like much but if you knew me 10 years ago it’s a pretty big deal haha. And we signed up for one of those home delivery meal kits and I decided to start ordering things I wasn’t sure I’d like with the idea that if I didn’t my husband would just have leftovers and I would have a Lean Cuisine (I eat a lot of frozen dinners!). I’ve now tried tofu, parsnips, beets, and even the one thing I swore I would never try–brussel sprouts!

  16. Arlo*

    I also had a coworker who would interrupt and talk over me. I think I even wrote in here for advice! What worked was me holding up my index finger, smiling, and saying “wait, I’m not finished yet”. And it worked!! The first time, the talker got quiet for a second and then said “my apologies”. As long as you do it nicely and with a smile, it’s fine.

  17. 867-5309*

    I had the opposite of OP2: There was an employee we were close to putting on a PIP and she resigned, but then kept skipping out on meetings, not finishing her work, etc. during the notice period so we let her go early.

    She accidentally texted me, “She’s the one wearing the bullshit hat because she thinks she’s awesome.”

    I replied simply, “I think you sent this to the wrong person.”

    Honestly, even being on the receiving end as the boss who had to let someone go, it stung. And yes, my baser instinct was to show my peers and bitch about it, but in the end I just had to move on.

  18. Flash Bristow*

    OP4, a quick thought:

    I have a bad habit of talking over people too (and it frustrates and embarrasses me when I realise I’ve done it, *again*…)

    The reason is hearing impairment. I often just don’t realise that people are still talking, or walk up and start talking without hearing that they’re already in a conversation.

    Is there anything that might suggest this kind of thing affects your colleague? Do you stand up straight and speak directly with your mouth visible? So many people hide their mouths behind a hand, especially if they are nervy or self conscious or uncertain of the topic, etc. Is the work area noisy, or are they talking over you in an otherwise quiet environment?

    Interrupting IS rude – which is why it embarrasses me when I realise, but I find it hard to avoid sometimes, unfortunately.

    1. valentine*

      Is there anything that might suggest this kind of thing affects your colleague?
      I doubt it because he’s guessing what they’re going to say and getting it wrong.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Ah, that’s a detail I missed.

        That said I often mishear / get it wrong. Heard pet rabbit as pet rat; heard Braille experts as Rail expert… it’s tiresome all round but not at all deliberate :(

        Anyway was just a thought. Never mind then!

  19. Gilmore67*

    I get it…. I am too a picky eater. I am just not into food like a lot of people are.

    Yesterday my husband and I went to a get together at my bosses with my co-workers . I was not into anything that was there except the chips that were there.

    So, I made do with that ( and a yummy brownie ) and had some great conversations and laughs with my co-workers.

    Like AAM suggested, if there is a chance to ask about going to places you can find something to eat, sure try. Other than that have a pop or coffee ( or whatever, something light ) if you are somewhere you can’t find anything.

    I look at it this way for me, it is really my deal only and I have to figure out a way to make it work.

  20. Agnodike*

    OP #1, if your picky eating is so extreme that is causes you embarrassment and impedes your work life, would therapy be an option for you? Picky eating is one of those complex multifactorial behaviours that can be tricky to get a handle on, but lots of the elements involved can get better with a variety of different therapies. My BIL used to be an extreme picky eater – chicken fingers, fries, two kinds of sandwiches, hamburger without the bun. That was it. He’s certainly not going to be ordering a 12-course tasting menu any time soon, but after a few years of working with professionals, he now finds it much easier to get by in social and professional situations where he can’t control what’s being offered to eat. I realize that doesn’t help in the short-term, but if your eating is a barrier in your personal or professional life, there are some things that might help, and talking to a professional is a good first start.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      I have a relative who has restrictive eating, so this is something I’m really familiar with.

      If its strictly, I like 6 things, most places can’t accommodate and there is nothing wrong with that…you can order nothing but water, BUT people will take your lead on how to respond. If you walk in the restaurant looking like anxiety and panic, people will notice. If you look uncomfortable in your skin, it gets weird.

      I used to tell this particular relative to walk in with serial killer confidence, and act like ordering coffee with food off the kid’s menu is the most normal thing in the world for a 45 year old guy.

      I also have anaphylactic food allergies. Sometimes all the game you got is a coffee, soft drink or a club soda with lime. I do scan the appetizers and desserts. I always eat before, especially if it’s a place there is no way in Hades I can dodge my allergies.

      I’m not going to tell you to order food, because people shouldn’t be forced to eat stuff that gives them anxiety/makes them ill. It is up to you to put people at ease, especially at work place eating situations. My food allergies are my deal. My coworkers are food obsessed food pushers. I play cheerful and stupid. Going to a sea food restaurant, where cross contamination is a royal nightmare? I order bottled water and their cheese biscuits. Smile sweetly and say nope, nope, nope, no thank you! I’m good! The fold pushers don’t push anymore.

      Their are plenty of people who can”t just go out to eat. Bariatric surgery, food allergies/intolerances, religious reasons, doing intermittent fasting, my relative who likes things 8 things, so OP you aren’t that unusual.

      If your job doesn’t hinge on entertaining clients by eating out, and not learning that skill won’t impinge on your advancement, be comfortable in your own skin. Especially if you really don’t care if you eat or not.

      If it’s FOMO, and you really do want eat to a dinner with your coworkerss, then you might analyze the issue and dig a little deeper. With the above relative, it’s not just food. It’s everything revolving around food that is the problem. It can’t hurt to explore it with a health care provide.

      I’m assuming you are cool with how you are living your life. How you act in the dining situation is how people wind up acting towards you. Treat it like no big deal, most people will go, “Okay.” and move on.

  21. Alex Beamish*

    OP #2: I feel your pain — a few years ago, I also was put onto a PIP for what I thought was a fairly minor mistake, and I successfully completed all of the required tasks on time. Instead of pressing my advantage, I assumed (heh) that this meant that my position was safe (safer, anyway). Nope — they waited until they’d hired my replacement, then fired me anyway.

    My recommendation: if you find yourself on a PIP, get your resume and cover letter together, and start looking for a job WITHOUT DELAY. And work your behind off to really polish off that PIP. The best revenge is to do an amazing job on your PIP, then be able to move on to a new job. Like a marriage, at that point, the relationship is irretrievably broken, so it’s time to move on.

    Good luck!

    1. Snuck*

      I feel similar about a PIP. By the time an organisation / manager is prepared to put you on a PIP they’ve already got one foot out the ‘fire them’ door. You don’t start a PIP unless you feel like firing someone… I know it’s supposed to be a plan to get someone on track, but it’s also a “we are prepared to fire you but want to give you one last chance to get this right” too… and then… if you just scrape in on the minimum for the PIP… it probably isn’t enough. And if you really hit a home run and smash that PIP… then the question is “Well.. where was this before? Why do we have to threaten to fire you before you’ll actually get down and do good work?”. By the time I’ve rolled out a PIP, my head is already firmly in the “let’s get this paperwork done so we can cross t’s and dot i’s and call it done” … but then a PIP has never been a surprise to any staff member of mine either – they knew from regular check ins how we were tracking, and by the time they went on a PIP the issues were solidly documented. PIPs were just the final documentation about things my staff weren’t prepared to come to the party on basically. (I’ve fired a few people off a PIP. I’ve also fired outright for ‘gross misconduct’ in the moment. I’ve had a couple of people turn a PIP around, but that was a series of PIPs that were about soft skills that the people worked very hard to improve, and with reasonable goals being set and solid training provided.)

    2. Allison*

      I second this. Sometimes people do come back from PIPs and everything is fine, although even when that happens you’re gonna be on thin ice for a while and you need to be extra careful not to let your performance slide (and don’t even THINK about asking for a raise or promotion for at least 6 months or so!) but a lot of the time, a PIP is your job’s way of covering their butt before actually terminating you, so be prepared for that even if you do a stellar job during the set timeframe.

      Like Alex said, it’s like your significant other letting you know they’re not happy and they need things to turn around pretty quickly or they’re going to leave. They already have one foot out the door, and any improvement might be too little too late.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      A lot of the places I’ve worked, a PIP/corrective action plan is only started when it’s already been decided the person needs to be terminated, and HR requires documentation be in place prior to that happening.

      So a writeup or PIP can mean something totally different, based on how your boss and your HR prefer to do things.

    4. Maria Lopez*

      I think in this case the OP was also annoyed because they kept them on through the busy season. If OP was such a bad employee I think the thinking was why not terminate me now? Without knowing any more than what was written, it sounds like OP was used and then dumped.

      1. Snuck*

        Or maybe there was a recognition that the OP’s work wasn’t good enough to stay and they needed too much hand holding (or whatever else, we don’t have a lot of details here?!) and also the busy season peaked. Maybe the OP worked in a large enough organisation that they could afford to keep them on for the duration, and basically it came down to one more half capable bottom on seat, vs an empty seat… half work in busy season can be better than ‘no worker’…. and recruiting and training a replacement in busy season isn’t a good idea usually… and and and… a lot of questions when we start supposing things like this.

        We have one side of the story here… not both. We don’t know what the PIP was for, besides possibly “asking too many questions” and so on… I’d assume that this person wasn’t fired because of a personality clash with management (zero indication of that), so let’s presume that this wasn’t irrational, it clearly wasn’t ‘out of the blue’ and there was substantial warning that all was not well, and the LW has written in to an international advice column about a post firing text that the vast majority of us agree isn’t fab, but isn’t entirely unreasonable…. I don’t think there’s a ‘lot more to the story’ but I do feel that there was reasonable consideration given to the situation.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*


      In my field, a PIP means “They are gunning for you, nothing you do will be good enough. Find a new job in the next 90 days.”

      Because even if you think you’ve successfully met the requirements, they are always squishy enough that they can nitpick and say you failed. It’s like a long notice firing, with added piles of psychological abuse on top.

