new employee wants me to give him money, I wet myself during a board meeting, and more

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

1. New employee is hinting he wants me to give him money

A new project manager started work on Thursday. On Friday, he spent most of the day telling me about his desperate financial situation and how he had exhausted all of his resources. He said he wouldn’t get paid until the next week and didn’t have enough money for gas to get to work the next week. He said his family was living on groceries donated by a neighbor who moved. I suggested he ask for an advance. He came back later and said corporate would have to approve an advance. I am starting to feel really uncomfortable by now. He didn’t directly ask me for money, but this is the feeling I got. I closed my door for the next couple of hours, then left a few minutes early, hoping to avoid him. But he followed me to my car … and asked if I needed him to do anything over the weekend. I said, no we’re good. Driving home, I was upset to the point of tears.

Should I have left work and gone and got some cash to give this guy? I have no idea who this person is. Is his story legit? I felt terrible for not helping. And I felt terrible for being put in this position. How do I handle this? How do I work with this guy in the future?

What this coworker/virtual stranger did to you wasn’t okay. And I feel confident saying that because when you suggested a solution to him — to ask for a pay advance — he didn’t seem interested in doing that. (Just because corporate would have to approve an advance doesn’t mean they wouldn’t, or that he couldn’t ask.)

If he starts doing this again, tell him you can’t talk because you need to focus on work. If you can’t feasibly say that (because he’ll see you chatting with others or so forth), then say, “I’m sorry you’re having a tough time. I can’t help but you should talk to (manager) about whether there’s anything corporate can do.” If he pushes after that: “I get the sense you’re asking me to help. That’s not something I can do, and you really need to speak to (manager) about it rather than me.”

To be clear, if he were genuinely in need, it’s one thing to ask once. (Even then, it would still be really tricky in a work context.) But continuing to pressure coworkers who have made it clear they’re not up for helping isn’t okay.

In fact, it would be fine for you to talk to your manager about this now (or after another incident if you prefer) and let her know what’s going on. Frame it as “This seemed concerning and I thought I should let you know.”

2. I wet myself during a board meeting

I’m heavily pregnant with only three weeks to go until my due date and plan on working right up until labor to save my leave time. I’m an executive assistant and a huge part of my job is to attend board of director meetings.

A few days ago during one of those meetings, I went to sneeze and accidentally wet myself in the process. This has happened before. I wear a liner. Usually it is just a trickle but this was not a trickle. I immediately left the room but as my seat and my dress were a bit wet, it was pretty obvious what had happened. One of the female board members met me in the hall to see if I was okay. Apparently they were under the impression my water may have broken and asked if I needed to call my doctor. My boss let me go home for the day and I followed up with my doctor. I was not in labor. It was urine.

I did text my boss and let him know I was not in labor. He is out for the rest of the week but he will be back Monday. What do I say to him? Do I need to say anything? We have another board meeting coming up next Thursday and I am sure they will ask how I am doing. Any advice on what to say if they bring it up? How do I survive wetting myself during a board meeting? I am so embarrassed.

I know this is easier said than done, but I would not worry about this at all! You’re pregnant, and things happen during pregnancy. I’d bet that a lot of the people in that room figured that, given your pregnancy, there are other options besides just “urinated on herself” or “was about to go into labor.” But even if they they do assume you wet yourself … I promise you they don’t think it reflects on you or that you just casually decided to wet your pants. You’re weeks away from giving birth! This stuff happens. I can say with 99.9% certainty that they are just glad you’re okay. (That 0.1% chance of an alternative is just in case you have a 12-year-old boy on your board.)

You don’t need to say anything special to your boss or to the board. If people ask if you’re okay, you can just say, “Yes, false alarm!” or “Still hanging in there.” Be matter-of-fact about it, and people will take their cues from you.

3. Giving a reference when I can’t think of any weaknesses

As a manager of a high-performing work team, I’ve been receiving reference checks on my previous employees looking to advance in our very large organization. I have nothing but good things to say about them, all very true. I struggle with one common reference check question though: “What would you say are Jane’s weaknesses?” This puts me in a conundrum because I really have to stretch to think of something, and when I do that I feel like I may be hurting their chances. However, I’m afraid if I say something like, “I can’t think of any at this time,” I might be hurting their perception of my authenticity, thus my former employees’ chances.

Once I answered for an employee (and this is me stretching), “The unfortunate weakness that Fergus had at our organization was that he was strong in process improvement. This was a valuable strength in my eyes, but some of the upper management have an ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality.” I haven’t heard back from that former employee yet, but I’m freaking out that I’ve hurt his chances.

What would you tell the reference checkers asking this weakness question when you honestly cannot think of any?

If you genuinely can’t think of a weakness, you can say, “I honestly can’t think of one. She was really outstanding.” Lots of references do say this, and reference-checkers won’t automatically think you’re BS’ing them. (They generally will assume you’re fairly neutral; they don’t assume you’re hoping to pull one over on them.) They might try to dig a little more, and that’s fine; just answer honestly if they do.

But an alternative is to think of something you saw the person improve on over time. For example: “When she first started with me, she wanted to improve her public speaking skills and she was really disciplined in practicing and improving them. It’s been three years, and she’s now on the strongest presenters on my team.” So you’re talking about something that was a weakness at one time, but putting it in context.

Really, though, if you think the person is great and haven’t noticed any real weaknesses, it’s fine to say that. You don’t need to stretch to find something. If the reference-checker wants to push further, they will. (Do make sure, though, that you’re speaking to the person’s strengths with some specificity and nuance — that’s where the credibility and usefulness of a reference comes from. If it’s all sweeping pronouncements like “she’s great,” that’s not especially helpful.)

4. Working during a union strike, when you’re non-union

I am employed by a very large organization; this organization has various unions represented throughout the workforce. One of the larger unions is considering striking. I fully support unions and their ability to strike, although I am not in a union-represented position.

If the strike occurs, my non-represented colleagues and I have been notified that we will be “filling in” for the strike positions for an undetermined amount of time. These are critical positions that must have staff to ensure the continued operation of the organization. Details are scarce at the moment, but this represents a huge variety of positions across an enormous geographical area. There is little to no overlap between our current positions and the strike positions for the large majority of us. We have not been able to obtain much information about this scenario and have lots of questions including: are we compelled to fill in or lose our jobs? What if we have to cross picket lines? What if the “fill in” position is geographically far away and we need to arrange child care, elder care, commuting, etc–does our organization help us with that? Most of our regular work has tight deadlines that are dictated by contracts (federal/state/foundation); what happens to those deadlines if we are working in other positions?

Generally, your employer can discipline or fire you for refusing fill in for someone else — but in the case of a strike, the rules are different. The National Labor Relations Act protects non-union employees who don’t want to cross picket lines. The exception to that is if you’re a supervisory or management employee, in which case you could indeed face disciplinary action (including firing) for refusing to follow your company’s directives during the strike. You could also contact the National Labor Relations Board to get more guidance on your specific situation.

If the fill-in position is far away and so covering there would cause you hardship, you can point that out to your employer and explain what you can and can’t do. If you’d be willing to do more if they covered the costs (of your commute, child care, etc.), you can offer that and see what they say. Some employers will refuse to do that and some will be willing (especially in a situation where they’re desperate for coverage).

Re: deadlines, you’d explain to your manager what will be affected by you temporarily filling in somewhere else, and let them decide how to proceed.

5. When and how should I follow up with a non-responsive former boss?

I recently moved back to my hometown, and sent a message to my former supervisor from an internship I did in college. She was a great supervisor and we had a good working relationship, although looking back I definitely made a couple of intern-gaffes that summer from my lack of office experience.

I have been pretty terrible about keeping in touch, and I let about five years go by without any contact. In the message I apologized for not reaching out sooner, but asked if she’d be willing to get coffee soon. I let her know that I was hoping for some advice on the job search. I felt sort of weird about asking for a favor all of a sudden after years of no communication from me, but she responded that she’d like to reconnect, so I thanked her and asked about dates and times that might work. That was a week ago, and I still haven’t heard back. I’m wondering if I can follow up yet, and if so, what to say. But I’m also secretly wondering if I was out of line in the first place for asking her to help me, when I hadn’t sent her messages or updates or anything for years. What’s your take?

You weren’t out of line at all. It’s entirely normal to get back in touch with past managers after years have gone by. The relationship is still there, and this is something that happens all the time. (In fact, far more people do it this way than send perfunctory “staying in touch” emails in between.)

Her lack of response to your suggested times is probably just a sign that she’s busy. She also might be someone who finds it hard to make time for coffee, especially without being clear on exactly what outcomes you’re hoping for. So you could follow up and say, “Just wanted to check back with you! I know you’re busy, so would a phone call be easier? I’d be really grateful for even just 10 minutes of your time to get your advice on where I should be applying or people you think I should talk to. But I’d also love to catch up over coffee if you do have time for that. Either way, if you let me know a couple of options that would work for you, I’ll make one of them work on my side.” (I’d wait 10 days from your last email before sending this.)

{ 503 comments… read them below }

  1. Jess*

    #3 – I sometimes do reference checks, and I’ve started re-wording this question, because bluntly asking “What are her weaknesses?” ALWAYS gets an awkward silence.

    I’ve found reframing it as “What are her areas for improvement?” or “What are areas that she needed to improve in?” (similar to Alison’s wording, looking at past areas of improvement) gets much better – and useful – answers.

    Perhaps if you tried thinking of the question this way, it might help?

    1. Lurker*

      Instead of asking about weaknesses, which usually gets a response along the lines of “I can’t think of anything,” I ask “What is one situation you wish they would have handled differently?” or “What is one responsibility you wish they’d handle differently?” That usually elicits useful information for me.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Came here to say this, too! II also ask, ‘What would you recommend for us in terms of helping So-and-So further develop?’ and similar questions. They may not offer anything, but when they do I’ve gotten very helpful info.

        In case you’re curious, this is also a good way to frame questions to a candidate during the interview. For good reasons, I really dislike ‘Tell me about your weakness’, and so do candidates. I gain more useful insight about a candidate using the approach above, and candidates don’t mentally stick pins in me.

    2. Knitter*

      On a past position I had to hire a large number of college students and recent grads for a summer program. There was no way they could have all the skills needed. When I did ask the weakness question, I followed it up by saying we were excited about the candidate and wanted the info to help me plan training for this person (which was true). I got much better answers framing it this way.

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      I’ve tended to ask “If I bring [Person] on staff, how can I help her develop? What are the areas she could use additional coaching in?”

    4. LKW*

      I like to frame it as “What are skills they haven’t had the opportunity to grow yet?”
      For example this person may be excellent at process improvement but could they estimate out a project? Or do they have experience managing a team?
      What are things that you are confident they could learn but haven’t yet had the opportunity to showcase?

    5. Lauren19*

      Came here to say something similar. Focus on the area they need to develop in order to move into the next role. This isn’t a weakness, it’s a developmental opportunity that their next boss should be aware of.

    6. Frustrated Reference*

      OP3 here…

      You guys are the best! I am going to be pondering what to say next time with these tips in mind. Also, I’m stealing these questions for the next time I have to call references. :D Thank you Alison and AAM community!

      1. Frustrated Reference*

        The employee I was most worried about just got offered the job twenty minutes ago. I’m so excited for him and can finally stop worrying that I sabotaged his chances. Again, can’t thank you guys enough for the sound advice!

    7. Aitch Arr*

      I ask “What is one area of development for the candidate? Something that could take her to the next level of her career?”

    8. Gene Parmesan*

      This isn’t completely the same, but I’ve started asking “What do we need to know about Candidate to help them succeed in this position?” That has been incredibly useful in identifying little quirks, personality and work style things, preferences, etc. A supervisor may not feel like an employee had clear weaknesses, but there’s usually something along the lines of “it’s good to know that Candidate receives feedback best this way” or “we had to adjust because they sometimes need more time to do XYZ work”. It also frames the question as helping understand the employee rather than just looking for a reason not to hire them. I find that I typically get better information with this question when talking to a supervisor who thinks highly of the candidate compared to a straight strengths and weaknesses question.

  2. MommaCat*

    OP #2, the “False alarm!” script is perfect. Most folks who would judge probably don’t know a lot about pregnancy, and those who know how easy it is to wet yourself while pregnant probably won’t judge you.

    1. HBJ*

      Yup. And honestly, I don’t know how you’d phrase this without lying (or maybe you’re fine with lying about it), but if they think your water broke, let them keep thinking that. As I’m sure you know, leaking some amniotic fluid without full on water breaking and going into labor is absolutely a thing that happens to some women.

      1. nnn*

        I never knew that, so that answers my question about Alison’s “there are other options besides just “urinated on herself” or “was about to go into labor.”” Thank you!

      2. HBJ*

        Thinking about some scripts.

        “My doctor checked me for amniotic fluid leakage [because it sounds like he did?]. I’m just fine!”

        “Ugh, fluid leaking is the worst!” [Urine is a fluid, but people will probably immediately think amnio.]

        Are both scripts that don’t explicitly say it was amniotic fluid but will probably keep people thinking in that direction.

        1. marrbl*

          Oh dear, no. No one wants to hear about “fluid leakage” from a colleague. Just stick with the “false alarm” script.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          Or even a dry/cheeky ‘ah Motherhood is such a magical time in any woman’s life’, and then pivoting the conversation to basically any other office topic.

          But the false alarm option is the one that hit my brain before I got to Alison’s conclusion.

    2. Shell*

      I agree that the “false alarm” script is excellent. I don’t know much about pregnancy, but I certainly wouldn’t have judged the OP. I would have assumed that what happened was related to the pregnancy, and I would actually find “false alarm” very reassuring, in a “Oh, good, she’s OK and that was just some ordinary pregnancy thing that I don’t know about” kind of way.

      1. Pommette!*

        It is a great script.

        It addresses the two questions your colleagues probably actually care about by letting them know that:
        1- you are OK! (which is the main thing, and will be a relief to anyone who was worried), and
        2- you didn’t just give birth (and they therefore shouldn’t be sending congratulations along yet, assuming that that is a thing they are planning to do).

      2. Easter*

        Yes, this. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about pregnancy, my thought would have been “I have no idea what happened” so I’d be glad to know you are okay. I would not at all go straight to “did she just urinate?” I think everyone will be relieved to see you back in the meeting and healthy.

    3. Snuck*

      I like “Not long NOW” followed by an excited grin….

      Leaves them wondering why you are calmly sitting there shuffling paperwork. Mwhahahahah. Evil.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes. You and the baby are fine. They do not have to deliver a baby on the conference table. (Which those who don’t know much about pregnancy might fear.)

      If you need to know this in future re urine on upholstery: Nature’s Miracle spray, found in pet stores, works well to break down any organic odor.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Oooh, thanks for the tip! Every once in a while a bad sneezing or coughing fit will trigger a small accident even 2 years postpartum.

        1. kristinyc*

          I just went to a child’s birthday party over the weekend (6 months post-partum) and did a potato sack race… Um, do not recommend.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          I’m pregnant with my second, and violent puking makes me tinkle a little. So does a big sneeze. It’s really lovely.

          1. Artemesia*

            Might want to get those pee proof underpants; they are expensive but they are also nice looking and smooth under clothes and work; the bikini type would work during pregnancy.

        3. many bells down*

          I haven’t been pregnant in over 20 years and I still fear a big sneeze. It’s just never the same.

    5. Observer*

      Anyone (decent) who knows about pregnancy is not going to judge you. And most people who don’t also won’t judge you.

      My first thought would have been “water breaking” just because it’s the most likely SCARY thing, and it’s close enough to the end of the pregnancy that it’s realistic. Once I knew that it’s not that, I really wouldn’t care what it was. Who cares where the leak came from?

      So, bottom line, “false alarm” is perfect – it provides all the information anyone needs without being TMI.

      1. Eggo the Preggo*

        I’m only halfway through my pregnancy and I still feel shocked at how many strange and uncomfortable side effects come along with it – it’s crazy! But, one thing I know for sure is that literally every other woman who has been pregnant before is fully aware of all of those weird parts of being pregnant and are far more empathic and understanding than you think.
        You’re a super powerhouse for working so hard up until the last second! I agree with everyone’s advice to not sweat it at all – you’ve got MUCH bigger things going on! GOOD LUCK and CONGRATS!
        (PS Having said all of that, the other folks’ comments about their pregnancy experiences are kinda freaking me out!)

    6. understanding dad*

      #2, anybody who doesn’t have kids probably won’t realize what happened. Anybody who does have kids is going to be sympathetic.

      We’ve had several kids. My wife uses the bathroom immediately before going to the gym. Depending on the workout, she may wet herself. Same thing with several of her gym friends. It’s life after kids.

    7. Corinne*

      Came here specifically to say this! :) Say nothing, or if it comes up, “False alarm!” is a really great response. Those who don’t already get it don’t really want the details. And those who already get it…well, they already get it, and they are full of empathy. If this happened in a meeting I was in, I would absolutely be sympathetic and also very interested in following your lead about how much you want to discuss/remember it. You did nothing wrong or embarrassing, you’re doing wonderfully, hang in there! Great job making a human!

  3. Ella*

    #2, If you leave it vague, I’d bet a lot of the people who were in the room will be uninformed enough about the gritty details of pregnancy that they’ll just assume it was some water-breaking-esque occurrence rather than you wetting yourself. And anyone who knows enough about pregnancy to understand what actually happened will also know enough to understand how common it is, especially so close to your due date. Aka Alison is exactly right here: it’s easier said than done, but try to let yourself forget about the whole thing!

    1. Devil Fish*

      I agree there’s no reason for LW2 to be embarrassed but I think she does need to say something directly to someone to make sure the chair she was sitting on is/was properly cleaned, especially if it’s an upholstered chair. Urine isn’t sterile (that’s a myth) and I would be super grossed out to learn that I’d been in a meeting and was sitting in a chair that had been peed on enough to be visibly wet and was never cleaned after. (Yes, I know this is mostly a psychological thing but I also don’t want my work clothes maybe smelling like pee?)

      Doesn’t have to be overly specific or anything, just say “I want to make sure that chair was cleaned, just in case!” And if it’s plastic, a quick wipe-down with a bleach wipe is fast and easy and was probably already done. :)

      This isn’t about shame, it’s just logistics and hazmat. I worked at a call center for a long time that was full of chairs with suspicious stains. One of them was a chair that someone’s water had broken on. It was never removed from the building, just shuffled around because she never told anyone (except to warn other coworkers not to sit on the chair). No one should ever let their workplace be like that call center.

      1. WS*

        I agree but it’s irrelevant what body fluid it was, as long as the chair is cleaned!

        Also, ugh, that call center! That place sounds like a veritable fount of cautionary tales.

      2. Washi*

        If the chair was visibly wet, I assume it would get cleaned anyway, regardless of what the coworkers think happened. It’s not like everyone was under the impression that when your water breaks, it comes out as filtered drinking water!

        1. Kiki*

          You’d be surprised! There’s also the classic office issue of “who is responsible for cleaning this? We don’t know? Nobody, I guess!”

          1. Jen*

            “Let’s see… the handbook does not specifically say what to do with a chair if there is amniotic fluid on it, so I guess we’re good!”

          2. BadWolf*


            At our Giant Corp office, to get something cleaned, you have to fill out a special form online that not a lot of people know about. So it would take someone setting the chair aside, filling out a special form and managing to adequately describe where to find the chair.

            So I could totally see someone rolling the chair off to the side and then…nothing happening to it.

        2. HBJ*

          And technically, amniotic fluid kind of is urine! By the time the baby comes out, they’ve basically taken in and peed out all the amniotic fluid at least once.

      3. Observer*

        The OP doesn’t need to say anything. Any one with an ounce of sense should realize that the chair needs to be cleaned, because SOMETHING leaked and it’s not sterile.

        1. Veronica*

          But so many people don’t have an ounce of sense, especially when it’s not officially anyone’s responsibility.

