my director lied to HR about me, company wouldn’t tell us our coworker was gone, and more

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

1. My director lied to HR about what I told him

I’ve worked at my job for a little over two years. Six months after I started, my new boss Pam was hired. Working with her has been challenging, and other departments have been complaining about her unprofessional behavior and tendency to snap at people, bully, and generally be unpleasant.

My department had our once-a-year meetings with our department director, Adam, and all shared how difficult working with Pam has been. I don’t expect anything to actually be addressed (whole other issue with having a department director who is terrified of “confrontation”) but figured that at least now he had all the information and it was up to him how to proceed.

Well, about a week later, my coworker told me that our HR director stopped by and told her how glad she was that it had all been resolved. What? Turns out Adam went to the HR director and said we had all separately come to him in the week after our meetings and told him that everything had been resolved, it was just stress from our conference, Pam was fine, everything was great, and there were no issues.

This conversation never happened. Not only did it not happen, it couldn’t have happened because he and I weren’t in the office at the same time for that entire week, and my other coworkers also didn’t have this conversation with him. Things with Pam definitely haven’t been improved, and one of our team members is leaving rather than continue working with her.

I spoke to our HR director and clarified that I’d never had this conversation with Adam, but I’m not sure what to do next. She believed me and seemed disappointed but I’m not sure anything further will happen. I feel weird meeting or talking to him now, knowing that he’d outright lie to another director about a conversation with me that never happened. Should I talk to him about it? I can’t get past that he’d do something so bizarre.

Wow. Assuming your other coworkers didn’t tell Adam everything was okay (which is a possibility you’ve got to consider!), this is a serious breach from Adam — it’s a violation of his responsibility to your team, and it’s a violation of his responsibility to the company. It’s pretty shocking, actually. It’s a flagrant lie in service of … what? His desire to avoid conflict? His desire to make HR think he has everything under control?

Whether or not to say something to him depends on how much you trust he won’t penalize you for it. If you feel safe speaking up, I’d say, “Jane told me you said we all told you our concerns about Pam had been resolved. I didn’t say that and don’t feel that way. Did I say something to give you that impression?” … and, “I continue to think the problems with Pam are serious ones, and I’ve clarified that to HR.”

Encourage your coworkers to talk to HR directly too so that HR is clear on (a) how much of a problem Pam really is and (b) the extent of Adam’s lie. It’s also reasonable for you to say to HR, “I’m concerned that Adam heard us speak up about a serious problem but then told you we changed our minds and there are no issues. This wasn’t a misunderstanding; I don’t know how to read it as anything other than an attempt to mislead you. Where do we go from here?”

Read an update to this letter here

2. Company refused tell us our coworker doesn’t work here anymore

I work at a company of about 20 people. A little while ago, about four of us went into a meeting for a super high-priority project. The project manager, who was supposed to lead the meeting, never showed up. Finally, someone went to his desk and reported that none of this belongings were there. Management would say nothing beyond that the meeting was cancelled, but that night, one of my coworkers texted the project manager and was told that he had been fired two days before. I understand that the company would like to keep things confidential, but is it really a good idea just to pretend that they never existed?

Nooooo. It’s is extremely weird. It’s not like people won’t eventually figure the person is gone, at which point they’ll think the company is incredibly bizarre for not telling them. And meanwhile they’ll be hamstrung in their work without knowing why. It’s ridiculous.

And yet it is a thing that sometimes happens at badly run companies.

3. Friendly coworker asks about my day, afternoon, and night

My coworker, Anna, is incredibly friendly, professional, and brings great energy to the office. I have zero criticisms about her: I love working with her and love her personality. The only thing I’m irked about is that she asks about my day, afternoon, and night … every. single. day! “What are you doing this weekend?” “Where did you go for lunch?” “Are you doing anything tonight?” “How was your day off?” I’m not getting a nosy vibe, just friendly. Thankfully, she doesn’t ask this all at once, but I think it’s too much! This must be her version of phatic expressions.

So far I’ve been responding with “not much, you?” or “nothing special. How about you?” Sometimes I like to be social and share whatever. Should I simply persist with being boring? I have a feeling that this will never end no matter what response I give.

I think I’m mostly annoyed that these questions force me to talk when sometimes I don’t feel like talking. I try to avoid being my own version of “Anna” by consciously asking people yes / no questions, which allows the other person to expand more if they wish. One example: “I hope you got to relax this weekend?”

I suppose I’m writing in for some validation and perhaps a perspective/mantra that would make this less difficult. Is there a way to navigate this? Am I the only one annoyed here? She’s just so lovely and friendly. I don’t want to say anything, but I’m bothered enough to write in!

Some of this is quite normal — “How was your day off?” is a pretty inoffensive question. But I can see how being asked every single day about all aspects of that day would start to feel like an awful lot. It sounds, though, like she’s a warm and friendly person and intends to connect with you and convey warmth and interest in you.

In many cases, questions like these help build warm relationships — she asks what someone is doing that night, the person says they’re seeing a movie with their partner, they talk about the movie, they talk about the partner, boom, now they’re having a more substantive conversation that builds a relationship.

In your case, it’s making you feel weirdly interrogated. That’s no surprise since you’re someone who’s deliberate about asking yes/no questions to coworkers in this context — which is pretty unusual and indicates you’re on the other end of the spectrum from Anna. So you two are just different in this way. (Although I admittedly might have a different read on Anna if you didn’t find her so lovely.)

But it’s fine to persist with vague or boring answers — “nothing much,” “just relaxed,” etc. (I enjoy saying “I am doing NOTHING” with enormous triumph like the tone other people use to announce they got Hamilton tickets. In fact, I take pleasure in bragging about doing nothing, as I feel I am doing the lord’s work by promoting lounging time.)

I don’t think there’s much you can do the being forced to talk when you don’t want to piece of this. That’s just part of working with other people — they’re going to talk to you, say social niceties, etc. I’d focus on the fact that you think Anna is great and this is more about connecting than interrogating you, and perhaps remind yourself that you’re just in different places on the Interest In Interaction scale.

4. Can I decline to go to a conference I suggested?

My team works at the junction of a number of fields, helping to build a system that is pretty novel in its approach to solving some serious problems. Because what we’re doing is so new (to us, and to our industry) we’ve generally taken a very democratic approach to decision making and development, as team discussion can often identify vulnerabilities in plans or perspectives we’ve overlooked.

Unfortunately, that approach has bled into everything we do. Which brings us to my current dilemma. I found a conference I think would be really good for networking and learning more about what’s happening in our particular field. We didn’t have the budget to go last year, so I waited to see the theme for this year and it’s an excellent fit for what we’re working on. I brought this to my boss with prepared information about why the conference would be useful AND a pitch about a presentation or poster topic.

He brought it to the team. Our normal discussion ensued, and the team decided on a different presentation topic — one I don’t feel comfortable with, because I don’t think we have enough evidence (yet) to support the claims we’d be making. I voiced this concern but was overruled. Now, everyone is viewing this as “my” conference (since I proposed it), but I don’t want to go anymore if I have to do this presentation! How can I bow out without looking like I’m sulking? Is there a way get out of this gracefully?

Making all decisions at work by popular vote is … problematic. Getting people’s input is often good, but sometimes one person needs to be the decision-maker in their area of responsibility.

Anyway, how about this: “When I proposed presenting at this conference, I was planning around topic X. I’m not comfortable presenting on Y. I don’t object to someone else doing it if they want to (aside from the concerns I’ve already shared), but I’m not the right person to do it. Would it make sense to send someone else or just hold off on this one for now?”

Or, if you don’t feel comfortable lending that much support to the idea of someone else doing it: “I’ve heard everyone out with an open mind, but I’m just not comfortable presenting on this topic. Since it doesn’t make sense for me to attend, how should we proceed?”

5. Are we being paid correctly for on-call time?

I recently started working part-time at a residential mental health treatment facility. Their mission is inspiring, most of the staff is cool and the work is agreeable. In my department, staff members take turns with the “on call phone” to cover any questions, mishaps, or emergencies from 9 pm until 7 am the next morning. Some nights nothing happens and nobody calls, and some nights the phone is ringing half the night. Most nights involve one or two phone calls with fairly routine issues. The employee is also expected to document any overnight issues and send those in an email report, and then report to work the next morning as scheduled and on time.

I like my team and I would consider taking my turn in the on call rotation, but the pay is not very good for the potential work involved. No matter how many times the employee is disturbed overnight, and no matter how much time and effort is involved per phone call, they receive a paltry $30 per night on call. Is this even legal? We are all hourly employees.

Legally, you have to be paid for all time worked. So if you earn $15/hour and you spend two hours or less per night on calls and documenting the issues, then the $30 payment is legal. (Although if those two hours put you over 40 hours for the week, then you’d need to be paid overtime at time and a half.) But if you earn $15/hour and spend three hours on the calls and documentation, then no, this is illegal — you’d need to be paid $45 for that work (plus any overtime if applicable).

For the “on-call” piece of this — nights where you’re handling the phone but don’t actually get any calls — they actually don’t have to pay you. They just have to pay you for the time you spent performing work.

My hunch is that the flat rate they’re paying you doesn’t cover all the hours worked in every case, which is illegal. My other hunch is that they think it’s okay because “it all evens out” once you factor in the nights with no call. But the law doesn’t let them do it that way unless it’s evening out in that same work week (i.e., one night you get four hours of work and the next night you get zero). They can’t do it across work weeks … and it also needs to be tracked and accurate.

Here’s some advice on raising this with them.

{ 557 comments… read them below }

  1. OneWomansOpinion*

    If I got woken up at 4 or 5 and then still had to report to work at a normal hour, it would leave a bad taste in my mouth to only be compensated for the 15 minutes the phone call actually took. I do not blame OP for being skeptical!

    1. Roverandom*

      Agreed. Are there any rules about mandatory time off between work hours (ex. where I live I believe workers need to have 8hrs off or something)? They need to be more considerate of how disruptive on-call nights are.

      1. Natalie*

        Only in a few specific industries (trucking, for example). There’s no general law applying to all workers.

        1. Queen of the File*

          There are rules about this in some places, regardless of industry. In Ontario (Canada) for example you’re required to have 8 hours off between shifts, with a few exceptions.

          1. Cedarthea*

            Now if they are in or associated with a Residential Care Worker in Ontario there are different rules. Basically you can get woken up in the night to deal with stuff.

            I run an overnight summer camp, there is rarely a night I get 8hrs “off duty”, and that’s not counting the nights that a child becomes ill in the night. So yah, there is the reality of caring for people in a professional setting that doesn’t really “add up”.

          2. Natalie*

            Yes, I should have been more clear that I was just speaking to the US. (And some states might have broader laws.)

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Some states or local jurisdictions might have laws regarding time between shifts, but I think certain industries in particular healthcare have exceptions to some labor laws.

        Alison if someone’s regular pay is $15 is the employer actually required to pay the same rate for on call work? Could the employer say yes your regular pay is $15, but for on call shifts the pay rate will be $10/hr or a lower minimum wage allowed by law?

          1. Natalie*

            Although for OT you have to weight their pay rates, you can’t just use the lower one. A lot of payroll software will default to the highest rate just to be safe.

      3. TardyTardis*

        I know care places where every building is a separate corporation, and that’s how they get away without paying any overtime…

    2. Wintermute*

      I work in IT where oncall is very normal for every team (I’m in central network operations, the people that make sure the website is working and business systems processing day and night). The norm is you’re compensated at least an hour (or two hours at some places) for ANY call. If the call takes 15min you get paid 1-2 hours depending on which business it is I’m talking about, if it takes three hours you get paid three hours.

      They’ve also always had accommodations for calls that take any significant time (anything more than “That’s not a big deal alarm, leave it for morning, thanks, bye”) in terms of adjusting start time or taking the day off if you were up half the night remote logging into servers or routers.

      I would never agree to anything less long-term especially because in this business a lot of calls end up being very short, “the power’s out in Eureka” “okay, let me know if it comes back and everything doesn’t come online, let PG&E know and Commcast too”, type deals.

      1. Overtime Ripoff*

        What?! I work in IT as well, and we get paid only for the number of minutes we spend on a call. Plus we are now on an overtime freeze (as I wrote about in the open thread a few weeks ago), so instead of at least getting time and a half for that sleep interruption, we just get to go home early the next day. (They did change to this from giving the time off the following week, after I tipped off HR.) We get only a two hour minimum for the entire week.

        1. Wintermute*

          I’ve worked three different places and while whether they pay 1 hour or 2 varied, the idea of paying the full hour never changed. This is a cellular provider, a bank and an insurance company.

      2. Emily K*

        Yeah, I was going to say, the employers I’ve see handle this well do have something like a flat rate for on-call nights, but it’s actually a floor representing the minimum pay you’d get regardless of how much time you log, and if you log more than X hours you’d get additional pay.

        My ex was a handyman for a property management company, and he was the overnight on-call person in case someone overflowed their toilet in the middle of the night or whatever. Many nights he got no calls and he rarely got more than 1 or 2, but it also meant that traveling was next to impossible for us because 6 nights a week he needed to be within short driving distance of his employer’s properties just in case. They knew that this was a significant imposition on him even if most nights he got no calls, so they paid him a flat rate of $30 for every night he was on call, plus $25 per call after the first call.

        1. Queen of the File*

          This was the issue when they tried to implement on call hours at my old workplace. Besides the fact that they would only pay for time you spent physically at the office working–you had to be able to get to the office within an hour (and work-ready, so no drinking etc.). Tough sell when most of the staff was still in the prime of their partying days and rotation meant you were on call for a full week and weekend every three weeks.

          1. AntOnMyTable*

            At my place if you are on call you are expected to be at the hospital within an hour of when they call you in. At that point you get your regular pay. While at home, waiting around, you get something like two bucks an hour. It is ludicrous. If you live far from work you essentially can’t do anything until they take you off being on call (and sometimes that isn’t until 6-8 hours later) because you have to be able to get dressed and get to work. If you live closer maybe you can do quick errands but just barely. And you can’t really get caught up in any projects at home since could be interrupted anytime.

            I am really fortunate that I don’t get put on call but I think it is so crazy. That is really poor compensation to expect someone to essentially sit around for hours waiting for a call.

      3. Tammy*

        The last time I was in an on-call role (as a database administrator), the practice was that you got a certain amount of money for being on-call for the week, and then you clocked in if you were paged, did the work, and clocked out. If that meant you got overtime for the week or whatever, so be it. If you were up half the night and needed to come in late, that was a cost of doing business and was fine.

        As I recall, there was some sort of legal headache around on-call work at one point, and that was the way things shook out. (But I also lived in California then, where virtually every HR law and policy came with an asterisk and “it’s different in California” fine-print, so take that for what it’s worth.)

      4. Clisby*

        My only experience with on-call was as a salaried IT employee (on call 24/7/365 except that if I took vacation I could say “not available by cellphone.”

        I was not paid extra for it, since I was exempt. However, I absolutely could flex my time to make up for it. If I was waked up in the middle of the night, it didn’t matter if the problem took me only an hour to resolve. I was taking at least half a day off for that. I wasn’t waked up in the middle of the night very often – but as someone else mentioned, because I was on call my sleep was pretty much wrecked anyway. If I actually had to get up out of bed and respond to a problem? That’s a half-day of work, at least.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This is the reality I’m living now. 24 x 7 x 365 unless I’m on vacation and away from a computer, then I need to make sure things are covered.

          Fortunately, the services I run very seldom go down at night. Unless I’m up for more than a half hour during my usual sleep time, I don’t get time off.

          But my teammates are not as diligent in responding to stuff on the services I run. I was literally driving back from my father’s memorial service out of town when I got paged repeatedly by our monitoring system. I had to pull over and use our team Slack to ask that someone else handle the issue, I was literally on the road!! This has left a bad taste in my mouth, that’s for sure.

        2. Elle Kay*

          Better than some of my recent experiences. IT, on call, salaried, exempt, but zero adjustment to start time even with 12+ extra hours. Or start time was actually adjusted earlier.

      5. EmKay*

        This was pretty much the deal my ex-husband had with his IT job. The rule was, if he had to boot up his laptop and log in to answer whatever the question was, he was automatically paid 2 hours, whether the call lasted 5 or 120 minutes.

        If the call lasted more than an hour, he’d usually work from home the next day, and start late. It was a pretty good compromise.

      6. c56*

        Interesting reading these responses. I’m in IT and have a rotating on-call shift. The deal is we get a flat fee for the week (200). 1-2 calls per night + a few over the weekend are not uncommon. There’s built in flex-time of one day off for every week you have the shift, but other than that, nothing formal. Would much rather get an hourly rate.

    3. Shirazer*

      I used to have to do this occasionally. And sleep on site in the on call room. It was horrible. My boss said if we had a busy night we could take some extra time to get rested, but if you did they always acted like it was a big deal.

    4. Quill*

      When my dad was on call for IT installations at night there was no presumption that he’d spend the entire time waiting for a call and awake, and none that he’d be in the office the next day, just WFH if necessary. If your company is making you drive sleep deprived they’re taking unnecessary risks.

    5. Hotel GM*

      I once had a front desk clerk give out my personal cell number to a guest. Needless to say, I was less than polite to him when he called me at 2AM disputing the rate we were charging. I said some choice words, hung up, and blocked his number. I’m on call for emergencies every day, but frivolous stuff is annoying.

    6. Lookie Loo*

      Agreed! My husband’s job has a similar on-call rotation. He doesn’t get paid any extra for it since he is salaried, but per union rule, the techs are paid time-and-a-half if they respond to any calls after hours, with a 4-hour minimum. You’re asking people to be ready for emergency calls overnight, and then show up for a full workday the next morning – they should be compensated extra for that.

    7. Sleepless in Medicine*

      I’m a resident physician (so, salaried exempt) regularly taking 6-8 “home call” shifts per month (15 hour shifts on weeknights, a continuous 63 hour shift from Friday evening to Monday morning on weekends) on top of normal 8-11 hour days Monday-Friday, for which I don’t receive any extra compensation. The typical weeknight involves spending 2-5 hours dealing with issues (some patient care, some stupid administrative issues that don’t impact patients at all), which often involves getting woken up repeatedly at night and thus having to go to work on 3-6 hours of sleep. The sleep debt really builds up when I’m on call several days in a row, and there is no mechanism for getting to take the day off after a particularly bad call shift with no/little sleep. My bosses could care less; per them “it’s just part of this career.” For me, this is unsustainable and making me miserable, so I’m strongly leaning toward taking a non-clinical job once I’m done with training in hopes of having a normal sleep schedule again. Sorry OP.

        1. Wintermute*

          keep in mind this is AFTER laws were passed after an exhausted doctor killed a patient to control their hours and keep things more reasonable. this is a hospital’s definition of “more reasonable”!

      1. Wintermute*

        There’s a good reason for the insane suicide rate, drug and alcohol addiction rate, and inability of hospitals to adequately staff with doctors.

        it’s a nasty catch-22. They don’t have enough doctors, so they work the ones they have like rented mules, resulting in a lot of people (myself included) who have a huge interest in medicine take one look at the road of a resident and decide that it’s in no way for us, so it’s hard to train enough doctors to fill demand. So they have to work the doctors they have harder. Which makes it less attractive to be a doctor. which means it’s harder to fill demand.

        If doctors worked even 50 hour weeks I’d have gone into medicine rather than law, and I’m not adverse to long hours and hard work (how I ended up pivoting from law to IT is a whole different story, though neither are exactly short hours, holidays off or going home at 5:00)

      2. Doc in a Box*

        Yeah, home call is the worst loophole in the resident work hour rules, because home call doesn’t count toward work hours restrictions. As a 4th year neuro resident, we’d be stroke team leader on the weekends and holidays (there was an in-house junior, but the STL had to be able to come in and assess the patient within 15 minutes of the stroke alert). You’d usually get at least a couple stroke alerts a day, and holding the stroke pager 24/7 was just stressful.

        My year, Christmas Day was on a Friday, which meant I was on call from 5pm Thursday night until 8am on Monday morning, or 87 hours straight, and it was a busy 87 hours — three or four stroke alerts a day. And then I had a full clinic (8-5) on Monday. It was hands down the worst experience of residency, and I’m including that time I got 18 consults in 12 hours.

        I now have a clinical/academic job which is 100% outpatient, no true call responsibilities, but I still visibly jump every time a pager goes off.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          That used to be the case in Europe as well until 2018.
          Then the European court of Justice ruled that on-call with a definite response time counts as work time – minimum wage applies. When actually called, work/rest time restrictions apply (the latter are generally stricter than in the US). E.g. in Germany, once you hit 14 hours you are not allowed to do any work before 11 hours of rest.

          1. Doc in a Box*

            That sounds amazing. The US law for residents is 80 hr in-house/week averaged over 4 weeks; for first-year residents it’s limited to max 16 hr followed by at least 8 hr rest, and for upper-year residents it’s max 28 hr with no minimum rest (but a recommendation of “strategic napping”). To be honest, the 16 hr rule for interns was unpopular, because you’d sign out to the night team and leave, then return the next day and have to catch up on everything that happened overnight before rounds — and as everyone knows, overnight is when the shit hits the fan. Not to mention the weeks when you’re the night team cross-covering on 50+ patients plus doing consults and admissions from the ED. The only reason more people don’t die is because of fantastic nurses and pharmacists with saner shifts who can catch all the mistakes ordered by sleep-deprived residents.

            For home call, the time spent in the hospital supposedly counts toward the 80 hr max, but in practice it doesn’t get logged. Logging is all honor system anyway, and the one time I honestly reportedly my hours, I was told to fudge the numbers. Programs have great power over a resident’s future (dismissal or loss of accreditation means those residents will have to switch careers), so it’s an unfair setup from the get-go. A few years ago, the whole system was sued as an anti-trust violation, but Congress passed a new law that exempted training programs from anti-trust law, so it went nowhere.

