coworker wants to mother me, telling an employee he’s not welcome at our holiday party, and more

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

1. Coworker sees herself as a mother figure

I’ve been working in my current company for about three years, and that whole time I’ve worked closely with someone else in my very small department (four people at present), Catelyn. Catelyn is some 20 years older than me (I’m in my 30s, she’s in her 50s), and confessed to me a couple of years ago that she thinks of herself almost as a mother to me. This made me very uncomfortable and my knee-jerk reaction as the time was to say, “I already have two mothers, so I don’t really need a third.”

She has since brought up this maternal feeling to me many times, sometimes teasing me about it, but often pressuring me to take her unsolicited advice, saying “Once you’re a mom, you can’t stop being a mom.” I’m her adult coworker – I feel this is entirely inappropriate. I’ve since gotten a promotion that means I am senior to her, though not her supervisor, but this attitude persists. I work very closely with her, so I worry that if I speak up about this I risk alienating her or hurting her feelings. The truth is, though, that her political and social views are very different from mine, and often I find her advice borderline offensive.

How do I approach this to get this behavior to stop, while also retaining a good working relationship with her?

So often when people feel a strong need not to hurt someone’s feelings, they end up softening their message to the point that it’s missed … which I’d argue actually isn’t kind because it allows the person to go on irritating them, which the person almost certainly wouldn’t want to do (especially if they’re deserving of that kindness in the first place). I say that because you should be pretty direct about this. But you can still be kind — it’s just that the “kind” part will come from tone of voice and including some language that lets her save face.

I’d say this: “I’m sure you don’t intend it this way (that’s the face saving part) but when you talk about mothering me, it makes me really uncomfortable. You’re a great colleague, but it’s undermining to me when you position yourself in a mothering role. So I’m asking you to stop. Thanks for understanding.”

If she does it again after that, look annoyed and say, “I asked you to stop doing that.” If it happens again: “I asked you to stop doing that, and it’s really weird that you’re continuing.”

Those follow-ups are harsher than the initial language, obviously, but there’s a point where it doesn’t make sense for the only person worried about hurting the other’s feelings to be the one who’s having her clearly stated request disrespected and ignored.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How do I tell an employee he isn’t welcome at our holiday party?

I’m part of my company’s HR and operations team and we have an employee (Steve) who has just resigned and his last day will be a few days after our annual holiday party. Our CEO does not want Steve to attend because of past behavior and has left it up to me and Steve’s manager, Dave, to keep him from coming.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t even be an issue but Steve has a history of being rude, immature, and explosive to the point of being verbally abusive. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s yelled at and/or insulted coworkers on phone/email/Slack, including higher-ups. In fact, he is currently refusing to speak to Dave, who is also his department head and a C-suite executive, which is why Dave would like me to handle this situation as the “HR person.”

I’m well aware of the many, many issues here and how problematic it is that we have an employee refusing to speak to his manager, and who has been allowed to treat others so poorly during his tenure. However, he has an end date and I’m just trying to focus on getting there with as little fall-out as possible.

Given Steve’s history, I’m concerned he’ll react negatively to being told he cannot attend the party and may even try to show up in protest, I want to find the most professional and unemotional way to let him know he is no longer invited. My initial thought was to make it about the fact that his employment is coming to an end and the party is intended for current employees/continuing employees, but if it were anyone else they’d still be welcome to attend. We’ve also had a few beloved former employees come back to attend the party as the plus one of a current employee. Should I still go this route? Should I make it about his bad behavior? Is there another alternative I haven’t thought of? What do I say if he agrees in the moment and later decides to crash?

It’s really rude to tell an employee they can’t attend a holiday party for employees. You’d be better off setting his last day for before the date of the party (but paying him for the full length of his notice). And when cutting his remaining time short, be explicit that it’s because he’s refusing to talk to his manager … and that because of the ongoing hostility he’s displayed, you need to make it clear that he should not attend the party. (Frankly, cutting this short would be wise even if there were no party, because it makes no sense to let someone this hostile and toxic work out their notice period anyway.)

And really, if your CEO is so pained by the thought of Steve at the holiday party, something should have been done about his pattern of hostile and abusive behavior long ago! It’s not cool to let everyone else be subjected to it for months/years and decide to put his foot down over a party right as the guy is on his way out anyway. I’m all for the foot coming down— but at this point it should be in the form of cutting off this farce altogether, not just blocking him from a party.

3. Employer offered me more money than they advertised

I’m a college student and recently got my first job related to my major. The interview went really well. I think I exceeded expectations during the technical portion of the interview. I got a call later that day saying not only are they offering me the job, but they are increasing the salary significantly above what was mentioned in the ad (that we also discussed in the interview)! I’ve never heard of anything like that in the years of reading your blog.

I was just wondering if that’s something you have heard of in your experience hiring and why companies might do it.

It’s a thing that sometimes happens! Sometimes it’s because they realize your skills exceed what they originally advertised for and they want to pay you fairly (because it’s ethical, because they want to retain you, and because they want internal salary equity). Sometimes it’s because they realize their original salary range was off (same parenthetical notes apply here). Sometimes it’s because they realize that with a few extra dollars an hour, they can delight a promising new hire. Take it and be delighted!

4. I’m a contractor but my client wants to do professional development with me

I am a freelancer who has been providing ongoing services to a company for about five years. The hours are about equivalent to a part-time job, and I also work with other clients and my own business.

This year management has decided to hold professional development meetings with all employees and freelancers. The questions we are supposed to reflect on and discuss include things like “describe your value to the company,” “how are you developing emotional resilience,” and “where do you see yourself in five years?”

As a freelancer, this feels odd and possibly inappropriate to me. What do you think? Is this normal, or should I push back?

Yeah, that’s not appropriate if you’re a freelancer / independent contractor. To legally treat you as an independent contractor, an employer needs to meet certain standards, described here, which are intended to preserve a real distinction between employees and contractors. One significant factor is the degree of control employers exercise over workers, and this kind of professional development, like performance reviews, is likely to be viewed as at odds with that relationship. Blurring the lines like this means they risk being forced to reclassify you as an employee (with all the accompanying costs for payroll taxes, benefits, and in some cases government-imposed fines).

So yes, it’s worth pushing back. You could say, “I’m concerned that this kind of professional development runs afoul of the IRS regulations on the distinctions between contractors and employees, which could result in you having to reclassify contractors as employees, which I imagine you want to avoid.” (If your sense is they may not even realize those regulations are in play, you could link them to this.)

5. How should I respond to this note from a hiring manager?

I have been interviewing with a large corporation. I have had two phone interviews and a three-hour in-person interview with the hiring/position manager, a would-be peer, and a person who formerly held the position. I think it went well and I seem to still be in the running. I followed up the next day with the hiring manager to pass on my thanks to the people I interviewed with, which she did.

A week later I received this email from the hiring manager: “Thank you for taking the time to interview with X Corporation. It was my pleasure getting to know more about your experience and helping you understand our team and its impact on X Corporation’s business. We are still in the interview phase of the recruitment process, but hope to make a final decision soon. Thank you for your patience, we know interviewing can be time consuming. If you have any additional questions about updates or the process, please reach out to you recruiter. Once again, thank you for taking the time and have a great rest of the week.”

What is the best way to respond to this? I know this is a standard response, but is it a kiss of death? I do know that there were at least 13 applicants, but I obviously don’t know their qualifications, etc. I am still very interested in the position and would love to work for them, but am at a loss on how to respond without sounding wishy-washy.

It’s not a kiss of death. It’s just a thank you and a slight update. Don’t read anything more into it than that.

It doesn’t require a response at all, but you could reply with something like, “Thanks for this update. I enjoyed meeting with you, Jane, and Falcon, and I look forward to hearing from you or (recruiter).” If you haven’t sent a post-interview thank-you note yet (which aren’t really thank-you’s but instead should be more substantive notes building on the interview), you could send a short one in reply to this, but otherwise this is all you need to do.

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Black Targaryen*

    Yikes. Steve is “explosive” and “abusive,” and even after all of this, the CEO still pawned off the responsibility of dealing with him to LW?

    1. Massmatt*

      Yeah I don’t want to pile on, and it doesn’t sound as though it was OW #2s fault, but it sounds like this situation is worse than one terrible employee if upper management is this spineless even after getting yelled at etc by the bad employee.

      They have put you in a terrible position, Alison’s advice makes the best of it, I would get rid of him versus having this awful person around for weeks or even days longer.

      If he behaved this badly as an employee, what is he likely to do as an employee on the way out with nothing more to lose?

      I would seriously consider having security at the party to keep him out in case he shows.

      1. Charles is not in charge*

        Unfortunately getting rid of a problem employee is harder than it sounds. That’s the ugly truth I’ve learned after being in co-charge of a team.

        If it were solely my decision, my manager and I would have gotten rid of our problem employees…but… grandboss didn’t want to fire anyone because we’d be shortstaffed during an intensely busy time. Grandboss also told boss that “he should rise to the challenge.” So… we didn’t have the autonomy to fire him, and yet when people left or our team suffered in other ways, we were considered low performing and basically the toilet of the company (dump all the crappy employees there).

        Why are we shortstaffed? b/c good employees leave (maybe partly due to having weirdos on staff that we can’t fire). HR was no help in this case because they are notoriously slow to hire people, and they basically lied to grandboss etc saying that problem employee’s references were glowing when.. in fact..they were not.

        Not that I’m salty about it.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          This has also been my experience, that Grandbosses need to be closely involved in termination decisions, and so not only do you have to know the person’s behavior or performance merits termination, you have to be able to sell that to Grandbosses. And it’s really, really easy to have one of them override your decision because they like the person, or they don’t like you, or they think firing is mean, or they think you’re being a difficult manager, and then you get stuck with employees who never show up for work and throw physical temper tantrums vandalizing company property when they do (true story), because Grandboss thinks firing people is “bad customer service towards your staff.”

          I’ve also dealt with the reverse, where a Grandboss comes swooping in out of nowhere to spot a minor infraction committed by a generally good and important employee, and tries to forcibly terminate them because they forgot to put on their company ID badge for the first 10 minutes they were at work, or something along those lines.

    2. Ashley*

      Not only that, but Steve resigned! He wasn’t even fired!! After being abusive to other employees!! He should have been shown the door after the first couple of offenses. Yikes. CEO has put LW in such a crappy position.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        I’m really hoping that he was convinced to resign, but given the C-suite’s action here, he might have actually resigned.

        1. OP #2*

          Without getting into too much detail, he seems to have resigned in a fit of self-righteous anger and wasn’t allowed to retract it later.

            1. AKchic*

              I really like those. I’ve seen a few of them. My favorite was the woman who kept threatening to quit when she didn’t get her way, finally threatened one too many times and was told her resignation was accepted, wasn’t allowed to back out, and then she tried to reapply for her job during her “notice” period while her job was being advertised. She didn’t even get an interview (obviously). She threw such a hissy fit over that “insult” that she cut her notice early, changed all of the passwords to her systems, password protected all of the shared documents and then refused to return phone calls and emails.
              She’d done a few other things before she left, but that was the highlight reel.

              1. Software Engineer*

                This is why when you have a potentially hostile employee leaving (and anyone known to throw fits and threaten to leave counts!) you have security walk them out and you pull their access immediately. Take their company devices and their 2FA token and have IT lock that crap immediately

              2. TardyTardis*

                Oh, my father-in-law knew someone like that–she threatened to resign, he drove the papers up to the regional office about an hour and a half away, and the office, which knew all about her, ran them through at warp speed.

          1. Crooked Bird*

            Oooh, I’ve seen one of those rather closely. After some really stupid behavior with the org’s equipment, the mildest reprimand resulted in cussing & “I’m leaving!” Management made the appropriate response.
            Unfortunately they set a *real* flexible end-date, which did not end up being early enough to prevent the accident. He was the only one hurt in it–and really not so badly, considering what a miracle it was he survived–but the property damage was considerable.
            I learned a lot about risk management, even from my ringside seat…

        1. Colette*

          That’s highly unlikely. It’s far more likely that they wanted to be “nice”, or didn’t like conflict, or thought the problem would solve itself.

        2. Dagny*

          Eh, what often happens is that the higher-ups knew that there were problems, thought that they could manage those problems (when it should be obvious that the problems are of the type that are not “managed” away – i.e. you can manage someone into better email communication, attendance, professional development, etc., but cannot manage someone out of abuse), swept things under the rug, let good employees leave because they hated Steve so much, continued to let the complaints roll in, defended him in the abuse… and at the end of it, are too implicated in allowing the bad behaviour to continue to actually stick their necks out and kick him to the curb.