        2. Elenna*

          Yeah, but I could easily see everyone being like “Whoever’s in charge of cleaning definitely needs to deal with that!” and failing to realize that nobody is in charge of cleaning.
          Or “The janitor definitely needs to clean that up!” and then nobody remembers to tell the janitor.

          1. Kiki*

            Yes! This can also lead to a situation that’s been discussed here before where certain employees (often women) are expected to step up and do something, but they actually shouldn’t have to. Nobody wants to set the precedent that they are the person you should call when there are bodily fluids to be cleaned.

            “What to do about bodily fluids in the office?” is something that has come up in every office I’ve ever worked at and no office has ever had a real plan! The assumption is that everyone would clean up after themselves, but in medical emergency type situations, that’s not the case. Most offices have a night contract cleaning crew, but you can’t just leave certain sorts of messes until 6 pm.

        3. Artemesia*

          In no office ever, did ‘someone’ take charge of getting a chair damaged like this cleaned. Unless the OP initiates it, nothing will happen unless the damage was very obvious and there is an AA who is on the job about such things. But mostly, nothing is going to happen to clean the chair.

          1. Observer*

            Eh, I don’t see that anything OP says is going to make a difference, unless she cleans it herself. Either it’s already someone’s job, or it isn’t and no one is going to volunteer just because the OP points it out to them.

    2. Sylvan*

      Are that many adults uninformed about pregnancy, though? I think most are going to know that there aren’t that many possible explanations. However, most are also only going to care that OP is okay.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        There are quite a few people uneducated about pregnancy, but also, most people will maintain the polite fiction that they don’t know what options there are.

      2. 17DaysAndCounting*

        I’m also heavily pregnant with just less than three weeks to go until my due date, and yes, yes there are a lot of uninformed adults out there. Either younger adults who haven’t had any experience of pregnancy, or older men where it might be a generational thing.

        And honestly, even if they have had some experience with pregnancy, not every pregnancy is the same, and some won’t have the same issues as #2.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Older women, too, who haven’t done pregnancy. One asked if I could feel the baby moving yet when I was 8 months pregnant.

            1. Helena*

              I told one of my (older childless) neighbours in November that I was pregnant, and the baby was due in April, and she said in astonishment “what, THIS April?”

              Um yes, this April, humans don’t gestate for multiple years. And I was already showing.

      3. Ariaflame*

        There appear to be many adults uninformed about the basics of what you have to do in order to get pregnant, and the biology of women as a whole, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised that they’re uninformed about pregnancy and what it involves. I am ignorant of many things regarding that, never have been pregnant or spent significant amounts of time with someone who was.

      4. Snuck*

        I would say yes…

        I had NO idea as a mid 30s woman what pregnancy really involved… until I went through the process.

        There’s a LOT of unspoken stuff, that you only talk about with other women that have been there (and the odd rare genuine male), and the vast array of assumptions are all fed by pop culture. There’s some stuff like this… that just isn’t discussed except by those in the ‘been there, done that’ club. At least… that was my experience… I worked predominantly in a male dominated, IT space workforce though.

        1. Midwest writer*

          I am 100 percent with you on this. I had my first when I was 30 and I thought I was a fairly well educated person on the subject. I was not. And having had three kids and observed as many friends and relatives have had kids, it’s also amazing how different each pregnancy can be. People ask dumb questions, people have weird assumptions and things I thought I understood could turn out differently in a subsequent pregnancy.
          And pop culture — I like to tell people that my water broke with my second like in the movies, and experience that was not at all like that with my first or third. It was the best description I could give without getting into too many details that people may not have wanted.

          1. Botanist*

            A-men! This is slowly changing, but water breaking before the woman is actively in labor is actually considered a complication. The vast majority of the time it happens after contractions are actively going. But we talk about water breaking like that’s the big sign that the baby is coming! Not true for the majority of pregnancies!

            1. Artemesia*

              Both of mine ‘broke’ when I was in the delivery room and the doctor initiated it — wasn’t going to happen naturally before delivery apparently.

        2. MOAS*

          its funny that this is coming up here. I’m mid 30s and childless bt been pregnant 3x. All were early miscarriages so I never went far or delivered, but I ca’n think of a time in the last decade or so when I *didn’t* know about the weird things. and I generally feel like our culture is opening up with talking about the “unspoken” things.

        3. many bells down*

          There’s a reason “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a best-seller year after year.

        4. A*

          This. I’m a woman in my early thirties that hasn’t had children yet (looking forward to it though!) and I had NO clue until my bestie went through her pregnancy. Every time she’d encounter some new super-secret-pregnancy-detail she’d call me and we’d have our minds blown. WAIT… WHAT goes in WHERE? WHAT comes OUT OF where?!?!
          I’m so glad my public school health classes focused on what piece of fruit the fetus most closely resembled though. I’d be lost without THAT knowledge. [insert eyeroll here]

      5. londonedit*

        I’m a childfree by choice woman in her late 30s and – apart from things friends with kids have shared, which honestly isn’t a whole lot because people tend to do the ‘Oh, you don’t want to hear about this!’ thing – I expect my knowledge of the details of pregnancy is fairly rudimentary. It’s not really something I have great cause to learn about! Personally, yes I am aware that women can pee themselves a bit during/after pregnancy, but if a heavily pregnant woman leapt up out of a chair and suddenly left the room, and that chair was a little bit wet, I probably would go straight to ‘Oh goodness, what if her waters have broken?’ rather than thinking ‘I bet she just wet herself’.

        1. JSPA*

          I’d assume it was some random fluid thing related to glands and hormones and pressure. And if told otherwise, I’d hold to that assumption. And frankly, it’s approximately true, even if the fluid in question is partly, mostly or entirely one we’re all familiar with.

          Thing is, a lot of “doing what’s done” is a way of demonstrating that we’re the sort of trustworthy, aware, reasonable people who understand what to do and are willing to do it. Not because doing otherwise is intrinsically deeply horrible and shocking. (That’s how one generation’s shocking can become another’s fashion.)

          We all agree that it’s super gross and unacceptable to do X because it’s a hassle to deal with X, not because people who do X are putting themselves or anyone else at risk. (Sure, pee isn’t sterile, but neither are door handles, bannisters, sinks, kitchen sponges, or….well, practically any surface or subtance that people touch. Yoghurt’s a culture. So’s beer, so’s kombucha. So’re all the fine, fizzy krauts and fermented pickles that are so trendy. All are teaming with far more microbes than your coworker’s pee.)

          All kinds of things are different in pregnancy. People puke like it’s no big deal, get grossed out by things that were fine a few weeks prior, eat things in combinations, volumes and times that are entirely out of keeping with their regular behavior, sweat, flush, tear up. Some get uncharacteristically maudlin, others channel the wrath of the gods. Then there are the pregnancy-triggered, medically-diagnosable problems, like lethally-high blood pressure, depression, etc. Frequently those things have very different implications from what they’d normally mean. Pregnancy frees you from the assigned meaning–the social implications–of X.

          The chair doesn’t have to be cleaned because it’s dangerous; it has to be cleaned because it probably smells a bit like pee.

          1. pleaset*

            “Pregnancy frees you from the assigned meaning–the social implications–of X.

            The chair doesn’t have to be cleaned because it’s dangerous; it has to be cleaned because it probably smells a bit like pee.”


        2. Quill*

          Same: I was too young to remember anything about my mom’s pregnancy with my younger brother and I don’t have any close friends who have been pregnant.

        3. nnn*

          Seconded. As a childfree woman in my late 30s who hasn’t lived with a pregnant person since I was a toddler, there are more gaps in my knowledge than people who have been through pregnancy would expect. c.f. the time I jumped off the couch and screamed because my pregnant cousin’s baby moved in a way you could see from the outside, and I had no idea that was a thing.

          1. The Original K.*

            Ha, I’ve never been pregnant but I did know it was a thing, and I still jumped and kind of recoiled when a pregnant former coworker’s baby kicked and I could see the foot. I found it unnerving.

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              It is unnerving. For some reason I always think about the Alien-scene with John Hurt and while I definitely know that it is not the same, when I can clearly see a small foot that’s the image that pups up in my mind.

                1. Midwest writer*

                  Have had three babies. Agree. I used to tell people I felt a little like a character in Alien, with said alien trying to bust out. People would give me weird looks, as though being pregnant meant I had to love everything about it.

              1. Clorinda*

                I don’t think that’s an unreasonable connection, Owl. Alien is sort of a ‘what if men got pregnant’ movie in a ‘how horrifying would that be’ kind of way. A creature grows inside you! It lives on your energy! It has to come OUT somehow! And then it has a mind of its own and makes incessant demands. That’s not even subtext, that’s straight-up text.

              2. SpaceySteph*

                For our facebook announcement for the first kid we bought a plushy chest burster and stuck it out through a hole cut in my shirt, plus some fake blood around it and splattered on my husband’s face. After my daughter was born, my husband remarked that the picture was much more accurate than he imagined. I am grateful not to have had the view he had.

        1. it's me*

          Yes, apparently quite a few men think that. What’s interesting to me about that is that they also seem to think we can but willfully choose not to, for some reason. Craziness? Grossness? Who knows. Anyway!

          1. Grace*

            Well, there was apparently a man (working somewhere unspecified in the US government) who refused to have tampon dispensers in the women’s toilets because “they shouldn’t be doing things like that at work!”, which, when questioned, turned out to mean that he thought women got sexual pleasure from using tampons and the absorbent uses were just a nice benefit.

            He literally refused to let women access tampons when caught unawares because he thought they were the same thing as dildos.

            So… Maybe some men think that we choose to bleed because then we get to use those sexy sexy tampons?

          2. Helena*

            I know, do they think that about all bleeding?

            “Oh you silly stabbing victim, just hold onto the blood into your neck veins and you’ll be fine! You’re just WILFULLY bleeding out now”

          3. Artemesia*

            Well these same men think women pee from their vagina, so if they can control pee then of course they can control amniotic fluid or menstrual fluid. Just common sense; women are just lazy and want to get to use all those luxury hygiene products instead of just disciplining themselves.

            1. HBJ*

              Honestly, it’s not that weird to me that they might think that! I’ve known some men personally who did. If they didn’t get a good enough education on it in school or from their mom, is it that surprising? On men, sexual function and urine are the same hole.

              We need to educate better on how the reproductive and urinary systems work.

      6. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’m an almost 60 year old woman, never had children, and I know expecting mothers have to go to the bathroom a lot more because their bladders are getting pressed on 24/7…but for some reason, I never thought of this. It seems like your body surprises you a lot when you’re pregnant!

      7. pleaset*

        I don’t know much about pregnancy. Guy in my 50s. My wife had one child.

        “most are also only going to care that OP is okay.”
        For sure.

      8. Elenna*

        IDK, I’m a 23 year old woman and I had no idea people could randomly pee themselves during pregnancy. (I did know, mostly from fanfiction, that pregnant women often need to go to the washroom more often, but I didn’t really extrapolate from there.) It’s just a matter of never having known anyone who was pregnant (my only sibling is only two years younger than me, I don’t remember her birth) and not having done any particular research about it.
        (I did read What To Expect When You’re Expecting for fun as a 7 year old. I was a weird kid. I’ve pretty much forgotten most of it, though.)

        1. Artemesia*

          Many women who are not pregnant randomly pee themselves when they cough or sneeze — even young women, but more often older women. It is a big problem when you are very old especially if you have had children.

      9. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

        I’ve found, quite sadly, that most men (and an alarming number of women as well) don’t know there’s two holes down there, one for urinating, and the other for menstruating, intercourse, and otherwise. So unfortunately there’s plenty of misinformation and just general lack of knowledge around pregnancy and anything to do with women’s health. Many men are still under the impression that we can control our periods and can squeeze it all out at once on the toilet.
        Does anyone else remember that one congressman (or something) who was saying that women should swallow a camera in order to see their fetus and therefore discourage abortions?
        And let’s not forget the whole “the woman’s body has a way to shut that whole thing down” w/r/t pregnancy happening during a [TW] sexual assault. Apparently they think that things down there can just clamp closed like a venus fly trap.
        That’s the beauty of abstinence-only sex education.

      10. Pommette!*

        Yes there are! I’m childless and in my late thirties, and am still pretty ignorant about pregnancy. I didn’t think that I was ignorant (I love biology! I took embryology classes in undergrad!) until my close friends started getting pregnant. And most of them – curious and well-educated women who had read a lot about pregnancy and felt prepared – were surprised by some of what they experienced. And they all had different experiences.

        Pregnancy is, for lack of a better word, weird – and very idiosyncratic. Some common elements (e.g. morning sickness, uterus putting pressure on various organs, including bladder) are widely talked about and taught. Some common risks should be discussed more widely, because they continue to cause death and disability (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, I’m looking at you!). But there are lots that you don’t hear about until or unless you or someone close to you lives through it. Which, given low birth rates and small, often age- and gender-specific social circles, could mean never.

        I’m assuming that the OP’s colleagues either didn’t know much about pregnancy, and weren’t sure what happened to her, or knew enough to know that there are lots of thing that could cause a leak and that, so long as the OP is doing well, there is no need to wonder about what happened.

        1. Midwest writer*

          I had high blood pressure at one appointment at 36 weeks. I asked the OB what caused pre-eclampsia and she told me if I could figure that out, to let everyone know, because science still hadn’t determined exactly why some women develop it and others don’t. It was 2011 and I was SHOCKED. Like, babies are born every day, lots of women develop this, but we’re just guessing about why?

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Honestly, given the minuscule percentage of medical research studies that use women as subjects, it’s a wonder that we know as much about women’s bodies as we do.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      Exactly- I am not familiar at all with pregnancy, and I would rather not think about the intimate details of my coworker’s reproductive system. As long as I know they are safe/healthy/etc I would accept “she’s pregnant” as an explanation for basically anything and not think about it further.

      1. Joielle*

        Same! I’m at an age where a lot of my friends are having kids, and I feel like every time, I learn another horrifying thing that can happen to the human body during pregnancy. Whatever it is, if the coworker says she’s ok, I’d just think “huh, weird” and probably never think about it again.

      2. A*

        Yup! My pregnant coworkers could get away with a lot if they wanted to in my mind – they could literally say ‘pregnancy related’ to most anything, and I’d just assume it to be true. In the OP’s situation, once it was determined that she was ok – I wouldn’t think anything more of it beyond…hmm… must be..pregnancy fluid?

    4. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

      I agree. As someone who has never been and never will be pregnant (inshallah) my main worry at such a meeting would be calibrating how worried I should be about OP, if we should reschedule the meeting or find coverage to allow her time to recover, etc. So if OP is easy breezy about it, that’s a huge relief for me, and easy for me to follow suit!

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, this doesn’t answer your question but it might be something practical to think about for your next board meeting: lined panties (not pads) specifically made for those problems. When I’ve had my colonoscopies I used two and three of them at a time to provide extra safety during the pre-procedure process. They aren’t thick enough to attract attention and having more than one can feel extra secure. Keep more in your purse or desk maybe along with a couple of plastic grocery sacks for disposal. Good luck!

      1. 2 Cents*

        Not to rain on the parade but Thinx, specifically, are really tight fitting and depending on OP’s shape, might be less than comfortable (or impossible to wear) at this point. I’d wear a heavy-duty pad at this point and change frequently.

        OP, I guarantee 99% of the people in there thought they were about to help you deliver. I hope the remaining weeks go smoothly!

        1. doreen*

          Not pregnant- but have some “stress incontinence” post-menopause. I find that pads specifically meant for bladder leaks work better than menstrual pads.

        2. Dahlia*

          Urine and blood are also very different consistencies. I’m not sure they’d even work. Plus they only go up to a 3x.

        3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          OP, I guarantee 99% of the people in there thought they were about to help you deliver.
          We’ve just had a lady from our HR department start having contractions in the middle of giving an interview!
          As the first aider on-site, I was scrambling to find Emergency Child Birth in the manual (page 223, it turns out). Dodged that scenario by approximately 90 minutes – her little boy was born minutes after arriving at the maternity unit.

          (I have no idea how far into the interview she went, but the interviewee was invited back for a do-over!)

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Awww, I love this comment. I too was a super fast baby (my mom said she started getting contractions, called her friend for a ride to the ER, then she went and walked while waiting for said friend, friend showed up, off they zoomed to the ER, and BAM, 60 minutes later, here comes your truly). My goodness I would’ve been petrified, but good on your company for including that topic! lololol

    1. Moo*

      I also suggest cloth pads – they are great for more than just periods, and some even come in postpartum strength which should absorb quite a bit of urine. I’ve never personally used the postpartum ones (I didn’t start using them until my daughter was a couple years old), but I have some super heavy ones and they have been a godsend. I still wear at least a liner style one most days just in case, because ever since giving birth, sneezes are hazardous :P

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Also, there are different grades of liners/pads. The Poise overnight long pads hold more “ooops” than a thin panty liner.

      Stress-based urinary incontinence* affects 1 in 3 women, not just during pregnancy.

      Bodies are weird that way. Pregnancy makes your bladder touchy and seem small.

      *Stress-based meaning coughing, laughing, or even sudden movements.

  5. Cathie Fonz*

    OP4, I have twice been in the position of working as a university administrator during a union strike at our university. We administrators were expected to make up for some of the striking workers. I filled in at the student residence cafeteria and I did clerical work at the hospital during the strike, because I felt that the residence students and the medical patients were innocent parties and shouldn’t be penalized in this situation. However, we did receive several hundred dollars in bonus pay for this work, and I sent a cheque to the union strike pay fund.

    1. Gamymede*

      It might be helpful for OP4 to think of strikes as “the bosses’ problem”. This is not OP’s dispute, and it is for the management to solve it. So indeed, if your own work is affected you need to bat it back to management.

      I know that is easier said than done, especially in high-stakes situations, but this mindset might be useful even if you do end up having to work a lot harder during the strike.

    2. PhyllisB*

      Re #4; I can speak to this because I used to be a long distance operator for Bellsouth (South Central Bell in my day.) I don’t know if you are in the US, but I can tell you that if you are non-union and a strike is called, you WILL be expected to cover, and you WILL be fired if you refuse. Of course, phone company is all union except for supervisors/managers. We had the option not to join, and some didn’t, but if you didn’t, you were fully expected to work during a strike.
      Now it’s been over 30 years since I walked a picket line so I don’t know how things play out during a strike anymore, but be fully prepared to hear catcalls and be labeled a scab. Some people say worse, but that’s one you can count on. (I never did that because I tried to understand circumstances, but…) Do not make eye contact with anyone, just keep moving. Legally no one is allowed to touch you or block your access to the building. If this happens, just leave and report to the company. They won’t expect you to be perfect in your new duties, just keep the company functioning. Just pray for a quick resolution to the strike!!

      1. PhyllisB*

        Just a personal story: during one strike my sister-in-law, who had the exact name as me (yep, same first and same last) decided it would be “fun” to be an operator for a little while so she went up there and worked during a strike. In the union hall they posted a list of strike-breakers and there was “my” name for all to see. I was on maternity leave and I wasn’t walking the line then, so everyone did think it was me. (Of course they weren’t seeing me crossing the line, either but no one thought of that!!) I got some very ugly reaction to that. I finally had to call my Big Boss to intervene and tell them it WASN’T ME!!! It took me a long time to forgive my SIL for that.

    3. JSPA*

      Excellent answer.

      When forced to cross a picket (not to scab, but because our organization wasn’t able to break a contract at a hotel with picketing staff) I’ve just apologized.

      If you tell people that you’re not in a unionizable position or else you’d join the union…that you’d never do it voluntarily, that you’ll be back to walk with them when your event or shift is over, and/or that you’d like to make an immediate donation to the fund, and/or (where relevant) that you’ll take it up with your decision makers to get a “strike alternative” clause in the next contract, people tend to be super gracious, actually.

      1. epi*

        Yep, this. Until recently I was in a position that was barred by state law from unionizing. But in practice my pay and benefits have always followed the contract of a similar group of workers that is represented by a union. I support them and would have joined if I could. Well, last year they had a strike. Not only did they picket the building where I work, they picketed another where I go for medical care. (We’re a university with a medical center.)