      They don’t want your “performance” to improve, they want you gone, usually because of some insecurity on the part of your manager (IME). I say this from having both undergone the process and watching it grind up and demoralize others who have gone through the process.

      Do a great job, make your coworkers value you, then leave.

  22. Kimmybear*

    OP#1- not sure if your pickiness is related to flavors, textures, smells, appearance, etc. but I would like to echo those that have suggested calling ahead and bringing your own food. I have a child with sensory issues, a very limited diet, and food allergies so this is a must for us. Also, going to small, independently owned restaurants that make their own food may make things easier if you want to order “off-menu”. I knew someone who required foods to be puréed due to medical reasons and they found a lot of chains didn’t have the equipment or ingredients to make something that was more complicated than open container and reheat.

    1. OP #4*

      OP #4: Thanks for that article! Bob is very smart guy, detail oriented and witty via online resources (re: chat, internal documentation) but this doesn’t quite translate into verbal communication. During the interview we chalked it up to nerves but now its persisted…

  23. Not Today*

    OP 1: I agree with other commenters that an elegant solution to this problem would be to eat ahead a time and keep it vague – sorry, not eating right now. However, I am concerned that your singling out “culturally diverse” food and colleagues is coded language for “things that are different from my own background make me uncomfortable.” I know picky eating can be challenging, but as someone who hails from a “diverse” (ie: not white) background (and who has been told that the “ethnic” food they eat is gross, smelly, unpleasant) I would just ask that you be mindful of how you address your dietary limitations. Keep it about yourself, not the food.
    Signed, someone who has spent her entire professional career smiling, nodding and discretely avoiding anything made with cream of mushroom soup, bacon or peanut butter.

    1. Marny*

      Thank you for saying this. It often seems like, “I don’t like (x ethnicity) food” means “(x ethnicity) food is weird to me” and they’ve actually never even tried it.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes! I find this so annoying when people won’t even try something just because it’s different. “Culturally diverse” is so vague. There are a lot of other cultures out there. Nothing from any other culture tastes good to you?

        1. valentine*

          If OP1’s true concern is constant comments from colleagues, trying something and gagging or taking a single bite can be worse than not trying it in the first place. In that situation, unless I made sure to eat before (which could lead to “Clean your plate” nonsense), I’d be starving before and in crisis after discovering I don’t like what I ordered. Not wanting fuss or waste, I wouldn’t ask for a different dish. I have zero interest in most cuisine because the things I can’t stand taste-/texture-wise are in most food and I don’t need the hassle of everyone waiting or still having nothing to eat if the chef gets my request wrong or just ignores it.

    2. Will G.*

      Came here to say this. Saying you can’t eat “culturally diverse” food in those exact words does not look good. (I once had a [white] coworker tell me [Asian] that they didn’t like Asian food because it was too spiced, and that they’d prefer to eat Italian food. I did not say anything to their face, but I was internally like ‘yikes.’)

      I personally would feel alright if someone said, “I’d prefer not to eat at Asian Restaurant because all their dishes have garlic or peppers, which I can’t eat. Can we go to American Chain Restaurant, where I can eat their plain french fries?” Of course, you don’t owe anyone a detailed accounting of your dietary preferences, but being more specific than “culturally diverse” is highly advisable.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yes – there is a world of difference between “I can’t eat [insert diverse food here] because it’s [culture]” and “I can’t eat [insert diverse food here] because of the large amount of garlic/spice]”.

        I have gotten very terse with a family member who was shocked that Hubs and I like to go to a variety of what they’d call “ethnic” restaurants, because, and I quote, “You’ll go to *those* types of places?” Uh, yeah, they’re delicious and it’s great to have all these different options, and why exactly are you using that tone & phrase? What makes a place one of “those places”, exactly?

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I think when people say that they tend to mean Chinese (or Japanese/East Asian) but Asia is a huge continent with a huge range of food (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, etc. etc. etc.) and even within Chinese or Japanese cuisine there’s a lot of variety.

      2. Joielle*

        Yep. And also (as you obviously know), “Asian food” covers a gigantic variety of cuisines, many of which have almost nothing in common. So someone saying they don’t like “Asian food” as if that’s somehow one category is reeeeal problematic. (Also what kind of crap Italian food is that person eating that has no spices? Yikes indeed, for many reasons!)

        1. Clisby*

          It’s like saying “I don’t like European food.” Spanish food is different from French food which is different from Italian food which is different from Russian food.

    3. nonymous*

      great point! I have definitely been in uncomfortable situations where people were bonding socially over the grossness of a particular food that has strong positive emotional memories for me. The worst were the few times when the conversationalists decided I was being too quiet and basically asked me to justify the food choices of my ethnicity.

    4. Leek*

      Agreed. It’s completely irrelevant that OP’s team is culturally diverse and the fact that she included it in her letter makes me even less sympathetic to her issue.

    5. MatKnifeNinja*

      Culturally diverse could mean there is no grill cheese, pancakes, mash potatoes, hot dogs, beer battered type chicken fingers or cod, scrabbled eggs, toast, and french fries. Not potato wedges. Not oven fries. French fries. He will eat a California sushi roll.

      This is about the entire menu my relative will eat out. Period. It’s taste, smell and mouth feel. There is no “expanding your horizons” with him. It had nothing to do with the culture because there are plenty of American style food (coleslaw, potato salads, hamburgers, kielbasa..) that makes him gag.

      Culturally diverse/ethnic restaurant to my relative means he’ll really have to plan ahead. He can’t default to scrambled eggs and toast or fish and chips.

      1. Snark*

        It’s weird how taste, smell, and mouthfeel all seem to restrict picky eaters to childhood-type foods. I mean, I don’t doubt the validity of their reactions, but I’ve never run across a picky eater who could only tolerate, say, tacos al pastor and sushi. It’s always bland, beige, crisp things with a heavy dose of salt and fat. It’s an interesting phenomenon and I wonder what the underlying psychology is.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I think there’s a reason we call the childhood staples “comfort foods.” I was a picky eater for a long time, and texture did come into play for a lot of it. I was raised by busy parents at a lower socioeconomic level, so most of what we ate was casseroles and canned vegetables. Switching to fresh vegetables and foods from other cultures was a bit of a shock to my system, because I was raised on the warm squishy foods and things like a green salad just felt wrong in my mouth. It’s possible for some people to learn to like those things eventually, with practice. But even though I can enjoy a Caesar salad now, my lizard brain will always want the warm squishy foods when I can get them.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          As the mother of a ‘picky’ kid who turned out to be lactose intolerant but still hated nuts / carrots for their ‘soft crunch’ texture:
          1) Look up sensory processing disorder – the basis for his ‘soft crunch’ distaste, and my ‘curry and hot peppers are overwhelming’ problem.
          2) The ‘childhood’ foods is because that’s what they found as ‘safe’.

          Eating = pain for my kid for a few months (8 – 11mo, non-verbal), so he cut back to minimum variety, trying to avoid the pain. That meant white foods incl baked chicken + peas. Once we figured out the lactose intolerance and gave him a few months with no pain, he started to eat more. He’s now 11 and debating which is better, sushi or ice cream (lactase pills work great). He’s started to eat nuts this year but still avoids carrots like the plague.

        3. Dahlia*

          Is it… really a surprise that blandish things are easier to eat than heavily flavoured ones for people who don’t enjoy certain heavily flavoured things? I mean I can’t even use certain kinds of toothpastes without cringing a little.

          1. Snark*

            But it’s not just the blandness, though, is what I keep picking up; there’s lots of bland things that picky eaters tend not to like, such as the coleslaw and potato salad mentioned by the person I responded to. It seems to be not just bland, but also crispy, fatty, and salty.

            I just find it interesting that that’s where preferences seem to run, no judgment from me.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I don’t think I’d characterize either coleslaw or potato salad as bland, and I’ll never order it at a restaurant where I’ve never tried it before. I’ve been burned by too many surprise onions in potato or pasta salad to trust it. And you’d be surprised how many restaurants exist where asking the staff “does that have onions in it?” results in a 10 minute, 4 employee game of telephone before they finally find someone who knows the answer. It’s just easier not to order it.

        4. Joielle*

          Huh, interesting. If you raised a kid mostly eating salad or something, I wonder if they could end up being “picky” but restricted to salad? Or if it’s something inherent to the salt and fat that makes them comfort foods? These are largely rhetorical questions (and hopefully not too off-topic) but an interesting observation.

          1. doreen*

            I was just coming to mention this- my daughter was a very picky eater as a child, but no one who wasn’t feeding her on a daily basis would have known. She would eat salmon, crab, jellyfish , certain Chinese sausages, a couple of Chinese chicken/beef dishes, rice, salad and a couple of vegetables – but would eat nothing that can be found on a kids’ menu , like chicken fingers, mac and cheese, hot dogs etc. We could get her to eat chicken cutlets and steak- but only if they were doused with a specific brand of Italian dressing made with white vinegar ( not with red wine vinegar)

        5. Desperately seeking a cute kitty*

          I’m a picky eater who can sometimes tolerate spicy food better than bland food because the spices mask the problem stuff better. We’re many and varied!

    6. Holly*

      Yes, I really question Allison’s advice when it comes to this one… I work in a culturally diverse office in a major city, and if a manager said “we’re not going to get Indian this time because OP doesn’t eat Indian food” that’s going to come off as putting someone’s racialized preference of food… I know that’s not necessarily OP’s intention, and it’s not something picky eaters can often control, but it would come off extremely poorly to even try and cater to OP’s preferences.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The manager doesn’t need to say it’s because somebody doesn’t like Indian food. You can frame it as “Let’s mix it up a little. Instead of going to the same restaurant every time, we’re going to rotate between these three places.” That way, the Indian restaurant stays in the rotation, but at least every third lunch meeting the OP can get a chance to eat some food they’re interested in.