      2. Ermmm*

        As HR I bet OP has dealt with other crappy scenarios. This letter could have been written by me many times over. These problem employees are very manipulative and often know exactly how far they can push things and like children, will test the limits. If this type of problem employee has an ever-so-slightly weak C-Suite and/or Director, it’s a recipe for hell.

        I got a bit of a flashback and felt nauseous as I read this letter because I bet I know the way OP feels. It’s the part of HR that, simply put, sucks eggs.

    3. TimeTravelR*

      My gut was just what Allison said, why didn’t they just pay him out his notice period and let him be on his way? This company wants to squeeze a couple days of work out of someone who is explosive? I say, cut your losses. I have paid out severance to much nicer employees! I certainly would have done it with this guy. (Also, they absolutely should have dealt with these issues a lot better a lot sooner, but that ship has sailed.)

    4. WellRed*

      Sorry you’re in this position, OP 1, but this is what happens when companies don’t manage. I feel sorry for other employees who may have been disregarded in favor of Steve’s antics. Go back to whoever and tell them it’s time to cut him loose.

    5. Laurelma01*

      I recommend getting rid of him now, at the end of the day so that his blow up has fewer witnesses. I hate to say this, but with all of the recent violence you may want security with you when he’s let go. I really agree with Alison’s advise. I further suggest that you have a check cut to pay him through the notice period so he has no reason toe come back to the office.

      At this point the protection of your co-workers is the most important thing.

    6. Quill*

      Yeah, get him OUT of the office before you have to deal with his presence at a work function where there will be alcohol but also no employment consequences since he’s already on his way out!

      Uninviting him will solve nothing, removing him from the office faster will.

    7. Dagny*

      Probably why he was allowed to continue being explosive and abusive for years. Note to executives and managers: if the employee is hard for YOU to deal with, and you have the power and authority to put a stop to their behaviour, imagine how bad it must be for their peers and own employees.

      1. bleh*

        I just copied your cogent and much needed response “Note to executives and managers: if the employee is hard for YOU to deal with, and you have the power and authority to put a stop to their behaviour, imagine how bad it must be for their peers and own employees” for future reference. If I could have explained this to two former chairs of my department, I would not have had to leave a good job to take a step down in rank (if a step up in prestige of institution).

    8. Mama Bear*

      I agree that it was cowardly. I think Alison’s response to have his last day be before the party is the best option since banning him from the employee party while he’s still otherwise an employee and would show up to work after is just asking for more trouble. Wow.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – you are being held hostage to someone’s bad behavior if you don’t say anything because of “hurt feelings”.
    Be kind and be clear. They may feel hurt but that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
    If you keep deferring the conversation you’ll set yourself up to explode at a later date. That’s guaranteed to cause irreparable damage.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes, and I would also add that it is not OP’s job to manage her co-worker’s feelings. Even if her intentions are not malicious, what she’s doing is inappropriate and the only way to get her to stop is to be direct and not allow it to continue.

    2. NotMyCoworkersDaughter*

      Good point. In the past with this coworker it’s taken me snapping at her to get her to realize I object to something she’s saying, or even that I just don’t want to hear it – I was just hoping to avoid that this time. But you’re totally right – her emotions are her responsibility.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        “In the past with this coworker it’s taken me snapping at her to get her to realize I object to something she’s saying…”

        NotMyCoworkersDaughter, it sounds like you are trying to be nice and polite about this. Your co-worker is being neither. She is actually using the mother-daughter template to maneuver you into treating her with a level of respect one usually reserves for, well, their parents.

        You should be hard-edged and firm (and snap as needed), not nice and deferential. The more you do that, the more you will reinforce that you have a peer dynamic. Don’t worry about being nice. Your co-worker truly is not.

    3. Dagny*

      This stuff drives me crazy. It’s so condescending: grown adults are not to be treated like children in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if they are your children’s ages, or even your own children; they are adults and deserve to be treated that way.

      I’m also unclear as to why women get a pass on “mothering” other people.

          1. Anonapots*

            No. Aquawoman is saying you’ve highlighted that women get a pass on being condescending when that isn’t the case at all. It’s just as Emily K says below: we call it mothering when we talk about women and condescending when we talk about men, but the behavior is the same.

      1. Susie Q*

        It’s not just women. I’ve had male bosses tell me they want to be a father figure to me.

        I don’t need a father or mother figure especially at work. Nor do I, as a mother, want to mother anyone besides my actual child.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Ick. There is something really wrong with “father figure” that would not be a problem with “mentor” and yet, anyone who specifically states they want to be a father figure is NOT someone you want as a mentor. Or in your proximity at all. Nope.

      2. Emily K*

        I don’t think they get a pass on it, but it’s a gendered term so naturally you’ll only ever see it applied to women.

        With men you’ll hear wording more like letters we’ve had in the past few months about “my coworker keeps trying to give me ‘help’ I don’t need” or “I’m being mentored against my will.” It’s essentially the same behavior, trying to put themselves in a position of intimate/familiar authority without the other person’s consent, that’s just more likely to be called “mothering” when a woman does it.

        1. Airy*

          Interesting how “fathering” someone just means inseminating an egg but “mothering” them is an actual ongoing interaction. English idiom has so many gendered assumptions built in.

      3. Anonapots*

        The thing is, nobody is getting a pass. The LW wrote in asking specifically how to avoid this. In fact, we’ve had a number of letters recently from people who are trying to put off a coworker who is trying to mother them. That’s the opposite of giving them a pass.

      4. RaeaSunshine*

        I don’t think they get a ‘pass’ per say. At least for me (young-ish woman), I am not nearly as bothered by the behavior coming from another woman solely because my mind doesn’t jump to the potential creepiness/ulterior motives that it does when coming from a man. Not saying that’s right, or fair, it just is.

        Early on in my career I had a few older male co-workers who I thought of as mentors and even potentially a parental figure (in a workplace sense, similar to the dread ‘work wife/husband’ concept), only to later have them hit on me and it become clear that it was not the kind of dynamic I thought it was. Not saying that couldn’t happen with a woman – but it hasn’t happened to me. Unfortunately based on these experiences I am always on edge when my male co-workers take a guiding/parenting kind of approach to me.

        That being said, the women I’ve worked with that have ‘mothered’ me have made sure I don’t forget my coat because it’s cold out, and will call me after they leave the office to warn me about patches of ice etc. so it’s almost never work related, and in my opinion really does come from a sweet place. That doesn’t bother me at all.

    1. ThatGirl*

      For sure. One of my friends got laid off back in Feb and after working at a kind of crappy job for a few months, he ended up with a much better one this fall. He had a slight salary increase from his last job in mind and was happily astonished when they told him the salary was $8k above his baseline. (I told him he’d been underpaid for years at his last job and to enjoy it.)

    2. Witchy Human*

      It’s possible they looked at the salary they’re already paying someone in a similar position with similar qualifications. Hiring someone at a much lower salary without a good justification could be a very bad look, especially if the current employee is a white man and the new hire is not. It’s in their interest to make things balanced.

    3. Ama*

      When I was hired at my current employer, I was told up front in the phone interview that their max salary was the bottom of my stated range. I was fine with that because I was making a slight shift in career path and also needed to get out of a job that was so stressful it was starting to cause health issues.

      When I finally got the job offer, they had actually managed to come up a few thousand to the middle of my range — I found out from my manager later that they couldn’t believe someone with my experience level and the exact set of skills they needed was available so they wanted to make sure they made a serious offer. I have also since learned that my current employer literally puts their money where their mouth is in terms of making sure high performing employees are adequately compensated and promoted so that they can retain them (I’ve been here about 6.5 years and I am making almost double that initial offer.)

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      We review salaries every year to assess market rates. (There is also variance for experience and specialized skills, and HR does annual discrimination testing as well.) As the labor market in our area has tightened in the past few years, the rate for some of our positions increased. We had extended offers to a handful of soon-to-be graduates for a spring start, and we ended up issuing new offer letters explaining that we were upping starting salary because of a market shift that came out in salary surveys between original offers and start dates. There were no complaints.

    5. Mama Bear*

      Absolutely! Twice I have been offered more than my salary request, and it ended up being very good in the long run. Not only did I make more money, but their willingness to exceed salary expectations was only part of their employee goodwill. Often companies willing to pay well are also generous with PTO, good about work/life balance, etc. Hopefully that is what you found.

    6. BigTenProfessor*

      This happened to me once while negotiating a full-time job. I was head-hunted, and I said I wouldn’t leave my current job for less than X. The headhunter said I was asking for too much. The hiring manager called and asked if that number was firm, and then called back later that day with an offer for X + about 1%. It was a really small difference in salary, but a huge difference in goodwill.

      That said, he gave me the offer in monthly salary, which meant I thought I was doing the math wrong in my head and paused for a looooong time before he annualized it for me.

  3. Uldi*

    #1 The fact that Steve is refusing to talk to his manager is more than sufficient cause to cut his remaining time short. He should have been fired a long time ago, but that’s in the past. There is no reason to have him present until his official last day.

    1. FabJob Tag*

      Yeah, that’s really weird. Do they expect him to suddenly act like a normal unabusive employee while he continues working there? I suspect the last few days in particular would be hellish for everyone who works with him, not to mention the holiday party where he might have a few drinks in him!

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, this is absolutely bananas. Not getting invited to the holiday party is the least of what Steve should be facing here.

  4. nnn*

    For #2, in addition to everything Alison said, have invitations/notifications for the holiday party been sent out yet?

    If they haven’t, a small thing you can do is make sure Steve isn’t on the list / doesn’t get copied on the email.

    He might still find out anyway and crash it anyway, but rescinding an invitation is more difficult than simply not issuing it in the first place, and it may not be at the forefront of his mind if it isn’t on his calendar.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      You can make sure he doesn’t get the email but if yours is the kind of place that uses posters to announce the party…

    2. CL Cox*

      Chances are, it was a company-wide email and they may have already sent it out before Steve gave his notice. And I don’t think they can legally exclude him if he’s still an employee at the time of the party (unless his behavior at the parties was so egregious in the past that he was explicitly warned and told he’d be banned). Alison’s advice is spot-on. If he’s not an employee, there is zero reason for him to be there. Former employees coming back as plus ones is not the same thing as thinking they were invited by the company. Move up his end date, cut him that final check, and have someone working the door to block any crashers at the party.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Of course, they can legally exclude him. There’s no law that everyone has to be invited to the office party.

        It’s awkward to have to tell someone that they’re not invited to office party, but you totally can. And you don’t need to give them a final warning that that if they act up again at this party like they did at the last one then they can’t come to the next one.

        But like Alison said it would certainly allow this person known to have anger problems to save face by telling him his last day is before the party and say that since he’s not an employee any longer he’s not invited. Allowing him to save face might reduce the angry response, and that’s a benefit to this company right now.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            That’s a hard no because it signals “we don’t think you’re part of the group”–but Steve *isn’t* part of the group, he is leaving, soon, and apparently doesn’t like his coworkers, and many of them don’t like him.

            It’s normally a bad idea–but it’s not illegal, even when it’s obnoxious sexist or classist “everyone else gets a party, you have to stay at work and answer the phones.”

          2. fposte*

            I agree, but I think Person was mostly responding to the notion that it would be illegal to exclude him; it would be perfectly legal, but it’s still a bad idea.

          3. somanyquestions*

            If his past and current behavior is horrible, of course they should exclude him. They should have fired him long before this; he won’t even talk to his manager. You think he deserves parties?

            1. Ginger*

              I meant in general, excluding someone from a party is big no.

              For this guy specifically – really he needs to be shown the door before the party. Preferably today.

            2. Anonapots*

              I think talking about whether or not he “deserves” a party is not the right conversation for this. He didn’t deserve to stay at his job, but he did. If he weren’t leaving, you couldn’t exclude him because he didn’t “deserve” a party. That’s too parental. Just move up his last day, as Alison suggests, or suck it up because the company has made this bed and the LW shouldn’t have to be the arbiter of who can attend a party and who can’t.

    3. pleaset*

      Not defending this guy, but you can’t have a holiday party for all employees except for one. It’s just not right. Either fire the guy or invite him. The former preferably.

  5. voyager1*

    LW2: I guess I see this differently. Just let the guy go and pay him for his notice period. AAM is right, making a fuss over a party is pretty silly. Sounds like your company is too cheap just to pay him for his notice period while telling him to stay home.