        Many unions will publicly share information to help sympathetic non-members show solidarity. You just may need to look a little because they will be busy and they probably won’t be making their blog match their Twitter. IME it has also been OK to make direct contact with whoever they have doing communications with the public, and ask. They are not going to be able to answer really specific questions, but they should be prepared to respond to something general like, I support you but am not protected by a union and am being asked to cross your picket line. IME, union folks get that you need to keep your job– that is why they do what they do! I’ve never experienced the slightest judgment or hostility about asking questions like that.

        When I had to cross a line as a patient, I just walked up, thanked them for what they were doing, and apologized and explained the situation. They were really lovely about it, it wasn’t a problem at all. On days I had to work, I did it from home or from another building so I wouldn’t have to cross the picket line.

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I work in a company where management employees are expected to handle unionized roles during a strike. The company makes sure that we have an assignment and are trained. Everyone is expected to work extra hours in the event of the strike, even those exempt from assignments in critical roles (so they’ll leave a skeleton crew to cover for major contracts or regulatory requirements). For us, normal company travel policy applies – for example, I was assigned to the opposite coast one year so I would have used the corporate credit card to cover the expensive last minute plane ticket to the location, hotel, per diem for meals, and rental vehicle.

      Management for our company is also fully aware that a strike will mean that the day to day stuff for those taking on temporary roles won’t get done. They’re also aware we’re not going to be as effective as those who are on strike. It’s a cost the company has chosen to take on for negotiating.

  6. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, you don’t state your relationship to this new PM though it doesn’t sound like he is your supervisor. Is he a peer or indirectly above (or below) you?

    If what he says is true I can understand his desperation but even a payday loan would be better for him that badgering a co-worker (though I think those places require seeing a couple of paychecks). If he has a credit card that is not maxed out he can use a cash advance or (better) charge his gas and groceries. But I am guessing he has maxed any cards he has out.

    Maybe you can suggest his church, if he goes to one, can help with a loan but like Alison says you are not responsible for this.

    1. valentine*

      OP1 sounds like his manager (he […] asked if I needed him to do anything over the weekend). Whatever the hierarchy, OP1 has done well not to engage further with this boundary trampler.

      1. LilyP*

        I read the “if I needed him to do anything” bit as him asking if she could hire him to do any miscellaneous work (yard work, babysitting, etc) over the weekend, not asking about work instructions. I think he is a peer or somehow lateral to the letter writer.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I read it as working both ways. An excuse to chase her down in the parking lot in case she said “oops, wait, now I have that money for you.” With undercurrents of “see what a hard worker I am?”

            Totally works as asking her to pay him to move a mulch pile, but I could see where he is haplessly attempting to make a good impression, and his words and actions are all now going to go through the gimme-money filter.

        1. A*

          Oh wow – I hadn’t even thought of that. My mind immediately went to the employee asking OP if they needed any office-related work done over the weekend. OP felt uncomfortable because it was an unusual question and was used as an opportunity for the employee to once again engage w OP (in the hope that ‘help’ would be offered).


    2. Devil Fish*

      PSA: Credit card cash advances are the devil. There is no grace period on that category so the interest starts accruing from the day you take the money out and if your credit card has a 0% intro APR, it almost never applies to cash (check your terms but I’ve never seen it and I worked the phones for credit card services for 8 years). The cash advance interest rate is also usually a lot higher than the purchase interest rate (again: check your terms).

      You are always better off just charging the groceries, gas, utility bills, whatever than you are taking a cash advance to pay for it.

      PSA 2: If you use a credit card to pay for a money order (like for rent) or to make a car payment or a bail bond or a few other things, that transaction is run as a cash advance instead of as a purchase and the cash advance rules apply (higher interest rate, no grace). There’s no way for the merchant or the bank/card issuer to change that, it’s just how the system is set up since you’re “buying money” rather than goods or services.

      Banks are the devil. Be careful everybody!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        This. And most of the ways to get around that are going to get the merchant in trouble. The “I’ll give you a $100 tip and you give me $90 in cash” trick usually results in the business losing the entire $100 “tip.”

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Many property managers now accept credit cards with a jacked up fee as well that’s way more reasonable than any cash advance option!

      3. Veronica*

        As using cards has become more common, landlords are taking them too. My landlord takes rent payment on cards.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The original comment states if you use it to buy a Money order to pay your rent. That would be a cash advance.

          But yes, you can use it if your landlord accepts it as a form of payment! They love to tack on a large fee though to avoid paying bank fees themselves and losing money on their properties. So expect a 20% fee if you use a card instead of an automated bank withdrawal.

          The landlord with multiple properties are more likely to have this but if you’re renting from someone with just one or two rental houses, less likely to be an option.

          But then again I know people who can pay their rent with Venmo now [from what I’ve read it’s not recommended but it’s a thing that still happens]. So you’d be able to attach a card to that and use it that way as well.

      4. Beaded Librarian*

        Oh wow i did not know that about rent. I’m glad I use my debit card for that. Thanks for the information on that!

        1. Veronica*

          They might be charging a fee for debit card too. If I understand correctly, a Visa/MC debit card incurs the same fees to the merchant as a credit card. You should be able to find out by looking at the screen or fine print when you pay.
          I use “electronic check”, where the landlord debits direct from my bank account and gives me a confirmation number for the payment.
          I also use cash for shopping as much as possible, to keep money out of the hands of card companies.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It may depend on the debit card and how the bank codes them. Some don’t have charges, some do.

            Some are coded essentially like a walking e-check so they don’t charge you the same as the ones coded on the V/M services.

    3. MJ*

      If he’s going to his supervisor about this, he might have gone to those under him. As a manager, he shouldn’t be pressuring them to give their money to him. I hope the OP checks whether he has gone to anyone else.

      1. Laurelma_01!*

        1. New employee is hinting he wants me to give him money

        I’m not sure if I am reading this correctly. But I would take the multiple attempts and following out to the car as a form of harassment. If I was the supervisor and found out, it would make me question the individual’s judgment. Is the OP a woman? The following out to the parking lot if the OP is a woman adds an additional creepy vipe. It would spook me if it happened to me.

        I think the Salvation Army will help in this situation also. Our local one will give $25.00 in this type of situation. Many charities that would help are only open during business hours.

    4. Ms Cappuccino*

      I haven’t seen an indication that the employee is a Christian and goes to church.
      OP there is no reason to feel bad for not helping. You have been helpful enough by suggesting he requests an advance.
      If he doesn’t want to do it, it is not your problem! Even if he requests an advance, and it is declined, still not your problem! You aren’t the bank, his mum, a close friend …
      If he talks about it again on Monday shut him up ! It’s not acceptable to follow you to your car to talk about his issues. He’s out of line.
      If he pressures you enough and you lend him money, you are likely to never see it back and he will probably ask again. You’ll never see the end of it.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Our old pastor once recounted during a sermon how he would receive calls, either at the church or at his home, from people seeking financial help. My feeling was that these people were not members of his church either. They were desperate people knowing that churches will sometimes help.

        And sometimes, the pastor would help.

        1. lawyer*

          This is super common and every church I’ve belonged to has had a fund that is available for the pastor to use at her discretion to assist people who directly ask for help. As someone who’s been a lay leader in multiple churches, about 75% of the time those are people who aren’t members. It’s really common for people to actually just physically come to the church and ask for assistance (often for small stuff, like bus fare to a homeless shelter but sometimes for help covering an electric bill or something similar). We used to keep a stack of grocery gift cards and bus tokens in the pastor’s office in addition to cash.

          Members are often reluctant to ask for help because it’s hard to tell someone you know personally that you’re in financial need.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          They also often know where local programs that CAN help are located. Near me, the food pantry is run out of the Catholic church and the health clinic out of one of the Jewish temples. You don’t have to attend either to use the services.

        3. DataGirl*

          I’m Jewish. I’ve gone to a food pantry at a Christian church when things were very, very bad. Part of any good religious organization’s mission is going to be ministry to those in need, whether they are members or not.

        4. Laurelma_01!*

          Some churches will have a pantry to help the local community. They may not give cash but will give food to non members.

      2. Snarflepants*

        Religious Institutions often have free food hampers for those in need. Usually its accessible by members of the public

      3. JSPA*

        The emergency services run by our local religious organizations (mostly churches, also synagogues and mosques and at least at one point, a humanist “church” and some wiccans) don’t discriminate on the basis of the religion of the person receiving services, nor the person donating. It’s refreshing, after dealing with discrimination from some of the larger (national / international) religious organizations. To be fair, I guess the kosher / halal foods are largely reserved for the communities needing them–but not, I believe, to the point of someone else going hungry at that instant.

        We’ve had questions and answers along those lines here before, actually! “Hit your coworker up for money” has not been one of the suggested solutions. Ask if someone lives near you and can carpool for the next week, with payment the week after? That’s more reasonable. (So’s figuring out how you can live in your car at the nearby walmart for a week, if that’s what it takes to get to work with no gas money to drive back-and-forth. Temporary homelessness is a lot better than losing a job, and ending up permanently homeless.)

        If the situation came from a catastrophe, all kinds of orgs would be reasonable to ask. If not, the coworker’s dramatic, immediate crisis is at least in part their own lack of planning. It’s hard not to know that you’re desperately low on cash, and need to make other arrangements.

        1. Beaded Librarian*

          The small town I used to live in had a ministerial association that most the the 13 or so churches of various denominations participated in. They helped run the food bank and provided funding and had vouchers to the local grocery store for perishable items. You didn’t have to be a member of any of them and I think it was sometimes easier to reach out the the association versus your own church for help like has been mentioned.

      4. 2 Cents*

        For many churches (at least Protestant one’s I’ve belonged to), you don’t need to be a member or have ever attended a service to receive aid.

        1. Debbie-Helvetica now*

          My church (Presbyterian if it matters) runs a monthly food pantry, free, but it’s first-come, first-served. You don’t need to be a member. Also a clothing closet on the same day.
          And our church will help out people seeking financial help, but only one time. And they don’t get money, they get help with what they need money for (e.g., if their electric is cut off, we’ll pay the electric company directly.
          Yes, we’ve been scammed and had to set up restrictions. But we still want to help those with true need.

          1. DataGirl*

            The Lutheran church down the road from us does school related events where they give away backpacks full of school supplies, or sell Prom dresses for $5. They are open to the whole community, no proof of income or membership needed.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          My mother’s Catholic Church has a food bank and I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to get food from them. In fact, the town recently did a food drive with boxes for donations at local businesses, and the donations went to the church’s food bank. The town would not have done that if the church was going to refuse to give the food to certain people.

          There’s also a secular food bank a few towns over where she volunteers.

      5. Avasarala*

        I agree. OP there are 37472 people he knows better than you whom he could have asked for money if he needed it. His neighbor who is giving him groceries. Other neighbors. Other family. A significant other. Friends from college. Old coworker-turned-drinking-buddy. His supervisor (ie actually asking for a pay advance). A bank. A loan company. A charity.

        But he didn’t ask you for money. He’s trying to get you to offer it.

        Do you think someone who is this indirect and shady would pay you back on time? Would not “misinterpret” it as a gift? Wouldn’t guilt trip you into forgiving it, and maybe even getting more money from you?

        Make him ask you for money explicitly. Then tell him NO. And don’t feel bad. If he really needed it he wouldn’t be asking a new coworker at his new workplace (seriously would you ever consider doing that, of course not, it would be so presumptuous and awkward).

    5. Budgieman*

      I used to work for a large bank in Australia many (many) years ago.
      Asking to borrow money from another employee was heavily frowned upon, and you could lose your job over it, as their attitude was that you needed to be able to manage your own finances before you could manage anyone else’s.
      A very helpful company policy, that stops anything like this happening.
      Side note – Same bank: I saw someone shown the door because they stole a few dollars from the “coffee club” It was drilled into us from day 1 that “There are no levels of dishonesty within the organisation”.

      1. Ermintrude*

        Side note: pity those running the Big Four haven’t felt the same way.
        That level of integrity is pretty outstanding.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Financial insecurity in the banking world is a huge flag since they are then worried if you have no boundaries than to ask a colleague for cash, you’re going to be more likely to “borrow” from the cash stock.

        And yes, borrowing from petty cash and “club” funds should be an immediate dismissal not just in banking but more so, since you have more opportunity. That also means that you’re not going to get hired by another bank in the future since they have a lot more security checks in place!

        They ask your references about what they know about your financial situation as well D:

    6. Snuck*

      OP #1 you don’t know this guy at all… and thus owe him basically nothing.

      Is he playing to your emotions, or genuinely in need…?

      If you really wanted to help him then the next question is “why”? Why help him? When you sort that out… move on to:

      “If I help him, is there a limit to what I will do?” And then “Just this time, or is this an ongoing deal?”

      And then “What sort of help can I offer that is most helpful? Not for him, but what can I afford to offer, that will be most valuable to him – and not too expensive (time, money, reputation, mental headspace) for me…?”

      THEN.. decide if you want to help him.

      If you don’t… you certainly do not have to.

      Alternatives to giving him money could include:
      Print out of food banks and local church offerings in his area that might be able to spot him fuel
      Helping him find a ride share in for his commute
      Buying him a bag of groceries or a tank of fuel (ok… so this is money, but it’s not cash)
      Helping him navigate the work flow to get an advance – find him the links and forms and encourage him to talk to HR
      Talking to his manager and explain what he has been doing and ask for their advice
      Other things I am sure others will suggest.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Sounds like sooooo (i.e. too) much effort for a guy she doesn’t even know.

        I wonder if he’s targeting OP because she’s a woman and women tend to be seen as more empathetic, more likely to feel bad and help out, an easier mark than males, etc.

        1. Snuck*

          Oh yeah. Too much effort for ME as well! Hahahaha.

          I would want to watch and wait and see with this guy. Is he targeting her? Is he targeting others? Is he actually paying money back/showing signs of being solidly trustworthy? Is he acting in good faith when he asks? Etc.

          So not my monkeys/circus …

          But I am also a person who likes to help, who finds this stuff hard. So I thought I’d lay out my thinking process, and in it there might be a chance for the OP to find their own answer. I’d feel challenged by this, and could easily afford to give them $50 for fuel… and thus might… but I’d do it knowing that if I never see the money again then I’d have to make my peace with it… and sometimes $50 is worth it, for me to gauge a person’s quality … if they pay me back… great… if they don’t… that’s worth knowing early about some people. If I couldn’t afford to not get it back… I wouldn’t lend it. If I could afford to give it, and wanted to… then gift it, rather than lend it… but if they ask for more, you don’t have to gift more etc…

          When helping people… thinking it out … before it becomes another follow to the car… is worthwhile.

    7. Anon Librarian*

      I wouldn’t assume that he’s genuinely as much in need as he says he is. The way he kept asking and then followed OP to her car makes it sound more like an attempt to intimidate her. I say this because people have done similar things to me and it almost always comes out later than they were doing ok and that it was just an attempt to exercise power over me.

      People who have good intentions but are genuinely in need tend to be a lot more subtle about it, and often ask for suggestions and resources instead of singling out one person and asking them for money.

      But, with that in mind, there’s an easy way to shut this down. Tell them it’s not possible for you to help. Then email them a list of helpful resources. Mention any line-crossing behavior in the email. “And please don’t follow me to my car again,” or whatever applies.

      This way, it’s clear that you’re trying to help and you also have something in writing in case the person continues to be weird. It covers both possibilities.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, I found something about his requests etc off-putting in a way that made me think he wasn’t as in need as he says.
        The LW sounds too nice, but I’d be tempted to tell him he’s going to have even more of a cash flow problem if he loses the new job due to harassing coworkers for money. (I do help people in need where I can but it’s a very small amount which it doesn’t sound like this dude is asking for).

        1. Anon Librarian*

          It isn’t her job, or her responsibility. It’s a safety precaution. One option among several. This option involved establishing a record of the incident while also leaving open the possibility that he means no harm and is geniunely in a bad situation.

      2. Shoes On My Cat*

        I like this! If it’s a true situation, then he will know she cares, has boundaries, plus some suggestions for real solutions to his tough situation. And if he’s a scammer, receiving that email might put him off enough to leave OP alone. I’d still bring it up with his manager as Alison suggested, since he may also be going after his direct reports, who would be even more vulnerable.

      3. Shamy*

        I agree with you. Maybe I am projecting a bit too much, but I know as someone who is in a rough financial state at the moment, I really don’t mention how bad my sitch truly is beyond the occasional, “oh things are a bit tight for us at the moment.” Others I know that are struggling tend to be the same. It took a lot for me to open up to my closest family and friends about it and even then it wasn’t that I was trying to extract money, but more…shame that we had made some decisions putting us into this predicament; I wanted some reassurance that we weren’t sucky people for the choices we made. One did offer some assistance and I turned her down because I felt like we put ourselves here, we need to figure it out.

    8. Beth*

      The LW has no way of knowing if the new employee is actually in financial difficulties. The whole thing sounds way too much like a con to me. (Admittedly, I have had so many sob stories pitched at me that I’ve become over-suspicious.)

      I’d start asking around to find out if he’s panhandling his other co-workers, and I would make sure his manager knew about it.

      1. Veronica*

        My experience with such people is it’s their habit. The ones I’ve encountered, beginning in grade school, weren’t trying to con me. They were in the habit of asking everyone for money all the time, and rarely paying it back. After a couple of experiences I set a boundary of saying “sorry, no” when I was asked for money. I sometimes became friends with them, but they knew I wouldn’t give them money.
        I’ve known two or three colleagues like this and it looked like the same thing, a habit of asking for money. A habit of spending all they have, then asking people for more to get by till payday.

        1. Laurelma_01!*

          This is a lifestyle with some people. I hate to say this, but my brother is this way. He gets paid once a week under the table, and it’s spent in 2 – 3 days. Mainly gambling. Than it becomes your problem that he doesn’t have cash for gas, food or cigarettes. Usually when it’s a lifestyle they hit up everyone around them. Wonder if this happened at prior job? If you have a co-worker or employee that does this, they can become person non-grata. When you have someone like that, people will do anything to avoid them at work. It can become a problem if people do not want to interact with him.

          The following out to the car is a form of intimination. He thought if he cornered you, you would give him money. Goodness, I would hate to work with him. I feel sorry for someone that ever gave him money, because he would expect them to be a permanent ATM. I would go to HR, let them handle it & notify your supervisor.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      If he is genuinely in desperate straits, he almost certainly does not have unused credit just sitting around that he’s not bothering to spend on food and gas.

      The practical advice is exactly what OP gave him, ask for an advance. His coming back from that with “Well gosh it turns out it has to be approved, can you give me money instead?” is what really makes me scoot way back and figure this is a scammer. (Though it’s also possible he’s someone whose experience of “well there’s a step before you get the oney” is that that means “no.” Like disability benefits that are supposed to be denied to everyone who asks, figuring only the actually hurt ones will follow it up by re-applying and re-re-applying.)

      Sadly, you can be manipulative (good at spotting someone who will feel bad about denying you help) and either running a scam or in desperate need.

    10. MatKnifeNinja*


      I have a relative that is a first class grifter. She does to to this to EVERYONE. Her story is a single mom, two kids blah blah blah. If she worked as hard at her job, as she did at grifting, she’d be wealthy.

      She should be firing up the “my kids need a Christmas”, pretty soon. She’ll hit up all the small Protestant churches in various area. Usually she returns all the gifts for cash back and sells the gift cards. Gross is the understatement.

      I never hand cash out any more. If your conscience is really chewing on your brain, get one of those grocery store gift cards and loaded it up with some cash. Mind you, it can be resold for cash, but it slows down the buying drugs, booze, gambling, eBaying (see relative above) and other behaviors that siphon away money.

      I offer to pay a bill. Rent, gas, electric, groceries…kids need diapers. The people who have gotten angry about the above offer are usually diverting money given for to groceries to something else.