          2. Roverandom*

            That’s how it should be everywhere. I don’t understand why of course we wouldn’t make an office worker, a chef, a truck driver, etc. work for days with no rest, but sure that’s fine for a medical expert with lives on the line.

  2. Mike C.*

    If OP4 believes that there isn’t enough evidence in support of the claims that other want to make, how would it be ethical to support someone else on the team making those same claims? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. OneWomansOpinion*

      Well, we don’t know what the claims are. It might be a big deal or it might be that OP has a more rigorous standard than her colleagues (but the colleagues are behaving within the bounds of ethics). If it’s the former, she can use the second script. But there are plenty of things that I wouldn’t sign my own name to, but I also wouldn’t try to stop someone else from doing it.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s been my experience that the persons with least concern are usually the least qualified. Because they are less competent they don’t see the red flags waving in the breeze.

        This isn’t someone presenting their own work. This is someone presenting the company’s work. That will affect the reputation of OP too.

        I absolutely would stop someone from presenting.

        1. Don’t get salty*

          I completely agree! I’ve given presentations written by someone else without being in communication with that person. I was neither given the ability to change the presentation to suit my style nor to edit it to remove repetition and to give clarity. I got pretty high evaluation marks from the audience, but the comments about the repetition and the disorganization of the slides really bothered me.

        2. Mookie*

          Yep. The presenter or presenting team will end up “owning” the material and its conclusions (which sound shaky and not yet supported) as well as the substsnce and style of a presentation crowdsourced and crowdwritten but which doesn’t reflect the LW’s skills or her team’s best work. And it will affect the employer too if the presenter is so ill-prepared or badly matched to the material that she is not equipped to wander from a script, address a question, improvise, and otherwise be an informed authority who can hold a conversation and answer questions about the material on the conference floor, during breaks and other less rehearsed elbow-rubbing sessions. If the idea the team is eager to present has value, debuting it in this manner may cost the team some credibility if it’s not ready for industry scrutiny.

          As you say, the risks are so obvious here that it’s bewildering only the LW seems concerned.

        3. J.B.*

          It really depends on the situation. I’ve seen conference presentations where they clearly were scraping something together for a conference presentation and stuff presented wasn’t wrong, it just wasn’t IMHO a great design. If I felt this issue justified getting the engineering board involved I would push back hard and put concerns in writing. If I felt the team wasn’t using the best possible approach and would look silly, I would avoid the conference and consider whether it made sense to stay on the team.

          1. Emily K*

            This. I can’t tell you how many sessions I’ve attended with staff from BIG household-name companies where they presented some really interesting findings, and when I approached the presenter after the session to ask some questions it became clear that there were a lot of limitations to what they’d presented that hadn’t been discussed in the talk. I’m in marketing and almost every presentation about making Big Data actionable is like this – when you go talk to the presenter from Global Hospitality Chain or Major Software Company about their case study, it turns out that case study represents the only example of this work they’ve been able to execute and it has XYZ caveats and design limitations and they haven’t quite figured out how to apply the tactic or what they learned to anything else they’re doing.

            It’s not that what they’re doing is unethical, it’s just that marketing is that kind of field, where technology is changing so fast and everyone is always fascinated by the newest shiny thing, so conference attendees would often rather hear a case study with limited applicability that at least represents something new being done that could hopefully give us inspiration for something game-changing to bring to our own programs, as opposed to the well-trodden areas where people have lots of documentation and analysis but the attendees see it as old hat/101 stuff.

            1. Wintermute*

              Working on the OTHER side of this, supporting the data warehouse hard- and software and supporting automations including business analytics bots, this is a REAL problem and I can’t dismiss it as harmless puffery.

              Vendors make a lot of money selling to non-technical business teams promising the sun, the moon and the stars, but the analytics team gets the blame when it’s a Sputnik instead (it’s a miracle that it’s orbiting the earth, but it doesn’t actually do anything useful but make some bleeping noises).

      2. Dan*

        I’ve become a bit of an expert in my field, so when other people question my claims or findings, it’s a tricky balance between addressing legitimate criticism and telling people to stop being Haterz (c). Basically, it comes down to the fact that peer criticism is one thing, and boss criticism is another.

        If you’re going to say stuff that will ruffle feathers, you Have. To. Back. It. Up. If you can’t, then shut it. If you can, well, then you better do it and carry on.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Ugh me too.

          Me: The llama riding festival is a great idea! However, llamas can only carry people for three hours without a break, and the festival is 8 hours long, so we’ll need to make a schedule.
          Boss: Why do you want the llama riding festival to fail? If the llamas aren’t being ridden all 8 hours we can’t have the festival. The last Barn Director didn’t have a problem with this, I don’t see why you have such a bad attitude.

          1. Elise*

            Wait, are you me? “I really think this is a great idea, but it’s too late to publicize an event for that time-frame. Let’s plan it for the next event submission deadline.” (My nice way of saying, you missed the deadline so we can’t market it.) Them: “Elise always says no to everything! She doesn’t let me use my creativityyyyyy!”

    2. TL -*

      It depends on what the claims are and the evidence shown – if it’s overly optimistic interpretation of (clearly presented) so-so evidence, I don’t want my name on it but your reputation is your business.

      If it’s cherry-picking only the good evidence and ignoring the bad or outright lying about the findings, that’s a different case. But I find most cases of questionable claims are the former, not the latter.

        1. TL -*

          I’m not saying they can’t, just that I could easily see the OP refusing to present a project that wasn’t unethical; it just wasn’t up to their standards. If the OP’s co-workers want to present it, there’s no reason to protest beyond what they’ve already done (say you don’t think the evidence is sound enough and suggest further work.)

          That’s basically the OP saying, “I don’t want my name on this poster because the conclusions clearly aren’t supported enough by the evidence and anyone reading it can see that.” It’s not really unethical, just not the impression you want to make.

          1. Dan*

            To your last paragraph, if the sentiment is that strong, then the work shouldn’t be presented by the company the OP works for. If insufficient support is merely the OP’s opinion, then that’s a different story.

            1. Roverandom*

              My reading was more like, OP can’t stop them from sending someone else, just like OP couldn’t stop them from changing the topic. So OP just wants to wash their hands of it. The company probably shouldn’t present this either, but that’s not something OP can control–but they can back out themselves.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                Exactly. The OP doesn’t necessarily have the power to stop the presentation, but probably has the power to not personally present it.

                In academic circles, you have your name taken off a paper if you don’t think it’s of sufficient quality, or is drawing the wrong conclusions, but you can’t prevent it from being submitted to a journal. And there’s often a big grey area between a paper being outright wrong (or unethical), and there being disagreements about the methods and conclusions. Often the solution is to submit for publication or presented it, and get feedback from the wider community.

          2. JSPA*

            let’s say N=8, p = 0.06, standard cutoff in that field is p < 0.05 (but no funny business of throwing out "inconsistent" data).

            It's then a style and professionalism question (and a, "do we want to walk this back next year" question and a "does this mean we'll get scooped by someone who can generate more data faster than we can" question) whether you feel comfortable taking up valuable conference time and space to say, "preliminary data suggest but do not show X."

            Add a title like, "Effects of Z on X," and it can feel like an oversell (and may psychologically function as such) even if the level of support for that statement is clearly stated, and thus not unethical (i.e. by logical criteria, ignoring the psychological aspect).

            1. Mike C.*

              I don’t understand why people keep posting hypothetical marginal examples when the OP didn’t mention a situation anything like this.

              1. AthenaC*

                “If OP4 believes that there isn’t enough evidence in support of the claims that other want to make, how would it be ethical to support someone else on the team making those same claims? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

                ~Mike C

                The answer to your question lies in your initial comment. People are explaining to you how you could, at the same time: 1) not want to present yourself; 2) be okay if someone else presented.

                Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered; or at the very least – don’t complain when people answer questions you asked.

                1. Mike C.*

                  They’re literally speculating about things not mentioned in the letter and pretending that the OP can’t tell the difference.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Mike, people are answering the question you asked about how this could be ethical. The OP has confirmed further down that your premise isn’t an issue here so let’s move on.

                3. Ethyl*

                  The LW said “because I don’t think we have enough evidence (yet) to support the claims we’d be making.”

                  That’s it. That’s all they said. That could mean lots of things, depending on what field you are in! Many of the ways that could present itself aren’t unethical and/or don’t mean the LW’s coworkers can’t or shouldn’t present the data. That’s what people are trying to tell you.

                  But you’re speculating too! that the only thing this could mean is something unethical, when there isn’t any indication of that from OP either. Sorry not everyone is agreeing with you, but them’s the breaks.

                4. Trout 'Waver*

                  Mike C: “How would it be ethical to support someone else on the team making those same claims?”

                  Other posters: Here’s a real world situation where it would be ethical to support someone else on the team making those same claims.

                  Mike C:

                5. Trout 'Waver*

                  Meant to be a “surprised pikachu face”, but I put it in brackets and the script interpreted it as bad url codes.

                6. boo bot*

                  I think people are speculating in order to show that situations do in fact exist in which one might (1) not want to present and (2) not mind someone else choosing to do so.

                  I might be misunderstanding your objection, so apologies if so, but I think this is just kind of like if I said, “I don’t understand why that person is running down the street,” people might say, “maybe they’re late for a meeting, maybe they’re trying to catch a bus, maybe they forgot their engagement ring in the back of a taxi and they’re trying to chase it down.”

                  That doesn’t mean anyone’s insisting that the story of the Missed Bus must be true, it means, “there are a number of situations in which it is reasonable for that person to be running, here are a few examples out of many.”

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            In my work, there can be gray areas where we should include a clause to make a given claim correct in contexts we don’t explicitly address in this text. Or, should just use straightforward language and not pile on qualifiers that make it hard to understand the central point being made, because the other contexts are things like being next to black holes. Which can come down to “I won’t say that in my chapter, but I will mention it once in a meeting/review and then drop it re your chapter.”

            I don’t want it attributed to me, but it’s not a molehill I’m dying on.

            1. Quill*

              There have also been cases where unavoidable lab snafus have forced me to tell my bosses things like “all these tests but one show teapot sterility, but we’ve gotta repeat this one because we’re 90% certain the samples were exposed to moldy teacups” and they’ve gone “You’re R&D, this is why we do duplicates, it’s probably fine because these teapots were made for internal testing use only,”

              And then up the chain someone who doesn’t know that our teapot microbes are only mostly dead says “Yeah! Cleanest teapots ever!”

              And everyone in the lab ceremoneously strips off their gloves, facepalms, then regloves and gets back to work.

        2. Dan*

          Well, since you asked… OP uses the phrasing “I don’t feel” or “I don’t think”. At face value, that’s too soft. In my line of work, I’d think about what was said for like, I donno, 30 seconds. If I didn’t feel the criticism is substantiated, I’d move on. Now, if someone was willing to go to the mat, e.g., was using stronger language, such as “you don’t have the evidence to support…” or “you cannot claim…” those are much stronger phrases that require stronger evidence. The key difference is leaving the “I feels” and “I thinks” out of it.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            If OP is female then they will use that soft phrasing. Because using hard phrasing will get you labeled an arrogant B. I’ve found that some men get VERY upset when a woman tells them “you cannot claim”. You’ll end up with “hard to work with” on your next performance review.

            So – since we don’t know the gender of OP, we can’t weight the words. Not enough data to support that conclusion. ;)

            1. Zillah*

              This. I frequently say “I think” for things I’m sure about, because when I don’t, I’ve found that people tell me that I’m too aggressive.

            2. only acting normal*

              It’s a no-win. I’ve found those who will blow off the soft challenge (“I think there’s an error here.”) also dig their heels in extra deep if you harden the challenge (“This is wrong, please correct it, or I’m not signing it off.”). Because for some it’s about being unable to accept direction/correction from a woman – even one with formal authority – not really about how she words things. (I’ve even experienced it from otherwise perfectly pleasant people who weren’t aware they were behaving that way: it’s such a shame then.)

              1. Veronica*

                IME this sort of thing may be less gender-based and more issue-based. It starts in childhood, maybe as a reaction to unfair criticism or punishment. It becomes an automatic reaction to any criticism, or anything that might be unfair.
                Needless to say, people like this are hard to work with.

            3. MK*

              Even if we did know their gender, we shouldn’t do this. Not all women use soft language all the time, and plenty of men do some of the time. There is a real person writing this letter, not “women”.

              1. Quill*

                Also it depends on judging the reactions of the people who you’re working with. At previous workplaces contradicting the boss in anything was a shortcut to a bad day for me, currently I’m in an actually okay workplace where “That’s not right, let me check up on it,” is totally fine.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — it’s off-putting to be told “all women” do this or need to do this. It’s not true. This has derailed us and I’m closing this thread.

            4. Myrin*

              I’m female and I use both what you call “hard phrasing” and “soft phrasing” all the time, depending, indeed, on how sure I am about something. I’m aware of the infuriating phenomenon you’re talking about but it also really grinds my gears whenever I read stuff like “women will do/say X because they’ve been too intimidated all their lives to ever do/say Y” because ironically, it’s quite alienating to me as a woman who basically never feels that way. Commentary on social issues like this certainly has its place but not everything is that place. (And also, Alison isn’t a man at OP’s workplace – OP has zero reason to not be straightforward in a letter to AAM unless you want to claim it’s a habit because she always has to hold herself back.)
              As such, I personally really appreciate Dan’s breakdown here and can imagine it might be helpful for OP as well.

              (Also, as an aside, as someone who used to analyse and interpret written text for a living, I’m breaking out in metaphorical hives at the thought of not being able to weight words without knowing the writer’s gender. It’s one of those things that can drastically influence a person’s words but which should really only be taken into consideration when it’s 1. abundantly clear from context that it’s important to the text at large (like, let’s say, a poem about feeling objectified) and/or 2. when a first analysis of the text suggests that there’s a deeper layer pertaining to gender somewhere in there. This pretty mundane letter to Alison doesn’t suggest either of those scenarios so I’m really wary of declaring we don’t have enough “data” to comment without knowing OP’s gender.)

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I agree with both Myrin’s background and specifics–in meetings or emails I use “we can’t say this here because it’s wrong” when warranted, without softening language.

            5. Jamie*

              If OP is female then they will use that soft phrasing

              That’s an unfair generalization. It happens to often with women, but some (including myself) go out of our way to make sure we aren’t qualifying what should be a declarative statement. And I have certainly been able to do so without being seen as arrogant, although the risk is greater for women than men with this so we have to pay more attention to tone and wording which sucks.

          2. Antilles*

            First off, it really depends on the group dynamics and person in question. There are a lot of places where starting with a softer approach can get better results. There’s a surprising amount of people (even in STEM fields!) who get overly attached to their conclusions, so starting off with strong language like “you don’t have the evidence…” or “you cannot claim” immediately turns the conversation into an adversarial debate rather than a productive discussion. Sometimes going to the mat with strong language upfront is the right call, but in plenty of other cases, it’s better to start soft and work from there.
            Also, when it comes to presenting at a conference, it’s not exactly a clear bar of “enough evidence or not”. I’ve been to plenty of conferences where people present research that’s still ongoing and data isn’t settled. Sometimes these presentations are worthwhile to show where things might be heading in the future even though there’s not firm conclusions (other times, it’s 60 minutes of my life I want back, so definitely YMMV). The decision of whether or not there’s sufficient evidence to present something at a conference often IS worth discussing in terms of “I think we don’t have enough evidence” or “I don’t feel like we’re at that stage yet”, because it’s effectively a gray-area judgment call rather than a purely data-based yes/no.

        3. JSPA*

          OP could be declining for either reason; their original question, as phrased, allows for either. So this is an entirely valid further dissection of the situation.

        4. McMonkeybean*

          We can, which is why Alison gave them scripts for whichever scenario they feel is the case given the specific facts. I’m very confused because you are the one who started this thread suggesting that only one scenario was appropriate so this comment in response to someone explaining why the other scenario might exist seems weirdly argumentative.

        5. Elsajeni*

          I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that they can’t tell the difference, just that “I don’t feel we have enough evidence” — which is all the information we have from the letter — could mean either “we definitely do not have enough evidence” or something more like “the evidence we have is in a gray area where I don’t feel comfortable presenting it but another reasonable person might,” and IF it’s more like the second, then they could quite reasonably use Alison’s first script, which even notes “aside from the concerns I’ve already raised.”

    3. Colette*

      Since the OP is not in a position to overrule the team, how would you suggest she stop them from presenting a topic she doesn’t agree with?

      1. Mike C.*

        Make a moral or ethical argument as to why this shouldn’t be done? Make a utilitarian argument with regards to risk of damage this sort of thing could to the company?

        I mean really, why are you even asking me this?

          1. Mike C.*

            Because it’s generally considered unethical to make claims that you cannot back up with sufficient evidence?

            1. Colette*

              That’s really not true in the real world. There are plenty of situations where you can discuss something that you’re investigating – as long as you are clear on what you can prove and what you can’t, it’s fine.

              If I walk into work and say “hmm, looks like rain”, I don’t need an official forecast or water falling from the sky to say it.

              1. Antilles*

                That’s even true in the world of formal professional conferences – I’ve been to plenty of presentations where the message is basically “we’re not done yet so we don’t have full data, but this looks really promising” or “thus far, we’re seeing…”.
                Academic Q&A are actually the best for this: There will, without fail, be at least one person who asks a ‘question’ which is primarily an opportunity to brag about his unpublished, not peer-reviewed research that literally nobody outside his office has even heard of.

                1. Helena*

                  Oh god, those guys. “Let me tell you about my tiny case series” at a late-breaking clinical trial presentation.

                  But yes, I’ve never heard anyone else suggest it’s “unethical” to make claims you can’t necessarily back up with evidence. Foolhardy maybe. Not likely to inspire confidence. Detrimental to your professional reputation. But not unethical, or the discussion sections of a good 50% of published medical papers would need to be retracted. And given that up to 70% of basic science papers can’t be replicated outside of the original lab, medicine isn’t alone in that.

        1. Yorick*

          There may not be a moral or ethical argument. OP says they don’t feel the evidence is strong enough for claims they would be making, but we don’t know that the claim will be made without acknowledging the limitations of the evidence if the company goes to present at the conference.

    4. OP4*

      OP4 here. Thanks for all the feedback so far. While I appreciate all the theoretical margins and statistical scenarios being thrown out, I wouldn’t be presenting any type of scientific or statistical research. Although I AM at a research institute, my work is more about system design, and this presentation would be about the impacts of what we’re working on. My problem is, I just think it’s too early for us to definitively say whether the work we’re doing successfully achieves its goals! I think there’s a lot we could share with the community that would be helpful and interesting, and I don’t want to damage our standing by claiming success too early. I appreciate the commenters pointing out that if I disagree with the topic, its unethical to allow someone else to do it. In this case, it’s definitely more of an opinion on my part (that its too early for these conclusions) than say, looking the other way while someone throws out study results they don’t like. Unfortunately, disagreeing with this topic any more strongly than I already have means going up against directly my boss and that can get politically dicey. I’ve said my piece and I made sure it was heard, and I wasn’t alone in my sentiments. But it was “overruled,” and at this point I’m more interested in just finding a way out of this for myself.

      1. Colette*

        In that case, I think you’re fine to say that you wouldn’t be the right presenter – you certainly don’t have to oppose the presentation itself any more than you’ve already done.

      2. Antilles*

        My problem is, I just think it’s too early for us to definitively say whether the work we’re doing successfully achieves its goals! I think there’s a lot we could share with the community that would be helpful and interesting, and I don’t want to damage our standing by claiming success too early.
        With this context, I think the answer is to try to frame the discussion and the presentation appropriately.
        It might be too early to definitively say that you’re succeeding, but are you at least seeing some kind of positive results that are making you excited about the program succeeding long-term? Proof of concept on a small scale? Alternatively, could you make the presentation center around what you’ve done so far and what results you’re hoping to see? There’s plenty you could potentially present without needing to wait for full results or definitive proof of success.
        …Which may even be why your boss overruled you and still wants the presentation to go forward. There’s often a LOT of value in presenting how things are moving along to build up excitement, show that you’re making progress, inspire donors/investors, drum up public interest, and so forth.

        1. OP4*

          Thanks, the suggestion you make here is actually very in line with my original proposal. I wanted to talk about some of the methods we’re implementing, some of the novel approaches we are considering, and what those will potentially mean for longer term success and change in the industry, using some examples from our current work as “case studies”. I would have felt very comfortable presenting on that, and particularly presenting it as a very early work in progress (because in my opinion that’s what it is). This is not the approach my boss wants to go with. Appreciate the feedback!

    5. AnonForFriday*

      I’m not the OP, but I’m in the middle of a situation like this. My company is working with a partner who is developing a product that would solve an important problem. The partner is proposing a specific, scientifically plausible mechanism for how their product would work. They’ve done a tiny pilot study, which was honest but methodologically flawed. My boss, for valid technical reasons, thinks the product will probably work. I, for different technical reasons, think it probably won’t. The partner is willing to pay for the necessary studies to find out.
      My boss recently gave a presentation, and the gist was, “We’re really excited to be partnering with So-and-So. This is a really important problem, and their solution could save thousands of llamas. The pilot study was very promising, but it had X and Y flaws. The next step is to do a rigorous, well-blinded study so we can move this product to the marketplace.”
      I think it was completely ethical for her to present that positive spin, because she was clear about the preliminary state of the evidence and represented her opinions accurately. I would not have been OK saying the same thing, though, because I have a different interpretation of the evidence.