    1. Sally*

      And I can’t imagine that they’re getting their money’s worth anyway. It would be better to pay him for the remainder of his notice period and not have to deal with him anymore.

    2. Lexin*

      We don’t know the contractual arrangement for his notice period, though.

      I once worked for an employer which (foolishly) had an ‘apply for your own job’ exercise and let several people go with six months (!) notice and with the proviso on the notice period that they had to work out the six months. The various areas they worked for were not allowed to put the employees on “gardening leave” (which would have pleased the staff who were leaving) or otherwise allow them to stay away. It caused endless complications and hard feelings with both the staff who were leaving and those who were staying.

      For clarity – if you’re an employer reading this, I don’t recommend it.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        But if the options are 1) pay him through the notice period then let him go home and never see him again or 2) pay him through the notice period while he stays and continues to “work” which includes being rude and aggressive to coworkers and refusing to speak to his manager… then option 1 seems better for everyone. They’re paying him the money either way. Is he still doing anything helpful/productive enough that keeping him around is the better option?

        1. Lexin*

          I totally agree, it would be much better to put him on gardening leave and simply have him out of the building. But some employers don’t think that way.

      2. fposte*

        Very few U.S. employers are going to have a contractual arrangement at all, and as long as Steve’s paid for the remaining notice period, it likely would satisfy it anyway.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed. Pay him til agreed last date and let him go (or on garden leave).

      If he has to keep coming in, I could see a reasonable argument “so I’m ok to keep working with but not to come to the party?”

      I think it really should be one or the other. If he’s turning up to work, he gets to go. If he’s ended employment or on garden leave, he doesn’t.

  6. FabJob Tag*

    This post reminds me why Alison is the BEST. I don’t know how she continues to hit it out of the park every day with her responses even to questions I’ve never heard before (e.g. is offering a higher salary a thing?). I have enough trouble trying to write one social media post each day! I can’t imagine also writing books, doing interviews, and holding down a full-time management job, etc. etc. while also writing multiple Ask a Manager columns. I really think there must be 3 Alison Green clones writing this column and doing everything else she does. That is all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s so kind of you! But you’re giving me too much credit — I moved from full-time managing into consulting for managers some time ago. I would like clones though!

    2. Sun Tzu*

      Fully agree. I read Alison’s advice every day and it’s always top notch and smart. It’s the kind of “common sense” advice that isn’t “common” at all today – and, because of that, it is desperately needed.

      Thank you Alison.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Agree that Alison is awesome, I have learned so much from reading this site every week, and it’s helped me be a lot more confident and polished in interviews and work in general.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      I don’t want to put a damper on all the Alison love-fest going on, ’cause she is great most of the time, but she does have her moments. And let’s not forget, she is a manager, so she is going to lean towards giving the manager the benefit of the doubt over the employee.

      Case in point: She let us pile on when a guy named ‘King’ was told he was going to have to go by a different name at work because a fellow employee objected on religious grounds, but did not allow us to pile on when a MANAGER wanted a new EMPLOYEE to go by a nickname solely because they had the same first name. Both behaviors equally ridiculous, both egregious, but the second, because of the power dynamic was more egregious. That deserved a pile on. Alison’s great, but she’s not perfect.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          Right? What was even the point of this comment other than to be a damper on someone else’s gratitude?

      1. fposte*

        That’s not an inconsistency; that’s in keeping with the consistent policy that commenters be kind to OPs. The upset in the first one wasn’t at somebody who wrote in; in the second one it was.

        Aside from just the behavioral question, be practical, Dude–if OPs regularly get piled on for commenter kicks and giggles, that’s going to discourage people from writing in.

      2. DDS*

        I don’t agree that she gives the manager the benefit of the doubt over the employee. I think she fair in looking at both sides (as much as she can from the information provided) and giving advice. She has many times told managers that they were incorrect and why.
        She isn’t perfect but I think she is one of the fairest advice columnist out there.

      3. Giant Squid*

        I don’t think that’s a fair representation. Allison said in both cases that a name change was a bad idea. As for allowing people to “pile on”–the king letter was from 2015, the other one was from 2018. Alternate explanations for alleged differences in moderation could be time (maybe Allison was busy in 2015), policy, anything. Nobody’s perfect, but I don’t think those examples are evidence of anything.

        Here are the links in case anyone wants to review for themselves:

      4. Pomona Sprout*

        *puts on sarcasm hat*

        Alison’s not perfect? What? 8-O

        Here I thought I’d discovered the first ever absolutely perfect human being in the history of ever, and you just go ahead and disillusion me so heartlessly. How shall I ever survive this brutally weird awakening? *sob*

        *removes sarcasm hat*

        Seriously: We know Alison isn’t 100% perfect 100% of the time! I swear we had all actually figured that out long before you took the trouble to inform us of that (extremely obvious) fact. That’s because most (if not all) of us, being grown ass adults, figured out a lot time ago that no humans are perfect. It’s that simple!

        Oops, I just realized I put the sarcasm hat back on for a minute there. Sorry about that. Hanging it up for real now. Anyway…. *clears throat* my point is that of course we know that, and we can know it while at the same time expressing appreciation for all Alison’s positive contributions, the great site she has created here, etc., including the fact that we are all allowed to disagree with her on occasion while finding her advice to be very insightful and useful ON THE WHOLE.

        Tl/dr: Yeah, sure, we know she’s not perfect, but she is great, and telling her that doesn’t imply anything other than that she is, indeed, great.

      5. Delphine*

        This is a complete misrepresentation. The first was a pile-on *in sympathy* with the letter writer. The second would have been a pile-on ripping the letter writer to shreds. Can you guess why one is more acceptable than the other? Do you really think anyone should encourage the latter?

    5. The IT Plebe*

      Not to mention she also moderates these comment spaces carefully, which attracts more quality comments from quality people. This really is one of the best spaces on the Internet. You rock, Alison!

      1. Elenia*

        I love this place a lot too. I am a manager who has had no formal manager training so I come here often for scripts, etc. Thank you Alison.

      2. The Supreme Troll*

        I’ve been reading Ask a Manager for 9 years…I’ve learned a great deal from Alison and the other commenters (sometimes things I might not agree with or believe that they’re fair, but they are reality that needs to be faced). I don’t think I will ever get bored or stop enjoy reading it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          It means telling your adblocker to allow ads for this site.

          I can’t do that, unfortunately, because the ads for this site routinely crash my browser. I try to make it up by recommending her site and advice far and wide! :)

        2. Sleve McDichael*

          White listing means telling your ad blocking software ‘Don’t block any ads on this site please.’

          That way, Applesauce still receives the ads, so Alison gets the ad revenue. The ads on this site are pretty unobtrusive and Alison is very proactive on removing loud flashy video ads and obnoxious pop-ups, so I can recommend letting her ads through if you want to support the site.

          (I have targeted ads disabled and I find the generic ones here are usually static ads for productivity software, surprise!)

  7. Claire*

    Re: #1 – I had a manager in a previous role who also explicitly named herself as a “mother” to the team, and was also bossy, intrusive, overbearing, etc. It makes me wonder what these people are saying about the way they parent their children, or perhaps their own mothers’ parenting, when their “mothering” is the worst caricature of that role!?!! Amusingly, there was another woman on the team who was calm, kind, friendly and we had fascinating chats about a number of issues – she actually did remind me of my own mother, though I never would have said so!

    1. Avi*

      It’s been my experience that anyone who uses that ‘you never stop being a mother’ line is simply happy to have an excuse for for treating everyone around them as lessers. The ‘mother’ angle is little more than a way to deflect people from how horrible and inappropriate they’re being, or at best a self-justification for it. The actual parenting of the people I’ve heard variations of that line from has never been stellar. The generally toxic and thankfully now retired coworker at my current job who liked to boss everyone else around had almost no contact with her own grown children, a fact that surprised no one who had to work with her for more than a few hours.

      1. NotMyCoworkersDaughter*

        Yeah, for sure, the woman in question has a tendency to boss people around, despite the fact that we are on the same level in our official roles (or in my case, I hold a slightly senior position to her). It’s clear that she really likes to take charge of things, but she doesn’t really have the qualifications (or the job role) to do that.

        1. e271828*

          Something that gets overlooked as a lever in these conversations with a would-be “motherly” coworker is that not only is she undermining the target, she is undermining herself. Annoying coworkers with unwanted advice and refusing to treat them as peer adults are not desirable traits in a good workplace. If she wants to mother people, a career in day care might be a better fit.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Yeah, “mothering” is a social power play. It is softened language, much (as is “Bless your heart” in the southern US). Use Allison’s scripts and shut this down, you are not her child. I am in my 50s with my own grown children, I don’t look at competent coworkers as my kids. I also suggest to never confide social/family problems to this lady and keep any chit-chat positive.

      1. From the southern US*

        Bless your heart is not a blanket insult. I wish this would stop. If you tell me your grandma just died and I say “Bless your heart” I really mean it. I don’t like how some snarky people have twisted this phrase.

        1. ThatGirl*

          It’s not a blanket insult, but it can be used as classic southern passive-aggression. Much like most statements, it’s all in the tone and context. I lived in Manhattan for a semester in college and Kentucky for two years fresh out of school, and I’ve used this example many times: In New York, then can tell you go to go fork yourself and mean have a nice day; in the south they can tell you to have a nice day and mean go fork yourself.

        2. Shadowbelle*

          Ditto, also speaking from the South. “Bless your heart” is used to express true sympathy, commiseration, appreciation for someone doing an unappreciated task — you have to know the context. Like “ducky” or “peachy”, which can mean “awful” or “great”, depending on the situation and tone of voice.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          Indeed. “Bless your heart” can be both and depends entirely on the context and tone. Same with “honey” which I use quite a bit myself.

        4. VelociraptorAttack*

          It’s funny how much this will vary person to person. I’m also from the south and I have never heard it used in a genuine way. I might just come from a family of really sassy and condescending people…

        5. Mallory Janis Ian*

          The main context I heard “Bless [their] heart” from the women in my childhood was that it was used to absolve the person speaking of the “sin” of gossip. Like the women would be gossiping in full detail about the trials and travails of someone, and then at the end they’d say, “Bless [their] heart!” thereby transforming their speech from gossip into concern.

        6. SimplyTheBest*

          Agreed. This whole “bless your heart’ is southern for “f-you” is nonsense. Sometimes it can be used meanly or passive aggressively, but more often than not that comes in the form of “this person is trying, but bless their heart, they are actually a shit show.” Rarely would it be an “f-you.”

          1. Fish Microwaver*

            Yes, a bit like “kind regards”. Some people say it means “screw you”, but it’s my preferred email sign off and genuinely means kind regards.

    3. Caz*

      There’s a person in my department who likes to adopt a “maternal” tole to a lot of people. Her actual son doesn’t talk to her and she has no idea why. I have some theories…

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        ^ this was my previous boss. She really, really, really pushed it hard that I was “just like a daughter” to her, and would constantly be pushing some random ‘mothery’ thing at me. Started with my hair/shirts, ended with apparently I was anorexic (wtf) and a weird mixture of all men are awful creatures and out to get you and she really needs to meet my husband so that she can Approve or Help Our Marriage.

        Uh, yeah, how about no.

        Unsurprisingly, she was also always complaining that her kids rarely spoke to her and moved far, far away from home.

        It seemed to me that she really wanted someone beneath her that she could foist all her baggage masquerading as advice onto and try to simultaneously tear down and build up so that she looked better & had a mini-clone of herself.

        1. Dusty Bunny*

          “….she really needs to meet my husband so that she can Approve or Help Our Marriage.”
          Two words: Wow, and yikes!

          1. Drew*

            Seriously. “I’m not sure why you would say this when my marriage doesn’t need your help OR approval.”

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Before I could say what was about to word vomit out of my mouth (and was probably too rude), one of my coworkers at the time turned around with a horrified look on her face to say to Boss “Why ever in the world would that be appropriate???!”

              I do miss that coworker. I do not miss that Boss.

              1. Observer*


                If there was ever a time when it made sense to insert one’s self into a conversation, that was it! The coworker is my hero for the day.

        2. Dagny*

          “It seemed to me that she really wanted someone beneath her that she could foist all her baggage masquerading as advice onto and try to simultaneously tear down and build up so that she looked better & had a mini-clone of herself.”