      Just because someone has a nice white collar job, doesn’t mean they can’t be scamming. The above relative makes $70K, which is a decent salary for where I live. She grifts like she is homeless.

      OP maybe this guy is legit, and clueless. The store card can get him food, toilet paper and some soap. Personally, it would be an easy no for me because the above relative has used and abused my family too many times.

      If your area has a food bank, give him that information too. Find out if there are requirements to use them. The two in my area have a screening process. It’s not just show up and no questions asked.

      And no. Coworkers should not be hitting up anyone at the work place for cash.

      1. Life is Good*

        I used to have a co-worker like this. She would start in just about every morning. She didn’t have enough money to buy lunch; her daughter was going to be in a special awards ceremony and didn’t have money to buy a new dress; all the screens in her house were holey and she couldn’t afford to fix them and couldn’t open her windows on hot days, etc., etc., etc. So many people in my office gave her money to be earmarked for these many needs only to see her sporting new jewelry, clothes, etc. She approached me in my first week there about needing money to buy groceries for her five children. I had just started and said I was sort of in the same boat. I’m not suggesting OP’s new coworker is a grifter necessarily, but he is making things uncomfortable for his colleague by panhandling in the office. I think I’d just be up front with him about not being able to help. It is creepy that he followed her to her car. I probably would say something to a higher-up. This would be a scary situation for me.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Perhaps it’s cynical, but I take a similar approach. Very, very rarely will I give cash to anyone, but I have offered to buy items directly for people. The ones who really are in need are thrilled to get a sandwich/bag of groceries/tank of gas/etc. The ones who balk and insist on cash….. yeah not so much.

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

          Yep, if you really really want to help someone, go with them to pay the rent directly to the landlord or utility bill to the company. My first thought on this guy is that he has debts that he doesn’t want his family to know about — drugs, gambling, a mistress… He won’t go through traceable channels like a pay advance because then the spouse will want to know what’s up.

          But really, if he’s in such deep trouble as he claims, an advance won’t help, he’ll still have rent to pay and groceries to buy next month and a reduced paycheck to pay back the advance. If he’s new, who’s to say he’ll even still be employed by next month.

        2. Perpal*

          I only give cash to people I know and trust; these people also don’t hard pressure, more like put out an announcement on social media and we offer to help etc

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “If your conscience is really chewing on your brain, get one of those grocery store gift cards and loaded it up with some cash.”

        I get what you’re saying here, I really do, but even a store grocery card will be cash out of OP’s pocket and she doesn’t even know the guy!!! It’s one thing if it’s a friend/relative (I have a sister who I will pay a bill for but not give cash “for the heat” too…so I get that too) but this is a stranger…not just “just a coworker” but a stranger who among other things followed her to her car…all on day two.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          The reason I said about the gift card…

          I have friends that are Christian, as in Jesus helps everyone without judging Christian.

          They would have gave that guy $300 and filled up his gas tank no questions asked. They don’t have the money to really do it.

          The $50 grocery card keeps them from totally getting take, and relieves any potential guilt. Also if office guy is purely hustling, he won’t re-circle to OP right away. Reselling gift cards is a PITA. Cash is better.

          No, OP doesn’t owe this guy a thing. But if she is anything like the few people I know, saying no to “people in need”, goes against their fundamental belief system. It bothers them into ruminating on it. They feel like a failure, because Jesus didn’t “judge” and neither should they.

          So gift card. Small potatoes if it’s a hustle, or enough to keep him going until check time.

      4. AKchic*

        I housed a world-class grifter for 7 months. It was terrible. She lied to everyone, including her own family. Once the “support network” who thought we were helping her out of a bad situation finally were able to compare notes, we realized we were all getting different variations of calculated lies meant to keep her safely unemployed in my home, still supported by a network of women who were trying to keep abused women safe. She was not happy when her free ride ended.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Oh my goodness–I once housed a grifter for 7 months, too! She told me her landlord was selling her house and wanted her out so she could do repairs and put it on the market. I told her she could live with me for free as long as she saved all of her money to move out. At the time, we both freelanced for the same companies, so I knew exactly how much work was available, as well as how much each project paid. She could have EASILY done $3,000 worth of work per month without even breaking a sweat. At the end of one month, she didn’t even have $100 saved. I told her if she wasn’t going to save money, she had to pay $275 a month toward rent and utilities. The first month, she was late. She didn’t pay me the second and third months. It took me 7 months to get rid of her. Once she was gone, I found out she’d been evicted for non-payment of rent.

    11. Justme, The OG*

      Payday loans are illegal in a lot of places, my state included. Still doesn’t give the new hire the right to ask a practical stranger for money, though.

    12. Just Elle*

      I mean, I’ve been there, I once had to move across the country for a job (including a security deposit on an apartment), and then my first paycheck didn’t come for a month. It was very tight. The delay between working and paychecks can be a big, big deal.

      But this does NOT, in any way, make it acceptable to discuss your money woes with your new coworkers, let alone pressure them to provide financial support. OP, this is a classic case of “not my circus, not my monkeys” please, please do not let this guy put the burden of his financial insecurities on your shoulders. You are not a ‘bad’ or even ‘less than stellar’ person for not offering to loan money to a perfect stranger who has given you detailed information about his inability to pay you back anytime soon.

      1. Shamy*

        I am always in awe of people that are so brazen as to ask. We are in a rough financial situation right now and I literally cannot wrap my head around that level of entitlement. I am uncomfortable even asking my friends and family for $5. My coworkers…? Fuhgeddaboutit!

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Same here! I had a heart attack last year and ended up with about $12,000 in medical bills. I still owe about $6,000, and I’ve already paid an additional $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses this year for things like medicine, copays for office visits, labs, and so forth. So many people have offered to set up a GoFundMe, but I would be totally embarrassed, and I would never even ask for $20 to go toward these bills. It might take me until 2022 to pay off the balance, but I’m not going to ask for help.

      2. Venus*

        We had a new grad who had moved across the country, and the workplace was known for being slow with the first paycheck (it was every 2 weeks, but offset 2 weeks, so the first one wasn’t for a month and would likely not be for the full amount). As coworkers, we essentially didn’t give them much choice in asking for an advance (obviously we did give them a choice, but they were really nice and kept telling us not to bother, so we ignored them and got them everything they needed to do the paperwork). They commented later that they really appreciated it, as they were living in a temporary place while they looked for a place to live, and were a bit stressed about money when they didn’t need to be.

        The equivalent scenario to OP1 is to offer the coworker help in finding the person who does the approvals, and introducing them. I have a lot of sympathy for someone who is struggling financially when they start their new job, but in this case it can be resolved with some paperwork.

    13. smoke tree*

      For me, this guy lost his plausible deniability when he a) didn’t follow up on a helpful piece of advice because it was too inconvenient, and b) got really aggressive with a new coworker he barely knows. I would be highly disinclined to donate anything at all to him, because it will just make him latch on tighter. I’d keep giving him advice rather than shelling out and I think he’ll move on to more promising targets. Speaking of which, I would also give his boss a heads up because he’s probably doing it to other coworkers too.

    14. Nan*

      It’s more like a team situation with him reporting progress to the client and management. I suspect this will pass and with the new job he will get back on his feet. Honestly, I hope not to have this conversation with him again.

      1. Observer*

        Please keep your guard up with this guy. He’s a boundary crosser and clearly willing to manipulate you and guilt you into helping him / giving him what he wants.

        And whatever happens, do NOT give him any money or equivalents. You would be perfectly justified to report what already happened to management. If you decide not to, though, it should absolutely be a “last chance”, in your own mind at least. If he ever asks you for money or anything like that again, please DO report it.

        1. Nan*

          Thanks to everyone for your advice. I am female.

          Today he interrupted a conversation I was having with another employee to ask for a cigarette. My coworker (who is an attorney) was taken aback. I shared my story about last Friday with him after that.

          Many of you have known people like this. Does it make him dangerous? Maybe, maybe not? What is strange, is he knows this is making me uncomfortable, but it doesn’t appear he is going to stop.

          I am going address this with him tomorrow and see how it goes.

  7. Heart*

    #1. I understand it was uncomfortable for you. Please use Alison’s script to tell him no if he asks again. But also. Please don’t get him fired by going to your boss. Give him the benefit of the doubt for a couple of weeks. He might just to totally despairing and trying to survive any way he can.

    If the behaviour repeats itself in a couple of weeks or so, then you can act. But please give him a chance to get his pay check and get back on his feet.

    1. valentine*

      Please don’t get him fired by going to your boss.
      He wouldn’t necessarily be fired (on the spot or for this) and if OP’s not his manager, it’ll be good for someone to stem his tide so he doesn’t target anyone (or everyone) else.

      1. PB*

        I agree. Most offenses aren’t in the “immediately fire” category. On the contrary, I think that OP should go to her boss if the behavior continues after she’s asked him to stop. If he’s pressuring her, her will likely pressure others. As a manager, I’d sure as heck want to know this was going on, not so I could fire the person, but so I could intervene. Also, even if he is let go, OP wouldn’t have “gotten him fired.” His actions would have done that.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, I don’t think this is a firing on the first offense – unless he’s asking for money from people he has authority over (and also presumably out-earns), in which case he needs to be gone ASAP regardless of his situation.

    2. Devil Fish*

      I hope this isn’t considered a fireable offense at most workplaces (wtf)?

      Going to the boss is a good idea because the boss may be able to point the new coworker to resources he isn’t aware of or get the process started for corporate to authorize an advance that he seems to really desperately need. It’s also a good idea to flag just in case the behavior continues despite resources being made available.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        He followed her to her car
        That alone would make me want to go to my manager.
        Granted he sounds financially desperate, but that is a worrying step to take (worrying for OP, I mean).

        1. BRR*

          This is what elevated it to me. I feel for the guy. And while everything else is bad, this is incredibly inappropriate.

        2. Dusty Bunny*

          Yes, this. He spent all day talking about his money issues, and then he followed her to her car. Report it to the manager, so he can compile a list, in case it has already begun with others in her office.

          I have handed over cash to friends knowing the money was a gift, not a loan. I get it. Financial difficulties happen. But this guy sounds like a con artist, and reading the OP’s question, my first thought was … what’s his game? Gambling debts? Drugs? Just pushing boundaries to see what he can get this time, before he really ratchets it up?

        3. Observer*

          Exactly this. You can have all the sympathy in the world for financial need. But following someone to their car? Totally NOT ok.

        4. RVA Cat*

          The following her to her car set off my alarm bells.
          That was some aggressive boundary crossing, plus it makes me wonder if he is desperate/unhinged enough to consider robbing a co-worker…. (Count me among the cynics who think his story doesn’t add up.)

      2. Snuck*

        To be honest…

        If I had just hired a Project Manager (who I presume… manages projects… possibly has a team under them, definitely needs interpersonal relationships that work effectively with others to deliver the projects, and supposedly manages their time and resources tightly to deliver the end product/project)… and was told by a subordinate that the new PM was following them around and asking them for money….?

        I’d be having a prompt and abrupt meeting with the new PM. “What’s going on?” And “Do you need me to arrange an advance” would be swiftly followed by “you can’t do this at work, and if I hear of it again, then I will need to consider options… these people don’t know you, and you don’t have the social or professional capital with them to ask this of them, and what on earth were you thinking about, and what are you going to do when something doesnt’ deliver on your projects?”… .but you know… more diplomatically.

        And then I’d be watching like a hawk. This is so out of step with the norms… that it’s a serious transgression in my world… You just don’t ask people for their wages when you don’t know them… and if you really can’t afford to get to work… you work that out. If your family or friends won’t lend you $50 for fuel… why not? A lot of thoughts would be running through my head.

        Would I fire the guy? Not over this exactly (unless it came out he kept asking)…. but I’d be watching for more signs of poor understanding of how to work professionally in the workplace. If he came to me and said “look I’m really stuck” then I can help, but if he’s asking others, then he’s a) not trusting me to help, and b) creating little storms of discontent in the group… what other little lightning strikes are happening. If there’s other issues… this could be a big part of letting him go yes.

        1. embertine*

          Precisely, precisely this. Even if we charitably assume that this guy is desperate and not just a chancer (spoiler: I think he’s a chancer) it is so extremely out of line for him to be asking his colleagues for money on day two of his job, and particularly following a female colleague to her car, that this would be a veritable parade of red flags for me. Management needs to know in case he’s doing it to anyone else. What they do with that information is not LW’s responsibility.

          1. Observer*

            Do we know that the OP is female?

            To be honest, although I suspect they are, fundamentally it does not matter. Following ANYONE to the parking lot is a problem. Doing it in a manner that show you were watching them and waiting for them to leave kicks it into utter creepy land. Keep in mind that the OP left early to avoid him – this was absolutely NOT a “chance” meeting or he saw them leaving along with everyone else and grabbed a chance.

            1. HumbleOnion*

              That thought has been running through my head this morning. Letter #1 doesn’t explicitly state a gender, but how many of us have pictured the author as being female? The coworker’s behavior towards the Letter Writer is manipulative & boundary-violating in a way that feels very gendered, and very targeted. It would be very surprising to me if the author was a man.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              No we don’t.

              However OP said they were upset enough that they cried in their car. Sure, absolutely it could be a guy…I’m not saying that never happens, but generally speaking (*generally*) most males don’t react that way to something like this…particularly to some other male that they don’t even know hitting them up for money in a backhanded way.

              I see most guys being like, “Dude…wtf why are you following me to my car? You need money? Ask your mommy. And, get out of my face dude…seriously, step back before we both end up regretting this crap…” Or words to that effect.

              I could be wrong of course, but I definitely read the ‘wondering/feeling bad-guilty/crying in the car’ thing as more female than male.

        2. Kiki*

          Yes! This behavior coming from anyone is concerning, but from someone who was just hired to be a project manager… it rises to a new level. Project managers are supposed to maintain really good relationships with a lot of people. If this person has ignored key social norms and made a coworker cry in his first two days at the company, I would be very concerned about his judgement for the job. This isn’t about judging the coworker for not having money or for even needing help, this is about someone who has demonstrated incredibly bad judgement 2 days into the job.

        3. Robbenmel*

          Exactly. The owner of our company (in the construction industry) has new techs (and ones that have been here longer, too) ask him for cash for gas, etc., all the time. He has no qualms opening his wallet for them….I know, because I’ve seen him do it, again and again. I’ve written dozens of checks for loans for employees. But if this were a brand new someone higher up in the company, that behavior would not fly. We found out that one tech was asking the owner’s mom for cash like this, and I can tell you that got shut down very quickly.

    3. Zombie Unicorn*

      If someone is fired for their behaviour – which this guy probably wouldn’t be – then that is their doing, so this isn’t a cool thing to say.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I would be inclined to talk to my boss, rather than waiting a few weeks, because of the high probability that the OP is not the only person that he’s approaching. I don’t think the remote chance that he’d be fired outweighs giving the manager enough information to keep a very close eye on him, so he isn’t getting money from other employees.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          ^this! That’s where my personal line starts. I can feel sympathy for needing help, I really can. I used to be part of a team that would be the people to *find* you that help. It is absolutely debilitating to be in that situation. And I would probably go out of my way to help in some capacity for those that seemed to really need it.

          But don’t ever follow me to my car and try to pressure me. It’s okay in some situations (not that work is really the place, hence the “some”, there’s much better ways that this person should have gone about this) to *ask*, but it’s never okay to *pressure*.

          Honestly – I would have said something the next day to a manager if someone followed me to my car like that. It would take 2-3 repeated requests for help without the following for me to say anything to a manager, but following me to my car *and* asking to do odd jobs *at my house*? Nopety nope.

        2. Goldfinch*

          IMO this tilts it from “new guy might be in a bad financial situation” to “new guy tried to find out where I live and gave excuses to come over”. Being broke and not handling it well =/= acting like a predator. Report this creep.

        3. HumbleOnion*

          For me, the fact that he’s not asking for help directly, but is hinting strongly, coupled with him following the LW to her car really sets off my hinky meter. He’s been at work 2 days and he’s already worn down the LW’s boundaries to the point of tears. This guy sounds manipulative at the very minimum; I can easily see him becoming creepy. LW#1 should definitely loop her boss in on what’s happening.

          1. AnonForReasons*

            The “creepy” horse has left the barn. He is already creepy. I would feel fearful in that situation, and it would be a huge detriment to being able to work with him.

        4. Dr. Pepper*

          Yeah, it’s this part that gets me. That’s not okay on any level and I would want *someone* to know about it.

        5. MommyMD*

          That’s enough to be fired to me. That is alarming behavior. Something tells me Company did not vet this guy very well.

        6. Starbuck*

          Yes; as a woman I’d interpret that kind of behavior from a man as a threat – I can’t afford not to. Refusing to hear a “no,” and then following me somewhere, presumably where we’re alone? At best, he’s completely clueless, but I don’t give guys the benefit of the doubt in these situations anymore so it doesn’t matter whether he’s truly that desperate, or is really going for intimidation.

          1. AnonForReasons*

            I completely agree, and am amazed some commenters seem more concerned with his situation than her feelings. I think it must be coming from a position of privilege of not ever having had to deal with threatening situations like this.

      1. Kiki*

        There’s also the chance his story isn’t true and there’s something else going on. A friend of mine had a drug problem and started asking everyone he knew for money (or to spot his lunch, or a drink, etc.) under the guise of having financial troubles related to his divorce . If we had talked to each other about this behavior sooner, we probably could have put together that something hinky was going on.
        My friend was fired from his job a few months into his addiction, partially due to other erratic behaviors, but also because his manager learned my friend had been hassling a lot of coworkers for money. It’s better to give LW #2’s manager the chance to intervene now and tell the coworker what he’s doing is inappropriate than potentially wait for things to escalate.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          My one relative has a gambling problem, and shopping/shifting compulsion. Donated items and cash fund the her living expenses when she burns through her paycheck in under two days.

        2. Sharrbe*

          This is a very good point. I have a relative who asks for small loans all the time. Turns out it’s for a drug habit. He came up with all kinds of “you won’t believe what happened” stories to explain why he was working full time, paid little in rent and food, but still couldn’t make his pay last until the next paycheck.

      2. LKW*

        I agree. It’s highly unlikely that he’d only target her. However, if she’s on the younger side or the only woman on the team he might be targeting her as more likely to respond.

        Although he didn’t outright ask for money – the fact that he offered to do jobs around the house would alarm me. I don’t know you and I don’t know if you do decent work. Why would I invite you to my home?

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Agreed. Especially if LW is a small, young woman. Having been that once upon a time, I can tell you that signals “easy prey” to some scammers, especially men, because they think they can physically intimidate you (see: following LW to their car).

          This guy is a scammer if not a menace. I would definitely talk to the boss; I doubt that the man is going to be fired just for asking for money, but he could be fired for *asking his subordinates* and leaning on them for money. And it would be his fault.

          Alison has brought this up before, but I will repeat: get the idea of “tattling” or “snitching” out of your head. Suffering in solidarity is not, or should not be, something you have to put up with in a workplace.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      100% disagree. What he did is NOT okay at all. He put OP in a very uncomfortable position, and that’s not okay. Not to mention, while what he’s telling OP is possible, this reads as a scam to me.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Sign it’s a scam — resource offered and he failed to follow through. Even presuming he really is desperate, why didn’t he actually TRY for the cash advance? Because he knows if he is asked for details, he can’t provide them. If he needs it right away why not go to the manager to try to speed up the approval process?

        Go to the manager and explain what has happened and how uncomfortable it made you feel. At the very least the manager needs to know the new PM is making female colleagues uncomfortable. Then let the manager handle it. But don’t put any more emotional labor into solving this guy’s problem when he won’t solve it for himself.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Absolutely – this comment neatly words how I feel.

          I’m sorry this guy is stressing you out, OP. Don’t accept it – especially as he might do the same to others, and you’ve already found it upsetting so others are likely to, too. Just be factual and let the manager decide how to take things from there.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          “But don’t put any more emotional labor into solving this guy’s problem when he won’t solve it for himself.”