  3. NotAnotherManager!*

    The on-call pay issue can be a little bit dicier – if an on-call is not free to go about their life between calls and is tethered to a location, they may be working (so, if you’re on call, and you can’t go out to dinner or run to the store, that may be paid time). Our IS on-calls have a fairly generous pay structure for the tight response time required by the position because it does restrict their ability to go about their personal business.

    But all time worked should be tracked and paid at regular (40) rate. I give that lecture a lot – did you work? Even just 15 minutes? Please put it on your timecard so we can pay you. It costs far less than a labor law violation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, but I don’t think that’s the case here given that it’s overnight and they just need to answer the phone. The Dept of Labor says that just having to answer a phone or pager isn’t time that must be paid except for the actual time working.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Do they tho? It’s residential so I am thinking that they can sleep (on site) unless the phone rings, but I imagine at that point they might need to get up to help deal with an incident with one of their residents?

        Even if it’s “just” phone answering, it isn’t trivial…

        …when I was on call, which was one week in 3, I got salary + 33%. This was regardless of whether I was called out; it reflected that in those nights I couldn’t go clubbing, couldn’t get drunk, had to carry my laptop, phone and passcode device everywhere with me, even to the supermarket…

        Plus you just sleep lighter, knowing that you have to hear the phone if it goes, so any noise would make me wake up and go “what was that?” which affects your work of course, and your health over time. Although if I *was* called out in the night (of which most issues were solved by logging in to a server remotely, and/or talking someone on site through physical actions) then I certainly wasn’t expected back in the office first thing next morning! That’s gotta mess with your health and quality of work too!

        I feel for OP, because even if you’re not called out and even if “all” you’d have to do is answer a phone, discuss something and go back to sleep, it really does affect your quality of life to do that overnight cover. Being paid just for the time you’re on the phone seems incredibly mean.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If they have to stay on the premises, then the whole amount of time has to be paid. (I didn’t originally think that’s what the LW was describing, but now I’m wondering.) If they’re free to be at home or out and about, then no, just the time spent doing work must be paid.

          1. Overtime Ripoff*

            The DOL has an online advisor to help determine whether on call time is hours worked. The first question is whether the employee has to stay on premises. The second question, if the answer to that is no, is if the employee is able to use the on-call time effectively to engage in personal activities.

            Next we must determine if your employee is able to use the on-call time effectively to engage in personal activities.

            Although you may require your employee to be accessible by telephone or paging device, or you may establish rules governing use of alcohol or participation in other activities while your employee is on-call, he or she may still be able to use the on-call time to engage in personal activities, such as cutting the grass, going to the movies, going to a ball game, or engaging in other activities of his or her choosing.

            The other consideration in determining whether your employee can use the on-call time for his or her own purpose is the frequency of the work calls received during his or her on-call time. If your employee is interrupted to such an extent the he or she cannot conduct his or her regular activities, your employee probably cannot use the on-call time for his or her own purposes. For example, if he or she is unable to finish a meal, read a story to his or her child or read a newspaper during the same on-call period, he or she probably cannot use the time effectively for his or her own purposes.

            While on-call, is your employee able to use his or her on-call time for his or her own purposes?

            If you answer no to this question, you get the following result:

            Your employee’s on-call time is probably hours worked.

            An employee who is on-call must be able to use the idle time for his or her own purposes or the on-call time is probably hours worked. When an employee is on-call, all time spent responding to calls is hours worked.

            I’ll reply with a link.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, but there are limits to that. If you’re at your house, can sleep, watch movies, go to the store, etc. as long as you answer your phone and the calls aren’t constant, it’s almost always not going to be paid time. (It’s the second italicized paragraph that’s likely in play here, basically.)

          2. Flash Bristow*

            Ooi, do you ping the LWs to let them know you’re publishing their letters (or they’ve just gone up, or whathaveyou) so they are likely to read and thus able to comment if they wish, or do you just rely on them being a regular reader and spotting it? Just curious, as some OPs really engage in the responses, others not – and while I respect that there may be all kinds of reasons not to respond, I wondered if they’d still be likely to be aware it was happening?

            And thank you for your answer above.

          3. OP#5*

            OP#5 here and sorry for the late reply!! We are all at home, doing whatever, during these on call hours.

        2. Fikly*

          I think this is one of those things where there is a difference between what an employer legally has to do and what an employer should do to treat an employee well.

          My company has some on call employees. They are paid a set amount for being on call. If they are then needed, they get a set amount for each time they are called. So if they are called twice in a night, they get the “it’s my on call night” fee, and two “I got called” fees. We also have standards as to when one incident becomes two separate calls.

          1. Door Guy*

            We have on call at our office for emergency service work. The techs take the phone for a week at a time and rotate. Just carrying the phone puts an extra 2 hours on their paycheck. If they actually take a call and have to run on it (a lot of people decide against when they hear our emergency rates, which we advise in advance) then those 2 hours immediately turn into overtime hours, and they are back on the clock from the moment the phone rang until the moment they return home, all at overtime rates.

          2. CheeryO*

            Yeah, this. Our union is trying to get on-call pay added to our contract, not because it’s legally required but because it would be more of an incentive for people to agree to be on-call (we rarely have emergency situations that require it, so there’s a more-or-less volunteer list of OT-eligible folks who are willing to be on-call after hours).

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yeah, this is the sort of thing where resistance makes me want to shake the stubborn bastards and yell “TREAT YOUR PEOPLE WELL, IT WILL DO GOOD THINGS FOR YOUR BUSINESS IN THE LONG RUN, HOW IS THIS HARD TO UNDERSTAND?”

                1. Parenthetically*

                  It’s amazing, isn’t it, how some people are just allergic to details like “it’s really expensive to have high turnover” and stuff.

        3. doreen*

          I’m thinking the OP doesn’t sleep on -site . In my experiences with this type of facility , the on-site , overnight staff ( who typically are scheduled to be there all night every night) would be the people calling the OP (whose job, whatever it is, does not require 24/7 in person coverage )

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          When I had to be on-call for a rotating emergency response number, we had the same set up as you did. For that week you got 33% more whether you took no calls or 900. I think part of this was also that we had other activity restrictions (e.g. required to be in cell coverage at all times, had to haul the response kit with you, no going anywhere that requires silencing phone) for the week that were kind of a pain.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Sounds *exactly* like the setup I had! For a (then) large ISP in the UK. Late 90s into 00s…

            So I’m guessing you’re not from London like me… We just both had employers that understood how on-call affects your life, and wanted to keep us.

            And that means something.

            At one point I was the only person in my team who was capable to go on-call (I was training someone up, tho. Writing documentation is one of my favourite things – seriously!) so for months I was on call on my own… So I just got on with my life but I *did* take all the kit everywhere which was a drag. Still, getting an extra 33% to my salary for that whole time was rather nice. And nobody expected me to be perfect – I just made sure I didn’t drink tooooo much, etc. And let them know if I’d be out of signal and how long for, stuff like that.

            Had to argue my point for the 33% for the full period as most teams were three people so the extra was automatically added on to sysadmins’ pay on that basis, but once I pointed it out they did pay it. Which was rather nice.

            Anyway I think you & I are the only people on this thread treated decently. Don’t the other employers value their staff?!! Didn’t know how lucky I was…

        5. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have insomnia (broken sleep) and sleep lightly due to 20 years of on-call jobs. Even if I’m not on call, I still have the insomnia. If it’s something easy, I can go back to sleep immediately. If it’s not, I take an hour or two to wind down so I can sleep. I’m salary, so that makes it suck more. Needless to say, when someone adds spurious alerts I get very nasty.

  4. Emma*

    3. Being asked what I did at the weekend is my pet hate! I feel like I’m supposed to give some amazing answer when in reality I do NOTHING!

    1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

      “Grabbed a red-rye to Paris Friday night, spent Saturday doing some stuff in the city, and then caught the early evening flight back home. And you?”

      **I actually did this once…like 30 years ago when sleep wasn’t as much fun as it is now days.

        1. pleaset*

          I used to travel a lot for sport, and sometimes for work, so had somewhat exotic answers sometimes – places that were fair drives (West Virginia, Maine, Quebec, Vermont (I’m in New York City)) or involved planes (Cuba). Or a few times spent much of the weekend inside UN headquarters.

          That was fun answering. But the vast majority of the time it’s “Not much. You?”

          And I have a friend who in the 90s would leave work on Fridays to fly to Montreal, ski all weekend, fly back Monday morning very early and go directly to work from the airport.

        2. pleaset*

          And reminded of time I drove 6 hours to West Virginia, then back the next day in a major snowstorm which took 10 or 11 hours. And same time/experience to/from Maine some years later, also in a massive storm the second day.

          “How was your weekend?”

          “OK but I’m a little tired. Drove about 800 miles with a lot in the snow. Yours?”

          1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

            Oh that just made me remember my Portland to San Diego…and back all the while fighting snow in Oregon and Nor Cal weekend. Ahhhh to be 26 again!

      1. Door Guy*

        I used to have a coworker who did things like that (he was in his 50’s). He’d come in on Monday and mention he was bored so he flew to Vegas, or impulse bought a house in Scottsdale because he liked Scottsdale, etc. We worked 4 10 hour shifts so we had 3 days weekends every week which probably helped time wise but he traveled quite a bit.

    2. Tyche*

      It irked me too. But now I answer with a simple “relaxing”.
      I don’t have to expand the meaning of what I think it’s relaxing.

    3. April*

      I mean, you didn’t actually do nothing. You slept, you watched tv, you read a book, you stared at the walls, you were sick, etc. Just say what you did or make something up, it’s not that hard. People aren’t looking for a novella.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              “Nowhere much, just hung out, really. How about you?”

              I don’t understand the determination to act as though “how was your weekend?” is some kind of unavoidable interrogation. Just say something vague and move on.

              1. MicroManagered*

                I agree with others who say, in most cases, just say “fine” and move on!

                “Did you go out to eat?” / “Which friend?”

                I work with a weekend-asker who is oddly pushy and will double-down on vague non-answers. There is a point where it becomes slightly like an interrogation that needs to be curtailed with deliberate subject changes, etc.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  …that’s covered by the part where I said “move on”. Subject changes are included under that heading.

              2. Anna*

                Seriously. Even though the question doesn’t bother me, I still don’t give really detailed answers because I realize nobody cares that much. The majority of people are being friendly; some people are being nosy. Treat them the same.

              3. Parenthetically*

                I don’t understand the determination to act as though “how was your weekend?” is some kind of unavoidable interrogation. Just say something vague and move on.

                Seriously. “How was your weekend” is just the most anodyne question ever. “Oh, pretty good, thanks, how was yours?” takes about three seconds to say.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              “Oh, my friend took me places I’ve never been before! Twice on Friday night and then five more times throughout Saturday!” (lol, can you tell I’m already in weekend mode)

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          I have started using the phrase “went up to [City]” to describe my NSFW activities. It’s not even a lie, because all of my NSFW activities happen in this distant city at a particular club designed for that purpose. But as it’s a fairly large city with other cultural enrichment opportunities, I have a veneer of respectability.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        In which case you can say “oh, nothing of interest, just chilled a bit”. You’re trying not to say anything the coworker can hook in to.

        1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

          Yup. It’s not that complex. “Not much. You?”

          I liken it to “how are you?” The answer is, “good and you?” Because no one really cares about the details. It’s just a social loop.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Yep, the human equivalent of canine butt sniffing. I wonder if Anna is paying too much attention to LW’s butt, or if LW is unusually private.

          2. CMart*

            Exactly. And I AM interested if someone did something fun/exciting/new and they want to tell me about it! But if the answer is “man I don’t even know, honestly” (which is weirdly common among the parents of small children set*) then that’s cool too. It’s really not that important, I’m just being friendly and am interested if you’re interested in sharing.

            *I am one of them. I often try to reflect on my weekend and it’s just static and goldfish cracker crumbs.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Yup. “Kept the kids alive” should be considered a reasonable answer for parents of small children.

            2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

              Sometimes I say “vacuumed.” Anyone who knows my feelings about vacuuming will know it took me at least one whole day to talk myself into doing it…

              I mean I like the carpets to be vacuumed I just hate doing it. I also hate my vacuum (top heavy…keeps falling over!) and I haven’t been able to justify (to myself) buying a new one when this one us functional.

              Though that particular argument is starting to wear thin since I’ve seen a few I’d much rather have. Of course it’s not likely that even a shiny new machine will make me more inclined to actually vacuum on the regular…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              1. Artemesia*

                My son at age 3 got a lower score on his picture IQ test than was accurate because he couldn’t identify a vacuum cleaner. As a vacuum adverse person, let me suggest you get a Roomba — it doesn’t do ALL the cleaning you need done — you need to occasionally dust baseboards and give extra attention to edges and corners, BUT it does 95% of what the vacuum does that requires the broken back and misery. we couldn’t live without ours.

                1. Clisby*

                  Hah! That reminds me of 2 things.

                  My mother, a 4th grade teacher in SC, used to hand out Weekly Readers to her class (remember those? Sort of kiddie-news/info booklets?) Anyway, each week there was a little quiz. One showed a picture of a radiator. Not like in a car – a radiator that heated a building. Exactly *one* child in her class knew what it was. He spent part of every summer with his grandparents in Detroit, and apparently their apartment building had radiator heat. Head of the class!

                  Years ago, I was spiffing up the house a little and looked at the tablecloth on the dining table. I said, “I really should iron this.” My 3-year-old daughter, perplexed, said, “What you mean … iron????” I realized she had never once seen me use an iron.

                2. Texan In Exile*

                  @Clisby –

                  In ECON 101, I didn’t understand the supply and demand example in my textbook because they used taxi medallions in New York to explain it. I had never been to New York. I had never taken a taxi. I had no idea what a taxi medallion was.

                  (And I was too stupid to ask my professor.)

                3. Flash Bristow*

                  Cool! I can’t handle a vacuum (we have one, a nice red Miele pet fur handling one, soooo worth the investment – but I need an assistant to use it) but what I do have is a hoduhduhduh. Well that’s what Eddie Izzard called it. I think formally, it’s a carpet sweeper? Izzard joked that all it did was say “come here dust, I’m gonna whisk you!” but I’ve found it quite effective. And then if I’m watching TV and spot a bit that I just can’t tolerate any more, I get up, sweep for 2 mins, sit back down again. Worth a try for anyone in similar circs (be it physical issues, or just not wanting to get the vacuum out and commit to a whole job, but who can do a few mins here and there).

          3. These Old Wings*

            Totally agree. And I’m always really surprised by how irritated people on here seem to get by these questions. It’s just social niceties! Just give a pleasant, boring answer and move on.

      2. Daisy*

        Sometimes I think people on this site are robots who are trying to pass as human. How are there so many variations on this weird question? ‘They asked me how my weekend was, but I was merely plugged into a charging port for the advised 48 hours!’ ‘He said good morning, but in fact my morning was sub-optimal! Should I correct such malfunctions of his wiring?’ Just say ‘fine’ or ‘not much’ or ‘hello’ as appropriate and move on, christ alive.

        1. CheeryO*

          Harsh take. It’s easier for some people than others. It’s an advice column, not a Really Great at Social Interactions club.

          1. pleaset*

            It’s harsh but it’s a fair point.

            I really think AAM needs to give some meta-advice on communications.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            You don’t have to be Really Great At Social Interactions to understand that the vast majority of people are not trying to interrogate you when they say “how was your weekend?”, and that it’s okay to give a vague reply and move on.

            The fact that this one question comes up as often as it does and that so many commenters find it so very challenging is a little baffling to me, I admit, because the answer is pretty simple and unlikely to change. It’s a social nicety. Learn the phrases “not much, you?”, “oh, the usual” and “it was good, yeah, how about yours?” and move on. Maybe do some breathing exercises if it infuriates you that much, I don’t know.

            1. Lilysparrow*

              Yes, so many of these things are formulaic –

              “I acknowledge you, human. I present no threat to you.”
              “I accept your acknowledgement and affirm that you are not a threat.”

              “I wish for your general well-being.”
              “I reciprocate your good wishes.”

            2. Works in IT*

              I’ve never felt the need to ask about it here, because I understand WHY it’s happening, but everyone in leadership (managers and above) at my place of work has to attend mandatory leadership conferences every few months. And one of the things the leadership conferences emphasize is Making A Personal Connection With Your Employees, which translates to “write down everything about your employees’ personal lives you know”. Which leads to “what did you do?” being asked frequently enough to feel invasive, especially since they aren’t looking for vague, they want specifics to make their list of things I know about my employees longer.

              I figure, where one leadership conference encourages people who work at one place to get invasively detailed, there must be more.

              1. Texan In Exile*

                Ha. Then clearly, my VP has not attended, as she has never once, in nine months, asked me one personal question about myself.

                1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                  Mine, neither, and it’s really bumming me out. My last manager really cared about his reports (he wasn’t just doing some performative interaction, and he shared about his life as well) and the realization that my current boss really could not give less of a shit about me is weighing pretty heavily on me these days.

                2. Lissa*

                  JJ, too bad you can’t trade with some of the people who really hate being asked about their weekend! I think some people would probably prefer what you have – personally I’m in the middle but it’s so interesting how either asking or not can annoy people.

              2. Devil Fish*

                Is your workplace a nightmare hellscape of toxicity and garbage? Those are generally the ones where they have to tell leadership to fake human consideration for their subordinates. Always comes off so disingenuous when they’re obviously just doing it to check a box, too.

                (Flashback to the time I found a very kind handwritten note from my supervisor on my desk praising my style of doing the job—then found out like 10 minutes later that she’d left near-identical notes for everyone else in the department. And so had all the other supervisors because it had been an assignment from their boss’ boss.)

                I don’t mind social interactions as long as my coworkers take the hint when I’m not into an extended conversation but I’m pretty aware that I’m only in that building with those people because I’m being paid for it and if I’m not even being paid well I start to resent the pretense that management gives a damn about our well-being.

          3. Lehigh*

            I think it’s a good and amusing take. Yes, some people have difficulty with social interactions, and that’s okay! But we get a sort of bizarre number of people who think that their difficulty with small talk is standard and that asking something like, “How was your weekend?” is unacceptably nosy. It’s really not, and I think it’s useful to recognize that.

            1. Parenthetically*

              we get a sort of bizarre number of people who think… that asking something like, “How was your weekend?” is unacceptably nosy. It’s really not, and I think it’s useful to recognize that.

              I find it fascinating on an anthropological level. To me, there’s nothing LESS nosy than “how’s it going” and “doing anything fun this weekend” and “how was your vacation” because it’s purely a social ritual! It’s designed to communicate, “I’m interested in you/I acknowledge your humanity” without prying, while giving the other person the opportunity to say more! “Good, thanks, and you?” or “Not much, but we’ll see!” or “Yeah, it was really fun, thanks!” are information-free responses; “I’ll be better once this crazy week is over!” or “Yes! So excited to see Celine Dion at last!” or “We had an amazing time in Taos — you have to see the crazy Earthship community we visited!” are available but not mandatory options.

              The idea that asking a perfectly innocuous question like “how’s it going” is making some people chafe at my nosiness amuses and interests me greatly.

        2. Yorick*

          Most of the time, sure, just say your weekend was fine and that’s that. Some people really interrogate you about your weekend, though. My last horrible boss was like that. And it can be rough sometimes. Like he wouldn’t go away until I told him in detail what I did over the weekend, and all I did was cry into my ice cream.

          1. CMart*

            Sure, but those are the outliers. So many of the comments that come up any time “small talk” topics come up on this site paint with broad strokes. It’s people saying “I hate people saying Good Morning, how am I supposed to respond to that?”, not “I have this one coworker who won’t leave me alone until I tell her my morning was sublime and I am on Cloud Nine”, because those complaints are actual letters written to AAM as they are far more unusual and extreme than everyday workplace chatter.

          2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            That is painful when people just wont back off- especially if they’re your boss!

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            That’s when you lie and talk about chores. “I cleaned the litter box and expressed the dog’s anal glands. How about you?”

          4. Parenthetically*

            I mean, yes, but those people are pushy assholes, and the fact that there are pushy assholes in the world doesn’t negate the reality that 99% of these sorts of interactions take about 10 seconds and don’t have to contain any kind of personal information whatsoever.

          5. Artemesia*

            If you have one of those, then you manufacturer a slightly more detailed blah blah blah for them. ‘Oh you know how I love macrame — got 3 more pot holders done this weekend’ ‘oh you know how we love films — went to see the new Goddard this weekend’ Nothing personal needs to be disclosed.

        3. Alianora*

          Tbh yeah. 90% of the time people are just trying to be friendly. They don’t care if you aren’t 100% truthful or if you just say, “nothing much, you?”

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue is that she finds it annoying to be asked incessantly, as many people would. She’s acknowledging the coworker is lovely, just asking how to deal with an irritating habit. This isn’t someone who’s baffled at how to respond to “good morning.”

          1. CMart*

            I think Daisy is reflecting more on the general commentary that crops up every time “social nicety” questions come up on the site. The LWs usually have perfectly good questions and concerns. A lot of commenters… also do concern me about robots among us.

          2. Lucette Kensack*

            But… it sounds like Anna is making small talk/asking about the LW’s life at a very normal frequency. Like, maybe three times a day? Being perturbed by that very normal amount of chat-chat is itself way outside the norm.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              That much small-talk with somebody you see every single working day is kind of excessive, though. How much does Anna think happened between now and yesterday? If my officemate asked me stuff like this three times a day and extra on Fridays, I’d be climbing the walls.