          1. Dahlia*

            You could say that in a lot of situations. Manager could be like, “Well, I know everyone wanted Thai but JENNY says she’s allergic to peanut oil so now we have to get sad boring food.”

  24. Kiki*

    LW 1: Make sure you’re not eliminating restaurants by saying you don’t like the ethnicity /nationality / culture of the restaurant. I don’t know if you’re doing this, so perhaps it’s off-topic, but that can be genuinely offensive. I know it may seem simpler to say, “I don’t like Italian food,” rather than specify you hate garlic and tomato sauce, but when people are talking about your culture’s food that way, it puts your hackles up. I’ve also personally found that when people say, “I don’t like ~X culture~ food,” they generally mean they don’t like the two most popular Americanized dishes, which makes me want to challenge them and show them the grand diversity of my culture’s cuisine. If there’s nothing on a menu you can happily eat, say that, but try not to make it a commentary on a whole culture’s cuisine.

    1. pleaset*

      If my manager say we’re going to eat in a Thai restaurant in my city and I say “I don’t like Thai food” it’s pretty clear from the context that I’m talking about food in restaurants in my city.

      Moreover, it’s not even a commentary on Thai cuisine or culture – it’s a comment on me. Saying “Thai food is bad” is comment on Thai cuisine.

      And to take it even further, if someone ways we’re going to an Italian restaurant and I say “I don’t hate garlic and tomato sauce” that’s a pretty gross generalization about Italian cuisine (that that’s what is mainly is) that’s arguably more offensive.

      1. pleaset*

        Excuse me, I meant:

        And to take it even further, if someone ways we’re going to an Italian restaurant and I say “I don’t like garlic and tomato sauce” that’s a pretty gross generalization about Italian cuisine (that that’s what is mainly is) that’s arguably more offensive.

        1. Joielle*

          But if someone says “I don’t like garlic and tomato sauce” then you could say “Oh, have you ever tried risotto? I bet they could make it without garlic” or whatever. It’s a generalization about the food, sure, but it’s not exactly inaccurate to think there’s a lot of tomatoes and garlic in Italian cuisine.

          I certainly don’t think “Italian food has a lot of tomatoes and garlic” is MORE offensive than “Thai food is bad.” The latter is both offensive and just… rude.

          1. pleaset*

            Right. My point is that “I don’t like Thai food” is not that bad – it’s about me, not the food. Especially if the context is restaurant food where I am (outside Thailand).

      2. Dust Bunny*

        “and I say “I don’t like Thai food” it’s pretty clear from the context that I’m talking about food in restaurants in my city. ”

        No, it’s not. “I haven’t found a Thai restaurant I like around here” says that. “I don’t like Thai food” says you don’t like Thai food in general, since you haven’t specified otherwise.

        1. pleaset*

          Nice that you clipped off “If my manager say we’re going to eat in a Thai restaurant in my city and”


          Very persuasive.

          1. DreamingInPurple*

            I don’t understand how the “clipped off” part matters or is at all relevant. I’m pretty sure Dust Bunny was making the point that most other people aren’t going to be able to detect all the backstory you’re attaching to that statement. I know I sure can’t, and would read it literally. Why double down and defend something with a high probability of being taken poorly when you could just say a few more words and make your meaning explicit?

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        This has also puzzled me. There is a huge difference between saying “I don’t like Thai food” and “Thai food is nasty!” At least in my mind. I’ve always looked at food preferences the same as any other preference. You like what you like and don’t what you don’t, and as long as you’re not passing judgement over other people and their preferences, I don’t see the problem. Like “I don’t like wearing yellow” vs “Yellow is a hideous color and makes everyone look ugly”.

        1. pleaset*


          Especially if the context is restaurant food in a particular place.

          I’ve been to a bunch of Thai restaurants in my city and never liked the food. When someone invited me out to a Thai restaurant Dust Bunny would have me say “I haven’t found a Thai restaurant I liked”? Nah – that implies I sort of want to keep trying. Which I don’t.

          Got nothing against Thailand or even Thai food – but in the context of my eating it here – no. It’s me, not the food.

          1. Clisby*

            It could happen, though. I don’t dislike Chinese food, but I’ve never understood why it’s so popular. It’s supposedly one of the great cuisines of the world, and almost every time I’ve been to a Chinese restaurant it’s variations on the same mushed-together food. (This is not just where I currently live; it includes NYC, San Francisco, Washington, DC – I keep hoping one day I’ll hit the jackpot.) I strongly suspect it’s because this is Americanized Chinese food, and maybe I’d love the real thing if I went to China.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Could be, Clisby. Real Chinese food is not much like the U.S. version of Chinese food. It’s so much better. The sauces are a lot less heavy and sweet, veggies are much more fresh. But I don’t want to diverge too much from the point.

              I don’t see how one could find it offensive if they indicate they don’t like a certain style of food. It’s not anything against a culture/nationality at all. It’s just that the standard type of food that you get at those types of restaurants don’t fit your palette.

              I myself avoid Indian food because it doesn’t really agree with my stomach. It’s nothing against the culture or country of India.

        2. DreamingInPurple*

          Why not just explicitly say what you mean, though? Using “I don’t like (X ethnicity) food” is a shortcut for you in the moment, but all it does is either open up the conversation in a way you don’t want (“oh but have you tried A or B or maybe C”), or leave the reason for your dislike open to uncomfortable speculation.

    2. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Oh dear, I have a peanut allergy and I have said “I’m sorry, I can’t do Thai. I have a peanut allergy”. I’ve certainly never meant to cause offense, as I would love to try Thai food, but with the common use of peanuts and peanut sauce, the risk of ordering the wrong thing, or cross contamination is just too high.

      1. Marny*

        This is different because it isn’t an opinion on Thai food, just an observation of the fact Thai food uses a lot of an allergen you can’t have.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        *Hopefully* people understand the difference between ‘I don’t like that’ and ‘there’s a decent chance that food cooked in that restaurant’s kitchen is likely to have cross contamination that may kill me so I can’t risk it.’ I think it’s like ‘I can’t go to a seafood restaurant because I have a shellfish allergy’, not a comment on the quality of the kind of food.

        1. pleaset*

          “not a comment on the quality of the kind of food.”

          Is anyone comment on the *quality* of Thai food when they say something like “I don’t like Thai food”?

  25. otterbaby*

    #4 – as a perpetually polite person (sometimes to a fault), I typically say “oh sorry, I wasn’t actually done speaking!” It normally gets the point across.

  26. Bulbasaur*

    #2 – Assuming the manager is just a human who made a dumb mistake, I’m of the opinion that the gut-wrenching cringe she will experience every time this memory of this text pops into her mind at inopportune moments for the rest of her life is probably punishment enough.

    1. neeko*

      I mean, I have done this same thing multiple times. Was thinking about someone and accidentally texted the thing about them TO them. So mortifying.

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

      I bet she doesn’t have a gut-wrenching cringe or is mortified. She might have a shoulder shrugging “I feel slightly bad, but…” moment. I accidentally texted my very recently ex when I meant to text my BFF that I’d “finally dumped the martyr-prone drama queen” and I felt slightly bad about it, because it wasn’t a nice thing to say, but no gut-wrenching cringe ever because he already knew exactly how I felt about him. I can’t imagine the OP was blindsided by her managers opinion if she was on a PIP and then the PIP had to be extended because the manager set it up incorrectly the first time. Gut-wrenching embarrassment would be if the manager sent a message of a totally personal nature that was meant for her husband.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Yeah, also as unprofessional as it was I’m curious if the OP did respond that way to being fired. Because that gives me more pause than the manager texting her husband.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          What? “Okie Dokie” after being PIPed then fired by an incompetent manager?

          Why do I say incompetent manager?
          1. Puts someone on a PIP for asking for help with their duties
          2. Puts a person on a PIP during their busiest time (probably provides no coaching = sets them up to fail)
          3. Set up the PIP wrong, so she had to redo it
          4. Can’t keep track of who she’s texting to

          I wouldn’t count on the manager to get the quote right anyway.

  27. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    OP#4: If you’re feeling particularly snarky, you could respond with “I love it when you talk, but I wish you’d let me finish.”

    I remember that quote from an episode of The Bachelorette a number of years back. Can’t remember the context, but I found that response pretty funny.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Maybe change “I love it when you talk…” to “It’s lovely when you talk…” :)

  28. Manya*

    OP 1, I would gently suggest working on expanding your palate. I interview people over lunch a lot, and I’ll be honest, if they ordered off the kiddie menu, that’s what would stick in my mind, even if they were a strong candidate. The work I do involves taking people out to dine quite frequently, and someone who has a very limited palate is not always going to be comfortable with the restaurants we go to. Eating buttered noodles or chicken fingers at a high-end restaurant (assuming those were even on offer, usually they aren’t) is going to raise clients’ eyebrows. Maybe your field is different, but it’s something to consider, that your restricted diet is working against you.

      1. Manya*

        Often enough that she wrote in about it. It’s probably impeding her personal life as well. I have a friend who is a total control freak about where we go out to eat due to her pickiness. So I’ve stopped inviting her out to eat. She misses out on a bunch of things because she only wants to go to places where she can get fish sticks, chicken nuggets, or hot dogs.


        1. Dahlia*

          Frankly, if a friend kept “inviting me to lunch” at places where I couldn’t eat anything on the menu, I would much rather not do food-related things with them, and would rather do things like go to the movies or a museum or a walk.

        2. Observer*

          I suggest that you reread what you wrote.

          You just made a bunch of assumptions that have no basis in anything the OP has written, just because you have one “annoying friend”.

          Beyond that, do you realize that if this has already been having a negative effect on her personal life, she already has all the incentive she needs to try to change? Why would you assume that your advice is the very first time that the possibility of broadening her palate has come up?