          1. This happens a lot, and
          2. It’s terrible parenting.

        3. Avi*

          Our Work Mom only ever seemed to manage the ‘tearing other people down’ part. Worst part is that I think she *thought* she was being constructive. She just couldn’t understand that constantly berating grown adults for any perceived deviation from what she would’ve done in a situation was not in the least bit helpful. One of our coworkers who does a lot of float coverage is a guy in his late 50’s, less than ten years younger than her, and he refused to work any more shifts with her because he was tired of being treated like he was a fifteen year old on his first day of the job the entire time.

    4. Narise*

      I always want the opportunity to respond to someone claiming to be a “mother” to me at work with “So your going to start giving me an allowance, include me in your will, and leave me part of your mother’s china?” When they stare at you like you have two heads then say “No I didn’t think so because we aren’t family and you are not my mother.”

      1. Witchy Human*

        I would go with “I know you mean well, but my mother is dead. Please stop trying to be a ‘mom’ to me.”

        (My late mother delighted in making people uncomfortable with bald truths, she would approve.)

        1. Elenia*

          I’ve absolutely done this. “My mother is dead, I definitely don’t need to be reminded of that.” It shuts people up FAST. I only use it when they get extremely pushy though.

        2. Claire*

          Off topic, but we used this at my sister’s graduation on the guy who was pushing us to get one of those cheesy portraits done. It ended like this:
          Him: Mum will be disappointed!
          Sister: Mum’s dead.
          Him: *untranscribable noise of discomfort*

          Honestly, our Mum would probably not have approved (she was much nicer than us!) But eff that guy for trying to manipulate us like that, not having any idea what our family situation was.

      2. AKchic*

        I’m blunt too. “I already have terrible parents, I don’t need another” generally stops it.

        I have “motherly” habits, but not at work. Outside of work, I will help friends/volunteers in that oddly maternal way. Everyone gets food, drink, reminded of sunscreen (I bring a lot) if we’re outdoors, there’s always a first aid kit handy, I’ve always got the supplies we need, I’m organized, etc. I don’t foist that “I’m mom” image on anyone, but people openly call me “Mom”. I’ve got so many kids as it is that it’s not weird to hear, so I go with it.
        At work, though? Nuh uh. You’re an adult. Take care of yourself.

        The people who want to be seen as “motherly” at the office are the ones who feel like they are missing something, but they won’t say it. There’s a hole or void they want to fill.

  8. StaceyIzMe*

    It’s just so odd that the problem employee has been permitted to be abusive to anyone and everyone without being fired and is currently not speaking to his boss but the issue is somehow a Christmas party? I think that ship has sailed. Whatever could have been done to rein him in never happened, so yeah, it makes sense to end his employment before the party and send him on his way with the advice that cutting off one’s boss or attacking one’s coworkers isn’t acceptable professional conduct. Don’t be surprised, however, if he doesn’t take you seriously and crashes your Christmas party. In your shoes, I’d hire security. And polish up my resume, because if management won’t manage someone THIS bad, what else isn’t being addressed?

    1. EPLawyer*

      That’s the worst part. The CEO decides Steve can’t be at the party. Instead of telling Steve himself, or doing the obvious “Let’s move your end date up” he just foists it off on the manager and HR. Manager, instead of you know managing, says “welp the guy won’t talk to me, so HR you handle this one on your own.” If the guy isn’t talking to you, great. He won’t talk back when you tell him his last date is X which is well before the party, not just the day before.

      I agree with everyone who said hire security for the party.

      1. Linzava*

        This is why I hated working in management. My old boss would make up new rules, and then make me deliver the news to employees. On my first day he said, “I need a bulldog in this position,” I straight up said, “well that’s not me.” what I wanted to say was, “You should’ve said that in the interview jerk face!”

        He once told me to call and employee a name, I instead when to the employee, relayed the entire message as “boss said” and called the boss a name. I know not all managers are put in that position, but I want nothing to do with managing people ever again of I can help it.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      But the issue is somehow a Christmas party?
      This comes up sometimes with complicated messes in other contexts–the letter writer or CEO will completely focus on a molehill sitting on top of the mountain of dysfunction. (Often the mountain’s existence comes out in a last line or follow-up response.)

      1. Quill*

        By the time you write in to Allison about these things, you’ve usually been training for a “bury the lede” marathon for years.

        (OT: am I the only one who thought it was ‘bury the lead’ for years?)

          1. ThatGirl*

            Not to be too pedantic, but it comes from newspapers, meaning the first graph with the most pertinent information, and it’s spelled lede in that context; “lead” in newspapering rhymes with “bed” and used to refer to the metal pieces that separated lines of print.

            1. Clisby*

              And at least when I was working on newspapers (in the age of computer typesetting), adding extra points between lines of type was still called “leading,” even though no lead was involved.

        1. ThatGirl*

          My guess is a lot of folks who’ve never had exposure to the journalism world don’t know how to spell “lede”.

          1. pamplemousse*

            The spelling is dying out in journalism, too — even at news outlets that still put out a print product, it’s been decades since lead was involved in the technology.

    3. Lissa*

      My friend works at a company where one employee doesn’t like having women be senior to him (there is some cultural context as he is older and only moved to the US a few years ago so it is fundamentally a change for him). He straight up threw an object at a coworker who is a woman. And he DID NOT GET FIRED!!!! She quit because ain’t no way they paid her enough for that shiz. My friend is desperately trying to get out of there and has filed an EEOC complaint.

      1. Charles is not in charge*

        Coming from a similar culture……..

        fork that cultural/religious context bullcrap.

        IT IS NOT CULTURAL SENSITIVITY TO LET SOMEONE BE ABUSIVE TO SOMEONE ELSE!!!!!!!! Why is that so hard for some people to understand?

        (not picking you out Lissa, but I definitely know some people/workplaces that can have this mentality).

        1. Lissa*

          Oh my goodness, I don’t think it’s right in any way shape or form to throw things. What I meant is that to me, it is not shocking that a man in his 50s who has literally never been in this situation before doesn’t like having women who are senior to him.

    4. Artemesia*

      Exactly. A boss who says ‘you have to deal with Fergus not coming to the Christmas party because he isn’t talking to me’ is a joke of a manager. Because he won’t talk to him, this boss should give him his walking papers yesterday and bar him from the party as part of his severance/final two weeks pay. And absolutely have security with his picture; this is the kind of guy who comes and shoots up the place. And if you are the person who tell him he can’t come to the party you are especially vulnerable if he decides to do just that.

  9. Bagpuss*

    2 – is there any chance that you can speak to your manager or the CEO about bringing forward his last day ? Even if they are not prepared to fire him for the unprofessional behaviour such as refusing to speak to his manager, can you argue that putting him on hardening leave would be better for everyone, especially the remaining employees.
    In speaking to him, I would be clear, let him know that as a result of his prior behaviour, he is barred from attending the party, and if he pushes back, be clear that it is not something that you have any discretion over, it is a decision made at a higher level.

  10. It’s all good*

    #3 – I was hired at the top of the salary range advertised. It was slightly above market rate. When I got the offer via emailed I was surprised it was $10K higher than discussed! I called HR, they said the plan was to give me a $10K raise after six months. But they were confident that would happen so they decided to give it to me right away (and I was there longer than six months). Congrats to you!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I wish this happened to more people! On my first day at my current job, I noticed the salary was listed as 10K higher than I expected. I got the job through a recruiter and am still not sure what happened. I never said a word about it in case it was a mistake.

      1. Elenia*

        I also got hired at the highest end of the range, and within six months, received an additional $6000 raise. Makes you feel valued, certainly!

    2. CM*

      This is the sign of a good company that cares about retaining you.

      It can buy SO much goodwill and loyalty from employees to get unsolicited pay increases, I’m surprised companies don’t do it more often.

  11. Mannheim Steamroller*


    Maybe respond with something like “My own mother recognizes that I’m an independent adult with my own life and my own boundaries. If I need advice, I’ll ask.” (Of course, you have no plans to ask.)

    1. EPLawyer*

      If saying “I already have two moms, I don’t need a third” didn’t work, this won’t work either. She will ignore the part about I’ll ask and just hear “If I need advice” and go ahead and give it.

      Yes, you need to be explicit that this is a work relationship, not a family. Be increasingly strong in your wording if it is continues.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t know why OP qualified that as their “knee-jerk” reaction–I honestly thought that was a really great response, the kind most people think of later and wish they had said in the moment! It’s a shame it didn’t seem to get the point across.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. That’s a really good in the moment reaction. I wish I were that good at reacting to bizarre comments. (Fortunately, they haven’t happened too often to me, so no harm done. )

        2. NotMyCoworkersDaughter*

          Thank you! Glad to hear it *was* a good response, I honestly just blurted out the first thing that came into my head. But oh man did it ever not get the point across lol. She just uses it as a joke now. “I know you don’t need a third mother, but…”

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            That’s one where “but” clearly means “that first was noise, here’s what I really mean”–and where you’d be justified in saying “since you know I don’t need another mother, stop right there.” Or, if you were fast enough, stop her at the “but” and say “good. So, how about that subject change?”

            1. fposte*

              Yes, you and Botanist are on the money here. Make her own that first statement as meaningful, not just use it to excuse what follows.

          2. Botanist*

            That could be a great opening, actually, if she won’t stop and she starts to say that, could you cut her off and say, “you’re right, I don’t, thanks for understanding.”? Or “If you know I don’t need a third mother, why did you just give me that weird advice?”

          3. AKchic*

            Then you cut her off and say “you’re right, I don’t. Stop trying to be. It’s inappropriate to our working relationship.”

            She needs to be cut off at the knees. She needs to be reminded very clearly that if it weren’t for work, you two would not be interacting at all.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I like this advice, it seems to save face for the “work mom” more than Alison’s and might be a better first step.

      Others said the first was the OP’s comment about I already have 2 moms, but I think OP did not say that, just thought it.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I also read it as an “inside-my-head” response, but OP responded just above with “I honestly just blurted out the first thing that came into my head”.

        OP, I think you’re going to need to actually Say The Words. Your coworker is one of those people who doesn’t hear sub-text, or at least ignores it.

  12. Anononon*

    I had a coworker in an adjacent department who would call her own supervisor, “Mom,” and would sometimes gently encourage it of others. The extra extra weird thing was that the supervisor was probably closer in age to the woman’s children than the woman.

    1. Jdc*

      I did this once while sick. I called my boss mom. She cracked up and said she was driving me home after bringing me to the pharmacy to get some cold medication. She said “once we need our moms we know we are sick”. She was awesome.

      1. Quill*

        I’ve definitely seen “yes, /mom/” directed at people whose job it is to remind people of safety protocols…

      2. Anononon*

        It sounds like it in text, but it was sincere in real life (which I think is weirder as it makes a lot less sense). She was a very nice woman, but very strange at times. She sat right outside my office, and sometimes she would sing out loud. But, she didn’t remember full lyrics, so she would sing one line from the chorus over and over.

    2. Charles is not in charge*

      I say it to my boss sometimes. “THANKS MOM!” in a fake child noise.

      He is younger than me. But has 2 kids and is a total dad, and a good sense of humor. (and I’m not about to call anyone at work Dad/Daddy”

      1. Charles is not in charge*

        But that’s cz we have a good relationship and joke around like that. Obv he’s not really my mom.

    3. RaeaSunshine*

      For some reason this reminded me of the time in first grade where I called my teacher ‘Mom’…. for a solid 3-4 years that was my most embarrassing moment (ya know, till middle school). So silly, because she probably thought it was adorable… but I was MORTIFIED.

  13. Marny*

    Why on earth hasn’t the bad employee in the 2nd letter been fired, or at least told that his notice period isn’t necessary? It’s fine for him to come to work everyday and force his coworkers to deal with his abuse, but a party is the problem? Send him home permanently and change the party location so he doesn’t know where it is.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I’m guessing the difference is that the CEO will have to deal with him if he comes to the party, but the CEO can avoid him at work.

  14. Hiptobesquared*

    Lw 1: I had a similar problem with a coworker constantly nagging me about having kids despite the fact that I don’t want children. My polite protests weren’t working so one day I took Alison’s advise and just told her that I needed her to stop. She protested and I said something along the lines of “I know you don’t mean anything my asking me but I need this to stop.” And amazingly, it did!

    1. Quickbeam*

      I have found a hard line, direct eye contact: “Please stop this line of inquiry” really ends the having kids question. As well as the follow up, now that I am in my 60’s “do you regret?…”.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Oh my god, is that what I have to look forward to? People switching from “are you going to” to “do you regret?” Jeez, that’s so much worse. How do they envision that conversation going if the answer was yes? That would obviously be extremely upsetting, and it must be the answer they are assuming when they ask.