              1. Lucette Kensack*

                I think you’ll find that you’re far outside in the norm in that, and will need to figure out how to accommodate a standard level of office chat-chat in order to maintain your own comfort at work.

                1. Clisby*

                  Is that really standard?

                  It sure hasn’t been in my experience. What I’d call standard are the Friday question: “So what are you doing this weekend?” and the Monday question: “So how was your

                  Those are just small talk.

                  “Where did you go for lunch?” Every day ????? Weird.

                2. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Chatting to coworkers in general that frequently seems very typical to me, but specifically *asking what they’re up to* does seem like it would get potentially weird. At my workplace people will ask about weekends/vacations/etc, but other chatting usually branches out into “hey, did you see the new episode of X?” “how about that storm last night?” “Look at this video of a moose eating pumpkins”. Stuff like that. Unless maybe you’re in a high-travel field or something asking about someone’s lunch every day feels vaguely intrusive as well as a really boring conversation unless there’s some other context going on like that you know they’re experimenting with fancy bento boxes or something.

                3. Librarian1*

                  I’m with Clisby here. I’ve never been in a workplace where people ask me where I went for lunch or what I’m doing that evening every single day.

                4. Helena*

                  I think that genuinely caring where your coworker went to lunch is weird. But this sounds more like she’d like to reach out and be friendly to OP but can’t think of anything to say to her because she doesn’t know OP that well, so she’s asking how lunch went in the hopes OP will say something she can run with.

                  OP, if you mention something does she remember it and bring it up later? So if you say you spent the weekend rescuing baby seals, does she check in later in the week on how those baby seals are doing? Or would she just ask you how your weekend was again?

                  That would be the difference for me between “wants to be friends, asking bland questions trying to find a point of common interest to hang a conversation off”, and “makes too much small talk on autopilot”.

                5. Lucette Kensack*

                  Right. The OP even describes it as phatic expressions, which sounds like Anna isn’t even necessarily looking for responses beyond “Great, thanks!”

        5. fhqwhgads*

          I think it’s more that there are a lot of askers who DON’T treat it as just the normal social contract back and forth. And once someone is burned by that (“nothing interesting” “oh come on, you must have done SOMETHING interesting” “nope, just watched tv and did laundry” “oh come on” rinse repeat until you want to scream) they get twitchy about it. Are most people asking about your weekend gonna do that? Nope. But if you’ve been stuck with someone who does that it sort of puts you at BEC stage with the question itself. There’s no way to know in advance if you’re dealing with a normal “fine and you?” person or someone who Will.Not. Let.It.Go. Is it reasonable to that on guard because of this? Probably not. But I understand where it’s coming from. Especially in a situaion like the OP’s where it’s not just “how’s your weekend” but also “how’s your morning; how’s your lunch?; how’s last night?” all in one day and at a certain point it’s like…ask me what you actually want this is no longer social lubricant it’s needlessly repetitive and beside the point.

          1. Flash Bristow*


            I mean I ask my husband that. How was your run? Didja stop anywhere nice for lunch? But to be asked more than once a day is… Wearing. Especially if other people do it too, all that smiling and polite response can get a bit much. Sometimes I just want to yell “I’m fine, ok? Now will you all please. stop. asking!!!”

            But obviously I shouldn’t, couldn’t, and wouldn’t.

            But even just platitudes need their limits. I’m busy and I’m not up for small talk. I’m really depressed today and just trying to get my head down and plough on.

            Well, actually sometimes I do say that, depending who’s asking…

        6. Bikelover*

          Hilarious! You have stated- much more amusingly- my thoughts whenever this question comes up. I am very, very private and rather boring but I never have any trouble with these polite questions from friendly co-workers. “Walked the dog, had diner with my sister, drank some wine… How about you?” I have never had anyone push back on this and it makes the workplace slightly warmer.

          “merely plugged into a charging port for the advised 48 hours”. I’ll be chuckling over that one all day.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Me too. Maybe I have just been lucky, but no one has ever wanted me to talk more when I say, “chores and errands.”

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        And you can still answer that you did basically nothing in a warm friendly way- “It was great, I just got to relax all weekend.”

      4. AnonEMoose*

        I have, on occasion, truthfully replied “Driven to [small town a couple of hours away] to pick up half a pig from the butcher.” People sometimes aren’t quite sure how to respond to that one.

        1. Anna*

          I would be very interested in that, so…I guess it would depend on how much you’d want to tell me about it?

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I don’t mind talking about it, it’s just one of those things that sometimes makes people blink at first! Basically, I have a relative who raises a few pigs for family every year. And we just need to go pick up the meat once it’s processed. Half a pig is about enough pork for a year or so for me and my DH. So, better meat, and cheaper than the grocery store.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              And I’d be the monster badgering you about what you plan to make with said pig and if, you know, you’re not using it could I have the head to make head cheese?

              1. AnonEMoose*

                We don’t usually get the head…my great grandmother used to make head cheese when I was a kid, though.

        2. Valprehension*

          LOL. My mom used to pick up a half a cow from a local farmer about once a year, so somehow this one is normal to me XD

          1. AnonEMoose*

            We got a quarter of cow this year, too. Yeah, pretty normal if you grew up in/near farm country!

    4. Dan*

      I had the opposite problem for awhile. In my last department, my immediate manager was a young, married woman in her mid twenties. She and I had department-mandated one-on-one meetings. Ours were scheduled for Monday afternoons. She would always ask me “oh, what did you do this weekend?” Well, me, I’m not quite as young and not quite as married. My weekends generally involve fraternizing with my FWB, with whom I am not in a long term committed relationship. What I really did was “hooked up with my FWB”. What I said at work in a professional environment? “Not much. And you?” She was my boss for a year and a half. I gave her the same answer for the entire time. She. Asked. The. Same. Question. Every. Two. Weeks. For. A Year. And. A. Half.

      1. Roverandom*

        Manager: What did you do this weekend?
        Dan: Not much. And you?

        I don’t see how this is a problem even considering context and frequency…? Sounds like a successful workplace interaction to me. Small pleasantries before a regular one-on-one meeting.

        1. London Calling*

          Have to agree. My company has an executive who every time I see him says, ‘Hey, London, how are you?’ and I respond with ‘Fine, X, you?’ and we’ve been doing that for nearly three years. I’m not one for chit chat but it’s just a tiny friendly acknowledgement of your presence. It’s better than the colleagues who can’t even be bothered to look up and respond to my good morning.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Agreed. Congrats on the sex, I guess? But it’s literally the exact same as any other weekend activity that you don’t feel like discussing at work.

          1. London Calling*

            The thing is people don’t really want to *know* how your weekend was – they are simply being polite and acknowledging your presence. Sort of like warming up before the real business of exercise (or in this case the working day). Can’t get stressed about it, I’m afraid. I used to have a colleague who asked every Friday what my weekend plans were, when I didn’t have any – a vague ‘this and that’ seemed to fit the bill. Ditto on Monday when he asked what I’d done all weekend.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Yeah, this sort of pleasantry serves a few different social functions, IMO:

              1. Acknowledge you as a fellow human being, someone they feel neutral-to-positive about.
              2. Offer the possibility of a further conversation if you want to have one–you don’t need to, that’s what the word “fine” was invented for, but if you want one it’s an opening.
              3. Allow you to update the other person on how you’re feeling if you think it’s necessary. (e.g. if something very bad happened over the weekend and you’re feeling down, this sort of exchange allows you to be like, “actually everything was terrible and I’m going to be quiet/distant/not super cheerful today”.

              In most cases, the other person doesn’t actually care about specifics, even if they ask for them; it’s all about the social functions. This is why neutral and nonspecific answers are usually sufficient, because they fulfill the social functions just fine.

              1. BethDH*

                This is exactly it! I didn’t realize this is what I’m doing when I ask the question until you described it, but I’m essentially saying “anything new relevant to your personhood that I need to know before we proceed with business?”. It’s just recognizing that they exist outside of work too.

          2. Doug Judy*

            And quite possibly this married woman had sex on the weekend as well. Not sure why Dan was assuming his weekend was all that much different than hers.

            1. Kiki*

              Yeah, I feel like sometimes when people are like “omg this is so awkward, my weekend/nighttime activities were NSFW!!!”, they aren’t considering that most people are getting freaky on the weekends in some way or another. Whenever you ask someone how their weekend was and they smile and say, “Really great!” there is an 80% chance they are thinking about how they did something they can’t tell you about right now.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


              Also maybe that married woman is in a swingers club with her husband. Or she has an open marriage.

              Being married and basic on the outside is very typical. You don’t know who they are in private.

              Also just say “hung out with my friend”, who cares if it’s a friend you bang or just play video games with o.O

              1. Doug Judy*

                Yes. If I lined up all my friends and asked a stranger which one of them was in a very open marriage, I doubt anyone would get it correct.

                And, even though that is not my thing and I’ve been with the same person for 20 years, I don’t pearl clutch if someone tells me they spent the weekend hooking up with a casual friend. More than I’d want to know from a coworker, but it’s not that scandalous or interesting.

              2. Lissa*

                I just don’t see how the age or marital status of the person asking about their weekend is even relevant – it kind of implies that if the person asking were single and Dan’s age he’d say “I got some! Yeah!”
                Just say “spent time with a friend” or something.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              But she’s married! And female! No, I’m sure she spent a quiet evening watching nature documentaries with her husband, wearing full-length flannel pyjamas and lying at least four feet apart on their separate twin beds at all times.

            4. Constantine Binvoglio*

              He wasn’t necessarily assuming that his weekend was all that different as he is making sure that we all know he gets laid on the regular.

              Or, smushes, as you like to say, Doug Judy!

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, this isn’t hard. Any of these would be honest answers in that situation, or totally acceptable half-truths:

          “Not much”
          “Hung out with a friend”
          “The usual”
          “Had a friend over for dinner” (if you ordered pizza at some point)
          “Watched a movie” (it it was on in the background)
          “Slept in”

          Also… I assume you ever did anything else between Friday at 5 and Monday at 9? Like going grocery shopping or doing laundry or going to a new coffee shop or working out or watching TV or reading a book? Any of those things are fine to mention.

          1. Veronica*

            I wouldn’t say “watched a movie” unless you were paying attention to it and ready to discuss it. In case you’re talking to a movie person who will jump at the chance.

            1. Roverandom*

              Who do you hang out with who grills you on the movies you watch?? I would just say “Yeah I liked it but I was doing stuff while I watched so…”

      2. JSPA*

        Nothing wrong with that. The polite question and polite answer left space open for, “[there was some high level family drama I don’t want to talk about / I had food poisoning / 2 day migraine / I ran a marathon yesterday] and I’m a bit wiped out.” You may never have needed to speak up! You may be the sort of person who does not need to be invited to mention if they need a little slack! But it’s still nice to have the intro, should the need arise.

      3. Daisy*

        Bro! You had sex bro?! High five! Bet that manager’s never had sex at the weekend! Chicks, amirite? Cool story bro!

        1. Doug Judy*

          Well, obviously not because she’s married and we all know marriage is the death of wild, kinky sex.

        2. Important Moi*

          The tone of many of the comments thus far seem harsh today. However this made me me laugh out loud. :)

      4. Lily in NYC*

        Dude. It’s not that difficult – you just say “the usual” and change the subject. People really overthink this stuff. No one cares if you have a FWB.

      5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Maybe if your answer was “hooked up with my FWB. And you?” they’d stop asking. Haha. :)

      6. pentamom*

        Is having to answer a casual inquiry with “not much, and you” every two weeks supposed to seem like a lot? Because it’s not a lot.

      7. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        Unless allllll you did was hook up with your FWB then you could have literally saud anything else that you did…or “nothing special/same old same old/etc.”

    5. Charlotte*

      Most people don’t care what you did. It’s just a common small talk opener much like ‘how are you?’ (which a lot of people here also seem to put way too much thought into). They won’t remember your answer 5 minutes after the conversation is over.

      1. Quill*

        The only time anyone remembers what you did is when your reply is “I made cookies, better get to the break room before they’re gone.”

      2. Zillah*

        Yup. I’ve only had people remember what I said when it was positive – e.g., “not much, my team has a big game this weekend and I’m tense about that” “oh, what team?”

        And then we talk sports for 15 minutes every Monday morning, and it’s a nice way to start the week.

    6. londonedit*

      Where I live/work, this is just social small talk. No one expects you to have an amazing answer – most of the time, it’s just ‘Not much! I am SO looking forward to a quiet weekend!’ and the only response that would get would be ‘Oh, wow, yeah me too! Can’t wait for my Sunday lie-in!’ Or it’s perfectly acceptable to just say ‘Not much, how about you?’ That’ll usually get no more of a response than ‘Oh, yeah, not a lot here either…well, have a good one!’ It’s like when people say ‘Hi, how are you?’ – the stock response is ‘Oh, fine thanks, you?’ No one is asking for an actual description of your current mental and physical state.

    7. Me_05*

      There are those strange beings who seem disappointed that their coworkers don’t have a great story every weekend – but I think most people are just making a friendly overture and may even be happy for you that you got to do nothing.

    8. anon*

      I think there is a quote that goes along the lines of ‘There’s nothing more terrifying than asking someone how they are and they actually begin to tell you how they are.’

      Perhaps you’re overthinking this? It’s just life’s filler. The standard exchange in our office goes: “how was your weekend?’ ‘Good, you?’ ‘Good, thanks for asking.’ Conversation pretty much over unless the other person is desperate to offer up info.

      1. London Calling*

        Like the person who when I asked ‘good weeked?’ was still giving me chapter and verse on his weekend in Italy HALF AN HOUR later; and people pleaser that I was then, I was still listening.

        1. Veronica*

          I’m so hoping for that this weekend! I didn’t get any rest last weekend, and not for fun reasons.

    9. Colette*

      “Relaxed”, “Not much”, “watched a movie”, “tried a new recipe”, “got a bunch of errands done”, “finally cleaned out the storage room. Need any blank VHS tapes?”, “hung out with friends”

      Most people don’t do amazingly interesting things every weekend. Share something work-appropriate or deflect, either way is fine.

    10. Senor Montoya*

      I just don’t get this. You can say, “Not much. How about you?” I’ve found that nobody really cares that much what you actually did, they’re just making conversation / being sociable. Unless someone keeps pressing you and pressing you to give a detailed answer, these are in fact extremely low stakes questions.
      Adding “how about you?” is a good way to turn the conversation away from you and onto the other person, and will make you seem friendly.

      1. Clisby*

        I’m thinking people need to come up with a REALLY boring answer they can drone on and on about. It might deter further questions.

    11. RabbitRabbit*

      It’s not a contest, you can say “not much, you?” (Well, for most people it’s not, but you can ignore those other people.)

      I adore my current grand-boss but she’s very share-y at times, and she surprised me on this question near the end of a weekly team meeting. We were talking socially before wrapup, and she was talking about a vacation that started with some mild disaster and got fun after that. Then she blindsided me with asking about my time off recently. It was not good. I mentally locked and said something about it could have been better. She asked a follow-up but then seemed to realize that it wasn’t the usual not-the-best level of experience and backed off. Awkward.

      (My husband got work news that has left him intent on a transfer out ASAP, but that will probably at least triple his commute time and distance, and leave him in an unknown situation, rather than work under a new manager that has a past track record of publicly and undeservedly throwing his team under the bus in front of major higher-ups. And we also dealt with significant stress from an inlaw who we’re literally never going to see or speak to again if we can help it, after finally tying up legal issues that kept us from cutting them out earlier (history includes assault, drug use, alcoholism, theft, all kinds of stuff).)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It is those outlier “other people” that are the issue–the ones for whom “Not much. You?” is not acceptable. They either grill you for details, or worse, take that “You?” to be an invitation for their own details.

        I see two opposite approaches to those people. One is to go all in on unresponsiveness. Instead of “Not much. You?” go with “MmHm…” I associate this with middle aged African American women who take no nonsense. I wish I could pull it off as well. The second is more in my wheelhouse: Play the “I have obscure interests that I can go on at length about” card. What did I do last weekend? Saturday morning I was reading issues of the Brooklyn Union newspaper from 1867, and let me tell you what I found!…”

    12. Allison*

      I kinda hate it too, because in my experience 80% of the people who ask what you did over the weekend will “oOOooh” and “aaAAAaah” and go “ooh that sounds like fuuuUUUuun” at the most mundane activities, to be polite maybe?

      1. juliebulie*

        Yes, the whole transaction seems pointless and insipid. I can live with it, but I could happily do without it.

        I mean, sometimes our answers reveal something that we can bond over, but most of the time it just seems unnecessary, like a nod would do just as well.

        Sometimes I reply with something like, “knife fight” or “drunken brawl.” Anything to keep things interesting.

    13. Roy G. Biv*

      My partner and I are known for going to lots of events that skew a little weird in the eyes of our friendly, conservative Midwest coworkers, so those coworkers tend to live vicariously through our escapades. But I do love being able to answer the “What did you do this weekend?” question with “Not a danged thing, and it was fantastic.” You know, make it clear that yes, we all need down time, and also, why should I advertise everything I do on my weekends? Isn’t that why social media exists?

      1. huskerd0nt*

        I was gonna say… my co-workers tend to know what I’m up to, as we follow each other on Instagram.

    14. pleaset*

      “I feel like I’m supposed to give some amazing answer when in reality I do NOTHING!”

      You’re mistaken.

      Just say something like “Just relaxed at home.” That’s it. Done.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes. Maybe one person out of a hundred is going to actually be invested in your answer to this question. For the other 99, “Same ol’ same ol’!” with a shrug and a smile is going to be more than enough. Add, “How about you?” and you’ve earned an A+ in Social Interactions.

    15. Sara without an H*

      First, OP#3, Thank you for introducing me to the concept of “phatic expressions.”

      This issue has been raised before at AAM, usually by people who interpret all questions as real requests for information, rather than as part of a social bonding ritual. Admittedly, your Anna appears to be overdoing it slightly, but you yourself admit that it’s just a function of her warm, friendly personality. Squelching her would be mean, would endanger your working relationship, and give you a reputation as the office bully. You don’t want that outcome.

      So the answer is to just keep doing what you’re doing, and try to emotionally distance yourself from the transaction. You may also find it helpful to change the subject. “Where did you go for lunch?” “There’s a new sushi place on 5th Street. Did that shipment I’ve been waiting for come in while I was out?” Or whatever will turn the focus back to work.

      In dealing with people with annoying mannerisms, I’ve found it helps to NOT focus on how annoyed I am at the time. Instead of thinking, “Ooooh, Anna’s at it again, that’s SO annoying!”, just answer the question with a generic, phatic response, and shift the conversation — and your attention — to something else. (And I won’t even begin to try to describe the behavior of the person who taught me this…)

    16. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Sometimes I’m afraid to answer what I did over the weekend because sometimes people will judge you either way. If you say you didn’t do anything, they’ll say or imply that you should have been working. And if you say you did something fun or interesting they’ll say or imply that you have too many activities and that work should be your focus.

      1. CMart*

        “Sometimes” people will judge you – very, very rarely though. The vast majority of people are just asking to be friendly, and want to have a chat with you if you did indeed do something you feel is worth mentioning.

        If there is a specific person who makes you feel bad about your answers then you change how you respond to them, specifically. You don’t throw the entire social concept out the window.

      2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        Anyone that thinks eork should be your focus *all the time* can pound sand.

    17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My go to is “I caught up on sleep and did laundry.”

      Nobody flinches about it.

      In the PNW it’s basically required to ask about weekends. We’re obsessed as if we’re all super exciting. No. Most just hangout with their dogs and drink beers.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Dogs and beer are pretty much my two mainstream social interests! Of course, if you talk about either too much in my office you’ll be asked to either bring in the dog or bring the beer next time there’s an evening thing at someone’s house…

    18. Lucette Kensack*

      Being asked what you did over the weekend is so incredibly normal. Folks who hate this question just need to learn to live with it (or construct a life that only includes other who share the same inclination).

      1. fhqwhgads*

        The letter is about the same person asking the OP variations on the question multiple times a day. There’s a big difference between just seeing someone Monday and asking “how’s your weekend?” and seeing someone Monday morning and asking “how’s your weekend?” and seeing them later Monday and asking “how’s your morning” and seeing them in the afternoon and asking “how was lunch?” and seeing them later and asking “how’s your afternoon?” and seeing them on their way out and asking “any fun plans this evening?” Sure you might get all of those questions from various people throughout the day, but if you get them all from a single person on the same day? That’s excessive and weird.

        1. juliebulie*

          Agreed. It feels like having someone taking your temperature every hour on the hour. If people feel compelled to initiate a conversation every time they see someone, I wish they’d stick with a simple “hi there” to which I need only grunt in response.

        2. Princesa Zelda*

          I mean, it’s weird, but all it requires is just “good and you?” every time. OP doesn’t have to get fancy about it.

        3. pentamom*

          It’s excessive and slightly weird, but the real world choices are, dwell on how excessive and weird it is and get wound up by it four times a day, or learn to live with it and get good at polite, non-committal answers so you aren’t expending time or emotional energy on the situation.

    19. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I try to ask “did you have a fun weekend?” or “did you enjoy your weekend?”

      Mind you, to me, cleaning house and petting my grandcats and relaxing with a book and having chats with my sons that I don’t get to have on weekdays = fun weekend.

    20. Alli525*

      Wisdom from the fantastic comedian John Mulaney:

      “Percentage-wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them, and so much FUN not to do them… In terms of instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin. It’s an amazing feeling, such instant joy. Kids don’t like that, they get angry, like ‘aw man, we didn’t do anything all day.’ But have you ever asked an adult what they did over the weekend, and they say they didn’t do anything? Their faces LIGHT UP. “What’d you do this weekend?” “I, um… [looks up, face full of joy] I did nothing! I did nothing at all!”