        3. MV*

          Just wanted to let you know that I agree. Eating out happens at work a few times a month and I am often the “credit card” and I would think a colleague who was an extreme picky eater, vs having a few things she doesn’t like was immature. I wonder how extreme this case is. She can eat nothing from any ethnic restaurant? Like no white rice? No tandoori chicken? If she is an area with a big ethnic population with a lot of ethnic restaurants she should find a thing or two she can eat or can train herself to eat. If your list of “yes” restaurants is very restrictive versus if the list includes a lot of options that makes a difference.

          In my social life we do have 1 acquaintance who is an extremely picky eater (As in just fries, chicken nuggets, cheese pizza and a handful of other things). She may be a wonderful person but her instance of only going to places where she can “eat” (like Fridays, Applebees, McDonalds) made the budding friendship fizzle as it felt very 1 sided. Had there been allergies it would be different, but this is something she can change (although it will be very hard).

    1. juliebulie*

      I think that if OP 1 (Olivia) could expand her palate, she wouldn’t have had to write this letter.

      I order off the kiddie menu sometimes just because I want a smaller portion.

      It’s better not to judge people for their food choices because you have no idea what kinds of issues/limitations they are dealing with.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Issues and limitations that have nothing to do with the quality of the work they can do, unless the job itself requires food consumption (eg a chef).

        If people were all the same, the world would be boring.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I think it would benefit you to learn more about what leads to picky eating so that you can learn to view people with restricted diets with less judgement and be equipped to give them just the kind of advice that LW #1 asked Alison for.

    3. Dahlia*

      Oh, yes, I’m sure that no picky eater has ever heard the advice to expand their palate. So easy! Not a difficult thing at all!

    4. Observer*

      Wow! You would really decline a strong candidate because you don’t approve of what they eat? What a wonderful way of arbitrarily limiting your applicant pool.

      As an aside, if you are in the US, there is a REALLY good chance that doing this would inadvertently put on the wrong side of any one of several non-discrimination laws.

  29. Alfonzo Mango*

    2. Let it go. You ex-manager already knows she made a mistake and has apologized for it. It’s more embarrassing on her end than yours.

    This too shall pass.

  30. I never should have gone to college.*

    2-You were way more mature about it than I would have been. I almost certainly would have reported it to her manager or HR or used it in my unemployment filing as evidence of her shoddy work.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      That would have been a waste of effort, especially when you (presumably) now have to job hunt. Also, a single instance of sending a text to the wrong person is not indicative of overall shoddy work. Everyone slips up now and then.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Why? It’s a mistake and, moreover, she apologized for it even without being called out. I’m sure you would want similar benefit of the doubt applied to you if you committed the same kind of screw-up. Not every misstep is worthy of evisceration.

    3. Antilles*

      For what reason exactly?
      -You’re not getting your job back from a complaint about a mild text message.
      -No legal course of action here; this is firmly in the bounds of at-will employment.
      -There’s not going to be any real blowback for the boss – at most, a mild “don’t put this stuff in writing” rebuke.
      -Unemployment would only care if the company fought unemployment (no indication from the letter on that), but even if they do, the only thing that would matter to them is the first clause proving that it was a termination. The rest of the message won’t matter to them at all.

    4. Arctic*

      The unemployment thing would easily backfire. It would be presenting evidence that you could be a hostile and unreasonable employee.

    5. fposte*

      There’s nothing indicating shoddy work (not that that would make a difference to unemployment, anyway). She mis-sent a text. Lots of people mis-send texts. It’s not a sign of a work problem. All she indicated in the text was the termination went smoothly and she’s relieved that she was past a difficult moment. Those are perfectly respectable thoughts.

    6. Observer*

      Really? At best it would not have helped you. At worst, it could have backfired significantly.

      Someone mis-sent a text. That’s “proof” that all of their work is shoddy? That’s a fairly weird generalization. As for sending it to HR or her manager, what do you think they would have done? I’m sure they will tell her to be more careful about who she texts. Beyond that, the only thing likely to happen is that they decide that Manager actually had good reason to get rid of you.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        I don’t understand your last sentence. How is the fact that the manager sent OP the wrong text, and having that pointed out to Manager’s boss, an indication that there was good reason to get rid of OP?

        1. Observer*

          Because grabbing the screen shot then taking the trouble to send it to ex-grandboss comes off as childish, petty, vindictive and / or unaware of workplace norms and what constitutes egregious behavior (ie the wrong text is not egregious at all.)

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s an unreasonable response to something that happened and was immediately apologized for. So when someone goes over the top and complains about something that’s not something you should complain about, it calls into question your judgement, prioritization and general character.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            That is certainly an over the top conclusion to make about someone who has just been fired. And from the OP’s recounting of events (which certainly is somewhat biased) this manager was just adding insult to injury.
            As a grandboss I would look at the manager’s carelessness in even sending a text like this and to the fired employee to boot, swift apology or not.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It doesn’t really matter in most unemployment cases if the boss was bad at her job or not. Unless you’re in an area with insanely tight restrictions on who’s eligible for unemployment, being fired after failing a PIP is not going to disqualify you for benefits. You usually have to get fired for misconduct or egregious acts before they will deny you unemployment.

      Showing a hearing judge a screenshot of a wayward text won’t give you any kind of foothold either, nobody is going to draw the conclusion that a person is bad at their job because they sent a text to the wrong person. That’s not how that works.

  31. Emi.*

    Hmm I think this script for #1 is misleading and deceptive. If someone told me “I’m a pretty restricted eater and can’t eat anything…” I would interpret that to mean an allergy/intolerance or a religious restriction, and go much further to accommodate it than picky eating. This seems like a way to invoke the seriousness of healthy concerns to cover preferences. That’s pretty shady, and if/when your coworkers or manager find out I think they will be justifiedly annoyed with you.

    1. Jamie*

      I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s the case if it’s kept to that and she doesn’t claim an allergy etc.

      As someone with the palette of a picky toddler who missed her nap, preferences has a large spectrum. I have some things I don’t particularly like and would never seek to eat of my own volition but I could do so politely if I had to.

      There are others things to which I’m not allergic but which are repellent enough to me there is no way I could even pretend to eat them. I don’t know how long I’d have to go without sustenance to convince myself to try them and hope to never find out. If it’s not something I can eat my eating is restricted, regardless of the cause.

      However, as I hate discussing my food weirdness irl with people who feel the need to accommodate it or ask questions I’d go with eating before or after and just getting something to drink, unless there were a bland enough side, but even then it’s risky. I was at a restaurant once and thought I could do the bread and drink thing and eat later, but one bite of bread ….pineapple! It was like some crazy sabotage! So much for bread (although my son now loves Hawaiian rolls so something good came out of it for him.)

    2. Leek*

      I agree. I organize lunches for my team sometimes. It’s hard enough to accommodate various allergies, vegetarianism, and religious restrictions, but I do it because those people would be unable to eat otherwise. I’d be pissed if I found out somebody lied about a dietary restriction and made it even more difficult to organize these lunches. This is very much OP’s problem and she shouldn’t make it other people’s problem.

      1. Olivia*

        Hi Leek, OP here. I hope there is no misunderstanding that I’m trying to use valid restrictions to cover up aversion to ethnic foods! If asked for a reason by colleagues, I just want to be upfront about why I am unlikely to participate in the food without offending anyone. To be honest, it’s the flavours of certain foods that really turn me off (cumin spice, just as one example), and YES, I’ve tried to be openminded (an ex-bf ridiculed me to no end for my pickiness and for a period of time I sucked it up and tried all sorts of different cuisine with him). The result: I expanded my palate a bit in some areas but just could not in others. As someone stated above, food preferences is very personal and I can respect those who are adventurous with food and love the result, but please accept someone who cannot to the same extent!

        1. Olivia*

          Oops – also forgot to mention, I’m not asking the manager to pick a different location altogether to just accommodate me. I recognize the effort that goes into organizing a team lunch and agree that would be unfair. I’m simply wondering what is a polite way to either decline or explain my lack of eating at the event. It shouldn’t turn into a problem for other people in any way.

        2. Leek*

          Everyone has food preferences; that’s not the problem. What I take issue with is Alison’s advice to tell your boss that you “can’t” eat at certain restaurants. It’s not ok to ask for an accommodation when you don’t have a religious or medical reason for it. That takes away the legitimacy of accommodations for people who truly need them. As several other people in this thread have said, just about every restaurant can prepare plan chicken, veggies, and rice; even the “ethnic” restaurants. And please don’t tell your coworkers that you have an aversion to “ethnic” food. All food has an ethnicity.

          1. Olivia*

            Agreed…and I’m not looking for the entire team to accommodate me by changing venues. I described my team/local restaurants as culturally diverse in my question. It’s not about aversion to “ethnicity”.

              1. Olivia*

                Well, to be fair, I didn’t put a whole lot of detail in my question. I appreciate that Alison took the time to respond and post this here so I could get all this great feedback!

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  Heh, I just kind of feel like people are jumping on you for “trying to impose your preferences on others” when it turns out that’s not what you’re doing at all!

        3. pleaset*

          “I don’t like that food, or a lot of different foods” To me that’s the least offensive statement.

          To the OP – just don’t eat. Order something simple or not all. Eat at your desk, and just have juice or water of soda at the lunch. If anyone asks, just say you prefer the lunch you bring from home. if they push further for info, they’re assholes. If they push further trying to help, just say “It’s not big deal” and change the subject.

    3. Jennifer*

      +1 Yes, sometimes people are deliberately deceptive about this. “I can’t eat here” really means “I just don’t like it.”

      1. Dahlia*

        I think “I’m going to throw up on the table if it goes in my mouth” does in fact mean “I can’t eat this”.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I am that way about curry, and sensitive to hot peppers, but it’s not a medical issue that can be addressed and cured. The best description I have found for social / business events is ‘picky’ or ‘limited.’ I am usually not going to get into Sensory Processing Disorder, people get weird about it.