        1. Ginger*

          Seriously, people suck when it comes to the topic of having or not having kids.

          I have two and people STILL pester me if we are having more, why/why not. I’m like, you’re asking if my husband and I are going to have unprotected sex? Whyyyyy????

          I don’t actually say that out loud but ya know, maybe someday :)

          1. NotMyCoworkersDaughter*

            People are soooo rude about this. I’m single but I plan to adopt, and then there are all the questions of “Why would you adopt instead of having *your own* kids?” and oddly enough the comments of “You’re so brave to do that because you don’t know what you’ll be getting.” As if I would know what I’d be getting if I had a biological child?

            But yeah, people sure do feel comfortable commenting on one’s personal life, at least when it comes to procreation.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Oh heck no. The kid you adopt *IS* YOUR OWN KID. AUGH I hate it when people make comments like that!

              1. Gumby*

                Yup. As has been pointed out by many before me, adopted should be used in the past tense to describe the manner of joining a family; it is not a present-tense description of status within the family or whatever people mean by that. A child *was* adopted and now *is* part of the family with no distinction.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                Not gonna lie, I was tempted many times to say something similar when people would ask me if I knew what I was having. They meant if I knew the gender of my unborn child, but it’s such a poorly worded question that I really wanted to say “I don’t know, could be a baby, could be a velociraptor.”

                1. memory lane*

                  Back in 1960, my Mum horrified my aunt by replying wearily, “Oh, who knows, maybe this time it’ll be kittens.”

          2. Dagny*

            I’m currently going through a nightmare of a pregnancy, and my husband and I are just done after this. But people act like we have to justify that decision to THEM, as if they are the final deciders of how many children we pop out. When I’m not too frayed by the nonsense to just stammer, I sometimes manage a “This is not your decision to make” and that usually ends it.

          3. AKchic*

            No matter how many you have (or don’t have), the pestering never stops.

            I have four biological children ranging in ages from 19-10. I *still* get questions about whether or not I’m going to have more, if I ever tried for a girl, if I’m going to try for a girl, if my current husband feels slighted for only getting “one out of [me]” (as if I’m a vending machine), how I’d better not have any more (thanks, Mom, GFYS), the pointed and leading questions about my finances, my health, my marriage (it is my 3rd, after all).
            The factory is condemned. A new Scooby Doo episode will be filmed up in there at some point, I’m sure. Move along. Nothing to see. I assure all curious folx that people are welcome up and in, but nothing is welcome to stay, or come out later.
            Luckily, nobody at work ever broaches the subject.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          I would be sorely tempted to put on a Shakespearean level drama of “Alas, yes, but by the stars it was not to be!” possibly with some sobbing just to make them really uncomfortable. I mean, what the heck kind of question is that?? There’s only so many ways that could go…

        3. Amy Sly*

          God, as someone childless not by choice, this *would* have me in a sobbing wreck.

          I hope I can get to the point of Miracle Max, at least.

          MIRACLE MAX: What, what?
          INIGO: Are you the Miracle Max who worked for the King all those years?
          MIRACLE MAX: The King’s stinking son fired me. And thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?

        4. CM*

          Ha, “do you regret” is an easy one to answer — just start to cry!
          (Note, do not do this with the coworker who tells you they are your mother.)

    2. mcr-red*

      I seriously cannot understand people that do things like this. Why do you care? Why do you think it is your business?

      1. WellRed*

        I sometimes wonder if they literally can’t think of anything else to talk about so fall onto this.

          1. ...*

            RIGHT lol. That’s why things like weather, traffic, favorite foods, and how annoying verizon wireless service is! I’m FINE with small talk lol.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              “How beautifully blue the sky
              The glass is rising very high
              Continue fine I hope it may
              And yet it rained just yesterday
              Tomorrow it may pour again
              I hear the country wants some rain
              And say, I know not why,
              That we shall have a warm July…”

      2. Charles is not in charge*

        I can *kind of* see it. I’m in my mid 30s and difficult time conceiving/carrying a pregnancy. If I was familiar with someone who was older and didn’t have kids I would definitely be curious and want to know–but I’d only inquire if I was really close with them.

      3. poolgirl*

        I’ve wondered that same thing for a long time, I’ve recently come to think they’re looking for validation of their own choices, and / or are threatened by someone who chose a different path and seems to be happy about it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          +1000. I’ve never had someone ask in a way that didn’t lead to some kind of defensiveness on their part.

  15. Reality Check*

    “Once you’re a mom you can’t stop being a mom.” Uh, yeah you can. My kids are growing up and I’m ecstatic to get my freedom back. The last thing I want to do is “adopt” new ones. Sounds like this woman needs something to do.

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Also, that phrase means you don’t stop being the mother of your children, not other people’s!

    2. Susie Q*

      I’m a brand new mom to a 5 month old and I have absolutely no desire to mother any except my child especially my coworkers. I’m not their mother!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Eh, it’s a little different when your kids are the age of your coworkers, not 5 months old. My oldest son is 22, and I have some team members in the 22-30 age range that do things that kind of bring out that mom/son dynamic. For example, a team member is told by me that XYZ is needed at COB tomorrow. Employee doesn’t do XYZ and goes home, and I’m left going through the whole routine of, “Well, if he isn’t going to do it, then I will have to,” and then feeling like his mom the next day when I have to admonish him for not getting that work done. (This is one particular employee, and it has been formally addressed and escalated because there is a pattern of not getting things done and not being at work when he is supposed to be.)

        I certainly never tell anyone I feel motherly to them and try to avoid any mom patterns that would be negative at work, but sometimes that dynamic is there (if only in my head).

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          That can happen when a manager and employee are in the same age range, though. Has nothing to do with being a mother or father, that’s just a lazy employee

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Well, sure, but when a 50 year old team member does the same thing, it does not activate the same feelings for me. I’m annoyed, but it is different.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              To be honest that is a problem, and something you should probably work on. It should not be different. They are all your coworkers and you need to keep them mentally all in the same category. Their age should not come into play at all.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            At this point, so he doesn’t get fired. The warnings have been provided.

            We’ve spent this year on a very tight schedule with a very impatient project sponsor who will contact us 3 times in 30 minutes if we don’t get him what he wants RIGHT NOW (he’s a whole different AAM post). I can’t wait for people to do the work the next day. I have a team that peaked at about 20 and is about 7 people now. This is the only person I have this specific performance issue with, so I think it’s him rather than my general management.

            1. Avasarala*

              Sounds like maybe he should be fired. I don’t know how you get told “Do X by COB” and they don’t routinely and keep your job. The reason you feel like a mom is because you’re following the pattern of telling your son to do something, son doesn’t do it right/in the time frame you want, you sigh and do it for him–now he never has to do it, and the cycle repeats.

              But this guy isn’t your son. Fire him. If you want someone to do something there have to be consequences.

          2. Grapey*

            This also describes some actual parenting I’ve seen. My 35 yr old stepbrother doesn’t care or know how to do his own laundry because stepmom (his mom) always comes over and does it for him. Cleans his house too. Can’t imagine why he’s divorced.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Plus, no-one is asking her to stop being a Mom.
      OP is simply requiring her to stop acting that way towards her.
      She can go on being a Mom to her own children, to her heart’s content(or as much as they will allow )

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right?! What a ridiculous notion! I wish this woman didn’t try to speak for all of us mothers. I’ve been one to close to 27 years and I still have no urge to mother random people at work (or anywhere). If she can’t stop, she needs therapy.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Yeah, the line, “Once you’re a mom you can’t stop being a mom” really set my teeth on edge! I’m the mom of a grown ass 34 year old daughter, and I would never DREAM of saying that to anybody! Furthermore, I have never felt remotely like “mothering” anyone except my own daughter, much less forcing that kind of behavior on somebody. The presumptuousness of that comment really gripes me, like, “Hey, who gave you the right to speak for all moms everywhere, you meddlesome busybody?” Not that I would SAY that, of course, but grrrr, how dare she?

    5. Mockingjay*

      I have the opposite problem. I have team members (above and below me) who want me to be the Office Mom. Not for personal stuff, but to remind them that their “homework” is due, i.e., track their assignments for them, nag them over and over, and manage team feelings. We have one dude who’s good at his job, but his social skills aren’t that great. I have people call and email me, asking to relay a request so they can avoid talking to him. People send me files to post on SharePoint instead of doing it themselves. And so on.

      It’s nuts. I use what I’ve learned from Alison to shut down these requests politely and professionally, but I still get them daily. The real issue is that the project lead doesn’t want to stop doing his “fun” engineering work and manage his ever-growing team instead. Sigh. His favorite phrase: “I rely on you.” My reply: “Bob is in charge of teapot spouts. I’ll redirect this task to him.”

    6. Quill*

      My mom is a serial adopter-of-people (she went on a dinosaur dig once and after two weeks had got one guy to go back to college and request accommodations for the mental health stuff that got him to drop out in the first place, for one example, she taught a different complete stranger how to ride a horse…) but at least she asks first and only works on problems other people SAY they have instead of randomly picking out something to fix in every person she meets!

      (She’s also a terrible influence in many ways: when it comes to climbing inadviseable things, swimming in bogs, planning harmless mischief for friends and family, and eating berries out of the woods, my brother and I were definitely raised as co-conspirators. Apparently it is much more socially acceptable to pull over on the side of the road and let someone else’s horses come up to the fence to get petted if you have a small child in tow. :) )

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, our primary irritation points come from conflicting needs (she’s hypersocial! I am not) rather than any actions.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Goodness I’m going to have the opposite problem I think. My husband and I are both introverts and our daughter needs lots of stimulation and interaction. At least I’m the kind of introvert that is only drained by large crowds, so taking her out of the house all the time to get that stimulation isn’t too bad for me. We do lots of outdoorsy things like hikes and whatnot.

      1. CM*

        Aww. This comment made me tear up a little. I hope my kids speak of me, and their childhoods, this warmly when they are grown.

        Also, agreed — one mark of a good mom is backing off and giving lots of space when her kids are old enough to think and act for themselves!

      2. Blueberry*

        Can your Mom adopt me?

        Since she sounds like the kind of person who’d get it, please tell her a threadful of random people on the Internet are admiring her. :)

  16. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Maybe the professional development is a good/fun one and could benefit even the contractors? Find out what it is, if you can.

    I worked at one place years ago that had a sizable collection of contractors, including myself as being from a temp agency. That year, the provincial government rolled out a new act about violence and harassment in the workplace. The employer decided to have a training/info session about it, for all staff. Contractors were originally left out of the training. Thing was, that new law protected the contractors as much as the staff. There was push back and we were all allowed to attend (cost can’t have been an issue as the trainer was there for the entire group).

    I’m glad I was able to attend and learn about the new law!

    Years later, I was a employee at a different place on a contract: On the payroll, but not permanent, no benefits and with a clear end date. They insisted I do a performance review. I resented the effort I put into their review process (had to review a peer (that I didn’t like), get reviewed by a peer, then by my manager) since in the long run I was not retained or renewed.

    1. CL Cox*

      There’s a big difference between requiring freelancers (independent contractors) to attend and allowing them to attend. Most companies I know of often make PDs an option for contractors, but if there is something contractors are required to do, it’s specifically spelled out in the contract (think like government contractor required to attend trainings for specific software updates or required to pass fingerprint or drug screenings).

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. I have a few contractors we work with full-time, and they are invited to take part in training and other team events but not required to do so. We did write into a few contracts that they were required to maintain currency with specific, mission-critical software, and we do invite them to our training session on it (which they typically attend) but, if they preferred to do that independently, that’s their prerogative.

  17. Pretzel girl*

    #5- I would see as a possible good sign. Its likely an update, asking you to please be patient with the rest of the hiring process (of course it could mean something different). I received a similar note, from a hiring manager during the interview process. I ended receiving the job. Turns out she just had to square away a few things.

    1. lemon*

      LW5 here: those are my thoughts, too. I did email the hiring manager back with a “thanks for the update” type response so we’ll see.

    2. Smithy*

      I would agree. I received a few of these emails over what turned out to be a three month interview process. It was over the summer and I was one of the very first people they interviewed. Due to my now organization’s HR processes, they had to interview other candidates and with conflicting vacations – it all just took a while.