      If you are happy that you didn’t do anything, own it! I live in NYC, where “I didn’t do anything” sometimes garners looks of concern and gentle inquiries into your mental health. But it’s the best! I’ve gone with “oh I made an amazing mac and cheese recipe I’ve been meaning to try!” or “I just played Sims all day on Saturday.” That is, ostensibly, nothing. But I enjoy it.

    21. Jadelyn*

      I, like Alison, take great delight in undermining cultural pressure to Always Be Doing Something by announcing that I plan to do absolutely nothing useful over the weekend. Sometimes specifying that I plan to sit on my lazy butt and play video games all weekend, or responding to “get anything done this weekend?” with “well, I finished the Diamond City questline and gained like 3 levels from it” because…to me that counts as getting something done!

      (I’ve been borderline-obsessively replaying Fallout 4 lately.)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I have a friend with a bad case of the Always Be Doing Something syndrome. He once texted me asking what I had planned for the weekend (not to invite me anywhere, strictly small talk) and his reaction to my plans that I told him about was “OK but what else?” followed by “just that? Sounds like a waste of a weekend”.

        I’d told him that one of my sons and I were going to refinish my hardwood floors that weekend. “Just that?” What even

        1. ampersand*

          I’d be tempted to start coming up with increasingly bizarre answers just to get him to leave me alone. “On Saturday we’re refinishing our hardwood floors, followed by a quick sky diving excursion–we’re actually parachuting in to our favorite restaurant for dinner! On Sunday we have tickets to a llama grooming competition in and possibly I’ll have time to get some laundry done after that?”

    22. Beartooth*

      I liked Alison’s read that when coworkers ask stuff like this they’re usually just trying to connect; sometimes if someone asks a generic question like this, but it’s one where I’m not that interested in talking about the answer, I just treat it as an opportunity to talk about something I actually do like to talk about. Ex: Coworker: “How was your weekend?” Me: “Nothing special. Did you see the latest Star Wars trailer though?/I’m thinking of cooking a pot roast this weekend/my cat has learned to open doors.”

      Obviously if you don’t like small talk about any subject, this won’t really fix it and just say something bland and exit. But if there’s some other interest you’d like to talk about to connect more with whoever’s asking, they’ll probably be delighted you’ve brought up a more interesting topic!

    23. Vicky Austin*

      “I sat on my couch all weekend with my tablet and caught up on the week’s entries in Ask A Manager.”

    24. Toothless*

      This is one of my favorite things about having a cat, because “spent time with/underneath my cat” sounds so much better than “sat on the couch and watched youtube on my phone for hours”, even though that’s exactly what spending time with my cat means, there’s just a kitty on my lap :)

    25. ampersand*

      Same! When it’s Monday morning I just want to be left alone and not have to rehash my weekend, regardless of what I did.

  5. Spencer Hastings*

    I also think that asking good follow-up questions in small talk is a skill that some people are better at than others. (Come on, dad, you don’t really care what *kind* of sandwich I had for dinner…)

    1. Jamie*

      Dad’s care. I’m a mom and when I ask about sandwiches it’s because I’m interested in their happiness (and also how I learned what a Monte Cristo is.)

      Co-workers usually don’t care, but parents just want to share even the mundane parts of your life. (Just reading this is pathetic…I need to make a friend or something.)

      1. pentamom*

        Hey, I have friends, but I do really want to know the details because it reinforces that closeness that parents want with their kids. Not EVERY detail, no, but asking about the meal and the things you saw on your trip and whatnot allows you to have that connection, while avoiding the kind of prying that doesn’t help the relationship.

          1. Veronica*

            I have food issues and if I knew the other person does too, I would want to talk about the sandwich and what works with our food issues. I might learn something useful!

      2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        Monte Christo is either #1 or #2 depending on my mood. Rivaled only by a Reuben.

        Now I’m hungry…

          1. AKchic*

            It’s okay… my grandpa used to call it a Monte Crisco, and refused to believe it was anything else. I have no idea why. It was just a little quirk.

    2. Filosofickle*

      In my 20s I dated a guy who always asked for the details of what I had for lunch and, if I didn’t see him that day, what I wore. Every day! For 6 months! It was…odd. My most generous guess is it had to do with building a mental picture of my day and me going about it. Less generously, he was not a bright guy so maybe this kind of small talk was all he had to fill a few minutes on the phone at night.

  6. Princesa Zelda*

    Op3 — calling your coworker Anna makes me think that you’re more of an Elsa? Maybe you just need to take a deep breath and Let It Go. ;)

    Jokes aside, I highly second “I am doing NOTHING” with a triumphant tone as a response. I put a lot of effort into being able to do NOTHING, and every time I use it my coworkers/neighbors/grocery store clerks are all slightly jealous.

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      I’ve been to known to respond to the “What did you do this weekend?” question with “Not a damn thing and it was GLORIOUS.”

      1. londonedit*

        Me too. Sometimes I have busy weekends, sometimes I have quiet ones, and I really LOVE the quiet ones and am happy to shout about them. I also love the ‘I did absolutely NOTHING and it was SO NICE’ response and use it a lot!

    2. Doug Judy*

      Yes! Doing nothing is amazing. I’m married with two kids and doing nothing on the weekend doesn’t happen very often. Two months ago, my husband took the kids camping and I got the entire house to myself for 48 hours. I was overly enthusiastic of my non-plan plans when anyone asked what I had planned for the weekend. I ate all the carbs, watched trash TV, and other basic doing nothingness, and it was wonderful.

      1. SigneL*

        “I napped!” I may have spent quality time with Mr. Rocky Road Ice Cream, but, really, that’s TMI.

    3. ceiswyn*

      Oh, yeah. “I did NOTHING, it was AMAZING” is my favourite response.

      …unfortunately, I am way overcommitted and have usually done a bunch of stuff on my weekends. I am still experimenting with how to distil “Three gym classes, coffee with a friend, an essay on the Classics, and a fifteen mile hike” down into a bitesize format. “Just the usual” doesn’t seem to /quite/ cut it.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        It absolutely does cut it. No one truly wants the details when they ask this – it’s just a polite throwaway comment like “how are you”.

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          True- maybe if OP #3 kills Anna with major details, she’ll back off a bit and not ask as much.

        2. CMart*

          Aw, well some people want some details, but I suspect you would know who those people are. I have coworkers who I am pretty friendly with who I would enjoy hearing that they went on a 15 mile hike and just killed it at the gym over the weekend.

          But again, I assume you know who these people are. When I ask my supervisor who I’ve known for 3 years, who sits next to me, who I have a lot in common with and who I often have social lunch with what she did this weekend I am in fact interested in the details. When I ask Whatshisface From Marketing in the kitchen while I wait for his coffee to brew, I’m more just being polite. But idk, if he wants to tell me about his hike that’s cool too!

        3. Angelinha*

          Yeah and I think people don’t realize that…you can lie about this. We all have coworkers who you just don’t really want to get into it with. “Oh, not much, how about you?” is a perfectly fine answer regardless of whether it’s true.

      2. Alianora*

        It’s ok, really. Your coworkers are not going to die if they don’t know every detail of your weekend schedule. Just pick one or two things that you feel like talking about.

        1. Kes*

          I would second this – “just the usual” if you don’t feel like talking about any of it or it really is all the same every week, otherwise pick one thing/what was different to talk about – “I went for a hike in x area”, “Caught up with an old friend from high school”, etc

      3. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, don’t mention anything you don’t want a followup question on. I’d probably stick with one or two of the items, and whether or not you say “a fifteen mile hike” or “went for a hike” would depend on whether you wanted to have to deal with the “wow” reaction some people will have to the 15-mile part, or whether you’d rather just get to be (at most) asked where and talk about how lovely it was, briefly.

        Of course, lots of people *won’t* ask follow up questions, because it’s a throwaway question often. But if they’re trying to deepen the connection, they may.

      4. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        “Ohhhhh…a little bit of this a, little bit of that. How was *your* weekend?”

      5. Audrey Puffins*

        I go to the theatre in London Every. Damn. Weekend. I’m quite a pro at wheeling out “oh, the usual, just a lot of sitting around watching stuff” as an answer when I’m chatting to someone who might think “oh, the theatre, a lovely treat, how interesting, let’s talk all about it!”.

      6. Third or Nothing!*

        I’d totally be interested in hearing about your 15 mile hike if I were your coworker. I love hiking. :D

        None of my coworkers are into running so they don’t really care if I went for a long run on Saturday. And right now running is a major part of my life so I have little else to talk about. Womp womp.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      Yes! And if you say the same exact thing every time they eventually stop asking. When someone asks what I’m going to do that weekend, my stock answer is “I plan to sit and stare at my walls a lot”. Or “the usual”. And then I turn it around and ask a lot of probing questions about their own weekend plans.

    5. Allison*

      It reminds me of the John Mulaney bit on the joys of doing nothing, I recommend checking that out on YouTube.

    6. BethRA*

      I share and office with an Anna. She’s only here part time, and honestly I can’t decide if that’s a blessing, or part of the problem (since she’s not here as much, she’s working harder to connect? I notice it more because of the contrast with my less interrogated days?) For me, the issue isn’t just having to come up with an answer, it’s that it becomes disruptive. Her entrance and “how are yous/what did you do/etc. is a 10- minute interruption every time she arrives, and there are follow-ups throughout the day. And on leaving. It’s just…a lot.

    7. drpuma*

      Yep! I suspect Anna cares less about what you actually did than how you felt about what you did (and whether or not you’re still grumpy about it). You can pretty easily close the loop with “I did nothing / sheared sheep / baked a cake / failed at baking a cake AND IT WAS GREAT, how about you?” Checking the box with a positive makes it easier for folks to move on with social niceties. Think of it as a slightly more detailed version of “I’m fine, how are you?”

    8. Scrooge McDunk*

      Yes! I took last week off with the express plan of doing absolutely nothing. I’ve been working crazy hours and haven’t taken more than a long weekend since my dad’s funeral in March so I was READY for it. When coworkers asked what my plans were, my response was “Developing a new butt groove in my couch!” There wasn’t a single soul who wasn’t jealous of my amazing plans ;)

    9. Missy*

      I tend to pick one thing I did and talk about it a bit. Even if I did nothing I did something. “I watched Pride and Prejudice for the 100th time, but I just love that movie!” or “I made the most perfect scrambled eggs one morning, I used water not milk and I think it helped.”

      I’m also a question asker about that stuff but it’s because I tend to be told that I’m very aloof and that gets me in trouble since people often misread that as me being stuck up, or that I think I’m superior. Since I know that my regular interactions tend towards that, I try to balance it by being very engaged in small talk. I don’t really care where you went for lunch, but I do sort of care that you know that I care about you as a person. If I had the interpersonal skills to be sure that I could convey that in ways that other people seem to be able to, I would do that, but I’m sort of stuck on the small talk.

  7. mark132*

    OP5, the law is also different by state in the US well (at least for California). Overtime pay is calculated per workday not per week, and over 12 hours in a single workday they must be paid not 1.5x but rather 2x, among other laws. So if you already for 8 hours in the workday in California you probably are supposed to be paid 1.5x per hour.

    1. Dan*

      I *totally* miss California. My best ever was four hours of OT + 2 hours of double time for like two hours of work. MISS IT!

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – I would be really blunt here. “All, I’m not comfortable with the claims you are making. I am not convinced that the data supports your conclusions. Ethically, I can’t put my name on the poster and I can’t support you at the conference. I’m sorry.”

    Don’t raise the other topic because people will accuse you of trying to get your way with your topic. Your point is that you can’t support a poster with questionable data.

    1. kt*

      I have now moved from academia to business, doing data stuff, and there are many things that people would present on from a ‘business’ point of view that would be perfectly acceptable in a business context that I wouldn’t be comfortable presenting myself in a technical context. Some of the largest metrics in the industry are simply inadequate from a scientific point of view. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, or that it’s unethical. Like, the S&P 500 isn’t science. The components of the S&P are chosen by committee, inspired by data. I can’t consider it a scientific representation of the stock market. Yet it’s a perfectly acceptable measure of stock market performance in the US.

      This is an imperfect example because the S&P 500 is so widely recognized, but I can imagine something like that. Here’s another example. Say I want to go to some open data conference and present on some algorithm that takes incoming Bureau of Labor Statistics data and presents a picture of regional economic health. Then my colleagues decide they’re rather present on our marketing campaign that used the GDP and weather predictions, that looks cool but actually produced no real results. It’s not that our marketing campaign that’s the boss’s pet project is *bad* or unethical, it’s just that it was a waste of time and I’m not interested in putting my name on it.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, this. I tend to feel that a project has to be super strong and mostly wrapped up before I’d consider writing it up and submitting it to a conference, but some of my colleagues are more willing to submit something that’s in progress or that doesn’t feel especially novel or where there are more known weaknesses in the methodology. For an industry conference where part of the point is learning from how our peer agencies are handling things and what types of analysis they’re doing, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as no one is misrepresenting the work.

      2. Mike C.*

        Uh, I wholeheartedly disagree with this, and I do the same kind of work. I’m not going to use two data points to measure a trend and call it a sound analysis.

        And yes, I’ve successfully pushed back against middle management for requests just like this.

        1. kt*

          But that’s not the same. You can use 20000 data points and get an inconclusive answer, because the data is dirty and you changed your business strategy in 2018 in response to changes in price and then a new product came to market in March 2019 and tariffs with China changed. Lots of life is like that. Business goes on. Business *must* go on — you can’t wait for a randomized controlled trial of whether the blue wrapping paper is nicer than the red wrapping paper. It’s not unethical.

    2. J.B.*

      I agree with that phrasing. I think the question of how far to push back is…how strongly should she say “no you guys should not present it is a bad idea”. I think your phrasing covers most work situations I have seen.

  9. Tired*

    I have a problem with my boss like LW1 too, about my own boss lying to her boss or at least covering up the truth. The thing is, there are only me (as “operational chief”) and my less than 5 staffs at the office here, and my communication with big boss is mostly only through her. She’d lied to him about insight of local market (he’s foreign), about our employee resigning due to her actions or lack thereof (she told him he resigned because of other reason), and when another employee resigned due to her actions again, I was afraid she’d lie again to big boss to cover up her ass. So I asked if the resigning staff should send big boss and the other farewell email (because he’d met big boss before), and my boss said that there’s no need and she will cover it… either I’m already too touchy or it actually is suspicious.

    1. Bagpuss*

      In that scenario I think I might encourage the resigning staff to cc the big boss, rather than asking.

    2. Veronica*

      That she’s lying about the employee who resigned because of her means she’s lying to keep herself out of trouble. She might also be trying to manipulate the company or the market by lying about the local market.

      Both mean she’s pretty much unethical. You’re right to be suspicious. In fact, I’ve gone past suspicion to she’s a person who will do anything to help herself regardless of how it affects others, including her employer.

      I agree to advise staff to cc big boss on their farewell email. That’s the first step in working against her.
      I would look for other opportunities to loop big boss in so he sees what’s really happening – without asking permission from either of them, if possible.

      Do this while covering yourself in every way by documenting as much as possible, and keep the documents in a place where you can get them if you’re not at work or can’t access work systems. She will throw you under the bus, make sure you have the documents to refute her.

      If you feel you’d rather not deal with this mess look for another job, but still cover yourself in the meantime.
      Good luck! :)

  10. Allonge*

    I have a work-friend Anna in my life. She is at least conscious of the fact that Asking.Questions should be her middle name – she literally cannot stop herself. Even when I tell her I have very limited information and we have exhausted all of it. Even when I tell her it’s confidential, it takes her a question or two to settle down.

    It _is_ a nervous tick. And my Anna is also very kind, genuinely interested in people if overly chatty. There are many positives to this for an introvert like me: she knows everybody and what’s up with them, which is nice and she is very good to have at a table (no chance for awkward silences!).

    All of that is to say: I feel for you, as I get irritated with her as well, and having to police a bit what I share with her – not just because some of it spreads around, but because I have no energy sometimes to fill her in on my friends she never met and how they are.

    In my experience saying bland things is ok – no offence taken, even if the question gets asked again. Otherwise this is just part of who she is, and unless you are willing to go really blunt with her about the whole thing, it’s something that you have to tolerate.

  11. Bilateralrope*

    Working security, having someone fired but nobody telling me is a nightmare scenario. It means that if they decide to just walk in the front door, I wont suspect anything. Most of the people working wouldn’t suspect anything either. Just think of the damage this former employee could do.

    When the places I work at use swipe cards, it’s securities job to disable them when an employee stops working there. Dont tell us and the swipe card will still work.

    Luckily it hasn’t been a problem for me. Yet.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        If it happens, someone high up will want to know how the ex-employee got in. Their investigation happening without security finding out seems unlikely. At a minimum, there will be questions for them.

        Being yelled at and/or blamed is very likely.

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

      I also thought about that. However, I think OP’s workplace sounds like one of those that learn the lesson once the damage is done.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      “Hey, Bob, I’m having trouble with my work email–could you send the Wooter numbers to my personal email? Thanks.”

      1. No Green No Haze*

        “Hi, Security. Oh, this large duffel bag and overcoat in June? Gym clothes and a thyroid condition. Say, buzz me up to 12, willya? My hands are kind of full. Thanks.”

    3. Mama Bear*

      My husband had that problem – someone didn’t shut off the card for an AWOL employee and when she finally showed up, she still had full access. It was a…mess. Security should be the FIRST informed. And you know you’d be the one held accountable if they destroyed the network.

      It need not get into a lot of personal details – many companies make a simple generic statement about so and so has left the company as of x date and if they are on the premises after that, they must follow appropriate visitor procedures.

      I’ve had the problem of not being told that management has shifted, too. No one ever made the official announcement but after a while we all figured out that the interim guy was the permanent guy and it was really awkward for all involved, especially when the first manager came back and was clearly not working with the same project. It didn’t help anything to be secretive. If the first guy no longer needed access to the same files, then we needed to know.

      1. Wintermute*

        Exactly, to save face at oldjob the only difference was the date, usually. If it came out on the 25th and said “effective October 25th Joe Bloe is no longer with the company” it was a firing, if it said “Effective November 3rd” it was a resignation.

        I thought it was classy. Though I could also see how a company would worry about optics, at that place every week it was “effective [today]” or “effective [two weeks]” someone was leaving, it was clear that they had a constant stream of layoffs, firings and quittings.

    4. Karo*

      My office has about 10 people in it, and 1 of those people works in an area of the office I literally never go to. I didn’t find out that he was gone until a coworker mentioned it in passing. He could have shown up at any time, asked me any question about the business and I would’ve given him any info I was privy to without a second thought.

      To make matters worse, we don’t have any security or receptionist to speak of, so anyone who is around is responsible for answering the door if someone rings the bell. Even with his badge turned off, I would’ve let him in and just let him wander around.

      Like others have said, I don’t need all the gory details. But – even though I don’t work in security or IT or reception – I still need to know when someone has left.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. My husband is in security for a company that requires DOD clearance and they work on government contracts. If they’re not told that someone was terminated, that would be a HUGE security problem given the type of product and the work going on there. Thankfully there’s a strict process in place so the likelihood of that happening is extremely slim. But yeah, at that company he’d be very worried to find out someone was fired and they didn’t know.

  12. Emma the Strange*

    Regarding OP2: how hard is it to send an all company email saying “Wakeen no longer works here effective today”?!?! Hell, even lying and pretending he quit would be an improvement, because at least then everyone knows for sure he’s gone. I seriously do not get this.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      You dont need to give a reason. Just the person’s name and end date.

      I worked in one factory that used the same email every time someone stopped working there. Including one person transferred to a different site and someone who tried stealing product on his first day, only to be caught because everyone gets searched when leaving the site.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yep. I’d expect a “I’m sorry to say Tahani will be leaving us on (date)/ has left to pursue other opportinities. We wish her all the best for the future.”. Leave off last bit only if they were fired for something really extreme. Usually also with details of leaving drinks arrangements if not a nasty firing.

      1. Kes*

        I’d expect Emma’s suggestion if they were fired and yours if they left of their own accord for another opportunity. That’s how my company handles it and you can tell by the email how they left. (Of course, occasionally they don’t email and it’s confusing, but word gets around).

    3. Magenta*

      In the UK a fired employee has 14 days to appeal, so firms often don’t make a formal announcement, generally management will ensure word gets round to the people who need to know though.

    4. WellRed*

      Not saying anything is not only bizarre and pointless, it actually calls more attention to the firing.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      My only thought is if the Project Manager did something BAD BAD BAD, then HR would have been putting out fires in emergency mode and sending out an email wasn’t a priority at that point. They could have been dealing with attorneys and police for two days.
      If it was a single instance, then I would let it go as a one time mistake. If someone quit and an email didn’t go out, then that’s pretty lame, but there could be more drama wrapped up in a spontaneous firing.

      1. Observer*

        Even then, it doesn’t make sense. Someone let people know that the meeting had been cancelled. After the fact, granted, but still. How much additional time would it have taken to add “because Supervisor is no longer with Company”?

    6. Quinalla*

      It wasn’t even not doing this though that surprised me, lots of companies are weird about people leaving and try to keep it somewhat quiet which I agree just makes people talk about it more. But they wouldn’t even admit the person was fired/gone when asked directly! That is bizarre! Do they think they can go on pretending forever that the person still works there? So weird!