          This. This, this, this!

        3. Clisby*

          Yeah. And to me at least, the idea that a company might give a pay advance doesn’t sound all that far-fetched. One place where I worked told new entry-level hires this was a possibility. (For all I know, they might have said the same to higher-level employees – after all, it’s not bizarre for someone to be in financial trouble after a period of unemployment.)

          I didn’t need it because I had been working full-time while going back to school for a 2nd degree, but I could easily imagine it coming in really handy for brand-new college grads, some of whom were relocating for these jobs..

      2. CM*

        Yes — being desperate for cash is one thing, but targeting a random coworker who you’ve just met and making them feel responsible is totally inappropriate, even without following her to her car which makes it WILDLY inappropriate. You can ask people for help outside of work, or ask your manager or somebody who’s in a position to actually pay you for working.

      3. MommyMD*

        Me too. And following her to her car. Almost like a shake down. This guy is a creep. Doing this on the second day. I’d fire him.

    6. JSPA*

      OP can go to the boss and say, “Is it true that there’s no way to expedite X’s paycheck, if he’s in bad financial straits, to the point where he’ll have problems getting to work for lack of gas money, or is he misunderstanding the process?”

      If coworker is not a scammer, OP is helping the coworker.
      If coworker is a scammer, OP is helping the rest of their coworkers.

      When someone tells you a story about being desperate, it’s super-fishy if they want it to be a secret. So assume it’s not a secret.

      1. Ermintrude*

        I get what you’re saying but it is not OP’s job to ask or advocate for this guy. It’s on him to sort this out for himself and not hassle his co-workers.

    7. Myrcallie*

      He asked repeatedly over the course of the day and *followed her to her car*. That is not someone I would want to remain on my team, whatever else he was doing.

    8. Observer*

      Given his behavior, I don’t think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that he’s in genuine need – that’s not the issue. And if he had limited himself to the initial ask, I would agree that it might be worthwhile to wait and see how it plays out.

      The real problem is his persistence – to the point of watching the OP and following them out to the parking lot! That’s way boundary crossing and very concerning. THAT is the reason I would go to HR / my boss. There are two issues here. Firstly, the OP should not have to work with someone who pushes the boundaries like that. For another, someone who pushes boundaries like that could easily be doing this to someone else that they think is vulnerable. That’s a huge problem.

    9. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      But OP1 should also not feel responsible for the consequences of his actions to him. If his aggressive panhandling results in some type of discipline from the company, it is not OP’s fault. He is hitting her up for money in the office. Then he is following her to her car, asking to do odd jobs while they are in the parking lot. This view, while generous to the coworker’s alleged need is falling far to close to, “he has such a great future ahead of him. You don’t want to mess it up for him, do you?” for me to be comfortable.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        C0-signed! This guy’s a grownup and responsible for his own actions. If he “messes up” his “great future” – well, his fault, teach him a lesson, etc.

    10. RUKiddingMe*

      Screw him. Aside from panhandling strangers at work…he followed her to her car. This is something that needs to be on everyone’s radar right freaking now.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most places won’t fire you for this however it will be documented and the person will be told that it’s unacceptable behavior.

      Then if he does it again, that’s when he’s going to risk termination. But automatic termination without something way more egregious is pretty much not going to happen, especially given they have a corporate structure in place.

    12. GreyjoyGardens*

      Asking a new coworker for money and then *following them to their car* is a real a$$hat move, IMO. And if LW goes to their boss and new coworker gets fired? His fault, he did, teach him a lesson, etc.

      I think women in particular are pressured into what Pema Chodron calls “idiot compassion” and giving too much benefit of the doubt. This guy’s behavior was way over the line. And no, it’s not “tattling” or “snitching” to go to your boss about it. That’s schoolyard thinking.

      This man does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    13. AKchic*

      The LW isn’t doing anything to get the other employee fired. His actions would be the thing getting himself fired. That’s it.

    14. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And I want to say that I appreciate your kindness and your ability to trust someone blindly.

      However this kind of naivety is what he’s banking on to take advantage of others. That’s why people keep doing this. It’s how you get robbed blind and don’t notice until it’s way too late.

      You can care without catering to this kind of unacceptable behavior.

    15. Nan*

      I really appreciate the great advice. He actually did ask management for an advance. They let him work from home today, which was good. We exchanged emails professionally. Hopefully all will be well.

  8. matcha123*

    I obviously don’t know the people in letter 1, but if the guy needed advice on how to get money to tide him over, he should be asking someone outside of his office.
    Most low-income people I know would rather go to Food Gathers, St. Vincent dePaul, or some other charity to get some items to help them out over asking a coworker aggressively for money.

    When these kinds of questions pop up here, a lot of well-meaning people try to justify why a ‘poor’ person might ask for money like this. This isn’t ‘poor’ people behaviour. This is ‘I believe people should do things for me’ behaviour. Low-income people generally know who to ask for advice on where to go to get assistance with services. Please don’t think that low-income people are clueless idiots based on shady behavior of people like the guy in letter 1.

    1. MommyMD*

      This guy is very shady. I hope a thorough background and credit check was done on him. Dollars to donuts this is how he operates.

      I’m serious when I say they better lock up their wallets.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Depending on your state and his position, you can’t just run a credit check on employees in the hiring process. Lots of places have outlawed it, since it’s not illegal or inherently bad to have awful credit, especially given what the recession did to people’s finances.

        But yes, a background check and reference check, this kind of thing right here is why those are crucial in the hiring practice!

    2. Sleve McDichael*

      If the guy was telling the truth, then LW #1 did the right thing by him in explaining to him how to get an advance, so it’s not a problem anyway.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      My first instinct is that he’s in trouble for a reason that would not qualify him for any employee assistance. I’m not going to speculate on what that might be but I would not give him any money you aren’t prepared to lose. It does throw up a yellow flag to me at least. I wouldn’t treat him like a criminal right away but it would prompt me to be cautious with valuables.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think that this is true up to a point, but that if this guy is experiencing this kind of problem for the first time, for instance if their financial issues are the result of being unexpectedly out of work they may not have much knowledge about what help is available – in which case, OP could suggest some of those resources to them .
      I do think that there is also a strong possibility that there are elements of entitlement but I don’t think it is the *only* possibility.

      As a divorce lawyer I often deal with people who are ‘newly poor’ because the cost of running two households not one is a huge strain on finances, and it takes time for people to adjust and find out what resources may be available and how to access them.

      That said,I agree completely with Alison that it isn’t appropriate on the part of the new hire and that LW1 is both totally fine to say ‘no’, and entirely appropriate in her response to suggest asking corporate for an advance and that it would be appropriate to let the new hire’s manager know, so they can speak to him and if appropriate, speak to corporate to get any advance authorised.

        1. Paralegal Part Deux*

          Desperate people don’t think rationally all the time. I’ve been so poor that a pack of ham was a luxury item. I wouldn’t hit up a coworker for cash, but I grew up extremely poor and was used to it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it’s a bit closer to the action of someone who has a history of making poor decisions–because it is a poor decision–than someone who was in a uniquely desperate situation and yet now has both hands wrapped around a rope that can pull them and their family out of this morass, so long as they don’t mess this job up by doing something stupid.

            That is, I think Matcha has a point about this not being typical poor person in desperate straits behavior.

            1. Myrcallie*

              This. I’ve also been so poor that meat was a luxury- in fact, I’m only just getting out of that stage now. When I got the job that helped pull me out of that mire, I was on my *absolute best* behaviour constantly, because I was aware that it was a potential way out, provided I didn’t mess it up.

              This isn’t someone in that position. This isn’t someone desperate. This is someone who feels entitled to his coworker’s money and time, so much so that he’s willing to harass her over it.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I agree. I have been in pretty much this guy’s claimed situation myself – employed in a professional job but with simply no money, none at all, until my next paycheck came in. I was down to one meal per day of stolen leftovers from catered lunches and walking an hour to work because I couldn’t afford the bus. I would have died rather than admit this to my colleagues, let alone ask them (implicitly or explicitly) for money. From the reading I did at the time, that’s a very typical reaction for people in that situation – your life might be a mess but you try desperately to keep up appearances at work because you literally cannot afford to screw up.

              Of course not everyone reacts to things in the same way, but this guy’s behaviour reads far more like a habitual scammer than someone suddenly stuck in a bad situation. The weird story with random details, the unwillingness to go through official channels, following the OP to the car – that is scammer behaviour, not “newly poor” behaviour.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Oh, me too. And I think LW1’s response was totally appropriate, that the new employe oght not to be asking for handoutts, and that LW should let her manager know so that they can make clear to the employee that this is not appropriate behaviour.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Hey Bagpuss, fellow divorce lawyer here. My practice is mostly low income folks, you are right going from one household to two often puts a HUGE strain on finances. But I don’t know of any of my clients who would hit up co-workers for money. They have borrowed from their employers to pay bills. But it’s a loan and they go through the company system. They might borrow from friends and family, but they don’t go to peers in the work place.

        Now my clients could be just not telling me where they get the money. But most them don’t WANT their co-workers knowing their personal business.

        1. Bagpuss*

          *waves at fellow divorce lawyer*

          I agree with you, it was more the “low income people know where to go to get help” that I was pushing back at.
          I don’t think what this guy did is in any way normal or appropriate.

      2. Colette*

        The OP did suggest a resource – an advance. I don’t think she needs to take responsibility for finding all the possible resources.

      3. Observer*

        If you are talking about the initial ask, you are right that there could be number of more innocuous explanations. But refusing to ask for an advance because corporate needs to approve it AND following someone to their car is a whole different ballgame and does not allow for those innocuous explanations.

    5. Zillah*

      I don’t disagree with your overarching point – this coworker was inappropriate.

      However, in broader terms, I do want to push back on “low-income people know where to go.” We’re all more equipped to deal with situations we’ve encountered than situations that we haven’t in general – and we probably didn’t get things exactly right on that first occasion. I’m usually not in a position where I’m panicking about my immediate ability to pay a bill, but it’s happened a few times for various reasons. Being in that position doesn’t automatically give me knowledge that would be helpful in navigating it – it just means that I’m in that position.

      I think there’s room for both “this person was incredibly inappropriate and possibly dishonest” and “people who encounter money problems don’t always know where to go for help.”

      1. Bagpuss*

        You put it more clearly than I did!

        I agree, that for most people, there will be a first time that they have ben in a particular situation and thye won’t automatically know where to get help, or even necessarily who to ask for advice about getting help.

        I find it personally surprising when I see clints and learn that they havent taken what appear to me to be fairly obvious steps, such as checking their entitlement to state benefits and applying for child support, but very often they haven’t, whether becuase they don’t know where to start, or because they have assumed (often incorrectly) they they won’t qualify or can’t start the process until (say) they have actually started their divorce, so I have learned that just becuase something seems obvious to me, or is something which I would think to research.

        I think also that when people are under stress they are less likely to be able to think clearly so just at the time they most ned to be able to do their research, check options etc, they may be at their least effective for doing so.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          ^true. When I was health department, we had a decent amount of people coming in to ask for help. At a health department, for things like groceries. That’s not what any HD offers in my location. But we had a really good relationship with APS & CPS, so we could start the person/family on the right path, and give them a safe space to call, and if we had time would help them with the paperwork. Stressed people don’t follow the ‘clear’ pathways those of us outside the situation would think they should immediately go for.

          I will never forget the youngish single mom that came in and waited so patiently for the counter to clear, and came up to ask about groceries & housing. When our admin staff told her we don’t offer temporary housing directly, you could see the hope totally crushed. She was trying so hard to hold it together. We brought her to a back conference room, let her cry to us for a little bit, and called in our APS contacts. Fed her some of the random treats we had around the office (we all liked to cook, so there was always food). She was just in a crappy situation, she had accepted help from a family member & moved across 4 states to get to that county…. only for that family member to renege and now she was stranded with a baby in a place she had no friends, minimal family, and no place to stay, with not enough money to get back to where she was (and probably for the best, tbh, from what she said about the ex she left). I could not imagine being in that situation and not panicking. We did get her set up between a local church that offered temporary housing & APS was helping her with finding childcare & employment. We also got her baby set up for a vaccination schedule – she had no idea that was a service we did offer. She was trying to get help to get out of a bad situation, but really didn’t know where to start.

          People who are thrust into a situation where they feel helpless are going to be under a lot of stress. They aren’t going to be doing everything 100% what someone outside the situation thinks is best for them, and that’s okay.

          However – that doesn’t mean this coworker is in that kind of situation, and tbh the following to the car to pressure really sounds to me like a few family members I no longer claim who would do that sort of thing to pressure for drug money. This is just personal experience, so draw from that what you will, but that’s really the part that made me very uncomfortable.

      2. JSPA*

        Totally agree.

        But it’s so much less shady to say, “hey, can you point me at any resources here, and maybe put in a good word for me with them, even though I’m new? Things went downhill fast, economically, before I got this job, and I’m sweating trying to figure out how to get here without gas or bus money, and I need to get hooked in if there are any programs or processes for new employees caught short before their first paycheck”


        “give me a gift or make up a job for me at your home where you live, and I will follow you to your car to make you uncomfortable, to demonstrate exactly how much you should not make me into your problem, only with a side of guilt trip.”

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, I agree that “poor people know where to go” isn’t necessarily true. I went through a period of being extremely financially desperate, and a compounding factor on that desperation was that I did not have a single solitary clue about how to get help — frankly, I wasn’t even aware of what help was out there that I could potentially go get, and being in denial about how bad off I was (“I’ll get a second job any day now and I’ll be fine!”) meant that I spent a lot longer than I should have scrounging coffee and snacks from the break room at work. I never quite fell far enough as to beg coworkers for money, but I wasn’t far from it.

    6. MK*

      I doubt this person is poor, though he probably is broke. It is possibly true that people who are dealing with long-term financial difficulties are more knowledgable about resources. Given that this guy is a project manager (which to me suggests a reasonably well-paying professional job), his not having money for basic necessities is probably due either to being out of work for long enough that his savings run out or to unexpected expenses (e.g. medical).

      1. AnonForReasons*

        Or he may have found this is a good way to supplement his income. It sounds exactly like something a family member’s ex would do with co-workers, neighbors, distant relatives, pretty much everyone he thought might be willing to give him money for his various addictions.

      2. Petry Dish*

        Just to add on to what has been said, I too have been broke as a joke- getting a job that served meals and those were my only meals eaten in a day broke. It never once popped into my mind to ask a coworker for help. I also think posting some resources available in the break room could be helpful? Did this person move to the area for work? But still circle in your manager (or their manager) because one would think you would be on your best behaviors at the job two days in, what will happen weeks down the line with this person?

    7. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      The line about getting groceries from a neighbor (who happened to move away) is a red flag to me. Sounds like part of a concocted hard-luck story.
      Seconding the food bank or St Vincent de Paul recommendations. Do not have to be religious to use them.
      If someone truly needs gas money, I suggest a gas gift card that can only be used at the pump – no snacks, cigarettes, lottery tickets, etc.

      1. Samwise*

        Why? I’ve given groceries to neighbors — if I knew they were having a hard time, I’d pick up a bag of essentials when I went shopping and leave it on their porch. People do that.

        1. Quill*

          Giving aquaintances food is definitely something I learned from my parents and grandparents – Wedding, funeral, surgery, new baby, divorce? Give them a casserole!

          1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

            Yes, and I have helped a neighbor too. Most of us probably have. But I would be wary of a neighbor who often came to me needing groceries or gas money . It could be explorative and it would be hard to get away from them.
            What made me skeptical was the “but the neighbor moved away” part. It sounded like something added to the request to make it harder for the OP to say no. The whole thing sounds like a pandhander’s approach.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              That would make me skeptical, too. Neighbors help neighborsl all the time – my next-door neighbor will occasionally share delicious Greek food (and I’m not in need – she’s just generous and I’m appreciative!).

              But the sob story of “I *used to* have a neighbor who fed me *but they moved*” would give me pause. There are no other neighbors? And he doesn’t know food banks exist? Yeah, right.

        2. JSPA*

          The offering of very specific yet random details is one of the flags for a concocted story. It’s also, magically, never anything verifiable (and that’s where the “moved away” comes in). I get spun variants of these by the same people, year-in, year-out (as do other neighbors who share the scam stories on NextDoor). The exact story varies, but it’s always completely unverifiable, and there’s huge resistance to “why don’t we just call / stop by / give your info to” whatever local services actually handle emergencies like the one that’s being claimed.

          I’ve seen someone turn pale and leave after the closest food bank expanded it’s hours; he was off, by an hour, in his “I called the food bank but they’re closed” spiel.

          He also could not eat anything from the local independent restaurant on the corner because “they’d insulted him once, and he’d rather starve than see someone give them money on his behalf.” No, he wanted a gift card to a particular national chain (closest location, over two miles away; resale value in that parking lot, probably good enough for the next dose of what he clearly was craving, more than food.

          People “needing bus fare to see their sick child after their car broke down” but not willing to take a ride (or even an Uber or prepaid greyhound) because “I don’t know you or them, no offense, but how do I know it’s safe”…also scammers.

          There’s no bus that drops you in the MegaStore parking lot on the way to the hospital, and no, your broken down car did not get towed from here while you were (seriously?) “looking for a pay phone”–the broken down car two aisles over has been there for 3 weeks and counting, and they don’t even tow people who misuse the handicapped spots in an hour. And besides, you told me the same story last month, except it was your daughter, not your son, and the hospital was different, and the bus line was different.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Oh man, scammers still say they were “looking for a pay phone” in 2019? Sounds like someone hasn’t bothered to update their sob story in a long time….

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              Hahaha, I thought the same thing – “pay phone? PAY PHONE? do they still exist? Your story is getting really stale, there, bub.”

        3. Jaybeetee*

          I think it sounds off because it just seems like too many details – often, when people are lying, they try to compensate by inserting tons of details into the stories to make it sound more genuine. I suppose it’s also just quite coincidental, that this person has been having such a hard time, and the source of their groceries moved away just before they started this job? Not to say it can’t happen, but it’s just… a very specific situation.

          Which doesn’t mean this *has* to be a lie – I’m personally the type of person who can be given to rambling on a bit when I’m stressed or panicking. While I have never, and would never (unless I was a million percent desperate) as colleagues for money in this way, I could imagine myself in a situation where I’m giving people a zillion details because I’m freaking out and unloading, or can’t tell right then what is or isn’t essential information.

        4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I think the flag follows the comment “who moved away.” It’s the grown up version of “my girlfriend lives in Canada.” Because that way, there’s no chance of target coincidentally knowing neighbor.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? I mean ok I had neighbor who actually did fall on hard times for a while…through no fault of her own (business merger, jobs phased out…etc.) but she was also someone I considered (and still do) a friend. I bought “extra” stuff sometimes and offered it to her because “it’s just the two of us and we aren’t going to get through it and don’t want to waste it…etc.” a few times. However I can’t really see myself supplying a random neighbor with groceries on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis. Who does that?

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        If I were moving out of state, I’d be more likely to offer groceries to my neighbor than to pack them. Not saying any part of his story rings true, but the grocery gift doesn’t seem that hard to believe.

        1. LeslieNopeNopeNope*

          I read it the same way, as a neighbor who gave away groceries because he was moving, not as a neighbor who regularly donated groceries but stopped because he moved.

    8. VeryAnon*

      Yes. When I was very poor I took out shady loans, went to food clubs and sold my possessions. I rather have torn out both eyes than admit to a colleague I was struggling. Let alone asked them for money.

    9. IndoorCat*

      Thank you! I wanted to reply along these lines but I kept feeling like what I wrote was too defensive.

      I have never been poor-poor, but I’ve been close. Most people I know who are financially struggling would *never* do this. I’ve gone with friends to sell blood and hair, or pawn their beloved guitar. I know people who’ve over-exerted themselves taking several “gig economy” jobs through apps (I myself was once signed up for *ten* content mill-type writing agencies). I’ve given money to close friends without wanting to be repaid, because I get it, my sister paid for my health insurance for almost a year, I and many of my friends have worked with social service agencies, religious and secular charities, and even eaten at on-campus food bank a few times a week.