      I ultimately did need to call my HR contact and say I’d received an offer and while this company was my first choice – I only had so much time. It did work out, but it may very well be an indication that especially with holidays coming up – the process could be slow.

    3. pally*

      And I received a similar assurance from a job I’d interview with – and did NOT end up getting the job. It goes both ways.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, for reasons outside the hiring manager’s control, hiring processes can run longer than expected. We stay in touch with all finalist candidates, even if it’s to apologize for the delay and make sure we’re staying in contact with them/up to date with their timetable. I’d rather admit we’re having internal timetable issues than have candidates feel we’re ghosting them.

      1. lemon*

        LW5 here: Thanks everyone for the advice! I do know that I was one of the first that they interviewed and like I mentioned in my letter, I know that there were at least 13 other applicants so we’ll see. Fingers crossed!

  18. hbc*

    OP2: What it comes down to for me is Alison’s first sentence. You actually end up looking like bad guys by banning a current employee from an employee party. It’d be one thing if you (the general you) were firing him and generously allowing him to work through the holidays, or if he had behaved so badly at the party last year that you’d already banned him. But keeping out a resigning employee who you apparently think is good enough to work for you? It looks vindictive and petty.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed. If you don’t want him at the party, pay him off up until agreed leaving date but send him home now.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Yes. They have many reasons to move his notice period up, but keeping him on as an employee while changing the rules to not allow this employee to attend the party does look petty. It feels like, “Oh goodness know we couldn’t kick him out the door, that would be mean! Instead we will take a final chance to rub it in his face how much everyone hates him!” With an employee this belligerent, excluding him from a party might well prompt retaliation rather than avoid it.

    3. OP #2*

      I 100% agree. I’m being forced to deliver this message that I do not believe in…and you know what sometimes happens to messengers. It’s why I wrote in, hoping there was some way to avoid getting burned in this dumpster fire my bosses have created.

      He did, apparently, behave badly at the party last year getting so drunk he was unable to stand on his own. Our CEO chose not to address it at the time and this is the reason he doesn’t want him to come this year. I wasn’t there and so I don’t know what happened last year but like someone else pointed out, the ship has sailed on this sort of thing and using a party to penalize him a year later is ridiculous.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        OP #2, while I agree with where Alison is coming from, I think that (though it may not be the best path and other employees will notice) it is better to err on the side of caution and not allow Steve to come to the party (whether he is allowed to stay until his final day – or given the boot today hopefully!)

        There is way too big of a chance that he has nothing to lose and will tell, and maybe even show, everybody how he really feels…as if he hasn’t done so time & time again.

  19. It's mce*

    #2 Pay him for any remaining days he has left and if need to have some kind of security personnel there on his last day to escort him out. Also, if the party date/location hasn’t been announced yet, hold off until he goes or change the venue.

    1. WellRed*

      This is a good idea, to have security. I am guessing it’s too late to change the venue at this point (and it’s more avoidance, which is what got them to this point in the first place).

      I’m curious as to what other dysfunctions this workplace specializes in.

      1. OP #2*

        Too late to change the party date or venue, we’re only 3 weeks away. We’re in a city where the norm is to book your party venue for Christmas in July, or you’ll end up with the venues that nobody else wanted.

        As of this morning, it looks like the new plan is to say nothing and hope he doesn’t come. There is no plan for security and our VP of Operations has decided we’ll call the cops if he comes and won’t leave.

        This doesn’t make me feel good. I genuinely do not believe he will come, and I genuinely do not believe he’d hurt anyone. I’d guess about 99% or more of his abusive tirades have been over the phone/email/ Slack where he’s not faced with actually confronting anyone. But, it seems a foolish risk to take in today’s world.

        What other dysfunctions does my workplace specialize in? All. Of. Them.

        Most of the company’s management is highly toxic and dysfunctional and the ones that aren’t, have no real power. I’m actively trying to leave and I actually started reading this blog so I could feel less alone about working in a toxic cloud and so I could make sure I didn’t lose sight of what normal looks like.

        1. Blueberry*

          I have no advice to add but I’m sending you all the luck and good wishes on getting yourself out of that flaming dumpster of a workplace.

        2. Mike C.*

          So the plan is literally to do nothing and if that doesn’t work waste public resources? Do you honestly believe that if everyone is unwilling to tell this person not to come, and are unwilling to send him on his way with pay for the remaining time that they will call the police if he shows up to a party that he’s otherwise invited to?

          You know this isn’t right and you know this doesn’t make sense.

          Consider the following – If he’s allowed to shout and berate and abuse without consequence, why not just send him on his way, today? Notify IT to get his credentials locked up and then take a coworker or two with you for witnesses and courage, and tell him that his time is done. When it’s done set a meeting with those managers to spread work around until someone new is hired. Your superiors clearly don’t care about insubordination and you’ll be taking the initiative on a problem that clearly everyone knows about in a legal and ethical way.

          You and everyone else reading this is going to be asking, “but what if the superiors don’t like it?” Fair question. You tell them that you knew the CEO wanted him gone. Everyone knew that he’s been a documented problem. Everyone knew that he was a massive risk. So you took the action to eliminate the problem in an easy, legal and ethical way. Had you sat around and done nothing, you and everyone else who knew about the problem could easily be part of a lawsuit, so you took care of it. It was no big deal, and now folks can worry about more pressing matters.

          This isn’t normal workplace advice and it wouldn’t be appropriate at the vast, vast majority of places. But you don’t work in the vast, vast majority of places and until you’re able to leave you should seriously, seriously consider taking actual action.

          1. OP #2*

            I really wish I could. I know it’s not right and I know it’s doesn’t make any sense but I have no authority and no power. I might be our “HR person” but I can’t do anything without my boss blessing it. Even if I went to IT and asked for Steve’s accounts to be shut off, IT would need Dave’s approval because IT also reports to Dave.

            I advised paying Steve instead of letting him serve his notice even before the party became the hot button issue. And again after CEO first started talking about the party ban. And again when Steve started ranting in department-wide emails about how stupid everyone is. Each time I was told in no uncertain terms by my boss, by the CEO, and by Dave that we are not shutting him down early. I don’t see how I can defy a direct order by all my higherups without getting fired.

            I don’t mean to sound defensive, I’m mostly just desperate.

  20. Type 2*

    #2 – I’m concerned that problem employee might create a scene after being told to move on, or at the holiday party. Can you hire security (if you don’t already have security people) for both occasions? Honestly people with boundary issues like this scare me. Good luck to you!

  21. Jellyfish*

    A tale of two “office mothers:”

    1. She liked to tell me that I reminded her sooo much of her daughter, and talk about how she was so much more experienced in life than me. It was also abundantly clear she didn’t like her actual daughter, and that made the whole thing deeply uncomfortable. In other shocking news, she had no sense of boundaries and caused quite a few professional problems.

    2. I had an early meeting with a coworker who I happened to know had a daughter my age. I had car trouble on the way to work and texted said coworker to let her know I might be late for our meeting. She replied “thanks for letting me know.”

    Much later, after I successfully made it for our meeting, she told me her first instinct was to tell me to be safe and ask if I had roadside assistance. She didn’t do that because I was an adult and such an action was not professional or necessary.

    I thought her concern was sweet, and I appreciated that she kept it to herself in the moment too.
    If someone wants to play “mom,” that’s how to do it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m old enough to be the mom of some of my colleagues. Even though I never had children, I sometimes see or hear things about them that bring out my protective instincts, but I don’t act on them. I think it’s a human instinct to look out for each other, and especially our younger folks.

      But there’s a difference between telling someone, ‘Be safe,’ and giving unwanted mentorship or ‘motherly advice’ to your co-workers. That last one is not appropriate, no matter how well intended.

      Your second tale of an ‘office mom’ made me smile, and I wish more ‘office moms’ were like her.

    2. Quill*

      When it comes to peers I’ve long been “the mom friend” because one of the big loopholes in my anxiety is that it’s okay to make demands if it’s for other people. I’ll be taking your second office mom as a model for channeling that instinct.

    3. Charles is not in charge*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t find saying “be safe/feel better” etc unprofessional or stomping boundaries?

      1. Jellyfish*

        Agreed, and I wouldn’t have been bothered. Really, I appreciated that she stopped to think “this is something I would say to my daughter. Is it really necessary to say it to a colleague?” I was busy enough without needing to reassure or answer her questions about the situation in the moment, but it’s nice to know I could have asked for help if necessary too.

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        At 49 I am much older than many of my colleagues who are typically in their 20s and early 30s (although most people don’t realise how old I am)

        I am also a mom. But not their mom.

        I would say this ^ to my colleagues of any age.

  22. Spidey Cents*

    #2 – Honestly, this is the perfect time to call him into the office, gather his things and pay out the remainder of his time there, hand him a check and get him to sign a no trespass letter (office & personal residences) Give him a decent reference and be done.

    1. Mx*

      It would be immoral to give a decent reference to someone who yells and insults coworkers. Honestly, would you want him as your co-worker, report or maybe manager (the worst) ? The next potential employer needs to know he does that.

  23. Rachel the Writer*

    #1 reminds me of a manager at my office. On my very first day, she told me “all the young women in the office look to me as a mentor, so you can too.” I later found out that said young women do NOT see her that way and actively avoid her, especially ever since she tried to invite two of my co-workers over to her house for a wine night and sleepover…

  24. MCMonkeyBean*

    One thing to consider for the holiday party letter–I was actually just in a CPE yesterday and learned that employee holiday parties are tax deductible which I did not previously know. But they specifically called out that if you exclude someone from the party it wouldn’t be. I haven’t been able to verify that online because I am terrible at picking search keywords. But I agree with Alison that excluding him is not okay. You should either suck it up and let him come, and he’ll probably be less rude than if she were disinvited and then showed up in protest, or let him go before the party. If it’s true that excluding him makes the party not tax deductible then that’s incentive for the CEO to pick one of those two options!

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Hey I did find it! says “Most important, extend your holiday party invitation to all employees. A holiday part is intended to acknowledge your employees’ hard work and celebrate the company’s existence. Picking and choosing what employees you do and do not want to invite to the party does not only invite a lawsuit for discrimination but can also leave you potentially liable in case of an audit.”

      If this party is only for employees and their family, I would take this information to the CEO and tell him that excluding Steve can cause tax issues and that it would be best to either let him come or make sure he is officially no longer an employee before the party date rolls around.

      1. pally*

        Does that mean the party is not tax deductible if they do not invite Steve?

        I found this from the IRS website from page 9 of IRS publication 535 “Business Expenses”:

        Under Fringe Benefits:

        Deduction limit on meals.
        You can generally deduct only 50% of the cost of furnishing meals to your employees. However, you can deduct the full cost of certain meals; see section 274(n)(2) for more information. For example, you can deduct the full cost of the following meals.

        Meals whose value you include in an employee’s wages.

        Meals you furnish to your employees as part of the expense of providing recreational or social activities, such as holiday parties or annual picnics, when made primarily for the benefit of your employees other than employees who are officers, shareholders or other owners who own a 10% or greater interest in your business, or other highly compensated employees.

        I don’t see the specific provision about picking and choosing which employees to invite/disinvite. But I do think you are correct re: discrimination issue if Steve is disinvited.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            They could easily all be getting the information from the same source, which is not necessarily correct.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I suppose that’s possible, they they all support what I was told in person at a class yesterday by trained tax professionals! And some of them cite specific code which I have read but do not personally understand, as linked below.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          This site ( indicates the specific piece is IRC Sec. 274(e). I tried reading it here ( but wasn’t really following to be honest lol. I’m wondering if maybe it’s the piece about “specified individual” that means that once you specify who can and cannot come it becomes an exception to the deduction?

          I know I just posted a bunch of comments with links that are all going to get caught up in moderation so I don’t know what order these will end up posting in and I hope the final thread makes sense haha. Either way, I’m hoping putting a financial spin on it could help OP get the CEO to take a more reasonable path.

  25. SigneL*

    I see myself as a mom – but that means I like to make cookies, and I’m happy to sit and listen if people want to talk. Frankly, when our kids graduated college, we looked at each other and said, “we’re DONE! YAY!”

    1. Jennifer*

      I love that. I think that’s the key. Let people seek out your advice or a listening ear instead of forcing it on them.

      1. SigneL*

        But I usually don’t give advice! I just listen. I think a lot of times people know what they want or need to do, they just want to talk things out.

        1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

          That’s very considerate of you. My own thoughts make more sense to me when I say them out loud, in a correct sentence, towards another person. Sometimes that helps things become less disjointed, and it’s very helpful.