      1. skunklet*

        I did cust svc for a manufacturing company that shipped and sold all over the US. After I left, I was on linkedin perusing ‘those that i may know’ and discovered a national sales MANAGER was ‘looking for new opportunities’. Now, this person is authorized to discount (significantly) the products we sell. I emailed a friend still at the company and asked her if she knew that xxx was gone (we were about 2 months after his termination) – and she had no idea…. he was still in their email address book and the REALLY funny thing? My friend would’ve been the one to put the discounted $$ into the system….. I mean, there’s a small chance anyone would break into the email server and do that but you never know!
        And this was not the first time folks had been let go and no one knew, happened all the time. Glad I’m outta there.

      2. Wintermute*

        If you’re firing so many people that it looks bad, then trying to hide it makes it look WORSE, but for some reason it’s a common manager reflex: “We can’t let people know how many people are quitting or being fired! it would look bad!”

    7. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      At my agency there is a company newsletter that is sent out a couple times a week and there are headings “New Hires” “Staff Classification Changes” and “No Longer at XXXX” While my agency is dysfunctional on many other levels I think they did well with this set up.

    8. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      I don’t get it either. It’s ridiculous. I suppose in very rare cases there could be some sort of doubt, so you might not want to send out an all-company email. But those circumstances would be exceedingly rare in the U.S., and in any case there’s no reason not to say something when somebody specifically asks.

      On the other hand, it does make me think of the Vague, Yet Menacing, Government Agency in Night Vale, so that’s kind of fun. :-)

    9. The Other Dawn*

      Right. There’s been a few times earlier in my career when someone was fired and no one said a word. They just weren’t there anymore. It just seems so bizarre that they wouldn’t just say, “Sally has left the company/moved on/no longer works here.” There’s no requirement to give the details. Either way there’s likely to be a rumor mill, but it would likely be much less if it’s announced.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      It’s not per call, it’s per night covered, whether there’s no call or fifty… I’m glad Alison has pointed out this is not how it should be calculated!

    2. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      Hah, where I work on call staff (salaried) get a warm handshake and a “Thanks.” The pay at my workplace sucks beyond sucking with suck berries on top. That’s why I’m looking to move on to different waters.

  13. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – it’s just different styles of social “I acknowledge you, fellow human” and neither style is better – personally I find yes/no questions a little off-putting, but that’s OK! The intent is to make brief friendly contact, and as long as she is being brief, a quick “the usual – you?” is really all that’s needed.

    1. Weegie*

      Except… if you have someone like a former boss of mine in your work life. Every Monday it was ‘How was your weekend?’ I have no objection to this ‘hello, fellow human’ exchange, and answer ‘fine’.

      This was not enough for boss: ‘What did you do?’
      Me: ‘Nothing much.’
      Boss: ‘But you can’t have done *nothing* – go on, what did you do?’

      He persisted with this *every single Monday* until I finally snapped and said: ‘Fine – I shopped for food, cleaned my house, met a friend for lunch and read a book. I lead a very boring life and the answer is going to be the same every week, so really, would you please stop asking.’

      Him: ‘I’m always going to ask.’

      To me, this went beyond two-way friendly acknowledgement, and I’m not so sure it’s all that easy to successfully use deflection tactics on someone like an Anna or my former boss.

      As an aside, it probably wasn’t a coincidence that, with this level of interest in the minutiae of someone else’s weekend, although he was a very nice person, he was also a rubbish boss who couldn’t keep projects on track.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        Yeah, at that level of intensity it’s like people are expecting you to perform for them, which really bothers me.

      2. Me_05*

        Yikes! That’s bizarre.

        I have a boss right now who looks vaguely disappointed when I say, “Not much”, but I know it’s because he’s hoping to have a little conversation about it and connect a little, since I’m new.

        If someone insisted on details I think I’d just start making up stories or describing scenes out of a novel.

      3. Grace*

        Yeah, some people just aren’t content with ‘not much’. Someone I live with greets me every time I walk through the door with ‘How was work?’ – which, okay, fair enough. But a ‘Fine’ is not enough. It’s always followed with asking what I did, or did I go anywhere for lunch, or how busy was the tram?

        Meanwhile, I’ve made it very clear to everyone I live with that after a long day of peopleing and rush-hour-public-transport, all I really want to do when I get home is sit in my room for half an hour on my own before I come downstairs to be social, and yet the interrogation continues.

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          My understanding with my partners is, unless it’s something they HAVE to know before anything else, I don’t talk to them beyond “Hi, honey! Dinner in 15 minutes” until THEY begin the conversation.. I’m good with this. And usually by the time there’s been a chance to be quiet and relax, and the chance to eat a good hot meal and get out of work clothes, they discover they want to talk about the day, and I will listen. (They’re both in IT, so they do some venting to each other, which helps.)

          1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

            Yeah, I have something similar with my partner at the other end of the day. He is not expected to give or receive more interaction than “Good morning boo! Have a good day!” before noon unless it is absolutely required. In return, he puts forth the effort to say actual words and have a warm tone when he is 3/4 zombie. :-)
            We all gotta make accommodations for the realities of the people in our lives.

      4. Mischa*

        My roommate does this and it drives me absolutely insane. She is very nice and a great person…but she starts the interrogation the moment I step into the apartment. I need a second to breathe, dang it. I did finally snap and she seems to have gotten the hint, but man, it’s exhausting being ambushed the moment you walk in the door.

        Her: “How was your day?”
        Me: “Fine, nothing exciting.”
        Her: “Did anything good happen?”
        Me: “…it was a very average day.”
        Her: “Did you have to deal with conflict? Send a tough email? See something funny happen?”
        Me: “Roommate! Oh my god!”
        Her: “What? I’m just trying to take an interest in your life!”
        Me: “If I have something interesting to tell you, I will tell you.”

        1. pleaset*

          I had a roommate like this, and he got angry. So I said straight-up “I’m tired when I come home and don’t want to talk much. That’s me. Please stop.”

        2. Kes*

          Yeah this is why I’m so glad my roommate is also an introvert. Sometimes we will get home and hang out together in the living room, but a lot of the time we will both be in our rooms doing our own thing. That would drive me nuts (and I remember when I lived with my parents when I was younger and they wanted a story about my day… I am not the best at stories, so my answers to them asking how my day was were mostly pretty brief “it was good/okay”, “not much happened”)

        3. AKchic*

          My husband likes to try to do that too. Dude, I work in an office and I interact with people so infrequently that I can go days without seeing a person at all. I like it that way. If there had been anything noteworthy for me to say about my day, I’d have said so. Leave my “it was fine” as is.

      5. Liz*

        That sounds like my one former boss, except she’d almost criticize you if you didn’t do anything SHE thought was a “worthy” use of your time. I’m not an outdoorsy person. at all. and i hate the heat in summer and other times of the year my allergies are so bad i hibernate. I also am not a fan of physical activity. She is and will be kind of critical if you say you didn’t go outside to “enjoy the nice weather” and so on.

      6. TheCommenterFormrlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        Ah no see that was a power play/dominance move on his part. Especially the fact that the said he is always going to ask. What a dick.

      7. AKchic*

        For people like that, I’m evasive while still giving details. Maybe not the truth, but they are details.
        “Oh, the usual, mayhem, panic, hiding bodies… the usual. You?”
        “what?! Bodies?”
        “Yeah, I hate nosy people. I have a favorite dumping spot and a friend with a boat who’s learned not to ask questions.” *meaningful look* “Otherwise, my weekend was quiet. So, do we have any projects I should be aware of?”

      8. it's-a-me*

        boss: ‘What did you do?’
        Me: ‘Nothing much.’
        Boss: ‘But you can’t have done *nothing* – go on, what did you do?’

        Him: ‘I’m always going to ask.’

        This is where you go crazy with it. What did you do? Cannibalism. Oh anything else? Forded the Rio Grande with a herd of alpacas. Plans for next weekend? Might colonize Mars.

    2. LilyP*

      FWIW OP I would register no meaningful difference between being asked “how was your weekend?” and “did you get to relax last weekend?”. Either way you have the option of a short polite answer (fine/yeah) or taking it as an opening for a longer conversation. If you *want* to talk to Anna, take the question as a conversation prompt and branch out from there. If you don’t want to talk to her, give a quick polite answer and say you have to get back to work or focus on something.

  14. Don’t get salty*

    #1: there are three pillars to bad management: incompetence, corruption, and spinelessness.

    Pam: incompetent (she does not have the ability to motivate/lead, and she can’t control her emotions; therefore, she bullies).

    Adam: corrupt (he will ignore obvious, and often debilitating, problems if it causes him even one shred of hardship or risk; often, he is the cause of the problem).

    HR: spineless (HR is supposed to investigate complaints and be confrontational if need be, not just take the word of management that a problem has been solved).

    #2: I had a friend that I would take weekly walks with during my lunch breaks at work. My friend was diagnosed with cancer, so we started the walks to give her space to get some fresh air, to be in the company of friends, and to talk about life outside work. About two months in, she told me that she was going to take a vacation for a couple weeks. She never came back. I thought she’d died; she was laid off.

    About a month later, management calls a company wide meeting. During this meeting they tell everyone “you might have noticed some of your friends and coworkers are no longer here. We had to lay them off. But we promise we’re not having any more layoffs.” A month later, they lay off nearly half the workforce. Those they didn’t lay off, including me, left the company with little to no notice.

    Moral of the story: there’s no good reason for any company to expect observant, intelligent, and CARING, people to buy into their delusions about whom they’ve decided to let go.

    #3: I think I’m having the same problem you’re having with a particular coworker who, whenever she passes by my cubicle (especially when I’m occupied), feels compelled to start conversation. Whether I’m having a conference call, whether I am working feverishly to deliver a report, or whether I am packing my supplies to travel to an offsite location, I can’t seem to politely get her to just pass me by when I’m busy. It just feels so callous and rude to tell her that one “hello, how are you; how is your family; how was your weekend; you’re pretty busy, huh?…” per day is fine. Instead, I just mumble “uh huh,” and after about 30 seconds, I tell her that I’m sorry, I have to focus/finish. I sympathize.

    #5: I am not quite sure if by “on call” you mean that you have your phone nearby to answer calls, or if you need to report to the office between 9 PM and 7 AM. What happens if you are fully occupied during those evening hours? Are you still required to work until 7 AM and then continue into a brand new workday at 7 or 8 AM?

  15. Bowserkitty*

    (I enjoy saying “I am doing NOTHING” with enormous triumph like the tone other people use to announce they got Hamilton tickets. In fact, I take pleasure in bragging about doing nothing, as I feel I am doing the lord’s work by promoting lounging time.)

    A woman after my own heart! I used to have one of those dinky little “wood block” carvings that said “sorry, I have plans with my cat tonight.” I think I held onto it before the big move, I wonder if I can find it in my storage next time I’m in my home country… It turns out it remains true here when you work too much!

    1. GoryDetails*

      I was going to cite that passage too – I loved it! Both for the use of tone (awesome simile there) and the joy of lounging-time.

    2. Jamie*

      Yep – promoting lounging is huge public service.

      I own a couch (not trying to brag), share a home with four legged cuddle beasts, and know how to read. That’s a recipe for perfect happiness too few people know about.

  16. Flash Bristow*

    Op#3, I totally empathise! Normally I’m a chatty, forthcoming person – but lately I’ve had some serious mental health problems. Yesterday I went down the road on my own for a few mins and soooo many people (half a dozen incidents?) stopped me to say “omg, Flash! You’re out! How ARE you, we’ve missed you!” Which was nice but I just wanted to keep my head down and keep shuffling along, y’know?

    Anyway, my stock response is “are you just asking to be polite or do you really want to know, we could be here a while…” along the same sort of lines as the Monty Python “argument” sketch where the guy says “are you here for 5 minutes or the full half hour?” :D

    But if you think they’ll say “no really, what DID you get up to?” you can always follow your “or do you really want to know?” with “cos I don’t mean to be rude but I need to push on, nice to see you tho”. Or whatever version works for the office, maybe “thanks for asking, tho” and if appropriate a “catchya later” as long as you really wouldn’t mind a quick watercooler chat later. (A brief one. When you’re on a break. Max once a day. And so on.)

    It’s so hard when people are genuinely being kind, isn’t it?

    1. Flash Bristow*

      I’d add I do the “do you really want to know” in a friendly up tempo smily way – it’s not coming over as a challenge or owt! It just kinda makes the point of “it’s kind of you to ask, but…”

      I used to say “oh sod me, how about you?!” but that depends so much on who’s asking; I imagine OP#3’s coworker would be happy to chat about their own weekend too!

    2. RobotWithHumanHair*

      This is so me. There are many days where I don’t want to deal with the social niceties at work and just want to keep my head down and work. And unfortunately, those are the days when people feel like being extraordinarily nice (and I’m equally too nice to shoo them away). So I just kind of end up being a captive audience to it all.

  17. Flash Bristow*

    Me again (sorry!)

    Just wanted to thank OP#3 for introducing me to the word “phatic”. I’ll add it to my “new words I’ve learnt this month” list.

    (Yes, I’m sad enough to have one. Well, I’m onto list no. 5 atm. But as someone who also writes / blogs, it’s good to have and I find it helps me remember them better. So thank you again, OP#3!)

  18. mf*

    #1: Honestly, I would never again be comfortable have a conversation with Adam alone regarding Pam or other workplace performance/conflict issues. I think you should tell HR that from now on, you’d like to them to be present for all meetings of this nature with Adam.

    1. Bagpuss*

      That, or e-mailAdam after a meeting to say “I just wanted to confirm my understanding of our conversations… and summariese what was discussed and your understanding of what happens next.
      And either cc HR at the time, or forward them the mail afterwards.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I would be really careful about emailing written summaries of a meeting to someone like Adam. I’ve done that, and people who are Up To Something always ping to the fact that you’re doing a documentation-CYA move to catch them.

        It often ends up provoking them into doubling down or escalating harassment.

  19. DustyJ*

    Re #1
    I come back to this blog again and again because it reminds me how abnormal my previous organisation really was. My first instinctive reaction on reading LW#1 was to think, well of course Adam lied, all bosses lie, it’s normal. That’s why you always have to CYA against your boss. Reading Alison’s reply makes me realize it’s not normal, and my norms have been warped by the Adams I’ve worked under. This is why I read this blog – it’s therapeutic!

    On-topic though – best to CYA against Adam at all times, and don’t believe anything he says unless it’s verified by someone outside his control. Record everything in email, and start keeping a journal. And also be warned that if your boss is lying to his boss about the staff, he’s also lying to his staff about the boss.

  20. Alice*

    #2 is such a terrible idea, I don’t understand why it’s so hard to confirm that the person doesn’t work there any more. What is the company trying to gain by keeping employees in limbo? Baffling.

    #3 is my pet peeve! Not the question so much, but the people who won’t accept “doing nothing/relaxing/having a quiet night in” as an answer. I have a coworker who keeps insisting I “can’t possibly be doing nothing, again?! What did you really do? You can’t possibly be that lazy?” …Yes actually, I am that lazy, and I happen to like it quite a lot! Very tempted to tell her that she should try it sometimes, as apparently she spends her weekends cleaning the house and doing the laundry and cooking up a storm, only to show up on Monday totally knackered.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I can understna that ther emay be reasons why staff are not told instantly (for instnace, someone may be out becuase they have been suspended while a disciplinary issue is investigated, I wouldn’t expect other staff to necessarily be told at that stage, but once the process is complete and someone has resigned, or been dismissed, there is no reason at all not to inform the rest of the staff that that person is no longer working there.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, I had a manager who was fired because he was found to be embezzling funds and it was such a large amount and had been going on for so long that the employer definitely wanted to keep it under wraps because it made them look pretty incompetent at managing their finances (he exploited a loophole in the expense reimbursement process that never should have existed if best practices were being followed). I was under instructions not to reveal any details of why or how he left, and of course I couldn’t say where he was going since he didn’t have another job lined up, which led to some pretty uncomfortable conversations for then 25 year old me with some senior executives in other divisions who were mystified where this well-liked long-term employee had gone with no notice.

      But even with all that, I WAS allowed to say “he’s left the company,” at least. It’s completely bizarre that the company is refusing to even confirm what the employees can see with their own eyes.

      1. Veronica*

        IME when people are denying/pretending the obvious isn’t true, it’s because they’re trying to hide something. I don’t know what it would be, but I hope that helps.

  21. Alternative Person*

    #1, you have my sympathy, there’s several on-going issues at my workplace, the branch manager avoids resolving the conflicts properly and feeds a prettied up image to the area manager who is always shocked when year-meetings come round, but also never fixes anything. Branch manager is also very on the ball about not giving us contact information for area manager as to not break the facade (I have an e-mail but I’m not playing that card until I have to).

    The best things you can do are document, send ‘just to confirm’ e-mails and CYA.

    Also there may be a decision about how long you want to stay at a workplace like that.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #3 – some people are just bad at small talk. But recognize this for what it is – small talk. It’s a normally accepted social practice and people are going to do it. I worked with a woman who once declared, “I come to work to work, not to socialize” and it was understood you just sort of ignored her because this was her position on things. She was miserable to be around. Don’t be her. Just say you went parasailing or grocery shopping or taught yoga to cactuses and move on with your day.

    1. Luna*

      I do have to wonder about small talk. It’s considered acceptable, but you aren’t “really” supposed to talk or be honest. If someone asks you, “How are you?” you are supposed to just say, “I’m fine” and not be honest and tell them, “I have a massive headache because I couldn’t sleep”.

      I admit I’m not good at social stuff, especially social cues, but that just makes no sense to me. If you don’t want an honest answer to the question, why ask the question, anyway? Whatever happened to the rule of talking about the weather, if you had nothing to talk about?

      1. McMonkeybean*

        Well that’s what makes it small talk, rather than an actual conversation. Most of the time it just boils down to acknowledging the other person’s presence.

      2. CheeryO*

        I don’t know, I know plenty of people who could pull off, “Ugh, couldn’t sleep and I have a terrible headache. Mondays, amirite? How are you holding up?” I think there’s space for genuine interactions as long as you aren’t constantly being negative or forcing your coworkers to do emotional labor for you.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I agree with this. I’m typically honest, in a super brief, work-sanitized way. It’s not hard and it creates a more genuine interaction, as you said.

          A lot of people hate small talk. They think it’s fake, meaningless, and/or annoying. It can be all those things. It’s also a low-stakes bridge to actual meaning and connection. I choose to lean into that.

          1. CMart*

            “They think it’s fake, meaningless, and/or annoying.”

            I’ve come to think that how people view and approach small talk must be linked to something deep within their personality about how they view other people and manage relationships

            Small talk is enjoyable for me because I like people. I think other people are interesting and I like connecting with them. I enjoy the small connection of the basic rituals (“how are you?” “good and you?” – the “I acknowledge you, fellow human” interactions). I enjoy getting to know my fellow humans too, so “I’m okay, getting over a cold and worried about my cat with kidney stones” is also something I want to hear. So it is not fake, or meaningless, or annoying because to me it is all a genuine interaction.

            It baffles me to the core that other people do not place the same value or interest on having that same connection with their coworkers, but does explain why they would view my genuine interest in chit chat as meaningless or annoying. If it has no interest or benefit to them, and perhaps they assume others have the same disinterest, then of course the entire thing seems fake.

            1. Veronica*

              If it helps understanding, I used to have trouble with small talk because I grew up in a threatening environment where any interaction could lead to being punished.
              I eventually got over this and now I love connecting with people who are nice and treat me well. I avoid those who don’t, of course!

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          I have been known on many occasions to respond with “a little tired, gonna grab some coffee to perk up” or “I’m sore, I ran 9 miles yesterday and I’m paying for it today.” I like giving an honest but low key answer, and giving a reason for the feeling typically sparks a nice conversation.

      3. Quill*

        The weather got politicized?


        90% of my office small talk this week has been about our elevator situation. One was down last week, and yesterday we had a guy on my floor nearly get trapped in one when the power went out.

      4. fposte*

        That was never a rule, though, and even as a practice it never precluded asking “How are you?” and “Do anything fun this weekend?”

        The weather conversations aren’t searches for information either, so you’ve got the fundamental idea already–people who say “Wet outside, eh?” don’t believe they’re bringing new data about what rain is like to their co-workers. So just think of it as a weather conversation about your life.

      5. Lehigh*

        I think it’s context-dependent. If it’s a friend, an honest answer is probably welcome and appreciated! At work, I don’t mind hearing if someone has a massive headache, couldn’t sleep last night, got stuck in traffic, is annoyed at their dog, etc. But I don’t want to hear a whole chapter on those things, or very personal details. (“I have a massive headache because I couldn’t sleep” is fine, if a bit of a downer. But “I have a massive headache because my PTSD about my mother’s death won’t let me sleep” might be a bit much, depending on the relationship.)

        I also think the pivot is important, to keep the workplace relatively chipper even when you’re not at your best. “Ugh, couldn’t sleep at all last night. You?” Or, “Crummy, couldn’t sleep at all. Hey, did you see the email from Jane about the report for tomorrow?” Not, “Terrible. I can’t sleep, so I have an awful headache. *woeful silence.*”

        And, of course, if EVERY day is negative and just the awfullest, then yes it does get old and those are the people around whom I try to think of some other conversational opener.

        I’m not the best at small talk, so I’ve given it a fair bit of thought. And I still sometimes end up staring off into space, wracking my brain when someone asks what I did over the weekend and I can’t immediately remember.

      6. Marie*

        My background is in meteorology so I can discuss the weather until people are fed up and want to get back to work!

        But I have a baby too sooo I can get there faster with 2-3 baby photos or 1 baby video. If that doesn’t work, I can talk forevermore about inane details of baby development and/or naps and/or poop.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Sorry but no. There has to be a middle ground between “asking me 500 questions about my day every day” and “miserable grump”. At work you have a whole bunch of different personalities, and everyone has to make little adjustments to their own in order to work together peacefully. You don’t have to change who you are, but sometimes you need to take it down a few notches. Having a co-worker like OP sounds exhausting and would drive me batty. I’d have a conversation with her and get her to dial it back a bit.