      I’m not saying there are no unscrupulous poor people. But this dude is doing this because he’s unscrupulous, not because he’s poor. 99% of poor people just aren’t like this. But these types are very visible.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, just because you’re unscrupulous doesn’t mean you’re good enough at it to manage a middle class savings buffer.

        Or as several people have suggested, this is the sort of desperate you get when the money is for drugs. And no amount of money is going to help that person.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Whatever the reason, I think you’re spot-on that this isn’t a scenario that a one-off cash infusion will fix. He’s willing to jeopardize the job he just got by hassling colleagues he’s just met for money, which reads to me as a situation where his forward planning doesn’t go farther than a few hours. That doesn’t happen unless something WAY beyond the OP’s fix-it skills is in play.

    10. Samwise*

      Or, it’s middle class people behavior, that is, people who don’t know where to go for help because they haven’t had to do it before.

      I agree that this guy was out of line, especially when he followed the OP to their car. But please don’t draw conclusions about a person’s actual need or a person’s character or morals based on behavior like this.

      1. JSPA*

        Poor people don’t magically know, either!

        But rich, middle or poor, there are ways to ask “where do I go,” instead of targeting someone and implying that your problem should be theirs.

      2. Narise*

        The following the OP to her car made me think he has done this before and knows how to apply pressure. People who are not used to asking people for money are not usually this comfortable or blatant. I recommend OP goes to HR and ask them to intervene and provide the employee with information regarding EAP services.

    11. Anon Librarian*

      Totally. This has been my experience too. People who demand money from you are usually not low income but are just scammers. Sometimes, they’re looking for an in so they can take advantage of you in other ways. Very dangerous.

      I’ve had some scary experiences that started this way. I now avoid people who demand things, especially if there’s manipulation involved (guilt-tripping, etc). If you mean well, you ask nicely, you make it easy for the person to say no, and you accept a no the first time.

      1. HumbleOnion*

        This is a really good point. Everything about this guy’s behavior is designed to make the LW feel guilty. He’s not asking for help or looking for resources; he’s wearing down her boundaries. It’s such a red flag for other inappropriate behavior.

    12. AKchic*

      Yeah… this isn’t Low Income behavior. This is Low Class behavior. These are separate and distinct identities. You can be one of the wealthiest people in the world and still be Low Class. You can be one of the poorest people in the world and be High Class. Your income does not determine your personal level of classiness, your behavior does.

    13. Nan*

      I thought a lot about it this weekend and that is what bothered me the most. When he followed me to my car, he expected me to give him money. He expected it.

  9. MommyMD*

    Your new employee is SO out of line to complain and hit you up for money on his SECOND day. Tell your Boss. This is red flag behavior and everybody better make sure their money is locked up. You don’t need to tip toe around this. If he starts up again you can say “I’m not comfortable discussing personal finances” and direct him to a work duty. Nip this in the bud now. Pressuring coworkers for money is not cool. It’s up to him to figure this out. This doesn’t seem like a can I borrow ten bucks I forgot my wallet thing.

    1. Nan*

      Ten bucks wasn’t going to help anything. I will follow Alison’s advice if he asks again. And elevate it if it continues.

  10. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP1 – this guy is WAY out of line. Way out of line. He’s having this conversation on his first day of work? I’m guessing your organisation isn’t big enough to have an employee assistance program but if it is, give him the details and next time he brings it up just say, stony faced, “I’m sorry for your troubles. I hope you find a solution.” and don’t engage further. I’d tell your boss, though. If he’s asking you he’s asking others.

    1. Blue*

      Yeah, that’s part of what really bothered me. Badgering coworkers for money on your second day of work? At that point, you’re still virtual strangers.

  11. Don't get salty*

    Definitely agreeing with the advice for letter writer #1. This screams to me yet another episode of “employee hits up all the coworkers for money”. I would stay far away from this person for the time being. Someone being so desperate for money to ask a perfect stranger/coworker, is someone who will not get bailed out after one helping hand. The thing that got my hairs standing on end was the “asking, but not asking”. I’ve known many, many people over the years who have made it an art to express, ever so gently, how dire their straits are and are expecting you to offer them something. That’s an “in” to making you his Patsy, especially if you’re expecting the money to be paid back because then he can make a bunch of empty promises about paying it back as long as you can “tide him over this one last time”.

    The whole following you around thing: red flag!

    1. juliebulie*

      Yeah, I don’t think this is a case of just being broke due to lengthy unemployment. This isn’t his first time panhandling, I don’t think, because he was not hesitant or reluctant at all, and he has a story for everything.

      This level of aggression makes me think that he is being motivated by something more than the desire for everyday food, drink, etc. If that’s so, he’ll ALWAYS have a story to explain why he doesn’t have enough money (my cousin’s husband was always getting mugged, “losing” his paycheck, etc.) and why he needs a “loan” which will never be paid back.

  12. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    Alison said in her response to #1: “when you suggested a solution to him – to ask for a pay advance – he didn’t seem interested in doing that.”

    The letter-writer had said: “I suggested he ask for an advance. He came back later and said corporate would have to approve an advance.”

    Maybe I’m too naive and trusting, but I took that to mean that the co-worker did ask for an advance but was told it would have to be approved by the higher-ups.

    Of course, it’s possible that the co-worker may have lied to the letter-writer about asking for an advance…

    1. Don't get salty*

      I think the best way to handle it is just to ask if he’s applied for the cash advance. If he says yes, then it should be easy to redirect him to that process should he approach again. If he says no, then the response is the exact same. I would not under any circumstances attempt to produce funds for him.

      1. Observer*

        Don’t even bother asking – it’s not the OP’s job to find him money to start with. Given the rest of his behavior, the less the OP engages with him, the better.

    2. Ginger*

      See I read that as he didn’t want to go through appropriate, formal channels. He’s looking for a quick handout by playing on someone feeling bad for him.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Corporate will take that cash advance out of his first paycheck. Not OP though! All the coworkers he hits up for money can be put off with new tales of how desperate are the financial straits this week.

        Caveat: I suggested upthread that he may be used to interpreting “… but there’s a step you have to take” as a drawn out, bureaucratic way of saying “no” and so just immediately gives up. In that case, shoving him right back to corporate to fill out the form, with all i’s dotted, is the right thing to do.

        1. Dagny*


          It’s also a red flag that he allegedly doesn’t have family or friends who can lend him $100 to get through the week. Asking random strangers is a massive red flag: it shows that the people around you are unwilling to help.

          I remember being approached with a sob story by some dude in a train station. He went on and on about how he just needed $11 for a train ticket. I asked him why he didn’t have any family or friends who could spot him a twenty, and the response was… less than forthcoming.

          1. AKchic*

            Honestly, family and friends may already have cut him off. That’s usually how it goes. Family cuts you off first, because they are usually the first informal “bank” you deal with. Then you start hitting up your friends. Not the close-close ones (those are what you consider last-resort burns). You pay back the close friends, but the fair-weather ones you’ll play off of each other, and will burn them one at a time. You’ll make some new ones as you lose old ones. The close ones will get suspicious, but most will brush it off unless they talk to family. Eventually, you start burning close friends as some of the new friends become close friends. Depending on what you’re wanting the money for, this is a revolving door rather than a slow escalator. Eventually though, you do run out of “friends” to “borrow” from. It’s faster when the friends all get to talking and spread it around to warn each other to cut the borrower off.

      2. bluephone*

        Same here. The coworker’s answer suggests that he has no intention of applying for the advance, chancing that it won’t get approved, etc. because (in his mind) he can just hit up LW and everyone else for money. So that’s another red flag.

      3. Clisby*

        +1. OP, if he mentions this to you again, suggest that he go to his manager for help in getting the pay advance.

    3. Observer*

      I read it that way too. So? If he’s that desperate for money, he could – and should! have gone through the process for getting corporate approval. He declined to do so.

    4. Ella Vader*

      I took it that way too. So if I were in the OP’s position, I might have said something like “Oh, great! Did they tell you how long it was likely to take?” and when I was giving my own boss a heads-up, I might have added “I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to expedite his cash advance?”

    5. Isabelle*

      The strange thing about this is when you start a new job it is not uncommon to need some cash to tide you over until you get paid. No-one is going to ask the reason why, they understand you may have used up all your savings during a period of unemployment etc…
      In this case I bet corporate would have approved the advance but he never actually made the request.
      This man sounds like a scammer or a gambling addict.

    6. Nan*

      No, he did ask for an advance. I probably worded that poorly. But then he came to me and did not seem satisfied that they would need to ask corporate. He will only get paid for 2 days on Friday.

  13. pcake*

    Number 2, go to the bathroom RIGHT before the meeting, and wear depends on something like them. That should take care of things should you sneeze.

    1. many bells down*

      Alas, going to the bathroom immediately prior to sneezing does not preclude pants-wetting. I think a lot of women who have been pregnant will agree with me. Pregnancy can make it difficult to fully empty your bladder, and the peeing-from-a-sneeze thing still happens to me and I haven’t been pregnant in 22 years.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’ve never been pregnant, am 58, and I can wet myself if I cough, sneeze or laugh. Poise #5 pads are my friends. Having been hospitalised on a catheter three times will do it too. (One in three women has the problem.)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Co-sign. Trampolines and head colds are dangerous territory once you’ve been pregnant.

        Don’t be too squeamish or ashamed to use continence products if they’re needed. When I had pneumonia I had to wear them 24/7. They are there to meet a need.

      2. blackcat*

        At 28 weeks pregnant, I peed and then immediately fell down a flight of stairs. When I arrived at the bottom, I first assessed I thought I was fine (having not bonked the belly) but then I realized that I was sitting in a puddle. I called the doctor, who said ER ASAP, based in part on the fact that I had just peed.
        One ER visit later, and it was confirmed: pee. Lots of pee.
        Late pregnancy does a number on the bladder and pelvic floor. It compresses the bladder making you need to pee all the time, but also weakens the pelvic floor and can compress the urethra to make it hard to fully empty the bladder.

      3. Dagny*

        Pelvic floor physiotherapy will be your friend. No need to continue peeing from a sneeze that long after birth.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Not 100% effective. I was told that after a C-section “it all gets pushed back in and somehow goes back into the right place”…. and I can categorically say that there are (TMI) reasons some of us can tell that NOPE the parts don’t always go back to the way they were.

    2. Princess Cimorene*

      Ah.. its not quite that simple when you have a whole human comfortably resting on your bladder 24.7 + the body is full of hormones, extra fluids because of said human, etc. And the mechanisms just change when you have weight like that carried for so long. Even with a bathroom trip moments before – a good sneeze or cough or laugh can cause leakage, minimal or substantial. Bladders can fill up quick!

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Or, if your babies are like my babies, a well-timed and viciously precise punch to the bladder.

        I do not miss pregnancy.

        1. blackcat*

          Mine used to do this thing where he’d simultaneously head butt my bladder while kicking my diaphragm really hard.
          I’d get the wind AND pee knocked out of me, all at once.
          I was told by the midwife that it was just because I was small, carrying a big baby, and first time moms always think it’s worse than it is.
          After he was born, she commented he was the strongest newborn she had never seen.
          I now have a toddler who picks up children twice his size when he hugs them. We’re prepping for his future athletic career.

          1. AKchic*

            My first one reshaped a few of my ribs. I feel your pain.

            I am 5’3.5″ tall currently (that .5″ counts, I swear). When I got pregnant with my oldest, I was 98lbs and trying to gain weight (wasn’t how I wanted to gain weight, but hey, whatever). After 3 kids, I was finally a non-pregnant 115lbs at the age of 20.

            All of my kids are a healthy size. The oldest was 8lbs 12oz. 22″ long. Kid would kick my ribs constantly and stretch himself. The bottom of my ribcage expanded a good 3/4-1″. He’s 19 and 6′ even. The tiniest baby was my second born. 7lbs 8oz at birth with the biggest little head ever. He is currently 6’1.5″ tall at 17, and might grow another inch or two.
            I apparently grow tall children. It’s okay – they can reach the top shelf for me.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Sometimes just standing up did the trick back when I was at the tail end of my pregnancy!

        Also LOVE the username! I just found that series earlier this year and it’s now one of my favorites.

    3. Lynca*

      That’s really not going to help. By the time you’re this far along in pregnancy you have great difficulty keeping your bladder empty and you have a lot of stress on it. This is just a hazard of being pregnant and is generally more embarrassing for you than others.

    4. 2 Cents*

      At the end, I was peeing (no joke) every 10-15 minutes because it was the perfect storm: baby was huge and loved resting right on my bladder, which was now the size of a walnut, you have to stay hydrated while pregnant, and he liked to kick…a lot. Sometimes, I’d be on my way back to my desk, get halfway there, then have to use the restroom again, urgently. Ah, pregnancy!

      1. many bells down*

        You know everyone knows that you don’t get any sleep after the baby is born, but somehow no one ever mentioned to me that you won’t get any sleep the whole month before, either, because you have to pee all the time. I couldn’t sleep more then an hour at a time.

  14. PNW Jenn*

    LW#2. When I was about 8 months pregnant I felt a sneeze coming on and just knew that I was going to pee my pants.

    I did. I cleaned up and went about my day.

    It happens when you’re expecting. You will, I’m sorry to say, suffer worse indignities in the coming years, and you’ll survive them all.

    Remember to do your Kegels!

  15. So sleepy*

    OP#3: it would be totally normal to say “nothing comes to mind”. I wouldn’t offer any roundabout weaknesses (“his only weakness is that he works too hard!”) as that sounds a bit forced, but it’s not that unusual for a reference to have nothing negative to say.

  16. Kowl*

    In reference to OP #4 – partner and I have an immediate family member who was hired out of college to a major communications company as a low level analyst – but they and all similar co-workers were designated as management at hire even though they managed no one and had no direct reports.

    Fast forward roughly a year, and the union workers are on strike so all “management” employees are being trained to lay cables and climb telephone poles (as per the exceptions to strike-breaking ruled out in Alison’s response). An older person in the team literally had a heart attack and died during this training. Each of them had to be able to show up at their deployment site across the country within any 24 hour window, regardless of prearranged leave.

    Family member’s eventual solution (after almost a year of that nightmare) was to find a position at a different company.

    So … some companies and managers have specifically hired for this horrific contingency. If this rings true for you, go go go go.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      My goodness! Didn’t they ask for medical checkups before the training? Wasn’t this company reported? The only examples I know are subway and trains, and managers are very aware of the situation.

    2. cat socks*

      I work in telecom and have been with my company long enough to have been through a few different cycles of when contract negotiations come up with the union. Thankfully it has never gotten to the point where the unions have gone on strike. One time it got far enough that we were assigned a location and even given a name of a person we would be reporting to.

      I work in IT doing software development and we had to take surveys asking if we had experience climbing telephone poles, running wires, etc. I truthfully answered no to all of those so I don’t know what type of work I would have ended up doing.

      We are told not to schedule vacations during certain time periods. If we do we are required to travel to our new work location at our own expense. I would have to read the fine print, but I believe you can be disciplined for not showing up for strike duty. There are exceptions for health issues and other hardships.

  17. Ginger*

    #2 – I would bet half the room reacted because you jumped up suddenly and exited quickly – not because they saw anything.

    Either way – hope you have a happy and healthy delivery soon!

  18. RedInSC*

    LW1, if the guy comes back to you you can hand him the phone number of your local food bank. Just say you can’t help, maybe corporate can, but here’s the number for the food bank, they can help.

    1. Snarflepants*

      Agreed. The OP could print out food bank resources in case they are approached again. A food bank (or other NPO) is the appropriate place to ask for help.

      1. valentine*

        you can hand him the phone number of your local food bank
        The OP could print out food bank resources
        This would prolong an unwanted relationship and show the guy the hard sell worked and OP1 has been thinking and doing for him.

        1. Moocowcat*

          I disagree on that. As someone who works in the financial social work industry, the “Refer Elsewhere” strategy can work. It’s saying that the OP cannot help, here are the people who can. The Guy should be in touch with corporate or a food back. The OP can just keep repeatedly saying No and pointing in their direction/

  19. Koala dreams*

    #1 No, it’s not a good idea to lend money to people you hardly know. Your co-worker was rude in following you to your car. You don’t need to do anything in particular about him. I agree with Alison’s advice to tell him you can’t help and change the subject. It would be a kindness to flag this behaviour to your or his manager if you want to, so they can keep they ears out if he gets worse.

  20. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #4 – it can be difficult to cross a picket line even if you aren’t breaking the strike.

    FIL worked in payroll. His site-wide union called a strike falling over a critical point in the payroll cycle, which cycle was further complicated by having to arrange not to pay people for the strike period. He crossed the picket line to process everyone’s pay so that they at least got paid for the non-strike days that cycle (and deducted his own pay for the strike days so that he wouldn’t technically be breaking the strike). He had to have a very thick skin to manage it.

    It is not fair for management to ask – let alone require – non-striking staff to absorb the work of strikers above and beyond their normal duties. Reassign to ensure critical functions are covered, and let more luxury functions slide: fine. Significant increases in travel time, worked hours or incidental costs would certainly fall under “above and beyond” for me.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      He deducted his own pay? That’s integrity! Mad respect for that.

      Hard agree with your second paragraph! Companies certainly shouldn’t expect an EAA (for ex) to work high tension wires. That’s way too far out if scope IMO.

    2. No Green No Haze*

      It is not fair for management to ask – let alone require – non-striking staff to absorb the work of strikers above and beyond their normal duties.

      Color me unsurprised. If the management were fair to begin with, their workers wouldn’t be unionized, much less striking. Unions are a blunt instrument, reactionary by nature, and strikes are the worst-case scenario to get people back to the negotiating table.

  21. GM*

    I really like the suggested response for OP#3!

    @Alison – could a variation of this be used during interviews? If asked my weakness would it be acceptable to cite something I had worked on over time and now I have mastered?

  22. Lauren*

    Op1. Is there debt counsellors local to you? It’s worth giving him a number I stead of money. He will benefit from this than asking for money. They’ll help him out. They will go through things with him such as budgeting and get an agreement with creditors. Do not give him money. Worth a try.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Or she could tell him he needs to Google and research solutions instead of doing the work for him.

      There’s enough if women doing grunt work for males who are perfectly capable of putting their own effort into their own problems. No need to perpetuate it.

      Even if he was a friend or relative they should fo their own stuff. This guy is a virtual stranger.

      OP should dimply say “no, don’t ask me again” and feel no pang of regret at all as she gets on with her life unburdened by this guy and his issues.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        There’s enough if women doing grunt work for males who are perfectly capable of putting their own effort into their own problems.

        Yes, exactly. I highly doubt this guy is hassling the men in the office for money help. He might in the future but they tend to bother women first.

      2. Parenthetically*

        THIS all day. Ain’t ANY KIND OF MY JOB to do ANY KIND of legwork for a dude who follows me around asking for money on his damn SECOND DAY of work.

    2. Mimosa Jones*

      I feel like any help she offers outside of sending him to payroll just involves her in his business and might make him think he can continue asking for money. She directed him to the work-related help that he as a new hire might not have known about and that’s all she should do.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      OP needs to stay out of it. He is more than capable of figuring this out on his own. If he really is in need, he can do the research himself. But IMO this sounds like a scam.

      1. bluephone*

        Seriously yes. The coworker is more than capable of firing up google for local food banks, charities, religious-based resources that don’t care if you’re not affiliated with them, payday loans (yeah they’re predatory but they do exist so…you can’t fill your car with morals and ideals), etc. LW1 needs to NOT do any of that legwork.
        I get that people in dire straits* are often panicking and won’t think of the most obvious solutions but that’s also NOT the letter writer’s problem, unless/until LW is the one who’s short on money. This is all very much a Coworker Problem, NOT a Letter Writer Problem.

        *Call me callous but I don’t think this guy is actually in any type of straits at all, let alone dire ones.