            “I can’t eat this” is easiest, especially in a professional setting.

          2. Jamie*

            No it isn’t. I did a semester in the UK back in the day I learned quick there is nothing I can eat at Indian restaurants because I have a physical aversion to the spice palette in the several we went to.

            There is no medical issue – but my aversion to the taste of the food is so strong that I could not force myself to eat in politely. Again, that’s my problem and I’d politely not eat if my workplace went to an Indian restaurant…but there is a huge difference between not liking something and not being able to eat something because your distaste for it is to such a degree it’s actual not palatable for you.

            1. Jennifer*

              An aversion sounds more serious than just being picky is what I’m getting at. The OP describes herself as a “picky eater.” She didn’t say I have such a strong aversion to certain foods that I’ll throw up if I eat them.

              Maybe “medical issue” was the wrong term.

          3. Dahlia*

            Look, not to be rude, but honestly your inexperience with this is showing. Most people at this point are not extreme enough to be diagnosed with anything, and the reaction of people is not going to be “oh they have a medical issue”, it’s going to be… yours, upthread.

            1. Jennifer*

              I’m not trying to be dismissive. I just think you always get sick after eating a certain ingredient, even if it’s undiagnosed, even if it’s psychological, obviously something is wrong. I don’t see why it’s so wrong to say it’s a medical issue.

          4. Close Bracket*

            Except that food aversions get minimized and dismissed as “picky eating,” so that’s how the people who have them describe them.

    4. NW Mossy*

      Which loops us back to the very issue the OP’s struggling with – how to strike a balance between her strong preferences and those of her boss and colleagues, and do so in a way that doesn’t provoke a fight about what adults should/shouldn’t do when eating.

      Like most picky eaters, the OP’s well aware that pickiness is simply Not Done in the adult world – it’s assumed by many that it’s childish behavior and disrespectful to others. In that view, a picky eater is supposed to “grow up and eat what they’re served” rather than assert a preference. Thus the OP’s conundrum: she’s an adult and theoretically allowed to make her own choices about what she consumes, but because the specific drivers for her constraints don’t fall into a socially approved category, she’s subject to the opprobrium of her peers for asserting her preference.

      Eliding with the “restricted eating” language seems perfectly fair to me in this sort of situation. The OP is not picky-eating AT other people, but so many take it that way that she’s rightly fearful of hurting her professional reputation by being bluntly forthright about it. We shade our language at work all the time in this way (“per my last email” vs. “dude, can you even read?!”), and this seems to me like a reasonable place to do that.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        This is helpful, thank you!

        But: I will say that if a picky eater vetos all “ethnic” restaurants, they ARE picky-eating AT others. The impact of the pickiness needs to stop at the end of the picky eater’s plate.

        1. Dahlia*

          No. You’re leaving out a lot of context of this situation. OP isn’t saying other people can’t eat there. They aren’t even saying they won’t go! They’re saying they can’t eat anything there, and asking what to say when coworkers ask why they aren’t eating.

          Someone else not eating doesn’t make it impossible for you to eat something.

        2. NW Mossy*

          And I’ll take a slightly different slant on that, as I have an in-law on a very restricted diet for a combination of medical and preference reasons. He arguably picky-eats at me when we’re together because we approach the decisions about where/what to eat with his restrictions at the forefront.

          It is sometimes frustrating to limit myself to pizza, burgers, and a short list of approved home cooking, but really, it’s two week-long shared vacations out of a calendar year. It’s not any sort of problem for me to eat the food he can eat – the options might be less exciting to my palate, but it’ll nourish me fine and I get plenty of opportunities to eat more adventurous food in other situations. Also, I’ve found that it’s often possible to eat wildly different things at the same shared meal – we recently figured out that food cart pods are amazing for this.

          Basically, I see it as a situation where I have the flexibility advantage because my range is greater. My relationship with my in-law is important enough to me that I’m willing to deploy that flexibility on his behalf. I feel similarly about my work colleagues – having good relationships with them matters to me, and I’m willing to give on what we eat to get the bond-building that comes from sitting around a table together. Just because I’m not obligated to bend doesn’t mean I’m not willing to for the sake of the group.

      2. Door Guy*


        People get funny about food. As I’ve said elsewhere in the comments, I have some large issues with them myself. I’m also overweight so I get comments about “It doesn’t look like you’re picky!” on top of it. There are people who will get extremely offended if you won’t eat what they made. On a different forum I was part of a discussion where people were extremely nasty to the picky eater because they (the non-picky people) would refuse to compromise on even one meal!

        I’ve seen some comments on here about “bland” food that is all a picky eater will eat. Personally, that’s not my case. I LIKE spice and heat in my food, but my issues are, admittedly, a lot different than the normal sense of “I don’t like/care for it”.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The people who have made comments of the “You don’t look like you’re picky” variety to you are jerkwads of the highest order. That’s infuriating and I’m so sorry you have to deal with rude people on top of your already frustrating food restrictions.

          1. Door Guy*

            It really hasn’t happened more than a few times in the last 15 years, but yeah, my comment of choice was usually “I have a problem with variety, not quantity.”

    5. Observer*

      If someone told me “I’m a pretty restricted eater and can’t eat anything…” I would interpret that to mean an allergy/intolerance or a religious restriction

      That’s really your problem. Someone may not have an intolerance that can be measured by bloodwork. That doesn’t mean that they “can’t” is not true. There are a LOT of people who have issues that can’t be measured with bloodwork that are still real and significant.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Well, that’s a weird interpretation. People might not be able to eat something for cultural or ethical reasons, or for health reasons other than allergy/intolerance. I also don’t think there are such a clear line between religious restrictions on one hand and cultural and ethical restrictions on the other hand, or allergy/intolerance as opposed to other health concerns.

  32. Goldfinch*

    #1 Agree with others about laying off the “culturally diverse” language when expressing your preferences. I learned the hard way that it comes off wrong–my severe GERD means I can’t eat most spices, not just heat-spicy seasonings. I’d rather just say “medical reasons” than have a drawn-out discussion explaining and justifying my health chart to someone who thinks they’re going to politically correct my food pyramid.

    1. A Steampunk Kinda Gal*

      I have a bunch of picky food issues. Some of them are with Middle Eastern cuisine and with Indian food. There is some commonly used spice that sets off my stomach and I don’t particularly want to experiment to find out exactly which one. It’s not because I am afraid of trying new things or that I am prejudiced, but I simply get ill if I try eating at those kinds of restaurants. This was true before I had medical issues that now mean I can’t eat most spices without problems, but of course now I can just say “medical issues” and no one bats an eye.

      1. Jennifer*

        But if you became ill after eating that spice – wouldn’t that be a medical issue? I’m not trying to diagnose anyone here. It just seems that some people are conflating being a picky eater with not wanting to eat something that will make them sick, which are two totally different things.

        1. Goldfinch*

          The point is that even people with legit medical reasons get pushback when they use the “cultural food” framing. Thus, someone who is instead voluntarily limiting their food preferences is going to be given even less leeway, and should therefore drop the phrasing.

          1. DreamingInPurple*

            The pushback is because there is a lot of loadedness behind not eating an entire culture’s food without clarifying why, and it’s easy for that to look like prejudice. If you can’t eat something you can’t eat something, and people should accept that, but when folks take issue with that phrasing they are really just asking you not to try and use ethnicity/culture as a shortcut in your explanation.

  33. Guest Commentator*

    Letter#2- I understand why you would want to do something about the text, but honestly, please let it go for your own peace of mind.

    If we take the OP at their word and give them the benefit of the doubt, as Alison says, they asked for assistance with their duties. There must have been too much on their plate. When they asked for help they were put on a PIP, that had to be extended because the employer “did it wrong”. OP says they completed it but was still fired. Then the same day they got fired the manager who fired it sent a text to the wrong person, then apologized by saying Sorry, I was sending this to my husband. He had been worried about me today. So now OP knows that the manager had been talking to her husband about OP’s performance. It’s common to talk to your spouse/partner about work stresses, but the manager should have left out the part about her husband being worried about her. That part was completely unnecessary for the apology. Perhaps OP felt, oh your husband is worried about you having to fire me and now that you have done so you can go home and sleep, but I’m the one without a job over here.

    So I can understand why OP#2 would want to do something, but really, there is nothing to be done. Maybe take a day and do something you enjoy and then start your job search. In a few months this will not even be on your mind anymore.

    1. Observer*

      So I can understand why OP#2 would want to do something, but really, there is nothing to be done.

      This is an excellent summary.

  34. MoneyBeets*

    Regarding the interrupter: I have TWO of these at work. One is a colleague who, when they get spun up about something, have to speak their entire piece (even if it is based in a lack of info/understanding that I am trying to clear up) before they will let me talk. I finally started allowing myself to look as annoyed as I felt, and the interrupting stopped somewhat.

    However, my manager is ALSO an interrupter. She’ll ask me a question about a specific situation or process, and when I start answering, she’ll start suggesting answers/alternatives or blurting out opinions. It’s so disrespectful and I get so mad I can hardly see straight. If anyone has any suggestions for how to handle a manager who’s a verbal steamroller, please do share.

    1. straws*

      My manager is the same way. The best way I’ve handled it so far is to let him say his piece, and then continue from where I left off. It can be a bit awkward though. I recently had a situation where I was listing 5 options to move forward, and he interrupted after each one with what he wanted to do. So after each option, he’d interrupt, and then I’d say “Ok, we can do that, but we should also consider…” It was annoying and took twice as long, but I did get all of the information out there that I needed to. I’ll be following for better suggestions though!

    2. Door Guy*

      My last manager was like that. He’d ask me a question, I’d start to answer, his mind would jump to the worst conclusion and he’d run with it even though it was completely fabricated in his head. Or he’d say in the morning when it was just me and him there that he needed to step back and let me run the weekly meeting, I’d start the meeting, and he’d inevitably have to interject and then hijack the meeting, and then it would play out again the next week.