      1. Whoop*

        This really doesn’t sound like a ton of questions every single day, though?

        I admit to being a little puzzled by this stuff, because I work in a very quiet office – there’s three of us, and for the most part we all put our headphones on and plug away quietly, and none of us are hugely gregarious or chatty. But in the morning it’s totally standard to ask how people’s evenings were, and on a Friday to ask if anyone has plans for the weekend, or ask how their weekend/day off was after a break. None of those things are a) endless, invasive questions or b) asking for huge amounts of detail.

        Characterising this as “500 questions about my day every day” really doesn’t seem to reflect what’s actually happening.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          Totally agree. I sit right next to my director and we ask each other these kinds of questions (and answer genuinely!) on a near-daily basis, and when our VP wanders down to our area, she asks and answers, too. I know what she’s doing today on her day off and what workout class she’s going to this weekend, and she knows I’m taking a few days off from the gym but hope to make it to a class on Sunday. I don’t see anything odd about these interactions whatsoever.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          How many questions is a ton of questions must be a matter of perception, because multiple questions per day about how I am from somebody who sees me every day, five days a week, sounds like far too many to me. My officemate and I say hello and good-bye but might ask something like this 2-3 times per week. We don’t need that many updates.

  23. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 is bizarre since it seems like more work and stress for Adam to concoct these lies rather than deal with Pam. But one thing to mention is that if you have a competent HR (i know, i know..) they may be examining this behind the scenes so don’t despair just because you don’t see anything happening yet.

    Also, don’t discount Alison’s thought that maybe some of your colleagues did go back to Adam and say everything was ok (if Pam had gotten word maybe she pressured them, maybe the colleagues weren’t as strident as OP to begin with, etc). Anyway, it’s all speculation but either way it sounds pretty dysfunctional

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, it’s hard to tell for sure from the details we have, but my thought was that the HR Director checked in with the coworker because she wanted to confirm that Adam was telling them the truth. That’s just best practice really (not in HR myself but sometimes have to navigate some tricky professional relationships where someone passes along information about a third party that may or may not be accurate — we always confirm with the party themselves before making any decisions).

      But yes definitely check in with your colleagues, OP. To me there’s a big difference between one or two colleagues telling Adam everything’s fine and him extrapolating that as “resolved for everyone” and NO ONE telling him anything and Adam making the whole thing up out of thin air.

      1. OP*

        This is OP – I did, and everyone confirmed they’d never had this conversation with Adam. One of the coworkers wasn’t even in the office the week he claimed that we all individually came to him to tell him that everyone was okay.

        I also wouldn’t characterize my conversation with him as ‘strident.’

  24. Erika22*

    #3 – I have an Anna of my own, except she’s not great at her job, and she’s like this with everyone! She asks what you had for lunch (“just a sandwich!” “oh, what kind? Was it good?” “Egg salad? It was fine…?”), what your plans are for the evening (“just going home to watch tv”) – it goes on and on. I do my best to give brief answers and respond to anything she says positively (“your tomato soup sounds lovely!”) but really I just can’t with her. What’s worse is that 90% of her conversation topics are about how cold she is (in the summer it’s the a/c, in the winter it’s the weather) or about how tired she is of answering customer emails (her job is customer support). And she always seems to come over when I’m busy – even when I have headphones on she’ll wave to get my attention just to say hi. Overall it just feels so excessive!

  25. Luna*

    #3 – I recall after nightshift or after early shift at the hotel, I sometimes triumphantly said “I’m going to SLEEP.” because, well, after those shifts, I was generally really tired and either it was time for bed (nightshift) or I needed a nap to get through the rest of the day (early shift).

  26. Kiki*

    #3 I’m a little afraid I’m Anna! I’m pretty sure I don’t ask multiple questions about the minutiae of everyone’s day, but I do ask about people’s weekends.

    This may not be the case in LW’s situation, but in my case I’m kind of the odd person out in my office (younger than everyone by about a decade, one of few women, only person of color). I’m trying to find *anything* to bond over. Most of my team has been there a while and have genuine friendships outside of work and I’m just… kind of there also? They’re all fabulously kind and lovely, but it’s really hard to be the odd duck on the team after several months.

    If LW thinks this could be the case for Anna, it would be very kind to reach out a little more and make sure she knows you like her, ask about her weekends, etc. That way, at very least, you could have more interesting conversations than the ones you are currently having.

    1. McMonkeybean*

      Asking about the weekend on Friday and/or Monday is totally standard friendly office behavior! It sounds like OP is talking about a situation where Anna is making the same type of small talk 3+ times every day. Which is honestly still not necessarily over the top but is definitely more than what I’ve usually encountered.

    2. merp*

      I was thinking the same. I’m still a bit new at my workplace and obviously it’s fine if people just say “not much,” etc, but if they do want to share something, then we’ve gotten to know each other better and that’s nice! Anna’s multiple times every day thing is a bit much but I do like asking those kinds of questions for the exact reason you and Alison have said.

  27. Argh!*

    Re: #3

    This sounds like an extrovert/introvert thing. The correct answer is: “I’m fine, how are you?”

    The person wants an interaction and you are responding as if it’s all about you. Try showing some interest in them. If this is an extrovert working in the midst of a bunch of introverts, the environment is horrible from their point of view.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yeah, I feel like the introversion/extroversion thing is typically a red herring, but this is an example of where it can actually make an impact. Some people truly do thrive off of a super-social environment, and other people need it in limited doses or they’ll go home fried every day.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed and it is ok to feel a little overwhelmed by all the social interaction and it is also ok that she is wanting more social interaction. People truly do better at different stimulation levels – my lovely, silent, not-too-bright work space is someone else’s boring, tedious hellhole where their glorious, bustling, boisterous, loud and bright open workspace is my personal hell.

      If you are busy with work, it is ok to say, “[I’m fine][Weekend was good][etc.], but I’m on a deadline, so I’ve gotta get back to it, thanks!” With people I know well, I can actually tell them my introverted & highly sensitive self is socialized-out and overstimulated and I just want to crawl in a deep hole by myself right now, maybe you’ll get to that point with her, but sounds like you aren’t there yet! This sounds counterintuitive, but maybe socialize with her when you are feeling up to it and see if that settles down her seeking you out for it?

    3. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      So are you saying Introverts are selfish (“making it all about you”)? That’s a bit condescending I think. And “try showing some interest in them” – why is that the OP’s obligation? It’s not. They are there to do work and their job, not to make Anna feel better about herself and her chatty ways or to become friends with her (if they don’t want to). Introverts get bashed like this far too often for just being themselves.

      1. CMart*

        Uh, they suggested that the Letter Writer was making it all about themselves. Not implying that all introverts are selfish – sheesh.

        It is indeed making Anna’s inquisitiveness all about her, in a way. The situation is that a nice colleague named Anna asks ‘friendly’ questions and the LW thinks it’s a bit much. The framing of the letter was self-focused on the impact on the LW and their dislike of it, which is of course the nature of writing to an advice columnist! It can be helpful to turn a situation inside out and look at it from the other side: what is Anna hoping to accomplish and how can the LW help her achieve that while also preserving their own preferences?

        I will say though that the offense to the assumed “introverts are selfish” slander is a bit amusing when it’s immediately followed by “they just want to do their own job and not have to deal with another person” which is by definition a self-focused view of the workplace.

        And to conclude: no, the LW does not have any obligation to help maybe-extroverted Anna feel better about herself by engaging in conversations she does not wish to have. But the LW does seem to like Anna and did write in for help in how to deal with the chattiness while not crushing her nice coworker’s spirit, so I think it’s safe to suggest a mindset shift here.

        1. Argh!*

          Thank you. I was too busy at my toxic workplace all day to check in. That’s a perfect response.

          It boggles the mind that people complain about friendliness at work when there are people like me going through the day in a workplace that has literally made me consider suicide.

          If having to answer a “how are you” question is the most annoying thing that happens in your office, I want your job!

          1. Devil Fish*

            Bit overdramatic to try to one-up someone else’s social discomfort by making a veiled suicide threat but I hope you called the hotline and found the help you needed and are somehow managing to cope better in a company that doesn’t cater to your preferred level of social interaction.

  28. Jam Today*

    My company never announces when people leave. A woman I’d been working on a project with was gone five days before I found out (and my project has a dependency on an artifact she was designing!)

    1. Shocked Pikachu*

      Thats just wild. This is someone producing a thing your project depends on, why on Earth they would not let you know … From business point of view thar just seems completely silly.

    2. Earthwalker*

      Our company did this too. I knew that a project manager was fired because she shared a cube with me and told me about it as she was getting her things on her way out the door. Her project team was not told. So they just worked to the end of what she had told them was due and then just stopped and waited for further orders. For *a month.* And then one of them came over, saw the empty desk, and asked me – because I was sitting there – if the PM was gone and what to do. I asked the ex-PM’s manager if the bewildered team could be given new direction. She said “No! That’s a sensitive subject and we do not discuss it.” I thought the same thing that Alison said – that’s really weird! – but apparently it’s also quite common.

  29. Shocked Pikachu*

    While reading #1, the spicy lunch thief post immediately popped into my head and I can’t get it out. So instead of being able to focus on coming up with a constructive idea for OP, I keep thinking, is there anything between Adam and Pam ? I guess it is possible some team members came back to him saying it’s all good or that he simply doesn’t want to deal with it. But I just can’t shake the vibe he is simply covering for her.

    1. Lora*

      Call me a cynical old grump, but this was my first thought – Adam and Pam are getting it on.

      Last time I saw HR issues magically vanished for someone, it was because VP was having an affair with the HR manager and wanted all his complaints and things he was supposed to be managing to Go Away. They were both eventually fired but not until many people left…

      1. Jamie*

        I’m just as cynical in a more SFW way…when I read it I wondered what Pam had on Adam work wise that he was covering for her.

    2. MsSolo*

      I was wondering if maybe he’d spoken to Pam about it, she’d dismissed everyone’s claims, or said her own behaviour was due to being stressed, and he thinks that it’s solved and is parroting Pam’s line to to HR (it’s her team, so he’s convinced himself The Team has said it’s fine now…)

    3. Phony Genius*

      It’s interesting that there are often prohibitions on relationships between managers and subordinates, but not as many rules for ones between HR and other employees.

    4. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’m more picturing Adam as Christina Applegate’s character from “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead” where despite how terrible things are going her boss always makes her say, “I’m right on top of that Rose!” I’m laughing way to hard at this and clearly need to knock off early this Friday.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        I haven’t seen the movie but it reminded me of the meme with room on fire and in the middle there is a dog sitting at the table going “this is fine”.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this. I don’t get from this that there is necessarily anything super weird between Pam and Adam. Adam being a complete wimp who is eager to avoid addressing this would easily explain it.

    5. RC Rascal*

      I had the same thought; Pam and Adam are doing it. Also, Pam probably shows a completely different side to Adam; it’s possible he talked to her about it and she concocted a while story about how her team is out to get her and she is actually the victim.

    6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I was thinking that the employees got swept up in the candor of the meeting, and afterwards thought, “Oh CRAP what if what I said gets back to Pam, she’ll attack me!” and went back in a panic to lie and retract their statements.

    7. OP*

      This is OP – haha, no, they’re not compatible orientations. My thought is this is just his usual cowardice coupled with his inability to confront anyone over anything, plus he hired her. Although telling an outright lie is pretty stupid.

  30. The Middle*

    I asked number #2 and thanks for the response. I finally got out that the guy was let go due to “no experience in the industry” but they should have figured that out in the hiring process.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      My job was to give an orientation to new hires…. on Monday morning, I give the orientation to 3 new hires, in the Field Department.
      Me: If you have any questions, ask your manager Bill!
      Them: They told us Bill isn’t here anymore.
      Me: um….. ok! Moving on….

      Bill was also a project manager on a project that I had. It turned out he had resigned the previous Thursday and no one mentioned it to me. And no one ever did. Very, very weird. Yeah, I was ok leaving that place….

    2. Kes*

      I mean, to be fair in my experience it’s fairly common for it not to be mentioned why the person was let go… but they should tell you he no longer works there, especially if that will affect your work.

  31. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    #3: I can see how Anna’s questions about every aspect of your day can be annoying. Just be glad she is otherwise warm and lovely. At my ex-job, I had a co-worker who regularly interrogated me (and everyone else) about our whereabouts, etc. in a weird, unpleasant, nosy way, under the guise of being interested and “helpful.” You couldn’t leave your desk to pick up lunch without her asking where you went (in a hall-monitor sort of way). And when she asked about your plans for the weekend or evening, it always felt as if she was trying to see if you could help her with something she was working on (her time management issue, not anyone else’s) and would get defensive if you gave a vague answer that you were busy. So, while Anna may be annoying, just be glad she isn’t my former co-worker! :) Like Alison said, an answer like “nothing special” is probably best.

    1. Maude*

      Them: Where are you going/What are you doing this weekend/How was your lunch/break/day off?

      Me, with a mischievous grin: Not telling!
      Then me, cheerfully continuing on with my day, uninterrogated.

  32. DDS*

    I consider myself to be a super private introvert but I’ve learned participating in social conventions really go a long way in office relationships. I used to get my back up and give short, I’m obviously annoyed, answers to questions I though were noisy. But I found it really put people off. I would rather not have to go around the office and say good morning and good night to every person I see but since I have starting doing that I’ve noticed I’m much more in the loop about things than I used to be. I still don’t feel incredibly comfortable with small talk but I’ve picked a few topics I’m okay with (my dog and my love for hiking) and I really do feel like a have much better relationships with coworkers and leadership without having to reveal too much of myself. And it gets easier and feels more natural the more I do it.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Fellow introvert: I’ve found that saying hello and participating in a little bit of small talk often heads off even more small talk later, I guess maybe because people feel less of a (subconscious, even) need to pull you into things? I don’t know. I have a coworker who used to steadfastly refuse to go to any office events that weren’t mandatory, and people asked about her constantly. Now that she’s loosened up and goes to one or two a year, people have backed off a lot.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Totally agree! Just give them a little something here and there and it stops being A Thing.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        That said: Multiple questions a day would drive me bonkers. Hello, goodbye, have a nice weekend, did you have a nice weekend? Occasionally, how’s your nephew? That’s plenty.

    2. Argh!*

      Yup, it’s a small price to pay, especially considering not following basic social norms will have people thinking horrible things about you. You don’t want people playing armchair proctologist wondering what crawled up your…

      Ya know.

    3. tangerineRose*

      I’m also an introvert. I think that some people ask you about your weekend because they want to talk about theirs.

      1. Devil Fish*

        This is literally the only reason anyone talks to anyone else about anything, with very rare exceptions and almost none of them at work.

        Get people talking about themselves since it’s all they wanted to do anyway and they’ll even like you better (we feel emotionally closer to people we give information to, not people we get information from).

  33. LGC*

    LWs 1, 4, and 5: I am SCREAMING, albeit for different reasons.

    LW5, I hope the on call nights are evenly distributed through the week. I feel like the weekends might be busier, and if they’re not paying more for that they…should (and they kind of have to, since you’re hourly).

    LW4, I just love how the rest of your team just decided that you should be the one presenting a topic that it sounds like you have serious and valid reservations about.

    LW1, is there anyone above Adam? Because I’m sure they’d love to hear about him covering up the problems on your team by lying to HR.

  34. Tangerine*

    Op #3 – Anna might be on the autism spectrum and she is trying hard to function in the “normal” world. Small talk is hard for me too, but I learned to read people and know when to stop. She really might not be realizing that the repetition of the questions is annoying. She also possibly doesn’t talk much to people in general. Learn more about her. People love to talk about themselves.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      One of the rules of this site is that we can’t really diagnose the WHY people are doing what they’re doing – whether they are neurotypical, dealing with their own stuff, failed etiquette school, am from a foreign country or (quite possibly) is a robot cyborg posing as a human being.
      However, we can deal with the behavior that is manifesting, and we can control our behavior. I definitely think Alison’s advice dealt kindly with the questioner, and also with the letter writer. You advice is not off the mark, but your speculation about her being on the autism spectrum is.

    2. LGC*

      True, but I actually don’t think this affects the response! I think even if she does have difficulty with social situations, LW3’s not entitled to humor her attempts.

      You do have a point in that LW3 probably should turn it back to Anna sometimes. But that’s just being a decent person.

      (And I get it since I’m on the spectrum myself. But like, that doesn’t mean my coworkers and employees have to put up with my annoying quirks.)

    3. Argh!*

      It’s also possible that the LW is on the spectrum, for that matter. From either point of view following workplace cultural norms is just what you have to do to get along, and the “cost” is less than we imagine.

  35. CupcakeCounter*

    My mom worked for a hospital and was on call around holiday’s and some overnights. How it was handled is she got paid a flat hourly fee for simply having the pager on her – $5 an hour or something. So if nothing happened, she would get $50 for being on call for those 10 hours. If she got called in, she would get a minimum of 2 hours paid at her normal rate even if she was only there for 30 minutes. If she was there for 5 hours, she would get paid for 5 hours of work at her normal rate plus the additional $5/hr for being on call. If she went over the 40 hours, she would get the OT rate and holidays were always paid at double time. Once we were older she took a lot of Christmas call and made bank.
    The $30 your company is paying should be thought of as a “retainer” for you services. This $ is to guarantee that you pick up the phone and answer questions as needed and be physically able to come in if absolutely necessary (i.e. not inebriated or two hours away).

    Does this change if the on call employee is salaried exempt? Because if they need to pay my husband for all of his on call time, we are surprise millionaires.

    1. fposte*

      To be clear, no U.S. employees are required to be paid for merely being on call, provided they can be at home or wherever, no matter if they’re exempt or nonexempt. Nonexempt employees must be compensated for time they work, including any time they’re responding to on-call situations. Exempt employees are compensated for doing the job rather than for time worked, so answering calls is just a part of the job they’re paid for.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Sadly, it does change if you’re salaried exempt. Assuming the salary is such that the time spent on the calls doesn’t take you under minimum wage that pay period, as far as I know they don’t have to give you anything. (But they generally do give something, not necessarily hourly pay though, and it’s a good idea to have at least a token!)

      I can’t tell you how uninspired I and a teammate felt by the $100 per call fee split among the folks who worked the call, on a night when we BOTH spent 6+ hours on a call, connected in to the same client. We needed someone in one system to troubleshoot things, and someone in the other system watching it *constantly* for when it went down, shoving logs off to look at, and bringing it back up.

      Mind you, that was one of the rare times where our boss did feel that a call merited not putting in a full day the following day. Good thing, because the whole thing was during hours we’d normally be sleeping. (Why do those types of calls almost never start in the early evening, or early morning, or some other time that isn’t *the middle of your sleep*?)

  36. Phony Genius*

    For #1, since Alison raises the possibility that other coworkers may have said something to Adam, I would first check with them to see if any of them can confirm HR’s story. Then proceed as she recommends (unless they actually did tell Adam everything was fine).

  37. pentamom*

    Answers for How’s your morning/afternoon/day going: great, not bad, I’ve had better but hanging in, as appropriate.

    Answers for what you did this weekend: what you did in a much (within reason) or as little detail as you feel like sharing, not much, spent time with family, hung out with friends

    Treat it as just a social nicety with set forms. Don’t think of it as Anna literally wanting to know everything about you — she probably forgets most of it as soon as you’re done talking.

    1. Argh!*

      Exactly. Anna wants to hear if there’s something interesting, but isn’t a spy who is taking notes. She just wants to have conversation.

    2. Wintermute*

      This is exactly where Transactional Analysis (the old 70s “I’m okay, you’re okay” stuff) did really well.

      It’s a “Game” in TA terminology– a set social pattern of a given number of expected “strokes”. “How are you” “I’m okay how are you?” “I’m good, thanks for asking”.

      Giving less or more strokes than expected is always perceived as rude, more is less rude than less.

  38. ThatGirl*

    The on call questions are always interesting to me. My husband is a mental health counselor at a college and he and his coworkers rotate being on call weekly. Most weeks, nothing happens, but every so often there is a panicked call at 1 am. The good news is he never has to go in, but he’s also not paid extra at all. (His job before this was at a group home and that was rough.) if he has a long night or if he had to stay late to hospitalize a student, though, that’s comped.

    1. Me*

      Is he salaried? Generally speaking salaried employees get paid the same no matter how many hours they work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Correction: It’s not about being salaried, but about being exempt. (You can be salaried non-exempt.) But yes, if he’s exempt, this is legal. If he’s non-exempt, this is illegal.

  39. EnfysNest*

    I have a coworker who starts *every* interaction with “Good morning/afternoon… How are you doing today?… That’s good. Hey, I wanted to talk to you about the XYZ project.” He’s someone who wants to talk about every little detail, too, so he stops by usually a couple times a day. I’m not a big fan of small talk anyway, and he’s… not my favorite coworker to be around anyway (makes lots of jokes that don’t make sense or that are about things that should be treated seriously, jumps into every single conversation anyone has in our hallway, panics over little inconsequential things, laughs reeeaally loudly, etc. etc.), so I always find myself feeling really resentful of the “How are you” stuff, even though I know he’s technically trying to be nice/friendly. But I just want to get my conversations with him over as quickly as possible, to be honest. I wouldn’t be a big fan of that much “friendly” talk before getting to the point with anyone, and the fact that he annoys me in other ways makes it even harder to tolerate. But all I can do is continue to be super boring and hope to get him to the point as quickly as possible – I don’t see any polite or even neutral way to tell someone to be less friendly.