          It’s also helpful if there’s cookies…so keep up the good work!

          1. SigneL*

            I process a lot of things by talking them out. Obviously, there’s a limit as to how much of that you can do with other people, so I often email myself. It helps me to write things out in an organized fashion.

            If other people want to talk to me, I’ll listen (unless it’s something really disturbing – then I feel compelled to say, this is something I’m not qualified to handle).

    2. Help Desk Peon*

      YES. I let my mom tendencies come out by bringing in cookies, Halloween candy, and being the go to person for having safety pins, needle and thread or tiny glasses screw drivers.

      I’m NOT telling people to use their indoor voices (much as I may want to) or otherwise parenting grown ass adults. And really, really not cleaning up after them in the breakroom. I will do the dance of joy when I no longer need to do that for my own kid lol.

  26. DidYouSeeThatPlay?*

    Regarding #2, I don’t even see this as difficult, given his shockingly inappropriate behavior. No need to set an end date before the party or discuss anything about the party itself, or even talk to him about his behavior. His end date becomes *right now*. Security walks him to the front gate and collects his equipment, IT kills all of his access, and HR (with security present) tells him is getting paid for the remainder of the time, but his no longer allowed on company property for any reason, and if he returns, the police will be called.

    All the time remembering that *he* did this to himself with his inappropriate behavior.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Exactly. Right now all Steve is doing is buildinng resentment which can result in a nasty and violent episode that could hurt—or worse kill—someone else.

  27. mcr-red*

    #1 – I never understand people who just tell other people things like this. Even if you think something, it doesn’t mean you have to say it! Sheesh!

    I have two co-workers who are around my oldest’s age. They will a lot of times do things or say things that remind me of her, in good and bad ways. One of them is married to a guy that when she talks about him his behavior reminds me SO much of my toxic ex. Privately I’ve thought, “OMG co-worker one day you’re gonna regret this” but I DON’T SAY THAT TO HER.

    Maybe the next time she tries to give you advice on personal stuff, say something like, “I don’t even take my own moms’ advice, why do you think I’m gonna take yours?”

    1. Mx*

      “I don’t even take my own moms’ advice, why do you think I’m gonna take yours?”
      Not sure it would stop. She might see OP as a rebellious teenager who needs to be tamed.

  28. Database Developer Dude*

    The coworker mothering others leaves me feeling ill. I’m a grown adult, and regardless of any power dynamic involved, I would quickly shut down any of it. “Thanks, I’m a grown adult, got a mom, and you’re not her. Bye Felicia”.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – to me, it sounds very much the ploy of a narcissist. In fact, the examples people have given sound like classic narcissist behaviours.

  29. Jennifer*

    #2 Sigh. If someone is so unstable that you can’t even trust them to behave like an adult at a work party, they should have been fired long ago. I agree with Alison. Change his end date to before the party and make it clear to him that the party is for employees only. It’s weird to tell a current employee that they cannot attend an employee party.

    1. Jennifer*

      If you can’t move his end date for some reason, another solution would be to just cancel the party all together. I know that’s not fair to the other employees, but they’ll live. Desperate times…

    2. Yvette*

      A party is a privilege, not a right. I would not worry about being rude or sending some sort of message to the other employees. His past behavior, which according to the LW was abusive and rather far ranging, as well as his having given notice, should make it obvious to all why he is no longer attending

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m not saying he deserves to go to the party. I’m just saying I agree with Alison that it’s really rude to not invite an employee to an employee event. He should have been fired long ago and they wouldn’t have this problem.

        1. Yvette*

          I agree with you, but at this point I would not worry about rude. They already have issues with his being so volatile, why risk an incident at the party?

  30. Jennifer*

    #5 I’d sleep for days after a three hour interview. I know, I know, they aren’t unusual depending on the role, but good lord.

    I agree that it’s not a kiss of death, just an update. Keep searching and try to put it out of your mind.

  31. MOAS*

    #2 – someone can always walk up to Steve at the party and say “Hey I personally have no issue with you being here” and then walk away.

    JK JK JK.

    We had an awful coworker like this. We started the disciplinary process about 2 months in his employment but due to reasons beyond our control, we couldn’t let him go at that very moment. My hope was that HR would act, and fire him right after our busy season but…no (again..out of our control). In my mind it was… “why should he enjoy something while he’s made everyone else miserable?” Of course that doesn’t fly and no one acts on it. I like the idea of pushing his end date to before the party, and maybe send out an email company wide “reminding” everyone that the party is for current employees. Only issue I see with that is, how often do former employees come for the party? and is it a huge deal for them to not attend this year?

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      someone can always walk up to Steve at the party and say “Hey I personally have no issue with you being here” and then walk away.

      Hahaha. That used to be my one ex’s running joke. He’d tell me, “I don’t care what Jack says about you, I think you’re alright”. Jack was his elderly cat.

      We had a scary coworker too, not gonna lie, if we had a company party (we don’t) and he was going to be there, I wouldn’t have come. I once almost turned my car around on my way to a happy hour when a teammate messaged me saying “Just got there, Scary Coworker is already here”. So, while I have no advice, I completely understand not wanting Steve at the party if he’d ruin it for everyone else.

      1. pally*

        If I were in charge, I’d cancel the holiday party. Let everybody know. Make up some reason about Corporate budget-tightening or some other “can’t argue with” excuse. Let folks complain all they want.

        Then walk Steve out of the building at the earliest possible time. Make very sure he is not privy to any in-house communications (like remote log-in to his company email).

        Then reschedule the party for a different day/time/venue as the original party.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Given that you plan these events in advance and have deposits, many that are unrefundable and such, that may or may not work.

          Our venues book up quickly during the holiday season, so rescheduling isn’t that easy!

          Really, Steve just needs to be told that he’s not invited due to his status with the company. It’s uncomfortable but it’s better than upsetting the entire crew for this guy.

  32. Capt. Dunkirk*

    I have an anecdote related to #1 that gives me pause about coworkers trying to “mother” their peers:
    A friend of mine works in a large corporate environment. About a year ago she was promoted to a supervisory role and was recently put in the position of having to let go a coworker she liked but wasn’t performing well. The decision came from higher up, but my friend had to do the deed.
    A couple months later it comes back that the now-former employee is suing the company (naming my friend specifically in the lawsuit) for age discrimination. She is 20+ years older than my friend, and was the oldest person in the department.

    The former employee’s argument? “Everyone there said I was like their mom!”
    My friend says that no one ever called her that, or treated her like that. It was, in fact, the employee herself who said she was like a mom to the rest of the department, and tried to get others to refer to her as “mom”. Unsuccessfully, thankfully.

    The company settled and my friend had no direct repercussions, but it was several weeks a great stress for her, worrying about the outcome of the suit and if she would still have a job after it was over.

    After seeing her go through that, I’m going to be very sure to (politely) shut down any coworker who explicitly tries to play “mom” to me in the future.

  33. Goldfinch*

    #4 One of my colleagues stopped the “emotional resilience” type review nonsense in its tracks by referencing his veteran status. I don’t recall the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of “I don’t need emotional resilience to update spreadsheets. I’ve stood over a bleeding friend, providing cover fire.”

    1. Quill*

      If a job that isn’t actively working with crisis situations or their aftermath (emt, social work, disaster relief, firefighting, etc) needs emotional resilience, the workplace is bees all the way down.

  34. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 – People Like Steve tend to go “Postal” when things don’t go their way.

    I would suggest cutting your loses with this guy, increasing security when you push him out and during the holiday party, and consider looking for a better job. This boss is gonna get someone killed.

  35. Yvette*

    My only issue with the advice offered for #2 is with this part “…you need to make it clear that he should not attend the party.” “Should not” is too soft, it implies an option. That should be “can not”. If the end date is moved up he is no longer an employee. (Unless is there some law that if someone is on the payroll for a notice period they are still technically an employee?) Even if the end date can’t be moved up to before the party or he is still technically an employee, a party is a privilege, not a right. I would not worry about being rude or sending some sort of message to the other employees. It should be crystal clear why he is not allowed to attend, his abuse appears to have been directed and observed by many “…Steve has a history of being rude, immature, and explosive to the point of being verbally abusive. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s yelled at and/or insulted coworkers on phone/email/Slack, including higher-ups.”.

  36. Ginger*

    #1 – depending on the dynamics in your office, maybe taking the route of telling her that by her treating you as a child, it signals to the rest of the office that is OK to do as well.

    Even if it feels uncomfortable being very direct with her – don’t forget that this is all on her. You are just returning the uncomfortable back to sender.

    1. ThatGirl*

      “maybe taking the route of telling her that by her treating you as a child, it signals to the rest of the office that is OK to do as well.”

      THIS. I have a classmate who is about the same age as my mother (I am in my 30s), and has taken on a mothering role to me. It drives me nuts. I find it almost condescending at times, as if she thinks I can’t handle my own. Just as you said, I fear she will cause others (including professors!) to see me as incapable.

  37. Elenia*

    Ironically I was often called the Office Mom when I was an office manager, and the youngest in the office, and had no intentions of ever actually being a mom. But an admin does do some of these responsibilities, especially in a small office. Getting my boss out the door with all of her stuff took all my time. Do you have your notes? Your folder? Wait, you forgot your wallet.
    I also would do things like give directions – we had two people who had moved from out of the area, and there was a fair amount of (local) travel involved and these poor girls got lost every two days. “Ok, what is the closest side street? How the heck did you get behind Hannaford?”
    I didn’t feel mom-like at all but they referred to me as such and it was clear they appreciated it. It was weird though.

    1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

      This happens to me a lot as well! Although, thankfully, no one has ever called me the Office Mom. I work for a small construction company that’s mostly men. I swear those guys can’t find their own butts sometimes.

      I’ve had to step back a couple of times and think, “do they do this because they’re playing into some outdated gender role?…or are they genuinely being stupid right now?…” Most of the time they’re just being lazy and stupid.

      I think it just comes with the gig since I’m here to support all of them in various ways. I end up being to the go-to for even the small things that seem pretty damn obvious. I’ve had to mold them to be more proactive and independent! It does make me feel like a mom teaching a teenager how to finally do their own damn laundry.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Part of it is they’re used to being told exactly what to do in their jobs. They’re looking at you as their office foreman because they are lost ducklings in that aspect.

        Remembering that they’re usually great at their jobs or at least following instructions has saved my patience over the years.

        Also if you wonder if they’re dumb, ask yourself if you could build wherever they build or install a toilet with as much skill and ease, etc.

        I’ve had these guys really get down on themselves for a ton of stuff they can’t get. Usually paperwork or a computerized part of a project. We’re smart in our own areas. I know you’re joking but in all seriousness, they see you as a responsible respectable person of power and so they run that way for help.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly this and the whole “work wife” bullshht is certainly a thing despite age.

      I just respond with “Not the mama.” And “That’s cute that you think I’m this patient when I’m not getting paid to herd cats…”

      These are similar to the responses I give when asked when I’m told I would be a good mother. No. I’m good because I’m incentivize by money not by unconditional love or raising the next generation.

    3. Close Bracket*

      It’s weird that helping peers in this way gets translated into mom duties. Isn’t all of that just basic assistance to an overloaded person (in the case of your boss) and empathy and helpfulness toward new folks (in the case of new folks)? Our ideas of helpfulness are gendered and tied up in childrearing and are probably racialized, as well, to the point that we can only see a helpful person as a mom. It is weird.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, it’s very much a gendered thing that still exists in a lot of places.

        The flipside is that there are “Dad roles” as well, which tend to be the “authoritarian” role. I’ve had dudes call our bosses/owners even “dad” before.

        The “moms” are the helpful ones who keep things organized and the “dads” make the rules. Just ew.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        It’s late and I’m sure you’ll never see this, but +10000000000 for the Theora Jones reference, and also please please tell me the significance of your username? I keep trying to figure out if you’re just referring to e expressed as 2.71828, or whether the name is exhorting us to take the nat log of 271828, which would be like 12.5129, and if that number is then significant in some way… I may go mad! (Or potentially already am, lol)

  38. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3 We have paid more when hiring because we adjusted pay bands while in the hiring process. So we adjusted rates behind the scenes and by the offer stage the starting wage was increased.

    It they had multiple openings for your role, that can also lead to more higher up discussions to come around. We realized one position was feeling impossible to fill due to the current job searcher market in the area. So I adjusted pay rates mid search. We did offer one person who applied to the ad early on with the old rate but we gave them the adjusted increase because it’s unethical and just gross to take advantage of someone just because they were okay with less. Our payscale isn’t about the lowest we can pay a person it’s about fair compensation for a job preformed.