      1. Goose Lavel*

        You need to publish an agenda for each weekly meeting with the number of minutes alloted for each agenda item.

        If anyone gets off topic, write it down as a “parking lot” item (a white board works well for this). Give yourself 5 minutes at the end of each meeting to assign parking lot action items to team members for follow up at the next meeting.

        Be sure to have the parking lot on your agenda. This improves meeting effectiveness and keeps the meeting on track.

  35. CommanderBanana*

    Ugh, Bob. I went to a lecture recently and while the lecture was really interesting, during the Q&A the speaker didn’t let a single person finish their question – he would start answering them in the middle of their sentence. He’s a professor and I was thinking, God, that would drive me absolutely bananas as a student. Even though I liked the lecture I don’t think I’d want to hear that particular speaker again just because it was so grating and rude.

  36. LSP*

    OP 4 – My husband shares your coworker’s bad habit, as does my son (he’s 6 though, so that’s probably more forgivable). One thing they both share is ADHD, which means that when a thought occurs to them, they have to say it immediately or risk forgetting it. That is not an excuse and I am not trying to diagnose your coworker. I just bring it up to say there might be something more than rudeness going on here. If you try using the clear language Alison suggests and he continues to do it, there may be something more to it than him just being rude. It’s still his problem to fix, regardless, but perhaps having that perspective will help you be less annoyed by it.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      My boss has severe ADHD, and does this too. He has to talk outloud all his thoughts, or they vaporizes into the abyss.

      Where people have a give and take in the conversation, and they think in there head, my boss is a fire hose. I have learned if I interrupt him, he’s not hearing a damn thing I said. While he is talking, I’ll keep notes in my head or actually jot them down. Then circle back after he’s done.

      He’s a good boss in other ways, so I deal and working around it.

      Even if OP’s boss has no issue like ADHD, it’s still a work around.

    2. AJK*

      I was going to say this too! Interrupting and talking over people is a sign of ADHD, and once it’s a habit it’s hard to break. I honestly don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time, and I never mean to be rude. I can even tell the difference when I’m on my medication, without it I’ve been told I just run right over people. It’s so much easier for me to remember to shut up and listen while medicated.
      As noted above, it’s still his problem to fix, but he may not be deliberately trying to be rude. I know I appreciate it when someone tells me clearly (but nicely) that I’m doing it, because then I can catch myself and apologize. It’s actually worse when people are annoyed with me for something I don’t realize I’m doing, and they don’t tell me and just continue to get more and more annoyed, and then they’re angry with me and I don’t understand why.
      I would say if he’s apologetic and genuinely tries not to do it after being told how he’s being perceived, but still slips occasionally, that’s very different than him just being a jerk. If he dismisses you and keeps right on plowing ahead, then that’s just rude.

      1. OP #4*

        OP #4: He’s def not a jerk so this is a welcome alternative perspective! That is why I had to describe his “verbal steamrolling” as “not rude”

  37. Pennalynn Lott*

    OP #1 – My old manager was a picky eater. He pretty much only ever had a burger and fries when he ate out (he usually brought a healthy lunch to work). So, for our monthly team lunches, he would swing by, say, In N Out on his way to the Thai / Korean / Indian / Mexican / Chinese /etc. place the team had chosen. Our party was big enough that the restaurants never had a problem with him bringing in outside food. Maybe that’s an option here?

    1. Snark*

      I generally do not think this is an option here, or anywhere. Bringing in outside food to a restaurant is not a thing.

      1. Door Guy*

        If you clear it ahead of time it can be, especially with a larger group. Key thing is the asking in advance. Don’t just show up with a McDonalds bag. I know my sister has to do it as she has issues with dairy and gluten and while a few have said no, they are usually accommodating. She’s also discrete about it (no big plastic fast food cup and obvious bag), as she usually brings in something she made herself.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      This might vary by jurisdiction, but where I live almost no restaurants allow outside food because it can be a health code violation or a potential liability.

  38. Jennifer*

    #1 Just go to socialize and eat beforehand or after. Since this is just about pickiness instead of allergies or religious restrictions, I think that’s the fair thing to do.

    #2 I don’t see how this is an issue beyond just being really embarrassing. I wouldn’t want to see a text message like this about me either. OTOH, most people vent about work drama to their partners or friends, myself included. Put this energy into finding a new role. Best wishes.

  39. Jennifer*

    #2 And good on the boss for at least apologizing. If I’d made that mistake, I’d want to hide under my bed and pretend it never happened.

  40. it's a monday today so that's interesting*

    LW1, I’ve used Alison’s advice with pay-your-own-way lunches that you are not required to attend but it sure uses up a lot of capital if you don’t. I totally think eating beforehand and then getting something light or a drink is the way to go. A salad, a side of rice, a coke, fries, maybe brainstorm one side or drink you could get at each restaurant nearby so you aren’t stressed when the time comes.

  41. Oxford Comma*

    OP #2: The situation sucks. It sucks that you saw that text, but there’s nothing to gain by doing anything with the screenshot. I think the only thing to do is try and ignore it and move on.

  42. Karlee*

    #4. This could be regional. I had to unlearn the habit. Where I’m from it’s a way of communicating that we’re so in tune I can finish your thought. Everywhere else it’s rude. What a rough awakening when I moved from my home region (Northeast) to the Midwest. I went from reviews where my top skill was communication to reviews where I was told I came across as bossy and rude. Ouch! Took me quite a while to figure it out.

  43. soon 2be former fed*

    OP 2’s manager should have immediately deleted her contact information after the firing. I have accidentally sent texts to the wrong person, but never in a work context. Nonetheless, OP would be best served to move along and no longer engage with anyone about anything in her former work environment. Onward and upward!

  44. Not that creative*

    LW 4 – Bob sounds like he just has a different conversation style – Cooperative Overlapping. It is clearly not working for him in your office, but don’t assume he’s being intentionally rude or disrespectful.

  45. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    OP#1: I can be a somewhat picky eater, but can usually find something on most menus if at a restaurant that mostly has cuisine I don’t like (for example seafood, etc.). One time at a previous job, a few colleagues were planning to meet for dinner. The restaurant chosen mostly had cuisine that the person making the plans knew I did not like. While I did not expect everyone to plan around me and my preferences, I just simply, politely asked if we might be able to change the restaurant to a place we all liked after I looked at the menu and did not see anything that I could really eat. I was completely prepared for my colleague to say no and was willing to accept that. But I asked because at this point, I was tired of constantly sucking it up and going along to yet another work dinner where I would not enjoy the food. Well, instead of just saying no, the colleague sent me a long, scathing reply with bullet points on why I was being a terrible colleague and that this was about team building and not about the food. If I knew my request would be so offensive and would upset her so much, I would not have asked in the first place. But her strong reaction was really inappropriate.

    1. Olivia*

      Wow, I’m sorry you had to get that response from the organizer. If it’s about team building, their reaction is really the opposite of that goal! My team is generally very nice and I know they wouldn’t react that way, but I wrote in to seek advice on how to be respectful in how I tell/ask!

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Thanks! I can’t remember my exact wording but it was something along the lines of “hey, I was looking at the menu and there really isn’t anything I can eat there. Sorry to be a pain, but would it be at all possible to eat at X or Y instead? :)” And if anyone wants to say no, a simple “I hear where you’re coming from, but it’s already all set this time” would be fine. I usually remember when someone says they can’t eat/don’t like something and am careful to keep that in mind whenever I am the organizer. :)

    2. Door Guy*

      What is team building about taking you somewhere you can’t eat and then sending a scathing reply when you asked to be included?

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I know, right? Some people define “team building” as “you go along with what I say and want or else you’re not a team player.” We all have to give and take here and there, but some people throw that term around to guilt others into cooperating with them.

  46. Lucette Kensack*

    I disagree strongly with the advice to the picky eater. I don’t think it’s at all reasonable to restrict the restaurants at which your team eats lunch based on your pickiness (particularly, given the LW’s description, as it sounds like that would mean avoiding some of your colleagues’ cuisines). It’s on the LW to find a solution here: eating beforehand, digging through the menu to find something benign, skipping the meal entirely but going along for the conversation, etc.

    Another commenter suggested finding a few restaurants and making sure they are in the rotation. That’s good advice! Think about it as though each person on the team gets a turn to choose (even though it doesn’t play out in such an orderly way). You don’t get to weigh in on everyone else’s turn, but your choice should also be respected (even if it’s something others might otherwise groan at, like McDonald’s or etc.)

    (I say this as a person who is not generally picky, but who has a strong enough aversion to fish and seafood that I truly can’t eat it without vomiting. So I get it! But I’ve also gone alone for meals at seafood restaurants dozens of times and found ways to make it work, including just having a drink and snacking later.)

    1. Close Bracket*

      The LW didn’t ask to restrict the restaurants. They asked how to politely handle the situation.

  47. Kyle*

    #2, something similar ish happened to me. I had a good rapport with the woman who was supervising some freelance work I was doing. Then I was told my services were no longer needed by her boss (essentially fired and I was unhappy about it). And the friendly boss waited like a week before she slowly started texting me regularly again, and she wanted to discuss social personal topics as well as complain about colleagues. I think she wanted to be friends. I ended up telling her I was busy looking for new gigs and she got the hint. I probably should have kept in touch as a networking contact but alas.

  48. Yvette*

    For Number 1, if the suggestions of getting special accommodations isn’t possible; eat before you go. If you are paying, order something you know your friend, spouse, significant other etc. will like. Push it around on your plate, maybe take a bite or two of a part of it that you know you can eat it. Get the rest packed up for them. If you are not paying, order the least expensive item and push it around and pick at it. Offer to share it.