    1. Jamie*

      I’ve worked with this guy. He would do the “How are you doing today?” thing every. single. time. even if the only honest response is “exactly the same as when you asked me less than 5 minutes ago.”

      It would have been quirky and mildly annoying if he wasn’t irritating in a million other ways…working with him was like death by a thousand cuts.

  40. thakkali*

    Re: #2, I was laid off from a company, and when coworkers inquired as to where I was, were told that “she is no longer with us.” One coworker responded with “SHE DIED?!?!?!” Cue many, many panicked texts.

  41. Exhausted counselor*

    I worked at a residential treatment center as a licensed counselor for 9 months. As we were salaried they determined (true or not) that they did not have to pay us for on call and it fell under “other duties as assigned.” They added this duty rather suddenly one day after having started with this not being on of our responsibilities. We had to be on call a full 7 days at a time. Weekend on calls you had to go in to the facility both days and “debrief” residents on any behavioral incidents that happened and every on call weekend I had definitely had multiple incidents. Turnover was extremely high.

    1. fposte*

      If you were correctly classified as exempt, it’s true that they did not have to pay you additionally for being on call.

  42. Choux*

    OP3, I totally know where you’re coming from. I am a teller and not an asker. If there’s something I want you to know, I’ll tell you about it. And I assume other people are the same way.

    Them: “How was your vacation?”
    Me: “It was good! I visited a couple breweries and had dinner at this Italian place where the owner’s grandmother made the food!”


    Me: “How was your vacation?”
    Them: “It was good.”
    Me: Cool. (I guess they don’t want to talk about it)

    But then later I’ll hear about something really awesome they did while on vacation and I’ll say, “You didn’t tell me you did that.” and they’ll respond, “You didn’t ask.” We’re not on “60 Minutes”! I’m not going to interview you. “How was your vacation?” “You do anything really fun?” “What was your favorite part?” If you don’t offer me anything, I’m not going to pry because I’m going to assume you don’t want to share.

    People are strange.

    1. McMonkeybean*

      Yeah, my dad made an offhand comment once about how he knows I’m not interested in hearing about his vacation and I was so sad to hear him say that. I totally am interested in hearing about it! I just don’t ask for specifics because I assume he’ll tell me what he wants to share! I think it’s partly his fault I’m like this though because he used to ask what I thought was way too many questions and it annoyed me, then all through college everyone asks you the standard “what’s your major?” as a basic introduction and I was undecided for a long time so that question stressed me out. So now I always feel like *I* will be annoying if I ask questions and I generally prefer to let people choose what to tell me.

      I’ve been trying to train myself to be better at asking questions now because I’m worried people think I don’t care. (But only with friends and family, still keeping things politely vague at work).

    2. Argh!*

      I’m the same way. I feel so guilty after lunch with a friend if I wound up doing all the talking because I didn’t ask any questions. Then when I do ask a question I feel phony doing it. At least I’m aware of it and do try to remember (when I can shut myself up!)

  43. Ali G*

    I’ve told this story before, but at Last Job we had what I called the Rapture. You could be in a meeting with someone on a Monday and come in on Tuesday morning and find their office completely emptied out. No one ever said anything – there was no “John is not with the company anymore” or anything. It was very unsettling, but I have a feeling upper management preferred it that way.

    1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      That would have me curious as to how they view such a policy. Do they think folks won’t notice the absence of a co-worker? Do they think this is somehow easier for the remaining employees than to be told directly someone was fired? Maybe they just don’t care but dislike drama.

      1. Wired Wolf*

        My job is like this too. One day, we’d find out that a kickass CW everyone liked is gone. The ‘official’ explanations would always be something like “not performing job functions” or hearing third-hand that the fired CW flipped out on a sup (and there’s always something not quite kosher about their explanation). One CW who was recently fired suffered from anxiety and desperately wanted to hop over to our team that didn’t have to deal directly with customers (she was on a register and thus subject to all the entitled rude that walks into the store–in addition to snarky “psycho” comments and general lack of support from managers). We can’t even get direct answers from management as to why someone is gone–we’ve had to find out through the warehouse grapevine.

    2. Argh!*

      Yes, they are more concerned about their own feelings than those of their reports. It’s a common thing and it’s horrible.

    3. Wintermute*

      “The rapture” is certainly less grim than what OldJob’s call center called it– “night and fog”

  44. Goldfinch*

    My company likes to be vague about people leaving, but it also likes to re-hire retirees as part-time contractors. So, some people will disappear never to be seen again, while others come back in a few weeks with a half schedule. Good luck finding their new cubicle, what days they’re actually on site, and what projects they’ve been reassigned to. It’s like Whack A Mole, but with engineering deliverables.

  45. StaceyIzMe*

    For the LW whose fellow director lied in order to avoid conflict, it would be interesting to think about how this trait plays out systemically. But he seems to be less of a problem than Pam. Who is less of a problem than the culture of not addressing challenges as they arise. It’s a pretty dysfunctional look. Maybe checking around for an alternate professional opportunity would be a good response to the overall difficulty of getting these kinds of issues addressed?

  46. Lucette Kensack*

    Whew. I just don’t get the vitriol toward people who ask neutral, friendly questions of the folks they work with. I’m firmly on Team Anna in #3.

    Based on what the LW wrote, Anna is asking maybe three questions a day? “Hey, how was your night/weekend?” when they get in; “Ooh, what did you have?” after lunch; and “What are your plans for the night/weekend?” when they’re headed out.

    That’s… super normal, and definitely appropriate. The LW is free to disagree, and to not respond or reciprocate — but others will notice, will have the same kind of annoyance that the LW has about Anna (“LW3 is such a great contributor to the team, but MAN it bugs me that they never ask any questions.”) and will have social repercussions.

    1. Susan*

      I have no problems answering the questions if they were not daily. Like sure – ask me about my lunch a couple times a week, the weekend on Monday. But if it’s every day – that’s 21 questions. Too much.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        I just don’t get this. It takes literally three seconds to respond: “Lunch was great, thanks,” and keep walking to your desk.

        1. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

          You may be fine with having multiple questions asked of you every day that you then have to respond to. But remember that while responding is easy and no big deal for you, people who are going through social anxiety, depression, other mental health issues have to expend energy just to come up with an answer to a simple question, and it can get to be way too much. What is easy for you is not easy for every person. There were times I would have gone far out of my way to avoid having to be asked so many questions.

          1. Princesa Zelda*

            Okay, but that’s… not Anna’s problem? She’s operating within normal politeness parameters. Even if she wasn’t, she’s not the one writing in.
            “Good, thanks, you?” is a great script, needs no alteration whenever its used, and provides no information. If OP finds Anna overwhelming, “good, thanks, you?” is the perfect thing to say every time.

            1. Lucette Kensack*

              Exactly. It’s not reasonable to expect that every moment, interaction, or aspect of our lives will be perfectly catered to our preferences (or even our basic needs!). That’s what society is for; we’ve negotiated ways to handle the hard truth that billions of people who have different wants and needs are stuck living together. Asking your coworker how her weekend was is one of those.

              1. Devil Fish*

                You’re telling on yourself if you think this is reasonable advice for someone who wrote in about being asked what they had for lunch every day, how their weekend was, whether they had a good morning, what their plans for the weekend/evening are, etc every day but you see no issue with the person who’s asking all those questions and probably working at like 15% capacity because they’re too busy chatting up their coworkers all day instead of learning how to make friends with people who aren’t forced to be in proximity to them 40 hours a week.

            2. huskerd0nt*

              THIS! I suffer from depression and anxiety, but I also understand social cues. I am fully aware that “How’s it going” is a pleasantry that needs only a “Good, and you?” kind of response in a workplace setting. Why are people so wrapped up in “I don’t want to lie and say I’m good when I’m not”?

    2. Argh!*

      I would not mind if my coworkers said behind my back: “boy she has a boring life. whenever I ask what she does on the weekend she says “not much””

      I would mind if they said “Sheesh what crawled up her [3-letter word for stinky orifice]?”

  47. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    #1 – Unfortunately I think this is not an uncommon practice, Directors lying to HR to either make themselves look better, to favor an employee/avoid getting that person in trouble, or to avoid conflict altogether. It’s happened to me several times. I even once had a mgr outright lie to HR about a disturbing sexually-inappropriate comment another coworker made that really made me uncomfortable; the mgr had the nerve to change the wording of the comment when they told HR to make it seem like no big deal. Even though I told HR that was *not* what was said, nothing happened (to either the mgr or the employee who made the remark) because I guess they believed the mgr over me. It’s insulting and infuriating but it goes to show HR really is there to protect the company and the Mgmt rather than the employees. LW, you & your fellow employees can make your side of the story known to HR if you feel it’s necessary, but just be prepared for nothing to happen. There are lots of unethical and immoral managers and HR directors out there making life tough for the rest of us. I wish you luck.

  48. Slow Gin Lizz*

    “I feel I am doing the lord’s work by promoting lounging time.” Can I join your church, Alison?

  49. Half-Caf Latte*

    Advice for #5 in bringing this up to their leadership:

    Try as hard as you can to approach this from Alison’s suggested “we” framework, and to genuinely believe that this is just a case of lack of awareness of what the law requires.

    So so so often in healthcare settings, clinicians become administrators without business training, and it can cause problems.

    Particularly with physicians who often have un- or undercompensated on-call time, they genuinely just don’t have an awareness of how this works (in the legal sense).

  50. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I had a weird interaction with a work buddy one time. Wonder how I should’ve handled it. Thoughts? I do not people very well and don’t know what to say when a chat deviates from the beaten path.

    WB and I (idly chatting in the breakroom while we wait for our lunches to heat up)
    WB: I have (suddenly mentions a fairly personal problem with a family member)
    Me: (no idea what to say) “oh no, I’m sorry, what is it?”
    WB: (frosty stare) I cannot tell you. This is too personal.
    Me: (deer in the headlights stare) I hope it gets better (make a quick exit)

    1. fposte*

      Generally the rule is you don’t ask for more intimate information; you wait to be given it if the other person wants to. This is especially true if it’s something like a medical diagnosis. You see that rule broken a lot, but often people are polite but still don’t like the question, so I’d stick to “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” It doesn’t have to be a conversational baton you then pick up.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wow, thanks. The more you know.

        I did not want to hear about The Thing to begin with. Especially not over lunch. I was sure that the reason why WB mentioned it was because WB wanted to talk about it for whatever reason. I guess WB just wanted me to know that The Thing existed, I cannot think of a reason why but here we are! Will remember that in the future.

        1. fposte*

          It’s a hard rule to pick up just from context, but it’s a good one to keep in mind. It also sounds like WB’s a bit unpredictable generally and therefore might have done a 180 whatever you said.

        2. Drew*

          It is also possible that WB hates silence and happened to grab the first thing that was on their mind to fill the void, while internally going “Wait, no, we aren’t supposed to talk about that!” So the reaction was less that you stepped in a conversational hole and more than WB wished they hadn’t said anything in the first place.

        3. Devil Fish*

          WB sounds like a jackass. You didn’t do anything wrong here, it sounds like your coworker shared more than they intended to and then lashed out at you when they realized what they’d done.

    2. Some clever pun*

      “Oh no, I’m sorry” is a good stock response for these sorts of things. You can add “do you want to talk about it” to figure out how this conversation is supposed to go (only if you are actually up for listening, of course).

  51. Bopper*

    The coworker asking about lunch:

    Some ideas:

    1) Why do you ask? Use this sparingly
    2) Assume this any question is just an attempt to converse…if you don’t want to “Sorry, i have to get the TPS report done” or “Hey, have you seen that new show “Barry” yet? It’s a great dark comedy.” if you do…then you can steer the conversation topic

  52. Budgie Buddy*

    For #3, I think it’s completely fine to follow small talk with non-sequitors as long as you sound chipper. For example, if you don’t want to talk about your weekend at all because it’s just boring, you can do:

    Anna: “Hey how was your weekend????”
    OP 3: “Good morning, Anna! How are you today?”

    People don’t notice. I also become frustrated by some of the rules of American small talk, but that doesn’t mean I can’t exploit them.

    1. F.M.*

      I know someone who does that all the time. “How are you doing today?” will get a response of “Yes, and you?” They think it’s very funny because they are proving how meaningless small talk is.

      It drives me bonkers because I find it rude and dismissive. And slightly mocking of people who are actually trying to be nice. But I never say anything and run with it, not because I don’t notice, but because it would be more rude to make an issue of it when they’re having their joke.

      1. Wintermute*

        I like Transactional Analysis’ description of this… it’s because it’s a “return stroke”. It’s a very superficial, simple and rote “game”, compared to complicated relationship games like “lets you and him fight” or extended social games like “I would, but…” (where you ask for advice but dismiss all options given, reinforcing they ‘deserve’ to feel bad but not do anything about it) or “misery poker” where people sit around complaining about “the kids these days” and the state of the world.

        In a really simple game, any return stroke is valid. They expected a lob and they got a smash, but it wasn’t just sullenly letting the ball bounce out of the court or throwing a football at them.

    2. Wintermute*

      Transactional Analysis would say that as long as the “return stroke” is in expected parameters and follows the set format of the “game” being played, it’s not likely to be seen as rude, as opposed to over- or under-returning

  53. Dinopigeon*

    LW2, I had a colleague who was fired abruptly for cause, who was also vital to my project. While the company declined to disclose the reason, I got a prompt email from his former supervisor informing me that he had been terminated effective immediately and to contact him to discuss transfer of duties. I used this same model to inform the rest of the team. That’s how this sort of thing is supposed to work.

    (I later found out the reason from someone who witnessed it, and his termination was absolutely appropriate, and the speed with which it happened increased my confidence in my employer. I am only mentioning this bit because before speaking with the witness, I was very confused about why he had been fired as his work was excellent, and I was still in contact with him outside of work– which I ceased immediately for my own safety. I suspect you may also be giving your colleague the benefit of the doubt, and would advise remaining neutral and keeping all possibilities in mind going forward. It may be nothing or it could be something very serious.)

    1. gyrfalcon*

      When someone doing excellent work is fired suddenly, it’s almost surely for some reason unrelated to the quality of their work product. Sexual harassment and embezzlement are two of the reasons I’ve seen.

      1. Wintermute*

        I’ve seen a mix, at well-run places, it wasn’t always something criminally dire. Obviously sexual harassment and embezzlement (including discovering wage theft or expense account theft) are reasons you absolutely cannot tolerate employing someone any longer, and I would add serious accidents due to inexcusable negligence (failure to obey lockout/tag-out, failure to follow safety procedures, mishandling dangerous equipment or substances, all of those are instant termination in any well-run facility), physical altercations, theft and sabotage, and the like. But, there are less dramatic reasons as well– a serious fight with their boss that left no working relationship to rebuild, an incident that made it very clear that their skills or judgement were dangerously insufficient for the role (including inexcusable large mistakes with a customer or internal impact).

        One place I worked it was bizarre, he mis-accounted for some cleaning supplies we had, we had a “low toxic impact” facility that only used four chemicals– a PEG-based lubricant, some kind of degreaser, cutting lubricant, and isopropyl alcohol. Apparently pure Isopropyl alcohol is on the chemical weapons controls registry because it’s part of the last step of making nerve gas! They fired him for arms convention regulation violations, because somehow we’d lost accounting on some of the stuff.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            Rubbing alcohol is 70% by volume, not pure (anhydrous), and this makes a huge difference chemically.
            Isopropyl alcohol (propane-2-ol) is indeed used in the final step of making Sarin, but I could not find it on any schedule of the convention. One can also easily buy 99% anhydrous propane-2-ol online without specific documentation requirements.
            On the other hand, GMP/GLP (good manufacturing/laboratory practices) are a Big Thing in many industries and may be a contractual requirement imposed on suppliers.

            1. Wintermute*

              It’s schedule 3 I believe, the dual-use provisions. This is what employer told me, and knowing an oddly large amount about the chemistry of war materials, I figured it sounded plausible.

  54. Ugh*

    @OP 2. Ugh. This is the worst. At my previous job, there was a CEO change and some key people left. They laid off two of our main supervisors and key component staff. They still, to this day, haven’t acknowledged it. No one was given any direction or even told who they would report to. The very day that happened was when I finally admitted the work environment was toxic and started looking for another job.

    Just something to keep in mind, if there are other red flags, I would definitely start paying attention.

  55. Vicky Austin*

    I agree with everyone who says that Anna is just more of an extrovert and the OP is an introvert. She’s nothing like that annoying coworker from the letter a little while back who stopped everyone to ask how their day was going even when they were on their way to from/the bathroom.

    1. Devil Fish*

      You forgot your sarcasm tag.

      I was wondering if more than one person had written in about that coworker. I’m still wondering that.

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

    #1 I realize that names and sometimes genders are changed in posts, but I’m getting such a vibe of “Girls, girls, girls, stop being catty and give it a week (wink wink) and you’ll all feel more rational” from Adam telling HR that “it was just stress from our conference, Pam was fine, everything was great, and there were no issues.” I had a female colleague that reported another woman for some pretty egregious bullying behavior and the male boss’ response was that my friend should take the other woman out for lunch so they could get to know each other better. (BARF)

    1. Devil Fish*

      This is a weird take. OP1 said Adam is an incompetent manager who doesn’t like to deal with conflict, she never said anything about him being blatantly, obviously sexist. I mean he might be but it’s a really strange conclusion considering the information in the letter.

  57. Blooper*

    OP3 here. Thank you for the comments and validations. Yes, I totally understand that such conversation exchange is part of the nature of work. “Anna” is lovely with everyone. It’s been very successful to bounce the conversation back to her – and yes, she remembers everything I share, haha.

    It seems, from my letter, I’m misunderstood as someone who is callous and anti-social, which is untrue. My responses have been cheerful and warm. I consider myself an “extroverted introvert”. Certain social dynamics fuel me, while some drain me. I absolutely begin conversations and get invited to social events (and, yes, attend them :)).

    The comments here have made realize the importance of the location. For example, near the water cooler versus behind my desk.

    Not sure why the accumulation of questions feels like I’m being monitored. After writing in this question, I started remembering something from my past that may be connected (cn: abuse, my parent was violent with me when I didn’t respond the way he liked).

    Thank you for reminding me that someone like Anna is so much better than the polar opposite. I will use this as my mantra.

    1. Devil Fish*

      You did nothing wrong and nothing in your letter can reasonably lead to any of the conclusions about you that have been posted in the comments.

      There’s this weird thing that always happens here where less than social people write in asking for advice on how to deal with colleagues who are more social than normal and all the more social commenters come out to gaslight the person who wrote in for advice and make uncharitable assessments of their social skills because there’s no way you could be socially adept if you hate to socialize.

  58. alittlehelpplease*

    Also, if California, but I think under FLSA, too, if the regular rate of pay is $15/hours, and they are paid $30 for the on-call, and they work fewer than two hours, then this will increase the regular rate of pay and affect how much they are entitled to for overtime.

  59. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    OP#1: It sounds like Adam may be more of a politician than a manager. Once you’ve spoken to your colleagues and ascertained that no one assured him that everything is fine, you should go back to HR and reiterate that, basically, Adam lied. Now Pam may have assured Adam that everything is great now and he may have chosen to believe her. But even if that’s the case, he still lied by saying that all of Pam’s reports said everything was fine. There is strength in numbers. But do get to the bottom of it. There’s a difference between “Everyone on Pam’s team said everything is fine” and “Natalie from Pam’s team said that everyone is happy now.” I wonder if that’s what happened.

  60. CM*

    #1 — I would tread more cautiously. All we know is that the stories don’t add up. There isn’t enough evidence to know who’s lying (and sometimes a story that doesn’t add up can be the product of several motivated misunderstandings — like everyone WANTS to believe it’s okay so they only listen to the parts that make it sound that way and fill in the blanks on their own).

    I wouldn’t accuse anyone of lying or take for granted that anyone’s telling the truth. Just point out that the stories don’t match.

  61. Amethystmoon*

    #1 happened to me also, and it dealt with a workplace bully. Others lied to protect the bully. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was definitely in the top 3 reasons why I left that particular job.

  62. Frankie*

    Op 3 – I have a similar coworker, so lovely and friendly but always wants to know how I’m feeling! If I mention I’m not feeling well (headache, etc.) she will ask me if I’m feeling better multiple times throughout the day. If I have a day off, when I’m back at work she will check in with me constantly to make sure I’m feeling better. If I’m not as chatty or positive as I usually am, she continues to ask if something is wrong. It sounds silly but it really is annoying. Sometimes you just want to be and you don’t want to be ‘on’ all the time.

    I have no advice, just commiserating. I tend to go with similar, short answers like you mentioned in your letter. Hasn’t worked yet but I still have hope.

  63. always in email jail*

    OP5- if you’re exempt, this is actually a very good deal compared to most situations where an exempt person is on call. Most people I know, including myself, that are on call in similar situations do not receive compensation. Those that do receive it in varying forms of comp time (1 hour of comp time for every 8 hours on call, plus comp time for the time you actually worked). Not saying this is fair, but it is above “market rate” in my experience.

  64. Gadfly*

    I had the same experience as letter 2. I was a sales assistant (office support) for about 7 or 8 people. They were usually out in the field but came into the office (most of them) at least a short time each day. I had one where I was trying to process ads she’d sold and running into problems and then she wasn’t responding to messages or emails. I went to the team lead over her who told me to copy her on the emails and she’d follow up. I was having issues like this for about 2 weeks before they told me she’d stopped answering because she’d been let go. I thought I had just kept missing her when she was in the office.

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