        1. VeryAnon*

          Thing is when I was in dire straits I was so ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. Granted I didn’t have a baby to care for but he sounds more like a panhandler than someone who is actually struggling.

    4. Observer*

      I agree with the others who say that the OP needs to NOT offer any help at all at this point, and stay well pout of it. I’d go further – at this point it does not matter if he know how to find help or can take those steps. His boundary crossing behavior means that the OP cannot give him even a finger-tip’s worth of help because he’s going to try to grab that to take an arm’s worth.

  23. Being a PM Sucks*

    #1 – your project manager is out of line and good for you OP for refusing to give him $.
    Here’s the thing though: his title gave me pause. Where I live there ARE no full time roles for project manager – we’re all contract and can spend months (up to a year!) without work at times. We’re expected to go a lot out of pocket for training (sometimes thousands), move around the tri-county area or country to “go where the work is”, etc.
    Frankly, it’s ridiculous. For me, it’s getting to where having the job is a financial hardship. I have no problem believing your PM is hard up for cash under those circumstances.
    He’s still an ass for how he handled it. But this “temp jobs only” push in the PM space is not a good thing.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Why is that if it’s a financial hardship that you’re still invested in keeping that job?

      I’m not being snarky but the skills needed for project management should be transferable…you’re not stuck there by any means in that way.

      Google tells me that y’all make 55k-114k a year? I know that’s a quick shot in the dark and not necessarily the case everywhere but I’m kind of wondering more about this claim that you’re in a financial bind and you’re not in something like social work or teaching, that is a calling for people more so than project management?

  24. The Rafters*

    OP 1, Very few are focusing on the biggest part of this picture: He followed you to your car! This is creepy, beyond inappropriate. I’d report him. I wouldn’t want to see anyone lose their job over being a pest, but he Followed. You. To. Your. Car!

    1. Quandong*

      Yes, this is worrying behaviour to me. I would not be comfortable being alone with the guy even in a lunch room, considering the pressure he is applying to LW!

      Don’t be concerned about getting him in trouble, LW1. This person’s behaviour is inappropriate for the workplace and he needs to stop talking about his financial situation, and stop following you to your car.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s a really good point. I was already thinking to report his behaviour but this clinches it. He’s followed OP, clearly made her uncomfortable and doesn’t seem interested in backing off. Report this guy.

      If he has backed off, see if he’s doing the the same thing to other employees. He might be the kind of person who goes around the office until he finds someone willing to give him money, and latches on to them.

    3. irene adler*

      Years ago I took a class in personal safety. One of the things they told us was parking lots were one of the most dangerous places for one to be approached.
      So to this day, if anyone approaches me in a parking lot, I make a big fuss (I yell “Back off! Get away from me!”), head back into whatever place I came from and get the management. I ask that someone take care of whomever approached me. Only then will I return to my vehicle.
      Yeah, overkill. But I’m not gonna be a statistic because I felt the need to be polite.

  25. Gabriel Conroy*

    #4 [crossing picket lines when you’re not in the union]”

    Alison is the expert, not I….and I’m not a lawyer, either. But my understanding is that non-management employees could be legally disciplined for refusing to cross a picket line. The issue isn’t whether they’re management or non-management, it’s whether they’re covered by the bargaining unit.* (There’s also the situation where different groups of people are represented by different unions, whose contracts have a no-strike clause. That’s different from what I’m referring to here.)

    I might be off-base and if so, I hope someone in the know corrects me.

    *Some people who are covered by the bargaining unit may choose not to join the union, but I understand they are still protected for strike-related behavior. Of course, if someone declines to join the union, they probably aren’t sympathetic enough to strike. At the same time, however, I’ve been in a situation where I didn’t wish to support my union, but where I would have honored the picket lines (had my coworkers struck) out of respect for my colleagues who do support it. I can’t, however, claim not to be a union member because I voluntarily pay dues (it’s kind of a right to work situation) despite my disapproval of the union.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      IANAL either but yes I would imagine that protections for striking workers are stronger for those in official unions with formal processes than those who just walk out in solidarity. The whole point of a unionised strike is the power of “everybody out”: your solidarity adds to the weight of the argument and your dues pay for the protections of the community.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, the NLRA specifically protects non-union employees who choose not to cross a picket line! (As long as they’re not management or supervisors.) They’re considered “sympathy strikers” and it’s a protected concerted activity.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That says they can only discharge sympathy strikers if the primary strike is illegal or violates their own collective bargaining agreement (which the OP doesn’t have). But it does note they can do it if “the sympathy striker’s refusal to cross the picket line disrupts your business so significantly as to clearly outweigh the striker’s right to honor a picket line in a protected strike” so the OP would want to pay attention to that.

          But here’s more on the general protections for non-union employees who don’t cross picket lines:

          Relevant piece:

          “The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) shields nonunion, nonsupervisory employees’ decision to honor a picket line as protected concerted activity. Any discipline for an employee’s refusal to cross a picket line will be deemed a violation of the NLRA and an unfair labor practice, noted James Hays, an attorney with Sheppard Mullin in New York City.

          An employer can, however, expect that its supervisory and management employees, who are not covered by the NLRA, will cross the picket line, and it can take disciplinary action against those who refuse to do so, he added.”

          1. Melody Pond*

            I’ve been trying to find the exact text of the actual National Labor Relations Act that gives this provision, and I haven’t been able to find it. I’m in this exact situation (OP #4 is likely from my same large company, actually), and if I need to exercise my right, I’d really like to be able to point to the text of the actual, authoritative law.

            Here’s the link to the actual law – does anyone know the exact spot in the legal text that spells out this right?


            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I would call the NLRB and ask for guidance! (I don’t know if it’s in the original law — which is hugely long — or if it’s in subsequent interpretations.)

          2. Melody Pond*

            Alison, if you’re still checking this comment thread, I have a dumb question – if you know the answer, or at least have your own understanding of it, I’d appreciate your thoughts (I’m waiting for the NLRB to get back to me).

            What actually constitutes a “picket line” in this instance? I’ve been chewing on the right to refuse to cross a picket line – is it just about picket lines? Meaning, people on strike, standing with signs outside their workplace? If I say I don’t want to cross a picket line, can my employer simply redeploy me to a really random/obscure role such as a graveyard shift in a remote place, where nobody on strike happens to be picketing? In this scenario, I imagine the person who normally fills the obscure, graveyard-shift role as being on strike, but they’re just not picketing outside, because they’d be all alone in the middle of the night. Is that a thing that happens?

  26. Art3mis*

    #2 I think people are going to fall into one of two groups. Those that think it was a pregnancy thing and wouldn’t consider urine and those that know what happened and know not to judge you for it. If there’s a third group outlier that knows and judges, well then their opinion is irrelevant.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, this. There are people who know enough about pregnancy to know it could be urine, and will simply think “oh yeah, happened to me/partner/friend, sucks, don’t it?” and there are people who don’t know, and will think “amniotic fluid? other weird pregnancy thing? glad everything is all right.”

  27. Detective Amy Santiago*

    For #1, I think I’d mention it to someone higher up simply because it’s bizarre to overshare that sort of information about your personal situation immediately when you begin a new job. I’ve been with mine for 18 months and I still don’t have conversations like that with my coworkers. Honestly, if I hired someone who did this, I would question his judgment a lot.

  28. Oh No She Di'int*

    #5 I agree with Alison’s advice. I’d also add that depending on how busy or high-up this person is, it’s possible that she is asked to “have coffee” all the time. This has been my experience. Those asking are always well intentioned, but they often don’t realize the person is being asked for the same favor multiple times a month, and usually it’s completely for the benefit of the asker, not the askee.

    One thing that can help mitigate this is if you can offer to bring something to the table as well. It will most likely be a small offer, but it would be a gesture that might be well received. For example, you can offer to give an inside scoop (without violating confidentiality of course) on your experience at wherever you’ve been working since then. Or you might offer further reflections on your internship that might be informative.

    Finally, again depending on how busy she is and how she operates, I would consider offering to meet very early in the morning, say, 7 or 7:30. Busy executives are sometimes at work quite early and it can be easier to get time with them very early as few others will think to make that offer.

    1. Leela*

      One of my friends was a local perfumer in an area with lots of Microsoft wives who were looking for some home business stuff to do. She sometimes got 10 requests for a “pick your brain coffee date” per day. Eventually she started responding with a consultation fee which made the requests almost completely drop off. She felt bad and was generally happy to help people looking to get into the business but like you said it became almost a part time job for her just to meet with these people and was not at all worth the free coffees.

      1. Filosofickle*

        One piece of advice from a colleague that really stuck with me is: Never ask to “pick your brain”. Many people won’t even notice, but it’s such a predatory and violent sounding way to say that! We can ask for someone’s time without sounding like vultures.

        Side note: A linguist colleague and I have also talked about violence in language. Take a whack at it, take a stab, beats me, bring out the big guns. Why is that? Again, most people don’t notice, but it’s once you listen for it it’s easy to spot how much neutral business language is is loaded (pun intended!) with these metaphors. (Also battle / sports.)

    2. Lora*

      Yeah….I am not very high up but the number of people I find time to have coffee with is exceedingly small, to the point of: “Dear Somebody That I Used To Know, I will be at [conference] on [dates] or [regular monthly professional meeting] on [dates] if you want to meet up there! Great to hear from you!” I just do not have time in the day and when I get home my time is MINE MINE MINE.

      One week isn’t a long time to wait for a reply from me on LinkedIn either – vacations, conferences + travel time and/or urgent work projects are all >2 weeks routinely. I wouldn’t worry yet.

  29. Kat*

    The coworker from #1 is likely a scammer. The whole living off of groceries donated by a neighbor who has (oh so conveniently) moved tipped me off. There are a number of stories that are shared among con artists, according to police, and this is one of them.

    Suggest they contact a church organization or social services, then say firmly: “I can’t help you, so don’t ask again.”

    And tell his manager, your manager, and HR what is happening — especially about him following you to your car, not letting up on the hints, and making you very uncomfortable.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      100% agree. I read this as a scam. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but I would think that most people in a situation like he described to OP would do everything in their power to NOT have to relay that kind of information to a colleague on day 2 of their job, knowing judgey people would make incorrect assumptions about how they ended up in need.

      1. Perpal*

        Forget not doing it because of judgy people; most also know it’s just not cool to hard pressure someone you just met and want a positive ongoing relationship with for money

    2. Quill*

      The number of details is what makes me think this isn’t genuine. Sounds too practiced?
      “Could you loan me a 20 for gas? My life is a mess right now,” would sound more like “in over his head and interpersonally unskilled.”

      Also it’s pretty telling when a person can’t borrow a 20 off of family, friends, or community members and instead hits up strangers they may or may not have a power imbalance with. Not saying that people who have professional jobs never have money trouble, or that food insecurity among people who don’t ‘look’ poor isn’t a thing, but in general the detail and the overshare come off as shady tactics.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        Agreed – the fact that someone closer to him wasn’t willing to help out is a major red flag. Either he’s giving you a phony sob story, or he’s a known deadbeat among his family and friends.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          +1. Chances are that he has a bad rep with his support system and has burned through them for a reason.

    3. Michael Valentine*

      Yes, I agree OP1 should share what happened. I’d be telling not just higher ups, but coworkers. It’s likely all peers have been hit up for money, thinking they were the only ones!

    4. Arctic*

      Yeah, I think the fact that co-worker isn’t straight up asking for money is also a sign this is a scam. Sure, most people are uncomfortable asking. But when you are at the point of following someone to their car you aren’t exactly afraid of taking on a little shame.
      But if they don’t ask directly there is plausible deniability. “Oh, I was just venting!”

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh…you mean that dude outside isn’t really broken down?! For the 12th day in a row?! He doens’t really need gas?! /sarcasm [The same guy literally hit me up years ago for gas two days in a row, since I worked in the area and he was on the same corner, bless.]

      Yes, police have actually started posting large posting about fake-signs in rest areas in the area! And they have also of course passed around this kind of news for awhile now, thankfully.

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

    OP 4, my company is very similar to yours, and every time labor negotiations come up non-union salaried employees are prepped on what the plan will be in the event of a strike. One year they even went so far as to list who will work what shift (our union employees work 24 hours), and anyone who was not taking over those critical positions would be triaging the incoming work to support production deliveries. Our organization would NOT have helped with any of the logistics from what I understand, their help was telling us a few weeks in advance so that everyone could make arrangements. Basically, everything else would be put on the back burner to make sure we could still meet our commitments. Luckily nothing ever happened and it was all for naught, but yes, our roles would have temporarily changed without any overtime pay.

  31. Not a Blossom*

    LW #4, I want to emphasize Allison’s point that you should tell your manager what can and cannot be done with regard to your own workload and any possible effects. Most importantly, put it in writing so they can’t come back later and say they didn’t know or blame you.

  32. hbc*

    LW3: I have to admit, I do somewhat doubt the honesty (or at least thoroughness) of a person who can’t come up with anything less than stellar about an employee. I think you can make clear that it’s small in context or even had no bearing on the particular job. Something like, “Jane’s not really great at communicating by phone. That’s not an issue for our environment since we rely heavily on email for documentation purposes, but she’d probably need some time to adapt if you need a lot of phone skills in the job you’re hiring for.” Or even, “It sounds like the job you’re hiring for needs X skill, but we don’t use that at all here, so I can’t say anything about her X abilities.”

    At minimum, there’s usually a flip side to one of the positives you mentioned that’s relatively obvious. Just give the person *something* to show you’re not using rose-colored glasses.

    1. Important Moi*

      You doubt the honesty of someone who can’t come up with *something*? I am surprised at many of the comments here about this. I accept that I’m in the minority.
      I do wonder if all of those asking the questions are just as upfront about the shortcomings of their place of employment or can you not come up with *something* to tell the would be employees?

      1. boo bot*

        I’m surprised by it too, although I think maybe it’s because I think there’s a gray area here, where I might know Jane’s shortcomings, but wouldn’t name them because they’re either irrelevant to her work, or incredibly minor – like maybe she’s not good at public speaking, but her job is never going to require that anyway – and naming them could give the wrong impression. I don’t want to raise a potential red flag for an employer where there’s not an actual problem.

        Like if I ask, “Does this air conditioner I’m considering buying have any drawbacks?” and the salesperson says, “Well, it doesn’t work under water.” Like, I had never considered that I might *need* it to work under water, but if she’s bringing it up, maybe it *is* a problem…

    2. Nancie*

      But neither of your examples are something that would come to mind if you asked what the employee’s weaknesses are. If we don’t do much communicating over the phone, it won’t occur to me to say anything about Jane’s phone skills. Same for “X skill” that we don’t use at all.

      If you want to know about those, you’re going to have to ask specifically. “How’s Jane on the phone?” “How’s Jane at X?”. And even then, you may get “I couldn’t say how well Jane handles that.”, particularly for “X skill”. The best I could probably say about that, is that we don’t use it in our office.

    3. Frustrated Reference*

      This particular employee is very seasoned and has held very high level positions in the past (think director type of jobs). He’s sharp as a tack and I never had any issues with his attitude or professional skill set. I appreciate everyone’s feedback, and I’ve been brainstorming all morning on what I can say next time I’m asked a similar question. Again, thanks Alison and AAM community for your support!

  33. So sleepy*

    OP#5, I have to disagree with AAM on this one. In SOME cases this is totally normal, but it depends on the nature, length and scope of your internship. I had a co-op student about 4 years ago for 6 months. He typically asks for a Terence once every 1-2 years but otherwise does not keep in touch (which is totally fine with me). If he came back to town I would probably agree to meet but not be eager to do so – it would be out of professional obligation (and that he kept in touch or not really doesn’t change anything for me either way – I wouldn’t expect him to). I’m sure he made gaffes like you mention but those are an expected part of the process and I’ve long forgotten them. I know it’s too late here but the best thing you could do when you approach someone like this is to let them know what your time with them meant to you or something positive about them (professionally – for instance, you could say you learned a lot from them and value their advice).

    I think probably they are just busy, though, and something like this is always going to fall at the bottom of their priority list but has nothing to do with you on that front (unless you did something memorably epic – but then she probably wouldn’t have agreed to reconnect at all, unless her response was of the “we should do lunch sometime!” variety where she definitely had zero intention of ever doing lunch).

  34. Jaybeetee*

    LW4: This sounds very much like the present situation for federal workers in Canada, save for the “state” part of the question. Our largest union is moving towards striking, though since we have an election in coming weeks, it likely won’t happen until the new year.

    LW, if you are federal, there will be “strike training” if it comes to that. If you feel you can’t discuss your concerns with your manager or anyone in your CoC, I encourage you to contact either someone in your HR or perhaps a union rep to get more objective information. (On the off-chance this person is writing from Canada, Alison’s response may not be 100% applicable, though I’m no expert on labour laws).

  35. hbc*

    OP1: In my experience, people who have exhausted their resources to this extent (i.e.: relying on strangers to continue working) have not gotten that way due to pure bad luck. This guy is not one gas tank away from losing his new job or keeping it and being financially secure again. He believes that he is, I’m sure, but there will be many other “emergencies” later that are a result of bad decisions and poor planning.

  36. bluephone*

    “Should I have left work and gone and got some cash to give this guy?”

    Sweet god no, LW 1. It sucks when people look like they need help and generally speaking, most people are kind and want to be helpful, like you. That’s fine!!! But absolutely not, do not let this guy suck you into further non-work interactions, *tell HR what he’s up to*, and hide your wallet if you have to (so you’re not tempted to fall for his sob story). Being short on funds sucks–been there, done that, couldn’t afford the t-shirt. He has many options available to him, including ones you were kind enough to suggest to him. There is nothing stopping him from exercising those options and NONE of them actually include “passive-aggressively wheedle coworkers/supervisors??*/possibly direct reports????* for money like you’re a timid Mona Lisa Saperstein.”

    I’m sorry to be so strident about this but the whole situation–his laundry list of “I swear I’m broke!”, his poo-poohing perfectly reasonable options, his bringing it up in the first place AT A NEW JOB– is raising red flags. I’ve been burned by grifters and have seen more than one online community get horribly burned by a scammer (and not even a great scammer, which is somehow more embarrassing). So maybe I’m more inclined than most to be like, “oh HAIL NO, give him NOTHING, he probably doesn’t even have a neighbor, has he ever shoplifted a $1.50 can of tomatoes just for funsies and then accused his flatmate of being bourgeois when she called him out on it, etc.”

    But anyway: you didn’t make anything awkward. He did. Don’t give him money and don’t feel bad about it.

    *It sounds like you’re peer coworkers but his behavior is more egregious if he reports to you. And even more so egregious if he has reports under him and is pulling this move with them. That might be a totally baseless accusation but it’s worth throwing out there–**supervisors should not be asking direct reports for money**

    1. fposte*

      And the thing is, even if he’s not a grifter, even if he didn’t hound the OP, she still doesn’t *have* to give her money to him. You do not have to give people something just because they ask for it; it does not mean they need it more than you do or that they’re more entitled to it than you are.

      1. bluephone*

        Yes, this too! We all want things but we’re not entitled to every little thing and no one is obliged to give it.

        Coworker: I want money!
        Me: People in Hell want ice water but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get it*

        *Stole this from an episode of Heroes

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      “MONEY PWEASE!!!”

      This is one of those instances when I wish I had the option to insert a gif.


    Dear LW#1 – I was you in my last job. I brought that same question here – look up “Coworker hits us up for loans” and you’ll find it. I don’t know if your colleague is genuinely in dire straits or is a scammer like mine was, but it might help you to see what happens if you let it go on so long – check out my letter.

    And do keep in mind that while you shut it down quickly with your new colleague, your colleagues may not be as confident and assertive about saying no. And if he’s a scammer like mine was, he will bury them deep in sob stories, and demand that they don’t tell a soul about it. Of course he will say that he wants the privacy because he is embarrassed, but if he is like mine was, what he really wants is to run a number of patsy colleagues at once without any of them knowing that they are in a group.