  49. CoveredInBees*

    OP4, this could be a regional thing? I live just outside NYC, where talking over the end f people’s sentances is common, and grew up in northern California, where talking over each other isn’t a thing. Despite having been here almost 20 years, it still irritates me. However, in this area (and from what I can tell the East Coast between Boston and DC) talking over the ends of people’s sentences can be signaling enthusiasm and engagement rather than rudeness. Learning this distinction has made it easier for me to deal with these types of conversations, even if it still bothers me. Granted, there were definitely people I grew up with who did this, but then it was clear if they were just rude.

    I still think you should address the issue as Allison recommended, but it can help your own mental health to think of it as a cultural difference, rather than a boorish habit.

    1. Argh!*


      I’m from the East Coast and I now live in the “polite” Midwest. My boss has criticized me for interrupting, and I’m literally paying a price for not fitting in by getting lower raises. She expects me to “conform” and won’t allow me to expect any accommodation on the part of my “polite” coworkers. (I put “polite” in quotes because it’s hardly thoughtful to drone on and on without taking a breath or letting others speak – we get much less done than we could because we permit this to occur in virtually every meeting. I want to pound my head against a wall after every meeting because the “point” seems to be to make people feel good rather than collaborate or find solutions to problems).

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      This, also!

      I spent 12 years living in NYC, and before that, I grew up in the Cajun parts of Louisiana which is also more of a “loud agreement” type of culture. My husband is from Northern California and CANNOT TOLERATE interruptions of any kind. Like to the point where he’ll pause for a solid 10+ seconds, I’ll jump in assuming he has completed his thought, and he’ll still accuse me of interrupting him. This is literally the biggest conflict in our marriage, and it’s something I’ve considered going to couples therapy over.

    3. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      It actually can be cultural. I have a book on New York English as a dialect and apparently New Yorkers (at least regionally) tend to show enthusiasm by jumping in and talking over people, which is perceived as extremely rude by other regions such as the midwest or the south.

      Of course it can just be rude mansplaining type behavior also. But as someone who moved to the south from NYC I have a tendency to start to jump in, then forcibly stop myself from speaking.

    4. Tin Cormorant*

      I grew up in northern California, and I admit I do it all the time — my dad (from the “polite” midwest btw) essentially taught me to do it when I was growing up because he would just talk and talk for hours without letting you get a word in edgewise *unless* you cut him off as he was ending a sentence. There was no “waiting for him to stop talking.” If you had something to say you had to be an active participant and wedge yourself in there or you’d be sitting there getting more and more frustrated as he moved on to talk about something else.

      And it’s definitely not only him. I’d say most people I have conversations with will just keep talking unless you interrupt them, and I’d love suggestions on how to deal with *those* people without being “rude” and interrupting. I want to participate in the conversation, and not just sit there and nod the whole time!

      1. OP #4*

        OP #4: This is hilarious! Bob is actually born and raised in the Mid-West and moved (now on West Coast). His volume and pace is extremely polite but this sounds a lot like what you described about your dad. Going to be interested when you’re client facing though!

  50. Steggy Saurus*

    LW1, are people making comments about you not eating? If so, I’d just be honest about it. It’s what I’ve done, but then I think I have a bit of a reputation for not shying away from expressing myself.

    I am an HSP and am probably pickier than most because of it. I’ve got a monthly “lunch meeting” (and I use the term lunch loosely because the meeting is at noon, two hours before I like to eat). The food comes from the campus dining hall. The meeting organizer used to prod me to go get some food, but one day I just flat-out told him, “Eh, I didn’t eat dining hall food when I was an undergrad and don’t feel the need to start now!” I joked a bit about it and admitted that I’m very picky, but it did the trick. They don’t push me to eat anymore. :D

    If they’re not making comments, I wouldn’t worry about it. You have every right to be picky! If you actually want to take part in the meal, then I’d follow Alison’s advice.

    1. Steggy Saurus*

      I meant to say, be honest about it and tell them you’re okay if they’re eating and you’re not.

  51. not neurotypical*

    OP#1’s reference to both the workplace and the restaurants being “culturally diverse” makes me worry a little that this might be a white person refusing to eat Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and etc food. (It’s not uncommon for some white people to find “ethnic” food too spicy or otherwise distasteful.) As a thought experiment, IF that were the case, and even if there were several restaurants serving the preferred “American” food, thereby providing an illusion of variety, would it be OK for the picky eater to demand that the team only go to those bland establishments?

    1. Steggy Saurus*

      I don’t think that LW1 is demanding anything – I think they’re just trying to figure out if it’s a) okay to just not order anything as opposed to wasting food and b) find a polite turn of phrase to explain why they’re not eating. And even if it is a “white person refusing to eat Indian, etc.,” I don’t see how that’s anybody’s business since they’re not asking to be accommodated.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        My read of this was that OP wanted permission to restrict where the work lunches could take place. Which isn’t fair, if it restricts them to 1 or 2 choices out of a lot of otherwise reasonable options.

        For a long time I had a job where the company would pay for working lunches, with the caveat that everyone had to agree to the same place because it just wasn’t cost effective or efficient for 7 people to each order takeout separately. Everyone HATED the guy who only ever wanted to order Jimmy John’s.

        1. Dahlia*

          Your read is putting things in the letter that OP has explictly said they aren’t doing. They are commenting as “Olivia”. They have not said a single thing you’re implying.

        2. Steggy Saurus*

          The OP is “Olivia” and you can search the comments for her. She clarifies that she’s just trying to find polite ways to explain why she’s not eating, not asking for accommodation.

        3. Close Bracket*

          That is not at all what she asked. You are projecting based on your history and your own prejudices. OP is not that guy from your last workplace who only wanted Jimmy Johns. Please don’t judge her based on him.

        4. Spencer Hastings*

          How? I am extremely curious about what language in the letter led you to conclude that, because the majority of people here made that same conclusion and I have no idea where everyone is getting it from.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      That was my thought as well. That most likely the idea of eating “foreign” food was at the root of this kneejerk reaction, or that there’s an underlying fear of the unknown or that there *might* not be anything they would want to eat there.

    3. Dahlia*

      That is not what’s happening. That isn’t what OP said in their letter or in their comments.

      That’s an entirely unrelated hypothetical that isn’t happening. OP is asking what to say when they go somewhere and don’t eat.

      Seriously why are so many people demonizing OP for something they aren’t doing???

      1. Olivia*

        Thank you Dahlia, Steggy Saurus (and all others who correctly interpreted my original question) for your support! I guess food can be a touchy subject, especially for people who are passionate about it or who simply enjoy eating a wide range. I hope no one is offended because they’ve misunderstood what I’m asking.

  52. Argh!*

    Re: interrupting coworker

    I am often that coworker. I have spent much of my working life in a culture where interruptions were part of the normal flow of things — meetings were more like additive collaborative discussions rather than people taking turns. Now I work in a very “polite” workplace where interruptions are considered rude.

    This drives me crazy because you know what else is rude? Not putting a period on the end of a thought, taking up all the air in a meeting, repeating themselves over & over, and refusing to let other people speak. Those people need to be cut off in order for a workplace to be truly collaborative. The problem where I work is that even committee “chairs” are too “polite” to cut off the monologuers.

    So LW could consider whether they are part of the problem. If there are 6 people in a 60-minute meeting and LW is talking for 20 minutes, LW should expect to be interrupted.

  53. Semprini!*

    For LW1, in addition to any other strategies you try, it might be useful to frame things as “Eating X is yummy!” rather than “I can’t eat Y” when you can find the opportunity to do so.

    People who are judgemental about picky eaters are often less judgemental about enthusiasm for food. And people in general are often more receptive to “Let’s do X!” rather than “Let’s not do Y!”

    So, for example, if there’s ever discussion about where you should go for lunch, you could say “I have a huge craving for pizza!” rather than “Let’s not go for sushi again”. If there are any restaurants in your area that your team hasn’t tried yet, you could check and see if any of them have even one item on the menu that you can eat. So if everyone is talking about “Let’s go for sushi!” you could say “Let’s try Sushi Place B this time” (with Sushi Place B having something you can eat on the menu that Sushi Place A doesn’t).

    (I know this is counterintuitive – it really seems like “I want to eat this one thing!” sounds far less open-minded than “I want to eat anything in the world except for the things on this list”, but as a fellow picky eater I find it goes over far better.)

    If you don’t have any say in the matter, you can still express enthusiasm when you end up going to a restaurant that works for you, without focusing on how it meets your dietary needs. For example, when you open the menu you could say “Look at all these good choices! So hard to decide!” Maybe mention that you want to try X or Y next time – as though of course there will be a next time! Maybe if one of your colleagues has ordered something you can eat, comment “That looks good!” Maybe mention afterwards “I really enjoyed that!”

    This helps establish you as not a Picky McPickyface, but rather A Person Who Enjoys Restaurant Meals Like Everyone Else. And this might also subconsciously make your co-workers think “You know, I’ve been hearing good things about That Restaurant Where OP Can Eat!”

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      This is solid advice.

      For some reason “I can’t eat anything at all on the menu at Restaurant A”, when Restaurant A is a completely normal restaurant that doesn’t specialize in, like Eye of Newt or anything, and the person in question doesn’t have allergies or any kind or religious or moral restriction, seems obnoxious. You CAN eat there, you just don’t want to and feel like your own convenience is more important than other people getting to enjoy a nice meal.

      “Could we try Restaurant B? I’ve heard their Menu Item Of Choice is really good” wouldn’t even give me pause.

      1. Dahlia*

        Thank you for telling all the people on this thread that we’re lying about what we can’t eat.

        No, that is not what’s happening. OP is asking for advice on what to say when they go somewhere and can’t eat anything on the menu, so they don’t order anything. One person not ordering food does not in anyway prevent you from eating.