  39. Shadowbelle*

    #1: Be polite, but don’t worry about her feelings. You have feelings, too, and wannabe-your-mom doesn’t seem to be considering that at all. You seem to be concerned about providing a level of consideration and respect that isn’t at all reciprocal.

  40. NW Mossy*

    The Steve/Dave situation is a glaring reminder that as people rise into senior leadership, the added strategic responsibilities don’t mean that they can stop being people managers. Senior leaders still have direct reports, and it’s still on them to give feedback, coach, and ensure that their staff do their jobs in a professional, effective way. Being C-suite doesn’t exempt you from this work.

    Dave dug his own grave on this one, but sadly, it doesn’t seem like he knows that yet. He’s still hoping that the OP will ride to his rescue and somehow fulfill the CEO’s directive without needing to be involved, which isn’t a promising sign. I sincerely hope that the CEO can at least see it and recognize that Dave’s now the one that needs feedback.

  41. MiMiFrog*

    Our department admin always introduces herself to new people as the team Mum, which has always seemed a bit odd. However she is wonderful and lovely in every way. I think she does it for a few reasons. She happens to be older than all of us, but really she is the one who organises us and is very much willing to help in any way she can with whatever is needed.

  42. Chrome*

    #1, I had a similar issue. At the time I was in my late 20s and was training & supervising a woman in her 50’s to take over my old position after being promoted. She’d just come back into the work force from a stint of being a stay-at-home mom, and she definitely brought those habits with her. She would ask about my personal life too much, give unwanted advice, stroke my hair (!) when she was standing behind me…Just generally treating me like one of her daughters.
    It wasn’t malicious by any means but it was inappropriate. Had to have a sit-down chat about how to treat your coworkers and boundaries in the workplace, which was uncomfortable for both of us. She took the advice to heart though and the motherly behaviors stopped immediately.
    Unfortunately, my coworker sounds a lot more

      1. NotMyCoworkersDaughter*

        Thank you! I think I’m going to have a talk to her tomorrow when she’s back in the office. Here’s hoping she takes what I have to say to heart.

    1. CM*

      If one of my coworkers tried to stroke my hair I’d leap out of my seat and would have to restrain the urge to smack them.

      But thanks for giving me another specific example for a novel I’m writing that has a sexual harassment storyline! My poor character already has been subjected to comments about her body and relationship status, just wait until she gets her hair stroked from behind. Ewww.

  43. Earthwalker*

    #5: While a job candidate is waiting minute by minute for news of whether or not they got the job, the hiring process moves along glacially. The direct manager must finish interviewing all four potential candidates, but she got married Sunday and will be off for two weeks. And she can’t hold interviews during push week for Project X when it’s all hands on deck. And – wait – senior leadership is considering rescinding the budget for the new employee after all. Has an internal hire been seriously considered? Well, then, put a hold on the external interview process and do round of internal recruiting and interviews to be certain there isn’t a likely person. No qualified internal person after all? Then have the hiring manager explain all over again why we need a new employee for this position in a presentation to senior leadership at their meeting week after next. After all, everything is getting done without the new hire. (In a cubicle nearby, some other employee is job hunting because he’s been covering two people’s jobs with no end in sight.) Weeks go by in this internal thrash. HR knows that the job candidate is thinking, “They don’t call, they don’t write, they must not have liked me.” They fear that the good candidates who started out this adventure will take their expertise elsewhere, which would mean that HR would have to start all over from scratch. So they reach out to the best one(s) to beg: “Sorry, it’s not you, it’s us. Please hang on.” That’s how it looks from the inside.

  44. Brett*

    I was thinking about this line in the letter:
    “I also work with other clients and my own business.”
    If the LW is a W-2 employee of their own business and the client company has a statement of work contract with the business (not the LW) for LW’s services, do the IRS rules still apply?
    I ask, because this sort of arrangement is very common in IT, and IT is much more likely to treat SOW contractors as if they are regular employees.

  45. Veryanon*

    LW2 – My immediate first thought was, why would you allow Steve to work out his notice period? Pay him in lieu of notice and exist him immediately. If you’re in a state where you need to have the final paycheck in hand at time of termination, get all those ducks in a row and just do it. He sounds like a nightmare and it’s unfortunate that no one ever dealt with him before this.

  46. SelenaAcademia*

    #2 I’m dealing with a similar situation in my academic department. As chair, I recently discovered that an adjunct instructor was keeping a personal blog that said cruel, vicious things about colleagues in the department and students in her classes. She won’t be re-hired next semester, but I normally host a holiday party at my home for all my department colleagues… and I don’t want to invite her. I’m seeing people say that it would be terribly rude not to?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s good to avoid being rude whenever possible BUT when someone is vicious and crude, it’s okay to be that “rude” person in that situation. Seriously, you don’t die from rudeness, not when it’s in favor of protecting others.

      I’ve done plenty of rude things because I try my best to follow the “when they go low, we go high” motto but seriously, if someone is bullying someone else or has someone essentially cornered, ef manners, protect the victims.

    2. anonymous 5*

      The fired colleague might claim it was rude. But the rest of your department (i.e. the ones with whom you’ll still be working) are more likely to think it was rude–or worse–if you *do* invite the fired colleague. If they know why the adjunct won’t be returning, then I’d land on the side of it being more of a slap in the face to them if you *do* invite the adjunct. Especially to a party that you host at your home.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      Are you paying for the party or is your employer paying? If it is the employer, that is what the commenters are referring to in saying it is rude to not invite a co-worker. If you are paying for the party, then you can invite or not invite anyone you want to your own home. It would NOT be rude to not invite her to your own home if you are paying for the party.

    4. Antilles*

      I’d argue it’s different when it’s *your* house rather than the break room or some company sponsored locale – I pay the mortgage, I get to choose who comes and goes. And I would feel zero guilt about keeping a “cruel, vicious” jerk out of my home, especially when that rudeness has extended to other guests and/or myself.

    5. Blueberry*

      As others have said, it’s your house, you can invite or not invite anyone. But also the other partygoers will probably be glad to avoid the awkwardness of dealing with her, considering the situation.

    6. SelenaAcademia*

      Thanks, these replies are helpful. I pay for the party myself. My department doesn’t know about the situation because of confidentiality, but I would feel very uncomfortable inviting this instructor to a party with colleagues she has repeatedly mocked and criticized in her blog. I appreciate your thoughts on the difference here.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I think you’re fine in not inviting someone who’s going to be gone next semester and clearly doesn’t like or respect her colleagues (the latter is what you could say if this person had the wherewithal to confront you about the lack of invitation). It’s a private party, and you’re not in elementary school – inviting all but one is fine.

  47. noahwynn*


    Leadership has unfairly dumped this problem in your lap. If I were in your shoes I would bring Steve in and term him immediately, paying out his notice period. Obviously, take the normal precautions of having security available and removing his IT access. During the meeting mention that he can not attend the holiday party. Notify Steve’s manager and whatever executive gave this task to you.

    If questioned by management, say you handled the problem as they asked you to. It is not fair of them to make it your problem and then tie your hands to prevent you from dealing with it appropriately.

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m sorry your senior leadership are so spineless about Steve.

    This should be done as a group anyways, it’s not safe to put a volatile person in a room with one person and then it’s totally “he said, she said”. They should rally together and do it as a team.

    Now they’re setting the stage for an even more explosive exit and nobody is truly safe here. You don’t get to run and take cover and say “It’s your job, HR!” No, you’re the executives, this is YOUR SHIP, you’re not just on a throne somewhere, casting your orders for people to do your dirty work, yuck.

  49. nnn*

    Another thought for #2: I wonder if it would be helpful to frame moving up Steve’s last day as something that’s positive for him rather than being punitive. “Go home! Relax! Enjoy unexpected paid time off!”

    I know this is less direct than people here usually prefer, but if he feels like “Hey, bonus, I don’t ever have to go back!” he might be less likely to try to go back for the party, and if he feels positive he might be less likely to go back and try to cause a scene.

  50. Observer*

    3 Thoughts on “once a mom you can’t stop”.

    As so many others have said, if all goes well, you’ll always be a mom to YOUR OWN KIDS. That doesn’t make you a mom to anyone else.

    Secondly, being a Mom doesn’t have to mean pressuring anyone to take her advice. I don’t pressure my actual kids to take my advice – and I’m not the only one, obviously.

    Lastly, this is not about her politics or whether her opinions (other than the opinion that she gets to “adopt” you without your consent) are offensive or not. It’s about the fact that you are an adult and do not want to get advice from her, and her pushing it on you is inappropriate. Full stop.

  51. Observer*

    #3- What you need to realize is that lying was a huge deal. Saying that you are working at a place that you are not working at is a huge deal, and it’s so easy to check that out, that it’s also stupid.

    That job is gone. Don’t bother ever applying there, either, because they will undoubtedly mark you as ineligible for hire altogether. Think of it from their side – if you will lie about this, what else have you lied about, and what else WILL you lie about when things get inconvenient?

  52. Heidi*

    I’m actually a bit puzzled as to why people are convinced that Steve intends to go to the holiday party. I actively think of ways to get out of after work social events, and I really like my coworkers. If I had resigned in an embarrassing fit of pique, you couldn’t pay me enough to go. If I were the OP, I’d be really tempted to just do nothing and see what happens. You all have been putting up with him for this long, you all can do it for a couple more hours. Or I would tell him that the rudeness and silent treatment he has displayed in the past is not going to be acceptable at the party, which is a work event. Whatever he does after that is on him, not you.

    1. fposte*

      The problem is that even if he’s responsible for disrupting the work party, the work party is still disrupted, which is what they’re trying to avoid.

  53. OP #2*

    Hi all OP # 2 here from the holiday party letter!

    I want to thank Alison for her great advice, it’s exactly what we should have been doing in the first place, but more on that below. I also want to thank everyone that wrote in with advice, moral support, and questions. It helped me to know I’m not crazy and the whole situation is utterly ridiculous. I’ve tried to reply to a few of you above but ran out of time today.

    As some of you guessed, this situation is way more complicated than a holiday party. The long and short of it is that my company is incredibly dysfunctional and Steve isn’t our only toxic employee. Steve is a bully, but he’s a bully that gets shit done so management has (disgustingly) refused to care about the bully part of that equation until he recently went a little too far in one of his tirades. Steve did resign but I doubt he meant it to be taken seriously as he’s become angrier and more combative with each attempt to transition his work.

    The CEO is worked up over the holiday party because of some apparently bad behavior at last year’s event that was (shocker!) never addressed. As StaceyIzMe said, that ship has sailed. And we can’t just not Steve to this year’s arty, he’s already been invited. We would have to uninvite him, which is of course extra crappy.

    Much like Alison suggested, I advised Dave and our VP of Operations (my boss) that we should move up Steve’s last day and just pay him to go away even before the party became the hot button issue. And again after CEO first started talking about the party ban. And again when Steve started ranting in department-wide emails about how stupid everyone is. Each time I was told in no uncertain terms by my boss, by the CEO, and by Dave that we are not shutting him down early. Then I got the news that I would be the one delivering the no-party message (because everyone else was too chicken?). It’s why I wrote in, hoping there was some way to avoid getting burned in this dumpster fire my bosses have created.

    Since I wrote in, it was discovered that Steve has been sending defamatory emails to some of our clients trying to convince them to leave us and to take his “side” in a non-existent dispute over on-call stipends that are not part of his compensation package, and never have been. Dave didn’t move up his last day, but this was enough for his access to be revoked. Steve works for us remotely anyway, but he must now stay home for the remainder of his notice period and is not permitted to contact clients or coworkers. We are in the US but as I understand it, this is kind of like garden leave in other countries? It’s not ideal but probably the best I could hope for in this dumpster of a company.

    I’ve been ordered not to address the party with him now and my bosses all seem sure he won’t try to come after today’s events. He probably won’t, but I don’t like having my hands tied in this way by people who’s judgment is questionable best.

    1. Observer*

      Yeesh. Well, at least you don’t have to be the one to give him the news that he’s uninvited.

      I hope you’re looking for a new job.

    2. MJ*

      I liked your comment about employ monkeys – get bananas, because this IS bananas. Steve is trying to get clients to leave your company and STILL Dave isn’t prepared to cut him lose early. This is bananas with nuts and all sorts of crazy toppings! O_O

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