    The short version is that our office scammer left three people not repaid when she quit with no warning. One sued her and won, but still has not recovered the money. Stories are still trickling in – she still owes thousands to these three.

    My already deeply unethical former bosses refused to get involved in the matter, so for your sake, I will hope that if your new colleague is up to something, that your bosses support and protect you all swiftly & without hesitation. If I were you I would absolutely speak up about it, at least to try to protect any soft-hearted colleagues who might get tricked. I am cheering for you and hope you will give us all an update.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      What he really wants is to run a number of patsy colleagues at once without any of them knowing that they are in a group.

      Just want to note that this came up upthread re a coworker who was hitting everyone up for money to fuel his drug habit. It took them a long time to compare notes and realize Wait, if seven of us gave him the extra $300 he needed to make his rent…

      1. ANON FOR THIS*

        Exactly – keeping the group apart prevents everyone from putting the pieces together.

        Speaking up works! If he is in genuine dire straits, he can be directed to the appropriate resources, and be told that in this workplace, loan requests from coworkers are inappropriate. If he is a scammer, he will immediately recognize that he has been warned….

      2. Buttons*

        Everything this guy is doing reminds me of a dear friend who was an accountant and got addicted to some serious drugs. I never gave her money, but I did fill her car with gas a few times and feed her. Once you have been around an addict and hear the elaborate stories they are able to weave, you are able to spot the behavior in people you don’t even know.

  38. Morticia*

    I just met you and this is crazy,
    But I need money so give me maybe. (sorry)

    I think if he approaches you again with his passive-aggressive panhandling you could try to look puzzled and tell him that’s a really odd thing to ask/tell a new colleague.

  39. Buttons*

    Reading letter 1 nearly made me have a panic attack; my heart starting pounding and I felt queasy. The whole thing is weird, inappropriate, and the following OP to the car is creepy and aggressive. I wonder how many other people he is approaching?
    I wouldn’t wait until it happens again to tell the manager, there is something wrong with this guy. If he legitimately is in need there are resources, and if he is a PM he isn’t an idiot and knows how to find those resources. My 5 yr old niece knows how to google what she wants to know.

  40. Exhausted Trope*

    LW3, could you rephrase the question? I do reference checks daily on my job and we ask a similar question, “in what areas do you believe the candidate could improve professionally?” I never imply anything about weaknesses but the question does yield good answers, for the most part.

  41. Pommette!*

    The sneeze: many, many years ago, a colleague of mine went into very rapid and premature labour at work. Our other colleagues called an ambulance. It took weeks before she and her child (now a healthy, energetic, teenager) were out of the woods. I think that most people know of similar stories – from friends, family members, colleagues who had complicated pregnancies or deliveries.

    Whether or not they realize that you peed, everyone who was at the board meeting is probably just relieved that you are healthy and OK, and is wishing you well!

  42. MentalEngineer*

    “These are critical positions that must have staff to ensure the continued operation of the organization.” LW4, this is exactly why you do not cross the picket line. The company cannot function without its union employees; this is the power of the strike. The only thing scabbing to protect “business-critical” functions does is let management drag the strike out longer to try and starve the workers out. If you and your colleagues do not scab and legitimately critical work goes undone, a resolution will happen faster, and the union workers will win larger concessions. Unless you sincerely believe you will be fired if you refuse, please do not do cross the line. If you absolutely have to, make management regret it. Work-to-rule, be as incompetent as you plausibly can, anything you can do to make sure they feel the pain they’re supposed to be feeling.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      And for those who don’t know what “work to rule” means, just imagine a truculent middle-schooler who does *exactly* what is asked of them and not one bit more, even if it’s super obvious.

      It’s a really effective way to demonstrate that the people doing the physical labor are not stupid and they have judgement worthy of respect. Yes, it’s obnoxious as hell in that middle-schooler but in a labor setting, it’s a way to NOT do anything wrong and yet still cause problems. Sometimes also known as “malicious compliance”, although that’s more correctly used for times when you (the worker) know that following the orders you were given will have a bad result.

  43. Anna*

    1) We have a similar situation going on here, but she isn’t as aggressive with her hinting. She will just talk about how badly she needs money and how she has no money for gas, has friends donating food, etc… sounds very similar to the OPs issue. Another thing I would recommend to the OP is to provide them with the company’s employee assistance program contact info (if they have one) or direct them to HR to see if there are any other programs in place meant to help employees who are going through a rough time.

  44. Jamie*

    I feel so naïve reading this as it would never have occurred to me that a new employee would run a scam on asking for money.

    I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I’d be able to do that myself, so my mind went to how desperate he must me.

  45. Black Bellamy*


    Say within earshot of others: “You’re asking me for money? My son is transitioning, so my expenses are high right now, but [points at office rival] just received their trust fund!

  46. Just no*

    OP #2, I never comment here, but I had to scroll down immediately after your letter and respond. Although you know for sure in your case that it was urine, it is completely normal to leak amniotic fluid as you near your due date. I had a small water leakage during my pregnancy with my second child. I thought I might be in labor (my water breaking was the first sign of labor during my first pregnancy), so I told my boss I was in labor, but I wasn’t. I went to work the next day and I just told my boss and secretary exactly what Alison said — that it was a “false alarm.”

    Please don’t worry too much about this — just enjoy the last few weeks of your pregnancy. Best of luck to you!

    1. Jamie*

      Yes, this OP. As others have said upfront – if anyone thinks about it at all the uninformed will chalk it up to pregnancy stuff and those who know because they’ve been there will know it’s NBD.

      Good luck with your baby and put this out of your mind.

  47. Jennifer*

    #1 If this guy really is struggling financially, I feel for him. I have been there. But he has to understand a lot of people are struggling right now and don’t have anything to spare, and even if they do, they aren’t obligated to share with him.

    One thing I’d suggest is to have a list of local charities on hand where you can refer people if this comes up in the future. In my area, you can dial 211 for assistance with rent and other bills. The EAP might be another good resource.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      These are good suggestions. Though I will have to point out that he may not be eligible for EAP yet if it’s tied to your health insurance like ours is. You only have access after your probationary period.

      However I know some employers have benefits right out of the gate, if that’s the case then that note can be stricken of course!

  48. WellRed*

    For the first letter, I wonder if his references were checked before he was hired. He’s a scammer and I’ll bet this is ongoing.

    1. AnonForReasons*

      I knew a scammer like this who managed to find one friend and one relative to play the part of past employers for reference checks.

  49. M. Albertine*

    LW #2: If you feel a sneeze coming on at a really inopportune time, SOMETIMES you can stave it off by rubbing the top of your mouth with your tongue.

    (Solidarity, mama. I’ll cross my fingers for you that you’re one of the lucky ones where this problem goes away when you’re no longer pregnant.)

  50. Jennifer*

    Re: Pregnancy
    Everyone is just glad you and baby are okay! Trust me, you have no reason to be embarrassed. If anyone has a problem, they need to get over themselves. Because of the way things are in the States, many women have to work right up until their due date. If anyone has a problem with that, they should talk to the company about changing maternity leave policies.

  51. Marissa*

    For OP5, I agree with everything Alison said. I’d add that I personally appreciate when I’m super busy if someone with an open schedule offers up that their schedule is open, so if I have time I can just send them a calendar invite for the time and place that works for me. Then it’s on my calendar and I don’t have to go back and forth with them suggesting times and places, I just set it and it’s done.

  52. Nailed It*

    OP#1: This Guy has a special kind of hubris to approach his female supervisor and ask for money on this second day at work. That tells me he’s a pro at this and he is probably a seasoned con artist. Tell him no firmlu and report him to HR.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      I was just coming here to say that. To tell someone you just met you are broke and can’t afford to get to work is strange. Either he really is that desperate for money or (what I am leaning towards) he is scamming this girl. Honestly I would never lend someone I work with money, unless it was like for lunch or something.

  53. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1 You told him to ask for an advance but he didn’t want to bother with corporate? Wtf. Every time someone has really been in need and was told “we do discressansey pay draws, ask the HR lady.” They come creeping into my office to ask. Never has anyone poopooed the idea of going to the correct source. Especially for a brand new employee I’ll advance days worked. So he could have gotten a days advance in this case. Corporate may have been slower of course but you do that and go beg anywhere else for gas money that’s not your new colleagues, this dude is so over the top it’s unsettling.

    He started Thursday and starter pestering Friday? I want desperately to know if he showed up Monday.

    He burned out all his options? If he’s going to panhandle to it away from those who know you even vaguely .

    1. it's me*

      Right? Absolutely fishy. He’s so much ‘in need’ he’s asking coworkers he just met, but he can’t be bothered to follow up with corporate?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My senses are also super tingly over the fact he told her he’s “exhausted” all his other options.

        So you’re telling me that even your family members aren’t going to give you $10 for gas? What did you do to exhaust their goodwill towards you?! That’s a huge fishy sign to me. Even my friends will toss me gas money if I ever found myself in that situation and I’d do and have done the same thing for them. You know why we do it for each other? We know the other person is great and will always return the favor.

        This is also why nobody has any issues finding someone to help them move or get an emergency food box put together, etc.

        We’re a bunch of generally charitable folks and I’ve literally only saw someone cut off if they are a drug addict or similar.

  54. Dana B.S.*

    I did once lend a new coworker $20. There were some suspicious components to it, but I also knew that our payroll schedule meant that he would be working for 3 weeks before getting a paycheck. I actually forgot about it until payday when he came by to pay me back. However, this employee did not follow me to my car or anything else. Overall, just read the situation and decide what works best for you.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have helped out personally before as well, it’s one of those things that you go with your gut and if you’re able to help!

      I mean, I would probably give just about anyone $10-$20 if they approached me right. But so many people cannot afford it, asking is rarely the crime it’s all about your delivery and being able to accept no as an answer…and also not being weirdly aggressively hinting like the OP is dealing with. It’s weird because the dude never comes out and says “Hey can I borrow $20?”

      1. AnonForReasons*

        That’s so there’s plausible deniability about his con. He can say: “She must have misunderstood. I was just venting. I certainly never asked her for money!”

  55. medusa*

    Anyone else think that Alison missed a golden opportunity by not placing the pregnant woman’s letter first?

  56. Is it really Monday already?*

    In this day and age of ride sharing, there is no need for anyone with a decent vehicle to be flat broke. Uber and Lyft offer immediate pay, I know someone who drives just for this reason, to have cash on hand. It is supplemental to their primary occupation, and has low barriers to entry. I would have suggested this to the parking lot beggar. Then reported him for inappropriate behavior. Workplace beggars, where you are captive, are the worst.

    There is a difference between poor and broke. Poor people usually have few assets and limited means of aquiring more, while broke people can have many assets and potential for aquiring more. Genuinely poor people have more of my sympathy, but I still do not understand begging from others. Just about every non-rich person has struggled through difficult times, including myself. I’m an excellent money manager, some people aren’t and need financial counseling to learn how to live within their means.

    1. F.M.*

      Uber and Lyft do offer immediate pay! But in many places they require background checks (which can disqualify some people, and takes time), and their standards for cars are well above what most of the cars I’ve used for commuter vehicles would have met. Most family car insurance plans won’t cover driving done for them without a special rider, either, so someone who starts doing that without paying for the rideshare driver addition to their plan is violating the terms of their insurance and putting themselves at risk for financial catastrophe if they have an accident while doing that driving. Even aside from the comfort level of having strangers getting in your car with you repeatedly…

      There are ways to make emergency money on the fly. But it’s really not as simple as “You have a car, you can immediately make money doing rideshare driving.”

    2. Jennifer*

      This is a very insensitive response. “You have a car, drive for uber!” It’s not that easy to sign up for a service like that. Not everyone has time outside of work to do that. Not everyone’s car is in good enough condition for it. They may share a car with their spouse who needs it in their off hours. There are also safety concerns. I personally don’t want to drive all over town in the middle of the night picking up any and everybody. It’s dangerous for the riders AND the drivers.

    3. VeryAnon*

      “need financial counseling to learn how to live within their means.”

      No amount of ‘counselling’ helps when you don’t have enough money. Every time I’ve been poor it’s because my partner has lost his job.’Counselling’ doesn’t just magically reduce the cost of contracts you can’t get out of or utility bills you have already accrued. Nor does it magically make a £5 pair of shoes acceptable in the workplace or reduce the cost of train tickets which were affordable when you weren’t supporting two people.

      It might help if you were living on takeaways and beer and didn’t know how to cook or were, I dunno, frittering cash on designer handbags. But very few people are actually like that.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, exactly.

        I can pinch a penny until it screams. But if I don’t have the four figures it takes to pay my mortage and utilities, no amount of saying “Just don’t have a latte every morning” (that I don’t do because I’m stingy) will fix that. No amount of “giving up eating out” will buy my groceries – because I don’t eat out enough to make cutting it out mean anything (think < $50 a month for two people for "eating out".)

        When I ended up in a lot of debt because of unemployment (2000/2001 recession), there was nothing left to cut. We ate out of stored canned and dry food in our garage, and had to replenish our earthquake supplies when I got work again. Our vehicle went nowhere it didn't have to, we walked or rode the bus to appointments, and were very strict about electric usage.

        When we got hit again in 2009/2010, I had paid off all my debts, reduced my liabilities, and had no dunning calls. But I sold stock I didn't want to lose to pay health insurance. I still helped feed my friends out of my emergency food stocks, as well as my household.

  57. Zapthrottle*

    RE #2

    (That 0.1% chance of an alternative is just in case you have a 12-year-old boy on your board.)

    Well, that’s quite sexist and discriminatory to say the least.

    Do you know how many 12, 12, 14, and even 65 year old girls/women are immature bitches and would carve up a women in an awkward situation? But your comment attacks men and young people. ONLY.

    Being unkind to a pregnant woman can come from anywhere- it’ not the sole domain of men.

    I’m so sick of people believing that men are the only “kinds of people” who can be sexist and biased AND think it’s ok to demean them simply because of their gender. Do you feel more powerful and liberated and are somehow redressing wrongs against women by doing the same to me. Would you make the same flippant, sexist type of remark about women or are your (careless or intended) sexist generalities reserved only for men?

      1. Buttons*

        It is a clear display of the fragile masculine ego. Nowhere in the letter or in the reply did anyone say anything about men being unkind or biased towards women.

        1. Parenthetically*

          It’s a classic drive-by from someone who is absolutely dedicated to proving that Women These Days hate men and that men are the only ones who experience Real Sexism(tm) any more, and will twist even the most anodyne remark to suit his purpose. Seriously snort-laughing.

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      As a 6th grade teacher, I’d like to definitively state that 12 year old boys do, in fact, disproportionately find potty humor funny.

      1. Jamie*

        And I’m guessing those 12 year old boys aren’t particularly knowledgeable about, or sensitive to, the nuances of pregnancy?

    2. Observer*

      Alison didn’t say that if there are MEN on the Board it might be a problem. If you really think that “12-year-old boy” covers all men, that’s a far bigger and more sexist issue.

  58. Batgirl*

    I didn’t get that sense until the employee said to the LW “oh I’d have to go through corporate” as though they were a different breed of human. This is combined with LW saying they don’t know each other. Like “Oh the serious business-like people in corporate (men) won’t care, but nice people (women!) might help”.

    1. Brian*

      LW4, please look up YouTube videos of people crossing picket lines and decide if that’s something you want to be apart of. Emotions will be high and sometimes it turns ugly, and you’ll have to eventually be co-workers with these people once again.

      I crossed a picket line early in my professional career (I was in a non-union salaried role) and it was not a fun experience.

    2. it's me*

      Yeah, if this is something he’s going to multiple people with as some commenters have said, it’s possible he’s done some sizing-up (pretty risky thing to do within days of starting, but) and targeted people he assumes are too nice and/or too scared to say no.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My “Benefit of the Doubt” brain would say that this is possibly only a “thing” if it’s going to take multiple days to get an advance pushed through, since Corporate is a different location and has to hit a few different locations.

      So if they had said “I put in for the draw but it has to go through Corporate so I’m still not sure how I’ll have gas money to get here on Monday.” I’d have a lot more sympathy and also willingness to fill the dude’s tank up for him. Literally it’s a “here’s a gas card.” situation instead of “here’s a wad of money”.

      The intensity of the “I need money. I need money NOW.” is a huge red flag that shows their impulse control is out of wack. After he followed her to her car, my radar went screaming that he’s got an addiction and he needs a fix before the end of the work day. :(

      1. it's me*

        It also (although maybe this has been covered) sounds like he wants this to be cash under the table and not involve paperwork.

  59. Batgirl*

    LW1, I think a formal response is needed where someone up the chain tells them they can’t randomly hit coworkers up for money and that they need to get a proper advance approved when in a fix. One of the best lines to use in the interim with those who feign helplessness is Captain Awkward’s “Huh, so what do you think you’ll do?” I also like to add as a closer: “Well I’m sure you’ll come up with something” as it stresses that this is THEIR situation to figure out. “Not going to corporate? Oh so what do you think you’ll do instead?” Refuse to take any hint that this is in any way your problem. If he moves They aren’t asking straight out because a) they know it’s wrong and b) that would give you an opportunity to say no.

  60. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: OMG I don’t even have kids but I would gladly pretend I hadn’t seen anything and chalk pretty much anything that happened to you up to late-term body weirdness. (And, honestly, I might not have seen anything if I were focused on somebody else speaking, etc.) I hope your coworkers aren’t boorish enough to comment beyond making sure you’re OK.

  61. Blaine*

    #1 – I’ve found from my own experience and speaking with others that this happens more then I would of ever imagined There is a woman at my school who owes many many people thousands of dollars. She will go to different teachers, or support staff who are incredibly kind and tell a story about a car accident, a banking problem, flooding, etc. She managed to get $3000 from a special ed teacher – my district in particular is one of the lowest paid teacher salaries in our state. It wasn’t until she asked my no nonsense co-worker for money that she was reported to the principal, who then reported it to central office. A investigation found that this had been going on for YEARS across the entire district , she is support staff and visits multiple sites. She wasn’t fired, but she is required to pay back everything she owes. Unfortunately some staff are so embarrassed that they fell for it that they refused to be named and wrote anonymous statements verifying she had borrowed money from them. I think someone must have to be sociopath/psychopath to be outright asking co-workers/acquaintances for money who work in a field where everyone is horribly underpaid, and then getting away with it for YEARS. The gall someone must have really floors me.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      There are scammers and cons among us, they smile in our face and tug on the heartstrings. YOU NEVER EXPECT IT when you find out it’s a con.

      It reminds me of the con that went around what, last year maybe? Some woman and her boyfriend made up this story about how she was assisted by a homeless vet who gave her the only $20 he had so she could get gas, since she had run out and apparently didn’t have her wallet on her something. They made this guy a GoFundMe to get him off the streets…and then blew the entire lot on the casino. He got like very little from it, they claimed they were “holding it in trust” but that doesn’t explain the fact they were spending it so fast, jfc.

      This is theft due to the deception and it’s illegal but hard to prosecute unfortunately.

      1. AnonForReasons*

        After he complained about the couple spending most of the money, it was discovered that the homeless vet (Johnny Bobbitt) was in on the scam. She did not run out of gas, and the vet did not give her $20. Bobbitt has since been sentenced to 5 years probation for his part in the con.

  62. Seeking Second Childhood*

    A question on OP2’s behalf — is there any reliable *reusable* alternative to Depends yet?
    With all the re-usable washable environment-saving products like Thinx that are hitting the market, I’d have expected to hear about something for this market by now. But women I know with newborns are still stuck with disposable product.

    1. it's me*

      I have seen products similar (for all I know identical) to washable period underwear that are aimed at older women starting to experience urinary incontinence. Got ads for them for a while there.

      1. it's me*

        At least, there is one product. Can’t remember the name, though, and I don’t know if the older woman demo has different needs from the postpartum mother in terms of product.

    2. blackcat*

      The maker of Thinx as an incontinence product.

      That said, with a newborn, I didn’t have the bandwidth to do *even more* laundry…

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