      2. Close Bracket*

        you just don’t want to and feel like your own convenience

        That’s a dismissive take on something that can have complex roots. My advice to you is the same as it was to Manya, above:

        Learn more about what leads to picky eating so that you can learn to view people with restricted diets with less judgement.

      3. Desperately seeking a cute kitty*

        “you … feel like your own convenience is more important than other people getting to enjoy a nice meal”
        And you don’t? On the countless occasions that I’ve pushed food around my plate while my colleagues ate, I sacrificed being able to have a nice meal (=a meal that I can eat without gagging) so that things would be convenient for my colleagues.

        And the thing about saying “Could we try Restaurant B? I’ve heard their Menu Item Of Choice is really good” is that one possible answer to that is “No, I/we really want to go to Restaurant A”, which would put OP back in the original situation where she has to either say she can’t eat the food at Restaurant A or push food around her plate and eat at home later. There are tactful and non-tactful ways of raising this issue, and compromises that can be made (notice that Alison suggested ways to balance what OP wants with what her colleagues want), but being this evasive about it is likely to just put her back at square one.

      4. Olivia*

        WMHIA – I really think you’ve misunderstood the basis for my question, and I think your comment of, “…feel like your own convenience is more important than other people getting to enjoy a nice meal” is way off base.

        I have not asked for advice on how to strong-arm people into only going to restaurants I like; I’ve asked how to either (1) be able to participate without forcing myself to eat something I don’t want to or (2) how to politely decline without offending anyone…in either case, I’d like to avoid raising a lot of questions about why. I would never lie about having a medical or religious reason for my food preferences, either.

    2. Olivia*

      Semprini, thanks for pointing that out. I do agree that people tend to be more receptive to “positive” statements as opposed to “negative” ones, so how I phrase things is something I’ll have to work on. Appreciate your help!

  54. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #1 — is it 100% that there is NOTHING you can eat at any of these restaurants? Because that sounds more like something you should probably be able to work on and move past, and not something that necessarily should be accommodated by your coworkers. I’m a fairly adventurous eater, I’ll admit. But even at restaurants that have highly controversial cuisines, or where it’s a culture that isn’t particularly understood by Americans, there usually is something on that menu for your pickier eaters. Sushi is a common “I don’t eat”, but even at sushi places there will usually be something like teriyaki chicken or pork katsu which is literally a piece of meat over rice. Indian food seems pretty obscure to a lot of Americans, but you can go and get, like, potato pakoras, which are basically french fries by another name, or samosas, which is a scoop of mashed potatoes wrapped in crispy fried dough. When I was a kid, my parents would take us to Thai restaurants and we’d get satay, which is your choice of grilled meat on a skewer, served with sweet peanut dipping sauce on the side. Something most toddlers will eat. Even deep in the San Gabriel Valley here in the Los Angeles area, which is known for its authentic regional Chinese restaurants (think chicken feet and “but the fish eye is the most delicious part!”), there’s a dish called Hainan Chicken which is literally just boiled chicken over plain rice. No spices. No weird stuff. No vegetables, even.

    A lot of Indian and Thai places know that white Americans sometimes don’t like heavily spiced foods and can even make it extra mild for you, if “too spicy” is the issue.

    Almost all of these places have things on the menu like side salads, chicken wings, or fries that are identical to their American cuisine counterparts.

    I guess it’s possible that OP#1 is so picky that “just a piece of meat over rice” or “just fried potatoes” or “a side salad with ranch dressing” won’t ever work, even for a couple of bites or to pick out the bits you are OK with and leave the rest.

    But even living in a cosmopolitan city where there really are some cuisines and restaurants that aren’t accessible to people with limited palates, I would say that I virtually never see a menu that literally has NOTHING those folks can eat at all on the whole menu. So you may want to really sit down, think of what you are willing to eat, and see if some of these menus have something for you even if it’s not the house specialty, or an unfamiliar term (katsu, pakora, bao) makes it seem daunting.

    1. Olivia*

      WMHIA – you are correct in that there is probably SOMETHING on the menu I might eat. I’ve agreed with other commentators here that I could peruse the menu for those items or ask the restaurant for an off-menu choice…or even eating beforehand and just showing up for the festivities. Nowhere in my question did I ask, “Tell me how I can get my coworkers to accommodate me!” :)

  55. Meh*

    Many people who used to be called “picky eaters” actually may have a recognized diagnosable condition called ARFID (Avoidance and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). It’s a form of OCD and anxiety-related and is very distressful usually to both the person who has it as well as their loved ones and friends. It could definitely be brought to a manager’s attention by the employee for scenarios that may require ADA accommodation. It’s also treatable and is beginning to gain ground and more attention in eating disorder treatment clinics and some clinicians (counselors, therapists) who specialize in treating such disorders.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is something that a lot of people may wish to look further into but in a lot of cases, “picky eaters” can have sensory issues as well.

      This is what I was suffering from for years, I physically couldn’t eat a lot of times, it wasn’t just “ick, I don’t like that!” my stomach would reject food, it felt like I was walking around with a boulder in my stomach at times when food was around =(

      I have people who are notoriously picky around and I work with it. It’s why I prefer things like taco bars and BBQs or buffets in the end, it gives everyone a chance to graze and pick what they want instead of a platted meal kind of thing.

  56. So sleepy*

    OP#1, as a fellow picky eater, I’m going to have to say I disagree with AAM’s advice about saying you’re on a restricted diet (the rest, I agree with). This will almost certainly open you up to questions and concern (is it allergies? gluten? lactose? are you vegan? are you losing weight? diabetic?). It could become a thing – and since it isn’t a medical condition, it could come up in front of everyone and become an ongoing thing.

    I would do one of two things, depending on the nature of your pickiness:

    (1) If you don’t like a lot of diverse foods, but generally can eat something that many restaurants carry like fries, bread, nuggets, chicken, so a few restaurants are eliminated, but not most:
    (if the restaurant is up for discussion and hasn’t been decided, and one you can’t eat at is suggested): “Oh, my stomach is pretty sensitive so I can’t handle X food (spicy food, asian food, sushi, greek, whatever is specifically the issue at a given restaurant without getting into specifics). If you guys really want to go, though, I don’t mind eating beforehand and coming along!”
    (if the restaurant has already been decided, i.e. manager sends out an e-mail saying “I’m taking you all to Spicy R Us!” and it comes up in conversation with him/her or others: “It sounds fun! My stomach doesn’t tolerate spicy food well and my diet is pretty bland, so I’ll probably eat beforehand, but I’m looking forward to the outing!”

    (2) If your diet is extremely restricted to something that isn’t typically on the more generic section of menus, like plain pasta, white rice, etc. and most restaurants are not an option, when it comes up I would just say, “my stomach doesn’t really tolerate restaurant foods very well so I won’t be eating, but that’s totally fine- I’ll eat beforehand and have a (soft) drink or something while we’re there”.

    Note that in both examples, any decent manager is going to ask if there are any options that work for you (if not this time, then the next time), and while people will have an awareness generally that you can’t eat some foods, you won’t have to deal with all the picky eater stories, questioning and criticism. If you’re the latter, I would even go so far as to say you don’t want to force them to eat at your preferred restaurant every time, so although you appreciate (any effort they offer to make), it’s totally fine if sometimes the team goes out to Spicytown. You can also use the dialogue above to respond to questions about why you aren’t eating – as long as you keep it very positive and have something in hand, people will usually let it go.


    A business professional who doesn’t eat cheese in any form, most dairy, spicy food, asian food, shellfish, anything with a weird texture, mushrooms, OK, really, a lot of vegetables, anything breaded, eggs that aren’t baked into other things, coffee, most seafood, sushi, and surely other things I’m not thinking of (sorry, couldn’t resist).

    p.s. FWIW, over time I typically reveal more about it to colleagues I trust. They discreetly find me the nacho chips with nothing on them and put them on my plate! And are more apt to make their restaurant suggestions geared to something I can eat without calling me out on it in front of everyone (similar to how many of us do when we have a colleague or friend with severe allergies). I also eventually have the “sooo I usually put off this conversation as long as possible, but I actually don’t eat cheese. At all. No, not even pizza. Yeah, I’m pretty picky” conversation with people I will have longer-term close working relationships with because it’s just easier over time for some of the major food aversions (but you have to be careful – I am also really self conscious about what I eat, as well as eating in front of people in general, so it has to be someone I know won’t point it out every time we eat).

    1. Olivia*

      Thanks for taking the time to write all this! Yes, after reading yours and others’ comments, I am leaning more towards either just having something small and simple there, or eating beforehand and just showing up. My goal is still to participate, just not feel forced to order a full meal as others are doing and also have to explain why I’m not ordering a normal portion of something.

  57. Anna*

    One suggestion to the person at the first letter – do you look at the restaurant menu in advance? (Assuming you know where you are going?) If so, maybe carefully scrutinize food items you could potentially enjoy. Then call the restaurant and ask if they can accommodate any specific requests (like ordering an appetizer or part of a meal or something or asking for a change to menu items). That at least will take care of having to do this all on the spot while your coworkers and boss stare at you. (I have a wheat allergy that is really severe so I am mildly paranoid/overly cautious, and I’ve done exactly this a lot myself in terms of getting advice on how to order/what’s safe, etc. It helps me a lot and eliminates my own stress level (and helps me enjoy myself!). (Hey, maybe even order off a dessert menu! There’s gotta be a sweet treat you can indulge on those occasions)

    1. Olivia*

      Thanks! I’m totally open to reviewing the menu beforehand and making sure there is really NOTHING I can eat before even saying anything. And, I guess if asked, I can always just say I feel like having dessert/a beverage only at that time. Just hope no one thinks I’m trying to protect my wallet. ;)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s completely okay if you want to protect your wallet though in these cases! You get to choose what you spend your money on, not your friends, family or colleagues.

  58. Shutup&eatyourgreenbeans*

    #1 – I don’t see this situation as being the same as having a restricted diet for health reasons.

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